Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Kitchen Dance

Notice:  I've copied and pasted text here and I don't have the time or energy to figure out why it's all discolored and weird so just ignore that!  thanks! (that's some serious growth for this "Type A"!!) 

Today I kept finding myself sad.  I wasn't crying, just feeling kind of down.  I couldn't put my finger on why - until I noticed that I had posted like 3-4 things of Eden... her trying to stand, walking with a walker, and her big, beautiful smile... and I kept writing or thinking how much I miss Rachel.  It's not like that is new, but it was a bit heavier than usual.

I realized the why and wrote this on facebook:

It just dawned on me why today is a hard Rachel day... the hundreds of back to school posts... Rachel would be 5. She'd be in kindergarten this year. Yeah, I'd probably be sad if I was sending her off to school. I get that. I'm a crier. But wow, I'd give anything to be sad in the can't-believe-my-baby-is-growing-up kind of way. It sure beats the can't-believe-my-daughter-is-dead tears that even plague my tears of joy watching Eden and her siblings grow. I'm thankful for a heavenly perspective, but some days I just wish I could go back to the simpler days where watching them grow was the most "sadness" I knew as a mom. Where today, I would post a picture of my 5yo, holding one of those signs like everyone does now.. big smile, new dress, pretty shoes in a size 5, backpack on.... I miss her. God, I miss her.

Shortly after that, one of my favorite songs came on the radio and I called the kids in to dance and sing with me.  I had Ezra for the first song... Lauren Daigle...

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

 When I sing about Him not moving the mountains or parting the waters - all I can think about is Rachel.  And when I sing about His plans being good... Him knowing what tomorrow brings... that NOWHERE I go is a place He has not already stood... I think about how much that hurt.  How painful it was to wait for her death.... to bury her... to have so much of the world watching and judging as I did... and to know that He knows that pain and that He cares about mine even though His was even worse... wow.  

So at this point, Eden had asked me to hold her and Ezra and Sam (and Des) were in the kitchen being spun around by me and Eden was dancing with me.  The next song was Broken by Lifehouse. I remember as clear as can be hearing that song on the way into the cemetery one day not long after Rachel died and I literally was, as the song says, 'barely breathing'....

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

I remember blogging about it - I blogged every day, sometimes more than once a day then just to process what I was trying to carry around... my very heavy, broken heart.

I held Eden tight and just fell apart, dancing in our new kitchen.  I'm so thankful I have her - and I honestly still can't believe I do... but every great once in awhile, feeling her in my arms just breaks my heart for Rachel all over again... and yet, she is EXACTLY who I need in my arms to help me get to the other side of that brokenness.  So often when I'm holding her, I think of the verse God gave me that first week when we found out Rachel was going to die - that He will bring everything to completion... and I feel like Eden is bringing us full circle back to Rachel in so many ways, I can't put words to it.  She makes me feel like Rachel is so much closer - even though at times it hurts. It's like she is being used to break me again, so I'll heal more completely - like they do with bones if bones don't heal properly....

I cried through the rest of the song and she just put her head up against my face.  She is so, SO sweet and she knew I was sad and was comforting me.  She is a smart little lady, at only 8 months, I'd say she is going to be a compassionate person.  

The last song was Live it Well by Switchfoot.... it's a new song, but this has been my mantra since I found out about my brain aneurysm - life is short and not a day or even an hour is a guarantee, so live what you have well...  

The combination of the three songs hit me so hard... the reminder of how God doesn't always do what we want but that I can TRUST Him anyway in the first song, followed by a walk down memory lane of how bad it hurt when He allowed me to go through what I did with Rachel in the second song... and then ending with a reminder to make the most out of what I have right now.....

I am not sure I have a real great way to wrap this post up...  all I can say is that if I am honest, I've been too preoccupied for too long... like a big fat Martha, running around to get things done and not taking the time to sit at the feet of my Lord... and I so desperately need Him.  I need that communion with Him... I need to hear what He wants to say to me... I need to open His Word more often and soak it in and I need to find a way to do that realistically in the midst of this beautifully crazy and busy life I live.  And, it's been entirely way too long since I danced in my kitchen and I think I need to do that more often, too.
Reaching for me while she was dancing ♥

Carrying the Nail With Me

Well, that's a record - 2 months since I last posted....

In the last two months, I have packed up our old house, moved, and unpacked in our new home. (maybe half the boxes!)  It was no easy job and I don't want to do that again any time soon!

I always assumed leaving the house Rachel lived in with me would be hard.  It was - but not as I expected - mostly because for one, I was way too busy to have time to think and for two, if there was ever a time that she feels near me, it is now.

If you've been reading along my journey, you know what I'm talking about when I reference Rachel's nail.  It was a nail that was in my living room wall that, for a very long time, had her little purple dress hanging on it.  I didn't take it down because I felt like it would be as if I had lost hope in the possibility of her healing.

I finally took the dress down, but left the nail.  Here and there, I would hang other Rachel things on it, but the nail never came down.  It was the last thing left - that and the bouquet of daisies I left for the new owners on the counter - when we went to leave that Friday morning.

I turned around, pulled it out, and stuck it in my pocket.
If that nail represented hope in her healing - then why does it need to be left in that house?  I believe with all I am that she has been made whole in heaven with the Lord.  Her healing was in fact granted to her, and to me....  She is safe, happy, complete.

So, shortly after we moved into our new home (that has "Rachel" written all over it in so many ways!) I took the nail out from my pocket and hammered it into the basement door... ironically, in the center of what the details in the door outline as a cross.... and I hung the Hope star I hung the night before the day she was born.
It looks Christmas-y, and that's fine by me.  Christmas has brought us Jesus, Rachel, Eden...and HOPE!! 

I carry the hope of her healing with me every day - it's how I survive being without her.  I didn't leave her - or that hope - there.  I took it with me and will think about it and remember it every single day of my life until we meet again.

Ezra's 3rd birthday party - our last family photo in that home!
The last thing we did before we drove away... Rachel bear is on my lap, but you can't see it.
Seems fitting - she is with us, but you can't see her - I also like that Eden is playing with her ♥
Rachel's nail was safe in my pocket - and we are surrounded by the bulb fundraiser flowers I bought when we were raising money for her playground.
It won't be long and these photos will feel like forever ago.  We have loved and lost and grown so much in this house.  The day we moved in, we would have never seen any of that coming.  What a long, hard road.  But I know so intimately how desperate we are for Jesus, in all our weaknesses and failures - and how generous and merciful He is.  I hope I always remember how I felt sitting on that porch that morning, the humid air, the nervousness of selling this place we loved so much or the excitement over the new house we were about to buy - the laughter we had as Matt pushed the button and ran to get in the photo... being surrounded by my children, 3 of which I probably would not have if we were able to keep Rachel.  It's amazing how God unfolds our lives, a little at a time... and all we can do is take it one moment at a time and try to make the most of each of them.

