Of course today is January 6th, Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. It’s the twelfth and last day of the Christmas season that began on Advent Sunday (not the day after Thanksgiving) and ends today. I’ve had a wonderful, interesting, and blessed holiday. I hope all my readers and supporters are blessed in the new year. That is my heartfelt prayer for you.
These three decided to nap together and gave me this photo. The tortoise-shell in the foreground is Beauty, because she is one. She’s the queen of the household, is a talker, and has an opinion on everything. Then you have Sophie The Wonder Dog. Her name was Sophie when she was rescued and we kept it. At that time our kids were in the house and we started calling her “Soapy.” I sometimes now call her that and she perks up and prances, perhaps going back in time. I’ll have to call her that more often. And in the background is Trouble. He earned that name by his mischievousness since he was a teeny tike. He’s either in trouble or causing it. I know he looks like an angel here under the tree. That’s his cover. He’s part of an international cat burglar and jewel thief ring.
Ghee, I sure have a vivid imagination. Perhaps I should write murder mysteries with a national security twist. Hmm, now that’s a thought.
I recently had to decide whether to purchase an extended warranty for my husband’s car, which I now drive. I called an umpteen number of people asking their advice on extended warranties. I stressed and called a few more people. I prayed about it and stressed some more. In the end, I had to make the decision alone. Just me.
Disclaimer: Widows aren’t the only women who have to make important life decisions alone. Divorced women do and so do single women.
Disclaimer #2: Not allwidows have ultra-loving feelings toward their deceased husbands. Some husbands were serial lotharios, abusive, gamblers, alcoholic or drug addicted. In many cases it’s complicated. He was overbearing, but a good provider. He wasn’t romantic or complimentarybut was an excellent father.
My friend Carol, who moved to the west coast, adored Richard, her second husband. However, when he got extremely ill, he became difficult. As his physicality worsened, so did his mental capacity and he said mean things to her. Ten years older than me, and having lived in NYC most of her life where she took public transportation, she didn’t drive. Living near Seattle at that time, she called a taxi and went to the hospital almost every day to be with him. When she returned home, she usually phoned me. Being a blunt Brooklynite, she’d often shout something like this: “I’m gonna kill him if he doesn’t die first.” When Richard passed, the stress of his illness was forgotten. As far as she was concerned he was the best man who had ever walked the earth. She is also gone now, and I miss her terribly.
Whether the marriage was a dream come true, or something much more complex, when he dies, the wife is alone. She may find she’s nowa fifth wheel when in the company of other couples they had socialized with. The company of other widows and single women can be a blessing. Within a posse of women without men, you can more comfortably saykrazy-widow things and confess to having freaky-widow feelings.
Entering a new year can be difficult for women who are alone. Hanging a new calendar on the wall or opening a new datebook only reminds them how forlorn they sometimes feel. Those feelings of desolation are much worse for a widow than for a divorced woman whose husband is still running around (pun intended). No matter how wonderful or ignoble her husband was, he is no more. She can’t hold him, hug him, laugh with him, or argue with him, as the case may be.
Still, it is a new year and getting through it will be much easier with gal-pals. I feel more than blessed to have found a group of Christian women friends who are joyous. Laughing is the norm in our get-togethers. Upon learning Logan’s Steakhouse had power after Hurrican Irma knocked out electric for three days, Lynn, Charlotte, her daughter and I cracked sweaty-body jokes and laughed so hard other diners stared at us. We were so grateful just to get a cooked meal. Okay, they’re not simply joyous, they’re as nutty as I am. Let me tell you, when you’re a widow, zany friends are good, very good. Laughter breaks through the solitude and there’s lots of solitude. So, widows, get yourselves some fun-loving, single women friends. It’ll do you good.
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. ~ Proverbs 17:22 [KJV]
In many ways 2016 was a year of losses and doors closed, but also with a promise of new beginnings.
So, I prepare my 2107 Blessing Jar, as I do every year. This involves writing out my Prayer of Thanksgiving as well as my Prayer of Petition with its list of my heart felt desires and whatever vision God has given me for the new year. This is far from a new year’s resolutions list. Prayer, thanksgiving, and Scripture reading was an integral part of this process. At the top left hand corner you can see the blessing jar I’ve used for the last two years. My prayer and petitions are in the center. To the right are notes of thanksgiving for prayers that were answered in 2016. I’m sure there were others, but these are the big three.
