Ways to Create and Keep Memories With Your Baby ~ Before and After Goodbye

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Guest post by Andrea Soergel

                It is a naturally human thing to desire to be remembered.  In our quietest, deepest times of soul-searching, I think most of us would admit that we ponder what we have done that will leave a mark on this world.  What will be left for future generations to know that we existed?  That we were here, and we lived and loved and we meant something.  There are some things we can do to leave that lasting imprint.  First and foremost, if you’re a parent, you can raise children that are made to feel loved and secure.  We do our best to guide them and provide boundaries that will create adults who do THEIR part to have a positive impact.  If we don’t have any living children, we may do some kind of work that has lasting value, be it our actual job or volunteering.  We can all leave a positive impression on our world.

                So, what are we to do when our anticipated and much-loved child dies?  Where is their legacy?  Where is the chance for them to leave their touch on this life?  It lies with us.  The living, who loved them and nurtured them, whether it was only while in the womb, or for brief moments or days beyond.  We can carry their torch.  We can make sure their story doesn’t end with their physical exit from this earth.

                I was in this spot, and truthfully, feel that I will forever be in this spot, as long as the Lord allows me to be here.  Our son, Haven William, was diagnosed with anencephaly (a fatal neural tube defect) at twelve weeks into my pregnancy.  We were blessed with twenty weeks to enjoy with him, cherishing every little kick and hiccup.  He left us quietly at thirty-two weeks and was born still on February 13, 2004.  Our planning for honoring Haven began before his death and subsequent birth.  We have continued to keep him present in several different ways over the last twelve years.  I have also heard of a lot of really cool ways that other people are remembering and honoring their sweet babies, too. 

Before Birth:

                -Capturing your baby’s heartbeat.  One site (mybabysheartbeatbear.com) provides everything you need to record the heartbeat and place it inside a stuffed animal.  This is not the only place out there, of course, but you get the idea.  Doctor’s offices can often provide print outs of the heartbeat as well.  Some people even choose to then have this turned into a tattoo.  Of course, you can always just have the recording to treasure without doing anything fancy with it.

                -Paint your belly.  This one is fun for siblings to be involved with.  There isn’t a lot of prep work or cost involved~just get some paint, bare your belly, and go to town.  Of course, pictures to document are a necessity.  It is also a good chance to talk to your other children about what is happening with their baby brother or sister in a more light-hearted setting.  I also want to emphasize that, while this may be super fun for kids, you can have just as much fun doing this with you and your spouse or partner.

                -Make a belly cast.  This one obviously involves more prep work and cost, but can be a really meaningful remembrance to have.  Some people choose to have the casts painted and then display them in their home.  They are just as lovely unpainted and stand as a testament to the little life you carried.  The popularity of belly casts is growing and you can even buy kits at places like walmart.com and target.com, as well as many other places.

                -Maternity Photos.  This one is self-explanatory, but there are so many lovely ideas out there.  You can choose a place that is particularly meaningful or fun for you and your family and have photos done there or virtually anywhere.  I have seen beautiful portraits done in studios, as well as in the outdoors or their home.  Maternity photos are always meaningful, but even more so for a baby whose life is expected to be brief.  You can use a professional photographer or even just grab a friend and ask them to help out by snapping a few pictures.  You will be glad you did!

                -Celebrating the kicks.  Full disclosure here-this one is my favorite and it doesn’t require much explanation.  We loved having our other children and family feel Haven kicking away.  We enjoyed it immensely and it is something I will never forget.  One suggestion that I wish we had done was to record some of those sweet moments.

The birth day:

                -Photographs and more photographs.  Some people choose to have professional photographers there for the birth of their child and some prefer just to have family or to take the pictures themselves.  You can’t have this day to do over again, so make it what you want it to be.  Whatever direction you choose to go, you will never regret having a LOT of pictures.  Don’t forget the shots of different family members with baby, too.  My dad passed away two years after our son was born and I treasure the photos of him with Haven.

                -Footprints, Handprints, and molds.  You can purchase inexpensive mold kits in many different places.  Usually the hospital staff is very kind about helping you with the molds and prints.  Once you have them you can do different things with them.  We have Haven’s footprints framed on our wall and we also have a stamp that was made from one of his tiny, perfect feet.

