The Blaines

The Blaines
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Ellie's Big Give

Ellie's Big Give
Learn about Ellie's Big Give 2017

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Just eat another cookie



But now...I've turned on the 3rd 4th movie of the day...I'm pretty sure that exceeds that whole "1 hour a day screen time" suggested by the doctor!  We have baked, cooked, successfully made a mess, eaten, sent daddy off to work, napped, and now.....what?  Don't feel like cleaning (well I never do), I need to finish up some school work...I should probably get these kids something to eat since we ate so early...or they could just eat cookies! I can't even get my act together to type this....maybe its just time to snuggle....

ok tried that too, its not working, so I threw some chicken nuggets in the toaster oven and we are gonna call it a day...is that wrong to feed your kids chicken nuggets, on thanksgiving??  This is just the brutal truth of grief on a holiday. It's like for a few hours, we lived in this little fairy tale world, where all our family was home, we ate the typical thanksgiving meal...without any yelling!!!

Don't tell Noah I posted a pic with his glasses...he's trying to keep them a surprise!
We all smiled and helped each other out and we were sweet....and now, we are back to reality...no Daddy, its dark out and I have no more happy.

My hole is empty, nothing is filling it, except memories of thanksgiving 2013, when in my parent's basement Ellie got upset because the room was "spinny" and she wanted to crawl up on the couch. That's when life got "real".  We were told she was dying, but up until that day, we hadn't seen any evidence, she was like any other 2 year old.

I had the privilege of speaking to the local MOPS group about grief a few weeks ago.  I had never specifically spoken about grief before, so I was excited for this new territory.  It felt good to share how tough grief can be, the ups and downs, but how good God is to see you through all that. After immersing myself in all the prep for that speaking event and then speaking and talking to some awesome ladies afterwards...it took me days to recoup.  I'm always amazed at how "unprepared" I am for the big roller coaster hill that I come crashing down. I just talked about the roller coaster idea of grief and a day later, I can't cope with the emotions...easier said than done I guess.

I wouldn't have changed that opportunity for the world. We know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him. however I'm not sure how often those that are suffering get to see the good being worked out of their tragedy.  I have been given the gift for the past 3 and a half years to see the good that has come out of my circumstance.

Like last year, Noah made Ellie a place card today, and her seat was right by mine, in fact I bumped her seat over because I felt lonely at my end of the table.  Its such a sweet gesture from Noah, and I hope he never stops, but man does that thought creep right up there in my hole, and apparently its not leaving today.

So what now...one of my favorite songs, has John Piper preaching in the middle of the song, and he says to "preach to yourself these truths everyday" or something to that effect. Those words rang loud to me tonight.  These truths are that God loves me, that not all days are going to be easy, in fact I'm going to suffer some days.  God provides everything I have in this life, and uses each circumstance that he has placed us in for his good and glory. And that one day, I won't hurt anymore, I won't be sad anymore because I will live in eternity with God.  After you remind yourself enough times, there's this peace that arises and you know that no matter what, you will get through today with God's help, and then you go eat another cookie.

My prayer tonight, is for those of you who also lived with your hole today.  Who also felt that empty numb feeling, I know it wasn't easy, but you aren't alone, you are loved....just let Him love you.

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 
perseverance, character; and character, hope. 
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us". Romans 5:3-5

Prayers, Praise and Pink
~Carly

Thursday, August 11, 2016

If....3 years later

If Ellie never got cancer...

She would have started Kindergarten this week
My house would be even crazier with 3 girls in it
I'd still be afraid of hospitals
I wouldn't have some of the friends I have
There wouldn't be a hole in this family
My van would have 4 car seats
I wouldn't cherish God's word so much
Somewhere over the rainbow wouldn't make me cry
I wouldn't watch Rapunzel when I'm sad
I may have never seen the amazing hearts nurses have
I wouldn't be terrified anytime one of my kids gets a fever, crosses their eyes or sneezes the wrong way
Richard may not have started school
Christmas lights probably wouldn't be so exciting
My understanding of how God works all things for his glory, may not be so strong
I never would have stood in front of 500 people, talking about St. Jude
I wouldn't be taking my child to get slime poured on his head this weekend
I wouldn't be as grateful as I am for each day
There wouldn't be this blog
I would still stress the petty stuff
Empathy would just be a word I taught at school
SG wouldn't be praying for doctors to get the right medicine
My son wouldn't be good buddies with someone 40 years older than him and just raised over $18,000 for St. Jude
She'd be here
~ Carly

