Being content with life means accepting the circumstances in which God’s providence has placed me…And so this is what I need now; the courage to face an ordinary day…from Ordinary by Michael Horton
In these still-new days of widowhood, some ordinary days do take courage; some are easier. Yesterday was a good day: had fans installed and a few pictures hung by my very sweet handyman. He and his wife are expecting a baby in July and I was able to give him a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible . I painted some chairs, wrote a letter, paid a bill and did some cleaning. I picked up the kids from their summer camps – basketball for one, cheer for the other. Later I went back over to their house for a delicious supper of grilled chicken and vegies. When I got home Ruby and I had a short walk around the block. An ordinary day. A blessed day.
The true field for religion is the field of common life. – Andrew MacLaren
“As the years have moved on, our explosions have become far less frequent as we have learned to live with each other, accepting each other’s edges and corners.”-Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle
I love that phrase “edges and corners”. We all have them. At times I have been like a dodecagon (yes, I looked it up), all full of edges and corners plus prickles like a porcupine. But, as time wore on, I was more like the glass I ordered a few weeks ago. I bought a piece of glass to put on top of my great-grandmother’s sewing machine so I could use it for a table. They beveled the glass so the edges would be smooth and polished. I think Chuck and I both became more rounded and mellow over the years. We argued less and gave more than took from each other.
It is rare and wonderful when family members are best friends. – A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser
Chuck and I were best friends. I count my brothers as pretty good friends, too.
A year ago today is when we got our first indication that our world was about to change. I won’t go into all the details, but when I realized Chuck was yellow, jaundiced, I knew I had to get him to the ER. I drove him to the Medical West ER in Hoover but had to drop him off because the Covid restrictions were already in place.
We were under contract on our house already. I went home to take care of marking our electrical box per the inspection, via a wonderful young man who walked me through it by phone and would not let me pay him.
Within an hour Chuck called. They had done a scan and found a mass on his pancreas. When I went to pick him up he was standing outside on the curb, looking so lost.
That day was the only time I remember him really crying. This gentle giant of a man curled up in our big brown chair in the living room and said, “I wonder who will be my pallbearers?”
Then he began his brief fight against the monster that raged within him. Pancreatic cancer. Our journey brought our children back together and then took us to Jacksonville where Chuck died two months after we first heard the words “mass on the pancreas”.
He had no pallbearers, but he is buried in a beautiful cemetery, along with his great-nephew, Wyatt. I can’t say life has gone on without him because he is a part of everyday for me. I see him in the kindness of his daughters and the laughter of his sons. I watched my grandson Everett play chess last Saturday with one of my son’s friends and I thought of how Chuck played chess with him even when he was ill. I’m grateful Everett will have those happy memories of Grandpa.
“Displaced souls roam every city in every country.” – Ilana Manaster, One of the Crowd, Real Simple – 2017
I know what it feels like to be a displaced soul. I felt pretty much like that the whole six years we lived in Birmingham. It was a beautiful place, but it was never home. I don’t mean to dishonor Chuck when I say that, because where he was, that was home for me. But, I think he felt the same way. We both felt uprooted.
Now I’m “home”, but he’s not here, and once again I don’t quite feel at home. But it’s different, because I do have family here, and numerous friends. I’m in the town where I grew up. It’s changed a lot, but still familiar. The Maxwell House Coffee drifting across the St. Johns River smells the same. The ocean, though constantly changing, is the same. I can still drive by my childhood home and my high school.
So now, as I prepare to move for the third time in less than a year, I think about how to put down roots in Tampa. God willing, I won’t move again. I long to live there and serve God to the end of my days. To make a home for my family, my friends, and other sojourners, for I have to remind myself that, ultimately, I’m just a sojourner on this earth.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar offwere assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. Hebrews 11:13-14
Juliette Marie Bell is eight years old today. Her Grandpa liked to call her Julie.
I’m thankful for the years he had with her. The snuggles, the jokes, the laughs, the sweet times. Last year on her birthday her dad sent Chuck a picture of Julie via text. Chuck’s response was: “Time is flying by. Bee-U-ti-ful”.
We never dreamed this would be his last year with her.
““Misfortunes will happen to the wisest and best of men. Death will come, always out of season.” -Big Elk, Omaha Chief
I am not familiar with this hymn, but it brought to mind not just those who mourn, but many who are cast down. Last week I delivered food to three people who have Covid-19. Two of these people, a couple, also have family members with numerous health issues. I am blessed right now with good health. I thank God he has kept me healthy and I pray for these loved ones that they, too, might be restored to good health.
