Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mother’s Day Crisis Averted

This is certainly not a “picture perfect pose” for Mother’s Day. Just keeping it real…

As you may have realized from my last post, I was most hesitant about my first Mother’s Day without Joel. He was so good to me in this area of honor, and while I don’t deserve anything…he always made me feel very special.

I was most concerned about my littlest ones. First of all, Josiah understood it was a special day for mothers, but the others just didn’t get it. At. All. That being said, I didn’t know if I would be experiencing a day of temper tantrums and bad behavior (like can be common on an unstructured weekend day), or if by some miracle…they would be perfect little angels. Let’s say…they fell somewhere in between. But…I’ll take it!

Outside of that, my day was very special. No breakfast in bed, but we ate a quick bite before church nonetheless.

I either saw or heard from every single one of my kiddos and “bonus children”. Anna made it home from college by Sunday afternoon and made my request for a Mother’s Day meal…tacos! I’ll never turn down Mexican food! She also worked with her little siblings so that all of them signed a card for me…precious! And…Anna’s gift melted me heart and turned on the tears, as it was a framed pic of Joel, Anna, and me from her high school graduation a couple years ago.

My bonus daughter, Amy (Joel’s oldest child), was at our house a few times over the last month, and she worked with Josiah (in secret) to have gifts here and ready to pass along on the special day. She also sent cards in the meal, along with Justin and Virginia, and I cried and cried (happy tears) upon reading each one.

The kids also presented their gifts they made for me at school and even church that very morning, and what a special joy to receive. They were so excited to give them to me!

The day was complete later in the evening when I received phone calls from both Aaron and Caleb, out in Oklahoma (Joel’s youngest two sons). My heart was full with the love I received from all nine of our children.

Yes – it was a hard day. But…it was also a beautiful day. Even on the hard days…#HeIsStillGood!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Trying to Avoid the Mother’s Day Blues

He had a way of making every holiday special. While decorating for the major holidays as always been “my thing”, Joel made sure I felt loved and treasured on even the minor holidays.

Mother’s Day.

It hurts to type those two words. It brings with it pain on many levels…some of those reasons I choose not to even speak of here, as it doesn’t edify anyone. However, since 2011, Mother’s Day has been an even harder holiday for me to muster. I buried Chris on Mother’s Day. I can only imagine the pain his own mother feels on this day each year.

This year…the loss of Joel and his precious ways of making me feel like a princess will be most notably missed. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t need to feel like a princess. I don’t need to be doted over. I don’t need a holiday dedicated to the fact I’m a mother. But…Joel sure knew how to make me feel like royalty, and he had begun teaching the children to do the same thing. It was truly an everyday teaching in our home. He taught them to love and respect me, and while he didn’t have long with our littlest ones, I know the groundwork had begun. Mother’s Day, however, was just the day set aside to allow me to rest and feel loved on even more.

I can tell my children Sunday is Mother’s Day. And…we’ll call Grandma to be sure. But…that’s where it ends. I don’t know if they’ll get it. I don’t know if they’ll be nice or give me a hard time all day long. I don’t know if rest will be in the equation, or if I’ll be exhausted from having to referee arguments. To them…it’s just another day without their daddy here to emphasize it. I don’t blame them. I don’t blame God. It is what it is.

If there are single moms, especially with young children, that cross your path this weekend…remember this might be a difficult holiday for them. Show them some extended grace, an extra smile, and offer up a prayer on their behalf. Any of those acts might make all the difference between a difficult Mother’s Day and a great Mother’s Day.

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Gonna Finish What I Started

About four months before Joel suddenly went Home to Heaven, we had embarked upon a health journey together. While our journeys were a bit different in the specifics, the end result intention was to be the same…we longed to get to get to the healthiest adult versions of ourselves we’ve ever seen (or at least get as close as we safely could).

Austyn’s adoption party! Just so happens to also be the day I was at my very largest…ever. 🙁

My biggest cheerleader in this fight for good health was my precious man! During the time we were were married, I had been up and down on the scale repeatedly (which, in and of itself, is not healthy). He never doubted me. Never doubted my ability to get to a healthy weight and stay there. Never doubted my goal of running my first 5K someday. (I was scheduled to participate in one several years ago, which sadly ended up being the day of my previous husband’s funeral.) He never doubted anything I set my mind to do. However, I was my own worst critic. I guess I’ve tried and failed at so many different things in the past that I began to believe that was my “lot in life”. Attempting, yet never reaching the prize.

Upon Joel’s death, I promised him I wouldn’t stop. I would hold up my end of the deal, no matter how the large the challenges I encountered (and boy…have there been challenges!). I so long to please him, to please God, and to please myself. And…ultimately, our children need their mama to be around for a long time, God willing.

