Matthew 6:25 - 27

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Back ... Looking Ahead

As I sit here this morning seeing the "year in pictures" posted by others, and reflecting on the year past, my heart is heavy. My year in pictures would include the last few months of my dear husband's life ... as the cancer took him from us. It wouldn't be pretty.  I follow the lives of others who are on this same journey of loss and grief.

One is a few months behind me on this journey. She is realizing that the "life"  she has been living as only been "Performance Living". I know what she is feeling. The performance of the daily routines, the "dires", the "illusion of being o.k." ... yeah, me too. The exhaustion, the lack of motivation and interest, the "deadness" of true life ... yeah, me too. Most evenings find me putting on p.j.'s and crawling in bed as soon as supper is over and the morning coffee is set up.  

One is a few months further down the road; having just passed the "one year" marker. Following her as she approached that day ... and as she now moves forward has reminded me that the darkest hour is just before dawn. She is putting the year "away" and moving forward "Considering Life". I'm encouraged that, when I pass that "one year marker", I, too, may be able to move forward. Right now each point I've passed through is still sitting in piles and boxes, waiting to be put "away". Tom's possessions and memorials. My son's graduation from high school. My step-son's wedding. Christmas.

I haven't taken down and packed away the beauty of the Christmas season, because, once I do, all I have left is the brown and gray of winter, minus the blanket of snow that didn't come this year ... and the memories of the darkest and most painful days of the last year. 

As this year draws to a close, I want to look ahead ... to plan a "New Year". I listen to the beautiful music and download "The Daily Draft" from Ann Voskamp's Blog A Holy Experience. I note that under "The Definites", she includes "workout" (I haven't done this since October... I need to begin a New Year of workout), "food log" (I have to remind myself that food is necessary. I have to start to plan meals ... for myself and my boys), and "water" (yes, I've forgotten about water, too; getting dehydrated - the only water being in the coffee I consume daily to keep going). She also reminds me of these "dires": prayer, the Word, and seeing the Gifts He gives me every day. I download her app to record "1000 Gifts" for my phone and I take my first photo this morning. Being thankful ... seeing His Gifts ... Light in the darkness.

One more Gift that I am so thankful for today ... these ladies! They are very important parts of my "grief support group". And through them, I've been connected to so many others and resources that God has been using to heal me and lead me on!  

As I've written this, light snow fell and scattered glistening white hope over the brown ground outside my window, and rays of sunlight are beginning to overcome the gray skies above.  I receive this Gift, too ... hope of a New Year Life!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The BEST Christmas Ever

"What did you get for Christmas?" 
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son..."
This year, I got the BEST Christmas Gift Ever ... the Gift of GIVING

I didn't "stick to the budget" ... and I learned that God didn't "budget" what He was willing to Give that First Christmas.

I didn't give gifts according to what was "deserved" or "earned" or "expected" ... and I demonstrated that God's Gift was undeserved, can't be earned and isn't what we expected!

I spent more than I "should have" ... but I learned that all love is sacrificial and "worth" whatever it costs. 
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son..."
I got the Gift of Giving! What did YOU get for Christmas? 


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Best Gifts Under the Tree

Last Christmas, we knew it might be his last Christmas with us. It had only been two months since we found out that he had an inoperable, grade 4 brain tumor. By Christmas, he had already undergone radiation therapy and his first round of chemotherapy. He was tired and slept most of the time. Family gathered and we took family pictures one last time ... with his cherished granddaughter on his lap and the one yet unborn, never to be held, also close to him as his daughter stood strong behind her father. Not yet having proposed, his oldest son stood with the woman his father had encouraged him "not to let go" of ... his future daughter-in-law, while the boys trying so hard to believe that their dad wouldn't be leaving them soon stood behind the mother/wife they would soon have to walk through the darkest of valleys with. 

It's been 9 months and two days since he left us to worship before the throne of his beloved. That is where I see him now; and this past Sunday, our King allowed us to stand hand in hand before Him in worship! I felt the presence of both my husband by my side and our precious savior and Lord before us!

This Christmas, the BEST gifts are under our tree! The Savior who humbled himself, gave up every rich thing and position He had and deserved, and came to this world as a gift to us - to give Himself ... His very life ... so that we might have the Gift of Life eternal with Him.  He is the GIFT ... not what He did, that was just the doorway ... so that we could be one with Him forever! 

Christmas is different in our home this year. Yes, there will be some gifts, but there is much more awareness of  the most precious gifts ... Jesus and Family!

Wishing you the gifts of Jesus and Family this Christmas!

~ Jan

Monday, November 14, 2011

Various Trials

I have felt the need to post a follow-up to my previous post, just in case someone who isn't one of my regular followers would stop in to see what's going on with me ... so here goes!

After writing the entry about losing my tablet, I set off on my busy day with a heavy heart and tears spilling from  my eyes. I didn't honestly know if I was crying anymore from the loss, or from the conviction of what I had seen in my heart. I felt so out-of-control, that I called a dear friend and prayer warrior to pray for me so that I could go on. ... which she did ... and I did. 

Much later in the day, when I returned home, my son undertook to use my online account to track my tablet. Now, here's where it got confusing. I had lost a "Galaxy" tablet, but I also have a "Galaxy" phone! When we went to my Samsung account and tracked my "Galaxy", it kept locating it at my home address! Having repeatedly searched my house and car without any success, we thought it must be tracking my phone! So we "locked" the Galaxy that it was tracking so that it couldn't be used, and then tried to use my phone. My phone was not locked, so we concluded that it MUST be tracking my tablet - to my home! That kept bugging me, so the next time I had to put the dog out on her line, I thought I would check my car one more time (this being about the 4th time!). This time I looked under my driver's seat from the backseat (which I had already done), but instead of looking on the floor, I glanced up just a little bit and there was my tablet stuck on the black tubular framework for my seat, just below the cushion! 

