My grace

The other morning, something I read, led to a song that I wanted to listen to, which led to me re-watching part of the celebration of life for Fred. My heart broke in a thousand pieces to see my children standing together in the church sharing about their daddy. They are so young to be without a daddy, so young to deal with grief on this kind of a level. God spoke to me–and as always it is so gentle and I can feel His arms holding me–He told me that I do not have and will not have the grace my children need to be without a daddy, but THEY will have all the grace they need. I have grace to deal with my pain and sorrow, but I only have grace for my hurt.

Meanwhile, as I continue to pick up the pieces of shattered dreams and a broken heart, God is near and is mending me. I thank God for little rays of sunshine in the past few months that have brought joy!

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God’s great love

On days when my heart still feels like it is breaking in two, there have been several times when I have Googled verses on God’s love. These are verses that I have known for years, but when my mind isn’t thinking straight, I need reminders. Reminders that God has this whole story of my life in His hands and that His love for me is far beyond what I can comprehend.

A quote I recently read: “Holding on to fears is to delay the comfort of God.” When I am aware of God’s great love, how can I hold on to fear instead of running into His arms to find peace and comfort.

A special blessing this past week was our church bike ride on Ascension Day. I am thankful for my church family and also for the beauty of northern Germany.

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Being thankful

Back about 27 years ago, I had my 3rd miscarriage within 18 months. A dear older lady in the church we were in at the time, asked me if I had thanked God. I was shocked, to say the least! What a thing to ask someone who is struggling. But, aren’t we told to be thankful in all things? I remember thanking God that I already had 2 beautiful children–I know many women who have never had the joy of having their own child. In every situation, there are things for which we can be thankful. In EVERY situation.

Ten years ago, I was told I should read the book “One Thousand Gifts,” by Ann Voskamp. In her book, Ann tells of the challenge to write down 1,000 things for which she was thankful. You have to dig deep if you are going to do that. It doesn’t work just to say, “I am thankful for my family, my church, my house, etc.” I accepted that challenge, and within 10 months had finished my list of 1,000 things for which I was thankful. It had become a part of my life to write things down each morning, so I kept at it. Right now I am getting close to the 15,000 mark in my thankful journals. Little did I realize that this habit of finding the good and seeing God’s gifts to me, would carry me through the most difficult time of my life. Even as Fred was suffering physically and then left this earth to spend the rest of eternity in the presence of Jesus, God brought to my mind so many things for which I could thank Him.

Here are a few things I am thankful for when I think specifically of Fred’s death:

–he was longing for heaven!

–God healed him completely

–my children to help me get through the days when I was numb with pain

–my church family and friends around the world who poured love and prayers into me

–cards and messages

–friends who helped with the hard tasks (like calling the funeral home or hospital)

–even though we were still dealing with COVID, I could visit him in the hospital

–music to calm my heart

–assurance that Fred is with Jesus

As I continue on a path I did not choose, I will choose to be thankful and see the goodness of God on my life!

Thankful for a little trip to London with Erik.

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Memories

In June, it will be 37 years ago that I met Fred, and 35 years ago that we got married. That is a lot of years of memories! A booklet on grief gave the idea of writing down memories, one-liners of the loved one who died. I tend to be a person who lives in the future–always thinking ahead to what is coming next, what needs to be done, what I can’t forget, so I usually don’t dwell on memories. But, this is a whole new “ball game!” How can I not remember when Fred’s presence is still felt in every inch of our house, when I interact with our children and grandchildren, when I serve in the church where we served together for so many years. Our lives were intertwined and we lived and worked as a team.

Here are a few memories:

–Thursdays were our day off. For years now, we went out to breakfast and sat and talked each Thursday morning.

–Most recently, we joined a gym together. I loved the time to talk in the car on the way there and the way home and also working on fitness together.

–Praying together and deep, rich conversations about what we were learning from God were a normal part of our lives.

–Each year we went away for a few days together alone. When the children were small, it was often only one night and a lot of work to make the time away happen, but these get-aways did wonders for our marriage.

–Our home has open doors for people. I have no idea how many people have sat around our table for a meal over the years. Fred didn’t just expect me to do the work by myself. He helped me with the grocery shopping and although I am the cook in the family, he was willing to wash, peel, chop, or whatever needed doing. Then (especially on Sunday mornings) he would send me off to get ready while he cleaned up the kitchen.

–Laughter was a big part of our lives. Our children often said that we laughed at each other a lot and I think that is true. But, laughter makes life easier!

–Music has always been a huge part of my life. Fred didn’t think of listening to music except for occasionally having Kassandra’s piano music playing in the background while he worked at his computer. However, the last few months of his life, we listed to music together while we cried and clung to God. Fred’s favorite song was “It Is Well with My Soul.” The last few months, we often ended our prayers together by saying, “it is well, with our souls.”

Yes, God, it is well with my soul, and I thank You for memories!

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Rejoice

Saturday I attended a wedding. Being a widow for 10 weeks with the grief still fresh on my heart, I wondered if going to a wedding was a good idea, but the bride is a dear friend and I knew God would give me grace–which He did.

God also used the wedding to remind me of His desire that I rejoice with those who rejoice. Not just a newly wed couple, but also my many friends who still have their spouse. Yes, I am the one alone, the one not sitting next to my husband, the one missing the presence of my dearest friend on earth. But, I dare not let my heart grow bitter and be jealous of those who still have their spouse.

