Saturday, February 28, 2015

Memories of Her Moving

It seems to be a popular thing these days for people to take videos of their pregnant belly with their baby moving for the camera. Each time I see one of these videos, I get sad thinking about how I wish I would have taken videos like it when I was carrying Lily, especially since I never got to see her move outside of the womb.

Here is an example of what I'm talking about (because it's Jill Duggar and she's a "public figure," I don't feel creepy sharing someone random's video lol).


When I saw this video, it brought back a flood of pregnancy memories of what it's like to have a sweet babe growing away inside. It's hard to describe, but sometimes the memories seem so far away, but then something, such as this video, will bring them to the surface, and if I think deeply enough, it's almost as if I can feel her moving again. The not-so-gentle kicks and punches from my active baby girl. I miss her sweet movements so much.

When I start to get sad because of the things I don't have, I try to be purposeful in being thankful for the things I do have. It was such a gift to go fullterm in a pregnancy! There is truly nothing in this world like feeling your baby moving in your belly and bonding with them through all those months. I can sometimes hardly believe it actually happened to me! But, it did. And it was a gift. A precious, precious gift that can never be taken away. So many women long to experience pregnancy, but can't because of numerous different reasons. I was given that gift. Even if I never get to be pregnant again, I have those memories. I had that experience. I have a daughter. And I am eternally thankful.


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The Sacred Project

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to honor Lily in another beautiful way by participating in something called "The Sacred Project."

I first heard about this project last summer when several pages I follow on Facebook shared about it. All the participants knew at first were the guidelines to submitting a photo and that it was to honor and remember our babies and the bond we share with them.

This is what it's about:

"The Sacred Project was created to provide an opportunity for mothers who have experienced the death of a baby during pregnancy or infancy to create something delicate & bold in honor of their child. Filmmaker Pia Dorer, of It’s Not All Black & White, and Sweet Pea Project’s founder, artist/writer Stephanie Paige Cole, have teamed up to create a new project that will raise awareness and unite bereaved mothers from all across the world. Based on Stephanie’s poem “sacred” from the recently released poetry collection To Linger On Hot Coals, the Sacred Project aims to honor the bond shared by mother and child. The short film is a global artistic collaboration that will contain stunning visuals from our 498 contributors, sound clips in 18 languages, video in multiple languages, original music from musician/song-engineer Ian Aeillo, motion design from Ulrike Kerber of Viva Design, animation by Aaron Shiel and original art from both Carly Marie Dudley of Project Heal and Stephanie Paige Cole of Sweet Pea Project."

SACRED
by Stephanie Paige Cole

Your life began and

ended within my womb I

am a sacred space

because of you

"Stephanie’s powerful poem ‘Sacred’ has comforted bereaved mothers around the world and has been the inspiration for our film project and the advocacy work surrounding it. Although Stephanie’s poem was written in memory of her much loved daughter Madeline, who was born still in 2007, her final words “i am a sacred space because of you” continue to resonate and unite ALL mothers. It irrevocably acknowledges the special bond that is shared between mother and child that can never be broken – even following loss."

My sister helped me with my photo. I decided to hold a heart frame with Lily's hand and footprint.


All the photos submitted from mothers around the world are so unique. You can see the gallery by clicking HERE. I was happy to hear that some of my friends were able to participate in honoring their baby because I shared about the project last summer.

Here is a beautiful painting that Stephanie Paige Cole created, inspired by her poem.





I think the film is beautiful, to see hundreds of women, representing hundreds of babies, from around the world, with different accents, backgrounds, etc. Yet, we are all bonded by the love and grief for our babies. It is a powerful visual to see so many photos together.

I was disappointed that I can barely see my picture in the video and wish they could have flashed each photo, even for just a second. But I understand that there were just so many that it would make it difficult to do that. I also wish I had sent an audio clipping in for the project, but when I received the email about it, I was busy that day and by the time I could have done it, they were no longer accepting audio clippings.

Here are the screenshots from the video where my picture is (towards the top and a little over to the right from the center).




I loved seeing Lily's name at the end, at the beginning of when the names started. There it is on the left towards the top.


I must admit that as beautiful as I thought the film was, I did get a "buddhism tone," with the mandala and some of the music. I know that I'm not the only one who got that feeling. I don't like that aspect of it and had no idea it would be that way. But other than that, I really like the film.

