After the Spiral…..

I spiraled Valentine’s week.  I am not proud of it, but it is what it is.  I know spiraling can be expected during grief.  Does not mean I was ready for it though.  It was a bad spiral.  I was not sure I was going to climb out of that rabbit hole this time.

I had a panic attack in Dollar General.  I barely made it through the check out, ran to my vehicle, and cried once I shut the door.  Cried all the way home.

Grief is rough.  On top of regular grief, trying to process your husband committing suicide makes you wonder how you function every day.

With the help of my therapist, I realized I was missing what might have been, and going down the What If rabbit hole.  What if my old vehicle dies?  What if I can’t fix the problems in my old house?  What if I never get my vegetable garden started ever again?  I have to re-till and amend the soil because I have not had a garden for 3 years.  What if I can’t do this by myself?  What if I can’t fix the potholes on my dirt road?

The irony is, the hope of ‘what could have been’ sustained me through my husband’s mental illness.  I always had hope his physical and mental ailments would be cured and we would grow old together as planned.  Now, after his death, the ‘what could have been’ was driving me insane.  Identifying this emotion, owning it for what it was, sure helped propel me to once again put one foot in front of the other.

Another factor playing into my depression was the weather.  Our region normally has mild winters.  We didn’t have particularly extreme cold days, but we had a wet winter.  Most times, there are nights where we can go outside, light a fire and have outdoor movie night.  There was none of that this winter because it was just too wet.  Not being able to be outside, on the land I so love, was much more draining that I ever could have imagined.

Fortunately, Saturday was dry and mild.  With my newfound grasp on reality, I was able to spend some time in sunshine and this lifted my spirits tremendously.  I felt empowered!

I tackled the yard, starting with cleaning up some messes.  Then, I learned how to drive our zero-turn lawnmower while wearing my bright pink Avon Mattitude Liquid Lipstick.  I also learned how to connect my headphones to my cell so I could listen to music while cutting the grass.

Progress!

I broke the lawnmower.

Not progress!

And as if widowhood wasn’t enough, a lizard got in my house.  I picked up a magazine, saw a little stick sticking out of it and proceeded to remove it, when said stick jumps on my finger.  Said stick turns out to be a baby lizard.  I shake my finger while screaming and hopping around.  The baby lizard scampers to parts unknown and can probably live in this house to adulthood because I am not picking it up.  I realized I should have known that wasn’t a stick because why would a stick be sticking out of my magazine?

Not so much progress, but that’s okay.

So heck on this day!  I went out for boiled seafood and $2 margaritas for National Margarita Day.

Problems not solved, but who cares when you can get $2 margaritas?

Sunday rolls along.  I decide to pick up sticks in my yard to burn, which gives me the idea that I can burn some oak logs in my garden area.  That would go a long way in amending my soil.

Hallelujah moment!  Garden problem partially solved!

Later, I went down my muddy dirt road, noticing my husband’s shovel that he kept in the woods to dig little trenches when the rain got bad.  So right there, in my good tennis shoes, I hopped out of my vehicle to dig a few trenches to drain some of the water.

Pothole problem temporarily solved!

I go back home feeling really proud of myself.  Now to clean my tennis shoes and take a shower.

And then….

I see that baby lizard in my tub.  I run out the bathroom, stop in the hallway, and say ‘time to man up, Gretchen.’  I march back into the bathroom with new resolve.  Taking the advice of one of my widow friends, I threw a face cloth over the lizard.  She said she heard little lizard screams as she carried it outside.  I am hard of hearing so I did not hear any little lizard screams, but I did feel it wiggling in the cloth.  I almost threw up.  I opened the back door to release said lizard, and it was clinging to the face cloth for dear life.  Before it could jump on my hand, I threw out the cloth, ran inside and locked the door.

Lizard problem solved!

Days later, when I know the lizard has left the face cloth, I will just burn that cloth in my garden burn pile.

Problem solved!

Man, it’s grand not to be stuck in a spiral.

