Monday, March 30, 2015

Win the Moment

On Thursday I was cleaning my basement.  Well, I started to.  I was about 30 minutes in when I heard a bunch of crashes and a scream for help.  I went upstairs to find my kitchen flooded, the babies standing on the open oven door to reach the sink.  They had filled the sink and let it overflow as they dragged towels through the water and all around the house to... wait for it... mop. 

They were trying to mop and proud of it.  *sigh*

Just as I discovered this, we had a knock at the door.  The Pest service was here to do our spring check... which is why I was cleaning the basement... I'm afraid of other people's opinions and last year they told me my basement was too cluttered.  I've cleaned it many times since then, we are far from pigs, but we have stuff and not a lot of time to organize it.  Still, I'm sure they see worse - and still, I can't help but need to clean it before they come.  It's kind of silly actually... and I paid for it.

So, the dude walks in and asks "Is there anything I need to know about?"

"Yeah, my kitchen is flooded.  You can come in, I'll just be cleaning up a disaster, like usual..."

I cleaned and sopped up water and started laundry and threw away all the damaged things.  I was not being very friendly or my usual talkative self with the pest guy - I was trying to get my mind around why these things happen to me... all. the. time.

Asa was running back and forth like a crazy man with no pants on screaming and Sam was following the man around asking him "Guess what?" and making him ask "What?" so he could fill him in on every random thought a 6 year old could possibly have... from a bee almost going in his ear when he was three to how much Desirae yells at him... Isaiah was adding to the conversation and Ezra was, like always, hanging off my leg screaming for me to pick him up as I told him over and over, I can't. Desirae was nowhere to be found... smart kid.

30 minutes into this, he looked up and asked "So... how many of them are yours??"  I couldn't help it... I started to laugh... like a lunatic.  He would glance up and look at me and then look back at the kids... They were all surrounding him, and about 6 inches from his face at this point.  I said. "I know I look crazy, that's because I actually feel crazy... because I might really be going crazy."  (My massage therapist assures me that real crazy people don't KNOW they are crazy, so I must be fine)  He said that he was feeling crazy too because the next day was the first day of his vacation.  I said "I nnnevvvverrr get a vacation." and laughed some more.  Every time the kids said something or Asa pulled on his privates in front of this guy, I laughed harder.

He went to leave and looked at the clock and it was like the light went on... it's school hours... so he asked "Do you homeschool them?" 

"Yeeeessssss... bahahaha..." 

I looked crazy.  I felt crazy. 

"So, you really never do get a break..." 

"Nope. I wasn't exaggerating."

Later, Matt and I were watching the sermon series Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler we've been going through (highly recommend it!) and one of his main points he kept driving home was "Don't despise the hard days."  He spoke of the verses in the Bible that talk about the unbelievers that  God turned over to their sin.  It APPEARS at though they are really happy and their lives are so much 'easier' than ours, but be aware of thinking that is good - because I don't know about you, but any good parent I've ever seen tells their child what they can and can't do and at times makes their lives very difficult in order to save them from themselves.  He used the garden analogy, which you all know I love and God uses every year in my garden to remind me about my sin and the effects it has on me and my ability to bloom for His glory... 

I just went to YouTube to see if it was on there.  We have DVD's so I didn't know if you could view it for free.  I found it, so decided to skim through it again, since it's been a few days, so I could remember how he worded it because this has been on my mind constantly since we watched it...  well, when I saw that the exact place I wanted you to see started at minute 43, I wasn't surprised... but it did make me cry.  God is in the details.  At 43 minutes on this sermon I wanted to share, he has them open to the exact verses I shared on my last blog post - which also leads him into the exact point I've been thinking on. If you can watch this entire video, you should - but if you can't, you should at least humor me and watch for a few minutes starting at 43 minutes in.

He talks about not needing to think about 5 years or 10 years from now - even a month from now... just focus on the next thing in front of you and 'win the day'... cling to God... ask him to help you... just get through today.

I've heard these words in my mind over and over.  I get so ahead of myself.  I think about even my appointments for next week and I get overwhelmed.  If I try to think about *everything* I have to do this next week, it could paralyze me.  I keep saying "There are so many of them."  I feel so outnumbered and so inadequate and go back and forth between wanting to send the kids to school so I can get a break for once and being afraid of how short my time with them will be and trying to plan for their life without a mom should my aneurysm rupture. 

I have been failing constantly with them.  My patience are thin, my energy is low, my nerves are shot and I am only one person with the workload of much more.... I'm getting so tired of not being the mom I want to be, that I feel like giving up on everything I have worked so hard to do in order to get some relief....  and this isn't really about what I decide to do with them - whether I put the babies in daycare so I can teach the older ones without constant interruptions... or I send the older ones to school so I can sit and play with my babies... or I accept that my kids have less of me than I would like, but they have more of each other, which has an entire other set of benefits... it's not about what I do necessarily - it's about winning the day.

What does it look like to "win the day."

Well, in my mind and heart, a day won is a day not where everything goes right, but one that when everything goes wrong, I can laugh and enjoy my loves even still.  A day won is a day where I treat my children and my husband like I believe they belong to the Creator of the Universe.  It's a day when I don't miss a chance to love someone else.  A day where I rest in God's faithfulness and trust in His plans. 

And so as I've spent the last few days, trying to 'win my day'... I failed a day in while cooking pancakes.  I was trying to make 8 pancakes and sausage while starting coffee and everything was going ok until something didn't... isn't that always the way?  And right when the food started to go down hill, Sam got hurt, the boys were fighting, people were demanding attention for boo-boos and justice for their attacker... and I snapped.  "STOP!"  I yelled.  "I can only do so many things at once!"  and in my mind I heard "Win the day... "  But to me, I had already lost it because I don't want to treat my kids like that...  And God ever so gently spoke to my heart...