On the website, there is a page called "We are sacred spaces because of" and then Lily's name is listed. By the way, if you've lost a baby, you can add their name to this list by visiting the page.


I feel honored to have been a part of this project and am so happy I could honor my baby girl in yet another way.

The Sacred Project has a Facebook page if you are interested in "liking" it.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

It Makes My Heart Sing

Since I first shared Lily's headstone on my blog, as well as a post with ideas and inspiration for someone who is ready to honor their baby with a headstone, several people have contacted me asking for the name of the monument company who made her stone and some wanting help with the design for their own baby's stone.

It is such a gift to me each time someone reaches out in this way. Just this week, I have received two emails regarding this matter. I consider it a compliment. In one of the emails, a woman wrote, "I saw your website and the design for your baby's headstone and I have to say that I think it one of the most beautiful headstones I have ever seen." Wow, how touching.

For someone to think Lily's stone is lovely enough that they want to work with the same company makes my heart sing. I love knowing others find it beautiful, as I do. It truly feels as if God gave me the inspiration and design ideas. And He led me to the company that could make my vision a reality.

I was discouraged for years because I didn't know how I would pay for a stone for Lily and because I had no idea what company to go with. Who could I trust? Who wouldn't charge an arm and a leg? Who would go above and beyond to make sure I was pleased and that Lily was honored in the best way possible?

I didn't want a "cookie cutter" stone where you simply choose a pre-made design and fill in your child's information. Not that there is anything wrong with those stones, but I knew I had a specific design in mind. I wanted it custom-made. As I searched the internet high and low, I couldn't find a single company that could make the stone I was longing for in my heart.

At one point, I found a company in Tennessee, I believe it was. I inquired with a man who worked there and he assured me he could make it happen. I was not pleased with how unprofessional he was and he didn't even seem to know what he was doing, to be quite honest. I didn't know if I could trust him with the precious plans for my baby girl's forever stone. I felt hesitant... and for good reason. He kept trying to impress me and before long, I discovered that he was trying to hit on me, a single young woman in my early 20s... Like seriously, you have got to be kidding me?! For a man to hit on a woman who is designing her baby's headstone is beyond me. Needless to say, that didn't work out.

So after that experience, I was hesitant to try again. I had no idea what direction to go in to find a reputable stone company and was disgusted by the experience I had had.

That's when I found the company while googling one day, across the country, located in Seattle, Washington, that would end up making Lily's stone. I was impressed with the entire process, from start to finish. I liked what they had on their website and after talking with the lady on the phone, I knew they were the company I was meant to choose. I plan on sharing more of my experience with them in a blog post soon.

Anyways, I feel like passing on the name of this monument company is a way for me to reach out to other grieving parents, to save them from the grief of working with a low-quality or unprofessional company. To help them have a pleasant experience and to get exactly what they have in mind.

If you are looking for design ideas for a headstone, I would be honored to help you. Also, if you think you are ready to purchase a headstone for your baby, I would be happy to pass on their information to you. You can email me at roseandherlily@gmail.com.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Baby Rachel's Family Visits Lily's Spot

As I have shared, my friend Stacy and her nonprofit organization, Baby Rachel's Legacy, helped me pay for Lily's headstone.

Stacy lives in New Hampshire and Lily is buried in Virginia, so we didn't know if she'd ever get to see it in person, or only in photos.

As I posted about last week, her family took a road trip to Florida and I got to meet them for the first time in person, which was such a blessing. On their way back up the coast, heading home to New England, Stacy hoped to stop and visit Lily's special spot. We didn't know for sure it would work out because a snow storm was expected in Virginia on the day she was planning on going.

They ended up being snowed in at a hotel a day longer than expected. However, they were able to go the evening before the snowstorm hit (last Friday). Why did they have to bring the cold and snow south with them lol? After traveling all day, her husband was willing to take a detour and drive a couple extra hours to see Lily's stone.

I didn't know they had been until Stacy texted me photos, saying "Look who we just spent some time with. <3 literally made me cry. It's so beautiful, Hannah... I fixed her little tree and left her a rose... it looked pretty there with all the snow and I could see her spot from so far away, it really stands out with all the pretty decor!" I think so too. :-)

I can't believe they actually got to go! I am so glad they made it. It made me tear up too. The only thing that would have made it better is if I could have been there too. I told Stacy she can now picture Lily's spot exactly when she thinks of it.

