Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are soooo many things that I am so incredibly thankful to the Lord for... my beautiful home, food to keep my body nourished, a cozy bed, my wonderful family and friends, my cats, the opportunity to study at a Christian University to pursue my degree, being able to share my story in speaking and writing... among many, many other things.

I am thankful for the gift of Lily's and Luke's lives... I am thankful to be their mother.

I hope each of you has a blessed Thanksgiving spent with loved ones.

"O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: 
because His mercy endureth forever."
~Psalm 118:1

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 
~1 Thessalonians 5:18


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Saturday, November 23, 2013

I hope people feel the love I have for her when they see her stone

When I drive to a nearby city in North Carolina, I usually take the back roads, rather than the highway. When I go this way, I drive past a church with a cemetery right beside it. As I drive past, my eye is always drawn to a beautiful headstone. I pulled over on the side of the road one day to see who this headstone honors. It is for a little boy who passed away very early in life. The stone is very unique, in the shape of a train... little boys love trains.

Not only is the stone itself so beautiful, but each time I pass, his spot is decorated. For all different seasons, holidays, and for his birthday. Though I have no idea the story of this little boy or who his family is, I can tell how much he is loved by the care that goes into his spot. By the special decorations left that bring color to this cemetery. By the design of his stone. He is so loved and missed. I can tell this about complete strangers.

And it got me thinking... I wonder who sees Lily's special spot. I wonder what people think of her stone when they see it. I hope they think the same thing about her stone and spot as I think about this little boys'... that she is so very loved and missed. That her stone is beautiful. That the decorations are sweet. That even though they don't know her story or who I am, they can just feel the love... the love I have for my precious daughter who I can only mother through things like designing her headstone and tending to that special spot.


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Thursday, November 21, 2013

"A Bump in Life" Book Giveaway!

To help spread the word about the new book, A Bump in Life: True Stories of Hope & Courage during an Unplanned Pregnancy, by the lovely Amy Ford (who is the Co-Founder of Embrace Grace Ministries) I am giving away a FREE copy SIGNED by Amy!!

To Enter:

-"Like" my Facebook page
-Leave a comment on this blog post
-Share about this book on your Facebook page

The giveaway will remain open for a little while... the random winner will be announced soon! Even if you don't win, you should seriously grab a copy for yourself... and for some friends while you're at it! You will be blessed!

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Logo!

In case you haven't noticed, there's a new look around here... I'm so excited that I have a new logo for my blog and website! 

I found a talented graphic design artist on Etsy (Etsy has everything lol... I love it) who worked with me until the logo was exactly what I wanted it to be! I wanted a new design for a long time, but thought it would cost A LOT so I never really looked into it... then, I thought to look on Etsy and found a reasonably-priced incredible artist (check out the Inkblot GDS Etsy page HERE if you are in need of some affordable design services).

I asked for the design to look like water-color paint and to include a rose, lily, and butterfly (symbolizing me, Lily, and Luke). The butterfly is also symbolic of my new LIFE in Christ, all of our Eternal LIFE in Heaven, and how God brought me to LIFE because of my babies. I asked for whimsical, elegant, old-fashioned, and colorful (with these specific colors in mind). I just love the design and font! 

After almost a month of going back and forth with design proofs, this is perfect! It is actually the design of the rose, lily, and butterfly from Lily's headstone! So special... 


the rose and lily on front of Lily's stone, the new logo, and the butterfly on back of Lily's stone

I also decided to use my new logo for my photography logo as well! I'd love to have you see some of my photos and keep up with my photography on my Facebook page HERE.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Life Within: Be a part of CausePub's latest book project!

You may remember that I was recently published in a book called "Couch Rebels," which was a project of CausePub.

Anyways, CausePub has a current project that I wanted to share with you lovely readers... there are many ways to get involved!


The Project: New Life Within: Real Moms. Real Babies. Real Stories.

The Cause: The first 1,000 copies sold will ensure that 40 women choose life by receiving help and encouragement via Gabriel Network!



For specific information regarding this project and to find out more about CausePub, click HERE.

The deadline for submissions is November 22nd (this Friday!) so if you are interested, you don't have much time. I will be finishing up my submission over the next couple days. Even if you don't care to submit, please consider pledging to buy the book. This is an awesome way to walk out your pro-life talk!

