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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Message from Melissa

I had to make a quick trip to Publix tonight after dinner to grab extra Easter eggs and candy. As I was checking out, I heard a young man say something about a rainbow. Naturally, I had to ask.

"Excuse me," I said. "Did you say there's a rainbow outside?"

"Yes, ma'am," he answered. "Just go outside and look towards the front of the store. It's amazing!"

I walked out, expecting to see a small rainbow but what I saw took my breath away.

It was a double rainbow, arching from one end of the store to the other. I was overwhelmed. I snapped a picture with my phone, then jumped in the car to head home. I couldn't wait to tell the girls, and I prayed that God would allow it to stay in the sky until I got home.

Those of you who know us know how we feel about rainbows. We call Lily Baker our rainbow, the beautiful rainbow that God sent to us after Melissa's death. After that horrible storm, he sent us his promise that he would never leave us or abandon us. He did "exceedingly more than we could ask or imagine" when he sent us Lily Baker to heal our broken hearts.

So each time I see a rainbow, I feel like Melissa is sending me a message from Heaven. I can't put into words how it makes me feel.

As I drove home, I cried when I realized how God had gotten my attention this time.

It's Holy Week, but I have been so overwhelmed with other things - things that truly just don't matter - that I haven't focused on what this week truly means.

Easter took on a whole new meaning for us when Melissa died. I believe in the resurrection of Christ. I believe it gives me a hope that I could never have had otherwise. I have the promise that He will never leave me in this lifetime. And better than that, I have the promise that this life isn't it.

Let me tell you something: when you have lost someone you love, that promise means everything.

Because of the resurrection of Christ, I will see Melissa again one day. I will love her. I will hold her. I will be complete. While I celebrate that promise every day, it takes on a whole new meaning each Easter.

As I pulled into the driveway, Chris and the girls were taking it all in. My sweet friend, Ashley, had called to tell them about the rainbow. She knows what it means to our family.

"Mommy, look at the rainbow!!" Lily Baker cried, pointing at the sky. Ann Catherine ran into the rain and said, "It just makes me want to dance in the rain, Momma!"

And she did.

I watched her with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. Thank you, God, for Easter.

I am so grateful for a loving God that sends me gentle reminders. Tonight's double rainbow had a double message for me from my sweet daughter. I could hear her saying during this holiest of weeks,

Mommy, I'm okay.


Mommy, I will see you again.

And the rainbow is my proof.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Trip from You-Know-Where with Me at the Wheel

The girls and I returned this weekend from a nice spring break getaway.

We went to my parents' place at the beach. Unfortunately, Chris had to work and couldn't go so my mom rode down with us and my dad met us later.

We had a great time. My kids love going to the beach and this time was even more special because we got to celebrate my niece's 13th birthday while we were there.

We came back on Saturday, just the three of us. My mom stayed so she could ride home with my dad the next day. She repeatedly asked if I wanted her to ride with us, but I turned her down. I'm a big girl, after all. I can handle this.

We set out late that morning and it was smooth sailing. The girls, armed with snacks and a back seat movie, were great.

Then we got to Prattville.

About fifteen cars ahead of me, there had been a bad wreck. We arrived before the state troopers. Suddenly, we came to a halt. A stand still. Within minutes, three state troopers buzzed by on the median followed by three fire trucks.

We weren't going anywhere for a while.

I called both Chris and my mom to let them know we were going to be tied up. People in cars in front of us were getting out and walking around. Interstate-65 North was a parking lot.

My plan had been to stop fifteen minutes down the road so the girls could use the bathroom, so I braced myself for that inevitable cry: "Mommy, I've got to potty!!" Luckily, God was looking out for their bladders and no one had to go.

After about twenty minutes of just sitting there, the cars ahead of me began to move. 'Yipee! It's over!' I thought.

Then I realized that troopers were actually leading all of us through the median so we could turn around and get back on I-65 South. They had shut down both sides of the interstates and vehicles were lined up for miles.

"I don't want to go south!" I thought. "I just came from there!"

Apparently, I verbalized this because Ann Catherine started to cry. I began reassuring her that it was okay, all the while having no clue where I was going. And I began wishing that Chris was with us.

I called him and told him they had turned us around on the interstate. He jumped on the internet to check out routes for me. Just then, I saw the exit sign for Highway 31 and I knew this would get me back to I-65 North somehow. I turned and our little backroads journey began.

