The Sacrifice of Servanthood

amanda singing

As I prepare for an upcoming SGM Perinatal Loss Support Training in Nebraska, I’ve been mulling over how to convey the heart of servanthood. How can one explain the incredible beauty of sacrificing yourself for someone else, laying down your own needs to look after aching soul? How can I describe the hearts of the volunteers who enter to stand on the sacred ground where heaven meets earth to walk with a family as they say hello and goodbye to their precious baby? Women who hold a mother’s hands in the wee hours of the morning as she looks into your eyes with the anguish of “why” when there is no earthly answer to her agonizing question.

Last night, while most people were sleeping, SGM volunteers did what only could be described as a Cuddle Cot Tag Team Relay to get our Cuddle Cot back to NW Ohio from the Cleveland/Akron area to serve a family in need. We are currently sharing one for all of our Ohio branches. (For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, it is a piece of medical grade equipment that enables parents to spent more time with their baby who has passed away.) Four drivers, including a spouse and child of one of our NE Ohio Regional Coordinators drove in the middle of the night…each taking a leg of the journey to pass the equipment on to the next…to get the CC to the parents in need, who were over 3 hours away, as another SGM volunteer supported the family and captured images of their time with their baby.

I have no adequate words to describe the type of valor displayed amidst a different kind of battlefield of brokenness. One that’s hard to grasp for those who have not stood in that place. All I know, is the women and men…the families…who serve together on this mission field are the very definition of servanthood. In all their imperfect, grace oozing through the cracks, hands and feet of Jesus as His love pours through them…glory. They are kind of gladiators who not only serve alongside you, they lift you up when you’re too tired to keep going…one on each side…pulling you along…saying…”I’ve got you” with every teary cry lifted toward heaven.

(Last night one of them quite literally found me exhausted and sleeping in the church parking lot where we agreed to meet for me to drive my leg of the CC journey…and said, “Get in my car. I’m driving you.”)

If you see any of them…of us…and we are scattered and distracted, disheveled and forgetful, tender and emotional, if we never call anymore…please know there is a reason for our brokenness and embrace the beauty found there buried under what appears to be weakness. If we cancel at the last minute, miss out on events, can’t man the concessions, know we are doing something few are willing to do…something hard to imagine for most…but so very essential to the people who are saying goodbye to their children. Please give grace to those who have chosen to serve as we stumble to the golf match without sleep or get our child’s physical at the last moment…or can’t pick him up because the hospital called…because everything stops when that happens.

For those wanting to embark on this journey, I want to ask the question, are you ready? Have you counted the cost…because, there is a price to serving others. Is your heart fully called to enter in with those suffering through unimaginable grief….grief  you can’t carry or mend with your human hands or the  best intentions of your human heart? So much more than good intentions, or even the desire to build a legacy for your own children in heaven, will be needed for you to leave your bed at 2am, to leave her debut in the dance recital, his solo, her soccer tournament, his golf match…when the call comes. While it will bless you, because we are always blessed and filled in the pouring out when done with the heart to serve, it can’t be about you. It must always be about loving the one in front of you. Because love lays it all down.

Humbled and grateful that there are those willing to answer this call to serve others. And, grateful to stand with families on the sacred ground where heaven meets earth. Again and again.

As a side note, SGM is currently sharing one Cuddle Cot, generously donated by Owen’s Gift in memory of Owen Plunket. We need more Cuddle Cots so that all of our branches have this much-needed piece of equipment to give parents the gift of more time with their baby whose life was brief.  Another amazing SGM family, baby Gavreel’s family, is planning to host a garage sale this month to raise money for a second Cuddle Cot and Moses baskets (valued at about $3,500), so that more families can receive this amazing resource. If you are local, please stop by or donate toward their sale. You can also donate from anywhere using SGM’s donate button on our support page (please specify that you would like the donation to go toward the Cuddle Cot.) We have many other needs listed there as well.  SGM needs three new laptops with DVD/CD burner  and SD card reading capability, high quality to handle many files and to edit photos. And, a whole ongoing list of items.

What Qualifies You To Do This?

because every life matters pic

I pled my case to the anesthesiologist on behalf of the mother I was supporting. These memories, those initial moments in the operating room when her baby emerges from his mother’s womb are precious and fleeting. They may be all she has of his time living earthside. It is her desire to have a photograph of those moments. I promised to respect the need for a sterile environment….to scrub up, cover up, hold my breath.

Not budging on the strict policy not to allow a remembrance photographer into the operating room, she shook her head. And, with resolve and authority looked into my eyes, asking…

“What qualifies you to do this work?”

It’s a legitimate question and one I don’t mind answering.

“I am the founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, one of the nation’s few stand alone perinatal hospice birth and bereavement centers in the country, a certified SBD birth and bereavement doula. I’ve supported thousands of families online and more than 100 in person since 2004…”

She shook her head again…interrupting.

“But what qualifies you to do this work? What DEGREE to you have?”

“I took training to become a birth and bereavement doula. It is not a degree. It is a certification. I also developed my own birth professionals training (2006), teaching birth professionals about the importance of compassionate care…”

“No…what college degree do you have?”

“I only have an associates degree in early childhood education, ma’am. No college degree in this particular field. But, I do have more than eleven years experience. And, I’m a published…”

“So. What QUALIFIES YOU to do this work?”

