Over the past {almost} 13 months, I’ve had the opportunity to talk
with lots of people . . .

I’ve been able to “live outside of” my own memories of November 5, and
to hear their memories of that day.  It’s been very insightful to me
to be able to have these conversations.

I think so often when we are thrust into the middle of any type of
“crisis” situation, it is so easy to reflect only upon ourselves and
the way we were affected, and we forget the broad reaching effect of
the “event”.

I’ve been able to talk to some of those people who are/were closest to
Rickey and me and to hear where they were, what they were doing, when
they got the news that Rickey had gone to Heaven . . . sometimes I
forget – I know “my” story so well, but Rickey touched so many, many
lives, that everyone who knew him has a story as to “how” they learned
of his accident.  It reminds me how much he was, and I am loved when
people share with me.

There are MANY of these stories I could share – from my Pastor’s wife
and my assistant Pastor’s wife.  From the family whose house Rickey
was at (and that’s an AMAZING story!) to the funeral director . . . and on and on . . . 
so many stories that though difficult to hear and share, each one healing
in its own way.

One of the families who has endured the pain with me is my best
friend, Donna’s family.  Not only has Donna walked the road of
grieving with me, but she has walked it with her husband, Jim as well.
 Rickey and Jim worked together – for over 10 years.  They were like
brothers.  They often spent more time with each other than they did
with us (Donna & myself!).  They worked, they talked hunting, they
talked life, they played cards, they laughed . . . they were GOOD
friends!  So when Rickey died, Donna grieved, and Donna supported not
only me, but also Jim . . . she is the sister I never had.  This past
Sunday, Donna & I went on the annual “Ladies Shopping Trip” with our
church.  As we took the exit ramp for our first stop, she said “Here
is my PTSD spot”. . . . She then recalled to me, the moment she took
the phone call about Rickey’s accident, as she and another friend were
headed for a fun day of shopping, that instead ended up in the
hospital E.R.  Memories both of us wish we didn’t have – yet a chance
to talk – lovingly about Rickey.  And about Heaven.  And about how
awesome it must be to be there.  About how God IS in control – ALL THE
TIME, even when it doesn’t seem like it to us.

I’m reading again through my “Jesus Calling” devotional.  The one my
sweet sister-in-law gave me last year – right after Rickey died.  It’s
different reading the daily devotionals this year than it was last
year.  When I read them this year, I am reminded of where my
“strength” last year came from!  Here are “excerpts” from some of the
readings over the past weeks and my thoughts as I re-read them this

“Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.  That is why I have
instructed you to give thanks for everything . . . there is an element
of mystery in this transaction:  You give Me thanks (regardless of
your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances)
. . this is a spiritual act of obedience – at times, blind obedience.”
Give thanks in EVERYTHING . . . that was commanded to me.  Not to
understand everything.  Not to like everything.  But, to give thanks .
. . in EVERYTHING . . . so each day, I determined to find the things
that I was thankful for.  And, in doing so, some of the sting was
taken out of this adversity.  As time moved forward, there were more
things and new things to be thankful for each day!  I CHOSE to give
thanks – REGARDLESS of my feelings, and God did give JOY – REGARDLESS
of circumstance – and trust me, it WAS blind obedience – especially
those first few months!  And in that obedience, God restored me –
daily – and brought new blessings to my life!

“A thankful mind-set does not entail a denial of reality with its
plethora of problems. Instead, it rejoices in Me, your Savior in the
midst of trials and tribulations . . . I am your refuge and strength,
an ever-present and well-proved help in trouble.”
I like this one – even more as I re-read it this year.  It is an
acknowledgement that there are problems we will face – a PLETHORA of
them, but to CHOOSE to rejoice in our Lord & Savior in the MIDST of
them provides us with our refuge and strength. HE will be (is, most
definitely) our ever present help in trouble!

“Come to Me, and rest in My Peace.  My Face is shining upon you, in
rays of Peace transcending understanding . . . as you lean on me in
trusting dependence, you feel peaceful and complete.”
I know that I often over the past year + have used the phrase “peace
that passes understanding” and I know that it is in part because early
on, I read this devotional.  Again, I chose to draw near (come) to the
Lord, to rest in His peace.  And I did find a peace that transcended
understanding.  And, I find it much easier now, to “fall back” on that
ability to lean on Him, waiting for that PEACE that only he can offer!

