The Wedding Ring

wedding ring

I’m a big fan of the show, “Blue Bloods.”  Maybe it’s because I’ve also always been a fan of Tom Selleck from back in the Magnum P.I. days.  But I’ve come to appreciate every character on the show over the past few years.

So, you can usually find me curled up on the couch with 2 or 3 animals every Friday night at 9 PM watching the professional and personal interactions of the Reagan family dynasty.  (Yes, we widows lead exciting lives…)

Detective Danny Reagan, one of Frank’s (Tom Selleck) sons lost his wife tragically on the show a while back.  So, he is now a single dad trying to raise two teenage boys.  Sometimes he’s successful, sometimes not so much.  But through it all, he is clearly heart-broken over the loss of his sweet and sassy RN wife, Linda.

So, there are definitely episodes that take Danny through some of his grief that are hard for me to watch – and I relate to the pain and loss he is experiencing.

But I was NOT prepared for a portion of the show this past Friday night.  Linda has been gone for over a year and Danny is still wearing his wedding ring.  I completely relate to that.  I still wear my wedding ring, in part because I still feel like I’m married to Dale even though he’s been gone 18 months this week.

In this scene, Danny has gone to visit a woman who is some sort of psychic or counselor or combination thereof.  She comments on the fact that he still wears his ring.  He looks a bit sheepish as he acknowledges that with a little nod.  She then “reminds” him that Linda is gone now.  (REALLY?  Do you think he’s not aware???)  Then she tells him it’s time to stop wearing it.

She brings a little velvet jewelry pouch over and he slowly removes the ring and drops it in the pouch.  I burst into tears!  Where did that come from?  I was SO unprepared for that reaction – and for the visceral, immediate nature of it.

In a split second, I experienced what I assumed Danny was feeling – the physical, visual acknowledgment that his marriage and relationship were over.  It hit me like a ton of bricks, like the body slam that it was.  I couldn’t stop crying.  Just one more reminder that this grieving process can go on and on and on…a forever grief.

So, where do I stand on this whole wedding ring removal issue?  Clearly, I’m not ready to take the step Danny took!  I do know that Dale’s gone, that he’s not coming back.  I now mark “widowed” on any forms I have to fill out.  I do know that my marriage is over.  There’s no disillusionment there.  I’m reminded every moment of every day that he’s not here any more.

And yet, I can NOT bring myself to take that step.  I know that I probably will…some day.  But today isn’t that day.  I know some people remove it as soon as their loved one dies; and I know some who still wear their ring, on their left hand, 30-some years after their husband died.

As with everything in this grieving process, it’s our call.  Unlike the “psychic-counselor” of “Blue Bloods,” I don’t want anyone to tell me when it’s time.  It’s a very personal decision and even I have no idea when “it’s time.”  I trust that God will let me know.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

Ephesians 5:31

“Feelings…Nothing More Than Feelings”

Image result for free image musical notes

One of the downsides of being a musician is that almost everything reminds me of a song. You have to go all the way back to 1975 for this one. For those of you who know it, I apologize already if it became an ear worm for you! If you don’t know it, count your blessings…

But “feelings” is one of the topics I want to discuss in today’s blog post. This may resonate a bit more with the female gender, but I do hope there’s something here for everyone.

I don’t know about you all, but for as long as I can remember, I have taken an inventory of my day every night when I went to bed. That’s when I would, in my mind, scroll through the activities and emotions of the day that had come to an end and settle on a rating of mostly good or mostly bad.

And that rating would often dictate if I felt happy or sad about the day. From there, I would generally head into my prayer time and talk with God about my day. This conversation ranged from gratefulness for a good day, to repentance over any of my thoughts or actions that were less than kind, to pleading with God for something I felt I needed, to intercession for someone else’s needs. And often it was a complicated mixture of all of that.

I’m grateful that the happy endings of those days far outweighed the sad ones. But the point is – my emotions dictated whether I felt good or bad about the past 24 hours. And I honestly never thought there was any other way to gauge the success or failure of my day.


I still do a sort of emotional inventory at the end of my days. And I have some of those same conversations with God. But regardless of the kind of day I’ve had, or the good times or joy I’ve experienced, once I’m left alone with my emotions as I retire for the day, there is ALWAYS sadness.

