Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Team Stirewalt

They dubbed themselves “Team Stirewalt”. I was humbled, honored, and in complete awe that these three former strangers last month (now friends) would want to come alongside my crazy, grieving family and serve us as frequently and expediently as they have been.

“Team Stirewalt” was their way of saying, “We’re committed to your family. We’re part of your team!” I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring (that’s pretty common these days anyway). I think part of the reason for my emotion was what kept going through my head…

This is how it’s supposed to be.

We have the most beautiful example of this from the earliest Christian church body in the book of Acts:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need….They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47

Now, I’ll be the first to admit…while this is how “the church” (not the physical building, but the group of people who follow Christ Jesus) should respond to the needs of each other…it’s so hard for me to accept. I know it is, in part, a pride thing, and I have had to repent of that, and God is teaching me how to be free from that sin.

I also believe the world in which we live now is an inward-thinking world much of the time. It’s easier to look within our own circles and focus on our own people rather than “get dirty” with those in pain, from ugly places, and (whoa) those who don’t believe in our Jesus!

But friends…let me tell you…it’s these very acts of serving each other that are being watched. It’s us “being the church” that gets noticed more than our Sunday morning worship in our “church clothes”. I have beautiful, lovely non-believing friends that are watching what you’re doing for me and my family and are in awe! I keep saying “…they are simply being the hands and feet of Jesus! He is here in spirit…these people are His flesh.” They are watching.

I’ve been praying Joel’s death would not be in vain. That we would not have to lose a husband, daddy, brother, friend, uncle, and co-worker at such a young age from something so senseless unless God can be amazingly glorified through his death more than He could have been through his life. I don’t know how that’s going to “play out” just yet, but I believe with all that is in me God is using this platform to set the stage for some amazing miracles to play out before our very eyes.

Keep watching. Keep serving. And…I’ll work on being receptive to your tangible love to our family (still so hard to be on the receiving end than the giving end, though). I know Joel has the best seat in the house right now, and he is smiling at what is taking place.

I continue to have people ask how they can help our family in tangible ways. I’m going to try to create a list so that it’s all in one place. I’ll have a tab on my blog here soon (hopefully later today), and I’ll be sure to update when it’s ready to go. UPDATE: It’s ready – just click HERE.

Above all, the greatest need we have is prayer. Deep intercessory prayer for protection, wisdom, provision, and peace! Thank you friends! You are incredible!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Get Messy!

Get messy!In recent years, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve pondered this very thing.

  • What if I had been born in a third world country?
  • What if my life resembled the lives of those we rally the troops to care for, to protect, to feed, and to clothe?
  • What if I had never heard the message of the one true hope of the Gospel?
  • What if I had been bought and sold into sex slavery?
  • What if I was forced to walk 10 miles one-way each day to simply get to a water source for my family?
  • What if I caught a glimpse of life in the Western world only to realize my life was drastically different, and those people didn’t seem to know I even existed?
  • What if I saw both my parents shot and killed before eyes?
  • What if my brother had been dragged off to fight in the war with the rebels (the very ones who just shot my mom and dad) at the age of only nine?
  • What if I was an orphan? What if I had to tuck myself into bed every single night without an embrace and “I love you” words from a mother or father?
  • What if lived under a bridge here in America and had to watch the passersby scoff at me daily? They only think they know my story, and yet they’ve never walked in my shoes.
  • What if I lost everything I owned in Hurricane Katrina, and I’m still waiting to have a home again after all these years? What if…?

Any of those situations could have been my life. But, thankfully, they weren’t.

Friends…this a message for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The church.

This life you’ve been blessed with could be drastically different. Even the poorest among us in America are in the top tier of the richest people in the world. So, why do you think God chose you to have this life? Simply because you work hard and earned every bit of it? I would be bold enough to say emphatically NO. Yes…there are blessings for hard work, but honestly…I would also be bold enough to say you’ve been blessed with much, because God expects you to, in return, bless others much!

