Monday, August 31, 2015

Study Abroad Opportunity

An opportunity has arisen for me to go to Seoul, South Korea in March of next year. I would actually be there on Lily's 6th birthday!

The trip would be for 10 days, with other Liberty University students. I have never been out of the country and have a desire to go out of the borders of the United States. There are so many other beautiful places and beautiful people in this world and I want to go. I want new adventures with Jesus. I want to live fully. I want to live the time that I am single with purpose and joy, rather than "waiting for my life to begin" after I get married (if that ever comes because it's not a given).

This seems like a wonderful opportunity. Seoul, South Korea is a beautiful city (just google some pictures). I would be getting school credits, my internship would be taken care of that I need to graduate, I would be safe with other American students and professors, everything would be planned out already, I would have tourist adventures, and I would be able to have the experience of traveling outside of the States. Also, it would be neat to be there on Lily's birthday! Even though I'd be without anyone who knows her, I could share her with new people. Also, if you haven't heard of The Drop Box, check it out now! It is located in Seoul, so I could potentially go visit! At least I would want to if I went. :-)

I have to decide whether or not to apply by September 7th, so please pray that the Lord would show me if it's His will for me to go and that I would be accepted if I do apply! I'll keep ya posted.


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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Month of August 2009

Each year in the month of August, I reflect back on this month in 2009 and how the Lord intervened in my life and changed everything, through big and small things. I've basically already shared about most of the things and rather than re-posting them this August, I have included the post names and links to them for you to peruse as you wish. It's a big part of my story and testimony. :-)

A Glimpse into August '09

He Gave Me a Mother's Heart

Sacred Life Forming Within  

The Place of Light and Hope

He Moves in the Most Unlikely Ways

The God Who Restores

Precious Feet Pin  

He Preserved Her Life

My Spiritual Birthday!

Life for Lily Day Butterfly Release

He's Everything

Be Still and Know

A Whisper of Encouragement

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Friday, August 28, 2015

JJ Heller Comment

As I shared recently, my best friend and I were blessed to go to a JJ Heller concert the week of my birthday. I shared about it on Instagram and how much her songs mean to me, especially "Your Hands," which I played at Lily's memorial service. JJ left a comment on my post on Instagram. I thought that was special that I got to share with her after all, even if not in person. :-)


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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kindergarten

This month marks the Lily-would-be-starting-Kindergarten milestone. Since spring, people have been posting on social media about their children who are starting school this year. My heart has been anticipating this milestone since then, so I've been feeling the sting of it already for a while.
Friends, acquaintances, and family members have children born within days, weeks, or months of Lily... A couple children I know were born on the exact same day.

And I wish my sadness this month was the same as theirs. I wish I could be emotional because my baby is growing up too fast, but instead I cry because she won't grow up at all. I cry because I'll never know the children she would've called friends or their parents who would've become my friends. I cry because I'll never be able to post a picture of my first-born at the beginning of her new school year, whether she was homeschooled, at a Christian school, or public school.

Instead of getting her ready for school, I'm going out to Colorado to Ellerslie, something I most likely wouldn't be doing if she were here.

As John Piper wrote in a letter to a mother whose son was stillborn: "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 from 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."

This Kindergarten milestone is one of those countless might-have-beens. The gone-ness doesn't get easier through the years. But I grieve with hope and know that if Lily Katherine were meant to be starting Kindergarten on Earth this year, then she would be. She already knows far more than I ever could, about what is most important.

For all the should-be-Kindergartners, I'm thinking of you and your parents who wish with all their hearts they were packing that Hello Kitty or Spider Man backpack and lunchbox with their little one's favorite foods, the parents who wish they even got to know the things their child would like or prefer, the parents who should be crying this month for an entirely different reason, the parents who are feeling a fresh pain of gone-ness.

Some of the children I'm remembering: Addison, Angela, Lillyan, Matthew, Charlotte, Lillian Joy (I'm sure there are many I'm forgetting, these are the names that popped into my head).

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Monday, August 24, 2015

The God Who Restores

I look back on my life and see the things that were painful for me were the very instruments God used to bring me to Himself. I was bullied in middle school and my freshman year of high-school, felt extremely self-conscious, and just never "fit in." I see God's fingerprint through all those years of awkward adolescence, when I didn't feel His presence, but can now clearly see He was there through it all.

He brought me to a place, after my freshman year, where I was longing for truth and beauty and something beyond what I saw all around me. I didn't even know what I was looking for, but my heart was wounded and was in a place where I was wide open for the Lord. That's why I can say I thank Him now for allowing those things into my life because He knew how He would redeem it and use it for my good and His glory. He knew He would use it so I would be in a place where I could hear His voice beckoning me to come to Him.


That is when He led my mom and I into a Christian book store in Clayton, NC and I stumbled upon the book, "Authentic Beauty" by Leslie Ludy.


I had never heard of the Ludys before and honestly don't know exactly what drew me to the book. I vividly recall being in that store on that summer day in August 2004. I had just turned 15 that month and was soon to start my sophomore year of high-school. I must have been intrigued by the cover of the book. If you'll notice, there is a beautiful lily on the cover that is delicately blooming. Leslie talks about in her book about being a "lily among thorns," meaning living as a set-apart godly young woman in a world that mocks all things pure and lovely.

By that point in my life, I felt like there were no guys in the world that truly treasure girls, and that they only use them for their selfish pleasure. I felt worthless. In that loneliness, pain, and heartache, God whispered to me, through the book "Authentic Beauty," that He would love me in a way that no man on Earth ever could. That His love is authentic, pure, good, and true. He romanced my heart through the chapters in this book. With the turn of each new page, my heart was awakening to the beauty of a life lived fully surrendered to Jesus Christ.

In her book, Leslie details the experiences from when she was a teenager, many of which I related to. Because of her painful and challenging years, she was able to speak to me when I was in a similar place in my life. I remember poring over this book when I went with my family to Massanutten Resort in Virginia, something we've done nearly every year for vacation since I was a baby. I was writing in my journal, reading this book, praying and feeling Jesus so near, and just being with Him. He was healing me and showing me my worth to Him and in Him. Leslie introduced me to Jesus Christ in a way I had never known Him before. I literally fell in love with Jesus. He captivated my heart and I knew that I could never turn back. I knew I was changed by a love so divine that I could not go on as if I didn't know it was real. Not that I would ever want to.

...However, as we know from what happened in my life in the years that followed my reading this book, I slowly let go of my relationship with the Lord. I never saw it coming, I didn't even know what was happening until it had already happened. It reminds me of a Casting Crowns song that says, "It's a slow fade when you give yourself away, it's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray. Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day, it's a slow fade." I recommend listening to the entire song either below or by clicking HERE.



It's not like people plan on spiraling into a life of depression and sin, but if we are not vigilant in guarding and cultivating our relationship with the Lord, the enemy and the world can sneak in. That's what happened to me... the world seduced teenage-me. I take responsibility for my actions and the choices I made, but I do also see how some of the things that happened have reasons (not excuses) behind them.


Some people have asked my mom and I how if I were truly a Christian, how could I have ever made the choices I did. They assume my relationship with the Lord must not have been "real." I assure you, it was. And that is why I believe that I am living for the Lord today (more on that later). As I have thought about it over the years and contemplated myself why I was susceptible to falling into sin, I believe part of the reason was the culture's influence on me. Let's be honest, it's not exactly easy for young people these days to live for Jesus, especially when they are floundering on their own and don't have the necessary tools and support to live set-apart for Him. And it's exactly as the song says, a slow fade. It doesn't happen overnight, but gradually over time, you can find yourself in a place you never imagined you'd be. I believe that anyone in the world is capable of sinning in ways they never would imagine, given the right (or shall I say wrong) circumstances. Who are we to say we wouldn't have chosen different sins that we look down on with such intensity, if we had the same upbringing and circumstances as the people who chose those things? It is truly only by God's mercy that we haven't made devastating and life-altering choices and that we are living for Him. It is His grace that saves us and keeps us.

Anyways, fast forward to the summer of 2009, in the month of August when I had just turned 20 and was in my first trimester of my pregnancy with Lily. The Lord was drawing my heart back to Himself and giving me the courage to choose life for my baby. I knew in my heart (because I fully believe He showed me so that I would connect to my child) that she was a little girl and her name was Lily. He showed me that she was to be a symbol of my renewed purity and redemption in Christ (both Lily and Katherine mean "purity and innocence.") He showed me that He could wash away all the sins that I was ashamed and regretful of. She was not a sin.

I knew in my heart that the God of the Universe was knitting together a very special little girl, quietly hidden within my womb. Jesus supernaturally intervened in my heart and life and used her life to bring me back to Him. Lily was the bridge between my Savior and I. She changed my heart, she changed the road I was walking on, she changed my future, she changed everything...rather, Jesus changed everything through her life. I treasure her name. To me, it is not simply a pretty name. The flower and name are so meaningful and significant to me.

The Lord was giving me hope for her future, my future, and showing me that He had a plan and purpose for her precious life.

Over the years, as I have thought about how I read "Authentic Beauty" when I was 15, I have wrestled with feelings of regret and wishing I could do things over. I should have known better. Instead of harping on what could have been had I not chosen what I did and had I remained close to the Lord, I instead thank Him for His great redemption plan. I thank Him for leading me to that book because as I said, I believe it is part of the reason why I am now living for the Lord. You see, if I didn't know His love and was satisfied in the worldly life I was living, I wouldn't have thought anything was wrong with the choices I was making. I thank Him that He allowed me to be utterly miserable without Him! I knew what I was missing. I wouldn't have turned back to Him because I wouldn't have turned to Him in the first place. I knew that He was The Way, The Truth, and The Life, even in my sin. I didn't deny Him, but rebelled against Him and His plan for my life. However, because of how He captivated my heart when I was 15, I knew His voice and was drawn back to Him when I was 20.

Both of the times when He worked so mightily in my life were in the month of August. The month He brought my life into the world was the month He brought me to life in Him. My birth month is my re-birth month.

I looked up the meaning of the word "restore" and it said: replenish, repair so as to return to its original condition.

The Lord has shown me through the cover of this book that He can, has, and will continue to restore me. He will take me back to who I was when I first read it, meaning I am not damaged or un-restorable like I have felt. He used my Lily to bring me back full circle, to the time when I read the book with the lily on it, to the time before the mistakes and when He captivated my heart completely. It's all almost too deep for me to fully wrap my mind around and articulate. It's not too late. It's never too late for Him to restore, friends.

He can restore those years of my life and make it as if those things never happened. Not that I could ever forget Lily or Luke or that I'd want to forget them or the things I've learned through my experiences, but I can forget the pain and shame associated with my memories and experiences. He can restore our lives, our hearts, our relationship with Him and others, even the things that feel they are too wounded or damaged.

Years after the time I wrote it, I was reading through an old journal from when I was 16 and was struck by something I wrote and the faithfulness of the Lord. Perhaps He wanted me to one day look back and see His hand... I asked the Lord to never let go of me, even if I let go of Him. I don't know why I wrote this, but am amazed that I did and that He didn't let go. What undeserved love.

It reminds me of a quote I read that says: "O God, take my heart, for I cannot give it; and when Thou hast it, keep it, for I cannot keep it for Thee." -Fenelon

It also reminds me of another quote that says: "Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you." -J.I. Packer

Lord, thank You for keeping my heart. Please continue holding fast to me. I am more thankful than I could ever describe because you love and saved a wretch like me.

Read a post on The Gospel Coalition blog that I love: "God Can Restore Your Lost Years."

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Friday, August 21, 2015

My Colorado Adventure Awaits

I leave bright and early (well, actually, it's so early that it won't even be bright yet when I leave lol) this morning for 7 1/2 weeks in Colorado! I will be spending a few days with my dear friend, Bex, and then will be at Ellerslie Leadership Training for 7 weeks until I come home on October 12th. Then, a couple days after that, I'll be going to Michigan for a couple days to speak at an event on October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Please be praying that I will have safe travels, that I will have good health and lots of energy, and that the Lord would fulfill His purposes in my life in this season. I will most likely not have much time to blog until I return home in October, and want to focus on the reasons why I'm in Colorado. However, because of this, I have scheduled several blog posts to publish while I'm gone. Blessings from the soon to be west! :-)


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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Life for Lily Day Butterfly Release

This past Saturday (August 15th), I got to do something I have wanted to do for a long time! I said I can finally check it off my "bucket list" of things I want to do in Lily's honor. I had a butterfly release at her special spot in Virginia!

This is what I shared at the release, which explains what August 15th means to me and the significance of a butterfly release:

We are gathered here today for a butterfly release ceremony in celebration of Lily Katherine Allen-Ball, a precious, darling little girl, who would be close to 5 1/2 years old today, starting Kindergarten this month, if she were here. Despite all my imaginings of what might have been and who she might have been, her life beyond the womb was never meant to be. If in God's plan, she was able to accomplish the purposes He had for her life from Heaven more fully than if she had grown up on Earth, then who am I to question Him? How many of us can say our entire lives have been to bring glory to God? Lily's life has been all about Jesus, without ever taking a breath or speaking a single word.

I have been wanting to have a butterfly release in honor of Lily for several years. At first, I thought it would be perfect to do it on her birthday on March 16th, or on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on October 15th, but then I learned that butterflies cannot be released between the months of October through March because of the colder temperatures, so obviously both those dates were not a possibility. A few months ago, my mom and I were discussing what significant date we could do a release on and we thought how special it would be to do it on August 15th. I see now that the Lord had it planned out perfectly all along.

It was on this date, six years ago, in 2009, also on a Saturday, that I had an abortion appointment scheduled at Planned Parenthood. Blinded by my fear and shame, I thought I needed to "take care" of the "problem" of an unplanned pregnancy. After all, I had just turned only 20-years-old, was not married, and not in a place in my life where I thought I was ready to welcome a child into this world. 

It is only because of God's grace that August 15th does not hold painful memories of walking through those abortion clinic doors with my child safely nestled in my womb and walking out with her body having been violently ripped from mine. It is only because of His loving-kindness and intervention in my life that we are all standing here together, in this moment, at the beautiful memorial stone for a little girl named Lily Katherine. On the day that the enemy of our souls intended to be death for Lily day, we can rejoice that because of God's mercy that instead we celebrate Life for Lily Day! It is only because of His victory over darkness that when the clock struck midnight on August 16th six years ago that my child's heart was still beating strongly within me. 

God whispered to my heart in August 2009 that I had come to a fork in the road in my life and had a very big decision to make. He showed me that if I chose to have an abortion, I couldn't imagine the pain and darkness that would follow, but if I chose life, I couldn't imagine the beauty that He would bring. On an August evening around dusk, I was watching the pink clouds dance across the sky, when suddenly the decision became clear to me: I had to obey Him and choose life. Suddenly all my fears melted away when the light of truth shined on my heart. I knew my God would be with me and would give me everything I needed to face the journey ahead.

I don't even want to imagine what my life would be like right now and all we would have missed had August 15th gone the way I had planned. Every year, I would have tearfully remembered that just three days after my own birthday, I denied my child the gift of having her own birthday. Because of the one who loves us more than life and had a plan beyond what I could see or comprehend, she does have a birthday - it's March 16th, 2010, a date that would have held no significance to me had the date of August 15th turned into one of anguish rather than rejoicing. Instead of ending her life, my Father in Heaven gave me the courage to embrace her life, and then put His love for her within me, even when I was selfish and broken and had none of my own to give.

You might think to yourself that Lily died anyways before birth, so what's the big deal, why shouldn't I have gone through with the abortion and saved myself the heartache of her untimely death? You see, she may have died, but she LIVED first. And she did not die before the purposes for her life were put into motion by the one who crafted her life and legacy before the foundation of the world. She didn't die before she changed my entire life, future, and calling. My child died with dignity, rather than at the hands of an abortionist, paid for by her mother. God had His will for her life and in my life, rather than me having my will and playing god in taking her life myself. It is the Lord who gives and takes away. May His Name be praised!

Butterflies symbolize new life and that is what Lily brought me. Her new life in the womb was a reflection of and the instrument used by God to bring me to life in Him. Her name means "purity and innocence," as a symbol of my redemption in Christ. Because of His shed blood, I am washed whiter than snow. He has cleared the blemishes of my past and makes them as if they never were.... like an unborn babe.... like Lily. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!"

As my friend Anna wrote, "little Lily was a miracle, and even her name was a testimony to your growing in His light like a flower blooming in her season." Summer is the perfect time of year to release butterflies for the baby girl who brought me new life, as it was the time of year her life began. Obviously butterflies are significant enough to me to include one on the back of Lily's stone. Her life brought transformation.

Lily now has eternal life with Jesus. God spoke His promise of eternal life, redemption, and the love and mercy of Christ through Lily's birthday: March 16. 3:16, like John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Her life is a picture of this.

Not only are butterflies significant to me because they remind me of Lily's new life, the new life she brought me, and my new life in Christ, but they are also beautiful creatures with short life spans. Maybe God wanted to speak through how He designed butterflies to be so lovely, knowing they would live a brief time, that it is not length that brings beauty and significance. I believe the butterfly is a reflection of the beauty, depth, and intricacy of Lily's life and legacy. Although the length of her life was short, the depth of it is immeasurable in how it's changed the breadth of the rest of my life.

I'm going to be playing three songs in just a moment. The first song was written for me by my dear friend, Heather Cofer. There is a part in the song that perfectly captures what August 15th means to me - "How close I had come to that fatal mistake, but I knew that your life was not mine to take. Through the turmoil and questions broke God's gentle voice: "will you entrust Me with this child, with this choice?"



I am also going to be playing a song called, "Alive Again" by Matt Maher that I feel beautifully articulates the season in my life when the Lord broke through my darkness. The chorus of the song says, "You called and You shouted, broke through my deafness, now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again. You shattered my darkness, washed away my blindness, Now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again."


And the other song I am going to share is called "You Are On Our Side," by Bethany Dillon. On August 6th, 2009, I wrote in my journal about how desperate I was for Jesus and how deeply I regretted choices I had made. I asked Him to fulfill His purposes in my life and to take away anything keeping me from Him. In that journal entry, I wrote the lyrics to this song. The chorus says, "You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor, You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore. When You could just be silent and leave us here to die, still You sent Your Son for us, You are on our side."


He showed me He is on my side.... in how He whispered hope and life to me, in how He brought the victory, in leading me to ask Him in my journal to rescue me from myself so He could prove Himself ever-faithful and present, in how He led me to the "Lifehouse Everything" skit online, in how He led my Aunt Sarah to lend me her David Teems CD so Scripture could be read over me during those nights where a battle was literally raging in the spiritual world and His power was released through His Word, in how He led me to reach out to a young woman named Bex who had courageously chosen life and adoption for her little boy and was able to be just the support and encouragement I needed in my own unplanned pregnancy, in how He led me to the pregnancy center, the "place of hope and light" as I call it, where I was able to cry and talk it out with my now good friend, Anna, in how He led me to listen to many different songs during that time that ministered to my heart, in how He put His love for Lily within me and the desire to protect her from harm, in how I found a Precious Feet pin of a 10-week unborn baby's feet when I was also 10-weeks pregnant and my heart was able to grasp that I had a precious life within me, in how I was initially researching abortion methods because I was planning on having one, when God turned my world upside down and showed me the truth about abortion and first birthed within me the desire to be a voice for the voiceless, in how He whispered to my heart that I was carrying a little girl named Lily while I was still in my first trimester. He showed me He was on my side through all these things and more. Through all these years, He has continued to show me He is on my side.

Sweet Lily Katherine, we release these Painted Lady butterflies for you, darling girl. This date and this ceremony, on my spiritual birthday or Life for Lily Day, is a "stone of remembrance." We praise the Lord for what He's done and we thank Him for sending you to Earth. As the decades pass, and my hair turns gray, and aging-wrinkles form on my face, I will remember. My love will only increase with time. While I remain on Earth, I will do all I can to share your story with others and bring glory to the Lord as you have done. Because I know the time is coming when we will be together forever and this life will have been but a breath in light of eternity. All the tears will dry up and the sorrow will fade away, on that day when Jesus greets me at the gates of Heaven, where I know you will be waiting with Him, to welcome me Home. As John Piper wrote in a letter to a mother whose son was stillborn, "you simply skipped Earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, you will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows." When we first lock eyes, dear Lily, all the years of missing you will be no more and I will hold you and never let go. I will thank you for bringing me new life...

Watch the video of me sharing what you just read at the butterfly release below or by clicking HERE. I actually wrote what I was going to share and was almost finished when somehow Blogger completely deleted it the day before the butterfly release! ugh it was so frustrating. But after taking a step back and praying, I was able to remember much of what I first wrote and actually ended up more pleased with it the second time I wrote it.



Watch the butterflies being released in the video below or by clicking HERE.



Get ready for picture overload. ;-)

The butterflies came in a box with a pink lily, butterfly, and pink ribbon on it, as I requested... perfect for Lily.


A candle lit in her honor.



I selected white and pink lilies - for purity and innocence and because she's a sweet girl.


The birthday/Life for Lily Day flowers that Kala got me at the Farmer's Market.


I loved decorating Lily's spot for the evening with all my butterfly items.







Sharing my heart.




Excited because I'm about to open the box.





You can see one flying right above my head.





The butterflies are so beautiful and intricate up close.


It was so sweet how one stayed with me for a bit. Perfect for photos!





A couple group photos. I wanted a small group of close friends and family. It meant a lot to me that my brother and sister-in-law made the trip up just for this! 



Visiting with loved ones after the release and soaking up the evening.





I wore the new butterfly earrings that I got at a store in Raleigh (I was specifically thinking of the butterfly release when I purchased them). When they move, it looks like the butterflies are fluttering! I wanted to wear a butterfly shirt or dress, but unfortunately couldn't find anything that matched my earrings in time. However, I did find a pretty dress at The Green Olive Tree in Crozet! This is the thrift store that my grandmother helped start nearly 40 years ago. I wore my memorial Origami Owl locket, which has a butterfly charm. :-)


I love butterflies so much that I have multiple pairs of butterfly earrings that I've gotten for myself and have been given as gifts. So, I shared a pair with my cousin, Hope, to wear at the release. Hope also wore a pretty pink skirt for Lily.


And I shared a pair with Kala too.


Kala wore her butterfly shirt.


The sunset was gorgeous that evening! It reminded me of the evening in August 2009 when I was watching similar pink clouds dancing across the sky and I knew that I had to choose LIFE for Lily... how perfect to see a sky like this on Life for Lily Day!


Love those Blue Ridge Mountains.





I was going to have the butterfly release in Lily's memorial garden at my home in NC, but because my mom and sister had doctor's appointments, the Lord worked it out for my family to be in VA the week of my birthday and Life for Lily Day. It made it that much more special to have it at her spot, and with my family and friends, especially my grandmother. I was disappointed my dad, sister, Aunt Helen, and a few others I wanted to come couldn't be there. But that's why it's so neat now to have pictures and videos to share, so those who weren't there can still be a part of it. :-)

I highly recommend looking into doing a butterfly release, for those who have lost a baby and are looking for something special to do on their birthday. I was thinking it would be neat to have a butterfly release with my wedding party if I ever get married, as a way to incorporate Lily into the ceremony.

The butterflies themselves, shipping, and the box or cage for the butterflies can all get rather expensive, bur I think it's worth it. I ordered 36 Painted Lady butterflies, and the company said they send around 4 extra because unfortunately sometimes the butterflies don't survive until the time of release. There were a couple butterflies that didn't make it from our release. I am wondering if I can somehow preserve them to keep, as I know many people do that with butterflies. 

The instructions are quite simple: the company shipped the butterflies to me overnight, then as soon as they arrive, you put fresh ice packs in the packaging with them so they remain dormant until the time of release, then about 30 minutes to an hour before the release, you take them out of the "cooler," and allow them time to warm up before the release. They have to be released during daylight hours and in a temperature of at least 65-70 degrees. There are many different butterflies and packages to choose from, as well as choosing whether to release the butterflies individually or all together. I chose the decorator box, with the lily and pink ribbon on it, because I thought it would be more beautiful to release them all at once. I honestly initially wanted Monarch butterflies, rather than the Painted Ladies, because they are bigger. But, they are also more expensive and I wanted as many butterflies as possible. My grandmother made a good point that the Painted Lady butterflies look like mini Monarchs and are appropriate for a baby. :-) 

If you are interested in having a butterfly release, I recommend the company I ordered from called A Butterfly Release Company. They are located in Florida. I had a positive experience with them and after searching online, found they have some of the best prices, though shipping is expensive. I tried to get in touch with a local butterfly farm, but they were booked and were unable to get me butterflies for August 15th, which is why I searched elsewhere.

The evening turned out absolutely perfect. The Lord blessed it in every way. The weather was unusually lovely for summer, the Painted Lady butterflies were breathtaking, the company of family and friends marking the day with me meaningful, and the presence of the Lord was close. After the butterfly release, my generous grandmother treated the group of us to dinner at Crozet Pizza. Then we ended the night with stories and laughter around a bonfire. It was a day of light, joy, and thankfulness... moments that are now treasured memories.

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