Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ready for the Next Rainbow

I've been blessed with 35 weeks with my little E.  I'm thankful to be able to say that I have not struggled with too much fear surrounding this pregnancy or upcoming birth.  I have the occasional strike of reality where I know in a painful way that I am not above or beyond losing this child... but for the most part, this pregnancy has been much 'easier' mentally and emotionally than Asa's was on me.  I even heard myself say the other day that I was "excited" for my ultrasound next Monday.  I never thought those words would ever come out of my mouth again.  Physically is a different story, and I am SO exhausted, but I'm surviving.

What I have noticed though, and I think it was true of Asa in a different way, is that it just doesn't feel real to me.  I have a hard time believing I will have another baby soon.  Part of it is not having a room to decorate.  That is usually a big focus of mine while I am pregnant.  You all probably know by now that I love to decorate.  I love getting their nurseries set up.  But this baby will be rooming with us until Asa is out of the crib and can move out of the nursery... so I've had nothing to decorate.  I did buy a couple of things for baby... a mini co-sleeper, a changing table pad and some cute baskets and sheets - so there is a corner in my room that is ready to welcome a sweet little one. And I know we have everything we need and more... it has just required much less preparation.  But even that has been a blessing.

The hardest part of this entire stage is figuring out how to keep Rachel in it.  That was easier with Asa.... but I think at this point, most people are safely assuming I have moved past that part of my life and maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that Rachel automatically comes to mind anymore when they see me.  I feel like I'm leaving her behind in so many ways and I hate it.

I've been putting off taking pictures - usually I have a ton of them while I'm pregnant and have professional ones done too.  Honestly, I have had no desire to get in front of a camera at all.  And trying to coordinate all the kids in a photo in this heat sounds like no fun.  So, I have just a couple of belly shots all together.

Thankfully God has helped me to keep walking forward, one step at a time and today I realized He is doing for me what I can't do for myself right now.... and today I felt it.... I'm finally excited. 

I knew He would get me there.

I got a bunch of things washed and ready.... car seat is ready to go.... started packing my hospital bag....I've even frozen 2 meals so far and plan to get a bunch more done so my family doesn't starve when baby first arrives.... and today, I figured out how to include Rachel in a belly shot.....

This has been killing me cause I haven't been thrilled with the way it looks to have her picture in a frame with us.  It feels too unnatural or something.  But every other idea I come up with seems like I would have to explain to everyone where Rachel "is" in the picture.  So, I decided to try painting my tattoo of her handprint and pressing it on my belly....  and since the tattoo print is on my skin, it came out so good! 

I had each of the kids in a different color of the rainbow.....  seemed a perfect way to include them in welcoming our new little rainbow, while remembering that they ALL remind me of God's promise to me... not that everything will go the way I want, but that no matter what happens, He will be with me - He always has been.

Desirae is red, Isaiah is orange, Samuel is green, Asa is blue and Rachel is purple.... They have all shared this sacred space inside of me where this new little blessing grows.

This pregnancy has held a ton of changes in our lives...  from not doing Rachel's 3rd Annual Race to leaving the church we have been at since I was first saved 9 years ago, where I also have to leave behind the playground I promised her while I was pregnant with her - and also the sanctuary where her little casket last was closed and where we last praised God together with her.  As a general rule, I am not one who likes change, but I have been filled with so much peace and God has confirmed His will in our lives over and over as I have surrendered all of my fears and trusted Him and what He is asking of us.  My heart is tempted to want to hold onto to these things as if they are her... but I know they are not. 

I have felt at a loss for words because it's all just so huge and deep that I have a hard time explaining it...and it also just all feels so personal and almost as if trying to tell someone what God has put on our hearts could actually take away from how beautiful it is.  (See, I can't explain it...)  

But, if I was to try to sum up my feelings tonight, I would just say that it's been a long couple of years filled with so many storms, so many difficult things... and the last 6 months have been filled with changes that I didn't see coming and don't know what to do with...  but I've never been more secure in the waiting.  And I am so thankful that my God decorates my life with so much beauty mingled in that most of the time, it's all I can see. 

I didn't doubt He would do it, but I am relieved to say that after a long, hard and somewhat detached 35 weeks of pregnancy, God has prepared my heart and I am ready for the next rainbow.

Friday, June 21, 2013

First Day of Summer

I woke up today knowing I needed to get to Rachel.  I didn't go last week and I've felt it the last couple of days.  I looked at my pregnancy ticker.... "43 days left to go!"

