Monday, October 1, 2018

It's Not Just a "Cause"

Most everybody knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Two of my aunts are survivors of breast cancer. There is pink everywhere, from people you see wearing t-shirts at the grocery store to NFL players sporting pink shoes on the field. There are several walks to support this cause and billions of dollars pored into research. Millions of people acknowledge it, which I think is a wonderful thing. You basically can't live in the United States and not hear about it constantly during the month of October.

But, not many people know that October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It is far too often overshadowed. I would never want those other things to be forgotten about, I just want P.A.I.L. (pregnancy and infant loss) to be spoken about as well. I want commercials about it and money being pored into it by giant corporations. It is a worthwhile thing to research, understand, and talk about. 


You can get your own PAIL Awareness images to share with friends, family, on your blog or social media accounts from Luminous Light Studio by clicking here.

My daughter, Lily Katherine was stillborn 2 days past her due date. I had a completely normal, healthy pregnancy and she was a healthy baby. She had a full autopsy done and nobody could give me a reason medically for why it happened. Don't you think it's about time something was done about this? In the United States of America in the 21st century, thousands of babies should not be dying with no explanation. 



I know I talk quite a lot about Pregnancy and Infant Loss. You'll see pink and blue strewn throughout my social media pages, especially throughout the month of October. But you see, to me it is not just another "cause." There are thousands of causes out there, aren't there? Support this, support that. Many of these things are important. This is not a cause, but our children. It's not merely about raising awareness for the sake of people being aware. PAIL Awareness Month is about honoring our babies and speaking out about the dignity and value of their lives, despite how brief. I don't just share the awareness ribbon or take part in the Capture Your Grief Project to make pointless noise. I am as outspoken as I am for a few reasons...

One, I want those who have lost their baby to know they are not alone. I want them to be pointed to resources to help them heal. I want them to know it is healthy and okay if they want to share their stories. 

I also want others to understand how loss affects someone, irrevocably. I want others to get a glimpse into what it's like, so maybe they will learn how to offer support and understanding to those impacted by infant loss.

I want to share my beautiful Lily with the world, my sweet girl who lived a full life in my womb and will always live in my heart. My girl who will always be my baby. This is how I mother her, this is how I share her. It was a gift the Lord gave me when He opened up my heart to love her as much as I do. And because of how much I love her, I miss her with that same great measure. The grief, in turn, is also a gift, for even that points to the sanctity of her life and each life, no matter how brief. I share because I believe in the sanctity of each unique and irreplaceable life, created in the image of God.

Why aren't more people talking about pregnancy and infant loss? I think part of it is because it's an uncomfortable thing to talk about babies dying and people think it will never happen to them. I want others to be aware of the importance of counting their baby's kicks

But, the main reason I think PAIL isn't spoken about or acknowledged is because people have minimized the value of the unborn in our society. It's no wonder people don't think it matters when someone loses a baby, whether at a few weeks gestation or full-term. After all, they were just a blob of tissue, right? They weren't a baby yet, so what's there to be upset about? I ask you, then, when exactly is the baby an actual baby? Was Lily not a baby because she never breathed outside my womb, though she made it to 40 weeks? What about the mother who miscarries her very much loved and wanted baby? Is it a baby only when the mother wants it, but otherwise it's just cells? We need to talk about this! And I believe once this is acknowledged more, people will start valuing and understanding the sanctity of all life.

Women around the world, from all walks of life, are affected by pregnancy and infant loss. 1 in 4 women will face a pregnancy/infant loss in her lifetime. Some more than one.

If you have never lost a baby yourself, please help us stop the silence and raise awareness because chances are this has probably already affected someone you love. Please educate yourself so you know how to support somebody if they lose their baby. Consider changing your profile picture to the blue and pink awareness ribbon. Blue and pink for the precious boys and girls who are no longer here. Let's show compassion. Tell someone who you know has lost a baby that you are thinking of them this month.

This month, I honor and remember all the precious ones who are no longer with us, the sons and daughters of Heaven. Their lives are important and they will forever remained loved and missed by those who know them. Let's get the word out about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. Share your story. Speak out!

Click here to read ideas I've shared for how to get involved during PAIL Awareness Month!

Photobucket
This post left me:

Luke's Should-Have-Been 9th Birthday

As Summer turns to Autumn and the leaves on the trees begin changing hues and the air gets a bit cooler, my heart remembers...

This is the time of year Luke Shiloh would be turning 9... Today was my due date...

Sometimes it feels like I have no right to feel or express my grief since it was a choice I made. But that is a lie and I share so other women and men carrying this regret are free to speak the truth. I share because of how prevalent this issue is.

How do I explain what October 1st means to me? How do I explain how this date means nothing at all and yet so many things? How February 6th stole what this day would have held. How October 1st will forever have a giant question mark hanging over it, as I imagine who my child would have been and how he would've looked.

A choice I made at 19 is now impacting 29-year-old me.

One choice erased 9th birthday parties and reminiscing over birth-day memories, memories of holding him for the first time, first holidays and first days of school.

My Luke Shiloh, 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."




The following is something I wrote in February a couple years ago, on the anniversary date of my abortion...

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

I search my own heart, trying to somehow understand a decision I myself made.

On the outside, I know why I did.

When I discovered I was pregnant, panic and fear immediately gripped my heart and that dreadful word captured my thoughts: abortion. The culture told me it was my choice to decide whether or not I was ready to be a mother. I always knew I wanted to be one, but not then, not under the circumstances I was in. Not while I was still a single teenager. I assumed I could be a mother "when I was ready," as if it's easy to open or close that door. Now I wait, with one abortion in my past and one child in the grave, longing year after year for the opportunity to be a mother again.

