Grief by definition is intense sorrow. I would describe becoming a widow as a deep pain throughout your mind, body, and soul. It felt like an amputation of half of my body. It took time and resting in the Lord to begin to heal. No set time; just one day at a time. But I find thanksgiving in that pain because it gave testimony to our great marriage and to how two becoming one is true in every sense.
I felt completely unprepared to be a widow with kindergartner twins and a third grader. This sudden and abrupt transition of change could only be accomplished through the strength of the Lord. The Lord was so very close and so was His church – not only Brook Hills, but all of the churches we had been members of in the past as well as our community and family.
I searched Scripture, trying to learn my new role as a widow. I wasn’t an older widow in my sixties with older children. I wasn’t really young or ready to marry and have children. I was 38 with three young children. It would be a few years before my children could really help with the harder chores, but family and the church were there, filling in the gap.
In the beginning, our house was full of loving people, tears, prayer, hugs, food, and even laughter. Being surrounded by people is what we needed, and the Lord provided. No act of love was too big or too small. Someone showed up with toilet paper, and others began to portion food in freezer bags and freeze it. Our children’s minister spoke words of wisdom to me, words the Lord knew I would need even to this day. Ladies from the church came and cleaned our house after the funeral. Others read to my children or took them on outings. It was not unusual for someone to be mowing my lawn as I was driving away, taking the kids to soccer or T-ball. To be clear, these are not things I would ask for, but God knew. He moved the hearts of His people to provide them for us.
As the years have passed, we have been served in different ways. Mentors have come into the children’s lives, for which I am so grateful. My children always know they can participate in father-son and father-daughter events. Other families are quick to let my children know they are there for them.
When the time came for my oldest to get her driver's license, both our nerves were shot. I sent out an SOS, and a brave dad piled everyone but mom in the car for a lesson. When my mother-in-law moved in with us for a season, the church was there getting her room ready. Over the years, different people have approached me and asked if the kids were going to this camp or that mission trip, because they felt led to help provide.
At times it was overwhelming to know how to respond. I tried to keep my perspective by realizing that everything was done with the heart of Christ. I did not have to feel guilty for these things or feel that others thought I was incapable. I could simply thank God for His love and blessings, and so I did.
Over the course of eight years, the blessings have been countless.
Shortly after Chris passed away, a widow visited me. One of the things she gave me was a simple journal. She instructed me to write something I was thankful for in it every day. And on the days I couldn’t think of anything to write, she encouraged me to flip back and be reminded.
Our family has been served in many tangible, physical ways, but my journal is also filled with stories of prayers and answers to prayers – many of which are sprinkled with God's provision through friendships, love, encouragement, and most significantly, through His Word.
Serving is something that has always been important to our family. Ministry with women was my passion before Chris died, and it seems that it grew even more after his death. When the Lord puts something on my heart, I want to respond. Sometimes that looks like being a prayer partner or having coffee with a widow I have never met – other times it’s speaking engagements or serving in Community Bible Study. Most often, serving happens organically week to week. He gives me many opportunities, and it is a privilege to be used by Him.
One birthday weekend, we decided to spend our time serving with local missions. While driving home afterward, I was concerned that I had made a mistake choosing to do missions on a birthday. Just then, I heard from the backseat, “That was the best birthday EVER!”
It’s during these times of serving together that we are truly served. Relationships grow closer and conversations deeper. Prayer becomes more personal and specific, and the support becomes stronger. Serving is where the heart of the church is found.
Greta Greene has been a member of Brook Hills since 2007. She has three children, Lydia (17), Grace Anne (14), and Trey (14). As Greta says, "There is no neat and tidy way to describe us. We are just one family among a larger family here at Brook Hills."