Tagged: Personal Life

Grief and Remembrance

That sound. If I’m driving, trying to sleep, outside or at my sink washing a load full of dishes. What is it about that sound. That sound its debilitating. If you are on the phone and it’s nearby you have to scream a little louder.

There is something about the sound of a helicopter that gets me every time. If I hear it at night or in the early morning. I get instant flashbacks from my time at Akron Children’s Hospital.

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Every time I hear a medical helicopter I pray. For the patient, wisdom for the doctors and strength for the family.

Angelina’s room was right under the helicopter pad in the PICU. I remember countless times Dennis and I would be sitting on the patio eating at the Ronald McDonald house trying to eat a meal and talking about Angelina’s progress and we would watch them land and take off.

It was pretty awesome to watch at first…

Until we realized that those helicopters are coming and going a lot. That we weren’t the only ones with a sick child. It started to break my heart. I started praying each time as I  would watch the doctors and nurses run to get the patient off the helicopter.

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Hanging out at the Ronald house.

The Thursday before Angelina passed away Ava came to stay with me. She thought that staying at the Ronald McDonald house was the absolute coolest thing in the world. Ava and I gave Angelina a bath that day, bought a bunch of toys and fake nail stickers in the gift shop and watched helicopters land and take off. If you know my daughter Ava she is strong-willed, determined, extremely protective of Amelia and Angelina and has such a nurturing soul. She insisted on laying in bed with Angelina (which Angelina went from extremely fussy to happy the moment she heard Ava), was present at rounds, and was very happy to be with us at the hospital that day. Ten months later she tells me often: ” Mom remember the helicopters and all the sick babies they bring to the hospital, I want to be a nurse and help those babies, just like Nikki (my brothers girlfriend, remember Angelina’s nurse they met at her bedside:0).” We are very thankful for  the Ronald McDonald house and how they helped us tremendously during our extended stays at the hospital you can read more about this organization here:http://www.rmhc.org/about-us

This memory it’s hard, I want to go back to that time in the hospital. It was the last day Ava spent with her baby sister. That night I remember Ava didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay another night. She screamed as we buckled her in her car seat. Amelia started screaming also. I cried on my way back into the hospital. I longed for my family to be together. I prayed for total healing for Angelina.

Grief it chokes out all the noise in your life.  It’s always present in your life,  you never know when it’s going to strike, one moment you are fine, the next pretty angry, one moment you can’t even drop a tear while someone may be spilling their heart to you and the next you literally are on a break down of uncontrollable crying and you can’t stop. You are almost hyperventilating gasping for air.

You have let it out. I often tell my husband, that grief it debilitates me. I can’t think, remember, get anxiety, stay organized or on task. Once I let it out, I feel a little bit of relief. I release the bad, the ugly,the extremely dark, and then I am able to focus on the intricate beautiful, purpose driven details of Angelina’s short life. I have seen baby steps in my healing process although some days seem like two steps forward and while other days two steps back.

Over the last ten months we have done a lot of things to remember Angelina. When you lose a child you want to continually celebrate their memory. Talk about them often and especially how they changed you.

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This photo is one of my all time favorites of Angelina. She had a way about her, looking right into your soul. You could connect with her. She captivated us. Her eyes were out of this world beautiful. We all could gaze into her eyes forever. Ava and Angelina had the most sisterly bond. This photo speaks volumes.

I have documented a series of pictures on our journey of celebrating Angelina’s life each day. We look for Angelina through out each moment. Dennis and I constantly talk a lot with Ava and Amelia about her everyday. Last year on this day we were celebrating our first world down syndrome day. We will continue to celebrate this day every year for you our sweet Angelina. We will speak about how amazing that extra chromosome is, educate and spread awareness to the world about down syndrome. You can find out more here about World Down Syndrome day: https://www.worlddownsyndromeday.org

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This was one of those moments God gives you that is life-giving. To help you press on amongst the pain.

This first picture was a month to the hour and exact minute Angelina passed into our fathers heavenly hands. We were on vacation with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Walking back from the pool I looked down at my watch and it was like a dagger smashed through my heart. Four weeks since she had been gone I thought. They seemed like an eternity. The girls screamed mom look: I looked up and saw the most beautiful butterfly land on a flower. It spread its wings and Ava and Amelia were able to touch its wings. I felt such a supernatural peace that butterflies would be a symbol of Angelina. It feels like an eternity since I’ve seen her but I get to spend eternity with her. It was yellow and National Down Syndrome colors are blue and yellow. Last summer we saw butterflies every time we were outside. We saw them at dark, on the beach (so windy) and at times when I would be so emotionally low one would fly right in front of me. Angelina truly reminding me she is free and flying amongst heaven, our Angel.

