Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rachel's 2015 Race Info!

I've been really behind for a few different reasons, but am finally starting to pull together details for this year's race.

We have decided that I'm in no condition and have not nearly enough time to put on another large scale event.  Even though I always have enough help that day, leading up to race day, I spend at least 30+ hours a week working on race things, and I do most of it alone.  Last year, my health went down hill fast the very week following the race and I spent months in a downward spiral and I do believe that was, in part, due to what the whole thing takes out of me.

I have all these little people counting on me who need me more than anyone I might help through Rachel's Legacy, so I am putting my priorities in order and praying and trusting that God will bless that.  Unlike 2013 when I decided to not do a race because I was pregnant with Ezra, this decision has not been as hard on my heart.  That year, it was excruciating to say no.  I felt like I was failing... and although I knew that I was actually saying "yes" to God, and eventually saw that there would have been no way I could have done it physically, I struggled a LOT with it hurting in my heart. I missed it so much.

This year, I feel really at peace with not doing a race - and since at this point, I would have already spent MONTHS preparing and have MONTHS left to go - I'm also really thankful because I'm so busy I can barely keep up as it is!  Not to mention, I now have another little one I'm carrying and this pregnancy is not going well. (prayers appreciated)

The issue lies in that the race is the sole provider of the money we use to run Baby Rachel's Legacy all year long.  The first few years, we donated over $9,000 in PROFIT to the organizations we supported.  Last year, I didn't do any pre-race solicitations as I waited for our 501(c)3 to go through and so our profit was I believe under $4,000.  It's still excellent for one day, but the day costs over $4,000 to put on - so while we actually took in over $8,000, a lot was spent on the event.  All that to say, I have been trying to come up with a way to raise money for the non profit that doesn't have as much overhead and doesn't require so much out of me and take so much from my living children.

What I have decided to do is a "Virtual Walk/Run/Dance".  This will be something you do from where you are, any time within the first week of August to memorialize August 4, the day we got Rachel's diagnosis.  You can run or walk any distance you choose - with your friends or alone - on a treadmill or with your kids to the park - or you can follow your own route, use our certified route (shown on our website at BabyRachelsLegacy.org) - count it in another race you are running that week - or if that isn't your thing, you can DANCE... or if you can't physically do that, do something, anything (swim, spend time with someone who needs help, make something for someone...??) for 43 minutes and remember her with us.  I do not have the registration site open yet, but will soon and will post when I do.

I also hope to still set up a baby remembrance ceremony where the local baby loss mamas and I can get together and remember our babies together.  I have absolutely no idea what that will be yet, but my mind is working on a vision for it and will probably make an event page where I can coordinate that.  It's really important to me that I can still support other moms that walk this hard journey.  That's my heart... now to find the energy!!  If you are local to me and this is of interest to you, please email or message me and let me know if Aug 1 or 8 would be better for you!!  It will probably be 1-2 hours total... maybe including some ice cream together! (pregnancy talking, I think! lol)  But more details on that coming soon too.

For now, I have set up an online shirt fundraiser with this year's logo on it.  The shirts are green for the color of Anencephaly Awareness and the logo reminds us how Rachel taught us how to dance in the hard times, rather just waiting for the storm to pass.  I also read the verses in Ecclesiastes 3 that say:
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 

(True story: I didn't highlight that above... I went to preview it and it was highlighted!! Godwink!)

And I feel like my time of weeping and mourning have finally ended... I finally don't hurt every single day.  I never thought that would happen, but it has.  It took YEARS longer than I was told it would or expected myself, so my encouragement to anyone still in the trenches is allow yourself to be there while you are.  It's ok.  One day, it will start to shift, believe it or not.  But it's OK to be in the weeping and mourning times.  It's healthy to feel your way through it.

I do believe my time to laugh and dance is now.  And I know I do it with Rachel just as much with me as before.  It's got nothing to do with moving on without her or "moving past this".  And it doesn't mean I'm done crying over all I miss with her.  Just this morning, I found her pregnancy announcement and cried... what a long, hard journey it's been.... but grief has become more a part of who I am and not so much a piece of what I do, if that makes sense.....

I chose to do the shirts this way because the online company handles all the sizes and shipping and that SERIOUSLY simplifies my life.  I won't make much off each shirt this way - but the more we sell, the more profit we make per shirt and we have to sell a certain number of shirts in order for them to even print.  If we don't reach their requirement, they will refund everyone's money and not print so there is no risk in buying before you know if we reach the goal.  They will ship directly to you within 2 weeks of the campaign closing so you will receive them in plenty of time to wear them for the event!

After the event, I would love for everyone to post their pictures on our Baby Rachel's Legacy Facebook page and say what they did to remember Rachel with us, bring awareness to Anencephaly, and support Rachel's Legacy.  It would be so awesome to also see everyone sporting their "Team Rachel" shirts with her little prints on them, as I truly couldn't do any of this without her amazing "Team" of supporters... YOU!!!

Here is where you can purchase your shirts...  event registration info coming soon!

click here for Rachel's Virtual Race Shirts!!

Here is what our logo looks like!  I absolutely love it!  It was created by LNG Digital Design who you can find also on Facebook!  Please order one today!  We only have 29 days left for this campaign!

Also, financial donations are tax deductible and can be made using our Paypal button on the side of the blog or by check to:

Baby Rachel's Legacy
PO BOX 454
Rochester, NH 03866-0454

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Step Out of the Boat

Sunday at church, I was brought to tears as we sang these words...

Oh my God
He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear
His promise is true
My God will come through always

I didn't realize I was all that scared.  But it was as if before I had the chance to identify that I was scared, He was already comforting me in my fear.

I'm not completely sure if I was crying because I'm so thankful that He is attentive to my heart in that way - or if it was because I know just how likely it is that between now and Christmas, something could happen and I could lose another Christmas baby.

I think it was both.

On Sunday night, I had a very real and vivid dream that I was miscarrying. It was so real, I woke up unsure if it had happened or not.  Monday night, as I got ready for bed, I saw that I was spotting.  Years ago, I had dreams about Rachel's ultrasound revealing she was dead 3 times before her ultrasound when we heard she would die, so it was hard not to assume that my dream was God preparing me for what was to come.

I don't know how to say what I am about to say without sounding slightly... I don't know, wrong?  So, I'm just going to lay it out.... I almost felt like it didn't matter.  I had prayed many times that if I'm going to lose this baby, to let it be from miscarriage and not because of anencephaly or some other fatal birth defect that causes me to put my baby in a box and watch someone bury it with dirt.

