Too Wonderful for Me – 20 Years Later

Last week we crossed over the 20th anniversary of my husband’s death. Without fail, this day still produces a catch in my throat, tear in my eye, and tenderness in my heart. It doesn’t take much effort for memories of the trauma to flood my soul even for my children as well.

Is that okay? I think so. May 17th is our Good Friday—a dark day of death. Are we emotionally stuck even after two solid decades? I don’t think so. For the Apon family of nine, remembering this scene in life’s drama has been good, necessary, and impossible to avoid. This is the day that changed the trajectory of our lives.

From our finite view, this day wasn’t supposed to happen, or was it? God wrote the story in a book even before time began. Because of Psalm 139 we know He knew, but did He allow or appoint such suffering? The same unanswered questions remain. The enemy knows when and how to use these to bring torment, if I let him. However, like Job, my response to silence the enemy keeping me at a place of surrender to my God is this information is too wonderful for me!

God responded to Job’s questions with the reminder of Who He was instead of explaining what He was doing. In my Bible, the title of this section makes me smile, “Job’s wise silence.” We are told that Job even put a hand over his mouth almost as if to say, “I am nothing, know nothing, and already said too much.” I can relate to Job.

“Then Job answered the LORD and said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

When you break down the word wonderful in this famous response, it means marvelous, surpassing, extraordinary, beyond one’s power, and difficult to understand. Most of us easily admit that suffering is beyond our control and too difficult to understand, but to define suffering as marvelous, surpassing, and extraordinary requires an eternal faith-based perspective. Shifting the focus from the natural to the supernatural is often a moment by moment, day by day, week by week and year by year requirement for healing.

There is a weight of pain AND glory in our stories that can’t be avoided—the tension is not to be resolved, understood, or explained. It’s just too wonderful!

Reflections of two decades with God as Husband and Father:

  1. God is God and I am not which is a very good thing.
  2. God is good no matter what our perception of “good” is.
  3. The Lord went before me whispering that we would go through transition, but it would be for our good and His glory, and we have found this to be true.
  4. Fight to avoid spiritual numbness.
  5. The Word of God is the anchor for your soul. Read God’s Word every. single. day.
  6. Embracing the pain is necessary for healing.
  7. We are not the same people on this side of the valley which is good!
  8. Single parenting wasn’t as bad as its reputation.
  9. I love my life! I’m content with God’s call to widowhood.
  10. Loneliness is real, but purposeful.
  11. There are treasures to be found in the dark.
  12. I know God in ways I never ever could.
  13. God has been my Husband. This is a foreign concept for many but relating to God in this way was life to me.
  14. Perspective matters and can determine the outcome of your life.
  15. It is crucial to think on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellence, and anything worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)
  16. God IS Father to the fatherless. This promise from Psalm 68:5 is true! We put our trust in God and His promise to be Who He said He was. The power in this trust gave us hope.
  17. Statistics are not the final word—by choosing life after death, you can change negative statistics.
  18. God taught me the necessity of being a prayer warrior. The best way to parent our children is on our knees.
  19. God hears our every cry.
  20. Great is God’s faithfulness! He uses the body of Christ and provides in miraculous ways. He is worthy of our praise!

 

 

 

 

Walk With Her By: Sahar Massad

It is so crazy how life can be going one way one minute and can literally come crashing down in the next minute. April 7th is one of those days, and it is a day I will never forget. I was driving back from Brunswick, Georgia after the most fun weekend with one of my best friends. Life was good. Halfway through our drive, I received an unexpected text that was going to change everything. It was a text telling me that my best friend’s husband, Evan, had gone into cardiac arrest and had been declared brain dead. I had to read the text multiple times just to allow my brain to register what I was even reading. I remember thinking “Evan who?” There was no way it was Evan ​Gill​. ​Our​ Evan. The Evan that we know and love so deeply. The Evan who made us laugh more than anyone else in the world. The Evan who loved sauce more than the food he was eating. The Evan whose personality was bigger than life itself. There was just no way.

