"Everything about it swells with hope."

I gave birth to my first child, my daughter, six days before Christmas, and Advent hasn’t been the same for me since. In churches, Advent is the season that leads up to Christmas. It’s a time of anticipation and waiting. During Advent, many Christians await the arrival of God’s presence and watch for signs of the Divine birthing something new and wonderful in the world now. We look for ways to co-labor with God to bring Her holy dreams for creation to fruition. When I was pregnant during Advent, I felt a special kinship with Mary, Jesus’ mother. I awaited the birth of my child as I read stories of her awaiting the birth of hers. As I counted the days to Christmas, I also counted down the days to my own due date. Inches added to my expanding waistline causing me to feel more exposed, and I could easily imagine how vulnerable she must have felt as her own growing belly came under public scrutiny.

That year Mary’s fears and hopes, her doubts and determination became deeply personal for me. Mary with a belly swollen with budding life embodied the hope of Advent as well as the empty manger, a shining star, or the Advent candles we lit each week. Many ministers wear a stole during worship services to provide visual reminders of the church seasons. A stole is a long band of cloth that drapes over the shoulders and hangs in front of the body, kind of like a long scarf. Stoles often match the color of each season of the church year, and they sometimes contain words or images that connect with the meaning of the season. The color for Advent is purple. Since the year that I gave birth to my daughter six days before Christmas, I have wanted a purple Advent stole bearing the silhouette of Mary’s pregnant belly.

After Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, Threads by Nomad offered to take extra commissions in order to help the gifted refugees who work for the company to recover their personal losses from the hurricane. I thought, “Now is the perfect time to create the stole I’ve wanted.” I sent Nell my idea. She, of course, dreamed up a lovely design. We collaborated to select colors, textures, and the overall design. Nell thought to have Atia embroider bright stars on the stole, as well. The finished product exceeded my expectations. It is stunning!

Each time I wear my Advent stole, I am reminded of the kinship I felt with Mary when we were both pregnant. I also remember that my stole was handmade by talented refugees who are building a home in a new country. I give thanks that Threads by Nomad provides them opportunities to use their gifts and creativity, and Threads honors their employees’ gifts by paying them a living wage for their impeccable work. I smile every time I see my Mary stole hanging in my office. Everything about it swells with hope.

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