Monday, August 14, 2017

The 6th Anniversary of His Death has Come and Gone

6 monthsNobody probably realized it but me, but Joel has now been in Heaven 6 months and 3 days. I deliberately haven’t always blogged on the “monthly annivesary” like I did when Chris died. They were different men. We had a different marriage. Their deaths were different. And…I’m in a different place with four LITTLE responsiblities other than one adolescent daughter to care for. The day never passes without my knowing it, but sometimes I just have no words to share. It still hurts too terribly bad.

In less than a couple hours, I’ll head to the school for my first pre-nursing class – Anatomy and Physiology. I can hear the groans already. But, believe it or not, I’m excited about it! I love that kind of stuff. However, I’m emotionally very fragile, and I’m praying that turns around quickly. I’m excited about this day, and yet, I’m leaving about four loads of laundry to do, bills to pay, a house to clean, and a million other even more important things than that. I’m praying God settles my nerves and plants me in the exact class I’m supposed to be in (especially since I had to have some strings pulled to get me into this class since it filled on the first day registration opened for students, and I wasn’t able to register until day two). God has provided so much already. I see His hand in this in ways I can’t even come up with words to convey. But, I’m excited…just nervous.

On top of that, Benjamin and Josiah start recreational soccer tonight. I feel like everything has been on hold since February. Josiah missed all of spring soccer, and he played last year, and loved it! Daddy wasn’t his official coach, but coached him continuously anyway. He loved that time with Joel. I told Benjamin he could start this year, and Austyn will probably start next year. We’re working on getting Katerina into a therapeutic horse program. Life…doesn’t stop!

I’m trying to move forward and let life feel as normal as possible, but that doesn’t mean I’m not simply stuck sometimes. I personally feel stuck right now. I’m trying to find a GriefShare class to attend, but nothing has lined up with location or schedule yet, but I feel I need it desperately. It truly was the impetus to complete healing during my previous grief journey.

I need to go for now, but I just wanted to remind you of a couple things;

  1. My book, Rescued and Restored is still available on Amazon! If you or anyone you know could benefit from reading it, I would be so grateful!
  2. I love the ornaments that have been arriving for Joel’s tree! What a blessing! For more information, click HERE!

#HeIsStillGood

Friday, August 11, 2017

I Guess the Cat’s Out of the Bag

nursing schoolI guess the cat’s out of the bag, so I might as well make it public…or at least the parts I choose to at this point. It’s kind of late in the week for blog posting (and late in the day for that matter), but who’s looking at stats anyway when you’re ready to share something (I find) pretty exciting!

I’m going back to school! Here’s the back story (in as few words as possible). When I graduated from high school (in 1990 – yikes!), I received a full, four-year scholarship to attend the University of North at Chapel Hill as long as I maintained good grades and my chosen course of study…Nursing. The first year I was there, I made some immature decisions that led me away from UNC, which ultimately let me away from a nursing degree. After attending several other two and four other colleges over many decades, I finally ended up with a degree that I did nothing with. I was a single mom at the time, and I simply wanted the piece of paper. Got it. Now what?

I resolved myself to be content with where I was, and I truly was content. I don’t think I ever felt “settled” in a career, but I felt content in my calling. God had given me various callings through the years, and my desire was to obey Him and Him alone, no matter how crazy the calling might first appear.

In the past few years, I’ve been rather restless, feeling like God had something else on the horizon. I’ve been praying for years that God would reveal His plan for me. Joel and I prayed together, and we both felt He was leading me (over time) to be home with my children. That would be my number one responsibility. I might possibly do to some work on the side or have a personal business that gave me the flexibility to set my own hours, but regardless, we both sensed God was calling me out of the workforce I was in, but we just weren’t yet convinced of the timing.

A few months after our last conversation about the direction God was calling me, I mentioned the nursing thing again to Joel. He was in full support of it, but he only asked that I get my foot fixed first, which, of course, made total sense. He knew I would need to be as close to 100% working in the health care field, and he wanted nothing less than that for me. Having been in the health care industry for over a decade, he brought much wisdom to our conversations and prayers, and I valued and respected his opinions immensely. Ultimately knowing I had his blessing was the very thing that fueled my heart and kept me moving in that direction.

