A New Attitude

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In 1985, I was very fond of a new pop song by R&B singer Patti LaBelle. It was very upbeat and the lyrics were sassy. It was titled, “New Attitude”.  Here’s an excerpt of some of my favorite lines from the song:

“I’m feeling good from my hat to my shoe
Know where I am going and I know what to do
I’ve tidied up my point of view
I’ve got a new attitude.”
I mention this song because, today, I gained a fresh appreciation for my new attitude.
When I began this blog last year, I did so from a yearning to express my experiences with mourning the death of a spouse. It was a sort of therapy for me to create this blog, and I hoped that it may also help someone going through a similar experience. Since grief is a universal experience, I thought I’d add my input to the collective mind. Also, many folk aren’t comfortable discussing grief with others, even among those who are close family and friends. But, some people will feel drawn to read books, articles or blog posts about loss and grief because it feels safer to do so. Sometimes those who are grieving really want to be able to talk intimately with someone about their feelings or experiences, but it can be difficult to find someone who is comfortable enough to listen. Let’s face it:  grief is an uncomfortable topic, and one that most people try to avoid whenever possible. I tried a grief support group for several weeks, and it was somewhat helpful, but not entirely effective for me. On the other hand, what worked best for me was private counseling to address my process of grieving. Also, writing posts for this blog helped me to digest my grief. I chose the verb “digest” to express how the process feels for me, because it is an active, recurring, all-encompassing experience, which is always transformational. I don’t believe there is an end-point to feeling the loss of a loved one, since the love never dies:  at least, my love for my husband continues although he’s no longer here with me. So, if my love for him doesn’t end, neither does my missing him. I know many other widows and widowers feel the same as I.  But, most importantly, is that today I realized I seem to have shed the many layers of deep sadness which heavily burdened me since 2015 when my husband died. Thus, I do feel as if I have a new attitude, and I credit God with peeling off those layers a bit at a time, according to what He knew I needed.
We Christians like to mention how “God never gives us more than we can handle.” And yes, the Lord does work in mysterious ways, truly. He really does manage our problems and answer our needs and prayers within His timing, and according to His purposes and plans, not necessarily in accordance with our desires. Truthfully, we cannot always know what is best for us and what we really need for our ongoing sanctification in this lifetime. But, God knows:
Jeremiah 29 11For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. 12When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.f 13When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart,
Today during my daily scripture reading and lectio divina I realized my heart is actually more joyful because of gratitude for how the Lord has slowly lifted me from the depths of despair. I don’t mind that apparently I needed to mourn deeply for the first few years of my loss. I didn’t ask God to speed up my mourning process, but neither did I ask Him to prolong my suffering. I wanted my mourning to be uniquely personal for me, as it should be for anyone who mourns. I wanted my mourning to be effective, cleansing, and transforming. But, mourning is suffering and it is exhausting much of the time. One must know when to draw the line during exhausting grievous moments and learn how to divert the mind and body to do replenishing activities, especially relying on prayer and worship. During the third year of my grieving, I came to believe the loss of my husband and associated trials were part of my personal cross to carry. I finally learned what it felt like to “offer up my sufferings” to the Lord, as I had never understood this concept until last year. Many times in prayer, my heart silently prayed to God something along these lines:  “Here I am Lord, exhausted, confused, lonely, and afraid. I feel like nothing, I feel like I have nothing, and I feel like there’s nothing I can do to fix any of my problems. I’m trusting you to take care of me and all of my needs.” There’s insight here into surrendering oneself to God, but I’ll leave that for another blog post.
I also take great comfort in Psalm 146:9 “ The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”  My most loving and powerful ally and protector is Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings. How can I possibly be ungrateful for any earthly struggles and sacrifices I must patiently bear while I live out my life on Earth? Remembering that Jesus gave His all for me (and for all believers), I am reminded to strive to remain humble, grateful, and hopeful for His every grace and provision. God’s word instructs me not to mourn as unbelievers do, devoid of hope:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 New International Version (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 

Since God has so graciously and painstakingly transformed my grief into grateful joy and hope, I feel moved to write less on this blog about grieving. Instead, I feel the Lord is guiding me to write more posts on topics of Christian life.  I look forward to sharing my insights and experiences with my fellow sojourners. May God bless you, dear readers.

