We’re still building. We’ll soon be ad-free and have printable recipe posts! Find us at http://www.theharlowhearth.com!
New Website and 2019 Wrap-Up
We have exciting news! This will be my last post here. From now on, all my blog posts, recipes, reviews, homeschooling information, etc., can be found on our soon-to-be launched family website, http://www.theharlowhearth.com. We are looking forward to connecting with you there!
My friend shared blessings/highlights of each month for 2019, and I decided it would be a fun exercise for me to try. Between these highlighted moments are thousands of ordinary, sacred, beautiful, difficult ones unshared. This reflection reminded me of the gift that is my blessed and broken life!
Our rental townhouse went on the market!
Seeing the Sadie Rose Foundation wedding gown to burial gown program really come to fruition.
Elsie had her first visit with the pediatric allergist where we learned she has a dust mite allergy.
I attended a heavy, but incredibly helpful suicide prevention training with a group of fellow ministers.
Planting trees with our wonderful friends at Caritas Christmas Tree Farm.
We welcomed Baby Ella into the world!
A trip to see my dad.
Closing for our townhouse.
I ran my first half marathon.
We said good-bye for now to our treasured Aunt Ethel.
Seeing the Rosedale Bible College Salt and Light Team with a friend who I’d toured with on that same team many moons ago.
The Sadie Rose Foundation’s Bereaved Mothers Tea.
Eli’s 5th grade graduation.
Sadie’s 12th birthday.
A special Beery Family gathering to connect with relatives from far and near.
Hosting a sweet little respite placement through foster care for ten days.
A staycation with special friends.
My sister-in-law’s breast cancer diagnosis.
The decision to homeschool.
Annual Family Camping.
Elsie’s summer-long participation in her dance studios “Summer Praise” tour, sharing in worship in a different church every Sunday all summer long.
We met Baby Arthur of Camel Lot, a new addition to a farm near us.
My sister-in-law and another dear friend’s breast cancer surgeries.
Hampton Roads Writer’s Conference.
Presenting a workshop for a Shenandoah District COB sponsored grief training.
Finding our homeschool rhythm.
We said good-bye for now to our beautiful special cousin, Anna.
Elsie had a full panel of bloodwork to see why she was chronically fatigued. Pesky mono was still present.
Daddy continues to struggle with his health, go through testing, searching for answers.
Another sweet little respite placement.
Chili cook-off at church where I won first place. Now I need to perfect another recipe for next year!
Reconnecting with a friend I hadn’t seen in twenty years.
We hired a new director for the Sadie Rose Foundation! Welcome Vonda!
All things Christmas.
Planning for the launch of The Harlow Hearth, our forthcoming family website!
What a great, difficult, beautiful year! So grateful for God’s grace and presence, and for our people who love us so well! Cheers for a blessed and healthy 2020! See you soon at The Harlow Hearth!
Burning brakes and fall fun
Last week I set aside this day to take the kiddos on a fall color drive and hike. We set out this morning with no real plan in mind other than starting at Reddish Knob, a high mountain lookout I frequented in my youth.
After enjoying some time on top of the mountain, we decided to try a road I thought would take us to Sugar Grove, WV.
This will be fun, I thought, no rules for the day except to have fun. No GPS. I can always get us “un-lost.”
What I didn’t anticipate was cooking the brakes on our aged van. We laughed at chipmunks running across the road, marveled at the reds, oranges, yellows, rusts, and greens, enjoyed the deer and a moss-covered rock, but as we continued down the steep winding road, I started smelling the brakes. Then I noticed they weren’t responding much when I applied pressure.
Make this out to be NO BIG DEAL for the sake of the children, I thought as I stopped in the middle of the road sandwiched between two blind curves. There wasn’t a place to pull off.
I turned on the hazard lights and told the kids the van needed to rest. By this time the whole interior smelled of burning rubber. I allowed them to get out and play by the side of the road. I tried calling my husband, but there was no cell service. I wanted to be sure if I let them rest I would be safe to continue. After about a half hour of not being able to reach him and no one driving by, I decided we would try again.
