Thursday, October 9, 2008

To Really See The Hands of God...

"Into Your hands I commit my spirit,redeem me, Oh Lord, the God of Truth"
Psalm 31:5

So many people have made the comment that I am "strong" and they marvel at "my strength". In truth, this "strength" that I have is not me. Its something deeper than me. Something further than me. Its something that sustains me and can sustain you. This strength I walk in daily and find my comfort and peace was pre-ordained at this very moment for me. This strength that I have needed was prepared for me well in advance."For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord "plans to prosper you and to not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future..." Jeremiah 29:11I wanted to share the story of how gracious and good God is to me. Well before Shannon died, God prepared my heart for the very moment of Shannon's passing. There are things about the time before he died that will really show the greatness and mercy of God. There are ten things that God revealed to me about Shannon dying...things revealed years ago, things revealed not so long ago...each thing though bore a lesson for me to learn and brought a comfort to me in a time where most people crumble under the grief.
1. The Mantle. Years ago I came to the realization that God was passing the Mantle of Keith Green on to me. Keith Green has always been one of my favorite musicians. The first song I ever learned on the piano was a Keith Green song. When I was a senior I did a report on Keith Green's amazing life and untimely death. I had settled it in my heart that God was passing on the passion and talent of Keith Green to me. I had commented this to Shannon quite often and made the observation that Shannon's music was similar to Keith Green's in his chord structure, lyrics, spirit, etc. Shannon had said to me that he felt that when God said that the mantle was being passed to me, that it was really our union and ministry. Keith Green was at the height of his ministry and success when he died at 29.
2. The Revelation. When we got married God revealed to me that Shannon and I would only have 7 years. I never shared this with Shannon, because Shannon was so convinced that we would be together for 50 years or more. But each time Shannon would get sick, my heart would be reminded of the revelation that God revealed to me. He let me begin the preparations in my heart for losing the love of my life.
3. The Example. One of my favorite books is "Through the Gates of Splendor" by Elisabeth Elliot. I actually got the opportunity to meet Elisabeth Elliot years ago and did not know the full depths of the amazing woman of God I was meeting. I read her book after I met her. She lost her husband, and her book bears witness to her devotion to God and how she handled her life afterwards. I have had Elisabeth Elliot listed as my hero on my myspace page for years.
4. The Mirror Image. One of my favorite books of all time is "Maggie-Now" by Betty Smith. In a nutshell, Maggie-Now marries a man, they can't have a baby and eventually he dies. The books is written so beautifully that you feel like you are a part of the story. I have read this book probably a dozen times...I came to the realization that I was so similar to Maggie-Now a few weeks.
5. The Preparation. Its no secret. On April 17th of this year we would've been trying to get pregnant for 3 very long years. I am the type of person when you go through some major life issue, I read every book I can put my hands on and do as much research as humanly possible. I had read in several places that dealing with infertility was similar to working through the grief process. So for almost 3 years, I have learned the grief process and put into practice recognizing the signs and how to call them as they are and deal with them. Every single month, I went through this process. I was mentally building up the ability to handle traumatic situations and to see God through the situations. Now that I look back I thank God that we did not have a child. God knew that I couldn't handle being a single mother. He also gave us 4 1/2 beautiful years of an awesome marriage.
6. The Feeling. 3 weeks before Shannon died, I had this random, eerie internal conversation where I said to myself "I hope Shannon doesn't die" Then I talked myself through what I would do if he ever died. I think the movie "PS I Love You" or "Catch and Release" triggered this conversation in my head. I didn't think much of it at the time and just brushed it off. God let me start to think about the what-ifs...
7. The Contentment. On New Years Eve I made the public proclamation that in 2008 I would content in WHATEVER happened. I put that into practice and started leaning more on God and focusing less on the whole baby issue. Shannon and I began a merging of our souls, where we truly became one person. Our individual goals become our common goals. Our thoughts were centered on Christ and Each other. Our relationship had gone to an amazing new level.
8. The Peace. The day before Shannon left for Virginia, he stood in the kitchen exclaiming to me that he was in the best place he had ever been in his life. He said he was doing better mentally, physically (even using the phrase "that stomach stuff is way behind me now"), and spiritually. He said that for the first time in a very long time he was walking with God. When you lose someone you love, there's always that uneasiness about where they "go'. I had no question in my head about it. I knew that God had been preparing Shannon for his final departure. That god had arranged people in his path to encourage him and spiritually lift him up. He lived the last 2 months of his life with intense integrity, indescribable peace, and unstoppable faith.
9. The Promise. Years ago we went on a Sunday School trip to the mountains where a pastor spoke over me. I wrote down what he said. It never made sense until Shannon died. I'm only going to put bits and pieces of it, but you can totally get the picture..." shall see my power and my anointing flow through you...I have set you on this path and it is my desire to lead you and guide you into the fullness of my will for your life...follow my peace, follow my peace, and I shall lead and guide you in the things that still lie ahead. For you too this is a day of restoration. That which you've seen to consider lost, I still hold. Those things that have been trampled over and seem gone forever are still able in me...look for those things to be do not give up or give out, For I pour in today so that you may pour out"
10. The Future. God has spoken in my heart things about my future. Things that only He and I know. But He has given me a promise and a hope of what is to come.I stand amazed at the steps that God has ordered during this situation. God gave me 10 confirmations that this whole situation, as dire as it may completely in His hands. I see myself sitting in his hands...surrounded by His ten fingers... I sit in the palm of His hands, surrounded by his peace...He gave me these ten things to comfort and bring me hope about my future and my destiny. He gave me these promises and warnings and feelings so that I could prepare my heart for this event in my life. This event that drives people to the point of death and despair, this even that leaves people broken and lost forever...God has given me a supernatural peace and an insane faith to take what seems to a bad situation and has shown me that no matter what I do, what I feel, where I go...God is in control and everything is going to be okay.Most people take 12-18 months to really start healing from a traumatic situation like this. I thank God that I can say I am walking in that healing and my faith is being perfected through this. So I leave one final thought...right before the Sunday school trip, God lead me to a series of verses that revealed a huge message for me...for anyone really...

