"He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them close to his heart, and shall gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:11

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Our Family - September 29 2012

A BIG, BIG Thank-you to these people for Gifting us with A Family Photo Shoot! (Tabatha Kahn, Angela Krebs, Karen McQuade, Lisa Klix, Michelle Potts, Rachel Friesen, Chelsey Roberts) Two years ago, a friend of a friend met us at the Rotary Flames House and did a photo shoot with our daughter Rachel. It was a day or two after Rachel went through the very first of many heart 'spells', obviously a distressing experience for all of us. The pictures she took that day are still so precious. And this Fall, we were blessed by these family pictures! The lamb stuffy in the picture was Rachel's and for us represents the truth that she is still very much a part of our family and our hearts. Thank-you Rachel Friesen for the wonderful idea of including something of hers...

A few days ago, I was looking for ideas on how to end off the second book of the Blog and have it printed. And I came across the Funeral bulletin. Now the last two pages of Rachel's story holds this family picture and the following poem. I thought it was fitting...and I like it so much that I'm going to put it here too!

Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love-

And it would be wrong to find a substitute-
We must simply hold out and see it through-
That sounds very hard at first but at the same time it is a great consolation-
For the gap-
As long as it remains unfilled-
Preserves the bond between us-

It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap-
God does not fill it-
But on the contrary keeps it empty-
And so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other
Even at the cost of pain.
The dearer and richer our memories,
The more difficult the separation.

But gratitude changes the pangs of memory
Into tranquil joy.
The beauties of the past are borne,
Not as a thorn in the flesh,
But as a precious gift in themselves.

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Thursday, October 4, 2012


I know I said that my last post was going to be the last....but something happened last night that I want so much to remember....

I had a dream. At first it was just a bunch of crazy stuff that I won't bore you with, but then there was this part of the dream when it was me and a friend, a widow in our church, standing in a tent. We were each holding two balloons and I knew they symbolized our husbands who had both died. We were told to take them outside the tent. And we tried so hard. I remember how we would think we were at the edge of the tent and we would let the balloons go, only to have to retrieve them and keep walking....and the tent was so crowded that it was hard to see where we were going.

But then, suddenly we were outside. It is impossible to describe what I saw. Rolling hills waving in a myriad of colors of browns, reds, yellows. Beauty indescribable. The bluest sky ever. I had forgotten my friend beside me. All I knew was that God was there.  And that was enough. It was like every part of need in me was completely and totally filled.

It was so achingly beautiful. And I think it was a gift from Him, my ABBA Father. October has felt like a sad month. It took me awhile to figure out why it has felt this way. Maybe because subconsiously my body remembers that Rachel had her first spells in October. A friend photographed her only a day or two after her first one. And the same friend did our family pictures this October. (a wonderful generous gift from a group of people) I love that they gifted this to us. It was a meaningful and a healthy thing for us to do. We included a lamb stuffy as a reminder that Rachel is still a part of us. I don't regret doing them at all - but I think it was one of many triggers for me this month. I miss my daughter. I wish sometimes that she could be with us. I wish I could hold her and say good-bye. I regret that I didn't have the chance to do that.

And so I have prayed this past week that God would give me a dream of her. I felt desperate for her in a way I haven't in a long time. I believe in faith that she is really well and whole but I couldn't help asking to see her. And while He didn't give me the dream I asked for, I know that He gave me Himself. He is enough. His Grace is enough for me. And one day this ache is going to be filled up for good! I am so, so glad He gave me a little taste of what that will be like!   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

He Does Not Change

I think I have always had the thought in my mind -  that once we reached the one year mark after Rachel's going to heaven day, I would write one final post.  And so, it has been on my mind this past month and a half to do so. But something else always came up or I didn't feel inspired, and perhaps it felt like I was making, yet again, one step further away from my little girl. I think I was waiting for the perfect time and it never really came. So today I decided to sit down and just write - never mind if it doesn't come out perfectly. And be ready for tears if they come. So here goes....

First, how are we doing one year (and a bit) after?
This is a hard question to answer. I think I am relieved to say that our life still feels full - full of God's goodness, our home still rings with laughter, and I have not sunk into a darkness that I feared more than the pain of loss. I think I always wondered if, when all the projects that I threw myself into to distract myself were done, that then, the grieving would really begin.  And it never did. Grieving continues but not in the way I feared. That I believe is God's grace to me.

