The Blaines

The Blaines
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Buggin' For a Cure

Buggin' For a Cure
Learn more about Noah's fundraising goals for 2017

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Choose Joy

The day Ellie went home to Jesus, I remember the morning well. I remember the exhaustion we felt after such a long night.  I remember the frustration, wondering why God was dragging this out so long, and the numbness of just life.  I remember the quiet peace of her last breaths and I remember getting on my knees once she was gone and thanking God for the hope of heaven.  I remember all our family getting to our house before the funeral home did.  I remember thinking, if an outsider were watching all this....or if you had told me 5 years ago, this would be a seen in my house, I would have thought you were crazy.  Kids running around the living room, playing with toys, family all around and Ellie's body still here.  Yes, it sounds weird, but it was sweet.  After the funeral home came, I don't remember the rest of the day.  Maybe that's God's way of protecting our hearts, or I was just so tired...who knows.

Last year on December 22nd, I remember waking up and just having my family here, the 5 of us.  I do remember the joy I was filled with.  I know we went to the cemetery, but honestly I don't remember much of that day.  My post from last year, said we felt happy and that we were celebrating Ellie, but I posted at 10 in the morning....I don't know how the rest of the day went.

December 22nd, 2015...Started out like another lazy day together.  No one was moving too fast, still in our pj's, and snuggling.  I was reflecting back on how a few days ago I asked for prayer, when we were struggling.  The days leading up to Ellie's death are filled with lots of tough memories. Tension was high.  After I asked, I received, in a big way.  Smiles came back, we were doing better at understanding each others' attitudes and not taking offense.  We played around with the camera yesterday and took a great family picture (and a lot of bloopers!), and Richard came up with the idea to challenge others to share what gives them strength, using the hash tag #princessstrong.

We weren't moving at the pace I had hoped for, I kept thinking of all the "stuff" that needed to be done. The Christmas lights that still weren't up, the oil that needed to be changed, the laundry that was growing, the presents that needed to be wrapped, crafts that still weren't done yet.  As I found my anxiety rising, I started to find peace in all the #princessstrong posts I began to read.  I was glued to my phone reading about others' strength, honored that some people included my family in where they get strength from.  I loved reading all the praise God was getting...even as I could feel my own joy fading and my heart sinking...God was still giving me strength through all these other people.

We headed to the cemetery to bring Ellie's pink tree and decorate more sadness creeped in, this hot mess, came out all ready to go...and how can you not smile at her crazy self?!?!

 Decorations up, sweet prayers said, crazy kids running up and down the hill, mission accomplished.

As we headed home, I told Richard I don't remember last year being this tough...maybe it was the newborn baby blur...but I just don't remember it.  I went back to last year's blog and realized I posted it at 10 in the morning, so for all I know it could have been just as rough.  The rest of yesterday was filled with many more tears, Ellie's favorite dinner of dino nuggets and mac and cheese on the living room floor. watching Disney videos and mommy heading to bed at 9 because I was just so emotionally drained from the day.  My sweet boys stayed up late in the dark putting up my lights because Richard knew just how much I was missing it.  Yesterday felt empty and full all at the same time, I was so happy we were all together, but absolutely lost in my emotions. its down on "paper" so next year, on December 22nd, when I possibly can't remember how last year's here, the entire day, not just the morning.  (Note to self...Carly Marie, its okay to have a day like this...the next day, December 23rd, will come and you will feel better that you made it through another December 22nd)

I think my December 22nd amnesia is a gift from God.  If all we ever remembered was the sad stuff, life would be unbearable.  If we only ever focused on the negative and what God isn't doing and what's going wrong, there is no joy to be found. That is a conscious choice a person makes each and every day.  I agree there will be moments in life that stink and so much more.  There will be moments you cannot understand and wonder "where is God in this" but I promise you, He can be found, look at the people around you, the house you are in, the food you are eating.

Ellie's diagnosis of cancer was heartbreaking, watching her decline....tore my Mommy heart to shreds...her death, was joyous.  Because just 3 days after her death, a baby boy was born hundreds of years ago.  That baby boy was brought into this world with a purpose, just like my Ellie, just like all of us.  That boy's mommy, Mary, experienced the same heart ache I did.  She watched her son be tortured and die for all us...people she never even knew.  I'm sure as he was hanging on that cross, she wasn't jumping for joy...but 3 days later her beautiful baby boy rose from the dead and I'm sure in that moment, she found her peace, she saw part of God's plan.  You can find joy.

After Ellie's death, this moment was where I saw God's plan...

These little pink bags, painstakingly cut out with little shapes, each with a candle inside, illuminating the church the night of family night.  There were hundreds of bags, maintained by a crew that would be named Ellie's Elves.  The thought and heart that went into this effort from people I knew and from strangers, told me this life is so much more than I ever imagined. God has big plans for our lives!  I choose to see the joy, I choose to see the pink bags shining in the dark.  I choose to let the light God gave me to shine.