It had never been lost at all, but it had been lost to me! Apart from my extreme relief and gratitude to the Lord, I had to ask "why did I have to go through that?" The answer came immediately. I needed to see what was in my heart! It was a "fiery trial". 

I've had several more of those "trials" in the weeks since that one. The day after it was found, my dog injured her eye running around our yard while the church youth group was raking leaves for us. It was 5 days before my step-son's wedding, and I spent hours (not to mention $'s) running her to the vet, an animal eye specialist (2X), and administering medicines 4X/day. At the same time I spent hours on the phone trying to straighten out a mess ordering a new range that had to be converted from Natural Gas to our LP! Then, there was the wedding which was beautiful but difficult doing without his father. Then, exhausted, the start of a new Bible Study group, major sports meeting at my son's school, and then the installation of the new range... and the accompanying crash. Oh! That's another story. Another one of those "why did this have to happen to me NOW?"

Last Tuesday, the man I had hired to convert and install the range arrived with his young adult son. My dog was on her line in the driveway and barking at them furiously. I went out to hold onto her and calm her while I thought they would walk around the cars and across the grass to the front door (as I have done hundreds of times before). But this time, these men felt uncomfortable walking on my grass and they approached coming up the driveway between the cars. As they did, my dog wrapped her cable around my right ankle and yanked my leg out from under me, crashing me down onto the cement, twisting and scraping and bruising me in multiple places and banging the back of my head against the back bumper of the my car, and landing on the (arthritic) thumb joint of my left hand. Today, a week later, I am still hurting.

I feel like the apostle Paul when he was relaying all of the trials he had endured, and he was only mentioning the "biggies" ... there have been so many others that I have been experiencing at the same time as these. Paul often spoke of his trials and sufferings. And his conclusions were all the same. Sufferings produce endurance, perseverance, purer faith, stronger confidence in the deliverance of God. 

"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed ... for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1Peter 1:6-9)

Today, I am so thankful that my Father loves me enough to not let me stay in a place that is anything less than His best for me, and that He is there to strengthen me and carry me through any and every trial, difficulty, or suffering!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Loss, Guilt, and Forgiveness

I haven't written in more than a month. There are a lot of reasons, but I'm not going to explain or make excuses today. Today I'm reeling from another "loss" and am just feeling tired of "life".  Everything lately has been a struggle. If I shared the "everything" list, you would see that this is not a generalization or an exaggeration.  But I am so overwhelmed already that to start listing it all out would crush me. Trust me. I've had major issues with my house and property, appliances, utilities, finances ... I know it could be worse, but I'm just so tired of all the hassles and expenses and pressure! And, I'm tired of being so alone. 

Yesterday, in the midst of running around all day, wanting to just go home and crawl in bed and rest, but struggling with the needs and requests of my son, I lost my electronic tablet. I'm pretty sure it fell out of my car door in the parking lot of a Walmart store and I didn't notice it. To make it worse, I didn't realized it was gone for an hour. When I couldn't find it anywhere I realized what must have happened and called Walmart. It had not been turned in. I went back out there, looked around the parking area, went back in the store and checked again if it had been turned in. Nothing. Apparently, someone found it and took it. I filed a police report. That's all I could do.

It's just a "thing". It shouldn't destroy me, but it has. I'm a mess and I'm trying to understand why.

On the surface is guilt. I feel guilty for buying it just recently for myself in the first place. I feel guilty that I bought something other than an iPad. If I'd bought an iPad, I could have found it by now - at least that's what I'm being told. Then, I feel guilty for being so careless as to let it fall out in the first place and not notice it. I feel guilty for getting so upset when I realized it. I feel guilty for accusing and yelling at my son when I couldn't find it. And, I feel guilty for feeling guilty. I know I don't need to. I know I am forgiven. But I do.

The next issue is fear. The fact that it was found and not returned means it was stolen. And I feel like any victim of theft. I feel vulnerable and violated. My tablet contains a lot of personal information, all of my email, contacts info, and account information for numerous accounts. I don't know what may happen. Will they just find a way to clear it all out and reset it and use or sell it? Or will they be able to access my information and then what??? I'm afraid to post online or even write this! What can I safely do?

And then, there's anger. I'm angry with myself. I'm angry with the issues surrounding why my attention was distracted. I'm angry with the thief. I'm angry (yes) with God. I wasn't angry with God when my husband died. But I'm angry about this. (That's stupid, isn't it? I don't know why I'm reacting like this!) 

Which brings me back to guilt. True guilt. In trying to fill the void left when Tom died, I've allowed "the world and the things of the world" to take a place in my life that is wrong. I can justify it. Others would even say it's "okay" right now, because of my loss. But the Holy Spirit has been showing me otherwise. It's not okay. It's sin. It chokes out God's word in my life. It takes a place in my heart that belongs to Him alone. I heard the truth being spoken to my heart in the last few weeks. I was trying to respond ... to repent ... to change (with His help). But losing this "thing" and responding so violently to it has revealed what is truly in my heart ... and it's ugly. 

God's word says that we are to "confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed."  Friends, I have sinned. I have allowed the love of the world, they things of the world, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John) to take over the place of God in my life. And I've seen it. And I'm so sorry. I repent. I do not want this in my heart anymore. Jesus is my Lord. He is all I need. He is all I want. 

