Come Out of the Shadows ~ the shadow of death

Woman Free, Field

He’s gone, or she’s gone. Sometimes the difficult memories with some guilt attached come easier than memories of the happy times. That’s because the loss of a spouse is so great, sometimes the remembrance of the happy times is too painful. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Widow and widowers know what I’m talking about.

He or she will never laugh again. Or, I fell in love with him or her the first time she or he smiled just that certain way and I’ll never see that again. Strange as it is, the self-condemning memories almost feel better, less painful. ~~ It might not be self-condemnation. It might be that the loss is so deep, the pain actually feels good. These feelings are normal, but should only last for a season. The time must come when you allow gentle joy to come at the memory of your spouse…that your memories are couched in sweetness.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. ~ Romans 8:1 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

But what if the marriage had problems? What if it wasn’t ideal? Yet you still miss him or her, still love your spouse? That’s also normal, natural, not unusual, not stupid. What if because the marriage had problems, now that he or she is gone, you, the surviving spouse have guilt. You tell yourself, “I could’ve been nicer to him or her. Could have been more present in the marriage, more understanding.” Maybe so, but it still stands this is only a season during the mourning process. The Lord wants his children free of condemnation. Confess what you have to confess. Forgive your spouse. Forgive yourself, and come out into the light. Forgiveness is intentional. You may have to forgive your spouse and/or yourself over and over as you walk through this journey back into the light. And that’s okay.

In the light of Christ, work on relationships with people who are in your daily life now. What can you do to make the relationships you are in become more joyful, healthier? Can you let the little things go? At home, at church, at work…what are the small things that annoy you? Make a short, easily manageable list if you have to. Don’t make a list so long it will overwhelm you and make you further heap coals on yourself.

What’s really inconsequential in the long run? Pray over the list and intentionally let those things go. Let yourself see your own freedom in letting the angst go you’ve felt due to the little things on that list.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4 [King James Version, KJV]

The Benefit of Marriage ~ sustainable prosperity

wedding ringsStatistics tell us divorce is financial devastating for the wife and children. So, the solution must be: let’s just live together. Just live together. Just. Doesn’t that imply something lesser?

Well, just living together , most times, is even worse for the woman and the children when there’s a permanent breakup. So, many single mothers, without benefit of marriage, are on public assistance and food stamps.

Without benefit of marriage. That’s an old sentiment. We don’t think of marriage that way any more. Maybe we should. The benefits of marriage. How about looking at marriage as the beginning of a family legacy, the beginning of joy and lasting prosperity (something two people intentionally build together). It’s not robbing or cheating your spouse of your time, your energy, but most importantly not reneging on your shared dream(s).

Intentional, sustainable prosperity in marriage is so much more than money in a bank account or a portfolio of stocks and bonds. It’s building a dream together. It’s financial security, emotionally healthy relationships within the family, the family home as a safe place to be…all this over a lifetime. It’s getting to the end and looking back with satisfaction, with happiness, with wonderful memories.

That would be a whole knew way of visualizing marriage for so many today. If couples went into marriage that way, that would be revolutionary in a very good way. It would also mean picking your spouse wisely. The wrong somebody is not a good choice.

13-15 And here’s a second offense: You fill the place of worship with your whining and sniveling because you don’t get what you want from God. Do you know why? Simple. Because God was there as a witness when you spoke your marriage vows to your young bride, and now you’ve broken those vows, broken the faith-bond with your vowed companion, your covenant wife. God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. And what does he want from marriage? Children of God, that’s what. So guard the spirit of marriage within you. Don’t cheat on your spouse. ~ Malachi 2:13-15 The Message Bible (MSG)

Christmas Eve 2018 ~ a merry time after loss

Vicky is doing a “sleeping beauty” this Christmas morning and I’ve been watching the Nashville Christmas Parade, followed by Kathy Lee and Hoda. It’s been a gentle and quiet Christmas morning which will end when Vic wakes up…the quiet part.IMG_2851

We had a sweet and fun Christmas Eve dinner last night at Miller’s Ale House on San Jose Boulevard, JAX. I was surprised at the number of families having their Christmas Eve meal in the restaurant. Many parents came from work, so it makes sense.  They were short staffed and the hostess was rushed but she insisted on taking this photo of us. A transplant from NYC, I’ve come to love and appreciate southern hospitality and warmth. It makes life so much easier.

Last night, the atmosphere hit the right note for us. We laughed and recalled Christmases past, but this time without pain and loss. We lost Joseph Dennis Chillemi, my husband and Vicky’s dad, in December three years ago. The last two Christmases have been bitter sweet for us.

This year, we’re having a merry little Christmas. I think this is the first Christmas since Joseph passed that Vic and I have felt real happiness and delight at Christmas. I’ve had joy in the Lord and peace at Christmas since my husband passed on December 8th three years ago. This year is the first one that I’ve experienced merriment. Yes, it’s turning out to be a truly merry Christmas for me.

