Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Life for Lily Day Butterfly Release

This past Saturday (August 15th), I got to do something I have wanted to do for a long time! I said I can finally check it off my "bucket list" of things I want to do in Lily's honor. I had a butterfly release at her special spot in Virginia!

This is what I shared at the release, which explains what August 15th means to me and the significance of a butterfly release:

We are gathered here today for a butterfly release ceremony in celebration of Lily Katherine Allen-Ball, a precious, darling little girl, who would be close to 5 1/2 years old today, starting Kindergarten this month, if she were here. Despite all my imaginings of what might have been and who she might have been, her life beyond the womb was never meant to be. If in God's plan, she was able to accomplish the purposes He had for her life from Heaven more fully than if she had grown up on Earth, then who am I to question Him? How many of us can say our entire lives have been to bring glory to God? Lily's life has been all about Jesus, without ever taking a breath or speaking a single word.

I have been wanting to have a butterfly release in honor of Lily for several years. At first, I thought it would be perfect to do it on her birthday on March 16th, or on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on October 15th, but then I learned that butterflies cannot be released between the months of October through March because of the colder temperatures, so obviously both those dates were not a possibility. A few months ago, my mom and I were discussing what significant date we could do a release on and we thought how special it would be to do it on August 15th. I see now that the Lord had it planned out perfectly all along.

It was on this date, six years ago, in 2009, also on a Saturday, that I had an abortion appointment scheduled at Planned Parenthood. Blinded by my fear and shame, I thought I needed to "take care" of the "problem" of an unplanned pregnancy. After all, I had just turned only 20-years-old, was not married, and not in a place in my life where I thought I was ready to welcome a child into this world. 

It is only because of God's grace that August 15th does not hold painful memories of walking through those abortion clinic doors with my child safely nestled in my womb and walking out with her body having been violently ripped from mine. It is only because of His loving-kindness and intervention in my life that we are all standing here together, in this moment, at the beautiful memorial stone for a little girl named Lily Katherine. On the day that the enemy of our souls intended to be death for Lily day, we can rejoice that because of God's mercy that instead we celebrate Life for Lily Day! It is only because of His victory over darkness that when the clock struck midnight on August 16th six years ago that my child's heart was still beating strongly within me. 

God whispered to my heart in August 2009 that I had come to a fork in the road in my life and had a very big decision to make. He showed me that if I chose to have an abortion, I couldn't imagine the pain and darkness that would follow, but if I chose life, I couldn't imagine the beauty that He would bring. On an August evening around dusk, I was watching the pink clouds dance across the sky, when suddenly the decision became clear to me: I had to obey Him and choose life. Suddenly all my fears melted away when the light of truth shined on my heart. I knew my God would be with me and would give me everything I needed to face the journey ahead.

I don't even want to imagine what my life would be like right now and all we would have missed had August 15th gone the way I had planned. Every year, I would have tearfully remembered that just three days after my own birthday, I denied my child the gift of having her own birthday. Because of the one who loves us more than life and had a plan beyond what I could see or comprehend, she does have a birthday - it's March 16th, 2010, a date that would have held no significance to me had the date of August 15th turned into one of anguish rather than rejoicing. Instead of ending her life, my Father in Heaven gave me the courage to embrace her life, and then put His love for her within me, even when I was selfish and broken and had none of my own to give.

You might think to yourself that Lily died anyways before birth, so what's the big deal, why shouldn't I have gone through with the abortion and saved myself the heartache of her untimely death? You see, she may have died, but she LIVED first. And she did not die before the purposes for her life were put into motion by the one who crafted her life and legacy before the foundation of the world. She didn't die before she changed my entire life, future, and calling. My child died with dignity, rather than at the hands of an abortionist, paid for by her mother. God had His will for her life and in my life, rather than me having my will and playing god in taking her life myself. It is the Lord who gives and takes away. May His Name be praised!

Butterflies symbolize new life and that is what Lily brought me. Her new life in the womb was a reflection of and the instrument used by God to bring me to life in Him. Her name means "purity and innocence," as a symbol of my redemption in Christ. Because of His shed blood, I am washed whiter than snow. He has cleared the blemishes of my past and makes them as if they never were.... like an unborn babe.... like Lily. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!"

As my friend Anna wrote, "little Lily was a miracle, and even her name was a testimony to your growing in His light like a flower blooming in her season." Summer is the perfect time of year to release butterflies for the baby girl who brought me new life, as it was the time of year her life began. Obviously butterflies are significant enough to me to include one on the back of Lily's stone. Her life brought transformation.

