Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Different Place

Over the weekend, my heart was very, very heavy and sadness creeped in like I haven't known for several months. The waves that come with grief are very unexpected. As time goes on, the waves come less frequently and less intense, yet they do still come. I have been so busy with so much the last several months that I feel almost as if my grief was put on hold and now it is catching up to me. My best friend moved to Alabama, I went on different vacations, I was preparing for Ellerslie and then at Ellerslie and just not having much time to think about my grief. It has been really great for me, actually. To feel like I am moving on and healing and growing and changing. But, then with feelings of moving on, I start feeling guilty like maybe I don't really love Lily like I should, like I used to. Maybe I'm not grieving "correctly."

I go several weeks, months even, feeling really good. I mean, a couple times at Ellerslie, I broke down a little bit thinking about Lily Kat. But, I think that's to be expected when you're in a new, unfamiliar place. And it was hard knowing that I would most likely not even be at Ellerslie if Lily were alive. Then when I came home, I was diagnosed with mono, so all of a sudden I have all this extra time that I didn't have before. And I am missing my best friend, who used to be there for me always, right down the road. I am at home most of the time, resting and healing, and feel like I've been left alone with my thoughts. I started grieving so intensely and I wondered if that was normal to feel this sad nearly two years out? And I find myself wondering what is right and wrong, what is going to be acceptable to others? And I begin to feel awkward about what I'm posting on my blog and wondering if people think, "oh come on, get over it, Hannah. It happened like two years ago." And I feel like maybe I don't have a right to grieve this long. And maybe I don't have a right to grieve at all, I mean it was an unplanned pregnancy. I wasn't married. I wasn't ready to be a mom.

I think part of this grieving is normal and healthy. My grief was put on hold for a while and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. With Lily's birthday coming up and embarking on a new year, I think these feelings of missing her so much are normal. Spring is in the air. Sure, it's still January, but I'm sitting here on the front porch in a short-sleeved shirt, so it just has a springy-type feel. And spring is just right around the corner, which will always remind me of the waiting for Lily, and then how she came and went. You can read my posts from March and April of 2010 for more of that. But, I think I may be bringing some of this sadness on myself. 

It has been really discouraging to be home because I really wanted to go back to Ellerslie for EALT this month. Then, I realized I wasn't going back. I was staying home. I've been struggling so much. Throughout this whole journey of grief, blogging has been the thing that has helped me the most. It's been one of the most instrumental tools in my healing. Nobody could possibly understand this grief unless they've lost a baby. If you have a child, then yes, maybe you can imagine a little bit more than others what it's like. But, not unless it's really happened to you do you really "get it." I know I never did until it happened to me. In fact, I don't know if I ever even thought about it. I guess it makes me more gracious towards others, since I know they couldn't fully understand. It just puts me on guard, like I have to defend my grief in some weird way. So, because other BLMs (babyloss moms) understand, I have found great healing in reading others stories through their blogs and sharing my own. When I realize others have felt the very things I'm feeling, it makes me feel validated. In the beginning, when those feelings were so raw and fresh, reading these blogs was just what I needed. I was learning to live without her, trying to find my "new normal" and it was so helpful to find people that were on that same journey. I have gone a long time without being active in the "blogging community." I would maybe post once a month and some months, I didn't post at all. And I rarely ever read blogs after the first several months, except for a few blogs of ladies I really connected with. But, since being home, I've been reaching out a little more again. I have come to realize this is not what I need at this time. I don't need to be continually reminded of the excruciating pain from the first year after losing Lily.  I am in a very different place with my grief. And I think that reading the blogs that used to help me so much is actually more harmful now than it is helpful. It was one of the best things that helped me heal in the first few months after my loss. But, now I feel like it is bringing me down. I don't want to sound mean because I love all the BLMs so much. I am so thankful for each one that I've met. And because of our losses, there will always be that bond and connection that I don't even have with people in "real life." I guess that's why it makes me somewhat sad that I need to move on now and that it isn't really helping to read these blogs. It's like a chapter in my life, in my grief, is ending and it's time to turn the page. But, I liked this page, God, and I'm afraid of what I will find on the next page. He assures me He is with me. I guess it's easier to read the blogs of women that had losses around the same time as me, because they are in a different place than those that have recently had their losses. But, then again, it's hard to read those because many of them are now having their "rainbow babies." Don't get me wrong, I am very happy for them, it's just hard because I am not in a place in my life where that is a possibility for me. Now, I'm not saying I'm done completely in the blogging world, I'm just cooling it a bit. And I hope that you, my friends, stay in contact with me! I will be stopping by occasionally, but I won't be reading as much as I have been, like I did in the beginning. 

It's so odd now to think I am like a veteran in the babyloss community, in blogging and in my support group locally. Like I can now give others advice on how to deal with things, what to do for first birthdays, etc. Wasn't I just the newbie who was thrust into this world? Time is a funny thing...

