Wednesday, May 24, 2017

100 Days – Part 2

Welcome back! If you read yesterday’s 100 days post (part 1), then you know today is a continuation of celebrating the remaining 50 GOOD things we’ve experienced, witnessed, or heard about since Joel went to Heaven 100 days ago (now 101 today). Without further ado, here are the remaining 50…

  1. We’ve been offered and given free haircuts.
  2. A precious friend made pillows for each of my smallest children and both grandchildren, and even for me, out of Joel’s shirts.
  3. Joel’s Valentine’s Day gift to me arrived in the mail the day after he died. What a precious God wink to discover and receive the day after He went home to Heaven!
  4. A friend mailed me a book that she adores and is perfect to share with our children. We love reading The Invisible String Karen! Thank you!
  5. I’ve had friends call on several occasions who felt led to reach out to me in prayer. Without fail, God sent them to me at JUST that moment. He knew I needed people standing in the gap for me, lifting me up to Him during some of my darkest moments.
  6. My youngest son sees his daddy in everything we do. His memory is phenomenal, and I pray this continues, because I was worried he wouldn’t remember his daddy, being so young when he died.
  7. I found 3 other gifts Joel had wrapped for me and was saving for some occasion…Mother’s Day, Christmas, who knows. I unwrapped them, and tears poured as the gifts were perfect for the moment or had been something I had prayed about getting.
  8. My children frequently have pleasant dreams about their daddy. I’m still waiting to dream about my love, and I know it will come when God is ready to allow it. I’ve only dreamed about Chris twice since he died (over 6 years ago), so this doesn’t totally surprise me that I haven’t dreamed about Joel yet. It’s all in God’s timing. I’m thankful, however, my children have been given that gift of “seeing him” in their dreams.
  9. Each of the children were given precious stuffed bears from the hospital system their daddy used to work for.
  10. I’ve had to rely on numerous people to drive me to Asheville for wound checks, surgeon appointments, surgeries, etc. There has been no shortage of people willing and able to help out. So humbling!
  11. Prior to Damaris (the nanny) arriving, we had another family that worked non-stop morning and night between several of their older girls and mother to make sure our children were up and ready for school, taken to school, and picked up. I wasn’t able to climb stairs or drive during those earliest of days, so this was a much needed gift.
  12. Several other ladies from the church have also been willing able to run pick-up duty many times.
  13. A new friend, and fellow adoptive mom, with two special needs girls gave up an entire week of her early morning hours at home to come and care for my family. Becky would wake up the kiddos, get them to school, do things around the house, and then scoot away to her next responsibility. She amazed me that she would offer that sacrifice when she could probably use some of that help herself at times.
  14. I’ve found a wonderful grief counselor to work with. She’ll also be working with a few of the children over time (and as needed).
  15. New friends came over and painted two of the rooms that we weren’t able to get to before moving into the house last October.
  16. One of my pastors and church staff members brought me a chicken sandwich while in the hospital getting checked out after my wreck.
  17. I was a loaned a knee scooter thingy to use after my second surgery (sorry…don’t know the official name of it), and it was a true help in navigating the house.
  18. I’ve been able to share my story of being twice widowed in less than six years with countless numbers of people, many unbelievers. The number one question…how are you even surviving (emotionally speaking)? Each time I answer…it’s not me…it’s Christ in me. Without my faith, I’d be lost on so many levels.
  19. I’ve connected with friends from Joel’s past I never had the privilege of knowing while he was still living.
  20. While I’m not ready to go through Joel’s clothes, at least the ones I’ve seen him wear, I was able to take some clothes with tags still on them and donate them to a precious brother in the Lord from Pakistan. Joel would be pleased, as he spent time in the home of this man and his precious wife.
  21. A speaker/author (that I personally don’t know) donated her earnings from a day spent teaching a local business group to our family after hearing our story. This was just days from Joel’s death.
  22. We received boxed lunches from my precious work family to take with us as we traveled from Joel’s funeral service to the cemetery, since they were nearly three hours apart from each other.
  23. I was gifted a craft table for my craft room from a precious couple from my previous church. They saw a post I put on Facebook with a picture asking if someone knew how to build a craft desk Joel had planned to make for me. The one they ended up purchasing for me looks almost identical to the one he planned to build.
  24. One of the most practical gifts I’ve continued to receive from various people has been the gift of paper goods – plates, cutlery, cups, napkins, toilet paper, etc. It’s made life so much easier, and we’ve had a lot of people in and out of the house, and it’s been a huge blessing!