Well then, win the moment.  If you lost one, dust yourself off and get the next.

Now that I can do.  One moment at a time... because moments lead to days... but they are a lot easier to manage. 

Tomorrow I have my stress test.  And I don't want to go... at all.  And I have an appointment every single day this week and two on Friday.  My life is a whirlwind and there isn't much I can do to slow it down.  Our family has medical issues and so this is just how it is for us.  I can let that drive me to the point of insanity - or I can win the moment.

You know, I thought I had this down with Rachel... I thought I learned how important and sacred each moment is.  I thought I understood how little control I have... I thought I was brought to a place of such close and sweet surrender with the Lord that I would never struggle again... but I still do - and know I always will.  My goal is to make the times of struggle times that I recognize as a gift to me from my Father who *will* work all things out for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28). And I love Him.

Times where I can choose to win the moment....to sit and play with my babies, who are growing up way too fast, whether I am watching or not.  To talk with my daughter who is yearning to work through her thoughts in her growing and changing mind...  to play ball with my boys who are soon going to want not much to do with their mom...  to sit down and snuggle with my man when even a few minutes allow...

It came to me as I thought on this...  I won that day.  Sure, everything was a wreck and the pest guy thought I was crazy and that we are slobs.  Sure, I was late for everything I had to do... sure, the kids caused, yet another disaster...  But I laughed and handled it all with grace...  looked INSANE, but whatever!  I didn't lose the moment.  My kids weren't traumatized by my laughing and they weren't embarrassed about our mess or the pest guys opinion.... and I wasn't trying to win the day - I wasn't even trying to win the moment - God won it.  He gave me what I needed to get through that with joy.

And then I thought about my computer  - all those pictures I lost aren't the winning moments.  They help me remember times and places... and without them a lot of it will fade from my (and the kids' minds)  But the winning moments on our family vacation aren't even on photos anyway.  They are the moments where we played a board game and (don't judge..) I had to "Make the player to the right of me laugh or pay $..." and I mooned Matt.  I've never seen my family laugh so hard...They are the moments where we chased our baby through the restaurant giggling out of embarrassment... helped each other up steep parts on our hike...  the moments of fun conversation by the fire... the moments of shared tears by the water... the moments of messing up and having to say "I'm sorry."  Even as I write that, I can think of a dozen pictures that would remind me of things I mentioned and it makes me sad... but the moments are not lost, they were already won.

And so this week, as we prepare for Easter - the best holiday of the year... and Good Friday - a day where God won the moment,  my prayer is that perspective won't be lost on me and I can win moments, one at a time - until they become days - and the days become memories... memories of the undeniable power of God and the victory He has over sin. 

I came across a little card with the serenity prayer on it - but it has the entire thing, which often isn't quoted... it seemed to fit - how 'ironic'!

GOD, grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,

Courage to change the
things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace
.

Taking, as He did, this
sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make
all things right if I
surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy
in this life, and supremely
happy with Him forever in
the next.

Amen

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Trust the Potter

Our owl pottery pieces arrived today  - and just as I feared, one was broken.  It was Desirae's of course... the one she was so longing to have... the whole reason I spent over $60 on buying, painting and shipping these... *sigh*

The big chunk missing looks like it can be glued back into place so I called the pottery place to ask what the best kind of glue to use is and she assured me that "This never happens."  (only to me, of course) She was very kind to give us a credit for the next time we are in town, and that was great since she could have said shipping issues were not her fault... but that didn't change a thing about the 12 year old girl sitting in front of me looking at the pottery I painted for her, on our special weekend, with disappointed eyes.



So I did what I do best... started talking with no clue what I was about to say... and dug deep for something Rachel's life has taught me...

"We can just look at it like... like... we can just look at it like just because it's not perfectly formed doesn't make it any less special."

She thought for a second and I waited to see if it would help... "Yeah... it's okay...at least it's in the back."  I continued nonchalantly, "It kind of gives it character." as I stirred the dinner I was cooking. 

She started planning her next piece she will paint with the credit and said she wants to go back each year on her birthday to paint a piece that she can make a collection for when she is older.  I told her maybe we can go back sooner than that for another girls day - to which she happily agreed.  I assured her I'd get the good glue and fix it the best I can.  I really hope it works and that she is just left with a little glue-filled crack as the reminder about 'imperfection not making things less special'... but if she has to live with the gaping hole... well, I can relate.

I thought back though to when the package arrived... I was in the shower and she came in all excited and said "Maaammmaa... look what I have..."  and proudly held up my mug.  I peeked out and said "Ooooh! I knew they were going to come today!" and she gave me a minute to enjoy it before telling me hers was broken.  I have to say, if I may brag for a moment... for a 12 year old who *really* wanted that owl jar, I'm seriously impressed that her first announcement to me wasn't "Mine is broken!"  She has a sincere concern for others and that makes me proud to be her mom.

On another note, I could use some prayer for my health.  The naturopath has been working with my supplements and I was doing pretty good - short version is all my issues this fall were because I was 'over methylated' from taking the active folate I thought I was supposed to be taking based on research and advice from others. (side note: PLEASE don't follow someone else's medical plan, every person's body is different!)  He used some other vitamins to remove the crazy amount of folate I had stored up (bc my body can't utilize it) and immediately I got better.  My blood pressure was down to a great number, my migraines went away, joint pain was all but gone, my moods evened out...

