Monday, December 18, 2017

Fixed

I decorated my daughter's grave for Christmas recently. This has been my tradition for many Christmas seasons now. This is all I can tangibly do for my child for this special occasion... for any occasion.


As I was driving to the cemetery that evening, I passed the high-school that I attended. My cousin Thomas who is on the cross-country team was running with a teammate when he spotted me and excitedly waved. As I tidy things up, the sun was setting and I heard the cars zipping by.

It feels like the whole world is zipping by. The busy world is in a blur all around, but inside the gate surrounding the cemetery, all is fixed and silent.

I can hardly find words to describe what I'm feeling. It's like I drove in and everything slowed down around me. The whole world goes on and my world stops when I'm there. I've changed, grown, and aged in these years that I've been tending to the grave of a child who never will.


In a world where nothing seems fixed and things can seem chaotic and unpredictable, I know what to expect at the cemetery. Her stone is fixed. The things I'll need to do to tend to her spot are fixed. Her status as dead is fixed. Her being my forever baby and never my 7-year-old anticipating Christmas is fixed. Our relationship separated by realms is fixed.

But even in all the fixed permanent heartbreaking things that child loss entails, my Home in Heaven is fixed. Lily's place next to Jesus is fixed. Immovable. Unshakeable. The blur of this changing world will one day be steadied and fixed in Eternity, where I will no longer decorate my daughter's grave for Christmas. ❤️🎄💚 

Here are the decorations I took to Lily's spot this year... an "L" stocking, a sleigh, a Christmas tree, a snowman ornament, ice skates, and a Christmas flag. :)


About a week later, I took a couple more decorations there... the flowers and little tree for her vase.


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Abortion and Miscarriage Grief

I've been seeing a lot of talk swirling around recently after Planned Parenthood shared a quote with an article that claims abortion is the same thing as miscarriage.

Grieving parents who've lost a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth are clearly and understandably upset because of the reality of the stark differences. One is a deliberate taking of life and the other is an unintentional loss of life. This is obviously different.

But as someone who has experienced both, I'm here to share my thoughts.


While the losses are undeniably different, the grief over the losses can be very much the same (I know this is not a popular statement) because each results in the loss of one's own child and all their lives would have held. Not everyone regrets their abortion, so I'm not talking about them. I'm referring to the millions of women (and men), who do regret their decision to end the life of their unborn baby.

In February 2009, I chose for a heartbeat to cease within my body at 6 weeks gestation, and a year later another heartbeat would cease within my body that wasn't my choice. A baby who grew big and strong until she was suddenly lost 2 days past her due date. Both hearts beat on in Eternity. Both hearts changed mine. The ceasing of one left me with regret while the ceasing of the other left me with peace. The difference being the surrender to God's will.

As alone as I feel at times in loving and missing Lily, I feel even more so about Luke. I wonder how could I expect others to miss him when I didn't even know him? How could I expect others to love him when I loved him too late?

I feel like a fraud and a phony, when I know others believe I have no reason or right to grieve. After all, it was a choice I made. Some of the same people that validate my grieving Lily believe my grieving Luke is invalid. There are the rare friends who honor and remember Luke alongside me as well.

Doesn't regret flow out of choices that we wish we could re-do? Why do we have grace for other forms of regret, but not for this?

Once post-abortive women and men come to understand the depth of the painful reality of their choice, the last thing they need is further condemnation piled on top of them. What they need is compassion, love, grace, and mercy. Just as Christ has given each and every one of us.

Would we rather women not regret their abortions? We should be grateful for the empowerment of the witness of those who have awakened to the truth of the wrong they have done. Who better to testify to the ravages of abortion than those who have been through it?

Our compassion should be fueled by taking into consideration the confusion created by abortion being sanctioned by the law and by much of society. After all, if it's legal, it must be right and good. Living in a nation that constantly bombards us with messages of "choice," "rights" and "look our for number one," why should we be shocked when people actually live by these all-pervasive messages?

When we deny women the right to grieve, we are saying that that child's life who was aborted didn't really matter. Does that life not deserve to be grieved and acknowledged? Do the sins of the parents wipe out the validity and sanctity of the aborted child?

We fight for life and say we value it, yet why don't we give room and grace to those who've lost a baby in any way? Why do we silence these women and men and want them to "move on" without pause? Why do we tell them they can have another baby as if that somehow makes it okay that this baby died?

Unashamedly I say that both my babies lives matter. I grieve the loss of both of them. I have two children and no lack of understanding from others will change that truth.

It was a gift the Lord gave me when He opened up my heart to love both Lily and Luke as much as I do. And because of how much I love them, I miss them with that same great measure. The grief, in turn, is also a gift, for even that points to the sanctity of their lives and each life, no matter how brief! The agony of regret and guilt adds another dimension to the complicated grief over Luke.

As I've processed my abortion experience and pain over the past almost 9 years, I've grown to have grace and compassion for 19-year-old me, who chose to have an abortion. At that age, I convinced myself that somehow this page in the story of my life could be erased, torn out. That's what the deceiver whispered in my ear. But, now I see so clearly. It was a lie. And I was in such a place of vulnerability and desperation that I was willing, eager even, to believe it.

