Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflections on 2013

I can hardly believe how fast this year has flown by! It feels like I was just writing my Dreams for 2013 post. I wrote this in that post: "Every year, I literally could never plan or predict how God is going to move. So, we will see what the "Reflections on 2013" post contains in 12 months from now! Jesus, this is all for You...so take my life and let it be all for Your glory!"

The year has certainly been full of answered prayers, unexpected blessings, challenges, lessons, and adventures. And it's true... I never could have planned or predicted how God would move. That's what's so exciting about living life with and for Him! Most of the things I dreamed for this year (and much more) came to pass... but the things that haven't happened are in God's perfect plan and timing.

Some of the highlights from the year:

-In January (Sanctity of Life month), I went with my mom and sister to my first March for LIFE in Washington D.C. for the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I was given the blessing of sharing my story in front of the Supreme Court with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign! You can watch me speaking HERE.

-I walked through the Forgiven and Set Free Bible study at a local pregnancy center. I plan on writing more about this soon... it's amazing how God led me to do this and how He's brought further healing.

-I started volunteering at Your Choice Pregnancy Clinic, a local pregnancy center here in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is something the Lord has been stirring within me for quite some time and He made it evident that this year it was time to get involved. I finished all my training and got certified.

-Luke's 4th Heaven Day was in February and Lily's 3rd Heavenly Birthday was in March.

-It's been so amazing how God stirred within me the desire to be a speaker and how He showed me this year would be the year that it would "take off." Well, it certainly has and it's only by God opening the doors! I spoke many different times this year across the country, from churches to pregnancy center banquets, among other places. This is a vision God placed within me four years ago and it is really special to watch Him bring it to fruition. You can watch a video of me speaking HERE.

One of the biggest lessons God has taught me this year is that I will only ever find true satisfaction and fulfillment in Him. As humans, I think we often are looking forward to the next "big thing" that is coming, like we will finally be satisfied and happy once we attain it. In a way, I suppose I thought once I was finally a speaker, I would finally feel content. I knew God was calling me to do it and expected it would make bring me happiness. I am so excited, humbled, and honored to now be a speaker. But, I am realizing more and more that nothing in this entire world can ever bring my soul satisfaction apart from Christ alone. I guess before this year, I could have told you that, but I didn't know it with all my being. I am so thankful the Lord is teaching me this. No degree, no relationship, not marriage or children, speaking, writing, or anything else I could ever desire will give me what it is I'm searching for. God is teaching me to keep my eyes fixed towards the Heavens, on things of eternal value... is what I'm doing today going to make an impact for eternity? I pray that I see through an eternal perspective, rather than an earthly one. I could go on and on (and might in a future post), but this is something the Lord has been teaching me that I wanted to share.

-I was profiled for an article in WORLD Magazine, I was interviewed for an article in LifeSiteNews.com, and I was featured on Live Action News for Life of the Week. The Lord is opening up so many opportunities to proclaim what He's done!

-I wrote many articles that were posted on LifeNews.com, LifeSiteNews.com, Live Action News, Catholic Lane, Still Standing Magazine, etc. You can check those articles out HERE. Writing is another passion of mine and it's been incredible to see God open the doors for that as well... another dream He placed in my heart that's been brought to fruition.

-I was published as a contributing author in two books that came out this year - "Couch Rebels" and "New Life Within!"

-Lily's stone was designed, ordered, installed, and completely payed off this year! This is something I have wanted to do for a looong time (which you know if you've read my blog for a while). Her stone is everything I ever wanted and more! You can read about her stone and see more photos of it HERE and you can read about her stone placement ceremony in November and see photos of that HERE.

-In July, I was a counselor and spoke at Camp Joshua North Carolina, a pro-life camp for teenagers.

-I turned 24 in August.

-This fall, after prayer and consideration, I decided to go back to college to continue pursuing my degree. I just finished my first semester at Liberty University Online and am going for my B.S. in Psychology/Crisis Counseling. It is a wonderful school and program and the Lord has definitely led me to this. I should be graduating in 2 1/2 years.

-In October, I started B.L.A.S.T. Mentoring with Shannon Ethridge (which stands for Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers, and Teachers). The Lord led me to this amazing program and I know it is exactly where He wants me to be in my life and ministry... another thing I plan on writing more about soon!