*I have to take the opportunity to plug Sufficient Grace Ministries in this area.  The care they give to families and their babies is top-notch and they provide photographers as well as mold kits and supplies for hand and footprints. If you are in the state of Ohio, they will provide trained support doulas and remembrance photographers to walk with you and help capture precious memories of your time with your baby. They can also help perinatal hospice families with birth planning and offer online and teleconference consultations for families and birth professionals worldwide.

Beyond:

                This is the part that can be so daunting.  It can be easy to come up with ideas to honor our babies when we are right in the midst of the situation.  It is always present in our minds and hearts.  But, as time passes, it can take a little more effort to think of ways to keep our baby’s story going.  Of course, it is always right there in OUR hearts and minds.  It doesn’t go away.  There are some creative ways for your precious child’s memory to endure, even beyond the walls of your home.

                -Love letters in the sand.  I cannot take credit for coming up with this idea, but it has really been huge for us.  When our friends or family travel, they write Haven’s name in the sand, take a picture, and send it to us.  Sounds pretty simple, and it is, but I really can’t tell you how much it means to us.  When we first started doing this, about eight years ago, I wrote a post on Facebook asking anyone who was going on vacation that summer if they would write Haven’s name for us.  It has taken off in a way we never would have expected!  We don’t have to ask anymore and people have sent us pictures from all over the world.  At the time of this writing we have Haven’s name on four of the seven continents.  We hope to get all seven eventually! (Sidenote:  Know anyone in Antarctica??)  This is so easy and I think you will find that your friends and family are more than happy to do this for you.

                -Book drive.  When the year arrived that our son would have started kindergarten we felt like doing something a little bigger.  I am a book lover and so it seemed a natural fit that we would do a book drive for our school library.  We have two older children and we sent out letters to their classmates’ families, as well as to our family and friends, asking them if they would consider donating a book to the school library in Haven’s name.  It was very successful and we added over seventy amazing books to our collection.  They had their own special shelf and each book has a label that says, “This book was given in memory of Haven W. Soergel by the loving donation of family and friends.”  We also had friends and family who donated books to our church library, as well.  I know that any public library would also welcome a donation and they are happy to have labels inside with your baby’s name.  In a similar vein, for one of Haven’s birthdays we requested donations of the book A Gift of Time be given to Sufficient Grace Ministries in his name.  SGM puts a label in the book, which they send out to grieving families all over the world.

                -Random acts of kindness.  I really love this idea.  The idea behind this one is to ask people to do a “random act of kindness” in honor of your baby and then report back to you what they did.  This is such a great example of using your pain and loss to put beauty out there in the world.  An example of what this looks like can be found on the Facebook page, “Acts of Kindness for Manny’s Birthday”.  Stacey and her husband lost their son, Manny on August 7th, 8/7.  Their idea is to try to get at least 87 acts of kindness done in Manny’s name on his birthday.  How cool is that?  This could obviously be tweaked in a lot of different ways to make it personal to your child.  It costs you nothing, brightens someone else’s day, and honors your baby’s memory.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

                -Christmas pictures and family pictures.  I love Christmas and I really get into writing a family Christmas letter and planning out our Christmas picture of the kids each year.  One of my favorite parts of the picture is figuring out how we will include Haven.  Sometimes we do it in obvious ways, for example, one year we had the bigger kids holding a picture of Haven.  Sometimes it is more subtle, and we actually have friends and family who look forward to see how we have incorporated our boy each year.  We have positioned the children in front of the tree so that one of Haven’s ornaments is in the picture.  We have a blue bear that represents him in other pictures.  Some families use their Comfort Bear in each family picture or other beloved item to represent their baby. One year our youngest son was wearing a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Ribbon.  You can get so creative with how you include your little one.

                These ideas are just a little taste of the numerous ways you can memorialize your baby in your life and the lives of your family.  An added benefit of doing any of these activities is opening up the door for others to speak to you about your baby.  In the babyloss community we all know that so many people are afraid to talk to us about our children because they don’t want to upset us or “remind” us.  When our loved ones see us actively including our baby, it gives them permission to do the same.  And ultimately, don’t we all want the chance for our baby’s story to continue and have an impact?

