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

A Gift Named Winnie

Happy post!  Some of you have probably seen my recent FaceBook post showing off my new little dog, Winnie.  This is such a cool story that I wanted to put a little meat on the bones of that picture, so you can see how God blesses His children in the midst of their trials.

Just to refresh, I made the difficult, but correct decision to put my sweet Missy down a few weeks ago.  And 2 weeks to the day after that, I was back at the same emergency vet with a very sick Daisy, who wasn’t to return home for another 3 days.

So, adding those two tearful events into a life that was already quite tearful seemed overwhelming to me at the time.  But all ended well for Daisy and she is back to her normal crazy self.  (I was kind of hoping to take a little of the crazy off, but no such luck…)

Long before Dale passed away, we had discussed downsizing the number of pets we had, which was 2 dogs and a cat.  Eventually I would want to be in a townhome that would not have a fenced back yard.  So, we both agreed that once Missy was gone, we would become a one dog-one cat household.

And I was absolutely OK with that.  I know that’s hard for some of you to believe…but it’s true.  😊  I think this must go along with aging, but I found myself wondering how many more dogs I would have in this life, and how many more cars.  That’s right, cars.  Anybody else find themselves doing that??  So, I had the math all figured out and agreed that this would be the time to start the downsizing process in the dog world.

I came home from dinner last Friday night and checked my FaceBook newsfeed before going to bed.  What would show up but an adorable Boston/Frenchie face named Winnie who was needing a home.  The post was from a friend named Lynn whom I had met through the Boston Terrier rescue almost 8 years ago.  She lives in Iowa City and we had never met in person.  Winnie was 5 years old, surrendered from a home, got along great with kids, other dogs and cats and was so, so sweet.

Huh…what do I do with THAT?  Well, I did send a private message to Lynn saying, “Do I need to talk to you about this dog??”

Then I prayed that God would either open up doors for me to adopt her, or clearly shut them by giving her to someone else.

The next morning, I called Lynn and we chatted a bit about Winnie’s personality and her history.  It all seemed SO right, especially the part about Winnie NOT being a strong alpha dog.  Can’t have two of those in this household.  But one problem.  I couldn’t get Daisy over to Iowa City to meet Winnie because she has become terrified of riding in the car the past few years.  (In fact, that is exactly what I was working on when I erroneously gave her too many hot dog treats resulting in her trip to the emergency vet.  Word to the wise…)

I asked Lynn if she thought it would be enough for me to come meet Winnie in Iowa City and then decide if her personality seemed compatible with Daisy’s.  To which she replied, “We will be in Des Moines tomorrow and can bring Winnie along.  I can help introduce them.”  WOW!  Can you say, “Door.  Wide.  Open!?”

So, at 11:30 the next day, Lynn showed up with Winnie and it was love at first sight for me.  Such a happy, loving little girl!  But now the big test.  Introduce her to Daisy.  So off to the back yard we went awaiting the big meet and greet.  When I brought Daisy out, there were a few seconds of some fairly aggressive sniffing and then…that’s it!  No signs of stress or aggression in either dog.  That, in itself, is a minor miracle, as those of you who know Daisy might attest!

By noon, it was a done deal (minus the follow-up paperwork) and Winnie had found a new home.  She slipped immediately into a comfortable routine here, getting along great with both Daisy AND the cat, Max.  He quickly decided that she was no threat and has already started trying to play with her a bit.

As I was looking through all of Winnie’s paperwork, I found the original document from when the previous owners had purchased her and, surprise (?), she came from the same breeder as Daisy!  One more confirmation that this was absolutely the right decision.  Winnie was meant to be part of this family.  And apparently, they both have the TV-watching gene…

I couldn’t help but be amazed at how all of this transpired so quickly, and so clearly!  While I truly had no intentions of getting another dog, God obviously had different plans.  I started to see the blessing that this was in my life, after some very difficult weeks and months.  Winnie was God’s gift to me, when I wasn’t expecting it.

How good and kind is our God?  It brings tears to my eyes (happy ones) when I think of the depth of His love for me to bring this little punkin into my life when I didn’t even know that I needed her.  But God did, and chose to bless me beyond what I could have hoped for.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?”  Matthew 7:11.  Or to those who don’t even know to ask!

Thank you, God, (and Lynn!) for this gift named Winnie.

 

What About Joy?

Recently, I’ve had several friends ask me to pray that God would bring joy into their lives daily, particularly through their trials.  Or through the trials of their loved ones.  Let’s face it, in today’s world, we are bombarded, surrounded, inundated, and overwhelmed with gloom and doom.  One must almost unplug from the world to get some relief, it seems.

I can absolutely relate to that.  There is so much in this world that can steal our joy.  For me, it’s all of the above and the trials of grieving through Dale’s death.  Some days it feels as though joy has taken a holiday somewhere besides my house, or this world.

So, I thought this would be an appropriate topic for today’s post.  Consequently, as I often do, I started some research to see what certain writers and pastors had to say about this topic.  I’m not looking for any pat answers; I want to see what theologians that I trust say.  And then apply that to my life and hopefully to yours.