Well, I have to be on folate because of the MTHFR mutations.  So, he started me back on another kind weeks ago, just every other day and I was okay for maybe a few days.  It dawned on me yesterday that all of my issues have returned... migraines constantly - for days straight - horrible mood swings, joint pain like crazy and my blood pressure has started creeping back up.  I called today and he has me back to square one with supplements.  I'm thankful I recognized it early this time but it concerns me that what my body needs, it also doesn't take to well.  He said we'll figure it out, it's just going to be a balancing act because of the combination of mutations I have.  This is what he was telling me last month about 4 of the kids having 2 mutations on 677 which is worse for heart problems, but easier to treat because they almost never have this balance act problem... where Sam and I will have a harder time being treated because we will easily get over methylated and that has a whole other set of problems.  So please pray that we will figure out what I need and quickly.  Also for wisdom to stay on top of where the kids are at since they are all being treated now too and I don't know how they feel inside. 

I'm still waiting on results from my scan on Monday.  I think I had a horrible reaction to the contrast... not hives, but I was OUT OF IT for HOURS... actually, I fell asleep multiple times while driving myself home (I know, super dangerous) and then went to bed at 5:30 and couldn't come to when Matt tried to wake me. I am going to ask what to do for future scans, but I am not thrilled with this since scans are already nerve wracking enough.  It's not the common 'allergic' reaction, but it was pretty severe fatigue and that can't be normal.  Prayers for their discernment on that would be appreciated.

Lastly, I've been crying a lot... like on and off all day and night all week... over everything. I'm not sure if it's because I'm scared, overwhelmed, stretched way too thin, over methylated or a combination of all of it... but I'm struggling pretty bad.  I'm trying to only think on truth and to not get ahead of myself.  I'm at a major crossroads with school, where we live, health, Rachel's non profit... all of it... everything.  If you have talked to me in the last couple of weeks about me, you have seen me cry and that's a guarantee.  I don't have much to say about that other than I need prayer and I trust God with every detail of it all so I just ask that you carry me to the cross when I come to mind.

He formed me, He knew what parts would be broken, and He's the only One who can put me back together, if I'm even meant to ever be 'back together' on this side of heaven.  But I rest in the truth that I am HIS and not a single crack in my fragile self happens apart from His knowing it and Him carrying me through it.  If that means He brings me the special glue to hold me together... or if He allows me to stay the way I am until He creates me anew in my life after death... I trust the Potter.
 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
 
Isaiah 43:1-7
 
   But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”


Isaiah 64:8
And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Girl's Getaway


My friend Chloe from New Zealand participated in Rachel's Race this year as a virtual walker.  She made this little Rachel "pocket rider" that she brought with her on the walk and then mailed to me.  My little Rachel bear has been riding on the dash in my truck since.  Asa broke the daisy off of her headband when I let him hold her one day, but I can fix it one of these days.
 

So, last weekend, Des and I went away for a girls night.  She had gotten tickets to Stars on Ice for her birthday and we left the day before to spend some girl time together away from all our crazy boys.  We took the van instead so we grabbed Rachel's pocket rider and Des put her in the cup holder.  We found Matt's stash of sour candies and ate them all (oops)... but I thought it was really cute that Des put one in front of Rachel's bear. ♥
 
 
It wasn't too long into our drive when I realized how badly we BOTH needed this trip.  Des has a hard job being the big sister of 4 brothers and a dead sister.  She does A LOT.  Much more than most girls her age... some times too much for her age.  She could run my house better than many adults could.  Lately, she can quickly get on my nerves because I have zero tolerance for attitude or laziness and she is a pre-teen who suddenly has both... but she is such a good kid.  It was amazing how well we were getting along just me and her.  I'm not sure how to foster this more often with our financial and time limitations, but this connection doesn't happen while running errands or in our daily grind.  I need to be more purposeful with her because I only have a few short years left to win her heart for Christ. 
 
Our first stop was, of course, shopping.  We bought her a bathing suit and a journal and I got a journal and a couple things for the house.  And then we were off to the hotel!
 
a keepsake box I found. ♥
We got into our room and immediately began working on our chocolate stash... because any girl getaway needs chocolate. :)  I made them all dairy and gluten free so we could eat our hearts out.
 
 
I had called the hotel ahead of time and the chef actually prepared an entire menu with all the gluten free items on it and left it at the desk for us!  I was really impressed with how well they handled that.  They even had gluten free pizza.  We planned on ordering room service, but when we walked past the dining area, Des thought it looked 'fancy' and wanted to eat there, so we went down to have dinner together.  We both got the baked haddock, baked potato and green beans and it was so good! 
During our conversations, there would be moments where I felt like she was so old... and then she would say something that revealed how little she still is.  Being 12 isn't easy - so stuck between two worlds...  we talked a lot about boys and what she thinks of 'dating' and how she will handle it when these things start coming up... because let's face it, it won't be long before the boys are chasing this pretty girl... and it's my job to make sure she runs as fast as she can in the opposite direction! lol.  But in all seriousness, it's coming and it's scary.  If I could go back to her age, I would change so much and avoid so much pain.  My hope is that she will choose differently and reap the blessings that will follow.
 
After we ate, we went back to the chocolate... I went to sit on my bed and she had left me a note earlier....
 
We hung out on our beds for a while and let the food settle while we watched some Family Fued and then went down to the pool.  With our Goggles On! (old post relating to the importance of goggles if you don't remember it, you should read it!)

 

If you have not yet gone to the bottom of the pool with your googles on with your kids, I encourage you to do it this summer.  I cannot even tell you what a blessing that time in the pool was for both of us.  It's been a long time since I've been able to just play with my Desirae May... we are usually so busy taking care of littles, but boy, did we play!  We would go to the bottom and have a 'dance party' and then come up for air and go back down and do it again.  We had races.  We pretended we were haddock in memory of our dinner and did crazy swim moves and flips... we laughed, laughed, laughed.  It was awesome. 
 
