my latest for "A Widow's Might":
Keeping up appearances…
by Nancy Howell
“Hey, you look good!”
I wish I had a quarter for everytime I’ve heard that in the past year or so. Well-meaning acquaintances, friends, former co-workers tell me this, and it’s very sweet of them.
My inner voice quickly puts me in my place, telling me,
“Man, you must’ve really looked crappy for a few months after becoming a widow!”
I do look better. My eyes are once again clear and sparkly. There’s a spring in my step, and I am a woman with a purpose.
Well, several purposes–seems I don’t have enough hours in the day, days in the week to accomplish all that is on my plate.
Busy is good. Busy keeps me putting one foot in front of the other, and my “to-do” list is finally getting some items crossed off, some of which have been there for months.
But what about what I look like on the inside? Am I as put together as I seem on the surface? One person knew me inside and out. He could look into my eyes and see through the fluff, the stylish exterior and the smile plastered on my face—straight into my insides, into my soul. But he’s no longer beside me. He’s up in heaven now.
I’m the rookie on this team of great writers. I don’t call myself “the new kid on the block” anymore, because I’ve been doing this for almost a year. But I have been widowed the shortest amount of time, and reading the writings of Kit, Danita, Julie, and Leah–all of whom are farther along on their grief journeys than I am–gives me pause, making me wonder, down deep inside, if this interior turmoil and sadness will ever dissipate.
I so want my insides to match my outside!
Don’t get me wrong. I have good stretches. I have days where I have the world on a string. God has been so good in the midst of all of this bad, and I am so grateful for all the blessings and opportunites that have come my family’s way.
But many of them have come my direction because of my husband’s death. If he were still alive:
I wouldn’t be writing for this blog
I wouldn’t be a weekly outdoors writer for the Times Record News.
I wouldn’t be speaking in front of groups, sharing my story.
I wouldn’t be writing a book
I would still be teaching preschool, loving on 2 & 3 year old children. I would still be the devoted wife of my college sweetheart. I would be supporting him, keeping our house in order, helping him raise our two sons. His dreams and my dreams merged together, as they should in a good marriage, to become “our” dreams.
His death, though, changed all of that.
“Our” dreams had to be put on hold.
Some, I had to just let go of. That still hurts.
Others, I’ve adapted to fit our current circumstances and family dynamics.
A few new ones have come to light, too, as my sons and I begin to find new purpose and meaning in what we’ve been given.
Time is healing us, because we have proactively worked to heal.
And things are going okay. The good stretches seem to be getting longer and longer, although whenever I hit a bump in the road, I still feel the raw, sad grief that haunted me 24/7 for months.
I still cry. I still miss my husband. I think I always will.
Others who have been widowed for longer periods of time tell me that it will get better. The pain will lessen, they insist, and life will become more normal.
At this place in my journey, I’m not so sure.
Because my insides don’t match my outside.
Thankfully, God knows all of this, even before I bring it to Him in prayer. I’m sure He does His share of shaking His head at me, at my circumstances. For my insides to match my outside, I have to remember that He and He alone has the power to make them alike. And that’s not going to happen as long as I’m sitting on the sidelines, hoping for change.
God wants me to be proactive in this. He expects me to do my part. And I’ve been most likely not holding up my end of the bargain. Hence, the insides are not as “pretty” as my exterior facade.
How do I get my interior to be as pretty and as put together as my exterior? I must “do the time”…reading God’s word, praying for guidance and healing, allowing Him to work out the details (both big and little) that drive me crazy. I haven’t found any shortcuts, any “Cliff Notes” that will help.
This transformation is an on-going process. The more I put into it, the more I will get out of it.
The more I immerse myself in God’s ways, in what He would have me do, following the map that He has given me, the more I feel put together on the inside.
And sisters, if there’s hope for my sad, not-so-pretty interior, there is most certainly hope for yours.
Friends, when life gets really difficult,
don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.
Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced.
This is a spiritual refining process,
with glory just around the corner.
So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said,
take it in stride. Trust him.
He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.
1 Peter 4:12,13, 19 (The MSG)
I come before you today asking for help on my insides. Oh how I want to be whole again, both inside and out! I long for the day when my sadness will be turned into gladness, when my interior self is as put together and pretty as what I show to the outside world. I don’t want to forget the love I had for my late husband, but I want to be able to move forward joyfully, and enjoy the life that You have given to me.
Show me the way to do this! I want to honor what I had, but I know I need to keep on living. You created me for a specific purpose. Help me discover just exactly what that purpose is. And for every woman reading this, I pray that You will show each that they, too, can do this. We, as members of this widows’ community, must stand together, holding each other up. Applauding victories, big and small..crying for one another whenever we hurt…rejoicing as we each determine what You want us to do with the rest of our lives.
And we will give You all the praise and the glory!
In Jesus’ name I ask it all,