I feel like I am just at a different place in my life and reading the blogs keeps me stuck in a certain place, rather than allowing me to walk forward in my grief. Several months ago, I had to remove several of the BLMs off of my facebook friends list because it was just too difficult to read all the sad posts and then even to read the happy posts of expecting another baby. I am single and young, which sets my story apart from most of the others. Right now, I feel like I am more grieving all that I wish I had done differently, all I wish I could go back and change so that I would have more now. I've been haunted by all the things I wish I could change...like having more maternity pictures done, getting those NILMDTS photos that I long for more than anything so I could remember her precious hands and feet and all the small details of her, bathing and dressing her at the hospital instead of having the nurses do it...but she was so delicate and fragile and I didn't want to hurt her. And the fact that I never got to meet her alive has really been difficult to live with. I have been thinking about it so much and feeling envious of those who had even just a few moments with their sweet babies. And then I read this on a website when I was researching about stillbirth (something I don't need to be doing. I mean, I want to be educated on the subject and bring awareness, but there comes a point when enough is enough. I can't do anything to change what happened) and my chest literally started hurting!

"There are currently studies underway that may prove that the leading cause of stillbirths, in late term babies, may be compression of the umbilical cord while the mother sleeps. This could be a major breakthrough in stillbirth research which, like SIDS "Back to Sleep", will show a positional cause for this devastating loss."

It felt like it was my fault that Lily died...that I slept in a bad position and cut off oxygen to my poor, precious little girl. I cannot dwell on what I don't have but be thankful and cherish what I do have. I have many things other people don't. And what are things in light of eternity anyways? I am thankful for having Lily the entire pregnancy...all the time I possibly could have...40 glorious weeks plus two days! I am thankful for the 3d/4d ultrasound I had when I found out conclusively that Lily was indeed, a GIRL! I am thankful that I now have that ultrasound on dvd, so I can watch her squirming around and see her with life. I do get to see her with life. I am thankful for her handprints and footprints, her lock of hair, her recorded heartbeat that I love listening to, the pictures I do have, the fact that I held her and had her with me in my room for many hours. Instead of being negative and harping over what ifs and if I had done this differently, would she still be here?...was it somehow my fault?...I will trust that my God knew what He was doing then and He still knows what He's doing now. He had a plan for all of this. And even though the story looks sad from a worldly perspective, my God has turned this sad, tragic story of an abortion, an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock, and the death of my daughter, into something breathtakingly beautiful. Something that makes me stand back in awe, and ask Him how He did it. How He truly did and does work all things together for good...for my good, for Lily's good, for the good of His Kingdom. Oh, my precious Jesus. He is all I could ever want or need. I surrender these thoughts and feelings into His hands. And I truly believe her life is making a greater impact without her ever having lived outside the womb. It's like a sacrifice I have made, surrendering that desire of meeting her alive. Because what a beautiful story of how God changed my whole entire life with a little girl that never took a breath! Talk about making an impact for the Kingdom of God! Her life shows how He has a plan and purpose for each life, no matter how small and that each life is valuable and precious to Him! 

Another reason why my grief has been intensified lately is because I started fully grieving the loss of Luke Shiloh around Christmas time, when I got his ultrasound photo and finally named him. The Lord has brought much healing from the pain of my abortion through Lily's life, yet there was deep healing that still was not mine. I was pregnant with Lily and focused on that, and then had her, lost her, and was focused on that grief for so long. So, when I started coming to terms with all of that with Lily, it was like wow, I didn't realize I hadn't dealt with this abortion yet completely. After naming Luke Shiloh, it got so much harder. It was like it finally really became real to me. Like I am finally realizing that this was a precious life and I am a mother to this life. Naming him put that together in my mind and my heart. I couldn't grieve both my babies fully at once, so the grief started coming back in, but it's so different this time. I started looking up all these blogs, but the blogs are more dealing with my loss of Lily, so that brought up the grief with her. It brought me a couple steps backwards in my grief journey with her when I started dealing with this. Losing Luke was such a different loss and experience and I haven't found many blogs that understand that. 

I've had a couple friends say something along the lines of not being afraid to move on and heal. And I almost felt offended by this at first, feeling misunderstood and like they couldn't possibly understand. But, I know they only meant the best by it. And I realize that the Lord has spoken to me through them. At times, I can be so scared of forgetting my babies and others forgetting them and how often I feel that if I'm not actively grieving, then there must be something wrong with me. At times, losing Lily feels like a disability. I carry the burden so heavy and it cripples me. But, I refuse to allow it to bring me down or control my life. I will simply let it be a part of who I am...I will allow Him to shape me into the person He desires me to be. And I was never meant to carry the burden alone. My shoulders cannot possibly carry the weight of it all. My Jesus asks me to give it to Him...