It’s not what I want, but it’s what’s left when the busyness of the day is stripped away. I can’t not (yes, I want the double negative here…) miss Dale in the depths of my soul at the end of each day for the past nearly 18 months. It’s when the tears come and when the heartache is deep and profound. For me, it’s when the real work of grieving is done.


It’s also where I’ve learned to lean the most on God. And not only am I leaning on Him, but I’ve begun to FOCUS on His character and His promises. It’s where I put the emotions aside and rest in the knowledge that I am a Child of God. That He loves me with an everlasting love. That He wants only good for my life, even if that comes through pain. It’s where I’m reminded that He will make EVERYTHING right in the end.

And maybe most importantly, I understand that the emotions I’m feeling don’t change His character or His promises one iota. I am not defined by my emotions. I am defined by who I am in Christ. And I find joy and hope in the promises He so clearly lays out for me in His Word.

Emotions really are fleeting. One or two silly events can send us soaring to the mountaintop, or crashing down into the valley. It can be an exhausting way to live. And it isn’t what God wants for us.

I’m not saying we ignore our emotions, or fail to validate someone else’s. God did create us with those emotions. What I am proposing, however, is that we limit the power they have over us by switching our focus to GOD’S power. When you feel your emotions sending you on a downward spiral, consciously and purposefully meditate on the Good News of the Gospel.

I can tell you it’s the ONLY way that I bring some balance into my emotional life. And when your days end with sadness, you too can be filled with hope again if you focus on the only One Who can bring true happiness.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 ESV

The Hope of Spring…and More

My most recent posts on this site and on my ministry site have been a bit dark lately.  And while it is important to be honest and transparent about this whole ugly grieving thing, I wanted to find a more hopeful “bent” for this next post.

Let’s face it – this was an awful winter for so many of us, no matter where we live.  Here in the Midwest, we were enticed into a hopeful expectation of a mild winter with our uneventful November and December.  And then, WHAM!  The rest of the winter was just so full of record lows, record low highs, record monthly snowfall, record days without sunshine and probably a lot of other nasty records that I can’t recall.

That is hard on even the most Pollyanna-ish of us all.

For me, I also struggled with the second winter season without snow blowing equipment that worked.  So, lots of hand shoveling – at one point with a broken shovel because I couldn’t find any new ones in Des Moines.  More than one “melt-down” out on my driveway…

Add to that the difficulty of second year widowhood and it resulted in the worst winter of my life.

“Gee, Lynne, if this is your idea of a more hopeful blog post, you might want to work on your approach a bit.”

Admit it – you were thinking that, right!?

Don’t worry, it’s coming!

The past few days here in central Iowa have finally brought us a taste of what we hope lies ahead.  Spring weather!  I just finished walking my dog, Miss Daisy, and I was so encouraged by the sunshine, the kids out playing in the yards or riding their bikes, lots of dog-walkers, people in cars with their windows down, birds singing, a few brave flowers peeking out.  That’s a decent list, isn’t it?

Spring flowers.jpg

And it absolutely lifted my spirit out of that dark, winter hole.  I hope you’ve all been able to experience that as well.  To me, that’s part of what this Spring season is about.  New growth, new life, new hope, new season.

Because my brain is almost always in “blog mode,” I look for lessons in the simplicity of life.  I believe one of the lessons learned as we get ready to turn the calendar to April is that, eventually, the winter ends.  Oh sure, I know we could get a bit more snow, but we know it won’t last.

We don’t hope IN VAIN for Spring to arrive.  God will undeniably usher it into our lives soon.  And Spring arrival is such a perfect example of how God also ushers comfort, peace, healing, relief, and reprieve into our lives after a winter season in our soul.

I’m not saying God will always eliminate our heartaches.  I know from personal experience that He does not.  But I do believe He understands our limits and brings relief when we need it most.

Dale and I experienced a very difficult 2013.  He suffered through one illness after another after another.  So many trips to the ER and to hospitals across the state – with the associated bureaucratic headaches.  I struggled to juggle work and household responsibilities with all the time and energy expended on his health needs. Add to that a couple of deaths in our family and we were both at the end of our ropes.