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So Living water flowing through God, we Thirst for more of you Fill our hearts and flood our souls with one desire Thrive, Casting Crowns

Right before we left for the beach I felt the urge to grab a small amount Angelina’s ashes. We had hoped we would be able to take her to the beach last summer. Before we left we were able to leave a very tiny amount of her ashes at sea. About a month later Ava asked me randomly: “mom when we were at the ocean what did you put into the water.” I told her remember that and some day sweetheart I will explain. On the way to the beach this song came on the radio and it has stuck with me over the last ten months: Thrive: Casting Crowns

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Running for hope, to support down syndrome awareness and in memory of all those lost by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

My sister-in-law and I decided to run and train for the July 4th race. God bless her heart she made these amazing shirts for our family and friends to wear the day of the race. She surprised me a few days before and it brought tears to my tired eyes. I’ve always been a runner and loved racing but now I truly have a cause to run for. I run for the remembrance of those taken to soon by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and to spread awareness about down syndrome.

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Tough Mudder 2014

Then there was the tough mudder. Ya, I always said no to into those crazy mud races because I was worried someone would get hurt. I mean don’t get me wrong. I am a farm girl at heart. I love the mud and I’m not for a second afraid to get dirty and push myself to the limit when it comes to working out and  competing. We decided to do it and it was such an incredible bonding experience to do together with family. We had a blast and I think I picked mud out of my hair for weeks. We felt that we could accomplish things even through the pain and sorrow.

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My husband loves this ridiculous shirt, Grill King

Dennis and I decided to get tattoos together. Angelina is forever etched on our lives, our hearts and truly been a catalyst for change in our lives. Getting a tattoo was really never anything I really felt the urge to do until Angelina passed away. Good thing for good friends who help you from chickening out. The thought of something on my body forever kinda freaked me. The fact that some random person was tattooing me was even stranger. Until Dennis walked in and the tattoo artist realized he tattooed Dennis Italian flag eleven  years ago! IMG_0096It was for Angelina and each day when I am feeling discouraged its my outward symbol of  clinging to hope that God will help me navigate through a very tough time in my life. Telling my dad was a different story. After eating Sunday family dinner and him not noticing my tattoo at all Dennis informed him of my new tat (if you know my father he is pretty old-fashioned). He took it like a champ and everyone really valued why we felt the need to do this together.

Angelina spoke from the heaven on Dennis 30th birthday as we sat in the drive way talking about how incredible she was. She gave Dennis this amazing present from the heavens.

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A birthday greeting from the heavens

The gym that I work and workout at often, bought a tile and an apple tree for us to honor Angelina with.

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Angelina’s Tree

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Angelina’s tile

Angelina’s birthday and Christmas came and passed. It seemed very slow and painful. Over the months I have done a lot of processing. I am going to be honest I am angry. I scream out to God a lot.  I have mentioned something along these line before. I can allow the passing of my daughter to paralyze me. To choke out the noise, life, the good, God, and my family.When I think of how fast a helicopters propeller spins as it flies, I sometimes feel like my head, heart and life are spinning in a hundred different directions at once. I have allowed grief  to spin my life totally out of control at points throughout this process. God picks up my brokeness up off the floor along with my husband, family and close friends.

When I get up off the floor tiny parts of my heart have mended and the scar tissue, it’s still there and will always be but it’s a matter of learning how to navigate amidst the extreme pain. This last week I felt that God was saying: ” Michelle she is at peace and she was a small glimpse of heaven in your life”.

My life for a second stops spinning, and I see that the pain is a catalyst for growth. I can take this experience and use it for good. It doesn’t mask the pain but it allows me to live life fuller than I ever have. It allows me to be reminded of how Angelina changed my heart and how I perceive situations that arise each day throughout my life much differently.

Angelina taught me how to be bold, to love like I have never loved, to not only share my faith but to be more intentional about living it out, to look for the good in every single person I meet, to live out my passions, to not only dream but to go after my dreams even if I fail, to embrace my husband, children, and family here on earth, to be content in life, to  be thankful,to be myself-the unique person Christ created me to be, and not to worry about what people think. Because Christ is the only person I have to impress,to trust, to worry about today and not the next five years, and tell people about Angelina always and the depth of her short little life lived on earth. My friends, I get asked often how many children I have. I have three. One just happens to get raised by Jesus. The author and finisher of our faith.

This is what we can do to heal, to live the way she taught us. Just as Christ lives in our hearts so does, Angelina.

I read a book on grief titled: A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser. Jerry talks about his journey through grief (he lost his wife, wifes mother, and his daughter in a car accident. They were hit by a drunk driver).

I can relate with him on every level in this short few paragraphs from his book: ” Yet the grief I feel is sweet as well as bitter. I still have a sorrowful soul; yet I wake up every morning joyful, eager for what the new day will bring. Never have I felt as much pain as I have in the last three years; yet never have I experienced as much pleasure in simply being alive and living an ordinary life. Never have I felt so broken, yet never have I been so whole. Never have I been so aware of my weakness and vulnerability; yet never have I been so content and felt so strong. Never has my soul been more dead, yet never has my soul been more alive. What I once considered mutually exclusive sorrow, and joy, pain and pleasure, death and life-have become parts of a greater whole. My soul has been stretched.

Above all, I have become aware of the power of God’s grace and my need for it. My soul has grown because it has been awakened to the goodness and love of God. God has been present in my life these past three years, even mysteriously in the accident. God will continue to be present to the end of my life and through eternity. God is growing my soul, making it bigger, and filling it with himself. My life is being transformed. Though I have endured pain, I believe that the outcome is going to be wonderful.  

