Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Tattoo for Lily and Luke!

I shared in Lily's 5th birthday celebration blog post that I got a memorial tattoo this year on March 16th, her special day.

I thought my tattoo deserves it's own post and I want to share more about it. :)

Here it is!!

Side note: in this photo that was taken on March 16th, I was wearing the sparkly pink nail polish that my friend Tracey gave to me called "I Lily Love You" (that's a cool story that you should read). :)

Anyways, I thought long and hard about getting a tattoo in honor and memory of Lily. It wasn't something I rushed into at all. I have literally wanted it since around the time Lily was born, however I wasn't sure about doing it for a few reasons...

First of all, I am not a big "tattoo person" and this is the only one I would ever want to get because of it's significance. I didn't want to get something that I would regret, especially something so permanent. I realized that after 5 years of wanting it, this is something that I don't believe I will regret. When tattoos are meaningful, we know we won't "outgrow" them. It's not like it's some random thing I chose to get on my 18th birthday or something. It's a small and elegant tattoo and has the most significant of meanings. Also, I can cover it up with a watch or bracelet if I ever want to (that's part of the reason I chose to get it on my left wrist). Literally, so much thought went into every aspect of this! haha.

I didn't want people to think I am a "bad Christian" for getting a tattoo. I know there are some people who won't agree with it and that's okay. I was totally open and asked God to show me if I shouldn't get it. I waited 5 years until I had peace in my decision. I did a lot of research about it from a Biblical perspective before choosing to go through with getting it. As with most anything in life, there is the potential for whatever "it" is to be either good or bad. My motives in getting this are pure and are not out of a rebellious heart towards God or others. And let's be honest, if people are going to judge me, I think they could find a lot of things besides the fact that I have a tattoo. Ha. But seriously, it's not up to me to control what people think of me. I'm just going to be me, while seeking to honor and glorify God in my life and choices. Three Christian women who I greatly admire and respect have tattoos for their children. Mary Beth Chapman (Steven Curtis Chapman's wife) has a beautiful memorial tattoo on her wrist in honor of their daughter Maria Sue (the meaning behind her tattoo is so precious). My friend Bex who placed her son for adoption in 2008 (she was the first person besides Lily's daddy who knew about her) got a meaningful tattoo on her wrist just a few months before I did (pretty neat we both wanted them without the other knowing and got them so close together). And my friend Stacy has a couple different memorial tattoos for her beautiful daughter, Rachel (Stacy is my friend whose non-profit organization, Baby Rachel's Legacy, helped pay off Lily's headstone). The fact that these three women who love Jesus with all their hearts have tattoos helped me make my decision.

There were a couple other reasons that I had to think about and work through. One being that I didn't want my future husband to not like it. When I mentioned it to my friend Bex about being hesitant to get a tattoo because I want to honor my future husband, she said to me that out of all the things couples have to work through, a tasteful tattoo for my baby girl would not be an issue. That put things into perspective. If someone would be judgmental about it, I wouldn't want to be with such a man anyways.

After nearly 5 years of thinking and praying about it, I decided that Lily's 5th birthday would be the perfect day to get it, a milestone birthday. I wanted to get it on her birthday because that's part of what makes it so special! What an awesome memory of planning out my tattoo and going to get it on her birthday with my mom and sister-in-law.

The meaning of my tattoo:

I wanted my beautiful baby girl's name permanently written on my wrist, as a reflection of the forever mark she's made on my life. The heart as the dot on the "i" is in honor of the first child of my heart, Luke Shiloh. Lily and Luke's stories are so intertwined, so it's only appropriate they are honored together in the same tattoo. I went from not wanting anyone to know about them to now wanting the world to know they are my children and I am their mother. The heart symbolizing Luke is subtle enough that I can choose whether or not I want to share that part of the story with someone when sharing about my tattoo.

Lily's name was one of the only things I could ever give her, one of the only things that's hers. It speaks of her existence and value. After all, one only has a name when they exist. Whenever I glance down, I am reminded of my love for her and the work God has done in me and so many others through her life. It's a memorial to His faithfulness to me in everything and what a gift He gave me in her.

Her name is right above my pulse, which reminds me of something my best friend once said to me, "Her heart beats with every beat of your own." Yes. In a letter to Lily that I wrote and read to her at her Celebration of Life Service, I said, "Sometimes it feels like people are already forgetting you, but I won't forget. So don't feel like you're missing out on all the fun, because wherever I go, there you'll be too." This is just another way for me to keep that promise to her. I'll live my life for the both of us.