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48 (NIV) 

I am not saying God doesn’t want us to have money or comfortable lives, but I know He expects us to push ourselves beyond the comfort, possibly even to a place of temporary discomfort (or not-so-temporary at times) to be His hands and feet to those He places on our paths. To some, that might be “front line” service…short and long-term missionaries, adoptive families, humanitarian aid workers, crisis care workers…that place of service where the discomfort can be felt a little more deeply. The pain might be a little bit stronger, and the ability to see even deeper into the crisis at hand is often readily available.

To others, God might be asking you to stretch beyond your comfort zone by telling you to step outside your idyllic world of order and peace and get “messy”. He might be asking you to suit up as the cavalry…line up directly behind the front-line infantry…ready to provide support when needed. Because, if the infantry drops (from never getting the rest or support they need), you become that front line! Being the cavalry might involve providing financial support for missionaries or short-term mission trips. Or – perhaps He’s gifted you with the ability to organize a fundraiser on behalf of those missionaries or adoptive families. Maybe He’s asked you to be the one to offer to care for the newly adopted child to give mom and dad a time to renew. No…not that kid! Might be tough work and a bit exhausting, but God didn’t ask you to adopt…just to provide a little support in the background. Being His hands and feet can look messy. But, He gave you this life…not that life. Maybe that crisis care worker has simply heard too many painful stories and needs some time away. Maybe you could send them to the beach for a weekend renewal. God hasn’t asked you to stand in their shoes (and you’re thankful for that), but He expects you do something. What does that look like? To the homeless man under the bridge, what about taking him to the Waffle House for a meal? Ouch! That might be uncomfortable. Maybe. Being Christ’s hands and feet can be very uncomfortable.

Friends…the world is getting uglier. Fellow believers…this should not surprise us, as God promised us these very things in His Word. There has never been a more prolific time in the world in which we need to get out of our neat and tidy boxes and get messy! Will it hurt? I can almost guarantee it will in some, way, shape, or form, but you will be blessed for it! God promises blessings for obedience!

Don’t know where to start? How about spend some time asking Him to show you the next area in which He wants you to be His hands and feet? If you sincerely ask, He will definitely show you!

I go back to where I started…what if you had been born in a third world country? This blessed life He’s given you…it can be snuffed way…just…like…that. Dedicate your life to Him, and bring Him glory through it! It will radically change you…and the world!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Eyes of Faith…a Repost!

The 5th anniversary of my late husband’s suicide is coming up in a few weeks. I honestly can’t believe it’s already been five years, and yet…in other ways…it feels like it was a lifetime ago. I have an exciting announcement to make around “the anniversary”, so keep watching in early May! In the meantime, I’ve been re-reading some of my posts from that first year of grief, and this one stood out to me. Maybe because I need to be reminded by my own words. Or…maybe someone else needs to read this today. In any regard, I felt compelled to share once again. 


Eyes of FaithI know we often can’t see God’s beautiful (and perfect) plans unfold so easily in our lives. Just yesterday, my heart was aching heavily for a couple of friends going through some really difficult times right now. The trials they are being asked to endure don’t make sense when viewed through the earthly lens we often use when gazing at life. A word I can easily associate with their difficulties…unfair! And YET…

God never promised life would be fair. He never promised it would be delivered to us on a silver platter or we’d walk the glory road until we reach glory itself. He never promised our days will be filled with material blessing or the trials we do endure will be swift. He never promised we wouldn’t experience a broken heart or be disappointed by broken people.

Right now…I personally know someone…

–Fighting breast cancer
–Praying for a spouse after a lifetime of singleness
–Waiting on God for the sale of a home on the market for four years
–Seeking custody of a child who has endured much hardship
–Waiting on a call for their forever child through adoption
–Praying for conception even though doctors are speaking infertility
–Ready to walk out on a position they’ve been called to do, because the enemy tells them they can’t do it
–Fighting to keep the job they have
–Aching for a spouse who went to Heaven late last year
–Waiting with great expectation for a YES answer to a position they applied for months ago and are still in the running for
–Who lost everything in a house fire four months ago
–Questioning whether or not Christ could ever love them enough to accept them into His family
–Grieving the loss of a parent a few short weeks ago
–Grieving the loss of a child to cancer earlier this year
–Watching their special needs adopted child endure many medical procedures this week
–Waiting on God to provide funding resources for a new non-profit organization started in faith
–Praying for a prodigal child

These are tough, tough things, friends. And…these are tough things for my praying heart to endure. So many times I’ve prayed God would allow me to see hurting and broken people through His eyes so my prayers might be more personal and often more gutteral. He’s done that many times, and I ache all the more.

