Author Archives: mayat

The 7 Stages of Personal Growth (Through The Lens of WIDOWHOOD)

Personal change is an internal experience and also an external one at the same time. It stems from a change in our mindset and thus branches out from there.”

So I didn’t write this article. My coach did. ( Kain Ramsey, Achology Academy). When I completed my coaching certification, this article stuck out to me because I wanted to look at it from a widowhood perspective. Because change and personal growth look VERY DIFFERENT to someone who is just barely living through the last big change, and is being forced to grow into a new space of identity. I’ll let you read thru it, but I’m going to comment along the way, to add my two cents, translate some of his “science talk” and present the view from the lens of the widow’s experience. 🙂 Enjoy!

The Seven Stages of Personal Change

Stage 1) Developing Awareness.

The motivation for change begins with a sense that we aren’t fulfilling our full potential in at least one area of our life. Even before you can put your finger on the particular source of internal discomfort, you feel it on some level.

For widows… you might think the awareness stage would be the blaring reality that you’re being forced to face every day – and that the “internal discomfort” is grief. Nope. The urge to grow comes, I think, when you’ve finally stopped rejecting the reality (and this takes TIME!) – and you start to think about what you could DO, how you could change, what realistically ( or even in a fantasy) would need to happen for you to GROW to LIVE this way and LOVE life again.

Stage 2) Discovery.

The discovery stage is where your conscious mind has located the primary source of your discomfort and is doing it’s best to help you become more aware of its presence. Be warned, at this stage; you may experience some resistance from your ego!

The human ego often seeks refuge in denial, where it pretends that your discomfort is resulting from a source that’s external to you opposed to an internal one. For personal change to occur beyond this stage, it’s crucial that we accept that the source of our uneasiness is within ourselves, and also within our ability to control. Capacity to adopt a new mindset is a prerequisite for moving on to the next stage in this process of personal change.

Yes Death is external. But the GRIEF is internal. Yes death affects your life. But the GREIF is YOUR response. Therefore it IS within your ability to (in some ways not all) control. In this case I think the “ego” resistance is the “this happened to ME”, “I am helpless”, “what’s the point” “I’m too sad” “I cant do this” cycle. You’ve learned in a horrible experience that hope, love, fairness and wanting something bad enough have NOTHING on reality and the hand she deals. So you’ve become the authority on what is “really” worth your effort after seeing the world for what it “really is” – and in your mind… not a whole lot is looking “worth” the effort.

The denial is in the details. Our first instinct is denying that we have any control, and that there is any point in trying to do anything about it.

Stage 3) Ownership.

In this stage, we must take sole responsibility for our discomfort or unease. That means that we must fully acknowledge that the source of our problem/s is internal and not external. At this stage, we consciously recognise that it is our thought patterns, emotional inconsistencies, lifestyle habits, perception, limiting beliefs, or our faulty reasoning that needs to be amended.

This essential step brings us to the realisation that we alone are in control of how it is that we choose to respond or react to the circumstances/situations that we find ourselves in. In life, empowerment comes via taking responsibility, and assuming full ownership of any given situation opens the doorway towards a whole new level of maturity, empowerment and personal growth.

Ahhhh this part. At first its a little offensive. What? Excuse me? This “discomfort” is MY fault? It’s INTERNAL? Death happened to ME – I didn’t do anything wrong!! But- That’s not what he said. He said it’s your responsibility to take OWNERSHIP of YOUR part here, YOUR life in the aftermath, and DO something about it. Not death, obviously, but how you are going to REACT to its impact on your life, and what you will DO (take ACTION on) and how you will THINK, in order to live abundantly in SPITE of it.

Stage 4) Exposure.

This is the stage in the process of change where we expand our search to identify the habit or attitude that has stopped serving us. ( In other words, identify the thing we want to stop doing, feeling, or struggling through.) This can be challenging for many reasons. One reason being that logic is seldom a useful tool in the emotional arena, and secondly, we tend to assume that our beliefs are universal truths, and therefore consistently look for ways to justify them. ( Agree. Logic is great, but if you believe everything YOU believe is always right – you’ll logic your way into thinking your habit is justified. )

Rather than initiating a confrontation, it’s often easier to reflect upon our patterns of behaviour to identify how our different beliefs (Albert Ellis’ Irrational Beliefs) might be affecting our lives. Once we recognise that we’ve been held back or limited by a particular idea, we will then have both logic and emotion supporting our desire for change.

English? Realizing your beliefs around death, grief, and what is “possible” might be what is actually keeping you from moving forward. This realization makes you want to learn more, OUTSIDE yourself, to see where it takes you.

Stage 5) Intention.

This is the threshold of personal change. You have identified an old belief (or behaviour pattern), and you are now motivated to replace it with something more useful. You’re ready to move away from your previous stage and embrace the new. It’s time to choose a direction.

Upon reaching this stage in the process of change, it is relatively easy to identify what your desired state is (i.e. where you want to be). The same comparison process that exposed your source of initial discomfort will have now revealed your ideal future end goal. All that remains left for you to do is to embrace a proactive mindset and formulate your plan of action.

YES! This is where I come in. I love coaching this part because I call it the ah-HA moment for my widows! Where you are finally ready to let go of the old belief that “this is just your life now” and realize you can choose your new direction. When you’re ready to plan what that looks like and HOW to get there. It’s an exciting time of rebirth, renewed faith, self love and hope. I love what I do. 🙂

Stage 6) Action.

Taking consistent action is the only means by which to achieve real time results. ( Say that AGAIN Kain!!) If you don’t take action, nothing will change, and your discomfort with the present reality will intensify due to your now greater awareness of it. <<This part.

