Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Fast Forwarding and Rewinding

When Lily was born, when I held her precious tiny body in my arms... she was so silent... so still... my tears spilling out on cheeks that would never feel her own tears.

It's almost like in that moment of reveling in newborn goodness, baby girl sweetness and purity, I could picture Lily as an old woman.

I held her, this being so fresh from God, and in my mind's eye, the movie reel of her life played out... only, it didn't go forward, but backwards. Instead of holding my baby girl dreaming of what will be, I held my baby girl and dreamed of what never will. I ached over the life that wouldn't be lived out. I ached over the childhood lost, the babies and grand-babies of her own that she'd never hold. I saw all these events and memories of the full type of life that only someone elderly could understand. I saw them going backwards, fast forwarding and rewinding at the same time. Erasing what never will be in the first place.

But still my heart and my mind saw the movie of her life play out. My mother heart naturally somehow knew at least to some extent what could have been, what I dreamed would have been. The life she would have treasured even long after I was in the ground.

It reminds me of a poem by Tricia Richards on stillbirth in which one line she writes, "We cannot remove the shroud of death that holds you still."

The shroud of death held her body still in that moment. It holds her body still in this moment nearly 8 years since her birth. It holds what might have been still, frozen on could-have-would-have-should-haves. 💗

This post left me:

A Second Heart

"Your memory beats inside me like a second heart."

Happy Valentine's Day, my sweet Heavenly Valentine! ❤️

My mom wrote this beautiful poem for me in Lily's honor for Valentine's Day 2011:

By Ginny Allen, Lily's Grandmother

In my daughter's womb, grew her gift from above.
We readied a room, for her wee one to love.
On our merry way rejoicing, to a glorious celebration.
Expecting our flower’s arriving, Jesus' tears hid the sun.

God had bid her go before we said, "Hello."

Goodbye budding life. Goodbye shattered dreams.

Goodbye precious babe lying still in our arms.

Goodbye sweet nursing and soft cries.
Goodbye to rocking and lullabies.

Goodbye wonder and curiosity.
Goodbye to kissing who you would be.

Goodbye to hearing "grandma" and "mama" too.
Goodbye to discovering wonderful you.

Goodbye snuggling you to our hearts.
Goodbye tore our lives apart.

Goodbye to our pure Lily Katherine.
Goodbye ‘til we meet you in Heaven.

This post left me:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

His Absence Is a Reminder of Hers

The time of year leading up to Lily's birthday always makes me think of her daddy.

I wonder if he thinks of her still the way I do. If he still cares. If he still visits her spot and talks about her on her birthday. If he marvels over her hand and footprints (big like his are) and her locket of hair. I wonder if he achingly notices the missing piece in his family the way I do in my family. If he thinks of the cousin/granddaughter/niece/daughter who isn't there.

I wonder if all that's happened has been heavy for him to carry like it's been for me all these years, or if the weight of her in my womb has now made the weight I carry in my heart more than what he carries.

I've said it feels like I'm a single mother, only I'm mothering my child's grave and legacy, rather than her vibrant, present life.

It feels unfair that I feel more damaged than him. That because I was the one who carried Lily and birthed her, because I had the bond that only a mother can have, that I now experience the anguish of her loss more fully.

At the same time, I feel guilty that I got to bond with her in a way he didn't... like he missed out and it feels like it was partly my fault.

So many complex emotions surround that man. So much that hasn't been resolved. But there is nothing I can do about it.

People don't often talk about what the loss of a child does to the parents as a unit. People don't talk about the bond when you have a child with someone and the pain that comes when that bond is severed. People don't talk about the repercussions of when you don't follow God's plan for life and relationships.

His absence is a reminder of hers, so I feel it deeply this time of year. If she were here, he'd be in my life. He's not here and I haven't spoken to him in years. There's no need. She's gone. And so is our love.

About a year before Lily was born

A brief family of 3

March 16, 2010

Lily's hands with her daddy's

This random little drawing is something Lily Kat's daddy sketched when I was carrying her. It's now in her scrapbook. A picture of what might have been. The "what ifs" are hard to live with and something I must surrender to the Lord every day.

