Thank you

My mom taught me to write a hand written thank you note for everything.  It was terrible as a child to sit after a birthday party or Christmas and write thank you notes to all our relatives.  Now, I’m really thankful my mother instilled that value into me.  Handwritten notes are a dying art form today.  I’d like to write thank you note to every person who has cared for us well during the past few months, but that isn’t going to happen for some time, if ever.  I’m still viewing getting dressed and doing something each day as a win.  My counselor supports that belief.

Thank youIt’s been almost three months since our world flipped turned upside down with the loss of our precious Maizie.  Honestly, this month the loss hurts worse than last month.  This should have been the final stretch of our pregnancy.  Now we are in a sort of alternate reality where the things we had planned, prayed for and prepared for are not happening.  My body is noticeably different than what I thought it would be.  We had previously said no to several trips and plans that now we will be attending.  The pack of women I was pregnant with have started having their children as I’m contemplating starting a first trimester all over again.  As each pregnancy announcement is posted on social media I find myself thinking, “August?  People are already announcing babies due in August?  So even if I get pregnant now, I’m way beyond that.  I wanted April.”  This loss continues to feel pretty bitter as what I thought would be a very exciting Spring is turning into months that I’m dreading.

I’m trying to not choose despair or anger.  I’m trying to choose joy.  To choose joy, I have to choose rest, honesty and thankfulness.  I have to choose counseling, community and crying when necessary.

Before December 6th, I thought I was a good friend.  I thought I was the type of friend you’d want in the trenches with you when the battle came.   Then I went to battle and found out that the people around me are way more thoughtful and compassionate and present than I ever knew to be.  Today in order to choose joy, I’d like to choose thankfulness, by writing my thank you to so many of the people who have shown up for us.

Most people genuinely want to be a good friend to someone who is suffering.  Often times, they just don’t know what to do or what to say.  I hope that this list gives you some ideas of where to start.  I’ve learned that saying something is far better than saying nothing and it is totally okay to admit you have no idea what to do in this situation but you’d like to do something.

Thank You

To the family who didn’t hesitate to drive into town
To the cousin who drove from Austin to care for Emerson during our hospital stay
For the handwritten notes that are still showing up to my home
For asking what our due date was and putting it into your calendar so you don’t forget either
For using Maizie’s name when you talk about her
For visiting us in the hospital
To the friends who have stopped by just to pray with us
To the friends who drove into town to be with me
For all the text messages, phone calls and voicemails (some yet to be returned)
For the bottles of wine and baked goods
For letting us talk about other things and for being patient as we talk about the same things again and again
For sending us a Hannah’s hope box and a hope mommies box
For sending care packages to Emerson to help provide entertainment for her while mom isn’t feeling it
For sending books and devotionals
To ALL the friends who kept us fed for two solid months (and to anyone using my hello fresh promo code which gets us both a discount and helps me justify staying on that service awhile longer)
To the friends who said they were getting a babysitter, they would pay for ours too, and we’re going out to eat
To the neighbor who showed up the morning after our loss with hot breakfast.  And who showed up again a week later with hot breakfast again.  It’s like she knows mornings are the absolute worst as your reality sinks in all over again.  She redefined what it means to be a good neighbor
To the friend who borrowed a car seat from a friend so that she would always be able to pick Emerson up at a moments notice
To ALL the friends who have watched Emerson for free in order to send me to counseling, or to provide me with some much needed quiet, or to give JR and me time together
To friends who have connected us with people who have been on a similar journey
For sending kind notes in your Christmas cards that acknowledged the bitterness of the holiday season for us and the arrival of so many adorable baby photos from so many
For talking to me about your pregnancy announcement before posting it on social media because you want to acknowledge that it may be difficult
For not rushing us through grief and for being patient as we sit in “not okay.” For acknowledging the continual difficulty and losses we are experiencing.
To the friend who meets me at the mall at a moment’s notice to help me pick out something to wear for a big event as I’m frustrated about my current size and not styling a large baby bump
For saying things like “I’m sorry,” and “I love you”
To the friends who donated to YoungLives in honor of Maizie’s death
For offering things – babysitting, food, pedicures – and letting me decide if that’s what I needed.  When you offer something specific, instead of saying “let me know if you need anything,” it makes it easier for a got-it-together-normally girl like me to admit my need and accept help
To everyone who helped plan or prepare for my YoungLives fundraiser last week.  You people made that event happen when I felt weary and defeated.
For continuing to show up, to ask how we’re doing, praying and checking in.  You have made us feel not forgotten and you have not expected us to be over this yet.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

Do the pro-choice and pro-life movements really empower women?