I was convinced that abortion was my only solution, as if this was a problem that needed "fixing."

My mind was consumed with thoughts of the shame and humiliation that would come with telling my family and friends I was pregnant outside of marriage. I didn't want people to discover the lifestyle I was leading.

I didn't want to face the pain and sacrifice sure to come with choosing either parenting or adoption.

I didn't want my body to change from pregnancy.

I didn't want permanent ties to the baby's father.

I thought someone might never want to marry me if I had a kid already.

I didn't want my entire future as I thought it should be to be forever altered.

I had grown up in a Christian, pro-life family and had not given much thought to the complex intricacies of what could cause someone to choose abortion. After all, it had never affected me personally. Being pro-life is not hereditary.

I had planned on remaining a virgin until marriage. But somehow along the way, I had made one bad choice after another which took me to a place I never imagined I'd be. My beliefs got buried beneath the pressures and the temptations, buried beneath the longing to be loved, to be known, to be chosen. There are many reasons God has revealed over the years as to why and how.

Because I was "taking care of things" so early (I was only 6 weeks gestation), and because it was a pill I would be taking and not a surgical procedure, I thought it was "no big deal." I couldn't feel any movement yet, never heard the fast thump, thump, thump of my baby's heart beating, and my belly was not yet round. I convinced myself it wasn't really an abortion. I didn't consider the fact that in 34 weeks (or even much less), a fully-formed child would be ready for birth.

I found Planned Parenthood while searching the internet, called and made the appointment for that Friday morning, February 6th, 2009 - 8 years ago today.

I convinced myself it was a pregnancy, rather than a baby. But deep down, in a place I was afraid to even visit, I knew that I was already a mother. The tears I cried during that week are proof. As Anne of Green Gables would describe it, I was in the depths of despair.

That morning came and I had collected the $350 that it would take to stop that tiny heartbeat. I cringe at the thought. I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that had it not been legal and "my choice," and had an abortion not been so easily accessible, and praised even in this society, than I never would have sought one out. I know that I wouldn't have had a back-alley abortion. That's why I can't stand when people use that argument for why abortion should remain legal. We need to empower women to see they can choose life, while still pursuing their dreams.

I wish I had known that my child's heart had already begun beating. I wish I had seen that even though I was ending my pregnancy, I would never again not be a mother.

I wish I could tell you I didn't take the little RU486 pill that I thought would solve all my problems. I wish I could tell you I ran as far and as fast as I could from that clinic with my baby still alive.

But I can't.

February 6th will be etched into my memory forever. My child would be 8 this year. As Summer turns to Autumn and the leaves on the trees begin changing hues and the air gets a bit cooler, my heart remembers. He was due at the beginning of October...

After that February weekend in 2009, I thought I could forget the nightmare ever happened. I just wanted to get back to my "normal life." The pain quickly began catching up with me. The suffering was too great so I shut myself off, my heart turning cold. I drowned my inexpressible sorrow in drinking, partying, and dating a new guy. I so desperately wanted to fill that gaping wound in my heart.

I felt beyond repair, like there was no hope for me. I kept my mind constantly busy and occupied so I didn't have to face the things I so desperately wanted to escape.

I search my own heart to try to make sense of what happened. On this side of having gone through with an abortion, now 8 years later, the better part of a decade, all my reasoning and struggling to recall doesn't seem good enough. The reasons and explanations that sprang up out of my heart to justify ending a life seem shallow.

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.

God has used this experience to give me a deeper compassion for others than I believe I could have ever had. I realize this could happen to anyone given the right, or shall I say wrong, circumstances.

I don't even recognize myself and can barely fathom that it was out of my own heart that I chose abortion. It doesn't feel like it could have been me. I don't even know that person who chose abortion.

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

This wasn't the end of the story... Just a few short months later, God's mercy and love would be demonstrated through another life planted within my womb. A life I did not deserve to be entrusted with. Redemption would be written all over her every cell.

Thomas Watson wrote, "Never do the flowers of grace grow more, than after a shower of repentant tears."

The dam of my damaged turned calloused heart had been stopped up until a little flower was planted, in my life, in my womb, in this world, bringing forth the repentance. And it's through that little flower named Lily that God's grace grew within my life and heart. It's through her that He brought healing from the choice to have an abortion. It's through the love He gave me for her that He opened up my heart to love Luke. In treasuring the sanctity of her life, He taught me to value the sanctity of my first baby's life and all life.

There have been some people who have asked me (some even assuming I feel this way), that God punished me for having an abortion with Lily's death. And to this I say, my God doesn't work that way. The blood of Jesus wiped out my abortion when I came to Jesus in repentance. Any child in the womb is a GIFT! Lily died, but the blessings of her life and legacy certainly are not a punishment. As I've written before, she is an eternal flower sent as an eternal gift from an eternal God. She is the farthest thing from a punishment and the fact that she is in Heaven is a comfort. Yes, I miss her and always will, but I have the peace and assurance at the core of my heart and soul that she was never meant to be a little girl of this world. She was called to a higher purpose.

Each February, I like to go back and read the book and watch the movie Tilly, which is about a mother who regrets having an abortion and dreams of Heaven where she meets her daughter and finds healing in the love and forgiveness of both Jesus and her daughter.

The last paragraph on the last page brings my eyes to tears and causes my heart to nod along in understanding: "And she would weep quietly, with this and with every new April {February}, for all the children who had no names and no parents, who still lived though never born. Most of all, she would weep for the little daughter {son} she never knew, and give whispered words to what she had always known: "Tilly {Luke}, I love you." But now her heart was at peace and that peace was hers to keep. She only wanted to remember. Just remember."

