Monday, December 11, 2017

Lily with Santa

The Christmas season means many parents are getting photos of their children sitting on Santa's lap.

I never got a photo like that.

Some people on Facebook teamed up to offer these unique Santa photos free of charge for those who've lost children. It's such a sweet gesture and touches my heart.

Lily with Santa. I don't know how much we would have gotten into the whole Santa thing, but it's special to have regardless. ❤️ 🎄 ❄️ ⛄️ 🎁  #HonoringLilyatChristmas


As my friend Hannah said, it's a gift to have the choice of whether to take our children to see Santa. When our babies die, we lose that gift of choice. She said even though it's not the same choice I would have been able to make if Lily were here, it's still a choice. I'm still getting to make some choices for Lily. I chose to have her photo made "with" Santa. What a lovely and comforting way to look at it.

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8 Begins

December brings the reminder that Lily would be turning a new age soon. She'd be 8 in just 3 months. It starts when December 10th and 11th roll around. You see, Josie Duggar turned 8 yesterday, on the 10th. And Lily's cousin, Owen, turns 8 today.

The reason I remember Josie's birthday is because she was due on March 18th, 2010 and Lily was due on March 14th, 2010 and was unexpectedly stillborn on March 16th, 2010. I remember when I was pregnant with Lily and finding out that Michelle was pregnant with Josie and thinking it was special they were due just days apart.

And then of course little Josie was born over 3 months prematurely, spending time in the NICU. While this tiny girl was fighting for her life, my Lily grew big and strong in what should be the safest place on Earth, in her mother's womb. 

But Josie survived to see her 8th birthday. And Lily did not... even though she was in the best place I thought she could be. I sometimes think if Lily had just been born a few days earlier, she would have been born alive. It's difficult to know that she could have survived for literally months outside of the womb before the time she was born, yet she died because she was in the safe place. It's all so hard to wrap my mind around.

Josie Duggar will always remind me of Lily. Seeing her grow up some on the 19 Kids and Counting television show just blew my mind to know my girl would be that big too. They are equally as real and equally as important and cherished by their families.

And then Lily's cousin, Owen, turns 8 today. Owen is my first cousin, Daniel's, son. I have written many times about how Owen and Lily are boy and girl cousins born 3 months apart, just as Daniel and I are boy and girl cousins born 4 months apart.

As the years have passed, honestly it has gotten a lot easier for me to think about Owen growing up and to see photos of him. He is absolutely adorable! But each year on his birthday, I am reminded afresh of the little girl who should be having a birthday close behind him.

I wish I was feeling amazed at how fast my daughter is growing up, how the years are flying by... but instead, I am sad that the years are flying by, but my daughter will never grow up. She will always be my baby.

You can read all the posts I've written about Owen through the years by clicking here.

And you can click here to read a post I shared before about the Duggar family.

Here I am with Daniel 8 years ago this month - shortly after Owen was born and Lily was growing away! I actually still have and wear that shirt!


Daniel and I visiting Lily's special spot around Thanksgiving 2013, shortly after her permanent stone was installed.


This photo was taken during the summer of 2010. It was the first time I met Owen and would have been the first time 3-month-old Lily would have met him too.


Isn't he a cutie?! :)


Daniel and I when we were little... how I wish Lily and Owen were in pictures like this together too! Here Dan and I were around the age Owen and Lily are/should be now.


But instead, these are the only sort of pictures they'll ever take "together." Each March, Owen wishes Lily a "Happy Birthday" and takes a photo to send me (except for year 2). It's one of my favorite traditions! I really treasure those photos. Each year, he grows bigger and she stays the same.


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Snowman Ornament

My sweet friend Ashley gave me this Christmas ornament in honor of Lily. đŸ˜ŒđŸŽ„❤️⛄️❄️  #LilyKatsChristmasTree #HonoringLilyatChristmas


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Friday, December 1, 2017

A Story of Hope for National Adoption Month

I'm excited that I have a few guest blog posts coming your way. Today I am sharing my cousin Hope's adoption story. November is National Adoption Month and I will be highlighting a couple different stories of adoption (just a bit late). I think it's incredibly important to truly hear other people's stories and perspectives. It helps us learn to be empathetic and loving when we get outside of our own bubbles and recognize we have much to learn from the experiences of others. Hope was adopted from China at 17-months and has been such a gift to my family. She just fits. Out of all the billions of people in the world, God so clearly chose her for us and us for her. :) Hope's mother is my mother's sister. I appreciate Hope's transparency. She is currently a nursing student at James Madison University and has a heart for others. She is kind, she is funny and exuberant and though I might be biased, I think she is one special gal.


