Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

The Honor of Suffering

April 28, 2009

I sent a note to a friend whose dad is facing the roller-coaster of prostate cancer. Having just been through it with my dad, I also wanted her to know about my pastor who is also facing what she and her dad are facing. I mentioned that my pastor had “submitted under suffering” and she asked me what I meant by that.

I can completely understand her puzzled response! Aren’t we supposed to pray to be delivered from suffering? To believe, have faith, be consistent, in order for God to deliver us? Why in the world would I want to submit under suffering when God has the power to deliver me? Here is a quick (although long!) explanation of what I meant.

(1) Scripture says that if I am a believer that I will suffer for Him (2 Timothy) It is a given.

(2) Scripture also says all over the place that I can ask to be delivered and that He has the power to deliver me out of suffering.

(3) But what determines whether God is willing to deliver? What is the purpose of suffering? Since God is in control of all of my circumstances, whatever he allows in my life has the intent to bring attention to Himself (glory) so someone can see Him through me.

(4) Now I often ask myself, if He would get more attention from allowing suffering in my life, would He trust me to submit to Him in it? Have I shown myself to be worthy? Or would He choose to use someone else because He knew I would not submit, and rather would become bitter against Him? Would I praise Him even if like Habakuk “even if the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation”?

(5) So, like Paul who had the thorn in his flesh, I always ask God to deliver me out of my suffering. When it would give Him the most attention, He delights to do so for me! He does not desire to see me suffer. But I am His servant, so when God chooses not to deliver me OUT of suffering, rather walking me THROUGH it, what should I do? I noted Paul’s reaction – he simply submitted under his suffering, trusting God to do something with it that would glorify himself, and Paul himself attempting to bring attention to God through it all. He never mentioned it again. Except to ask for prayer that he would promote God as he ought to though his suffering.

(6) How long do I ask God for deliverance? I usually pray until He answers one way or the other (Jas 5:13). Like David who prayed and prayed for God to spare his baby boy from the results of his sin, he did not stop until God gave him His answer. Once done, even though the answer wasn’t what he wanted, he submitted and did not become bitter. He accepted that God’s intent was good, although it did not feel good. His response affected those servants around him who suddenly saw a live example of submission (they were surprised to see him so readily accept God’s hand). If God hasn’t answered definitively, I keep praying, even as I look for ways to give Him glory in the moment.

(7) Joseph went through years and years of suffering that were absolutely unfair, and yet absolutely necessary in order for God to play out the plan that He had in mind. This plan was much bigger than just Joseph’s life! It involved a plan for an entire nation. Joseph simply chose to submit under the suffering, trusting God to do what he willed. Because of it, he was able to be a major player in God’s hands.

A friend of mine had a difficult co-worker who had worked her LAST nerve. She was done. Had NO interest in ministering to him, and so ignored and avoided him at every turn. So the Lord removed him from her life (he was laid off). She was so relieved, but I couldn’t help wondering if she had submitted to the difficulties in the relationship and stretched herself in order to minister to a difficult person, that perhaps the Lord may have had a greater blessing for her than just the relief of not having to deal with him.

It is relieving to know that the Lord will accomplish His plan for this man (and people in my life) without her or me, but I sure want to be a part of it if I can! I don’t WANT Him to have to use someone else!

Someone who is able to submit under suffering is someone who is able to view his or her own pain in light of the potential purposes of God — ahead of his or her own comfort. NOT easy. I am definitely not good at it!

If we are light in the world, we shine the brightest when things are dark. The world can’t see the difference that Jesus makes when things are going great or always corrected so that they are great. The world truly sees the difference Christ makes when we are able to walk through the DARK with a peace and grace that they don’t have.

The world sees Christ in HOW we walk through our circumstances, not by WHAT our circumstances are. (Philippians 4:12)

Anyway, long explanation, but that is what I strive toward! 

My horrific fabulous vacation

October 20, 2008

It all started with the booking of our Canadian hotel, and the realization that my passport had expired, plus I had a name change during that time and could not find our marriage certificate. I ran around to every government office in a 2 county area, and then was finally told how to get around that. Whew.

We packed 2 days early (I discovered a FABULOUS new way to pack for the girls! I’ll post that later). We thought we were ready, but of course, were still running around packing last minute stuff 5 minutes after we were supposed to have left to catch the ferry to Sydney. Pitch black at 5am, the girls were still dead asleep. The plan? At the very last minute, scoop them out of bed, go potty, wrap them in blankets and throw them in the van hoping they’d fall back to sleep or stay sleeping.

