Friday, December 2, 2016

Safe in His Hands

24 hours left until the day changes to another December 3.

My heart is breaking all over again and for some reason, I'm surprised.

I'm struggling with the changes... a  new house means a different holiday set up - and a different way to represent Rachel in our Christmas decorations.  Since the ordeal with the house is still in full swing, there is still half of it we can't use so we are still in a huge transition, on top of being in a new house.  We haven't even been able to unpack everything yet. :(  I opened a Christmas box to find all these red bows I bought last year on clearance to decorate our fence this year.  I always put the lights, garland and bows up and turn them on on Rachel's birthday.... well, we don't have a fence anymore... and my heart was crushed.

I found a way to improvise and used my long set of stairs to put the lights and bows on and I will decorate her little tree I put down in my garden tomorrow... I feel ok about it.  I think it's Rachel worthy ♥ But it is hard to have so many ongoing and unsettled changes at the same time as her birthday.
Photo courtesy of Asa :) 

Isaiah helping me with the lights

I am trying to plan out what I want to do for her 6th birthday and my mind goes in a million directions.  I want simple, but meaningful.  Huge for my heart but little for our pockets.  Ordinary like my other kids get, while unique like she is.  And I have a couple of ideas, but am so nervous that my family is not going to be into it - or will forget its about Rachel... or lose sight of how much this hurts and what it means to me.

And once again, it just feels like a huge burden on my weary shoulders.  I'm told I don't carry it alone, but you wouldn't know it by the weight of it.  It takes my breath away multiple times a day, like a stack of bricks hitting my chest.  And in a strange way, I'm just as afraid for her day to end as I am for it to arrive.  It feels so much like when I was waiting for her birthday. Before I know it, the 3rd will come to an end again and we'll be onto the next celebration - her little sister's birthday and then Christmas - and my heart will still be on the 3rd, but I've come to know that the 3rd is not a day everyone else's world stopped.  And still won't.  It's mine.  It's my broken cart on the amusement ride.  I want them to shut the whole ride down and tell everyone to get off and eat fried dough with me, but it's not going to happen - they all have carts that are working just fine.

Everywhere I turn, there are signs for things going on on Dec. 3.  It's because it lands on a Saturday this year and it's killing me.  I never expected a Saturday birthday would be harder, but it IS.  Every Christmas time kick off activity is happening this Saturday... If you want to make a wreath, decorate cookies, meet Santa or attend a community fundraiser - Saturday is your day.  When what I want is for the world to stop and let me go at a slow, introverted, thought-filled pace.... and I already know it's not going to happen.

I have a feeling this December is going to define the tightrope of joy and sorrow like never before.

This is the first year since she died that I feel excited about Christmas.  This could be in part because a friend of a friend asked if she could be our Santa this year and is getting each of the kids 4 gifts that she is going to wrap and bring to me labeled!  So all we have to do is stuff the stockings.  Taking away the stress of all of that work is a huge relief to me right now.  So I think that plays into it.  But it's also just part of where I'm at in my missing Rachel... she truly has become part of me in a different way this past year.  I am not convinced words will do it justice, so I won't try to explain it, but I'll just say that I feel so much peace around thoughts of her as a general rule.  I truly have a piece of me in heaven and a piece of heaven in me.  It's a gift.  She is a gift.

But in the middle of starting to feel exited, I have these thoughts - feelings - emotions - memories... that are kicking my butt and I'm just so sad all of a sudden.  I'm pretty confident I will get past it and enjoy Christmas.  I will love watching Eden Joy turn one on Christmas Eve... I will do all the traditions I always do with my living kids and do my best to include my Rachel... I am just praying that God will do something to make it more than a survival test, but that He will encourage me in the ways He does best through these next couple of weeks.  I am so fragile right now.  But I'm safe in His hands.

My friend Darla sent me this video last year for Rachel's birthday week and it just came to mind as I wrote those last words.

I am safe in His hands.

And He has me.  He has this.  He won't let me go.

A Kiss from Heaven

I've had a fairly 'easy' year of 'grieving' or whatever you call this stage of grief. I don't feel like I actively grieve anymore - so it's kind of catching me off guard how sad I am this week.

I've cried. A lot. At random times and mid-sentence when I don't see it coming. I'm not used to that anymore. I was, but now I'm not. And it is no fun. It feels alienating and uncomfortable. It makes me want to hide away. To wear sunglasses to conceal the puffy eyes I'm carrying around. It makes talking about surface topics with people who don't know or care almost impossible. I'm trying to wear a smile and keep sharing it. Especially since I know I'm not the only one feeling this way as Christmas draws near. So many people hurt this time of year. It's hard to miss people you love at Christmas time. I suppose having a Christmas baby die only accentuated that truth for me.

I knew last year before December was over that this year I was going to slow way down with Rachel's nonprofit and turn in towards my family and be more intimate with Rachel's special days. It's a good thing I wanted that, because something tells me that with everything going on with our house since August, we wouldn't have been able to do anything like I usually do. But as her birthday gets closer, my heart has been hurting, so unsure of what I will want or not want and what will be ok or not ok when Saturday rolls around. As usual, God put something on my heart pretty heavily just in perfect timing....

There is a local mom who lost a girl to SIDS 15 years ago. Her family has been without heat because her furnace is broken and landlord hasn't fixed it yet - so I asked the board for Rachel's Legacy if they thought it was appropriate to buy them heated blankets for Rachel's b-day and they said yes! So today we went and bought heated blankets and some hot chocolate and mini marshmallows and brought them over to them. I explained to her that this is not something I could afford to do on my own, but that our board of directors thought that it was the perfect idea to give them a gift, as a fellow baby loss mom, that would keep them warm. I added the hot chocolate because you know how I feel about that. ♥ Thank you to everyone who has supported our ministry because it's YOU who actually gave this family this gift today - but you also gave me a gift in being able to deliver it and do something in memory of Rachel. Thank you ♥♥♥

We stood in the cold rain and talked about our daughters. It's amazing to me how I can cry with someone who is technically a stranger to me and feel so understood. She listened, she shared. I did the same. And then we hugged - and there is something about a hug from a mom who has lost a child.... There is something special and strong and full of grace and mercy and unconditional love in a hug from a baby loss Mama... It's different and sincere and deep... all of it from the conversation - to the tears - to the hug. And boy, did I need that today.

