Monday, May 7, 2018

I. Feel. Judged.

Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

There…I said it. I. Feel. Judged. After another long hiatus from this little community, I don’t want my first post back to be one that sounds negative. It’s just what’s on my heart right now, and I find I write more authentically from the heart. Maybe that’s why I haven’t written in awhile…just too hard to compose “feelings” into words sometimes. But, I’ve been thinking (could be dangerous, at times), and some of those thoughts are coming out via the keyboard.

I’ve been feeling judged lately. Nobody has said that, in essence, but actions (or lack thereof) speak loudly sometimes. As a I told my dear friend recently, “I know I haven’t been the best daughter, friend, family member, blogger (and I implied any other relationship I might have missed the mark with), and I’m truly sorry.” I just stink at it…a lot.

I could “blame” it on a lot, according to many.

You had a crappy childhood; you’ve been widowed twice; you’re solo parenting four adopted kiddos (all of whom have a special need component that we deal with daily); you have a lot on your plate with day-to-day living, in general. And the list goes on…

The truth of the matter? I’m a sinner, saved by grace. Right now, a LOT of grace is being poured out on me. If people want me to feel judged, they’ve succeeded. However, most of the judgment I feel, I heap on myself, and I don’t even need anyone else to do that for me.

I feel I fail most days. I feel defeated quite often. I keep trying and trying and trying and often feel I take two steps forward and three back. And…then are the good days. Aaaahhh…the good days keep me sane. They are balm to my weary soul. Sometimes a good day is simply getting the kids to school on time. Seriously. I keep backing up the time our mornings begin, but with four ADHD kiddos, each new morning brings a new set of chaotic challenges. I’ve thought many times of dressing them for school the night before simply to eliminate that element of it. (There…I admitted it.)

I’m truthfully ashamed, most days, at the disorganized mess my life has become at times. For those that “knew me when”…I am a recovering perfectionist with high OCD tendencies. Nothing was ever out of place. I would have never entertained the thought of filing a tax return extension. I was NEVER late. I filed receipts weekly (not once a year – another current confessional). I crafted all the time. I read lots of books, and I do mean lots. I never missed sending out a thank you note and certainly didn’t miss mailing out Christmas cards. My car was always clean (at least on the inside). I communicated with people frequently (yes…even before email and Facebook).

Now? I don’t think I need to spell it out. It hurts to be at a place in life where I sometimes don’t even recognize myself. However, I am also grateful for the “new me”.

  • The new Leah has experienced abounding grace, and I feel I pour it out more abundantly than I ever did before. I used to be what many might consider judgmental, but now…I see people for who they are and where they are in life. I simply love people now. Now, don’t get me wrong…I don’t like bullies (and, they can come in all shapes and forms), but I love people.
  • The new Leah understands failure and accepts it (even though painful at times) when it arrives at my doorstep once again.
  • The new Leah has learned to say “no” to what doesn’t fit into my life, as it exists now. That was something I’ve always struggled to do in the past, but I’m getting better at it.
  • The new Leah recognizes all that’s been done for me and my family and is thankful for it beyond words…even, if I can’t reciprocate it appropriately.
  • The new Leah realizes she might not be a Type A personality anymore (by default) and has embraced (not always willingly) her new Type B+ personality.

But, there is one area in which I’ve never changed. I don’t accept the role of “victim”. I will not use my life experiences as a reason for self-pity. I have been given much, and to whom much is given, much is also required (Luke 12:48 reference). Sometimes, the requirement is great sacrifice. But, I’m thankful God feels me worthy to walk the road of sacrifice quite often. And, I’m thankful He’s continuing to change me and mold me into someone He can use. He is my ultimate judge, and to Him I owe my life (even if it is messy much of the time).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I Lost My Voice for Nearly Five Months

I lost my voice

Photo by Josh Adamski on Unsplash

I lost my voice for nearly five months. No…not my physical voice. My writing “voice”. In my ten years of blogging, I’ve never taken an intentional or unintentional blogging break that lasted this long. Whatever the reason, the break was needed.

