Thursday, April 24, 2014

Journey to Getting Healthy Again

I wanted to share about my struggles with weight and health on this blog because a lot of it ties back to my grief over Lily. The following is from my Jesus is Victor blog. I will be sharing about my journey over there if you'd like to follow along (you can subscribe by email). But I also wanted to share this first post here:

I haven't posted on this blog in over a year and a half. I had considered starting a new blog to chronicle my journey of getting fit and healthy. However, I realized that this falls under the purpose of this blog. You see, this is not just a physical journey for me, but a spiritual journey. I believe Jesus wants to be Victor in every area of our lives, even in the area of fitness and health.

This is a hard thing for me to write/talk about. It is embarrassing and uncomfortable for me to discuss my weight. But, I am hoping that by being open and honest about my struggles, it might encourage someone else. I also believe that writing about it publicly will help hold me accountable.

I grew up in a fit and healthy family. My uncle is a cross-country coach and an amazing runner himself. My aunt competed in the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii on her honeymoon. My cousins are amazing swimmers. Another of my uncles works in a bike shop. There are lots of athletes in my family. I started running when I was just a little girl. In middle school, I started running track on a team. In high-school and college, I ran track and cross-country. I loved running.



When I was in college, I started drinking and partying. I ate "fourth meal" all the time. You can read my testimony to see how my life went downhill fast. By the end of my freshman year, I had gained the dreaded "freshman 15." I didn't even realize that I was gaining weight. It just sneaked up on me because I wasn't weighing myself regularly. That summer, I was shocked to see the number I saw on the scale. I had always been able to eat what I wanted and not gain weight. My metabolism changed is what I am guessing.

I continued the drinking, partying lifestyle. I ate junk-food all the time and ate it late at night too. Alcohol has a lot of calories in it, so I didn't realize just how many calories I was consuming. I was no longer in school and was not running anymore. I gained a few more pounds. I was depressed with how much I had fallen away from the Lord. I felt like I lost all control of every aspect of my life. I was disappointed and disgusted with myself. After being a runner, I was so distraught with the weight I had gained.

Then, I got pregnant with Lily. In the future when I get pregnant, I want to be a healthy weight to begin with. When I got pregnant with her, I was the weight I should have been towards the end of pregnancy. And of course, pregnancy is not a healthy time to lose weight. So the number on the scale just kept going up. I ate too much while I was pregnant. I guess you could say I convinced myself that because I was pregnant, I could eat what I wanted and when I wanted it. I gave into my cravings. Pregnancy was my excuse. I gained too much weight. Well, I gained about the amount I should during pregnancy, but as I said, since I was already overweight, I ended up weighing more than I ever thought I would at full-term.



Then suddenly and unexpectedly, I lost my baby girl. At the very end of my pregnancy. I had to bury my first-born baby. I was dealing with all things postpartum, without my baby. I felt angry and sad when I saw other moms complain about stretch marks and baby weight. At least they got to keep their baby, I would think to myself. I felt no confidence and was so frustrated that I had an entirely different body than I had just a couple years earlier, when I was fit and running cross-country. I had stretch marks and extra weight. I was very depressed about how I looked and felt. I had chosen LIFE for my baby and ended up without her. I had nothing to show for my full-term pregnancy except for a changed body... and heart. It was really hard for me to process it all. I immediately lost quite a bit of weight because I wasn't pregnant anymore.

For the past 4 years since I gave birth, my weight and health has been a struggle for me. In early 2011, I ended up losing quite a bit of weight, but gained it back. I lost the weight too rapidly. I lost it in two months by eating much less than I had been and by working out obsessively. That's what it was - I was too obsessed with losing weight. It wasn't really about getting healthy at that time, but how I looked. I ended up hurting my back, which stopped my working out completely. I had to go to the chiropractor and physical therapist for months.

Because I wasn't working out, I felt discouraged and started eating badly again. Working out and eating healthy seem to go hand-in-hand for me. Over some time, I gained weight back without really even noticing it. That is the thing about weight - if you aren't committed to eating right and working out and you aren't paying attention to your weight, it is honestly quite easy to gain without noticing.