Anyway, I finished in the bathroom and I got ready for bed.  As I did, I was kind of surprised by my calmness and I tried to figure out if my heart would break or not if I woke up and it was obvious this baby was leaving me.  I felt confident that if I was losing this baby to miscarriage, I would be ok.  That maybe God was just answering my prayer to spare me from going through what I went through with Rachel again.  I stood in my living room lost in thought and only two things came to mind.... so I said them both out loud...

"I love you little one, no matter how long you stay."
"Regardless of how this goes Lord, I know you know best and I trust You."

I got into bed and I slept. Good.  He gave me rest.

I woke up with my ultrasound that was scheduled for later that day on my mind.  I wasn't looking forward to it.  I knew there was a good chance I would go and hear bad news.... but I also remembered the assurance he had given me in that first week of knowing I was pregnant.

Before I had seen the blood the night before, I thought that I would ask Des to go with me to the ultrasound.  It was at Maine Med, which ends up taking 5 hours + out of the day for an appointment and I thought Des would like the girl time.  After I saw the blood, I questioned if I should bring her.  I thought, if it's bad news, this could make every ultrasound SHE ever has in her lifetime hard.  But again I was reminded to not fear...and so I invited her.  I warned her that there was a chance the baby wasn't ok and that it might not be a happy trip and my brave girl said she still wanted to come.  I heard her in the other room telling the boys "I'm going with Mama to the ultrasound to see if the baby is okay." and I realized just how much she is learning along with me.  I like to think she is learning a thing or two about courage and not taking life for granted....that maybe she is learning how to step out of the boat and not fear.

We got into the ultrasound and within two minutes, there was a tiny beating heart on the screen as we peeked into the sacred space we call my womb.  I breathed a sigh of relief but was unaware of how far I was from accepting this pregnancy as 'real' until we were on the way home well over two hours later.

This song was playing on the radio and I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion... I'm pregnant, I thought... and I just cried.  I couldn't even put words to it right then, but as that moment has replayed throughout this week, I think I understand more now....

I miss being able to play music on my blog posts, and would totally have this song playing in the background if I could - so play this while you read the rest!

The video I posted on my announcement post Facing My Giants had the same theme of the ocean being too big for us to conquer - our feet fail - yet with our eyes on Jesus, we can walk on it.

Think about what it would feel like to step out of a boat and try to walk on the ocean.  If you can lose yourself in that thought for a moment, you can feel how scary and powerless - and absolutely failing - that would be.

Matthew 14:27-29 

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 

But that is what I feel like with this pregnancy.  You have to understand that until I saw that positive test, I honestly had little to no desire to be pregnant at all.  I have never felt like that before in all my life.  Other than the first few months after I have a baby while I'm healing and not sleeping at all, I have always been open and ready for another baby.  But after adding Ezra and not being prepared for how hard it would be to have 5 here with the two little ones so close in age, I have had more days than not where I felt completely content to be done.  Especially as my health declined, I honestly didn't think it would ever happen again.  I still had that never fading ache for another little girl, but not enough so that I wanted to try for her.  I still wondered if our family was really complete, although I wasn't sure if that was just because it will never feel complete without Rachel here... And in the past few months, as I have started to get better physically, with proper care of my MTHFR mutations, I was looking forward to a summer where I could play like a kid with my kids for once.  Not pregnant and not nursing for the first time in 7 years.  So this was not something I was all that ready for... 

But the second I saw the two lines, my entire desire changed.  And suddenly it shifted from wanting  (or not wanting) things for me, to what I wanted for this baby.  My big fear right off was that I was on blood pressure medicine that is not considered safe for the first trimester, but the doctors were telling me to keep taking.  High blood pressure all by itself causes major complications during pregnancy and people actually have to deliver babies at 24 weeks in order to save their own lives.  The thought of that scared the crap out of me.  How do you make that decision when moms will literally DIE for their children?  How difficult that must be...

I could see how God had prepared me for this, even without it being part of *my* plan because over the couple of months prior, I had weaned myself off of one blood pressure med and was almost weaned off of the 2nd.  My doctors still don't know and my numbers were still higher than they should be, so I don't even know why I was pushing it, other than God was leading me that way.  I had no idea it was because I was about to find out I had someone growing in me that it wouldn't be good for.  So the day after I found out, I called the dr and asked and two different doctors said to keep taking it.  But I didn't listen... I stopped.  And the strangest, most miraculous thing happened... my blood pressure WENT DOWN!!!  Lower than they have been since I was pregnant with Ezra.  Praise God!  My numbers have been awesome since!!  So during this pregnancy, I had only taken the medication 2-3 times since conception and they were all days apart!  I'm so thankful for how God provides.  So thankful that He is capable of anything - even lowering my blood pressure that couldn't be controlled even on two medications.  

It was a step out of the boat when I saw the positive test and welcomed this baby without an ounce of disappointment... It was a step out of the boat when I stopped taking my medication because it would be best for baby...  It was a step out of the boat when I announced I was pregnant again so early and in spite of the negative responses I sensed coming... It was a step out of the boat when I asked Des to go with me to that appointment...  and so far, He has helped me walk as I have kept my eyes on Him.

I have a lot of walking on water to do between now and Christmas... I have fears about this delivery I have not had with others - on top of being my 3rd VBAC, I now have a brain aneurysm that I have yet to figure out how much that affects my options for delivery.  I may have to have a c-section, I don't know.  I can no longer take the medicine I was on for my neck and back pain OR tums... so pain and heartburn without relief are probably in my near future... I will have a preschooler, 1st, 3rd and 8th grader next year and I am their teacher.  Teachers don't usually have their babies at school with them, but I will and I still need to accomplish all the same tasks.  I have 1200 sq ft and there will be 8 of us here... we will list our house again, but I'm not even sure I want to move.  I have a long line of insurance complications and no idea if I will be allowed to deliver in Maine where I am most comfortable. Matt's looking at a job change soon and it will initially be a huge cut in pay (but long term be a really great thing for us) I am still waiting on a 'round head check' and the 'routine ultrasound' at which my head knows of all the millions of things that can go wrong that my heart would break over.  And of course, I still don't know if I will bring this baby home from the hospital... something I used to take as given, I now know is just not so all the time.

There are so many unknowns... and I don't assume any of them will be easy.  I don't know if this baby will stay.  I don't know if it will be healthy.  I don't know if my blood pressure will remain good until December.  I don't even know if delivery is safe for me.  But what I do know - and I have peace in - is that God will meet me outside of the boat.

