The Woman with the Red Purse and How My Life Changed

bad news in the hospitalIt was a visual  picture that will be forever imprinted in my mind. She was an attractive, petite woman in her mid-forties, with shoulder-length black hair, white blouse, and a dark colored pencil-thin skirt. My eyes were drawn to  her large red purse as she walked down the long corridor. It seemed almost too big in proportion to her small size. I guess I needed to focus on something other than my thoughts. As she walked closer, I could tell she was coming towards us, especially since my daughter and I were the only two people sitting in the waiting area.

There wasn’t a smile on her face when she introduced herself. It was obvious the news she was going to tell us was not good. “I’m so sorry”, she said. “There’s nothing we can do. The cancer has spread….”

I wouldn’t let the reality of her words penetrate my mind, not now. I went into a mama’s protection mode as I pushed back my own feelings to be strong for my daughter.  “We’ll get through this, we’ll get through this”, I kept saying.  Even though I didn’t believe my own words, I said them anyway. After all,  this was her daddy the surgeon was talking about. My husband of 45 years, but her daddy that she adored.  What I really wanted to do was run down the long corridor screaming “no, no, no…”

This seemingly empty section of the hospital and surgical waiting room suddenly seemed very cold, and I began to shake as I often do when I am chilled to the bone. I began to feel the chill of the surgeon’s words pierce my heart. “A  rare, aggressive  form of colon cancer that has spread to the liver and beyond….” 

I knew this was something I couldn’t fix with words, a hug, or a kiss. I knew I needed to lean into Jesus–no, fall into Jesus, like I’d never done before.

I felt numb as I pushed away the reality of losing Bill.  I knew the only way I could physically take another step, or emotionally face the time we had left, was by breathing in Jesus and His word with every breath I took. In the days ahead when I felt weak, His strength became my strength. When my sorrow was uncontrollable, His comfort sustained me. When I was overwhelmed, His peace filled me.  He wiped away my nightly  tears of grief with a smile to face each day.  

Jesus still does that today, seven years later.  

Bill lived four agonizing months after his diagnosis on a Good Friday and emergency surgery on an Easter Sunday.  I never left his side. Our love for each other seemed to permeate our hospital wing and hospice.  Bill radiated Jesus with every word he spoke to the doctors and nurses. When anyone asked him what he did, he would always say, “I am a Christ-follower.”  His love and concern for me, and my love and care for him became a testimony of our devotion to each other.

I recently saw the surgeon who carried the red purse and stopped to introduce myself, knowing she couldn’t possibly remember all her patients.  “Oh yes”, she said, “I remember you, your husband, and your two children. You were quite an unforgettable family and your husband was a remarkable man.  He had such peace, even as he faced death.  He always managed to smile, even when he was in pain, and  there was an inner strength in him as his body weakened.”

As I sat in church every Easter for the last seven years, I would vividly remember that Sunday as the beginning of a life change and loss that rocked my world – and our children’s world –  to the core. But, I also remember that it is because of our risen Savior, that I will see my Bill again, face to face, in Heaven.  There will be no disease, no suffering and no pain – only the joy of being reunited together again.

Then, with tears and a smile, I sing deep from within my soul, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow….”  

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller

“I am not skilled to understand what God has willed, what God has planned. I only know at His right hand is one who is my Savior.”

(Words from an old hymn given to me by a beloved friend on August 9, 2009, the day Bill went home to be with Jesus.)

Yes I can!

Susan MillerIf you’re like me, and have experienced a life-changing loss, the holiday season could look and feel different to you. You might somehow want to escape all the memories, traditions, and decorations. It’s just too hard, and you’re just too numb to face the pain of what will never be the same again.

As many of you already know, my life-changing loss was the death of my beloved husband, Bill. Your loss may be different from mine, but it can still be life-changing. It could be a job loss, the loss of your home and your possessions through a natural disaster, or the loss you experience from having to move away from family, friends, and all that is familiar. Perhaps it’s the loss that comes with divorce, a broken relationship, a deployed spouse, or a debilitating illness. You too, have probably asked yourself, “How am I going to get through the holidays?”

yes I canA friend gave me a little wooden angel that sits on my kitchen counter. She has both arms stretched out, and raised above her head as if to say, “Yes, I can!” Every morning when I walk into my kitchen that little angel is a visual reminder that I want to be a woman who, in the midst of life-changing loss, says, “Yes, I can!”

