soapbox friday: in which I am pro-life

Friday, July 31, 2015

My facebook feed is overtaken with Planned Parenthood haters. Truth be told, that recent video makes me feel ill. It's callous, and it breaks my heart that human beings can speak so callously of other humans. I want to hate that woman and all she stands for.


Personally, I'm not a Planned Parenthood hater. I have mixed feelings about this agency. They provide services to women that literally no one else is doing in many, many areas. (Fact Check: Abortions are only 3% of their total services, and by law, no federal funding is permitted to be allocated for abortive services.) They provide contraception, STD testing, ultrasounds, prenatal care, counseling, and so many other necessary services. I have three different friends who were helped in a very specific way by this agency. After rape. After an abortion. After an unplanned pregnancy. They went to Planned Parenthood because their own churches and Christian schools would give them no assistance. You tell me who the callous, hate-filled agency is in those instances. 

That said, it's really all this call for this to be our "moment", for this to be a galvanizing incident for the pro-life movement that's getting me at this particular moment. It's often coupled with ideas of ways to help, most of which do not even begin to address the real problems that lead to abortion. Frequently, it's accompanied by graphic descriptions of what happens to babies when they are aborted. It's awful and makes the stomach churn.

Are you horrified by the description of what happens to babies during an abortion? Me too. But let me tell you about what happens to many of those same babies that aren't aborted. 

Let me tell you about a child who was duct-taped naked to a child's potty so tightly and for so long (more than a full day, actually) that her legs lost circulation and turned blue.

About a child who, as a preschooler, was forced to scrounge for food in the trash to feed herself and her siblings while they were alone, without food or diapers, for hours and hours on end.

What about a child who was walking barefoot through dog and human feces in a home that was so bad that the social worker, who has seen many a dirty home, literally vomited upon entering?

Let me tell you about a child who was not only forced to watch her mother engage in sexual acts with her boyfriends while she was four and five years old, but was also forced to engage in sexual acts herself with those boyfriends.

Or a kid who was locked in a bathroom with only bread crusts to eat.

Or a baby who had a gun pulled on him with threats of murder.

Or a kid who entered foster care with bruises still on their back from abuse that had occurred SIX WEEKS earlier.

What about the baby who had an open sore on the back of her head from sitting in her carseat 24 hours a day? Never picked up. Never cared for.

Let me tell you about what it feels like for a child to know that their mother doesn't want them. Or to know that their parents have chosen drugs again and again and again.

Does that horrify you? Does it? My experience is that most people are more horrified by the thought of abortion than the reality of what these children live through. These are some of the kids that we've met. That we've parented. That's the reality of what it looks like when women choose "life" instead of abortion. This should horrify you. You should want to throw up when you read this, same as when you read the descriptions of what abortion entails.

Are you pro-life? Really?
Because it's about more than calling your congressman. Or funneling money towards that one pro-life women's center in the area. It's about more than sharing articles on facebook.

It's about supporting policies that help women at risk. Expanding government services to those most vulnerable. It's about all of those policies that people love to get angry about: legally mandating that contraceptives are provided free of charge, not requiring drug tests for women to receive food and medical services, paying for mental health care, expanding early childhood education services, providing bus passes, parenting classes, in-home parent aides, and drug rehab. It's about opening more domestic violence shelters, more detox centers, dumping minimum sentencing, allowing felons more rights, and more. 

It's about stepping up and caring for the children whose mamas chose life instead of going through with the abortion. That means exposing yourself and your children to the ugliness of life, yes. It means bringing traumatized, terrified, abused, and neglected children into your safe cozy home. It makes your home less safe, less pretty, more chaotic, but it's what it takes to love and heal a child.

It's about continuing to live in your neighborhood where the neighbors use too much bad language, where the house across the street deals drugs out of their bedroom window, where children come to your door and into your yard at all hours, where your stuff gets stolen out of your cars and garages instead of moving to the country where it's quiet and safe and you don't have to worry about those things. It's putting yourself in the midst of it so you have a chance to make a difference.

It's not about adoption usually. It's about being willing to put your own savior feelings of rescue on the line to commit to help a family do what it takes to remain together and become a safe place for one another. It's about allowing a single mama to live in your extra bedroom. It's about driving her to appointments. It's about providing a dad with a job and very likely, the transportation to get there. It's about loving a child like they came from your very own body, yet still being willing to say goodbye forever when they are ready to move back home to the family they are intended to be a part of.

If you're not willing to be horrified by what these children go through, if you're not willing to step up and put your lives on the line for these women and children, then I would challenge you that you might not be truly pro-life at all. Don't mistake me. I hate that abortion exists at all. Hate it with every part of my being. Life is sacred. ALL of life is sacred. But until we wake up to what's really going on here, until we stand up for what matters most with our hands out in service and surrender to help those who need it the most, saying we're pro-life is just lip service.