And I think that is why I cried on the way home from my scan...  This is truly another faith walk for me.  And for as much of the fears I carry are from my journey with Rachel, it's exactly that same hard journey that grew my faith to walk again through unknowns without being overcome with fear.  It's that journey with my girl that makes me rest in CONFIDENT HOPE that *even if* this doesn't end with a live Christmas baby in our home this year  - or if something else is 'wrong' with him - that not only will God give me all I need to get through it, but He WILL prepare me and guide me long before I know it's coming.  Maybe He is....

I have absolutely nothing to fear with God.  Nothing.  Even if I take my eyes off of Jesus... even if my feet completely fail and I sink... He will lift me up and save me.  I will not drown because if ever I'm going under, all I have to do is reach up and His hand will be there to pull me from the oceans I fear...  He takes me deeper than my feet would ever wander so that my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.  I pray I always have a trust without borders.... to walk upon waters....wherever He may call me... 

Oceans - Hillsong

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh Jesus yeah, my God

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Journey of Motherhood

13 years ago today, I was justly and rightly stripped of my dignity when I was given my first strip search, my first supervised shower in a cement room, dressed in a green jumpsuit and heard the huge metal door shut behind me in my first cell in maximum security where I spent 5 days being slipped meals through a hole in the door, peeing on a cement toilet in the middle of a room where guards watched, and slept on a metal cot listening to the men's voices echo from nearby cells singing "Day-o, me say day-o, daylight coming me wanna go home." 

If there was ever a day I wanted to go home... that was it.  5 days later when I went into the population and faced people I honestly did not fit in with - and had to walk to the chow hall through halls lined with men yelling horrible things at us and telling us to show them our private parts, I felt even more humiliated.  That feeling was all the more overwhelming two weeks later when I found out I was pregnant with my first baby - and due before I was scheduled to be released. 

I went to jail on a Friday and that first Sunday was Mother's Day.  I spent my first Mother's Day behind bars, unaware that I was a mother.  And although most would say that finding out you are pregnant while incarcerated for a year would be horrible, somehow, it gave me something to hope for... something to look forward to... something to dream about and live for.... something to love. 

There just ain't a whole lotta love going around a jail.  And maybe it was naïve, but I really needed love.  If I couldn't get it, I needed to give it.  I had to fight for everything there, from prenatal vitamins to my asthma medicine and to be allowed doctor visits.  I swear I was constantly calling my lawyer... But somehow, as much as it irritated the other inmates because they would tell me I was going to have to go without, I always got what I needed...

The trips to the chow hall became even more difficult as my belly began to grow past the jumpsuit and they told me they didn't have a different size for me... I would walk into the chow hall and the awful smell would have me throwing up.  The food was horrible.  I asked to be allowed to stay in my bed while they went but they refused to let me and had me carry a trash bag to throw up in. 

I was given work release and I worked at Dunkin Donuts (which is also really hard while nauseous!) and every time I either went to work, or had a visitor, I had to be stripped and searched.  They had women do it, but the woman who always did it ironically was a girl I had sold drugs to in the past who was also a lesbian and had came onto me outside of jail.  But now she was in charge.... imagine lifting your arms and spreading your cheeks for someone who had more than her job in mind.  Horrifying. 

One day a couple of months in, a girl signed out her razor to shave her legs... and 30 minutes later, the guard realized she wasn't in the shower.  The bathroom door was busted in and there she was - this heroin addict who had no hope, on the floor covered in blood, her muscles on both arms completely exposed from her wrist to her elbows.  After they carried her out, they told us to clean her blood.  I refused.  I layed on my cot and cried like a baby... no way was I going risk infecting my baby with anything she might have had.  What were they going to do, lock me up??  The other girls started yelling things at me like "you're pregnant not disabled" and I didn't so much as budge.  I just begged a God I didn't even know to help me survive this nightmare I was in and keep my baby safe along the way.

And there began my life as a Mama Bear. 

When I was 5 months along, my lawyer brought a letter my doctor had written with concerns about my baby's health in front of the judge and he accepted his request to release me for the remainder of my pregnancy on house arrest.  On July 17, 2002, I was let out the back of the building of the jail with all of my stuff in a big black trash bag that reeked of smoke that I threw over my shoulder and carried down the long road and up a big hill to where my mom was waiting for me.  A guy I was using with before I left for rehab pulled up next to me and asked if I wanted a ride - he had just returned another friend from work release.  I kept looking ahead and said through tears "No, I'm going home."

I know probably everyone who walks out of jail says they aren't going back, but I meant it.  I was going home and I was going to stay there.  And not just because I was on house arrest!  I was a mom now and I was going to be good at it, even if all the odds were stacked against me.  And I knew this to be true because the mom I was following behind was waiting there to meet me.  She never left my side.

Desirae was 4 months old the first time I was free to leave the house with her without having permission.  I thank God for how he used the hard in my life to bring me to a place where I would never use drugs again.  A place where I had a little person I had to care for, who needed me, who removed all my desire for 'fun' (which was a notion anyway!) and gave me all the reason in the world to be better.  I thank God for the fighter he put inside of me... for the strong will that drove my mom crazy when I was a child, but has helped me to endure so much and not break... for the way He pursued me and used whatever means necessary to get my attention and ultimately to draw me to himself.  I thank God for making me a mother.

This journey of motherhood has been anything but easy.  It hasn't been glamorous.  It hasn't been perfect or gone as I've planned or how I hoped as a little girl.  This journey of motherhood has made me dig deeper and surrender completely.  It has made me admit how often I fail, how little I know, how much I can love, and how desperate and needy I am for God.  It has made me smile, laugh, cry, and ache more than I ever knew anything could.   Becoming a mother literally saved my life.  Becoming a mother changed my world.  Becoming a mother was all I ever wanted and more than I ever deserved. 

And I would have had no way of knowing back then how complicated being a mom could be.... when your child is taken from you and you can't pour out the love on them that is exploding from your heart for them.  When I went for Rachel's ultrasound, my biggest concern was what gender she would be and when I left, it had turned into meeting her alive, if only for one minute.

I know that my road with Desirae and the way having her led me to Christ was all part of God's plan to prepare me for Rachel.  He knows everything that will ever happen and time is not to him what it is to us.  I can't imagine having walked this road without Jesus by my side.  I'm thankful I didn't have to.  And as much as I want to puke reliving those memories from jail, especially being in my first trimester again right now as I do, I can honestly say I would endure all of that again if it was the only way to meet Jesus.  And for me, I think it was.

