Friday, July 13, 2018

I’m Still Here!

our familyWith my lack of posting lately, many might be wondering if I’ve fallen off a cliff, but I’m still here! Life has just been very full as of late. Very full. I have so much to share in my little blog world and honestly don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll start by answering the questions I get asked the most…

How are you doing in year two of your second widow journey?

How are the kids?

Neither question can I answer succinctly, but I’ll do so over the course of several posts in the future, so you don’t have to a read a novel in one sitting. Fair enough?

Let’s start with the kiddos…

JosiahJosiah – Now a 10-year-old, Josiah is my hero. He has experienced so much in his first ten years of life…the abandonment from his bio parents to a Bulgarian orphanage, adoption, moving to a new country, learning a new language, school in America, and the sudden and shocking death of his adopted dad. He just finished third grade and is going to summer reading camp for three weeks to help him be better prepared for fourth grade. He made tremendous growth in school last year but still has some catching up to do.

At home, he is my rock! He has stepped into the role of “big brother” in an entirely new way. He tries to help me with all kinds of things (even without my asking): cooking, cleaning, dressing his siblings, taking the puppy out, playing with his littlest brother quite often (they are best friends), and much, much more.

I have high hopes for this young man. He is bright. He is focused (on meds, lol!). He lives in the moment but dreams of his future. He loves Jesus and is uber-sensitive to making sure mealtime prayers are not skimped on by his siblings. He is also a bit of a germophobe and makes sure manners are practiced.

KaterinaKaterina – The only girl (besides me) still living at home, surrounded by boys (even the canine boy). She will be turning 9-years-old in early September but is developmentally more like a 4-5-year-old. She is in an exceptional children’s class (special ed) at school and just completed 2nd grade, where she made substantial growth.

As many of you know, my little Kat has been riddled with diagnoses that have labeled her, to a degree, but she sees herself just like everyone else. She has Autism, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, ADHD, and has most recently been declared legally blind in one eye and low vision in the other. She receives weekly occupational, speech, and physical therapies and will begin hippotherapy soon too. She’s most excited about the latter, as she LOVES horses!

Not only horses, Kat seems to be a lover of many animals and tries frequently to be Hunter’s primary caregiver (our 6-month-old yellow lab). Unfortunately, Hunter has now surpassed Kat’s weight, so Josiah has the task of taking him out on the leash most frequently.

Kat is also a rule-follower. She frequently tattles on her siblings and tries to be Austyn’s “second mom”. We’re working on this, but I’m not sure much will change in the near future. I’m at least thankful she’s a rule-follower.

BenBenjamin – He is 7-years-old and goes most often by “Ben”. He is the life of the party in our house and loves to dance and listen to music. Anytime music is playing, you will find Ben bopping his head along, in rhythm, and singing his lungs out (even if he doesn’t know the words of the song). His smile is infectious, and he has most recently found a love for the harmonica!

Ben will be repeating first grade next year, but he was the only one of my Bulgarian kiddos to start school “on time” by American standards. This is certainly not a bad thing, and I welcome the opportunity for him to grow more in literacy. He, like Josiah, is attending three weeks of reading camp this summer.

Ben will begin occupational therapy again next week, here in Hickory (he had it before when we lived in Asheville). He has ADHD, ODD, and RAD (reactive attachment therapy) diagnoses, and I long for the day Ben can attach in a “normal” way, but this is not uncommon with adopted children.

AustynAustyn – Oh…my sweet “Aussie”, as we now dub him. He is our cute little four-year-old towhead. His cuteness, however, can cover up the little firecracker he actually is. He, too, has multiple mental health issues, stemming from his bio family, but we know God is bigger than all the “issues”.

He is excelling in school, and is smarter than we can wrap our heads around. He loves his big brother, Josiah, and follows him everywhere. He still sleeps with Mama and is “scared” to even walk through a room by himself. I continue to pray for God to release him of his fears and for him to walk in peace. He will be starting grief therapy soon. He grieves the hardest over the loss of his daddy and constantly pines for him. It breaks my heart!

As for me, stay tuned…so much happening (good and difficult), but I am prepared for it all! I will be leaving for a mission trip to Ecuador on July 27 and am most anxious about it but so excited to pour into the women of this precious nation. I welcome your prayers!

I will continue to update, as able. I have missed this community immensely and am thankful God has renewed my writing passion!

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).

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Difficult Firsts

difficult firsts

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Since the time of my last blogging season, I’ve “survived” many of the difficult firsts of widowhood…Joel’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year. And…one more to go this weekend with my birthday on Sunday.