The supreme challenge to anyone facing catastrophic loss  involves facing the darkness of loss on one hand, and learning to live with renewed vitality and gratitude on the other. This challenge is met when we learn to take the loss into ourselves and to be enlarged by it, so that our capacity to live well and to know God intimately increases. To escape the loss is far less healthy(and far less realistic, considering how devastating loss can be)than to grow from it.

Loss can diminish us, but it can also expand us. It depends, once again, on the choices we make and the grace we receive. Loss can function as a catalyst to transform us. It can lead us to God, the only one who has the desire and power to give us life.” 

As We celebrate World Down Syndrome day, We celebrate Angelina. To the Ma Ma’s I have met on this journey you and your children are amazing! I will stand up and spread awareness for your children and continue to always support and pray for your children, you and your families. The Down Syndrome Community is such an incredible place and I have been blessed to know you all.

As time moves on the painful reminders have turned into gorgeous ways we can allow Angelina’s memory to live in and through us each day. From helicopters, to butterflies, tattoos, road races and mud runs she may not be here in flesh but she is always with us in spirit.

Blessings, Michelle

 

 

 

 

Half Marathon Training

Greetings Friends, These first four weeks of training have flown by so quick and I am coming up on my 6 mile long run this week. I am excited as I have forgotten how much of an outlet running is for me and how it gives me time to unplug and process. If you are behind on reading you can catch up on my first 3 weeks of Half marathon training here:https://livefitwomensfitness.com/2015/02/21/half-marathon-training-2/ I have been trying to perfect my head stand which is one of my 2015 goals. I have just really been amazed at with time, consistency and a weight lifting plan how strong I have become. I love weights and the many benefits of weight lifting. I have written about it before which you can read here: https://livefitwomensfitness.com/2013/08/13/why-weights-part-1/

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Practicing my head stand

Over the years I have really realized that health isn’t being bone thin. I ran throughout high school and college and my goals mainly focused on being fast and very skinny. After the birth of my children I really came to a cross roads. I couldn’t run 4-6 miles a day and losing weight seemed hard. When I became a personal trainer I realized that my idea of healthy body composition had been completely off. I needed to find workouts that fit into life with kids. I started incorporating weights and have been amazed at how much better and stronger I feel. I feel so much stronger while running and have realized that strength is not only power but the new healthy. Making slow progress on that head stand. My hubby bought me these lululemon spandex for Christmas and I may be in love. I am wearing them in the picture. I have a workout clothes addiction and these may be the most comfortable spandex I have ever worn! They don’t slide around, are made of such high quality fabric, and are so comfortable! You can find them here:http://shop.lululemon.com/home.jsp?k_clickid=cd3cc474-737f-422c-98c2-8fb10af55ee5&k_trackingid=11×20422&cid=Google&gclid=CjwKEAjwxKSoBRCZ5oyy87DimEcSJADiWsvgz_K2O_xFDpMMxSoC69GGDwSihWjjEhov3ScyIjcVuRoC2MTw_wcB The first few weeks of my training I have been extremely sore and week four I finally was finding some relief. My body has started to readjust to running more and I was able to get outside for a run last Sunday and hit my four mile mark in around 30 minutes. I love using the treadmill in the winter as a training tool. It helps me learn my pace and I often try to power through long runs at my desired mile pace on the treadmill. My goals are an 8:30-8:45 mile pace for the race. Here is weeks 4-5 training plans:

Training Weeks 4-5

Training Weeks 4-5

After my long run on Sunday I have been experiencing a lot of pain in my hip flexor and IT band. Which led me to do a lot of reading and I have spent a lot of time on my foam roller. I think I have really neglected a huge component in my routine which is stretching. Maybe be on the look out for a foam roller post in the near future!! I have listed 5 reasons why stretching is so important:

Don't forget to stretch!

Don’t forget to stretch! This photo is vintage. My oldest was helping me touch my toe!

1. Reduces risk of injury 2. Enhances muscle performance (allowing you to get a better workout in the next time you workout because your muscles aren’t tight) 3. improves your posture and prevents back pain 4. Helps keep joints healthy 5. Provides physical and mental relaxation I took it easy today and plan to stretch more tonight. Circuiting through my stretches 3-4x holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds. I always listen to my body and rearrange my running schedule to allow my body more rest if I feel it needs it. I often tell my clients this. I swapped days and will be doing my repeat day tomorrow. Hopefully fingers crossed my hips and IT band will feel better after being more intentional and consistent with my stretches! Here are weeks 6-7 training plans: IMG_3261 Are you training for any race this spring? Comment below on how training is going!? I really need to register for my race!! Blessings, Happy Running If you are looking for accountability, help with your fitness goals or a weight training program tailored to your needs lets connect!

Half-Marathon Training

Greetings Friends,

If you missed week one of training you can catch up on this post: https://livefitwomensfitness.com/2015/02/12/half-marathon-training/

It is so cold here and the snow just keeps falling, falling and falling. Not the greatest recipe for the opening week of training as I want to stay curled up on the couch with coffee, my leg warmers and a good book.