We went to Rachel's grave today after church.  Mother's Day is one of the days, like my birthday, where I *need* to stop at her grave.  It hurts too much to have a day of mine not include her in some way.  I bought her a pink plant (we got this kind last year and it bloomed through the fall!  hoping for that again!) and the boys picked dandelions and lined them up on her stone.  I took a picture with all 7 of my babies together - as close as we can be for now... and as I walked away, I signed I love you and said "I'm thankful I'm your mother."

I sit here writing and I look up to my wall... I can hardly believe that since that day in 2002, I have given birth to 6 amazing babies and have another on the way.  It seems like so many at times and at other times, it feels like so few.  But mostly when I look at them, I just can't believe I am their mother - and I'm so thankful that I am.

I didn't dress the big boys, but they both ended up wearing Rachel shirts today!

her tulips bloomed for me today ♥

Monday, April 27, 2015

Facing My Giants

Where do I start... ?

A couple of weeks ago, on our Friday night family night, we watched Facing the Giants with the kids.  I had seen this movie a bunch of times before - but this time I cried through the ENTIRE movie.  The movie isn't about things going the way you want in the end... but more about allowing complete brokenness and desperation to draw you to love God FIRST.  Before wins, gains, success, or people's approval... and in spite of loss, failure and persecution.  And just really about loving God through the valley and praising him no matter what.  Of course it says it's about football and infertility, but the real story line is God - just like in real life.  You should watch it.

Last Tuesday, I was at Sam's pre-op appointment for his tonsils and there were quadruplet 5 year old boys in the waiting room.  I talked to the mom, who said she was surprised because they were completely natural and not because of fertility treatments.  As she told me about the ultrasound she had for them and how the tech got really odd on her, my mind went back to my ultrasound with Rachel.  She said she finally asked "Is my baby okay?"  I had asked the same thing with Rachel and got silence... but her tech said "Yes, I'm just trying to count them."  She told me of their shock and how she couldn't believe even still that it is real at times.  I could relate, in a different way.

I left that conversation at Sam's appointment, and was on my way to the store, I found myself lost in thought... I had thought about how the anniversary of my positive pregnancy test for Rachel was coming up - just 3 days away - and how if I was pregnant this month, I would have another Christmas baby.  I found myself thinking "I wonder if God will ever give me a Christmas baby I can keep..." and I glanced out my window at the car passing me and as it got in front of me I saw the license plate 4L3.  But all I really saw was the 43... and I just knew, one day.... I started laughing out loud.  Sam asked what was funny and I couldn't answer him, I was giddy, like a kid on his birthday. 

The next day, I saw an advertisement on the side of Facebook for mother's bracelets.  I have been wanting an updated one with E included... so I clicked on it and made a bracelet to see what it would look like and how much it would cost.  I added another December birthstone just for fun - and when I saw the total, I just knew....God is up to something.  ♥*Hi Rachel*♥
I love that I took this screen shot and you can see the date.

So, the next morning on April 16th, two days before I was even due (and the day before Rachel's test had been positive 5 years ago), I saw two pink lines on a home pregnancy test again.  And my heart immediately swelled with love for this little life inside of me.  I didn't even think twice, I was just plain excited. 

Suddenly crying through the old movie made sense.... hormones already in effect!

I went to the dr that day for my cold and they gave me a test and got a negative on theirs. So they sent me for blood work which confirmed that I am with child ♥   I made my first prenatal appointment and the first available they had was for 4/30. ♥*Hi Rachel*♥

That was 11 days ago and we still feel like its not real.  But we are so excited.  Our kids are more than excited. I feel so unbelievably blessed and undeserving of the title of Mama to all these sweet babies.  I feel humbled at the idea that God trusts me with them.  I feel overwhelmed at the task of raising them to be followers of our Lord when I fail so very often and struggle with sin daily.  But mostly, I feel constantly awed by the truth that God is enough.  He is enough for us financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically.  He is enough and He is always good and there are no mistakes in His world.  This baby has a beautiful purpose.

So, as with the last two babies, I have felt the need to cautiously tell people or not tell them altogether.... because most think we have enough kids already or that with Rachel having anencephaly and my health this past year, another baby just isn't worth the risk.  Others think that you need to give each child their own room, sign them up for every activity available, and be able to pay their way through college or else you shouldn't have them.  Some think I'm too old.  Some think our house is too small.  Some think it's not fair to the kids we already have.  Everyone has an opinion.  I have mine too.  And while mine don't line up with most of that, I am still sensitive to other's words - and also saddened that people would look at a child of mine as a bad choice or a hindrance to our lives, or our children's lives... or extended family members' lives... because they are anything but.  They are a gift from God and the only (yet biggest) gift that so many people look at like a death sentence.  I wish more people believed what the Bible says about children, which is that they are a blessing and a reason to rejoice.  And if you don't buy that one, how about the call to rejoice with those who rejoice!?

That day on the way home from the store, I heard a song on the radio.  The Voice of Truth.  I tried to sing along, but my voice was not working at all because of a cold I had.  As I tried to use my voice, and couldn't, and listened to the words "The Voice of Truth tells me a different story, the Voice of Truth says do not be afraid.  And the Voice of Truth says this is for My glory,  out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth."  Tears started to fall....

Later, I played the song for Matt on You tube and I was telling him that I had heard it earlier and how it was speaking to me about this baby and he said "When I went out tonight, I heard that song too... and right after it was Word of God Speak."  (Which as most of you know, is the song that played when Rachel was born).  Both of us hearing the same song at different times in the same day, just by 'chance' because we had to run out randomly for things, and him hearing Rachel's song too, really felt like God was confirming His hand in it all and reminding me....

It's not about me.  It's not even about my children.  It's not about if they live.  It's not about if they die.  It's got absolutely NOTHING to do with what anyone thinks about the Aubes growing by another person... or burying another person.  It's not about if I die giving birth.  Every single thing that we do and the only reason we live is for HIS glory.  And I'm not trying to sound careless or like we are being unwise and expecting God to catch us if it all blows up - but rather to tell you that God Himself has created this baby and He HIMSELF will write the story for baby and for us and that He has confirmed in a hundred ways these last couple of weeks that this is His plan.  I'm telling you this to say that we TRUST Him.  And that no matter what happens, we will live for His glory - we will proclaim that HE IS GOOD.  We will praise Him.  And for me, in this, this means facing MY giants in the midst of it all...

