October 2, 2015

Because you never stop grieving

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. And this month is dear to my heart.

After losing Angel to an early miscarriage in 2010, I was so happy to learn that there was a month dedicated to remembering babies lost too soon. I vowed to do something special each October going forward.

That first October, I went to a remembrance event nearby with some dear lady friends of mine. It was such a great night of healing.

In 2011,  hubby and I bought flowers that were placed on our church alter in honor and remembrance of Angel and all babies lost too soon.

In 2012, I ran my first Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness and Memorial 5K.

In 2013, I wrote Angel's story for the book Because They Lived, and it was published soon after.

In 2014, I again ran in the memorial 5K I had run in 2012, but this time, I visited a variety of baby loss pages on Facebook and asked mommas if I could run in honor of their babies too - and the response was amazing! I put those names on my racing shirt. It's a piece of clothing I wear in every PAIL race I run.

This year, to the best of my ability, I'm going to participate in Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief project.

Here is an explanation of the project from Carly's website:

"Capture Your Grief is a mindful healing project for anyone who is grieving the death of a baby or child of any age or gestation. There are 31 subjects, one for each day in the month of October. You are invited to explore each subject and share a photo that captures your own journey. You are welcome to take new photos or use ones from the past. Capture Your Grief is about exploring your grief and discovering more about your thoughts to aid in your journey of healing and personal growth. You can join the project at any time of the month."

The first subject, for October 1st, was SUNRISE.

You couldn't see the sun that morning because it has been pretty cloudy and rainy here for the past week, but the sky did get brighter.

When I took this picture, I remember thinking, "The sun is just beyond those clouds. I can't see it, but it is there." Just knowing it was there and was shinning despite the fact I couldn't see it reminded me of those first months after my loss when I couldn't see anything positive coming out of the loss of my Angel, but having faith in Jesus as I do, I knew He could and would use this, as He does everything in my life, for good, eventually. And that has truly been the case. You can see the evidence of that above where I wrote down the things I have done to honor and remember Angel. She has been a blessing to me and to many others despite her short life on this earth.

The second subject, for, today, October 2nd, is INTENTION.

Carly suggested we fill in the blanks of this sentence: “I intend to ……………. in honor of my precious child/ren ……………..”

Here is my sentence: "I intend to continue to advocate for pregnancy and infant loss awareness in honor of my precious child, Angel."

Whenever I'm provided with an opportunity to speak about my loss in order to help break the silence and shame surrounding miscarriage or to do anything to help the baby loss community, I jump at it. I particularly enjoyed writing Angel's story and helping Katy Larsen promote her book, Because They Lived.

Let me encourage you to share your story - share your baby. Writing about Angel has been a huge part of my journey of grieving and healing.

And let me encourage you to join me Capture Your Grief put together by Carly Marie. Every Friday of this month, I will post my pics as I journey through this project. I look forward to the reflection.

Today's forget-me-not:  Angel and all babies lost too soon!

September 25, 2015

The Father and Extended Family Refuse to #ShoutYourAbortion

I am about to share with you a letter written by a devastated great aunt upon learning that her nephew’s girlfriend, pregnant, had an abortion.

I am honored this individual asked me to share this letter with you via my blog, and I am humbled by this responsibility, for two reasons.

To begin with, this letter clearly shows the grievous impact an abortion can have on the father of that baby and the expectant family. This is a reality that is largely ignored or dismissed by the pro-choice community because the baby takes up residence in the mother’s womb. It is her body, so, they surmise, it is ultimately up to her to decide what should be done with the life of the infant. However, after reading this letter and the pain exhibited therein, I would encourage those who hold that view to reconsider that position.

Another reason I feel privileged to share this letter with you today is because it gives this baby, lost to abortion at the hands of her mother, a voice. This letter acknowledges her little life and the huge impact it had on her family. This testimony shares her name with you and shares how much she was is loved.

Let me share with you now, Aaliyah - via her great aunt’s letter and with her father’s permission.

Dear person that I am going to have to work long and hard to forgive,

To say that I am mad at you doesn't even come close to how I feel! There isn't a word strong enough or ugly enough to describe how I feel about you today!

