The Ivy Leagues

a journey of faith, love and much HOPE

Three years later…

Lots of reflecting goes on in March, a month that has been painful in years past, but this year holds so much excitement all wrapped around the 3rd heavenly birthday for Ivy Raye! We can hardly believe it has been 3 years since Ivy Raye was silently born in to this world, and born full of life in to heaven!

The last time we blogged was just before our move to the Memphis, TN area for Nathan to go to school for diagnostic medical sonography.  Let us catch you up on the last 3 years 🙂  if that is even possible!

In August of 2013, we made the trek from NH to the Memphis area and lived with great friends for 2 months while looking for a home.  I homeschooled the kids, while Nathan worked odd jobs and worked tirelessly to get himself in to the diagnostic medical sonography program that was to start January 2014.  We settled in a town south of Memphis…Olive Branch, MS where God provided a beautiful home for our family!  The kids were able to start attending a small Christian school, and everything was going as planned.

Well…at least we thought it was…

Then, Nathan did NOT get in to the program for January 2014.  We were devastated!  Here we had sold our home, uprooted our family, moved thousands of miles for him to NOT get in the program after all.  What was God doing???  If you recall our 2013, the incredible journey with Ivy Raye was very eventful!  God knew we needed a year at a slower pace.  God’s timing is not always our plan!

God provided in so many ways during that unplanned year!  We left family and friends in NH that had walked the most difficult time of our lives with us.  It was lonely at first to be in a new place, and finding a new church home was also harder than we ever imagined.  If you are unfamiliar with the South, there are churches on every street corner…in some cases multiple churches on one corner!  We wondered how in the world would we ever find a place to attend.  But God is always faithful, and after visiting a few churches He made it very clear to us where He would have us.  We are so thankful for the church where we are planted and for the people most of all that have made us feel so loved! God also provided jobs for both of us to sustain us during that year and beyond.

Nathan re-applied for the diagnostic medical sonography program in the Fall of 2014, and was accepted to begin in January 2015 to study cardiac sonography (echocardiography).  It has been wonderful to watch him learn and love what he is doing!  I’ve continued to work, and the kids are doing great in school!  It hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns…not gonna lie! We’ve faced exhaustion and a tight budget and days where we’ve felt like we couldn’t possibly keep up the pace. But the end is in sight!!

We are always amazed at the details, and feel God’s love in even the smallest of them.  Nathan’s desire from the beginning of this journey has been to eventually be a pediatric cardiac sonographer.  While doing his clinicals this past year, he’s gotten the opportunity to work at two children’s hospitals in the area. He’s loved his time spent at both.  God is always faithful and has provided again by a job offer from one of the hospitals!  We are thrilled for him to graduate on March 24th from the diagnostic medical sonography program, and begin working on March 28th at the hospital.  Two wonderful events hugging our precious Ivy Raye’s 3rd birthday on March 26th.  God in the details…He is there!

Happy Birthday, Ivy Raye!

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The Journey Continues…

WoW!!! Ivy’s influence and story continues on! That girl has impacted us for life, and for that matter many others as well! Can’t wait to see the extent of how God uses our beautiful, baby girl!

We have decided that Nathan is going back to school in January to study to become an ultrasound technician. All that we have been through in the recent months regarding our daughter, Ivy, has unraveled this passion in Nathan’s heart to work as a tech to be able to be a help to those who may encounter similar circumstances that we were faced with. We also have a strong desire to be able to volunteer my services at crisis pregnancy centers.

In order to fulfill this new-found passion, it means we must sell our house and relocate to Memphis, TN-For many reasons including cost of living, equity in our house, and proximity to Rachel’s family in northern, MS. Our house is currently on the market. Our plan is to move once it sells. We don’t know when that will happen, but we anticipate a quick sale. (Ideally, we are hoping to be in TN by late August/early September) I encourage all of you to continue in prayer for our family! You have been such an encouragement to us. We are sad to go, but also excited in this new-found direction for our family. Please pray for us as we embark on this journey. We want to make an impact on people’s lives, especially for the sake of Jesus. We welcome all questions you may have, we may or may not have answers at this time 🙂 Thank you all again for your support and love.

One day we will look back with our sweet Ivy, and be able to enjoy together all that God has done through our journey! The Journey continues for our family, and we will keep you posted!

God goes before us and we trust in Him!

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“God uses Time to Heal”

When Ivy was born, we were assured that in time our hearts wouldn’t ache so badly over losing her. But the wise words of a dear social worker didn’t make much sense at the time. She shared with us that it wasn’t “time” that healed us, but God using time to heal us. I so badly wanted the aching and grief to go away, it hurt like nothing else I’ve ever experienced! But it didn’t go away.