I realize this could happen to anyone given the right, or shall I say wrong, circumstances. I pray you will remember the same next time you come across a woman who is grieving her child lost through abortion.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Our Scars Tell Our Stories: Bex's Adoption Story

I'm excited that I have another guest post for ya'll! My dear friend Bex is sharing her story of open adoption. She's a birthmom to her son, Kip. She placed him for adoption in 2008, less than a year before I got pregnant with Lily. I knew about her story and reached out to her when I needed a friend and someone who understood what I was going through. She was that friend to me, helping me through my pregnancy and through my wrestling with the choice of adoption or parenting. Her friendship has been incredibly precious to me in how we've helped each other process our experiences. Besides Lily's father, she was literally the first person to know about her. I know you'll be blessed to read what she's written. She could have shared so much and I hope you'll follow along with her adoption story on Instagram to read much more (link at the end of the post). I wanted to share stories of people touched in multiple ways by adoption, to share the beautiful and the hard, because after all, adoption is born out of loss. It's incredibly important to truly hear other people's stories and perspectives. It helps us learn to be empathetic and loving when we get outside of our own bubbles and recognize we have much to learn from the experience of others. I pray Bex's words will especially touch those considering placing their child for adoption themselves and those who've adopted a child or are considering adoption one.


************

I was 18, from a "good home," and I "knew better." I had run from hurt straight into more. I found myself carrying the baby of someone I didn't have a healthy relationship with.

"How will I tell the people I love that I am pregnant? What will they say and think? What if something happens and I don't actually have to deal with this?" Irresponsible. Dirty. Not good enough. Shame sneaks in and pins me down. My belly grows and there are now stretch marks... evidence of my mistake. Who would want me with this story and these scars?


I moved to Colorado to be with a friend and her family who took me in and loved the mess I was. They supported me in looking into all my options. Adoption was presented and I balked at the idea. I could never give my baby to a family I didn't know and go on living life wondering about him. Through the course of the summer I became educated about the option of adoption. When I learned about open adoption I knew this was the only way I could move forward in making an adoption plan. Open adoption means the birth family and adoptive family share personal/identifying information and communicate directly, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything beyond that...it's really up to the particular triad as to how that is handled and plays out.

God brought a couple into my life that "happened" to be working with the same agency I was. We built a relationship and began to move forward with the adoption plan. We talked about what it would look like for us to choose open adoption. We knew it wouldn't be easy, but it would be healthy and best for all of us. There isn't a contract of guidelines stating how the open adoption will work, so this means there has to be an abundance of grace for each other.

My labor and delivery was not at all what I planned. After many hours of no progression, my son, Kipling, was born via cesarean. November 1, 2008, 9:25p, 7lb 8 oz, 21 in. The days following I was healing from major surgery, trying to be a mom, and dealing with emotional and mental stress. All too soon it was time for us to part; I signed final relinquishment paperwork while holding him...it was surreal. He went home to his new life and I left empty handed and broken-hearted.


I did not seek post placement counseling....I was told the grief I felt was normal and it would eventually subside. I was told so often that I was brave and strong, which I *heard* as "you are strong, strong people aren't sad about decisions they've made like this." Looking back I realize that is not what was meant, but this is how I applied those words.

Not terribly long ago I was attending a birth (I am a doula) and a nurse said to the client, "you do all this work and then you get to take your baby home!" I about lost it because all I could think was "I did this and I didn't get to take my baby home." This pushed me to get professional counseling. Through counseling I was able to continue processing my birth story. One of the biggest things that came out of this was learning to not bottle my emotions up, because they would just be a huge mess near Kip's birthday, visits, and holidays. It's a process...I didn't finish that season of counseling having it all together. I'm so thankful to my counselor for the hours she put into listening to my story, letting me feel all the feels with no judgement, teaching me healthy ways to process grief, and for affirming what is true!

Bex, her husband Ben, and Kip at their wedding

There have been seasons when I've struggled with how our open adoption relationship functions, and seasons when it is everything I could hope for it to be. But this is the joy of openness...there is a relationship to be had! I'm so thankful E and L have always been open to me. And with that there is great peace and joy in knowing my little boy is happy, healthy, and so very loved. This is the tension of adoption, it is beautiful and hard.

Earlier I mentioned the shame and guilt I felt after finding out I was pregnant. There are still days when I don't remember Who I am in and the shame sneaks back in. There are still days when I look down and cringe at my stretch marks. But there are days I am able to rest in God's healing. He goes before and comes behind giving each piece of my story a purpose, banishing shame, and giving me grace and forgiveness.


If you are considering placing your child for adoption, I want you to know I am here for you. Feel free to follow my adoption story on Instagram @bex_tummymommy

Here is a beautiful video from Kip's Entrustment Ceremony.

"We pray that you'll always know that the reason that you have two families is not because you were loved less, but because you were loved more."


************

Bex and I in Denver, Colorado in 2015.


Here are our friendship bracelets with our tattoos for the little ones who brought us together in friendship. She was one of the first to know the name that is now forever on my wrist.


