Friday, November 27, 2020

Abortion Hurts Families--A Personal Story

For those who know me or who have followed my writing over the years, it should come as no surprise when I say that I am passionately pro-life. I have not shied away from speaking and writing about this issue and have always been crystal clear about where I stand. My deep convictions in this regard stem from a few different roots that are all intertwined to make me who I am today. At the very core, as a born-again Christian with deep love for my Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that every life, born and unborn, is created in the image of Almighty God and has intrinsic worth and value. I believe God’s Word that says “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb,” (Psalm 139:13). I believe God’s Word which instructs “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13) and that God hates “hands that shed innocent blood,” (Proverbs 6:17). I cannot see abortion as anything other than the intentional ending of an innocent life. In short, abortion is murder, and it is morally wrong.

I am also the parent of a child with Down syndrome. My heart breaks as I consider how many women choose to and/or are pressured to abort their precious children with an extra chromosome. Some nations have even boasted of nearly “eradicating” Down syndrome through this evil practice in eugenics. It is my desire to demonstrate to others how very valuable every child is, regardless of any disabilities or struggles they may have. Our sweet Benjamin has been a source of much learning, growth, and joy in our lives, and it is my privilege to be his mother! 

What I have not shared up to this point is that there is another very personal reason I am passionately pro-life. This reason is very deep, at times very raw, and certainly very real. I have not had the liberty to write openly about this until now, though it’s been burning inside of me for years. The burden I carry is one that I believe countless others carry as well, though it seems there are few stories to be found. I carry the grief and pain of having lost a sibling to abortion. And now it’s time to tell my story…

I grew up as the oldest of two, with one younger brother. Whenever I saw families with sisters, there was always a sense of longing inside of me. Though I wouldn’t have even known how to give voice to it at the time, there was always a part of me that felt like I “should” have a sister—as though she was “missing” somehow. My parents were divorced when I was eight years old, but the longing within remained. I even unknowingly embarrassed my single mom at a Sunday evening church service when I was ten years old. Christmas was just around the corner, and our pastor asked the small group gathered what we would ask for if we could have anything we wanted. Without considering any logistics or ramifications, I shot my hand up and wholeheartedly declared, “A sister!” I was perplexed by the laughter that followed and the red blush that crept up my mother’s face!

It would be a few years later, at age thirteen, that I would learn a dark secret—one that would shock, rattle, and confuse me—one from which the full weight of impact would not hit me until my young adult years. With a heavy countenance and pain-filled voice, my mom disclosed to me that I was not actually her first baby. As a teenager only a few years older than myself, she had been taken advantage of by an older boyfriend and over the course of time ended up pregnant. When my grandma found out, she only offered one course of action—abortion. It was 1970, and abortion was only legal in a few states, New York being one. They took a snowy flight to this destination a few days before Thanksgiving, where a Planned Parenthood completed the bloody deed. She estimates that she would have been 14-15 weeks gestation at the time. In only a few short years, the nation’s doors would be swung open to the mass, legalized bloodshed of the innocent that continues to plague our nation to this day. My mom and my unborn sibling were some of the early victims of this monstrosity, and the effects for her have been lifelong (more on that later). 

As a thirteen-year-old, I didn’t really know how to process what she was telling me. I was only mildly familiar with what abortion even entailed—I certainly didn’t know the gruesome reality of the procedures. But I was left feeling hurt, angry, and confused. Why did my grandma do what she did? Why didn’t she want her grandbaby? Why didn’t my mom try to stop it? How was I to process that I could have had an older sibling? After the initial shock, however, I buried the issue deep inside, and it would be years before it would surface again.  

Fast forward to December 31, 2004. I was twenty-two years old and had just graduated from Oklahoma Wesleyan University that spring. Shawn and I were in a serious dating relationship, though not yet engaged. We had recently been introduced to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO, where they have literally held unbroken day and night worship and prayer since 1999. They were hosting their annual One Thing Conference—a gathering especially targeting young adults with a call to make knowing Jesus the center of their lives and to usher in the New Year with teaching, worship, and prayer. We carpooled with a group of friends to attend the event. That weekend was lifechanging and a turning point for me in many ways, but I want to focus on one particular incident that truly rocked my world.