For more ideas and information about creating memories during pregnancy when a baby’s life is expected to be brief, to find in-person or online support, to request resources, or for memorial ideas after birth and goodbye, please visit the links on the Sufficient Grace Ministries below:

SGM Perinatal Hospice Services

Making Memories Before Birth

Birth Planning

Memorial Planning

October 15th Lantern Release

We were unable to do the lantern release at the end of the Grace for the Journey Conference, as we hoped, due to the rain. It was rescheduled for October 15th at 7:00 pm in Hamler, Ohio. We were blessed to have a few special families join us to remember more than 130 babies and children in heaven.

My family was held up by trains, making us a bit late for our own event. (Have I mentioned I live in the town of the crossroads of the B&O Railroad? Sounds cool, but it really means we’re constantly waiting on trains!) When we finally arrived, we set up, joined by the Vollmer family, my friend Dee from Payton’s Precious Memories, and another friend, Cyndy.

We lit candles, sang Amazing Grace, and said a prayer. Then we took a moment to read each name by candle light.

 

 

Then, we braved the chilly (and slightly windy) evening. Some of the lanterns were a bit unruly. My amazing husband chased several lanterns. One that even escaped into the field!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t know the Faith, Grace, and Thomas lantern was written upside down until I was looking at the pictures on the way home. I was a little disappointed, and Tim said, “It’s upside down from our view, but from their view (heaven), it’s right side up as they look down.” I like his perspective…and theirs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such a precious evening of remembrance…thank you for remembering with us.

We also added more than 100 names to the October 15th Remembrance page. Keeping so many of you in prayer.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Thomas ~ The Day Jesus Came Near

Happy 14 years in heaven to our sweet Thomas Patrick, who taught us about believing without seeing, and clinging to the hem of His garment. You brought heaven as close as a whisper, sweet boy. Today, we celebrate your life together as a family…your birthday and mine. Dreaming our dreams of you…until we hold you again.

Every time I look at this picture, I remember the day Jesus came near and kept His promise never to leave or forsake us. He came to carry our sweet baby home, and filled my heart with peace. That’s how I know He is who He says He is. That’s why I cling to Him still. I can never tell the story of Thomas without sharing the hope of the One who met us there, filling my heart with songs of joy in place of sorrow. If you ask me how I know that Jesus will carry you through the darkest valley, my answer will always be, I know…because He carried me.

Today, we will celebrate Thomas’ life and birthday mine (which was July 12th) together as a family, with dinner and a movie.

And, we remember always, the day Jesus came near…

Heaven’s Reunion ~ WWY

Thank you for joining us for this segment of Walking With You. We are talking this week about the hope of heaven and the glorious reunion that each of us long for with great hope. Most of this post was originally shared here in September of 2009 during a previous Walking With You, with a few additions to update. Next week will be our last week of this segment of WWY. We will talk about the comfort we can find in praise and thanksgiving.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~Hebrews 12:1-2

We are living in earthly vessels, but this life is not forever. We are mothers who have said goodbye to our sweet babies, but that goodbye is not forever. We who walk with Jesus, pick up our crosses daily to follow Him as we walk this earth. Why do we do it? For the joy set before us, of course…just like our great Teacher. His joy is our salvation…the promise of restoration…the promise of eternal life with Him…the promise of the sweetest reunion. That’s where I fix my eyes when they grow too weary from looking at what this world has to offer.

There are many verses that speak of the promise we have in heaven. Unfortunately, I do not have the time this evening to look all of them up. One verse speaks of knowing one another as we are known. We will know one another when we get to heaven, just like we know each other here. Faith and Grace will probably have their long piano-player fingers and button noses. They will probably have the same dainty little lips, and I’m sure brown eyes just like their daddy and brothers. Thomas will have the same nose shared by all of our children along with the same brown eyes. He will probably have the same auburn hair that made me smile so for the short time he spent in my arms. What they will not have is a sign of the brokenness that this earth held for them. They will be complete…perfect…knowing none of earth’s sorrows. What must that be like?

One of my favorite books is called Mommy, Please Don’t Cry. It is written from the perspective of a child in heaven to his/her mommy, as he shares all of the fun things happening in heaven. I know that we cannot imagine all that He has prepared for us. But, I know that He promises to prepare a place for each of us…and it is sure to be wonderful…better than anything we could imagine or dream of.

