Saturday, October 25, 2014

5-Year "Blogoversary"

It was five years ago today, on October 25, 2009, that I wrote my very first blog post, titled "My Hope for this Blog."

This is what I wrote: "I made this blog because I want to share my story and my testimony with whoever will listen. It's a story of God's love, forgiveness, and redemption. I want to share my passion and my hope with other girls and young women going through circumstances similar to my own. There is hope. There is life. And His name is Jesus."

630 published posts and exactly five years later and here we are.

My hope for this blog remains the same, though the direction has changed some. At the time when I first started this blog, I pictured it to be a place where young women could come to be encouraged to choose LIFE in an unintended pregnancy, a place for post-abortive women to feel loved unconditionally, and a place for anyone to come and hear about the power, mercy, and redemption of Jesus Christ.

I never could have imagined, however, that a few months after this, my precious daughter would go to Heaven. I never could have imagined that my blog would become a place of grief and ministering to others who have lost a baby.

It has become so much more than I intended it to be, but everything God intended it to be. He had a plan for this blog beyond what I could see or comprehend on this October day five years ago.

And the "ironic" (I believe God orchestrates everything) part of it is, I started blogging first after seeing a video and reading a blog that a woman named Lauren wrote in honor of her son, Jonathan, who passed away shortly after birth from Trisomy 13. He was born and went home to with the Lord the very month that I heard his story and started my blog. I watched her video tribute of his life and read some of her blog and was so deeply touched by this little boy's life and legacy. I think it especially impacted me because I was carrying my own sweet baby at the time, in my second trimester of pregnancy. I was understanding at a deeper level every day how God has a plan and purpose for every life created in His image and that each life is so, so precious and irreplaceable. Each life can make a forever impact on this world.

I shared Jonathan's story on my Facebook page five years ago yesterday and then the very next day, I was inspired to start my own blog.

Here's a screen shot of that post.

I remember my hope for my new blog and my desire to minister to other young women growing within me. This was the same month that I had gone to the pregnancy center banquet in Charlottesville with my grandmother and the Lord had whispered to my heart that I would one day be sharing my story of redemption and LIFE, through speaking and writing. Then God led me to start my blog just a week later. I knew that God was writing the life story of my daughter Lily and I wanted to share that with the world, just as Lauren had done with Jonathan.

It's just so neat to see God's hand in it all... how He put the desire to share within me, how my mom found Lauren's video/blog and shared it with me, how I had never thought about blogging but decided then that I wanted to, etc.

I remember thinking to myself, and saying out loud to my mom probably, that I could never imagine going through the loss of a baby. My mom and I wept so much when we watched Jonathan's video. It still never crossed my mind that it could ever happen to me or my healthy baby. 

I remember sitting in my living room, trying to come up with a name for my blog. I knew I wanted it to be something with a rose and lily in the name... then it came to me, "Rose and Her Lily." I still love the name so much. My little girl was with me all her life and I will carry her with me the rest of my life. 

Even when I couldn't see it, God was preparing me. He was going before me. He was always with me and He's with me still.

Lord, continue to use this blog for Your glory.

In honor of Jonathan and how his precious life impacted mine, here is his tribute video. I remembered the beautiful music from his video when Lily passed away and was able to use it at her memorial service after Lauren so graciously sent it to me in March 2010, just a few months after Jonathan was born.


Lily's Stocking Almost Finished

Last week while at Massanutten for fall break, my grandmother "Bumma" finished knitting her great-granddaughter Lily Katherine's beautiful memorial stocking! It is simply perfect and beautiful. It was so special to be with my grandmother as she lovingly created this stocking. She said once she got started, it would go quick and it certainly did! After she finished, she said she didn't want it to be over and she was sad it is. I thought that was such a sweet thing to say. She enjoyed being able to do something for Lily.

I love the colors we chose and the parts of the stocking we chose for each particular color. It is perfect for a little girl, for Christmas, and reminds me of Valentine's Day, which I associate with Lily and my Valentine's-themed baby shower. It is also the perfect size.