Even so, I’ve missed being here. I’ve missed communicating with you all. I’ve missed sharing the ups and downs of this precious life I’ve been given. Last year was nothing short of tragic…from nearly the beginning to the very end. I lost my husband in February…my dad in December. I had five surgeries (only one was planned). I totaled a car. I banged up another one. I contracted pneumonia…twice. My air conditioner went out, my basement wiring is messed up, and several other minor things. My nephew was diagnosed with an aggressive, rare terminal illness. I’m still in shock over that one. And yet…

God is still so very good.

Through Joel’s death, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know an entirely new community of people. I’ve made some very dear friends I probably never would have otherwise. I’ve seen the love of Christ poured out on my children and me in quantities which can’t be measured. Friends of old and some I’ve just met have cared for us deeply, when we’ve needed it most. People have given me the opportunity to “step away” from my solo parenting duties several times so I could be refreshed and restored. My gratitude for all we’ve been given cannot be expressed in words. We can never repay all that has been done for us over the last (nearly) twelve months.

God is still so very good.

So, why the silence? Why haven’t I been able to share on this platform in nearly five months? Truthfully…I don’t know. Nothing significant silenced me. I have so much in my heart I’ve wanted to share, but the words just wouldn’t come in a way that would make sense in a blog post. I know the Holy Spirit has been doing a new work in me, and I feel certain He silenced me while He’s worked. But why? That I don’t know. But this I do know…

God is sill so very good.

I feel my voice is returning. I feel my heart is ready to release some of those “messages” that have been tucked away for safekeeping. I feel I’m ready to return to this community. Will you join me again? Thank you for your patience during my silence.

#HeIsStillGood

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An Unexpected Hiatus

DisneyAfter an unexpected hiatus, I’m back! I planned to be a little hit or miss while vacationing at Disney, little did I realize the blogging break would end up being much longer.

We had a wonderful trip to Disney, but it wasn’t without its challenges. I was reminded, quite frequently, something I already know so well. Children (people in general, actually) thrive on structure. Even as planned out as the week was, the structure our daily lives resemble, looks nothing like the craziness a week of vacation tends to bring. That said, the kiddos were in awe of Disney and all it brings. We had many unexpected surprises along the way, and the cast mates (Disney staff) went out of their way for our family. Even so, by the end of each day…I had nothing left. It took it all out of me, and then some.

As soon as we arrived home, we stepped into high speed preparing for the next adventure. My children are currently spending this week with some dear friends of mine in Savannah, GA. Lorie and her husband, Duane, are seasoned adoptive parents, and they also have six biological children. The age range of their children is very similar to mine. She offered this week of respite to me several months ago, and I happily accepted her offer.

Respite from my 24/7 parental responsibilities is something I crave. Joel and I shared our parenting duties well, but as soon as He went Home to Heaven, it all fell on me. It’s been emotionally very difficult to be “on” all the time for the children and try to grieve the way my heart needs to at times. Therefore, this gift of respite was huge, but little did I realize how huge.

Last Monday (the day after my children went to Savannah), I had a scheduled inpatient surgical procedure. I was so glad the kiddos were well taken care of during my 1-2 night planned hospital stay. One less worry. However, my hospital stay turned into four nights, and I almost had to spend a fifth night.

Without going into all the details, I had stomach surgery. The surgery itself was very successful (sounds familiar…oh yes…I said similar words after Joel’s surgery in February), but the post-surgery recovery brought a few challenges…my blood pressure kept dropping, I ran a low grade fever, my resting heart rate was higher than normal, and my oxygen saturation rates were too low. In addition to that, I have a bruise along my abdomen that reaches out to my side and almost to my back that is U.G.L.Y. I bruise easily anyway, but I’ve never had anything like this before. It was a showcase piece for all kinds of hospital staff to view. Nobody could believe it until they laid eyes on it. The bruise was actually the lesser of the evils, but it brought the biggest reaction.