My mother in law shared this blog from three years ago today, titled "If"....as Noah and Lisa passed their goal of $15,001 last week and are marching on towards his new goal of $19,001 (which he is only $622 away from) I can only smile and thank God for these little reminders.  As tough as it is sometimes when we raise money, and all the memories it brings back, this blog is a reminder to me, of where God has brought my family from and what He has brought us through! Three years ago, I was on top of the world, Ellie was cancer free, heading back to St. Jude for another round of treatment.  I was going back to work, but I was so grateful to still have a job.  Soon our world would come crashing down, but it did not crush us, and without cancer, I may never have known what my faith in the Lord Jesus could do.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
Prayers, Praise and Pink
~Carly

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Broken

My Mother's Day/Birthday gift from Ellie, when I first got to St. Jude, was this bracelet she made with her OT, Miss Danielle.
I remember how excited she was to finish it while I was there...must have been one of my first days there.  I remember Danielle putting it on me, thinking it would never stay, but it did. I even convinced the doctors, when Lulah was born, to let me keep it on, because it wouldn't come off without cutting it. This bracelet lasted almost 3 years tied on my wrist, and then it finally happened...it broke...I was able to get all the beads and put them in a baggie, but it wasn't the same.

This happened months ago, but just the other day, while digging through a bag of goodies my mother in law dropped off, I found this stretchy bracelet string...I dropped everything I was doing and ran for the bag of beads, I knew I could put it back together now!  And then it hit me...but it won't be in the same order anymore...the order Ellie put them in.

The same, those words sat in my heart for a few days.  Was I actually okay with that?  As I realized I wasn't as upset as I thought I was, I felt like a grown up...well not a grown up, like I had done a little growing up.  This bracelet stood for my entire life.  When Ellie died, I was broken.  All my beads fell off into a million pieces.  God is the one who collected all my beads and protected them so safely.

In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream about a huge tree.  In his dream, a messenger comes "He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field." Daniel 4:14-15
The stump that gets left behind is what God is protecting, He is the iron and bronze, He knocks Nebuchadnezzar down, takes everything away from him, but He keeps His chains around him, He doesn't let him completely go, He keeps the important part, the stump and roots, because eventually, once Neb acknowledges that heaven reigns, his kingdom was restored. (How'd I do, bible study ladies?!?!)
My beads are my stump or vice versa.  I got chopped down, I hurt immensely, but God kept my foundation in tact until a time that I was ready to see that He still reigns, and He would again let my kingdom flourish, so I don't have a kingdom, but we'll say my life.
Like my bracelet that I have put back together, I am not the same. I don't have all the parts back in the same order, but I'm getting better at accepting that!  
When Ellie first died, I was terrified she'd be forgotten by everyone.  Our lives had been devoted to Ellie and cancer and that's how I identified myself, with her gone, who was I?  If we didn't sell a lot of shirts, or make a lot of money at a fundraiser, I equated that to her being forgotten.  I was feeling like a failure, I wasn't making people remember her, because we weren't raising lots of money.  When I walked in a store, people didn't know who I was anymore....failure...they don't know Ellie, she's been forgotten.  This game played over and over in my head.  I hate the question "how many kids do you have" because I never know how to answer...but found myself bringing up my kids so that someone would ask and then I could tell them about my girl.  It got a little crazy...more kids got cancer, people moved on to the next big thing, and I felt like my girl was forgotten.....my stump was as low as it could go.
But...Heaven reigns!  It's taken me 2 and a half years to realize, Heaven reigns.  I've talked it a lot, how great God is, but the hole in my heart didn't always feel that way.  I was equating God's goodness with Ellie's popularity.  As that popularity wore off, I was left with the realization that, other people's love of my daughter wasn't going to carry me through, just Jesus.  It's okay if Ellie's name isn't on everyone's lips.  It's okay if someone doesn't know who I am, or that I really have 4 kids, and you only see 3, and that I might not tell you all that, depending on the day. Its okay if I don't see a princess strong shirt everyday of the week or if I raise $10,000 for charity.  Its okay if someone slips and says I have two girls...and its okay if I'm the one who says I have two girls, it doesn't mean I love Ellie any less or she's forgotten, that's just what my life is right now.  
And Ellie isn't forgotten.  She's very present in our family, some very close friends, and even a charity bearing her name.  The important thing I must keep on telling myself is, I don't do the things I do for a facebook like or share, and I don't have to do a million things to prove I love my daughter and her memory!  
What's important is that I show up each and every day of my life trying to be the best "put together bracelet" I can be (even if its not the same as it was 3 years ago) loving the people around me, encouraging those who are hurting, praying for others, and acknowledging God in all things I do, in the end, its really all about God's light shining through me.