 

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  My daughter and her husband are the sweetest Valentines I know.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Avon tip of the day:  For a limited time, you can join Avon for FREE.  Got to my website and click on Become a Representative.  Start selling immediately. Your sign up comes with loads of perks, benefits and goodies to help you start strong. Plus, you can earn up to 65% in sales and bonuses!  Personalize your free online store and then text or email the link to friends and family for instant sales. Sell anywhere, anytime with our mobile app and get paid fast in 2 business days with Rapid Pay!

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

 

The First Valentine

I did not think Valentine’s Day would be too bad.  We had been married for 37 years and didn’t really celebrate the day anymore, for goodness sake.

Or did we?

I opened FB that morning and 10 years of memories hit me.  We didn’t do elaborate celebrations anymore, but I realized we quietly marked the day with sweet little traditions.  He would cook me breakfast before work, which included a heart shaped omelet.  I would pick up a couple pounds of crawfish for a quiet dinner to be eaten in front of the TV (watching Walton’s re-runs, no doubt).  Filling a vase with whatever we could find growing in the yard to decorate our dining table.

I will never experience those moments anymore, and that made my cry.

I have been growing stronger each day, so this step back took me totally off guard.  The mourning was so tense, it became physical.  My heart was burning and felt tight and constricted.  I could swear someone had my heart in their hand and were squeezing as hard as they could.

I reached out to a few other widow friends, and we were all suffering.  Julia and I discussed how memories were normally comforting, but today we were drowning in them.  Debbie said even after 3 years the pain was still so raw for her.  Julie told me God’s got us, the firsts are always the hardest and we will make it.

I do not want to bring others down on this day of celebrating love, but my co-workers find me crying in my cubicle.  I do not want to allow this sadness and anger to turn my heart to stone and become bitter.  I want to celebrate love and I want to always be happy for couples who get to celebrate this time together.  God, please allow me to be happy for others even though my heart is breaking.

I’m still mad at him for taking his own life, and that anger continues to buffer some of my sadness.  I took his picture off of my cubicle wall, and threw it in my top drawer.  Then I removed the picture and flung it in the bottom drawer because I decided he wasn’t top drawer worthy.

But on this day, there was no anger, just deep, gut wrenching, heart constricting pain

My therapist advised me to accept these days and just to sit in my grief for a moment.

But oh God, it just hurts so bad.

For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  Isaiah 54:5

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  My daughter and her husband are the sweetest Valentines I know.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.)

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Avon tip of the day:  For a limited time, you can join Avon for FREE.  Got to my website and click on Become a Representative.  Start selling immediately. Your sign up comes with loads of perks, benefits and goodies to help you start strong. Plus, you can earn up to 65% in sales and bonuses!  Personalize your free online store and then text or email the link to friends and family for instant sales. Sell anywhere, anytime with our mobile app and get paid fast in 2 business days with Rapid Pay!

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

Glory to the Ordinary

For 37 years, just before midnight, I would say Happy New Year to the same man.  For 37 years, upon waking, I would say Happy New Year, again, to the same man.

Needless to say, I have been stressing and dreading this New Year.  I feel I am stepping forward into the future and leaving my husband behind.  In 2019, my husband was alive.  In 2020, he isn’t.  2020 won’t know him.  2019 knew him.  This seems to solidify he is gone.

I have started New Year’s with him for 37 years.  How do I not do this?

Well he left me no choice, did he?

In the year’s pre-kids, we would go to nightclubs, drink champagne and ring in the New Year.  Once kids arrived, we hosted family parties at our home, making great, great memories.  Years later, we rang in the year with the two grandchildren living with us.  Most of the time it was just the 4 of us on our little acreage, lighting sparklers and throwing snappy pops.  Such a cozy setting.

Fast forward to this year, the oldest grands are in their teens now, doing their own thing.  I don’t want to go to any parties – socializing – that would hurt too much.  But I don’t want to be home alone.  I figured I would go to Waffle House, sit at the counter (because booths are reserved for 2 or more), and have a lonely dinner.

