Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Lesson My Son Taught Me

We just finished supper at our neighborhood Taco Bell. Not something we do often (McDonald’s is closer), but it was a special occasion. What was the occasion? It was Monday evening, and Mommy forgot to plan supper! Seriously.

I finally wrangled all of the kiddos into the car, and we were getting ready to pull out of the parking lot when Josiah started saying something over and over about the poor lady. The other kids were drowning him out with their chatter, but he finally got my attention.

“Mommy, she’s poor. Look at her holding the sign. Can you give her some money?” He pointed to the woman on the corner of the shopping center exit.

I couldn’t believe he even understood what that was all about. Where had he learned this? This is my child who, along with his two siblings, was living in an orphanage in Bulgaria just 20 months ago. When I asked him how he knew about people holding up signs and things of that sort, he reminded me I had explained that to them before. Oh… How could I have forgotten that? Widow brain is alive and well it appears.

I knew I didn’t have any cash on me, something I rarely carry anymore. However, my son kept asking what I was going to do for her, so I checked my purse and wallet…just to make sure. This time, my memory was spot on. No cash.

I told Josiah I had nothing to give her, but I would be sure to get some cash to keep in the car for these types of occasions from now on. He then asked me how I paid for dinner. Smart kid apparently didn’t accept my answer. I reminded him I paid with a card that worked like cash. His next response was completely unexpected.

“Mommy, I have money in my bank at home. Can you drive me home to get it, and I’ll give her that?”

How do you respond to your 9-year-old former orphan wanting to take money out of his piggy bank to give to the sign-holding lady on the corner of the shopping center? I was honestly taken aback. At this point, I knew God expected me to respond.

I’ll admit I pass by many of those people without ever making an effort to do anything for them. Not because I’m not willing, but because I never have cash and don’t ever seem to bother to think of what else I might have. I know some sign-holders might not be doing it for the right reason, but that’s not up to me to determine. If God prompts me to do something, it’s up to me to obey. This time, the prompting came through my son.

I decided to dig deeper into my wallet. I thought I had some gift cards in there I had been using to shop with. Certainly there was something left on them. The first one I picked up was for Walmart. We happened to be just next door to a Walmart at this particular time. I called the number on the back of my card to check my balance…zero. Nothing left.

Ok, Lord! I sense I’m to do something for this lady. What do you want me to do? Go to the bank and get something out? A gift card? Please direct me here. I don’t want to disappoint Josiah.

I had one more gift card in my wallet. It was a VISA gift card. Again, I called the number on the back to check my balance. This time…$23.87 was the response. I knew He was asking me to give it to her.

“Okay son, I’ve got something with some money available on it,” I shared with Josiah.

“So, are you going to give it to her?” he asked me.

Still a bit unsure, I responded, “I think so. I need to make sure I can get close enough to her, but as long as I can safely do that, I’m going to give it to her.”

We pulled out of Taco Bell’s parking lot and headed to the exit. I was able to pull up right beside the lady. She looked at me with pleading eyes before I ever rolled down my passenger window. As I started to do so, she hurried over to the van, and I simply said, “I’m sorry I don’t have cash, but I have this card with $23.87, and you can have it.”

She immediately responded. “God bless you!” And, as we drove away, I heard her start to pray, “Heavenly Father, thank you for what you’ve just done…” Her voice drifted off, and I heard nothing else as we were out of earshot at that point.

I looked back in my rearview mirror at Josiah, and he was grinning from ear to ear.

“Was that okay Josiah? Did mommy do what you hoped I would do?”

He nodded, while still grinning.

I simply thanked him for pointing her out to me early enough to allow me time to try to find something to give her. We then had the discussion about how everything we have belongs to God. Everything. He simply loans it to us while we’re on earth. I told him how I knew God was pleased with him, and he would be blessed for being obedient.

Thank you Abba for this gift of my son and for continually teaching me through the eyes of these former orphans. I stand amazed!

#HeIsStillGood

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Struggling Single Parent

single parent

I’ve really been struggling to post lately. Let me rephrase that…

I’ve been struggling. Period.

This season of my grief journey has blindsided me a bit. I should have seen it coming. Unlike most widows or widowers, I’ve sadly been down this road before. I learned during my first grief episode all about the non-linear aspect of grief (much to my disappointment). I’m the type of person that likes to check a box…that feeling of accomplishment…and then move on to the next task. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way with grief. Just when I think I’ve made some headway, I feel like I’m back to square one. There’s nothing, in particular, which causes that, making it even tougher to predict. Sometimes it can be a series of things that catapults me backwards (or what feels like a backwards move to me). Even so…it’s where I’ve been since returning from my amazing trip to the Outer Banks.

For me, the single parenting aspect of this grief journey has been the toughest, by far. Not only do I still have our four youngest children at home, but we had adopted all four of them within just a little over a year prior to Joel’s death (and the adoption of one wasn’t complete until four months prior to his death, although we had parented him the longest). With adoption, there are significant challenges in and of themselves that often make two-parent families curl up in a ball in a corner at times. It’s tough friends. We were highly educated for this. We knew what we could face, and we had been not only surviving it but truly thriving (even on the difficult days). And, with God’s help…we were doing it…TOGETHER! Now…I’m both mommy and “daddy” to them. And, let me tell you, I do NOT make a good “daddy”.  I know I’m not the only single parent in the world. I know I’m not the only single parent of special needs children. I know I’m not the only single parent of special needs children who just lost their daddy too (truly, I’m not). But, knowing that, although comforting in a twisted sort of way, doesn’t take away my real day-to-day needs.

