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!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Time to Catch Up

Thank you for all the love and prayers yesterday, as I remembered the 6th anniversary of Chris going to Heaven. It was a bittersweet day. I had an impromptu gathering with some dear friends (following a doctor’s appointment) who are mighty prayer intercessors, among many other gifts, and they blessed me deeply with much prayer. I cried many tears, but I truly believe they were tears of healing, and I know God collected each one (Psalm 56:8).

I’m sorry I’ve been quieter than I would I have liked here lately. There’s just been a lot going on…not all bad…just a lot. Let me quickly catch you up:

  • You may or may not know we still had our house on the market in Asheville when Joel went Home to Heaven. Paying two mortgages is tough enough, but losing the primary income in our family and having to deal with that is almost more than my feeble mind can take. Prior to Joel entering the hospital, we had a few showings but nothing seriously promising and definitely no offers. Less than two weeks after Joel died, I received an offer! And…the house closed last week! I am finally down to just one house again. Praise God!
  • My foot saga has NOT ended, but it’s looking much more promising. Just to recap, I was scheduled for a minor foot surgery revision (of a surgery from seven years ago). It went fine…or so we thought. A week later, I had an emergency second surgery to try to stop the source of the bleeding, and a baseball sized blood clot was removed. Two more weeks passed, with very little healing taking place, and the wound splits wide open! Back in for surgery just over a day later. At that time (on March 31), a wound vac was installed. It was AMAZING! If you’re not familiar with wound vac therapy, look it up…it really is astounding. I say all that to say…it did it’s job and was removed last Thursday. Now, we’re waiting for the rest of the wound to close…hopefully not too much longer. Needless to say, three foot surgeries during the month of March while heavily grieving the loss of my precious Joel just a few weeks prior…too much…just too much!
  • Joel’s oldest two kiddos – Amy and Justin – and their spouses, Wes and Virginia, came down last weekend to spend days simply doing project after project in this house. I was beyond elated and overwhelmed with all they did to serve me, the kids, and their dad’s memory. I can’t tell you how proud Joel would have been to see those precious bonus children of mine work their tails off with a complete heart of service! What a joy to witness!
  • Oh…and probably one of the most gut-wrenching pieces…I had a wreck a few weeks ago. Totaled the car Joel drove most often. It was my fault. It could have been very, very ugly, but God’s protection was over both cars in a mighty way, and we all walked away with nothing more than a few aches and pains from the angled, head-on collision. Praise God for His mercy and grace! I’ve had to wrap up the details of that with the insurance company – fun (not!). Now, I have to face the ticket, and I’m praying it will be erased completely with no implication on my driving points or insurance rates. I’ve been told that’s very possible considering my squeaky clean driving record. Would you join me in praying for His mercy to abound in that very specific way please?
  • I start counseling today. Long overdue, I’m sure, but I’ve felt very “trapped” in my home due to my foot issue. I’m able to start doing a little bit more, but very small steps. This was at the top of the list. I need this, and I need this for one of our kiddos specifically. I’m praying this gal is a good match for one or both of us.

I’m sure there is much more I can share, but honestly…my widow brain is a bit foggy at the moment. It seems it doesn’t stop…the “stuff” to do, that is. That’s just life, in general, but it feels very revved up for me right now. I continue to ask God for a dose of His strength, as I feel extremely weak right now. He promises to be strong in my weakness. I’m counting on it!

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Six Years

This is a very difficult post for me to write. So difficult, in fact, I haven’t been able to write for an entire week, because I knew this one was coming up. Please pardon my blog absence.

How do you continue to grieve so deeply the one husband who just recently went Home to Heaven while remembering the events of six years ago today that led to the Homegoing of my other late husband? I. Honestly. Don’t. Know. Somehow…I’m doing it.

Before going any further, I need to offer a little disclaimer. Chris’ official date of death is May 4, because that’s when his body was recovered. However, due to the sequence of events, I know he took his last breath on this side of Heaven the evening of May 3. Therefore, in my heart…the anniversary of his Homegoing will always be May 3. 

The first year after losing Chris was very difficult. His death, by suicide, brought with it many multi-faceted emotions. I think I experienced the grief phase of anger for quite awhile, but God allowed me to move on and see Chris again through His eyes, and it simply allowed my love for him to grow that much stronger. Only by the grace and mercy of God and those He chose to walk alongside me, did I even survive that first year. As I reflect back…my faith was THE reason I was able to heal so completely and so quickly from Chris’ death.

Year two after losing Chris…something completely unexpected (and unwanted at first) caught me by surprise. I fell in love with another man, and Joel ended up asking me to marry him, and we did on August 25, 2012. I struggled with how to tell Chris’ family about Joel, but I’ll never forget how precious they were to me and to Joel. They said they prayed I would marry again, and they counted Joel as their son and brother. (I can hardly type through the tears at this point.) Joel had the privilege of “meeting Chris” through my stories about him, and I’ll forever cherish the day he took me up to the cemetery, and he prayed over our new relationship right beside Chris’ grave. Almost like bringing “closure” (of sorts) to one part of my life in the most direct way possible. Joel made that one of the most beautiful days of my life. Sounds crazy, but you would have to have been there to understand.

The third anniversary of Chris’ death brought back a lot of guilt for me. I was a newlywed (again) and very happy in my marriage to Joel. And yet…that first April and May that rolled around after my remarriage brought with it feelings like I should grieve Chris’ more deeply than I felt like grieving that year. Almost as if I didn’t, something must be wrong with me. I quickly learned that was nothing more than a lie from the enemy. Married again or not…many widows experience grief on the anniversary of their husbands’ deaths at various levels (and some non-existent). The next year could be an entirely different situation. That’s how grief works…

And…sure enough the fourth anniversary of Chris’ death was the hardest one since the first one. It was 2015, and we were in the thick of our adoption journey. Something Chris and I had discussed pursuing but never got to the point of actually beginning that journey. Joel and I had just gotten our “unofficial” referral for our children, and we knew our family would be growing again soon. It just made me very emotional, mainly from the standpoint of seeing how mightily God had saved me from the deep waters (of grief) that tried to once consume me and was in the process of restoring my life in a beautiful way through the lives of orphaned children.

The fifth anniversary…I feel it affected me the least up to that point. I was a new mom to three little feisty (yet adorable) Bulgarians plus still foster parenting a very active two-year-old little boy (we would adopt just a few short months later). My life was a crazy zoo! Therefore, while I’ll never forget Chris, especially on this anniversary of his death, 2016 allowed me to be not quite as consumed in the grief part of it, due to all the family changes we were experiencing.

That brings me to today…six years from the time Chris breathed his last on this earth. And…honestly…I’m in shock once again. Not the same type of shock as when I first learned he was gone. Just the shock of knowing I’ve been twice widowed in less than six years, by the age of forty-five, and I’m still here to tell about it.

My heart has been shattered too many times to count, but the two shatterings that did the most lifelong damage were the two that caused me to have to bury two husbands (prematurely in my selfish eyes). I will never be the same again. In some ways, I’m better. In other ways, I feel forever broken. Regardless…I still trust in the God who gave us all life and will be right there with those of us who call Him Savior when we take our last breath on earth and our first in Heaven. What a day that will be!

I deeply long to be reunited with so many people, but at the top of the list are Chris and Joel!

It is well with my soul! #HeIsStillGood