He IS our peace.
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life...Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus...Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all...I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances...Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that you may not be disabled, but rather healed...Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you...I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

When Shannon died, everyone seemed to have advice. But two pieces of advice stuck with me...first, you don't have to operate under anyone else's timetable regarding your healing and second, write down what you want in your future spouse and really strive to stick to it.

I came to the conclusion recently that I feel like I am ready to date. For some people this is an unfathomable concept to them..."it's only been 7 months". From that thought alone springs forth all sorts of judgment calls from other people, and judgment calls on yourself. You start to believe that everyone is judging you, that they are constantly thinking to themselves that you really didn't love your husband, that you disregard your marriage & think of it as nothing. That is further from the truth. As a widow that will always be a part of your heart that will belong solely to your first husband. Once you work through all your emotions, hurts, baggage, and memories, there exists in your mind a deep appreciation of your life with him, who you became because of him, and how special that relationship was. Even when you remarry (or if you don't remarry) there will always be that place just for him.

Personally I am still working through that place in my heart. Lately, it is developing into a deep sense of appreciation for the things I learned from him, with him, and through him. No marriage is perfect, as we all know it, but with each trial comes a deeper level of learning and character development. I loved Shannon insanely and intensely, but there were many things he did that hurt me deeply. It took losing him for me to unapck each unhappy memory, deal with it, and then focus solely on the beautiful memories we had. After practicing this excercise several times, you come to realize that you have more beautiful memories than bad ones, and that place in your heart becomes a sweet fountain of precious memories bursting forward.

When I finally settled it in my heart, that I think I have sufficiently healed emotionally, and that I am ready to dive back in to that scary world known as dating, I began to think alot about expectations. In my head I kept saying "my next husband won't do this" or "my next husband will be this way"... I invented my next husband to be perfect, without flaws, and ready to take me on as his wife and live happily ever after in our snowflake castle in the sky.

Then my internal brakes starting grinding to a sudden halt and I shouted to myself "Sarah Webb...your expectations are going to get the best of you. You need to start thinking".

Expectation brings manifestation, or so I've heard. But one thing I have learned through this journey is that unhealthy expectations, or unrealistic expectations, have a tendency to create a world that will bring more heartache than hope. Where do we draw the line though between what is a healthy expectation versus an unrealistic one? It begins by examining yourself and coming to an intense realization of who you are, where you are going, and who you want to be with when you get there.

