Blessed by Autumn: A ministry in message
Melissa Pegram has launched a business that does far more than make a house a home.
It pays forward the legacy of her daughter Autumn.
Called “Blessed by Autumn” from the outpouring of love she and her husband, Toby — Triad’s middle school pastor — experienced on their “Pray for Baby Autumn” Facebook page, the business began Feb. 11.
“I came up with the name after I saw the number of people on the Facebook page who were blessed by her life in prayer and the many stories they told of how it had brought them closer to the Lord,” Melissa says.
She and her mom, Sheila Williams, launched Blessed by Autumn on the four-month anniversary of the close of Autumn’s 8-day life, which touched people far beyond the Piedmont.
“Autumn Kay Pegram was born Oct. 3 at 8:33 a.m. and weighed 7 pounds and 6 ounces,” Melissa recalls. “After three days, she went to the hospital because of seizures that finally removed all brain activity. During those five days in the hospital, nearly 2,000 people were in prayer for her, including in Alaska, Mozambique, the United Kingdom, India, and several other countries and U.S. states.
“Many people told us they got on their knees for the first time to pray because of Autumn. We were truly blessed by that.”
Adds Sheila, “We thought maybe we could do this as a business and honor Autumn by giving people a little bit of the joy she brought to so many through her life.”
The two call their hand-painted custom wooden signs “Joyful Creations,” and they’ve made 60 to date — from funny to inspirational, and for a wide variety of rooms, decors, and occasions.
For a Disney fan, they painted a sign with 16 different fonts, one each for a classic song title. For someone whose father loved the hymn, they made another sign with the “The Old Rugged Cross” title and lyrics.
They work on the business about four days a week, spending four to five hours daily. They’re averaging about six orders a week and have shipped signs as far as Florida and Oklahoma.
They pray together over each sign, and include a personal note or card with each to remember Autumn and share their faith. Her picture and one of the first signs Sheila made for her nursery adorns one of the walls of their workshop.
The sign’s verse, 1 Samuel 1:27a, is their theme verse, “For this child, I have prayed.”
Melissa says Sheila is the crafty one so she does much of the painting after they stencil the designs. Melissa builds the frames for the signs out of wooden pallets.
The two say the work has further strengthened their relationship.
“We get to work as mother and daughter and share our love for Autumn and lots of one-on-one time,” Sheila says. “We’ll sit on the back deck and paint and talk. It’s been wonderful.”
The business has given Melissa an outlet as she stepped away from her position in nursing at Brenner Children’s Hospital after Autumn’s death. Her son, Grayson, enjoys the regular trips to grandma’s house too.
“I needed time to heal,” she says. “When we started, we didn’t think we’d have a lot at first but have been amazed by the word-of-mouth through the Facebook page, number of sign requests, and how they’ve been received.”
If the business continues to grow, Melissa and Sheila hope to donate part of each sale to Samaritan’s Purse Ministries to support its work spreading the gospel overseas.
The ministry of message already is having the same effect on these shores. Signs under construction for Triad Baptist Christian Academy and the church office will soon add new messages to that chorus.
“Since the signs are custom made, the great part is that we have a lot of flexibility in the message and art,” Sheila says.
Adds Melissa, “You may be not able to buy a sign that says ‘The Old Rugged Cross” but we can make one! Through what we make together, Autumn’s legacy of bringing joy to others’ lives on.
“It’s our hope that these inspired creations bring the people who order and use them the same joy that she gave to us, and are similarly used of God.”