Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Worst Night of My Life (since Joel went to Heaven)

From happier days…

I won’t lie. Every. Single. Day. Since Joel went home to Heaven has been, at minimum, difficult. Some days feel unbearably hard. Without the support of so many people, I honestly don’t know how we would have made it this far. Then came last night…

I thought I would see Jesus last night. I thought my heart was literally going to crush under the heavy load of the burden I was asked to bear for most of the evening. My baby was emotionally hurting. Deeply hurting, and all the hurt was being directed at me. It lasted so long, and was so all-encompassing, I had no choice but to sit on the floor and hold him to keep him safe until his brain would allow his body to calm down. I asked Josiah to video-tape some of it, because nobody would believe this sweet, precious, charming little guy could be so explosive, and I need someone to believe me as I seek to get him the right kind of help.

I continued to hold him, soothe him, rock him, sing to him, pray over him, talk to him…and finally…he broke. He was a sweaty mess and started crying out, “I’m sorry mommy! I’m sorry mommy!”

We were both sobbing. He was so broken. I was so spent. We just held each other and cried more.

Finally, when he was back to his “normal” toddler self, able to play with his siblings, I went into my bedroom and wailed. I could no longer control the emotion I had been trying so hard to control while he had his meltdown. I wailed so loud…it reminded me of my reaction after learning my Joel wasn’t going to make it. That same type of reaction. My kids ran into my bedroom.

Katerina, the compassionate one, immediately started rubbing my back.

Josiah, the leader, started giving instructions to his siblings.

Benjamin, the inquisitive one, started asking me over and over what was wrong.

Austyn, my sympathizer and empathizer, started crying along with me.

And…it started all over again. This time, he consoled me. He sat in my lap, and we cried together.

I prayed through tears!

Abba, you promise to be the husband to the widow and the father to the fatherless! We need to know you in both those roles right now. You are the same, yesterday, today, and forever. You are a God that cannot lie! We trust you! Bring us Your peace. 

Eventually, we all left my bedroom. Josiah cleaned up from dinner. I honestly don’t remember even eating. Katerina followed every single direction given to her (a miracle, in and of itself). Benjamin was calm most of the evening (another miracle), and my Austyn fell asleep in my arms. After placing him in his bed, he slept all night and woke up a very happy little boy this morning!

Last night was just one night. I am seeking help for all my children and for myself. This isn’t my first rodeo with losing a spouse, unfortunately, but this is the first time I’ve had young children to care for at the same time, so we all have so much to learn. And…praying friends…we need SO much prayer! Just pray as God directs please.

For those precious souls continuing to ask how you can help in tangible ways, I’ve put up a list on the website. You can find it here. I’ll update it as needs change. Thank you for being His hands and feet to our family! I am simply humbled and blown away by how loved we are right now!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Team Stirewalt

They dubbed themselves “Team Stirewalt”. I was humbled, honored, and in complete awe that these three former strangers last month (now friends) would want to come alongside my crazy, grieving family and serve us as frequently and expediently as they have been.

“Team Stirewalt” was their way of saying, “We’re committed to your family. We’re part of your team!” I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring (that’s pretty common these days anyway). I think part of the reason for my emotion was what kept going through my head…

This is how it’s supposed to be.

We have the most beautiful example of this from the earliest Christian church body in the book of Acts:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need….They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47

Now, I’ll be the first to admit…while this is how “the church” (not the physical building, but the group of people who follow Christ Jesus) should respond to the needs of each other…it’s so hard for me to accept. I know it is, in part, a pride thing, and I have had to repent of that, and God is teaching me how to be free from that sin.

I also believe the world in which we live now is an inward-thinking world much of the time. It’s easier to look within our own circles and focus on our own people rather than “get dirty” with those in pain, from ugly places, and (whoa) those who don’t believe in our Jesus!

But friends…let me tell you…it’s these very acts of serving each other that are being watched. It’s us “being the church” that gets noticed more than our Sunday morning worship in our “church clothes”. I have beautiful, lovely non-believing friends that are watching what you’re doing for me and my family and are in awe! I keep saying “…they are simply being the hands and feet of Jesus! He is here in spirit…these people are His flesh.” They are watching.

I’ve been praying Joel’s death would not be in vain. That we would not have to lose a husband, daddy, brother, friend, uncle, and co-worker at such a young age from something so senseless unless God can be amazingly glorified through his death more than He could have been through his life. I don’t know how that’s going to “play out” just yet, but I believe with all that is in me God is using this platform to set the stage for some amazing miracles to play out before our very eyes.

Keep watching. Keep serving. And…I’ll work on being receptive to your tangible love to our family (still so hard to be on the receiving end than the giving end, though). I know Joel has the best seat in the house right now, and he is smiling at what is taking place.

I continue to have people ask how they can help our family in tangible ways. I’m going to try to create a list so that it’s all in one place. I’ll have a tab on my blog here soon (hopefully later today), and I’ll be sure to update when it’s ready to go. UPDATE: It’s ready – just click HERE.

