Monday, September 9, 2013

Lily's 1st and 2nd Birthdays...
Thinking of you today little Lily girl.  And also missing our Texas home dearly..especially those certain people who made it "home"- the community of believers who poured so much love and support over us.  And most especially my very best friend, who has been there every step of the way.  Thinking of the way that friendship has carried me the last 2+ years, reminded me that I've wanted to post this video and photos of your "1st birthday party" here on the blog for, well...over a year! :)  Today seemed as good a day as any to get around to it, since your Daddy is at work, and I was *just* talking about your little life with a brand new friend who offered a listening ear..oh, how much that means! <3  Sometimes Mommy's heart is a jumbled mess and it just feels better to process out loud.

It was so special to celebrate your first year with Jesus surrounded by people who loved you!  There are no words to express how much that balloon release meant to me...for every balloon that went up to heaven for you that day, from all over the world!  My heart was overwhelmed, and it will remain one of the most special events of my entire life. 

To think that you just turned "2" in heaven is hard for me to even wrap my mind around. But I know you love it there.. 

In the weeks leading up to your second birthday, Mommy felt a heavy, unexplainable sadness.  It was as if my heart instinctively knew the anniversary of your life and passing was approaching, before my mind even had a chance to prepare or recognize what was going on.  It was one of those instincts only a momma can understand, having carried you in this body of mine for 9 months.  I swear I even felt it in my bones.  Grief so deep that I physically ached. Your Mommy just hurts sometimes, baby girl.  Life without you is hard.

And that is why, for your second birthday, we decided to keep things as simple and sweet as you.  It never ceases to catch me off guard just how painful it is to revisit my memories of you, beautiful girl!  So, for the sake of our own hearts, we thought we'd celebrate your life quietly and surrounded by a place as close to "heaven on earth" as it gets-- ocean front cabins on Bellows Beach, Hawaii!  Someone so very sweet and full of love for our Lord recently told me that, upon hearing your story, she believes God sent us here to Hawaii for a glimpse of Paradise.  Just the tiniest taste of what you are experiencing right now.  How precious that was for Mommy's heart to imagine. 

Your Daddy and I rented a kayak and kayaked out into the sea to throw you a "message in a bottle".  We wrote your name in the sand. We ate pineapple "angel food" cake (your oldest sister's idea-- every year we'll make you a different *angel* food cake, Lily girl!), and we woke up to watch the sunrise on both your birthday, and your Jesus Day, the 13th.  Sunrises as gorgeous as you, standing at the shore of God's ocean.  I was reminded just how small I am, but comforted by how big He is.  It was breathtaking and fitting, my love! 

 ~All my love until *eternity*, Mommy <3
"Now *hope* does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. " ~Romans 5:5

Friday, July 27, 2012

It's almost been a year...

What a year. I can't believe that August is almost here! I have to admit, the impending anniversary of my sweet Lily girl is such a mixture of joy, and the deepest pains of grief and sorrow. I've been tossing and turning at night the last few weeks, with my heart going through such an intense emotional ringer.  The reality of it all can be so overwhelming.  It is almost as if, the more time that goes by, the more it hurts, because I realize with every passing day that this is real. This really happened. She was here, and she's gone, and she's never coming back. I will also admit that I have started (but deleted) many blogs over the course of the past few months. It is always so crucial to me to keep an eternal perspective, and to keep myself in check as far as the lens of which I'm sharing all cases, that being a Christian lens. With my eyes ever fixed on Jesus. My sinful heart does not always want to cooperate with that, though, and that is when I know it's better to remain silent. Because if I have learned one thing in this past year, it is that my feelings can't be trusted. Feelings and emotions are fickle things that can lead us down dark paths dependant upon our current circumstances. The only things we can truly TRUST are the Word and promises of God, and that's a truth I am giving my life over to-- daily. Even when I'm kicking and screaming on the inside.
I was struggling with the "what ifs" last month. Would Lily be walking at 10 1/2 months like both of her big sissies did? Would her wavy, black hair be thick and curly by now? What color were her eyes to be..hazel like Mommy and Izzy's? Or blue like Daddy and Sophie's? What would the theme of her 1st birthday party be? The "what ifs" and "if only's" plagued me. And God gently brought me back to Psalm 139:

