Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Crafty It Is!

I have so much to say, but so little time to say it that I end up not writing because I can't figure out where to start and how to condense it all into a post.

But I've decided something is better than nothing... so here it goes...it's going to be a long one...

We're in the hardest place financially we have ever been since we met.  On Tuesday, I sat waiting for food from the food pantry and feeling like a total loser.  Not how I envisioned life.... I decided to open up a My Daily Bread book on the counter and on that day, the verse was Romans 8:28 (which we used at our wedding) and the devotional read this:

"The Israelites learned some valuable spiritual lessons when God allowed them to endure homelessness, uncertainty, and danger.  Their hardships humbled them. (Duet. 8:1-18).  They learned that God would provide for their needs.  When they were hungry, He gave them manna.  When they were thirsty, He gave them water from a rock.  God taught them that despite difficult times, He could bless them.  Finally, the Israelites learned that adversity is not a sign of abandonment.
When we encounter desperate times, we can look for the spiritual lessons embedded in our difficulties - lessons that can help us rely on the One who causes all things to work together for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28)"
Before I left the house that day, I realized we were out of diapers again.  At this point, we spend around $150 a month on diapers and Goodnights.  It's getting OLD.  I finished reading the book and the woman came around the corner and asked if we needed diapers... all they had was a size 4 she said... that's the size Asa & Ezra both take!  God provided again... diapers at the food pantry?  Awesome.

It has become obvious that we need more income if we plan to keep up with even the basics.  Our new found commitment to not use credit cards has revealed just how much we relied on them - and I'm not going to lie, it's discouraging.  We live very modestly, no car payments, no debt, and a modest home/mortgage.  Other than my cell phone, there is nothing we could cut.  But we're a good size family and living on one also modest income.  With bills starting to pile up for the first time in our marriage, I wrote on Facebook last week asking if anyone had any ideas of "anything other than crafty things that I could do at home at night when the kids are in bed."  People still insisted on suggesting crafty things for me to do.  But one of them really bothered me....

How about you make grave decorations.... 

Grave decorations?  I have been decorating my own daughter's grave for years now, I really don't want to decorate other graves too... is this what my life has come to?  Grave decorating?

And even with those thoughts, I had one of those deep feelings that there was something to this 'crafty' idea and that I needed to think on it more.  So I did what I do any time I need to brainstorm... I messaged Lisa... 

Before the end of the night, I was beginning to think this was something I was going to pursue, but I still felt so *not* into it.   I had decided if I did, I would start with Kissing Balls like the one I made Rachel for Valentines Day.  Lisa was helping me price things out to see what I would use for materials and what I would need to charge to make it worth doing and what I would need to invest to get started. We figure out the size shipping boxes I would need and she looked them up for me.  43 cents each.  Then she sent me $43 to get me started. The next day, I remembered that the craft store around the corner was going out of business and we went over there to see what they had... everything was 80% off.  Before I knew it, I was filling up my cart.  I felt somewhat insane... I don't even want to do this.... grave decorating?  Am I really going to do this? Or was I going to have a nice supply of things to use on Rachel's grave and in my house?

I went up to the counter and the woman asked me what I was making.  I told her I was going to start a grave decorating business.  She looked up from the register as if she was figuring me out... "I know you...  you had the baby...."   "Rachel" I interrupted with a smile.  "Yes!  I helped you back when she first died and you came in here..."

Let me take you back... When Rachel died, I searched everywhere for something nice to put on her grave.  Everything was overpriced and tacky.  And I was horribly devastated by the fact that nothing would ever be good enough for her... grave.  It was a grave.  How in the world do you decorate one of those?  I'm good at decorating bedrooms.  Nursery's are my favorite.  Graves... don't know how to do that.  Don't want to know how to do that.  

So, a few weeks later, in January 2011, I found myself in Ben Franklin's staring at the crafts... I started asking a lady working how to use this stuff.  Not only did I not know how to decorate graves - I didn't know how to use crafts... I actually had to ask her what you do with flower picks... A song came on the radio - "Life's not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away..." and I started crying.  I blurted out that I couldn't believe this song was on right then, and I told her about Rachel and she started crying with me.  

I don't remember seeing her from that point until this, but last week as I purchased my grave decor business supplies, she told me she remembered, that she followed my blog for a while and that she knew me and Rachel.  She told me on Wednesday, they would be having a "fill-a-bag" for $5 sale to get rid of everything left.  

