stories from the oaks | anne

healing generational devastations. binding up wounds. building up. claiming land in victory. standing victoriously on the battlefields of life. proclaiming freedom from bondage, from captivity. comforting those who mourn. anointing with sweet smelling oils. we are the oaks of righteousness. a planting of the Lord. we are deeply rooted. we stand firm. we share our stories of grace and healing and restoration and revival and beauty.

these are the stories from the oaks.


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anne whitehouse’s story

as we search for favor in our every day life, we are to be obedient to the call.

That statement has defined me more over the last 2 years than ever before. And thus the journey began: A couple of years ago my husband and I left wonderful jobs, our family, a wonderful church, and the most beautiful valley in Virginia, to pursue a cry in our hearts. Believe me, nothing felt right about this move. My heart felt broken and tears were an everyday accompaniment. Except that still small voice, that kept reciting, “won’t you walk with me in obedience?” And so, we walked. Not knowing anyone or anything about this city we moved to, we continued with our day-to-day things. I found a church, I volunteered at a Dream Center and worked sorting in the clothing closet and cafe with and for the homeless. I wore my heart on my sleeve and loved on God’s children as He started showing us WHY this walk of obedience was going to change our lives.

Meanwhile, my husband worked in a very oppressive area. We heard and read stories daily on murders, robberies, and rape just blocks from his employment. He wanted to make a difference…he tried everyday. “What if this is our mission field and we are to shine our light in this darkness?” he would say. And so, we continued this walk…

Until one day we realized this doesn’t have anything to do with us. God did not send us out to get rich, or to save the world, He told us to do something and we were doing it. And when we felt peaceful enough in this walk of obedience we asked Him why…and the fruit and favor began to flow. He had plans for our lives and He had plans for our children, and little by little He revealed the WHY.

Walking with God because He tells you to finally felt right. Our children were seeing favor upon favor in their lives and it is still going on to this day. We recently moved back to our sweet little valley and we continue to see His favor. Everyday is a walk to follow him. Even when it doesn’t feel completely right.

It is not always about you. God is the Father of all, and His love is for all His children. Let Him call you into experiencing His favor via a walk of obedience.

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless”
Isaiah 40:29
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thank you for sharing your story of favor, anne. and for such encouragement! i am honored and blessed to call you family. now, can we please live closer to each other? thanks!
if you are interested in sharing your story, send me an email {swankyanddapper@gmail.com} and we will get things going.

stories from the oaks | allison

healing generational devastations. binding up wounds. building up. claiming land in victory. standing victoriously on the battlefields of life. proclaiming freedom from bondage, from captivity. comforting those who mourn. anointing with sweet smelling oils. we are the oaks of righteousness. a planting of the Lord. we are deeply rooted. we stand firm. we share our stories of grace and healing and restoration and revival and beauty.

these are the stories from the oaks.


allison gauvin’s story

I met my husband in my junior year of high school in gym class. He was a senior, the cute transfer who would skip his English class to play kickball in mine. We became good friends, flirting and hanging out until he graduated and left for Hawaii.

Flash forward three years, I had decided to live at home my first semester of my sophomore year of college. My mom forced me to bring my little sister to the grocery store, she needed paper bags to cover her text books (remember those days?). I was wearing boys basketball shorts, glasses, looking just adorable. I saw some moron smelling a pineapple in the produce section, but once he came into focus I realized it was Ben. We chatted for a couple minutes, exchanged numbers and I thought that would be it. A few days later, I was on my way home from a sorority rush event, Ben called. He wanted me to come over to his friend’s house for a little “welcome home from boot camp” party. When I arrived, Ben was wearing a water bottle belt that runners wear, each bottle filled with a different liquor. Needless to say he needed a ride home.

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I drove him home to a money pit-esque Victorian house where his dad was smoking in his underwear on the front porch. As Ben changed into his pjs, my first thought was…”eight weeks of 10 hour workouts have been good to him”. I thought this sleepover would simply mean another notch in my bedpost. The next morning, I woke to Ben grilling egg burritos.  The house had no oven, so every meal was cooked outside. I never left after that, I would drive home from school or work and always end up in his driveway. My mom called it “playing house.” One day I came home to a toothbrush in the bathroom and an empty dresser drawer in our room.

Five months after that first night, I walked into Planned Parenthood.

When the nurse came in and told me the test was positive, she nervously began telling me my options. I never let her finish. I was excited. I didn’t want to finish school, I wanted to start a family. I bounced out of the exam room, walking towards Ben I whispered “we’re pregnant”.

Then, we broke the news to our families. His mom was pumped, my mom cried, my dad asked what I was going to do about “it,” and my dad’s father banned me from his house until I was a married woman. Ben proposed the night of Mother’s Day. We were laying in bed, it was dark and quiet. I honestly don’t remember what he said, only that I said yes and he slipped his mother’s engagement ring onto my left finger.