Taking action demands that we let go of fear and apathy, and embrace faith and uncertainty, as we step out of the comfort zone and into the gap between where we previously were, and where it is that we envisage ourselves being.

Nope I’m good here. This is exactly right. What we are afraid of as widows? Probably failure. We are afraid to be “right” in the sense that planning for the future is doomed. We are afraid to run out of time because we SAW someone do it. Afraid that changing our lives means leaving our loved ones behind. Problem is, that fear does nothing to serve us. It doesn’t protect us, because heartbreak happens whether we were afraid or not. But you know what else happens – LIFE. LOVE. Good things. Whether you are afraid or not. Fear LESS.

Stage 7) Integration.

This is the last phase of the process of personal growth where change has now happened. What started out as a mental awareness that an adjustment needed to be made in your life, has consequentially resulted in a new evolution in your journey of personal growth and development.

You have now grown in your appreciation of what’s achievable for you, and at this stage, it is also likely that you have let go of an established belief or pattern of behaviour that wasn’t serving you. This has now been replaced with something more useful.

This is the part where in my case, as a widow coach, I get to see you all GLOW. You’re smiling again. You’re chattering on about life and how you either met, flubbed, or shared your “new goals” this week – and the outcome isn’t what matters – its the fact that you’re having a great time TRYING. You’re LIVING again. You feel like you have purpose, and you’re no longer STUCK in that dark place of despair. Crazy thing is – no miracles have happened yet. You’re not even “there” yet, to the end goals or the “made it” place… the only thing that has really changed – is your MIND. And the GROWTH that that takes, is powerful.


Choose Personal Growth!

The more you take control of this process, the more natural it becomes. For those who embrace change, personal growth becomes a way of life. Resisting change is the easier course of action, which only ends up costing people the sense of happiness and fulfilment they hope for. When you embrace change, you embrace life!

Right on, Coach Ramsey. :) #TRUTH

What You Might Not Know About Your Local VFW : Help for Surviving Spouses of Our Armed Forces

By Maya W. Tyler

VFW HQ, Washington DC

As a widow coach, I naturally have clients that are military widows. I hear the stories and worries of countless surviving spouses, each wondering what, if anything, is the return on their family’s very costly sacrifice. They worry about the children they have to now raise alone, the employment hurdles and career pauses that deployment causes, how they’ve had to tighten their belts to survive economically, and above all the overall physical and emotional health challenges many widows have to endure alone. So, what does the military have to offer them in return?
Well, that all depends, on a LOT.

“When you think about [what we go through as widows emotionally] it makes dealing with the benefits that much harder. It’s important for widows to understand where they stand with VA, what is available to them and what part DOD (Department of Defense) plays in their benefits“.

I am a widow, but my husband was not military. So, in order to get answers to questions regarding support for surviving military families,  I sought out the help of Gabby Kubinyi, head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Washington DC Roots Advocacy Program. Gabby is a Veteran’s Administration (VA) accredited service officer and former customer support claims consultant. Because she is also a gold star widow, herself – meaning her husband passed away during active duty –  Gabby knows more than a thing or two about the complexities of the VA office; from both sides of the fence.

“The biggest issue,” she begins, “is that you just don’t know what you don’t know.”

Gabby Kubinyi, head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Washington DC Roots Advocacy Program

 People have a hard time dealing with the VA on their own. Not because they don’t want to help, but because not only is there a LOT of paperwork, claim information and insurance history and jargon to sift through- widows are ALREADY going through Hell. It’s almost unfathomable the time, patience and strength it takes to fight for benefits you’re not even 100% sure you’re going to receive, while grieving and still caring for a family in the aftermath.  “When you think about [what we go through as widows emotionally] it makes dealing with the benefits that much harder. It’s important for widows to understand where they stand with VA, what is available to them and what part DOD (Department of Defense) plays in their benefits,” she says. 

What Is The VFW?

So what does the VFW actually do? Gabby takes me to the lobby, and proudly points up.

The sign above the entrance doors boldly states the overall mission of the organization: “Honor the dead by helping the living”.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, guard and reserve forces. Membership stands at more than 1.6 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary.  

 Most military families are aware that the Veteran’s Affairs office provides some help. But most don’t know how to access this help.  You could just show up at a VA regional office, or medical center and ask questions, but as life changing situations arise, time is not always available.  

  “What I think is most important to understand; […]  is knowing the BEST most DIRECT route to that help… and the first step is knowing who can advocate best for you.”

  Gabby says, “What I think is most important to understand; when [widows] have an issue or claim or question, is knowing the BEST most DIRECT route to that help… and the first step is knowing who can advocate best for you.” The question is, she explains, is whether that someone is within the VA organization (who may present you with a bit of red tape and chain of command obstacles ) or someone on the outside, who can advocate for you,  push a little harder, who may have more leverage and access and know how to circumvent the barriers to get you the support you need? Knowing and having access to the documented the details of how and when someone who served passes away makes a huge difference. 

 Enter: the VFW nationally accredited service officers. 

 “There are a lot of different layers, and it’s very complicated, but that’s what’s great about VFW” Kubiyni explains. “We are not just here for veterans.” 

 The VFW aids with claims, support, advocacy, referrals and a whole lot more.  You do not need to be a member, or even be member eligible to receive answers to your questions … and here’s a little known fact: there are VFW Service officers stationed inside the VA facilities.  

Another not so well known fact is that even though the VFW are here to support veterans and qualified members have served on foreign soil… VFW still helps the ENTIRE military community, including veterans usually handled by American Legion, because they served on American soil only. So you actually don’t have to be a qualifying VFW member to get help with claims, support or consultation!