So, here we go - on our next adventure.... thanking God for every day we get together and for the nail, the cross, and the hope that gets us through the days we have to spend without each other.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Goodbye Card

It's been a year since my Grandpa died.

The last time I saw him sitting up, before the cancer completely took over his brain, I had told him I was expecting again and he said to me "Good luck with your baby, I hope you have a big fat girl."

I did.  And I think he knows it.  Ironically, she was born on Christmas Eve, which all my life growing up was one day of the year we always went to Grandpa's house.

Tonight I have done a lot of reminiscing.  The awesome man he was and the horrible way he died.  I've thought a lot about how hard it is to wait for someone you love to die... and I feel like my family has had to do it way too much in the last 5 years.  First Uncle Dale in 2010, just a couple of weeks after we got Rachel's diagnosis... then we waited for her to die for four long months... then my Papa in the fall of 2014 and Grandpa just 6 months later, with their cancer diagnoses overlapping.  It's been overload watching so many people we love have their bodies shut down a little at a time, with so much physical pain.

My Grandpa was given much longer than he actually made it... which with how bad he suffered, I wouldn't have wished another day on him.  For us though, that day was dreaded and is still so, so sad to think about.  I had bought him a card, but seriously struggled with knowing which kind of card to buy - a 'get well' when he was just told he won't?  A 'sympathy' when he wasn't dead yet?  I was so overwhelmed, I was in tears in Hannaford trying to pick it.  It sat on my counter for weeks and weeks because I knew I wanted to write in it, but couldn't get myself to do it... I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

Then the call came.  My mom telling me I needed to come and see him and say goodbye.  I sat down to write, unsure if it was too late to share my heart with him.  I went over and sat next to the hospital bed in his living room... positioned in the same place Uncle Dale's hospital bed was when he died a few years earlier in that same room.  He welcomed me with "Hi Beautiful" my entire life, but this day, he looked at me when I walked in and said "Goodbye Baby."

I am so glad I got to tell him that I love him and was going to miss him because he never got to read my card.  I didn't say all the things I had written, but I cried with him and for him and held his hand and kissed his face and told him I would miss him so much.  He was so ready for the pain to stop... but had cancer not invaded his body, he would have stayed forever happily on this earth because he loved life.

So anyway, things got very difficult with family in the days following his death and I ended up taking the card home with me the next day after he was gone.  He was never going to see it and I didn't want it to be thrown away.  It's sat in my bill drawer since where I see it every time I open the desk.  I wanted to share it, realizing that only family will know what some of this stuff means, but just to explain a couple of things - my Grandpa dressed as Santa every year at the Elk's club for their Christmas party where they gave kids presents.  We knew he was Santa but my mom swore she'd kill us if we told the other kids.  He LOVED kids and kids LOVED him.  Every one of them.  And chocolate... he had a big stash of chocolate in his house and although he loved it for himself, he would let us take the last piece if we wanted it.  He said his Dr told him it was good for him to eat dark chocolate and then we'd joke about how they didn't mean quite so much.  He made sure my kids got real sugared up before returning home.  He also delivered pizza for years and when we were kids we would call up and order pizza and say "Can my Grandpa deliver it?"  And they'd say "Who is that, Frankie?"  Yep - the oldest pizza guy and he still drove the fastest....  And the last line, he often called me "kid"....

So, Grandpa... this card is for you...

I bought this card weeks ago, months ago maybe.  And it's sat here waiting for me to find words to write to somehow express what my heart wants to say to you.  And I can't find the words.  There aren't any adequate.  And I don't even know if you will be able to read this anyhow.  All I know is that you have been more to me than a "Thank you" would cover.  But, thank you for your songs, your laughter, your jokes, your chocolate.  Thank you for always being happy for me when I'm having another baby.  Thank you for being at birthdays and stopping in to say hi to me on random days when I needed a smile more than you knew.  Thank you for calling me beautiful and for giving me your gift of writing.  Thank you for your service to our country and for sharing some of your experiences with me.  Thank you for yummy meatballs and pizza deliveries.  Thank you for dressing up in a red suit to make kids smile.  If there ever was an old guy that kids love - it's you... and this Kid is going to miss you like crazy.
I love you,

I wish I would have gotten it there sooner - that maybe he could have read it or had it read to him.  But I think he knew all of these things... I hope.  I wish I could see him hold Eden.  I just know he would have been thrilled that I had that 'big fat girl' after all.  He was so sad for me losing Rachel and after he lost Dale to cancer, it was like we shared a new bond.  He was so supportive and never afraid to talk about her with me.

A couple of weeks ago, walking into church, Sam took my hand and asked if I remembered Bumpy's funeral. (that's what the kids call him)  It was rainy and I think it reminded him of that day.  I said yes and Sam responded "But now there are more baby funerals than there are adult funerals."  He had me in tears as I walked through the doors that morning.  My kids know more reality than I ever wanted to know myself.  Babies die.  A lot.  

The day of Grandpa's funeral, after we got home, there were the most beautiful rainbows EVERYWHERE.  And I mean everywhere.  They were posted all over my Facebook page.

There is hope.  Jesus conquered the grave.  And all those who call on His name shall be saved....

I believe Grandpa is with Rachel right now.  And I will not be surprised at all if God reminds us of that hope tomorrow (today!) with a rainbow.  It's a sad day down here, but I bet there is a lot of dancing going on up there. ♥

Friday, June 3, 2016

Unto the Great I AM

It's been 5 1/2 years since Rachel was born.

A long 5 1/2 years to go without holding her.

Lately I've been missing her a lot.  I have been in a pretty good place though... I feel like Eden is so much part of my journey with Rachel, it's hard to describe it.  I often want to blog about what I mean by that, but words escape me.  It's just so intense and personal - not that everything else on this blog isn't - but in a way that it's hard to properly describe.  All I can say is that God knew the exact time that my heart would be ready for and blessed by another little girl.  This is it and it's amazing.

Today I went to the gym.  I haven't been able to do much because of my blood pressure.  It goes crazy on me when I exercise.  But I have found something simple that is a great workout but a short one that keeps my teeth from buzzing and me from getting a horrible migraine (I know that sounds strange, but that's what has been happening every time I work out.) and also doesn't hurt my joints - or mess with my diastasis recti (that's a technical term for the disaster we call my stomach muscles thanks to multiple babies close together)

I hadn't yet realized it was the 3rd, but I did know I was more sad than usual.  It's funny how grief knows what day it is before I do.  June 3rd has been a hard day for me every year since she left.  I planted a bleeding heart on June 3, 2011 because that anniversary was extremely hard and my heart felt like it was truly bleeding.  Today, I found myself constantly thinking about her.  I usually listen to Jamie Grace when I work out, but today I decided to listen to Chris Tomlin. I got done exercising and as I walked down to get the kids, a song that I had picked for special music at Rachel's funeral came on and I started to cry right there in the gym.