I was twenty years old and twenty weeks pregnant.

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Three years later, I waddled into my non-stress test at 38 weeks pregnant with our second child.

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From our first appointment with him and hearing the heartbeat, I knew that something was wrong. We struggled for a year after Jules was born to get pregnant again and when we finally did conceive, I miscarried at 10 weeks. Because Ben was deployed to Afghanistan, we couldn’t try again immediately. Once he came home, this pregnancy happened fast – two weeks later.

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This pregnancy had been tarnished by unknowns, ultrasound after ultrasound finding small issues. First, I had placenta previa (my placenta was low and blocking my cervix). Then, there was hydronephrosis (extra fluid in the kidneys) at the next appointment. Finally, at 32 weeks, he was IUGR (intra-uterine growth restriction). Beckett had stopped growing, despite all the subtle problems I was reassured countless times that he would be fine and everything would be fine.

The lack of growth prompted an induction at a larger hospital equipped with a NICU two weeks early, just in case. I spent thirty hours in labor and opted for the epidural. As I laid back to let the medicine kick in, Ben, my sister Mary, and my best friend Kaitlin were laughing in the corner. After all, we were hours away from welcoming our baby into our family, a baby we had waited for. Finally we would get to hold him and I would know for sure that he was fine.

As soon as my head hit the pillow, my heart rate dropped along with Beckett’s. The nurse slapped an oxygen mask on me and started rolling me from side to side, within 30 seconds half a dozen doctors strolled in and wheeled me out. I was going to have an emergency c-section. I remember starting to shake, my adrenaline kicking in. I glanced at Ben, told him to wait for me and that I loved him.

They wheeled me back to my room after the surgery, I tried to nurse Beckett. He was so sleepy, he wouldn’t latch on. The nurses had to bring him to the nursery multiple times, his temperature was low. Every time I woke up from sleeping, he would take another turn for the worst and eventually, he ended up on a ventilator. Finally, 18 hours after coming into this world, doctors decided to transfer him to Boston Children’s Hospital via NICU ambulance. I was discharged less than 36 hours after my c-section, my husband drove me up to Boston in the rain.

Beckett lay in a private room in BCH, machines helping him breathe less than 48 after I gave birth to him. He had lost half a pound, weighing only 4lbs 11oz. He was being pumped full of drugs, a revolving door of doctors and specialists offered their opinions and condolences but no conclusive answers.

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That Sunday evening Ben and I opened a conference room door, eight maybe ten specialists, neonatologists and nurses sat around the table. Our nurse practitioner sat at the far end of the table, her eyes were shining too brightly for us to be receiving good news. Ben and I sat closely, our shoulders were brushing together. Dr. Neilan, who would later save Beckett’s life on more than one occasion, started speaking weaving together a long explanation yet dancing around any concrete information. He is infamous for his drawings, anything can become his canvas. I still have the first picture he had for us, to explain that our son’s life as we knew it was over. “Severely retarded” and comfort measures only were mentioned. It took more than 60 seconds for those thoughts to register. Ben burst into tears and started to yell, I couldn’t open my mouth-the words weren’t there. I asked if they could explain how severe the damage would be, Dr. Neilan stated the odds of Beckett walking, talking, even making eye contact were slim. Who knew that discussing how a newborn was going to croak could take so long-we spent over an hour making very clear that we were in this for the long haul, we wanted to use any means necessary to keep our son with us for as long as possible. My oxycodone (given to me for the c section) had begun to wear off, I could feel the incision that had been sliced into my abdomen days earlier start to throb. We had never taken ourselves too seriously, everything about our relationship just fell into place. I now felt myself falling into a deep pit, I couldn’t climb out so I planned to tunnel to the left or right until I found the light again.

In the hospital, we were staying in the parent sleep spaces: windowless closets. Ben slept on the floor so my incision could heal. I remember having to do all my postpartum care in public bathrooms. After our meeting with our medical team, we went back to our room so we could call family members. Having to explain over the phone that because of Beckett’s genetic mutation (a recessive gene that both Ben and I carry) he now had metabolic acidosis (pyruvate carboxylase deficiency-later we would learn that Beckett and Clementine do not have PC deficiency but a condition similar to it, they are the only little ones we know of with this mutation) which also causes leukodystrophy (white matter brain disease) and in turn the brain disease causes global developmental delay. Doctors gave him a lifespan of seven days, with such little time we wanted to celebrate his life no matter how brief. We invited our friends and family to his baptism. It would be held the next morning at his bedside.

