For a Time

I’m standing at the window, looking out at the beautiful scenery of the woods. I can hear the replay of my phone conversation with my brother, who now lives in Tennessee, “I understand your love for the hills of Tennessee; I have fallen in love with the South as well”. My brother laughs, “It is beautiful, isn’t it, Sis?” My eye catches the movement of the most vibrant yellow butterfly I have ever seen. My heart soars at the sight of a butterfly!

I stood watching the butterfly, appreciating the fluid flow of the wings as it rested on the flowers, and then observing the swift movements about the yard. It was truly amazing to watch. The color of the neon yellow butterfly popped against the greens and browns of the woods behind the house. Some believe that God sends us signs, I’m not sure, but I do believe, that just as the rainbow represents a promise, the butterfly is also a promise. A beautiful promise of transformation in nature, it’s also my personal representation of transformation.

The butterfly icon is an important part of the Widow’s Walk logo, as cliché as it may seem, it is deeply symbolic of the widow’s walk. I can remember so clearly the early days of my widowhood; how devastating it was for me to lose my spouse, for my children to lose their father. There were many days that I thought the best of life was now behind me. Some days I moved at the pace of a caterpillar nearing the end of its life cycle. I became so enveloped in my grief all this while thinking, I am at the end.

I wasn’t at the end….it was only the beginning. I had a new life waiting to be revealed, brought about because of the sting of death, an ending of life as it was known. I have experienced the transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly. The butterfly reminds me from where I have come and where I am going.

As I stood watching the yellow butterfly, another butterfly of like coloring landed on the same planter. It was glorious to watch the two butterflies take flight and dance about the yard. They would fly in concert, part ways, and come back together to dance again in the sky. It was truly delightful to watch the two brightly colored butterflies. After several minutes, the butterflies parted ways as they flew off into the forest. Again, I was reminded of the butterfly in my logo.

In the early days and months of widowhood, a widow will crawl through each day, thinking, “I am at the end”. As the transformation begins she takes flight, it’s incredible for the widow to discover her new beginning and purpose. It is truly beautiful when a widow learns to take flight and sees the splendor that remains. The division of sorrow is wonderful to watch, one widow “crawling”, another “flying”, eventually, both will take flight as a result of transformation. The mission of Widow’s Walk is to support the widow as she “flies” into the beauty of her tomorrow.

What the caterpillar perceives as the end, the Master calls, only the beginning….. (Unknown)

We are not at the end…..only at the beginning, the beginning of promise.

Beside you,

Christina

Island of Grief

“Christy, it seems like the grieving is getting harder, not easier”. Is that how it is supposed to go?” My response:

“Just imagine you wake on an Island, the Island of Grief, you are alone. You have no bearings; it is somewhere, in the middle of nowhere. You are completely exposed; you have no map, and no shelter. You have no idea how to begin gathering provisions, let alone find your way off this Island, an Island where you don’t want to subsist.

You are numb with shock, your days begin to slowly pass, and you force yourself to begin anew. You stumble as you navigate your surroundings and try to assess what you need just to survive. Each day, you set out on a journey to become more familiar with the Island. You are learning to live a new life in a new land, finding protection and reliefs from the elements is your daily fight…you continually yearn for comfort and rescue from the Island of Grief. You grow weary from being blown about by the winds and exhausted by your efforts to survive exposure to the elements on the Island, the Island of Grief.

As each day passes, you begin to gain your bearings on the Island. One by one you are able to find the resources to start building a bridge back to civilization. Gathering the materials for a bridge is tiring, some days you want to quit, and you easily resign yourself that you will never leave the Island of Grief. Yet, when you wake, you find the will to live and survive, and you continue gathering supplies for your bridge to “normal”, a bridge that will take you back to comforts once familiar.