In my mind, I was right back in my kitchen the day I picked that song for her funeral.  I was very pregnant with her and it came on and I fell apart in a sweetly painful time of worship all by myself...  Just me and Rachel...  I thought back to that day and was once again in awe of how beautifully God carried me though those hard days.  Waiting for my baby to be born and die, I was more in love with the Lord than ever before - because I needed Him more than ever before.  It hurt SO much.  Constantly.  And He loved me so well through all of that longggg and horrible 4 months and somehow made beauty out of it.  He used it.  He used me for His glory.

I asked Erik to sing that song at Rachel's service and he learned it just for her... and it was perfect...  I wanted every believer that came that day to be encouraged and every unbeliever to know why we were still standing...  I wanted people to understand why I chose to carry her to God's determined timing of the end of her life on earth.  Some didn't understand why I would put myself through that - when I was given a "way out".  And some thought I did it because I'm a Christian and had some rule that said I had to.  I believe in the sanctity of life.  I believe that every child is made by God.  I believe it's not right to take a baby's life.  But that's not why I carried her to term.  I carried her to term because she was a gift given to ME and *I* was... AM... her mother.  It is my job as a mom to care for and protect my children... at any cost to me.  And so I did.  And I would again.  And I would praise God just the same though it all.  For a God who loved me enough to pursue me in the depths of my sin and shame and bring me to Himself and welcome me into His family and give me a way to spend eternity with Him - and Rachel.... I am honored to have a chance to glorify Him through my pain.  I only wish I did it more perfectly.

I feel like the last 5 1/2 years, I have been in a grief fog that is finally lifting... and I woke up from it with 3 more kids and all sorts of health issues.... and she is still gone.  It's unbelievable how much has happened in these short - yet very long - years, including both my grandfathers dying last year.  I do feel like I'm finally getting my feet back under me, but I'm also seeing the reality of all that has happened to my family outside of my "survival mode" eyes and it's a different type of pain.  Some times when I read old blog posts, I cry for me - for the girl I used to be.  I feel sad for that girl as if it wasn't me... because I am so changed.  I am not the same person I was then.  That's a good thing.  And I know it probably sounds odd to say I feel sad for that girl, but even with it being me, I still can't fully understand how much I was hurting then because I think if it was me carrying all that pain, I would have died from a broken heart.  I don't think I could have continued to walk.  But it wasn't just me... and that's why when I read my own words, it doesn't feel like it was - because God Himself was using me... my pain... my little girl... and our journey of joy and sorrow together to show the world what He and His church can do with imperfect people.  He even showed me.  And for that, I'm thankful.

I'd give anything to go back to August 4, 2010 and hear "It's a girl!" and not have that followed up with bad news.  I'd give anything to go back to December 3, 2010 and give birth to my baby and not watch her die in my arms... to December 4, 2010 and not have to let a funeral home take her from me in the hospital.  I'd give anything to go back to the anniversaries that followed and celebrate her birthdays and half birthdays and milestones and the millions of little things in between.  I'd love to not have a blog named after her... or a non profit that pays for headstones and baby caskets and urns.

But then I wouldn't be who I am today... and although I'm still far from perfect, I can see how God used all of this, even the pain and my failures, to make me more like Jesus.  The Uncreated One... the perfect, sinless Lord who laid aside His royalty to wear a crown of thorns.  He is worthy.  He is good.  And He has victory over the grave that separates me and my baby girl for now.  Until we meet again... where will will bow together with grateful hearts unto the Great I AM.

                                                          "Uncreated One"

Holy Uncreated One
Your beauty fills the skies
But the glory of Your majesty
Is the mercy in Your eyes

Worthy Uncreated One
From heaven to earth come down
You laid aside Your royalty
To wear the sinner's crown

O Great God, be glorified
Our lives laid down
Yours magnified
O Great God, be lifted high
There is none like You

Jesus, Savior, God's own son
Risen, reigning Lord
Sustainer of the Universe
By the power of Your word

And when we see Your matchless face
In speechless awe we'll stand
And there we'll bow with grateful hearts
Unto the Great I am

Monday, May 9, 2016

Being Mom

6 years ago, on Mother's Day 2010, we announced with great excitement to family and friends that we were expecting our 4th baby.... our baby who was due on Christmas day.  Our Rachel Alice.

I still remember some of the looks... some gave us just silence... and some gave a few negative comments, such as "can't we pick a different time of year to have a baby?" and "Another one???"

Some people just don't see the point of going past two kids - and certainly 3 is enough, don't ya think?  Well, to be honest... I wanted 4.  My whole life.  And I thought that was a lot.  I wanted 2 boys and 2 girls and a white picket fence.  I was thrilled to be having our 4th... the baby who would complete our family.

I got it all...  I had it all... even the fence.

But nothing on this earth is anything but temporary.  The good, the bad, the in between. Nothing.

Each year on Mother's Day, I miss Rachel like crazy.  We always go visit her after church and I try to get a picture with the kids near her stone.  Reality is so loud on special days that I wish she were here for.

So, 6 years later, here I am.... I got the very exact thing I wanted and it was all stripped from me and it hurt and it's been a long, hard road... but I'm somehow still standing.  I've had 3 more beautiful babies since Rachel came and went... one of which was another Christmas baby!  We've certainly irritated the nay-sayers I mentioned above, I'm sure.

Another one??  Yes.  Can we pick a different time of year to have a baby??  Maybe, but as long as we don't have to also bury our baby, I don't really care what day the birth falls on.

All of these joys, sorrows, love and pain have come as part of the Mom package.  Having a child, you discover a love like no other.  Losing a child, you discover a pain like no other.

This life of mine is crazy.  It's chaotic.  It's hard.  It exhausts me every day.  My life is busy...  It's overwhelmingly demanding.  But it's also beautiful... rewarding... filled with JOY and smiles.  These kids bring me to my knees in the face of my inadequacies.  They steal my heart and run me ragged.  They have me cheering about poop, crying over chubby hands and singing about random things just so I don't look like I'm talking to myself.  I drink cold, or reheated coffee all day long.  I keep track of everything and write multiple lists every day that I never have when I need them.  I clean. non. stop and our house is still a mess and I do more laundry than I ever knew could circulate in one household.  I'm constantly on the go - and constantly needing my own mom because even though I am the one who is supposed to know what I'm doing here, I feel like I'm sure to mess everything up and need to hear her tell me I'm doing alright.  I will be absolutely lost when the day comes that I can't call my mom when I need her....  My heart aches for my family and friends who have had to say goodbye to their moms.  Moms are always needed.

Being "Mom" is a huge responsibility - a life long job.  Being "Mom" is commitment, perseverance, loyalty, protecting, advocating... unconditional love.  And that is all present in a mom even towards children who have left us much too soon.  Because being a mom... loving your children... has got to be the absolute deepest bond that exists except that between us and God himself - and it starts well before our babies are ever born into this world.