What You Think You Know: Veteran Benefit Claims

“So far in 2019 the VFW is very proud to report having helped veterans, widows, and surviving families recover over $9 billion in benefits,” Gabby says smiling. “We really do great work.” 

So what kinds of claims does VFW help with? 

The two main claims a veteran family can receive compensation for are the Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP) and the Dependent and Indemnity Compensation Plan (DIC). Remember these two. 

Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP) 

For someone who has passed:

  • active duty 
  • retiree (veterans who served 20 + years)
  • Medically retired 

Families who enroll in the program pay a percentage of their retirement pay in exchange for a guaranteed income stream to survivors, in the event of the death of a military active member or retiree. The option for this plan is extended upon retirement and a monthly premium is paid into it.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC):

This is a tax free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military Service members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease, or was rated 100% Permanently and Totally Disabled by VA for more than 10 years.

If your loved one passed in the line of duty, compensation usually gets sorted out pretty quickly.  But if your loved one passes after service but their death is connected to their service – claims of this nature need proof. Specific proof. The process is difficult and complicated. 

Having a VA accredited Service Officer to help is critical in order to: 

  • Translate the Correspondence Letters so that you fully understand your situation, and what your application is missing or reasons you’re being denied claims
  • Work with the spouse to collect information to ensure claim goes through
  • Work with special cases such as Agent Orange (decades ago) deaths are eligible for DIC – but a VA SO is important because they have access to the details of these older cases and can explain what needs to be done to prove eligibility, and help a spouse successfully apply and avoid denial/ repeated re-applications.

Common Problems with SBP/DIC payouts:

  • Service member may not elect the SBP option (Because it’s not in people’s plans to die! Many younger people opt out of this benefit thinking they won’t need it!
  • Issues with Payment of premiums 
  • SBP payout lasts as long as the survivor is alive – BUT the most the SBP will pay survivors is 55% of retirement pay, which is what survivors receive in exchange for 6.5% of monthly retirement benefits. Note also that SBP is considered “paid in full” after 30 years or 360 payments.
  • If the spouse dies first, no benefits from the SBP will ever be paid. No refunds.
  • If a couple gets divorced, the ex-spouse of a retiree can still be awarded his or her SBP
  • It can cost hundreds of dollars a month, and regardless of this strain on families, you don’t necessarily get back what you put in. The payout is offset by the DIC payment, dollar for dollar, to avoid being “paid for the same claim twice”, or “double dipping”. (What!?) Google the hashtag #axthewidowtax. Luckily, the VFW is working on making this right, as we speak! There is also SSIA, the special survivor indemnity allowance, which is a $318 per month payment the congress made to offset the offset. 

Dizzying, right?! That’s why VFW is here to help!  Learn more about the SBP HERE.

Another little known VFW fact : There is NO statute of limitations on DIC. No one is turned away, no matter how old the case may be. If you are a survivor and not receiving DIC, VFW can assist. If you are even the grandchild of a veteran service member, you can still get help understanding any possible claim situations.

There are millions of veterans who never file claims or have served a tour or more and are honorably discharged…who get nothing when they die other than being eligible for a national cemetery burial. As far as the VA is concerned, the death must be medically connected to a condition recognized as service connected. And even then, if the death is deemed service connected, but you are not considered 100% permanently and totally disabled by the VA office, and you die from anything other than your service connected medical issue … your spouse gets nothing. 

Most people think that because a person served in the military, things like burial, funeral costs, and headstones will be free, or some sort of stipend will be automatically sent to them. Truth is, eligibility for interment (burial) costs must be met, and there are multiple expenses a funeral includes that are not necessarily covered.  This leaves many military spouses and families paying several thousands of dollars they didn’t expect to pay, and left wondering how they ended up with ‘crushing debt, a folded flag, and a broken heart’. 

Is that all they get for their sacrifices?

No! There IS more support. Much more. That’s why VFW accredited service officers are here. This is where the good that they do comes in.  They can help build legitimate cases advocating for a death that might have been service connected and perhaps overlooked. If a way can be found for benefits to be made available – this is their expertise. Service Officers also have extensive knowledge of other allowances, financial grants, and community and employment support programs that really can help – that many people have no idea even exist. 

What You Probably Don’t Know:

What other kinds of support does VFW provide?

While helping secure families with monetary compensation is money is pretty awesome, that’s actually not all the VFW does.  For families that were otherwise dismissed as ineligible or may have been overlooked and unclaimed without VFW Service Officer assistance… the VFW has still found ways to be a huge asset to military families. 

“People who have dealt with any kind of trauma need to connect with other people who have been through the same trauma.” Gabby says solemnly. “We have all been through the same pain, and through giving back at our Auxiliary Chapters, we strive to turn times of hurt into times of healing.”

