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Oh, what a joyous time it is to watch and experience the birth of Spring! The miracle of life after death is simply glorious. Although the widow may feel encouraged by the warmth and beauty of spring, frost may continue in her grieving heart. As society makes plans for getaways and summer fun with their loved ones, her monotonous routine remains the same–alone. Alone to figure out ways to dust off her home, make repairs, and manage her lawn. Perhaps God would use you to lighten her load by considering meeting one of these practical needs.

1.     Help her with spring cleaning:

  • Service her air conditioner, change the filters, maybe even leave a few extra filters for the months ahead.
  • Give your time to help her clean out a closet. She may be ready to tackle her husband’s possessions, but she may need someone to hold her hand and wipe her tears during the process.
  • Offer to dust ceiling fans and window blinds.

2.     Help her usher in spring:

  • Deliver a spring bouquet just to let her know you are thinking of her.
  • Plant flowers in her yard as a reminder that when her focus is on God, she can bloom where she is planted.
  • Trim her bushes or spread fresh pine straw.
  • Provide consistent lawn care through the warmer months.

3.     Remember her on Mother’s Day!
The job of the widowed-mom is hard and heavy. One out of every four children in the United States is being raised by a single parent, most of which are single moms.

  • Pampering baskets, including gift cards for a manicure, pedicure, or massage, will help her take care of herself.
  • Ice cream and/or restaurant gift cards will provide her and her children with a fun outing.
  • Send notes of appreciation, affirming a job well done!

4.     Include her in your summer outings and plans:

  • Invite her to share a time of fellowship with you. Keep in mind that the widow often feels like the “3rd wheel” when couples gather together. Perhaps you could invite several widows to join you.
  • Consider giving her the keys to your beach or mountain home, trips away can be very healing for the grieving heart.

5.     Provide for a day trip or weekend away
Gift cards for food and gas will help make a simple retreat possible.

6.     Offer transportation

  • Drive her to medical appointments
  • Help with running errands
  • Pick her up for church or a community event

7.     Enlist a trusted handyman for home repairs
Make arrangements to come and conquer her “to-do” list—paint a room, re-arrange furniture, or fix that leaky faucet.

8.     Provide summer fun for her fatherless children.
Loving on her children is a gift to her.  One of the main concerns for the young widow is her children.

  • Summer camps
  • Butterfly gardens for kids, reminding them that life comes after death
  • Day passes – White Water/Aquarium/Movies

9.     Call:
Out of all the widows we surveyed, their greatest ongoing struggle is loneliness. Take time to pick up the phone to let her know she isn’t forgotten.

10. Write:
Widows love a hand-written note just to let them know you care.

11.  Visit:
Give your time away. Be intentional about planning a time to listen to her, keeping in mind that adult conversation may be limited in her new season.

12.  Pray:
Dear God, thank you for showing us that life comes after death. We thank you for Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the grave, so we can experience new life in Christ.  Please remind the precious widow of this truth. May she experience life after her own season of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Please let her feel your Presence as she waits on you in this season.

“They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain.” Job 29:23

No doubt the minute you entered this valley of transition, money crossed your mind – or the minds of family and friends – carrying with it a variety of emotions. Immediate loss or gain of income, the need to go to work or quit work, the fear of low income or responsibility of new riches could be a part of the loss you are experiencing.

Even though many widows are reduced to living on a poverty level, others represent some of the wealthiest women in the world. Money has power. It can bring false security and attempt to fill a void that only Jesus can fill. Or it can be a tool the Lord uses to build His kingdom and test our hearts.

Studies abound that tell us what we already know: for the most part, the income of a single woman is less – sometimes dramatically – than the income of a single man. There may be bills, known and unknown, that pile up, and accounts and invoices we did not know existed and aren’t sure how to handle. This is not true for all women, but it is a reality for some. Either way, we must cultivate a deeper trust in the Lord, whether riches abound or poverty crouches at the door.

In 2 Kings we get to see first-hand a widow whose financial burdens lurk at her door. I love it when God highlights a woman in Scripture that many can relate to, especially when it’s a widow.  Our identity is not in our status whether married, single, divorced, or widowed; however, it is interesting that often when God performs a miracle of faith for or through a widow, He mentions her identity—widow. Perhaps He does this just so other widows can be encouraged or perhaps because those He has allowed to carry the title widow have a calling and purpose that only God can fill because of His title, Husband to the widow.