So the bracelet is back on, different than before, still as sweet and beautiful as the day I got it.  I even got brave and switched wrists, to the right, because "For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

Thank you Lord for putting me back together, mixed up pieces and all!

~Prayers, Praise and Pink,
Carly

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day Dirt

Mother's Day...

So not only did I get to celebrate my birthday this weekend, but also Mother's Day....it was the perfect weekend!  After a week of rain, the sun started to shine and Richard was off to enjoy the whole thing with me. I got to keep the kids outside all weekend to run off all that energy they had built up sitting inside for a week!  I was spoiled with yummy meals and deserts and beautiful kid decorations.  I think SG was more excited for my birthday then me!  I got to enjoy snuggles with my drooly nephew and watch Richard try to help Noah ride a two wheel bike.  My kids got exhausted and slept in!  I got to be back in my Sunday School class after a few weeks of being away and then serve my church in nursery.  We took off to Richard's mom's house and enjoyed more beautiful weather and family time.  It was a picture perfect weekend if you could envision one.
 All weekend I watched those three kids that call me mom play with one another and holler from time to time, and in the back of my head, I kept thinking, "where would Ellie fit into that?"  I watched monkey get passed between SG and Lulah, and wondered "would Ellie still be carrying monkey around or would she share"....but I kept on pushing those thoughts back into the dark where it came from.  I notice the space between Noah and SG and imagine Ellie's head there..."would she be taller than Noah?" Again I shake it off and just enjoy the sunshine.  

After a while, you can't push it, shake it, or hide it anymore.  The kids are all in bed and there's nothing else to fill your day with and you are faced head on with the reality of the day/weekend.  The reality that there are pictures of 4 kids on my wall...but only 3 in my house.  Its my day to celebrate being a mommy and I cannot hug one of them.....man that hurts....and the hurt exploded into a million tears.

I imagine I'm not the only one who had that experience yesterday. I'm not the only woman who smiled all day, but once the sun set, couldn't find her smile anywhere anymore.  

Women who long to be mother's, friends with no children, whose hearts must ache on this day.  Mother's who have lost their children, young and old.  I think of friends who have lost babies in the womb, who have had to explain why they aren't pregnant anymore, and the pain that must cause.  Those whose mother's are no longer here to celebrate with.  I imagine there were lots of "holes" in hearts yesterday that cannot be filled. 

This is where you dig deep. I can't say I went to bed with a sweet and happy spirit last night.  I went to bed with an exhausted soul, who still has complete trust and hope in the future God has planned for me and the promise of eternity in heaven.  I went to bed physically tried from a fun weekend, blessed with an awesome family and a longing in my heart for my Ellie.  I couldn't take my eyes of her picture last night, she's so stinking cute and I imagine what a duo she and SG would be, probably driving me even more crazy then I am right now, and putting their Daddy into a panic because of how beautiful they are!  

In times like this, my only option is to rely on the promises God has given, because every part of my flesh hurts, and relying on my own thinking is getting me no where.

"I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be strong, and may your heart be stout; wait on the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39

"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" Romans 8:28

"Let your lives be without love of money, and be content with the things you have. For He has said: 'I will never leave you, nor forsake you.'" Hebrews 13:5

I know I'm not alone, I know that He walks with me and often provides others in my path to help me get to where I need to be. I have to continue to trust that all this my family is going through, all that other families are facing, is producing in us, Hope. 

"Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." Romans 5:3-5

"Just remember, every flower that ever bloomed had to go through a whole lot of dirt to get there!" - Barbara Johnson

So this week as I cling to God's word, and put my priorities on Him, I pray for all the others out there who are going through "the dirt".  I pray that they remember God has promised us a future, an eternal life with Him...He just never promised we wouldn't get dirty....or go a little crazy!

Prayers, Praise and Pink
~Carly

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Ellie's Big Give 2016

When I set out to plan Ellie's Big Give this year, I wanted to go local, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I really wanted to find organizations that glorified God and helped others.  When mom suggested the Pregnancy Centers of Central VA, I knew I had found one!  Helping out an organization that is all about saving the lives of unborn babies and supporting moms with the love of Jesus!  Then while talking in Sunday School one morning with our class, we starting talking about giving to the homeless, and what we could provide them, I joked about making those bags for us to just hand out at Ellie's party too.  I mean we have a big family and all, but I knew there had to be a place that could hand out more than just my Blaine/Renninger crew.  And as God would have it, Richard's mom's church had started a mission in downtown Fredericksburg, I contacted them and they gladly accepted what I wanted to do!