Because my "giants" grew by hundreds of feet the day I heard the word Anencephaly.  Fear. Death. Loss. Pain. Disappointment.  I'm scared of them.  I am afraid of feeling even an inkling of the pain I felt carrying Rachel and waiting for her to die.  I'd rather die myself than to feel even a portion of what it felt like to leave her in the cemetery and wait for milk to dry up for my baby who would never nurse.  But I have a new set of giants that stem from my health issues... physical pain, medical emergencies, my kids living without a mom and all that would mean for them... but the more I try to hold onto and protect my own life, the more the fear steals from me.  It's only when I truly surrender myself to my Lord that I am ever truly content and at peace.

My giants are nothing compared to the strength God gives me in my times of need.  Nor are they anything compared to His provision and faithfulness.  Today, I am choosing to listen and believe the Voice of Truth.  My God doesn't ask me to face anything without Him.  David would not have defeated Goliath on his own.  The power of the Lord was with him.  And that same power is in me.  The same power that enabled me to survive what I did with Rachel.  I am never on my own and He has already won my battles.  I can face my giants with confident hope that God has victory, no matter what.

The first couple of days, I was in fear because my naturopath has had me off of my folate this month.  I have been completely off of  the very thing doctors say I need to ensure my baby doesn't have anencephaly.  In my head, I was trying to figure out how I would rearrange our headstone to include another name.... I started to think What if the words "This is for my glory" in the song are him preparing me to glorify Him through another anencephaly journey? 

That next day, a couple of different people sent me this picture....

That would be a "quadruplet rainbow" as the headline called it.  Now, I'm not saying I think I am having quadruplets... lol.. I'm saying it felt like God was saying that my ultrasound would be more like the mom at the dr's office that day... It brought the week into a full circle of God's voice in my life... I won't flood the earth again, He spoke to my heart.  Since Rachel, rainbows have had a way of appearing at the craziest and clearly God-given times... like right after we finished her playground.  But until this week, I always saw them as God saying to me "No matter what happens, I am with you!"  I know Biblically the rainbow is a picture of his promise to never flood the earth again, but I know all too well that as a believer we are not saved from trials, but rather held through them.  But right now, I am standing on his promise to not flood my earth again.

This baby's days are already written - and so the only thing worse than saying goodbye too soon is missing the chance to celebrate life while it's here.  Technically I could sit in fear every day that one of my other kids will die suddenly or that I won't be able to provide for them everything they desire.  But I don't because I trust God in all things.... I choose to trust Him even in this scariest aspect of my life - my babies - and the possibility of painfully losing another.  I choose to believe He has my best in mind and hope that it is that I get to keep this Christmas baby.... but trusting that if He does differently, He knows more than I do.

 And then comes the real question... the question that the Facing the Giants movie had it's story based around...if it's not okay...if this doesn't end in the way I would ask or want...will I still love God?   Will I still praise Him? And the unwavering answer is YES.  And I think most people who know me, know that to be true after watching me lose and grieve Rachel.  I could never turn my back on or be unfaithful to my God who has been more to me than I have ever deserved. My God who has always been everything I need and more.  Who has made beauty from my ashes and brought life out of death.  I wouldn't think of it because I need him more than I need anything else on the face of the planet.

Do we love God no matter what?  Or just when life goes how we hope?  Rachel taught me the better part... the resting in God part... the falling on my face in despair and need for God - and the closeness of Him to the brokenhearted.. the blessings from Him when he makes himself real to us.  No matter how the story ends.... She also showed me His goodness like I never knew before her.

I decided that a cute announcement was in order, so I Googled "pregnancy announcement ideas for Christmas baby" and the first article to come up was "How to Avoid A Christmas baby".  I clicked on it, just out of curiosity and it said "If you get pregnant on 4/3, you will be due on Christmas day."  ♥*Hi Rachel*♥ 

I guess I never realized that Rachel's life went from Easter to Christmas - or that a conception on 4/3 would give you a 12/25 due date - but now that I see it, I'm all the more certain how perfectly timed she was right between my two most favorite days of the year... and I'm thankful for another chance at the pregnancy dates that Google obviously has had people looking to avoid.  After Rachel died, I would have given anything to have a Christmas baby with me.  I pray this is God's way of answering the desires of my heart... desires that my earthly self never had until His Spirit taught me about what *really* matters through the death of my little Christmas girl. 
the announcement I made... featuring Rachel's little feet and
a new pair of booties and a 2nd E ♥

This baby will be called "Baby E2" (as in E the 2nd) for now since we need only one more E name to finish off spelling "DESIRAE" with the first letter of all of our children's names.  We do have a girl and boy name already picked, but of course subject to change.  We picked and agreed on them the first day though, so that's pretty impressive! lol.  They both have significant meaning to us so it would be hard to sell a different idea, but we are still tossing ideas around and open to suggestions for E names if you have them ;)

So there you have it... we have another little Aube on the way and we are so thankful.  We thoroughly appreciate every encouraging and positive response we get.  Thank you to all who are excited for us.  Please keep us in your prayers as we venture through the days ahead!  What an amazing journey we're on.... 

Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns
Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
The voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

But the giant's calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them lookin' down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Here is the song... the verses throughout are perfect, too!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sunday is Coming

Yesterday was insanely overflowing with God's love.

It was Good Friday, 4/3.  We know how I feel about Fridays and 43's...

It was also 4 years, 3 months, 4 weeks and 3 days since Rachel came and went. 

I had an appointment for Asa in Dover and they scheduled it for 11:10.  The time Rachel died.

I went to Rachel's grave to decorate for Good Friday and Easter and when I left, I got two texts within a few minutes of each other that friends were either thinking about going there - or already there.  She was on people's minds ♥  I love that.

Wish Matt was in this one... the boys are sitting on Tupperware I had in my truck
because the ground is really wet still.  Love these guys so much.
My friend Mel sent me a text after she went to visit with the temp her phone had on it... 43 degrees of course... only strange part was it *wasn't* 43 degrees out anymore!  It was the warmest day of the year and actually got up to 69 in the afternoon at my house.  Because my boys are crazy, I then found them running around in the snow barefoot and Isaiah had shorts on and was begging me to use the sprinkler... we are all ready for some warm weather around here!!

I had Sam's OT apt as well - OT has been helping him a TON and been a huge blessing from God.  I don't even know how I ended up there with him (a mis-diagnosis of Tourette's!) but it's been the only thing that has helped him at all - and the insurance code for his visits is 430.

This number game God gave us all day not only gave us both the opportunity to share with people at stores and while Matt was working about Rachel and how God is with us, but it also served as an amazing reminder that her life went exactly how it was supposed to.

God knew this day over 4 years later would line up like this.  He knew I'd notice.  And the only reason I noticed was because I have the ticker on my blog that counts days, weeks, months and years and I was on my blog the night before.  Otherwise I wouldn't have noticed because once Friday came, it changed the counter to 4 weeks since it counts from that first Friday.  But the night before it said this...

