Wisdom for Widows


Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Solitude is not first a place but a state of mind and heart.

(Richard Foster “The Celebration of Discipline”)

In my last posting I shared some “nuggets” I learned from the first week of a Bible study called Wisdom for Widows. Today I’m continuing with the second week of the same study. This week’s topic was Isolation.

Let’s review that first week’s theme to give the acronym from which the study was created:

W idows – Comprehend the Bible’s portrayal of God’s heart for the widow

I solation – Learn how to face the biggest obstacle – Loneliness

S uffering

 

D ecision Making                                                                                                                                 O vercoming                                                                                                                          M arriage

F orgiveness                                                                                                                                             O pportunities                                                                                                                                       R elationships

W ealth                                                                                                                                                               I ntercession                                                                                                                                                                     D ifferences                                                                                                                                                    O rganization                                                                                                                                                   W orship                                                                                                                                                     S ervice

Information taken from “Wisdom for Widows” by Mary Ann Kuechler

 

Sometimes widows tend to think of themselves as the only lonely people. However, there are many people in lonely situations. Along with the widows and widowers, those divorced and/or separated from their spouses deal with the same loneliness.

Did you ever stop to think that even some married people have no real relationship and still live lonely lives? If we really take a look around us and study others, we’ll see there are many who live in isolation. There are latch-key children, teens who just don’t “fit” in, immigrants, many homeless people, prisoners, and those who have never married. Even those in Christian service can find themselves leading lonely lives. Illness can separate us from others. Did you know we are one of 800,000 in our ranks as of today? I certainly didn’t know that, and I realize now I’m not the only one who’s alone.

It would be too much to try to share everything discussed in the study this week, but I’ll review some nuggets meant particularly for widows.  In our situation, we know the cause of our loneliness is the loss of our spouse.

Some women in their loneliness choose to keep themselves from others. This decision by itself isn’t good. Often the pain of loss keeps one from going out and about, which only adds to the isolation. Choosing solitude as a way of life and staying away from others on a consistent basis is a wrong choice.

However, choosing to be away from others for solitude and meeting with God is a spiritual discipline we all need. Some of us choose to go on silent retreats such as I have written about in a prior blog. Spending time with God, reading His word, and talking to Him are all spiritual assets and help in healing. It should be a part of our daily routine. When we spend extended time alone thinking only about our loss and not feeding our soul and spirit encouragement, we add depression to our lives. Time spent reliving what we once had with our spouses and what we no longer have will expand our feeling of isolation. “Loneliness is always a negative experience while solitude is often positive and renewing. “ (J. Oswald Sanders “facing Loneliness” p15)

It’s true that widows face challenges they had no idea they would face. Most of us don’t know how to fix a leaky faucet or repair a broken hinge on a door, to mention only a few things. Some of us had never even hung a picture alone!  When we face these everyday things, it certainly can make us aware that we’re “alone.” Eating alone, going places alone and handling finances are just some of the things that add to isolation.

In our study, Wisdom for Widows, we discussed seven “cures” for overcoming loneliness:

  • You need to know, and accept yourself for who you are NOW. Know yourself. I had to learn that I was no longer part of the couple, “Phil and Kathy.” Widows are no longer married women, the other half of someone. I had to learn who I really am. The reality of who we were does not resemble who we are now. This doesn’t happen overnight. I remember the day that I realized that I’d become just “Kathy.”
  • Move from living FOR the dead to living WITHOUT the dead. This sounds harsh, but we do have to learn to live beyond our deceased loved one. I learned what “I” liked to do, which was sometimes different from I did as a married couple. Someone in our group said she likes to listen to different music than her husband did, and now she does. There are little things you may start to change in your life, and that’s all right. Give yourself permission to do so.
  • To face the most difficult times you need to form a plan. One lady shared that Saturdays was always her hardest day. Her husband had always planned that day, and they did things together either at home or away from home. After her husband passed away, Saturday came and she had no idea what to do, adding to her loneliness. She started making a list the night before of what she would do that day.  In fact, that’s a great idea for every day. Before you go to bed, plan the following day.  It gives you a purpose to rise each day and helps you not to wander aimlessly, feeling lost. One lady suggested leaving a paper and pencil in every room. When you’re in the room and you notice things you want to do, or should do, you can jot them down and have a reminder of these things. It was also mentioned by one lady that she couldn’t handle going to weddings alone. She learned to ask if she could bring a friend or even her niece. This allowed her to not sit alone and helped to alleviate feeling lonely or left out. Maybe you would want to ask someone to go grocery shopping with you or walking with you. Whatever you find the hardest to deal with, develop a plan.
  • Find someone needier than yourself and reach out to them. Write letters to lonely people such as prisoners or someone who can’t get out of the house. Go visit a neighbor or take a meal to someone if you have enough energy. (Grieving takes a lot of energy). Pick up the phone and call someone who’s alone or suffering. Look for opportunities.
  • Develop new relationships or renew old relationships. This can be difficult. I found that as I reached out to other widows, I, in turn, gained new friends. As you heal, you may want to start a small widow’s group. I’ve found that even though the fifth anniversary of my widowhood is approaching, the fellowship of other widows is very special for me. There is a common bond. We glean from one another. It’s a good way to develop those new relationships. I always say, “No one understands a widow better than another widow.”
  • Don’t live in denial. Sometimes a widow doesn’t want to face the death of her husband, and she postpones her grieving. However, this just delays the grieving process and eventually makes it even more painful.
  • Face your pain and don’t run from it. Grieving is painful, and the crying that goes with it is unwanted. Some widows run from allowing themselves to experience it. If you’re running away from your pain, you must turn around and face it. God gave us our tears to release our grief.

Remember, being a widow does get better, but it’s never the same. Learn to be the captain of your life. And, most important, reach out and be a comfort to others, and you will, in turn, be helping yourself to remove your loneliness.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me,

for I am lonely and afflicted.”

Psalm 25:16

God bless you,

Kathy

 

 

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Alone with God


 

“Retreat from the world’s noise and the clamour of your worries. In silence you can hear the whisper of the Infinite.” (1) These are the words I read on the pamphlet in my silent retreat packet. Preparing for the five- and-a-half hours drive to my favorite retreat, I felt so ready!

There’s something about driving away from everything and going into a quiet spot. Some people feel close to God by listening to music. Others can sit in a cafe with people around them and immerse themselves in their own private world. As for me , I need to be away from my normal surroundings. I relish being surrounded and immersed with nature. Most of all, I need to be in quietness without distractions.

Last year as I read one of my favorite blogs by Ferree Hardy, “A Christian Widow’s Place”, I read about a retreat called God’s Quest. As I read about taking yourself away from your usual busy life and surrounding yourself by God’s nature, talking to no one but him, I found myself thinking yes, this is what I need! While reading the information, I read that the second day is called a “hermit day.” Silence starts at 9 o’clock the first evening and continues through the next day,” hermit day,” and ends 10 a.m. the third day.

There’s something special about this length of silence and solitude without interruption while talking only to God. Jesus often separated himself from  others to be alone with His Heavenly Father and gave us this example to follow.

God speaks in a still small voice. How will we hear him unless we take time to sit still and listen?

Arriving after dark, it wasn’t until Friday morning that I was greeted by the once-again beautiful foliage. The air was brisk, but as I nestled in a blanket relaxing on a glider next to the pond, I felt God’s peace and love. Once again I pulled out my journal and started listening to what He had to say.

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latest pond pic

I imagine  many secrets are hidden in those waters, as others over the years have sat there and talked to God.

After Friday night’s delicious Amish-cooked meal, we attendees met for devotions. Following that sweet time of fellowship and song, we went our silent ways to focus only on our Lord.