I geared down this time, and we inched our way around a few more corners. I assured them if we had to drive into the ditch to stop, we would still be okay because we were going so slowly. I saw a pull off and decided to give the brakes a longer rest. We spread a blanket on the ground and had some lunch.
I heard a vehicle coming up the mountain and flagged down the pickup truck. The young man said we were down the steepest part. Just one more switchback, a few sharp curves, and the road would level out.
I got the kids and the dogs back in the van, feeling confident we could navigate without incident. Thanks be to God, we did.
We found the Trading Post in Sugar Grove, and the elderly gentleman behind the counter welcomed the children with a smile and a cow tail candy. We visited a while. His son is postmaster at the other end of the building. His daughter lives and works within six miles of our house. I asked if they had a restroom.
No, he said, but see that church across the street. The basement door’s open. Go in and turn right. You’ll find what you need there.
To the delight of our daughters, the church was “glittery!” It was covered in pieces of broken glass. I marveled at the metaphor of brokenness shining in the light of the sun.
We drove another twenty miles to hike the Confederate Breastworks Trail, knowing it was manageable for all levels of dogs and children while also getting us closer home.
After the hike, we decided to surprise Dad at work. He kept wondering why he hadn’t heard a peep from us, he said. I was glad I couldn’t reach him when I tried and that I was able to guide us through the brake debacle without alarming (and especially without harming!) the children.
Besides a lovely day enjoying the majesty of an Allegheny autumn, I felt my lately-crumbling confidence grow ever so slightly from working through a scary situation without help nearby. Well, except the most important help.
Just short of 5 am, I find myself hostage to two felines. One climbs onto the covers next to me and stares into my soul with his big green eyes, daring me to see how ravished he is. The other bounces from night stand to dresser, knocking things down with his paws, angry at the injustice of waiting to be let outdoors.
I snap my fingers at them, wanting to take back some kind of power, but nothing doing. They’re in complete control. If they continue their shenanigans they awaken the wildlings, and somehow they seem to enjoy knowing that.
Defeated, I climb out of bed and give in to their commands. Mr. Bow Tie, his criminal name, follows me to the food container outside to be sure I’m following orders. They inhale three small bites and lick their paws like that fills the void that had created the cavernous hole in their stomachs, thus hailing their hostage from slumber.
I sigh and sink into my chair, relieved their demands have been met and I can have some morning quiet time, but alas, their accomplice arrives. Tiptoeing and grunting from the top of the stairs is “Skippy Jo Jane,” (her criminal name.) The relentless Chauweenie, helpless in her own right, demands I assist her with her morning constitution and fill her bowls as well. All the while, my fearless guard dog sleeps placidly nearby.
The hostage situation comes to a peaceful end, and the household is still once again. I’d better get to my quiet time before a whole new set of occupants need assistance.
#heldhostagebycats #pethostage #asyouwish
Bouncy prayers, anxiety, and choosing to believe
“Don’t get suspicious,” our 8-year-old daughter said as she casually disclosed her jaw pain. She was prepared for my anxiety. We’ve already buried one daughter and this one had a two-year span of chronic health issues that left me teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. After a mostly problem-free summer, she started with new symptoms weekly for the past few months.
I don’t know how to suppress fear that tastes metallic and releases chemical pheromones through my arm pits that make me smell like a fetid mammal, but I know every time our daughter starts having chronic symptoms, that fear pounces like the demon it is.
I’ve had occasional generalized anxiety, but all my centering and grounding and Scripture-reciting escape me when this kind of fear clutches my chest. I try to hide it from my children, but they can sense the change in my voice and demeanor. It’s as if they watch my body turn to jelly.
Then I feel guilty, because I’m a Believer and I’m supposed to pray prayers of faith, to trust in God’s goodness. But here’s the thing, I don’t trust God to answer my prayers anymore. Not always, anyway. And not the way I want Him too. I only trust that He is with me in whatever lies ahead.
I learned God wasn’t a Wish-King when my 6-year-old self begged Him to bring my Daddy home, but he never came. Or when I begged Him to let my daughter live and she died anyway.
