Saturday, May 30, 2015

Beautiful Rainbow

My friend Elise saw a beautiful rainbow a couple weeks ago on her drive home from work. She decided to take a different way home than she usually does so she could go by Lily's spot and see if the rainbow was visible from there to take a photo, knowing how much it would mean to me. She's one special and thoughtful friend. Made my day. :)

I wonder if my rainbow is on the horizon. For those not in the "babyloss community," a rainbow baby is a child born after the storm of the loss of a baby. It doesn't take away the fact that the storm happened, but it brings hope and new life in the midst of it.

Lord Jesus, please bring me my rainbow baby one day.

Here is the back of Lily's stone and my grandparents and Aunt Rachel's bench right beside it


Share a Coke

Coca-Cola has bottles that say "Share a Coke with" and then a random name listed (there are many name possibilities).

A few weeks ago, I thought how special it would be to find one with Lily's name, but knew that could be challenging with all the names out there.

Then a couple weeks ago, I was at the grocery store when I saw a bin of Coke bottles and thought I'd at least check to see if I could find Lily. I had a feeling (and prayed) that I would. After looking at a few, I found my girl's name (only thing is they spelled it wrong lol). I was so excited to find it and then glanced down and what do ya know, there was Luke's name too! Out of all the names those bottles could have had on them, there were both my L's waiting for me to find.

This of course is something small and may seem silly to others, but those who've lost children know how much is in a name and how much we treasure our children's names. They are proof of their existence and one of the only things we could give them as mothers here on Earth. I believe God even cares about giving us small gifts like this that mean something to us, even when nobody else would care or understand.

And to all my dear friends who've lost a child, know I think of them and you each time I see or hear their name or something you associate with them.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

He Sees the Upper and I the Underside

I am haunted by newborn cries. It is a sound that will always wrap my soul in melancholy, I think. It is a sound that everyone expects to hear at the birth of a fullterm baby, not the dreadful silence I heard. Will I ever hear a cry from a newborn who is mine?

I imagine that when someone loses a baby and goes on to have another living and healthy child, the moment they finally hold their child in their arms is beautiful beyond description or comparison. A joy so deep and rich that can only be felt when deep sorrow is also felt.

I lost my baby. My one and only child. And I am still waiting more than half a decade later for my arms to be filled with a wiggling wee babe and my ears to hear a newborn cry and my eyes to lock with my child's eyes full of life.

Do you know how hard that is? 

Oh Lord, why do You see fit for me to wait what feels like is a never-ending length of time? I know there are many people waiting for unfulfilled longings. Why do some people seem to have everything happen so perfectly and how they want or expect, while others lives don't fit the mold? 

I'm tired of waiting. Lord, have You forsaken me? Have You forgotten me? Others talk about the deep joy and I am wondering if and when it'll ever be my turn to experience that? I want this season to pass.

The only peace I have is knowing God is sovereign and good, even when my feelings get so overwhelming and life feels confusing and frustrating. I am reminded of a beautiful poem about trusting God even when we don't understand because it is all for a purpose and is all in His hands. Right now, I see blemish, but I know He's weaving beauty.

"Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)
by Corrie ten Boom

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thesis on Sanctity of Human Life

The Lord has given me the gift of mothering Lily and Luke in a unique way.

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth, an artist who is a senior at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, emailed me about her honors thesis, which is about "the sanctity and preciousness of human life and the personhood of all humans. The final product will be an exhibition of portraits of people of different ages, appearances, and abilities." She had read something online that I wrote about my story and wanted to include a portrait of Luke and Lily in her series!

She knew for years that when she finally did her thesis, she wanted to have a pro-life portrait as a part of her series, but didn't know how to get in contact with a post-abortive woman willing to share her story. That's when the Lord led her to my story. And it's perfect that we both live in North Carolina and were able to meet in person today at a coffee shop in Raleigh for an interview! It was a blessing to have a glass of iced coffee with her and share my babies, as well as hear about her artwork and project. The portrait will be based on what I shared today, as well as some photos of Lily and Luke's ultrasound image.

God is so good in how He continues to open the doors He sees fit for me to share my testimony. Lily and Luke's lives and legacies continue to make an impact. Elizabeth's series will be on display in December. It would be neat to go see it in person! As a "thank you" for participating, she will be giving me a keepsake portrait. I look forward to seeing it. Thank you for the honor of participating, Elizabeth! :)

To see Elizabeth's artist website, click HERE.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Can Beauty Rise Even from These Ashes?

There are some ashes in the brokenness of our lives that seem impossible for God to somehow bring beauty from them. The smoke is so thick and you feel you may never fully catch your breath or see clearly again.

These have been those ashes in my life...

I think some people assume that because I chose to end things with Lily's father, that it must have been an easy decision to make. That is the complete opposite of the truth.