And then… the calm.  I kept waiting for another shoe to drop, but it did not.  You might expect me to have learned a deep, theological lesson from that horrible year.  THIS was my lesson – eventually it all came to an end.

Yep, that’s all I got.  I was actually a bit disappointed that it wasn’t more profound.  But then I realized that it was!  God DOES bring our difficult seasons to an end.  Maybe the difficulty is actually removed or resolved.

But maybe, the relief comes in the form of a new perspective.  Maybe a scripture text, or a devotional, or a sermon, or a kind friend’s words have caused you to see even your most difficult season a little differently.

Ultimately, the best way for us to view our difficulties is in light of eternity.  If you’re a believer, your hope lies not in the arrival of Spring, but in the promise of heaven where there is no more pain, suffering or tears.  Where we reunite FOREVER with our Savior – and with the loved ones we so long to see.  I can’t imagine a hope more glorious than that!


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,

so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13




The Therapist’s Couch

When I began writing this blog over a year ago, the main purpose was to help me process through my grief after losing Dale.  It was essentially my therapist’s couch!  But I was hopeful that I would find little nuggets of wisdom to pass along to the readers as well, so that God could use this blog to help others along their own journey.  And honestly, finding that nugget was a goal for each and every post.

Well, today I am deeply entrenched on that therapist couch because today’s post is, unfortunately, just me processing some very difficult days.  You may get nothing out of this.  And for that, I apologize.  But I decided last night after another grief-filled day that I needed to pour out my heart, not only to God (as I often do), but to this cyber page.

Image result for free image woman on therapist couch

If you do decide to keep reading, let me preface this with a few disclaimers.  This season does NOT mean that my faith in a good God has wavered.  I still trust Him, still believe in His sovereignty over everything, still turn to Him in prayer during my dark moments.  And I still cling to His promise of eternal life with Him when this life is past – and for my reunion with Dale.

I also still live a pretty normal-looking life on the outside.  Most of the time I don’t have public break-downs.  I don’t walk around with my head down crying, “Woe is me!”  I’ve learned how to function in this new “normal.”  And yes, that new normal does have times of joy and blessing for which I am truly grateful.  Many (most?) people might even think I’ve healed and moved on.  My grieving season must be over.

But, the reality is that every single day is overwhelmingly marked by sadness and loneliness.  I feel bombarded with memories of my good times with Dale.  Not just a couple of times a day, but too many times to even count.  I would go so far as to say they are almost a constant presence in my day.  It might be a specific memory of something we enjoyed together.  But so often, it’s the memory of how much I loved him and how much he loved me.

I seem to have no influence over this bombardment.  I’m not sitting around for most of the day, trying to conjure up these memories so that I can have a good cry.  They can hit me at any time of the day or night – whether I’m sitting quietly or in the middle of an activity with a group of people.  Sometimes I know what triggered the memory or the emotion.  Other times, they just stab my heart with no warning whatsoever.

It’s exhausting.  I’m exhausted.  I’ve tried to be a glass-half-full kind of gal most of my life, so it’s incomprehensible to me that I’ve been so sad for 514 days.  And to have no idea when the sun will come out again.

You might wonder why those good memories bring me to tears.  Clearly, they are bittersweet.  I’m grateful beyond words for the life we had together before his dementia stole that from us.  But, the larger-than-life reality is that those times are over and I long for them…and him…like nothing I have ever experienced before.  And the depth of the pain and heartache is also like nothing I have ever experienced before.

You might also wonder if there’s something fundamentally wrong with me to be grieving this deeply 17 months after his death.  Harder now than a year ago.  And maybe you silently want me to start taking some meds.  I won’t rehash my thoughts on that subject here, but feel free to visit a previous post about that!

Over this past year, I have had lots of conversations with other widows or friends who have experienced a deep loss.  And either purposefully or accidentally, I’ve landed on many articles or blog posts written by those suffering a loss.

Almost universally, they talk about how much harder the grieving is 2-3 years after the loss.  Some are still deeply grieving DECADES after the loss.  That does not encourage me!

But it does tell me that the reality of this season I’m in is not “just me.”  I find myself nodding through almost all of these articles, relating to their pain and their wonderment at how long it’s lasting.

