you made it here

“Look around, YOU MADE IT HERE”

Sitting in Willow Creek Community Church the first week of August, I accepted the deep breath the man on stage offered. A conference attendee, only made possible with a blessed invitation from Lukas’ boss’ boss, I sat next to my good looking man and his work counterparts.

And it felt like a miracle.

The day before, Lukas and I left the house at 10:55ish. I’d spent weeks prepping to leave the kids for 3 full days. Both Tabby and James are used to having me home, as their primary caregiver. Tabby had experienced me gone for multiple days earlier in her life but it had only been “over nighters” since James was born and I could count those over nights away from the kids on one hand.

Getting in the car to head to the airport was a big deal. it felt like a miracle I even made it to the vehicle, let alone the airport, let alone the Delta Sky Club, let alone onto the Chicago bound airplane with all of Lukas work peeps, let alone…Indianapolis?

That wasn’t a typo. Ninety mins into a short delay, the plane ride and my private showing of the movie Fatherhood, the pilot told us weather in Chicago would force him to make some decisions. First decision was an attempt to go around the system of rain, thunder and lightening and circle until we were given clearance. Okay? No big deal. We rerouted, we circled, I kept watching my movie. About twenty minutes later the pilot was telling us Chicago still hadn’t opened the airport to incoming flights. Since planes run on fuel, and not hopes and prayers, we’d be landing in Indianapolis to fill the tank.

Okay? No big deal. Let’s land this thing and refuel, we’ll be back in the air in no time.

Or not.

Spirits were high on the plane as passengers received grace for themselves and others while we waited fifteen minutes for the pilot to find out more. Soon he was informing us he didn’t have a determined time of departure so we’d be deplaning. Indianapolis airport was welcoming us with open arms, snacks and bottled water.

We got off the plane and sat to hang out. Estimated time of departure was about an hour delay. Let’s go eat dinner.

We were traveling with eight out of the eighteen total team members who were attending the conference. Two others had a plane rerouted to Charlotte. A couple were stuck in the Atlanta airport and the folks who’d left on the flight before us were lounging by the pool at the hotel…kidding…sort of. They’d made our dinner reservation for the cities best Chicago deep dish pizza and spent time relaxing in preparation for the big following day. What we’d all hoped to be doing!

After dinner we ventured over to the gate and it looked like we wouldn’t be boarding anytime soon. See, Chicago opened its airways but our amazing pilot had reached his hours limit and therefore we were going nowhere. A pilot was being flown in from somewhere else and we’d be back in the air…in an hour or so.

At this point, it’s around 6pm central time, 7pm eastern. My kiddos had had a great day with babysitter Anna, we’d FaceTimed Tabby to show her the airplane and the airport and nighttime went smoothly for them. Hallelujah for this mama’s heart who was missing them like crazy!

Our crew found a spot in the airport to call home base and me and another wife got lost in convo about kids and life and love. The other part of the group played cards, learning a new game and getting laughs in to pass the time.

Then around 7:30 (at this point times, start to get a little hazy. We’d been traveling for almost eight hours and time no longer became relevant. We’d get there when we got there!) the pilot made it to Indy. Wahoo!! Let’s go! We made our way back to the gate and stood in the same spot we’d stood earlier as we watched the scheduled minute for take off tick by.

They told us we were taking off soon.

And soon. And soon. And soon. And soon.

8pm passed, 9pm approached. It’s unclear when we finally boarded the plane, finally settled back into our seats, finally took off for the “25 minute flight to Chicago”.

Forty five minutes later we touched down at the O’Hare airport. Deplaned…again…and navigated the trek to baggage claim and the rental car lot.

We’d made it to Chicago. We did it. My head could hit the pillow of the hotel bed in less than an hour…if the rental car train would actually move.

Something was blocking the doors and she wouldn’t budge. I say “she” because every thirty seconds “she” would come over the intercom and repeat which stop we were currently and which stop we would approach, whenever we finally got moving. Those pauses at each stop probably only lasted two minutes but they felt like twenty hours after the day we’d had.

Rental cars selected, hotel found, we rode the escalator up to the front desk to check-in. Our clock’s read 12:01am, 1am at home. Our alarm would be going off in less than 7 hours. Lukas asked — “do you want to know what time we would have gotten here if we didn’t stop at the airport earlier and kept driving to Chicago” I laughed. By the way he asked it, I knew it was t going to make me feel better but I said yes, anyway. 10:30pm. We would have made it to Chicago almost 2 hours earlier if we’d driven from Atlanta.