Bex and I with Kip at his 3rd birthday party in 2011. :)


You can read all the posts I've shared about Bex and Kip by clicking here.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Lily with Santa

The Christmas season means many parents are getting photos of their children sitting on Santa's lap.

I never got a photo like that.

Some people on Facebook teamed up to offer these unique Santa photos free of charge for those who've lost children. It's such a sweet gesture and touches my heart.

Lily with Santa. I don't know how much we would have gotten into the whole Santa thing, but it's special to have regardless. ❤️ 🎄 ❄️ ⛄️ 🎁  #HonoringLilyatChristmas


As my friend Hannah said, it's a gift to have the choice of whether to take our children to see Santa. When our babies die, we lose that gift of choice. She said even though it's not the same choice I would have been able to make if Lily were here, it's still a choice. I'm still getting to make some choices for Lily. I chose to have her photo made "with" Santa. What a lovely and comforting way to look at it.

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8 Begins

December brings the reminder that Lily would be turning a new age soon. She'd be 8 in just 3 months. It starts when December 10th and 11th roll around. You see, Josie Duggar turned 8 yesterday, on the 10th. And Lily's cousin, Owen, turns 8 today.

The reason I remember Josie's birthday is because she was due on March 18th, 2010 and Lily was due on March 14th, 2010 and was unexpectedly stillborn on March 16th, 2010. I remember when I was pregnant with Lily and finding out that Michelle was pregnant with Josie and thinking it was special they were due just days apart.

And then of course little Josie was born over 3 months prematurely, spending time in the NICU. While this tiny girl was fighting for her life, my Lily grew big and strong in what should be the safest place on Earth, in her mother's womb. 

But Josie survived to see her 8th birthday. And Lily did not... even though she was in the best place I thought she could be. I sometimes think if Lily had just been born a few days earlier, she would have been born alive. It's difficult to know that she could have survived for literally months outside of the womb before the time she was born, yet she died because she was in the safe place. It's all so hard to wrap my mind around.

Josie Duggar will always remind me of Lily. Seeing her grow up some on the 19 Kids and Counting television show just blew my mind to know my girl would be that big too. They are equally as real and equally as important and cherished by their families.

And then Lily's cousin, Owen, turns 8 today. Owen is my first cousin, Daniel's, son. I have written many times about how Owen and Lily are boy and girl cousins born 3 months apart, just as Daniel and I are boy and girl cousins born 4 months apart.

As the years have passed, honestly it has gotten a lot easier for me to think about Owen growing up and to see photos of him. He is absolutely adorable! But each year on his birthday, I am reminded afresh of the little girl who should be having a birthday close behind him.

I wish I was feeling amazed at how fast my daughter is growing up, how the years are flying by... but instead, I am sad that the years are flying by, but my daughter will never grow up. She will always be my baby.

You can read all the posts I've written about Owen through the years by clicking here.

And you can click here to read a post I shared before about the Duggar family.

Here I am with Daniel 8 years ago this month - shortly after Owen was born and Lily was growing away! I actually still have and wear that shirt!


Daniel and I visiting Lily's special spot around Thanksgiving 2013, shortly after her permanent stone was installed.


This photo was taken during the summer of 2010. It was the first time I met Owen and would have been the first time 3-month-old Lily would have met him too.


Isn't he a cutie?! :)


Daniel and I when we were little... how I wish Lily and Owen were in pictures like this together too! Here Dan and I were around the age Owen and Lily are/should be now.


But instead, these are the only sort of pictures they'll ever take "together." Each March, Owen wishes Lily a "Happy Birthday" and takes a photo to send me (except for year 2). It's one of my favorite traditions! I really treasure those photos. Each year, he grows bigger and she stays the same.


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Snowman Ornament

My sweet friend Ashley gave me this Christmas ornament in honor of Lily. đŸ˜ŒđŸŽ„❤️⛄️❄️  #LilyKatsChristmasTree #HonoringLilyatChristmas


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Friday, December 1, 2017

A Story of Hope for National Adoption Month

I'm excited that I have a few guest blog posts coming your way. Today I am sharing my cousin Hope's adoption story. November is National Adoption Month and I will be highlighting a couple different stories of adoption (just a bit late). I think it's incredibly important to truly hear other people's stories and perspectives. It helps us learn to be empathetic and loving when we get outside of our own bubbles and recognize we have much to learn from the experiences of others. Hope was adopted from China at 17-months and has been such a gift to my family. She just fits. Out of all the billions of people in the world, God so clearly chose her for us and us for her. :) Hope's mother is my mother's sister. I appreciate Hope's transparency. She is currently a nursing student at James Madison University and has a heart for others. She is kind, she is funny and exuberant and though I might be biased, I think she is one special gal.


