God's Story, Will Travel

As we prepare for our fourth annual gathering in Texas and our first gathering in Oklahoma, we’re sharing an interview with our co-founder, Carol Vantine and Oklahoma City Volunteer Coordinatior, Melina Moses. You’ll learn more about how assigned seats at an IF:Gathering, the Lord’s divine intervention and unplanned relocations can turn into beautifully laid paths for friendship, community and collaboration.


Carol: 
Anyone else here with social anxiety? Control issues? You need to know what’s going to happen before it happens or it is just not going to happen? Well, that’s me. I like to know the plan, and when it goes off the script I have played in my head, I’m not a happy camper. Surprises are not for me. 

Melina:
Our move to Oklahoma City was very quick and unexpected. Everything, it seemed about September 2017 came by surprise!

We had just found out that we were pregnant with our third baby, while our twins were just eleven months old. MONTHS!! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the positive test. We’d just spent over five years of praying for positive tests and this was the first one that had actually taken me by surprise. That same week we found out that my husband’s company would be relocating to Oklahoma and, after a day on the market, our house was under contract.

 I was not happy about moving. Uprooting our entire family, finding out we were newly pregnant with another baby, and going to an unknown place without any family or friends. This was so scary to me. The worst part about it, we were leaving the community we’d spent the last several years building. They were there for our losses, hospital stays, surgeries, hospital bedrest, and NICU. We raised our children together, they were my mentors, but most of all they were my friends.

Oklahoma City quickly became “home”, but it didn’t make the next year any easier. Wes was just transitioning into a new role and was extremely busy with work. Winter had made its arrival and, with two toddlers who were stuck inside most of the time, the sicknesses just kept going round & round.

 My friends from back home invited me to the IF: Parker County conference and I couldn’t wait. I needed a break by this point and was excited to have some girl time. When we arrived at the conference, we found out they had assigned seats & were disappointed. This was supposed to be a fun-filled girls weekend, not get to know a group of strangers thing...or so I thought. God’s humor is the best.

Melina @ IF:Parker County

Melina @ IF:Parker County

Carol @ IF:Parker County

Carol @ IF:Parker County

Carol:
In February of 2018 when I attended the If: Parker County conference. I was attending with friends from my church and meeting up with my sister once we got there. My sister called me just before I left my house to let me know that the first night there would be my worst-case scenario for the event...ASSIGNED SEATS (gasp!!). I nearly decided to call it off right then and there, but knowing my friends were waiting on me to meet them, I begrudgingly went anyway. 

Assigned seats meant awkward small talk, nervous laughter, and a lot of uncomfortable silence, all of which stress me out...but I pressed on. I found my seat at the very front of the auditorium and sat. The people were friendly, but it’s just not my thing. Not long into the evening, they had us all introduce ourselves and tell what we did for a living. At the time, I had just left teaching and was doing some tutoring and websites to earn a little extra money. For some reason though, when it was my turn to talk, I didn’t mention those jobs. I said I was involved with Gathering Hope, a local outreach that walked with women in pregnancy and infant loss. I was confused as to why those words came out of my mouth because it wasn’t what I planned to say. God definitely had a plan though, because a girl at my table named Melina said, “Hey! I know Gathering Hope!” If the story just ended there, that so early into our ministry people had heard of what we were doing, I would have thought that was amazing but God had so much more in store for us.

Melina:
We all sat around while people filled the auditorium, and you know how that goes.. you just awkwardly sit there smiling at your peers, saying hi occasionally, but mostly keeping to yourself. Just hoping the music would start so you don’t have to actually talk. And that happened. But once we got to introductions and the lady next to me said she was involved with a non-profit called Gathering Hope, I immediately said “Hey, I know you guys. I love what you’re doing, if you ever want to get Gathering Hope outside of Texas, I’d love to talk about what that looks like.”  Introductions went on and as soon as we had our first break I found a mutual friend, and current board member for Gathering Hope, to tell her how funny I thought that it was that I sat right next to Carol.

