Last week I had the privilege of guest posting at
If you didn’t get a chance, take a minute to check out what God taught me last year through a few sticky notes!
I remember a few months after Ben died meeting another lady who had recently lost her spouse. I was so thankful to have someone who understood my pain and could relate to this uncertain new world I was entering. When she invited me to a young widows support group I jumped at the opportunity. I knew early on that surrounding myself with people who not only understood my pain, but who had been there, would make all the difference in how I navigated loss.
I remember sitting in tears and listening to this group of ladies sharing about losing their spouses, how long they had been married, and how long it had been since their loss. These ladies had been attending this group for weeks, months, years, and some even decades.
I remember leaving so confused about how they could still be grieving such a loss so heavily after so much time had passed. I remember telling my friend, I loved Ben so much, but I don’t want this to be what defines me for the rest of time. Twenty years from now, I don’t want to still be introducing myself to people by my pain and loss… I will ALWAYS be Ben’s widow, but I don’t want that to be the only thing that is left of me.
As time has gone on, I have realized that you don’t magically wake up one day and have the grief disappear. Ben will always be there, and while the pain from losing him will lessen, it will never go away. But I have also realized something critical to surviving loss, and that is that I have to grieve with hope.
Have you ever faced something and felt helpless to overcome it? A death, a divorce, infertility, a lost job or an uncontrollable relationship?
I have met so many people who grieve without hope. They believe their loss will define them until the end of time, and are determined that it is impossible to ever be happy again. Charles Spurgeon said, “without Christ there is no hope.”
As difficult as it was to lose Ben (and I would NEVER have chosen it), I have prayed and believed since the day he died that God had a plan that would help to redeem some of that loss. I believed that He would help us to come out braver, stronger, and while not without scar, with purpose. There have been moments here and there where I lose sight of that, but when I reflect back on the past few years, I have never doubted that God has a plan even when I didn’t understand it.
I actually learned that from Ben. After years of infertility and a devastating miscarriage; he taught me that life is not without pain, but we can’t let that pain define us. God always sees us through and if we allow it, He will rewrite our stories in ways that we can’t even imagine.
I will always be a widow; just like I will always be a mom, a daughter, a teacher, and a lover of Christ. And I will always need the support of other widows who understand what it is like to walk this road. But when people introduce me twenty years from now, I want them to also remember me as someone who made the most of every day that she was given, not living in the land of “what ifs” and days gone by, but instead basking in the goodness of all that the Lord has given her in the present.
If you find yourself without hope; I pray that you will find a reason to dream again. That God would allow you to hope for a better tomorrow… that you would be able to wake up and face the day with hope for all that He can be doing in and through you in this new season…
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 43:5
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” Psalm 130:5
“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7”
*** Please understand that I don’t want Ben forgotten, and my past will always help to define me. Every bit of what I have been through in life is what makes me who I am today… but first and foremost, I am a child of God, who longs for my relationship with him to be the first thing people see when they meet me.
A few weeks ago, a friend referenced broken pottery when describing what happened to our family when we lost Ben. Her analogy of our family shattering into a million pieces so accurately depicted how I have felt the last few years about the pain from this loss. She validated how hard it has been to pick up all those pieces and try to put them back together. No matter how much we try; we will never be able to put all those pieces back together and restore them perfectly to what we had before.
Sometimes I still wonder if I will ever truly feel whole again. If the broken pieces of me will ever fit back together well enough that I no longer feel the wind blowing through all of the cracks. If my longing for perfection, will ever allow me to be satisfied with the reality of life after loss. I long for the innocence that came from that “perfect” relationship, and the us against the world mentality; but am now faced with the reality that us against the world, could once again easily become, just ME.
Change has always been hard for me. Growing up I wanted to marry, set down roots, and live in the same place close to my family for the rest of my life. But God forced me of my comfort zone time and time again as he led me to marry someone in the military, follow him around the country and set down roots in new places over and over again.
Deep down, I know this is no different. God is still leading me out of my comfort zone, into the unknown, and directing me to put my eyes on Him and Him alone. I know that the piece that Ben filled will always be left empty, but this weekend I changed my perspective. I saw a cracked jug in a store… it had a beautiful plant growing out of the broken places. At first glance it may have seemed like trash, completely broken and wasted, something no one could use; but someone was able to make something beautiful grow out of the brokenness.