For those who have lost a loved one, I know it will be a different Christmas, but I pray that even in that loss, those who mourn can allow the peace of Christmas to comfort.  There is a “spirit of Christmas.” For Christians, this is a deep and profound thing. NonChristians also feel what Christmas cards and media personalities often call ‘the Christmas spirit’. We don’t understand it, but this spirit seems to bring light and cut through the gloom, depression, and darkness globally.

So, even in your loss, I pray you let the true gentle spirit of Christmas wrap you in warmth.  God is with us, even in the deepest darkest valleys. “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” [Psalm 23:4]

In our loss, especially at Christmas, the ‘shadow of death’ seems to envelop those who mourn. I had to tell myself for nearly three years, “It’s a shadow.” It’s not as powerful as it seems. It’s not forever. And this is a valley. It’s also not forever.” When I look at that Bible verse in times of sorrow, I think of God’s rod as His power…His power over death. Jesus conquered death. And His staff is like the staff of a shepherd. The Shepherd leads us onward in our sorrow on a journey out of the valley. It is a valley and it is a journey.

I often think, to honor the importance of the life of the loved one we lost, it should take time. It should be a journey. But God wants us to see that the valley has an end. We do come out and away from the shadow of death. And that also honors the life of the one/s we mourn. It also honors God, who wants us to reenter life fully.

And so, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and blessings and a healthy and happy new year.

Nativity

 

Christmas is Coming ~ and I feel like a little child

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My bins are Christmas green.

Thanksgiving Day is gone, though thanksgiving continues as a way of life for me. So, now I’m thankful that Christmas is coming. For me the day after Thanksgiving is the “official start of the Christmas season” which doesn’t end on December 26th. No, I also celebrate the 12-Days of Christmas and end the season on December 6th with Epiphany.

In my house, the day after Thanksgiving is the day for taking out my large plastic “Christmas bins.”

This year I did some research and I found out surveys show that people who celebrate Christmas early tend to be happy people. All I know on a personal level is that I feel great when I jump into the Christmas season with both feet.

Isaiah 9:6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~ New American Standard Bible [NASB]

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My baker’s rack in happy disarray as I put away “year round” object ‘d art and start putting up the Christmas stuff.

My feeling is that “Christmasy people” enjoy the “Light” the season brings. Even the non religious feel the light piercing the darkness and they like it. I don’t decry the  overabundance of lights on houses as commercialism. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph don’t upset me. I know Santa Claus isn’t the baby Jesus. I also know the real St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who gave gifts to the poor. I don’t mistake my Santa figurines as “the reason for the season.” Not for one second. But Santa does make me smile. Still, I know if there had never been a Jesus, there would not have been a Santa Claus.

I love to see smiles breaking out on the faces of children when they sit on Santa’s lap. Too often our children are fretful, feeling the anxiety and weight of the world in this angry time. Laughing when they see Frosty or Rudolph is a welcome break. It’s the Light breaking through the darkness. It’s children being allowed to be children, even for a short time. It’s the joy of the season breaking out. It can’t be contained. Darkness can’t hold it back.

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Turkey chili sustains me as I decorate.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t decorate on an empty stomach.

It is up to the church to tell the story of the baby Jesus. If we tell the age-old glorious story, they will listen. We must tell them.

The Birth of Jesus ~ ~ Luke 2 ~ New Living Translation [NLT]

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

My New Condo Renovated ~ a blessing of peace

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Open concept dining/living space. The parson’s table is deceptive. It opens to seat 4 – 6.

The renovation on my new two-bedroom, oh so comfy, condo is the culmination of a back-burner dream I had while still living in Brooklyn (NYC)…that is to move to Florida and own my own place.

In many ways, it was a matter of love, faith, and grace. The Love of God. My faith, though faltering at times. God’s grace. It’s easy to see, it’s God/moi, two-to-one. Actually, it’s God to me, a gazillion to one.

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My china cabinet, where my mother’s wedding china and my set are displayed, as well as other memory bearing collectables.

I believe this was God’s plan for me, because I’m at peace…in more peace than I’ve had in years.

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. My husband Joseph will have passed three years this December 8th. He didn’t make it to Florida, but he did make it to heaven. PTL

I take the Bible verbatim. Jesus came to earth in the flesh that we may enjoy life. He came to be a blessing and He wants us to bless others. You don’t have to be wealthy to bless others. You only have to be rich of spirit. Give what you can. I gave 98% of my husband’s clothing and personal belongings to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. It blesses me thinking maybe someone getting their life back on track is making good use of the suits he wore to work. There are so many other ways to bless others. Open the door for someone who is carrying a load, or dealing with children. Little courtesies do count. They make life easier and better for everyone…and they’re fun. Try it. You’ll like blessing others.