I have wanted so badly to get fit and healthy, but honestly have felt powerless to change. I have battled with depression over losing my daughter. I have struggled with grieving many things about my past and the choices I have made. I have felt a complete lack of confidence and control.

The Lord has been revealing many things to my heart about fitness and health. I have had a skewed picture of what it is. In this culture, it seems that many people are either completely negligent of their health, or completely obsessed with it. I want to find that healthy balance.

The Lord has shown me that we are made to crave... God, not food (check out Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst). But for too long, I have tried to fill myself with food. He is the only One who can satisfy our every longing. No amount of food, alcohol, sex, money, or anything else can give us what we desire. When I realized that I had been trying to fill those empty and broken pieces of my heart with food, rather than Jesus, it started making sense. But, I still felt powerless to change.

I have had a lot of health struggles. For one thing, I am a bit of a hypochondriac, which the Lord is working on in me. But, I truly do have a lot of weird symptoms all the time. I feel so blah and sick. I got mono a couple years ago, which really messed with my health for a long time. I have been to many doctors for all my health concerns and all my tests come back normal. I have wondered if I am dreaming up my symptoms, which I know I am not, because I remember life before feeling this way all the time. I have felt hardly any energy and just plain ill.

The Lord has shown me He doesn't want me to just accept this. He has shown me that I need to make health and wellness a priority in my life, not because of the way I look primarily. But because He wants me to be strong, healthy, and fit to serve Him and to build up His Kingdom. If I am weak and sick all the time, how will I have any energy to fight for Him?! I won't.

My focus has shifted from my weight and health from being about me to being about HIM. It might seem like this is only a temporal matter, but is is actually an eternal matter as well. As a Christian, I believe God is calling me to be disciplined and self-controlled in every area of my life.

Everything about our lives is connected - the physical, spiritual, and mental parts of us. Being broken in one area can affect every other area. I have struggled in many areas over the last few years. The grief and loss I have lived with has negatively affected my health in many ways. It went downhill when I was dealing with the loss of both Lily and her father. Emotional trauma can wreak havoc on health. I have discovered this first-hand.

But, I say NO MORE! Jesus is Victor, and I am trusting and believing that to be true, even when I don't see or feel it. I will not settle for depression and defeat, but will trust that Jesus will give me what I need to overcome what has kept me down for so long. I count it as a blessing that I have struggled with health issues. Perhaps if I hadn't, I wouldn't feel the desire and urgency to change.

Over the last couple months, God has given me a supernatural strength and grace. He has given me the desire to get fit and healthy. He has given me the motivation to pursue a healthier lifestyle. He is taking me on a journey of healing my heart and my body. He is making me strong so that I may be poured out for His glory.

Last week, I watched a documentary called, "Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead." It is so informative and inspiring. (You can watch it online for free by clicking HERE). The very next day after I watched it, I ordered a juicer for myself.

So that is where I am now. Over the last several weeks, I have been eating healthier and less. The Lord is changing me to see food the way He intends it to be. I have been working out most every day. But, this time is different. This is a permanent change in my heart and life. I am not obsessive about it, but making it a true lifestyle change. I work out about 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, not overdoing it because I don't want to injure myself. I also do moderate weight-lifting.

My juicer came in the mail a couple days ago. I made my first juice ever last night. It was delicious. :) This is a new way of life for me. I have been so bad about not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Juicing is an excellent way to get your fruits and veggies. Seriously, you should watch the documentary and research juicing yourself.


I am going to be starting a juice-fast very soon, like Joe Cross does in the documentary. I won't be doing it as long as he did. We will see how long it lasts. I just know I need to do this for my health. I truly believe in eating healthy and that it can help cure physical illnesses. I am convinced of this. There are people in the movie who had health problems and after juicing and getting healthy, they are able to come off medications completely and are cured of their illnesses. It is incredible! I know that some people do need medication for different things. However, we are an over-medicated society and if only we would get healthy, I think a lot of medication would no longer be needed. I am also believing that my skin will clear up from cleaning up my diet. I have had bad skin for many years and no dermatologist has ever been able to help me.

