St. James Elementary School principal Felisa McDavid and her husband, Ray, were crushed when their son, Treylind, arrived stillborn.
Every year on her stillborn son’s birthday, Felisa McDavid blesses an unsuspecting mother and her newborn son with a gift bag full of baby items.
McDavid’s son, Treylind, was delivered on Sept. 26, 2001, in a hospital near Charleston, her hometown. McDavid and her husband, Ray, were crushed when he arrived stillborn.
“I had a couple of miscarriages before we conceived him,” says McDavid, now a Forestbrook resident. “Losing him left me very distraught, of course. And I was not able to conceive after that; I’ve not been able to have children.”
As she mourned the loss of her son, friends and family tiptoed around her wounded heart. She couldn’t bear to hear about other pregnancies or deliveries, attend baby showers or share in the joys of other mothers with newborns. She steeped in grief for years.
“It’s been quite a process to get to the point where I could even talk about it,” she says. “Even members of my family were reluctant to tell me about their pregnancies.”
The McDavids desperately wanted children after they married on June 20, 1998.
An educator with a love for youngsters, McDavid has worked with children for 28 years. She now serves as the principal at St. James Elementary School in Myrtle Beach.
After several miscarriages, the loss of Treylind following a full-term pregnancy left the couple bereaved and broken.
Felisa McDavid questioned how losing her son fit into God’s plan for her life. She asked God for direction on how to deal with the void and her feelings of hopelessness.
Although others in her situation might have chosen to adopt a child or give to charities, McDavid says she didn’t feel led in either of those directions.
Instead, she was pulled somewhere else – to the hospital where she’d lost her son.
“I wanted to know what I could do about this void,” she says. “I’m always trying to give back, and I’ve always loved children.
“God spoke to my heart. He wanted me to revisit the hospital where I’d lost my child. While I was there, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to give something to one of these children?’”
As difficult as it was to walk into the nursery that first time since losing her son two years before, McDavid knew it was exactly where she needed to begin healing.
On the third anniversary of her son’s death, McDavid brought a gift bag to the hospital and gave it to a woman who had given birth the day before.
“We talked and I shared with her my experience,” McDavid says. “I had the gift in my hand. I asked her if she’d receive the gift. She said, ‘Yes, and thank you.’ I cried. She cried.”
A ministry was born.
The following year, McDavid, who moved to Horry County in 2003, reached out to the team at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital to tell her story and explain her interest in continuing her work at the hospital.
“They just received me so well,” she says. “The nursing team made me feel good about what I was doing.”
Her visit in September 2019 marked the 14th year McDavid has stopped by Tidelands Waccamaw on the anniversary of her son’s stillbirth to deliver a gift bag filled with rattles, bibs, onesies, stuffed toys and other items.
Every bag also contains an inspirational message from McDavid about the loss of her son and how the gift bag is a way to honor his memory by blessing another child.
Susan Follrod, a charge nurse at Tidelands Waccamaw, works with McDavid and the hospital’s labor and delivery team to arrange the gift deliveries year after year. Follrod also knows McDavid in her role as principal at St. James Elementary, where Follrod’s children attend school.
“It demonstrates that tremendous good can come from tremendous loss.”
“I am amazed and humbled by Felisa and her faith, as well as the way she turned a tragedy into a blessing for others,” Follrod says. “It’s truly inspiring. I feel very fortunate knowing her, and how lucky the students, parents and staff of St. James Elementary are to have her as their principal.”
Shelly Laird, director of women and children’s services at Tidelands Health, says McDavid’s efforts speak to the resiliency of the human spirit and helps raise awareness about the tremendous impact of losing a child.
“I was touched to hear about it,” Laird says. “It demonstrates that tremendous good can come from tremendous loss.”
One mother’s loss is another mother’s blessing
For McDavid, the most rewarding part of her mission is the opportunity to meet the mother and infant who will receive her gift bag.
“There’s a connection I make to each child every year, and I pray for them on that day,” she says.
McDavid believes God allowed her loss so she could minister to others experiencing the pain she knows all too well. When a friend lost her child a few years ago, McDavid used her experience to offer comfort and support.
“I know the Lord does things for a reason,” she says. “I’ve gone through this process so I can help others. It truly makes me feel good that I can bless another mother.
“And actually, it blesses me more than I can ever bless them.”
For years, my husband would say after we returned from the church, “I thought the sermon was good.” To that, I would reply, “I didn’t hear the sermon, as usual.”
As a person with a severe to profound hearing loss, I nearly left the church out of frustration and anger. In addition to hymns, spoken readings and testimonies, Christian worship focuses on the spoken word. As scripture says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
I am not alone in feeling discouraged by so much focus on the word of God and spoken words in the Christian tradition. Many people with hearing loss leave or disengage from their Christian faith.
