Thursday, October 25, 2012

And the winner is...

Cole's Gift by a landslide! With 80% of the votes, Cole's Gift will be the recipient of Finding Magnolia's October payment from their Give it Forward program. Special thanks to Mary of Finding Magnolia for including us on her blog, and to my sister-in-law, Melanie, for making it happen. And a big THANK YOU to everyone who voted!! You can read Mary's announcement here. I am beyond excited!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weavings Retreat

Last weekend I attended a retreat for mothers who have lost children. It was local, but I was away from home for two nights. I had been feeling rather anxious about going, but when the day came to go, I felt ready. Nervously ready.

Going in, I didn't know anyone there except the social worker who planned it. As I approached the entrance, a couple of volunteers greeted me and immediately offered to carry my bags and lead me to the sign-in table. Overwhelming? You bet. I guess they wanted to make sure we didn't turn around and leave. I went to my room for the first time to find a basket of goodies on my bed. Then I headed down the hall to a lounge to meet some of the other moms and make my name tag for the weekend. I was told to take a photo of Cole to another room where I would find a table with candles and empty photo stands. I placed the photo on one of the stands and lit Cole's candle. So far so good, but I didn't know who my roommate was yet.

We had dinner, then it all really began. Twenty-two moms and all the volunteers gathered in yet another large room. The moms sat in a circle, and one by one, we shared our child's story. Before the retreat, we had all received a packet which included a long strip of white fabric and a sharpie. The instructions were to write our child's story on the sash, however we wanted. So that first night, our sashes were shown to the other moms as we told our stories, then they were woven together on a table.

 Cole's sash
It reads: God's SPECIAL creation , our BEAUTIFUL baby boy, mommy's SUNSHINE, a life of MIRACLES, little FIGHTER, incredibly LOVED always , He brought us JOY, a BLESSING to many , MISSED beyond measure
The emotion in the room that night as we shared about our children was heavy. We heard about illnesses, accidents, and drug overdoses; young children, teenagers, and adults. One mom had a stillborn son. Another mom lost two of her adult children within months of each other. I can honestly tell you that despite all of the differences in ages and circumstances, the group as a whole instantly connected, and it was wonderful.
We had small groups within the larger group, and mine was awesome. There were two other moms who lost babies, and one who lost her two year old. We had two very lovely group leaders who not only facilitated our discussions, but they really really listened, encouraged us, and even cried with us. Our small group met several times throughout the weekend.

Late Friday night, I finally met my roommate. She asked me if I was a believer, and I excitedly replied, "yes!". Something I had shared during the large group meeting led her to ask me that question. A bond quickly formed, and we stayed up chatting until about 1 am.
The rest of the weekend consisted of art projects, pampering (a much needed massage for me), and some rituals I had pretty mixed feelings about. I spent some time outside walking the labyrinth on the property. The colors of the trees had really begun to change that weekend, and they were gorgeous.

entrance to the labyrinth

the labyrinth and lovely trees

the tree in the center of the labyrinth where moms,
past and present, left tokens for their children

I thought this was nice
I went into this weekend skeptical and uncertain that I would get a whole lot out of it. What I did get, though, are new, beautiful friends that understand my loss and how I feel, and that is priceless. The stories of their children are now rooted in my heart. What I also got were more opportunities to share Cole's life with others, which I love to do. I tried to emphasize what a gift and blessing he was, and most importantly, to express the gratitude I feel for his life and the immense JOY I now am able to feel in the midst of my grief. If nothing else, that was truly my goal for the weekend: to show that it IS possible to feel joy. Our last circle time on Sunday allowed each of us to tell our wish for the others. I'll repeat it here because it truly is my wish, my prayer really, that anyone who has lost a child will be able to find some joy. Even just a little bit.
Here are a couple of sweet bonuses from the weekend: I was able to share about Cole's Gift to the whole group, and even had a new friend tell me she wants to make a donation.  And throughout the weekend, I bonded in particular with a gal who lost her precious, 8 week old baby girl ,Corey, just this past May to a rare genetic condition. Corey's momma and I like to think that Corey and Cole are now little friends in Heaven. Corey and Cole, I mean, how cute is that?
I'm thankful for Weavings and for the people that made it possible. And I'm thankful for the God-given strength to get there, enjoy it, and endure it.




Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vote for Cole's Gift

I am feeling overwhelmed, thankful, and humbled today. I found out this morning that Cole's Gift is featured on the wonderful blog, Finding Magnolia. My sister-in-law, Cole's Auntie Melanie, made this happen. Finding Magnolia has a rather large audience, so I am thrilled that more people are going to read about Cole and see his sweet face. More importantly though, readers will have the opportunity to vote for Cole's Gift to be the recipient of a $200+ payment from Finding Magnolia's Give it Forward program. Please go to Finding Magnolia to vote, and as a bonus, you'll be linked to Melanie's blog, Like a Radio, to read her beautiful tributes to Cole. And if you hang out on Like a Radio, you'll see photos of my adorable nieces, and will discover what an incredible writer Melanie is. But I digress.

Voting is open until midnight October 23rd.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cole's Gift: Update

The project that kept me very busy in September involved Cole's Gift. After my friend Beth Wendling, the President of Orphans Treasure Box Books in Champaign, IL, told us that she wanted to create Cole's Gift to help a family adopting a child with a life-threatening illness, Eric had the idea that we should host a book drive, then travel to Champaign to deliver the books. The timing could not have been more perfect given that Cole's death anniversary was in September. I created an "event" on Facebook and sent out a mass email to friends and family asking them to donate their used books. In about a two week period, I spent a good amount of time coordinating book drop-offs and pick ups. I did a lot of driving, met a few new people, and got to see some friends I don't see that often. It was fun and exhausting.

I figured we might receive a couple hundred books that would easily fit into my small SUV. God had other plans! The Tuesday before the weekend we were to go to Champaign, a friend of mine helped me count books for those who wanted receipts. We counted just over 1,000 books! Wednesday through Friday, I drove around town and picked up books from three or four other people, and the back of my car completely filled up at least twice. We easily received another thousand books. My car was not going to cut it for the Champaign trip, so we rented a minivan.

As you can see, the minivan worked out great! The rental company even gave us a break on the cost because we were transporting items for a charity. Thank you so very much to everyone who donated books. You honored Cole's memory beautifully!
Eric and I drove to Champaign on the 22nd and unloaded our books at a warehouse. A local Christian radio station recently donated that space to Orphans Treasure Box, and it's a good thing they did! Beth is up to her eyeballs in books. :) 

Eric, me, Beth, and her son at the warehouse


So what's next? Beth has told me that the amount of Cole's gift has been raised from $2,000 to $2,500! I need to begin doing some research so Eric and I can choose the family who will receive this special grant, which we hope to award around next April 27th, which is Cole's birthday. In the meantime, here's how you can help us. Orphans Treasure Box has a store on Amazon where the donated books are for sale. Beth and her volunteers have the tedious task of listing all of those books we brought plus any others they receive. Many, many books have already been sold to assist in the care of orphans in other countries, and Beth has been able to give generous grants to families adopting children who are older or who have special needs. Isn't that cool? You can be part of changing the lives of orphans by shopping the amazon site:

Books are organized alphabetically, so putting keywords in the search box can help. If shopping for books isn't your thing, and you'd still like to help, you can make a monetary donation. Please make out your check to Orphans Treasure Box and send to:

2511 Pinehurst
Champaign, IL 61822
We feel that Cole's Gift and working with Orphans Treasure Box is just part of the big purpose God had for Cole's short life. It's just another something to feel joyful about in the midst of our sorrow. We are truly blessed indeed.