One week turned into two and then three. Beckett couldn’t coordinate suck and swallow, so a PEG tube was placed (later a Mic Key button replaced it) for feeding. He failed his hearing test. His heart had an extra pulmonary artery and one of the pulmonary arteries was enlarged. Every part of his body had suffered damage from the high acidity and ammonia inn his blood. Dr. Neilan with the pharmacy concocted a drug plan, making the medications Beckett would need to survive from scratch. Unfortunately, the medication can not cross the blood-brain barrier so the brain disease is still progressing today. We were learning everything we could about Beckett’s care so that we would be able to take him home. We wanted so badly to be a family, even if it was for a short period of time.

At seven weeks, we were moved from the NICU to the floor for discharge. Home was in sight! The same day he was moved, Ben and I received tickets to a Red Sox game through a generous donation to the hospital, the game was less than two miles from the hospital. We left Beckett mid-afternoon, he was resting. When we returned less than four hours later, I picked him up out of bed. He was limp, pale, rapidly breathing. We yelled for a doctor, immediately he was rushed back to the NICU. He had gotten sepsis, a blood infection, the infection got in through his PICC line. The PICC is used as a more permanent IV, because of the central access it is more susceptible to infection. He went back onto the ventilator, almost dying a second time.

Ten weeks after being born, Beckett was released from the hospital. His diagnosis is considered fatal, so hospice was called in to do our home nursing care. They came once a week to do vital signs, we also began receiving early intervention services at home. We fell into a rhythm, our own kind of normal, between “regular” activities, appointments with 14 different specialists and therapy at home. Ben and I agreed that this was now our life, we couldn’t change it so we needed to adapt and move on. We grieved for a time, but crying didn’t change anything it only made things harder. I shy away from negativity now, trying to look for any silver lining I can find-it helps on the tough days. My children depend on me and feed off of my energy. They watch and imitate how I respond to life’s challenges.

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We agreed to never compromise our family time, if we did something it would be together. We would make sure that all our children could participate to the fullest extent, we did and still do try go out regularly. I want my children to experience the world, to celebrate every part of life. We do things a little differently and there is a lot of prep before we leave the house, which is the key to success. I have changed a g-tube in the shoe section of Target, Ben has carried a wheelchair up two flights of stairs so Jules could go to the movie theater, we have baked and decorated cookies at the hospital because Beckett was in the MICU the week before Christmas. I don’t ever want to keep my kids from doing something because it would be too much effort on my part. This past winter was the first time I told Jules we couldn’t do something because of Beckett’s wheelchair, it had snowed at the playground and I didn’t bring a shovel. It absolutely broke my heart, she should never have to miss out because I wasn’t prepared.

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I have four children now, two boys and two girls. Two typical and two affected. I was never close to anyone with a disability, this has opened my mind and my heart. I have learned so much from my children, they are not a burden but truly a blessing. Each has taught me something, I have become more patient and compassionate. We have met and made friends with amazing people from all over the world. We have been able to experience so many wonderful things. If we had chosen a path without Beckett and Clementine, our lives would be in a totally different place, and I’m not sure I would want to be there. I am so blessed to be where I am today.

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gosh. thanks for sharing your story, allison. you can follow allison and her darling family’s story over on instagram. she is @allisonkate
if you are interested in sharing your story, send me an email {swankyanddapper@gmail.com} and we will get things going.

stories from the oaks | rachel

healing generational devastations. binding up wounds. building up. claiming land in victory. standing victoriously on the battlefields of life. proclaiming freedom from bondage, from captivity. comforting those who mourn. anointing with sweet smelling oils. we are the oaks of righteousness. a planting of the Lord. we are deeply rooted. we stand firm. we share our stories of grace and healing and restoration and revival and beauty.

these are the stories from the oaks.

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me and my fresh ink. in honor of my 30th birthday. the tat is a greek style, westminster cross symbolizing the sacrifice of my Savior. His irresistible grace. grace that pursues. grace that envelopes. grace that obliterates the flesh. grace unending.

ephesians 2:1-10 | and you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. for by grace you have been saved through faith. and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

the cross signifies that grace. that BUT GOD pivot point. i was dead in trespasses and sins. i was disobedient. i carried out the passions of the flesh, the desires of body and mind. BUT GOD. His mercy and love and grace saved – and continues to save. i am a constant work. being molded. being broken and rebuilt. and through it all, BUT GOD. He is always at work. He saves and saves and saves again.

this cross reminds me not only of the sacrifice of my Savior, his work in the cross, my salvation…but of my total depravity. my flesh. my sin. it is a visual reminder that Christ has conquered death. that we are more than conquerers through Him. that He holds the power over all. all sin. all death. all flesh.

