During these 8 months of new widowhood, I've learned a lot - more than I ever carried to know, if truth be told.
I've learned that my emotions love to ride roller coasters. I've discovered that there is no true "pattern" to grief. I've figured out that the "Leah before May 3/4" is so different from the "Leah after May 3/4". I've realized that I don't always have to be the giver - it's okay to be on the receiving side sometimes.
But, that's where I've gotten hung up - quite a bit, actually. Friends, I've always been the independent one. I've had a lifetime's share of disappointments and heartaches (and that was BEFORE my husband's tragic suicide in May). As a result, I had developed a bit of a thick skin. Independence was my friend. I didn't need anyone or anything. I could take care of myself. And, then I met my precious Chris...
He changed me in so many good ways. He softened me. He cared for me. He loved me! It was wonderful to let somebody "take care of me" as he always did and wouldn't have it any other way. He was a servant, by nature. Not just with me but with everybody he met. He would give a complete stranger the shirt off his back in the middle of winter if needed. And, that servant heart of his translated well in our marriage.
When Chris left this earth for our heavenly home on May 4, 2011 - my world shattered! Completely. I was lost. I didn't know what to do. That independent woman of long ago was nowhere to be found. I depended on anybody that would make themselves available to me, and most especially I depended on God - the One that will NEVER leave me.
After awhile, however, that dependence became uncomfortable for me. I felt needy. I didn't want to come across that way to my friends and family. Yes. I needed people desperately, but I didn't want to ask for help. I guess I just wanted people to figure out what I needed without me having to tell them. That was unfair of me, I know. I just didn't know how to handle this new "temporarily needy me".
Several months ago, I had a conversation with a friend that left me a little unsettled. We discussed the scriptural mandate to care for orphans and widows. I shared that I felt people were more easily drawn to caring for orphans but didn't know what to do with widows. She asked me to explain further. I said that orphan awareness is THANKFULLY growing by and large more and more everyday (and happens to be a passion of mine as well), but I rarely hear about the widows part of the mandate. She then asked, "What would it look like to care for a widow...to you?" I tried to answer the question but fumbled over my words. Honestly, I didn't know how to answer it. I truly didn't even know what I needed at that moment.
And - that's just it! I can only speak for myself and my own journey. But, I honestly believe what I've needed most in these early months is for people to simply come alongside and be the hands and feet of Jesus to me in whatever ways He directs them. People that are closely involved in my life should be able to physically see what that might be. People that talk to me on a regular basis might even hear those needs uttered with my own lips at times (even when I'm not aware of it). For others - perfect strangers - it might take the nudging of the Holy Spirit. But, I honestly believe that learning the Love Language of a widow and speaking that language to her is one of the most loving ways to be "Jesus with skin on" to her. Widowhood is exhausting! I've had so many people say, "just let me know if you need anything". While the sentiment is sincere...what I've needed most is somebody to "serve" in whatever way the Lord tells them, because I honestly don't know what I need sometimes. Don't wait on me to ask or share or give you an idea...it will probably never come. I'm simply too tired to even try and figure it out sometimes.
So, you can imagine my surprise, pure delight, and utter amazement when my girlie and I were abundantly blessed this Christmas by an anonymous Christmas Angel (as I like to call him/her/them). It made our first Christmas without Chris much sweeter to have so much love poured out on us. Thank you God!
And then again...God blew me away yesterday when I received an email from a new blog and Twitter friend that I've never met. She lives clear across the country from me, in the state of Washington. She had an idea that she wanted to employ this year about Paying it Forward in 2012 and wanted my permission to bless my daughter and me with this idea. I was literally blown away. I cried and cried (happy tears). I was truly speechless at first and didn't even know how to begin to thank her for wanting to pour out such love and care on someone she's never met. That's all God. I know that full well! But, I also know something else...my new friend gets it! She understands how to care for and pour out love on a new, young widow (much more than I do actually). Thank you friend for being Jesus to Anna and me and for all that are coming alongside her to bless us with encouragement this year! I am praying that God blesses each of you...abundantly!