The Next Door Opens

It’s time for me to share a little more about what I’ve been up to behind the scenes these last few months.  More accurately, to tell you what God’s been up to in my life and where He’s been leading me.

I’ve been writing on a pretty wide variety of topics since I started the blog back in February of this year.  Much of it has been about the emotions I’ve experienced and the lessons I’ve learned on my journey through widowhood.  But there have been a few one-off posts to throw a little variety into the mix.  And of course, there were the two pet posts, representing the full spectrum of emotion from heartbreak over the decision to put Missy down, to the elation of seeing God work to place Winnie in my home.

This post will be different from the others as well.  Over the past 5 months or so, God has clearly been leading me to a ministry for this season of my life.  It’s definitely not a ministry I would seek out, because it’s the direct result of losing my husband, and some other painful experiences.

But in the background of these posts, God has been gently, but clearly leading me.  And the time is right to share it with you.

I have learned first hand over the past 9 months that many people have no idea what to do with me, now that my husband has died.  And I get that.  Until my dad died unexpectedly 27 years ago, I had no idea what to do with people who are grieving either.  And the deeper the loss, the less I wanted to step into it with them.  But my eyes were opened back then and even more so now that I’ve lost Dale.

I felt a call to this ministry to help people navigate these sometimes tricky waters of walking with someone through their grief.  Having lost both of my parents and now my husband, I am unfortunately somewhat qualified to speak to this issue.

What I believe with my whole heart is that no one intends to be hurtful; they just don’t know what to do or say.  To which I say, “Let me help you!”  Because seriously, who DOESN’T want to be a blessing to their friends?

Over coffee one day with my pastor, he said, “Lynne, I think you have a ministry here.  I can see you speaking to people about this.”  And with a bit of fear and trembling, I had to agree.  I was feeling a strong pull from God.

Soon afterwards, I received a call from a friend from church, asking me to consider speaking to one of our groups on this topic.  How could I say no?  It’s exactly what I had been praying about and I don’t think God could have been more obvious about what He wanted from me.

So, over the past few months, through much prayer and much listening to God’s Spirit, I have been putting together the presentation that He wants me to share.  It’s really a pretty amazing experience to feel God’s hand leading me as I did during this process.  He revealed truths to me that I had never known before and I feel privileged that He is choosing me to pass what I’ve learned along to others.

This past Saturday, after giving it to the dogs about a dozen times (limited response from them…), I presented it to a group at Timberline Church.  It carried the same title as one of my first blog posts – “What Your Grieving Friend Wants You to Know.”

I talked about the journey of how I had gone from losing my husband last October to standing in front of them that day. I looked at all the scripture texts in God’s Word that not just encourage us, but command us to care for widows and orphans.  I also shared some of my favorite scripture about having compassion for anyone who is hurting.

Then came the challenge – What if you’re just not good at this compassion thing?  I believe God gave me some clear guidance in this area as well and I’m excited about what He’s taught me here and look forward to opportunities to pass along His wisdom.

I finished with what I hope are practical suggestions for what is helpful for the grieving person, and what isn’t.  And I would define grieving as ANY difficult situation someone may find themselves in.  Certainly, the death of a loved one is a big part of this, but I believe there are applications for many other areas; job loss, miscarriage, divorce, chronic illness, terminal diagnoses…or any of the innumerable ways that one can suffer in this life.

After the presentation, I received so much encouragement from those in attendance that the things I shared were exactly what so many of us need to hear.  They now felt, along with me, that this truly was what God was calling me to do.

And since God isn’t sitting on His laurels, I mustn’t either.  So, I am officially announcing my foray into the public speaking world, trusting that God goes before me, one step at a time.  I decided to update the title of my presentation to give it a more positive spin.  I have re-titled it simply, “Be a Blessing to Your Grieving Friend.”

So, if anything about this topic resonates with you, if you see a need for some education or encouragement in this area of grief support, if you have a church group or women’s group or senior’s group looking for a speaker, or if you know someone who may be interested, please consider talking with me about this and I’d be honored to give you more details.

Feel free to reply via FaceBook, or private message me, or respond directly to the blog post.  I look forward to hearing from you and including you in this God-driven ministry!

“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you, He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

Kitchen Spring Cleaning Tears

Is it just me, or did we completely miss Spring this year?  That might explain why I’m doing my Spring housecleaning in July!  Not that it’s spring-like weather now either.  Maybe next year.

But this has been on my master “to do” list for some time now so I decided to get started.  I do the easier rooms first (I know, that’s not what the experts recommend) like the spare bedroom, bath etc.  My office is always a bit challenging because it definitely becomes a catch-all for things that I don’t know where to store permanently.   I tackled that room last week and it was as tedious as I feared!  I was also somewhat prepared to run into items that would bring back memories.