This week I put one foot in front of the other as I began my half-marathon training. I had a fair amount of days that I wasn’t feeling my run but after completion I was loving the endorphin rush and boost of positive energy.

Here’s a recap of the week:

Week one Half Marathon Training

Week one Half Marathon Training

I always loved interval workouts and Wednesday I hopped on my treadmill and ran my 400 repeats. I broke down my desired mile pace for the half-marathon and my time for sprinting the 400’s (2:07) and took about a 3-4:00 minute break of running in between to fully recover between all four of the 400’s. I was able to finish up this interval (track repeats) workout in around 30-32:00 minutes. Thursday I ran 3 miles in around 26:00 minutes. Running on the treadmill has been a little hard to jump back into, but over time I will start to get used to it again.

Sunday I hit the local gym with my sister in law and we ran 3 miles on the treadmill in around 27 minutes.

I want to encourage you this week with this: Don’t Let comparison steal your joy.I was working with a training client who has done absolutely amazing. She started comparing herself to other women in the gym. I stopped her in her tracks and I said “Don’t ever compare yourself, stop and look how far you have come.” She is able to lift heavier, run farther, and hold yoga poses longer. My friends don’t waste your time comparing and worrying about everyone else’s journey. Focus on putting one foot in front of the other and running your race. Those comparisons creep up everywhere from the gym, to at work, church, and between you and your friends. God has us exactly where he wants us and the beauty is found admist the struggle of overcoming the tough stuff, whatever it is in your specific life. This reminds me of such an important lesson this week. To stop comparing my journey to others and to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

“May The Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”
2 Thessalonians 3:5

This week my prayer is to try to become better at focusing on how to love like Christ and to pray for his perseverance when I am feeling weak. To appreciate exactly where he has me in this specific season and to not allow comparisons creep in to steal the joy the Lord fills me with. 

Here is my half-marathon schedule for weeks 2-3:

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Happy Running, Blessings

Michelle

Half Marathon Training

Greetings Friends,

IF Gathering 2015

IF Gathering 2015

This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to attend the IF Gathering. You can find out more about what the IF Gathering is here: https://ifgathering.com

The IF means, What IF God is real… then we need to start living like it.

I was so incredibly encouraged by these women. They are gathering, equipping  and encouraging us as women to live out our purpose in Christ.

Over the last almost nine months I have been going thru an up and down battle and grieving the loss of my daughter. You can read Angelina’s story here: https://livefitwomensfitness.com/our-down-syndrome-journey/ I can see a small glimmer of hope and a light on the horizon on some days. While others I shrink back, pull the covers over my head and just don’t want to face the day.

Isn’t it funny how God he always shows up. He never has failed me and the very first opening segment at the IF Gathering was about a women who lost her two sons in a horrific tornado in Arkansas.

How is she breathing, how is she sharing, how is she facing each day? I kept thinking to myself? Tears just flew of my quivering chin as I sat and listened to her journey through grief and loss.

Then as her session of sharing was near ending she said something that has just stuck with me: “My boys are healthy, safe, they’re with the one person that loves them more then me-Jesus! Selfishly I want them here. But it will be like a moment to them.”

She is right, Angelina is in the arms of the one person that loves her more then our family.

I can grasp this, but am I ok with it yet? Maybe…..it’s taking time and on some days time means healing while on other’s I have such an intense longing to be with my sweet baby.

Towards the end of the conference, Jennie Allen asked: Pick a word for 2015 that describes the step of faith you want to take:

I sat and prayed so intently, worshiping, and learning from these women. I was asking God how do you want me to move forward. I’m not ready to let go, I’m not ready to move on.

I felt him say, “GO, BE, Be Still,Trust me, and RUN Michelle.” Run Your race.

The nights Sky after the conference ended

The nights Sky after the conference ended

All these years my life verse has been: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 

I kept saying I am running, “Right, God.” You have set this out before me this really hard race and I’m doing it, “Right?”

My answer  has been right in front of me all along. I came back to this verse and kept reading:

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you don’t grow weary and loose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3

He loves us so much: “He endured the cross for us.”

He wants us to consider it pure joy when we face trails to produce perseverance in us. He lets perseverance finish it’s work so we may be complete and mature lacking nothing. He has plans to prosper us to give us a hope and a future. James 1: 2-4, Jeremiah 29:11

I have been growing weary because I haven’t been running to HIM, I been running this race by merely keep HIM in mind and reading his word.

All this week I feel him saying: “RUN TO ME!” “TRUST ME” “LOOK TO ME first, MICHELLE.”

So.. Thats what I’m going to do each day I am going to Run to his arms. I am going to look to him first and stop trying to handle this burden of grief on my own hands. I am going to trust, be who he has created me to be, and be still as I allow him to work powerfully in my life. I can’t do this on my own and without him I would be bare lying on the floor without hope.

I have really felt God calling me to just run physically and spiritually. I was a runner throughout college and I coached  track. I haven’t trained seriously for awhile and for me it’s a time where I connect with God.

