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?"

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.