Then I would go home and wait for midnight – counting down by myself.  3 – 2 – 1.

I can’t.  I. Just. Can’t.

But the past few days, something started changing in me.  I have been feeling the need to socialize more, and not just with my friends in my computer (my Facebook friends).  I need face to face contact.

Is my grieving progressing to a new stage? Am I seeing light at the end of the tunnel?  Well, I am not to the end the tunnel, because grieving never ends.  But grieving does morph, and I am seeing some light.  I am coming up for air.  I feel I am beginning to breathe again.

Fortunately, a high school friend threw out a rope and saved me from drowning in my pity.  She invited me to spend New Year’s at her house, drinking champagne, wearing our jammies and talking the night away.  (After all, we have 40 years to catch up on!)  We will skip the parties and have a girl’s night in.  This is just what I needed.  I won’t have to be in a social setting, and I won’t be home alone.  The next day, we will cook the required black eye peas and cabbage.  Well, she will probably cook.  She knows my cooking horror stories and she may not let me in her kitchen.

But I still don’t know if I can say Happy New Year.  I am thinking of starting a different tradition, similar to Seinfeld’s Festivus for the Rest of Us.  I think I will say, “Glory to the Ordinary.”

Those of us grieving or hurting just want to be ordinary.  We don’t want the stigma of being the wife whose husband committed suicide.  We don’t want to be the parent who buried his/her child.  We don’t want to be the wife/husband whose spouse left them for a ‘newer model.’  Glory to the Ordinary.

Instead of having “Airing of the Grievances,” we will hold “Remembrance of the Non-Descript.”  For example, I kiss my husband goodbye as I leave for work.  I come home in the evening, opening the front door and smell his famous chili cooking on the stove.  Or Saturday mornings when we were feeling lazy and we would linger in bed while watching PBS, and grandkids would climb in with us.  Or Sunday Saints’ games, boiling a sack of crawfish.  (He took his famous boiled crawfish recipe to the grave with him.  I don’t think I will ever taste crawfish again as good as his.)  These days, nothing out of the ordinary happened.  These were just regular days of existence.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We can keep “Feats of Strength,” but this will not entail wrestling.  Those of us grieving or hurting show our strength everyday just by getting out of bed, showing up for the day, accomplishing what is necessary, celebrating small victories over our pain and managing to make it to nightfall.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We want an ordinary day without the heavy burden of our losses.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We don’t want to say Happy New Year, because we really do not feel it.

So to all of us that are hurting as we approach the New Year, I will not say Happy New Year.  But I do wish you a Glory to the Ordinary.

 “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 23:18 (NIV)

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights – sometimes over 20 people are fed – on a youth minister’s salary!  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

GLORY TO THE ORDINARY!

Clutter Can be a Beautiful Thing

CLUTTER!  This time of year, parents start thinning out children’s toys to make way for an influx of Christmas presents.  People start looking forward to a new year, and vow to be more organized.  Markets are gearing up for promoting books and items to help you organize.  In other words, buy more clutter to help corral your clutter.  The irony!

I have been back home for 6 months, and have spent way too many weekends battling clutter – purging, donating, throwing away and burning.  I should be out with family and friends, starting to actually live my new life.  But no.  I only have two days out of the week to do this, so I grab every chance I get.  I even joined a site where I get daily messages for one year to re-train my brain how to deal with every type of clutter, whether physical or emotional.  Funny thing is, I rarely open the messages and this is now cluttering my inbox.  More irony!

Just about every weekend has been dedicated to simplifying my life by having less possessions.  I cannot believe how much clutter has been stuffed into this tiny house.  It’s insane.  First world problems.  Clutter is controlling my life.  I made a vow that once this massive project is finished, I will think twice before buying any item and bringing into my home.