But, even though these aren’t the things in life we’ve asked for, prayed for, expected, or even wanted…”in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”! (Romans 8:28) This is not just some biblical cliche…this is TRUTH spoken by a God (THE God) who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18).

I choose to believe – even through my husband’s suicide – God is working for my good, because…I love Him, and I have been called according to His purpose. And while I may not be able to see with my physical eyes all the plans God has for me to work this for my good…I see with my eyes of faith. And, one day…my faith WILL be my sight!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Found Beauty THERE!

flowersThe end of 2014 could not have come sooner, in my opinion. The year started out full of promise and ended full of sickness. Several members of our household contracted the yet-to-be-defined “crud”, including me. As it turned out, it was actually a combination of sinus infections, bronchitis, walking pneumonia, and multiple unexplained viruses. I was sick for the better part of seven weeks!

The worst day for me within that seven week time span was Christmas Eve! After working a half-day, I finally made the decision to go to the Urgent Care. In all honesty, I thought I had full-blown pneumonia and even “warned” my husband of a possible hospital admittance before the night was over. (Thankfully, that didn’t happen.)

Before I could go to the Urgent Care, I had to stop by Walmart to pick up a last minute Christmas gift in the photo center. I fully anticipated popping in and out, because I had already received a text alert from Walmart hours before that my two prints were ready!

I had our foster baby with me, as he had been sick too. I decided not to grab a cart…it was only going to be an in-and-out kind of trip. Certainly I could hold the little guy, pay for the two pictures and head home.

Or so I thought…

Before I go any further, I need to say I’m NOT a fan of Walmart. I know there are many of you that are loyal shoppers of the big W, but I’m not one of them. I’ll do anything to prevent having to step foot in that store. Without fail, nearly every single time I’m in there…something happens…sometimes very bizarre things. Usually, however, it’s poor customer service or very rude shoppers. Regardless, I needed the pictures quickly, and there is only one photo center in town that will print on matte paper that quickly. I didn’t want glossy prints for this purpose. So, I succumbed and gave Walmart this tiny business of mine.

By the time I waited in the line at the photo center, and it was my turn to pay for my pictures, I had already been there 15 minutes…a little longer than I had planned, but oh well, it was Christmas Eve after all. I quickly gave the cashier my name, and she began the hunt for my order. Finally, she came back over to me and said that she couldn’t find them and would have to reprint them. Ugh! What choice did I have? I had to wait. She assured me it wouldn’t take long.

OVER AN HOUR LATER…YES…AN HOUR…I’m STILL standing there…sick as a dog with a sick baby in my arms! I was exasperated, fighting back tears, and simply overwhelmed.

I called my hubby to see if he was anywhere near us. He wasn’t too far away and said he’d head that way. I needed him to take the little guy home while I continued to wait on my TWO pictures.

After an hour and twenty minute wait, the clerk found the original order (still hadn’t completed the reprint by this time either). Imagine. That. I paid and headed to the front of the store to meet up with my husband, who should be coming in the door any second. While standing there, I reached him on his phone, and the tears finally gushed out. I was at the end of my rope, and unfortunately Joel got to hear what that sounded like. He told me to stay put, as he was already in the store headed to the photo center only to discover I was no longer there.

Crying into the phone, I managed to get out a few words… “I can’t stand here much longer. I have no cart. I have been holding this baby for almost an hour and a half, and I am SO sick and need to get to a doctor right away.”

As soon as the words, left my mouth, a woman walked up to me…started emptying out her cart of all its belongings and then handed it to me with these words, “You need this more than me. I’ve been in your shoes before…take the cart.”

