Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I AM With You

I was talking to a fellow grieving mama friend tonight, her words could have been my own.... she said:

"People don't get it.  They don't get grief.... God is teaching me to keep being the bigger person, and to learn to live with being lonely......
Sometimes I think the loneliness is worse than the grief, and that is the true thorn we must bear until heaven."

Every time I read her words, my heart screams "Yes!  I get that."

I've had so many people say to me that they are 'so glad that I found support on line'.... and I am too, but you know what?  I'm surrounded by everyone HERE.  I'm surrounded by people who are glad when I find someone else who can support me.

And that is lonely.

But as we wrote back and forth, my fingertips spoke across the miles....

"Just remember that in your lonely times, God is always there and He never grows weary of your burdens and he will always be strong enough to carry them with and for you - and He loves you unconditionally."

And as I finished up talking with her... one of my long distance friends who gets "it"... my support from behind a screen.... the song Everlasting God came on.  It was one that always encouraged me through my pregnancy with Rachel - I believe it's even on the CD we made and handed out at her baby shower...

Every. Single. Time I listen to this song, the words that stir my heart to cry out in praise are the words "Our God, You reign forever, Our Hope, Our strong Deliverer....You do not faint, You won't grow weary.  You're the Defender of the weak, You comfort those in need"

OK, so it's the whole song!!!

This is for all my friends (now and to come) who know this loneliness...

I *know* it hurts.  I know it's hard and I know the road is long.  I know how alone a full room can feel. I know.  I feel it.  I live it.  I hate it too.

But I cling to the Truth that Our God is an EVERLASTING GOD... He doesn't ever grow weary of my heavy heart.  He doesn't love me any less.  He doesn't want to get away from me or be with someone more 'happy'.  He is CLOSE to the brokenhearted.  He is full of COMPASSION and He is aware of our suffering.  When everyone around me is blind to the burning rage in my heart....when another shoulder turns away at my approaching....when I watch a group of people talking and laughing and grieve that I will never be fully present in a moment like that again....when their eyes widen in discomfort at the mention of her name.... When I grow weary in this loneliness and pain....


He doesn't run.  He doesn't leave.  He doesn't hide his face.  He doesn't stop loving me.

In those valleys, deep and dark and stricken with grief.... when we can't find the words and friends grow tired of carrying our burdens.... He is ENOUGH.

My sweet friends, He IS all we need.  This world will always fail us.  But He never will.

And tomorrow, you can remind me of that.

Love you ladies.... and I am here no matter how long or deep your valley, no matter how heavy your burden. No matter how many times you say the same thing. No matter how complicated or unhappy you feel.  And I know that in those valleys, we will become more like Christ and grow closer to our Everlasting God.

So next time you feel the loneliness in the aftermath of your loss... look up to the heavens and say "Jesus, I'm lonely" and hear Him whisper...."I AM with you."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Easy Place To Be

Today was a rough day.

To put it simply, I'm tired of being a bereaved mother.

It's been a year now since we first started on our journey of finding a new church and while I've never really *liked* change and so that alone is hard for me, I find it close to excruciating to be somewhere where Rachel isn't known.

Ezra is approaching the 9 month mark and if you've been reading here long, you know this is one of my most favorite ages... and with that comes so much missing her.  I get excited about his milestones and I try to just be happy and focus on what he is doing, but it's impossible to not have each one of those moments be followed by an  "I wonder what she would have been like...."

We stopped at her grave on the way home from church.  The ice was finally gone, so we took down the garland and Christmas lights.  It was a rough visit....  I stood there, fighting with the flag stand and lights - trying to change things up so it looked fresh and tidy, (without actually having anything new to bring to her) as the wind whipped my hair in my face and my hands ached from the cold, I felt this... I don't know... anger mixed with defeat... building up in me.

I haven't been able to get there - I haven't been able to decorate like I used to or want to.... I haven't been able to find the time or have had the drive to bring my ideas to reality... and at times I just can't think of a single thing I could do.  I'm all out of ideas... I feel dry... and I want to just say that perhaps it means it's time to let it go and not worry about it, but any time I have let it go for more than a couple of weeks, I get really emotional and I usually don't even recognize why until I fall apart on top of her grave at some unplanned visit.

I put the flag stand in over and over and over... and over again... I couldn't get it 'right' and finally I blurted out "I'm so F-ing tired of cemeteries!" and I started crying...hard. (kind of goes with the majority of my day today) as I gripped the stand and pushed it deeper into the soil on top of my baby's grave... the daisy lights I had clipped on it fell off and I stood there, blinded by puddles of tears in my eyes and sobbing. Matt just watched me, unsure of what to do and said "It's not an easy place to be..."

Easy place to be?  I don't have one of those... this is my life.  I get no break from this.  Whether I'm fighting with a flag stand in a windy cemetery, sitting in a new place where nobody knows she is *always* on my mind, or watching my newest baby stand for the first time... nothing is easy.  Nothing is simple.  Nothing is what it appears at face value.  And honestly, I'm so tired of things being so emotionally complicated.  I can almost not even stand to be in my own head anymore.  I wish I had an 'easy' place.  I wish I had a simple place.  I *wish* I could talk "normal" mother stuff and have that actually be all that was on my mind. If only for just a short time here and there, I could slip into a space in time where I was more like everyone else and less like a mother who watched my little girl die in my arms before I even knew for sure that she heard me say "I love you".

I would love to have an easy place to be.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It's a Forever Journey

I think this might be the longest I've ever gone in between blog posts.

It's not that I have nothing to say.  I have all sorts of things that come to mind, that pull at my heart...

I just haven't had the words.

I want to share the daily ways that God reminds me that He is still with me and that she is safe with him.  There are many.

I want to share the struggles of year 4... the way grief still hits me out of nowhere... the sadness I feel when I look in her younger brothers' eyes and wonder about her.  Or the heaviness in my heart when I'm in a group of people who insist I only have 5 kids.  I want to share about the huge gift it is to my heart every time someone says I have 6 children without me having to correct them.

I want to tell you about my very tangible God who still makes times and places fit together in ways that only He could do and how that builds my faith.

I want to share how deep and unending my yearning for heaven is since she's been gone.

But somehow my days feel long and yet fly by.  These guys keep me amazingly busy and before I know it, I look at the clock and it's after midnight again.

I put off writing because quite frankly, I don't know how to do it quickly.  My blog posts have always been where I have worked through my thoughts and pain to a place of surrender and reliance on God.  Like the Psalms...

It's not something I can do in just a few minutes.  But tonight, to make it realistic for me, I wanted to take just a few minutes and just write.  To break the silence and get my fingers moving again.

It's been 3 years and almost 4 months - and while I'm not even sure you call what I'm going through 'grief' anymore, whatever it is is still here... I don't feel like I'm 'grieving' necessarily, but I just know it's not over - it's not my past - and I am positive it never will be.  I'm also completely okay with that.  I will be going about life and feeling like I have made it past the hard part and then it will hit me out of nowhere.  So while I cry less often, when I do cry, I cry much harder.

I do feel myself feeling a little more ready to be around people and talk about surface things, which for years I have had absolutely no patience for.  I would all but jump out of my skin trying to sit through a conversation on the weather type topics.  I am seeing some of my journey through all of this more clearly now and have had some conversations with God about the places that I messed up and what I should do to fix that.

And so I've made a lot of apologies and I'm sure I have many more to go... I'm thankful for the forgiveness I have been granted and I continue to work on forgiving where I need to as well.... that's a hard process for me.

