Labor Day Musings

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 12.11.58 AMAmericans have been celebrating Labor Day for 124 years, but much has changed since the holiday’s inception. In 1894 the average American laborer was male. Today 47% of the U.S. labor force is female. Although I have no statistics to support my supposition, I would suspect that a good percentage of that number is widowed since the average age of widows is 55. And, believe it or not, 75% of women will be widowed by that age. Amazing!

Our young widows with children especially need a day of rest since they are overworked. She is responsible for being mother and father; caring for all the household and family chores; being the breadwinner and financial planner; and bearing all the family emotional burdens. Add all of this to a 40-hour workweek, and fatigue becomes a daily companion. The young widow certainly needs our help and prayer for strength and endurance.

A positive change since the late 1800s is that widows today have more expendable income. Even 60 years ago, 30% of widows in the United States lived in poverty, as compared to about 10% of married couples. By 1990, that number dropped to 20%. Because of the increase in women’s education and women in the workforce, about 13%-15% of widows live in poverty today. Researchers predict that this number will continue to decrease, as women are less dependent on their husbands’ incomes.

I am grateful to live in the United States and have the privilege of working. About 50% percent of widows live in poverty in other parts of the world. While our lives are not easy, we have much for which to be grateful.

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is found in 2 Kings 4:1-7. A widow tells the prophet Elisha that she has no money and her two sons are about to be sold into slavery. He says, “What do you have in your house?”

“Only a little oil,” she responds.

He instructed her to ask her neighbors for lots of empty jars. “Go in your house, shut the door, and begin pouring the oil into the jars,” he said. The oil did not stop flowing until every jar was full. “Go,” he said. “Sell the oil, pay your bills, and you will have enough left over to live on.”

What a miracle provision! I think of my work as God’s miraculous provision. He is, as the Old Testament says, Jehovah Jireh–my Provider. I believe that what God did for that Old Testament widow in poverty and what He has done for me, He will do for you.

A Tribute to Mom

My sisters and I have often talked about the blessing our mother has been to us. Our

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 11.07.37 PM

Mom surrounded by three of her four daughters: Rachel (top), Ruth (left), Miriam (right); other siblings include Dan, Russ and Lois

home was, of course, not perfect, and we have talked about that too, but Mom was a great mother. She instilled in us a love for the Lord, His Word, and the importance of being part of a fellowship of believers. She knew what she believed and why.

As a pianist and organist, music was significant to her. She was so busy caring for the six of us that her musical talents were dormant for many years. I’m sad to admit that I was an adult before I realized the depth of her musical gifts. She was the church organist, but she knew and played popular music from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. On one of my visits when she was about 85 years old, she was tackling a simple version of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. So her desire to learn was strong.

Mom was a creative cook, and her meals were always delicious. Because she shared her culinary skills, my sisters and I, and even one of my brothers, are very much at home working and creating in our own kitchens. As kids, we said Mom knew 101 ways to prepare hamburger to stretch the budget.

She was raised as an only child in a quiet home. Living with the noise of six children in a small house with only one bathroom must have been difficult. I remember her saying: “I wish I could take a bath just once without one of you kids needing to go to the bathroom.” Her sacrificial love was evident every day.

That skillful, strong, intelligent mother is gone from us. She no longer cooks, plays the piano, or studies her Bible. She doesn’t remember that she was the first female board member of our church, which was extremely significant 40 years ago, or that she and my dad had a thriving business. Today she is frail and has only brief moments of recognizing my sister, Rachel, who sees her every day at the care facility and cares for many of her needs. We long for heaven to claim her, to free her from her limited body and mind. I’m glad she taught us that this world is not our final home and that the joys of heaven include no more sickness, tears, sadness, or dying.

I love you, Mom! I honor you and thank you for who you have been and for your sacrificial love to all of us. Happy Mother’s Day.

A New Year’s Resolution

It’s hard to believe we are beginning the fourth week of 2018. If statistics are correct, about half of us made one or more New Year’s resolutions, and some of us have already given up on the possibility of achieving that goal. A Forbes report noted that only 8% of people making resolutions actually accomplish their desired results by the end of the year.

