Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An Unexpected Hiatus

DisneyAfter an unexpected hiatus, I’m back! I planned to be a little hit or miss while vacationing at Disney, little did I realize the blogging break would end up being much longer.

We had a wonderful trip to Disney, but it wasn’t without its challenges. I was reminded, quite frequently, something I already know so well. Children (people in general, actually) thrive on structure. Even as planned out as the week was, the structure our daily lives resemble, looks nothing like the craziness a week of vacation tends to bring. That said, the kiddos were in awe of Disney and all it brings. We had many unexpected surprises along the way, and the cast mates (Disney staff) went out of their way for our family. Even so, by the end of each day…I had nothing left. It took it all out of me, and then some.

As soon as we arrived home, we stepped into high speed preparing for the next adventure. My children are currently spending this week with some dear friends of mine in Savannah, GA. Lorie and her husband, Duane, are seasoned adoptive parents, and they also have six biological children. The age range of their children is very similar to mine. She offered this week of respite to me several months ago, and I happily accepted her offer.

Respite from my 24/7 parental responsibilities is something I crave. Joel and I shared our parenting duties well, but as soon as He went Home to Heaven, it all fell on me. It’s been emotionally very difficult to be “on” all the time for the children and try to grieve the way my heart needs to at times. Therefore, this gift of respite was huge, but little did I realize how huge.

Last Monday (the day after my children went to Savannah), I had a scheduled inpatient surgical procedure. I was so glad the kiddos were well taken care of during my 1-2 night planned hospital stay. One less worry. However, my hospital stay turned into four nights, and I almost had to spend a fifth night.

Without going into all the details, I had stomach surgery. The surgery itself was very successful (sounds familiar…oh yes…I said similar words after Joel’s surgery in February), but the post-surgery recovery brought a few challenges…my blood pressure kept dropping, I ran a low grade fever, my resting heart rate was higher than normal, and my oxygen saturation rates were too low. In addition to that, I have a bruise along my abdomen that reaches out to my side and almost to my back that is U.G.L.Y. I bruise easily anyway, but I’ve never had anything like this before. It was a showcase piece for all kinds of hospital staff to view. Nobody could believe it until they laid eyes on it. The bruise was actually the lesser of the evils, but it brought the biggest reaction.

The other problems I kept exhibiting led to many tests to rule out the biggies (i.e. blood clots, tumors), and I’m thankful I had a surgeon willing to be so thorough with me. It probably didn’t hurt they all knew Joel’s story and wanted to avoid a repeat with me. They did well. I really am very pleased. I’m just slowly regaining strength to do much of anything.

It’s hard being “down” all the time. You would think I would have learned that lesson after my foot surgeries this spring. I’m just wired to be on all the time it seems. God, in His abundant mercy, is patiently teaching me about rest. Something I need and crave, but seldom take. This blog hiatus was just one piece of the puzzle, but apparently I needed it too. Thank you for patience as I get “back in the saddle again”.

One more thing… With August now here, I face another difficult “first” later this month. Our anniversary. I covet your prayers, in advance of that day (25th), as my heart is already hurting thinking of another missed celebration with my love.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Another Major Change

change

On top of Grandfather Mountain; company picnic in 2013

This week marks a significant event in my life. Another major change in 2017. And yet…this time, the choice was mine to make…sort of.

I’m leaving my beloved job at 106.9 the Light (the radio station started by Billy Graham 55 years ago). I can’t tell you how difficult a decision this has been for me, but I really had no choice.

Considering I spent most of my spring sitting in a recliner with home health nurses coming in and out of my house every other day to treat my foot’s surgical wound…I had a lot of time to think and pray. I also had a lot of time to listen…something I don’t always do very well.

It was in the listening I sensed God telling me it’s time to leave. I honestly couldn’t believe He would ask me to leave the best job I’ve ever had with the most incredible co-workers you can imagine. But, He did.

When Joel and I met, we lived about 75 miles apart. As our relationship grew, we knew the time would come to talk about relocation should we marry. At the time, my daughter had three years left in high school, and I didn’t want her to have to move at such a pivotal time in her life. Joel agreed and made the decision to move to Asheville when we got married, but he kept his job at the hospital, as he had been there many years and loved where he was at. Even so, he was committed to commuting through Anna’s high school graduation and beyond, if needed.