In order to excel in our role as widow, we must understand that it is our job description to walk by faith. We have a clear example of this through the widow in 2 Kings.

When the curtain opens on act one, our 2 Kings (2K) widow is distraught. She has circumstances and needs similar to ours…a family, bills, loss, and pain. She faces these daily battles all while the shadow of grief hovers over her, yet we will begin to see how she is always under the umbrella of grace.

Mrs. 2K just experienced the death of her husband. He was a godly man; in fact, he was one of the sons of the prophets (possibly Obadiah). Wow—a very important person to the people and to God! Let’s take a peek into her situation. Would God allow pain to knock on her door? After-all, her family had given their lives to the ministry! The answer is yes He will, and He does. We are never exempt from pain in the economy of God. It seems that the environment of suffering is His favorite place to rain His grace and display the rainbow of His great glory.

Creditors knocked on this particular day to summon the precious sons of this brand-new widow!  How could this be? Her husband just died, and now the city officials announce they have a right to her sons because of insufficient funds to pay her debt. My guess would be that many have received notice from the bank announcing ISF, insufficient funds! That declaration in itself stabs at our stomachs, but to face the removal of a child would be a stab to the heart!

At this moment of need she cries out to Elisha, the top prophet in the land, for help. Was access to this man of God really as easy as Scripture reads? Before Mrs. 2K could pack away the past, God had made away for her present. Before she faced judgment for her debt, God sent the Judge to her defense. “God is a judge of the widow.”

Elisha asks, “What shall I do for you?”

The answer to the first question would be obvious, “Mr. Elisha, SAVE MY SONS!” I believe a secret lies within his reply. Elisha himself could do nothing for her outside of the amazing grace of God.

The second question, what do you have in your house?  Brings us to the place where all miracles begin—where we are.

Her response, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” We know from past Bible precedence that this is the perfect setting for God to work—at the moment of last things and resources. (Oil is often symbolic of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.) When empty best describes the situation, we know that an eternal purpose is in the heart of God.

She was issued a command,

“Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few.”

So here she is at her end. Others now must be included in the story—her neighbors, of all people. I wonder if they had heard the news and gasped, “Poor widow (literally) to lose sons because of debt.” God is certainly able to perform a miracle without the audience of her neighborhood. However, in this crisis, the neighbors were summoned. After the jars were collected, the widow gathered her family, shut the door, and poured oil.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

The widow had to step out in faith. She had to GO to her neighbors (uncomfortable), she had to GET a lot (unquestionable), and she was to GAIN provision (un-natural provision that is) not only for her debt, but for the rest of her life. The miracle took place because of her faith, and her provision was measured by her faith.

We are encouraged in Scripture that a faith capable of moving mountains begins the size of a small mustard seed. However, considering Mrs. 2K’s testimony, mustard seed faith is just the beginning of what God wants to do in our lives. To the extent of this widow’s faith was the amount of her provision. Do we obey in the areas God calls us to? Are we willing to include others? Are there regrets over the amount of faith we offer to God?

“And it came about when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, ‘bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not one vessel more.’ And the oil stopped. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.” 2 Kings 4:6-7.

 

 

Every single time I open my USAA bank app it…kindly…reminds me how many days I have until tax day. In fact I just opened it and a big “55 DAYS TO GO” smacked me right in the face! I often wonder why the app makes it such a happy reminder…tax day for me is never happy! I still remember like it was yesterday the daunting feeling of filing on my own for the first time after my husband died. 55 days, 30 days, 15 days, the countdown building my anxiety one day at a time, but every time I went to take action it was like I was frozen solid, unable to file for fear that I would lose yet another bit of control I was clinging so tightly to.

So, let’s take a test to see if I am alone here. 55 DAYS TO GO!! How does that make you feel? Does it cripple you like it did me 3 years ago? Do you start to wonder where that sheet of paper was that you swore you would remember where you put it, and well, now you can’t? Are you actually going to look for it right now? I’ll wait…

Maybe it’s not your taxes that scare you. Hopefully, the Turbo Tax numbers at the top of your page are all green (meaning you get a glorious refund)! But what about the rest of the year that’s counting down in front of your very eyes? Do you trust that God has each of those days and their exact provision in mind or are you tossing and turning in the wee hours of the night counting how much life insurance you have left, how much the mortgage is going to be, how much you will be making now that just one paycheck is coming in? If so, sister, you are so not alone!