I can be grateful this holiday season for immeasurable blessings, in spite of my emptiness—and so can you.  

I can focus, not on my loss, but on the undeniable faithfulness of God, regardless of my circumstances – and so can you.  

I can trust Him in all things—and so can you.

I can lift up my hands with praise for a Savior who comforts and soothes me in my loss like none other—and so can you.

This much I know: God will not leave us or forget us in our loneliness, pain, or suffering. His mercies are indeed new every morning.

By claiming these truths, my friends, we can get through the holidays. We can also create new memories, start different traditions, and choose to decorate less.

May you feel God’s presence and peace this holiday season as you focus on the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

 

Don’t just give me a fish sandwich, teach me how to fish

fish sandwichI was married to a man who cherished me as his wife and demonstrated his love for me in countless ways.

He was also a great “fixer” around the house.  Bill took care of most of our home repairs—from putting things back together that I had broken to repairing a leaky toilet.  He could assemble anything that came in small packages or large boxes – from toys to kitchen chairs.  When I wanted a room repainted, I taped the baseboards, he painted. He trimmed, cut, and maintained our yard while I planted the flowers.

Together we were a team.  I was the keeper of our home. He made sure everything was in working order.

For the most part, Bill enjoyed home maintenance. He loved seeing my smile of appreciation, hearing me say, “I love it!”, and especially when I put my arms around him and gave him a kiss to express my gratitude.

Over the years, our teamwork became not only a shared responsibility for our home, but a shared memory of our life together in our home.

When cancer knocked at our door and quickly took Bill’s life, my world was shattered. I had lost my best friend, soul-mate, and keeper of my heart. The personal loss was devastating. Trying to keep from drowning in a sea of emotions was about all I could do.

In the midst of my grief, I also felt the walls of our home collapsing around me. The responsibility of maintenance and upkeep was overwhelming. The things Bill naturally took care of, or what we shared doing together, I now faced doing alone. For the longest time, the simplest task was left undone. I felt inept and ill-equipped at doing anything. These feelings only intensified my grief and my aloneness….
But not for long. As I became emotionally stronger, so did my determination to rise above feeling helpless.  I wanted to learn how to do everything I could physically do on my own. I wanted to feel confident in being able to take care of my home and feel empowered by being able to do what I could by myself. I prayed for God’s confidence to fill me and His power to strengthen me.  Then, I…

teach me to fish…went to sprinkler school on a Saturday morning at a home and garden store. I can now fix, replace, or splice my sprinkler tubing, and know what sprinkler heads work best for my yard. I taught myself how to work the sprinkler system control box (which was a real challenge!).

…went to an auto shop and had them show me how to replace the bulb in my turn signal and to change the oil.  The tires are next…

…felt like I was driving a computer, so I went to a class at the auto dealership to learn how my car works.

…bought a tall light-weight ladder that I could easily carry. Now, most recessed ceiling light bulbs are not too high for me to change. The rain gutters around my patio are also accessible to clean out with my handy ladder.

…learned by asking. My friends shared their tips and methods for repainting a room and the best way to paint wicker patio furniture. You should see the finished room and furniture now. A friend also taught me how to remove wallpaper.

…learned how to replace my air conditioning filters and any other filters in the house.

…googled how to remove dirt dauber and wasp nests from outside my house. I learned and conquered. (In fact, I google any question I have about how to do anything.)

My list could go on and on. There are so many little and big things I have learned out of necessity, perseverance, and determination.

I also learned a lot from Bill. He taught me well through our years together and shared memories. I often remember the little things – what tools he used for what, the right nails to use for concrete, hanging a picture the right way, how to plug holes in the wall with spackle, how to caulk, fix something broken, or put the parts together. I know he would be so proud of me today.

Yes, there are tasks that I can’t physically do (or don’t want to do). Dear friends will come to my rescue, or I’ll have to call a repairman. But I’ll always say, “Teach me how. If there’s any way I can do it, I want to learn.”

