Thursday, June 1, 2017

His Last Father’s Day…Little Did We Know

Father's DayLittle did we know as we celebrated Father’s Day with Joel in 2016 with all but three of our kiddos in town, it would be his last. As we approach another first without our precious Joel/Daddy, it goes without saying, this one will probably sting quite a bit.

The first sting came early…about a week ago. Josiah came home from school after his class had been working on Father’s Day gifts. He was proud of what he made and said, “Well, since I don’t have a daddy, I’ll give this to __________.” (I can’t reveal the name, or the surprise will be ruined.) My heart was crushed as he said the words, “since I don’t have a daddy”.

I was so upset in that moment, I could hardly speak. I simply told him it was beautiful and thanked him for doing a good job. I also reminded him, he has a daddy in Heaven who is unable to talk to Josiah right now, but he also has THE Daddy in Heaven who he can talk to anytime he wants, knowing He hears every word. He smiled, and with that, the conversation was over…at least for that moment.

With Josiah’s early gift…I started thinking of all the other “issues” I might run into. For Mother’s Day, Austyn’s school invited all the mother’s to come spend time with their children at various events. They are already planning a similar set of activities for the fathers on the Friday before Father’s Day. I honestly don’t think I can send him to school that day. I know how elated he was when I arrived for my special day with him. I think it would utterly put him into a tailspin to be the only little boy in his class without his daddy there. Oh…grief simply sucks (pardon my crass word). And that’s not all…

Every single summer, the Stirewalt family has their annual reunion in June. Guess when it is this year? Yep…Father’s Day. On-the-one-hand, it will serve as a distraction. Uncle Gary’s pool will be open, and I’m sure everyone will have a blast. However, one of the missing Stirewalt men will be MOST evident on that day…at least to me. My heart is breaking all over again. I will do my best to bring a joy-filled face and attitude, but I will need lots of prayer warriors standing in the gap. Please Lord, let them remember us among their own celebrations.

#HeIsStillGood

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!