Hope and I over Thanksgiving... I am trying to find photos of us when we were little

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I think many people have misconceptions about adoption. Maybe they believe that it's out of their reach, maybe they question their parenting abilities, or maybe they're afraid or unsure of what actually happens during the process, but to me, adoption is one of the most sacrificial actions a couple can take to become a parent. To actually love and take in someone that doesn't look like you, someone that might not even speak your language, is the ultimate act of breaking down cultural barriers and discrimination. Often times our society celebrates the grandiosity of childbirth, all the while forgetting that there are children born every day who are left as orphans. You can't accidentally adopt a child, but you can have an unplanned pregnancy. Adoption is deliberate and intentional. Now I'm not one to slam having a biological birth. In fact, I would like to have my own birth children someday (but not anytime soon because I'm literally so single right now). But what I'm trying to say is that no one should feel ashamed for being adopted, they are not forgotten, but chosen.

My adoption story starts on a February day, when I was much shorter, fatter, and younger. The social worker handed me off to my bright-eyed mom, cheeks glistening with tears as my dad's shaky home video camera captured the whole moment. During the first two days, my parents kept calling me by my wrong Chinese name, but I didn't care. I was Hope. When they brought me home, I was met with warm salutations.



Growing up, my parents never hid the fact that I was adopted. I mean, at some point, they'd have to explain why I looked different from them. They never tried to stifle my culture or make me feel ashamed of it. In fact, when I was younger, we used to celebrate Chinese New Year and we still stay in contact with the families who adopted children through the same agency we went through. I'm not going to lie to you and say that my childhood was perfect, and yes, there have been times where I have thought about my birth parents and what my life could've been. But I am here now, my life is good, and for awhile, I didn't think much about my race or how much adoption has shaped my life.

My parents treated me so much like their own that at times I forgot that I was even Asian. I went to a small, private middle school and even high-school, so I was somewhat sheltered from criticisms that come with my race. It wasn't until I went to a large state college that I truly became aware of myself. People change so much in their early 20's so I guess it really was a proper time to grow my autonomy and become secure in my identity.

During my freshman year, I became best friends with a girl from my church. She is Latina (Mexican to be exact) and she would always invite me to her family gatherings, where I would be the only "non-Latina." Most of her family only spoke Spanish so I had a great opportunity to utilize my very limited Spanish that I learned in high-school and actually use it in conversation. I learned many Spanish slang words and I can say I am conversational now, working on fluency. Her madre (mother) taught me how to cook posole (a Mexican tomato soup with chicken, chickpeas, and lettuce) and I became a fanatic for REAL tacos, not that Taco Bell stuff. My friends taught me Spanish dances such as bachata, salsa, merengue, cumbia, and corridos and we always have a fiesta when we are together. Most times, I feel more comfortable with my Latino friends than my peers on campus. My friend's family culturally "adopted" me, I was their mija (affectionate name to call a daughter). Now there was a period during my sophomore and junior year where this really bothered me, seeing her being so comfortable with HER culture and knowing that regardless of if I was with my adoptive parents or her family, I still was the fish out of water. I often felt left out, questioning my cultural identity. Disclaimer: my parents never made me feel unaccepted, my displaced cultural situation was an automatic consequence of my adoption. I am bound to feel "out of place."

But see the thing is, throughout all this I've come to realize that my life situation makes me unique. How many people have met an Asian who was adopted by white American parents yet is culturally Hispanic? Whereas in the past, I felt out of place, but now I know that I'm right where I need to be. We as humans love to make boxes and keep people in those boxes. Adoption breaks all boundaries and upsets the neatly organized picture in our heads and forces one to create a new scene, create a new picture, one that has never been drawn before. With so much hate in this world towards people of different skin tones, I disagree that "not seeing color" is the correct response. You are allowed to see color. You are allowed to see race. You're just not allowed to judge someone BASED on their race. I want you to be able to see me as fully Asian and fully Latina and fully American because guess what, that's who I am. Denying a part of me is denying my entirety.

Bumma!!!

Adoption is beautiful because I know God put me exactly in the places and situations He's called me to. God brought together a perfect cultural family for me, He has given me a culture I am comfortable with. He has given me parents I am beyond grateful for. He really had something up His sleeve when He paired me with my mom and dad! I am never mad at my biological parents, I have never held anything against them. They gave up their daughter, completely took a risk and trusted that I'd end up with a family that cared for me. I am never mad at my adoptive parents (okay, except for when I was a disgruntled teenager), I have never held anything against them. They adopted a daughter, completely took a risk and trusted that our family would be all they hoped it to be. But let me tell you mom and dad, our family is beyond what you could have ever Hoped for.



Thank you God for making me who I am. Gracias a Dios para hacerme quien soy. ć„Ÿč°˘ä¸Šĺ¸čŽŠćˆ‘ćˆä¸şćˆ‘

Blessings y Saludos,

Hope
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

He Works Outside of Our Lines

There are some lyrics in a popular song that remind me of past posts I've shared. The song is called "In Christ Alone" by Keith and Kristyn Getty (who I heard in concert a couple times! :) Anyways, the song is well-known and I've heard it many times before, but recently heard it live at their concert and knew then I wanted to write about it.

Anyways, the lyrics say, "From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny."

I know obviously they don't mean anything hurtful or wrong by this, but with the way my brain works because of Lily, I don't like these words. Jesus commands our destiny from the moment of conception to final breath, even after final breath when all who are in Christ will go to Heaven. He still commanded Lily's life and destiny, though she died before taking her first breath or crying at all. His purpose for her life was not thwarted by the lack of her first cry.

