As 2017 is drawing to a close, for me it is a time of reflection. Some years bring about more intense change than others. My world totally shifted in 2010 when my beloved husband, suffered a major stroke. So many shifts took place in an instant. I went from wife–supporting my husband and partnering in our ministry together to caregiver, and in all ways practical, the head of our home. As I sought stability and God’s perspective, I kept hearing accept this new normal in your life. Then in 2012, my world shifted again as I went from wife to widow. Another new normal to accept.
For many of my friends and acquaintances 2017 brought the same unexpected shifts. Not all are considered “bad”..in fact many are welcomed. A wedding, new baby, job promotion, or planned retirement all have many wonderful blessings embedded in them. These are the more or less “planned” new normals. They are opportunities that most people celebrate.
Unfortunately, for others had their “new normal” thrust upon them, without their permission. Those killed and injured in Las Vegas or in Sutherland Springs, Texas had their world invaded by pain and loss and must deal with their “new normal”. Unexpected life altering diagnosis, infidelity discoveries, miscarriage or even unplanned pregnancy’s all impact normal life. As I struggled to accept my new normal first as a caregiver then as a widow (and believe me, it was a fierce struggle at times), I learned many lessons.
The event takes place, many times in a moment, but the processing of it in our soul and spirit takes much longer. God began to talk to me about writing on this subject last week. Saturday I learned about a young woman in our church who is facing her shocking new normal as her husband and the father of their young son passed away unexpectedly. Another friend stopped by this week to share with me how the experimental chemo treatments that saved her husband’s life has altered his thinking processes and he is, currently, no longer able to work, much less be left alone. One went from wife to widow, the other from wife to caregiver; they both must face their new normal. How do we face such things? How do we walk with those who are facing these changes?
It takes faith. Both these women have a strong faith in Jesus, but they are also human and we must give them the opportunity to be real in their process. I knew God was good. I knew He was trustworthy, but I felt myself backing away from Him at times because I was not sure what else might come my way. The amazing grace and mercy about having a relationship with Jesus is that He can handle it. He can handle our questions and pain. There is no perfect way to walk through grief and mourning. The best gift you can give someone is to be there for them, and not expect them to have to do it in a “certain faith way”. Remind them of God’s love, grace and mercy and maybe even agreeing that it is awful, hard and you are sorry they have to go through this, but you are there to walk it out. Don’t expect them to always have the faith to walk it out–let them use yours. Not with platitudes, but with the knowledge that you are praying with them, for them and knowing God has His plan to help them through whatever they are facing.
Accepting the new normal takes much time. Somewhere along the process I had to bury my old normal. I realized it was dead, and gone and the sooner I mourned it and buried it the easier it was to adjust to my new normal. I still, at times, long for my old married life. Comparing my old normal to the new was life comparing apples to Brussels sprouts. At the time of course the old (apples) would always win. Partly because I looked at my old normal through perfection glasses. I forgot about the bruises and sour parts and only remembered the sweet things. The Holy Spirit reminded me about this one day…it was humbling. I’m actually learning to enjoy Brussels sprouts! The comparison game is a natural part of the transition process. People would say, what great memories you have, how wonderful. I would think, yes, and I want more! They are a comfort–but they are also a double edge sword. It is much easier now to enjoy the memories but the desire for more has not really diminished.
One of the good things (Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them) has worked in and through my situation are these thoughts. Years ago a friend was widowed and I watched God care for her. It was her story that helped hold me steady through mine. It is my prayer that my story, even with its many variations, will help others.
My words to each of you facing “new normal”. You can do this. You can trust our God to show up with His peace and comfort. He will carry you through. Those of you who are enjoying your normal life–do it! Enjoy the blessings, love your children, take care of your health and trust your Good Good God to equip you, love you and inspire you to help others to embrace and adjust to their new normal. We need each other. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.