There are times, like yesterday, when I picked up the kids scrapbooks again, and the pain of hearing the diagnosis and watching Rachel die is real again....but on most days it usually feels like a nagging sense that something isn't right. Someone is missing from our home, from our family. We are not complete.  And those of you whose children have died, know just what I mean. My kids are both in school now, and there is one question that I hear over and over. "How many children do you have?" And I still struggle every time to answer . It feels so un-natural to say "2". I have three. I am a mother of three.  And it feels like I am denying her existence by my answer. And maybe it feels tough too because I always thought we would have more than two and I feel selfishly disappointed about that. But I can't blurt out the truth every time...the retelling of our story is hard too. And so I force a smile and say  something like "I have 2 in this school."

So much has changed since the day we held our girl for the last time....I thought I'd try making a list...starting with the material, visible stuff...
1.  Our House looks so different. Rachel's nap room (and the place where she died) is now Ethan's room. It's painted blue, the color I could imagine goes well with big white fluffy clouds. The rug is now laminate flooring. Rachel's room downstairs was first used as a room for a renter, and now an office where I am typing.  It is hard for me to even picture her in this room - lying in her basinet that is now long gone.

2. I am getting better at parties, particularly where there are strangers who know nothing about Rachel.  This was so hard for me for the longest time. I have always been an introvert, but not shy. Going to a party was not a stressful thing before. But since we heard Rachel's diagnosis, it was like I 'needed' people to know about her, because she was such a HUGE part of my life. How could we talk about insignificant things like the weather, when my life was full of questions about the goodness of God, about disability and the value of a life, and especially when I knew that each time I left Rachel with Dave or someone else - that might have been the last time I saw her? My heart and my mind were *so* full, and the emotions were always just beneath the surface - it was hard to care about things that weren't  about her. I didn't want to spoil the party, so I often opted out or found excuses not to go.  It's hard to be with happy people when you feel so sad.  I am *SO* thankful for  friends who understood this and gave me so very much grace again and again.  I am relieved too - it feels like a sign of health to be able to just 'hang out' and talk about normal life stuff - it feels like a weight has slowing been lifting from my heart...

3. I have become genuinely excited for friends and family who are expecting. This surprised me and was a relief too. For a long time, I tried to be happy for them but truthfully it hurt so much too. I kept telling myself that I should be thankful to have given birth to two healthy children....But other healthy babies still were a reminder of the kind of birth I had wanted with Rachel and didn't get.  I still hear good news with the nagging sense of how things are not fair, especially for other friends who have tried years to concieve, and for those of us with sick children too - but I cannot also help thinking now of the beauty of each life. Rachel too was a gift, she was our gift. And as much as it hurts, I want that truth to keep sinking in....

4. What I write now might be one of the biggest changes....and this development is one that I have not shared publicly until now because we wanted to hold it close for awhile - and seek God's guidance on this. It is felt like a very long journey with alot of ups and downs. And there is still *so* much I will not write about here.  But I will just say that we have begun to pursue the possibility of adoption with Child and Family Services. We are scheduled for training in October. We started out pursuing private adoption but the long list of waiting parents (many of whom can not bear children) and the cost was a discouragement. We also considered concieving again and for multiple reasons, found that door closing too.

We don't know what God will do, where this will all go, but one thing I have been learning this last year is to trust God because He will show us the way. At the start of this year, my mind and heart were so conflicted and confused - trying to figure out what we should do or not do about my heart's desire for more children. Along the way - we have sensed God shutting doors, not all at once - sometimes they seemed to open and close multiple times, but I am becoming more confident that we can trust Him in each step. And even if it does not result the way that I think it should right now, we will be ok with that too. But it does feel a bit like we are stepping forward into something new - definetly something that holds challenges, probably alot more than we are ready for, but we see many reasons to keep going forward.

And so if you do respond to this, you do not need to tell us about all the challenges about adoption. If you have thought of it, I am very sure we have thought of it already. But please DO PRAY for us. For Guidance. For Patience - for example, there are things happening (Ha! like things moving too slowly for my liking!) that might really be God's hand, His timing. For Peace that is bigger than the new Genetic findings. (Genticists might have found the abnormal gene)  Dave and I have now sent blood to the states to be tested. With that information comes the possibility of our kids being carriers. I don't want this info to hinder me from living now in Today.....