As I've written this, my tears have stopped flowing, my heart has had the intense pain and pressure lifted, and I know that, in confessing my sin to you, and in your prayers for me, I can be healed ... and forgiven. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Directions Ahead

"You'll be so bored." That's what they told me 23 years ago when I quit working full-time. I've never forgotten those words. Why? Because I'm still waiting to be so bored that I can get some more of the things done that I can never find time for! Not only does my life life keep me busy, but, the older I get, the more things I find I want to do ... to say ... to be ... like blogging!

I've been struggling for years to keep journals - paper and cyber - and to be anything close to diligent and consistent with it! I've had a growing respect and awe for those busy ladies that I know who are able to blog daily, and I often wonder, "how do they do it?".  This blog is the closest I've ever gotten to consistency - and I'm still only managing 3 - 5 a month! I think about it daily ... I have lots of ideas of things that I want to write about and share ... I just can't "trap" each of them long enough to even note some "key words", let alone sit down long enough to develop it before my thoughts are moving on to the next thing, or I have to get some other "immediate" thing done - and before I know it, days and weeks have passed by and nothing's been written. 

When Tom was sick, I managed to update his CaringBridge page almost daily, and after he died, so many people said that I needed to keep writing. In the 6+ months since he passed away, I've been receiving daily emails from Grief Share, and one thing they often recommend is writing your thoughts and feelings down.  I read the blog of other recent widows and I hear their pain and struggle and know I am not alone. I so much want to share my life, my thoughts, my struggles and my blessings with others - with you - here! 

Over the past two years, I've seen God begin to make connections in my life. Connections that have led me to a wonderful group of women; several of which are currently struggling through the pain of loss as I am. And, through them, I've become acquainted with a marvelous women's ministry called Proverbs 31 Ministries, through which I am being introduced to many more women and am being daily encouraged and supported, and through which I have been hearing the Lord calling me to develop my writing abilities ... to blog ... to reach out to women through writing and to use the internet as a vehicle for His Kingdom.  I hope to continue to learn from these women, authors, speakers, prayer warriors, women in all walks of life, women who know the pain and confusion that we all pass through in this life and who have learned some of the "secrets" of the Kingdom through what they have experienced.  I pray that I will be discipled by them, trained by them, and someday be as sweet a reflection of my Heavenly Father as they are, and that Jesus will be able to use me and my words to bring hope and healing to other women.

Through these women, I've learned about a fun way to do Bible Study and am using the computer to have daily accountability - something I need right now to redevelop the habit of daily "quiet time" which slipped away from me slowly over the years. Starting this past Monday, we are studying the book of I John, and are meeting daily in a Facebook Group to share what we are learning and to let the group know that we have completed the study for the day. It only takes a few minutes a day, but I have already been blessed in ways I never imagined by doing just the first four verses - one verse a day! If you'd like to learn more about this, and jump on board, check it out on the Good Morning Girls home page!

Like I said ... there are so many things I'd like to share with you ... one day at a time, I guess!

So, if you see changes going on here, please know that I am slowly trying to develop this blog into something that you will want to come to daily ... some place that you will always find encouragement and water for your thirsty soul, as well as good resources for you to draw on for your own healing!  Please come back! Please pray for what God is doing in my life as I pray for what He wants to do in your life through me!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Give Up!

You must, You must think I'm strong
To give me what I'm going through
Well, forgive me, forgive me if I'm wrong
But this looks like more than I can do on my own

I've said it many times ... "I give up!" Usually it is something that erupts from me when I am the most overwhelmed/frustrated/discouraged. It comes up from the bottom of the pit of me. When I've done/said/tried everything I know and nothing "works". 

I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm suppose to be
I give up, I'm not strong enough

Sometimes, I even mean it. Usually, though, I "pick myself up" and try some more/harder/again ... only to find myself in another situation that feels the same (only the names and details have changed). That's when I might truly, give up.

Well maybe, maybe that's the point
To reach the point of giving up
'Cause when I'm finally, finally at rock bottom
Well, that's when I start looking up and reaching out

Actually give it UP to the Lord and realize that I CAN'T do it alone. That He has to do it for and in me or it isn't going to happen. That being "in control" is a lie ... I'm not in control of anything, except my own choice to believe that when I am weak, He is strong. 

'Cause I'm broken down to nothing
But I'm still holding on to the one thing
You are God and Your are strong
When I am weak.

I'm not strong. He is. I don't have to be because He is. He doesn't ask me to be. He is me strength. He has given me His strength. He will be strong for me; on my behalf.

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don't have to be strong enough
Strong enough

In the past couple of weeks, I've been struggling. Struggling with depression. Loneliness. Overwhelming responsibilities. Parenting two teenage boys (oops! Excuse me! "young men") alone. I've found myself in the pit of despair. I've caught myself breathing those words - "I give up! I can't do this alone!" I've cried myself to sleep and stood with water pouring over me washing away my tears and my whispered sobs "God, please help me! I can't do this! Show me a way! Your way!"

Hands of mercy, won't You cover me?
Lord, right now I'm asking You to be
Strong enough, strong enough
Strong enough

- Lyrics from: 
Strong Enough
Matthew West

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Markers and Milestones

For some time now I've been contemplating numbers and their significance in our lives as "milestones" and "markers". Our lives in this world are lived on a timeline and numbers are how we organize our present, our past and our future. Ask a woman who is counting down the days until her approaching wedding day ... or the birth of a baby. Look at a scrapbook filled with memories of the "milestones" of life.  We tend to use different terminology when referring to different kinds of significant moments or days in our lives. Is there a difference between a "milestone" or a "marker"? We celebrate "milestones". Birthdays, weddings, first days of school, graduations, significant accomplishments. But I'm beginning to think that we "mark" anticipation or loss, and each "step" closer to or farther away from such events. 

