Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Pray, Plan, Prepare

           The holiday season is fast approaching and this is always a difficult time for windows. Since I am not a widow, I began to research the writings of widows, as well as professionals who work with widows. I’m grateful for their insights.
          Often the grieving dread the holiday season. Thoughts of family traditions, social gatherings, and tiring shopping can fill one with anxiety, leaving a widow feeling overwhelmed....

Let me say upfront, your holiday season probably won’t be easy; your emotions may ambush you. Let me assure you that this is perfectly normal.
          I looked into God’s Word for examples of strong women to see how they handled difficult, even life or death, situations. (While run-amuck-emotions at the holidays doesn’t equate with death, it may feel like it at the time.) Two women in the Old Testament stood out to me: Abigail and Esther. Let’s briefly look at the incidents in the lives of these two women and how they handled them, as they offer insights into how you can face the dreaded holidays.
Abigail humbling herself before King David.
   The story of Abigail is found in I Samuel 25. She was the wife of Nabal, a surly, self-centered man. King David sent a message to Nabal, asking him to show hospitality to him and his men since his men had protected Nabal’s shepherds. Nabal’s response was rude and insulting to David and his men and wouldn’t give them any provisions. Abigail knew this would not sit well with the King and she feared for the life of her family. Sure enough, David was greatly angered and planned revenge on this arrogant man, taking 400 soldiers with him. Abigail quickly devised a plan to circumvent this. She prepared a veritable feast for David and his men and took it to them personally, humbling herself before King David. David was indeed impressed with her gentle manner and the bounty with which she showered them and he directed his soldiers to retreat and leave her family, including her wicked husband, alone. 
The story of Esther is found in the Old Testament book that bears her name. She was a lovely young Jewish woman who had been chosen to be the queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus.  A high official in the palace devised a plan to kill all of the Jews. Not knowing that his wife was a Jew, the king agreed.  What was Esther to do? With some words of advice from her godly uncle, Esther decided to go to the king to beg for the life of her people; she did so knowing that she could be banished forever or even put to death since the king hadn’t sent for her. The first thing she did was to solicit prayer on her behalf. After much prayer, she did go before the king and was invited into his presence. Then, her plan began to unfold, step by step, where she pleaded for the life of her people and exposed the official who had devised the unthinkable plan to annihilate the Jews. It’s a very interesting story and I encourage you to read it.
 The one strategy that stands out to me in these stories is the ability of these women to devise a plan and prepare for how it would be carried out. Every professional stated the same thing. Plan for how you will celebrate the holidays.  Recognize that you will need support and set out a plan for getting it. Marta Felber in her book, Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies, suggests that you visualize how it might be without your loved one. Play the scene several ways.  Only after you have done this, begin to plan what you can handle and how. Try to have reasonable expectations. There are important ways in which celebrations will not and cannot ever be the same again. So it is okay to plan for them to be different. Be realistic about what you can handle and what you can’t, both emotionally and physically. Be kind to yourself and nurturing. Get plenty of rest and don’t attempt too much. Plan safe times and places to
grieve. Psychologist Dr. Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge states “Planning does help you to have a little control, even when you feel totally out of control. A healthy plan involves making decisions in advance about traditions, meals, time spent with others, holiday decorating, gift-giving and commitments.”
          I found the very practical suggestions by Feree Hardy on her Grief Share blog to be most helpful. Among them are these:
·       Be gentle with yourself.  If you’re grieving, you’re in a fragile stage – and that’s okay. You have nothing to prove.
·       Don’t set your expectations too high. Don’t plan to do everything you used to do before your loss. Set mini goals for yourself and take it one hour at a time.
·       Take time to be alone. Journaling may be a helpful and healing exercise during these reflection sessions.

·       Try serving. While alone time can be useful and helpful, it’s also important to have an outward-looking outlet. Sometimes seeing the situations and needs of others is just what we need to tweak our perspective and see a glimmer of hope in our own story.
·       Be flexible. Prepare your heart and mind in advance for the unexpected and commit to giving yourself grace.

·       PRAY! God is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). He is the father of compassion, the One who binds up the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). Use this raw period in your life to acknowledge your complete and utter dependency on Him, and He will uphold you and carry you through. He will never leave or forsake you.

 Always remember the words recorded in Psalm 31:3-5:
You are my cave to hide in,
my cliff to climb.
Be my safe leader,
be my true mountain guide.
Free me from hidden traps,
I want to hide in you.
I’ve put my life in your hands.
You won’t drop me,
you’ll never let me down.

May each of you have a peace-filled holiday season resting in God’s promises to always be your loving heavenly Father.

Message by Shari Hervold

The following are pictures of the ladies from our New Jersey chapter of Friends Needing Friends.  We all will be "Praying, Planning, and Preparing" for the coming holidays.

Psalm 46:1  God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

Psalm 147:3  He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

The following pictures are of ladies from the Florida chapter of FNF.

Dr. Geni Abraham was our teacher at our October meeting 
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Dotti Ackerman  Founder and Director of FNF
Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has madwe; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

"Through It All" By Lynda Randle