Monday, May 22, 2017

Just Beyond the Garden Gate… 

“If you don't make the time to work on creating the life you want,                 you're eventually going to be forced to spend a LOT of time dealing with a life you don't want.” ~Kevin Ngo
This month we are focusing on Extreme Health & Wellness. It’s important to realize that as Women, Wives, Widows, Mothers, Grandmother, Daughters and Friends, good health begins from within. We must care for ourselves first to be able to love and care for others.
I’m writing this newsletter from a chair in the hospital waiting room trying to balance my laptop on my crossed legs waiting for the professional staff to call my father in law back for his biopsy for a “malignant nodule” in his lung --I’m without a cup of coffee, I might add, sandwiched in-between my mother in law, my father in law and two walkers with a MWC newsletter deadline in the forefront of my mind…
For better or worse, in sickness and in health, a complete “Deja Vu” from my past with too much time spent in hospitals and not enough time on the porch of our  lakehouse, while my dearly beloved husband, Kevin, was ill. Oh my. I could be overwhelmed or depressed, or sad, but actually I’m not. I’m glad that I have the privilege to be here with my family. When you marry, you marry not only your soul mate but his entire family. Who knew… Anyway, while I sit her in the waiting room, it does honestly seem like the perfect time to write about Extreme Health and Wellness - Modern Widows Club’s Theme for May!  

This morning, when I woke to find the damp dew covering the garden after a night of rain and grey clouds looming, I stepped just outside the garden gate to walk the two pups ready to explore a new day. I was instantly reminded of a beautiful, little book, by Thomas Kinkade entitled “Beyond the Garden Gate”...
I pushed the gate that swung so silently
And I was in the garden and aware
Of early daylight on the flowers there
It reminded me that each new day is indeed a gift to be shared and experienced. We have a choice each and every day when we wake to determine how our outlook will be and what we will do with it. Some are good and some are not as good. But they are all unique gifts that allow us the opportunity to be the Best, “Wellest We” we can Be!

A few days ago, we celebrated Mother’s day, and for some reason, I just couldn’t “Do” Mother’s Day this year. Some days are just harder than others and I don't really know why.
I do know that it is always important to remember that we hurt because we loved. I spent some time doing some things for the New Me!
I didn't over plan and I gave myself "permission" to NOT go to church just because I just didn't want to... It just wasn't a hat & flowers kinda day for me...
Instead I chose to take Carolyn’s advice and “Pamper ME!”
I rode my bike,
I enjoyed my garden (Church of the Great Outdoors - I call it!),
I listened to Joel on TV (He always encourages me!!!),
And I read “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg on my terrace, with a big cup of coffee and my toes in the sunshine…
We all have a choice to make on how we live the rest of our lives.
It's not what we thought we would have, but it is what we do have and you know what...It's ok... It's Good. In fact, it can be glorious to get a chance to make a choice and make a change...or two!
Our new life begins, just beyond the Garden Gate...look outside, dream beyond the perimeter of your mind, wonder what all your new life can hold for you…
Healthy, and Extremely Well… Grateful, Happy, even Joyful...You’re ALIVE!!
I'm becoming a whole new "Me", a unique new woman, with some spirit and some sass - and a lot of Gumption & Resilience -
I'm becoming a brand new Woman - a New Mother.
I'm becoming a new Grandmother or Ama (Mother is Basque)
I becoming the New Woman I Want to Be...
She takes care of herself.
She is fit and trim, eats right and exercises ( Ok, I said BECOMING ... I'm not there yet...)
She hikes
She rides bikes,
She paints her toes some very FUN colors,
She reads on the terrace in her garden,
She takes naps,
And some days, she seeks some peaceful refuge in the safety of her own "new" home to rest, reflect and recharge!
It felt so great to Give "Me" what I needed... I listened to Carolyn's call to "Mother ourselves... " And I spent My Day Papering ME! It was the perfect day for me!  We can't serve others if we don't take care of ourselves first! (Place your oxygen mask on you before you help others around you.)

