Saturday, January 28, 2017

What Being Pro-Life Means to Me

If you are on social media, no doubt you've seen the recent increase of posts and articles concerning the issue of abortion. The pro-choice Women's March on Washington following the presidential inauguration contrasted by the pro-life March for Life shortly after on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade has propelled this decades-old debate into the spotlight once more. Opinions and passions run high from both viewpoints as people share the reason and rhetoric for their stance.

I must admit that I am among those that have been taking notice and using social media to raise my voice on this issue for which I am extremely passionate. My passion runs deep. For one, I am the mother of a beautiful little boy who happens to have Down syndrome. Statistically, the majority of women would have chosen to abort him. I also know the sting of personal loss at the hands of abortion. While I never have (and never will) have an abortion myself, I have lost family members at the hands of abortionists--family members I was not given the opportunity to know because they were not given the opportunity to live. I have witnessed first-hand the long-term regret and grief that rises from such choices, and I have had my own share of grief as a result. (I may write more about this in time...) Finally, as a Christian I believe that every life is knit together in the womb by the Author of Life, that every life holds immense and eternal value in His sight, and that every new life is a miracle, regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception.

One of the things that has struck me this week as I have scrolled social media and seen the various posts is that there is not only a debate between being pro-life or pro-choice; there is also a debate about what it actually means to be pro-life. It's got me thinking...

I noticed one article that was basically calling out white, conservative, Christians for not truly being pro-life. Since I match the above criteria, I was interested to see what the author had to say. Some of his points were valid. He made the argument that the conservative, pro-life view often only focuses on the birth of the child and not on the care of the child and mother henceforth. I firmly believe that being pro-life MUST include being pro-adoption. If we want to see these precious lives saved from the abortionists scalpel, then we MUST be willing to welcome them into our homes and hearts. I also would love to see greater outreach to pregnant women in crisis, not only in the form of crisis pregnancy centers and government-sponsored programs but also in the life-styles of every day people, reaching out with love and support. I pray that Christians especially will rise up, embrace these women, come along side them, and mentor them in motherhood. We must be willing to give of our own lives.

"This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you. No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends." --John 15:12-13 Amplified Bible 

However, the author of the article went on to propose that if we do not accept, embrace, and celebrate diversity in the areas of religion, sexual orientation, and personal morality, we are not truly pro-life. This is where the line is drawn in the sand, and this is where I cannot agree.

I would like to interject something here. Sadly our nation has become so polarized with an "Us vs. Them" mentality: conservative vs. liberal, republican vs. democrat, pro-this vs. pro-that, anti-this vs. anti-that. In reality, neither "side" has it all right. There are definite merits and glaring flaws on both sides of the fence. Why? Because we are flawed human beings operating within flawed systems. None of us have all the answers. So, my disagreement with the author's stance mentioned above does not have to do with political allegiance but with my allegiance to the Flawless One, the only One who truly has all the answers. Let me explain...

The humanistic ideology of our day would proclaim that love and acceptance must mean embracing all beliefs, all religions, and all lifestyles as equal and legitimate. There is no actual plumb-line for truth, but truth is instead based on individual preference and desire. The author of the article I read held to this belief, proclaiming that I do not truly value life unless I embrace this "free-for-all" world-view. 

However, the Lord of all Creation describes life and love in very different terms, and His Word is my plumb-line for truth and what it means to be pro-life. Listen to the words of Jesus from the Amplified Bible...

"The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. --John 10:10 

"Jesus answered her, 'If you knew [about] God's gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life)." --John 4:10 

"...If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink! He who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, 'From his innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water." --John 7:37-38

"For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life." --John 3:16

"...I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes the Father but through Me." --John 14:6

God created human beings in His own image to be in loving relationship with Him forever. He created us to find our life and our satisfaction in Him. However, when Adam and Eve sinned by their disobedience to God, death and destruction entered our world and separated us from the very One for Whom we are created. Not willing that we be lost from Him forever, our Holy and Merciful God gave the life of His own Son on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and restore us to relationship with Him. He extends to us the free gift of forgiveness for our sins and the promise of eternal life with Him, but He does not force us to accept. However, for those who refuse His incredible grace, only judgement awaits.

"If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose]." --1 John 1:8-9 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." --Romans 6:23 

"Then these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment, but those who are righteous and in right standing with God [will go, by His remarkable grace] into eternal (unending) life." --Matthew 25:46

"And if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was hurled into the lake of fire." --Revelation 20:15

All roads do not lead to heaven. When it is all said and done, the ETERNAL DESTINY of every human being from the dawn of time until its end will be DETERMINED BY THEIR ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF JESUS CHRIST. Life is only found in Him. For this reason, I cannot embrace and celebrate any other religion or lifestyle that is contrary to Him. I cannot passively accept that which will ultimately lead to another's destruction. If I truly love people, and if I truly value life, I will spend my life pointing others to the Source of Life. The Lord is so patient, continually extending grace and the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. 

