Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 2009 Series ~ The Place of Light and Hope

The month of August 2009 is when God intervened in my life and radically altered my life, through my unborn baby, my darling Lily girl. Each August, I am flooded with memories of His faithfulness, in both the huge things and the smallest details that He used to speak to me. I like to share the blog entries about that time each August to share of His great love and faithfulness. I will call the posts the "August 2009 Series."


On this date, August 31st, in 2009, I had an appointment at the Pregnancy Center of Central Virginia in Charlottesville. I had already made the choice of life for my unborn child, but was still unsure if I would choose adoption or parenting. I needed someone to talk to about everything, which is when the appointment was made at the PCCV. It is just a mile or so from the Planned Parenthood where I had an abortion just months before.
From the moment I walked in the doors of the pregnancy center, I felt accepted and loved. The way I like to describe it as is "the place of light and hope." It was such a contrast to "the place of darkness and despair" (Planned Parenthood). I literally remember the sunshine streaming in the windows as I walked in, as a physical representation of what the center is spiritually.

I met with Anna, who was the Center director then, and was so blessed by our time together. I wrote about my visit to the center in an email to my friend Bex. I am so thankful to have these words to see what exactly I was thinking then:
I went to the Pregnancy Center on Monday. I met with one of the counselors there, Anna. I didn't really know what to expect going in there. The Pregnancy Center of Central Virginia is a Christian establishment and as soon as I walked in the door, I felt comfortable and loved. The lady at the front desk had a warm smile on her face and was very helpful. Then, I met with Anna and I knew she wasn't judging me or thinking about what a horrible person I am. Her words were tender and sweet, and I felt comfortable enough to openly discuss everything with her. I told her I am considering adoption and she recommended Bethany Christian Services, the very same place you sent me a link to in your first message to me! She gave me all sorts of pamphlets when I left with information on the things we had discussed. She gave me the number to Bethany, as well as the number to both hospitals in the area, so I can get set up with a doctor. She told me someone that works in the Center has a daughter that got pregnant and placed her baby for adoption. I told her the church I have been attending with my grandmother, and then told her the church I would like to try. Her eyes lit up and she said, "that's the church I attend." She invited me to go with her. She talked with me as long as I wanted, and then prayed for me. Her prayer was heartfelt and sincere, and brought tears to my eyes. While she was getting all the pamphlets together for me, I watched a fifteen minute video on adoption. I was filled with emotion and tears were streaming down my face. I am scared of the pain that is to come if I do indeed choose adoption. I walked out of the Pregnancy Center that day with great hope. I was at complete peace with my choice of life.

I really wanted to have an ultrasound on that day, but was unable to. I remember Anna sharing the fetal models they have at the center and I was able to see around the size Lily was at that gestation.

Throughout my pregnancy, I kept meaning to write Anna to tell her how much that visit with her had deeply impacted me. I told my mom about her and just smiled whenever I thought of sweet Anna. I saw her in October at the annual pregnancy center banquet that I went to with my grandmother, but didn't say anything to her. Not everyone knew yet about my pregnancy, so I didn't want to draw attention.

I did eventually contact Anna, just not in the way I every thought I'd have to. I called the Center in March of 2010 and asked her if she would attend my daughter's Burial Service. She was happy to come. It means so much to me that she would attend. She has gotten to see the story unfold from the beginning.

Meeting at the Center because of my pregnancy was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Since then, we have gotten together many times and I treasure our relationship. She has spoken truth into my life when I needed to hear it and has been a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Isn't it amazing how God brings good things into our lives in ways we never could have expected?

On New Year's Eve 2011, Anna got married and she asked me to be her wedding photographer! She said what I thought...who would have ever imagined when we first met that one day I would be photographing her wedding! Anna has since had two sweet daughters.