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago... God has truly done a huge work in my heart since then, but certain times of year trigger the feelings...

The pain of so many losses;
A future, hopes, dreams, love, purity, innocence, a sweet little flower
Nothing on Earth can mend the wounds
It will be only by HIS power

The anguish of goodbyes
The agony of regret
What I'd give to go back
What I'd do to forget

In so many faces, I see his
He visits me in my dreams
I keep it all bottled up
But inside there are silent sobs and screams

They say "time heals all wounds,"
Five years since the drift
And I'm still waiting
For the crushing weight to lift

When her perfect heart stopped beating
The pulse of our love ceased too
I didn't just lose our little flower

How do I let go?
How do I move on?
I cling to HIM in my frailty
And wait for HIS redemption song...

*You can read all the posts I've written about Lily's daddy by clicking here.

This post left me:

My Valentine's Baby Shower

Today is full of precious memories for me. On this date 8 years ago - February 13th, 2010 - I had my Valentine's-themed baby shower. It was the day in between my Half-Birthday (yes, I celebrate those lol) and Valentine's Day. The Vancouver Winter Olympics were on at the time. I miss my little Valentine, but am incredibly thankful for happy memories like from that day. ❤️

I was 35 weeks pregnant. Everything was pink for my sweet little princess.

I made the baby shower invitations. During my pregnancy, I got really into card-making. I spent hours in December making Christmas cards to send to basically everyone my family knows. The top left photo shows the two invites that I sent out. I kept two for myself and am so thankful I did. They are now in Lily's memory chest. One of the invitations was supposed to look like a heart-shaped chocolate box and the other one was supposed to look like a sweethearts candy box. On the back where there is nutrition information on candy, I had information about the shower. Also pictured in the top left photo is the "It's a GIRL" balloon from my shower that I keep in Lily's memory chest.

The top middle photo is of the area in the kitchen where we had the "beverage center" where the ladies could have tea or other drinks. Also pictured are the gift bags I put together for my guests. I kept one of the bags that I created and now have that in my memory chest.

The top right picture is of the cake we had at the shower. It was red-velvet, in honor of Valentine's Day. That's where I started the tradition of having red-velvet cake for Lily's birthday each year. It will always remind me of her now. It said "A Lily Among Thorns" from the Scripture verse Song of Solomon 2:2 "Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens." (in honor of her name, Lily.)

The bottom left picture is of all the food we had at the shower. I *and Lily* ;) ate so much! It was delicious. We had strawberries (which were a huge craving for me during pregnancy) dipped in melted chocolate, crackers and cheese, cream cheese turkey roll-ups, cookies, and other Valentine's delights.

The bottom center photo is of everyone that was at my shower. From left to right: my sister Emma, my mom, me and Lily, Jean, Sarah, and Stephanie. At that time, I had moved back to North Carolina recently and didn't know many people in the area, except those from years ago when I lived here. Most of my old friends were away at college or had moved to another state. We were planning on having another baby shower with family and friends when we went to Virginia in May.

I got that dress at the Love in Bloom maternity store, which was across the street from the hospital where I had my prenatal appointments and where Lily was born. I also wore that same dress to Lily's Celebration of Life Service, about a month and a half later.

The bottom right picture is of the pink roses that were on display at my shower, which I dried out and now have in a vase in my bedroom. Also pictured is the scrapbook pink paper with a heart that everyone wrote a message to Lily and me. I now have that in Lily's scrapbook.

I was so proud to show off my big baby belly. We had lots of fun playing games and video recorded some of the shower. Some of the things people said were so funny and make me smile to go back and watch/listen. One of the games we played was people used toilet paper to guess how big around they thought I was and then they held it up to my belly to see how accurate they were. My sister and friend Sarah both got it exactly right! Some were way too long and I was like, geez, how big do I look?! Haha. I saved that piece of toilet paper that was the correct guess and am so glad I have it.

My shower was so much fun and I am so thankful for these precious memories with my sweet girl! It was a happy time and I treasure those happy memories! #AdventureswithLilyKat

This post left me:

Saturday, February 10, 2018

All Sorts of Happy-Sad

I posted this cute status on my Facebook page 8 years ago today.