Of course it would be.....

Picking up where we left off yesterday.... this first day of summer without Rachel...  we hopped in the van to go get her something new for her grave, and Isaiah starts right back in...

"It's actually like Rachel *is* spending the summer with us."  He said.

I asked what he meant and he said, "Well, she can look down on us and see where we are and she's having her own summer in heaven.... and it's even better than our summer."

I love this kid.

The conversation got a little harder when he asked if I wanted to go to heaven to spend summer with Rachel.  I said no because I wanted to stay with them and he asked if I loved them more than her.  I said I loved them the same, but she doesn't need me and they still do... I said she is well taken care of.  He asked "who would take care of Asa if you died?"  I said Daddy would.  "But Daddy has to work so who would while he is at work?" 

Does he have to think things like this through so much?  I mean, the child thought it made sense to give an underdog on a 4 person bench swing with 3 kids riding it.... he obviously doesn't think everything through.... why this? 

All I could say was "I don't know, but I know God would take care of it."

It was a good enough answer for him..... thank You Lord!

We've been listening to country music the last couple of days and the song on the radio, although about a summer with a girl, made me think of the time I had with Rachel here... how quickly it went, how bittersweet it was, how I couldn't slow down time and every moment I felt her slipping away... until she was gone.

"But the sun keeps setting' and the days go fast
And the sand on the beach is like an hourglass
I can just feel it slipping away
And I can already say that
As long I live, whatever I do
As great as it is, you know what's a bummer
I ain't ever gonna beat this summer with you
baby it's true
The taste of your kiss is so bittersweet
There ain't no way I'm gonna beat this summer with you"

After Matt got home and we had dinner, we all went and got ice cream and went to set up Rachel's new stuff.  It was a rough visit to the cemetery...  the roughest I have EVER had....
Ice cream on the way...

Before everything fell apart :)
The kids were running around and Des tripped.  She hurt herself and when she stood up, she fell straight backwards and hit her head off the ground and passed out.  I've seen Asa's eyes roll back enough times to not be too phased when it happens after he holds his breath, but Desirae... and because of an injury...never... 
So there we were all hovered over her trying to figure out if she had a head injury.  She said she felt like she needed to puke and the boys got so scared they started crying - everyone was saying they wanted to go home and at that point, we had everything ripped out of Rachel's spot and nothing set up.  Des sat in the van the rest of the time and the boys ran around.... then Sam got hurt... out comes the 1st aid kit....  We get him all bandaged up and I hear from the van "Asa's bleeding too!" (of course, he's the only one who didn't cry about it! He's such a brute!)  He had scratched his leg somewhere along the line and I just had to laugh....
I said "We better buckle up Isaiah cause he's the only one left without and injury and I don't want to risk it"  And then I look up and the child is standing on top of my van.  I sounded exactly like my mother when I said, "Get down from there, I do NOT want to spend the night in the hospital!"  I was convinced before we left someone was going to seriously hurt themselves and we'd end up in the ER!
Finally, all injuries and close calls seemed to be at bay and we got back to setting up her stuff.  I was so hot, I'm so huge, I am completely exhausted, the flowers are dry and the water was shut off cause we were there at night so I couldn't water them, this is the first time I've been in 2 weeks (the longest I've EVER gone), and I couldn't get the daisy lights to string back up like I had planned....
My arms were up in the air trying to reach the top of her new shepherd hook and I got so out of breath as I struggled with this floral wire and it just came bursting out....
"I'm so sick of decorating a grave."
I hung my head and started crying.  I felt so defeated by this trip - so worn out - so discouraged.... it's just been a hard week of grieving and this was the straw that broke the camels back. 
Matt started trying to help me and through my tears, I figured out a solution.  I'm thankful that even in the hardest times, God has put something deep down in me that makes me persevere rather than pack up and go home. I needed to accomplish this. As I clipped the daisy lights to her hanging plant basket instead of the hook, Matt kept saying "Oh, that looks really cute..." which in itself was really cute cause he just wanted me to feel better. 
But in the end, it does look really cute.... for a grave on the first day of summer anyway.
Add caption


Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Got Carried Away

I feel crazy admitting this - because I feel like it made sense 2 years ago, but not many people will understand it now.  But here's the truth... I often envision myself going down to the cemetery and bringing her home with me... I ache to hold her again and I almost don't care what the last 2 1/2 years have done to her physically.  And I cry as I wonder Is this urge ever going to go away?  Is this desire ever going to get less intense?