We went back up and showered and got comfy for some scrapbooking. 
 
Back in the fall, while we were on vacation and I saw the wedding on the top of the mountain, and was overwhelmed with wonder if I would be able to help Des plan her wedding considering all my heath issues, God put on my heart to make a scrapbook with her.  I didn't want it to feel morbid for her, just something so that if I am not still here when she gets married, she will have comfort in knowing her mom helped her prepare for it at least a little. Something that would take away the sting of her mom not being able to be there that day.  To, in a way, be there with her... the last thing I want is for sadness to be an overarching feeling at her wedding.  When we got back to town after that vacation, I saw a wedding magazine in the checkout.  I picked it up to see how much it was and this is what I saw...
Of course we haven't found time to work on this and so when I found out we'd have a night alone, I got more supplies and brought it so we could 'plan her wedding' together while we were away.  We spent a couple of hours cutting and pasting and talking about different flowers, colors and dress designs and classy vs horrible.  I'm thankful she is drawn to designs that are modest.  Oh Lord, please let me be with her that day!!  I also brought some items from mine and Matt's wedding to show her and she put one of our invitations and our wedding program in the back of her scrapbook.
 


 
We ordered GF pizza by room service, stayed up entirely way too late, and I didn't make her brush her teeth.  Moments I will cherish forever. ♥♥♥
 
We slept in and went down to eat breakfast - but the line was long and we were still full from the night before so we went to swim and sat in the hot tub for a few then bummed around the room and watched more Family Fued (it was on constantly!) and ate some more.  We drank coffee together, which made her feel all grown up.  By the time we left the hotel, we were finally relaxed.  We could have used another night to be honest, but Des was glad we had a few more things to do before we headed home to insanity! 
 
Our next stop was a place called Clay Play where you paint your own pottery.  I planned on spending much less than we did - but Des *really* wanted this owl dish and so we picked a mug for me that matched.  I had talked her into doing salt & pepper shakers that would cost half the price because we could each do a shaker, and she said it was fine, but I saw her face light up when she looked at the owl and I splurged.  We went to pick our colors and I looked for what color #43 was but couldn't find it.  We picked 3 of the 4 we were allowed to use and then decided we wanted a coral/peach color to be the last one and then found it on the bottom shelf... and guess what # it was... ?  Yep. 43. 
Des painted mine and I painted hers.  We decided ahead of time we would make the eyes look like daisies for Rachel but the rest we didn't coordinate at all....
It's almost scary how much alike they came out!  She is so much like me in every way.  Probably why I get irritated with her.  lol.  We spent well over 2 hours working on these!  It was super relaxing.  Now we just wait for them to come in the mail.  I had to pay extra for them to ship them since they don't fire them the same day.
 
We left there and grabbed some GF food at Five Guys in Portland.  It is so different eating out with just one child.  I would never say I regret having a lot of kids because I love them all more than life itself or anything life can offer... but I will say I had a few moments where I realized how incredibly hard it is now to be the mom I thought I would be.  Having one was so simple and I felt like such a good mom.  I never doubted my ability.  Having two was only hard because I wasn't sure I could love another as much as I loved Des, but I did so that was fine... three was a breeze... 4 was Rachel and no words describe that... and 5 was actually not that bad.  But 6...this little E... so close to my crazy Asa... they've done me in... in every way.  They seriously bring me to my knees every single day. I suppose there is purpose in that....
 
So anyway, after we ate, we went over to the arena for the Stars on Ice show.  Just as we were walking in (late of course) there was a light "Rachel" snow and since we were in Portland, where she was born, it was special.

you can see the snow resting on Des' hood.
 Here's where it started getting really 'ironic' on us...  our tickets were for row 4, seat 4 and 5.  I told Des ahead of time that I had a feeling that whoever was in row 4, seat 3 would have something to do with Rachel... but I was hoping the seat would be left empty and it would be like she had a seat with us. 

We walk in late and seats 1, 2 and 3 had to get up to let us in... sitting in seat 3 was a mom who gave me a dirty look for interrupting their show.  I was preoccupied mentally for a few minutes over how someone's lack of grace can affect a person.  As if I liked being late... 
 
I have always loved figure skating... so I knew this would be something I would like, but what I wasn't prepared for was how much emotion it would bring out.  I found myself fighting back tears through almost every performance.  I'm a crier anyway, but figure skating? 
 
A couple of songs into the show, this same lady reaches over and slaps my arm and says "That's my daughter!"  I asked which one and she said the one wearing the peach outfit.  Two things came to mind... first of all, she wasn't upset that I was late because she was grumpy... she was upset because this was her daughter's first time skating with Stars on Ice and she is a proud mama who didn't want to miss a thing.  I get that.  Second, my mind went back to Des' finger pointing at the peach color, #43 at the pottery place.  I turned to look at her and I kid you not, there were daisies printed on the side of her glasses. 
 
I wanted to tell her, but knew I'd look crazy so I didn't.
 
A few minutes later, she took a picture with her phone and when she put it back into her lap, the screen was still on.  I glanced down and her phone number was on the screen... the first three numbers of her phone number... 430
 
I wanted to tell her, but I knew I'd look crazy so I didn't.
 
I leaned into Des and whispered for her to look at her glasses and phone number... she's in row 4, seat 3 I reminded her.  Her eyes just got wide.
 
Then the finale was choreographed to "Shut Up and Dance with Me" and "Just Dance" and I realized that the theme of the show was "Dancing for Joy" ♥
 
 
That would have been enough for me to feel like God answered my prayer about letting me know Rachel was with us... but at the end of the show, the lady in seat 4,3 said to someone behind her "I told Hope to meet us at the door we came in." 
 
