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

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. 

Here’s To 30!

Today would have been our 30th wedding anniversary. Do you even acknowledge it as a widow? Is that a thing? I have no idea what the protocol is. Then again, we know I’ve never been one to follow protocol 😂

I look back on the graciousness of the Lord & I  am overwhelmed. Our marriage was worth celebrating not because it was any different, spectacular or lovelier than any other marriage. Quite the contrary. It is worth remembering because for all of its flaws? We stayed in it. We honored our vows.  In return? God faithfully honored us. We showed our children that  (1)really hard things are just that—hard(2)things of value are worth investing in (3)Love, in most seasons of marriage, means serving not receiving  (4)most days that meant: you before me~but it took years to figure that out

Our 25th wedding anniversary you surprised me with a vow renewal service with bridesmaids, sit down dinner, wedding cake &  a “just married” banner across the back of your SUV as we left for a week-long “honeymoon”.  We recommitted our marriage to God before our girls & friends. God’s timing is impeccable, isn’t it?  We were able to squeeze in almost 3 more years of marriage.   And then… an ALS diagnosis. Those short years prepared us for our last year together. I am so grateful to the Lord for his focus, re-direction & reminder of what was & was not important. 

In this social media, Instagram, instant gratification world we defied the odds. We won it all even though it looks like we lost everything. 

Happy 30th anniversary, Robin Wooten! I sure wish you were here to celebrate. We always said we’d blow it out big on our 30th.  5 Star to Alaska or Australia.  Honestly ? Your locale is, without a doubt, way better than mine—5 star for sure! What an amazing ride we had! I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.  However, I sure do miss you, RW!

❤️ 😘

“Trust that if He changes your plans, it is a chance to walk by faith”

2 Corinthians 5:7

Friday Night Coincidence

When I left Eastern North Carolina, after living there my entire adult life, I was standing on God’s promise “I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord”-Isaiah 66:9. Honestly, I was both skeptical and excited. The past year I’ve been living in the land of the dry and thirsty (Hosea 13:5); and although He was faithful to take care of me, I still felt very alone in the wilderness.

“Jesus Come” has been my headspace. No memory verse. Nothing fancy. Pretty simple. I’ve always been a terrible student when it comes to scripture memorization. I have a wonderful friend who sends me scripture every morning. Y’all, read that again, a text every single morning since the day of Robin’s diagnosis! I have each scripture she has sent me filed, in order, by book of the Bible. I’m also categorizing scripture by the occasion to help people in need like my friend did for me. The point being, I could be wrong, but I think the Lord looks at our effort, our heart, and our ministry to others. How do we serve (don’t get that confused with works)? Where is our walk heading? Do we trust Him solely or is it just conversation for the company we keep? I decided because I had lost so much, that my new life, was all His. I have no idea what that’s going to look like. I don’t even know what that means. I just know my whole life is surrendered to Him.

We’ve all had that experience that seemed almost unworldly. When you left an encounter dumbfounded or with goosebumps (Holy Spirit bumps), saying to no one in particular or your significant other, “ You are never going to believe what just happened! That was so strange!” Both Google and Merriam-Webster define coincidence this way: “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.”

On Friday night I heard running and jumping above my unit, which is very strange because I am on the top floor. So I went next door to the private library and it was quiet. So I investigated further by going outside onto the sky view terrace to see if anyone was up on the observation deck. Let me preface by saying for the month that I have lived in this beautiful building I keep running into this lovely blonde haired woman with two adorable dogs. We live on the same floor, she is always impeccably dressed, and we park in the same area. We always say “Hey” but we’ve never been introduced. So when I walked out onto the terrace? There she was! She also had heard the noise and came outside. It was a gorgeous night and the sun was setting and there is a spectacular view of the golf course so we both stood there and talked. For over two hours. Turns out we both went to the same women’s college in Raleigh for two years and then on to different NC universities. We both buried our parents right before suffering devastating losses with our husbands. We both have daughters. We both are without extended family. We both are devout Christians. We are the same age. She has a chronic illness. She was a stay at home mother. She sold her home on her own, moved here, and is trying to listen to God for her next step. Like me, she is saying “Ok Lord you are all I’ve got —send me where you need me”.

Coincidence? Absolutely not! I am not a theologian nor do I claim to be. I’m just a woman who has believed in God her whole life but didn’t say “I’m all in, Jesus” until my early 30’s. And even then, I was still trying to chase the things of this world, just as every single young family does. It was not until I was 40 that I said, “Ok, Lord, really, like I am exhausted! I want all of you because I know there is something more”. Does that make me an expert? Nope, sure doesn’t. In fact, from the outside looking in, to a non-Christian, my life is riddled with a lot of devastating events. I’m sure anyone on the fence would be saying, “why in the world would I want to believe in a God who allows such horrible things to happen?” My answer to you would be that we live in a fallen world that is overwrought with sin. God allows us to choose. If he chooses for us it would be a dictatorship but he is a loving God. Many times the things we choose are not right for us. Many times the things we allow to stay in our lives will not benefit our growth further down the road. We may not have the vision at the moment but He does. I don’t mean deaths or disease but I do mean the weeding and pruning of relationships. It can be painful and hard. But inevitably if you look back I can almost assure you that you can see why those relationships had no future.

Will my new sky view deck friend become my new best friend? I have no idea. Was it a coincidence? No way. That was God’s affirmation to me that He is with me. He is with you. He is answering her prayers and my prayers with like-minded friends here on earth. We are not alone.

Oh, and all that loud ruckus we both heard that brought us each outside? We asked around and no one else had heard a thing.

Coincidence?

“I will walk by faith even when I can not see”-2 Corinthians 5:7