September 7, 1991
Today is a "milestone" day.  Twenty years ago today, Tom and I stood with his two children, my sister and his bothers, my niece and nephew, and numerous family and friends and pledged our love and our lives to each other. We spoke the vows we had each written for the other before his brother-in-law pronounced us "man and wife". We rejoiced that God had joined us together and we stood on His word that "a cord of three strands is not easily broken". We knew that we were not just two being bound together, but were being joined together with His Spirit and that would hold us together and see us through. We looked forward to spending the rest of our lives together. There were those who knew us well, who didn't think it would last. We were committed until "death do us part". The word "divorce" was not an option. I looked forward to this "milestone" ... 20 years ... it would say "God is faithful".  

And He is. Even though we didn't make it to this day together. God was faithful. He gave me a faithful man. He was committed to his Lord, and he was committed to me and to his family. He loved us and he showed it in every thing he did. He served us, he provided for us, he encouraged us when we needed it, and he rebuked, disciplined and corrected us when that's what we needed, too. He gave anything he had to anyone who had a need and he never wanted anything for himself. He literally laid down his life for us and for his friends. God had once promised me that He would give me a man like King David, a man "after God's own heart". And He did. Tom was a man who sought to follow the example of his heavenly Father, and of Jesus who laid down His life for him. And, he gave me the one thing I wanted more than anything in this life, a home and a family. 

19th Anniversary Flowers 
And so, today, even though I miss him terribly and still have a huge, empty hole in my life ... even though I feel as if that cord of three strands is missing one of the strands and I'm left hanging onto the "third" strand with every ounce of strength I've got left ... I celebrate Tom and the years that God gave us together! I am so thankful that, even though I have suffered loss, I was blessed to have known the love of this man. I am blessed to be the step-mother and mother of his children, and now the step-grandma of his two precious granddaughters. I am blessed to continue to live in the home he provided for us. I am so blessed to have been given so much time with him, to have learned so much from him, and to have been his wife until the Lord took him home on March 12, 2011.

Today is also a "milestone" of a different kind. Today, the oldest of our two sons, Tim, began his first day of college! I'm so proud of him! He is so much like his father in so many ways, and as he walked out the front door this morning, he was carrying his school laptop in the computer bag I had bought new for his dad not long ago; and he was heading out to learn "automated systems and robotics", something he saw many times in operation when he would go to work with his dad over the years. Our little boy who used to love to do "electricity" projects with his dad as a preschooler, and who has always loved electronics in any application, has become a young man who is reaping what his dad sowed into his life for almost 18 years! It's so appropriate that his first day of college is the same as our anniversary.  And, so, my blessings are multiplied, and I have two important milestones to celebrate today! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thankful to be looking up

When you find yourself in the bottom of a pit, as I have this past week, you only have two choices. You can get comfortable there and just stew in the "muck", or you can look up and start climbing! As for me, I've spent enough time in my life "mucking around" in the bottom of these pits. I know that the longer I allow myself to stay there, the more it begins to feel comfortable and the harder it is to see that there is any way out! So, today, I choose to look up! "I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:1-2) 

Author and speaker, Ann Voskamp, has learned the value of recognizing all of the "little" gifts that God gives us in our ordinary, everyday lives and being thankful. I'm reading her book: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  Sometimes, especially when we're in the pit, we are so busy looking at all that is wrong ... lacking ... failing, that we forget to look at what is right and good.  "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)  I've started my own list of "One Thousand Gifts".  It didn't grow much in the past week, but I added a few today, among them: 

  • Seeing "the Sparkle" on my bed. (Someday, I'll tell you about the special meaning of "the Sparkle")
  • Autumn's cool breezes
  • The color yellow                
  • Christian music and radio
  • Praying friends

I am so thankful today for all of the gifts God has given me!  

Oh, and by the way, if you'd like to hear this amazing woman live in an on-line webcast - 'Say Yes to God' - tomorrow evening (7 PM EST, or 8PM CST), along with another amazing woman, Lysa Terkeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries, go here to read about it and I'll meet you there, too!
Have a blessed Labor Day! 
~ Jan

Saturday, September 3, 2011

How Do I Climb Out of This Pit?

I have looked at my last post too many times over the last 5 weeks. I've spent hours thinking about writing something new. I've had so many thoughts running through my head some days and other days ... nothing. For the past week, I've been steadily sliding downward into a pit of ... depression? Grief? Despair? I keep thinking that it's been almost 6 months since Tom died; I should be feeling better, not worse. And I'm afraid of this place I'm finding myself going continually deeper into. My mother suffered from depression for years. I've been in serious depression a few times, and mild depression more times than I can recount. I know I have to go through all of the dark valleys of grief, but the lines between grief and depression are blurry right now.  I've been taking medicine to combat depression since learning that Tom had a brain tumor last October. So, why, now, when things should be getting better, do I find myself feeling the most pain, loneliness, and helplessness that I've yet encountered?  What if I can't get out of this pit again ... ever?

I cried last night.  It's the first time I've cried in a long time.  I cried myself to sleep. I've been wiping tears away and swallowing lumps in my throat all morning. For the first time, I really don't care if I get dressed today or not.  I don't care if my bed doesn't get made. I forced myself to eat the only food that appeals to me at all - cereal - this morning only because my stomach hurts almost as much as my head does. 

My youngest son is rejecting me, telling me to go away from him. His first words to me this morning were "I'm ignoring you." When I ask him "why?, did I do something to deserve this treatment?" he just walks away without a word. My heart feels like raw meat that someone keeps stabbing or pounding on.

The minutes of my life tick by slowly as the memories rush past me and through me and overflow me with loneliness and leave me feeling empty and hopeless. And I'm back to being that little girl who had to be the "big girl" and desperately wanting to be taken care of again.  Tom took care of me. He comforted me. Encouraged me. Believed in me. He taught me to believe in myself. How I miss him!   

