Monday, November 30, 2015

Lily's Angel Heart

I love artwork from Carly Marie. Here is the latest one I received. It's an "Angel Heart." :)

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

It Is Well

Through tears, I spilled my heart to this kindred-friend of mine, "I thought seasons were supposed to end... but this season of being single and childless seems to be endless."

I know the single ladies in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are rolling their eyes right now, because a 26-year-old said that. Perhaps it is a bit dramatic. And in light of Eternity, my entire life on Earth will be but a breath when I one day look back upon it.

However... now... in the midst of this loneliness and not being able to see what I know God sees, it's hard. 

I know I've written about it before... but when God asked me to surrender and relinquish the relationship with Lily's father and then found Lily's purpose on Earth to be completed before drawing her first breath, well... you see, I assumed God would surely one day bless me with a godly husband and children to call my own that I actually get to hear them call me "mommy" and give them warm hugs and more "I-love-yous" than the ocean could hold. 

Surely, I presumed, after the suffering I had experienced and at such a young age, God wouldn't require singleness of me for life. Surely, He wouldn't take my child from me to then go on and never give me another.


Honestly, that's what makes this singleness thing so stinking hard. Because I thought God would one day restore to me what was lost. Because I am a mother who has had to watch others I know who have also lost a baby go on and have a child (or 2 or 3). Because I see what seems like everyone around me being given every gift I long for. Because 18-year-olds I know are getting married and I wonder what I'm lacking? I wonder what do I still need to do or what level of spiritual maturity or healing do I need to reach before God will think I'm ready for a husband? Am I single because I would be an awful wife and mother? Do I not make a desirable wife? Will Lily be the only child I ever birth... real, yet intangible, untouchable. Will I live my life alone, knowing I'm a mother, but nobody even able to see that is true. And many people not even considering her real or me a real mother since I'm not a parent in a "traditional sense."

My life feels like an old record that's gotten stuck, not able to move ahead in the song. I look around and see everyone else dancing to beautiful songs. I have felt left behind. I have felt forgotten and abandoned by God. Does He love those other people more than me?! Does He see my ache of loneliness?! 

A couple weeks ago, Nancy Leigh DeMoss from the ministry Revive Our Hearts, got married for the first time at the age of 57. She did a series to be an encouragement to single women. She shared letters and comments from single women who are decades older than me, women who have always longed to get married and have a family of their own, but God hasn't answered that prayer, and He also hasn't taken the desire away.

For some reason, I can't stop thinking about these women. That might be me one day. There is no guarantee that I will one day get married, though it seems everyone likes to assume it'll eventually happen. Who are we to assume God's will? And the truth? I am terrified of being single for the rest of my life. These older women are proof that just because I want it doesn't mean it's going to happen. And He might never take the desire away, even if I never am meant to get married. 

Last Sunday at church, we sang the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul..." And as the words spilled off my lips, I felt Him ask me... "Is it? Is it really well?" And I felt convicted that I was singing those words, yet realized that what I have found to make my soul well is conditional. Is my soul well... if I get married? If I have more babies? Or is it well because it is HIM ALONE who makes it well, despite my circumstances. Even if I am locked in a dark and cold prison cell for my faith, or spend my life alone. I am never truly alone because I have Him. And He is truly all I need. With all the craziness going on the world lately, I realize more and more how much I need Him. And with Him, it is truly WELL.

When I was a teenager, and even a preteen, I believe some of the choices I made were because I was "looking for love in all the wrong places" as "they" say. As I was talking to the Lord about being single this week, He reminded me of that. And then He showed me how I'm currently doing the same thing, just in a way that is harder to detect. I'm still looking for love and fulfillment in a relationship with a guy - only now a marriage relationship with a godly man. That is a good thing to desire. However, when I'm looking for my peace, joy, and hope for feeling complete or fulfilled in a man, I am looking for love in the wrong place.

Perhaps part of the reason God has allowed me to be single for as long as I have is to teach me this very important lesson. That He is the only, one, true, RIGHT place to look for love. He is incapable of being unfaithful or letting me down. Though a godly husband will love me and there is nothing wrong with desiring that, he will inevitably at times let me down because he is a human. But my Jesus never will. He's my steady. My constant. The One I can depend on and trust with my everything. He wants to prove Himself to be all I need.

I don't have to change to be loved by Him, but it is His love that changes me!

I know the story of my life is not yet over. And I am still quite young. I am sure the next pages that God will script will be completely different than I anticipate or could imagine. And 26 is not old. I guess it just feels like a long time that I've been waiting because of the experiences I've had and the young age I was when I had them. 

I have been reading "Quest for Love" by Elisabeth Elliot (cheesy title, I know, but seriously a MUST READ for single Christians). There is much I want to share about what God is teaching me through this book. This is one of the parts that stands out to me:
"If we imagine that happiness is to be found by furious pursuit, we will end up in a rage at the unsatisfying results. If, on the other hand, we set ourselves to pursue the wise and loving and holy will of our Heavenly Father, we will find that happiness comes - quietly, in unexpected ways, and, surprisingly often, as the by-product of sacrifice
Desire for marriage deeply tests our understanding of the cross. The cross of Christ means sacrifice. He gave Himself. He asks us who want to be disciples first to relinquish our rights to ourselves, then to take up the cross, and follow (Luke 9:23). The cross in Roman times was an instrument of torture. Jesus took it up gladly - in obedience to His Father and for love of you and me. If He asks us to take up our cross daily, He is asking us to be willing to suffer. What else can the cross mean?
Except for those far ahead of most of us in sanctity, waiting is a form of suffering - the difficulty of self-restraint, the anguish of unfulfilled longing, the bewilderment of unanswered prayer, my flesh and my heart failing, my soul breaking. These are indeed tribulations, and tribulation is the curriculum if we are to learn patience. We want answers now, right now, but we are required at times to walk in darkness.
Nevertheless, God is in the darkness." 

Single or married. Children on Earth or only in Heaven... My God knows what He's doing. He sees the end from the beginning and He holds my heart. He is sanctifying me through the longing, the waiting, the suffering, the unanswered questions in a way He couldn't without those things. My struggle and wrestling is not a sin, but a tool in His hands, to draw me to Himself and make me more like Jesus. I thank Him that I have anything to sacrifice and that the unseen realm is watching. I want to suffer well, for His glory. I pray my life brings Him glory, and that I can truly say and mean it when I say it that it is well with my soul, knowing full well He is with me.

The man who wrote "It Is Well With My Soul" personally knew suffering after tragically losing several of his children. Yet, he knew that God could be trusted. To read more of the story behind the hymn, click HERE. After knowing what this man was going through when he wrote it, I think of that each time I hear and sing it now. And I realize that if God gave him the grace to write and mean it, then He will give me the grace to sing and mean it.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

Listen to "It Is Well With My Soul" below (email subscribers click HERE).

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Friday, November 27, 2015

May We Still Feel Whole

"The table is set and our glasses are full
Though pieces go missing, may we still feel whole."
-Sleeping At Last

She is that missing piece. And no matter how many are seated around the Thanksgiving Day table, the place where she'd be will never go unnoticed.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Can’t Believe That I Could Ever Think of Life Without You

It was 6 years ago this month that the picture below was taken and I wrote the following on this blog (one of my very first posts). I am so thankful to have these words that I wrote during that time. It is a gift to see my perspective at that point and to see just how much God was working in my heart and life.....

I first heard the song "Little One" yesterday during the ending credits of the new movie, Sarah's Choice, starring Rebecca St. James. I had been eagerly anticipating the release of this movie that portrays a single woman who must make the decision whether she is going to choose life or death for her unborn child. My expectations for this movie were definitely met! In fact, more movies like it need to be made. The story really struck a chord in my own heart because in the story of my own real life, I am dealing with a situation very much like this one. The story is raw and it is powerful and I feel like I understood everything "Sarah" was experiencing.

Listen to "Little One" below (email subscribers click HERE).
This song will always be incredibly special to me.

Over the past few months, I have had to make the decision about what "choice" to make with my own unborn child. Then, I realized the choice was never mine to make. God gives and God takes away. I feel like the words to this song truly echo the words that my heart longs to express. How could I have ever lived my whole life without knowing my precious daughter? How could I have gone without ever holding her, kissing her, knowing her? I can't fully explain the joy and peace I feel these days and months that I'm carrying my baby. Feeling her kick and move is unbelievably exciting and amazing! It seems like whenever I try to let someone feel, she always stops! But, my little sister finally felt her kicking last night! Just knowing what is going on inside my body is enough to keep me thinking and pondering forever about God's goodness.

What once seemed to be the thing that would end my life is now one of the reasons that I live. Sure, my life is going to be different now than what I had originally dreamed or anticipated. But, God has so much planned for this little life growing inside me! And so much planned for me! He is already giving me a new vision and new dreams for my life! I now see that being unmarried and pregnant is not a sin in itself, but what got me here was the sin. My baby is not a sin. She is still a blessing and nothing to be ashamed of! I have turned from my sin and walked away, and God is blessing me for that. He is taking a situation the world would look at as horrible and is bringing Himself glory and changing my heart for the better.

My sweet Lily almost never got the chance to live. But, my God saved her! Praise You, Jesus, for changing my heart and saving my child! And God saved me. He is truly an awesome, amazing God with a heart full of love and compassion. God, teach me how to love this baby. Teach me how to be a wonderful mother. Give me Your heart, patience, guidance, strength, wisdom, love, and peace. I feel so inadequate to be entrusted with such a great responsibility! But, I know You alone will give me what I need to get through each new challenge and each new day. And when that day comes, which is soon, that this lily-white princess is born, I will truly be looking into a face showcasing Jesus' love, forgiveness, and redemption. I long for the day I can gaze into her blue and curious eyes and know that I made the right choice. Life. And what a beautiful choice it is!

Reading what I wrote, I see how the Lord was giving me a mother's heart of love for my child. It is bittersweet to read these words. Bitter because I never did get to gaze into Lily's blue and curious eyes. Sweet because of how she changed my life.

I wrote this post to say that I was thankful that I had chosen LIFE for my baby. At that point in time, I never would have wished it any other way. I want to say right here, right now, that even though things didn't end up the way I thought they would (they were already going to be so different than what I had planned when I wrote this post), I am still so thankful that I chose not to have an abortion. Life is still a beautiful choice, when your baby lives and when your baby dies. It is still the right choice. As I wrote in my post, God gives and God takes away. Though I never could have dreamed He'd take her so soon, I still believe that Lily's life was/is in His hands.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lily's Christmas Tree

I decided to get a different mini Christmas tree for Lily this year because the usual green one I use got damaged in storage. I found a pretty gold one at Target for only $8 and think the color looks pretty in my room. Here's a peek at my room with Lily's tree decorated with white lights and all her ornaments that I've gotten and have been given over the years. It's sitting on top of her cedar memory chest.

On another note, when I was taking the ornament box out of storage, one of the fragile ornaments a friend made for me in Lily's honor in 2012 broke. :( I'm sad that happened, but hope to get the glass part replaced, even though it won't be the original.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Lily's Christmas Stocking!

I never got around to sharing Lily's completed memorial Christmas stocking last year. Here it is. :)

It was created with love by my grandmother "Bumma" for her great-granddaughter. My mom and sister-in-love, Kala, also helped with the dangle balls. It's simply perfect. I wanted the colors to be Christmassy colors, while also appropriate for a little girl. They also remind me of Valentine's Day, which makes me think of Lily because I had a Valentine's-themed baby shower.

Bumma and I first started discussing her making Lily's Christmas stocking a couple years ago. It took a while to figure out exactly what we wanted to do. Then last summer we went together to pick out the yarn at a store on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia called The Needle Lady. I wanted to support a local business and the quality of yarn was better too (made in Turkey!)

My grandmother made me a stocking when I was a little girl (see picture below). :)

I was her first granddaughter and Lily was her first great-granddaughter. This was something special the three of us can share. And it'll be extremely special for me to have this through the years, even long after my grandmother goes Home to be with Jesus. Because she was here when Lily was and she would have been there seeing her grow up. That is so hard for me to know they would know each other if Lily were here and to have no idea if she'll know my future children. Having this stocking reminds me that Bumma does love and know Lily. She loves her and knows her because she has the special bond that a great-grandmother has with her great-granddaughter, even if they never officially "met." And she knows her through me (shout out to my #1 blog follower, Bumma, who is reading this on her email haha!)

Here is a picture I captured of Bumma knitting Lily's stocking during our vacation at Massanutten last fall.

I plan on hanging her stocking each year, one day next to her future siblings' stockings. She will always be a part of my life and Christmas.

Read all the posts about Lily's stocking by clicking HERE.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Copeland Concert... 6 Years Later

I've posted several times about my favorite band from when I was pregnant with Lily and how I went to see them in concert on their Farewell Tour when I was 9 months gestation in March 2010. Because of this, they will now always make me think of her.

A year ago, they released another album after deciding to get back together and make new music after 6 years.

Well, a couple weeks ago, my sister Emma and her boyfriend, and our sister-in-law Kala went to see them in concert. Hello, bittersweet nostalgia. It was in the same venue in Chapel Hill as it was when Lily was with us. The layout was a bit different after all these years, but it was still much the same. The entire night felt like a blast from the past, driving over there and going out to dinner, going to the concert and hearing some of the very songs they played in 2010. Because it was their Farewell Tour then, I never imagined I'd see them again in concert or that they'd make new music. When my sister texted me a couple months ago to tell me they were coming to our area again, I couldn't believe it. I was so excited... mostly because they do remind me of her and going there was a way to do something I did with her, which makes the memories of her feel closer.

It was surreal being there and realizing how many years have passed and how much has changed. I thought about how I was pregnant the first concert I went to and now Kala was pregnant this time. I remember meeting the band and getting pictures with them and their autographs in 2010 and they said one day I could tell Lily she went to see them in concert. My little baby girl would now be my big Kindergarten kid.

Here are the Copeland concert pages in Lily's scrapbook :)
Kala & I got a picture in my house in the same spot that my mom, 
sis & I got one nearly 6 years ago (November 2015 above and March 2010 below)

Excitedly on our way to Chapel Hill
Kala & I out to dinner

My sister Emma & I... wow she has changed and grown up so much in the past 6 years

Copeland making beautiful music
For a little taste of Copeland's music, here is a song from their new album that I like a lot (email subscribers click HERE). The song is called "In Her Arms You Will Never Starve." It is so beautiful and reminds me of the love of a mother and/or a wife... the love I ache with hope and longing to be able to give my own family one day.

These are the lyrics: 
"In her arms you will never starve
You will never freeze, and when the world is hard,
you can fall asleep there
in a world of chaos, she could be your silence
The oceans of her kindness, they will pull you under
So fall in. Break through it,
and when you stumble in the cold,
she will urge you onward
And in your darkest hour,
should storms rage around you now,
her love will be a shelter,
and she will pull you under"

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