A SHOOTING STAR NAMED KAREN

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When I unexpectedly saw Karen in 2014, she seemed to be under no illusion that the world or life owed her anything. I saw her dancing elegantly in a nearly darkened room at Planet Funk, a hipster-styled dance venue in Houston. From a distance, I spotted a tall, slim, graceful woman dressed entirely in black, with a mass of brunette hair pulled into a gentle bun at the back of her head. She danced barefoot in the dimly lit club, perched high on her feet, as if on pointe. Her long arms and lovely hands waved in the air like gently blown branches of a willow tree. Like so many other dancers that night at Planet Funk, she danced alone, privately absorbed in her expression of moving her body to the flowing rhythms which filled the air. She was alone, yet seemingly in harmony with everything and everyone there. Remembering that vision of Karen dancing that evening, I now recall a beautiful young woman who appeared peaceful, ecstatic, passionate, noble, and luminous. She seemed almost otherworldly, as if she had magically time-traveled from another period when medieval princesses and ladies-in-waiting swirled upon the royal floors of European courts. Captivated, I watched her from a distance for several minutes until she left the dance floor for a break. I approached her from behind with a tap on her shoulder and asked if she remembered me from our days long ago at the university. Her face broke into a lovely, wide smile and her eyes shone as she recognized me. We found a quiet place to talk and she told me what had happened in her life since we were students so many years ago.

Like water flowing downstream, we shared news of our pasts, describing triumphs and disappointments, and dreams accomplished, and dreams shattered. Her eyes filled with tears when I mentioned that I recalled her beloved Thierry, a young French man she had been engaged to many years ago. He had died in France in an accident, and I first heard of the tragedy when Karen and I used to work together in our university’s language lab. Now that we were both older, it was silently understood between us the mystery of how love never dies, no matter how old the memory of the loss.

She also told me that she had suffered an occurrence of ovarian cancer, had received treatment for it, and had thankfully gone into remission. She explained how cancer had served to deepen her appreciation for life and the importance of fulfilling her most cherished dreams. She enthusiastically described her desire to travel to Florence, Italy to attend an art school there and immerse herself in the Italian culture. I wished her all the best in achieving that dream, and I hoped with all my heart that it would become her reality.

Then, I told Karen how I was suffering because my husband had been battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for the past four years. The prognosis was grim and there seemed to be no hope for my John. I knew Karen understood my deepest feelings about cancer. Although I wasn’t the patient with the disease, I felt she intuitively knew exactly how I suffered along with my husband. In fact, one of the reasons I had attended Planet Funk that evening was to distract my mind from worries over my husband’s declining health. Karen understood the need to dance to generate inner healing; I think that’s why we both ended up at Planet Funk that evening. And, I also believe God allowed us to meet again after many years, so we could celebrate each other and the gift of life. We both knew that life could often be too short, and it can be both bitter and sweet, but is always to be cherished.

Not very long after that night of dancing at Planet Funk, my sweet husband died in January 2015 of a horrible cancer that refused to be destroyed. For a time, my grief was inconsolable. My grief caused withdrawal from much of the world, and I lost touch with myself as well as some friends and acquaintances. That time was a blur; I still have some murky memories of the months after my husband died, but I remember that Karen and I were then connected on Facebook.

About seven months later, I saw Karen once again. I had invited Karen and some other friends to join me in Houston for my 50th birthday luncheon at a popular diner. Karen sat beside me and we had plenty of time to chat. She told me that she had become engaged, and happily showed me her ring. She was so full of life and happiness that it was contagious. She looked radiant and beautiful. At the end of lunch, we hugged and promised to keep in touch.

Some weeks later, I called and texted Karen to do my part in “keeping in touch.” But, I heard nothing from her. Voicemails and texts went unanswered. I figured she had made it to Italy to study art after all. I also thought she must have been planning her wedding or had already become wed. I had gone off Facebook permanently some months before, so I was out of the information loop. Eventually, I wondered if Karen had decided to forget about me. I felt disappointed, but I’ve lost friends over time and distance before, and I’ve learned that there are different seasons for different friends. It’s not about stressing, or blaming anyone, but it’s about acceptance and honoring the memory of something beautiful that once existed.