Honestly, this day is not one of shame, humiliation, and debilitating sorrow. But, it is one of remembrance. Remembering recognizes the sanctity of life and honors and celebrates Luke. Remembering is healthy and important.

One of my favorite musicians, Bethany Dillon (now Barnard) is releasing her first full-length record in almost a decade! It comes out in a few days and since I preordered it, I have access to the first couple songs. One of the songs is called "A Better Word," and it seems so appropriate to be listening to this song on repeat this month. I am singing this over my life and have so much comfort in the Lord.

Here are some of the lyrics (you simply must get the album!): "I hear the blood of Abel speak an accusation over me. I'm guilty and I am in need of mercy. You have broken the power of my sin. The curse I lived in has been reversed. The blood of Jesus is my provision. You have spoken a better word. Your blood speaks of the covenant for the both of us you have kept. Betrothed to You in faithfulness, I am redeemed.... No condemnation, I am free. The blood of Jesus speaks for me. The Lamb was slain, now I can sing a better word...." (see Hebrews 12:24)

Now when I look back at this page in my story, it isn't erased, no... but where the blood of my own child was shed because of my own choice, now I see the blood of Christ covering it.













This poem by John Piper powerfully articulates how a mother whose chosen abortion attempts to view the life of her unborn child as an "it":

I waited in my nausea,
Surrounded by stone-faced bourgeois
With rolls of twenty-dollar bills
In jacket pockets with their pills,
Funds from the ATM outside
The clinic door, because the guide,
Imbedded in the website said
"Cash only in advance." The dread
Concealed - as if I really read
The Mademoiselle - my eyes instead
Were staring at the vinyl floor,
So clean and cold, a wise decor
In case a mother's vomit soiled
The luster underfoot, and spoiled
This sterile place.

And then, all through the brief and mindless interview
And prep, they called my baby "it."
I tried to think that what God knit
In me was only "it." I gripped
For dear life every word - a script
To somehow make this life an "it."

But then, with legs still split
In clamps, I lifted up my head,
And saw there on the table, dead,
A tiny torso, not an "it," but "she,"
Destroyed, and with her, me.

************
I will end with this poem I wrote Luke:

First child of my womb,
Quietly you grew, hidden from all eyes.
Why didn't I choose Life?
Why did I believe the lies?

Flesh of my flesh,
My baby, forever you'll be.
I'm sorry I chose the wrong way.
I'm sorry I didn't SEE.

Your life was not wasted.
Valued and precious you are.
God is speaking mightily through you.
From my thoughts, you will never be far.

From darkness to light,
You will always be a part of the story.
Our Father in Heaven promises
To work all this together for His glory.

Your name means "light" and "peace,"
My precious little one.
That's what He's brought in all of this.
In Christ, the victory is won!

I promise to be your voice
Until my days on Earth are through.
I will never be silent
Until the time that I meet you.

In that moment, 
I will gaze upon your face.
I will hold you, kiss you, know you,
In awe of His great mercy and amazing grace.

Even then I know,
Your legacy will still live.
For He breathes beauty into this story,
And purpose He will continue to give.

I love you, my little Lukey.
Thank you for changing me.
Until we meet, my darling,
A forever part of me you'll be.

With all my might, I'll fight in your honor,
Until the battle for Life is won.
In my eyes and heart,
You will always be my son.

Photobucket
This post left me:

Friday, August 24, 2018

National Rainbow Baby Day

Two days ago was National Rainbow Baby Day. 🌈 ❤️ 💛 💚 💙 💜 💕 


A "rainbow baby" is a term commonly used in the pregnancy/infant loss community, referring to a baby born after the loss of a baby.

People like to imagine that everyone gets their rainbow baby. It's assumed that if you know the heartache of pregnancy or infant loss that you automatically get a license to bring home a healthy little one, almost like it's a guarantee to know that joy after being acquainted with such pain.

The reality is that not everyone does get a rainbow baby, some never and some not for a very long time. I'm not trying to be a Debbie-downer here, but please hear me out.

It has been 8 1/2 years since my daughter Lily passed away unexpectedly and for no known reason at full-term. I've seen my fair share of rainbow babies.... in fact, some of those who lost their baby around the same time as me have gone on to have 4 children since that time! It's like a fresh wave of loss parents comes along every year or so and then inevitably they have a healthy child soon after. I've seen this time and time again and it doesn't get any less painful with each pregnancy announcement and birth.

It's not that I am not overjoyed for them. It's that I'm sad for those of us who feel left behind. And I'm sad because I wonder if this is what I'm destined for, especially with the way so many parents of rainbow babies talk about them.

There is a community within the babyloss community of women who don't have a rainbow baby (for many different reasons). We're known as "still mothers," because we are still mothers even when our motherhood is invisible to the world. We have a website and a support group with other others who "get it." We are mothers who understand that not everyone is guaranteed a rainbow after the storm, but that doesn't mean we lack hope. Many of us prefer not to use the term "rainbow baby" because the babies that we lost were not a storm. Our babies brought light and love and COLOR to our worlds and their death doesn't negate that.

Parents of rainbow babies talk about their child bringing them out of the pit of the sorrow that comes when one loses their child.

A particular friend I know lost her son early one year, got pregnant with her daughter later in that same year, then welcomed her into the world at the end of the year. She wrote on her blog about how the day of her daughter's birth overwhelmed her with gladness. She said, "To this day I know she is the only reason I ever recovered. She's the only reason I am not still deep in sadness."

A few years ago, I met a mother online whose daughter was due just days before Lily in March 2010. This little girl shares both Lily Katherine's first and middle names, just with a different spelling for both names. She was stillborn in late February of that year. We connected over our daughter's similar dates and names. Then she told me she had a healthy daughter a year later. She told me if she lets go of her focus on her living daughter, her heart becomes much heavier about her daughter who is no longer living.

