Jean Shumate

A Summer Filled With Choices

Choosing Life Doesn’t Necessarily Make Things Easier Instantly

I love summer! I love the freedom of non-heavy clothes, the ease of dinners cooked on a grill, the sounds of neighbors who’ve come outside! What I don’t like (in addition to winter!) is sweating – and I’ve been doing plenty of that this week! Why? Because I like flowers! And they need tending! And the sun is out . . .

When you’re walking through grief, it can feel like sweating all the time! (Or snowing all the time!) There will be times when it seems like it’ll never finish – when it seems like you’re living in two worlds: the world you feel, and that second world you believe. You believe God is there, you know He is – yet there are days when you feel the heavy sweat or the deep coldness of aloneness. On those days, and they will come, there are things to remember which will help you leave your alone state and move into the company of what you really do believe:

1. Remember God’s past kindnesses. Recount them over and over. They will remind you that you have a future and a hope!

A few weeks ago, before I celebrated the 32nd anniversary of my husband’s move to heaven, I sat in my bedroom “alone,” grappling with a change in my body that did not bode well in its self-prediction to me. I fully recognized what it “could be,” and then I turned my thoughts to, “Lord, I remember . . . and how You turned it around in a way that just couldn’t have happened on its own!” and “Lord, I remember . . .” and I remembered in detail three incredible moments of my life’s history – separated by 27 years of time – where God intervened and turned life around for me, and peace filled my being! “You did. . . Lord, and I believe I’ll see it again!”  We do sorrow, but we sorrow with hope! This is not all there is!

2. Remember to choose life today. Choosing life doesn’t necessarily make things easier all at once.

The young virgin, Mary, chose to let God’s Word happen in her and endured the stigma of bearing a Son out of wedlock all the rest of her life. Jesus Himself chose to leave heaven to become our Redeemer and was hated by those He’d come to save. Yet both reaped great reward later for the life choices they made! How do you “choose life?” By saying, “Lord, I don’t understand Your ways. I don’t even like them sometimes. But I know You know things I don’t, and based on that, You made decisions that make me feel ripped wide open – I’ll trust Your heart when I don’t get Your actions!”

3. Intentionally keep moving forward. Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss.

And then take whatever time it takes for you! You’ll have conflicting masses of feelings – there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just reacting to the end of familiar patterns that you didn’t want to end. Keep the Lord involved in all your feelings; don’t hide them from Him or yourself.  As long as You keep Him involved you’ll come out alright. You’re normal for where you are.

And remember that, above all, you are loved by a Love who really does know what grief is like!    

Your Maker Is Your Husband . . .

The initial command from God to men who become husbands is that they love their wives – and not just emotionally.  Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” Notice that this is not a taking love but a giving love – a self-giving love. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about God in thirty-three years of walking with Him it’s that He never asks us to do what He doesn’t do!

When my husband died unexpectedly, 3 months and 8 days before our 25th wedding anniversary, I missed his expressions of love terribly. Those expressions weren’t always perfect, any more than mine were to him! Humanity has a way of doing “less than.” But he loved me, and I knew it – and I needed and missed them!

If my Maker, my God, in real fact was to act as a husband to me now, how would that look?

May I give you one example?

The first Sunday of May, 1991, I came in from church feeling emotionally exhausted from dealing with my new “widow role.” Philosophically I wondered how that “widow role” fit in with the scripture I’d discovered in Isaiah 54, “Your Maker is your husband . . .” but I was tired on that Sunday afternoon, and I didn’t want to think anymore; I decided to take a nap.

I don’t know how long I slept, but as I felt myself coming awake I was aware of these words in my consciousness: “You’ll be alright!”

I could hear the wind escalate alarmingly. I got out of the rocker where I was sleeping, walked across the room to the sliding glass doors opposite me and watched as what the news would later call a “just below tornadic storm” ripped across the lake at my yard’s far edge, its center seeming to be on the next street over from my house. I watched in awe as that heavily wooded street laid down its tall pine trees in rapid order so that houses barely visible before now stood in plain sight. As suddenly as the storm came up, it abated, and I opened my door and stepped out to walk around and see what had happened on my street. None of my trees were down, and no damage was visible to the house – a neighbor’s tree had come down on my driveway but my car sat safely in front of my garage. The street next to mine was closed for 3 days while the city harvested the trees that had fallen during that heavy wind. If you look at the newspaper for those days (Columbus, GA), you’ll see that the city actually sent buses out to pick up the residents who needed to go to work but couldn’t drive out because trees were down everywhere.

Hours later, in the evening time, I really “took in” what had happened that day. My Maker, my God, had shown His love for me on a scale greater than my earthly husband ever could have. Little by little we learn that though our roles have changed and our husbands are no longer in their place in our lives, we are not “out there” on our own!

God Really Does Provide

God is an absolutely Fascinating Being!

On the evening of June 5, 1986, my husband died unexpectedly. You may have experienced something akin to what I did in those early days following his death – facts were horrifyingly all too real, and unexplainably miles away at the same time!

Mostly I still felt like “me.”  I felt like I was thinking clearly and making right decisions. And in some ways I was, which is why it surprised me more than anybody to discover I was off kilter in other ways!

When a nationally-known evangelist, who was in Columbus at the time, asked me two days after Bob had died to secure a bank loan for him as “God had told him to build a church in Columbus,” it seemed right to me and I did it. Is anybody surprised to learn that he put the money in his pocket and left town?

