A few years ago, I decided to study good leaders. I was interested in what made a person someone whom others looked up to and aspired to be like. I was fortunate to be surrounded by amazing leaders at that time and they poured into the people around them daily (and still do!). Anyway, I read a lot of books about leadership. I started my study with Nehemiah and just kept going. I discovered a lot about myself during those days of reading and listening to people who gave selflessly of themselves in order to help other people live better lives. I found a new sense of awareness within myself of being the kind of leader that others wanted to follow. I didn’t know that God was preparing me for being a leader alright…just not in the business world like I had originally thought.
In a lot of ways September 24th is lot harder than September 20th for me. Flipping through my memories this morning I was humbled and surprised yet again by the outpouring of love the girls and I received on the day of Greg’s funeral. Not only did our community reach out to us, they honored Greg’s life in a way that was awe inspiring. I will never forget how humbling it was to ride behind that firetruck as it carried his casket to the cemetery. The respect that was shown to him was a testament to the caliber of man he was at the end of his life.
I have had so many people approach me and tell me stories of how Greg’s example …in one situation or another was helpful for them as they faced different events in their own lives. Greg never thought of himself as a leader. He thought of himself as a worker. That is what he took the most pride in…working hard and having respect for everyone no matter what their station happened to be in life.
I watched a video this week of Mr. Rogers from ‘Mr. Rogers Neighborhood’ and he was talking about his mother. Mrs. Rogers said, “in any tough situation if you wanted to see the difference makers you should look for the helpers. The ones who show up and just do things without expecting anything in return. They just do what needs to be done and don’t question ‘if’ or ‘when’ they should do it…they just show up and get to work”.
Greg was a helper.
Living with a helper for almost seventeen years made an impact on me. I also grew up in a family of helpers and for that I could not be prouder. Hard work and digging in to help others is just a way of life. My parents do that, my grand-parents did that, and I am trying my hardest to raise my girls to do it as well. I expect them to step in and notice when someone needs help…and I expect them to just do whatever needs to be done with no reward other than that feeling deep inside that they know they did the right thing. It just occurred to me this morning that teaching them to be helpers will also teach them to be leaders.
I woke up this morning and as usual I flipped on Facebook and scrolled through my memories. I love seeing my life in review sometimes. Don’t you? I can’t always enjoy the memories, but most days I can. Anyway, I didn’t immediately realize that this was the day of Greg’s funeral until I saw my memories. Then it all came flooding back. I remembered exactly how it felt that day at the funeral home. I let myself think about all those feelings and emotions for about two seconds before a text popped up.
It was Miranda.
God works all things together for His good. All things. I know this to be true deep inside my soul. I know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I know it because I have lived it. Tonight, we had a fish fry at the church. If felt good to eat, talk, and laugh on this day instead of being overcome with sadness like we were two years ago. Just that fact by itself is a miracle. But, this story is about another miracle…the one Miranda and I share.
See, Miranda and me…we are sisters. Just like me and the Pam’s, the Cindy’s, the Janet’s, Michelle, Linda, Tasha, Mary Frances, Samantha, Tammy, Stacy, Brenda, Renee, Lisa, Teresa, Tippa, Melanie, Lenora, Sheila, Brandi, Rosalie, Peggy, Tandi, Marie, Kathy, Rebekah, Sue, Lorraine, Sheila, Paula, Debrah, Emily, Dotty, Patsy, Carla, Kristina, Becky, Patricia, Sue, Rhonda, Lori, Tina, and many, many others. We have all walked a journey together that is eerily similar, yet different.
However, Miranda and I are especially close. Our circumstances are unbelievably similar. We have argued about who had it worse…me because there was no time for goodbyes…or her because there was. We have talked, cried, laughed, prayed, and threatened to run away together a lot over the past two years. To say I am thankful for her would be putting it lightly. She gets it in a way no one else close to me can most of the time. We communicate without words a lot…one look as we pass in the mornings says all we need it to say. The relationship we share is precious and I am so very thankful for it and her.
Miranda lost the love of her life to cancer on Labor Day weekend 2016. Eleven months after I lost Greg. Michael was a policeman and together he and Miranda have two beautiful daughters. Their family lives in the next town and just like Greg and I…everybody knows them. They are helpers too. Michael’s legacy is jam packed with the same kind of stories as Greg’s. They influenced lives everywhere they went and even in places they didn’t go. If you mention Michael’s name the first thing anyone says is, “He was a great guy”. Miranda and Michael were together almost as long as Greg and I were. They faced a lot of the same battles that we faced…and they had sendoffs to heaven that made lasting impacts on every person who witnessed them in person.
