Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Dreams

I seem to do fine until I have an upcoming appointment.  Makes me want to just skip them all! 

I was feeling great until the two days before my last prenatal and then I started to worry they would listen for the heartbeat and it wouldn't be there.

Now, here I am with about 10 days away from the 'big' ultrasound.  I wish I just wondered what everyone else wonders at this point... does it have a penis or a vagina?  But that's not my reality.

The last three nights, I have had horrible, crazy, scary dreams.  Not much different than the ones I had before I got Rachel's diagnosis.... except the blessing is that this time, I really do feel like they are just fear-based dreams and not God's preparation for my heart like I did with Rachel. 

I had three dreams before my u/s with Rachel.  In each of them,  I went to my ultrasound and they told me she was dead.  I remember saying to my mom on the phone the day before my appointment that I just really couldn't shake the feeling that they were going to find something wrong with the baby. 

Everyone thought I was just paranoid because I had lost a baby before.

I wasn't.  God was preparing me.

BUT - this time I do think it is just my post traumatic stress from the depth of that pain.... so during the day, I usually (most of the time) feel fine and am not worried. (which I am SO thankful for) But at night.... sigh.  I can't take my dreams captive.  I wake up and go back to sleep and I'm in another ultrasound.... hearing the same words... or sneaking to peak at my chart because they won't tell me what they saw and finding the words written....

"SHE'S DEAD".  (written in big pink crayon in a child's writing)

And I just need prayers for this.  That God would control my dreams and my mind while I'm sleeping.  And that the next 10 days will go by fast so I can go see my baby on the screen and know for sure that all the organs are there.... and that I have a good chance of keeping this child.

Everyone thinks that because I had an u/s at 11 weeks that I am in the clear.  And I do know that my baby has a scull... which is awesome.  But there is a reason they do the screening at 20 weeks and it is because that is when you can see all the organs that you need in order to live outside the womb and how they are functioning and growing.  They can't even tell me from the 11 week u/s if the brain is developing correctly. 

And at this point in my life, I am more aware then I ever knew imaginable of how many details have to come together in order for a baby to be born and live.  It is a true miracle that is taken for granted by so many every. single. day.   And even after this u/s, I still will know that there is no guarantee that I will keep this baby - because it happens all the time.  So, I don't take any u/s as a definite that my baby is here to stay - and realize that the people who get confused as to why I wasn't convinced at my last u/s just simply have never lost a baby and don't understand.  I try not to get frustrated at their ignorance and to just know that in reality, although my life is at times harder emotionally, I have the better part.... the part where all I can do is lay it all down at the feet of Jesus and know that He is all I have - whether I keep this baby or not - and that if I do get to keep this precious gift, I will experience a deeper gratitude and love than I ever could have when I thought 'it' couldn't happen to me or that the first 12 weeks were all I had to get through before all was certain.

I am so grateful that I feel excited about this baby.  I'm not sure I ever experienced that with Asa that I can remember, so this is a true gift.  And I am thankful that in my waking hours, I usually feel pretty good physically and emotionally... and that even when I wake up from a horrible nightmare, I can look over and say to Matt "I just had a bad dream" and know it was just a dream.... There were so many days that I woke up after Rachel's diagnosis, trying to figure out if what I was feeling was real or if I was just coming out of a nightmare.... and I always came to and knew it was real.  I'm thankful this is (so far) just bad dreams. 

Please pray they will stop.  And actually, I'll just throw this request out there.... I've asked God a couple times (never used to dare to cause I didn't know if I could handle it) if I could just hold Rachel again in my dreams.  I have only had ONE dream about Rachel since she died.  I'd love to see her in my dreams more. Maybe God could replace these scary u/s dreams, that are fueled by my fear of feeling that pain again, with dreams of what I have to look forward to in heaven with my girl.....?  Can't hurt to ask.  At the very least, I'll take just plain old mindless sleep.  That would work too.  I'm not picky, just wanting some sleep.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My New Tattoo

On November 3rd, a month before Rachel's 2nd birthday, I went and got another tattoo. 

I had been working on it for a while.  It started as a doodle one night as I was crying while I was writing in my journal before bed.  I realized that night that if you look at 43 sideways, it looks like a broken heart.....

As Rachel's birthday approached, my heart could feel it coming.  I wanted to get the tattoo for her birthday, but since God had given us a baby name in September -  and my cycle had started again in October - I got it done the month before just in case that all meant we had a baby coming our way.  I didn't want to not be able to get it, I had been working on it for a long time. So I went on the 3rd.  And I'm glad I did, because three weeks later, we found out baby E was on the way.

I have only shown a couple of people since I got it.  It feels so personal, so private, that I didn't want to reduce it to a 'cool tat' and have people checking it out like it was just some body art.... because it is so much more than that to me. 

Matt & I went together, but he had to leave in the middle because our sitter needed to go home.  The artist that does my tattoos is a Christian and he always has contemporary Christian music playing.  (I love that I don't have to look at or hear nasty things in his space like in other tattoo places I've been)  As I watched him pierce my skin in the shapes of hearts, dandelions, daisies and 43's, I wondered why the physical pain barely hurt and yet could somehow momentarily relieve the pain in my heart.... I don't know...  Maybe because I feel like I have control over it.  Like I can make it stop if I wanted and yet it leaves a forever mark on me, just like Rachel.  I rested my head on the seat and watched him transfer the thoughts in my heart onto a picture on my arm....
I wish the drawing could just explain itself, but like usual, my thoughts go too deep for that.  And some of it has double meanings.  Let me see if I can explain....I got the heart over where you can feel my pulse.  The heart resembles the "Bleeding Heart" flowers, although I didn't do that on purpose, I noticed it when I got home...but it is so appropriate.  To me, I picture it more like roots under the a flower bulb that waits through the winter to bloom in the spring. It says "Alive" in it.  Then there is the daisy and the dandelion - the dandelion has the 43 that looks like a broken heart in the middle and the heart seeds are floating from that.  There are 7 heart seeds, one to represent each of my babies - including the miscarriage and I planned ahead for Baby E because although not yet pregnant, this baby was already in my heart from September when God placed the name there.  The strange thing is that I didn't even feel weird doing it!  It was like this baby was already a part of our family..... hard to explain.

So, in short, this tattoo says to me... with every beat of my bleeding heart, (heart over my artery) she is ALIVE... her body is underground, (the roots/flower bulb) but she is still ALIVE... and still blooming (the daisy) and spreading seeds through her life and death (the dandelion gone to seed) and with how she has left her mark on my heart. (the permanency of a tattoo, long after the wound heals) And she will continue to live on in each seed of love and hope that has planted in each of my children as well... her legacy through us. 

I also had him touch up the "My Girl" under her handprint on my other wrist because some of the ink had fallen out. He wrapped both of my wrists up with ointment and saran wrap and I left.

The weather wasn't bad that day, so I decided to walk home after. It sounds sad to say, but the smell that reminds me of Rachel is the smell of antibiotic ointment. When she was born, I insisted they care for her head just like they would if she were going to live. So they used ointment and a gauze pad under her hat.  Walking home that afternoon, the smell of the ointment would swirl up and meet my nose and I would smile. For the next couple of days, every time I cared for my new tattoo, I smelled Rachel....

So, why am I sharing this now?  After almost 4 months why do I feel like it's time?  Well, when I got my tattoo, the song I remember playing on the radio was "I need you now".  It spoke to me at that point because I was aching as her birthday approached, but since then I've heard it a couple times and it felt heavier than my heart did.  But, the other day as I was driving, it came on the radio... right after I posted the blog "I Need You, God" the night before.  And I just started crying.... I felt it in my heart.  God, I need you now......