-My brother, Joseph, and best friend, Kala, got engaged in March and married on October 11th! I was the maid-of-honor in their wedding. It was a perfect fall day in South Carolina. Now my best friend is my sister! Their wedding and love story is so beautiful, redemptive, and God-honoring. I plan on sharing more about this soon. Here is a photo of my family at the wedding. *From left to right: my brother Adam, sister Emma, mom Ginny, sister-in-law Kala, brother Joseph, dad Chuck, and myself. :)

-I started sponsoring a child from Compassion International who shares Lily's birthday.

-I shared my "aha moment" this summer.

-I got a new logo for my website/blog/social media! It has a rose, lily, and butterfly to symbolize me, Lily, and Luke... it is perfect! This is something I have wanted for a while.

-I launched my new speaking website.

-I created a Facebook page and Twitter account for people to keep up with my ministry that way.

-I am no longer nannying a little girl who I was with for over a year (it was really hard for that to end). But, I am still with another family I've been with for quite some time.

Whew - what a year this has been! God has moved mightily... I am so excited to see what He brings in 2014! I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know it is HE who holds it. It is especially impactful to put all the highlights of the past year together and see just how much has happened in only 12 months! And these are only the highlights. I will share my hopes for 2014 in another post soon.

What did God teach you this year? What did He do in your life? I'd love to hear your thoughts and reflections!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Some Thoughts on Babyloss and Abortion

I have had something on my heart for a while that I need to say. I hope that in sharing it, it will make people think.

I have had some comments on my blog in the past from people that are upset with me for the "pro-life theme" of my blog. Some of those that have left unpleasant comments have been people who have lost a baby themselves, while at the same time they are passionately pro-abortion.

This is something I truly don't understand. How can someone mourn the loss of their own unborn child and yet support the murder of millions of others?

What makes one child any more important than another? Is the value of life dependent upon whether or not one is wanted?

If you truly believe a child in the womb is nothing more than tissue, then why do you so intensely grieve the loss of that "tissue" yourself?

In my opinion, it seems that people that experience pregnancy loss or babyloss of any kind would be completely changed to the core because of it. Even those who were totally for abortion before would be left no choice but to examine what they believe and why they believe it.

If we believe something about anything, we have to believe it always, not only in circumstances that are comfortable or convenient to us. If life matters, then that means all life matters. If life doesn't matter, then that means no life matters, including the life of your own unborn child.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

She's a Part of My Christmas

This would be Lily's 4th Christmas (outside of the womb). It honestly hasn't even felt very much like Christmas this year.

Everything feels so different... my brother got married this year. This is the first year he won't be with my family on Christmas Day. He will be with his new wife's family in another state. And my sister will be spending Christmas with her boyfriend's family. And we are not in Virginia this year with our extended family, but staying in North Carolina where we have no relatives. It will be my parents, my other brother, and me... and our animals.

Anyways, I am just missing the way things were. I am wishing life didn't have to change so much, so fast. I am missing my should-be-three-year-old at Christmas. This year, she would be really excited for Christmas and I would love teaching her about Jesus.

As Lily's headstone says, "How desolate our lives bereft of thee..." That's how it's feeling this Christmas without her.

Just because Lily is not physically here doesn't mean she can't be included... these are some ways I have incorporated her into the Christmas season...

I decorated Lily's special spot for Christmas... this is the first year her stone is there for the season.

I found Christmas wrapping paper with lilies on it that I used to wrap most of the presents I gave others.

I decorated Lily's and Luke's mini Christmas tree with lights and their special ornaments... it was on my desk in my room this year.

I got three new ornaments this year for their tree.

I got this cute Christmas angel for Lily's Garden at my home.

My mom and I put together a box for Operation Christmas Child for the second year in a row (it's now an annual tradition). We are able to Christmas shop for a little girl who is the age Lily would be... it is very special and healing to do this in Lily's honor and memory. I signed the card from my mom, sister, me, and Lily... it made me smile to sign her name.

I won this Christmas pendant from a Facebook giveaway by Tiny Dream Shop. It is hand-painted with a glittered poinsettia and features a cute, little winter angel sprinkling snow on the flower. It has been special to wear in remembrance of Lily for Christmas.

I got this Christmas Beach Wonderland image from CarlyMarie.

I wanted to get red nail polish for Christmas and found a color called "Red Velvet." I just had to get this color because it reminded me of my girl and made me smile. :)

This is a beautiful Christmas poem I found a couple years ago that reminds me of Lily and brings comfort to my heart...