I wanted my tattoo to be tasteful, simple, and elegant. It's a "conversation starter" and I want people to ask me about it so I can share her legacy and the love and hope of Jesus Christ.

I knew I wanted it to be in black cursive writing on my inner wrist so that I can read it when I look down, which is technically considered "upside down." But, I got it for me and not for others primarily. I didn't know what font to use and after looking at many different options, I decided to doodle a bit, and came up with how I wanted it myself. I wanted it loopy, girly, and pretty, but still easy to read. So, the tattoo is in my own handwriting, which makes it even more perfect. The tattoo artist was able to create a stencil out of it to transfer onto my wrist.

Hopefully, if I have more children in the future, they will be raised on Earth and will always be with me, but this is a way for me to have my first two precious babies forever with me!

My friends Bex and Stacy were so helpful through this process. They answered all my questions about the entire tattoo process (I mentioned them earlier and how they both have tattoos) from start to finish (who knew you tip tattoo artists?) They both made me much more informed and confident. They shared with me their own experiences and opinions. They really helped me so much!

I am SO pleased with how it turned out and had quite a pleasant experience at the tattoo parlor.

Anyways, I want to share the photos from when I went to get my tattoo.

I had a 2:30 p.m. appointment at Blue Flame Tattoo in Raleigh, NC. It took a while to decide what tattoo parlor to go with and what artist. I obviously wanted an established and clean place with an artist who does excellent work. 

I loved writing Lily's birthday as the date. :)

Here I am nervously waiting haha.

My sister-in-law Kala was in charge of taking photos and got this one of the pin the tattoo artist was wearing that says, "tattoo time" lol.

Here is my tattoo artist, Nate, making suggestions to me and giving me his opinion on where exactly my tattoo should go. 

This must have been right when he started (look at my nervous face ha). I was scared about how it was going to feel and was really worked up. Thankfully, my artist was patient and kind but did tell me I needed to calm down lol.

Holding my mom's hand during my tattoo because you're never too old to want your mom.

After I realized the pain wasn't as bad as I had feared, I actually enjoyed the experience. Don't get me wrong, it did hurt, but he took breaks and it was over within 10-15 minutes. The experience was emotional for me, thinking about permanently making Lily and Luke a part of me in this way. I said to him while he was doing my tattoo, "this hurts, but it's nothing like the pain of living without her for 5 years." He was a really kind and sensitive person and said he couldn't imagine and that he has friends who have lost children. It was special to be able to share about who Lily is and what the date means to me.

As you can tell by my face in this picture, I wasn't so scared anymore. He told me I did a great job staying still and calm. I was even talking during it, but squeezing my mom's hand.

I noticed right away that his hat said "Memorial Tattoo." I thought that was cool since that's what I was getting. He also started tattooing just a couple months before Lily was born.

Almost ready!

Seeing my new ink for the first time!

Thanks for my tattoo, Nate! I've been joking with some friends how funny I look in my pink lacy shirt getting my elegant Lily tattoo by this big, burly tattoo man. I am going to give him a thank you note and take the opportunity to share my blog with him... wonder how often that happens? lol

I've had my tattoo now for a month and a half. It's completely healed and I love it! I will be able to get free touch ups from Nate as needed. The healing process took a couple weeks. The aftercare was simple, with just cleaning and moisturizing it.

If you are thinking about getting a special memorial tattoo, I would be happy to talk with you more about it.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lily's Cedar Memory Chest

I really wanted a cedar memory chest for Lily Katherine's things for a long time, but didn't know where to find one and how much it would cost.

Then, a couple years ago (I've been meaning to share this since then), my mom and I stopped at a random little gas station on the way home from being out of town. That is where I found it, just outside of Greensboro, NC. I didn't get it when I first saw it, but went home and decided it was perfect.

My mom remembered the exit where we saw it, so I looked up the gas station number online and got in contact with the elderly man who handcrafts the chests. He said he would hold it for me.

So, I went back the next day and purchased it for $100. I have seen cedar chests online that look quite similar to mine, going for $500-$600! I truly believe God cares about the small details of our lives. He knew I wanted a cedar chest to hold the memories of my baby girl and had it picked out for me, prompting us to stop at that gas station and giving me a price I could afford. It is exactly what I dreamed of to hold the most sacred keepsakes I have.

the inside of Lily's memory chest


Bloom in Heaven

Thank you to Carly Marie for these lovely new photos.

