Tuesday, May 23, 2017

100 Days – Part 1

You know the trend these days for teachers and their students to celebrate 100 days of school attendance? Typically the celebration involves bringing 100s of various items, and these various items might be used in math games, crafts, etc.

Today I celebrate a different set of 100 days. Today marks the 10oth day since Joel went to Heaven. He’s been in the physical presence of his our Savior for 100 days! Glory! In honor of this day, I’ve created my own “collection of 100”. We’ve had a lot of pain these last 100 days, but this list is to focus on all of the good and glorious things we’ve experienced first-hand or witnessed or heard about as a result of Joel’s death. Since this will end up being a much longer-than-normal post for me, I’m splitting it into two different posts. Today will reveal the first 50 of the 100 glorious and good experiences we’ve had since Joel went Home to Heaven 100 days ago. Check back tomorrow for the remaining 50!

  1. Two of Joel’s sons accepted Jesus as their personal Savior (Benjamin and Josiah)!
  2. All of our little children have been more inquisitive about Heaven and have no fear of death.
  3. God has continued to meet all of our financial needs.
  4. Our Asheville house sold (contract came two weeks after Joel’s death).
  5. We were gifted an all-expenses paid week of vacation to Walt Disney World this July.
  6. I’ve drawn closer to my bonus children (Joel’s bio children) since his death.
  7. Our yard has been mowed and weed-eated every week.
  8. Plants have been planted and the weeding of our natural areas has taken place.
  9. We’ve been fed meals since the day Joel went home to Heaven.
  10. We’ve had our house cleaned several times by friends and strangers.
  11. A group of men from a neighboring church came and cleaned out our garage on a major level.
  12. My bonus son and daughter and their spouses spent an entire weekend at our home doing all sorts of projects.
  13. One of our garage doors wouldn’t open, so a new friend simply fixed it.
  14. I’ve had a precious nanny to help with the children each weekday morning and evening for nearly two months, and it’s been completely funded by people, many of whom I’ve never met in person.
  15. A local church has taken us in and completely cared for us. They are living out God’s mandate for the church to care for widows (and orphans). They have shown love to us in many ways.
  16. God has been boldly teaching me some things from His Word about many of the things He’s working on in my life as a widow.
  17. Our pool was opened and taken care of at the start of the season by new friends in the area. (I’m slowly learning how to be a pool owner.)
  18. A local pool supply store has been so good to us and is working with me to try to save money at every angle. Such a personal touch and already considers me an “insider” and “friend” due to the others who have been there speaking on our behalf.
  19. The children LOVE their new school and have adapted very well.
  20. Katerina attended her first Special Olympics and won a blue ribbon.
  21. I’ve sold more copies of my Rescued and Restored book since Joel went to Heaven than all previously months combined.
  22. Josiah has really stepped up in his roll in our family. He’s an amazing big brother and really tries to help me out with the little kids. While his help is most needed, I also want him to simply be a kid, so we’re both learning balance in this area.
  23. I know the Lord deeper today than I did 100 days ago.
  24. When Joel died in February, I hardly knew anyone in this community. Now…my community of support in my new town nearly rivals my support in my hometown of Asheville. AMAZING!
  25. The temporary beds we had for Josiah and Benjamin when we moved in finally bit the dust. I found two new beds for them, and a group of guys were gracious enough to put them together for me/them!
  26. A precious work friend and her husband came and took the kids out for an afternoon at a local park so I could get some much needed “Mommy time”.
  27. Three separate families in Asheville kept my children for a weekend so that I could be available to work with my bonus kiddos on the house projects they drove from out of town to complete on our behalf.
  28. I had a wreck in April, but praise God nobody was seriously injured, as both vehicles were totaled!
  29. In addition to the many meals we’ve had provided, we’ve had a lot of freezer meals donated for both dinners and breakfasts.
  30. The kids have received some precious “just because” gifts to lift their moods.
  31. I received a gift bag containing 40 gifts, one to open each day – to provide encouragement in these dark days. I’m still in the middle of opening the gifts from this blessing!
