Goin Home - Part 2 - "Always"

It was a misty morning and we were on a special “assignment.”  We had special instructions, and watched the odometer carefully as we drove.  When we arrived at the spot the special packages which I brought from California, were placed into a backpack.  We looked up the hill and decided we were in the right place so we snapped a family photo.  There was no trail, and being in my 60’s and recovering from bronchitis, I huffed and puffed the 150 feet up the hill, to find the bear paw meadow per my dad’s instructions.  I checked the photos he had given me 30 years ago.  The trees were much smaller then, but the mountains looked the same.  It was a puzzle to solve.  The mission: Find the area my parents described in their wills so we could fulfill their wishes.  Dad and Mom both wrote the same thing, 

Paul's Place 1994.jpg

“…that my ashes should be scattered in a tiny part of Jackson Hole, Wyoming…I refer to this location as ‘Paul’s Place’ for that is where my son, Paul had requested his own ashes be placed, and where thy do indeed rest.  Erect no marker or locator where my ashes lay for the natural flora and fauna will do just that.” 

This was a precious time for us in that bear paw meadow, facing the Teton range, as we laid beloved parents, grandparents and great-grandparents to rest.  Ryan read Psalm 23, and Jon thanked God for their lives.  They passed away in 2014, so it felt really good and satisfying to bring their bodies “HOME” to the place they loved so much. 

Goin' Home

Home.  What is home really, anyway?  For me, home is where my loved ones are, or were, or the places that hold sweet memories.  Going back to a childhood home or vacation spot, teaches that these places are not really home.  Recreating an experience from the past is not possible.  You can’t really ‘go back.’  Things change, loved ones go, and time marches on.  But this is not sad.  Home is not really here in this world. 

Our Dwelling Place

In Psalm 90, Moses called the Lord "our dwelling place in all generations." 

Moses and the Israelites wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years.  They pitched their tents and packed them up over and over.  That generation never had a permanent home.   Moses said “Lord, You have been our dwelling place…”

Home Sweet Home

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Because of Gary's illness, we had to downsize, leaving our beloved home where we thought we'd spend the rest of our lives.  It was sad, but good for us.  We were forced to cling to God instead of a place and lived in the love of our Savior who loves completely and unconditionally.  He helped us face the very scary unknowns of the future with courage rather than fear.  The most important "comforts of home" went with us, because Jesus lives in Gary and I.  Jesus said, "I will never leave you or forsake you."  He meant it.  For a Christian, "true" home is a person, not a place.   It's Jesus Christ, who loved me first.  "We love Him because He first loved us."  He paid the penalty for my sins, dying on the cross, and made me one of his own children, while I was His enemy.  Then He went rose again, and went to Heaven where He has building a home for me and Gary is already there! 

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."  John 14:2-3

Someday my family will take my ashes to the Central Coast, per my wishes.  What’s left of my body will be “home” in the same place as Gary’s.  But we will not be there.  Not really.  We will be at home with the Lord, in heaven, because home is where God is.  The days go by so quickly.  Before you know it, you're within the waning years of your life.  Moses had such a wonderful perspective as he prayed.  May we value the days as Moses did, and look to God for His favor, in light of what we truly deserve. 

Psalm 90 - a Prayer of Moses

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.

 

You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.

  My last post was filled with sweet m  emories, formed over many decades, and new experiences too as our family “road tripped” to the ‘Wild West.”   Click here, to read Part 1.  

My last post was filled with sweet memories, formed over many decades, and new experiences too as our family “road tripped” to the ‘Wild West.”  Click here, to read Part 1. 

For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Do return, O Lord; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your loving kindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

"Grace for the Widow" Book Review

Grace for the Widow

A Journey Through the Fog of Loss

By Joyce Rogers

Fog.  It doesn’t happen too often here in Socal, but I’ve been in thick fog before and I remember how it felt.  There’s a mystery in its quietness.  Sounds are muffled, and it’s hard to make out what’s ahead, OR behind. The view ranges from completely opaque to blurred vaguely familiar objects.  It slows you down, the fog creates an awareness of being alone, and unsure.  A year and a half in to my widowhood, I’ve heard “Fog” used as a metaphor for how things feel when grieving, and it’s an apt description. 

A friend recently shared this little book with me.  Joyce Rogers, (widow of Adrian Rogers), passed through the “fog of loss” and gifts us with simple truths, and practical steps.  Joyce understands the unsettled feelings. 

 

“If I only had someone to tell me what to do next!”

...shopping for one at the grocery store…

“What do I buy now?”

...after many years together...

        "Who am I now that Adrian is gone?"         

The book is only 110 pages and it’s divided into two parts, the Profound and the Practical. 

Nothing is more PROFOUND than God’s love and care for widows.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:33-34  

“Until the ‘fog’ lifts, don’t try to think about what your future holds.  Get out of bed, take a bath, get dressed, spend time alone with God, eat breakfast, clean up the house, walk the dog, pay the bills that are due – just do the next thing.” p.2

Joyce emphasizes that God is the “husband” of widows. 

“Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.”  Isaiah 54:5 

From the book:  “His name means ‘the Lord of hosts.’  He is the leader of all the hosts of heaven.  He fights my battles for me.” p.8In one chapter she explains some of the names of God, and how the character trait of God applies to widows.  i.e. our Refuge, Strong Redeemer, Provider, etc.  In the Appendix there is a larger list. 

Sprinkled throughout the book are encouraging thoughts about Heaven, scriptures categorized for specific needs, and comforting poetry.

The PRACTICAL section includes helpful To-Do lists, healthy lifestyle tips, importance of friendships and how to get back to ministry and regular activities.  For example:

“SLEEP – Get at least eight hours of sleep.  Kneel before the Lord before you go to bed.  Turn your cares, heartaches, and fears over to Him.  Ask Him to give His ‘beloved’ sleep.  Remember: You are His beloved, and He neither slumbers nor sleeps.”p.61

“MAKE A BUDGET – Begin to make a budget that is now just for one person….”p.50

“MAINTAIN A BALANCED LIFE – Do the tasks that are ‘have tos’ but don’t feel like you have to do all these things on the to-do list right away.  Ask your Chief Counselor to show you what needs to be done today.  Of course, He is the Holy Spirit.  He has promised to guide you and He will.”p.50

My personal "fog" is lifting, and I understand that it's a process finding my footing alone, after being Gary's wife for 40 years.  Some days the path is clearer than others.  I think the best part of the foggy weather in my life is that it forces me to slow down, walk carefully when unsure, and cling to the everlasting arms that are constantly holding and guiding me.  Thank you, Mrs. Rogers, for helping me along with the process.

"Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.

 With Your counsel You will guide me,
 And afterward receive me to glory.

 Whom have I in heaven but You?
 And besides You, I desire nothing on earth."

Psalm 73:22-25

 

My Grief Diary: A Happy, Grieving Heart

Next Friday will be the Anniversary of our last goodbye.  Over the last year, as a recent widow, I have sought to understand my new and different life.  After forty plus years with my husband, I find myself alone.  For all those years, and right up until Gary died, I knew exactly what I would and should be doing each day.   My life with my sweetheart was good and fulfilling.  In the months following his departure, adjustments have been made in my life and are still happening.  I suspect the future will hold more changes, and growth for me as well.  That’s ok.  The changes are sometimes hard, or painful, but I'm seeing that there is good on the other side.

Discovering (and dealing with) the new me!

I’ve been learning about “the new me,” the “me-without-Gary.”  We were one flesh for 40 ½ years and I’ve been shaped by him.  Being alone, and being in the grief stage, I've found some things in my heart that need to be repented of.  I've also found more depth in some of my interests and creative side.  There are brand new and faith stretching opportunities to explore and I plan to do so.  (Specifically an upcoming trip I'll be sharing about here.) The Lord has used Gary to help me grow, as a Christian and as a woman.  I am still “me” but I am finding new ways to grow. 

Saying "yes" to everything - well not EVERYTHING, but too much!

One thing I’ve noticed is that after nine years of having certain restrictions on my life, (because of Gary's health needs), I began to say yes to everything.  Well maybe not “Everything” but lots of things.  I kind of went crazy with going here, going there, doing this and that, and taking on a lot.  Nothing bad here, just LOTS.  I was wondering how the Lord would direct me, and unfold what He wanted me to do.  I’ve been able to see more clearly now certain things that are more important than others and great ways to enjoy life.  I don't think I will EVER really get a handle on time management, but I've noticed that I need to be on guard against being greedy.  For instance, I like to put many intriguing things on my list of "to-dos" but sometimes it's better to do fewer things, and do them better.  There will never be enough time or opportunity to do everything.  It's ok to dream, but when something can't be done, I must not get frustrated, but rather be thankful for what I AM able to do. 

Changing roles is not easy.

My sorrow for Gary, has been ongoing for many years.  When he departed, I was already kind of used to missing him.  What I was NOT used to, however, was feeling the loss of my main “occupation,” being his helper.  This has been the thing that brings the most tears.  I miss Gary, I miss being his other “half.” It's a slow process, but God is steadily healing this part of my heart.  I've been able to study about the beautiful role that widows have in the church.  I'm excited about that.  We widows, have a special place in God's heart and He has much for us to do.  "...so that they (older women) may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." Titus 2:4-5

I’m almost through the first year of being on my own, and all the first holidays without Gary are behind me.  I’ve been up and down with emotions as I approach the anniversary of Gary’s home going in a few days.  Mostly happy for Gary, but sad when I think about the final goodbye, and missing my role of helping him.   Through this entire first year, God has been at my side, drying my eyes, giving me things to laugh at, and love, and reminding me of wonderful memories with my sweetheart.    I hope you are all expressing your love to your dear ones and treasuring your days together.  We are only guaranteed the breath that is in our lungs at this present moment so make your day a good one.  May we all feel and think deeply, and give ourselves completely to Jesus Christ so that our lives will count for eternity. 

 

 

 

 

Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. 

Ecclesiastes 7:3

 

I've read a couple of wonderful books on grief.  The most recent was The Undistracted Widow, by Carol Cornish.  I highly recommend it!  (Click HERE for my review.) 

Facing Grief - A Book Review

Saying goodbye to loved ones is nothing new.  Death is as sure as life.  Three hundred and forty two years ago, in 1674, a little book was written to help some parents who lost a beloved child.  It has helped me too and I want you to know about it. 

The title, “Facing Grief: Counsel for Mourners” perfectly describes what this little book is about.  The author, John Flavel, a minister in the south of England, had already buried two wives and his parents when he wrote these pages.  Facing Grief is not an autobiography, but his own tragedies, give legitimacy to the hard but helpful truths he put down on paper.  There are minimal stories, or personal examples, but if you want to know how to mourn in a way that glorifies God, Flavel brings Scripture to bear on grief.  The language is in the “old English” style, but this did not deter me.  I soaked up the pages. 

Everyone’s path of grief is different, and yet, for Christians, there are certain things we need to remember. 

Here are a sampling of quotes from each section…

  • The difference between “moderate” and “immoderate” sorrow and the biblical parameters of both. 

              “We must allow the mourning, afflicted soul a due and comely expression of his grief and sorrow in his complaints to both God and men….There is no sin in complaining TO God, but much wickedness in complaining OF Him.”  Flavel sites David in the Psalms as an example of the right way to grieve…”I poured out my complaint before Him; I showed before Him my trouble.  When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path.” Psalm 142: 2-3

  • Sorrowing can cross the line and become sinful. 

              “Our sorrows may then be pronounced sinful when they deafen our ears to all the wholesome and seasonable words of counsel and comfort offered us for our relief and support.”  I myself have been guilty of this.  On more than one occasion, I’ve said to dear ones, “You don’t understand!”, hurting them, and missing out on the comfort I needed and would have truly helped. 

  • For the unbeliever, sorrow can be a good thing.

              “This affliction for which you mourn may be the greatest mercy to you that ever yet befell you in this world…Why this is sometimes the way of the Lord with men: ‘If they are bound in fetters, and held in cords of affliction; then he shows them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.  He opens also their ear to discipline, and commands that they return from iniquity.’ Job 36:8-9

  • There are many, many comforts for believers.  (This is the largest section of the book.)