This weekend, I parted with some of my husband’s kitchen items I knew I would never use.  That hurt.  I felt so guilty.  I was so sad going through his clutter, and this made me cry.  Did he even think of the mess he was leaving me in when he took his own life?  I guess not.  I am sure clutter was not the last thing on his mind.

I want to get rid of as much clutter as I can so that my children are not faced with clearing out my clutter when I join their father in heaven.

I had to take a break to regroup.  Of course, a break meant perusing FB.  Mental clutter.  A memory popped up from 5 years ago.  It was a picture of two of my oldest grands decorating our Christmas tree.  I remember my granddaughter was quite peeved we bought a tree off of a lot and didn’t cut a scrub pine out of the woods.  I looked at my dining room table and it was covered with clutter.  Groan!  That table clutter was the bane of existence for me and my husband.  We lack storage in this small house, so things ended up on top of our table (including a dirt bike my husband was working on for our grandson – but that is a story for another day).

We had a lot of good memories around that table – family gatherings – crawfish boils.  But when I moved back home 6 months ago, all I saw was clutter.  The table was really too big for our house to begin with.  And I just couldn’t see gatherings happening there anymore.  My mom was gone, my husband was gone, my stepdad is getting too old to head up this way.  No, it hurt too much to keep the table.  I gave it to one of my best friend’s.  Her family hosts other families after church, and I knew she would create great memories like we did.  This did my heart good.

But back to that picture.  I looked closely at the clutter.  My grandkids were wearing their Santa hats.  Ornaments were all over the table.  The plastic bin holding Christmas decoration clutter was sitting on a chair.  I saw my grandkids school pictures.  We had a clutter of egg cartons donated to us for our 60 laying hens.  There was a garden watering can, probably to fill the tree base.  That was my favorite little can to water my herb garden.

But the biggest memory was my husband’s flannel jacket thrown over a chair.  He wore his flannel jackets until they were in threads and embarrassing.  However, we couldn’t throw any away until we found one to replace it.  That ratty jacket was always thrown over a dining room chair, the back of a recliner or on the bed.  As he got older and was on blood thinners, he wore this jacket year ‘round because he was always cold.  Seeing this flannel jacket tugged at my heart.

This time, clutter was a beautiful thing.

A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.  Ecclesiastes 3:6.

See – even the Bible is telling me to cast a way my clutter.

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.)

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 Avon tip of the blog:  Of course, Avon IS NOT CLUTTER.  You purchase a product and use it up!  Have you tried Avon’s eye make-up remover (product #579-359)?  Avon True Color Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover Lotion works quickly and easily to gently remove all traces of eye makeup. Plus, it conditions and moisturizes your lashes and the fragile skin around your eyes.

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

I am Not Okay

Throughout Thanksgiving, I refused to show sadness.  I wasn’t going to blog anything sad.  I wasn’t going to post anything sad.  I wasn’t going to utter anything sad.

Today, at work, the façade cracked and a co-worker noticed.  I had to fess up.

I am not okay.

Throughout my husband’s decline, I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I carried all financial responsibilities, along with watching his decline.

But I still had him as a sounding board.  If I heard a crazy noise coming from my vehicle, I could consult with him.  He would calmly talk me down, explaining what it could be.  It never was as bad as my mind imagined.  If work had to be done on my house, he was the ultimate handyman.  He always had a solution to whatever repair we faced.

I thought I had the weight of the world on my shoulders back then.  The weight has shifted.  And it got heavier.  Granted, without having to pay for his medical issues, I regained some financial freedom; however, I have the weight of every decision being mine and mine alone.  I no longer have a partner to bounce anything off of in order to make a sound decision.

I feel like everything is breaking – my house, my car, my mind…….

I am intimidated.  I am vulnerable.  I am alone.

I know, I know, I know.  I have been preaching God’s word and God’s goodness for weeks now.  I know all about Psalm 69:1 – “Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck.”  I can recite many other verses, but right now my mind is not taking comfort in them.  I need to flounder in my self-pity a while longer.

I am experiencing deep anxiety.

