Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Summer Deluge

A friend told me recently that her dad, a new widower, found it hard to go to social events. I understand why it would seem easier to stay at home. I've talked to widows who didn't go to church for weeks. I think that if I lived alone, I might be tempted to become a hermit.

But that wasn't an option for me. My children love social life.  I hear, "What are we going to do tonight?" almost before they are out of bed. If I suggested staying home when there were options on the calendar, I'd have mutiny.

But then, I like people and enjoy new experiences, so I'm usually joining my children in the desire to plan activities.

In a typical summer, there would be evenings we would stay at home. Maybe Ed wanted to mow the grass, or do some other home project. Maybe he had to study for a sermon or just wanted a quiet evening at home.

But this year there was nothing holding us back. If we were home all day, why not go away in the evening? If we decided to go to the park in the afternoon, grab some supper, and not get back to bedtime, there was no reason we couldn't.

I've been struggling with a complete lack of routine this summer. I realize I fit my life around Ed's schedule. What time does he need breakfast before leaving for work? When will Ed get home? Could he fit that event into his Saturday or should I decline?

But none of those questions apply anymore.

The result is that we have meals at all hours, spend whole days away, and have fit more events into one summer than usual. Some things that have been our routine for years, such as waffles every Wednesday morning, we've suddenly quit.

Sometimes I worry that I'm filling the missing hole that Ed left with busyness. I know that some widows turn to shopping, or food, or alcohol when they lose their husband. Am I staying busy to replace Ed and keep from mourning? Is this a healthy way to deal with grief? Will we get to the quiet days of winter and fall apart?

Or has it been a summer when friends and family want to show they care by spending time with us? Are we making up time for the things we couldn't do the last two years? Is our search for joy in the middle of grief driving us to spend more time together?

I have more questions than answers.

But I do know, that when I look through the photos of the last weeks, I do see joy.

And I am grateful.

Here's a glimpse.

Many Tuesdays found us at a city park playing games with the children. My children loved these evenings and hopefully some of the contacts will help my brother's new church.

I should have kept a list of all the things that I did for the first time this year. There were big things concerning finances and the small things like grilling steak. Ed did so many things that I took for granted. But it hasn't hurt us to tackle new projects like homemade ice cream.

So many events bring back memories of the last time that we did this with Ed. 

Last year Ed wasn't feeling good but...

...he played an inning of softball at the church picnic.

...went to the Allegany Boys Camp Open House.

...helped us dig and sort potatoes.

Now we do these things alone and just remember.

My youngest daughter didn't remember taking bike rides. 

We enjoyed a ride with my sister and her husband on the York Heritage Trail. 

A couple weeks later we went with Ed's brothers and their families on part of the Great Allegheny Passage. It had been years since we biked this beautiful rail trial.

We also had experiences that were new. Such as a history tour of local Anabaptist sites. 

We were the only locals in this group which included families from Peru, Paraguay, Ontario, and Texas. 

Every three years, our  local small town celebrates their history. We spent a day touring some local spots and eating free food from local businesses. This lady showed us how to die cloth.

We even watched the parade which was a new experience for all my children. I had to laugh, because only in a small town do people line up to watch rusted farm equipment and shiny fire engines file down a highway.

This was a summer that I was grateful that I lived in Pennsylvania. We had numerous visitors who came to Pennsylvania for family gatherings and took the time to visit us. Our picnic table saw friends from Ontario, Belize, and Peru. It was a special treat to meet ladies I've only known only through the written words we've pounded out in emails. I love that my children got a glimpse of God's work in other lands.

But far-away friends are not more important than our local friends. We've been given so much by living in a supportive community. Cousins stop by to say "hi," cookies and flowers show up on our kitchen table, and friends invite us for cook-outs. When I look at the calendar I'm reminded of lunch at a friend's house talking about widowhood while our children played, the fabulous day spent with my writers' group, and the hours spent at a coffee shop talking about books with a friend. The deluge of love has been amazing.

But we also needed to stay home and work occasionally. Lots of rain meant abundant weeds and tall grass. I sewed dresses for my girls and continued to de-clutter the house. My goal was to take one box to the thrift store every week. I haven't done it quite weekly, but some weeks I got rid of four or five boxes so I think my goal was met.