“You must remember that you reside in a fallen world, where blessings
and sorrows intermingle freely . . . how precious are My children who
remember to thank Me at all times . . . they can walk through the
darkest days with Joy in their hearts because they know that the Light
of My Presence is still shining on them.”
Oh, this one spoke to me as I re-read it this year . . . you reside in
a fallen world – where blessings and sorrows intermingle freely . . .
sometimes at the same time.  I know that in times of deepest sorrow
and grief many people turn from God or question God.  Again, I’m
thankful for all of the prayer warriors who I know were standing in
the gap for me and praying for me, giving me the strength to trust in
God fully.  To thank Him AT ALL TIMES.  I was able to walk through the
darkest of dark days and still have a measure of joy in my heart.  My
heart was broken, my life and dreams shattered in a single moment,
yet, I never took my eyes off of the one who “gives and takes away” .
. . “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the
Lord be praised” Job 1:21.  Again, I see no call for me to understand,
or even like what has been “taken” from me, but that the name of the
Lord is STILL to be praised – in ALL things.  Not an easy task, yet
infinitely rewarding if the command is heeded.

“Remember that you are en route to Heaven, and let your problems fade
in the Light of eternity.”
This one is a “biggie”.  I am just a visitor here on earth.  My time
on earth is short.  Even if I life to be 100, my time on earth is
short.  Any problems that existed in Rickey’s life on November 5, any
worries about health or wealth, relationships or anything, faded
INSTANTLY in the Light of Eternity – as will mine, as will yours.  Any
problems that we face here on earth are fleeting.  Our response to the
trials that come our way truly can “make us or break us”.  I’m so
thankful that I had the prayers of God’s people, the love of friends
and family, the knowledge the Rickey left this earth fully loving all
of us, and fully ready to meet the Lord for eternity.  I’m thankful
that I was able to trust God fully in the midst of, despite, the
nightmare that became my reality on November 5, 2011.  I’m thankful
that He is a God of restoration – that in Him, my earthly problems
WILL fade in the Light of eternity.

As I reflect, and remember these days last year, my heart is filled
with wonder.  What a “terrible” time of year to have to grieve . . .
Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, “New” Year’s . . . . yet, what a
wonderful time of the year to grieve – Holidays that give hope . . .
hope of HOME.  Birthdays – the reminder that God has seen us through
another year of our life – and the reminder to make each year, each
month, each week, each day, count for ETERNITY!  Thanksgiving – a time
to remember ALL that we still have to be thankful for – primarily the
promise of our eternal home in Heaven where we WILL be reunited with
Rickey some day.  Christmas – the time when we remember the greatest
gift ever given – the reason for the hope of that eternal home in
Heaven.  New Year’s – a time to reflect on the past – good and bad –
and to look with hope and expectation for what the Lord has in store
for us in the coming year.  Knowing that HE has been with us every
step of the way – and He’s not going to leave us now!

Last  year, Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s were quite
empty.  I remember VERY WELL feeling “deserted” on New Year’s because
the girls went to a Youth Group party and I was home ALL ALONE.
Having a pity party that nobody had “remembered” me.  I was angry at
everyone – their lives had moved forward and mine seemed to be
standing still, and I felt like I was standing still – all alone.
Now, I KNOW that is not true, and I know that I was in the midst of a
full blown pity-party at that moment, but it was hard to see the good
in anything at that time!

If only . . . . If only I could have “seen into the future” . . .
well, not really, I wouldn’t really want to be able to do that, but my
thoughts behind that statement are that “if only” I could have seen
what God had in store for me in 2012 . . . .  If only I could have
seen where He was leading me in the year to come – the blessings He
had in store for me!