Hope and I over Thanksgiving... I am trying to find photos of us when we were little

************

I think many people have misconceptions about adoption. Maybe they believe that it's out of their reach, maybe they question their parenting abilities, or maybe they're afraid or unsure of what actually happens during the process, but to me, adoption is one of the most sacrificial actions a couple can take to become a parent. To actually love and take in someone that doesn't look like you, someone that might not even speak your language, is the ultimate act of breaking down cultural barriers and discrimination. Often times our society celebrates the grandiosity of childbirth, all the while forgetting that there are children born every day who are left as orphans. You can't accidentally adopt a child, but you can have an unplanned pregnancy. Adoption is deliberate and intentional. Now I'm not one to slam having a biological birth. In fact, I would like to have my own birth children someday (but not anytime soon because I'm literally so single right now). But what I'm trying to say is that no one should feel ashamed for being adopted, they are not forgotten, but chosen.

My adoption story starts on a February day, when I was much shorter, fatter, and younger. The social worker handed me off to my bright-eyed mom, cheeks glistening with tears as my dad's shaky home video camera captured the whole moment. During the first two days, my parents kept calling me by my wrong Chinese name, but I didn't care. I was Hope. When they brought me home, I was met with warm salutations.



Growing up, my parents never hid the fact that I was adopted. I mean, at some point, they'd have to explain why I looked different from them. They never tried to stifle my culture or make me feel ashamed of it. In fact, when I was younger, we used to celebrate Chinese New Year and we still stay in contact with the families who adopted children through the same agency we went through. I'm not going to lie to you and say that my childhood was perfect, and yes, there have been times where I have thought about my birth parents and what my life could've been. But I am here now, my life is good, and for awhile, I didn't think much about my race or how much adoption has shaped my life.

My parents treated me so much like their own that at times I forgot that I was even Asian. I went to a small, private middle school and even high-school, so I was somewhat sheltered from criticisms that come with my race. It wasn't until I went to a large state college that I truly became aware of myself. People change so much in their early 20's so I guess it really was a proper time to grow my autonomy and become secure in my identity.

During my freshman year, I became best friends with a girl from my church. She is Latina (Mexican to be exact) and she would always invite me to her family gatherings, where I would be the only "non-Latina." Most of her family only spoke Spanish so I had a great opportunity to utilize my very limited Spanish that I learned in high-school and actually use it in conversation. I learned many Spanish slang words and I can say I am conversational now, working on fluency. Her madre (mother) taught me how to cook posole (a Mexican tomato soup with chicken, chickpeas, and lettuce) and I became a fanatic for REAL tacos, not that Taco Bell stuff. My friends taught me Spanish dances such as bachata, salsa, merengue, cumbia, and corridos and we always have a fiesta when we are together. Most times, I feel more comfortable with my Latino friends than my peers on campus. My friend's family culturally "adopted" me, I was their mija (affectionate name to call a daughter). Now there was a period during my sophomore and junior year where this really bothered me, seeing her being so comfortable with HER culture and knowing that regardless of if I was with my adoptive parents or her family, I still was the fish out of water. I often felt left out, questioning my cultural identity. Disclaimer: my parents never made me feel unaccepted, my displaced cultural situation was an automatic consequence of my adoption. I am bound to feel "out of place."

But see the thing is, throughout all this I've come to realize that my life situation makes me unique. How many people have met an Asian who was adopted by white American parents yet is culturally Hispanic? Whereas in the past, I felt out of place, but now I know that I'm right where I need to be. We as humans love to make boxes and keep people in those boxes. Adoption breaks all boundaries and upsets the neatly organized picture in our heads and forces one to create a new scene, create a new picture, one that has never been drawn before. With so much hate in this world towards people of different skin tones, I disagree that "not seeing color" is the correct response. You are allowed to see color. You are allowed to see race. You're just not allowed to judge someone BASED on their race. I want you to be able to see me as fully Asian and fully Latina and fully American because guess what, that's who I am. Denying a part of me is denying my entirety.

Bumma!!!