Christmas in Heaven
by Wanda White

I see the countless CHRISTMAS TREES
around the world below with tiny lights like
HEAVEN’S STARS reflecting on the snow.
he sight is so SPECTACULAR please wipe away that tear
for I am spending CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST this year.

I hear the many CHRISTMAS SONGS
that people hold so dear
but the SOUND OF MUSIC can't compare
with the CHRISTMAS CHOIR up here.

I have no words to tell you of the JOY their voices bring
for it is beyond description to HEAR THE ANGELS SING.

I see the pain inside your heart
for I am spending CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST this year.

I can't tell you of the SPLENDOR
or the PEACE here in this place
Can you just imagine

I'll ask him to LIFT YOUR SPIRIT
as I tell him of your love
 as you lift your eyes above.
Please let your HEARTS BE JOYFUL
and let your SPIRIT SING
for I am spending CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN
and I’m walking WITH THE KING

As everyone is enjoying Christmas, my heart is holding close those who are hurting this time of year, for many different reasons.. Praying for comfort and peace as we dwell upon the TRUE meaning of Christmas, which is so much more than baking cookies and sending out cute family photos. Oh precious Jesus, thank you for your hope and LIFE!!


Monday, December 23, 2013

From Shame and Silence to Being a Voice

This is my latest article for various pro-life websites/news sources that was published today (or is scheduled to be published this week)...

The moment in time that I first knew God was calling me to be a pro-life speaker is clearly etched into my memory. It occurred in October just over four years ago when I was in my home state of Virginia, at a pregnancy resource center fundraiser banquet with my grandmother.

Unbeknownst to anyone around me, I was 18 weeks pregnant with my daughter Lily and I had recently been informed conclusively that she was a girl, though I already knew in my heart that she was. At age 19, in February of that same year, at six weeks gestation, I had an abortion. Afterwards, due to my broken heart, I found myself in a deep pit of chaos and despair, as my devastated life spiraled further out of control. Within a few months time, I ended up pregnant out of wedlock ... again. I was close to choosing abortion a second time within a year, when God turned my world upside down by using the life of my precious unborn child to bring me back to Him.

As I listened to the keynote speaker address the crowd that October night in Virginia, God clearly spoke something beautiful to my heart. He showed me that in the future, as a keynote speaker, I would be sharing my story of LIFE and redemption, as I addressed audiences at pregnancy resource center banquets. He was cultivating a passion and purpose within me that I never could have imagined on my own. I could not hold back the tears of joy that flowed freely as I thought of how God had completely rearranged my heart and future through my sweet girl growing in my womb.

I knew in the deepest parts of me that I had a special calling on my life to be a voice for the unborn, those facing unplanned pregnancies, and post-abortive men and women in a very public way. Little did I know the sad turn my story would take and that it would require of me to say goodbye to my Lily Katherine before she ever took her first breath. On March 16th, 2010, I arrived with great joy at the birthing center where I fully expected to deliver my healthy full-term daughter. Instead I was given the news that her strong little heart was no longer beating. In my joyful imaginings, I had pictured myself standing in front of audiences, with a beautiful little girl by my side. Yes, the lovely outcome I had counted on disappeared with Lily's early death, but my story is even more beautiful than I had dreamed - my calling the same. As long as I am alive, I will share the lives and legacies of my two babies who never spoke a word or took a single breath. A legacy of how each life is precious, valuable, and irreplaceable. A legacy of how God brings beauty from ashes and restores the most broken of hearts.

Glancing around at the banquet attendees that night, I recollect thinking about how, although they saw me, none of them had any idea about my little one growing quietly within me, in her secret place. Having already named my developing babe Lily, I smiled as my happy eyes encountered lilies in the centerpiece of each table. I brought one of those lovely white lilies home with me to dry and it remains in Lily's memory chest to this day. Even though nobody around me knew about my Lily, God knew. He knew her from the beginning of time and loves her more than even I. And He was giving me a hope and promise for my eternal future through my little Lily. The lilies in each centerpiece were a symbol of this.

I knew the plan God had for my life. It was all in His time, will, and way because only He knew when my broken heart would be healed enough to share what He had wrought in my life.

This fall, 2013, was my first season of speaking at pregnancy center fundraiser banquets. Four years of waiting on Him since He first whispered His plan for me to become a speaker.