  25. My push lawn mower wasn’t working, as some men discovered when they went to mow one evening. Most of our lawn requires a riding mower, but the push mower is important for some areas. One of the guys simply took it back to his place and fixed the thing before I could practically blink.
  26. Our local realtor and several co-workers collected money to buy groceries for us and actually did the shopping and delivery of items too.
  27. Joel’s co-workers donated very graciously to our family. I cried and cried upon receiving their gift, knowing how hard it must be to lose a teammate who had been there nearly the longest period of time of all of them.
  28. Joel was buried in his hometown of High Point, NC – just below his daddy. I’ll be in the spot next to him. I was blessed to receive that gift from Joel’s mother.
  29. My children are learning to laugh again. So am I.
  30. God has been clearly speaking to me regarding some bold next steps in my life. I continue to discern his call, but I’ll share more as I feel led to do so.
  31. My little one has learned to ride a tricycle and participated in his first Trike-A-Thon fundraiser for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I was a proud mommy, and I know daddy would have been just as proud. I prayed he would be able to see him from Heaven.
  32. I have been able to give away some things that have no purpose in our lives without Joel here. It’s such a blessing to be able to give away anything when I’ve been blessed so greatly during these 100 days.
  33. We were fed by my mother-in-law’s church following Joel’s burial.
  34. Her pastor conducted the graveside service.
  35. I was able to develop a t-shirt design on TeeSpring and use as a fundraiser and a way to get a message across. No matter the pain, no matter the tragedy…God is still good. The #HeIsStillGood shirts are still available to order but have been a huge hit so far!
  36. Many friends and family are now re-looking at their wills, power of attorney documents, etc. to make sure everything is up-to-date. Joel’s sudden passing caused several folks I know to be caught off guard (like we were) and to make sure that doesn’t happen to them.
  37. I have always considered myself to be an independent person. However, Joel took care of so much (and wanted to) that I learned how to be dependent on him during our marriage. I am re-learning how do things on my own again. The blessing in this is that I am ABLE to…even if it wasn’t for which I asked.
  38. My children are learning more about their Heavenly Daddy – Abba!
  39. I have met several new widow friends.
  40. I have seen first-hand the power of corporate prayer on a large level and am humbled to have been the subject of prayer from people who have never even heard of our family prior to this tragedy.
  41. I personally know the funeral director that handled all of Joel’s arrangements (and did Chris’ too). I consider myself very blessed to have been connected to him for many years prior for such a time as this.
  42. Joel’s extended family has become more intimately my own.
  43. I have gotten a couple sweet notes from prior patients of Joel’s at the cancer center. What a blessing to see how treasured and respected he was as a caregiver to them!
  44. One of the first things God made clear to me after Joel’s death was that we were to remain in Hickory and not move back to Asheville. Although it didn’t make sense initially to MANY people, I am starting to see the “why” in this, and I am falling in love with this new place we now call home.
  45. Sometimes, Joel and I would watch a TV series together on Netflix for a little evening entertainment after the kids went to bed. We were in the middle of one when he died that I struggled to go back to watching. I have since been able to finish the series. That might seem silly, but it was important to me to complete something we started together.
  46. My special-needs daughter has been very matter-of-fact about her daddy’s death. She knows he died. She knows he’s in Heaven. But, I’ve never seen much emotion out of her (which might be a blessing, in part, due to her disabilities). However, just last week…she came up to me and said out-of-nowhere, “I miss daddy.” Although they hurt, those words were a joyful sound to my ears.
  47. #TeamStirewalt was created. A group of new friends and strangers who lavished practical love upon us!
  48. One of the things Austyn has missed most since daddy went to Heaven is his wrestling matches with him. He’s tried to get his brothers to participate, but it usually leads to arguments or someone getting hurt. Since I’ve been unable to do much physical activity, it’s been out of the question for me. However, just the other night, I was able to have a “mini-match” with my little man, and the joy that erupted from his heart from something so seemingly simple was beautiful to see.
  49. Damaris (our short-term nanny) has poured herself into our family, and I’ve learned to let someone else “take over” things that I would normally never relinquish doing.
  50. I have a renewed longing for my eternal Home of Heaven.

I know the posts over these two days have been much longer than normal, but I really wanted to focus on 100 blessings to celebrate Joel’s 100 days in Heaven. It’s hard to shorten the word count for such a thing. Thank you for taking the time to read them and join us in this celebration, of sorts.