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Isaiah 40:29

But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength;

they will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grown weary;

they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

 

For You are my hope, Lord God, my confidence from my youth. Psalm 71:5

For the Lord will be your confidence… Proverbs 3:26

From my Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

Heroes: Military wives etched on my heart

Many of you followed me through pictures on Facebook as I traveled from Vicenza, Italy to Ansbach, Germany to Wiesbaden, Germany to speak to military wives. A picture speaks a thousand words. Take a good look…

1506.military collage

 

These women, along with many of their husbands and children that I met, are etched in my heart. We shared Christ together, life together, prayed together, worshiped together, ate meals together, laughed and cried together. We made cherished memories, and took countless pictures. I taught them about our unchangeable God in their ever changing world. They taught me about rising above ever changing circumstances, in unchanging life situations.

I’ve been back home a while now…

and I still see their smiling faces.

I see their stress released through laughter.

I see their eyes, filled with tears they’ve learned to control, begin to spill over uncontrollably.

I hear them pray for each other, as they put a friend’s needs above their own.

I feel their hugs and the reluctance to let go.

I’ll never forget their testimonies of profound faith and trust in God in the midst of hard circumstances.

I’ll never forget their gut-wrenching stories of situations they are much too young to experience.

Many of them face the stress of living on the edge of uncertainty and with fear of the unknown.

Yet, they also live with a resilient spirit of hope, perseverance, and optimism that defines the life that comes with being a military wife and mom.

These women are my heroes. They are the keepers of their home, committed wife to their soldier, and devoted mom to their children.

I hope you’ll take a closer look at the women in the pictures. Choose one, (or two, or even all of them), and take a minute right now to stop and pray for the woman behind the picture, her soldier, and her children.

All those faces will suddenly become etched in your heart too…

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Lost your bloom? Take heart!

Susan Miller, America's Moving CoachDon’t you just love this time of year! Spring is in full bloom! Nature is in harmony with colorful flowers, new green growth on tree branches, and birds chirping with joy.

Yet for many of you who are in the emotional upheaval of a move, or face an unknown future with moving, the season of spring has not arrived in your life. There is a lack of harmony with those around you, you don’t feel personal or spiritual growth in this transition, and there is no joy in your heart – yet.

Let me encourage you dear sisters, your spring will come, you will bloom again! This is a season of life you are going through; it has come to pass, it has not come to stay. I know, because I have gone through the same dry and dormant seasons before, during, and after a move. I have felt the same feelings and faced many of the same situations spring flowersin moving that you have, and I too, could not feel the sun shining in my life.

Even when I couldn’t pray for myself during those difficult times, God put other people in my life to pray for me. Now is the time for you to rest in God’s promises, in His word, and in His faithfulness – and to know that I will pray for you.

So, tell me, how are YOU doing? How can we pray for you across the miles as we hold you close in our thoughts and hearts? Please take a minute to email us (prayerrequest@justmoved.org) with your personal prayer requests. You will be prayed for by our faithful prayer team for 30 days.

bouquetIf I could send each of you a spring bouquet of flowers to encourage your heart, I would. Instead, I’m sending you a bouquet of prayers, wrapped with my love and tied with a ribbon of God’s hope.

“In the morning, O Lord, Thou will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.” – Psalm 5:3

“…Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 4:1

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What do you do when you’re in lockdown and have nowhere to run?

Susan Miller, America's Moving Coachby Susan Miller

I was in a lockdown situation not long ago when an armed fugitive, who was a little too close for comfort, was being apprehended by a SWAT team. 

I never imagined being involved in something like that, especially when speaking to a group of Christian women at a retreat – at a camp conference center—in a beautiful forest setting. Although it ended well for all of us, it was one of those times in my life when I asked myself the hard questions.

What do I do now?

emotional and physical "lockdown"How do I stay calm?

How will I get through this?

What will happen next?

The answers surfaced from within very quickly.

It occurred to me after it was all over, that many of us have been on some kind of lockdown in life, either physically or emotionally.

It could be an emotional lockdown from the pain of loss, a broken relationship, fear of the unknown, or shame brought on by circumstances. For those of you who have been there—you know what it’s like. You shut yourself off from everything and everyone, and simply close down your feelings and emotions. You find safety in the lockdown.

It could be a physical lockdown from an illness, a disease, or abuse that is debilitating – crippling your body, mind, and spirit. You are so helpless to do anything about it. Your physical condition dictates your day and you feel trapped. You can’t run, you can’t escape—you have no control over what’s happening to you. You are powerless in the lockdown.