After John-Michael died it didn’t just feel like my world was spinning out of control, it was! Every job that used to be divided between two people was now my responsibility. All of a sudden, I was expected to keep it all a float. Now if it could have been kept above water with tears that would have been good, but unfortunately my rent couldn’t be paid in tears. The impossibility of it all, grieving, trying to work, and managing finances were exactly the tools Satan had in mind to keep me so bogged down in fear that I wouldn’t be able to see the truth. The truth that all though my world was marked by chaos and question marks, God was not out of control or confused.

Instead of letting Satan own these next 55 days, allow God to step in and show you his power, yes over your finances, but even more so over your whole life.

Here are two practical steps to trade your fear over finances for freedom in the faithfulness of God.

1. Preach the gospel to yourself every day. When you’re your anxiety over provision becomes bigger than your trust in the God of the universe, it’s a sign to you that you need to sit yourself down and consider the ravens and the lilies! What’s that you say?

“Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” Luke 12:24-30

You are more valuable to God than any of his creation. You are his child. He sacrificed everything for you, and will see to it that you are provided for. And when you start to feel less than the birds and the trees turn to God and ask for him to show you that he cares. Ask him to do more than you could ever imagine. You’ll be amazed at how he comes through and how he grows your faith in the process.

2. Ask for help. I am not ignorant to the HUGE financial problems that the death of a loved one can create. God does not intend for you to face these scary times alone. After JM died, I was very transparent with my church about my financial fears, and they were able to connect me with a great financial adviser who helped carry my burden for me in the early days after loss. You will be surprised the connections people have if you are willing to humbly ask.

No matter where you are financially this tax season, I pray you are seeking God. Asking God to make you more giving with what you have and more trusting with what you don’t. He is faithful in it all.

 

 

 

 

Psalm 123:1 “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!”

Imagine it’s a Friday afternoon, you just got off work and you’re making a bee-line for those plans you’ve been looking forward to all week. You click on the radio and your favorite song is just starting, so naturally you turn it up, roll down the window, stick your hand out, and cruise down the highway making waves in the air as it weaves up and down over your fingers. Pause there in your mind. It’s bliss. Beside the inevitable Friday traffic, all seems right with the world. Have you had moments or seasons of life like that? Where things are going good, I mean really really good, so much so that you pause and look to heaven to say, “Why me?” or “God, I don’t deserve this…but I accept!” Those moments are meant to be celebrated, and I think they teach us something about our God and his economy.

JM, my late husband, and I looked to heaven a lot together over the years of our relationship. Sometimes in confusion and sometimes in praise, but (mostly) always in awe that we had a God who gave us such good gifts. From the time I met him at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters camp, I remember looking to heaven and saying, “God why am I so attracted to this weirdo guy?” and he looking up with a completely different response, “This girl is smoking hot, God, and there is no way I am on her level.” (His words, not mine). We spent that summer sneakily flirting, dropping humble brags about how we were killing it with our campers, and shouting Ephesians 4:29 at each other from all over camp, because I guess that’s how Christians flirt… I still laugh when I think about JM looking to heaven and begging God not to let me friend zone him because of the many nights I spent putting make-up on him for a dumb British Rock Star character that he insisted on playing every Thursday night at the camp’s rodeo. And thankfully enough for him, he found out that God was enthroned and in the details because I didn’t even know what the friend zone was.

Almost exactly one year later, we went on our first date. I am sure we both spent many nights leading up to this date looking up to heaven for guidance as we got to know each other from long distance phone calls and texts. When the night came, we literally looked to heaven for the first time together as the small red and yellow biplane left the runway, headed for the sky. As we held hands for the first time watching the summer sun melt into the trees behind Kennesaw Mountain, we were both reassured that God was indeed the author of more than our story, but the great story that all creation was telling. Thankful we got to participate in that is an understatement.