My expectations about my future spouse were getting to the point where he was literally Superman, and we were going to have the greatest life ever. Once I discovered that I was going crazy with my expectations, I sat and really considered what I wanted in my next spouse. I first realized that he probably isn't going to be perfect and that we will have to work at our relationship. In addition, there are certain things I want him to be...I'm not by any means putting him into a box, but a few things I want is someone with integrity, someone who can laugh at me, someone who can appreciate my randomness, someone who will take care of me, etc. I also began attending a class on "Choosing Mr.Right", it outlines past relationships, expectations, and helps you to establish thought processes when considering relationships. In this class I began to think constructively about people I thought I would just "love" to date...I have an internal conversation with myself about the qualities that would make them a good husband, and then red flags that would be something I wouldn't want to deal with...and I discovered, that all these people that I would just "love" to date, I really don't want to date at all!

With all of this said, know what you want. Commit it prayerfully to the Lord, and really stick to your standards. My greatest struggle since Shannon has died has been my self-esteem, and I will not lie when I say that there are many times that I am so lonely, that I could fall in love with any guy that simply shows me attention. BUT. I know that I deserve better. I know that I owe it to myself to keep my standards high, know what I want, and simply pray daily for my future husband. Its easy to find a husband, however it takes alot more prayer, patience, and faith to find your soul mate.

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and
lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:3-6

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So this is where it begins...

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy,
He who goes out weeping carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him"
Psalm 126:5-5-6

You have woken up one day and become a widow. Thats all it took was one day. Your spouse might have been sick for a very long time and you have watched him suffer. He might have died in a freak accident that no one could see coming. He might have died peacefully in his sleep. No matter how he died, all it took was one day and you have entered into this scary and frightening world of widowhood.

There's nothing you can do to prepare for being a widow. No amount of books or counseling is going to help you get through this time. Being a widow is almost like becoming a first time parent. You can read every book on the face of the earth and get all the advice that people willingly lend, but nothing will truly prepare for the process until you are actively working through it and discovering for yourself what it entails. You will go through every range of emotion known to man. You will feel on some days that you are losing your mind, and on other days you will actually feel normal. On some days it will feel like the strength is literally seeping from your body and draining slowly from your spirit.


You will get through this.

This is my story. I am no expert by any means, but I have been where you are and I know how you are feeling. I have experienced the intense pain you are feeling and my prayer is that this blog will wrap its arms around your heart and help you through this time, because I know how lonely you are. I know how afraid you are of whats going to happen in the future. I know how much you miss him. I know that your heart is breaking and you feel completely alone.

But you aren't alone.

I got married young, at 21 after an 11 month courtship with Shannon. I knew we would get married and began asking him after a month of dating when he was going to propose. We had a beautiful marriage, full of romance, sacrifice, and joy. It was not perfect by any means. We endured his constant sickness, infertility, and the normal everyday hardships of marriage, but we made our marriage beautiful. We made it fun. We made it as happy as possible. Shannon had been sick with Pancreatitis off and on for the duration of our 4 1/2 year marriage, but each time he got better. Each time we became more appreciative of our time together, knowing how dangerous Pancreatitis was.

He went to visit some friends in Virginia one weekend and became ill. By the time I reached the hospital the next day he was incoherrent and slowly going into shock. The Drs put him into a drug induced coma and a ventilator, hoping to give his body a break. But as the week wore on, we knew that the inevitable was happening and he was dying. His organs had all began shutting down and he developed a serious blood coagulation problem and by Friday he had bled into his brain and he was essentially dead, only kept alive by those machines.

On Saturday morning at approximately 12:36am, I became a widow. In one day I lost my entire world, my best friend, my husband. In one day.

The process of grieving hasn't been easy or a fun experience, but I have learned a multitude of lessons that have enriched my life. Through this process I have learned things about myself I never knew and have learned things about the way I think about the future.

My prayer is that you will draw comfort, wisdom, humor, and love from this blog. I have been where you are and I know how much it hurts, but I also know how great is the love of God, and how His comforting embrace will sustain you.

"May your unfailing love be my comfort..."
Psalm 119:76a

Friday, September 12, 2008

Purpose :
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3