Monday, September 30, 2013

Capture Your Grief Photography Project 2013

For the second year, the lovely Carly Marie is hosting the Capture Your Grief Photographic Challenge for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (October). Tomorrow is the first day of the month, so it kicks off then. Last year, over 2,000 people from around the world took part (including me). It was such a healing and beautiful experience and I am really looking forward to participating again this year. Things are really busy in my life right now, so I feel like I need to take some time for just Lily each day this month. I can hardly believe it's October again already.


ABOUT THE PROJECT: So what is the challenge and what do you have to do to take part? If you have experienced the death of your baby/ies/child/ren, this project is designed just for you. It doesn’t matter whether you are only a week into this walk or you have been walking this road for 50 years, all are welcome to join in.

Capture Your Grief is a 31 Day Photograph Challenge. You can take part each day or pick and choose your days. Throughout the month there is a daily subject/topic for you to concentrate on. You are invited to share a photo that captures your journey with each daily subject. You may use an old photo or you can take a brand new one. It is completely up to you. All you will need is the internet and a camera (if you wish to take new photos). It doesn’t have to be some big fancy DSLR – a phone camera or a pocket digital camera will be perfect.

-To see my photos from last year's project click HERE.
-To find out more about the project and to see the 31 Daily Subjects with their descriptions click HERE. There you will find all the information you need to take part.
-You can find the Facebook event where you can share your daily photos HERE.

Please share this project with anyone you know who might be interested. Who else is participating? I'm excited about seeing everyone else's photos and words. This truly is such a special, healing project.


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By the Sea Remembrance

A beautiful new image from Carly Marie.


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A Little Bit of Heaven in Our Home

A beautiful new image from Carly Marie.


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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The First Time I Saw Her Stone

Lily's stone arrived at my house this past Friday. It was originally going to be shipped to the church in Virginia that is connected to the cemetery where Lily is buried. However, it was going to have to sit there for a few weeks since I live in North Carolina and won't be able to make it up there for a while. I was really concerned that her stone might get stolen or vandalized just sitting out there. And I don't want that added stress to think about. So, I asked if there was any way they could deliver it to my house instead and then I can just drive it up there myself when I'm ready to place it (it's small enough that it's not too heavy or hard to move around). There is no place it is safer than right here with me. I was so happy when they said they could do that for the same shipping price!

I waited all week for it to be delivered. But, it wasn't until Thursday that they called to set up a delivery time. They asked if Friday between 1 and 5 p.m. would work (somebody had to sign off on it). I said yes because I didn't want to wait any longer! But, unfortunately, I had to work during those hours. So, my mom was at home waiting to sign off on Lily's stone.

It was/is all packaged up really securely, so I was disappointed that I couldn't peek in to look at it right when I got home on Friday evening. Don't get me wrong though, I am thankful it was bundled up so snug and secure for the trip from Seattle. 

This afternoon (Sunday, September 29), my dad opened up the packaging for me to see Lily's stone to make sure everything looked okay. I can't describe the emotions of sorrow, joy, and relief that flooded over me when I saw it for the first time in person. It is absolutely perfect and beautiful. It looks even more precious than in the photos. It is hard to tell how it really looks "size-wise" until seeing it in person. I couldn't keep the tears from falling, which is what I thought might happen. I had pictured what it would feel like when I finally saw it. Truly, I couldn't be more pleased with how everything about it turned out. There isn't a thing about it I would change. I was concerned that I might not be totally satisfied, but I am more than satisfied.

I wanted to place the stone this month, but things are too busy right now to make the trip to Virginia (it takes some planning and time since she's not buried right up the road). Next month, it will *finally* be placed, Lord willing and the creek don't rise. After over three and a half years of wanting and waiting. And after over half a year of planning it and having it made.

It will be such a beautiful time of year for it (in October with the pretty leaves and cooler temperatures) and how appropriate with it being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I can hardly wait to see it at her "special spot." I'm planning a special service with close friends and family to honor Lily and the placement of her stone.

Here is a sneak peek until I place it next month and can share many more photos!


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Friday, September 27, 2013

I feel Him in her absence

Something is weighing on my heart that I want to share... Quite often, well-intentioned people subtly say something along the lines of me needing to put "what happened to me" (losing my child) in the past and step forward into the future.

What I hear when people write/say something like this is that I need to "get over" my child. You see, I will never get over loving Lily, therefore I will never get over losing her. I will never be the person I was before having and losing Lily. And you know what? I wouldn't want to be. This is not something I will "recover" from, as if I have the flu. I don't ever want to forget her or "move on" from her. 