Seeing and hearing these things is difficult for the invisible mother club. When I read these things, it stings because I wonder, will I recover? In many ways, I think that having a baby in my arms would help heal me in deep and immeasurable ways while on Earth, ways that only ever having another child can heal. Does God not want me to be healed in the way He has allowed others to be? Am I just resigned to the fact that I may always be haunted by silence, never to hear my own baby's sweet cry? Is this what my motherhood is going to look like for the rest of my life?

We should be careful not to pain the picture that life gets better if and when you have a rainbow, so if you can't or don't, you're destined for a life of misery and isolation.

Maybe us invisible mothers should redefine how we view rainbows. Maybe our rainbow is how we mother our baby's legacy. Maybe the rainbow that's been born after our loss is how we honor them, how we write about them, how we go to remembrance walks and candlelight ceremonies, release butterflies, continue with traditions on their birthdays, plant gardens, make hospital comfort boxes, etc. Maybe the light and color that comes is how we bring light and color to other families whose worlds have been darkened by loss.

Not everyone gets their rainbow baby, but maybe we can still have our rainbows. Even if we don't get what most people think will heal us and make us whole, Jesus is still enough. He is my rainbow, my hope in life and for eternal life. Maybe that's what my rainbow story is supposed to be.

I'm not trying to make anyone with a rainbow baby feel bad or feel like they shouldn't share. I personally *do* like the term and you better believe if my time ever comes, especially after waiting so many years, that I will be thrilled and all about some rainbows!

I just hope in my sharing others will realize rainbow babies aren't always expected or guaranteed and how it can be painful, confusing, and isolating for the invisible mother wrestling with these things. Let's weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice and not forget to have empathy with where others are.

If you are also a bereaved mother without a living child, check out the website Still Mothers (there is also a Facebook page and an online support group).

I appreciate this article about The Unique Grief of Mothers without Living Children. It is so comforting and validating. I thought I'd share it here for anyone else in similar shoes and also to give a glimpse into what it's like.

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

On another note regarding rainbow babies, I saw this touching video on Facebook (click link to view) that made me tear up. It's of a mother taking her rainbow baby home from the hospital. I've been praying and hoping for even the opportunity to have a rainbow for 8 1/2 years and don't know if the day will ever come, which hurts more than I could ever express. But I imagine I'll feel a lot like this beautiful mother if my day does comes. Somehow experiencing great loss makes love that much deeper. And I can only imagine how the longer the wait, the sweeter it'll be.

Photobucket
This post left me:

29 and Feeling Fine

My 29th birthday was this month, on August 12th, and I thought it'd be fun to share highlights/memories/milestones from each of my 29 years thus far 😄❤️🌹🎈🎉🎂🎁 #1989baby :



1 - I was probably being all adorable and learning to walk and talk. 😇

2 - Doing what 2-year-olds do... Hopefully growing some more hair. 😜

3 - Definitely noticing kitties by this age. 🐱

4 - My sweet little sister Emmaline was born. I still remember holding her for the first time and how much I loved babies even then. 🍼

5 - I used to line all my dolls and stuffed animals up to attend school and I was their teacher. 🍎 I also liked to report the news. Once I very seriously reported that "George Washington had a very had day today." ;)

6 - Some of my fondest memories are of living in the country in Earlysville, Virginia. I loved having big twin brothers to go on fun adventures with! 😍

7 - I got my first American Girl doll for Christmas that year and thus began my great love for AG.

8 - Moved to Carolina for the first time 🌻

9 - Met my childhood best friend 👭 ... nearly choked to death, but my mother saved my life 😯🙏

10 - Attended public school for the first time 😳

11 - Hello, acne 😩

12 - Middle school. 'Nough said. All I can say is I would definitely not wish to relive those years of awkwardness and mean kids. 😒

13 - There was a group of us 5 best friends that we called "the Quints" 😄

14 - Started high-school 😎

15 - Got my Driver's Permit 🚙

16 - Spent my sweet 16 birthday at Emerald Isle... got my Driver's License! 🌊🐚

17 - Traveled to NYC and Colorado for the first time... Graduated from high-school! 🌃 🎓

18 - Went to college in Tennessee and ran on the cross-country team ✏️

19 - Most difficult year of my life. God used the experiences of this year and the next to transform my life and teach me how beautiful redemption is. ❤️

20 - My sweet Lily girl was born! 💕🌸

21 - A lot of blogging and healing 💻 ... Worked at an Italian restaurant. 🇮🇹🍴

22 - Started public speaking and sharing my story around the country! 🎤 Spent a season at Ellerslie in Colorado 🌻 ... Got into photography  📷

23 - Remember how I started loving American Girl as a girl? Well, this year I got to go to the AG store in Chicago and I was probably more excited than I should have been. My cousin Daniel aptly described it when he said it was my childhood dream come true... just 15 years late. 😏 I nannied a lot that year.

24 - Decided to go back to school to finish my undergrad degree! Volunteered at a Pregnancy Center... My brother Joseph and bestie Kala got married! 💍

25 - Quarter of a century! Got involved with the Perinatal Bereavement Committee at the hospital in Raleigh where Lily was born and created my comfort boxes for families walking through infant loss. 💕

26 - I graduated with my Bachelors Degree and my amazing niece Harvest was born! Spent another season in Colorado! 🎓

27 - Bumma went to be with Jesus

28 - Moved to Virginia on an adventure of trusting God and growing as a person.

29 - Starting my Masters program (oh yeah, I still have to share that news with you all!)... who knows what else?? 😍💭 #29andfeelingfine

Photobucket
This post left me:

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

My Would-Be 3rd-Grader

Amidst all the back-to-school-first-day photos, this is where mine would be....