I have only ever been honest with my grief on this blog, even the ugly, painful parts of it. But, God has always been big enough to meet me where I am and deal with it. It's just time for me to move on, I think, and not dwell on all the things I wish I could change, not dwell on reading these blogs that keep my mind stuck. Now, I am not saying that I won't have bad days. I know I will and when I do, I will feel free to blog about it. I'm saying I am not going to stay stuck with my mind in 2010. It is 2012 and the Lord is grabbing my hand and asking if I will run with Him. He has far too many plans for my life and my children's legacies than to let me stay in my deep grief. I am not saying I am done with my grief. I realize now I will grieve for the rest of my life. What I'm saying is the grief will change as the years press on. And I'm realizing that's okay. It doesn't mean I'm forgetting. It means the Lord is healing me. It means He is working supernaturally and beautifully in my heart and life. He is showing me that I need to cling to Him and Him alone in my grief and not to what others think. Not to the way others think I should be grieving or how they expect me to. If I feel really sad one day, ten years out, I'm not going to stress over what others will think about how I'm feeling. And if I'm having a great day this week, this month, I'm not going to stress over wondering if others think I've forgotten Lily or maybe wonder myself if I have. He heals hearts with just a single breath, a single word, so I don't have to feel like I can't move on. If I move on, it doesn't mean I'm forgetting. If I don't have time to blog, it doesn't mean I'm forgetting. I could never forget my babies. They are the reason I am going to be doing much of what I feel called to do for the Kingdom of God for the rest of my days! That is anything but forgetting them! All I desire is to honor and serve the Lord first and foremost and then to honor and remember my children. And I think part of how I can do that is by moving on. But never forgetting. I am who I am because of my two precious children and how God changed my life with theirs. Even if I move on, I will carry them with me as a part of me forever...in my heart, in my words, in my testimony. They will live through me and I will never let their names die. And I won't be afraid of others forgetting because those who truly care never will. And even if people do, never will and my Jesus never will. For so long, I was seeing through the lens of sorrow and now I am seeing through the lens of beauty and how God has brought beauty from ashes.

A fellow blogger commented on a post recently and I think it perfectly describes life for me now:  "Remember, although you continue to live, and live with hope, many compare the loss of a child or a close loved one, as an amputee, living, yes, but changed forever. There are not many days, when my daughter doesn't cross my mind, but I will continue to remember, that we will be reunited, as all life is but a breath."

I will never be the same person I was before all this happened...and I wouldn't want to be!

A friend in my local support group said this, which I really liked:
"Embracing, but not holding on so tight that we can't breath...we have to breath...and we have to embrace without suffocating. You have to grow...but we will never forget! Growing pains hurt."

Instead of being so sad that Lily's gone, I am thankful that she LIVED! I am thankful that because of her, the Lord pulled me up out of the pit I was in, put me on a firm Rock, and cried LIVE! And because of her, I now do...

My babies have shown me a love I thought was impossible. As long as I live, I will never forget them and I will always talk about them and think about them. I will include them in my day-to-day life and thoughts. I will celebrate that they were here and that they will be forever in Heaven. I will rejoice on the special days that remind me of them especially. They will be with me every step of the way. At the end of the day I have empty arms, memories, and photos of my precious baby girl. But I also have something that a lot of people don't. I have things that some people cannot comprehend because of what I've been through with Luke and Lily. Because of their short, precious lives, I have a testimony. I've learned to slow down and cherish each moment. Things aren't completely better now and never will be until I get to Heaven, they are just differentI am moving on into the endless frontier of what God has for me. Not "pitching my tent stakes" (an awesome analogy that the wonderful Eric Ludy likes to use) ;) in my grief or in where I am in my relationship with Christ, but pressing forward. Onward, upward! Don't pitch your tent, my friends!! I am realizing that my children are a huge part of my story, but not my story. 

I think I've been honest and open with my grief and I pray it has given whoever you are that's reading this a glimpse into this grieving mother's heart. I pray it's shown you that God is big enough to meet you wherever you are and that it's okay and healthy to grieve! He doesn't expect us to have a smile on our face all the time because He grieves with us...let me rephrase that. He expects us to have a smile on our heart all the time because of the joy that can only come from Him. Selfishly at times, I want Lily here. My baby died. But this blog is so much more than a blog about a baby that died. This blog is so much more than a blog about loss but is a blog about LIFE! It is a place of hope and healing, not simply sadness. This blog is meant to declare, Jesus is Victor, always! No matter what season in your life you are in, no matter what you are facing, He is greater! What do I have to be sad about? I am blessed, I am honored to have been chosen to be Lily Katherine's mother. Who else knows without a doubt that there baby is in Heaven. Who else knows there child will never know sin and pain, only the beauty of Heaven and the perfect love of Christ! What a supreme honor and blessing! Why would I want Lily here with me when she could be there with HIM! 

I plan to continue writing here as long as I need to. I actually was wondering that this week. How long do I plan on keeping up with this blog? And then I realized...as long as I need to. I want to remember every emotion, every thought, every little gift someone gave me and the things that have meant so much to me. All the special things about my children, I want to remember. All the ways I honor them, I want to share. So when I look back at all these things years from now, I will see just how faithful God has been to walk with me through this long journey. I will be able to share my sweet babies with my family, nieces, nephews, cousins, and maybe more children one day in a way that I wouldn't be able to if I don't write down all the details when they are still fresh. I need a place to openly talk about things, so as long as I need this blog, it will remain. And who knows what direction it may take in the future, as I step onward into this journey of living without my babies.

"Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning." -Psalm 30:5 

(Here's a beautiful song that I feel perfectly describes this journey of grief, healing, and everything I've been through. Be sure to pause the music at the bottom of this blog before listening.)
"Nothing is Wasted"
-Jason Gray

The hurt that broke your heart and left you trembling in the dark feeling lost and alone will tell you hope’s a lie... But what if every tear you cry will seed the ground where joy will grow?  Nothing is wasted, Nothing is wasted, in the hands of our Redeemer, nothing is wasted.

It’s from the deepest wounds that beauty finds a place to bloom, and you will see before the end... that every broken piece is gathered in the heart of Jesus, and what’s lost will be found again.  And nothing is wasted, nothing is wasted, in the hands of our Redeemer nothing is wasted.