I have worked with everything in me since August 4, 2010 to make something beautiful out of all of this.  Out of heartache, despair, death, pain....  I have gone to great lengths to convince myself and everyone else that this isn't just ugly.  And I'm happy to say that along the way, not only did I do that, but I came to believe it. To see it.  God has been so good and He has done unbelievable things through my deep valley.  But no matter how many good things happen, it never removes any of the pain.  It just helps me to keep living.  Because some days, I've literally been in survival mode... just trying to keep breathing.  And in my naivety, I thought that losing her would resemble my miscarriage - and it didn't.  And when it didn't, I was caught of guard.  When getting pregnant again didn't make me feel any better about Rachel, like it had with my miscarriage, I was confused.  When holding Asa made me miss her more, I felt helpless.  When over 2 years later, it still hurts, I am realizing how completely unprepared I was for this... because it is worse than I ever imagined.  And yet somehow it remains beautiful.  More so than I ever imagined.

The last few weeks have been strangely difficult.  Not in my grief necessarily, but in the things that have always helped my grief.  The things that have become what I 'do' to keep her legacy going.  Somehow I am starting to feel like I'm going in the wrong direction. 

Not much is different from before.  I've come up against so many road blocks in the last 2 1/2 years and I've always made it through, found a way.  But lately, I can't push through.  Internally I am messy, frustrated, distracted from God.  Everything I have tried to do - every request for help I've given - even simple things like scheduling a meeting or asking someone to make a phone call - or simply respond to an email - have turned into huge obstacles.  And although I have hit all these same obstacles in the past, there is something different.  Something bigger than what I can climb.  I thought it was just because I'm pregnant... but I was pregnant with Asa when I did Rachel's Playground AND her first race.  It's more than that.  I thought it was that the people helping aren't into it anymore, and perhaps they aren't - but I feel like even that should be able to be overcome.  But I'm not getting my usual "Keep going" from God.  I'm getting "This season is over and it's okay" from Him.  It feels like HE is standing in my way. 

 I don't regret anything I have done for Rachel's Legacy in the past. I know God was leading me in all of it and that is why it was successful. I also believe that had I not been working on all of that, I would have balled up on the couch and cried my life away - and I think God knew that too.  And I am hesitant to say it, but I think He is leading me away from more than her race.

And to be honest, that both relieves me and completely breaks my heart.  I want to stop.  To break.  To just be still and enjoy my family.  And I know I need to.  But at the same time, when I slow down, the death of my baby becomes something I have a hard time finding beauty in.  Because I HATE IT.  I hate it.  And she just feels dead.  And I want to believe there is beauty - meaning - something more than death... and something more than waiting for heaven. 

I want to be mad at the people, places and things that have let me down.  I want to be mad that I have nobody to help me make decisions and it all falls on me - and I am.  And I'm so tired of feeling mad.  I hate feeling resentful.  I hate feeling discontent.  And this was never what it was supposed to be.  It's not beauty.  It's not glorifying my God.  Even if I can do it outwardly, internally if I am negative and angry and feeling alone, it doesn't glorify Him. And I can't live with that.  Because on August 4, 2010 when I heard my baby was going to die, I made a commitment to her, to myself, and to God that I would glorify HIM in this.  No matter what the cost to ME.  And I intend to do that because without Him I cannot survive.

I don't often get on my knees to pray anymore.  I used to most of the time when I was in AA cause it's something they recommend.  It's humbling.  But lately I have fallen to my knees over and over - just like I did the day I saw Rachel laying on the couch in the funeral home.  I can no longer kiss those perfect chubby cheeks anymore though... all I can do is cry out to God and beg him

Please God please take this.  Give me strength to just keep breathing.  I want to believe there is beauty.  I want to find meaning here.  I am standing on this road that I didn't want, I didn't plan.  I have this gaping hole that is healing so slowly, but will never be filled this side of heaven.... I get so tired of holding on God.  Tell me what to do and I will do it.  I completely surrender... it's all Yours.

And I hear Him say "Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, have no fear for I am with You."

I know I have some hard decisions to make in the near future.  And somehow even though it hurts, I am thankful for it.  Even though I am confused and unsure of what to do, I am willing.  Because I feel like His mercy is upon me... upon my family... and I know He has something better. And I know He can see the big picture that I cannot.  And I know without a doubt that He is creating this wall I can't climb because I am better off on this side.  He's protecting me.

I got a message from a friend the other night that said that she is watching and waiting for God to do what He always does and pull me from this current struggle.  That through my journey she has learned that God always wins.  She said it's similar to how I watch and wait for Rachel's tulips to come up each spring... the message had me sobbing....has my willingness to share the messiness really helped people see God?  Well, I suppose it's more about what He does with and - in spite of - my messiness.

I have a favorite line in a song that says "From broken earth, flowers come up, pushing through the dirt - because You are HOLY" and her message made me think of that.  It also reminded me that this trial is not what is beautiful.  It's not.  What is beautiful is what God can make of broken and dry dirt.... that flowers can push up from that and bloom.  But the flowers don't need to try, it just happens.  God does it.

And that is what this used to be.   I just blogged and shared about my journey - and God did the rest.  And I want that back...  where I just am who I am and God makes it beautiful.  Because my best efforts to do it myself fail and leave me wanting.  I can't make the ugliness of death pretty.  But Jesus Christ makes it more than that.... He makes it beautiful....meaningful....and I'm ready to rest in that Truth.

We got in the van to go visit Rachel yesterday and this song came on again as soon as we did.  As I sang along "I'm trying to hear that still small voice... I'm trying to hear above the noise..." I started crying again.  And I realized... I think I cry because I am afraid.  I'm afraid of losing everything I've worked so hard for and regretting it later. I'm afraid of her legacy being lost and forgotten.  I'm afraid that my writing won't be enough.  I'm afraid of making the wrong decision. I'm afraid that I will hurt more.

But I am so willing.  I hear what He's saying.  But I still feel so uncertain as to how to go about applying it.  I'm trying to move slowly so that I do it right, while inside feeling this intense desire to just get there.  But even in this time of the unknown, I am still so positive that He has heard me cry out.... and He is answering.....

This song is playing on my blog now too, but here is the video.  How appropriate it 'just happens' to have a daisy as the screenshot....  There is beauty here.  Lord, help me to see it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


After a lot of prayer, Matt & I have decided that I am not going to direct Rachel's Race this year. 

It was not an easy decision as it funds all the things I want to do with Baby Rachel's Legacy, but I am certain that right now, God wants me to be enjoying my kids and focusing on our new baby on the way.  And I will say, I am already so excited that I will not miss another summer with them.  I only get so many summers with them and I have already been through half of what I will have with Des - and I've missed the last two with races and the one before that with Rachel's pregnancy.  I don't want to miss any more time with them... and I am looking forward to enjoying the rest of this pregnancy.  The cool thing is that Rachel will be just as much a part, if not more so, of our time then when I am running around trying to do everything for the race.

We will reassess the race next year, but this year I am going to do some smaller things for Rachel.  Things that bring me and my family JOY and not stress. Things that speak more to who she is and who we are because of her...and especially who God is.  I have a couple ideas for different fundraisers/gifts already. 

I need to say, that it is not the race in itself that feels impossible right now.  And actually, the race has absolutely NOTHING to do with the frustration and overwhelming pressure I have had lately. The race planning hasn't even begun.  For some reason, people can't grasp that, but I just have to keep telling myself it is because they are unaware of how much this nonprofit takes out of me and my family.  If I had people who could take some of the burden off of me so that I didn't have to wear all the hats - from president, to treasurer, to accountant, to fundraising committee, to web design, to advertisement, planning, budgeting... race director and then all the race planning up until the week before race day, I would not need to put anything aside, because it wouldn't be all consuming.  But I can't do it all... contrary to popular belief, I can't.  Actually, I could probably push through and make it happen - and spend another summer feeling like my head could explode.  But I don't want to.  At all.

I'd be lying if I said it doesn't make me a little resentful that I have been so blatantly ignored as I have asked for help over and over.... but I do believe that God is using this pain to bring me to a better place so I am trying to accept it gracefully.  It's very difficult.  And regardless of what God can make of it or how He can use it,  I can't imagine doing it to a friend of mine. 