Above all, the greatest need we have is prayer. Deep intercessory prayer for protection, wisdom, provision, and peace! Thank you friends! You are incredible!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I May Never Wash My Sheets Again

I’m not the filthy kind of person the title of this post might lead you to believe. There’s a reason for my resolve to not wash my sheets again (at least for now). My husband and I last slept within those sheets together the night he went to the hospital…his last night in our bed. While his scent is dissipating, which makes me so incredibly sad, at least I know his body touched those same sheets, and for some crazy reason…that gives me comfort.

You might think, “that woman is out of her mind!” And…in some ways, you might be right. Grief has a way of doing that to people. I remember that all-too-clearly after my first widow experience. In the same way, grief has a way of showing you it doesn’t really matter what people think (most of the time). If it’s not hurting anyone, and it’s not in this case, then who cares! Yes – I’ll eventually wash the sheets. But, for now…I’m content to have that little piece of Joel still close to me (at least in my feeble way of thinking).

I still sleep on “my side of the bed”, but now I drift a little over to his area and snuggle his pillow instead of him. Not the same. I still make up our bed every single morning, but now I do it alone instead of together with my prince. So many changes. Too many changes.

The unity that comes with marriage is suddenly broken with death…at least physically. But, the unity of the heart – at least one-sided now – is still there. I guess that keeps me constantly looking for ways to keep “us” alive. For now, sleeping on dirty sheets is one of the ways. Bear with me…

 

Monday, March 6, 2017

You Not Die Mommy?

Those words from my little three-year-old blonde bundle pierced my heart this morning, “You not die Mommy?”

I carried him into preschool as those very words came from his lips. I stopped in my tracks.

I’ve had some very difficult drop-offs with Austyn lately at school. He loves going there, and this didn’t happen until after Joel went to Heaven. I’ve left that place many a time with tears streaming down my face, begging God to let me just take him back home. But, God hasn’t revealed a way for that to happen yet. In the meantime, we trudged through the difficult drop off mornings.

This morning…those words illuminated my little man’s fear and pain. He might only be three-years-old, but he gets it. Loss, that is. He may not remember his birth parents, since we’ve been part of his life since he was six months old, but he remembers his adoptive daddy…the one who sang him to sleep most nights, who changed his diapers, who taught him to build things with Play-Doh, and who wrestled with him on the floor most evenings. He also remembers Daddy went to Heaven to live with Jesus 22 days ago.

And now…he wants to know if Mommy is leaving him too. It took everything in me to hold my composure when he asked me that question this morning. But, the tears are pouring now as I type these words.

The truth…I didn’t know how to answer him. If I told him the truth in that moment, would I increase his fear of losing his mommy? If I lied to him, will he one day not trust the promises I make him?

Holy Spirit…please give me the words to speak in this situation…now!

Austyn…mommy plans to be here to pick you up this afternoon. Mommy will not die until God says it’s time for me to go to Heaven, but I believe He wants me to be your Mommy for quite awhile. So, put a smile on that face, have a great day, and look forward to mommy coming to get you this afternoon!

That’s it friends…I had nothing else to offer in that moment. But, he seemed content with that response, and it was the best drop off we’ve had in the last 22 days.

Abba – please let my children know you intimately as Daddy right now, as I am simply not enough.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Last Words We Shared

I’ll never forget the last conversation I had with my precious Joel. Those words will both forever bless me and haunt me.

The conversation was beside his bed in the ICU. He drew me in close. We both knew the ventilator would be inserted soon, and we didn’t know how long it would be before we’d be able to exchange precious words again (little did I know then…those would be the last words we’d ever share this side of eternity).

He told me a few housekeeping type things that would be helpful in case he were in the hospital for a few days…little did we know. Then, he started to pray…with tears streaming down his face. I won’t go into the details of his prayer, because that will remain forever between the two of us. However…some of the things he included…(1) asking God to spare his life to be available to me to help parent our newest adopted children, (2) asking for forgiveness of all his sins, and (3) asking God to be ever by my side.

Soon after he prayed with me, one of the surgeons walked into the room – a man he knew from working with him in the same hospital system. I’ll never forget the words spoken between the two of them:

Joel: “Doctor…please do all that you can to save my life. We have four little children back home, in addition to our older children. I need to be here for them and for Leah.”

The doctor: “Hey buddy…keep your chin up. It’ll be okay.”

Very few words were spoken between us after that. The ventilator was inserted. Tubes were run all over his body. Medications were administered as often as they could.

And…a little over twelve hours later…my beloved was gone.

This picture was taken looking into the very room where my husband and I last prayed together and where his spirit departed for his Heavenly home. The exact time of this photo was shortly before the failed attempt was made to move him to a larger hospital facility. They were getting him ready, but he coded and was no longer a candidate for transport.