When I think of that day, Jesus is the first person on my mind. I suppose the experience of finally beholding and standing in the presence of my Savior will probably overshadow anything else for a time. But, beyond Him I imagine they are waiting for me. It means so much to me, I can barely type the words through my tears. Truly, no words can describe the picture of my mother standing there without the pain that this life held for her, without the disappointments of this life, without the effects of cancer etched on her beautiful face. And in her arms and dancing around her feet…my babies. My little girls and my sweet, sweet boy. Full of joy overflowing…shining on their faces. For some reason I can’t explain, I see Faith and Grace as little girls instead of babies. They have long brown, wavy hair with ribbons streaming down their backs and pink dresses. They are lively and precious and full of personality. Faith is a little more reserved than Grace, just as she was in my womb. Grace is full of energy and light. They both giggle and embrace me with delight shining in their eyes. Thomas is in the arms of my mother…still a baby in my mind. A roly-poly picture of health and baby-boy sweetness. Sometimes I picture him as a baby…and sometimes a very young boy. He is a little shy and full of wisdom for one so small. In an instant, these little ones I have longed for fill my waiting arms…arms that will never again know emptiness. Every tear I’ve cried for them is dried by the hand of my Beloved Savior…every ounce of sorrow gives way to unspeakable joy that I have never fully known.

Can I describe how it may feel to hold them in my arms on that day? Can I even allow myself to think of what that may feel like? I cannot. The ache is too deep to allow myself to fully visit that notion. Recently, our teen youth group at church did a breath-taking skit to a song about heaven’s reunion (the title slips my mind right now, of course…but I will see if I can find out the name of the song.). The skit was very powerful. In the beginning, it showed a mother who lost a child and various people at funerals grieving for loved ones…mothers, wives, fathers, babies. Then, it switched to show the families reunited with their loved ones in heaven. When the little child ran to the arms of the mother, I melted into sobs into my husband’s arms and couldn’t watch anymore. It means too much to me…that promise, that hope. It is a desperate hope I place in the Lord…so desperate I couldn’t even watch the re-enactment. You see, my hope isn’t just some words on a page. It really means something when you have something at stake. Believing and hoping is easy when there isn’t anything attached. It is a different belief when you’re asked to let go and trust that He will carry not only you, but the children you hold so dear.

There will be singing and rejoicing…a celebration the likes of which I’ve never seen. I cannot imagine the beauty of worshipping with the multitudes unknown…the choirs of angels singing. Some sweet day, I’ll sing up there…the song of victory…I’ll walk the streets of gold…I’ll keep telling that old redemption story…and I will dwell forever in the place that my Lord has prepared for me, surrounded by the ones I love…the treasures waiting for me, even now.

I won’t lie to you. I have faced moments when I questioned the certainty of those promises that I cling to so desperately. I was always so certain…until I watched my dear mother suffer greatly and die after a valiant battle with cancer. She suffered in a way I didn’t know was possible. I felt the Lord’s presence when He carried Thomas home…felt His comfort in the days after we said good-bye to Faith and Grace. But, I sat beside my mother’s bed, crying out to Him, longing to see…longing to feel Him….singing of His truth…searching His Word…praying tearful prayers. Even as I reassured her, I longed for Him to reassure me. Would He really come for her like He promised? Did He really prepare a place for her…for me? I can’t explain why I wondered this…why the questions even entered my heart. Perhaps it came from looking into the face of such suffering. Perhaps it was just the fact that it meant so much to me, to know His promises were true. I had never tasted the bitterness of death so closely.

Time and time again, He has reassured me with these words…the same words He spoke to my heart and hers as her earthly life waned and we felt surrounded by the darkness of death:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” ~ John 14:1-6

For now, I will daily pick up my cross to follow Him…fixing my eyes on the joy set before me…the glorious promise of a sweet reunion with the treasures that are already laid up for us in heaven’s glory.

For now, I dream my dreams of them…until we meet again.