On the other hand, I have also seen more clearly just how incredibly hard this has been and I am amazed that I have lived to tell about it.  Rachel was an amazing gift, but she really did come at a very high price for me and I am still completely confused why God chose me for this position.  Some days I honestly hope He will just take me home because I feel so overwhelmed and inadequate.  And as I write that, all I can think is... Jesus must have felt those same things ten fold.

And I guess I'll stop there because I can feel my mind starting to busy up and I can tell I'm about to change the course of this post.  Mostly, I just wanted to say that I am still here.  We're all doing pretty well.  I still miss her like CRAZY pretty close to every minute of the day.  And there is a ton going on in the Aube house that we could use some prayer for... so here is a little prayer list if you could remember to bring us to the foot of the cross....

- Rachel's Race is planned for Aug 2.  I have made a commitment to my family that this will NOT consume me this year.  There are many costs and I will be doing no pre race soliciting of funds.  PLEASE pray that God will bring a lot of participants and that He will bless my obedience to follow Him in how I am going about this race this year.  Pray for donations - both monetary and of items for the auction.  And most importantly, Pray that I will be a blessing to the other families who have lost babies who will participate in our baby remembrance ceremony.  The plans for this have been going through my mind non stop, I want this to be healing for my fellow baby loss friends.

- We have moved out half our our stuff to get our house ready for the market. We have a few finishing touches to do with painting and organizing (this place looks AWESOME!!)  but we are praying that God will bring a buyer and line something up for us to go to quickly.  We have no set plan, but are hopeful and trusting that God knows and we just need to take this next step.  Pray for my heart, as this is where I lived with Rachel dancing around in me - it's very emotional for me.

- Continue to pray for my niece Jailyn and her mom (my sister) Meagan - as well as my mom Rachel who they are living with.  Jay has come very far but this is a very long and difficult road.  My heart has been so sad for her lately.  Pray that she will get use of her left arm back and for her heart as she gets back into school.  We are praising God that we will get to see her turn 10 soon.  So thankful she is still with us.

- And please pray for my friend Kaitlin as she prepares to meet her little boy who has acrania (similar to anencephaly) and isn't expected to live long after birth.  We have been blessed with 4 of us in this little area who all have had babies with either anencephaly or acrania and have had a few times of sweet fellowship together.  It's sad to me that this happens at all, scary that it happens so often when I never even knew it existed, but so thankful that God has given us each other.  There is nothing like having surface conversation with people and *knowing* that even though you are talking about the weather, each one is thinking about their baby and at any moment if I want to yell out her name, they would all smile and understand.... they might even follow my lead.

Because that is just the way it is.... it's a forever journey.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Know She Loves Me

We're getting ready to put our house on the market and so I've been de-cluttering.  I have a shelf in the bathroom that used to have a couple of baskets on it with our lotions and things in it.  I moved them and put Rachel's Christmas cactus there in their place.

For Valentines Day, I had found this little heart decoration that I planned to leave at her grave, but I was afraid it would get ruined and I stuck it in her cactus instead.  Every time I look at it and read the "Love you" written on it, I remember how many times people have told me that they thought of her 43 minutes as symbolic of her saying "Love you" to me  (because back in the day, the code for "I love you" on pagers was 143 and it was like dropping the 1 and just saying the last two words)

So when I see the words on this heart, although I bought it for her, I hear the words from her to me.  I know it sounds strange, but I'm just sharing the way my mind and heart work. 

Then I also have this little bud vase I keep in the bathroom and I always put a single or a couple daisies in it when I get new ones for the kitchen.  I had put a daisy in there and put it on the shelf next to the cactus.

Lastly, I have a little white clock.  I had this on the shelf above the dryer for the longest time - it's supposed to help me keep track of time in the morning, which never helps, but it was a good idea.  I had moved it to the shelf because it looked cute.  Last week or so, I noticed it wasn't working and I picked it up and saw there was water in it.  I asked the kids and they told me Asa had thrown it in the toilet (this is why I never read the page in "I'll love you forever" about the 2 year old throwing his mom's watch in the toilet!!) and they didn't know what to do, so they just put it back.  I tossed it in the trash and a couple days later, I picked up a new one. (Thankfully they are only a couple bucks at Walmart)  I put it on the shelf and planned to set it later because it required batteries and I didn't have any....

So tonight, I look at the clock and I literally almost stopped breathing.  I had to get real close to make sure I was seeing it right.  It's set at 10:27.

I looked to see if the minute hand was moving... maybe Matt put batteries in it... it is right about that time... nope, no batteries, not moving....  10:27.  How did I not notice this before?!

I looked behind it at the daisy flopped over in the bud vase and felt heavy at the thought of what 10:27 meant for Rachel...  It was the beginning of her end...  she was taken from the safe and comfy place inside me and put on a cold table with people all around her she didn't know - and then placed on my chest to die. 

I looked up at the heart.... "Love you"

Be still my heart.....

I looked at the other side of the plant and saw the little plaque I have there.... "My peace I give unto you"  it says....

and suddenly I feel like without even trying, I just made the most *perfect* little memorial shelf of Rachel's birthday...

My Christmas baby...10:27...a fading daisy... that loves me... and peace He gave unto me.

That was her day.

And every once in awhile, when I'm least expecting it...that Christmas cactus blooms for me.

And I suppose it's no coincidence that as I wrap up this post, it's 11:10....

43 minutes later, Ezra now in my arms,,,,

I know she loves me.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Even Know-It-Alls Don't Know It All

I'm just going to disclose something here... I have a very serious dislike for know-it-alls.  I'm pretty sure most people do.  Nobody likes to interact with someone who has all the answers to everything.  It's annoying, mostly because it's ugly pride and actually completely impossible to know it all.  You know what I'm talking about... the people who no matter what the subject, they are an expert and can 'tell you all about it'...  drives me crazy.

In July 2012, I wrote a blog post called The Truth About Anencephaly.  I still regularly get comments on it - to date, it's been read 39,444 times with only about 54 comments...  well, the one I got today made 55, but I probably won't post it on that post.  I'm so grateful for how far her story has reached.  I was actually blown away when I went to see how many times the page has been read because I had no idea it was that high!

I have had a few very mean things said to me in relation to this post so when I see a comment come through my email, my belly flips and I brace myself as I open it.  Lately, I have been pleasantly surprised to find all encouraging responses.  Today, I received one from a know-it-all that I just *have to* respond to.  It's not really that big of a deal, I wouldn't say it is mean per se, but it's got my blood boiling and so here it goes... 

This comment was in response to a line I wrote in that post. The reader writes:
" 'And so while it's very obvious looking at my girl in this photo that she has been affected by sin' 

How someone looks or what defects they're born with has absolutely nothing to do with "sin."

Important findings about some factors that affect the risk for anencephaly:

Low intake of folic acid before getting pregnant and in early pregnancy increases the risk of having a pregnancy affected by neural tube defects, including anencephaly.

There has been a 27% decline in pregnancies affected by nueral tube defects (spina bifida and anencephaly) since the United States began fortifying grains with folic acid.