No such luck.

At the last minute, I scooped up Kathryn, went potty, and she was still sleeping. So far so good. I ran out the door with her wrapped in her fuzzy blue blanket, and was smiling to myself that this actually might work. Then, not sure what happened, but my foot caught the front step funny, my foot went one way and my body went the other. I remember thinking on the way down that I wouldn’t be able to totally protect Kathryn, and sure enough, I somehow flipped so she landed mostly on top of me, but not quite enough. Her head hit the concrete and the pain receptors hit my brain simultaneously. We laid there on the walkway crying for a minute before Gerry heard us and came out to help us up. I was mostly crying because I had dropped my daughter…what a horrible feeling.

So, now 30 minutes late, some ice packs, Tylenol and lots of soothing and answering sweet questions from Stephanie (“Did you fall down, mama? Do you have an owie? Can I kiss it?”), we decided to head out the door. It might not be so bad. We could always turn around. Maybe we’d just take a ferry ride.

By the time we got to the ferry, we could see with relief that Kathryn didn’t even have a bump. She had some expected emotional scars (Gerry still laughs at me because she still doesn’t quite trust me to carry her! Not sure what we’ll say to her therapist when she’s 25…), but was physically ok. Me on the other hand, had a baseball where my ankle used to be, and a knee that would not stop bleeding.

But determined to VACATION, dangit, we kept forging forward, hoping for the best.

The hotel suite was fabulous – right on the harbor, with all the amenities we needed. We had decided not to bring a ton of food with us like we always do, and just go out to eat. We had to rethink that plan when not a few hours later, everything went black. Yup. Black out. Four cities wide. No restaurants were cooking. No heat. Apparently no generators to be found. And no hot water. Since it was rapidly getting dark, we got the girls ready for bed while we could still see where our luggage was. Thanksgiving dinner (we were in Canada) must have been interesting for local families!

Gerry and I looked at each other and laughed out loud. What a vacation! We ate snacks from the car, read stories to the girls until it was too dark to see, then went to bed.

The lights eventually clicked back on, I continued to ice my ankle, and the next day Gerry took the girls to the Bug Zoo and Miniature World. I stayed in the suite, relaxed and read a novel for the first time in … I can’t remember. We ALL had a great day!

Even though the swelling was still pretty fierce, we thought we’d stay through Tuesday and then ferry home. We went to the petting zoo. Closed! The train rides. Closed! The Planetarium. Closed! What the?!? Turns out, most activities for the kids were closed for the season the day after Canadian Thanksgiving. So we freaked Stephanie out at seemingly the only thing open — the Butterfly Sanctuary (she thought she was being attacked by these huge flocks of gorgeous butterflies swarming around), and went home. (Just wait till you see the pictures of her — hilarious!)

After all that, guess where the kids had THE most fun? At a local park. Swings, slides, seesaw. Just like at home.

We missed the ferry (it was full), so took another. Finally late Wednesday evening, we got home and back into our own beds.

We recounted the amazing way that God protected us, and how he blessed us with our family. Through it all, we laughed, made jokes, and made what could have been a really miserable time into something really fun and memorable. I am now convinced more than ever that whether or not the time we spend together is fun or agony COMPLETELY depends on us. We can experience the most annoying circumstances, and still find ways to enjoy one another.

I thank God for the blessing of my kids who just had fun as long as we were having fun, and my husband, who joined me on our vacation to Crazy, and returned with our senses still intact. 🙂

It is 1am. I have three babies. Why am I still up?

August 22, 2008

I honestly have no idea why I am still awake at 1am, and bored, except that I probably had that Mocha at Starbucks with Cheri too late in the afternoon. I’ll hit the wall this afternoon, I suppose. A cup of coffee should get me through late afternoon playtime with the girls. Hm. This could be a bad trend.

But I had an interesting conversation while hopping up on caffeine. What is boredom? I’ve been eating more lately and it is just starting to show (beyond the post-pregnancy pounds). I am a bored eater. But seriously, now, how could I possibly be bored?! I am SO busy!

Cheri and I talked about some theories. Boredom for her was a version of braindead. Tired. Too much to process, system shut down. Looking for filler to avoid … something…and not finding it.