I will treasure this stocking always and it will be hung with my future children's stockings. I love that my grandmother made it since she made mine and since she was here when Lily was born and they should know each other. It honestly makes me very sad to not know if I will get married and have more children before my grandmother goes Home to be with the Lord. I pray she lives many years more, but she is 83 and you just never know. I will be brokenhearted if she passes away before she gets to meet my future children, before they get to know her... especially knowing my first-born would and should know her.

There is some yarn left over from Lily's stocking and I thought it would be really neat to have a scarf made out of the same yarn. So my grandmother said she will make me a pretty Christmas scarf. :)

Anyways, there is one final detail to add to Lily's stocking before I share photos of it.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just a Girl

Just a girl,
A girl of 15
A gift given to the wrong one
Left her feeling used, damaged, demeaned

It's too late for me, she thought
What I've done, I can't forget
The lie that she was now worthless
Set her up for years of heartbreak and regret

Who would want her now?
Someone broken, complicated, not white
Surely no one would
She couldn't see she was still her Father's delight

Despite her sin and wrong choices
He had a glorious plan unfolding
An unborn baby girl He used
Her future He was molding


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lily's Spot in Autumn

I love decorating Lily's special spot for the different holidays and seasons. Doesn't it look so perfect with the cute mini pumpkins and the flower arrangement I put together?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day 2014

The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Movement began in America in October 1988 (less than a year before I was born), when President Ronald Reagan designated the month of October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Last Wednesday, October 15th, was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It's a very special day for me as I remember my beautiful daughter Lily Katherine, as well as my Aunt Rachel Ross. For the second year in a row, I was with my grandmother on this day, remembering our girls together.

To recognize the day and raise awareness, I found some pink and blue nail polish the exact colors of the PAIL Awareness ribbon (on sale for $2 each at a store called Icing). I painted my, my sister's, and my grandmother's nails pink and blue. As I have gotten compliments on my nails (from friends, family, and strangers, such as a cashier at Target), it has been the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about pregnancy and infant loss. Each of our nails were done a little differently.

After we did our nails and spent time visiting earlier in the day, my grandmother, sister, and I decided to go to a place we had seen while driving around called The Cupcake Company. We were staying at Massanutten for the week. I was wanting to have a red-velvet cupcake in honor of Lily since red-velvet is my thing for her, started at my Valentine's-themed baby shower and now continued on each of her birthdays and other special days. We "just so happened" to be there on the cupcake shop's second anniversary of being open, so they had free cupcakes and other treats in celebration of the special day. One of the cupcakes they had were mini red-velvets. It felt like God was reminding me that He knew what special day it was for me and that He had both my girl and I in His care.

After the cupcake shop, we dropped my sister off to visit with one of her friends and my grandmother and I made our way to downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia. We went to a diner downtown called Jess' Quick Lunch that has been open close to 100 years. Apparently, my uncle really liked going to this diner many years ago when he was a student at JMU. As I drank my coffee and ate my grilled-cheese sandwich, we enjoyed chatting with our nice waitress. I told her about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and the event we were going to. We were in no hurry and took our time enjoying at the diner.

The special event was being held in Court Square, right across the street from the diner. It was a "Remembering Our Babies Walk" in recognition of PAIL Remembrance Day, hosted by The Sadie Rose Foundation.

In recognition of the special day, people worldwide were invited to light a candle at 7 p.m., letting them burn for an hour. Then just as their candles were burning out, other people in the next time zone lit their candles. This created a Wave of Light that lasted for 24 hours. Thank you to everyone who participated in this. I meant to write about it before the day, but didn't get around to it.

The event took place at 7 p.m. so for the Wave of Light, there were luminaries lighting the steps of the court house for our babies.

my grandmother and I at the special event

Lily and Rachel's luminary

We were able to write Lily and Rachel's name on the poster that the founder of The Sadie Rose Foundation carried during the walk around the square. Other people had posters as well, but I didn't bring one.

