Monday, July 21, 2014

BRL Status Update!

There has been so much going on and so many ways God has been whispering to me lately... and every time I have something I want to blog, I never get the chance to sit down and do it.  If only I could record the thoughts I need to write when they are on my heart and have someone else enter the text....

I've been pretty busy preparing for Rachel's Race.  I've been able to find a decent balance between race planning and family time... a balance between errands and playing.... a balance between heaven and earth.... it's not easy, but it feels good and was what God had challenged me to earlier this year.

I have managed to roll with punches fairly well this time around and even in just a few short months, God has shown me in different ways why certain things didn't work out or how He uses hard things to bring about better things.  I know that is vague, but if I told you all the ways, I'd be writing all night - and well, I have a race to work on! LOL.

I do want to share one thing though...  well, two things...

First, you all know about my bracelet right?  The one I made at the retreat that I went to after Rachel died?  My sister had come with me, which was really special.  This post HERE has the story of when it all started.  And this post HERE has a follow up in case you aren't familiar.  They are both good reads regardless, so if you're missing reading my posts, by all means... read those! :)

So, I've been wearing this bracelet, which is really gross looking and I don't care... for over 2 years now.  And the other still hangs on Rachel's grave.  Hers (which used to be mine) is now washed white from the rain and sun - and mine (which used to be hers) is now dingy like my original one was when I was wearing it.  But I can't stop wearing it.  It is too meaningful to me.

So about a week and a half ago, I lost my bracelet.  I realized it late at night when I went to take it off before bed.  I was upset and started to feel myself getting worked up about it, but just let it go.  I had this peace about it... a feeling that I would somehow find it again, even though I was pretty sure I lost it outside of my home.  And that if I didn't find it again, that God would lead me to something just as meaningful that I could share with Rachel somehow.

 Last Sunday at church, they were asking for help with VBS and I felt the Spirit nudge me to volunteer.  I had a little talk with God as this was happening about how incredibly busy I am right now, with the race less than 2 weeks away... I don't have time to be helping at VBS!   Matt took vacation this week so I would have more time to work on the race...  But I couldn't shake it and before I knew it, I was signing us up. We've never done this before so serving together as a family in this way was pretty exciting.

We pulled in this morning for our first day and when I got out of the van, I saw something in the dew soaked grass... I walked over and there it was... my bracelet!  Still there from last week!  Even more dingy and totally wet, I slipped it on my wrist with a big smile.  Total confirmation I was right where I was supposed to be.

When we got home, I had planned to go straight to work on race stuff... but before I knew it, I was making plans to go to my moms with the kids so they could swim.  (have I lost my mind?  Race day is coming whether I'm ready or not!!)  We packed the kids up and just as we went to leave, the postman came walking up - I leaned over and took the mail and the first thing I saw was a letter to Baby Rachel's Legacy from the IRS.....I squealed in excitement.... I had been replaying this long awaited moment in my head.  A daydream I guess you could say... since I mailed in my application in January.  I figured by now, no news was good news.... and I just kept seeing in my mind, me opening the letter and it saying we were approved.  I have prayed about it every day for the last few weeks.  I was hoping it would come before the race - and had a feeling it would be very close to the race!  And I guess I was right!

Matt didn't have the same sense of assurance and he was waiting hesitantly as I opened it.  Probably afraid of my disappointment if it was a 'no'.  I read the first line and started to cry.  I didn't even need to know the details.... I saw it... "We are pleased to inform you.... " and I knew!!!  We got approved!

I'm not sure I can put into words how hard this was for me.  In the first couple of years of grief, my mind was in such a fog, I couldn't make sense out of ANY of it.  I put it off for months... even at one point hired (and fired) a lawyer to do it for me.... But in God's perfect timing, when I finally was able to make sense out of it, He guided me through it and I am amazed that I got this approved without a snag... I prayed over that envelope like you wouldn't believe before I mailed it.  I heard it would only take 3 months, but could take 6 months or more if there was a problem.  It's been over 6 months and I remained confident that this letter would bring good news... and it has!  I'm SO thankful.... so thankful.  I didn't just have to put a lot of time and effort into this - I put my heart into it too.

Baby Rachel's Legacy is officially a 501c3 and that is retroactive as promised, back to January 2012!

I am so relieved... and proud... and honored... and excited... and emotional... and even broken again... for all that Rachel's life and death has prompted me to work towards.  This status is going to give us the ability to do so much more to minister to people who walk a similar path.  And my deepest prayer is that each and every person touched by Rachel's Legacy will be left with an overwhelming realization of what it means to hope in Jesus.  May His great and holy Name be glorified.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Up All Night

A recap of last night...

I stayed up way too late organizing auction items.  went up to bed at almost 1am. Sam was sleeping in my bed with Matt.  I thought that was cute until we went to move him back to his bed and realized he had also peed. (he is not a bed wetter, so this was special for my bed!)  My spot was soaked!

Matt went in to get his bed ready and discovered Isaiah had peed the bed.  He changed his sheets while I took ours off, only to realize that we don't have a 2nd set of sheets anymore. I grabbed a chuck pad and laid a blanket over it, started a load of laundry and we got back into bed...

Then felt something wet... he had peed on Rachel's blanket too and I was snuggling with it - I ran down and threw that in the wash too.  Her blanket has been washed VERY few times since she was born.  I don't like to wash it if I don't have to - and I am not used to sleeping without it, I never do.  So that was hard.

I got back into bed....1:35.  5 minutes later, the baby woke up.  I got up and nursed him.  2:15 rolls around, I climbed back into bed.  2:20 we hear Asa crying, calling for Daddy... he peed in his bed... (yes, he was wearing a diaper, but it apparently wasn't in the right position) another bed change and we finally closed our eyes at 2:40, with my hand around Matt's finger under his pillow.

At 4 am... Ezra crying.... nursed him, got back in bed 4:30... 6 am, our well rested boys sleeping in beds with sheets woke up ready for the day.  Matt had gone to bed earlier than me, so he got up with them and let me stay in bed, but I wasn't sleeping good.  By the time morning comes, my body is aching so much, it's hard to sleep.  I rolled out of bed slowly, anticipating how much my feet would hurt when they hit the floor.  Some days it's a LOT.  Today was one of them.

And that is why I'm falling asleep sitting up at 9pm.  But somehow in the middle of all of that pee and sleep deprivation, I felt amazingly blessed.  I'm so thankful for each of my babies, here and in heaven.  I'm thankful for full hands and a full heart.  I'm thankful for beds to change and babies to nurse and blankets to wash.  And I'm thankful for Matt to walk through it all with... marriage is quite the experience... who else knows exactly what our pee covered house looks like at 2am?  We are a team... and without even needing to discuss a plan of action, we both step into our roles and get it done.  I know that might sound cheesy, but it was kind of nice... just to know that he's in this with me - 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

I knew it all along, that she had given me a different perspective... but last night was one of the times when I realized how much so.  I could feel God's grace all over me in those late hours when I was dying to sleep, but able to care for my family with such a desire to serve and love them... and I know Rachel had part in that.  I know her coming and leaving made me see inconveniences from children as something I longed for and something to be thankful for.  And I know that even though I have had much more time with each of them then I did with her so far, no amount of time is guaranteed and each day could be a last.

Lately, I'm overwhelmed with the idea of how short life really is.  I can hardly believe Ezra is almost a year old.  Time goes by so fast and as hard as these days are, I have no desire to rush them along.  I love these days - and nights... and I know one day I will look back and miss them... especially after a good night of sleep.

Friday, July 4, 2014

He Called It "Rachel's Mama"

I know I have many MANY more notes... cards... letters... emails... and even phone calls from random people I had never met and have never heard from again... all telling me what a profound impact Rachel had on them through me.  Almost every one of them has left me in tears.  It's amazing.

I know that each and every person touched by her life and death were in actuality touched by the Spirit of God.  I could feel Him working in every fiber of my being since the first day we got her diagnosis.  And while I feel like I've already said a million ways how Rachel has impacted ME, I feel like it would not be a good Mama thing to do, to be posting all about her impact on others and not say something myself.

I've been struggling with some serious writers block lately, so I feel unable to express it in words... but again, I can't not try. And I'm sure this won't scratch the surface, but here it goes...

If I was to tell you that Rachel had an amazing, unbelievable, beautifully painful and completely life changing affect on my life... that would be an understatement.

I'll start first with the fact that before Rachel, I not only struggled with my trust in God and believing He has my best interest in mind at ALL times... but I also constantly doubted my salvation.  I would read the scripture that talks about testing yourself to see if you are really of the faith and I would wonder... How on earth could a Holy God love ME?  To really know me to the core and love me fully - enough to send His Son to die for me?  It just didn't seem possible. And why did anyone need to die anyway? It didn't make sense. And heaven seemed like a great idea, but real?  Hard to grasp.

When I walked out of my ultrasound on August 4, 2010, the first words out of my mouth were "This is what He was preparing me for."  It was as if in that very instant, I could see all the flashes of the weeks and months leading up to that day - and He had absolutely prepared me!  What a humbling and awe inspiring idea... that the King of the Universe is that mindful of me.  And from that day until this, I have been so certain of my God's faithfulness and love... proven over and over again... and I have been so certain of my true and genuine faith in Him... proven over and over again as I have had nowhere else I wanted to turn.  As He called me to empty myself... my heart... my arms... and give it all over to Him, He has also granted me the ability to do it... the strength, the grace, the peace and joy in the midst of deep sorrow.  As He carried me when I was too broken to walk alone.

Carrying Rachel as I waited for her death was the hardest thing I've ever done.  Each kick and turn made my heart ache with a pain I could never describe in words.  Picking out her grave, her burial outfit, her funeral program... before I ever saw her face was something I cannot even write without crying, still to this day.  It was the heaviest and most intense burden I have ever carried in my life.  And with each "When are you due?"  or "Do you know what you're having?"  I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare and I would beg to wake up... let it all be a dream... how can it be real?

But along the road of bittersweet, something happened.  I am no longer the person who walked into that ultrasound that day.  I'm not the person who left my house that morning.  Our kids got a different mother - Matt got a different wife - my mom and dad got a different daughter - my sister and brother, a different sister - my friends...a different friend.  And although, at times, I miss feeling lighter and more carefree... I don't think it's a bad thing that the Stacy Aube of August 3, 2010 has been replaced.

I have been broken down to the point of complete surrender.  I had nowhere I could go and not a thing I could do to change it or control it or to fix it... I had to sit in it and feel it.  And bit by bit as it tore me apart, God worked on each and every detail like he was fine tuning His masterpiece... and He called it Rachel's Mama.

When I call myself Rachel's Mama - it is so much more than a title to that little girl.  "Rachel's Mama" is to me the beauty God can make out of ashes.  "Rachel's Mama" is a place in His arms where I am sheltered from the storm.  "Rachel's Mama" is the reminder of Who is in charge of life and death and that we don't always get what we want.  "Rachel's Mama" is seeing perfect in her like God does.  It's being honored to be part of His eternal purposes and believing in their beauty, even when it hurts. "Rachel's Mama" is the way my Great God comforts and is close to the brokenhearted.  "Rachel's Mama" is how He proved to me that heaven is real... that He always provides... that I am His daughter... and that salvation has been given to me... for keeps....eternally.  "Rachel's Mama" is a name that means so much more to me than what I am to her... It's a name that speaks of who she is to me - and who I am to God - and who she is to God.... it's His work of art... sometimes messy, but always working towards the final masterpiece.  (We're talking oil on canvas - not Photoshop here)

Because I know with everything I am that there was absolutely no mistake - nor was it by 'chance' - that God made me Rachel's Mama.  The last 4 years have been hard.  They've been painful.  They've brought judgement and pity and misunderstanding.  They've brought loneliness and heartache.  But I would do it all over again.

Whenever I say those words, I always ask myself... Would I do it all over again if I could go back and keep her instead?  Would I *really* do it again if given the chance not to live without her?

And if I had to try to put into words the most profound affect that Rachel has had on me, this would be it.... because the biggest and most important change in me since I got her diagnosis is that I wholeheartedly desire what God wants for me in my life.  And even when it's hard... even when I don't like it... even when it hurts like hell and seems unending.... I know that my God is working ALL things together for my good and His glory.

And those are not words I say because they sound good and are the 'right' thing to say.  I still struggle with disappointment and questions, but I know with all that I am that God is taking care of me always.  And that He will never fail me. And I'm okay with the fact that I might not always like it and that often I will have to surrender to plans that if up to me, I wouldn't pick.  But I know that they are better.

Yesterday I put on my Rachel's Mama shirt to go out and put up signs for her race.  I like to represent, you know? :)  But after I threw my hair up in a clip, I used a mirror to look at it and I noticed that part of my tattoo sticks out of the neck of my shirt.

It was the first time I noticed that "Eternally" was all you could see above a t-shirt - and seeing it next to "Rachel's Mama" felt meaningful, so I had Des take a photo.... as I sit here tonight, I realize that I had no idea what I was going to write when I sat down 30 minutes ago... but the picture keeps coming to mind now...  I am eternally Rachel's Mama.

The rest of the tattoo, for those who don't know, says "Dancing Eternally in His Love" and I got it because that's what it says on her headstone... it's how I picture her... dancing forever with Jesus... At her ultrasound before we knew anything was wrong, they told us she was a girl and that she was moving a lot.  I said through happy tears "She likes to dance just like her mama!"  And the whole time I carried her, that little girl moved.  She was always twirling around and I will always think of her as my little dancer.

Rachel has taught me how to dance in the rain....not just in the sun. As a matter of fact, yesterday when we went to leave to put the signs up, it started to rain as we left and I told the kids "We've danced through worse rain that this before!  Let's get these signs out there, a little rain never killed anyone...."  and so we did... yesterday and today - put race signs everywhere, wearing my Rachel's Mama shirt, as it rained on us the whole time.  Before Rachel, that rain would have kept me home.  I would have waited for another, more sunny day.  But now I know you don't always get another day.  Better circumstances don't always come.  Time isn't always on our side.  And a Mama has to do what a Mama has to do.... even when it rains.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rachel's Impact - Part 5

I'm so thankful for all the times people have taken the time to let me know that they have been touched by Rachel's life.  It always seems to come just when I'm needing it most.  Some of my hardest, darkest days have been made lighter and brighter by the simple words of another... words that carry the reminder that it wasn't all for nothing... that she has made a difference and that her legacy will live long after I'm gone.  As her Mama, there is nothing I had hoped more throughout this journey of love, pain, hope, and sorrow... 

That she would leave a mark that could never be erased.  

And she has.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rachel's Impact - Part 4

    I could have never imagined on August 4, 2010 that anyone would be positively affected by the diagnosis we had just received....  I still don't believe I will know the true magnitude of what her life and death have done on this earth until I get to heaven.  

    And these were short notes I got on Facebook.....

    You have touched me by the way you love Rachel and others. Rachel has shown us through you how to love more and be grateful for all you have... it can be gone in a moment, we love you.
    Sarah – ME

    Very thankful for you sweet baby Rachel! You brought your mommy and me together across so many miles. What an impact you have made in so many lives! I love to watch and read about how you live on in your mommy's heart. You are loved, little one. So glad you are in heaven with Jesus, Eliana and all those we miss.
    Melanie – MN

      I did not know you when you had Rachel, but by talking to you I realized I had to make this journey with my precious Alicia. Hearing your story made mine possible. I have had 29 days with my little girl and she is the joy of my life. Rachel's story gave me a miracle. I didn't give up and neither has my girl. So I wanted to say thank you to you and your daughter. God bless you for the journey your story has put me on. <3 p="">
      Jenn - NH
      (mother of Alicia, who was deemed never to survive to birth)

    • Rachel's story makes me see the how much every single moment spend with the ones who we love are important (sorry Stacy, I dont write very well in english) Thanks for chering Rachel to the world.
      Liz – Brazil

    • Amazing little girl, amazing mommy, amazing strength, amazing hope. I love you both!
Amanda – ME

    • There is no truer story of love than your family. Never giving up and always pushing forward and bringing Rachel with you wherever life takes you. A true inspiration
      Susanne – KS

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rachel's Impact - Part 3

A couple more reminders of the great gift Rachel was, not just to me, but to people near and far.  I'm honored I get to call myself her Mama.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Amazing Vacation Rental for Sale!! Cheap!

My good friend Donna won a silent auction item at a fundraising banquet a while back.  She had won it for a steal of $600 and intended to give it to a family member as a gift.

Before last year's race, she offered it to me because her family member wasn't able to use it.  She said I could use it at the auction at Rachel's Race.

Then I called off the race last year.

I've been sitting on this unbelievable auction item for over a year now because of technicalities.  See, in order to do a raffle, you have to have a permit.  And since different states have different laws on raffles, you aren't supposed to do one on line.  So I was going to hold it until this years race and auction it there.

After talking to Denise (one of the owners), she mentioned that the house there is on the market.  Apparently it has been for some time with no bites, but this adds a complexity to the situation.

The item is for a week stay in an amazing 5 bedroom, 2 bath home in the Bahamas.  It has everything you need except for food and clothes right there for you to use, including kayaks, beach stuff, a washer and dryer, and games for kids!  They have a Bronco you can rent for $50 a day (or you can rent your own vehicle through a rental place) and their property manager will pick you up at the airport and drive you to the house at no extra charge!  I know many people who have vacationed there and love it!

So here is what I was thinking... Check out the site here., read about the amenities and if you are interested in going (which I have no doubt you will be if you look at the site!)  and would like to not only get an extremely discounted price for such accommodations on your vacation, but also have every dime you spend on it go towards Rachel's Legacy... email me or message me on Facebook.  I am not setting a price because something is better than nothing, so don't hesitate to make an offer!!

I believe the usual cost of a week stay here is $1750.  I will sell it to whoever is willing to pay the best reasonable offer and all proceeds will go towards Rachel's Race.

Since buying something like this while it is on the market comes with a risk, I will guarantee a refund of your money until the end of October.  If you try to use it before then and are not able to because they sell their house, you will get your money back.  The owners have people reserved into October, so you will want to book your week soon!!  You can see what is available right on their site!

*Please note:  Airfare is NOT included and is your own responsibility. This is for one week stay at Parlay at Sunset ONLY.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rachel's Impact - Part 2

It's amazing to me the great diversity in my blog readers... the way God has used Rachel, not only to help other moms going through the same thing - it's become so much more than I ever expected when I first started out.  And reading these notes reminded me of just that.  She is changing people everywhere - not just in the baby loss community - it's been so much bigger than that.  Something I could have never planned on my own or made happen in my strength, no matter how determined I am to help Rachel leave her legacy.  God had a plan with little Rachel Alice and it was huge - and I believe it still is.  Although I never would refer to it as such, I originally thought it was going to be a pro-life kind of message... 

It is and it isn't.

I mean, it's more of a message about ETERNAL LIFE than simply the idea of carrying a baby to a natural and God ordained end.  While I still wholeheartedly believe that the latter is very important and the best road to healing for a mom, I am more and more convinced that it wasn't the complete message God had in mind for me to share when He gave me Rachel.  

I am deeply humbled and full of gratitude that God would use me... in all my pain and imperfectness... and Rachel... with all that she 'wasn't' to most people on earth... to shout His story of Redemption - His promise of life after death - His provision and care and love for those who are called to be His children....  that He would bring beauty out of ashes...  That He would let me be part of His eternal purposes and even be so gracious at to let me know about it!  

I still remember in the operating room waiting to get cut open to meet Rachel... having a c-section had always been my biggest fear in child birth, and yet I had chosen it for the chance of even a minute with her.  I was laying on the table and we were waiting for Matt to come in.  My body was out in the open, uncovered - everyone around me so covered in scrubs and masks that I had no idea who they were....Staring at the ceiling, I asked "Have any of you met a baby with Anencephaly before?"  I can't remember, I think they all said no, Rachel would be the first - and I responded "Well, you're about to meet Rachel Alice and she's pretty amazing, if I do say so myself."  My nurse Kim said "Well of course she is, she has an amazing mother." and without thinking twice I said "She has an amazing God."

I feel like it's such a picture of my journey - I've been laid out like an open book for all of you to see - I don't hide under anything, like so many in the world do.  It can feel rather unsafe, yet in the moments of my pain and weakness, I am not phased by that discomfort at all....I am so convinced that God can use it, that I don't worry about people's opinions. But you certainly see much more of me than I ever will of you - some of you I don't even know are there.... 

But I have a goal in mind.  Just like that day in the OR, my goal was to meet my daughter.  In this life, my goal is to meet my Lord - and I know when I do, I will meet Rachel again too.  And if I have to face my biggest fears, wear my heart on my sleeve, fail in front of an audience and admit when I am painfully aware of how much I need Him to get me through it all in order for you to catch a glimpse of how big and strong and powerful and merciful and loving and gracious and eternal my God is....  well, I consider it great joy to be part of God's story in your lives.  I share my journey through anencephaly here, but I am so thankful that God has used it to bring so many people closer to Him.  That this doesn't start and end with dead or dying babies.  It starts and ends with God... His plan, His dance, His ending, His home for us together forever.  And I am looking forward to an amazing reunion one day - with Jesus and Rachel and all the people believe in Him who will join us there.  I can't wait to meet every single one of you.  You'll know who I am... I'll be the one dancing in daisies with a cute little girl at Jesus' feet.

I didn't intend to write so much... these posts are supposed to be short!!  I miss writing... hoping I can find time to do it more soon.  But for now, here are another two notes from Rachel's 2nd birthday.... I hope you can read the last part of the 2nd one, it's amazing!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rachel's Impact - Part 1

For Rachel's 2nd Birthday, I asked people to send us notes letting us know how Rachel impacted their lives.  We read them out loud and had them placed all around our house during her party that year.  It was really special to read together all the responses we got, knowing that it was only a small portion of the innumerable ways Rachel changed the world.  I had meant to post them for you all to read, but that year turned out to be very difficult for me and I never got to it.  

Since I'm barely blogging right now with the race coming up, but still have the deep desire to continue sharing her with you all, I have decided I will start sharing them this week - one or so at a time....  Kind of the way she continues to touch hearts.... 

Here we go.....


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Turning In My Superhero Cape

I'm not sure how to say what is on my mind without sounding like I'm complaining, but I am at a place where I have to say it - and I guess I might be complaining...

Everyone thinks that I'm some sort of miracle worker - like I can run a non profit, organize a large event, run a home business, raise 5 kids and homeschool them, sell my house, and look for a new one all while getting approximately 5 hours of interrupted sleep each night and being in a lot of pain.

Or maybe it's me who is dumb enough to think I can do all of the above and still enjoy life.  Maybe I give everyone the wrong idea.

I'm tired.  I'm overwhelmed.  I need help.  And if one more person says "wow, that's a lot, I'll be praying for you" I might lose it.

I covet your prayers, I really do.  But I actually need real. tangible. help, too.  Not that I don't believe prayer to be powerful, you know I do.  I just really need people - I need someone to help carry this with me.

Matt told me that if this year's race stressed me out, we wouldn't be able to hold another one.  It is impossible to not get stressed when the load is so heavy and free time to work on it only comes at midnight when nothing is open.  I have been feeling so laid back about the entire thing, I thought wow, this is great. Until I realized I'm feeling laid back because nothing is getting done and just how much needs to be done and the fact that I have 6 weeks to do it.  You know, if I was older and didn't have little kids - or if half my kids went to school each day - or if I had a handful of people who were as invested in the success of this as I am... maybe it would be more enjoyable.  But I am and have none of those things.

So, am I just not meant to have races?  Am I not meant to have a nonprofit?  Am I supposed to just let it all go and give myself a break?  Let Rachel's life and death become a thing of the past and not try to continue to use her to leave a legacy of hope and to help people to choose life when presented with the same path? Have I been misunderstanding God's direction?  Or am I just overwhelmed and making more of it than I need to?

I don't know.

Here's what I know... I am in over my head.

I just found out that we need another police officer for our course and they are paid, so that's another $260.  $1,000 on police alone.  So that puts us up to approximately $3700 it costs to put this event on and I don't have any corporate sponsors this year.  None.  That means we're relying on race day to cover costs and hopefully bring in enough to actually run our nonprofit for the year.  And honestly, at this point, we usually have well over $5,000 in sponsorships... so I'm getting nervous.  I have no money to back this.  I must be out of my mind.  I don't want to hold a race just to say I did - or worse, for it to cost us money to have it.

Then we have about 7 adults and a few kids who have signed up to help on race day - we need more like 40.  Enough said.

All that to beg, really... is there anyone out there willing and able to help me in the coming weeks to get this organized?  Anyone willing and ABLE to dedicate a bit of time and allow me to delegate some things and know they'll get done?  (warning: behind the scenes race stuff isn't much fun) Anyone willing to commit to helping on race day?  I would be thrilled if I had even 1 or 2 people who were invested in this with me for the next few weeks.  I can hardly keep track of my own crazy life and what I need to do, let alone the errands and tasks required for the race and my new 'business'.

I need a couple people to be on Team Rachel... like, really on the team... like working along side me instead of me needing to micro-manage everything and constantly follow up because it's not getting done.

Someone recommended that I contact the church in Dover who is raising money to get a new roof and tell them I'll donate to their roof if they will send people to help me.  That sounds fabulous and all - and I don't want to sound like I have a sense of entitlement, because I really don't - but I kind of feel like when you are in the body of Christ, you should not have to pay the body to help.  And I don't say that just because I don't have any more money that I can pay - but it's true, I don't.  I can't 'budget' in any other expenses since I'm not even sure if we'll cover the ones we already have.

OK, so for all of you who can't be here to help... but want to... I have some tangible things you can do from a distance.

1. You can register as a "Virtual Walker or Runner" and participate from where you are. (see post below titled "Join us from far away" (or something like that)
2. You can make a donation on the "You Caring" link at the top of my blog or sponsor one of the following:
   1. Police - $1040 (4 @$260 ea)
   2. Timing Service - $625
   3. Race Announcer - $200
   4. Potties - $250
   5. Shirts - $1000 (we could talk about putting your company logo on the backs of them if that is         something that makes this more appealing to you!)
   6. Course Certification - $355
   7. Awards, gifts, medals - $150
   8. Finish line food and water - $75
   9. Snack stand food - $40
  10. Event Insurance - $302
3. You can sponsor a pledge towards my children's walk (they would be so excited!)
4. You can pray every day.
5. You can send an item for our auction - any item is great - you can mail it to Baby Rachel's Legacy, PO Box 454, Rochester NH 03866-0454

If you are coming to the race to participate and are wondering how you can help more...

1. Print up the pledge sheet and ask friends and family to sponsor your walk/run
2. Ask around for donations for the auction
3. Spread the word and get your friends to join you!
4. Pray every day.
If you are around here and would like to (NOT feel pressured or guilty and so you'll do it... but actually *want* to) be a part of this year's preparation for the race - PLEASE message me on Facebook or email me and we can set up a time to get together and come up with a game plan to get me and my family through the next few weeks without me losing my mind - and hopefully make Rachel's Race a success in more ways than one.  By that I mean that I want to do well financially, but I also want to honor Rachel and glorify God through it and I can't do that when I am feeling so overwhelmed.  I am not trying to sound mean or ungrateful, but I really do not want anyone to say they will help if they aren't self motivated to get things done because I literally wake up in the night thinking about the things that are left undone and I NEED people to follow through on their own if they say they will do something.  I promise to not overwhelm you with too many things to do - there really isn't *that* much, it's just a lot of foot work for only me to do.  I can think of a handful of things that I need to do that I have not been able to get to that weigh on me.  It's not like there are a million things - just more than I can do alone.

A friend stopped by and dropped off some diapers today and said to me that she thought my new business was a great idea - and I just dumped all of this on her in a puddle of tears... I'm in over my head and the bottom line is I just can't do it all.

So there you have it - I'm turning in my superhero cape and begging for a hand.

Can you help me?  I'll let you have my cape......

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Crafty It Is!

I have so much to say, but so little time to say it that I end up not writing because I can't figure out where to start and how to condense it all into a post.

But I've decided something is better than nothing... so here it's going to be a long one...

We're in the hardest place financially we have ever been since we met.  On Tuesday, I sat waiting for food from the food pantry and feeling like a total loser.  Not how I envisioned life.... I decided to open up a My Daily Bread book on the counter and on that day, the verse was Romans 8:28 (which we used at our wedding) and the devotional read this:

"The Israelites learned some valuable spiritual lessons when God allowed them to endure homelessness, uncertainty, and danger.  Their hardships humbled them. (Duet. 8:1-18).  They learned that God would provide for their needs.  When they were hungry, He gave them manna.  When they were thirsty, He gave them water from a rock.  God taught them that despite difficult times, He could bless them.  Finally, the Israelites learned that adversity is not a sign of abandonment.
When we encounter desperate times, we can look for the spiritual lessons embedded in our difficulties - lessons that can help us rely on the One who causes all things to work together for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28)"
Before I left the house that day, I realized we were out of diapers again.  At this point, we spend around $150 a month on diapers and Goodnights.  It's getting OLD.  I finished reading the book and the woman came around the corner and asked if we needed diapers... all they had was a size 4 she said... that's the size Asa & Ezra both take!  God provided again... diapers at the food pantry?  Awesome.

It has become obvious that we need more income if we plan to keep up with even the basics.  Our new found commitment to not use credit cards has revealed just how much we relied on them - and I'm not going to lie, it's discouraging.  We live very modestly, no car payments, no debt, and a modest home/mortgage.  Other than my cell phone, there is nothing we could cut.  But we're a good size family and living on one also modest income.  With bills starting to pile up for the first time in our marriage, I wrote on Facebook last week asking if anyone had any ideas of "anything other than crafty things that I could do at home at night when the kids are in bed."  People still insisted on suggesting crafty things for me to do.  But one of them really bothered me....

How about you make grave decorations.... 

Grave decorations?  I have been decorating my own daughter's grave for years now, I really don't want to decorate other graves too... is this what my life has come to?  Grave decorating?

And even with those thoughts, I had one of those deep feelings that there was something to this 'crafty' idea and that I needed to think on it more.  So I did what I do any time I need to brainstorm... I messaged Lisa... 

Before the end of the night, I was beginning to think this was something I was going to pursue, but I still felt so *not* into it.   I had decided if I did, I would start with Kissing Balls like the one I made Rachel for Valentines Day.  Lisa was helping me price things out to see what I would use for materials and what I would need to charge to make it worth doing and what I would need to invest to get started. We figure out the size shipping boxes I would need and she looked them up for me.  43 cents each.  Then she sent me $43 to get me started. The next day, I remembered that the craft store around the corner was going out of business and we went over there to see what they had... everything was 80% off.  Before I knew it, I was filling up my cart.  I felt somewhat insane... I don't even want to do this.... grave decorating?  Am I really going to do this? Or was I going to have a nice supply of things to use on Rachel's grave and in my house?

I went up to the counter and the woman asked me what I was making.  I told her I was going to start a grave decorating business.  She looked up from the register as if she was figuring me out... "I know you...  you had the baby...."   "Rachel" I interrupted with a smile.  "Yes!  I helped you back when she first died and you came in here..."

Let me take you back... When Rachel died, I searched everywhere for something nice to put on her grave.  Everything was overpriced and tacky.  And I was horribly devastated by the fact that nothing would ever be good enough for her... grave.  It was a grave.  How in the world do you decorate one of those?  I'm good at decorating bedrooms.  Nursery's are my favorite.  Graves... don't know how to do that.  Don't want to know how to do that.  

So, a few weeks later, in January 2011, I found myself in Ben Franklin's staring at the crafts... I started asking a lady working how to use this stuff.  Not only did I not know how to decorate graves - I didn't know how to use crafts... I actually had to ask her what you do with flower picks... A song came on the radio - "Life's not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away..." and I started crying.  I blurted out that I couldn't believe this song was on right then, and I told her about Rachel and she started crying with me.  

I don't remember seeing her from that point until this, but last week as I purchased my grave decor business supplies, she told me she remembered, that she followed my blog for a while and that she knew me and Rachel.  She told me on Wednesday, they would be having a "fill-a-bag" for $5 sale to get rid of everything left.  

Wednesday I decided to go over.  I was running late and ended up with Asa with me because he wouldn't stay with the sitter.  I was late, it had started sprinkling, the place was mobbed and I now had a (crazy) child to watch too.  And I really had already spent more than I should have, money we did not have to buy what I had a few days earlier... I had borrowed money from Desirae for this trip with no idea when I could pay her back. I almost turned around and went home.  But I took one of the very last parking spaces and as I walked up, everyone started filing in.  I looked over the people in front of me to see if there were any silk flowers left and I heard someone say "this is the girl I told you about."  They pulled me aside and gave me a bag and told me to take whatever I wanted... to fill them up and that anything that was leftover, they would donate to me... to my grave decorating business....

I once again walked that craft store crying.  I was *blown away* by the amazing way that God brought that full circle.  Then she told me I could leave Asa with her and just go shop!  I had a babysitter and free supplies! Each time my bag was full, she would show up and hand me another one. As I filled bag after bag with high quality flowers, I was again reminded that life since Rachel has not been easy... but wow, it's been beautiful.  I just can't get over how people continue to provide for us and how many hearts her little handprints continue to affect.  I had so much stuff piled up around Asa's stroller that people were trying to pick through it!  I heard the liquidation guy offering Asa to someone for $10. LOL.  They told me to go get my truck and I pulled up and they FILLED the back of the Suburban... I paid $6 because I got a few things that weren't flowers and bought a bag when she wasn't looking because it felt wrong to be getting so much free.  

I went to the Post office on the way home and a special gift I ordered for another baby loss mom from Baby Rachel's Legacy had come... another reminder that Rachel continues to touch hearts.  And then I got home and got a message from someone who received one of Rachel's birthday care packages at the hospital when her baby just died.  She talked about what a blessing everything in it was and I thought... comforting with the comfort I have received... I couldn't be any of this for any of these people if it wasn't for Rachel.  

I told the kids through tears that we are starting a business to help Daddy with the bills.  They listened to me blubber about how it all came to be and all the amazing things that had happened.  I told them I was going to turn our basement into a work space and we decided to paint a picture to put down there.  

By that night, my dark and partially dirt basement became my 'office' and I started working on my new business.  I have always wanted a space that everyone I know who does crafty things has.  A space where I can leave stuff out to go back to in my free moments (whatever those are!) and keep it away from the kids.  My basement is not what I had in mind, but it will work for now.
You can see her tree by the light 

In February, when I made Rachel's kissing ball, I had put the verse from 1 Corinthians 13 about Love (paraphrased) on it.  And since Rachel's "Love Lives Here" flag had flown away, Lisa had ordered me another flag with her hands in the heart shape on it and wrote that on it.  I loved it so much, I got another one for here and they are still hanging.  Because when I stand on her grave, that's how I feel.  I feel like God's love has been POURED out on me there and my love for her has been poured out for her there.  And love remains.... even in a cemetery - and some days, especially in a cemetery.

For Rachel's 2nd birthday, I went to Ben Franklin's to buy her a bigger Christmas tree.  They were $20 and I didn't have enough money.  I bumped into a friend there and started crying about the struggle I have to keep her grave pretty (I've cried a lot there apparently!  I never knew decorating a grave would be so emotionally draining) and she slipped me a $20 to buy it.  The following year, I went back and bought another one so I could have one here that matches (you know I love to have 2 of everything for those days when I can't get there...).  Well, wouldn't you know, there was one little tree left there on Wednesday... the exact same one... I was wondering why it hadn't been snatched up, and I realized when I got home that it is missing a leg.  Some people only like perfect... but I have come to love things that others see as imperfect.  I took it home and am using it as decor in my 'office' to remind me of my Christmas baby who has everlasting life... My girl who stands tall in heaven even though she couldn't stand on earth.

Later that day, I had a doctors appointment.  I have been to this dr a few times already, but apparently never in this room....
On the wall!

yep... She was everywhere!  And my dr who I never told about my blog asked me "Are you still keeping your blog?"  I told her I was and she told me a coworker of hers told her about it and how she has read from the beginning and it's helped her so much in life, even though she has never lost a baby.  God was laying it on me thick... the message that this was not all in vain.  Rachel had a purpose... many purposes...

I was still feeling unsure if this grave decorating thing is what God really had for me.  Was all of this just a coincidence? Was it a cute idea that would never really go anywhere?  Should I go get a 'real' job where I know I'll get a paycheck and won't require me to hang out with the bugs in my basement?  Do we have the time to wait out something like this financially?  I was seeing confirmations all over the place, but what if I was hearing wrong?  I *just* cleaned out my basement so we can sell this house!  What am I supposed to do when it's time for a showing?  And then the fear of other people's opinions started... What will the people who think I obsess over dead babies and graves say about this one?!

I put the boys to bed, which is not usually my job.  Matt always does bedtime and so the fact that I found myself up there was out of the ordinary to begin with, but that I decided to read a book to them was even more unusual for me at that time of day.  I am WIPED by 5pm.  So, Isaiah picks this book that I had not read before.  It's called "I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words"... and I'm not trying to sound crazy here... but ....

I heard a different message.... I heard "Just follow ME...You don't need to know the end result, just follow Me.  Trust your Master.  I know where I'm taking you."  And somehow the red letters seemed appropriate....

So, I need a job.  Matt would prefer I not have to leave the house.  I have a basement and it's full of fake flowers.  And I don't know where this will go, but I do believe He's led me this far... so I'm going to do what any smart, hungry dog does... I'm going to follow my Master so He can feed me... and not just in the physical sense.

I went to Rachel's grave to take some photos of what I had made the other day and this was on her spot...
You may remember that when we went to pick out her grave when I was still pregnant, I looked down and there was a single yellow dandelion standing in the center of where she would be.  I remember that moment like it was yesterday.

I sent Lisa a message on Wednesday telling her the short version of the above and I wrote "It's days like this that my heart needs" but auto correct changed it to "It's days like these that my heart beats..."  and I thought it an appropriate 'mistake' - Love LIVES here.

But to top it all off, I went out yesterday to meet with someone about Rachel's Race and decided while I was there, I would stop and visit.  The dandelion above was gone... and this is what was there - literally 2 days later...
LIFE.  For as clear as a cemetery is that there is death on this earth, I have experienced so much LIFE on this sacred ground.  God shows me in a million ways that she is alive.  Dancing eternally in his LOVE.  And standing here this morning, I wondered where heaven really is... I don't think it's actually "up"... like in the clouds or something... but I don't know.  I just felt this overwhelming idea that perhaps where she is dancing isn't so far away... that being completely wrapped in His everlasting Love somehow connects us in a way that can't be divided - not even between heaven and earth.  Maybe I'm not making sense... hard to put this into words.

But anyway, I left and went to the Post Office
and in my box, was a package box key....
And in the package mailbox was a gift for Rachel's Race....
And on the back of it Lisa wrote...

And that is the story of just what 2 days in the life of Rachel's Mama is like.  I am blessed.  I am humbled.  I am thankful.  And I'm apparently officially running a home based business selling grave decor!

And so I announce.....

Find us on FACEBOOK and "Like" our page and check out what I've created so far!  And please SHARE it with your friends.

Also, be sure to enter into the drawing for our GIVEAWAY!!  It's this beautiful 4th of July Kissing Ball (only problem is I want to keep it for Rachel!! lol)  follow directions on the Birthweight Buddies page to enter!

Here's a few of them...

And I hope if I can sell some of these, I can start to work on adding a variety of items to the selection.  It's been a long 3 1/2 years of learning how to fight the weather at the cemetery.  I hope I can make grave decorating a little less of a heartache for others than it's been for me.  And in doing so, I pray I can bless my family, honor my girl Rachel, and glorify my God in heaven.

Please pray for me, for us and for Rachel's Race.  I'm going in a million different directions right now and not getting any sleep at night.  I got more sleep back when E was a new baby at home... so things are hard, but God is still good.

And in case you don't feel like that was long enough... here are a couple of older posts I just stumbled across that show me just how far back God was working out these details. They might come up at the bottom as suggested reading anyway. Apparently, I named a post 'Love Lives Here' in 2012!  That would be what I would pick for this one, but I guess I need something different now. Ha!

Love Lives Here - Sept 2012

Love Never Fails - February 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Join us from far away!!

I have so many friends that I have been blessed with through Rachel and this blog.  Sometimes it is hard knowing that the people who seem to care the most about us are not around for my daily life stuff.  If I could make a way for each of you to come to Rachel's Race, my heart would be overjoyed.  At her last race one of the friends God gave me through Rachel came from Ohio to be with us - they came to church with us the next day too and played on her playground with us - and it was such an amazing gift.  Just such a clear picture of the unbelievable ways that God has provided me people to walk this journey with when the people who were in my life at the time of her diagnosis disappeared on me.  

So, I've been wishing that all of you could come and I know that's not going to be possible.  I noticed that some people are doing these "Virtual Races" now to help bridge the gap between us who are connected via the Internet.  So I decided to jump in on this and make a way for people who are too far away to come (or can't make it) to Rachel's Race, but want to participate and be able to rock your Rachel's Race t-shirt!

Sign up for our "Virtual Walk or Run" and support us from where you are!! You can do it on August 2nd along with us or on a day near it if you can't do that one.  In your registration, I will get your address and shirt size and I will mail your shirt(s) to you!

Be sure to post pictures on the Baby Rachel's Legacy Facebook page and tag me!! 

Of course if you are far away and plan to come to the race, don't let this option steal your attention - I'd rather see you there!

Click HERE to register!!

I AM Holding on to You

For the first few YEARS of homeschooling, I constantly teetered in my heart if it was really something I could do.  The first year we lived in this house, Des was in Kindergarten and that was fine.  But the next fall, she was beginning 1st grade and I remember that September, taking a walk with her, Isaiah and Sam who was just a new baby, on a warm September day and my mind was completely preoccupied with this internal struggle...

Was I going to ruin them forever if I followed through with this?... was I *able* to do it?... would they miss out on life?  Would I fail them?  How could I be everything they need in every area of life....?

We walked past the elementary school around the corner and she asked questions about it.  She could see the kids on the playground and in her mind, that was what going to school meant.  My mothers heart felt so torn.  *I* know that school isn't all the playground... and I know that the playground at school isn't all fun.  But she didn't.