The VFW has Auxiliary Chapters worldwide that support veteran families with places that they can go for help such as: 

  • Group/Community Healing and Emotional support 
  • Activities for National Observance Days (Memorial Day, poppies) 
  • Supporting grandchildren of VFW veterans 
  • Staying connected, so that families don’t feel isolated

VFW also works with and refers surviving families to stellar programs such as:

T.A.P.S. Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors https://www.taps.org

  • Deal mostly with active duty deaths
  • Grief/emotional work, widow retreats
  • Mentorship program matches widows with someone with like circumstances 
  • Good Grief Camps for kids, each child is matched with a military mentors for lifetimes!
  • Widow employment counseling

Why You’ve Never heard of them:

  • The Veteran’s office will  reach out – but with so many spam callers nowadays, many don’t realize that’s what the call is and don’t answer the unrecognized numbers.
  • TAPS will reach out to surviving family members of active duty deaths but they are not able to reach out to families of veteran deaths.
  • TAPS is only celebrating 25 years – they are relatively young, and still growing

American Widow Project – by Taryn Davis http://americanwidowproject.org/

  • Retreats, intimate setting
  • Programs and Assistance in rebuilding lives
  • Finding your strength and power as a widow
  • Preventing isolation

Why You’ve Never heard of them:

  • AWP is only 10 years old, and still growing
  • AWP has mostly online presence, so there’s a generational gap
  • The American Widow Project is a 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit that survives off the kindness of others. Meaning, their outreach programs are somewhat limited to donations, fundraisers, and local sponsors.

Other Links and Programs

Gold Star Family Program https://www.americasgoldstarfamilies.org/

The American Legion ‎ www.members.legion.org/‎ ( American Soil [Non-Foreign War] Veterans)

What Matters Is What THEY Know

…And how YOU can benefit.

VFW is and does much more than most people think.  They literally exist to use their knowledge, connections and expertise to  “Ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country.”

The VFW posts and auxiliary buildings are a place where any military family can go, to find resources, community, support, benefit help and programs, retreats and connections all over the world. This includes parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren of veterans too, not just spouses!

“We are a HUB for all military families.”  Kubinyi stresses. “We want you to know, there’s no need to be isolated and on your own, we want you to be able to be connected, healing, gaining, and giving back – together. In the midst of our losses, we are still a family.”

Visit https://www.vfw.org/assistance/va-claims-separation-benefits  for your state service officer.

If the service officer is too far, contact the Washington DC office, or Gabby Kubinyi  to connect with someone who is closest to you. 

Questions? Reach Gabby Kubinyi at :

[email protected]

VFW

Washington DC Office

200 Maryland Ave NE 20002

Entry #31 “Thank You Note”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

LORD, you have blessed me. I know it and I am acknowledging it here, and now. You have taken me to some places that I would not have trusted You to go, had you given me the choice.

But I went.

And I found that not only did you refill my empty heart, with a different kind of love, you healed and continue to heal it, piece by piece. Its not easy to be patient God, and I know you know I struggle with that in particular.

I know you have things in store for me that I couldn’t possibly imagine, desires of my heart and things that I need… I just need to be more patient – and you’re teaching me!

I’m understanding a tiny bit more, the concept of time and the art of waiting on you, God. I am thankful for my children and their smiles, despite the pain it can sometimes cause… because I know it brings me closer to you. I’m thankful for the ability to be around those that love me most, though it hurt me to need them, because I know it helps me recognize I need you.

I’m thankful that my broken heart is healing, and that love has been almost overwhelmingly poured into it, covering the canyon created when Jason left me. I know he’s with You, and that give me some peace.

Even more so, I know You understood my pain, and that’s why you’ve blessed me with so much love. Understanding how much you love me, even though its only the beginning… ( and knowing that is AMAZING!) is a journey I dont think I really knew the magnitude of until recently.

Maybe that was what this was for me, an awakening. Whatever your will, whatever the plan, I thank you in advance, and open my heart to you.

I lift my hands in total praise

Entry #27 “Measure of Faith”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

[NEVER AGAIN will I confess or focus on doubt and a lack of faith, because the Word says: “God has dealt to each one [every person] a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3) ]

Recently “lack of faith” or fear of the lack rather, has been my “excuse” for not being very focused on my church life.

I havent been reading.

I havent been studying.

I have only been living.

Existing. Taking up space and counting my blessings. I need to go to church.

I know.

I need to get these boys to church.

I know.

I’ve incorporated a “Talk about God and why we are thankful” day on Sundays to try to make up for the lack of church with the boys. I know its not good enough. I know.

Since I know these things, I must have some faith. I must have it embedded in my soul someplace, written on my hard-drive that God and church are right. Not just good but RIGHT. So I can no longer use fear of doubt, or lack of faith as an excuse not to go or listen, or at least study. 

Entry #19 “Trying to Tell Me Something….”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trying to Tell Me Something….

I made a corner in my house a few weeks ago, as a place for remembering. It has our family pics up from 2008, a few months before Jason passed. This weekend I found my little boy there, huddled in the corner, doing what looked like praying.

He’s 7, and unfortunately we dont get to church as much as we should… like ever. I pray with them, talk to them about God, but.. I think he needs more. Obviously theres always room for more God in someone’s life, especially for a little boy who’s lost his father. I knew that already. I just didnt act as quickly as I pictured I would when I reviewed my “game plan” as a new single mom.

For one thing, it aches to be in church without Jason. It literally creates a tightness in my throat and chest to be in places we used to be together, as a family. Family unit activities hurt. A lot. I feel wedged between two enormous feelings of hurt and disbelief, and a sense of loss for my children, being robbed of something so vital as a good father.

I digress.. As much as it broke my heart to see him there, praying so solemly, like a little old wise man, as much as I wanted to ask him what he was doing… I walked away. I said nothing.

Maybe God is trying to tell me something.

Til Death Do Us Part? (or) Who’s Wife IS This, Anyway?

Reading The Bible: A Widow’s Perspective

Luke 20

All Intimacies will be with God

So this is a *funny* thought. Not really funny “ha-ha” but funny like…. Interesting and thought provoking. The saying :”Til Death Do Us Part”… this idea that family, love and intimacies outside of God are all temporary until we die, is that a man-made idea? Or does that concept come from the bible, a God-influenced scripture? Is everyone you ever loved, children and family included… all temporary? Either way – what does the bible say about what happens to marriage when one person dies? What if you remarry? Whose wife are you then, when you all die and are looking at each other in heaven (hopefully!) like “Well, now what” ?

