Self Doubt

The fourth widow inboxed me this morning asking for advice on moving out of her current home. She downsized after her husband died. She’s contemplating another move. I guess the fact that I have sold two homes and purchased two in three years has made me the go-to for “widow wheel-estate questions” 😂

Did I make money? On paper, yes, ma’am, I sure did! In the end, though, I lost money. I had to pay commissions, the movers, storage fees, and the dreaded capital gains taxes. They were the real winners. But for what I paid for the homes and what I sold them for, I won the market and I’m very thankful for God’s graciousness on my naivety. Here’s the thing, I’d do it again in a New York skinny minute. Let me back up, though—I did not, just on a whim, throw caution to the wind and move. I prayed earnestly about every decision I’ve made. So, having clarified that point, back to the skinny.

Henry has nothing to do with the story I just thought you’d like some Christmas cheer

When we let one ounce of the world in, we begin to self-doubt. That’s when I become like a yo-yo going back & forth, wondering if I made proficient decisions. That’s when I can’t make up my mind. That’s when I become indecisive. That is when my adult children stop answering their phones, and I know my answers are in the Word, not in their words.

2020 has been an extraordinary time to hear the voice of God. There hasn’t been but two sides of extraneous noise, and I think that’s where the enemy unknowingly gave us a gift. The division of left or right in this country has left a perfect space for God to sit right in the middle.

”If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”-james 1:5-6.  

The two who like it when I rely on my bible and not them for answers 🥰

Empathy

“2020 Blows!” shouted the voice from YouTube. I shut it off and turned my attention to my blinking phone, which was indicating incoming texts. As bad as 2020 has been, I am thankful. I am thankful for a phone that still flashes at me. Thankful for smart, witty daughters that make me look at the world differently while always making me laugh (and sometimes eat crow). I am thankful for friends who still check on me even when I sometimes (usually) fail to reciprocate.

There has been so much evil to transpire so quickly this year that our brains truly cannot comprehend it all. And in some ways, I think that is a very good thing. And in some ways, it is an awful thing. I don’t think we ever need to forget the taste of freedom. I don’t think we ever need to forget that people are people. I don’t think we have to be so angry that we can’t see through the forest despite the trees. We’re never all going to agree with one another. Shouting and screaming is not going to convince the other to come to our side of the playground.

I’m hopeful that 2020 has taught us that we are still loved by One although divided as a people. I think empathy would be a far better emotion to become familiar with than peace or love. Empathy doesn’t mean we have to agree with others. It merely lends itself to say we acknowledge you. That’s it. We acknowledge you are a human being with a family who loves you. Every single person on the planet wants to feel they are heard.

I don’t know what 2021 holds. Heck, who knows what Thanksgiving or Christmas looks like. Will we be locked down again, or will we go back to normal? Who knows! I can honestly say I learned a great lesson in living from my late husband. He lived every day like it was his last because he thought it was, and life became his joy.

I’ve had peace throughout this whole pandemic. Yes, people are very sick. Yes, the virus is very real. But could it be, maybe, just maybe, we are to be getting our houses in order? Could it be that the lesson isn’t even about a virus or a presidential election? Could it be that God has given us one miraculous season to be locked in and down long enough to reconnect with our children, spouses, and neighbors? Shouldn’t we be raising an Hallelujah for social media? Can you even imagine this year without it? Did we blow it, or are we champions?

What has He put on your heart? Do you have things that are left undone? Empathy that needs to be extended? What are you thankful for? Try a cemetery. I know that sounds weird. The place where my husband is buried is a wide-open field with beautiful sunsets. It’s amazing what you can hear God whisper to you when still. Be thankful this season for what we do have.

“Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life”- Proverbs 4:23

Lord, Heal Our Land

From the look of our nation, we the people, don’t do well with loss. I can’t put my finger on why that is. I have a few theories. I am truly concerned about the state of our country after next week’s election. Loss does not bode the losing party well. What is it that makes us so unable to let go?

