This widow’s walk

9 01 2016

2016 might just be the year of the big breakthrough for this widow. There, I said it. Widow. I still don’t like to say it but I am gradually giving in to the  concept. I am not in denial of Ed’s passing. I know in the depth of my being that Ed is with his Savior in Heaven and he is not coming back!  I  wouldn’t  want him to.

I have been in denial of the fact that I am no longer married. It doesn’t seem quite fair that I have no say in the matter. I did not fall out of love. I was not cheated on or angry with or in any way mistreated by my husband. I was in love with Ed right up until his last breath. I am still in love with him.

We talked about some things pertaining to his imminent  passing away but none of our talking or thinking was about the fact that I would no longer be his wife. When Ed died, I became his widow. I hate that part. I could not reconcile it in my heart or in my mind. It has not been a graceful transition, to say the least. It felt all wrong to take my wedding band off and yet it felt like a lie to keep it on. Although, I did keep it on for a long time. I finally found a way that felt “okay” not to wear my wedding band on my hand. I found a necklace that allowed me to wear both our rings around my neck.

This has been my 5th birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year without my Ed. I am coming to terms with the fact that I am not married anymore. On New Years day, I did not put my necklace on. I have looked at it every day since and made a decision not to wear it today. I have tried this before and after a day or two have experienced such anxiety that I had to put it back on. It has been 9 days today without my commitment being worn around my neck. It is okay. I did not break my commitment. I fulfilled it.

I have said it before, grief is different in everyone. We each have to find our own path through the process. Sometimes we can follow a portion of the path that someone else has traveled. Most of the time we have to blaze our own trail. I can still weep with the thought of how much I miss my man. I am on the journey. One step, one day, and sometimes one hour at a time.

Last night, I had a small dinner party with 4 of my close friends. I cooked a pot of marinara sauce and meatballs like I used to do. As we sat around the table in my modest kitchen with full bellies, I took a moment to look around the table. Everyone was at peace and looked contented. Everyone there knew my Ed and were not self conscious to speak his name in a conversation. What really struck me was that we were all laughing, sharing food, stories and talk of movies. Fellowship. My home was alive with fellowship. Ah, but that is for another post.

 





Hello, I am Addiction

3 02 2014

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Maybe it would make a difference if addiction would just come right up to our face and introduce itself. Maybe if it should come right up and dope slap us in the head we would realize the imminent danger. Probably not though. Addiction is insidious. I had to look that word up when I first heard it. The definition is;  • treacherous; crafty , proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects. 

The brain of an addict has no logic when it comes to getting high. Our brain says things like, you can do it just this once!; everyone else is carefree and having fun, why not you?; this time you will stop after two beers.; this time you will not chase the high, one hit will be enough to take the edge off; you have a high tolerance, you need more than the normal person. 

And, sadly, we end up thinking; how did I let this happen again?; it was not supposed to be this way.; it is always going to be like this, I don’t know why I even try.; I may as well have the ‘hair of the dog that bit me’.; I am always going to be a worthless loser.

We always have to keep our thinking in check. Always. We don’t ever get a vacation from doing an inventory of our thoughts. One slogan that I learned in AA has been a healthy reminder. It says, Stinkin thinkin leads to drinkin. Yeah, I like to misspell those words. It gets my attention every time. This slogan reminds me to take an inventory of myself daily. Once my spiritual and emotional conditions begin to decline, my sobriety is in danger. If I catch it early, it is easier to come to the God of my understanding and confess my ill thoughts and ask His help in getting back on track. Unfortunately, the longer stinkin thinkin goes unchecked the more difficult it is to recognize and it doesn’t take much more before I could be off and running in the wrong direction.

I went through a season after my husband died where I found my thoughts wishing I could enjoy a nice glass of red wine. Many of the people who were important in my life were able to drink in relative safety and enjoy themselves. I would see the pictures they posted on FaceBook about the fun they were having and the lovely get-togethers they were having that included wine or beer. They were thoughtful enough not to invite me because they knew I was clean and sober. While I appreciated their consideration, it also made me feel left out and a little sad that I could not unwind with a glass of wine too. I let that thinking go on for more than a little while. Mix those kind of thoughts with the fact that I had been grieving the loss of my soul-mate and that I have not been able to bring myself back to AA meetings and I had a lethal combo going on. Self pity began to creep in along with a desire to isolate. I reached out in a couple of ways to a select few but, honestly I did not have the energy to chase anyone down for help. Tears flowed for days. I tried to go to meetings and I saw my Eddie everywhere. It was destroying me! I would be sobbing all the way home. I finally decided to stop torturing myself and withdrew all together from meetings. To this day, I have not been back. But, I remember what I was when I came into AA and I remember the principles that saved my life thirty seven years ago.