From the ruins, From the ashes, Beauty will rise!
From the wreckage, From the darkness, Glory will shine!

P.S. How do you like my new blog layout? It has a rose, lily of the valley, and a butterfly to symbolize me, Lily Katherine, and Luke Shiloh. I rather like it :) I also added some songs to my playlist

P.P.S. I know this is super long, so if you got this far, good for you! ;)


Friday, January 27, 2012

Brings me back

I heard this song today. It brought my heart back to March 17, 2010. The day I was told I must leave the hospital without my baby. The day my world crumbled around me. I first heard it in the car-ride home from REX Hospital. When I should have had a precious new life beside me in the backseat, instead I sat in the front, empty car seat in the back, tear stains on my face, and this song playing.

The gifts lie in wait in a room painted blue
Little blessing from Heaven would be there soon
Hope fades in the night, blue skies turn to gray
As the little one slips away


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Candle Lit in Honor Of

On January 22, for Sanctity of Life Sunday, my dear friend Amanda (who I went to the National Memorial for the Unborn with last year on Mother's Day) sent me this picture and let me know she lit these candles in honor of Lily, Luke, her baby who was miscarried in summer of 2010, and her friend's baby who was miscarried. It meant so much to me that she'd remember my babies on that day.


Monday, January 23, 2012

To Write Their Names In The Sand

I now have Lily's and Luke's names written at To Write Their Names In The Sand. Carly Marie writes baby's and children's names in the sand under gorgeous sunsets on a beautiful beach called Mullaloo Point in Western Australia, near Perth. It's a way to honor and remember children in Heaven. You can get your child's name written and a tribute post for free. But, you can also purchase the high-resolution images to help continue all the work Carly Marie does. I am getting both my images and printing them on canvas to hang on my wall. Carly Marie has literally written thousands of names. I am so thankful for these beautiful pictures. They are so different, yet both so lovely. :)


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sanctity of Life Sunday '12

Today is National Sanctity of Human Life Day. The date was chosen by Ronald Reagan to coincide with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case. He issued the day to fall on the third Sunday of January in the years following, the closest date that coincides with the original January 22 date. So, today is January 22, the original date.

Each year in Washington D.C., there is a March for Life. Thousands of people join in to take a stand for unborn life. Lots of people even share their stories of regretted abortion. I haven't been yet, but I hope to make it an annual tradition, starting next year! If you are anywhere near the D.C. area, I recommend taking part in the special day!

EACH life is sacred...precious and valuable to the Lord. Please take the time to listen to this powerful sermon by Eric Ludy. It is my absolute favorite sermon of his, and that is saying a lot!

Be sure to pause the music at the bottom of this blog before watching


Thursday, January 19, 2012

22 months and...

…and it hurts how sometimes I have to think a few moments on how long she’s been gone. It’s not automatic anymore, like it was when she would have been six months. And I feel guilty that I don’t remember right away how old she’d be. But then again, it’s not like I have anyone asking me how old my little girl is, so really I have no reason to think of it.

…the roller-coaster called grief continues. I have more good days than bad, I’d say. But the hard days still come for this mother who desperately misses the little girl she’ll never get to raise. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed with my longing to be with her that I must search for my breath.

…it hurts that I didn’t do more when I was pregnant with her…take more photos, get another 3D ultrasound when she was bigger, get a belly cast, cherish-truly, fully, completely cherish each moment I was given with her and not for a second wish it away. Of course I realize I never could have known what was to come, yet that doesn’t keep the regret and pain from coming and whispering of all I could have done differently, all I can never change, all I will never have with her. Her life has taught me to live as if today was my last, to love those around me as Jesus does, to cherish and thank the Lord for every single moment He blesses me with, to not spend my time on frivolous, temporal matters. But instead to have an eternal perspective.

…it hurts I have to create memories. I become so consumed with finding ways to honor her, remember her. It’s my job to keep the world from forgetting. And it hurts wondering who already has.

…it hurts that I’m forgetting what it was like to be pregnant. These are the most precious memories of my life because it was the only time she was alive, the only time I had her with me. All those memories of carrying her are fading and I feel guilty for not remembering. I mean, I’m her mother, for goodness sake. Yet what was it like to be woken in the night by a babe in the womb, kicking and squirming. It’s there in my mind, in my heart. Yet, I recall it like one might recall a dream when they are slipping from sleep to reality. The memory always feels just out of my grasp, though I search for it with all my might.

…it hurts that this dream of motherhood, too feels out of my grasp. Yes, I am a mother. With pride, this spills off my lips. Yet, I’m haunted in knowing I’m a mother who never once heard her baby cry, never once gazed into her eyes, gazed into her soul as she gazed back into mine. No, she was still. Silent. So even though I’m her mother, I never once held my child with life within her. Which makes this longing, this dream that I’ve carried with me my entire lifetime, to carry a child and then offer her all the love I possibly could, that much more intense. It dangled in front of me, just right above me and when I reached out to take this gift that I thought was already mine, that I thought had already been given to me…suddenly it’s snatched back and I’m told I can’t have her. I must give her back…I must give my dreams back. And it always feels just out of my reach. And I wonder if and when I will ever grab hold of it. When and if I’ll ever get to keep this gift of motherhood.

…it hurts wondering how my babies will fit into my maybe-family one day. Will they be known, loved, missed by their brothers and sisters? Will they be a part of it all? Will we celebrate their lives on special days, every day? Will my husband understand, respect, support…love alongside me?