Building your bridge is grueling; you want to give up. Some days you see no progress and the work you have previously done is washed to sea. You begin to wonder if building the bridge back to civilization is an impossible feat, but you continue gathering the resources and the work of building. In spite of your doubt and exhaustion, you carefully dig deep to anchor each pylon; every board you nail is thoughtfully placed. Some days your work is effortless on the bridge, while other days you are in too much pain and you don’t want to face the work or leave your shelter. Just imagine, no matter how painful or exhausting the work, it is bridging you back, pylon to pylon, plank by plank, you are bridging your way back to “normal”, it’s a “new normal”, but once you arrive you will feel remarkably comfortable and comforted, and you will leave the Island of Grief behind.

Your work is not in vain, when you wake to find yourself once again dropped on the Island of Grief, you will have a map, and shelter, you will find your way more easily to your provisions and the bridge. More work and a few more resources might be necessary, some missing boards on your bridge may need to be replaced, but your pylons will hold, and you will once again work your way across the bridge back to your “new normal”.

Yes sweet widow, getting off the Island of Grief is hard work; it will get harder before it becomes easier. Keep up the good work my friend, and work it is, but it is so worth the effort. Once your pylons are set and the bridge is in place, when you find yourself dropped back on the Island of Grief once again, it will take less effort to get back to our “new normal”.

Beside you,

Christina

Why-er OR Why-not-er?

Scott Hamilton, the 1977 Olympic figure skating gold medalist, was interviewed about his book, The Great Eight, How to Be Happy (Even When You Have Every Reason to be Miserable). Scott spoke of his illnesses as a child, the death of his mother, and two recent bouts of life threatening cancer. A comment he made resonated with me when referring to his trials, “for every trial I’ve had to endure, a blessing as occurred”.

I am a “Why-er”. Unfortunately, when I experience a trial, my default switch is set to “Why”. I seem to continually ask “Why”, even when I know there are no answers; I still question and resist. I am curious by nature, and it suits my personality to have as many “whys” answered as possible. Forget “21 questions”; I much prefer “100 questions”. An answer often helps me gain an understanding, or might bring about resolution and even closure if that is what I am seeking. I am a bit like a blood hound tracking a scent, relentless and focused when I’m scouting for answers. However, I’ve learned that being a “Why-er” doesn’t work well when it comes to God. In fact, rarely do I get the answers I am seeking.  A “Why-er” suffers the trial and continually ask “Why me?” and often will miss the blessing.

I desire to become a “why-not-er”, and have my default switch reset to “Why-not”. I want to willingly and without resistance allow God to work in and through my life in the midst of the trials. A “Why-not-er” doesn’t need to know why and has resolution long before the answer is given, and stays resolved even if an answer is never received. A “Why-not-er” says, “Why not me?” and gains a blessing.

It’s hard to recognize or experience the occurrence of blessings when I am resisting the trial and rapid firing questions toward heaven. In Psalm 46:10, God speaks, “be still, and know that I am God”. While chaos swirls in the “Why-er”, stillness abounds in the “Why-not-er”; a stillness that makes known our trust in a living, active God. He alone is God of our trials.

Recently struggling with yet another trial, and the “whys”, I quieted myself, actually, I exhausted myself and finally in the stillness He spoke; “Christy, I am neither random, nor wasteful. Every trial you have endured has a purpose and the experience should not be over looked. Take the blessing of the trial; don’t squander it.”

Are you struggling to endure the trial or embracing it as a blessing occurring? I’m thankful for the reminder,” for every trial I have had to endure, a blessing has occurred.”

Beside you,

Christina

Romans 8:28 ~ For we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

You Still . . .

As I join widows on their journey, one realization often surprises them, that being that even after several years of widowhood, I still….  Yes, I still experience the paralyzing affects of grief.  Yes, I still question God, and I still seek answers to some of the difficult questions.   “Yes, I still feel my loss…”

 

Our culture has done a great disservice with it’s perception of grief.  A myth circulates, the myth that says one can “get over” grief and loss.  I held to the same belief before my personal experience with death.  If a person can “get over it”, it eliminates the need for others to face the reality and totality of loss, or the need for me to engage in the grief process.   Often, this brings about the thinking, “You will be fine!”.  Give the grieving widow six weeks, maybe a year, surely, grief has an end date and she will “get better”.