I was in so much shock, tears were streaming down my face before I even realized I was crying. I was crying at the sudden death of our friend Evan, and I was crying thinking about Lauren, his wife. I can remember saying over and over again in disbelief, “My best friend is a widow. Lauren is a widow. At 25 years old, she is now a widow.” All I wanted to do was get to my friend.

Walking through the doors of that hospital still seems so surreal. When Lauren walked out of the room, I hugged her, and we wept. Through her tears she mustered out words I will never forget, “Evan is not coming home. He’s not coming home to me.” I had no words. None. All I could do was fall to my knees and cry with her. Losing Evan as a friend was the hardest thing I’ve ever walked through. Watching Lauren say goodbye to her husband as they rolled him away was even harder. The grief of those moments are unmatched in my memories. I will never forget the sounds of the rawest parts of her soul crying out as she said goodbye to what she thought was her forever. There was no preparing for it. You can never really know what it’s like until you’re in it. All I knew for sure is that she is my best friend, and while I would have given anything to mend her broken heart and take the pain away, I knew that was the Lord’s job, and I would have to trust him as he walked with her through the valley of the shadow of death.

I remember shortly after talking with our girlfriends, we had NO idea how to be the friend of a widow at 25. What do we say? What do we do? We were truly at a loss. However, God made it so clear to me that all I had to do was walk. Not walk ahead of her and try to direct her steps, not to walk behind her and let her fend for herself, but to walk WITH her. As her friend, I was called to fight, pray, hope, believe, and worship on her behalf when she was too broken to do so herself. I was called to cling to hope on her behalf when she had none. I was called to declare victory over her life when she didn’t believe she would overcome. I was called to believe that Jesus WOULD turn these ashes into beauty, that He WOULD reopen her heart to hope again, to love again, and have courage to keep moving forward.

I was called to sit and listen to her as she processed things out loud. I was called to be sad and cry with her. And I was called to CELEBRATE too! To celebrate the wins, reminding her that joy and grief can coexist. LET THEM!

Side note: It’s okay to laugh and to still have good times in the midst of hard times. You do not have to feel guilty about that! As hard as this past year was, the moments when Lauren would laugh so hard she couldn’t breathe or felt some sort of emotion other than grief, were the moments that brought hope during the hardest times. Seeing a widow experience those joyous things amongst the grief are truly gifts from God. We held onto those because I believe they were unique ways that hope was being rerooted in her life again.

And just like there is no ABC way to grieve, there is no ABC way to walk with somebody. It will look different for everyone. As long as you are seeking the Lord and taking it one day at a time, I promise you will find your way, because just as the Lord was guiding Lauren’s steps, He was also guiding mine all along. Surely, he will yours too!

Unfortunately, there will be people along the journey that will find it hard to walk with her and it might make things harder rather than easier. There will be people who will be quick to judge and criticize the way a widow goes about her life moving forward. If a person won’t walk with her, truly walking day to day with her, they will have NO idea how the Lord is healing, guiding, and leading her. So we must first remember, scripture has called us to care for the widows, not tear them down. Caring isn’t assuming we know what’s best for them, but actually listening to them. Just because they are grieving does not mean that they are incapable of living their life. At the end of the day, I trust Christ in Lauren and I trust that He was, is, and will continue guiding her every step.

Grace over criticism will go a long way in the healing of a widow. Trying to take control of a widow’s life won’t bring you healing or take the pain away, only Jesus can do that. So instead, hear what they are saying and know that regardless of what life may look like from the outside, they are not only grieving the loss but also the life they had and the future they wanted but will not get. So, I ask of you, if you know a widow, be kind to her because I promise you, nothing about her life is easy right now and the last thing she needs is added hardship and unnecessary pain.