Babies born to Hispanic mothers are at an increased risk for anencephaly. Reasons for the increased risk among Hispanic mothers are not well understood."
 First of all, I would like to share with you how I started and ended that thought because I hate it when people take things out of context...  I said:

"People will say things to make me feel better like "This was God's plan" - and I agree that God has all things under control, but I do not believe that God ever desired - or desires - these types of devastating things to happen to us.  Sickness and death, pain and sorrow, are a result of sin.  God never wanted us to have to endure these things.  But because of the fall of Adam, we do - and so He promises to be with us through it if we believe in Jesus.  And He promises that when this life is over, all who believe in His Son will live forever in heaven with no sickness or death, no pain or sorrow.
And so while it's very obvious looking at my girl in this photo that she has been affected by sin, I also experienced first hand what it's like to hold my child as her spirit, which is whole, went to live forever in paradise.  And who knows, maybe she wasn't really 'missing' anything... maybe we all just have extra growths on the top of our heads...  because I'm certain that she is perfect just the way she is.  And I'm proud to be her Mama."

Second of all... ALL OF US are affected by sin.  It's the reason we die at all, and it IS absolutely the reason that anything like anencephaly exists to begin with, including normal aging.  I am not saying that Rachel - or I - was being punished for our sin.  I was saying that if sin didn't exist in this world, there would be NO death or dying or ANENCEPAHLY.  Whether we choose to acknowledge this truth or not, it's the truth.  It's like gravity - you may not acknowledge that you can't fly, but try jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and you will learn that gravity wins.  God's Truth is like that.  You can't escape it and you can't change It's mind.  Gravity drags you down and sin causes death.  It's the way God created the universe and the way He punishes sin.  You don't have to like it or even agree, but one day you will have to step out of the plane.

My next issue... If anyone thinks at this point in my journey - 3 1/2 years after I watched my baby die in my arms that I have a need for more information, I don't.  That little blurb came with no heart and straight 'facts' with seemingly no real comprehension of anything I said.  I have done enough researching and talking to other moms to know more than I want to or I need to know about anencephaly.  If there are new things to consider, I'm not interested - I have enough to worry about with all I already know.  It becomes very difficult to take my thoughts captive if all I ever hear is how if I do xyz it lowers my chances of having an anencephalic baby because guess what?  I ALREADY DID and I know it can happen again. So while it's fun to think I might have some control over it happening again - say if I eat enough of these 'fortified grains' that this person speaks of - I don't want the control.  I don't want it for the future, because if I take it for the future, I have to claim it for my past and Rachel's "defect" was not my fault.  It happened - get ready for this... BECAUSE OF SIN.  Not specifically hers, Not specifically mine.  Just because sin is here and from the moment we are created, we are dying.  You've heard death is a part of life, haven't you?  Yes, that's right - but it wasn't always.  God created us good.  Perfect.  Adam and Eve sinned.  Death exists because of sin. 

But you know what else?  God has USED it for my good and HIS glory.  It's not just about her missing her brain, people.  This is the story of Rachel Alice Aube and the unbelievable legacy God has used me to help her leave.  Her life is so much more than her defect and so I don't actually desire to know what caused it.  I could literally go completely insane and die of a broken heart lamenting over why this happened if I allowed myself to mull over it and not just trust God with the why, the how, and the what if it happens again....

But I just have to say it... do you really think I don't know about the folic acid line at this point?  Do you really suppose that I made it through tons doctors visits, dozens of ultrasounds, and multiple genetic counselors without any of them filling me in on that?  It was literally the very first thing I learned... and you know what I said when they told me? 

I said, "She's my daughter and I love her and I will not give up on her... no matter what comes our way."  I listened to them when they were saying it was probably a folic acid deficiency, but to be honest, I never gave that too much weight.

I started taking more as they recommended, but I asked for the blood test that would confirm this suspected folic acid deficiency before I started - I was told and I quote "We don't usually do that kind of test."  OK, so that begs the question... if you don't 'do that kind of test' when someone has a baby with anencephaly, then how in the world do you know that a folic acid deficiency plays a part?... Oh, that's right... you don't.  And here's something interesting for you to know...MY FOLIC ACID WAS FINE. that's right, "Normal."  And I was on folic acid before I got pregnant... just another interesting fact.  Not a guess or a statistic... a fact. 

On top of this, I have been working with Duke University in their anencephaly study and after well over 25 years of studying anencephaly, they *still* do NOT have a definitive answer.  They told me that they believe folic acid can play a part but have been unable to prove it.  Probably because of people like me who actually get tested and find that folic acid wasn't it.  Does that happen?  I'm sure it could be.  But if it was *the* reason... it would have been proven by now.  *The* Reason is the effects of sin.  It's the same reason that things like cancer, diabetes, and yes, even know-it-alls exist.

We all know someone who has died.  Tell me, which of your dead loved ones would you want someone talking about like they were nothing more than a number or result of your being deficient?  Which one of your family or friends would you like to be told could have lived if you had only eaten enough grains? 

So now that I've made my 'points', which I'm aware plenty of people could - and probably will - debate with me... and don't really leave me feeling much better...let me humble myself and share my heart.

I wrote that post as part of my grief journey.  I wrote it because I realized that I needed to stop running from her anencephaly and accept that it was part of her.  I wrote it because even after 2 years of research and another healthy baby, anencephaly had a grip on me.  It had me scared.  Sometimes to a point of being paralyzed. 

I would go to great lengths to only let people see Rachel in photos that hid all the 'imperfections' and all that was missing.  I wrote that post because Rachel was not about science.  She was not about deficiencies.  She was not about eating more grains.  And while I understand that many people who find that post do so when researching Anencephaly for school or some other scientific thing, I would hope that anyone with half a heart could see that I was not writing a textbook... I was writing the story of my love for my daughter and God's love for me as I mourned the loss of my baby and felt the deepest pain I have ever experienced. 

I wrote it to share the story of Redemption. Her redemption.  My redemption.  And if you put your trust in Jesus Christ and humble yourself before His throne... Your redemption.  It's a mystery of love and grace and mercy and although it is a beautiful thing, it's not always painless getting there.  I would go so far as to say it's never painless. 

And if I'm perfectly honest, when the anger fades, what is really there is hurt.  What's left is sadness.  Guilt.  Questions.  Uncertainty.  Fear.  Tears....

Because the only thing worse than putting your baby in the ground is being told you could have stopped it.  The only thing worse than the thought of it happening again is the pressure that comes with believing that I can do the right things and avoid it.  And the only thing worse than my daughter having the top of her head and most of her brain missing is when I do such a hard thing as share that photo with the world, to be sent cold and indifferent "findings" as if it's a photo of anencephaly and not my baby.

There has yet to be a time that someone has offered another possible thing I could have changed, that I have not felt chaos in my soul.  The *only* time I am at peace with losing Rachel is when I am totally surrendered to God's ways, believing His plan for me is better than my own, and completely trusting Him with my heart - both in what I have endured in the past and what I could come up against in the future.  He's the only One strong enough to carry me through it.  And I'm so thankful He does.

I was sharing MY truth about anencephaly.   I never in a thousand years expected that anyone would read that and see my vulnerability as a time to jump in and correct me... even if they were thinking it.  I read that comment and I wanted to jump through the computer and shake them...Don't you get it?  You don't have all the answers.  And it's okay.  God does.

Even know-it-alls don't know it all.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

He's Got This

It appears as though my blood pressure is finally coming down. The doctor has given me the go ahead to start weaning off my meds, so long as it stays low as I do.

I have been asking doctors and nurses since Ezra was a day old about this strange cramp I keep getting in my stomach and I have been blown off every time.  Today she finally paid attention and confirmed what I had been suspecting all along, I have a hernia.