I think for me, it is a lack of meaning, not a lack of things to occupy my time. Mindless busyness. I try to be mindful by planning and putting my activities in some sort of context. I haven’t been planning well lately, and so I figured that was causing me to go through my days in this aimless fashion, leading me to bored eating. I think I tend to overcome “boredom” with planning.

Then Cheri shared the way she copes with boredom. She finds a way to intentionally use her spiritual gift (so sorry if you are a friend who isn’t yet a Christ follower — bear with me here — this part won’t make sense. Better yet, don’t bear with me. Believe on Jesus. Message me about it and I’ll tell you more — before I get too far off track here for even 1am). As we talked, we drew mental pictures with each other of how spiritual gifts bring us to interact with people. There are no “Reading” gifts, or “sleeping” gifts, or “cooking fabulous food and eating it” gifts (dang!). Spiritual gifts compel us to relate to people in some way.

And the cool thing about spiritual gifts, is that God uses them in supernatural ways to build the Body. Even when we aren’t trying, or don’t know what specific gift we have.

So, what about the idea of deciding to intentionally look for ways to let God use your gift, specifically to fight boredom or mindless busyness? When I find myself eating ANOTHER handful of almonds (they are good for you, but not in successive gargantuan shovelfuls) because I am just mindlessly changing diapers, cleaning finger paint, planning Ballet birthday parties, and talking to telemarketers, I should look around for ways to use my Exhorter/Admin gifts. Help show Kathryn how to juggle. Call my mom and tell her I am thinking of her. Remember how my choice to stay home will hopefully create a strong bond between me and my daughters. Pray Colossians for someone while I fold laundry. Tell the next telemarketer that he needs Je-e-e-esus! (OK…I know that it is true, and a serious subject, and am not flippant about salvation, so please don’t get mad at me for laughing out loud at the idea of calling telemarketers and witnessing as a diet plan. It is 1am.).

What do YOU think boredom is? How do you fight it? I’d love to get some ideas.

Pray like Stephanie

August 20, 2008

I realized this morning that my 2 year old prays in a way I did not teach her.

We have little “canned” prayers that we use just to get our girls in the habit of taking the time to pray. Prayers of thanksgiving for food, and before they go to bed. I will also pray with them for things like lost dolly shoes, hurt feelings, fear of that lion under the bed, and “owies”. At 2 and 4, I didn’t really think that they were old enough to understand the intangible concept of God, and that we were talking to Him.

Stephanie, my 2 year old proved me wrong. Recently, she has started praying all on her own for the things that are on her mind. She thanked God for her stuffed animals, her friends, and asked for His help to be kind to Sissy, and asked Him to give her popcorn. (I smiled too.)

This morning she looked at the pictures as we read and discussed our devotional (about the man who was healed at the pool of Bethesda). A short time later I heard her talking to Him about a pool and her band-aid. She hears His Word, and it drives her to respond to Him in prayer. In conversation. I just know God was smiling in pleasure over her plaintive sharing of her toddler world with Him.

Isn’t that what our prayer lives should be like? Ongoing communication as well as concentrated times of specific listening and responding to Him through His word. It was a great reminder to me to let His Word drive me to conversation with the Author.

What I was making complicated (understanding the intangible nature of God) Stephanie has made very simple. I am compelled to follow the example of a little girl in talking to her God about all of life, with complete trust and a forgone assumption that He hears and desires good for her.

What an awesome privilege we have to talk to the Almighty!

The RANT of an [almost] agoraphobic Mom

June 12, 2008

I am a recovering agoraphobic.

Ok, this is not a clinical diagnosis, but since Rachael was born I have often been afraid to go out. I am a moving wriggling spectacle – or at least others seem to think so when they see my family of three kids aged 4 and under. It is as if they are looking at the 8th wonder of the world live and in person. The wide-eyed awe or smile of pity usually sounds like this:

“You must be so tired!”
“Better you than me!”
“Wow…you’ve got your hands full!”

I leave these interactions feeling like I’ve got Dengue Fever rather than three beautiful , active, smart, exciting little girls aged 4,2 and 7 months. I never know what to say!
“Duh.” ?
“Better me than you.”?
“Thank you.” ?

