A Blog Hiatus

In 2005, my sister Mary and I began talking about writing a book together. Our children were mostly grown, some married with children themselves. They were asking for advice, and we wondered if sharing our mothering experiences might make a helpful book. It wouldn’t be a compilation of quotes from experts or the experiences of other moms but simply what worked and what didn’t in raising our 14 kids.

17 cousins

(17 first cousins: Mary’s 7 — my 7 — our brother Tom’s 3)

After months of discussion, our first official meeting finally took place on September 27, 2006, during which we spent time praying over our book idea and recording names of women who might pray along with us. We created a statement of purpose and began making notes.

But life got in the way. My family moved from our home of 29 years to a much smaller place and had to focus on eliminating and concentrating. Shortly thereafter, Nate got sick, and in a whirlwind of upheaval and grief, he passed away.

While we were still reeling, Mary and Bervin’s home of 40 years sold, and they too were eliminating and concentrating to make a move. Then shortly after that, Mary learned of her pancreatic cancer and began treatment with major surgery and 6 months of chemo. During these same years, the two of us greeted 19 new grandchildren and 6 new in-law children. Our book was firmly stuck on the back  burner.

But now, 10 years after our first book-discussion, God suddenly began giving me a repeated prompt: “How about that book on mothering?”

PrayersSince my book of prayers for widows is in its final editing stage, I began praying extensively about resurrecting Mary’s and my book. “Lord, should we really try to do it?” But as always, he was way ahead of me and was all set with his answer.

Two weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon while readying for the day, glancing at my open Bible now and then. When the preacher referenced Proverbs 4:23, I turned there and found brackets and a star at that exact verse. I’d also written a note there, 8 years ago:

“Whatever my assignment from God, I must focus intently on it and do it without distractions, gazed fixed, looking directly ahead. 11/07 (Mary’s and my book).”

Bible marginI’ve often wished that after I’ve prayed about something, God would just send me a letter with his answer. This was pretty close!

What were the odds I’d hear that particular sermon referencing that particular verse after that particular week of prayer about the book? What were the chances I’d have even chosen that particular Bible to use that day, of the many I own? No other Bible had that particular note in it.

Immediately I thought about the Lord watching me write in that margin in 2007 while knowing he was going to impact me with it in 2015. Only God…

And so I stepped into his directive, “gazed fixed on the book,” and talked to Mary. These days she is feeling tip-top, another fact that defies all odds. But with God, who believes in odds? She shared my excitement about revisiting our book and was all for walking through the door God had re-opened.

So… as we move forward “looking directly ahead,” I will be the writer; Mary will be the organizer, fact-checker, side-bar creator, and brains behind the words. In order to find new writing time, though, I’ll need to dial-back on blog posts for a while. Though I may blog occasionally, it will no longer be 5 posts a week.

This decision was a difficult one, since I feel attached to you readers and look forward to blogging each day. But I’ll continue to pray for you, and you’ll be on my mind daily. Also, I promise that if anything changes with Mary’s health, I will immediately resume regular blogging. Meanwhile, concerning Mary, you can assume that NO news will always be GOOD news!

As for our book? Stay tuned….

“Show me your ways, Lord…. Guide me in your truth and teach me….” (Psalm 25:4,5)

A Widow’s Need

All this week my thoughts have taken up residence down the street with my newly-widowed neighbor, Betty. She has begun her adjustment to life as a no-longer-married woman and realizes it’ll be a change unequalled by any other in her life.

Thankfully she knows many women who’ve already walked this route, myself included, and we are ready, willing, and able to hold her as close as needed.

As I’ve prayed for Betty, my mind has been flooded with examples from my early days of widowhood when God let me see him afresh. Though I ‘d loved him dearly before Nate died, I came to love him more personally afterwards.

The closetIn particular I remember a morning standing in front of my closet, trying to decide what to wear. Looking back and forth across the hanging clothes, I felt powerless to choose. I’d been bombarded with decisions for a couple of weeks, some small, some large, and hadn’t done very well in making any of them.

Friends and family had moved in to assist, but choosing an outfit that morning was all up to me. I felt sad and very much alone standing in front of my closet and asked myself if I should just go back to bed. I could keep my ‘jammies on and escape the clothing decision altogether.

Starting to weep, I knew the only thing to do was pray, and the only prayer that came to mind was, “Help me, God.” I’d prayed that prayer a thousand times in my few weeks as a widow, but never over choosing clothes.

Such a request seemed beneath God, but I had no other option. “Lord, what should I wear?” And then I just stood there, not expecting him to answer me.

Suddenly my eyes fell on a shirt I hadn’t “seen” in a while, and as I stared at it without moving, God put a thought into my head. “How about that one? It would go good with those pants over there, and why don’t you add that sweatshirt from the shelf above?”

Most people would laugh at this, since praying that way seems like a dumbing-down of our almighty God. But after a wife has leaned on a husband for decades, her first dilemma is wondering how she’ll stay standing without him. That’s the moment when God offers to be her supportive other-half.  He is practical, knowing each need and delivering flawless advice to any widow who wants it.

That’s why, when I dressed in the clothes God chose for me that day, I knew no crisis would be too small for his involvement. And because he was willing to choose my clothes back then, I know he’ll answer Betty’s needs in the weeks and months ahead, no matter how large…. or small.

“The widow who is really in need….  continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.” (1 Timothy 5:5)

Thanksliving

Tom and BettyAdjusting to the death of a spouse is always a challenge, but when there isn’t a minute of warning, it’s doubly difficult. That’s what happened to my neighbor and friend, Betty, when her husband Tom collapsed in an instant.

The two of them were on their way from Michigan to Chicago’s Loop for a couple of appointments and a night in a downtown hotel. But while walking from the train, their lives took an unexpected, unwelcome turn.

Tom said he needed to sit down for a moment, after which he put his head back and lost consciousness. Thankfully a policeman nearby was ready to help, and in just a few minutes Tom was on his way to a hospital. But God’s angels had already escorted him out of Chicago and into Paradise.

Because Tom was a vibrant man full of positive energy, his absence has left a big hole in the lives of many, especially Betty. But there’s great satisfaction in knowing his eternity was and is secure. That’s because decades ago he had entrusted his life (and his death) to God.

I attend the same church as Betty and Tom, and last fall our pastor preached a series called “Thanksliving,” emphasizing the importance of living with gratitude. One Sunday he handed out rubberized bracelets with “Thanksliving” written on them, and Tom was quick to put one on.

The braceletLong after the sermon series had ended and most people’s bracelets had been put away, the pastor asked Tom when he was going to take his off. He responded that he wasn’t… just like he wasn’t going to stop thanks-living.

When he died, he was still wearing the bracelet.

Tom had made up his mind to be a thankful person, despite the fact that his life had been plagued with trouble – beginning with a motorcycle accident in young adulthood that nearly killed him and then derailed his first-choice career. But through that and other close calls with death, Tom refused to feel sorry for himself. He never complained.

Why is God so firm about insisting we always be grateful, even in dire circumstances? It’s probably because he knows that as we search for blessings, what we’re going to find is him. And when we lay hold of him, we’ll be lifted from a problem-focus to a possibility-focus.

IMG_5400All things are possible with God. But the power he promises to put into our situations will be lost on us if we don’t look to him with appreciative hearts. And that’s not all. When we choose gratitude, it’s our golden opportunity to give blessing back to God.

Betty will miss Tom for a long time to come, but after 45 years of marriage, I have a hunch the two of them were probably in cahoots on this thanksliving thing. As a  matter of fact, Betty just might decide to wear his bracelet herself.

The Lord says… “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” (Psalm 50:23)