Friday, April 29, 2016

Butterfly Cake

My sweet friend Christine in my Bible study gave me this because the butterfly reminded her of my Lily girl. Not only does her thoughtfulness mean a lot to me, but it's neat that I was actually wanting something to make butterfly-shaped cakes, and had even looked into getting one a couple months ago. :)

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

She Made Me a Mom

A sweet lady named Rachel made me this beautiful graphic in Lily's honor for Mother's Day.

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All That Love Can Do

A Facebook group called "All That Love Can Do" was making graphics for the parents of babies in Heaven. I requested for Lily Katherine's name to be done. I love seeing her name written out. It's so beautiful for a real little girl.

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Lily Remembered in Staunton

A family friend named Bob thoughtfully sent me this photo of Lily's name written in blades of grass in Staunton, Virginia. :)

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Monday, April 25, 2016

A Garment of Praise

Baby showers for me are... well... complicated. 

On one hand, babies are wonderful and precious and such a delight.

On the other hand, they are a huge trigger of pain for me. They remind me of my beautiful baby lost. The innocence and blissful joyful expectation that surrounds baby showers tells me that I just don't quite fit in. And I never will again in such settings.

I don't have my living baby when I made it to term in pregnancy and went through the whole baby shower thing too.

People who have baby showers could never fathom their baby dying before they have the chance to use any of the darling outfits, miniature diapers, etc.

My unique array of experiences make things complicated. 

You see, I am passionately pro-life and love babies and believe all babies deserve life... However, because my own baby who I chose life for never had life beyond the womb, it makes being around other babies difficult for my heart. It's not that I don't love them and find them precious beyond words... In fact, it's because I do find them precious beyond words that it makes it ache. so. very. much. And of course add in my experience of loss through abortion and that adds another element of complication for my heart. I almost feel guilty for it being painful to be around and see babies because I'm pro-life and love babies. But I lost mine. Two of mine. And it hurts.

I know some people who have lost babies avoid the baby shower scene altogether. And honestly, I haven't been up to going to some I've been invited to. I have made it to some. But I ache at every one and wonder if it's worth putting myself through the pain, when I could just send a gift and card in my place. I'd hope they'd at least try to understand. And if they can't, well, that's a whole different issue. But, I digress...

There have been baby showers lately that I haven't been able to avoid. Don't get me wrong, I want to be there to celebrate my niece and my brother and his wife becoming a father and mother for the first time. 

This weekend, my mom and I will be hosting a baby shower in Kala's honor for some close friends. And I must admit, I didn't realize how hard the whole planning aspect was going to be... the Google searches, the planning, and shopping. I want to do it and I would do it again if I had the chance, even knowing how difficult it's been on my heart.

But that's the thing - I don't want the complications anymore. I want to feel "normal." I want to be like other people who think throwing a baby shower is only-happy and who can't imagine how it could be anything but that. I want to be able to believe that at the end of most pregnancies, healthy babies will be born and will get to ride home in their car seat in their pre-selected "going home from the hospital outfit." Not buried in that outfit instead, like my Lily was. I want to believe my niece will arrive safely and we will have the blessing of watching her grow up. I don't want to nag my sister-in-law with questioning if she's been counting my niece's kicks faithfully. I don't want to worry about the increased risk of stillbirth with each potential day she may go over her due date. I don't want to picture what it would be like if my niece died and wonder how I would respond and how we could make it through the tragedy of stillbirth striking our family so closely twice.

This is what living with stillbirth is like... even 6 years later. This is how stillbirth can impact your feelings and thinking in more ways than someone who hasn't experienced stillbirth could ever realize. I think some things are ok and healthy to avoid and I don't need to feel obligated to always go to everything or be involved in everything, however I also don't want my pain to isolate and consume me.

There are so many moments, too many than I could ever record, where I feel like my pain colors how I think about things. What am I to do with all the heaviness? How does Jesus desire me to live and approach this area in my life?

At church yesterday, my Pastor was talking about how in Isaiah 61, it talks about putting on a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. It doesn't say put on a garment of praise when the heaviness lifts, but for the heaviness, to combat the heaviness. Whether that heaviness be discouragement, depression, doubt, unanswered questions, or whatever the heaviness in our lives may be. We are to praise.

There is no situation or feeling too complicated that Jesus doesn't understand and have the answer. He is the answer. Our praises pull us out of the heaviness. In that moment when my Pastor was talking about this, it was like God whispered to me that this is the answer to my question of what I'm to do with my feelings and pain. I am to praise.

What does praising look like?

Practically, I think it looks like many things, including turning on one of my favorite worship albums and singing along at the top of my lungs, getting in the Word more, hiding his Word in my heart, praying His promises back to Him, praying and praising Him for Who He is, thanking Him for being faithful and declaring over my soul that He is, and remembering all that He has done in my life.

Dr. Bill Bright said, "Praise is a way of being liberated from the bondage of grief."

Putting on a garment of praise... that's how I'm to handle my emotions, my pain, and my questions when they arise. By putting on a garment of praise for all the things that are so very heavy, cumbersome, and burdensome. I am going to trust that Jesus will carry me through as He always has. I am going to cast my anxieties and cares on Him because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). He wants us to give Him all our cares.

I love this beautiful song called "Beauty for Ashes" by Shane & Shane (email subscribers click HERE to listen).

As for my anxiety over my niece's life and safe arrival, that is another care I must cast upon the Lord. I am reminded of a few Scripture passages that the Lord has been using to comfort me and as a reminder to trust Him...

Luke 12:25 says, "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"

My worrying about her life is not going to add a single hour to her life. Of course, we should show wisdom in things, but me freaking out about it is not going to save her.

Psalm 139:16 says, "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

All of my niece's days are ordained by God. They are all already formed, just as Lily's were. 

Job 42:2 says, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."

No plan or purpose for my niece's life can be thwarted... no matter how her life unfolds and whether it looks how we want it to or not. God is ultimately in control.

Please pray that this time of preparing for and hosting the baby shower will be a blessing and healing time. Please pray that I would trust the Lord with getting my niece here safely, and that the labor and delivery would go smoothly (she is due in only 2 weeks and 3 days). Pray she will be healthy and that Joseph and Kala will be given grace and wisdom as they transition into their new life after she is born. I can't wait to share that sweet little girl's name and picture when she arrives. :) I plan on having some lilies at the shower on Saturday in honor of my niece's big cousin, Lily. :)

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

6th Birthday Flag

My grandmother had misplaced the special 6th birthday flag that I got for Lily's birthday on Etsy. She just found it this week and took this photo for me. It was a surprise to receive it. Better late than never. ;)

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Disenfranchised Grief on Mother's Day

I'm already dreading Mother's Day approaching in a couple weeks in the U.S. It is an extremely painful day as a mother without living children.

This year will be my EIGHTH year as a mother on Mother's Day. That is crazy. How does one mark such a day as a mother to children who live with God?

Mothers who have lost children to abortion and stillbirth are often not understood or their experiences and motherhood acknowledged, leaving them to walk through the loneliness and isolation of disenfranchised grief. This is especially true for those without any living children.

I consider my first Mother's Day as a mother to have been in 2009. I was at Virginia Beach that weekend and would have still been carrying Luke Shiloh. I would have been 19 weeks 3 days gestation, to be exact. Instead, Luke had been with the Lord since 6 weeks gestation. But that doesn't change that he was real and that he made me a mother, whether I wanted to be one yet or not. His heartbeat was real. His DNA was real and would never be repeated again.

The following year, in 2010, would have been my first Mother's Day with Lily Katherine here. She would have been 2 months old at that point. We spent the week at Massanutten and I was going to have a baby shower with Virginia friends and family. Only there was no need for a baby shower and no baby in my arms. She too was with the Lord and her big brother, Luke.

The ache of Mother's Day gets more pronounced with each passing spring. How do mothers like me mark such a day? When our love for our children is the same, yet those on the outside looking in can't see them. When we don't have people sending us flowers and gifts, taking us out to eat, or telling us "Happy Mother's Day." When our arms are empty, empty, empty, yet our love and desire to care for our children in tangible ways is just as alive and real as the mothers around us with their children in adorable outfits.

When the only proof of my motherhood is the love I carry, the echo of the memory of the two hearts that beat within, and the marks of motherhood underneath my shirt.

Mothers who have lost children to stillbirth, abortion, or miscarriage, know you are not alone. Your babies matter and are real. Your motherhood is valid and important. Do whatever you need to do to heal and get through Mother's Day... Whether that be staying home from church and avoiding the baby dedications that make you want to scream and run, staying home altogether, making a delicious meal, going for a hike and picnic, listening to beautiful music, getting together with other mothers with similar experiences, getting flowers in your child's honor, staying away from social media, among many other things.

Please feel free to share your child's name and story in the comments section, as well as any ideas for how to mark Mother's Day.

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