Would I Recognize Her?

When I look at this picture, taken Valentine’s Day weekend two years ago, I wonder if I passed the woman in the picture today, on the street, would I recognize her? My hair is now lighter, my physique is slightly lighter, I’m more wrinkled than I was two  years ago. Everything in my life, absolutely everything, in two years time has changed. I  can not honestly think of anything that has remained the same.  

King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a season for everything & a time for every delight & event or purpose under heaven”.  He proceeds to list all of the musings, we as God’s children, can expect to walk and experience in life. During the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln referenced Ecclesiastes during a speech to Congress. Thomas Wolfe once wrote in regards to Ecclesiastes, “Of all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth—and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth.”

Where am I going with this rabbit 🐰 trail? If Kings, Presidents, and novelists acknowledge God’s Word to be truth, shouldn’t we?  

Everything we need to  get us through life is in God’s word. There are truly no surprises. 

The first year  I just prayed to survive. I just wanted to not feel sad anymore.  I wasn’t prepared for the cavernous hole in the hollows of my soul, that echoing pit.

I made the choice to be intentional. Even if I didn’t get dressed that particular day, I would thank the Lord for something. I believed God’s word to be true, and that He would never leave or forsake me.

Nineteen months later as I’ve started to heal inside the focus has shifted externally:  

“Make your tent bigger. Open your doors wide. Don’t think small! Make your tent large & strong, because you will grow in many directions.”-Isaiah 54:2-3 

Isaiah 54:2-3  has become my ❤️heartbeat verse. It has given me the vision to see outside of my own pain and a purpose for the future. The Lord will use any tragedy, I am convinced, for good and His glory. My tent, I hope, will grow large enough to shelter other widows as they walk through the steps of grief, rebuilding, repurposing their lives and  figuring out what God has called them to do and be. I don’t have all of the answers, but I have experience to know what not to do and what to do. I know that the Lord  has graciously lavished upon me his goodness. I know that relearning life after being a caregiver of someone with ALS or any terminal illness is life changing.

If that same man in the wheelchair, leaning towards me, holding my hand, a lifetime ago, came wheeling towards me today would he recognize me? Would he roll up under my tent & help minister the message of hope? I don’t know. I would hope so. I would hope that he would be proud that this experience did not crush me. It has strengthened me, no inspired me, to go forward to help other women in any capacity that I can. There is no hope in ALS or terminal illness. But there is hope in Jesus Christ and in His Kingdom to come.

Now There’s An Anomaly!

When I first started writing for Hope for Widows I chuckled to myself, “Now there’s an anomaly!” A handful of faceless women, of all demographics, trying to convince other women; yes, women widows on the internet that there is hope after tragedy.

Something inside me screamed “I’m in!” I mean, how hard could it be to share the story of loss, grief, resurrection, and new birth of life, so to speak, after the death of a spouse.Turns out that the joke has been on me, it is very difficult. However, trying to express my thoughts and put them into actual words that make (somewhat) sense has been cathartic and pivotal to my grief and healing process.

I have discovered that I am actually a widow anomaly.

(1) I’m relatively young as the general widow stereotype goes.
(2) My husband died of a horribly rare disease called Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS. People don’t even know how to respond to that. Guess what? It’s okay. It wasn’t a secret, we all knew he had it!
(3) I have one divorced friend. All of my friends are married. Although they were there for me at the drop of a hat physically the first year, life has gone on. They are involved in their own weekend lives. Phone calls or texts are still daily. We plan lunch or dinner dates. This has been a change going into the second year for me, socially. It was not until my husband died that I realized that my part of the world is couple driven. Being single is almost uncomfortable if you aren’t settled into who you are.

Anomaly.

There is hope in being a widow. You must get past the initial shell shocked pain. I don’t know when the grief leaves or if ever, but when the dazed and confused lifts you breathe. And then you access. Then you start to slowly rebuild. And there is hope in that process. Sure I miss having someone open doors for me, holding my hand, driving me places, spooning in the bed, intimacy, conversations, laughter, shooting skeet at the farm, the boat, vacations, texts to make sure I’m okay, flowers on Friday’s. I miss my husband of almost 28 years. I miss my most intimate friend of 33 years. I think that’s normal widow grief.