In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined I would be called to be a speaker. After all, it doesn't come naturally to me. As an introvert, I do not find it particularly comfortable to be standing in front of a crowd, all eyes on me, especially speaking on a topic so raw and personal. Yet another reason I know this is God's plan: it's not about protecting my reputation. It's about His glory being proclaimed. My passion is so intense there is no way I can deny sharing it with others. It's like a fire burning within. The Lord chooses the weakest and least likely among us to be a testimony to His strength. 

After four years, here we are. I have spoken at a number of varying venues, but there's just something uniquely special about speaking at pregnancy center banquets. That is where I was when I received the initial spark of God's plan for me.

After having an abortion at the age of 19, and not wanting anyone to discover that dark secret from my past; becoming pregnant a second time out of wedlock and losing that baby to untimely death; to now traveling the country as a voice for my precious children of Heaven. Whew! God allows us to follow our own directions, but when we get to the end of our selfish meanderings, we are precisely where He planned for us to be. I've heard before that God takes our mess and makes it our message. He takes our pain and makes it our purpose. How thankful I am to be right where He wants me.

When I speak, it's almost as if I can hear my two babes in Heaven, Luke Shiloh and Lily Katherine, cheering me on ... Mommy, we're so proud of you for being our voice.

Pro-life warriors: God is raising up men and women, just like you, to be champions for LIFE every day, right where you are. He moves in breathtaking, unexpected ways, for His ways are not our ways. Being in pro-life ministry can sometimes feel discouraging as if we are not truly making an impact. But, He has a glorious plan and purpose unfolding right before us. Take courage in how God has changed my life. If your heart is open to His leading, He will use you. He is looking for those who are willing to spend their lives for the least of these ... for the precious ones without a voice ... for His glory. Keep praying. Keep fighting. Keep hoping. The battle for LIFE is worth it.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Lily Moments"

My days are full of moments where I'm reminded of my sweet girl. She is everywhere, in everything. Each time I see something that makes me think of her, it's like a hug from Heaven, where God reminds me that she's not forgotten. And neither am I. 

Here are some recent "Lily moments"...

A couple weeks ago when I was at the pregnancy center where I volunteer, I got a large baby name book from the baby boutique to possibly give to one of our clients. I took it upstairs and randomly flipped it open. When I looked down at the page that it fell open to, there was her name... Lily. Out of all the pages and names, it went right to hers! I love the definition it has listed too: Resembling the flower; one who is innocent and beautiful. She is exactly that. Innocent and beautiful... forever.

Lily was born on March 16th (3:16) so whenever I see those numbers together, it makes me think of her. I have been seeing gas prices at $3.16 so much lately. I love even small things like this that make me think of her, even if nobody else knows. I got a photo of the gas station in Crozet (my hometown and where Lily is buried) to capture the 3.16. It is so special that Lily's birthday is like John 3:16 - the very heart of the Gospel.

A friend of mine is a Grace Adele representative. Recently, there was an AMAZING sale going on, I needed a new purse, and wanted to support my friend, so I figured I'd see if I liked any of their available bags. I found a bag that is similar to one that I used to have that got really worn out from using it over time. And what do ya know, it's called "Lily." I didn't want to get the bag simply because it's called that, but it's so neat that it just so happens to be the bag I wanted! Same purple color and everything that I hoped for. I got my bag this week and really like it. It has a beautiful interior with flowers on it. :)

My mom and I went to Dunkin Donuts this week to meet a couple of our friends for coffee. DD now has red-velvet lattes and donuts. If you've read my blog for a while, you know that red-velvet is Lily's special thing. She had a Valentine's-themed baby shower in February 2010 and the cake was red-velvet, so it's a small way I can honor and remember her on her birthday and other special dates. I really enjoyed my red velvet latte this week. :)

A while back (can't remember exactly when), I was driving on a country road in Virginia when I came across this sign that I just had to get a picture of... Lily Lane. The property and sign is so beautiful. I have always thought how neat it would be to live on 316 Lily Lane one day in the future.

Those are just a few of the "Lily moments" that have made my heart smile lately.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

"New Life Within" Released TODAY!

I am so excited to share that I was accepted as one of the contributing authors in the book New Life Within - released TODAY, December 19th on Amazon! You can purchase your copy HERE.