I'm feeling really discouraged with this.  Not necessarily the hernia, but more so my entire physical state.  Seems like it is one thing after another and I'm just trying to be a young, healthy and somewhat fit mom so I can be involved in my children's lives and enjoy their younger days with them...  It's gone from my blood pressure issues to painful autoimmune diseases to a complicated gene 'mutation' to anxiety and now a hernia...  I'm pretty tired.  Not physically, but more so mentally and emotionally.

I felt mostly fine about this all day, but tonight at church, I cried a lot.   I wasn't really engaged in the crying, I just couldn't stop the tears.  And as I thought about the why of it, I realized that I was just starting to feel like things were getting better.  I've been doing an exercise program at home, 15 minutes a day and have seen amazing results physically, mentally and emotionally... and I've been feeling stronger and healthier - I've been in less pain....

On top of that, today is the day that the city voted on the approval for Rachel's Race... I'm supposed to call in the morning to get the official okay... 

And on top of that... I don't have insurance.  We tried to get me onto Matt's and they wanted us to pay back to November to sign on mid-term - so I looked into Obamacare, which somehow concluded that we could afford almost $1000 a month for just me (crazy!!!) but they would give us most of it back at the end of the year - that would be great if we had that up front, but we don't. 

I asked the doctor today about the exercises I do and she said it should be fine.  What I'm reading on line isn't so sure about that... and this is the doctor that told me I was just constipated for the last few months... do I trust her?  Not really... but I can't afford the surgeon without insurance.

The exercise is what has been helping me feel better as far as my horrible joint pain and I don't want to stop.  I like being able to move better and I like not looking 6 months pregnant anymore.  But what if I make the hernia worse?  But if I stop, the joint pain will undoubtedly get worse again. I was feeling extremely laid back and calm about Rachel's Race for once and I don't know how this will all play into that - like, how does a person run a 5K event after having surgery? (or with a hernia?)  And how will I care for the 5 kids I have at home if I can't lift for 5 weeks?  And what about nursing?  And a whole bunch of other 'what if's' that I don't have answers to because at this moment in time, I don't even know how bad the hernia is or what kind of surgery it will require because I don't have insurance and can't afford an ultrasound. 

I just feel so stuck.  I feel a little robbed.  Like here I am with all these things finally lining up and feeling a little more human - and now it's taken out from under me and I'm going back to square one.  But maybe that's just an illusion because the last diagnosis I got, I've just ignored because I didn't know what to do with that either. 

During our prayer time tonight at church, one of the ladies reminded me that 'God's got this'.  And I know He does.  He has never once left me alone or failed me.  He has shown me in a bunch of different ways today that he is here and in the details... starting with the bouquet of daisies and pink roses that met me at check in before I got this news this morning and the bouquet of daisies that met me at my house when I got home from my appointment... and the multiple references I have been sent or 'stumbled upon' reminding me to REST in the Lord.

So, I am feeling low... and it probably won't be hard to tell by looking at me... but there isn't a valley I've walked through that My Lord has not met me in to light the way - and so as uncertain as this feels and as frustrated as I am... I will rest in Him... because He didn't bring me this far to drop me. Everything I do is for His glory - so I am believing He will see it all through in his perfect way and time.  I'm trusting that He's got this.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Time to Laugh

Thursday night Matt parked across the street so he could shovel our driveway.  I mentioned at about 10pm that he should move his car back to our side of the street and shouldn't leave it there.

He said "It's fine."

Friday morning I woke to Isaiah telling me he saw footprints up to our front door.  I shooed him away and went back to sleep.  Next thing I hear is Matt saying "Stacy, you're never going to believe this... I went out to get your Valentines gift out of my car... and my car is gone...."

We all threw our boots on and jumped in the van.  Matt was the last one in and I instructed the kids to all yell "Happy Valentines Day Daddy!!" when he got in the van. He laughed.  As we drove, he said he was going to ask them to give him a discount.  And he was serious, which was the cute part. :)  I told him "I know you're special and all, but you're only that special to me."

That night we planned to go skating with the kids.  We got to the rink and it was closed for snow removal on the roof... we decided to stop at Hannaford's and get a snack for the kids.  My wonderful husband dropped me at the door in front of the grocery store and as I made my way to the entrance, he began yelling as loud as he could "I LOVE YOU HONEY CAKES... HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY... I LOVE YOU!!!" (In a voice that sounded almost as if he was in pain) Everyone around me was embarrassed too...and of course there was a 'traffic jam' at the door and like 10 people going in at the same time. One lady said "You're loved" and I mentioned that, actually he was just going out of his way to embarrass me. "His is coming to him" she said...

As I walked through the store (wearing my loudly swishing snow pants) I kept laughing out loud to myself. I pretty much looked crazy. And then when I went back to the van, he locked the doors and started yelling "Do a dance honey!" As he threw his arms around encouraging me to dance as if that was the 'password'.  The kids were cracking up and probably a bit nervous for his life - But, after I busted a move in the Hannaford parking lot in my snow pants, I promised him I would get him back.

Well, 'his time came' when we went to a Murder Mystery Dinner Sat for our anniversary. We had other plans that got canceled because of the storm and last minute we decided to go to this show that we had no idea what it even was! It ended up being an interactive play where there is a murder and you have to figure out who did it (think the game Clue) They gave us fake cash to buy clues, but in one room when they offered the 'highest bidder' a song made up for - and sung to - the person of their choice, I bid all my money to get Matt up there... and this is what came of that... 

And after he was thoroughly embarrassed... I promised him I was putting it on the internet. :)

Next time you see him, do me a favor and say "Hi Big Bad Matt!" He can just thank me that I didn't make him do the running man. ;)  

I think this may have been the most fun anniversary we've had yet and I realized just how much we love to laugh. Something our relationship was founded on and can get lost in the day to day of life... but as silly as it sounds, this weekend brought that back for us and it feels awesome.  Looking forward to another year with my "Hot Matt". LOL!!!

While the journey with Rachel was hard on us in so many ways - and honestly, I know with all I am that God' grace alone kept us together through it... I am so thankful for how our sweet little girl gave us a different vision for our lives.  We stopped on the way home Sunday to shovel out Rachel and a couple other graves and I said to Matt "This was never what I envisioned when we stood in that church 8 years ago... that we'd spend so much time shoveling graves..."  And my next thought was "Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord" 

Rachel taught us how to shine - and how to see light - in dark places.  She taught us how to love... to live... to laugh...right where we are and in whatever circumstance He sends our way. Our lives and our marriage are so much richer from loving this little girl who some saw a just a burden.  You'll never see me slap on a fake smile, but I've never been more sure that the joy that the Lord gives makes me strong.  It just comes in a completely different package than I expected. 

Today we celebrate 8 years of marriage, 6 babies, all our needs constantly provides for by our amazing God....and we look forward to every day we get to spend together in the future here on earth... and eternity together in heaven.  We are undeservedly blessed.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Love Never Fails

Getting caught up on some posts today - sickness has us home from church and I have trouble finding time to write during the week now.  Homeschool is busier than ever (obviously) and by the time I teach, get Asa down for nap, eat lunch & exercise and then shower...it's time to make dinner.  Anyone who thinks a homeschooling family is suffering from boredom is delusional.

So anyway... I have struggled since E arrived to get to Rachel's grave on Fridays.  Our new church is in Dover, so we have been stopping there a lot on the way home.  I feel okay about it.  Like I've said, I do what my heart needs and I haven't really been *yearning* to get there on Fridays like I used to (right now).  But every once in a while, I *need* to go. 