So, I’m excited to announce that since October, I’ve lost 70 pounds! Aside from the trauma I’ve also experienced over the last several months, I really do feel great! Now…Joel had promised me little rewards with each measurable goal that I reach along the journey. While I don’t have him to do that for me anymore, I’m asking God to step in as the husband He’s promised to be and provide little pick-me-ups as He sees fit. He, of all people knows the incentives that will keep me motivated.

I’m getting there…little by little. Considering all I’ve endured since my health journey began, I think I’ve held out okay.

As for you…if you are a praying friend, will you fervently join me in asking God to help me reach me the Goals He has for me please?! I so want to continue to please Joel, and I trust God will give him (Joel) a little glimpse when this is all said and done. Thank you friends!

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My First Easter Without Him

As I vividly remember from my first widow journey, those immediate twelve months following the passing of a loved one is full of “firsts”. The first Christmas without him, the first Valentine’s Day, anniversary, Thanksgiving, etc. Sunday was my first Easter without my beloved Joel. It was, let’s just say…an interesting day. I’ll try to put it into words, but honestly…I’m not sure I totally can.

It started out a little rough on Saturday night with me setting out the Easter baskets for the kids. I was so upset, as they were the puniest Easter baskets I’d ever put together. Had it not been for a friend who sent the kids some little gifts in the mail, specifically for their baskets, they would have been even punier. It was virtually impossible for me to get out and shop while trying to recover from three foot surgeries. I went out Friday to one store for less than 30 minutes after getting my stitches out and grabbed what I could. The pain was horrendous in that short amount of time.

Then the Easter clothes. What Easter clothes? I would have loved to doll them up for the “official” first outfit of spring that typically coincides with Easter. They would have loved their new clothes. Instead, I dug in their closet to try to find something that would work and shoes that would still fit (that was the bigger dilemma).

I also planned to do an Easter egg hunt for the kids on Saturday before my adult daughter had to leave to go back to school, but I had her busy doing so many other things while she was home, and I never got around to asking her to fill the eggs with some sort of goody, let alone hide them in preparation for the hunt. I’m simply not ambulatory enough to do that right now.

A friend picked up the egg coloring kits for me, because I was determined to at least do that with the children. Guest what? That didn’t happen either, because I forgot to get the eggs to boil, and by the time I remembered…it was too late.

So, Easter hadn’t even arrived yet, and I was already feeling quite down over the fact I felt like a holiday mom “failure” – puny baskets, no new Easter outfits, no egg coloring, and no egg hunt.

Then comes Sunday…

Much like THE Resurrection Day over 2000 years ago, God’s grace rained down on me!

The kids woke up and found the baskets and were elated with what the “Easter bunny” brought them. They acted like every little thing they pulled out of their baskets was the best thing ever. Thank you God for your amazing grace!

We went to High Point (about an hour and a half away) to spend the holiday with my in-laws. We had a wonderful church service, followed by a delicious lunch, and then…my mother-in-law planned an Easter egg hunt for the kids!!! Another act of God’s grace. They still got to hunt eggs and had a blast!

Now…for the interesting part…I struggled emotionally all day. I didn’t want to have a meltdown and ruin everybody’s holiday. So, I worked really hard at controlling my emotions. In doing so, I essentially felt numb virtually all day. No tears. For that, I was thankful, but it was simply odd. I felt like I simply “floated” through the day. I went through the motions of the day, but that was just it. I couldn’t “feel”. It was a very hard day, and yet…my emotions were in “lockdown” in a way.

My mother-in-law gave me a HUGE gift by offering to keep the children for three days of their spring break (they’ll be home later today). So, when it was time for me to leave for the day to head home, I left alone. And when straight to the cemetery. My MIL told me the marker arrived the week before, and I wanted to see it, and I hadn’t been to the cemetery since the day we buried Joel’s earthly body. It was long-overdue for me, especially considering I was there every single day after my last husband died (but, Joel isn’t buried in the same town in which I live now).

I drove towards the cemetery, expecting to have a meltdown when I got there and saw his beautiful marker. I was so pleased to see it, however. It looked just as beautiful as I had hoped. I took lots of pictures…of his marker (our marker)…the raised area where his casket was buried but the ground is still settling, and the area beside him where mine will one day go.

His daddy is buried right above him, and his mother has a plot there too. It’s a beautiful cemetery with a precious pond just below Joel’s spot. Before going any further…I know Joel’s spirit is already with the Lord…it happened the moment he took his final breath in this life and entered the next. The cemetery is mostly for those of us left behind, but I also want to have a place set aside for him that brings me comfort, and this place does.