Wednesday I decided to go over.  I was running late and ended up with Asa with me because he wouldn't stay with the sitter.  I was late, it had started sprinkling, the place was mobbed and I now had a (crazy) child to watch too.  And I really had already spent more than I should have, money we did not have to buy what I had a few days earlier... I had borrowed money from Desirae for this trip with no idea when I could pay her back. I almost turned around and went home.  But I took one of the very last parking spaces and as I walked up, everyone started filing in.  I looked over the people in front of me to see if there were any silk flowers left and I heard someone say "this is the girl I told you about."  They pulled me aside and gave me a bag and told me to take whatever I wanted... to fill them up and that anything that was leftover, they would donate to me... to my grave decorating business....

I once again walked that craft store crying.  I was *blown away* by the amazing way that God brought that full circle.  Then she told me I could leave Asa with her and just go shop!  I had a babysitter and free supplies! Each time my bag was full, she would show up and hand me another one. As I filled bag after bag with high quality flowers, I was again reminded that life since Rachel has not been easy... but wow, it's been beautiful.  I just can't get over how people continue to provide for us and how many hearts her little handprints continue to affect.  I had so much stuff piled up around Asa's stroller that people were trying to pick through it!  I heard the liquidation guy offering Asa to someone for $10. LOL.  They told me to go get my truck and I pulled up and they FILLED the back of the Suburban... I paid $6 because I got a few things that weren't flowers and bought a bag when she wasn't looking because it felt wrong to be getting so much free.  

I went to the Post office on the way home and a special gift I ordered for another baby loss mom from Baby Rachel's Legacy had come... another reminder that Rachel continues to touch hearts.  And then I got home and got a message from someone who received one of Rachel's birthday care packages at the hospital when her baby just died.  She talked about what a blessing everything in it was and I thought... comforting with the comfort I have received... I couldn't be any of this for any of these people if it wasn't for Rachel.  

I told the kids through tears that we are starting a business to help Daddy with the bills.  They listened to me blubber about how it all came to be and all the amazing things that had happened.  I told them I was going to turn our basement into a work space and we decided to paint a picture to put down there.  

By that night, my dark and partially dirt basement became my 'office' and I started working on my new business.  I have always wanted a space that everyone I know who does crafty things has.  A space where I can leave stuff out to go back to in my free moments (whatever those are!) and keep it away from the kids.  My basement is not what I had in mind, but it will work for now.
You can see her tree by the light 

In February, when I made Rachel's kissing ball, I had put the verse from 1 Corinthians 13 about Love (paraphrased) on it.  And since Rachel's "Love Lives Here" flag had flown away, Lisa had ordered me another flag with her hands in the heart shape on it and wrote that on it.  I loved it so much, I got another one for here and they are still hanging.  Because when I stand on her grave, that's how I feel.  I feel like God's love has been POURED out on me there and my love for her has been poured out for her there.  And love remains.... even in a cemetery - and some days, especially in a cemetery.

For Rachel's 2nd birthday, I went to Ben Franklin's to buy her a bigger Christmas tree.  They were $20 and I didn't have enough money.  I bumped into a friend there and started crying about the struggle I have to keep her grave pretty (I've cried a lot there apparently!  I never knew decorating a grave would be so emotionally draining) and she slipped me a $20 to buy it.  The following year, I went back and bought another one so I could have one here that matches (you know I love to have 2 of everything for those days when I can't get there...).  Well, wouldn't you know, there was one little tree left there on Wednesday... the exact same one... I was wondering why it hadn't been snatched up, and I realized when I got home that it is missing a leg.  Some people only like perfect... but I have come to love things that others see as imperfect.  I took it home and am using it as decor in my 'office' to remind me of my Christmas baby who has everlasting life... My girl who stands tall in heaven even though she couldn't stand on earth.

Later that day, I had a doctors appointment.  I have been to this dr a few times already, but apparently never in this room....
On the wall!

yep... She was everywhere!  And my dr who I never told about my blog asked me "Are you still keeping your blog?"  I told her I was and she told me a coworker of hers told her about it and how she has read from the beginning and it's helped her so much in life, even though she has never lost a baby.  God was laying it on me thick... the message that this was not all in vain.  Rachel had a purpose... many purposes...