A few years ago, I asked Anna for her version of when I first came into the Center. These words mean so much to me:
I remember the day you (Hannah) walked into the Center with your boyfriend at the time. I remember that you looked scared and a bit down, very down. But in your eyes was a spark of the desire to have hope. You sat down on the couch opposite me, hungry for some direction that would give you peace in your pregnancy. I could see that things were hard between you and him, and that there was so much in your heart and to your soul that he wasn't even aware of. I could see your potential and a bit of who you really were, is what I'm trying to say. As I talked to you I felt the Spirit pouring out His story of hope to you. Choose Life.....maybe even adoption. I could tell that your character was deep, but I wasn't sure how you were feeling - what would be your outcome? As you watched the adoption video, I remember seeing that you had so much emotion welling up - your mother's heart was showing.....and being wrenched. It was in the following days ahead that I really got to see verified what I had only believed was true- as you mentioned that you were going forward, going to have your baby, and give it the best life you could. The most amazing thing of all to me was when you said you just couldn't stay with your boyfriend, but that you had to make a decision to move beyond him, for yourself but most importantly to honor God. I think I cheered at that in my office and bragged on you to the staff!! We don't see that kind of decision hardly EVER! It is rare, though we pray for it to increase. Your heart was breaking over so many losses, but you had your eye on His gain. I knew that would take you far, and, secretly I was hoping we would get to stay in touch so that I could see just how God would bless your heart of David and heart of Esther! As your baby was nearing birth, I was so excited for you....and then, my heart broke, as you told me the news that must crush every mother's most inner sensibility. I felt that loss so acutely. 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. Getting to come to the funeral was a huge blessing, as I was able to be with you and also your family (who had supported the Pregnancy Centers for many years and was well known among our staff). I felt that I was getting to be there with the granddaughter of one of the PCCV matrons - your grandma Nancy Virginia Bain! Through time and after Lily's going back to be with Jesus, getting to know you personally has just been one of the sweetest treasures, like nectar bottled up from such a sweet flower of the past. I don't get to get close to all clients like I did you - they are transient, they pass in and out, etc. But, you....God allowed our acquaintance to deepen to friendship and deep sister love in the Spirit. You are so special, and I just know that His plan for you is just radiantly expansive, with impact that ripples like waves out from a rock hitting the water. You are forever precious to me and I hope we will always stay in touch!!!! Also, one of the greatest gifts you gave to me was that you would pursue God and His direction in your life relentlessly. When you could have taken the easy way, you chose HIM!! Every time you'd tell me what you were up to, I could see the little "normal" veerings as you were trying to discover the right way...the path to Life.....but, always you would end up choosing it! It brought joy and surprise to me like I hadn't felt with any other person who had sought the Center for help. You are truly unique!"

When I was walking through my decision of whether I was going to have an abortion or not, I felt the Lord show me that if I chose life, I couldn't imagine all the beauty He would bring... and that was true. Anna's friendship was one of the beautiful things He brought me.

The Pregnancy Center of Central Virginia really blessed me and was there at a time that I needed hope. I encourage anyone who is reading this to get involved in your local Pregnancy Center. Whether you want to become a volunteer or make one donation or regular donations...these Centers are helping women and men and their babies and they need support to continue being able to offer these things to their community! You can make an impact!

In 2013, Anna and I were actually both interviewed for a WORLD Magazine article which you can read by clicking here.


August 2009 Series ~ He's Everything

The month of August 2009 is when God intervened in my life and radically altered my life, through my unborn baby, my darling Lily girl. Each August, I am flooded with memories of His faithfulness, in both the huge things and the smallest details that He used to speak to me. I like to share the blog entries about that time each August to share of His great love and faithfulness. I will call the posts the "August 2009 Series."


I remember so clearly watching the Lifehouse Everything Skit in August 2009. I was immediately captivated by it because that girl was me. I was young and in love with Jesus, but then the world and the enemy came in and tried to rob me of His life within. I looked for satisfaction and fulfillment in many things outside of Christ, the only true source of Life. I was that broken, miserable, desperate soul. And I got to the point of being totally broken, realizing my weakness and that I could never return to the Lord in my own strength. I got sick of all the temporary highs of this world. I cried out desperately for my Mighty Rescuer, Jesus Christ, and He ran to my defense. He broke the chains that had held me down so long. Even though those things were making me miserable, I was helpless to change. I never got to the point of wanting to commit suicide, but I knew deeply in my core that my soul was dying.

I saw this skit during the time I was actually living through that spiritual battle. God used it to speak so much to my heart. He showed me His love for me. He showed me His power, His victory in all circumstances. No matter what is holding you down, He is stronger! But you must make that decision to turn from your sin. You must be willing to fight! Oh how He still adores us even when we break His heart by turning to other lovers. May we come to Him with a heart of repentance! 

I will let the skit tell you the story of my life. I still cannot watch it without tears, like that August 7 years ago. So many tears. It reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. I was a prodigal daughter. I was dead, but am ALIVE again! I was lost, but am found! ~Luke 15:32. Please take the time to watch this powerful video and let it minister to your heart. I read that a group performs it in nightclubs around the country and it has radically changed hearts and lives! Amazing!! What are the things that keep you back from Jesus? I pray that those chains will be broken. Our Lord Jesus is victorious always! 

Lifehouse'e Everything Skit

Find me here, and speak to me 
I want to feel You, I need to hear You 
You are the light that's leading me to the place 
Where I find peace again 
You are the strength that keeps me walking 
You are the hope that keeps me trusting 
You are the life to my soul 
You are my purpose 
You're everything 
And how can I stand here with You 
And not be moved by You 
Would You tell me how could it be any better than this? 

You calm the storms and You give me rest 
You hold me in your hands 
You won't let me fall 
You steal my heart and You take my breath away 
Would You take me in, take me deeper now 
And how can I stand here with You and not be moved by You 
Would You tell me how could it be any better than this 
And how can I stand here with You and not be moved by You 
Would You tell me how could it be any better than this 

Cause You're all I want, You're all I need 
You're everything, everything 


August 2009 Series ~ Be Still and Know

The month of August 2009 is when God intervened in my life and radically altered my life, through my unborn baby, my darling Lily girl. Each August, I am flooded with memories of His faithfulness, in both the huge things and the smallest details that He used to speak to me. I like to share the blog entries about that time each August to share of His great love and faithfulness. I will call the posts the "August 2009 Series."