My active baby girl, always dancing and squirming around.

This post I wrote at 35 weeks pregnant makes me all sorts of happy-sad now. It makes me wistful with memories of her moving. And more than anything, it reminds me of the full life she did live. ❤️  #missheralways #thirdtrimester #pregnancymemories

And look, my friend Hannah commented on the post. Click here to read the crazy story of our friendship.

This post left me:

Half Agony, Half Hope

I recently came across this quote by Jane Austen that astutely captures where my heart is now... "I am half agony, half hope."

On January 1st, I moved to Virginia for a ministry job that I love. It's an answer to prayer and such a JOY to be doing what I'm passionate about and feel called to.

Exploring my new area is fun. God has awakened this adventurous spirit within me, something that has always been there but in many ways lay dormant because of loss. I am grabbing hold of my life as a single woman. I recognize that there are MANY perks to the single life. I'm able to move to another state for a job. I'm able to move in with a girlfriend. I'm able to go to the ski resort with friends because I feel like it, or to a UVA college basketball game, or hiking, or to the coffee shop to enjoy a dirty chai (which I've been super into lately, by the way) for hours with a book or my laptop. I am able to try new churches and spontaneously grab dinner with a friend on a weeknight without prior planning. I am able to dream of short trips overseas to visit friends or potential long-term trips to work and live. I am incredibly thankful that the Lord has given me passion and purpose in my singleness and that I am able to appreciate the gift it is and the independence and freedom I have.

But let me just say that I am at the point in my life that I feel soooo ready and eager for the inconveniences and changes that come with being a wife and mama to littles (on Earth).

I appreciate while I ache.

Half agony, half hope.

Agony for the life I long for, hope because of where I am and for where I hope to one day be. Agony because I can't see what God is doing, hope because I know He is still moving even when I cannot see.

On a day where I am smiling most of the day, thanking the Lord for all the big and small ways I see Him in the intricate details, going before me and preparing the way... at the end of that same day of hope and joy and life, I lay awake in my bed and tears come. Tears not because I am displeased or discontent with my life. But tears because this is not the life that I thought would be. Tears for the life that I long for with every ounce of my heart and soul.

I can feel guilty for even wanting that life. Like it's somehow wrong. After all, for some reason God has chosen to withhold these things from me. Would it be the more godly thing to not desire? I wish many times that I could be completely focused on Eternity that things of this world, even good and beautiful things, didn't phase or attract me.

But I can't pretend that there isn't a part of my heart that feels like it's meant to be a mommy. I can't pretend that a part of my heart doesn't long to wear the white gown and pledge my love to one man for the rest of my days. I know that God alone truly satisfies, but I also know He cannot be those things to me and as much as He fulfills, those parts of my heart are empty and desolate without the children and husband I have never met and may not ever even be real.

I can't pretend I don't feel like the only one waiting for all the things I'm waiting for... a man, a home to call my own, babies to raise... I can't pretend I don't resent when people who are single say they understand my yearning for a family when really how could they if their empty arms shouldn't already be filled like mine should be? 8 loooooong years. My heart thorbbing when everyone else gets their happy ending after not waiting nearly as long as me. When people have rainbows and I'm still in the dark, walking alone, even without the comfort and solace that comes from having a spouse.

I can't pretend that I don't resent that I resent these things.

Even with all the agony, there is hope. Hope because I know one day all the agony will wash away, whether my waiting ends in this life or not. And hope because I know that my God is still good and I will continue screaming it into the dark night of my soul. Hope because as John Piper wrote, "God is always doing 10,000 things in your life and you may be aware of three of them." I know that in the agony, He is working.

This post left me:

Friday, February 2, 2018

You Made Me a Mother

First child of my womb.

First child of my heart.

It's been 9 years since you were here.

9 years since the only memories I have "of your life." Seeing Barack Obama get inaugurated. Watching the Super Bowl. Cold winter weeks. Nausea. Consuming fear. Gripping panic.

My sweet baby who was only here for a few short weeks.