Sometimes, it is God and God alone who can save. That has been the case for me. I have not shut Him out or withdrawn from Him. And he shined a spotlight on my thinking. He brought me back to sanity and He gave me the strength to walk away (in love) from the people who could not comprehend the danger I was in. I literally heard the Voice of my God say to me, You are not safe here anymore. You must walk away NOW. I will not keep you safe if you do not heed my warning. Those are probably not the exact words but that was the message that He spoke loud and clear into my innermost being. I was ruined. It was heartbreak upon heartbreak. As I write this, I can still feel the ache in my heart. And, somewhere under all the commotion in my soul, I heard the voice of my first AA sponsor say to me, “Constant vigilance is the price we pay for our sobriety.” My God gave me the strength to walk away. He gives me the strength every day to make the right decision regarding my sobriety. Without sobriety I have nothing.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I will not let your death be in vain. I admire the fact that you had 23 years of a clean and sober life. You have reminded me today how fragile and how precious is the gift of sobriety that we have been given. It is the unmerited favor of God that gives us this gift. Addiction is an insidious thief. Your fate could very easily have been mine, and it could yet be. Somehow, I think you would like us all to be mindful of that today. Your spirit will be missed.





I call BS.

26 12 2013
deep thoughts

deep thoughts

 

There are a couple of phrases that are always said with the best of intention in the worst of situations. One of these is, “Forgive and forget“. For years I have allowed myself to feel guilty because I have not forgotten. I think it is time to call BS on this one. I do not think it is possible nor practical to forget. I have forgiven some pretty life changing and heinous events Even when the offender has not asked forgiveness. But I do not forget. For example; At the age of fifteen, my virginity was robbed from me in a brutal act of kidnap and rape. After years of alcoholism and drug addiction and some deep counseling by a Pastor and his wife, I have been able to forgive. Truly forgive, as Christ has forgiven me.
Like most fifteen year old children, I thought I was invincible and I left myself open to many dangers. I was rebellious and arrogant and that permitted me to be with the wrong people, in the wrong place at the wrong time. What I did not know is there is always some sicko lurking and waiting to take advantage of just such an attitude. I have forgiven me for putting myself in that danger. I have forgiven the sick man who robbed me. I have forgiven God for not bursting through the night sky and ripping this pervert off of me. Done and done.
I am sixty one years old and I haven’t had those nightmares or re-lived that event in a very long time. My heart is no longer bound in anger, fear and hatred. But I do not forget.

There is another phrase that irks me of late. “Time heals all wounds.”

I must call BS on this as well. I do not see myself as wounded and bleeding any more although my heart is under going surgery right now. My heart has never been so broken as when Eddie the Baker left me here alone. I miss him every single day and feel somehow incomplete without his words of wisdom in my ears and his daily pledge of love to me. This does not feel like a wound. It feels more like an extraction. A portion of my soul has been torn off and the heart ache is quite literally an ache in my heart. It has been more than two and a half years and I still cry every day. Time is not healing my heart and soul. But God…  I know that God is mending this. Every wound my heart has ever experienced has been healed by God and this is no exception.He has promised never to leave me. He has promised to bind up the broken hearted. He cares for the widows and the orphans. It is God, not time, who heals all wounds.

I have recited both of these phrases to hurting people in the past. That will not happen again. And I will politely nod to those who say these things to me, choosing to see their heart and not just listening to the words. And maybe, on the inside, I will find myself calling “BS.”





Serving in Spain through the arts

24 02 2013

The message we are carrying to the women of Betel International is this: Live the Lord’s Prayer. Forgive those who have hurt you and walk into your new life without yesterday’s baggage.

It sounds like a simple message but, I promise you, more people than we think get stuck in sorrow and unforgiving. I know this from experience.