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Books

Heaven – Randy Alcorn

Heaven is for Real – Todd Burpo

Mommy Please Don’t Cry- Linday DeyMaz

Someday Heaven – Larry Libby

National Memorial for the Unborn/Tennessee Trip

On President’s Day Weekend, Holly and I traveled to the National Memorial for the Unborn in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We hoped to gather a group of baby lost mothers we have met over the years, and hug them in person. As the day approached, however our group dwindled to only a few. It was a bit disappointing that those we hoped were coming cancelled at the last-minute, but the trip was still a blessing, and we were able to hug at least one mama. My pastor always says that even if only one person shows up, he would still teach the lesson. Well, in our case, only one person showed up when we drove from Ohio to Tennessee…one person to hug is still worth it!

As often happens, much of our trip did not go as planned…

We were excited on Friday, as we met up at Holly’s house and loaded her little girls into the van to begin our journey. We drove through the winding mountains, as Lainey and Kyndra fell asleep watching Dora. I attempted to help drive for a brief time, but we soon learned that it was best I remain in the passenger side. I was happy to release my white-knuckled grip on the wheel to Holly, who thankfully drove the remainder of the trip.

We listened to Beauty Will Rise and sang along with Chicago’s Greatest Hits as we wound through the mountains in the dark. We arrived at our hotel at 2:00a.m., and I went in to check in, so we could get the sleeping babies and our weary selves to bed. The less than pleasant man behind the desk of the Travelodge argued with me that I did not have a reservation. I knew that we did have a reservation, and I also knew that we had tired babies stirring in the van at two o’clock in the morning in a strange city far from home! Frustrated, I refused his offer to try to find us a room, and told Holly that we would be staying somewhere else. The Marriott was full. No room at the inn! So, we tried the Country Inn Suites, and they were happy to accommodate us. We stayed in a beautiful two room suite. Although the price was twice as much as what we would have paid at the Travelodge, it was worth it to have a safe, clean room.

The next morning, we prepared to meet up with the three remaining mamas planning to join us, and to receive a tour from Katrina at the National Memorial for the Unborn. I was looking forward to leaving some items from Sufficient Grace for her to use for the mothers they serve at the NMU, and to meet her and exchange ideas and information. Sadly, a family emergency meant that she was unable to meet us at the NMU for our tour. Another mother cancelled and we were down to two moms.

 

We drove passed this beautiful sign, and into the parking lot. The minute my boots touched the stones within the gate, I felt that I was standing on sacred ground.

More than 35, 000 lives ended on this property. Lives of babies without a voice. For 18 years, supporters of life joined their prayers for what was once an abortion clinic. For 18 years, they trusted and prayed…not giving up…as abortions continued. Then, when an opportunity came to buy the property, the Lord intervened and they took ownership. Today, what once was a place of darkness, is now a monument to honor the lives of the unborn…a place of hope and healing…a place to honor life. To read more about the incredible story of how this beautiful place came to be, click here.

 

In addition to remembering the lives of babies lost to abortion, there is a beautiful path lined with bricks to honor the lives of babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infant death. Holly and I planned to lay bricks in memory of our children (Holly’s Carleigh and my Faith, Grace, and Thomas). However, our bricks did not arrive in time. We did choose the place where we would like to have our bricks. We chose a place by the beautiful pond to the right, as you enter the garden walkway.

 

We stopped along the path to honor the lives of Hope Wood’s little ones…

 

Lainey stopped to smell the roses…

Cecilia joined us. She is the only mama who kept the appointment to meet with us, and I’m so glad she did. It was so special to be able to hug this sweet mom in person, after walking with one another through grief for the past few years.

I wasn’t prepared for the emotion that consumed me as we entered the part of the memorial that honors the babies lost to abortion with the wall of names. After walking around a bit, I had a strong desire to get on my knees and worship the One who saves and redeems…the Giver of Life.

 

 

I knelt before the name of Holly’s sweet baby Jordan, and wept for the thousands of lives ended so soon. Then I lifted my voice to worship Him in song. I didn’t expect the strength of the grief, as I looked at the offerings laid at the memorial by mothers who had been broken by the pain of abortion…mothers seeking healing in this sacred place.

 

 

This beautiful picture, reminding of the Hope of Heaven, and the day when all empty arms will be filled hangs in the memorial.

This plaque sits in front of the large cross in the center of the room.


 

 

 

We enjoyed lunch with Cecilia at Olive Garden, and later went back to the hotel for some much-needed rest. We woke up ready for some fun. After a phone call to a local perinatal hospice, we chose to take the girls out for ice cream, picked out pretty dresses at TJ Maxx, and made dinner reservations for a  riverboat dinner cruise on the Southern Belle! The girls were tired, but it was still fun to hear the band covering some good tunes, especially from one of my favorites: Johnny Cash.