Not only did I lose my daughter, but it feels like I've been through a divorce of the heart. I'm grieving so many other losses on top of the loss of my little girl: the loss of her father, the loss of what "could have been," the loss of my innocence and purity.

I battle with feelings of regret and never being able to undo the sinful choices I made and feeling haunted by those regrets. I wish so badly that I could tell my 18/19-year-old self that almost 26-year-old me would still be living with the painful consequences of the choices that I made then, choices that I naively thought would only affect me in that moment.  But as the saying goes, "Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay."

I ran from my first love, Jesus. And I can just see Him now, how His heart must have been breaking as He watched me make choices that He knew would deeply wound me. He wanted to protect me, yet I thought I knew best for my life. He was always there waiting for me to turn back to Him. There are lyrics to a song by the band Copeland that say, "what if you can't turn back when you're finally tired of running?" When I got tired of running, I assumed I could turn back to Jesus, while escaping the repercussions of my sins. Yes, I ended up turning back to the Lord because of my little Lily girl. However, I could never turn back to what might have been and who I might have been. I was broken and felt damaged.

I have felt such a deep connection with Lily's father because we were bonded in a way we were never meant to be... physically, emotionally, and because I carried his child within me... and then we lost our child. In a way, I associate him with Lily and it almost feels like if I let go of him, I will be letting go of her as well. Because if she were here, he would be in my life in a way. But, she's not here. It felt like I lost them both all at once. He is my living link to Lily, the only other person in the world who is as close to her as I was. Can such a tie ever truly be severed? Or is it something I must learn to carry with me for the rest of my life? There are lyrics in a Copeland song that say, "I can't help this awful feeling that I can't erase you." Can this part of my past ever be erased from my heart? Will the memories ever fade and the ache ever ease?

Over the years, I have been tormented by the anguish deep in my soul over the loss of this relationship. The "what if" questions have plagued me. There is so much tied into this, things that go into the deepest part of my being. So much grief and loss and regret all tied together. I have been consumed with guilt and shame. A part of my heart has been stuck in 2009/2010 and all that happened during that time, making it difficult to move forward. My emotional and physical health has been affected negatively. I have battled with wondering if I will ever be completely whole, healed, and restored. So many areas of my life have been affected by this wounding and it has kept me from fully stepping into the future God has for me.

I cannot articulate the depth of my pain over this loss. I have struggled with wondering why it hurts so profoundly and why does God not take it away? I beat myself up over the regret I feel because if I had honored God in my choices, I never would know such pain as this. I gave up that relationship because I know it was not the Lord's best for my life and that it wasn't His will for me, nor honoring to Him or my future husband. I have never more fully seen the battle between the flesh and spirit than in this part of my heart... on one hand, I know what God has asked of me, but on the other hand, I ache and long for something that I was never meant to have and have to say "no" to. I must take up my cross. I must deny myself and what I desire because it doesn't honor my Jesus. And maybe part of why God has allowed me to feel this pain is so that I may have the opportunity to prove that I love Jesus more. I choose Him, over any man and any pleasurable thing I could experience in this life. It is a gift to be able to sacrifice anything for my King who gave everything for me.

"Ours should not be the love that asks, "how little?" but "how much?"; the love that pours out its all and revels in the joy of having anything to pour on the feet of its Beloved." -Amy Carmichael

This is what God has shown me... We can either see His will as a burden and wallow in misery or we can accept His will and trust Him and His plan in which He intends to bring good to us and glory to Himself.

There are lyrics in a song on Josh Garrels' new album that say, "Yahweh gives and takes away, will you curse or bless the name? Trial tests us like the flame."

The fact is we are going to be tested. God is going to give and take away. He can give a baby and take away a baby. He can give a relationship and take away a relationship. Or whatever "it" is in our lives. The question is, when He does take away, when we are tested, are we going to curse Him or bless Him? Are we going to trust Him through it all and sing Him praises when the storms of life swirl all around us? When we are haunted by our regrets? When the suffering just doesn't make sense? Do we choose Him over everyone and everything else?

Because it is in those times that our faith has the opportunity to grow strong and to be proven authentic. It is in those times, when we choose Him, that He gives us comfort and peace that passes all understanding. It is in those times when He can use the word of our testimonies to declare to this dark and lonely world that He is enough and His love endures forever!

And you know what the beautiful part of it is... we don't have to walk the road of pain and suffering alone.

Corrie ten Boom said in one of the talks she gave: "I opened my Bible and I read Isaiah 53, where a prophet sees Jesus at a cross. And he says, "surely, He has carried our sorrows." And then I understood when Jesus finished at the cross, He had not only carried our sins, but also our sorrows. And that's why we are not called to be burden-bearers, we are called to be light-bearers and cross-bearers. But our burden we must cast on the Lord and leave it there."