Adoption is beautiful because I know God put me exactly in the places and situations He's called me to. God brought together a perfect cultural family for me, He has given me a culture I am comfortable with. He has given me parents I am beyond grateful for. He really had something up His sleeve when He paired me with my mom and dad! I am never mad at my biological parents, I have never held anything against them. They gave up their daughter, completely took a risk and trusted that I'd end up with a family that cared for me. I am never mad at my adoptive parents (okay, except for when I was a disgruntled teenager), I have never held anything against them. They adopted a daughter, completely took a risk and trusted that our family would be all they hoped it to be. But let me tell you mom and dad, our family is beyond what you could have ever Hoped for.



Thank you God for making me who I am. Gracias a Dios para hacerme quien soy. ć„Ÿč°˘ä¸Šĺ¸čŽŠćˆ‘ćˆä¸şćˆ‘

Blessings y Saludos,

Hope
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

He Works Outside of Our Lines

There are some lyrics in a popular song that remind me of past posts I've shared. The song is called "In Christ Alone" by Keith and Kristyn Getty (who I heard in concert a couple times! :) Anyways, the song is well-known and I've heard it many times before, but recently heard it live at their concert and knew then I wanted to write about it.

Anyways, the lyrics say, "From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny."

I know obviously they don't mean anything hurtful or wrong by this, but with the way my brain works because of Lily, I don't like these words. Jesus commands our destiny from the moment of conception to final breath, even after final breath when all who are in Christ will go to Heaven. He still commanded Lily's life and destiny, though she died before taking her first breath or crying at all. His purpose for her life was not thwarted by the lack of her first cry.

Going along with this, earlier in the year, I watched a movie called "Where Hope Grows," which is centered around a man who could have been a baseball star and a young man with Down Syndrome. It is a moving story of friendship, redemption, and the value of each life. Did you know that about 70% of children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted? As if they are any less valuable or worthy of life. It just breaks my heart. Every life is such a precious gift and there are many lessons we can only learn from the weakest among us, as Gianna Jessen, who survived an abortion and now lives with Cerebral Palsy, says.

There was one part that rubbed me the wrong way, though I recognize it was unintentional on the part of the producers and writers of the film because they clearly recognize the sanctity of life, though I hope that I can explain why one particular part is a way of thinking that takes away from the value of some.

A Pastor says in the movie: "You look around a cemetery and you see there are two dates on every tombstone - a birthday and a date of death. Every human being is guaranteed those two dates, but that little dash that lies in between those two numbers, that's what defines our life. So make your dash count. Live, really live."

If I had not lost my own child in the way I did, I doubt I would even notice those words. I doubt they'd rub me the wrong way and I doubt I'd pick up on the fallacy of them. But you see, every human being is in fact not "guaranteed" those two dates. My daughter Lily Katherine only has one date on her stone. She has no dash. But that is not what defines her, or any of us. And even though she only has one date, she did "really live." And babies who were lost in pregnancy before they even had a birthday still lived.


I am reminded of a post I wrote 3 years ago about a song I heard that has a similar message. This is from what I wrote:

The song "The Line Between the Two" by Mark Harris has a beautiful meaning that we should live our lives in such a way that we will have no regrets when we come to die. We should live today the legacy we want to leave. Because the fact is we all will leave a legacy... the question is what do we want that legacy to be?

The song talks about "the line between the two," meaning the line on our headstone between our date of birth and date of death. We need to make the line between the two count.

A beginning and an ending, dates upon a stone
But the moment in the middle is how we will be known
Cause what defines us can be found within a line
Finding reason for our time

As I listened to the words of this song, I couldn't help but think to myself... what about when there is no line? What about when there is only one date on one's headstone? When the beginning and the ending are combined? When one doesn't live long enough to have that line between the two? When the death date comes before the birth date? Imagine how that would look on a stone. Does that mean their life didn't matter? Does that mean their life doesn't have significance and purpose because they weren't able to make an impact with the days represented by that line?

God is not confined by that little line. He is such a big, sovereign, amazing God and He does the most beautiful things in ways we'd least expect. He can use a sweet baby who never took a breath or spoke a word to make an impact greater than someone whose lived 100 years on Earth. Let's not put Him and His plans into a little box of our own understanding. He works outside of our lines...