I learned God sometimes answers prayers when my teenaged brother was riding his bicycle and was hit by a car, causing traumatic brain injury and coma. Doctors said if he survived, he would be in a vegetative state his entire life, but instead he’s a college graduate and has a wonderful family and career. I learned God sometimes answers prayer the following year on that same brother’s birthday. Mom was on her bicycle and was hit by a car. She received life-saving pints of her own blood she’d recently donated.
I’m not privy to the naïveté of saying, “It will all work out, we just have to trust God’s best for us,” when my idea of best and His seem vastly different. But I have known His nearness in suffering and His presence in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I pray the prayer of the father in the Gospel of Mark when he asked Jesus if it be possible to heal his son. Jesus said, if it’s possible? All things are possible if you believe. And the father cried, “I believe, Lord help my unbelief.”
Faith doesn’t come natural to me anymore, at least not in the sense of answered prayers. I have to choose to believe. And I can believe, because I know that ultimately I am held. And though I suffer various trials, my faith is being refined into something far more precious than gold. Though I do not always see or feel Him, I love Him.
We sit again in the pediatrician’s office, and the doctor says we might want to run some labs. I hold my little girl as they draw six tubes of blood from her skinny arm. She goes limp. Loses her color. Gets sick. I tell her she’s going to be okay while fear screams suffering and death in my head. I can’t stop the racing thoughts. It’s the same day my Daddy, who came back into my life as a young adult, gets an “aggressive lymphoma” diagnosis. Only two weeks after my 24-year-old cousin died.
I ask others to pray for us because my prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. I hope for my daughter and weep for my daddy and battle fear that holds me captive. I fight guilt that tells me if I really believed, I wouldn’t be so scared. I am weary. I am tired. I am worn.
When the pediatrician’s phone number shows on my caller ID, I mumble hello around the cotton that seems to fill my mouth.
“How are you,” she asks.
“I don’t know,” I say breathlessly, “tell me how I am.”
“You’re good,” she replies. “We’re still waiting on some results, but most of the big scary things have been ruled out.”
There’s evidence of inflammation, but the remaining results we get next week might help guide us to answers. We’ll keep digging. My body feels like jelly again, this time from relief.
Like sinking into my favorite yellow arm chair, I fall into the lap of Perfect Love that casts out fear. This, this is a sensation I want to last. And in the moment, I’m thankful for a faith I can feel.
We’ve had the blessing of healthy children this year. Agents and publishers interested in multiple of my works. I’ve stepped away from my nonprofit and ministry work to homeschool our children. We’re reveling in the delight of longer snuggled mornings, less rigid schedules, and discovering how all elements of life and education are interwoven.
Autumn is kissing the Blue Ridge with a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, yellows, and browns. We’re loving sweater weather, s’mores, spiced coffee, hot cocoa, cousin sleepovers, fire pits, and friends. Joys and highs and blessings untold.
This year has also come with death, five significant people in my life since May, spanning from aged to young. Two vernal loved ones are being treated for ugly heartrending diagnoses and another young-to-me is being tested for words I can’t make myself utter. Beyond my immediate circle of family and friends, there’s even more suffering, parents scream-praying for children to live, children reeling without parents. End of treatment. No more clinical trials. Hopelessness that prompts unthinkable actions. Familial, social, political, and spiritual unrest.
My anxiety resurfaced, forcing recognition in the form of physical symptoms, more medical tests, and eventually, treatment for the root cause. Grief, sorrows, and depths of despair.
Driving home from church the other night, I turned on my Rich Mullins playlist, hoping his folksy voice and thought-provoking lyrics would quicken my heart for things eternal. First to play was, “Here in America,” where Mullins describes God’s creativity in natural beauty around the world. Tucked in the chorus are the words, “there’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see, But everywhere I go I’m looking…”
That’s what I need, I thought, more eyes to see more beauty.
But if I had extra eyes to see more beauty, wouldn’t I also witness that much more suffering?