“If only” I had known . . . . THEN, I could have then rested quietly
on New Year’s Eve – even as I sat home alone.  I could have sat
quietly in HIS presence.  But, in reality, I SHOULD have rested
quietly.  I SHOULD have sat quietly.  I SHOULD have trusted that His
ways are higher, and mightier than mine.  I SHOULD have been resting
in that “Peace that passes understanding”.  Someday, I’ll learn.  But,
it will never be perfect.  I will always want to have “control”.  I’ll
always want to “know” what’s in store.  I’ll always want to know
“why”.  Until I arrive in Heaven, I’ll never fully arrive!  I’ll still
have those struggles – but with God’s help, they will become less of a
ruling force in my life!

My “If only’s” turned into much more than I would have ever imagined –
so even if I’d been told on New Year’s Eve 2011 what 2012 held for me,
I’d have not believed it.  I would not believed that God would
continue His restoration in my life.  I would not have believed that
He would allow the girls and me to make not one but 2 trips to visit
family down south.  I’d have not believed that I’d leave the job I
thought I loved and TOTALLY step out in faith in taking a job with
less hours/less benefits/less pay (to read about that click HERE).

I’d have not believed that He would bring someone new into my life.
Someone who loves me unconditionally.  Someone who reminds me DAILY of
WHAT is important.  Someone who cherishes with me, the memory of
Rickey (from the stories I tell, the pictures I share, the reflections
of Daddy in the girls).  Someone who is not afraid to keep me in line
when I start to make the unimportant important.   Someone who loves
the girls and treasures who they are – who they were shaped to be by
the influence and loving guidance of their Daddy.  Someone who loves
God and desires to serve Him alongside me . . . . Someone who I
believe God gave to me . . . because He {God} loves me THAT much!
We had a “whirlwind courtship” which shocked/surprised many people
(including, I believe ourselves), yet, daily, I am reminded of the
reasons Rick is in my life.  

I’ve heard the “good, the bad and the
ugly” from people.  I’ve written and re-written some thoughts here,
and deleted all of them – regarding the “bad and the ugly” . . . I
will instead focus on the “good”.  I’m not trying to “sugar coat”
things by not “focusing” on the “bad or the ugly”, I’m just, again,
CHOOSING to “remember that you reside in a fallen world, where
blessings and sorrows intermingle freely “ in this case, “blessings”
being the love that God has blessed me with through Rick and the
support of friends & family and the “sorrows” being those who have not
extended their support, love and understanding.  I will strive to
understand that they have their reasons, and that even in these
situations, the Lord is in control.   The well wishes and love that we
have received from most - the “blessings” far outweigh the negative -
the “sorrows”.  So, I will CHOOSE to focus on the “good” that we are
blessed with each and every day.

To “copy” the thoughts of another “widow” friend I have, I NEVER
wanted for my kids to have a step-parent (divorce was not an option in
my marriage).  I NEVER wanted for my kids and I to have different last
names . . . there are so many “I NEVER’s” that I could go on and on,
but I think you get the picture.  I also NEVER dreamed that November
5th’s nightmare would become my reality.  I NEVER dreamed that I would
be a widow at 45 years old.  I NEVER dreamed that God would bring
someone else into my life.  

. . . . Do you notice a “theme” here? 
“I” NEVER.   Hhmmm . . . . but, it’s not all about “me” is it?  It’s about
God.  It’s about God and His plan for my life.  A plan I don’t always
understand.  A story He has written for me.   His plan, His story, His
will, His way.  A plan that I have to CHOOSE to trust.  A story that I
have to believe He has control of.  Circumstances that only He knows.
A life to live – according to His plan, because, I have read the end
of the book.  I do know the end of the story.  And until that end
comes to my story, until the last chapter is finished, and I cross
over to eternity in Heaven, I will continue to live and laugh and
love.  I will always love Rickey and honor his memory, he will always be
a part of who I am.  I will also always be thankful that God has given
me love again.  I will be thankful that I know that I can trust Him
for all of my tomorrows – however many of them there may be.  I will
be thankful . . . in all things and in spite of all things.  I will be
thankful for the “insight” that I have gained through my life
experiences.  I will continue to pray that God will use me through
these experiences to bless others.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways My ways.  As
the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways and thoughts
higher than yours . . . “  Isaiah 55:8-9 ~ Jesus Calling

“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is
fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  
Psalm 16:11

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