Although I want to exercise more, take vitamins more regularly, and make healthy eating choices, I decided to make a different type of a resolution this year. I would like to look back on 2018 and be able to say that I’ve become a more grateful, thankful person. As I’ve tumbled into bed at night the last couple of weeks, I’ve tried to include thanking the Lord for things that I often take for granted: a warm home, a comfortable bed, clean sheets, and cozy blankets. I hope throughout the year to make thankfulness part of my daily living, but I’m sure it will take work and deliberate thinking.

As widows, it’s so easy to think about what we’ve lost or what we no longer have. Earlier this week, a couple in front of me exchanged a loving glance as the man put his arm around his wife. I smiled and thought, Now wouldn’t that be nice? I would assume these kinds of thoughts will always be part of widows’ lives. It’s part of acknowledging our losses, and we are normal human beings who desire loving touches. During 2018, I hope to include grateful thoughts for the privilege of seeing loving couples.

For the past several years, I’ve asked the Lord in December to lead me to a Scripture to govern the coming new year. A couple of passages have been significant guides as circumstances developed during those years. This year I’ve chosen Romans 15:13: “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.”

In meditating on this Scripture, I realized that joy and peace do not come from my circumstances, possessions, family, or friends. God is the Source. My responsibility is to trust Him in each circumstance. Joy and peace then generate abundant hope, which comes to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe you can join me this year on my journey in thankfulness. May He fill all of us with joy, peace, and hope.

Journeys

For most of us, the holidays seem to turn our thoughts to childhood memories of family and past Thanksgivings and Christmastimes. Since part of my afternoon was spent getting the car serviced, my mind drifted back to  great Aunt Helen (Grandmother’s sister) and her husband, Bill, who would come in a small, shiny, black coup to Grandma’s for the holidays. I was about 4 years old and was sure they were rich. Of course, I did not know then that the car was possibly 10-15 years old.DSC_0964

Cars fascinated me because neither my parents nor grandparents owned one. When Aunt Helen and Uncle Bill left to go home, I would squeeze into the back seat and ride to the end of the block where they would drop me off. I can even remember the happy feeling of walking back to the house.

The first car I remember my dad purchasing was an old forest green Studebaker that I’m not sure was very reliable. Several weeks before my 9th birthday, I committed my life to Christ in that old car as my parents and two other adults talked about the Second Coming of Christ while we traveled to church. That decision has impacted my entire life.

I look back1941-studebaker-champion-dsf with nostalgia and gratefulness on those days, but those old cars did not travel fast and were not nearly as comfortable as today’s models. Imagine with me the slow, laborious traveling during Christ’s time here on earth.

Mary was on a donkey, not in a nice SUV, as she and Joseph traveled the 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. You and I could easily make that journey in about an hour and a half on an Interstate. For Mary and Joseph, the trip could have taken as many as nine or ten days. Besides unpaved and hilly roads and harsh weather, the area was known for robbers and wild animals. It must have been terribly uncomfortable for Mary who was in her last month of pregnancy.

In reading the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we have a detailed account of those days (Matthew 1-2; 2 Luke 2). Luke tells us that the couple went from Nazareth to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. He describes Jesus’ birth, the glorious angel choir, and the shepherds. Matthew recounts the travels of the Wisemen and Herod’s killing spree in his attempt to destroy the Christ Child. When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph journeyed to Jerusalem where they presented Him “to the Lord as it is written in the Law” (Luke 2:22-24), which was another day’s journey. Then Matthew includes the family’s escape to Egypt, a trek of more than 600 miles. That must have been a very laborious trip with a young baby. Finally they travel back to Israel and settled in Nazareth.

As we travel to and fro this holiday season, may we be reminded of the greatest trip ever taken–when Jesus left heaven and took on the form of man. John’s gospel says, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14). His birth, death, and resurrection made it possible for us to be forgiven and to be transported one day from this earth to heaven. What a great journey that will be!

Praying for Another Great Awakening

These past few weeks have been very distressing with one disaster after another. We mourn and pray with those who have lost loved ones aScreen Shot 2017-10-07 at 2.14.42 PMnd all their possessions in the hurricanes, the earthquake in Mexico, and the volcanic eruptions in the Pacific. As I write this morning, Hurricane Nate is roaring in the Gulf and projected to generate devastating winds and rain to parts of Louisiana and Alabama.