Lastly, friend, as you walk with the widow know that moving forward does not mean that you are forgetting the person you have lost. We will ALWAYS miss Evan. Always. Nobody would ever try to replace him because literally nobody ever could. Moving forward isn’t moving on. Moving forward is trusting and believing that Jesus is 10,000 steps ahead of us in all of this. ​AND, not moving forward is exactly what Satan wants. He wants us to sit in our grief forever. He doesn’t want us to move forward because moving forward is merely a reflection of God’s grace, hope, healing, and provision and that is the last thing the enemy wants. ​

If you are reading this and you happen to be the friend of a widow, first let me say that I’m so sorry for the loss and pain you are experiencing. It hurts. So much. And there is no other way around that. Even when you feel so lost and it doesn’t feel like it, remember that your friendship matters, Jesus is bigger, and there are brighter days ahead. Here’s to you and your journey with your friend.  I wish you weren’t on this path, but I am confident you will both know Jesus more deeply because of it.

 

May Ministry Update

It has been a great joy to fulfill God’s call to meet the practical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the widow and fatherless through Perspective Ministries! Since the beginning of the year we have met 314 emotional needs, 102 spiritual needs and reminded the fatherless 119 times that God is Father as promised in Psalm 68:5.

How do we do this?

Emotional needs are met through the timely arrival of a bouquet of flowers, cards, butterfly gardens, ice cream gift cards, Easter lilies, and resources to help with the grief process. Spiritual needs are met as we disciple widows through our monthly WidowLife support groups. And we are always looking for opportunities to encourage the widowed mom. Her job is difficult, and we feel it is important to remind her that God is there as her defender and the Father to her children. It’s exciting to have already gifted camp scholarships for four fatherless girls this year!

God’s timing is always perfect as Jennifer shares:

I thought about not sending my daughters to church camp this year thinking we might use the money for elsewhere, but the Lord spoke clearly to my heart, and I knew they were supposed to go and room together as sisters. I spoke to them about this idea and learned that they really wanted to go, and this news made them happy!

As I was paying their deposit, I was told to write their names on the memo line. As I was writing, the staff member said, “Ivey and Erica? You won’t believe this, but Perspective Ministries just called let us know they wanted to scholarship your girls for camp!” WOW, this was an enormous financial blessing and the timing confirmed that they are supposed to go. God’s will is undeniable!  Thank you Perspective Ministries!!!

Often, we hear stories of how a card, gift, or visit was perfectly timed by the Lord.

Thank you for helping us to Light Their World during a dark season!

 

Help Us Care for the Widowed Mom this Spring and Summer!

Looking for ways to care for the widow in a practical and meaningful way this spring and summer? Through the years Perspective Ministries has found some amazing ways to bring light and love into these women and children’s lives. We would be honored for you to make a donation in one or more of these areas of need. Help us make this spring and summer one to remember!

Mother’s Day Appreciation

As Mother’s Day approaches, let’s remember the Widowed Mom as her job can often continue to be hard and heavy. Pray she meets God as her el Roi, the One who sees. “According to U.S. census bureau as of 2009, there are around 13.7 million single parents in the United States alone. These parents are managing to raise around 21.8 million children – which in case you are wondering is 1/4th of all the children in the United States. This means that 1 out of every 4 children is being raised in a single parent household. Of these households, around 87% of them are headed up by one of the most powerful, levelheaded and adept people on earth. A single mom.” (Professors House, A Tribute to Single Moms)

A great way to show a Widowed Mom you care is by giving her and her kids a fun night off! Consider donating to Perspective Ministries as we care for Widowed Moms on Mother’s Day:

$25-50: Bruster’s Ice Cream Gift Cards

$100: Restaurant Gift Cards

$150: Mother’s Day Pampering Basket

Usher in Spring!

Delivering flowers or planting them in her garden reminds her that when her focus is on God, she can bloom where she is planted! Will you make a donation to helping the widow feel seen by her community in this way?

$75: Sending Her Flowers

$300: Plant Her Garden

$500: Maintain Her Yard (this will allow Perspective Ministries to provide consistent lawn care, especially through the warmer months).

Summer fun for the Fatherless!

One of the biggest gifts you can give to a Widowed Mom is loving her fatherless children well! Please consider making a donation to Perspective Ministries as we provide a summer of love to both the Widow-Mom and her kids!

$25: Butterfly Gardens for the widow and her kids! (this is a great reminder that life can indeed come after death!)

$25-100: Gift Cards for summer activities and travel

$250: Send a Fatherless Child to Camp!