I want that to be me. I want to trust God to create something new and beautiful in my broken places. What about the broken places in your life? Do you ever feel they are beyond repair? I pray that you would be able to make something beautiful out of that brokenness in a way that only Jesus can.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
I didn’t buy that cracked jug. At the time I didn’t want a reminder of the brokenness that I feel on a daily basis… but I have been thinking about it all week… and I may go back to that store and bring it home. I need that daily reminder that God can create beautiful things out of our brokenness if we let Him.
Have you ever been asked a question and after answering thought about all the things you should have said differently? I have. I’m notorious for sleepless nights spent overthinking every comment I have made and wondering if I said the right thing.
Last summer a sweet boy questioned me about my roots. He was curious where he had come from and whether he would grow up a certain way based on his heritage. I remember answering that we each have a choice about the type of person we are going to grow up to be, and regardless of where we come from, we have the choice to be and do something different.
The other day someone posed a question about relationships to me. They asked if I know the divorce statistics for second marriages. My immediate response was that I’ve never had a failed marriage (my apologies in advance if this offends you; but the loss of a relationship by death is different than divorce and I do not believe the two should be automatically grouped together).
I didn’t get a chance to explain myself at the time; but if I had, I’d like to believe the response would have been something like this…
You are not a statistic and neither am I. Regardless of what the world tells us the outcome will be, we have a choice in the outcome of our destiny. And we serve a God who can redeem any situation! If we refuse to give in to defeat, we will not be defeated.
If you go into anything knowing that it may not turn out the way you are wanting, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of a different outcome than the one you desire. Refuse to accept the possibility of defeat. Refuse to allow yourself to see it as an option.
Some of the best marriages I have seen have been second marriages. Marriages between two people who due to death or divorce have learned that life and relationships are much harder than they originally believed. They have gone into a second marriage with eyes wide open and knowing all the odds against them. They have been successful because despite the odds, they refuse to see failure as an option.
Friend, if you have lost someone you loved through death or divorce, you are not a statistic. You don’t have to fear opening yourself up to that again because the odds of repeating the past are higher than the odds of success. You are the author of your own destiny. Embrace life and keep loving… know that God can and will redeem this if you will let Him lead and guide you!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Ask anyone who has experienced a life changing event, a death or a loss and they will likely tell you that there is a defining moment in time that divides their present life from the way that it used to be. The memories, the thoughts, even the feelings are split in half by that one event.
Looking back for me that first moment was not losing Ben, but his original diagnosis. When I look back over the short 14 years we had together, my memories are split in time… those before cancer rocked our world and those after. Our innocence and bliss were gone, and while we regained that somewhat after each of his surgeries, I think deep down we never let go of the fear that our world would come crashing down when we least expected it.
Many of our friends would have said that Ben let cancer control his life after he was diagnosed… he changed his diet, he changed his routine, and he broadened his reading material. But I don’t believe that he let it control him nearly as much as it appeared to others. He continued to live life to the fullest every single day. He didn’t let his new diet or knowledge keep him from enjoying life.
For me though, I lived in fear of the new knowledge. We avoided toxic cleaners, electronic devices, sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy habits. I was afraid of the mold in our house and would lay awake for hours stressing about every ache or pain that I faced (or piece of candy that I ate). Then for a short while after Ben’s death I rebelled and ate as much ice cream as I could, stocked my freezer full of Reese’s, and stopped worrying about turning off the wifi while I slept.
I refused to allow my fear of those things to define the rest of my life. I didn’t want my children to see me living in fear of the unknown either. I still keep most of those healthy habits, but I no longer worry all the time that we will get cancer if we eat a piece of candy… or stop for fast food.
If I have learned anything over the past few months, it is that we don’t have to let those defining moments define us. We get to choose how much control we let those moments have. You can embrace the place that you are and allow God to meet you right there and help you through it, or you can choose to continue to let it leave you frozen in fear.