Before the walk, the names of the babies being remembered were read aloud. Here is the video of that:

We then took a brief walk around Court Square to raise awareness.

After the walk, there were light refreshments and everyone was able to mingle. My grandmother and I met a couple really nice ladies. I enjoyed chatting with the founder of The Sadie Rose Foundation and hearing about what they are all about. I am so impressed with what they do, the events they hold throughout the year, and how they reach out to those who have lost a baby. I only wish I could be a part of this group!

I noticed that there were news cameras there for the event. We were told the walk would be on the local Harrisonburg news station at both 10 and 11. So, my grandmother and I went back to our unit at Massanutten and watched the news. And what do ya know, we spotted ourselves twice during the coverage! That was pretty neat. ;) You can click HERE to see the news story. My grandmother and I can be seen at seconds 0:05-0:08 and then again at the very end of the video. So glad to see the news is bringing awareness to babyloss!

Here are screenshots of us on the news.

The day turned out really lovely. I was concerned that we weren't going to be able to go to the event because it had been raining and foggy for several days and the weather forecast showed a chance of thunderstorms. But the weather was beautiful!

It was neat to be in a different city on PAIL Remembrance Day and to do something different, especially because I haven't had an event to go to for a couple years. In 2010 I went to a candelight service in Raleigh, in 2011 I was in Colorado and went to Lily Lake, in 2012 I tried to go to a candelight service in Raleigh as it was advertised, but they didn't have it after all, and in 2013 I was with family at my home where we lit candles. This is the first year since 2011 that the Raleigh, NC area where I live was going to have a service, which I was disappointed I would be missing since I was out of town. Then, I thought the event in Harrisonburg would be rained out. As it turns out however, the event in Raleigh was rained out and the event in Harrisonburg wasn't. I'm not sure where I will be next year on the day, but I hope to make it to a service or walk then!

When we got home from the event in Harrisonburg, I lit my candles for Lily, Rachel, and all other babies in Heaven.

These photos were from my friends who remembered Lily on October 15th:

Thank you, Brigette
Thank you, Naomi
Thank you, Denae
Niagara Falls was lit up pink and blue for the day! How special! :)

My Facebook and Twitter feeds were beautiful places on October 15th, filled with so many posts remembering loved and missed babies on PAIL Remembrance Day. I hope everyone had a peaceful and special day. Yes, we are sad that our babies are not here, but even more than that, we are rejoicing that they LIVED and they will live in our hearts forever.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Lily's Stocking Being Made with Love

My grandmother "Bumma" is currently knitting Lily Katherine's memorial stocking for me to keep forever. She made me a stocking, her first granddaughter, when I was a little girl and is now making my little girl, her first great-granddaughter, a stocking. It is something special the three of us can share. We picked out the yarn in August and now while at Massanutten this week, I am with her as she creates it with love.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The day we were told, "She's a GIRL!"

"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body." -Psalm 139:14-15

Five years ago today (on October 9, 2009) I had a 3D/4D ultrasound at the Triangle Imaging Center in Cary, North Carolina. I was 17 weeks 5 days gestation at the time. The main reason I wanted to go was to be told the gender of my baby, though I already believed in my heart she was a GIRL! It was my second ultrasound and I (think??) the first time I heard her heartbeat (which I have a recording of to this day, something I am soooo incredibly thankful for!). I also have a DVD recording of my entire ultrasound from that day, many ultrasound images, and a DVD recording of my mom, sister, and I in the ultrasound room. The photos below are still images taken from that video (so special to have!). We could see Lily on both the little screen as shown in the photos, as well as on a large television screen on the wall.