So, here is my request... please do not tell me how great it is that I am not doing Rachel's Race.  It is a stress relief, but I prefer it not be spoken of like it is exciting news.  Especially if you have been blowing me off through these past couple weeks as I have fallen apart right before your eyes.  I appreciate the confirmation, but since the decision was one I was not planning on making and came after much pain, I would rather not hear how great it is... although I can say myself, I do agree that this is a good decision for our family and I am thrilled at the possibility of welcoming this baby into a calm and peaceful home - it's hard to hear.  The most helpful responses have been ones that acknowledge that this must have been hard for me to decide and that they will miss being at Rachel's Race....but are sure I will find another, more meaningful way to remember my girl.

This entire trial of these past few weeks of nonprofit torture have brought me to a place where I am making a bunch of changes.  I dropped my other two days at work (I had recently dropped Fridays too) - so I went from 4 days a week to now just one night a week,  I am putting Rachel's Race off for this year, and I am changing a few things about the way we homeschool.... including much less running around.  And I CAN'T WAIT to live a less hurried, simpler life again.  Somewhere along the line, I bought into the lie that this is just how life was going to be now that our family is bigger.... and it's not true.  Life does not have to be so crazy - and actually, I believe that God is calling me away from that. 

This morning was awesome, Isaiah and I went grocery shopping before everyone else got up and after Matt left for work, we got chores done and then I was sitting at the table with the kids... nowhere to be, nothing to do for the nonprofit, just me and them and a cup of hot coffee (and they had hot chocolate) and we just read together.  It was history and they were all into it.  Then I helped Isaiah with addition and writing and Des did her work and THEN.... I took a shower!!  (half way through, I had Asa join me and we had fun in the water) Then he took a short nap -  And we went to gym class and I worked out while the kids played sports.  And THEN....I came home and made cookies!  And we ate them with milk.  And I cuddled with my baby.

And I have to say, that was way more blessing then the last couple weeks and I didn't need anyone or anything else to make it happen... just me and my kids.  It was awesome. 

On top of all that, my mom called and said that someone she knows had asked if I was doing the race this year and she said no and the lady said she wanted to make a donation anyway.  So, Baby Rachel's Legacy got a donation while I was busy loving life with my kids.  God is confirming my decisions all over the place.

So tomorrow.... I cleared my calendar again....  this could get addicting. :) 

I talked to one of my friends last week about how hard everything was and she said that all she could think is that God usually reveals Himself to me in pretty big ways and she has no doubt this time will be the same.... just gotta wait for it.  I knew she was right.... but it didn't help my situation.  Well, here it is... He consistently works me towards a life that is more like what He wants for me.  And I consitently see that His ways are better than mine.   It's hard to recognize sometimes that it is ok to change things up - or even when to change things up.  I don't want to do things just because this is what we do.... life is too short for that.  I'm glad that when I am not walking in His will, He makes it apparent to me, even if I have to hurt first.  Because when I realize that something needs to change, and am willing to lay my pride down and follow His lead, things always get better.

I went to the new website I created to remove the race page I had done up.... and I couldn't get myself to do it yet.  I guess I wanted to show it to somebody before all my work went down the tubes.  I spent HOURS and HOURS on creating this site and I was pretty excited about it.... so if you want to humor me, you can look at my new website, keeping in mind that a bunch of it doesn't apply now .... Baby Rachel's Legacy

And please keep praying... I have a few more decisions to make that are even harder and more complicated than any of this.  They are weighing on me so I am hoping for an answer soon.

(I hit "publish" and the time was girl's day.....)

Monday, February 18, 2013


At Matt's work, they have customer response cards and every good one they get back goes into a pot.  Once a month, they pick one and the employee that got the good report from a customer, gets a $25 gift card to some restaurant.  Matt wins quite often because people like him and he works hard.  This time, he got a $25 card to Friendly's. 

Matt called home before leaving work to see if I needed anything.  I asked if he wanted to go to Friendly's with the kids for our anniversary.... but, I added "Hurry up and get home fast cause I'm trying to get them ready and they are falling apart."  He responded with a very wise question... "Why are we bringing them out if they are falling apart?"  I insisted that they were just hungry and as soon as we got there, they would be fine.... plus, it was our anniversary and I would love to not have to cook.

Have you ever regretted not listening to your husbands' advise?

Um, yeah. 

So, we get there.  Before we're even seated, Sam is yelling every. single. word. he. said.  I mean YELLING.  I officially sounded like the crazy husher lady, constantly shushing him as he continued to ignore me. 

We had talked it over before we left the house and decided we were going to make the necessary adjustments to not spend our own money since we didn't have any to spend. We decided we'd get water with lemon and the kids would share meals and we would get a thing of ice cream to bring home instead of buying it there.  Sometimes I hate that we have to devise a plan on how to order to make going out possible, but I'm ok with that, we make due and never go without.  As I hopped in the car, I thought to myself "It wouldn't kill us to spend $20 on our anniversary to just let the kids get what they wanted"  But I really knew it wasn't a good idea.

We talked with the kids before we got there and told them about the gift card.... "We only have $25 and so we're going to share meals....if anyone complains about what they are getting, they will get nothing at all, got it?"  Everyone nodded in agreement, but as soon as we looked at the menu, they all started going off about what they wanted, completely forgetting we had said WE would order their meals based on what would work best for sharing.  It was chaos.  My head was spinning before we even got through figuring out what THEY were getting that was within our budget and I hadn't even looked at my menu.  Turned out kids meals are more expensive than I remembered, but they come with ice cream so we just made the best choices we could - 2 meals for the 4 of them and Sam got to have a single scoop afterwards since the meals each came with an ice cream for Des & Zay.  But we knew we were still spending more than we should be.

Then it started.... Asa's ear deafening scream.... he reached for everything, threw silverware all over the place, my menu on the floor, insisted on sucking on lemons and then cried about how they tasted, tried to climb out of the highchair.... pretty much disrupted the entire place - actually he DID disrupt the entire place. Everyone was looking at us and one worker stopped at our table to 'talk' to him....her distraction worked... for a minute.

Sam was on the floor under the table, Isaiah was freaking out because Sam shouldn't be on the floor.  Then Asa started pulling on my shirt to try to get out of his chair, I couldn't break free and I still hadn't looked at the menu.  The only one behaving was Des and she kept rolling her eyes and asking why they were acting like this.

The waitress had come back a couple times already... "No, not ready yet"

Matt finally picked up Asa and stood up with him to keep him quiet while I picked what I wanted.  He went to sit down and knocked over his FULL ice water.... covering me, the table, and all our napkins that were in the pile of silverware I had stacked up away from Asa.  I asked for a towel... she brought 3 paper towels.  It took forever to get the water cleaned up.... we looked at each other and just started laughing....  "You did say we shouldn't be going out with them" I said. He agreed that he was totally right.  But what were we going to do?  We were in for the long haul.  And it was feeling LONG......

I looked over and Sam was jumping on the seat across the isle from us, looking at himself in the mirror, making dog noises.... "Sam! Get over here!" I scolded... and I knew.... we were 'that' family.... 

Believe me when I say - we do NOT let our kids behave however they want.  These kids are usually fairly well behaved, although still crazy kids... but they don't get away with much.  Why on earth they would dare act like this is just complete proof that they are sinners.  How I didn't flip out on them is complete proof that there is a God.  It was crazy.

We got our food and Isaiah whined about not wanting all of his mini-burger (because he just wanted ice cream)  They got Matt's order wrong so we shared mine while they got his fixed.  Asa continued to scream like a nutcase, refusing to eat the cooled off fries and then shoving the hot ones in his mouth - followed, of course, by more screaming because the fries were burning his tongue.  Every time I tried to offer him something to eat, he pulled away and screamed like I was hurting him.

I took a deep breath and wished we would have just stayed home. 

Then it happened.... we got 2 minutes of quiet where everyone was eating and content and I felt better.  Wow, it only takes 2 minutes of quiet to rejuvenate me?  Yes, it does... I know how rare that is!