It was only today, and by chance, I discovered online that Karen died a little more than a year ago. Her online obituary didn’t list the cause of death, but in my heart, I am almost certain that she died of a recurrence of cancer. Call it my intuition, or my experience of having lost so many loved ones to cancer, but that’s my opinion of why she died. The obituary stated that Karen had indeed spent time studying art in Italy, and she had married her fiancé. They had been married for about 18 months before she died. Karen died at her parents’ home in East Texas. She was 41 years old. It broke my heart to find this online obituary. I spent a good deal of my day remembering the sweetness of Karen. I remember working with her in our university’s foreign language lab. We took turns recording cassettes and helping the students in between working on our own studies. We shared secrets, stories, hopes, and our sorrows in that small foreign language office at school. We discovered we both loved to do in-line skating. So, we found some time to go skating all around our university campus, laughing and waving at people as we skated past them. Karen knew so many people at the college! Then, I thought of the night we reconnected at Planet Funk. I remembered how she came to my 50th birthday luncheon. I remember Karen’s love of life, her joie de vivire. I know she had suffered her share of sorrows and heartbreaks, too. As I write this now, I am convinced Karen died too young, but she lived life very well. Like so many others I’ve loved and lost, Karen’s life reminds me to love freely with an open heart and to not hold anything back.

 

I Still Miss You

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I can’t believe I’m living my life without you.

How many seasons I have seen

Since you left me here to live alone:

I don’t recall.

My life, at times, seems like an ocean of unreality,

Dark, and swirling around in my mind,

As the currents toss me to and fro.

And yet, you visit me often in my dreams,

And I can’t imagine loving another

As much as I loved you,

As much as I love you still.

You are here, but not here.

I sense you everywhere,

From things I can touch,

To only the memories I re-live in private.

I am still alive;

I still push forward

Day after day,

Never knowing what my future holds.

I can only trust in God for my security.

 

 

Desperately Seeking LOVE This Valentine’s Day!

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A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. - Mignon McLaughlin

It’s here:  Valentine’s Day 2018. This is my fantasy of how I wish I could presently experience the popular holiday:

It’s the end of a long, productive day. I am at home, awaiting the arrival of my sweet husband. I have taken time to prepare a lovely, candlelit dinner for us. I have refreshed myself before his arrival, taking care to use my favorite perfume which he also loves. Tonight, there will be no distractions; I’ve made sure of that. I have a very special gift I will give him after dinner. I watch the clock, wishing he would be here sooner than later. I read a magazine article to bide my time until he arrives.

My ever-practical husband is not exactly the romantic type, but he shows his love for me in a myriad of ways. Over time, he has learned more about my feminine needs for a sentimental and beautiful expression of romance. He has learned by now that my need for romance is deep in my blood and my DNA; there is no substitution. And I cherish him even more now that our long years of marriage have mellowed him to understand what thrills my heart. I marvel at how much he has grown over the years to appreciate, respect, and understand me. Our beginning years were frustrated by misunderstanding what we really needed from each other, but now we are so comfortable and harmonious with each other. Time together has awesomely matured our love from a few exciting, erratic, and hap-hazard sparks to a slow-burning, inextinguishable, trustworthy, and satisfying warmth for each other. I never thought we could achieve this level of love as we grew old together, but we are living proof that a couple can stay in love together forever, perhaps even into eternity. It’s such a beautiful, wondrous mystery.

Finally, my husband opens the front door of our home and my heart beats a bit faster at my joy of his arrival. He greets me with a kiss on my cheek and hands me a gorgeous bouquet of rich, red roses tied with a satin ribbon. He tells me “Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart”, and my heart melts. I give him a light kiss on his lips and a tight hug.

Later, we sit down to our candle-lit dinner, enjoying not only the food, but the joy of each other’s company and conversations. We are more than husband and wife; we are best friends. With our meal finished, he helps me do the dishes (that’s a gift alone!), because two can finish the work faster than one. It’s our habit. He heads off to the living-room to relax a bit, and I open a bottle of our favorite wine. I pour our two glasses and join him on the sofa. The roses he brought me fill the air with their intoxicating fragrance. With wine, candlelight, and love ballads playing from our musical collection, we relax into the evening and into each other. He rises from the sofa and extends his hand into an invitation to slow-dance with him to one of his favorite songs. I happily oblige, since I am a lover of dance. I snuggle into his arms and against his warm chest, and I am swept away by the feelings of deep love and security which I feel when I’m with him like this. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the whole world, for, I am loved, peaceful, and at home in my husband’s familiar arms. I thank God that we found each other so long ago, and I silently pray to be able to spend more years with my husband, so we can have many more evenings together just like this one.