#HeIsStillGood

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

100 Days – Part 1

You know the trend these days for teachers and their students to celebrate 100 days of school attendance? Typically the celebration involves bringing 100s of various items, and these various items might be used in math games, crafts, etc.

Today I celebrate a different set of 100 days. Today marks the 10oth day since Joel went to Heaven. He’s been in the physical presence of his our Savior for 100 days! Glory! In honor of this day, I’ve created my own “collection of 100”. We’ve had a lot of pain these last 100 days, but this list is to focus on all of the good and glorious things we’ve experienced first-hand or witnessed or heard about as a result of Joel’s death. Since this will end up being a much longer-than-normal post for me, I’m splitting it into two different posts. Today will reveal the first 50 of the 100 glorious and good experiences we’ve had since Joel went Home to Heaven 100 days ago. Check back tomorrow for the remaining 50!

  1. Two of Joel’s sons accepted Jesus as their personal Savior (Benjamin and Josiah)!
  2. All of our little children have been more inquisitive about Heaven and have no fear of death.
  3. God has continued to meet all of our financial needs.
  4. Our Asheville house sold (contract came two weeks after Joel’s death).
  5. We were gifted an all-expenses paid week of vacation to Walt Disney World this July.
  6. I’ve drawn closer to my bonus children (Joel’s bio children) since his death.
  7. Our yard has been mowed and weed-eated every week.
  8. Plants have been planted and the weeding of our natural areas has taken place.
  9. We’ve been fed meals since the day Joel went home to Heaven.
  10. We’ve had our house cleaned several times by friends and strangers.
  11. A group of men from a neighboring church came and cleaned out our garage on a major level.
  12. My bonus son and daughter and their spouses spent an entire weekend at our home doing all sorts of projects.
  13. One of our garage doors wouldn’t open, so a new friend simply fixed it.
  14. I’ve had a precious nanny to help with the children each weekday morning and evening for nearly two months, and it’s been completely funded by people, many of whom I’ve never met in person.
  15. A local church has taken us in and completely cared for us. They are living out God’s mandate for the church to care for widows (and orphans). They have shown love to us in many ways.
  16. God has been boldly teaching me some things from His Word about many of the things He’s working on in my life as a widow.
  17. Our pool was opened and taken care of at the start of the season by new friends in the area. (I’m slowly learning how to be a pool owner.)
  18. A local pool supply store has been so good to us and is working with me to try to save money at every angle. Such a personal touch and already considers me an “insider” and “friend” due to the others who have been there speaking on our behalf.
  19. The children LOVE their new school and have adapted very well.
  20. Katerina attended her first Special Olympics and won a blue ribbon.
  21. I’ve sold more copies of my Rescued and Restored book since Joel went to Heaven than all previously months combined.
  22. Josiah has really stepped up in his roll in our family. He’s an amazing big brother and really tries to help me out with the little kids. While his help is most needed, I also want him to simply be a kid, so we’re both learning balance in this area.
  23. I know the Lord deeper today than I did 100 days ago.
  24. When Joel died in February, I hardly knew anyone in this community. Now…my community of support in my new town nearly rivals my support in my hometown of Asheville. AMAZING!
  25. The temporary beds we had for Josiah and Benjamin when we moved in finally bit the dust. I found two new beds for them, and a group of guys were gracious enough to put them together for me/them!
  26. A precious work friend and her husband came and took the kids out for an afternoon at a local park so I could get some much needed “Mommy time”.
  27. Three separate families in Asheville kept my children for a weekend so that I could be available to work with my bonus kiddos on the house projects they drove from out of town to complete on our behalf.
  28. I had a wreck in April, but praise God nobody was seriously injured, as both vehicles were totaled!
  29. In addition to the many meals we’ve had provided, we’ve had a lot of freezer meals donated for both dinners and breakfasts.
  30. The kids have received some precious “just because” gifts to lift their moods.
  31. I received a gift bag containing 40 gifts, one to open each day – to provide encouragement in these dark days. I’m still in the middle of opening the gifts from this blessing!
  32. I’ve received an enormous amount of “thinking about you” cards! What a blessing for me to receive, as this is one of my major love languages.
  33. My mother-in-law kept my children for three days during Spring Break to allow me time to have to myself and to be able to get some things done that might be hard to do with little feet around.
  34. Flowers – another love language of mine. I’ve received them on my doorstep anonymously as well as brought in by new friends or sent by delivery service.
  35. Joel and I bought a trampoline for our family on Black Friday last year. He had planned to put it together this Spring. My precious son-in-law, Wes, put it together for our family instead.
  36. A precious friend painted the most amazing painting of my husband and sent it to me as a gift. It now hangs in my office, and I smile each time I walk into that room.
  37. Another widow friend came to spend the weekend with my family and cooked meals for us, entertained the kids and spent time simply talking with me. Thank you LeAnn!
  38. My best friend, Kandi, came and spent every weekend with me until late April when we both had all kinds of crazy things going on. What a blessing to count on her presence each weekend…lonely and difficult times for me.
  39. A sweet friend organized a gift card drive for my family, and it was an enormous gift, and we continue to reap the blessings of her selfless efforts. Thank you Heather!
  40. Many ladies’ groups, families, small groups, and work groups have banded together to collect funds to help with the immediate financial needs as we work out the legal aspects of the loss of our Joel. What an immense blessing. This is in addition to the GoFundMe account that was set up on behalf of our family. We are astounded at how God is using so many people to care for us in these dark days.
  41. I’ve had the privilege of connecting with a financial advisor in my new church, who I feel very good about going to, and it doesn’t hurt that his wife has become a precious friend as well.
  42. Benjamin has learned to read, albeit basic, but he’s learning nonetheless…Joel would be so proud.
  43. Katerina can verbally spell her name now. That would be such music to Joel’s ears.
  44. Austyn wants to take care of his mommy as only a 3-year-old knows how to do. His reasoning…when daddy comes to “visit ” us…he’ll be so proud of Austyn. 🙁 Breaks my heart!
  45. Austyn’s 3rd birthday took place 9 days after his daddy went to Heaven. I had a special “Thomas the Train” party planned for him but failed to get it done on account of his daddy’s sudden death. My workplace stepped in and took care of my little boy with a precious party at Hickory Dickory Dock! He love it, and it blessed my heart to see him so happy and enjoying his special day.
  46. We had a similar situation happen again in March with Josiah. I just couldn’t physically and emotionally pull his party together. I had my third (unexpected) foot surgery the day before his party and two others earlier in the month. My precious bonus daughter, Amy, offered to plan and orchestrate the entire event. What a precious gift! Josiah (and the rest of the kids) had a blast!
  47. On two different occasions, a group of ladies planned a time of praise and worship and scripture reading at my house, during my most difficult days post-foot surgery recovery. It was a blessing to corporately worship the Lord together, especially since I was unable to travel to church at the time.
  48. I had the privilege of spending the morning with a previous elderly widow (now remarried after decades of being a widow). She and her second husband continue the missionary work begun by each of them in their previous marriages. She was such a blessing to have in my home. We both cried together, and her tears just glistened on her cheeks, as she smiled so largely each time she mentioned the Lord.
  49. Prayers of healing have been prayed over me in person and from afar from some of the most God-fearing individuals I’ve ever met.
  50. Automobile oil changes have been taken care of for me during my first weeks of this second journey of widowhood.