Much of what I read was not new and just confirmed what I’ve believed about joy for years now.  And one concept I believed is that happiness is a much more “secular” goal – who doesn’t want to be happy?  Many of the graduation snippets I’ve heard lately feature speakers who are trying to guide the new graduates in their quest for happiness.  Contrast that temporary feeling with the deep, abiding concept of joy – a feeling that we can abide in, no matter what our circumstances.  Spiritually, I’d say that this type of joy, in its purest sense, can best be supplied by God.

You can imagine my surprise when I came upon a radio interview with Randy Alcorn a few years go where he turns this whole concept of happiness being secular and joy being spiritual on its head!  Others like Pastor John Piper, Pastor Charles Spurgeon and Joni Eareckson Tada seemed to share this same conviction with Randy.

My church teaches that when we have a framework/scripture collision, scripture must win out.  In other words, if what I’ve believed about something does not match up with what I now clearly see in scripture, guess what needs to change?  Certainly not God’s Word!  I have to adjust my thinking.

That’s exactly what I’ve just done in the past hour or so.  The premise of this radio interview was that the words joy and happiness in all the various Hebrew and Greek transcripts are essentially INTERCHANGEABLE.  They are synonyms for each other again and again and again in both the Old and New Testaments, along with words like gladness and contentment.

So, whether you buy into that thought at this point or not, stay with me as I take a look into some other nuggets of truth from God’s Word on this topic of joy:

God’s Word commands us to be joyful.  Many times!  Yikes!  That feels pretty impossible, right?  If we’re just trying to muster up this joyful feeling, no wonder that’s not working for us, at least not long-term.  We can’t do it!  So, if we stop there, it’s no wonder that we are frustrated and feel like attaining joy is an impossible task.

What compromises our joy?  Is it the circumstances surrounding us?  Our job, our mental and physical health, our relationships, our finances, losses in our lives?  Yep, I must confess – for me those areas often dictate how joyful, or happy I feel.

Let me suggest that we can still find joy and happiness in most of those areas I listed above.  And I believe it is right to do so.  When things are going well, rejoice!  But wouldn’t we love to land where Paul did, as he states in his letter to the Philippians?  “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Phil. 4:11

How do we get there?  Psalm 37:4 gives us one answer: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  As believers, it’s as simple and as complicated as that.  If we start to switch our focus to the character of God and all that He has done for us through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus on the cross, our “momentary troubles” can start to shrink in comparison.

Specifically, can we rest and find joy knowing that God is sovereign over all things?  Does this give us peace?  If so, camp out there for a while!

Do we find God’s Spirit speaking as we read His Word or go to Him in prayer?  Is fellowship with Him sweet?  If so, savor that – rinse and repeat!

Do we value Christ above all else?  Honestly, that’s a tough one, isn’t it?  We want to say we do, and hope that we can eventually achieve that, but many of the things of this world can leap frog over Christ and His supremacy.

Let me share a recent lesson I learned.  If you’ve read earlier posts, you know that I had to put my sweet dog, Missy, to sleep a few weeks ago.  About a week ago, my other dog, Daisy, got violently ill with vomiting, resulting in another trip to the emergency vet over the weekend.  She ended up staying there from Sunday until this past Wednesday morning as they treated her for pancreatitis and gastroenteritis, along with severe dehydration.  She was seriously one sick puppy.

I came home to so much quiet – no Dale, no Missy and no Daisy.  Through my tears, I pleaded with God to not take my Daisy.  Surely, He would not do that after I’ve lost so much this year.  Gratefully, He did NOT take Daisy and I’m happy (and joyful 😊) to report that she is home and very much on the mend.

But it caused me to think about what my response would have been if God had, in fact, chosen to take Daisy as well.  I seriously told people that I would just be done…  But would I?  What would the proper response be to another loss like that?  What would God be teaching me?  We really can’t know the mind of God; however, I did have to honestly ask myself, could it be that I cherish things of this world (my husband, my pets) MORE than God Himself?  Might that be His lesson? Yikes again…

It was a good reminder to me and maybe for you that our greatest joy and happiness lie in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and in trusting in the supremacy of God’s sovereignty.

This sounds pretty sweet, right?  So, getting back to an earlier question: why do we still find it so difficult?  I ask myself often, “Am I trying to do this in my own strength?”  And almost as often, the answer is, “Yes!”  If God commands us to be joyful and to delight ourselves in Him, then, through His Holy Spirit, He can surely supply it for us, if we allow Him to work that out in our lives.

Even knowing this doesn’t necessarily mean we master it perfectly.  But we need to put aside our strong desire to fix everything ourselves, in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones.  And meditate on the scriptural fact that God’s Holy Spirit in us can accomplish all things, even giving us JOY in the midst of trials.  Or in the midst of our own self-improvement project.  Let Him be God and let Him sanctify you with the joy He so wants you to experience.

Book after book have been written on the subject of joy, and innumerable sermons preached on the topic, so this humble little blog post can’t possibly even scratch the surface of all that God’s Word says about joy and happiness.

