Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Emotionally Beat-Up

Happy Wednesday afternoon friends! I’ve struggled to post for a few days now, because…well…in all honesty, I’m just feeling emotionally beat-up. Those were the exact words I spoke to a friend who recently called to check on me and see how I was doing, and I struggled to come up with what to stay. Finally…it came to me…I just feel…emotionally beat-up! And then she got it. She knew exactly what I meant.

  • I’m in the process of grieving the death of a second husband in less than 6 years, who’s been gone just slightly over a month. That, in and of itself, is almost too much to bear at times.
  • I have four young, adopted children…two with clinically-defined special needs and one probably, yet to be diagnosed. Throw a little, well a lot, of ADHD into the mix, and you’ve got one keyed up, stretched thin, worn through and through mama.
  • Then, this blasted foot surgery. It’s supposed to help restore life in areas where I’ve needed restoration…the ability to walk well (pain-free) again, and the ability to retreat back to those outdoor activities that bring me such joy hiking, camping, river tubing, etc. It was supposed to be an easy surgery. Key words “supposed to be”. Joel’s surgery was supposed to be easy too, and we see how that turned out. I guess I’m blessed to be alive, but I’m struggling with lots of PAIN, and I mean a ton! And…before the surgery I was given instructions that I could be ambulatory immediately post surgery (while using a surgery shoe) as I felt up to it. I had full, weigh-bearing privileges. Now…I’m not allowed to put any weight on it at all. Did you see the part about having 4 young, rambunctious children at home? Nearly impossible doc.

I’m begging God for a breakthrough, for a release from ALL the pain (even if it’s just temporary)…I just need some relief. I’ve asked Him for a better attitude, because I know I’m struggling in that area too, and I truly don’t want to be…I just want my joy back…even if it’s just a smidgen. It’s that smidgen that will carry me through to the next dose.

Come, Lord Jesus! Rain down bucketfuls of joy upon me, and remove the pain!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12, 2017

This date is important to me for two very distinct reasons…one painful and one beautiful.

First, the painful…March 12, 2017 marks the one-month anniversary of Joel’s home going to Heaven. The day we had to say goodbye to his beautiful face and fun-loving personality. The day we had to forever stop hearing his corny jokes and quick-witted comments about some of the craziest things of life. The first day I would never hear him say, “I love you!” again. The day he entered the land of glory…our eternal home. The day I felt my heart would stop beating over the sheer devastation of losing the man I love so much. One month. I can’t believe he’s already been gone for one. whole. month.

Now, the beautiful…today also marks another anniversary. On this day, five years ago,  I met my precious Joel for the first time. Little did I know then how drastically my life was about to change, for the better. I finally felt I reached a place of complete healing from losing my previous husband from suicide. I was at a place where I was actually able to counsel other women out of my own grief experience, and I couldn’t be more content in life. Little did I realize God had big plans still in store for me, and it would begin with the handsome man who was about to walk into my life in a grand way and unexpectedly sweep me off my feet! Five years ago…God had just finished putting together the last piece of my shattered heart. I was now whole again. And…in walks the handsome and amazing Joel Dean Stirewalt. My life was once again forever changed.

Friends…I find myself still in the “hour by hour” grieving mode. I haven’t yet reached day-to-day status. Currently, I’ll have some good hours followed by some bad ones. I don’t think I’ve had an entirely “good” day yet, but I’m working on it and anxiously waiting for it.

The emotional pain is still quite searing, Sometimes it actually manifests into physical pain…headache, nausea, etc. It’s amazing how deep the grief toll takes on a body. I often get discouraged at how “slow” this grieving process seems to take, but then I have to remind myself…it’s only been a month! ONLY 1 MONTH!

Having been twice widowed in less than six years, sadly I’ve learned a thing a or two about the grief process. It never looks the same from one person to the next or from one situation to the next. There is no pattern or checkbox. Frustrating? Yes. But, trying to rush through it can have devastating effects, and there is no need to rush. As much as I desire to feel whole again and to not hurt so badly all the time, I truly want God to complete His work in me through this tragedy. Yes…truly, I do.

As I take this quick look back at March 12, and all that it has meant in my life, I pause and ready myself for my future of “March 12s”. There will continue to be anniversaries, reminders of what once was and what will never be again. As much as I’m able, I choose to make those days of honor rather than days of regret. The tears will still fall, but I long for those tears to, over time, be filled with joy rather than sadness.