…it hurts wondering if people know me as “the girl whose baby died.”…because this story, her story, is so much more than that. Lily is so much more than just some baby that died. Lily is speaking a thousand words, yet without a single word, of how precious each life is to our God.

Despite all my hurts, all my questions, God is big enough for it all. He isn’t intimidated or threatened by my brokenness. He isn’t stuttering in His reply. He isn’t afraid of this honest grief of a mother who desperately misses her daughter. He promises to meet me here. He promises to understand. And then He lets me cry on His shoulder as long as I need to. He holds my dreams in His hands. He promises to work all this together for good. And I believe Him. I cling to Him.

This song has been really special to me. It really speaks to my longing to be with Lily in Heaven.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Painting for Both My Babies

I got this beautiful miniature painting from Treasure Beans. It is amazing how perfect it is for me. When I saw it, I just knew right away I had to get it. Not only does the girl look like me with brown hair, but I have both a son and a daughter in Heaven, which the blue and pink butterflies symbolize. It's like it was made for me! :)


Monday, January 16, 2012

Everything Pretty giveaway winner

Back in December, I entered a giveaway on the Grief Journeys facebook page, which they were hosting in celebration of reaching 500 fans. I hadn't been on facebook much lately and just randomly saw the giveaway. I entered it in the last few minutes I could. I don't really win things like this so expected nothing from it.

Then I found out I WON! :)

What did I win? A personalized seashell from Everything Pretty! I was able to choose if I wanted a small, medium, or large shell and what I wanted written on it. I received a high resolution image of the seashell and am getting it shipped to me in the mail! It's not anything too grand or anything, but it's still fun to win and get something in honor of Lily Katherine to add to her memory chest. :)


Saturday, January 14, 2012

sharing something so sweet

When I first decided on Luke Shiloh's name, I googled it to see if I could come up with anything special. I wanted to see if I could find someone that had also chosen this name. That's how I found Jenny's blog. I was so excited to find this woman, this woman who loves the Lord as I do and gave her son the same name I've chosen to give mine. Jenny also posted about Claire Culwell, who is a speaker, an abortion survivor and one of my friends. I knew right then I had to contact her and share my story with her. After reaching out, she responded back in an email and we've been corresponding ever since.

It's such a special bond to share the name Luke Shiloh with her. And it's so beautiful how God specifically chose this name for her little guy as well. Their son was born at 11:33 in the morning, so they decided to look up Luke 11:33 a few hours after his birth.

"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light."

Luke means light. How positively providential. I can only imagine the plans the Lord has for this child.

Jenny asked if she could share my story on her blog. I said yes. It's meant to be told. And I am oh so humbled and honored that she would do so. To God be all the glory.

Read about how Jenny and her husband chose the name Luke Shiloh for their son.
Read about the birth of Luke Shiloh.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Roses and Lilies

A couple weeks ago, my mom and I came across the January/February 2012 issue of Victoria magazine. After just thumbing through it a bit looking at the pictures, we were suddenly drawn in by the beautiful work of Caroline Reehl Ceramics. Reading the description of her work, I saw that she lives in the same area I do (how neat is that?). As I continued reading, I saw that she likes to use roses and lilies in her art. I knew right then I had to contact her somehow and share my story with her. I had to share with her the significance of these two flowers in my life. How my blog is named after these two flowers. How my little girl is my precious flower, my Lily.

This is what she says about using roses and lilies in her work:

"Southern women epitomize hospitality, cultivation of splendor, and are as luxuriant as the rich traditions that surround them. I use roses and lilies among my work as a metaphor for these women. The stages of the flowers on each piece are at the peak of the bloom and represent internal strength and external beauty. Many of the colors that I choose for my pieces are subtle, giving each petal room to shine."

I emailed Caroline last week and told her a little bit about my story, how special roses and lilies are to me and I gave her my blog address. I also asked if she'd mind if I shared about her lovely art on this little blog of mine.

She wrote back:

Hannah Rose,

This email was so amazing to get!! Your story is beyond words, God definitely has big plans for you! I don't have a store yet in Raleigh but am working on it, I just moved here about a week ago. I would be beyond honored to be on your blog.

Bless you and please stay in touch
Go buy the issue of Victoria so you can see Caroline in there for yourself. You should pop on by her facebook page and become a fan! Also, show some love by stopping by her blog...become a follower and maybe leave a comment or two. :)

Once her shop is up and running here in Raleigh, I am going to go meet her and admire her work. ;) I am hoping and planning to get a beautiful piece of art, in honor and memory of Lily Katherine, made one day by Caroline. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lily and Luke's Sunset Butterfly

Carly Marie from CarlyMarie Project Heal sent me this beautiful picture with Lily and Luke's names written with a beautiful Australian ocean sunset. She is such a talented artist and I encourage you to check out what she offers, if you've lost a child. She also writes names in the sand. Lily's has already been written and I'm waiting to get Luke's back. :) I just love to see their names written out and it's especially sweet to see their names together. Honoring and remembering them is how I feel I'm mommy to them since they aren't here with me.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Darkness to light: a story of redemption and life

My life changed forever at the age of 19 when I had an unplanned pregnancy. Growing up in a pro-life family, I never dreamed my beliefs would be tested. It was much less complicated to think of it as a pregnancy, rather than as a baby. I knew what I had to do - have an abortion. Face the consequences of my actions, tell my family what I had done, shame them with an unplanned, teenage pregnancy before marriage, carry and deliver a baby, have shattered plans for my future, or possibly go through the pain that is sure to come with adoption? No, I simply couldn’t. I was weak and vulnerable. I had no other choice, or so I thought. If I had known the depression and guilt that would follow, I would have chosen a different path. I would have given my child a choice. But, in the midst of my heartache and despair, I regret having to say that's not the choice I made. I convinced myself that ending my pregnancy at only six weeks gestation wasn't really an abortion. I wish I had known my child's tiny heart had already begun beating. 

