Monday, April 10, 2017

I Had to Wash the Sheets

If you happened to read an earlier post of mine about my sheets, you know I had no intention of washing them anytime soon. It was one of the last tangible links I had to my husband. We slept in those same sheets together the night before he entered the hospital. Although almost completely gone, I could still catch a small whiff of his scent through the sheets (or maybe it was just my imagination, but it still made him feel close). I vowed I wouldn’t wash the sheets until they were falling part or simply too scary to sleep in anymore. Sorry folks…I know that sounds gross (and, I’m a very clean person), but grief causes you to behave in ways you never dreamed possible before.

The sheets were holding up quite well until…

Remember me telling you about my “bed buddy” – Austyn? He’s been sleeping with me for several weeks now. Well…I guess he slept a little too soundly the other night and soaked his PullUp, pajamas, AND the sheets! The poor little guy certainly couldn’t help it, but I was so disappointed. However, I didn’t let him see that disappointment; I simply pulled the sheets off the bed and tossed them into the washing machine for cleaning. Another closed door.

My brain tells me this probably sounds completely ridiculous, but my heart knows it’s completely rational under the circumstances, and you have to do what you have to do to survive a tragedy such as this (especially having experienced a widow journey now TWICE).

It seems with every tangible change in this journey, there is a heart change that often accompanies it. Such has been the case with my sheet washing experience.

I’ve struggled so hard to believe Joel is really gone. I’m not crazy…I KNOW he’s gone. I was there when he took his last breath. I saw his lifeless body in the casket. I watched the casket lowered into the ground. I KNOW. However, the suddenness of it all, and the fact he was so full of life just in the days leading up to his brief illness makes this whole thing seem ludicrous. Like…HOW can this be so?

I think on that day I washed our sheets for the first time since he went to Heaven, my heart finally believed Joel isn’t coming back. He’s really gone. And, I wept…HARD…almost as hard as when I first heard the words he wasn’t going to make it. And, thus, my grief journey took another turn…

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Eight Weeks

It’s been eight weeks since Joel went home to Heaven. Eight weeks. I can’t believe he’s been gone that long. And yet…it’s really just been a short amount of time. I guess the days just feel so long. I haven’t reached the point in my grief journey yet where the days fly by. Oh…how I wish I were there.

Part of the reason is because of my temporary health crisis following my three foot surgeries in March. I’m still bound to a recliner for most of the day with a wound vac attached to my foot that has to remain elevated on two pillows for the bulk of the day. For some reason, God allowed this to happen and so soon after Joel’s death. I have yet to understand this. But, He is sovereign and knows the big picture. I trust Him completely. I still hurt.

I have way too much time on my hands sitting in this recliner. Too much time to think. Too many memories to drift back to, and too much time to cry. While crying can be healing, I feel like I do entirely too much of it. Every time someone comes to visit, and we start talking about my love, I can hardly get two to three words out before the tears start falling. I miss him terribly. Here they go again…I can’t write about him without crying. Unless you’ve been in similar shoes, there’s no way you can possibly understand this type of pain. I would rather someone cut off my leg…both of my legs, for that matter…than be without my best friend, my husband, my love, the daddy to our children. As harsh as that sounds, I can’t imagine how that type of pain could hurt this badly. Physical pain can heal…pain of the heart…always exists.

From experience, I know it won’t feel this painful all the time. I know there will be good days in my future. I know I’ll be able to genuinely smile and laugh again. I know my children will heal as well. I know my purpose in this pain will be established. I know God will use my pain. I know God will use Joel’s death for His glory.

While I know all of these things to be true…it doesn’t stop the ache I feel in the center of my core at this very time. I want it to go away. I hate feeling this way. I hate being this sad. I look for joy, because I long for it.

Oh God…Help me this day! Protect my bleeding and broken heart. Restore my joy! Show me something to smile about today. I desperately need You! My hurt is overwhelming me today. 

#HeIsStillGood

Friday, April 7, 2017

I’m Still Running the Race…

Today I attended the funeral of a cherished co-worker, Wayne Roper, who went home to be with the Lord less than a week ago.

As soon as I heard the news, my first reaction was one of shock, but I immediately found my place in a state of jealously (if truth be told). I’m a bit ashamed to admit that now, but I honestly thought to myself, Wayne is probably already chatting with Joel about the glory land we still long for that they now call home. Oh…how I wish I could be having that conversation with them. I know it’s not my time, but it doesn’t stop my heart from at least longing to be with them.