The women here have been through a lot. They have been on both sides of the fence; needing to forgive and needing to be forgiven. It is often so overwhelming to be in this position that people can not find the beginning of the road to healing and freedom.

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We are using the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Old Testament, an old widow and her daughter in law who is also a widow, to put into pictures how to move forward. This is the basis for the conference that we built to bring to the women. We call it Victorious Warriors because it takes a warrior to battle through the sorrow, shame, anger, and humiliation that has been heaped upon us over the years. We are survivors, and that is a good thing but a survivor can still remain a victim. It takes more to be victorious. It is a battle of the mind to stop believing the lies of an enemy who tells us we are worthless and doomed to fail at every endeavor. It takes a warrior’s courage to find the strength to try; to move forward; to believe that God has a better plan and He is not mad at us. It takes tremendous strength to take that first step toward HOPE.

When the women first enter Betel Ministries, they are broken and defeated. It sounds like a bad place to be but, in truth, it is the best place to surrender from. Sometimes the warrior must surrender in order to win the battle. We surrender the lies, the escape paths through alcohol and drugs and we surrender our wills. It is from that place of brokenness that we can begin again. We lay down the running and squarely face our failures and stop making excuses for them. We stop lying to people. We lay down the lies we believed for so long and accept the fact that God loves us and no one is worthless. And we lay down our self will and begin to learn how to embrace God’s will for our lives. It is good, His will for us. We have made a mess of things and He is waiting to restore us to sanity and a good life.

I read a lot of Facebook posts and some of things that crack me up end with the words, “said no one ever”. I have one that fits here. I want my old life back of lying, stealing, disrespecting myself, being drunk enough to pee my pants and high enough to puke on the police officer’s shoes… said NO ONE EVER.

Betel ministries all over the world provide refuge and a place to begin again. The people of Betel are courageous warriors. I am grateful for an opportunity to serve them.

 

 

 





Redemption

17 08 2012

Storms of life will come. It doesn’t matter if you are ready for them or not. It doesn’t even matter if you are doing everything right. Storms are a part of life and they do come and they have a huge potential to knock us off our feet sometimes. For someone with a past like mine; (alcoholism, drug addiction, violence and crime) it is very important to be anchored. I have found my anchor. His name is Jesus and this is my meek attempt at expressing how much He means in my life.

Oh Lord, You are a wonderful God. It is a good practice for me to look at all you have done in my life. Looking back helps me to realize that nothing is too difficult for You. Sexual abuse is not too difficult. Alcoholism and drug addiction are no match for Your power of love and restoration. There is no sin so powerful that it is beyond Your helping hand. Thank You that You are ever present. You do not play hide and seek. You are constant and trustworthy and able. I can leave all of my anxieties and concerns with you in full confidence that You have my best interest in Your heart. You are my everlasting Father.

Your love for me is so deep that I cannot fathom it.

Your concern for me is so complete that You have even numbered all the hairs on my head.

Your Holiness is so bright that I can never look upon it with my human eyes.

Your desire for me is so strong that You formed a plan to redeem me to Yourself.

Your resolve is so powerful that You allowed sinners to beat You and nail You to a cross as You lay down your life for my sake.

Your Grace is so miraculous that, somehow, all of my sin was transferred to You.

Your bounty is so full that all of Your righteousness was imparted to me.

Your Glory is so awesome that death could not hold You in the grave.

Your salvation is so simple that all I have to do is accept it; and yet it is so powerful that it makes me an overcomer.

You are God, my Father,

Jesus, Who is closer than a brother,

Holy Spirit, Who dwells right inside me and guides my steps.

Thank You for giving me the privilege of being Your daughter. Help me to remain faithful and anchored in the Hope that is my salvation. And help me to have a heart like Yours. Keep teaching me how to love the unlovable. Keep me mindful that it is not all about me.





Duh, winning.

28 05 2012

God has allowed me a good chunk of time off of work but I am beginning to get antsy after being home for 6 weeks. Usually I am good for 3 or 4 weeks of idle time to get caught up on rest and to re-connect with my family and friends.

My good friends and next door neighbors, the McCoys, are more like family than neighbors. We manage to stay pretty connected on a daily basis.