This morning, we piled into the van for my 34 week checkup... 

"Mama, I wish we could spend the summer with Rachel" Isaiah said from the back seat.

I took a deep breath and turned to look at him.  "Me too, Buddy... why are you thinking of that?"

"Because tomorrow is the first day of summer and I really want to spend it with Rachel."

How can one argue with that logic?  I want that too.

I told him I've been wanting to get some new things for her grave, so maybe we could buy something today and bring it to her tomorrow... Friday, the first day of summer.

"We get to see her tomorrow?!"  he asked excitedly.

I forget how literal he takes everything. 

"I wish, that would be nice...but I meant when we go to her grave...."  I explained. 

He looked at me disappointed.  "Oh, just her grave?"  he sighed.  "It's all we have here."  I reminded him.

The doctor's is only 5 minutes from here and before I had even pulled out of my driveway, I was already engrossed in a daydream of spending the summer with my little 2 year old girl... and for just a second... a brief moment in time... I actually felt her with me....  for that moment the reality of her absence left me and I knew my life without anencephaly... without death... without pain.... I knew summer with Rachel...

the song on the radio brought me back to the truth of today...
"I get carried away by the look by the light in your eyes
Before I even realize the ride I'm on baby I'm long gone
I get carried away nothin' matters but bein' with you
Like a feather flyin' high up in the sky on a windy day, I get carried away"
.And I realized I had gotten carried away..... 

I started crying and couldn't stop.  I don't ever share with those doctors the struggles I have regarding Rachel because honestly, they are always ready to find a reason why it isn't best for the moms to carry babies like Rachel to term... and I know they think that it would have been easier on me to "induce early" (abort her) and move on...and I know that they will think that any concern I have during this pregnancy is because I lost a baby and am 'paranoid' (which so what if I am?) 

So, for the sake of future anencephalic babies, for the confidence I have in my prenatal care now, and for the glory of my great God who is able and ready to carry us through those trials (and as we've seen with Rachel make WAY more beauty out of it than anyone could fathom) I keep my emotions in with them. I tried to clear my eyes and suck it up in the parking lot, but I couldn't stop. 

And no sooner did I check in, my doctor got called away for a delivery and I was sent on my way.....

Thank You Lord.

We never made it to the store to get Rachel's new stuff.  We stopped at the park and bumped into some friends, so we stayed a while.  I guess I'll try again tomorrow.
Last night I was looking at gender reveal party ideas and I saw one that involved using strawberries to represent the girl - I took a different way home from the park and as I pulled onto my street, my friend Kathy was pulling out.  She said she had just stopped by our house and she jumped out and handed me a big bag of fresh strawberries from her garden.....

An hour and a half after my tears fell over my summer daydream, God had carried me away again.... except this time on the comfort and compassion only He can give as he gave me a reprieve from my sadness and once again reminded me that He is with me in this and will meet me where I'm at and with what I need in that exact moment.  I just need to keep walking through each day trusting Him with it all.

But yes, I am crying again.  And no, I don't think I'll be stopping permanently anytime soon.

I miss her like crazy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Countdown to the Hallway

I've been waiting on words...  always an odd thing when those are hard for me to find. 

I've been trying to make sense of this new stage in my loss...  trying to make decisions about what direction to go from here for my girl and her legacy.... trying to tell the difference between shear exhaustion, avoidance, and true healing.  Trying not to make any decisions I will regret next year with little understanding as to what I even want or need.

I've been slowly working on getting ready for this baby to join our home... I've been blessed to not be too fearful, but every once in a while it hits me.... I don't have a guarantee.  No promise this baby is mine to keep.  No definite that I won't leave the hospital empty handed again.  Every once in a while I find myself awake in my bed, staring in wonder and waiting for the baby to move again so I know I still hold a little soul in my womb and not just an empty tomb.

Being a bereaved mother - and a pregnant one at that - is so complicated.  Even for a mother who has been doing it for a couple of years now.  And if I still don't totally understand it, I guess it makes perfect sense that people who have not buried their child wouldn't either.  And as I walk through this pregnancy, I think back to Rachel and to Asa and I wonder how on earth I survived any of it...  God alone.