Abba – thank you for giving me Joel…even if only for a short time. He forever changed me, and the memories bring so many smiles (even accompanied by tears). 


Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Worst Night of My Life (since Joel went to Heaven)

From happier days…

I won’t lie. Every. Single. Day. Since Joel went home to Heaven has been, at minimum, difficult. Some days feel unbearably hard. Without the support of so many people, I honestly don’t know how we would have made it this far. Then came last night…

I thought I would see Jesus last night. I thought my heart was literally going to crush under the heavy load of the burden I was asked to bear for most of the evening. My baby was emotionally hurting. Deeply hurting, and all the hurt was being directed at me. It lasted so long, and was so all-encompassing, I had no choice but to sit on the floor and hold him to keep him safe until his brain would allow his body to calm down. I asked Josiah to video-tape some of it, because nobody would believe this sweet, precious, charming little guy could be so explosive, and I need someone to believe me as I seek to get him the right kind of help.

I continued to hold him, soothe him, rock him, sing to him, pray over him, talk to him…and finally…he broke. He was a sweaty mess and started crying out, “I’m sorry mommy! I’m sorry mommy!”

We were both sobbing. He was so broken. I was so spent. We just held each other and cried more.

Finally, when he was back to his “normal” toddler self, able to play with his siblings, I went into my bedroom and wailed. I could no longer control the emotion I had been trying so hard to control while he had his meltdown. I wailed so loud…it reminded me of my reaction after learning my Joel wasn’t going to make it. That same type of reaction. My kids ran into my bedroom.

Katerina, the compassionate one, immediately started rubbing my back.

Josiah, the leader, started giving instructions to his siblings.

Benjamin, the inquisitive one, started asking me over and over what was wrong.

Austyn, my sympathizer and empathizer, started crying along with me.

And…it started all over again. This time, he consoled me. He sat in my lap, and we cried together.

I prayed through tears!

Abba, you promise to be the husband to the widow and the father to the fatherless! We need to know you in both those roles right now. You are the same, yesterday, today, and forever. You are a God that cannot lie! We trust you! Bring us Your peace. 

Eventually, we all left my bedroom. Josiah cleaned up from dinner. I honestly don’t remember even eating. Katerina followed every single direction given to her (a miracle, in and of itself). Benjamin was calm most of the evening (another miracle), and my Austyn fell asleep in my arms. After placing him in his bed, he slept all night and woke up a very happy little boy this morning!

Last night was just one night. I am seeking help for all my children and for myself. This isn’t my first rodeo with losing a spouse, unfortunately, but this is the first time I’ve had young children to care for at the same time, so we all have so much to learn. And…praying friends…we need SO much prayer! Just pray as God directs please.

For those precious souls continuing to ask how you can help in tangible ways, I’ve put up a list on the website. You can find it here. I’ll update it as needs change. Thank you for being His hands and feet to our family! I am simply humbled and blown away by how loved we are right now!

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, March 7, 2017

I May Never Wash My Sheets Again

I’m not the filthy kind of person the title of this post might lead you to believe. There’s a reason for my resolve to not wash my sheets again (at least for now). My husband and I last slept within those sheets together the night he went to the hospital…his last night in our bed. While his scent is dissipating, which makes me so incredibly sad, at least I know his body touched those same sheets, and for some crazy reason…that gives me comfort.

You might think, “that woman is out of her mind!” And…in some ways, you might be right. Grief has a way of doing that to people. I remember that all-too-clearly after my first widow experience. In the same way, grief has a way of showing you it doesn’t really matter what people think (most of the time). If it’s not hurting anyone, and it’s not in this case, then who cares! Yes – I’ll eventually wash the sheets. But, for now…I’m content to have that little piece of Joel still close to me (at least in my feeble way of thinking).

I still sleep on “my side of the bed”, but now I drift a little over to his area and snuggle his pillow instead of him. Not the same. I still make up our bed every single morning, but now I do it alone instead of together with my prince. So many changes. Too many changes.

The unity that comes with marriage is suddenly broken with death…at least physically. But, the unity of the heart – at least one-sided now – is still there. I guess that keeps me constantly looking for ways to keep “us” alive. For now, sleeping on dirty sheets is one of the ways. Bear with me…