Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Why Going to Wendy’s Made Me Cry

Wendy'sJoel and I actually met online (Christian Mingle, to be exact). Yes – we were one of those couples. Wink! Wink! It was a fantastic experience, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Anyway…we actually “met” online followed by emails which escalated to phone calls…before we ever met in person.

I’ll never forget the day we actually met for the first time. Joel gave me NO warning. I was on the road traveling back from work (or some place like that), and he said, “How about now?” I tried to “stall” him by saying I needed a shower, but he wouldn’t accept that answer. He wanted to meet me in my everyday “mom appearance” ragged or not…he didn’t care. He didn’t want some beefed up, made up version of my true self. Looking back, I really respect that. At the time, it made me a nervous wreck. I hesitantly agreed. My hesitation wasn’t in meeting him, I was more than ready for that. It was in the fact I couldn’t go “date ready”.

He lived a little over an hour from me, so we agreed to meet at the Wendy’s in Black Mountain, NC, which would be more central for both of us. From that point, we would decide where to go eat (no…not Wendy’s).

I’ll never forget that day. He arrived first and was pulled into a space close to the drive-thru area. I circled the building and pulled in right beside him. My heart started beating so fast, as I got out of the car to give him a hug and touch him for the first time. (My heart is still beating faster just typing this.). We decided to leave my car there, and he would drive us to the little Thai restaurant down the street we had agreed upon for dinner.

The evening was absolutely delightful, and I could tell he was exactly who he portrayed to be in the emails and phone calls. I always loved that aspect of online dating. By the time we actually got to meet each other, we felt we already knew each other, in many respects. We had spent hours upon hours chatting about those things most important to us, so we had conversation to build upon in person. It was an incredible evening.

After dinner, he drove me back to my car at Wendy’s, where we both parted ways and went back to our homes. It wouldn’t be many more months later before we were Mr. and Mrs. and never had to part ways again (that is, until February 12, 2017).

I’ve been by that Wendy’s many times. Joel and I actually had lunch there with the kids a couple months before he passed away, and we shared that story with them. It was such a special lunch, as we also met a retired Marine veteran who had lost his wife about a year prior. Joel teared up listening to the man’s story, and ended up giving him a little monetary gift before we left. We let him join our family for lunch, and he got to hear the story of the kids’ adoption, our meeting (at that very location), etc. What a treasured day.

Not too soon after Joel died, I drove by that Wendy’s and noticed it had been closed. Torn apart, actually. What?!?!?! I was so heartbroken, at the time. I thought…how fitting…my sweet Joel is gone, might as well take the other things that have meaning to me. I know…a depressing thought, but I just sat there and cried and cried. Seeing our Wendy’s, now gone, brought me to an ugly cry.

I then noticed the sign. While I no longer remember the exact words, I remember it said something about being rebuilt or remodeled and would be back soon. OK…so it was getting a complete re-working, inside and out. Much like myself, in some ways. I was torn apart after Joel’s death, and little-by-little, God is remodeling me, from the inside out. Somedays, it feels like no work is taking place, but then there are those days I can feel His presence so strongly and can literally feel the evidence of His re-working.

As for the Wendy’s, the remodel is complete (see top pic). It’s beautiful, and we’ve recently been back to visit. For me, I’m a much longer ongoing project. I’ll actually be a lifetime re-working, but maybe the evidences of God’s remodeling will start being evident soon to those watching from the outside. Even more…I long for the day I can feel the re-working in myself too!

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Road-tripping Solo with Four Kids – Did I Survive?

Road-tripping solo with four kids is in the books! While we’ve had several mini day trips and a couple overnighters, this was our first two-nighter, out-of-state, major road-tripping event without daddy, and we I survived…barely.

My survival was, no doubt, directly tied to the numerous prayers lifted up on behalf of many Facebook friends. I sent out a quick plea for help, and you all were too quick to step up to the plate on our behalf. And, for that, I thank you immensely. I can’t imagine what our trip would have been like without your prayers, because with your prayers, it was still a bit challenging.

Our challenges always include the pink bucket. You know the kind…the type the hospital gives out whenever you’re incarcerated admitted for an overnight stay. It’s the one the nurses often use to give you a bed bath with or to store all your toiletries.

