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.

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.

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.

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

His Wondrous Glory

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I recently read a commentary that perfectly depicted how many of us are walking out our faith as we enter into Holy Week:  defeated from a long cold winter.  Dry bones. Let me paraphrase the commentary:

Winter is departing and with the resurrection the dead season is gone and new life begins. We are changed because of the dead season but not barren. Christ brings new life if we choose to leave winter and spring forward.

I adore this analogy. Just when we think we absolutely can not take one more second of the season? The Lord gives us a glimpse of His wondrous glory.

Christ gives us the choice to commune with him in new life because of the resurrection. Because of Jesus. A chance to move forward in anticipation of new hope and new life. How many of us choose to let fear keep us from moving forward? How many of us can’t quite let go of the past season in order to embrace the new birth of a bright fresh new season?

My puppy Henry, as frustrating as he is, has been my saving grace since my husband passed away last July. Henry and I have struggled mightily over who is in charge. One thing Henry has taught me? He doesn’t remember when I’ve scolded him or if he does he doesn’t show it. He leaves the past season in the past. He eagerly awaits my entrance every single time I come into his peripheral  vision. He only sees the here and now. He only sees the good. Regardless of how I’ve behaved he’s eager to welcome me by bouncing and literally hugging me with his two front legs and paws. He loves me unconditionally even when I don’t deserve it. Shouldn’t we all be welcoming Jesus and  new seasons exactly in the same manner in which Henry does? Jesus most certainly treats us with the same regard.

It’s sobering thinking about what Jesus physically endured for us. When I have that picture in my mind? I am embarrassed that I can’t let go of some of the dead bones from the winter season. Jesus. Brutally beaten to a pulp to take away our sins. We certainly don’t deserve it. He did it freely for us.

When we are walking around with dead bones? That is bondage.  That’s us allowing the enemy to steal our rightful place in the Kingdom. This week let us all spring forward into thanksgiving and praise for the One who died to give us the freedom of new life.

“Faith does not make things easy. It makes them possible”-Luke 1:37

PURE JOY


One year ago your swanky wheelchair was delivered. I filmed as you took that machine for its first test drive.  PURE JOY as you attempted donuts at the end of the driveway. Laughter as you threw caution to the wind.  We had no idea you’d be gone just four months later.

Biblically the Hebraic meaning of the number 8 is ‘new beginnings’. Ironically in this 8th month, since your move to heaven, my life is projecting forth with almost too many new beginnings for my comfort.  My house is under contract (it ain’t a done deal till it’s closed), I’m in the process of packing up my home and 27 years of memories in just 8 weeks time,  finding a new home, still dealing with estate issues, my oldest daughter is preparing for a new job out of state and my youngest daughter is studying abroad as soon as her spring semester is over. Oh, and did I mention I haven’t done my taxes yet? This will be a life changing season of new beginnings. One of complete and total independence. It’s also a season of being completely alone for the first time in my adult life. A time of total dependence on the Lord.

You taught us all so much in the last eleven months of your life. As cliche as it sounds you captivated us with your seize the day mentality and your child like wonder. You led us spiritually to a deeper understanding of seeking the kingdom of God first.

You are loved and missed more than words could ever convey.  I’m excited to start this new chapter and simultaneously so very sad.  If your girls and I can do 1/8th of the job you did demonstrating complete trust, peace and joy in Jesus? Well, we will have done something magnificent. Happy 8th month Home Going, Robin Wooten!

“No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one this: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”
-Philippians 3:13

Blown Fuse

It was a warm sunny spring afternoon in our little married student housing cinderblock apartment. You had just come in from class. I was hand drying dishes when the phone rang. I cradled the phone on my shoulder next to my ear while holding a glass still damp with dishwater in my free hand. The voice on the other end of the line said three words that were so terrifying I dropped the glass. It shattered everywhere. You came running into the kitchen. “What’s wrong? What is it?!” I hung up the phone in disbelief. No, actually, shock. “I’m pregnant”.

We were told we could never have children. In fact, just 9 weeks earlier I had a DNC at Duke. Unbeknownst to us I was evidently pregnant during the procedure. The fetus should have been aborted.  We stood in the kitchen looking at each other. I started to cry and you grinned from ear to ear.  “What are we going to do, RW?”  “Have a baby, Mama, have a baby .”  We were 24 years old.

You’ve been gone 7 1/2  months and my sensory receptors feel exactly like they did 20 some years ago when we found out I was pregnant with our oldest daughter. It can’t be real. But it is. It’s shocking to the system. Paralyzing.  “What do I do now?” “How do I do this?” All ridiculous reactions because I have been doing life without you for months now. Days are filled with activity and purpose. It’s the daily routines of our marriage that stop me cold in my tracks. Driving to supper club by myself I glance over to your empty seat and it takes my breath away.  It’s as if my mind and my heart have blown a fuse. I know you are not coming back. I know you aren’t going to be sitting at the dinner table or in the church pew.  I know this. But for whatever reason your absence is surreal in these moments.

Naomi, Job, Hannah, David, Mary, Martha & Jesus all experienced deep grief. I find comfort knowing Jesus wept over his friend. He loved Lazarus. He knew he was going to die.  Jesus knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus. Guess what? Jesus still grieved!

This reminds me that where there is deep love there is deep grief.  It doesn’t mean your faith is any less or that the testimony isn’t as valid. It doesn’t mean you are stuck and not moving forward. It simply means you loved deeply and now you are deeply grieved. And for today? That is okay.

“For your love & kindness are better to me than life itself!”-Psalm 63:3