As January came to an end, I was aching to get her grave "up to date" in décor.  Her tree was still up and every time I went, I felt like it was time - but I never seemed to be able to plan anything out and so I always showed up empty handed.  I refused to take down our Christmas stuff at home until I changed hers out since it went up on her birthday at both places.

I usually put out a bouquet of daisies and tulips (our wedding flowers) for February since our anniversary is on the 18th.  But I went up in the attic to get them down and the last 3 years of weather had done a job on them.  They looked beaten up.  I went out to Walmart to try to get something and after looking forever, came across a DIY project page for a Kissing Ball...

I had just said to Matt the night before that I thought the kissing ball we put out for Christmas worked good because the snow didn't stick to it... and a kissing ball seemed appropriate for February - so that was it.  I picked out some flowers to mix into the old ones (the old ones have a lot of sentimental value since my mom had brought them to her birthday at the hospital) and I went home and got my glue gun out. 

After about an hour of messing with the ribbon, flowers and hot glue, I felt it....

I *really* needed to do something for her. 

I used to spend all sorts of time creating things for her grave.  I liked everything to be handmade and from me with lots of meaning.  And I just haven't been able to do that for a long time.  (5 kids at home takes up most of my time)  Often I pick stuff up on the way and make it there, but always in a rush (and the last time was when Matt cut his finger in August!!)  But back in the early days, it was how I worked through my intense need to care for her when I couldn't actually care for *her*.  I just didn't realize I was craving that so much. 

I didn't make it on Friday... so we planned to go on Saturday.  That didn't happen, so it became the plan for Sunday.

Sunday when we got out of church, we were in two separate cars because we had Jailyn & Caleb and we don't all fit in one.  It was a long morning, so the plan became to go home and I'd go back later to decorate...but something happened to me.

I think a mix of being completely exhausted....

( Side note:  If you have never taken care of someone who has disabilities before, this may not have crossed your mind - but please say a prayer for my family, especially my sister - as great and amazing as Jay is doing, it's a huge amount of work and Jay requires a lot of help.  It's also just very hard to see someone you love have a sudden tragic thing take away so much from them. It brings on a different kind of very real grief for everyone. It's easy for people to see her and only think "wow, so amazing" - and don't get me wrong - it IS... she is alive and walking and she is absolutely proving the doctors wrong and proving how amazing God is... but my heart breaks over and over again as I watch her try to lift her arm by her shoulder or push her bowl to her chest to try to eat without dropping it... or to sit and watch kids run or wrestle and get angry at them for being able to and feeling left out. Or the crazy amount of medicine she has to take through her G-tube.  Quite frankly, this journey has just begun for them and it's a hard one.)

... and feeling the weight of this huge burden I have to be a light in an often dark and painful world....

I found myself leaving Matt going in a different direction and driving straight to Rachel's grave.  I was pouring tears before we ever left the parking lot of the church.  I stopped suddenly at her spot, stepped out, took a few good size steps to her stone and fell on my knees on top of her grave. 

The ground wet and muddy from the snow having been shoveled away, I had a complete breakdown - like a face-on-the-ground kind of breakdown.  Bent around my knees, I sobbed and clutched the ground over her tiny body, leaving fingerprints on the grass, and it was not even about her completely...

It was more about everyone I love having no interest in their Salvation through Jesus and I can't do anything about it... It was communion Sunday and the sermon at church was amazing... but usually when I hear about how God rescued me from eternity in hell, I usually feel so thankful - but this day, I wanted to just ask if He was going to fill my heart with so much love for people who would turn from him, couldn't he have just left me in my ignorance?  I know it sounds stupid... I mean what kind of fool prays to be ignorant and go to hell?

I sit on top of Rachel's grave and hate the ground that separates us and I just fear the day that any of them die and I don't have anything else but the ground between us...  no promise of seeing them again - not a true one anyway.... and no ability to picture them in 'a better place'.... and honestly, it makes me want to puke.  It makes me beg Him to take me first.  I know their eternity isn't supposed to be about me... and it's not... but I don't know how I would make it through losing any of them knowing heaven was not their destiny. 

So there you have it... I'm a selfish, afraid, and now soaking wet and puffy faced mother, daughter, sister, friend... who would rather go to hell with you than leave you behind.

But I can't give it to anyone  - and most the time I'm not even a good example of what it means to be in the body of Christ... I feel like I can't even rightly show them why they would or should even desire to know Him... and it literally feels like a million tons of bricks crushing my chest and stealing my breath. And because I know all too well that we aren't guaranteed 90 years with anyone... time feels like it's going to steal them from me.

I got back in the van, pushed my frizzy  hair away from my face, wiped my mascara from my cheek to my pants, I looked back and begged Desirae and Jailyn to take their relationship with God seriously - and drove home...crying.  They probably thought I had gone off the deep end.  But dear Lord please don't let me be a stumbling block to my children and my family...don't let me fail them. Show me what it means to never let love fail.

The plan became to bring Rachel her new stuff on Monday...which "just happened" to be the 3rd.

We took a vacation day from school and went to Rachel's grave.  Packed up the Christmas stuff and put out the Valentines/Anniversary stuff...

I'm pretty happy with how the kissing balls came out. I made one for our house too. My best friend Lisa had sent me a new flag for Rachel a couple weeks back that has her hands on it and it says "Love Lives Here - Hope does not disappoint us - Romans 5:5" I thought it would be perfect, so I ordered another one.  I try to always have matching stuff here and there, which actually helps me on the weeks when I don't get there.  I feel like I can still see how her stuff is doing even without driving over there.  The other flag isn't here yet (I'm guessing it will show up on Valentines or our Anniversary - because that's just the way things go around here!) so I put the "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" flag with her for now and her hands here at our house. 

So anyway, here it is... that was much longer than I expected... sorry!

Always Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Endures.
Love Never Fails
I couldn't get the Christmas lights out, they are frozen on the ground, so had to leave the green garland up for now.

The tulips and daisies from the first February without her (was our 5th anniversary) mixed in
and a little heart shaped rock one of the kids found that I painted for her.

By the time I got the ones at our house set up, it was late at night... but I got them out there on the same day.
My heart wouldn't have allowed anything else.  The bright pink looks so pretty - and 'ironically' I couldn't get to the garland or lights here to take them down because of all the snow... which I didn't realize until right now makes it just like her grave.

Not in This Storm

During one of the recent snow storms, Asa was asleep and me, Matt & the other kids all went outside to play.  It was Ezra's first time playing in the snow - he really liked the sled and seemed to be in awe of the snowflakes.  We all laughed and got so much joy watching his response to the surroundings. It was precious watching him look around, all bundled up and pink cheeks.  He has the cutest little nose - well, all my kids have that nose... it's super cute. :)

As we played, I kept getting this overwhelming feeling that I *really* wished Asa was with us.  He doesn't often get to play in the snow and I knew he would love playing outside with Mama & Daddy too.  I had to regularly fight the urge to go wake him up and bring him out with us. 

At one point or another Matt and each of the kids all said to me that they wished Asa could be there too. 

I was the only one wishing Rachel was there too... (that I know of) but something about this moment helped me to feel a little less 'obsessive' and a little more 'normal'.  I realized that it's not just because Rachel is dead that I miss her.  It's because she is my daughter.  And it's 'normal' for families to miss people in their family when they aren't around, especially if they are making memories together.  I missed Asa just as much as Rachel in that moment - and he was just upstairs sleeping. 