$50-500: Give them a day to relax (Day passes to White Water/Aquarium/Movies)

Thank you for caring for the widow and her children! We are excited that you have entrusted Perspective Ministries with your donation as together we care for the widows and children God has led to us.

To make a donation, click here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding your Identity in Christ not the Crisis

A famine required relocation for survival taking Naomi, her husband, and two sons to a completely new place. Soon after their arrival, Naomi’s husband died leaving her a widow in a strange idol-worshiping land.

Being transported to a physical far-off land isn’t necessary for a widow to feel estranged in her own community. When the curtain falls signaling the end of the marriage season, women left alone often experience loss of the familiar taking them to unknown territory emotionally and sometimes physically. Here she finds herself in an identity crisis—she is no longer a wife, but a widow with the potential not only to uproot her physical being but her identity as well. One moment she is Mrs. Elimelech and overnight she became Naomi-the-widow, asking who am I?

Within a few short years, Naomi also buried her two sons! Talk about potential to lose identity—she was now no longer a wife or a mom! I will be the first to admit how easy it is to wrap ourselves up in the identity of who we are to other people or for other people instead of who God says we are. Not only do our roles in our family vie for our identity, but our dreams and aspirations also create a sense of a false self—someone I want to be but deep inside I am not. Don’t fret, the Apostle Paul struggled with this identity dilemma as well when he cried out, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate…miserable person that I am” (Romans 7:15,24).

The good news is our identity is not in what we do but who Jesus says that we are.

In order to identify someone or something, one must recognize traits that establish the person or thing. If three objects were presented for identification, their characteristics would help one to identify that specific substance. For example: hard, grey, and mass of stone would help one to detect a rock. Noticing a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid would aid in detecting water. We recognize people in similar fashion—by their appearance, sound of voice, or the way they smell. These characteristics help to clarify who we are; however, identity is determined not only by outward appearance but who we are as a whole.

For the Christian, Jesus Christ plays a huge part in our identity. In fact, Jesus paid a high price—purchased us with His blood so that our identity would be in Him and not ourselves. We must die daily allowing Christ to live His life in us. My identity is no longer my own unique personality, but His. If someone wants to identify a Christ follower, the characteristics of Jesus Christ must be evident, “no longer I but Christ.” My identity should not be based on who I think I should be or who others want me to be but in who Jesus says that I am. My identity is in Christ.

Truth must replace the lies we believe defining our identity as a child of God:

Rejected: I am God’s special possession

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Deuteronomy 14:2

Betrayed: I am chosen by God

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION…” 1 Peter 2:9

Worthless: God treasures me

“The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you…” Deuteronomy 26:18

Messed up: Forgiven

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

In bondage: Free indeed

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Unprotected: God is a Defender of the widow

“… a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5

Unloved: Loved beyond comprehension

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

Set aside: Set apart

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain…” John 15:16

Widowed: Jesus is a Husband to the widow

“For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 54:5

Fatherless: Child of God~Fathered

“A father to the fatherless is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5

Insecure: Eternally security

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:27-28

When tragedy strikes, it is easy to place our identity in that crisis instead of Christ. Our circumstances become our identity—widow, divorced, betrayed, fatherless, rich, or poor. Naomi returned home embracing the identity of bitter only to discover as time went on that God would change her circumstances to better. Did you know that this bitter-circumstanced-widow became the great, great, great, great, great grandmother of Jesus Christ?! That’s right! Her daughter-in-law from that foreign land followed her home experiencing conditions allowing her to meet Boaz—her kinsman redeemer placing her in the bloodline of Christ.

When our identity is in Christ, bitter always finds a way to become better.

 

 

 

 

 

Her Story by Darci Smith

Growing up in a Christian home laid the foundation for my strong desire to be a wife and mother. Trusting God to fill that desire, I enrolled in Liberty University as an early education major. Much to my surprise and delight I met the love of my life, Jay, in January 1987 of my sophomore year. Our first date was in February and we were married in August…a whirlwind romance.

