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!|
|He really wanted in that cage.... this turned into a temper tantrum :)|
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.