I am not okay.

My friends and loved ones will be nervous to read this.  Don’t be.  Eventually, I will be okay.  Probably by next week I will bounce back seeking God’s word and strength.  I have always been resilient like that.

But for today, I am not okay.

Today, I want to peel my skin off and climb out of it.

Today, I do not want to be me.

 

(Just a note:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and SILs personal ministry of ministering to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Recently, they had 24 people at one meal.  That is quite a lot on a youth minister’s salary.  But God always provides.  I like to give them help when I can.  Please check out my Avon website.  We are not your grandmother’s Avon anymore.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order. )
YourAvon.com/ghegwood

And do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress.  Answer me quickly.  Psalm 69:17

Letting Go of a Dream

It was OUR dream.

We loved to garden together.  That was our ‘good times.’  We didn’t bring any other interference into our garden time.  It was just me, him and Mother Earth – no marital problems – no anxiety – no mental illness.  Gardening was the best times for us these last few years.

Our dream was in our retirement years to have a huge vegetable garden and a roadside stand.  We would can what we couldn’t sell.  We have been in prep mode these last few years, building up to OUR dream.  We gardened, we harvested, we canned.

We called our little homestead a faux farm because it was not sustainable.  Some years we had bumper crops, some years we might have a tomato.  We knew if the apocalypse came and we had to survive on our own land – we would be the first to die.

We chronicled our success and failures on our Facebook page, Spooky Hollow Southern Mississippi.  We laughed at our failures.  We took great pride in our successes.  One year, our cucumber crop was so large, we gave those away as party favors for my granddaughter’s birthday.

We even had fun scooping the poop – so much fun that I wrote a poem of one our adventures on May 21, 2010 (never dreaming that 9 years later – almost to the date – my husband would be dead from his own hand).

“I do not like to scoop the poop. I do not like it sticking to my boots. I do not like the way it smells. And now I do not feel so swell. But Bubba-Man says I do not give a dam. We are here to scoop the poop. We do not care if it sticks to boots. We do not care how bad it smells, because this will make our garden swell.”

Such enjoyable times.

But those days are gone now.  My husband killed those dreams when he killed himself.

I am faced with downsizing.  I have a huge assortment of canning jars and nowhere to put them.  I tried to find places to stuff them, but no such luck.  Then I realized I would probably never have need for this many jars and I must face parting with them.  That thought stabbed me in the heart and actually brought tears to my eyes.

Isn’t is silly to cry over canning jars?  Grief – a miserable necessity.

I know I can still have a garden – a smaller one.  I know I will still can my produce – just not as much.  I do not know if I will ever have a roadside vegetable stand.  But what’s the point anyway?  What I do know is I will not be sharing this experience with my husband.  That was the whole point – him and I – conquering this dream together – sharing this intimate experience that was only between us.

The prize was in the process.  OUR process.  Not his process.  Not my process.  OUR process.

OUR gardening trumped every bad experience in life.  We were in tune with each other, and only with each other.  A true union.

Our gardening experience – this is ‘us’.  No, that’s not right.  This ‘was us’ – this was ‘the good us’.

It hurts like heck letting go of a dream.

I’m not sure if I will ever enjoy gardening again.

 

(Just a note – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter and SIL have a personal ministry of ministering to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  Recently, they fed as much as 24 people, all on a youth minister’s salary.  God provides.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Be sure to check out our other deals. We always have some.  Avon isn’t only make-up.  If you have not seen an Avon brochure in a while, check us out.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

The First Thanksgiving

For this first Thanksgiving without my husband, I didn’t want to do a traditional meal on the actual day.  We agreed to do an informal dinner the weekend before.

Did I think this would lessen the blow of having our first holiday meal without him?  Yes.  Was I wrong in this assumption?  Yes.

This morning, as I was preparing the dishes I was assigned to bring, I opened my oven and noticed this inside was a mess.  We have a propane oven and realized I don’t know how to clean the inside.  I never had to do that before.  My husband handled everything concerning the house, meaning from repairs all the way to cooking.