My sister helped me to do some painting and switching bedrooms around.

When our fourth daughter was born three years ago, Ed suggested that we give the master bedroom  and bath to the girls. The girls' bedroom was very small, but I didn't want to give up our room. When Ed got sick, I shelved the idea since I didn't know what we would need for wheelchair and hospital bed. But when I mentioned the idea this summer, my girls were excited. 

They love their new room. 

And I'm surprised at how much I enjoy my new space. The furniture and photos still hold memories of Ed, yet the smaller room feels restful. 

Best of all, having their own bedroom and bath has greatly reduced the getting-ready-for-bed chaos. I'm not sure why, but separating the boys and girls into their own bathrooms has radically dropped the stress level. 

I haven't done as much gardening this year - mostly just eating fresh veggies. Some parts of our county are experiencing drought, but we've had just the right amount of rainfall to make our garden lush and green.

We've enjoyed lots of fresh sweet corn.

I've done almost no canning this year, but we did do a bushel of peaches. I had not canned peaches in several years so my children needed a refresher course.

My girls are delighting in a new batch of kittens.

These two make sure our red raspberries are picked daily - though few berries make it to the house.

 My ten-year-old planted some cut flowers in the garden and has given away many bouquets.

In the hottest days the children beg to go to a nearby creek. While they splash, I sat on a rock with my feet in the water and a book in my hand. Refreshment for everyone.

We started school in July when the heat drove us into the air conditioning. I'm eager to make up for the chaos of the last school year, but so far we haven't yet found a school routine either. I do think I'll enjoy the kindergarten enthusiasm though I can't believe she is five already.

One challenge for school (and life) has been my voice. For weeks I have had very little voice. I managed to keep talking though I sounded croaky, but reading aloud and singing was impossible. I'm blaming allergies though I've never had this problem before. Every week I see a small improvement. One morning last week I found myself singing, something I haven't been able to do all summer. I still don't have a very wide range of notes, but it feels good to at least join in congregational singing at church again on a few verses.

Last weekend found me at a ladies retreat. As always, it was a time of refreshment, an oasis, a restful lull in the middle of August. The workshops, the food, the decor - it was all nearly perfect. 

But the best was the conversations with both new and old friends. I love that this is a safe place to laugh and cry and share my fears. I met many Home Joys readers, chatted with new widow friends, and cherished long conversations with my sister who is headed for Asia soon.

I'm often asked, "How are you?" I don't know how to answer that question. I think I'm okay. In some ways I feel more fragile than three months ago, and I try not to worry about what it will be like six months, or a year, or two years. 

But today, this moment, I'll being held by God and He is helping us find joy in our summer days.

And that is enough for today.


  1. What a lovely post, Gina. It is so good to hear how you are getting on. It must be wonderful to have such a supportive community as unfortunately many people don't have that.

  2. Wow, Gina you are such an encouragement to all of your readers. I remember the good old days when my dad and uncle used to make homemade ice cream. You made me hungry for some again:-)

  3. It was so nice to see a new blog post from you. I’ve wondered how you all were doing this summer.
    I’m glad you are finding so much to do. I think that’s a good thing. It seems to me it would be so much harder if you didn’t get out much.
    Such a nice peak into your summer! Thanks.

    Have you read MaryAnn Martins book - My Ways Are Higher-?
    I’ve read it twice and found it encouraging even though I’m not a widow.

  4. Thank you for the lovely update! As always, you amaze me with the wonderful things you do with your family - you are an inspiration to me!

    And also, a source of envy - here in Arizona, summers simply mean that everything is good and dead! (Not lush and blooming, LOL!)

    Thank you so much for sharing. We continue to pray for your family.


  5. Psalm 37 encouraged me this morning. I was reminded not to fret, to trust the Lord, to have faith that He will feed His children and preserve them forever. Busyness can be a blessing--a providential opportunity that can help heal the heart. God is so gracious; I find this post an inspiring testimony to His goodness and grace.