But that doesn’t have to happen. As a theologian, I study how adults with hearing loss worldwide engage with their Christian faith through unique forms of worship and contemplative prayer, and I have found examples of holy people who experienced hearing loss.
Alienated in churches
One popular deaf Christian organization, Silent Blessings Deaf Ministries, estimates that as many as 4% of Christians worldwide are profoundly deaf. That number doesn’t include the people who have milder hearing loss, or older adults who experience hearing loss later in life. About 13% of Americans experience some hearing loss, which can affect their ability to participate in worship.
A 1997 National Council of Churches document on deafness describes the frustrations of people with conventional church services that emphasize spoken words. One woman who lost some hearing later in life said: “I was very active in the church, taught Sunday School for many years and served on the boards of various women’s groups. But then I started to lose my hearing and stopped understanding what was going on. I became very depressed and isolated. I don’t go to church any more.”
The biblical stories recounted in some scriptures also can feel alienating to deaf and hard-of-hearing people, according to theologian Wayne Morris.
In his 2008 book on deaf Christianity, Morris describes, as an example, how the story of Moses and the burning bush might be received in a deaf congregation. In it, Moses covers his eyes when he encounters God in the burning bush. Yet no person with deafness could stand to cover their eyes: Sight is what enables hearing-impaired people to navigate the world.
Other scriptures even name hearing loss as indicating separation from God. In Psalm 58:3-4, God’s chosen people of Israel are compared negatively to a deaf person. “The wicked go astray from the womb; they err from their birth, speaking lies. They have venom like the venom of a serpent, like the deaf adder that stops its ears.”
As a result of the challenges they face in churches that emphasize spoken words, deaf people might choose worship services led by deaf pastors, or hearing churches whose worship styles engage all five senses of the body rather than focusing on hearing alone.
A hearing church that adds a signing interpreter but that maintains reliance on spoken words isn’t necessarily being welcoming. This can make people with hearing loss feel like they need to be “fixed,” or “made able” to attend hearing worship.
A deaf worship service includes not only the deaf, but those who appreciate a worship that involves more than just the sense of hearing.
During a deaf worship service, praying happens with open eyes and with lots of signing. Hands are often raised up to sign a joyful “alleluia” to God. In fact, the whole congregation creates a mosaic of gestures that praise God. Silence is not required in order to hear the pastor speaking from pulpit.
People with hearing loss may find access to faith in the Christian tradition of silence, too.
The 20th-century monk Thomas Merton, who is known for his contemplative and mystical spirit, once observed the ways words can even divide people from God.
“When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other people, nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality,” he wrote in 1956.
Some deaf Christians see not hearing as a gift from God.
“He has created me with ears that hear what people REALLY say, for in my intensity to hear I listen not just with mechanically assisted hearing,” the deaf pastor Elizabeth von Trapp Walker said in a 1999 interview whether disability could be a gift from God. “I listen with my whole body. My eyes see the joy, pain and sorrow sometimes hidden in the words as the ears of my heart listen and read the body language of the speaker.”
For Christians like von Trapp and Merton, silence can enable a person be a better witness to the world around them.
The Catholic Church recognizes some saints who were deaf.
Saint Teresa de Cartagena, a nun who lived in 15th-century Spain, lost her hearing in childhood. She wrote “Grove of the Infirm,” a book about disability and faith, sometime between 1450 and 1460. Teresa writes of her deafness as a great good because it leads her toward God. “God has placed such cloisters on my hearing” so that she can “maintain complete silence in order to better understand” an inner spiritual life with God.
The 16th-century Saint Teresa of Avila similarly found her tinnitus – a ringing in the ears often associated with hearing loss – “no hindrance either to my prayer or to what I am saying now, but the tranquility and love in my soul are quite unaffected, and so are its desires and clearness of mind.”
An Italian woman, Benedetta Bianchi Porro, was recently declared blessed, a step before being named a saint, on Sept. 14, 2019. Porro experienced progressive deafness beginning at age 15 as a result of polio.
She sought healing in 1963 for deafness, along with other conditions associated with the disease, at Lourdes, a shrine in France that people visit in hopes of being healed of various diseases. While there, she wrote a letter to friend saying that she had received a miracle – not of recovery from deafness but of an understanding of the “richness of my condition.”
Porro isn’t the only Christian to learn that being deaf can deepen one’s faith. For me, finding a worship service that emphasizes all five senses and discovering that the silence I live because I am deaf has helped me embrace Christianity instead of leaving it behind.
