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!

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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

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Monday, July 10, 2017

The Rings

ringsRings. What do I do with my wedding rings? It’s a dilemma I’ve faced before. However, that doesn’t make it any easier this time around.

I know widows who never remove their wedding rings. There are other widows, however, who take them off immediately. I would say the majority (at least in my experience) wear them for awhile following the death of their husband but eventually take them off. Let me first say, there is nothing wrong with any of these choices. It truly is a personal decision, and honestly…it’s a pretty major one for many of us.

When Chris died, I wore my wedding set for a few months and then one day just took them off. I remember grieving his loss all over again when I did that, but I felt it was an essential part to my accepting he was no longer here, and I was no longer married to him.

With Joel, I’ve had to take them off each time I had surgery on my foot in March, but I was very quick to put them right back on. I felt they belonged there. He might be gone. Our marriage might be over, but in my heart…he is still my husband. I also removed them when I went on my Outer Banks trip in early June, but the reason was drastically different (and perhaps a bit silly).

I realized when I went on that little excursion by myself that I would be in tour groups alone, eating alone, and generally sight seeing alone. I didn’t want anyone to look at my hand and see a ring there and think my husband and I were separated or that he left me to do all the sight seeing by myself. Bottom line…I didn’t want to cast an “ugly light” on Joel. I know…I know…it sounds silly, but those really were my thoughts. So, I just didn’t wear them. Instead, for all anybody knew, I’d always been single. As soon as I got home, however, the ring set returned to my left hand.

Sometime over the last couple of weeks, however, I felt a nudging to remove the rings. I honestly felt this nudging was from God, as He whispered something like this to my heart…

Daughter, I need you to trust Me…in all areas. Remember, I promised I am husband to the widow and father to the fatherless. I know you want to honor Joel’s memory in wearing the rings he placed upon your finger the day you united as one. But, Joel is with Me now, and I need you to fully trust Me to meet ALL your needs. Joel can’t do that for you anymore, and I’m seeing that by wearing those rings, you’re still clinging to his inability to be your husband.

Those were the impressions upon my heart. And truthfully…He was right (of course). I guess, somewhere, in the pit of who I am, I still expected Joel to meet my needs. I know he can’t, but my heart still looked for it and longed for it. God wants to do that for me now, and I’ve been hindering Him from doing so. I think His nudging for me to remove the rings was not because He wanted me to stop wearing them necessarily. It was simply because they had become a deterrent to what He’s been wanting to do in my life. It’s not the only deterrent. I’m sure of that; but it’s the first one God has clearly pointed out to me.

And so…I removed the rings. I still feel for them. I still feel “naked” without them. And, the loss is incredibly real all over again. But, I need to trust Abba to meet my needs…physical, emotional, mental, spiritual…all of them. I know He can, now maybe without my “distraction”, I’ve opened the door to my heart to let Him do so.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

I Feel Like I Failed Him in His Final Hours

I FailedI Failed. How could I fail my love in his final hours? You might be wondering what I could have possibly done or not done for me to categorize this act as failure.

Since Joel’s death, I’ve read several books, including multiple accounts of families ushering their loved ones to Heaven, as they’ve surrounded them while they left this life for their eternal one. I’ve also heard countless stories of friends having similar beautiful stories to share about their final moments with their precious family and friends.

In my experience with Joel, it felt way more chaotic, and looking back now…I feel like I should have done so much more for him in those final hours. I honestly feel like I failed him.

In hindsight, the only answer to my failures is this…I. Was. In. Shock.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my last conversation with Joel consisted of him praying over the situation and praying for me and the children. It was so beautiful, and I’ll never forget that moment. Soon after, he was placed on a ventilator, sedated, and I never heard his living voice again.

I always envisioned if I ever had the unfortunate experience of being in a setting such as this, I would hold my loved ones hand for hours (if that’s what it took) until he either came out of the crisis or went to Heaven. I imagined a room full of people surrounding him with prayer and stanzas from various hymns and praise songs. I imagined talking to him repeatedly…encouraging him to fight and not give up, that we were in the fight with him. I imagined reading scripture over him, allowing God’s Word to penetrate the room and his sick body. Yet…it didn’t actually turn out that way.

Instead, I cowered in the corner of his ICU room, often watching the medical staff work hastily to try different medication combinations and various other procedures, to help him try to turn a corner. I tried to stay out of their way, or at least that’s what I kept telling myself. In all honesty, I felt frozen. I couldn’t think. I was literally in a place of shock I’d never experienced before.

I would step in and out of his room to talk with the doctors and nurses or to step in the waiting room to share updates with the latest friends and family who had come to be there with us. And, at one point, the shock took a violent and scary turn for me. I completely lost control. I remember sobbing over a trash can, fearful I was on the verge of vomiting over the trauma I was going through in that place. I remember thinking I was losing complete control over my body. I honestly though I was dying. But, God in His infinite love and mercy, carried me through those dark moments.

After the above episode ended, I felt like a zombie again. Unable to think, process, or even pray, if I’m being completely honest. Thankfully, others around me sustained me through prayer.

I watched, with my own eyes, my husband code for the first time on the attempt to move him for transport to a helicopter journey. The horror I felt throughout my body made my knees feel weak, but thankfully I was already sitting. I wanted to run to Joel…tell him to wake up, to breathe, to fight…he was too young to leave us!!! I needed him here with me. And, yet I was frozen again, watching these medical professionals trying to revive him.

His pulse returned. But, not for long.

Often times, as I replay these events in my head, I feel such shame. If I had done more, would Joel be here today? I know what Truth reveals. God’s Word tells me there is NO condemnation in Christ Jesus. I truly believe these are lies of the enemy trying to still take me out. I’m trying to overcome all of this, and yet sometimes…I’m frozen with guilt.

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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

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