To move on from her would mean to forget her which would mean I don't love her. That isn't possible. To move on would mean I don't embrace the calling God has on my life, to be her voice. To move on would mean forgetting everything God did in me because of her.

I lost not only my baby, but my three-and-a-half-year-old - the age she'd be today. I lost her at every age. But I've gained so much more than I've lost. God gave me the gift of her life. A brief, yet beautifully brilliant life that has changed my own forever.

Just because I grieve "out loud" and write and speak publicly does not mean I have not stepped forward into the future God has for me. I step forward and carry her with me every step of the way. I am not crying all day in my bed every day, lonely and depressed. No, quite the opposite. I have a passion and purpose to embrace my LIFE and all God has for my LIFE. I am a full-time college student, a nanny, a speaker, a writer, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a granddaughter, a friend, a volunteer, a mother, and most importantly, someone who loves Jesus above all else (among other things).

Feeling the loss of her has taught me how to love more deeply than I ever did before. I would never want to be who I was before. I am stepping into the future, with her always in my heart.

Even if people think it strange that I talk about Lily every day, I will not be silenced. I am a mother and mothers love their children every day, not just some days. I want to break the taboo surrounding pregnancy and infant loss. It is healthy and normal to grieve the loss of your child forever! I will always grieve and miss Lily, but that does not mean I cannot live fully and joyfully and grasp a hold of the future God has planned for me.
But there is another way God is honored in our grieving. When we taste the loss so deeply because we loved so deeply and treasured God’s gift — and God in His gift — so passionately that the loss cuts the deeper and the longer, and yet in and through the depths and the lengths of sorrow we never let go of God, and feel Him never letting go of us — in that longer sorrow He is also greatly honored, because the length of it reveals the magnitude of our sense of loss for which we do not forsake God. At every moment of the lengthening grief, we turn to Him not away from Him. And therefore the length of it is a way of showing Him to be ever-present, enduringly sufficient. -John Piper
I feel God in the "gone-ness" and the countless "might-have-beens." I feel Him in her absence. I want others who read and hear my story to see authentic grief. Because you see, grief is a messy thing. It is not clean and tidy. Sometimes, it feels like I just keep saying the same thing, just in different ways that, I miss Lily. I wonder if people get sick of hearing it. This life of grief is painful, it's hard...

But, even more than that, it has drawn me closer to Jesus than a life without grief would have. The Lord changed my mother heart towards both my babies and it is because of that love He has placed within me that I miss them and grieve them so much. Because I taste the love so much, I taste the loss so much. I see what I am missing without them... all those might-have-been moments. I see the value of their lives, created in the image of Most-High-God. I believe that intensely grieving the loss of little ones who never live outside their mother's wombs testifies to the fact that all LIFE is so, so precious and valuable.


You can give God your grief. He cares for you and your heart.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lilly's Pizza

I ate at a place called Lilly's Pizza today with my best friend, Kala. The food is almost as awesome as the name (only thing is they spelled it wrong hehe). I probably would have still wanted to eat there even if the food was bad because of the name. :)


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Monday, September 23, 2013

The vision that blossomed in my heart four years ago was brought to fruition

This past Thursday, September 19th, I spoke at my very first pregnancy resource center fundraiser banquet! (I have several more coming up). Every detail of that day was so beautiful, full of gifts from the Lord. I am completely humbled and amazed to see God's plan for my life unfolding. I look back at all the things I've gone through with Luke and Lily and know that God had this plan all along... He was waiting to reveal to me how He'd use their lives and legacies for His glory. What a God I love, that He can turn my own sin and sorrow into something beautiful.

In October, it will be four years since the first time I distinctly remember the Lord showing me I would one day be a speaker. I was at a pregnancy center banquet in Charlottesville, Virginia with my grandmother (she is one of the founders of a thrift store in my hometown, which was started over 30 years ago, and they host a table at the banquet each year). 


(Here is a photo taken from that night of my grandmother's friend, myself, and my grandmother)

Anyways, I was around 18 weeks pregnant with Lily and I had just found out conclusively that she was a GIRL (though I knew in my heart she was all along). I had been at Massanutten Resort in Virginia with my brothers and grandmother that week and the Lord worked it out for me to be able to attend the banquet with my grandmother. I was still early enough in my pregnancy for people not to know that I was pregnant unless I told them. If I wore baggier shirts, I could hide it quite well. I wasn't at the place where I was ready to tell everyone about being pregnant. So, nobody at the banquet that night knew.