The other problems I kept exhibiting led to many tests to rule out the biggies (i.e. blood clots, tumors), and I’m thankful I had a surgeon willing to be so thorough with me. It probably didn’t hurt they all knew Joel’s story and wanted to avoid a repeat with me. They did well. I really am very pleased. I’m just slowly regaining strength to do much of anything.

It’s hard being “down” all the time. You would think I would have learned that lesson after my foot surgeries this spring. I’m just wired to be on all the time it seems. God, in His abundant mercy, is patiently teaching me about rest. Something I need and crave, but seldom take. This blog hiatus was just one piece of the puzzle, but apparently I needed it too. Thank you for patience as I get “back in the saddle again”.

One more thing… With August now here, I face another difficult “first” later this month. Our anniversary. I covet your prayers, in advance of that day (25th), as my heart is already hurting thinking of another missed celebration with my love.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Another Major Change

change

On top of Grandfather Mountain; company picnic in 2013

This week marks a significant event in my life. Another major change in 2017. And yet…this time, the choice was mine to make…sort of.

I’m leaving my beloved job at 106.9 the Light (the radio station started by Billy Graham 55 years ago). I can’t tell you how difficult a decision this has been for me, but I really had no choice.

Considering I spent most of my spring sitting in a recliner with home health nurses coming in and out of my house every other day to treat my foot’s surgical wound…I had a lot of time to think and pray. I also had a lot of time to listen…something I don’t always do very well.

It was in the listening I sensed God telling me it’s time to leave. I honestly couldn’t believe He would ask me to leave the best job I’ve ever had with the most incredible co-workers you can imagine. But, He did.

When Joel and I met, we lived about 75 miles apart. As our relationship grew, we knew the time would come to talk about relocation should we marry. At the time, my daughter had three years left in high school, and I didn’t want her to have to move at such a pivotal time in her life. Joel agreed and made the decision to move to Asheville when we got married, but he kept his job at the hospital, as he had been there many years and loved where he was at. Even so, he was committed to commuting through Anna’s high school graduation and beyond, if needed.

We were also licensed foster parents and didn’t really want to move, as we loved our licensing worker and the children who were in and out of our home (especially the little guy we later adopted). But, God revealed to us it was time to move last fall, for Joel to finally be close to work again. And, we did. This time, the commute was mine for however long we felt led for me to keep it up.

Initially, it worked well. Joel took on the carpooling responsibility that had previously been mine, since I had more travel time now. I still got home about the same time that I used to, because the traffic time with the carpooling in Asheville was so much worse than where we are now. So, it really didn’t change our family time together. Then came February 12, 2017…when God called Joel home. That day changed everything.

The commute was no longer reasonable. I could no longer keep up with the demands of the job, my home, and my kids. Trying to get them to therapy appointments and sports was out of the question. We’ve pretty much just been existing. I know that’s not the way it’s supposed to be, and God made that clear to me. But, this is a major step of faith.

I don’t know how all the financial pieces will be met, but God does, and everything I have belongs to Him. I’m trusting Him to lead, and He’s been meeting every need (and then some!). I don’t know what’s next for me completely, but He’s been faithful in that area too, and I’m just walking through the doors He opens. For now…being mom to my littles is my number one priority. They’ve already lost one parent…they need their other parent more than ever.

The story is really more in-depth than what I’ve just written, but that’s the essence of it. This Friday will be my last day at work, and I’m really sad about it. My co-workers gave me a precious brunch this past Monday to reflect on this season that’s ending and to celebrate the new one that’s beginning. They all had the opportunity to share a few words with me, and I can tell you I’ve never felt as treasured by a group of people as I did in those moments. Their words encouraged me, challenged me, humbled me, and soothed my aching heart. (Words of affirmation happens to be #1 love language, so that doesn’t hurt.)

This major change will sting quite a bit for awhile, but like everything else we’ve been through this year…the pain from that initial sting will eventually soften a bit, and we know God is still amazingly good!

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