My generation has raised a generation of humans who believe everyone is equal. Unfortunately, in our quest to soften our children’s hearts we have created unrealistic expectations for the realities of life. One of my grown daughters’ favorite memories as children is of their Daddy yanking them out of Upward Basketball. I had signed them up for “good responsible Christian basketball fellowship” on Saturday mornings. He took one of them to the first practice. He came home appalled. He walked in the back door shouting, “Mama! You do realize they don’t keep score?” I was like, “Yes, it’s so everyone gets to play”. “Mama, that’s not how life works. You have to know how to lose. Our girls will learn how to win and lose. Uh, No, Sir. We are done with that mess”. And that was the end of no score basketball. They played Parks & Rec basketball until 8th grade with no one who looked like them less a few other like-minded parents from school who also enrolled their girls. Real-life. No bailouts. We learn to work hard. We win some games and we lose some games. We understand that if we lose? There’s the next time. Everyone has the same shot. “Nothing in life is free” was their Dad’s favorite saying. In other words, work hard.

A high school classmate of mine lost his battle with ALS this past week. I didn’t get to say goodbye as I promised. It brought up all sorts of ALS “junk”. My brother, sister in law and nephew are moving to Hawaii in December. I am immensely grieved by this. I will be the only living member left on my Dad’s side of the family in the continental US: I feel like an orphan. This is grieving a loss of what once was. It usually brings up all kinds of other emotions if you haven’t dealt with other losses. I think we are seeing a lot of that in this country right now due to COVID. People are grieving what once was and it’s stirring up all kinds of “stuff” that they’d never previously dealt with. This is grief. It is a process of loss. You walk thru it, not around it. The key? You don’t stay parked in it. You feel all the things, you learn, you weep, you sow, you grow, and you go forward.

We have a generation of entitled & angry (grieved) people that believe it’s okay not to take responsibility for their actions. We have a generation of young people who believe that they are owed reciprocity for everything that’s happened in their lives. This is absurd. When you start taking it all apart anger is nothing more than people who are broken or hurt. They want to be heard but don’t know how to do that. They, quite simply, are grieved. We have a generation of grieved people. Why is that? In my generation’s effort to create equality so that no preschoolers’ feelings would be hurt, I think we removed safety nets and life became a free fall. Boundaries. Kids need them. We’ve removed all of them.

I don’t know what the answer is other than pray and if you’ve been praying continue to pray. Maybe our prayers need to be focused on healing. Maybe we don’t even need to hear words anymore—maybe everyone’s just talked out, screamed out, yelled out. Maybe we just need to pray “Lord heal our Nation and all Your people”. Amen.

Lover Of My Soul

Four years ago this week a family friend brought a slip of paper to my husband with Psalm 23 handwritten. He asked Robin to pray the Psalm daily. Every morning Robin would faithfully take the piece of paper out and recite it. Even at the end of his ALS battle, when he could barely utter a word, he would have me read Psalm 23 to him. It changed his life. One scripture. It has taken four years, time alone to reflect and the unraveling of a nation for me to grasp the magnitude of the power behind this prayer.

We are all familiar with the battle cry “even though I walk in the shadow of death I will fear no evil“. This Psalm; however, is not about the end of life as I originally assumed. No, it is about the One who gives life! I believe this Psalm could save us all. Right now, yep, in this very moment in history.

When I’ve been asked to professionally speak about the year we battled ALS I’ve done a mediocre job, at best, describing that moment in time. I have yet to come up with any other word than “supernatural“. Those that witnessed it? They concur. We watched in awe as the Holy Spirit transformed my husband in front of our eyes. He transformed our lives. It was the most beautifully heart breaking eleven months of my life. It was beautiful because we had a front row seat to witness glory. Heartbreaking because we finally got life so perfectly right with so little time left to live.