1 john 2:17 | the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

ultimately, the flesh will perish. this skin will pass away. what remains is our spirit. our works for God.

when turned to the side, that cross is an X. it reminds me of sin. the mistakes. the forbidden. the dark things. X is also the roman numeral for 10. for me, it serves as a reminder of 2010. a year of mistakes. unbalance. disorder. hurts. cruel words. confusion. mind games. broken promises. a murky time. BUT GOD. He reached in and straightened out. He showed me afresh the beauty of the cross. He seared the flesh and left behind a powerful and beautiful scar where a wound once was. He used His refiner’s fire to purify, to remove the false. the filth. He cleansed. He pruned. He turned the swamp of our life into a season of joy and healing and forgiveness. He used it for good. it was the year of the Lord’s Favor. we were broken. we were restored. we were strengthened and refreshed. renewed. recommitted. we were delivered. brought home.

proverbs 24:16 | for the righteous falls seven times and rises again.

this tattoo is a symbol. a reminder.

we all have reminders of the good and bad in life. these marks commemorate a shift, a fundamental change. we have pictures in frames. we receive keys to a car to show our teenage independence. we exchange wedding rings to signify a change in status and a covenant made. we have scars to show injuries and sickness and surgeries and healing. diplomas for educational achievement. stretch marks are earned, showing the metamorphosis into motherhood and signifying a change in our body and spirit. as we move into our twilight years, we wear glasses for our fading eyesight and carry canes to steady our elderly gait. we etch words and dates into gravestones. these moments and many others, these are the chapters of life. our table of contents. significant things are worth commemorating. life is worth commemorating. milestones and moments and memories.

the Bible is brimming with commemoration and symbolic actions to signify salvation and transformation. cleansing. washing white as snow. purifying with fire.  being reborn. the old dying and the new coming alive. and as i stand on the brink of a new decade of life, i want to mark the occasion. and i want to remember what has been done for me. i want a visual reminder that the flesh is passing away. that the flesh holds no power. Christ has freed me. i am victorious. i have been given beauty for ashes. gladness for mourning. i am an oak. i am strong in the Lord. i drive a stake into the ground and claim this land for Christ, i proclaim that darkness has no power here.

romans 7:15 | for i do not understand my own actions. for i do not do what i want, but i do the very thing i hate. for i know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. for i have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. for i do not do the good i want, but the evil i do not want is what i keep on doing. now if i do what i do not want, it is no longer i who do it, but sin that dwells within me. for i delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but i see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. wretched man that i am! who will deliver me from this body of death? thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! 

i mark the cross on my flesh to show that His cross has saved me from the power of the flesh. i am marked for Him. i belong to Him. He owns my life. He owns my heart. He owns my mind. He owns my body. He has delivered me from this body of death. thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! may this temple of flesh be used to honor Him. may my eyes be fixed on the cross.

here’s to victory and realness and freedom.

Coram Deo.
xo, rachel
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if you are interested in sharing your story, send me an email {swankyanddapper@gmail.com} and we will get things going.

the year of the Lord’s favor

the year of the Lord’s favor

the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. they shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

isaiah 61:1-4

friend, this is our calling. this great work is what our lives are all about. each has a story. stories which are real and raw and painful and horrible and lovely. for the righteous falls seven times and rises again. we are more than our stumbles. we are more than our successes. our lives, as messy and remarkable as they are, are to be used to proclaim the greatness of our God…and to heal others. to comfort those who mourn. our failures are not to define us. they are to move us. to stoke us. to humble us. to empower us to take action and extend grace upon grace. to encourage others. our stories are powerful. and when we overcome, when we are victorious, when we are saved from destruction, we rejoice. we share. we have work to do. we are called to join with others. to link arms. to rebuild those places of desolation. to repair. to drive a stake into the ground and proclaim that darkness has no power here.

this is our grand work. and no matter where you have been or how far you have to go…this is the year of the Lord’s favor. your life and your story can be used mightily. do not be afraid to shine light into the darkest places. the only way to remove the shadows is to illuminate.

would you join with me? would you rise up as a strong oak of righteousness and tell your story? i am starting a new series here that will share the powerful lives of remarkable people. of ordinary yet extraordinary people. the bold ones. the overcomers. the fighters. the survivors and thrivers. those who are still stumbling through. those who have made it through the fire without even a hint of smoke left in the fibers of their garments. those who barely made it out alive. those who have big mercies to share. those who have smiled and suffered alone. these are our stories. meek and mild or loud and wild, these stories are amazing. these stories touch. these stories connect.

this series is about…

healing generational devastations. binding up wounds. building up. claiming land in victory. standing victoriously on the battlefields of life. proclaiming freedom from bondage, from captivity. comforting those who mourn. anointing with sweet smelling oils. we are the oaks of righteousness. a planting of the Lord. we are deeply rooted. we stand firm. we share our stories of grace and healing and restoration and revival and beauty. these are the stories from the oaks.

if you would like to participate, leave me a comment here {or over on instagram} or send me an email @ swankyanddapper{at}gmail.com

here’s to victory and realness and freedom.

Coram Deo, rachel