I think that's all I'm going to write today....and it might be the last time. wow. What a journey it has been. Thank-you SO MUCH for walking it with us...I don't even know the words to thank you adequately for what you did for us....

I think I'll end with my favorite Hymn of the month:) I keep wanting to listen to it over and over. It expresses so much of what I believe as I look back over our journey with Rachel and as we look to the future...We will experience change, many changes of all kinds but He never changes. That is so comforting to this heart of mine."Jesus, Jesus how I trust you. How I proved you o'er and o'er. Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus. Oh for Grace to trust Him more!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Fitting Bouquet

Dave's sister Val and her husband Ravi (and son Isaiah) came to visit us on the one year anniversary of Rachel's death. They just hopped in a car and drove the 14 hours to come see us for one day! Val and Dave's mom got us these flowers. I thought the girlie lamb was just perfect!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

This afternoon we remembered how Rachel took her last breath here and went into the arms of Jesus. Dear Rachel, you were so small and yet so full of life! We miss you! You brought so much beauty to our lives!!

I stole the following picture from a Blog that a friend introduced me to awhile ago. The writer also has a son who is with Jesus and I have really appreciated her writing. I loved this plaque so much and it was the reminder I needed yesterday. To read her post click here

Thank-you Father! You never stop Rebuilding. Redeeming. Restoring. It has been a tough day here of remembering. Lots of tears. We grieve and ache for what is lost. But even then...EVEN THEN...our grief cannot cancel out the Joy you have given us.  Thank-you for never leaving us. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

She Sees the Face of Jesus

It was a hot and muggy Manitoba afternoon when we put Rachel's headstone on the grave.  It felt a bit like our final gift to her, the last thing we could do for our little girl. And being in that graveyard in the warm sun of summer also brought back memories of last August - of singing "Jesus Loves Me" with our friends and family, of Scripture read - and of lowering her body deep in the ground. Oh I long for the day when I can be with her again....

The graveyard is just a short walk from my parent's farm - behind a church in the rural community of Mennville. Three of my grandparents were buried here.  I know so many of the stories behind the headstones - told to me by my parents. And just as I walk among the stones and remember the people, the babies, the young girls, and Fathers and Mothers - I know that when their loved ones walk here, they will see Rachel's stone and know her too.  She is not lost among rows and rows of headstones. She is known here. And I found that an immensely comforting thought. 

I noticed too, how the grass had already begun growing on top of her grave, the soil already mostly settled.  I think I felt a bit surprised at how quickly this happened. And I think of how fleeting our days are - how like the grass we are - here today and gone tomorrow. I don't always feel that way - there are days that feel much too long. Even Abigail has been asking lately - "When can we see Rachel again? When?" I can't tell her a number of sleeps. I can only hold her and dry her tears and tell her that we *will* see her again. That we can trust God's promises. But even our long days here are fleeting in light of eternity. And so we wait because He helps us. 

The white letters read "In the Arms of Her Good Shepherd"
The little red memorial candle we bought in Germany is still there too, some flowers that friends (whose son died) placed there for us, and a solar butterfly from my Mom.
Later one night, we all went back to see all the solar lights lit up but there were so many mosquitos - we just took a quick look and hopped back in the car.

Isn't it peaceful looking? In the back is a little rock garden made by a family of a young woman who died in her 20's. It is a place to rest and pray, cry, remember. Rachel's grave is still the last one (the small pink stone)...there hasn't been a burial since hers.
Thank-you to those of you who prayed for us! We were amazed and blessed too to know that some of you went out of your way to visit her gravesite too! And we are glad that the task of putting a stone on the grave is done! As Dave's mom said, "now it won't look as forlorn" and we agree.  We feel too that the stone is a good reflection of Rachel's life and what we believe about Him. She truly is safe in Her Shepherd's arms. 

"Jesus loves me He will stay, close beside me all the way.  He's prepared a place for me, and someday His face i'll see . . . ."

There was one other thing that reminded me strongly of last summer. Dave's parents have a trampoline which is a HUGE hit with the kids.  And next to it is a tree with two swings - one for a baby. I'm glad they didn't take it down because I could still almost imagine Rachel sitting in it - laughing as she watched the cousins jump. She was so very happy that day. As I watched them jumping this summer, it felt like there was a big hole where our other daughter should be. It hurts so much. But that swing also reminds me of her joy and that she will never know sorrow or pain again.  And that is good. That is really good. 

July 2012