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Remembering Your Baby at Christmas

The holidays are a difficult time to face after losing a baby. It is such a special time that reminds you of everything you are missing out on. I have put together a few ideas on how to incorporate your baby into the season. I pray it brings you some peace, hope, and comfort and that it eases the ache in your heart just a little bit. I know Christmas is still several weeks away, but I wanted to share this with enough time for people to be able to participate in these things if they choose. I pray it brightens up your Christmas season. It can be healing to come up with new traditions that honor your little one. It's important to give yourself permission to celebrate, even in the midst of sadness.

Photo by Carly Marie

-Think about setting up a sacred space in your home in honor of your baby this Christmas. You could get a mini-Christmas tree and decorate it with lights and whatever else you'd like. You could get a pink, blue or really any color tree, or go for a traditional one.

My tree for Lily and Luke
After you put the lights on your tree, place all the ornaments you have for your baby on it. If you don't have any ornaments yet, you could create some. A fun tradition would be to create an ornament each year for your baby. For the year you were pregnant, you could make one with your ultrasound photo, then for the year your baby was born, you could make one with their footprints/handprints. You could also use their photos, name, and birthdate, as well as things that remind you of your baby to create very beautiful ornaments that will last a lifetime. You could even create ornaments in honor of your little one to give to his/her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. You can also display ornaments for your child on your main Christmas tree. Seeing these special ornaments on the tree can help make your baby a part of the family gathering. You could also tie pink or blue ribbons on the tree (pregnancy and infant loss awareness).

Put candles around this special space and light them each night. You could even make a candle holder! Something I'm doing is making a photo collage of several Christmas prints from Carly Marie's RedBubble shop to be displayed in this special space. Take an evening to listen to songs that remind you of your baby and prepare this sacred, beautiful space. You don't need to spend much money to create this space. Get creative. Think of other keepsakes you could put on display.

One of my favorite artists, Tiny Dream Shop, creates lovely memorial ornaments. These are the two that I've gotten from her. Keep an eye on her website to see the ornaments she offers.



One of my other favorite artists, The Midnight Orange, also makes beautiful memorial Christmas ornaments. Here is mine! Check out her ornament selection.


-You could also make a Christmas wreath and decorate it to hang somewhere.

-Set aside a time to think of your baby. Go through his/her things, write a letter, or write in a journal/on your blog.

-Participate in the Remembering Together Swap to bring some light and love to a difficult time of year. You will receive an ornament with your baby's name, hand-made with love, from a fellow bereaved mother (or father or family). You will also make an ornament honoring a lost child to send to another family. This is such a wonderful idea! Even if you don't participate in this swap, you could do your own swap with people from your local grief support group, or other friends you've met along the journey of loss.


-Get something in honor of your baby from Carly Marie's Christmas Beach Wonderland Gallery.


You can post these photos on your Facebook, blog, Twitter, etc. Another fun idea would be to print them and frame them to be placed around your home as Christmas decorations. That way you can share your babies with others as well. Or as Carly Marie recommends, print out many copies to be sent out with your Christmas cards/letters. Speaking of Christmas cards, you could buy a special ink stamp that reminds you of your baby and use it as a way to "sign" your baby's name on the cards. Or even just draw a little heart or a special symbol that reminds you of your baby.

-Make a donation in honor and memory of your baby. Consider donating to a place that provides comfort to the babyloss community (places such as Molly Bears or Jamie's Butterfly Kisses, among many other places.) You could create a special book that keeps track of gifts given in your baby's name.

-Get a Christmas Angel Memorial Print from Butterfly Footprints.


-Pack and donate a shoe box to Samaritan's Purse for Operation Christmas ChildThe National Collection Week this year is November 18-25. I was thinking how hard it is not having my girl here to buy Christmas gifts for when I so long to. By participating in this, you can shop for a child the same gender as your baby and the same age they would be now. So, for me, I am filling a box for a little three year old girl. I can give another sweet child in need the things I would be giving Lily and still have the joy of shopping for these things and giving them, knowing they are going to bless someone. You could ask your close friends and family to donate a box in your child's honor as well. Little kiddos are going to be benefited that wouldn't have been if it weren't for your baby. This will be the second year my mom and I are doing this in honor of Lily and we are happy to make it a tradition each Christmas.


This is the box my mom and I filled last Christmas... we put wrapping paper on the outside of the box. 
-Donate to Angel Tree, a program of Prison Fellowship, in your child's honor.

-Donate to Compassion International's Christmas Gift Fund. This spring, I started sponsoring a child through Compassion International and was given the opportunity to send a Christmas gift to her. This is an amazing organization that I strongly encourage others to get involved with!