These natural disasters have brought great heartache to thousands of people. But how can we even wrap our minds around the horrific massacre in Las Vegas. Words cannot explain our shock and unbelief at the unspeakable evil demonstrated in one man’s actions. How could anyone hate with such intensity and be driven to this depravity? Where is reverence for life or respect for humanity in general? We grieve for the loss of life and those still suffering in hospitals. We long for the insanity we see in our nation to end.

I remember as a young adult having the same feelings of utter shock when Charles Manson’s group murdered five people on August 9, 1969. The perversion was monstrous, and I couldn’t bear to look at the evil in his face. Less than a week later, people were stunned and horrified when TV and newspaper photos surfaced of young people at Woodstock in New York tripping out on psychedelic drugs, snorting acid, and walking around like zombies in drug-induced haze. Then on August 18, Camille swept into the Gulf as a category-5 hurricane, causing great damage in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. More than 250 people died. What an August that was!

Something else was brewing, however, in 1969 and the early 70s–the Jesus Movement. Even as the Vietnam War protests intensified, God began to supernaturally change people’s lives in the middle of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury hippie culture. As the revival spread over the next several years, thousands of young adults committed their lives to Christ. It was refreshing to witness their simplicity to the gospel, their dedication to evangelism, and their abandonment of the drug culture. New fellowships of churches developed, and young adult believers gave renewed vibrancy to established congregations. The movement also gave birth to great Christian music that expressed a passionate relationship with Christ.

Historians tell us that intense prayer precedes great revivals, and I’m sure the Jesus Movement was no exception. Today people across our nation are asking God to send revival–another Great Awakening. Only God can bring order out of the chaos of our racial issues, political divide, increase in drugs, rise in crime, breakdown of the family, and the general uncertainty that we feel daily. Just as God brought new life into the church in the late 60s and throughout the 70s through the Jesus Movement, He can send a sweeping revival once again.

In the early days of the Church, the apostle Peter declared, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). We certainly need “times of refreshing” now. I am anticipating the time soon when God breathes new life into our nation through another Great Awakening.

 

Reflection on Past and Present Challenges

When my husband first became ill many years ago, we were determined to “put on a happy face.” (Maybe you remember that old Dick VanDyke song.) Little did we know that we were in the first stage of grief—denial. I’m sure our optimism was both perplexing to some people and admired by others. The truth is that we were simply ignorant of the devastating consequences of the disease. We were young and could conquer anything.

As the weeks and months passed and the prognosis became more negative, reality set in. Never would life be the same. Our well-defined roles vanished, and I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of our “new normal.” Thinking that Job in the Old Testament had gone through loss and devastation like no one else on earth, I decided to study the book to discover the keys to overcoming heartache. (This may have been my bargaining stage of grief.)

Of course, Job’s faith-affirming words spoke to me and even strengthened my faith:

  • “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him (God)” (Job 13:15).
  • “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. Yet in my flesh I will see God: I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart years within me” (Job 19:25-27).
  • “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

I had known these Scriptures, and they were meaningful to me, but I was looking for something new. After weeks of reading and finding nothing that “clicked” with me, I chalked up the time to a good Bible study.

It would be years before I understood the truths of Job, chapters 38-41—God’s words to Job. In those closing chapters, God was simply telling Job that his knowledge was finite and could not compared to the all-knowing God, Who was both Creator and Controller. Job’s responsibility was to trust God Who knows everything. I came to realize that God did not allow those terrible losses to destroy Job but to bring him to a realization of who God is. The same was true for me. God did not allow difficulties to destroy me, but to bring me closer to Him. In 42:5, Job says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job declared God’s sovereignty in all things. I’m rather sure that Job’s restoration, which is recounted in the last six verses of the book, covered many years.

In these last few weeks we have seen great devastation with hurricanes and flooding in Texas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and fires in California, WashinIMG_0332gton, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Some people have lost everything and are in the throws of great grief. We grieve for and with them and are helping through those who are responding to the tragedies. But what is God saying?

Just as with Job, God wants us to know that these great challenges are not to destroy us as Americans. So God is calling us—all of us—to examine our lives in these difficult days. He wants us to acknowledge that in ourselves we have no power to make changes. He is waiting for us to call out for His help. It’s His desire to make something wonderful out of the every tragedy, disappointment, challenge, and problem in our lives.