You hurt our family deeply today. You forever ripped a precious baby that we all love from our lives. That's not all you did though, is it?

You didn't just take her away. You KILLED her!! Because of you, our precious Aaliyah is DEAD!

My sweet sister who wanted nothing more than to love her granddaughter asked me, "What kind of a person does this?!" I just don't know the answer to that because behind your sweet little smile is a MURDERER!

You are now a mother who KILLED her own child! Do you get that? Because I don't think you do!

You didn't just kill your child though! You also killed OUR child!

That little girl's daddy already loves her so much and would do anything for her. You didn't give him that chance though. He was powerless to save his daughter from her mother who wanted to kill her!

Now he is crushed! His baby girl is DEAD! Do you get that? YOU stopped her precious little heart!

They begged you not to do it! They offered you everything they could to save her life. They cried and prayed that something, ANYTHING would make you change your mind! Nothing could though, and you KILLED her!

Did you really think that your very own precious baby was going to ruin your life?! Well I've got news for you missy, that baby would have given you the greatest joy you have ever felt in your life! That baby would have loved you more than anybody in this world ever has!

I sure hope you make something great of your life. You better make it amazing. You better do something really special because that is what your baby died for! That is what OUR baby died for!

Your choice today is going to haunt you for the rest of your life. It will NEVER go away! No matter what you do from here on out you will always be a mother who KILLED her own child!

If you are ever given the blessing of becoming a mother again, DO NOT make the same mistake twice! DO NOT rip another man's baby from his life! DO NOT tear a giant hole in his heart that can never be fully repaired! DO NOT devastate another family the way you have ours!

We were all thrilled that you were having a baby. We were so happy that we were going to have this baby in our family. We all loved her so much already!

Did you know that? Sadly, I already know the answer to that. Yes! Yes, you did know that! Yet, you still chose to kill OUR baby!

Did you know that I had already bought YOUR baby some clothes? I bet you didn't! You didn't know because you never gave me a chance to give them to you!

Let me tell you about them. They are little red and white shirts that wrap in the front. They have little snaps so that you wouldn't have had to wake her by pulling the shirt over her head. One of them has little snowflakes on it because she would have been born close to Christmas.

She was going to be beautiful! I know it! On the outside you are so very beautiful. You would have passed that on to her you know?!

Oh dear, I could go on and on, but you've already heard it all. I know you have because my sweet sister tried everything she could to save her granddaughter's life. And my nephew whose child you killed, begged you not to do it. Didn't he?!

They both told you that WE would take care of that child in every way if you didn't want to. They both told you that they would help YOU in every way possible. They both told you that they would support you and that baby. My sister invited you into her home and said that she would take care of everything!

None of that meant anything to you though. None of it mattered because in the end it is a woman's right to choose! Isn't it?! Forget the father and his whole family! They don't matter a bit!

You got the right to choose what happened to your body and I hope you're happy about it! Because OUR baby sure didn't! She died without a choice!

She had a beating heart, tiny arms and legs, tiny hands and feet with fingers and toes on them. She was a person! She was a BABY and you KILLED her!

May God forgive you because I sure as HELL am not about to!

Sincerely, Aaliyah's loving Great Auntie

Daddy loves you, Aaliyah!

September 22, 2015

Please, don't #ShoutYourAbortion

When I found out I was pregnant for the second time, I was beyond thrilled.  My oldest would have a sibling. That dull ache I had for another cute little baby to hold would be satisfied. My husband hoped for a son to balance out all the estrogen in the house.

We began making preparations for our next child as soon as I got the positive pregnancy test. We started cleaning out the guest room to make room for a new crib.  We began to talk about possible names for him or her.

Then, on my 34th birthday, we got the news that our baby, then seven weeks gestation, was not developing as he or she should. And at my eight weeks ultrasound, I saw my baby again - this time with a still heart.

The little life we had celebrated and had prayed for was gone at only eight weeks. We named her Angel.

I'm sharing this with you because as I browse my Twitter feed today, I see women celebrating the deaths of their babies to abortion. And most likely, those little lives were probably around the same gestation as my Angel.

Did you know, according to the most recent data on the CDC website that I could locate, "the majority of abortions in 2011 took place early in gestation: 91.4% of abortions were performed at less than 13 weeks gestation."

