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

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mystery Solved

mystery solved

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

I think I finally solved the mystery of my recent emotional swings. I’ve been exceedingly emotional for several weeks. Crying bucketfuls of tears daily. The loss of my precious Joel seems to have slammed me really hard all of a sudden. Why now? It’s been nearly 6 months, and I thought my emotions would be a little more under control by now. After all, I’ve been through this widow journey before. And yet…I feel his loss deeper and deeper each day. Even typing this is causing my throat to tighten, knowing the tears are soon to follow. I know to expect the waves to overtake me some days, but this has been unending for weeks! However, I think I jut solved the mystery.

The shock of Joel’s death is finally over.

In a nutshell, I’ve been living in a state of disbelief since February 12, 2017. While I know my husband is gone, the shock of this agonizing tragedy has shielded my body from feeling the full effects of it. It’s a natural physiological mechanism God gave us to literally protect us from events that could potentially do severe damage to our bodies (even to the extreme of causing death, itself). In my case, shock has been a “friend” for quite awhile. I had a short stint with it following Chris’ death but got through it relatively quickly. This time, not so much. Believe it or not, I want my “friend” back (sort of).

I don’t want to feel all that I’m now feeling. Being on this side of it, I prefer “living in the dark”, so to speak. All the gut-wrenching, heart-tearing, “stuff” I’m now feeling is WORSE than living those first few days all over again. I had a shell of protection around me then. Now. It’s. Gone.

Then, there’s the realist in me. I really don’t want to live like this forever. I really don’t. I want God to heal my heart to the point I’m able to remember my love in such a way it brings more smiles than tears. I don’t want to cry in front of perfect strangers each time they say something (no matter how small) that might bring up a memory of Joel. I want to be able to drive by Exit 105 on Interstate 40 going East through Morganton, NC without feeling nauseous each time that tall white building looms into view where my husband took his last breath on this earth. I really DO want to be well. I’m just having quite a bit of difficulty getting to that point. Time is my friend, but it feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace right now.

#HeIsStillGood

Saturday, August 5, 2017

We Should Have

We Should HaveToday shouldn’t feel like this.

We should have had a lazy morning were we get up a little later than normal after being awakened by little fingers tapping us on the back.

We should have been spoiled by your yummy hand-cooked Saturday morning breakfasts.

We should have been gone yard-sailing followed by grocery shopping at Sam’s where lunch just might have consisted of nibbling from each of the sample carts.

We should have napped while the kids did and then got up for a late afternoon swim together.

We should have rocked on the porch together while supper finished up in the crockpot, and the kids rode up and down the driveway on their bikes or other wheeled toys.

We should have had movie and popcorn night with the kids following their showers.

We should have had our own movie night after the kiddos went to bed, or maybe we would just catch up on a TV show we’d been watching on Netflix.

We should have fallen asleep in each others arms, content with having spent a wonderful family-filled-fun Saturday.

Instead…

I’m sitting alone, pushing through the dense darkness that’s enveloped me today.

I’m struggling to want to do anything, and yet it’s my last day before the kids come home tomorrow after being gone for a week, allowing me to have some respite time.

I’m having crying spell after crying spell, and I even cried out to God asking Him why today has to feel like this. Why today?

I’m shoving memories aside, because they hurt too much to endure.

I’m scrolling Facebook, because of my paralyzed state of mind, and it’s the last thing I should be doing, because seeing other’s pics of family togetherness, date nights, vacations, fishing trips, etc. only reinforces what I don’t have anymore,

I’m begging God to take away even a smidgen of this pain today.

I’m wondering when the fog will lift.

I’m missing you, my precious Joel, and longing for my true Home. How much longer will you tarry oh Lord?

Friday, July 14, 2017

It’s a Small World After All – Bound for Disney!

Disney

Our crew in 2014…from left to right…Leah, Anna, Joel, and Aaron

It’s been three years since I last went to Disney World and three years again prior to that, when Anna and I went alone. In 2014, it was only four of us…Joel, me, Anna, and Aaron. We happened to be there over the exact same time we’re going this year. Yes! We’re going to Disney World again!

We have been tremendously blessed by an anonymous donor with a trip for six of us to travel to Disney World, and we’re leaving Saturday! The four littles, along with big (adult) sis Anna, and me will be flying out Saturday morning and returning the following Saturday morning. I can’t believe it’s almost here, and I honestly can’t believe someone loves us this much to do something so HUGE!

We’ll be staying at a Disney resort and visiting all 4 theme parks along with Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). My youngest kiddos have no idea what they are about to experience. They are excited, but it’s an excitement they, themselves, can’t even comprehend until they lay eyes on this place.

I doubt I’ll be blogging much while we’re gone, but then again…you never know. (Laptop is going with me for evening entertainment after kiddos are in bed.) Even so, I’ll be sure to share all about it when we return, as I plan to take in every moment I can with these children and capture (through photography and journaling) their expressions and experiences. Each one of these kiddos of mine (Anna excluded) are former orphans and have never had an opportunity, such as this, in their young lives.

I ask, in advance, for your prayers in several key areas:

  1. No sickness develops for any of us.
  2. The children behave better than ever.
  3. We have no snaffoos to have to deal with…need a smooth week.
  4. The children realize the blessing this is and enjoy their week to the fullest without a feeling of entitlement.
  5. For emotional healing for all of us!

It absolutely breaks my heart that Joel won’t be with us to experience their first Disney trip. It breaks my heart Joel won’t be here to experience Austyn’s first plane ride with him. It breaks my heart to know this trip came about as a result of his death. And yet…I am so grateful and so undeserving.

Thank you Abba for this blessing through generous people! Please continue to bless them with abundant favor!

#HeIsStillGood