The written document is two and a half pages long. I signed it and took communion over it. Then I folded it and along with the little notes put them all into the blessing jar.
As soon as I took communion, I received my word for 2017: cherish.
Thus, my Blessing Jar becomes my “war room,” as shown and explained in the amazing movie by that name. As I live in a teeny-tiny house, I don’t have a room that could be my war room. So, I’ve made one side of my refrigerator into that and I’m going to keep the Blessing Jar above it on the top of the refrigerator. This is where I pray for other people and note the Scripture I’m standing on. As prayers are answered, I will take them off the side of the refrigerator and place them into my Blessing Jar. In this way the jar becomes a repository for the record of my answered prayers.
In the middle of last year I went blessing jar minimalist. I wanted to get the all mighty me out of the way. I took a pickle jar that struck my fancy and simplified the entire blessing jar phenomena. Slapped a label on it and took my list out of the old jar and rehoused it.
2016 is the third year I’m involved with a blessing jar. I say ‘involved with’ because to me a blessing jar is so much more than creating a jar reflecting one’s essence, or mood, or with ribbon in one’s favorite color.
A blessing jar is a spiritual adventure. The past two years, they have been my spiritual vision for the year in lieu of new years resolutions.
This year it went further than that. I knew something was taking hold of me but didn’t quite know what. So, I went to Michael’s and bought some glass painting pens and painted a few flowers on my jar while I ruminated. I’m no artist but I think it’s kinda cute.
Then the real deal took hold of me and I began writing out what would be inside my blessing jar. This year it was far more than a list of spiritual goals for the new year. It became a prayer of petition as I’d never done one before. You see, I had just come across Jerry Savelle’s teaching onThe Prayer of Petition as a formal, written out spiritual document according to God’s will. So, I prayed about God’s will for me and sited Scripture for each point in the petition. This took the better part of January. Then I sewed a financial seed toward it, signed it, and took communion over it.
Like in past years, I folded it up and put it in my blessing jar. In past years it had been one sheet of paper with a list on it. This year it became a letter to God with a petition attached… three sheets, on both sides, because I sited Scripture for the points listed in my prayer…as to how my petition was according to God’s Word.
I’ve always kept my blessing jar near my computer and referred to it throughout the year. The document I write at the beginning of the year deals with my life for the upcoming year and my hopes and dreams for my loved ones. However, during the year, as I pray for others, I often write their names and the prayer down on a piece of paper, date it, and stick it in the blessing jar. Then from time-to-time I’ll open my blessing jar, refer to what I’ve written inside, and thank the Lord for everything He’s doing in my life and for the people I’m praying for.
Habakkuk 2: 2-4 [NASB] ~ 2 Then the Lord answered me and said,“Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. 3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
To me, the beginning of a New Year is much like turning the first page of the next novel in a series I’ve been following. I finished the last novel and it was thrilling, and I miss the characters and have been eagerly anticipating the next novel. Or, the author disappointed, yet I feel compelled to read on out of loyalty to the characters.
Of course, in the case of a New Year, I’m the author (along with God) and I’m the main character in my yearly saga. And yes, I most certainly do feel compelled to read on (and write on) out of loyalty to the character.
I recently read that New Year’s Day is the most widely celebrated holiday on the planet, with nearly every nation and ethnic group taking part in the party.
Ringing out 2014 has held some sadness for me. The traditionally sung song for this holiday, Auld Lang Syne, written in the 1700s by Scottish poet Robert Burns as a poem of reflection and remembrance, fits my mood this year. The news has been horrible for much of the year. ISIS. Ebola. Just to mention two.
My family has faced some difficult challenges and losses in 2014. One that’s fairly easy to verbalize is the theft of my computer. The grinch that stole it right before Christmas had it stolen from her, we found out. Of course all these young people deny having stolen anything. But the ones who wound up with it tried to hack into a few of my accounts, unsuccessfully. I had to change passwords because there had been too many attempts to gain access. That was a royal pain. On the plus side, I got a new pair of glasses that make me look really sweet.