When we examine how we respond to extraneous relationships and circumstances it is in direct correlation to how we feel inside. Most of us look for someone our entire lives to fulfill that need to be seen, heard, known and loved. Our response to the world is largely based on how that void inside is or isn’t filled. Psalm 23:3 tells us “He refreshes and restores my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.” God desires to fill and meet all of our needs. God is promising us a renewed life in Him. He is the lover of our soul! He knows us intimately. He knows every hair on our head. He is the only One who can fulfill us.

My husband died at peace. He had confessed his sins to God. He had forgiven everyone he needed to forgive and he spent the last eleven months of his life praising God, offering thanks, laughing hysterically and loving everyone who crossed his path–even the difficult to love. This started me thinking, what if we all confessed our sins, forgave freely and meditated on Psalm 23:3? What if for the next month the whole country just forgave? What if we didn’t doubt or ask questions? What if we just read the words of Psalm 23 and waited for the Holy Spirit? What a wonderful world it could be.

The Best Thing

When my husband died he left a letter to be read at his service. There was a line that said, “Elizabeth and I literally grew each other up”. Nothing could be any truer. We met at a Halloween party our freshman year of college. We were both just 18 years old. We married 5 years later. He died at age 51. The night he died I thought I had died too. And I guess in some aspects, I’m discovering, an enormous part of who I was is now gone. But what I’m also finding? The young woman that I never had the privilege of becoming due to an early marriage and babies? Well, she’s a grown arse woman now and I really sorta like her!

After listing my home and before moving to Raleigh, I had a friend say to me, “Are you sure you want to start over? Trying to make friends again at your age? That’s a tough crowd up there”. Along with everything else that had been thrown my way, I tucked it in my back pocket, and took it as a challenge to be pursued at the appropriate time. My friend wasn’t actually wrong. I reconnected with old friends, college friends, met young friends in a bible study, and one friend that I know for certain was a God ordained gift. But for the most part, it was not like sorority Rush week. So when I bought my house further out in the county I decided, yes me the introvert, I was going to meet one new person a week. Admittedly, COVID has made this a bit challenging.

My community has a message board for the HOA. There was a post by a woman about something that had occurred at her families home. I sent her an inbox. We had several exchanges. Today we met for lunch. Turns out we had 2 hours of things to talk about 😀 I made a friend. It was good day.The old me would have never branched outside of my tree–ever.

I look back on the past 3 years and it’s almost incomprehensible to me to believe that I am a widow. It’s like Nellies singing in my ear “It’s only just dream” (or Anna Kendrick from Pitch Perfect which ever you prefer). Every time I go “home” at least one person will say “I still can not believe he is gone”. My husband was just that man. That legend. And, yet, there has been something so profound about being out from under that heritage. It’s been terrifying and heartbreaking, yes. I am just me. I never got to be me. We lived in his town. His school. His neighbors. His teachers. His family. I morphed into his life. And yes we built our life. And it was a safe, delightful way to raise children. But Now? I am now the me that can get banned on twitter for making political statements. I am the me who can reach out to people I do not know from Adam and ask them to lunch. I am the me who can re-register to vote unaffiliated. I am now the me who uses her pantry door as a bottle opener in a pinch. I am the me who has not washed her car since March. 😂

My friend Lisa and I do a show on Instalive every week about widowhood. Last week we discussed “Best thing about widowhood”. I think the best thing has been discovering who I am on my own, while walking with a God who loves me enough to make sure that I’m okay during the process. Yes, that’s the best thing.

“Trust that if He changes your plans, it is a chance to walk by faith” 2 Corinthians 5:7

I’m In

I join my friend Lisa every Monday night, live on social media, to talk about widowhood.  When she first pitched me the idea  I was completely reluctant. I didn’t want to be on camera. I didn’t want anyone knowing my flaws. Seeing my flaws. Hearing my sad tale. As a writer it seemed okay to put “it” on paper for people to read. Actually talking out loud on livestream? Absolutely not. I’m a terrible talker. I ALWAYS say the wrong thing. I’m convinced I have a miswired brain. I know in my mind what I’m trying to say and it invariably comes out construed. Writing? Much better platform for someone like me.  But, for whatever reason,  I texted Lisa back and said, “I’m in”. 