I’m reading LOVE DOES by Bob Goff. If you haven’t read it, get it. You need to. He says…”God invites us to be new creations, original art, and to live a life of engagement.”
I totally connect with that statement and for me, right now, it ties in tightly with Extreme Health and Wellbeing. We are called to live above the norm in our new normal. We are among the chosen ones in the strangest sense of the word...We have been given an opportunity to course correct and make some changes to lead richer lives. It’s time to take care of ourselves because we just can’t be all we were born to be if we don’t.
You can’t just decide that instantly you will be extremely healthy and well. But we can make some choices each and every day to move forward, towards the goals you choose, with planning and persistence in that direction. I’m promising to. Being back in the hospital reminded me that I am more in control of me and my health than anyone else...So much of
I hope you have a great week and that you do something for YOU --Whatever you want that to be! Take care of YOU first and then you will be able to do all the other things we have to do.

One of our newest members, Diane, said... "We have to get on with the business of being widows!" She's absolutely right!  We do and We shall and We will ...right after we take care of ourselves for one short, delightful, perfectly selfish moment!! Remember to look just beyond the Garden Gate and Enjoy every second!!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy Mother's Day... 

a little bit late...

I wanted to wish you all a belated Mother's Day. 
I thought of all of you all day yesterday. 
I had a 10000 messages for you in my mind & heart, but never hit send...
Some days are just harder than others and I don't really know why.

I do know that it is always important to remember that we hurt because we loved. I spent some time doing some things for the New Me! 

I went on a bike ride,
I read Option B on my terrace,
& I took my Maman to the Symphony downtown!
I had a lovely day!

I didn't over plan & I gave myself "permission" to NOT go to church just because I just didn't want to... It just wasn't a hat & flowers kinda day for me...
Instead, I rode my bike,
enjoyed my garden (Church of the Great Outdoors - I call it!)
and listened to Joel on TV !!!
We all have a choice to make on how we live the rest of our lives. As Sheryl says in her book... "It is not our Option A..."
It's not what we thought we would have, but it is what we do have and you know what...It's ok... It's Good. In fact, it can be glorious to get a chance to make a choice and make a change...or two!
I'm becoming a whole new "Me", a unique new woman, with some spirit and some sass - and a lot of Gumption & Resilience - 
I'm becoming a brand new Mother. I'm becoming a new Grandmother or Ama (Mother is Basque) 
I becoming the New Woman I Want to Be...
She takes care of herself.
She is fit and trim, eats right and exercises ( Ok, I said BECOMING ... I'm not there yet...)
She hikes
She rides bikes,
She paints her toes some very FUN colors,
She reads on the terrace in her garden,
She takes naps,
And some days, she seeks some peaceful refuge in the safety of her own "new" home to rest, reflect and recharge!

I had an amazingly, perfect Mother's Day. It felt so great to Give "Me" what I needed... I listened to Carolyn's call to "Mother ourselves... " And I spent My Day Papering ME! 
We can't serve others if we don't take care of ourselves first! (Place your oxygen mask on you before you help others around you.)

I hope you have a great week and that you do something for YOU --Whatever you want that to be! Take care of YOU first and then you will be able to do all the other things we have to do.

One of our newest members, Diane, said... "We have to get on with the business of being widows!" She's absolutely right!
We do and We shall and We will ...right after we take care of ourselves for one short, delightful, perfectly selfish moment!!

Enjoy every second!!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Road Less Traveled:A moment of Silence & Clarity...

This week marks the one year anniversary of my losing my life long career job at Stewart. I really can’t believe it’s been a year. Wow...I have worked since I was 14 years old and planned to work at Stewart until retirement. I honestly envisioned that I would take a three month sabbatical (I was not termed till the end of July) and go back to work in September. I would enjoy some sweet time off with our newest angel girl, baby Emily, I would enjoy some great family time and vacation, I would totally reorganize my entire house and set aside my 90 day severance check for a future trip to Italy & Greece.