So, go to God’s Word and search for scriptures related to this subject and then just let those truths wash over you and give you hope.  If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have never been able to find lasting joy in anything you’ve pursued, maybe now is the time to hear God’s voice calling you.

Let me leave you with one scripture text that beautifully summarizes much of what I hope and pray this post has challenged you with.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

 

 

 

 

The Good Ol’ Days

People often joke that the only thing good about the good ol’ days is that they’re gone.  While there is some truth to that, I still believe that most of us can find times in our lives when happy and pleasant memories bring a smile to our hearts and fill us with the warmth of nostalgia.

As I continue grieving the loss of Dale, I am spending a fair amount of time reminiscing about our “good ol’ days” together.  It’s one of the ways I can stay connected to him and focus on times that make me grateful for the life we had together.  But, it’s bittersweet.  As great as those times were, they are gone, never to return – and that also brings me sorrow.

Even during the days as Dale’s physical and mental health were deteriorating, I tried to maintain an attitude of being grateful for what we had and not being sad for what we were losing.  Easier said than done, for sure, and there were many days when I failed.  Can I apply that state of mind to my current state of affairs?

As I look through pictures, or just linger over some heart-warming memories, I have some regrets that I didn’t cherish those times as much as I should have while they were happening.  Can you relate to that?  Don’t we all do that to a certain degree?  We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.

I suppose that’s part of our human nature, to a degree, to have a greater appreciation in retrospect.  And there is likely some truth to the idea that we tend to remember what was good about those days and either forget or bury what might not have been so great.  But I do believe happy memories are a comforting gift during dark days.

Recently, a challenging thought came to me – “Am I appreciating THESE good ol’ days like I should?”  That’s a pretty crazy question, isn’t it?  Really?  I should be appreciating the days where I’m grieving the worst loss of my life?  How is that even applicable here?  And yet, somehow, I felt that it was!

I just finished some more “light bedtime reading” in Randy Alcorn’s (nearly 500-page) book entitled If God is Good – Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Seriously, Lynne, can’t you find something more ‘Disney-esque’ to read!?”

I wrote in an earlier post about how God does his best work in our lives through our trials, and that was definitely one of the main themes in the book.  The author cited story after heartbreaking story of people and couples and families who had been through tremendous difficulties in their lives (or were still in them) – and were often very angry with God or whomever they could blame for the tragedy at the time.  And yet, in retrospect, many of these stories ended with those involved being grateful for the lessons they learned, for the deepening of their faith, for the way they saw God using their tragedy to help others.  They would even go so far as to say that, despite the horrific experiences they went through, they wouldn’t trade it for all that they’ve gained in their knowledge and relationship with God because of it.

That is some pretty powerful testimony.  And it might be a bit hard to believe – that someone would be so grateful for the worst days of their lives.  And yet, we must take them at their word and learn from what they share with us.

So, will I look back on this season of my life and be grateful for it?  Better yet, how about appreciating the good ol’ days RIGHT NOW?  Mind you, I do clearly see God working in my life and am grateful for the lessons learned since Dale’s death.  But, if I’m honest, I’d have to say that I sometimes come to that gratitude a bit reluctantly.

I would still MUCH rather not be going through this pain, even if the outcome is for my good.  That’s my human-ness speaking.  Deep in my soul, I know that’s not where it should end.  Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:3-5)  That’s a beautiful promise!

So, my prayer for myself and for all of you is that we will be able to appreciate what we have today and live more “in the moment,” regardless of whether we are in sunshine or storms, and that our hearts would be open to, and even searching for, the lessons we can learn no matter the forecast.

 

Good-Bye, Sweet Missy

Reader beware.  This will NOT be a happy post.  So, you may want to save this for another time if you’re in the middle of having fun this weekend.

I had to make the heart wrenching decision to put my sweet Missy (Boston/Frenchie mix) to sleep today.  And since I have been working through my grief and pain of losing Dale through this blog, I figured why not continue the therapy here?  Anyone that knows me for more than a day will understand that my pets have always been like children to me.  Yes, I am that crazy, over-the-top animal lover that many of you may not quite understand.  And you won’t understand the depth of my grief.  But you fellow animal lovers will completely get this.

Missy came to us about 5 years ago after the painful, tragic loss of our Boston Terrier, Holly.  We really didn’t intend on getting another dog so quickly, but six days after losing Holly, we had our little Missy girl to help us grieve.  We were never sure what her first six years looked like, but clearly she came from an abusive background.  Despite five years of nothing but love and kindness, she was still afraid of the leash, still tensed up anytime I picked her up, and still bore some scars on her precious little body.

But regardless of that past, she had the sweetest personality of ANY dog I have ever had. And that’s saying something, because I’ve had some great dogs throughout my life.   She didn’t seem to be afraid of people or other animals, always greeting whoever came to the door.  She would wait patiently in the background while Daisy hogged all the attention.  Then it’s like she’d say, “Hey, maybe you could just give me a little pet, if it’s not too much trouble!”

