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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I’ve Been Doing This All Wrong!

In one of my favorite devotionals I tend to read year-after-year, Jesus Calling, I was nailed with this one yesterday morning…

Do not long for the absence of problems in your life. That is an unrealistic goal, since in this world you will have trouble (John 16:33). You have an eternity of problem-free living reserved for you in heaven. Rejoice in that inheritance, which no one can take away from you, but do not seek your heaven on earth. 

That last phrase knocked me right between the eyes…

“but do not seek your heaven on earth.”

That’s it. That’s what I’ve been doing since Joel abruptly went to Home to Heaven nearly three months ago.

I’ve been doing everything I can to make Heaven feel very, very close. Especially for my children. I don’t want them to be afraid of death, but I also don’t want them to miss out on this life while we have it. Balancing the two is tough when the one we love the most (second to Jesus) is in our eternal Home.

I tell friends all the time, “I LONG for Heaven.” Not in the sense I’m speaking morbidly and wish my life would end. Not at all. Rather, I long for this earthly chaotic mess to be transformed, which it will be when Christ returns and for me to be transported Home. THAT…I long for. I long for my eternal Home. And…watching this world get darker and darker and now not having my precious Joel by my side to share my struggles and dreams with; to plan out our days and future; to encourage each other; and to cuddle up beside him each night, feeling safe and secure in the comfort only his arms would bring…oh, how I long for Heaven!

I know God isn’t finished with me yet, or I’d be there already. I still have children that need to know Him as Savior. I still have a purpose He wants me to fulfill. While I know these things to be true…I still LONG to be with Him forever and to be reunited with my loves who have gone before me. Oh what a glorious day that will be!

Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Monday, May 8, 2017

His “Go Girl”

Joel always called his first-born, his precious daughter Amy, his “go girl”. I’ll be honest…I never asked the meaning behind the name. So, I don’t know what it meant between the two of them. But…she is definitely a go woman!

As another first-born, I can resonate greatly with many of the things Amy does, as there are many commonalities among first borns. She’s a great leader among her family. Although, her only biological siblings are boys, she still has the position of “leader” among her brothers, possessing that first-born status.

I remember the first time I met Amy…she was quite respectful of her dad’s new fiancee, as we met after Joel had already proposed to me. I’m sure it had to be an awkward moment (or season, in general). For me, I felt like I was going into this family as an underdog with a lot to “prove”, but Amy never made me feel that way. She and her husband, Wes, already had their first child – precious Noelle – who was 9 months old when I first met her. I fell in love with the little girl who would one day call me Grandma Leah for the first time and completely melt my heart. She still has the ability to do that (along with her little brother, Micah).

Amy has always treated me with respect, honor, and with great friendship. When I came onto the scene…she was already a happily married, adult woman and mother and didn’t need any mothering herself, but I was thrilled to gain a new friend…who just happened to be the first born of my new husband-to-be.

I could go on-and-on about the many exemplary qualities of Amy…incredible wife, stay-at home mom, part-time employee, crafty chica, follower and disciple of Christ, wise and loving big sister, athletic, free-spirited, and selfless in the way she cares for others…especially her family.

When I knew her daddy’s health was taking a downward turn, she asked me over the phone if she should come to the hospital (a 3 hour drive away from her home), and I said, “Yes!”. I didn’t know then he would be leaving us so soon for his heavenly home, but I knew his health was serious enough to have his “Go Girl” nearby…just in case. And…selfishly…I needed her there as a buffer for her brothers. I didn’t have the emotional capability to be strong any longer, and I knew she’d be able to communicate to them on my behalf.

And communicate she did.

She had the wisdom to FaceTime two of her brothers in from Oklahoma and another from London, England so that they could all be present when their daddy took his final breath on earth. As heartbreaking as it was to watch and be present for, I’m so thankful she offered that gift to her brothers.

Amy is strong…emotionally and physically. I’ll never forget the day she asked me if she could be a pall bearer for her daddy. I’ll be honest, I never even thought to offer that to her. I guess I’m of the old school thinking that men typically fulfill that role, but when she asked me…I knew “of course” Joel’s Go Girl needed to help carry him to his final resting place on this earth. It broke my heart but made me proud, all at the same time.

Amy is in the far back right position

Yesterday…she did it again. She and her family were at our house this weekend. I mentioned a patch of grass that was inadvertently missed the other day when a friend came to mow our grass. She quickly offered to do it herself and to take Austyn with her. I mentioned to her, “You know…the last time your dad mowed this grass, he took Austyn with him, and he fell asleep on his lap.” And…you know what…he did the same yesterday with his big sister.

I can’t thank God enough for this precious woman. The fact that she’s my step-daughter (I prefer to say “Bonus Daughter”) is just icing on the cake, but she’s a great friend, a loving big sister, and incredible wife and mother, and she’ll always be her daddy’s Go Girl!

I love you Amy!

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…