I realized how beautifully different my Rachel Alice has made me. Because I am all of that in a hug, too - and am better than I was before her in so many ways. Many ways in which some would say I'm weaker or less stable, but I know in the ways that matter to God, I have grown. It's been a long, lonely and painful journey these past 6 years and 4 months since her diagnosis. I was surrounded by hundreds of people, but so, so alone in it.

I got home and saw a message from this mom saying "thank you so much" and I responded with only a big heart and it said "Sent at 1:43pm" And in that moment, I felt a special, strong, full of grace and mercy and unconditional love, kiss from heaven on my heart. God always allows me to see that she somehow knows. I don't know how or in what way or what time is like there, but I feel pretty confident in saying she knows.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Looking Back

Here we are again - the week before Rachel's birthday.

So many memories come flooding back this time of year... all of the pain, the fear, the heartache... the millions of ways my heart broke in those long 4 months between her diagnosis and her death - and especially the realization of exactly how clueless I was about how hard it was about to get.  Who could imagine it would be worse than being pregnant with a baby who was going to die?  I couldn't.  And I know dozens of people who clearly had the same struggle imagining it because they didn't stick around long after she died - the unanticipated heaviness was nothing they were interested in carrying for long.  Why would they be?  If I didn't have to, I wouldn't want to either.  Heck, I wish I could walk away from it.

I remember odd things from those days - like sitting in a big comfy office chair my mom had just bought me to help with my back pain.  I remember pulling it up to the Thanksgiving dinner table and dropping my camera in the gravy when I asked Des to take a picture of me and Matt.  I remember laying on the couch and listening to a sermon and then finding the Shaun the Sheep show for the first time, while I watched my belly move all around and being so thankful for her every move.

The gravy didn't break the camera :)

I remember the constant Doctor appointments, the way it hurt to do anything and everything - both physically and emotionally.  I remember being so scared, and yet feeling God getting me so ready.  And so much more...

What I don't remember is anything Matt & I did that contributed to keeping our marriage together.  I don't remember taking care of my other 3 kids' basic needs.  I don't remember doing any of the things I had done before, enjoying a single conversation, or taking a shower that I didn't cry more tears than the drops of water that washed over me.  But somehow, God held us all together.  Somehow we still smiled.

I shared a lot of beauty in my pain.  I promised her I would.  I told of the wondrous things God had done.  I promised Him I would.  I made a lot of hard decisions, that some still hold against me.  I promised myself, when I got her diagnosis, that I would take care of me and my house before worrying about anyone else.  I tried like crazy to make this extraordinarily painfully brutal situation something other than a picture of pain. I tried to paint Rachel in a beautiful light that people weren't afraid of.  I tried to take every ounce of pain and allow Him to use it for my good and His glory.  I tried to not hurt others along the way as I attempted to protect myself and relationships in my life that I wanted to last.  And I tried so hard to make it so nobody would ever forget her.

Looking back, I hope I managed - but I'm not convinced I did.

Looking back, I can't tell if my feelings are accurate - and it feels so far away I have certain memories that stand out and a whole lot that are lost in the time between then and now.

Looking back, I wish I could take the calmness that surrounds my heart in my pain of missing Rachel in these days, and live in that in those days.

Looking back, I wish I would have said less and prayed more.  Explained myself less.  Cared about people's opinions less.  Been able to give more.  I just couldn't.  I did my best, and it wasn't good enough for so many - and often not good enough for my own expectations of myself.  And it was so painful.  In so many ways.

Looking back, I wonder if this blog was really the best idea.  I was so excited over the number of people who read my words, cared about my journey, supported me with each new goal I set for Rachel's Legacy... and maybe I wouldn't have survived this pain without that excitement and purpose to distract me.  I don't know.  But I sometimes wonder how much I traded for what I got.  This blog came with a ton of sacrifice.  It took away my privacy, my ability to protect Rachel from the world, and it opened my heart up for criticism I wasn't really able to withstand in those days. Sometimes I can't take it in these days.

This is the first year since 2010, that I don't have a celebration going on for Rachel's birthday.  It's kind of scary for me.  I am so afraid of not having something worthy of her memory to do for her day and feeling like a failure. Last year though, I did a big gift (baby shower) for someone else in her memory and that was awesome, but on her actual birthday, I still opened an empty PO Box - and it hurt.  I pulled up to nothing on her grave, and it hurt. (But Elisha and Bella did come to visit while we were there!!)  The phone remained quiet and it hurt.  Family forgot - or didn't find it necessary to try to remember - and it hurt.  I worked hard all day on setting up lights and our tree, only to feel like Matt & the kids we only thinking about Christmas and I felt alone in my missing her - and it hurt.  It still hurt.  It always does.

I've been looking for a month, trying to figure out what we could do for her day that will feel right for my heart.  And I just don't know.  And it is only a week away.  I can't even believe it's only a week away.  How has it really been 6 years?  How do *I* not have something planned?  Am I going to like that, or regret it?  Should I hurry up and figure something out?  Or wake up that day and go with the flow?  Something tells me I should have a plan, yet I have no idea what that should be.  I feel that same awkward feeling of not knowing how to do this every year - just like I do when I bring a new baby home.  I have had enough babies, one would think I'd have it down, but still each one brings me back to being so unsure of my ability - because each one is different.

Looking back, that's the only thing that has stayed consistent... I still don't know how to do this.

And the only thing that is consistent in response to that is that God is enough.

At her funeral

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Taking a Seat

I know what I expected life to be like.

What I hoped for... dreamed of...

I don't know exactly how I imagined growing older and raising children would be.

And I don't know if those thoughts, those dreams, those hopes were unrealistic... or if some people really get those...  all I know is that I feel like the days and weeks and years are flying by.  As each night comes to a close, I feel like a cat hanging onto it with my claws of regret...

Wishing I had gotten more accomplished, been a better, more attentive Mama, wife, daughter, sister, friend... a better follower of Jesus Christ.... Thinking of all I had planned and hoped to check off my list that sits unmarked. Wishing I had not let so much of my babies' day escape me.  Hating the number of times I said "not now" or "hold on" to them, only to never hear what their little minds and hearts wanted to say to me.