Michael’s visitation was the first one I allowed myself to go to after Greg’s. I feared going back to a funeral home or church visitation (still do). I hated facing the memories that flooded my mind at the very thought of walking into a crowd of people, much less a funeral home. But, I never hesitated to go to Miranda that night. I knew better than anyone else close to her how hard it was gonna be. I knew that she needed lots of water; time to sit down and take a break; and hugs of encouragement to know she did have the strength to keep greeting the people as they filed through to pay their respects.
My presence that night was to be a helper and it almost killed me to do it. It wasn’t until I got home that I fell apart. I cried and sobbed…I shook and got nauseous…I asked God why He would make me go through that again less than a year after I went through it myself. I didn’t understand what His plan was and I didn’t like it one little bit.
This past Wednesday, exactly two years to the day, one of Greg’s greatest friends had a heart attack and died. When I heard the news, I got sick to my stomach and began to shake all over. I could not get my kids delivered to our friends fast enough…I had to go to my friend’s home and hug her. All I could focus on was getting to her and hugging her close. No other thought could enter my mind. I had to send a message of apology to another sweet friend who hugged my neck as I dropped the girls off because I had no clue if I had even spoken to her. I just needed to get to my friend’s house…fast.
When I walked in the door, Heath was behind me. Bless him…he truly is an amazing man. God blessed me big time with him.
Anyway, as I walked in I scanned the room and saw familiar faces everywhere I looked. They all knew me. They all knew Greg. They all knew how intricately wound my family and this family were. I walked over to my friend and I hugged her with all the strength I had and I told her that she was not alone.
And, I meant it.
I looked up and met the eyes of her sister who has also walked this widow road. I prayed right then that God would use us to make her journey easier somehow. It wasn’t until I got home that I fell apart. The shaking, nausea, tears, and overwhelming sadness took over again. I knew what she was in for and I dearly wanted to take the pain away from her somehow, but in my heart, I knew there was nothing I could do except pray and just be there. So, that’s what I did.
The next morning, I woke up to find a message from a woman who was sitting in that room the night before. She was there and she knew how hard it was for me to put my pain aside on that specific day in order to help my friend. She thanked me for doing what I did and I immediately felt ashamed. In no way did I consider my presence that night as star in my own crown. I could only focus on the fact that my friend needed me and it didn’t matter what day it was for me…she needed to be loved on and hugged on because she was facing her own nightmare. Yes, it cost me dearly emotionally…but it blessed my heart to know that my friend was surrounded by people who understood where she was and that she was not alone. The fact that the other sweet lady noticed was mind blowing to me.
I have struggled with that situation all week. I have questioned God and why He asks me to do these hard things that have a huge emotional cost repeatedly. I have prayed that He would let others see Jesus in me for years. I have struggled with my temper, my attitude, my smart mouth, and my impatience with people in general. I have failed so many times it is pathetic and I didn’t see why God continued to ask me to essentially hurt myself emotionally over and over again in order to please Him.
It didn’t make sense…until Miranda texted me this morning:
“I just want to say thank you. I knew (or I thought I knew) that it had to be hard for you to come to Michael’s visitation, but you were there. You were the example that I am trying to be today….and I am struggling. I will take deep breaths and I will do exactly what you did for me. I will be there for his wife. Please pray for me and his family. They are in the same boat as us”.
That’s when it hit me! God uses ALL things for HIS good! Every single emotional dollar I have paid was so that Miranda could be what she needed to be for this sweet woman and her two girls today. Every single emotional dollar Miranda is paying will be so that other women can find the strength they need to do for someone else what was done for them. This cycle did not begin with us…it began long before us on an old rugged cross upon a hill.
Jesus paid it all…so that we could all be saved. God worked ALL things together for HIS good on that cross…and He has not stopped using what was meant to destroy Him to make Us stronger. God is Good.
After I realized this, I was flipping through my pictures and this is what I saw:
The story is starting to come together. God is asking the widows to be leaders for Him! By humbly being helpers, we are becoming leaders. I didn’t sign up for this…neither did Miranda…or any of the millions of other women who walk the widow road. Yet, God is still using our stories and experiences to help other people see that this is not our home. We are all passing through, but we have a choice in where our eternal home will be. Which way are you headed? Do you know? If not, please talk to someone today…now…. don’t wait! Jesus is coming back soon and we must all be ready.
One last note, please…please remember the widows when you pray. Once a widow becomes a member of this club she never gets out. No new relationship; no new life; no amount of time changes the fact that the rug was ripped out from under that woman and life as she knew it ended the day her spouse died. This is not a race that is ever finished…it costs us dearly to become lifetime members…and it takes a lot of prayer to ease the pain. Knowing we are never alone is a blessing none of ever realized we couldn’t live without. So, the next time you feel God asking you to do something that is hard…DO IT! The blessings you get in return are indescribable and can only be gotten through obedience to Him.