Saturday, May 24, 2014

Join us from far away!!

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to register!!

I AM Holding on to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I'm still hanging on.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Still Her Mother

On Mother's Day, we visited another church.  I walked in with my gang and went up to the information desk to find out how the children's church worked.

I introduced myself and said "We have 6 children, but only 5 of them need care... our other little girl is with the Lord so she's already well taken care of."

In case you are wondering, I didn't think that up ahead of time, those words rolled off my tongue as naturally as I tell someone what my name is.

She responded "Yes, she is already being held by Jesus... I have two in heaven myself."

We both smiled knowingly at each other and continued on in our conversation about where the kids go and when...

But I think we both needed that little moment of knowing we weren't alone.

At the beginning of service, they said Happy Mother's Day to everyone and then said they wanted to take a minute to acknowledge the moms who had lost babies prematurely and to let them know that they were thinking of them.

I was right where I needed to be that morning.  I have sat through many Mother's Day sermons and never once heard them recognize mothers who have lost children.  I imagine that for some, maybe even more than me (especially if they lost their only baby and have yet to have another) that moment of acknowledgement was probably the most loving thing that they could have experienced that day.  Because they are still mothers.  I'm still Rachel's mother.  And some days, it's the hardest mothering I do.

I was so thankful for that.  There are certain days I miss Rachel more than others and Mother's Day is one of them.  But between the way I carry her with me so comfortably now and the way this church didn't run from - or just fail to think of - the topic of the loss of children, my heart got exactly what it needed on a day set apart for moms.  One that can carry so much pain for moms who have lost their babies. Because each of our children, no matter how brief their life is, matters to us... and it's so SO special when it matters to someone else too.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hope Anchors the Soul

I think about blogging all the time...  but I feel like even when I have things I *want* to write, I can't find the words to say whatever it is I might want to say.

And maybe I feel a little like a broken record...

Or maybe like I can't be as profound as I would like....

And I don't want my blog to be dry.  I hate reading dry writing.

But today I might have to be a bit dry in order to get this post out "on time" since I sent out the Save the Dates for Rachel's Race and this post was "supposed to" go out first.

Each race, I have had a theme of sorts that I base things off of.  The first year it was "43 minutes in our arms, always in our hearts" and had her hands in the shape of a heart as the logo.  The second year, it was "Too Precious to Forget" and the logo was the dandelions scattering seeds.  The big dandelion represented me and the little one her, and the seeds, her legacy.  We also gave out little cards to all the baby loss families that said "Some say you're too painful to remember, I say you're too precious to forget"

When I started planning this year's logo, I originally had something completely different than what it turned out to be.  I'm not going to tell you in case I decide to use that one in the future, but it was all figured out... until God put a verse on my heart.  I did what I always do when something hits me like that and messaged my amazing friend Lisa telling her what I was thinking and within a few minutes, she had come up with a super cute way to incorporate Rachel's feet into my vision.  Lisa didn't have the computer program needed to make the logo shirt friendly so my friend Jenn came to our rescue and added all the technical stuff and finishing touches to it.  And it. is. amazing.  I am so happy with it and so excited for how it will encourage people.

But before I share it with you, I feel like I should give a little summary of what year 4 after losing Rachel has brought in comparison to the years before.

Year one, I was overwhelmed with emotions... really high ones and really low ones.  I cried all the time.  I was still very much being carried by people around me and feeling like God had given me purpose through my pain and was using Rachel.  So while it hurt like crazy, I felt like I had beauty in it all.

Year two was still very emotional, still cried a lot, very packed with purpose, very obvious in how far she was reaching and God met me in every low moment in such amazing and real ways - usually through sending someone my way, at random in public, who would share with me that they knew about Rachel.  But I started to struggle with trying to figure out how to continue on with the regular stuff you have to do in life as a now bereaved mom.