Since I have been exercising and eating better, I have lost 20 pounds! The pictures below show before losing weight and right now (the photo on right on top was taken today and the one on the right on bottom was taken three days ago on Easter Sunday). I am about half-way to my goal weight. It is amazing how much of a difference 20 pounds makes! My face has changed a lot.




Struggling with weight has given me a more compassionate heart for others. I used to look at overweight people and think they were lazy and undisciplined. The thing is, you never know what someone has gone through to get them where they are. Don't judge what you do not understand.

There is much more I could say, but I wanted to share an introductory post. I will be sharing about my juicing/weight loss/heart and body mending journey. I pray that you will trust that Jesus can be victorious in every area of your life as well. He is enough, my friends, He is enough

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As Much as One Can Love a Headstone

I love Lily girl's stone so much (well, as much as you can love a headstone, I suppose). These are her beautiful, colorful spring flowers. I am excited for the green grass to grow in well soon.


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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mixed Emotions

My Aunt Sarah shared this devotional from Our Daily Bread with me over New Years and I have been meaning to share it here ever since. When she read it, she thought of Lily and I. It has greatly ministered to me and I pray it ministers to you too.

******

December 30
Mixed Emotions
Revelation 21:1-7
Our Daily Bread

For Marlene and me, “mixed emotions” precisely describes our wedding. Don’t take that the wrong way. It was a wonderful event that we continue to celebrate more than 35 years later. The wedding celebration, however, was dampened because Marlene’s mom died of cancer just weeks before. Marlene’s aunt was a wonderful stand-in as the “mother of the bride,” but, in the midst of our happiness, something clearly wasn’t right. Mom was missing, and that affected everything.

That experience typifies life in a broken world. Our experiences here are a mixed bag of good and bad, joy and pain – a reality that Solomon expressed when he wrote, “Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief” (Proverbs 14:13). The merry heart does grieve, for that is what this life sometimes demands.

Thankfully, however, this life is not all there is. And in the life that is to come, those who know Christ have a promise: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelations 21:4). In that great day, there will be no mixed emotions – only hearts filled with the presence of God!

-Bill Crowder

For the Christian, the dark sorrows of Earth will one day be changed into the bright songs of Heaven.

Peace! Peace! Wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above,
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love.
-Cornell

******

How perfectly this describes life on Earth without my daughter of Heaven. My life is full of mixed emotions because Lily missing affects everything. I think of my future wedding day and how bittersweet it will be without Lily there, just like was written about in this devotional without Marlene's mother there. I think of so many future dreams for my life and how they will be dampened because she is not here. Never again will life be full of only joy, but joy tinged with sadness.

This devotional reminds me of some of the lyrics from the song that my friend Heather wrote for me, "Through laughter and tears, I will not forget sweet Lily, my beautiful girl." 

Life on this Earth will always be broken because of sin, death, and pain. However, those whose faith and hope is in Christ have the promise of Eternity. An Eternity with no more tears, no more sorrow, no more sin, no more death. 

One sweet, glorious, wonderful day, my friends, there will be no more tears. Only joy. Cling to Him and His promises. And trust that until that day, He holds each of your tears and cares for your broken, hurting heart.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hope Beyond the Grave

Lily was born the day before St. Patrick's Day, so I will always associate that holiday with her. However, the first "big" holiday after she was born was Easter. It will also always make me think of that first Easter without her and how much I longed for my sweet newborn baby girl. I wrote this blog post that year. 

Easter makes me think of my little daughter and how if she were here, I would prepare Easter baskets and take her on Easter egg hunts. We would be making memories for her to carry with her always, like the memories I have tucked away safely in my heart from my own childhood.


But even more than Easter baskets and egg hunts, I would be teaching her about what Easter really, truly means. I would teach her about Jesus and his death and resurrection... how He gave Himself freely so that we might have LIFE eternally. That is what Easter is really all about, not chocolate covered bunnies.