  6. I am so thankful for how God is helping all of you through every single day. My mom just became a widow after 68 years of marriage. It is interesting to compare the inpact on daily like of a young widow and an older widow.
    All of it is only improved with a gracious God and loving, supportive people I suppose.
    Continuing to pray for you, my friend

  7. I'm glad you have so many interesting activities this summer. You are an inspiration to me. I have 11 children and we just started our homeschool again for the new term.

  8. I love your blog. Your writing is so pure and honest and encourages and inspires me.

  9. Thanks so much for posting, Gina. Your walk of faith in Jesus Christ encourages me. August 21, 2009, ten years ago, my husband of 38 years died and within three months I began to live with some of my adult children and eventually five granddaughters, and their two other grandparents. I am so grateful for the nine years the Lord allowed me to live in our little family community as I mourned and became physically healthier myself. Now at the age of 68, for the last eight months I have been living by myself with the Lord and am still facing challenges of mourning. My grief is less raw, but I wonder if I have been or am combating mourning with busyness or am I growing in the joy of the Lord through fellowship with Him. I aim to grow in obedience to Him as I walk in Holy Spirit counsel and empowerment and comfort for Father God's glory. Your sweet photos and thoughtful narrative help me along this path and I am grateful to the Lord for blessing us both and other widows along the way.

  10. May God Bless and keep You and Yours Always. Hugs to All!

  11. Thank you for letting us know what your life is like these days; sometimes I am amazed by the community that has formed around your blog, and has come to love you and your family. The path through life, which of course always includes grief, seems to have a rhythm particular...and you are finding your new and distinct rhythm now. When you published your three part history with Ed, the blending of two very different people was evident. Now, with unraveling, your life will bear marks of your own beautiful rhythm, as well as the firm foundation built by the two of you. And of course it's unsteady. May you continue to find beats of joy.

  12. Thank you for sharing how God is giving you and your family grace for each day. I know the grief journey from a different perspective (lost a dear son almost 9 years ago) and the prayers of others will uphold you. No one else can walk your road but Jesus will walk with you. I have enjoyed your blog and pray for you and your precious children. Keep honest with your grief so your children can be honest with theirs and cling to Jesus.

  13. I love your pictures! There's something special about riding bikes in a group, and playing baseball in the evenings, and looking down at water and pebbles in a creek :)

    Life doesn't make sense a lot of the time - like you say we can be glad if we have grace for TODAY. I pray you'll find something to add to your routine!

  14. Hi Gina,

    Thank you so much for the update on how you and your lovely family are adapting to your new life. I continue to be awed by your strength, dignity and determination to give your children the most wonderful childhoods.

    You talk about busyness and ask whether this hasn't enabled you to avoid the worst of grieving. I think you asked the question rhetorically and I hope you don't mind my sharing a recent insight on this very topic. My elderly Dad died of liver metastases a few weeks ago. He had been married to my Mum for 61 years so she is simply devastated. Her usual way of coping is through keeping busy but she actually broke her ankle a week or two before Dad died so she has been pretty much immobile. Watching her grief is heartbreaking but I have come to understand that God has given her this time to confront her grief so she can eventually cope with her loss rather than hanging on to it or denying it for the rest of her life. At the same time, I am normally immobilised by grief but God has given me the task of caring for Mum because He knows that this is what is best for my healing. I guess what I'm trying to say is that God gives us what we each need to cope through seasons of sorrow: I believe He knows that busyness is your strength and solace at this time.

    I hope you don't mind my saying this.

    Big hugs,


  15. Lovely update . . I'm glad you have filled your summer . . . That is what I might have gravitated towards as well I think 🤔

  16. Gina, I think of you a lot and wonder how you are doing. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You're doing it the way it's right for you. I'll continue to pray for you and your beautiful children. I can totally relate to the 'difficulty' keeping a schedule because I find I'm the same way when Andy is gone all week in the truck. :) We end up with a very relaxed schedule. Not that we keep a tight schedule otherwise but you said it perfectly- we plan our schedule around what our husband needs. Blessings to you as you continue to navigate this difficult path. Love, Rachel


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