A few months ago, I saw a post on social media about a precious little two year old named Vivian. Vivian had recently experienced an intense surgery which required a long stay in the hospital during her recovery. Her mother, Ashley, was also mama of two other kiddos.
As a fellow mama, my heart went out to the family during this difficult season and I felt a tug on my heart to send them a laurelbox. I walked into my shipping office, and looked around. And while there were a few items that could work to send, I suddenly realized that our shop was lacking the perfect gifts to send someone spending a season in the hospital, dealing with chronic illness, battling cancer, or experiencing prolonged illness.
Immediately, I knew I wanted to make that change. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work creating a laurelbox that would offer tangible comfort.
As I was brainstorming, I knew we had to offer a luxuriously soft blanket that would feel like a gentle hug on a rough day. I've been a loyal customer of Saranoni's luxury blankets for years and I reached out to them to become a distributor. Saranoni, like laurelbox, is a small, family owned and faith based business. In fact, the Peterson family, who owns Saranoni, have experienced the pain of miscarriage and the loss of their son, Ezra. After reading of their faith in Christ through those losses, we knew that adding Saranoni to the laurelbox shop was beyond perfect.
I also wanted to create a gift to send baby Vivian that would bring her a sense of excitement or joy, be easy for her mama to carry to appointments in her bag, and allow her to play with it alone or with family. Johanna and I set to work designing a boutique style handmade Nature Matching Game. We even personalize each game with one set of the child's initial!
Lastly, I wanted to offer a gift for Ashley, Vivian's mom. That mama was going through so much, caring for her three little ones while one was spending a month and a half in the hospital. I wanted to acknowledge, from one woman to another, what she was going through and express that she was supported and loved. Our You Are Adored Travel Mug turns out to be the perfect option for lugging coffee or tea to the hospital. And you can't beat the You Are Adored Herbal Tea for calming nerves and nourishing depleted emotional reserves!
We also recognized that so many adults are currently waging an uphill battle with health issues or cancer, and we knew that so many could find comfort in a gift box designed for their needs. Our own grandmother is currently spending extended time in the hospital, so this curation of items was directly influenced by what we knew would care for her during her hospital stay. Our illness care gift boxes for adults include a Saranoni Blanket, an herbal tea, a travel mug, and our Lovely, Adored and Brave Tote bag.
Our family committed to praying for Baby Vivian, who is now out of the hospital and back home. We are so thankful to her and her family for inspiring us to create a gift that we hope will touch so many others!
"My daughter had an intense surgery in May that required a month and a half hospitalization. With a 2 year old in the hospital and 2 other littles at home, my husband and I had a lot of low points. Denise (who I have never met) reached out with this box to help comfort myself and my family. The absolute sweetest! It had the most comfortable blanket ever, perfect for my shoulders in that cold hospital. A delicious loose leaf tea and the cutest cup ever. She also included a wooden match game for my Vivian. Games were the best way to pass time in those four walls. Most of all,"it's the thought that counts". People kept asking us what we needed, but we just needed our baby home and prayers. The box was such a sweet, tangible item reminding us people (some that we hadn't even met before) were praying for us. It was special. It was comforting. It was appreciated. Thank you, laurelbox. I hope many other mothers in a tough situation feel the comfort I did from this box." -Ashley, Vivian's mom
Today's Meet the Maker features Jennifer Pressimone, the creator and maker of our essential oil blends. Jennifer is a holistic aromatherapist, herbalist, author, international educator and Teaching Diplomate of Spiritual PhytoEssencing. She owns JennScents, Inc. and JennScents Institute. JennScents, Inc. is a custom aromatherpy business, creating therapeutic products to meet client needs. The JennScents Institute is an Aromversity that offers a 248-hour holistic aromatherapy certification program, both NAHA and NCBTMB approved. Jennifer is a gifted and intuitive master aromatherpy blender and herbalist and we are so appreciative of her giving heart and commitment to the well being of others! We know you will love getting to know her more!