The very first broadcast I belted back two shots of Titos in my dead husbands  35 year old KA shot glass before signing on. I am woman hear me roar! Well, not really. The entirety of my 27 year marriage I had never done a single shot. I figured what better time to start my new boldness with, well, boldness!  I don’t remember much except that I survived it and I said “yes” to the following weeks Instalive. With each week that passed, I began to realize I was verbally exposing parts of myself that I hadn’t  talked about with anyone except my grief counselor. I said a lot of things wrong. I said a lot of things to evade  real issues and  instead provoke laughter. And still, I kept returning, and so did our tiny little following of women.

We have talked boldly about missing having sex  yet not possibly imagining  being with anyone else. No, wait, maybe we are ready to date?! Wait, just kidding,  on second thought? Maybe not yet. The roles our dogs have played in our healing. Our kids. Our faith. Our communities.  All of our dialoging and processing is the exact kind of nonsensical rambling that would have sent me over the freaking edge 5 years ago. And yet? LOL here I am. I’ve held in all this crap for all this time that I thought was inconsequential. Evidently it matters to a number of other  women too who just won’t say it out loud either. They keep tuning in and contacting us. It has been a joy  making connections. 

I had no idea who I was after my husband died. My entire identity was stripped away. Couple that with moving to a metropolitian area? I went from somebody to nobody pretty dag gone quickly. It’s humbling. But I had to make a decision to be me or to hang on to being Mrs. Robin Wooten for the rest of my life. I chose me.  I still don’t have the majority of it all figured out. But I do know this:  I’ve believed God would show me. I’ve believed God would place me where I needed to be. I’ve believed God at his word of never leaving me nor forsaking me.   The day after Robin died it was chaos in our home.  I was in the bathroom trying to just get away from all the people. I sat down on the bench in the shower and tried not to cry. That’s when I heard the Lord say, “trust me”. 

Terrible things happen. Life has to go on or it doesn’t. You can Trust or not trust.  Once you’ve decided to Trust him? I’m finding life is a whole lot more fun just saying, “I’m in”.

“Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you”~Hebrews 13:5

Seasons

Did any of us really believe that when we walked out of our lives and into our homes at the end of February that we would  be saying goodbye to our old lives forever?

Did any of us really believe that when we walked out of our lives and into our homes at the end of February that we would  be saying goodbye to our old lives forever? The weeks went by, the months, and now the seasons. Here we are. The landscape of this world is astonishingly different than it was just 6 months ago.

In a matter of weeks, on a global scale, we  individuals of the universe collectively experienced grief and loss simultaniously with no warning or education about how to deal with it or what exactly it is.  People are tired, depressed, financially stressed, angry and just ready for life to get back to pre-COVID. What if it doesn’t? What if this is our life forever?  

What if people continue to scream at each other? What if people continue to argue over politics? What if people continue to argue over race? What if people continue to burn down their communities? What if? What if? I can’t think of any other time in history where it’s infinitely more important to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. When we are able to focus on the goodness of the Lord and not on the disastrous destruction of the world around us? That means we still have hope. Jesus gives us the supernatural ability to see beyond today. We understand that this world is not our permanent home. At the same time, we are able to see the evidence of the goodness in our lives.

Seasons are hard. Saying goodbye to the past  is hard. This weekend was always the opening of hunting season for my family.  I’m filled with such gratitude and thankfulness for decades of wonderful memories. All of us with pre-COVID family traditions look forward to a future with some resemblance of normalcy and familiarity. Amazingly, none of this is a surprise to the Lord. Not one bit of the chaos of the past six months. Absolutely none of it.  He knows the big picture. He knows the rest of the story.

“Though a thousand fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, the pestilence will not reach you. You will only see it with your eyes and witness the punishment of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord — my refuge, the Most High — your dwelling place, no harm will come to you; no plague will come near your tent. For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.”-Psalms 91:7-11

The sun will continue to rise and set. The earth will still spin on its axis. The Lord will continue to sit on His Throne. Jesus will return one day soon. When we hear that trumpet call the wrongs will be made right. We will be going home. Until then it’s our job to find the evidence of the goodness of God  in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evidence by Josh Baldwin

 

Oh, Boy!