I know there are people who understand. Women who have walked this road before me, or are walking it right now themselves. Like my new online friend, Cindy Cain. This morning, I was reading her blog posts from the first months after her husband passed away. She was online on Facebook, and I put up the chat window several times (as well as the comment boxes on her posts), but I just stared at the windows, not knowing what I could say to her. I know there are people who want to help. What can anyone do? No one can give me my husband back. I don't want to feel this intense loneliness, but I feel like I can't talk to anyone right now. 

I know that God is my husband now. I know His promises are there for me. Right now, I have to just stand on that truth alone in the darkness, because I can't move from this spot and I can't see anything but the darkness.

So why am I writing this at all? There's no encouragement coming from me; I know.  Maybe it's just because I can't answer that question any other way right now. (You know - "how are you doing?") The truth is: not very well. Please pray for me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


"And in the midst of trying to help each of them achieve their level of independence while desperately wanting to cling rather than let go, I find that I, too, need to go through that whole nasty process of self-identification all over again!"

Ever since I posted those words at the end of my last blog, "Thirteen ... Eighteen ... Widowed", it's been (Holy Spirit)-bugging me! No, I DON'T! The whole idea of "finding myself" or "self-identification" is flawed in its concept. We never have to "figure out who I am" at all –not at thirteen, not at eighteen, not NOW! God's “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him” (2 Peter 1:3). His word tells me who I am (His child), my value (completely, eternally, loved) and my purpose in life (to know Him and love Him)! Sounds too simplistic, doesn’t it? That’s where we miss “getting the message” … we get caught up in the details. We want to know “but what do I DO with my life? How do I pay my bills? How do I know where to live? … go to school? …work? … and on and on. How is my life to have meaning? How am I to be productive? Even as I write these words, He is answering me … “abide”. That is all He asks of me, of any of us. Abide in Him.

The word “abide” is a word we don’t use much these days. When I went looking for the scriptures that I knew used the word “abide” I kept coming up with “no results”. Even when I tried using the concordance in my NIV bible, the word “abide” was not there! But the Holy Spirit had clearly said “abide”! One of the problems of “growing up” as a Christian with at least three different translations of the Bible is that I never know what version I memorized something in and therefore, don’t know where to look when the Holy Spirit brings the Word to mind … it can be very puzzling and frustrating! In this case, the word “abide” is used in the KJV and translated “remain” in the NIV.

In the gospel of John, chapter 15, verses 1 – 17, Jesus tells his disciples that He is the vine, we are the branches and God, the Father, is the gardener. If we remain (abide) in Him, He will remain (abide) in us, and we will bear much fruit (be productive)! But if we do not abide in Him (if we strive to live life apart from him), the “gardener” will cut us off and discard us as so much dead wood! Those of you who garden know that a plant produces much more “fruit” if you remove what is dead so that the “life” of the plant is not sapped by trying to revive the dead thing and goes into producing new growth.

Earlier this summer I had some landscaping done. A “dead” corner outside my front door was given new life by removing a nasty scrub tree and creating a triangular planting area with my existing shrubs and adding 7 shrub roses, some grasses, and a few boulders. The shrub roses bloomed profusely in the first weeks but a few weeks later had only “spent” blooms with few new blooms. The landscapers who had installed them came back to finish some driveway work, and one of them took the time to show me that I needed to “dead-head” the roses for them to continue to bloom well. I did that at once, and within a couple of days, my roses were beautiful and covered with new blooms again! In the weeks since, it’s been too hot or too wet to get out there and tend to the roses. I let them go. Again, there are very few new blooms and a lot of spent blossoms. Yesterday I spent several hours getting sunburned “dead-heading” them again.

It occurs to me that our spiritual lives are a lot like those rose bushes. When we are “bearing much fruit” (everything looks beautiful and productive), we tend to forget the need to continue to tend to our relationship with the Lord. We’re too busy! And then things get “too hot” – troubles come, life gets complicated – and again, we don’t have time for the Lord. Or it is too “rainy” – doesn’t it seem that when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong at the same time? Only when the Master Gardener steps in and starts “cutting off” the things that are “dead works”, does life and fruitfulness begin to return. I am so thankful that He continues pruning and promoting growth even when we are unfaithful or distracted.

This blog has drifted so far away from my original intention: to share the truth that God has already defined who I am and my purpose in life, and all I really need to do is abide in him and He who began a good work in me will also complete it!

For a list of some of the things God has said about me, my life, you and yours, please read this wonderful blog: Measuring Up by Renee Swope of Proverbs 31 Ministries!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thirteen ... Eighteen ... Widowed ...

Thirteen. We all remember being 13 ... and every one of us has said it many times - "I wouldn't be thirteen again for ANYTHING!" Right? I remember being 13. Trying to figure out who I was ... who I wanted to be ... What was special about me? Did anyone like me? What did it take to be "popular"? Did I have what it takes? Did I want to have "it"? Up one day ... down the next. Confident and scared to death all at the same time. Life was a roller-coaster and the future a mist that I couldn't see through. Do you remember? I do. I have a 13-yr old son who is living it now.

Eighteen. A high school graduate. An "adult". On my own. Having to support myself and make all my own decisions for the first time. Needing to move "forward", but not having the foggiest idea what direction to go. So many directions, so many choices, so many possibilities. Feeling very small and unprepared in a great big grown up world. Wanting to "live my own life" ... determine my own future ... have my own home ... have my own family ... "do it my way" (which I was sure would be the right way). Having a lot of ideas and ideals, and only a vague plan as to how to achieve them and no plan as to how to finance them ... Can you relate? My 18-yr old son can, I think. He's there now. I can certainly relate to him!