I put it out there that I wanted to collect 50 packages of diapers and have enough stuff to make 100 blessing bags, big numbers, but hey Shine Bright or go home!  Packages starting pouring in from all over! With the sales of our tshirts alone, we raised $580 to buy supplies, people were giving my family members money to help out, it was just amazing to watch God work in the people around us!

The week before Ellie's party, snow storm Jonas blew in, dumping over 2 feet of snow in our town and even more in the areas around us, I just smiled...there's always snow on Ellie's birthday!  This lovely blizzard left me plenty of time to decorate and let my imagination run wild with all my Tinker Bell ideas.





As prepared as I was decoration wise, organizer Carly couldn't quite wrap her brain around how in the world to pack all these bags in an organized manner....I had the man power, just not the brain power! Thank goodness my peoples love me and they put up with all my ideas, and listen when I ramble, and sometimes just tell me what to do. I don't know what I'd do without them!

 (can you tell I got a selfie stick just for the occasion??)

Once we got it all figured out...for the most part, they went to work!



 They loaded up 58 backpacks and then moved on to just filling up ziploc bags with supplies! They were amazing and patient when I couldn't think (math is not my strong area!) And reminded me that God provided all this stuff, so we would figure out a way to get it to the people who needed it!

We also ended up making 30 onesies to donate to the Pregnancy Center as well!


The kids had a blast, even the tiniest of them!




Tinker Bell giggled on top of Ellie's cake and then we lit the night sky for our sweet girl!


It was such a touching evening, and I love what God moved us to do this year!  I loved all the work, all the confusion (yes I'll admit it), all the help and all the encouragement.

(good thing I got that selfie stick...that's a lot of people in my little kitchen!)

With all the extra money that was donated, I was able to order enough back packs and a few other things for us to make 122 blessing bags! As I sat there this weekend surrounded by the rest of ziplocs and socks and deodorant and back packs I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  If Ellie hadn't of entered this world, hadn't of gotten cancer, hadn't of died....none of this could have possibly happened.  If my heart didn't have this massive hole in it, my heart may not have had the passion for helping others. If Ellie's dimples hadn't wrapped so many around her fingers, I wouldn't have the ability to do this much, in Jesus name for others.  All because of cancer, all because God choose to answer my prayer in a different way, all because He loves me (and you too) my life is better.  Yup, crazy lady just said my life is better.  I have gotten to experience the most amazing unconditional love and blessings from so many. I have been given opportunities that have changed me.  I have been able to grow in ways that I don't know if I would have, without the loss of Ellie.
These past two years when we did things, be it walks, or speeches or donations, I have tended to put the memory of Ellie first. If it goes well, her name is heard more, people remember her more, I get to talk about her more.  As I mature in my grief journey (I guess that's what you call it) I've come to a clear realization that its not about Ellie....I've said that before, but I think its finally in my heart...its about Jesus.  If I raise a ton of money, it doesn't bring Ellie back, it gets us recognition, but that will be gone the next day, I hit that realization this past fall, when Princess Strong raised over $10,000 for CureSeach, I was so excited...but it was like I wanted to "win" to get Ellie's name there....the next day, it was over and I felt empty again.  I want my girl to be remembered always, but as we go into the upcoming walk season, I want my Jesus to be glorified more!

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:16-17

Thank you again, for being with me on this crazy journey of life.
Prayers, Praise and Pink
~Carly


Loaded down van with 60 packages of diapers and 30 onesies....amazing!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hello my name is....procrastination

This upcoming week, is a huge week of St. Jude events for us, one in DC and one in Fredericksburg. Both events are working hard to raise money for Childhood Cancer Research, and as I try to prepare for both events, my mind keeps wandering back to my girl.


Three years ago, I starting blogging again to keep myself sane in a cramped PICU room. Three years ago, cancer become our reality. Three years ago, I learned that I can endure anything with the strength that Jesus gives me. Three years ago, I learned the power of strangers. Three years ago, I was changed.

I look around the house now...Noah doing a school project, SG pretending to take a nap, and Lulah walking around looking for more food and dancing, and it just seems like regular life. You look on the walls you see pictures of four amazing children, on the table you see textbooks of Richard's and of course toys and dog hair everywhere. Again, it looks and actually often feels pretty normal, this is our life and I am content.