This is one of my favorite quotes because I call Lily "my little flower." Carly says this is the tiniest butterfly she's ever drawn. :)


Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Favorite Part of Lily's Scrapbook

I knew I wanted to have Lily Katherine's heartbeat recording in her scrapbook, but I honestly didn't even know it was a possibility. By the time I started looking into it more, her scrapbook was close to being complete. I searched for products on Google and discovered that you can add sound to a scrapbook, however, I was disappointed with the options. They were mostly too bulky or just downright ugly. That was until I stumbled upon the Picture That Sound website (click on link to find out more).

The products they offer are really cute and are thin enough to fit into a scrapbook nicely. They have options for baby keepsakes, wedding, birthday, or any other special occasion you can think of. You can record for up to 20 seconds and the products are acid-free, which is a must for scrapbooking. Everything comes in sets of two and can be decorated.

I found this online a day before I was going on vacation last summer and I really wanted to include Lily's heartbeat recording in her scrapbook because I was planning on sharing it with friends and family on that trip.

I called the Picture That Sound number and left a message. They called me back quickly and were so helpful and kind. It turns out they are located in the same city I live in, which is super cool! They sent it out that very day in the mail and I received it the following day, so I was able to add it to her scrapbook before my trip after all. :) I even had a coupon and free shipping. When I got the package in the mail, I noticed they added an extra recording device since I am local and they said they rarely ship to anyone local. What awesome customer service, right?

This is my absolute favorite feature in Lily's scrapbook. It's so special and I love seeing people's reaction when I show it to them.

Here is a little demonstration for you:


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"I Just Love Carrying My Baby"

I am going through old emails to find the correspondence between my friend Bex and I from when I was pregnant so I can print them out to keep it in Lily's memory chest. After Lily's father, Bex was the second person to know about Lily.

Here is something I wrote to Bex when I was 25 weeks pregnant, in November 2009:

"I have been feeling Lily moving and kicking so much! It is such an amazing feeling. I just love carrying my Baby and I feel like I will miss it when I do give birth. It's such a special time to feel another life inside me and know that it's her little foot or hand I feel. :)"

And here's from a conversation we had online:

Bex: Hannah Rose!!
Hannah: HEY!
Bex: How are you??
Hannah: I'm really well.. Lily is moving around really silly right now.
Bex: Aww! Isn't that one of the best feelings in the world though? :)
Hannah: Yeah, it is. It's so special. Lily just nestles up on my right side too, it's so funny.
Bex: aww:)

These are things I'd forgotten, like her preferring my right side. I'm so glad I have that record of how I treasured our time together, her only time on Earth. And I had no idea just how much I would miss carrying her. Sigh. I am certain that one of the greatest gifts I will ever receive in my life was getting those months with Lily and being chosen to be her forever mommy.

This photo beautifully captures life in the womb. Yes, Lily *did* live and wasn't an "almost baby."


Lily Honored in California

A sweet lady I've connected with online wrote Lily's name in the sand on Mission Beach in California. Lisa writes names and other special messages on the shores of California and Hawaii. The photos she sent me below are lovely.

Lily's name has been written on beaches all over the world by many different people. If you ever visit somewhere and think of Lily, I would love for you to write her name in the sand and take a picture for me. :)

Check out Lisa's Facebook page: Lisa's Hawaiian Sandwriting


Monday, April 20, 2015

Exactly as It Was Always Meant to Be

I saw this photo on Facebook...

Isn't it so beautiful? It made me wish that Lily and I could take a photo like that together. Because I had an abortion scheduled and didn't go through with it and now Lily would be the face of what choosing life looks like, just like this young woman.

I chose life, just like this mother, but my little girl died... even still, she is no less real or important. And even though she cannot stand beside me in a picture, her brief life is a testament to how every life is precious and valuable, including the unborn who never take a single breath.

Even though Lily is not here to be the face of the unborn, her legacy is a face of sorts and speaks boldly and clearly. Our story is exactly as it was always meant to be and I will go on sharing it with whoever will listen.