So, no, I don’t think what I’m going through is unique.  What IS unique is the sharing of it.  I believe so many people suffer in silence, not wanting to be an emotional burden on their friends.  Or they may share within a grief support group.  Those can be extremely healing for anyone grieving a loss, but often the experiences shared there, stay there.  And sometimes, just maybe, those experiences need to be shared with the grieving person’s circle of support.

Well, I think that’s enough gloom and doom for today.  Thank you for listening!  Since I cried through this whole post-writing, I do feel better!  And putting it out there as transparently as I can is healthy and helpful for me.

Do I expect this post to change your interactions with me?  Not really.  It was never about that.  I absolutely understand that people aren’t going to be following up with me on a daily basis as some did in those early days.  And that’s how it should be.  We do most of the hard work of grieving alone.  (Stay tuned for the April 2nd post on my ministry site for more on that!)

So this post is not a call to action for any of you.  At the most, maybe it gives you a little perspective.  Maybe it busts a myth or two about the length and depth of grieving.  Maybe it reminds you to keep praying for me.  THAT I will take!

This was just me trying to articulate, mostly for my own benefit, the difficulty of this path I’m on.  I will still look for blessings in each day – and I know they will be there.  And I will continue to witness God’s refinement of me and my faith through this trial.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted

    and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18


As a writer, of sorts, it’s probably not appropriate to make up silly words like I just did for this title.  But, it popped into my head, so there you go!

This week marked the one-year anniversary of my first blog post on this site.  As with the commemoration of so many key dates, we often are torn between how quickly the time goes, on one hand, and how it has painfully crawled along on the other.

I have some of those same emotions over this date.  In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago when I clearly felt God directing me to work through this deep sorrow by writing about it.  And yet, I’m surprised by the realization that a year has passed.

I just reread the original post and it brought back many of the feelings I had then – excitement, but a bit of trepidation stepping into a world I knew very little about.  Blogging OR widowhood!

While wedding anniversaries are a time of reminiscing over all that a couple has shared together, so this anniversary will be one where I reminisce about all that has transpired from a ministry perspective.

The timing is appropriate because just a few days ago, I gave my newly “retooled” videotaped presentation to a group of friends at my church.  It felt like a new beginning – and one clearly led by God.

Maybe more than anything this past year, that’s what I take away from this.  Even though I’ve been a believer since I was 14-years-old, I have never so clearly seen God open up doors, drop people into my life when I most needed their expertise AND their kindnesses, and time after time give me words to express ideas and concepts that seemed to land in my mind out of “nowhere.”

It’s an incredible, humbling experience to be used by the Almighty God!  And I’m so grateful that He can take this pain of widowhood and use it to help others learn how to bless their hurting friends.  It is so like God to not waste an ounce of our pain, but to use it for good in this fallen world.

I’ve written about how the second year of widowhood is so much harder than the first, and as I was living that reality and struggling with extra difficult weeks recently, I tried to develop the infamous “attitude of gratitude.”  It might be a silly, secular idea, but there is also much biblical support for embracing this. (See my closing scripture.)

So, I decided one of the best ways to escape the daily heartache of this season (widowhood AND this nasty winter!) would be to look for blessings in Every. Single. Day.  It really isn’t that hard.  Every day does have good things and one of the blessings that rose to the top of the list was this ministry.

For the first time in almost 20 years, I don’t have any (human) family members whose care is my sole responsibility.  For the first time since I started working at the Pella Super Valu in 1971, I don’t have a job to fill up my days.  This ministry is now my life’s calling – and I take it seriously!

And the purpose and joy and excitement and insights and spiritual growth it brings to my life cannot be understated.  I’m grateful beyond measure.  If you haven’t been to the ministry website, I’d love for you to visit!

For those who have prayed with me, cried with me, laughed with me, challenged me, and simply hung in there with me through this last year – THANK YOU from the bottom of this grateful heart.  YOU are a blessing that rose to the top as well.

I look forward to the year ahead, not knowing often from day to day what that looks like.  Quite a change for this Type A planner!  But a more sovereign Planner is now in charge and I yield to His vision.

