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.


Why I bought my light-skinned daughter a dark-skinned baby doll

I remember looking through the American Girl Doll catalog as a young girl and wondering why they had Addie, the black doll.

There was one black girl I remember at my elementary school.  She was bused in from downtown for an opportunity to go to a better suburban school.  There are a few times I remember her having a very snotty nose.  I thought she was weird.

I don’t remember anything about people of color from my time in junior high school.  Probably because I didn’t look past myself very often, right mom?

In high school, I had two guy friends who were black who attended our youth group.

But really, it wasn’t until college, when I was serving as a Young Life leader at an urban high school that I can actually remember befriending people with a dark skin color.  That was the first time I had an up close view of the black community.  I visited their homes and their churches.  I learned about their families and their dreams.  It was also the first time I befriended people who were a part of a lower socioeconomic class than me.  I had done a service project or mission trip to serve people, but I’d never built real relationships with people different than me before.  I learned about what it was like to grow up in poverty and to continue to live in it.  I learned that a high school diploma was truly an accomplishment.  As I befriended these girls and their families, my love for them grew.  They are part of some of my best college memories.

In light of recent events in America, I think it’s easy to see that many people are like me.  A lot of us haven’t grown up with a clue of what it’s like to be black in America.  Sure we aren’t racist – we don’t think less of them because they are a different skin color.  We have just grown up separate from them and we haven’t looked for opportunities to go out of our way to find a way to interact.  Our paths haven’t crossed. The generations before us did a lot of hard work to fight for black rights and to stop segregation in America.  Perhaps for the last few decades we’ve lived on cruise control when it comes to the black-white relationship in America.  Over the last two years, I think it’s been made clear that it’s time to turn off cruise control and do the hard work to move forward.

Last week I went to Target to buy the first baby doll for my daughter Emerson.  She’s the cutest blonde-haired blue-eyed girl around, in my very biased opinion.  There were tons of options on the shelves.  Baby Alive was far too complicated for her age.  Several had very creepy eyes.  I wanted something that was all fabric and could be washed.  Along with something where she could practice taking care of a baby in order to get ready to be a big sister one day.  I settled on one doll in particular that met my requirements.  It came with a magnetic bottle and paci, as well as a plush toy and a little book for the doll.  Bonus! There are other outfits I can buy for it in the future.  There were two different models on the shelf: one light-skinned and one dark-skinned.  I instinctively grabbed the light-skinned blonde-haired doll.  However before I could walk away, I hesitated.

It’s a lie when people say that they don’t see color.  We all see different skin color.  Our differences are a beautiful thing when we learn to appreciate them.  Gina Torres is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen and I love her dark coloring.  With my senses, I will acknowledge that others look different than me.  What I have trained my heart to do is to love people regardless of our differences.  What I want to train my daughter to do is to love people regardless of our differences.

I put the light-skinned doll back on the shelf and I walked out of Target with the dark-skinned one. Actually, that’s a lie.  I put the light-skinned doll back on the shelf and I walked out of Target without a doll.  I was convicted that I should buy the dark-skinned one, but I was worried people would think it was weird.  That evening I talked to JR about it and he affirmed by decision to buy the darker doll.  The next day I went back to Target, no complaints there, and bought the dark-skinned doll.

Can you guess what my sweet girl has been doing for the past week?  She has been hugging that baby doll.  She has been giving it a bottle and a paci.  She carries it around the house with her.  She loves that doll.

Emerson with doll

This doll won’t be what compels her to love people who don’t look like her all the days of her life.  I’m not naive enough to believe that.  But, I do believe that it will be part of the narrative of how we train Emerson to love people regardless of their differences.  From her earliest memories, I want her to know that we are on this earth to show God’s unconditional love to all people.  Later in life when she interacts with people who don’t look like her or think like her, I hope there is a faint memory of her love for this doll or at least a photograph of it.

In her future, it will feel complicated to figure out how to love people who aren’t like her.  How can I avoid saying something dumb to them? Are they going to like the same food as me?  Will I offend them if I do this? Right now it’s simple: she hugs that dark-skinned baby doll as tightly as she would a white one.


On the week I wanted to quit ministry

This week I wanted to quit my job.  If I didn’t have it, I would have almost no stress.  I could keep my house clean. I could plan more play dates.  I could read more books.  I could cook more food.  If I didn’t work for YoungLives, I wouldn’t have to deal with people flaking out on me.  I wouldn’t have to worry about other people’s problems.  I wouldn’t have to let the dried laundry sit unfolded for days (but I would lose my excuse for doing so).  I wouldn’t have to plan fundraisers.  I would have a lot more me time.  I could actually nap when baby naps.  I wouldn’t have to get out of my comfort zone.  I wouldn’t have to talk to people with whom I have nothing in common.  Did I mention I wouldn’t have to deal with people flaking out on me?

Yes, this plan sounded pretty nice.  I sat on these thoughts all afternoon as I was stressed about some of the tasks of ministry.  By the time JR came home, I had a concrete plan.  I shared my brilliant solution to all my problems: Quit ministry.  Much to my dismay, he did not even take my idea seriously.  He simply said, “You don’t actually want to do that.”  I think he walked away after that.  I was mad.

Deep down, he’s right.  It’s not that I want to keep my large salary.  Joking, I work for YoungLives.  He’s right because deep down I truly care about this even on days when this job is inconvenient, costly and frustrating.   I actually care if these teenage mothers know Jesus.  I believe that they will be set free as they learn scripture.  I care about if their kids are raised in homes with God-honoring parents.  I want generations of sin and brokenness to come to an end with this generation.  I believe that the right choice for a pregnant woman is to choose to carry the baby through birth and I want to provide an environment that cares for the brave women that decide to do so in unfavorable circumstances.  I desire for my volunteers to experience the depth of the love of Christ as they pour out their lives for the sake of these girls.  I hope to see people be transformed as they get their hands dirty in the work of ministry.  I believe that our children need to grow up loving and playing with children who look different than us and have a different background.

YoungLives ClubEngaging in ministry is costly.  It is uncomfortable. It is time consuming.  It is often without visible fruit.  Sometimes jobs like this are thankless.  Dealing with other people’s crap can be draining and frustrating.  For these reasons and some others, I often want to quit.

This is my pep talk to myself.  I hear these words in my head that I think God would say to me this week.

This work actually matters – it matters for generations and for eternity.  Get over yourself and the way it is inconvenient and costly.  I am very familiar with the cost of evangelizing the world and I think people are worth it.  The ways I can comfort you will satisfy you more than the comforts of this world ever will.  People need Jesus and I’m asking you to play a part in sharing Him.  You’re right, I could do this without you.  But, I would like to do this with you.  Trust me as you sacrifice.  I have a kingdom in heaven that I can’t wait to share with you.  Your time is not being wasted.  I see you and I’m proud of you.  I love these people just as I love you.  I am with you.  I never leave you.