Saturday, January 21, 2017

Finding Boaz...

Ruth is a good go-to story for widows everywhere to illustrate that love can come a second time around. It makes for a good romance novel in general - there are obstacles and yet they are overcome.

In the biblical account, Ruth is a Moabitess married into the family of Elimelech who had escaped a famine in Israel. Tragedy seems to track down this family as her mother-in-law, Naomi, is widowed. Within 10 years, Naomi's sons, Mahlon and Chilion, have also died.  This leaves three widows destitute and fortuneless.  One daughter-in-law, Orpah, returns to her people with Naomi's blessing; however, Ruth clings to Naomi and will not abandon her.  Together they head to Naomi's home of Israel where the barley harvest has just begun. Naomi is older and unlikely to ever remarry. Her hope had been that Ruth would find a husband among her own people; however, Ruth tells Naomi that basically the people of the Lord (Naomi's people) are her people and she will go with her wherever she goes.

Digressing a little, this is what the Bible says about widows:

“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation” (Ps. 68:5)
 “The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow” (Ps. 146:9)
“Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow” (Deut. 27:19)
“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27)

Paul talks to Timothy about four types of widows:
(1) The “widows indeed” (NASB; NIV this translates to “really in need”), who do not have family members to care for them (5:3-5, 9-10)
(2) Widows with children and grandchildren (5:4, 16)
(3) Younger widows, who should remarry (5:11-15)
(4) Widows who live for pleasure rather than for the Lord (5:6).

As for me, I know I come under category 3.  I'm too young to be a burden on my children and grandchildren. Too full of life to resign myself to a manless existence. This is what the Bible says to me:

1 Timothy 5:14  I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.
1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot control themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

I don't want to be category 4 - so it is of crucial importance to me that the man I chose to spend my later days with loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, strength and mind.

So back to Ruth, she and Naomi arrive in Israel basically destitute. No man to provide for them; they are reliant on the good will of the community. Naomi was depressed over the situation and it is obvious that Ruth is a source of comfort to her. As I mentioned, the barley harvest is about to start so Ruth offers to go out and glean the fallen barley, dropped by the harvesters, in order to provide food for the two women. She winds up in the field of Boaz, a relation of the deceased Elimelech. He takes notice of her, asks around about who she is, and then tells her "Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled."  He zooms in on her need for protection. He makes sure that she knows that, not only is she welcome there, but he is going to provide that protection. She is grateful and actually asks him why he is being so nice to her. He lets her know that her reputation has impressed him and he wants God to bless her.

It turns out this is a good place to be - Naomi is pleased and tells Ruth to stay there. Now, Ruth must have already respected Naomi deeply because she chose to leave her own land to stick with her.  Read the rest of the story and see what happens.  Boaz is obviously quite happy that this young widow took notice of him and he gets right to the business of seeing that she can legally become his wife. Ruth asks him to "spread the corner of your garment over me" (Ruth 3:9, NIV) which had several meanings.  The word for corner in Hebrew means "wings," so she is asking him to protect her like a mother bird protects her babies beneath her wings. She was asking him to take her as his wife, to be her guardian-redeemer.

Now widows come with baggage. They come with memories, with the heartache of loss, often children and belongings from the former relationship that death has completed. The guardian-redeemer of the OT willingly understood that offspring from that relationship would be accounted to the deceased relation.  While this is not a practice in our world today, there is still a boatload of baggage that a Boaz acquires when he finds a Ruth that he desires. It is a special, kind and loving man indeed who is willing to take on that role.

Feminists might cry out that women have no need of a guardian-redeemer, they can take care of themselves, very well, thank you. Feminists can keep their opinions to themselves.  I know that for me, I enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with my late husband. We each had strengths and weaknesses that balanced out the others. We stuck to traditional relationship roles and well, I like that. I have no need within me for crying out "I am woman, hear my roar!" I'm more like, "I am woman, hear me purr." So for women like me - young, widowed and not liking this self-reliant thing - I hope you find your Boaz.  A kind, loving man who wants to honor and protect you. A man who respects and honors you, who loves the Lord and is full of faith.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lights go out...

Don't laugh, but I changed a ceiling light bulb for the first time in my life all by myself - no one to stop me from dropping the globe and breaking the glass dome thing! #impressedwithmyself It was simply was never my department. He could do it without standing on a chair.

After I changed that ceiling light bulb today, it occurred to me that this is the third burnt out bulb that I've changed since Pat passed away. One in the kitchen, one on the back porch (which turned out to be the light fixture and Bob put up a new one), and now this one in the living room. I really needed light for my project so I got the bench he made for me and stood on it. The most solemn sobering thought hit me. I was painting baseboards under that new light and I suddenly realized: Pat had never lived in that light. This light never touched his skin, lit his path or gave me light to see his face. One by one all the lights that he lived in and shared with me will go out. Lights we lived and worked in, kissed, hugged, cried and fought under. One by one, I'll be replacing bulbs and he will never share in this light with me.

