2 Corinthians 1:8-10
"We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. On him we have set our hope..."
1 Peter 1:3
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through thine resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..."
When we said goodbye to our babies, we also entered a season of suffering far beyond our ability to endure. We also despaired of life and felt the sentence of death in our hearts. For a time, at least, we felt hopeless. We may still feel that way, unable to see the good our future holds.
In lighting the first candle of Advent, however, we declare by faith (because it is so hard to see) that our hope is not in our children or other loved ones or any other circumstances. Our hope is in God - not in what He can or might do for us, but in God himself. Because he is good. Because he is love. And because the baby Jesus grew up to die for our sins and to be resurrected from the dead - something our circumstances can never change.
God, fill our hearts with hope this Advent season - hope in our painful memories, hope in our present longings, and hope in the uncertainties of tomorrow. Help us put our hope in you, no matter what. Amen.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and for many, it is the first "first" of the holiday season.
The first Thanksgiving without your baby.
Maybe this was supposed to be your baby's first Thanksgiving. Maybe you should still be pregnant. Maybe your baby was with you last Thanksgiving, but isn't now.
Whatever your situation, Thanksgiving may seem impossible this year. Not only the being with family and being acutely aware of the number of seats around the table, but the whole point of Thanks-giving.
When your guttural cry is, "What is there to be thankful for?" but you don't want to ask the question because some well-meaning acquaintance is going to start listing things that you know are blessings and that you "should" be thankful for, but face it - they aren't your baby.
When writers and preachers remind us that we are not commanded to give thanks "for" all things, but "in" all things (1 Thessalonians 5:19), because that should make it easier since you don't have to be thankful your baby is gone, just find something to be thankful for within it. Only even that doesn't always work.
So today, I want to point you to a different command, five verses earlier in 1 Thessalonians 5:14: "And we urge you, brothers and sisters...encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone." This Thanksgiving, that may describe you. Disheartened. Weak. In need of patience from others...and yourself.
If giving thanks is hard this year, that's okay.
If praying is hard this year, that's okay.
If "celebrating" anything is hard this year, that's okay.
There will be other Thanksgivings, other holidays, when both time and the healing work of God has eased the pain that threatens to rip you apart right now. (It will get easier, I promise!). But this year, be gentle with yourself. Be patient. Do what you can, and don't have over-the-top expectations of how you "should" feel.
Because while it is God's will for us to give thanks, He also has a heart for the disheartened and the weak. He is close to the brokenhearted and those who are "crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18), and if all you can do this Thanksgiving is breathe and let Him sustain you and be your strength, that's okay.
Because leaning on Him for strength when you have no strength of your own is worship, too.
As we approach Thanksgiving, we would like to say a public "Thank you!" to some of those organizations who have been partnering with us in this ministry. Today our thank you is to Spring Valley Baptist Church of Columbia, SC, which hosts our monthly Naomi's Circle Pregnancy Loss support group. This includes providing childcare, which allows many to attend who might not otherwise be able to. In addition to that, SVBC has been helping us financially for several years, allowing us to build our lending library, acquire books to give to parents, print brochures and books, and maintain our presence on the Web so that parents can find us and, through us, the support and resources they need. Most importantly, they pray for us and the parents touched by this ministry. Thank you, Spring Valley Baptist Church, for standing with parents of babies in Heaven and being God's hands on Earth to us!
Are you thinking of year-end giving? We would love for you to consider Naomi's Circle. The main financial need we have is funding for our Mommy to Mommy Outreach, providing fifteen Brie Bags per month to three Columbia-area hospitals (Palmetto Baptist, Palmetto Richland, and Lexington Medical Center) and preparing to provide Hope Bags to local obstetrician offices, beginning in 2014.
Every three months, we make purchases for the next quarter's Brie Bags. Our biggest expenses are the Embracing Evan bears (approximately $8 each) and the book Empty Cradle, Full Heart (including shipping, also about $7 each, which the publisher Loyola Press gives us at a discount). We also purchase fabric for the bags, diapers, and hats and we purchase Jenga-style blocks (usually at consignment stores) for our Hope Bag memorial key chains. Our ongoing quarterly M2M Outreach expenses come to about $300 every three months.