Rather than fixing hearing loss or seeing deafness as a sign of God’s disfavor, the faith of deaf and hard-of-hearing Christians brings new understandings about God to the world.
Yet, 80% of people agree that most people won’t stick to their resolutions. This pessimism is somewhat justified. Only 4% of people report following through on all of the resolutions they personally set.
Based on our research, we propose a potential solution to the problem of New Year’s resolutions that people can’t keep: encouraging people to reframe their resolutions to emphasize purpose-based performance.
Why the failures?
What leads to so many abandoned New Year’s resolutions?
A large body of research on goal-setting and habits provides insight into the various reasons for failed resolutions.
Many people are not framing their resolutions in ways that will motivate them over time. For example, “exercise more” is a fairly clear directive, but it lacks depth and personal meaning that could help promote follow through. Overly simplified resolutions, such as “exercise more” and “eat healthier” contribute to the ongoing problem that emerges as early as mid-January each year: unintentional neglect of important self-improvement goals.
In the context of goal-setting for the new year, the concept of purpose-based performance becomes especially relevant. In our research, we have found that purpose-based performance is much healthier and more sustainable than outcome-driven performance.
The first thing to consider is your long-term goals, and how each resolution fits with those goals. Purpose-based performance includes goal orientation, or an internal compass that directs people toward some long-term aim. This orientation helps people organize and prioritize more immediate actions to make progress toward that aim. People who are goal-oriented and remind themselves of their “end game” live consistently with their beliefs and values and perform better on the immediate goals they set.
When setting New Year’s resolutions, many people end up with a long list of simple resolutions without thinking deeply about their rationale for each resolution, or where each resolution will take them. Linking an immediate goal with a longer-term aim can sustain progress. Thinking about who you want to become can help you decide which resolution(s) to take on.
Why is this personally important?
The next step to consider is why each resolution is personally meaningful for you. When people pursue personally meaningful goals, they are not only more intrinsically motivated but also find more joy in the process of goal pursuit. They are able to reframe challenges as opportunities for personal growth. In one study with elite athletes, we found that personal meaning helped them regulate their emotions when things didn’t go their way and display more patience as they pursued their goals.
Someone who pursues a goal for external rewards that are contingent on a particular end result – for example, validation that comes from winning – is likely to experience shame when they fall short of their goal. Even when they win, they may feel disappointed because the end result does not bring meaning to their life. This is exemplified by the “post-Olympic blues,” when Olympians experience depression after such a significant accomplishment.
Spend time thinking about your motivation for each resolution. Ask yourself, are you focused on a particular outcome because it will give you self-esteem, status or something else? It can be helpful to think about the potential meaning found in the process of pursuing a goal, regardless of whether you attain the desired outcome.
Who will be positively affected by this?
The final step is to consider who or what, beyond yourself, will be positively affected by your resolution(s). Desire to be a part of something greater than the self, or transcendent motivation, is beneficial for performance for several reasons.
Linking a resolution to transcendent motivation can be a powerful source of inspiration. Someone may link exercise goals to a charitable cause they care about, or they may think about how improving their health will make them a better partner, friend or parent. Research shows transcendent motivation improves self-regulation when things get dull or repetitive during goal pursuit, and it strengthens character virtues like patience and generosity. When someone’s transcendent motivation is prosocial in nature, they are willing to accept feedback about performance and receive increased social support in the workplace.
Think about the bigger picture. Consider whom you are helping with each goal. Potential impact beyond yourself is added fuel for your goal pursuit.
Reframing your resolutions
What might New Year’s resolutions that incorporate purpose-based performance look like? Using the three questions above, we have reworked three common resolutions to reflect purpose-based performance:
“Exercise more” becomes “I commit to working out two times per week so I can be more present and energized with my children, so they feel more loved and inspired by me.”
“Save money” becomes “I commit to saving US$100 per paycheck so I feel more secure in my role as a husband and father, which will ultimately benefit my family.”
“Lose weight” becomes “I commit to losing ten pounds so I feel more confident at work, and my coworkers will experience a more positive version of me.”
It’s that time of year again! December is here and so are all the many festivities of the season. But, what is all the fuss about?
Why do we do whatever it is that we do every year? What is the real meaning of Christmas? Of course, as Christians, we are aware that Christmas is the time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as depicted in Luke 2:4-19.
However, Christians and non-Christians alike celebrate Christmas in many ways, and the reason behind the celebrations vary from person to person. Some see it as a religious holiday, while others may view Christmas as a cultural holiday.