It makes me love Him that much more... to realize He wants to carry my burdens, the things that came out of a heart turned against Him, from the natural consequences of sin. Things I deserve to carry, yet He doesn't give us what we deserve. That is the beauty of redemption. Through this heartbreak, He is giving me a deeper yearning and desire for Him than I have ever had. Don't be afraid of pain and suffering. As lyrics to a Mandisa song that my aunt always quotes say, "He'll do and He'll use whatever He has to." Even the pieces that seem too broken, He can use. He is sovereign over all. He was not surprised by your sin and failure and can weave every choice you've ever made into a tapestry of His grace, mercy, and love.

I have been given glimpses of the good He has been working and the purpose He has been giving to my past. The more time that passes, the more I realize my healing will only be a work of the Lord. The longer my heart has been in pain, the more Jesus has pulled me closer to Him and the more I have realized my utter desperation for Him. The more the aching of loneliness and isolation, the more I realize that God is all I need in this life and the only One who truly understands the depths of my heart and experiences. He sees everything about my past, my present, and my future. He understands all of me, even the parts I do not understand.

I have felt like I "deserve" to be heartbroken and consumed by grief over not only my abortion and the loss of Lily, but also the loss of her father. Yes, maybe by the standards of this world, it makes sense why I would feel that way. But the Lord I serve does not operate by the standards of this world. I know He could heal me in an instant if He so chose... there must be an inner working that He is up to that I cannot fully see. As Corrie ten Boom said, "when we know Him, we can trust Him, even when we don't understand what He's doing." And I believe that God will separate Lily from her father in my heart and mind, so that I can carry on loving her, while completely letting go of him.

There is so much more I want to say on this topic, things God has been working in me and showing me over the years. I have not felt brave enough to share before now. But I am compelled to speak out. Because this is a huge part of my grief and healing journey. It is the thing in my life that has felt impossible for God to heal, but I am believing that He will completely heal and restore me, even when my feelings and experiences tell me otherwise. I am choosing to see it as an opportunity to grow in my faith and to trust the Lord with the deepest places of my being. I don't want to glorify my sin or dwell on it or give darkness a voice. But, I feel it's important to share the weight of my pain and how deep the pit of destruction and despair I was in... so people will see how capable God is of pulling us out, even the pits that we chose to jump in!

He has infused fresh hope within my soul and is giving me the prayers to pray even when my prayers are dry, even when I have no idea what or how to pray. Over the last few weeks, I have had a breakthrough and am praising the Lord for what He's done. He is far more interested in my healing than even I am. And I pray that my journey will be a testimony to His power. His work in me didn't stop after I chose life for Lily, after He healed me from my abortion, and the loss of Lily. He is the Lord of my past, present, and future. He sees all my memories and my regret and He can truly redeem everything. You are not alone in your pain and your brokenness. Take it to Jesus. Sometimes He chooses to heal us instantly, and other times, He takes us through a process. Do we trust Him to do what He says? Do we trust that in that process He is working?

This generation is sexually broken and wounded in so many ways and it is my hope and prayer that God will use my own experiences to encourage others. I felt so isolated and alone in my experiences for so long. Thankfully, the Lord led me to a book and Bible study that have been such an instrument of healing in my life. I want to share so that others know they are not alone! I also want to give helpful resources that have ministered to me in my journey.

If you can relate to the words I've shared here, I encourage you to read the book "The Invisible Bond: How to Break Free from Your Sexual Past," and the accompanying Bible study, "Break Free From Your Sexual Past," by Barbara Wilson. It goes deep and always points to Jesus. It has made me feel like someone "gets it."

The prayer of my heart matches that of Corrie ten Boom when she prayed: "I surrender this part of my being that is wounded. Lord Jesus, I claim Your victory in that part of my being!"

Are we walking around defeated? Do we really think the Lord who gave everything to give us not only eternal life, but abundant life here and now (John 10:10) would want us to live in that way? What is He asking you to surrender? What wounded part of your heart do you need to give to Jesus for healing?

Those ashes in your life that feel irreparable... hear as Jesus is beckoning you to come closer, and whispering to your heart, "Allow Me to bring beauty in this."

With tears streaming down your cheeks, barely able to catch your breath through the sobs, you almost whimper, "These ashes?" Like He can't possibly be seeing the same ashes you are, the ashes that you've been sitting in for years, having accepted them as your lot in life.

Yes, beauty can rise, even from whatever "these ashes" in your life may be. When the God who raised Lazarus from the dead and calmed the raging seas holds your heart and future, He also shapes your past into something beautiful, something only His fingerprint can do.