My Pregnancy Scrapbook Almost Finished

Over the last few months, I've found quite a few things that I either thought were lost or had forgotten about, that I've been able to add to Lily's scrapbook. It is now up to 70 pages! And it's truly almost finished, after countless hours of love poured into it. Over the next couple weeks, I plan on working on the post to share it all, so stay tuned! :)


Saturday, April 18, 2015

It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

I never realized what a perfectionist I can be until it comes to things having to do with Lily. I've written before about how I want the things I do for her to be perfect. It makes me agitated when things aren't just so.

For instance, in Lily's scrapbook, each time I look at it and notice a flaw such as detectable dried glue, or something that was cut a little crooked, or something I glued onto the page a little off-center, it makes me flustered until I fix it. But then sometimes, I can't fix it unless I redo the entire page, which is not realistic because there are many small flaws such as this.

Or with my new tattoo, I've noticed a couple minor things on it that aren't "perfect," things that other people would honestly never see because they aren't staring at it like I do.

Another thing is I want Lily's spot to look well taken care of and beautiful all the time. If something has blown over or the flowers look dried up, I feel the urge to fix things right away.

I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to care for my baby girl in the only ways I can as her mother and wanting to make these things beautiful and special.

The problem comes when I expect everything to be perfect and get unsettled when they're not.

Here's where the lesson God has taught me comes in... things don't have to be "perfect" to be beautiful. Something can be beautiful, but still have flaws and imperfections. And isn't that who I am as a mother? I do my best, I try to make things beautiful, yet things will never be quite perfect because I am a human.

Not only can it still be beautiful despite the flaws, but sometimes the beauty comes in the flaws. The beauty comes in the imperfect person, who desires to live a life that displays the beauty, grace, and majesty of Christ Jesus.

My entire story is not perfect by the standard of this world. It has been flawed in so many ways because of my choices and because sin is in this broken world. Yet, because of the darkness, the light shines even brighter. The beauty is even more breathtaking because it has come not only in the midst of the broken imperfection, but in many ways because of it.

In my eyes, what's truly "perfect" is the plan God has unfolding, a plan that He somehow, in some amazing and unexplainable way, continues to craft beauty weaved within the flaws.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Oh Lily, Sweet Baby

There's a song by Colbie Caillat called "Capri" that reminds me of my beautiful Lily girl. And whenever I hear it, I sing along and replace "Capri" with "Lily." Carrying her was a gift from my Heavenly Father.

She’s got a baby inside
And holds her belly tight
All through the night
Just so she knows
She’s sleeping so
Safely to keep
Her growing
And oh when she'll open her eyes
There'll be no surprise
That she'll grow to be
So beautifully
Just like her mother
That’s carrying
Oh Capri
She’s a beauty
Baby inside she’s loving
Oh Capri
She’s a beauty
There is an angel growin’ peacefully
Oh Capri
Sweet baby
And things will be hard at times
But I've learned to try
Just listening
Patiently, oh Capri
Sweet baby
Oh Capri
She’s a beauty
Baby inside she’s loving
Oh Capri
You're a beauty
Just like your mother
That’s carrying...Oh Capri


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Repurposing Lily's Crib

I still have Lily's crib that was obviously never used by her and will never be used by another baby because it's just one of *her* special things. There are certain things that were meant for her that I would like to share with her future siblings (just like if she were here, her things would be passed down). However, there are some things that were hers.

For a while, I was thinking of donating the crib to a local pregnancy center, but decided against that. Right now, the crib is sitting in storage and I just can't bring myself to give it to some place like GoodWill where somebody who doesn't know Lily's story will buy it.

I am pretty sure some people wouldn't "get" why I'm still hanging on to the crib. I am not sure why I've held onto it so long either, other than it just seems too sad to get rid of it. I'd rather know it's in storage.

Anyways, now I am really glad I kept it after seeing a story that has gone viral about a caring man who turned a woman's son's crib (who was stillborn) into a bench. He surprised her with this gift after buying the crib at a yard sale. When his wife found out the crib was for her baby that had passed away, they knew they had to give it back to her.

After seeing this story, it gave me the idea to have Lily's crib repurposed and turned into a bench. It would be nice to have her crib actually be functional and not just taking up storage space. And how sweet it would be to have this bench be in the nursery of my future child. I will try to figure out how to go about doing this.

Here's the repurposed crib the man gave back to this grieving mother

Here's the news story about the repurposed crib.


A Big Sister in Heaven

My friend Elise sent me an article about a mom who added a sandbox to her baby's grave so his brother would feel more comfortable visiting his spot and it would not only be a sad place of where his mom cries.