I can feel August 4th coming.  Usually the week before is extremely hard for me... starting with my birthday the week before until after D-Day goes by.  Every year I re-live that week... missing my bliss in ignorance of my baby's condition. Wishing I could go back to the wonder and happiness that I used to feel during pregnancy. The girl's day out for pedicures Des & I went on with a little shopping and buying that cute little dress Rachel would never wear....  and each year since we have continued that tradition together - and Rachel remains heavy on my heart. 

I had come home on my birthday that year and hung that dress on a nail already in the wall...  I left it hanging there for months upon months... I don't even remember how long it was before I took it down, but it was long after she died.  Maybe even after Asa was born?  The nail has hung there empty since and yesterday Isaiah took it down and gave it to me.  When I realized where he had gotten it from, I took it and put it right back...  why?  I have no idea, but even that empty nail reminds me of the hope I had while I was pregnant with her.  I looked at that dress hanging there every day and just prayed she would grow big enough to wear it.  I felt silly telling Isaiah it had to stay there cause Rachel's dress hung on it... but he seemed to understand me.

I thought when I found out I was pregnant the week before Rachel's birthday this year and then got the due date of August 3rd for this baby that God was giving me something to cheer me up during the two hardest weeks of my year...the weeks leading up to her diagnosis and birthday.  However, as the day approaches, I am not convinced it will do that.  I know He knows what he is doing, but I can't help but wish that pregnancy could be what it used to be for me...what it still gets to be for most of the people around me.... I've never wanted to be ignorant so badly.  Usually clueless people annoy me... but now I feel envious of them.  I wish I didn't know. 

I was telling a friend the other day how good my pregnancy and delivery went with Sam.  My 3rd baby, the joys of a growing family, the bliss of the anticipation of his birth without any worries of him dying during it.  Setting up a nursery with belief that he would sleep in it and I wouldn't find him dead one morning unexpectedly.  Thinking that very few (and certainly not me) people actually lost babies after the first trimester. 

Des is already asking me about our pedicures... I told her we'd have to go early since I could likely have the baby on my birthday (I keep joking that I'm getting a baby for my birthday).  This morning, I cut Isaiah's toenails and felt frustrated about the condition of mine and not being able to reach them.  I started thinking about our annual pedicures, my birthday, her diagnosis and expecting a new baby all at the same time and it felt so complex.  Suddenly, I realized how hard this was going to be...   Just like having Asa right before Rachel's 1st birthday.  I went about my morning chores and found a piece of paper that Des had written her login for a game she has...

User name: RachelAlice
Password: lived43

I started crying and continued crying through my morning tasks....  I know it's not for our best to be ignorant to how fragile life is.  I know God had great purpose for us in Rachel's short life and death.  I know that He has changed all of us for the better.  I know she is a blessing to us.  I truly believe that and KNOW it to be true.  But every once in a while, I wish it was different.  Every once in a while, I see kids who are just as clueless as their parents and I wish my kids didn't know what I wish I didn't have to know.  I wish we could have just kept her and walked along our merry way thinking that these things happen to other people.

My prenatal care will switch to Maine Med in two weeks.  I will once again drive that highway, where there is no exit 43, to the hospital that holds the only living moments of my daughter's life outside my womb.  They will do an ultrasound and tell me if I'm a candidate for another VBAC and then it starts... the countdown to the hallway....

Where so many knowing hearts break and the clueless ones just travel.  The hallway to the exit.  The hallway to the nursery or the funeral home.  The hallway to a life forever changed, one way or the other. 

I've traveled it both ways - with and without my baby and unfortunately, once you have done it without, it hurts no matter what.  And I feel like I'm waiting for so much more than a baby to be born.  I miss the simplicity of that with the others before Rachel.  I feel like I'm waiting for the answer.  I'm waiting for God to show me which door He will be leading me through. 

The miracle of this is that while I wait, I know He continues to use Rachel to refine me and draw me closer to him.  Because before her, getting ready to give birth was all about the strong woman in me who 'could do this' and resting in how God created my body to give birth.  Now I have to rest fully in Him and how strong He is... I have to rest in how He created my baby for a purpose and it might not be to make me happy.  I have to trust in HIS ability to get me through whatever might come my way.  And I have to completely surrender - not to my body as it pushes a life out of my womb... but to His plan as it breathes life into my soul.