Surprisingly…the “numbness” continued. No tears. I talked a little, but no tears! I felt there was a load of them ready to unleash, but I didn’t know when. For whatever reason, it wasn’t then. I stayed for a little while, and then got back in my car and headed back home.

After I finally settled in for the night…ready to read, listen to worship and praise music, elevate my leg all over again…I felt only one thing “nothingness”. I hated that feeling. I was in a perfect place to grave, and I felt an unleashing of grief tears was just upon me. And…I felt they would come soon, especially since I was along. But they didn’t. I simply went to bed. And a new day began, but it was MUCH, MUCH different. Stay tuned…

 

 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Gift from Romania

Learning how to parent my four youngest children alone has been one of the hardest things to try to figure out since Joel went to Heaven. This is not an easy crew to parent, friends. Or…maybe they’re easy, and I’m the messed up one. Regardless, it’s been extremely hard!

These children are grieving – each in their own way. They are trying to figure out what it’s like to have me as their only parent. They test me. They disobey me. They ignore me. But, they also lavish me with love in their own special, individual ways. Two have diagnosed special needs, and I’m convinced one of the other two does as well…just not yet diagnosed. They were a challenge for both Joel and I to raise together, but this puts solo parenting into an entirely new dimension. And…honestly…there are very few people out there who truly understand what I’m going through. So, that makes this road feel even lonelier. But…God knows…I have to keep reminding myself of that. He’s actually parenting all of us!

You can only imagine, then, when I had not one…not two…but three unexpected and urgent foot surgeries in March how truly out-of-commission I became. I was literally frightened. Not because of the physical trauma I was facing. No – I honestly didn’t know how I would be able to care for my children from crutches and a wheelchair. How would I be able to drive them to/from school and daycare when I have to keep my foot elevated in a chair during the bulk of my waking hours? What now God?

It would be an understatement to say the church we’ve found in our new town…actually they found us…has been nothing short of amazing! As soon as they received word of the loss of my husband and the fact we just moved here in October, the recent adoption of our four youngest children, and the fact I’ve now been widowed twice by the age of 45…they stepped in and have tried to meet every single need imaginable. You truly wouldn’t believe it. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when they started trying to figure out a plan for meeting my kids’ needs too. With some help from my mother-in-law at various times as well, the church filled the remaining gaps with various women. They would arrive at my house at 6 am to wake up the children, get them ready for school and then take them to their school and daycare. After the morning drop-offs, they’d stop back by the house to literally wait on me hand and foot (no pun intended)…make breakfast, coffee, freshen up the house…whatever was needed. They’d return again in the afternoon to do the pick-up run, feed the children (and me) supper, give baths, and help put the children to bed. They were amazing!!! The only drawback we all noticed was that it was very hard on the children having various people in and out all the time. They really needed consistency. I, and many others, started praying for a consistent “nanny-type” person to be able to do the entire job, and I had enough donations given for this specific purpose to cover two weeks, but I couldn’t go beyond that. At the time, we thought two weeks would be sufficient. That was before surgery number three…the one that landed me with a wound vac and even less mobile.

God did provide a nanny, actually a group of 4 ladies from the same family that made it work for the two weeks originally requested. But, we knew we still needed one person who could commit to caring for my children – being my hands and feet – I’d still be a voice – for at least another three-four weeks. The dilemma – where would I find such a person, and how could I pay them? We are still having to be very financially cautious right now, and even more so with these initial medical bills and being out of work with an unknown return date, as of yet.

But, God… He had the perfect person in mind. We just didn’t know it yet.

Enter Damaris…

Damaris came recommended from a friend of a friend of a friend. And…get this…she’s Romanian! Romania is a neighboring country to Bulgaria! So, Damaris and my Bulgarian kiddos were neighbors when living across the world from where they are now! I find that so cool, and such a God-wink.

This precious young woman has such a servant’s heart, and her humility is unmatched. Not only has she come into our home with such ease and taken on every task handed to her…the biggest being that of caring for our crazy crew…she’s always asking if she can do more. She has definitely been a gift hand-picked by God to get us through this challenging time while I heal to the point of being able to do everything I was able to do before.

But, that’s not all. A group of people (I have no idea who they are) have raised enough money so far to pay for her for 3-4 weeks! What a gift, as I certainly don’t have that in my budget right now.

We love this precious woman already. She’s also a follower of Jesus Christ, as I am, so that’s just a bonus!

Here’s Damaris and her newest little friend, Katerina…