My niece and her husband, two children and a large dog just moved to Savannah, Georgia. They left behind family support and friends. It’s a difficult adjustment. Their move brought to mind some of the adjustments I’ve faced in life. Not easy, and yet God has been with me in and through each, both the joyful and the painful ones.
Ministering in the Los Angeles ghetto in my early twenties, I was in a different environment and culture than the one in which I’d grown up. God was at work. Over time, the neighborhood where we lived, and those with whom I served, became family.
I left Los Angeles at 31 under difficult circumstances, and began work in the corporate world while exploring (with help) the reasons I felt compelled to leave that ministry. I wondered if God could still use me. But I found I enjoyed the change and had opportunities to share Christ right where I was.
ADJUSTMENT…TO MARRIAGE, AT AGE 36
I met, dated and married Jerry at 36 (he was 46). At our ages, we debated whether we should have children. After praying and talking a lot, we decided having children was not the best decision for us. I remember that Mother’s Day. At church, I received a white carnation (women who were not mothers) rather than a red one. I cried throughout the service and wept all day. I grieved the loss of a dream. Jerry tried hard to comfort me, but I needed to release that grief.
He and I shared a wonderful life together, enjoying ministry, as well as nieces, nephews and friends we loved. We were blessed with twenty and a half years together, working, ministering, water-skiing, traveling, laughing, and doing life. Were there rough patches? Absolutely. For years Jerry had little or no energy and I didn’t understand his lack of drive until we learned he had Stage 4 Liver Disease and, possibly, pancreatic cancer.
ADJUSTMENT…TO A TERMINAL ILLNESS
We treasured the last year and a half of his life. We moved to Florida, where Stanford thought Jerry would get a liver and pancreas transplant sooner than in the Bay Area. A godly family with eleven children (now twelve!) lent us the use of their home rent-free while they took their family to minister at another campus for the summer.
Jerry got his transplant the weekend of July 4th, 2005. He struggled to live for five months, most in the Intensive Care Unit. I was surrounded by love and grace—a church body our home pastor introduced us to, wonderful doctors, nurses, and a lovely Christian Physicians’ Assistant. At 83, my sweet mother flew out to be with us, by herself, five times. My family and friends loved us, helped in various ways, visited and prayed for us. But on November 27th, God took my beloved home into the arms of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
ADJUSTMENT…TO GRIEF AND LONELINESS
I felt like my heart was gone, that all that remained was a huge, empty hole. I ached, I wept, I hurt. I was numb. And yet, as soon as Jerry died, God reminded me of His promise.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
That verse reminded me that while God’s work for Jerry on earth was complete, mine wasn’t. God still had a purpose and a plan for me. I knew I needed to honor both God and Jerry by going on. But the adjustment to being single again was painful.
I was lonely, and through a divine appointment, met Mary McHenry, who let me borrow one of her dogs, Kelly, for a weekend to see if my allergies could handle having a dog in the house. And I fell in love…and purchased Kelly (Kelly is no longer with us but we have her sweet grand pup, Paige.)
ADJUSTMENT…TO MEETING SOMEONE NEW
I thought I might be single for the rest of my life. Two years after Jerry’s homegoing I’d started writing, bought Kelly, and was beginning to enjoy life in little and larger ways. I asked God if He did have someone else for me, to kind of drop him in my lap. I didn’t want to be part of the dating game.
I became a trainee in a widow and widowers’ grief support group. Don had just lost his wife and walked up the stairs to the meeting room. I looked at him and thought “He’s a little older than me, but he’s cute!” (Exact words.) Tall, gracious, kind, and intelligent, he interested me.
As we learned to know each other better we found much in common.
- Our backgrounds, both families having emigrated from Ukraine but fifty years apart
- Don’s brother and sister-in-law had been at my first wedding, and had supported me in my ministry in the ghetto; and the clincher…
- Don’s sister-in-law was my mother’s first cousin (no blood relative!).
Our interests aligned. And I saw Don’s heart as he took a younger, recovering alcoholic from the group under his wing. Eventually Duane lived with Don, then with us after our marriage, until shortly before Duane’s death at age 59.
I was pretty independent by this time. But God showed me what a gift Don was to me. We fell in love and married two and a half years later. We’ve been blessed with thirteen and a half (those halves count!) years together to date.
ADJUSTMENT…TO A NEW PARTNER
We married, and life with a new partner is exciting and a great blessing. And it was another adjustment, physically, emotionally and geographically.
And I may be widowed again one day after a second gift of a wonderful marriage. I rely on Don a great deal, and if God takes him home before me, I will again need to adjust to being alone with Jesus. I don’t look forward to that day, but God has taken me through widowhood once, and will do it again, if necessary.
ADJUSTMENTS…BUT THE SAME GOD
Our pastor reminded us last week that God’s love for us is the same when we have faithful victories and fearful defeats. His love does not change. https://www.carolloewen.com/what-storms-do-you-face/
YOU ALONE ARE GOD
Pastor Joe read the story of Elijah. The Israelites were being led away from God to worship false gods, including Baal.
This amazing prophet led in a master demonstration of God’s power (when the priests of Baal prayed, begged, cut themselves asking Baal to send fire down on their sacrifice after Elijah challenged them to an “altar duel,” if you will. Baal didn’t answer. Nothing.
Then Elijah poured huge amounts of water over his sacrifice, the rebuilt altar of God, and a moat about three feet wide around the altar and asked God to show that He was the true God. And God showed up, flames eating the sacrifice, wood, altar stones, and the water in the ditch surrounding the altar.) Read the whole story in the book of I Kings, chapter 18.
You’d think after such a victory Elijah would feel on top of the world. But no, the evil queen Jezebel told him she was going to kill him by the next day. So he ran.
Pastor Joe reminded us our fear can easily replace faith. Our fear impacts how we see God. When we fear, we are saying God isn’t able to handle this situation. I’ve been there. https://heycreativesister.com/faith-vs-fear-quotes/
God asked Elijah what he’s doing hiding. And in essence He said “You’re hiding in a cave, but I call you to anoint kings.” God’s plan is so far above our little plans for ourselves. He alone knows what His plan for you and me entails. We need only trust one step at a time as He leads.
This morning Pastor Joe’s bottom line was this:
God uses the gaps in our lives (those times when we don’t see His hand or feel His touch) to keep us close to His heart.
May the adjustments, the gaps God allows in our lives help us choose to trust the God of the universe, who gave His life to pay the penalty for our sin and draw us closer to Jesus.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:7-8 NIV