You can imagine a beautiful 8-year-old 3rd grader, with curly hair and blue eyes. There would surely be a big smile on her face and a pink backpack draped over her shoulder. The twinkle in her eyes would tell of her excitement for a new year and all she'd learn and the friends she'd make.


That's what I would be posting today and what I wish I was.

But March 16, 2010 took that photo and moment from me.

That's what I want others to grasp about infant loss - when you lose a baby, it's not a one-time occurrence that only affects you one day of your life.

It takes away the first day of 3rd grade too, and a thousand other days.

As John Piper described in a letter he wrote to comfort a mother who lost her son to stillbirth: "Amputation is a good analogy. Because unlike a bullet wound, when the amputation heals, the arm is still gone. So, the hurt of grief is different from the hurt of other wounds. There is the pain of the severing, and then the relentless pain of the gone-ness. The countless might-have-beens. Those too hurt. Each new remembered one is a new blow on the tender place where the arm was."

Today my heart is tender as I miss my 3rd grader, my sweet Lily Kat.

Who are you missing today and what grade would they be starting? 🍎 ✏️ 🎒 ❤️


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

There is a touching letter being shared on Facebook and different blogs and websites, written by a Kindergarten teacher. This is what she had to say about it, with the letter below:
"Summer is winding down and I'm gearing up for a new school year. Yesterday, I sat down to finish my mailing for my new Kindergarten students. I worked my way through the list, personalizing each letter with my student's name (I feel like it adds a little extra love when you put pen to paper for someone). and daydreaming about the year ahead.
Then, I thought of them; the children who should be coming to Kindergarten. I imagined the families who should be receiving letters from new teachers, but instead, they are receiving yet another dose of heartbreak at the milestone their child did not reach.
So, I have decided that, for this year, they can join my classroom. I will be their teacher.
Here is their welcome letter."

Photobucket
This post left me:

Believing for a Miracle with a Broken Heart

My roomie put this inspirational quote up in our living room.


I've been thinking a lot about the truth in these words and how freeing and beautiful they are.

Don't we get it in our minds that we can *either* have hope *or* a broken heart? That the two are mutually exclusive?

When really the two can coexist side-by-side. The broken heart makes the hope for a miracle that much sweeter and when that miracle is fulfilled, that much more a thing of awe.

You can be broken-hearted over the baby you lost while at the same time hoping for the miracle of a rainbow baby.

You can be broken-hearted over being single and life not going the way you thought or dreamed it would while at the same time believing that God can change your circumstances and bring you a spouse.

It’s not either/or.

And like a seesaw going back and forth, sometimes your heart will feel more of the weight of hope or the weight of being broken-hearted. But that doesn’t mean the other doesn’t still exist and won’t again reign.

There are lessons to be learned in sorrow and in hope, and sometimes the lessons are found when both occupy the same soul simultaneously.

You, yes you, the one with the broken heart... you can believe things will change and your miracle will come, fully trusting God holds and ordains your life, while still feeling the ache in your heart. You don’t have to choose. 
❤️

Photobucket
This post left me:

Life for Lily Day!

August 15th was Life for Lily Day (I also call it my Spiritual Birthday)! 💕🌷

This year to mark the day, a couple people close to me went with me to the cemetery where we enjoyed a red-velvet treat and watched the sunset on a beautiful summer evening. I shared a bit about the significance of the day and thought about all my girl means to me and how peaceful the day feels.

On this day in 2015, family and friends gathered with me for a butterfly release at her special spot.


Here is part of what I shared about what Life for Lily Day is/means to me:

It was on this date in 2009 that I had an abortion appointment scheduled at Planned Parenthood. Blinded by my fear and shame, I thought I needed to "take care" of the "problem" of an unplanned pregnancy. After all, I had just turned only 20-years-old, was not married, and not in a place in my life where I thought I was ready to welcome a child into this world. 

It is only because of God's grace that August 15th does not hold painful memories of walking through those abortion clinic doors with my child safely nestled in my womb and walking out with her body having been violently ripped from mine. It is only because of His loving-kindness and intervention in my life that we are all standing here together, in this moment, at the beautiful memorial stone for a little girl named Lily Katherine. On the day that the enemy of our souls intended to be death for Lily day, we can rejoice that because of God's mercy that instead we celebrate Life for Lily Day! It is only because of His victory over darkness that when the clock struck midnight on August 16th in 2009 that my child's heart was still beating strongly within me. 

God whispered to my heart in August 2009 that I had come to a fork in the road in my life and had a very big decision to make. He showed me that if I chose to have an abortion, I couldn't imagine the pain and darkness that would follow, but if I chose life, I couldn't imagine the beauty that He would bring. On an August evening around dusk, I was watching the pink clouds dance across the sky, when suddenly the decision became clear to me: I had to obey Him and choose life. Suddenly all my fears melted away when the light of truth shined on my heart. I knew my God would be with me and would give me everything I needed to face the journey ahead.

I don't even want to imagine what my life would be like right now and all we would have missed had August 15th gone the way I had planned. Every year, I would have tearfully remembered that just three days after my own birthday, I denied my child the gift of having her own birthday. Because of the one who loves us more than life and had a plan beyond what I could see or comprehend, she does have a birthday - it's March 16th, 2010, a date that would have held no significance to me had the date of August 15th turned into one of anguish rather than rejoicing. Instead of ending her life, my Father in Heaven gave me the courage to embrace her life, and then put His love for her within me, even when I was selfish and broken and had none of my own to give.