Living with our hearts and eyes wide open means truly seeing the beautiful and the ugly, indescribable joy and unimaginable sorrow.
I can’t carry it all, I cried. I never intended you to, I heard.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NASB.
I settle into the truth of these words and pray for grace to release my grasp on all I cannot hold. I wrestle with the paradox of being a believer in Absolute Truth who lives with questions. One who hopes against hope to avoid suffering, while knowing the presence and peace of God in the midst of it.
God uses the words of Ann Voskamp to remind me that “Those who long to see miracles, see everyday miracles everywhere.”
“Live like God is a genie in a bottle, and we become like angry drunks.
Live like God is king on a throne, and we become intoxicated with awe,” Voskamp writes.
Again, Rich Mullins sings prayers I cannot speak. “…hold me Jesus cause I’m shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my glory. Won’t You be my Prince of Peace.”
Whether beholding beauty I cannot describe or suffering I cannot utter, a warm blanket of Grace is there to envelop. Abiding Peace that IN all things, God never leaves, never forsakes, never abandons. And if my arms are raised, praising or questioning, my head bowed in reverence or sorrow, my body shaking in joy or rage, I’m held in His Everlasting Arms.
Be THOU my vision, oh Lord of my heart.
Vote My Poetry Submissions!
I need your help! I’m entering submissions into a poetry contest, and I’m wondering how to narrow these eleven choices to three. I’d LOVE your votes to see which three I should submit. Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!
Deep autumn air
Finagles through window seams
Invigorating my soul from sleep
Cradled by feather pillows
And fleece blankets
Loves sleep-dreaming around me
Rain forest coffee beans
Party in my thalamus
Crimson pomegranate seeds
Plink into the bowl
Dark wheat bread lies rustic in it’s basket
Tasting of sunshine, rain, and wind
Wood-stove’s heat warms toes and floors
Mocha dog, comforting, protecting nearby
Morning moves over the Blue Ridge
Breaking the quiet stillness of dawn
My day, only beginning
And just like that my cornucopia
From the million little joys
That fill my life
Flashing blue lights
Watery in my rear view mirror
Rain pounds relentlessly
Sirens scream past
For whoever is in need
For officers risking lives to respond
For emergency personnel
Who cannot unsee what lies ahead
For nurses and doctors
Who give all they can
Rain pounds relentlessly
Rivulets shroud my windshield
For all impacted
By those flashing lights
Watery in my rear view mirror
3: The Scent of Grief
Liquid gold, drinking in the aroma of Gain laundry detergent, regular scent
Inhaling deeply the month of June, sterile hospitals, funeral homes, and her, still covered with the fluid of my womb
Whispers of family and friends on soft summer breezes, gathered fully together for the first time in years, to mourn our lost love
Eyes averted, conversation avoided, but inhabiting one space
Tears and laughter juxtaposed
Could it be? Heart healing in our greatest pain?
Cleansing communication, only love remains
Empty bassinet, unfinished nursery
Tears washing grief from our eyes
Hearts united in the sacred dance of grief and joy
Her scent now faded from her soft white blanket
But not from the laundry that hangs on the line
As I child, I noticed mom’s hands
Worn from labors of farming and gardening
I pushed in her blue veins
And laughed as they filled again
They looked so different than my smooth soft hands
Now that I am Mom
My hands too, are worn from labors
I hold my young daughter
She laughs as she manipulates my blue veins
5: Our “Dave Ramsey” Family
By Regina Cyzick Harlow
Stuff and label envelopes
Assign specifically to spend
Our monthly budget on a plan
To pay debt snowball to the end
Tweak, adjust the budget app
Enter every dollar spent
We’re only halfway through the month
But now we know where money went
Beans and rice and rice and beans
No more going out to eat
Cooking skills put to the test
As lentils take the place of meat
Limit our vacation plans
Yes to less and no to more
Protect from impulse purchases
By taking lists to every store
Kids think “Uncle Dave’s” no fun
Until allowance pay-out day
When scheduled worked-for chores are done
And mommy is prepared to pay
Persist, endure, and persevere
With “gazelle intensity”
Will all be worth it in the end
When we are finally debt free!