The regret of my life is that I have not said 'I love you' often enough. - Yoko Ono

Well, now, readers, you have a glimpse into my mind of my Valentine’s Day fantasy. Alas, if my husband had lived, I’m sure we would have gotten to experience at least a semblance of my fantasy. But, he died in January 2015 from a long struggle with and suffering from an unstoppable type of cancer which no treatment could destroy. God knows, my husband gave it his all, and we had hoped and prayed for so long that he would be granted complete remission, if not a 100% cure. We did not have our prayers answered in the way we had anticipated. It was a horrendous experience. We were crushed like grapes for wine and like olives for oil. Now, I’m tasked with learning to live my life as a widow without crumbling into despair.

Despair is a narcotic. It lulls the mind into indifference. - Charlie Chaplin

I watch the local and world news on t.v. daily; I frequently read news stories online; I enjoy listening to NPR for interesting news. However, these days and the past couple of weeks, the advertisement of Valentine’s Day with its commercialism or featured, lovey-dovey human-interest stories ad nauseum have bombarded me until I feel like tearing my hair out by the roots! I am a born romantic, highly sensitive in all of my senses, and I crave to find and enjoy beauty in all things. On the inside, I feel like a progeny of Aphrodite, prone to seek out luxury and sensuality in all that is pleasurable, which is a blessing and a curse at once.

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Photo courtesy of Psychology Today

God blessed me with these innate human desires, which are good in His eyes, or else He wouldn’t have allowed humans these feelings. But, fleshly pleasures of any type must be guarded carefully, especially by those of us who are called to be holy in the Judeo-Christian faiths. Being holy sometimes requires restraint, self-sacrifice, discretion, or even abstinence or celibacy (and for good reasons), for over-indulgence in such bodily pleasures are like driving recklessly fast on an icy slope. Sooner or later, there will be an accident, life-threatening or not. But, moral transgressions against God’s laws are always accompanied by heartache, regret, humiliation, shame, and sometimes health and legal issues. I don’t believe God is a prude and scowls when we enjoy ourselves. But, these pleasurable gifts are so incredibly powerful and can be used as expressions of joy, respect, and love, or they can become the most heinous weapons, destroying the user and the one being used, not to mention possibly creating unwanted children. I don’t believe God ever intended for sex to be used as a weapon. But, unfortunately, throughout human history, sex has been used to destroy, rape, kill, enslave, humiliate, torture, and to dehumanize people. It’s best to follow God’s laws and use these gifts wisely.

“Lust is what keeps you wanting to do it even when you have no desire to be with each other. Love is what makes you want to be with each other even when you have no desire to do it.”  Judith Viorst
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/judith_viorst

 

What most annoys me about the hoop-la surrounding Valentine’s Day is that single or widowed folk are made to feel excluded. I am “single again”, not by choice, though. My husband died; it’s so vastly different from being uncoupled by divorce, break-up, or just not ever having been in a relationship because perhaps one doesn’t need or want a significant other. The state of being single is not a deficit or a peculiarity. Just because someone isn’t married or coupled doesn’t mean something is “wrong with them.” Singles can and do lead rich, fulfilling lives, all while shopping for one and sleeping alone. If our society could ever outgrow the melodramatic fairy tale of Valentine’s Day, and institute a more inclusive, compassion-driven honoring of the gift of love (especially recognizing God’s love for all of us), then I think we could become healthier and more balanced within our mental, emotional, and spiritual selves.