Fast forward to February 12, 2017…the day my heart shattered when my husband left my side (in what I deemed as) prematurely and completely unexpected. Initially, I had no idea what we were going to do. Joel was the bread-winner in our home, my job was over 75 miles away. Thankfully, his life insurance was just enough to allow us to stay where we are for right now, which was very important to me, as I couldn’t fathom putting the children through another change. However, it wasn’t enough for me to sit back in a recliner and have pedicures everyday. (Not that I would personally do that anyway, but you get my point.) Thankfully, between the plethora of tangible support we’ve received from friends, family, and complete strangers, God has made it clear He’s our provider now, and He’s choosing many different platforms in which to provide. And yet…one of those platforms will eventually be through me.

He’s made it clear the time has come for me to go back to school and finally get that Nursing Degree I never got the first time around. I’ve begged Him to open wide the doors I’m to walk through that would indicate this is of no doubt from Him and to slam shut any door that leads to something He’s clearly asking me not to do or something that would impede His calling. So far, there have been many open doors. It’s still taking a lot of work to make it all come together, but that’s the key…it’s ALL coming together.

Today, my littlest wee one went me to my school. He felt like such a “big man on campus.” We had to go pick up my books as well as drop by the financial aid office. Everywhere we go, we sensed Joel’s presence with us. The financial aid officer shared her story of almost losing her 33-year-old to sepsis this past February (same time Joel was sick with). For whatever reason, God spared Benjamin (the name of her son) and called Joel on home to Heaven. Even so, meeting her was such a blessing, and Austyn was amazed as well.

Speaking of financial aid, I was approved for the maximum amount, so I have no expenses this academic year. At. All! Praise God!!! Apart from school, I know the next few years will be very lean and tight, but I cling to God for our provision.

I’ll keep you posted as time goes on, but the biggest (nursing-related) prayer now is that I’m actually selected to be in the Fall of 2018 Nursing class. I’m in the pre-nursing classification for now and am taking classes that will lighten my load. If the timing goes as planned, I’ll graduate as an RN – May, 2020. And, I’ll have a much better way to support my family for the long-term. To God be the Glory!

#HeIsStillGood

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mystery Solved

mystery solved

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

I think I finally solved the mystery of my recent emotional swings. I’ve been exceedingly emotional for several weeks. Crying bucketfuls of tears daily. The loss of my precious Joel seems to have slammed me really hard all of a sudden. Why now? It’s been nearly 6 months, and I thought my emotions would be a little more under control by now. After all, I’ve been through this widow journey before. And yet…I feel his loss deeper and deeper each day. Even typing this is causing my throat to tighten, knowing the tears are soon to follow. I know to expect the waves to overtake me some days, but this has been unending for weeks! However, I think I jut solved the mystery.

The shock of Joel’s death is finally over.

In a nutshell, I’ve been living in a state of disbelief since February 12, 2017. While I know my husband is gone, the shock of this agonizing tragedy has shielded my body from feeling the full effects of it. It’s a natural physiological mechanism God gave us to literally protect us from events that could potentially do severe damage to our bodies (even to the extreme of causing death, itself). In my case, shock has been a “friend” for quite awhile. I had a short stint with it following Chris’ death but got through it relatively quickly. This time, not so much. Believe it or not, I want my “friend” back (sort of).

I don’t want to feel all that I’m now feeling. Being on this side of it, I prefer “living in the dark”, so to speak. All the gut-wrenching, heart-tearing, “stuff” I’m now feeling is WORSE than living those first few days all over again. I had a shell of protection around me then. Now. It’s. Gone.

Then, there’s the realist in me. I really don’t want to live like this forever. I really don’t. I want God to heal my heart to the point I’m able to remember my love in such a way it brings more smiles than tears. I don’t want to cry in front of perfect strangers each time they say something (no matter how small) that might bring up a memory of Joel. I want to be able to drive by Exit 105 on Interstate 40 going East through Morganton, NC without feeling nauseous each time that tall white building looms into view where my husband took his last breath on this earth. I really DO want to be well. I’m just having quite a bit of difficulty getting to that point. Time is my friend, but it feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace right now.

#HeIsStillGood

Saturday, August 5, 2017

We Should Have

We Should HaveToday shouldn’t feel like this.

We should have had a lazy morning were we get up a little later than normal after being awakened by little fingers tapping us on the back.

We should have been spoiled by your yummy hand-cooked Saturday morning breakfasts.

We should have been gone yard-sailing followed by grocery shopping at Sam’s where lunch just might have consisted of nibbling from each of the sample carts.

We should have napped while the kids did and then got up for a late afternoon swim together.

We should have rocked on the porch together while supper finished up in the crockpot, and the kids rode up and down the driveway on their bikes or other wheeled toys.

We should have had movie and popcorn night with the kids following their showers.