Grieving is like walking through hot, scalding sand on the beach. I just had the privilege to get away on an overnight retreat with some wonderful ladies to the beach in Maine. While we were there the weather was in the 90’s…unusual for this time of year. The beach was only a short walking distance from the place we stayed, so I decided to leave my flip flops at the house. Big mistake!!! As I walked further and further into the beach area, the sand seemed to get hotter and hotter! I had to dig my feet down into the sand to find relief for my burning feet! It didn’t matter how quickly I tried to run across the sand, which isn’t the easiest thing anyway, the heat was just as intense! It hurt!! Even when I was finally off the sand, my feet hurt!

Grieving hurts! No matter how quickly you try to pass through it…it hurts. Just like running in soft sand, it is also hard! But in order to get from point A to point B, it is necessary to go through it! Just like after loss, it is necessary to grieve.

I’m so thankful for the advice we were given that it was/is ok to grieve…to work through it, to hurt! God isn’t embarrassed by our need to grieve, He isn’t embarrassed that we aren’t joyful 24/7 and act like we experience no pain. God created us with the ability to grieve and with the emotions to do so. If you are grieving, God doesn’t expect you to be super human and slap on a smile for all to see that you’re A-ok! He clearly tells us there is a “time” or season for grief…but also a “time” to dance!! No one can predict how much time passes between the two, I think that is different for each person. I see that difference even between Nathan and I. But I also know that God says “His grace is sufficient,” and in spite of the time needed to grieve, He sustains us with His grace!

My feet still ache a bit from the hot sand at the beach, my heart still aches for Ivy. I long to see her again. I ask God to give her hugs and kisses from us each day and to tell her we love her. But with each day, I find it easier to pray that without sobbing. I find us talking about her and referring to her like another member of the family, and doing so happily. It has been just over two months since Ivy was born. We miss her and love her dearly, but can clearly see how God is using time to heal us!

A friend just said to me yesterday, “You seem like, you are back to your normal self.” :-). I took that as a compliment actually :-). While I’m still sad and miss Ivy, my new normal seems to be in full swing 🙂 some days are definitely better than others. I don’t think or no one should ever expect us to “get over it,” but I sure don’t want to walk around in sadness and gloom forever. I’m glad that the sad moments are more rare these days than the norm. Again, it is clear…God is using time to heal us, and for that I’m very thankful!

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Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s day to all you moms out there. Rachel and I didn’t expect today to be a particularly tough day for us. However, at church this morning, our pastor recognized all of the moms in the room and then commented on how for some, today is not a positive experience in that some may have lost their mother this year or lost a child.  That’s when it slapped me in the face. In the past, we have celebrated at least 3 mother’s days with a newborn in our arms.  This year, it’s different.  The emptiness swarmed around me in that moment.  No, we are not holding our newborn today.  She died. She is gone.  I began to cry as the pastor prayed for all of the moms.  I was in a dark moment.  Sad, torn, empty. At the end of the prayer we begin to sing “10,000 Reasons.” One of the most special songs to us through our journey with Ivy.  And the words echo in my ear: “The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning, It’s time to sing Your song again, whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.”  I couldn’t sing with my voice because I was so choked up, but I was singing with my heart because in the midst of my sad emptiness, I could only find reasons to bless the Lord.  It was one of His hugs. His reminder that He is always close at hand.  He never leaves…even in my feeling of emptiness.  My heart was turned to Him.  And, wouldn’t you know it, at the end of the service we sang “Forever Reign.”  “Oh, I’m running to Your arms, the riches of your love will always be enough, NOTHING compares to your embrace, Light of the World, forever reign!”

This is not the mother’s day that either of us had ever dreamed of having.  Yet, it is the one we are faced with.  And in our grief, we have seen the goodness of God in a way we have never seen before.  Not that we have not seen His goodness, we’ve just seen it in a different light.  Thank you for your prayers for us.

Below is the link for the video of the Celebration of Life service we had for Ivy Raye on April 3.  We know that many of you around the world have been following and supporting us.  We wish you could have all been there.  We hope you are able to watch the service now and see how God used this little life in so many of our lives.  Thank you all for being such a vital part of our journey.

Please click here to watch the service:  http://youtu.be/LVBiRowRauw

 

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Refreshed…

When weeks passed and especially months after finding out about Ivy’s condition, Nathan and I discussed a much-needed family vacation.  We hoped to get away for a few days, but the uncertainty of what was yet to come kept us from planning anything.  After Ivy was born it became certain that we needed time away with our other three kiddos…sometime…somewhere…just away!!!