It was in August 2009 that my Aunt Sarah gave me a CD by an artist named David Teems. He reads Scripture, with soft piano music playing in the background and soft waves crashing in the distance. It's truly unlike anything I've ever heard.

My heart was in such turmoil at that point in my life. When I heard this CD, I cannot fully convey the peace it brought my heart. I would fall asleep to it nearly every night that August. It was so powerful to have that Scripture, that truth, being spoken over me in my darkest hour. The Scripture was truly food for my hungry soul and water for my thirsty spirit. I was captivated with the beauty of God's Word. He romanced my soul with it. It was during this season that God changed everything for me. I still fall asleep at times listening to David Teems.

It was during this time that God radically changed my life in such a short amount of time that I heard this Scripture on the David Teems CD. I claimed them as my verses for that season of my life. He was asking me to trust Him, that He was fighting for me and I need only to be still and know.

"Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today." -Exodus 14:13
"The Lord WILL fight for you; you need only to be still." -Exodus 14:14
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord." -Psalm 27:14

The two CD's that are my favorites are called "Hope" and "More Hope." My Aunt Sarah and Uncle Steve also gave me one called "In the Mourning" after losing Lily. The track that impacted me the most is entitled, "I Am Poured Out Like Water." All the CD's are very affordable and completely worth it!! I have played them probably hundreds of times. It is a great way to memorize Scripture as well. David has such a soothing voice, especially mixed with the piano and waves. On the actual CD, he doesn't cite what Scripture it is, but it is cited in the CD case. He reads a little from different passages and puts them all together. They are great to have some on hand to give as gifts to those walking through a difficult season in life.

Description of David's music from his website:

"...this music offers the listener a moments quiet in the midst of all the gathering noise of the age. In this recording, many textures are woven together to form a structure that will settle warm and tranquil on the soul, and will ask little of you but to listen. The rich poetry of the scripture will touch the untouched in you, and with the voice of soft command."

"This series combines the beauty and reflective emptiness of a solo piano with well chosen scriptures. The voice comes with a soothing type of command, and the music is hardly there at all. It is the artful economy between the two that makes the difference, as well as something unknown that will not be explained."

"These CD's together can offer a timely, sensitive, and power-laden therapy for the soul."

Purchase David's music by clicking here. At some point, I hope to give away one of these CD's on this blog, so stay tuned! :)


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 2009 Series ~ A Glimpse into August '09

The month of August 2009 is when God intervened in my life and radically altered my life, through my unborn baby, my darling Lily girl. Each August, I am flooded with memories of His faithfulness, in both the huge things and the smallest details that He used to speak to me. I like to share the blog entries about that time each August to share of His great love and faithfulness. I will call the posts the "August 2009 Series."


Recently, I was looking through my old Facebook posts from 2008 and 2009. It is painful to look back over the years of "Facebook activity." It is honestly very telling of someone's life. I feel somewhat embarrassed if people were to look back at the things I posted. Reading and seeing some things from the past years brought up bad feelings and memories and made me feel nauseated. How much I despise the old me. Seeing what I wrote and posted is a part of who I once was. A part of what God brought me out of.

It is amazing that I can even see the change in my heart and life in August 2009 from what I posted on my Facebook page. They were just Facebook statuses, but to me they are evidence of the life Jesus was breathing back into my dry bones.

I can witness the change within myself, just through Facebook statuses. I mean, I know what I experienced in the depths of my heart during that time where Jesus changed everything, but to read posts that I wrote - Scriptures, quotes, and lyrics God put on my heart in the midst of that season, it's just really special. I didn't remember what I posted. It is so beautiful to see how the things I posted changed suddenly and drastically. Just a couple months before this, I posted really ridiculous things about such worldly things... then, the Lord captivated my heart. He wooed me and brought me to the foot of the Cross. And I am forever changed. I stand in awe once again at the transforming work of Christ.

This picture of me was taken on my 20th birthday - August 12th, 2009. It was three days before the scheduled abortion. There are few pictures of me during this time, so it's somewhat strange to see myself then, to know what was going on inside me, the battle that was raging. I am smiling, but I'm not smiling with my entire face, with my eyes. I was empty and broken. I had no idea all that God was doing and was going to do and how I'd look back on that season, seeing how it was a crossroads in my life. I chose the path of life. I chose Jesus. Little did I know how those choices I made during that month would shape my life forever. How they would shape the story God was writing for my life and how He'd use it for my good and His glory. How He'd bring me to my passion and purpose. During that month of August '09, I went to a Pregnancy Resource Center myself. Now I have spoken at Pregnancy Center Banquets.