What do you do when the hits keep “a coming”? Do you panic? Do you drink? Do you over eat? Go to bed? Pop pills? How do you cope when life keeps throwing you one thing after another?

My husband used to rub his palms together back and forth and exclaim, “Oh, Boy! Oh, Boy! This outta be fun!” whenever something was absolutely not going to be fun. If he were still alive his palms would have no skin left. Seriously, like they would be raw. Because? Oh, Boy! Oh, Boy! It’s been real fun as of late.

What do you do when the hits keep “a coming'”? Do you panic? Do you drink? Do you over eat? Go to bed? Drive recklessly? Make phone calls? Pop pills?  I’m pretty certain I’ve done just about all of these at some point in my anxiety journey. How do you cope when life keeps throwing you one thing after another?

I look back at my husbands illness with ALS  and we were never once scared. And we should have been. We weren’t. We believed God would provide every single thing we needed. He did.  I can honestly say I think that is the only time in my life that I solely depended on the Lord to meet every single one of my wants, needs, desires and fears.  I left it all in God’s hands.

So what do we do when we “sorta trust”? When we decide to  run life our way? Trust our needs to God on a need to know basis until we need? How does that work out for us, usually? I can tell you first hand it doesn’t work LOL. Since my husband died  three years ago my life has been one series of “Oh Boys” after another.

I have a myriad of theories as to why. Probably, though, the most reasonable explanation would be, “why not?” If truth be told, I haven’t left it all 100% in His hands. I have been trying to dig through the ashes of a burned down life. And every time I think I’ve rebuilt a fraction of it? Another hit. Reread what I just wrote. There was a lot of “I” in that sentence. And I have (there I go LOL) the tendency to do then tell Him about it rather than ask Him and listen. When my husband was alive I had a bounce off partner~a prayer partner a checks and balances partner. There was clarity. I think I’m forgetting that Jesus is my Bride Groom and my partner for all decisions~my all seeing.

How about you? Life whirling by? Things swirly? Have you consulted Him first? I’ve decided if I would put God first in all things I could be like good boy Henry—not a care in the world other than good company and lots of love.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you”-1 Peter 5:7

Matters Of The Heart

On Monday  Lisa and I did a video on our experience with racism as Southern married women with families living in small rural towns. I think our intent was a good one. Our premise was to discuss our differences coming out of the same Christian background as widows and how we arrived there. 

 

 

If you watched you know that I was uncomfortable from the very beginning. I asked to pray on air which is something we never do. My mic was off, my words were jumbled, and I felt the oppression from the enemy from the very second I agreed to do it. I held back on some very important thoughts that I shouldn’t have and I repeated points redundantly without clarity. I called my husband small minded with a world view. Actually,  I think he was a  tradionalist by choice with a world view. The whole thing was a train wreck. But that is what satan does.

 

 

When I was first widowed and there was still so much salt in that open wound people said some really stupid things to me. Jumbled Up things. Wrong things. And then there were the akward silent room people who didn’t know what to say. I mean, they were at the funeral, we all knew he was dead! I needed them to acknowledge him. I needed them to acknowledge me. I didn’t want a whole insightment of my 27 year marriage—it was too raw at the time I couldnt have handled it. But a hug and “love you” was perfect.

 

 

I was abused by a relative when my brother was a toddler. I know the time frame only because we were on vacation and when I ran into the kitchen my mother was feeding my brother in a high chair. The horror on her face said she knew. She dismissed me. I surpressed this memory for 33 years. My entire childhood was black until my 40th birthday. And then I remembered. All of it. First I wanted to die. Then I wanted my mother to die. And then I wanted my mother to pay. And I think that is where we are as a nation. The pain is just too much. But I’m going to tell you:  my mother didn’t change nor take ownership. Like at all.