So let’s rewind just a bit first. I’m way behind in my reading. I went on a much needed vacation and lost my whole motivation to read/blog this whole book on a schedule. Okay, not completely, but I certainly did not go “right back” to my bible reading weekly routine. I was recovering… and going through some things, to say the least. So fast forward 3 weeks – and I jump back into Luke where I left off, and see this particular passage. Read it with me. I want to see something…

27-33 Some Sadducees came up. This is the Jewish party that denies any possibility of resurrection. They asked, “Teacher, Moses wrote us that if a man dies and leaves a wife but no child, his brother is obligated to take the widow to wife and get her with child. Well, there once were seven brothers. The first took a wife. He died childless. The second married her and died, then the third, and eventually all seven had their turn, but no child. After all that, the wife died. That wife, now—in the resurrection whose wife is she? All seven married her.”

34-38 Jesus said, “Marriage is a major preoccupation here, but not there. Those who are included in the resurrection of the dead will no longer be concerned with marriage nor, of course, with death. They will have better things to think about, if you can believe it. All ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God. Even Moses exclaimed about resurrection at the burning bush, saying, ‘God: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob!’ God isn’t the God of dead men, but of the living. To him all are alive.”

Now I’m just gonna sit here and let you absorb that. You get all of that? Let’s unpack that WHOLE thought-fart that just poofed into your face just now. Lol

  1. Did the Sadducees ask that long convoluted question JUST to be asking, because they didn’t believe in resurrection in the first place?
  2. Whoa, she married a LOT of people with the “expectation” of a child. Are we talking about married-married? Did they love her or just “know” her in the biblical sense? Did she love them? I feel like that matters when we are talking about whose wife she will be in her afterlife.
  3. How did all SEVEN husbands die? She’s like a Super widow?? That has to be horrible.  Poor thing. Or…. Maybe she reeaaaallly just didn’t want to be married… After the first 3 died, you would think the 4th brother would say.. OK …New plan!
  4. Have you ever had a new love or someone you know, ask you about that? Like “So babe, who would you choose – me, or your first husband, when you die?” Did you give them the same weird side eye that I did? Because I really think there are other things to be concerned about when you’re dead. At least initially.
  5. Then again Jesus says you wont be concerned with marriage OR death once resurrected. So there’s that. That’s interesting.
  6. My brother-in-law, bless his heart, years ago when it happened, actually mentioned the whole “marry your brother’s wife” thing to me. I know it was an off handed comment, and not meant to be taken literally. I know he felt like he just wanted to DO something to help me and the kids not have to struggle or need a man in the house. I got it. However, he too, got the side eye. I wanted to say, Do you KNOW what your brother would have said to you marrying me in his absence?? Lol #EEEK NO bro. Love you, but I’m ok.
  7. Jesus answers this whole crazy question by saying this: “All ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God”. SO who else thought, dang… so sex, companionship, marriage, and even the truest of soulmate love…. are all gonna be obsolete then. Thats ….kinda mind blowing!

So I posed this whole conversation to my new partner. He had some of the same comments and answers… some of them that would totally get him kicked out of bible study. Lol But his main answer got me thinking. He said: So when we die, does that mean we will have no feelings, no allegiances, no love for other people, no recollection of those we left behind or hoped to see once we died? All that will be left is our love for God? I didn’t really know how to answer. I kinda wish this had been elaborated on a little more, and maybe the more I read the more I’ll find. Personally, I don’t think it’s THAT extreme. It seems to me like there is still a knowledge of those you loved or those you were attached to, it just isn’t as important or as all-encompassing as your love and ecstasy and intimacy with God will be, once you crossover. But then… if it were that omnipresent – what happened with Lucifer? How’d he get so side-tracked?  

I suppose that’s a question for another day. At any rate, my takeaway here is this: Heaven’s so awesome, nothing else will matter. It will probably still exist, just not matter as much as the happiness and contentment God has for you in the resurrection. I really hope, for the sake of everyone who’s already gone over, that this is the case. It’s nice to imagine that they are happy there, but aren’t tortured by missing us too much.

Meditation: I will try not to worry about what God has for me in this life or in the afterlife. I have consistent proof that He cares for me and my loved ones day to day. I am constantly blessed, even in the smallest details of my life, and if God cares for those, then when it comes to the afterlife- mine or those I love- He must know what is important and what is not. I have nothing to fear and no worries for what will happen to my earthly ties, in the afterlife. It’s going to be ok. I trust it all in His hands.

My Story

Ok – Who am I?

Every Widow has a story. Every widow I meet, help, or connect with wants to know FIRST – Is She Like Me? Does she REALLY Get it? Can she REALLY Help me?

Yes. I am. I can. Here is my story.

My husband passed away very suddenly – no warnings, no planning…no goodbyes. 

Random head injury. He literally “just tripped”. He’d been playing with the kids, running backward in a relay race – on Easter Sunday in 2009. His head injury instantly gave him an hour, 2 at most, left to live.

 I became an instant single mom, and 27- year-old widow in about 45 minutes flat, that day.

Suddenly  I was no longer able to afford my home on my single income. I had to move back home with my parents, kids in tow, like a returned mail-order-bride. Even with that support system,  I felt homeless without Jason. He WAS my home.

I became barely functional for my 18 month and 6 year old, very dependent on my parents. My oldest needed therapy and my youngest wailed for his dad. They both clearly were going through something I couldn’t fix… which broke my heart every day.