Everyone else finished and I was still working on mine.  Every two seconds I had to put my food down and do something for someone else.... just call me 'Mama'!.... and I finally said "I just want to eat my food, can you take him?"  Matt held Asa, our ice cream came and as everyone's food settled, they started to calm down.  I dipped into my ice cream, and the waitress came over and said:

"I just wanted to let you know that someone who was here thought you guys were really cute and left $20 for your bill."

We looked at each other and smiled and Matt told her "Praise God, He is good" and she nodded.  As soon as she walked away I started crying.  My exact thought "It won't kill us to spend $20 on our anniversary"...... I couldn't stop the tears.  I just cannot believe what God does for us so consistently.

We left with enough money left on our gift card to go back again for ice cream another time... well, single scoops anyway!  And on the way out, everyone was happy....  Matt said "What a joyous time that was!" and Des replied "Yeah, but the first 25 minutes were torture.... to which I replied "I can't believe they said we were CUTE.  I think what they meant was they felt bad for us!!"

And now we're home and Matt is tucking the kids into bed.  What a crazy, unpredictable, hard, beautiful life we have.....  I can't believe they said CUTE! ?  Wow.  I still can't help but laugh. 

7 Years

Today is our 7th anniversary.  I've heard there is a thing called the 7 year itch.... I actually read that in the US, most divorces occur in the 7th or 8th year of marriage because around year 7, people start to 'fall out of love' and their eyes start roaming for something fresh...  you've been together long enough to know you hate a lot of things about the other one, but not long enough to feel the blessing of a long marriage.  The people who have been married for 50 years got there by refusing to let those times determine their future.  I hope to someday know what it's like to be married 50 years, but I know that only God can do that for us.  We're just two sinners who come from divorced families with no idea how to do any of this, except based on what God's Word tells us.  I take not one day together for granted because I know it is God alone that has gotten us this far and Who will help us through whatever is to come.

We went out on Saturday to the Olive Garden... one of our favorite places.  We usually make them wish they didn't offer refills on the salad & breadsticks and since we were there in the middle of a salad craving filled pregnancy, it was no different.

We usually take a picture together each here it is...

I woke up this morning to a nice letter he wrote me and some hot coffee.... the longer we are married, the more I just soak up the simple things.  I will admit that this is the first anniversary we have had where I had absolutely no desire to get a gift.  I love presents, even if it's a candy bar!  But I honestly never even thought twice about getting anything at all (I actually recommended we didn't get each other gifts and instead get our photos taken together soon)..... I just love my life with Matt.  He is more than I could have ever hoped for in a husband - and he's an even better father.  I am blessed - and humbly honored - to call him mine.  I thank God every day for bringing us together in the most unexpected ways and for all the smiles, and tears, we have experienced together.  Left to ourselves, we would not have made it through some of the hard trials we have walked through.  But with God, all things are possible and He has proven to be enough... the 3rd strand that holds us together through it all. 

I asked him the other day as we stood over the changing table together playing with Asa, surrounded by the smell of poop "When we first met, did you ever think we'd have this many kids?"  He said yes.  But that is such bull!  He so did not think we would have 7 babies and still be together 10 years later the first time he saw me! 

And when I think about that first day - in rehab, smoking on the porch, when his first words to me were "who wants to lose at a game of ping pong?" and I thought he was arrogant and cocky (because he totally was!), although really cute...oh my gosh, he was so cute... still is...(I had my priorities in line! haha)  I wonder how in the world God could pull us out of that place in our lives and lead us to this - my childhood dream... a stay home mom with a house full of kids and an amazing husband who would do anything for me... and I just cry.  He was able, because He is God and that is it.  Nobody else could have done it.  And as each year passes, our love grows deeper and more meaningful.  The only thing that scares me about our future is that one day, death will separate us.  And I always tell him, I better go first cause I never want to have to live without him.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


An updated belly shot of little E....
And what a surprise that my Christmas Cactus would be in full bloom today after the way the last couple of days have brought me down.... Flowers are pretty any day of the week, but today they were extra sweet to look at. And I'm not sure I've ever noticed how pretty these flowers are.  Each bloom appears to have two flowers in one, it's pretty unique.   Always perfect timing....I've been waiting for weeks.  And of course, just in time for our anniversary tomorrow... 7 years and 7 babies later, we're still growing in love.  Thank You Lord for the gift of marriage, babies, and Christmas Cactus blooms in February ♥ Rachel ♥

This morning consisted of a few complete emotional breakdowns... all at church... followed by a nice visit with a friend and her kids - we had 9 kids in our house and we still had plenty of time to chat because Matt hung with the kids so we could. 

Tonight, I talked to another friend for 3 hours on the phone.... yes, 3 hours straight.... and finally feel like I had the chance to run through what's going on in my mind and heart from all angles without being rushed or given a quick answer.  It's such a relief to feel heard and understood.  And I do finally feel like God is revealing a lot to me through the pain I'm feeling.  I would love it if He would find another way to work in me....  but I feel at peace tonight and I'm pretty sure I know what I need to do - about a few things.

Thank you for praying for me.... I can feel it. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I Need You, God

Where do I start? 

Yesterday was the first Friday in 2 years, 2 months and 2 weeks that I have not gone to visit Rachel without a reason that was good enough for my heart.  But my mind and body were so utterly exhausted that when the kids started to fall apart on the way out the door and I lost my temper, I decided I needed to stay home.

I layed on the couch for 1 1/2 hours trying to fall asleep and I couldn't.  My mind races constantly.  My heart yearns to do more.  But my body is done.  Completely done.  I was having a serious physical reaction to my stress level and it isn't good for my baby.

From homeschool, to work, to sleep deprivation....  from nonprofit lingo, to taxes, to the IRS, to 32 page applications and planning large scale events.  From being pregnant, to having 4 kids at home with me all day long, to missing Rachel like she died yesterday.  So many demands and too little help.  I officially caved. 

I've begged God to show me what I need to do.  I've spent hours reading and watching videos on how to "lead a tribe"...  how to direct a nonprofit.... how to make my vision a reality.... how to do this.  I've researched and asked around.  I've googled, I've prayed, I've cried.  I've given up and started over about ten times.  And I just keep asking Him... Is it just hard because it is worth it and you want me to keep pushing through?  Or are you trying to tell me it is time to let it go? 

It's honestly a question that I have not wanted an answer to.  Because neither of them are things I want to do. 

Every time I mention the idea of giving up, I get tons of responses... "Don't give up, you help so many people."  I appreciate that encouragement...  but usually when that happens, I feel revived.  This time, there is something different happening in my heart.  This time I am not so sure.  This time I am broken.  This time I am desperate for relief.

The funny thing about facebook is that you can get into full conversations with people and they have no idea that you are sobbing and can hardly breathe on the other end of the wave..... last night I had a few very dishonest conversations... I seemed perfectly fine, I'm sure.  But I was falling apart.  I decided to write a friend of mine an email - just a quick one to say one little thing - and it turned into a long, very emotionally charged email.  My tears fell faster, my fingers moved across the keys like they haven't in a very long time and I poured my messy self onto the page.

I've very obviously cut down on blogging.  My readers have started to dwindle (unless the word "ultrasound" is in the title in which case everyone decides it's time to "pop-in").  And I honestly feel like a bunch of the things going on right now are not things that I can blog.... but even if they were, I don't have the time because I'm too busy with all these other things.  But this is where my ministry really started.  This is where Rachel's story has made the biggest difference.  And it only needs me and my computer and my open heart.  It's risky, and it has brought me some hate mail, but I've never felt like there was ever more negative than good that was coming from it. 

Things have snowballed.  I never wanted to direct a 5K.  That plan was not mine and originally it was to help raise money for Rachel's Playground and when we couldn't hold it soon enough to help with that, I came up with this bright idea that I would do it anyway and donate to another place in her memory.  In order to do it, I had to be a nonprofit and in order to have it in Dover, we had to be registered with the Charitable Trusts Division... and one things led to another and now I have this organization I'm trying to run and I don't have a clue how to do it.  In the past, I've joked about how I fake my way through everything and God makes it come out good.  But I'm out of energy for that and the more serious this gets, the heavier it gets on my shoulders.