Pampering myself in the Jacuzzi in my cottage and sleeping late the next morning were both extra bonuses I enjoyed. It was great knowing that nothing was awaiting me to attend to that day. What a great way to clear one’s mind of all distractions than to remove yourself from them!

I had previously determined not to drive so far for my retreat nextyear, but as I walked across the vacated ski slopes enjoying the view while I talked to the Lord at this special place, I’m afraid I may find myself on that drive again next year.

Regardless of where I spend my retreat, I hope I always take time to go someplace alone to be refreshed. If our Lord needed this, how much more do we?

You may be saying, “It’s not necessary to drive a distance or even to go away from your home to meet with the Lord.” This is true; however, in the busy world in which we live  and the hectic life we live, for me, I know I need to retreat at least once a year.

In Exodus 33:14, God told Moses, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” This is the verse God  gave  me as I prepared to retreat. Still, His promise is true in all of our situations. As long as we have God’s presence, we can have rest. No matter what trials we face or where we are, we’ll always find a quiet rest in the Lord.

I pray that I keep my mind stayed on Him while I continue in my everyday life.

IMG_20141018_192511

May God bless you and help you to find your private “retreat.”

Kathy

  • 1.  texts from the Elf-help Therapy book “Acceptance Therapy” (by Lisa Engelhardt).

He’s In My Head – She Said


Today I am posting something that one of my author friends, Cindy Sproles, posted on her daily devotions website,  The site can be found at
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  139:17 NIV
My backyard looks like a mini forest. It didn’t start out that way. In fact, it was a mess when we moved in over twenty-seven years ago. Thickets of stickers, weeds disguised as saplings, and poison ivy. It took weeks for us to cut, hack, and burn the land so grass would grow.
Then it grew. For years we had a soft stand of grass, a tree house for the boys, and a corner burial plot for two dogs and three guinea pigs.  A lot happens over twenty-seven years. We outlive our pets, the tree house comes down, and the six trees our boys planted as children rise to over thirty feet. The grass that enjoyed the sun when the trees were small has since given way to moss and though the landscape has changed, I still find myself walking the parameter of our property in early morning…pondering.
I met a woman who wanted to take on our yard as a project. Over the summer I’ve watched her add a plant here, shape a spot there, remold the landscape a piece at a time. Thing is, she’s left my mini forest alone. She said when she’s done, you’ll be able to sit at one spot, follow the pathway up the hill and into the trees. “You can just think when you sit and gaze up the hill.”
I like that…I can just sit and think as I gaze into the trees. I “think” to God a lot. My thoughts to Him are deep, joyous, and sometimes pleading. But the best part of my mini forest is listening to God’s thoughts.
I seem to always hear His voice when I walk under the canopy of the Birch trees. The breeze that rustles through the highest branches, the birds who grumble as I disturb their morning search for worms. God talks to me in the solitude of the shade, in the movement of nature, and I love to listen.
The Psalms are beautiful. David “got” the presence of God. He grasped hold of the world around him and praised God for His omnipresent spirit. Regardless of where he walked, where he rested or traveled, David felt the thoughts of God – even before he was formed.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand God. My human eyes have difficulty seeing past my own spirit and into the eternal Spirit of Christ. When I’ve walked into my backyard, fallen to my knees and wailed my heart before God, He never fails to remind me He is in control. He knows my every need, hope…my every lament. He’s in my head.
Learning to hear the thoughts of God takes practice. It means developing that deep spiritual connection with Him…being quiet, open, and ready to hear. How precious it is to hear Him. How intimate.
Shhhhh. Listen. Be quiet and seek. And you’ll hear the thoughts of the Master too. Listen as He speaks.
Eddie Jones and Cindy Sproles are friends and cofounders of ChristianDevotions.us. They cowrite the popular He Said, She Said devotions and host Blog Talk Radio’s Christian Devotions SPEAK UP! along with Scott McCausey. Eddie and Cindy travel and speak at conferences across the country and they are available to speak at your church or conference. Contact them atcindy@christiandevotions.us.
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