Bills, benefits, and  social security paperwork piled up.

I began suffering anxiety attacks. Badly. Suddenly I was battling postpartum depression, grieving, serial dating, self medicating, counselor/doctor hopping .. and I’d be laid off from my job 6 months into my crazy upside down widow life.

I’ll never forget the moment when I decided it was time to ACT, and turn off the “autopilot”.

It was the end of year 2 being a widow, and I’d finally  settled on a counselor. She had said some things that were beginning to sink in. Things about controlling what you CAN, and what you REALLY have the power to create.

That’s when it HIT me. She had been trying to tell me this:

My ship may have been WAY  off course – but I still had the wheel. 

Even in my “crazy” widow state – I STILL had control over SOME things. I could STILL, realistically change my life, my mindset, and rebuild my core. I could create a new, NEXT me – with a foundation to that NO DEATH could ever take away from me again. 

But HOW? And where to START? And what about MONEY?

Before I could ask her, SHE died. Pancreatic Cancer. It took her very quickly. I was on my own.

I took what she said and went to work on a plan. She would not die in vain. Her words had changed me.

I developed a system that decluttered my crazy mom-life, gave me back my focus and clarity and created a NEW purpose.  I even figured out how to support my children and save for college – and got all my crazy benefit/tax/mortgage mayhem resolved. 

Today I am GLOWING. I didn’t just “get a new man and move on”. I didn’t just vent, pray, party, yoga or sleep it all away. I made a logical, simple, no-magic-or-surgery-required, MAP to rebuilding after loss. 

And now, truly living my dream life – fitting in where I belong, creating something no death can ever take from me. I am THRIVING in my purpose. I am committed to giving this map to every widowed mom out there who is ready to do the same!

This is my story… My WHY… my Purpose and PASSION!!!

If you’re ready to rebuild – move forward … and BE THAT #NEXTYOU… START Here.

I’m HERE for YOU!!! Let’s build it TOGETHER.

Luke 7-10: …Don’t Miss The Moment!

Luke 7-10 

This last 2 weeks have just been full of STUFF. Kid #2 has a broken ankle. Docs appts all over. Shots and physicals and therapy appointments for all 3 kiddos. Errands, house guests, house “stuff” …stubborn drains, laundry mountains and teenage stench cleansing. Family plans, vacation prepping, parties and parental chauffeuring.  Weight loss “plans” and a gym schedule that I think is really only keeping me sane, not necessarily fit. And on top of that I’m writing, promoting and launching a blog and my first business…all RIGHT now.

But this is mom life. Nothing atypical or out of the norm to be exhausted, working overtime, barely remembering to eat, (and somehow staying the ever irritating 10 lbs over my goal weight). Nonetheless in my usual rush to get my scheduled items done on time, I found myself reading my bible passage – and got NOTHING. Zero. It was completely eluding me what in the world this part of Luke, the travels and miracles of Jesus, was supposed to mean to me. I found myself rereading, trying to create meaning from my own situations, and in short coming up with nothing i felt good about.

I kept  thinking “I need to make sure other widows get something from this..I need to make it relevant…it needs to be interesting yet informative… I have to stick to my schedule… what about the 50 million other things on the schedule… ooh look – a squirrel! — and my head literally popped off. OK it didn’t. 🙂 But I did have to just take a break. Tried a different book. The devotional I normally get great insight from, wanted me to focus on the story Mary and Martha. Jesus visited them and Martha ran around like a crazy person (a.k.a. normal mom) trying to cook, prep, and be hospitable for Jesus…because I mean… he’s Jesus!! I get it!! And her little sister, was sitting at the foot of Jesus, just listening. Not helping. Not moving a muscle to even try to make things presentable for their honored guest. And when Martha finally had enough and said to Jesus, hey – make her help! Lazy self! He shut poor her down, saying that she was the one in the wrong place at the moment…and that Mary was right where she was supposed to be!

I got what the devotional was hinting at. Busy is not always the blessing. Sometimes the blessing is the moment – not the work it took to prep, create, or deserve the moment.  Sometimes what you prayed for is right in front of you but you miss it, trying to make it perfect or perform the duties expected with it. And in this was a good lesson… but I still felt like wanted a little more from this. I decided to take the book’s advice and try being still, like Mary, to see what I was really meant to get from this. 

I walked outside and just stood with my eyes closed. Probably looked like a nut, but I tried to only be mildly affected by that. I felt the wind caress my arms. Heard the trees swish in the evening breeze. I just waited. Since we know meditation takes practice and I’m no guru… silence in my head was not happening. But among the buzz of others…one thought did occur to me. I have another book! My mom had gifted me another book by John C. Maxwell called Wisdom from Women In the Bible a few weeks ago. I went back inside to find it.

I opened it and, would you believe the first page I opened to was Martha and Mary?? I’m no longer as surprised by God’s intentional “coincidences ” in my life, as I am humbled that he’s ever even taking the time to be bothered with tiny me. I digress, I read something a bit different here, and 3 lessons I got from this do correspond with the devotional message…but they had a slightly deeper and more personal meaning worded this way.