The way we celebrate Christmas varies throughout families and friends everywhere. Some families may have a grab bag event while another may simply have a potluck dinner and exchange gifts. However, there is one tradition that is starting to catch on and become more popular around the holidays, Christmas Service Projects (CSPs).
As a society, we seem to be more willing to exhibit acts of kindness toward one another during the holiday season, which would explain the growing popularity of CSPs. CSPs are generally designed to give people an opportunity to volunteer to help those who are less fortunate during the holiday season. It is an opportunity for us to “pay it forward” while realizing that the person who is volunteering could very well be in the same situation as the person who is in need.
The concept of CSPs certainly has its perks for people of all ages and is considered a gift that keeps on giving. When children participate in acts of service as an expression of celebrating Christmas, it has a positive effect on their grades, attitudes, and even self-esteem. In fact, research shows that volunteering as a youth leads to a higher quality of life as an adult.
“Volunteering leads to better health… Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer,” according to a report by the Corporation for National & Community Service.
Deuteronomy 15:10 (NIV) says, “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”
As Christians, we have a responsibility to freely give to others, paying close attention to our attitudes, and the way we give to others. A little further in Deuteronomy 16:17 (NIV) it reads, “Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”
Giving of yourself is a selfless act that is usually beneficial for the person receiving and rewarding for the person giving. Are you looking for CPS ideas for the holidays? Here are a few inexpensive ways to pay it forward in the coming weeks:
Make Christmas cards and send them to troops overseas.
Gather friends and family to volunteer at the local homeless shelter or food pantry for the holidays.
Pick up a few items at the dollar store such as stocking stuffers. Pass them out to the homeless, public service workers, or even a neighbor.
Design a card or special treat for the next Salvation Army bell ringer you encounter. Imagine how long they have been standing in the cold ringing a bell to try and raise money
Shovel snow for a neighbor, the elderly, a friend or a stranger, without receiving any monetary donation for it.
Help an elderly person hang Christmas decorations.
Decorate a tree in a populated area for people to enjoy. Don’t forget to take down the decorations when the celebrations are complete.
Have each person in your family commit to helping at least 4 people throughout the week. This will generate thought and conversation about serving others. Set aside some time to share your experiences and how you can carry these projects further throughout the entire year.
Turkey dinners, desserts for days, decorating the house, planning for parties, and power-shopping until the wee hours of the mornings — yes, it’s that time of the year. And just as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve come at the same time each year, without fail every holiday season, the very people you’re supposed to be cherishing are the ones who seem to bring you the most stress.
Unfortunately, the picture-perfect family dinner we see on television is not something that always translates to our personal situations. With crazy relational dynamics that can test one’s patience and sanity, there’s a bit of dysfunction in every family — and it’s often heightened during the holidays.
While on the surface certain family members may appear to be the enemy, they are people to whom God has connected you for a reason, and they’re often the first opportunity we have to learn to “love your neighbor.” As the old saying goes, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” With that in mind, here are five tips to help you navigate family drama during this most joyful season.
1. Learn how and when to say no. You can’t satisfy everyone in your family, and the quicker you realize that the better you and your family will be. Set boundaries for yourself and your personal relationships. With pressure to shop for gifts, attend holiday parties and family gatherings, as well as your usual everyday demands of work and family, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You have to remember that you’re just one person, you can’t do everything. You may not be able to go to every party that you’re invited to and you may even have to make adjustments to plans for traveling to see different relatives. Set priorities and stick to them.
2. Accept your family’s differences. We all have that aunt or uncle who drinks a little too much and lets their mouths get them into trouble. Or there’s the cousin who always comes late with the main dish — so the family is waiting for hours to eat. Whatever your family scenario, remember that we all have our own idiosyncrasies that can be irritating — and honestly we all probably have a bit of crazy deep down inside. It doesn’t mean you condone or agree with certain behaviors, but you just don’t let it hang you up. Don’t sweat the small stuff that you can’t change.
3. Keep it simple. Whether it’s with gift-giving, hosting a family gathering, or cooking a dish for a family potluck — make it easy on yourself. While you may want to stick to traditions, it’s okay to make adjustments. Instead of cooking, maybe you can buy a prepared dish. You may want to do it all on your own as your mother did back in the day, but know that it’s okay to ask for help. Get other family members involved with planning and preparing holiday meals or gatherings. When it comes to gifts, stick to a budget. Be real about your financial situation; if you can’t afford to buy everyone — or anyone — a gift, it’s okay. Your presence really is enough.
4. Keep conversations light. Avoid hot-button issues during the holidays. Keep conversations light and focus on the good. Trying to flesh out unresolved conflicts at the dinner table is probably not a good idea — especially because of the spirit of the season. Try to find things that you have in common with your loved ones and bring those elements into your conversations. Often tension and angst arise from misunderstandings and miscommunication. Find common ground, which will help in the end to build stronger bonds that last beyond the Christmas dinner at Granny’s.
