Wednesday, June 28, 2017

It’s Less Than Six Months Away – Joel’s Tree

Joel's TreeFor those of you who journeyed with me down Grief Road after losing my husband Chris, you might recall the “Chris Tree” we constructed together. By far, it was one of the most memorable joy-filled events of that first year of widowhood. I knew that first Christmas without him would be very difficult, and having a memorial tree dedicated to Chris and all those things which made up his personality, helped to make that Christmas very special to me.

As a result, I knew I just had to do the same thing for Joel! As a matter of fact, I’ll have both trees up these year, along with our family tree (can you tell how much I love to decorate for Christmas?)! Now…this is where you come in. When I did this before, I invited others to participate in the construction of the “Chris Tree” by finding ornaments that went along with a list of suggestions I came up with. I would love to do the same thing for my “Joel Tree”. I’ll provide a list of suggested ornament themes below, and I would love it if you would join us in adorning his memorial tree. The ornaments don’t have to be new. They could be yard sale or consignment store finds. If you’re crafty, feel free to make something. I’m happy to provide my mailing address to anyone that chooses to participate, just drop me an email at leahstirewalt25@yahoo.com letting me know you need it. Feel free to send in ornaments anytime, but I’d like to have them no later than November 1, otherwise the busyness of the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons will soon be upon us.

Here is a list of ornament categories (in no particular order), but if God places something else on your heart…that’s okay too.

  • Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Outdoorsman
  • Grandpa with kids
  • Dad with kids
  • Coach
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Carolina Tarheels
  • High Point, NC
  • Beach
  • Bulgaria
  • Woodworking
  • J – initial ornaments
  • Jesus – Cross
  • Bible
  • Hospital worker (scrubs)
  • Radiation therapist
  • Ping pong
  • Pool table, cue sticks, etc.
  • Horses
  • Horseback riding
  • Cows
  • Cowboy
  • Farmer
  • Country boy
  • Marines (Joel and his dad)
  • Air Force (Joel’s son, Justin)
  • The number 15 to represent his 9 children, 2 children-in-love, 2 grandbabies, Joel, and Leah!
  • Family – names or initials of his wife and children (Leah, Amy, Wes, Noelle, Micah, Justin, Virginia, Caleb, Anna, Aaron, Josiah, Katerina, Benjamin, and Austyn)
  • Skydiver
  • Jesse – baby in Heaven
  • Sports
  • Bible verses
  • Orphans
  • Photo ornaments with his picture
  • Personalized ornaments with his name
  • AWANA (he was AWANA Commander and very active when his bio children were younger)

I can’t tell you how meaningful this will be to my family and me and will help to take the “sting” out of not having Joel/Daddy/Pawpaw with us this year. May God bless you, in advance, for your simple act of kindness to my grieving heart! Feel free to email me with any questions (leahstirewalt25@yahoo.com). Christmas will be here before we know it!

#HeIsStillGood

Monday, November 25, 2013

Maybe You Know Her

Photo credit: Inspirationfalls.com

Photo credit: Inspirationfalls.com

I have a feeling you know her. Maybe not all of you, but I would venture to say that most of you do.

She’s the worn-looking lady down the street with the three rowdy children that frustrate you frequently.

She’s the sweet white-haired woman that you faithfully find at church in the same seat on the second row.

She’s the one in line in front of you at the grocery store spending the last of that week’s paycheck and scrounging for one more dime.

She’s the white-collar executive that drives the fancy sports car yet never looks happy to be living that carefree life she loves to display.

She’s your child or grandchild’s teacher at school they always complain about, because she’s running low on patience.

She’s the greeter at church that flashes her pearly whites each Sunday to mask the flood of tears on the verge of spilling out of her eyes.

She’s the teller at your local bank with the scowl across her forehead.

She’s the blogger who has openly shared her challenging journey.

She’s the one you cut off on the interstate the other day, because she was daydreaming and driving a bit too slow for your liking.

She’s the one spending Thanksgiving alone this year.

She’s the one who volunteered to work at the diner Christmas Day, because she has nobody to spend it with anyway.

She’s the widow often forgotten.

I know her well. I used to be her.

I’ll never forget the first Christmas after becoming a widow. I dreaded it with a passion, because families everywhere would be enjoying that special time together, and my daughter and I would be spending our first Christmas without my late husband.

I begged God to allow me to smile that first Christmas even though everything within me didn’t know how to show happiness. I asked Him to allow my daughter and me to feel His love in tangible ways. I prayed that although that first Christmas was expected to be quite hard, I wanted to experience true joy within the season.

God answered each of those prayers exponentially!

Most of the smiles I displayed or the joy I felt or the tangible love of God that surrounded me came as a result of others taking time to love on us. I wrote about a group of “angels” who, to this day still remain anonymous, blessed us immensely (you can read that post HERE)! These “angels”, as I fondly call them, became Jesus with skin on to my daughter and me. They helped to make each of the twelve days leading up Christmas something we looked forward to waking up to greet. They allowed us to know that we were not forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyone else’s busy season.

As Christmas nears again this year, my mind returns to that first Christmas as a widow, and I think about “her” – another lady experiencing that first Christmas without her husband. Or – perhaps – it’s a precious lady who’s been a widow for twenty + years but continues to dread this holiday season, because it brings nothing but sadness.

And so…I challenge you. I challenge you to think past the busyness that you’ll encounter this season and try to find a widow to bless. A neighbor…a co-worker…a church member…

There are so many things that you can do to help make her season a little brighter:

1) Invite her over for a meal (especially on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day).

2) Take her a basket of homemade goodies.

3) Make her a stocking and fill with little mementos or gift cards to show you care.

4) Offer to help decorate her house for Christmas and bring a tree if needed.

5) Be a Christmas “12 Days of Christmas Angel” anonymously – read more HERE!

6) Take her to an area Christmas program.

7) Fill her pantry for the rest of the month.

8) Invite her over to spend Christmas with your family.

9) Take her to a Christmas Eve service.

10) Do something else creative to let this precious widow know she’s loved and not forgotten this season.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own little worlds that we forget those who are hurting around us (especially during this season). Allow God to use you and your family to bless His precious widowed daughters this Christmas. I promise…it’ll be a Christmas neither of you will ever forget.

~A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:5, NIV)