You were but a vapor, silently blowing through the chambers of my soul, leaving me changed by the secret beating of your heart. A heart that beat for much too short a time. A heart that bequeathed my own as "mother." ❤️  #LukeShiloh #February6th #2009 #6weeks #iregretmyabortion #redemption #missyoualways #itsaforeverchoice #postabortionhealing

This post left me:

My Forever Valentine ❤️

My forever Valentine ❤️ 💕 🌹 💕 ❤️  

Lily's special spot is all ready for the month of February! What do ya think, is the rose big enough? ;)

This post left me:

Single Ladies: Let's Turn Outward on Valentine's Day

So... Valentine's Day is just around the corner and let's be honest, for singles it can be a day that makes you all 😩 ... The hearts, the cards, and the sappy romance in the air can be a huge (pink and red) reminder that you are oh so alone.

What if instead of sulking on this day, and instead of begrudgingly referring to it as "single's awareness day," what if we took it as an opportunity to encourage the single girlfriends in our lives? What if we sent cards (or flowers 💐  or chocolates 🍫 ) to these friends (who likely otherwise won't receive anything), reminding them of God's love, sovereignty, and goodness... cards that encourage them to not grow weary, to trust that God is in control and not to settle. 💌 

What if instead of sitting at home drowning our feelings in a gallon of ice-cream 🍦 on the couch, we went out with some of our single girlfriends? Not as a protest of Valentine's Day, but as a way to get out and enjoy life and have some fun... go get your nails done, get dressed up (always a good idea) 👗 👛 👠 and go out to a classy restaurant. Go on an adventure, however that might look.

Just don't let resentment and bitterness take root. Do what ya gotta do to combat it and fight for joy and trust. And to remember that you aren't the only one who struggles. Maybe we can come alongside our single sisters and help them learn to be content in Christ as we do. Even show love to the widows you know, spoil the kiddos you know, your mom, etc. Turn outward instead of inward. ❤️ 💗 

Do you have any ideas or thoughts to add?

This post left me:

Lily Remembered in Uruguay

Lily was remembered by Abigail in Uruguay in South America! 😍 ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🐳 🐬 🐟 🐠  #LilyKatsNameintheSand #LilyKatTravelstheGlobe

This post left me:

This Is My Normal

Just some shopping for Valentine's Day for my two favorite girls.

Decor to make my daughter's resting place look pretty and a new stuffed animal to add to my niece's ever-growing and beloved collection. :)

This is my normal. 💗 ❤️

This post left me:

Time Stood Still

Someone so sweetly made this for me... 😌

Isn't it somethin' how numbers, time, and a date can mean ever so much?...

Numbers that tell the weight and length of a little girl who had weight in this world.

❤️ 7 pounds 9 ounces and 21 inches

Time that tells the time of birth of a real little girl who was really born and is truly loved.

❤️ 4:24 p.m.

A date that holds the memory of the hugs, kisses, and snuggles that would need to last a lifetime.

❤️ Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Numbers, dates, and time mean much more than they may seem. They are cherished in my heart and can never be changed or taken away. They tell the story of a life. They tell the story of an unending and unceasing love. They tell the story of my motherhood.

What are the dates, numbers, and times for you?

This post left me:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

When You Finally See and Hold Your Baby

According to my Facebook Memories, on this date in 2010, I shared that I was "getting more and more tired and uncomfortable with every week." I was 32 weeks gestation.

My friend Bex commented on that post and said, "when you finally hold Lily in your arms you will forget all the discomfort. :) <3"

I responded and told her I was sure I would and how excited I was. I told her I had an appointment that morning and that everything was going well.

Along the same lines, I remember my mom telling me while I was laboring through the night, hours before arriving at the hospital, that I should picture Lily's face through the contractions... the sweet face I'd imagined countless times before. She said that would help me get through the pain, focusing on the beauty to come after the pain of labor and birth.

And it did help. All the physical pain was suddenly erased when my daughter came into this world and I gasped with awe over her beauty and the perfection of every detail of her. 

In birthing her, I was able to do something tangible as her mommy, and that is a gift. The emotional pain of what I was facing for the rest of my life far outweighed the temporary physical pain.