We were also licensed foster parents and didn’t really want to move, as we loved our licensing worker and the children who were in and out of our home (especially the little guy we later adopted). But, God revealed to us it was time to move last fall, for Joel to finally be close to work again. And, we did. This time, the commute was mine for however long we felt led for me to keep it up.

Initially, it worked well. Joel took on the carpooling responsibility that had previously been mine, since I had more travel time now. I still got home about the same time that I used to, because the traffic time with the carpooling in Asheville was so much worse than where we are now. So, it really didn’t change our family time together. Then came February 12, 2017…when God called Joel home. That day changed everything.

The commute was no longer reasonable. I could no longer keep up with the demands of the job, my home, and my kids. Trying to get them to therapy appointments and sports was out of the question. We’ve pretty much just been existing. I know that’s not the way it’s supposed to be, and God made that clear to me. But, this is a major step of faith.

I don’t know how all the financial pieces will be met, but God does, and everything I have belongs to Him. I’m trusting Him to lead, and He’s been meeting every need (and then some!). I don’t know what’s next for me completely, but He’s been faithful in that area too, and I’m just walking through the doors He opens. For now…being mom to my littles is my number one priority. They’ve already lost one parent…they need their other parent more than ever.

The story is really more in-depth than what I’ve just written, but that’s the essence of it. This Friday will be my last day at work, and I’m really sad about it. My co-workers gave me a precious brunch this past Monday to reflect on this season that’s ending and to celebrate the new one that’s beginning. They all had the opportunity to share a few words with me, and I can tell you I’ve never felt as treasured by a group of people as I did in those moments. Their words encouraged me, challenged me, humbled me, and soothed my aching heart. (Words of affirmation happens to be #1 love language, so that doesn’t hurt.)

This major change will sting quite a bit for awhile, but like everything else we’ve been through this year…the pain from that initial sting will eventually soften a bit, and we know God is still amazingly good!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Lesson My Son Taught Me

We just finished supper at our neighborhood Taco Bell. Not something we do often (McDonald’s is closer), but it was a special occasion. What was the occasion? It was Monday evening, and Mommy forgot to plan supper! Seriously.

I finally wrangled all of the kiddos into the car, and we were getting ready to pull out of the parking lot when Josiah started saying something over and over about the poor lady. The other kids were drowning him out with their chatter, but he finally got my attention.

“Mommy, she’s poor. Look at her holding the sign. Can you give her some money?” He pointed to the woman on the corner of the shopping center exit.

I couldn’t believe he even understood what that was all about. Where had he learned this? This is my child who, along with his two siblings, was living in an orphanage in Bulgaria just 20 months ago. When I asked him how he knew about people holding up signs and things of that sort, he reminded me I had explained that to them before. Oh… How could I have forgotten that? Widow brain is alive and well it appears.

I knew I didn’t have any cash on me, something I rarely carry anymore. However, my son kept asking what I was going to do for her, so I checked my purse and wallet…just to make sure. This time, my memory was spot on. No cash.

I told Josiah I had nothing to give her, but I would be sure to get some cash to keep in the car for these types of occasions from now on. He then asked me how I paid for dinner. Smart kid apparently didn’t accept my answer. I reminded him I paid with a card that worked like cash. His next response was completely unexpected.

“Mommy, I have money in my bank at home. Can you drive me home to get it, and I’ll give her that?”

How do you respond to your 9-year-old former orphan wanting to take money out of his piggy bank to give to the sign-holding lady on the corner of the shopping center? I was honestly taken aback. At this point, I knew God expected me to respond.

I’ll admit I pass by many of those people without ever making an effort to do anything for them. Not because I’m not willing, but because I never have cash and don’t ever seem to bother to think of what else I might have. I know some sign-holders might not be doing it for the right reason, but that’s not up to me to determine. If God prompts me to do something, it’s up to me to obey. This time, the prompting came through my son.

I decided to dig deeper into my wallet. I thought I had some gift cards in there I had been using to shop with. Certainly there was something left on them. The first one I picked up was for Walmart. We happened to be just next door to a Walmart at this particular time. I called the number on the back of my card to check my balance…zero. Nothing left.