So, whether you spend your days in the workplace rat race, at home with children, in school, volunteering, or occupied by any other busy-ness that the world can throw at you, I pray that you too can put your trust in that same all-powerful and all-knowing Planner!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“You’re Still the One”

Every now and then, my country music roots show up in a blog post.  Usually accompanied by some kind of apology to those of you who aren’t fans!  So, I’m sorry…again.  😊

Now many of you would probably place Shania Twain in some sort of cross-over category and that’s fine.  But back in 1997, I purchased her newly released album entitled, “Come On Over.”  And of course, I proceeded to listen to all the cuts on the album.

When I got to the song, “You’re Still the One,” I immediately thought, “THIS is OUR song!”  So, I excitedly called Dale into the kitchen and told him to listen to this because it was OUR song!  Yes, I did feel pretty strongly about that, can you tell??  Dale wasn’t quite as “over the moon” as I was, but did agree that it represented our relationship pretty well.

There were several lines in the song that especially jumped out at me.

Ain’t nothin’ better

We beat the odds together.

I’m glad we didn’t listen.

Look at what we would be missin’

They said “I bet they’ll never make it”

But just look at us holdin’ on.

We’re still together still goin’ strong.

 As you can imagine, our 20-year age difference caused many to question just how long this relationship would last.  I found out years after our wedding that one of my aunts said this to another relative ON OUR WEDDING DAY, “I’ll give it a year.”

Honestly, it just makes me chuckle now after our 31-year marriage.  And a few years into that marriage, this same aunt, who has since passed away, would often write to me and include this in her letters, “Say Hi to the noble Dale.”  So, whenever I passed the greeting along, he’d say, “That’s a good thing, right?”  Yes, honey, that’s a very good thing – especially coming from my very happily single Aunt Margaret.

So, why write about this now?  Well, for some reason this song from 20-some years ago has been getting some playing time on my country radio station over the past couple of weeks.  And it’s made its way back into my psyche a bit – with a mixture of warm fuzzies for the joy of experiencing that together, and heartache over the loss of that kind of love.

So on this Valentine’s Day, celebrating all things “love,” I’d like to once again claim this as OUR song.  Despite all that’s we’ve gone through, and all the emptiness from these past 16 months, I can still, without hesitation say to Dale, “You’re still the one.”  Thank you, God, for blessing me with a love like that.

I pray that somewhere in your life, you, too, have experienced that kind of love.  If not with a spouse, then through the love of Jesus, which is greater than anything we humans can muster up in our own strength.  Ultimately, HE, Jesus is the One.

Take a walk down memory lane, by listening to Shania here.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13


I Lost My Processor!

Don’t panic!  Don’t call the Geek Squad!  It’s not my computer processor that I’ve lost.  I don’t really even have one anymore since it’s all in my laptop.

No, the processor I’m talking about is my husband.  One of the things I’m missing a lot lately is the daily “processing” of our lives together.  Most of it was pretty mundane, if I think back on it.  Just the minutiae of living life with someone for over 35 years.

We were blessed to have a relationship that allowed for discussion on pretty much any topic.  So, of course, Dale was my “go to” guy no matter what I needed to talk about.  And, when I shared something I was struggling with, his goal, like most men, was to get it fixed for me.  My goal was for him to listen to me, and maybe feel just a little sorry for me!

He was the first one I wanted to tell when something wonderful happened in my day.  And he would always celebrate and rejoice with me.

I know men say a LOT fewer words in a day than we women, but I was also Dale’s “go to” person when he wanted to share anything good or bad that was going on in his life.  It was just part of the rhythm of our lives together.

I miss that…every day.

Even when he was at the assisted living facility, I still talked to him at least twice a day on the phone, and went to see him almost every day.  Yes, the processor was losing a little of its battery, but it was still there.

I think that trying to find a new normal in my life has shined a light on this emptiness I’m currently struggling with.  Honestly, it’s extremely lonely.  Yes, I talk to my animals (like Dr. Doolittle…), but there’s not much conversation happening.

I do have friends that I process parts of my life with, sometimes on a daily basis, and I’m extremely grateful for that.  Recently, one of those friends was on an extended vacation out of the country in a very weird time zone 😊, with few opportunities to connect.  That was also a very tangible absence.

All of this caused me to take a closer look at what I should be learning through this.  I know God works through our trials, and I’ve learned to expect insights from Him any time a new heartache finds its way into my life.