When I finally saw and kissed her sweet face, it was all worth it... all the months of morning sickness, the aches and pains, and stretch marks, and the labor. 

When anticipating birth and holding her for the first time, I never could have imagined what that would entail or that her heart would have ceased. I never imagined those little eyes would never gaze back. 

When you're pregnant, you often hear things along the same lines of "it'll all be worth it when you go home with your precious new baby." But not all of us do. You don't envision as a mother with a healthy baby and pregnancy that the months of nurturing them in the womb and laboring for them to be birthed will result in a tiny coffin and leaving the hospital with less than you came.

Yet that was my reality and as painful as it was and is... Seeing her face was worth it. Holding her was worth it. Visiting a headstone all these years has been worth it. Choosing life is worth it. Loving her is worth it. 💗

This post left me:

Lily Remembered in Bridgewater

We got some snow here in Bridgewater, Virginia, so I of course had to write my girl's name. ❄️⛄️❤️⛄️❄️  #LilyKatTravelstheGlobe #LilyKatsNameintheSnow   

This post left me:

Her Prints

Oh, my dear, sweet girl...

Your prints make me lose my breath...

Utter beauty, boundless preciousness, and the reminder of how real you are and how very real it is that you aren't here. 💗  #printsonmyheart #foreverandaday

This post left me:

Lily Remembered in Egypt

Lily visited Cairo, Egypt recently with my friend, Emmakate! ❤️  #LilyKatTravelstheGlobe

This post left me:

Lily Remembered in Virginia

Lily-girl was remembered by my sweet friend, Shannon, with her name in the snow in Wilsons, Virginia! 💗 ❄️   #LilyKatTravelstheGlobe #LilyKatsNameintheSnow 

This post left me:

Lily Remembered in Alaska

Lily visited Ketchikan, Alaska Christmas week with Gina! ❄️ ⛄️ ❤️  #LilyKatTravelstheGlobe #LilyKatsNameintheSnow

This post left me:

Lily Remembered in Austria

My friend, Laura, thought of Lily on her recent travels to Vienna, Austria! ❤️  #LilyKatTravelstheGlobe

This post left me:

Christmas Greetings from South Africa

A special Christmas greeting for Lily Katherine from her South African friend, Lily-Grace. ❤️ 🎄 ❤️   #LilyKatTravelstheGlobe 

This post left me:


One of my loss mom friends, Janelle, made this pretty snowflake graphic in Lily's honor. ❤️ ❄️ ❤️

This post left me:

Christmas Graphic

The Still Aware organization made this Christmas graphic in Lily's honor. ❤️ 🎄 ❤️   

This post left me:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

✨ 2017✨

(I'm just getting around to sharing my reflection post for last year).

As I've been reflecting over the past year and am anticipating the coming year, I'm amazed at all that can happen in just 12 months time. 2017 has been a doozy of a year, full of much difficulty and much growth too. Even when life sometimes feels like nothing is happening, when you take the time to look back and remember God's faithfulness, you actually see how much He is doing.

On April 14th (Good Friday), my grandmother "Bumma" unexpectedly passed away from an abdominal aortic aneurism. She was healthy and sharp in mind up until the day before her death. This unexpected goodbye left my entire family reeling. With the loss of Bumma, I lost my best friend and my last living grandparent.

Most of my family after Bumma's service in April

My mom and I were entrusted with the sacred task of capturing Bumma's life and legacy in her obituary... what an honor that was. 

Bumma was honored in The Hospice of the Piedmont newsletter.

Another loss experienced this year was my mom's best friend since Kindergarten, Ruby, who passed away on February 6th from cancer. We call this "Ruby's sunset," captured on the day of her burial service.

In January, I started a new job with the ministry in Raleigh where I had interned in the Fall of 2016. Then in June, I sadly had to quit this job that seemed so right for me because of circumstances outside of my control, circumstances that were painful and difficult to process.

It seemed God was bringing a guy into my life in the spring which was incredibly exciting, only for it to all unravel and leave me asking so many questions and feeling disappointed.