Jay had been in the Navy and was super intelligent, skilled in electronics and computers, and loved studying and talking about theology and the Bible. He was easy-going, optimistic, very affectionate, and always wanted me to feel loved and be happy. He brought balance to my “Type A” planner, organizer, worrier, perfectionist personality. We were very involved in our church and missions and we were devoted to our families. Jay and I were in agreement that I should be a stay-at-home mom as long as the Lord allowed.

After four years we began our family with our oldest daughter, Candace. Not quite two years later came MaryKate. Then four years later we had our son, Joshua. God had given me the family I’d always dreamed of, but not without sacrifice and struggle. Despite job losses, financial strains, family issues and losses, and marital stress, we believed God’s promises and He remained faithful.

Jay had always been in excellent health and was very active. Around 2007-8 he began having some digestive system and abdominal pain issues. After various tests were clear, other than some acid reflux and gall stones, one scan did show 2-3 “giant hemangiomas” on his liver. We met with a surgeon who assured us that many people live with these and never know it. Doctors just leave them alone since they present no problems. A year or so later blood work showed Jay was anemic. More tests still produced no significant diagnosis or improvement. All the while I was thinking “it’s those hemangiomas.” We were finally referred to a specialist who confirmed the hemangiomas were the problem and needed to be removed. We felt confident to proceed with surgery on December 6, 2010. Surgery took much longer than anticipated because the hemangiomas were more involved, and the doctor had to take much more of the liver than expected. After 10 days of misery trying to recover in the hospital, Jay went into cardiac arrest, and went home to be with the Lord on December 17 at the age of 47.

I’ll never forget the 5:00 a.m. phone call telling us to get to the hospital right away. Hearing Jay had passed from a devastated surgeon, who had never lost a patient before, was a feeling of dread like I had never before or since experienced. What was I going to tell the kids? How would we pay our bills? I didn’t work and Jay had no life insurance. Would we lose our home? How could I get Candace through college and keep MaryKate and Josh in Christian school? Who would walk the girls down the aisle? Who would teach Josh how to be a godly man? How could I be a widow at 43? GOD HELP ME!

And help me He did! God has provided for us in more ways than I have space to write. From taking care of tuition expenses, a job at the kids’ school, an AC unit at a deep discount, new tires, many vehicle repairs, a hot water heater, a new car, money for Christmas and bills, vacations, and on and on. Great is His faithfulness! I’ve come to know God in a much deeper way as a widow. He is my devoted husband and loving father to my children. He fulfills every need in His time and His way which always exceeds anything I could think or ask. Total dependence upon God and prayer is the ONLY way I have persevered for 8 years. There are many days I’d rather stay curled up in bed in the fetal position feeling sorry for myself. But because He lives, I continue to press on and live out whatever plans He has for me, “to give me a future and a hope.”

Anna, An Example to Follow

Anna was left alone after a brief seven years of marriage. The only part of her life that God chose to include in His Word is that she spent the rest of her life serving in the temple until the age of 84. Oh, to know exactly what this must have looked like. Did she have a bedroom there in the house of God? As a prophetess, “a woman to whom future events or things hidden from others are at times revealed,” was she on the temple staff? “She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.” Wow! She never ever left the temple? Was this her decision? Did she have other options? Did she actually pray from sunrise to sunset?

Fasting is giving up food for the purpose of prayer. Scripture records only one instance where Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2) but His 40 day fast was unlike any other—it prepared Him for His three-year ministry that would end in victory of resurrection life over death.

Jesus, the Son of God, is known for prayer:

“But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Luke 5:16

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Matthew 26:36

If Jesus chose to fast and pray, these disciplines are worth our consideration as well. The widow, Anna, is the kind of woman I would like to enjoy a cup of tea with learning the details of her story and prayer life. Even though much is left out, there is enough information to present a challenge for our own personal lives:

She never left the temple. News and anticipation of a coming Messiah hovered over time and space. In those days, the temple represented the presence of God – He was there even before He was there! Anna chose to remain in the presence of God for the rest of her life in the absence of the man in her life. We don’t need to take up actual residence in the local church building today because through Jesus, God makes His home in us.