We never dreamed of the trip we’ve just experienced. I type this as we fly home with memories for a lifetime!

Dear friends of ours, Mark and Dawna Bailey, offered us their timeshare to use wherever we could find availability.  We looked somewhere within driving distance at first. As the hunt for a spot to vacation continued, by my very diligent and frugal husband :-), a week in Kissimmee, Florida became available.  We’d dreamed of one day taking the kids to Florida and Disney World, but that was years down the road…we thought!  Not only did Nathan find a week available in Florida, but within 10 miles of Disney! Next was the hunt for flights, with a family of 5, we never fly places.  Usually it is a trek for days in the car 🙂 but for the dates we needed, Southwest offered the cheapest flights!!   Coincidence…I think not!  God orchestrated the most awesome vacation for our family.  More than we could plan or even thought possible.

Many of you gave us love gifts after Ivy was born. You made it possible by your generosity for our family to take this fabulous vacation. MVBC choir, your love gift funded our wonderful day at Magic Kingdom! Friends that gave us restaurant gift cards, I put them away for our trip and we enjoyed using them while in Florida!

We are unworthy of such generosity, and are grateful more than my words can express!

But it doesn’t end there..a friend contacted us on FB while we were already in Florida wondering if we might like passes for our entire family to Legoland!  Are you kidding me?!?!  Owen and the girls love their Legos, and now we were being provided with an opportunity to go for free!  Our God made Himself abundantly clear to us this past week.  Even through the rain!  The night we arrived, the weather man stated that an unusual amount of rain and thunderstorms would be passing through…the entire week!  Our first day we spent the entire day in the pool with sunshine. The next day we went to Disney, with occasional sprinkling that was refreshing! This once Florida girl wilted in the heat and humidity. The rain brought cooler air and felt great! With each day, rain was a factor, but it seemed to always hold off until we were back in the van and headed home.  Multiple times, the bottom fell out within minutes of us loading up in the van.  Coincidence…I think not!

During our vacation, I was able to think less about what all we’ve been through.  But at least three or four times during our day at Magic Kingdom, Nathan and I had good cries.   You’d think “The Happiest place on Earth”…why there?!  During one of their parades, the master of ceremonies riding in the first car of the parade was a child with Make-a-Wish. As the characters danced by singing “Celebrate the dream inside of you”, our sweet Ivy came to mind.  I could only imagine what this precious child was facing and what her wonderful mother must be thinking as they rode through the parade.  I looked over at Nathan and we both stood there sobbing.

Later in the day, we were walking through the park when a boy, maybe 9 years old, passed by us crying. I watched him carefully and quickly realized he was lost.  I caught up with him and asked if he needed help.  He was horrified!! We called his mom’s cell phone, which she didn’t answer.  Nathan asked which direction he came from and what ride they had just finished.  He then said, “I’ll notice a frantic mom looking for her child.” And off he went.  We waited and tried to console the boy while I constantly called his mom’s cell phone.

Soon Nathan returned and sure enough had this boy’s mother with him.  The look of horror on her face and then change to relief was more than this momma could bear.  I sobbed with her!   Once lost, now found!! Oh the picture of God’s joy, when we believe in Him.

All day at Disney we saw families with balloons, but not until we spotted a pink one did Ivy come to mind.  We had to get one and get a picture!  Our girl was definitely there with us in our hearts!

FamilyatDisney

It still amazes me how differently one person to another grieves!  While I was more than happy to be so busy on vacation to push the thoughts of sadness and sorrow away, it didn’t take much to be reminded.  Nathan on the other hand chose to read and reflect every day we were away. It’s not that I want to forget, as a matter of fact, every Tuesday I’m more than aware that another week has come and gone since Ivy entered this world…six weeks this past Tuesday!  She will always be remembered and loved, but I must admit that the time away was refreshing.  This time gave me a break from the norm, rest and refreshment.  Nathan and I both agree that our vacation was just what we needed and God knew that!  We managed to balance busy days with lazy days, and actually came home refreshed!