But most of all, I just have this constant nagging feeling that I am missing my life.

Many of you are know of the situation with our new house - but the short version for those who don't is this... we spent 2 weeks after we bought this house feeling like our lives were perfect.  Much like how I felt for a time right before Rachel's diagnosis.  But two weeks in, we were blindsided with one of the biggest betrayals of our lives... the people who sold us this house were not honest on the seller's disclosure and somehow managed to sell us this house while they were in a current and ongoing violation with the town over finishing the basement and attic without permits, which the town was requesting be ripped down - and although the town knew they were selling the house, did nothing to stand in the way. And since then, it has gotten worse and harder and more heartbreaking... and it's taking up entirely way too much of my life to the point that we literally get next to nothing else accomplished in our lives these days except dealing with lawyers, making phone calls, the town, cutting down walls and trying to live in less than 1/2 of the house we bought.

I have been trying to hear God - trying to understand what I'm supposed to do.  I do not feel like He is punishing us, but I do know He gave me direct guidance to walk away from this house and, right before we were supposed to buy it, I did.  I backed out and felt PEACE... but the sellers came back to us and so we decided to accept and bought it.  And the peace left that day and has never returned.  There is great blessing in listening to God, even when it doesn't make sense - and we are suffering the pain of shutting out His voice and choosing our own understanding... I'm not upset with Him... but I do wish He would have stopped us.  I trust that He will use this for our ultimate good, even if that means only to make us more like Jesus - but it hurts.  It hurts a lot.  We left a house that we all loved - that never had any issues - and that Rachel lived in - to move here.  It would have been hard if it stayed feeling 'perfect'... but this?  All of this?  Legal issues, town issues, fines, scare letters, betrayal... it's all too much.

Tonight I was working on my Baby Rachel's Legacy stuff - in the middle of tons of messages and questions about the house - and realized I had dropped the ball on not one, but TWO headstone/burial expense assistance requests.  I was printing up the papers, talking to myself and super frustrated that I let these families down, as my kids went off to bed, yet again with my face in the computer and my mind somewhere else...

"I just want my life back!" I snapped as I ripped the headstone invoice from my printer.  "Baby casket in pink" it says.  I just want 2009 back.

I didn't even have a computer then.  I didn't have a dead baby then (minus my miscarriage, but no dead Rachel yet)... No nonprofit... and our house was a solid, dependable and affordable, safe haven for our family.

I feel so preoccupied.  So desperate.  So alone.  So deep in the thick of it that I can't get out.  I am constantly trying to pull myself from the mire and I am tired.  I'm weary.  I'm sad and missing what used to be.  What I dreamed would be.  What I hoped for my kids and husband. How I envisioned our life.

What I want to do is shut this stupid computer and take the facebook app back off my phone and never go on either again.  I want to wake up and look at my KIDS who are growing up whether I'm watching or not.  I want to make them breakfast and SIT WITH THEM instead of constantly being busied with things that don't matter.... but they do, that's the thing.  They matter because the people who sold us this lemon of a house left us in a position where we have no choice but to spend all our time fighting a battle they sold to us.  And I hate them for this.  I hate that they left my kids with this.  I hate that they didn't care what it would do to us, as long as they got what they wanted.  I hate the greed in their hearts.

And no sooner did I start working on my baby casket donations and water started POURING out of my kitchen light!!!  I started crying.  And when I say crying... I mean sobbing.  And I sobbed for a very long time....

I've been trying to tell myself every day that this house is not our HOME.  Our home is in heaven.  We are passing through - we are pilgrims on a journey to our true destination and this isn't it.  I repeat this to myself 100 times a day so that I don't get swallowed up in the pain of what this earthly home is and is not.  I want to have a heavenly perspective.  I need to or I'll drown in my disappointment.

This morning in the shower, I was, as usual, thinking about all of this.  And I found myself singing...

I will life my voice, to worship You, my King
I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings.
Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness, stretches to the sky.
Your righteousness is like a mighty mountain
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide....

It's funny, it was one of the first worship songs I ever knew the words to - and I believe the first I ever taught Des... and out of nowhere, there I was singing it in the shower, 11 years later in the middle of a huge trial... and then I randomly blurted out (yes, sharing at the risk of looking crazy, but whatever!)  "You are busied and hurried with many things...."

Woah, where did that come from?  And why did I say it?

Because I am.  And I don't know how to stop - and it's like I don't really have the choice to stop because our lives depend on it... and yet I don't have the choice to not stop, because our lives depend on it.  And I don't know how to be a Mary in a Martha world (yes, I've read the book - twice - and if you haven't, you should!).  Especially with all of this scary stuff happening that I just. want. behind. us.  But no matter how much I do, it seems to get us nowhere.

 I'm a doer - we all know that.  I do things.  but I don't want to anymore.  At least not these things.

I've tried so hard to get an attorney so that I could take this crap off my plate and enjoy my children and have them enjoy their Mama.... but so far we haven't been able to.  We've started a gofundme though and it's raised a little money, but more importantly, it's being shared and that will hopefully bring us some help.

I had another MRI on Friday and within 3 hours of leaving there, the Dr's office called me and wanted me to come in on Monday to go over results.  I asked if that meant they saw something and she wouldn't say... it could be nothing... it could be something... but as always, it leaves me with the overwhelming desire to pursue what is better....

Tonight, I know what that is... but tomorrow, the struggle will pick right back up where it left off and I don't know how to combat that.  Please pray for me.  Pray for us.

Pray specifically for me, that I can live my days, making choices that will have each day ending in a calm peace that knows no regrets.  That I will learn to balance the have-tos and the want-tos and the love-tos and my children's need-tos.  That I will slow down and look at bugs (no smelling flowers with all these boys!)  That I will care about Desirae's 25th conversation about her latest tip in her American Girl Magazine...  That I can get these kids out of this freaking house that is stealing all our joy and do something fun.

Life is passing us by... and not the town or the house, and certainly not the people who sold us this place are worth what I'm giving up in exchange for the drama and injustice they have thrown at us.