Undoubtedly, Christmas was THE most difficult of all the firsts. I can’t even begin to describe the emotions of celebrating the Lord’s birth without my husband by my side. Since we just moved to our new town a little over a year ago, we only had one Christmas together in this house. We had dreams of what we would do differently this year that our move last year prevented…hanging lights outside, Joel building me a tiered stand to hold my Christmas village (he already had the design concept planned out), sending out Christmas cards again (my favorite thing to do), etc. Those things didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, I didn’t display my village at all. That seems minor in the grand scheme of things, but it was just another painful reminder of our loss.

I spent Christmas morning at home with my children and then traveled to my mother-in-law’s house for Christmas dinner and an afternoon of gift exchanging and fun. Joel’s siblings and their families were also present along with his son, Justin, and his sweet wife, Virginia. We celebrated the engagement of Joel’s niece as well! I choked back the emotion of spending such a precious day with people I love without my man with us. Regardless, the tears came, as we all knew the day wasn’t the same without him.

My upcoming birthday is the last of the “firsts” until the anniversary of Joel’s death arrives in a few weeks. Birthdays were always so difficult for me as a child. Because mine came so soon after Christmas, it was often overlooked by my parents. It wasn’t intentional…it just was what it was. Interestingly enough, my own daughter was born two days after my birthday, and one of my adopted sons has the same birthday as my daughter. Needless to say, I’ve tried to be very intentional since my daughter’s birth, nearly 21 years ago, to not make her birthday feel like a challenge to celebrate just following Christmas. I’ve wanted it to feel special, because it was something I missed out on for so long.

That’s where Joel came in. He wanted to make up for years I lost, so to speak. He wanted my January birthday to feel as if it came in the middle of July, rather than in the hustle and bustle of the “post-Christmas blues”. He went out of his way to make me feel special. My previous late husband, Chris, did the same thing. Obviously, the loss of both men in my life will be very apparent this weekend. Now, don’t get me wrong…birthdays tend to lose their “flare” the older I get, and it sounds so selfish to even point out the obvious loss this will bring. Just keeping it real.

But God…

In His goodness, God knew my heart would be hurting, and He had a plan drawn up long before Joel ever joined his heavenly home. I’ll be spending time on Monday morning with a few precious women I’ve met since Joel’s death. These ladies have ignited the fire in my soul again more times than I can count. They are the fibers holding me together, through prayer – worship – a kind word – a special note, on my darkest days. And, I can’t imagine a more fitting way to give God praise for blessing me with another year of life, especially when it seemed this past year did everything it could to try to “take me out”. He hasn’t forgotten me. I praise Him for His continued faithfulness!

#HeIsStillGood

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

200 Days

200 DaysMy love has been with Jesus for 200 days. 200 very long days for me. A blink of an eye for Joel. Some may feel I’m crazy for counting the days. I just can’t help it. For me, it keeps it in perspective. It also reminds me how far I’ve come on this grief journey (or in some cases how far short I’ve fallen).

I’m reminded quite often of something I learned the first time around. Grief isn’t linear. The Type A, check-the-box-and-call-it-done person that I am always had a hard time with that. I wanted to go through the steps of grief and call them done. However, they sometimes found their way back to me, and I couldn’t seem to grasp why when I had already finished the “anger” phase or the “denial” phase. And then I learned…

GRIEF IS NOT LINEAR!

It’s actually quite messy. It’s not circular, it’s not triangular, it’s not any type of recognizable shape or pattern. It’s just a messy blob!

Right now, I’m in the thick of the “messy blob”. I’ve had several very dark weeks. It didn’t help that my anniversary fell in that time period and that Joel’s birthday is coming up as well. Lots of firsts right here in this season of the year. But, being completely transparent, I’ve been depressed.

Compared to what much of the world lives daily, I have so much to be thankful for.

Compared to what my friends over in Houston are living in right now, I have so much to be thankful for.

Compared to the fact I had the privilege of being loved so deeply by two men now with Jesus, when other women are still waiting for their Prince Charming, I have so much to be thankful for.

But…yes…here comes the but…

I’m still hurting daily for what I have lost, regardless of what I still have.

I’m still aching for the man that loved me with all that he had.

I’m still yearning to have that “picture perfect” two-parent family life that doesn’t exist for me anymore.

I’m still frequently exhausted due to my solo parenting duties.

I’m still overwhelmed by the various things that need to be taken care of in and out of the house that Joel would have been on top of, but I can’t do it by myself along with everything else.

I still long for Christ to return and soon!!!

I just had the privilege today of sitting down with a friend from high school who I haven’t seen since then. She drove a little over an hour to bring us dinner tonight…just because she could, and she knew it would be a blessing. And. It. Is. I am so thankful for all that God has been doing to protect us and provide for us, and this is just the tip of the iceberg for what we’ve experienced lately. I truly am most grateful. I’ve seen God with fresh eyes over these 200 days, and I know I would have missed out on seeing His glory in the ways I have had Joel still been with me. But, God also knows, I wish I had both. Thankfully, for eternity…I will!

#HeIsStillGood