(This photo was taken of me the day of the banquet)

As I was listening to the keynote speaker that night (I can't even remember who he was now), the Lord clearly spoke something to my heart... He showed me that one day, I would be speaking and sharing my story of LIFE and redemption. Me? Are you sure, God?!

He was cultivating a desire and passion within me that I never knew I could have. I couldn't keep the tears from falling that night as I thought of my sweet girl growing in my womb and how God had completely changed my heart and future already through her.

I remember looking around at the people there and thinking that they had no idea that I had a little one quietly growing within me, hidden from all eyes. I saw the director of the center there that night that I had met with early in my pregnancy and so wanted to run up and give her a hug to thank her for being there for me, but didn't since it was still not known to all. 

I already knew that my unborn baby was to be named Lily and smiled when I saw lilies in the centerpieces of each table. 


(not a great photo as it was taken on my cell phone, but I'm thankful to have it!)

I took that lily home with me to dry it out and it remains in Lily's memory chest to this day. 



Even though nobody else knew about my Lily, God knew... and He always did know about her and love her. And He was giving me a hope and promise for my future through my little Lily. The lilies in each centerpiece were a symbol of this.

I knew in the deepest parts of me that I had a specific calling on my life to be a voice for the unborn and those in unintended pregnancies... in a very public way. Little did I know the turn my story would take and that I'd have to say goodbye to my precious Lily Katherine before she ever took her first breath. In my imaginings, I pictured standing up there speaking, with a beautiful little girl to show off. Things might have gone differently than I thought they would, but the story is more beautiful than I ever could have dreamed and my calling is the same. 

I knew the plan God had for me life, but honestly had no idea how long it would take to come to pass. It was all in His perfect time and way because He knew when I'd be ready. He knew when my heart would be healed enough to share. 

It was such a special, memorable, beautiful night of speaking at my first banquet. I can't fully put to words what it meant to me, to see how faithful God has been to blossom this vision in my heart and then bring it to fruition. A dream He gave me. Even when other people thought I was "dreaming too big" to think I could out of nowhere become a speaker. But, I knew God gave the dream to me and I wouldn't stop dreaming. I had "tried to make things happen" before this time, but I truly believe the Lord wanted to show me it would only be Him to bring it to pass, not me or anyone else. 

The Lord can give you a vision for your life and future and please never let anyone tell you it isn't possible or the dream is "too big" or that you couldn't possibly hear from God. Cling to Him and trust Him with the dream. There may be several voices in your life telling you otherwise, but listen to His voice alone.

I never could have imagined I'd be a speaker. After all, it doesn't come naturally to me. I am an introvert and do not like standing in front of a crowd to speak, let alone about something so raw and personal. That's another reason I know this is God's plan: it's not about my reputation, but about His glory. The passion is so intense that I cannot deny this is my calling. 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 other events and venues and have many more coming up, but there's something special about the first pregnancy center banquet because that is where I was when God first gave me the dream.



At this banquet, just like the banquet four years ago, lilies were a part of the centerpiece of each table, as a tribute to my Lily girl. As another precious reminder that He'll never forget her. He loved her then and He loves her still...


I will share much more about the banquet soon. You can watch the video of me speaking below.

It is only the Lord Himself opening the doors and this is and will forever be always, only, ALL for HIM!


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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Four Years Ago Today; The First Time I Saw Her

Four years ago today I saw the first evidences that there was life inside my womb. Pulling into the LifeCare Pregnancy Center, my heart was pounding. I didn't know what to expect, I simply knew I was going to be a witness to the miracle of life. The very hand of God was at work within my womb, shaping and creating this wonderfully and fearfully made individual. He already knew her long before I did. He knew her spirit long before I even knew I would have a beautiful daughter named Lily one day. I was barely 15 weeks pregnant. For three and a half months, she had been alive. I had wanted to have an ultrasound a month before this, but it didn't work at out the pregnancy center in Charlottesville. I had wanted to have one the week before at LifeCare, but with only one ultrasound machine, we moms had to wait. 

So, there I was...September 21st, 2009. I had waited for this day my entire life. The day that I would see with my own two eyes that I was a mother. We went back to the little room and I got up on the table. It was 9:30 in the morning. Right across from me, hanging on the wall was a picture of a Lily. My heart already knew she was a her. Doctors didn't have to tell me that. My heart was bonding with her heart, with my little girl's heart. Months later when I went back into that same room where I saw her for the first time, the picture was gone. Strange. I wanted to take a picture of it to put in my scrapbook.