The fact they got to go at all is amazing, but what makes it extra special is that they were a part of getting Lily's stone. Stacy wrote, "Took a detour to go visit a special baby girl's special spot. Many of you remember that the year we didn't do a race, instead we raised money to help Hannah Rose finish paying for her daughter Lily's stone. So many of you helped and I've shared the pics before, but I never imagined I'd ever get to see it in person!! Brought tears to my eyes to pull up and see it and be able to tell the kids how Rachel's life spread love all the way down here in Crozet, Virginia. We saw the most beautiful sunset on the way. Truly a breathtaking couple of hours and well worth the trip. Thankful that Matt was willing to drive the extra miles."

Stacy also got to see my Aunt Rachel's headstone which is right beside Lily's. My Aunt obviously shares a name with Stacy's daughter, which I find very special. Rachel Ross was my grandparent's seventh child and passed away at three months old in 1965 because of a heart condition. My grandparent's share a stone with their daughter, which is actually a unique bench, just like Rachel Alice shares a stone with Stacy and Matt. My grandmother "Bumma" also associates daisies with her Rachel, just like Stacy does. My Aunt Rachel's stone has daisies and a lamb on it. You can read about my Aunt Rachel and see her stone by clicking HERE.

God was in the details, making sure the Aube's arrived before the snow hit and before it got dark that night. He even gave them a beautiful sunset! I feel like I got to share my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. :-) Stacy wrote, "We wouldn't have even seen the mountains, let alone the sunset over them if we weren't going to visit Lily. It was amazing! Photos don't come close to capturing the beauty!" I couldn't agree more. So thankful Lily is in such a beautiful part of the country.

One more neat thing Stacy wrote me, "I forgot to tell you that the photo of me with Lily's stone is file #5143 in my camera... since Lily's 5th birthday is coming up and 143 means "I love you" it made me smile. No coincidences!! 5 years of your love in this spot and I know she knows!"

Rachel and Lily must be friends in Heaven. I hope they smile as Jesus tells them how their lives are impacting people on Earth and how much they continue to bless us too.

Stacy and Lily's stone... never thought I'd see her in a picture with it!
Stacy and her children at Lily's spot
I love how you can see the mountain in the background
Stacy's husband and kiddos at Lily's spot
the pretty rose Stacy brought Lily
Lily's spot looking beautiful with the snow...
the "Shroyer" stone in the background belongs to my great-grandparents (Bumma's parents)
the sunset Stacy's family saw
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Monday, February 23, 2015

It Hurts Not to

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how sometimes I don't know what to say or write here because it can feel repetitive.

One of my lovely blog readers left this comment on that post:

"I know how you feel, I have been through the very same thing. But never stop talking about her. I know how precious she is to you, because I know how precious my sweet Leah is to me. Even if it is sometimes repetitive, I know everything in you wants to talk about her. It almost hurts NOT to talk about her, about her life and how much you love her. Keep talking about her, we are listening!"

I am not sure who it was that left that comment, but I want to say thank you. I am sorry that you understand the missing, but it makes me feel less alone and less like there is something wrong with me.

I also want to say, YES! It hurts me to not talk about her and share about her life. It feels foreign and like I might burst if I keep it all bottled up inside, the pain and the love. At times, I think people might find it odd that I'm still blogging as much as I do, five years after Lily's birth and death. But, this... this is how I cope in a healthy manner. This is how her death has meaning, by sharing about her life.

My brother, Joseph, and I were talking yesterday about how we are both "open books" in sharing about our lives, our pasts, and our testimonies. I firmly believe this is how God made me because there is something so beautiful about being vulnerable and raw, rather than holding "it" all in and keeping up appearances. In our vulnerability, others are able to say "me too," even when they thought they were the only one. Others are able to come to Christ for healing and victory. On the pages of the open book of my life, I pray the words that others see written proclaim God's grace, mercy, love, healing, and redemption, and that He has a glorious plan in all things.

Thank you to those of you who still care to read these words of mine, even after all these years. It means the world to know there is someone behind their computer screen, somewhere in the world, who thinks that my words about my baby girl matter enough to read, and to continue reading. So whether or not I know you are reading, whether you've ever left a comment or not, thanks for being here.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Gratitude to Each Person Who Helped with Lily's Stone

I have so many posts I've been wanting to write and this is one of them.