Part of me is so very, very sad but there is bigger part of me that has no choice but to rejoice for him. In Revelations 22:5 the Word says, "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." Here I am, changing light bulbs, facing the strictures of time. Day. Night. Lights on, lights off. Pat is basking in the light of God's presence -- which never goes out.


Posted on Pat's wall:
I changed one of the ceiling light bulbs today. I could almost hear you telling me to wait until you got home and you would do it. It's the third light bulb I've had to change since you died. It occurred to me tonight that those were lights that shone on you. One by one all the light we shared will be gone; new bulbs and light you don't live in with me will eventually be in every room. I hate thinking that, but it is one of those truths that grabs me by the throat and squeezes the tears out of my eyes.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Love? Widows/widowers - what are you looking for...

This will just hang here for anyone who happens to find it.

I had a conversation last week with a man I had been seeing. I felt something was missing - I felt that maybe we didn't have the same wants/needs in a relationship.  So I did the thing that men and women alike dread in a relationship. I said, "We need to talk."  This was a Wednesday. The upshot of it is that by Saturday we mutually decided that we needed to move on. It didn't get ugly. It just was. I can't say I wasn't hurt and disappointed that, after investing a bunch of time (having realized how darned precious it is when Pat passed on), that we really weren't as compatible as we initially thought. The fact that a week out, I'm not heartbroken says that yep, it just wasn't right,

So here is what I wanted to talk about.  What are you looking for in a relationship? This has some twists when it is post-death of the proverbial "love of someone's life." When someone is separated from their spouse by death there isn't the rejection from other types of separation; there is a very different emotional imprint that comes with losing someone via break up or divorce. When death parts people, that love is deep and abiding. It can even seem larger than life.  The bereaved may not truly want to move on from that love to another. They may be merely looking for steady companionship to bide the time until they follow the beloved spouse to the other side. So "what are you looking for in a relationship?" is an important question.

If you want companionship only, someone to come home to and spend the days with until the shadows fall, that is fine - but you both need to know and want the same thing. There is a love that's like a comfortable old pair of slippers or those favorite jeans that are worn out just right. Easy to be in but you just "know" they are there.  You don't take them out just to admire them; you know where you left them and you don't need to slip them on your feet one more time before you start your day or end it. In a relationship you  aren't driven - you don't "need" to hear that person's voice to say goodnight. You can survive without that one more hug and kiss at the door. You walk to your car, you put in the keys, you drive away. Oh, you'll call in the morning and you like that you have "a person" and are even willing to devote time to that person - but something is just missing. Or maybe it's not - maybe you are so whole and complete that they aren't needed to make you feel that sensation. In Randy Travis' song, "Forever and Ever Amen," he sings "you're not just time that I'm killing." In this situation, well, it might feel like exactly like you are just killing time together.

There is another kind of love - and it's the kind I want. Don't get me wrong - I want that comfort and ease, too. However, I want madly, deeply, passionately along with it. I want the earth to move under my feet and the stars to sing. I want the man who has to say "I love you" before bed, whose voice makes me feel warm and alive. I want the talk to be of us, of the future. Oh, when people have lost someone they love, there will be talk of the one who is gone - but it shouldn't dominate the conversation. A constant diet of another woman or another man is a buzz kill.  Back to Travis' song, he sings, "They say that time can play tricks on a memory, make people forget things they knew. well, it's easy to see it's happening to me, I've already forgotten every woman but you." No, you don't actually "forget" the love of your past, but you have so embraced the love of the now that your focus is on this present love, this present life.  It's mad love; it's need to see you one more time love; it's passionate, mind-locking, into your soul kind of love.

You have to stop and ask yourself. Which love do I want? Don't settle for the love that doesn't fit the bill.

Here's to finding the person who wants the same things that you want in a relationship. Here's to a comfortable place to land, a peaceful easy feeling - and for me, I'll take madly, passionately, deeply along with it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Some my poetry about the power of words...

This was written about someone who didn't feel it was necessary to use words of affirmation.

Make love to me with your words
Stroke the inner lining of my soul
   with your deepest thoughts
Find the soft, secret places of my heart
Ready for the touch of your intimations
With your mind make me plead for more
Make me sigh and shudder with passion
For more -- more of the words you use
Communicate to me of your desires,
Your dreams
Your hopes
Spell them on my skin
Burn them deep, like a fire in my veins
Assurances, commitment,
Promises
Make love to me with these
And my body is yours, as well

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Working for good...

Every believer knows Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  When trouble hits, we hang on to that scripture, believing that somewhere down the road we will see what the good was in whatever "bad" thing happened. I mulled about this on the way home last week and thought, "What if the "bad" happens for the good of someone else?" Sure, I expect that there will be infinite good in personal character-building and all that, but what if the "bad" that happens occurs so that in some way you can be used for good in someone else?

This weekend I had a disappointment, a discouragement, a setback, along with a very definite kick-in-the-gut feeling which set in. I've had a couple of zingers since Pat's death which were salt-on-an-open-wound, or like getting your left foot cut off when you just lost your right arm. Throughout the past six months I've done my share of "How Long, Lord?-ing" and questioning my ability to ever understand His plan.  So, feeling low, I spent a lot of time this weekend in reflection, retrospect, and, because I'm human - second-guessing.

