Friday, April 7, 2017

I’m Still Running the Race…

Today I attended the funeral of a cherished co-worker, Wayne Roper, who went home to be with the Lord less than a week ago.

As soon as I heard the news, my first reaction was one of shock, but I immediately found my place in a state of jealously (if truth be told). I’m a bit ashamed to admit that now, but I honestly thought to myself, Wayne is probably already chatting with Joel about the glory land we still long for that they now call home. Oh…how I wish I could be having that conversation with them. I know it’s not my time, but it doesn’t stop my heart from at least longing to be with them.

Some have already asked… “How in the world were you able to do so this so soon after being at your own husband’s funeral?” There are quite a few ways I could have answered that question…

  • I respected the man dearly, so I also wanted to show respect to his new widow by taking the time to celebrate his life and legacy.
  • It was an opportunity for me to see most of my co-workers, many whom I haven’t seen since Joel’s funeral, thanks to this temporary foot issue I’ve been suffering with.
  • It was an opportunity to worship God and thank Him for giving Wayne to us for the 58 year years He did, of which I truly only knew him for about 13 of those years.
  • And…when no other answer satisfies…it was simply the right thing to do.

And, I’m so glad I did!

I cried more today than I’ve cried in weeks. Now, don’t get me wrong…very few days have passed where a tear hasn’t escaped my eye since losing my precious love. But, today, I don’t think I was able to speak to a single soul without tears pouring from my eyes. I’m sure part of it was a result of just being in that setting. Another part was from the multiple hugs and “how are you’s” that were brought my way. But, the real tears came when I heard a couple people ask me to keep writing, because my blog was being used in ways I couldn’t imagine to minister to or help other people they knew. I just sobbed whenever I heard each of those stories yesterday, because I can’t imagine how God can use such a messed up woman, with such a dysfunctional past and a very hurting heart in this present hour to bring life to anyone else. But, that’s how MY God is! He reminds me of that all that time. It’s not me. It has nothing to do with me. It’s all about My Precious Lord, and what He chooses to do through me (His vessel). He could have chosen anyone else (and, I often ask Him why He didn’t), but for some reason unknown to me…I got “the job”.

Please don’t stop sharing these stories with me as you hear them, because they truly do help heal my hurting soul. I begged God to not let Joel’s death be in vain, and these are the ways He continues to promise me that was never part of his plan. If we allow Him to, He’ll always use our pain for His glory and for our good. And, while I’m thankful God is allowing me to be part of His greater plan…I simply want to boast in Him and in Him alone! (1 Corinthians 1:31). He is the author of my life, and the perfecter of my faith, and one day (I pray sooner than later)…He’ll call me Home to glory and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Until then…I press on to complete the race He has mapped out for me…

#HeIsStillGood

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Weekend with Widows

Last weekend, I was privileged to be part of the teaching team for aNew Season Ministries‘ first widow’s conference. I spent an incredible few days in Myrtle Beach, SC  with nine other amazing widows on my team and nearly 60 other women who attended this first conference from all over the nation (and one from Bermuda!).

aNS group pic from conference

You might be wondering why I still involve myself with widows when I’m happily remarried and heavily involved in adopting 2-3 children from Eastern Europe right now. The short answer? Because God said so! In all honesty, there are two main reasons that I LOVE widows and want to continue to serve in this way:

1) I will NEVER forget what it was like to walk Grief Road as a young widow. There is a huge need for resources for widows in many facets of life, and if I can be used to share part of my own grief journey and how God healed me mightily…I intend to do so!

2) Orphans AND widows are near and dear to God’s heart. It’s ALL OVER scripture, but simply start here…James 1:27

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

This conference allowed me to serve from both aspects – my own personal experience as a widow and from God’s mandate to look after widows (this just happens to be one way He has me doing so).

Many of these ladies were…

Crushed, yet bonded together in sisterly love.