We could have flown all the way to GERMANY, where we had attended another Global Leadership Conference when we worked for a company before getting back into the Chick-fil-as family.

But what could we do?? “Rejoice rejoice, we have no choice.” Our heads hit the pillow like rocks, and AM wake up call came fast.

When one of the first things said day one of the conference was “you made it, here!” my body and my heart took a giant, deep breath. Against a good number of odds, I was in that seat, my seat, to be reminded I AM A LEADER.

Chick-fil-A’s goal is to be the world’s most caring company. They prioritize customers and know that the way to do so is to prioritize their own people. Not just the people who’s names appear on the paychecks but the ones at home who support them, as well. My family experiences this world class care time and time again, this trip was one example of that.

It had been a LONG time since I sat in any kind of audience learning, growing, being challenged. I soaked it all up, took copious amounts of notes, and was so filled up, when we returned home to soon encounter two babies with their first “fevers at the same time”, it hardly phased me. My perspective was so big. My vision was so clear. And I have this amazing group of people inviting me into their team, to thank.

xoxo, va

getting diagnosed

Sitting in a doctor’s office patient room (or a therapist’s couch) and having a medical professional identify the nature of something going in my mind and body based on symptoms is nothing new to me. Chronic migraine, perinatal, and later, actual depression, uterine prolapse (don’t google that one, please, for your sake and mine — thank you, childbirth!), just to name a few recent diagnoses. Each one brings answers and a series of emotions, steps, acceptance, and more.

This morning, I headed to another doctor’s office at the recommendation of my physical therapist (the sacred woman treating me for prolapse). She’d been telling me for months and months and months I needed an MRI of my hips. When navigating our country’s medical/insurance system, you don’t just walk up to a desk and say “hey, I need an MRI”. Between the lack of a general practitioner (more on that in a later post), running this household with two small children, and appointment cancelling and rescheduling from both parties involved, it’s taken close to nine months for me to find myself in an orthopedics office. This guy is a hip expert, focusing on folks with hip issues under the age of 50. Aka, me.

“Something is off” I’ve thought in terms of my hips, primarily my left one, for many years. “I’m not a runner” is what I’ve always said amid eye rolls from actual runners who assume it’s because I wasn’t committed enough or hadn’t tried, really tried, to be a runner. But I have tried. Five miles is the farthest I’ve run (I did so after a bad break up, fueled by anger and hurt) and I remember the run so vividly because it was the only time my left knee didn’t fail me (I’m sure it was held together by heavenly duct tape placed there by a loving Father who knows what we need when we need it).

The first notable incident was hiking the Grand Canyon with my parents. Less than a mile from the top, the inside of my left leg gave out. I’d rolled my own eyes when I heard about the lady who slept on the canyon trail, never making it to our cabins down at the bottom, thinking “how could she not go any further? You go, just go, one foot in front of the other.” I ate my words when my own leg wouldn’t move, would not inch forward no matter how hard I pushed it. Walking sideways and backwards, crying into a bag of pretzels while my mother willed me to get to the top, was the only way I made it out of the canyon on my own two feet. At the time, I knew something was wrong but I thought little of it because I spent 23 miles HIKING THE GRAND CANYON.

Pregnancy, birthing children, living newborn mom life, these caused massive strain on my hips while leaving little time to focus on my own physical health.

With James decently stable as a budding toddler and us permanently planted in our dream home, and having spent years focusing on my mental health, my next step was to focus on my physical body. I’m physically weak, I know that, it was time to work on it.

After a few month lapse in physical therapy, I dove back in with a schedule that was manageable. At appointment number one, she asked if I’d gotten the hip MRI.

UGH, NO Rachele, I have not gotten the MRI.

The general practitioner route had been a total fail so I decided to go straight to the source — the orthopedic clinic we trust thanks to our family’s professional surgery experience (me: wrist in 2016, Lukas: shoulder in 2021). One phone call led me to a helpful receptionist who accepted my laments and concerns about my present situation. I didn’t want someone who treated elderly hips because I knew the approach for my own predicament would be radically different. I need my hips to last me fifty, sixty, possibly even seventy more years, not just a decade or two. Instantly she gave a name and we found an appointment on the calendar — a couple months later. That appointment got cancelled due to an office emergency and today, in August, I sat in my medical grade gym shorts hearing the doctor’s assessment.