That is not exactly what happened. While I did enjoy some great family time with baby Emily, and I did go on some great family vacations, and have several promising interviews, I was not working by the fall. I turned down two jobs that didn’t feel “right” to me, and lived off my severance fairly quickly. I did sell my stock and buy a time share and some concert& theatre tickets to enjoy with my family. First things first right?! I knew from the start that without a regular pay check, I would never be able to afford my travel habit and truly enjoy a wide range of entertainment from ballet to STOMP and have been able to enjoy all that from my purchases from my former Stewart stock.

However, even though I did not find my next “JOB” in the corporate world I thought I was returning to, I have LOVED every single second of my new life. Despite the financial impact of unemployment and excruciating COBRA payments, I have Loved my life every single day. On my prayer walks with Sadie each morn, I always tell Sweet Jesus, “I love my life!” I have truly become alive again in so many ways because I was given a wonderful gift...the gift of slowing down and living life simply, joyfully, and quietly. A gift of time, some free time, and moments of revelation, reflection, and renewing rebirth. A great time of clarity for me...

Here’s a few things I have learned and now embrace:

  1. I already knew, but this year has truly shown me, life is precious. Enjoy every second. Look around you and smell the roses. On my morning stroll, I have always enjoyed my surroundings, but was in a hurry to get in the shower on time to make sure I got my spot in the traffic line so I would not be late to work for my 7am start time. Now, I can be a tad more leisurely. I can stop and visit with a neighbor. I can listen to a solo performance for moi from a bird at the top of the tree overlooking me and wishing me “good day”, I can watch a cardinal skirt a dozen trees to find who knows what, I can take photos of the flowers I see. I can pray all my prayers in silence and solitude and not feel rushed….
  2. I can go to the gym. I can go to spin class and not leave early. I can stay till the end and visit with an old friend. I can try the aqua class at 10 or attend the yoga class at 3. I have time. I can take care of my body and make stronger commitments to be healthy to enjoy my grandchildren.
  3. I can eat better. I have time to prepare and to cook and to wonder my way through the store making good healthy choices. I have had to learn with limited funds to only buy what I really need and only what I will really eat in the next few days. And if I need more, I have time to go back to the store. No worries.
  4. I can pop over and play with my grandchildren anytime. I don’t have to watch my watch when I’m with them. I can pick up the house, or cook a dinner, or go to the zoo. It doesn’t matter. I have time to do it and to enjoy playing with them, unrushed, with out a care in the world. I love it.
  5. I can take my Maman to the movies & lunch on a Tuesday. We can go to the museum in the middle of the day. I can just stop by and have lunch with her and a friend in the middle of the week. I don’t have to be so anxious and watch my watch and hurry back or think I will be late. I can just sit and visit and enjoy. I can lunch in my garden instead of at my desk and it is wonderful.
  6. I can help with doctor appointments, packing up an old family home that has been sold, go to the storage unit, goodwill, and drop off items with my family members, in the middle of the week, or the middle of the day. I have time to do that.
  7. I can go to mass, or adoration, or the chapel. I can visit with the priest after wards. I can open new chapters for Modern Widows Club.  I can meet with PR Reps and Financial Advisers and Attorneys to develop a plan to watch my mission = my passion, GROW. I can return emails, and write thank you notes, and spend time encouraging others to lean into life. I have time for that now…
  8. I can learn more. I can study Resilience. I can learn about vulnerability. I can find my very own GUMPTION. I can face Fear and learn about Empowerment. I can open my own business and help others. I can go to Chamber of Commerce events, to the International Association of Business Communicators, I can attend ALTA, TLTA & ACMP functions and serve on committees now, without asking permission or taking time off. I have time for that…
  9. I can cook for others and bring them dinner and a bit of peace, an endearing smile, a hug or pat on the back. We can sit on the terrace with an open bottle of wine and steal away from all the stress and worries of the world for a few hours - we get a little bit closer to world peace.
  10. I can be me and all that God wanted me to be. I have been given the greatest gift of all: TIME. Time to ponder my life; where I have been, where I am and to dream Big Bright Bold dreams of where I want to Go. I’m asking God to use me as His vessel - to fill me with His LOVE so I can share with others. To guide me, to lead me and to LOVE me and show me the way. To hear the need, and to fill it. I don’t always have a day timer hour by hour plan, but each new day He does direct my steps to take me where I am to be to serve others with His love. It could be a prayer for someone outside a courthouse. It could be a hug to someone with cancer, it could be a ride to the doctors office, or a few hours I spend helping someone out so they can do something else. It can look like anything, any day. I never know what I will be doing or where, but I always love it. I am enjoying every second of my new life...

