During this holiday season when we remember a very special birth, maternity homes have the unique opportunity to remember their mission of being "a room at the inn" for vulnerable pregnant women. We asked leaders from across the country to tell us about their favorite part of Christmas serving in a maternity homes.
Here's what they had to say:
Christmas at Living Grace Homes begins with Advent, and of course our Christmas Open House, where we invite the community in to meet our residents and learn more about the home they live in. The moms participate by baking cookies and engaging with the community, whether it is a sing-along of Christmas Carols or just talking about their hopes and dreams for the future. As we celebrate our 9th Christmas at Living Grace Homes, many former residents will stop in. Perhaps they will bring a gift for a new baby, or perhaps they are still struggling and need to be included in our Christmas. I think Christmas at Living Grace Homes is summed up in our motto, "Hope is Born here!"
Kathleen Miller, Living Grace Home
At Mary's Mantle every day is special, but during the Christmas Season, everything is just a bit brighter! All of our staff come together with our residents and babies and decorate our trees and the rest of the home together. We always strive to make the house feel like "home" for the women we serve and being part of decorating is a simple, but important way, to do that. We set aside a whole afternoon to bake, do a craft, decorate our trees and do a spiritual reflection. For many of the women we serve, this is their first experience doing something like this. It is one of my favorite days of the year at Mary's Mantle.
Katie Montes, Mary's Mantle
One of the most special parts of Christmas at Precious Life is our annual open house, A PRECIOUS CHRISTMAS. Each year we invite the community, donors, residents and their children to come and enjoy the decorated homes, take pictures with Santa, have apple cider and hot cocoa, and visit with friends. Santa always has books and stuffed animals for every child. They get their picture and carolers sing their songs of joy. For many of our residents Christmas is a difficult time and we hope to have them know how blessed and loved and cherished they are. Stockings are delivered, supporters adopt families and we prepare a feast for them later in the month which is all donated by friends of Precious Life.
Theresa Murphy, Precious Life Shelter
At Foundation House, we use every opportunity -- in classes, in the house, and through special activities like parades and advent celebrations -- to help our ladies build new, happy memories of Christmas. To both understand the Savior behind the celebrations as well as to learn how to build happy family traditions for themselves and their children. For many of our girls, this is their first Christmas without pain or trauma. It's important for them to each learn that there is another way to live - and that they can choose the stable, healthy way.
Suzanne Burns, Foundation House Ministries
Christmas is a favorite time of year at Hannah’s House. We are so blessed! Students from a local college come in early December to decorate the house inside and out. Local churches and civic groups request “wish lists” for resident and their babies (born or unborn), assuring that each has gifts under the tree Christmas morning. Other donors fill our storerooms with enough baby items and paper goods see us through until summer. Lest we overlook the real meaning of this season amidst all of this activity, our most cherished tradition is the reading of the Nativity story. Residents and staff pass around the Bible, each reading a verse by flashlight in a room lit only by Christmas lights.
Andrea Popielski, Hannah's House of Michiana
Christmas centers on Jesus and family traditions and because we use a Christ centered, family model, this is a special time of year for our house families to share special traditions with their residents and give them seeds of faith that will hopefully take root and grow as they leave LifeHouse. Of course Mary’s pregnancy being “unplanned” and her giving birth to the Savior of the world truly ministers to the hearts of our girls.
Sue Baumgarten, LifeHouse of Houston
We had a beautiful Winter Wonderland event at our Family Outreach Center this year. There was petting zoo with pony rides. Parents were able to make blankets as gifts for their children. Children made body scrub and Christmas cards for their parents. Volunteers made a pancake breakfast. Families left with a food box and children left with a book and dental supplies. It was a great way to build social connections and create an atmosphere for positive parent/child interactions.
Laura Magruder, Maggie's Place
Christmas is a special time at SOLVE Maternity Homes. The season helps to further bring our residents into relationships with Jesus Christ, while offering an opportunity (through Christmas) for many of them to see what they have not seen before. We point out at SOLVE's large annual resident Christmas party, that - as they have - Mary had a choice and we ask, "What if Mary had said NO? Would God have then chosen another Mary?" We do not know, but God does! HE knows every path we'll follow and because of this God knew that while Mary would ponder this choosing of her, Mary would respond - as they have - in the affirmative. This revelation is a special programmatic component for SOLVE, best seen through Christmas.
Brian Kerwin, SOLVE Maternity Homes
Yesterday, a young couple was in my office to learn more about our adoption process. One of our 15-year old residents was in the middle of decorating our Christmas tree and she had beautiful Christmas music playing. After I had finished my meeting with the young couple and they were walking out, the young woman doing the decorating asked if they were by any chance wanting to adopt a child and they said "Yes, that is why we came here today." She said to them, "Several weeks ago I had a beautiful son and I placed him for adoption. It was the most wonderful thing that I could have ever done--for myself, my son and the adoptive family!! I will pray that you will have the opportunity to love a child as much as the adoptive family loves my son."
It was a small Christmas miracle to hear her to tell story with such conviction.
Later that day, I received an email from the adoptive couple. It read: "Thanks for meeting with us. When J. and I left, we both were overwhelmed with emotion. He turned to me and said, 'This is where we are supposed to be.' We both know this is only the first step of a long journey and it might not end with the outcome we're hoping for. W are just grateful for an opportunity to potentially help a mother give her child a good home."
I thank God for all the "God Moments" -- just like this one -- that I have been given from my work with Lifehouse!!
Joan Smith, Lifehouse