What accomplishment in your life makes you the most proud? This is a tough question. Of course there are events in my life that have brought me joy, from winning awards in elementary school, to graduating high school and college with honors, starting my own company, being a guest speaker (I had an extreme fear of public speaking), marrying my best friend, authoring several books, and helping family members through some tough health challenges. Although having milestone accomplishments is rewarding, I am proud of each and every challenge, goal and success I have ever experienced or endured. I don’t really compare accomplishments, as each one is different in some way. I am able to do my best in any given moment, with the tools I’ve gained to that point, operating in the environment of that time which afford me the ability to accomplish any goal I commit to. I feel like every day, I am someone new. Better for the people who have enriched my life, testimonies from clients, life challenges that me and my friends endure, and life lessons I’ve been blessed with. Every year, I reflect on my past experiences, to see what I can learn and take away so I can continue to be successful. This allows me lead forward and strive to be a better version of myself in the coming year, both personally and professionally. How can I strengthen my family life to serve me and them? How can I grow and develop my business to continue serving others to the best of my ability? I have been blessed so much throughout my life with many positive mentors and role models who inspired and encouraged me to learn all I could, practice my skills, and share often. This awareness to be grateful and appreciative of the blessings I have in my life, is a satisfying and proud accomplishment. Being able to pay forward my blessings and instill these virtues in the people I meet and connect with, is priceless.
A few weeks ago I walked into a yoga retreat, running kinda late and frazzled because I'm always late and always frazzled. I knew I was supposed to bring a journal, but I couldn't find mine anywhere... typical. In my rushing around, I saw it... a gray journal where I had poured out my heart in the lowest moments of my life. The gray journal where I wrote all my ugly and terrible moments. After I closed it, I had planned to never open it again. So when I realized that it was the only journal I could find, I felt kinda ticked. Why was this journal calling to me? Why was this darkness going to follow me to this retreat? Can't I have a damn minute alone where my story doesn't follow me?
But I took the journal, and I let it lead me. Before our teacher, Jen Pastilhoff walked in the doors, I had already read the entries. I wiped away my tears, hoping nobody saw me. I flipped many pages past my last entry in an attempt to separate myself from the truths sitting there.
But as is true for any soul crushing, it follows you. And on Saturday, with the help of Jen (who I flipping love), I opened up and became brave to look at the crushing. Where I once said "I'm not allowed to be happy," I am now saying "my brokenness makes me beautiful."
I remember in the middle of my lowest moments, I couldn't attribute meaning and purpose to the pain. But when I looked at others who could embrace their messy story, it gave me hope that maybe one day I could too. And I honestly never thought I'd find the day where I could find gratitude for my storm. It wasn't fast. It wasn't pretty. But here, two years later, I've found some beauty in the ugly. And I'm finding myself surprised at the sweet strange taste of gratitude.
What about your work makes you feel energized? Knowing that I am making something with a deep & tender purpose is humbling and gratifying. As I stitch these shawls I pray for the recipients & for the friends who are caring for them. Sometimes I use the inspiring words from the Bible in my prayers: “O Lord, be her light in this dark season “ Psalm 119:105. Prayers inspired by old hymns: “Be still my soul, when change & tears are past, all safe & blessed we shall meet at last.” Sometimes I bring simple but profound requests to the Lord: “help her take her next breath.....help her sleep at night.....let there be peace with other grieving family members....supply courage to face the next day.” I feel closer to God and feel a sense of purpose recalling the comfort He has given me as I reach out & help others along the path.
Hi beautiful people! Today's Meet the Maker series is going to feature... your's truly! Hahahaha. While it feels funny to say, I truly do make a huge amount of our products, so I figured... why not include myself in this series? So without further ado, here is a little sneak peek into myself, my work, and my life.
Tell us the story of how you got started in your work:
My story is the story of small pieces merging into a big vision. I spent a portion of my college years headed in the wrong direction. After a few years on campus, I withdrew from college and headed to Haiti to spend time as a missionary. And it's not a stretch to say that God grabbed my life in a big way during that time. I fell in love with the country, the people, and with God Himself. While I was in Haiti, I knew I had to change my life radically. God told me to leave my friends, and so I did. He told follow him radically, and so I did. And lastly... He told me to dedicate my life to loving and building up women, and so I did.