Lily now has eternal life with Jesus. God spoke His promise of eternal life, redemption, and the love and mercy of Christ through Lily's birthday: March 16. 3:16, like John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Her life is a picture of this.

Not only are butterflies significant to me because they remind me of Lily's new life, the new life she brought me, and my new life in Christ, but they are also beautiful creatures with short life spans. Maybe God wanted to speak through how He designed butterflies to be so lovely, knowing they would live a brief time, that it is not length that brings beauty and significance. I believe the butterfly is a reflection of the beauty, depth, and intricacy of Lily's life and legacy. Although the length of her life was short, the depth of it is immeasurable in how it's changed the breadth of the rest of my life.

I'm going to be playing three songs in just a moment. The first song was written for me by my dear friend, Heather Cofer. There is a part in the song that perfectly captures what August 15th means to me - "How close I had come to that fatal mistake, but I knew that your life was not mine to take. Through the turmoil and questions broke God's gentle voice: "will you entrust Me with this child, with this choice?"



I am also going to be playing a song called, "Alive Again" by Matt Maher that I feel beautifully articulates the season in my life when the Lord broke through my darkness. The chorus of the song says, "You called and You shouted, broke through my deafness, now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again. You shattered my darkness, washed away my blindness, Now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again."


And the other song I am going to share is called "You Are On Our Side," by Bethany Dillon. On August 6th, 2009, I wrote in my journal about how desperate I was for Jesus and how deeply I regretted choices I had made. I asked Him to fulfill His purposes in my life and to take away anything keeping me from Him. In that journal entry, I wrote the lyrics to this song. The chorus says, "You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor, You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore. When You could just be silent and leave us here to die, still You sent Your Son for us, You are on our side."


He showed me He is on my side.... in how He whispered hope and life to me, in how He brought the victory, in leading me to ask Him in my journal to rescue me from myself so He could prove Himself ever-faithful and present, in how He led me to the "Lifehouse Everything" skit online, in how He led my Aunt Sarah to lend me her David Teems CD so Scripture could be read over me during those nights where a battle was literally raging in the spiritual world and His power was released through His Word, in how He led me to reach out to a young woman named Bex who had courageously chosen life and adoption for her little boy and was able to be just the support and encouragement I needed in my own unplanned pregnancy, in how He led me to the pregnancy center, the "place of hope and light" as I call it, where I was able to cry and talk it out with my now good friend, Anna, in how He led me to listen to many different songs during that time that ministered to my heart, in how He put His love for Lily within me and the desire to protect her from harm, in how I found a Precious Feet pin of a 10-week unborn baby's feet when I was also 10-weeks pregnant and my heart was able to grasp that I had a precious life within me, in how I was initially researching abortion methods because I was planning on having one, when God turned my world upside down and showed me the truth about abortion and first birthed within me the desire to be a voice for the voiceless, in how He whispered to my heart that I was carrying a little girl named Lily while I was still in my first trimester. He showed me He was on my side through all these things and more. Through all these years, He has continued to show me He is on my side.

Sweet Lily Katherine, we release these Painted Lady butterflies for you, darling girl. This date and this ceremony, on my spiritual birthday or Life for Lily Day, is a "stone of remembrance." We praise the Lord for what He's done and we thank Him for sending you to Earth. As the decades pass, and my hair turns gray, and aging-wrinkles form on my face, I will remember. My love will only increase with time. While I remain on Earth, I will do all I can to share your story with others and bring glory to the Lord as you have done. Because I know the time is coming when we will be together forever and this life will have been but a breath in light of eternity. All the tears will dry up and the sorrow will fade away, on that day when Jesus greets me at the gates of Heaven, where I know you will be waiting with Him, to welcome me Home. As John Piper wrote in a letter to a mother whose son was stillborn, "you simply skipped Earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, you will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows." When we first lock eyes, dear Lily, all the years of missing you will be no more and I will hold you and never let go. I will thank you for bringing me new life...

Watch the video of me sharing what you just read at the butterfly release below or by clicking HERE. I actually wrote what I was going to share and was almost finished when somehow Blogger completely deleted it the day before the butterfly release! ugh it was so frustrating. But after taking a step back and praying, I was able to remember much of what I first wrote and actually ended up more pleased with it the second time I wrote it.



Watch the butterflies being released in the video below or by clicking HERE.