It has been interesting to me that,  my friends who I thought would be closest to me during this time have been busy with their own stuff. I don’t say this in a complaining way at all. A lot has been going on in their lives and I have kept myself quite busy too with work and with travel. I am secure in the knowledge that my friends love me and care about me and I am quite certain that God has ordained it to be this way so that I can not become over dependent on them. It is humbling to know how vulnerable I am in this area. The fact of the matter is, no one on this earth can bear the weight of all of me all the time. I am a lot!

If you had asked me, I would have told you that I know how to lean on God for all my needs. Probably even quoted 1 Peter 5:6&7 to you. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you.” I would have emphasized it just that way too.

Well, I am learning there is more to that portion of scripture. It is followed by an admonishment; Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  

It’s one thing to know the words, quite another to apply the truth in those words when the world comes crashing in on your party. Since Ed passed, I have had to pay attention to an old nemesis  of  mine. Depression. My adversary would love use depression to destroy me. BUT GOD has made sure that I am aware. I am sober and vigilant, resisting and rebuking depression every single day.

While my ego would like me to think I am unique in the pain of grieving, I am assured that what I am experiencing is normal. “The same sufferings are experienced by my brotherhood in the world”. Ha! How ordinary of me.

And wait! There is more to this scripture. (I am beginning to feel like an info-mercial announcer.) “BUT, may the God of all grace. who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.”

Bam! There it is. The hope.

While I am learning how to live without my soul mate, I am learning how to really trust God. And after I have suffered a while… (are we there yet, Jesus?)

I am being perfected, established, strengthened and settled. It is happening. It is the process. No matter what I am feeling, if I will just put one foot in front of the other and walk this walk, I will find myself in the winner’s circle. And who doesn’t want to be, duh, winning?





Are you Eddie the Baker’s widow?

10 01 2012

I met Ed in AA. I watched him for a year before we ever spoke and exchanged phone numbers. Our first date was an AA function. It was a Valentines  dance, Feb. 13, 1978. Together, we worked our program of 12 steps, encouraged each other to do above and beyond what looked possible and we grew together as useful citizens in our community. Our last outing together was at an AA meeting where my Love got terribly sick and ended up taking an ambulance ride to the hospital where he died, 36 hours later. It was so hard to walk away from his body that night in the hospital. So much of that time is a blur to me. A horrible blur.

It has taken me more than eight months to finally walk into an AA meeting again. I have been to three, so far, and each one has been horrid. The first one was a Big Book meeting where two leaders read from a chapter of the Big Book of AA and then comment on each paragraph. It is my least favorite kind of meeting. I left early when one person raised their hand to speak and proceeded to inappropriately carry on about his former sex life during his active alcoholism. People don’t know what to do when that happens because we don’t want to stifle anyone but, for the love of sanity, really???

Two days later, I attended my home group meeting that Ed and I are members of. It was January 5, the 35 year anniversary of my sobriety. I did not want to acknowledge it, I did not want to get out of the bed at all. I could easily have pulled the covers over my head and cried all day long. But, I made myself get up and go to my group. I can’t tell you what was said. I just kept hearing Ed say, “We do it to be a power of example. New comers need to know that they can stay sober for long term and get through anything that comes their way.”  I got there on time and I stayed for the whole meeting. At the end of the meeting I went forward and received a chip (a token poker chip) to show that I was sober for 35 years. I enjoyed a few hugs and sweet words from folks after the meeting. One lady asked if I was Eddie the Baker’s widow. I think I said yes. It was surreal.

The next day, I went to a discussion meeting. The topic was how to deal with tragedy and death without taking a drink. Toward the end of the meeting, I did manage to raise my hand to indicate that I would like to share something, but I was too late. Lots of people had lots to say on the subject. I prayed that the young lady who introduced the topic was helped by some of the discussion. During the meeting, two of Ed’s friends told me how much they miss Ed and what a beautiful memorial service we had for him. That blessed me. As I tried to sneak out at the end of the meeting, I was detained by a young lady who is one of  Ed’s good friends. He called her “Kiddo”. As we talked, I noticed a familiar plaque on the wall behind her. It says,”Success cannot be measured by how high we climb the mountain, but by the obstacles we overcome on the journey.” Eddie the Baker. My husband had it made and donated to the fellowship hall before he died. Ed overcame a lot of obstacles on his journey. He was a power of example to many and many people still quote him at meetings all over Wilmington.