My run is when I unplug from reality listen to worship music (somedays christian rap radio:0) and connect with God. I pray, thank him, ask for forgiveness, and listen. I haven’t done this in sometime and I am ready to have that back. Writing has also been a very therapeutic way to help as I process through sorrow and grief.

It’s never easy to get back into a fitness routine but I know that he will give me the strength. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Each week I am going to post my weekly half marathon workouts, encouragement, tips and scripture verses. I hope you can journey right alongside with me.

I am ready to Run this race well and to him. I have a long way to go as I continue to journey through grief  but the best I can do is continue to move forward, to run and to share how great God is. 

Today I will share my first week of training with you and will be back to update this series weekly on Wednesday or Thursday.  I am a seasoned runner and this is an intermediate to advanced training plan. You ask why bootcamp and full body strength on monday? Well I teach a bootcamp/full body strength class on mondays and I have to figure this into my training as I workout with my classes. Your training may look different but please share this journey with us as we can encourage hold accountable and run this race together both in the physical and spiritual. (maybe you are training for a 5k or just starting to workout) Each of our races are unique to our purpose in Christ Jesus.

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Half Marathon Training Week 1

“Remember it’s always crucial to warm-up your body prior to working out and cool down the body, stretch once you have completed your workout. I am not liable to any injuries/health issues that result from exercises from this site. Consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any workout regimen. If you feel pain or any discomfort while exercising stop immediately.” 

Blessings and I’m excited to dedicate this time to God and share this journey with you. Week one starts on Monday, Let’s do this!

Michelle

 

 

 

Beauty in the Ashes

 

To all of those who have supported us and followed our journey on my fitness website and social media with our sweet and precious daughter Angelina Hope, I am saddened to share that she has passed into the loving arms of Jesus on May 25th, 2014.(Due to heart complications with her hypertrophic cardiomyopathy ) I was hesitant about sharing this journey, God has boldly placed this on my heart over the last year, and am overjoyed as I have finally opened up my computer to find a small story on Angelina’s life.  A story that we can continue to share, to bring hope, to have for Ava and Amelia as they get older to read and to reflect on during the healing process. The texts, e-mails, and messages have helped carry us through these past 5 months and are appreciated beyond words. To the nurses who cared for Angelina, thank you isn’t enough. We have received countless messages about how Angelina’s story has impacted lives, mended relationships, and brought people closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.Here is what’s been on my heart this month.I can’t believe it’s November.With every falling leaf, deep blue October sky and for some reason those extremely strong scented pine cones that giant eagle and Marc’s put out two months before Christmas I am reminded constantly of our dear sweet Angelina. It was this time last year that I was heading to the Doctor every 2-3 days. We knew of Angelina’s congenital heart defects and possible down syndrome diagnosis. I remember last fall as if it was just yesterday. The memories bring a flood of constant emotion that I can’t explain. I remember canning 20 jars of salsa, tomato soup, yellow peppers and pizza sauce saying to myself. “We can do this, God wouldn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” It’s how I got through, constant prayer and faith. I asked God to protect Angelina in the womb and after she was born. I asked him to give us all strength, for our path was uncertain with our sweet baby.

We were beyond thrilled to meet our little bundle of joy. I remember the first time Angelina locked eyes with me. Angelina had the most incredible deep blue eyes with tiny white spots around the outer part of her iris ( called brushfield spots which can be seen in children with down syndrome). It was as if she looked deep into my soul and just knew me (something my mom would also often say as well as a special friend of mine). Angelina had a way about her, she could speak without even saying a word.

NICU November 2013

NICU November 2013

The first night in the hospital as we laid on our hospital beds learning of Angelina’s diagnosis. I remember Dennis looking at me and saying: ” I know we prayed for Angelina to be healed, but I truly believe she came to heal us.”

I remember really struggling that first night. I wanted Angelina to be in our hospital room and not in the NICU. I wanted to be able to snuggle her and nurse her. I was unable to. It was in that moment that I went and stayed with her and fed her through a little syringe while she was in an incubator. It was those first moments with her in the middle of the night, after a 12 hour labor and walking the halls of the hospital during my induction (refusing an epidural because I wanted to be there for her after labor) and the most tired and emotional state of my life that Angelina taught me how to love. A love that runs so deep, a love that is unconditional, and a love that is everlasting. This type of love exhibits how Christ loves us.

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height. To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:17-19

NICU November 2013

NICU November 2013

We loved on Angelina as we began to get to know her. We never allowed her extra chromosome to define her and will continue to take a stance to share her story and spread awareness. She was our daughter that happened to have one amazing extra chromosome.  She had the cutest chubbiest neck, a crazy toe (two conjoined toes), a sweet little tongue that always was sticking out at us(which we LOVED and miss so much) and was the most incredible snuggler. She was the most pleasant little baby to be around. Amidst the storms during her life, her countless doctors appointments, an urgent hospital stay, a rare and complex diagnosis that was unexpected and an open heart surgery reflecting back Dennis and I constantly say to each other that this was Angelina’s journey “ You formed me in my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” -Psalm 139:13-16, how God intricately formed her and she brought so much joy to our lives and continues to do so. This is part of our family’s story. Which is part of God’s plans for our life which is a part of something so much bigger.