1. Be Still and Let God Lead

There was a point in the book made about moments when “God is in the house” to just sit at his feet and let him lead. This was tricky for me to decipher at first but it came to me later in bed that night.  For me, God is “in the house” when I’m doing the work I know He set for me. Not when I’m creating the website, planning events, looking for bookings and stressing like a headless chicken over everything – But when I’m on the phone with that widow and there’s that moment of “I totally get you!” and I start unknowingly validating her prayers. When I know I’m being used and the words are not my own, they are just spilling forth and she’s Amen-ing and the vibe is just gold light and fire!! That’s when God is in the house. That’s when I need to just throw away my talking points and just get IN that moment and let God lead! I prayed and prepped for these moments so that they could lead to a blessing – but the blessing is HERE in the moment! So I say that to you: The blessing IS the moment – not the prep or just the takeaway. Rejoice before and after yes- but don’t forget to stop prepping and stressing – just pause and BE PRESENT and let Him work in the moment, when God is HERE. Slow down and Enjoy the moment!


2. Moments Expire!!

Another thing about fleeting precious moments, is that they reside not only in times where God “is in the house” but in life!  Truly loving people lies in the moments with the people, not their corresponding “to do” lists: Jesus said to a disciple — who had also fussed at Mary for wasting perfumed oil, which could have been sold for money for charity, not used to clean feet — that poor people are always going to exist. He would not  always be here for her to show her love to. This resonated with me because in taking great care to feed, clothe, transport, and care for my children… I’m in danger of missing the moments I cannot get back.  Sure, some things need to be done to ensure my little human blessings reach adulthood and independence…but the blessing of seeing, cherishing, and spending time just enjoying the moments with them while they are children… will be gone one day when they are independent adults. Moments Expire!!


3. Busy Women, Natural Givers

And lastly there was the message about being a woman and our natural gift of doing-everything-ness. We don’t all scrub and bake til dawn to show love, but most of us seem to have something in us that we selflessly give. Time, Money, Energy, Wisdom, Help, Affection, etc…we tend to give and give with no regard for ourselves until we begin running almost empty. And that empty feeling feels like lack of appreciation.  And the human parts of us start looking for folks to blame or compare our efforts to. (Ahem, Mary’s lazy buns) lol. Mary definitely wasn’t being lazy but Martha was giving Jesus what she thought was 100% of her best! It must have stung a bit when Jesus pointed out that Mary was doing the right thing and that Martha was pouring her own efforts into the wrong pot. This is where I discovered that in that same moment, she probably realized she wasn’t mad at Mary at all. She was upset with herself. She was running in circles, so busy being busy- she’d missed the point of Jesus’ visit. It was to be with him. To learn from him. Jesus had not come to take anything she had prepped, cooked or cleaned. He had come to give her something.  But her hands, were full. Sometimes as women we give so much, we forget that we have needs too. We forget that life has gifts and knowledge and love to give US…but our hands are too full to receive. Our hearts are too weary to hope there’s something for us too. We didn’t even look for it! Our minds are too busy creating reasons for why we need to do more, (or explanations for why others aren’t) that we don’t think there’s time to stop and receive.  We miss it completely! Stop missing it! Get what God came to give you! Slow down sometimes, and see if God is in the house – and if he is: put everything else aside. It will be there when you get back – that moment might not be! Stop and get your moment! He’s here for YOU.

Whew!! It is MONDAY ya’ll. That took me 4 days to unpack! 4 days to really receive the full message…and even though I’m a bit off my schedule, I’m glad I took time to wait for each point. I’m a very busy person – as most of us mothers are- but this lesson helped me slow down, and really dissect that moment Martha had with Jesus. I’m grateful for the wisdom that came with it! <3

Meditation:
Thank you Jesus for giving me so many things to appreciate! Help me trust you more, enough to know that your intention is more important than my to-do list – and help me see the moments you create for me! As hard as I try to give so much of myself, showing my own way of love – help me to remember you have gifts for me too, and that I am important to YOU. Whether its wisdom, love, people, or whatever gifts you have for me to stop and appreciate- help me see that I need to slow down and give my 100% attention to them when you present them – and not miss the moment!! Amen.

Luke 6: Solid As A Rock

I read Luke 3-6 but the most value I got was from the last verses of 6. Jesus talks about exactly how he wants us to be. Specifically actually. He talks about blessings and woes (6:17), love for enemies (6:27) judging others (6:37), handling your heart and it’s true fruit (6:43) and then about the foundation of your faith (6:46). All this sounds really good, like all things in the bible that Jesus says; clever, wise, repetitive so you don’t forget and purposefully worded to paint a picture in your head.

It wasn’t, though, until I read a devotional in reference to the last part of chapter 6 – about the foundation of the spirit and using what Jesus teaches in times of storm – that I realized WHY he was saying these things. The devotional asked me three questions:

  1. What storm is threatening to sway you?
  2. How deep is your foundation in Jesus? How much deeper would you like it to go?
  3. What will you do to develop a deeper, stronger foundation?

Reflexively, over the years of widowhood, I tend to think of my storm as.. well… widowhood. And everything that came with it. But as I stated in the last chapter of John – I really do feel that that particular storm is finished. Thing is – what scares me is the old saying, “the only thing constant is change”. I’m sure there are more changes, more storms to come. I’ve had some over the years, unrelated to, but still complicated further by widowhood. My life has been “no crystal stair” to climb upward – still I have to acknowledge that upward is indeed the direction I’ve been climbing. I’m no longer shouting in the deafening storms of grief and depression. I’m no longer fumbling in the dark with the problems of those storm clouds. My life is pretty amazing. As awesome as that feels to say – I think the threat of new storms and how that fear affects me – THAT’S the storm I’m battling now. Call it PTSD, if you will. I’m better than I was, and I’ve healed my own way by making sure I’d always be mentally prepared to rebuild from whatever comes next – but I’m still very aware and fearful of the possibility of new pain, new setbacks and God forbid – new grief.