Some have already asked… “How in the world were you able to do so this so soon after being at your own husband’s funeral?” There are quite a few ways I could have answered that question…

  • I respected the man dearly, so I also wanted to show respect to his new widow by taking the time to celebrate his life and legacy.
  • It was an opportunity for me to see most of my co-workers, many whom I haven’t seen since Joel’s funeral, thanks to this temporary foot issue I’ve been suffering with.
  • It was an opportunity to worship God and thank Him for giving Wayne to us for the 58 year years He did, of which I truly only knew him for about 13 of those years.
  • And…when no other answer satisfies…it was simply the right thing to do.

And, I’m so glad I did!

I cried more today than I’ve cried in weeks. Now, don’t get me wrong…very few days have passed where a tear hasn’t escaped my eye since losing my precious love. But, today, I don’t think I was able to speak to a single soul without tears pouring from my eyes. I’m sure part of it was a result of just being in that setting. Another part was from the multiple hugs and “how are you’s” that were brought my way. But, the real tears came when I heard a couple people ask me to keep writing, because my blog was being used in ways I couldn’t imagine to minister to or help other people they knew. I just sobbed whenever I heard each of those stories yesterday, because I can’t imagine how God can use such a messed up woman, with such a dysfunctional past and a very hurting heart in this present hour to bring life to anyone else. But, that’s how MY God is! He reminds me of that all that time. It’s not me. It has nothing to do with me. It’s all about My Precious Lord, and what He chooses to do through me (His vessel). He could have chosen anyone else (and, I often ask Him why He didn’t), but for some reason unknown to me…I got “the job”.

Please don’t stop sharing these stories with me as you hear them, because they truly do help heal my hurting soul. I begged God to not let Joel’s death be in vain, and these are the ways He continues to promise me that was never part of his plan. If we allow Him to, He’ll always use our pain for His glory and for our good. And, while I’m thankful God is allowing me to be part of His greater plan…I simply want to boast in Him and in Him alone! (1 Corinthians 1:31). He is the author of my life, and the perfecter of my faith, and one day (I pray sooner than later)…He’ll call me Home to glory and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Until then…I press on to complete the race He has mapped out for me…

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Just Trying to Grasp It All

Long before I became a widow for the first time, I advocated for orphans heavily. I’d have to say before I truly grasped the biblical mandate to care for orphans and widows (God defines it as pure religion), He had already impressed upon my heart the yearning and clear calling to be a voice for the least of the these. Now…granted…my voice tended to sway heavily in the area of the orphan crisis, because it was easier for my mind to grasp, and children, in general, seemed to be easier ones for whom to advocate. And then I became one…

A widow, that is. My previous view of a widow had been blown to smithereens…the eighty-year-something, married a long time, two to three children, white-headed, blessed life…type of widow. Yes…I, too, put my stereotypical vision of a widow in a shallow box. Now, those women inside that box are precious too, and God gives us that same biblical mandate to care for them, but I didn’t go seeking those opportunities like I did the ones for orphans. I’m ashamed to admit that now, but I think it was, in part, ignorance to the needs around me and also intentional avoidance. In my mind, I was at least doing something for “part of the equation”…I advocated orphans for heavily…didn’t that count for something?

That mindset of mine changed abruptly on May 4, 20111 when I became a widow…at 39 years of age. No longer did I meet that pre-conceived notion and vision in my head of what a widow looks like. NOW…James 1:27 became extremely real to me, as I was one part of that mandate. And…suddenly…I got it! I not only got it, but I was quick to ask the Lord to never let me forget what this feels like (in case I wasn’t always a widow). I prayed often for Him to reveal to me how it is He wants us to care for widows, and, thankfully, He surrounded me with a group of people from my church and the church-at-large who DID get it and cared for me deeply. Through their actions, they boldly lived out James 1:27.

And again…after God so graciously blessed me with a beautiful new marriage to another incredible man who also got “it”! The command and calling on our lives to care for the least of these, especially orphans and widows. And…most of you know the rest of that story…we added, through adoption, four more children to our already blended nest of five, creating an incredibly beautiful nest of nine.

And…just when I think God had us in a sweet spot…I not only “survived” my widow experience, but God brought some incredible beauty out of those dull ashes through the gift of remarriage and an expanded family…yours, mine, and ours. He gave the gift of family to four orphans through international adoption and domestic foster to adopt. And…he expanded our hearts to love even deeper outside of our neatly “perfect box” with the red bow on top. I couldn’t wait to see what God would do with this new love story…one that I promised to use to glorify Him first and foremost.