You might think to yourself that Lily died anyways before birth, so what's the big deal, why shouldn't I have gone through with the abortion and saved myself the heartache of her untimely death? You see, she may have died, but she LIVED first. And she did not die before the purposes for her life were put into motion by the one who crafted her life and legacy before the foundation of the world. She didn't die before she changed my entire life, future, and calling. My child died with dignity, rather than at the hands of an abortionist, paid for by her mother. God had His will for her life and in my life, rather than me having my will and playing god in taking her life myself. It is the Lord who gives and takes away. May His Name be praised!

Butterflies symbolize new life and that is what Lily brought me. Her new life in the womb was a reflection of and the instrument used by God to bring me to life in Him. Her name means "purity and innocence," as a symbol of my redemption in Christ. Because of His shed blood, I am washed whiter than snow. He has cleared the blemishes of my past and makes them as if they never were. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!"

As my friend Anna wrote, "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." Summer is the perfect time of year to release butterflies for the baby girl who brought me new life, as it was the time of year her life began. Obviously butterflies are significant enough to me to include one on the back of Lily's stone. Her life brought transformation.

Lily now has eternal life with Jesus. God spoke His promise of eternal life, redemption, and the love and mercy of Christ through Lily's birthday: March 16. 3:16, like John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Her life is a picture of this.

Not only are butterflies significant to me because they remind me of Lily's new life, the new life she brought me, and my new life in Christ, but they are also beautiful creatures with short life spans. Maybe God wanted to speak through how He designed butterflies to be so lovely, knowing they would live a brief time, that it is not length that brings beauty and significance. I believe the butterfly is a reflection of the beauty, depth, and intricacy of Lily's life and legacy. Although the length of her life was short, the depth of it is immeasurable in how it's changed the breadth of the rest of my life.

There is a part in Lily's song that perfectly captures what August 15th means to me - "How close I had come to that fatal mistake, but I knew that your life was not mine to take. Through the turmoil and questions broke God's gentle voice: "will you entrust Me with this child, with this choice?"

The song "Alive Again" by Matt Maher beautifully articulates the season in my life when the Lord broke through my darkness. The chorus of the song says, "You called and You shouted, broke through my deafness, now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again. You shattered my darkness, washed away my blindness, Now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again."


The song "You Are On Our Side," by Bethany Dillon is another special one for me. On August 6th, 2009, I wrote in my journal about how desperate I was for Jesus and how deeply I regretted choices I had made. I asked Him to fulfill His purposes in my life and to take away anything keeping me from Him. In that journal entry, I wrote the lyrics to this song. The chorus says, "You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor, You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore. When You could just be silent and leave us here to die, still You sent Your Son for us, You are on our side."

He showed me He is on my side.... in how He whispered hope and life to me, in how He brought the victory, in leading me to ask Him in my journal to rescue me from myself so He could prove Himself ever-faithful and present, in how He led me to the "Lifehouse Everything" skit online, in how He led my Aunt Sarah to lend me her David Teems CD so Scripture could be read over me during those nights where a battle was literally raging in the spiritual world and His power was released through His Word, in how He led me to reach out to a young woman named Bex who had courageously chosen life and adoption for her little boy and was able to be just the support and encouragement I needed in my own unplanned pregnancy, in how He led me to the pregnancy center, the "place of hope and light" as I call it, where I was able to cry and talk it out with my now good friend, Anna, in how He led me to listen to many different songs during that time that ministered to my heart, in how He put His love for Lily within me and the desire to protect her from harm, in how I found a Precious Feet pin of a 10-week unborn baby's feet when I was also 10-weeks pregnant and my heart was able to grasp that I had a precious life within me, in how I was initially researching abortion methods because I was planning on having one, when God turned my world upside down and showed me the truth about abortion and first birthed within me the desire to be a voice for the voiceless, in how He whispered to my heart that I was carrying a little girl named Lily while I was still in my first trimester. He showed me He was on my side through all these things and more. Through all these years, He has continued to show me He is on my side.

My spiritual birthday, or Life for Lily Day, is a "stone of remembrance." We praise the Lord for what He's done and we thank Him for sending Lily to Earth. As the decades pass, and my hair turns gray, and aging-wrinkles form on my face, I will remember. My love will only increase with time. While I remain on Earth, I will do all I can to share her story with others and bring glory to the Lord as she have done. Because I know the time is coming when we will be together forever and this life will have been but a breath in light of eternity. All the tears will dry up and the sorrow will fade away, on that day when Jesus greets me at the gates of Heaven, where I know she will be waiting with Him, to welcome me Home. As John Piper wrote in a letter to a mother whose son was stillborn, "she simply skipped Earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, she will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows." When we first lock eyes, dear Lily, all the years of missing you will be no more and I will hold you and never let go. I will thank you for bringing me new life...

Life for Lily Day Butterfly Release


For more pictures and more on the butterfly release, you can read my blog post from last year by clicking here.

Photobucket
This post left me:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

He Numbers Our Days

There are so many posts I need to share!

August 12th was my 29th birthday. I always get reflective about life and Lily around this time of year. 🎈🌹

I was born six days before my due date. I can't help but think how if Lily were also born six days before her due date, she would have most likely lived.

When my mom was in labor with me, my heart kept decelerating. The doctors were becoming increasingly alarmed and kept saying how they might have to do an emergency c-section. When I was born, the bottoms of my feet were dark and I was unresponsive at first. Obviously I quickly did become responsive and there were no lasting issues.