In 2014, I lost my oldest childhood friend, Christine Sloat White, after a valiant battle with ovarian cancer. She was not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside…and such a classy lady, dear to me, and so missed. Our mutual friend, Carol Dilberian, helped me get through the loss of Christine and as well as through other challenges I faced in the past year. Carol lives on the other side of the country. I wish she lived closer so I could drop by for a cuppa, as I used to do. Thank God for phones and Facebook.
I’m looking forward to the New Year largely because of good friends. Two friends who must get a shout out are Christian author Linda Woods Rondeau and her husband Steve. Not only will I give a shout out, I’ll do a bit of shameless promoting for her hoping her New Year sees a jump in sales. Another gal who needs to be mentioned is author and real estate professional Lynn W. Rix. I’ll be relocating in 2015 and Lynn has been helping in finding that perfect house.
Another positive note to 2014 is that I lost over 25 pounds and reconstituted my diet and my lifestyle to healthier eating.
Last year I made a blessing jar, and I will again this year. I think it’s especially important and emotionally healthy to remember the year’s blessings, especially when a difficult year has gone by. Of course, I’ll put some kind of fancy ribbon on the new jar and label it. I always put the names of people into the jar who I’ve been praying for all year long. It’s a nice feeling to pull their names out at the beginning of the new year. I also have prayer requests I made at the beginning of the previous year in the jar. It’s interesting to look back and see where God said, “Yes,” and where he said, “Wait,” or perhaps, “No.”
Last year, I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions. I’d heard about “blessing jars” and I had this old tin I liked a lot and had kept that originally housed Russel Stover caramels. Artistic and crafty types often use a mason jar with a nice, big, pretty ribbon around its neck.
There are several ways to work with a blessing jar, but the way a writer friend told me she did it appealed to me. 1) Write a short, focused list of blessings I’m believing God for and put it into the jar. 2) Write down a few Scriptures that support those blessings and toss them in.
One of the things that did not find its way onto my list last year or this is the notion of “perfectionism.” In fact, this is as good a place as any to make a public confession. Those are quite popular, I hear. So, here is mine. I have never struggled with perfectionism. Just ask my critique partners. They will tell you, I’ve never seen a comma I liked, and I’m the schpelink queen of Brooklyn.
My husband, who’s a bit of a perfectionist (one in the family is enough, thank you) and a psychiatric social worker, tells me perfectionism is often the root-cause of such mental illnesses as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. This makes me feel smug and fully justified in embracing a more laissez faire life-style. A fav motto of mine is: don’t sweat the small stuff (and so much of it is small stuff).
So, I was filled with excitement thinking about creating the things to go into my blessing jar this year. But the best part was reading what I had in there from last year. It was like a one-year spiritual time capsule. Looking at the list of things I believed for last year, I saw what was important to me then and how I had moved on, past many of them…how I had grown.
Several items I had on last year’s list had come to pass, but not all. I pulled out several Scriptures that had presented themselves to me with such force during 2013 that I’d written them down and put them in my tin. I took a moment to ponder them and to consider why they had spoken to me so forcefully last year. One of the sweetest things was looking at the names of people I’d written down who I prayed for during the year. I prayed for many, many people last year, but it was interesting to note which ones had found their way into my blessing jar/tin.
Our family had a lovely Christmas. However, with the extreme cold and the dreary rain we’ve had in Gotham the past week, I haven’t gotten my outside decorations down yet…but I’m not sweating it.
I’ve decided to be happy this year. The last year had more than it’s share of trauma and angst. Well, to be totally honest…pain, suffering, and anguish.
I’ve made a firm commitment to myself and shared it with God. I will live in joy this year. Actually that’s what He’s been wanting me to do since 2011. Some are slower than others.
On August 28, 2011, after hurricane Irene, the Lord gave me “a word.” Well, three words actually: love, laugh, lift. I was deeply touched by them. I wrote them in my Bible…at the top…in Matthew 5. Since then, I’ve pondered them, sincerely reflected upon them, prayed about them, and shared this wisdom with a few others who I thought were open to hearing.
Since hurricane Sandy affected my city in such a profoundly horrific manner, and since the mass murder in Newtown, I’ve come to understand that the Lord wants me to do more than ruminate over these words. He wants me to live them.
He wants me to have joy in my heart and love others. He wants me to exist in a state of joy and to laugh a lot. He wants me to rely on His grace and lift where I can lift. He wants me to encourage others to love, laugh, and lift.