Some people have been really mean to her about it, but unless you have lost a child, you have no idea what it's like and shame on anyone for judging. 

I think it is absolutely precious. I hope that my future children (if I have any) will enjoy spending time in the sunshine and fresh air at their big sister's special spot and that it won't feel weird or creepy to them. I will make sure to take them there each year on special days such as Lily's birthday and Christmas if I'm able to and they will grow up with their big sister in Heaven being a part of their lives. It will never be strange or foreign to them to talk about her or go to her spot because she will always be a part of our family.

Read the article HERE.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Blooming for yet Another Spring Season

Some family friends named the Kirchmans gave me a bleeding heart plant at Lily's celebration of life/memorial service over 5 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.

This is something I wrote on my blog last year about this plant: "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! 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."

This photo is the bleeding heart blooming today, for the sixth spring season.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Better Dream

I have all sorts of partially written blogs just sitting in my drafts folder. I was briefly looking through them today when I came upon some posts from the fall of 2009, shortly after I had started my blog. I was pregnant with Lily at the time and wanted my blog to be a place where I could encourage others facing similar circumstances, mainly unplanned pregnancy. Eventually, I wanted this to be a place where I'd post photos of Lily and share updates of her growth and life. I never imagined how it would turn out. I also wanted to share about my pregnancy journey. There are unpublished posts titled, "It's a GIRL!," "Pregnancy Center Banquets," and "Preparing for Baby."

Anyways, I came across a post from October 25th, 2009 called, "Making a New Plan."

It is difficult to come across these posts from that time in my life, knowing how I had no clue that Lily would say goodbye before I said hello. Knowing that those few months were all I'd ever get... oh, how I wish I would have cherished it more than I did, not wishing the time to come for her to be born.

I am not sure why I never finished writing all those posts from the time when I was pregnant. I wish I had. I was just so sick and tired most of the time and kept putting it off, figuring I had more time. I would love to be able to read more from my perspective in that season of my life.

This is what I said in that post:
My mom got me a journal at Target that has this saying on the cover: "Sometimes on the way to a dream you get lost and find a better one." My eyes filled with tears when I read it and realized it explains my life. The dreams and plans I had for my life never included getting pregnant before marriage at such a young age.
But, God is showing me that He has a new plan and Lily is my better dream. I got lost on the way to this place, really lost, but now I'm found. By Him, in Him. Because of her. She always was planned by Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
He has always known the plans He's had for my life. He knows the plans for my future. He knows the plans for Lily's future. He will not harm us. He gives us hope and a future. She will forever be a part of my future. And though a few months ago I may have told you that was terrifying and not a good thing, I know now it is a good thing. I am still scared about my future, but I know that God has a plan and a purpose. And I love Lily more than I ever knew I could.
She's my better dream...

She was my better dream then. And she's my better dream still. Her life and her legacy.

"Sometimes on the way to a dream you get lost and find a better one."

Before her, I had lost my ability to dream. But, with the realization that life grew within me came the realization that God had given me the ability to dream again.

My dreams are now a ripple effect from her life!

And how perfect that the journal has flowers and a butterfly on it? I used this journal as my pregnancy journal. I am so thankful to have those words to look back on.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Path of a Grieving Mother

I very much dislike feeling as if I must defend my love for Lily or defend the fact that she is an irreplaceable precious life that I will grieve for the rest of my days. Lily is just as real as any other person on the planet. She is buried in a cemetery in Virginia and is dancing before the Lord as I write this! I truly don't understand why it's so hard for those who have not lost a baby to grasp that it's a lifelong sorrow. Mothers especially should be able to try to imagine it, even in a small measure, even though it's hard to even think of.

Mothers - just picture this will you: imagine if when you went to the hospital to deliver your child, what if your doctor had told you their heart had stopped beating just before being born at fullterm? And there was no medical explanation as to why this happened. Imagine all the years of memories, pictures, laughter, and cuddles you have had with your child and that all those times would never have been. Imagine it all being erased. That's what I'm missing out on. Imagine giving birth to a lifeless child. Imagine seeing that precious face you love so much and imagined countless times, but their eyes never opening to gaze back. Is it really, truly so hard to at least try to understand? Imagine not having any other living child to help ease the pain and ache and fill your empty arms.