Widowed. Suddenly I'm 13 again. And 18 again. Everything that defines who I am, my purpose in life and my future has changed. Maybe if my kids were little and I could hang onto them and throw myself into being "mom" and defining their lives it would be different. Maybe if they were bot h grown adults and on their own living independent lives that I was no longer responsible for and Tom and I had retired and survived an "empty nest" and defined our later years together ... would it be different? But one just turned 13 and is barreling ahead insisting on living his own life while still wanting everything done for him and handed to him without any effort on his part ... and the other just turned 18 and graduated and really wants to pull away and get out on his own and have his own place and, yes, live his own life too. And in the midst of trying to help each of them achieve their level of independence while desperately wanting to cling rather than let go, I find that I, too, need to go through that whole nasty process of self-identification all over again!

Be still, there is a healer

His love is deeper than the sea

His mercy, it is unfailing

His arms, a fortress for the weak

Recently, I woke up slowly with the realization that the chorus of a song was repeating in my sleep: "Let faith arise, let faith arise, open my eyes, open my eyes". While I was sure that the song was familiar to me, I couldn't figure out what song it was. I thought it might be one of the last few songs I had downloaded into the music player in my phone so I quickly checked those and found that it wasn't any of them. Then life got busy and I forgot about it.

I lift my hands to believe again

You are my refuge, You are my strength

As I pour out my heart, these things I remember

You are faithful, God, forever

In the midst of my daily array of thoughts, feelings and busyness, I have been realizing that those words sung in my sleep were beginning to be manifested in my spirit. I began to realize that there was a renewed yearning for relationship with the Holy Spirit and a growing re-commitment to seeking Him and trusting Him as the Source of all in my life

Be still, there is a river

That flows from Calvary's tree

A fountain for the thirsty

Pure grace that washes over me

This morning, I had the radio tuned to my favorite Christian station and running in the background as I was sitting on the porch and being "busy". Suddenly my attention focused on the fact that I was hearing those words again ... "Let faith arise, open my eyes...". Phone apps can be very convenient and helpful for spur of the moment needs! I opened up my "Soundhound" app and let it listen. It is the song "I lift My Hands" by Chris Tomlin.

Let faith arise

Let faith arise

I am so thankful that even in my weakness and unfaithfulness ... His is faithful forever!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day. It is Sunday. Service started at my church about 20 minutes ago. I am not there. I feel guilty. I feel like this is just one more area of life that I'm losing control over. At 1:30 AM, our dog stuck her nose in my face and woke me up. The last time she did that, I took it as an act of God to get me up. This time it was just frustrating and annoying. Why did she have to go out at that hour? As I walked through the house to the front door to put her out, I realized the kitchen smelled like food - recently cooked food. Coming back in, I saw the dirty dishes on the counter and sugar crystals left there by my (other)"sugar-hound's ice cream snack. One was still awake with lights on, the other in a dark room that smelled strongly of gum - lots of gum! After cleaning the kitchen, bringing the dog back in, telling the one to go to sleep and checking on the other, I found it difficult to fall back to sleep.

Is is just a sign of this phase in my kids' lives that they stay up half the night, sleep half the day, eat in their rooms and don't help with much of anything to keep the household going? Or is it a sign of how we are all pulling apart from one another and into ourselves? Probably some of both. But I feel like I'm losing all definition of "family" and all control over myself and my household.

I don't know how long I laid there. The next time I woke up and checked the clock it was 6AM. Too early to get up. I didn't want to get up. I wanted to sleep ... and dream. Back to sleep. Back to dreaming. I almost never can remember my dreams, and rarely even have the sense that I've been dreaming at all. The last few days, I'm sure that I've been dreaming ... life dreams full of people and activity and emotion ... but still can't remember any part of it. When I wake up and move through the day, though, I have the feeling that my "real" life was more "real" in my dreams, and that my waking "life" is really a "dream". Anyway, I fell back to sleep and dreaming.

The next time I woke up, it was after 9AM! Church starts at 10:00. Not enough time to get done all of the things I needed to to get my household "up" and running for the day, get myself and my youngest ready to leave and drive the 30 minute drive to church. Decision time. I could have made it (albeit a little late, as usual) by throwing clothes on, leaving all the morning "routine" for after church, and with a lot of pushing and dragging. But at least we'd be there (we won't be the next 2 or more Sundays anyway). Tom would have gone. He would have wanted us to go. I feel like we're all losing our commitment and self-discipline in our relationship with the Lord and our church families. Everyone has given so much to help and support us, I don't want to seem ungrateful. Then I remembered that it was also Father's Day.

There would most likely be a lot of talk on the radio in the car on the way to church about it. I'm sure there would be some "honoring" of the fathers present in church. Families would be together and celebrating their fathers. And my kids would be continually reminded that their father was not here today. Their father will never be here again. We haven't talked about it. I realized that I have the same feeling that I have when it is another holiday that we don't celebrate ... I want to just lay low, stay home and wait for it to pass. It hurts right now to think about how this day would have been (should have been) different!

I didn't wake my sons up. We didn't go to church. I'm sorry. We miss you terribly, honey! We wish you were here so we could say "Happy Father's Day! We love you!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh no, You Never Let Go - Even through the "firsts"

I woke up at 3 AM today with the chorus of a song repeating over and over in my mind:
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

(You Never Let Go by Matt Redman)

This doesn't happen to me very often and I wondered why this song, and why now. Immediately, the answer came to me. This song is so significant to my online friends, Maria and Cody, and to the sweet little daughter, Susana, that they lost to brain cancer just as Tom went into hospice. I prayed for Maria and Cody and their family.