Moving on, I’m only in the very beginning of my 4th year of widowhood, so I still experience occasional bouts of lonely dread as holidays like Valentine’s Day approach. I was having a conversation today with a dear friend who is a very wise soul. Inevitably, our conversation turned to Valentine’s Day and I mentioned how much I miss my husband. I told her of the annoyance I felt with all the holiday buzz. Then, she asked me what kind of Valentine gift from my husband had I formerly enjoyed. Chocolates? No. Candies? No. Jewelry? No. My answer was a big, big bunch of roses. I love roses of all colors, as long as they’re long-stem, fragrant, and fresh. Roses make my day any day. (Not only are they beautiful and heaven-scented, but roses are also associated with our Virgin Mary. They are well-suited to Our Sweet Lady. Now, SHE can always teach us all about the power of honest, pure, humble, self-sacrificing love.) Next, my wise friend suggested that I go to the florist to buy a bunch of my favorite roses. Aha, I thought, she is suggesting I buy them for myself, since I know no one else will buy me flowers. Instead, she told me to bring the roses to a nursing home and drop off one rose in as many rooms as there are roses in my bunch. She said to spend a bit of time with each person I give a rose, inasmuch as it is possible. She told me it will make me feel so much better. I asked her if the residents will also feel better by receiving a rose. She said they will be so overjoyed by the gesture and the company. I expressed my gratitude to my friend for such a brilliant idea. I’d never thought of it before, but this is what I’ll do on Valentine’s Day! By the way, this friend is a very intelligent, talented medical doctor who specializes in women’s health, so she knows what she’s talking about. It seems her prescription to feeling loved this Valentine’s Day is to give away some of my love and time, which is free, and the roses aren’t that costly. I’m so looking forward to it! Thanks so much, Dr. P. M. C.

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I easily fall into the universal, human trap of thinking too much about my own needs and wants. This tendency hasn’t diminished since I became widowed, because I no longer have a husband to help, soothe, and comfort me. I am now an army of one, it seems. I’m not grumbling; I’m just stating facts. Widowhood usually is a hard journey for most people. And, it’s not as if I can just log into my Amazon account and order up a husband. Ha! If only it were that easy and trustworthy. I’m not that desperate or foolish to think I can just conjure up a new hubby from thin air! I haven’t yet decided if I even want to remarry someday. It seems like an awful lot of work to find someone, and online dating attempts I once dabbled in are mostly home to the Strange Universe of Scammers and other nefarious types. In other words, it’s not realistic, at least for me. But, I don’t enjoy feeling the gaping hole in my being where previously the love of my husband filled up my wants and needs, my security, and the feeling that he would always be here as my life partner. Fortunately, I do have other folk who love me: a few remaining relatives, my in-laws, my nephews on my husband’s side of the family, three wonderfully loving female friends, and last but not least, my super-sweet and loyal animal family a.k.a. “pets.” It’s a small list, but at least I have this. Perhaps one day it will grow larger. Until then, I hope for more love almost every day. Maybe God will bring new, wholesome, and nourishing relationships to me. I’ve always sought quality over quantity when forming social relationships. But a new husband someday, perhaps? Hmmm, I don’t know if that will be God’s plan for me. By this point in my life (50s), I’ve come to understand that God has the best plans for my life, whereas I’ve mades lots of bad decisions in the past in many areas. I think I finally “let go and let God”, and realized I still have a lot to learn about life after I turned 45. I don’t know if that’s sad or normal, but that’s how long it took me to tame my rebellious nature and realize I desperately needed to show more reverence for God’s guidance.

Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I’ve always known that God loves me. I knew this from age 3 or 4 years old, as I have a vivid memory of the first time I knew this fact on a level too deep to explain. No human gave me this idea. I was too young to read, and this wasn’t something I saw on television. I think I had an out-of-body experience, because I went to a place not on Earth where I discovered I could visit with God. It was like my little self became infused with some basic knowledge of God’s existence and His love for me. It was quite pleasant and laid the foundation of my faith. Now, I really need more than ever to feel God’s love vividly, profoundly, and sublimely. I need God to reach into my innermost self and fill me with His golden sunlight of pure love. Nothing else will suffice. I don’t have a set formula for filling myself with His presence. My methods fluctuate sometimes, but the constants for me are Eucharistic Adoration, Holy Communion, praying the rosary, and Reconciliation. I’m striving to become obedient in daily Liturgy of the Hours, daily readings and prayer, and adoration of the Sacred Heart. I do these things, some faithfully, and some not so faithfully, because I feel closer to God when I practice them.

James 4:8 Living Bible (TLB)

And when you draw close to God, God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and let your hearts be filled with God alone to make them pure and true to him.

Psalm 52:8 International Standard Version (ISV)

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
    I trust in the gracious love of God forever and ever.

Psalm 66:20 New International Version (NIV)

20 Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld his love from me!

Psalm 136:2 New International Version (NIV)

Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.