I will life my voice, to worship You, my King
I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings.
Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness, stretches to the sky.
Your righteousness is like a mighty mountain
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide

I serve a God of love, faithfulness, righteousness and JUSTICE... that will shelter me in the shadow of his wings and give me strength.  I know this.  I've seen it over and over.  I just need to rest in it and somehow surrender my sword and let Him fight for me.  I can't do it anymore.  And one thing I know for sure is the only thing worse than going through these earthly sorrows is missing the heavenly purposes along the way.  That and waking up one day and realizing there are no more chubby fingers and I was too busy with things that don't matter to sit with the ones who do.

I'm taking a seat....  Lord, it's all you....  Yours is the victory, and I will give you praise.

Chronicles 20:17 

But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD's victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!"

A friend sent this Psalm to me and it was like balm to my soul today ♥

Psalm 46:1-10
God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Kitchen Dance

Notice:  I've copied and pasted text here and I don't have the time or energy to figure out why it's all discolored and weird so just ignore that!  thanks! (that's some serious growth for this "Type A"!!) 

Today I kept finding myself sad.  I wasn't crying, just feeling kind of down.  I couldn't put my finger on why - until I noticed that I had posted like 3-4 things of Eden... her trying to stand, walking with a walker, and her big, beautiful smile... and I kept writing or thinking how much I miss Rachel.  It's not like that is new, but it was a bit heavier than usual.

I realized the why and wrote this on facebook:

It just dawned on me why today is a hard Rachel day... the hundreds of back to school posts... Rachel would be 5. She'd be in kindergarten this year. Yeah, I'd probably be sad if I was sending her off to school. I get that. I'm a crier. But wow, I'd give anything to be sad in the can't-believe-my-baby-is-growing-up kind of way. It sure beats the can't-believe-my-daughter-is-dead tears that even plague my tears of joy watching Eden and her siblings grow. I'm thankful for a heavenly perspective, but some days I just wish I could go back to the simpler days where watching them grow was the most "sadness" I knew as a mom. Where today, I would post a picture of my 5yo, holding one of those signs like everyone does now.. big smile, new dress, pretty shoes in a size 5, backpack on.... I miss her. God, I miss her.

Shortly after that, one of my favorite songs came on the radio and I called the kids in to dance and sing with me.  I had Ezra for the first song... Lauren Daigle...

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

 When I sing about Him not moving the mountains or parting the waters - all I can think about is Rachel.  And when I sing about His plans being good... Him knowing what tomorrow brings... that NOWHERE I go is a place He has not already stood... I think about how much that hurt.  How painful it was to wait for her death.... to bury her... to have so much of the world watching and judging as I did... and to know that He knows that pain and that He cares about mine even though His was even worse... wow.  

So at this point, Eden had asked me to hold her and Ezra and Sam (and Des) were in the kitchen being spun around by me and Eden was dancing with me.  The next song was Broken by Lifehouse. I remember as clear as can be hearing that song on the way into the cemetery one day not long after Rachel died and I literally was, as the song says, 'barely breathing'....

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

I remember blogging about it - I blogged every day, sometimes more than once a day then just to process what I was trying to carry around... my very heavy, broken heart.

I held Eden tight and just fell apart, dancing in our new kitchen.  I'm so thankful I have her - and I honestly still can't believe I do... but every great once in awhile, feeling her in my arms just breaks my heart for Rachel all over again... and yet, she is EXACTLY who I need in my arms to help me get to the other side of that brokenness.  So often when I'm holding her, I think of the verse God gave me that first week when we found out Rachel was going to die - that He will bring everything to completion... and I feel like Eden is bringing us full circle back to Rachel in so many ways, I can't put words to it.  She makes me feel like Rachel is so much closer - even though at times it hurts. It's like she is being used to break me again, so I'll heal more completely - like they do with bones if bones don't heal properly....

I cried through the rest of the song and she just put her head up against my face.  She is so, SO sweet and she knew I was sad and was comforting me.  She is a smart little lady, at only 8 months, I'd say she is going to be a compassionate person.  

The last song was Live it Well by Switchfoot.... it's a new song, but this has been my mantra since I found out about my brain aneurysm - life is short and not a day or even an hour is a guarantee, so live what you have well...  

The combination of the three songs hit me so hard... the reminder of how God doesn't always do what we want but that I can TRUST Him anyway in the first song, followed by a walk down memory lane of how bad it hurt when He allowed me to go through what I did with Rachel in the second song... and then ending with a reminder to make the most out of what I have right now.....

I am not sure I have a real great way to wrap this post up...  all I can say is that if I am honest, I've been too preoccupied for too long... like a big fat Martha, running around to get things done and not taking the time to sit at the feet of my Lord... and I so desperately need Him.  I need that communion with Him... I need to hear what He wants to say to me... I need to open His Word more often and soak it in and I need to find a way to do that realistically in the midst of this beautifully crazy and busy life I live.  And, it's been entirely way too long since I danced in my kitchen and I think I need to do that more often, too.
Reaching for me while she was dancing ♥

Carrying the Nail With Me

Well, that's a record - 2 months since I last posted....

In the last two months, I have packed up our old house, moved, and unpacked in our new home. (maybe half the boxes!)  It was no easy job and I don't want to do that again any time soon!

I always assumed leaving the house Rachel lived in with me would be hard.  It was - but not as I expected - mostly because for one, I was way too busy to have time to think and for two, if there was ever a time that she feels near me, it is now.

If you've been reading along my journey, you know what I'm talking about when I reference Rachel's nail.  It was a nail that was in my living room wall that, for a very long time, had her little purple dress hanging on it.  I didn't take it down because I felt like it would be as if I had lost hope in the possibility of her healing.

I finally took the dress down, but left the nail.  Here and there, I would hang other Rachel things on it, but the nail never came down.  It was the last thing left - that and the bouquet of daisies I left for the new owners on the counter - when we went to leave that Friday morning.

I turned around, pulled it out, and stuck it in my pocket.
If that nail represented hope in her healing - then why does it need to be left in that house?  I believe with all I am that she has been made whole in heaven with the Lord.  Her healing was in fact granted to her, and to me....  She is safe, happy, complete.

So, shortly after we moved into our new home (that has "Rachel" written all over it in so many ways!) I took the nail out from my pocket and hammered it into the basement door... ironically, in the center of what the details in the door outline as a cross.... and I hung the Hope star I hung the night before the day she was born.
It looks Christmas-y, and that's fine by me.  Christmas has brought us Jesus, Rachel, Eden...and HOPE!! 