I remember one night in particular, September 9, 2012. I was terrified as JM asked me to take the adventure with him in becoming his girlfriend. I rattled off my list of excuses as to why I wouldn’t make a good girlfriend, and he wasn’t even phased by one of them. He had spent countless hours that summer knocking on heaven’s door to receive guidance from a God that gives to those who ask. Again that night JM led my eyes to heaven, and although we realized that it was risky business to trust in a God who is a sovereign mystery, JM reminded me that it was the best place we could be. So I said yes, yes to a journey that terrified me in all the right ways.  We had no idea the path that lay before us, but hoped in a King who promised to lead his people.

Oh, and the night he proposed…there were so many moments between September 9, 2012 and that crisp November day that made me fall deeply in love with him and the God we were following. How fitting that for our final date as boyfriend and girlfriend JM would again lead us skyward. The helicopter blades whipped through Atlanta’s night sky as I sat next to him asking God how in the world I got this guy to like me. Little did I know that JM, sporting the hottest outfit I have ever seen by the way, was looking at more than the beautiful skyscrapers towering into the blackness above but looking to his God to calm his nerves, for in moments he would bend his knee to ask the girl next to him to spend forever by his side. About 30 minutes later, I had a ring on my finger and we both looked to heaven rejoicing in the fact that we got the gift of each other.

Or how about the time we looked to heaven because we had both finished college and were about to get married! We were broke, in desperate need of jobs and money, and so many other things, but boy were we content with the love that we had and the life we were making with God. We turned to God like needy kids and hoped that, like all the others times along our journey, that he would provide. And do you know, he did!

Then came July 13, 2014, the day JM and I said “I do” and vowed before God to love and serve each other until death do us part. We had no idea the commitment that we were actually making, and honestly, it’s probably best that we didn’t! On this day and in this moment in particular I remember looking to heaven with him. We had just finished our vows, placed the rings on each other’s fingers, and were singing In Christ Alone, only the kiss was left to seal the deal. In those last moments we gazed skyward. My eyes were closed and JM’s were staring up at God, both of us praying a very similar prayer, “Christ, be our light and our song on days when loving comes easy and be our solid ground when the fiercest droughts and storms come rolling in.” Gosh, I remember our faces so clearly, his blissful glance and my sweet contentment as we accepted the greatest gift God had given us to date.

We didn’t know what joys and what sorrows lay ahead on our path, but we knew that God was commanding our destiny, from marriage’s first kiss to final breath.

The very next day the hard work began. Marriage was fun, but it wasn’t easy, we would be the first to admit that! We looked to heaven several times a day and sometimes several times an hour asking God how to love each other better. We were selfish and clueless, but at the end of the day no matter how it had unfolded, we would look to God together before our heads sunk deep into our pillows. Even though our eyes were closed, and mine sometimes half asleep, our hearts were pointed towards the throne. We needed sanctification and grace and mercy. God came through, every time.

This year as I approach Valentine’s day, I cannot help but stare unendingly at the heavens, life was not what I expected it to be, but God has been faithful both in the past and in my present. I cannot help but think back on all those “Friday post-work drive” moments I got to have with JM, the few I had during my grief journey, and the ones that brought me to where I am now with my now husband, Alosha. There may have been traffic, but the song was just right and the wind was so fun to play in, that it didn’t matter how long it would take us to get to where we were going. That’s what I am declaring over my life today and what I pray you declare over yours. The idea is this: that we would lift our eyes to a God who gives us these beautiful, bliss filled moments to give us a small taste of what heaven will be like. There will be stops, bumps, and maybe a few tickets along your crazy ride, but rejoice in that fact that no matter how long it takes you to get to that final destination, you will indeed get there, and it will be more awesome than any weekend plan you have ever dreamed up!

Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

1 Kings 17

Widows, often unnamed, are scattered throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The limited detailed biographies of these ladies who have been left alone offer a treasury of wisdom, encouragement, challenge, and hope reminding us that it is always good to put our trust in God.

*****

She was a young mother, living alone as a widow in a big city, Zarephath, with evil leaders who sought to put to death God’s messengers. Food and water were scarce, death seemed imminent and Widow Z was scared.

No doubt she had heard of the prophet in the land and the reality that his declaration to Ahab and Jezebel that there would be a drought in the land had come to pass. However, never did she dream this wanted man of God would show up, while she was picking up sticks, requesting a cup of water and her last breadcrumb.