Instead of fixating on how far you ran from Him, look beyond and see in the distance Jesus running after you, relentlessly pursuing you, never leaving you alone.

"Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God's story never ends with ashes." -Elisabeth Elliot

Psalm 103:1-5 talks about how God renews our youth. I am reminded of a song by Copeland that goes, "I can make you feel young again." He can redeem the years that the enemy has stolen. He can mend the aged, worn, ancient, fragmented pieces of our hearts. Though it doesn't feel possible, may we hold onto hope that it is! Click HERE to read an article about this very thing that has been so encouraging to me.

"I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..." -Joel 2:25

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." -Psalm 147:3

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland." -Isaiah 43:18-19

"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death." -2 Corinthians 7:10

I want to share a video and three songs that have blessed me deeply during my journey. Please take the time to listen to them and listen to the profound lyrics. Allow the Lord to search your heart and bring you to repentance and restoration.

Here's a video of Barbara Wilson speaking:

by Harvest Bashta

I want to be the only One on the throne of your heart, the only One that moves you
I will remove the names of your lovers, even the memory of their face fade away
I will write on you My name forever, I will be known by you as faithful and true
So come back, come back, I'll take you to the start
Come back, come back, I'll take you to your first Love

by Scott Cunningham Band

Pain tugging at your heart, it seems no matter how loud you scream

No one cares no ones listening
Why are the simple truths so much harder than believing a lie,
You cry out, but only darkness gives its reply

Through the darkest part of the valley, I'll hold your hand
The deepest feelings of your heart I understand

Every tear that you've cried, I hold in my hands though there's pain in the night
Joy comes in the morning
And when those mountains seem too high to climb, I'll carry you through you are mine
I see everything you go through
I know everything about you

Running far away from what you know, wondering if open arms will be waiting
To welcome you home, home
You gave and gave yourself away, wasting all your time and money
Going nowhere, keeping nothing

Though you feel like you've gone too far, take my hand
Though you have made mistakes, I have a plan

Every sin that you regret I paid on the cross to forget, everything that haunts you
And every burden that you carry, lay at My feet you won't have to worry anymore
I know everything about you

Everything you walk through, I will walk there with you, to the other side!
When the waters rising, and you feel like you're sinking with the rising tide
Though the fear of death may haunt you, the joy of life is stronger and grace is wide
When the weight of sin is on your shoulders, don't give in, you are Mine

by Rend Collective Experiment

My future hangs on this
You made preciousness from dust
Please don't stop creating me

Your blood offers the chance
To rewind to innocence
Reborn, perfect as a child

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption's kiss
Beauty awakens by romance

Always inside this mess
I have found forgiveness
Mercy infinite as You

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross

Fragments of brokenness
Salvaged by the art of grace
You craft life from our mistakes

Black skies of my regrets
Outshone by this kindness
New life dawns over my soul

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross

You might be interested in reading these other posts on my blog:

Even When It Feels like I'm Drowning

On Purity and Abstinence

Waiting for His Redemption Song

Just a Girl

Elfrida's Beautiful Story

Grace Greater than All Our Sin


Friday, May 15, 2015

Whispers of His Love and Sovereignty

In all honesty, I was an emotional mess this Mother's Day. 

Throughout the day, God reminded me of His love in many ways... through the free drink I received at Starbucks for no good reason (the barista simply said it was "taken care of"), the beautiful bouquet of colorful lilies my mother got me, and the dainty and sweet necklace I received in the mail right in time for Mother's Day, sent from a gal named Kelly who I went to Bryan College with. 

At the beginning of the year, she posted something on Facebook that she wanted to do a "gifting ring" where she'd give a gift at some unexpected time during the year to the first few people who commented. I just so happened to be one of those people. 

When I opened the gift, she included a sweet note: "Hannah, thanks for signing up for my 2015 gifting ring! I was excited when I saw your name because I knew just what to make. A little gold necklace stamped with your sweet Lily's name for Mother's Day (although it might arrive a few days late... sorry!) I want to let you know how much I appreciate your mother-heart and that you talk continually about painful things to help others. Love, Kelly" 

the beautiful gold necklace... it's not something I would choose myself,
but it's special to have something unique and different

Well, obviously God has perfect timing because I got the necklace in time for Mother's Day. I am incredibly touched by Kelly's thoughtfulness and generosity, as well as reminded of God's love for me through this necklace. I was so afraid of being forgotten this Mother's Day, and honestly even though I can be disappointed by others, I am blessed in knowing God never forgets. He will never disappoint me or let me down. He knows my needs and my heart better than I do. 

Not only has God been showing me His love and care in all these ways, He has also been showing His faithfulness and power to mend a broken heart. I have been begging Him to ease the pain of my loss of Lily and longing for a husband and more children. It can be challenging to be around pregnant women and babies and to see countless relationship, engagement, wedding, pregnancy, and birth announcements flooding my News Feed. 