Psalm 34:18 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

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

 

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Courtesy of fineartamerica.com, artist Greg Olsen

Looks like I’ll have to get back to basics this Valentine’s day and carry these Scriptures in my heart all year long. The truth is this: I’m not without a deep, abiding love now or at any other time. I have the promises of God to assure me that He loves me always. I needn’t fret or despair because I have no husband.  Spiritually speaking, I have the greatest husband of all, the ultimate lover of my soul: Jesus Christ and the Godhead.

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January Is The Coldest Month

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Four years ago this month, my husband died from cancer. Undoubtedly, for me, January is always the coldest month. No matter the weather forecast where I live in the American Southwest, a chill settles over me from January 1 until I turn the calendar to February. It may be sunny outside some days this month, but I always battle a gloomy darkness within myself as I face each January since he died. I find respite in sleeping a lot at this time of year. At the risk of my expanding waistline, I confess I’ve also taken much comfort in “comfort food.” I drink more beer and wine at this time, too. My dog goes without regular walks now, and I encourage her to sleep late with me. My two Persian cats are champion sleepers, so I delight in finding them curled up on my bed beside me when I awaken to their hypnotic purrs.

Ah, winter is here in all of her quiet power. Life all around me is in a cold hibernation. Humans push past the natural boundaries of night and day, cold and warmth, and outdoors versus indoors. But my inner senses are attuned to winter’s rhythm. Life seems slower, more reverent, and in need of more silent introspection. It feels right to take things more slowly now in the winter season. The hastiness to jump ahead into anything is almost non-existent.  The urge to spring out of bed early in the morning isn’t there. The urge to sit long into the morning, sipping coffee, is, though. I know spring and summer will follow soon enough, and I know that my winter season will also come to an end. There will be trips to plan, jobs to do, people to visit, and projects to finish this year. But, for right now, I’d rather not rush through winter.

What explanation can I give of how the past 3 years of widowhood have changed me? How can I describe what January really means to me each year I must face it? Well, I’m still hoping to understand those realities for myself, because I don’t have it all figured out. I wish I could say I have all the answers, but I don’t have most of them, and probably never will. Just when I think I can’t bear any more of going-it-alone/facing the world/toughing-it-out, somehow I survive the challenges and wake up to yet another day. And, I wonder, why does God allow me to still go on? I think every widowed person asks himself or herself this question at least once in the journey of surviving the death of a spouse. Well, for someone with children or grandchildren, the answer is obvious. What about those of us who have no such connections? Would you laugh at me if I confided in you that my biggest motivation is to stay alive for my pets? I know some would judge me as crazy on this issue, and some would fear I’m suicidal. I can assure you that I’m neither. The prospect of my own death (when it comes in God’s time) doesn’t seem to bother me. On the other side of Death await all those whom I’ve loved and lost in my lifetime. What can be upsetting about the hopes of those happy reunions? Faith removes my fear of the great unknown. I’m convinced that nothing, absolutely nothing, is more exhausting than life.

I have every reason to be fully consumed with fear over my losses, which are many. Should I succumb to my losses, or continue to fight these lifelong threats? Death has taken from me beloved husband and other family and friends who were very dear to me. And, oh, the numerous pets I lost over the years are too painful to mention. I never had children: that, too, is a permanent loss that was beyond my control. I lost jobs because the economy plummeted and I was laid-off, and, once, I was unfairly terminated. More than once, I lost a job promotion due to underhanded, “insider” company politics. I had money or other expensive items stolen or devalued. I suffered painful rejections, both personally and professionally, and they all hurt. I survived sexual harassment from a past employer. I survived traumatic childhood abuse within my home and hateful bullying at school.  I survived a period of homelessness in my teenaged years. I survive as a human being, alone, every single day, and I count that as a major strength. Getting out of bed to face another day on planet Earth is a major accomplishment.  I’m reminded of the lyrics of an Elton John song: “I’m still standin’, yeah, yeah, yeah!”

I return to my thoughts about the slowness and deliberation of winter, and of this January. In times of confusion, loneliness, and overall fatigue, I believe that all God really expects of me is to BE. I think He simply wants me to relax, breathe steadily, release my stresses, and trust in His ability to meet my needs. I’m a believer in finding joy in simple things: a hot cup of herbal tea; the happiness of my dog greeting me with a wagging tail and a wet dog-kiss for my cheek; the beauty of a sunny day; sharing some laughs with a friend; enjoying a good book; listening to music. Didn’t God create me to revel in simple pleasures such as these? Must everything be an attempt to do the next BIG THING? Maybe God wants to see a slice of life through my eyes, although I can’t imagine why He would think me interesting! Maybe God wants to view life through each of our eyes, I don’t know. It’s only a whimsical notion I have, but I like it! I do know that God promises to provide for me (and for you), as he cares for us like no other. The Word is the truthful essence that I cling to when I feel afraid and worried about being alone in an unsteady world:

Matthew 6:26-34 The Living Bible (TLB)

26 Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 27 Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. 29 Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?