Barely into figuring out our new “roles” in this expanded and beautiful family, February 12, 2017 was ushered into our lives quite abruptly, and I became a widow for the SECOND time at the age of 45. And…this time…it was drastically different. As I was now a widow of recently orphaned children who suddenly felt fear again of being orphaned all over again.

How do I begin to explain this one to our children, and even to myself, if truth be told? All I know is I suddenly found myself back in those deep waters again. The same ones from where Jesus reached for me, rescued me, and restored my life in a beautiful way.

That Jesus of mine…He’s the SAME…yesterday, today, and forever! While I may not have all the answers, I know the God that does. And…it’s in Him, I put my full trust. It’s in Him, I cling to for my next breath. And…it’s in Him, I expect another miracle of a life restored one day…in His timing. Until I see it with my eyes, I continue to believe…. #HeIsStillGood

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. ~James 1:27 (NLT)

If you still feel led to tangibly help our family, click here for some suggestions on ways to do so. Or…just do whatever God lays on your heart to do. We are beyond grateful at how He continues to meet our daily needs!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I found sleep again

Joel and I used to crave sleep…well, rest in general. We worked our fannies off all week, and while weekends should include a day of rest, we often found ourselves packing our weekends so full of activity we’d look forward to the start of a new work week…just to find some “rest” again.

Shamefully, I admit I often operated on only 4-5 hours of sleep each night (and Joel often even less than that). We we were tormenting our bodies, at least in the category of rest, and we kept feeling pushed to stop the madness…and soon. However, the bad habits continued. With both of us working full-time jobs, the only time we had to ourselves to get anything done was after the children went to bed at night, so we often got re-energized at just the time we should have started unwinding for the day. These bad habits we created ended up training our bodies to keep up with the madness of our crazy lifestyle. Not good, and we knew it, but nothing stopped us at that point.

After Joel went home to Heaven, I initially struggled to sleep. I would close my eyes, and my mind would race with thoughts of him, the days and minutes leading up to his final breath, all the tasks that lay before me in the near future, all those goals we’d never achieve, and the list is endless. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, so it was very difficult to “shut off” my brain long enough to rest.

Joel actually passed away soon after midnight on February 12. I stayed at the hospital for several more hours and eventually arrived back home somewhere between 3:30-4:00 am. That was my first attempt at trying to get a few hours of sleep. But, I failed. My mind knew I would be sharing with our children soon after they woke up that daddy went to live with Jesus. I kept replaying that scene over and over in my mind, and it literally broke my heart to think of how they might respond. As a result, I literally laid in our bed, tossing and turning without my husband beside me, waiting for daybreak or the sound of those little voices coming to greet me at the start of the new day.

After I was trampled with lots of mommy loves…hugs and kisses…I gathered my little chicks around me and shared the most difficult words I’ve ever had to share with them. The bad news: Daddy died. His frail body couldn’t overcome the sickness that took over. The best news: Daddy is in Heaven with Jesus and will one day see us again! My children clung to the “best news” I shared with them that morning. Daddy was with Jesus, and they would get to be with him again one day. Praise God for that gift! Since that initial conversation, they’ve struggled off and on, but they keep going back to that promise…because of a decision Daddy made when he was alive on this earth, he gets to live forever with Jesus in Heaven. And…as long as we’ve made that same decision, Heaven will be our forever Home too!

Within a few hours of that conversation, I fell asleep in the recliner in my living room. And…I slept HARD. It was as if all the emotional burnout had been spent, and it was time for my body to rest. I slept so hard I never even heard all the guests coming in and out of my home that Sunday afternoon to visit. Thankfully, they didn’t mind the sleeping widow in the corner of the room. Eventually I woke up, but I have discovered since that initial rest (the one in which I actually slept) following Joel’s Homegoing, that I sleep quite a bit now and a lot more often.

In part, the medication I’ve been on after each of my three foot surgeries in March helped to make me sleepy, but I also noticed, I gave up the fight. I no longer had the physical ability to stay up until all crazy hours of the night trying to get things done. I can only do so much, then it’s time to stop. Sleep soon follows. I only wish Joel and I discovered this “rest dance” before he left this world. I can only imagine how much more fulfilling our life could have been together and how much more God would have allowed us to accomplish.

My new routine…sleep, and when I wake, I seek the Lord for His next steps for me. It’s amazing how He has it all under control…when I seek Him first and OBEY His direction.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 (emphasis mine)