Let you light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Today, I pray you can find joy, no matter what is going on in your life!

Prayers, Praise and Pink

Friday, December 18, 2015

Oh Christmas Card

Did you stress your Christmas card picture this year? Oh how I did!  (I must not have done Christmas cards last year...I guess having a newborn excused all that) It's tricky to pick a picture for a Christmas card when one of your children is no longer alive.  Do I pick a picture with Ellie in it? Of course then its always going to be the same picture or pictures, and it's tough enough to think you will never have another picture of Ellie and if I do an old picture then Lulah wouldn't be in it. Do you pick a new picture that Ellie is not in physically? Then maybe someone is going to be upset, possibly me and feel like I left one of my children out. This argument must have gone on for a day or two and it was exhausting.  I finally had to go with what felt right and push aside every worry or thought about what others might say or think, and I have to say, I'm pretty happy with the outcome.

When I first saw this picture after we did family photos again with Jackie of Jaclyn Rae Photography it took my breath away.  It was perfectly us. It didn't feel uncomfortable at all, it didn't feel empty or that we had left someone out, it felt natural....grumpy Lulah face and all!
This balancing act of life after a child's death, happens all the time for me.  I often find myself trying to decide how to sign our names to a card to not make anyone feel uncomfortable but still honor Ellie's life and include her in our family.  I know I over think it, isn't that what grown ups do best?!?! Noah was Christmas shopping today, and without missing a beat, he put Ellie on his list to shop for and announced he'd go put it at the cemetery for her.  He didn't bother with the "what if it gets wet" or "what do we do with it after Christmas" or "what if SG steals it", he just went with his heart....I love that about little people!
This past week hasn't been pretty around here.  Emotions are at an all time high right now and everyone is feeling it.  As "that day" gets closer we are all well aware, and it's almost like we all need a time out! (thank goodness for Christmas break!)  As much as I love my Time Hop app, there are days it brings a huge flood of tears and pain of the memories of those last few days.  This time two years ago was by far the toughest part of our journey with cancer.  For the first time since she was diagnosed we saw her in pain, of course she wouldn't ever tell us she was in pain...and the only way to help the pain was to give her meds that made her sleepy and out of it.  We watched our spunky and spirited girl slipping away.  This is the part of cancer I do hate, the pain, the absolute helplessness you feel as a parent. Those memories come back and hurt almost as much as the day they happened.  I know these memories serve a purpose beyond tears.  Those memories also serve as a reminder of what God can do in a family.  Those memories remind me of all the people that surrounded my family and prayed and helped and prayed some more.  Those memories remind me of how out of control I felt (which was so stinkin hard for me) yet how I was finally able to let God take control.  I'm reminded of family surrounding us in a living room, just being there.  I'm reminded of the fears I had of Ellie passing away when everyone was at our house, and how good God was to me, to take her home in a sweet quiet moment with just Richard and I.  Trust me, it's through tears I type these memories and with my joyful yet holy heart (a happy heart that still has a big ol hole in it). 

 The hole still hasn't gotten smaller, in fact this year it feels bigger than last.  I don't imagine it will ever get smaller.  I do envision it like this - there's this tiara shaped hole in my heart, things flow through the hole, and take up a lot of space in the hole, but nothing is a perfect fit, and no matter how much space that thing takes up at the moment, its eventually gonna make its way through the hole...and then its empty again.   

My family is aching this week...and I only know about the people in my house.  I'm sure the family outside our doors is hurting too.  I still don't know how to help their grief, which I feel bad about....I can barely contain this household.  I feel like I should be able to listen to them and give them support and love...but I'm if I come off as "fine and cheery" please know it's the happy school counselor in my trying to be strong for every one around me.  I'm pretty sure one day I will get to the place where I can see others cry about our Ellie and help them.  I'm so grateful for that family that totally understands me (or tries to) and never gets mad or takes offense.  They get that some things are just harder for me and they are helping me learn that it doesn't have to make sense to anyone except me.  My point for telling you all this is to ask for a lot of prayers for us.  Specifically that we would give each other some space and leniency.  We'd remember we are all hurting in our own ways.  I ask for prayers of peace as well.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 
that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" Romans 8:18-28
We appreciate all the love and prayers.  I know we will get through this week.  I know the 22nd will come and I will feel sad, but I will also feel happiness because of Jesus Christ, whose birthday is just 3 days after the 22nd.  And it's because of Jesus Christ I know that I will see my daughter again. 
We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Prayer, Praise, and Pink

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Skies

If you follow my instagram, you often see the hashtag #lifeofaretailwife.  Richard has worked retail for what feels like a million years, so I am used to loosing my husband to the store around this time.  But this year was the first time he had to be in early on Thanksgiving day.  At first it felt like no big deal...but the more and more it sat in my heart it just felt all wrong.  My husband deserves a meal, my kids deserve time all together, I needed this holiday for him to be here.  So we set out to make our own Thanksgiving....not a huge undertaking...oh except for the fact, I've never cooked a turkey...much less a whole Thanksgiving dinner, with like 2 days prep time.