Specifically, I had saved so many birthday, anniversary and Christmas cards that Dale had given me through the years and I found myself reading and crying through all of them.  Such a sweet reminder of the love we shared for all those years.  But bittersweet all the same.  It was a fairly exhausting room!

I took a few days off before tackling one of the biggest sub-projects of them all – the KITCHEN!  I take everything out of every drawer, every shelf, every cubby hole and clean them all.  It entails checking expiration dates, purging my two junk drawers, deep cleaning appliances and blinds, and miscellaneous other monotonous tasks.  It’s a full day commitment, however you slice it.

But I was prepared for all of that.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the barrage of memories and tears from the kitchen items!

  • The half-packet of chili seasoning that I used for Dale’s chili recipe – He had just “winged” it in the past, but it was so good that eventually he taught me how to make it – and I even passed the recipe along to my mom. And yes, part of the recipe was a half packet of seasoning.
  • The popcorn pan and bowls and popcorn and oil – He made the BEST popcorn the old-fashioned way – on the stove top with lots of butter. Popcorn and a movie at home was always a treat.
  • Pink sugar packets for his coffee – Whenever we’d eat out and he’d have coffee after dinner, he’d always ask the waitress for “the little pinkies.”
  • Coffee mug from his mission trip to Brazil – It had the first verse of Psalm 23 inscribed on it in Portuguese and Dale used to store his tooth brush in it. Apparently, I decided it belonged with the rest of the coffee mugs after he passed.
  • Tupperware gravy shaker – Dale was the expert in this area – I just bought the packets if I was making gravy! But I have many memories of holiday meals where Dale was in charge of the gravy and faithfully combined milk, flour and seasonings to make a delicious, lump-free gravy!

I know there is a special camaraderie that comes from sharing a meal with someone.  So, after 30+ years of eating together, I shouldn’t be surprised at the depth of emotions that these everyday items elicited from me.  So, I had a good cleansing cry in the midst of one of my biggest cleansing projects…

After pulling myself together, I took on the only entity left of the cupboards – the pantry!  Another place that tends to expand its contents miraculously, it seems.  Dale moved to his assisted living facility in December 2016, so a full 19 months have passed since we regularly ate together.  Add to that the fact that I’ve pretty much quit eating processed foods.

So, not unexpectedly, there were a lot of items to be tossed.  Foods that Dale used to eat that I didn’t like, items that I wasn’t going to indulge in anymore, and MANY expired boxes and cans.  Talk about a purging!  Not counting some baking products, the only food items left when I finished were a jar of peanut butter, a new jar of strawberry jam, some crackers, a bag of popcorn and one can of dog food (I’ll probably pass on that…)

Oh my goodness!  I felt like Old Mother Hubbard!  Seriously, it was just a bit surreal to think that there was really nothing of substance left in the pantry.  It made me chuckle to myself and yet, at the same time, I felt a little melancholy.  Like I had closed a door on that season of my life.

Was there a lesson in this for me?  It was clearly an emotional process and I wondered just what God might be teaching me through this.  I’ve often said that God doesn’t waste any of our pain, so with this new onslaught of tearful memories, just what was His message here?  Was it just another thing to grieve through?  Or was there more to be gleaned?

I always feel like it’s a new beginning when I’ve done some major cleaning out – whether it’s clothes closets, junk drawers or pantries.  I start fresh with every intention of not letting things get out of hand this time.

As I approach the 9-month anniversary of Dale’s death, is it time for a new beginning there, too?  Honestly, I don’t want a new beginning because I’m not even close to being done with this season of grieving.  And I’m definitely not ready to let go of all the memories we shared.  Ironically, I feel closest to Dale when I’m crying over a past memory, and I don’t want to lose that.

But, there is something to be said for finding a new “normal.”  I can’t dwell strictly in the past; my life going forward is one without Dale in it and that’s my new reality.  However, my future is one in which God is personally and faithfully and second-by-second deeply entrenched.  And I couldn’t be more grateful knowing that He goes with me each day, His Spirit guiding me through this darkness and teaching me long-lasting life lessons.  THAT is the only way I can find a new normal.  Yes, it’s without Dale, but my relationship with God is deeper than it’s ever been.  That’s the trade-off.   I have to trust that I have the better deal now.

Let me be clear, looking for a new normal or a new beginning does not mean I’m moving on from my life with Dale.  I am, however, trying to move forward.  The memories that so often bring me to tears will continue to be part of my life, maybe forever.

Because, guess what?  I kept the gravy shaker, the pink sugar packets and his Brazilian coffee mug. Some memories just can’t be purged.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10 ESV