I keep bumping into angels in my reading of the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke. And these angels always seem to bring a message of something miraculous—an old woman (Elizabeth) will have a baby. And then another angel appears to a teenage girl and promises another miracle.
“Don’t be afraid…“ Yikes! Really? While standing and talking to an angel about giving birth to the Son of the Most High?
Luke records that shortly after the angel appeared to Mary, she gathered a few belongings and traveled to see Elizabeth, her relative. By the time Mary arrived, Elizabeth was probably about six months pregnant.
After the initial exchange at the door and the confirmation to Mary of God’s divine plan, don’t you wonder what else the two women talked about over the next three months?
“How do you sleep at night?”
“What do you do when your stomach just can’t handle food?”
“How do you handle the comments from people?”
“How does your faith in God help you navigate this life-changing event?”
In her book, The Gospel of Christmas, author Patty Kirk writes, “…God—having first challenged Mary’s faith with a virgin pregnancy as well as the prospect of giving birth to and raising God’s Son and the probable repercussions of these developments in her personal life—immediately thereafter helped her believe by providing someone like Elizabeth. “
A friend in a similar situation, just a bit ahead on the journey. A friend who loved and trusted God. A friend on the lookout for the Messiah.
Sounds like a Storm Sister, don’t you think?
I don’t know how many times I have read this story, but only this year did I really see this tender story of God’s grace to both these women in the form of friendship. Grace with skin on. What a gift.
Take a moment this week, would you, and join me in thanking a Storm Sister in your life for being grace with skin on for you.
Oh, and here is a photo of my advent wreath. And that pink candle in the middle? That represents our daughter and her December birthday.
For the next three weeks, I want to introduce you to some remarkable women.
One of them has been a widow for decades, one of them lives as a single woman with no living family members, and a third is the parent of a special needs daughter. They all have struggled in ways I can only imagine.
I love living as a Storm Sister (a friend who sticks close when storms hit her friends life), but I know that I have so much to learn about what that really means. And so I asked my friends to tell me about their lives. I want to see. I want to understand.
I want to know how best to live as a Storm Sister to women in unique situations.
Perhaps you do too.
Let me introduce you first to my sister writer, Sandra Aldrich. When her husband died, she faced the challenge of raising a 10-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter.
Welcome to the blog, Sandra. I am so thrilled to have you with us today. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your life and talking about the challenges of being a widow and a single mom.
I count it a privilege to be a part of your blog. Thank you!
What is the hardest part of being a window and single mother?
That depends on the day. Some days I grieve the life we had planned. Other days I miss our former friends who fall away because I no longer fit in this two-by-two world. Most days I am weary of having to juggle everything alone. Loneliness creeps in, too—especially when I see traditional families participating in activities we once enjoyed. And in all of this, I try to remind our children that we still are a family!
What is the best part of the role?
Even on the weary days, I can smile because I know I am taking care of our children. My faith and my example of putting one foot in front of the other will encourage our children as they later face their own trials. And even with limited funds, I know how to create special memories that will be carried into adulthood.
What part does faith play in your grief?
Faith often is the only thing that helps me put one foot in front of the other. But please don’t think I’ve lost my faith if I cry. After all, Jesus is our personal example: He wept over Jerusalem, at the tomb of Lazarus and in the Garden before He was to die.
Also, let me know you are praying for me. And when you ask how you can pray specifically this coming week, I am encouraged, and I don’t feel quite as alone.
How can the church encourage you in this journey?
Pray for me! I’m not contagious so please talk to me for a few minutes on Sunday morning. Provide practical help occasionally, such as having a free car-care clinic one Saturday a month or having the men invite our sons to a game. And please don’t think there’s something wrong with me if I have chosen to remain single and raise my children alone.
How can a friend become a Storm Sister to a widow and single mom?
- Acknowledge our pain. Too often folks don’t say anything because they don’t “want to remind” us of our grief. Believe me, our very breath is a reminder that someone we love is no longer with us. Offering a sincere, “I’m so sorry” or even stating, “I don’t know what to say, but I care this has happened” will mean much to us.
- After you acknowledge our pain, let us guide the conversation. In other words, listen as we talk. Too often well-meaning folks follow the “I’m so sorry” with hollow comments about how God will bring somebody else into our life. Or how a distant relative became a missionary a few months after her widowhood.
- Remember special occasions, especially the first year. The spouse’s birthdate, the couple’s anniversary, the planned, but never taken, vacation. A phone call, an invitation for coffee or even a “thinking of you” card will be lovely.
- If you are hosting a holiday party, please invite us. Too often we are deleted from guest lists because we are an odd number—one—instead of the former couple number—two. We may not be comfortable attending your party, but we will be encouraged by your thoughtfulness.
- Understand that grief is a process that cannot be hurried. We will wade through our pain and come out on the other side of it stronger and better prepared to help the next widow.
Sandra Aldrich has written more about her journey as a widow in her book Will I Ever Be Whole Again? Surviving the Death of Someone You Love.
She has also written a devotional for all single mothers, whether widowed or divorced: Heart Hugs for Single Moms: 52 Devotions to Encourage You
You can read more about her at sandraaldrich.com.
That word defined my 2014. I signed most of my book with it. What better way to say how I felt about all the people who became a part of my Storm Sister story? Thank you all!
Now in 2015, I think about picking a new word, something to serve as a guide.
But can one word really direct and shape me in 2015? Not sure.
I do like the idea because I think I can remember one word. 😉
My friend, Sharla Fritz, wrote a great blog about her word for 2015. You can find it here: http://www.sharlafritz.com/2015/01/my-word-for-2015-focus/
What about you? What word (or words) do you want to define your 2015?
I did it again! Miscommunicated with a friend. Miscommunicated with my husband. Double-booked myself.
A friend and I have been trying to get together for what seems like weeks. We thought we found a date. I put it on my calendar.
The night before I planned to meet my friend for lunch, I realized that my plans with my friend would keep me from a silly ritual John and I have most Sundays after church. We go to Costco. He buys me a Mocha Freeze. We split a Churro. “The usual.” Then he wanders off and eats samples.
On this particular Saturday night, I realized that I craved hearing my husband say, “Do you want the usual?” We hadn’t had a “usual” Sunday for many weeks. Lots of comings and goings.
Why didn’t I make this connection weeks earlier when I set up the event with my friend? Why didn’t I talk it through with my husband then? Duh. Beats me.
So I sent my friend an email. I began with a dramatic statement: “Lately I feel as if I have been on a bullet train heading no where in particular.” Probably a little overly dramatic, don’t you think?! Then I explained that I needed hubby time and asked if we could reschedule.
I felt awful. And apologized. I seem to be doing that a lot these days.
My friend’s response still amazes me.
She reminded me of words she had read in some book called Storm Sisters about asking for help. She discerned within my muddled email a cry for help, my need to slow down. And have “the usual.” We rescheduled.
I woke up today a new woman. My introverted self has gas. Seems that “the usual” refuels me. As does sitting and reading the Sunday paper and watching a little football (!) with John. And taking a walk. And putting my cell phone on vibrate and moving it to another room. And letting Ringo snuggle on my lap.
Thank you, Storm Sister, for hearing my befuddled cry for help.
Thank you, Storm Sister, for knowing that I all too often try to be everything to everyone.
Thank you, Storm Sister, for knowing that I am an introvert and need to catch my breath after lots of people time.
Thank you, Storm Sister, for staying friends with me when I’m out of whack and in double-booking mode.
Thank you, Storm Sister, for speaking my words back to me when I had forgotten them.
May I return the favor one day when I’m out of this funk?