Friday, July 24, 2009

Carried

It was this time last year that I decided to start a blog. The idea had been mentioned to me a few times but the timing didn't feel right. All my energy after Aubrey and Ellie's deaths went into getting out of bed in the morning anyway. The thought of pouring my heart out on a blog seemed overwhelming, so I pushed the idea to the back of my mind.

Then one day I finally felt ready.

I remember that I ended my first blog post with the word "so here I go..." I certainly didn't know where I was headed, nor did I have a plan. I was nothing more than a heartbroken mommy who knew only one thing; if I stayed where I was at I would never make it. It was time to move and for whatever reason I thought writing would take me somewhere.

Now that a year has passed I can't help but stop and take a look around. I am clearly in a different place now than I was last year. Things have certainly changed and I have certainly changed. Yet I can't help but wonder if things are actually different or if I just see things differently. Have I really moved?

As I read over my past blog posts it is clear that I have moved. I think the better question is where?I have managed to move myself all over the place. I have been down and up and back down again a thousand times. I have moved forward only to find myself falling backward over and over. Not all of my movement has been forward motion. So how did I get here then?

I know I didn't run here. After months of training and 13.1 miles in the hot sun I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon. I felt a deep sense of accomplishment and I was reminded of how much I love competing and pushing myself. But by the time I crawled in bed that night I could feel that running didn't take me where I wanted it to. I was still so sad. Running had helped heal my body, but not my heart. I still felt in the same place I had started in.

It seemed everything I tried to move myself forward left me feeling stuck. I got myself out of bed every single day, I read all the books I could get my hands on, I attended a grief support group at church, I sought counseling, I exercised...all the things I felt I was supposed to do if I wanted to heal. So why wasn't it working?

Six months after Aubrey and Ellie's deaths I didn't feel any better. I actually felt worse. It was getting harder, not easier, and I was beginning to panic. I promised my girls I would heal. I was working as hard as I could to get there, but there seemed farther away than ever. I could feel hopelessness setting in. What was the point of trying so hard when it didn't make a difference anyway? I was ready to give up. I simply didn't have the emotional energy to go on.

Left with no other options I called out to God. I wanted to heal but I couldn't seem to get there on my own. What do I do now Lord? I need help.

Let me carry you.

I didn't even realize I was trying to do it ALL on my own. I really did think that I was doing all the right things. And looking back I think that all the running and the reading and the blogging was beneficial, none of it was bad or wrong, but what was missing was rest. I needed to be carried.

True rest can only be found in the Lord. And in that rest is where healing takes place. It wasn't until I finally stopped trying so hard and let the Lord carry me that I began to experience real restoration in my soul. Truthfully I don't feel less sad. I miss my girls as much today as I did the day I let them go. And I still cry a lot. But along side my tears is a peace and comfort that I could never provide for myself. It could only come from Him.

And the truth is I am still being carried. I really wanted the one year mark to be the finish line. And when it came and went and I woke up the next morning still sad I felt deeply discouraged. This is way harder than I thought. But I was gently reminded...

I will carry you.

So I can't tell you where I am exactly in my grief or even were I'll be next. Grief is a long and unpredictable process. Losing my girls changed everything. But I can tell you how I got here. He carried me. The most important thing is not where I am anyway, but with Who. I don't have to try so hard. I can find rest on this journey. The Lord will carry me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aubrey and Ellie's Birthday Pictures

For Aubrey and Ellie's birthday I invited friends and family to the cemetery to place flowers on their headstone with me. Then we all went to my parent's house for a party. What I thought would be an emotional day full of tears and painful memories turned out to be a true delight. I was so amazed at how many friends and family members made the long drive to be at our side. It blessed me to see how many people have been touched by my girls' lives. It was such a special day that I had to share it. Enjoy the photos friends.
















Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Tool Belt

I have decided something. As I begin the second year after my girls' deaths I have decided to take a different approach. I am a woman on a mission. Last year I was more like a woman lost in the wilderness or stranded at sea. There was no plan. Simply surviving took all the energy I had and I often felt overwhelmingly lost and broken. But I am in a different place now. More importantly I am a different woman now. Although I remain a work in progress there has been a transformation is my heart that I can barely describe yet am unable to deny. Don't get me wrong, I still miss my girls. I didn't wake up one year later cured of the pain I felt as I kissed each of my girls goodbye. It is still there pricking my heart daily as I continue to learn to live without them. But along side that pain is a peace I can only describe as miraculous. With Christ as my comforter I have undoubtedly learned to suffer well. I can't wait to tell you all about it. And I promise I will...but for now I want to tell you about my tool belt.