But there are these moments...where I think I can feel the hole in my heart, where you cry so hard and when you take a breath, if feels like your stomach touches your back. Where you think....what in the world is going on in my life...how did I get here....how do I keep going....how do I keep it together today for the sake of my kids....and once you get through that moment, you realize the answer to every one of those questions is "God".

Three years ago, I knew St. Jude existed....I think. I mean I'm sure I saw them on TV or heard a radioathon or something. I knew cancer existed, but mostly in older people. I knew kids got sick, but surely there were cures or at least is wasn't my problem. However it quickly became my problem, and its a huge problem for a lot of other families out there. There aren't cures for so many of these kids, however it doesn't really seem to be a priority for anyone, except those families affected by pediatric cancer. Three years ago, I never imagined I would be sharing anything about my family with other people, never imagined God would use my crazy life to try to help other families and to help raise funds for a charity. But there I go, thinking again.

I'm procrastinating two different speeches...well story sharing experiences. I know what I want to say, but sometimes its so hard to put it all in one little speech because I want to share everything about my Ellie, I want to tell every one what the Lord has done and provided and how he has carried us through. I know people aren't concerned with my every little detail, but when I cut things out, I feel like I'm taking away from her or Him. I know it will all come together....I'm just a little distracted by the many memories of this time in our lives.

I mentioned two St. Jude events this week...both brand new to me...and new makes me so nervous! The first is the Gourmet Gala in Washington DC. When this opportunity was first presented to me and I started reading about the 500 people that would be there, Noah told me I just had to do it, he would hold my hand the whole time! I decided to leave it in God's hands, and said only if Richard will come with me, thinking he wouldn't really want to go...he said yes! So we head to DC, Noah will not be there to hold my hand, but he says he will still be proud of me! The second event is a St. Jude Teen Gala in Fredericksburg. Richard and I will once again be getting dressed up and heading to this event, headed up by a group of teenagers with a passion! I get the honor of speaking to them as well, an age group I have never presented to before, but I am excited about! These teens have a goal of $10,000, and are currently only $1400 away from their goal! If you'd like to make a donation or you have a teen that would like to attend, you can visit their event page here for more information. Thanks to a generous donation, any teen can attend for free, if they raise $100 they will be entered into raffles.

Now that I've wasted enough time and I need to start dinner...SG I think is really asleep now, and Lulah hasn't found any food!

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea" Psalm 46:1-2

"I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Psalm 16:8

Giving it all to God in this upcoming week
Prayers, Praise and Pink
~Carly

Monday, January 18, 2016

Giving Big

Ellie's Birthday is fast approaching and we are once again celebrating her by giving back to the community!

The first organization we are supporting is The Pregnancy Centers of Central Virginia by donating newborn diapers, which they provide to new moms. Our goal is 50 packages of newborn diapers.

"The Pregnancy Center is a Christian non-profit organization focused on the needs of women in the Charlottesville, Albemarle, Culpeper, Orange, Greene, Madison, Buckingham, Louisa, Fluvanna and Rappahannock, Virginia Communities. We offer free and confidential pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, limited medical services including ultrasounds, and medically-accurate information on abortion, abortion alternatives, abortion procedures, adoption and parenting in a safe and private environment."

The second organization we are supporting is Courageous Faith Fredericksburg, which is a mission that is currently targeting families that live in motels in the Fredericksburg area and sharing the love of Jesus with them. They often hand out hygiene supplies and food to families in need. As we celebrate Ellie's birthday our family will be putting together blessing bags for them to hand out. My goal is 100 bags, 60 adult bags and 40 kid bags. There is an online registry with the supplies listed that we are requesting https://www.myregistry.com/public/elliesbiggive.  Things have come in from all over and we have finally organized it all and we are getting very excited!





And in a crazy last minute I created a t-shirt to help raise money for any supplies we didn't receive.  The first round of t-shirts raised $580 in 3 days!  Princess Strong people just continue to blow my mind and make me smile!  Due to the quick turn around for the shirts, a few people missed the deadline, so we have reopened the link.  The shirts are $15 each and can ordered up till February 1st.  20 shirts have to be sold in order for these to print, so if for some reason we don't sell 20, you will be refunded your money.  If you are interested, 


We will soon be celebrating in Tinker Bell style and I'm excited to once again honor Ellie's life!  We appreciate all who have donated and continue to support us!

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11

Prayers, Praise, Pink
~ Carly