In so many ways, this has been the Richest year of my life. When I was terminated, I was given the gift of time. Today when I think back on it all, I began thinking of all the things I didn’t get done. The closets aren’t organized. I haven’t washed the windows. I decided not to remodel the kitchen. I still have a garage full of too much stuff. But I have held my grand babies, I have gone to the beach and the zoo and the museums. I have been able to be there for my family and my friends when they needed an extra hand, or a hug or a warm meal, or just a smile. I have enjoyed spending time with friends. I have traveled all over; from Oregon, to Iceland, to Kansas, to Santa Fe, to Matagorda and soon to France and perhaps Fiji...I’ll make it to Italy and Greece too I’m sure. I have learned to live simpler. Dropped the land line, gave up the cable, stopped buying things I didn’t really need. I read more. I learn more. I spend more time in the gym and in the garden. I cook healthier and I live larger. I have really embraced what I have said for years now: Enjoy every single Second! Life is short, and all we really have to give is our LOVE!!!

PS: As soon as I finished writing this, I received a call from my attorney that Lancaster Leadership if officially certified by the State of Texas and WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

Enjoy Every Second!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

1st Yellow Rose from my Garden, 2017

"Rise above Yourself!"
Thomas J. Leonard

As we embark on a glorious week leading to the reminder of Christ's resurrection, I remind you to RISE! We are given a choice, each and every new day, to walk or to run, to fear or to focus, to live our to die to ourselves. I ask you to Rise. Take a chance and make a choice to make a change. What do you want to work on in your life to make it better. To raise the bar. To improve your quality of life. To rise above yourself! We all know that a single choice can change your life in a heartbeat. We spend so much of our lives worrying about things that NEVER happen. What if we spent that time focusing on things that really matter.

Are you growing and exploring each new day? Are you continuing to learn and to be engaged in your life. Why are you here? What do you want to do? How will you give? It's time to make a choice to Rise to the occasion. I raised my children to realize that there are 1000 ways to live your life and God gives us free will to make those choices. So many of us live in fear to dream big and go and do what your heart desires. But I am challenging you to do just that. 

You were born for a purpose. You were given a gift. God has asked you to share that gift with the world. We need YOU. We need YOU to share YOUR gift with US. We can't live without it. We have been waiting for you to share it with us. We are ready to receive your gift. Are you ready to share it with us?! Are you growing and exploring each new day? Are you continuing to learn and to be engaged in your life. Why are you here? What do you want to do? How will you give? It's time to make a choice to Rise to the occasion. 

R: Resurrection of your new hope; your new beginning; your new life
I: Inspiration to guide you daily
S: Strength to sustain you always
E: Everlasting energy to enjoy every second you are given 

Rise up and shine, for your light has come. 
Isaiah 60:1

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Taking Care of Business: Legal Matters

Written for Modern Widows Club March Newsletter: Taking Care of Business
March, 2017

Legal Matters

My father taught me at an early age that it is important to always keep your legal affairs in order. I thank him for that. He always had a will. The irony to that is when he passed away, we knew he had a will, but we never found it. It made caring out his wishes of his estate more difficult, expensive and time consuming. It made me realize that I didn’t want to do the same for my family. When I was 14, I rode my bike after school to work in a law firm that was owned by the mother of my debate partner. I learned a lot about more about law and taking care of legal matters. When Kevin and I married, we got our wills. When our children were born, we updated our wills. And when he passed away, I updated my will and POAs once more. While we never want to consider our end of life and what will transpire afterwards, it is the greatest gift of order and reconciliation of our financial and legal assets we could ever leave our families.