During our dark seasons of grief, we can choose to leave God in or out of our life. But He is indeed our covering and defense. With this promise, we can take Anna’s perspective to live in His presence—to never leave the temple. During the storm, to see God as refuge and fortress—and discovering great is His faithfulness.

She served day and night. One of the realities of being left alone is that you have been left alone. Time is on your hand even if you have been launched into the busiest season you’ve ever known with the extra tasks on your plate without a husband. How you spend your time is yours. When Joshua was called to lead His people to the Promise Land, he professed, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Precious friend, may we be like Anna in making the same declaration – as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. This new season has great opportunity. You can let life’s circumstances become a crutch to lean on or a chisel to mold you into a vessel of great use in God’s Kingdom.

She served with fastings and prayers. Anna modeled for us important tools required for serving the Lord and walking through this journey – with fasting and prayer. Fasting is surrendering lack in exchange for His presence and power paired with talking to the Almighty God in prayer.

Because of Anna’s position in the valley with over 60 years of fasting and praying while waiting for the arrival of the Messiah, when the Jesus was presented in the temple as a babe she recognized Him, gave thanks to God and shared this great news with others!

“At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38

The Grief of Today by Katie Campbell Lewis

Month 42 looks a lot different than month one. Daughter, sister, friend, wife, teacher, widow, creator, maker, plant lover, wife again… Of all the hats I wear and roles I play, I’d call myself a fragmented mess this week.

Pouring over my journal from the first year after my husband, Tim, died, I recorded snippets I wrote in week one, month one, month seven, month twenty-four. I transcribed Bible verses that had buoyed me through some of my earliest, darkest days. Then moving bits and pieces around, I tried to pull out some sharable message from the blur of memories and past thinking. I edited down, slept on it, reread it, waiting for that moment when it all clicked. But something wasn’t right. This wasn’t how my writing went—it usually came pouring out of me in one fell swoop needing only a few grammatical fixes and then, boom. Done.

Why was this so hard for me? Why couldn’t I find the words to share one of my most sacred stories? Frustrated and sad, I talked it through with my now husband, Ben, who knew and deeply loved Tim, and watched me walk through the last years of cancer and the early days of grief. He knows the details well, he knows my heart, he has seen the underside of grief that can carry me away, and he agreed that something wasn’t quite ringing true in my words. He encouraged me to write from my perspective today, not from my past.  I had changed, but I was trying to go back and tell an old version of my story. So, I deleted it all—all 2,500(!) words I originally gathered, all of my efforts to explain what this is like, and started over early one morning, after the week that had kicked my butt was finally over.

The word widow doesn’t quite feel right for me – it never has. I wish I could create a word without the charged, pitied image that comes to mind. Even that though, the desire for a different title, shows this deep longing I’ve felt my whole life. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I fear the potential of being misunderstood, especially on my dark days. Yet once your person dies and you’re left with a shattered world to eventually reclaim as your own, being misunderstood is part of your inherited struggle. How could we possibly articulate what this is like?

Here we are – irreversibly different. Now, I talk to hummingbirds every day because that is one of the ways I feel close to Tim, when before, I wasn’t really sure I believed in anything like that. Now, I lead a room full of fifth-graders through the ups and down of learning (and hormones starting), when three and a half years ago, I could barely get out of my bed.

I now have an innate sense of how to show up for my student whose mom just died of cancer. God is aligning me – he is using and growing every part of me – all the pain, loss, and confusion, as well as all the persistence, connection, and hope. Without having lost Tim, I wouldn’t know how to do this. I am so incredibly sad for my student and his family, and so incredibly glad to love him from a deep place of knowing.

I now have an intimate relationship with feeling two (or more!) emotions simultaneously that seem to contradict one another – joy and sadness, peace and confusion, hope and sometimes even despair. Once you lose someone, the gray feels much more like home than the black and white naivete that, “it’ll all work out.” Well, it didn’t work out, and yet here I am, continuing to live a life full of promise, love, and meaning. I’m sad and I’m grateful. Now, my relationship to God has a frankness that is so much more compelling and real than the felt-storyboard version of faith I started growing as a child. God is good, all the time, not just when things are “going well.” I am grateful for His unchanging character in the midst of the constant ebb and flow of this life.

