A Loss of Presence and Tears of Perseverance

Could it really be – eight years? That seems like so l-o-n-g ago. To me, it seems like only yesterday. Yet, it was eight years ago this month that my husband, Bill, lost his battle with cancer. The loss of his presence still lingers with me and, in a quiet moment, I find myself smiling as I reflect on a few of the things I still miss…

his voice that I long to hear,
his footsteps as he walked in a room,
his soft whistle which was music to my ears,
his smile that made everything right in my crazy world,
and his touch that made my heart skip a beat.

Susan and Bill MillerI miss his insight and wisdom when I needed perspective in a situation.
I miss sharing my day and sharing my heart with him.
I miss how he brought me a cup of coffee every morning.
I miss watching him teach our grandchildren how to flip “papa’s pancakes” on the grill.
I miss walking with him to church every Sunday.
I miss the man who lived out Jesus to me as we grew older together.

The loss of Bill’s presence left a void in my life and heart that took me to my darkest hours on the steps of my soul. It was there that God met me in my early years of grief, soothed me with His word, and filled me with His peace and comfort. I had no idea of the magnitude and depth that God’s love and care could be….and for eight years God has not once forgotten or left me.

Our marriage was not perfect by any means. When you’ve been married 45 years, you have your bumps along the way. Sometimes there were more valleys than mountain tops, more tears than laughter, more hurt than healing. There were years when we were more disconnected than connected, more broken than whole. There were even times when I wanted to give up and walk away – marriage was just too hard.

But I didn’t. He didn’t. We didn’t. Even though Bill worked 24/7 in a demanding job, and I was enmeshed in our two small children, we knew we had to make a choice to commit to our marriage and whatever it took to make it work. We began to focus on God instead of our issues and problems. God’s word became a light on our path. We prayed together, went to church together, joined marriage classes and marriage small groups, and hung out with mentors who modeled a Godly marriage. We learned how to communicate and talk to each other without blaming each other for everything that was wrong in our relationship. Things didn’t change overnight, but over time we began to change. We began to grow deeper roots in Christ and, as our roots entwined with each other, we were strengthened and equipped as one, to weather the storms in our marriage.

My deep loss of Bill’s presence, has been filled with an even deeper gain of the presence of Jesus.  My presence will go with you…Exodus 33:14

And, because of Jesus, I can face another year with peace, contentment, and the cherished memories of our 45 years together.

I want you to claim my life verse that I claimed for my marriage and kept on my favorite picture of us as a reminder of God’s faithfulness:

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory. Ephesians 3:20-21

So why am I sharing all this through my tears of perseverance? You…you, might just be the woman reading this that needs hope. You are going to make it through your loss. You can make it in your marriage. You will come out of your pit of despair.

Never give up, never lose hope.  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

From My Heart to Yours,
Susan Miller

Running away to the circus


A young mom in my life who has five children, including a toddler and a baby, sent me a text recently. It’s worth sharing since we can all resonate with the feelings behind the words, and have probably felt like doing the same thing at one time or another.

circus tentMy friendToday is the kind of day I’d like to run away and join the circus…I’m going to the mall instead. I’m fighting discouragement…internal struggles.

MeDiversion is sometimes my sanity, until I realize the circus doesn’t need me like my family does. Let’s play on the trapeze for a while, then regroup with facing the elephants in life. We can do it, you hold my hand, and I’ll hold yours.

Then, silence, until I hear a text beep again…

My friendSpent an hour alone. By the time my husband came home I was done with the circus…and ready to face my real life.

MeSounds like you played all alone on the trapeze for a little while, looked at life from a different perspective, and decided the circus wasn’t for you. 

I loved her visual word picture! Oh, how many times I have wanted run away from emotional pain, circumstances I can’t change, and a heaviness in my heart to “join the circus” and escape from it all!

And yet, this much I know…

Running away might bring instant gratification with something new and different, but the thrill of it all fades fast.

Running away might mask the pain, until, when you least expect it, the mask slips off.

Running away might be a temporary escape from permanent circumstances, but reality is just around the corner.

Running away might relieve a heavy heart for a little while, but won’t take away the heartache you feel.

I know, because I’ve been there… done that.

I was running in the wrong direction. Take it from me, instead of running away from, try running to Jesus.

Run to call out to Him. Hey, you can even yell and scream at Him, He’s big enough to handle it. Jesus not only loves you, He knows you inside and out. He even knows you want to run away!