Noah and I set out on a shopping trip to find decorations and a thanksgiving menu.  Noah was quite upset that all the stores seemed to have forgotten that it was thanksgiving because they didn't have any turkey decor.  I had to remind him most people don't decide to cook a Thanksgiving meal 2 days before, and they probably got all there stuff a while ago!  Thankfully my trusty old Target had almost everything I needed, even some turkey window clings to make Noah happy!

After some flu shots, and a mini meltdown in Food Lion over a chicken and a turkey, and a phone call back to my mom to apologize for my mini meltdown, we were ready! 

I have to be honest, I was like a kid on Christmas this morning, who knew you could get so excited over cooking a bird...or maybe it was just the nerves of was it thawed out or not....remember I just got it yesterday! I think I read my directions a million times, said a prayer (for real, I prayed in the kitchen, for me to continue to remember what today was about, no matter what happened) and put it in the oven.  After loosing Lulah for a minute and having my first panic attack of the day, we got Daddy up and got to begin our family time! (Don't call CPS, she's a quiet crawler and had crawled herself into her room and closed the door.)  I can tell she has much of Ellie's personality, she's sweet, she listens and tries to push buttons, pretty calm and loves to eat!  

We pulled out the fine china, well  anything that's not a paper plate is fine china in this house.  With the help of crafty Noah and SG my coloring fanatic, our kitchen was perfect!

As we were setting the table, Noah ran to make another place card, he placed Ellie 's spot right beside him with a smile on his face.

We had to eat kinda quick, as Richard had to head out the door for work.  The turkey was cooked, the potatoes were ok (Noah says they were his that kid!), the gravy was yummy...who knew some turkeys come with gravy packets in them!! Richard left, and my heart felt so at peace, I knew we had done the right thing.  The plus side of eating early, you have all day to clean up! 

As the sun started to set and the sky turned this amazing shade of pink again, I cried.
It was so pretty, and like Ellie, I can't see it well enough.  There are a million trees in the way that block me from seeing the pink clearly.  To me the trees are like earth...well duh they are part of the earth, but they are what keeps me from seeing her clearly and all her beauty.  I have to look really hard to find her some days and although she's bright and in my heart, its hard to see her and remember her clearly.  She feels so close but so far away, everywhere but untouchable....kinda like the pink sky I am so in love with.
"give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" 1 Thessalonians 5:18
We pray that your Thanksgiving no matter how early or late it was, was enjoyable and filled with love, and maybe even a pink sky!
Prayers, Praise and Pink

Friday, November 13, 2015

What's your story?

I grew up knowing there was a God.  I went to church pretty regularly, I went to classes, I memorized prayers, I don't remember praying to God, I don't remember feeling like I had a relationship with Him. I went to school, life was good, I was having fun, I had friends and that's all that mattered. Went to college, still thinking life was awesome and I was invincible! Made some pretty dumb choices, God tried to give me a wake up call...and all I did was roll over and go back to sleep.  I knew there was a God, but I was definitely not afraid of Him or in a relationship with Him.

I met Richard, still knowing there was a God, probably thanked him a time or two.  Dated for a few years, thought life couldn't be better!  Had friends we hung out with all the time, jobs and debt! We got married in a church, because it just felt like the right thing to do.  We still felt happy with life, I graduated with my master's, got a job and we bought a house.  We moved to Orange, not as many friends here, loved our house, a lot more debt, but something was missing. We got pregnant with Noah, decided maybe it would be a good idea to raise our children in a church.  We had spent some time in Richard's brother's church and we loved the feeling of family there...but that was 3 hours away.  I remember being so worried about what people might think when we showed up in a church...I know its silly, but my worries you usually are.  We tried out one church, and while it felt comfortable, and I could easily blend into the crowd without being noticed, Richard felt like it just wasn't quite right. So then we tried the church down the road, it seemed small but the inside and the people made it feel huge and warm.  It felt right, so we stayed.  I remember being surprised how much they went to church, Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night...I thought that was a little crazy.  We kept going, even though at times I couldn't understand what Preacher was talking about.  I observed a lot of things I wasn't used to, that made me feel awkward and that I probably pretended I understood.  I saw people go up to the alter and pray, I saw people hug each other through tears and pray, I saw people get saved.  It was so new to me, I liked it, so I just went along with it.