First let me introduce myself. I should have done this a year ago and I hope you can all forgive me as I wasn't exactly thinking straight. I appreciate so much how you have joined me on this journey. So many of you have come along side me, a complete stranger to many of you, to walk with me through the darkest time of my life. And I just want us to get to know each other better. I want you to know who I am, and more importantly, who I am becoming, as this journey unfolds. And I want to know you too. I want to know who prayed for me so I can tell you that God answered (and continues to answer) your prayers and so I can say a very sincere thank you. So email me please. It would be my honor.

Ok, lets get back on track. Me and my tool belt...

I was born on March 13th, 1980, in Durango, CO. My parents named me Rachel Marie Tenpenny. I was their first child. My mom saved my life by agreeing to an emergency c-section. It is a long story, but trust me, she saved my life. It just so happened that March 13th is also my grandmother's birthday. She always jokes that I was her best birthday present. My dad has always told me this story that when I was born the nurse handed me to him and said, "This is a very special little girl." He said as soon as he held me he knew that the nurse was right, that God had a special calling on my life. Now that I am a mother I know that all parents feel this way about their children, but growing up it sure felt amazing to know that my dad felt that way about me. As you can see I was loved very much from the moment I was born. And what a blessing that love has been to me throughout my life. You see, I didn't know it then, but that was the first of all the tools God was adding to my tool belt as I made my way through life.

I have to comment here that my dad will be very proud of my tool belt analogy. I sort of stole it from him anyway. Not only is he a skilled carpenter by trade but he used to tell me how my parent's job was to fill my tool belt with as many life skills as possible because we never know what life will hold for us, but with a full tool belt we can handle anything that comes our way. As a young girl I used to smirk a little at the idea of this figurative tool belt. But with more life under by belt so to speak I value my tool belt greatly, as well as the parents that dedicated their lives to helping me fill it.

After me came two more girls. My mother had three girls in three years. And she took it all in stride. We often wore matching clothes my mom sewed for us herself and had the BEST birthday parties any kid could ask for. Mixed in with all the fun was plenty of drama any household of all girls would have. But it was all normal, healthy, and makes for funny stories. I see now that my sisters were tools in my belt all along. They both stood by me unwaveringly through my grief, and continue to do so. Those silly little girls that used to push my buttons turned out to be two of the biggest blessings in my life this past year. It is amazing how God sets everything up.

At age seven I gave my heart to the Lord. The most important tool in my belt. I know that seems young, but I was completely aware of what I was doing and vividly remember wanting Jesus to be Lord of my life. I was at my church's Kids Crusade week and I remember Salty the Parrot asking me if I wanted Jesus to live in my heart. Oh Salty. I loved that parrot.

I knocked my two front teeth loose on three different occasions. My mom didn't have a drivers license so she pulled me to the dentist in a wagon. She was amazing like that. Lesson learned: don't walk up a slide. Another tool.

I never broke a bone, but I did have my appendix out when I was 16 after being forced to run the mile at a track meet because my coach did not believe me when I said my stomach hurt REALLY badly. I did learn how to push through pain though. Tool. It was my best mile time ever. And I got stitches in my eye after taking an elbow to the face in a basketball game with boys. Dumb boys! Yet another tool.

I had braces for more than five years. Yep really. My original orthodontist retired before I got my braces off. I remember having these ridiculous arguments with my mom because she wanted me to wear my headgear to school and I wouldn't. And I had to pay for my retainer when I lost it. Irresponsibility is expensive. Another tool.

When I was 12 years old I met a man named Steve Edwards. He was my youth pastor until I was 18, and has stayed in my life ever since. This man and his wife Peggy poured into me a passion for Jesus that changed my life. Talk about filling my tool belt. Just recently I had a conversation with him to say thank you for all he invested in me all those years. He taught me God's Word, he took me all around the world on missions trips, he brought me to church camp after church camp, and he prayed for me and with me countless times. The miracle is I was listening. I really was. I didn't understand why at the time, but after my daughters died I had to dig deep into my tool belt and so much of what I pulled out were the things he poured into me all those years. Life saving tool after tool after tool.