I love being a mom.  I love being Rachel's mom.  I'm thankful that having to let go of Rachel and surrender my idea of the perfect family has given me these three other children I may not have if my plan wasn't interrupted.  I'm thankful that God used her in too many ways to count to make my life richer and more meaningful.

I wish I was better at what I do.  I wish I was the mom I always thought I'd be from all those years of Early Education classes and jobs... but I'm just not.  I'm not because life is more complicated than I ever imagined - than any text book ever warned.  I never expected it to be so hard - and I never knew that hard could be so amazing.

It rained a lot today.  After we left the cemetery, we got some caramel sundaes, and the sun came out again. I posted on fb that there must be a rainbow... sure enough, multiple people shared pictures and told me of rainbows they could see from where they were.

Being a mom means some times you can't see the rainbow from where you are at... but that doesn't mean they aren't there.  It's just that sometimes as a mom, you need your friends to remind you that God's promises are true until you are able to see the rainbows again for yourself.

I thank the Lord for my mom, my children, and my friends who continue to remember Rachel and ride the waves of this journey with me.  I Thank the Lord that I am a mom... for all the joy... and even all the sorrow... and everything in between.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Dress

I've sat to write this post 3 times already.

Last night I stared at the blank screen for a long time and didn't write a single word.  I think there should probably be 3-4 different posts here - if only I had the time... the drive... the mental energy.

I'm sure if you've been around awhile, you've heard of *the* dress I had that I wanted to put Rachel in.  I bought it the week before her diagnosis when Des and I went out for my birthday.  It was on clearance for $1 and I had no idea if it was a girl yet, but the price was right.  I brought it home, and hung it on a nail that was already in my wall in my livingroom.

The next week, we got her diagnosis and when I got home from that ultrasound, this dress was the first thing I saw when I walked into the livingroom... right before I saw Desirae's 7 year old smile, waiting to hear if she was getting a sister.

That dress hung there for a lonnnng time.  I can't remember how long exactly, but it was her entire pregnancy and a long time after.  Through my pregnancy, I would look at it every time I entered the room and say to myself "Hope does not disappoint us."  It was what I held onto... that maybe - just maybe - she'd be healed and one day wear that dress.

Of course, she never did.  It hung on this wall as she died in my arms and hour away from home, never to see our home with her own eyes.

Eventually, I took it down.  The nail remained there as a reminder that God had graced me with so much hope throughout that entire time... impossible without Him... but one day I hung a picture of me holding her in the OR on it.

In the beginning of my pregnancy with Eden, God continuously called me to face my fears and "step out of the boat".  I wrote a few posts about that early on... about just how hard it was for me to be pregnant at all, let alone with another Christmas baby and with all my health issues.  One day right around that time, Sam came home from church with a project on Jesus calming the storm.  I hung it with the photo because I can't think of another time in my life that Jesus brought calm and peace in the most unexpected of places than in that delivery room as I watched her die.   And if He can do that there, it's possible anywhere.
of course this is #1243 in my photos ♥

time stamp... 12:03 ♥
If you know me, I'm not one to hang random stuff around my house.  I'm pretty into my decor looking put together.  So this nail has consistently held things that seem out of place, that only my heart really gets.

Almost 2 years ago, we moved a bunch of our stuff to a friend's attic so we could put our house on the market (again).  I put all of Rachel's stuff into a couple of big totes and even moved her hope chest out of here to make the house more spacious for showings.  I went back for her hope chest that year on her birthday - I couldn't stand not having it here.  But the other tote I left.  I actually forgot about it.  Until Eden came along.

In that tote, there was a big plastic bag with things I had for Rachel, most of which she didn't ever get to use.  The things she actually wore I had here, but I had a lot of clothes I never got to put on her...  and in that bag was *the* dress.

I sat here yesterday afternoon, looking through the bag, with Eden laying next to me... such a wide range of emotions.  I found the first outfit I planned to put Rachel in that my friend Harlee bought for her.  It was that day that she said "I guess purple will be her color!"  She bought it in October I think, and it had a bunny on it.  Odd timing for a bunny, but I didn't realize it until I pulled it out yesterday, just before Easter.  It is too small to fit Eden and never would have (and it was too small for Rachel, which is why she never wore it)... but then I found a little bunny blanket.  I had two of those - but I buried her with her lamb and kept the other lamb, so I didn't use these.  I gave one to Harlee for her daughter who was born just a couple weeks after Rachel and I kept the other.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be Eden's Easter gift from Rachel...
photo courtesy of Asa :)  and when I looked at the time stamp - 11:10  

I pulled out all of the clothes, hoping something would still be able to go on Eden, but most of it was up to 3 months and she is wearing 3-6 or 6 month clothes already.  I felt a little crazy as I laid out all the things I had for Rachel... all the things I had put into a tote that I was never going to be able to use, but couldn't get rid of.  And did I really think there was a chance I'd need that much for her??  I don't know....

But as I went through it, I realized that there were quite a few things with cupcakes on them.  Some were things my sister's friend Colleen gave me second hand, and one thing I bought.

I didn't remember that at all, but when I saw them, I realized someone else 'happened to be' sporting some cupcakes that day under her sleeper on the day I happened to go through these...
this was handed down from someone else!!
After over an hour of going through this stuff (including her scrapbook I started when I was pregnant with Asa and never touched again), I felt drained.  I guess I started to question what in the world am I doing holding onto these clothes that Rachel never wore, never would - and her siblings never would and they only take up space.  For what?  Why is everything so complicated?

And that's the feeling I was left with for the day - and the one that had me at a complete loss for how to write this post... it is that feeling that makes me question why I even still blog.  Is it possibly still helping anyone?  Does it help me?  Who is it for?  Does Rachel care?  Is my life now relevant to Rachel's Legacy?

So, as I sat there, holding Eden with the white screen in front of me, I got the urge to put her in the dress.  I had washed it earlier in the day.  I looked up at the clock and it was 10:27 ♥   For the next half hour, late in the night and alone with my 3rd little girl, I finally put a baby in *the* dress.  It's funny how I never noticed it had daisies on it until long after Rachel was gone, but it does.

She's either wondering why I'm taking pictures in the middle of the night or hoping I'm not taking her out of the house without pants - LOL

Not much of a 'dress' on this chubba wubba, but if I put some pants on under it, it will make a super cute shirt for a super cute little sister ♥

I got her back in her PJ's and nursed her to sleep...  I hate that I never had any of those late night, just me & her times with Rachel.  These are the most precious hours with my babies.  But after she went to sleep, I was having trouble sleeping.  I was thinking about the tag on the dress... it was a "Faded Glory" brand from Walmart.

Faded Glory... I wondered if the reason I stare at blank screens is because Rachel's Legacy is fading.  I wondered if maybe my words are hard to come by because I'm not the same writer with the same purpose, bringing the same glory to God.