  32. I’ve received an enormous amount of “thinking about you” cards! What a blessing for me to receive, as this is one of my major love languages.
  33. My mother-in-law kept my children for three days during Spring Break to allow me time to have to myself and to be able to get some things done that might be hard to do with little feet around.
  34. Flowers – another love language of mine. I’ve received them on my doorstep anonymously as well as brought in by new friends or sent by delivery service.
  35. Joel and I bought a trampoline for our family on Black Friday last year. He had planned to put it together this Spring. My precious son-in-law, Wes, put it together for our family instead.
  36. A precious friend painted the most amazing painting of my husband and sent it to me as a gift. It now hangs in my office, and I smile each time I walk into that room.
  37. Another widow friend came to spend the weekend with my family and cooked meals for us, entertained the kids and spent time simply talking with me. Thank you LeAnn!
  38. My best friend, Kandi, came and spent every weekend with me until late April when we both had all kinds of crazy things going on. What a blessing to count on her presence each weekend…lonely and difficult times for me.
  39. A sweet friend organized a gift card drive for my family, and it was an enormous gift, and we continue to reap the blessings of her selfless efforts. Thank you Heather!
  40. Many ladies’ groups, families, small groups, and work groups have banded together to collect funds to help with the immediate financial needs as we work out the legal aspects of the loss of our Joel. What an immense blessing. This is in addition to the GoFundMe account that was set up on behalf of our family. We are astounded at how God is using so many people to care for us in these dark days.
  41. I’ve had the privilege of connecting with a financial advisor in my new church, who I feel very good about going to, and it doesn’t hurt that his wife has become a precious friend as well.
  42. Benjamin has learned to read, albeit basic, but he’s learning nonetheless…Joel would be so proud.
  43. Katerina can verbally spell her name now. That would be such music to Joel’s ears.
  44. Austyn wants to take care of his mommy as only a 3-year-old knows how to do. His reasoning…when daddy comes to “visit ” us…he’ll be so proud of Austyn. 🙁 Breaks my heart!
  45. Austyn’s 3rd birthday took place 9 days after his daddy went to Heaven. I had a special “Thomas the Train” party planned for him but failed to get it done on account of his daddy’s sudden death. My workplace stepped in and took care of my little boy with a precious party at Hickory Dickory Dock! He love it, and it blessed my heart to see him so happy and enjoying his special day.
  46. We had a similar situation happen again in March with Josiah. I just couldn’t physically and emotionally pull his party together. I had my third (unexpected) foot surgery the day before his party and two others earlier in the month. My precious bonus daughter, Amy, offered to plan and orchestrate the entire event. What a precious gift! Josiah (and the rest of the kids) had a blast!
  47. On two different occasions, a group of ladies planned a time of praise and worship and scripture reading at my house, during my most difficult days post-foot surgery recovery. It was a blessing to corporately worship the Lord together, especially since I was unable to travel to church at the time.
  48. I had the privilege of spending the morning with a previous elderly widow (now remarried after decades of being a widow). She and her second husband continue the missionary work begun by each of them in their previous marriages. She was such a blessing to have in my home. We both cried together, and her tears just glistened on her cheeks, as she smiled so largely each time she mentioned the Lord.
  49. Prayers of healing have been prayed over me in person and from afar from some of the most God-fearing individuals I’ve ever met.
  50. Automobile oil changes have been taken care of for me during my first weeks of this second journey of widowhood.

And that’s just the first half…

Reminder: check back here tomorrow to see how God has continued to bless our family even through this horrific tragedy. #HeIsStillGood

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nurse Tonya

Last week, I had a minor procedure done in conjunction with a series of tests to rule out some issues I’ve been having with severe nausea and eating difficulties. I know grief can cause a host of things to take place in our bodies, and I just assumed that’s what was happening. However, I met with my nutritionist a couple weeks ago, and she was a bit alarmed after some lab results and referred me to my doctor’s office for further evaluation. And…thus the tests began!