Lily's stone has officially been at her special spot in Crozet, Virginia since November 2013. It was possible because of the many generous and kind people who helped make it happen financially.

the front of Lily's stone
the back of Lily's stone

I want to thank these people, those I know by name and those I don't know by name.

I could never express the depth of my gratitude that friends, family, and complete strangers would bless me so tremendously in helping me do one of the last tangible things I can as a mother for my daughter of Heaven, Lily Katherine.

My sincere thanks goes out to:

Stacy Aube and her family who raised $823 (!) for Lily's stone through her Non-Profit organization she runs in her daughter's honor and memory, Baby Rachel's Legacy. Stacy usually hosts a 5K each August where she lives in New Hampshire, but in 2013, she decided that instead of doing a race that year, she would raise money to help me finish paying for Lily's stone. God put it on her heart to help, which was such a blessing in and of itself. And then I found out (on my 24th birthday of all days... God is always in the details!) the total amount that was being given and I was completely blown away! I never expected so much. Talk about the best birthday gift ever! Thank you to everyone who honored both Lily and Rachel in this way! Click HERE and HERE to read the posts on Stacy's blog about Lily's stone.

Stephanie Desjarlais who is an Origami Owl consultant offered to do an online fundraiser called "Lockets for Lily" where she contributed 20% of the profits raised to go towards Lily's stone. She ended up giving me a check for $77.20 and I was also given the blessing of a beautiful Origami Owl memorial locket with multiple charms of my choice, all for almost no charge (and these are not the cheapest of lockets, so I wouldn't have been able to get one myself otherwise). Thank you Stephanie, for blessing me in this way, and thank you to each person who bought something through the fundraiser.

My friend Tracey's father, "Papa Dude," who unexpectedly gave me a card with $200 in it to help out with Lily's stone.

Linda Znachko, from the amazing ministry, He Knows Your Name, who contibuted $100.

These are the names that I have of the other people who gave on the GoFundMe page I had set up, as well as in person or online, from a little bit to a lot, but really the dollar amount is not what matters to me: Brittany Mays, Suzie Smyth, Morgan Lennon, Lisa Collins, Jennifer Kehoe, Candy Rhodes, Josiah Cadle, Sarah Miller, Kelly Osborne, Angela Welliver, Melissa Lorang, Natalie Mardon, Nancy Schuck, Elisha Cooper, Judith Harder, Nancy Auclair, Lacie Zoller, Michael Cornish, and all of those who have chosen to remain anonymous (I apologize if I have forgotten anyone).

I am so humbled that others would do this with and for me, for her. It means so much to me to have given her a stone as a way to bring dignity to her life. It hurt that I could not get one for three years because of finances. God led me to a wonderful monument company across the country in Seattle, that custom-created her stone, more wonderfully than I imagined possible. And then He led me to go ahead with the process of getting her stone, though I honestly had no idea how I'd pay off all $2,160.58 of it, including shipping from Seattle to Virginia. I knew He would provide, but didn't know it would be through so many people from literally across the world, from the United States, to Ireland, to the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. I worked hard and payed some as I was able, but then God blessed me abundantly with my baby girl's stone being completely payed off. It's amazing that He would put it on so many people's hearts to give! If my calculations are correct, a total of $1,470.20 was donated!

He showed me afresh through each of you who gave that He loves Lily even more than I do and that He's still in the details, even all these years later. He's still blessing me for my choice of life.

I would love it if each and every one of you could see Lily's stone in person one day. Some of you have already seen it and some will get to in the future. :-) But for those of you who cannot, I am so pleased to be able to share photos of her lovely stone. It is simply perfect for my beautiful girl. I never felt like I had to "settle" for less than what I feel she deserves. I cannot express the peace it gives me knowing my baby girl is finally honored in this way. It was like a heavy weight was taken off my shoulders on the day her stone was finally installed. It has been precious for me to decorate her spot for different holidays and seasons, and especially for her birthday.

Each time I look at Lily's stone, my heart remembers the people who have been a part of this. It makes her stone that much more special. Again I say, thank you.



