|As I lit the candle, I looked at the time - 12:03 ♥|
But then Eden and Asa both weren't feeling well and between the two of them, we were up constantly. At one point when Eden was up nursing for the 5th or 6th time between 2-6am, Matt said "This is ridiculous." Without thinking twice, I responded, "At least she's not dead."
And so began our 6th birthday without Rachel Alice... She's still not here. She's still missed. She's still changing my perspective in every day - in a million ways. She still gives me a reason to dance in the rain.
Later, I woke up and quickly looked at the clock to make sure I didn't stay in bed so late as to mess up my plans for her day. It was before 8am, so I hopped out of bed and starting getting ready. Our first stop was to be the Christmas Dove to pick out ornaments for the kids. In years past, we have had the tradition of setting up our tree and Rachel's tree, as well as turning on our Christmas lights for the season but last year I felt like the entire day was hurried and stressful so I changed things this year. We set up our tree the weekend of Thanksgiving and the lights during the week before her birthday. And I got her tree decorated and ready to go the night before.
I woke up to a gift from Matt on the counter. The card had a dandelion on it and said "It was a good day" and on the inside it read, "Because of YOU" Ironically, I decided not to read the card until that night because I was trying to avoid crying so by the time I read it, I knew we had a good day this year, too... but his words of affirmation and thanks for all I did to celebrate Rachel and share her with the world was really good for my heart. He told me he thought the "Hello Sunshine" art would be good for Eden's room, but had lots of Rachel things on it. ♥
We piled into the truck and stopped to get hot chocolate on the way to the Christmas dove.
Matt mentioned it was a nice day, which prompted me to look at the temperature. Should we be surprised?! #Godspeaksmylanguage !!
|A friend also sent me a pic of her thermometer at 43 degrees in NC - not too often NH and NC have the same temp!|
Our time at the Christmas Dove was amazing... It put my heart in the Christmas spirit, allowed the kids to be personally involved and excited about Rachel's birthday plans, gave me the ability to pick something specific to where my heart is with Rachel right now, as well as celebrate the time I have with her siblings and Daddy. I mean, it was perfect. My friend Claire works there and helped me with some decisions and personalized them for us - and then bought them for us as a gift! Not only did each of the kids get to pick an ornament, but Matt & I got a new home one and one for Rachel and then we got a sled for Eden and Ezra since they weren't with us when a blog reader bought the rest of them sleds in 2010. We also got a "1st Christmas" for Eden and dated it for last year since she was born on Christmas Eve, this is her 2nd Christmas! We picked a glittery dove that says "In our hearts forever" for Rachel. The dove reminds us of the dove that carried the fig leaf to the ark to show land was near - the hope and celebration of the end of the storm... and also our first year getting our ornaments on her birthday at the Christmas Dove!
Each year I give my kids a new, personalized ornament, usually one I made and write on myself. But I get them all matching ones because that's what *I* like. This is so awesome because when we look at the ornaments years from now, we will remember what each of them liked in 2016. This is definitely going to be our new tradition for Rachel's birthday - it was so full of meaning, yet simple.
We left there and went to Rachel's grave. I wish I could put into words what it feels like driving into that cemetery year after year - but there are not words to suffice. When the Bible talks about 'groaning that words cannot express', I think that would come close. It's just not right. It feels so wrong to drive into a cemetery on my child's birthday.
The first thing I noticed is that, once again, all the leaves have gathered at her stone. There isn't another stone near her that catches leaves like this - it makes me smile thinking of her jumping in leaves. I don't think there are dead leaves in heaven, but just like a dandelion gone to seed, a pile of leaves is one of those things that kids just love by default. I'm sure they'd make her smile too.
|and of course, right next to the leaves... a pretty dandelion ♥|
|My big girl... she's taller than me now!|
We stopped and had lunch and then came home to eat her cake. I had not planned a cake and was happily surprised to see my mom had bought this special cake for Rachel. She had it made gluten and dairy free for us. She told me the woman who made it looked at my blog to get the detail ideas and it was PERFECT in every way!
|The ballerina with daisies in her hair, the anchor, the 3 rainbows.. all of it. and it was yummy :)|
|it was the hot chocolate that caught my eye...|
It says " Whether all is calm or all is crazy, you're there..."
|"Adding a bit of heavenly peace to my world"|
I was blessed by the messages, calls, flowers, and facebook posts (starting after midnight!) reminding me that she isn't forgotten and showering this Mama's heart with love. This year was different... in many ways... but I felt like it was a good day, for what the day represents. It was over much too fast and the days that follow it are always difficult as I remember that week in 2010 when I realized the depths of pain I was going to be carrying the rest of my life. But the day did feel peace-filled. It felt right. It felt like my family was *in it* with me. It was the first time that Matt put so much thought into it and one of the few times he's vocalized that he recognizes all that I went through, yet managed to accomplish with Rachel's life and thanked me for it. I don't seek after thanks, but I'm not gonna lie, some days it is really nice to hear. That pregnancy of waiting for my little girl to die and the pain it has left in my soul is the absolute hardest thing I've endured in my entire life. And it's not over, but God is healing me a little at a time. I know complete healing will only come with heaven, but I'm very thankful for the places in my heart that have been mended.
I'm thankful for Rachel. I am thankful for who her short life has made me. I'm thankful for the big family we have, that we might have not welcomed if she had been able to stay here, for how her death shaped my beliefs and perspective. I'm thankful that I have been so used by God in the process of what some might view as only tragic, HE made it beautiful and purposeful and I got to be a part of that. It's truly special and I feel honored. I hate the pain, but my reward has been great.
Thank You, Father for Christmas babies.... Jesus... Rachel... Eden Joy...
On the way to the cemetery I heard a song that was just perfect. I'm going to end on this....