I looked at her and asked "Is your daughter's name Hope?" 
 
"Yeah, why do you know her?"
 
"No... well... um... I can't believe this...."
 
I was fumbling for words and she was staring intently trying to figure out what I was saying... I knew I had to tell her something or I'd look crazy... so I told her "My daughter lived for 43 minutes and you were sitting in row 4, seat 3 and we joked about how that seat might be left open for Rachel before we got here and Hope is a word that we associate with my daughter...."
 
I didn't tell her I saw her phone number or her daisies or that her daughter was painted in color #43 or I would have looked crazy....
 
Oh, wait, I already did look crazy!!  But you know what?  She started crying anyway.  We cried together over my little girl not being able to sit in her seat.  Me and a perfect stranger.  I was like a kid who just went on the best rollercoaster ever walking out of that place, repeating over and over how I couldn't believe that just happened. 
 
We got in the van and "My Hope" was on the radio.
 
I told Des on the way home that it might seem like I'm talking about Rachel and all the ways that Rachel shows up during things like this... but what I'm *really* talking about is my God, who cares so much about my heart that he pulls details together that He knows will get my attention... things I couldn't make up if I tried... things that could only be from him and point to the Truth of an eternal life after death.  When I tell people about seats and flowers and numbers and all the ways in which God times details just perfectly, I pray that nobody ever mistakes that for Rachel's doing... because while I do believe that God has clearly shown me that her and I are still connected in Christ and therefore she IS with me, along with Christ in my heart - I don't believe that Rachel herself makes these things happen.  I often say "Hi Rachel" as a way of saying her presence with me has been made known... but hear me when I say that Rachel would be nothing without her Father in heaven.  She couldn't do these things in and of herself.  It's actually God who does it and I'm so thankful He does.  I'm so thankful that He consistently reminds me of His love and her eternal life with him.  I'm so thankful that He hasn't forgotten me and how my heart yearns for her.  And I'm so thankful that he doesn't grow tired of hearing me say the same old things... or that he doesn't put a time limit on my need to be reminded that she is okay.
 
We serve an amazing God...a compassionate, loving, understanding, loyal and faithful God who never runs out on me.  He's never too busy to listen and He's never too self consumed to forget me.  It's a humbling thing.
 
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
    And a time to die;A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace
What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.
14 I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should fear before Him.

15 That which is has already been,
And what is to be has already been;
And God requires an account of what is past
 
 


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tired

I have been waiting to write about this one... and I have no idea how to even say it, because saying it feels way too real and it being real is way too hard... and a lot of people won't really understand why it even is so hard, so I feel somewhat stupid.

God has given me an amazing sense about things that I often ignore.  And every time I do, I regret it.

So, last Sunday on the way to church I told Matt that I really wanted to get my data on my computer and on my blog backed up because I felt like I was going to lose it.  But I didn't do it.

The very next day, my computer's hard drive died.

I've had it in the shop for days hoping they would be able to save my photos and files, but they were not able to save a single one.

That's bad enough, but when I looked at my external hard drive, I had not backed up any of my photos since July... none of my non profit documents... none of our homeschool stuff....

Where I really struggle is in the fact that God knew.

In August, I found out about my aneurysm and started making a real effort to get photos of me and each of my loves - I started doing all sorts of things to make memories in case I drop dead and had so many great photos documenting it all.  And it's all gone.

I don't have a single thing from more than 2 years of our non profit. 

I lost the photos of the last two vacations to Maine.  If you know me, you know that this hurts.  Our Maine vacation is the only thing we do consistently.  It's been a tradition for years and I make a photo book each year after we go.  Thankfully, even though I was behind on 2013's, I did it right before we went this year and so I have the book, just no digital files.  But I make these each year and my plan was to give the kids all a copy of each when they get married.  I don't want 2014, the best year we've ever had there, to be missing.  I don't want to forget it.  I am afraid we won't make it back again.  I told you how I cried when we left last fall because I was scared it was my last time going... and I am not blogging like I used to, so I only put a few pictures up... and the rest is gone.  I had just said the week before that I wanted to make our 2014 book soon so that it was fresh in my mind....

And I was having a breakdown the very week before about homeschooling and how hard of a time I was having and losing the entire year of computer, writing and math was not on my list of great ideas to aid us in our school year.  On top of that, I'm still trying to figure out what I plan to do this year for Rachel's Race and the main goal is to not spend time on it because I don't have any freaking time to give. (more on that later) Having to redo EVERYTHING I've already done that happens to be time consuming was also NOT on my list of things I planned to do... and I just pray I don't end up needing any of it for legal reasons. sigh.

On Friday, I got the word that my data couldn't be saved...

Last week, Pastor Joel talked about how in Hebrews there seem to be two 'teams' of believers... 'Team A' who trust in God and everything goes well with and 'Team B' who even though they are faithful, life just isn't easy for them.  In fact, it's more than difficult.  He exhorted us to trust God in the hard....

My friend Anne & I joked about being stuck on Team B... She suggested we sneak onto Team A... I said I've tried many times and always get kicked off... we made light of a very harsh reality that for whatever reason, things are always hard for us.  But this week, I'm just not finding the ability to laugh it off.  I hear myself constantly asking God "When will it let up?"

I had gone to Market Basket to get groceries after finding out about the computer and I was feeling surprisingly ok... Asa was with me and fell asleep on the way and although he has NEVER slept through a shopping trip before, he slept the whole time!  I had a silly smile on my face the entire trip as I piled food around him carefully so he wouldn't wake up.  He's been SO tough lately and store trips are constantly a nightmare with him, so this was a blessing from God! 