I was in the outpatient area of a hospital in Asheville, being prepared to be put to sleep briefly. My nurse, Tonya, was extraordinary…on so many levels. I could tell she spent more time than normal with me, and I couldn’t put my finger on the “why”, however at some point in our conversation…the fact I lost my precious husband in February came up. When I shared the news with her, you could see she was genuinely touched and her eyes welled up with tears.

She knew I was traversing a difficult journey, as it was, but to add in medical testing compounded the problem. He should have been the one there with me that day…my driver to take me home post an anesthesia appointment. Instead, a lovely new friend volunteered to be at my house at 5:00 am that morning to drive me to Asheville and stay at the facility until time to take me home. What love from someone I barely know! And yet…I grieved my Joel that much more, knowing it should have been him.

As a result, I was weepier than normal. I was in the prep room with my nurse and not my husband, and when she got the story of my husband’s death…we both cried. But that wasn’t the end…she asked to pray for me. That happens a lot in hospital settings from chaplains and visiting pastors but from my nurse…that was a new one for me! She was interrupted twice by medical professionals needing to talk with me prior to my procedure, but she pressed on, and eventually she prayed the most beautiful and powerful prayer over me! I was so blessed that day to be her patient, and I commend her for trusting her instincts and the Holy Spirit guidance she received that morning to spend more time with me and to ultimately pray with me.

Last week was “Nurses Week”, and I was blessed by Nurse Tonya. She’ll probably never read this, as I don’t even know her last name. But, she impacted my day in a large way, and I pray God blesses her mightily for her obedience!

As for the tests, I know nothing yet. So, I’ll keep on keeping on…

#HeIsStillGood

Friday, May 19, 2017

I Said Yes!

On this day, five years ago, I said YES…when my Prince Joel got down on one knee and asked me to be his bride!

We had taken a little drive to my favorite place in the whole world…the beach! I thought we were just going to relax on the sand, take in a few ocean views, and head home. Boy was I wrong! While we did all those things…Joel had so much more planned!

I laugh now, when I think about how fidgety he was early in the day. We were trying to find a place to eat lunch, and for some reason…we just couldn’t make a decision. At. All. Joel seemed all bent out of shape and not like himself. I kept asking if something was wrong, and he just kept saying, “Nothing is going like I planned!” Ha! Come to find out later…the ring was in his pocket, and each time he thought he had the perfect timing figured out to the pop the question…something would stop him.

The perfect timing came later…much later. We held hands that evening as we walked through the cool sand created by the night ocean air. The seaside breeze blew through my hair, and I could only imagine my version of Heaven would look something like this.

We laughed. We talked. I could tell Joel’s mood had relaxed immensely. All was well with my world in that moment. And then…he stopped. He turned and looked at me with those crystal blue eyes I could still see by moonlight. The words he spoke in that moment will forever be between Joel and me, but soon after he dropped to one knee, pulled out a beautiful diamond, and asked me to marry him.

My answer…well, you know what that was…of course, I would marry him! We both started crying happy tears and hugged until we couldn’t hug anymore. Was this really happening to me? God truly was redeeming the years the locusts had eaten as the prophet Joel spoke of so many years ago in God’s Word. How fitting the man soon to be husband was also named Joel!

My hopeless romantic man then got down into the sand and carved two hearts with this finger. One with the date we became engaged and one with the date we just agreed to be our wedding date (August 25, 2012). And…with that…my life was about to get very exciting!

 

If I knew then I would have less than five years with this incredible man and would go through gut-wrenching heartache upon his untimely passing, would I have still agreed to marry him? Undoubtedly YES! These nearly five years were some of the best of my life. We lived so much life together, and I went from a mom of one beautiful daughter to the mom/bonus mom of nine incredible kiddos. I wouldn’t trade any of that…even if it means my heart had to shatter into a million pieces. Love requires that sometimes.

Just ask God when He had to turn His own back on His son for the penalty of our sins to be paid.

#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