Friends, I am sickened! How can anyone find anything positive in the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion? You are shouting that a baby died. A new life was ended. Potential was robbed.

Lindy West, who appears to be at the lead of this new hashtag trend, recently said this in response to criticism that women who were shouting out abortions were, in essence, celebrating those abortions:

is merely about volume, about being in earshot. It has no inherent value judgment except for the absence of shame.  

However, if something is not shameful, that makes it something to be proud of - that is the antithesis here. Antonyms to shame include approval, esteem, honor, praise, respect, and pride. So whereas Ms. West can't understand how anyone would see the use of that hashtag in reference to an abortion as a "celebration" of that abortion, I can't understand how she is blind to that reality.

The truth is this: If you use the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion in reference to your choice to end your baby's life, you are exhibiting pride in what you have done. Own it.

That hashtag has produced chilling tweets like these:

I've never for 1 second regretted my 2 abortions at 19 and 24. & I know the men in my life haven't either.

I've never wanted to have children, so I had an abortion. I'm thriving, without guilt, without shame, without apologies.

No regrets. No guilt. No shame. Sounds like a celebration to me.

And this baby loss momma can't understand that.  Losing Angel was a dark time in my life. Something so precious within me was no longer.

Here's some perspective for those shouting out their abortions:

Your flippant shout out devalues that life I lost to miscarriage.    
And your cocky shout out is a slap in the face to those that struggle with infertility.

So, please, just stop the shouting already. You are breaking my heart all over again.

Today's forget-me-not: The sweet babies lost to abortion.

September 18, 2015

Christian Running Playlist

I am trying to get back into a running groove.

I got out of my routine of running at least twice, more often than not three times, a week when summer hit. We got terribly busy, had a trip to Indiana to see my relatives, and I got lazy. When school started back up, I swore I would get myself into my routine of running two mornings a week and then a third time on Saturday mornings, but the start of the year at a new school has left me exhausted - physically and mentally.  The end result is that, lately, I find myself not wanting to run.

This has happened to me before, and I thought I would share something simple I do when I get in a rut like this. When I need to be inspired to get my butt out the door again.

I update my running playlist!

If you are a Christian and a runner, I think you will find some of the tunes listed below would be a great addition to your run. They have a great message and a good beat!

Do you have some songs you could recommend for me as I update my playlist?

Happy running!

Today's forget-me-not: My running playlist!

1. You Make Me Brave - Bethel Music
2. The List - Matthew West
3. Who I Am - Blanca
4. Sky Spills Over - Michael W. Smith
5. Day One - Matthew West
6. Saturate - Bethany Worship
7. Awake and Alive - Skillet
8. One More - Superchick
9. All You've Done - Brad & Rebekah
10. Run - Sanctus Real

September 11, 2015

I did it!

I did it! I resolved to run a few (three) 10Ks this year, and this past weekend, I accomplished that goal.

My third, and final, 10K of 2015 was a trail run at a local park. My running buddy, Jaimee, found this race and resolved to run it as her first 10K, so I had to run it with her. There was no way I was going to let my best running buddy run her first 10K without me! Besides, she was quick to point out that we we would get a medal for finishing this race. And because racing bling is a runner's best friend, it was just another reason to say yes to this particular race over any others offered this labor day weekend. And my hubby got to join us!

Jaimee, me, and hubby makes three :-)

This was my first trail run, and it wasn't easy! The running path was at times so narrow that putting one foot in front of the other was nearly an impossibility. In other areas of the trail, roots from the trees had popped up into the path. There were tripping hazards everywhere. And to top it all off, there were a few bridges runners had to navigate.

We stopped for a quick pic. Many thanks to the runner who didn't mind stopping to take this pic for us!
By the time we got to the first bridge, we knew we weren't running this race to see how fast we could finish. The goal for this race quickly became, simply put, to finish. We were pretty focused on that goal, but we also tried to take in the beauty surrounding us as we were running.

It was, truly, a beautiful course. There were a few areas where you could actually run, but most of it was too dangerous to run quickly. We spent a good amount of time during this "race" hiking,  not running.  