He had a gut feeling about my hip injury (a labrum tear, which I expected as well) that would be confirmed by next week’s MRI, and a confident diagnosis of the root cause.

He wrote the diagnosis down at the bottom of his notes, tore it off and handed the piece of paper to me. “Look it up, you’re going to start to think back on your life and things are going to make sense.”

I’m not ready to publicly share the diagnosis, if I was reading this instead of writing it, I’d be super annoyed at myself. The diagnosis is something I’ve had all my life, and something that could greatly affect the future quality of life if not addressed.

By the grace of God (and my privilege of excellent medical access and health insurance), I am learning about this at age thirty four, when I have time to work on it.

Nutrition and exercise to strengthen my body in the areas that are weak will be the focus. I asked the doctor would I get better and he adamantly shook his head up and down. YES! “You will improve, we just don’t know how much you will improve, only time will tell.”

I left encouraged, and yet, in that instant, in those words on the small slip of paper I held in my hand, everything felt like it changed.

Nothing had ACTUALLY changed. I knew something was wrong, I’ve known something was wrong, and I learned this was with me since in my mother’s womb, and yet, everything FELT like it had changed.

After making all the follow up appointments, I climbed into my van in the parking deck and opened the internet and typed in the words from the slip of paper. I was overwhelmed, exactly the way the doctor said I would be, and also felt…numb.

Lukas was currently in the Houston airport and thankfully hadn’t taken off yet. Despite no internet and poor service we were able to process the news together. He’s my safe place and the more we talked, the more I teared up. I was afraid. I’d just learned more about another diagnosis (ADHD, way more on that to come!) the previous day and struggled to see how I was going to be successful in balancing both. He reminded me no matter what, we were going to do it together. He recommending taking off my research hat and focusing on self-care at the moment, which would give him a chance to get home, and for us to learn more, together. Essentially — take a deep breath, we are okay.

And I AM okay. Both ADHD and this newest diagnosis are two things I’ve had all my life. A life that’s been pretty dang full. A life in which I’ve functioned and thrived with both. A life ordained by a God who made me fearfully and wonderfully. Could this affect me longterm? Yes. Am I a little intimidated with the changes I’ll need to make? YES. Do I have hope that in all things He has made me more than a conqueror? HELL YES.

While on bedrest after James’ birth, I was sharing with my dad all the appointments we had when we got back to Atlanta. Lactation consultant, OBGYN, midwife, chiropractor, pediatrician, doula. He said “do you have TOO many experts?”

In this information heavy age, speaking with friends and family, diagnoses see to come extremely frequently. All the info is GREAT and shitty, all at the same time. Talking to mom this morning about the new diagnosis she reminded me “knowledge is power” to which I added “and ignorance is bliss”. There’s a happy medium where I’ve learned to use information and knowledge to my benefit, and have gotten really good at recognizing when I’m spiraling into a pit full of it (can anyone relate to the late night Google search that finds you DEEP somewhere you don’t want to be?!?)

After processing some of the initial feelings with my safest people (mom and Lukas), I fought the urge to bring others in. Even my bestest of friends and my TCC sisters. They will find out, soon enough. My circle will learn and find out what I need. They will be self-care for me, eventually. But right now, I chose self-care in the form of a chicken and waffle (that healing with nutrition thing can be figured out tomorrow!) from the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House.

With my belly stuffed with waffle, I drove the short mile back to my house and chose to hang out in the basement/garage to hide from my kids while I did another self-care thing, writing, telling my story. I’m not the only person that got a diagnosis today, or maybe yours will come next week or next month or next year.

Ever seen the stages of grief model? There are a whole bunch of them out there but this is my favorite:

Receiving today’s diagnosis triggered grief in me — grieving what life could be without it. In the same say I’m no stranger to life defining diagnoses, I’m also extremely familiar with grief. Being able to identify what I’m experiencing as grief helps me. It helps me allow myself to receive grace as this news sets in and brings clarity on how to move forward, one step at a time.

xoxo, va

hard mom moment

I’m sitting at my sticky dining room table, listening to some kind of music I don’t particular like but I’m not listening for the musical integrity, it’s playing for one reason and one reason only.

Drowning out James’ cries.

Tonight was a hard one with the kids. I was thriving, making things fun, problem solving, praying in the hard moments, gripping for peace when the chaos was all around, laughing at dinnertime. In cleaning up, I found some notes that talked about staying hungry — aka focused on your goals. Writing daily is one of my goals. A goal I’ve done a pretty crappy job accomplishing, lately.