 

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My new, tiny galley kitchen with magnets on the refrigerator Joseph and I collected on our vacays and at places we visited.

 

 

My Bad Dream ~ demonic or just repeating pizza

 

woman-aloneThis morning I awoke half in a crazy dream state.

I was standing alone in some utilitarian building holding a framed photo of my mother, staring at it. Then the scene changed and I was homeless, on the street. Then it changed again and I’d been committed to an antiseptic mental hospital where I was questioned by sympathetic doctors in white coats.

I startled awake and said aloud, “Devil, you will not have my mind. As Jesus is in heaven, so am I in this world.” This, being my version of 1 John 4:17. I was amazed at how quickly I became free of any fear of this dream. Remembering dreams is kinda of new for me. For years I claimed I didn’t dream. However, dreaming and remembering them, or snatches of them, isn’t uncommon lately.

Was this dream demonic, or just bad pizza acting up. Well, I hadn’t had any pizza or any spicy food. My evening had been routine before going to sleep. So, I said to myself, “Self, this definitely is not of God.”

But was that true? I don’t have a photo of my parents hanging in my new home in Florida, and I’ve been here almost two years. It’s been on my heart to have an 8X10 of them in a golden frame. There was a beautiful photo of them at some senior affair. My dad held a glass of wine and my mom a glass of seltzer. They were smiling and radiant, having a good time. My sister-in-law, an amazing woman who I love dearly, does beautiful paintings from photos. She offered to do a painting from it, then somehow lost the photo.

I don’t have any digital photos of my parents, they passed a while back, which belies my claim that I’m still 39…but that would be quite another blog article.

Emil Navor WWII
Sgt Emil Navor WWII Pacific Arena

My cousin sent me a photo he digitized of my dad from WWII and of my mom’s immediate family, also from that era. I have photo albums I’ll have to go through to find one of them I can have enlarged. This is the God part. I should get going, find a photo to enlarge, and give it a place of honor in my home in a golden frame.

Grandma, Grandpa, Family
Helen Novogrodsky Navor,  1st row, 2nd from right

It’s quite interesting how “the dark side” lurks in the subconscious mind, twisting, and adding guilt and fear.

It’s also amazing how easily fear and guilt can be dispelled with the Word of God. Poof, it’s gone.

 

 

 

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Goodbye Ebony ~ she left on cat’s paws

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Ebony in 2016 when we first moved to NE Florida. She loved to sleep on the bookshelf where I piled books after I took them out of boxes.

When I returned home from Brooklyn after visiting my daughter for two weeks, I noticed Ebony had lost weight. Well, she’d always been a little chubby, so I figured now that I was back, she’d start eating again. And she did eat.

However, 72 hours later, at night, she had trouble swallowing and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth. I thought it was an abscessed tooth. I told her how sorry I was she was in discomfort…to hang on until the next morning when I’d take her to the vet and they’d pull the tooth.

Dr. Rose did a physical exam and said it wasn’t a tooth. She only had to take one ex-ray. A huge tumor pressed on Ebony’s stomach, liver, and kidneys. She had trouble eating because there was swelling in the back of her throat. The vet said Ebony would not survive this, so there was only one choice. I had to put her down. I hugged her, kissed her, and stayed with her to the end. Dr. Rose always sings at the very end. She sang, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for Ebony.

That song was so appropriate for Ebony. She was sweet, as gentle as a whisper, and affectionate. She had particularly taken to my author friend when Jenna Victoria visited a few months ago. I’m so blessed that Jenna got to know Ebony. She was a dear pet….the epitome of the phrase: on cats’ paws.

After I left the vet’s office, I confronted myself acting as my own accuser. If only…Maybe if I had come back from New York City earlier. Guilt. I should never have misjudged Ebony’s illness and lack of appetite as being caused by missing me. Self-condemnation. After all, I was the one who said ‘yes’ to euthanasia. Judgement. Many people do this. Men feel they should be able to fix all things that aren’t working right. Women feel they should be able to comfort, bolster up, even resuscitate (emotionally and physically) those they love. This certainly includes a beloved pet.

Romans 8:1 [NASB] ~ Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

If there was something we could’ve done better, and there usualy is…we can learn from it for the next situation. In this case, as believers, we must submit to God, repent, accept His forgiveness and grace…walk on and sin no more. Whenever we find ourselves nursing guilt, we must submit to God and push it away. If there was nothing or very little we could’ve done better, again, we must submit to God, and push the truly useless condemnation away. This takes making a quality decision on our parts. The accusation is of the enemy. We must move past it and move on to what God has for us…follow the path He’s set before us.

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Ebony (l), Trouble (C), Meadow (R) when they were ‘kittlets’ ~ not kittens anymore, yet not quite cats. Brooklyn, N&