Would I run this again? Probably not.  But I am glad I did it. It was a great challenge and the perfect way to end my 10K goal for 2015.  The medal I received for this race symbolizes a couple great running accomplishments for me - (1) for running this particular trail course and (2) for running three 10Ks in one year. Crossing the finish line felt great for those reasons. And crossing the finish line with my running bestie made it even sweeter!

Also sweet... My husband got second place in his age group!  Hello, Mr. Speedy!

This is definitely one of those races I'll look back on fondly.

Finished! And we got our medals!

Today's forget-me-not: Great running accomplishments! :-)

August 28, 2015

Stop Hating On Christians

So, explain something to me, please.  Because I'm confused.

Why are people always so surprised when professing Christians - specifically those that live their lives in view of the public eye - turn out to be sinners? Why all the shock and/or disgust when they turn out to be as imperfect and flawed as the next person? (The Duggars, specifically Josh Duggar, and Sam from the Sam and Nia YouTube channel come to mind.  You could probably reference others.)

Why is there always such indignation expressed when a Christian is found to have made an error in judgement or to contain a serious character flaw?

Christians, including the Duggars and Sam and many others like them who have been crucified on the internet for their imperfections, never profess to be perfect.  In fact, the reality is just the opposite. The main reason one becomes a Christian is because he or she sees his or her inherent sinfulness and need for a savior. To call oneself a Christian is to say he or she is a fallen sinner - terribly flawed.

Perhaps the mainstream population sees Christians as professing to be sinless and, thus, better than others because when Christians see sin, they don't hesitate to call it sin? But here's the thing, Christians don't exclude themselves from this.  When sin is revealed - in anyone, including ourselves (I am a Christian) - we call it sin. We shine God's light on it, or if it is our own sin, we own up to it. This is not hypocrisy.  It is honesty.

Besides, is a person instantly disqualified from pointing out wrongs in the world and in others if he or she has committed a wrong? If so, we all better keep our mouths shut!

So again I ask, why get so upset or instigate and facilitate a witch hunt when a Christian is found to have fallen and sinned?  Every Christian I have seen accused of sin has owned up to that sin, and upon revelation of the sin, he or she has sought restitution for that sin.

Actually, this is what sets us apart.  We call sin what it is when we see it, in society and in ourselves (sometimes with the help of others), and we seek to right those wrongs. Because that's what Jesus asked us - everyone - to do.  To turn and follow Him. To chose this higher path. Perhaps this act of restoration is what is so irritating to some?

Because there are those that own up to their sins and admonish others to do so also (Christians), and then those that would rather go to their graves embracing their sins, referring to their darkness as light, while waiting in the wings to point out other offenders for their faults.

The hardest thing one can ever seek to do in this life is to follow Christ, and yet, it is the most rewarding path one could choose.

So don't be surprised when you see headlines - and I guarantee there will be more - about other Christians whose names were found on the Ashley Madison server or who turned out to have checkered pasts. First of all, it shouldn't be a surprise as these have never claimed perfection - although you may perceive it to be that way.  And furthermore, don't throw around the label of "hypocrite" when your sins cause God just as much sadness as the next person's.

When you point out others' hypocrisy, who then is the bigger hypocrite?

And don't go claiming that I just wrote a post in support of or to minimize anyone's sin. If you read this post and think that I would do that, go back and reread it because you totally missed my point.

Here's the thing, people. We can't expect Christians - especially those in the limelight - to never disappoint us.  They most certainly will - as we all, daily, disappoint Jesus even with our best intentions.  Please, don't set these poor souls on some high moral pedestal.  I guarantee they will fall from that height if you put them there.

And on that note, if you perceive a Christian to be be espousing some moral superiority, YOU have put them on that pedestal.  They have not put themselves in that position. If you believe otherwise, you don't understand our faith at all, so do us all a favor and don't spread that ignorance around as it helps to foster undue persecution.

I believe one my favorite poets, Maya Angelou, explains best what I'm trying to say in her poem entitled, "I Am A Christian." I'll leave you with it as today's forget-me-not.  Read it through, and remember her words the next time someone says to you, "I am a Christian."

And one last thing.  To borrow from Sam's and Nia's concluding remarks on their vlogs...