Click HERE to read more about the meaning behind Lily's stone.
Click HERE to read all the other posts about Lily's stone.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Roses and Lilies Remind Others Too

I want to share a couple random stories my friends shared with me recently, mostly to remember them myself. :-)

A lady that I met through blogging named Elena recently wrote me a sweet message on Facebook saying:

"I just wanted to tell you about two weeks ago, I went to buy new shampoo and it turned out to be the wrong scent. My original one, I had never noticed, was the lily scent, but I looked when I noticed the smell of my new shampoo was different and saw that I had two scents - lily and rose, and it made me think of you and your daughter. :-)"

Then my friend Bonnie, who helped start one of my local infant loss support groups, texted me this week saying:

"Just wanted to share this sweet moment with you....my daughter has two friends over today and they are playing. One said she wanted her name to be Lily and one said she wanted to be Rosie. The flower names made me think of you and Lily. <3"

Roses and lilies, especially together, remind me of my sweet girl and the indescribable bond we share as mother and daughter. It brings me such joy knowing the two flowers together remind others of she and I too, of her beautiful life and legacy, and my everlasting love for her.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

She Even Finds Me in My Dreams

I had a dream in which someone suggested I try a restaurant called Lily Katherine's. I really wanted to go eat there and take a picture of the sign. Random, but sweet. :) I can picture it as a quaint and charming place. She even finds me in my dreams...


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Surrendering

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, which as we all know, is all about love. It can be really lonely and painful to be single, especially on "romantic days" like Valentine's. I get it, I'm single.

I want to share this really encouraging poem that my friend Karen shared with me, in hopes that it will bless others as well, whether you are waiting for marriage and children, or whatever it may be.

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried:
Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate,
And the Master so gently said,
“Child, you must wait.”
“Wait? You say, wait!” my indignant reply.
“LORD, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is Your hand shortened? Or have You not heard?
By faith, I have asked, and am claiming Your Word.
“My future, and all to which I can relate
Hangs in the balance, and You tell me to WAIT?
I’m needing a ‘Yes,’ a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘No’ to which I can resign.
“And LORD, You promised that if we believe
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And, LORD, I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
‘I’m weary of asking! I need a reply!”
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate
As my Master replied once again, “You must wait.”
So, I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut
And grumbled to God, “So I’m waiting…for what?”
He seemed, then, to kneel
And His eyes wept with mine,
And He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens, and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead, and cause mountains to run.
“All you seek, I could give, and pleased you would be.
You would have what you want-
But, you wouldn’t know Me.
You’d not know the depth of My love for each saint;
You’d not know the power I give to the faint;
“You’d not learn to see through the clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust by knowing I’m there;
You’d not know the joy of resting in Me;
When darkness and silence were all you could see.
“You’d never experience that fullness of love
As the peace of My Spirit descend like a dove;
You’d know that I give and I save, for a start,
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
“The glow of My comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight,
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you asked
Of an infinite God, who makes what you have last.
“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
Yes, your dreams for your loved one overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss if I lost what I’m doing in you!
“So, be silent, My child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me.
And though oft’ may My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still, ‘Wait.'”
-Russell Keller

I pray that God will use my singleness for His glory. Those of us who are single have an opportunity to encourage other people who are also single in a way that those who are married do not.

How many times have you heard someone who was married at 18 tell you to have patience and trust God, etc.? Not that what they are saying is wrong, but their words don't have the same weight as someone who is single speaking about finding complete fulfillment and contentment in Christ, even through years of being single.

Don't wait to get married before feeling "complete" or before "doing something" for Christ. We who are single have an opportunity to serve Him with our entire lives in a way that married people do not and in a way we will not be able to once we are married. I pray we use this time in our lives to pursue Him wholeheartedly and serve Him in a way that we won't regret not doing once married.

If you are single, God has you in this place for a reason. Whether He ever brings someone into your life or not, are you willing to trust Him? Are you okay with it, even if He's asking you to be single for another decade, or even forever? Do you trust that He knows what's best for your life and has a plan and purpose in everything?

My desire for marriage and more *living* children has been one of the most painful things to surrender to the Lord in my life. But, the truth is, He doesn't "owe" me anything. I am not guaranteed marriage and the joy that comes with having a family of my own.

It bothers me when people assure me that I will get married and I will find the right guy. I know these people mean well, but the fact of the matter is, only God knows that. And you might want to encourage people with these words, but before saying to someone who is single that they are guaranteed love and marriage, consider instead encouraging them to surrender this area to God and to trust that whether His plan for their life is singleness or marriage, He is good and He knows best. That doesn't mean it won't be painful.