Year three... well, I think that brought some type of insanity.  I was constantly swimming against the current.  I cried less, but everything felt hard.  I couldn't make sense out of anything.  I quit everything.  I hurt people and dropped relationships.  I was angry and disappointed.  And in hind sight, I really think it all goes back to the fact that I had absolutely no way to prepare myself for how long this pain would stick around.  It's not at all what I expected, not that I really had a picture of what it would look like, but I guess I thought it would be really hard and continuously get a little better each day until it was just a memory that was hard but worth it.  And I know that is what a lot of people *expect* which doesn't make it any easier to not put that type of pressure on myself... I just felt like I was completely failing at the entire thing... the grieving part, the non profit part, the being a wife, mom, daughter, sister and friend after the loss of my child part... I couldn't see through it.  It was my hardest year.

So as year four started after Rachel's 3rd bday in December, I didn't know what to expect... and on most days, I feel like I do better than last year (not that that would be hard to beat!)  I finally feel like I enjoy being around other people, even if they are talking about the weather... something that until just recently I couldn't stomach.  I feel like I'm out of my 'fog' a bit and things make sense to me again... like the 501c3 paperwork...  but I have come to this hard realization that I am never going to ever get back to a life that feels even a little normal.  I've heard it said a million times... you have to find a new normal...  well, to be honest, that really stinks.  Sounds nice and all, but I feel like I don't even know who I am.  I feel tired of being who I have become.  Even though I know with everything I am, that I AM better - it's not easier, but it's better.

So, while each day and in every season of life throughout these past almost 4 years, I have been at every possible place in grief I could have been, the One Thing that has not changed is that my hope in the hope in hope in eternity and God's promises have been my anchor.  It's the reason I can turn up my hands in surrender to God's plan and His eternal purposes.  And some days, it's the only thing that keeps me going....

This years race is going to be all about that's firm and secure.  Our hope in Him.

Hebrews 6:19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
On the shirts, Jenn made it so that her hand and footprints will be actual size!

And a couple days after deciding on this verse for the theme, Desirae gave her life to the Lord one Sunday afternoon in a parking lot when her & I were out together...I was telling her afterwards that once you are a child of God, there is nothing that can separate you from His love.  Nothing.  And as we were driving home, we heard this song for the first time... and we both just looked at each other and smiled...  You should listen to it!

Us 3 Aube girls are truly connected in a special way - we are all alive in Christ.  Nothing can separate us.  Not from each other, not from the love of Christ....  Not death, life, tears, drought.  Nothing.  He is the anchor for our souls.  And Hope in Him does not disappoint.

And so there you have it... much longer than I expected, but I also started writing this at 9am and had to put it away and now I'm finishing it after midnight.

If you are planning to come to Rachel's Race this August, but have not signed up, would you consider helping us reach our goal to have 43 people signed up by Mother's Day (that's today now!)  I believe we are still about 17 people off.  There is a button to register at the top of the blog on the right.  Thanks!

Thanks again to Lisa for turning my anchor idea into a really cute piece of Rachel and to Jenn for helping us create it.  I'm so blessed to have you ladies as friends and am thankful for how you use your talents to bless others.

Happy Mother's Day to all my beautiful friends... including the ones who celebrate with empty arms.  May the hope of heaven anchor your souls.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Just Like My Mom

12 years ago today, I drove myself to jail to serve the sentence that awaited me after rehab.  Seems a silly anniversary to remember, but I knew the day I walked into that place that I would *never* go back.  What I didn't know was that 2 weeks later, I would find out I was pregnant with my first baby (Desirae) or that God would use her to make sure I didn't ever get tempted to go back to my old life.  I went in on a Friday and that Sunday was Mother's Day... and although my call to my mom came collect, not only did she pay for that call, but she stuck by me through that trial... she bought me diapers for my baby for when I got out... she was strong and brave and dedicated, even when the whole world told her to let me do it alone.  I once again learned from my mom what it means to love my children unconditionally and to be loyal.

When I freak out on my kids and tell them they should worry for their lives... I think "Oh my, I'm just like my mom" and when I love them with the mess-with-my-kids-and you-die kind of love... I think "I'm just like my mom" and when I think about what might come their way as they get older and the trials they might face, I wonder if I can be everything they need in me as their mom and I just hope...that I am just like my mom....

Love you Mom and hope you're Mother's Day is a blessing to you like you have been in so many ways to us kids.