God also reminded me that I need to accept the fact that I am a widow. I did not choose this and I have often reminded God that I don’t want to be a widow. But, is actuality, with that statement I am telling God that I do not want what He has chosen for me, that I know better, that His plan is a bad one. God has been so loving and gracious to me, and even in this, I do not feel like He is beating me with a stick, but rather gathering me in His arms and telling me to trust Him and His plan. God knows that my heart still aches and He understands. God knows I miss my husband, but His presence surrounds me. It is still hard for me to say, “Thank you, God, that my husband is dead.” But I am to the point where I can say, “Thank you, God, that Your plan is a good one, that You have me in your arms, and that Your love is surrounding me.”

These boys have been a huge blessing to me!

Spring time!

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Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Easter Sunday, Fred was singing praises in heaven. Each time I am overcome with grief, just remembering that he finished his course–the goal of all of us as believers in Jesus is to gain heaven. Fred is also no longer burdened with pain, itching, medication, doctor’s visits, and the cares of this world. Even little things like taking out the trash, or paying taxes, or dealing with difficult people are all things of this earth. He doesn’t have to be concerned about war or inflation or shortage of flour and oil. If he was given an opportunity to return to earth, would he? I doubt it! And I do not blame him or doubt that he loved me deeply. So, I choose to rejoice that Fred is perfectly whole and perfectly holy. Hallelujah!

God has used many things to speak to me in the last months: music, friends, books, the Bible, sensing His presence in nature. One book I read is “Suffering: It Is Never for Nothing,” by Elisabeth Elliot. This quote spoke to me: ” . . . everything can be seen as a gift, even my widowhood. I began very slowly to recognize, after my first husband was killed, that it was within the context of widowhood that God wanted me to glorify Him. It was not my idea. It was something that God not only allowed, but in a very real sense, which I began to slowly understand, He had given me because He had something else in mind. And this was a gift not just for me, but also for the life of the world in some mysterious sense that I did not need to understand because I could trust Him.”

I, like Elisabeth Elliot, did not choose widowhood. It is not my idea of how my life should look. But, God asks me to glorify Him in my widowhood. I choose to trust Him completely and let Him write my story.

Spring flowers are starting to pop. A great reminder that my God is faithful. A new grandbaby is due in August. There is a lot I miss about having Fred gone, but there is so much God is giving me in this new season of life.

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When God calls a loved one home

From the middle of November until the middle of February, Fred spent all but 3 weeks in the hospital. When he was home the last week of December and the beginning of January, I knew that when I took him back to the hospital it would be a while before he came home. We expected him to get the liver transplant and then work through recovery. Little did we know that God would take him HOME on February 19th. Five weeks later, my heart still feels like it can’t be true. We were blessed with (and worked hard at) a good marriage. Fred was my best friend, and we were truly a team in life. My heart hurts with the loss, but when I think about Fred being completely whole, no more pain, no more doctors visits, no more sleepless nights, no more medication, I can be thankful and know that this is how I love him best right now–by letting him go. He loved his Lord and I know that he is so happy to be with Jesus–so happy that he would not want to come back.

God has given us amazing friends and family who have walked with us the last few weeks. Many gave financially so that the kids could come for the funeral. All but Julianna were here and I really don’t know what I would have done without them.

Even though our hearts are heavy, we have joy, peace, and hope, all gifts from our Father in heaven. I have learned that I do choose my focus each day (often many times throughout the day). There are questions that will never be answered. I either trust my God or I don’t trust Him–there is no middle path. So, I choose to trust God completely, choose to focus on the good gifts from my good God and take one day at at time.

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Family Time

When the 3rd stimulus money was deposited into our account, we decided to tuck it away with the prayer we could visit our children and grandchildren. It had been 2 years since we had seen most of them.

God gave us such a great visit! Time just hanging out, praying, singing, talking, playing. Nathan made targets for hatchet throwing and bought supplies to do that. I would have never thought it would be something I would enjoy, but it was tons of fun! Erik taught us how to play Pickle Ball which was also tons of fun.

The 2nd weekend, we had our crew all together. The evening of sharing and praying together is by far the best memory in my heart. God is at work in our family and we are blessed beyond measure.

Since we were close to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Adam took us to see where my great-great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. How cool to stand in the spot where he stood. And, how thankful I am that God spared his life.

The week with Adam and Heidi was spent moving. Only God could have timed that! We were blessed to have been available to help and also thankful we could see their new place.

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Psalms

Lord, how are they increased that trouble me. Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, “There is no help for him in God. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill.

These verses in Psalm 3 were comfort to my heart on a day when I seemed all alone and there was no help in sight. I love the phrase, “But thou, O Lord. . . ” Even when troubles, heartaches and other problems seemed to multiply, my Lord is with me and can do the impossible!

Thanking God today for His great compassion, His love, His many gifts to me as His child!

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Grandchildren

When I found out that our first grandchild was on the way, my emotions went between being overly excited and being upset–after all, no one asked me if I was ready to be a grandmother! Here I was about to have a new role in life, but it was a role I had no say-so in. However, all of my grumpiness faded as we awaited the birth of our first grandchild, and totally disappeared the first time I held her in my arms. Since then, 5 more grandchildren have been added to the family and I cannot explain the deep love I have for these little people. Having grandchildren is a privilege not everyone has in life, and I am grateful to God for giving me this joy.

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