God is so good, even in the midst of our sorrow and grief, to bless us with a wonderful vacation!  We are very thankful!

balloonatDisney                           FamilyatDisney2

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Daddy Diaries

My turn.  I’m not writing this out of obligation or to compete with my wife.  Instead, it’s because of her that I feel it necessary to explain how I am grieving.  Here’s what I am learning.  I read my wife’s blog post and immediately started to sob.  More than anything, I don’t want us to change.  I don’t. But what I realize now through her beautifully written words is that as much as I don’t want to change, I have.  I must accept that.  I know it’s for the better and it’s a change that will enable me to bring glory to God by allowing me to love better, heal better, cry better,…see Him better. Why must I resist this change?  Do I really want everything to go back to the way it was? I know that God is showing me that this change in me is something I must embrace.  But with all change comes a little fear, anxiety, and perhaps some apprehension wondering if it is indeed a better thing.  So, don’t get me wrong.  I am grieving.  I think about Ivy a lot and miss her and the time we would have had with her on this earth.  However, I have worked so hard to make things “normal” again.  Busy!  That’s what I’ve become.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a guy or a New Englander (maybe a little of both), but I’ve found myself busier than ever.  I’ve not allowed myself much free time since even a couple weeks before Ivy’s arrival.  Since her funeral, I’ve gone back to work full-steam, perhaps with the expectations of busyness I would not have to think about my grief as much. Maybe that’s why I threw my back out!  I wasn’t able to work all week last week. Forced to rest. What am I to learn from this!?  Then, there’s Rachel…who, from my perspective, deals with her grief in such a graceful way, it causes me to weep because I feel so lost in mine.  A friend gave us a book on grief and in the introduction alone, I began to see my problems in the way I am dealing with my grief.  Here is an excerpt:

“In our culture, we tend to acknowledge physical wounds but neglect emotional ones.  That’s particularly where grief is concerned.  We would not expect a burn victim to show up at work after only three or four days in the hospital on the theory that he will ‘work’ himself back to health.  Yet traditionally, employers in this country allow for only three or four days of bereavement leave.  For some reason we seem to expect people to ‘work’ their way out of their grief.  It was not always so.
There was a time, not so many generations ago, when people routinely expected a family to ‘go into mourning’ for a year or more after the death of someone close.  It was traditional to wear black for an entire year following the death of a loved one.  Wearing black was more than just a formality.  It was a way of reminding themselves and those around them that they were still in a fragile state and needed to be treated with special regard.”

-excerpt from Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love by Raymond R. Mitsch and Lynn Brookside

Time. I need time.  Someone recently told me that time does not heal all wounds…God does, and He uses time as His instrument of healing.  Such truth!  Again and again I am pointed to God!  He is my healer.  He is the giver of time.  So, I will wait.  I am no longer looking to find our old normal again.  We are facing a new normal.  One that includes our grief and sorrows.  While I may not wear black everyday (although, at least my Starbucks uniform is all black minus the green apron), I am indeed still in mourning.  I am still sorrowing. I am still grieving.  You may be surprised when you see me though. I may not always appear as one who is in mourning as I haven’t stopped laughing or smiling or being goofy and funny.  No, this change in my life has not changed my personality.  No, that is God-given.  I’m not sure what has changed in me just yet, but a change has occurred, and I need healing, time, and God to help me see what that change is and how it has made me and my family better.  I’m sure there’s more to come.

Thank you, Rachel.  I love you.

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Mommy Diaries

Three weeks and a half have passed since our sweet Ivy Raye entered quietly into this world! For such a small and quiet child…she’s had one huge impact!!! She’s changed us forever!

I had read that when a parent loses a child, they are forever changed, and that scared me. I’m always trying to change my hairdo, my weight, my outfits…but this change is not one I had asked for or had control over. Some days I hardly recognize myself, and even Nathan will ask me “Are you ok, Are we ok, Do we need to talk? And then on other days he’ll say, “You’re back!” I don’t know where I go…deep in thought maybe, deep in sorrow, deep in grief???

Here are some examples of the changes I’m experiencing…~My moods have never been on such a roller coaster!! Happy one minute, then crying the next is my new normal. I cry at the drop of a hat. I fear that I’m “the girl” no one wants to be around because they just might say something that triggers my tears. Trust me the tears seem to flow at the most inconvenient and undesirable moments!~I daydream of Heaven ALOT. That’s not a bad thing, I suppose. I wonder what Ivy is doing with God, and frequently ask Him to hug her and tell her we love her. I wasn’t in the habit of doing that for any of my other relatives that have passed away. ~ I find the “regular” worries of this world to be pretty insignificant and petty at this point. Nothing in my life has compared to losing a child. I’ve never experienced such heartache and emotional pain! I don’t know that the old me will return after all this, or that I even want to be the old me again.