My grandma passed away and I was out of town for the funeral.  Richard was visiting his brother, and then coming to be with me.  He called me that Sunday evening to tell me while at church with his brother, he had been saved.  I remember not knowing what to say, I think I was mad at him.  Mad that he did it without me and partly mad because I just didn't understand it all, I mean I was okay, wasn't I? I was going to heaven, I think.  I didn't need to do all that, going to talk to preacher, in front of a bunch of strangers...nope I was fine.  Next Sunday, I went to church by myself, Richard had to work, I sat near the back, I think it was the first time I had been by myself.  I blended in well.  I don't remember what he preached about, I just remember when he was done, my heart was about to pound out of my chest, I didn't quite understand what was happening, but before I knew it, I was in front of that church of strangers, crying and praying.  I professed with my mouth that Jesus was my Lord, asked for forgiveness of my sins and got hugged and loved by a ton of people.  

I knew what I had done was huge, I had heard about the changes people make in their lives once they are saved, but not much changed for us at first.  Noah was born, we became parents for the first time. We tried to continue living like we had before, doing the same things and that's when I started to notice the changes.  Music in our house started to change, movies and TV shows changed, language changed, the way we spent our Friday nights changed.  It didn't happen all at once, but slowly our lives changed. We became more involved in church and started teaching classes, we started being there every time the doors opened.  We were happy, we had a relationship with God now, we were learning more and more.

And then our world forever changed.  Then we had to put all that learning and changing and teaching into real life application.  It wasn't just words in the bible anymore, it was real life.  It was time to see if this was legit, was this gift we'd be given for real?  For 10 months I prayed for a miracle, but I also prayed that if a miracle wasn't in God's will that we would continue to praise Him and our hearts wouldn't be hardened.  During that time I relied on God's word more than ever in my life. This blog became my outreach. God used this to help me grow, to help me learn and to help my family and those around us grow.  Because God saved me, I have the promise of eternal life.  Because God answers prayers, our hearts never became angry, we were able to see the meaning in our trial.  Because God loves me, He protects me and blesses me with little things to lift my heart and remind me of the glory that is coming.  Because I trust the Lord, I keep moving ahead, not sure of what the future holds or where our path is going but knowing He has it all planned out!
Because God is full of grace, He has forgiven me of every sin, and holds no grudge against me. Nothing I can do will ever separate me from that.

That's my story.

I felt compelled to share.  At church a few weeks ago, we were encouraged to share our stories with our children and our classes.  Noah had recently felt "Jesus knocking on his heart" but at 7 years old, had many questions and was having trouble understanding his own feelings and emotions. So I decided to take that challenge and verbally share my salvation story with Noah.  It was fun to tell him about how nervous I was and how I didn't know anyone really at church.  I loved that he asked questions and could relate to me, it was a sweet moment for us.

I'm also part of a pretty awesome group of ladies that do bible study together.  Our class also took the opportunity to share our salvation stories.  As I looked around at all these women and shed many tears with them, one thing was overwhelmingly obvious.  God is Good.  We all go through stuff and God uses every trial for something.  We don't always see the lesson right away, and maybe its others who learn from us.  But if we never share what the Lord has done for us, or what he has brought us through, our story is never heard.  No one hears and learns and is encouraged.  I know fear falls into play often and we don't know how to say what we want to say or we are worried someone is gonna think we are crazy.  Well call me crazy (I have a two year old that almost has me certifiable) but being saved, and opening my heart to let God work through me is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me.

So I challenge you to share your story.  Share it here, share it with your children, share it with your family, your co-workers. If you don't know you story, then your challenge is to find a church to help you write that story.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13

Prayers, Praise and Pink

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Raining

When you say its raining, there's a few different ways it could be raining.  It could be pouring "there's no point in an umbrella, you're just gonna get soaked" rain. There's a steady rain, drivable, but enough to make some puddles.  Then there's that annoying rain that makes your windshield wet, but makes your wipers squeak when you turn them on.  The kind of rain us curly headed girls can't stand because it is for sure gonna make some frizz!  Rain can come with thunder and lightening,  and can make the sky scary dark.  Or it can come in and out of sunshine and rainbows. Some times we don't get enough rain and other days it feels like it just needs to stop raining! A good rain can bring such relief of a hot summer day but can cause destruction in excess.

Today its been raining for what seems like hours and hours.  That steady rain that just doesn't quit. The rain this evening just reminded me of tears and grief.  Grief, like rain, comes in so many forms.  There are moments when the flood gates open and no matter what kind of umbrella you try to put up, you are gonna get wet (and in my case I usually get tears on others). There's days the clouds just hang around all day, and all it takes is one thought, one smell, one song and it starts to pour again. There are beautiful days, that sometimes have a little rain cloud that passes through, it doesn't ruin the day, but it changes it. Some days its just nagging, you can't shake it, its not horrible, its just there, that feeling that the sun isn't gonna shine today, and maybe not tomorrow.  But that's why God made raincoats.  We can't change the weather, I can't make the rain slow down or hurry up.  I can't push the clouds away and I can't make rainbows appear in the sky.  There's always gonna be hurt and grief, that will never change.  And just like we need rain, we need the tears.  Sometimes I think people want the tears to go away, others want us to be okay.  They want us to not hurt, or they can't understand when something so small as a birthday party throws our world right back into a rain shower.  