I went home in December of that year a completely different woman. I will never forget the reaction of my mother. She looked at me and asked me if she could travel to Haiti with me. She had to see this country that had so transformed her daughter.
So I went back with my mom to Haiti that June, and His calling to love on other women remained just as strong as before. But, in so many ways, I wrestled with how to live out this calling. I considered staying in Haiti and dedicating myself to those women, and so I came back to the US and began to pursue my Master's Degree in evangelism in Colombia, South Carolina. But something still wasn't quite right.
While I was wrestling through that calling, I joined a direct sales company where I grew and loved on a team of amazing women. I poured my heart out to these women, reflected Jesus as much as I could, and learned so much about how to speak a language of love to many different kinds of women. And even during these wonderful years, I still knew something was not quite right.
And then two years ago, one of my best friends lost her newborn baby, while another mama I followed on social media lost her precious daughter. I felt this immense tenderness for them, almost other-worldly in nature. I spent hours on the internet, reading blog after blog, desperate to walk with my friend through the darkness of child loss. And then, in a way that only God can orchestrate, one of my other dear friends shared her tender heart towards mothers of children with special needs. Our conversations about how to care for women were long and beautiful. And from those experiences and conversations, God nudged my heart to create a company that would remind His daughters who had experienced deep loss that they were not alone and they were loved. He had slowly guided me to where He wanted me all along.
Ummmmm....seriously most of my inspiration came because Jesus would give me a random thought. I would write it down and then continue to tweak it until I felt it was "right." Other product ideas come from a few brave and beautiful women who function as a sort of advisory board with us. They so openly share what nourished them during their losses, and we are so immensely grateful for them and their inspiration. God works in all sorts of ways.
We are honored to have Chelsea Ritchie guest blogging today. Chelsea shares her life and heart over at Trials Bring Joy, where she reflects on her experience with infertility and her relationship with her Savior. She is also an author of In the Wait, a devotional focused on helping women grow closer to God during seasons of wait. After nine years of infertility and multiple miscarriages, Chelsea and her husband are thrilled to be expecting twins. Chelsea is also hosting a giveaway of our "Ring with Hope" Christmas ornament and In the Wait. Head to her instagram page to enter the giveaway and to follow along with Chelsea.
At Christmastime, when my little sister and I were younger, we would play the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on repeat and reenact scenes of the song.
“Now you be the mom and I’ll be the daughter.”
“Now you be a soldier and I will be the family.”
“Now you be the husband and I will be the wife.”
And we’d sing it over and over and over again to one another with dramatic hand gestures and deep embraces, and by the end of each run through, our little 4 and 8 year old faces would have tears streaming down them, as we felt the sorrow in these lyrics. It was then, at a very young age, that I learned for some, the holidays may be really difficult and heart wrenching.
And yet, that truth became more real to us in 2012, when on Christmas day, after sharing the news of our first, long anticipated pregnancy with our families, I began to miscarry. And for us, our world began to mix with sloppy, unending grief on this very special day.
The Christmas’s after have been difficult. Memories of that first Christmas Eve, carrying our baby to parties and church services, without anyone knowing the joy inside me, were so special, yet heartbreaking. There was a new emptiness on Christmas now, a missing, a longing. Christmas Day would bring anxiety, random fear of going to the bathroom, so afraid to see blood, even though my womb was empty. This holiday of comfort and joy was laced with sorrow and tears. And yet, we threw smiles on our faces, afraid to let anyone know, afraid to even recognize the pain ourselves.
And for many of you reading this today, you understand. You go through the motions, bake the cookies, stuff the stockings, battle the shopping mall crowds, light the candle at church, and yet, inside your heart is aching and breaking, feeling the grief and longing for what could have been.