 

Here is what I find I do like, not because I want to replace my husband, but because the reality is he’s gone so I must live. I want to focus on what the positives are because I figure I’ve had enough negative for a lifetime, Amen? So here we go:

*I love  I don’t have a time schedule. If I want to stay out until 3am, (I don’t) I can.

 


*I love knowing every square inch of my new home is me. I hung every painting and placed every item. I organized the garage, closets, kitchen all of it. On my own. There was a rite of passage into the abyss of the new world and I like that.

 
*I like that I can purchase something and it’s my decision and not a family decision.

 
*I like  that I can go forward in life not making the same mistakes twice.

 
*I like  that I am in control of my finances. I let go everyone my husband used and picked my people. Not because they were bad but because I needed advisors with whom I could communicate and who understood me. And I’ll probably shake it up some more in 2020.

 
*I like that I have learned I will not spend my time with things or people unless they bring me joy. The old me accommodated and pleased the world thus leaving me miserable (and my family). Not new me. New me wants only relationships that flourish or are purposeful.

 

*I like that I can watch HGTV all day long if I choose too
*I like that my toilet seat is always in the proper down position.

 

Anomaly.

It is not that I wouldn’t want my handsome, charismatic, southern husband back should he walk through that door tonight–I would! More than anything. The reality is that  he is not going to walk through that door. So I choose hope, in what others may deem,  a hopeless life. There is both joy and hope in every  tragedy. We just have to give ourselves permission to find it.

Anomaly.

Grief Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

Forrest Gump’s mother  was certainly wise with her iconic life lesson

“Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get”  

I have found that the grief process has been exactly like a box of chocolates. Contrary to everything I’ve been told and read (about grief and its many stages) mine is so uncategorized and random.  I never know what attribute of grief is going to pop up  or when.

My 52 year old wiser widow self knows better than to expect grief to fall into a box of categories landing on specific goal months. However I do find it ironic that I am almost 15 months into this gig and I can’t make neither head nor tails of where the emotions are supposed to land. I guess, like  many things in life,  you have no idea what to expect when you aren’t expectant.

For those of you who have children do you remember the books ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘What To Expect The First Year’? In 1991 my husband and I  read every single page. We anticipated each change my body would make. If a symptom did not coincide on the month the book said it was to occur?  We became worried and secretly frantic. Our 24 year old minds were captivated with the mind blowing prospect that this little person was going to be growing and as if on command “performing” milestones in utero. The reality was each pregnancy is different and some things occurred on said months and some didn’t.

Likewise when our oldest daughter was born we devoured the pages of  


‘What To Expect The First Year’   
because,  well, we had no idea what to expect!  If our daughter didn’t achieve the milestones the book said she should on the exact  time, day and month? We were full of worry and angst.  Our 25 year old young first time parental selves thought every single thing must occur according to schedule.

I have never gone through ”Grief In A Box’ per se or grief  in the appropriate order that Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler write about in ‘Five Stages of Grief’.  This is the gold standard of grief for our country. But it doesn’t fit my grief. And that is okay.

I’ve never felt anger. And that might be because my husband had a terminal illness.  ALS afforded  us time to fulfill bucket lists, cross t’s, dot i’s, throw parties, say ‘i love you’s’. I’ve felt betrayal and anger at my circumstance surrounding my family but never angry at my husband or God.  I have felt anguishing deep pain, heartbroken, empty, lonely, unmotivated, hazed, distracted and unfulfilled but never angry. And all of these feelings do not come at once. They come at random times. They may hang on for months or be fleeting after several hours. And it is not depression. Undoubtedly depression is a very real component to grief. These feelings are grief.