A large number of women who choose to end the life of an unborn baby actually do so because they feel as if they have no choice.  Whether it is a middle class white woman who feels shame for a pregnancy out of wedlock or a minority teenager who is told her and her child will amount to nothing if she brings this child into the world.  I’ve had personal friends in these and many other similar circumstances.  Specifically in my work with YoungLives, Young Life’s ministry to teenage mothers, I have seen numerous young women visit clinics where they are belittled and pressured into considering abortion.  Hearing their stories of their encounters with the health industry and others in their community is heartbreaking.  Making a choice when you feel as though you have no other choice does not look like women have rights or choice to me.

Here is where I see both the pro-choice and pro-life movements failing.  We are so busy arguing about the principle that the majority of us aren’t actually doing something for these women.  What if we worked together to really empower these women to have a choice.  What if we worked together to show them the beautiful future they and their children can have.  I can imagine a day in this country when every women would feel that she had all the love, support and resources necessary to bring her child into the world.

Over the past day, I’ve had and witnessed many interesting conversations on this topic in light of my recent post.  One of my friends who shares a different view than me shared this thought earlier today:

“When, in reality, the VAST majority of us, pro-choice, pro-life, whatever, I really think are on the same side of things when it comes to the ‘end’ we are striving for.  We just disagree, sometimes deeply, on the ‘means.’ I want a world in which abortions don’t exist because there is no need for them because we do so well at supporting both young men and women before, during, and after pregnancy.  I think most people do.”

For the sake of discussion, let’s say that we do all want every human to feel supported and loved before, during and after pregnancy in such a way that they would feel empowered to choose adoption or personally raising their child.  What does it take to really love and care for women, specifically those who may currently feel as though they have no choice?

I know far less people will read this post than my last one.  I know far less people will share this one.  We would all rather think and speak instead of act.  It is far more costly to act.  Acting gets your heart tied to the issue, not just your brain.  Acting gets your hands dirty in the messy work of redemption.  Acting means you will know the real life stories of people, not just what if scenarios.

We are all called to care for the women and men making these difficult decisions.  A lot of this work can be done together.  If you are pro-choice, it can be to ensure that all women really have complete freedom to make any choice when they are in this situation.  Many, many, pro-choice people have told me that being pro-choice does not mean being pro-abortion.  While I personally still have difficulty with this statement, it does lead me to conclude that you really do want women to feel empowered to make whichever choice she wants to make.  This means that all choices should look easily plausible.  If you are pro-life, it can be to ensure that the woman has all the resources and tools she needs to continue with pregnancy, adoption or parenting.

Alright, so here’s our call to love these women and men.  To get off Facebook and comments and speeches and marches and actually get to know people.  There are a million ways to do this and when you think through the possibilities you may become overwhelmed and simply do nothing.  But I challenge all of us to do something.  It doesn’t have to be everything, but it needs to be something.

Volunteer at a pregnancy resource center.  Equip the women with the tools they need.  Have a conversation with them about their life and what they currently need to succeed.  Looking for a great one in Dallas?  Try Thrive.

Mentor a teenager who finds herself pregnant.  Looking for a great option as a Christian woman?  Try YoungLives.  We walk with girls from pregnancy to parenting.  We cheer them on.  We talk about the value they and their children have.  It’s beautiful and redeeming and brings together families from all different walks of life.

YounglivesEducate yourself about what is available through nonprofits and the government to people in these situations.  40% of the abortions done in the US today are done by black women.  Find a school in your city with minority students and ask to volunteer to educate the students on available services.  Most of the schools are desperate for help.

Decide your family should adopt.  Communicate to a birth mother that her child is loved, wanted and will be provided for by you.  While engaging in an open adoption, love that birth mother.  Tell her thank you for her courage and bravery.  Tell her thank you for giving your family something for which you have longed.  Some of the most beautiful things I have seen in recent years has been the way an adoptive family has loved a birth mother.  Show a woman that adoption is a great option.  Want to partner with an organization that communicates how adoption is a brave choice on all sides?  Brave Love.

Find a group that educates youth against violence, specifically sexual violence.  Volunteer with them to teach the next generation about how to treat others with love and respect.

This list is just a start.  You people are smarter than me and bigger lovers of others.  You are passionate and driven and relentless.  You are people that can make a big impact on this world with your life.  Don’t simply use your words and your thoughts, use your hands and your heart.

