Widowhood: Wondering and Wandering in Advent

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It was this summer sunset view from the backyard on Deer Point Lake that brought us to this home nearly 16 years ago, which we purchased from Sunday School friends. We had first enjoyed this view during a Sunday School group dinner at the home of Marian and Robert Wright in 2004. When they decided to sell they announced it in Sunday School after a Thanksgiving weekend trip to their family home in Tennessee and we purchased it that afternoon and moved into it February 2005 when their new Tennessee home was completed.

       As I pack and stack boxes of personal belongings in preparation for moving early in 2021 into a townhome near our son and his wife, I am at peace with my decision. I had struggled for about a month with it, as I began to realize how much home and yard maintenance there is for me alone at this place, in addition to my responsibility for the maintenance of the Titus 2 residence, as well.
       I spent time in prayer and talking to family and a few close prayer partner friends and a financial advisor friend. On a day that I drove nearly 7 hours total in transit to and from a relative’s home for a lunchtime visit with sisters, I talked with the Lord at length. When I arrived home I was at peace with the decision to move. The Lord reminded me what He had told me in 2014 in response to a ministry coach’s question, “Do you have to do what you do there, at Bethel?” at a time when it was clear I would need to leave Bethel Village or continue in conflict with its administration. After praying about her challenge the Lord spoke clearly, “I have called you to a purpose and a people, not a place.” All it took was God reminding me of that hard season and my resistance to change then to realize that I have loved every home in which I have ever lived, not because of the house or its location, but because it was a home where He dwelled with me and those I loved. While my personal description of this home has been “sanctuary”, I realized that my sanctuary is anywhere that I am in community with loved ones and my Lord, The Holy One. That can be anywhere I choose to be! I do not leave the sanctuary behind. It goes with me anywhere I make my home! I will miss the daily beauty of the sunsets and watching the varying conditions of the lake. I will miss the time among flowers, trees, and shrubs, many of which Bill and I planted and nurtured. But sunsets are beautiful from whatever perspective one is blessed to view them and there will be additional flowers, trees, and shrubs to enjoy and the additional blessing of Joni, Billy, and being able to move back and forth between one another’s homes with just a few steps and a knock on the door as we did in the years during which they lived across the street from Bill and me on Tropical Drive.
       Since Hurricane Michael I have watched with a degree of sadness as one after another retired friends with children and other family elsewhere moved away to be closer to their loved ones. After the trauma and stress of losses experienced with H. Michael, I understand their desire for the comforting presence of loved ones. Bill and I weathered the trauma and losses of that time together. Now, with the loss of Bill’s presence, care, and help I, too, am drawn to be closer to my remaining loved ones…. where purpose and people trump place and I know God will guide me with the same faithfulness and provision of peace that He always has! I feel a little like the widowed Naomi may have felt in struggling with the decision to return to Bethlehem from Moab after her family’s choice to live 10 years in Moab during a famine, then having to cope with the deaths of her husband and sons in Moab…… She faced the decision of leaving behind daughters-in-law for whom she could not care to go back to the safety and security and hope of provision among the people she had known all her life…. including the one who would become a kinsman redeemer for her and the loyal daughter-in-law widow who insisted on going with her, Ruth.
       My heart sank yesterday at the news of the death of yet another good man in our community who had an impact on my own and Bill’s lives at a point of significant spiritual growth as Larry Wade succumbed to the ravages of COVID-19, as did Bill a few months ago. And while Larry will be missed by many, I celebrate his triumphant entry into the eternal church in Christ’s presence. And yet I am keenly aware of the void his absence will create and the changes that will come to the lives of Angie and their children. I am just a few steps ahead of her in that journey….. walking alone into a future that holds uncertainty. But Angie and I both share the strength of our respective relationships with Christ. I pray for her as many have prayed for me and we move forward moment by moment, day by day. There are many of us now, the COVID-19 widows and widowers and orphans. I am reminded of how often Christ exhorted his followers to care for the widows and orphans. It is a task that became an assignment of the deacons in the infant church in Acts. Nothing has changed. As one called by God to the work of a deacon, our fields for ministry are ripe for harvest…
       The community residence house down the street from my current home on Tropical Drive in which Titus 2 Partnership, Inc.’s ministry is housed was built by Larry and Angie Wade in about 1983.  How perfectly like God that, through Bill’s good judgment and management and all the other circumstances that brought us to starting Titus 2’s life recovery ministry in 2014, we would come to have that very property built by Larry Wade to serve many whom we have viewed as comparable to the “widows and orphans” of our day… people who have felt emotionally abandoned by people in their lives. We help them reconnect with the Father and Husband and Helper who can reconnect them to the purpose for which they themselves were created…….
       “Across Hathaway Bridge” used to be so far away. Now it will be where my home is and this side of the bridge will be where I continue to engage in the passion God has given me….. discipling women in need of life transformation. The commute between the two is lovely, if one plans the timing of the transit, is not in a hurry and takes the time to enjoy the water views and the changing landscapes.
      I am reminded of a prophecy spoken over me in an impromptu and unexpected moment after the dessert time at a dinner party with Christian companions at the home of a friend almost four years ago.  One of the women there had taken our hostess aside, after which the hostess came to me and said the woman felt an urgency to speak a prophetic utterance from the Lord to me and asked if I was receptive and open to hearing it.  Well, of course!  She also asked if I was comfortable in the presence of the other dinner guests or if I preferred to do it privately.  I was comfortable with everyone hearing the words she felt a strong leading to speak.  My friend who, as God would have it, is a court reporter, recorded the moment and later transcribed it for me. Here it is:

 

This is prophetic word given to Cathy Byrd by Sarah LaBonte on Friday, January 13, 2017

Witnessed by Bill Byrd, Debbie Zirbel, Carl LaBonte, Michelle and Paul Grignot, and Jeff Thomas.

              “Your business and your comings and goings and your ministry:  He says that he sees every idle thing that has been done that you wanted to achieve.  But He says that it is well done, it has been well done, my good and faithful servant.  That He wants you to know how much that he appreciates your fervor, your strength, your intelligence, your knowledge of God.  He wants you to know that He has set you aside for such a time as this.  But He also wants to tell you that there are things ahead of you, that you have no idea of the preparation that has been made for you.

The things that you’re doing now are very important; but, He says, it’s just been a preparation for the things that are ahead. And the Lord says not to be concerned, just one day at a time, one step at a time. And that as the door is opened that you will walk through it and it will be a surprise and it will be pleasant, and you will say, ‘Oh, my goodness, just look at what the Lord has done!’ And He said, I will sit up there and rejoice because I know that you, too, will do what I tell you to do. And, He says, just keep that steadfastness in your heart. And God says He will walk every step with you, says the Lord.”

 

     As I remember that prophetic word now, one word jumps out at me:  “pleasant.”  I drew a sharp breath upon seeing that word that I have read over so casually before.  Having just written about having a sense of the decisions Naomi faced after the death of her husband, I am now a tiny bit disconcerted and shocked by the presence of that word, “pleasant”, in this four-year-old prophecy.  Naomi’s name is from a Hebrew word that means “pleasantness!”   Three years ago I would never have anticipated my current circumstances of widowhood and the weeks-long struggle over the decision to stay in this place or move to a smaller place closer to Billy and Joni.  And while I do not see “pleasantness” in widowhood, seeing the connections between Naomi’s situation and my own, including the emotional support and dependence I feel on my own daughter-in-law, I am humbled at how the Lord has been preparing me and making provision for me every step along the way, just as He did for Naomi and Ruth.  I have no words to describe how I feel in this moment……..

     Thank you, Lord, for being my ALL IN ALL.   Amen.

12/27/20-  I had written recently about how my life has taken a Naomi-ish turn this year….. widowhood and the struggle over a move. Today I found out it’s about to take another Naomi-ish turn with the anticipation of a great- grandchild due in July. Life has a beautiful way of following a script written by God!

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