I told The Lord that I could not go on carrying the weight of it all. I asked Him to help me and only realized today just how much He has answered that prayer already... through the joy I felt being around a pregnant friend last week, only joy and no jealousy or sadness. Through seeing a baby at the grocery store this evening and smiling at how precious she was, without the tinge of sorrow or jealousy. These are victories for me. These are proofs of God holding and changing my heart. 

Those feelings I have are "natural," but I know God works outside of what is natural. He wants to carry my burdens and was simply waiting for me to surrender. I have no idea what the future holds, but I rest in knowing the One who holds it is faithful, loving, and true. The God who raised Lazarus from the dead and calms the raging seas knows my name and will provide everything I need in this life. 

For those who like my necklace and are interested in purchasing something from Kelly, she has an Etsy shop called Whisperwill <---- click on link to go to her shop. :)

And here's a photo of my locally-grown Mother's Day lilies. Each day this week, they bloom more. There are several different beautiful colors. I'm enjoying them so much! 

On another note, for Mother's Day, I wore Lily's handprint necklace and a pink lacy dress (as seen in the background of the necklace photo) in honor of my girl.

Thank you to everyone who thought of me on Mother's Day. It means so much to me! 


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My 7th Mother's Day

This year was my 7th Mother's Day as a mother, though honestly most probably wouldn't see me as one for all those years. I see it as my responsibility to explain why I was a mother all those years ago, because in doing so, I bring recognition to the existence of my child as well as to countless other mothers and children. 

On Mother's Day in 2009, I would have still been carrying my first child, whom I have named Luke Shiloh. I would have been around halfway through my pregnancy. Instead, his heart beat within me for just a few short weeks. He was so tiny, hidden from all eyes, and I couldn't even feel him yet when he flew to Heaven. 

In all honesty, the short flicker of his heart beat could have forever remained a secret kept from most everyone. It would have remained less complicated that way and would have kept the world from seeing what a wretched sinner I was. 

However, I am compelled to tell the world about the sweet heart, the first that will ever have beaten inside my womb, the heart that beat with a purpose, even when it appeared it was thwarted by the choice I made out of fear and selfishness. 

His brief existence gave me the title of mother, even when I didn't want it yet. No child, not Lily or any future baby, will ever be able to take that place of being the first heart to beat in my body besides my own. Luke Shiloh will always be my first child and I believe with my entire being that I will hold him and know him one day, on the same day I'll hold his little sister, Lily, and meet the Jesus who made a way for us all to be together again, where we will no longer remember the pain or darkness of this Earth, but will spend all Eternity worshipping at the feet of our Lord Jesus.

Though the enemy of my soul meant to thwart the purposes of God for both my child and my life and future, God in His graciousness didn't allow that to happen. No, He uses even our deepest sin and darkness to bring light to this world. He is our Rescuer and has a plan to redeem our souls and our lives for our good and His glory. 

Even though Luke's heart ceased to beat within me so early and it might appear his life had no meaning, I know that it does. Because of Luke, I chose LIFE for Lily. Because of them both, I now travel around the country sharing about the sanctity of each irreplaceable precious life. I believe that the short time that Luke's heart beat will be used by God to allow the hearts of other children's hearts to beat much longer, meaning their mothers will choose life for them. 

I grieve not having more with Luke, not knowing with certainty his gender, face, or personality. Who would he be today? Yes, I will always regret my choice and can be sad with such thoughts, but I am so thankful for the story God is writing, and I am thankful that He has put His love within me for both my babies. 

I am thankful for Luke Shiloh, the first child of my heart and womb, and Lily Katherine, my first-born. Thank you both for making me a mother who gets the honor of that title. What a blessing to be chosen by God to be your forever mommy! 

Thank you to my dear friends and family who remember and recognize not only Lily, but Luke as well. I hope that in sharing my story others will see that once a heart beats within, you will never again *not* be a mother. Embrace the gift of motherhood! 


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

These words that Timehop reminded me I wrote last year on Mother's Day are a comfort to me this year:

"I saw these beautiful words on a baby's headstone in South Carolina when I was looking for inspiration for Lily's stone - "Sleep on sweet babe and take thy rest. God called thee Home, He thought it best." I am clinging to this on what is a very difficult weekend for me... Mother's Day. God thought it best to call Lily Home and I find comfort in that. It doesn't take away the pain of days like Mother's Day or the rest of my life without her, but I trust that He holds both of us in His mighty hands. He was not surprised by how brief her life was and has a purpose and plan even in that. As JJ Heller sings in one of her songs, "Life is short, but it is wide, I know it's true. You touched more souls than most people ever do." He called me to be a mother to a child of Heaven and because He has called me to this, I know He will sustain me each and every moment. Oh my baby girl, I'll see you soon. I will always be your mother and you will always be my daughter."