Below are a couple of my favorite ultrasound images from that day. It is special that I still have the little captions I wrote with my ultrasound pictures when I shared them on Facebook while I was pregnant. I have included those captions with the photos. :)

Pudgy little belly.
The cutest profile I've ever seen! She's blowing kisses!
Look at that teeny little foot! She's smiling - happy little baby. :)
Definitely a little GIRL!
Her perfect little heartbeat. I love hearing it!
Her "drama queen" pose she does a lot. :)

One day soon, I would like to share the ultrasound DVD I have, as well as a recording of Lily's heartbeat. These are some of the only things I have of her life to share. This ultrasound is the only recording I have of her while she was living, rather than a lifetime of home movies. I cannot express how thankful I am to have these things, a glimpse into the only world my sweetheart ever knew. She was real!

Each year on this date, I like to watch that ultrasound DVD and remember my beautiful daughter. It brings tears to my eyes to see my face light up as I'm watching my little girl dance for me. My mom is gently resting her hand on my arm throughout the ultrasound, as a physical representation of how supportive she was through my pregnancy. You can just hear the excitement and joy in our voices. It makes me laugh to hear what we were joking about, such as when my mom told the lady doing my ultrasound that she had already bought a lot of baby girl items and she was glad she wouldn't need to return them. :) As you can tell, we were pretty confident Lily was a girl. And my mom was thrilled to be a grandmother and my sister was excited to be an aunt.

I am not even sure how we found out about the Triangle Imaging Center and 3D/4D ultrasounds, but I am so glad we did. Honestly, I believe it was orchestrated by the Lord so that He could bless me with priceless mementos from Lily's life. I do wish that I had gone again in the third trimester of pregnancy, to have seen Lily's face more filled out, so I could know her more and how she'd look as a *living* fullterm baby. 

Here is what I wrote about that date in Lily's pregnancy scrapbook:

"On October 9, 2009, Grandma Dukes, Auntie Em, and I went to the Triangle Imaging Center in Cary for a 3D/4D ultrasound at 3:30 p.m. The main reason we went was to find out conclusively if you were a boy or girl (though we believed in our hearts you were a girl!) It was so special to see you on the screen - very active! You were so spunky! We said you were doing your "drama queen" pose. At first, Ms. Kim thought you were a boy and we were all quiet. But then she said, "nope, she's definitely a little girl!" and we excitedly gasped. Of course, we would have been happy either way, but we just knew you were our Lily girl. Your daddy and I made a bet - he bet you were a boy and I bet you were a girl (obviously mommy won!) Your daddy was able to watch the entire ultrasound and listen in to our conversation online through Sonostream Live. That was neat since he never got to be at an ultrasound in person. We video recorded our time there (including your heartbeat). 

Lily's scrapbook has four full pages from this day, with pictures, memories, and other fun details and decorations, which I look forward to sharing soon when I share her scrapbook! 


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Maybe at times repetitive

I've been struggling with wanting to express how I am feeling lately, but not knowing exactly how to. The thing is, each time I think of something to write, I remember that I have already written it before. I don't want to sound redundant. Repetitive.

I don't want this space to grow old. Boring. Lifeless. I want to keep writing here because this is Lily's space, where I am able to grieve and share her life, where her memory and legacy are kept alive. I don't plan on not sharing anymore because I still do have a lot to share, whether that be ways I or others honor Lily, or whatever else.

But, there is a part of me that feels like I've already shared all my feelings. I've written hundreds of posts on this blog over the past 5 years and it has helped me so much. But how many times and ways can I say how much I love and miss Lily? How can I come up with a new and fresh way to open up my heart?

I know that a lot of the things I feel are indeed things I've already felt and expressed. I relive the time when Lily was here with each calendar year. I share what I was doing in my pregnancy at this time in 2009 and 2010. Because for me, those are the only memories I have of Lily and that is how I share her life. I can't share what she did today, what funny thing she said, or what she wore. I am not sure why my brain works the way it does, but I literally remember so many details, especially surrounding dates. To give you an example, I remember friend's birthdays from middle school, even all these years later. I definitely remember so many dates from my pregnancy and what exactly I was doing on that day. It can be both a good and a bad thing. I want to remember these things, because they are all I have, yet it makes every year painful to think about. Will it always be this way? I'm not sure.