When we went to check out of the hotel Sunday morning, we were surprised to find that the hotel decided to only charge us for one night. I reminded them that we had stayed for two, but they still only charged for one. It was definitely one of those Daddy’s Little Girl Moments. God blessed us with a stay in a very nice hotel, for the price we would have paid at the Travelodge. We had a wonderful stay at the Country Inn Suites in Chattanooga.

 

 

 

 

I left a Dreams of You bag full of items for the local Perinatal Hospice, and we drove off into the rain. The rain soon turned to snow…heavy, Faith and Grace sized snow….while driving through the mountains….next to semis. I was grateful Holly was driving! Yes…I’m a total chicken.

 

Even with the glitches in our plans, the trip was a blessing, and I’m so grateful we were able to go. And, grateful we made it home safely!

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I just want to close this post with some personal thoughts. I try very hard not to get political on this blog. But, I’ve shared before that abortion, to me is not about politics. It is about the value of human life. I haven’t spent much of my life thinking of myself as a woman who made a choice, when life and death stood before me. To be honest, when I was a young, unwed teenage mother, I didn’t consider abortion. There were moments when I was afraid, but it wasn’t a choice we considered. Not because we are heroes. I can see why young mothers feel overwhelmed and confused. Abortion seems like an easy answer to the “problem”. It isn’t. Through Sufficient Grace, we have met mothers who have terminated their pregnancies. We have seen the added guilt that tears at their hearts as they walk through the indescribable grief. We have seen the brokenness.

I’m grateful for each Crisis Pregnancy Center and the other Christian organizations who support mothers, encouraging them to choose life…helping them find the support they need to keep their babies or give them to loving families through adoption. Every single life matters. Every life is created in the image of God.

As we prepare for our oldest son’s graduation, I am nostalgic, flooded with memories from my own graduation day. I was newly pregnant, although my classmates were unaware. I stood in the line of  honored graduates at church that morning, and lied to the kind people shaking my hand, as they offered their congratulations, telling them I would be attending college for music and theater in the fall. I walked to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance in my red gown, trying to hold back the morning sickness, and hopeful that my grandmother would not have to find out on this day about the surprise I carried within. She had high hopes for her first grandchild graduating with so much talent and potential. I wondered if my father would make it, and hoped he wouldn’t have to know yet, either. He didn’t make it. I started my graduation party by running upstairs and vomiting. My mother held me as I cried about all the things that weren’t going as planned. (For the record, it wasn’t the baby I regretted…never, not once….it was my own shame, not about him, but about the ways I had let others down.) My grandmother found out. More tears were shed. More disappointment on the faces around me. My friends all went out to celebrate. I stayed home. It was the beginning of everything being different.

And, it was the beginning of saving my life. Some people may wonder if having a baby when they are young would ruin their lives. It saved mine. You see, I was broken and hard-hearted with a bent for trouble by the time I was in high school. And, I found plenty of it. But, the minute I became a mother, I knew there was something bigger than me. I wanted to be better…to be the mother and wife my family needed. It was part of the journey that led me to the cross, on my face. It was there that all my sin was washed away by His blood, and I became a new creation.

What those who looked at me with such disappointment missed, was the truth that God was able to make all things new. And, another truth…there are all kinds of success. All kinds of potential. I may not have a lucrative career, may not have achieved fame by the world’s standards. I haven’t written a best seller, but I’ve written many words from my heart to encourage women. I don’t sing on Broadway, but I would much rather lift my voice in worship alongside my husband. Tim, who still had a year of high school to go when I walked to the podium to get my diploma, worked hard to graduate and worked even harder for his entire adult life to provide for our little family. We stayed married (for almost 18 years, now)  in families with generations of divorce as our legacy. They saw lost potential on my graduation day. God saw something else…a brokenness He could use to restore and heal…to make beauty from ashes. Mothers who are considering trading the life of your baby for whatever success the world offers, trust me when I say….it won’t be worth it.