This gets me irritated just to think about how little empathy people have. However, I am reminded of a time when I was probably around 15 and I was eating at Cracker Barrel with my mom and grandmother. They were talking about a family whose unborn baby had died. I clearly remember asking, "Why is it so hard? It's not like they really got to know the baby." It is painful to know such words came from my own lips. I do recall being in a grumpy mood when I said that and acting like a brat, and I was young, naive, and not a mother yet, but still, I said it.

I believe God has allowed me to remember that conversation so that when the very same type of loss touched my life so intimately, I would have more grace with others. They don't understand. And many times, people can't understand something unless it happens to them. I don't want people to have to live through it to "get it," so hopefully my words will help open eyes and hearts.

Please, if you are reading this, try to think about what it would be like if you went to the hospital to have a much-loved and anticipated baby only to discover their heart had ceased to beat. Try to personalize it in your mind. Then reach out to someone you know who has lost a baby. Show them compassion, love, understanding, and support. Simply let them know that their child matters to you and that they aren't forgotten. Don't push them to "get over it" or tell them to "move on." Try imaging what it would be like to walk a mile in their shoes before judging the shoes they have been given to walk in.

I don't need to give value to Lily's life or convince others that she matters. She does because He says she does. I'm leaning on this truth.

One's value does not grow depending on how many breaths they take and how many days they reside on Earth. And a mother's love cannot be measured. There is no point in comparing who "has it worse" in grief. Remember these things, both those who have lost children and those who have not.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” -Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross


My Little Dancer

I came across this beautiful piece of art that reminds me of Lily on the Held Your Whole Life Facebook page.

It made me think of two quotes that I've heard, though I am unsure who said them both:

"I carried you every second of your life and I will love you for every second of mine."

"No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you're the only one who knows the sound of my heart from the inside."

Not only that, but Lily is my little dancer. Here is what I wrote in her scrapbook, with a "She's a Dancer" sticker and ballet stickers: "You were extremely active in the womb - always wiggling, kicking, and punching! We joked often about how you were our little dancer, practicing hard to perfect your myriad dance moves, from the Irish Jig to the Polka. You loved music and dancing and wanted to be ready to perform for an adoring audience on the day of your grand entrance into the world!"

I'm going to get a print to hang on my wall. Prints can be purchased by clicking HERE.


Monday, April 6, 2015

"Even Agony Will Turn to Glory"

I got some beautiful lilies to bloom on Easter, as a reminder of the redemption made available through Christ's shed blood, death, and resurrection.

It's amazing that the lily is the flower associated with Easter and that the One who Easter is all about sent me a little girl who He whispered to my heart was named Lily Katherine (BOTH names mean "purity and innocence"), as a way to bring me to the foot of the cross, as a symbol of my renewed purity and redemption in Christ.

She fulfilled every purpose He sent her here for, without ever speaking a word or taking a single breath. Yet, He continues to speak loudly and clearly through her life and her death, her name, and her birthdate (March 16... John *3:16*) of His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Seeing a lily now reminds me of my little girl who will forever remain pure and innocent and the work God has done in so many hearts because of her. And on Easter, I rejoice that because of the cross, I will spend Eternity with both my Jesus and my little flower. Because He conquered sin and death and is ALIVE, she is alive too! Oh, how much we have to rejoice over!

The service at my church on Sunday was absolutely beautiful, with many decisions to follow Jesus and baptisms. I'm so thankful for a Pastor who boldly shares the truth of God's Word and both encourages and convicts. I couldn't have stopped the tears of joy and hope even if I tried!

I read an amazingly beautiful post called Triumph of Joy about Easter Sunday on John Piper's blog, Desiring God. I suggest you read the entire thing, but I do want to share some of it here:
"Even agony will turn to glory, but Easter doesn’t suppress our pain. It doesn’t minimize our loss. It bids our burdens stand as they are, in all their weight, with all their threats. And this risen Christ, with the brilliance of indestructible life in his eyes, says, “These too I will claim in the victory. These too will serve your joy. These too, even these, I can make an occasion for rejoicing. I have overcome, and you will more than conquer.” Easter is not an occasion to repress whatever ails you and put on a happy face. Rather, the joy of Easter speaks tenderly to the pains that plague you. Whatever loss you lament, whatever burden weighs you down, Easter says, “It will not always be this way for you. The new age has begun. Jesus has risen, and the kingdom of the Messiah is here. He has conquered death and sin and hell. He is alive and on his throne. And he is putting your enemies, all your enemies, under his feet.” Not only will he remedy what’s wrong in your life and bring glorious order to the mess and vanquish your foe, but he will make your pain, your grief, your loss, your burden, through the deep magic of resurrection, to be a real ingredient in your everlasting joy. You will not only conquer this one day soon, but you will be more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). When he wipes away every tear, our faces glisten more brilliantly than if we never would have cried. Such power is too great to simply return us to the Garden. He ushers us into a garden-city, the New Jerusalem. Easter announces, in the voice of the risen Christ, “Your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20) and “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). Easter says that the one who has conquered death has now made it the servant of our joy."