I looked at the tag again and saw that the size said for up to 43cm.  I picked up the dress and looked at the tag inside the diaper cover. (I never realized this was a two piece, I always thought it was connected!)  It said "Rally Blue".  I don't know what made me look up the word "rally", but I did.  I looked in many different places because it has a few different meanings, but here are a few...

  • Use rally to describe that last push to finish a difficult something.  When you hit that last mile in the race and are so tired you want to quit, that's when you rally, finding strength to pick up the pace."
  • A marked recovery of strength or spirits during an illness
  • Return to a former condition
  • A quick or marked recovery after a period of weakness
  • To bring together again in order to keep fighting 
  • To rouse from depression or weakness 

 **Here I am again... another day has passed since I started this post.... I just can't get my thoughts out and it's kind of frustrating trying.  It's never been so hard for me to write before!  anyway....

We had missed our usual Good Friday visit with Rachel and so we went today.  We had to clear off some of her decor, per new cemetery rules... so we did that and we had a picnic there.  The kids played for a couple of hours and had a blast.  Me, Des & Eden went for a walk around the 'block' there together.  It was a nice afternoon together.

I tried to do our annual Good Friday photo, but boy is it hard to get a good photo with all these kids!  It's neat to see our family grow with each Good Friday shot though.

I also had Eden wear the dress...

♥ sisters ♥

I guess the reason I have such a hard time blogging these days is because I have a hard time making complete stories out of my thoughts.  And for days, this dress - and all that it meant in July 2010 through until today - has been on my mind constantly... trying to figure out what God is wanting me to hear.

I sat above the spot where my sweet Rachel's body lay, holding her little sister in her dress.  And I know that God is healing me though all these little earthly 'rallies'.  I do feel like this year, I hit a whole new bottom in my life - with all the changes that we've had in our home from Matt's job, to the kids going to school, to both of my grandfather's dying within 6 months of each other... Once again, I was brought to a place of brokenness that has led me to such sweet surrender.  A place where I needed my God more and where He revealed so much I needed to know about myself to become more like Him.

And here... just as things in all other areas of my life seem to be turning around... I found Rachel's clothes and the dress.  And it is the only thing of Rachel's that fits Eden when I did.  The one piece of clothing that continuously hurt that it remained empty... and today, it's not.

I do feel like I have been given a renewed strength and am ready to pick up the pace.  Except not in ways I would have expected.  Not in a Martha kind of way... but in a Mary kind of way.  God has put so many things on my heart for the days ahead.  Slow... relational...meaningful...purposeful days with my husband and the 6 children He has given me to watch over here on earth.  And this rally hasn't come as a result of Eden joining our family - but instead, I believe that God already knew I would be in this place when He sent her to be with me at this particular time in our lives.

He's so good.  I'm so thankful.  And I can't wait to celebrate Easter - and the truth that Jesus Christ conquered the grave!!  It's the greatest day in history...  It's the reason I'll see her again - and why I can trust Him with the details between now and then.

Thank You for the cross, my Lord.

Monday, March 14, 2016

I Go Without

For the first few years after Rachel died, I would lay down at night hoping that I wouldn't dream of her...

As a general rule, I was afraid to lay down at night because my mind had no distractions and would automatically land on Rachel - and usually I would cry.  I'm not sure why I feared crying at night so much... maybe because it feels lonely to cry in the dark....?   Maybe because things hurt more when there is nothing between your heart and the silence...?  I don't know, but I know others can probably relate.

I have had only one dream with Rachel in it since the scary dreams I had before we got her diagnosis.  It was in 2011 and I woke up feeling comforted, but a little sad.  You can read it HERE 

Still, I was afraid to dream of her.  I would ask God when I laid down to not let me dream of her because I was afraid it would either be scary or make me miss her more.  I am not usually one who tries to avoid feeling things - but this has been a consistent fear of mine - to dream of her and wake up hurting more than I already did.

Some time last year, I started to ask God to allow me to dream of her again.  I asked him specifically to let me meet her in my dreams.... I felt ready to feel what that might bring.  I was hoping He might give me a glimpse of her face... a moment of her laughter... a peek into her life...  I was hoping He might show me who she is in heaven... what she looks like... sounds like... I was hoping to feel like she wasn't dead... like she was a normal, healthy kid who never left me... like she'll be when I see her again.  I wasn't wanting my mind to bring me to Rachel in my sleep, but rather was hoping that God himself would hijack my dreams and show me her heavenly beauty.

Last Friday, I had a dream about Rachel.

This dream, though, was nothing that I had asked for... nothing I had longed for... nothing I have wanted to remember - and yet I can't get the thing out of my mind.  It's haunted me for the last 10 days.

In my dream, I told Matt I had some of Eden's clothes that I wanted to put on Rachel... so we went and dug her up.  In my dream, this was a totally normal thing to do.  We dug her up and put a board over her hole so that nobody would fall into it and then brought her home and put an outfit on her.  I'm not sure why the outfit was so specific, but it was a white sleeper that my Aunt bought for her that has little bikes, flowers, a girl and a puppy... and a touch of sparkle... but nothing pink or purple at all.  That surprises me since it's always the girly stuff that makes me wish I could have dressed her up...

I was sitting back in the hospital bed and Matt was holding her and held her up for me to see it.  I got disappointed and I said it was too small for her.  I said "She's grown since we buried her... we'll have to get a bigger size."  She looked just like Eden, but a little bigger.  We decided to keep her with us for the night so we could get her some bigger clothes.

Matt wanted to put her in Eden's sleep rocker... and this is part that bothers me.... I got grossed out.  I was like "I know she's Rachel, but she *has* been dead for 5 years and she is deteriorating and must have germs all over her."  Matt said "It'll be fine, I'll wipe her up." as he started to wipe her hands with baby wipes and her skin was coming off with the dirt.  I got really upset and said "You can't put her on that, I don't want her to get Eden sick.  Please... just go put her back in her grave.  I won't be able to sleep unless I know she is safely buried again and won't touch any of Eden's things"   He agreed and we went back to bury her again... But we couldn't find her grave.  In its place instead was my Grandpa's grave, but even that was hidden under this cement covering.   We went to a community building to try to find a shovel so we could dig her grave again and instead we found these large music makers - like the ones behind the rainbow on her Ark Playground.

And that is all I remember.  We dug up our dead baby, dressed her in clothes too small, wouldn't let her touch any of Eden's things, got to see my Grandpa's grave (hard one because he was supposed to be buried on the same family plot that Rachel is, but plans changed after he died so his grave there remains empty), I didn't hold her, I saw no life in her at all... and I woke up before I knew where her body was being kept.

Last night I was at JCPenny's and I saw the sleeper... and my heart skipped a beat.  I found myself staring at this outfit, touching it and trying to figure out why it made its way into my dream.  I hadn't even put it on Eden yet in real life.  I lifted it up and the shirt that comes with it says "I love kisses from Mommy."  My heart sank...