By Regina Cyzick Harlow
Against my nerves
Rattling my soul
Leaving me in a constant state of angst
Unsettled, unnerved, gloomy
Perhaps a kite
Or harnessed power experiment
Might lift my spirit
I’m drinking coffee
In my favorite yellow chair
About the wind
7: Stoic Hope
Regina Cyzick Harlow
From Aunt Mary Beery’s funeral
Dirt onto the coffin
Filling the grave
Formed from dust
To dust returning
Discretely wiping tears
Faint florals blend
And moth balls
Wafting on the breeze
Inhaling the promise
Of Living Hope
8: Creation of the Violin
By Regina Cyzick Harlow
She longed for me, my mother did
To hold her baby flesh and blood
When I was born into this life
She fell ill and shortly died
I lived without her twenty years
I cried ten thousand bitter tears
But I went off to find my love
Guided by mother’s hand above
I came across a palace grand
A rich king with a daughter’s hand
Men had tried the world around
To win his daughter and his crown
I trembled low before His Honor
What must I do to court your daughter?
He cursed at me and bellowed loud
Threw me in the dungeon crude
Foolish boy, I thought aloud
For I am just a peasant’s child
What right have I to royalty
A beggar’s life is fit for me
Doom, despair, despondency
My self-fulfilling prophecy
Poverty is all I know
Crept it’s way into my soul
Light pierced through the dungeon black
A Fairy Queen, and from her back
She took a box and rod of wood
In my hands she placed the goods
I plucked some hairs from off her head
And strung them o’re the box and rod
I tucked the box beneath my chin
And touched the bow upon the string
As music filled the dungeon chamber
Fairy Queen was filled with laughter
Then as I slowed the bow and string
Tears became her offering
I felt a surge within my soul
Another language took control
Tears and laughter came and went
Evoked by my own instrument
Into the box and rod I poured
My lonely tears my childhood joys
My mother’s longing and her death
The odds of poverty and wealth
The chorus of ten thousand others
Joined the song across the ages
Haunting voices throughout history
From the future, still a mystery
Hope, despair, joy, and sorrow
Amalgamated and crescendoed
When at last I took a rest
I could hardly catch my breath
We had no words, the queen and I
No cheers to laugh no tears to cry
The song transcended any language
Gave voice to my deepest anguish
I sat once more before the king
Touched again the box and string
Moved by the magic of the music
King gave his daughter to this peasant
Happily, our ever after
Peasants, Royalty, together
Joined in song by box and string
Creation of the violin
9: First Day of School
Barefoot o’re the dusty pathway
Through the pasture, was the rule
Skipped the girl with brunette pigtails
As she hurried off to school
Ah, the summer filled with daydreams
Hailed her with its final call
Breezes yielded July’s sweetness
To ripened hints of early fall
Deep inhale, she sniffed the pencils
As the sharpener ground the wood
Buried nose into her textbooks
Smelling knowledge to be learned
Classroom chatter all around her
Catching up on summer fun
Couldn’t rival her excitement
Of a new school year begun
Bother math, it still confounds her
Language arts, she wanted more
Reading, writing, singing, playing
Timeless knowledge didn’t bore
Oh those sacred childhood memories
Held forever in her heart
Well from deep within her being
As her own, their school now start
10: The Days Are Swiftly Marching
Mid youthful scenes of summer’s play
I often whiled the days away
By dreaming of the years to come
Of husband, family, hearth, and home
Sunrise to sunset took sweet time
As childhood years rolled gently by
But now I’m living in those years
And oft’ I’ve wept life’s bitter tears
For young and old who’ve gone to rest
Longing once more their brow to kiss
I wonder where the years have gone
The days are swiftly marching on
Day in day out the cycle goes
The winter’s snow, the summer’s rose
I long to capture every breath
Each kiss, each tear, each soft caress
Life is fleeting with each sigh
The days are swiftly marching by
11: Rambling Thoughts
Gray January day
Our nation celebrates
Our nation weeps
The divide is palpable
Victory cheers, expectant
What will happen?