Friends, we have all learned that grieving takes time, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Around the holidays especially, we seem to put added pressure on ourselves to stuff the aching down, ring the bells and attend every event with a smile. But I am here to remind you today to take care of yourself. If you need to curl up on the couch and cry, do it. If you need to scream as loud as you can, bring a pillow into bed and scream. If you need to pick up a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and watch bad reality TV, eat away. If you need to invite a friend out to a comedy movie to laugh and laugh and laugh, call them. Be immensely gentle with your heart and give yourself the freedom to take care of you.
It’s hard to put yourself first, but healing comes when you allow yourself the chance to deal with it. Trust that those around you know you are doing the best you can.
For us, healing means taking our grief to the cross each and every day, leaving it at His feet and knowing that He can handle it, even if we have no words left to say. In the months and years following our first miscarriage, we lost another two babies. And I have learned that God is big enough for all my questions, compassionate enough to take me in His arms and hold me close, and gentle enough to speak truth into my heart, reminding me that even though to sorrow is great, He hasn’t forgotten us.
Many of us have a scar on our heart, of those who we have loved that are no longer with us. Those scars are beautiful, they will mark us forever, change us for the good. They show that we have loved deeply, but also, that healing is possible. So go ahead and have hope this Christmas season, that God is still good despite the pain, and that we are never, ever alone.
For weeks I've been planning to post today about Small Business Saturday and deals and discounts and new collections. But today I just can't. Because today surprised me as a crying day.
I spent the week of Thanksgiving with our best friends from the early years of our marriage. In our mid 20s, my husband and I lived in Washington D.C. Over one thousand miles from our families, and dripping with unencumbered free time, these friends became our family. Sitting in their living room and drinking wine in their kitchen, we became the people we decided to be. Together, we struggled at work and succeeded at work. We faced problems in our marriages and fixed it all again. We miscarried a pregnancy and got pregnant again. They held us together through it all. But then, after four years in this tight knit community, we announced our plans to move 2,000 miles to Colorado.
Our move set off a chain of events over the last five years that left us bruised and battered. The last year had been one of change as we move towards restoration. And overall, it's been a sweet redemption. But yesterday, dropping my friends off at the airport, I drove away in tears. Something about their presence reminded me of all that had broken, and all that still wasn't repaired. And sometimes, after years of living in the brokenness, you come to the hard conclusion that some things will never be restored to their former beauty. Some things come with scars. And hear me when I say that I fully believe that scars can line us and break us and be beautiful in their own powerful way. But sometimes, I still need a crying day because what I lost hurts.
So beautiful woman, if your holiday was good and beautiful but now you're a teary mess, I think the holidays can be a jerk like that. And if you're feeling disoriented because things are better some days and worse other days, I think life can also be a jerk like that. So today, I'm raising a toast to all of us who keep our chins up, but then sometimes let ourselves be human and turn our chins down. Life is the craziest and most confusing mixture of the good and bad.
And if you need me today, I'll just be here trying to recoup from my crying day. Sorry I never finished that gift guide I've been promising everyone. Sorry I have no awesome deals to share with you. Sorry I'm basically a mess right now. But two things I do know... naps help and retail therapy is real. It is Shop Small Saturday after all.
We are huge fans of a handmade and small batch aesthetic because after loss, it is important that each gift feels created specifically for you. We work closely with a group of women makers to provide our high quality goods that nourish aching hearts. The women we work with are the best, so we wanted to introduce these fabulous gals! Welcome to the inaugural post in our new Meet the Makers series.
Today, we are introducing you to the fabulous Molly Hatch. We fell in love with Molly's work while browsing Anthropologie. Cute ceramics with cheeky sayings, how can you not love it? Molly was born the daughter of a painter and an organic dairy farmer, which informed her creatively industrious spirit. It's easy to love her whimsically literal and pop-culturally on-point artwork. She launched her career in 2008 as a studio potter specializing in tableware and quickly gained high regard. These days you can find Molly's work on products from stationary to fabrics and more. She's a busy lady, with over 15 brand partnership and about to launch three forthcoming books. We connected with Molly when she answered our phone call to her studio. And guys. She's the real deal. She's so genuine and kind and creative and basically
all around brilliant. So without further ado, here's Molly!