I made a decision to write down what had me upset and to put it in my 2017 Blessing Jar, believing that God was going to use it for good in some way, shape or form. I even wrote on it that I hoped when I looked at it in December that I'd be able to understand by then what the blessing turned out to be (because I sure didn't see it at the moment). I sealed up my jar and gave it to God.

WELL... that very day there was an inkling of the good. It has only been two days and I'm already seeing VERY clearly at least a part of God's plan. A part with eternal repercussions.  (I am over-the-moon that God decided to give me a peek at the blessing part sooner rather than later).

Admittedly, I don't think we ever necessarily want to feel any temporal pain in exchange for eternal benefits. Pain, well, it hurts. That's why it is pain. We must fix our focus on Jesus and keep our eyes on the prize, even in the face of suffering. C.S. Lewis writes this about the end goal of pain: "We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.” Along with that pain is going to come refining; rough edges are going to be smoothed, bad parts snipped off. I know I always seem to have lessons to learn about self-reliance vs. God-reliance.  I find myself praying for a teachable spirit that doesn't need as many hard lessons to get the point!  Thankfully, God is right along with me and compassionately suffers along with me .

A beautiful picture of that is in C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew, Digory is desperate for his mother to get well. His suffering heart is raw when he pleads with Aslan. “But please, please - won't you - can't you give me something that will cure Mother?'

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

'My son, my son,' said Aslan. 'I know. Grief is great.”


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fast away the old year passes...

"Fast away the old year passes...hail the new, ye lads and lasses!" There are many who would join me in happily shutting the door on 2016 with hopes that 2017 will prove itself to be a much happier year. 2016 was the Year of Juxtaposition for me. Success and failure. Joy and sorrow. Achievement and loss. Collaboration and conflict. Birth and death. Each tempered the other. Abundant stress is detrimental to good health - even too much good stress can play a part in causing damage, flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. When it's already battered from bad stress, this flood does no favors. This must be where Nietzsche developed his famous quote regarding what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Some stress will indeed strengthen us, it keeps us alert, it helps us focus. Too much knocks us off our feet and beats us down like hail on a Dakota wheatfield.

Of course, I'm hoping (unrealistically) for a 2017 to be a year of minimal stress. 2016 saw me completing my master's degree in education, getting a job teaching 5/6th grade at a great school, teaching classes at an awesome fitness facility, building my credentials as a certified fitness trainer by completing CEUs to up my game from instructor to cycling master practitioner, yoga master practitioner and kickbox practitioner. It's hard to fully enjoy all of that wonderful good stress, all the hours, weeks and months of hard work for which at any other time I would have felt intense satisfaction. All that personal success and growth - it pales in comparison to the loss of Patrick.

The eight days spent in the varying levels of cardiac ICU were by far longer, and more arduous than any other time I can remember. Those who know me have heard me discuss my views on the viscosity of time. Time is fluid, but I believe it is chameleon-like. Sometimes it flows like water, racing past; other times, it sluggishly oozes along with the consistency of pudding. A million variations, all leading up to 10 seconds that feels like a minute, 10 hours that feels like a lifetime and a lifetime that passed by in a blink. Every moment of those 8 days watching him fight for his life was slow, painful and horror was juxtaposed with hope as time seemed to hold its breath. And then WHOOSH, the sand ran out, the timer was flipped and the pace became startlingly speedy in comparison. Here I stand, almost suddenly, at the cusp of the new year, nearly six months out from that fateful day in July.

I gained two beautiful grandchildren who just light up the world and they, along with my other grandchildren, are healing beacons of hope. Death and loss I think, are the greatest diminishers of one's ability to ability to be fully exuberant. I say to fight the melancholy, Fight the urge to sink into the depths of grief, claw and scratch your way back if you have to, but somehow get to a place where you can delight in the smile of a baby, the first time a toddler says your name, the sounds of grandchildren telling you they love you and that feeling of their small hands embraced by yours. Hold onto these moments and create mental talismans that you can use to ward off the dark.

Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven. This year the times and seasons were a jumbled, chaotic blur. So hail the new! Here's to a zephyr instead of a maelstrom.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Let next year be Kansas...

Long ago, I drove through Kansas
Flat highway stretching to the horizon
Round sky-bowl, deep blue and containing
I felt small and I felt safe
No peaks, no valleys
A level, certain beauty
Ah, I was always one who sought the
Glory of mountain sides
The rich depth of ravines
Beauty needed to be  a wild thing to me
Full of exertion and
Sharp intakes of breath
This year, I've had my fill of wild landscapes
Of hilly climbs, of precipices
And all that effort to catch a view
I've gone too deep down
In the dark, earth of the glen
Stubbed my toes raw
Falled over too many a twisted root
This year, give me Kansas
Give me great plains
Gentle undulations
Let the topography of each day
Lend itself to travels over arrow-straight roads
Surrounded by golden wheatfields
Smiling sunflowers and meadowlarks
Let me feel small and safe
Once again

(A work in prgoress - December 29, 2016)