During an assembly at my school, we watched a short video about raising money for kids with cancer. As soon as I saw that the main character was a little redheaded boy (Tim was a redhead before chemo made him bleachy blond), I leaned over to my mentor and said, “I don’t think I can watch this.” Of course, I did, though, and as the story progressed, tears started falling down my cheeks, ever more rapidly. I couldn’t get it together and could tell the kindergarteners I was sitting by were wondering what was up with me… so I stepped out. I sat, I sobbed, I was comforted by colleagues who know all about Tim- I was completely swept away by a wave of grief so fresh it felt like month one all over again. And then, back I went, red face and all, to check in with my fifth-graders, sharing how much that video reminded me of Tim, and how important it is to help families going through cancer. Then, we kept going with our day.

We keep going. We are sad, funny, scared, irritated, thankful, bold, quiet, loud, and every contradiction possible, in the most beautiful, fragmented, pieced together ways. We may not ever be able to fully let others into this experience – to be misunderstood is part of this path – and yet we know that God sees us. The inevitable growth and change of grief may make people uncomfortable, but it also creates in us a beauty that can really change lives. My hope as you read my words is that you feel space to feel all the layers, to press into who God is shaping you to be, today.

 

10 Verses on Trusting God with Your Finances

Trusting God with our finances can be so scary, especially after losing the security of a loved one. In the uncertainty of the widow’s journey, it can be so easy to close our hands around what is left after the death, but greater freedom will be found in opening our hands and provisions to God, allowing Him to do what He wills! But we know that trust and change doesn’t usually happen overnight, so here are so verses to give you confidence in our one true Provider.

  1. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1
  2. “Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and was strong in his evil desire. But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.” Psalm 52:7-8
  3. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
  4. “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Proverbs 11:28
  5. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:7-8
  6. “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” Matthew 6:28-30
  7. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
  8. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. “Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10
  9. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
  10. “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

 

Practical Ways to Care for the Widow this Spring

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

Unconventional Provision

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.

 

 

Fear Over Finances

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.

 

 

 

From Marriage’s First Kiss to Final Breath

 

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.”

 

Covering the Widow in Love

  1. Remember Her – the emphasis on couples, marriage and romantic “love” is a tender reminder of what is missing during this season in her life. Letting her know that you are thinking of her does not replace that old love but covers her with a new kind of love and support.
  2. Invite HerCover her lonely moments through intentional opportunities to fill the void. An invitation to join you for lunch or coffee shows her she is truly not alone.
  3. Pray for HerCover her in prayer and send her a Valentine card letting her know you have done so! Lifting her cares and needs before the One who can truly satisfy is the covering she really needs on this hard day!
  4.  Serve with Her – Give her an opportunity to be covered with a new perspective by directing her focus to the needs of others.
  5. Cover Her – Actually deliver a blanket to her house! The blanket is a symbol to her that God is her defender and her covering now that the covering of her husband is gone.

If you don’t already have plans this Valentine’s Day or were hoping to incorporate serving those who will find this holiday hard, Perspective Ministries welcomes your help in visiting new widows in the Metro-Atlanta area and bringing them this gift of care! If you are interested, please email http://lori@perspectiveministries.org.

Donate to purchase a blanket for a new widow $10 each!

 

 

Surprised by Power while Picking up Sticks

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.

Bible Verses of Hope when Trusting God with the Unknown

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 Resolution to Keep Going

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.

Treasuring

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.

Light Their World This Christmas 2018

Christmas is one week from today! Perspective Ministries has personally cared for over 55 widowed moms and 110 fatherless children during this giving season. While it is a blessing to light the world of the widow and her children at Christmas, it is equally important to carry her throughout the year helping to lighten her load. Please consider making a donation towards Perspective Ministries, as we meet the practical, emotional, and spiritual needs of widows and their children in 2019.

Our Giving Catalog is full of ways you can care for the widow and fatherless through Perspective Ministries.

12 Practical Ways to Light Their World this Christmas

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