I have lots of thoughts on what pieces of this dream could mean... what they could be referring to... where the idea might have come from... what fears/regrets/sadness might have been floating around in my head to make the dream go the way it did... but mostly, it just makes me really sad.

The next night, I wanted to sleep with her blanket really bad - I looked over and Eden was sound asleep wrapped in it... and I had to go without.

And I guess that feeling right there is the overall memory from that dream... the feeling of her being gone... of all the things I long to see and asked of God in my dream because I long to know them... to know her... to hear, see, feel, love her... to kiss her again....

But I have to go without.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Amazon Smile Donations

You can support our non profit just by shopping on Amazon Smile.  They give a percentage of what you spend to Baby Rachel's Legacy when you pick it as your charity.

Here is a link if you are interested!


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Healing Balm

I'm not sure if I've blogged about this or not, but we decided long before Eden was born that we would not be having visitors for a while after I gave birth.  Mostly, this was because we've done this enough times to know that the first couple of weeks, rest and bonding time is crucial for healing and milk supply - and also sets us up for how the next few MONTHS will go - long after everyone else goes home.  We've done this enough times to know that visiting can be so draining and we're smart enough to know that 6 kids at home to take care of is no small task and rest would be necessary if I was going to be able to take it on.  So, despite some backlash, we set a boundary that many didn't like, but most were good about respecting.  Thank you for that.  It was a great help to us.

After Eden's scare on the 26th, I got even more serious about protecting her from germs and the drives to the hospital and back constantly really wore me out.  So once we were home for good, I didn't want to leave.

It got to be February and I still hadn't decorated or shoveled Rachel's grave and it was wearing on me.  I called my friend Ellen who lives near Rachel's cemetery and asked her if she would go with me to clean it up because it was getting dark and I don't like being there at night alone.  She did and so we went and took care of it, star gazed a bit, talked a lot,  and then I went to her house for awhile after.

She has a grandson she takes care of who was born on Rachel's birthday, same day, same year.  Since they live near Rachel's spot, I see them walking there often and have seen her a few times over the last 5 years pushing him in a stroller near Rachel's grave.  I always look and think that's how big she would be...

Ellen introduced him to me again and he very quickly responded "I love you Mrs. Aube!" which was the best thing I had heard all day. ♥  And, well, he was absolutely in love with Eden... and so when he asked to hold her, even though the only other person to hold her had been my mom (because she spent a night with us at the hospital when Eden got sent back to Maine), I couldn't say no.

He's far from looking like Rachel would... being a boy and all :)  But I could just imagine her holding her little sister and how in love she would be with her.  He was very honored to know he got to hold her first...

There are so many things along this journey with my sweet Christmas baby Eden Joy that I don't think I could have handled if I had another Christmas girl any sooner.  The timing of her arrival is just right for all these amazing moments to be moments that heal my heart just a little more each time.  Emotion comes at times when nobody else would guess it's that complicated in my heart - it's been that way all along - except more often now, the complication helps soothe the parts of my heart that would suddenly sting before without having any way of relief... It's as if Eden brought with her a healing balm for every sting, every sore spot on my heart or mind, every scar left from wounds being reopened... and just having her with me applies that heavenly balm to the exact place I'll need it, just when I do.  The pain still exists, the wounds and scars still there... I still fall apart at times.  But if there was ever a time when I felt that God was able to use the things that I'm experiencing with another child of mine to relieve some of the pain of what I'm missing with Rachel - it is now.  It is Eden Joy.  It has never been so...  this.... so... Perfect.  But it is now and I'm so, so thankful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Here's My Heart

I think you all know that I've always homeschooled my kids...  and I have mentioned briefly that this past September, I put my two oldest in a Christian school - not because I really wanted to, but more because I felt like I needed to for a few reasons.  I was hoping it would bring me relief in the pressure I feel, but I just don't think that's possible with a family my size and with the ages of our children at the moment.  About a month ago, I put Sam in public school because I have felt for a few years now that he has special needs of some sort and this year, with the new baby coming, I wasn't able to give him my all and thought the public school system would have the resources to figure out what Sam needs.

And although I know all of this needed to happen this year - and I will always do what I feel best for my kids, even if it hurts my pride - I hate it.

Our homeschool is called Undivided Hearts Academy... I named it with the verse from Psalm 86:11 in mind... Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name....  In reference to our homeschool, this meant to me that we homeschool to learn HIS ways and that by learning His ways, we learn to rely on Him - and by relying on Him, we find that he is always faithful and we remain in Him and fear Him - and the Bible says that the beginning of WISDOM is the fear of the Lord.  And I homeschooled my kids so they would become wise.  Not just book smart.

Also in the heart of that name for me. was the idea that we would not be divided.  We would be together... together physically, but also on the same page spiritually. And even Rachel was one with us because in Christ nothing - not even death - can separate us.

Every day since September I have questioned my decision.  Every day I have regretted at least once that I wasn't able to make the vision I had for my family a reality for them... for us... for God...

This past few weeks I have really been seeking God on this.  I've talked to other homeschool moms of large families on how they did it - and even tested the waters with the kids on the topic of returning to homeschool next year, but I have asked God a million times what I should do.  I just don't want to have any regrets... The pros and cons list seems obvious - but there is a part of me that envisions next year being home with just Eden and fool myself into thinking that the ability to get my house clean and feel more "put together" or whatever would somehow fulfill me.  I've bought into some of the lies that I've heard along the way... the way the world/society wants us to feel... we aren't capable of teaching our kids... we aren't enough... I can't do right by them... that I am selling them short...

I can't say I won't mess up a hundred times a day.  But I can't say I don't with them IN school either.  All I know is that when they are all here, my heart feels right.  And when they aren't, it doesn't. I know that the things they come home telling me - almost every single day - are things that make my heart swell with concern for theirs.  I know that the one hope I had was that if we all had some time apart, our relationships would be better, is totally opposite of what has happened.  But on the flip side of that, I know that God sees what I can't and that He uses EVERYTHING.  I just need to trust Him when I don't know all the answers.

So today, all of my kids were sick - except Eden so far, thank God - They picked up this horrible cold that comes with high fevers and upper respiratory problems.  I spent the day cleaning, disinfecting, trying to get them to eat, and rotating Tylenol and Ibuprofen all day.  But they were all here and we were undivided... and we had an awesome day...  we connected.

A few weeks ago, I went out shopping on a night I was missing Rachel really bad and totally overwhelmed with Matt's work schedule leaving me home alone with all the responsibilities for 70 hours that week.  I picked up two Yankee Candles that were on sale to satisfy my attempt at retail therapy.  On the way to the checkout, I stopped to look at this "You are my sunshine" sign I saw and I dropped the "Sun and Sand" one and it shattered everywhere.  Everyone looked... and there I was - the exhausted, lonely, grieving mom... out late at night buying discount candles because the distance I feel within my family since Matt's new job started and the kids started school 6 weeks after that is excruciating and it was less painful to just be alone.