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

So the truth of the matter is that the "what ifs" and the "if only's" were not meant to exist. I was never meant to know or experience life with my baby girl. Because nothing happens outside of God's sovereign Hand, and Lily's 14 hours were ordained by the Most High God, Who does all things well and with a perfect purpose, in infinite wisdom and love. She was never meant to grow up here on earth with me..her brief time here was not a mistake, or an accident, or outside of the Lord's control. God had a greater plan for her life, one that I will not understand until I see things fully, face to face with Him. And for now that takes so much trust on my part, but by His grace alone, I am able to wake up each morning and give "trusting" a fresh start. By the end of the day, I am weary of trust, but faith is all I have.  I am so thankful that His mercies are new every morning, and that I'm not expected to get by on the mercies of yesterday. It will never feel right to me, and it's not supposed to. It hurts so much, because we live in this fallen, broken world...and our hearts crave eternity because that's the way God designed us. But I believe with all that I am, that one day He will set all things right. I can grieve with HOPE. Thank you JESUS for that. Your grace is all over this, and my praise is my sacrifice to You in the midst of the heartbreak.

My Lily girl was made to be mine, but also made to be HIS. She is safe in the arms of Jesus, and someday I will go to her. Until then, the Lord is sustaining me day by day, and I can trust that all things are working together for my good and His glory. If "hope" was the theme of 2011, I can say that "trust" is the word for 2012. I am, by nature, one of the most fearful and apprehensive people you will ever meet, so I can tell you that this "trusting" is excruciating for me. But God is good, and He has remained so very faithful in my weakness.

So, as August 12th approaches, my heart is filled with a lot of aching. I ache because these last few weeks I am replaying and remembering the hardest day of my life, and also because, just a few months ago, on March 14th, we unexpectedly lost Lily's Grammy. Isabella and Sophia's Grammy. My mother in law. My husband's MOMMA. This was such a shock and such a blow, and it has come with yet more kicking and screaming on my part. The sense of LOSS we feel in our home truly cuts us in the most tender of places. She was our number one fan. Our personal cheerleader. The one who was always rooting for us, as a family...and making sure we knew it. She lived such a vibrant and radiant life..pouring her heart into her role as wife, mother, and grandmother. She was my inspiration as a homemaker, and the real life "Super Woman", who set the bar high for the women in her three son's lives, as they watched her "do it all", and do it with excellence..and not only that, but with her trademark smile and an energetic, cheerful spirit. The way she lived inspires me to be better, to live more passionately and to love more deeply. It is a sweet thought to imagine Grammy and Lily together right now, because there was nobody who made her love for my daughter more known to me than her Grammy. I spend some time every few days it seems, in tears over all of this. But choosing to believe, because I know it is true, that God is in this. And that He will never let me go, no matter how hard or painful this life gets. But when I send my balloons up to Lily on August 12th, there will be a special balloon for her Grammy, too..because I know in that moment they will be together, watching the balloons from heaven. God's promises are my hope and my peace.

My heart's desire is that August 12th will be a JOYOUS day...a day to celebrate my baby girl and to glorify the Lord who made her, the God who gives and takes away. It will be a day to remember and honor her memory, and a day of thanksgiving for the shed blood of Jesus, who made it possible by His work on the cross, for us to spend eternity in the presence of God. Lily's story points to Jesus, and I am so proud of her. I am so, so proud of my daughter, and the way her light shines as she makes her home with Him. And I am so thankful for the honor and calling of being Lily's mommy!  It would mean everything to us, for you to share in our celebrating on August 12th. And to keep our family in prayer, as we navigate through the grief. Especially for Dale, who will be releasing his balloon from Honduras, apart from the family who loves and misses him so much. Your prayers continue to bring us much comfort and we are so very grateful for the ongoing love and support.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I'm not strong...

I must have received 20 or more personal inbox messages from loving friends and family implying that Dale and I are just "such strong people." While I find that to be quite a fine compliment, I must admit, it feels dishonest to knowingly allow people to believe this about either Dale or myself. It's really been on my heart lately to share this with anyone who cares to read my blog, so now that I have a quiet afternoon, I thought I'd do that..