I can't do it alone, and unfortunately, even having God on my side doesn't make up for the extra hands that are necessary to do all that I have to do.  He can guide me through all my decisions, but He doesn't keep my mind from turning to mush and my eyes from burning in exhaustion after hours of trying to decipher IRS rules, nonprofit guidelines, or website design.  He doesn't shorten the 30 minute wait time or the horrible elevator music the IRS plays when you call - or the fact that if they give you the wrong answer, you're still responsible.  He has yet to make a phone call or running errands easy to do with kids in tow.  And as of now, my third year in, He has yet to bring me any relief from carrying all the burden alone.  There are lots of part time helpers who help as it fits into their lives - and I'm thankful for every bit I get... but all the weight ultimately falls on me. Everyone else can walk away and go about their lives and say "I hope you figure it out"... everyone but me.  And it's taking its toll.  I suffer, my husband suffers, my kids suffer... .and Rachel doesn't care.  She is dead.

So who am I doing it for?  For the hurting mom, the dying or dead baby, the grieving family.... yes.  But what about THIS hurting mom, dead baby and grieving family?   Why does it feel somehow wrong to say I need someone else to not just tell me this is important, but to show me and make it their priority too? 

I feel like this is where my "I can do it" personality really proves to be a downfall because even when I straight out say I'm at the end of my rope and I quit, nobody takes me seriously... or at least not enough to respond to me with a helping hand.  Everyone is just used to me taking care of things and making it happen. Or maybe they are just fine with me quitting cause it really doesn't matter that much to them in the first place.  Regardless, I'm completely spent.  Something needs to change.

What am I to do?  I have no idea. 

Something keeps ringing in my mind... in that email I sent my friend last night, I wrote things that I knew, but I didn't realize were so close to the surface in my heart.  I wrote:

I just wish she wasn't dead. I don't want to do any of this stuff, but for some reason, I can't stop. And now I'm crying.... because the truth is that I don't want to do any of this. I want to quit. To have a normal life with my little girl still alive. I hate nonprofits. I hate tax exempt. I hate races. I hate fundraisers. I hate asking for donations in MEMORY of my baby. I just want her. And I'm so sick of people acting like this is some sort of great thing I've got going on here and like like I'm putting them out by needing help. My baby is in the ground. I don't want any of this. I'd rather not need their help.  I hate it. but for some reason, I can't stop. And I even hate that. I just want a normal life and it's never gonna happen for me again. 
I sobbed while writing the email and I continued to sob for well over an hour after the email.  And I mean SOB.  I completely fell apart.  Because I have never not wanted to do what I do for Rachel.  It's always been really hard and way too time consuming, but I've never wanted to actually walk away.  And the sad part is I can't tell if I really want to or if it is just because of the difficulty I have finding support. But when do I say enough is enough, I gave it my best and now I need to just accept that I can't do it alone?  When do I wave my white flag?

I climbed into bed after midnight with a red puffy face and sat up hoping my nose would clear so I could sleep.  Matt made me a piece of toast and handed me Rachel's blanket.  I didn't say it, but in my mind, my heart was screaming "All I've got is a blanket.... a blanket....just a blanket..."  I hate this.  I clung to it just yearning to feel her in it again.  But it is empty.  I felt angry... but behind that anger is really just a broken, desperate heart that aches every day for heaven.  "I miss her so much, it never lets up" I told Matt.  It never lets up.  She's always right there on my mind, her name on the tip of my tongue.

I woke up this morning with an hour to get my red puffy faced self and all my kids up and ready and to work.  I rolled over and said to Matt "I need to change something, I missing it all.  I'm missing my living children growing up in front of me and it's not fair to anyone."

I feel like I just want a simpler life again.  I can never go back to the blissful ignorance I once had, but I have this little daydream.... One where I wake up in the morning and stay home and teach my kids, bring them on day trips and help them experience life.  One where I'm not so divided in my time and energy.  One where I don't miss their lives while I'm busy trying to minister to others all by myself.  I don't want my job anymore, I don't want the race anymore, I don't want a nonprofit anymore.  I want my first ministry, my children here - and my first Love, my precious Lord.... and it seems there are only two options... I can either make some changes so that this is all manageable, or I am going to have to let it go.  And I don't know how to do either.

I'm so sad.  I am so helpless.  I'm so heartbroken.  I am needy, insufficient, incapable, totally dependant. 

I need You God.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Loved First

Getting married the same week of Valentines Day sort of made Valentines day a day that really doesn't seem worth celebrating.  It's not that we're against it, and Matt did bring me some pretty daisies... but we use our time out and gifts for our anniversary, our real "love day". 

The kids woke up this morning all excited about it being Valentines Day and my Mama Guilt set in over the fact that I didn't plan anything red.  I didn't buy any candy.  I didn't set up a playdate for a Valentines Tea or make a couple dozen Valentines for them to give to their friends.  I mean, have you seen the extent that some people go to over this Hallmark business move?  I need to invent a holiday!

Oh well, I've 'failed' at worse things I thought.... and I went about my day.

I haven't had Des work on handwriting all year. (Yes, I said all YEAR) I had decided it wasn't important and she's been doing all her writing assignments on the computer.  Typing is what people do nowadays  I reasoned.  Well, on Tuesday, another mom had mentioned how important she thought handwriting is.  My Mama Guilt set in and I determined to start handwriting with her again.  Wednesday we were gone all day at our co-op so today was the day.

"Get your handwriting out, Des" I said, like it was normal, as I took a sip of my coffee.
"What?!  Handwriting, are you serious, we never do handwriting!"  she moaned
"I know, but I want you to start working on it again."
She hemmed and hawed until I told her that for every verse at the end of a lesson that she did well, I would give her a nickel.  Yep, I've officially lowered my standards to bribing... we'll call it positive reinforcement.  It worked like a charm!  Or should I say, like a nickel!

"Just so happened" that she had left off last year on the greatest "Love" verse there is....
 As I hung it on the fridge, I noticed the heart magnet I had grabbed and that's when I noticed how fitting the verse was.  I looked at Des and said "Perfect verse for Valentines Day, isn't it?"  She nodded.  I noticed the page she had chosen to write it on (they are extra in the back of the book) has the 3 crosses on it, like our headstone...

Sam was begging to watch TV and I told him he could, but that we were going to watch a 'learning show'.  I usually just pick a leapfrog letter thing or similar, but I for 'some reason' decided on Mr. Rogers.  I knew this wouldn't go over well cause they've all told me before how boring it is... but I just can't get over how much I liked it as a kid so I forced them.  I told them about how cool it is that he puts on different shoes when he gets inside.  They seemed unimpressed.

I picked a random season from 1993 and sat with Asa for a few and watched it with them.  They were showing how to make teddy bears.  The entire time I couldn't stop thinking about Rachel... I want to get a bear that I can dress in her little dress to have in family photos to represent Rachel with us and I started wondering (because the people made it look so easy!)  if I could sew one myself.  When it was done, Mr Rogers held it up with a big red heart behind it.  I looked at the kids and said "Hey, it's Valentines Day!!" and they all got excited.  (Thank You Lord for providing us with "red" without me planning it!) and this is where it all came full circle... He said:

"You can't love someone else unless you've been loved first"

He repeated it.

"You can't love someone else unless you've been loved first"

Des looked at me and said "For God so loved the world that He gave his only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" !!

Exactly what I was thinking... I was so thankful she picked that up too! 

I sat in my livingroom with all my living children - and Rachel on my heart - knowing that we had just had the best Valentines Day ever.  One where we are pointed to the best Love ever... One Who gave His life so that we could be saved from death...  and we didn't even have to try.  We didn't have to have a craft planned or decorate in hearts... He did it for us. 