Going along with this, earlier in the year, I watched a movie called "Where Hope Grows," which is centered around a man who could have been a baseball star and a young man with Down Syndrome. It is a moving story of friendship, redemption, and the value of each life. Did you know that about 70% of children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted? As if they are any less valuable or worthy of life. It just breaks my heart. Every life is such a precious gift and there are many lessons we can only learn from the weakest among us, as Gianna Jessen, who survived an abortion and now lives with Cerebral Palsy, says.

There was one part that rubbed me the wrong way, though I recognize it was unintentional on the part of the producers and writers of the film because they clearly recognize the sanctity of life, though I hope that I can explain why one particular part is a way of thinking that takes away from the value of some.

A Pastor says in the movie: "You look around a cemetery and you see there are two dates on every tombstone - a birthday and a date of death. Every human being is guaranteed those two dates, but that little dash that lies in between those two numbers, that's what defines our life. So make your dash count. Live, really live."

If I had not lost my own child in the way I did, I doubt I would even notice those words. I doubt they'd rub me the wrong way and I doubt I'd pick up on the fallacy of them. But you see, every human being is in fact not "guaranteed" those two dates. My daughter Lily Katherine only has one date on her stone. She has no dash. But that is not what defines her, or any of us. And even though she only has one date, she did "really live." And babies who were lost in pregnancy before they even had a birthday still lived.


I am reminded of a post I wrote 3 years ago about a song I heard that has a similar message. This is from what I wrote:

The song "The Line Between the Two" by Mark Harris has a beautiful meaning that we should live our lives in such a way that we will have no regrets when we come to die. We should live today the legacy we want to leave. Because the fact is we all will leave a legacy... the question is what do we want that legacy to be?

The song talks about "the line between the two," meaning the line on our headstone between our date of birth and date of death. We need to make the line between the two count.

A beginning and an ending, dates upon a stone
But the moment in the middle is how we will be known
Cause what defines us can be found within a line
Finding reason for our time

As I listened to the words of this song, I couldn't help but think to myself... what about when there is no line? What about when there is only one date on one's headstone? When the beginning and the ending are combined? When one doesn't live long enough to have that line between the two? When the death date comes before the birth date? Imagine how that would look on a stone. Does that mean their life didn't matter? Does that mean their life doesn't have significance and purpose because they weren't able to make an impact with the days represented by that line?

God is not confined by that little line. He is such a big, sovereign, amazing God and He does the most beautiful things in ways we'd least expect. He can use a sweet baby who never took a breath or spoke a word to make an impact greater than someone whose lived 100 years on Earth. Let's not put Him and His plans into a little box of our own understanding. He works outside of our lines...

It's hurtful that Lily only has one date that could be put on her headstone. She shouldn't even have a headstone until long after I have one. My friend Stacy whose daughter Rachel is with Lily in Heaven said something so profoundly beautiful regarding this same thing. Stacy and her husband created Rachel's beautiful headstone with their names on it as well. Since they are both still living, there obviously are no death dates for them yet. Rachel also only had one date and this is hard for Stacy. Here is a little excerpt from her blog:
I remember going to the hospital to have her and thinking on the way "I just want there to be a dash"... it's always bothered me that Rachel only has one date.  I wanted her birthday and the day she died to be different.  But what mother wouldn't?
I stared at her name and date for a minute and again was questioning God... "Why couldn't there have been a dash? was that too much to ask?"  I looked at my name, then Matt's... I looked at my date and then at Matt's...  I wondered about our "future" dates....
and for the first time in all the HUNDREDS of hours that I have spent standing on her spot, I looked at the dates differently and I am positive this was a picture God gave me to remind me of His promises.... I saw that we all have just one date.  And God spoke to my heart....
You have one date because you are still alive....
And so does she....

What a comforting thought. Lily and Rachel are alive! More than we ever will be here.

The ending of Lily's physical life is only the beginning of her Eternal life. The ending of her physical life does not mark the ending of her legacy. She is not defined by the lack of a line. She is defined by being a daughter of Christ. There is reason for her time on Earth, though brief. She is not known for the moments in the middle of her birth and death dates, but rather for the moments even before her birth date.

God used a little girl who has no line to forever change my line... now the rest of my days on Earth that make up that line will be spent to honor Lily and bring glory to my Father in Heaven. In being her voice, I will give life to the little girl whose life was so short, yet so wide...

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

We're All Complicated

There are times in my life when I wish this wasn't my story.

I feel guilty even admitting that because it is complicated for my heart. I would never wish Lily away and treasure her with every ounce that is within me.

However, it can feel like a heavy load to carry everything that has happened, both from my own choices and things that I didn't choose.


I've been hanging out with a new local friend group lately and started attending a new church over the Summer that I love. These people I've met there have been a gift from the Lord. And sometimes when I am with them, I feel like I am just a "normal" 28-year-old. It is good to feel free and light, which is certainly who I am and isn't a facade by any stretch, however there are many sides to my story and therefore many sides to me.