On the last day of the conference, Lou Engle got up to speak and to lead in a time of intercession for the ending of abortion in America. I was not familiar with him before this time, but he is truly a father in the prayer movement, having founded The Call, which drew large gatherings of solemn assemblies for prayer and fasting all across the nation. For the last twenty years he has also carried what he believes is a divine mandate to raise of a generation of intercessors who will fast and pray for the ending of abortion in America. As he spoke, his overwhelming passion and conviction for this issue were provoking, convicting, and deeply inspiring.

As we moved into a time of prayer following his message, I felt a deep impression to pray for women whose wombs had been damaged during abortions, resulting in future infertility. I prayed that God would not only heal their hearts but would heal their bodies, making their wombs functional again. I prayed that justice and redemption for the loss of their aborted babies’ lives would come through future children born to them who would carry the justice cry of heaven concerning this shedding of innocent blood and would be used in their generation to be a voice for the voiceless. As I prayed, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart as clear as day, “You are one of those babies!” I. Was. Stunned. I immediately began to weep, completely overwhelmed. I know that thought did not originate from me. It was nowhere on my screen. How could it be that my own birth and life could be part of an answer to a prayer I was now praying? Something deep had taken place inside of me, and I knew that I could never be silent or apathetic about this issue again!

I’m really stepping out on a limb even sharing that particular piece of my story. It is so deep, and so precious to me that I don’t want to treat it lightly, and hesitated putting it out there for all to see, knowing the potential misunderstandings and criticisms that could come as a result. However, this story has been burning in me for so long. I feel like it’s time to get it out. All of it. Lord, use this as You will.

Shawn and I were married at the end of 2005, and in 2007 we both were hired to work at The Salvation Army (TSA), following Shawn’s graduation. I worked there until 2009 when our first child was born. During the two years at TSA, Shawn and I participated in and spearheaded multiple prayer initiatives. We also had permission from our supervisor to use the chapel after hours whenever we wanted to come to pray. One particular evening as we were praying there together, we focused our intercession on the issue of abortion. Without warning, deep sobs erupted from the core of my being. At the time we were struggling with infertility, and longing for a baby of our own. As I wept over all the precious babies whose lives were being ripped apart, it suddenly became really real to me for the first time that I had truly lost a sibling. It was my first experience of grieving for the relationship that was lost.

Now that I’ve really opened the door of vulnerability, I’m going to take it deeper. Fast forward to April 5, 2012. It was Good Friday, and I was standing in the Dallas Convention Center with over 4,000 other women for the Esther Call. Once again, I was directly impacted by Lou Engle’s ministry, as he had spearheaded this one day gathering of fasting and prayer for women to cry out to the Lord for the ending of abortion in our land. It was named the Esther Call after Queen Esther from the Bible, who petitioned the king to reverse the evil death decree against her people the Jews. In the same way we were petitioning the King of Kings to bring revival to our land and reverse the death decree of legalized abortion. Leading up to this powerful gathering was the 21 day Back to Life Prayer Walk. Beginning in Houston at the largest Planned Parenthood facility in the nation, 39 women, representing 39 years (at the time) of legalized abortion walked 250 miles to Dallas, the “birthplace” of Roe v. Wade. They called it the “Women’s Trail of Tears.” As they walked, they were interviewed about their personal stories and why they chose to walk for the ending of abortion. Some were post-abortive women, living with the grief and pain over their decision to end their child’s life. Some were abortion survivors. Some, like me, had lost siblings through abortion. Their stories were powerful.