Make it real.

Faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:17

learning in solitude

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I've been in such a long season (at least it feels long) of holding things tight to my chest, of feeling like I have no safe and secure place to lay it all out there. Every time I speak, I hear the hesitation. The carefully masked words. The vague answers. It's not really who I want to be. It's not really who I am deep inside, but for some reason, there is still something there holding me back. For what? For comfort? For safety? For pride? 

Simultaneously, I feel myself living in greater vulnerability in my alone times. My conversations with God have never been deeper and more fulfilling. Never more honest. Never more demonstrative. It's a weird dichotomy. Perhaps it's the ebb and flow of life - greater vulnerability in one place while drawing back in another. I find myself weeping alone much more often than I cry in public nowadays.

This season of solitude is drawing me deeper, for sure. I've been learning in some very precious ways throughout the past six months that God loves me. Intimately. Deeply. Passionately. It's hard for me to rest in that. I'm a helper, by nature, and sometimes, ok, often, I take my internal value from that instead of from who God made me to be. To BE, not to DO. I search for value outside myself which sets me up for catastrophic failures. Like cake throwing

Then, in my quietness, I read these words, and my soul resonates with the truth of them:
"In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us.  In solitude we can listen to the voice of Him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It's there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received. In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness..."
Henri Nouwen

My worth. My life. It's a gift I have received. It's a gift to be shared with others, and when I rest in the love of the One who knows me best, that's when the words flow freely. That's when the love inside of me wells up to those around me. No more throwing cake. I am set free.

food fights

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

This past weekend has been extremely full of emotion for all of us. Our Very Big Thing is looking just as impossible as ever, and we have no idea how to feel about it. We have a child who has been in a funk for quite awhile, and things continue to digress between us. As if the continued propensity for running away isn't enough (go ahead and ask me about how I felt when I found said child walking down the busiest major road in our area), things really just came to a head yesterday when I threw a piece of cake at this particular offspring.

You read that right.

I       threw        a            piece         of         cake.

Someday, I'm sure my children will look back at their time at home with their mother and talk about my gentleness and self-control. How long-suffering I was. How I was the calm and steady center of the family. I'm pretty sure that's what they're going to say.

The thing is, this parenting thing is just so very hard, and parenting kids from hard places is even harder. It's hard to explain to parents of kids who have not been through quite as much trauma, because behaviors sometimes look very much like "normal" child behaviors. I wish I could remember exactly where I read it, but someone once described parenting children from hard places as parenting with a highlighter. The words (behaviors) might look the same, but everything is highlighted in neon yellow. There's just something intensifying all these normal looking behaviors. That's our lives right now.

It wears on me. Not only does it take a tremendous amount of emotional and physical energy, not only does it take way more time than anything else in my life, but it also brings me face to face with the ugliest parts of myself. The parts where the child who struggles to believes themselves worthy brings me face to face with my own struggles with worthiness. I'm supposed to be the one teaching them, reassuring them that they are special, that they are  loved, that they are intrinsically worthy, and I can't even believe it about myself. I lose my cool. I yell. I throw cake at my kid.

Let me not delude myself - these moments are not my finest moments,
but instead of thinking all the things that I tell my child over and over,
things like...
our behaviors are not our identities
everyone messes up. we say we're sorry, and we move on.
we can always start again
you are special
you are loved no matter what....

Instead of that, my inner dialogue much more resembles this:
you are the worst mother in the world
no wonder they hate you
their first moms would be horrified to know you're treating them this way
maybe the powers that be made the wrong decision when they decided you could parent this child

and most often:
you are not worthy of love

It's a humbling thing to have your worst behaviors on display for your children to see. It's terrible to realize just how close I am to the most hateful of behaviors on any given day. Coming face to face with all the ugliness in my heart that I thought I had dealt with, but instead is now spewing out at the ones I love the most is awful. I'm scared to think about how my behavior can further harm my child and break their little hearts wide open. Beyond that, I don't like to think of myself as internally fragile, and yet, here I am struggling with the same things as my littles.

Am I good enough?
Will you love me even when I treat you like crap?
Do you still find me precious and beautiful even my behavior is ugly beyond belief?
Am I worthy?

I guess I'm not writing this tonight to just let you see the vulnerable questions of my soul. Or to just give you the assurance that you are a better parent than me. (Did you see the part about the cake? You are a better parent than me.) Really, what I want you to know is that this stuff is hard, and it's ok to admit it. It might not be as visibly hard as someone else's hard, but the minute we start comparing, everybody loses. If you think your stuff is hard, guess what? IT IS. Your stuff is hard. Your feelings are complicated. Some days you are winning, and some days it is utter failure. But you're not alone. I'm right there with you, and my guess is that we're not the only two. So let's do this together.

photo credit: Rainbow Cupcake via photopin (license)
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