              “Always remember that, however soon and unexpected your parting with your relations was, yet your lease was expired before you lost them, and you enjoyed them every moment of the time that God intended them for you…Oh, if this had been done, or that omitted; had it not been for such miscarriages and oversights, my dear husband, wife, or child had been alive at this day!  No, no, the Lord’s time was fully come, and all things concurred and fell in together to bring about the pleasure of His will.  Let that satisfy you: had the ablest physicians in the world been there, or had they that were prescribed another course, as it is now so it would have been when they had done all…He who appointed the seasons of the year appointed the seasons of our comfort in our relations; and as those seasons cannot be altered, no more can these.  All the course of providence is guided by an unalterable decree; what falls out casually to our apprehension yet falls out necessarily in respect of God’s appointment.  Oh, therefore be quieted in it.  This must needs be as it is.”

“Call to mind in this day of trouble, the covenant you have with God, and what you solemnly promised him in the day you took him for your God… Now Christians, make good to Christ what you did so solemnly promise him.  He, I say, HE has disposed of this your dear relation, as pleased him, and is thereby trying your uprightness in the covenant which you made with him.  Now where is the satisfaction and content you promised to take in all his disposals?  Where is that covenanted submission to his will?  Did you except this affliction that is come upon you?...this day it is put to the proof.  Remember what you have promised him.”

“Be careful you exceed not in your grief for the loss of earthly things, considering that Satan takes the advantage of all extremes…When it is dark night with men, it is noon-day with Satan; that is, our suffering-time is his busiest working-time; many a dismal suggestion he then plants and grafts upon our affliction, which are much more dangerous to us than the affliction itself…desponding thoughts…hard thoughts of God…murmuring and repining…irreligious and atheistical thoughts…By these things Satan gets no small advantage on the afflicted Christian.”

“If God be your God, you have really lost nothing by the removal of any creature-comfort….God is the fountain of all true comfort; creatures, the very best and sweetest, are but cisterns to receive and convey to us what comfort God is pleased to communicate to them; and if the cistern be broken, or the pipe be cut off, so that no more comfort can be conveyed to us that way, he has other ways and means to do it by, which we think not of; and if he please, he can convey his comforts to his people without any of them.”

  • Excuses and pleas for excessive sorrow AND practical ways to restrain oneself from it are answered in the final chapters.  These hit hard and get right to the point. 

Facing Grief is not an easy “feel-good” book.  But good theology is comforting.  As a Christian widow, I find my greatest comfort in my relationship with Jesus, my Lord and savior.  I always have.  This book has reminded me of His wonderful love, and comforts that come in many forms.  Sorrow over losing a loved one is normal, but because of Jesus, I can sorrow with HOPE!  Not “hope” meaning “I hope so.” But HOPE meaning “SURE of God’s promises.”

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Lest anyone think I’m not grieving about Gary, don’t get me wrong, I am still sad at times.  But this very good book has cautioned me to be careful as I grieve.  My loss should not be a source of sin in my life.  It should drive me to a closer walk with the Lord.  Peace and Joy are the beautiful byproducts.  Just as King David knew he would see his son again, I know I will see Gary too,  He's not coming back, but someday I get to go where he is!  

My Grief Diary: Patina

The sparkle is not gone.  I polished them this morning since today would have been our 41st anniversary.  I'm still wearing the rings Gary made for me.  He hammered 50 cent coins into bands and then had a jeweler set his grandma's diamonds on them. On the inside you used to be able to see that they were minted in 1953 (my birth year) and read "In God we trust." but the words and numbers have long since worn away.  Because they have been on my hand for so many years, and subjected to all of my activities, the prongs have needed adjustments, the bands have needed straightening, and a diamond was even knocked loose and replaced.  I don't mind.  I love that Gary made them for me and I still enjoy seeing them on my finger.  They remind me of my loving husband, and our faithful God who enabled us to love and forgive for so long.  

My ring has changed.  So have I.  Marriage changes things.  Especially people.  Gary's influence in my life has shaped me, and moved me towards Christ.  I recently listened to some audio tapes of him when we were dating.  (He didn't like to write letters so he sent me cassette tapes.)  We were silly, in love, and immature in many ways, but one thing stood out so clearly.  Jesus was the most important person in his life.  I loved him for that.  Over the years, God was kind to grow us both.  Gary is now with the Lord, without any sin.  One day I'll join him.  I am grateful beyond words for the time we had together.

Yes, I miss him every day, but marriage is temporary.  That is a good thing for all of us to remember.  It is a constant temptation to make an idol of our spouses and let them become more important to us than God.  When I am reunited with Gary it will not be as his wife.  It will be as two grateful and amazed sinners who have been rescued from eternal punishment by their Savior and once shared a life together in "time." The following quote, from a book I'm loving right now, was written to parents who had lost a child, but as a wife who's lost a husband, I too have been blessed by it's weightiness.

"A husband, a wife, a child, are great, very great things, as they stand by other creatures; but surely they will seem little things, next to nothing, when the Lord shall set himself by them before the soul.  And how know you but God has bidden these earthly comforts stand aside this day, to make way for heavenly ones?  It may be God is coming to communicate himself more sweetly, more sensibly than ever to your souls; and these are the providences which must cast up and prepare the way of the Lord.  Possibly God's meaning in their death is but this: [Husband], stand aside; you are in my way, and fill my place in your [wife's] heart." (Facing Grief, by John Flavel)

I'm halfway through the year of "FIRSTS"...First Father's day, first Birthday, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, and first Anniversary...without my Gary.  Tonight I have a special dinner planned with my daughter's family, so I have something to look forward to, and a new kind of special memory. 

LIVE - REMEMBER - ENJOY

Antique appraisers and collectors use the term "patina" to describe the color change on a metal object that results from age.  Patina typically increases the value.  My rings cost very little, even by 1974 standards, but they are precious to me because of the promises they represent, and the memories they carry.  They grow more beautiful to me with age, because they carry a story with them.