I was in my bathroom cleaning today and I had lit the other candle... I don't often light candles because with boys, it's not safe, but I was knee deep in laundry and cleaning pee off the toilet so I was in there awhile.  Like every other day, my mind was going over all the pros and cons of homeschool... how I could do this without failing them... wondering where on earth my confidence went with all of this...  praying that if I go ahead and do what I feel I'm supposed to do, rather than what sounds easier, that I won't mess them up forever - and really just trying to figure out if it's God telling me this - or just me having a hard time with my kids growing up....

I finished up (my bathroom looks *amazing* right now!) and went to blow out the candle and noticed a heart dancing around.  I did a double take to be sure I wasn't seeing things... I went to grab my camera, assuming it would be gone when I got back, but it  wasn't.  Sam came in and said "Hey look, there's a heart!" - we watched it together in awe - a moment I would have totally missed with him had he been in school today.

I don't know about you, but I've never seen a candle burn like that. This photo is not edited at all - except to add Rachel's name to it.  A heart?!  I watched it for quite awhile and as it separated and came back together, forming a perfect heart once more, I just wondered if I truly believe it when I say my God is faithful?  Do I believe it when I say He is more than enough?  Do I believe it when I say that Hope in Him anchors my soul?  Do I believe that if He calls me to something that He will equip me for it?  Do I believe He is still listening... still there... still working... even when I can't hear Him?  And do I trust Him enough to wait on Him?  Do I believe, that if God changes my role in the lives of my children, that even if it hurts, that He knows what He is doing?  Do I believe that He can cover all of my failures in their lives?

Today I read Proverbs 31 and was challenged by the verse that says she laughs at the days to come... in other words, she didn't fear the future. At all.  I want to be that part of the Proverbs 31 woman.  I want to pour myself into my home and the loves that fill it up so full and do everything I can to make this place a haven for them - to make sure they know that I love them and will take care of them...that they are safe with me... to show them how our Father in heaven loves us... without fear... and I don't think I can ever fully do that if I'm out of step with God's call on my life.

Now I need to just figure out if that call has changed... or if I'm just fighting it because somewhere deep down, I don't feel adequate for the position.  But I have this burning desire in my heart to be together - undivided - with God and with my children - here and in heaven.  I feel like I'm faking my way through this school bus mom role and my heart is just yearning for the old days... This doesn't feel like me.  It doesn't feel like what I was made to do....

I've been wandering, so uncertain of so much - and I just need more of God or I doubt anything will make sense any time soon.  I'm willing to do whatever He wants me to - I am just struggling to know what that is - in so many ways.

I stumbled upon this song tonight while looking for another song I heard on the radio.  I love Lauren Daigle... this song really got me - and of course the timing was perfect, as usual.

Here's my heart Lord, speak what is true.... drive out all the confusion and noise and speak clearly to me please... You're all I have - You're everything...  You are strong, sure, life, You endure. You are good. Always true.  You are light, breaking through...  You are more than enough... You are here, you are hope, love,grace...  Here's my heart, Lord... speak what is true...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Sharing Her Blanket

I have a major case of writer's block... and usually only one hand to type with! lol.  Currently, I am sitting slightly reclined with Eden resting on my chest while I write this.

It's a beautiful thing to have "full hands"

I want to write so much - I want to tell you every detail of all the amazing things that have happened.  I want to share the special gifts I've gotten for Eden - and how Rachel was such a part of them all, even when people were unaware as they sent them.  And I want to write about every tear I have cried as I continue to miss Rachel in a very complicated and intimate way with Eden.  And I just don't have the time - or the words.

So, I'm just going to write about her blanket for now.

Her blanket, as most of you know, was an extremely hard part of my journey with Rachel.  I wanted the perfect one, but I wanted two of them so she could keep one and so could I.  I kept the one that I made that she was wrapped in at the hospital - and she is buried with an identical one that Des made.  And I have slept with this blanket every single night (except one when my sister & I stayed in Portland and I forgot it and I struggled to sleep without it) since she left me at the hospital.  I bring it everywhere with me.  It has been on every getaway, family vacation, and through every hard night with me.  It was also on my hospital bed for each of my 3 babies after her.

I often feel like a freak, 36 years old and sleeping with a blankie... I have thought a million times about how and when I will be able to stop sleeping with it.  I figured I can't use it forever...  and I wonder if I'm the only mom to do this for this amount of time.  I've tried to think of ways I could get out of the habit of sleeping with it that would be ok for my heart...

The last week of my pregnancy, I had brought it with me to one of the hospital trips and forgot to unpack it when I came home.  I remembered it, but for the first time ever, I was able to fall asleep without going to get it.

And then when Eden was born, I wrapped her in it... It's odd because picking out Eden's blanket was a huge, long process for me and really hard because I didn't know if she was a girl or boy.  And then all that, and I used Rachel's at her birth, without even thinking about it - it just came naturally.  I didn't even realize I did that until I saw the photos later.

After we got home, I would sleep with it when I slept without Eden, but that wasn't very often.  I just kept it above or beside us.  And then a little at a time, I found myself letting Eden use it.  It just so happens that Rachel's blanket is the perfect size and weight for a little girl....

This has been mostly healing for me.  But there are times, and they always catch me off guard, that just make me cry.  Today was one of them.

I pick Eden up and hold her tight and thank God through tears that she is here... I tell her I love her and then I'll hear myself say "I miss her so much."

And I do.  So much.  It never goes away.

I remember the day I bought the fabric for this blanket like it was yesterday.  I was in JoAnn's and it was PACKED.  I looked forever.  I think I was there at least 2 hours looking for fabric to make her a quilt.  I finally decided to use one that the top was already sewn into patches so that all I had to do was sew a back on it.  I stood in line with my huge belly, the rolls of fabric, and the hope sign that I put on my door the night before her birthday.

Waiting in a long line, with a huge belly, it was bound to happen....

People started asking me when I was due and what I was having.  It was only minutes before one guy made a comment about how horrible it was that I was due on Christmas and how he felt bad for the baby that her birthday would be at Christmas.  He said she wouldn't like it at all.  He said there was no worse time to have a baby - and everyone around me agreed.  Their useless chatter and laughter over their false idea of my daughter's fate had my head and heart hurting.  But they remained clueless.

It was one of the few times that I didn't tell someone about her diagnosis when I was asked so many questions.  I don't know why I stayed silent, but I think it was because I was on the verge of a total breakdown and I needed to buy that fabric.  I knew if I started talking, I might fall apart.  I knew if I told them, and fell apart, I would be in the spotlight while it happened.  I knew it was likely I'd leave before I made it thru the line with the fabric.  In my head, all I could think was "I'd give ANYTHING to be so "bothered" with a birthday at Christmas time...

And every once in a while, it hits me - I am.  I will be.