We should have had our own movie night after the kiddos went to bed, or maybe we would just catch up on a TV show we’d been watching on Netflix.

We should have fallen asleep in each others arms, content with having spent a wonderful family-filled-fun Saturday.

Instead…

I’m sitting alone, pushing through the dense darkness that’s enveloped me today.

I’m struggling to want to do anything, and yet it’s my last day before the kids come home tomorrow after being gone for a week, allowing me to have some respite time.

I’m having crying spell after crying spell, and I even cried out to God asking Him why today has to feel like this. Why today?

I’m shoving memories aside, because they hurt too much to endure.

I’m scrolling Facebook, because of my paralyzed state of mind, and it’s the last thing I should be doing, because seeing other’s pics of family togetherness, date nights, vacations, fishing trips, etc. only reinforces what I don’t have anymore,

I’m begging God to take away even a smidgen of this pain today.

I’m wondering when the fog will lift.

I’m missing you, my precious Joel, and longing for my true Home. How much longer will you tarry oh Lord?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Parenting from Heaven

ParentingParenting. Ahhhh…the joys, the pains, the mistakes, and everything in between.

It’s hard to believe my Bulgarian children have been home just a few months shy of two years. I vividly remember those first few days with them in our apartment in Sofia (Bulgaria’s capital). I was in tears virtually every single night. I thought, “What have we done?” Those early days (especially those in-country) were hard.

I remember communicating with friends back home who had walked similar paths, and they assured me it would get better. At the time, I thought we would never climb out of the pit we were in. But, they were right…it did get easier. Not easy…but easier.

Initially, Joel and I discovered many bad habits that had to be “un-done”. Now try to imagine doing that when speaking two different languages. Even so, we had to be consistent from the start. It’s hard for me to conceive now, but I had a very difficult time with Josiah (my now 9-year-old) initially. He would do anything Joel asked him to do, but basically laughed in my face whenever I said anything to him. For those of you who have had the privilege of meeting my son, you know that’s nothing like the young man you’ve met. But, I’m telling you…he was a different little boy back then.

Joel could tell Josiah to listen to me or to do something I was trying to get him to do, and he would obey Joel. But me…I got nothing out of him but more arrows flying to my already broken heart. I couldn’t understand why he hated me so much.

It wasn’t long before our translator, a native Bulgarian, explained that in the Roma culture, women aren’t respected, and the Roma boys are taught they don’t have to respect them. Even so…that was unacceptable, and that paradigm had to shift.

Joel immediately started teaching Josiah to respect me. It got better when we were back in the United States, but we still had a long road ahead of us. When Josiah’s understanding of the English language improved, his behavior towards me (and his younger sister) improved greatly. I remember one day Josiah and Katerina got into argument about something silly. The argument quickly grew a little more heated, and Joel and I witnessed him hit his sister. That did it. We’re not raising a bully!

I immediately went to a sobbing Katerina to try and comfort her, and Joel took Josiah outside for a “man-to-boy” chat. By the time they were finished talking, Josiah walked into the house and went over to Katerina to apologize and ask her forgiveness. Then, Joel asked Josiah to share with me the things we learned.

“I never hit girls.”

“Mommy is just as important as Daddy.”

“I treat girls with love.”

“I love my sister and need to protect her.”

There were other items mentioned, but those were the big ones. And, honestly, after that conversation…to my knowledge, Josiah has never hit another girl. He’s certainly not perfect and has a lot of learning left to do when it comes to relationships with people, but I know that lesson was drilled into him.

Fast forward to last week. I was in the hospital, and my long-time friend, Kandi, was at the house taking care of the children for me. She called me after the kids had gone to bed and said she just had to share something with me. She relayed a conversation between Josiah and Austyn that occurred at the dinner table earlier that evening…

A: “I got in trouble today.”

J: “What did you do Austyn?”

A: “I had to go to timeout, because I hit ________.”  (I don’t remember her name, but it was a little girl in his preschool class.)

J: “Austyn! You know we never, ever hit girls. Never! Okay?”

Austyn nodded.

J: “Now, I want you to back to school tomorrow and tell her you’re sorry and won’t do it again.”

Austyn agreed, and the scolding by his big brother ended. After Kandi finished relaying the story to me, I smiled through tears up in my hospital room, and I shared, “That was from Joel. He made sure Josiah and Benjamin understood that boys don’t hit girls, and men don’t hit women.” Now…Josiah was reminded of that teaching and passed it along to his littlest brother.

Even from Heaven, Joel’s legacy lives on strong, and his parenting continues to shine boldly through our home.

#WeAreNotForgotten