Broken, yet able to stand, no matter how shattered, and offer praise to the Author and Perfecter of life.

Saddened, yet full of hope for eternal life with God the Father.

Devastated, yet trusting Him for healing in His perfect timing.

Thankful to be together – to share with other women that have experienced the loss of a husband.

It was such a joy to see hearts mended, lives restored, and friendships created! I can’t wait to see how God continues to use me to minister to His widow daughters again soon!

 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Feeling a Sense of Urgency

IMG_5742-001ediOne of the many things our adoption journey includes is LOTS of education. Sometimes this comes in the form of online virtual classrooms, books to read, videos to watch, workbooks to complete, and essays to write. The goal? To make sure we’re as educated as possible before we bring our kiddos home! However, sometimes I feel the goal with the education is to highlight the worst-case scenarios and scare us half to death…you know…”just in case”.

For me…it hasn’t scared me…it’s only made me that much more determined to get to my children as soon as possible.

Going into this, Joel and I knew (beyond all doubt) this was God’s calling for us. We know the risks (even more now with the education component behind us). We know what we could face. And…we know God has hand-picked the children He wants us to parent and has equipped us to do so. This wasn’t a decision we took lightly.

Not a fly by the seat of our pants whim.

Not an attempt to portray ourselves as rescuers.

Not just a desire to make ourselves feel younger by taking on young children again.

This was a decision bathed in prayer…and tears (if truth be told). And, as we’ve discovered going through the process…it takes a lot more strength and endurance to travel this journey than we possess.

For me, I find I need strength in two main areas: (1) patience while waiting on provision, and (2) trusting God to care for our children while they are still living in dire situations in their orphanages. If I may be a little transparent, these are the two areas I seem to be the weakest in right now.

Provision…ahhh…provision. We knew this would be a BIG part of the journey. Most families don’t have this kind of money sitting around in a bank account ready to spend on adopting (I know that many others do, but they are often typically not the ones on the adopting side of this journey). So, when God called us to this…I chuckled…much like Sarah chuckled when God told her she would be with child at her ripe old age. What made me laugh? Did I doubt God’s ability to provide? Not. At. All. I’ve seen God provide over and over and over again in  life whatever was needed (not necessarily my wants but ALWAYS my needs). Adoption is His calling on our lives, so I do trust Him to provide EVERYTHING we need to make it come to pass. I chuckled, because I knew this would involved stretching me in areas that I don’t like being stretched. I can’t stand asking people for money. And…essentially…that’s what we have to do…all the time. It might be in the form of a direct ask, or perhaps to shop our yard sale, maybe to buy raffle tickets, come to a fundraiser meal, buy some Pampered Chef products, or pick an envelope number, etc. We’ve tried to provide avenues that even the lowest income families would have a way to still support us in the journey. If I knew I’d get a yes every single time, it would be much easier, but the fear of rejection cripples me a bit on this one. So…God is stretching me. He’s also reminding me that as long as I’m following His lead in who to ask and what fundraisers to do…then if rejection comes, they aren’t rejecting us…it’s Him they are rejecting. It. Still. Hurts. But, He can fix my hurt too!

Trust…Oh – this is a big one. As I mentioned before, Joel and I have had the (unfortunate) privilege of experiencing loss and disappointment far too often in our lives. While, we’ve seen the hand of God work in astounding ways, thereby knowing we can trust Him with ANYTHING, we also have felt the unsettling effects of fear creep into our lives when we least expect it. For me, I know we have a couple of kiddos living in an orphanage in a small country in Eastern Europe. Are they being loved or simply tossed about as another number? Are they being beaten or denied food? Are they being treated well or being treated inhumanely? What are their little eyes having to see and their little ears listening to? Do they believe they have a new mommy and daddy coming for them one day? Do they miss their first mommy and daddy? Do they even know they existed? Are they scared? Are they getting enough to eat? Who is caring for them when they catch a cold? Ahhh…the endless questions.