It's hurtful that Lily only has one date that could be put on her headstone. She shouldn't even have a headstone until long after I have one. My friend Stacy whose daughter Rachel is with Lily in Heaven said something so profoundly beautiful regarding this same thing. Stacy and her husband created Rachel's beautiful headstone with their names on it as well. Since they are both still living, there obviously are no death dates for them yet. Rachel also only had one date and this is hard for Stacy. Here is a little excerpt from her blog:
I remember going to the hospital to have her and thinking on the way "I just want there to be a dash"... it's always bothered me that Rachel only has one date.  I wanted her birthday and the day she died to be different.  But what mother wouldn't?
I stared at her name and date for a minute and again was questioning God... "Why couldn't there have been a dash? was that too much to ask?"  I looked at my name, then Matt's... I looked at my date and then at Matt's...  I wondered about our "future" dates....
and for the first time in all the HUNDREDS of hours that I have spent standing on her spot, I looked at the dates differently and I am positive this was a picture God gave me to remind me of His promises.... I saw that we all have just one date.  And God spoke to my heart....
You have one date because you are still alive....
And so does she....

What a comforting thought. Lily and Rachel are alive! More than we ever will be here.

The ending of Lily's physical life is only the beginning of her Eternal life. The ending of her physical life does not mark the ending of her legacy. She is not defined by the lack of a line. She is defined by being a daughter of Christ. There is reason for her time on Earth, though brief. She is not known for the moments in the middle of her birth and death dates, but rather for the moments even before her birth date.

God used a little girl who has no line to forever change my line... now the rest of my days on Earth that make up that line will be spent to honor Lily and bring glory to my Father in Heaven. In being her voice, I will give life to the little girl whose life was so short, yet so wide...

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

We're All Complicated

There are times in my life when I wish this wasn't my story.

I feel guilty even admitting that because it is complicated for my heart. I would never wish Lily away and treasure her with every ounce that is within me.

However, it can feel like a heavy load to carry everything that has happened, both from my own choices and things that I didn't choose.


I've been hanging out with a new local friend group lately and started attending a new church over the Summer that I love. These people I've met there have been a gift from the Lord. And sometimes when I am with them, I feel like I am just a "normal" 28-year-old. It is good to feel free and light, which is certainly who I am and isn't a facade by any stretch, however there are many sides to my story and therefore many sides to me.

Eventually these things come out and I share my past, but sometimes I don't want to, truth be told. Sometimes I just want to be me... without being known as the girl who had unplanned pregnancies, the girl who had an abortion, the girl who had a baby, and the girl whose baby died. I don't want people to be sad for me and act awkward with me. I don't want them to stall in thinking of what to say if they broach the subject of bringing up having come across my blog. I don't want people to judge me and the choices I've made and think they've got me all figured out. Grief and trauma and loss, especially experienced alone in many ways, have a way of isolating you and making you believe the lie that you are somehow truly alone.

I say all the time that I am open about my story and know God has called me to be so... but sometimes I wish I could just have someone else's story. I wish I didn't have these complicated feelings and experiences, things I know others I'm around in the same season as me can't understand simply because they haven't been here.

I feel like a fish out of water so often, in all the "groups" I'm part of... I love these people in my life and they minister to my heart in different ways... some help me as a single Christian young woman. Some help me in my loss of Lily. But most the singles haven't had and lost babies. And most who've had and lost babies aren't still single and tangibly childless. I just want to feel normal and a part of something without feeling complicated. I sometimes wonder if I should have kept this all to myself.. but then I remember that wouldn't be right and that I am compelled and called to share for the glory of Christ.

For so many years I think I've carried this feeling around with me... this feeling of being different and complicated. When that might be true... but what I am also realizing more and more as time goes by, is that we are all complicated. We all have hurts, pain, and stories of our own. And the longer we live, the more true this is. We all come to the cross of Christ on equal ground. We are all broken and weak and in desperate need of Jesus. And though my circumstances may be different than those around me, I am the same in that I need Him and that He supplies every bit of grace I could need the moment I need it. We all need to be redeemed even if what we're needing to be redeemed from looks a little different. What we see of someone on the outside is not all there is to them. We are deep, complex, intricate human beings, with so many things that make up who we are, what makes our hearts beat with wild delight, what God has called us to, and where He is taking us in the future.

It does me well to remember that it is into His strong arms that I need to run always first, rather than to any person. It is His counsel I should seek, His comfort I should pursue. Maybe feeling alone and different isn't so bad after all, if it causes my heart to long for Him more.

Lord, I ask for Your grace day-by-day, to allow myself and every person reading these words of mine to walk in the stories You are writing for our lives - stories that shout Your glory and redemption, no matter how painful and complicated things may appear. You are always greater.

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Lily Remembered in Jamaica

Lily was remembered by my friend Tracey on a recent trip to Falmouth, Jamaica! I *think* it was the first time there. ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🌴 🐳 🐬 🐟 🐠 🐢


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