Run to Him in prayer. Tell Him how you really feel. Then ask for His grace and mercy.

Run to His word in scripture. I run fast to the Book of Psalms for comfort.

Run to lay your burdens at His feet. Then stand up and know the heaviness will become lighter.

Run to remember: His faithfulness to you, His provision for you, His presence that will never leave you.

It works. I know, because I’ve been there… done that. I learned that “joining the circus” doesn’t fill my heart like Jesus does.

Susan

Ordinary women called to do extraordinary things

Military wives: unsung heroes of our militarymilitary wife

Imagine the fear and anxiety of being a military spouse who has not heard from her husband, doesn’t know exactly where he is, or what he is doing. She simply waits. She has no option other than to trust and have faith that the phone will ring, the text or email will come, or his face will appear on Skype—anything to reassure her that he is okay. Imagine how she feels when her husband’s mission is so classified that he cannot share the stress he endures daily. Think about the strain on her marriage and on her children when a PCS (a move), or deployment comes–again, and then, again.

I had the privilege to be with many military wives who live with these situations at the PWOC  international military conference in Nashville, Tennessee recently. Needless to say, I have a soft spot in my heart for these women, many of them young enough to be my daughter. They have gone through things that most people, who do not live in a military world, will not experience in a lifetime. They are ordinary women, who are called to do extraordinary things as they serve on the front lines at home, while their husbands serve our country. They face the daily battles of loneliness, fear, and anxiety with perseverance, resilience, and, above all, an unwavering hope and trust in Jesus Christ.

Story after story touched my heart, and strengthened my faith. Jesus was always at the center of each conversation, the anchor for their survival. As I prayed with Mary*, the tears flowed over the heartache of a rebellious son who desperately needed his deployed father. Sue, who I had met at a military conference in Germany, wouldn’t let go of me as we embraced. She shared that her marriage was falling apart, and she didn’t know how to put the pieces back together again. Katherine, married one year and pregnant, was moving to a remote military base in Japan to be with her husband. She was anxious about a different culture, a foreign language and being so far from family. We hovered in a corner and I listened as she expressed her fear of the unknown.

These women, along with countless others, are my heroes. I am one of their biggest fans. I will stand on the sidelines of their lives and pray for peace, comfort, and victory in the midst of their circumstances. May we never forget to pray for our soldiers who serve our country, and for those who are in harm’s way, for their spouses who keep the home fires burning, and for their children who struggle with the uprooting and upheaval of change. Just imagine what our prayers can do…

Susan Miller

*names have been changed

 

A Roadway in the Wilderness

Isaiah 43:19roadway in the wilderness
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.

Many of you, like me, have had a “wilderness experience” in your life. It’s when uncontrollable circumstances, or a life-changing crisis rocks your world. When you feel like you are aimlessly trying to find your way through a maze of darkness, and just survive–one step at a time. You feel empty, confused, overwhelmed, and desolate.

I know some of your stories, your struggles, your heartaches, and your pain. Your wilderness experience could be with a physical illness, with emotional anguish, with financial hardship, or with a broken relationship. It could be in your marriage or in being single, in your aloneness, or in coping with a loss.

My wilderness experience began on a Sunday morning when the surgeon gave us the news that Bill had an aggressive and rare form of colon cancer that had spread to his liver–and there was nothing they could do. Then, just four months later on a Sunday morning Bill went home to be with the Lord. That was almost three years ago, and there are still days when I struggle to get through the emotions of my loss. I choose daily to put one foot in front of the other and press on.

God made a roadway to survival in my wilderness. In the midst of my sadness, God made a roadway to finding joy. In the midst of my loss, God made a roadway to finding contentment. In the midst of my longing for Bill, God made a roadway to finding peace.

God will provide a roadway in your wilderness, my sisters! Listen to His voice when you feel confused. Learn His word when you need comfort and reassurance. Lean on him when you don’t have all the answers. Rest in Him when you are weary and worn-out. Trust Him when your circumstances overwhelm you.

It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s downright hard some days. There will be times when you feel like you can’t do anything but breathe. But remember this: When God provides a roadway IN the wilderness—He provides a way OUT of the wilderness. He did it for me, He will do it for you.

It is Jesus who will meet you at your point of need. It is Jesus who will soothe your soul, and comfort your heart. It is Jesus who will give you hope to face tomorrow.

Susan Miller