What will be?
Homeless are still homeless
Children’s blank faces
Wonder what is a CPS worker
And where they are going
Lonely sit silent
People pass by, coming and going
What will happen?
What will be?
Big houses, busy families
Working parent’s too engrossed
To notice their daughter
Lured into the night
Sold for entertainment
Their son, retreating into depression
Their marriage, crumbling
What will happen?
What will be?
Problems, we have so many
We fold our hands and acquiesce
Too big for me
Some march in protest
What difference does it make?
We toss coins at million dollar problems
Our small adds up
What will happen?
What will be?
Gaze deeply into the faces
Of our circle of influence
One need helps moving
Another, a job
A widow weeps
Parents mourn their child
One celebrates new birth
What will happen?
What will be?
Send that “thinking of you”
Allow someone to go in front of you
Look beyond the surface
Listen to stories
What will happen?
What will be?
We will see…
It’s been too long, so long that the WordPress app offloaded from my phone. I’ve missed you! I’m on chapter six of writing my book, I ran a half marathon, and family and work life have continued briskly since you’ve last heard from me.
I’ll be back soon though, I need to hear from you all, my blogging and reader friends, to connect again. Anyone headed to upcoming writer’s conferences? I’m planning to go to one in Hampton Roads in September. If you’re there, I’d love to connect!
In the meantime, here’s a guest post I wrote when asked to share about grief and loss for a pastor’s forum. While the article is geared toward pastors, it speaks to anyone wondering how to support someone in grief.
If you’re on social media, you can find me on Instagram and Facebook by searching Sadie Rose Foundation. Check out the wedding gown to burial gown project we have happening over there.
Please comment and tell me what you’ve been up to! Link your blogs so I can go catch up!
See you back here soon.
My favorite chair with my faithful writing and study companion.
We’re enjoying Spring in our area!
Abortion, Death, And A Call To Love
“Paula” was raised in a conservative church. When she wound up pregnant out of wedlock, fear of judgment from the church drove her to a dark secret place where her baby was killed and discarded as medical waste. Paula is a Christian and can share the love of God with everyone else, but struggles to forgive herself.
“Betty” was raised in a prestigious home, so becoming pregnant as a teenager was a “stain” on the family’s image. Her parents forced her to have an abortion. Betty is now a Christian and can share the love of God with everyone else, but struggles to forgive herself.
“Carly” became pregnant after being raped by a trusted family member. Her parents forced her to have an abortion. They were leaders in their faith community and regardless of how the pregnancy came to be, a pregnant teenager would not reflect well on their image. After turning to substance abuse and years of shame, Carly is now clean, makes a daily choice to forgive herself, and works to help others heal from trauma.
“Barbara” was surprised to find out she was pregnant. Although she was married, they hadn’t necessarily planned on having more children. She’d had several miscarriages early on, a stillbirth, and a preemie. When she went to the doctor for her first prenatal appointment he said, “You don’t have to go through with this you know.” She refused to see that doctor again and delivered another preemie, who today is a thriving beautiful child.
“Joy” had a miscarriage at six weeks pregnant. She grieved her baby’s death as deeply as I’ve ever seen anyone grieve their child. Her doctor said miscarriages happen all the time and made her feel like her grief wasn’t vaild. Her family and friends struggled to relate to the depth of her loss.
“Tara” called me when she had her first miscarriage, unable to flush the obvious baby who was unrecognized by the medical community as a “life” so therefore didn’t have the right to ritual and burial. Together we were able to secure a proper resting place for the baby she loved deeply. She had several more miscarriages to follow before going on to have surviving children. With each loss, the pain and bitterness and anger grew because so few people recognized her losses as real babies.
“Tammy” was told her baby had a lethal diagnosis and would never survive outside of the womb. Even while desparately wanting her baby, she chose to terminate. She carries her baby’s memory and the “what ifs” with her every day.
“Sue’s” baby was terminally diagnosed during pregnancy, but she chose to continue to carry. While her child has special needs and life hasn’t been easy for them, this beautiful soul is now a young adult and has taught all of us much more about the meaing of life than any formal education ever could.