The cold gel was put on my belly and the wand started moving around. I held my breath in anticipation. There she was on that screen. She must have known that we were watching her, so she decided to give us a little show. She was dancing and squirming all over the place! Flip, flip, flip. Laughing, I joked, "If this is any indication of what's to come, I'm gonna have my hands full." She was so tiny. Yet so developed, so full of life. She was my baby and I was amazed at what God was doing. I was amazed at the miracle of life. And I'm still amazed. 


"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." ~Psalm 139:14



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Lily Remembered at Cinnamon Bay

I was so touched this morning to see my dear friend Bex (who is on her honeymoon right now!) thought to write Lily's name in the sand! I was out in Colorado for her wedding last week and almost didn't make it because of the flooding, but thankfully did. I have written and spoken a lot about Bex and what her friendship means to me. She was one of the first people who knew about Lily, from when I was early in my pregnancy. I contacted her in search of support and someone who would understand what I was going through. Bex placed her son for adoption close to 5 years ago. Anyways, she is so sweet to do this for me, especially on her honeymoon! I just love having Lily's name written in the sand all over the world! Isn't the view gorgeous?!

This is what Bex said when she sent the photos:

"We were on Cinnamon Bay (on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands) yesterday and I wrote Lily's name in the sand. God used your little girl and my little guy to bond us in friendship. Thankful for you dear friend!" <3



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Monday, September 16, 2013

3 1/2

My precious Lily Katherine would be 3 1/2 today if she were here... it's her half birthday.

I have always liked celebrating half birthdays and know that I would have done something special for my girl to mark the day.

Instead, I nearly forgot it was today until I looked at my phone and saw "September 16th." Each time I notice it's the 16th of a month, I think of her.

It's special that I will be speaking at a pregnancy center fundraising banquet this week (on Thursday) during her half birthday week. :)

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children

Today, September 14th, is the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. Find out more here: http://www.abortionmemorials.com/ I'm thinking of Luke Shiloh and all other babies lost to abortion on this day...


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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Patchwork Bear Discount!

I first heard about The Patchwork Bear when Still Standing Magazine gave away one of their bears recently. Immediately, I was so touched by how sweet their bears are, especially the baby clothes bear. It is a great memorial item, made with your baby's actual clothes! After losing a baby, it's hard to know what to do with those clothes bought just for them that they'll never get to wear. This is a great idea for what to do, to always treasure those clothes. And it's a great way to display them!

Today, in honor of National Teddy Bear Day, The Patchwork Bear is having a deal for 40% off all their teddy bears! So, if you're interested, purchase your bear quickly.

Check out their website at www.thepatchworkbear.com for more information. At checkout, use the code BEARDAY.


(How sweet is it that the example bear is for a baby named Lily?)

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Oblivious to the World of Baby Headstones

As I've mentioned before, I always feel melancholy and reflective each year around my birthday/new school year/fall time, as well as Lily's birthday and the start of the new calendar year.

Starting school back up has brought back a lot of feelings and memories from when I was a fresh 18-year-old, starting college and on my own for the first time.

This is a photo of me just about a week before my 18th birthday and the start of college (I had to be on campus on my birthday that year for cross-country training).


In a way, it feels as if I'm grieving my loss of innocence. Who I am now, six years later, is completely different than who I was then. I was so young, vulnerable, and naive. I was looking for passion, purpose, and meaning. I knew I was called to something specific, but didn't know what.

I was oblivious to the world of baby headstones, grief and loss, motherhood, and abortion... in many ways, I wish I could go back and do things over. I wish I could somehow know what I know now, without knowing the heaviness of it all. I wish I could do it over again and make wiser decisions. Decisions honoring to the Lord.

I know that God always knew what was to come. And He had His story of beauty and redemption waiting to be written. The chapters were already being written, even when I could not see it.

Something else I've been thinking of since starting school is the fact that I will be graduating in the spring of 2016. That same year, Lily would have been finishing Kindergarten. Instead, she will never begin Kindergarten. She will never be my five-year-old. Always my baby.

I guess if I wish to do things over, that would mean I'm wishing Lily away. And I could never wish her not to be. She was always meant to be because God knew what choices I would make. And He had a glorious plan.

Sometimes it's so hard to wrap my mind around it all... sometimes I am caught off guard with moments of grief, the grief of my loss of my two babies, as well as the loss of my innocence.

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