I was wide awake. I realized that this was probably the first time since Tom was diagnosed with his brain tumor that I had woken up in the night with enough peace in my life to feel how alone I was. That thought made me think about Leah (another online friend), whose post about all the "firsts" that she was experiencing since the death of her husband in early May had been the last thing I'd read before dropping off to sleep in exhaustion. I've been through so many "firsts" in the past 3 months since Tom's death ... including his "first" birthday without him (he would have been 60 on June 6th), just two days ago. Three of his four children have had their first birthdays without their dad; so have I. Our first child graduated without his dad, and I held my first graduation party without my husband. Soon, we will take our first "family" vacation without him there, too. Yes, Leah, there will be many firsts. I prayed for Leah, too.

And through the time I was awake, I realized that I was not alone. I haven't really felt alone. I've had people around me and helping me through everything. A lot of people. So much so, that, at times, I longed to be alone. I'm actually looking forward to things slowing down a bit now so that I can spend some time alone. But there is definitely a difference between being "alone" and being "lonely". While I want time "alone", the feeling of "loneliness" is where I miss Tom. I miss his presence. I miss being able to talk with him. I miss being able to share life with him. I miss his wisdom, his stability, his optimism. I miss the way he always came alongside of me and helped me with the mundane and the demanding tasks of life. I miss dreaming with him. I wish I could sit on my newly remodeled porch and enjoy our newly landscaped yard and the quiet beauty of this first day of summer vacation with him. I wish he could be seeing the irises bloom and the first Peony open! I wish we could be looking forward to his retirement and our first years together after the children are all grown. Yes, I'm lonely. I'm lonely for him. This is when I feel sad and my heart is heavy. This is the work of mourning.

It will soon be the 3 month anniversary of Tom's death. Occasionally, people will say to me something like "Oh, that's right. You're still mourning." Like they forgot, or I should be over it by now. In some ways, I feel like I haven't had time to begin mourning; I don't think it will be over soon.

Yes, I can see a light that is coming
For the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

Friday, May 27, 2011


For those of you who are used to hearing from me through frequent posts on CaringBridge and now hoping to be able to keep up on what is happening with our family through this blog - I apologize for only posting a few new updates here over the past months. As I was thinking about everything this morning, I realized how much of life is like dominoes - at least my life is. It's been 2-1/2 months since Tom died, and I've had one event fall into the next in rapid succession ever since. I knew in advance that it would play out this way, but that hasn't made it any easier. As I was trying to prepare myself for the inevitability of his death, I was trying equally hard to find a way to celebrate the important life events that were to follow immediately after. Those of my readers who are closest to us will be familiar with the sequence, but for those of you a little more distanced, let me explain how the "dominoes" of our life have been lined up.

Tom died on March 12th. One week later, we had his Memorial Service. The following week, our youngest son, Peter, turned 13! Finally an official "teenager" - a momentous occasion in his life and one I wanted to make special and significant. Less than two weeks after that, I had my first birthday without my husband here to make it special. 10 days after my birthday, our son, Tim, turned 18! Another huge milestone in our children's lives, and so much anticipated in his - again - I wanted to make it a day where he was celebrated. Twelve days after his birthday, Tim had his Senior Prom; it was hard to help him prepare and celebrate with him without his dad. Then there was Mother's Day. Tom always went out of his way to honor me as the mother of his children and to make it a special day for me. This year, Matt & Melissa sent me beautiful flowers and Peter used some of the money he earned by selling his toys to a friend to buy me a very nice candle holder, but the actual experience of the day was hard. I tried to get the worst part of the yard cleaned up, mowed, raked, etc. before it rained again. In the process, our lawn tractor broke down (again) and we all ended up in the yard in the rain yelling at one another and crying and just having a general family "melt-down". It wasn't pretty. This past Monday, Tom's oldest son, Matthew celebrated his birthday - I know his dad would have called him first thing in the morning to sing "Happy Birthday" to him over the phone. I didn't. I could only message him birthday wishes on Facebook. Today, Tim will graduate high school. It's been a difficult 2 years for him as he transitioned from home school to his charter high school. Getting through the past 8 months since his father's diagnosis with brain cancer, has made it incredible that he's even going to "walk" up there tonight to receive that diploma! It may not be with "highest honors", but I give him my "highest honors"! I'm so proud of him and the young man he is becoming. But it will be hard to be there without his dad by my side.

A week from Sunday, we will have his graduation party at our home. I have been trying to have some huge repair, updating and remodeling done on the house and driveway in preparation for this event. So much of it has depended on us having dry weather - something that has not happened. Instead we've had record rainfalls and my clay driveway and yard are saturated, soft, and there is a lot of standing water. The city has imposed road restrictions on our gravel access roads so that the heavy cement and gravel trucks are unable to use them to deliver the materials. Somehow, we got the first load of cement in here unaware of the existing restriction, but could not get the second load or the gravel for the rest of the driveway. As of yesterday, the city doesn't intend to remove the restriction until after June 5th - the day of Tim's party! So, we are going ahead with our plans for the graduation party, but my dreams have been seriously tested and challenged and adjusted.

The day after Tim's graduation party would have been Tom's 60th birthday. Our family will be able to be together on that day, but I haven't been able to even think about how we will go about observing the day or remembering him. I want to begin something that will become our tradition to remember his birthday - I just don't know what that might be yet.