It is such an honor to be one of the contributing authors of this incredible life-affirming book. It blesses me tremendously to have the opportunity to share my journey of motherhood and Luke and Lily's lives and legacies with more people.
"New Life Within is a series of forty inspiring stories from women of all different walks of life. Every woman’s experience with motherhood is unique and life-altering. What bonds these women together is the belief that every life is precious. Whether you have welcomed motherhood with open arms or found yourself unexpected with child, we want to welcome you to the greatest job you will ever hold.
It is our hope that these stories will serve as a source of inspiration and hope to all who read them. A portion of book proceeds goes to support pro-life organizations and serving women in crisis pregnancies and empowering them to choose life."
Please support this project by purchasing a copy of the book and sharing about it with your friends! Thank you!
You can listen to a radio interview about the book from this morning by clicking HERE.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Timeless, Family Name

Over Thanksgiving, my brothers, mom, sister-in-law and I visited the cemetery where my great-grandmother and great-grandfather are buried. We hadn't been back since my great-grandmother Bain's funeral when I was 10 years old, which makes me sad. I will never go that long before visiting again.

Anyways, we couldn't remember exactly where their spot is and it's a rather large cemetery. However, I found it. I couldn't believe that I remembered from that long ago. It was really special to be there and to see her and my great-grandfather's headstone. I never got to meet him, but I know him through stories.

It is truly a beautiful cemetery, up on a hill, with a gorgeous view of the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains.

I have memories of my great-grandmother Bain (my mom's dad's mom). However, I was just a little girl when she went to Heaven. She was close to 100-years-old. I feel a special connection to her, however, through her name, Katherine. My Lily's middle name is Katherine. I chose it, not because it is a family name, but because of it's meaning: purity and innocence. However, I loved Katherine with a "K" rather than a "C" probably because that's how my great-grandmother's name is spelled. 

After I had already had and named Lily, I found out that my great-grandmother's mother (so my great-great-grandmother) had the name Lily! Lily had a daughter named Katherine. And all these generations later, came my sweet flower... my Lily Katherine. I didn't choose the names because they are family names, but because they both mean purity and innocence, but it does make it extra special and sweet indeed. I wonder if they both knew what their names mean. I wonder why they were given those names. I want to find out what both their maiden middle names were (Kirk was Katherine's maiden last name).

It makes my heart smile that Lily is connected to the generations of my family through her name. She is just as real as anybody and deserves the most beautiful of names. She is a daughter, a granddaughter, a great-granddaughter, a great-great granddaughter, and so forth. And it makes me feel connected to the women in my family who share my daughter's name. I don't understand why some people live 100 years on earth, while others never take a breath outside the womb... but that doesn't make one life more significant than another.

My sweet Lily's name is timeless, elegant, feminine, and oh so lovely. Just the fact that these names go back so far in my family show how timeless they are.

Lily Katherine's name is one of the last things I have left of her... and I treasure it.

I love names that have significant meanings, family names, Biblical names, and old-fashioned names. I already dream of what I would like to name my future hoped-for children.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

4 Years and a Heavy Heart

My heart is so heavy tonight and I wasn't expecting it...

My cousin Daniel's little boy Owen turns 4 today. And all these thoughts and feelings are washing over me...

I can't believe he's already 4. I can't believe it's been that many years, since Daniel and I were both expecting babies. I can't believe Lily's been gone that long. My heart just hurts so much because 4 seems like such a big number. I don't know why and I don't even fully know how to describe what I feel. It just feels like 4 years separate me from Lily now. Kids grow and change a lot by age 4.

Other children are growing up. She never will. Seeing Owen turn another year older, smiling for the camera, bigger than he was last year on his birthday, highlights what I am missing. Does that make sense? I love that little guy and I celebrate his life and birthday, but it reminds me that Lily will never get any of it - no Chuck E. Cheese birthday party. No cake. No funny stories of things she said on her birthday.

I've written many times about my cousin Daniel and his son Owen. You see, Daniel and I grew up very close. Our moms are sisters and we were born just 4 months apart. I couldn't believe it that Lily and Owen were also a boy and girl cousins, due three months apart (almost the same space of time apart). Now any children I have in the future will be way younger than Owen. It will be different. They won't have the kind of relationship that I hoped Owen and Lily would have.

I won't lie, it is painful at times that Lily would be so close to Owen in age. Every year when he turns another year older, I will think of my forever baby who has a headstone with the date of March 16th, 2010. He turned 4 and I automatically thought about that she would almost be 4. She should almost be 4... she never will be almost 4.