The baby I carried on the day of my comencement is now 18 years old, and preparing for his own graduation day at the same high school his father and I attended.  He is one of the greatest gifts of my life. I cannot imagine this world without him in it. He has taught me so much, from the moment he was born. There is nothing more valuable and precious than seeing the young man he has become.

Right now, in the state of Ohio, we have an opportunity to choose life for unborn babies. Please encourage your Congress to vote Yes for the Heartbeat Bill, and please consider the preciousness of human life as you cast your vote on Tuesday.

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;

Deuteronomy 30:19

My Mother’s Ring (Updated to add my new wedding ring and some better pics!)

Tim bought my first mother’s ring for me the Christmas after we said goodbye to our only daughters, Faith and Grace. I wanted a piece of jewelry that signified all my children: Timothy and our girls…a January and two Novembers.
Less than two years later, I walked into the jewelry store beside my friend, Ginny. The lady behind the counter was a girl that we went to school with. She knew we had lost our baby girls, and responded with joy that I was there to add another stone to my ring. Assuming that our house was filled with joy, not grief. Assuming that a baby had come to fill my empty arms, she smiled and said,
“Congratulations.”
I couldn’t speak. I shook my head no, and turned as the tears spilled from my eyes, running from the store. Ginny stayed and told her about our Thomas, who was born in July and lived on this earth for six hours. We would need a ruby added to my ring. The girl’s faced turned pale and she apologized profusely.
Now there were four.
I never thought there would be a fifth stone to add.
But, years later…
an unexpected miracle brought me back to the jewelry store.
It was time to add a May stone for the miracle that stayed and filled our house with his zest for life…sweet baby James.
This time, my friend no longer worked at the store and the people behind the counter said they couldn’t add a stone to my ring. It was bent a little and thin from being worn. I began to tell them the story. I didn’t expect tears that day, but the tears came when they said all they could do was offer me another ring…one that cost more than twice as much as the one I had.
So, for several years, there was no ring complete with the birthstones of my children.
Then, finally on a special occasion I can’t remember, Tim and I replaced the ring on a shopping trip. Only, I lost it a few months later before a golf event.
More years passed…and I lamented over the ring that wasn’t.
My mother went home to heaven, joining her grandbabies and leaving her mother’s ring to her only daughter.
I have been considering for the past four years putting my babies’ birthstones on my mom’s mother’s ring. But, there always seems to be another expense or more pressing need.
Recently, though, my engagement ring broke and I needed some other work done at the jeweler. So, I chose a local store called the Diamond and Gold Outlet. You can bring them your old, broken, used gold pieces you don’t want and they will count the value toward your purchase. So, I had them put the stones representing my five children: (two on earth, three in heaven) on my mother’s mother’s ring, making it my own.
Not only does the ring represent my children, but also my mother.
I feel so blessed to have this precious, perfect gift on my finger representing those most dear to me.
And, an added blessing: The total cost with all the work I was getting done, including a new wedding ring,  was going to be $273.
With my gold jewelry trade-in, it only cost me: $18 !!!
I tried to take a picture, but my camera is not great and the flash lit up the ring too much. So, it’s hard to see what it looks like. The important thing is that it’s on my finger, complete with five precious stones, representing five precious lives. I love it…and I’m so grateful.

My Wedding Ring

O.K….so a couple people have asked me about my wedding ring. I had a small diamond solitaire on  a thin gold band that Tim gave me when he was just seventeen (the current age of our son…YIKES!). It was modest, but special because he gave it to me. I tend to wear more silver jewelry (or white gold), but I didn’t give a lot of thought to ever changing the rings. They were the ones he gave me when we were married, and I don’t require a lot of fanciness. Besides, a big old ring would just get in my way!

But when my engagement ring broke recently, I gave some thought to my mother’s white gold engagement ring that she had left to me when she passed. I thought if I was going to have to invest in fixing my ring anyway, maybe I would just wear her ring, and get a white gold band to match. I’m a sentimental gal, so I wasn’t sure how I felt about wearing a wedding set that wasn’t from Tim. But, after talking to him, I felt better. It’s just stuff, after all. A ring doesn’t make a marriage…that’s for sure! And, he was happy for me to have something pretty and new. I chose a white gold wedding band, and the jeweler put a finish on it to match mom’s engagement ring.

What did I do with the diamond Tim had given me when he asked me to marry him?