I had gone to a conference years ago called 'First Loved' that was all about how we have to be filled with God's love before we are capable of really loving....and how some of us don't really let Him fill us for whatever reason.  I think I've been there lately.  I'm just so worn out.  I'm trying to do a million things and feel completely alone in all of it.  Nothing goes smoothly for me. I am being let down left and right and I just want to quit everything.  But I don't even know how.  I can't even figure out how to quit.  My mind is on severe overload and I'm exhausted.  And in all of this, I feel it... the simple truth... people are no longer emotionally motivated by Rachel's death and she no longer takes priority. She's old news...

I woke up yesterday and the first line I heard on the song playing downstairs was "I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can't climb" and I sighed.  I can't do this alone... but maybe I need to stop relying on people to help - or not help - and start remembering where my Help comes from.  Because if I want to keep trying to do this without Him, I will keep being disappointed.  Or maybe it's time to let it go and realize that if nobody can help me or aren't willing to make Rachel's Legacy a priority, it's not realistic for me to keep up with it all.  I'm about to have my 6th baby - my kids don't go away on the yellow bus for the day, I have to teach them everything they need to know - I'm working - and trying to do taxes and applications and planning and websites and design cards and a million things that go along with all of that....and I'm not dumb enough to think that I can possibly keep up like this for much longer before I have a complete breakdown.  Is He telling me to keep pushing through or to let it go?  If I keep pushing with the dynamics I have now, I will never make it.  If I let it go at this point, I will never feel peace about it.  I am totally stuck and I can't find God in the middle.  But He has to be there somewhere......

So anyway, that was a rabbit trail I didn't intend to go down... back to today....

After gym class, I decided to buy them each a sundae from McDonalds 'for Valentines day' and we discovered that hot fudge is not the only option there anymore... we found out today that they have caramel too.  ♥ Rachel ♥  The kids all got caramel and my Mama Guilt said that I should too...for Rachel... but the truth is that I haven't craved caramel like with Rachel since Rachel...although I do think about her every time I see it or taste it... and Baby E was wanting hot fudge.  So I got hot fudge for this little one and snuck a bite of Sam's caramel for Rachel.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Prank Call... Answered.

I realized that I post a lot of my day to day funnies and blessings on facebook now and that people who don't use facebook don't get to see them.  Since I'm still laughing about what happened tonight, I'm writing it here too....I'm not sure if it's still considered a prank call if we weren't the ones who did the calling... but we sure had fun answering!

There's been this number calling over and over for the last couple weeks and I keep ignoring it.  They called at dinner time tonight and I asked Matt to get rid of them.  He answered the phone:

"Goooood  Eeeeevvvvennning!"  ( I knew this was going to be good)
She went thru her script.
He said "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you, can you repeat that?"
She went thru it again. (it was long)
Apparently it had to do with a poll on kids under 4 getting immunizations.
He exclaimed, "Kids under 4 need baxetration??!!"
She corrected him and asked if he was 17.  He said yes.  She asked if he lived in the household.  He said no. (yep, he lied, but it was funny) She asked if she could speak to someone who was 17 who lived in the household.

He put it on speaker phone and gave the it to Isaiah.

I was literally bent over cracking up at this point.

"Hi" Isaiah said in his very obviously NOT 17 year old voice as if he was confused.
"Are you 17 and live in the household?" she asked.
(he looked at us for the answer - we shook our heads no as I put my head back into my arms to laugh)
"No" he said slowly with big amused eyes.
"Which one, you're not 17 or you don't live in the household?"
(he whispered to us "Which one??" - in between laughs we told him "you're not 17")
"I'm not 17" he answered.
"Can I talk to someone who is 17 and lives in the household?"

After chasing Des around the table three times with the phone stretched out in front of him, trying to get her to take the phone and us cracking up in the background, he gave the phone to Asa who took it and said "Hi!"

I almost died.  Not only is Asa talking all of a sudden, but he was obviously even younger than the last "under 17 year old" she was on the phone with.

She starts asking in a firm voice "Are you 17 and do you live in the household?!" 
Asa says "Hi"  as he looks at the phone and it about as impressed with himself as he can be cause we're all laughing like crazy... even Sam was cracking up and he didn't even know what was going on!   She asked again... "Hi" he said as he giggled.  We were all laughing and I am positive that was not a secret.


I am STILL laughing over this one... "ummm... kind of ?"  haha, I can hardly stand it.  We weren't looking much like adults, but it was so fun.  Isaiah finally gave the phone back to Matt who told her he wasn't going to answer her questions because they really aren't any of her business and she got mad.  She said something about us ruining the chance of our state getting funding for immunizations if we didn't tell them how many kids we had under 4 and if they got immunized.  "And immunizations are important!"  He politely told her that our privacy is important and she should respect that and said "Bye bye." 

It was the hardest I have laughed in I don't know how long.  All 6 of us were laughing so hard it hurt... and I have to believe that Rachel was doing a special little dance along with us.  It was awesome.  And I don't even feel bad that we gave the poor poll lady just trying to make a paycheck a hard time.  That's what she gets for calling 1,000 times in 2 weeks and interrupting our Sunday Dinner.  :)  My only regret is that I don't have it on video... I hope I never forget the way it felt to laugh with my family like that tonight.  It was awesome.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It's a....

When I was pregnant with Desirae, we did not find out until the day she was born what she was.  We tried to and they couldn't see so then when given the option with later ultrasounds, we decided to go for the surprise since everything we had was yellow and green anyway.  I had really been hoping for a boy.  I thought buying little hats and cute collared shirts would be fun... I had no idea that they don't leave those cute hats on and that the shirts with the collars weren't all the comfy!  I was convinced it was a boy and since all the medical staff kept calling her a 'him', I thought they were 'slipping' and telling me on accident!  But when she came out and I heard "It's a girl!" I don't remember a single ounce of disappointment - and I never even considered again the idea of her being anything but the perfect little girl she was.  And I fell completely head over heels in love with her.  I couldn't take my eyes off of her.

Something you need to understand about me & Des is that I had her while still on house arrest.  I couldn't go anywhere.  I also was brand new in my sober life and had absolutely no old friends.  I had a few new ones from Beauty School, but I trusted nobody.  Matt & I were 'rocky' to put it mildly.  Our relationship was HORRIBLE and completely unhealthy.  We were not married and when Des was 18 months old, we split up... So then it was just me & her.  We were quite the team and she gave me a reason to do everything I needed to do from school, to work, to staying clean and sober.  She was -and still is- extraordinarily brilliant.  I had no idea how much so because she was my first and I always worked in daycares with older kids.  She was -and still is- really funny and witty.  She lit up - and still does - every room she walks into, even when she says nothing.  She is just amazing and beautiful and she was all mine.  We did everything together.

We started going to church - just me & her - because I thought it would be 'good for her'...and I found Christ with her sitting on my lap.  I'm the only Christian in my family so now it was really just me & her.  She would witness to her Daddy on weekends and he hated that I was 'forcing religion on her'.  I found her at around 20 months old singing Amazing Grace in her room all alone....this child was God's provision in my life... the little girl who removed me from my old ways and gave me reason to live, always reminding me how good God was - long before I understood anything about His character.

Both Matt & I were in different relationships while we were apart and mine was 6 weeks shy of a marriage when we called it off.  The invitations went in the trash, I gave the ring back, the deposits were lost.  Soon after, Matt & I decided to give it one more try after 18 months of being apart. A couple months later, He found Christ and a couple months after that, we got married.  It was a ROUGH first couple of years.  But God has been good to us and always faithful... always enough when we felt like we couldn't stand another minute together!  And that is the short version.  :)

I am telling you this because ever since Desirae, I have wanted another girl.  And the only other girl I have had, I didn't get to keep.  I want another girl for me, but more than that, I want another girl for Desirae.  My sister & I are so close and I want my girl to have that - and sadly Rachel will never be that for her, no matter how much Des loves her or what lengths I do to to make sure she is not forgotten as part of our family.