As widows, now more than ever, it is time we get our legal affairs in order by taking care of business.

This month we are talking about "Taking Care of Business Together". Carolyn Moor, our national founder, is asking everyone in our community to commit to doing one big thing on their "To Do" list that has been hanging around way too long. She is committed to filing her tax returns on time in 2017, not filing for an extension like the last decade. Breaking old patterns and asking others to join along and be accountable gets us there.

Thinking about all the ramifications of the changes in our lives because of becoming widows, made me realize as well, that now, no one knows where “my stuff” is…the bank accounts, the IRAs, the insurance policies, the safety deposit box, etc. My personal call to action for this month is to compose a letter to my children letting them know the details of my legal/financial matters as well as a current list of usernames and passwords. With our world governed more and more by technology and apps, encryption and security, we have more limited access than ever to our funds. Banks won’t allow access to safety deposit boxes or bank accounts without designated beneficiaries or legal documents which come much later in the estate planning process. We hear constantly from our members who they were unable to get copies of priceless photos from Facebook, or into accounts that they were locked out of. Make plans now so that doesn’t happen to your family.

As empowered women, we have an obligation to take care of business to save our families from this future chagrin. Who knows were “your stuff” is?

Our Modern Widows Club Houston and Woodlands Chapters were both able to have attorneys speak to us about Wills, Probate and Estate Planning. Nick Dupre spoke to the MWC Houston group and shared with us the basic overview of estate planning; “Who get What and How.” We learned a lot. While it is important to recognize the variances in local legal nuances, we can all safely say that our estates will be better managed when we have our affairs in order. Everyone should have a will and a power of attorney. As the financial and legal leaders of our families, we need to focus on having our affairs in order and being prepared. We know, more than anyone, what it’s like to handle someone’s estate. Once you have made your plans, you can relax and enjoy your life more because your affairs will be in good order.

Here are a few basic definitions that Nick shared with our group:

“Who Needs a Will?

The short answer to this question is: everyone that owns titled property. Examples of titled property include real estate, closely held business interest, investment/ checking/savings account, vehicles and even lawsuits. When a loved one dies, title to the decedent's property passes to the beneficiaries under the decedent's will or to the heirs-at-law if the decedent died without a will. However, there must be an actual transfer of ownership of the property by proving the will in court or, if there is no will, by having a court determine who are the decedent's heirs. The latter is expensive, time consuming and puts control in the hands of the court instead of the testator with a will title to property passes immediately at death, the assets of the estate are subject to the control of the executor or administrator of the estate for the purpose of settling the debts of and claims against the estate. A will provides a streamlined process to ensure proper transition of titled assets.

Planning for Incapacity

Estate planning is not only planning for control of assets at death, but also control of assets during life. In addition, to a Will, the fundamental estate plan also consists of a (i) statutory durable power of attorney (“DPOA”); (ii) a medical power of attorney (“MPOA”); and a (iii) directive to physicians. A DPOA appoints an agent to act on your behalf, with respect to money or property, where you are incapacitated or unavailable to act. Without an agent appointed to act on your behalf at incapacity, a guardianship proceeding is necessary to appoint someone for you. This process is expensive. A MPOA simply appoints someone as agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable. Finally, a directive to physicians simply provides whether you wish to use, or not to use, life prolonging procedures to keep you alive if you are terminally ill.”

Nicholas A. Dupre, J.D. -Board Certified Estate Planning and Probate - Texas Board of Legal Specialization with Knighton and Stone, PLLCh

In summary, everyone should have a Will, and two Power of Attorneys; one for legal/financial matters and one for medical issues. Additionally, you should have a Living Will or Advanced Care Directive.

At our leadership retreat last year, Carolyn invited Chanel Reynolds to speak. She has an amazing, young widow who lost her husband suddenly that has built a business around being prepared called GYST. I have found tremendously helpful. She offers lots of helpful info to get your affairs in order. It’s a free service with many valuable resources. I would recommend you start there. It will help you organize your next steps to the mental freedom that comes from having your legal matters taken care of. Plan to organize your legal affairs and commit to it with a friend. You will feel so relieved to have this off the list of things to get done!

