Category Archive: Change

So What’s Next?

The right engine died. The warning light flashed. “Turn off the generator.” As Captain KD Jost lifted his hand to hit the button, following protocol, he heard a voice. “Don’t hit the button.” Trained in the exact steps to follow in an emergency, KD hesitated. Once again he heard, “Don’t hit that button.” As he pulled his hand away from the button, the plane’s left engine stopped. Had KD turned off the generator the plane would have been totally without power, likely leading to a crash and multiple deaths.

Another Captain, a friend of KD’s, stepped out of the pilots’ rest area and into the cockpit on a transatlantic flight. The navigator jabbed at one knob after another, trying to get the instrument controls to work. The pilot was catatonic, unable to respond to the crisis. Realizing their flight was off track and they weren’t getting any instrument feedback, the Captain literally slid under the pilot’s body and pushed him out of the way in order to take control.  In addition to being lost, the plane’s gas was running low. “God, help me,” he prayed. And he heard, “95 degrees.”

Looking at the navigator, the Captain spoke. “I’m going for a 95 degree heading.”

“You can’t do that,” the navigator said. “We have no idea where we are.”

“Well, the instruments aren’t telling us anything and this is the most helpful input I have so I’m going with it.”

Wonderful time celebrating KD’s retirement

Following the 95 degree heading and knowing the gas tank was near empty, the Captain began his descent, still not knowing where he was or what would greet him when he broke through the clouds. But as he did, he saw the runway of the Azores straight ahead of him. And just as he landed, the empty gas tanks caused the engines to flare out. All on board were safe because the Captain listened to the clear direction of the Holy Spirit for that otherwise-doomed flight.

These were just two of many stories KD told this weekend as family celebrated his retirement after 38 years of commercial flying and training other pilots on the newest aircraft, including the United’s Dreamliner. Eighteen of us had a wonderful weekend celebrating, visiting, catching up on each other’s lives, learning to know and love each other more, laughing, and of course, eating!

So what’s next for KD and his lovely bride, Connie? “Probably staying home for awhile, resting up, then we’ll see where God leads.”

Retirement … a new beginning. The end of one stage of life and the beginning of another. As Jesus followers, our purpose goes beyond when the paid work stops. God has used KD to serve the needs of his passengers, his crew, his trainees. And His work through KD is not finished. And just as He directed KD, sometimes in miraculous ways, during his years as a pilot, He will continue to lead. Our God doesn’t change, nor does His directive to love and serve God and others end as we age.

Some retirees use their RVs to travel to disaster sites to help rebuild.

One of my best friends started a volunteer group helping first grade kids with literacy, through a program in which local churches partner with neighboring schools to help make an impact.

Still others host refugee families or serve in the Church in new ways.

Paul reminds mature women to teach or mentor younger women to live in such a way “that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:2). In other words, to live and mentor in such a way that our lives, and the lives of those we mentor, honor God and family. One of my greatest joys in this season of life is mentoring two younger women in their faith walks.

Scripture talks of “elders in the gates,” giving advice and sharing wisdom with people in their circle of influence. I think of the life experience KD, my husband Don, my brothers and other men I respect have and are able to share with younger men, both in life and in their walks with God.

At retirement the world says “Enjoy life. You’ve earned it. Take it easy. No responsibility.” But God says we are to honor Him all the days of our lives–whether relaxing and enjoying the blessings He has given us; or serving the church and others. And while we may move more slowly, be limited in some of our strength or capabilities, we can still pray. We can visit those in the hospital or in need; help at a food distribution center; offer rides to doctors’ appointments; and do all with joy and grace in the name of Jesus.

And our God has promised to be with us through every day, every year of our lives. In Isaiah 46:4 He promises “I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (NLT)

So retirement is not an end, but a beginning, as we look to God, asking, “So what’s next?”

If you’re retired, where do you feel the most joy? If you’re not yet retired, what are you looking forward to in that season of your life?

Making Room for Love–a Second Time Around

Falling in love and committing to a new marriage after losing a spouse took time. Was I willing to join my life with another after having been widowed? Did loving someone new mean I loved my first husband less? Was it in any way a betrayal of our love?

I wasn’t the only one who had the question. My friends also wondered how, when Jerry and I loved each other deeply, I could make room for another man in my life.

When I emailed a photo of Don to two of my close girlfriends, one wrote back a very short response. “Wow. Didn’t expect that. Wow.” I asked what she meant. She thought Don looked very much like an older Jerry. I didn’t see that resemblance myself, but I think my friend wondered if I was trying to replace Jerry.

Later she and I had another conversation where I tried to explain what it was like to love again. “It’s like I have two windows in my heart; Jerry is in one and now Don is in the other; it’s not a replacement, but rather an addition.” And what an addition, a gift from our good Father, he is!

On a recent trip to Israel together

Since Don is significantly older than I am (‘tho young in mind and body!) my friends also feared watching me go through go through widowhood again. It wasn’t easy the first time, for any of us. Not only did they love me; they loved my husband. And they watched me grieve, wept with me, let me go through the steps I needed to in order to heal. They didn’t want to see me in that kind of pain again.

But for me, the choice was to enjoy this second love for whatever time God gives us–or to walk away from it in order to protect my heart. I had asked God that if He had someone else for me, to bring that man to me. I didn’t want to be part of the dating game. While that works and is probably fun for some, it’s not where I wanted to spend my energy.

So God brought this gracious, loving man to me (and me to him) when Don and I met in a widow/ widower grief recovery group about two years after Jerry’s death. Neither of us attended the church where the group met; we came from homes twenty-seven miles apart…not in the same geographic location at all. While it took me awhile to commit, once I met Don there simply wasn’t anyone else for me. A God-thing, no doubt!

Seeking God’s guidance

God has blessed many wonderful women (and men) with the gift of being single after death or divorce. Their lives are full and complete as they follow Him in that new life, unless or until God brings someone else to them. But as more of my friends are widowed, I remember the adjustments needed both by my friends and myself in entering a new marriage. God may bring another special person along: making room for that someone is not only a process for the single person, but also for her family and friends. Honor that. Talk to them about your feelings, needs, desires; help them to know your new love so they can accept and begin to appreciate and love him (or her) too, as my friends have done.

And when feelings are hurt, as mine were when my friends didn’t understand, trust God. Talk about it, to God first. Ask Him for direction for yourself, and also for their openness. I realized that I’d rather have five good years with Don than none! (And we’re now in year eight, for which we both thank God.) And I needed to trust God and my friends with the rest.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Helen Keller

If you’ve lost a partner to death or divorce, how is God meeting your needs for comfort and companionship?

BROKEN DREAMS, FULFILLED

My dream

As a little girl, I dreamed of the day I would walk down the aisle in a white gown, a long lace veil and train following the billowing skirts of my Cinderella gown. Babies would follow and a tall, handsome man and I would share a home filled with laughter and love. A white picket fence would surround our house. It was a picture-perfect scenario.

But God led me another way. I served with an inner city ministry for ten years, then married for the first time at the age of thirty-six. Lots of conversations with my new husband centered around if, and when, we might try to have a child, or children. My husband was nine and a half years older than I. One concern was that our children, if we had any, would have significantly older parents than most of their peers. When our child was 20, we could be 58 and 68 respectively. We prayed, talked, I cried, we talked more … and determined that for us, bearing and raising children might not be the best option.

One Mother’s Day I cried through the whole church service. I cried throughout the afternoon and evening. My kind husband tried to comfort me, but my dream of being a mother was dying, and I grieved. Time healed the grief and my husband and I shared a lovely life together until his untimely death at the early age of 66. After his passing, I thought I might remain single; a few years later, however, God brought Don into my life. We fell in love and married.

         Mom and three of her four children

Today we celebrated another Mother’s Day with my sweet 95-year old mother. We are so blessed that this lovely, gracious woman is still with us, praying for us, making us laugh with her hearing loss that results in some pretty hilarious conversations.

And that dream of mine that died years ago? This week I received a beautiful note from a younger woman I led to Christ about a year ago. “You have been like a mother to me…” she wrote. As tears filled my eyes, I thought of the ways God has fulfilled my dream – in an out-of-the-box kind of way. I’ve had the privilege of discipling several women over the years, and now have two wonderful women whom I have the joy of loving and teaching and walking alongside in their relationship with Christ. My oldest brother asked today, “Carol, is Mother’s Day hard for you since you don’t have children?” I responded immediately. “No, because God has given me spiritual daughters.” Oh, I feel a twinge now and then … like when I chose not to take the “Mother’s Day mug” from church this morning because I am not a mother in the traditional sense. But those twinges don’t last long.

So, my point? God is not limited to one way of answering prayer. This is a hard day for many women – women who have never had a loving relationship with their mother; women who long to bear children and can’t, for a variety of reasons. Women who have carried a child who died in utero, in birth, or after birth. My heart goes out to each of you, for the grief you feel and the heartache that bubbles to the surface on this day.  But let’s also ask God to help us recognize His “out-of-the-box” handprint on our lives.

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5 NIV

Question: How have you seen God’s handprint on your life in unexpected ways?

HABITS – OUT WITH THE BAD, IN WITH THE GOOD

Did you know that 60% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail at keeping them? Yet people continue to make resolutions year after year, hoping this time “it” – whether it’s weight loss, exercising more, eating more healthily, drinking less, spending more time with the family, or something else – will work.

BUT … how about habits? We know it’s easier to develop habits than it is to stop them. Pastor Rene’s research revealed that the habits we develop – positive or negative – change neurological pathways in our brains. So how do we develop life-giving habits? Part of the answer is superseding negative patterns with positive ones that create new neuro routes in us.

One of my negative behaviors used to involve an addiction to Diet Coke. I felt regular cravings – for the flavor, and the bubbles … ahhh, the sweet bubbles. My husband periodically told me he would like me to stop drinking D.C., knowing the chemicals in the soda could be damaging. I’d stop – for a month, eight weeks – then I’d grab a Diet Coke again and go right back into the cycle of drinking one, or several, of these a day.

Sometime last year I determined to STOP. And with God’s help, I did! I’m now D.C.-free. And it feels good. But to change a habit, I couldn’t just focus on what I should NOT do. I needed to replace that old pathway with a new one. I have learned to love good, cold water!

Rene talked about the cue – in this case, thirst; the routine – drink a soda; and the reward – the sensation of bubbles cooling my throat.  I had to replace my routine by drinking, and growing to appreciate, refreshing water. My reward is a greater sense of well-being, along with quenched thirst. But I had to trust in God’s power to help me make this change for good. “For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-b13)

While changing that habit may be a very small piece of God’s purpose in my life, by trusting Him with my this issue, I acknowledge my need for His power in every area of my life.

So what’s the next habit I want to change? Hmmm … you first.

 

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After the Death of your Spouse

When you lose a partner, best friend, and lover, depression creeps in like a fog. You may lose social connections you shared as a couple and will need to make some new friends. Your husband may have taken care of the bills, house repairs, and yard. Planning and meal preparation, laundry, and carpools may have been part of your role. Now you have to do it all. Adjusting to single life is not easy, especially if you have children. Here are a few additional tips to help you wade through deep waters to your new normal.

Whatever your grief responses, they are NORMAL.  Grief comes in waves. Sometimes I jumped the wave, occasionally even crested it, then another capsized me and I didn’t think I could go on. You’ll experience the continuum of grief, which typically includes between five and seven stages depending on how you identify them.

Five Stages of Grief

                         Five Stages of Grief

  • Denial (This isn’t happening to me!)
  • Anger (Why is this happening to me?)
  • Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
  • Depression (I don’t care anymore.)
  • Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes.) 
    • from John H. Sklare, Ed.D, LifeScript Personal Coach

Confusion, loss of focus, and profound fatigue are typical and will pass in time. Accept your current scattered mind and, if possible, laugh at yourself. When my father was dying, a kind nurse told Mom, “When you put the ice cream in the dishwasher, don’t worry. You’re not losing your mind; you’re grieving.”

Seven Grief Stages

Seven Grief Stages

The chart below identifies grief in seven stages.

Because you will feel vulnerable and deal with all the painful emotions that accompany your enormous loss, it is wise to take some extra safety precautions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not meet strangers at your home alone; provide only necessary information; avoid telling relative strangers that you’re widowed. When I sold our second car, I met potential buyers at a location away from my house. No one knew my address until I sold the car and gave the pink slip to the buyer. I also asked either my brother or a male friend to meet strangers together with me for additional protection/safety.

Culprits prey on the vulnerable, lonely, and elderly. Carpet, roofing and painting contractors, repair-persons, and especially solicitors, have no need to know you are alone. I wore my wedding ring and kept “the Nicolet residence” and “we” on my answering machine for a long time after becoming a widow.

Consider joining a support group. After a few months, you may want to participate in a grief recovery group through your church or a community organization. Talking with others facing a similar loss can provide a safe place to express your emotions, share information, and learn ways to deal with your grief. To find Christian resources and/or a support group in your area, contact www.griefshare.org.

Take care of little needs.  Despite my down comforter, I faced many winter nights when, chilled from the inside, I couldn’t get warm. One night, shivering, I called a close friend. She told me to “go to Long’s right now and buy a heating pad.”  With a coat over my pajamas, I did just that, and slept better with the added warmth. I also purchased a body pillow so I had something to hold onto. Your body experiences tremendous shock with the death of a loved one, so sleep when you need to, and can.

Recognize your limitations. For some time after Jerry’s death I continued to mentally rehearse different scenarios. What if we tried another treatment alternative? hadn’t had the transplant? What if we’d had the transplant done somewhere else? But Jerry and I made the best decisions we could at the time, in prayer and with the information we had. So did you. Forgive yourself if necessary.

Finally, take heart. There is hope. Relying on Jesus a day at a time to meet your needs, comfort you, and change your dreams is an ongoing process, and will not occur easily or quickly. I learned to count on God’s promise: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).  Choose life, one day at a time.

 

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