Having an abortion had to be okay because it was legal, I thought to myself. The culture I lived in told me it was my choice and it wasn't a big deal. How did I start to believe the lies? My spirit was breaking over this decision, this impending loss. The tears were proof of this. The tears were proof that deep inside, my heart knew that I was already a mother who was carrying her first babe. 

On February 6th, 2009, I took the RU-486 pill and after a night of darkness, it was over. I was relieved to get back to my normal life. I wanted to move on as if the nightmare had never happened and forget the immense pain. I was deceived into thinking that I could forget about it. The counselor at Planned Parenthood had told me that some initial sadness after my abortion would be normal, but after a couple days, if I was still feeling depressed, that wouldn't be normal and I should seek help. How wrong she was. Much of those days before and after my abortion are a blur of heartbreak and tears. Sleepless nights were spent, with agony at the depths of my heart and soul, rattling me to the core. There was nothing "wrong" with me for feeling that way. 

Trying to forget what I had done, over the next few months, I sought comfort for my wounded, aching heart through partying, drinking, and living promiscuously. I was digging myself deeper and deeper into a pit of destruction and despair. Four months after my abortion, I was pregnant...again. I fooled myself into thinking I would get my life together after what I thought was another necessary abortion. The appointment was set at Planned Parenthood... 

However, Jesus was fighting for me and for my unborn baby. God showed me that if I chose to have another 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...Instead of walking through those clinic doors a second time, I chose to walk into the light towards freedom. It was as if the reasoning for abortion fell away when I knew God would be with me every step of my difficult journey. I was at peace knowing I was making the right choice - the choice of LIFE... 

On March 16th, 2010, ready to deliver my full-term daughter, I was told the devastating news that her perfect little heart was no longer beating...I had to deliver the body of my precious flower, Lily Katherine, who had already whispered goodbye before I said hello. I had to give her enough hugs and kisses to last a lifetime. I watched as her tiny white casket was lowered into the opened earth and was showered with tears, rose and lily petals, and dirt. 

My entire life and future has been changed by two babies who never spoke a word or took a breath. Yet, God is speaking through them just how precious and valuable each individual life is. He has a plan and purpose for each beautiful life created in His image. He can take our deepest sorrow and sin and work it together for our good and His glory! Through choosing LIFE for my second child, God brought peace and healing to my heart that was broken from aborting my first. Because of the lives of my two little ones, I now have a passion and a purpose that I wouldn't have if I hadn't had these experiences. 

When you choose LIFE, no matter the outcome, it is the right choice, a choice I've never regretted! However, I will forever regret my abortion and long for the first child of my womb. My precious Luke Shiloh, my son who I will only ever know in Heaven. 

I have realized that all the things that made me choose abortion were temporary problems. Even the things that seem so overwhelming in the moment won't always feel that way. 

Luke Shiloh's name means "light and peace" because that is what God has brought in all of this. He has brought light in the midst of the deepest darkness and peace to my wounded, aching heart. I truly believe the Lord has revealed my first baby was a boy. Lily Katherine's name means "pure and innocent," for she is a symbol of my redemption in Jesus Christ. And she will forever remain pure and innocent. Jesus washes us white as snow. 

Though the Lord has healed, redeemed, and restored me in ways I never could have imagined, there will always and forever be a missing piece of my heart, a void that cannot be filled this side of Heaven. 

Luke Shiloh and Lily Katherine, I once wanted to be rid of you and hoped nobody would ever find out you even existed. Now, I want the world to know you are my children. I promise to always be your voice and to honor you in whatever way I can for as long as I live. Sharing my story isn't easy. Yet, it's because of this promise to my two children of Heaven and my desire to bring glory to Jesus Christ that I do share. I will speak when someone asks me to and I will write when given the opportunity. 

I want all who hear my story to walk away with these truths in their heart - All life is sacred and beautiful and deserves to be protected. Abortion hurts men and women. There is healing to be found, however, you will carry that scar of abortion with you forever. If you choose life, no matter the outcome, you will have no regrets.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." ~Psalm 147:3 

"There is no pit too deep that God's love is not deeper still." ~Corrie ten Boom 


Friday, January 6, 2012

NMU Plaque

In May, my brother, Joseph, and I went to Tennessee to visit our dear friends Jonathan and Amanda, little Emily, and baby Anderson on the way. On Mother's Day, we drove to Chattanooga to the National Memorial for the Unborn. The memorial has an indoor granite memorial wall in honor of babies lost to abortion and gardens outside with brick pavers in honor of babies lost to stillbirth and miscarriage. There is a pregnancy center in the other half of the building and it all sits on the site and in the same building where an abortion clinic was for many years. The entire site has a sacred essence to it, especially the room that is honoring aborted babies. I felt such a deep feeling of reverence in there as I was overwhelmed by all the names on the wall and the special things left behind by grieving family and friends of these lost little ones. It was so moving to read all the letters and poems. What a special gift to be there on Mother's Day! A time and place to honor and remember BOTH my babies at once, the only place on earth where I can tangibly do this. What was once a place of great sorrow where thousands of babies were killed is now a place that honors and remembers these lives, a place dedicated to the Lord, a place of hope and healing...

