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

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

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.

We Are Only Passing Through, People

Yesterday as I worked on a presentation, fought a migraine, and listened to various news outlets talk about the mass shootings that occurred over the weekend, I was struck by the sheer terror the media is feeding into this country via our televisions.

 

The media is feeding the frenzy by doing op ad pieces on buying body armor that can be worn out in public to protect you while shopping.  Another news outlet did a story on teaching children escape routes in Target and Walmart. They featured a military officer demonstrating  effective ways to barricade yourself in an aisle should there be an active shooter. 

 

Next, every major news outlet started in on the President by blaming his policy and politics for the shootings. I had to turn it off. Let me say this to you:   these shootings have absolutely nothing to do with the Office of the President nor did any of the shootings when our last President was in office. This is the media feeding the frenzy which happens to be us. And we are buying into it hook line and sinker!

 

These massacres were absolute tragedies. But by giving airtime to the shooters we are doing nothing but immortalizing evil. We also are numbing our population to pain. Between gang violence, robberies, lifelike video violence, sci-fi movies, nightly news murders, drive-by shootings, we as a country have become like the sex addict who becomes immune and craves more and more because they can no longer feel.

 

Do you know what this says to me? Several things, if we as a country are terrified of leaving this world then we are not prepared to meet The King of Kings. I don’t mean we don’t fight to keep ourselves safe, and we aren’t intentional in our surroundings but my goodness, we are to live in the freedom of Christ. I’ve experienced just about the worst that life has to offer. And I survived. So now that I’ve survived? I pretty much want to stick around and see what the second act is going to look like, Amen?! But should something horrible happen to me? It won’t be horrible because I know in the blink of an eye I will feel no pain and I will be caught up with my Savior forever whole, healed and in his presence forever. We are only passing through, people. This ain’t forever.

 

The second thing I’ve gathered is that the enemy most certainly thinks his time is extremely short. If he didn’t? We would not be experiencing this amped up, over the top, hard to wrap your brain around, warped, sick, evil, violence. He is in an all-out war to capture as many of God’s people as he thinks he can.  Remember, scripture tells us that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (Romans 14:11). God does not want anyone– no one– to perish without the opportunity of having everlasting life with Him. The enemy is running as fast as he can to seek, kill and destroy all that he can before they have a chance to say “yes” to the Lord. Funny, we all will go before him, every single one of us, saved and unsaved, to have that opportunity to choose.

 

So that’s my two cents. Pray for the peace that surpasses all understanding for the victims’ families. Pray for comfort for them—they didn’t get to say goodbye or I love you. Their grief will be great. Pray for our law enforcement in this country. Pray for our politicians both Democrats and Republicans that they will put politics aside and humanity in the front. Pray for all Americans.

 

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”-James 4:14 

Be Still

People tend to believe their own lies if they tell them long enough.  Their “truth” becomes the truth. Gather enough people to believe it? Gospel truth.

Discernment tells us:  Be Still.   

Discernment begs us to ask:  why is everyone getting excited?

Be still

The enemy  disguises everything in embellishments
(2 Corinthians 11:14) and half truths.

Be Still

Discernment tells us: hurricanes and tornadoes are loud, scary, and dangerous.  And, yet, people are enthralled with chasing them, and being right slam in the middle of them. When the storms destroy their property? The storm chasers are the first to testify  how terrifying the storms really were. Ironically, or not so, they were the people who followed the crazy.

Be Still

Discernment tells us that the woods are  hauntingly lonely but beautiful. Yet before His crucification  Jesus went amongst the trees to escape the chaos, to grieve, to pray.

Be Still

Discernment tells us the slick calm stillness of water in the morning is melancholy. Yet that stillness  is where Jesus br life and power to  walk above fear.

Be Still

It is easy to listen to the voice telling the loudest authoritative story with the most repetition  based on their truth.  Quite frankly,  the only  unchanging truth we have in this life, is God’s word and His authority.

Be Still

Discernment is the Holy Spirit telling us to measure all truth against God’s truth, His Word.

Be Still

” Be still and know that I am God”-Psalm 46:10

“See, Life Is Still Beautiful!”

Lately I can not escape the magnificence of the sunrises and sunsets. I wake up to gorgeous red and pink rays streaming through my plantation shutters. Invariably, wherever I am, at the end of the day, the sky is on fire.  I am inclined to think the Lord is telling me, “Elizabeth, look up! See, life is still beautiful!”

My husband and I captured hundreds of sunrises and sunsets on our iPhones throughout the years. It didn’t matter what state of affairs our day was in or what season of marriage we were in: mad at each other, agitated with one another, elated with one another: if the sky looked right, we hopped in a vehicle and made the way to the best viewing spot. We were diligent at chasing the spectacular sunsets the last year of his life.

This past weekend the whole sunrise, sunset thing overwhelmed me. Almost 19 months into widowhood my grief comes in waves now. It is no longer the daily put one foot in front of the other, praise God! But in some ways, this is worse. I don’t know when it will debut. On Saturday morning my daughter’s boyfriend put a picture on Instagram of one of our favorite places at the beach, at sunrise, and I was absolutely overwhelmed with grief. It was as if I was back to the first week of his death. Uncontrollable sobs that I had not had in months. This is the part of grief that I truly don’t like, and can’t figure out. And, yet, there God was with this spectacular sunrise right out my own front door, “ Elizabeth, I am making all things new!”

I called a friend of mine who lives over an hour away and she said come for dinner. I stopped at Lidl to pick up some tulips to bring as a hostess gift. As I was waiting at the light, the sky lit up the most beautiful orange. It was more than annoying. It also made me cry. Which annoys me more. “Elizabeth, I am near” (Psalm 145:18). There are few times in my life when I have heard the Lord. It is not an audible voice, people. But I heard Him in the spirit. Meanwhile, two annoyed patrons honked behind me not knowing I was communing with our Lord.

I arrived at Lisa’s beautiful cottage and it was like coming home. Lisa, is only one of two widow friends I have. We are the same age. Our husbands died fairly young. Our husbands illnesses were terminal and quick. We both have two daughters. We both have autoimmune diseases. We both have somewhat neurotic dogs. We both have extremely complicated family dynamics. We both married quintessential eastern North Carolina men, who we are  sure either knew one another or had many mutual friends. We both loved being married. We both are writers. We both wake up every morning going “How in the hell did we get here?”  We have considered a  live video or a podcast about our lives: we are fun, we can be hilarious, I  am getting hit on by 70-year-olds on at least a tri-weekly basis. We have a lot of material! Alas, did you just read the above paragraph?  We decided, on second thought, how the heck could we be a beacon of hope for anyone? Bahaha!

As I drove home last night I felt settled and that felt good. My oldest called me from “the normal bar” I didn’t ask, she’s a grown woman. And then Lisa called to make sure I got home. It’s not my husband. It’s not my parents or in laws or any other deceased people in my life but its people God put in my path. He is near. Look at the sunset this week. I promise it will bring you joy.

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.