I know grief hurts. Trust me, on a day like today, I wish it would stop raining, and just give me a break, give my heart a break.  But I know the promise of a rainbow.  

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” Gen 9:12-16

God doesn't send the rain to destroy us.  In fact after the the rain and the storms, He sends us a reminder that he won't destroy us, He's promised that. So why the rain? Why the heart ache?  Why the tears?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

God has a plan, just bring your raincoat, and maybe some tissues.
Prayers, Praise and Pink

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Own Little World

Matthew West sings a song called "My Own Little World"
In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I've never gone hungry, always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In my own little world: population -- me

I try to stay awake during Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give 'til it hurts
And I turn off the news when I don't like what I see
It's easy to do when its population -- me

What if there's a bigger picture?
What if I'm missing out?
What if there's a greater purpose?
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world

Stopped till the red light, looked out my window
I saw a cardboard sign said, "Help this homeless widow"
And just above that sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, "God, what have I been doing?"
So I rolled down the window and I looked her in the eye
Oh, how many times have I just passed her by?
I gave her some money then I drove on through
And my own little world reached population two

What if there's a bigger picture?
What if I'm missing out?
What if there's a greater purpose?
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world, ooh, my own little world, ooh

Father, break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me

What if there's a bigger picture?
What if I'm missing out?
What if there's a greater purpose?
That I could be living right now

I don't wanna miss what matters
I wanna be reaching out
Show me the greater purpose
So I can start living right now
Outside my own little world, my own little world, my own little world

2 and a half years ago, this was me.  I lived in my own little world with two children and another one of the way. I lived in my little house in Orange, VA only knowing the few people that we talked to at church.  I worked my job, often complaining about things, but never attempting to change them.  I gave to my church, but usually with a burden of "how will we afford food this week too?"  I lived in a world, knowing tragedy and hardship existed , but never experiencing it myself. I loved the Lord, but had no idea how weak my relationship with Him really was.  I lived with a husband that would hand the homeless man $10 and it made me cringe because what if that homeless man was a liar and he really had money!

Then God used cancer to open my eyes and shake my world upside down and inside out. 
Cancer had never personally affected me. It didn't run in my family, no family members had cancer, I knew of a few cases, but it wasn't "my problem" I never really cared about cancer, especially pediatric cancer, even though I had 2, almost 3 of my own children.  

February 2013, cancer became my problem, my family's problem, my friends' problem.  It affected me, Richard, our children, our parents, our siblings, our cousins, our aunts and uncles, our friends, our coworkers, our church, our town. All of a sudden I knew what words like hemoglobin, platelets, methotrexate, subcutaneous port and ANC ment. I became aware of just how many different types of pediatric cancers there were and alarmingly aware of the lack of research for some of those cancers.

I learned quickly that pediatric cancer is not profitable, pharmaceutical companies don't make money off pediatric oncology medicines and research, therefore numerous charities and organizations exist to fill the gap that is left.  I learned that those who lead the way in these organizations are parents like us, who unfortunately have learned these facts too. 

Through Ellie's cancer, God opened my eyes wide.  He allowed me to see the amazing things people will do for you when you are in need.  He pretty much forced me to accept help from others and to stop trying to do it all myself.  I learned quickly, this world is not in my control and it is not all about me or what I want.  God taught me how to pray and truly brought me to my knees.  I learned that I only need to depend on Him and He will lead the way, opening and closing doors for me.  I learned that the cancer world is full of stories of heartache and joy.  Amazingly, the cancer world is also full of God.  Full of stories of the amazing things God has done, from healing here on earth, to guarding the brokenhearted.

Two and a half years world is much larger, even though we still live in little old Orange, VA.  We have friendships now that we never had before.  My shy husband now speaks at our church, and has even visited other churches to speak.  I still work (and sometimes complain) but my eyes have been opened to how blessed I am to have that job and the motivation to try to help wherever I can.  We have experienced tragedy, we have experienced heartache, but more importantly we have experienced God's grace.  