I had so many days of sadness that she didn't live longer.  I wanted to bring her home in the worst way.  I wanted her to prove people wrong - to be more 'compatible with life' than they gave her credit for... But God knew all along that He was going to show His faithfulness in a million little ways with that time span between 10:27 and 11:10.  A minute more or a minute less and none of this would have added up today.  It doesn't make it hurt less that she is gone, but it does continue to help me trust Him through it all.  It overwhelms me with the thought of "who am I that He is mindful of me...?" (Psalm 8:4) 

I started getting letters from the hospital weeks ago saying the kids' genetic testing wasn't covered by insurance... 5 nice bills were waiting for my payment. I called this week to start the appeal process and when I got a call back on Friday, the woman from Frisbie said "Insurance doesn't cover those tests, but we're going to go ahead and take care of that for you so you can throw those away." Stunned, I asked what I had to do and she said nothing. No application for assistance, no special request, send no payment... the debt was just wiped clean. You can imagine how thankful I was. They didn't have to do that for me and I technically owed the money, even if it didn't make sense I had to pay it.... all it took was me acknowledging my need for and requesting their help.

 Now pause for a moment and think about the debt Jesus paid for me... every one of my sins wiped clean on a debt I could never pay myself. I did nothing to earn the favor, just acknowledged my need and requested His help. He paid it ALL.
This Truth can be yours, too.

I'm not sure I've ever explained the crosses I had put on Rachel's stone.  We got the three crosses that represent the cross Jesus and the two thieves hung on, on that Friday all those years ago...  Actually, I saw the crosses on a picture frame my friend Melissa had with her baby girl Amelia in it and used that to show the memorial company what I was hoping for.  Our girls both had anencephaly and she was one of my best friends through those hardest days.  When I look at the crosses on our stone, I always think of Amelia too. ♥ 

The reason I wanted the three crosses is because when Jesus hung on the cross, He asked God the Father why He had forsaken him and just before He died, He cried out "It is Finished".  Those crosses are a constant reminder that Friday was hard, but Sunday is coming... He has victory over death and we will see her again in paradise.

As I stood on that ground every Friday for over 3 years straight, enveloped in the pain of death, I was always encouraged by the truth that this is not the end for those who die in Christ.  Surrendering the pain to him and in him was the biggest faith builder I have ever experienced.  Not that things turned out how I wanted, but that I learned how close and good He is to me in the deepest valleys.

Which brings me to our Good Friday service at church... it was such a sweet time of worship and I was humbled in gratitude of all that Christ did for me so that I don't have to ever die.  I got really sad thinking about all the people I love who don't know Him.  I swear, it's like having survivor's guilt.  Why me and not them?  It's not like I deserve it or even went searching for it... for Him... He came and got me... when will He go get them?  What if He doesn't?  It puts a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes even thinking about it.... 

Every year at this time we remember the cross and celebrate the resurrection - but this year I am seriously overwhelmed by it all.  Like, completely broken over Christ's death and His suffering - and knowing he did it for *me* - as in for every sin I ever committed before knowing him - the horrible things I did... all of it - and since knowing him... and for the rest of my life...  knowing that I still mess up every single day in so many ways - externally and internally.  And He loves me?  And enough to speak to me in such an intricate way that He lines up numbers and sends me people and writes of financial debt... all if only to just give me a *glimpse* of what He has truly done for me.

wow.  sigh.

"Amazing Grace, how can it be, that You, my King, would die for me? Amazing Love, I know it's true - and it's my joy to honor You, in all I do... let me honor You."

I hope you all have an amazing Easter - and if you don't know the Lord, I pray that this Easter you would allow him to enter into your brokenness and let him be your God.   We all have 'Fridays' - days that are more than we can handle alone.  But when the Fridays bring pain-filled questions, where do you get your answers and to who or what do you set your eyes on?  Let it be Jesus and you will never regret it.

Fridays are hard, but Sunday is coming.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I Stand Amazed

Update on my scan... my aneurysm hasn't had changed, so that's good.  I'm going to get my record to lay eyes on the actual report to make sure they are giving me the whole story - since in my experience they like to leave out things that they don't think I need to 'worry about'... but for now, it's good news.  I don't have to have another scan for a year.  My only restrictions are to be careful lifting and not to get emotionally upset... good luck with that with 6 children...

I went for my stress test this week and it was frustrating because they neglected to tell me I was supposed to hold my blood pressure meds.  I wondered, but figured they would have told me if it was needed and I didn't call.  This is why I always second guess them.  So they told me I'd have to come back.  That is going to happen in a couple of weeks. 

The nurse brought me back and she was having trouble getting my blood pressure.  She put the cuff down and started listening for my pulse and said she was having trouble hearing it so she started to feel for it.  She looked up at me with a curious look and said "You look familiar."  I just smiled and shrugged and she said "I'll figure it out, but first let me figure this out" referring to my pulse.  "Yeah, let's see if I'm alive" I joked.  She said "I know you're alive because you are pink and talking to me... I'm just not able to feel your pulse."  I pointed to my tattoo and told her I have "Alive" written over where you feel for a pulse as a memorial for my daughter.  "Rachel's Legacy!!" she shouted.  "I knew it would come to me!  I ran in the race you do a couple years ago."  She moved her hand down to my wrist and there she was able to feel the beat of my heart. ♥  Hi Rachel! ♥

I blogged about this a couple years ago, but if you haven't seen that, here's as
short as I can make the explanation of what this means to me...
The middle of dandelion is a broken heart made out of a 43 and
it says "Alive" in the (bleeding heart shaped) flower bulb.  Even though
she is under the ground, she is ALIVE in every beat of my bleeding heart - and she continues
to bloom here on earth and spread seeds of hope with how her 43 minutes impacted my heart
and the hearts of those who came to know her through me ♥
Well, that was worth the trip alone...  she found my pulse and then told me we had to reschedule - but we had a conversation about the race.  She told me about her brother dying in his teens from bone cancer and how she did a golf tournament for him and she understands how hard it is to put stuff like that on.  But then she said "The hardest part about my brother dying was watching my parents lose their son."

It made my heart sink in my chest.  I can't imagine... I can, but I can't.  I know you can't compare apples and oranges, but I know how painful losing my baby who I didn't spend every day of 19 years with.  I can only imagine how much you miss a child and how that hurts when you spend your life getting to know and love them and they are a part of your every day - and then you watch them go through something like cancer or a heart problem or addiction - and after a long hard road, you have to say goodbye. 