Tell us the story of how you got started in your work. I studied art in college at the Museum School and Tufts University in Boston and went to the University of Colorado for ceramics as a graduate student, but my start really came when I was a little girl watching my mother and grandmother paint. I loved the process, the quietness and the concentration needed to draw and paint and even color. I think I have always known that I wanted to be an artist. My interest in ceramics came as a student—I loved that I could make drawings on objects that were functional.
What about your work makes you feel energized? My work really makes me happy—I love to think that my work can help brighten someone’s day or simply bring pleasure because its beautiful and useful.
What accomplishment in your life makes you the most proud (it can be personal or work related)? My daughter would have to be my first answer here—but the fact that I am making a living form my artwork is definitely a point of pride. When I set out to make this my career, I knew it would be hard work and that it would be a huge challenge to make a living, but here I am, doing it!
Molly created three of the ornaments in our new Holiday Collection, as well as our Forget Me Not collection of gifts. Tell us the story behind your products in the laurelbox shop. What purpose do you hope they serve the women who receive them? My hope for the products laurelbox and I have collaborated on is that they help cheer those in need of cheer, act as a reminder or provide a space for remembering and in general help heal.
What part of your own life story gives additional meaning to working with laurelbox? I love working with laurelbox because I completely understand the need for a more meaningful and poignant gift for friends and loved ones at a difficult time. I find that during a difficult time, many of us seek to comfort with grace and depth and I truly feel that laurelbox offers this to their clients.
If you've lost someone you love, the holidays can be downright hard. Maybe there's an empty chair at your table this year. Maybe there are traditions that won't be carried down after the loss in your family. Maybe there was supposed to be a baby but you carry them in your heart and not your arms.
We created this line of gifts specifically for those of you who ache at the holidays. You matter and your heartache matters and the love in your heart matters. We hope that these gifts can help remind you that you are loved and remembered.
Our new line of ceramic bells were handmade by Molly Hatch and honor the love, hope, and memory you hold. The bells feature plant dyed silk ribbon and a handmade ceramic bead. All part of our commitment to supporting other small, women owned shops.
And when you started asking us for our ornament from 2015, we knew we just had to bring it back! Each ornament is made of real birch wood and is then hand painted by yours truly (Denise) here at laurelbox.
We also designed a second ornament with a rewritten hymn to remember the ache in your heart while also clinging to the hope of our King at Christmas. Each linen ornament is hand sewn and embellished with gold beading and embroidery work. They're even more beautiful in person.
And finally, we absolutely love this holiday wall decor hanging created specifically to display your ornament collection. It's such a precious way to commemorate your loved ones, and we happen to be pretty obsessed with macrame these days. Each was handmade by Elizabeth McTague just for laurelbox.
We hope you love the new line as much as we do! Tell us your favorite piece below!
“I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve faced. I see you. I see your broken heart. I see my own, and I’ve seen the light. Take my hand. Let me show you the way."
Nearly fifteen months ago, I lost my son. He was six months and seventeen days old and his age didn’t even matter. From the moment I saw two pink lines, he swallowed me whole just as my older son did before him. I gave them both my whole heart in the way a parent does for each of their children, somehow giving all of themselves, multiple times over. When I lost my son in the early hours of the morning, the time when darkness and silence engulfs you, grief engulfed me. But when the sun rose, the darkness didn’t leave. I stayed in that silence as if I wrapped myself in a shroud. My vision, my senses, my very breath, smothered by the thick fog of a broken heart, of loss, of grief, of suffering.
I knew only a handful of people who lost a child before me. I remember googling that first day for answers, guidance, anything, as I shuffled around blindly making arrangements, doing stupid things that I hated like spending an afternoon sipping coffee in the basement of a funeral home. I would have burned every plastic floral arrangement I saw that day out of sheer rage. But I was too tired— mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically— to do anything but sit, walk, stand, and nod my head.