Ok, Lord! I sense I’m to do something for this lady. What do you want me to do? Go to the bank and get something out? A gift card? Please direct me here. I don’t want to disappoint Josiah.

I had one more gift card in my wallet. It was a VISA gift card. Again, I called the number on the back to check my balance. This time…$23.87 was the response. I knew He was asking me to give it to her.

“Okay son, I’ve got something with some money available on it,” I shared with Josiah.

“So, are you going to give it to her?” he asked me.

Still a bit unsure, I responded, “I think so. I need to make sure I can get close enough to her, but as long as I can safely do that, I’m going to give it to her.”

We pulled out of Taco Bell’s parking lot and headed to the exit. I was able to pull up right beside the lady. She looked at me with pleading eyes before I ever rolled down my passenger window. As I started to do so, she hurried over to the van, and I simply said, “I’m sorry I don’t have cash, but I have this card with $23.87, and you can have it.”

She immediately responded. “God bless you!” And, as we drove away, I heard her start to pray, “Heavenly Father, thank you for what you’ve just done…” Her voice drifted off, and I heard nothing else as we were out of earshot at that point.

I looked back in my rearview mirror at Josiah, and he was grinning from ear to ear.

“Was that okay Josiah? Did mommy do what you hoped I would do?”

He nodded, while still grinning.

I simply thanked him for pointing her out to me early enough to allow me time to try to find something to give her. We then had the discussion about how everything we have belongs to God. Everything. He simply loans it to us while we’re on earth. I told him how I knew God was pleased with him, and he would be blessed for being obedient.

Thank you Abba for this gift of my son and for continually teaching me through the eyes of these former orphans. I stand amazed!

#HeIsStillGood

Friday, June 30, 2017

As Vulnerable As It Gets

vulnerableThis post is going to be about as vulnerable as it gets on a public forum.

I’ve always used my blog as a public journal, of sorts, an online oasis, and a place where I share my own personal struggles and wins in hopes of bringing hope to someone else. While I’m typically very transparent, because I feel God has called me to be through His Word (see 2 Corinthians 1) and through my particular circumstances, there are still many things I don’t share. Those are the things just between God and me or God, me, and select few of my dearest friends. Most of my readers are very kind, but there are some who feel they can speak to my situation better than I can and have never even met me before or walked in shoes remotely close. They are the ones who know how to hurt me (even if unintentionally) while I’m already experiencing the deepest hurts of my life. Therefore, I’m certainly not interested in fueling the fire of the “haters”, but sometimes I get to a point of desperation.

I’m there now. And, I’m asking right off the bat, if you are a praying person…I need you now. Please don’t tell me you’re praying for me as a nice gesture if you’re not doing it. I’m desperate for the prayers of the saints in more ways than I can possibly relay.

If you’ve been following my blog since the death of my precious Joel in February, then you already know much of what we’ve been through recently. But, I’ll recap for the newbies and for those of you who might have forgotten some of the events.

February – My husband went Home to Heaven after a very brief stay in the hospital. It was unexpected and tragic.

March – I had THREE foot surgeries. The first was expected. The other two…not at all!

April – I totaled Joel’s car. I was crushed (and so was the car).

May – Epidural injection on my back. Lower back pain returned with a vengeance.

Additionally, I started experiencing severe, unexplainable nausea. After a series of tests and procedures, I was diagnosed with iron-pill induced gastritis, my stomach lining is deteriorating, and I am also bleeding internally (slowly). I am having a procedure to fix all of this on July 24 (in Asheville) and will be in the hospital a couple of days.

June – I returned to work to complete a notice following my resignation. I’m no longer able to continue in the job I love, as I can’t solo parent four young children with special needs and work an hour away from home.

Also this week, I had an MRI on my lower back. The pain is now horrendous, and I’m getting no relief. The theory is a herniated disc.

All of the above is enough to send any person over the edge. It’s almost more than I personally can handle, but God is bigger than my circumstances. However, there’s one area I’m failing miserably. This is where I need my praying readers desperately.