So I dread having to run out pick up toilet paper at Albertsons (aside from the fact that with three under 4 you don’t just “run out” for anything. Every trip is a major undertaking. Has everyone gone potty? Ack! That bottle from 3 days ago is still in my bag! What? You want a snack now? We just had breakfast! Put your shoes back on! Yikes! Look at my hair! Sniff sniff … OK … Who pooed?).

I just got back from a weekend away with some friends and their kids. The ranch where we stayed was simultaneously hosting a conference with a group that holds as one of their main philosophies of life that Christian families are to have as many children as possible. Naturally, most of the families there had an average of 6-8 children or more. All weekend long people smiled at us, excited to see that we were well on our way to a wonderful family of 12 beautiful children. Maybe we’ll even be blessed with a boy in there somewhere.

We aren’t on our way to 12 children, in case you were wondering. But it felt good to have our family nurtured and encouraged rather than gawked at.

Granted, I am not naïve. My hands ARE full. And I AM tired. And I am fully aware that they are each only 18 months apart – and that is considered to be spaced very close together. But honestly, it doesn’t help me to hear the dumbfounded amazement of every other person at Costco.

With every comment I can just feel the last little bit of verve and energy I might have had seeping out of me like water out of a baby tub. There is power in our words, and I feel that power every time I go out.

I begin thinking about all of my friends with no kids, or grown kids. Darlene gets to travel to Europe with her husband on a whim. And Gina can go to Safeway for eggs and only have to buckle one seatbelt and put on one jacket. And Linda can wear a beautiful white sweater and have it still be white at noon. And Susan can see the results of the years of prayer, discipline, and love as her grown children now call her “blessed” rather than “bath-giver.”

But then I see Kathryn discover something new and look at me with those wide brown eyes and a “Look mom!”

And then Stephanie will make me laugh out loud with one of her newest fashion statements (usually out of my closet).

And baby Rachael will squint her eyes, giggle, and squeal with her wide gummy grin.

I love being mommy to these three. They are amazing and I discover the world again along with them. At the same time I am often exhausted, sometimes impatient, would give a large sum for a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and terribly miss my beautiful designer dry-clean-only skinny clothes.

Because of this, there are days that I need all the encouragement I can get from words. Although the Lord is gracious in reminding me of my true value, I often run low.

Here is a good example: The other morning, I was out at Wal-Mart picking up shampoo and other randomness that we were about to run out of and I caught the eye of an older woman who was looking at me and smiling. I braced myself for the inevitable comment. She said:

“Look at those girls. You are a lucky woman to have such a full life.” And she smiled again, touched Stephanie’s hand, and walked away.

The comment took all of 3 seconds, but I carried her words with me for the rest of the week. I now try really hard to see the good in those around me, no matter how strange things seem, and encourage with my words. I know those “up words” made my week.

So, to all those who notice a different hairdo, a huge family, a severe handicap, singleness late into life, a couple who do not have children, a parent with fully rebellious children, a four headed flying pig, or whatever it is that you just can’t imagine dealing with yourself, I beg you to find some “up words” if you are going to stop and comment.

My hands ARE full. To that wonderful lady at Wal-Mart…thank you from this grateful mom whose hands are blessedly, yet temporarily full of three little treasures from the Lord. I know they will be empty all too soon…

BumBum Glue and God

May 7, 2008

My children do not sit still. Maybe it is their age. Maybe it is their personalities. Maybe it is that it rains for days straight. I don’t know the reason. All I know is that I seem to move in slow motion compared to them.

I hear myself saying “Sit down, Kathryn.” “Come back here, girl!” “Get down!” “Put it down, Stephanie.” all day long. I just WISH I could glue them to a chair for a few moments.

My wish came true through a friend Keri, who recently told me about her idea for what we have modified to call “BumBum Glue”. What is it?

A carpet square. Each of my girls now has one in a different color (even Rachael!), and when it is time for devotions, storytime, or any other time that I need them to settle down and sit still, I yell “BumBum glue!” And watch as they scramble to get their square and sit on it. (“BumBum” being our in house term for backside, gluteus maximus… you get the idea.)

Last week I got a square for me. It had been a hectic day. I was still in “rush mode” at 5pm when I was busily trying to do something on the laptop, listen to voicemail, and fix dinner all at the same time. To head off the inevitable five o’clock “whine and hover” in the kitchen, I told the girls to go play in the living room until dinner was ready.