Carol:
I’m pretty sure I texted Peyton during the next break and said, “Somebody I met had heard of Gathering Hope!” as if that was the coolest thing that could happen.  Later that night, Melina and I talked and she told me how her chiropractor had invited her to be on the team of GH 2017 but she was moving and newly pregnant at the time so she wasn’t able to do it. She said, “But if you’re ever interested in spreading Gathering Hope to OKC, let’s talk!” 

We had discussed expanding to other places but had no idea how it would ever start spreading. My heart did that quickening thing it does when God is moving. I told her how we had discussed this before and we were definitely interested.

We were in touch a few more times before the next gathering in 2018 in which Melina was able to drive down and attend. 

 
Gathering Hope 2018

Gathering Hope 2018

 

Melina:
I had never attended a gathering, so I decided to make plans to attend Gathering Hope 2018. Of course, it was another excuse to come back home, to my friends, but God had something much bigger in store. I met with Carol and Peyton the next morning to talk about what a Gathering would look like outside of Texas, and I think my first thought of what it would look like was a bible study or a small watch party of their main gathering in DFW. I never once thought actually having a second gathering in a new city was even an option. That is.. until we met for a second time.

Carol:
The next morning, we met for breakfast to discuss possibly partnering with her to bring Gathering Hope to Oklahoma. Though it seemed overwhelming, Peyton and I thought it was doable and were very optimistic. Melina saw the enormity of what she’d be taking on and was a little more hesitant. She had in mind a Bible study or something, not taking on an event with all the planning, organizing, recruiting and funding. We knew we would be able to walk beside her through it all, but I’m sure it was overwhelming to her to think about. We parted ways with the understanding that she would pray about it, but Peyton and I felt like it was happening. 

Melina:
Carol and Peyton drove up to Oklahoma in January of 2019 and after a brief conversation, with the help of a few local ladies, I mustered up the confidence to say YES! They all believed we could do it. I was still second-guessing, but I was excited and got started planning right away. My local MOPS group has been such a blessing through this entire process. They have stepped up to volunteer, some are signed up as attendees, and they have been a huge part in spreading the word.

 
Our 1st Oklahoma meeting!

Our 1st Oklahoma meeting!

 

Carol:
Since that day, Melina has been incredible, meticulously organizing and planning a beautiful event for moms in Oklahoma and the surrounding areas to experience the community Gathering Hope brings. She has assembled a team of nearly 40 people to make this gathering a reality. 

God has used Melina’s move to Oklahoma to heal the hearts of so many women that wouldn’t have been reached without her. Gathering Hope OKC is filling up quickly with just over 25 seats left as of the beginning of August. 

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I love how God uses things in our lives that make us uncomfortable to bring about his plans. From small things like assigned seating and social anxiety to moves out of state. When all we want is to stay where we are, God stretches us and brings about His glory. What a cool God we serve.

Melina:
What I’ve learned more than anything through this process, is that nothing happens by accident. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” God put this on my heart years ago and now I get to help others who are hurting. There’s not a better feeling than being right where God meant for you to be.


If you are looking for comfort, to realize you are not alone, to share your story, and to hear a message of hope, strength and encouragement, we invite you to join over 150 women who have already signed up to attend Gathering Hope 2019 in Texas or Oklahoma this year. We hope you’ll join us as we come together to both seek solace and to share encouragement as mothers who have survived miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. 

If you are a woman who has not personally experienced a loss but would like to support a woman in your life who would benefit from this evening of remembrance, we welcome you! Just be sure to register, along with the mom you’ll be joining that evening!

We weren’t meant to do this alone, no matter how lonely it can feel.

Dates and locations for Gathering Hope 2019:

DFW Area: October 5, 2019 at Doxology Bible Church in Ft. Worth, TX

OKC Area: October 26, 2019 at Firehouse Community Outreach in Moore, OK

Go to www.gatheringhope.net to register and for more information.