Sometimes when a wife loses a husband, she is lost because she never handled anything financial in the marriage.  I always knew I wouldn’t have trouble in this manner.  Once my husband became disabled, we managed on one income.  What I didn’t expect was being so lost about how to do just about everything else.

So I looked at the dirty oven, and started to cry.  I continued crying while preparing my dishes.

I knew our daughter was sad, too, because she posted she was dreading this and also posted our last family photo from last Thanksgiving.

I studied that picture and realized how awful I looked.  For months I had been dealing with a husband with rapidly declining mental health.  I let myself go terribly.  I looked like I woke up, rolled out of bed, threw on just any old junk and headed to dinner.  My gosh, I am the Avon Lady, how could I walk outside my house looking like this?

I went through that day sitting on pins and needles, not knowing what would happen, how he would act and who would he offend.  I was constantly in the middle.  “Gretchen, do you know what Bubba is doing?”  “Mom, dad is…..”  “G-Maw, Paw Paw is…..”  Everyone thought I could intervene and change the direction of his behavior.

I was worn.

Have you ever heard the song Worn by Tenth Avenue North?  If not, go listen to it.  That song was my life.

Remembering that final Thanksgiving helped me shift my perspective.  I was going to be sad missing my normal husband, but I was going to enjoy this day being free from mentally impaired husband.  I was going to put that bad Thanksgiving memory behind me and focus on all the good ones instead (there were many).

I put on make-up, fixed my hair, dressed nice, googled how to clean my oven and headed off to my daughter’s house for a wonderful day of making new memories.

 

(Just a note:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and SILs personal ministry of ministering to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Recently, they had 24 people at one meal.  That is quite a lot on a youth minister’s salary.  But God always provides.  I like to give them help when I can.  Please check out my Avon website.  We are not your grandmother’s Avon anymore.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.  YourAvon.com/ghegwood)

God’s Not Done With Me

Over the weekend, I wanted to shed my grieving widow persona and just be the Super Avon Lady.  Nothing else.  Not a care in the world.  Just doing something I love and not thinking of anything else.

But God is always thinking of me and finding ways to mold me into being a better Christian.

I was minding my own business, peddling my Avon wares at the local town fair.  There was another lady vendor in close proximity to me and a gentleman peddler. This lady vendor, how can I delicately put this – this lady vendor did not know how to shut up.  She talked to us incessantly about the same thing over and over.  By the end of the first day, I and the other gentleman vendor were fit to be tied.

I dreaded returning Sunday to have to face Lady Mouth Vendor.  Lo and behold, I wasn’t even in my booth when she scurried over to pick up where she left off Saturday.

God certainly has a sense of humor.  In this new life of mine, the one where I am walking deeper with God, He drops convictions on me at a whim.  I can’t say I heard a voice.  But I felt words pressed upon my heart.  Those words said, “Gretchen, this woman told you she is 61.  Look at her.  She is out here working her booth alone.  She might be lonely and just wants to hold a conversation.”  I was thinking, well if she wants to hold a conversation, why doesn’t she shut up long enough for someone else to participate?

I am sure you know that is not the attitude God wanted me to have.  So I said, “Okay God.  I hear you.  I will give this a try.”

So as Lady Mouth Vendor continued to talk, I looked her in the eye, nodding in agreement, and commenting here and there.  By my actions, I hoped I was conveying interest.  Then something happened. I was interested.  We began an easy banter that carried throughout the slow parts of the day.  Once I put my attitude in God’s hands, He guided me and the experience was exhilarating.

I was experiencing the situation through a servant’s heart.

This God thing really works!

Here I was, just trying to be Avon Lady Extraordinaire, when God was working on me when I wasn’t even expecting Him to show up.  After all, I was happy at the moment.  I wasn’t doom and gloom widow.  I wasn’t crying out to Him for help.  But He crept up on me like a Ninja and pounced.  God always shows up.