“So my question was: What, dear Lord, is your purpose for my life? Where during the rest of my mortal years, is home? Ultimately, it is with you, Lord, but meanwhile I believe I am to make a home in the strange island of Manhattan for my granddaughters, who have been so good for me as they have been in college in New York, teaching me, pushing me, not allowing me to get into any kind of a rut. I believe, too, that our home is to be an open one, so that friends that are called to be briefly in the city have a welcoming place to stay.” – from The Rock That is Higher by Madeleine L’Engle
Madeleine L’Engle was thinking back to the time after her husband, Hugh, died. I love the fact that she lived with her granddaughters while they were going to college. I’m not going to be living WITH my grandchildren, but near them, Lord willing, very soon. I am under contract for a house and am waiting for inspections and all that entails. I am so excited I found a house just 1.6 miles from theirs. I want my home to be a haven for all who enter, whether family, friends or strangers.
I’ve thought a lot about widowhood and ministry the past few months. I mentioned it in an earlier blog post HERE . I’ve been saddened to see how other widows, not just me, have been neglected by the church. Widows who were and are faithful church members. Widows who have lost their husbands of many years, who were also faithful servants of God. One whose husband was a retired pastor himself. But where is the church in all of this? Even if these widows aren’t “widows indeed” they still need to be ministered to. At least checked on now and again by their pastor or elder or deacon.
“The Bible has much to say about ministering to one another besides the giving of money…If you assume she (the widow) is fine just because she attends worship each Sunday, you are failing in your ministry to her. Regular visits at her home are the best way to fulfill the James 1 command… It is also the best way to know her and to interact with her so that she will feel comfortable divulging other needs.” – The Undistracted Widow by Carol Cornish
In my case it took me being the “squeaky wheel” to receive a call. Part of me felt ashamed, felt that I should be able to go it alone. I have brothers and children, so why was I complaining? Don’t get me wrong, my family and some friends have been a HUGE help and comfort to me. Yet, when it came to spiritual things, I wasn’t sure where to turn. I ended up pouring out feelings to a former pastor, one with a shepherd’s heart. And God, in His mercy, helped me.
The Lord intended for His church to be a support system, but we can’t be a support system if we don’t know each other.” – Leaving Darkland by Ed Wallen
I see now that not knowing each other is one big hindrance. I see that it is a two-way street, one I hope to travel and become the one who ministers to other weary travelers.
There is a song that’s been on my playlist for quite a few years: One Small Year by Shawn Colvin. As often happens, I now hear it much differently when I listen to it.
One small year
It's been an eternity
It's taken all of me to get here
In this one small year
The hands of time
They pushed me down the street
They swept me off my feet to this place
And I don't know my fate
Now through the night
I can pretend
The morning will make me whole again
I can begin
To wait for the night again
I know this has been but one small year in view of all history and in God’s eyes. But, for me, for so many, it seems in copious ways to have been “an eternity”. It truly has taken all of me to get here. But I could not have done it alone. Yes, humanly speaking, I was alone for so much of it, but I have not truly been alone. God has lifted me up when I could not see through the tears. Friends have checked on me. Family have loved on me. The printed word has renewed me, God’s Word has comforted me.
I don’t know my fate in the sense of what the next year will hold. I know my final fate, my end, in Christ. I have to take that knowledge, that hope, and keep going.
The above pictures were taken as we were preparing to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal in 2014. Just as we were about to sit down to eat, we got the call. Chuck and Danny’s dad was failing fast. They wolfed down some food, packed up and headed for Jacksonville, arriving just 15 minutes after their dad died. My father-in-law.
Now, six years later, I’ve lost three more. My mother-in-law (2017), my mom (2018), my husband (2020). Precious people who sat together for many Thanksgivings. Family who ate, told stories, laughed, loved each other.
Holidays can be hard. We miss the hugs at the front door, the smiles across the table, the hand holding, the traditions. But, we have to press on. No matter how hard a hand we’ve been dealt, there are still blessings.
Yesterday I had Thanksgiving in New Orleans with my daughters, Kat and Leah, and some of their friends. We gathered at Kat’s, and she is always the most gracious hostess.It was different, but it was good. Let me tell you about our little group.
Tim: a professional chef, Leah’s former roommate, who made the most delicious turkey I think I’ve ever had on Thanksgiving, plus some fabulous sides.
Candace: I hadn’t seen her since July. Having lost her mother to cancer, she was a big help to us when we were struggling with Chuck’s illness.
Justin and Leslie: Kat’s neighbors, California transplants, who made the best assortment of deviled eggs and laughed with us all day.
PJ: a friend of Justin and Leslie, who came in later in the afternoon with his precious Springer spaniel, Buddy.
Ruby and Poka: ever present underfoot, waiting for head pats and crumbs to fall.
We made sure to have some of our traditional family dishes: potato casserole- the recipe came from my brother’s mother-in-law years ago; a pepper cheese ball – Aunt Brenda’s recipe, miraculously made by Leah, the non-cook; Wassail; pickle tray; traditional and puppy chow Chex mixes.
For all those family we could not be with, I say in the words of Paul:
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Philippians 1:3