And that’s just the first half…

Reminder: check back here tomorrow to see how God has continued to bless our family even through this horrific tragedy. #HeIsStillGood

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nurse Tonya

Last week, I had a minor procedure done in conjunction with a series of tests to rule out some issues I’ve been having with severe nausea and eating difficulties. I know grief can cause a host of things to take place in our bodies, and I just assumed that’s what was happening. However, I met with my nutritionist a couple weeks ago, and she was a bit alarmed after some lab results and referred me to my doctor’s office for further evaluation. And…thus the tests began!

I was in the outpatient area of a hospital in Asheville, being prepared to be put to sleep briefly. My nurse, Tonya, was extraordinary…on so many levels. I could tell she spent more time than normal with me, and I couldn’t put my finger on the “why”, however at some point in our conversation…the fact I lost my precious husband in February came up. When I shared the news with her, you could see she was genuinely touched and her eyes welled up with tears.

She knew I was traversing a difficult journey, as it was, but to add in medical testing compounded the problem. He should have been the one there with me that day…my driver to take me home post an anesthesia appointment. Instead, a lovely new friend volunteered to be at my house at 5:00 am that morning to drive me to Asheville and stay at the facility until time to take me home. What love from someone I barely know! And yet…I grieved my Joel that much more, knowing it should have been him.

As a result, I was weepier than normal. I was in the prep room with my nurse and not my husband, and when she got the story of my husband’s death…we both cried. But that wasn’t the end…she asked to pray for me. That happens a lot in hospital settings from chaplains and visiting pastors but from my nurse…that was a new one for me! She was interrupted twice by medical professionals needing to talk with me prior to my procedure, but she pressed on, and eventually she prayed the most beautiful and powerful prayer over me! I was so blessed that day to be her patient, and I commend her for trusting her instincts and the Holy Spirit guidance she received that morning to spend more time with me and to ultimately pray with me.

