Monday, October 31, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 31

Day 31: Sunset Reflection
October 31, 2016 

Day 31. Sunset Reflection: We have come to the end of this Capture Your Grief experience so take a big breath and a long sigh. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken part this year and especially for allowing me the grace to grieve and take my own time with posting my daily subjects... On this last day, take some time out to watch the sunset from wherever you are in the world and reflect on this last month. How do you feel? What have you learned? What did you dislike? What did you like?

I can hardly believe the month of October is ending, and thus so is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, a time of year very close to my heart.

I've enjoyed being a part of the Capture Your Grief Project this year... sharing my Lily and hearing more about your babies has been healing and an honor.

My sweet friend Elise sent me this picture from Lily's spot (decorated for PAIL Awareness Month) and I thought it was perfect to share today. She captured the photo at sunset and though it's difficult to tell in the photo, the sky was pink and blue, the PAIL Awareness ribbon colors.

Much love to everyone who participated! 💕💙

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 30

Day 30: My Promise to You
October 30, 2016 

Day 30. My Promise to You: I made a promise to my son a few years ago to live my life to the fullest in honor of him. I have succeeded and failed at that promise many times but what matters most is that it has helped me to hold onto love when there is only darkness and to always try my best to make him proud of me. What promise would you like to make to your child?

I'm on a lifelong journey of learning what it means to be your mommy, which is challenging to do from Earth, my daughter of Heaven.

This I know: I promise to always be your voice and to honor you in any way I can for as long as I live.

Your heart beats with every beat of my own, and you will live on through me until I breathe my last breath. Even if all the world were to forget you, I promise I never will. I couldn't forget even in my old age because you are etched into the very fabric of my heart. So don't feel like you're missing out on all the fun. Because wherever I go, there you'll be too.

No matter how many children I may have in the future, you will forever remain my first-born babe. Please know that nobody could ever take your place. There's a special spot in my heart that will always be yours alone.

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be." -Robert Munsch

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 29

Day 29: Cherished Memory
October 29, 2016 

I am doing my own prompt for today.

One of my most cherished memories with Lily is when I was 29 weeks pregnant. It was the Christmas season and Lily went on an adventure to Philly! We had a fun and memorable trip, walking around downtown, getting hot beverages at charming local coffee shops, exploring historic/touristy destinations, trying the famous Philly cheesesteak sub, and staying at the oldest hotel in the city. My mom and brothers went to an Eagle's football game. I kept having contractions and we joked that "Lily wanted to be born in Philly." My belly was getting a lot bigger, to the point of not being able to button up this coat all the way, as you can see in the photo. ;) That makes me giggle. Lily was growing big and strong! My girl had lots of adventures during her time on Earth with her adoring family.

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Join Me in Praying

Would you please join me in praying for a dear mother in the U.K. who I've connected with over the past few years? Her first child, a precious daughter, was unexpectedly and unexplainably stillborn at full-term in January 2013.

This year, she was pregnant with her "rainbow baby," another darling daughter, who was just stillborn at 35 weeks a couple days ago. The doctors are baffled as to why this keeps happening, for no known reason.

Pray for answers, for the Lord's comfort, and that I will have wisdom in what to say because the truth is, I have no idea why this has happened twice to her when others get healthy child after healthy child. The very thing I fear happening to me has happened to her and I want to approach this with grace and love, while pointing to Jesus in the midst of heavy pain and questions. There is no easy or pat answer, like people wish there could be. I know that God is good and am reminded of Job.


On Romance and Relationships

I'm encouraged by these words I wrote a year ago. Still single, still trusting. Thought I'd share it again to hopefully encourage some single sisters...

Do you want to know an incredibly freeing thought TRUTH? Nothing I do and say or don't do and say is going to impress a man and make him fall in love with me. It is out of my hands. I have no control over it.

Some people might think that is actually quite frightening, rather than comforting.... but you see, I know that when God does bring someone into my life, it'll be right. It'll be in His perfect time and way. It's comforting to know that I don't have to cause a man's heart to be stirred towards me. The God who created me and has called me to my purpose is capable of awakening our hearts to one another.

I have prayed and asked the Lord to only allow one man, the man He has for me, to pursue me. Because I don't want to mess around. I don't want anyone's heart to be wounded. There is no time for games in such a serious matter. I can trust that when it's time, God will show this man. He will show him that I'm "the one" and that it's time to pursue me and how to pursue me. I don't have to and don't want to manipulate it in any fashion.

This man will love me because the God of love will give him HIS love for me. I don't ever have to pretend to be someone I'm not. And not only that, this man will not be intimidated by my ministry and calling. He will support me in it and will pray with and for me. I have struggled with thinking how could a man fall in love with me knowing about my past before he even gets to know me? Because there is so much more to me and it's difficult thinking he'll know the most raw and vulnerable parts of me before he even knows me. Not every man would want to pursue things with a woman with a "past," and someone who is so public about her story. But the man who God has for me will have grace. I wouldn't want a man who isn't Christ-like. The fact is, the man I marry will never even know who I once was, and a man who doesn't recognize that, I have no desire for anyways. The man I marry will love Lily... and Luke too. And he will see the beauty of redemption and the work of Christ in my life. He will see that I'm not a depressed person with all sorts of baggage.

As a friend of mine recently said to me, I can be faithful in sharing my story when God opens the doors and can have complete rest and freedom trusting that God is in control. When something does happen with a man, it'll so clearly be Jesus scripting the story. I have prayed that it will so evidently be HIM when and if it does happen and that my love story will be a reflection of the gospel.

There are well-intentioned people in my life who I know want the best for me. They feel sorry for me because I'm not married yet. Please don't feel sorry for me. If I were meant to be married right now, I would be. God holds my life and future in His hands. I trust Him and that He knows best for my life in the area of romance. Because you know what? In the past, I have made really stupid choices in the area of guys. Those guys were never meant to be my husband. I don't trust my own judgment in this area. I know that God will give me peace when the right person does come along, the one HE has chosen for me.

You might think it's irrational, unproductive, silly, naive, and maybe even a little stupid that I'm not "out there" trying to snag a husband. I'm not on any online dating website, I'm not in any singles groups, and I really don't want anyone to set me up with their friend, son, grandson, etc. Because the God who created romance and marriage is far more capable of finding a man for me than I am or anyone else. After all, He created him and me. And the man who will compliment me, and I him, is out there.... if marriage is what God has for me. How will a God-written love story look? I have no idea. Each love story is different, showing the creativity of the Lord.

A young woman named Krissy was asked as the years were passing by and no prospect of a man was in her life if she was called to a life of singleness. She thoughtfully responded, "today I am." Today, I know I am called to singleness. Will that be forever, I don't know. I hope not. But I also know that what God has for me, whatever it is, is best. And I wouldn't want marriage if it isn't His plan. I would rather be single forever than married to the wrong man. The kind of man that loves Jesus with his entire life and will be the right person for me is worth waiting for.

Even if time keeps passing and it appears as if nothing is happening, I know my God is working and is in control. And no matter the pressure, how it appears there are no guys in this generation that are single and worth waiting for, or the Lord's seeming distance in this area, I choose to trust. I want my life and love story to be proof to those in my life and to this world that God does care about every intimate detail of our lives... and that He does script beautiful love stories to this day.


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 28

Day 28: Compassion
October 28, 2016 

Day 28: Compassion

I am putting my own spin on today's topic. I want to share some practical ideas for showing compassion to mothers who have experienced the loss of their baby.

Acknowledge. That their baby was real and an irreplaceable part of their life and family.

Speak their name. It's a melody to the ears of a mother whose lost their child.

Ask questions. About the meaning behind their baby's name, details about their birth story, special pregnancy memories, etc.

Do something. Don't be one of those people who says "let me know if I can do anything," and then who goes on with your life pleased with yourself for saying it, but not actually do anything. Send flowers, a card, take a meal or groceries, toilet paper, milk, tissues, etc. Put together a little comfort box, like the one pictured. Pamper the mother with all things lavender and chamomile, which are both known to be soothing and calming.

Don't pressure. Don't try to force them to act how you want them to act or "recover" from this, as if they had the flu.

Just listen. Sometimes they don't need advice. They aren't looking for you to "fix things." They just need a listening ear, a warm hug, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to pray with.

Share resources. Send information to them with resources to help them realize they aren't alone, such as Still Standing Magazine.

Show sensitivity. With your words and actions. Before thrusting that pregnancy announcement or baby photos in their face, try to imagine how that might make them feel. Ask them if they want to see them.

Remember. After a short time, the flooding of phone calls and cards will stop. It's in these times that they will continue needing love and support. Keep reaching out. Remember their baby on their birthday/death day. Remember their baby on Christmas. Remember their baby on October 15th - Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and light a candle for them. Tell them that you remember. Do something special for them, such as getting them a piece of jewelry in honor of their baby from somewhere such as My Forever Child, planting a tree in their baby's honor, mentioning their baby by name in the cards you send them, getting a Christmas ornament with their baby's name, among so many other possibilities. Get creative in how you can honor their motherhood and their baby's valuable life. The smallest of gestures can speak a thousand words that will never be forgotten.

***These ideas are from a post I wrote called "How Family and Friends Can Help When a Baby Dies."***

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Lily's Ultrasound Necklace

I love my ultrasound necklace that I got on Etsy from Jill Campa Designs - Now That's Personal (there are several other designs to choose from)! It's so special to have a piece to wear with my darling Lily girl's picture. The sweetest profile I've ever seen. 💕 #iheartEtsy

This is the ultrasound picture that I selected to be used for the necklace... my favorite one. :)


Talking about Her in a Normal Way

Checking out at Michaels a couple evenings ago, I told the cashier my email (roseandherlily {at} gmail) and she remarked on how pretty it is. I responded with a smile and "thank you, my middle name is Rose and my daughter is Lily." I love being able to talk about her in a "normal" way. 


Lily Rose at Kohl's

My friend Sabrina recently sent me this photo and wrote: "This caught my eye tonight at Kohl's and made me think of both you and Lily. :)" Love it!


Lily Remembered by Firelight

Thanks to my friend Danielle who sent me this photo a few nights ago and said she was thinking of my Lily and me. ❤️


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 27

Day 27: Family is Forever
October 27, 2016 

Day 27. Family is Forever: Your child is a part of your family forever. There will never come a day when you are no longer their parent. Until the end of time, you are family. Share about your family today. Who would be in your family portrait? Remember that family does not have to be blood relatives.

Family is forever.

Lily's unique spot in my family is irreplaceable and forever.
It's all her own.
She's my cherished first-born.
The first-born grandchild.
The first-born great-granddaughter.
A niece.
A great-niece.
A first and second cousin.

She shares a first name with her great-great-great-grandmother, Lily, and a middle name with Lily's daughter, Katherine.

It makes my heart smile that Lily is connected to my family through her name. She is just as real as anybody and deserves the most beautiful of names.

Some people live close to 100 years on Earth, while others never take a breath outside the womb, but that doesn't make one life more significant than another. That's what I feel God reminding me of as I've struggled with wondering why my relatives before me, Lily and Katherine, were blessed with many more years than my little Lily Katherine. What I keep coming back to is remembering that it is God alone who numbers our days (Psalm 139:16) and it's His business whether those days are numbered few or many. Our value is not found in that number. And what God can do through a life is not measured or defined by that number. He works outside of our lines, as I wrote about in a blog post before. Not only that, but His love for us is not measured in how many days He gives us on Earth. The fact that my girl has the same name as these women who lived on Earth for many decades is a reminder of how they are equal.

I am confident in and comforted by Lily's place in my family. There will never be another Lily Katherine Allen-Ball like her. We treasure the time we had with her here and will carry her with us always, seeking ways to honor her, remember her, and include her. ❤️

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 26

Day 26: #WhatHealsYou
October 26, 2016 

Day 26. #WhatHealsYou: Turning the WHY into what heals you? has been one of my greatest healers. Whenever I found myself asking "why did this have to happen. Why me? Why him?" etc etc. I started asking myself what heals me? I revisited passions of mine and spent a little bit of time each day giving those passions my attention. Before too long, my life started becoming beautiful again. Share about what heals you and if you are not sure, have a think about what it is you are passionate about. What heals you is often hidden there.

Revelation 21:4 - my hope and ultimate healing.

Maranatha, which means "come, Lord Jesus."

Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 25

Day 25: Finished Sentences
October 25, 2016 

Day 25. Finished Sentences: Finish these 5 sentences...

I wish _______________________________.

I remember __________________________.

I could not believe _____________________.

If only _______________________________.

I am _________________________________.

I wish... I knew you at age 6. I wish I could have known you at every age up until the age you'd be now. I wish I had more than a select few photos to share over and over. I wish the world would recognize your value the way I do.

I remember... how wonderful it was to have you here and all the adventures you had during your short life. How simultaneously tragic and amazing it was to have you in my arms for the first time. How perfectly formed and beautifully real you were, with those dainty eyelashes, eyebrows, nails already growing out, and a face with features just like your mommy.

I could not believe... you slipped away for no apparent reason after a beautiful and healthy pregnancy. That at age 20, I was thrust into a world of baby caskets, headstones, and what it felt like to leave the hospital with empty arms after a full-term pregnancy and being denied a birth certificate for the 7 pound 9 ounce baby you birthed because she didn't take a breath.

If only... I had delivered you a few days before. If only I had known about the importance of kick counts. If only I had a husband and another *living* child. I know that "I have to surrender my "if only's" to Jesus," as Corrie ten Boom wrote. I trust He sees and understands. And He withholds nothing good and nothing needed from my life. He holds my "if only's" and He is always enough.

I am... always and forever Lily's mother, even if that's invisible to the world. ❤️ 


7-Year "Blogoversary"

This post was shared 2 years ago originally... I updated it for this year.

It was 7 years ago today, on October 25, 2009, that I wrote my very first blog post, titled "My Hope for this Blog."

This is what I wrote: "I made this blog because I want to share my story and my testimony with whoever will listen. It's a story of God's love, forgiveness, and redemption. I want to share my passion and my hope with other girls and young women going through circumstances similar to my own. There is hope. There is life. And His name is Jesus."

1,143 published posts and exactly 7 years later and here we are.

My hope for this blog remains the same, though the direction has changed some. At the time when I first started this blog, I pictured it to be a place where young women could come to be encouraged to choose life in an unplanned pregnancy, a place for post-abortive women to feel loved unconditionally, and a place for anyone to come and hear about the power, mercy, and redemption of Jesus Christ.

I never could have imagined, however, that a few months after this, my precious daughter would go to Heaven. I never could have imagined that my blog would also become a place of ministering to others who have lost a baby.

It has become so much more than I intended it to be, but everything God intended it to be. He had a plan for this blog beyond what I could see or comprehend on this October day 7 years ago.

And the "ironic" (I believe God orchestrates everything) part of it is, I started blogging first after seeing a video and reading a blog that a woman named Lauren wrote in honor of her son, Jonathan, who passed away shortly after birth from Trisomy 13. He was born and went home to with the Lord the very month that I heard his story and started my blog. I watched her video tribute of his life and read some of her blog and was so deeply touched by this little boy's life and legacy. I think it especially impacted me because I was carrying my own sweet baby at the time, in my second trimester of pregnancy. I was understanding at a deeper level every day how God has a plan and purpose for every life created in His image and that each life is so, so precious and irreplaceable. Each life can make a forever impact on this world.

I shared Jonathan's story on my Facebook page 7 years ago yesterday and then the very next day, I was inspired to start my own blog.

Here's a screen shot of that post.

I remember my hope for my new blog, and my desire to minister to other young women, growing within me. This was the same month that I had gone to the pregnancy center banquet in Charlottesville with my grandmother and the Lord had whispered to my heart that I would one day be sharing my story of redemption and life, through speaking and writing. Then God led me to start my blog just a week later. I knew that God was writing the life story of my daughter Lily and I wanted to share that with the world, just as Lauren had done with Jonathan.

It's just so neat to see God's hand in it all... how He put the desire to share within me, how my mom found Lauren's video/blog and shared it with me, how I had never thought about blogging but decided then that I wanted to, etc.

I remember thinking to myself, and saying out loud to my mom probably, that I could never imagine going through the loss of a baby. My mom and I wept so much when we watched Jonathan's video. It still never crossed my mind that it could ever happen to me or my healthy baby. 

I vividly recall sitting in my living room, trying to come up with a name for my blog. I knew I wanted it to be something with a rose and lily in the name... then it came to me, "Rose and Her Lily." I still love the name so much. My little girl was with me all her life and I will carry her with me the rest of my life. 

Even when I couldn't see it, God was preparing me. He was going before me. He was always with me and He's with me still.

The length of time I've been writing regularly on this blog is a testimony to how much I love Lily, how radically God transformed my life through hers, and the sanctity of all life. 

Lord, continue to use this blog for Your glory.

In honor of Jonathan and how his precious life impacted mine, here is his tribute video. I remembered the beautiful music from his video when Lily passed away and was able to use it at her memorial service after Lauren so graciously sent it to me in March 2010, just a few months after Jonathan was born.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 24

Day 24: Her Song
October 24, 2016 

I am going to come up with my own prompt for today.

My amazingly sweet and thoughtful friend Heather Cofer surprised me on Lily's 4th birthday in March 2014 with a song just for Lily, one of the best gifts I've ever received and one I will treasure forever - the words, her voice, and the melody are hauntingly beautiful. Sometimes I still can't believe Lily has a song. I'll never tire of it, or of the fact that my friend did this for me, after the Lord prompting her to do so.

I'll never forget how just a short time before Heather sent me the song, I was on a friend's blog and saw someone wrote her daughter a song (she is also with Jesus) and I longed to have one for Lily. God knew that Heather was in the process of preparing this most sacred gift for me, and even led me to desire it, without the slightest clue I already had one "in the works!" He wanted to bless me with Lily being honored in this way. :)

When Heather sent me the song (along with this lovely lyrics page), she wrote: "It has been a very precious and very serious process for me, knowing that I need to accurately portray a story not my own in a way that is beautiful and clear. I tried to incorporate ways that you have used to describe Lily and your story, and since this is written from your perspective, trying to also capture the deep emotion, love, joy, and sorrow that is apart of it.... My desire was for you to have a song that was specifically for Lily, from the outflow of your heart."

It was wonderful hearing the song in person for the first time last August. It expressed parts of my heart I never knew could be expressed. It's a keepsake of Lily's life and legacy in itself and has been wonderful to have this to share at the end of a speaking engagement, as a way to wrap things up. I'd love it if Heather could play it live on day somewhere that I speak.

The words take my breath away and bring me to my knees in thanking the Lord for her life, as well as missing her beyond description.

Heather has somehow captured my mother heart in these words, Lily's life and legacy, and what it means to me to be her mommy. The song just fits Lily - it is so gentle and sweet, yet also has a bittersweet sound. It depicts the sacred dance of grief and joy. Heather is an amazing musician. I have thought her voice and piano playing is so beautiful for as long as I've known her. Her sweet voice matches this song perfectly. 💕

Here are Heather and I last year with her beautiful daughter who was due on the exact same day Lily was, 5 years apart.

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 23

Day 23: Sounds, Seasons + Scents
October 23, 2016 

Day 23. Sounds, Seasons + Scents: There are reminders of our children everywhere. We find them in songs, in scents, and different seasons. Share the things that bring you closer to your children. Feel free to share a song that reminds you of them.

Each season holds sounds, scents, and feelings that remind me of Lily for a different reason... thinking of her time on Earth or all her life would be holding with each new season and year.

Fall reminds me of my pregnancy, seeing her and hearing her heart for the first time, feeling her kick, and my love growing along with my belly.

Spring is a bittersweet time of year. It reminds me of the time Lily came...and went. She was born just days before spring started. 

In the first few weeks after losing her, all the flowers were blooming beautifully and the sun grew warmer on my skin. The birds were happily chirping along, preparing nests for their wee ones. It felt wrong that life was marching on and the seasons were changing, even though she wasn't there. It felt like everything was supposed to stop since her life had ended. 

With the promise of spring, came the promise of Lily. Like the new life bursting forth from the earth, Lily was new life. Spring and Lily...they came together. I see the hand of my God in choosing for her to be born right before the genesis of spring. He silently speaks with the vibrant colors, fresh smells, and the beauty of the season. There may be pain, there may be sorrow, there may be winter...oh, but in Him, we have the hope and the certainty that joy and spring are coming! 

With spring comes new life and fresh hope. Even here on Earth, the Lord is bringing beauty from ashes. There is spring even here, in this fallen world. 

She was born on March 16 (3:16) and yet again, He silently speaks His promise of spring...

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16 

Not only does God somehow, some magnificent way bring beauty and spring here on Earth, but He reminds me that spring is coming. Eternal spring

Some family friends named the Kirchmans gave me a bleeding heart plant at Lily's celebration of life/memorial service in March 2010. I remember when they first gave it to me thinking that the little pink hearts were a powerful reflection of my bleeding mother heart. My heart that bleeds both love and sorrow. And how perfect that hearts remind me of her and my Valentine's baby shower.

We planted the bleeding heart in Lily's memorial garden and each spring around her birthday, it blooms. It is something I look forward to in the spring... the time of year when she came, but never came home. It is a connection to March 2010. A connection to Lily.

Last spring, it appeared that the plant wasn't going to revive. But then it did... This bleeding heart is a reminder that though things may sleep through the winter, they come back in the spring! The spring is such a glorious time of hope and resurrection.

I am so thankful the Lord brought this little plant back to life. And even though it appeared it was gone forever, it was just sleeping. Lily might appear to be gone forever, but she is just asleep to this world... but forever alive in Jesus.

I'll end with this poem that reminds me of my sweet girl and the love I carry for her through every season:

My Little One, My Dear One, My Love
By Edward Searl

My little one, my dear one, my love,
you will be with me forever:
in the thin sunlight and long shadows
of a clear winter's day;
in the dawn excitement of birds
sounding in early spring;
in the rustle of heavy-leafed trees
in a mid-summer's night;
in the rich aromas and bright colors
of a warm autumn day.
All that is excellent,
brushed by Life's
brightness and shadow,
will remind me of you,
My little one, my dear one, my love.
You will beat with my heart,
see through my eyes,
hear with my ears,
feel on  my skin.
Because your soul is mingled with my soul, forever,
My little one, my dear one, my love.

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lily Remembered at Niagara Falls

My friend Tina wrote Lily's name at Niagara Falls on October 15th - Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Did you know they light up the Falls in pink and blue on that day?! It's magical. I'll share a picture of it when Tina sends me one. Her family lives near there and were able to spend the day there. I hope to one day visit and go with her! 💕💙


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 22

Day 22: Pearls of Wisdom
October 22, 2016 

Day 22. Pearls of Wisdom: Do you have any words of wisdom to share that you have found helpful? It could be from a writer, speaker, philosopher, maybe even a friend. Feel free to share quotes, poetry, song lyrics, or just ideas. I invite you to share a message of hope for all the newly bereaved parents and loved ones out there.

I want to share some words from a letter written by John Piper to a lady whose son was stillborn. These words are incredibly comforting to me and I pray whoever reads them who have also lost their baby will find comfort in them as well.
Please know that I know I don't know what it is like to give birth to a lifeless body. Only a small, sad band of mothers knows that. I say "lifeless body" because, as you made clear, your son is not lifeless. He simply skipped earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, he will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows.
I do not know what age - what level of maturity and development - he will have in that day. I don't know what level of maturity and development I will have. Will the 25-year-old or the 35- or the 45- or the 55-year-old John Piper be the risen one? God knows what is optimal for the spiritual, glorified body. And so it will be for your son. But you will know him. God will see to that. And he you. And he will thank you for giving him life. He will thank you for enduring the loss that he might have the reward sooner.
God's crucial word on grieving well is 1 Thessalonians 4:13: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." Yours is a grieving with hope. Theirs is a grieving without hope. That is the key difference. There is no talk of not grieving. That would be like suggesting to a woman who just lost her arm that she not cry, because it would be put back on in the resurrection. It hurts! That's why we cry. It hurts.
And amputation is a good analogy. Because unlike a bullet wound, when the amputation heals, the arm is still gone. So the hurt of grief is different than the hurt of other wounds. There is the pain of the severing, and then the relentless pain of the gone-ness. The countless might-have-beens. Those too hurt. Each new remembered one is a new blow on the tender place where the arm was. So grieving is like and unlike other pain.

You can read the entire letter here.

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 21

Day 21: Relationships
October 21, 2016 

Day 21. Relationships: How have your relationships changed? Did you lose any? Have you made new friendships?

Through having (and losing) Lily, the Lord has brought many amazing people into my life.

Some of the women I treasure, I met online. They are women of all different ages, with different stories, from across the world. It is incredible how the Lord weaves our stories and lives together. I haven't even met some of my dearest friends "in person," but when you relate on the deepest levels because of shared similar experiences, it's as if you've known that person always. When your hearts connect, it doesn't matter the number of miles between you.

The lovely ladies I've met in person/locally are also amazing. The photo on the bottom is from Lily's 6th birthday. I was out of town that day and couldn't be at my local loss support group meeting that happened to fall on her exact birthday. The ladies who did meet together had red-velvet cupcakes for Lily and took this sweet photo for me. Red-velvet as many of you know is a Lily tradition, started because of my Valentine's-themed baby shower. Isn't that so sweet?!

I'm also thankful for the people I know outside of the loss community, the family and friends who have stuck by me through the years, taking interest in being a part of the special events or occasions where Lily is honored. The photo on the top is from Lily's stone placement ceremony in November 2013, when I finally got her permanent headstone and was able to share the meaning behind it.

I hear some people talk about how their families don't "count" their baby in Heaven, don't talk about them, include them, celebrate them on their birthday, etc. And it makes me realize just how blessed I am to have a family who does love, honor, miss, and count Lily. My family and friends walked out their pro-life convictions in Lily's life... but honestly what I'm finding is they did so even more in her death... Their love for her and understanding of the sanctity of life was even more pronounced in their depth of weeping when she was buried on that day in late March 2010, in how they celebrate her birthday with me each March 16th, in their sensitivity in how they try to understand best they can what I'm feeling and what I need, in wanting to visit her "special spot" with me when we're in Virginia, in not being afraid to speak her name - not in a tense and awkwardly forced sort of way, but just normal, because she is a part of the family, in not making me feel like I should stop missing and loving Lily as other people try to make me feel, but entering into my pain and love with me, because they feel it as well, in being gracious and compassionate with me, even when I do get overly emotional and don't always make sense. Her absence is recognized because her value was first.

Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 20

Day 20: Gratitude
October 20, 2016 

Day 20. Gratitude: I remember when I started on this journey of grief, people always said count your blessings and be grateful for what you have. I remember wanting to scream in their faces! But I took note of what they were saying and I started keeping a gratitude journal. I started writing down anything I felt grateful for and before too long, gratitude lifted me out of a dark pit of despair. What are your thoughts about gratitude? Do you feel it and if so, share something you are grateful for.

I'm grateful for the 40 weeks and 2 days I carried Lily beneath my heart. I'm grateful she knew my voice and could feel my love. I'm grateful for each time I heard her precious heartbeat, for each time I saw her on the ultrasound screen, for each gentle flutter or hard jab. I'm grateful for each picture and each keepsake item. I'm grateful that I was given the gift of her and that sacred time with her here. I'm grateful for the comforting knowledge that her entire life on Earth was peaceful. I'm grateful that she only ever felt warmth and love, never sadness, cold, pain, jealousy, or any of the other things that can make life hurt. I'm grateful she never felt salty tears running down her cheeks or felt ugly or not enough. I'm grateful she was never bullied and never had her heart broken. I'm grateful she is safe with her Creator and that we'll be together again. I'm grateful for each day I wake up with breath in my body and have the opportunity to serve Jesus and share of what God did in me through my little girl. I'm grateful for each person who remembers and celebrates her with me. I'm grateful that she is mine and I am hers. I'm grateful that she knew me and I her. I'm grateful that the bond we shared can never be severed.

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Not a Political Talking Point

This photo is of me and my friend Bonnie. When you start talking about the issue of late-term abortion, I hope you will remember her name and face.

Bonnie's birth mother attempted to abort her several months into her pregnancy, but God had His hand on her life and she survived. When she was born, she weighed less than 3 pounds and because of the attempted abortion, she now has cerebral palsy. One day, her adoptive mom was looking through an adoption magazine and saw a picture of a little girl with big brown eyes. After showing it to her dad, they both knew that she was meant to be their daughter. That little girl was Bonnie. When she was 2 1/2, her dad flew to Bangkok, Thailand to bring Bonnie home to Alaska to live with her forever family. She is now 27-years-old and such a joy and light to everyone blessed enough to know her. I count it a great honor to be friends with her. She is living with the choice her birth mother made for her. She had no say in what happened and the consequences she will bare the rest of her life.

Bonnie is literally the face of the pre-born babies our country has so easily and flippantly made a political talking point, especially over the last few days, since the last debate.

My friends, this isn't politics. This is real, beautiful, precious, irreplaceable, unrepeatable life.

When we're talking late-term abortion, that far along into pregnancy, the baby will need to be born, regardless of how he/she comes out. According to Lawrence K. Koning MD, "As an ob/gyn physician for 31 years there is no medical situation that requires aborting the baby in the third trimester to "save the mother's life." Just deliver the baby by c-section and the baby has 95+% survival with readily available NICU care even at 28 weeks. C-section is quicker and safer than partial birth abortion for the mother."

I know that many people cite the extremely rare stories of babies with fetal abnormalities, who are unexpected to live, as a reason for having accessible late-term abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, most late-term abortions are performed "for reasons similar to those given by first-trimester abortion patients: financial stressors, relationship problems, education concerns or parenting challenges."

I am not saying that the circumstances some families face are not tragic and heartbreaking. These families need to be loved on and supported, but late-term abortion is not how we do that. We need to teach people that as abortion survivor Gianna Jessen said, "some things we can only learn from the weakest among us." The weak, vulnerable, and those considered "less than perfect" by society are precious and do not need to be weeded out. Have you met a baby with Down-Syndrome or a child with Autism? They bring needed light to this world. Someone's value is not measured in accomplishing something remarkable in the eyes of the world. Each human life is precious because of being created in the image of God.

It is God who gives and God who takes away. My friend Stacy's daughter Rachel was born with anencephaly, a condition where a baby is born without a fully developed brain. She carried Rachel to term and allowed the Lord to have His will in her life and death. And in the process, taught their entire family, and many others, about love.

Another thought I have, is even if people have that "perfect" baby, who is to say they won't get in a car accident as a child, ending up paralyzed for life, or develop something unforeseen? Should children or adults be killed when we deem them less than perfect and we find that they aren't what we hoped they'd be and aren't contributing to society? Or when they end up suffering for some reason later in life? No! Of course not. So then why do we treat the pre-born with that logic?

When I think of late-term abortion, it makes my heart weep as I think of my little Lily, my cherished daughter, who passed away just before being born at term in 2010.

You see, these babies are Lily. Whether they are treasured like her (or your child) or not doesn't determine their worth or right to life. They are the same. They are her brothers and sisters of the womb. It makes my blood boil to think of their value being diminished, as if they aren't real, as if they don't matter.

Bonnie and I say we represent "both sides of the story," meaning she represents the face of the pre-born and I represent the face of the woman who has had an abortion (at 6 weeks, before I had my daughter, Lily). Our friendship displays the redemption God desires to work in both sides and how He has a heart of love and mercy for both and desires to reconcile the two sides. As all the world seems to be talking about abortion, may we not forget Bonnie's story and the stories of others like hers. May we not forget the mothers who regret their abortions. May we show the love and mercy of Christ and not condemn something the Lord forgave.

This is not a political talking point... for so, so many.

My Lily - I will spend my life sharing your value. Each one of your brothers and sisters in the womb are precious and irreplaceable and my heart aches for others to recognize this. I will never stop sharing... for Bonnie... for you... for them.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Unused Baby Names

Still Mothers is a website/blog/online support group for mothers without any living children. We are still mothers.

They post these photos on Facebook that say "You know you're a still mother when..."

I saw this one and relate too well...

I have names treasured in my heart, names that I long to be able to call out to a living child, names that I long to have written on certificates of live births. Names that I hope my imaginary husband would like. Names that I think compliment Lily Katherine's and Luke Shiloh's. Names that I don't want to share with anyone because they are so sacred, yet I wonder if I'll ever have the need to share them. 

As I wrote about last year at Christmas, there's always this balance of waiting between missing and longing... missing my girl and yet aching for the future. Hoping that God will redeem things that are difficult to picture Him doing so.

Oh Heavenly Father, I know if my little one(s) whom I already love and have a name picked out for him/her/them is meant to be, you already know him/her/them. May Your perfect will be done in Your perfect time and way and may I trust in Your sovereignty and goodness. May I one day look back and see how these years of pain and longing were for a purpose and that the story couldn't have been scripted more beautifully.


Capture Your Grief ~ Day 19

Day 19: Traditions
October 19, 2016 

Day 19. Traditions: Creating traditions in grief do wonders for healing your heart. Do you have any traditions? Maybe something you do on special dates like birthdays or anniversaries? How do these traditions help you?

My family has quite a few traditions for Lily...

She was due on March 14th, which is National Potato Chip Day. Ironically, the food I craved most throughout my pregnancy was hashbrowns. One of her nicknames is Spud. We have hashbrowns in honor of our little Spud each year on her due date.

I had a Valentine's-themed baby shower, where we had yummy red-velvet cake. We now have something red-velvet (cake, cupcakes, ice-cream, etc.) each year in Lily's honor on her birthday, as well as on other special dates. We sing "happy birthday" to Lily in Heaven. ❤️🎂

My cousin Daniel is 4 months younger than me and his son Owen is 3 months older than Lily. Boy and girl cousins almost the same age apart! Oh how I dreamed they'd grow up close buds like Daniel and I were. Each year on Lily's birthday, Owen takes a photo where he wishes Lily a happy birthday. It is bittersweet to see him growing up through the years and to know Lily would be the same age, but she'll never grow up. I am thankful for these - the only way they can be in photos "together." Owen's mom is so thoughtful and kind to remember to do this for me and Lily Kat. One of my favorite traditions! I hope Owen will want to continue doing it through the years. 👫

Cracker Barrel is my favorite restaurant and store. We have Lily's birthday lunch or dinner there each year. 😊🎈🍴

I decorate Lily's special spot each year for her birthday, as well as for other seasons and holidays. 💐

A new tradition that has begun over the last couple years is taking cupcakes (red-velvet of course) to the hospital where Lily was born to the wonderful nurses there, along with some Lily's Legacy Comfort Boxes. 😘

We light a candle for Lily each year on October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, in conjunction with the Wave of Light. We participate in other local events held in October. 

We like to have a special time of celebrating each year on Life for Lily Day, whether that be with a butterfly release among other things.

I get a new Christmas ornament in Lily's honor each year to put out on her mini Christmas tree I have in my room. It is displayed by the stocking my grandmother knitted for her. 🎄

It is meaningful to have these traditions and I look forward to them each year. It makes me smile when these special "Lily things" remind others of her too. 😌

-Click here to see all of my photos from CYG 2016.

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