 

“Lillibet what would you have me do? That was three decades ago!”

 

 

Does any of this sound familiar, people?

 

 

God changed my heart towards my mother. It is something supernatural that I can never explain. I was with her the last months of her life and He rectified all that hurt. It was beautiful.

 

 

So what I didn’t say on air is that I maybe understand a nano second of this discussion: as a widow I wanted to be acknowledged that my pain was real and I just needed to be loved. I also didn’t appreciate the stupid things people said but I knew they were trying and it was just an awkward circumstance.

 

 

Likewise as a child abuse survivor I know that Jesus Christ had to change my heart to forgive. I was the victim but there was absolutely no one coming forward to say they were sorry. No one. I knew I was going to destroy everything and everyone I loved if I could not get it together. Jesus changed MY heart. I was the victim and He changed my worldview. Read that again. I was the victim and I forgave. I no longer felt a need for reciprocity for every single horrific thing that happened to me. What I did feel? I wanted everyone I knew to have a changed heart like me—yes, I know, I’m a lot for a lot of people! LOL

 

 

So when I said on air this is a matter of the heart? I know first hand that it is. I don’t claim to know the African American plight. And I dont diminish that. But I also don’t diminish anyone’s pain nor apologize for it -ever. God is in the business of saving us. We need to let Him do his job because we do a lousy job of doing it collectively for ourselves. 

It’s Been A Hot Minute

I remember when I was a child my Mother staring at herself in the mirror and muttering, “where has the time gone, Lillibet?” It really wasn’t a question but more of a statement. Then, when I was a teenager, I remember Jane Condrey telling me two things : (1) I look in the mirror and I’m shocked not to see an 18 year old girl staring back me (2) It goes by so quickly it takes your breath away.

I vividly remember thinking “she’s nuts”. Because all I could see, at that juncture, was time crawling by at a snails pace.

Drum roll~ it’s official–I am now Mr. Peanut.

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written on this blog. I say a hot minute; but truly, it’s been almost a year! I don’t even know if blogs are a thing anymore. They are probably obsolete. I tend to be a day late and a dollar short.

I started dating my husband right before my 19th birthday. We married at 23. I was widowed at 51. I had never lived on my own until he died. I finished college in May and moved home with my parents for 2 months. We were married in July. After he finished graduate school we moved back to his hometown to raise our family and we never left. When I made the decision to move to a metropolitan area on my own at the age of 53? Big deal for me. I had every intention of documenting it. Evidently I was too busy living it to remember to write about it.

I highly recommend taking a year and renting if you are on the fence about where you want to live. I have discovered several things about myself–my enneagram 6 wing 5 self craves security and creativity. Even though I am in a very beautiful building on a golf course in an ideal location I miss a house. I want and very much need the security of my own dwelling and the creativity to do my own thing. During this quarantine I have been going nuts not being able to paint or fix or work in a yard or design.

Renting has also helped me figure out exactly where I do want to be when my lease here is up. Had I just jumped into purchasing a home a year ago I most certainly would have had buyers remorse. I have learned that my eastern NC roots are deep and I want to be outside of the city. I need to be able to see sunsets. I need to hear cicadas in the spring and summer. However I also want the conveniences of the city without too much traffic. That’s a tall order but it is possible.

Raleigh and her people have blessed me beyond measure. It’s been like coming home in some ways, in other ways it’s been like a new adventure, and quite honestly? Some days the memories of Robin and of college are so vivid it’s heartbreaking. But I am at peace here.

So in a few weeks I begin re-doing a little house outside of town in the country. I say it’s my last move. But it may not be. My oldest wisest married friend told me that the beauty of my situation is that I have the freedom to move at anytime. I thought that was a wonderful way of looking at being alone. I’m excited about a project.

I’d like to tell you that I will document how the Lord works in my life through this next move and the re-doing of this next home. And I really am going to try and do better. I have a feeling, though, it’ll be a hot minute.