-Participate in the Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting Service on December 8th.


-Make or buy your baby a Christmas stocking to be hung with the rest of the family stockings. It can be healing to create things for your little one and a stocking would be something very special to make during this time of year. You could make it the same size as all your stockings or make it smaller. You could get a card from Lost For Words Card Line to put in the stocking. And if you have other children, they could draw a picture or write a note to their sister/brother. On Christmas Day, you could attach these special notes to a balloon to release to the Heavens. Or keep the letters/notes to keep in your baby's memory chest.

-Decorate your baby's special spot (where they are buried) for Christmas. You could decorate with a small tree, poinsettia, garlands, pinecones, fake berries, a wreath, statues, or anything else you can think of that is festive.

Lily's "special spot" decorated for Christmas last year. This year
will be the first that her permanent headstone can be decorated!
-You could serve the holiday meal at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in your baby's honor.

-Many newspapers have holiday memorial pages where you can submit a note to your loved one.

-Check out the Holiday Gift Guide at Still Standing Magazine.


-Request a Christmas Angel from Evan's Lil Evergreen.

If you are reading this and know someone who has lost a baby, please tell them you are thinking of their little one this season. Also, consider getting a card from the Lost For Words Card Line, specifically for Christmas.

These things might not be for everyone, but hopefully you have gotten a couple ideas. Remember what you enjoyed and what you didn't enjoy so you can figure out how you want to celebrate the memory of your baby next year. If you have any other ideas, please share them with me! :)

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Line Between the Two

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 90 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 on her blog 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 14, 2013

From Pregnancy Test to Headstone

On November 2nd, the morning of Lily's stone placement and her stone placement ceremony, I went to the Lowe's Home Improvement store in Charlottesville, Virginia to pick up something I needed last minute for the installation process. As I was pulling into the parking lot, I realized that the Kroger where I had gotten the pregnancy test that confirmed I was pregnant with Lily was literally right across the street from Lowe's. 

The irony of that moment didn't escape me. Two places side-by-side - one symbolizes the beginning of her life, the other symbolizes the end. From pregnancy test to headstone. I never imagined just 4 years would separate those two moments. I never imagined walking out of that Kroger with pregnancy test in hand that one day I'd be walking out of that Lowe's with supplies for a headstone installation and that I'd be reflecting on it all... I never imagined I'd be where I am today. All that God has done between that day... as a scared 19-year-old finding out I was pregnant and not wanting a baby... to now... as a mother who loves and misses my daughter more than I could ever imagine and wanting to get the most beautiful stone to honor and celebrate my baby's brief, yet brilliant life. It's amazing to think about... how He changed and continues to change my life with hers. How I've grown up and matured so much because of her... So many memories and emotions flooded my heart in this moment.

This might seem like just a small coincidence, but the fact that I even went to the Lowe's that day was by the hand of God. I only found out late the night before the installation that I'd need something from the store. I almost went to a different store. And I have lived in North Carolina since early in my pregnancy with Lily for all these years since then. Her life began in Virginia and now her resting spot is in Virginia. I believe that God had me go to that Lowe's to be reminded afresh of the beauty of Lily's life and legacy, how He has a plan and purpose, and what a redeeming and merciful God He is. What a gift to be reminded...

It will take our breath away to see the beauty that He's made out of the ashes...


The photos below were taken in Charlottesville right near Kroger and Lowe's on the morning of Lily's stone placement... I love the mist, the blue sky, and the beautiful colors of the trees... I am thankful for what a gorgeous day it was.



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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lily's Stone!

Ever since Lily went Home to be with Jesus over 3 1/2 years ago, I have wanted to get her memorial stone. With Lily buried in Virginia and me living in North Carolina, it was really tough when I got to visit her "special spot" as I call it, for her to not have a permanent stone. I would decorate it with temporary markers and decorations, but it's just not the same. It felt like she was being neglected to not have her stone. 

Getting this stone is very important to me. Having a beautiful memorial stone is a way to honor her life and prove to the world SHE WAS REAL AND IMPORTANT AND I LOVE HER! Getting this stone is pro-life. I think getting Lily a headstone is a testimony to the sanctity of LIFE and proof that unborn babies are precious, valuable and irreplaceable. 