How Do I Invite Someone to Gathering Hope?

We’re often asked how to share Gathering Hope with someone else or invite them to our annual gathering. They know that their loved one could benefit from a place where they’d be supported, but might be intimidated about suggesting it. We asked the best resource we have...our moms. Whether you’ve experienced loss for yourself or not, you’ll find what you need below:

“I was invited a couple of times, but someone saying ‘Let’s go together, I want to remember your baby with you,’ cinched it for me. Grieving mommas need this kind of support and often don’t know where to find it or don’t know that it’s normal to need support. Reaching out can be scary but you’re throwing them a lifeline.”

...

“A friend connected me.

I think most people want to be invited even if they feel they aren’t ready to go to something. Being invited to something, even if we say no, is a bid for connection. I think some ways to invite in a careful way are..

‘I’d love to go with you to this if you want to.’

‘I’m a part of this group that I have really found healing. Would you like to join me?’ “

...

“I was invited by a friend who had not had a loss but heard about it at church and invited me to go. She invited and attended with me the first time. I am so thankful she did. It would have been difficult to go on my own the first time.”

...

“I was invited by a friend who has never had a loss or gone to Gathering Hope. She heard about it from her midwife who had gone the year before. Here’s her text:

‘Hey! I am sharing this with you because you've been on my mind a lot recently. I hope I don't come across as insensitive in any way. One of our midwives recommended this event. She has been attending it for three years and spoke of the healing it brought her. I thought you may want the info.’ “

...

“I found it after my mom saw about the event on tv last year. I have invited a lot of people. I just say ‘Hey I found this amazing community of other loss moms. We hold each other up and support each other through this.’ “

...

“My friend at Crossfit told me. She knew I had lost a baby but didn’t know my story. She just told me she had something to share with me and hoped she wasn’t overstepping any boundaries. She told me a bit about Gathering Hope, when it was, and I dug into it more on my own. I am forever grateful for her willingness to share!”

...

“ [A friend] invited me after I had my first miscarriage. I was a little skeptical about it at first. It would be both our first time attending. I think her comforting approach and being open to talking about our babies made me consider going. Others around me didn’t understand and wanted me to get over it but she understood. So, I suggest you ask someone in a very comforting and loving way. Let them know it’s okay to talk about their loss and there are so many other women out their ready to hear your story and be there for you.”

...

“Hearing you be so open, honest and raw about your son touched my heart so deeply. I just knew I needed to be apart of this. I've had three losses...I never really felt like it was okay to talk about my losses in such an open way until I saw you doing it. At a birthday party. In front of friends and strangers.”

...

“I randomly saw Peyton sharing her story on the news leading up to the event last year. But if someone had said ‘Hey there is this event/group you should check out’, I don’t think I would have been offended. I was drowning in grief and had no support system and no experience so it would have been a welcome invitation...Ultimately all you can do is make the invitation and put the ball in their court. Let it be up to her to whether this is something she needs right now. Maybe just say, ‘Would you like to go with me to this event in October?’ “

...

“I was invited by my friend whose daughter had a loss. She told me she heard about this ‘conference thing’ and thought of me because she knew I had lost babies too. What made me more comfortable was that she said ‘Would you like to COME WITH US?’ and that made me feel like I didn’t have to consider going alone. I still took a few weeks deciding if I wanted to go or not but I’m pretty sure I would not have gone had I not been asked to come along with someone else.”

...

I heard about GH from [a friend]. She was the first person I had talked to that truly understood my grief and loss. She was so vulnerable and open in sharing her story with me that it truly is the reason why I am willing to be the same. I have had so many friends message me about their friend that lost a baby and if I would be willing to talk to them. It really is one of the biggest blessings out of all of this to meet a mom exactly where she met me... at the beginning of their grief when you can feel so alone and unsure if your feelings are valid or crazy. To be able to connect to moms that truly understand each other’s pain is so important. [She] told me about Gathering Hope right away and explained how it would be a good place to get involved and find support. Connecting with the community that GH provides, it was a natural ‘next step’ for me to attend the event.”