 Tonight I went to dinner with April and Jon and the boys to celebrate God's faithfulness to Gary and I.   God is attentive to my loss and is filling the void with other comforts so I'm in good hands.  My prayer is that the loss of Gary will drive me even closer to the Lord.  As I venture into the second half of the year of "FIRSTS," I pray that my love for Jesus will increase, since He is, and always will be, more than enough for this widow.  There will be more layers of wear and polishing to be done in my heart as God continues to sanctify me. 

 
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen."  1 Peter 5:10-11

My Grief Diary: Crystal Clear

It's been an emotional week, just thinking about Gary, missing him, and remembering how special he was to me.  Something broke the other day, that was special to him.  It's a big crystal (2") that refracts the light beautifully.  Gary bought it back in the 70's and hung it in our bedroom window.  Every sunshiny morning, it cast rainbows on the walls.  When we moved to our condo, it made rainbows here too.  He'd say, "We have to get up when the rainbow gets to the doorway."  He would sometimes stand in just the right spot to get the colors right on his mouth, or nose to be funny.  Our girls remember too.  He LOVED that crystal and we loved that he loved it.  Well, finally last week, the wire broke and it fell on the tile, leaving some big chips in it.  I need to rehang it, and hopefully it will make even more of a light-show now.

But I got to thinking about something really neat.  I was reading in Revelation 4 this morning.  It describes the throne room of God.  In his vision, the apostle John described the appearance of God , in terms of precious gems.   "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone (clear as crystal in Rev. 21:11) and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance."

and MORE...

"and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”

Such amazing, heavenly sights and sounds were hard for John to describe.  Right now, Gary's eyes and ears are filled with the actual glories of God.  I'm comforted with the little memory of how he loved the light and colors displayed by his crystal, but thanks to the written Word of God, I get to know just a little of what Gary is experiencing right now, and that is even better. 

 

Head ‘em Up – Move ‘em Out

I've been without my dad for just over a year.  On Thursday I was getting ready to distribute some more of my dad's things, and got very involved looking at one of his collections.  I enjoyed perusing his photos and his written thoughts.  It made me miss him.  I think I've mentioned that because of the events of the last year, I've barely had a chance to grieve my parents' loss, but the time I spent with his things the other day, was so nice.  Part way through, I realized, that it was actually his birthday!  He would have been 98.  

My dad, Bill Ransom, was a fan of all things western.  A few years after my parents retired to Montana, they got caught up in the excitement of the Montana Centennial celebrations.  One of those was the recreation of a cattle drive, and they joined in the fun, in their way.  I think some of you, at least, may enjoy reading my dad's account of the experience, as well as his photos.  He and my mom had a wonderful way of looking at things, and Dad recorded everything with 35mm photos, 16mm movies, and writings.  They appreciated history, authenticity, love of country, and their beautiful Montana.  I am grateful for my dad's adventuresome spirit, and my mom for being such a good sport.

 

Here is the story which he wrote in 1989:


Head ‘em Up – Move ‘em Out

The Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive

By Bill Ransom

A prairie dog rose up from the hole in the center of his earthen mound appearing to exercise a proper amount of caution.  He was soon followed by another, both quickly turning their attention directly to the north.  Obviously, the two of them heard of felt something Louise and I did not.  In a matter of minutes it all became quite clear as our ears began to record a muted, yet powerful, sound.  I easily likened it to something of a muffled drum-roll as it swept toward us through Montana’s wild prairie grass.  Hoof beats – yes, thousands of them – coming from the north.  Man oh man, this was it – this is what we had waited for.  A cloud of dust rising over a near distant ridge told us we had chosen a good spot to witness the greatest cattle drive in history.  Perhaps the strategy of leaving our car by the highway and hiking a mile and a half away from everyone and everything “1989” would pay off photographically as well as allowing us to better take a step back in time. 

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This was day three of Montana’s “piece de resistance” in celebration of its 100th year of statehood.  This monumental undertaking gave birth to seemingly insurmountable problems in logistics, but after months of planning and using some “Old West” ingenuity, things dovetailed in time for the start.  The drive had begun, appropriately, up on the Musselshell River at the town of Roundup on September 4th and would conclude on the 9th in Billings, 60 miles to the south. 

Louise and I grabbed for our camera gear as the first of the herd began pouring over the ridge like lava moving fast through sagebrush and grass – lava wrapped in cowhide.  This first bunch was comprised entirely of longhorns, descendants of that first herd driven up from Texas in 1866 by Nelson Story and his hands.  Most of these were owned by Jim Leachman and were destined to come under the auctioneer’s gavel at the Metro Arena in Billings three days hence.  Both cowboys and cowgirls controlled the herd, holding their positions at point, wing and drag. 

 Dad chatting it up with the riders.

Dad chatting it up with the riders.

The trail boss for the drive was Jay Stovall, and as the lead group of wranglers passed by, we tried to pick him out.  We knew, too, that among this group of seasoned riders was Mike Story, great, great grandson of Nelson Story, and it was a sentimental invitation to participate that had brought him to this time and place.  Riding wing near the front of the herd was the youngest of the cowboys, 11 year old Shawn Hando.  It may have gotten him out of school for the week, but not out of doing a comprehensive report detailing his own experiences on the drive.  To make manageable this giant herd of around 3,000 head, and for safety as well as for humanitarian considerations, the cattle were purposely strung out between 3 and 4 miles. 

 

From our vantage point atop a small outcropping of rock, we could see over a mile and a half of the total herd.  At one time I turned quickly to Louise and asked, “Did you hear that?  Was that a gunshot?”  We thought it might be someone letting go with his “45”, for many of the riders wore holstered six-guns.  We heard the sharp crack again – than saw George Reed using his bullwhip as he kept the line moving steadily southward.  One of the basic rules for participation in the drive was to dress in appropriate gear, as near as possible – no Adidas and no ‘visored’ caps touting “Joe’s Welding Shop” allowed. 

Louise and I continued to look for photographic “targets of opportunity,” shooting both movie film and stills until the last of the cattle had passed, the last two riders carrying the American and official Montana Centennial flags, signaling the tail end of the herd.  There had been intermittent clouds of dust, and now, as soon as it drifted away, we could catch our breath and enjoy our lunch which we had earlier stashed into a small backpack. 