So far, so good.

Half way there....

Still hadn't even moved a muscle!
So, I'm in the checkout waiting in line and as I moved up to the register, the manager walked up to me and handed me a gift card.  I looked around, dumbfounded. He said someone asked him to give it to me. I asked if he was sure it was for me and he said "They told me to give it to the girl with long blonde hair at #9."  I looked up in disbelief... that was me.  I opened it to find a $25 card and just looked at the cashier as my eyes welled up with tears.  "Good for you" she said... I told her God always knows when I need reminding that He is there.... (Thank you whoever did that!!)

But I seriously couldn't stop crying.  And I think the guy bagging the food was so caught off guard by my crying that he didn't even request I move Asa and worked around him....


As I was putting the bags in the truck, a couple was walking by and the man said "It will get better."

He wasn't talking to me, but it sure felt like he was.  I didn't hear another single word from their conversation.  I took a deep breath and thought about things 'getting better'....

Sure, all that data was just stripped from me, but after all, it *is* just data and at least nobody else is dead and we can make more memories... school will go fine, I used to homeschool before I even had a computer... I'll figure out the non profit as things come up....

We left smiling....
I gave him gum for being a 'good boy' - LOL

 Shortly after I got home, I got a call from Matt saying that his boss had gotten a letter from the Government in regards to a new job he is trying to get at the shipyard... a job he had not told him about because it's not definite.... And it's only not definite because he didn't pass the initial background check because of things that happened over 15 years ago... and they won't allow him to work until the full check is complete... if they even still want to hire him when that is said and done.  His boss says he will need to start training someone for his position regardless.

I couldn't even talk, my stomach just started to flip.  Why the constant struggle for us?  When will it let up... ever???  When is this 'getting better' going to take place exactly?  Because I'm seriously tired of being on Team B.  SO. TIRED. OF. IT.

Everything has always been hard for us.  Our youth, our marriage, our parenting, dead babies, no money.... I tell myself our life is 'rich' regardless - and I believe it is.  The things of this world have never been our goal in life. Ever.  I go back and forth between thoughts of needing to keep - and having -  a heavenly perspective because all of this is fleeting anyway, but I'm SO TIRED OF IT.  Like SO FREAKING TIRED OF IT.  Have I mentioned I'm tired of it?

I feel like I'm going to snap... and I have been regularly.  I feel like if someone looks at me wrong, I might hurt them.  I am crying at the drop of a hat... like today when I was at the post office and couldn't find the address I needed and she asked me to get out of line until I had everything ready... cried the entire 15 minutes I was in there.  Then I left there and went to Home Depot to get a piece of plexi glass to go on top of Rachel's hope chest (bc my kids insist on putting drinks on there and it's getting ruined and Matt keeps 'forgetting' to bring me home a piece from work at his GLASS shop) and when they told me they weren't allowed to cut it for me and tried to sell me a tool to do it myself, I started crying again. 

I'm a flipping mess.

I've spent the last 5 hours going through every folder on both my external hard drives just praying that I put certain photos or documents in the wrong places - I just CANNOT believe I didn't save at least the Maine photos to the external before clearing my card.... but for once in the last 5 years, everything was where it should be... well, minus the not backing up my irreplaceable files.... My Facebook addiction will help at least a little in that because I have a few important ones on there, like my boys' birthday parties and the photo of me and my Papa just before he died.  I'm just so scared as time goes on, what else I will realize is missing...  I know I will never delete a memory card again.

I need prayer.  I'm tired of life.  I don't want to be... I love my kids.  I love being a mom.  I love being home with them.  I love teaching them. I am thankful that I don't have to work outside my home, even if we are financially tight.  I'm thankful my house is so full I feel like I'm in a zoo... I have so much to be thankful for. But, I want to be everything I thought I'd be back when I had one kid, when it was easy to be a mom and I felt like I was good at it - but I'm just not.  I'm tired of messing up and having to apologize.  I'm tired of knowing that they will struggle with all the same things one day because of my repeated failures. Life's not ever easy.  And if it is, it's inevitably the calm before the storm.  Happy ever after never even came BEFORE for us.  It's all just hard.  And I'm pretty sick of every 'high' having to be a silver lining I experience in the middle of a 'low'. 

I want off of Team B.  I'm too tired to play.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Soft Snow

This is random, but I just stumbled upon this photo in my very pathetic attempt at getting my pictures more secure... long story for another time.
 
I had posted photos before of us playing outside and the snow was moving, but it was snowing in those pictures, so I thought Google was just adding movement to what was there.  But in this photo, it was not snowing when I took it so the snow really caught my attention.
 
In case you have ever wondered, *this* is what I am talking about when I refer to "Rachel snow".
 
This is what it did the morning after she was born... maybe a tad softer...
 
This is what I saw when I looked out my hospital window as I held her lifeless body.
 
This is what I was left with when the funeral home took her from me that day.
 
I just never saw these beautiful smiles that would eventually fall behind it.  I couldn't imagine that morning that I would ever smile again, let alone at her grave.  But I have, and I do...
 
We all do.
 
My Christmas baby brought with her the first snow of that year and the longest winter I had ever trudged through.  And I'm not sure I'll ever like winter again, but I do know that every. single. time it snows softly like this, I will stop where I am, take in a deep breath of the air, feel the crisp winter cold enter my lungs, smile, shed a tear, and long for heaven where I will see her and meet Jesus face to face... in a place where we will never wait on spring or feel the confinement of long winters.  A place where smiles aren't in spite of circumstance.  A place where death doesn't exist and sin cannot be.  A place where oneness with my Savior will be all I know.
 