I'm remembering these words of trust and hope written a year ago, as I am feeling so down today, missing my little Lily love and wondering if I'll ever have a child to raise. I experience both mourning and longing. I don't always *feel* these words I wrote and I would be lying if I said I did. But even when I don't feel them, I *choose* to believe them. I choose to trust He sees me and has not forgotten and that it's *all* for a purpose to bring Him glory.

I want to take a moment to remember many others today too: Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful mother and grandmother, as well as the "traditional" mothers, single mothers, those who've lost a child at any age or gestation and for any reason, stepmothers, foster mothers, pregnant mothers, adoptive mothers, those who placed their child for adoption, those who long to be mothers and are not because of infertility or circumstances, those whose mothers are no longer living, those who are not in a relationship with their mother or child for different reasons, the mothers of children gone astray, and anyone else I've forgotten. Know that I hold you in my heart and prayers on this day that I am so thankful for the little girl who made me see more clearly the pain of others so that I might reach out to be a place of comfort.

I love this photo - it was taken at Lily's special spot the first time I visited it after her burial, which was the week of my first Mother's Day, 2010. The week I was going to have a baby shower with friends and family in Virginia, but instead I celebrated my daughter in Heaven. I sure wish I could be there today to take her some fresh flowers.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Honoring Her Uncle and Grandmother

I'm in South Carolina this week with my sister-in-law, Kala. A couple evenings ago, we visited the country cemetery where some of her relatives are layed to rest, including her uncle who was stillborn.

I hope Lily's life allows others who have had losses in their own family somewhere down the line to connect to that life and loss more intimately.

Kala will never know her uncle or the cousins she might have had. When a baby dies, so does the possibility of many other lives.

We took a flower to his beautiful stone, which also has a lamb on it like Lily's does. I wanted to honor him just by being there and talking about his life, though brief.

I wonder what the experience of his mother, Edna (Kala's grandmother), was like all those decades ago when the loss of a baby was much more hush-hush. I feel it's my responsibility to speak out for the generations of women before me who felt they couldn't.

And I only hope that one day when I'm gone from this world, that people will continue to visit Lily's stone, the one I poured my time and heart into making perfect for her. And I hope they'll bring her flowers and honor her life simply by talking about her and acknowledging her existence. In doing so, they'll honor me as well, as a mother, just as I hope I've done for this mother who is now reunited with her son.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Typical Motherhood

I recently was asked to read and review Leslie Ludy's latest book, The Set-Apart Woman (which I loved and highly recommend)!

Anyways, it made me remember how last year, I was asked to read and review her book, Set-Apart Motherhood. The last part of the email said, "I know that women would value hearing your perspective as a mother who is currently living these things out in your own life!"

When I received that email, I closed it and didn't want to think about it again.

It is so hard (especially around Mother's Day) to know that I would be a "typical mother," raising my little girl on Earth. I would be able to read a book like that and give my opinion, from my own experience with motherhood. I doubt there is a chapter about what motherhood looks like for me: decorating a grave, writing on a blog, speaking around the country, etc. Motherhood for me is not "typical."

Oh, how I wish I could give other young mothers tips on mothering. I wish I had memories and experience with things like breastfeeding, caring for a newborn, and a toddler, and all the other things that come with a child growing up. I would know about all these things by now, beyond my experience as a nanny. Instead, I only know and have experience with pregnancy and birth, and even that feels like it isn't "counted" by others.

I pray that one day, I will have the gift of experiencing the typical motherhood joys. For now, I will go on mothering Lily and Luke in the ways God has shown me how. And I will go on encouraging and loving on other mamas to babies in Heaven. Our roles as their mothers are no less valuable, important, or real.


More Evidence of His Hand on My Life

Recently, I have thought about more areas in my life where God has shown Himself to be both sovereign and my faithful provider and protector.

Before I got pregnant with Lily, I was really into partying and drank at least every weekend, but usually more than that. The reason I am sharing this is because God has shown me that when I was pregnant, I didn't drink a single time. Even before I knew I was pregnant or before I knew I was choosing life, I didn't drink a single drop of alcohol. Because of how much I was previously drinking, there is no explanation for this, other than God Himself protecting my baby and me... you see, because Lily died, I have struggled with wondering if I did something to cause her death. If I had known that I had drank during my pregnancy and Lily died, I know that I would have wondered if alcohol had harmed her, maybe even leading to her death. But my baby girl was protected by the God who knew she was alive in my womb before even I did. This might seem like a random story, but to me, it is evidence of God's protection and care. And how He used her to draw me out of that sinful lifestyle.