Today, January 6, 2012, it has been exactly two years and eleven months since Luke Shiloh went to be with Jesus. After wanting to get his plaque at NMU for a long while, I finally ordered it today. It's really special that my brother went there with me on Mother's Day and I used the money he gave me for Christmas to order Luke's plaque. :) This is a huge step for me. It feels like I'm doing something as his mother. It feels like I'm acknowledging he is and always will be my first child. Lily was my firstborn, but not my first. 

This has been such a huge part of my healing and grieving. If you've had an abortion, seriously look into getting a plaque made here. You can do it completely anonymously. It is a place of healing, closure, and saying, yes this life mattered and this life truly existed...

This is what my plaque will say:

Luke Shiloh
February 6, 2009
Darkness to Light

His name, the day he went to Heaven, and the three perfect words to describe my story and what God has done...
I am so excited to receive my copy of it in the mail! And I am planning a trip out to Chattanooga to place the plaque on the wall myself at the service I'm going to have for Luke Shiloh. I will also be placing the brick paver there in the garden dedicated to miscarried and stillborn babies for my daughter, Lily Katherine. It is so special to have a place to honor and memorialize both my babies at once!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

two little words

I like the idea of single words being used to describe an entire chapter of life...in this case, I've chosen two words as a reminder of what 2011 has been for me.

2011 has been a year of...

The Lord has healed my heart in greater depths after the loss of Lily. He is taking me through fully grieving the loss of my first baby, Luke Shiloh. I've named him, I have his ultrasound photo, I'm talking about him more. I see how my Jesus sees me...pure, whiter than snow...for His cloak of righteousness surrounds me. He has taken the chains that were about me and crushed them...He makes it as if they were never there. It's amazing that He can heal a heart with just one word, just a single breath...things that the world would say should take a lifetime to heal, or maybe never. But, in less than two years since Lily Katherine went to Heaven and less than three years since Luke Shiloh did, He has supernaturally, beautifully transformed me, made me new, healed me in ways I never dreamed...Allow Him to do the same in your heart and life.

2011 has also been a year of great...

The Lord has taken me through a season of absolute surrender. My finances, my love story, my dreams of ministry for the future, my dream of Ellerslie...He is showing me that His way is the best way, even if it wasn't what I would have chosen for myself. I can trust Him. He is showing me how. It is Him alone that even puts the desire within me to surrender. And it has been amazing to see where He's taken me this year. He has shown me to be faithful in the small things, so He can entrust greater things to me. I never could have dreamed I'd be debt free, an Ellerslie graduate, and a speaker before the end of 2011. His plans are always more beautiful than our own!

I am so excited to see what my God holds for my life, for Lily and Luke's legacies in 2012...

If you had to choose one word to describe what 2011 has been for you, what would you choose? I'd love if you shared it in a comment here and why you chose it:)


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reflections on 2011

This is just the beginning of the story He's writing for me...this chapter is ending, but it marks the beginning of what He holds for me next. All the glory goes to God and God alone! I may not know the way I go, but oh I know my Guide!

Highlights of 2011:

On February 6th, it's been two years...the Lord continues to cultivate this desire in me to share my testimony and be the voice for unborn life...

On March 16th, we celebrated Lily Katherine's life on her first birthday

In April, I met Shawn Carney, the Co-Founder of 40 Days for Life and host of the television series "beingHUMAN." Some might know him as the director of the Coalition for Life in Texas where former Planned Parenthood director, Abby Johnson, went after having a change of heart from seeing an ultrasound-guided abortion. I get email updates from 40 Days for Life and rarely read them. One afternoon, I randomly clicked open the email to discover that Shawn was going to be in Chapel Hill the following evening for a peaceful prayer vigil in front of the Planned Parenthood there. I see now that was God guiding me. I was able to share my story with him and he asked if he could share it at his speaking engagements around the world! I was so blessed by our conversation. When my mom mentioned that we should have brought the book "unPLANNED" for him to sign, he offered to mail us a signed copy. He's a very down-to-earth, kind person and very inspirational to talk with. A couple weeks later, I received a copy of the book with this written on the inside cover: In honor of Lily and her courageous mother. With God all things are possible. ~Shawn Carney
In May, my mom, best friend, Kala, and I drove to Greensboro to meet Claire Culwell, an abortion survivor and pro-life speaker. Claire is best friends with Abby Johnson. I had come across her story online and was so excited to discover she was coming to NC a couple weeks later. I was able to share my testimony with her and we are now friends, staying in contact. She is also helping me in starting to share my story:) 
In May, my brother, Joseph, and I went to Tennessee to visit our dear friends Jonathan and Amanda, little Emily, and baby Anderson on the way. On Mother's Day, we drove to Chattanooga to the National Memorial for the Unborn. The memorial has an indoor granite memorial wall in honor of babies lost to abortion and gardens outside with brick pavers in honor of babies lost to stillbirth and miscarriage. There is a pregnancy center in the other half of the building and it all sits on the site and in the same building where an abortion clinic was for many years. The entire site has a sacred essence to it, especially the room that is honoring aborted babies. I felt such a deep feeling of reverence in there as I was overwhelmed by all the names on the wall and the special things left behind by grieving family and friends of these lost little ones. It was so moving to read all the letters and poems. What a special gift to be there on Mother's Day! A time and place to honor and remember BOTH my babies at once, the only place on earth where I can tangibly do this. I am getting a plaque and brick paver there. I'm thankful Amanda and I got to have such a sweet time together there as we have both had losses. What was once a place of great sorrow where thousands of babies were killed is now a place that honors and remembers these lives, a place dedicated to the Lord, a place of hope and healing...See all the photos from that trip here.