Last week was “Nurses Week”, and I was blessed by Nurse Tonya. She’ll probably never read this, as I don’t even know her last name. But, she impacted my day in a large way, and I pray God blesses her mightily for her obedience!

As for the tests, I know nothing yet. So, I’ll keep on keeping on…

#HeIsStillGood

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Friday, May 19, 2017

I Said Yes!

On this day, five years ago, I said YES…when my Prince Joel got down on one knee and asked me to be his bride!

We had taken a little drive to my favorite place in the whole world…the beach! I thought we were just going to relax on the sand, take in a few ocean views, and head home. Boy was I wrong! While we did all those things…Joel had so much more planned!

I laugh now, when I think about how fidgety he was early in the day. We were trying to find a place to eat lunch, and for some reason…we just couldn’t make a decision. At. All. Joel seemed all bent out of shape and not like himself. I kept asking if something was wrong, and he just kept saying, “Nothing is going like I planned!” Ha! Come to find out later…the ring was in his pocket, and each time he thought he had the perfect timing figured out to the pop the question…something would stop him.

The perfect timing came later…much later. We held hands that evening as we walked through the cool sand created by the night ocean air. The seaside breeze blew through my hair, and I could only imagine my version of Heaven would look something like this.

We laughed. We talked. I could tell Joel’s mood had relaxed immensely. All was well with my world in that moment. And then…he stopped. He turned and looked at me with those crystal blue eyes I could still see by moonlight. The words he spoke in that moment will forever be between Joel and me, but soon after he dropped to one knee, pulled out a beautiful diamond, and asked me to marry him.

My answer…well, you know what that was…of course, I would marry him! We both started crying happy tears and hugged until we couldn’t hug anymore. Was this really happening to me? God truly was redeeming the years the locusts had eaten as the prophet Joel spoke of so many years ago in God’s Word. How fitting the man soon to be husband was also named Joel!

My hopeless romantic man then got down into the sand and carved two hearts with this finger. One with the date we became engaged and one with the date we just agreed to be our wedding date (August 25, 2012). And…with that…my life was about to get very exciting!

 

If I knew then I would have less than five years with this incredible man and would go through gut-wrenching heartache upon his untimely passing, would I have still agreed to marry him? Undoubtedly YES! These nearly five years were some of the best of my life. We lived so much life together, and I went from a mom of one beautiful daughter to the mom/bonus mom of nine incredible kiddos. I wouldn’t trade any of that…even if it means my heart had to shatter into a million pieces. Love requires that sometimes.

Just ask God when He had to turn His own back on His son for the penalty of our sins to be paid.

#HeIsStillGood

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Want Off!

I love rollercoasters. There’s just something about the thrill of speed, twists and turns, and the abrupt ending that excites me. I’ve been this way my whole life. I get carsick so easily, but put me on a rollercoaster, and I can ride it over and over with no ill effects. Strange, but true.

The grief “rollercoaster” is another story, however. It makes me sick. Emotionally, mentally, and physically. Sometimes, the twisting and turning of this type of “ride” literally has me on my knees in front of a toilet. I’m not trying to be graphic or disgusting…just real. Last night was one of those nights. My mind goes into overdrive with memories and lost dreams, and it has the power, at times, to make me physically sick. I hate it. I want off this rollercoaster!

I have no idea why I can do so well for a few days and then get saddled with deep, intense pain all over again. It’s just the non-linear aspect of grief. Sometimes I can see it coming…my motivation to do anything drops off, my appetite is virtually non-existent, I spend my days wanting to just sleep…simply put, depression increases. But there are the times I am blindsided by it too. That was last night. I was doing okay and…bam! I felt like I had just been run over.

I can’t stop the increasing painful heartache. It feels like my heart is being shattered all over again. Pictures from the night Joel went Home keep flashing in my brain. I start thinking…could I have done anything differently? What if… That’s when it overwhelms me to the point of physically getting sick.

There is nothing I can do to make the pain go away. I just have to ride it out. This is when my prayers turn into two-word mumblings again, “Help me!” Thankfully, I know the Holy Spirit is interceding for me (Romans 8:26). I know these days won’t last forever, but they feel so incredibly long when they come.

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the things happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” ~C.S. Lewis

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks