Friday, September 28, 2012

My Pursuit of Normality

It's been a hard couple of weeks.

On top of a couple of very complicated emotional things going on, I've started work, started a new homeschool group, and a new small group (bible study).  I felt ready for this.  For the first time in 2 years, since I was pregnant with Rachel, I felt like I wanted to be around other people. (the lack of pregnancy hormones helps with that)  And so I jumped in.

I love my job.  I love our new homeschool group.  I love our small group.

But the more I'm around people, the more alone I feel.  I know it seems like that would be opposite... but with every common conversation I have and every day I interact with people while pretending that I'm 'normal' - which by the way, I'm not. - her absence becomes so much more pronounced.  And my task of living life without her becomes more toilsome.

It's so hard to recognize that my life really does have to go on without her.  To interact with people - some of which don't know that she even existed - and try to avoid making people feel uncomfortable with my speaking of my dead baby or sensing that some are just tired of hearing me constantly bring her up.  I remember the days when I thought 2 years into this, I'd be healed and no longer consumed by her life and death.  I thought if I did this 'allowing-God-to-heal-me' thing right, in no time I'd be only captivated by the blessings from her/our legacy and the smiles they brought.  And I assume I am not the only one who thought/thinks this - and so now I feel studied and am self-conscious of opinions that really don't matter....but they do.  They do because they don't just speak of me, but of how my walk with God and Rachel are perceived.

Today is Friday and I haven't gone to the cemetery. I went twice a week the past couple of weeks because after our homeschool classes on Wednesday - and acting as if her name isn't on the tip of my tongue every minute of the day - all I want to do is go visit her. I can hardly get there fast enough.  So, I just went 2 days ago. I want to feel okay saying that's suffice for this week....but it feels so wrong not going on 'her' day.   I want to stay home and I want to go.  And both feel taxing on my heart.   I thought I would be okay not going today until 'today' was almost over and now I just feel worse.

I feel like my attempts to step 'forward' have all brought me backwards.  My pursuit of normality has left me feeling more damaged than ever.  And so I have to wonder why I am pushing myself.  Is it so people will approve of where I'm 'at'?  So that I'm doing what people expect of me by now?  Or is it really because I want to?  Is it wrong to change my mind on things?  What will people think then?  What will they say when I decide that I'd prefer to spend more time alone and less time interacting as if I'm back to normal when I'm not?  Am I going to have to go through this at some point and then it will get 'easier' - or is this what the rest of my life will entail?  Will I always feel so delicate?

Jesus can't come back soon enough.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Places: His Grip, His Grace

If having a dead baby isn't a taboo subject, what the loss of your child does to your marriage certainly is. 

I have learned along this journey that nobody talks about that - and if they do, it's very vague.  And that is not only good, but necessary.  It's important for marriages to have privacy - and at the same time, it leaves so many people feeling like they are the only ones struggling.  So many marriages end after the loss of a child and yet, there doesn't seem to be any resources for us.

In the book I will carry you by Angie Smith (which I read and loved so much I put Rachel's hand print in mine), she only referred to her marriage struggles once and said something along the lines of Satan would love to watch while my marriage crumbles.... and then went onto something else. Out of an entire book, only one thing about the dangers to marriage through such a hard loss - and she gave no insight, shared no details.

So anyway, I've mentioned that we almost didn't make it to our vacation this year - but what I left out is that there was more to that than just money.  We were in a very low place and I'll be honest, I was all out of energy and ready to quit.  To say that these past two years have been draining would be a major understatement. 

God provided for our trip financially at the last minute - Matt got some overtime, which they never allow and we were blessed to find a check in the mail for the remainder from Jill, in Corey's memory. (they loved going there)  I knew God was making a way, so we packed up the day before our scheduled time and went.... mostly for the kids.

Our God is amazing.  He has yet to forsake us, even with how much we mess up.  With each day in Maine - away from the stress of the day to day hustle and bustle - we somehow peeled back all the layers of walls we were building between us and grew closer.  For the first time in a very long time, we connected... and not just for a day or two - but for the entire week.  From the moment we headed out until we returned - and even still.

As we went through our week, hand in hand, God whispered to my heart.... I've got you.

I am so thankful that in His Grip, His grace abounds.... and that once He grabs a hold, He doesn't let go.  I'm thankful that He shows up just when I think I can't go on.  I'm thankful that He leads me, even when I'm not a good follower - and reminds me of His Sovereignty. 

I'm thankful for Matt.  For the unbelievable father he is to our children.  For his refusing to walk away even when I'm unlovable.  For being devoted to me and the kids and taking his role so seriously.  I've never seen a man so willing to learn, to take advice, and to grow.  He's pretty awesome....  now.  God has done an amazing work in him over the past 6 years - but a month ago I couldn't see any of it. 

Grief is all consuming - but the hard part about it is that as time goes on, you easily forget it's there, but it makes it no less real.  The subtle dull pain that lingers starts to be part of who you are and at any moment can come out of nowhere and hit like a tornado, thrashing through every area of your day without warning.  No weather man to tell you to take cover, just a raging storm of pain and the ache of empty arms that can be filled by no other.

Part of what makes this all so difficult is that nobody knows the pain of a mother who buries her baby, except a mother who buries her baby - and even then we are all so different.  He is not a mother, he's a father and that is not the same.  He knows it, I know it.... but sometimes I really resent being the only one who hurts like I do - and seemingly being invisible while doing it. I wouldn't trade places - ever.  I love that I got to know her like nobody else... but my love and bond with her is what makes my heart long for her so much.  And while I don't really expect Matt to grieve like I do, I want to be understood by him in a way that probably isn't possible, although he has gotten better at offering support.

A few months back, I heard myself say "Maybe I was too quick to say we were one of the marriages that survived the loss of a child."  I was starting to think that perhaps I was wrong.  That maybe Rachel's life and death hadn't strengthened us like I thought it had.

But I refuse to believe that God would include our failed marriage as part of his plan with Rachel.  He brought us together and has given us an unbelievable testimony to His faithfulness through this valley.  And I believe He has a grip on us... on our marriage... on our family.  And there, we find the grace for another day.  Another minute.  Another second. 

And I know you will too.  Rest in His Grip.
Loved you yesterday, love you still, always have, always will.

He found me a heart-shaped rock on the ground
♥ Rachel ♥

Love Lives Here

I made it through another season change of grave decorating....

Now that she has her stone, it's not quite as hard, but I still get very emotional trying to get 'just the right thing' for my girl - and as the colder weather sets in, so do my memories of these day before she was born.  The chill in the air as the wind blew while I stood on that ground deciding if it was fit to be her resting place.  I had searched high and low - every cemetery in the Seacoast and even purchased plots somewhere else before accepting my grandparents offer for these plots.  I had no idea how amazing a cemetery could be, but if there is a perfect one, this would be it.... especially for the fact that they maintain the roads in the winter - which is when she came and went.

But anyway, I had been thinking and praying about what I should do and I decided to google it.  "How to decorate a baby's grave" is what I googled.  I click "images" and scrolled through and after a while.... couldn't believe what I saw.... there were photos from Rachel's grave there.  I have no idea how they got there, but the internet is a crazy thing.  There in front of my eyes were the photos of the decorations I did for Easter, one of which was her palm leaf tied into a cross with her name and "He died for you" on it. 

Long story short, if there is a such a thing?  I decided that I would do a bird feeder and house in hopes that the kids & I will see some life there in the winter.  Isaiah once found a birds nest on her grave that had fallen from a tree or something (will be his show n tell this week for Classical Conversations) so I know there are some birds that wouldn't mind a place to stay :o)  We're really hoping they will come hang out with us for the winter and bring us some smiles...

So, the theme may be obvious, but to explain the heart behind it....  People told me as time went on I would go to the cemetery less.  I've actually been going more lately.  On Wednesdays we go cause we are near there on the way home and I can't not stop - and I'm not at a place where I can give up Fridays and so I just do both.  The flowers need watering anyway. 

Desirae picked out the mums for her and we picked yellow ones because she thought they looked just like dandelions, which are one of Rachel's flowers (yes, flower...not weed!)  They remind me of her - how something someone can consider a problem is actually very pretty and after they die, their seeds fly all around, planting new flowers wherever they go.  That's my girl.   The "live" plaque we bought for her in Maine on our vacation.

The flag pole that is there, Jill bought for her with a different flag a while back and I thought it would be nice to change the flag - but I was having trouble finding one I liked.  I saw this one and the words 'love lives here' hit me.  I looked closer and saw the flowers and in faint print behind the scene of the home, there are words and I can't make them all out, but 'daisies' is one of them.... She is home.  This place hurts yet holds so much love.  It reminds me that He is alive, she is alive...Love is alive.  And it's okay to love her at the cemetery if that's what I need to do.  I moved the bracelet I made for her on the woman's retreat to the flag pole since I took the bottle it was on home. 

God led me to a couple of different verses this past week that I put on the feeder and the house.  I changed the words on the feeder, mine in parentheses.  I guess I've realized that I've been struggling for a while to not go silent on God - and everyone else for that matter.  Some times I just want to crawl into a hole and hide.  This reminds me that I can sing in my heart because of the promises of God and eternity in heaven, even when I'm utterly disappointed with His plans here on earth.  This is not the end.  In heaven I will never have to decorate a grave again.


I took the bottle and wind spinner I had there home for the winter.... but couldn't just put them away so I hung them in the mudroom.  This morning as I sat drinking my coffee, I looked up on the wall and there she was....It took me a minute to figure out where it was coming from since I hadn't remembered putting the spinner up in the window in the next room....but you know, I never realized in all the time that has been at her grave that it let off rainbows. 

And then when I went to post this picture, it came up as number 4030.  ♥ Such a surprise! :o)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Places: The Mountain Top

Each year in Maine, we make a day trip to Mt. Battie.   Des started asking when we were going to do something different because she 'is getting bored doing the same old things all the time'.  I knew this year would be different, mostly because I'm stronger physically than I've been in a very long time (since month 4 of my pregnancy with Rachel to be exact) and I tried to encourage her to be thankful we were on vacation at all since it almost didn't happen....  But I also really felt God telling me that we could do all the same things and still experience 'more' - if we just looked for Him more.
I brought our race shirts so we could keep her 'with us'.  I brought her blanket with us to all the places we love to go and propped it up next to them for this one.  It's what she was wrapped in at birth, I snuggled her in it while she died in my arms, and I sleep with every night to this day.  I stood in this very spot when I was pregnant with her, looking out over the water and missing her before she was even gone.
We went over to get one more family photo (did these before anything else that day just in case the day went haywire to be sure we got them!)  and as I was balancing the camera to take one of all of us, a woman came running over and offered to take it for us.  After we took the next one, she said to us "I remember those days - you can never get the whole family in one photo"
I agreed, but my heart had an entirely different meaning for that statement.  I don't think she noticed the baby blanket I was holding - or the fact that I kept referring to it and the little pink shoe attached to the diaper bag as 'Rachel'.  I teared up as we walked off to go find the trail we were planning to hike.

But at the beginning of the trail....  God reminded me again....
She's not as far away as she feels.

I love walking in the back of our crew and watching Matt help the kids along the path.  As they grow and become more independent, I smile watching them overcome big rocks and intimidating hills.  But all of us know that Matt's hand is never far away should we need it - and much like Isaiah who seems to be following quite closely in Daddy's footsteps, Matt isn't afraid of much.  Or at least we never know it if he is.

Asa took his first hike on Mama's back.  This boy is awesome. (if I do say so myself)
When you go to this park, you pay for the day and can come and go as you wish.  Last year we talked about going back to Mt Battie at night to watch the sunset, but I was so pregnant that by the time night time came, I couldn't get myself to go anywhere.  So, this year we made it.  We all wore our PJ's and we brought a half gallon of ice cream and some chocolate dipped cones.  There's something about PJ's on a cool summer night that is extra cozy.

Notice the "ice cream spatulas" that Matt bought cause it was less expensive than a scoop.  We made them work, but he will not live that one down!  We also found out this night that Sam is in fact NOT allergic to almonds - He was half way through his cone when we realized they were in the ice cream Matt bought. (phew!) 
WoooHooo... the sun is setting and this ice cream is yummy!

Me and my sweet girl on top of the tower...  isn't she so pretty?  She's getting so big it's hard to believe.
We thoroughly enjoyed showing this place to Asa.  And he was super cuddly :o)

And as we watched the sun set from the mountain top, we knew this was a special gift as we ooh'd and awe'd over the beautiful colors in God's pallet (and I fussed with my camera trying to capture them, which we determined is impossible - the human eye is too amazing to truly copy - these photos do not do this scene justice!)  In this picture, it appears like we are near the edge of the water, but we are actually hundreds of feet above it and that is a cliff! We finished off the ice cream, licked the spatulas clean and headed home to bedtime for the kids and cribbage for me & Matt :o) 

Oh, and P.S. - There were close to 350 people who viewd the last post in 24 hours :o)  People are funny, but predictable.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I'm expecting....

.....That a whole bunch of people who never read my blog have just opened this post :o)

I know, it wasn't a nice trick - but no, I'm not pregnant again.  Just making a point. (and keeping myself amused). Please forgive me and read anyway.....

I've noticed over the last few months (blogger shows how many page views each post gets) that the numbers have been dwindling...unless of course it looks like the post will have some kind of nitty gritty information (like "she's pregnant again?)  or a picture - of say, my baby without the top of her head.  My latest posts have been averaging around 100 and sometimes it takes 2 days to get there.  It used to be between 300- 500 daily for close to 2 years.  However, the post where I had Rachel without her hat... going on 3,000 views (the closest to her birthday yet).  The post where I say the word "Drama" in the title - close to 400.  The "Not for the easily offended" post - 600.

My journey with Rachel was the first time in as long as I can remember that someone other than my mom & sister cared to know what was I was feeling every day.  And I've been so blessed to say that so many people in so many places care about me and my precious girl.  I remember when I first started this blog, I was BLOWN AWAY that there were 30 views the first WEEK.  So please know, I'm not in any way trying to sound ungrateful or like I expect people to (as "Ms. J" so eloquently put it) give me 'unending support'. I know that Rachel's life has been spread across the world by the Hand of God and I have been blessed to be a part of the journey... to have my finger tips used as an instrument for His great purpose for my sweet little girl's life.  But I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't bother me that all of my effort, pain, tears, and time that I have put into pouring my heart and soul out so everyone else could get something from my journey with Rachel (along with all the back lash I have received at times) has not gained more loyalty, and instead turned into a place where so many don't come unless they see they might be able to get the 'dirt'.

I know I shouldn't care.  I know it doesn't really matter.  I know that this was inevitable.  Just the same as I couldn't expect people to read in the first place, I know I can't expect people who did care to read forever.  I mean, how long can people really care about my day to day life?  Especially now that it's not so emotionally charged and I seem to have more trouble finding the beauty in my pain then I did while I was pregnant.  And I also know that I have SO many new, very loyal and devoted friends that love me and care about the ups, downs, the exciting, and mundane.  I can think of a handful without trying and my Nana used to say if you had two good friends, you were doing good. 

And yet, I can 'know' this all day long - but it still feels like a little at a time... day after day...  one more person after one more person....  she gets left in the past.  A journey that 'happened' and is no more.  A pain that used to exist, but has been relieved.  A story that had a beginning and an end.  A baby who was expected to die and is now just dead.

For everyone but me.

"Just be thankful for all that her life has done"  they say.  "Don't hold onto the past"  I'm told.  "Well, at least you got the 43 minutes with her" the woman who has never buried her baby insists.  While these comments are not by any means the predominant opinions I hear, they do hurt - and they do creep in when I'm feeling sad.... "still".

It feels like just yesterday I was expecting our 4th child... one day life was simple and nobody knew much about my heart.  And in the days to follow her diagnosis, life became more complicated and painful then I ever knew it could and people - thousands of them - came to know me, my daughter, and my heart.  And I was gifted with knowing them and so many of their hearts as they shared their stories with me.

But I can feel the winds shifting and I'm not sure what to do with that.  I feel stronger and I know I don't need help anymore.  I'm fully enjoying being able to clean my own house, cook our own meals and not cry all the time.  But I don't feel ready to just walk this journey with my heart hidden - and yet I feel a little used when I see that people only care to know how I'm doing and what is going on if it looks like 'news'.

And maybe this entire post is just stemming from my underlying fear.....  her 2nd birthday is on it's way and I'm scared to death that nobody will care.  I have already been trying to figure out how on earth I'm supposed to have a birthday for Isaiah and Asa both within a couple of weeks of Rachel's birthday and still expect people to come back again for the dead baby's party (and how long it will be before I'll start to look really crazy having them)....  and I guess I know that someday nobody will want to.  But I'm not ready for that yet. 

Some days I really just get so tired of having a dead baby, a blog, a story to fear being forgotten.  I just want her.  I just want 'usual'.  I just want to not find cemeteries 'pretty'.  I don't want to have to always correct people when they count how many kids I have and ask, "you have four?" I want my old life back...July 2010 when her future was still full of all sorts of un-blogged hopes, dreams and pretty pink dresses.  I wish I was still just expecting her.  Expecting a baby.  Expecting her life, not her death.  Expecting to bring her home and watch her grow. Expecting things to go as I planned.

I know that God promises that He will give us far more than we ever imagined or expected.  So tonight, as I continue to yearn for the simpler days never to return, I trust that His Word is true - and while I may not be experiencing all I had hoped with Rachel now, I am expecting eternity.  I am expecting life forever.  I'm expecting to dance in fields of daisies with her and I am expecting that she has the best giggle going in heaven.

There she is... My pretty girl at our first 4D ultrasound - the one that shifted our expectations
and my heart towards forever.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Places: Moody's Diner

We stopped at a favorite of ours, Moody's Diner, on the way up to the camp.  We've done this a couple other times.  I have a photographic memory and can picture those times vividly.  We unloaded from the van and the boys immediately ran up this very steep hill in front of us.  I watched from below, and as usual captured the moment on heart keenly aware of the little girl not with us. 

Then I turned around and noticed the little flower (a single dandelion) in front of our van and I knew...
She's not as far away as she feels sometimes.
Inside, we had lots of laughs

Per Isaiah's request.....

Sam's first egg and milk allergy-free trip to Maine started out right with grilled cheese and french fries!  Last year we had to bring cold rice and canned meat everywhere we went!!
  And Asa had his first french fry - which was well received and super cute.
And we reminisced about the "Good Old Days" - in more ways than one. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

My American Dream

Living my dream....

Our first day of school, we left together... in a silver bus called a Dodge Caravan. I didn't have any tears, just smiles as we talked together all the way and then spent the day together learning and spending time with friends. 

We started Classical Conversations yesterday, which was the kick off for our homeschool year. A long (8-4) day with drive time, but we all had a good time and I'm excited to see what God does with this year of learning for them.  I love living life with my children.  I got to eat lunch with the boys (Des wanted to sit with her friends, which was just as much a blessing to be able to watch her interact and giggle from a distance as she starts to be more independent.)  And on the way home, we stopped and watered Rachel's flowers. (you may notice the daises on my shirt ♥ Always bringing her with us)  I was also really blessed to get a text from the director at CC the other night, asking me how she should list Rachel's name on the family directory.  She wrote each of the families with the kids names and ages and didn't want to leave her out.  We decided on "Rachel - with her Heavenly Father". ♥  So good for my heart.

I'm thankful for the blessing of the freedom to teach my kids to love God and give Him glory for all of creation - including Grammar, Math and Science (although you know I'm more thankful for Grammar than the other two!!) :o)  I know in many places throughout the world people are not allowed to talk about Jesus, never mind go to a public place to learn about Him and share Him with others and recognize that He created it all and made it all make sense.  I don't take that for granted. 

Please pray for me this year when we come to mind...  the responsibility can be so overwhelming - and as I found out this week, even doctor appointments are much more complicated and difficult when there is nobody else watching the others.  Those rooms get very small with 4 (not-so-well-behaved kids) in the room!!  With my new job and first year teaching 2 kids (Isaiah's official!!) and still having 2 very little ones in tote, it can be exhausting so I can use all the prayer support I can get! 

But even with all the struggles and the many times I question if I'm out of my mind for doing all this, I still know that this truly is my dream and I'm so thankful for the chance to live it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Out of the mouths of babes?

This is not my new series...I'll start that soon....

I've regularly wondered if Rachel could see me - if she knows all I do for her.  If she can feel my overwhelming love for her, even still. If she knows how she has changed the world.  Honestly, I've always thought no.  I've always assumed that heaven is too happy a place to care what's going on down here where so much pain and sadness exists.

A couple months back, I had a post on my heart that I hadn't written - and still haven't - when I received an email from a friend who said God had revealed something to her and when she shared it with me, thinking I was going to think SHE was crazy, it 'just happened' to be the answer to the very thing (it was a specific question related to the general one I mentioned above)  I was questioning, the reason for the post on my heart, and most likely the reason I never felt the need to write that post....  but this afternoon, Isaiah came into the kitchen holding my book mark in his hand.  It's a fancy one with a cross at the end that hangs out of the book and I asked where the book it was in went.  He said Asa had given it to him.  (yes, he is officially tearing up the house!! - and climbing stairs, but that's another post!)

I walked in the living room and found the "Created to be his helpmeet" book on the floor. I remembered why I hadn't seen that book mark for a while, it was in that book.  Jill & I were meeting weekly to work through it together for a long time - and between her husband dying and Rachel's diagnosis, we stopped working on it.  I haven't read it since.  I opened it up and flipped 'randomly' to a page, chapter 4, and read the title and subtitle...
Thanksgiving Produces Joy
Live with thanksgiving, forgiveness, and joy, and enjoy all your moments as if they were your last. 

I had enjoy and moments circled.

I never said a word about the book - or Rachel - all I did was read to myself and Isaiah blurts out above his Wii Mario Cart game... "Rachel can always see you"

It stopped me in my tracks.  I asked why he said it.

"Because she's in heaven, she can always see you"  He insisted, as he turned his hands like he was holding a steering wheel.

I looked back at what I had just read - I circled those words long before I ever knew I was pregnant, let alone what the near future held or how much I would need to enjoy each moment.

I'm not trying to sound superstitious or as if I want to go on the crossing over show or something, (because I'm not and totally don't) and believe me when I say that I am not easily swayed into believe comfy cozy thoughts 'just because'.   If anything I tend to be a little on the skeptic side and actually a hard sell on most of these things.  I read the book "Heaven is for real" and everyone I knew (and people I respect) loved it and thought it was amazing and I - if I'm honest - thought it could very easily be made up.  People have said to me from the beginning of this journey that Rachel was with me - that she was proud of me - that she knew who we are and all I do... and I always smile and nod and in my head say "well, that is a nice thought, but it's a load of crap"

I must admit that I feel God telling me different - and it's not when I'm asking or even looking for an answer.  Both times, His voice has come in a very unexpected, unencouraged, very quiet yet loud way.

I think she can see me.

Why does that make me cry?  Is it because I'm happy or afraid I'm wrong...or both?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Intro to My New Series: Places

Before too much time passes and I never get to it, I want to share my vacation with you.  Last year I did a 'series' called 'Moments' to share all the places God met me while we were there. (it was pretty awesome to see so if you haven't read them, you should!)  I want to do something similar this year, otherwise it would be a ridiculously long post.  But, let me give some background for any new readers....

In September 2009, we went on our first family vacation to Maine where our friends Corey and Jill had referred us to a place they vacation.  Des was 6, Isaiah 3, and Sam 6 months old and we were blissfully unaware of the depth of pain that could exist here on earth. We had an amazing week and knew right away that we would make this a family tradition.

A few weeks before our 2nd trip, we got Rachel's diagnosis.  And the day after her diagnosis, our friend Corey died.  As we drove up there that year, we knew this place would hold a different meaning.  Jill & Corey had just gone for their vacation right before he died - and paid for a portion of our rental - and this would be the only time Rachel got to go with us to this place we loved so much.  The week held a lot of pain for me.  I was 6 months pregnant, it was a heat wave and the surrounding area's water, including the pond we are on and use for a water source, was closed for E Coli.  No showers, no swimming, had to boil all our water to so much as brush our teeth and I was just coming to grips with the fact that Rachel was going to die.  Everywhere I went people asked when I was due.  Since I would never see them again, I didn't both telling many of them about her condition. We left a couple of days early - so thankful to return home - and were greeted by a large package holding the vault for Rachel's casket. 

Last year, we packed up again to go... this time with a forecast of a rain-filled week.  I researched the area for rainy day activities and had lots planned and many new things to try.  We ended up with a beautiful week, and did many of the same things we had done in the previous years, but my heart was so broken and the entire area just reminded me of the year before when we found out she would die and watched Jill bury her husband. 

My reality seemed to taunt me...  we went to Fort Knox and I got upset so Matt went in with the kids while I waited in the car.  As I sat and waited, a car pulled up in front of me and out came a mother and father and their little baby girl who they stood at the hood of my van and played with and laughed at and completely loved on for what felt like forever.  I wanted to puke.  We went to watch the fireworks on Rachel's 9 month birthday and sat down next to a husband and wife feeding their little boy snacks and Matt asked how old he was.."He's 9 months, it's a really fun age" she said with a big smile as she pushed a piece of cracker up against his cute little teeth and he giggled as he spit it back at her with a grin.  I turned my head and sobbed right there in front of everyone.  It was a hard and very lonely time for me.  It was when the rest of the world moved on and I realized I was going to have to feel this by myself for the rest of my life.

This year, I have been so busy and things here so hard that I didn't even get anything packed until the night before and I never once looked at the weather or tried to figure out what we could do new in the area.  Partly because I was trying to sell some things on line to even be able to afford to go and was wondering if we even should spend the money. I have been in survival mode and holding on by a thread emotionally and financially.  I was able to sell my cloth diapers and Matt got a couple hours of over time (which NEVER happens so it's totally God's provision) and we decided a couple of days before our scheduled time that we would still go.  The first day we were there, Des asked what we were going to do new because she said "I'm getting tired of doing the same old things."  As I told her that she needed to be grateful that we were on vacation at all, my heart felt her disappointment and I later told Matt how bad I felt that I haven't found new things and keep bringing them to the same places.  I just want to make them happy.

Well, my series this year is going to be called "Places".   Our 4th annual was by far the best year yet. Ironically it was the only year we haven't been affected by a hurricane while there (strange) but we did lose electricity for a while after a storm.  The consistent theme throughout our week there seemed to be the blessings in simplicity - and God showed me over and over that the less I look for 'more' the more I found.  I want to share with you how He blessed us in the simple places...  the places that don't just exist in Licolnville Maine.  It won't completely tell how He revealed Himself to me there, but it will give you a glimpse.... I hope.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off to Work I Go....

Matt & I have been struggling financially for some time now.  I attempted to go back to doing hair in February and I just didn't have the drive to make it happen.  I was renting a booth and many weeks it was costing me to be there.  I hated being away from the kids and in order to have any shot at being successful financially, I was going to have to up my hours and find someone to watch them.  I had already started having a friend sit with them one afternoon a week, which wasn't the original plan.  I had said from the beginning that the job needed to be a blessing to my family, not take from it and so I decided to cut my losses and go back home.

Well, we found ourselves back in the same place.  We live very simply so that I can be home with the kids and there really isn't anything we can cut out.  The doors on Matt's car hardly even open and he's okay with that.  He is the best dad ever and spends tons of time with the kids at night.  This is a blessing to them, but also to me, since it gives me the ability to have down time after he gets home.  We considered him getting another job again at the place he was working prior to Rachel's diagnosis. But we all need his night time routine, him included.  And I started thinking about what I could do with my very little 'free time'. 

Then it just 'fell in my lap'. (aka: was handed to me from God!) 

I have been bringing the kids with me to the YMCA to their "Kid Zone" almost every morning for months so I can exercise.  I love everyone there and have come to LOVE the Y. (Which ironically was my first job ever)  I looked on-line one night to see if they were hiring and nothing showed up that would work for me.  A few days later, I asked the girl working if it would be on-line if they were hiring and she said "We were just talking last night about needing someone for the fall, you should grab and application." 

So, the Friday before our vacation, I got hired at the Kid Zone for 3 mornings and 1 afternoon a week.... and my kids are coming with me!!!  It's not a lot of pay, but honestly, I feel like the trade off to not have to find and pay for someone else to watch them is a huge benefit worth more than gold in my book.  I was able to pick my days based on my homeschool schedule and the shifts are just 3 hours at a time.  I'm pretty excited to work with these girls who are all so awesome and ridiculously eager to get a paycheck - and thrilled that it will be a consistent one!  I pray it will lessen Matt's burden and that God will multiply my efforts and help us to use the little bit of money wisely.

I start this afternoon.  I have a crock pot meal going... Matt is going to come workout after work and then grab the kids and come home, so dinner will be waiting.  The kids are super excited to be coming to work with Mama and to be working together as a family to help Daddy with bills.  And my heart can rest assured that this will be a job that will bring to and not take from my family.

And did I mention my boss's name is Rachel? :o) Yep, signed on every application paper next to each other... Stacy & Rachel ♥

9 Months to Exit 44

I'm not sure why 9 months seems to be such an emotional milestone for me.  Rachel's 9 month birthday last September was REALLY hard and Asa's 9 month birthday was too. Even this September 3 (the anniversary of her 9 months??) was really hard on me.  Maybe because it's all the time I had with her - and because babies tend to be super cute and cuddly at that age.  I don't know, I miss her so much.

It just so happened that on Asa's 9 month birthday (August 15), we had planned a trip to Maine to go to the Children's Museum with Kim and her son. (She's the nurse who helped deliver Rachel and took SUPER good care of me & my girl while we were at the hospital - and then helped deliver Asa too and we are now friends)

I can't help but play back the dozens of hour long trips I made to that city.  Many with Matt, some with my mom or sister and many just with my girl.  I could drive there on auto-pilot and often do now.  I remember driving up to get her second opinion and then to have her like it was yesterday.  But for as many of times as I have driven that route, I have never noticed one thing....

There is no exit 43.

I guess back then I didn't know that 43 would come to mean so much, so why would I notice.  But why never when I traveled the route for Asa's pregnancy and birth??

I was watching for it that day because lately I had been noticing that on many roads, where #43 should be, it ends up being a big field and skips that number.  I always have pictured Rachel dancing through fields of flowers in heaven and so as I started to notice the jumps in numbers everywhere, I felt God whispering she's dancing.....

 I saw exit 42 and I knew we needed to take 44.  I just wanted to know where 43 went to.  But it wasn't there.  Just the forest as far as I could see.... but maybe somewhere behind the tree line there is a field...

I started to tear up and I could feel the emotions of the drive hitting me harder than usual.  The song on the radio played....

"My hope is in You Lord, all the day long.  I won't be shaken by drought or storm.  A peace that passes understanding is my song - and I sing.  My hope is in You Lord."

I started to cry and then I saw it...  The only place she ever lived outside of my belly.  And the top floor of the parking garage that I was wheeled out to leave without her.
Des noticed the song and said "Hey, this is a perfect song for going past Rachel's Hospital!"

I can't remember if I blogged about it or just thought about it, but my outlook on the #44 had recently gone from one of 'when I lost her'  to one of 'when she went to live eternally'.  From one of 'death' to one of 'life'.  And there it was...exit 42...  no exit 43... but, exit 44... that's where she LIVED.

We went to the museum and I had some pretty serious laughs watching my boys - mostly Isaiah -play.  He was sweating he was so serious about having a good time :o)  I took a picture of Kim holding Asa.... See how he has changed in the past 9 months...and of course, I had the kids representing, wearing their Baby Rachel's Legacy shirts ♥
8 lbs 15 oz!
I have no idea what he weighs now... bad Mama... He's heavy!
Sam didn't want to be in this picture, as you can tell :o)
Asa hung out on my back the whole time, even took a little snooze. You can see I have a piece of Rachel's blanket tied around my tank top strap.  She comes with us everywhere ♥ 
I'm thankful for 9 months in my belly and 9 months outside my belly with my sweet baby Asa Francisco.  I can't help but think of all I'm missing with Rachel as I watch him grow, but that only causes me to love him more deeply and relish each and every moment.  I have no desire for him to grow up fast, I'm loving every second of his life.  And so far, he's the only one other than me that has shared the same sacred space that she lived and danced in for those 9 months - so in a strange way, I feel like we have a special understanding of who she is that nobody else quite gets. I was telling Matt the other day, everyone thinks I worked hard for Rachel and says how difficult that must have been - and it was... but Asa... he was the tough one.  Pregnant twice in a row, scared to lose another baby, grieving deeply, judgement and everyone wondering why I would do this to myself again, waiting on every ultrasound with fear that I would find out something was wrong and it would be all my fault.... I worked hard for this baby - and just like Rachel, he has proven to be more than worth it all. 
Thank you Lord for all my precious children.  And thank You that through these trials, I have learned to not take them for granted.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Lesson on Time

I have a lot to catch up on.  Before I get into all the blessings from our 4th annual vacation in Maine last week, I want to back track a bit to the weeks after the race, but before vacation.

First, I guess I'll analyze my computer-free time. :o)

It was awesome.  I have found, in spite of myself, that I actually hate the computer - and not just because it doesn't cooperate and goes slow when I want it to go fast.  I hate it because it robs me of my time and time is something I can never get back.  I always knew this to be true, but I honestly didn't see how much so until I had it out of my life.

My house is cleaner, my kids are happier and my morale higher.  I went to bed earlier and got up earlier.  The hours in the day, while still a little less than needed for my life, seemed to go further which helps me to not be overwhelmed. The computer and the internet are great tools, but if I'm honest, most of the time wasted on it is useless.  I have developed many great friendships through this blog and could only have friends across the country and across the world through the internet.  I'm so thankful for that - it's truly a gift.  And at the same time, I miss the 'old fashion' ways of the telephone and letters.  I think so much is lost in technology - and as much as I have needed the comfort and encouragement I have found here (as well as been able to give to others here, I still long for more intimacy with friends - to hear their words and see their faces - and feel their hugs.  God gave me the first glimpse of this the day after Rachel's Race when Tienne and her family (who drove from Ohio to come to the race) came to church with us.  I was SO blessed to stand next to my friend and sing praises to God together.  It seriously brought tears to my eyes.  I've been emailing with her for almost 2 years and that one hour together far outweighed all of our emails.  I will cherish that memory always.

On the flip side, if I can make my blog a separate entity from the internet, I have found that not blogging doesn't kill me as I thought it might, but it does leave me with a heavy heart.  I see God in so many places that I just want to jump on and write about.  I want to share all that I see that confirms what I know to be true, but struggle to believe so often - He is alive and so is she.

I continuously went back to God these past few weeks asking if He really didn't want me to share things that were happening and I continuously heard,  Be still and wait.

Before I left on vacation, I stopped by my friend Terri's for a few minutes.  She introduced me to a friend she had there and within a few minutes of us all talking, I was in tears sharing my heart with them.  I felt like a complete blubbering mess, but I trust God will use it.  I had not realized all that was waiting to spill out, and honestly I don't even remember how I started on the topic... but before I knew it I was telling them about that week of not blogging.

My words; unprepared and honest, still ring in my mind.  I said something to the effect of  "I  spent the last week packaging up t-shirts and cards and little notes for people who couldn't make it to the race.  I spent hours gathering things and pressing daisies (left over from race day) to minister to these people and to share Rachel with them.  I wanted people to know that I was thinking about them, remembering babies they had lost and that I appreciate their friendships and support.... meanwhile my children are waiting for me.  My babies are growing up way too fast.  I don't regret working to bless others, and I do believe that God called me to this ministry when He gave me Rachel and took her away, but I remembering hearing Billy Graham talk about how he worked so hard to reach so many people, while his very own children - his first ministry - were left behind.  I don't want to have that regret."