I carry the hope of her healing with me every day - it's how I survive being without her.  I didn't leave her - or that hope - there.  I took it with me and will think about it and remember it every single day of my life until we meet again.

Ezra's 3rd birthday party - our last family photo in that home!
The last thing we did before we drove away... Rachel bear is on my lap, but you can't see it.
Seems fitting - she is with us, but you can't see her - I also like that Eden is playing with her ♥
Rachel's nail was safe in my pocket - and we are surrounded by the bulb fundraiser flowers I bought when we were raising money for her playground.
It won't be long and these photos will feel like forever ago.  We have loved and lost and grown so much in this house.  The day we moved in, we would have never seen any of that coming.  What a long, hard road.  But I know so intimately how desperate we are for Jesus, in all our weaknesses and failures - and how generous and merciful He is.  I hope I always remember how I felt sitting on that porch that morning, the humid air, the nervousness of selling this place we loved so much or the excitement over the new house we were about to buy - the laughter we had as Matt pushed the button and ran to get in the photo... being surrounded by my children, 3 of which I probably would not have if we were able to keep Rachel.  It's amazing how God unfolds our lives, a little at a time... and all we can do is take it one moment at a time and try to make the most of each of them.

So, here we go - on our next adventure.... thanking God for every day we get together and for the nail, the cross, and the hope that gets us through the days we have to spend without each other.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Goodbye Card

It's been a year since my Grandpa died.

The last time I saw him sitting up, before the cancer completely took over his brain, I had told him I was expecting again and he said to me "Good luck with your baby, I hope you have a big fat girl."

I did.  And I think he knows it.  Ironically, she was born on Christmas Eve, which all my life growing up was one day of the year we always went to Grandpa's house.

Tonight I have done a lot of reminiscing.  The awesome man he was and the horrible way he died.  I've thought a lot about how hard it is to wait for someone you love to die... and I feel like my family has had to do it way too much in the last 5 years.  First Uncle Dale in 2010, just a couple of weeks after we got Rachel's diagnosis... then we waited for her to die for four long months... then my Papa in the fall of 2014 and Grandpa just 6 months later, with their cancer diagnoses overlapping.  It's been overload watching so many people we love have their bodies shut down a little at a time, with so much physical pain.

My Grandpa was given much longer than he actually made it... which with how bad he suffered, I wouldn't have wished another day on him.  For us though, that day was dreaded and is still so, so sad to think about.  I had bought him a card, but seriously struggled with knowing which kind of card to buy - a 'get well' when he was just told he won't?  A 'sympathy' when he wasn't dead yet?  I was so overwhelmed, I was in tears in Hannaford trying to pick it.  It sat on my counter for weeks and weeks because I knew I wanted to write in it, but couldn't get myself to do it... I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

Then the call came.  My mom telling me I needed to come and see him and say goodbye.  I sat down to write, unsure if it was too late to share my heart with him.  I went over and sat next to the hospital bed in his living room... positioned in the same place Uncle Dale's hospital bed was when he died a few years earlier in that same room.  He welcomed me with "Hi Beautiful" my entire life, but this day, he looked at me when I walked in and said "Goodbye Baby."

I am so glad I got to tell him that I love him and was going to miss him because he never got to read my card.  I didn't say all the things I had written, but I cried with him and for him and held his hand and kissed his face and told him I would miss him so much.  He was so ready for the pain to stop... but had cancer not invaded his body, he would have stayed forever happily on this earth because he loved life.

So anyway, things got very difficult with family in the days following his death and I ended up taking the card home with me the next day after he was gone.  He was never going to see it and I didn't want it to be thrown away.  It's sat in my bill drawer since where I see it every time I open the desk.  I wanted to share it, realizing that only family will know what some of this stuff means, but just to explain a couple of things - my Grandpa dressed as Santa every year at the Elk's club for their Christmas party where they gave kids presents.  We knew he was Santa but my mom swore she'd kill us if we told the other kids.  He LOVED kids and kids LOVED him.  Every one of them.  And chocolate... he had a big stash of chocolate in his house and although he loved it for himself, he would let us take the last piece if we wanted it.  He said his Dr told him it was good for him to eat dark chocolate and then we'd joke about how they didn't mean quite so much.  He made sure my kids got real sugared up before returning home.  He also delivered pizza for years and when we were kids we would call up and order pizza and say "Can my Grandpa deliver it?"  And they'd say "Who is that, Frankie?"  Yep - the oldest pizza guy and he still drove the fastest....  And the last line, he often called me "kid"....

So, Grandpa... this card is for you...

I bought this card weeks ago, months ago maybe.  And it's sat here waiting for me to find words to write to somehow express what my heart wants to say to you.  And I can't find the words.  There aren't any adequate.  And I don't even know if you will be able to read this anyhow.  All I know is that you have been more to me than a "Thank you" would cover.  But, thank you for your songs, your laughter, your jokes, your chocolate.  Thank you for always being happy for me when I'm having another baby.  Thank you for being at birthdays and stopping in to say hi to me on random days when I needed a smile more than you knew.  Thank you for calling me beautiful and for giving me your gift of writing.  Thank you for your service to our country and for sharing some of your experiences with me.  Thank you for yummy meatballs and pizza deliveries.  Thank you for dressing up in a red suit to make kids smile.  If there ever was an old guy that kids love - it's you... and this Kid is going to miss you like crazy.
I love you,

I wish I would have gotten it there sooner - that maybe he could have read it or had it read to him.  But I think he knew all of these things... I hope.  I wish I could see him hold Eden.  I just know he would have been thrilled that I had that 'big fat girl' after all.  He was so sad for me losing Rachel and after he lost Dale to cancer, it was like we shared a new bond.  He was so supportive and never afraid to talk about her with me.

A couple of weeks ago, walking into church, Sam took my hand and asked if I remembered Bumpy's funeral. (that's what the kids call him)  It was rainy and I think it reminded him of that day.  I said yes and Sam responded "But now there are more baby funerals than there are adult funerals."  He had me in tears as I walked through the doors that morning.  My kids know more reality than I ever wanted to know myself.  Babies die.  A lot.  