"The Lord does not delay [as though He were unable to act] and is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." --2 Peter 3:9


In this day of moral relativism, the Gospel of Jesus Christ offends people because it brings our sin into the light, and it establishes truth that cannot be erased, no matter how inconvenient it may feel. We cannot live life however we please, free of consequence and accountability. One day we will all stand before the Lord and give an account for how we lived our lives in response to His Son. The day will come when...

"(A)t the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess and openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (sovereign God), to the glory of God the Father." --Philippians 2:10-11 

If I am truly pro-life, my value for life and my love for people will be greater than my fear of offending them or of being misunderstood by them. To use an analogy, if my neighbors' house was on fire but they did not perceive it, I would not sit idly by and "accept" their difference of belief and opinion. I would yell "FIRE!" and warn them of the impending danger. Maybe my warning would offend them because they cannot presently see what I can see. Maybe they would question my motives. Maybe they would respond with anger and hatred. However, if I truly believe that their lives are on the line, I will not allow these things to deter me; I will continue to do what I can to lead them out to safety. Anything less would not be love. 

I am pro-life. I pray for the ending of abortion. I pray for a culture of adoption. Most importantly, though, I pray for another Great Awakening in our nation. I pray that God will pour out His Spirit and turn the hearts of men, women, and children of all various races and lifestyles to Himself, the Giver of Life--Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

De-Cluttering Heart and Home

Clutter--one little word that encompasses so much MESS! How quickly it can creep in, overtaking homes and hearts. It can feel like an uphill battle filled with great effort yet little returns--one step forward, two steps back. Writing from the perspective of a stay-at-home mom this battle is especially keen. How much energy is spent during a given day simply trying to maintain some semblance of order in the crazy and beautiful chaos of family life, when efforts are so quickly unraveled and the cycle begins afresh with each new sunrise? Toys picked up off the floor are quickly strewn about again, books placed neatly (or not-so-neatly) on the book shelf are dismantled in lightening-quick speed by tiny hands, laundry piles are in constant motion, empty sinks are quickly filled again, empty trashcans are soon overflowing, and the list goes on and on...

We purchased our home well over six years ago, shortly after Benjamin celebrated his first birthday. Up to this point we had only been renters, and we were thrilled to take the big step of becoming home owners. After living in fairly small spaces, our three-bedroom home just shy of 1200 square feet felt like a palace! I had more cupboard and closet space than ever before, and with only one child at the time, we utilized the third bedroom as a home office. I could not imagine filling the space we now had--HAA!

Two more children and six years of accumulation later I feel we are close to busting out the seams! Our desk and bookshelves have been housed in the garage since we welcomed Joelle into the world, and it keeps filling up as the grand "catch-all" of our home. (Forget about parking a vehicle in the there!) Closets are stuffed and overflowing, furniture arrangements have had to become more creative, and I feel like I'm in a constant juggling act to maintain it all. 

As I said, clutter creeps in over time, and I believe that mothers especially are prone to internalizing the external. The clutter of the home can so quickly become clutter of the soul, igniting feelings of stress, frustration, inadequacy, and a general sense of being overwhelmed. In our hearts we desire to love and serve our families well, to enjoy and cherish the childhood years, and to cultivate and maintain a life-giving home environment. However, the monotony of the mundane and the tyranny of the urgent--if allowed--can rob us of our joy. 

This has been my struggle as I have embraced this beautiful, difficult, rewarding, and exhausting call of motherhood. One moment I can be drinking in the giggles and cuddles with my little ones, and the next moment I can be tense and frustrated by the messes I see piling up around me. As I calculate the never-ending to-do list, the conviction and desire to spend quality time with my kids, and the constant demands and interruptions of little ones when I just want to complete one household task start to finish, the exasperated cry can quickly well up within me, "I can't keep up with it all!!!" 

This is the clutter of the heart that turns my focus from what is truly important to that which is fleeting. The seemingly unending tasks of maintaining a home are truly only temporary, while the little souls of my children are eternal. 

Isaiah 40:11 holds a wonderful promise for mothers,

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

As we entered this new year, I told the Lord that I want to focus on knowing Him more as my Shepherd. I want to go deeper in my understanding and experience of being led and nurtured by Him. We become what we behold, and as I behold Jesus as my Shepherd I will be better able to shepherd the little lambs He's entrusted to me. 