BUT tonight was the night.

Lukas is out of town. I had the house to myself (well, I WOULD have the house to myself, once my precious children fell asleep).

I just told Alexa to skip songs because the cries were breaking through the slow motion melody. And I skipped another, and another and another.

Screw it.

“Alexa, play modern gospel.”

“I’ll never be more loved than I am right now
Wasn’t holding You up
So there’s nothing I can do to let You down…”

Here come the tears.

And then I stood to my feet.

Arms raised as Jirah sang over me.

“Going through a storm but I won’t go down
I hear Your voice
Carried in the rhythm of the wind to call me out
You would cross an ocean so I wouldn’t drown
You’ve never been closer than You are right now”

The plan was to write, to finish one of the 30 drafts sitting in my blog draft folder. I missed today’s weekly post. It just didn’t happen. I was going to catch up. I was excited about catching up.

And now my heart is focused back on the music…

“Move the unmovable
Break the unbreakable
God we believe
God we believe for it”

“From the impossible, we’ll see a miracle…”

Both kids were sick all weekend. We were knighted during our first “two kids having fevers at the same time” battle and it was brutal, but we made it. Tabby still hasn’t caught up on sleep from her body fighting the sickness and she was exhausted tonight. Everything was pulling teeth with her… actually, now that I think about, her teeth didn’t get brushed before bed…whoops!

I didn’t like that last song so told Alexa to turn it all off, fully expecting to hear screams, from either bed occupied by tiny humans, and yet, it’s quiet. Well, as quiet as it’ll ever be living so close to the city with our train whistles and airplane landings and tonight’s daily summer thunderstorm lurking about. I want to go check on the tiny humans, are they still breathing? **Deep breath** Yes, they are still breathing, they are okay, we are okay, it’s all going to be okay.

There are things in my life I’m not ready to talk about publicly, stuff God is stirring and moving around in this heart of mine. Don’t worry, we’re okay. Shockingly okay. When I prayed the prayer, a decade ago, asking God to be with me as I change my life because I wasn’t happy with it’s trajectory, I never dreamed I’d actually make it, to a life I’m so happy and content to be living.

And yet, even in “shockingly okay” and “content” and “happy”, life, there is doubt, fear, worry, concern, loneliness, etc.

Another prayer I prayed a few weeks before the “let’s change my life” prayer, during a wilderness season through body aching sadness, I crawled myself to the floor of my closet and wept. I hurt, everywhere, all over, and a song lyric came quickly to my heart… “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…” I was in deep waters, my feet were on no kind of solid ground, and I hungered for more, hungered for deeper, hungered for value and meaning and worth out of life.

I’ve never been one to play things safe in the shallow end. Actually, when it comes to a real pool, I hate the deep end and VERY much like the shallow end but for this hypothetical analogy, let’s role with the truth I’ve always been one to take chances, risks, and figure it out as I go. The deep calls to me, not because it’s where I’m comfortable, but because it’s where I’m not. I know the One who calls me into deep waters has never left or forsaken me and I know He never will.

Since that sacred afternoon in my Auburn closet (the same one I sat in to wait out several tornado warnings!), my heart cry has been for the Lord to lead my into the deep waters. I don’t want my feet to touch. I don’t want shallow. I want deep.

The thing about deep with God is there is ALWAYS deeper to go. A decade ago, the deep I was wading into, the stuff that scared me and robbed me of comfort, is now things that don’t make my knees shake. It’s stuff I was terrified to live through and yet, I did, I made it, and I’m living, breathing and THRIVING, on the other side.

Same thing goes for the deep seven years ago and four years ago and six months ago.

Recently, we were recounting with friends all that we went through to secure this house as our home. I can put myself back into those moments, those emotions of the first phone call that threatened the deal falling through, or the weeks of waiting for the appraisal dispute to be completed. That was deep waters, phew, was that deep. But now, it doesn’t feel so deep. We’ve lived in this beautiful home for four months now and life has moved on. God has called me to other deep waters.

I want to close with something profound and memorable. As a writer, as a storyteller, that’s typically the goal. But it’s 8:16pm, I’m PRETTY sure James is asleep but I need to go turn the monitor on just to be triple check sure. I need my daily late reward cereal, my nighttime tea must be made, and there’s Netflix to watch before bedtime calls my name at 9pm.