I'm not really into the whole analyzing grief thing.  I've tried to just allow God to do what He will with my pain and my journey for the last 3 years and to allow myself to feel and do - or not do - whatever I need in order to help my heart survive this unimaginable loss.  But this was one of those times that helped me to feel less like I'm just stuck on the memory of my dead baby and more secure in knowing that I would miss her just as much if she was upstairs sleeping.... I would still want her in every picture, still want her in every laugh, still want her in every memory. 

the snow made it hard to get good pictures, it was coming down pretty good.
I've had people suggest to me that I only still miss her like I do because perhaps I feel like if I let go of this pain, she will be too much in the past and I'll have nothing left.  That maybe I force myself to still keep her so included and I should allow myself to move forward and know that she would be okay with it and that it's okay to let her be a great memory that doesn't affect my future. 

While I understand where they might come to that logic, I have always known that grief isn't something that follows logic... at all.  But more than that, I know that a mother's love doesn't follow logic... at all.  And I know that God designed my heart and my mind for His glory, not my comfort.  He never said that life would be all happy smiles and fun.  But what I've found in the middle of this long snow storm; the storm that has forever left me with a painful awareness that we aren't all here... is that the JOY and PEACE and HOPE and unspeakable LOVE that I have experienced in each and every tear as I miss her is something I could have never had without the pain - not without the rain, the gray skies... the snow... 

But while Asa slept upstairs, I was given the perfect picture in my mind of Rachel... just in a different room... probably dancing... until I get to where she is....

I saw that it's okay and totally "healthy" and not stunting my "healing" to wish they were with us everywhere and in everything we do.  Nobody would suggest it of my feelings over Asa, so suggesting it of my feelings of Rachel makes absolutely no sense.  Much less sense than my feelings.

So, while I missed them both while we played in the snow, I knew I would see them both again at different times - and have a chance to play with them both again...  just not in this storm.

ridiculously cute, right?

the Aube nose

My honey
going for a ride!  "What are you guys doing to me?!"

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Getting Ready to Race

Received an e-mail from the Dover Police, in reference to our event permit for Rachel's Race, ending like this:

"I look forward to working with you to help make this event successful and safe for all involved as you continue to honor your daughter’s legacy." 

The word that somehow pulls my heart strings is "continue" - for one because I am and for two, because others know it.  I also love that he refers to her race as 'honoring her legacy'.  I'm just so thankful that the purpose isn't lost to others.

Rachel Alice, you will not soon be forgotten.... Not if I have anything to say about it... which I do and always will :)

Friday, January 31, 2014

What Does it Look Like in Heaven?

I stood at Rachel's grave on Sunday as Matt shoveled off a nearby grave for a friend.  It was windy and FREEZING out and a gust of wind blew snow that hit my face.  As I reached for my hood to cover my ears, I looked up and saw Matt doing the same.  Both of us still in our dress clothes from church, I smiled at how awesome my husband is to be willing to take care of snow at lunch time with a van full of hungry kids and Asa missing his nap... all for me.  I am a blessed girl.
I looked down at Rachel's stone and as another gust almost took my hood off, I said to my little girl... "I bet it's not cold in heaven"
And I giggled. 
It wasn't a common giggle.. it was more of the we-will-have-victory-over-this-freezing-weather kind of giggle.  The we-can't-be-shaken kind of giggle. And as I heard myself, I thought of the 25th verse in Proverbs 31 that says:
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She has no fear of the future - it doesn't scare her.  Because she has trust and faith in God.
And in that moment I felt so much comfort in the hope of heaven.  I was brought to a place of wonder about what it's like and what she was doing.  I wondered if she was playing and I thought back to our honeymoon... Puerto Rico - perfect weather the entire week.  I mean PERFECT.  And all I could think was it's even better than that.  Earth can't compare - even on the best day.
And I smiled for her.
I'm so excited for her that she already has that.
Today, a friend sent me this song and said it reminder her of Rachel (thanks, Amanda! I am so blessed by people letting me know she comes to mind!)  and I've found myself lost in it a few times tonight.
"I hope you're dancing in the sky and I hope you're singing in the angels choir....
here on earth....everything's different...." 
I miss you girl.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Her Tiny Hands Keepsake

I've been having trouble getting to the cemetery on Fridays - actually, I have trouble leaving my house at all.  By the time we're done school and Asa takes a nap, it's getting dark - plus, it's just a ton of work to load these guys all up to go anywhere. 

So, on Friday when I heard that my new necklace from Everlasting Memories had already been delivered, I was so excited! 

I had contacted them on Thursday night to see if she got my email with the photo attached and expected the email to say it was received... so when she said it had been delivered, I was floored!  I can't believe how fast they put that order through!  It was literally less than 2 days from when I sent the email to when it was delivered!

They have all kinds of memorial jewelry - some really pretty ones that hold ashes that if Rachel had been cremated, I would love to have.  I picked the photo engraved memorial because I wanted it to be as personalized as possible.  And I was really excited to see they offer a lot of room for writing.  My other necklace only offered two lines with minimal letters so I just wrote "miss my girl" but on this one, I was able to write more, which I really like. (after all, I'm a writer...)  I got the block letters and love that they are clear and easy to read.
These photos are horrible, my camera wasn't cooperating, but it says "Her tiny hands changed my world forever"

The photos didn't come out great, but the necklace is beautiful.  There were a bunch of options, but I liked this shape because it was a more modern looking heart - although they do have a heart that is more traditional too.  It's a pretty heavy weight, which I really like because I feel it on me as I move.  The quality seems really nice - the chain is beautiful.  I got the "upgraded" one.  I always have trouble with my hair getting caught in chains and this one hasn't done that yet.  I've worn it two days now. 

My only "complaint" is that I wish the etching was deeper so it could be seen from far away.  The detail is beautiful and precise, but from a distance, it's hard to see.  The silver (and rhodium) is so shiny (which is really pretty) that if the pendant turns, you can't see the design.  I asked my friend what she thought about it and she said that she loved it and could tell it was Rachel's hands.  When I asked her to stand back about 5 ft, she said that from there it was hard to make out - that it looked more like a rose.  In a way, I think this is special - kind of symbolic of how Rachel isn't able to be seen, but if you really look at me, she is there - her handprints on my heart always and everywhere.  But in another way, I would love for people who don't recognize her hands (which I am SO thankful that so many people do!) to see it and know what it was so that it could serve as a conversation piece to talk about her.

All in all, I would say that this jewelry is really pretty - and would make an amazing gift for a funeral or something since you can get it so quickly and write something special on it.  I am a HUGE fan of fast shipping since I have a hard time getting out with the kids, so that is something I feel you can't put a price on!  I also think if you have ashes from your baby or other loved one, you should look at their necklaces - I like them so much I thought about getting one to put a piece of Rachel's hair in. 

The woman that I worked with is named Hallie and her email is hallieschumaker@gmail.com if you have any other questions.  She is super nice and has a heart to help people heal after a loss.

 So thankful to find something in her PO Box and especially on a Friday when I couldn't get to her.  Every keepsake I have helps me feel like she is with me - so once again, God's timing was perfect. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Joy Touched with Pain

Ezra is 6 months old today.  It's hard to believe I have had the great blessing of watching 2 of Rachel's little brothers grow so much since she was born.  And although I thought Asa would be jealous of his attention thief, he is absolutely head over heals in love with his baby brother.
my two babies

In every smile, giggle, cuddle and cry... I miss her. 