Things could have turned out entirely different on the day I was born. How easily my parents could have lost me. My own frailty and birth story is a reminder to me of everything I have lost with Lily. She was my mini-me, looking similar to me at birth, with almost the exact same measurements.

me on the left and Lily on the right

She was just as real and loved as me. I could have easily slipped away on August 12th, 1989, just like Lily slipped away from me. The last 29 years my parents have had with me could have been erased in an instant... all the memories, the laughter, the knowing of who I was growing up and who I've grown up to become would have been no more. Lily wouldn't have even been had August 12th gone differently. Every August 12th since 1989 would have been much like every March 16th has been for me since 2010.

Having lost my own daughter, knowing many people who have or had infertility issues (including my parents) and those who've lost children in many different ways, and seeing how I myself could have nearly died is a reminder of just how precious life is, and what a miracle it is to be conceived, born alive, and have the gift of growing up. May we never forget what a beautiful thing it is to be alive.

Thinking about my own birth and all my life has held up until this point highlights all that I'm missing with my own little girl. One life holds so much and I won't know any of what Lily's would have held beyond the womb.

I'm clinging to the truth that the Lord numbered both of our days and is sovereign... "In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." ~Psalm 139:16

Photobucket
This post left me:

The Difference Between Us

Do you want to know what the difference is between the two babies represented by these birth certificates?

The difference is 20 years between birth dates. The difference is Virginia and North Carolina. The difference is merely an ounce between birth weights, with the same length. There is not much difference in their looks either.

They both were full-term baby girls when they were born. They both bear the names of flowers. They are both immensely loved.

Yet, one was born with breath and the other was not. One got to grow up and the other didn't. One celebrated her 29th birthday a few days ago and the other never will.

One is me and the other is my daughter.

That one breath changed the fact that I got one kind of birth certificate and she got another.

One. Single. Breath.

Separates her mattering and counting in other's minds versus not.

It shouldn't. ❤️


Photobucket
This post left me:

Until Our Last Breath

You may remember me writing about sweet baby Ryleigh Grace, who was stillborn at 38 weeks. Yesterday, August 15th, was her 2nd birthday.

Her mommy, Kristen, and I were good friends in high-school. Her firstborn was actually born on the exact same day as Lily! - March 16, 2010, and is now a healthy and thriving 8-year-old. Then her second baby was stillborn, giving us yet another thing we have in common.

Anyways, this summer, Kristen had her rainbow baby, another beautiful little girl. Her heart is still heavy with grief over the loss of Ryleigh. In many ways, I imagine having another baby is a reminder of all that was missed with the one who was lost. Kristen's experience proves that babies are not interchangeable and just because you have another doesn't mean you stop missing and longing for the baby who should've been here to grow.

I texted Kristen yesterday on Ryleigh's special day and told her they were both on my mind. Kristen responded that Ryleigh is on her mind every day, which I feel captures so much in so few words... even when the rest of the world "moves on," even when we think of other's babies who were lost on the day of their birth (hopefully if you know someone who has lost you do), we must remember that they remember and miss their beloved child EVERY SINGLE DAY! Another baby doesn't "fix" anything. Yes, another baby can heal and fill empty arms in a unique and beautiful way, but they will never erase the pain of what happened and what should have been.

It reminds me of this touching thing a bereaved mother put in her paper, which I first saw shared on Facebook a while back. I know I'll feel the same after 70 years. Our babies remain in our hearts and minds FOREVER, until our last breath.


Photobucket
This post left me:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Power of a Protective Mother

A couple months ago, I had an experience that shook me up.

I was eating brunch at a local restaurant when a cute little family with a mom, dad, and 3 kids came in.

All of a sudden the mom started yelling "oh my gosh, she's choking!", talking about her toddler daughter.

She jumped up and immediately went into action to save her little girl's life. I could hear the sheer panic and fear in her voice.

Everyone in the restaurant was watching and a few people called the ambulance.

It brought me to tears because I'm always emotional about anything to do with choking, after my mom had to do the Heimlich on me when I was 9. I was praying that this would turn out well and thankfully because of this mother who knew what to do and did it, it did.

More than anything though, I left feeling amazed by a mother's love and how she'll do anything necessary to protect her babies, even when she's terrified herself. From the womb, God wires a mother to be a protector. A mother's love even extends past death, and with it the desire to protect her child's legacy.

She was by the ambulance as I was leaving and I made a point to tell her what an incredible mother she is and how we saw her swiftly move to action. I think she needed to hear that as she immediately started crying. What a beautiful little girl in her polka dot dress who is thankfully okay.


Photobucket
This post left me:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lily's 8th Birthday Celebration!

This post is almost 4 months overdue!!

This March 16th was a beautiful one. As I've written before, Lily's birthday means more to me than any other day, even my own birthday. Yes, I get sad and reflective, but it so much more than that. It's like God highlights the day and somehow just makes it feel so special and magical, from start to finish. He hides treasures throughout the day, waiting to be discovered. But honestly, I could sit at home all day and still March 16th would be marked as sacred... and so, so sweet. 8 years out and the sweetness outweighs the bitter in bittersweet, without comparison. I love you, my sweetheart. I know you are safe. I'm forever thankful you are mine and I am yours.

Here is Lily's special spot in Crozet, Virginia decorated for her 8th birthday! The flower arrangement (with roses and lilies of course) was put together by her mommy and grandmother. I found the flag and balloon online. ☺️💕❤️💐8️⃣





Here are Lily's 8th birthday red-velvet cupcakes with stargazer lilies on top (my favorite type of lily). :) This is one of my favorite traditions for my girl on her birthday, which started because I had a red-velvet cake at my Valentine's baby shower. I got them at a local bakery in Virginia and the owner shares a birthday with Lily Kat! ❤️💕🎂💕❤️



We had delicious red-velvet ice-cream. We had a mini Shamrock cake too, though I unfortunately can't find that photo now.