So, you say, what do you do when you’re in a lockdown situation?

First, go back to what you already know. And, if you don’t know it, learn it now so you’ll know what to do then.

Run to JesusWhen you have nowhere to run to, run with all your might to Him. If you think about it, there is really nowhere we can go that is totally safe anymore. He alone is our refuge, our only safe place. Depend on Jesus to give you the strength to endure the circumstances. Dwell in Him and on Him.

Pray—While you are waiting, pray faithfully, and without ceasing. Pray for protection, inner peace, and a calm spirit. Pray for others who are involved along with you. Pray that God will use you for His glory, and that you might be a light in a dark situation.

Recall His Word—In times such as this, rest in His promises. Recall and repeat scriptures of hope and protection to yourself or out loud. Saturate your mind and fill your heart with the remembrance of His word.

Trust Him—When the outcome of your situation is beyond your control, trust Him with your whole heart to see you through it. Don’t panic, know that He will be with you, His presence will surround you in all circumstances – regardless of what the outcome might be.

Be gratefulNo matter what, there is always something, or someone, to be grateful for. Recount your blessings. Focus on being grateful. It’s hard to be negative when you are thanking God. When it’s all over, don’t forget to thank God first before you do anything else.

And last, but not least, practically speaking…

Do the next thing—Whatever that might be, whatever that looks like – do the right thing and do the next thing.

  • Stay focused on what’s important.
  • No matter how helpless you might feel, let your common sense kick in.
  • Respond to the situation, don’t react to it.
  • Don’t do or say anything you will regret later.
  • Be wise; don’t foolishly put yourself in harm’s way.

In a crisis, remember that Jesus is on center stage—reflected in you, and through you by your actions and your words.

Make Him proud…

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. Psalm 46:1

A toothache, a root canal, and a dental visit I’ll never forget

dentistIt isn’t actually the tooth that hurts, it’s the gum above the tooth, I told myself.

I put up with the discomfort for a week, but when a week came and went, my better judgment said go to the dentist. I called my dentist office; they got me right in. One look, one x-ray, and he sent me straight to the endodontist.

“It’s an abscess. You’re going to need a root canal, and then some further surgery due to bone loss,” he said.

Oh, this is just great, I thought. Like I need the expense and inconvenience of a major tooth problem right now.

I took a deep breath as the dental chair reclined and the shot in my gum began to numb the areaI knew I’d be held captive with my mouth open and the sound of the drill for at least an hour. My nerves began to kick in and I could feel my heart rate increasing.

I kept repeating over and over again in my head, take my hand, Lord, take my hand. I envisioned God placing His hand in mine and squeezing it tightly to calm and comfort me. I even opened my hand slightly, eagerly waiting for His calming touch to come.

As if the words were audible, I heard, “I don’t want one hand, I want both hands.”both hands

Pretty profound, huh? It was for me.

I took another deep breath and wrapped my thoughts around what had just happened.

As a visual learner, I clearly got the message. God wanted all my anxiety and fear, not just one handful. Let go, Susan. Don’t hold back. Give all your emotions to me. I will calm you, comfort you, and give you peace.

…and I did…and He did.

No matter where you are, even in a dentist chair, God will speak to you – somehow, someway – when you call out to Him. Perhaps His message to you will be similar to mine:Let it goGive it all to me. I will calm you, comfort you, and give you peace.

Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. I Peter 5:7 TLB

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

My military heroes, my friends

My heart is still beating with joy from speaking to the Schofield Barracks Army Post military wives at their PWOC Conference in Hawaii. We even had some women there who came from Hickam Air Force Base. The icing on the cake was meeting with the women who attend the Moving On group at the chapel.

Moving On group at Schofield Barracks

After spending time with these incredible women, I had the privilege of seeing God’s word bring hope, comfort, and encouragement to so many lives that have been uprooted by moving. We laughed and cried as we shared our joy and our pain together. We prayed for one another and joined hands in worship. We walked away feeling refreshed and renewed in our spirits as we focused on Christ and not our circumstances.

These precious women are in the trenches of military life, many of whom are holding their families together in the absence of their husbands who are deployed. They face the unknown with brave hearts and a strong faith. Many have just moved and are experiencing the adjustment and transition of being in unfamiliar surroundings and starting all over again. Then there are those who are facing the challenges of yet another move that has become an expected part of military life. They, too, face the unknown with a persevering heart and a strong faith.