“But the plans of the lord stand firm forever. The purposes of his heart through all generations.” -Psalm 33:11

When I think about our family and how close Angelina has brought all of us, it truly brings me to my knees in a utter state of emotion. Helping us, being there for us, and supporting our every step. They loved on Angelina in such a remarkable way. That little girl is so loved and will continued to always be loved. I chuckle as I recall a time that my sister-in-law came to the hospital and stayed with me in the NICU. I was going on 20 days of not a lot of sleep, never recovering from childbirth and we both slept in Angelina’s room” well tried at least”. Monitors buzzing, pumping, the squeaky chairs, a crazy floor, constant commotion, and Angelina topped it off with pulling out her feeding tube at 2am. We laughed together most of the night as we come to a point of over tiredness. She was such a feisty little thing that night. I chuckle when I remember Dennis famous last words. “She’s a VOLPE, SHE DOESN’T NEED A FEEDING TUBE.” She indeed learned to eat a bottle on her own with lots of patience and help from amazing therapists.

NICU November 2013

NICU November 2013

Which brings me to my next thought. Ava and Amelia shared a bond with Angelina that I can’t describe. The last week of Angelina’s life she was extremely fussy and uncomfortable. My mom was able to see Angelina completely change her mood the moment Ava and Amelia entered the room at the hospital. She stopped crying the moment she heard their voices and completely turned her body around reaching for Ava. Ava was able to get in bed with Angelina and bring her so much comfort that day. These are the moments that we cherish. These and countless other memories are how we remember our sweet baby girl.

Ava and Angelina in the PICU 2014

Ava and Angelina in the PICU 2014

In Angelina’s final days I came to a realization that hope isn’t how we want  situation and circumstances to turn out. Hope is placing your total trust in Jesus. Hope is trusting that his hand is upon any trial, suffering or situation in our lives. Life in this world is tough and by hoping in Christ and being in constant relation with him, we are able to find the strength no matter what hardship comes our way to venture the  path he has laid before us and our final stop is heaven.

“Our soul waits for the Lord. He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him. Because we have trusted in his holy name. Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in you”. Psalm 33:20-22

For the rest of my days I will never ever forget what Dennis brother said to us the night Angelina gained her wings and entered the gates of heaven. “She did in 6 months what it takes most people to accomplish in a lifetime.” “Honor her memory by how she changed you.” We will spend our days honoring Angelina’s life by how she indeed radically changed our lens of thinking. Seeing life with such a different perspective.

Appreciating the beauty and hardship in life. I have come to a conclusion that we all will suffer. At some point we all will endure difficulties in life. We can either allow them to slowly kill our soul and become bitter or we can allow them to transform us. To grow us and to find joy in life’s hardest circumstances. I found this scribbled on a piece of paper and I have no idea where I found it: “take your deepest sorrow and weave it into a pattern for good.” Through our healing we will become refined and  help others heal and overcome obstacles. God reminded me weeks after Angelina passed to continue to press forward: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”-Philippians 3:14

I recently have been on a reading kick during this season and am reading a book called: Restless By: Jennie Allen.

Jennie writes this: ” Sure our stories lead us toward our purposes, but they also make us into people strong enough to fulfill our purposes. To build a picture of your story-the events that have shaped you-is a powerful and beautiful thing”.

This is Angelina Hope’s story.

Our Angel April 2014

Our Angel April 2014

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast….” -Hebrews 6:19

When we reflect and look back on Angelina’s life there was so much purpose, strength and beauty in her life. Each day we think about you every moment little girl, and will continue to, until we join you and hold you again in heaven. Little girl your life was filled with so much beauty. You left such beauty in your ashes. We miss you more than words can describe. We are trying to figure out what our new normal looks like without you. We love you so much.

Words can’t describe how thankful I am for my beautiful friend Nicole who captured this image and many more with our sweet baby girl

 

 

Hopeless to Hopeful: A Journey to a New Heart

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I can remember four short years ago when my husband and I were searching for a house to buy. We looked for quite sometime and at times I would feel hopeless. We were looking for a small bungalo that we could make our own. We wanted a large yard and had picked out a few different school districts that we wanted to be in.

We spent over a year and half looking on and off. Until one morning we in our eyes struck gold. We noticed a house that had sat empty for sometime but was in a perfect location and had a wonderful backyard. I’ll never forget walking through the house with our realtor at the time. “You like this house?” my husbands mind racing I know this because he is a silent thinker paused: “yes, it has a lot of potential.”

We went home that night and kept looking at the pictures online and my husband began to come up with a list of idea’s of the variety of things he could do to fix up this little old farm house and make it our own.

God was on our side that Thanksgiving as we placed our bid and took a leap of faith buying a house that had all it’s copper plumbing cut out and stolen. We weren’t able to move in right away and we had a lot of work on our hands. With the help of a extremely loving and helpful family on both of our sides we started chipping away at our little old farm house.

first we stripped everything out of this house, demoed walls, drywalled, painted, put in hardwood floors, and new carpets. The upstairs bathroom looked like the color of boogers. We gutted each bathroom and remodeled those. We added a little barn off the garage for Dennis to use as a place where he could work on his carpentry projects. The outside needed a lot of TLC as well and each summer we work on something making improvements and creating it a place for our family.