My sister-in-law Kala got me these beautiful flowers for Lily's birthday. She arranged them herself. They smelled wonderful! She's such a sweet auntie. ☺️💕🌻🌸🌿💐


A thoughtful friend of mine from childhood sent me this gorgeous painting for Lily's birthday. Stephanie, thank you so much for remembering my girl with me and for the time you put into this! I've always loved your art. 😄🎨💕💜🌸 



It was so special to visit Lily's spot on her birthday with her cousin, Harvest, who was almost 2 at the time. Now that H is older, it brings such joy to my heart to watch her show interest in Lily's stone (especially the lamb), to run around in the sunshine and blow bubbles for her cousin. It's a strange juxtaposition of life and death to be experienced in a cemetery. I wish these girls could know each other here. My daughter would now be 8, a big kid compared to lil' H. I know they still have a special bond and fully believe they will one day meet. Harvest wore her butterfly shirt in Lily's honor. 💕







On March 16, 2010 at 4:24 p.m., Lily was born. As is tradition, at 4:24 p.m. on her 8th birthday, we lit the red-velvet cupcake candle that is used only on special dates. We sang Lily girl the birthday song, as well as a favorite of my families' that says, "Every day of the year, may you find Jesus near." Singing those words to her holds and entirely different meaning. We also blew bubbles that my thoughtful friend gave me for Lily's birthday. As you can probably tell by the video, Lily's cousin Harvest loved this part of the celebration. :)


Each year in honor of Lily for her birthday, I like to have some sort of project or do something for others. This year I sponsored a little girl in Jesus' name and Lily's honor through Compassion International. She shares the exact same birthday as Lily!


I was rockin' my St. Patrick's Day green for my mid-March girl over her birthday weekend! 



My friend Tiffany who lives on the opposite Coast also has a daughter who was stillborn on March 16th, in 2007. Sending a package in honor of her girl who shared my girl's birthday is something I treasure each March. Genesis has her own special spot in my heart. It is interesting reading what Tiffany writes because there are so many similarities between us... the same anticipation about our daughter's impending birthdays when the new year rolls around. The same tie we have to March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, and how we associate that date and all things green/Clovers/Shamrocks with our girls. I got them some St. Patrick's Day temporary tattoos so her other kiddos could honor their sister. Anytime I see dragonflies, something that makes Tiffany think of Genesis, it also makes me think of her. It's amazing how we carry the babies of our friends with us always. We both also like to snap photos of the things that are "winks from Heaven." Each year on March 16th, I like to see how Tiffany honors Genesis. We both have traditions. It is sweet thinking of them throughout the day, knowing that Tiffany is probably feeling many of the things I am at the same time I am.


My friend Joanna who used to be my neighbor has a daughter Ashley was also born on March 16th. She turned 15 this year, which means Lily was born on her 7th birthday. My mom and I didn't know them well when Lily was born. However, it's crazy to think about how we were living by each other and had no idea that on the idea I was at the hospital delivering Lily, they were celebrating Ashley's birthday. Two little girls born at the same hospital on the same date 7 years apart. We discovered this shared date a year later, when Lily would have turned 1. It came up in casual conversation with my mom one day. That was around the time we started becoming friends with Joanna. We decided to take Ashley a gift to honor Lily on her birthday, since we can't get anything for our own little girl. They didn't even know about Lily at that point, but right when we took the gift over, Joanna was surprised we remembered her birthday and said, "Oh, you must have someone in your family with that birthday." So my mom told her about our girl. She was so sweet about it and wrote in a thank you card: "Ashley has really enjoyed her birthday gifts. I'm glad she could bring happiness to your special day." (I am referencing old blog posts to recall these details). After that first year giving Ashley a gift, we decided to make it an annual tradition to honor Lily. And by that point, we had become good friends with Jojo. Not only is doing this for Ashley a sweet way to honor Lily, but we really enjoy shopping for girls and imagining what Lily might have liked through the years. We love watching Ashley open her gifts and it means a lot when she likes what was selected for her. 


My friend Bianca in South Africa sent me these adorable photos of her girls wishing Lily a happy birthday! Her oldest daughter is also named Lily and was also born in mid-March, so we have a special connection. :)



I was so thankful my brothers, sister-in-law, and niece were able to join my mom and I in Virginia for Lily's birthday weekend! It means more to me than I could ever express that they celebrate, honor, and remember her with me. Their friend also came up for the weekend, which happened to be his birthday weekend too. It was gorgeous! Look at those Blue Ridge Mountains on Lily's special day.


March 16 Sunset


This little girl right here.... she brings such joy and healing to my heart in the hard moments.


During my pregnancy with Lily, I enjoyed the personal pan cheese pizzas at Pizza Hut, so mom and I had that for lunch.


We ate at Cracker Barrel for dinner when the others arrived from North Carolina. This is a special birthday tradition and where we've eaten all but one of Lily's birthdays (when we were at the beach). They were so sweet to treat me. :)


It snowed in Virginia the week of Lily's birthday and I was able to write something special in the snow. I also wrote a few baby names for friends.


My friend Cambry gave me a red-velvet cupcake for Lily's birthday. It was DELICIOUS!


My friend/roomie Mary gave me a yummy dirty chai tea latte at the local coffee shop her family owns. :)


Thank you for all the comments, texts, messages, etc. and for caring about my sweet girl in 2018! I got some other cards and gifts that I don't have photos of, but I greatly appreciate. A travel mug from Bex, confetti, bubbles, and something for decorating Lily's grave from Emily, a basket of goodies from my Aunt Helen, and a pretty top from Terri. :)


Here are the blog posts I've written over the years, both on Lily's birthdays, as well as the posts about how we've celebrated her birthdays:


Photobucket
This post left me:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...