It’s always amazing to me how animals can continue to trust us humans even when we’ve caused them pain.  We can learn a LOT from that.  I’m so grateful that we had her for as long as we did.  I always told people that Missy would be the perfect dog for anyone who didn’t like dogs, because she was just that precious.

She entered a household that was run by Crazy Daisy and they were a perfect match.  Missy needed a leader and Daisy needed another minion for her kingdom.  They were complete opposites and yet, perfectly paired.  God’s hand was clearly guiding the process of getting Missy into this home.  I’m grateful that Dale and I, along with our family and friends, could be the ones to show her what her life was supposed to be.

About a month ago, she started having some heart issues and was put on medication for that.  I was also to keep an eye on her breathing rate and get her back to the vet if it was over 40 breaths per minute.  She had been running around 20, so no worries here.

Last Thursday, her breathing took a turn for the worse and she clocked in at 60 breaths per minute.  At her vet appointment the next day, her X-rays showed a lot of fluid in and around her lungs.  A shot of Lasix and some water pills were our last hope to give her some relief, as she was clearly in distress with such rapid breathing.  I left for the holiday weekend with instructions to take her to the emergency vet if her breathing didn’t return to 40/min by 9 that night.  They did not, but I wasn’t ready to let her go.

I wanted to give the medication a day or so to see if it would help before making that final decision.  By last night, it was clearly not working for her and I knew what lie ahead for us.

In the 30+ years that Dale and I were married, he was the one who always did the hard work of taking our pets to the vet when their time had come.  I would stay home, lost in my tears and grief.  Dale would always, sometimes a BIT grudgingly, agree to get another dog, so that’s one of the ways that we would begin our healing process.

Now that Dale is gone, the decision fell to me – and even more importantly, the JOB fell to me.  I did have dear friends who offered to go with me and to them I say, “Thank you for being willing to grieve this with me!”  But I know what a basket case I would become, and I just needed to do that in the privacy of my own little world.

So, I made Daisy give Missy a last wet kiss, and off we went to the emergency vet clinic.  I won’t take you through all those tearful details, but will tell you that it’s a very peaceful process, if you’ve never been through it.  Peaceful, but final.

The pain of losing a beloved pet, especially for us crazy animal lovers, is one of the worst things you go through.  So, to have to deal with this while I’m still deep in the grieving process of losing Dale just doubled the pain.  Of course, I missed him not being here to do that hard work, but I also missed not having him here to grieve with.

But, as sad as this time is, and as much of a downer as this blog post is, I did have a very sweet thought that brings me some comfort.  I picture Missy waking up in heaven and running into Dale’s open arms!  What a precious homecoming that would be!  Can’t you just see it?

I know, I know – the Bible does NOT tell us that our pets will be there.  But, it DOES say that all creation will one day be restored.  And we know the Garden of Eden was full of animals, so I fully expect to see animals there.  I love what Randy Alcorn says in his book Heaven – “Wouldn’t it be just like God to have our pets in heaven?”  Yes, yes, it would!  So THAT’S what I’m going with.  I may be wrong, but I’m going to hang onto that picture and that hope as I continue to grieve both of these losses.

And if I haven’t made you cry yet, here’s my last chance.  My last words to Missy before she was gone were, “I love you, my sweet girl.  Now go run to Daddy.”  That’s the picture I want to remember.

Depression, Grieving…and Medication

Well, if that title isn’t enough to cause an uproar…, or trepidation on my part!  I’ve had a couple of blog post ideas floating around the past few days, but nothing that I felt strongly about running with.  In the past 24 hours, I’ve read certain articles and had several discussions with friends about this topic and then came that overwhelming sense when I know what the next post will be.  But this time, I thought, “Boy, I do NOT want to tackle this subject.  I don’t see an upside and I’m pretty sure I will offend people that I love and respect!”  I’ll just have to trust God for the upside!

So here I am, typing up this explosive topic – mind you, not before praying and asking God to give me HIS words.  So, I do pray that God would help me be clear in what I sense Him asking me to share, and that He would give all the readers an open mind and a heart of grace.

So here goes.  Let me begin by saying that I have never had to deal with any kind of long-term clinical depression and for that, I’m extremely grateful.  Nor have I really walked closely with someone dealing with that horrible disease.  I do, however, have friends who have dealt with this and several close friends who have spent decades walking through this nightmare with their loved ones.

I can’t even begin to comprehend what it must be like to deal with clinical depression personally, or to watch a loved one suffer through this.  My heart breaks for them.  Clearly these are the situations where modern medicine can and should step in to help deal with the chemical imbalance wreaking havoc on their brains.  I do know many people have found some sense of healing or relief under their doctor’s supervision.  I also know that healing doesn’t always come, and the pain and hopelessness continue.

If any of this describes you or someone you love, please know that my heart goes out to you as you struggle through this very real, very physical challenge.

That, however, is not what I’m experiencing as I grieve the loss of my husband.  Yes, I am sad, and I still cry daily, and I’m often overwhelmed by the loneliness.  But I feel that I do a disservice to those suffering from clinical depression if I think it’s OK to say our sufferings are comparable.  Or to put them in the same medical basket.