I can honestly say that I would rather be single than married to someone who I settled for. I have had relationships in the past where I could have gotten married has I so chosen to, but I am so thankful that the Lord kept me from choosing that path. And though it is painful and very lonely at times to wait for a man that I don't even know if he exists, I would rather honor the Lord and my future *hoped for* husband than give my heart away to guys who were never meant to have my heart.

I have made mistakes in my path

I struggle at times wondering why God has not brought me my husband yet. I will be 26 this year and always pictured myself getting married very young, late teens or early twenties. I never imagined I'd still be single at this age. I also never imagined that after having Lily I would still not have another child five years later.

Despite my unanswered questions and the pain of waiting, God is doing something. He is cultivating a deep love within me for a man that I have possibly never  met, or at least I don't know that I've met him.

I want to share a few of my favorite resources that have been a blessing to me as a single woman:

-When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy

-The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot

Two of my favorite blogs are Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. They post quite frequently on living single and sexual purity/healing, so I highly recommend checking them out.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Second Heart

"Your memory beats inside me like a second heart."

Happy Valentine's Day, my sweet Heavenly Valentine.


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Meeting Baby Rachel's Mommy

Thursday was very special because I got to meet for the first time *in person* one of my dearest friends, who I first connected with online because of our precious baby girls in Heaven, Lily and Rachel, both born in 2010.

I started reading Stacy's blog (one of my favorites - Baby Rachel's Legacy) a few years ago and we became friends through that. I look up to this amazing wife and mother of six in so many ways! Her Non-Profit, Baby Rachel's Legacy, helped make getting Lily's stone a reality.

Stacy and I live many states apart, but she was traveling through my area, on her way from New Hampshire to Florida, and we were able to work it out to meet! She also hopes to stop and see Lily's spot in Virginia on her way back home. I got to meet her husband and kiddos too. Her kids are so sweet and cute. Stacy was so dear when telling them that I was Lily's mommy, Lily who is with their sister Rachel in Heaven. I was able to share some of Lily's things with her (like her foot and handprints and snippet of hair), which was really special. It's one thing to see these things online and an entirely different thing to see them in person and know her tiny (yet big for a newborn) hands and feet actually touched that very paper and the outfit, hat, and blanket actually once touched her perfect little body. Stacy noticed how Lily's hair is the exact color of mine.

It was so strange to meet "in real life..." I was like "you're real, not just a picture!" lol.

What makes this meeting extra sweet is that last month I started praying that the Lord would one day make it possible for me to meet her in person. I had no idea it would happen so soon! He delights in giving good gifts to His children. We also happened to meet on my half-birthday (yes, I celebrate those) and I joked that it was all in celebration of that. ;)

Lily's life continues to bless me in so many ways, even bringing me some of my dearest friends.

Stacy and I holding our sweet girls' blankets

Drinking coffee (and hot chocolate for the kiddos) at Starbucks

With Stacy and her adorable daughter

With two of her bundles-of-energy boys

Our "us-ie"


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Monday, February 9, 2015

It's Worth it to Love

Today has been a sad day. My brothers (who are twins) dog, Magnus, that they shared died unexpectedly today. They got him when he was a puppy and he was in our family for almost eight years. He's been there through many moves and lots of joys and heartbreaks, including when Lily was born and died.

My sister-in-law and I took him to the vet today for some follow-up care he's been having for health issues. However, he was doing so much better and he was just supposed to be getting some routine tests and x-rays done. The vet told us we could go run an errand and that they'd take care of him and let us know when he was ready to go home. She said she'd give us a call if she needed anything... well maybe thirty minutes later, we were in Michaels when Kala got the call from the vet and she said she didn't have good news and that his heart had stopped and they were performing CPR. We were so shocked and confused and went back to the vet as quickly as possibly, not knowing at all what to expect when we arrived. When we walked in the door, the vet came out and said with a sad face, "I'm so sorry." Kala and I burst into tears. He was just so happy this morning and was wagging his little tail and putting his face out the window on the way to the vet. We were laughing and talking about him. And then he was gone. Suddenly and unexpectedly.