These are many of  the questions that penetrate my mind when I allow myself to think too long about it! Makes me want to SCREAM!!!!! I have to TRUST Him to care for our babies. He loves them more than we do.

Father God – be their mommy and their daddy until You unite us together. Prepare them to receive us with open arms. Prepare ALL of our hearts to love each other fully! And…Abba…please plant urgency in the hearts of those you’ve called to financially and prayerfully join us on this journey!

But I will protect the orphans who remain among you. Your widows, too, can depend on me for help. ~Jeremiah 49:11 (NLT)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A New Baby is Coming

SILLet me make this clear right from the start…NO, I’m not pregnant! What an announcement that would be though eh? Hee hee!

Actually, I wanted to bring you up to speed on the “goings-on” in my blog world (or lack thereof) it seems as of late. There’s a reason for that though…stick with me…

I’ve been praying and dreaming and talking to God for awhile about this Out of Deep Waters oasis. You see…it was a gift to me during my first year of widowhood, and it became quite a sanctuary, of sorts. I was able to share my innermost feelings as I journeyed openly and transparently along Grief Road.

It then became the place I shared the joy of God’s redemption and restoration in my life, as He united my path with Joel through marriage in 2012.

It’s also become a place where I share about those other things near and dear to my heart…orphans, missions, single moms, adoption, suicide, devotionals (in general). Occasionally, I’d throw in a DIY project or two and a giveaway and a 40-day consecutive blog journey. Over the years…it’s developed into…well, an inconsistent place of chaos, and that was NEVER my intent, and so it’s time to draw a line in the sand.

In my time with God and in talking with my husband and blogging friends, a new plan is evolving, and I want to go ahead and share it with you and give you a sneak peak.

There are three, distinct writing/blogging areas of my life:

Out of Deep Waters – Yep. This place. NO…it’s not going away. Not even close. I’m actually going to tighten things up here a bit. This will continue to be a place of devotion, ministry, life’s hard, life’s easy…but all through the lens of my walk with Christ. You’ll continue to see me write about grief, single parenting, adoption, suicide, orphans, devotionals, and anything else the Lord places upon my heart to write about.

I’m also working on compiling my writings from my Grief Journey (that definitive 12 months where I wrote very focused on widowhood…as I lived it) into a book format (and e-book format), as I continue to get more requests for that than anything else. It seems to me that maybe it’s a tool that could be helpful to other ladies walking a similar path. That’s still in the planning stages, but my initial goal is to have something more firm by late fall.

You can continue to book me for speaking engagements through this website, and I’m still open to customizing retreats and seminars for your group. See more HERE.

aNew Season Ministries – I’m also privileged to be one of the regular contributors for this fantastic ministry. It’s the umbrella ministry for A Widow’s Might (which I began writing for in November 2011). The ministry is growing by leaps and bounds, and God has placed such an anointing on what’s taking place over there. I’ll continue to be a small part of that ministry – through writing, participating in our upcoming conference, etc. Please continue to look for me there and send those special widow friends and your other girlfriends walking through a new season (post-addiction, post-divorce, remarriage following widowhood, etc.) over to aNew Season. They will be so blessed by this amazing group of women I am so thankful to minister alongside!

Lastly – for my new baby! Soaking in Life has been born! But we’re still in the “clean-the-baby-up” phase. It’s up and running, and there are a few posts there, but there is still SO much more to come in the next couple of weeks, as I flush out the details. Basically, this will be a different blogging platform for me. It’s because of the work that God has done in my life by rescuing me from those “deep waters” of pain, grief, abandonment, rejection, etc. that now allows me to live life fully, yet simply. That’s what Soaking in Life is all about. It’ll be the place I share those things in life I’ve discovered that really “crank my tractor” that I want to share with you…easy DIY projects, recipes, holiday decorating ideas, parenting tips, organization ideas, travel ideas, money-saving ideas and much more! Feel free to take a quick peek HERE to see what’s evolving but just know there’s so much more to come!