How could this be? Here stood Elijah, the man on Jezebel’s hit list asking for her last meal announcing the supply of bread and water would match her need if she honored his request.

“Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.’”   1 Kings 17:13-14

She was in the middle of a mess destined to end in the miraculous. Perhaps it was the little bit of hope from God’s promise that enabled her to take a step of faith, and another, and another as the Widow Z had heard of Elijah’s amazing God. Faith became sight and God’s Word was true – the bread and water did not run out for two whole years!

Scripture shares there were many widows living in the land however the Widow Z was the one chosen to play an important part in history. She may not have known the specifics of God’s command for her life, but through step-by-step participation in the unfolding unseen story of God, she experienced the miraculous. When fear knocked, she kneeled. When death triumphed, resurrected life restored her spiritual brokenness.

Little did she know that God’s temporary removal of grace over Israel, his chosen people, allowed for personal grace to come her way. Little did she know that her steps of obedience were orchestrated by God even before time began And, little did she know that her choices today would impact her tomorrow.

“And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” Psalm 139.

The story doesn’t stop there as each day has enough trouble of its own. Her circumstances went from bad to worse when her fatherless son died. She blamed herself and quickly shifted the blame to Elijah, yet all the while God was in complete control! Fortunately, this man who walked with God knew just what to do—grab the boy and run to God, the One who not only hears our cries but brings life out of death.

She wasn’t cast aside but set apart for a bigger story in history—His (God’s) story, right alongside the kings and prophets. God took care of her. She gave her all and received abundantly. Their story became her story. She was an empty vessel filled for God’s glory. God brought her in so he could make himself known to her. She had value, worth, the covering of God, His great love reaching out to demonstrate that she was not forgotten. She did nothing while God did everything. God brought a man of God to her, representing the body of Christ, leading her to put her trust in God. Elijah was the first step to her salvation. When the curtain had closed on her darkest hour, there was an encore to the story—even in death, God resurrected life.

“And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” Luke 4:23-26

How is God at work in your story? Jesus stands ready to interject powerfully the miraculous into our mundane activities—even while picking up sticks or the pieces of our lives. Pay attention to the “behold moments” where God is at work.

Accept death as God’s grace-filled plan to give you new life.

Each one of us faces the unknown every single day! This is why James offers an important reminder:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  stead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” James 4:13-15

When facing the unknown, the Bible offers great promises for those who put their trust in God:

Read the verse and make note of the promise to claim:

Jeremiah 49:11 “… let your widows trust in Me.”

Psalm 9:10 “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.”

Promise: When I put my trust in God, He will not forsake me.

Psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.”

Promise: Commit my way to the Lord and He will do it.

Psalm 40:3 “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.”

Promise: God will put a new song in my mouth and many will fear and trust in the Lord.

Psalm 62:8 “Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”

Promise: Trust God at all times.  Pour out my heart to Him.  God is a refuge for me.

Psalm 115:11 “You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield.”

Promise: For those who trust in the Lord, He is their help and their shield.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Promise: Trust the Lord with all my heart leaning not on my own understanding.  He will make my paths straight.

Psalm 31:14 “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.”

Psalm 33:21 “For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.”

Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.”

Psalm 56:11 “In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

 

A new year. A fresh start. Some of us really need that right? For some of us reading this 2018 tested the very limits of what we thought we could handle. It took us right up to the edge of our worst fears and even had the gumption to drag us a step further. It. Was. Hard. For others 2018 was a year of restoration in ways you never thought were possible after the suffering you experienced in the past. In 2018 a lot of us lost “normal” or were somewhere out there trying to find a “new normal.” But here we all are, some more tattered than others, at the doorstep of a brand new year, a clean slate, whether we like it or not.

When I rang, well actually cried, in the New Year of 2016 I remember thinking, blah blah resolutions and fresh starts and everyone all amped to have the “best year yet!” All I wanted was the past. I wanted 2011, the year I met JM, I wanted 2014, the year we got married, I wanted everything back pre September 19, 2015. Could I make it my resolution to have my life back? But as the ball dropped, the clock stuck midnight, and people all over the world kissed their way into the new year, there I was on my couch, lips unkissed, and alone with nothing left to do but resolve that 2016 would be the year I kept going.