We decided this was a great place for our lunch break, for it seemed, in a way, like we were 100 miles from nowhere.  It was so quiet now, and luck had provided a nice setting.  We had some natural rock shelves to sit on, and being almost brick red, they made a sharp contrast to the subtle golden colors of the prairie grass.  Behind us were a few scrub cedars while right in front of us were several bunches of late blooming wildflowers (Phacelia) and a couple of stalks of plains yucca.  The latter being an often used detail on the canvases of famous Montana artist, C. M. Russell.  Overhead the ‘big sky’ was still filled with gray clouds, and with the sun trying to burst through, we could see the storm threat of the night before was truly in retreat.  What a nice Godsend, for when we had visited the trail drive night camp the past evening, we had found some dramatic and ominous weather conditions.  While we munched away, we reminisced about the previous night. 

This had been their second night camp, and we had driven north out of Billings 30 miles to locate it.  We were dumbfounded to discover it spread over such a huge area on part of the Thirty Mile Ranch.  We parked near the south end a bit off the highway among a collection of sage, cactus, grass, and only God knew the rest, but it was worth it.  Using what expertise I could recall, I showed Louise the proper way to get through the barbed wire.  Then, by revealing our most pleasant smiles, we were invited to enter the roped off section surrounding the first circle of about 14 wagons.  We found an intense effort under way to get all the members of this group fed quickly as the projected storm became more of a threat.  AS the wind picked up, a few horses wandered nervously away from the remuda (spare mounts) and into the circle of wagons.  One beautiful pinto was whinnying and almost trampled a pitched sleeping tent, and that was enough for several wranglers to leave the chow line and haze them back to the rest of their kind.  I would say there were at least 150 horses in that bunch alone, and none were corralled.  The clouds darkened, and there was flapping canvas everywhere – the dusters some of the men wore – the wagon covers – and all the sleeping tents were alive in that chilling wind.  I wondered how well everyone would sleep on this night. 

We eased over to the chuck wagon and found three gals about ready to load up the plates of both hungry cowhands and others belonging to this circle wagons.  There was a tall stack of plates, a huge coffee pot, and many cups - all in gray enamel.  In fact, all the utensils looked very “western.”  The only thing I saw that seemed out of place was a large tub filled with chopped mixed greens – obviously, the salad.  Something smelled divine coming from the open grill, and I just had to ask one of the gals what the main course was, and she replied by holding up an oversized steak – and out came one word, “Buffalo!”  Now, why didn’t I expect something like that?

We eased away so they could get on with their work, but not before noticing how everyone was smiling, joking, and helping each other with whatever was needed.  We passed by the line of leather-tan faces, some needing a shave by now, and some showing a little fatigue – but everyone, just plain nice!  One wrangler, L. G. from Billings, stopped to kid with us a bit about taking his picture, else he might have to use the six-gun on his hip.  We complied.  Then he said, “If you want to see something you’ll never see again, climb up over that rise, and look to the west.”  We zipped up our parkas and trudged up past wagons, horses, and dozens of portable watering troughs for about 500 yards.  Mr. G. knew exactly what he was saying.  I could never properly describe what met our eyes.  There were, scattered across that open ranchland, horses, cattle, tents, watering trucks, dozens of circles of wagons (called “pods’), people by the hundreds, and rows of portable toilets.  We stood, amazed, and began to appreciate the word, “logistics.”

Some questions came to mind.  Things like, “How could each of the participants get his own horses back, his own cattle claimed if they didn’t go to market, his wagon returned to the ranch?”  There was over 15 million dollars’ worth of equipment and horses laying out there before us.  But more than all this – what is there about this segment of Americana – western Americana, especially, that had inspired so many to spend so much to come so far to be a part of all this? 

It was time we headed back to Billings, for by now the aroma of buffalo steaks had gotten our own stomachs to growling.  We picked our way down the slope past tons of hay scattered out for both horse and cow.  Most of it now being consumed as we carefully passed by.  We noticed most of the cattle had individual brands, but also carried the temporary “M over 89” centennial brand, as well.  This would turn out to be the longest trek of the drive; 18 miles, and over the most variable terrain, as it had a combination of being partly highway, partly prairie, much of it through the lower elevations of the Bull Mountains with their tight ravines.  Were we ever glad we had decided to take in one of the night camps!

As we finished up our lunch of tuna sandwiches, olives and potato chips, we considered it nearly a crumb compared to the projected amounts of food the participants of the drive would require.  Such a grocery list as follows:  On Wednesday, Yellowstone Kelly’s Catering of Billings planned to serve 1200 pounds of baron of beef and half a ton of baked beans to their section of 1500 people.  300-500 gallons of coffee per day.  Monday night (first camp) this group ate 3,000 pounds of beef ribs.  That’s equal to four head of cattle on the hoof.  Bob Hurd, lead cook of Chuck Wagon Catering out of Red Lodge, Montana even revealed his own recipe for biscuits and gravy.  Now, just for once, forget the calories, and copy it down for some nice Sunday morning when you’re glad to be alive – then eat hearty!

Fry up an even mix of both pork sausage and diced ham.  Then thicken it with a riux of butter and flour.  Add some real cream along with a little milk.  The cream smooths out the gravy, which is the secret to his successful breakfast of biscuits and gravy. 

Iona Schmidt of Glendive, Montana offered her recipe for Creamery-Can Stew:

Corn sliced off the cob, wieners and polish sausage cut into chunks, sliced cabbage, small unpeeled whole potatoes, sliced carrots and beer.  Into the pot with the lot – bring it to a boil and simmer for an hour. 

On the cattle drives of a hundred years ago – they should have it so good.

Oh, gosh!  Enough of that!  We had to get ourselves off our rock seats and hike up another mile to where out tiny map (cut out of the Billings Gazette) showed the long line of wagons would be traveling through this section.  By the time we reached the place that seemed best for pictures, 20 or 30 wagons had already passed, but that was O. K. because we still had around 300 more to go.  By now, I realized I could have used more movie film to properly cover the seemingly endless wagon train, but I cranked up the camera while Louise began to shoot stills.  We were getting more sun now, and grateful the weather front had swung into Canada. 

As the riders and wagons rolled past us, we heard everything from “Why, Hello, there!” to “Hi, y’all!”  Even “How did you two get clear out here?”  “Nutty, I guess,” was all I could think of at the moment.  From time to time the train would stop for a few minutes – once, because one of the wagons being double-teamed up a steep slope had turned over and there was an injury through not serious.  During these short delays we had fun meeting both outriders on horseback and those along with the wagon ride.  We were never disappointed in how everyone was dressed.  Most fit the part perfectly, women wearing long frontier dresses, sun bonnets, leather boots, etc.  Many of the dresses were hand-made just for the drive, and many children had made their dresses as school projects.  Behind the reins, the men wore traditional felt hats, Levis, leather vests, etc.  They came from every state, and many foreign countries too numerous to mention.  The wagons, surreys, stage coaches, and chuck wagons were pulled by breeds of horses from Arabians, to Paints, Clydesdales to Belgians, and Tennessee Walkers to mules.  Two, four – up to ten horse hitches pulled them to each night camp.  As for the riders on horseback, it was pretty much like bringing their own pet.  If so, then these pets were worth maybe $1500 to $2000 each, and they really showed it.  I found it rather amazing, as I had to face the fact that there was such a varied cross-section of citizenry passing by me.  I mean some were “for real” wranglers, but others were seniors, doctors, ranchers, college professors or teachers, and many youngsters – well, you get the idea.

I was soon out of movie film except for a few feet to cover the arrival of the cattle in Billings, so I helped Louise finish up the 35mm pictures, and then we crossed back through the string of wagons, picking our way down the long slope to our car that now seemed at least beyond the horizon.  After a few minutes of working our way through the sage, we passed underneath several pine trees that had dropped an array of perfect pine cones.  We thought of collecting some, but figured we had our hands full, so those will not become a part of our Christmas wreath.  We were next going down a long shallow draw, and I presented Louise the scenario of someone lost and in this same coulee, and wondering what they might think if they just climbed up the 20 or 30 feet to peer over the rim and suddenly see all those wagons, men and horses stretched out for miles.  What an episode for Twilight Zone!  Had I, myself, lived a time warp the last few hours?  Had my folks given me a dime so I could go to the Saturday matinee to watch Tom Mix or Hoot Gibson or Ken Maynard in one of so many westerns I lived to see at a cost of mowing the lawn?  Anyway, the difference was certainly in “living color,” and we felt the rewards were worth whatever our efforts had been. 

In passing by our earlier lunch spot, we also walked near the prairie dog mound.  It didn’t seem any the worse for wear, but the occupants were nowhere to be seen.  I think they were deep down in their burrow, still wondering what in the world all the commotion was about.  I’m sure of one thing – they’d never forget it.  Would we?

I love you Dad!

My Grief Diary - Sorrow Into Joy

A few days ago, I was holding a pair of Gary's shoes, and tearing up.  I was getting ready to put them into a box of his special clothes that I can't bear to part with right now...maybe never.  Most of his clothes have been given away over the last few years as he became more and more immobile, and eventually bed bound, but there were still a few things in the closet, and so I went through them again.  Clothes are personal.  The memories of our loved ones in their "favorites" are etched in our minds.  Shoes are just shoes, but my husband wore THOSE shoes.  The shoes touched Gary and I can touch them.  My sorrow over Gary's absence is never far away.  It is real.  It is fresh and it doesn't take much to pull it up to the surface. 

"...you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy." 

Jesus said this to His sad disciples when He spoke of leaving them.  (John 16)  They had given up their lives to be with Him and now He was going to be departing.   They were confused, and very soon would be devastated as they would see him tortured and executed.  But, their grief would be short-lived because He was going to be raised from the dead and come back again.  Jesus was going to take the VERY EVENT that caused their greatest sorrow, His death on the cross, and use THAT SAME EVENT to cause their greatest joy, their eternal salvation.  (Great sermon on this HERE.

I want to do grief right.  I'm a Christian.  That means Jesus lives inside my soul.  Here's a cool thought.  When I am praying to the Lord, Gary while right now in the presence of the Lord, may very well be talking to Him too.  At the same time.  God has both of us in His hands.  He's in between us and the Center of us.  That is what we always wanted and what we promised when we vowed our vows.  God is my only real-time connection to Gary now.  I can't talk to Gary anymore in this life and would not even try to.  Gary is having his very best possible life, present with the Lord.  Someday I will be there too,  but I just think it's so neat that even though our marriage is over, and we are no longer one flesh, we are each absorbed with our Savior.  Jesus will be our main focal point for eternity.  That's not always easy for me, but it IS easy for Gary now, without the distractions of this life.  It's hard to describe, but in a tiny way it's similar to this:  Do you know how exciting it is to share a great experience with someone?  Taking in the scope of the Grand Canyon, watching your favorite team win, enjoying a wonderful concert together.  It's a bonding that occurs over a shared experience.  Gary and I are both loving God at the same time.  He in the eternal presence of the Lord, and me from the limits of this life. 

Standing there in my room holding Gary's shoes, God turned my sorrow into joy.   He didn't REPLACE my grief over missing Gary with something "happy."  Instead he reminded me that just as God was our Savior and the center of our marriage, He still is the One who receives our worship, gratitude and love.  Because He loved us first, we love Him and we loved each other.  God has repeatedly TRANSFORMED my SADNESS into JOY in the last three months without Gary.  It's not a one time thing.  Therefore, I'm committed to keep on looking to Him for joy and comfort in the midst of the unavoidable grief when it shows up.

By the way, there are still a few shirts hanging in the closet so I can touch them when I want, and remember including the orange shirt he's wearing in the photo.

"Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper.  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever." 

Psalm 30:10-12

Gary's Memorial Service can be viewed HERE.

 

 

My Grief Diary - Staying Busy

 

Projects help.  Tackling something I've been ignoring, feels good.  Accomplishing a goal is satisfying.  Being busy is a distraction from the sadness of Gary's absence.  A couple of weeks ago I freshened up my bedroom with paint, a new bed, and pretty bedspread,  I really had fun with this after so long with a hospital bed, and other medical things dominating our space.  Making Gary's eulogy video was a big project which I loved doing.  I guess necessary paperwork and legal things are a kind of "project" too, although, not my favorite.  Social Security had to be contacted, other things had to be cancelled or changed.  The loss of a spouse requires this kind of activity and there's been PLENTY of it.  I've been pretty busy.

Most recently, the project was a memorial album to contain all the lovely notes, cards and photos from Gary's memorial service.  After taking over my table for a couple of days, it is done.  I enjoyed putting it together and reading some of those lovely and encouraging notes for the first time.  It looks great and if you come over you will see it all finished on my coffee table.

...about staying busy...

It's easy to obsess about finishing something that is occupying my mind and house so sometimes the daily tasks fall by the wayside. 

I am really enjoying my new freedoms and the opportunity to tackle some fun projects but after the project ends, with more time to think, I am sometimes hit with sad moments.  

I am wondering how to balance my time.  When I was caring for Gary, I knew EXACTLY what God wanted me to do with my time.  But now...for the time being, I am "doing the next thing" and praying for direction for the big picture.

I am doing well, but don't feel as though I have found the balance yet.  Staying "busy" is fun and distracting, but I want to be thoughtful like David.  "Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me." Psalm 131  I get that it is important for me to take the time to feel but I want to feel with right perspective. 

an example from last weekend...

I had a fleeting moment of sadness and got misty yesterday in our Fellowship group at church.  I was passing the weekly sign-in list of names to my daughter, Sarah, and noted to her that her dad's name is no longer there.  She made the comment that his name is on a much better list.  That made me smile.  She was referring to the Lamb's Book of Life.  "He (Jesus) said to them....rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." Luke 10:20.  Good theology is encouraging in a time of grief. 

 

My Grief Diary - A Special Meal

(NOTE:  If you're looking for Gary's Memorial Video, you can find it on the Home page.)

I've been a widow for six weeks.  My encounters with grief have been varied and haphazard.  Sometimes sorrow surprises me, and at other times it builds up slowly.  

I don't have a clear view of what to expect, since everyone grieves differently but occasionally I hope to share a bit of what it's like, for me, and how I'm doing.  Actually, I've been grieving for many years.  Every time Gary reached a new limitation, I was sad for a time.  New losses brought new kinds of sorrow, but once we adjusted to our new situation, I found we could flourish within our limitations.  I'm expecting that process to continue.

Two days after Gary went to Heaven, I suggested that our family go to dinner at Gary's favorite restaurant.  "Damon's Steakhouse" has been a Glendale landmark since 1937, which explains why Gary's dad, Tom, used to go there on dates.  Gary and I used to go there on dates too.  In 1980 because of the Glendale Galleria project, Damon's moved to it's current location on Brand.  (Behind the Center Theater and right next to Porto's) Our family considered it THE place to go for celebrations. 

 

 

Somehow, it seemed strangely important to go there and eat a Top Sirloin, stuffed baked potato, salad (tossed at the table and with amazing dressing) and garlic cheese bread "for Gary."  I wasn't sure how emotional I would be, but I decided to "not care" and go anyway. 

 

 

 

 

 

The fun 50's Tiki-style motif was not lost on the kids.  While we waited for our food, we walked around and looked at the huge salt water aquarium and shell lamps.  There's even an outrigger canoe hanging from the ceiling with monkeys in it.  Once the food arrived and after we prayed, we dug in.  It was then that I was overwhelmed with joy mingled with missing my love.  I looked around the table at our dear ones, and wished Gary was with us, but at the same time I was so happy we were all together in one of Gary's favorite places.  So amongst my tears and smiles, memories flooded back into my mind.  Romantic dinners, anniversaries, birthday celebrations...  Gary, April and I had even had dinner there on our way to the hospital while awaiting the birth of Sarah's firstborn. 

 

The last time we were there was our anniversary in 2010, when Gary was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's.  The evening had a rough start, but eventually he (and I) both enjoyed ourselves, even though I knew at the time, it would likely be our last meal at Damon's together.  see photo ->

 

It's OK

As a grieving widow, I'm learning that it's ok to cry AND it's ok to laugh.  Remembering is a really good thing to do because it keeps the joy in your life along with the inevitable sadness.  I don't feel the slightest bit guilty for enjoying my meal six weeks ago.  Every bite and flavor reminded me of some very good times, and I'm grateful that God designed us with the capacity to enjoy the world He made, and miss those who added to it's beauty.

 

"A merry heart does good like a medicine." 

Proverbs 17:22

If you're in Southern California, and you want to make a memory with a good steak or seafood, click on the photo or HERE for info on Damon's.


 

Celebrating Gary's Life

It was a joy to celebrate Gary's life three weeks ago with many of you.  There are few events in my life that have been so meaningful.  Thinking through his whole life, as I wrote his story,  gathering the photos for his Eulogy, and selecting his favorite music, often brought me to tears of joy.  Over the most recent years, I've wanted new friends and younger grandchildren to know the "old," healthy Gary.  His memorial service was the opportunity.  Looking farther back, it always amazed me how Gary's life was transformed by God.  That was the best part of his story. 

April made the comment that "It's nice that we do Memorial services, because they give us a purposeful way to remember."  So true.  I'd been thinking about Gary's life for a long time during his steady decline, but planning this tribute has been a significant part of the grieving process for our family.  Many who attended, had the same experience.  We want to remember the things we love.  I love my husband, and many of you did too. 

Thank you to all our friends who helped our family realize the dreams and plans we had for this very special day.  And though Gary would not have wanted so much attention, we wouldn't have changed a thing. 

If you missed the memorial, you can watch it right here if you'd like. It includes tributes from family members, friends, and our Pastor John MacArthur, the Eulogy video, and reception photos.  It is not brief but of course, neither was Gary's life.  (If you are reading this via email, you'll have to click the "Read in Browser" link at the bottom of your email.) 

NOTE: My apologies if you already received this post.  I was having a problem with the RSS feed, and needed to republish the post for those of you who subscribe to my blog.

Celebrating Gary's Life

It was a joy to celebrate Gary's life three weeks ago with many of you.  There are few events in my life that have been so meaningful.  Thinking through his whole life, as I wrote his story,  gathering the photos for his Eulogy, and selecting his favorite music, often brought me to tears of joy.  Over the most recent years, I've wanted new friends and younger grandchildren to know the "old," healthy Gary.  His memorial service was the opportunity.  Looking farther back, it always amazed me how Gary's life was transformed by God.  That was the best part of his story. 

April made the comment that "It's nice that we do Memorial services, because they give us a purposeful way to remember."  So true.  I'd been thinking about Gary's life for a long time during his steady decline, but planning this tribute has been a significant part of the grieving process for our family.  Many who attended, had the same experience.  We want to remember the things we love.  I love my husband, and many of you did too. 

Thank you to all our friends who helped our family realize the dreams and plans we had for this very special day.  And though Gary would not have wanted so much attention, we wouldn't have changed a thing. 

If you missed the memorial, you can watch it right here if you'd like. It includes tributes from family members, friends, and our Pastor John MacArthur, the Eulogy video, and reception photos.  It is not brief but of course, neither was Gary's life.  (If you are reading this via email, you'll have to click the "Read in Browser" link at the bottom of your email.

Three Things (Tidbits & Treasures)

#1  "Bon Voyage, Jessica!"

This is Jessica.  She has been so helpful to me for over a year and is moving away to a home near the ocean.  Because she took care of so many "business-type" aspects for me at Colors By Laurie, it really expanded my creative time.  I painted a sailboat for her because she loves them, and it represents her new adventures now that she is out of high school.  I will truly miss her, and thank God for her.  "Bon Voyage, thank you, Jess!"

 

(I will have more to say about this painting in a Watercolor Journal post and it may become a print available to purchase.)


#2  "Life Partners"

 Ron/Julie Long, Don/Ann Sweetnam, Doug/Debi Wilson, Greg/Diane Roehr, Ric/Kathy Lebrecht, and our leaders, Ray/Barb Brown

Ron/Julie Long, Don/Ann Sweetnam, Doug/Debi Wilson, Greg/Diane Roehr, Ric/Kathy Lebrecht, and our leaders, Ray/Barb Brown

I have so much to say about Gary's memorial service, but for now, I couldn't wait to post these photos of some very dear friends.  This group from La Crescenta Baptist Church, was such a huge part of our life when we were first married and having our babies.  What a joy it was to see most of them together again. 

 

 Roehrs, Don and Chris Carlson, Lebrechts

Roehrs, Don and Chris Carlson, Lebrechts

We were so involved with each other outside of Sunday mornings, working on each other's homes and gardens, making Christmas gifts, beach days, and play-dates for the kids.  There were so many spiritually significant times too, as we learned God's plan for our lives and helped each other root out sin and grow together.  I love this group of people and hope we can do a better job of staying in touch.  It meant so much to me that they were able to come. I love them all!


#3 Relaxing With My Friend

 

I'm still adjusting to being a widow, and there has been much to do.  Paperwork, and decisions have been the norm here, since Gary's service.  I had scheduled a get-a-way with my friend, Christy, months ago for a couple of days this week.  With all the busyness, it comes at a good time, and thankfully, we'll be going up to the Central Coast, where we had gone with our husbands back in 2004. 

 

 

 

 

 

We have had little time to talk over the last few years, and I'm so happy we have time to catch up.

I was just here 10 days ago with the family, and it seems so soon to be back, but my friend and I are having a wonderful time. 

 

 

 

It was so funny today, when going in shops how often I found myself saying, "Gary would have loved this (thing)."  I don't know anyone who could "out-shop" him. 

I love thinking about Gary in this place.  It will always be a precious memory for me. 

Truly Comforting...

"...the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore, comfort one another with these words." 

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18


What's Next?

(A quick note here before I get started...  Our family wants to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you who came to Gary's celebration service on Saturday.  It was a truly wonderful morning.  Your presence with us was SO SPECIAL and my heart is about to burst with things I want to say about the morning.  That's for another post.   If you had to miss the service, it was recorded, and I'll let you know when it's available.)

Not sure what it will be yet...but right now, am basking in God's love, remembering my amazing husband, and thinking about the future.  In the three weeks since Gary's departure, many of you have asked me this question...

"So what are you going to be doing now?" 

Now that my number one love and ministry is not needing me anymore, my life is going to look a little different. 

One thing that struck me yesterday, is that the faithfulness of God has not diminished just because Gary is not here with me anymore.  God was faithful and good to Gary.  That was evident in his life.  The same faithful and good God is MY God too.  I am excited to see how He will display that in MY life in the years I have left. 

I don't know the details yet, but I do know some things for sure...  I want to spend more time with younger women, encouraging them to live lives pleasing to God.  (Titus 2)  I am looking forward to more time with grandkids so I can help them along the way as I enjoy them. 

"Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons." Deut. 4:9

As I move into my new role as a widow, there will be things to learn and discover.  Gary would want me to embrace it, and try to see God's work in my life.  There will be grief, but that is normal.  I will try to seek comfort from the Lord. 

In my home, Alzheimer's Disease is gone but I'm not walking away from those who are suffering from it.  I'm going to have more time now to help with our Alzheimer's Support Ministry at church.  I intend to continue making the little instructional videos to encourage care givers, and provide other resources as well.

Peace

I stood on our favorite beach yesterday, and cried, because the final chapter of Gary's life is finished, and I miss him.  It won't be the last tears, but there is peace in the missing.  It's so hard to explain and if you are a Christian, you know what I mean.  It's a deep-seated joy and comfort that comes from the One who gave His life in exchange for mine.  He said He would never leave or forsake me and he hasn't.  He said nothing would separate me from His love and it hasn't.  Gary is gone, but I am not alone.  I'm anticipating a closer relationship with the Lord, and new opportunities to see His grace and love in my life. 

I know there will be aspects of my future that will be really difficult but not impossible.  As you can see from this photo from Gary's Bible (Romans 8), nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ.  In verse 38 you can see that includes DEATH.  Gary has died, but lives on.  He is fine.  I am fine.  I'm very much loved by God, because I'm in Christ.'  v.39

There will be joyful and sad discoveries, strange new feelings, and things to learn in these next weeks.  I'm wanting to bring you along this next part of my journey too.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for listening.  I love to share with you and hope to continue doing so.