Three weeks after the graduation party, it will be our first Father's Day without Tom and we will be packing for our annual family vacation week at a camp in Northern Minnesota. We have been going there the same week every year for 10 years - half of the time Tom and I were married. It was the first question everyone asked when we first learned of Tom's cancer and the continual question from my kids as his illness progressed into hospice and finally his death - "will we still go to Camp Van Vac?" The answer was always - "yes". It was the one thing that we did for our family and the one thing we've all come to look forward to for many months before and talk about for months afterward. We will go. It will be the first time since Tom's death that we will be able to be just "us" in a place he loved and remember our many times together with him there. I know it will be "bittersweet".

At the end of our week of vacation, Stacy is expecting our second grandchild. We will probably come home, unpack and repack to visit her and her family and celebrate this joyous event! She has been so excited being the mommy of Charlotte and now this new baby - and we have not been able to be there for her in the way or to the degree that I would have wanted to be. So many important life events in so many people's lives. So many heartbreaking events in the lives of people I care about. I would have wanted to celebrate and anticipate and comfort and support them, too, if only I could have. I know everyone "understands", but I continue to feel that life is passing by so quickly, and I will never have these moments again to do over. More "dreams" that have died. More losses. If you have felt neglected, or forgotten by us, please forgive us. We have not forgotten you and your struggles and your celebrations. My thoughts and prayers have been with you and for you, too!

Once we are through all of this, it will be time to be looking ahead to a new school year. Peter will be changing schools and starting at the same school that Tim is graduating from. They are adding middle school grades in the fall, and he will be able to go there a year earlier than we had planned on. But, because it is out of our district for bussing, I will have to transport him both ways every day until he starts driving - 3 years from now! I will also have to be working and earning an income starting about the same time. I have not been a part of the "work force" for over 20 years, and in a tough economy, I don't know how that will work out. I have had the thought that I might be able to work for the school that he will be attending, as they are expanding, and would probably need additional support staff, but I've been too busy to check it out - until yesterday.

I called the school office yesterday to see if they might be looking to hire for the next school year. I was surprised to learn that they are currently advertising for two positions and I need to apply quickly. Please be in prayer for me in this as this would really be the best "fit" for Peter and I for the next 5 years!

Needless to say, we haven't had much time to "process" our loss and our grief. Also needless to say is that we are dealing every minute of every day with the emotional, spiritual and practical backwash of Tom's illness and death. One thing is important to say, though. We have continued to have an outpouring of love and support, both emotionally and practically, from so many people as we struggle to hold it all together and keep moving forward. So many times we've been at a breaking point, only to have someone step into the darkness and encourage us and give us a hand up out of the mire! For this I will be eternally grateful and I know you will be rewarded by the Lord!

So, it's time to move on today, and see where this domino falls! I'm so thankful that my God and Father knows the plans He has for me and assures me that they are not to harm me but are for my good - to give me a hope and a future!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Redeemer

When I have so much emotion going on, so much to do and so little time and energy for any of it, why should I "reinvent the wheel"? I'm finding my heart's cry published already in so many songs like this one:

Sometimes I just wanna start over
'Cause everything looks like a wreck
And I need the courage to carry on
'Cause I can't see what's ahead

And there are places I've wished I could be
Battles I've wanted to win
Dreams that have slipped through my hands
I may never get back again

But I'm still a dreamer, a believer
Oh, I lost my faith in so many things
But I still believe in You
'Cause You can make anything new

Sometimes I just wish we could say
All the things that are easy to hear
Ignore the injustice we see
And explain every unanswered prayer

But I'd rather speak honestly
And wear a tattered heart on my sleeve
'Cause in the middle of my broken dreams
Redemption is here

And I'm still a dreamer, a believer
Oh, I lost my faith in so many things
But I still believe in You
'Cause You are the answer, the Redeemer

Oh, I've given up on to many things
But I'm not giving up on You
'Cause You can make anything new

I don't have every answer in life
But I'm trusting You on day at a time
'Cause You can make a weak heart stay alive

And this is where heaven and earth collide
I lift my hands, I give my life
This is how my weary heart stays alive

Oh, I'm still a dreamer, still a believer
And You are the answer, the Redeemer
'Cause You can make anything new
Yeah, You can make anything new

(Sanctus Real, Pieces of a Broken Heart)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Cross

Yesterday was Good Friday. It's a day to reflect on the cross of Jesus and it's significance in our lives. A month ago, I posted a blog called "At the Crossroads". It was written the day after Tom's memorial service when I was feeling like I didn't know what direction to move in now. Today marks 6weeks since Tom passed away. I haven't written much in those weeks, but I've had several thoughts that I need to share; and I need to do it today. The cross is a symbol of death. In the past six weeks, I've been thinking a lot about death... mostly Tom's... and what it has resulted in. I've been trying to take care of all of the "things" that need to be done while struggling to figure out how we go forward from here and living with the day-to-day demands of life and the constant emotional upheaval in the lives of my children and myself that affects how we communicate and function day by day. The cross has also become a symbol of "direction" in my life. We all know that a compass rose indicates 4 different directions. We use it to navigate from one place to another ... usually in a linear method (one step in front of the other). Lately, I've been seeing each day in terms of all four directions at once. Think of it this way: if the cross were laid on the floor and you were looking at it from the base, we start each day standing in the center at the place where the two beams cross. Our thoughts, prayers, and activities each day need to be directed in each of the four directions. The long "base" is our past. We need to spend some time reflecting on what is past, completing what is yet undone, learning its lessons, seeking forgiveness for our mistakes and sins, making amends and restitution, making "closure" a reality for what is over, etc. Then, we need to move to the right and to the left as we take care of the schedule and needs of the present day - work, errands, appointments, fulfill commitments, relationship needs, etc. And finally, we need to look ahead to the future - set goals, make plans, seek counsel, and take risks to move forward. To get "stuck" on any one of the 4 "arms" of the path of the cross is to lack balance and to be stunted in our growth.