For our family, it’s become the infamous “puke bucket” for our extremely motion sick little Bulgarian princess. Poor Katerina can’t catch a break. It probably didn’t help that we had to travel “the gorge” between North Carolina and Tennessee, making all the twists and turns that are much more stomach-unsettling. She did her best, but…she had to use the bucket three times. THREE times. The last was right as we were pulling up to the wedding parking lot.

Road-tripping with my four kids, wedding style

Yes…I took my children to a wedding. Granted, this was actually their second US wedding to attend, as their older brother got married a few weeks after they arrived in the US in 2015. However, these are pretty different kiddos from the ones we had back then.

Anyway…the wedding was set for 6:00 pm…an outdoor setting. What time did we arrive? You guessed it. 6:00 pm. I was so appalled. My son-in-law’s little sister was getting married, and we were honored to be able to attend. I drilled my children with proper wedding etiquette and the consequences of not following the mom-addressed guidelines. However, I never realized I would have to reprimand myself for arriving after the entire bridal party was at the altar and just before the bride walked down the aisle. Thankfully, we were able to see the cutest little flower girl and ring bearer (who just so happen to be my grandchildren). Otherwise, the reprimand to myself would have been even worse.

No need to punish the children for misbehaving during the actual ceremony, as they did phenomenal! I was so proud of them. Then, it was time to just cut loose. Benjamin shared with the world, “This is the best party EVAH!” All of my children (with the exception of Josiah) LOVE to dance, and they never stopped! Josiah, was quite content, to play corn hole with some “big kids” he met. So, all-in-all, your prayers were evident.

Benjamin, Katerina, and Amy on the dance floor, road-tripping style

As for me, attending my first wedding as a new widow was going to be tough. I knew that. I did remarkably well during the ceremony but lost it a couple times during the reception when different songs came on that reminded me of Joel or simply of his absence. That hole in my heart is still very large.

The rest of the road-tripping weekend was large as well…large fun! We intended to go to the Gatlinburg Aquarium, but the traffic (inside the building and outside) was simply too much. The kids were content to go back to the hotel and swim for the rest of the afternoon. We were joined by Amy and Wes and their two kiddos, and we had a blast spending the afternoon in the pool (me with my new fancy foot covering device and all). We followed that with a dinner out in Pigeon Forge and quick goodbyes until we see them again in a few weeks. We’d be road-tripping back home beginning the next morning.

Road-tripping hotel swim time

All-in-all, I survived another “first”. Actually, I more than survived. I thrived. That was confirmed on two occasions: 1) When Josiah told me, “Thank you for taking us places, Mom!” and 2) Upon Benjamin’s exclamation of the wedding/reception being the best party “evah”. They loved it! Therefore, I did too.

#HeIsStillGood

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I Desperately Needed to Talk…So I Tried to Call You

TalkTalk…I just needed to talk, so I tried to call you, but you didn’t answer my call. I wanted to talk about the somewhat shocking information I just received. And then I remembered…you’re not here anymore.

No, I’m not going crazy (yet). I simply can’t tell you the number of times I’ve actually picked up my phone to call or text Joel regarding something I wanted to share with him or ask his opinion on or something of the sort. While I’ve never actually gone through with it like my opening sentence might suggest, I’ve actually come very close.

One of the many difficulties of losing my spouse has also been losing my best friend at the same. Joel was my go-to guy. The one I would talk to about everything. He was my sounding board, my voice of reason, and my chief decision maker when we couldn’t come to a mutual agreement on something. He was very wise and calculated each major decision he made.

Just the other day, I received some information I really needed to discuss with him. But, he wasn’t there…

My heart just ached over the reminder of how deep his loss truly is in my life. I miss Joel’s physical presence terribly. At times like this, that loss feels physically numbing. Temporarily paralyzed, I just sit trying to think…what am I going to do now?

Prayer. Yes…I know the ultimate answer. I obviously pray, and I even ask others to join me. It’s something Joel and I did together quite often. I’m not avoiding the obvious; I’m just pointing out the reality of missing my chief prayer partner.

I just so needed to hear his voice in the moment. I needed to be able to discuss the pros and cons with him. I just wanted to TALK TO HIM!!! And then I remembered…

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Want Off!