Get ready for picture overload. ;-)

The butterflies came in a box with a pink lily, butterfly, and pink ribbon on it, as I requested... perfect for Lily.


A candle lit in her honor.



I selected white and pink lilies - for purity and innocence and because she's a sweet girl.


The birthday/Life for Lily Day flowers that Kala got me at the Farmer's Market.


I loved decorating Lily's spot for the evening with all my butterfly items.







Sharing my heart.




Excited because I'm about to open the box.





You can see one flying right above my head.





The butterflies are so beautiful and intricate up close.


It was so sweet how one stayed with me for a bit. Perfect for photos!





A couple group photos. I wanted a small group of close friends and family. It meant a lot to me that my brother and sister-in-law made the trip up just for this! 



Visiting with loved ones after the release and soaking up the evening.





I wore the new butterfly earrings that I got at a store in Raleigh (I was specifically thinking of the butterfly release when I purchased them). When they move, it looks like the butterflies are fluttering! I wanted to wear a butterfly shirt or dress, but unfortunately couldn't find anything that matched my earrings in time. However, I did find a pretty dress at The Green Olive Tree in Crozet! This is the thrift store that my grandmother helped start nearly 40 years ago. I wore my memorial Origami Owl locket, which has a butterfly charm. :-)


I love butterflies so much that I have multiple pairs of butterfly earrings that I've gotten for myself and have been given as gifts. So, I shared a pair with my cousin, Hope, to wear at the release. Hope also wore a pretty pink skirt for Lily.


And I shared a pair with Kala too.


Kala wore her butterfly shirt.


The sunset was gorgeous that evening! It reminded me of the evening in August 2009 when I was watching similar pink clouds dancing across the sky and I knew that I had to choose LIFE for Lily... how perfect to see a sky like this on Life for Lily Day!


Love those Blue Ridge Mountains.





I was going to have the butterfly release in Lily's memorial garden at my home in NC, but because my mom and sister had doctor's appointments, the Lord worked it out for my family to be in VA the week of my birthday and Life for Lily Day. It made it that much more special to have it at her spot, and with my family and friends, especially my grandmother. I was disappointed my dad, sister, Aunt Helen, and a few others I wanted to come couldn't be there. But that's why it's so neat now to have pictures and videos to share, so those who weren't there can still be a part of it. :-)

I highly recommend looking into doing a butterfly release, for those who have lost a baby and are looking for something special to do on their birthday. I was thinking it would be neat to have a butterfly release with my wedding party if I ever get married, as a way to incorporate Lily into the ceremony.

The butterflies themselves, shipping, and the box or cage for the butterflies can all get rather expensive, bur I think it's worth it. I ordered 36 Painted Lady butterflies, and the company said they send around 4 extra because unfortunately sometimes the butterflies don't survive until the time of release. There were a couple butterflies that didn't make it from our release. I am wondering if I can somehow preserve them to keep, as I know many people do that with butterflies. 

The instructions are quite simple: the company shipped the butterflies to me overnight, then as soon as they arrive, you put fresh ice packs in the packaging with them so they remain dormant until the time of release, then about 30 minutes to an hour before the release, you take them out of the "cooler," and allow them time to warm up before the release. They have to be released during daylight hours and in a temperature of at least 65-70 degrees. There are many different butterflies and packages to choose from, as well as choosing whether to release the butterflies individually or all together. I chose the decorator box, with the lily and pink ribbon on it, because I thought it would be more beautiful to release them all at once. I honestly initially wanted Monarch butterflies, rather than the Painted Ladies, because they are bigger. But, they are also more expensive and I wanted as many butterflies as possible. My grandmother made a good point that the Painted Lady butterflies look like mini Monarchs and are appropriate for a baby. :-) 

If you are interested in having a butterfly release, I recommend the company I ordered from called A Butterfly Release Company. They are located in Florida. I had a positive experience with them and after searching online, found they have some of the best prices, though shipping is expensive. I tried to get in touch with a local butterfly farm, but they were booked and were unable to get me butterflies for August 15th, which is why I searched elsewhere.

The evening turned out absolutely perfect. The Lord blessed it in every way. The weather was unusually lovely for summer, the Painted Lady butterflies were breathtaking, the company of family and friends marking the day with me meaningful, and the presence of the Lord was close. After the butterfly release, my generous grandmother treated the group of us to dinner at Crozet Pizza. Then we ended the night with stories and laughter around a bonfire. It was a day of light, joy, and thankfulness... moments that are now treasured memories.

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