Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 25

Day 25: Finished Sentences
October 25, 2016 

Day 25. Finished Sentences: Finish these 5 sentences...

I wish _______________________________.

I remember __________________________.

I could not believe _____________________.

If only _______________________________.

I am _________________________________.

I wish... I knew you at age 6. I wish I could have known you at every age up until the age you'd be now. I wish I had more than a select few photos to share over and over. I wish the world would recognize your value the way I do.

I remember... how wonderful it was to have you here and all the adventures you had during your short life. How simultaneously tragic and amazing it was to have you in my arms for the first time. How perfectly formed and beautifully real you were, with those dainty eyelashes, eyebrows, nails already growing out, and a face with features just like your mommy.

I could not believe... you slipped away for no apparent reason after a beautiful and healthy pregnancy. That at age 20, I was thrust into a world of baby caskets, headstones, and what it felt like to leave the hospital with empty arms after a full-term pregnancy and being denied a birth certificate for the 7 pound 9 ounce baby you birthed because she didn't take a breath.

If only... I had delivered you a few days before. If only I had known about the importance of kick counts. If only I had a husband and another *living* child. I know that "I have to surrender my "if only's" to Jesus," as Corrie ten Boom wrote. I trust He sees and understands. And He withholds nothing good and nothing needed from my life. He holds my "if only's" and He is always enough.

I am... always and forever Lily's mother, even if that's invisible to the world. ❤️ 

This post left me:

7-Year "Blogoversary"

This post was shared 2 years ago originally... I updated it for this year.

It was 7 years ago today, on October 25, 2009, that I wrote my very first blog post, titled "My Hope for this Blog."

This is what I wrote: "I made this blog because I want to share my story and my testimony with whoever will listen. It's a story of God's love, forgiveness, and redemption. I want to share my passion and my hope with other girls and young women going through circumstances similar to my own. There is hope. There is life. And His name is Jesus."

1,143 published posts and exactly 7 years later and here we are.

My hope for this blog remains the same, though the direction has changed some. At the time when I first started this blog, I pictured it to be a place where young women could come to be encouraged to choose life in an unplanned pregnancy, a place for post-abortive women to feel loved unconditionally, and a place for anyone to come and hear about the power, mercy, and redemption of Jesus Christ.

I never could have imagined, however, that a few months after this, my precious daughter would go to Heaven. I never could have imagined that my blog would also become a place of ministering to others who have lost a baby.

It has become so much more than I intended it to be, but everything God intended it to be. He had a plan for this blog beyond what I could see or comprehend on this October day 7 years ago.

And the "ironic" (I believe God orchestrates everything) part of it is, I started blogging first after seeing a video and reading a blog that a woman named Lauren wrote in honor of her son, Jonathan, who passed away shortly after birth from Trisomy 13. He was born and went home to with the Lord the very month that I heard his story and started my blog. I watched her video tribute of his life and read some of her blog and was so deeply touched by this little boy's life and legacy. I think it especially impacted me because I was carrying my own sweet baby at the time, in my second trimester of pregnancy. I was understanding at a deeper level every day how God has a plan and purpose for every life created in His image and that each life is so, so precious and irreplaceable. Each life can make a forever impact on this world.

I shared Jonathan's story on my Facebook page 7 years ago yesterday and then the very next day, I was inspired to start my own blog.

Here's a screen shot of that post.

I remember my hope for my new blog, and my desire to minister to other young women, growing within me. This was the same month that I had gone to the pregnancy center banquet in Charlottesville with my grandmother and the Lord had whispered to my heart that I would one day be sharing my story of redemption and life, through speaking and writing. Then God led me to start my blog just a week later. I knew that God was writing the life story of my daughter Lily and I wanted to share that with the world, just as Lauren had done with Jonathan.

It's just so neat to see God's hand in it all... how He put the desire to share within me, how my mom found Lauren's video/blog and shared it with me, how I had never thought about blogging but decided then that I wanted to, etc.

I remember thinking to myself, and saying out loud to my mom probably, that I could never imagine going through the loss of a baby. My mom and I wept so much when we watched Jonathan's video. It still never crossed my mind that it could ever happen to me or my healthy baby. 

I vividly recall sitting in my living room, trying to come up with a name for my blog. I knew I wanted it to be something with a rose and lily in the name... then it came to me, "Rose and Her Lily." I still love the name so much. My little girl was with me all her life and I will carry her with me the rest of my life. 

Even when I couldn't see it, God was preparing me. He was going before me. He was always with me and He's with me still.

The length of time I've been writing regularly on this blog is a testimony to how much I love Lily, how radically God transformed my life through hers, and the sanctity of all life. 

Lord, continue to use this blog for Your glory.

In honor of Jonathan and how his precious life impacted mine, here is his tribute video. I remembered the beautiful music from his video when Lily passed away and was able to use it at her memorial service after Lauren so graciously sent it to me in March 2010, just a few months after Jonathan was born.