One thing we do have in common, however, is that the “solution” for either of us is not to just get over it.  Society may tell us to think positive thoughts and stop being so blue.  Wrong answer – wrong suggestion.  Neither suffering benefits from that advice.  Clinical depression likely will need medical intervention.  Grieving has to run its painful course.

Some in the field call my particular grieving a form of situational depression – a sadness borne of some great loss which, theoretically will lessen over time with or without medical help.  And maybe that is what I’m dealing with.

Enter the gray area where there is no right or wrong, but only what an individual feels works best for him or her.  I have close friends who have benefitted from medication to help them through some very difficult and stressful times.  I supported their decision to do so 100%.  It’s absolutely their call, and I know that they received relief.  No judgment on my part.  Grateful when they came out of their self-described fog.

Over the past 7 months, friends have suggested to me that I consider taking some medication as well, to help me through these dark days. I know, without a doubt, that they had my best interests at heart.  They don’t want to see me hurting, and feel helpless to know what to do for me.  I LOVE the heart of those friends who want my pain to go away.  But that’s not really how grieving works.  If it was, I guess it wouldn’t be called grieving!

As I explain how and why I came to the decision I made, I hope that you will also extend grace to me and not judge this personal choice I’m embracing.  When I engage in conversation with those suggesting I take some medication, I can honestly tell them that I’m functioning, I exercise daily, I’m sleeping quite well, I’m eating well (actually TOO much chocolate…).  I’m not without hope, I’m not suicidal.  I’M GRIEVING.  This is what it looks like. I would even go so far as to say that I don’t consider this to be situational depression.  It’s the process any of us must go through when we grieve the loss of someone we love.  Not grieving means you’ll pay the price in some other way at some point in your life.

I talked in an earlier post about how God does His best and most permanent work in our lives through our most difficult times.  I believe that with my whole heart as I’ve seen time and time again the lessons that God is teaching me as He walks through this journey with me.  Some I would never have learned any other way.

So the next lesson came in the form of a question that it seemed God was asking of me:  “If He does in fact teach me the most through my pain, why would I want to limit what He is going to do in my life by purposely lessening that pain?”  I’m not trying to be a martyr here; I’m just trying to be true to where I believe God is leading me on this particular issue.  And possibly share a perspective that you might not have had before.  I certainly didn’t have any clue about this until recently!

Let me be clear; this is MY path and decision.  It’s where God is leading ME.  I don’t know where He has, or is, or may lead you down the road.  It may very well be to help you through some dark days with effective and trusted medication.  And maybe I’ll be there some day, too.  But right now, this is where He has me.

I make no judgments on anyone choosing medication or procedures for any part of their healing.  And I ask that you not judge me for choosing not to go that route.  May God give us ALL the grace and understanding to support each other no matter which path we are on!

 

Vacation Re-Entry…and a New Hope

For those of you who saw my recent FaceBook pix, you know that I took a vacation to Phoenix, Arizona with some girlfriends.  These are friends from WAY back in my early days with Northwestern Bell – which became USWest, which became Qwest, which became Century Link.  We’ve been friends since 1983 and I’m SO blessed that they are still such a big part of my life.  It’s the kind of friendship that can pick up where we left off and not miss a beat.

We did all the fun things you do on vacation – lots of pool time, a little HOT golf, dinners out, trip to Sedona, sleeping in, and LOTS of chocolate and laughter.  Such an encouraging time for me.  And ironic that I would find a respite from the emotional desert in which I find myself – in that desert!  But it was a wonderful balm for my soul.

Most of us know that there is a somewhat depressing re-entry time after a vacation – or even after a nice, long weekend.  It means we go back to the reality of work or school or chores or problems or whatever.  It’s not my favorite part of a vacation and I’m sure it’s not yours.

But this re-entry was HARD!  The reality I faced after this trip was “full of emptiness” (intentional pun) and sadness.  I so wanted to call Dale and tell him about my trip.  Despite the dogs’ exuberance at my return, the house seemed very quiet and lonely.  I found myself tearful for 3-4 days after my return.

My grief seemed to center around the loss of this great love we had.  Like any relationship that is decades long, our love went through numerous stages.  There’s the beginning stage of new love with a little bit of infatuation thrown in. The kind where you just can’t stop thinking about him and feel incomplete whenever you’re apart.  It has to be one of the most exciting times in a relationship and ours was no different.  As the years went by, of course we worked through the issues that are bound to crop up in a relationship and marriage.

And yet, so much of that initial love remained for me throughout our marriage.  The bonus was that we added to that the deep, abiding love that grows BECAUSE of what you’ve been through together.  I learned that I could ALWAYS count on Dale’s love and I would trust him with anything.

I know how blessed I am to be able to claim that in my marriage.  But, of course, the flip side is that the pain of that loss is so deep.  As believers, the great hope we have is to see our loved ones again and spend eternity together before the throne of God.