Earlier this week I was nursing Josiah to sleep for a nap and scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across two separate articles shared by a few of my friends. In a nutshell, one was about de-cluttering the heart, not allowing our to-do lists and projects to crowd out our devotion to the Lord or our enjoyment of our families. The other was about de-cluttering the home, purging out our abundant accumulation of stuff so that we have more time and freedom to enjoy what's truly important. I have read advice of this nature before, but this time it felt as though my Good Shepherd was leading me onto a life-giving path.  

I will begin with the latter. This week I have had a renewed resolve and motivation to DE-CLUTTER our home. I started with something easy--the kitchen cabinet shelf that hosts our wide array of children's cups. I mean, how many plastic cups do you actually need! It took me less than five minutes to sort out what to keep and what to send to the recycle bin, but what a wonderful feeling to open the cupboard and see neatly stacked cups instead of stray lids and bases threatening to spill out onto the counter!

The next day I began the great toy purge. The recent celebration of Christmas made me more keenly aware of the congestion of toys that has built up in our home. The top shelf that spans Benjamin's closet is completely dedicated to toy storage. Joelle and Josiah have a small toy box in their room, and our large toy box is in the living room. How quickly the entire house can become strewn with toys and miscellaneous pieces that no one is playing with!

I have been reluctant in the past to part with much of their toy collection, always justifying reasons for holding onto things. Benjamin does not typically like anything new, and for years he has been interested in the same toys: a See-n-Say, light-up baby toys that play music, and stuffed animals that he can twirl. We have tried again and again to introduce new objects and aspects to his play, often to no avail. I've bought toys over the years, excited to think that it may launch him into a new level of developmental play, only to be disappointed when it is cast aside again and again and again. I have held onto things with the hope of "one day." Recently I have become more accepting that this is where my son is right now, and that's okay. He is not interested in pushing a toy car, or building with blocks, or engaging in imaginative play. Maybe these things will come in time, and maybe they won't. I am learning to let go of my expectation of what his play should look like at any given age and simply let Benjamin be Benjamin. 

Benjamin does not enjoy new things while Joelle is delighted in new things. I delight in seeing her delight, but as a result I have been guilty of indulging her too much. The initial excitement soon wears off, and I'm realizing that the more options she has, the less likely she is to play with any of them. 

I have also held onto to toys for Josiah, thinking of both his current age and his future play. However, he is often just as content if not more so to play with a simple household object while the vast spread of toys sit untouched. 

All that to say I did a big toy sweep this week. Benjamin's closet shelf is organized and no longer overflowing and toy boxes actually have extra space in them. I have also limited the amount of toys I allow to be out at a given time. The purged toys are currently sitting in the garage awaiting the city-wide children's consignment sale next month. So far there have been no questions or objections concerning "missing" toys, and I have noticed that the kids, Joelle especially, have been more engaged in playing with the toys that are available. I feel lighter as well, like a weight has been lifted off. Let the de-cluttering continue!

A few weeks ago we took the kids for a drive through a local light show. We turned on the radio to tune into the accompanying Christmas music, but before we could change stations, I was captivated by what I was hearing. By "chance" we had tuned into an interview with an author I was not familiar with by the name of Gloria Furman as she talked about her new book Missional Motherhood. I found myself hanging on the words of this fellow Christian mother, only a few years my senior and she talked about Jesus and the beautiful, messy, significant world of motherhood. 

When we returned home I quickly looked her up, and discovered that she has authored multiple books. I had yet to spend my Amazon gift card received at Christmas, and I was sure to add her new book as well as one of her previous works entitled Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms to my order. A few days ago I began reading the latter, and her wise words have been helping me in the process of de-cluttering of my heart. Here are a few gold nuggets I have read:

"When your eyes are fixed on the horizon of eternity, it affects your vision of motherhood. We need to have eyes to see a view of God that is so big and so glorious that it transforms our perspective of motherhood. In the context of eternity, where Christ is doing his work of reigning over the cosmos, we need to see our mundane moments for what they really are--worship."

"Our joy cannot be wrapped up in motherhood but only in God."

"Preaching the gospel to myself each day is the best way to remind myself that my life in Christ is the prevailing, permanent reality in my life."

"The gift of motherhood points mothers to treasure Jesus Christ as he transforms our heart from the inside out."

TREASURE JESUS, treasure family, treasure life, let go of clutter both internal and external. Worship in the mundane, rejoice in the glorious, messy, ever-changing, and eternally rewarding call of motherhood. Behold my Good Shepherd as He gently leads me to green pastures and still waters--may these be the hallmark of this new year. Here's to living clutter free!