And lastly, I want to share an Easter song by one of my favorite musicians of all time, Keith Green. His life and music has made a huge impact on my life. He went to be with Jesus in 1982, at only age 28, several years before I was born, yet his "no compromise" life for Jesus continues to challenge and inspire many. Check out the book about his life, No Compromise, written by his wife, Melody.


Stillbirth and Surfing

I want to share a beautiful short film about a man whose daughter, Willow, was stillborn. He shares his journey of grieving through surfing and building a surfboard in honor and memory of his little girl. Loss touches so many different people and because we are all different, we grieve and express ourselves differently. He is able to share Willow with his family and friends through the surfboard he made for her. The music, his words, and the video are just really beautiful. I hope you enjoy it too.

This is what he says in the video that especially touches my heart: "I'll never be able to articulate the pain and despair of our grief journey. It was so impossibly dark and bleak and cruel. And it was interesting through that time what surfing meant to me. You know, surfing didn't make me better, but it was a place to go to be alone in the water, to be alone with my thoughts and my tears. And so I began making this little board, as a way of rising from the ashes and learning to live again, to use my hands to build something. I always name the boards I make and this one is called Noelani, which is Hawaiaan for "beautiful girl from Heaven." I made this board in memory of our daughter, Willow, who we will always long for in the deepest places of our souls."

This is what he wrote in the description of the video:
"To lose a child ... was something that could end one's world. One could never get back to how it was before. The stars went out. The moon disappeared. The birds became silent." -Alexander McCall Smith
Mark Twain said that there aren’t enough words in all the languages in the world to express the sorrow of losing a child. This is a short film I produced while grieving for my daughter, Willow, who was stillborn.
This short actually forms the centrepiece of a feature length surf film I made, called Seaworthy. Since the film’s release, I have received many heartfelt words of sympathy & encouragement. There have been scores of letters & emails from surfers from all over the world that have been sensitive & authentic & moving. I have been especially touched by the messages from those who have travelled their own grief journeys. I am awed & humbled that my work somehow resonated with others’ broken hearts.
A common theme echoed among the beautiful feedback I’ve received is that the story deserves a wider audience. Surf films, by definition, appeal to only a limited demographic, & the kind of surf films I make are left-of-centre even within surfing circles. So I decided to post this online, in the hope that it may reach a few others, especially those who may be living with loss & longing.
All of us experience & express grief in varied ways, which is a good thing since we’re all different. Because I’m a surfer, this is how I gave expression to my experience of bereavement.
Thanks for taking the time to watch.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Purposeful Remembrance

I want to share yet another gift God has given me in Lily's life and death.

He has shown me the importance of "purposeful remembrance." Through my pain, God has given me more compassion for others in pain. He has opened the eyes of my heart to be more thoughtful and purposeful in remembering others in their pain.

I try to make a point to remember dates that are hard in a friend or family member's life, whether that be the day their baby in Heaven had been due, their child's birthday or death date, the birthday of their child who was placed for adoption, the date of a regretted abortion, etc. I want them to know they do not remember alone, even through pain that can feel so lonely. I remember and above anyone else, God remembers.

The reason I am sensitive to this is because I know how much it hurts my feelings when people don't remember Lily and I on her birthday or on days like Mother's Day. Even though I know they don't try to be hurtful in not thinking about it, they also don't try to remember. Or maybe they do and they don't know what to say.

I want to encourage you, if you have someone in your life who has lost a child, a spouse, a sibling, a grandchild, or anybody else, remember them on the hard days that others might not remember. Even if you don't know what to say, trust me that it's more about saying something rather than nothing. How about, "I'm thinking of you and what this day means to you," "I'm remembering with you," "I'm praying for you," "You're on my heart," or a hundred other things. Just a few words of loving remembrance over complete silence can go a long way. Maybe send an email or a handwritten card. Also, I'm sure there are other days that I am not mentioning here that are specific to your loved one that you could remember.

