Monday, February 25, 2013

Keeping up appearances (from A Widow's Might)

my latest for "A Widow's Might":

Keeping up appearances…

by Nancy on February 25, 2013[edit]

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)

Creator God,
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,


Monday, February 18, 2013

Alone but not lonely...

Tonight I feel a bit alone.  Not lonely...there is a difference.  With two rambunctious boys sharing my life, I am never lonely.  But feeling alone?  It hits me sometimes, without any rhyme or reason. 

From the ages of 22 to 48, I was with someone who loved me.  He was strong, forceful, a great Christian husband, daddy, and friend.  He took the reins.  He filled in the cracks of our lives, making each and every day one big happy adventure.  I was never alone.  Even whenever he travelled out of town, and I was left here to man the household and our sons, I felt safe.  Comforted in the fact that he was the head of our household, the man in charge.  The one with the big strong arms that would hold me if I needed him to.  He would be coming back, and whenever he entered the house, and his big thundering voice greeted the three of us, all was once again right in our little world.

Now it's me.  And I'm not nearly as together as he was.  Never will be.  His self-confidence and awareness of his world, and of his place and mission in it were unmatched.  I've never known anyone else that could come close to that.

Maybe he knew, on some level, that he wouldn't be around to relax and enjoy his golden years.  That's why he packed more living into 55 years than most people do in 80 or more. 

But the aloneness I feel is selfish.  For I know, as a Christian, that I am never alone.  All I have to do is call out for God, and He's there. 

"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." 
Jeremiah 33:3
That's the scripture that spoke to me tonight, as the pity party commenced in my room.  Both boys tucked away in their beds, prayers said, cuddles and kisses given.  It was time for me, and I felt horribly alone. 
Well, that was convenient, God.  Thank You for hitting me square between the eyes with that one.  Pity party over.  I may not have my husband beside me anymore, but I know better than to feel like I am alone. 
Good thing I have God's number.  Maybe I should call Him on a more regular basis. 

I am ready to see the great and mighty things He has in store for me and my family.  I've caught a glimpse or two in passing...and it both scares and excites me, all at the same time.  I don't think I am qualified---but He has other ideas.  He tells me that He will equip me for the tasks ahead.  All I have to do is trust Him.
Alone?  I will always have my moments.  But if I continue to immerse myself in His words, those moments will become less and less frequent.  Of that, I am sure. 
I have to trust that God will fill in the cracks of our lives.  He has the reins.  He will be the glue that holds my family together.  His strong arms are the ones that hold me whenever I feel I cannot go another step.  He makes each and every day of our lives a fun adventure. He is strong.  His presence in my house makes us feel that all is right in our little corner of the world once again. 
He.  Is.  Enough.

Monday, February 4, 2013

♪ The Master is coming, and we are not done yet ♪.....

I haven't posted to my forum much as of late.  It's not that I don't have things to say, believe me, I am never at a loss for words.  But I began this blog for my sons, so I could document what we went through after losing their daddy, my best friend and first love.  It has been a good friend and a patient listener. 

I began this blog a mere six weeks after becoming a widow.  I dove in, headfirst, blogging several times a week for months.  Putting my emotions and feelings in print has definitely been a factor in my family of three's healing.  It's a big reason the boys and I are doing as well as we are now.  I've been made fun of by former acquaintances who accused me of putting myself up on a pedestal, of using this forum as a bullying stance, of touting my supposed "holier than thou" attitude.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have had nothing but the most genuine of motives for this blog, to use it as a diary of sorts, a documentation of our unimagined journey.  Looking back now, I see those rumblings were the best thing to happen to my little family.  It showed me who my true friends are.  And like my fellow blogger, Kitty Hinkle, at A Widow's Might, I have had to end relationships since becoming a widow that were toxic for my family.  It is my prayer that those folks find happiness somewhere in their lives.

My declaration for today is this:  God is healing me.  And I will shout it from the rooftops, if need be.  Andrew, Ben, and I are doing fine.  We still cry and wonder "what if," and Mark Harold Howell left a big imprint on our lives and in our hearts.  We will never "be over" losing him, but we see our lives in a new light now, as the Great Restorer is working in all three of us.  It is an active, on-going process.  As I talked to Mark during the 16 hours I was given to tell him goodbye, I told him many things.  Private things, of a love so enormous and full and nothing but non-stop fun for almost 25 years.  One of the last things I whispered in his ear before God took him home was this:  "If you have to go, then go.  Your body's tired and you have put up an unbelievable fight.  The boys and I will be okay.  We won't be "fine" for a long time, but we will be okay."  I knew deep within my heart that God could reach down at any moment and heal him.  But I also saw the handwriting on the wall. And not 30 minutes later, his heart stopped--he was released from a body that just flat gave out on him. 

That's why I want you to re-read the first three sentences in the previous paragraph.  We. Are. Fine.  As the tears flow yet again, this is the first time in 18 months (yes, we've been without Mark now for a whole year and a half) that I have written the word "fine" when describing my boys and me.  And it feels so good, like a burden has been lifted off of our shoulders. 

I am open to new possibilities, new relationships, as God sees fit to bring them into my life.  I have a clear focus now, I know what I am supposed to do for me.  And while doing what I am supposed to do for me, I will glorify God.  Because without Him, I am nothing. 

So, I turn the page.  I may have been heading a certain way, but I've done a 180.  No more whining.  No more excuses.  No more putting off tomorrow what God needs me to do today. 

My new favorite song to get me going?

“What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands."
Luke 10:2 (The Message)

"And after you suffer for a short time, God, who gives all grace, will make everything right. He will make you strong and support you and keep you from falling. He called you to share in his glory in Christ, a glory that will continue forever."
1 Peter 5:10 (NCV)

The restoration is actively underway.  Thanks be to God. 

Christmas, 2012

Christmas, 2012