On October 2nd, I, along with two other young ladies, spoke to the Raleigh Pure Fashion participants and their moms at the Mother-Daughter social. There were about seventy-five people present. I shared on the topics of modesty and purity. 

From October-December, I was at Ellerslie Leadership Training in Colorado. I started my blog Jesus is Victor to share my journey to get there, my adventures while there, and what the Lord taught me to carry with me everywhere. The Lord supernaturally provided the money for me to go! 

I met the sweet little girl, Sierra, who the Lord used to bring much healing.

Bonnie was one of my roomies at Ellerslie. She is an abortion survivor! The Lord showed us that together, we represent both sides of abortion. It is amazing to see that no matter how one is affected by abortion, His desire is to heal, restore, and redeem...

I finally met Bex and little Kip in person after over two years of friendship! Such a special season with her.

On December 9th, I shared my testimony with over forty ladies from Ellerslie. Mrs. Osborne set it up at her house for me to share. What an honor and joy it was!

After wanting to get my ultrasound picture from Planned Parenthood for a couple years, I finally did on December 29. I also named my first baby, Luke Shiloh and found out he was due on October 1, 2009. The Lord continues to bring healing and closure.

My love for photography blossomed this year as I started All Things Lovely Photography. (please become a fan of my page) :)
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." -Philippians 4:8
The idea behind the name I chose is this verse...I want to capture all that makes life lovely and keep myself and others dwelling on those things! Each moment in life is a precious gift, and tomorrow is never a given. I have always loved taking pictures and spend hours looking through photos from my childhood and scrapbooking these memories. In the several months after losing Lily, I realized just how important capturing these precious moments is. I am filled with sadness when I think about the fact that I don't have any high-quality images of her precious hands and feet. The photos I do have are very low-quality and will never be enough. I will never have those moments with Lily back. From now on, it is my desire to capture each of life's precious moments on camera. All the beautiful things in my life have flowed out of Lily's life. When the Lord showed me if I chose LIFE for my baby, I had no idea the beauty it would bring, He was right...I never could have imagined how the story would be written, yet it is breathtakingly beautiful. This year, I did several sessions and three weddings! I enjoy photography so much...just like writing and blogging, it is a way to grieve and heal. 

Preparations underway this year for Lily's Legacy care packages to be distributed to the local hospitals in Raleigh, NC. I'm hoping we (my mom and I are doing the project together) can make the first delivery on Lily's second birthday, March 16th, 2012.

Other favorite blog posts from 2011:
Valentine's Day Poem in honor of Lily
Adventures never to be had
Engraved footprint necklace
When was the moment?
the month of March
One more day
Happy first birthday, my darling

I hosted my first blog giveaway, celebrated my third Babylost Mother's Day, and my mom created a beautiful memorial garden at our home in honor of Lily Katherine and Luke Shiloh (will post photos of it this spring).

On September 16, my best friend in the world moved ten hours away to Alabama to work at Teen Challenge. It was so hard to say goodbye to her, but God has taught me to surrender everything to Him, trust that He has a plan for each of us, and allow Him to have His way. He is the Great Comforter and will carry me through each trial and hardship I face...

2011 felt much different than 2010. It was bittersweet for 2010 to end because that was Lily's year and I will always think of her when I think that year. This year, the Lord took my hand and took me another few steps forward in my journey of grief, healing, growing in my walk with Him, and preparing for the future that only He can see right now. I know that I have a heart for ministry and sharing my testimony, so I'm waiting for the Lord to direct my path and show me what's next.

My God is so much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined and His plans for my life are far better than my own. I realize I am just getting a glimpse of His beauty and His plan for me and this is only the beginning. In the spring of this year, I never could have dreamed that before the end of the year, I'd be debt free, an Ellerslie graduate, and a speaker! God has shown me different aspects to Who He is to me...He truly is my All in All. He has shown me this year that He is faithful, He is my Heavenly Father and cares about my every need, big and small. I can trust Him. When you step out in faith and obedience unto Him, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will guide your steps and supply all you need, the moment you need it!

I am so excited to see what He holds for me in 2012...He is showing me that in order to be entrusted with greater things, I must be faithful in the small things He's giving me today...in sharing on my blog and one on one with people or in smaller groups.

I'd love to know whose reading these words of mine. If you read this, please leave a comment and let me know you were here! You don't have to be a follower or member of blogspot to comment. You can go to the comment box and select the option where you type in your name. Blessings to you in the new year!:)

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