The day of Grandpa's funeral, after we got home, there were the most beautiful rainbows EVERYWHERE.  And I mean everywhere.  They were posted all over my Facebook page.

There is hope.  Jesus conquered the grave.  And all those who call on His name shall be saved....

I believe Grandpa is with Rachel right now.  And I will not be surprised at all if God reminds us of that hope tomorrow (today!) with a rainbow.  It's a sad day down here, but I bet there is a lot of dancing going on up there. ♥

Friday, June 3, 2016

Unto the Great I AM

It's been 5 1/2 years since Rachel was born.

A long 5 1/2 years to go without holding her.

Lately I've been missing her a lot.  I have been in a pretty good place though... I feel like Eden is so much part of my journey with Rachel, it's hard to describe it.  I often want to blog about what I mean by that, but words escape me.  It's just so intense and personal - not that everything else on this blog isn't - but in a way that it's hard to properly describe.  All I can say is that God knew the exact time that my heart would be ready for and blessed by another little girl.  This is it and it's amazing.

Today I went to the gym.  I haven't been able to do much because of my blood pressure.  It goes crazy on me when I exercise.  But I have found something simple that is a great workout but a short one that keeps my teeth from buzzing and me from getting a horrible migraine (I know that sounds strange, but that's what has been happening every time I work out.) and also doesn't hurt my joints - or mess with my diastasis recti (that's a technical term for the disaster we call my stomach muscles thanks to multiple babies close together)

I hadn't yet realized it was the 3rd, but I did know I was more sad than usual.  It's funny how grief knows what day it is before I do.  June 3rd has been a hard day for me every year since she left.  I planted a bleeding heart on June 3, 2011 because that anniversary was extremely hard and my heart felt like it was truly bleeding.  Today, I found myself constantly thinking about her.  I usually listen to Jamie Grace when I work out, but today I decided to listen to Chris Tomlin. I got done exercising and as I walked down to get the kids, a song that I had picked for special music at Rachel's funeral came on and I started to cry right there in the gym.

In my mind, I was right back in my kitchen the day I picked that song for her funeral.  I was very pregnant with her and it came on and I fell apart in a sweetly painful time of worship all by myself...  Just me and Rachel...  I thought back to that day and was once again in awe of how beautifully God carried me though those hard days.  Waiting for my baby to be born and die, I was more in love with the Lord than ever before - because I needed Him more than ever before.  It hurt SO much.  Constantly.  And He loved me so well through all of that longggg and horrible 4 months and somehow made beauty out of it.  He used it.  He used me for His glory.

I asked Erik to sing that song at Rachel's service and he learned it just for her... and it was perfect...  I wanted every believer that came that day to be encouraged and every unbeliever to know why we were still standing...  I wanted people to understand why I chose to carry her to God's determined timing of the end of her life on earth.  Some didn't understand why I would put myself through that - when I was given a "way out".  And some thought I did it because I'm a Christian and had some rule that said I had to.  I believe in the sanctity of life.  I believe that every child is made by God.  I believe it's not right to take a baby's life.  But that's not why I carried her to term.  I carried her to term because she was a gift given to ME and *I* was... AM... her mother.  It is my job as a mom to care for and protect my children... at any cost to me.  And so I did.  And I would again.  And I would praise God just the same though it all.  For a God who loved me enough to pursue me in the depths of my sin and shame and bring me to Himself and welcome me into His family and give me a way to spend eternity with Him - and Rachel.... I am honored to have a chance to glorify Him through my pain.  I only wish I did it more perfectly.

I feel like the last 5 1/2 years, I have been in a grief fog that is finally lifting... and I woke up from it with 3 more kids and all sorts of health issues.... and she is still gone.  It's unbelievable how much has happened in these short - yet very long - years, including both my grandfathers dying last year.  I do feel like I'm finally getting my feet back under me, but I'm also seeing the reality of all that has happened to my family outside of my "survival mode" eyes and it's a different type of pain.  Some times when I read old blog posts, I cry for me - for the girl I used to be.  I feel sad for that girl as if it wasn't me... because I am so changed.  I am not the same person I was then.  That's a good thing.  And I know it probably sounds odd to say I feel sad for that girl, but even with it being me, I still can't fully understand how much I was hurting then because I think if it was me carrying all that pain, I would have died from a broken heart.  I don't think I could have continued to walk.  But it wasn't just me... and that's why when I read my own words, it doesn't feel like it was - because God Himself was using me... my pain... my little girl... and our journey of joy and sorrow together to show the world what He and His church can do with imperfect people.  He even showed me.  And for that, I'm thankful.

I'd give anything to go back to August 4, 2010 and hear "It's a girl!" and not have that followed up with bad news.  I'd give anything to go back to December 3, 2010 and give birth to my baby and not watch her die in my arms... to December 4, 2010 and not have to let a funeral home take her from me in the hospital.  I'd give anything to go back to the anniversaries that followed and celebrate her birthdays and half birthdays and milestones and the millions of little things in between.  I'd love to not have a blog named after her... or a non profit that pays for headstones and baby caskets and urns.

But then I wouldn't be who I am today... and although I'm still far from perfect, I can see how God used all of this, even the pain and my failures, to make me more like Jesus.  The Uncreated One... the perfect, sinless Lord who laid aside His royalty to wear a crown of thorns.  He is worthy.  He is good.  And He has victory over the grave that separates me and my baby girl for now.  Until we meet again... where will will bow together with grateful hearts unto the Great I AM.

                                                          "Uncreated One"

Holy Uncreated One
Your beauty fills the skies
But the glory of Your majesty
Is the mercy in Your eyes

Worthy Uncreated One
From heaven to earth come down
You laid aside Your royalty
To wear the sinner's crown

O Great God, be glorified
Our lives laid down
Yours magnified
O Great God, be lifted high
There is none like You

Jesus, Savior, God's own son
Risen, reigning Lord
Sustainer of the Universe
By the power of Your word

And when we see Your matchless face
In speechless awe we'll stand
And there we'll bow with grateful hearts
Unto the Great I am

Monday, May 9, 2016

Being Mom

6 years ago, on Mother's Day 2010, we announced with great excitement to family and friends that we were expecting our 4th baby.... our baby who was due on Christmas day.  Our Rachel Alice.