 

 

Ineligible

While shopping in the mall a number of months ago, I was attracted to a new car with a sign that read, “Win this car or $25,000.” Wow! As a widow, a little extra money is always welcomed, so I filled out the slip of paper with my name, address, and phone number and added it to the already full box of entrants. I forgot about the contest until a phone call two days ago.

Since I don’t answer calls from unknown phone numbers, the call went to voice mail. The man said, “Congratulations. You are a images-1winner! Your name has been chosen from the names recently submitted at the mall. You may be eligible to win a 2017 car or $25,000. Please call this number to receive your prize.” Of course, I called the number.

The young man who answered seemed excited that I responded and said, “Your name has been chosen and you are eligible to enter the contest to receive the grand prize or a great consolation prize.” I knew immediately the contest had been a sales gimmick, but I continued to listen. “I have a few questions to verify your entry and eligibility. First, are you married?” When I answered, “No,” the call ended without the young man even giving a polite good-bye.

In that company’s policy manual, widowhood disqualified me for the prize, but God has a very different view of widows. His policy manual – the Bible – honors widows, and even rebukes those who cheats them or disrespects them. (See Scriptures below**) I, as a widow, am a child of God and eligible to receive every benefit offered in His Word. Not one promise has a clause that excludes me because I have no husband.

It’s true that our loss is great, and many times we may feel less qualified in the world’s eyes. But God has promised …

*To supply our every need (Philippians 4:19)

*To be a friend that sticks “closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24; Psalm 34:18)

*To comfort us in our loss (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Psalm 10:14)

*To replace our sadness with joy (Psalm 16:11; 30:11)

*To be our defender (Psalm 27:5; 28:7; 31:2-3; 32:7; 46:1-11)

We, as widows, have riches beyond what any earthly company can offer.

**Scriptures (NIV)

Deuteronomy 10:18 – He [God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow.

Psalm 68:4-5 – Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds – his name is the LORD – and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling.

Psalm 146:9 – The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the way of the wicked.

Proverbs 15:25 –The Lord tears down the proud man’s house but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.

Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

James 1:27 – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

 

 

Avoiding the Trap of Fear and Anxiety

The news seems to get more alarming every day. Violence, murder, and corruption are always in the headlines. Early yesterday morning journalists told us that a cyber attack hit 100,000 companies in 150 nations, a 19-year-old was killed in a hazing event at a prestigious university, atrocities continue in Syria, and North Korea launched another missile. Depressing, disturbing, fearful, even heartbreaking!

In a 2015 Huffington Press article, Dr. Graham Davey, a specialist in the psychological effects of media violence, said, “Violent media exposure can exacerbate or contribute to the development of stress, anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.” This includes TV shows that are supposed to be entertaining but are full o3e7bbc5f3aff446a5d9178f04a8dde55f violence and crime. So watching TV or surfing the Internet to discover the latest Washington political scandal or the most recent terror threat can be dangerous to our health because of the fear and anxiety it generates.

And the fear producing news doesn’t end with violence. We are constantly bombarded with the latest negative health issues. Water bottles release BPA, an industrial chemical that can seep into our food and cause disease. Cell phones emit radio waves from their antennas that may cause cancer. Fruit juices are no longer a healthy morning drink; whole wheat bread is a no-no. And bananas, which are rich in potassium and magnesium, cause belly fat. Don’t even think about eating potato chips, crackers, or pastries. It’s no wonder that we have fear, stress and anxiety. Solomon was right when he said, “An anxious heart weighs a man (woman) down” (Proverbs 12:25).

Veteran science journalist Jeff Wise says, “It [fear] sabotages our ability to think clearly and can drive us to blind panic.” Jim Folk, another authority on fear and anxiety, says, “The body always produces an associated stress response to each fear, and one that is directly proportional to the level of fear. We don’t escape this reaction.” Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley, a medical physician and also a widow, says, “Anxiety is the number one medical health issue among adults.”

So what are we to do with this anxiety, fear, and stress? Should we simply refuse to watch the news or read negative information since all of this doom and gloom can be damaging to our physical, mental and emotional health? Dr. Tanksley gives several ways we can avoid the pain associated with fear, anxiety, and stress.

  • Eat non-processed food, including lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Participate in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  • Have a medical exam if you haven’t done so recently.
  • Choose your thought life. Reject thoughts full of bitterness, negativity, entitlement, powerlessness, and the past.
  • Focus your thoughts on what is true, on gratitude, on what you can do, helping others, and on God.
  • Face evil with calmness and authority, knowing that God is in complete control.
  • Spend time in prayer; meditate on His Word.
  • Focus on your God-given gifts and the mission He has given you.
  • Don’t give up.