I found that the lesson God was teaching me here wasn’t a new revelation.  He has tried to teach me this before!  But, how often does it take multiple knocks on our head to get our attention from God!?  I’m grateful for His patience!!

What He has shown me, once again, is that He is my All-Sufficiency.  When I’m sad or lonely or hurting or grieving, my “go to” guy should be God.

One of my favorite verses is from Philippians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

There is so much comfort in this verse, and it’s a great reminder that we can and should take everything that causes us to be anxious or hurting to the God Who knows us better than we know ourselves.  He CAN give us that famous “peace that passes all understanding.”

Yes, He does still bless us with friends and family and Church family who can lift us up during our hard times – and they are from Him – but I must remind myself that God should be where I want to run FIRST.

So, who is your processor?  If you’re married, it’s likely your spouse.  Or it might be a parent or child or best friend.  Someone in your life helps you work through the good and bad of your days.

Just a couple thoughts to ponder here.  As God is trying to teach me, do you find that you go first in prayer to Him?  Or are you processing everything through an earthly relationship?  I have been and continue to be guilty of this, too.

Do you take your processor for granted?  It’s VERY easy to do that.  I’m sure I did that for most of our married lives.  And, let’s face it, not every part of our processing is kind and unselfish and patient and…  Oh no, sometimes processing is just arguing!  So, it’s hard to always appreciate THOSE times.

But I challenge you to look at this part of your life through a lens of gratitude, knowing that someday, you too may lose your processor.

May God ALWAYS be the One you can count on!

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

No “Cookie-Cutter” Grief

I lost a good friend to cancer this past week.  Her funeral was yesterday and it’s still hard to get my head around her absence.  She died about a month after receiving the diagnosis.  Her friends and family all knew that it was terminal and she didn’t have a LOT of time.  But I think we were all shocked at how quickly it went.

I’m not only grateful for her friendship for the past 22 years, but for the sweet conversations we had over this past month.  She had lost her beloved husband unexpectedly 15 years ago.  I still remember it almost like it was yesterday.  And yet, for her, I’m sure some of those 15 years painfully dragged on.

But back to those sweet conversations.  We spent much of that time talking about what lie ahead for her.  Her greatest anticipation was to be with Jesus, in the throne room of God.  Because Heaven and Jesus are synonymous.  You can’t have one without the other.  That is my ultimate hope as well as I walk through this life.  I SO look forward to that.

Maybe because we were both widows.  Maybe because my loss is much more recent.  But we also talked A LOT about the reunion with her husband.  Oh sure, we can often think about how wonderful it will be to reunite with our believing loved ones who have gone on before us.  But I think it can often be on a very ethereal level.  Of course, we expect it to be spectacular, but we don’t always focus on the reality of it.

Even though I don’t THINK my life on this earth will end in a few weeks, I HAVE started to contemplate my reunion with Dale in real time, so to speak.  I imagine what it would be like to actually wake up in Heaven and run into his open arms.  And with the AGAPE love that we would both have?  It’s mind-blowing to imagine how incredible that will be.  That thought sustains me through many lonely days and nights.

So, with my friend’s death likely only a few weeks away, I asked her if she could even get her head around what it would be like to be reunited with her husband after all these years.  To actually see and touch and hear him again after the loneliness of widowhood.  She told me it was surreal to her.  Hard to even grasp the reality that was ahead for her.

Honestly?  I told her I was a little jealous that she would get to see Dale before I would.  I asked her to tell him how much I loved and missed him, and that I couldn’t wait for the day we would be reunited as well.

So focused was I on the immeasurable joy that was awaiting my friend, that I found my emotions around her impending death were primarily…JOYFUL!  Of course, I would miss her and I shed tears over MY loss.  But to a very great degree, that was overshadowed by my incredible happiness for her!

You might suggest that she had the best of both worlds. She knew her time was short and she made the absolute most of that.  She had such precious moments with all her family members and many of her friends.  She was able to plan every detail of her “Celebration of Life Service” including asking me to play a piano prelude for it.  I was honored to do so.  When I asked if she had any specific requests, she said (with a twinkle in her eye), “Something with ‘saints’ in it!”  I LOVED her sense of humor.