...

“It was through Facebook posts from Peyton that I learned about the GH event in 2017; the year I had my miscarriage. Encouraging posts played a part in getting me to that event October ‘17. FB & IG posts will get seen and read and that might be what someone in need might need to see at that very moment. I’m praying God uses whatever means to reach mommas in need of Hope.”

...

Here’s what stands out to us:

1. People. Being personally invited to go, and being willing to attend alongside a grieving mother is powerful. (As a gentle reminder, Gathering Hope attendance is for women only.)

2. Vulnerability. If you’ve experienced the loss of a baby, being open about it allows others to see that it’s ok to seek support.

3. Timing. It’s not too soon and it’s not too late to invite someone to come to Gathering Hope. We have moms who attend with fresh grief, alongside those who miss a baby that they lost years ago.

Pray for gentle boldness in sharing this community with a mom that you love. Call her. Text her. Invite her to lunch. Talk with her after a workout, after church or walking to the parking lot after work. The Lord will provide the words or simply choose something you’ve read here. For more information or to attend a gathering, head to our website, GatheringHope.net. You can do it! 💜

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Gathering Hope

In 2014, Peyton Lauderdale sat in Bible study only months after losing her infant son. For an instant, she had a picture in her mind of women sitting together in candlelight, worshiping God and coming together, united in their losses. She didn't think much of it at that moment, but as days turned to weeks, she couldn't get the thought out of her mind.  

Though no one wants to bury their child, there is a sense of closure one receives from the process. When a woman miscarries, she isn't given that same opportunity to say goodbye. Peyton felt called to help other women who had experienced miscarriage or infant loss to get that closure, even if it had been years since it had happened.  Through months of hard work, amazing volunteers and some extremely difficult days, Gathering Hope 2015 was born.  

On October 22, 2015, over 70 women came together despite torrential rains and an eventual power outage.  When candles had to be their only source of light, Peyton's tears fell like the rain outside the doors. That image, that glimpse of a picture she had seen in Bible study of women supporting each other in candlelight was here.  That moment had come to fruition.  

Many people asked Peyton after Gathering Hope 2015 if she was having another event the next year.  Over and over she put it away on a shelf in the back of her mind. She convinced herself that her job was done.  She had done what she was called to do, and she was now moving forward.  

That would not be the case.    

In January 2017, Carol Vantine had launched her blog, Matthew's Song, a website dedicated to helping women and families whose lives had been affected by pregnancy loss.  Carol had heard about Peyton and Gathering Hope from a mutual friend and she reached out to her. Peyton knew immediately that she was being prompted to bring back Gathering Hope, but she waited for confirmation.  

After Carol and Peyton met for coffee the first time, it was obvious that their paths were meant to cross.  Plans for Gathering Hope 2017 quickly began to fall into place and they couldn't be ignored.   Volunteers filled positions quickly and the surrounding communities showed an outpouring of generosity. On October 22, 2017, over 40 volunteers and nearly 100 women gathered at the Summit in Aledo, TX to celebrate and remember the lives of the babies they lost too soon. 

Miscarriage and infant loss affects 1 in 4 women.  If your family hasn't been directly touched by this devastation, you know someone who has. The third annual meeting of Gathering Hope will be October 14, 2018 from 4-7.  Doors open at 3:30 at the Summit. If you are the 1 in 4 and need to experience hope and comfort in your grief, we invite you to join us.  

The event will include live music, a phenomenal guest speaker, Sarah Philpott, author of Loved Baby, and some time to talk with other women who have walked the same path.  The evening is not a night to spend in sadness, but in drawing strength from other women and walking out the doors stronger because of the community that surrounds you.  It will be an evening of love and an evening of remembrance.  It will be an evening you won't want to miss. 

For more information, find them online at www.gatheringhope.net or follow them on Facebook.