She was one of the first people to know about my sweet Lily. We met when I went to a Pregnancy Center in Virginia, where Anna was serving as the Director, in August 2009, when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy. She radiated such love, compassion, and kindness, and offered rich wisdom that left a lasting impact on me. I thought of her often throughout the months of carrying Lily and wanted to tell her how much my time with her meant and how it helped shape my outlook and helped me be brave.
When I finally did contact her, it was unexpectedly to invite her to Lily's Memorial Burial Service in March 2010. I'm thankful that she came to celebrate her life and mourn her loss.
A couple years later, Anna got married and I was honored to photograph their beautiful wedding.
Each time I visit with her, I'm encouraged by her life and testimony. I loved getting to meet her adorable daughters yesterday and having her meet my niece. When I was a few weeks pregnant, God whispered to my heart that if I chose life, I couldn't imagine the beauty that He would bring. Well, Anna's friendship and a passion for photography were two of the realities of that promise.
Anna recently moved back to Virginia and told me that every time she passes the Cemetery where Lily's spot is, she thinks of her. That made me teary-eyed. I was reflecting and telling her how crazy it is how long we've known each other and that she was one of the first people to know of the precious girl who is known by thousands now, and she said that's why Lily is so special to her. ❤️
This is something I wrote about my visit to the Pregnancy Center in an email to my friend Bex. I am so thankful to have these words to see what exactly I was thinking then:
I went to the Pregnancy Center on Monday. I met with one of the counselors there, Anna. I didn't really know what to expect going in there. The Pregnancy Center of Central Virginia is a Christian establishment and as soon as I walked in the door, I felt comfortable and loved. The lady at the front desk had a warm smile on her face and was very helpful. Then, I met with Anna and I knew she wasn't judging me or thinking about what a horrible person I am. Her words were tender and sweet, and I felt comfortable enough to openly discuss everything with her. I told her I am considering adoption and she recommended Bethany Christian Services, the very same place you sent me a link to in your first message to me! She gave me all sorts of pamphlets when I left with information on the things we had discussed. She gave me the number to Bethany, as well as the number to both hospitals in the area, so I can get set up with a doctor. She told me someone that works in the Center has a daughter that got pregnant and placed her baby for adoption. I told her the church I have been attending with my grandmother, and then told her the church I would like to try. Her eyes lit up and she said, "that's the church I attend." She invited me to go with her. She talked with me as long as I wanted, and then prayed for me. Her prayer was heartfelt and sincere, and brought tears to my eyes. While she was getting all the pamphlets together for me, I watched a fifteen minute video on adoption. I was filled with emotion and tears were streaming down my face. I am scared of the pain that is to come if I do indeed choose adoption. I walked out of the Pregnancy Center that day with great hope. I was at complete peace with my choice of life.
This is Anna's account of the day we met, written a few years ago:
I remember the day you (Hannah) walked into the Center with your boyfriend at the time. I remember that you looked scared and a bit down, very down. But in your eyes was a spark of the desire to have hope. You sat down on the couch opposite me, hungry for some direction that would give you peace in your pregnancy. I could see that things were hard between you and him, and that there was so much in your heart and to your soul that he wasn't even aware of. I could see your potential and a bit of who you really were, is what I'm trying to say. As I talked to you I felt the Spirit pouring out His story of hope to you. Choose Life.....maybe even adoption. I could tell that your character was deep, but I wasn't sure how you were feeling - what would be your outcome? As you watched the adoption video, I remember seeing that you had so much emotion welling up - your mother's heart was showing.....and being wrenched. It was in the following days ahead that I really got to see verified what I had only believed was true- as you mentioned that you were going forward, going to have your baby, and give it the best life you could. The most amazing thing of all to me was when you said you just couldn't stay with your boyfriend, but that you had to make a decision to move beyond him, for yourself but most importantly to honor God. I think I cheered at that in my office and bragged on you to the staff!! We don't see that kind of decision hardly EVER! It is rare, though we pray for it to increase. Your heart was breaking over so many losses, but you had your eye on His gain. I knew that would take you far, and, secretly I was hoping we would get to stay in touch so that I could see just how God would bless your heart of David and heart of Esther! As your baby was nearing birth, I was so excited for you....and then, my heart broke, as you told me the news that must crush every mother's most inner sensibility. I felt that loss so acutely. Little Lily was a miracle, and even her name was a testimony to your growing in His light like a flower blooming in her season. Getting to come to the funeral was a huge blessing, as I was able to be with you and also your family (who had supported the Pregnancy Centers for many years and was well known among our staff). I felt that I was getting to be there with the granddaughter of one of the PCCV matrons - your grandma Nancy Virginia Bain! Through time and after Lily's going back to be with Jesus, getting to know you personally has just been one of the sweetest treasures, like nectar bottled up from such a sweet flower of the past. I don't get to get close to all clients like I did you - they are transient, they pass in and out, etc. But, you....God allowed our acquaintance to deepen to friendship and deep sister love in the Spirit. You are so special, and I just know that His plan for you is just radiantly expansive, with impact that ripples like waves out from a rock hitting the water. You are forever precious to me and I hope we will always stay in touch!!!! Also, one of the greatest gifts you gave to me was that you would pursue God and His direction in your life relentlessly. When you could have taken the easy way, you chose HIM!! Every time you'd tell me what you were up to, I could see the little "normal" veerings as you were trying to discover the right way...the path to Life.....but, always you would end up choosing it! It brought joy and surprise to me like I hadn't felt with any other person who had sought the Center for help. You are truly unique!"
In 2013, Anna and I were actually both interviewed for a WORLD Magazine article which you can read by clicking here.