Eden is SO BEAUTIFUL.  She is just. so. pretty.  She is an amazingly easy and content baby.  She smiles ALL the time.  I'm blown away by the perfection God created in her.  She is awesome.  She also looks just like Rachel.  Of course, Rachel had the typical anencephaly type traits, like her eyes being puffed out, but when I look at Edens mouth, her lips, her cheeks... her hands and her feet... she looks *just* like Rachel.
keeping in mind that Eden is about 8-9 pounds heavier than Rachel was in this photo,
I still think the resemblance is amazing.
She has healed parts of my heart I didn't know existed.  She has been my sunshine during a very difficult and gray time in my life.  She has redefined the idea of a "rainbow baby for me".  Rather than her being the pretty thing that happened because the sun came out after the rain stopped, I see her as the very sunshine itself - creating rainbows for me through the rain and constantly putting me in a state of awe that both stops me in my tracks with its beauty - and makes me run for my camera!  LOL.  She is God's gift to me.  And I have no idea why He even sees me fit to care for such an amazing little human - 6 of them! - but I don't feel worthy of the blessing.

Over 5 years ago, I stood in line carrying the excruciating truth of the purpose for that fabric inside me. A month later, I buried my daughter in half of that fabric.  Every day since then, I've clung to the other half in her place.  Tonight, I am watching Rachel's little sister sleep wrapped in it.

What that combination does to me is hard to put into words.  All I know is that I am suddenly able to sleep without Rachel's blanket and it feels right to share it with Eden.  And I know I'm so very thankful to have another Christmas baby and I look forward to being able to celebrate each year we are given to spend with her - even at... no, *especially* at - Christmas time.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Our Pink Joy

I have SO much to share - God has been flooding me with love notes from heaven... but I just don't have time to sit down and write.  I'm realizing if I want it to happen, I'm going to have to learn how to cut things short - and I'm not good at that!

So, here is a short version of one of the things I've wanted to share since before Eden's birth...

I wrote a post on December 20 called Unspeakable Joy.  In it, I mention the Advent wreath candles and how the week of Rachel's birthday was the candle of Hope (which is purple, Rachel's color) and how on that Sunday, I was brought to tears over the realization that the candle that week (which was the week I was due) is the candle of Joy.  There are two very important details I left out of that post...

One: We knew long before I ever got pregnant that if we ever had another girl, her middle name would be Joy.

Two: After that day in church, I looked up the advent wreath and learned another amazing thing - the candle of Joy is the only PINK candle on the wreath!

My early days of pregnancy, I was pretty sure I was having a girl.  I kept my heart guarded though and tried to stay neutral.  Then at one of my later ultrasounds, the tech called the baby a "he" and I thought she had given it away.  I knew there was a chance that she didn't mean anything by it - that actually happened with Desirae too and I was surprised when she was a girl because I convinced myself they had given it away with the use of the word "he"!  

But that day in church, the reason I cried that I couldn't blog then, but can now is that when they said it was the candle of JOY, I looked at Matt and he said, with a tone as if we had been given an answer, "Emma" (which was our original girl name - that story coming soon too I hope!) and I cried because from that moment forward, I was pretty convinced it was a girl.  We even told the nurses all about this while I was walking the halls in labor... I was still amazingly surprised when she came and I finally KNEW she was a girl.  Watching the video of her birth, after you hear me thanking God that it was a girl and sobbing, you hear Matt say "wow, it's a girl... the pink advent candle..."

It was as if in that moment, we were not just recognizing, but also experiencing to a whole new level how much and how intimately God communicates with us.  How He hears and answers prayers.  How he CARES about the desires of our hearts and how perfect His timing is.  The way He weaved His story, Rachel's story, and Eden's story all together in so many ways makes me feel like I am literally holding a piece of heaven in my arms ...  and I think I truly am.

Reading more about the advent candles, I saw that many churches light a 5th candle - a white one - that is called the 'Christ candle".  It is lit on Christmas Eve and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world.

On Christmas eve, Matt & I welcomed life into our world... we welcomed life given to us straight from God... we saw His light shine and felt His love pour over us in those precious, irreplaceable, sacred moments as I labored through the pain of childbirth and the nervous anticipation of parents who had already loved and lost... we saw a miracle with our own eyes and were overcome with emotion as she breathed her first breath and let out her first cry....

"It's a girl... Thank You God..."

"Wow, it's a girl... the pink advent candle..."

And as we were lost in that moment of amazement and wonder and thankfulness - all mixed with a touch of fear that we could still lose this precious gift at any moment - the world outside the hospital was preparing for Christmas Day...  The Christ candles were being lit.  The songs of Joy and of peace and of a baby being born were being sung.  Families were snuggling in for the night and preparing to shower their families with gifts the next morning...

We didn't have the candles, the music, the trees or the presents under them... we weren't even together with all our children. (we never are...)  But on Christmas Eve, we were in the midst of the miracle of all that we celebrate within those symbolic things.  We were living it - our hearts turned inside out as we experienced the hope, peace, JOY, love and Christ our Lord that are represented in the lighting of those candles.

We were given the best Christmas gift ever since Christ Himself.  Our pink Joy ♥

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Eden's First Visit

The plan was to stop at Rachel's grave on the way home from the hospital with Eden... we left on Christmas Day, but about 3 hours later than planned - because nothing with 5 kids goes 'as planned'.

We stopped on the way home to get hot chocolates at Cumbies since it was free for Christmas.  And everyone fell apart in the truck while Matt was inside getting them.  I wanted nothing more than to bring Rachel one - but I knew it wasn't a good idea to push that and so we just went straight home.

I was okay with that, but as the days have continued to fly by, I started to feel really bad that I hadn't checked on her stuff since her birthday - and it has been well over a month now...

So yesterday, me, Matt and Eden went for her first visit to her sister's grave.  I guess it's fitting that she would meet her sister before anyone else since we haven't had a visit other than this yet. ♥  As we got close, Matt questioned which exit it was again - I said "just think how many kids we have..." (exit 7) trying to give him a way to remember it... and I started to cry.  We have SEVEN kids.  "Some people never get to have one" I said.  We are so thankful for these seven blessings from God.  May we never take them for granted, here or in heaven.

We had to do a bit of shoveling and so after Matt shoveled out Rachel, I visited by myself for a bit while he took care of a couple of other graves nearby.  I needed that time.  I often am so task oriented in setting stuff up there that I don't slow down and really just *be* there.  I cried a little as I told her about her new sister.... I wish I could see them together....

When Matt was done, I got Eden out and brought her over to meet Rachel... I hate that.  "Meet Rachel"... it's a stone... but anyway...

It was an extremely strange feeling walking away from Rachel's grave holding a tiny little girl in my arms.  I've held two other babies there and did the same type of introducing and picture taking with each of them - but this was completely different.  It was hard.  It was amazing.  It was joy.  It was sorrow.  It was everything in between - all wrapped up in just a few short steps that only took a moment or two....  and that is about all I can say about that....