Easter is a time of glorious celebration. HE IS RISEN! And because He lives, I have the hope, faith, peace, and assurance that this is not the end. The grave is not the end. I will see my girl again. Jesus conquered sin and death - He is victorious!!

I see now how the hand of God chose for Lily to be born right before Easter, right before the spring season. Spring and Easter point towards redemption, hope, resurrection, and Eternity with Him. What God did in my life because of hers points towards that same glorious hope and redemption. It's like He was speaking through her birth at this time of year that this is not the end! All because of Jesus' sacrifice!

I decided at the last minute last week that I wanted to get some decorations for Lily's spot for Easter. I went to Michaels and was able to find a few things for 40% off. What I found is super cute, but since I didn't have much time to look, I wasn't able to find anything with Easter lilies and the Cross. Next year, I would like to find that.

Anyways, I mailed these things to my grandmother to decorate Lily's spot for me.


She took down the remainder of the birthday decorations and put the Easter decor up. I instructed her with how I wanted it done (I am very particular when it comes to Lily's spot). My grandmother is kind and patient with me. :) She took these lovely photos for me too. She is getting really good at this technology stuff. Thanks for decorating Lily's spot for me since I cannot do it myself, Bumma!


It looks like the grass is finally starting to grow in! We placed Lily's stone in November, so have only seen it with al the dirt around it.


My brother, Joseph, and his wife, Kala, came to visit for Easter weekend. This is the three of us after church on Easter. :) My family went out for lunch after church, which was really special.


This hymn has been stuck in my head the last few days. I was delighted when we sang it at church on Easter Sunday: "Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Retouched Photos for Babyloss Parents

Something that has been very difficult for me in the years since losing Lily is the fact that I do not have any high-quality photos from my pregnancy or of Lily. I only found out about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (a non-profit organization that takes free professional photographs of precious babies who have been stillborn or are expected to die) after it was too late. To this day, I do not know why the hospital staff didn't inform me about NILMDTS so that I could have had that choice. I live in the capital city of North Carolina and have seen on the NILMDTS website that there are many volunteer photographers in this area. Those are precious, sacred moments that I will never get back.

I have been angry with myself for not getting more and better maternity photos. My sister kept wanting to take photos of me towards the end of my pregnancy, but we didn't get around to it. I was planning on getting professional photos of Lily after she was born... I never could have imagined that maternity photos and hospital photos would be all I'd ever have to remember my first-born baby.

Instead of dwelling on the photos I could have had, I am thankful for the photos I do have. Because I know they are a gift and a treasure. I know that in the "old days," mothers weren't even allowed to hold their stillborn baby, let alone capture forever photos. Even now, some parents don't think about the fact that photos are one of the only tangible keepsakes they will have left of their precious child. So I am truly, truly thankful for what I have.

Anyways, I know I am not the only person who regrets and wishes for more. Instead of sulking about it forever, I had another idea. How about making the photos I do have look the best they can look?

I looked up the volunteer NILMDTS photographers in Raleigh and reached out to a couple, telling them a little of my story, how I wished I had known about NILMDTS, and how I wondered if they could possibly help me by retouching the photos I do have to make them as beautiful as possible. Both photographers I reached out to were so kind and helpful and said they would be honored to help. I sent them the photos I wanted edited (there were quite a few) and they sent them back to me when they were finished. One of them even sent me a disc in the mail with all my edited photos, which was very special.

For those reading who also wish they had known about NILMDTS, who wish they had taken more and better quality photos throughout their pregnancy and when their baby was born, I hope you will consider looking into getting your photos retouched. I have included the places I have found that offer this photo retouching service to babyloss parents at the bottom of this blog post. Some places charge, some are free, and some ask for donations if you are able to give. I have included places that I know will be sensitive and caring. I am sure there are many places that offer photo retouching, but it is of a very delicate nature to trust someone with photos of your stillborn baby, knowing they will treat you and your child with the honor, respect, and dignity you deserve.