It was a sunny, warm day.  She gave me a hug and I went back to my van and I could sense the relief I had from sharing what God was speaking to my heart.  I needed to hear myself say it.  And therein lies that 'theraputic aspect' of my blog.  This is where I tell my story. It's not meant to be a place for me to get feedback (especially from people who are not my friends to begin with) and it's not a place capable of nurturing the friendships given to me by God here.  It is however something I feel very called to do and need to continue until I hear God say otherwise.  In the end, as much as I am humbled to be able to share the amazing things that God does even in the midst of my most horrific pain, this will still leave me wanting.  I sit here alone, unknowing who is caring enough to read still or who I may or may not be helping and nobody reaches over to hug me at the end of a post as my tears fall. I sit, heart poured out, alone.

Originally, early in my journey, part of why posts were better than talking is because if people were unsure of how to respond (they usually were and so often only hurt me more) they didn't have to and I wouldn't have to sit in the awkward silence or run away and hide to cry.  But honestly, that awkward silence seems to follow me around anyway these days.  And maybe it's just me.  But not writing makes her feel further away.  I'm aware that if I wasn't blogging, most people would be unaware that I still hurt and it would make me easier or more comfortable to be around, but that's ok cause I'd rather feel distant from them than her, if that makes any sense...

So, I guess what I'm saying is that through this time of quiet, I have been revived in my heart for my home and for what God has called me to do here.  I've also been, once again, reassured that blogging is something He wants me to be doing, while facebook and email need to bite the dust. And I'm thankful to also be happy about that.  I will still post my blog posts on facebook (sharing Rachel's life and my journey through her death was the only reason I started using FB in the first place before I got sucked into the vacuum!) at least for a while - but I hope to use the computer as a tool to minister to my family and others - not as a way to try to maintain or create friendships, because a friend is so much more than emails and status updates.  However, I do have a few friends that I will stay connected to through email because they are long distance and have become very dear to me and I do still plan to answer each and every (minus the really mean ones that don't deserve a response) email I get in regards to Rachel, as I always have.

And there you have it.....  He spoke in the silence like I asked, responded in a way I didn't expect - and as promised, gave me the desires of my heart. (by that I mean He changed the desires in my heart to match HIS!)  He has gently convicted me of changes I need to make - as well as graciously reminded me of the many blessings I am surrounded by and how fleeting time truly is.  No matter how many minutes I get with any of my children it will never be enough.  I don't want to waste them.

So, I'm back - ironically more like how I started.  Me, my blog, the story of my amazing God and beautiful daughter, and the way my family here goes on without her because of Him.  This has been a hard, messy and beautiful journey but God has continued to show me that He will never let go no matter how hard I fall or fail  - no matter how off course I get - He always lovingly directs my path and for that, I am forever thankful.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Wait

I have a whole bunch of things to share - and I've been praying about what God wants me to focus on since I can't obviously write them all.  But the last few weeks have been a learning experience, a blessing and honestly, went by way to fast.

I wasn't going to blog until I had it all figured out - and then this morning happened.

I woke up, feeling the 3rd on my heart.  The 3rd of every month will always belong to Rachel - except Desirae's in January.  Matt let me sleep in until 8:30.  I came down and poured a cup of coffee and sat to continue where I left off last night on - yes, still working on the race - race stuff.

Right now I'm writing out Thank You's.

So, with soft praise music from on our under-the-counter radio and the kids playing in the other room, I started writing.  Surrounded by things to be thankful for - all from God, because of Rachel. A warm house to live in with a beautiful family.  A hot cup of yummy coffee.  A husband to love and be loved by.  I still hurt.

And honestly, I'm so tired of it.

Have you ever cried so hard that your body shook?
Has a part of your body ached so long that you wonder if it will ever stop?
Have you ever felt like no matter how many people are around you, you're still alone?

This is my morning.  I can imagine it doesn't make sense to many people since it has, after all, been 21 months since she came and went.  I'll admit this morning - right now as my tears still fall - I can't help but ask God when He will remove this pain and wonder the very same thing.... when will this let up?  This has been the longest 21 months I have ever experienced.  The darkest and most beautiful at the same time. 

I've been told by some lovely people in some very not-so-nice ways that IF I would just LET HIM, He would.  Well, I'm here to tell you that I have been surrendered to Him since day 1 with this trial and it doesn't work that way.  How I wish it was that simple.  How I wish I could think my way positively to a less painful reality.  I wish I could look at my table right now, seeing her little hands perfectly forming a heart on all the notes full of reasons to be thankful for her life and death and have a feeling of happiness well up inside me.  And sometimes it does.  But more often than not, I cry.  That does not mean I don't have joy from the blessings she has brought - I do. And I want you to know that I am MORE THAN thankful for it all - for you all.  But something I never knew before Rachel is that joy, hope, love - they all can exist and quite often only exist to this extent, when there is great sadness and pain too.

And so I wait on heaven.  I wait on the day when that joy, hope and love will exist without the pain.  I wait on a day when I can see her, touch her, hold her and worship God with her.  A day I can see what she looks like with the top of her head.  A day when I can see her dance outside of my womb and hear her giggle.  With every word I write about her, every thank you I send for her, every blessing I see because of her... I ache, I cry, I smile, I love, and I long for heaven.... and I wait.