And yes, that all comes to mind at the sight of soft snow. 
 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

She Still Does

I haven't written in a while, but that doesn't mean I don't have anything to say... just have no time to say it.  I feel like blog posts are constantly running through my mind, but to find the time to sit down and express them in words is hard.

I have a lot to share about our recent road trip to Florida... we drove all over the East Coast with our gang and it was AMAZING.  We had a few very meaningful and special visits with friends I had made through Rachel but had not met yet and my heart was so full and so thankful that I honestly almost can't put it into words...  but I really want to try!!

So this post is more to just break the writer's block I've been having and get my fingers moving again... I hope I get to sit down soon and share with you all everything on my heart from that trip....

Until then, here's a real quick update on my Rachel journey....

Lately, I've been feeling relieved of some of the weight of sadness.  She is never more than a single thought from my mind, as she always has been, but I mostly feel just the missing piece of our family... the feeling of being incomplete, but not the feeling of wanting to cry or a desperate need to do things for her.  Not that I don't still cry - or still long to care for her, but it is different (right this moment - always subject to change!)

I find myself able to look at and buy girl clothes for my friends' babies without it hurting.  I do regularly make loud sighs at cute girl clothes in the stores though - mostly just out of a never ending desire to be able to dress up a little girl again.  Part of my grieving process has to do with the fact that I always wanted Des to have a sister - someone to do life with in a different way than you can with brothers (hopefully)....  and realizing that there is a good chance now that it might never happen.

I've been feeling better health wise - I don't know how much I've shared about my health or my appointment with the naturopath that my Rachel-given friend from Switzerland had paid for me to see, but my blood pressure got immediately better with the change of vitamins (Doctors would have NEVER figured that out!) and it has remained good.  I'm currently working on weaning myself off of them and am now on only one.  My pain levels have been much better although not gone, but I don't feel 90 anymore and am keeping up with my kids and the house much better, so I'm very thankful.  Every once in a while I feel a portion of what I used to feel like all the time and can't believe I was still functioning in that amount of pain.   But you do what you have to do...

I do have some other new stuff happening with my heart and have a stress test and Echo coming up.  My symptoms seem to be better since stopping one of the bp meds, so I'm hoping it was side effects.  I'm still regularly frustrated with the absolute ignorance of doctors - like why nobody picked up on the fact that my new symptoms lined up with them putting me on a new medicine... glad we have the Internet or I'd probably be dead already.  I'm waiting on approval for my next scan of my brain aneurysm - I was supposed to get it in February, but insurance has denied it and so I'm appealing it.  I'm not feeling overly worried about that now that my blood pressure is under control though... praying it hasn't grown when they remeasure, that would be a good sign for long term safety.

I'm amazed at how much Rachel has helped us.  She truly is a gift from heaven... If she didn't come and go, me and all of the kids would have so many unexplained health issues and the doctors would never have come up with MTHFR all on their own.  Because of Rachel, I am able to provide for and protect her siblings in a way I could not have done without her.  I am absolutely convinced that her life and death had a much bigger role in our well being than I ever realized before.  I always knew she had given me a richness in my relationship with God I wouldn't have otherwise, but now knowing that He also used her to bring all of this to light, I am brought to tears regularly thinking about how she has helped my other children. I've also had a few friends come to find out they have the MTHFR and have found relief from their unexplained health concerns as well.  I'm just constantly in awe of how God provides.  It doesn't always look like provision - and it can hurt like crazy, but He is so faithful.

My little girl continues to make this world a better place to live... I continue to find more and more ways in which her short life has forever impacted mine for the better.  I continue to be more and more thankful for her - I smile every time I think of her.  She is so loved... so wanted... so missed... so appreciated...  and so perfect, just the way she is... exactly where she is... precisely who she is....

She is an amazing picture of God's grace and provision.

She is part of His plan.

And His plan is eternally good, right, true and beautiful.

She is my girl.  My tiny dancer.  She brought me hope, still does.  She brought me Joy, still does.  And just like she showed me more of God then, she still does.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Gift Shop Puzzle

We went to my niece's birthday today at the Seacoast Science Center.  The kids were all busy, so I decided to take a peek in the gift shop.  I love gift shops, but it was an odd decision since I didn't have my wallet on me.

I was looking around when a little boy came up and practically tossed three puzzles at me.  I thanked him for being so generous and put them back on the shelf.  As I did, I noticed there was a heart made out of daisies on it.

That combined with the fact that it was a puzzle ("Always a piece missing") had my heart swelling with thoughts of Rachel.  Just as I put the last one back, this little boy threw his arms around me and wouldn't let go!

I heard his mom say "Aww... look, he's hugging her!" and I leaned in and hugged him back.  He said "Bye" and waved at me and they walked off.

I stood there in total awe.  I just had to tell them about Rachel.

So I followed them over and said "I feel like I should tell you this, although it feels odd to say... but my daughter Rachel died shortly after she was born and daisies are her flower... this year on her 4th birthday, I wore a shirt that had daisies in the shape of a heart that a friend gave me.  That puzzle over there, that your son just gave me, has the same thing..."  She followed me over to see and was in complete amazement when I told her "I feel like the hug your son just gave me was straight from heaven."

I wonder if that thought will stay with her.... I wonder if she will tell other people... I wonder if she knows how incredibly blessed she is to tuck him in tonight.... or how much I wish I could tuck Rachel in tonight....

If I had my wallet on me, I would have bought that puzzle for our next trip to Maine this fall.  But I didn't, so I took a picture.