Eventually these things come out and I share my past, but sometimes I don't want to, truth be told. Sometimes I just want to be me... without being known as the girl who had unplanned pregnancies, the girl who had an abortion, the girl who had a baby, and the girl whose baby died. I don't want people to be sad for me and act awkward with me. I don't want them to stall in thinking of what to say if they broach the subject of bringing up having come across my blog. I don't want people to judge me and the choices I've made and think they've got me all figured out. Grief and trauma and loss, especially experienced alone in many ways, have a way of isolating you and making you believe the lie that you are somehow truly alone.

I say all the time that I am open about my story and know God has called me to be so... but sometimes I wish I could just have someone else's story. I wish I didn't have these complicated feelings and experiences, things I know others I'm around in the same season as me can't understand simply because they haven't been here.

I feel like a fish out of water so often, in all the "groups" I'm part of... I love these people in my life and they minister to my heart in different ways... some help me as a single Christian young woman. Some help me in my loss of Lily. But most the singles haven't had and lost babies. And most who've had and lost babies aren't still single and tangibly childless. I just want to feel normal and a part of something without feeling complicated. I sometimes wonder if I should have kept this all to myself.. but then I remember that wouldn't be right and that I am compelled and called to share for the glory of Christ.

For so many years I think I've carried this feeling around with me... this feeling of being different and complicated. When that might be true... but what I am also realizing more and more as time goes by, is that we are all complicated. We all have hurts, pain, and stories of our own. And the longer we live, the more true this is. We all come to the cross of Christ on equal ground. We are all broken and weak and in desperate need of Jesus. And though my circumstances may be different than those around me, I am the same in that I need Him and that He supplies every bit of grace I could need the moment I need it. We all need to be redeemed even if what we're needing to be redeemed from looks a little different. What we see of someone on the outside is not all there is to them. We are deep, complex, intricate human beings, with so many things that make up who we are, what makes our hearts beat with wild delight, what God has called us to, and where He is taking us in the future.

It does me well to remember that it is into His strong arms that I need to run always first, rather than to any person. It is His counsel I should seek, His comfort I should pursue. Maybe feeling alone and different isn't so bad after all, if it causes my heart to long for Him more.

Lord, I ask for Your grace day-by-day, to allow myself and every person reading these words of mine to walk in the stories You are writing for our lives - stories that shout Your glory and redemption, no matter how painful and complicated things may appear. You are always greater.

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Lily Remembered in Jamaica

Lily was remembered by my friend Tracey on a recent trip to Falmouth, Jamaica! I *think* it was the first time there. ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🌴 🐳 🐬 🐟 🐠 🐢


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Lily Remembered in Mexico

Lily was remembered by my friend Tracey on a recent trip to Cozumel, Mexico! ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🌴 🐳 🐬 🐟 🐠 🐢


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I Can’t Believe That I Could Ever Think of Life Without You

It was this month in 2009 that this picture was taken and I wrote the following on this blog (one of my very first posts). I am so thankful to have these words that I wrote during that time. It is a gift to see my perspective at that point and to see just how much God was working in my heart and life.....



************

I first heard the song "Little One" yesterday during the ending credits of the new movie, Sarah's Choice, starring Rebecca St. James. I had been eagerly anticipating the release of this movie that portrays a single woman who must make the decision whether she is going to choose life or death for her unborn child. My expectations for this movie were definitely met! In fact, more movies like it need to be made. The story really struck a chord in my own heart because in the story of my own real life, I am dealing with a situation very much like this one. The story is raw and it is powerful and I feel like I understood everything "Sarah" was experiencing.

This song will always be incredibly special to me.

Hush my baby be still inside me
Rest my child all is well
Hush my baby grow inside me
You are safe there my little girl

I can't believe that I would ever think
That you were not to be
But darling mommy feels like a child herself

I will give my life to love you little one
I will give my life to protect you darling
Always, always

Hush my baby I'm dreaming of you
Wondering just who you'll become
Hush my baby, smile inside me
Warmed by knowing you are loved

I can't believe that I could ever think
Of life without you
But darling mommy sometimes feels afraid

I will give my life to love you little one
I will give my life to protect you darling
Always, always

I will give my life to love you little one
I will give my life to protect you darling
Always, always

Hush my baby, smile inside me
Warmed by knowing you are loved

Over the past few months, I have had to make the decision about what "choice" to make with my own unborn child. Then, I realized the choice was never mine to make. God gives and God takes away. I feel like the words to this song truly echo the words that my heart longs to express. How could I have ever lived my whole life without knowing my precious daughter? How could I have gone without ever holding her, kissing her, knowing her? I can't fully explain the joy and peace I feel these days and months that I'm carrying my baby. Feeling her kick and move is unbelievably exciting and amazing! It seems like whenever I try to let someone feel, she always stops! But, my little sister finally felt her kicking last night! Just knowing what is going on inside my body is enough to keep me thinking and pondering forever about God's goodness.

What once seemed to be the thing that would end my life is now one of the reasons that I live. Sure, my life is going to be different now than what I had originally dreamed or anticipated. But, God has so much planned for this little life growing inside me! And so much planned for me! He is already giving me a new vision and new dreams for my life! I now see that being unmarried and pregnant is not a sin in itself, but what got me here was the sin. My baby is not a sin. She is still a blessing and nothing to be ashamed of! I have turned from my sin and walked away, and God is blessing me for that. He is taking a situation the world would look at as horrible and is bringing Himself glory and changing my heart for the better.

My sweet Lily almost never got the chance to live. But, my God saved her! Praise You, Jesus, for changing my heart and saving my child! And God saved me. He is truly an awesome, amazing God with a heart full of love and compassion. God, teach me how to love this baby. Teach me how to be a wonderful mother. Give me Your heart, patience, guidance, strength, wisdom, love, and peace. I feel so inadequate to be entrusted with such a great responsibility! But, I know You alone will give me what I need to get through each new challenge and each new day. And when that day comes, which is soon, that this lily-white princess is born, I will truly be looking into a face showcasing Jesus' love, forgiveness, and redemption. I long for the day I can gaze into her blue and curious eyes and know that I made the right choice. Life. And what a beautiful choice it is!

************

Reading what I wrote, I see how the Lord was giving me a mother's heart of love for my child. It is bittersweet to read these words. Bitter because I never did get to gaze into Lily's blue and curious eyes. Sweet because of how she changed my life.

I wrote this post to say that I was thankful that I had chosen life for my baby. At that point in time, I never would have wished it any other way. I want to say right here, right now, that even though things didn't end up the way I thought they would (they were already going to be so different than what I had planned when I wrote this post), I am still so thankful that I chose not to have an abortion. Life is still a beautiful choice, when your baby lives and when your baby dies. It is still the right choice. As I wrote in my post, God gives and God takes away. Though I never could have dreamed He'd take her so soon, I still believe that Lily's life, and death, was/is in His hands. And He is still teaching me how to be her mommy. ❤️

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Remembering Your Baby at Christmas

The holidays are difficult to face after losing a baby. It is such a special time of year that reminds you of everything you are missing out on with your child. I have put together a few ideas on how to incorporate your baby into the season. Each year, I try to edit this post to keep it up-to-date. I pray these suggestions help bring you some comfort and that it eases the ache in your heart just a little bit. I know Christmas is still several weeks away, but I wanted to share this with enough time for people to be able to participate in these things if they choose. I pray it brightens your Christmas season. It can be healing to come up with new traditions that honor your little one. We can celebrate, even in the midst of sadness.

A candid photo of me standing before my daughter Lily's grave on Christmas a couple years ago

Think about setting up a space in your home in honor of your baby this Christmas. You could get a mini-Christmas tree and decorate it with lights and whatever else you'd like. You could get a pink, blue or really any color tree, or go for a traditional one. I've had both green and gold mini trees to enjoy in my room.





Put candles around this special space and light them each night. You could even make a candle holder! Something I've done is made a photo collage of several Christmas prints from Carly Marie's RedBubble shop to be displayed in this special space. You could take an evening to listen to songs that remind you of your baby and prepare this space. You don't need to spend much money. Get creative. Think of other keepsakes you could put on display.

A fun tradition you could do is creating and/or buying an ornament each year for your baby. This is something I greatly look forward to doing in my daughter Lily Katherine's honor each Christmas. For the year you were pregnant, you could make an ornament with your ultrasound photo, then for the year your baby was born, you could make one with their footprints/handprints. You could also use their photos, name, and birthdate, as well as things that remind you of your baby to create very beautiful ornaments that will last a lifetime. You could even create ornaments in honor of your little one to give to his/her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. You could have a separate tree for your baby, like I have, or display their ornaments on your main Christmas tree. This could be special to incorporate your baby, especially if you have other children. Seeing these special ornaments on the tree can help make your baby a part of the family gathering. You could also tie pink or blue ribbons on the tree (for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness).

Here's my box of ornaments from a couple years ago (I've sense acquired more). I've had many given as gifts (both created and bought), and have made and bought many myself. :)



Here are some of my favorite ornaments, with suggestions for where you could find some too. For one, Etsy would be a great place to look for ornaments.

I love these memorial wood burned ornaments from Luminous Light Studio! They sell out quickly each time she opens up the orders, so keep a close eye on her page for when they become available again.


Tiny Dream Shop creates lovely memorial ornaments. Keep an eye on her Facebook page. Here are a couple below that I got from her.



One of my other favorite artists, The Midnight Orange, also makes beautiful memorial Christmas ornaments. Here is mine! 