My prayer is that by firming up this plan of ministry (it’s ALL ministry)…it will create more organization in what God has called me to in the blogging world. Each piece of my life flows together, but different people connect at different points. And…some connect at zero points.  That’s all okay! It’s all for His Glory anyway!

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. ~Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sisterhood of the Traveling Widow-Pants

I know…I know…my title of this post was a bit corny (and not very creative), but just overlook my goofiness, okeedokee?

In all seriousness, I’m so thrilled to be able to share some exciting news with you about some amazing things taking place in a ministry in which I’m honored to play a small part.

In late 2011, I was humbled to be asked to join the writing team of A Widow’s Might. At that time, there was a team of only five of us (an additional gal joined our team a few months after me). By early 2013, the team began changing a bit…some ladies moved into new seasons of life and chose to step down from being regular contributors. We opened the door for guest writers to come on board, and the ministry leadership also changed hands just before this time. We could see God stirring up something new, but we just had no idea how incredible!

Fast forward to June 2014, and we are now a ministry consisting of 16 women, serving regularly (plus a handful of guest writers)! God branched out the ministry to include two arms:

A Widow’s Might – “A place where, as widowed women in different seasons of life, we can refresh and encourage each other by sharing our challenges, our tears, and our triumphs.”

aNew Season – “Everyday women redeemed by God through wisdom & faith gained along tough journeys. We share our stories to inspire you to chase LONG FORGOTTEN DREAMS!”

Both ministries are now under the umbrella of the newly created/named aNew Season Ministries.

Additionally, we hosted our first small retreat in March in coastal Virginia, which was an amazing experience for the writing/ministry team as well as the participants!

The first of four devotional books, For the Love of HER Life, was just published and released earlier this month, and we have the other three seasonal volumes in the works now!

Book

And…if that wasn’t enough, we’re hosting our first-ever widow’s conference in Myrtle Beach, SC this November! The planning team has been very active in preparing for the arrival of those that will be joining us, and we deeply know that God is stirring the waters already to do great things in the lives of ALL ladies in attendance! We can’t wait to watch it unfold.

aNS retreat

So, with the excitement of the new devotional book just coming out and registration opening for the conference, I’ve decided to do a little giveaway. We need your help in spreading the word about both of these new tools for widows (the book and the conference), and the giveaway is designed to help do just that. When I first began my widow journey, I wish both of these tools had been in existence.

The devotional book is simply written by widows/former widows (including yours truly) that have walked Grief Road. We’re not experts…simply sharing stories from our journey in hopes of bringing encouragement to other women traversing the same path.

The conference is designed with the intent of coming together as a community who have experienced loss and can minister to each other in ways that nobody else can. Click on this link to learn more and to see the sample schedule for the weekend! The early discount runs out soon, so don’t miss out on that little savings as well. If you aren’t a widow but know someone that could benefit from this, I would encourage you to share this with her. Perhaps, you (or a Sunday School class or another group you might be in) could gift it to her! Since it’s being held in November, it would be a great gift heading into the holiday season, one often very difficult for widows.

Now for the giveaway…I’m giving away not one but TWO of our new devotional books, For the Love of HER Life! I’ll randomly select the winning entries using Rafflecopter this weekend and announce the winners on Monday! The contest is active only today and tomorrow (Thursday, 6/12-Friday, 6/13, ET). Even if you’re not a widow, I would encourage you to enter on behalf of someone else that you could bless with this book!

To enter, simply click on the Rafflecopter form below and follow through the entry requirements. The only required entry is that you comment on this particular blog post with a response to the following: briefly share a way that others can better care for widows (this is a question for widows and non-widows alike). After doing so, you can click through the other optional entry methods to gain access to even more entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for helping my sisterhood of widow/former widows spread the word about all that God is doing in His ministry!

To Him be all the glory!