At first I was sure he would make it good. He had a reputation as a “man of God;” he had looked at me with tears in his eyes as he shared how God had called him to build this church. Then I grew really angry as I came to grips with the facts that the money was gone. I didn’t tell anybody what had happened – my boys had just lost their father; they didn’t need to know about any other losses.

Early one morning in January, 1987, I was out walking and talking rather animatedly, though silently, with God about what this man had done when He brought me to a total standstill. Very, very clearly He spoke into my heart: “You don’t think what this man did is going to change what I can do, do you?” And honestly it didn’t take me very long to assent – “No, I don’t believe what he did will stop You from doing what You will do.” And I had no idea what He meant to do.

Skip forward a year: Remember I said I hadn’t told anybody about the loss. I still hadn’t! One of my husband’s cousins, a person with whom I had no deep association – we saw each other mostly on Thanksgivings – died, and for no reason I can give except that God “did it,” left me in her will one-half of what had been stolen from me!

Skip forward another eleven months: And, no I still hadn’t told anybody about the loss. The sister to my husband’s cousin died and left me in her will more than one-half of what had been stolen! God had returned all that “evangelist” had stolen, with interest! I have absolutely no reason to believe these cousins had conspired together to make up the loss. They didn’t know there was one!

I don’t know what has happened in your life. What I do know is that when a fisherman-disciple needed tax money, Jesus put it in a fish’s mouth and he paid the bill.  When a widow needed food for herself and her son, God gave it to her through a flour bin and an oil bottle that never ran dry. What I do know is that God didn’t promise to take care of us only if we never did anything stupid!

“Call unto Me,” He said, “and I will show you great and mighty things that you can’t even imagine!” Jeremiah 33:3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giving and Receiving Love on Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day – hearts, hugs and kisses, roses and chocolate!  Romance is in the air, or at least it is advertised to be that way. This can be a very tender time for many even for married ladies.  Expectations soar causing emotions to sink when they go unmet. The stage is set for disappointment, and the enemy will try to take you down if you are not aware of his schemes. I will never be able to meet the deepest need in others and they will never ever be able to do the same for me.  Ladies, directing your focus to the One, The Lord Jesus, who is the only One who can satisfy your deepest need and always satisfies is the best way to make it through this day.  In doing so, you will be able to lay your head on the pillow tonight saying it was a Happy Valentine’s Day.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

God designed the heart to be the most unselfish organ in the body beating 42,000,000 times a day!  It pumps tirelessly to supply all the other organs.  Without it, there is no life.  It is no wonder God called us to love Him with all our heart.  How wonderful it is to know that He heals the broken hearted and those crushed in spirit. Psalm 147:3.  You may be in a place where you don’t understand or even like God’s plan for you.  Life is out of control, and the pain is intense.  May I challenge you to work hard to place your trust in Him.  As you rest in His beautiful plan, take time to give love away today.  Be watchful as you walk through the day for the ways God is showing His love to you.  He is there . . . always there.

Suggestions for celebrating love on Valentine’s Day:

  • Focus your thoughts on showing love to others.  Give love away in practical ways:  surprise a lonely friend with a call or text or bless a stranger by picking up their bill at the grocery store.
  • Find couples who are glorifying Christ in their marriage and celebrate their love with them.  They are a picture to the world of Jesus and His bride. This is good.
  • Conquer the temptation to isolate in sorrow.  For years we were intentional about sharing Valentine’s Day with others.  Progressive dinners became our tradition inviting couples to host a portion of the meal in their home.  Each couple was asked to share their “love story.”  This proved to be a positive experience in that it gave my children encouraging stories of what God instituted – the love between a husband and wife.  Just because marriage is no longer your story (at the present time), it doesn’t mean your children can’t look to others for that important modeling. Be deliberate about putting on display before them what may be absent in your home.

Jean’s story –

I was 46 years old when my husband died. Both of my children were enrolled in universities and were supportive and loving in every way. I was very aware that life had changed for me; however, I never went through the deep grieving, fear and uncertainty that I’m sure young widows with children to be raised and supported endure.

Two things set my future course for me:  To begin with, my perspective on how I approached life and secondly was an intimate conversation I had with the Lord when the chaos settled and the numbness began to wear off. I was all alone in the house with the realization that nobody would share my dinner table with me. Suddenly I felt very alone. This was it! I cried out with honest questions before the Lord while laying on my living room couch, “What is to become of me?  What am I to do?  I’m turning my face to the wall, even as Hezekiah did.  I’m consulting no one or no thing or no emotion but only You.  What is to become of me?  What am I to do?”

I literally turned my face to the wall and began to pray.  When I had finished, I knew in that time of prayer the Lord had outlined my future and even though I didn’t cognitively know what it was, my entire being was settled and at absolute peace. This was God’s grace and love towards me.

Moving forward, I began to live the days that were before me.  I struggled with issues of my flesh — wanting intimacy and companionship that I knew was now closed to me without my husband — but in total honesty, I never once thought about Valentine’s Day as being a loss or pain to me.  I never once thought about what I was missing because I didn’t feel like I was missing it. My focus was on the Lord and what He had in store for me in my new season. He has been faithful to me in every way over the last thirty years.  My Savior has filled the void of my husband in ways beyond comprehension from the beginning of the season of widowhood until today.

Sweet friend – my prayer is for you to experience this same satisfaction as you trust in God’s love for you.  Only God knows tomorrow, but for today may you press into Jesus in your pain.