The hardest part of grief for me are the ever changing emotions. After 15 months the daily non stop crying has ceased but new feelings are now at the forefront. Things I haven’t felt before or dealt with before. I have a new found sense of independence. Yet the awareness that I am now absolutely unequivocally alone is luminous in every aspect of my life. I often feel a  sense of disbelief. It is as if a light has just been turned on and illuminated the fact that Robin is truly gone. I found great comfort, just as recently as six months ago,  being surrounded by couple friends and their families. I now find it an agonizing reminder of what is no longer.

And through it all I know that it will eventually all be well. But it is not well with me  yet. It is hard. I often think how much easier it would be  if grief came in absolute stages and steps. Then we would all be able to check off each emotion:  “done”…next.  Until then? All we can do is trudge forward. Know that we will never  know from one hour to the next what we are going to get in this journey called grief. And that is okay for today.

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Perfectly Orchestrated

I recently read a wonderful analogy of how to better understand Gods plan for our lives.

Have you ever watched a marching band perform at halftime during a football game? They create elaborate words or sentences in formation while belting out the school fight song. For the viewers at home watching on TV, the ones who have an aerial view, the acrobatics make perfect sense.  The aerial watchers have a clear picture of what the word formations say. To the fans in the bleachers the band just looks like they are gyrating around while playing instruments.  They often look lost while marching in circles trying not to bump into each other.

Our lives often look similar. Many times nothing makes sense to us here on earth. We are just trying to make the music of our lives. Sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes not so much. We’re just trying not to step on toes. Just trying to get through the routine of life. Sometimes it all makes perfect sense. Many seasons we are just trying to make it all look and sound good. Hold it all together.

From Gods view? He sees it all. The big picture. He understands how the sound is to be played out. He sees and hears each and every note. Each stanza. He knows what the final symphony sounds like.

29 years ago today I said “I do”  having no idea that “In sickness” and “’til death due us part” would actually be part of my life song at such a (somewhat) young age. But God knew. And yet He is Sovereign. He is faithful. He is just. He sees my story. Robins story. Our daughters story. It all makes perfect sense to Him….even when it doesn’t make one bit of sense to me.

One day it will all be perfectly orchestrated. Until then? I am thankful that I was privileged enough to have been known, to have loved and been loved so well.

Happy 29th Anniversary, Robin Wooten. I can’t wait to see you again one day. I love you.

“For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it”~Habakkuk 1:5

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Happy Heavenly 1st Home-Going

“Look Up!” you told us. “Cling to what is good” you said. You assured us that “It is well with my soul”.  The past year I’ve clung to that truth with a broken heart and the promise that our Lord is the Great Healer.  The hardest battle I’ve ever fought. Most nights I have felt defeated. Yet the sun comes up and a new day dawns. With each alarm I arise with praise and thanksgiving that I was privileged to have loved you and been loved by you. With each day I ask the Lord to show me Joy.

A year later the landscape of our lives looks nothing as it did when you left. The change has not been well with my soul. Again, I ask the Lord to show me His Glory. Show me Joy. In the sorrow He has been my Comforter. In suffering He reminds me that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess.

A year later I have concluded that your death was not about you. It was about a family and a community getting right with God.  How do we conduct our lives? How do we treat those we say we love? What captivates our thoughts? Are we takers or givers? Do our lives show fruitfulness? Do we comfort or abandon? Self serve or serve others?

You knew you were meeting the Lord of Lords face to face. You spent your final months preparing for that meeting. It was magnificent to witness. Your death caused many to ask “Are we ready to meet Our Maker?”

I dreamt about you recently. You were healed. Standing tan and handsome in my garage. I was unpacking boxes. You walked up behind me and put your arms around me. You told me how proud you were of me. You told me that I had handled this year with grace and dignity.  You gave me intricate instructions and details on life going forward. As you turned to leave you said “I’m so proud of you, keep doing the right thing regardless of others behavior. I love you. Always do the right thing.”  There was a crash of thunder and I awake unsure if it was a real or a dream.

Have you put Jesus as your priority? Is He your ‘right thing’? He is real and our lives aren’t a dream. Life  can change in one diagnosis, one poor decision, one hardened heart.