Once I started trying to look for a monument company to work with, it wasn't easy to find a place with a good reputation and high-quality craftsmanship. I have obviously never had to do something like this before and felt clueless about how the process works. It was extremely difficult to be in my 20's, headstone "shopping" for my daughter. I knew what I wanted and didn't want to settle. I am so thankful I didn't. I am so thankful the Lord led me to an amazing monument company that helped me develop my dream for Lily's stone. They've truly made it more perfect than I could have imagined. They kept working until I was completely satisfied. And this was all long-distance because I couldn't find a monument company to work with near where Lily is buried. The company I found is in Seattle, Washington, so this whole process has been through many, many phone calls, emails, drafts, revisions, etc. 

I have tried to enjoy the process because this is one of the last things I can ever do for Lily. Yes, I will continue to honor her by speaking and writing and sharing her story. I will continue to get memorial keepsakes. However, this is one of the few and last things I can do as a mother, truly for Lily. It's so final. It feels like a dream since I've waited so long and wanted it so long. Even though it's been really hard to wait, I must say I am thankful I did. I have had so much time to research and think about what I want. If I rushed into it right after she died, I may have made my choices for her stone too hastily. And because this stone will be hers forever, it needs to be perfect. 

It's so hard to decide what you want permanently etched in stone... what a big decision. How do you know you'll choose something you'll be pleased with forever? During all my dreaming and planning, I thought of sooo many things I would have loved to incorporate. However, there is only so much space so I knew I had to choose the most important, special, and meaningful things. It is hard to fit someone's entire life and legacy into a few short words on a small headstone.

What helped me decide was by asking myself, what story of Lily's LIFE and legacy do I want to tell with her stone? What do I want friends, family, and passersby at the cemetery to see? What words and designs can possibly capture all she means to me? What will I love forever?

This past weekend, on Saturday, November 2nd, we finally installed Lily's stone at her spot. We had a special stone placement ceremony that afternoon. I will be sharing about that later. But, for now, I want to share photos of Lily's stone and the meaning behind it. 

Literally every single thing I've chosen to be a part of Lily's stone has significance. Here it is!!



For a long time, I knew I wanted her stone to be small. It seems appropriate for a precious, tiny baby to have a sweet and simple stone. These are the exact dimensions:

Tablet: 12x4x13 (inches)
Lamb: 7.5 x 3.5 x 4 (inches)
Base: 20x12x4 (inches)
The Foundation that the stone and vase is on is a bit larger.

For the granite, I chose China Grey. I knew I wanted it to be light-colored, rather than dark because I just prefer the way it looks, especially for a baby's stone. I wanted the font to look simple, pretty, and easy to read.

I went and visited local cemeteries many times to try to get an idea of what I wanted. From the beginning, I was so drawn to the little infant stones with lambs sitting on top. They seem "babyish." I want people to see the stone and know it is for a little child. This is the most common Victorian marker for a child's stone. Yet, they aren't so common anymore, which I'm glad about. I want Lily's stone to be "old-fashioned," rather than modern. I want it to be timeless. Because this design is not common these days, it was very hard to find the exact type of lamb I want. All lambs are not the same. Some are really cheesy looking and some don't even look like lambs. I wanted Lily's to be perfect and couldn't find any online that I actually liked. That's when I knew I'd have to find a monument company that could custom make it for me. Thankfully I did! They made the lamb twice because the first time I didn't like it. I actually found a stone that's about 100 years old at a large cemetery in Raleigh with a lamb on top that I love. I measured it and used those exact measurements to send to the monument company. And I took photos of that lamb because they needed an example of what I wanted and liked. I also like lambs because of my Aunt Rachel Ross who is buried next to Lily. Her name, Rachel, means "little lamb" and her stone has a lamb on it.

Anyways, not only do I like how the lamb looks and not only is it common to incorporate lambs into infant stones, but I especially love the meaning behind it. Lambs symbolize innocence and purity, which is what Lily Katherine's name means (yes, her first and middle name!) Lambs are also a symbol of Christ...

"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" -John 1:29

I wanted a rose and lily because they symbolize Lily and I - Hannah Rose and Lily Katherine. The name of my blog is "Rose and Her Lily" and I use the two flowers together for many special things. The rose and lily are beautifully intertwined, as a symbol of how Lily was with me her entire life on earth and how I will carry her legacy with me the rest of my life on earth! I love that the rose and lily are blooming together, as a sweet reminder that we will bloom together for all Eternity in the presence of Jesus.