And during a stillbirth I attended, I tapped out the following message on my phone to ask a few friends for prayer.
“It is sacred and peaceful in this space now. After the initial shock of the silent ultrasound machine, the doctors saying there’s no heartbeat, and as compassionately and matter-of-factly as possible, plans made to induce labor at just less than 5 months pregnant.
We’ve sat through hours of intake process at the hospital, nurses coming and going, the IV specialist searching for a suitable vein. There was even another ultrasound just to be sure…
No silence screams louder than a quiet monitor from that big machine that confirms for us hope and life or stillness and death.
Now, now we are waiting for the doctor to induce her, but in this space, husband and wife have both moved beyond exhaustion and surrendered to some moments of sleep. My heart breaks, hurts so deeply for their pain, for the unanswered questions, for the ways they feel abandoned by God.
Lines from a favorite song keep replaying in my mind. “One day soon we’ll see his face. And every tear he’ll wipe away. No more pain and suffering. Oh praise him for the mercy tree. Death has died, love has won. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Jesus Christ has overcome. He has risen from the dead.”
But here, there are tears. Lots of tears. Suffering beyond the ability to articulate. Words seem wasted trying to describe the intensity of the pain. There is fear. Fear of physical pain and knowing that after the physical pain is the most intense heart pain. To know this physical pain when there is hope for new life makes everything bearable. To know this physical pain will just bring you closer to the reality of death, for that, there are no words.
There is anger. Anger that this dream would “dangle in front of them” just to be jerked away. Anger for bodies that seem to fail us. Anger that a God who is good and for whom nothing is impossible still allowed death to call once more.
These emotions are normal. They are a part of the questions and grief. Yet God is still good. He is the bestower of peace and comfort in the midst of our hardest hard. He is the kind and gentle Shepherd, loving in spite of questions, fear, anger, and pain.
The hardest pain is yet to come. The pain of delivery and the anguish of a quiet birthing room. The physical pain of empty arms that hang heavy by your side when every part of your body is reminding you that your arms should be cradling hope, new life, joy.
We need your prayers. We need your petitions that God would be our very present help in this time of trouble. May the presence of Jesus, the risen Christ, be with us in this time. While for us, death still holds a sting, may we cling to the hope of the Mercy Tree where death has died and LOVE has won. May we hold with a steadfast hope, the promise that our present suffering cannot be compared to the eternal glory that awaits us. Amen.”
These are all women I know personally. Theirs and many other personal stories I could share about abortion, pregnancy loss, family and community reactions, society’s view of the unborn and the challenges that creates for those grieving pregnancy and early infant loss.
Our own firstborn daughter was a dwarf, a “little person.” During our appointments with the prenatal specialists they offered to “terminate” the pregnancy even though there was no indication that her diagnosis was lethal and there was never any concern that hers or my life was in danger. My husband and I could not even entertain the thought of intentionally ending the life of our baby that had such a vibrant personailty in my womb. She died nearly seventeen hours after birth, but I wouldn’t trade those precious hours for anything. Ever.
Years earlier though, I was in a toxic relationship and thought I was pregnant. (Turned out I wasn’t.) While I had always wanted children, I was ashamed, horrified, and surprised at how quickly the thought of abortion entered my mind out of fear for myself, the baby, and judgement from family and church. I didn’t have to wrestle further, because I wasn’t pregnant, but it humbled me to think of the women who truly face that situation.
With New York’s newest laws passed and a bill introduced and tabled in my own state regarding third trimester abortion, these conversations have become front and center on social media, in our homes, Bible studies, and especially among our child-loss support group.
There is no question internally where I stand on the issue of sanctity of life for the unborn, but my heart simultaneously hurts for those who already live in judgement and regret. While there might certainly be those who’ve chosen abortion without carrying their judgment, I don’t personally know one single woman whose post-abortive regret and sorrow hasn’t consumed her in one way or another. As the church, we must provide space for these women, and men, to grieve, to talk, to call on the grace of our Savior whose kindness leads us to repentance and healing. (Romans 2:4)
As righteous indignation rises up in me regarding these bills, I have been repeatedly challenged by the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13.