And regardless of whether I travel that hallway with or without my little E in my arms, I will praise the Great and Holy God Who created this life to begin with and has allowed me to spend each moment I have so far as this precious child's mama.  And no matter whether He leads me through the door to my life with another baby in my arms - or has to drag me out the door towards another funeral and a baby in my heart... I will praise Him.  I will.  And I pray that from now until then, while I still am uncertain of which it will be, that I will be able to praise Him as I wait and thank Him every day for what He is doing in this hallway as I learn to trust him with another piece of my heart.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Solus Christus

Nothing I have done - or ever will do - for Rachel, through Rachel, or because of Rachel is of myself or in my strength.  It was all His plan from before the beginning of time and He prepared me in advance for the work He had set out for me to do.

Not to us, but to His name be the glory....

These are the lyrics to the song playing first on my blog now.... 
"In Christ Alone"

In Christ alone will I glory
Though I could pride myself in battles won
For I've been blessed beyond measure
And by His strength alone I'll overcome
Oh, I could stop and count successes like diamonds in my hands
But those trophies could not equal to the grace by which I stand

In Christ alone
I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory
Let it be said of me
My source of strength
My source of hope
Is Christ alone

In Christ alone do I glory
For only by His grace I am redeemed
For only His tender mercy
Could reach beyond my weakness to my need
And now I seek no greater honor in just to know Him more
And to count my gains but losses to the glory of my Lord

In Christ alone
I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory
Let it be said of me
My source of strength
My source of hope
Is Christ alone

Picking Daisies

Saturday we got pizza and went to eat at Rachel's grave.  We stopped at McDonalds to get drinks on the way and there were daisies everywhere.  Matt hopped out and picked some for me to bring to her. 

I brought them and hung them on her shepherd hook.  I was wishing I had a vase so they wouldn't die right away. 

My visits have been less regular... almost never making it on Fridays anymore.  I'm just so tired and my days get away from me.  I don't feel the drive to get there on Fridays right now, so I go with whatever I need for the day.  Often it ends up being a Saturday or Sunday that I feel I want to be there.  I'm also starting to like to go with Matt more now, where I used to like to be alone.... I think partially because for a long time, he didn't really seem to like being there.  I'm not sure if it was just where he was at in his grieving process or not, but these days he will actually ask me if I want to go and it feels more like we're both 'in it' while we're there.... which is so good for my heart.  He helps me get it cleaned up (I hate dealing with bugs that gather in the grass clipping that land on her stone) and does the bending for me since I am not good at that these days. 

I can't believe she's been gone 2 1/2 years this month.  It feels like so much less and so much more at the same time. 

Feeling at a loss for words, but wanted to share about my guy picking his girls flowers.... I've been dying to get some of them off those hills and can't really do it myself, so it was a big deal.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Breaking My Pride

I have been missing Rachel a lot the last couple of days.  The roads and highways here are covered in wild daisies... and I want it to make me smile like it usually does.... but for some reason my heart feels heavy when I look at them.
If I could pick every one of them for her, I would.

I woke up yesterday and, as usual, she was one of the first thoughts on my mind.  I felt my eyes well up, but the feeling quickly turned to anger.  I HATE that she's gone.  As I threw my blankets off and got out of bed, I resented that I couldn't have been faced with a temporary trial.  Like, why couldn't I have had a serious illness that got really bad and I had to cling to God through and then after He healed me physically, I could say it was a trial I endured in the past?  And "Praise God!  I made it through and learned so much and now I can live like it never happened."  Why did I have to have a trial that meant my life could never be the same?  Why did it have to mean that every day for the rest of my life I would know that I could never fully recover from it because she will never return to me on this side of heaven?  And why did it have to be a trial that so few people around me understood?

I went into the kids' rooms as always, opening blinds and shutting off fans and as I swung the boy's blind string to the right, I bashed my funny bone on the bunk bed.  I wanted to cry, but instead I said a bad word. 

My mother always said anger was a second emotion... and I've found that to be true.  It's always followed after a different emotion that isn't quite as comfortable.  It's easier to be mad then to face the truth, that in my pride, I think I deserved to keep her.

She was never mine.

And the daisies everywhere are reminding me of that lately.

But maybe the biggest blessing on the path I have had to walk is that God continually breaks my pride - which has never done anything but keep me further from Him and allow me to falsely believe that I was better than I was.  Pride allowed me to think I didn't need him in certain parts of my life.  Pride kept me believing that I had control, even if just a tiny bit, over MY plans for my life.  Pride allowed me to think somehow that God was supposed to keep me happy, rather than showing me that in order to follow Him, I needed to be willing to pour myself completely, utterly out in order to be more like Him.  Pride told me I didn't have a problem with pride.  Pride built me up for a much bigger fall.  The higher you are, the further you have to drop - and everyone does eventually. 