For anyone who knows me well, you know that I am anything but "strong" on my own. I am one exceptionally weak, weary, and broken human being, often overwhelmed and shattered by the ups and downs of life. The fact that I am even still here standing after the loss of Lilianna is a testimony to the awesome strength and power of GOD alone. I tell you most emphatically, that apart from Christ, I am nothing. Anything I attempt to do on my own ultimately fails, and without relying on Jesus to direct my path, I will make a mess of things more quickly than I even know what to do.  When I try to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, I fall flat on my face, every.single.time.  And I confess this to you ever so humbly, as a person who has learned this the hard way, and has to relearn daily, that I can accomplish nothing on my own. The only strength in me is the Jesus in me, and the only thing that "I" will ever get right in this life is of no credit to "me", but rather to absolute and total reliance on Jesus Christ to lead me on.  I'm not sitting in church every Sunday because I have it together.  I am sitting there because I have absolutely nothing together, and I am utterly and totally desperate for Christ.  My heart is broken, my hands are empty, and I have nothing to offer.  I need to be there, because all of my heart and soul cries out for the one and only Healer and Comforter of this devestating pain. Please don't let me fool you. I have a knack for making things appear quite lovely and beautiful on the outside. But the Lord sees straight to my heart, and trust me, it's not a pretty sight. I am so broken. I am NOT strong. But I serve the STRONGEST God, and He is MIGHTY to SAVE. I cling to HIM, the CONQUERER of death, and what HE has accomplished. Then "I can do all this, through HIM who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). All the glory to the LORD alone, forever!

Lilianna Rose, I am missing you every single day, my sweet, sweet girl. Not an hour goes by that I don't remember you and cherish that memory. My heart still breaks a little bit when I hear someone speak your name. I still stop to touch your pictures when I pass them by, and sometimes even trace the outline of your sweet little face. And at times I feel like it hurts now more than ever, as I watch other people "moving on" with their lives. I still have dangerously irrational and paranoid bouts of emotion as I imagine that people will forget about your little (but BIG) life, or whenever I perceive someone or something as a threat to the truth that I so desperately cling to. You are SO INCREDIBLY LOVED by your mommy, Lilianna Rose! But all my trust is in the God of hope, Who holds you now, and Who holds my heart in His hands. That is how I put one foot in front of the other, walking by faith and HOPE in the Lord alone, the only thing I have to go by. I love you, my beautiful, precious daughter, and the One who made you, my perfect gift from heaven.  Mommy misses you SO much!  Praising God that I don't HAVE TO BE strong, because HE IS! 

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Blessed Journey.

I have been writing this blog mentally for weeks now, as I have continuously been blown away by the people the Lord has placed in our life as we've walked through this journey.  At a time when others might run in the opposite direction (rather than dealing with something SO heavy and uncomfortable), what we have experienced here has given us such a sweet taste of what it feels like to be a part of the body of Christ when tragedy strikes.  We have been so embraced, lifted up, rallied around, loved on, supported, blessed, and served.  I will admit that this is very new to me and it is SO humbling. 

Life experience had led me to believe that most people do not really want to serve others..or at least not when it "costs" them in any way..and especially without wanting recognition or expecting anything in return.  Just selfless giving of time, money, and resources?  Apparently, the Lord wanted to teach me a thing or two about what I thought I knew about people.

Our hearts have been so touched by the outpouring of support our family has received.  Since finding out Lily's diagnosis, our small group has gone SO far above and beyond what I ever could have imagined.  As if I needed any further proof of God's love for me, these are the people He has orchestrated into my life at such a time as this- the most servant hearted, Christ-like people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. They are truly faith in action.  Just thinking about it, and the tears are already flowing. While still pregnant with our Lily girl, they sent us to a beautiful Bed and Breakfast in Salado for some much needed quality time with Lily in my belly.  They volunteered to babysit for date nights and doctor appointments.  In fact, I never once had to arrange for a sitter.  I gave Allison the list of my appointments, and she coordinated a "Care Calendar" for the members of our small group, who would sign up to take care of the need.  They prayed. And prayed. And prayed.  After Lily was born, they brought meals to our family for weeks.  They have asked about my daughter, wanted to hear about her and see pictures..and I can't think of anything that touches me more deeply than that. 