I took screenshots of those statuses from August and September 2009 when the transformation occurred to share exactly what I wrote and on what dates. I really want to personally keep track of this always. It was almost as if the first half of August was where the battle for my soul and my child's life was raging. Then, God really opened my heart and drastically changed everything in a short amount of time. He can heal and redeem and restore with just a single word. These posts were when He had drawn my heart back to Himself and I was completely and utterly desperate for Jesus! I had Scripture being poured over me daily and was walking through a deep time of repentance, cleansing, and healing. 

The first post is from five days after my scheduled abortion... obviously I never went! I was so desperate for Jesus.

I was surrendering my life and future and the life and future of my unborn child to the Lord, knowing that He had a perfect plan and purpose for both of us, whether that was parenting or adoption. Nobody else knew what these posts were talking about.

He showed me that if I chose life, He would take care of all the details. I knew I could trust Him. I love how Bex commented on this post. :) It was that month that our friendship began and the Lord used her so much in my life! She knew what I meant when I wrote this.

He delivered me from death and my baby from death.

This was right before I was going to tell my mom that I was pregnant and the Lord was showing His faithfulness and guidance to me in so many incredible ways!

I shared the lyrics from the song "Tears of the Saints" by Leeland. I remember listening to this powerful song over and over during this time and how I would just weep. God was giving me such a heart of compassion and love for others who were like me, prodigal sons and daughters. He had led me Home and He was longing for His other children to come Home to Him. He was showing me that through my brokenness, He would give me the ability to love and serve Him and others in a way I never would have been able to if it weren't for what I had been through and what I was going through. God can truly work all the things in our lives together for good! This is an emergency - that we would love Jesus, serve Him, and bring others to the foot of the Cross. Because we are never promised tomorrow and God doesn't want anyone to perish! In Christ, we are pure, whole, redeemed, healed! So reach out your hands to Him, even though you feel so weak and undeserving.

There are many prodigal sons 
On our city streets they run 
Searching for shelter 
There are homes broken down 
People's hopes have fallen to the ground 
From failures 

This is an emergency! 

There are tears from the saints 
For the lost and unsaved 
We're crying for them come back home 
We're crying for them come back home 
And all your children will stretch out their hands 
And pick up the crippled man 
Father, we will lead them home 
Father, we will lead them home 

There are schools full of hatred 
Even churches have forsaken 
Love and mercy 
May we see this generation 
In a state of desperation 
For Your glory 

This is an emergency! 

Sinner, reach out your hands! 
Children in Christ you stand! 
Sinner, reach out your hands! 
Children in Christ you stand! 

And all Your children will stretch out their hands 
And pick up the crippled man 
Father, we will lead them home 
Father, we will lead them home


August 2009 Series ~ A Whisper of Encouragement

The month of August 2009 is when God intervened in my life and radically altered my life, through my unborn baby, my darling Lily girl. Each August, I am flooded with memories of His faithfulness, in both the huge things and the smallest details that He used to speak to me. I like to share the blog entries about that time each August to share of His great love and faithfulness. I will call the posts the "August 2009 Series."


"Surely the Lord purposes precious friendships as quiet whispers of encouragement along the paths we walk." -Kala Allen (my sister-in-law)

In August 2009, the Lord brought a very special friend into my life. Besides Lily's father, she was the first person to know about my sweet little flower. I call it our "friendiversary." ;)

I knew about her story because Eric and Leslie Ludy, who have authored several books that have greatly impacted me, adopted her son almost 8 years ago, when she was 18-years-old. I had read about her and her son, Kip, on their website/blog, so I knew her name. I decided to look her up on Facebook so I could write to her and share what I was going through. I was desperate for a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on so to speak, especially from someone who would understand, someone who had walked a similar path to my own. It is hard to believe that 7 years ago is when I first contacted her and our friendship began. I pored my heart out to her through words on a screen. She was such a support and encouragement to me at that extremely difficult time. She prayed for me and shared her own heart and story with me. God knew what He was doing when He brought her into my life. She was a whisper of hope and encouragement.

Once I chose life for my baby, I was suddenly facing the choice between adoption and parenting. I knew that either choice would be difficult to make. I was seriously considering adoption, when God was bringing me to a place of complete and total surrender. I wanted the best for my child. I pored over videos, songs, and stories about adoption. There were many tears shed over the thought of it. I just wanted the Lord's will for my life and my baby's life. I had to do what I knew God led me to do, no matter how afraid I was of other people's opinions or of what my life would look like.

Not only was Bex the first person that knew about Lily and a part of what God used to give me strength and courage as I faced an unplanned pregnancy, but she supported me throughout my entire pregnancy. She was there when I lost Lily. She's been there through it all. We have both had to let go of our babies, just in different ways. Bex lives in Colorado and I live in North Carolina, though at the time that we met, I was living in Virginia. After 2 1/2 years of friendship, we finally met in person in 2011 when I attended Ellerslie Leadership Training in Colorado, which Eric and Leslie Ludy started. It feels like I've known her so much longer than I have.