In so many ways, though, I’m still the same! I love great conversation with friends over a yummy cup of coffee. (Insert tears here most likely.) I still struggle with staying on top of the laundry, and will do just about any other house chore before tackling it. I enjoy being outside and digging in the dirt/flower beds. I enjoy exercising and eating cookies! (wish that losing my sweet tooth would have been one of the uncontrollable changes that took place 🙂 I’m still the mommy to three beautiful, energetic, and loving children who need me. They bring me back to reality, make me laugh and make my heart happy and full! I’m still the wife to an amazing man who has traveled this journey with me. I couldn’t be more thankful for Nathan Stecchi.

Through the heartache and the pain, I’m getting acquainted with my new normal. I’ve met God on a whole new level. He shows Himself to me in ways I’d only heard of before, but now I see! (I stole that from Job, but I can now relate…not to the extent of grief and sorrow that he must have endured, but to seeing God.) Nathan and I have experienced the fullness of God’s grace. We don’t grieve the same ways or even at the same times, but God’s grace is plenteous to cover us both. And I must admit, with each new day it gets a little, tiny bit easier. I look forward to our “time to dance” again! Until then, thank you to each of you brave enough to join us in the grief and sorrow. Thank you for the countless cards and words of encouragement! Thank you for all the meals delivered to our home! Thank you for your endless prayers and kindness! We are truly blessed!!!

A glimpse into life after the journey…
Ivy Flowers Ivy Display1 Ivy Balloons2 Ivy Display2

Ivy Balloons1

Ivy Burial2 Ivy Burial Ivy Basket

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Memorial Video

Here is the video we put together for the Celebration of Life service for Ivy Raye. We put it here on the blog so everyone who has joined us on this journey will get to meet our precious gift from God. Although her body contained no life, we still got to see her beautifully formed and full-term. It was a blessing to us an continues to draw us closer to our God. Please have some tissues ready. 🙂

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Reflections…

We wanted to share with you some of what we experienced last night at the Celebration of Life service for Ivy Raye.  It was an amazing service! We wish all of you could have been there.  We hope to have a video of the service for you to see.  Until then, this is our latest blog entry. It is what we shared as a couple last night:

 

Rachel and I wish to say that “Thank you” cannot express our gratitude to all that have been a part of our journey with Ivy.  To our friends, family, co-workers, to our church families, to our doctors, counselors, midwives, medical staff, and our nurses, whom I affectionately refer to as our angels, to most importantly, God our Father.  I wish to read to you a Psalm that has given us much hope in this time:

Psalm 84:5-7

“5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,

    who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,

    it will become a place of refreshing springs.

    The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.

7 They will continue to grow stronger,

    and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.”

I will carry you.  It was a choice we made at week 19 when we were given the option to terminate Ivy and our journey.  Trisomy 18, heart disorder, spina bifida, deformities, sick, broken…all were words flooding us as we sat there that day. We were aware of the pain, suffering, difficulties, confusion, and questions that could and were sure to come.  But the reality is the choice was simple.  You see, we may not have been prepared for whatever pain that would come for us or our broken, little Ivy, but we knew that without the pain, we would never experience grace…healing…life. We could have simply ended it there and moved on.  Yet, we would never have become wiser…knowing all that we know now.  The truth is that we would have forbidden the impact that this little life has made on us, on you, and the world.  A life that never breathed the air of this world, but taught us so much about this life that we live.  Broken. Helpless. Was she really so broken and helpless?  Perhaps that is why she existed, to show us how broken and helpless we are.  In our helplessness, we have seen the power of God who bestows grace on all men so freely.  Our journey is not without its “Valleys of Weeping”…but the promise is that we will continue to grow stronger as our strength comes from the Lord.  The psalmist continues:

“11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.

    He gives us grace and glory.

The Lord will withhold no good thing

    from those who do what is right.

12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,

    what joy for those who trust in you.”

We are joyful…not happy…joyful.  In our sadness, we still have joy.  We are promised weeping, yet the hope of joy is still evident.  Ivy Raye has shown us this.  She has shown us God.  And it is the same even for Him, for He understands better than all of us that through such great suffering and sorrow, joy is there.  The Bible tells us “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.”  For us.  Jesus did that for us.  Sad as our hearts are at the loss of our precious little Ivy, she has reminded us all of brokenness and salvation, suffering and grace, abandon and love, sin and forgiveness…sorrow and joy.  It was our privilege and joy to carry Ivy Raye while she was with us on earth. We miss her deeply, and will love her forever, but we rest in the joy knowing that the One who created her will carry her forever.

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Celebration of Life

Join us to Celebrate the Giver of Life
Ivy Raye Stecchi
CrossWay Christian Church
503 Dunstable Road
Nashua, NH 03062
Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 6:30 p.m

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