I want to start putting significant dates in my planner so I can remember even more. Sometimes the date passes me by and I'm not able to say something to someone until days or weeks later. Of course that is better than nothing, but I want to be more prompt.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lessons Through Humor

I have a few humorous stories that I've been wanting to share for quite a while now.

When I went to Ellerslie Leadership Training in the fall of 2011, I wasn't prepared for how I'd feel like I didn't quite "fit in." I would say this was me judging myself because nobody there at that time gave me reason to think they judged me or my past. Most of them didn't even know about my past. But, that didn't keep me from feeling out of place and from comparing myself to the other young women there. I felt like everyone had a spotless past *but me* and how could any Christian young man, like the kind of man I want to marry, want to pursue little ol' me when he could have "one of those girls." I didn't have words for it then, but I felt almost "branded," like others could tell of my past, simply by looking at me. As if I had it written on my forehead, all the sins I had once committed.

Here's where the funny stories I mentioned come in.

When I first met my now very dear friend, Karen, from Australia, at Ellerslie, and we sat on a bench outside together talking, she later told me her initial impression of me, which makes me giggle just to think about. She said she thought to herself, "I better watch what I say and do around this one," meaning she thought I was super prim and proper. Those that know me well know I like to laugh a lot and can get quite silly. Karen and I like to get silly together (she has an awesome laugh). :)

Another story is one about my friend Beatrice Jean. I shared my testimony with many of the other young women during my Ellerslie semester. Beatrice later told me how she was telling her sister back home about my story over the phone. Her sister wanted to put my face to my story, so she looked up my photo on the student website. When she saw me, she said to Beatrice, "That girl?! She looks like a saint!"

And the final story I'm going to share is when a friend of mine told me that at the beginning of the semester, she noticed me during one of the class sessions and thought to herself, "I bet that girl takes really good notes." There I was, feeling like I was out of place and feeling self-conscious and so "unspiritual," without a clue in the world that other people were struggling as well.

These stories make me laugh, but I haven't forgotten them in over three years not because they are funny, but because God taught me a powerful lesson through humor.

I might see my past when I see myself, but God doesn't. I am in Christ, and therefore He has removed my sin as far as the east is from the west. I need to see myself the way He does! And not only that, but trust that God has given other people His eyes to see me. I am not marked. I am not stained. I am white as snow, I am His.

Isn't that just like our God? Using the weak ones, the foolish ones, those with "pasts," the least likely among us, to speak to all who will hear of His redemption and healing. And how He truly does make all things new.

We also never know how other people are feeling or struggling. We are not alone!

I saw a quote on Facebook by a man named Dr. Russell Moore, which says, "The woman who had the abortion needs to know that if she is in Christ, God doesn't see her as that woman who had the abortion."

Isn't that so beautiful? And it's true for anyone, no matter what their past holds.

I am reminded of something Corrie ten Boom wrote:

"When God forgives, He forgets. He buries our sins in the sea and puts up a sign that says, "No Fishing Allowed."

Dear friends, let us rejoice in putting away our fishing poles!


I Miss You, but I Haven't Met You

I was honestly really nervous when I hit the publish button on the post I recently shared called "Even When It Feels like I'm Drowning" because I didn't know how others would react to it. I didn't know if I was "too real." But I've been overwhelmed by the loving response people have given me. It brings healing just to be authentic and to hear when another says "me too."

Anyways, in light of that post and how I desire to one day get married and have more children, I thought I'd share this absolutely beautiful song that reminds me of my future hoped-for family. It brings tears to my eyes to listen to it. How can I so desperately miss and love people that I've never even met? I don't even know their names yet, but I so long for them. I'll wait patiently until God sees fit to bring them into my life forever.

To Whom It May Concern
The Civil Wars

Why are you so far from me?
In my arms is where you ought to be
How long will you make me wait?
I don't know how much more I can take

I've missed you 
But I haven't met you
Oh, but I want to
How I do

Slowly counting down the days
'Til I finally know your name
The way your hands feel 'round my waist
The way you laugh, the way your kisses taste

I've missed you 
But I haven't met you
Oh, but I want to
How I do

How I do

I've missed you
But I haven't met you
Oh, how I miss you 
But I haven't met you

Oh, but I want to
Oh, how I want to

Dear whoever you might be
I'm still waiting patiently

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