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.


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.)

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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:

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.

I Regret

I never thought the anger would move over enough to let normal grief in – not the grief of a widow whose husband chose suicide by way of leaving her instead of fixing the problems – but the grief of a widow who lost her husband through natural causes.

Five months later and I feel like it is the first week after your death.  I am driving in the car, and out of 37 years of habit, when I stop at a red light, I reach for your hand, but I look down and my hand is empty.  The anger has subsided enough to let me remember the good times; however, this brings on such heavy sorrow, pain and regret.

I have had five months of processing all of your faults.  Now I must address mine.

I have regrets.  I am not finished trying to fix us.  Time goes on, but not for our matrimonial union.  I am so sorry I did not realize the concept of Love and Respect sooner in our marriage.  The husband craves respect from his mate in order to feel loved, and the wife needs to feel love in order to feel respected.  I was raised to be such a strong-willed woman I don’t think I ever truly let you feel like the leader of the family.  I am so sorry for that.  You were such a strong willed man and that collided with my need for being an individual.  This struggle interfered with the concept of two becoming one.  And time has run out to rectify the situation.

I am so sorry for whatever pain I ever caused you.

I must accept my regrets and live with what is.

I asked God for forgiveness and this gives me comfort.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.


(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.  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?)