That has been my hope as I lost grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and friends throughout my life.  Those relationships would all be restored one day, and I found great comfort in that promise.

But, I wasn’t feeling the same level of comfort when I thought about reuniting with Dale one day.  I know that sounds really crazy, so let me explain how I landed there.  The Bible says in Matthew 20:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.”

I’ve known the truth behind this passage for most of my adult life.  Dale and I would NOT be husband and wife in heaven.  I won’t take the time in this post to get into all the nitty-gritty of that, but briefly –  marriage is not necessary in heaven.  All believers constitute the church of Christ and we are all Christ’s bride.  It’s a great picture of what marriage is really all about and it comes to a perfect conclusion in eternity.

So, what was my problem?  My love for Dale was the deepest love I have ever experienced in my life and when he died, it felt like my heart was ripped out.  I knew I would never again experience 35 years of that unconditional love, the kind that you can only have with a spouse.

And because of the “no-marriage in heaven” clause, it seemed as though my relationship with Dale, once I reached heaven, would be lessened somehow.  I imagined it would be more like getting to see a long-lost friend again, or even a parent.  And that’s NOT what I wanted!  I wanted to enjoy that deep love between a husband and wife for eternity.

Hence the extra sadness and, to a certain degree, hopelessness that I felt based on my assumption that I would NEVER have this love again…ever.

It’s pretty amazing how one can sit under solid Biblical teaching for so many years and still get some of the theology wrong!  And I’ll admit it’s a little embarrassing to have overlooked what should have been so clear to me.  Thankfully, God decided to straighten me out – and I’m so glad He did!  I don’t hear an actual voice of God, but I often get such a strong sense of what He wants me to know that there’s no doubt in my mind, or soul, that it is from Him.

That was the case as I was having that little pity party about never being able to experience my great love with Dale again.  God CLEARLY “spoke” to me and said, “The love you will have with Dale in heaven will be SO much more than anything you ever experienced here on earth with him, and more than you could possibly imagine with your limited knowledge in this life.”

Boom!  (I’ve always kind of wanted to put one of those in.  😊)  My lightning bolt hit.  Of course, God would NEVER have our experiences in heaven be anything less than perfection!  It is His pure agape love that will be present in every relationship we will have, especially our relationship with HIM!  Agape love is what we see in 1 Corinthians 13, often known as the love chapter.   It is EVERYTHING we would ever want love to be, and that’s what God has in store for us. Read about it below if you need a refresher.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+13&version=ESV

Any of us who attended church or Sunday School as children learned this simple truth – God is Love.  He is so much more than that, but Love defines him and as 1 Corinthians 13 says, “So now faith, love and hope abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  So, of course God, the perfect embodiment of love, will get it perfectly right!

OK, I get it now!  Yes, I will still be so sad in this life that I won’t share that love with Dale on this side of Glory.  But, oh what hope I have that the heavenly, agape love waiting for us will absolutely blow my socks off!

These are the kinds of revelations God gives to me on this journey that remind me how much He does love me, and continues to walk with me and teach me what I’d likely never learn without this season.  Talk about trading sorrow for joy, tears for laughter, and hopelessness for a hopeful expectation.

I think I’ll officially declare this particular pity party over…  Thanks be to God!

 

 

 

Your Turn

After my last blog post, I received responses from several friends letting me know that they were going to start applying the principles I shared about God working best through our trials to whatever trial they were going through.

And that got me thinking – it’s such an important lesson that I just might stretch it out into a second blog post!  But this time, I don’t want to talk about what I’m going through.  I want to shine the spotlight on all the myriad ways that people go through trials and suffering and hopefully reveal that MY lesson can definitely be YOUR lesson.

To recap, I shared how God was clearly refining me through MY fire of losing Dale six months ago.  But how many other struggles are people going through right now? How about just in the lives of those of you reading this blog?

Some have also lost a spouse and are grieving that deeply, even years later.  Others have lost parents, children, siblings, other relatives, friends, neighbors, even pets!   Who or what you grieve doesn’t conform to a pre-approved list!

What about the other ways that you are grieving?  What about that broken or difficult relationship with a family member?  Or a friend?  Or that issue with an addiction that either you or a loved one is struggling with?  Or the news that someone dear to you has cancer?  Or someone dear CONTINUES to fight cancer?  Or some other long-suffering condition?  Or what about your own physical or mental health challenges that don’t have answers – or healing?  What about a marriage that is struggling?  What about a job, or school year, that is challenging, or boring, or too stressful?   What about dreams unfulfilled?  I think you get the idea.  I could go on and on…

Recently I had lunch with a friend and we were discussing this exact topic.  I said to her, “This world is not short on troubles.”  And she wisely answered, “No, but it is short.”  In other words, this world in which we live, that often can seem to be endless, particularly during trials, is really just a whisper in time.  James 4:14 says, “What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  For Christ-followers, the really good news is that eternity with Jesus is what awaits after this mist is gone!