Most of those are needs that can only be met by God Himself: parenting wisdom, loneliness, anger, sadness, confusion, emotional and physical drain, and much more. I am often asked, “What do you need?” Truly…I can’t answer that question most of the time. Due to my physical and emotional exhaustion…I can’t think past the next moment many times. I continue to say the greatest gift you can do is seek the Lord with that question and simply do whatever He instructs you to do. He knows our every need. For example, just two nights ago, I received a phone call from an Asheville friend who felt urged to simply give me a call. That phone call was such a blessing to me. It was simply full of encouragement, understanding, and listening (even through my tears). She didn’t pretend to understand what I am walking through, but she understood pain. She understood grief. She understood parenting challenges. And…she understood in spite of my worst day, God is still central to everything I believe.

Even on these very difficult days I’ve been experiencing lately, I still say with everything in me…He. Is. Still. Good. I’m still waiting for a breakthrough, of sorts. I’m still waiting for come consecutive good days. I’m still waiting for God’s favor in many areas in which I’ve been consistently praying. Even if I don’t see these things for awhile, and even if I don’t see the answers in the way in which I expect them to be received…I believe with everything in me…

He. Is. Still. Good.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Changes…Big Ones…Are Coming – God Put the Bookends Up on Another Season

changes are comingBig changes are coming friends! As if our family needs anything else…right? Joel’s death, my three back-to-back foot surgeries, my car accident resulting in a totaled car, and adjusting to life as a single parent of four young children. What else you might ask? Isn’t that enough? Yes! I totally agree with you. But, this time…it wasn’t totally up to me.

To bring you up-to-speed with the calendar of events as they’ve unfolded:

Feb 9 – Joel was admitted to the hospital

Feb 12 – Joel went Home to Heaven

Mar 10 – Leah’s tarsal tunnel release surgery

Mar 15 – Leah’s planned return to work date

Mar 17 – Leah’s 2nd emergency foot surgery (unable to return to work – foot complications complete with a baseball-sized blood clot)

Mar 31 – Leah’s 3rd emergency foot surgery (wound vac installed – no work anytime soon); home health nursing every other day

Apr 13 – Leah’s car accident – totaled Joel’s car

May 18 – Upper endoscopy

May 19 – Upper GI

May 30 – Results from May 18 and 19 procedures appear to be leading to another surgery (NOT foot related this time, Hallelujah!)

June 6 – Released from foot surgery drama to return to work at the radio station (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association owned station)!!!

Sounds complicated but pretty cut-and-dry at the same time, right? Well…not exactly.

I need to give you a little bit of the back story first.

I’ve worked at 106.9 the Light, based in Asheville, NC since May, 2011. However, I volunteered for the station for seven years prior to that (and was a devoted listener for many, many years prior to that). Let’s say we go back a long time. In 2007, I interviewed for a position with the ministry, and was offered the position at the station. I was all ready to accept the position when I sensed a nudging from the Holy Spirit saying, “Not yet.” I really tried to ignore Him, but the nudgings didn’t stop. I really wanted this position. It was my dream job in my dream organization. But, God made it clear…it wasn’t the right time.

Fast forward to the spring of 2011. The position was open again. I sensed the time was finally right for me to apply, and if God saw fit…He would open the door for an offer. An offer came…on the very day my previous husband, Chris, took his own life. God knew I would need the job then far more than I would have back in 2007. He was right.

Working for the BGEA, and specifically 106.9 the Light, has been more than a job. It’s been a calling, and my co-workers are my family. We’re a bunch of imperfect people doing the best ministry we can who happen to use a tool called radio to do it. Through these last six years, I can see how God called me to the station “for such a time as this”.

After taking some time off following Joel’s death, I planned to return to work on March 15 following my first (and preferably only) foot surgery. Well, as you can see from my timeline above, that didn’t happen. With each delay, I grew more and more weary and even more worried and confused.

God…what are you doing? You know how badly I need to be back at work. That’s my family! I need them now more than ever.

Not so fast, my daughter. I called you to that ministry, and I’m now releasing you from that call. The deaths of your husbands were the “bookends” for that season of your life. You fulfilled your calling in that ministry but not in life, in general. I am preparing you for a new season. 

No!!!! Please say it isn’t so, Lord! What am I going to do?

Wait on me. 

For how long? 

As long as it takes.

What’s next? 

As I said, wait on me. Haven’t I always met your needs? Trust Me in this. Your first priority now is to be a mom to these children that need you. It will be impossible for you to do that with a job so far from the community in which you now live. You need to be nearby to meet their needs. I’ll continue to lead you, step-by-step. I am far from finished with you daughter.

While our little chats weren’t audible (well…my part was…along with many tears and a bunch of whining, if truth be told), that’s the summary of how it ended up. I kept asking God why He allowed all the setbacks with my foot, and He’s made it clear that if He didn’t keep me down for as long as He did, I would have disobeyed and returned to work and not been prepared to step down from my position, as He’s clearly directed me to do.

With a full peace-filled heart, but many accompanying tears, I submitted my resignation and have returned to work just in time to wrap up my position and try to help as they transition to a new ministry team member. I’ll be there until July 14, and I intend to absorb every last ministry moment God gives me with this precious organization.

Another change. Another one that feels a bit unwelcome at the moment (like all the others before this one this year), but I trust God’s leading, and I know that I know that I know He’s sovereign, and His plan for the next chapter in my life is going to be great! Please pray for us through this time of “unknown”. Thank you so much dear ones!

#HeIsStillGood

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!