I hear you, God – servant’s heart – go through life with a servant’s heart, and my world will be a better place.  And I might just make someone’s world a better place, too.

In my earthly way of thinking, I think God is not done with me yet, His work is just beginning.  However, in heavenly terms, God has been working on my since before conception.  You know – that ‘I can count all the hairs on your head’ thing.  (Side note – can you put a few extra hairs on my head, God, please?  Aging seems to cause a thinning reaction.)  So I guess I am in a super blooming phase of God growth.

I have always been a believer.  Borrowing a term from a friend, I did not consider myself born again, I considered myself ‘born into.’  I was raised by a faith-based mother.  And for goodness sakes, I have an aunt who is a nun and my brother was a Franciscan Monk.  I never knew a life without Jesus.  We talked about Jesus, and I knew he was my savior because he died for my sins.

We went to church.  I listened to the sermon.  I went to a Christian grammar school.  But I was not a Bible-Page turner.

In my adult years, I read the Bible and attended Bible studies.  My faith was growing.  Little did I know this was just the tip of the iceberg.

It took my husband’s suicide for me to ‘live’ in the Bible.  These past 5 months I have truly felt and seen God’s hand in my life.  I am not only a Bible-Page turner, but I live in the Bible.  This has opened my heart for verses to find me exactly when I need them.

James 1:2-4 smacked me in the face this weekend.

James 1:2-4

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Lady Mouth Vendor was my trial for the weekend.  I like to think I passed that trial.

I feel my old self is shedding and I am growing into my new skin – a better skin – a skin that wants to exemplify God to the world.

I am developing a servant’s heart.

I shared my conviction with the gentlemen vendor.  He looked at me like I grew another head.  Oh well, all I could do was show him I was truly making an effort to interact with Lady Mouth Vendor and not be aggravated by her.

The best I can do is live by example.

Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I witness this servant’s heart experience first-hand through my pastor son-in-law and my daughter.  Every Monday night, they open their home to a group of college students.  This is their personal ministry.  They break bread, worship and do fun activities.  My young grandchildren have a blast with this extended family, and they are learning, at a young age, to have a servant’s heart.  It’s truly a fun night in their household.  Even several international exchange students participated in the convivial pursuit of pumpkin carving.  This young family has the opportunity to bring the gospel to far-away places without ever leaving their home.

This beautiful couple experiences all the regular turmoil of a young family, but they always have the joy of the Lord carrying them through every step of life.  They act with humility while serving others.

I want to enrich college night in their household.  They manage to do all of this on a pastor’s salary alone, with three young children – 5 and under.  The Lord always provides their needs.  I ask the Lord to help me help them.  The best way for me to assist at this moment is financially and through prayer.

I am going to combine something I love doing with the need to have a servant’s heart.  I am going to use my Avon superpowers and tithe my Avon online earnings to their college ministry.

First world problems – we have so many online sights we can shop through.  I ask for you to take a look-see at my website.  A portion of the proceeds will be used towards Monday College Fun Day in the pastor’s household.

It’s not your grandmother’s Avon anymore!  You can peruse a catalog in your leisure, and have your favorite products delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time shopping online with Avon, use code WELCOME10 for a 10% discount on any size order.  Enjoy free shipping with a $40+ order.  Check us out:

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

We have a saying in Avon:  This is the company that puts mascara on lashes and food on tables, that fights wrinkles with one hand and Breast Cancer with the other. That knows the value of a perfect lip, but still opens its mouth and speaks out against Domestic Violence and for women’s financial independence. This is the company that not only brings beauty to doors but also opens them. The company that supports 6 million Representatives in over 100 countries. This is Avon.

I am going to use my Avon business to put food on the handmade table (lovingly built by my pastor son-in-law) for college night and to spread the gospel as far away as Africa from a cozy house in southern Mississippi.

And while you are at it, I don’t know her needs, but please say a little prayer for Lady Mouth Vendor.

YourAvon.com/ghegwood