Happy Heavenly 1st Home-Going, Robin Wooten! What a treasure you were! You are incredibly loved and missed. oxox

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so God’s Son may be glorified through it”~John 11:4

New Beginnings

 

Apparently today is National Widows Day. I’m not a fan. I’m not sure who decided this was something to celebrate. It’s not like we chose to be widows. It’s a title that, quite frankly, leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It’s a title that was thrust upon us widows without our permission.

I far more prefer to think of today as maybe “National New Beginnings Day”. I didn’t choose to be a widow. I am; however, choosing to go on with life. New  Beginnings as it were. That’s something worth celebrating! When my husband arrived in Glory at 12:32 AM on July 21, 2017, it was his New Beginning. “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”~2 Corinthians 5:17.

I also don’t celebrate National ALS Awareness Month. ALS is the disease that took my husband. I applaud and am in awe of those who tirelessly advocate for research, science and a cure. For me, and this is just me, the cure for any illness is first and foremost our salvation in Jesus Christ. The rest? Incredibly important–do not misunderstand me–a cure to any illness is vital. But if we don’t prepare our hearts and souls for heaven? Secure our eternal salvation? This life and our legacy will have meant nothing.

So call me a stick in the mud. You won’t be the first or the last. I am not celebrating National Widows Day. Because I don’t want to be one. But I am one. So that leaves me in a precarious position today. I’ve decided instead of celebrating my widowhood I’m celebrating all the glorious things God has done for me because of my husbands death.  Now that’s a new one isn’t it?

I can’t bring Robin back. Lord knows I miss that man with all that I am. My entire being aches at the thought of him. I am still here though. I am alive. I survived. So I am choosing joy. It is, indeed, a choice. A hard one. But not impossible.

Happy National New Beginnings Day, Robin Wooten!

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and the new things I declare;
before they spring forth I will tell you of them”-Isaiah 42:9

The Majesty Of It All

Last April our church asked to interview us for an Easter video. We were reluctant but ultimatley decided it was important to tell our story. I’d forgotten about the video until it popped up on my Facebook memories.  Both daughters shared it so I decided to take a quiet moment and view it.

As I watched I hardly recognized the woman in the video. It was me! I had no makeup on. I hadn’t colored my hair in months and I looked horrid. What was obvious; however, was my love of the Lord and my husband.  They both made it so easy! Mind boggling to think it was filmed just last April.

I have received several messages telling me how proud Robin would be of me. Honestly, I think the more important question is would Jesus be proud of me? I’d like to think so. Truthfully? I have really struggled to stay focused on Him. Yes, there has been oodles of grace along the way. Even still I have fallen short in many areas while navigating my new  life.

The enemy has done a marvelous job keeping me marled in the slop with the pigs. It’s been a tumultuous, heart breaking, lesson learning nine months since July 21, 2017. I’ve said it a million times: weddings and funerals bring out peoples true character. Character, I’ve found, really does count.

There has been joy.

Flower Friday continues to bring me smiles throughout my week. A lovely reminder that someone once loved me well even when I often don’t feel very loved.

My new home. The creative design aspect? Making it my own? Pure Joy!

Henry the Golden Retriever. He makes me laugh….and swear. Pure fury joy!

Friendship. Those who have spoken biblical truth and held me to the standard of the cross. Those who have reminded me the greater the testimony the greater the attack. The friends who have reminded me to stay the course even when the attacks come from within familial boundaries. Friends who have encouraged and corrected. Joy!

I often wonder who greeted Robin the night he went home. Was it just the Lord or was it all of heaven? Did the majesty of it all bring him to his knees? What crowns did he receive? Did he think “Oh, I wish Elizabeth could see this!” “Liv, oh man, streets of gold!” “These horses are awesome, C!” How amazing did it feel to finally be in a perfect body free from ALS?

Nine months. What a journey. You, Robin Wooten, are so loved and missed.

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”-Matthew 7:12