Within two months of his loss, I was flooded with thousands of mothers who had lost children. They reached out to me and swallowed me whole in their embrace because that’s what you do when you’re mothering a child in their death. You take the love you have for them— that all consuming love— and you swallow the world whole with it.
I found my home, my people, my tribe. I found this dreadful club of people who would give anything to change their story and bring their child back into their arms. There was no interest in being enlightened or enriched. We were unified in a single desire to just hold our child for at least one more breath, one more kiss, one more moment. And so, I ran to them.
It’s been fifteen months and the community of grieving mothers and grieving parents has been a saving grace in my life. They’re the ones who make me feel understood. The ones who “get” it— my pain, my hurt, my loss, my suffering. They’ve received me. They’ve loved me. They’ve carried me through.
Yet while I found a tribe of people whose scars matched my own, something unexpected happened. Compassion opened my eyes to so much more.
I write words. It’s something I stumbled into. I’ve written mostly about losing Charlie. It started as an outlet, as my way of mothering him in death. I’d spend late hours tapping away at the keys on my computer, justifying my exhaustion by reminding myself that if he were alive, I’d likely be up with him anyway. It’s evolved. And my life has unfolded, in ways that I wanted and in ways I did not desire at all.
My suffering has not been one-dimensional, as suffering often is not. My losses were compounded. I found myself walking through some of the most searing of life moments, trying as I could to keep my head above water, with a new understanding of the depths of despair of human nature. Suddenly, at a young age, I was wracking up life experiences that most people never have to nor wish to face- loss of a child, divorce. I was stripped of nearly everything I had. In that, even what I was left with, while it was good, I felt incapable of even functioning to live for it. Some days it felt nearly impossible to “show up” for my own life.
I’m not the person I was fifteen months ago, or a year ago, or six months ago. I’ve been refined by my experiences. I’ve been made richer by my losses. I’ve been shaped, molded, forever propelled by the existence and the time I spent knowing and now forever loving my little boy who I can no longer hold.
And in this newfound wisdom, this richness, this inspiration, my eyes have been opened to more than just my own pain. My heart has softened and extended a hand to others who have suffered, and not even in the same way.
I was welcomed in by my community, the ones I found a home with, the community of bereaved mothers. And in my suffering and in my healing and mending, a new sense of compassion has opened my eyes. I’ve seen so much more— I’ve seen a whole world of people all broken in their own way, all reaching out, searching through the dark, stumbling and desperately grasping for a hand to hold onto.
Suffering comes in all forms. While human nature may lead us to create a scale of which pains are greater or lesser, the truth is that pain is pain, and that no person can define or rate another’s pain or suffering.
Another foundational truth is this: no matter what we face, no matter how different our suffering or our brokenness may be from the person next to us, we have this: we all need a hand to hold on to. Regardless of if we suffer in the same way. Regardless of if our scars look alike. Regardless of where we’ve been, what our eyes have seen, what our future holds, regardless— because here is what I’m learning…
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you face. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter if your pain is different. It doesn’t matter if our scars don’t match. It doesn’t matter if on the human scale of pain, whether yours is greater or lesser than mine. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is this. Your heart. My heart. Both broken in their own ways. Both suffering in their own rights. Both needing another soul to reach out with genuine love, with authenticity, with togetherness. Both needing a hand extended. Both searching, in the darkness, digging for the light, stumbling at times.
It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from. It doesn’t matter what you’ve faced. It doesn’t matter how you’ve suffered. None of it matters. What matters is this. Suffering produces compassion and compassion produces bonds, bonds that are built between people have who have known brokenness, no matter the type, and who are pulling each other to hope, to mending, to so much more. We’re not going to go to simply stay in our separate camps. We’re not going to close our eyes and plug our ears to one another. I’m going to grab your shoulders, look you in the eyes, and tell you this:
“I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve faced. I see you. I see your broken heart. I see my own, and I’ve seen the light. Take my hand. Let me show you the way.”
Regardless of what we face or where we come from, take my hand. Together, we’ll find the way.