As radical as it sounds, I keep thinking, “If I post my oppositon to this legistalture with memes and Scripture, but have not love, I am nothing. If I protest at the local, state, and national level, but have not love, I am nothing. Even if I gave my own body for the sake of the unborn for which I profoundly and fundamentally believe are sacred and worthy of that level of my commitment, but have not love, I have gained nothing.”
Love doesn’t mean inaction. Love doesn’t mean silence. Love doesn’t mean not standing up for the most vulnerable among us. But Love does call us to operate in a spirit of love.
Colossians 4:2-6 says to pray steadfastly, that God may open the door for us to declare the mysteries of Christ, to walk in wisdom toward those who do not believe. That our speech be gracious so that we might know how to answer everyone. (Paraphrased.)
It is from this perspective that I prayerfully measure my words toward all. What if I could sit with those who propose and support these bills I oppose? Would they hear me as a individual, or chalk me up as one more obscure number to defeat? What approach might help them listen? I will call. I will advocate. But I will also offer the invitation for conversation, praying that God might open a door for me to share the mysteries (and love) of Christ. Because only when hearts are opened to the Truth, can lasting change occur.
Lovingly signed, a mother of four including one in heaven and one by adoption.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals.
Healing our nation at the cellular level
I can’t think of anything more polarizing these days than my social media feed. It’s easy to sit with my device and post arguments and counter-arguments, but it’s a whole different conversation with a family member, church connection, co-worker, or friend, face-to-face. Social media affords us the opportunity to build personal communities of “friends” who vote, worship, eat, and work just like we do.
People who once were friends, “unfriend.” Posts often include, “If you voted for ___,” or “If you support ___,” “Go ahead and unfriend me now.” Other posts state that if you believe/think/vote for/participate in ____ you are generalized into an extreme group of one party, category, or subgroup. Some include headlines, videos, or articles where the re-poster asks, “Is this who we’ve become?”
That question begs introspection of all of us. Who are we? Who do we want to be? What changes must we make to get there?
The more I ruminate, the more I’m convinced that healing for our nation must happen at the cellular level. We have to be able to see past the rhetoric, smoke screens, and talking heads, to see individuals who are often far more than a viewpoint. If someone is at a place where they simply cannot accept any perspective but their own, by all means, “unfriending” might be the gift they give the universe, but real change happens when we are able to find common ground and build on what unites.
We have to stop gloating when “our side wins,” and instead walk in humility!
Cells combine to form tissues, organs, and organisms to form our bodies as a whole. They are the most basic structural units of the human body, and it’s often at the cellular level where sickness and disease take root. Social media posts and news headlines reveal that our nation is weakened at the most basic cellular level.
I don’t negate the issues that divide us are real, impassioned, cellular-level, core convictions that guide each individual and I’m not suggesting we sacrifice our beliefs on the altar of unity. I just can’t help but wonder what would happen if we put partisanship aside and truly focused on finding a way forward despite our differences.
Studies show that proper nutrition, especially a plant-centered diet, has the potential to reverse genes that cause heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses and turn on genes that prevent disease. An article by Project CBD explains the benefits cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have on our body’s cellular system. Other studies show how meditation, exercise, and deep restorative sleep can change our bodies at the cellular level.
If we can change that which causes disease and illness at the cellular level in our bodies, can we also evoke change in our nation with contemplative and intercessory prayer, positive social actions at the local level, deepened personal relationships, and increased involvement in our own communities?
In Romans 12:9-21 the apostle Paul writes, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NIV version)
Or in the words Henri Nouwen, “Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”
What if we loved sincerely, hated evil, clung to good, was devoted to one another in love, and we honored one another above ourselves? What would that look like? Would that be the change that helps us become what we know we can and should be? What if we approached our conversations, our social media posts, our relationships with these measures? Could that help heal our nation at the cellular level and in turn, change our world?