For those of you who have gone through suffering you know sometimes the resolutions you make are simply the only choice you actually have to make…so no, I was no stronger than you when I resolved to keep walking forward, I just knew it was simply the only real option. I could have mentally disallowed 2016 to come and lived in the shadow of September 19 forever, but I knew in my spirit that’s not at all what God called me to, as his child he wanted me to keep going, because even though I couldn’t see the future, he could, and he was prepared to resolve with me that we could keep going into the new year together.

And like most resolutions, we get 5 days in, 1 month if you are the most dedicated amongst us, and we are exhausted. We start looking for all the excuses to just stay where and how we were the year before. I felt this pull too, even though I hated where I was at after losing my husband, it was still comfortable and predictable…wake up, cry, sleep, try to get life back together, fail, sleep, cry, repeat.

This is why we have to resolve with Christ, when he resolves something he brings it to fruition, every. single. time. Don’t believe it, because you can’t see it or feel it? Look at Hebrews chapter 11. “By faith Abel…,” “By faith Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Sarah, and Jacob, and Moses…” The list goes on to name every biblical figure that even non-Christians know about. “By faith” they did what God called them to do. “By faith” they offered themselves, obeyed in the hard stuff, built a stinking ship in the desert (like come on?!). “By faith” they left what was behind, their homes, THEIR NORMAL, and walked into foreign lands. Why? Because that is what God called of them. He even promised and resolved, if you trust me at this new juncture, even though it is hard, and you cannot see how you can possibly move forward or this could possibly work out, you will be blessed, you will know me more, and you will get what I promised you, life with me in abundance.

Of course there will be days when we look back and long to be in that old familiar world we used to call home, I am sure Abraham and Moses did too. I am sure at times it got really tiresome waiting for what was promised but had not yet come, especially since some didn’t even get to see the promised land with their earthly eyes. I like to think that on the days when Noah was tired of people thinking he was crazy and just wanted to be a regular guy again or when Sarah was celebrating yet another birthday without the present of a child, wishing she could be younger and maybe conceive a child, that they would take a minute to ponder on it all, life’s past pleasures and blessings, then wipe the tears from their faces and say like C.S. Lewis would later write,

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind,”

and then get back to the work of placing their faith in God! Of resolving to move forward.

When we go with God into the new year, we go with the promise that nothing will happen to us that God has not planned and that he cannot handle. Fellow sufferers, we know all too well that even though we go with God, we are not promised an easy road, but we are promised God’s presence. Like the Israelites following the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night as they escaped from Egypt, God’s presence will lead us in 2019. And although the path may not always be easy, we too will reach the true promised land, where suffering will be no more and each day will be more beautiful than the last. Here’s to seeing all that God will do in between, both in our lives and in others.

As we pack Christmas away, may the message and power of this true eternal story remain with us.  The end of the year lends itself to times of reflection.

Scripture records two occasions where Mary “treasured.” Both times came after experiencing something beyond her understanding and imagination.

Luke 2:19 records that “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This time of consideration came after Jesus was miraculously conceived, birthed and now she held the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world, in her arms. There are no words to express the joy and wonder felt as you finally look into the eyes of your newborn after months of anticipation, but to hold the Son of God, as Mary experienced, is more than we can begin to comprehend.  What a great gift!  She had so much to treasure and even more to ponder.

The next time Mary treasured was after her young son, Jesus, had been missing for three days.  When she found Him in the temple, Jesus’ response to Mary was, “Did you not know that I had to be about my Father’s house?”  Of course she didn’t know. The Bible goes on to share, “…they did not understand the statement He had made to them.”  How could she understand why her boy had left her side to teach men in the temple? She just couldn’t. Luke 2:51 states, “…and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

In his commentary, Matthew Henry discusses the act of treasuring:
“The truths of Christ are worth keeping; and the way to keep them safe is to ponder them. Meditation is the best help to memory. That which at first is dark, so that we know not what to make of it, may afterwards become plain and easy; we should therefore lay it up for hereafter.”

Mary set an example to all of us: When we are troubled, we must treasure. God is always at work beyond our limited understanding. Darkness is always light to God (Psalm 139:12), but honestly, always appears dark to us – in our experience, understanding and knowledge of the work God is doing on our behalf and for His glory.