The dishes won’t get done. The floor won’t get swept. The random junk the kids have found and spread all over the living room and kitchen will stay put in its spread out places. I will care for myself now that the writing and the worship music has helped align my soul with the One who heals. He healed my hurt heart as I sat in the deep waters, tonight. Knowing my son had an upset stomach, having done all the things to help, and still couldn’t calm him down, I had to place him in his bed and walk away, knowing I needed to take a breather, that hard mom moment, yep, that was deep waters.

As I was a decade ago, I’m still here, treading water, grateful to the deep that calls me into its fullness. Full of hard and rich and unknown. Full of Him, in all of His fullness I can’t even begin to comprehend.

Here I go trying to get all profound again…. TIME TO GO VA. Cereal calls.

xoxo, va

seven minutes

At 12:10 pm, I saw I had twenty minutes to get to Mimi’s house for lunch time to stay on track for nap time. 18 minutes of drive time + a chicken kids meal drive thru stop (at the BEST food joint ever, but I might be a biased fan), I just might make it.

At 12:36, six minutes “late” I approached the light to turn into Mimi’s neighborhood. We’re staying here for a week while our aspiring thespian attends theater camp in the south suburb neck of the Atlanta woods.

It’s not that the drive is too far from our house, it’s our nap king (he loves naps, now, y’all!) goes to bed exactly at the time the camp doors open. Since sleep is not simple for James Paul, there’s no way I could mess up his schedule five days in a row or we’d be back at square one. A square I’ve come WAY too far from to revisit. So we are living at Mimi’s so he can nap, and we can get lots of quality time with my favorite second set of parents!

Almost there after a long morning being an actress, Tabby was waiting patiently to eat her kids meal at Mimi’s dining room table and I’d already been notified via text that James was more than ready for his grilled chicken nuggets. Approaching the light, I rejoiced, it was a green left turning arrow. With only one van in front of me I knew I’d make it. Until I didn’t.

The van ahead of me put his right blinker on, ugh, dude, move! At some point I even honked my horn a bit. Toot toot.

Yellow light.

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

Red light.

Dang it.

Now stopped with nowhere to go, a man exits the van with a sad look on his face and his arms raised in a shrug. “I think I’m out of gas.”

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

If I delay lunchtime I’ll delay nap time and yesterday’s delayed nap time was a nightmare. Lukas is out of town, James decided to party from 2-4am and I just can’t have another hard night.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you, worry that they are always watching you.” — Robert Fulghum

What do I want my three-year-old sponge watch me do?

“How can I help?” I asked the man.

With pleading in his eyes, he said, “you could take me to get gas.”

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

It’s going to take forever, we are going to miss nap time entirely. The kids will be up for days.

“Sure, get in!”

He hustled to grab a gas can out of the back of his work van and scooted into the front seat after I chucked all my “traveling mom” gear to the second row.

His name was Javier, a worker from Gwinett county in the area tackling a residential project. His boss warned him the gas gauge was broken in the van but as his first time driving it, he had no idea how broken it really was.

Approaching the next intersection where I sort of knew a gas station sat, we saw tons of emergency vehicles and traffic blocked in every direction.

“Yikes, that’s a bad accident” is what I said, but what I thought — GOD, I REALLY, REALLY DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

Finding my way to the right lane and up the hill to a gas pump, Javier jumped out, filled the tank, used copious amounts of paper towels to make sure it was clean, and looked at me with sad eyes again “it’s going to smell bad”.

“No big deal, I’ll leave the windows open!”

The father of two kids, we talked about the joys of being parents and he told me his job down south was going well. I asked him if I could drop him off at the light and would he be fine walking back across the street to his van so I could make a quick right to Mimi’s house.

“Oh yeah!” he said before getting ready to jump out of the van and thanked me over and over.

I gave a quick wave, put on my blinker and pulled into Mimi’s neighborhood. Peaking at my GPS ETA it shocked me how much time had passed. If I had a dollar for every time I thought “GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS”, I could have purchased a full tank of gas (even at these ridiculous prices) for the work van.

SERIOUSLY, God, I didn’t have time for it. I don’t know how we had time for it. I sat in awe, so grateful I’d listened to Spirit, and acted on the nudge to “show” instead of “tell” my precious little girl about being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Helping Javier? The getting him in the car, down the street, up the hill, to the gas pump, following the detour around the accident and back to the van? The thing I REALLY didn’t have time to do.

Yep, helping Javier took seven minutes.

xoxo, va