A few weeks ago, I was blessed to have tickets to the MercyMe concert at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.  Probably one of, if not the best concert I have ever been to.  They performed one of my favorite songs, “Even If,” and Bart Millard, the song-writer and lead singer shared the story behind this song.  He has a 16-year-old son who has had Type 1 diabetes since he was 2 years old.  And of course, Bart has been praying for healing for 14 years, and seeing his son suffer with this disease just breaks this father’s heart.

He referred us to the story from Daniel 3 about the three men (Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego) who would NOT bow down and worship the golden image as King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded everyone to do.  And if anyone refused, they would be thrown into the fiery furnace.  These godly men told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (emphasis mine)

Well, if you remember any of your stories from Sunday School days, you know that the furnace did not kill them or hurt them.  In fact, there was not even the smell of fire on these men.  If you’re interested in the whole story, you can read it here in Daniel 3:8-30.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel+3%3A8-30&version=ESV

The men trusted that God would protect them, but the lesson that Bart Millard learned from this passage is that even if God wouldn’t protect them, they would never have bowed down to the golden image.  Hence was born the powerful song “Even If.”

So, let’s get back to the main message of this post – how God refines us through our own fires.  For those of us grieving the physical loss of a loved one, we know that God is not likely to bring them back from the dead, even though He is powerful enough to do so.

But what about all those other sorrows you’re grieving?  Couldn’t God restore your broken relationships?  Couldn’t He heal your cancer, or your loved one’s?   Just reread that earlier paragraph with the myriad of heartaches listed.  Yes, God surely could heal any one of them.  And yet, He does not.  And that brings us full circle to the “why not.”  Because God does His greatest, most permanent work in our lives when we are tested by the fires.  He won’t let your fire consume you, but He will let it refine you.

My prayer is that the words from “Even If” (especially the chorus) would become real to you and be your comfort through whatever trial you are currently facing.  The song ends with a snippet from a great old hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.”  The words of this hymn become even more powerful when you know the story behind THAT song.

I will close with three additional links.  The first is to the MercyMe song, the second is to the old hymn, and the third is to the hymn story behind it.

I hope they speak to your soul as they have to mine countless times!

 

http://www.staugustine.com/living/religion/2014-10-16/story-behind-song-it-well-my-soul

 

 

 

 

Reflections on the Six-Month Anniversary

How in the world have I been without Dale for six months already, as of today?  That was one of my first thoughts as I started writing this post.  I think it’s similar to what they say about raising children – the days are long, but the years are short.  In my case, the days (and evenings) are long, but the months are short.

I’ve been “chewing” on this topic for a while now, knowing that I wanted to share at some point what I’m learning personally through this journey.  And I anticipated that it would have a similar structure to an earlier post, “What Your Grieving Friend Wants You to Know.”  It would have nice defined bullet points and I might even come up with another Top Ten-type list.

And yet, despite all the many dog walks where God and I have worked on this topic, for the longest time it just seemed like everything was all muddled up and interwoven and random – kind of like a batch of spaghetti.  So, I was seriously concerned that nothing was going to fall into place.

About a week ago, the simplest of messages landed in my soul.  The defining truth on which I hang everything (and hang onto) is this:  God is all-sufficient!   It’s His sovereignty, His direction, His Holy Spirit guiding and teaching me truths that I never would have known had I not entered this dark place. He wants me to not only know, but to experience want it means for Him to be my All-Sufficiency.  God is my EVERYTHING through this journey.  I must accept that everything and everyone could fall away, but His Word and His presence never will.  And that must be enough.

So, with that backdrop and that filter on my reflections, here are some nitty-gritty lessons and revelations that have come to me over these last difficult months.  Hang in there with me!  The ride starts out a little bumpy…

Let me get the most painful revelations out of the way first.  Losing Dale is the single most difficult, heart-breaking experience of my life.  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him terribly and shed tears over all that we’ll never have again on this earth.  The pain should not be surprising.  A marriage is a covenant relationship and when one of the partners is taken away, it’s like having half of your body ripped apart because we become one flesh.  It’s a double-edged sword; God had a perfect and precious design for marriage and I was blessed by that, but sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden and His beautiful creation and plan has been tainted ever since.  So, the sharp side of that sword is the pain that comes with the loss.  But it helps me understand why this is a loss like no other I’ve ever experienced.

And don’t think you can get through this without much shedding of tears.  It’s part of grieving and how God made us.  The Bible is chock full of examples of people going through hard times with many tears.  Jesus, Himself, wept at the death of Lazarus.  It’s natural, it’s necessary and it’s divinely ordained.  Check out the Psalms sometime for proof of this!

When people ask me if I have good days and bad days, I have to honestly respond that every day has pain and sadness in it.  AND every day has blessing in it.  It’s just a matter of degree.  Some days the grief and loneliness are overwhelming and come in waves of tears and heartache.  Other days can feel much more normal with people and activities that are blessings to me and make me smile or laugh.  It’s like a sliding scale from 1 to 100 and I glide back and forth between both ends of the grief scale.  So, every day is a mixture.  The key is to be grateful for, and watchful for, the good things.