We have had many precious times together, sharing our hearts of love for our children, sharing memories, both painful and beautiful, blog entries, songs, letters, and many laughs. I am thankful for her friendship. Bex got married in September 3 years ago and I was able to go to Colorado for her wedding. It was precious to see her birth-son Kip walk her down the aisle to her man. :) It is quite special that I have all of our messages and emails from the time we first met, safely tucked away in Lily's memory chest.

Me and Bex last August on an adventure in Denver

Our friendship bracelets and our tattoos for the little ones who brought us together in friendship 7 years ago... She was the first person to know the name that is now forever on my wrist.

With Kip at his 3rd birthday party in 2011


Monday, August 29, 2016

August 2009 Series ~ The God Who Restores

The month of August 2009 is when God intervened in my life and radically altered my life, through my unborn baby, my darling Lily girl. Each August, I am flooded with memories of His faithfulness, in both the huge things and the smallest details that He used to speak to me. I like to share the blog entries about that time each August to share of His great love and faithfulness. I will call the posts the "August 2009 Series."


I look back on my life and see the things that were painful for me were the very instruments God used to bring me to Himself. I was bullied in middle school and my freshman year of high-school, felt extremely self-conscious, and just never "fit in." I see God's fingerprint through all those years of awkward adolescence, when I didn't feel His presence, but can now clearly see He was there through it all.

He brought me to a place, after my freshman year, where I was longing for truth and beauty and something beyond what I saw all around me. I didn't even know what I was looking for, but my heart was wounded and was in a place where I was wide open for the Lord. That's why I can say I thank Him now for allowing those things into my life because He knew how He would redeem it and use it for my good and His glory. He knew He would use it so I would be in a place where I could hear His voice beckoning me to come to Him.

That is when He led my mom and I into a Christian book store in Clayton, North Carolina and I stumbled upon the book, "Authentic Beauty" by Leslie Ludy.

I had never heard of the Ludys before and honestly don't know exactly what drew me to the book. I vividly recall being in that store on that summer day in August 2004. I had just turned 15 that month and was soon to start my sophomore year of high-school. I must have been intrigued by the cover of the book. If you'll notice, there is a beautiful lily on the cover that is delicately blooming. Leslie talks about in her book about being a "lily among thorns," meaning living as a set-apart godly young woman in a world that mocks all things pure and lovely.

By that point in my life, I felt like there were no guys in the world that truly treasure girls, and that they only use them for their selfish pleasure. I felt worthless. In that loneliness, pain, and heartache, God whispered to me, through the book "Authentic Beauty," that He would love me in a way that no man on Earth ever could. That His love is authentic, pure, good, and true. He romanced my heart through the chapters in this book. With the turn of each new page, my heart was awakening to the beauty of a life lived fully surrendered to Jesus Christ.

In her book, Leslie details the experiences from when she was a teenager, many of which I related to. Because of her painful and challenging years, she was able to speak to me when I was in a similar place in my life. I remember poring over this book when I went with my family to Massanutten Resort in Virginia, something we've done nearly every year for vacation since I was a baby. I was writing in my journal, reading this book, praying and feeling Jesus so near, and just being with Him. He was healing me and showing me my worth to Him and in Him. Leslie introduced me to Jesus Christ in a way I had never known Him before. I literally fell in love with Jesus. He captivated my heart and I knew that I could never turn back. I knew I was changed by a love so divine that I could not go on as if I didn't know it was real. Not that I would ever want to.

...However, as we know from what happened in my life in the years that followed my reading this book, I slowly let go of my relationship with the Lord. I never saw it coming, I didn't even know what was happening until it had already happened. It reminds me of a Casting Crowns song that says, "It's a slow fade when you give yourself away, it's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray. Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day, it's a slow fade." I recommend listening to the entire song either below or by clicking HERE.

It's not like people plan on spiraling into a life of depression and sin, but if we are not vigilant in guarding and cultivating our relationship with the Lord, the enemy and the world can sneak in. That's what happened to me... the world seduced teenage-me. I take responsibility for my actions and the choices I made, but I do also see how some of the things that happened have reasons (not excuses) behind them.

Some people have asked my mom and I how if I were truly a Christian, how could I have ever made the choices I did. They assume my relationship with the Lord must not have been "real." I assure you, it was. And that is why I believe that I am living for the Lord today (more on that later). As I have thought about it over the years and contemplated myself why I was susceptible to falling into sin, I believe part of the reason was the culture's influence on me. Let's be honest, it's not exactly easy for young people these days to live for Jesus, especially when they are floundering on their own and don't have the necessary tools and support to live set-apart for Him. And it's exactly as the song says, a slow fade. It doesn't happen overnight, but gradually over time, you can find yourself in a place you never imagined you'd be. I believe that anyone in the world is capable of sinning in ways they never would imagine, given the right (or shall I say wrong) circumstances. Who are we to say we wouldn't have chosen different sins that we look down on with such intensity, if we had the same upbringing and circumstances as the people who chose those things? It is truly only by God's mercy that we haven't made devastating and life-altering choices and that we are living for Him. It is His grace that saves us and keeps us.

