I was subbing for a first-grade class when I received a text message from an unknown number. It was from a family friend’s college-aged daughter seeking help for her friend considering an abortion. She knew that I had volunteered at the Women’s Help Center, a pro-life organization that supports women throughout pregnancy, and asked if I would be willing to speak to her friend so that she understood all her options.
Of course, I said yes. As implausible as it is to think any of us has the right to terminate life, it is a legal choice in our society. A choice that is clearly devoid of God who created us out of love and with the innate purpose to love. Taking God out of the miracle of motherhood feels illogical, but there are many who do. Even biologically speaking, motherhood is the most natural thing in the world. Not just our bodies’ ability to create life but the innate desire to protect, nurture, and sacrifice for our offspring. In the animal and the human species, this is the norm, and while it is standard it is also fierce. Everything else – including our own survival is secondary to the “it’s in our nature to nurture” phenomenon hard-wired in most living things. It hardly seems like a matter of choice.
Being in a room full of six-year-olds is a frenzy of joy. They are dynamic, unique, curious, and flat-out funny. They give spontaneous hugs, ask personal questions, listen attentively when a middle-aged woman talks about cats, and without hesitation trust you with their day. They are also complicated like the rest of humanity and will become increasingly so. Even as an outsider, I can see their proclivities, strengths, struggles, and basic need to be loved and accepted. They have a keen sense of the world around them. They are paying attention. They are fully alive. Each one a choice.
By the end of that school day, I learned that the woman made an appointment to have an abortion. She was still agreeable to speak with me and was supposed to call me the next day. She never did. Her friend explained to me that she didn’t want to be talked out of her decision. I called the young woman and assured her I was here if she wanted to talk, and would be after her appointment as well. Not to judge or lecture or to act like a caricature of a pro-life Christian in all the variances of absurdity they are portrayed as – but just to listen. My heart ached for the burden of choice this young girl carried. It would sound condescending to say the woman didn’t understand her choice; presumptuous to say abortion will affect her deeply, and Pollyanna to say that if she has her baby it will be full of giddy laughter and flying unicorns, when I know how gut-wrenchingly hard motherhood can be. Everything that can be said can be construed as flippant, dismissive, over-simplified, insensitive, or unrealistic. All the best words can come out wrong. Read more
During my senior year in high school, I had a small part in the school play, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. My role was of the scandalous secretary who was presumably having an affair with her boss. I wore a tiny off the shoulder black dress and slung my waist-length hair around with a flick of my wrist while hinting to the more dutiful office employee about my clandestine relations. That was almost 30 years ago and the only flicking of the wrists I do now is after washing my hands in the kitchen sink when I’m too hurried to use a dishtowel.
Unlike my children’s lives, mine isn’t particularly well-documented so when I came across an old VCR tape of the school play, I thought it would be fun to transfer it to DVD. The decades-old recording had aged much like the cast of characters it chronicled. Faces were a blur and I had to rely on sound more than sight to distinguish fellow classmates. It’s odd to think back that far, at how young we were, how sure we were, and how unsure we were. Dizzy hopes for the future dangled like a cliffhanger in the drama of our own lives. One of the boys who had a leading role in the play passed away last year. His grainy silhouette was punctuated by the boom of his voice. His animated gestures and rhythmic inflections belied the premature hush that came upon his life. It made me sad. Read more
My son was on one of those whirling amusement park rides that circled the clouds like a frenzied dog chasing its tail. Somewhere vertical in the sky he spun so fast that the metal contraption that contained him angled sideways – much like my stomach felt down below. I could barely stand to watch him, and I fervently prayed he wouldn’t end up with whiplash or vertigo or otherwise be thrust into outer space. I’ve always been the girl at the park who held the drinks, the jackets, and whatever else the “fun” people couldn’t take on the thrill rides. I am okay being this girl. I don’t feel even the slightest pang of regret for my union with solid ground. I hang out with squirmy toddlers in their strollers and watch pigeons as their heads bobble in search of food.
So, I don’t typically think of myself as brave. That’s a word I associate with the kind of courage it takes to ride a rollercoaster or kill a roach without screaming and spastically throwing shoes. I am not that girl either. I yell for my husband, sons, and even the cats (who look at me in disdain as if I’ve just equated them with some kind of animal). If no one is nearby, I resort to evacuating. I figure shelter is overrated and the roach can have my residence.
This year, I aim to be brave. This doesn’t have anything to do with rollercoasters or roaches, but instead, my relationship with God. For the last several years, I have focused on surrender. Surrender is one of those words that is easily confused with defeat. Yet in the battleground for our souls, Read more
All of the hoopla of a new year — a new decade can feel overwhelming like the throngs of crowds who enthusiastically greet it in celebration when the clock strikes midnight. This year I slept right through it. Partly because it makes more sense to start anew with a proper night’s sleep and mostly because I am just not that into the hype of a new year. I’m not interested in goal-setting or resolutions or crushing it (whatever “it” may be.) It’s not because I’m complacent or lack ambition or betterment. It’s just that for me, resolutions never seem to be the way to affect genuine life change.
By nature, I was always a rules person. I played by the rules. I made countless rules. I was disciplined (and neurotic) enough to think the criteria I set for my life was paramount to achieving success or at least to maintaining order.
Not in the span of a day or even a year, but in incremental shifts and small seemingly insignificant moments, I realized that however well-intentioned my resolutions were, they were feeding a mindset of unworthiness. Instead, I began to consider the threshold of unconditional love that is the basis of Christianity. I tried to wrap my head around the enormous truth of being loved right where we are and I started to question the motivations that ruled me. I came to know mercy in a meaningful way. I didn’t use it as a crutch to allow myself to do whatever I pleased. It wasn’t an invitation to complacency. It was motivation to stop putting emphasis on the worldly and pay more attention to the worthwhile. It was permission to let go of the perfect and find grace in imperfection. It was possibilities made endless through the merits of forgiveness, the boundless pursuit of compassion, and the insurmountable power of love.