I was still feeling unsure if this grave decorating thing is what God really had for me.  Was all of this just a coincidence? Was it a cute idea that would never really go anywhere?  Should I go get a 'real' job where I know I'll get a paycheck and won't require me to hang out with the bugs in my basement?  Do we have the time to wait out something like this financially?  I was seeing confirmations all over the place, but what if I was hearing wrong?  I *just* cleaned out my basement so we can sell this house!  What am I supposed to do when it's time for a showing?  And then the fear of other people's opinions started... What will the people who think I obsess over dead babies and graves say about this one?!

I put the boys to bed, which is not usually my job.  Matt always does bedtime and so the fact that I found myself up there was out of the ordinary to begin with, but that I decided to read a book to them was even more unusual for me at that time of day.  I am WIPED by 5pm.  So, Isaiah picks this book that I had not read before.  It's called "I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words"... and I'm not trying to sound crazy here... but ....

I heard a different message.... I heard "Just follow ME...You don't need to know the end result, just follow Me.  Trust your Master.  I know where I'm taking you."  And somehow the red letters seemed appropriate....

So, I need a job.  Matt would prefer I not have to leave the house.  I have a basement and it's full of fake flowers.  And I don't know where this will go, but I do believe He's led me this far... so I'm going to do what any smart, hungry dog does... I'm going to follow my Master so He can feed me... and not just in the physical sense.

I went to Rachel's grave to take some photos of what I had made the other day and this was on her spot...
You may remember that when we went to pick out her grave when I was still pregnant, I looked down and there was a single yellow dandelion standing in the center of where she would be.  I remember that moment like it was yesterday.

I sent Lisa a message on Wednesday telling her the short version of the above and I wrote "It's days like this that my heart needs" but auto correct changed it to "It's days like these that my heart beats..."  and I thought it an appropriate 'mistake' - Love LIVES here.

But to top it all off, I went out yesterday to meet with someone about Rachel's Race and decided while I was there, I would stop and visit.  The dandelion above was gone... and this is what was there - literally 2 days later...
LIFE.  For as clear as a cemetery is that there is death on this earth, I have experienced so much LIFE on this sacred ground.  God shows me in a million ways that she is alive.  Dancing eternally in his LOVE.  And standing here this morning, I wondered where heaven really is... I don't think it's actually "up"... like in the clouds or something... but I don't know.  I just felt this overwhelming idea that perhaps where she is dancing isn't so far away... that being completely wrapped in His everlasting Love somehow connects us in a way that can't be divided - not even between heaven and earth.  Maybe I'm not making sense... hard to put this into words.

But anyway, I left and went to the Post Office
and in my box, was a package box key....
And in the package mailbox was a gift for Rachel's Race....
And on the back of it Lisa wrote...

And that is the story of just what 2 days in the life of Rachel's Mama is like.  I am blessed.  I am humbled.  I am thankful.  And I'm apparently officially running a home based business selling grave decor!

And so I announce.....

Find us on FACEBOOK and "Like" our page and check out what I've created so far!  And please SHARE it with your friends.

Also, be sure to enter into the drawing for our GIVEAWAY!!  It's this beautiful 4th of July Kissing Ball (only problem is I want to keep it for Rachel!! lol)  follow directions on the Birthweight Buddies page to enter!

Here's a few of them...

And I hope if I can sell some of these, I can start to work on adding a variety of items to the selection.  It's been a long 3 1/2 years of learning how to fight the weather at the cemetery.  I hope I can make grave decorating a little less of a heartache for others than it's been for me.  And in doing so, I pray I can bless my family, honor my girl Rachel, and glorify my God in heaven.

Please pray for me, for us and for Rachel's Race.  I'm going in a million different directions right now and not getting any sleep at night.  I got more sleep back when E was a new baby at home... so things are hard, but God is still good.

And in case you don't feel like that was long enough... here are a couple of older posts I just stumbled across that show me just how far back God was working out these details. They might come up at the bottom as suggested reading anyway. Apparently, I named a post 'Love Lives Here' in 2012!  That would be what I would pick for this one, but I guess I need something different now. Ha!

Love Lives Here - Sept 2012

Love Never Fails - February 2014

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Thank you! ♥ The Aubes