I was stunned. Something beautifully kind was happening to me inside Walmart. God has such a sense of humor.

He also took that moment to show me a little nugget of His truth. Sometimes, the ugliest, most painful person or thing in your life…the one you want nothing to do with, the one you can certainly live without, but the one that just won’t go away is the very place or the very person through which God chooses to shine brightest.

He did for me…in Walmart.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Mug

The month of May brought us to and through one of the most challenging moments of our adoption journey thus far…the yard sale!

Yes. A YARD sale, of all things, was a significant test along this new path to bring our children home.

Let’s just face it. Adoption is expensive. It’s ridiculous with the number of children all over this world in need of parents that it costs so much to adopt, but it does. The average person doesn’t have this volume of discretionary money just sitting around, so fundraising is essentially a must!

Our situation is no different. After much prayer and prompting by the Holy Spirit to dive into this journey with full faith that God will equip us with whatever we need to complete this process…we began researching fundraising options.

An idea that popped up from several different adoptive families was that of a large yard sale…one that involves many people. We saw the possibilities (from reading about others’ successful yard sale fundraisers) that we could potentially raise anywhere from $1,500 to $7,000 with this magnitude of a sale.

We knew we had to try. While many fundraising options exist, this is one of the more potentially significant options financially-speaking.

Flyers went out alerting people of our need for their unwanted “stuff”. We spent weeks driving all over Western North Carolina (and even across the border into TN) collecting massive amounts of things that were no longer needed or wanted by others that God allowed to cross our path.

Some of these items came from family and friends. However, some came from perfect strangers.

Some came from people that totally “get” the orphan crisis and some came from people that simply didn’t want to haul off their own stuff.

Some came from believers…some came from vocal unbelievers.

No matter…God used exactly who He intended to use to bless us in our efforts.

We rented a storage unit in which to collect the items, banking on the hope that we would be given so much that we wouldn’t be able to store it at home. We were right!

We ended up with this and MORE, all in a 10’ x 30’ unit!

photo (1)

A couple weeks out from our May 31 sale, we began to feel the effects of our hard work. Our nights grew shorter, our free time was non-existent. The week of the sale, we averaged no more than 5 hours of sleep each night, and the night before the big event…only two hours of sleep.

If truth be told, we began to somewhat regret that we ever took on this endeavor. Certainly there was a better way. But, we were in too deep at this point to even consider bailing out.

The day of the sale arrived, and the load that we’d been storing for several weeks finally made it to the site of the event.

photo

Seeing it all out in front of us simply blew us away. None of this was possible without God directing each step.

He called out each donor (whether they knew His voice or not).

He hand-picked the volunteers.

He perfected the weather for that day (overcast with NO rain, kept temps bearable).

He was in every detail.

As the day went on, I began to fade a bit. I was simply tired. I couldn’t tell how sales were going, and I prayed that all of this work wasn’t in vain.

God, please bless us in this. You called us to do this. We’re trusting you to provide for our every need.

Soon after those private thoughts and prayers entered my mind, my sister-in-law (Donna) came up to me with one of the shoppers.

She said she had something for me.

Just a few moments before, she had picked up a box marked $2.00 and opened it. There was an insulated mug inside, and it read “Great things happen when you follow Jesus”. Donna showed it to a lady standing next to her and commented she should give that to her sister-in-law (me). The lady took it from her and opened it to find $25 inside. Donna then asked her if she cared if she gave it to me. Together, they walked up to me to give me this “special” mug. They shared the story with me. And…Donna and I both cried.

photo (2) photo (3)

I have no idea who donated the mug to begin with. I have no idea how the $25.00 got in there, but I do know that God sent me that sweet little reminder in the midst of my exhaustion and questioning. To me, it was encouragement to stay the course…to keep “fighting the fight”…He’s called us to do this and will not abandon us now.

The end of the story? The lady bought the mug but left the $25 with us. And…God allowed us to raise nearly $4,000 that day towards our adoption expenses!

To Him be ALL the glory!