The rose symbolizes motherhood and beauty. Lily will forever be my first-born baby. I will forever be her mother. She was so beautiful and her lasting legacy is beautiful beyond description. The rose also symbolizes hope and unfailing love and indicates sorrow. It is a common symbol of eternal life and resurrection. Seriously, how perfect is this?

Of course, Lily's full name and birthday are on the stone. I just love seeing her beautiful name on the stone... though of course, I wish I was seeing her learning to write her own name, rather than on a headstone. It just sounds weird to say that, but I love her name so much. I love seeing it, saying it, and hearing it.

I chose "Forever Pure" because like I said, both Lily and Katherine mean pure and innocent. Lily will never be marred with sin and pain and the corruption of this world. What a gift that is for my heart to know. I feel this simple phrase so beautifully and perfectly articulates who Lily is, as well as her legacy. She is also a symbol of my renewed purity and redemption in Jesus Christ.

The back has a butterfly, which are very symbolic and special to me as well. Butterflies symbolize new LIFE in Christ. Lily was new LIFE and God used her LIFE to bring me to new LIFE in Him. And because of His sacrifice on the Cross, we will have eternal LIFE with Him. Lily is already living her new LIFE with Jesus right now. I love how the butterfly looks like it's landing on the stone. It has the Scripture John 3:16 above it, which says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have Eternal LIFE." God spoke His promise of eternal life, redemption, and the love and mercy of Christ in this Scripture verse. Lily's life is a picture of this. And her birthday is March 16. 3:16 like John 3:16.

Butterflies also symbolize short-life. Lily lived a brief, but brilliant life. She is the quiet, gentle, and peaceful picture of new LIFE leaving the cocoon, taking flight to Heaven. I thought that incorporating a butterfly would be a sweet way to include Luke Shiloh in Lily's stone as well.

On the back, Lily's stone says, "Jesus Changed Our Lives With Hers." I think that perfectly shows what God sent her to earth for. I thought a lot about what Scripture, quote, saying, etc. I wanted to be written on the back and settled on this. I thought it was special that it's something I came up with specifically for Lily. And if anything captures her legacy in just a few short words, it's this. Lily changed my life. She changed the lives of those who love her. And she continues to change lives with my writing and speaking across the country.

There were a couple other phrases that I wanted to include on Lily's stone, but didn't think I would be able to because of space. However, when the monument company told me I could have things written on the top of the base, I knew exactly what I wanted to be written.

On the front it says, "How desolate our lives bereft of thee." When I was looking in a cemetery in South Carolina for ideas with my brother and sister-in-law, I saw infant gravestones that said this, only with the word "home" instead of "lives." Right when I saw it, tears came to my eyes and my heart ached in understanding and knowing. I was so touched by this phrase and it was always one I had in the back of my mind as a possibility to be included on Lily's stone. I wanted Lily's stone to show the bittersweet reality of losing her. Our entire lives have been changed for the better, yet we also miss her more than words could ever say. We know we will be with her again one day and rest in that hope and assurance, however it doesn't change the missing piece of our earthly lives. It is terribly bittersweet to live life without Lily each and every day. We miss her here and now and there is an aching and longing that could never be put into words. But, we have the hope of Heaven.

On the back, it says, "Out of these ashes beauty will rise." These are lyrics from one of my favorite songs, by Steven Curtis Chapman. It is off his CD that he made after he lost his own daughter. My Aunt Helen gave me this CD for Mother's Day in 2010, just a couple months after I lost Lily. It has been a huge part of my grief and healing. I can't count the number of times I would turn it up so loud, and sing at the top of my lungs, with tears streaming down my cheeks. I feel like this song so perfectly articulates my testimony, of my abortion and turning from God, my unplanned pregnancies, losing Lily, and God bringing me back to Himself and working all this together for my good and His glory.

Here is the song:



Placing Lily's stone was bittersweet. I am sad that everything that's gone into it, all the love I've poured into it, is finished. I am proud to say I designed it myself. But, as I've searched for the different meanings of each thing I chose, I realize that it was not only me who designed it. God's hand was on it... it is amazing to see Him in the small things. Just as He gave me her name, He helped me with this stone. As I was choosing the different things I wanted on it, I had no idea how beautiful every element would turn out to be. I was a little nervous that I would regret something I chose or that I wouldn't be fully pleased with how Lily's stone turned out, but I can honestly say it is everything I ever dreamed it would be and more. It is perfect and I love it so much.


Here is a video tour I took of Lily's special spot so people can almost feel as if they are there:



Click HERE for some ideas and inspiration for designing your own baby's headstone.

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