I didn't know why I was in that gift shop.... I really had no good reason to be in there.  But I walked out of it with the biggest smile on my face and feeling like my girl was right there with me.  I walked out wanting to tell everyone about the hug I just received from a kid I would never see again and about the daisies in a heart shape on the puzzle.  I didn't though, because it was one of those times when words seemed inadequate.  They still do, yet somehow I think you guys will get me.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Be His Hands and Feet


I got a text from my friend Sarah, whose daughter Naomi is buried near Rachel with a picture of how high the snow was over the girls' graves.  I was trying to locate a cordless electric shovel (if one even exists!) to try to make it more doable... but nothing... then I put out a request on facebook asking for help shoveling it.... one friend said she would try to stop by.  So then we decided to drive our snow blower into our truck... This would be reason # 430 that I LOVE having a Suburban!  





When we got there, our friend Naomi who used to shovel Rachel's grave had already cleared her out a nice big spot... The cemetery was so backed up with snow everywhere that even the roads weren't good to drive on... but not Rachel's spot...  Felt like the old days when I would pull up each week and feel the relief of provision.  We had a couple other graves we wanted to help with, so we pulled the snow blower out and Matt got to work on those while I changed the decorations at Rachel's to our February theme:  Pink kissing ball and flowers we had at the hospital when she was born that also 'just happen' to be ones in our wedding.  Since we got married in February, I have put these on her grave each Feb since she died.  I also hang her hands in a heart flag that Lisa made for her.  I have a matching flag and kissing ball here too.


clearing a spot for my grandma to be able to get to her parents stone

clearing Naomi's spot down so you can see her name plate.

I had to bring boiling water to get her tree out which ruined the base I usually put it in :(
But it's out and her pink stuff is in so it's okay.  

Love - Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres.
Love Never Fails

I've told you about the man who visits his wife and daughter's grave every Friday...
Of course I knew bc I was always there too.  But when the snow is deep, he puts their roses
in the snow by the road bc he can't get to their spot.
So we make him a path...  And come to find out, he is a fellow brother in Christ
who is not physically able to do this himself.  He now leaves us cards at Rachel's grave.


We clean off his girls' spot and reposition all of the frozen roses because I used
to cry when I saw the extent to which people actually cared for Rachel's grave.  Naomi didn't just
do a quick shovel, she would shovel a huge spot and clear off her stone for me so it was perfect.
that's what I want to do for him.

Her coke bottle was still there, so I put it up in a snow bank for walkers to see.

Our work here is done.... and as morbid as this may sound, I think the fact that we spend so much special time together on these grounds, ministering to others and taking care of our spot will eventually be an amazing comfort when death does us part and one of us is under that same ground.  Not many people spend time together at their grave before the are separated by death... unless they share a plot with another family member.  I'm thankful for this, with both Matt and my kids.


So then because we apparently like to do snow removal... we stopped at my grandparents
and widened their walk way and cleaned off their porch... and left a little note in the snow.



It's important to me that I don't appear as though I'm sharing this stuff to tell you all about everything we do.  That is not it at all.  I share because as we are doing it, I am OVERWHELMED with thoughts of how many people did this for us and for how long.  I am totally enveloped in gratitude and thankfulness that just overflows into not just wanting to, but NEEDING to, do something similar for others.

I have no pictures for this one (I'm sure my friends thank me for this) but I have also recently paid forward a huge gift I was given through Rachel... my friend Dixie came and picked up our laundry every week for MONTHS. (until her washer died on her!) She brought it home and the next day returned it clean and folded.  It was such a huge blessing that now when I know someone is struggling, I immediately want to do their laundry.  This is totally from God, because quite frankly, I have a TON of laundry all by myself... and I actually can't stand doing it.  I do 2-3 loads a day just to keep up and that doesn't even take care of it all.  So when I offer to do 10 loads of laundry in a day for someone else, you can believe it's got nothing to do with me... and everything to do with the fact that God provided for me in this way and I want to comfort with the comfort I received.  And it feels awesome to do it!  But I can't take credit since it clearly wouldn't be MY idea!! lol.

So, my point is... well, two things... sometimes when people are in a rough place, we say a broad thing like "Let me know what you need"... and from my experience, it's really hard to pin point what you need when you are in that place... and even more awkward to actually say it.  My friends would have never asked me to take all their laundry home... and actually they both tried to talk me out of it!  It's hard to accept help.  So please, if someone needs help... be BOLD and offer something specific.  I texted my friend and said "Get your laundry bagged up bc I'm on my way over to get it."  And that is exactly what Dixie did for me.  If it's a dinner, call and say "Don't make dinner, it's on it's way."  if you wait for them to tell you something to do, it won't happen.

And the other thing I want to say is this... you have no idea how BIG your little act of kindness can be in someone's life.  You have no idea how long it will continue to affect people.  You have no idea what God will do with it, long after you are done with your service.  I know Dixie never thought I would carry on her blessing to others, but truth is, I would have never thought of it, if she hadn't done it for me!  And I would have never thought of it at the cemetery if Naomi & Brent hadn't done it for us.  But both are such huge and meaningful ways to minister to others, that seriously humble both the giver and receiver. 

So, who do you know that is struggling?  What simple thing can you do for them (without asking them if it's ok, bc they will likely say no to be polite!) ?  How would it make them feel?  Probably loved, provided for, humbled... How would it make you feel?   I'll leave that one for you to think about.  But I would love to hear what you chose to do as a way to minister to one of your loves this February.  Let's be the hands and feet of Jesus... not in words, but in deeds.

My journey with Rachel has shown me what it's like to be on the receiving end of that love... I had no idea how amazing it is to also be on the giving end of it until that love overflowed out of me and I can't help but desire to do things that will comfort others in the way I was comforted. 

God's plan for us to care for each other is a beautiful, simple, meaningful, and humbling picture of how He loves us.  So let's do it.  Are you in?