I am coming to the realization that no matter how many posts I write or how many ways I try to explain, words will always fail to express the depth of my heart. How much I love Lily, how much I long for her, how thankful I am to be her mother, how losing her has changed me and so many aspects of my life... no words could ever come close to describing these things. How can I even try? These things are so much more powerful and intense than any words could begin to articulate.

But, I will go on writing still. Because that is what I know. That is how I love her, mother her, share her.

I appreciate whoever reads these words and cares to hear about Lily, repetitive or not.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Beach in the Fall

Each year, my mom Ginny, sister Emma, and I, along with my mom's best friend from college (Grace a.k.a. "Aunt G"), take a trip to the Carolina coast for a couple days of fun, rest, and relaxation. The last weekend of September we took our annual trip. The weather was perfect, just gorgeous (it usually is this time of year at the beach).

Our trip reminded me of my sweet Lily girl and our trip to Topsail Island 5 years ago almost to the day. I was 16 weeks pregnant at the time. As you can see in the photo below, I was finally starting to look pregnant, rather than just feel pregnant.

Lily had oh so many adventures during her short time on Earth and I will forever cherish those sacred memories. I cannot believe it's been 5 years. I wish she was there this year, wearing an adorable swimsuit, building sandcastles, and squealing excitedly as her toes are greeted by the chilly Atlantic Ocean water. As soon as we pulled into our hotel, an overwhelming feeling of missing her washed over me.

That's my mom and Grace in the background

I still have this Topsail Island hat that I got in 2009 in Lily's memory chest

This is what I wrote about that trip to Topsail in Lily's pregnancy scrapbook:

"At the end of September/beginning of October, "Aunt G" (your grandmother's best friend named Grace) took us to Topsail Island for a short getaway vacation. We had a blast, staying at the Jolly Roger Inn right on the beach, eating delicious seafood at a local restaurant, splashing around in the waves at Surf City (where there is ironically a sign that says "no surfing allowed") with your Auntie Em and laughing hysterically as she held us up in the water in her small arms (we really floated), watching the breathtaking sunrise over the ocean, feeding the seagulls cocoa puffs from our balcony, watching and listening to the waves crashing upon the shore, walking down the pier, taking a lovely walk along the water's edge, relaxing in the sand and soaking up the sun, enjoying the beautiful fall weather and the presence of the Lord. You're a beach girl like your mommy!"

I will share more photos of that trip when I eventually share my pregnancy scrapbook (it's quite an undertaking to get all the photos and descriptions up on my blog!).


Monday, October 6, 2014

Lily remembered at Prince Edward Island

My friend Naomi recently sent me a few pictures she took while on vacation this summer at Prince Edward Island in Canada.

This is what she said: "Hi! We went to PEI this summer and I took many pictures of your Lily's name for are a few including one in a potato field (they are everywhere) (as I know the "thing" with hashbrowns and the cute nickname "Spud"...) and the others were at Cabot Beach. I hope they make you smile!"

The beautiful photos absolutely make me smile, Naomi! Thank you so much for being so thoughtful and sweet. It means more than I can say to know when people are thinking of my girl and I.

As always, it is special to have Lily's name written in the sand on beaches around the world. Not only that, but it is so dear that Naomi remembered the "thing" about hashbrowns and Lily's nickname. Lily's due date was on March 14th, 2010 (National Potato Chip Day). The biggest craving I had throughout my pregnancy were hashbrowns. All. the. time. Because of this, one of Lily's many nicknames was "Spud." I have shared this on my blog and it is so sweet that Naomi remembered. The potato field pictures are so unique! Perfect for my lil' Spud. :)

I have always dreamed of visiting PEI (mostly because of my love for Anne of Green Gables) and Naomi even remembered that I had mentioned that before. What a thoughtful friend. :)

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