31-32 “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, 33 and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.

34 “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.

1 Peter 5:7 New International Version (NIV)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

May God bless you!

Bible quotes are from http://www.BibleGateway.com

 

 

 

 

Life Is Too Short To Skip The Perfume

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This week I’m excited over a little thing that makes me very happy. I’m wearing some new colognes and perfumes I bought for myself! I decided to start this new year with some new scents, instead of defaulting to the old favorites. Mentally, wearing new fragrances reminds me of how I felt as a teenager, spending some of my money on perfumes. Oh, how everything seemed so fresh and wondrous in those years of trying out new things: new clothes, makeup, fragrances, shoes, etc. Admittedly, I wish to be uplifted by fragrances, and, as I sniff my wrist now, the medley of white flowers in my cologne calms me in a happy way. I need more of this simple joy in my life, and lovely scent is only one tool I can use.

For most of my life, I frequently wore all types of fragrances. As I got older, though, I wore fragrance less and less. My priorities had changed over the decades and by the time I reached my 40’s, smelling “pretty” was low on my list. Also, I’d held jobs working closely with others, and I realized some folk had allergies to scents,  so I stopped wearing fragrance almost completely. I was an Ivory soap and water kind of gal for a long time. Then, when my husband approached the end of his life, I stopped doing a lot of things for myself. I didn’t take such good care of myself then. For a long time, I haven’t felt like pampering myself. For those who have experienced grief and loss, this is a common feeling. My road to recovery from losing my husband has also included re-learning how to lovingly care for myself again after a long hiatus of living in an all-encompassing fog. So, when my inner voice urged me to buy new colognes and perfumes, I did so in the hope that my spirits would be raised. And it worked!

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. NASB, Proverbs 27:9

I was curious to know how many times the Bible mentions perfumes, scented oils, and sweet-smelling products such as frankincense and myrrh. A quick online search yielded many Bible passages pertaining to fragrances. From Jesus’ birth to entombment and everything in between, one can find mention of scented goods. And that’s just mentioning the New Testament. In the Old Testament, there is much written about scented products used in rituals and in personal use.

Today, I realized that life is much too short to not enjoy wearing uplifting perfumes. I decided that from now on, I will daily wear perfume or cologne, just because it makes me feel great about myself!

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Husband

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I recognize New Year’s Day differently than most people. This is because it was my husband’s birthday. For years, I wished my husband a happy birthday on January 1. This year, I do the same, although it has been nearly four years since he passed away. In 2015, he had his 54th birthday, but he died 3 weeks later in a hospice facility.

At least we enjoyed one last birthday meal together that year. If I had known how imminent his death was, I would have ensured that we had dined at a fancier restaurant. As it happened, we visited a local Denny’s so that my hubby could enjoy a free birthday Grand Slam meal. My husband couldn’t pass up a free meal under any circumstances, so I gladly took him to Denny’s. I even took a photo of him eating that meal, and it was one of the last photos of him I ever took. Although he had been incredibly weakened by cancer, my husband was in a good mood that day, despite his slow and careful walk into the restaurant. I had learned to slow down my usual long walking strides to match his ever-increasingly slow gait as the disease gradually robbed his vitality. We chose a booth in the far rear of the restaurant in an effort to avoid the nearness of other diners. That was because he had a chronic cough associated with his cancer, and it was usually disturbing to other people in public. Wishing to spare others the noise of his constant cough, we had submitted ourselves to the habit of creating space between us and other people in public to spare them the frustration of having to hear J.’s coughing. I used to worry that others would think J. was spreading contagious germs, when, actually, the malignant tumors caused the coughing because they pressed on his trachea and invaded  his lungs (among other anatomical sites.) Once seated in a far-away booth, we enjoyed our meal, almost alone in the diner, except for a very few patrons and wait-staff. Admittedly, most folk probably don’t spend New Year’s Day in a sparsely-attended diner, but we did, and it was okay for a quiet birthday meal.