My life has been filled with life changing experiences. More than I could ever write here. And for 28 years I put one tool in my belt after the other, not aware that there would come a time in my life when I would use every single one of them and still need more. Sure, I had used one here or there. My life wasn't perfect. And when something unexpected or difficult would happen I would reach confidently into my belt for a tool or two. But whatever it was, I figured it out, and in the end the experience only added more tools to my belt.

And then it happened. The unimaginable. My sweet babies died. Saying goodbye to my baby girls remains the single most impactful event of my entire life. More than the healthy birth of my son. More than getting married. More than anything before or since. There were not enough tools in the world to prepare me for this. I remember laying in bed at night asking God how I was ever going to get through it.

Then I remembered my most important tool...my Jesus.

I didn't have to have all the tools. I only had to have the One with ALL the tools. God was going to have to get me through this because I just couldn't. It no longer mattered that I was unprepared and ill-equipped. My Jesus had everything I needed. And when I needed a tool I no longer went to my belt, but to my Jesus. Sometimes Jesus lovingly guided me back to one of the tools in my belt inspiring me to draw on past experiences with Him and rely on what He has hidden in my heart all these years. Other times He gave me a brand new tool, a God-breathed instrument of grace, to carry me just one more step down the path of healing and restoration.

I can't lie and say that I graciously accepted all God's tools. Sometimes I didn't want His tools, I just wanted my babies back. But after lots of honest venting God would comfort my heart and convince me of His love yet again and I would accept His help. Sometimes I would set the tool to the side and just be with Him. The best thing He ever gave me was Himself. He is truly all I need.

So here I sit, a year later, with only one tool left. And no, I have not run out of tools. I have learned that I don't need my tools the way I thought I did. I only need my Jesus. I don't have to work so hard to equip myself because Jesus will. I don't have to know how to survive the deaths of my daughters because Jesus does. And I don't have to save myself because Jesus already has. My tool belt has taken on a whole new meaning to me. I guess empty is the new full.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Funeral

One year ago today I attended my daughters' funeral. I remember staring at their little tiny casket uncertain if what was happening was even real. We put them both in the same casket so that they could be together. I could not bare the thought of them being all alone. They shared a womb, it seemed only right they should share a casket too. I felt that day as though I wanted to die. I wanted to ask to be buried with them right then. But instead I just sat there, staring. My heart was broken. It was worse than a nightmare. I would never wake up to find it all a horrible bad dream. It was real. Absolutely and unbelievably real.

A slight breeze blew in mist from the ocean and for a moment the clouds covered the sun. The sunshine disappeared and left the sky dreary and gray. Where is my girls' sunshine? I asked God. And the clouds moved. The sun beamed down on us and the sky brightened. It turned out to be a beautiful day. One of the saddest beautiful days of my life.

I found this song by Watermark. I love it. I wish I could have read it at my girls' funeral but I didn't find it until my girls' birthday just a few weeks ago so it seems fitting to post it now. It says everything I want to say to them today. Everything. It is called Glory Baby.

We miss you everyday
We miss you in every way
But we know there is a day
When we will hold you, we will hold you
And you'll kiss our tears away
When we are home to stay
We can't wait for the day
When we will see you, we will see you
But babies let sweet Jesus hold you
Until Mom and Dad can hold you
You'll just have heaven before we do
You'll just have heaven before we do

Sweet little babies, it's hard to understand it
Cause we are hurting, we are hurting
But there is healing
And we know we are stronger people
Through the growing and in knowing
All things work together for our good
And God works his purposes
Just like He said He would
Just like He said He would

I can't imagine Heaven's lullabies
And what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing
Heaven is your home
And it's all you'll ever know
All you'll ever know

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sweet Aubrey

One year ago today we had to say goodbye to our little Aubrey Elizabeth. She entered heaven at 3:05 pm after two precious hours in our arms. While we held her she opened her eyes and looked at us. I think maybe she wanted to tell Ellie what we looked like. We miss her terribly. Especially today. We love you sweet girl.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sweet Ellie

One year ago today Ellie Alexandra left my arms for the arms of Jesus. We held her as she quietly drifted away, whispering I love you into her ear and showering her with tears. I remember it perfectly. We gave her all the snuggles we could. We miss you sweet girl.
 
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