“I’m a mother who lost three of my own children, and I know how important it is for this mother to have these precious memories captured of her brief time with her baby.”

She nodded. No more questions.

I am also a professional, highly qualified and experienced to provide the support that we offer, to develop and lead hospital trainings, to publish written materials and resources. But, she is right. I am lacking in the letters behind my name. It doesn’t mean that I’m not skilled and quite knowledgeable in this field. It doesn’t mean that I’m not educated and experienced. It does mean that what qualifies me to walk with another broken-hearted family in the wilderness of grief isn’t something that can be taught in a university, the kind that values letters behind your name. The best way to become an expert on being a poured-out vessel of God’s love is to allow yourself to be poured out in service to another human being in need. I didn’t tell her that what really qualifies me to be in that room comes from an authority much higher than she or I or any university in existence. That there are no letters that she will recognize behind my name, because brave women had to create this model of care.

I am amazed most often by the openness of birth professionals and hospital staff to bend or even change policies to on behalf of a grieving family facing the loss of their baby. Most of the time, they are so compassionate and accommodating and I have nothing but gratefulness for the work they do and the ways they allow us to come alongside families and offer hope as we honor tiny lives together in that hospital room…in the place where heaven meets earth. We stand together, and I’m honored to stand with them.

But every now and then, steely eyes ask that question…what qualifies you to be here? And, I smile.

I smile as I think of the loving God who fills the room with grace for every soul. I smile as I think of my own children and the way that simply being their mother qualifies me to do things I never thought possible. I smile as I think of every tiny baby footprint I’ve placed on the pages of a Dreams of You memory book…footprints carried forever in my heart. I smile as I think of the birth professionals who thank us for being there with the families…and with them. Who hug me as they reflect on a new perspective after attending our training. I smile as the hesitant doctor looks up at me with a nod of respect. Respect earned. Because despite the lack of letters behind our names…we are good at this job. Not because of our own ability. But, because we said yes to a very big God who fills us with love and abilities beyond our own to care for families and their tiny babies in the most broken of moments…shining impossible beauty in the midst of it. I smile, because He doesn’t care and isn’t a bit hindered by the lack of letters behind my name. And neither are the families we serve.

I took the pictures in the operating room that day. If you’re wondering. And, I’m grateful to the anesthesiologist who didn’t allow my lack of “qualification” to keep me from doing so…and to the God who is more qualified than both of us.

———–

If you have a heart to serve bereaved parents with the support described above, SGM is hosting our annual volunteer retreat and training. Learn more about it at our event page. Those outside Ohio, register here.

The Broken Stuff

broken stuff

It’s been awhile since I’ve waxed poetic in the wee hours. High time for some heart ramblings. They usually flow so easily, begging for release. Tonight, they are tumbling around in this head and heart of mine, in a nonsensical dance. The past few weeks, I’ve felt like I’m living in The Screwtape Letters by [...]

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The Miracle Before Christmas: Gianna’s Gift

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I spoke with Heather just a day before we would meet. Neither of us knew the extent of the miracles waiting for us as we chatted about the upcoming delivery of her sweet baby, diagnosed with Trisomy 18 earlier in the pregnancy. We weren’t sure whether she was having a boy or girl or how [...]

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SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza Winners 2015

Congratulations! If your name is below then you are a winner! Please email your shipping address and the name of the item you won to sgm.shipping@gmail.com within the next week to claim your items. We hope you have a gentle Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. ♡ Day One Melissa Norris, you [...]

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SGM Christmas Giveaway Day 4 and 5!!

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Today we will give away two days worth in one since I needed a day off yesterday! Busy week! This was meant for Day Four…Book Day! As a writer and reader, I love the printed word. Stories are so powerful and the stories of our sweet babies matter! There are four book options for this [...]

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SGM Christmas Remembrance 2015 Day 3: FREE SHIPPING on Dreams of You Package

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    Sufficient Grace Ministries offers beautiful free Dreams of You resources and support to families around the world. While we typically charge shipping only for bereaved parents to receive our packages valued from $25 to $175, today….sponsored by the gentlemen of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, you can enter to win FREE shipping for your [...]

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SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza Day Two: Remembrance Jewelry

ABP Gift Certificate

I am so excited about today’s giveaway. My beautiful friend, Amanda Plunkett, from Owens Gift and ABP Keepsake Jewelry has donated two gorgeous gifts for you all!! Amanda creates one of a kind custom keepsake jewelry from your child’s/loved one’s/Pet’s cremation ashes, placenta, umbilical, dried flowers, teeth, small peices of fabric. She has given us two [...]

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SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza 2015 Day One: Ornaments

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Welcome to the SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza 2015! Today is Day One of our week of giveaways…ornaments. Our Christmas Tree should tell a story, the story of our family. And, that includes those we are remembering in heaven each year. We would love to help you add to your tree of stories and memories with [...]

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If Only You Had Enough Faith

clinging to bible

A conversation yesterday regarding a mother facing a life-limiting diagnosis in pregnancy unlocked emotions laying dormant in my depths for more than a decade. Those words, spewing the barbed accusations of not enough. If you only have enough faith you will be well. Your babies will be well. Your mother will be well. If you [...]

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