It stirred up some painful memories for me. The vet's face and words saying she was sorry and that he was gone reminded me of my doctor telling me Lily's heart was no longer beating. The shock. The confusion. The tears. Feeling like a dream. No warning. Having to say goodbye to Magnus forever and seeing his lifeless body reminded me of what I went through with my own daughter.

The situation reminded my family of losing Lily as well. My brother Joseph was saying in his truck as we were leaving that he is so sad over losing his dog and he couldn't imagine losing a child. It made him think of Lily and me. His wife, Kala, later said the same thing... she said, "she lost HER CHILD." It meant a lot to me to know that they thought of me and that others see what a great loss I have endured. It feels like they validate my loss. I don't *need* others to validate it, but it means so much to have my family be there for me and love and miss Lily with me.

My family and I sat around quite a while today talking about memories of Magnus. He was such a happy (as you can tell by the picture below that my sister-in-law took a couple weeks ago), funny, and sweet dog with lots of nicknames. I mostly called him "the puppy" or t.b. (the boy). He loved to play and loved cats and adored my brothers. He will be missed. Losing an animal is so hard. Animals truly become part of the family and to have to say goodbye to a pet that you love so much and who loves you so much is painful. But as the cliche but true saying goes, "it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Animals bring much joy to the world. And to love an animal (and especially a human) means to be vulnerable. We cannot protect ourselves from the pain and separation of death. But oh, it is so worth it to love.

We were also talking quite a bit about Lily and about how the loss of her has affected our family. Joseph said something that means a lot. He said he wishes he would have held Lily. He saw her, but he didn't hold her. It made me feel very sad that not many people did, even those who were at the hospital. I understand that it was scary, but she was still my baby and she was still beautiful and perfect. And that would be the only time anybody ever could hold her in this world. So to hear him say he wishes he had held her and hugged her, putting his arms around her and telling her "I'll see you later," was so, so precious for me to hear. My family thinks about Lily. They love her. They miss her. Wow, I am so blessed. Joseph was saying how shocked he was when he got the call that she was gone and how he couldn't imagine being me and my other brother, Adam, said "of course it was harder for her, but that it was still really hard for them as her uncles." I love when people talk about her, even when it's painful. I need to know she's not forgotten. And they show me that.

Life is so fragile and fleeting and we never know when anyone will die. I pray that we live today the legacy we want to leave. I pray we live for Christ with all our hearts and lives and love others in a way that we won't regret if they die or we die. Oh Jesus, may be live with an eternal perspective!


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Just Remember

I read the book "Tilly" (a beautiful story about a mother who regrets having an abortion and dreams of Heaven where she meets her daughter and finds healing in the love and forgiveness of both Jesus and her daughter) this afternoon in the warm sunshine and watched the movie a couple days ago, something I've decided I'd like to do each year around this time, in remembrance of Luke Shiloh.


I have been feeling so down this past week, wondering about all that might have been had I chosen a different path. Then, Saturday night, I attended a special church service in Raleigh where the pastor was specifically addressing the sanctity of unborn human life, but at the same time sharing about the mercy of Jesus for those who have been involved in abortion. It was encouraging to see a pastor speaking out boldly about such a tough topic.

I kept thinking how strange it was that this service was held on the exact date that I had an abortion 6 years ago. And I never could have imagined then how I'd be sitting in a service on the same date, that many years later, full of regret and painful memories, but also full of hope. I am so comforted in knowing God was not surprised by my choices and had a plan and purpose in it all. And my child's life still matters and is still making an impact on this world.

So as this weekend comes to a close, as do the memories of that weekend 6 years ago, I feel fresh peace that passes all understanding and the gentle assurance that one day, I will know Luke in a way I never will on Earth and there will be no more sorrow. For now, I will speak his name and share his legacy and rejoice over redemption made possible through Christ's shed blood. I deeply desire to share with others the transforming love and mercy that Christ has shown me. But I do so hope that by sharing my story, others won't have to know this lifelong regret. I fully believe Luke loves me and knows I love him.

On the last page of "Tilly" there are words written that bring my eyes to tears and cause my heart to nod along in understanding, "And she would weep quietly, with this and with every new April, for all the children who had no names and no parents, who still lived though never born. Most of all, she would weep for the little daughter she never knew, and give whispered words to what she had always known: "Tilly, I love you." But now her heart was at peace, and that peace was hers to keep. She only wanted to remember. Just remember."