I am reminded of another story of how God protected little Lily and how He put His love for her within my heart. You can read more in the post I wrote called He Gave Me a Mother's Heart. The gist of the story is how I didn't want to lift boxes that were too heavy that would harm my baby. I was towards the end of my first trimester and God was connecting my heart to Lily's and making it real in my mind that I had a little one within. He gave me the desire to love for and protect her. That was in late August 2009.

I recently remembered another story similar to that. On September 7, 2009 (the day before I told my mom I was pregnant), I went on a hike with family and had a picnic for Labor Day. Here is my Facebook status from that day:

Nobody there knew that I was pregnant, but I distinctly remember thinking that day that I didn't want to overdo it with hiking. I didn't want to work out too hard that day, hiking up the mountain because I didn't want my baby to be hurt in any way. As the weeks passed, God was growing my love for my sweet baby girl!

I also wanted to share something else. When Lily died, I was unsure if I was going to get an autopsy or not. I figured no explanation for her death would bring her back, so what was the point? I also didn't think I could afford it. In my medical records, it even talks about how the patient (me) was unsure about autopsy and how the staff kept discussing it with me until I finally decided to get it done. The only reason I did was because the hospital offered to do it free of charge. I had been praying about whether or not I should do it and felt that was God's answer and provision for me. Recently, I saw some other loss moms discussing how much their autopsy for their baby costed and I was in disbelief that it can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars! God provided that for me because He knew how saddened I would have been had I not had it done. He knew that I would have always wondered the "why" behind her death and that I wouldn't have had closure. And I would have been fearful about future babies dying. He knew that I could not pay for it myself, so He prompted the medical professionals at the hospital to work it out for me. The autopsy showed no conclusive reason for why she died. God used that to speak to my heart that He is bigger than any "medical explanation" and the reason for her death was that He took her because it was her time to go. This is not a medical reason that will affect me in the future (though I will be considered high-risk and will deliver early). 

God's hand has been on all things in my life, even in the small things. I share these stories to declare that He is sovereign and He cares about every aspect of our lives! 


Bright and Beautiful for Summer

My grandmother decorated Lily's special spot for me with the things I sent her for Mother's Day and the summer months. Beautiful and bright colors... roses and a lily for her vase and a new garden flag.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Bereaved Mother's Day 2015

Today is International Bereaved Mother's Day (formerly Babyloss Mother's Day). It's a day set-apart to honor mothers who have lost children at any age or gestation and for any reason. This special day falls on the first Sunday of each May, the week before traditional Mother's Day. I have been recognizing it since it started in 2010, the year my beloved daughter, Lily Katherine, was born and died. I am thankful for this day since I have no children on Earth to celebrate Mother's Day and it is a very difficult day for me. Bereaved Mother's Day is a day to be loved and supported by others who "get it."

Here is what Carly Marie (the creator of this special day) had to say about it: "This day was created to get people to start talking about the real meaning of Mother's Day. Do you know who started it? Anna Jarvis founded the traditional Mother's Day to honor her mother who experienced the death of 7 of her children and somehow through the years it has turned into a commercialized mess that card companies make millions of dollars from, but the worst thing is that bereaved mothers are completely forgotten. This special day was created in 2010 to honor and celebrate the mothers who carry some if not all of their children in their hearts rather than their arms. In our modern day society, mothers who are grieving the death of their babies and children are usually forgotten. The traditional Mother's Day has proven to be an emotionally difficult day for so many mothers around the world. Just because your baby died does not mean that you are not a mother anymore. You are your baby's mother forever and people need to start recognizing this fact."

I'm thinking of all my dear friends who hold their children in their hearts, rather than their arms. Feel free to leave your child's name in the comments section.

I'm bummed out that my mom, our neighbor/friend, and I usually go to a Mother's Day Tea and Tour on this day, but unfortunately it didn't work out this year for different reasons. :(

♥ Lily Katherine and Luke Shiloh ♥


Friday, May 1, 2015

The Immeasurable Ripple Effects of Her Life

When I think of the thousands of people who have heard Lily's story through the years, from me sharing it through speaking around the country and writing, as well as having opportunities to share through other avenues, I am blown away by the grand plan of my Heavenly Father.

God whispered to my heart in August 2009 that if I chose LIFE for my unborn baby, I couldn't imagine the beauty that He would bring (you can read more of my testimony by clicking HERE if you are unfamiliar with what I'm talking about). In that moment of crisis and decision, I had no idea that He would call my sweet babe Home to be with Him before she ever took her first breath. Yet, I also had no idea all He had planned through my embracing her life. I had no idea that thousands of people would hear about her and come to love her.