To her list, I would like to add –

  • Listen to uplifting music.
  • Build relationships with other widows.
  • Make time for fun.
  • Read a faith-building book.
  • And, of course, don’t forget the chocolate!!!!

As widows we deal with tremendous loss, which in itself causes much stress. But as we ask God for His help, meditate on His Word, and build relationships with other widows, our stress, anxiety, and fear will be replaced with joy, gratefulness, and peace.

Scriptures to meditate on:

“He [the person who honors the Lord] will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

“When anxiety was great within me, your [God’s] consolation brought joy to my soul” (Psalm 94:10).

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Surviving Valentine’s Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – another difficult celebration for widows. We’re just recovering from the Christmas holidays, but those high-powered ads won’t let us forget our loss. For weeks, the stores have featured chocolate candies in red heart-shaped boxes and beautiful flower displays to entice shoppers. Even at church yesterday, it seemed that more couples were holding hands and exchanging tender looks as they left. (Maybe I was just more conscious of it.) I must admit that I felt a twinge of jealousy.

Valentine’s Day was a topic at work today too, and it led to some interesting discussions. One woman laughed as she told of her early marriage days when money was scarce. To celebrate their anniversary, she and her husband would go to a card store together and choose the best card that expressed their loving thoughts for each other. They would exchange the cards, read them, and then return them to their appropriate racks. What a creative and sweet idea!

If this ibroken_hearts your first Valentine’s Day alone, those of us who have been on this journey for several years know that it’s painful and especially lonely. Being grateful for the good times helps to soothe an aching heart, but I’m convinced that only God can heal a broken heart.

Some of you may not have experienced a warm, loving relationship. Your grief is compounded with regret. But God can restore your heart too. In fact, the Psalmist David says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18), and “He heals the brokenhearted” (Psalm 147:3). The prophet Isaiah tells us that one of the Messiah’s main purposes is to heal the brokenhearted.

We may not experience a romantic dinner or receive flowers tomorrow from our husbands, but we can show love to those around us through simple acts of kindness.

 

Thoughts for 2017

Now that the Christmas tree and decorations have been packed away, I’ve been reflecting on 2016 with its happy times, challenges, surprises, and disappointments. Times with friends have been exceptional, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the blogging and website process. I truimagesst the “bumps in the road” have changed me, just as they were supposed to.

So here we are at the beginning of 2017. We have no idea what the weeks and months will hold, but we know there will be changes, whether we like it or not. I have my usual resolutions: exercise more regularly, cut out sugar, and drink more water. I’m doing well so far. Maybe I’ll be able to report in December that those goals were accomplished and have become good habits. Researchers report that only about 8% of us will keep our resolutions, so I’ll see how well I do.

What’s on your heart to do – to accomplish – in 2017? As widows, we have a tendency to just let life happen – to not set goals or make plans beyond trying to be more physically accountable for our eating and exercising. Sometimes we even have a “who cares” attitude, or life gets so busy that we don’t have time for personal enrichment.

I’d like to challenge you to dream a little. Set aside some time to think about doing something you’ve always wanted to do. Pray about it. You don’t have to be 60 years old to make a “bucket list.” I have a friend who had always wanted to sky dive. Now I wouldn’t do that, as they say, for “all the tea in China.” DSC_1499.jpgBut about 20 of us gathered on a cloudless day last summer to watch the event. She was smiling from ear to ear. Traveling is more my style, and my dream list seems to grow each year. I may never take some of those trips, but even thinking about them brightens my day.

I’d also like to challenge you to include spiritual, emotional, and mental goals. Would you like to read the Bible through in a year? That can be accomplished one day at a time, and lots of yearly Bible-reading guides are available online. Podcasts, seminars, and even college courses are now available online to help us grow mentally.

My Bible reading today included Proverbs 2:6 (NIV): “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” The Message Bible, a more modern translation, says, “God gives out wisdom free, is plainspoken in knowledge and understanding. He’s a rich mine of common sense for those who live well.” WOW!!!! I’m glad that we, as widows, have a free source for wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and common sense. We will need it in 2017.