My life is never the same after I am in the presence of military women. They touch my heart, strengthen my faith, and keep me humble. They are ordinary women who are called to do extraordinary things as wives and moms. When you stop and pray for the men and women who are serving our country in the Armed Forces, remember to pray for the spouses and families left behind. They, too, are my heroes!

Here are eight ways you can join our Just Moved Ministry Team in praying for our military:

  • Safety and protection for deployed spouses
  • Strong marriages during stressful circumstances
  • Healing of broken relationships
  • Provision for uprooted families
  • Encouragement for uprooted moms
  • Smooth transitions and adjustments for uprooted children
  • Comfort in the midst of the physical and emotional effects of a PCS (transfer)
  • Military families to put their trust and hope in Jesus Christ.

My presence will go with you….  Exodus  33:14

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Life Lessons on the Hiking Trail

hiking trailI did some hiking recently in, what was to me, uncharted territory in northern Arizona.

It was quite an adventure since I am a novice when it comes to hiking. I love to walk, mind you, but hiking is quite different, so I learned. I do believe one of the hikes was several miles long. It was a totally isolated trail in the woods, leading to the top of a mountain.

My friend and I headed up the narrow trail, stopping occasionally to take a quick break, drink water, and marvel at how far we had come. I’ve learned over the years, it’s always best to have someone walk beside me when I’m on any unfamiliar path, or trail in life.

And isn’t that true – having someone come along side you when you are going through something you’ve never experienced before can make it a little easier. It’s also helpful to have the support and share the experience together. Besides that, it’s certainly better than talking to yourself.

There were a couple of times I just wanted to give up, turn around, and go back. I have also learned over the years, that when any journey I’m on seems steep, long, and difficult, I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. It’s never easy, but reaching my goal is worth it. In times like this, I remember the story of “The Little Engine That Could”. I think I can, I think I can, said the little engine, as she pushed up the hill. I become that little engine pushing on up the hill.

About half way up, we met two people on their way down the trail. Well, let me tell you, it’s always good to meet someone who’s been where I’m going. If for no other reason than to know someone else has made it! I asked the first questions that came to my anxious mind as they passed by rather quickly. What’s it like ahead? How much farther is it to the top? What’s it like there? They calmed any fear I had of the unknown trail ahead. They told us how much farther we had to go and gave us insight into what we could expect.

It’s kind of like anything we’re going through in life, isn’t it? There is comfort in knowing someone else has been there, done that. There’s nothing like someone saying, it’s going to be alright, here’s what you can expect, I’ve been through this and you can make it.

Needless to say, we made it to the top of the mountain… and back down! The amazing views of the landscape below were breathtaking. The emerald green forest was rippled with wild flowers and distant lakes sparkled and swirled like ribbons. I wouldn’t have missed it. It was worth every step, every anxious moment, every tired bone in my body.

The next time you face a challenge, or something unfamiliar ahead of you—don’t do it alone, don’t give up, and be on the lookout for someone who crosses your path, who’s been where you’re going. You will learn a lot along the way and discover you really do have the ability to reach your goal.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14 The Message

Right Under Your Nose

mother and daughterWhen I was growing up, mama used to always say, “It’s right under your nose, Susan!” In our family that always meant, what you are looking for, or what you need to do, or say, is so obvious!

The other day I had a “right under my nose” moment. It was so obvious, that I almost found myself saying, “Duh!” I acted on it immediately, and reaped the reward of being spontaneous and flexible with a dear friend.

So—what are some of the things that are “right under your nose” this year? Maybe it’s an old habit you want to change, or a new habit you want to cultivate. It could be a word you want to leave out, or perhaps add to, your vocabulary. You might want to write a note to someone encouraging them through a difficult time, or write an overdue letter asking for forgiveness. Is it something you’ve always wanted to take the time to do, a dream you want to make a reality, a promise you want to keep, or a phone call you need to make?

Perhaps you’ve been looking in all the wrong places, and making all the wrong choices this past year—to fill a need, to avoid the obvious, to cloud your judgment, to distract you from what’s important, to keep you from doing the right thing—when it’s been right under your nose the whole time.

Susan Miller

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