We walked around the corner and the kids stopped to pick these little flowers that were shaped like tiny wheat growing by the sidewalk.  I remember watching them and thinking "This is what it's all about... watching my kids pick flowers..."  I'm not good at slowing down like that, I usually blow right by and just 'get where we're going' - so this was one of those days I felt like a 'good' mom.  I'm my own worst enemy most of the time and am harder on myself than I would ever be on anyone else.  To feel like I am measuring up in my own mind takes a special day - and this was one of them.  I have very few.  I knew that day that I was going to homeschool and somehow I knew they would be ok....

I had always loved the word picture of a green reed that bends in the wind being stronger than a mighty oak that breaks in the storm.  And that day as we walked back to our new home that we loved dearly - and I became a little more comfortable in my role as a stay-at-home mom of more than just one child, I heard a message from God loud and clear... you need to be able to slow down and bend with the humble and lean on Me.... Trust Me to keep you from breaking....

I went home and gathered all they had picked and stuck them in this little bottle I had.  And they have been on my bathroom counter since.  Almost 6 years now.  They have lost their color and are dried out, but they still stand.  And every. single. time I look at them, I remember my 'good mom' day and the message to bend with the winds and give God control....or else I would break.

I did decide later that year to send Desirae to school and she went for most of that year to a Christian school nearby.  We LOVED that school and she did well there, but before the year was over, I knew she wouldn't be going back.  My heart never felt peace without her here, no matter how many awesome things happened there.  I know deep down, I've been called to homeschool.  I'm not going to lie, a lot of days, I wish I wasn't.  And I stay very open and humble about the fact that I may at some point in the future be called to do something different, or have to because of circumstances, so I never take a 'homeschool is the only way' stance, because I don't believe it is.

That summer, I got Rachel's diagnosis...  and the 'reeds' in my bathroom took on a whole new meaning...  a constant reminder to bend.  Bend with the biggest trial that ever had me wanting to take control.  Bend with the hardest loss I've ever wanted to avoid.  Bend with the deepest pain that ever stole my heart.  Bend.

I wanted to break.  I wanted to throw in the towel and run.  But somehow God gave me the power... the peace... the surrender to keep bending.  And it wasn't just through losing Rachel, but through a lot of trials that came WHILE I was planning to lose her and after she was gone.  Things that would have been more than I could take before her (like constant criticism from people on how I was handling something they could never come close to understanding, marriage struggles, financial issues, physical pain, betrayal, utter loneliness, the death of my uncle) and I somehow managed to handle it all through the trial with her.  Looking back, it's really amazing to see how clearly God carried me and how amazingly He used me in my weakness and frailty.  Nothing I could have done in my own strength.  I was far from a mighty oak, but I was bending with the wind.... and that sustained me.  He sustained me.  And I only pray that it glorified Him in all my imperfection.

Over the next few years, I became confident in our choice to homeschool.  I remained humble about the fact that I never know what is coming down the road, but knew that we were doing the right thing for where we were at.  And I could see my kids really blossoming in the midst of all my failures.  I finally felt like I had come into my own as a homeschool mom.  I had this figured out.

A few weeks back, I sat in my living room feeling again overwhelmed for the first time in a couple of years  - questioning again if I am going to ruin their lives and regret this life decision.  It's so heavy having everything they need resting on my shoulders and to some extent, I envy the people who put their kids on the big yellow bus in the morning and don't think twice and then get to welcome them home in the afternoon all refreshed for them and everyone glad to be together again. (and maybe even make some money while they are gone!)

Being with my kids all the time takes away the excitement of seeing each other... I'm just the one who is always there.  Wait... did I say that like that's a bad thing?  Yes, I did.  I'm the one who is always there and I don't feel good enough.  And honestly, I'm not.  I'm impatient and I yell - and for the record, I can yell loud.  I should have been a cheerleader, but I hated cheerleaders in school - I think because they had the confidence that I only dreamed of having.  But I'm also a complete neat FREAK.  I am like a drill Sargent with my kids and a mess and clutter makes me crazy.  I also get overstimulated with too much noise - and I'm in a house with 5 little kids.  It's messy.  It's noisy. And it's too small for us now, which makes it easily cluttered.  Days are long and yet go by too fast to accomplish all I need to do with this crazy busy house load.

But as I sat there feeling defeated again, I thought back to that perfect September-good-mom day.... and I heard the message again about bending.

Suddenly, I heard a crash from the bathroom.  I ran in and I kid you not, Asa was on the counter naked, had torn out all my reeds and was pouring water on them in the sink.  I screamed like a horror movie....  like I dropped my wedding ring down the drain.... like something serious had gone wrong...

Because I'm attached to this memory and what those reeds symbolize to me.  To know that every other person that sees them in my bathroom remains unaware - including Matt - of what they mean to me - they are just little weeds of some sort dried out on my counter.  But to me... messages from God and a memory close to my heart.  The message that I'm not a failure.  One that it takes a lot for me to believe.

I picked them up in tears.... put them back in the jar.... and I noticed one was broken....

I was tempted to throw it out because it takes away from the whole "bend don't break" idea... but as I looked at it, I realized that sometimes we break... and that's okay... just as long as we don't let go.

And I'm still hanging on.

In February, I was having a rough patch emotionally and my mom stopped by one night with a Willow Tree for me.  It's called "Simple Joys".  When I was reorganizing my counter to get the house ready to put on the market, I put it on the shelf with the reeds and this little sign I have that has the verse from Nehemiah 8:10 - The joy of the Lord is your strength.  I didn't pair them together on purpose, but one day I looked at it and noticed that there are 6 flowers on this "Simple Joys" for each of my children... and the verse is worded different on this plaque and reads "The joy that the Lord gives will make you strong".

It's not a joy I have to muster up in order to be strong... it's a joy that HE gives.  And He gives it in ways that aren't always easy.  Actually, I have found the most joy in the valleys that I have gone through.... I have found the most joy in the days when I bend.  I have found the most joy in even the times I break, but just hold on.  Because without the complete belief that I am nothing without him, all I have is my total inadequacy and constant falling short.  But with Him, and through Him, I can bend - as a small reed in the winds, who relies on my Mighty Oak in the storm.

I bend.  I even break.  But I won't let go.  And neither will He.

You *have to* listen to this song with these thoughts on your mind.... I guarantee you will want to dance.....  (if you're reading this through email, you will have to go to my blog to see this)