But in the same moment that I miss her... I get lost in thankfulness for him.  I stare in his big brown eyes and talk to him, hoping he knows what he means to me.  I feel his soft warm skin and pray I never forget what it feels like to know my little E as a new baby.  I feel his chubby strong baby hand around my finger and I am overwhelmed with the miraculous nature of each tiny detail of his body having been created inside of me... in the same space that once belonged to Rachel.

I know that my love for my children is deeper because of knowing what it felt like to hold her and then have to let her go.  I'll feel my sinful nature start to get frustrated with one of them and the next thought is if only I could be so bothered by her...  I wake in the night to care for another hungry infant, a screaming toddler or someone standing next to me saying they wet the bed  (often all in a row!) and I think grieving her is harder than any amount of sleep deprivation. I'm just glad they are here to care for and love.  I struggle though a day of schooling and cleaning and cooking and trying to meet demands left and right and remind myself any day one of these children could be gone too... how would I wish I would have responded if tomorrow never came?  Would I wish I spent the day differently?  Taken more time to love them?  Sat down and read to them instead of being preoccupied with my tasks?  Laughed instead of being mad?

I'm not claiming that I never get upset or frustrated or even that I never lose my cool.  I'm not claiming that I never feel so tired I think I could collapse or that I live my life completely regret free.  Actually, it's just the opposite.  I'm as human as they come with a hot head and quick tongue and I am grumpy in the morning and over stimulated and ready for a quiet house by 7pm.  But what has changed in me since Rachel left my world is that I am no longer content in any of that.  What is different is that I don't take time for granted.  What I work on every day is remembering the gift that each of these children are - and counting each "inconvenience" that comes with them as a blessing knowing that every single one of them is something I didn't get with my girl.  And every moment is a gift and I want to receive it as such.

Today after our Sunday school before church, I stopped by the nursery to check on Ezra and as I peeked around the door, I saw his huge smile as his eyes met mine and I immediately smiled back.  He's got to be the happiest baby I've ever seen.  He just lights up my entire world.  It's only been 6 months and I can't remember - or imagine - my life without him.  I'm very grateful to watch him grow and to learn more about him every day as I watch him develop more into his own little (*super cute*)person... but I'm in no rush for these days to go too fast.  Milestones are always bittersweet for me and much more complicated than for the common mother.  Things that 'should' just be exciting are reminders of what I never saw in Rachel.

I saw on my old calendar that on January 8th last year, I first heard Ezra's heartbeat.  As I went to write down the arrival of his first tooth exactly a year later, on January 8th this year, it struck me how fast life changes.  How quick they grow...  I wondered if Rachel would have gotten her first tooth at 5 months old too - and if it would have been the bottom left, just like all 5 of her siblings.  And a couple days later when he got his 2nd tooth and I was feeding him cereal, Desirae said "ooohhh, he's getting so big, getting teeth, eating food and trying to talk to us."  I looked up from the bowl and saw that her eyes had welled up with tears.  And in that moment, I realized how old SHE is getting... my little girl, getting emotional about her siblings growing too fast... I think her & I will be good friends when she is an adult... and oh how I pray I get to experience that with her.  But if I don't, Please dear Lord let today be a day without regrets.

6 beautiful months with our 6th baby.


Um...don't you just want to squeeze him? 
I forgot to add Rachel's bear in this one.  Wishing she was in it.

I posted this on facebook, but for those who didn't see it, I think Ezra is saying "victory!"
as he rides in Jay's wheelchair and she stands behind them pushing!!

As I just finished up this post, the sermon we were listening to quoted a hymn and the words resonated in my heart and that speak of what I was just trying to say.  I'm thankful for the way my joy is touched by pain... it reminds me that this world is not our home.

My God, I thank Thee, who hast made
The earth so bright,
So full of splendor and of joy,
Beauty and light;
So many glorious things are here,
Noble and right.
I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made
Joy to abound;
So many gentle thoughts and deeds
Circling us round,
That in the darkest spot of earth
Some love is found
I thank Thee more that all our joy
Is touched with pain,

That shadows fall on brightest hours,
That thorns remain;
So that earth’s bliss may be our guide,
And not our chain.
For thou who knowest, Lord, how soon
Our weak heart clings,
Hast given us joys, tender and true,
Yet all with wings;

So that we see gleaming on high
Diviner things.
I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept
The best in store;
We have enough, yet not too much
To long for more:
A yearning for a deeper peace
Not known before
I thank Thee, Lord, that here our souls
Though amply blessed,
Can never find, although they seek
A perfect rest;
Nor ever shall, until they lean
On Jesus’ breast.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Child of Weakness

I was contacted by someone who offered me a memorial keepsake in exchange for an honest review of it on my blog.

It requires a photo and so I went looking through Rachel's birthday photos to pick one.  I had the thought that perhaps I didn't have the energy for what this could potentially take out of me emotionally, but I kept going.  About 5 photos in, I was in tears.  I shouldn't be surprised, but somehow it still feels like a rude awakening that I can't just look through my child's birth photos and not be sad.  And yet what I saw in those photos tonight was....

I was smiling.

Everyone around me was looking at me intently. 

You can tell by the people around me that it's not an every day kind of birth.  And yet, by looking at me, you can't tell.  And knowing what I know now, as I look at those photos I feel like I'm looking at someone else... someone who I feel is so unaware of what was about to happen.  I see a strength I didn't feel, but couldn't fake and I wish I could go back to that moment.  I see my belly and I know she was in there alive... with me...dancing... and I didn't know what I have come to know.  I didn't know that my darkest fear of what imagined this journey to be would be nothing compared to how hard it has actually been.

Matt heard me crying and came in to check on me.  "That's God" I said through my tears as I looked at a photo of me smiling.  "There's no other way to explain it."
Less than an hour before Rachel was born - her blanket on my lap.

He didn't even ask what I meant, it's obvious. We both know I was scared to death.  We both knew that our baby would die in a matter of hours or days.... or minutes.

I continued to scroll through the photos and the scene went from preparing for her birth to after we were brought back to the room.  The photos from the Operating Room are out of sequence because they were taken on my camera so all I saw was the before and after... and I was still smiling, but you could also see the pain behind my furrowed brows.  One of the first photos was a direct shot of the top of her head.

I just don't remember it like it was.  I stared at the photo, trying to just pick out the good... "She had SO much hair... I bet it would have been like Desirae's" I said... "Yeah" Matt responded.

I felt my head start to shake in disbelief.... and the tears just took over.

Over 3 years later I still cannot believe that my baby really had such a defect.  I forgot how much she bled.  I forgot how blue she became, even before anyone else - including our children - even got to see her.  And I can't believe I lived through seeing my baby like that.  I thought about what it was like for everyone who was waiting to walk into that room and I hate that the word "shocked" comes to mind as a possible reaction to her appearance.  I hate that "disappointed" could be how they felt.  I hate that they probably all had a hard night when they left.

I just want her to be thought of as beautiful.

As I was giving her a sponge bath and looking at all her little features, I remember the photographer telling me I should move things along and bring the kids in for photos because the effects of time on her would make it harder to get good ones.  I just couldn't see what they could see. 

I was truly blinded by love and covered by His grace.

I am not sure how I could have made it through that any other way. 

As I sat here staring at her bloody brain stem on my computer screen... heart racing, body shaking, tears pouring down like rain.... feeling like I had just opened up a wound I thought was no longer so deep; the tender scar being jaggedly ripped open... the radio played in the background and these words filled my air....