Anyways, fast forward to the summer of 2009, in the month of August when I had just turned 20 and was in my first trimester of my pregnancy with Lily. The Lord was drawing my heart back to Himself and giving me the courage to choose life for my baby. I knew in my heart (because I fully believe He showed me so that I would connect to my child) that she was a little girl and her name was Lily. He showed me that she was to be a symbol of my renewed purity and redemption in Christ (both Lily and Katherine mean "purity and innocence.") He showed me that He could wash away all the sins that I was ashamed and regretful of. She was not a sin.

I knew in my heart that the God of the Universe was knitting together a very special little girl, quietly hidden within my womb. Jesus supernaturally intervened in my heart and life and used her life to bring me back to Him. Lily was the bridge between my Savior and I. She changed my heart, she changed the road I was walking on, she changed my future, she changed everything...rather, Jesus changed everything through her life. I treasure her name. To me, it is not simply a pretty name. The flower and name are so meaningful and significant to me.

The Lord was giving me hope for her future, my future, and showing me that He had a plan and purpose for her precious life.

Over the years, as I have thought about how I read "Authentic Beauty" when I was 15, I have wrestled with feelings of regret and wishing I could do things over. I should have known better. Instead of harping on what could have been had I not chosen what I did and had I remained close to the Lord, I instead thank Him for His great redemption plan. I thank Him for leading me to that book because as I said, I believe it is part of the reason why I am now living for the Lord. You see, if I didn't know His love and was satisfied in the worldly life I was living, I wouldn't have thought anything was wrong with the choices I was making. I thank Him that He allowed me to be utterly miserable without Him! I knew what I was missing. I wouldn't have turned back to Him because I wouldn't have turned to Him in the first place. I knew that He was The Way, The Truth, and The Life, even in my sin. I didn't deny Him, but rebelled against Him and His plan for my life. However, because of how He captivated my heart when I was 15, I knew His voice and was drawn back to Him when I was 20.

Both of the times when He worked so mightily in my life were in the month of August. The month He brought my life into the world was the month He brought me to life in Him. My birth month is my re-birth month.

I looked up the meaning of the word "restore" and it said: replenish, repair so as to return to its original condition.

The Lord has shown me through the cover of this book that He can, has, and will continue to restore me. He will take me back to who I was when I first read it, meaning I am not damaged or un-restorable like I have felt. He used my Lily to bring me back full circle, to the time when I read the book with the lily on it, to the time before the mistakes and when He captivated my heart completely. It's all almost too deep for me to fully wrap my mind around and articulate. It's not too late. It's never too late for Him to restore, friends.

He can restore those years of my life and make it as if those things never happened. Not that I could ever forget Lily or Luke or that I'd want to forget them or the things I've learned through my experiences, but I can forget the pain and shame associated with my memories and experiences. He can restore our lives, our hearts, our relationship with Him and others, even the things that feel they are too wounded or damaged.

Years after the time I wrote it, I was reading through an old journal from when I was 16 and was struck by something I wrote and the faithfulness of the Lord. Perhaps He wanted me to one day look back and see His hand... I asked the Lord to never let go of me, even if I let go of Him. I don't know why I wrote this, but am amazed that I did and that He didn't let go. What undeserved love.

It reminds me of a quote I read that says: "O God, take my heart, for I cannot give it; and when Thou hast it, keep it, for I cannot keep it for Thee." -Fenelon

It also reminds me of another quote that says: "Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you." -J.I. Packer

Lord, thank You for keeping my heart. Please continue holding fast to me. I am more thankful than I could ever describe because You love me and saved a wretch like me.

Read a post on The Gospel Coalition blog that I love: "God Can Restore Your Lost Years."


Saturday, August 27, 2016

He Orchestrates the Details and Weaves Stories Together

When I was in Virginia a couple weeks ago, I got a message from the mother of a close friend of mine from high-school.

Kristen had her healthy first child on March 16, 2010 - Lily's exact birthday! I've blogged about it before. Sadly, not only do we have that date in common now...

As I said, her mom wrote me on Tuesday, the 16th of August, letting me know that Kristen had lost her baby... Ryleigh Grace was unexpectedly stillborn the day before, on August 15th... Life for Lily Day. Yet another significant date we have in common. And baby girls who now live with Jesus.

Ryleigh was born just shy of 38 weeks gestation, a beautiful little girl with her cord tied tightly around her neck.

Both Kristen and her mom thought of me and hoped I could talk on the phone, knowing I understand what they're going through. I told her I was deeply sorry for their loss and not only could I talk on the phone, but I also "happened" to be in town (remember, I live in NC now, away from my hometown and where Lily is layed to rest).