Once you have our legal affairs in order, you can set that aside in your mind, and relax and enjoy your life. You will know that someone has all the information they need if something happens. You will be so grateful that you are taking care of business. It will give you peace to enjoy every second…#widowstrong

Natalie I. Lancaster is the Chapter Leader of the Modern Widows Club Houston and Northwest Houston/Katy Chapters*. She calls herself the “Southwest Regional Director for MWC – otherwise known as the Texas Tornado” and plans to promote chapters across the southwestern region of the United States. Additionally, she is the Innovative Change Leader of Lancaster Leadership, Inc., offering professional change leadership focusing on communication, consulting & training as well as personal development and transformation. She shares her insights on life and love after loss on eNJoyEvery2nd!

*Modern Widows Club Houston now has three chapter locations to serve our community widows. We meet in River Oaks, Memorial and the Woodlands. Please contact for more information.
Lancaster Leadership, Inc. offers innovative change solutions to help you and your business meet your communication, coaching & training needs. We also offer leadership development and personal transformation coaching for you and our staff.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Beautiful Rose, a gift from my garden.

And Then, She Said "YES!!!"

This Big Bright and Bold 2017, I've made a commitment to saying YES! 
"Yes!" to LIFE!!! Yes to new adventures. 
Yes to a new career, and Yes to LOVE. 
"Yes" to anything I'm invited to, or exposed to, our included in that I can do, I will do. 
I'll just say "Yes!" for 2017.

Recovering from a LONG Valentines week full of love and laughter, pain, tears, anger and suffering, I've escaped to Santa Fe New Mexico for a respite for my mind, body and soul. And I must say it worked! The Bright Blue Skies of Santa Fe are healing. I could hear the soothing sounds of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi from my room....It was heaven for sure! It is gorgeous there! The sky is Robin's egg blue and it was about 40 to 50 degrees with no humidity. Not to mention, there is not a lot that a few great meals with green chilies can't heal. Walking 6.5 miles up Canyon Road and back with a dear friend that is a Breast Cancer Survivor, was motivating and calming. I used this quiet time to course correct, find my new compass and ask God for discernment and direction. I'm excited to see what He reveals. 

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi 
Santa Fe, NM

I met the priest after mass by chance (or not!) in a wonderful French bakery near the church. I wanted to met him because I loved the letter he shared at mass from St. Peter Damian about rejoicing after sadness. I wanted to share it with my widows at Modern Widows Club. I spoke with him and other parishioners about our mission with MWC. The letter he shared revealed that there is Hope and Peace and Joy for us. It's all around us. It's just in the asking that we get dismayed. I love mentoring my widows. It thrills me to see the transformation right before me as our members learn to lean into their new lives with resilience, and becoming purposeful and productive and contributing back to society. They are saying YES to LIFE.

There have been a lot of YESes to Love lately too. Sooo very happy for Jodie Rodenbaugh and her "Oak" Matt Orf and their February engagement and commitment to Love lasting for ever. Love Always, Love All Ways. My congratulations to Mary Hines Wade and her marriage to JB. Wade. So excited to see these two beautiful families become one in faith and in love; enjoying life and saying YES! I am delighted to share in the joy of my dear friend Annette Little Cox 1 year anniversary for her Chapter 2 - She said YES to love and to live and to live out loud. Sylvia Salazar married her Philip Crowley and enjoying her 2nd year of a new life! When I met Cindy Toledo the first time she was so in love with Robert, it really inspired me! Now they are married too. We Celebrate YOU! All of you that have found new love after losing love. Many, many other dear friends have become engaged this month, recommitted to a life to be lived out loud with another and saying YES to LOVE. And to LIFE! Life after great Loss with lots of LOVE. I celebrate YOU!