Over the course of the day I heard testimonies that hit a deep place within me. Stories of men, women, and children who always felt like someone was “missing” from their family, only to later learn that their sibling had been aborted. The grief, pain, and loss are real, but these stories are rarely heard. I finally understood the gaping hole I had felt as a child with my longing for a sister. Another woman shared about an experience she had, either a dream or a vision (I can’t remember), in which she saw a multitude of babies in heaven who had been aborted. They were holding mantles, representing the purpose and destiny that was supposed to mark their lives but were never given a chance. In this experience, she saw the babies throwing the mantles down to earth and asking the Lord that someone would pick them up and carry them.

This really resonated within me. I began to pray that God would redeem the destiny of my lost sibling in my life. I had no idea what that would really mean, but the prayer came from deep inside. I also asked the Lord if my aborted sibling was a boy or a girl, and I felt Him speak to my heart as clear as day that the baby was a girl, only reinforcing to me why I had always longed for a sister.

At one point we were also encouraged to declare out loud with one voice that “Children are a blessing from the Lord!” I joined in with this declaration with wholehearted fervor and a deep ache inside. At the time we only had Benjamin, and I already mentioned that I had struggled with infertility prior to his conception. We had been praying for a second child for nearly two years, and the longing at times was overwhelming. Little did I know that less than a year later our beautiful daughter Joelle would be born. Josiah would follow in 2015 and Ava Rose in 2018. The Lord has blessed us indeed!

I returned home from the Esther Call, feeling very glad that I had attended, but at the same time strangely numb. However, that would soon change. On the morning of Easter Sunday, I was getting ready for church and pondering the recent gathering. I considered the confirmation the Lord gave me about losing a sister. I considered that my mom had always known she wanted to name her first daughter “Dana.” She had told me that if she had ever had a second daughter, she would have named her “Charlotte.” I felt like a ton of bricks hit me as I realized that my aborted sister would have been Dana, and I would have been Charlotte. It may sound strange, but I almost began to feel somewhat of an identity crisis in that moment. It also felt so incredibly unfair that I had been given the gift of life while she had been deprived of hers. Suddenly a DEEP well of grief opened up from inside, and the tears flowed for the rest of the day. I was part of the worship team at our small church at the time, and I could hardly sing through my tears and pain. Later in the day I was literally curled up on our bed sobbing and wailing with grief. It caught Shawn completely off guard, and he wasn’t sure how to best help me or to respond. It caught me off guard as well. I had never grieved in such a deep way before. It felt like the years of a lifetime of loss were all surfacing at once, and it was suffocating! Before the evening was out, I had written a poem to my sister. I have been very vulnerable with everything I have shared thus far, but I’m not ready to be that vulnerable. I don’t know if I will ever share what was written that day or not, but it was what I needed to do at the time.

When I considered our names that morning, I looked up the meaning of “Charlotte” in a baby name book. One meaning was “little woman.” One of the meanings for “Dana” is “bright as day.” As I grieved and processed, I felt the Lord comforting my heart that I’m not simply a “little woman,” but one who has been called to shine as “bright as day” for Him and for His Kingdom. I knew that part of how I could honor my sister and help to protect other women from the pain my mom experienced, would be to take an unapologetic stand for life and continue as a voice for the voiceless. I could also do so by welcoming all the children the Lord would be pleased to bless me with and model to others the beauty and value of motherhood. As the years have passed, this fire within me has not dwindled, but continued to burn stronger and hotter. I will continue to cherish my children and the gift of motherhood as I pray for the sanctity of life to be highly valued in our nation and the scourge of death to be ended. I will continue to pray for post-abortive women to finding healing and wholeness in Jesus Christ and have the courage to share their stories with the world. I will rejoice in the fact that I will get to meet my sister one day in eternity. What a beautiful reunion that will be!

*As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is a story I have waited long to tell, but in honor of my mother, I knew it had to be when she was ready. This week marks the 50-year anniversary of her abortion. She has lived with decades of grief and regret. She experienced physical damage from her abortion that nearly caused her to miscarry my brother. The emotional wounds, however, have been deep and lifelong. This year she had the courage to share her experience in her own words on her personal blog. I am including a link to her written story (much shorter than mine), and I encourage you to read it here. I love you, Mom!    


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