If you’re in the Dallas area, I’ve got a long list of organizations you should check out.  Just reach out.  So many places are desperate for more volunteers.  If we all do a small piece, we can make a big impact.  Sometimes big means changing the world of just one person.

Together let’s really be about women.  Loving women.  Equipping women.  Empowering women.

 

Women’s March

I’m really hoping that a lot of the people I have seen posting about the Women’s March this past weekend are uninformed about what this group really believes.  I hope they are unaware that the group did not want pro-life women to march with them.  I hope they missed the second major principle on the Women’s March web page as shown below.

march principlesThe greatest lie we have been led to believe about abortion is that it is a women’s rights issue.  Women say “it’s my uterus” or “it’s my body.”  But what about the body alive inside of your body?  What if that baby is a woman?  What about her rights as a woman? What about her little uterus? What about that child’s fingers, toes, mouth, organs?  Are you aware that by 8 weeks that baby can dream, recoil from pain and has fully functioning organs?

Who will stand up for these women?  Who will stand up for all of the unborn?  If all of the unborn who have been aborted in the US since Roe vs. Wade were able to organize themselves into a march, they would march at 58 million strong.  If half of those babies were female, that would be 27.5 million women who have been denied the right to life.  Isn’t that the first right that we try to protect in America – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In trying to protect the rights of adult women, we are taking away ALL rights from the unborn.  Isn’t that the very thing women are mad about?  Some rights being given to men that are not given to women.  Giving to one group of people what another is being denied.  This contradiction is completely baffling to me.

I found out on December 6, 2016, that my precious daughter, Maizie Marie, had died while in my womb.  We later found out that her early death was due to Turner’s Syndrome.  Turner’s Syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that often results in death in utero.  If the girl does live through pregnancy, she can face varying levels of symptoms throughout her lifetime.  If we had done the genetic testing offered to us early in pregnancy, we would have detected this abnormality.  Many members of the medical community and many individuals in society would have encouraged us to terminate Maizie’s life.  We would never have ended her life.  We all know that we would never kill an infant or a toddler or a child who had a condition that will lower their quality of life or eventually kill them.  We would never agree to poison them or rip them apart.  Why do we have a different standard for babies in a mother’s belly?

Once we found out that her heart had stopped beating, I had to have an operation to bring Maizie out of my womb.  It was during this operation that my body had severe complications that could have led to my death.  Even if we had known that I would face physical trauma, we still would never have ended her life.  I would die in order to give any of my children all of the days that are written for them.  Maizie’s life was not valuable just because she was a wanted child.  She is valuable because she is a child.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” – Philippians 2:3

We need to fight less for our own rights.  My life is no more valuable than Maizie’s.  My life has no greater purpose than hers.  I am not more important than her.  I believe that my life is of the exact same value as every other human that has ever been knit together in a mother’s womb. 

Do you know what I hear when you fight for a women’s right to abort, for a women’s right to kill a baby?  I hear you saying that her child’s life does not matter.  I hear you saying that my child’s life does not matter.  As a mother who has cried over the death of her child nearly every day since December 6th, I will tell you that you are flat out wrong. Maizie’s life matters and it has forever shaped mine.

My daughter had the right to every single one of those days she spent alive in my womb.  She deserved the chance to fight for her right to live.  The same is true of every child.

In the interest of protecting the rights of some, we cannot ignore the rights of others.  In the interest of protecting the rights of women, we cannot ignore the rights of children.  Science and theology are on my side.  Life begins at conception.  We don’t look at the line on a pregnancy test and exclaim, “We’re having a fetus!”  No, from the second that line appears we know we are having a baby.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16

I hope you didn’t understand what you were showing your support for when you marched.  I really hope you were unaware that you were exalting the rights of women at the expense of children.  I did not march because I strongly disagree with the unity principles on the women’s march website. 

The baby model I am holding in this picture is the size of a 22 week old baby, just slightly bigger than our sweet Maizie grew to be.  As you look at this picture, as you think of my heartache over our unborn daughter, may you be motivated to fight for the life of the unborn men and women.

22 weekIf you have aborted in the past, know that there is great forgiveness, healing and redemption available in Jesus Christ.  I do not write these words to add shame to your level of hurt, but I do want to encourage people in the future to choose life for their children.  I long for another child for our family; if you need an alternative to abortion, please consider families like ours who would loving adopt yours.

Lastly, several have asked what I do for women who have unplanned pregnancies.  The answer is a lot.  I work with YoungLives, a ministry of Young Life that places mentors into the lives of teenagers who find themselves pregnant.  We walk through all of life with them, empower them in their parenting and help connect them to the resources and community they need.