As most of you are probably aware, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  This is my 3rd one being a cancer mom, it doesn't get easier.  It's still kinda frustrating to look around and see all these sweet children being diagnosed, to see the same cancer time after time wreck havoc on little bodies.  I guess that's what God uses families like mine and others for.  To bring about awareness, to raise funds for research to find new medicines and treatments, to raise up little scientists who one day want to find the right medicines.  Selfishly, I will admit, I like to hear my daughter's name come out of others' mouths, and maybe that's the wrong motivation at times.  God keeps reminding me lately, its not about her (I'm pretty sure I've said that before...I must not be a good listener lately).  He didn't put this desire in my heart, so that her name could be heard or her picture seen.  He put this there for His Glory, and He's allowed to be selfish! He gets the glory because on every Princess Strong shirt, there's a cross or His name or His word.  He gets the glory because we know that without Him, our family wouldn't be functioning very well right now to even be able to raise these funds for charities. 

Whoever serves, [let him do it] as one who serves by the strength which God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (l Peter 4:11)

I like my little world.  I'm still a homebody and would often rather sit around at home with the kids and do nothing. However, I'm grateful for the world that my eyes have been opened to.  I like that when we do venture out now, its with a new crew of friends for a new cause.  That crew of friends is pretty awesome, because it's a crew that I would never have known had it not been for cancer.  It's a cause I would have never cared about, had it not been for Ellie.  

Cancer may not be a part of your world right now, it wasn't part of mine 2 and a half years ago, but you never know when it could be.  If you haven't done anything for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and you'd like to, you can visit our CureSearch for Childhood Cancer walk page and make a donation to our team, in honor of your healthy kids or in memory of another.  You can also register to walk with us if you'd like to, I'd love to have you part of my little world!

Prayers, Praise and Pink
~ Carly

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Going Green

This past weekend, Noah and I, and 200 or so other people got together to support St. Jude, at Crop for a Cure.  If you remember from last post, I told you about Noah's goal of raising $3000 for St. Jude!  If he raised $3000 he got to dye his hair green, once he passed $3000 he aimed for $4000, and if he hit that, Mommy would get some pink in her hair.

I don't know if I can quite find the words to say what this past weekend meant to me.  I got to watch my son in action...although quiet action, he did it.  He wheeled his snack cart around, quietly offering beverages and snacks to over 200 ladies...and maybe a gentleman or two.

 He made it through half a gym, all by himself before his emotions got the best of him, and I couldn't help but gladly step in and help him with the rest of the gym.  I witnessed all these women, especially the Tri Deltas just open their arms to Noah, just like they have to me.

I can't leave out the guys who were right there with Noah, supporting him. 
Both these sweet men, went green with Noah...of course for a price!  The day of the crop, Noah pulled in over $600 with his snack cart, people just handing him money and selling more of his magnets!  In the end, Noah's total money raised for St. Jude was approximately $5000!

I also had the pleasure of sharing our story with this crowd.  Speaking for me, while nerve wracking is so therapeutic in a way. Luckily, right before I spoke, someone donated a massage to me, so I had 15 minutes to myself, to breathe and just relax!  Two years in a row now, I've been allowed to speak about Ellie, St. Jude and most importantly God. This year Noah inspired me to speak about being courageous...and in true courageous Noahman fashion, when I began to tear up while speaking, he put his arm around me.  This child's heart is so big. You can read the speech here

Let your light shine before men, so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5:16

All these fundraisers are not about me.  And for a minute this time around, my vision got a little blurry about what these are all about.  I got in a little wrapped up in thinking this was about Ellie, and if people weren't donating it must mean Ellie isn't important to them. That's when God had a little "talking to" with me, through a normal chat with my mom.  I was sharing frustrations, and for the first time I really heard what I was saying.  It's not about me or Ellie.  It's not about her memory. It's about representing the Lord through my words and actions.  It's about helping others and expecting nothing in return.  The joy I get from talking about Ellie is just a nice side gift that God gives to me. The funny part is (or should we say the God part) that once I let go of my "stinking thinking" and got my brain on straight donations starting going up and up. And I'm proud to say that the Crop for a Cure's soft total raised for this 10th annual event was $57,726.42!  That's God bringing a ton of people together from all over to raise money for His children!

Thank you all so much for helping Noah go green, for giving Mommy a reality check and for allowing us to shine in your lives!  We love you all!

Prayers, Praise and Pink

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hurry Up and Slow Down

I'm staring at a mess of a house, listening to pretty much quiet, watching Noah finish up things for Crop for a Cure, thinking about the things I need to finish before Monday, almost ready to cry because my summer is two days away from being over.  I remember back in June, desperately waiting for summer vacation to get here, and now its done.  I look back over the past 6 weeks, and think what did we do (besides make the mess I'm staring at)?  I know we went on vacation, I know I took the kids swimming, I know Richard worked a ton, and oh yeah welcomed my new nephew! (He loves me so much, I can tell already!)