Saying YES doesn't mean you have to say yes to a new relationship, or marriage, or anything you don't want to say "Yes" to. It only means you have to say "Yes" to New Life. New life after surviving loss. Yes to surviving cancer!!! Yes to new opportunities. Yes to Standing Tall in your NEW Life. Claim it for You. You deserve it. You worked hard to get here and now is the time to bloom where you are planted. 

Throw your shoulders back, take a deep breathe, breath in the beauty that surrounds you, and lean into LIFE.  Enjoy this journey that your are on. Enjoy the here & the now. Just say Yes. Yes Yes! Indeed, just say "YES" to life. 

Wind Sculpture Art on Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM

Message from Mass in Santa Fe, NM:

Let us rejoice in the joy that follows sadness
You asked me to write you some words of consolation, my brother. Embittered by so many tribulations, you are seeking some comfort for your soul. You asked me to offer you some soothing suggestions.
But there is no need for me to write. Consolation is already within your reach, if your good sense has not been dulled. My son, come to the service of God. Stand in justice and fear. Prepare your soul; it is about to be tested. These words of Scripture show that you are a son of God and, at such, should take possession of your inheritance. What could be clearer than this exhortation?
Where there is justice as well as fear, adversity will surely test the spirit. But it is not the torment of a slave. Rather it is the discipline of a child by its parent.
Even in the midst of his many sufferings, the holy man Job could say: Whip me, crush me, cut me in slices! And he would always add: This at least would bring me relief, yet my persecutor does not spare me.
But for God’s chosen ones there is great comfort; the torment lasts but a short time. Then God bends down, cradles the fallen figure, whispers words of consolation. With hope in his heart, man picks himself up and walks again toward the glory of happiness in heaven.
Craftsmen exemplify this same practice. By hammering gold, the smith beats out the dross. The sculptor files metal to reveal a shining vein underneath. The potter’s furnace puts vessels to the test. And the fire of suffering tests the mettle of just men. The apostle James echoes this thought: Think it a great joy, dear brothers and sisters, when you stumble onto the many kinds of trials and tribulations.
When men suffer pain for the evil they have perpetrated in life, they should take some reassurance. They also know that for their good deeds undying rewards await them in the life to come.
Therefore, my brother, scorned as you are by men, lashed as it were by God, do not despair. Do not be depressed. Do not let your weakness make you impatient, Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face. Let the joy of your mind burst forth. Let words of thanks break from your lips.
The way that God deals with men can only be praised. He lashes them in this life to shield them from the eternal lash in the next. He pins people down now; at a later time he will raise them up. He cuts them before healing; he throws them down to raise them anew.
The Scriptures reassure us: let your understanding strengthen your patience. In  serenity look forward to the joy that follows sadness. Hope leads you to that joy and love rekindles your zeal. The well-prepared mind forgets the suffering inflicted from without and glides eagerly to what it has contemplated within itself.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Mystery of Suffering - A Widow's Walk... 

Shared by Natalie I. Lancaster, as Chapter Leader for Modern Widows Club – Houston  and Northwest Houston/Katy Chapters with the RCIA Class at  All Saints Catholic Church, Houston Texas on January 31, 2017 

Kelly Hawkins asked me to share my widow’s walk with you and how it intersects with the mystery of suffering. 

Adversity introduces man to himself. It is there that we meet God.  Anonymous 

The mystery of suffering comes to us as we turn to Christ in our pain and solitude reaching for Him in our total surrender and divine abandonment. 
Becoming a widow, regardless of whether it happens suddenly or after a long illness, completely redirects your life overnight. All your plans, hopes, and dreams immediately vanish in an instant and you don’t know who you are or where you are going. Your current life has ended and your new life begins. It can take your breath away. The soul mate you built your family with and shared all you hopes and dreams with will not see you until we get to heaven. What to do? Where to turn? How to we move forward…We turn to Christ. In our suffering, in our solitude, he begins to unfold the petals of our new life, our new purpose, our new being… 

I wanted to share some of the themes we use to empower our new widows to help them lean into new life: 

C – Change; You must make a Choice to take a Chance to make a Change.  

Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it.  Anonymous

In the blink of an eye, your life can be totally transformed. And suddenly, all the planning and preparation for your future has vanished and you have to find a new road to the future. You begin a new journey in a brand new life that you never imagined or dreamed of. And yet, it is where you are and you have to move forward and enjoy the life you have been given.  

Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” 

Romans 12:2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

H – Hope; Hope for our future; hope for our new life; hope for our family and a place to grow.  
Christ brings us hope and helps us lean into new life. He gives us grace to start again and to see things in a new way.  When my husband Kevin was dying, he kept telling us that he was going to serve Christ in a new way, in a new place…in heaven.  

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Psalm 73:23-24 “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”  

R – Resilience – Christ moves us to a place of resilience and growth
Resilience is the greatest attribute I see my members gain with time after suffering great loss. I have studied resilience with a great fascination for the last few years. I have read many books, and really base our leadership on some the best principles of Dr. Brene Brown in her book Rising Strong. But, we get our “gumption” as I like to call it from Christ. He helps us find it and to rely on it and to begin to believe in resilience so we can live again.

Philippians 4:13 “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Ephesians 6:10-14 “Finally, be strong in the Lord, relying on his mighty strength. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the Devil’s strategies. For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.” 

I - Inspiration; Christ inspires us to draw closer to Him and in Him we become renewed again and begin new life with Him at the center.  

Christ inspires us to reach new levels. We must make a commitment to continue to grow and change and be all we  were born to be. He knows our lives before we are born. So that means, despite our suffering, or how we got here, it was always our intended path. We were born to be right here right now and He will give us the inspiration and direction we need to be fulfilled and continue on our journey for His glory.  

Genesis 28:15 “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done all I have promised you.” 

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

S – Strength – Christ brings us strength to overcome suffering. In our solitude, we lean into Him.  
In our silence and solitude and our suffering, we turn to Him and He rescues us. We cling to Him in a way that nothing but suffering can cause. When we are happy, we are grateful. But when we suffer, truly suffer, we are silent and scared and feel so alone. In that time of divine abandonment, we turn to Him with our open hearts and open hands. We are vulnerable to Him and open to receive His love in a way we have never known 

Our trials reveal the true condition of our hearts. How we react under pressure, is how we really are. 

Charles Dickens shares that "Suffering has been stronger than any other teaching - It has taught me to understand that what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken and I hope into a better shape."

Psalm 139: 1-4 “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”
And my personal verse… 

Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up in my victorious right hand.” And finally,  

T – Trust. In Him is our Trust. Without our life partner, we don’t know who we are, we don’t know where to go, we don’t know what will happen with our future, with our families. We must turn to Him in complete Trust. There is No other way…Only in turning to Christ with all our Trust will we survive the suffering and lean into the new life that only God can bring us. 

Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” 

Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” 

The mystery of suffering allows us to draw near to Christ in a unique way. We really get to know Him when we can be open in our suffering and share our vulnerability. The conversion that comes to us in this magical mystery is overwhelming and life changing. It is not to be avoided or feared. We are humbly and wonderfully made, and Christ comes to meet us in our deepest pain. He is always with us and He never leaves us. We are truly never alone. And His love lasts forever. 

In closing, I’d like to share the lyrics of one of my favorite songs by Danny Gokey, a widower who lost his very young wife, “Tell your heart to beat again…” 

You're shattered 
Like you've never been before 
The life you knew 
In a thousand pieces on the floor 
And words fall short in times like these 
When this world drives you to your knees 
You think you're never gonna get back 
To the you that used to be 
Tell your heart to beat again 
Close your eyes and breathe it in 
Let the shadows fall away 
Step into the light of grace 
Yesterday's a closing door 
You don't live there anymore 
Say goodbye to where you've been 
And tell your heart to beat again 
Beginning Just let that word wash over you 
It's alright now 
Love's healing hands have pulled you through 
So get back up, take step one 
Leave the darkness, feel the sun '
Cause your story's far from over 
And your journey's just begun