I see how the Lord orchestrated my being there at that time, to put together a comfort box for Kristen and to attend Ryleigh's service with my grandmother, who also lost a baby.

I wasn't able to put together the exact type of box I usually do (because some of the things have to be ordered online), but it ended up being quite special, I think. We had a day to prepare the box, so Bumma and I went around Charlottesville to different shops, collecting items. I was thankful Bumma was willing and eager to be a part of this. I'll explain more about what we included in the box below.

The service was beautiful and it was an honor to be there. Ryleigh was layed to rest in the same cemetery as my grandparents (dad's parents). There are rolling hills and breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountain views from this cemetery. Ryleigh's mommy wrote a moving poem that was read aloud at the service. It was the first service for a baby that I've been to since Lily's (that I can recall). It was definitely emotional for me. Of course it is heartbreaking when anyone loses their baby, but when it is someone I know, it hurts more.

I know that because of my own loss of Lily, I understand in a deeper and fuller way the heartbreak that infant loss entails, and therefore can pray and intercede for this family in a unique way. I keep bringing this family to the Lord, remembering the rawness and shock of those first days and weeks after Lily died. I pray that I am able to bear a little bit of their burden.

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." -Galatians 6:2

After the service, there was a meal at a church in the area. I was glad Bumma and I could talk some with them, both at the graveside service and at the church afterwards, in a way that only those who've lost a baby can converse. We were all discussing how crazy it is all the similarities between our stories... The Lord certainly orchestrates the details and weaves stories together in a way only He can. I will continue to keep in contact with them in the months ahead, especially when a lot of the initial support wears off, yet the pain of the loss remains.

Here is the box...

I knew right when I thought about putting together a box that I wanted to include something with Ryleigh's name and birthdate on it. When you lose a baby, those are some of the only things connected to them. Their names are sacred and unspeakably precious. They are a reminder that they are real and they were here. They will always be our children, who we will love and call by name.

As soon as I thought of getting something with her name, I believe the Lord placed my friend Cambry's name in my heart. She is my friend I shared about recently in my Life for Lily Day post. We met at Ellerslie in Colorado last year and discovered she lives near my hometown in Virginia. She had just come to the Life for Lily Day celebration the day before, and we had gotten together to frolic about in downtown Staunton that day. Cambry is a talented artist and sells some of her work at times. I asked if she'd be willing to paint a custom piece for my friend for the box and immediately, she graciously and willingly said yes. I love her generous heart. She had one day to paint this and then met with me the morning of the service to give it to me. I could tell Kristen loved the painting and so did everyone she showed it to. I like this picture Cambry took in her own personal outdoor art studio. ;)

Most of the items for the box were from Ten Thousand Villages or T.J. Maxx (a couple of my favorite stores). I stuck to a butterfly theme, as usual. :) The box was colorful with butterflies and flowers, perfect to store keepsakes in.

a butterfly card with a handwritten and signed note from my grandmother and I... with my blog card inside and an explanation of all the items in the box

a lamb (for innocence and purity) to hold in their empty arms
and a teddy bear for big brother

Forget-Me-Not flower seeds to plant in memory of the baby they'll never forget

a butterfly bracelet to wear in remembrance of Ryleigh

a "hope" stone, as a tangible reminder to hold onto hope

lavender and chamomile (both known to be calming and soothing) 
soap and bubble bath to pamper mom and help her heal

chamomile lavender tea to also pamper mom

a journal to write pregnancy memories, the birth story, letters or poems, feelings, etc. 
(writing means so much to me and has been a huge part of my healing and Kristen likes to write too - remember a poem she wrote was read aloud at the service).. I was glad I found the journal with Scripture on each page and butterflies on the cover that I used in the comfort boxes 
given to the hospital for Lily's birthday this year.

a candle to light in remembrance of Ryleigh

a packet of tissues for their tears

a butterfly wind-chime (made in Indonesia - Lily has the same one at her spot) 
for their home or Ryleigh's spot... Kristen was saying how at the service, she was
already thinking of wanting to decorate her spot. I thought the wind-chime would be
perfect... also, it is touching that a mother's instinct to do something for her child, even
if it's decorating their gravesite, kicks in fast

Please pray that Jesus will comfort this grieving family and hold their broken hearts.

I won't forget you, Ryleigh... I will hold onto your obituary, the bulletin from your service, the memory of your beautiful face, and the knowledge of the forever love your family will have for you.


My Girl - Always with Me

My brother, our grandmother, and I were driving around Waynesboro, Virginia one evening last week, when we spotted "Lily Drive" and "Hannah Circle" within about a mile of each other. My girl is always with me. 😊💕


Friday, August 26, 2016

August 2009 Series ~ He Moves in the Most Unlikely Ways

The month of August 2009 is when God intervened in my life and radically altered my life, through my unborn baby, my darling Lily girl. Each August, I am flooded with memories of His faithfulness, in both the huge things and the smallest details that He used to speak to me. I like to share the blog entries about that time each August to share of His great love and faithfulness. I will call the posts the "August 2009 Series."