Ann Catherine was still crying, scared that I had no idea where I was going. She was partly right. Lily Baker? She was in the backseat wearing headphones and watching "Mr. Popper's Penguins." She was completely clueless.

We drove for about 20 miles and came to a sign leading us to I-65. It led us through the blink-and-you-miss it town of Verbena. Even this caught LB's attention and she yelled over her headphones, "Where are we?!"

We eventually got back on 65, relieved to see civilazation again. We were just glad to be out of harm's way and the girls and I said a prayer for those involved.

Then we pulled into Durbin Farms in Clanton for ice cream. Because that's how we celebrate.

We soon hopped back on the interstate and my text to Chris said, "Huntsville or bust!" I mean, what else could go wrong, right?

As we drove through Birmingham, Chris called to tell me I was going to drive through some thunderstorms between there and Huntsville. No problem. I can handle that.

What I didn't expect was to get caught in the middle of a hailstorm.

Around the Warrior exit, the rain began. Then it turned into giant golf-ball size hail. I kid you not. Have you ever driven through a true hailstorm? I honestly thought a giant chunk was going to come crashing through my windshield. It sounded like someone was dropping giant bowling balls on top of my car. It was completely unnerving.

The sky turned black and we were being pelted unmercifully. All of the cars ahead of me began to pull over, and I followed suit. Ann Catherine started to cry again, but somehow "The Muppets" drowned out the sound for LB. Seriously, give that kid headphones and a movie and she'll miss anything.

We waited out the storm, while I promised Ann Catherine we were going to be okay. We prayed again. At this point I'm thinking, 'You have got to be kidding me!' Of course this would happen while I am traveling alone with my children.

Eventually the storm ended and we got on our merry way. Once we saw the Saturn V rocket on I-565, we all squealed with delight. We were almost home! And I had never been so ready to get there.

I pulled into the driveway, relieved to be home but another emotion ran through my body as well - satisfaction. 'I did it,' I thought. Through an interstate shutdown and detour to a thunderous hailstorm, I handled it. I got my children home safely, with a major dose of help from God.

Isn't that motherhood?

I remember the first day I was alone with my children after we brought Lily Baker home from the hospital. She was just a week old, and Ann Catherine was just 17 months old. Chris had gone back to work and my mom was gone, too. LB began to cry, which made AC cry. I couldn't get either one of them to stop, so I plopped myself in the chair with both of them in my arms and I cried too. I laugh everytime I think about it now. I'm quite sure I looked like an unshowered, hot mess as we all had our pity party together. The three of us just sitting in that chair, wailing at the top of our lungs.

I called Chris at work, just because I needed to cry to someone else. Of course, there was nothing he could do, but it made me feel better. Then guess what? Eventually someone stopped crying.

And we made it through the day.

I remember when Chris went on a business trip when LB was only four weeks old, and he left the three of us alone for the first time overnight. AC had been a trooper until then, but of course the first night he was gone, she decided to cry all night. After hours of trying everything, I eventually laid down on the floor next to her crib and silently cried too. I guess she took pity on me because she finally went to sleep, and I picked myself up off the ground and stumbled to my bed. As soon as I laid down, Lily Baker began to cry in her bassinet as she woke up ready to eat. I am pretty sure I called Chris every name in the book for leaving me alone for the week with two babies. Eventually everyone went to sleep.

And we made it through the night.

I remember the first time the girls and I left the house together. Alone. Not for an extended trip, just for a quick ride to the mall. I was armed with a double stroller, diaper bags, juice cups, snacks and a giant box of wipes and a change of clothes because you just know someone is going to have a blowout before you get there. I was slap-out exhausted before I ever put my key in the ignition. But we got there.

And we made it through the day.

And those are the days where, as a mom, you pat yourself on the back when you lay down in your bed at night and you say to yourself, "I did it."

And it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

I had that feeling as we finally arrived home Saturday night. No, I'm not crazy enough to think I did it on my own. I have no doubt that as we turned around on I-65 South and I had no idea where I was going, that God was in the front seat with his GPS. But I couldn't help being proud of myself that I had navigated my children through such a mess.

And even though I was so proud of myself for doing it without Chris' help, I had never been so happy to see him.