Gathering Hope: An Evening of Love and Remembrance

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“If we are for life, we are for all life.”

Have you ever told someone about something funny that just happened but they didn’t laugh, so you finish up with the one liner “You just had to have been there”? We all have had those awkward moments. We have had experiences, good or bad, that we just couldn’t convey with words. As I am sitting here, replaying the tape recording from last Thursday’s lunch all I can sit here and think is “How in the world am I going to be able to tell these ladies stories in the way in which it deserves to be told?” I just, don’t know.

But, I’m going to try. As I do, picture yourself at lunch with us, and like me, will be hearing these stories for the first time. That day I had decided on Rio Mambo, because A) Who doesn’t love Mexican? and B) It was the only suggestion I was given when I asked around about the best place to do an interview.  So on one side of the chips and salsa, I sat, way more nervous than I should have been for an interview for my little blog. On the other side sat (pictured below) Carol Vantine (Right) and Peyton Lauderdale (Left) blog 7

We were here because a few weeks ago Fathom Ink and I4C Life had the opportunity to make custom t-shirts for their upcoming event, Gathering Hope. After hearing about the good work these ladies would be doing, we decided we wanted to help! What better way then meeting with the two ladies behind the scenes and take a more in-depth look into what will be, Gathering Hope.

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Pictured Above (Gathering Hope Shirt/ Printed by Fathom Ink)

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Pictured Above (Peyton, Carol, and Jenn Shephard of Shep’s Place who kindly sponsored the Gathering Hope Shirts)

So now picture yourself back at the table with us, the waiter had just delivered our drinks and being the awkward human being that I am, I am the worst at small talk so I just decide to jump on in with questions.

Tell Me About Gathering Hope

Peyton: “Gathering Hope is an idea that came to me while I was doing a Bible Study one day. I lost my son James [about 3 years ago]. He was born April 6th, 2014. So, I was doing a bible study not too long after he had passed away and I kind of just had this really quick flash of a vision of a dark room with candles and I knew that it was something for people who had experienced the same kind of loss that I had, for people who had experienced loss but were never able to fully grieve or have a formal way to talk about their children.”

I then mentioned that I had noticed that they welcome women who had very early miscarriages as well. I find this very commendable considering it is usually ladies that experience early miscarriages that society likes to overlook almost as if they were never pregnant at all. Throughout my life I have had many family and friends who had experienced miscarriages but never spoke of it and if it was mentioned by others, it was mentioned in a way that was making it sound as if she had the flu. I could never understand why they weren’t allowed to grieve it like the death of a child because I just knew that the moment they found out they were pregnant, that this baby existed, the love had to be there. So there had to be pain that came with losing them. When there is love and then loss, there is pain. Right?

Peyton: “If you have a miscarriage early on in your pregnancy, there is not usually a funeral. There is no closure for that mom, or even the dad. Now ours was a very public affair, we had a really beautiful ceremony for James. There was a lot of people there but, not every mom has the opportunity to have people come and love on her like that. If we are for life, we are for all life. 

Gathering Hope is just kind of a way for moms to come together to share their babies, share their experiences with each other, and it is also an opportunity for them to hear that there is hope even in the midst of something so traumatic. That is what Gathering Hope is.”

How Did You Two Meet?

Carol: “In about January, I was feeling called to share my story. I lost my son in August of 2010. I had started writing about it and blogging a little bit. I started talking to a friend asking if there was something we could do as a church to reach out to moms. She told me about Peyton who had done this Gathering Hope event in 2015. She said, ‘I have this friend who did this awesome event! It’s called Gathering Hope, you should look it up on Facebook!

I wasn’t sleeping much at that time, so in the middle of the night I looked up Gathering Hope and at one o’clock in the morning I sent Peyton a message. 

We messaged back and forth and decided to meet up for coffee at Starbucks a couple of weeks later and I think I knew that day we were going to have another Gathering Hope.”