Throughout this process we have learned a lot about patience, wise spending, and that although we want our house to be completed we need to remember what comes first in the hustle and bustle of life. I can remember on several occasions being a little angry that it wasn’t finished. Complaining to my husband and well being a bit of a demanding wife. I want this finished! It felt hopeless! Dennis always reminded me and still does that it will someday be finished but first and foremost is our relationship with God and secondly family.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it’s foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down the streams rose and winds blew and beat against that house and it fell with a great crash. When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:24-29

Dennis has shown me that life is not all about completing tasks but about the delicacy of family. I have never met a person who unconditionally at any moment will leave anything and everything he is doing to go help anyone who is calling on the telephone. He is an incredible example of how we should live our life out for Christ.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving The Lord, not people because you know that The Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether slave or free.Ephesians 6:7-8

We have been cooped up in this little bungalo for six long months. Due to Angelina’s heart condition they recommended we keep her away from sickness to help keep her healthy for surgery. You can read more about our journey with our third daughter in these posts: Angelina’s Journey, Angelina’s Journey, Angelina’s Journey , Angelina’s Journey For almost SIX MONTHS. Yes, we have been COOPED up in this house. It’s been incredibly hard to put our life on hold and I have felt many days of hopelessness.

Until one day as I was sitting in my glider feeding Angelina God blessed me with a new way of thinking about this little bungalo. Angelina has impacted our lives in so many ways. This one particular way I thank her for. All that time I spent feeling hopeless and worrying about things that really aren’t to important in the scheme of things. After that moment it’s like my mind was cleared of this particular way of thinking and a rush of memories flood my mind as I perform the day to day tasks around this little bungalo.

The Simple Things. It’s a little trinket we have had our house for a long time. Dennis and I have always decided that we wanted to live our life out by this motto. Was it true because I know he had been doing it but had I?

Angelina had taught me to begin to learn how to appreciate the simple things in life. Instead of looking around our house and thinking man I wish our kitchen was finished and what the next task at hand is I see what life we have brought this little house.

Pictures filling the walls of Ava as a baby. She was only 18 months when we moved in here. Months later I would become pregnant with Amelia. Spaghetti fingers prints on our white wood work, scratches on the hardwood floor from Ava and Amelia riding their bikes around the house, memories of the long nights Dennis and I would work on the house together talking and enjoying being together,  many wrestling matches with the girls before bed, daily squeals when someone is in the driveway for a visit, the pitter patter of tiny footprints on the hardwood floor, and diapers crunching as they headed downstairs in the morning, countless pots of spaghetti sauce splattered all over kitchen burners, packing the whole family and children in our little house for family get togethers, i can recall being in labor with Amelia as I walked thru our kitchen to dinning room and living room for 3-4 hours before heading to the hospital, stories read and craft time, the girls reminding me that it was time to workout, our chickens, campfires, and I could go on.

These things I hold so dear to my heart these days. This home has been a safe haven for us. I recall the day we got Angelina’s diagnosis and not being able to move from the couch, packing my bags the night before I was induced, fear, anxiety, and heart ace. I can remember how scared I was to bring her home for the first time in fear she would stop breathing, that I would screw up her medications, and that I would not be able to care for her.

I had many moments of feeling like I could not care for her in the beginning. Moments of “How Am I Going to Do This?” Moments of pure hopelessness. It’s as if our lives were in a snowglobe and instead of shaking it up someone has thrown the globe on the ground and the snow globe is completely turned upside down. Everything we once knew in life has been drastically changed.

I think how am I going to do this, God reminds me each time Michelle: “You are doing it and you are going to be ok.”

We have made it through an incredibly tough time in our lives. This little bungalo has become more then a home to me but the place that we are raising and nurturing our family.

The hopelessness I once felt about Angelina and our house being unfishined it has passed. I feel hopeful for the future. For the lives of all our children and what the good Lord has in store for all of us. Caring for Angelina has at times seemed overwhelming; we are doing it and she is thriving. I have a little pocket bible from my first stay at the hospital and I came across the definition of hope: “Confident expectation in the unseen future or happy expectation of good. Hope launches a positive outlook. Without it, lives remain fragmented and broken, personal dreams go unrealized and sick hearts loose capacity to cope. Hope tells you to hold on in anticipation and expectation-because good is just ahead.” -The Bible Promise Book for Women

I thank that little girl each day for the amazing things she has done in her short time on the earth. Relationships that have formed because of her, learning how to thrive in a season of challenge, enjoying the simple things this life has to offer through our relationship with Christ family, and friends. I thank her for bringing my brothers girlfriend into the family 🙂 (they met each other as she was Angelina’s nurse practitioner at the hospital), I thank her for helping me realize that our life is to short here on earth to feel hopeless and worry about things that we can’t even control. I thank her because each part our lives has been designed by Christ for our calling here on earth and to shape, form, and mold us to become more like him.