I have included a couple of my before and after photos below that were retouched to show you what a big difference it can make. I am beyond pleased with how they turned out. I could never thank these photographers enough for this priceless gift they have given me. They have given me much more peace about not having more and better quality photos. It doesn't replace not having the professional pictures, but it does ease the sting a bit.

I look at my photos now and see them as being so beautiful. I want you to feel the same about your photos. I know that photos are one of the few things you can share of your precious child with friends and family, so I want you to feel comfortable in sharing them.



Photo Retouching:
Please let me know if you know of any other person or organization who offers this photo retouching service to babyloss parents. Feel free to share this with others.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Together Again

My favorite band from when I was 18-20ish is called Copeland. I was really into their music from 2008-2010 (so during my pregnancy). The band broke up and had a Farewell Tour in 2010. My mom, sister, and I went to their concert on March 3rd of that year, when I was nine months pregnant! I was definitely the only pregnant girl there haha. It was really neat that we got to meet the band too. I was sad when they broke up.

Here are some pictures from that concert:


my mom, sister, and I ready for the concert


meeting the band




I just found out last night that they are getting back together to make another album! They haven't made new music in years. I remember when their last album "You Are My Sunshine" came out in the fall of 2008 and I went to buy it at Best Buy. That was just a few months before I got pregnant with Lily. Anything to do with that season of my life takes me right back. So many bittersweet memories. Copeland will now always remind me of that time, my pregnancy, and Lily. I went to their concert less than two weeks before Lily was born.

I am looking forward to their new album coming out this October. I still enjoy their music, but it sort of makes me sad now thinking of her. I can't explain why my mind thinks the way it does or why certain things make me feel as they do. I am thankful for the memories with her that I have and the things that make me think of her.

Click HERE to watch the video about Copeland's new album coming out (along with a new song!) And click HERE to listen to a bunch of Copeland tunes on YouTube.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lily's Handprint Necklace

In 2011, I got a custom engraved footprint heart pendant from My Forever Child. I absolutely love it! Since then, I have wanted to get a handprint charm as well. I have so many things with Lily's footprints and wanted to do something with her handprints.

I decided to get another custom engraved piece from My Forever Child. I randomly decided to sign up for the My Forever Child email updates a couple months ago. Literally like a day or two later, I got an email about a sale going on - 20% off all the custom hand and footprint jewelry! It was only going on for one weekend and I knew I wanted to take advantage of it since I have been wanting a new piece for a while and didn't know when/if a sale would happen again. I am thankful I went ahead and ordered my piece then because Sue said that's the only time the custom pieces have been reduced so much!

Anyways, the entire process is quite easy. You decide what piece of jewelry you want, what you want written on the back, etc. You fill everything in and then pay for your order. Then you either send a copy of your child's prints via email or snail mail so that Sue can create your custom piece. I sent mine through the mail. Sue then touches up the print to make it the best it can be for engraving and gets your approval to create your piece.

I got mine a few weeks ago and have been wearing it nearly every day since.

I was honored when Sue asked if she could share Lily's custom engraved handprint charm on her website and social media pages, along with a customer testimonial. This is what I wrote:

Sue, I am amazed over how perfectly you captured the finest details of my daughter Lily Katherine's delicate handprint. I wear this remembrance charm close to my heart as a way to carry my sweet girl with me. It brings me great comfort. Both your custom handprint charm and your equally exquisite custom footprint pendant, that I ordered three years ago, are among my most cherished keepsakes. Thank you for offering such beautifully engraved pieces of fine art, that never fail to elicit compliments from others wherever I go.

I highly recommend checking out My Forever Child for anyone who is interested in a custom handprint or footprint piece of jewelry. Sue also offers lots of other lovely pieces of jewelry, all for an affordable price.

Sue edited the photos of my charm for me to have. You can tell from the photo comparison how the charm looks just like her actual handprint!