Interestingly the main things a single mother has to worry about like money, future planning, grief counseling, single parenting, new relationships,  running a household, and stress management – these are what I help other people build stronger, smarter foundations for. These are balanced and managed in my life, thank God – and I’ve (literally) made it my business to create systems to help myself and others keep these foundations intact and their lives less stressful.

My storm has to do with worrying about the things I CAN’T control. It threatens to sway me every time. My imagination gets the better of me and I’ve come up with 800 scenarios of death and chaos, casting looming gray shadows over the things I CAN’T organize, manage, counsel away, or plan for in this wonderful new life I’ve created. It’s the main reason I started reading this bible. In the beginning of the journey I said – I wanted a deeper foundation. I’d want it to go so deep I don’t even bat an eye at storms like this. So what will I do to develop this? The devotional says this:

“We know that sooner or later storms will come in one form or another. If we don’t put Jesus’ words into practice, we are on shaky ground. But if we build our spiritual lives on what he says, we can withstand anything that shakes us. And what strong words has Jesus given his followers?

New Women’s Devotional Bible NIV – Zondervan 2010

Yep. You guessed it. Scroll up. 🙂 First paragraph. “He talks about blessings and woes (6:17), love for enemies (6:27) judging others (6:37), handling your heart and it’s true fruit (6:43) and then about the foundation of your faith (6:46).”

I don’t have the answers as to exactly how these will specifically help me in the future of storms, because like most people, I bet, I can imagine a million possible storms, but can never predict or prepare for the one that actually comes. I will say, it’s probably better to have Jesus in your arsenal than nothing at all.

Meditation: I know I can’t control everything, and storms will come whether I’m worried or not,  weak or strong, tired or ready. In which case, my worrying is pointless. My strength is in my obedience to keep reading the Word. My readiness is my ability to use the armor of the Word.

I’ll trust in the Lord, and keep building my foundation on his Word. He will be my rock, my solid foundation.

Luke 1-2: Never In Their Wildest Dreams

This week I started Luke. I’ve always liked that name, so when I saw that the next “recommended book to read after John” were Mathew, Luke and Mark – I picked Luke. Cover Art Painting: The Amazing Minjae Lee.

The chapter starts off with the births of both John and Jesus, and how Elizabeth and Mary (their mothers, respectively) were cousins. Something interesting about them that I picked up on, was that neither of these women were “supposed” to be pregnant. Elizabeth was very old, and told she was barren. Mary was a virgin that was only engaged, not yet married to her fiance Joseph. It’s interesting to me because it seems like God likes to be “unpredictable”. In Elizabeth’s case, she was old – and had ‘lived her life’, and probably wished for younger days and babies along those long years. Even though Elizabeth was said to be filled with the holy spirit, and a good woman, she was still barren. Back in those days, infertility was seen as a bad omen, or being unfavorable to God. Shame was attached to infertility, and she lived most of her life with that shame. She probably thought her l ife was almost over, and that there would be nothing “new” or exciting to look forward to, because the things she really wanted were no longer possible. Never in her wildest dreams had she even considered that she might become pregnant and raise a brand new baby at this age!

In Mary’s case she was probably pretty young and had no idea what being married would be like. She might have daydreamed and pictured her life as a wife, an the “duties” of creating eventual children, but it’s doubtful she imagined immaculate conception – and having to explain that to her friends and family! What a crazy impossible shock that must have been to her life – being chosen to mother the son of God! And what about the rest of the situation? How strange things might be between her and her husband after breaking the news, or not knowing how that dynamic was going to play out with Joe not being her child’s biological father, and how that might make him feel for the rest of Jesus’ life. How would Joseph feel when his son walked the earth talking about his father – and never mentioning the man in the shadows that raised him?  It must have seemed incredibly impossible, the whole idea of it all. Not in her wildest dreams was this even a “thing”.

Bringing this back to me, and my perspective as a widow, its pretty obvious that no one would ever even think of their spouse passing away – especially not the way mine did. I’ve heard so many stories of how crazy, unexpected, downright impossible things have happened to claim the lives of spouses, young and old, healthy or not. But the kicker here is that I thought my surprise was his death. While it was a HUGELY unexpected and life changing blow, that wasn’t even the part that I would have never imagined. THAT part happened as a result of his passing. I never had any aspirations of being a speaker, inspirational leader, teacher, coach, or creator of anything like what I’m doing now. I never had any idea I’d be able to be sitting here, on my deck on a Thursday, writing – living the life I created around a passion that didn’t exist until he passed!! I feel like I’m a completely different person after Jason passed. That woman didn’t believe she could lead, teach, love again, inspire or be anything more than what she was. That woman didn’t have the faith, the wisdom, the self confidence, the motivation, the trust in others, or the energy to pour into others and relish in stretching people’s imaginations to see their own potentials. Never in my wildest dreams did I think THIS would be my life. Not when I dreamed as a kid, not when I met him and knew he’d be my husband, and not at the altar when we’d said “forever”. I’d never imagined THIS.

I wonder if Elizabeth and Mary were changed souls as well, after such a turn happened in their lives. They sang songs of joy and worship, knowing that their God was real and He had made them special. He had changed their lives. And yes, Mary would have to witness Jesus die. And yes Elizabeth though blameless, had to live most of her life with the shame of thinking herself broken, people whispering behind her back that she was unable to perform the one thing she was “supposed” to provide. There was tragedy attached to His plan. But there was also joy, and life and amazing grace – beyond their wildest dreams.

Meditation:

Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37).  Think about the things in your life you have experienced that were just beyond anything you could have imagined – and then what was the result? What changes have changed YOU – or your life – beyond anything you could have predicted?