Well the same jeweler who gave me such a great deal is creating a necklace using a heart pendant from one of my mother’s necklaces and putting my engagement diamond in the middle of it. That way, it will always be close to my heart. =) I’ll show a picture when it’s finished. And, I still have my little gold band that Tim placed on my finger seventeen years ago. I will wear it with my mom’s set from time to time. I’m not much for following the rules. Mixing gold and silver…that’s just how I roll! =)

Both pieces are very special to me…and they encompass all of the people on this earth (and some in heaven) that mean the most to me: Tim, my children, and my mother.
What precious, simple gifts. They are just right. Like my mother, I’d much rather have something that’s precious to me than something fancy and expensive.
Treasures in heaven are the ones that matter most, but I’m sure grateful for these sweet reminders on earth as well.

When Heaven Whispers…

Yep…I’m late to the party again. But, Franchesca’s blog hop is just too precious to resist. So, late or not…I’m joining in anyway. I love the idea of the little miracles, the ways God whispers His presence to our hearts…the ways He shows Himself specifically to us. When He does that in my life, I call it a Daddy’s little girl moment. Special gifts, sent straight from Him to me…His little girl. Holly wrote about Godwinks in her post. I love that.

There are so many moments when God has whispered His love to my heart…times when I needed it most. There are also little gifts that remind me of some of heaven’s residents most precious to me….Faith, Grace, Thomas, and my mom. I ache with missing for each of them. And, yet…there are moments when heaven doesn’t seem so far away. It seems as close as a whisper, as near as a gentle breeze caressing my cheek on a warm summer day.

With each snowfall, I remember my Faith and Grace…and the first snowfall of the season on that November day in 1996, an uncharacteristically early snow…the day I met my daughters and drank in the beauty of their tiny faces. A sight that needed to last a lifetime. I especially love the snow with big fluffy snowflakes…just like they were that day…perfect and uniquely created by God…just like like my little girls.

Thomas is in the days with crisp blue skies and big fluffy white clouds. He is in the heaven shining through. Just like the day we stood by His grave. Light shining through darkness. Every time I lift my voice to sing “Oh Lord You’re Beautiful”, I remember the beauty of his face and glory that filled the room on the day Jesus came to carry my Thomas home while I sang those words and rocked my sweet boy. It is the closest I have come to Jesus….feeling Him whisper past me that day.

Tim, the boys, and I released balloons on Thomas’ birthday in July…and the sky looked just like it did the day we placed his body to rest, twelve years ago.

This hand, holding this balloon, standing beside the grave of our babies….that’s no small miracle….

Weeks after the balloon release, Tim came in with a deflated blue balloon, our message of love still attached. He said, “Look what I found in the yard. No coincidence there, huh?” Sweet Thomas loves his mommy and daddy, too….and so does our heavenly Father. We parents who don’t get to see our little ones run and jump and live this life love to look for moments that remind us and reassure us that our babies live on in Heaven, and we will hold them again.

I miss my mom everyday. Every season reminds me of her. I love to ride my bike and feel the wind in my hair, like she did before the illnesses robbed her of strength. Every time we drive over the little hills and dips in the road she called belly getters, she is with us, smiling down on us. There are so many sweet memories that she lives in. Every time I send a Comfort Bear to a grieving mom, she is there. The day I looked up …feeling helpless with her craft stuff scattered before me, clueless as to how to put the finishing touches on the bear…shouting to the heavens that I couldn’t do this…that she should be here to do it. She was there. The day my sweet nephew Max was born and the room that he was born in just happened to be the hospital room donated in mom’s memory…with her name on the door above scripture that God whispered to our hearts as she slipped from this world to the next. She was there. She loved her grandbabies…of course, she wouldn’t miss that for the world! When I glance in the mirror, I often stop for a moment…seeing her eyes looking back at me. I have her eyes. And, I carry with me pieces of her.

I love when God whispers to our hearts that He is there. And, I love when heaven whispers to our hearts…a place so real…a place that waits for us…a place where part of our hearts will be waiting in longing until we meet again.
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Quick announcement: I just wanted to encourage any mamas who are missing their sweet babies…if you have not taken part in the Threads of Hope bible study, they will be starting another study soon at Anchored by Hope. This is a wonderful study! We covered it on Walking With You last year, and I found it to be a great encouragement.