So while she had the opportunity to do all the things we all want to do before we die, she also was blessed to go quickly, without the long, lingering death that so often accompanies cancer.  She was ready to go, she knew where she was headed, she and her husband had left a wonderful family legacy, she had lived a good life of service to her Lord, and He blessed her by taking her home quickly.

In the days shortly after she passed, I found myself making some comparisons between her death and Dale’s – and more accurately, my response to them.

All the wonderful things that I rejoiced over with my friend were very similar to what Dale has been experiencing for the past year or so.  He, too, has now seen Jesus’ face.  He, too, is in the throne room of God.  He, too, has been reunited with his believing family members and friends.  They are both experiencing the many promises God has given us in the Bible regarding eternal life.  No more sorrow, no more tears, no more sadness.

So, a part of me was wondering why I didn’t have the same level of joy after Dale’s death.  I questioned if my grieving over Dale’s death should look more like how I grieved my friend’s death.  Was I too focused on the pain of his absence from my life, and not enough on all the joy he now had?

I did chew on that for a while and want to share where I landed afterwards.

Of course, there are some obvious differences.  For 30 years I lived nearly every day with Dale.  I saw my friend regularly, but we weren’t part of each other’s daily lives.  And my love for my friend was that of a sisterhood, while my love for Dale was the earthly version of Agape.

But the biggest, most impactful difference in my response to their deaths is the fact that I had a covenant relationship with Dale.  The Bible tells us that when two become one in marriage, it’s a relationship that is intended to last “until death do us part.”  Sadly, I know that isn’t true for many, and for those who have experienced that brokenness, I’m sorry for your pain, too.

The loss of a spouse through death is like having half of your body ripped away BECAUSE of that covenant relationship.  It’s a reflection of the relationship that Christ has with His Church, the body of believers.  Other than the relationship among the three members of the Trinity, I’m not sure there’s a more powerful example than that of husband and wife.

So, it only makes sense that my grieving over Dale’s death is on a different level than the grief over my friend’s.

And that is ALSO a lesson for us.  Everyone. Grieves. Differently.  A zillion factors can go into that, so be cautious about making assumptions about their grief.  Just be that welcome, listening ear when they need to process their unique pain.  It’s such a precious gift you can give during a vulnerable time.  God will bless you in return.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21:4

Sin Taints…Everything

During this past year, I’ve come across so many pictures from my life with Dale.  Some came with sympathy cards, some came from family, many were here in the house and just rediscovered as I go through Dale’s “space.”  Some are just of him, but so many are of the two of us as early as our pre-marriage days.

I can’t help but notice how very young and “in our prime” we look!  In many cases they are a stark contrast to the reality of those last few years together as he failed physically and mentally.  And honestly, I’m no spring chicken either!

I often joked with friends that, when I see Dale in heaven one day, I want him to look like he did on our wedding day, not on the day he died.  And I want to look like I did back then, too.

All of this reminded me of a very real, but sorrowful truth.  From the day we are born, we are dying.  Aren’t I just a ray of sunshine?!  But all we need to do is look around us to acknowledge this reality.  Of course, our bodies are falling apart to one degree or another.  The seasons remind us that much of nature goes through this death cycle.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the Universe tends toward disorder.

And most powerfully, the death of loved ones reminds us of the mortal nature of this world.

Sometimes I think we take this inevitability so for granted that we forget its source.  It happened back in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned, and the course of mankind was set forever – until we die or Jesus comes back.

Trust me, this will NOT be a dissertation on sin and its effects, but suffice it to say that everything in the heavens and earth was tainted and headed for decay and death from that point on.  We often spend much of our later lives fighting this reality and the cosmetic and Botox industries thank us very much!

But don’t we all long for the days of our prime?  Doesn’t it seem to be an innate desire in our souls?  Ecclesiastes tells us that God has placed eternity in our hearts, and I believe it only makes sense that we want to be young and vibrant in eternity!

That is speculation on my part, so don’t go looking for scripture to support that word for word.  But we do know that God will make all things new one day.  We just can’t know exactly what that looks like in this life.