5. Take time out for yourself. Focusing on everyone else, it’s easy to forget about yourself. If it’s no more than 15 minutes or an hour, take some time for you. Do something you want to do. Seeing a movie, reading a book, journaling, exercising — whatever you need to do to tend to your mind, body, and soul do it. Even Jesus needed some time alone.
The Real Reason for the Season
When it’s all said and done, remember what the holidays are really all about. Taking time to be thankful for the blessings in your life, celebrating the birth of Christ and looking ahead to the New Year, it’s a time to reflect and put things in a proper perspective.
After all, Jesus had supper with Judas (who betrayed Him) and Peter (who would later deny Him). If He can forgive and show love, shouldn’t we follow His lead and extend grace to those special relatives who annually work our last nerve?
So how do you survive the stress that the holidays can put on family relationships? Share your thoughts and tips for coping below.
At times in your life, you may feel like you’re in a rut. You’ve got a great job, attained a degree or two, but something is holding you back from reaching your real God-given purpose. For some reason, you just don’t feel fulfilled. Maybe you’ve tried to read self-help books or be inspired by successful business leaders in the past but nothing has spoken to you spiritually. Dr. Ray Charles may have the roadmap you need to make a lasting, meaningful, and righteous change. In his book “Enough IS Enough: What’s in Your S.H.O.E.?,” Dr. Charles openly shares how he overcame his own personal and professional struggles and outlines a method that takes readers on a journey of looking inward and authentically about themselves and what pebbles are hindering their success.
UF: When you’re doing all the things that you were told to do — you go to school, you get your degree, and you work hard — what is the missing piece that keeps people from feeing fulfilled?
DC: I’m going to share with you something that I don’t believe I shared in my book. My best friend was a two-time Super Bowl champ — Chicago Bears and the New York Giants. After the N.F.L., he decided to enroll in the Harvard Executive M.B.A. program. He aced that program. Then, he took a company from $5 million in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to 65 million in five years. He had the “Midas Touch,” everything he touched turned into gold. And then he hit a precipitous fall. The business took a turn. He committed suicide. He had C.T.E., which is the concussion the player had in the Will Smith movie (Concussion 2015). The gentleman reached for a gun and the movie ended and everyone knew that it was suicide. That was my best friend Dave Duerson. Why did I share that story? It’s because he had one of the highest IQs that I know of. Just through the roof. He knew his business acumen. When the pain came and when the storm came, what he tried to reach for didn’t necessarily sustain. College prepares you for the “what” but not the “who.” So companies have a business plan, a marketing plan, a strategic plan, a sales plan, and all of the other plans. But college doesn’t prepare you for a personal plan. So how do you navigate your way when you hit the bumps in the road? Most of us tend to look at things external to combat those bumps, when in fact it’s not external, it’s internal. And that’s what the “who” is.
UF: Is there a particularly emotional intelligence issue that people have difficulty getting over? Something that you see more often than others?
DC: I think what people have difficulty getting over is the depth. Because in order to get to the “who” it goes through the cross. You gotta go through Calvary to get to the “who”. People don’t want to give that up. In order to get to the “who,” you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone.
U.C.L.A. did a research study that shows leadership success comes down to two things — intellect and how do people feel when they experience you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be physically entering the room. It could be, how do people feel when your name shows up in someone’s email inbox? So according to this research, 93% of leadership success depends on how people feel. People have to experience the authentic you that was designed by God. It has to be a pursuit of, “What is my divine purpose?” When I come to terms with that, and when I walk into a room, it’s going to cause a certain sense of joy and peace, gladness and engagement. Most folks spend their time going after the 7%, which is the intellect. So we have leaders of nations and businesses, very smart people who are suffering.
UF: In your book, you talk about what has hindered your success both personally and professionally. How were you able to make a successful shift in your life?
DC: I was arrogant. I changed when I saw right before my eyes a mirror of who I was. But after that change was a transition. The event was the change. I went on an “in-venture” — an internal adventure. I went on that In-venture to discover, “Ok, how do I get out of this? How do I make this habitual? How do I make this a lifestyle?” I thought I was confident. My wife was like, oh, no brother you are arrogant — and then my fraternity brothers validated that. I was like, okay, I get it. I get it. How do I change? Show me the proof of change and the proof came in the Word. That was the event. Change is external, but transition is internal. The transition, that journey, is what S.H.O.E. is about. I’m taking folks through a journey, but change happens in an instant.