Well, that was then and this is now. Now. What a word to slowly digest. Many people talk about living in the here and now, in the present time, which is truly all we have.  Having watched my beloved husband wither away into a shell of his former, robust self was truly a lesson in appreciating the NOW. Death is the great equalizer of us all, I have come to realize over the years. What I didn’t embrace so well in former years was the ability and the urgency of recognizing the gift of life as it is NOW. Far too long, many of my thoughts were spent remembering the past or imagining the future. I’m still hoping to create a healthy balance between the triad realities of then, now, and what will be. I’m not a philosopher and don’t care to become one. Sometimes these thoughts are too intricate to fathom. I’m just one single soul on planet Earth trying to live out my existence in such a manner as I hope will please God, although I frequently stumble along the way.

All I understand about now is that I do not have absolute control over what happens. Sure, I have free will and the capacity to make personal decisions about many aspects of my life. I do the best I can, as most people do, I suppose. However, the most important thing I can share about my experiences so far and the lessons they’ve taught me is this:  appreciate what you have now, dear reader. This is what the death of my husband drove home to me in most unpleasant ways, because once he was gone, he was GONE. Never to hear from or see again in this Earthly plane, at least not to me. All the memories I had of things either sweet or bitter between us evaporated like the morning dew once he left me for things on the other side. Issues we had fought battles over seemed like nit-picking in my final analysis of our shared life together. Were those fights and arguments really worth it? The feelings of regret and foolishness drowned me like ocean waves for a long time after his death. What I wouldn’t give for forgiveness for all my complaining about things that really didn’t matter in the long run! Even now, I wish that I had been more tolerant and tender during my marriage. Oh, I wish I would’ve offered more forgiveness than I wanted justice for the perceived wrongs I’d thought I’d  suffered. How delicate is the tie that binds between husband and wife! It is like a fine thread of a newly spun spider web that one finds along the garden path in the morning. Brush it aside with the hand with a mindless swipe and it is gone. And how many people consider how hard the spider worked to weave that fine web of threads? Rather than see the spider and its web as a nuisance, why not admire the spider for its place in this world and its work of art? That is how I’ve come to view my experiences, and yes, even my marriage, which is now ended because of Death and the toll it took on me. My challenge now is to not remain remorseful over my failings and over my losses. How challenging it feels sometimes to know that I must go on despite how I feel when I am lonely or unsure of my future.

Yes, his birthday is bittersweet to me. I loved and married a man who was born on New Year’s Day. I still miss this same man and his company. He wasn’t perfect, but he was my husband, and I had the highest and best hopes for him and for us as a married couple. I never thought he’d leave me alone in this life. Honestly, I once thought I’d precede him in death, because he was very healthy, until cancer began to grow in his body. I, conversely, have a couple of issues which could threaten my health; because of this, I used to imagine that God would take me first. Instead, God called J. home first, not me. I used to think it was unfair, when I was in the mood for arguing with God. That is the only issue about which I had argued with God:  I’d prayed for God to take me instead of my husband. I’d figured that my husband would be okay without me, should I die first. In my imagination, he would go forward with his life and find another woman to remarry. And, I would be happy for him. That was my imagination, but God clearly had other plans. I  haven’t yet understood why God called J.  home first, instead of me. Apparently, God wants me here still for a reason, but I don’t feel called to accomplish some great purpose. The only truth I can understand of all of this is that God does want me to come to rely 100% upon Him for 100% of everything I need. Maybe I don’t understand it all yet cerebrally, and perhaps I never I will. I can accept that. A quote from Scripture comes to mind to describe my thoughts:

Isaiah 55:8-9New English Translation (NET Bible)
8 “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,
and my deeds are not like your deeds,
9 for just as the sky is higher than the earth,
so my deeds are superior to your deeds
and my plans superior to your plans.

(Bible Gateway)

Yes, God’s ways are not my ways, and He is indeed higher than me. Clearly, God wants me to continue along my journey, even after the death of my husband. January 1 will always elicit from me bittersweet feelings as I remember my hubby’s birthday. It seems appropriate now that I should offer up a prayer of abandonment to God:

Serenity Prayer
– Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/prayers/protestant/addiction/serenity-prayer.aspx#OOJWdmCOgZ1WFi2B.99

May God bless you, dear reader, and I wish you a Happy New Year!