I still remember some of the looks... some gave us just silence... and some gave a few negative comments, such as "can't we pick a different time of year to have a baby?" and "Another one???"

Some people just don't see the point of going past two kids - and certainly 3 is enough, don't ya think?  Well, to be honest... I wanted 4.  My whole life.  And I thought that was a lot.  I wanted 2 boys and 2 girls and a white picket fence.  I was thrilled to be having our 4th... the baby who would complete our family.

I got it all...  I had it all... even the fence.

But nothing on this earth is anything but temporary.  The good, the bad, the in between. Nothing.

Each year on Mother's Day, I miss Rachel like crazy.  We always go visit her after church and I try to get a picture with the kids near her stone.  Reality is so loud on special days that I wish she were here for.

So, 6 years later, here I am.... I got the very exact thing I wanted and it was all stripped from me and it hurt and it's been a long, hard road... but I'm somehow still standing.  I've had 3 more beautiful babies since Rachel came and went... one of which was another Christmas baby!  We've certainly irritated the nay-sayers I mentioned above, I'm sure.

Another one??  Yes.  Can we pick a different time of year to have a baby??  Maybe, but as long as we don't have to also bury our baby, I don't really care what day the birth falls on.

All of these joys, sorrows, love and pain have come as part of the Mom package.  Having a child, you discover a love like no other.  Losing a child, you discover a pain like no other.

This life of mine is crazy.  It's chaotic.  It's hard.  It exhausts me every day.  My life is busy...  It's overwhelmingly demanding.  But it's also beautiful... rewarding... filled with JOY and smiles.  These kids bring me to my knees in the face of my inadequacies.  They steal my heart and run me ragged.  They have me cheering about poop, crying over chubby hands and singing about random things just so I don't look like I'm talking to myself.  I drink cold, or reheated coffee all day long.  I keep track of everything and write multiple lists every day that I never have when I need them.  I clean. non. stop and our house is still a mess and I do more laundry than I ever knew could circulate in one household.  I'm constantly on the go - and constantly needing my own mom because even though I am the one who is supposed to know what I'm doing here, I feel like I'm sure to mess everything up and need to hear her tell me I'm doing alright.  I will be absolutely lost when the day comes that I can't call my mom when I need her....  My heart aches for my family and friends who have had to say goodbye to their moms.  Moms are always needed.

Being "Mom" is a huge responsibility - a life long job.  Being "Mom" is commitment, perseverance, loyalty, protecting, advocating... unconditional love.  And that is all present in a mom even towards children who have left us much too soon.  Because being a mom... loving your children... has got to be the absolute deepest bond that exists except that between us and God himself - and it starts well before our babies are ever born into this world.

I love being a mom.  I love being Rachel's mom.  I'm thankful that having to let go of Rachel and surrender my idea of the perfect family has given me these three other children I may not have if my plan wasn't interrupted.  I'm thankful that God used her in too many ways to count to make my life richer and more meaningful.

I wish I was better at what I do.  I wish I was the mom I always thought I'd be from all those years of Early Education classes and jobs... but I'm just not.  I'm not because life is more complicated than I ever imagined - than any text book ever warned.  I never expected it to be so hard - and I never knew that hard could be so amazing.

It rained a lot today.  After we left the cemetery, we got some caramel sundaes, and the sun came out again. I posted on fb that there must be a rainbow... sure enough, multiple people shared pictures and told me of rainbows they could see from where they were.

Being a mom means some times you can't see the rainbow from where you are at... but that doesn't mean they aren't there.  It's just that sometimes as a mom, you need your friends to remind you that God's promises are true until you are able to see the rainbows again for yourself.

I thank the Lord for my mom, my children, and my friends who continue to remember Rachel and ride the waves of this journey with me.  I Thank the Lord that I am a mom... for all the joy... and even all the sorrow... and everything in between.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Dress

I've sat to write this post 3 times already.

Last night I stared at the blank screen for a long time and didn't write a single word.  I think there should probably be 3-4 different posts here - if only I had the time... the drive... the mental energy.

I'm sure if you've been around awhile, you've heard of *the* dress I had that I wanted to put Rachel in.  I bought it the week before her diagnosis when Des and I went out for my birthday.  It was on clearance for $1 and I had no idea if it was a girl yet, but the price was right.  I brought it home, and hung it on a nail that was already in my wall in my livingroom.

The next week, we got her diagnosis and when I got home from that ultrasound, this dress was the first thing I saw when I walked into the livingroom... right before I saw Desirae's 7 year old smile, waiting to hear if she was getting a sister.

That dress hung there for a lonnnng time.  I can't remember how long exactly, but it was her entire pregnancy and a long time after.  Through my pregnancy, I would look at it every time I entered the room and say to myself "Hope does not disappoint us."  It was what I held onto... that maybe - just maybe - she'd be healed and one day wear that dress.

Of course, she never did.  It hung on this wall as she died in my arms and hour away from home, never to see our home with her own eyes.

Eventually, I took it down.  The nail remained there as a reminder that God had graced me with so much hope throughout that entire time... impossible without Him... but one day I hung a picture of me holding her in the OR on it.

In the beginning of my pregnancy with Eden, God continuously called me to face my fears and "step out of the boat".  I wrote a few posts about that early on... about just how hard it was for me to be pregnant at all, let alone with another Christmas baby and with all my health issues.  One day right around that time, Sam came home from church with a project on Jesus calming the storm.  I hung it with the photo because I can't think of another time in my life that Jesus brought calm and peace in the most unexpected of places than in that delivery room as I watched her die.   And if He can do that there, it's possible anywhere.
of course this is #1243 in my photos ♥

time stamp... 12:03 ♥
If you know me, I'm not one to hang random stuff around my house.  I'm pretty into my decor looking put together.  So this nail has consistently held things that seem out of place, that only my heart really gets.

Almost 2 years ago, we moved a bunch of our stuff to a friend's attic so we could put our house on the market (again).  I put all of Rachel's stuff into a couple of big totes and even moved her hope chest out of here to make the house more spacious for showings.  I went back for her hope chest that year on her birthday - I couldn't stand not having it here.  But the other tote I left.  I actually forgot about it.  Until Eden came along.