Allison has been daily encouragement and inspiration to me.  I have never in my life met someone who so literally LIVES to SERVE.  The love of the Lord is constantly revealed to me through her, and I am just so, so thankful for the blessing that she has been.  I do not want to imagine what this journey might have looked like for me had it not been for her.  When end of life preparations were too overwhelming for me, Allison took on that responsibility for us. She planned and executed the most beautiful memorial service to honor my baby girl, down to the sweetest and most personal little touches and details.  She has truly entered into this pain with me, and carried the burden of this grief as if it were her own.  She has let me be completely bare and vulnerable in front of her..watched me fall apart and go through so many uncomfortable emotions. 

I am just so overcome with gratitude that God did not want me to walk through this alone.  I am so thankful that He sent this friend. 

Love and support has also come in some unconventional ways.  A few years ago I become part of an online group of mothers through an Internet forum called Cafemom.  They have been through so much with me over the years, despite the fact that we've never had the opportunity to meet face to face.  When military life left me feeling very isolated and alone, these beautiful and godly women were there to share tears and joy, to celebrate with me and to let me vent.  They have been mentors and faithful friends..offering their wisdom and ministering to my heart during periods of struggle and brokenness.  Before doctor appointments they called and asked if they could pray with me over the phone.  Several girls from the group chipped in to send me a garden stone and engraved necklace with "Lilianna Rose" on one side, and "2 Corinthians 1:3-4" engraved on the other side.  They had no way of knowing at the time how significant this verse is to me:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

And for every single person who took that moment to send me a message on Facebook, what a blessing you are.  I know I have not personally written back to each and every one of you, but I can't even begin to tell you how much it has meant to hear from you. Especially to those of you who stepped out of your comfort zone to send me a message, considering that we never really knew each other well in high school, or that we haven't spoken in several's just so amazing and beyond humbling. 

And for my mom who let me (and continues to let me daily), call and ramble on for a half hour at a time or longer..thank you.  Thank you for knowing that there aren't any words that can tie this all up neatly with a bow, and for just listening to me and letting me sort things through totally unfiltered, even when I don't make any sense at all.  I love you so much and I am so thankful that you've been there when I need you. 

We have been moved beyond words by so many moments and mementos that we will always treasure:

Our pastor Dave, who came to the hospital at 6am on the day of Lily's birth, and stayed until 6pm that night...on the floor of the hospital room coloring with my girls.  I love this captured moment and everything it symbolizes to me.

A precious gift from our friend Jenn..a necklace personalized for Lily.  Such touching, unexpected acts of kindness.  I cherish this.

The most touching and beautiful framed art keepsake customized for Lilianna by our sweet friend Audrey, flanked by gorgeous "lilies and roses" from our church to honor our Lilianna Rose.

To Jay Jay Peterson, who offered her professional photography services free of charge through the organization, "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep"!  It is absolutely amazing to me that these photos were taken from a hospital bed.  The way she captured our sweet girl and our tender moments with her was such a priceless gift. What an incredible way to use your God given talent.

For everyone who has been there for us, we just can't thank you enough.  Thank you for the cards, the gifts, the prayers, and for loving our family through this.  It has made all the difference.  We love you all.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Our story and precious photos.

Our family took over 500 pictures (and several videos!) of Lilianna while she was here with us.  I wanted to share a few for now, along with some of the details of our experience.  We are just so proud of our sweet girl.

Our entire family, including grandparents who flew in from Pennsylvania, got to be part of our special day.  I had a scheduled c-section, and they made an exception to the general rule that each patient can only have one person in the operating room with them.  Dale was beside me, and my momma got to sit right behind us.  Part of our birth plan was that the nurses would immediately hand Lily over to me without cleaning her or weighing her.  At that point we thought we had minutes (at most) with her, so it was extremely important to me that they wasted no time and put her in my arms right away.  I had prayed that God would give me just enough time to tell my baby girl how much I loved her.

August 12, 2011 at 11:52am...Mommy and Daddy telling Lilianna Rose how much we love her.
Praise God.

I love this picture, because while my momma was taking the photo for us, Dale was making a video recording for us.  It makes me smile to think about how precious her life was and how everyone wanted to capture every moment that they could.

I love her sweet little face and lips.  She had her daddy's perfect lips, just like both of her big sisters have.

The proudest Daddy.