She was a tiny baby who was but a seed growing away within me, hidden from all eyes, yet seen by the God of the entire Universe. In that moment, God was fighting for her life and mine. He knew of the breathtakingly beautiful and enormous plan He had for her, even before I ever made my decision. He knew of all the people who would one day be moved by her story. He could see all that even when she was unseen by me. WOW, God is amazing!

Each year around Lily's birthday, I think about how since her last birthday, many more people know about her and the impact she's made in this world. So many dear people I have had the pleasure of meeting because of her.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with my grandmother, Bumma, and telling her all about Lily's birthday. She told me about the different people who were praying for my family and thinking about Lily. And she said something really profound that felt like it was a message I needed to hear straight from the Lord. She told me I need to know that the ripples are out there, the ripple effects of how Lily's life is impacting the world. The ripples go further than what I am seeing and hearing, beyond and above what I know, even if people don't say something to me directly.

I will receive an email or comment or hear from someone about how Lily's life has impacted them and through those things, God will encourage me to keep sharing. Because I see that He is still using her, all these years later, to change hearts. As I have said, Lily is an eternal flower, given as an eternal gift from an eternal God. And her legacy will never fade.

Corrie ten Boom said, "The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation."

When I am looking more at my pain than at the beauty of Lily's life and legacy, it can be easy to lose sight of all this. But then God cups my face in His hands and shows me He is sovereign and everything has always been in His control. He reminds me that more people know about Lily because of her death than they would have had she lived. And she is making more of an impact not here than she would have if she were here. As I've said before, she was never meant to be a little girl of this world. She was called to be my daughter of Heaven.

A friend of mine once said that God entrusted me with Lily's life and legacy because He knew He could trust me with this particular story that He's writing. It's not a curse to be chosen for this, but a blessing. God knew He could trust me to be Lily and Luke's voice. He knew He could trust me to mother them well, for it was Him who put the love and passion within me in the first place!

When I get up before a crowd of people to speak, I think of that moment when He asked me to surrender my life and future and the life of my unborn child into His hands. He knew what He was doing then and He still does now. He's still asking me to surrender and trust.

And He was right... I never could have dreamed of the beauty that He would bring. As Steven Curtis Chapman sings in his song, "Beauty Will Rise," "It will take our breath away to see the beauty that He's made out of the ashes."

I'm still trying to catch my breath.


The Life Ballet

I want to share a beautiful ministry and an opportunity to memorialize sweet babies in Heaven.

Here is what The Life Ballet is about, as stated on the website:

"Through film, music, and live productions, The Life Ballet works to share the message of children's rights and healthcare, as well as healing and forgiveness in the wake of choice. Our largest project to date has been creating a film adaptation of The Life Ballet called "Arise Sweet Sarah." The film will be released in September 2015. "Arise Sweet Sarah" also shares a message of the value and importance of all human life, as well as a message of healing, forgiveness and grace in the midst of unthinkable grief in the wake of lost motherhood. It is based on the testimony of Sandy Arena and the uncountable experience of others who have suffered. The story is told through a powerful combination of narration, acting, original score and a combination of modern dance and ballet. Filming took place in Rochester, NY during the summer of 2014."... "Arise Sweet Sarah" is about "One woman's journey of choices and rise to healing in the arms of her King. It's a film about grief. It's a miracle when we find the strength and courage to rise. We choose to arise."

Photo from The Life Ballet Facebook page

I am so excited about this and am greatly anticipating the release. It is a needed message of how "choice" hurts everyone involved and the healing available through Christ. It might be a film about post-abortion regret and healing, but even more than that, it is a celebration of LIFE and the sanctity of each individual life. Sandy Arena has opened up film dedications (follow this link to see the dedications page... be sure to scroll down to see Luke Shiloh and Lily Katherine's names!) to the public, for anyone wanting to honor a child lost to abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, as well as those who passed shortly after birth and those who were placed for adoption. The memorial section will run during the film credits. Sandy told me that one of the memorial songs in the ballet is called "Still," written by a grandparent for their precious grandchild who was stillborn.

On the website, it says, "We dedicate our film "Arise Sweet Sarah" to all the children who never had the chance to dance. To add your dedication to our film credits, please send your child's first and/or first and last name to Our goal is to have at least 1000 named babies, the tiniest fraction of the 56 million who have died since abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973."

Photo from The Life Ballet Facebook page

I am so touched to be able to honor both my precious babies in this film. It does my heart good to see their names, saying they existed here on Earth. It's going to be incredibly special to see their names on the DVD when it releases!

To find out much more about this amazing project, be sure to visit the website HERE.

To pre-order the DVD, Soundtrack, a t-shirt, and/or memorial bracelet click HERE.

And be sure to keep up with the project and ministry on the Facebook page HERE.

Here is the official trailer!

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