Would you be willing to help? Because we operate as a ministry under the umbrella of Spring Valley Baptist Church, donations to Naomi's Circle through the church are tax-deductible. See our Donations page for more information about how to give online through Spring Valley Baptist Church. If you would like to invite us to share with your church or civic organization about our ministry, or if you would like to give of your time and crafting skills for this ministry, please contact us through our M2M page or via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Naomi's Circle has a new outreach that we want to share with you called "Wrap Your Rainbow". Frequently, a baby born after a loss is called a rainbow baby. We have acquired several rainbow-colored woven wraps of various sizes that we want to share with local Columbia-area moms (and dads) of rainbow babies.
Details are on our WYR page, but the main idea is that every two to three months, we will open our website to requests. If there is more than one request, then we will have a drawing, and the winner will be loaned a woven wrap for the next year, at which time she (or he) will need to return the wrap to us, to be passed along for the next Rainbow Baby. Please feel free to share this with others locally! We hope it will be a special way to encourage parents of rainbow babies and also a way for people to be introduced to babywearing. Our current "window" for requests will be open until November 14.
Friends of Naomi's Circle, especially in Columbia, SC, we need your help! The Mommy to Mommy Outreach begun by Sarah Hackett and Rachel Raper is truly having an impact. More than 50 bereaved mothers in the greater Columbia, SC, area have received Brie Bags and Embracing Evan bears in the last several months through our outreach at three local hospitals. Unfortunately, this is a need that will never be satisfied this side of heaven. Can you help? We need people to donate fabric for the bags, diapers, and hats; time and talent to sew these items (not hard, promise!); and finances to help purchase the books and bears. Do you have a church or community group that would like to hear from us? Go to our Mommy to Mommy page for more information, and to our "Donations" page to find out how to help financially. Thank you! Please share this need with others!
Many today will light candles in memory of their babies in Heaven...but many will also do so not knowing how or why October 15th came to be the singular day in the month of October to remember them. The woman behind the day is Robyn Bear, who longed for one day when grieving parents could come together and be surrounded by love and support from family and friends. Her website, www.october15th.com, has valuable information about events associated with Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and resources available to help in the healing. She also has a Facebook group where parents may offer support to one another. Thank you, Robyn, for envisioning this day!
The website "Perinatal Hospice and Palliative Care: A Gift of Time" is a wealth of information for parents who have received a negative prenatal diagnosis for their unborn child. Often, parents in such a situation are encouraged to terminate the pregnancy rather than continue it. However, there is another choice - to carry a pregnancy, even with a negative diagnosis. There is help and support for parents who choose this road, and one of the best places to find it is on this website, which is edited by Amy Kuebelbeck, author of Waiting with Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby's Brief Life (Loyola Press, 2003). The website includes lists of resources for both parents and caregivers, supportive organizations around the United States and the world, and the positive stories of parents who have chosen to carry their child for as long as they were allowed to. Please share this with others or, if you have been presented with this choice, check it out yourself.
Still Standing magazine began only a little over a year ago and has had a huge response, with nearly ten thousand Facebook followers in addition to e-mail subscribers and those who drop in from other placed on the Internet. Still Standing is an online magazine about pregnancy, infant, and child loss - but not only about the time of loss and the grief that follows. As the title implies, Still Standing is about parents who, after surviving one of the worst losses, manage to still stand, embracing life. The stories, some written by regular contributors and others by guest posters, touch on all kinds of topics within that larger umbrella - self-care, fathers, faith, sibling grief, parenting after loss, pregnancy after loss, and grandparents, to name a selection. It is a marvelous place to find quality writing from others who have walked the same road and who understand the complex emotions that accompany parents who have lost a child and have found the strength to stand and move into the future with hope.
Not many children book's have been written about pregnancy loss or infant death, and even fewer that are both high quality and line up with Scripture. Where is Chloe? by Donna Wilkins does both. This book is targeted at 4-to-8-year-olds and speaks through the voice of a little girl with questions about her little sister who passed away. Some of the pictures and questions seem to refer more to an infant or a late pregnancy loss, but the book could be used for siblings of a baby lost earlier in pregnancy as well. Told from a Christian perspective, this book provides reassurance that the families left behind will see their baby in Heaven. With its gentle rhymes and pictures, it is a wonderful book to share with young children who have questions about the brother or sister that they miss.