Stay with me for one other painful revelation I’ve learned and then I promise there will be light at the end of this blog tunnel!  The other stark reality is that this is barely the beginning of a long, arduous journey.  Virtually every widow I’ve talked with or whose words I’ve read candidly shares that healing never completely comes, and it often takes many years to even come out of the fog. Honestly, it’s not very encouraging and I’d prefer to ignore their hard-earned wisdom! It’s much more a process of learning how to live with the hole in your life and focusing on what God wants to do with the new creature that you’ve become. I trust that not an ounce of my pain is wasted.  God has big plans for it and I can’t wait to be part of that.

So, let’s turn a corner and see how and where joy can still make a home in this life I’m now living.

First and foremost, I’m discovering amazing new truths about God’s character, His promises and His ways that resonate deep in my soul BECAUSE I’m grieving.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to do justice to this phenomenon with my mere words.  But it’s becoming so clear to me that God does some of his greatest, most permanent work in our lives when we’re going through trials.  At the core, it can be as simple as, “How could I see the Light if I wasn’t in the darkness?”

How much more clearly do I see God and His love for me once all of the peripheral “clutter” of life is stripped away?  How could I so look forward to an eternity with Christ and no more suffering if I hadn’t suffered here on earth?  How could I clearly hear God’s voice if I wasn’t forced to sit quietly and listen for it?  How would I know if my God-given faith could stand this test if I wasn’t asked to trust in it alone?  I could go on and on, but I hope you get the picture.  This season will be one of incredible growth if I trust the One Whose hand I am in.

God’s Word is FULL of people going through trials and struggles and pain and tears because it is through those times that God moved mightily in their lives.  He USES those experiences to deepen our love for Him and to allow Him to use us to reach out to others by sharing what we’ve learned.

I have found it to be extremely comforting to focus on reading scripture, devotionals and books that will speak to this season of my life, written by people I trust and whose theology is solid.  A great devotional I’m reading is entitled “Streams in the Desert” and a very insightful book I just finished is Timothy Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.”  How’s that for a little light reading before bed?!  Both are excellent in shining light on the many ways that God clearly wants to use our tough times for His good.

Does God understand our pain?  Count on it!  He sent his only Son, Jesus, to TRULY suffer and die on our behalf.  That pain was turned into incredible joy as we just celebrated over Easter when sin and death were conquered forever.  We have a God who is not only sovereign but understands and uses suffering.  And the Holy Spirit within every believer not just understands pain, but is actually experiencing it with me and comforting me through it.  You just can’t get more personal than that.

I don’t feel God’s comfort.  WHAT??  Don’t stop reading!  Let me explain.  My definition of comfort would be the lessening or removal of my pain and sadness.  That’s NOT how God chooses to comfort me.  However, He does not leave me with nothing.  I am finding the promises in His Word to be so much more precious during this difficult journey.  They reveal to me God’s character and give me that sought-after “peace that passeth all understanding.”  Just a few of my favorites:

  • …it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deut. 31:6
  • Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
  • The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
  • …and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:20
  • You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Psalm 56:8
  • Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
  • In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

The other way that I see and feel God’s comfort is from the blessings He drops into my life, often completely unexpectedly. I’m so grateful for the friends and family who have walked through this difficult journey with me.  I promised in an earlier blog that I would share some of the ways I have been blessed thus far, so here you go:

  • Two friends who text me hugs EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
  • The neighbor up the street who, upon just learning of Dale’s death, showed up on my doorstep Valentine’s Day morning with a bouquet of flowers and said, “I thought Dale would want you to have these.”
  • The friend who regularly sends me a text with the simple words, “How R U doing?”
  • The friends who have stayed on the phone with me for hours as I’ve shared whatever pain I’m going through that day. Or who were willing to listen as I talked about my life with Dale.
  • The friends who have blessed me with vacation getaways to lift my spirits. (That’s right – I have those kinds of friends, too!)
  • Friends who have called me when they felt the Holy Spirit nudging them, just to check in.
  • Those who took the initiative to set up coffee, lunch or dinner dates.
  • Friends who didn’t give up the first time I turned them down because I just didn’t have the strength to go out that day.
  • The nurse who prayed for me just last week in the doctor’s office. And she wasn’t praying for my cholesterol levels!
  • Those who send me words of encouragement or understanding through the mail, email, text or Facebook. They truly brighten my day and remind me of all those who care about me.

There are many more examples of what I call “nuggets from heaven” that God drops in my every day.  I’m learning to recognize them for the blessings that they are and to be thankful that God loves me enough to comfort me in such a personal way by using many of you.

This really just scratches the surface of all I’ve taken in over the past 6 months since Dale’s death.  But I trust that it hits the big issues and gives you a glimpse into this world and takes away a little bit of the mystique of widowhood!

While on the surface the difficulties and the blessings may seem to be opposite ends of the spectrum, I believe they really are all tied together.  God uses the depth and the length of my pain to refine me, through this fire, into the person He wants me to become – a woman who has a deeper, more tested, resilient faith.  And one who can have a greater impact on those around her and ultimately on God’s kingdom.  How could I possibly want anything less than that?