From the Heart: Jillian Stone

Jillian StoneWatching God at Work

How God Showed Me His Faithfulness in the Past 5 Years

Everyone has a story; some stories are horrific and some are unique.  And some stories are more interesting than others.  My story is not horrific nor adventurous, and probably not very unique, but it’s the story that’s been given to me to share with others about the faithfulness of God.

To tell my story, I have to share some details of my life that are not easy to share.  In fact, some details are excruciatingly painful to share, but I don’t want to miss an opportunity to share how God stays very “close to the brokenhearted and those that are crushed in spirit.”

On May 22, 2007, my husband Ed died in my arms, a victim of cancer. It was such an unreal feeling to wake up 6 years ago on May 23rdwithout someone to love and care for, and to realize that I was now alone.  I felt as though my heart had literally been ripped out of my chest…like I no longer had a heart. My heart was now in heaven with my husband and I didn’t know how I would live without “my heart.”  I discovered what it meant to wail; to cry from that deep, deep place inside. Three months after my husband’s death, a family member told me I should be over it by now.  I wanted to scream “are you kidding me?”  No one can possibly know what it’s like to lose a husband, let alone your soul mate, unless they experience it firsthand.  We did everything together.  Nothing separated us… until death came.  I thought, “How will I do life alone? How will I pick up all the pieces of my shattered life and go on?”

When I say pick up the pieces, I mean more pieces than just the loss of my husband.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had a lot of other losses to recover from at that point that I never had the time to think about while I was caring for him.   Now I had to face them.   Actually, the loss didn’t end that day.  Loss after loss happened throughout the next 4 years.  I share the details because it’s important in order to show the hand of God in my life over the past 6 years.

It started in 1998 when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer.  We were devastated!  One night, while my husband was upstairs, I remember praying and asking God “who will take care of me when I’m old if you take my husband?”  A selfish prayer, I know, but God was still full of grace and almost immediately I fell upon the verse Isaiah 46:4 that says “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I knew then that somehow God would provide for me and care for me.  I continue to draw comfort from this verse whenever I become fearful.

Ed began going through the usual treatments and it was looking like he had fought the fight well. The tests showed that he was in remission.  So in 2001 I began working full-time and Ed and I discussed me going back to school to get my Masters’ degree.  He really wanted me to go back to school.  I think somewhere in his mind he felt that would be my security for my future.

In 2004 I began studying for my degree while working full-time.  Then one day in July of 2005, Ed was diagnosed with lung cancer!  The whole process started all over again, only now it was worse because he was fighting two different cancers.  This was the beginning of many losses to come within the next 4 years.  Let me just highlight them for ease of reading:

  • October 2005 – I lost my job and my medical benefits
  • March 2006 – We lost our cat (who was like a child to us) due to a freak accident
  • June 2006–We lost our house because we could no longer make the mortgage payments
  • July 2006 –  While caring for a very sick husband, I packed and moved from a 3 bedroom house, attic and basement to a 1 bedroom apartment
  • September 2006 – Ed was confined to bed and could only be moved with a Hoyer lift as his pain was now unbearable from the cancer moving into his bones.  I was alone with only the help of part-time nurse aids covering his care while I worked part-time.   Caring for him was a 24 hour job and every night, several times a night for 6 months, I was up ministering to him and sleeping in between.
  • March 2007 – We lost our car because we could no longer make payments on it.

There I was with a sick husband, a part-time job, and no way to get where I needed to go.  Our credit was ruined by now, so getting another car was not in the picture.  I felt sorry for the man who came to repossess the car.  He felt so bad that he was sent to do it because he knew the circumstances I was in, but there was nothing he could do about it.

God’s Ministers

Up until this point, I wasn’t a very outgoing person and I never took an interest in making friends.  But God saw that I needed help and He seemed to open up the flood gates.  This was very significant for me because all my life I had been so wounded by people that I literally gave up on establishing friendships. I convinced myself that all I needed was God and my husband.  I had so deeply ingrained this lie into my head that I told myself that I didn’t need friends or even want friends;  but God knew I needed friends now more than ever!

People began asking me if they could help me by doing my laundry or making meals.  This was really difficult for me to accept.  I was independent!  I didn’t need help!  I wanted to solve my own problems!  I fought it…I didn’t know how to accept this new phenomenon of friendship without feeling guilty for accepting help.  They would stop by to pick up my laundry, bring us meals, run errands for me, pray with us, love on us, and even give us gifts. Two new friends,even contributed to purchasing a used car for me.

God also arranged for me to make friends with the woman who lived below me.  She would bring food, offer to drive me anywhere, and was just there for anything I needed.  What a blessing she was!

My husband, though he was sick,weighed around 180-200 pounds, and I am a petite 115 pounds.  By the time he died, I had a dislocated rib and thumb from trying to move him and reposition him in bed.  All this took a toll on my physical, mental, and spiritual health.  Not to mention the anticipatory grief that was beginning to creep up on me.  In my heart I knew my husband was not going to get better.  I fought it.  I pleaded with God.  I was angry.  I fasted.  I refused to believe that He wouldn’t heal my husband.  People told me I wasn’t living in reality, but I called it faith.  I wouldn’t listen to anyone who didn’t come alongside me in faith.

The day came when I could no longer care for him by myself, and he had to enter a nursing home. Being a caregiver left no time for being a wife who could sit at his side and relish whatever time we had together. He was only in a nursing home for a month.