She also has these beautiful butterfly ornaments. I have the blue and pink butterfly one on the top (it reminded me of the PAIL Awareness ribbon colors. :)


If you like the idea of ornaments, you could participate in the Remembering Together Ornament Swap. You will receive an ornament with your baby's name, hand-made with love, from a fellow bereaved mother. You will also make an ornament honoring a lost child to send to another family. This is such a wonderful idea! Even if you don't participate in this swap, you could do your own swap with people from your local grief support group, or other friends you've met along the journey of loss. If interested, be sure to sign up before their registration deadline, which is November 12th.
Make or buy your baby a Christmas stocking to be hung with the rest of the family stockings. It can be healing to create things for your little one and a stocking would be something very special to have during this time of year. You could make it the same size as all your stockings or make it smaller. You could write a letter to your baby each Christmas to put in the stocking. And if you have other children, they could draw a picture or write a note to their sister/brother. On Christmas Day, you could attach these special notes to a balloon to release to the Heavens. Or keep the letters/notes to keep in your baby's memory chest. My grandmother (Lily's great-grandmother) created a Christmas stocking for me when I was a little girl, and has now created one for Lily as well. This is one of my favorite ways to include Lily in the season!



The ministry Burden Bearing Baskets has sweet memorial stockings available on their website.


Decorate your baby's special spot for Christmas. You could decorate with a small tree, poinsettia, garlands, pinecones, fake berries, a wreath, statues, or anything else you can think of that is festive. If you have a memorial garden or another special place, you could decorate that place too/instead. Or decorate a mantle or wreath.




You could get a print or Christmas Sand Tree in honor of your baby from Carly Marie's Christmas Beach Wonderland Gallery (keep an eye on her page to see when she opens up orders this season).


These are all the Christmas images I've gotten for Lily and Luke from Carly Marie over the years. I especially love my Christmas Sand Tree!




You can post these photos on your Facebook, blog, Twitter, etc. Another fun idea would be to print them and frame them to be placed around your home as Christmas decorations. That way you can share your babies with others. Or as Carly Marie recommends, print out many copies to be sent out with your Christmas cards/letters.

Speaking of Christmas cards, you could buy a special ink stamp that reminds you of your baby and use it as a way to "sign" your baby's name on the cards. Or even just draw a little heart or a special symbol that reminds you of your baby. And if you take family photos around Christmas time and send them out to friends and family, you could incorporate your baby into the photo by holding or wearing something that reminds you of them, either overtly or privately.

You could make a donation in honor and memory of your baby. Consider donating to a place that provides comfort to the babyloss community (places such as Molly Bears or Jamie's Butterfly Kisses, among many other places.) You could create a special book that keeps track of gifts given in your baby's name.

Get a Christmas Angel Memorial Print from Butterfly Footprints (keep an eye out to see when she opens up orders again).


You could pack and donate a shoe box to Samaritan's Purse for Operation Christmas Child. The National Collection Week this year is November 13-20. I was thinking how hard it is not having my girl here to buy Christmas gifts for when I so long to. By participating in this, you can shop for a child the same gender as your baby and the same age they would be now. So, for me, I am filling a box for a little 7-year-old girl. I can give another sweet child in need the things I would be giving Lily and still have the joy of shopping for these things and giving them, knowing they are going to bless someone. You could ask your close friends and family to donate a box in your child's honor as well. Little kiddos are going to be benefited that wouldn't have been if it weren't for your baby.

This will be the 6th year my mom and I are either giving a box to Operation Christmas Child, or another ministry in Lily's honor and we are happy to make it a tradition each Christmas.




Similarly, you could donate to Angel Tree, a program of Prison Fellowship in your baby's honor. We did that last year.


You could donate to Compassion International's Christmas Gift Fund. This is an amazing organization that I strongly encourage others to get involved with! They serve others in Jesus' name.

Participate in the Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting Service on December 11th.


You could serve the holiday meal at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in your baby's honor.

Many newspapers have holiday memorial pages where you can submit a note to your loved one.

Check out the Holiday Gift Guide at Still Standing Magazine.


In caring for your heart, you could participate in the Grief Journaling through the Holidays, hosted by Courages Mothers.


If you are reading this and know someone who has lost a baby, please tell them you are thinking of their little one this season. Also, consider sending a Christmas card where you specifically mention their precious babe.

These things might not be for everyone, but hopefully you have gotten a couple ideas. Remember what you enjoyed and what you didn't enjoy so you can figure out how you want to remember your baby next year. If you have any other ideas, please share them with me! :)

Here are a couple special Christmas songs..



Christmas in Heaven
by Wanda White

I see the countless CHRISTMAS TREES
around the world below with tiny lights like
HEAVEN’S STARS reflecting on the snow.
T
he sight is so SPECTACULAR please wipe away that tear
for I am spending CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST this year.

I hear the many CHRISTMAS SONGS
that people hold so dear
but the SOUND OF MUSIC can't compare
with the CHRISTMAS CHOIR up here.

I have no words to tell you of the JOY their voices bring
for it is beyond description to HEAR THE ANGELS SING.

I know HOW MUCH YOU MISS ME,
I see the pain inside your heart
for I am spending CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST this year.

I can't tell you of the SPLENDOR
or the PEACE here in this place
Can you just imagine
CHRISTMAS WITH OUR SAVIOR face to face

I'll ask him to LIFT YOUR SPIRIT
as I tell him of your love
so then PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER
 as you lift your eyes above.
Please let your HEARTS BE JOYFUL
and let your SPIRIT SING
for I am spending CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN
and I’m walking WITH THE KING

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