Another reason why 4 hurts is because it feels like it's enough time that people expect me to have moved on and to not care anymore. It feels like Lily is yesterday's news in people's eyes and hearts. Does anybody even read these words of mine anymore? Does anybody even care about her anymore? Does anybody even want to know how I am in my grief? Do you realize that I still do grieve? And there is nothing wrong with me for it.

I feel that time does help ease the pain and the ache in ways, yet in other ways, time only makes it harder. Others forget. But my heart could never forget. Others move on and I have moved on too... but moving on hurts. I don't want to have to move on. I want her here with me.

What will the milestone birthdays be like... when Owen turns thirteen and I think about my should-be-almost-teenage-daughter, and I wonder if anyone around me even thinks of her.

Happy fourth birthday, Owen. I hope one day I am able to share more of Lily's life and legacy with you. It is bittersweet that you were born only three months apart. Bitter because I realize more what I am missing and sweet because it makes me feel closer to her. You were both in the womb at the same time. I love your daddy and I love you. I wish you didn't live so far away and that I could see you more often. Celebrate a little extra for your cousin who will never turn 4...

The closest thing I'll ever get to having Owen and Lily in a photo together. This photo below is from Lily's third birthday. I hope this can be a tradition each year, for Owen to hold up a sign wishing Lily a happy birthday in Heaven. Each year, he gets bigger and older in the photo. Each year, she is remembered and honored. Each year, she is missing and he is the age she should be.

I know that tomorrow I will probably feel much better than I do today. What I have learned about grief is it's best to walk through it and not hide from it. Suppressing grief is never a good thing, therefore I embrace it. Embracing it makes me feel close to her. That might sound weird, but hey, this is my life.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Sharing Lily's Stone With My Cousins

A couple weeks ago when I was in Virginia for Thanksgiving, I got to share Lily's stone with my cousins Daniel and Anna (they are brother and sister). They met me at the cemetery early one morning so they could see Lily's stone for the first time. They both live out of town, so they weren't able to make the stone placement ceremony. It was so special to have them both there with me at once.

It blesses me to be able to talk about Lily with others and share her beautiful stone. Her legacy still lives. It makes my heart smile for other people to care about Lily and want to talk about her.

Daniel and I grew up very close. We are only four months apart in age. His son, Owen, was born just three months before Lily. A boy and girl cousins, going to be best buddies just like we were... almost the same age apart! I sure wish we could see them together...

Anyways, I loved hearing their thoughts about Lily's stone. They both really liked it. Anna told me she didn't really know what to expect it to be like, but she said when she saw it, it was a nice surprise. She said it's so unique compared to any stone she's ever seen. Most everyone I ask says their favorite part of her stone is either the rose and lily or the lamb... I love both. :)


Friday, December 6, 2013

Lily's Stone Placement Ceremony

November 2nd was a special, sacred day that I will remember forever. It was the day that my daughter Lily Katherine finally got her permanent memorial stone to honor and celebrate her life. After more than 3 1/2 years of waiting, it was such a relief to finally have it at her special spot.

That Saturday morning, we installed her stone. And that afternoon at 1:30, we had a stone placement ceremony with friends and family at the Hillsboro Cemetery in Crozet, Virginia. As we all gathered together, I was reminded of the last time we were all together at the cemetery, coming up on four years ago... on March 27th, 2010 - the day of Lily's celebration of life service and burial. It brought back emotions and memories of that day of loss, love, and hope.

The day of Lily's stone placement ceremony was an absolutely gorgeous, perfect fall day. I live in North Carolina and only had one weekend for the installation and ceremony, so prayed hard for good weather. The Lord blessed us! It was one of those days where you just keep thinking to yourself how beautiful the weather is.

These photos were taken in Charlottesville, Virginia on the morning of Lily's stone placement ceremony... it was so beautiful with the fall leaves, blue skies, and mist.

I am glad my grandmother invited several people to come because I didn't... I wasn't sure if I wanted lots of people there and honestly didn't want to feel sad if I did invite people and they didn't come. It turns out, I was really glad for people to be there to honor Lily with me and I was pleasantly surprised by how many did come. I was so touched that family and friends joined me to honor and celebrate Lily and to see the stone that I put so much love into creating. My dad drove 8 hours total on that Saturday to make sure he was there for his granddaughter's stone placement... it brings tears to my eyes just to write that. It means more than words could ever say.