I have been thinking a lot about something God used to change my life in August 2009. If you are familiar with my story, you know that when I was pregnant with Lily, I was planning on having an abortion and even scheduled the appointment at Planned Parenthood for August 15th, 2009. I was too many weeks into pregnancy to have the medical abortion (RU486 pill) so was doing some research online to see what sort of abortion procedure I would be getting and what to expect.

In the midst of my research, I was horrified to read about the surgical abortion procedures. By the Lord's leading, I came across stories of men and women who had formerly been involved in the abortion industry, but after God changing their hearts and lives, they became passionately pro-life. I read stories of brokenhearted men and women who regret their decision to abort their unborn child. I also came across stories of those who chose life and adoption for their child. I pored over these stories and wept over them.

The testimony that stands out most vividly in my mind is that of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who was an American doctor and co-founder of the NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws). He was one of the people that most passionately spoke our for abortion before it was legalized, and then he became passionately pro-life. The development of ultrasound in the 1970s helped change his mind that the unborn are human beings, worthy of protection and life. He even performed an abortion on his own unborn child, along with ending the lives of thousands of other unborn babies. :-(

BUT our God is a God of redemption. And He can take the darkest and most hopeless stories and make them radiate His light and healing touch. Dr. Nathanson has impacted millions of people around the world with his spoken and written words. Click HERE to read a post shared on The Gospel Coalition blog about Dr. Bernard Nathanson this week.

I wish that I could tell him how much his movie, The Silent Scream, impacted my life. I first saw it in August 2009 and can honestly say, it is in fact partly because of this film that I chose life for Lily. She was close to the same size and gestation of the baby in the film.

Watch The Silent Scream below or by clicking HERE. Note: the video was made in 1984, so it is not the best quality. Also, WARNING: it is graphic, so may be extremely difficult to hear about and watch. But this society must come to a realization of the truth of what abortion is. That's what it took for me.

When I was originally researching abortion because I was planning on getting one, the Lord turned my world upside down by stirring my soul and igniting a passion within me to give a voice to those who have no voice. He opened the eyes of my heart to sense the depth of the darkness of abortion in a way I haven't felt since. I realized how ignorant I had been. He showed me how precious each life is to Him and how He has a unique plan and purpose for everyone. Talk about a 180!

I hope that in sharing what God did in my life in this way, you see that He can move in the most unlikely of ways, in the most unexpected circumstances. He is sovereign and mighty. He is so much more powerful than any darkness in this world. He can use the very thing the enemy means to bring destruction and devastation to our lives and totally and completely turn it around for our good and His glory. I will never stop speaking out about how He rescued me and set me free.

And how He brought me to a 180... through testimonies of men and women who have in some intimate way been impacted by abortion, the people who would seem the most unqualified to be pro-life and speak out against abortion. Yet God truly uses the "unqualified" to bring His purposes to pass on Earth and to showcase His strength! Those of us who have been touched by abortion first-hand need to speak out. Our voices are needed, even if anyone makes you feel like you're unworthy of being heard. We can speak about abortion in a way others cannot.

It's amazing to me the ripple effects that occur when we choose to share. Me seeing Dr. Nathanson's video helped me find the courage to choose life, which in turn began a journey of God awakening my heart to share my own story through speaking and writing. It shows what ripple effects come out of our sharing, when one person is impacted and then they go on to impact more people, and so on and so forth. Never feel like you cannot make a difference in this world for life because you most certainly can!

I can only hope and pray that a woman who finds herself in an unplanned pregnancy, like I was in, will also be searching the internet, googling terms having to do with abortion, and will find her way here to my blog. I hope that even if she never writes to me or makes it known, that somehow my words and the lives of Luke and Lily, will show her that choosing LIFE is always the better way. The internet is a powerful tool that can be wielded for good or bad. I pray that the Lord will lead many people in crisis to stories like that of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Jill Stanek, Abby Johnson, etc. And please continue to share these stories on social media and with those you know because you never know who needs to hear them, and who will remember them when a crisis pregnancy comes knocking.

Here is a Jill Stanek video that I also remember watching in August 2009 (along with researching partial birth abortion).


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My Niece Visiting My Daughter

My niece, Harvest, visited Lily's special spot for the first time this past weekend on a visit to Virginia... One cousin in the earthly realm and one in the spiritual. It was entirely bittersweet. This is the only way Harvest can "visit" Lily. I sure hope she grows up thinking about her, talking and asking about her, and loving her. I know there will be many visits here through the years. 💕

My sister-in-law Kala telling Harvest about Lily.

My brother Joseph, Kala, and Harvest.

Harvest seemed to like the bright colors and Lily's stone. :)

Joseph telling his daughter about his niece/her cousin.

Notice her butterfly shirt worn in her big cousin's honor. Bumma gave the shirt to me to give to Harvest. :) I want one just like it - the butterfly, ruffles, and color are beautiful.

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