In the midst of so many hard things this year, I look back and see how God has been using those things to grow my character and to strengthen my heart and trust in Him and dependence upon Him. I am seeing with fresh eyes that He works all things together for good for those who love Him, as He promises to do (Romans 8:28).

There were also many positives from this year...

Lily's 7th birthday was on March 16th. My mom, brother Adam, and I spent her special day at Carolina Beach, North Carolina. The Lord gave such beautiful healing gifts through her birthday season.

My mom, brother Adam, and I taking the ferry to Southport on Lily's birthday

Cookies we took to the nurses at Rex for Lily's birthday

Lily's legacy expanded this year, through different projects done in her honor and opportunities I had to share our story. For one thing, the hospital where she was born got a Cuddle Cot!

Names in the snow project in Lily's honor

Names in the sand project in honor of Lily on her birthday...
I also did a project on flower petals for Mother's Day.

I was honored to have been a finalist in the Author/Blogger International category at The Butterfly Awards.

I was touched by all the people who remembered Lily this year in many ways, from sending cards and gifts, to writing her name in the sand all over the world, to even simply just letting me know they were thinking of her.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day Wave of Light

Cousins at the Remembrance Walk in October

In July, I spoke at a church in Virginia and got to meet my dear friend, Shannon, who I connected with through my blog. We shared memories and mementos of our beautiful daughters of Heaven.

In July, I also spoke at Camp Joshua North Carolina, which is something I look forward to each summer.

Then I spoke at an Angel of Hope Candlelight Christmas Service in December in Virginia.

In May, my darling niece, Harvest, turned 1! She has grown so much this year and is walking, talking, and getting into all sorts of mischief. ;) That girl absolutely has my heart.

My family :)

I loved taking Harvest's 1-year photos!

I started attending a new church and growth group in Raleigh, which I've loved and has helped me mature in my walk with Christ. I met many new friends there!

I also met other friends that I've grown to treasure, like Shannon (mentioned above) and Ashley.

I had some fun adventures this year... from visiting Lancaster County, Pennsylvania...

Catching up with Jennie, an Ellerslie friend in PA

 To visiting the beach with friends in the summer...

Ocean Isle Beach, NC

Wrightsville Beach, NC

To visiting Chicago in the spring for a friend's wedding and to visit my cousin, Daniel...

Wherever I go, there she is too

Yours truly in Chicago... at Navy Pier :)

Reuniting with old friends/roomies in Illinois

Friends getting married!

Chicago cousin time!

Daniel taking me around to do the tourist thing

To visiting Maryland and Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest in Virginia...

I played a mouse named Daisy in the play, Cinderella, in June! That was so much fun.

Cinderella cast!

The animals :)

Mice twins! #OopsieDaisy

Then I was in a Christmas choir as well, also through STP.

I even tried new things with my hair. ;)

Another highlight of the year was when my dear Aussie friend, Lissy, came to visit me in August, and I shared both North Carolina and Virginia with her. :)

Mini Ellerslie reunion!
Another mini Ellerslie reunion!

Taking friends to visit my girl's spot!

My Aussie friend visited Lily's spot!

God has used the painful things to bring beauty... He used Bumma's passing to bring my extended family closer together. He also used it to reconnect me with an old friend who I hadn't spoken to in probably a decade. He used the closed door at the ministry in Raleigh to open another door at a ministry in the Harrisonburg, Virginia area. He's been stirring within me a desire for change and for adventure and now I see he was preparing me for this new job and move. It's been faith-building to see His faithful guidance and how He is in all the details, from the biggest to the smallest. On January 1st, on the first day of the New Year, I moved to a new state for a new job and am so excited to see what God holds for me in 2018. I will share more about this later!

Here are a few other highlights from 2017...

My 28th birthday was on August 12th

My crazy cat lady costume for Halloween ;)

My cousin, Thomas, made Homecoming Court for the third consecutive year as a high-school junior! I was excited to be there for him.

His team also won the States cross-country meet in Virginia! My Uncle Lindy is the coach. :)

The Pregnancy Center Banquet

Rend Collective concert in Maryland! They are my favorite band! #thoseIrishaccentstho

This post left me:
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