 

Grief changes us, loss redefines us.  We don’t simply “get over” a change in any area of our life, we assimilate, the change  becomes part of us.  Same is true of loss.  Those observing a widow’s grief need to understand the impact of loss and learn that the myth is just that, “a myth”.  One doesn’t and shouldn’t “get over” death, we absorb the loss and work to recover.  A widow’s husband died and her children don’t have a father, grief will always be attached to that reality.

 

Thankfully, grief isn’t always unbearable nor all consuming, we can and do assimilate to the “new normal”.   Yet there are times, we still grieve.

 

Those who grieve need love, patience and understanding.  The myth needs to be shattered; grief doesn’t have an end date.  As we adapt to the loss and new roles, we need the support of our family, friends, church, and community so we can become better women.

 

To encourage a widow in the darkest of hours, to listen to her cries, to hold her as her heart is breaking, to absorb her pain, to share the bitterness of life, to walk the journey; it is a gift you can humbly accept.  Walking with widows is an amazing blessing!

Beside you,

Christina

Sherpa People

Robert is a friend from high school.  I’ve always admired Robert for many reasons, but his latest pursuit has reminded me again of my admiration.  Recently I reconnected with Robert, and listened to his accomplishments and experiences of summiting 5 of the 7 world’s highest summits, I was completely enthralled.  This lent to my fascination to follow Robert’s blog, as he and his wife wrote about his pursuit to summit Mount Everest.

While I was captivated by the physical elements of his stories, I most appreciated the emotional component that is apparent in his following post:

“I would be very remiss if I didn’t mention the Sherpa People again. These people are so strong that is embarrassing for the rest of us mere mortals. They carry loads that we can’t imagine, walk and climb at twice our speeds and never seem to tire. They are always cheerful and eager to help with any task big or small and are just fun to be around. There is no doubt that only a very small portion of Everest climbers would have any chance of climbing this enormous mountain without their help. My Sherpa guide is named Nima Nuru and I wish I could take him home with me. One would be hard pressed to find such a patient, kind and competent person. My slow pace must drive him insane, yet he never shows it. He leans down and picks up the rope for me every time I need to clip and unclip (scores of times in the ice fall), reminds me to put on my sunglasses when the sun comes up, insists on carrying anything of mine that he thinks might be heavy, helps me with my equipment such as crampons and checks on me in my tent in case I might need something.  I have asked him to go ahead of me in the particularly dangerous portions of the ice fall, but he refuses saying we are a team. He is awesome!”

Robert held to the hope of summiting Everest, even in the worst of conditions, because of his Sherpa, Nima Nuru.  Nima Nuru became actively involved in Robert’s pursuit and success.

As I read Robert’s blog, I was struck with an appreciation for my own “Sherpa People”.  Those individuals who came alongside me when I started on the difficult journey into widowhood over a decade ago; they helped me hold on to hope.   Some of my “Sherpa People” were so strong they appeared as angels to this mere mortal.  I was blessed with friends who helped me carry and divide the heavy load of grief.  I had people in my life who were always cheerful and eager to help with whatever the task, be it big or small – they made it fun for me when they were around.  I have no doubt that my journey through the valley of death and my climb up the enormous mountain of doubt and fear would never have been accomplished without their support.  When the gray cloud of all consuming grief set in, and I felt as though it would never lift, they reminded me to keep my sunglasses close as brighter days were ahead.  My loved ones and friends’ insisted they help, and became actively engaged in my life and the lives of my children, they eased my burden.  My “Sherpa People” checked on me to see if I needed something or anything.  When my pace slowed, or I wondered into the dangerous caverns of sadness, they refused to move on without me, assuring me, we are a team, we will go together.

My friends, family and sometimes strangers, gave me hope in the midst of my life’s greatest tragedy.  They became involved in my pursuit and success of a “new normalcy”, I am where I am today because of those individuals who cared and still care for me.

To a climber, hope is essential.  To the climber in pursuit of summiting Mount Everest, “Sherpa People” are vital.

To a widow, hope is everything.  To a widow, “Sherpa People” are indispensable.

Beside you,

Christina

James 1:27 – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress.