Part II was our incredible journey through ALS , the roller coaster of losses suffered and wisdom gained. I ended that writing with these words. “Now about tomorrow, dear reader, I believe we should and can rejoice in today. It is, in fact, God’s gift that we woke up breathing. Therefore, He has good things for you, right here, right now. Today can be the best day of the rest of your life.” Little did I know that I would live a life packed with vitality, new adventures, and’ starting over’ surprises in every aspect of my life.
Shall we pick up the story there?
As a young woman I had a naive understanding of Psalm 139: 13--16. I loved the thought that God had created me with intention, weaving into those cells of potential the capability to step up to every adventure in my life. I loved the assurance that He already knew each day, ‘before one of them came to be.’ Tests came, and He proved himself. But loosing Bob was huge. My life seemed like a whole lot of gray, a blank slate, a tiny hiding place under a huge rock, almost an out of body experience with time standing still. How could I have written, “Now about tomorrow, dear reader, I believe we should and can rejoice in today. It is, in fact, God’s gift that we woke up breathing. Therefore, He has good things for you, right here, right now?”
I can only answer for then, blind faith. For today, real sight. Here’s how it happened.
The first year of my singleness, I took 8 trips, 3 of them over seas. I often traveled trying to connect with Bob’s memory, visiting places he had been without me. attempting to sense his vigor and his passion again. That resulted in a trip to Burkina Faso, Africa. The radio folks there, knowing I was then a widow, knew also that I was a Bible teacher. They asked if I would speak to widow’s groups while I was there. My answer to the opportunity to open the Word is always, “Yes.” Day after day I taught hundreds of young hungry widows of God’s love for them. On the seven month anniversary, I spent a troubling night, in a lonely hotel room in Ouagadougou wrestling with God. Why weren’t there more resources, more support for these women in their loss? It wasn’t just about them. It was about me. Why wasn’t there more comfort, more support for me, Lord! Why?
I began to sense somewhere within that I was to start something.
It seemed logical to start an organization with the goal that it would be a charitable organization to help widows. My daughter wisely advised that this be a new, independent incorporation. With fragile steps I began the process. God empowered me through an unlikely adventure.
A ‘just do it’ wake up call came in the Dominican Republic. I was treasuring a week of rest and relaxation after four of the hardest years of my life. It was my first trip alone. While I had expected to rest and read, I found myself signing up for any, and all activities: snorkeling, horseback riding, and learning to sail a catamaran.
Being the only single woman to sign up for solo sailing lessons, my instructor eyed me with little enthusiasm and told me where to plant myself on the canvas. My eager attitude was soon deflated. “You can’t learn this. I’ll take you for a ride, and we’ll go back.”
Wrong, I thought.
On my fourth lesson (and after my requested change of instructors), my new instructor said those delightful words: “You can dump me now.” I was on my own.
There are no words to describe being alone on that canvas, gripping the rudder, feeling the wind at my back, and racing out into the Atlantic. “Honey, can you see me?” I shouted to the sky. It was as if he answered, “You’ll do this and more, Sweetheart, and I’m not surprised.”
Back home, after I described my adventure to my family, my grandson asked, “Nana, weren’t you afraid?”
“No,” was my definite answer. “If I failed and drowned, I’d see God and Grandpa. If I succeeded, I’d have sailed a catamaran—solo. Nana has nothing to lose.”
God used this adventure to reveal an inner strength that he’d planted in those cells of conception. He was changing, “Miriam might,” to “Miriam can,” to “Miriam will.”
I am reminded of an old saying, God does not do something through you until He first does something within you.
I returned with a mission, a passion, even at times a reckless abandon to just do the next thing. It would be all about widows based on God’s heart and His word.
Widow Connection incorporated, became a 501(c)(3), grew this website as a resource for widows, and we did not stop there. Moody Press published From One Widow to Another: Conversations About the New You. We added more resources to the website.
But how do people know the website exists? How do we get the word out? Radio! The direct impact of seeing media through Bob’s profession--a thread that God knew I would need--gave me the answer. I canvased his media friends for advice. Their unanimous input was ‘free air’ was only available for one minute features. And the feature needed to appeal to a broad audience. New Beginnings, was our answer. Our focus was on starting over, whether from financial turmoil, divorce, or loss of any kind. That feature is carried on over 1200 outlets and points many to Widowconnection.com. Opportunities have come to speak at events more varied than I ever imagined. Women’s groups, yes. Grief and support groups also. Consulting with wealth management groups has been a delight. They’re eager to learn how to better serve us.
God has been busy proving “He has good things for you, right here, right now.” You need not look upon me with pity, my friend, even though I’m lonely and miss Bob only on the days I’m breathing. I have a rich, full, rewarding life with no lack of adventure, challenges, and blessings.
Part three would not be complete without me inviting you to glimpse a ‘shout out’ applauding God for using what I thought was a ‘throw away’ skill from my past in my new life today, and an “Opps” event in which God had to reign me in, and instruct me in a very important lesson.
A ‘Shout Out’ applauding God.
As Widow Connection grew and widows and others were blessed, God prompted us to reach out to help other less fortunate widows than ourselves. Who were they and where were they? Instantly, the hungry faces of the young widows flooded my mind and heart. Aids, wars and clan strife, motor and cycle accidents, and abandonment have created a crisis of young moms with no resources for themselves nor their orphan children. With generous gifts from individuals and some companies, we had a plan.
Widow Connection sponsored Africa Sews for the Mukhotweni village in Mozambique. We would deliver 5 treadle machines to be used by 20 widows identified as those most in need. I should have known challenges were ahead when the airport experience in Maputo--arriving alone with no contact information--was a disaster. That nightmare resulted in what I believe was an angel to the rescue. You may doubt or question that. I don’t. God showed up in a beyond normal way. Through this harrying experience I believe that if I have a guardian angel, he is weary, has tattered feathers, and is pleading with God for a different assignment. Miriam was requiring too much supervision! This project would require wisdom beyond my own, persistence, and God's definite intervention.
All of that was true. However, how do you describe the look of hope and elation on the face of a young widow, nursing baby on her back, finally 'getting it.' She's gone from treadling backwards and forwards in frustration to making that machine sing--forwards! That look of hope and joy was my reward! I'll briefly summarize the facts.
Goal: a self sustaining, 6 month, $3,000.00 project in which 20 women can realize some income. Fact: more time and more funds would be needed.
What I learned: Welcome to Africa! Returning and talking to people who've done work there, this was only a surprise to me! This is normal in many mission projects, especially in villages.
My throw away skill.
As a child I was taught by Grandma Hatie to sew on our Singer treadle machine. Little did I think that after university training, being a professional counselor, author and speaker, I would ever need this skill again.
In the village, the trainer who was hired had never trained nor taught before. In fact, she went to sleep leaning her head against the thatched wall. Solution: with my teaching and treadle skills, I became the instructor.
With an awesome translator, I conducted a morning and afternoon class each of 10. Yes, they were eager learners. And, yes, they took me to see their homes, (i.e. huts) and their plots of maize. I shared Bible stories of widows before each class and we connected in ways that would have never happened had I not become their teacher.
Proving Psalm 139: 16, God knew I would need to have that little girl skill. He would polish and use it in the Mukhotweni village in Mozambique.
Challenges: three machines had to be returned. (Rebuilt and not working was confused with New) Widows need not work on inferior, frustrating machines. A trainer and fabric purchaser needed to be found to oversee the project. Traveling alone is something I can do, but might not be the ideal.
Oh yes, sleeping in a hut under a mosquito net on very hot nights was a test for me. But looking up into the Southern Hemisphere with star diamonds piercing the complete blackness was beyond description. I never acquired a taste for pumpkin leaves and tsema, but I tried.
My “Opps” adventure
i.e. Focus, Miriam. That’s NOT what I want you to do. Signed, God
God’s creativity in designing us each uniquely is a precious, tender gift not to be misused. Its not ours to be squandered or claimed as OUR ability, instinct, or strength. Its His.
God wired me up uniquely, as He does each of us, with little fear and lots of initiative which might also be called impulse. These characteristics have been a blessing--mostly. As a jogger, I’ve run without fear through Moscow, in Tirana, Albania, and across farm land in Romania. I’ve driven through parts of Chicago lost, places I should not have been. My husband and I did not hesitate to step into the unknown, like adopting children and agreeing to be bus sponsors in Russia to an area we’d never visited, not knowing the language, and responsible for 30 other trusting folks.
No problem. Until Crater Lake, Oregon, summer 2010.
An excellent balance for ministry, which at times is heavy, is to get out and hike. I did that with a group of friends through Oregon. I was unaware of its incredible beauty: acres of ocean side dunes, seascapes both rugged and gentle dotted with light houses, and Crater Lake: the deepest, most blue, and cold lake in the United States. To hike around it is not enough. To boat across it is not enough.
A cliff hanging 30 feet above the water was an opportunity for adventure. I’d jumped 20 feet into the warm waters of Table Rock Lake, Missouri. Why not try this? A few other youthful adventurers were. Why not me? Up I clamored. The sky was beyond beautiful. There are no words to describe the blue of water that draws you, compels you to enter.
Oblivious to diving wisdom, pencil form would have been good. I leaped out into space in an ethereal embrace oF
beauty I thought was reserved only for heaven. It seemed like a long, slow float.
And then I hit. Instantly I knew something was wrong. Pain indeed, and cold--66 degrees entering every pore, but not enough to block the incredible pure blue beyond description! It did seem like a long tread to the surface, something that might have prompted fear in another soul. Eventually I surfaced and was able to swim to where I could clamor out on the rocks.
A once in a life time adventure! But persistent pain did not go away. With the help of Motrin, I finished the week of hiking and went home to heal. When pain doesn’t go away, eventually even we stubborn souls see a doctor. Verdict: a burst fractured vertebra with bone collapsed and protruding up against the spinal chord. The difference between being in a wheel chair for the rest of my life? One inch. An unknown? Could I have swam to shore had that bone moved that one inch?
On return trips to the doctor, brace treatment, etc, it seemed everyone in every office knew I was the woman who jumped. I grinned at them sheepishly hoping somehow to be remembered with a grain of intelligence, rather than the woman of impulse.
Its hard to keep a secret when you’re wearing a body brace neck to hips. “What happened?” I wished I could answer with something rational, reasonable, “I was in a car accident.” ‘I fell.‘ ‘Ice patch down hill skiing.’
But those would be lies. So I explain my leap. “You what?” is one response. Laughter and then unsuccessful attempts to suppress it are common. “Cool” my wrestling grandsons friends exclaim. That puts me in a class by myself as a Nana.
I share this story for a purpose beyond humiliating myself. God taught me an important lesson through this. Canceling a trip to Guatemala and postponing going to Africa were disappointing. In my conversations with God He clarified to me that He had plans for me and things yet to accomplish that were His agenda. He also clarified that cliff leaping was impulse for me at this stage gone awry. No more. Live life with a bit more care and respect for the only body He will provide. Fun, swimming and hiking, “Yes!” Cliff jumping “No.”
What’s ahead? If hindsight is any indication, my future and the future of this ministry will be full of growth and surprises. Even at this stage of life, God is taking Scripture I pondered in my youth, fleshing out the meaning, and making it alive within me.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
I can with confidence report what I said ending Part II.
Now about tomorrow, dear reader, I believe we should and can rejoice in today. It is, in fact, God’s gift that we woke up breathing. Therefore, He has good things for you, right here, right now. Today can be the best day of the rest of your life.