I love you! And don't forget to love each other!!!

Today's forget-me-not:

"I Am A Christian"
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin’.”
I’m whispering “I was lost,

Now I‘m found and forgiven.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
And need His strength to carry on.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not holier than thou,
I’m just a simple sinner
Who received God’s good grace, somehow!
– Maya Angelou

August 14, 2015

You Can Change

Last month, I had a conversation with someone on Facebook about Josh Duggar. Josh is the son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting."  It was reported back in May that Josh molested five girls (four of which were his sisters) when he was fourteen.

After news of Josh's past broke, the dialogue on Facebook centered primarily around the actions the parents took after Josh confessed to them what he had done. An article published by the LA Times reported that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar made Josh confess what he had done to the local authorities, sent him away to a center that mentored young men who had made "unwise choices," and forced the boy to pay for his own counseling while all those affected also participated in counseling. After all that was revealed, many argued that the parents should have had Josh punished to the fullest extent of the law, ensuring time in a juvenile dentition center, while still others defended the Duggars, saying they did everything they should have done given the details of the situation.

I am not writing this blog post today to compose an argument for either side of that debate.  Rather, I felt the need to write because of something that was said to me while I was discussing this topic online.

I got involved in a chat about Josh when my interest was piqued over the subject of whether or not Josh Duggar, now twenty-seven, could be a changed man.  An in-law of Josh's is quoted as saying, "Josh found forgiveness and cleansing in Jesus Christ."  In fact, it seems that everyone who knows Josh personally has testified to him being a totally different individual deserving of mercy and not condemnation. So when I asked someone online if they thought Josh could truly be a new person, the reply I was given greatly disturbed me:

"Honestly, and I know this is terrible, I believe in redemption for anyone but those who commit sex crimes because there's proof that they cannot be rehabilitated."

I was floored. I was saddened. How could she limit God's redemptive scope? How could she so confidently label someone as a "lost cause?"  

In a way, I do understand where this individual was coming from.  Popular belief is that crimes such as molestation have a high rate of recidivism, so there is where the caution lies. However, Josh's story made me think about someone in the bible that was also doubted to be a changed man - even by Jesus' disciples, themselves!  I'm talking about the apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul.  

The reservations surrounding Saul's conversion were, like Josh's, understandable.  The website Bible Path describes Saul's background:

"Saul did everything he could to try and stop the growth of Christianity.  In fact, when Stephen (the first recorded Christian martyr in the New Testament) was killed, Saul was there (watching the cloaks of those who were stoning Stephen.)
On the day Stephen was martyred, a great persecution broke out against the Christian Church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  At that time, Saul began to destroy the church.  Going from house to house, he dragged off Christian men and women and put them in prison.  Eventually, he obtained letters from the Jewish religious leaders to Jews in Damascus, and he went there to bring the Christians (known as followers of 'The Way' at that time) back to Jerusalem to be punished."

And yet, Bible Path also reports that after his conversion, "Saul's great abilities and earnest enthusiasm in spreading the gospel of Christ have made his name revered wherever the Christian religion is known.  It is his writings which make up much of the New Testament of the Bible."

How is it possible that someone could be so drastically changed?  I only have one word for you, folks: Jesus.

I believe Jesus can transform anyone! If you are willing, He can take you and change you to such an extent that you'll need a new name by which to identify yourself (much like Saul did).  

My God can redeem the vilest of sinners and turn them into the most treasured among saints!

So, do I believe that Josh Duggar could be a changed man? Yes. I believe it is possible. I believe all things are possible with God.  (Matthew 19:6)

Do you want to be released from sexual immorality? Jesus can do that in you!  
Do you want to overcome the alcoholism that seems to be ripping you apart? Our Lord can help!
Do you want to conquer homosexual desires in your life? God wants to show you how!

No matter what it is, I firmly believe Jesus can heal and restore and redeem everyone. He can because He's God - it would be illogical to think otherwise.

Besides, He can do this because He already did it, on the cross. All you have to do is accept it (see steps to peace with God). Accept His message.  Accept His word.  Accept Jesus.

Today's forget-me-not: You can find true freedom in Christ!

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