Peyton: “I think I did too. I had been tossing the idea around for a while. My husband actually, not too long before I met Carol, out of the blue said ‘I think you should do Gathering Hope again.’ and usually that is not something on his radar. And then she messaged me.” 

I Know You Had Done Gathering Hope Once Before, Did Any One Reach Out After? Saying They Were Impacted And Hoping There Would Be Another?

Peyton: “Yes, Definitely.”

Carol:“In fact, a lot of them are helping.”

Peyton: “To kind of go back to that vision I had seen….later that evening as people were discussing, we had candles set out on the table and it was raining and storming outside, so much so that at first I for sure thought no one would show up but what had ended up happening later in the evening was when it was time for our table leaders to take over, the storm caused one of our transformers to blow and we had no power. So all of the lights were off and all we had were those candles, that candlelight and it hit me then and I was like “This is what I saw.”

Carol: “That gives me goosebumps every time.”

Me too, Carol. Me too.

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Pictured above: DeAndrea Dare (Left), who will be a speaker at Gathering Hope in October, Carol (middle) and Peyton (Right)

Do you feel like this event was part of God’s plan this whole time?

Peyton: “Oh, I know it was, for sure.”

Carol: “Everything has just fallen into place, he has been there through the whole thing.”

Have you made connections throughout this process?

Peyton: “I was really bad about reaching out and following up after the last Gathering Hope which is why I am thankful for Carol because she is very good about that stuff, even before the event has happened.”

Carol: “I had started this facebook group called the ‘Sucky Sisterhood’ based on one of the blogs I had written. I called it the ‘Sucky Sisterhood’ because you have a connection with all these women that you don’t necessarily want to have but you do, and for some reason you’re connected to these people. It’s this strange bond that you can’t relate to with most people. That was the beginning of connections being made and a lot of those ladies will also be attending this Gathering Hope.”

I love that you all have it centered around Christ. So how did Christ help you get through your loss?

Carol: “The body of Christ was huge helping us get through it. Our church family surrounded us, carried me basically through the ordeal. Seriously, I felt carried through the first few months. I don’t know how I was standing. It was prayer, people helping me through it. That was God.

Do you feel your faith increased because of it?

Carol: “Definitely, even now, years later my faith is still growing because of it.”

Peyton: “I would agree. Our church family was very good to us as well, lots of prayer. I was in survival mode. I had not known the nearness and the closeness of the Lord until my son passed away. I had experienced God in many ways prior to that but I did not know God, I did not know Jesus, I did not know the Holy Spirit like I did when I lost my son. I literally had nothing, well what felt like nothing at the time. It is really hard to describe being so fully aware and present and being so lost at the same time. 

You know, I would have so many people go “Oh my gosh, You are so strong!” But the fact is, there was nothing strong about me because every bit, every fiber in my being, from putting my clothes on in the morning, rolling out of bed, caring for my other children, even driving around town…..none of that was possible without being filled by the Lord. Because in all actuality, you want to be and probably should be sitting in a corner rocking back and forth and never moving from that spot. It’s perfectly reasonable and normal but there is literally no way I would have survived without the very intimate closeness of the Lord.”

“Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint”

Isaiah 40:28-31

I could sit here and write all day and even if I was to type out every single thing that was said during this lunch and I would still never be able to capture the emotion with it. I’m 22 years old and have never experienced having a child, let alone losing a child so I in no way can relate. Honestly, I feel unworthy to help tell their story but here I am, hoping that you, reader, whomever you may be can gain something from this. Maybe you know someone who has experienced the loss of a child. Maybe you have experienced that loss. I hope you find comfort here.

If you have experienced this kind of loss, I strongly encourage you to attend Gathering Hope. Information posted below.

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“For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:5

Huge Thank You to Carol Vantine and Peyton Lauderdale for taking time out of their day to meet with me! Keep in mind they are still in need of volunteers! Check out their website at GatheringHope.net or find them on facebook at facebook.com/GatheringHope

Gathering Hope is an event meant to help others heal. It is something for the soul. People trying to heal other people’s souls and I think that is the purest form of kindness.

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