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Friday, February 6, 2015

6 Years Ago on a Friday

Six years ago today, the one whose heart first beat within me ceased to beat because of a choice I made. Because I was selfish and scared.

It was on a Friday. This year, the sixth of February is on a Friday, making the memories that much more vivid. This weekend, my mind and my heart will replay what it was like in that Planned Parenthood and what my mind, my body, and my very soul experienced on that Friday and Saturday. I am already replaying the entire week, thinking, was it today six years ago that I found out I was pregnant? Was it today that I called Planned Parenthood? Honestly, I don't remember a lot of details from that time... but what I do remember are the tears and the anguish felt at the depths of my soul.

Much of the year, I don't feel the pain. I embrace the healing and forgiveness I've found in Christ. Sure, I think of Luke and miss him, but it isn't heavy. This time of year, however, I miss him so much. I don't feel burdened by shame and humiliation, but rather just the missing of what could have been. I feel the grief of the loss of the first child of my heart and womb. And honestly, I am thankful for the missing. Because it ensures that I will never forget. It reminds me of the gravity of how detrimental abortion is to women, men, and children, and that I must never be silenced. Living with a past abortion is not just living with what you've done, it's living with all the unanswered questions and the missing of what might've been. So much of the year, I feel detached over the loss of Luke, but this time of year helps me feel more connected to him.

On this day, I will honor him, I will remember him, I will grieve him, and I will speak of his existence. I will watch Tilly and I will share the poem that I wrote for him and the one "picture" I have that proves he was here.









 
First child of my womb,
Quietly you grew, hidden from all eyes.
Why didn't I choose LIFE?
Why did I believe the lies?

Flesh of my flesh,
My baby, forever you'll be.
I'm sorry I chose the wrong way.
I'm sorry I didn't SEE.

Your life was not wasted.
Valued and precious you are.
God is speaking mightily through you.
From my thoughts, you will never be far.

From darkness to light,
You will always be a part of the story.
Our Father in Heaven promises
To work all this together for His glory.

Your name means "light" and "peace,"
My precious little one.
That's what He's brought in all of this.
In Christ, the victory is won!

I promise to be your voice
Until my days on Earth are through.
I will never be silent
Until the time that I meet you.

In that moment, 
I will gaze upon your face.
I will hold you, kiss you, know you,
In awe of His great mercy and amazing grace.

Even then I know,
Your legacy will still live.
For He breathes beauty into this story,
And purpose He will continue to give.

I love you my little Lukey.
Thank you for changing me.
Until we meet, my darling,
A forever part of me you'll be.

With all my might, I'll fight in your honor,
Until the battle for LIFE is won.
In my eyes and heart,
You will always be my son.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Birth Stories

There are so many times when I am around women who are discussing their birth stories and each time, I feel really uncomfortable.

First of all, it seems like nobody ever asks me anything about my birth experience. Almost like because Lily died, somehow my birth experience wasn't as "real." Not only that, but who wants to hear the sad tale of a woman whose baby died before birth? I get the feeling that others almost think losing a baby is "contagious" or something, so they won't even broach the subject.

I want to scream out, I gave birth too!! I know what it's like too. My baby girl was born too. She was real too.

I labored for hours, waiting for her tiny body to come out of mine. And if anyone deserves the recognition of giving birth, should it not be the woman who still had to do so, even though her baby would never take his/her first breath?! A lot of women go through the birth experience, but it takes a tough cookie to labor and deliver her sleeping child, knowing that at the end of the day, her child won't cry right when they are born, she won't get to take him/her home, and she is terrified of all the unknowns.

So from now on, when I feel uncomfortable around others who are discussing birth stories and nobody asks me about mine, I am going to talk about it. Because I deserve to. I am a woman, a mother, who had a baby. I have a birth story. I have memories from March 16th, 2010. I know what it feels like to go full-term in a pregnancy and to birth my full-term child. I know what it's like to see and hold her perfect body. It might not have the perfect and expected ending, but it's my birth story nonetheless. The story of my first-born's birth.

To those who don't want to hurt me by bringing it up, know that I *do* want to share.

And to those that validate my birth experience and ask me questions just as they would any other mother, thank you. Being able to share and being asked to share brings about much healing.

Definitely not the most flattering of photos, but this is me laboring for hours

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