In that tote, there was a big plastic bag with things I had for Rachel, most of which she didn't ever get to use.  The things she actually wore I had here, but I had a lot of clothes I never got to put on her...  and in that bag was *the* dress.

I sat here yesterday afternoon, looking through the bag, with Eden laying next to me... such a wide range of emotions.  I found the first outfit I planned to put Rachel in that my friend Harlee bought for her.  It was that day that she said "I guess purple will be her color!"  She bought it in October I think, and it had a bunny on it.  Odd timing for a bunny, but I didn't realize it until I pulled it out yesterday, just before Easter.  It is too small to fit Eden and never would have (and it was too small for Rachel, which is why she never wore it)... but then I found a little bunny blanket.  I had two of those - but I buried her with her lamb and kept the other lamb, so I didn't use these.  I gave one to Harlee for her daughter who was born just a couple weeks after Rachel and I kept the other.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be Eden's Easter gift from Rachel...
photo courtesy of Asa :)  and when I looked at the time stamp - 11:10  

I pulled out all of the clothes, hoping something would still be able to go on Eden, but most of it was up to 3 months and she is wearing 3-6 or 6 month clothes already.  I felt a little crazy as I laid out all the things I had for Rachel... all the things I had put into a tote that I was never going to be able to use, but couldn't get rid of.  And did I really think there was a chance I'd need that much for her??  I don't know....

But as I went through it, I realized that there were quite a few things with cupcakes on them.  Some were things my sister's friend Colleen gave me second hand, and one thing I bought.

I didn't remember that at all, but when I saw them, I realized someone else 'happened to be' sporting some cupcakes that day under her sleeper on the day I happened to go through these...
this was handed down from someone else!!
After over an hour of going through this stuff (including her scrapbook I started when I was pregnant with Asa and never touched again), I felt drained.  I guess I started to question what in the world am I doing holding onto these clothes that Rachel never wore, never would - and her siblings never would and they only take up space.  For what?  Why is everything so complicated?

And that's the feeling I was left with for the day - and the one that had me at a complete loss for how to write this post... it is that feeling that makes me question why I even still blog.  Is it possibly still helping anyone?  Does it help me?  Who is it for?  Does Rachel care?  Is my life now relevant to Rachel's Legacy?

So, as I sat there, holding Eden with the white screen in front of me, I got the urge to put her in the dress.  I had washed it earlier in the day.  I looked up at the clock and it was 10:27 ♥   For the next half hour, late in the night and alone with my 3rd little girl, I finally put a baby in *the* dress.  It's funny how I never noticed it had daisies on it until long after Rachel was gone, but it does.

She's either wondering why I'm taking pictures in the middle of the night or hoping I'm not taking her out of the house without pants - LOL

Not much of a 'dress' on this chubba wubba, but if I put some pants on under it, it will make a super cute shirt for a super cute little sister ♥

I got her back in her PJ's and nursed her to sleep...  I hate that I never had any of those late night, just me & her times with Rachel.  These are the most precious hours with my babies.  But after she went to sleep, I was having trouble sleeping.  I was thinking about the tag on the dress... it was a "Faded Glory" brand from Walmart.

Faded Glory... I wondered if the reason I stare at blank screens is because Rachel's Legacy is fading.  I wondered if maybe my words are hard to come by because I'm not the same writer with the same purpose, bringing the same glory to God.

I looked at the tag again and saw that the size said for up to 43cm.  I picked up the dress and looked at the tag inside the diaper cover. (I never realized this was a two piece, I always thought it was connected!)  It said "Rally Blue".  I don't know what made me look up the word "rally", but I did.  I looked in many different places because it has a few different meanings, but here are a few...

  • Use rally to describe that last push to finish a difficult something.  When you hit that last mile in the race and are so tired you want to quit, that's when you rally, finding strength to pick up the pace."
  • A marked recovery of strength or spirits during an illness
  • Return to a former condition
  • A quick or marked recovery after a period of weakness
  • To bring together again in order to keep fighting 
  • To rouse from depression or weakness 

 **Here I am again... another day has passed since I started this post.... I just can't get my thoughts out and it's kind of frustrating trying.  It's never been so hard for me to write before!  anyway....

We had missed our usual Good Friday visit with Rachel and so we went today.  We had to clear off some of her decor, per new cemetery rules... so we did that and we had a picnic there.  The kids played for a couple of hours and had a blast.  Me, Des & Eden went for a walk around the 'block' there together.  It was a nice afternoon together.

I tried to do our annual Good Friday photo, but boy is it hard to get a good photo with all these kids!  It's neat to see our family grow with each Good Friday shot though.

I also had Eden wear the dress...

♥ sisters ♥

I guess the reason I have such a hard time blogging these days is because I have a hard time making complete stories out of my thoughts.  And for days, this dress - and all that it meant in July 2010 through until today - has been on my mind constantly... trying to figure out what God is wanting me to hear.

I sat above the spot where my sweet Rachel's body lay, holding her little sister in her dress.  And I know that God is healing me though all these little earthly 'rallies'.  I do feel like this year, I hit a whole new bottom in my life - with all the changes that we've had in our home from Matt's job, to the kids going to school, to both of my grandfather's dying within 6 months of each other... Once again, I was brought to a place of brokenness that has led me to such sweet surrender.  A place where I needed my God more and where He revealed so much I needed to know about myself to become more like Him.

And here... just as things in all other areas of my life seem to be turning around... I found Rachel's clothes and the dress.  And it is the only thing of Rachel's that fits Eden when I did.  The one piece of clothing that continuously hurt that it remained empty... and today, it's not.

I do feel like I have been given a renewed strength and am ready to pick up the pace.  Except not in ways I would have expected.  Not in a Martha kind of way... but in a Mary kind of way.  God has put so many things on my heart for the days ahead.  Slow... relational...meaningful...purposeful days with my husband and the 6 children He has given me to watch over here on earth.  And this rally hasn't come as a result of Eden joining our family - but instead, I believe that God already knew I would be in this place when He sent her to be with me at this particular time in our lives.

He's so good.  I'm so thankful.  And I can't wait to celebrate Easter - and the truth that Jesus Christ conquered the grave!!  It's the greatest day in history...  It's the reason I'll see her again - and why I can trust Him with the details between now and then.

Thank You for the cross, my Lord.