The daily reminder of this as I miss my girl, knowing that this trial doesn't mean I have met my quota and will never suffer again, keeps me lower to the ground.  It keeps me humble.  It hurts, but brings life at the same time. It used to take a lot more than a hurt funny bone to get my attention.

When Rachel was lowered into a hole in the ground and covered in dirt, my entire being knew like never before how little control I have in this life... how helpless I much I need Jesus.   I'm thankful that my pride was buried right along with my girl.  That my identity will never again be in anything but Jesus....that my devotion to Him got deeper and more true.... That I know where my true home is and that as a result, I am more sensitive to what God desires in my earthly life.  That having been loved so tenderly by The Great King during those days, my love for Him became richer and I became aware of His jealousy to own my heart completely....and more willing than ever to let Him.

I'm thankful that when I'm tempted to forget those things... I have the daily pain of losing my daughter, always breaking my pride and reminding me that I am entitled to nothing good in this life...yet He gives me so much more than I deserve.  Starting with the time I did get to spend with Rachel and how sweet it was to taste the goodness of the Lord and hold a piece of my heavenly home in my arms.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

As He Promised

We went on a field trip with a homeschool group to York's Wild Kingdom on Thursday.  The kids were really excited that Matt took the day off to come with us.  I love watching these guys get so excited about everything and seeing how their personalities come out. 

Asa is such a brute... he was climbing fences and running right up to pet and feed animals with no fear.  I think he might have scared them though!


Isaiah was gathering every piece of dropped food off the ground so he could feed more to the animals and asking tons of questions.  And I hope we answered them correctly because I am sure we will be hearing them all back for a long time to come.  He is our little man with lots of random facts that he is VERY excited to talk about... all. the. time.

Sam was climbing fences every time we turned around - which is a new thing for him.  He's never been a rugged boy so this was kind of exciting for us to see him gaining strength and confidence... however, it was against the rules so immediately after taking the photo, I told him to get down. :)
Yes, that lady was walking over to tell him to get down... And his bad Mama was only worried about a picture!
And Desirae was seeking out all the babies to feed.... which was exactly what I used to do as a little girl...she wandered off away from the boys for quiet time with all of the animals and helped Asa along so he didn't get into too much trouble.  She is so sweet.

He really wanted in that cage.... this turned into a temper tantrum :)
I can't help it.  I go to things like this with our whole family and my heart feels it.... she's not with us.  And more than that, it feels the fact that nobody else knows

I have this constant internal struggle to not hold people accountable to remember her.  To understand that she is my daughter and accept that nobody else will care like I do.  To be okay with time moving forward and her becoming a sad story from the past to them, when she is always present to me and still part of my story every day....forever.  I try to believe that just because they won't say her name doesn't mean they don't think of her when they see us all together.  I fight the urge to say to every passerby who comments on our family size (and SO MANY do) that she is part of our gang too - and often I find myself saying it because I can't not say it.

When we walk into a room... my family... I want everyone to feel what I feel... that we are one short, even with our growing number.  I want them to know that I have not forgotten that I have a little girl waiting for us in heaven.  That the babies that have come since her will never replace her.  But nobody seems to - and I'm learning one interaction at a time how to deal with that hurt.  Because it hurts, even though it is completely unintentional, totally not unloving, and maybe not even universally true.  And it hurts, even though nobody would ever know I'm thinking about it at all.  Maybe that's part of why it hurts... because I feel so alone in it.  Maybe it hurts because I hate being alone in it.  And what do I expect people to say anyway?  "Hey, glad you're here, too bad Rachel isn't?"   I understand why it's not easy for people to do.  So many days I just wish that someone would just say they were thinking about her. 

As we stood in line with the other families waiting to enter the park, and all the surface conversations started and people start asking about how many kids we have, when I'm due and if we know what we're having... followed by the inevitable head count of their genders and how we 'really need a girl'.... My heart begs me... 

Just tell them we have two girls and that is only one less than the 3 boys, we're not *that* "out numbered"... and even if we were... at least their heads are round....  tell them that we're just thankful we get to keep the beautiful girl we have right here with us.  Tell them what's between the legs is the least of our worries....

