By Gwenn Voelckers
This year, Easter and Passover overlapped. While the two celebrations are very different, they share common themes: spring and hope.
The coinciding of these two holidays reminded me of the healing power of faith and a conversation I had with Teresa Jackson, one of the most thoughtful and inspiring women I’ve met through my Live Alone and Thrive workshops. She is now happily remarried.
Her faith lifted her up and carried her through the darkest times. Her journey may inspire yours.
• Would you care to share a little bit about your faith?
I’m a Christian. I’ve looked at other religions and have made a conscious decision to remain a Christian, even though I don’t understand it all.
• What role did your personal faith play in your adjustment to living alone?
My Christian beliefs hold to the tenet that I am never alone — that Christ is with me wherever I am. I’ve prayed a lot and have found indescribable peace in that praying.
• What was the biggest challenge you faced living alone and how did your faith help you heal?
Grieving the end of my marriage caused me the most pain while alone. All the ‘what ifs and why mes’ really tore at my heart. “The Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren, and other inspiring Christian books helped me get things into perspective.
I also listened to Christian radio programs. Talking to girlfriends was also a huge part of my healing.
• Is there a particular experience you had that captures the power of your faith?
My son was 7. After dinner he brought me his homework book to sign, as this was his teacher’s daily requirement. He’d been at his dad’s house the previous three days and I saw his dad’s girlfriend’s signature on the parent line in the book.
Something snapped — all the weeks my precious children were away from me … all the awfulness … all the hatred and injustice and fear. I sucked it up and forced my shaking hand to sign my name next to hers. I made my way outside, stumbling in the cold, and collapsed under my pear tree.
I laid on my back clutching my chest, my heart. No tears. Just intense pain. I did not, could not, make a sound nor move, but after a while my mind prayed a lament, begging God for relief from this excruciating pain.
In that instant, a ‘peace that passes all understanding’ moved over me and I felt my golden retriever, Kyla, appear and quietly curl up next to my body.
• Did you ever lose faith or struggle to regain your faith?
I did not lose my faith but, boy, did I ever have a few words with God! One morning during breakfast with my two young boys, I ran to the garage and grabbed my bike after just learning of another injustice the boys endured.
I needed to get out of the house so the boys wouldn’t hear my rant at their father. I tore down the road, enraged and screaming at God, ‘How could you let this happen?!’
About a half mile from home, I saw a doe standing by an apple tree by the side of the road. I calmed down immediately and just sobbed. I turned the bike around just as the sun burst over the horizon, washing the sky, the quiet country road, and me in orange light. I was reminded again ‘You are never alone.’
• What advice would you give to those whose suffering has challenged their faith?
Remember a time when you risked it, trusted God, and felt pretty good after you did. Remember that, ‘This, too, shall pass.’ Remember that there are things we can only learn when we are alone. That God has a bigger plan than our plan.
• What do you find most rewarding about your faith?
I feel like I have a purpose in life. My job is to be a servant to God. He’s the boss of me! The thing is, I need to figure out each day what he’d like me to do with the time and resources he has put in my care.
• What role does prayer play in your life?
Prayer is the great wireless communication connection to God. God speaks to us in three ways, (1) through the Bible, (2) through people, which includes books people write and teachers like you, and (3) through prayer, which includes sending things in nature to us for comfort like sunrises, dogs, and deer.
• How can those who live alone activate their faith more fully?
It’s like exercise and eating right. You get out of it what you put into it. You prepare your body for the years ahead by keeping moving and putting good things into it.
You prepare your mind for the times ahead by studying your faith, whichever faith you choose, and putting good things into your mind, like good music, good words, and good visuals.
• Was there a favorite scripture passage that lifted you up during your challenging times that you’d like to share with my readers?
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 4:6-7
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Live Alone and Thrive empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon, N.Y. For information about her workshops, book, or to invite her to speak, call 585-624-7887, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.aloneandcontent.com.