I've been bombarded with the "Do you know what you're having?" questions lately.  I'm sure it will continue for the rest of my pregnancy.  That's not as bad as the "Have you found out if you're having a girl yet?"  I know everyone is just curious if I'm going to finally get "that girl" I've been hoping for, but it still hurts, because I did get my girl.  I have 2 of them - which isn't actually that much less than the 3 boys I have!  When we go out and there is obviously just one girl with us, people look at me with pathetic eyes as they say "Maybe this one will be a girl"  And believe me, I want another girl....but it makes my heart scream because either they don't know Rachel exists, or if they do, they are in some ways hoping another girl will help fill the void that she left.  But that's not possible.  There will always be a girl missing in my life. 

With Isaiah, I wanted a girl... he was a surprise and "A boy!!" and I was not disappointed at all.  And neither was Des - And Matt was thrilled.  It was awesome.  One of each.

With Sam, I wanted a girl... we found out ahead of time and I cried for a week!  Isaiah was more 'boy' than I knew what to do with and I couldn't fathom how I would take care of two of them so close together!  By the time he was born, I was thrilled he was a boy and that my boys would be close in age.  I'm guessing the brother relationship is just as awesome as the sister relationship.  But Des still needed that sister.  And she was pretty sad.  Sam has turned out to be her closest sibling and they have a very special relationship. 

With Rachel... I was desperate for a girl.  And I got her. ♥

With Asa... I didn't care.  I wanted a round head, a growing brain, and a baby I could leave the hospital with.  Hearing anyone ask about what he was infuriated me because "Does it really matter!?"  If he was alive, breathing and fully formed... that's all I wanted and I now knew that that was actually a lot to ask for - It's not that easy for those things to all come together in the womb.  Gender meant nothing to me.

And so here is where I need to be honest - I have been really excited about this baby.  I didn't expect this because Asa's pregnancy was so hard on me emotionally and mentally.  But this baby has given me so much clarity on why that was and it's more detailed than just the fact that Rachel had died. 

I was 10 weeks out from burying my baby when I found out he was on his way - my hormones never even calmed down before they were in full swing again and sometimes I had trouble separating the babies.  I would forget at times that it wasn't Rachel I could feel moving around... I would accidentally call him Rachel... and when people demanded I be 'thankful', 'excited', or 'happy' about this new life that they thought I couldn't see the blessing of... it felt like a huge slap in the face where Rachel was concerned.  Not that it makes any sense or holds any truth... but it was more than fear of losing another baby... it was fear of anyone forgetting way of protecting her and to be loyal to her.  It was not something I intentionally did, but looking back, I can see the uncontrollable need to defend my little girl, dead or alive.  And I knew that Asa would never hold it against me, so I did what I needed to do for HER.  But people didn't like that and I was judged for being so 'unthankful'.

I also was in the hardest part of my grief.  The part where you realize just how much this loss is going to change your life.  And the same point where the rest of the world moves on.  The two happening at the same time is hard enough, but sporting another baby bump brought lots of conversations that were so painfully reminders of Rachel - as well as the incorrect idea that I was moving on too.  I was not prepared for it - I thought it was going to be similar to my miscarriage and it was completely different.  I fell for the lie myself that a new baby was going to help heal that hole.  It never happened.  Not even to this day.  So, that is PART of what God has shown me in this new pregnancy... but there is more.

I feel horribly guilty for wanting another girl.  I feel like, after all I've been thru, I should only care about the health - after all, there is no guarantee I'll even bring this baby home - even after seeing a round head.  I know that.  But here's the truth.... I want another girl.  I feel shallow.  It SO doesn't matter.  And ultimately, I hope everyone knows that I just want a healthy baby that can seriously inconvenience me and keep me up all night long.  I want poop and spit up and crying and nursing... I want life.  I want another Aube baby.  They are all so unbelievably awesome. 

But since it's been taunting me... and thankfully, but sadly, the only thing I seem to worry about these days (which really irritates me because it drives me crazy when people say they are getting their 'ultrasound to find out if it's a boy or girl' when really that ultrasound is to find out if the baby can live outside their womb!)  I need to get this off my heart...  I usually am able to release things once I just write it... so here it goes - please know that underneath all of this, I understand that this is a ridiculous thing to care about and that I know first hand how bad I would feel if something was wrong with the baby and the gender had held this much weight in my mind.  I've been Rachel's ultrasound... the one where I found out she was a girl that was going to die.

I want another girl.  I want Des to have a sister she can keep.  I want to buy dresses again.  I want to use some of Rachel's things.  And I'm scared to have another boy.  Not because I don't love my boys (they are awesome and actually really love their Mama), but because I hate that I *might* be disappointed.  I feel so done having babies and I just want a girl.  The girl I've been hoping for since it was just me & Des.  But what I've come to realize, and what I need people to know...

It's got nothing to do with Rachel dying or not being able to fill those shoes.  Nothing.  I actually cared more about having another girl BEFORE she died.  I have wanted another girl because Desirae was so amazing.  I look at her pictures and I crave another little girl like her.  It took me finally admitting to myself that I have a preference for me to see that it isn't because Rachel died.  It's because Desirae lives. 

But what God has reminded me lately is that I have Desirae.  She is here and while I'm busy wishing I could have another one like her, she is growing up and I'm going to eventually look at photos of her now and think of how amazing she was at 10 years old and wish I would have soaked it up more - like I did when it was just me & her.  I think the reason I desire another girl so much has more to do with the irreplaceable relationship I had with Desirae when I was a single mom, just finding Christ.  What a season of love and growth that was!  It was really the best time of my life.   I can never go back there again - not even if I have another girl - and I need to just be thankful that I had that time at all... some people don't.  Even Matt didn't get that with her. 

Desirae loves to dance and twirl randomly around the house...often, I hear myself say "Des, stop that."  Am I freakin' serious!?  Stop that?  What a crappy thing to say.  I loved every second of Rachel's dancing...I would have given anything to see Rachel twirl like that and I'm going to tell my beautiful 10 year old to stop it?  It's stupid.  If she died tomorrow, I would seriously regret that.

So, what I'm getting at is that I want another girl like you read about... if I have a boy, I'm not going to go dressing him up like a girl or anything - but what I'm going to do with this undeniable desire is use it to cause me to love my living girl more... spend more time and soak up our relationship as she grows.  I'm going to take her to do girl things, laugh with her more, dance with her more, get to know her heart more... and remember that if she's all I get to keep for girls around here, then it is exactly what God knows is best for us.  I trust that HE knows much better than I what I need now and what I'll need in the future.  I also believe that He has a specific story already written for each child He places in my womb... and who am I to debate what gender He deems fit for His plan?

But go ahead and try to tell me she wasn't the cutest little 18 month old!  She had a contagious laugh and a unmatchable smile - and still does! And about 20 times more hair than Asa does at 15 months!  I had already cut her hair a few times by this point!  She had a raspy little voice and talked like she was 4.  This would be why Rachel's 18 month birthday was so hard... I knew what I was missing.  I assume as I watch Des go thru all her milestones, especially her wedding and having children, I will again grieve what I don't get to see Rachel do. 

True story:  Des just said to me "Mama, I like Asa without hair." (is she in my head!?)  I'm cracking up right now, I love this girl.  I'm not used to this with my babies that have all had heads full of hair,  but she's right, he is kinda cute without hair. 

And so the big answer to the constant question.... No, we don't know what we're having.  It's going to be a surprise!  And if by chance we find out by accident at the ultrasound (which I'm secretly hoping for!).... we're not telling!! :) 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Life Took Over

My aunt Lori sent a Christmas Cactus over for me when Rachel was born.  It was in full bloom and absolutely beautiful, filling a pretty pink container with pink ribbon tied around it. 

I was standing in front of Rachel's casket a couple days later when Lori got to her service.  She gave me a hug and we both cried.  Seeing the loss for words, and through my deep sobs, I blurted out "How often should I water that plant?"  She told me as she wiped her tears.  I don't even remember her answer... perhaps I did at one point, but that moment in my memory really only recalls tears and an attempt to break the silence.