Life is still moving faster than the speed of light or sound, or something like's just going too fast!  Lulah has finally mastered crawling, after a month of dragging herself backwards all over the place.
She is still very mild mannered (hope I didn't jinx that) with the sweetest toothy smile.  I sure am going to miss her when I head back on Monday!  Her crawling just really got me thinking about how much we want things to hurry up and happen.  Her pushing herself backwards all over was getting really frustrating to her, she kept getting stuck in places and could not get out.  I found myself having to go rescue her often, thinking "I wish you'd just go forward".  Now she does, she's reached another milestone, and now I find myself wishing for those moments where I knew she couldn't get into anything.  We wish, we want, we get, we wish for something else, we get, we are happy, we want something else.  I'm sure all parents go through this, but today its just on my heart that I may not be taking the time to truly appreciate what my children are doing, I may be spending too much time wishing their behaviors away instead of trying to enjoy the time I have with them. And now that time is over with school starting back!

Ahhhhh....I feel like I'm getting a little too deep!  Need to laugh!
 Speaking of deep...look who took to swimming like a pro!  SG is still SG, over the summer she has grown, along with her the point that sometimes I wonder if this is really what 2 year old little girls are like!?!?!  Ellie was two, but I guess I just didn't realize how mature she had become.  SG likes to test boundaries and her vocal chords.  She can also be with sweetest snuggler you've ever met.  She uses some of the same phrases as Ellie, and you just know that that is gift from God, because there is no way she would have known that.  She has also named some of Ellie's old stuffed animals "Ellie". She puts Ellie in time out, tells her no, dances with her and sleeps with her some times.  It makes me giggle to think that this may have been similar to their real life relationship.

And let's not leave out Noah! I think he's growing vertically! We've had to get rid of some more clothes, much to his dismay!  And the boy who cried at the end of first grade because he didn't want it to end, is now pretty excited for second grade to start!
School supplies have been bought, struggles over new backpacks and pencils pouches have been had, and now he gets a week with Mrs. Kelly and the girls before he heads down the hall to second grade.  He told me "I'm not nervous at all!"  This summer he's gotten pretty excited about his St. Jude Fundraising!  Noah Goes Green has really taken off!  He's sold crafts at a Crop for a Cure craft sale, sold old toys at a yard sale and has continued to make thank yous for donors and post pictures of he and Ellie.  He met his $3000 goal last week, and his first words to me were, "What do you think I can do when I raise $4000?"  I love that he gets excited about these things, that he cares, and its just not me motivating him to do things. So Richard suggested that he would get a green mohawk if Noah did at $4000...that had Noah in tears...his "by the rules" self couldn't handle the thought of a mohawk!  So I told Noah I'd love to get in on the action and get some pink in my hair.  He thought that was pretty awesome, and now we are a little over $400 away from $4000! So now I've hijacked his facebook page and I'm writing the thank yous and posting the pics! It's been fun, and as much as I wish it would hurry up and get here, I'm really trying to enjoy the time spent together!

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" Psalm 90:12
What should we take out of each day? The temper tantrums? The bills? The dirty house? The fact you have to go back to work in two days? Or the snuggles, the smiles, the conversations, the silly selfies, the little milestones that you will never get back!  What do I want my children to remember about these days?  What do I want to teach them in the short days we have here on this earth?  I want to teach them how precious life is, a gift from God and we can't waste it, cleaning (oh darn), we are meant to use this life to love others and do good for others, just like Jesus did for us! So easy to type, a struggle to live out some days!  

My favorite goldfish munchers are requesting a movie...and I'm going to say yes...and I may just make myself sit here with them and watch!

Prayers, Praise and Pink

Our online auction for CureSearch is in full swing, ends tomorrow night (8/2)!  Some super nice items to check out!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

You know us...just raising some money!

We have so much going on for fundraising, that I just had to put it all in one place!

I will be hosting an online auction again this year, these have always done so well for raising money, so we are doing it again!  Previous auction items have been jewelry, Scentsy items, books, photography services, scrapbooking items, and gift certificates.  The auction will be July 31st through August 2nd, and I'm searching for people who would like to donate an item or a service.  If you are interested, please click here.  It will take you to the form to fill out if you are interested.

Thermal Lunch Box Fundraiser in memory of Ellie! My friend Jessica will be donating 100% of the commission from the sale of these thermals to CureSearch for Childrens' Cancer in Team Princess Strong's name! I hope you help us out! To order one of these... it's simple!! They are $25.00 each including shipping and tax!
Just click on this form, fill it out, and she will contact you for payment!

Jamberry CURE SEARCH FUN-RAISER! Another great friend Kristi is donating her commission which is 30% which will be donated to CureSearch for Children’s Cancer’s mission is to end children’s cancer by driving targeted and innovative research with measurable results in an accelerated time frame. This donation will be proudly given to this organization on behalf of Team Princess Strong! Invite a friend, encourage them to attend, learn about Jamberry, but more importantly LEARN why it's important to keep researching and supporting organizations such as this! Come one, Come All... Let's make CURESEARCH, Team Princess Strong and Princess Ellie proud of what we can do, when we do it together!!!