This last six months is only a very small part of Angelina’s life. A time that we will soon be able to reflect on and see how she has made us appreciate the simple things in life. When we say: “We aren’t really to sure how we made it through that segment of our lives, we are reminded, by the power of Jesus Christ.”

Angelina is about to start the next journey in her life. She will get her new heart on Monday May 5th. We are both excited and scared for this next part of her life to begin. Isn’t it crazy how we finally got comfortable right where we are and we are about to witness our daughter have a major surgery.

To our family, friends, church body who have abundantly taken care of us in ways that we can’t even bring to words your support never goes unoticed, ever.

My prayer this morning is for Angelina to have total healing in her heart and to continue to spread Hope to those around her and to a world full of brokeness.

“The Lord is my portion.” Says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of The Lord”.
Lamentations 3:24

Blessings, Michelle

My Fit Pregnancy | A Recap

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I can remember riding in my dads F150 with him as we pulled into the local YMCA. He was heading to his forty and over basketball league. He would be playing basketball while I ran around a tiny indoor track, with my Walkman listening to ace of base.

My love for fitness started even before my running around the tiny indoor track at the Y. I often would roller blade pretending I was a ice skater in the basement or the best was seeing how many times I could ride my bike around my house. Their was the jump rope competitions in the basement between my brother, dad, and I. Late night games of pig and cow in the drive way in the intense humidity of late summer nights.

My dad often thought it was hilarious to go on an after dinner run with me on Sunday evenings. We would run around three miles, an out and back course. He would always turn around early and try to beat me. I would end up catching him and a few times we literally had a race off for the last 200 meters!

Fitness gave me discipline, routine, and motivation. It helps me plan my day. It helps me stay energized. It gives me focus. It helps me connect with God. It gives me a tiny sense of freedom in a world full of diapers, potty training, and bottles. It’s a habit and part of my everyday routine. When I don’t work out I am cranky, exhausted, and what I call out of sorts. It is my escape and the only ‘medicine’ I want to have to take during this lifetime.

I remember my father quoting this throughout my life on a frequent basis: “When you have your health, you have everything. It is a gift.”

Over the years my love for health and fitness not only grew but has become my passion. I yearn to help women incorporate fitness into a routine that they carry out for life LONGTERM. When I became pregnant with Angelina I wanted to journal my third pregnancy. I wanted all my baby girls to be able to look back and see my ever changing belly photo’s. I used my photo’s as motivation and they helped me stay on the path to a healthy pregnancy. I believe progress photo’s help similarly if you are trying to loose weight. The scale often does not reflect what is happening inside during a weight loss program or if you are trying to get into shape. Progress photo’s show gradual changes and give us such confidence to move forward on the journey of becoming more fit.

I am so glad that I tracked my photo’s. This was my third pregnancy and by far my best feeling pregnancy. I worked out almost to my 37th week and I felt fabulous. I ate so many vegetables, fruits, and nuts. I drank a lot of water and ate lots of steak :). I felt amazing and I was so excited that I gained 30lbs a healthy amount of weight and kept my blood pressure down. It was so important to me to care for my little peanut while she was growing inside. In my first pregnancy I did not take good care of myself and ended up delivering 5 weeks early and having hypertension.

Until the moment I gave birth. I lost that excitement in caring for my body due to my daughter who was born at 4lbs, 3oz. I just didn’t get it. Why was she so small? I kept asking myself: Did I eat enough calories, Did I overdue it even when I felt good exercising, Did I rest enough and many more thoughts circled through my mind. I was upset with myself for a long while. I felt like it was my fault that Angelina was born so small. I kept telling myself if she was only bigger she would be able to fight harder. You can read about our little fighter here:Angelina Hope

I continued to blame myself until I finally made it to my 6 week check up at my OBGYN. It was around 13 weeks and I looked at her and asked her: “Was it my fault, was it something I did or didn’t do?”

In that moment and her response I felt such a huge burden lifted of my chest. She said: ” Michelle in caring for you body the way you did, you did nothing but help Angelina come into this world happy and strong. She went on to tell me about studies that have been conducted on moms who work out during pregnancy and how much it benefits their babies. She told me that everything I did helped Angelina.

When Angelina was first born I blamed myself a lot. I now know that she was brought into this world to bring HOPE and for a specific purpose. I did nothing wrong, nothing I did or didn’t do would change how God created her and we are so quick to blame ourselves when things don’t go as planned in our lives.

Maybe it’s your family life, career, you aren’t content with where you are at in life currently, or a weight loss journey that you are on that feels like it’s spinning out of control. Know that ultimately God has his hand on each step of the journey. In each season he is molding us into who he ultimately wants us to be.

I have felt a lot of closure in this area lately. I feel happy to have done everything I could have done for Angelina while she was growing inside of me. I am feeling extremely blessed at what this little girl has shown us about life after only four short months and so excited to watch her grow.

I would love to help you turn fitness into LIVING FIT FOR LIFE! Stop blaming yourself in life and start living life healthier!

Blessings, Michelle

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Contact me today to start your affordable training plan and to Live Fit For Life