Well, I put the cactus on the back of Desirae's piano.  I decorated around it that year for Christmas and watered the plant regularly as directed.  Somehow in my mind, this plant (as many of my other plants and things) represented Rachel to me.  A part of something that I had in those days when I still could touch her body and kiss her cheeks.  The cactus has sat on the piano for the last 2 years and 2 months.  We moved the piano to another location in the room once and I wondered if it would do better with the change of scenery...nope.  This thing was wilting... I knew it needed re potting, but I continued to neglect it.  And I've been watching it fade for a long time.  I even talked to Lori last spring asking how to help nurse this cactus back to no avail.

I wondered if it would bloom last Christmas... Lori told me hers do.  Nope.  Not a single flower.  I wondered again this year... Nope.  I started considering buying a new one this year when I saw them out in the stores during the holiday season.  I wanted the flowers, but couldn't get myself to be able to forget that this is Rachel's Christmas Cactus...little pink pot and all... and maybe hers just wasn't meant to bloom again.

I decided to move the cactus and another plant (A Jade that I've been trying to bring back to life - I have an obsession with saving dying plants, I guess. they are all over my house!)  up to my room.  I don't keep plants there as a general rule because it's cold, kind of dark, and we don't have a bathroom upstairs which makes watering them a pain - and because I hate stairs, unrealistic.  These are not usually the best conditions for plants.  I moved it up there a couple months ago and I have watered it once since.  I pretty much have been waiting for it to look bad enough that I can just detach my heart from it and let it go...

Friday (yesterday) morning, I woke up and lay in bed for a while before getting up (every morning for me!) I gazed over at my plants in my still dark room... the Jade has just about had it.  I felt a little relief as I decided I'm gonna throw the ugly thing away.  It's not a "Rachel" plant, so it's not hard on my heart, just a failure, but I can handle that if it doesn't have to do with my children.  I looked at the cactus and wondered if I should just toss it, or maybe I should replant it into the Jade's pot...  still undecided, I went about my day.

We used to have a really good system down for keeping the house before I started working.  Fridays were our bedroom cleaning day, but we have been gone every Friday till noon, so we stopped that a while ago.  Since I didn't have to work yesterday, we got up there to clean.  We were each in our own rooms cleaning, shades all open and it looking pretty bright - and finally clean! - up there when I saw it....what I couldn't see in the darkness of the early morning hours....9 pretty pink buds!

I was stopped right in my tracks.  I called in Des and tried to explain to her that that very morning, I was considering throwing that plant away....that it's supposed to bloom for Christmas and hasn't since Rachel's been gone... that I haven't taken care of it... that it's in a pot way too small... in a dark, cold room... with no water....  how on earth is it blooming??  And on top of that, the leaves looked better than they have in a long time, too!  She didn't see the irony of it, just said "oh" and went back to her room.  I stood there staring....

I stopped to consider the date... is it the 3rd?  Another important anniversary?  That's when things like this usually happen to me.  But, nothing.  I couldn't think of why I might need the extra love from above today.  I shrugged and thought to myself I guess He must know something I don't.  It made sense later in the day when I realized how much I needed to be reminded that she isn't really gone as I pulled out of her cemetery leaving behind the "Thank heaven for little girls" flag with tears streaming down my face. 

I wondered if I should still re pot it... or maybe it likes to be in a small pot... I looked at the roots

^ I'm not much of a green thumb, but something tells me plants don't prefer this  ^

I decided to look it up to see what I need to do to help it continue to bloom.  And I came across something I did not expect.  I was right that it should be in a bigger pot... but this is what surprised me:
"Christmas cactus will bloom if given long uninterrupted dark periods, about 12 hours each night. Begin the dark treatments in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. You can place the plants in a dark closet from about 8 P.M. - 8 A.M. each night for 6-8 weeks or until you see buds forming. Christmas cacti will also bloom if they are subjected to cool temperatures of about 50 to 55 degrees F, eliminating the need for the dark treatments. Plants should be blooming for the holidays if cool treatments are started by early November."
Who would have ever thought that when I moved my Christmas cactus to my room in December to wither and die that it actually would be made alive again?  Not me.  Apparently, my Crown of Thorns like the cooler weather too because they are in my mudroom where it gets really cold and they are blooming like never before too!  And I thought they needed a warm comfy spot to thrive!

But you know, there is something about these little flowers in a totally unexpected place and time - against the odds and in spite of the circumstances - that reminds me of my Christmas baby.
Yes, that is dust on the leaves.....

Ironically, all the "Rachel plants" I have also have thorns of some sort.  I didn't plan it that way, but the 3 plants I have here for her all have thorns... yet when they bloom, it's not only the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, but also the most rewarding for me as the one who continues to care for them long after they look 'worth it'.  Just like my girl.

I guess the moral of the story is that when beauty seems the least likely, when the situation seems the darkest, the driest, the coldest.... when your roots seem to be smashed against the wall and when growth feels impossible... you can still bloom. And in fact, you could be just about to without even knowing it.  When everyone around you thinks you are going nowhere, when you appear to be withering away, when you look like death has gotten the best of you... LIFE can still take over.  And in those moments, when you see the beauty you have been longing for and the color you thought would never return... when you smell the fragrance of new life and sense that you are not forgotten.... a tiny little bud of hope on wilted plants with thorns can mean more than a giant flowering tree in the perfect weather of summer.  Because in those moments you are reminded that you can overcome.  You are not bound by your circumstances, by the size of your pot, by the brightness of your journey.  There is joy in the midst of some of the darkest times... and just when you think you will give way to the conditions that seem to be enveloping you.... you will bloom.  Because God is bigger than anything that can stand against His children.

I'm so thankful that I held on.  For Rachel.  For these plants.  In these times, I am reminded over and over that I could not have experienced any of the beauty without the pain...the discomfort...the dark days... the months of fighting the cold hard ground.  And it is worth it all.  Every tear has been blessed with a bud of hope... a story of a baby saved, a person encouraged, another's new found or renewed relationship with Jesus, my own revived heart for the Lord,  a grieving mother knowing she isn't alone in the darkness of this pain.... I have literally been exchanging tears for blessings for 2 1/2 years now as I've watched death gain no victory as life has taken over.

I plan to thoroughly enjoy each and every moment these flowers bloom....feeling a little closer to my girl and knowing how God pulled together each and every detail to give them to me in the middle of this cold warm and brighten my heart.  He is so good to me...and she is so very much still alive - more alive than ever before.  Even though I still miss her like crazy and hate every second she's gone.

I challenge you to look for buds of hope in unexpected places.... especially if it feels impossible.  Open your eyes to His goodness - and when you see it, give credit where it's due and thank Him for His love.  It is life and it can never be overtaken.

Ephesians 3:17-19
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (NLT)

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Simple Flag

I am no longer working Friday mornings and it was so nice to have my day at home.  We did some school work, got the house cleaned, I got to chat with an old friend on the phone for a while... and I made it to Rachel's grave before sundown, without Asa missing his nap.  Of course, being the overachiever that I am, I had to try to add on a trip for groceries at the end of the day that didn't go well, but other than that... it was nice.

I've officially started my crazy season of work for Rachel's Race - along with the obscene amount of work that goes into running the board of Baby Rachel's Legacy.  I'm tired.

I ordered Rachel a flag finally - I have been wanting to all winter and it hasn't happened... and the one that caught my eye on line turned out to be just right for my next Friday visit...February 1st....a heart with wings... not the usual symbol on the "Thank heaven for little girls" signs... but how appropriate for my girl, and in February ♥

I also brought her the kissing ball that my mom had bought on her birthday.  I've had it at home since there was no room there.  I took down her wreath and switched it for that.  Again, seemed appropriate... not only is this the month of Valentines Day, but our anniversary is coming up too.  I guess I was going for a 'love' theme.... although that is the theme I'm always going for when I decorate for her.

Seems more appropriate as a welcome home sign for a new mom and baby....  but her grave is all I've got, so it'll have to do. Technically, both her & I will have been welcomed home when our bodies were/are lay in the ground beneath this flag.  And I do thank Jesus every day for my little girls, one here and one in maybe it applies just as well.

It's just a flag... shouldn't it be more simple?  Flags used to be simple.