One day he rallied and I believed God was about to answer my prayer.  I came home elated and started gathering things for his birthday party, which we were planning on celebrating in the nursing home the next day.  I woke up the next day, excited to gather all the birthday decorations and food.  I invited friends and family, and we all met at the nursing home to celebrate with him;  but when I got there, he was asleep, never to regain full consciousness again.  I couldn’t wake him.  He would open his eyes occasionally, but he never woke up again to speak to me.  My heart was devastated.

Two days later, on May 22nd at 5 PM, I laid in bed with him, my arm underneath his pillow, just holding him while I said the 23rd Psalm to him.  When I got to the verse “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”, my husband took his last breath and died in my arms.  Of all the times he could have taken his last breath, God chose for him to breathe his last just at that moment.  Every time I have read the 23rd Psalm since then, the memory of that moment plays over and over again in my mind.

The experience of watching my husband die and take his last breath is something that was so intensely painful that I have never been the same since.  You cannot watch someone be emptied of the life that was once so vibrant in them and continue to be the same person you were before.  I will carry that pain until God takes me home.

God’s promise to carry me that night in 1998 has never ceased. There was a week between the time my husband died and the day he was buried.  During that time, God brought wonderful, loving friends to me, to sit with me, cry with me, comfort me, and pray with me.  Before I made the funeral arrangements, I had shared with another new friend that I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for the funeral because of our financial situation.  After she left, without my knowledge, she shared this with her daughter-in-law and son, and they contacted me offering to pay for a significant portion of the cost. I told her I didn’t know how I would pay her back until I found work, and she insisted that it was a gift.  I was overwhelmed at her generosity.  For someone who never had friends, this was a whole new world opening up for me.

The day I buried my husband, the woman I had been working with at my part-time job came to the funeral.  As I walked away from the burial plot, I thanked her for coming and she put her arms around me and said “of course I would come…you’re my best friend.”  She will never understand the impact her words had on me.  I had just buried my best friend, and at that very moment, God brought me a new best friend.  She has been one of my best friends ever since.

A few days after the funeral, I went back to my part-time job.  Now it was time to try to pick up the pieces.  I began looking for full-time work and found a job in June, which would at least solve my financial problem.  I did the best I could, considering the devastating loss I had just experienced;  but it was a difficult job for me because it required that I visit nursing homes and doctor’s offices, all of which brought back painful memories.

Just when it looked like I would be able to get myself back on track financially, two weeks before Christmas in December 2008, I lost my job for not being able to make my quota.  I had just moved from the apartment where my husband and I had lived for a year, to a cottage in the country, owned by the same friends who purchased the used car for me.  Once again, God’s faithfulness was shown through these friends.  This turned out to be the beginning of another journey where God has used His people to care for me in my time of need.

Now that I was out of work again,my financial problems returned; but God gave me favor in the hearts of my friends and they allowed me to stay in their cottage without paying rent.  I only had utilities and my own expenses to pay.  Again, God’s faithfulness!

But more loss was about to occur.  Allow me to outline again.

  • June 2010 – the car these friends bought for me began rotting out on the bottom and it couldn’t pass inspection.  No credit and no money, how would I buy another car?  Again, God’s faithfulness.  These same friends lent me the money to purchase another car.
  • October 2010 – I broke my ankle. The same friends were there to help me with whatever I needed.  God’s faithfulness!
  • June 2011 – My father was diagnosed with cancer and my mother with Alzheimer’s at the same time.
  • November 2011 – my father died while I held his hand.  Since my mother, had Alzheimer’s, she couldn’t be there for him.  So once again, the Lord put me in a place to watch someone I loved take his last breath.  But again, He was faithful.  He brought my pastor there that day, and he stayed the entire day with me until my father died.  I never could have made it through without him.  What a blessing he was for me.
  • November 2011 – two weeks after my father died, I fell on the ice and broke my wrist in two places.  I was in a cast for 6 weeks. Living alone, I couldn’t even open a can of cat food because it took two hands.  Again, God was there for me.  He sent a wonderful new friend who lived down the street to bring dinner for me every other day until I was able to cook for myself again.  She and her husband have been amazing friends to me since then.

How God has Provided

God’s Faithfulness

I hope by now you’ve noticed the pattern that every single time I had a need, God was faithful to me and sent someone to help me.  The amazing thing is that I never asked any of these wonderful people to help me.  I never had to.  They always took the initiative to help me because God opened their hearts to want to bless me.  Remember that verse I read in 1998?   “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4.  I hope you see how He kept His promise to me throughout all the loss I’ve experienced.   And throughout all this I believe I gained about 10-15 really good friends that I know I can count on.  It’s amazing for someone who felt she could never make friends.  Each one of them is a gift from God and I treasure them, for I believe they were sent by Him to minister to me.

God’s Healing

God has opened my heart.  I never invested myself in friends, so I never had the opportunity to serve them.  God tells us to feed His sheep, and He has given me opportunities to minister to others the way I was ministered to.  God is healing me in more ways than one.  He is not only healing my broken heart, but he is healing my stubborn and hard heart as well from all those years of thinking I didn’t need friends. I am still on the healing journey but I am learning through experience that He will never forsake me or anyone who loves Him.

 

Connect with Jillian Stone on Linked In

Follow Jillian on Twitter