Maybe for you the defining moment was a marriage, divorce, death, lost job or even when you gave your life to Christ. No matter the circumstance, you find that you too can look back on your life and see the before and after. Friend, I pray that whatever that defining moment in your life is, that you will allow God to use it to open up a new world of opportunity and that you will see the blessing in being able to trust Him to get you successfully to the “after.”
Friend, the after is in His hands. “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Trust Him and He will help you through!
I’ve worked hard the last few years to be fully transparent… to allow others to see my struggles, my strengths, and to see how difficult it can be for me to choose joy all the time. Sometimes, I spend so much time focusing on my need to be transparent, that I forget to share how God is transforming me… how He has taken me from the person that I was a few years ago and turned me into someone who is seeking to be more like Him in everything that I do.
Whitney Capps wrote a transformational book that I had the pleasure of being on the launch team for this winter. It comes out on March 4th and is titled, Sick of Me: From Transparency to Transformation. Our society is saturated with people who are tired of the “fakeness” of social media and who are trying to be transparent by letting others see all their junk.
We are all working to show our realness in everything we say, do, and post. But we can’t stop there. We have to be transparent and show how that is transforming us. We can’t just show our mess and say, it’s okay to be a mess. We have to show how important it is that we admit we are a mess, but that we are letting God work through us to become someone different. We have to make an effort to let Him do a work in us that only He can do.
I don’t know about you, but I am on a mission to not just be transparent, but to be transformed this coming year. I’m sick of being okay with accepting my mess. I don’t want to stay in the same place that I have always been just because I am comfortable there. I am ready to be sanctified and let God work through me on the stuff that needs transforming. If you are too, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. It will be life-changing!
A few weeks ago, my daughter was unable to sleep. She kept coming in my room repeatedly concerned about the possibility of a snake swallowing her whole while she slept. We talked about her fear and the unlikely possibility of a snake that large getting into her room at night. And then I reminded her that when we are afraid we only have to pray that God will take our fears away and trust that He will take care of us.
The following morning as we drove to school she told me that she wasn’t afraid anymore because she knew that God would protect her. It was a gut-wrenching moment for me as I had laid awake for hours the night before harboring my own fears. How often do I give my kids advice that I don’t follow myself? If only I could have faith like a child and just believe that once I have turned something over to the Lord that I no longer need to lay awake worrying about the snakes in my own life.
Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege of reading the book, Into the Deep, by Lauren Gaskill. Lauren addresses the pain, suffering, frustrations that we all face in life and shows us how we can dive headfirst into a life of courageous faith. She says early in her book, “There was a time in my life when I let my struggles define me, but I’m not going back there—to the darkness, to the night, to the overwhelming pit of despair. And neither are you. Because we have been called into the light—into a life of courageous faith.”
As I have studied chapter by chapter of her book, I have been both encouraged and challenged to dive deeper into my faith, and to remind my children how to let their faith have power over their fears. She reminds the reader that a fearless faith is not a fairy tale, and it is obtainable if we only put our trust in God. So often, I let my fears and insecurities get the best of me, and I allow them power over parts of my life that they should have never been allowed to reach—all because I don’t put my trust in the ONLY one who can calm all my fears.
It’s not enough to have faith, we have to be able to live out that faith daily. We have to be able to look at every situation that we face with a trust in Him and a belief that that faith will move the mountains in our lives. When we surrender to His will and to his guidance, those mountains in our life, don’t seem so hard to face.
“In the good times and the bad times, I’ve learned that trusting God and surrendering my all to Him is the best way to live, because it takes the burden off my shoulders.”- Lauren Gaskill, Into the Deep
I encourage everyone to grab a copy of this book. Read it alone, study it with a friend, message me if you want to chat about the wisdom in it’s pages! And if this is a book you think would challenge you and encourage you in your faith, leave a comment below! I have a copy I will be giving away to a reader who comments before Friday, November 9th!
Staying Faithful Through the Unexpected
A journey with our family through multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. As well as a look into our struggles and faith!
Being still for Caitlin Grace
The Joy of the Lord is our Strength
Finding Beauty in the Everyday.
Chasing Christ in the Chaos
Learning to Embrace the Storms of Life