When my children were in the home, we were intentional about one-on-one moments expressing different emotions we were feeling i.e. what made us sad, what made us happy, etc.  This helped me learn how to pray for them. Their responses were recorded in a journal that I updated each time we shared.  As we closed out the year, our family followed Mary’s example of reflection.  We each filled out our “Year-At-A-Glance” to share together on New Year’s Day. You may want to take time to think through these questions and plan a time of intentional sharing with your family. You may discover something you want to treasure or jot down an experience you will need to ponder before the Lord.

Treasuring At-A-Glance

What made you happy?

  • What made you happy this year?
  • Were there any special celebrations?
  • What do you look forward to in 2019?

What made you sad?

  • Did you experience something painful or difficult?
  • What was your biggest lesson learned from this?

What did you treasure?

  • What memories did you make?
  • Did God answer a specific prayer need or teach you something?

What causes you to wonder?  What is your current prayer request or area you are surrendering to the Lord?

God’s Provision:

  • How did God care or provide for you in practical, or in supernatural ways?
  • How did God use you to bless someone?

Psalm 68:5, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

To the fatherless: How did God “Father” you?
To the widow:  How did God care for you as your Defender and covering now that your husband is gone?

May 2019 be a year of treasuring and trusting the truth that God hasn’t left your side. He loves you and He cares. God will provide, protect, and be near to you as you ponder.

The cold days and long, dark nights that are characteristic in the winter leave the widow feeling like the winter of her soul may never end.  We have all had seasons like this, when the biting cold outside matches the biting hurt we feel on the inside. Without the comfort and love of her husband, the winter months have way of intensifying the loneliness and grief the widow feels. Thankfully, God gives snow in the winter as a beautiful picture of His grace, and before we know it, the snow melts away reminding us that there is life after death. We invite you to be another picture of grace for the widow and fatherless this winter season. This list of practical ideas, compiled by widows, will help you bring light into otherwise dark places. For all you will do, we thank you!

  1. Winterize her home:
    Service her heating system and change air filters.
    Check batteries in smoke detectors and fire alarms.
    Bring firewood
    Trim tree limbs that could be hazardous in a storm
    Provide flashlights and candles in case of power outages
    Change light bulbs inside and out
  2. Help her prepare for the year ahead:
    Financial planning
    Tax preparation
  3. Give your time to preserve her memories:
    Offer an evening or weekend to help her sort through pictures—having someone to share these special moments with is a blessing.
    Take time to write out a specific memory of her loved one, and deliver it to her.
  4. Thoughtful ideas:
    Buy her warm and cozy things:Winter gloves / scarf / warm socks / blanket—something to snuggle up to on the chilly nights
    Candles—these always have a way of making the holidays warmer and brighter, especially on the cold and dreary days.
    Fill her pantry with love: Tea, hot chocolate and coffee are always a safe bet.
    Stock her freezer with casseroles and soups.
  5. Give her a good book:
    “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley
  6. Send gift cards: food and gas are always needed
  7. Care for her fatherless children
    Babysit her kids or come with an activity to share with her and her children
  8. Provide help with medical attention, if needed
  9. Call: Be available if weather isolates – make sure she is okay.
  10. Write: After the rush of the holidays, it’s easy for loneliness to set in—send a card letting her know you are thinking of her. Hand-written notes may be her greatest friend.
  11. Visit: Invite her to join you at the movies, for dinner, or take her to run errands.
  12. Pray:
    Dear God, please show the warmth of your love to this precious widow during the winter months.  Thank you that you promise to be her covering.  May she experience your protection in the storm and provision from the cold. As she faces the year ahead, remind her that your plans are good, you are with her, and you will help her. Amen.

    “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  – Matthew 1:23

Far too early on Christmas morning, my daughters burst into my bedroom with the announcement that Santa had come and it was time to wake up. At 10 and 4 years old, they knew the Christmas routine. No one could open a gift until Mom had her first cup of coffee. The girls ran back and forth between snooping through the presents and pleading with me to hurry. The anticipation was almost too much for them to bear as I put the cinnamon rolls into the oven, turned on the Christmas music, and poured myself a cup of coffee.