The people who were gathered around Lily's stone are (not in any particular order): my Aunt Sarah and Uncle Steve, friend Rachel, Pastor Bob and his wife Sharon, grandmother "Bumma," Uncle Bill and Aunt Nana, mom, dad, Uncle Lindy and Aunt Kristen, brothers Adam and Joseph, sister-in-law Kala, Uncle Tim, and friends Patricia and Joanne. Not pictured is my friend Elise who was taking the photo. I know more people wanted to come as well, but because of different reasons, were unable to make it.

I wish I had better quality pictures from the service, but wasn't thinking about it... I am thankful my sister-in-law Kala captured some shots with her iPhone.

Here are some photos of everyone waiting for the service to start.

The stone placement service was simple and sweet. I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to include in the service... unfortunately, some of the things I wanted to do didn't work out. For one, my grandmother has a friend who raises butterflies and I really wanted to release some butterflies at the service because butterflies are special and symbolic to me (Lily even has a butterfly on her stone). But, we were just a few weeks too late. The butterflies can only be released between certain warm months. I was really bummed out about this. However, everything still turned out really beautifully. And I am planning on releasing butterflies at another special time.

I requested that everyone gather around Lily's stone in a circle, which was so precious (I wish I had a photo of this)... Pastor Bob opened the service with a word of prayer and a message. I hadn't even invited my old pastor and his wife because as I said, I didn't really invite many people, but I am so glad my grandmother did invite them and that they were able to come! Having them there made it seem a little more "official." And it was so meaningful that Pastor Bob offered to say a few words in Lily's honor. Pastor Bob was my family pastor growing up, he baptized me the summer I was 14 (he also baptized my brothers), he officiated Lily's celebration of life service and burial, and he married my brother and sister-in-law a couple months ago. I also hope that he will one day marry me. He has been there for my family through all the highs and lows.

Here is a video that my sister-in-law Kala took of Pastor Bob sharing (I apologize for how windy it is):

After Pastor Bob shared, I shared about the meaning behind everything chosen for Lily's stone, what it means to me, and the journey of getting it (you can read what I shared HERE), I shared about the installation process and what a wonderful job my big brothers did (you can read about that HERE), and I explained the significance of sprinkling some of my sand from Carly Marie/Christian's Beach into the ground during installation (you can read about that HERE). I had Lily's name in the sand photo from Carly Marie to share with everyone.

I then played "Beauty Will Rise" by Steven Curtis Chapman... I turned it up as loudly as I could. This is one of my favorite songs and it has been so instrumental in my journey of grief and healing. My Aunt Helen gave it to me for Mother's Day 2010, just two months after Lily went Home to Jesus. I chose to include some of the lyrics from this song on Lily's headstone - Out of these ashes beauty will rise. That is my hope, that is the promise.

People were very moved by the song... during the song, my Uncle Lindy said he saw a cloud that looked like a lamb (Lily's stone has a lamb on it!). My Uncle Steve said he saw a baby with wings that turned into a heart in the clouds. How sweet!

After that, everyone visited for a while and we had red-velvet cupcakes in honor of Lily! Red-velvet is a tradition each year on her birthday because I had a Valentine's-themed baby shower with red-velvet cake. They were so delicious! My grandmother got the cupcakes for the service and we weren't sure how many we needed because we didn't know who all was going to come, so we guessed... it turned out that we had the exact number needed for everyone who wanted one. God worked that out... He cares about the smallest details in our lives. :)

Lily's stone with a red-velvet cupcake

I loved seeing everyone's reaction to Lily's stone and hearing their thoughts about it. It was so special for me to hear the precious things people were saying. Her special spot was decorated for fall and a few people brought her flowers (lilies and roses of course). The vibrant flowers looked gorgeous in Lily's vase and the mini pumpkins looked adorable.

The ceremony was so beautiful, simple, and sweet. I was blessed by those who came to remember and celebrate my beautiful girl with me. I love sharing her and it blesses my heart to know others love and miss her right along with me. 

Thank you to everyone who came to this special service... and to those who were unable to make it, thank you for thinking of my girl and I on this day. It was an emotional day and there was definitely some sadness, however I can honestly say the day was mainly full of happiness. I am just so happy that Lily finally has her stone. I am relieved and I am at peace. It is everything I ever wanted and more!

This photo was taken at Lily's special spot that afternoon after everyone left and it started getting cloudy... I was there for hours.

This photo was taken the afternoon after Lily's stone placement ceremony on the street my grandmother lives on in Crozet, Virginia.

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