The Pink Heals 5K Color Rush is September 12th.  Proceeds of this fabulous race to benefit two wonderful LOCAL organizations:

Mary Washington Hospital Foundation- Color Rush 2014 created the "MWH Foundation Pediatric Oncology Fund" to benefit the MWH Regional Cancer Center! This Fund was created in memory of Princess Ellie Marie Blaine.

"Strong For Dom Foundation" whose mission it is to:
-Raise awareness about Neuroblastoma and other childhood cancers
-Raise funds for research for Neuroblastoma and childhood cancer in effort to treat/cure such disease
-Keep their son Dominic’s spirit alive and sustain his memory and strength

To register for this awesome me, your kids and you will love it...visit and choose team Princess Strong when you register.  We will be making new white shirts for this year, stay tuned!

CureSearch Walk is coming up September 26th.  This walk is held in Charlottesville, VA and is a wonderful even for families to come to!  We'd love to have you join our team!  To register or to donate please visit Team Princess Strong Page.  I will be reopening the tshirt link if you didn't get a chance to order a shirt.  25 must be order for the shirts to print.  I will post a link once its open.

Noah is still raising money for St. Jude!  He is almost at $2000.  His goal is $3000, that's when he gets to dye is hair green in August!  To follow his progress and see all his thank you's and videos, his facebook page is Noah Goes Green.  If you'd like to donate directly to Noah, he has his own fundraising page.

I do hope that our friends and family will join us in these upcoming events!  If you cannot, I ask for your prayers for all those that help put on these events.  They work very hard to organize these amazing days, and I know they would appreciate prayers for guidance and peace as their events get closer!

Prayers, Praise and Pink
~ Carly

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Getting Away

We did something we've never done before this week, we went on vacation, just us. We've always done family trips with my parents, and I don't think a trip to st. Jude quite counts as a vacation, although some days I miss it as much as the beach! Once I realized how short our summer was this year, with the new school calendar taking effect, I thought it would be the perfect thing for our crew. Nothing over the top, nothing life changing, just a week away from our everyday lives to recharge.  I felt like such a big kid as I contacted the realty company myself...something my mom has always done. Great stress and feelings of responsibility went into our menu for the week and our massive grocery shopping trip. I made lists upon lists to make sure we didn't forget a thing (I love that part!) I felt super domesticated and Betty Crockerish as I baked, tried new recipes, and froze meals so I didn't have to cook on vacation. As I watched Richard carry every Thirty One bag I own...good thing I have so the cars (yes we had to take two) I had a huge appreciation for all that my parents have done for the numerous years we have gone on vacation (Thanks Mom and Dad!) and even though they weren't coming with us, Dad's truck and canoe still were...always looking out for us! 

With as much as Richard has been working this past month or so, this week was so needed.  It has been so beautiful to watch my family, be a family. We have played in the water, canoed, ran around, ate, climbed that big hill back from the lake (all that walking should make up for all the eating!) played board games, watched movies in black and white (because we can't figure the TV out) ate some more, thrown water balloons, played in the rain, taken naps outside, read, gotten bug bites, walked and giggled. 

It's an odd thing to go on a "family vacation" when someone in your family isn't here. At times it has been overwhelmingly obvious that Ellie isn't here. There was a point I was coming inside and I stopped and caught my breath as I looked in at everyone sitting on the couch, and perfectly placed between Noah and SG was an empty seat. 

I see that space a lot. Ellie's not here. As much laid back fun as we've had, she still not here. Noah would correct me at this point and remind me that Ellie is with Jesus, and Jesus lives in my heart, so technically (yes he would use that word) she is here're with us.  But I can't touch her, hold her or hear her, and that's what I want!

It's been interesting though, to watch little bits of Ellie continue to shine though SG. Physically SG wears a lot of Ellie's clothes now, so sometimes from the back, I see Ellie...well from the waist down. 
But SG has so many of Ellie's mannerisms, the way she dances, some of her sounds, her hair twirling when she's tired...things we could have never taught her. I can take credit for the clothes, and yes there are days I put certain clothes of her because it takes me back to a sweet memory, and then there are days that I cannot handle an Ellie dress, so she wears something brand new.  However I cannot take credit for SG doing the Ellie dance, or that silly noise that I could never describe, that SG has just started doing. I give that credit to The Lord who understands that I can't physically see my girl right now, and He knows that hurts, so He's going to bless me with some sweet reminders, a silly noise, a funny hop, and sweet snuggles. 

I'm so thankful to The Lord, for knowing my heart, knowing my needs and continually providing for me and never leaving us alone.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Prayers, Praise and Pink