From the operating room, we went to a private room where they brought our family and friends in to meet Lilianna and we were all able to celebrate her and love on her. This was treasured time for me, because Lily stayed curled up on my chest, and I knew that *she knew* I was her Mommy. 

Meeting her sisters. 

Kisses from Sophie.

At about this time, doctors started coming in and commenting on how "unexpected" (to say the least) it was for our courageous girl to be living and breathing on her own.  Because Lily did not have kidneys, I did not have amniotic fluid- which is essential to lung development.  We had been told that she would be gasping for air when she was born, but that was clearly not the case.  She was completely peaceful and content snuggled up with her Momma. They suggested an ultrasound to make sure that she did not have kidneys hiding in there that they had somehow missed.  When they couldn't locate kidneys via ultrasound, they suggested going a step further and getting a CT scan.  We never left her side through this process, because my greatest fear was that she would pass away while we were separated.  When the CT scan did not reveal kidneys, they really could not "explain" how it was that she was able to breathe so well or live so long without medical intervention.  Dale and I believe with all of our hearts that we were given something so beautiful, and it was nothing less than a gift from God. 

We decided to use our extra, unexpected time to give our baby girl her first bath.  She weighed in at 3 pounds and 6 ounces.

I love this photo, because we look like every new, proud set of parents showing off our perfect baby.  And I love remembering that that's exactly how we felt in that moment, too.

Lilianna and her bunny lovey.

Something I never expected to have the opportunity to do...feed Lily her first bottle. 
Cherished moments.

All snuggled up in her blankie.  She had black, wavy hair just like her Mommy.  

I struggle with how to end this entry, because it is still extremely painful for me to think back on our final moments with Lilianna and how she left us.  If I'm going to be honest, I will say that I'm just not in a place yet where I can find complete peace in all those details.  I can tell you that my comfort is knowing where she left us to go, and more importantly, Who she left us to be with.  And because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ, I know that we will be reunited someday.  In Christ, there are no goodbyes.  I can rest in that Truth, that not only has my baby girl been made whole and perfect, but she is so happy and SO loved and we will be together again soon.

I don't know that I can adequately express how honored I am that God chose me to carry this little girl, and to be a part of the story He wanted to tell through her.  Her "little" life has had such a BIG impact on so many.  We were able to spend over 14 hours with our daughter..kissing her, snuggling her, memorizing her features, treasuring every little noise we got to hear and every facial expression we got to see.  She was such a blessing.  My heart overflows with gratitude.

Lilianna life will never be the same.  Thank you for fighting, brave girl. Your daddy and I will carry our memories of you in our hearts for the rest of our lives.  You were a precious gift and we thank God for you everyday.  We love you so much, and we will miss you every single day until the day when are together again.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A letter from Daddy.


You were born at 3 pounds 6 ounces, and I want you to know that you are the strongest person I have ever met. Six months ago, your mother and I got the news that every parent fears the most. We learned that your time on earth would not be long, and that it would be a miracle if you were to make it full term- and if you did, we would only have moments to minutes with you. The days, weeks, and months went by with doctor after doctor simply amazed at how your heart continued to fight. On August 12th I was proud to announce the birth of my 3rd daughter, Lilianna Rose Walker, delivered full term. I am so proud of you. As the nurses brought you to us, your mother and I were prepared to say good-bye to you. What we didn't realize was being delivered full term was only Part 1 of God's plan. As the moments and minutes past, you laid comfortably in your mothers arm. The minutes turned into an hour and you got to meet your sisters and grand-parents. They love you so much. You lived for 14 and a half hours. Fourteen times the amount expected. Every doctor was telling us there was no explanation for how you could live this long. They were wrong. There is only one explanation. God opened the heavens and came down and breathed life into you, and you showed the strength of the Lord in every breath you took. I am so proud of you.

It breaks my heart that your mother and I will not be able to watch you grow up, watch you play with your sisters, or watch your grand-parents spoil you to no end. As I sit here and mourn, I find solace that on August 13th at 0230 you received the greatest gift of all. As you left this world in your mothers arms, you said hello to our Father in Heaven. You are free Lilianna Rose. By the grace of God you are free.

I will be with you soon baby. Until then, you can live in a hole in my heart and soul that will always be for you. I love you so much, this is not good-bye.