Not only do I look forward to the day when we can be rid of these deteriorating physical bodies, but I also long to be rid of the sin that lurks around all of my thoughts, desires, words and actions.  Talk about breaking free from our bonds!  What a glorious day for us to anticipate if we are believers.

I think that may be one of the reasons why I don’t spend much energy on memories from my life with Dale that showcase those sins.  I don’t want to dwell on the times our pride or stubbornness or insecurities or frailties created difficult memories.

I want to camp out on the very best moments of our very best days.  In short, I want to remember those times that, in retrospect, seem near-perfect to me.  Naïve?  Perhaps.

As I worked through this thought process over the past few months, I came to the conclusion that what I’m longing for physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually is…HEAVEN!

Full disclosure – I am studying Randy Alcorn’s book, “Heaven,” (for the third time 😊) and that is definitely influencing my thought processes lately.  But the promises in God’s Word are true and, as believers, we CAN look forward to a future eternity that is free from physical decay, or any other encumbrance that sin has saddled us with in this life.

Restoration of everything that’s tainted in our earthly lives is an incredible hope we can cling to.  I honestly don’t know if it’s wrong to create these rose-colored memories of my time with Dale.  But it feels like a comforting way to bridge that gap until I step into eternity.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

(Revelation 21:5)


I Don’t Have THAT Sorrow

As I write this, Christmas is just starting to appear in the rear view mirror – New Year’s is straight ahead.  How did your holiday season go?  Boy, we all have stories from that, don’t we?

Mine was definitely a mixed bag.  Some very tearful times as this was my first Christmas at home without Dale.  And yet some times of blessing, too, with friends and family.

But this post is not about the holidays.  I’m moving on from those pretty quickly.  Grateful to have survived!  I want to share a revelation, of sorts, that I had while reading one of my daily devotions in ‘Streams in the Desert” this past week.

This particular one was encouraging the reader with the promise that God is always by our side no matter what we might be feeling.  The author asked the questions, “Do you feel like God has turned His back on you?  Do you feel unloved by God?  Does it seem like He doesn’t care about what you’re going through?  Do you feel forsaken by Him?”

I could honestly, and gratefully, answer, “No, I do NOT feel like that!”  Despite the great sorrow and loss of this past year – and other difficult times in my life – I do not doubt God’s love for me.  I rest fully in the promises I find in His Word.  They are what sustain me in my darkest moments.  And for that, I am eternally grateful to God.

Because, ultimately, He is the one who has blessed me with that faith.  It’s nothing that I’ve conjured up out of my own strength.  It is something that He has mercifully bestowed upon me.  Oh sure, it definitely helps that I have sat under solid biblical teaching for years.  And that helped me get my theology (what I believe about God) in place before the deepest trials hit.

But I can take no credit for it.  If you find yourself answering, “Yes” to any of those questions posed earlier, I do have some encouragement for you.

I have to take you to another Christian holiday to illustrate my point.  Fast forward to Easter, or more accurately, Good Friday.  If you’ve ever read the excruciating details of what Jesus physically suffered through the scourging and eventual death by crucifixion, you know that it’s about as bad as anything can get.

But an even deeper suffering that Christ endured was evidenced by His words on the cross that fateful day; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  When Jesus took the weight and the penalty of our sins on that cross, God DID forsake him while that penalty was being paid.  This article from the Desiring God website does a great job of fleshing that out a bit, if you’re interested in more depth.

But back to the devotional.  As I read the comforting words about God never forsaking us, I realized it was BECAUSE Jesus was forsaken on that cross, that I don’t need to feel alone in this life.  I may be suffering from many other sources of sorrow, but I don’t have THAT sorrow.

He paved the way for us to have unbroken fellowship with God forever, if we confess our sins and ask Him to be Lord of our lives.  He has already done the heavy lifting.

So, when you start to question whether God loves you or would ever forsake you, be reminded of the great lengths and depths Jesus went to so that you could be spared that kind of sorrow.  Please don’t take it lightly.  He wants us to fully trust His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us.  It’s not just a simple platitude; it’s a truth borne out of Jesus’ suffering on our behalf.

Now there’s a Christmas/Good Friday gift that we can all be grateful for!  May you know that truth as you finish out 2018 and head into a new year.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them,

for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.

He will not leave you or forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6