I hear the Savior say
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness, watch and pray
Find in Me thine all in all

And I felt my ache lift as both Matt & I began to sing, my voice still trembling with my heart....

"Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin has left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow...
And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
 'Jesus died my soul to save' my lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe...
"Oh, praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead...."

I look at her head and I know that it's a result of the sin in this world and it makes me hate sin more than I have ever hated anything before.  But it also makes me love Jesus more than I've ever loved anyone before.  Because without him, I'd have nothing more than a baby who was born to die... I'd have a birth defect and empty arms with no hope. 

But with him and because of what He did for me and for Rachel on the cross... because HE was born to die... this gut-wrenching, breath stopping, paralyzing pain in my heart that feels like a ton of bricks on my chest... it's just temporary.  And while I wait for relief... she already has it.  She is already complete.  She has been cleansed white as snow...

And I hear my Savior say, thy strength indeed is small... but child of weakness, watch and pray - and you'll find in Me your all in all.

So even while I cry - and I've been crying for 3 hours now... I pray.  I wait.  I look to Him.  I look through what took her from me  - her weaknesses - and I see Who will bring me back to her for eternity.  I recognize my weakness and I rest in His strength.  He is my all in all.

And I rejoice that even if it hurts, she was my good and perfect gift from above.  The closest thing to Jesus I've ever held in my arms.  An irreplaceable, precious, perfect gift who has changed my world forever. No matter what that means I have to endure or how complicated my heart is now... I thank Him for her.  And I thank Him for the cross.  I thank Him for making me so weak that I need Him like I do.  Because if I was strong without him... well, it would be an illusion. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong
Psalm 34:17-20
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken

Follow Through

For Rachel's 2nd birthday, I asked you all to contribute towards our 501c3 application.  Soon after, I announced that I was not going to be doing the application because I was too overwhelmed to make it happen.  I was feeling like God wanted me to focus on my living children and husband in 2013 - and so I laid aside my ambitions for Rachel's Legacy and rested in His will.  It was not an easy decision, as a matter of fact, I think it was the hardest decision I had made since I got her diagnosis.  It was excruciating.  The whole year was tough.
But I did it.  I spent 2013 focusing on my family here with me and trying to listen to God's voice where Rachel's Legacy was concerned. 
And I couldn't shake it...  I had to do it....  and so I sat back down and with lots of prayer and the help of one of the Board members, got all the numbers down on paper and what you see in this picture is me FINISHING my 501c3 application!!  I am absolutely blown away by how much easier it was for me to make sense out of it this year.  Last year I couldn't even understand the first page.  My mind just couldn't comprehend any of it.   This year I was able to work on it here and there without it becoming a wedge between me and my living family.  And so I know God has shown me something about balance that I really needed to see.  I'm super excited to be following through, even if it took a while - and very glad I was smart enough to sit on the money! I have this thing about integrity... Thank You Lord!   I put the application in the mail on the 16th - and even asked the woman at the post office to pray about it as I gave it to her.  So PLEASE pray that it will go through without a catch.  I hear once they flag it for something, it can take months longer. 
Thank you so much to everyone who helped make this possible and for all of your patience with me as I try to make my way through this thing we call grief.  I've never had to do anything like any of this before and I know I mess up all the time - so thank you for loving me and seeing me through it.  I need you.
Rachel Alice Aube... It's for you I ache and for you I fight... Love you pretty girl. 
2014 here we come.... get yourself some racing shoes! :)

Where Do Babies Come From?

I make these return address labels that have caricatures on them underneath our address.  I started making them after Rachel died because I needed her to be included - and I make new ones as new little Aubes arrive.  (I tend to need to add someone before I run out of labels!)

Yesterday, my new labels came in the mail. 
 Isaiah went down the line, counting our family members and when he got to the end, he said "That's everyone except Silas."
It's interesting to me how concerned he is with the baby I miscarried.  He wasn't old enough to know or remember it happening and I hardly ever talk about it.  And yet when someone talks to us in public and does 'the count' - my sweet Isaiah always feels the need to announce that we have 'two babies that died... one was Rachel and was we lost.'  (it took me a LONG time to realize he literally thought we LOST that baby... like as in misplaced him...yikes!)  But anyway... in the same mail delivery, I received the finished product I told you about that I was working with an artist on for Silas.  My friend Lisa gave me a gift to get something in memory of him when we gave him a name and it finally came...  And it is awesome. 
I already had this stand for my Willow Tree Figurine... and the "Remember" Angel to go on it - so I wanted it to fit on it next to the angel.  This is the size of an 8 week baby (how far along I was) - it's in a "tear drop" resin, but the shape reminded me of a womb.  (you can get heart shaped too)  I picked stars to be Silas' 'thing'... so I asked her to put a star in it with the baby - I was going to use the December birthstone since I was due in December, but I decided to go with May when I miscarried since that date was more significant in my memory.  I looked up the May stone and it said it was Emerald and meant 'rebirth' - It felt perfect.  To think of my loss as his rebirth into heaven as apposed to a miscarriage on earth.  She also made a little star that I put next to it on the stand.  The stand that says Silas was a custom order - I told her I didn't want the resin to just lay on the shelf and that I wanted Silas to be written to commemorate the fact that we finally named him - and she whipped this up - it's exactly what I was hoping for. 

up close
what it looks like on the stand.
So when Isaiah asked about Silas not being on the address label, I had a hard time finding words to explain why it's important to me that Rachel is, but that I don't want Silas on it.  I don't want to tell him that one life is less valuable than another, but I'm not sure he can grasp the concept of holding a baby full term vs a miscarriage - heck a lot of adults can't.  So, in an attempt to distract him from the labels, I showed him Silas' memorial...
Oh boy.  I was NOT prepared for this... 
"So where is Silas buried?" he asked.
A clear vision of me pushing the handle on the toilet and watching what I thought *might* be my baby swirl down the drain flashed through my mind. Hind sight would make that moment so clear, but I just didn't know.
"He's not buried, honey"  I held up the package... "Isn't this nice?"  I tried to distract, praying he'd just move on...
"What do you mean he isn't buried... where is he?"
"His soul is in heaven, but I'm not sure where his body is."  I said.
"Well can we ask the doctors where they put him at your next appointment?"
"They don't know either." I told him.
"Well what did they do with him when they cut him out of your belly?" he said in a very concerned voice.
"They didn't cut him out, he just came out."
"He just came out?!?!  He looked around to see if his siblings were catching this.
I explained to him that Rachel was the only one who was cut out of my belly.  The rest came out naturally....
"Out of where?! Where do they come out of?"  he sounded horrified.  I felt horrified.
I had absolutely no idea how to explain what happened to the physical part of that baby.  I never expected one of my kids to ask.  And the conversation didn't go as I would have liked when all was said and done and he went back to playing.
Why didn't I just say I don't need Silas on the address labels?  Just admit that he doesn't hold the same weight on my heart that Rachel does?  I don't know.  It's like I feel guilty about it - put pressure on myself to keep them at the same level - or just didn't want to let him down....yet instead I think I might have given him nightmares! 
Losing babies is complicated all on its own, but having to walk young kids through it is something else.  Honestly, I'm just really worn out from it all.  He has never questioned how any of our living children got here.  But something about a brother or sister he knows are somewhere, but not here, brings up a lot of questions as to where they are and where they came from.  And I just don't have all the answers.  I know "Where do babies come from?" is not anyone's favorite question to get from their kids... it's never been an overly comfortable topic, but I do so miss when it was a little easier to answer where my children are now.