I love rollercoasters. There’s just something about the thrill of speed, twists and turns, and the abrupt ending that excites me. I’ve been this way my whole life. I get carsick so easily, but put me on a rollercoaster, and I can ride it over and over with no ill effects. Strange, but true.

The grief “rollercoaster” is another story, however. It makes me sick. Emotionally, mentally, and physically. Sometimes, the twisting and turning of this type of “ride” literally has me on my knees in front of a toilet. I’m not trying to be graphic or disgusting…just real. Last night was one of those nights. My mind goes into overdrive with memories and lost dreams, and it has the power, at times, to make me physically sick. I hate it. I want off this rollercoaster!

I have no idea why I can do so well for a few days and then get saddled with deep, intense pain all over again. It’s just the non-linear aspect of grief. Sometimes I can see it coming…my motivation to do anything drops off, my appetite is virtually non-existent, I spend my days wanting to just sleep…simply put, depression increases. But there are the times I am blindsided by it too. That was last night. I was doing okay and…bam! I felt like I had just been run over.

I can’t stop the increasing painful heartache. It feels like my heart is being shattered all over again. Pictures from the night Joel went Home keep flashing in my brain. I start thinking…could I have done anything differently? What if… That’s when it overwhelms me to the point of physically getting sick.

There is nothing I can do to make the pain go away. I just have to ride it out. This is when my prayers turn into two-word mumblings again, “Help me!” Thankfully, I know the Holy Spirit is interceding for me (Romans 8:26). I know these days won’t last forever, but they feel so incredibly long when they come.

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the things happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” ~C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 12, 2017

Three Months

Hard to believe Joel took his last breath on earth and his first breath in Heaven three months ago today. And…the pain of watching that with my own eyes will never go away. The precious respiratory therapist (who happened to be a co-worker of his) was so gentle and sweet with him as she removed the ventilator. As the ventilator came out, so did his last breath. That was it. His time here on earth was over. I had one hand on his chest (begging God for more breaths) and one hand on his head, caressing his hair.

As protocol, two nurses have to check for a heartbeat before calling time of death. They walked in and did their “duty”. I saw the look on their faces, and I knew…his life here was over. And…in that moment, I felt mine was too.

I laid my head on the side of his bed, and I have no idea how long I was there, but I was told by friends I remained in a trance-like position for quite awhile. I was in shock. Literally. I just couldn’t stop staring at him. MY HUSBAND HAD JUST DIED!!!! And, I honestly wasn’t ready to believe it. I think, subconsciously, I prayed things would miraculously change. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead…I never doubted ANYTHING was possible. But in Joel’s case, He went Home to Heaven in the first hour of February 12.

Eventually I rose from the side of his bed, and I walked to the ICU waiting room, and I knew it was over. Just like that. Joel’s life was over. My marriage was over. My children were fatherless (some of them for the second time), and I had no idea how I was going to survive this. But…I know my God, and with Him all things are possible.

Now, three months later…I’m still grieving…some days pretty heavily. Joel’s absence has left a hole in my heart that might never be repaired. I physically ache over his absence. I struggle to sleep at times, because I so badly want to talk to him about my day, my dreams, the things the kids are doing, decisions I need to make and prefer to discuss with him. But…he’s not here.

I often repeat, in my mind, those days in the hospital. Could I have done something differently that would have allowed him to still be here? The enemy constantly plays those games with me…games of condemnation (which I know are NOT of God). It was Joel’s time to go home, but it doesn’t stop my mind from wondering…what if…

I want to be better. I want to heal from the oppression of grief. But, I know – realistically – it’s only been three months. I expect too much, but the pain hurts so badly…I just want it gone!

As Mother’s Day is coming up…followed by Father’s Day…I dread the absence of His presence. Nobody will understand the pain of that absence but me. I’m sure others will grieve, especially family members…but, he was MY husband…the father to my adopted children and my step-children and the step-father to my own biological daughter. And…he’s not here!

Pardon my anger! Pardon my grief! Pardon my loneliness! Pardon my heartache! I just hurt, and I’m trying to keep it real and not tie every post up in a pretty bow. Even so…nobody, and I mean nobody, can shake my faith. God is good…all the time! His plans are always better! And, He has never failed me yet!

#HeIsStillGood