At times I wonder why God makes the mother to child bond so deep and then allows us to suffer such pain in being separated.  To give us the deep need to nurture our children and then make it so we can't.

I can't speak for every situation, but I know in my life, He has used this to draw me to himself... to prove my faith genuine... to teach me trust... to give me a longing for heaven I never had... to show me how He loves me...  He used Rachel to remove my pride, my ego, my false sense of control.  Not that those things don't crop up, but I have been shown so much truth about myself and my need for God and how good He is even when I fail that I don't often find myself feeling better than anyone anymore.  I used to think I had it all together.  I used to feel like I knew the answers to so many questions.  I used to push my strong opinions on others and when I didn't, I was probably holding back because like I said, I knew everything.  Just ask me and I could tell you.  I used to do all those things and they always left me wanting.  I always wished I was different.  But now I actually am.

I don't pretend for a minute that that makes it worth it to me to bury Rachel.  I'm not saying that it means I think this is a great idea.  I'm not even saying that it then applies to everyone who loses a child.  It doesn't.  I'm just saying that in the end, Rachel - being exactly who she was for exactly as long as she was and for exactly what her legacy is - has been an amazing gift to me from God.  She has been my deepest valley and brought me the darkest nights.

But in order for there to be light, it needs to invade dark spaces.

I didn't see my life as dark.  But now that the light of those Truths shine on it, I know I was not filled then.  My life looked a lot neater on the outside, but God did me a favor when He removed all that 'security' and taught me that He is enough.  He is enough.  He IS enough.  In the good, bad, the ugly.  In the mess - even ones I create myself.  I'm so thankful that He loves me and calls me His.  I can't believe He calls me His.

He is the reason my heart beats at all.  He is the reason I'm alive.... she's alive... and the reason I am blessed to be able to nod my head when someone says "Rachel's Legacy!" and I can proudly agree that "That's my girl".  He is the reason I am made uncomfortable time and time again as some random stranger tells me they know about Rachel... that they follow my blog... that they know me - and that maybe - if only through me being willing to share so much of my heart in such a scary way - I've helped them to know HIM.  And somehow, in ways I could have never seen coming, He has done all of this in the middle of complete, utter, brokenness with a wretch of a sinner who never deserved any of it.

And in that, I stand amazed.

I stand amazed in the presence
of Jesus the Nazarene,
and wonder how he could love me,
a sinner, condemned, unclean.

 For me it was in the garden
he prayed: "Not my will, but Thine."
He had no tears for his own griefs,
but sweat-drops of blood for mine.

In pity angels beheld him,
and came from the world of light
to comfort him in the sorrows
he bore for my soul that night.

He took my sins and my sorrows,
he made them his very own;
he bore the burden to Calvary,
and suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory
his face I at last shall see,
'twill be my joy through the ages
to sing of his love for me.
 How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
is my Savior's love for me!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Let the Bucket List Begin!

Before our road trip gets too far away and I never get the chance to blog this, I wanted to share the special visits we had along our drive around the East Coast.

These trips were not planned when we first decided to drive to Florida.  We made the decision to make the trip after my aneurysm was found because it's a trip I always wanted to take with the kids, but we were waiting for the 'right time'.  When you realize that you might not see your kids grow up, suddenly 'right' doesn't matter...  and so we planned it out.

It wasn't until a week or two prior that I started working out our route and as I did, I started to want to see as many of my Rachel friends as possible.  I contacted a few of them, but some of it was still up in the air since timing and how the kids would do was unpredictable.  As soon as we got out of our cold 3 degree weather, the temp was 43 degrees for most of the entire first day.
South West here we come!!

We stopped, after 14 hours of driving, in Durham NC where we stayed with my Papa's son Gary and his wife Elaine.  I've never been close to my Papa's side of the family since my Nana died when I was 10 and our families went our own ways.  But when Papa was dying, I saw them at the nursing home he was at and they offered us to stay there.  They cooked us an amazing gluten free meal and gave us the most comfy rooms to stay in.  At one point I was looking at a map with Gary and for a minute and I felt like I could have been hanging out with Papa - they are so similar in so many ways.  Their daughter Jen stopped in to say hi too and gave us some clothes for the boys.  It was a quick, but awesome visit that I'm glad we were able to make.  (There was frost on the ground the next morning, it was COLD, which I hear never happens... only for us!)

These two became quick buddies ♥


We didn't know if we were going to be able to work it all out until the night before, but we left there and met my friend Hannah Rose for coffee at a Starbuck's nearby.  You might remember her as Lily's mom.  We became friends through my blog and had never met in person.  We had coffee and talked and got to hug in real life... the things that distance prevents friends from doing.  She showed me some of Lily's things, which was an honor.  It was another short, and very special visit.  It's amazing to me that I can see people I have never met in person - and might never see in person again - and feel like it's not our first meeting.  It's amazing to me how deep the bond of knowing each other's pain as baby loss Mamas can go.  I'm thankful that God provides for us in this way.  I don't know how people went through this before the Internet times because I can only imagine how lonely it would be. 

My big girl joining in on girl talk.

♥ With our girls' blankets ♥

We said bye for now to Hannah and headed to Florida, where we spent 6 days with Matt's dad and step mom.  We don't see them very often and could never afford to fly all of us there and then rent a car big enough for us all, so this was a pretty huge thing.  The kids had fun hanging with Memere and Pepere and we went on a few day trips, one of which requires another post but we also went to Homosasa Springs to see the manatees and Busch Gardens. 

For BG, I put us all in our shirts from Rachel's Race... We hadn't even made it in the gate yet and someone asked "Where's Rachel?" I told them she is in heaven and the man started telling me about his son who died at just a couple of months old 29 years ago.  He said "You never get over it."  Afterwards, I was thinking... he must see us and think of where his son would be now... would he have a family... like rollercoasters...?  You really truly never move on... only forward without them.

We had probably 20 or more people ask "Where is Rachel?" I thought it interesting that they all used the word "where" instead of " who " like we usually hear. The simple answer was "She is in heaven.". It was better than having to answer who she is... That's something that can't be summed up so easily. And yet the simple statement of where she is felt explanation enough about our shirts and I *know* left an impact on so many.  I know this was God's provision for me and a way He was reminding me that where she is matters more than even who she is... because it's where I'm going to be one day - and why even though she is there, she is still here in our hearts.  I missed her so much this day.