And for the people that I know are aware of Rachel's death, my heart says...

tell them how many babies die each year.... tell them it's insensitive to make Desirae listen to this, as if it's not bad enough that her sister is dead....ask them if they think it doesn't hurt HER to constantly hear how lopsided our family count is - or if their child died if they would want to hear about the need to fill that gender spot in their family for it to be considered ideal or complete.  

But I can't.  That would be uncomfortable for them - and rude of me, right?  So, for Desirae's sake as much as my own, I decided a bathroom break was in order... Some times I really do wish my life could be as simple as it used to be... when standing in line with a group of people was just about waiting and not about missing someone and when having a baby was all about due dates and gender.

But God is always so good to me.  I sucked it up and tried to just focus on being with my family and we were about half way through the zoo when a lady walked up to me and asked if I was Stacy....  This is a common occurrence and I knew what was coming next... before she even said the words, I felt a weight lift off my heart...

"I follow your blog."  She said as I heard her daughter say to a little one she was holding "Let's go meet Stacy" and they joined our conversation and said she follows my blog too.   I will never tire of this...  hearing yet another person's story of how Rachel's life has reached and changed someone's heart.  And how my honesty in my grief has been a blessing.   I will never tire of hearing Rachel's name.  I was so thankful to hear her name that day.

Thank You Lord.... She isn't forgotten.... someone knows we are a big family who is still missing someone. 

Suddenly Rachel didn't feel so far away - or left out - anymore. 

She shared with me about a failed adoption she endured years ago and how hard it was... and told me that she has found comfort in my words about grief and loss. As much as it's a blessing to know people remember Rachel, I have to say that I am never more honored than when someone is willing to share their heart with me like this.  When someone I have never met feels safe enough and trusts me enough with their hearts to tell me about pain they went through - or still go through - and to know that they will be understood and that I care.  To know that when I started this blog I had no idea I would reach such people.... but God did....

In those moments, I am thankful for how God has prompted me to make myself so vulnerable in this trial.  I'm thankful for even the difficulties I have endured because of my openness.  I'm thankful to have been given such an amazing purpose in life and that it has helped me to keep Rachel's legacy going long after she left me... because had I believed the lie that in order to glorify Him I need to slap a smile on my face and say all the 'right' things all the time, this would have never happened.  I could have never helped so many people.  And I'm willing to bet I wouldn't have people approaching me everywhere we go telling me about their stories and still caring about mine.   And yes, this sweet lady allowed me to debrief about the struggle I was having up until that point in the day and her understanding helped me to let it all go. 

I had to work that night and so when we got home, I decided to lay down for the 50 minutes I had before I had to leave.  I crawled into bed with Rachel's blanket and all of this came to mind.... I was overwhelmed with emotion and tears started to fall and this is what was running through my mind...

I didn't deserve all this then.  I don't deserve all this now.  But God has given it to me.  In what could have been a fully painful and completely sad story.... He has given me beauty.  He has given me thankfulness.  He has given me purpose. He has given me joy.  He has given me amazing conversations in the warm sun with complete strangers at a zoo an hour away from home - exactly when I need them most - and hundreds of stories just like it - so many I cannot even remember or count them all.  He has given me more than I ever could have imagined... and far more than I deserve.  And He did it all through my daughter's death.  It just doesn't make sense.  On top of it all, he has given all of this to my children who have watched how he has provided for their Mama through the hardest trial I will ever endure.  For this mama, that is more important than anything I could have received for myself through all of this because I know He is using this in their lives as well.

I got so emotional, I thought my chance at a cat nap was over....  but just as I decided I should get up so I wouldn't be worse off for work, and even as my tears still dropped to the pillow, I fell fast asleep.  And I woke up a half hour later feeling like I had a good rest and ready for work.

Today at our morning worship, we sang the hymn Like a River Glorious.  The last line sums up what this journey through anencephaly, loss, hope, grief, surrender, joy and unexpected blessings has taught me.....

"Those who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true."

The refrain sings.... "Stayed up on Jehovah, hearts are fully blest - finding , as He promised, perfect peace and rest."

I claim no credit for leaning on him wholly through this.  In my humanness, I am not capable.  My heart is prone to wander and leave the God I love.  I give all the glory to God for holding me close and drawing me near through this valley.... and for proving His faithfulness true over and over to me as I wade through the uncertain waters and wait on His promises with Hope.  He has never let me down - and even in the midst of heartache and despair, I have found peace and rest in Him... just as He promised.