One of my children is struggling is unexplainable ways…behaviorally. I’m working on getting the right kind of help, but there are many hoops to go through. In the meantime, our home is NOT a place of peace right now, as this precious child is completely out of sorts (that’s the “simplest” way I know how to explain it). I’m on my knees so much for this child, whom I adore, and I know God loves this wee one even more than I can imagine.

And so…I beg you…please pray for wisdom. I just don’t know the next step. I’m a proactive parent and will do whatever I need to do to protect my children and to get them the help they need when they are hurting. I just need to know where/who that is, in this case. Additionally, I’m asking for supernatural healing in this case. Nothing is too hard for God…He can totally alleviate all of this in a matter of seconds, if He so chooses. Even if He doesn’t…I still trust Him completely, but it doesn’t stop me from asking.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up. ~Daniel 3:17-18 (NLT)

Thank you, in advance, prayer warriors! We need you now more than ever. We. Will. Be. Okay. I have no doubt, but God doesn’t want us to simply survive this season but to thrive, as a result of it. That will take miraculous divine help, wisdom, favor, and grace! And…God can provide it all, if He so chooses.

There are many things we need right now I could be asking prayer for, but nothing is more important to me now than the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of my children. I’d give all to protect them! This mama bear is armed and ready to fight this battle…as long as it takes.

I will keep you updated as we see God’s hand at work. It may not happen immediately. It may not happen in the way I desire, but God will work all of this tragedy out for His glory and for our good! To Him be ALL the glory!

#HeIsStillGood

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Struggling Single Parent

single parent

I’ve really been struggling to post lately. Let me rephrase that…

I’ve been struggling. Period.

This season of my grief journey has blindsided me a bit. I should have seen it coming. Unlike most widows or widowers, I’ve sadly been down this road before. I learned during my first grief episode all about the non-linear aspect of grief (much to my disappointment). I’m the type of person that likes to check a box…that feeling of accomplishment…and then move on to the next task. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way with grief. Just when I think I’ve made some headway, I feel like I’m back to square one. There’s nothing, in particular, which causes that, making it even tougher to predict. Sometimes it can be a series of things that catapults me backwards (or what feels like a backwards move to me). Even so…it’s where I’ve been since returning from my amazing trip to the Outer Banks.

For me, the single parenting aspect of this grief journey has been the toughest, by far. Not only do I still have our four youngest children at home, but we had adopted all four of them within just a little over a year prior to Joel’s death (and the adoption of one wasn’t complete until four months prior to his death, although we had parented him the longest). With adoption, there are significant challenges in and of themselves that often make two-parent families curl up in a ball in a corner at times. It’s tough friends. We were highly educated for this. We knew what we could face, and we had been not only surviving it but truly thriving (even on the difficult days). And, with God’s help…we were doing it…TOGETHER! Now…I’m both mommy and “daddy” to them. And, let me tell you, I do NOT make a good “daddy”.  I know I’m not the only single parent in the world. I know I’m not the only single parent of special needs children. I know I’m not the only single parent of special needs children who just lost their daddy too (truly, I’m not). But, knowing that, although comforting in a twisted sort of way, doesn’t take away my real day-to-day needs.

Most of those are needs that can only be met by God Himself: parenting wisdom, loneliness, anger, sadness, confusion, emotional and physical drain, and much more. I am often asked, “What do you need?” Truly…I can’t answer that question most of the time. Due to my physical and emotional exhaustion…I can’t think past the next moment many times. I continue to say the greatest gift you can do is seek the Lord with that question and simply do whatever He instructs you to do. He knows our every need. For example, just two nights ago, I received a phone call from an Asheville friend who felt urged to simply give me a call. That phone call was such a blessing to me. It was simply full of encouragement, understanding, and listening (even through my tears). She didn’t pretend to understand what I am walking through, but she understood pain. She understood grief. She understood parenting challenges. And…she understood in spite of my worst day, God is still central to everything I believe.

Even on these very difficult days I’ve been experiencing lately, I still say with everything in me…He. Is. Still. Good. I’m still waiting for a breakthrough, of sorts. I’m still waiting for come consecutive good days. I’m still waiting for God’s favor in many areas in which I’ve been consistently praying. Even if I don’t see these things for awhile, and even if I don’t see the answers in the way in which I expect them to be received…I believe with everything in me…

He. Is. Still. Good.