The rides are numbered - and the merry-go-round was ride #43.
It was the only one that we were all able to go on together.
I have a feeling there were 8 of us there. ♥

The original plan was for Matt & I to go to a river to kayak for the day on our 9th anniversary, but his step mom got really sick and we had a lot of driving ahead of us, so we left a day early, on our anniversary, instead.  The weather was about as cold as it's ever been while we were there (35 the day we left, which I hear never happens... only for us!) so kayaking wasn't really the best idea anyway, but my hope was to spend the day doing something warm on our anniversary for once.(married in February in NH means it's always freezing!)  But the car ride led us to another very special place....
Dinner at Ruby Tuesdays - making lemonade
snack at a rest stop on the South Carolina Line

curious boys ♥
Hi Rachel ♥
Thanks Isaiah

My Rachel friend Jenn lives in GA and I met her after she found my blog because we had both lost daughters.  Her daughter Stella died at 5 days old around the time Rachel did.  They adopted two daughters from China and a year later, their Chinese daughter Rose died suddenly.  They have walked through so much in such a short time - and they had just adopted two more daughters from China in January.  I was beyond excited to be able to meet their family.  There were 12 kids with us and 3 missing.  Add 4 adults and that was a FULL house!  We were there for Chinese New Year and were so blessed to share in that celebration with them.  They made us homemade Chinese food - mostly gluten and dairy free!  This was my only 'cheat' food wise... I'm a sucker for crab rangoons and these things looked professional!  They tasted even better.  I paid for it, but they were *good*! 

Red envelopes for Chinese New Year

They set us up in their basement which had it's own bathroom and we felt so spoiled.  I never told Jenn this, but the first night, we overheard them doing their family time and I was ear to ear smiles... listening to this family who has gone through so much and has welcomed all these little children into their family teaching their kids about God and praying to Him together - in ways that were almost identical to what we do in our home each night - just made me realize how united we are in Christ.  Adopted as sons and daughters into His Kingdom.  It's amazing.

Once again, it was an instant connection... like we've always known each other... Jenn and I have talked on the phone a bunch too, but it was so nice to hug and spend time together.  We hung out on her couch chatting it up the first night... more time was the only thing that could have made this visit better.  (that and warm weather!  It was 19 degrees there, which I hear never happen...only for us!) We did get to stay for two nights, which was awesome.  She babysat our kids so Matt & I could go out for lunch for our anniversary.  Watching their new daughters and them overcoming the language barrier seriously had me in awe.  The entire visit was such a blessing. 
lunch at BK when we left... all the cups and plates said Stella on them!

We left there on Friday and headed to VA for a one night stop so we could get home late Saturday night.  I had one more visit my heart was seriously longing for....  a little girl in VA named Lily ♥  We heard rumors that a storm was coming and we would be driving straight into it so I asked Matt if we could make the trip to visit Lily that night instead of Saturday on the way home like I had planned.  I'm thankful for his willingness to add the extra 2 hours of driving onto an already really long day. I'm thankful for a husband who understands the importance of visiting a baby's grave and cares about how much it means to me. Our initial plan was to drive for about 9 hours.  By the time we were in our hotel, we were closer to 12.  But along the extra drive, we saw the most beautiful sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

We found Lily's special spot in a little cemetery in VA... There was snow on the ground (which I hear never happens...only for us!) This is the stone that we helped pay for so Hannah could give it to Lily in 2013 when we didn't do a race.  It was SO amazing to see it in person - it's so pretty and so perfect.  I was blessed beyond measure to be able to show the kids in a tangible way what we did that year.  They knew, but it helps bring it to reality for them... they know how special stones are, having watched me at Rachel's spot all these years.  The sun was still setting and the view was beautiful.  I wanted to tell Hannah we were going, but decided I'd surprise her as long as we could find it okay.  I sent her a text with a picture of us there.  That was one of my most favorite parts of our entire vacation... to know how much it would mean to her to see us there and be able to do it!!  It fills me up like nothing else to make another hurting mama smile. 

It's so 'ironic' that this picture is numbered 5143 in my camera roll
We were there right before Lily's 5th birthday.
We went to the hotel and got ready to swim!  We hadn't been able to swim yet so this was exciting. lol.  The weather was saying that VA might get 5 inches.... but as the night went on, it became apparent that they were getting more than that, and that since VA doesn't get snow like we do, they don't have the ability to take care of the roads like we do... so we booked another night.  We didn't want to get home on Sunday so we'd have time to settle in before Matt went to work Monday, but it made more sense. 
can't take a family photo without feeling that missing piece...
I always can picture just where she'd be.

We hung out on Saturday and swam and ordered gluten free pizza... it turned into one of the best days of our vacation... a down day just me and my loves...  we watched TV and ate.  It was so relaxing.  The perfect end to an awesome trip.  But as the day went on, the snow just kept coming down...  18 inches later!! we didn't know if we were leaving on Sunday either!  I checked out the weather and it said it would be in the 40's and so we planned to try to leave and see how it went.  We were given clear roads, bright sun, and a perfect 43 degrees all the way home.... ♥♥♥
The only moving vehicles we saw during the storm were tow trucks
dragging other cars that crashed!

Yes, this is VA.  Did I mention this never happens here... only for us!

North East... coming home!

There is one more trip I want to share, hopefully I will get to that soon, but it needs it's own post. 

I must say that I was pretty unsure of how this long drive would be with 5 little kids who hate sleeping in the car...  but we planned all our driving for during the day (except just as we were getting home on Sunday which was the hard part) and it went way better than I could have EVER expected.  Even with our DVD player breaking 2 movies in on the way there!  They did unbelievable.  Pit stops take a lot of extra time, but they all went smoothly.  I was able to research ahead so I knew what fast food items were safe for us gluten free wise, and I packed a ton of food which kept us eating well and saved us money.  We did get a couple of nice weather days which my head needed and the kids have a ton of memories of a huge trip that wasn't stressful with their mom and dad.  This is exactly what I had hoped for in this trip.  I'm so thankful to God for the opportunity to do all of this, and for making a way to see all these people who mean so much to us along the way.  I can't put words to how special this was for me, as Rachel's Mama.  She truly has brought me so many blessings... too many to count.

We discovered we really like road trips, and now that we are not afraid of driving long distance with our crew, all I can think about is where we are going next!!  So many places to see and friends I long to meet.  If I love you, you are on our bucket list!  Wanna meet somewhere in between?! ;)
E's Team Rachel Blanket

The daisies we bought for Matt's step mom for Valentines Day.
Picked them up and they were labeled 43 ♥
A warm Valentines with my Honey

Last day of vacation...
I love these people so much.
Pit stop!  We got really good at these and managed to always make them fun!