The truth is, I needed that cup of coffee. It gave me a few minutes to collect myself and muster up some semblance of Christmas joy. My daughters deserved that much. They didn’t need to know I only got a few hours of sleep because I worked into the night wrapping presents and taking perfect Santa and Rudolph-sized bites out of the cookies and carrots. They didn’t need to know I hid my grief behind every decoration, casserole, song, and pine-scented candle. And they certainly didn’t need to know my half-hearted prayer as I sipped my coffee and watched them fuss and giggle in their red, plaid pajamas.

This doesn’t feel right, God. It isn’t supposed to be like this. I should be joyful, but all I feel is empty.

I glanced at the tiny, baby Jesus in the nativity beside the Christmas tree. The figure of Mary knelt in adoration beside him. Joseph, the shepherds, and angels stood behind. I wondered if the real Mary felt the same way I did. She gave birth to the King of the world in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn. When she labored among the animals and filth, did she think, “It isn’t supposed to be like this?” Did she wonder if she had failed her Son or worry if she would be enough for Him? Or did the concerns of this world fade into praise as Mary held GOD in her arms?

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:19

I realized then I needed to treasure up and ponder the things of Jesus if I was to find Christmas again.

SHIFTING OUR FOCUS

Our culture glorifies Christmas as a feel-good, do-good, $465 billion-dollar, secular industry. Providing our children with a memorable Christmas seems an impossible task for a single parent who struggles with loneliness, grief, or financial strain. As we navigate the holiday season, it is imperative we take an honest look at our expectations and consider if it is time to shift our focus.

Reflect on the following questions:

  1. What are my hopes and expectations for Christmas this year?
  2. Do I anticipate any issues, pressure, stress, or emotional distress? What can I do to prevent, reduce, or prepare for these struggles?
  3. What traditions do we have that bring a sense of peace, wholeness, connection, and hope to our family? Restore, retain, and embrace these traditions.
  4. Do we have any traditions or expectations that intensify our sense of loss, grief, and brokenness? Consider letting these go.
  5. What new traditions can we adopt? New traditions will help establish your new identity as a whole and healthy family. Consider serving in a soup kitchen, filling shoe boxes with gifts to send overseas, donating a toy to charity, baking cookies for an elderly neighbor, driving through town to see the Christmas lights, taking more photographs, celebrating Advent, and reading Luke 2 with your children on Christmas morning.
  6. What impact does my financial situation have over Christmas? Has a reduction in our standard of living decreased our joy or increased my debt? If so, what financial or emotional adjustments do I need to make?
  7. How can I personally “treasure up and ponder” the things of Jesus this season? Spend more time reading God’s Word, praying, or writing in a gratitude journal.
  8. How can I help my children “treasure up and ponder” the things of Jesus? Teaching your children about the life and character of Jesus will leave a powerful and lasting legacy of faith.

FOR THIS REASON HE CAME

This Christmas, you may feel pain. You may grieve. You might feel lost, lonely, or afraid. You may wonder where Christmas is in the midst of your loss and suffering. Let me assure you, friend, Christmas is not lost. It is not out of reach. You may be far from home or perhaps you have long abandoned the tree and presents. Perhaps your pain lies hidden behind the noise and bustle of the day… but know this. It is for this suffering that Jesus came. This babe, borne into a humble state, came to heal the broken-hearted. Our broken hearts.

Pain and suffering may hijack the traditional trappings of Christmas, but we do not have to let it steal our joy. Our thanks and praise. We know that joy and suffering can occupy the same place in the heart. And so, through presents and wrapping, through the pain and loss, we still see Christmas… perhaps more clearly than ever before.

MICHELLE LYNN SENTERS (B.A. Education; M.Ed. Integrated Teaching Through the Arts) raised two daughters on her own and experienced many issues common to single mothers. She is the author of The Unseen Companion (Moody Publishers 2017) and has founded the Arise Ministry for Single Moms at her local church in Colorado Springs, CO.

© Copyright 2019. The information provided by Perspective Ministries, both on this website and our social platforms is not to be interpreted as professional advice. Perspective Ministries provides peer to peer support, to widows and fatherless by widows and fatherless, at any stage of their grief. None of the Perspective Ministries writers, staff, or Board of Directors are professional therapists or counselors. All posts and support groups are intended for educational and informational purposes only. Perspective Ministries is not liable for the misrepresentation of any material provided on any of our platforms.