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...


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.


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. ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🌴 🐳 🐬 🐟 🐠 🐒


Lily Remembered in Mexico

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


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. ❤️


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.
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 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

I'll ask him to LIFT YOUR SPIRIT
as I tell him of your love
 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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