This post left me:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 24

Day 24: Her Song
October 24, 2016 

I am going to come up with my own prompt for today.

My amazingly sweet and thoughtful friend Heather Cofer surprised me on Lily's 4th birthday in March 2014 with a song just for Lily, one of the best gifts I've ever received and one I will treasure forever - the words, her voice, and the melody are hauntingly beautiful. Sometimes I still can't believe Lily has a song. I'll never tire of it, or of the fact that my friend did this for me, after the Lord prompting her to do so.

I'll never forget how just a short time before Heather sent me the song, I was on a friend's blog and saw someone wrote her daughter a song (she is also with Jesus) and I longed to have one for Lily. God knew that Heather was in the process of preparing this most sacred gift for me, and even led me to desire it, without the slightest clue I already had one "in the works!" He wanted to bless me with Lily being honored in this way. :)

When Heather sent me the song (along with this lovely lyrics page), she wrote: "It has been a very precious and very serious process for me, knowing that I need to accurately portray a story not my own in a way that is beautiful and clear. I tried to incorporate ways that you have used to describe Lily and your story, and since this is written from your perspective, trying to also capture the deep emotion, love, joy, and sorrow that is apart of it.... My desire was for you to have a song that was specifically for Lily, from the outflow of your heart."

It was wonderful hearing the song in person for the first time last August. It expressed parts of my heart I never knew could be expressed. It's a keepsake of Lily's life and legacy in itself and has been wonderful to have this to share at the end of a speaking engagement, as a way to wrap things up. I'd love it if Heather could play it live on day somewhere that I speak.

The words take my breath away and bring me to my knees in thanking the Lord for her life, as well as missing her beyond description.

Heather has somehow captured my mother heart in these words, Lily's life and legacy, and what it means to me to be her mommy. The song just fits Lily - it is so gentle and sweet, yet also has a bittersweet sound. It depicts the sacred dance of grief and joy. Heather is an amazing musician. I have thought her voice and piano playing is so beautiful for as long as I've known her. Her sweet voice matches this song perfectly. 💕

Here are Heather and I last year with her beautiful daughter who was due on the exact same day Lily was, 5 years apart.

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.

This post left me:

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 23

Day 23: Sounds, Seasons + Scents
October 23, 2016 

Day 23. Sounds, Seasons + Scents: There are reminders of our children everywhere. We find them in songs, in scents, and different seasons. Share the things that bring you closer to your children. Feel free to share a song that reminds you of them.

Each season holds sounds, scents, and feelings that remind me of Lily for a different reason... thinking of her time on Earth or all her life would be holding with each new season and year.

Fall reminds me of my pregnancy, seeing her and hearing her heart for the first time, feeling her kick, and my love growing along with my belly.

Spring is a bittersweet time of year. It reminds me of the time Lily came...and went. She was born just days before spring started. 

In the first few weeks after losing her, all the flowers were blooming beautifully and the sun grew warmer on my skin. The birds were happily chirping along, preparing nests for their wee ones. It felt wrong that life was marching on and the seasons were changing, even though she wasn't there. It felt like everything was supposed to stop since her life had ended. 

With the promise of spring, came the promise of Lily. Like the new life bursting forth from the earth, Lily was new life. Spring and Lily...they came together. I see the hand of my God in choosing for her to be born right before the genesis of spring. He silently speaks with the vibrant colors, fresh smells, and the beauty of the season. There may be pain, there may be sorrow, there may be winter...oh, but in Him, we have the hope and the certainty that joy and spring are coming! 

With spring comes new life and fresh hope. Even here on Earth, the Lord is bringing beauty from ashes. There is spring even here, in this fallen world. 

She was born on March 16 (3:16) and yet again, He silently speaks His promise of spring...

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16 

Not only does God somehow, some magnificent way bring beauty and spring here on Earth, but He reminds me that spring is coming. Eternal spring

Some family friends named the Kirchmans gave me a bleeding heart plant at Lily's celebration of life/memorial service in March 2010. I remember when they first gave it to me thinking that the little pink hearts were a powerful reflection of my bleeding mother heart. My heart that bleeds both love and sorrow. And how perfect that hearts remind me of her and my Valentine's baby shower.

We planted the bleeding heart in Lily's memorial garden and each spring around her birthday, it blooms. It is something I look forward to in the spring... the time of year when she came, but never came home. It is a connection to March 2010. A connection to Lily.

Last spring, it appeared that the plant wasn't going to revive. But then it did... This bleeding heart is a reminder that though things may sleep through the winter, they come back in the spring! The spring is such a glorious time of hope and resurrection.

I am so thankful the Lord brought this little plant back to life. And even though it appeared it was gone forever, it was just sleeping. Lily might appear to be gone forever, but she is just asleep to this world... but forever alive in Jesus.

I'll end with this poem that reminds me of my sweet girl and the love I carry for her through every season:

My Little One, My Dear One, My Love
By Edward Searl

My little one, my dear one, my love,
you will be with me forever:
in the thin sunlight and long shadows
of a clear winter's day;
in the dawn excitement of birds
sounding in early spring;
in the rustle of heavy-leafed trees
in a mid-summer's night;
in the rich aromas and bright colors
of a warm autumn day.
All that is excellent,
brushed by Life's
brightness and shadow,
will remind me of you,
My little one, my dear one, my love.
You will beat with my heart,
see through my eyes,
hear with my ears,
feel on  my skin.
Because your soul is mingled with my soul, forever,
My little one, my dear one, my love.

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.

This post left me:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lily Remembered at Niagara Falls

My friend Tina wrote Lily's name at Niagara Falls on October 15th - Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Did you know they light up the Falls in pink and blue on that day?! It's magical. I'll share a picture of it when Tina sends me one. Her family lives near there and were able to spend the day there. I hope to one day visit and go with her! 💕💙

This post left me:

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 22

Day 22: Pearls of Wisdom
October 22, 2016 

Day 22. Pearls of Wisdom: Do you have any words of wisdom to share that you have found helpful? It could be from a writer, speaker, philosopher, maybe even a friend. Feel free to share quotes, poetry, song lyrics, or just ideas. I invite you to share a message of hope for all the newly bereaved parents and loved ones out there.

I want to share some words from a letter written by John Piper to a lady whose son was stillborn. These words are incredibly comforting to me and I pray whoever reads them who have also lost their baby will find comfort in them as well.
Please know that I know I don't know what it is like to give birth to a lifeless body. Only a small, sad band of mothers knows that. I say "lifeless body" because, as you made clear, your son is not lifeless. He simply skipped earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, he will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows.
I do not know what age - what level of maturity and development - he will have in that day. I don't know what level of maturity and development I will have. Will the 25-year-old or the 35- or the 45- or the 55-year-old John Piper be the risen one? God knows what is optimal for the spiritual, glorified body. And so it will be for your son. But you will know him. God will see to that. And he you. And he will thank you for giving him life. He will thank you for enduring the loss that he might have the reward sooner.
God's crucial word on grieving well is 1 Thessalonians 4:13: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." Yours is a grieving with hope. Theirs is a grieving without hope. That is the key difference. There is no talk of not grieving. That would be like suggesting to a woman who just lost her arm that she not cry, because it would be put back on in the resurrection. It hurts! That's why we cry. It hurts.
And amputation is a good analogy. Because unlike a bullet wound, when the amputation heals, the arm is still gone. So the hurt of grief is different than the hurt of other wounds. There is the pain of the severing, and then the relentless pain of the gone-ness. The countless might-have-beens. Those too hurt. Each new remembered one is a new blow on the tender place where the arm was. So grieving is like and unlike other pain.

You can read the entire letter here.

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.

This post left me:

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 21

Day 21: Relationships
October 21, 2016 

Day 21. Relationships: How have your relationships changed? Did you lose any? Have you made new friendships?

Through having (and losing) Lily, the Lord has brought many amazing people into my life.

Some of the women I treasure, I met online. They are women of all different ages, with different stories, from across the world. It is incredible how the Lord weaves our stories and lives together. I haven't even met some of my dearest friends "in person," but when you relate on the deepest levels because of shared similar experiences, it's as if you've known that person always. When your hearts connect, it doesn't matter the number of miles between you.

The lovely ladies I've met in person/locally are also amazing. The photo on the bottom is from Lily's 6th birthday. I was out of town that day and couldn't be at my local loss support group meeting that happened to fall on her exact birthday. The ladies who did meet together had red-velvet cupcakes for Lily and took this sweet photo for me. Red-velvet as many of you know is a Lily tradition, started because of my Valentine's-themed baby shower. Isn't that so sweet?!

I'm also thankful for the people I know outside of the loss community, the family and friends who have stuck by me through the years, taking interest in being a part of the special events or occasions where Lily is honored. The photo on the top is from Lily's stone placement ceremony in November 2013, when I finally got her permanent headstone and was able to share the meaning behind it.

I hear some people talk about how their families don't "count" their baby in Heaven, don't talk about them, include them, celebrate them on their birthday, etc. And it makes me realize just how blessed I am to have a family who does love, honor, miss, and count Lily. My family and friends walked out their pro-life convictions in Lily's life... but honestly what I'm finding is they did so even more in her death... Their love for her and understanding of the sanctity of life was even more pronounced in their depth of weeping when she was buried on that day in late March 2010, in how they celebrate her birthday with me each March 16th, in their sensitivity in how they try to understand best they can what I'm feeling and what I need, in wanting to visit her "special spot" with me when we're in Virginia, in not being afraid to speak her name - not in a tense and awkwardly forced sort of way, but just normal, because she is a part of the family, in not making me feel like I should stop missing and loving Lily as other people try to make me feel, but entering into my pain and love with me, because they feel it as well, in being gracious and compassionate with me, even when I do get overly emotional and don't always make sense. Her absence is recognized because her value was first.

Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.

This post left me:
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