I simply wanted "Lily" written on the back. :)



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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Asleep to This World

Some family friends named the Kirchmans gave me a bleeding heart plant at Lily's celebration of life/memorial service over four years ago in March 2010. I remember when they first gave it to me thinking that the little pink hearts were a powerful reflection of my bleeding mother heart. My heart that bleeds both love and sorrow. And how perfect that hearts remind me of her and my Valentine's baby shower.

We planted the bleeding heart in Lily's memorial garden and each spring around her birthday, it blooms. It is something I look forward to in the spring... the time of year when she came, but never came home.

Several days ago, I realized with a heavy heart that I had not yet seen the bleeding heart blooming this year in the spot where it was planted. I mentioned it to my mom and we both wondered if it would come back.

Then yesterday, my mom told me excitedly that I had to come see something in Lily's garden... the bleeding heart is indeed coming back! For the fifth spring season! It is just starting to bloom, but it sure made me smile to know it's still alive.

It is a connection to March 2010. A connection to Lily. It feels like the Lord is gently whispering to me through this little plant that He has not forgotten. This bleeding heart is a reminder that though things may sleep through the winter, they come back in the spring! The spring is such a glorious time of hope and resurrection. The beautiful weather has lifted my spirits more than I can say.

I am so thankful the Lord brought this little plant back to life. And even though it appeared it was gone forever, it was just sleeping. Lily might appear to be gone forever, but she is just asleep to this world... but forever alive in Jesus.


**Update** When I posted this, my friend Sarah commented and said, "OMG! I was just thinking about you yesterday when I noticed my bleeding hearts returning in my garden." How special!

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Monday, April 7, 2014

My Future Wedding Day

It just breaks my heart to think of Lily not being a part of my future hoped-for wedding day. She should be "marrying" my future husband with me. He should be taking me and her together, as a packaged-deal.

But, even though Lily is not here, my future-husband, whoever and wherever he may be, will love her before he wins me.

I sometimes think about ways I would like to include Lily on my wedding day to make her absence a little less painful. Most of these ideas I will keep close to my heart until that time comes. One thing I would like to do is include Lily in the wedding day photos in some unique ways.

I saw this photo on Facebook a while back that is incredibly sweet. It's of a young woman on her wedding day visiting her father at the cemetery. He had recently passed away and wasn't able to be at his daughter's wedding. Isn't it so moving?


I dream of getting married in Virginia and want to get photos of me in my wedding dress at Lily's special spot. I want a photo of me kneeling by her beautiful stone. I want her a part of the day in the only ways she can be.

My entire life will be filled with such bittersweet moments where Lily's absence is pronounced. Missing her will never end... nor would I want it to.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Little Rose with a Lily

I recently found this photo of me as a little girl with a beautiful lily. It brought a big smile to my face as I thought of how sweet little pure Hannah Rose would one day have a little girl herself named Lily, a symbol and reflection of restoration, redemption, and purity in Jesus Christ. I never knew how special and symbolic lilies would become to me one day because of my little Lily. I never knew that I'd carry the gift of her life and the beauty of her story with me forever and always. I can almost picture the Lord smiling on this day as He thought of the little baby girl He would send to save her mommy.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


"little" HR and "big" HR with lilies :)
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Yet Another March Gone By

It's already April?! Can you believe how fast this year is passing by?

Now that March is over, I am having mixed feelings. On one hand, I am ready for it to be over because March is such a tough month for me. This morning when I mentioned to my mom that March was over, she said I should be glad because she knows it's hard for me.

That's true, but I am also sad for March to end because it is such a special month, a sacred month, her month.

I can hardly believe the next time March comes, Lily would be turning 5. For some reason, 5 seems so old! It's a milestone birthday. My mom and I were talking about her turning 5 next year and how we cannot believe that. She said something along the lines of "I can't take it, but I know I have to." How often I feel that way too. Feeling like I simply can't take losing her, yet knowing I have to because I have no other choice.

I suppose milestone birthdays will always sting a little extra, whether she be turning 1, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, 30, or 40.

I am ready for the year to march on and eager to see what the Lord has in store. The Lord has been giving me such peace, joy, and hope! He is so good!

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