Kathryn, however, had been feeling neglected all day. So she brought out her square, plopped it down in the middle of the kitchen floor and said “Mom. Mom! BumBum Glue! I have something to tell you!”

So I glanced at the oven and obliged, sitting cross-legged on her carpet square. She stood with her hand on my shoulder, looking into my eyes, and shared with me that she had made her dolly stand up on her feet. I can’t say I really understood the accomplishment, but I feigned excitement for her. Her eyes shone with pride. Then she was off, grinning, leaving me on the carpet square, eye level with the gravy splash on the bottom cabinet door that I hadn’t noticed before, considering seriously how to unfold my legs to get up again. I only had to sit for a minute for her to be satisfied to have had my attention.

Nothing in the oven burned. My emails didn’t ominously delete. The voicemails were still there to be listened to. And I had been able to add another small wrinkle of depth to my relationship with my daughter.

I can imagine God has His own version of BumBum glue for me. That cold that knocked me out. Slow down, Donna. The van at the mechanics. Relax, Donna. The meeting postponed for the umpteenth time. Let go, Donna. The vision that is not yet in His timing. Be still, Donna.

In fact, He tells me in His Word to “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psa 46:10) The word “still” has some interesting meaning – relax, sink down, let drop, to let go, to be quiet. Check that out. God tells us to just drop everything and sit down and be quiet. Sounds like BumBum Glue to me.

What is it that should drive us to drop everything? What does He desire for us in our stillness? To know – by experience – that He is God. Not just head knowledge. Experiential knowledge.

That experience brings with it a sense of utter and complete awe at what He does. The entire chapter underscores the earth shattering, raging water power that is His. And yet at the same time, notes that it is in that indescribable power that we have a refuge in time of trouble. We are in relationship with the ALL POWERFUL ONE. How safe.

John Piper said it best. “Come to God. Take refuge in God. Hide in the shadow of his wings. This is where we live and serve with joyful trembling. It is terrible and it is wonderful. It is like the eye of a hurricane-terror all around, and totally beautiful and calm. Here there is sweet fellowship. Here is quiet, loving communion. Here we speak to him as to a friend. Here he ministers to our deepest needs. I invite you to come.”

When was the last time you experienced God? Sit your bumbum down for a minute in front of His Word. Get a carpet square if you have to.

BumBum Glue. Now isn’t that a good idea? Don’t know where you got it from, but thanks for sharing it with me, Keri!

KatieBug had Cheerios today…

April 16, 2008

My baby girl got Cheerios today. And she taught me something about God. She has been breastfed, and fed baby food by spoon and now we are starting on finger foods. She loves Zweibak toast – although she still hasn’t figured out what to do with the last little piece in her clenched baby fist. We are still trying to figure that one out.

But as I said, today we tried Cheerios. I put a few in a little plate, and put them in front of her. She looked at them, looked at me and then opened and shut her little mouth in excitement, hoping that they would just miraculously materialize in her mouth like most of her other food. After feeding her a few I sat back and waited for her to reach out for them herself. It did not take long.

With a chubby little thumb and index finger she picked one up and put it in the general vicinity of her mouth. She missed and it ended up on the floor. By the time 10 minutes had gone by, there were quite a few on the floor. But more and more were getting into her mouth. And tomorrow when I provide her with a few Cheerios, I bet it won’t take long for her to remember what to do with them.

I suddenly felt nostalgic. My baby girl is beginning to feed herself…next thing she will be driving herself to the store to get her own Cheerios. And it is all my fault. If I kept hand feeding her, and hadn’t let her stare at a plate of Cheerios for a few minutes, feeling hungry, she would not have done what she needed to do to learn to feed herself.

Does God allow us feel a little hungry for a time so that we will learn how to pick up the food He has provided for us? Perhaps, in order to help us grow learn and mature, He allows us to feel empty, dry, thirsty, desperate for some spiritual food so that we will pick up the “food” he has provided with our chubby little hands. There will probably be days when we will miss, food ending up on the floor and not in our mouth as we say “I don’t understand” or “I didn’t get anything out of it today.”

Church provides us with spoon feeding and cooking lessons. We learn truths about Scripture, and also learn how to implement what we have learned. But how do you learn these truths during the week? What do you do if you are hungry for these truths and it is only Tuesday morning?

Do you feel far from God? Dying to hear from Him, and feel His presence – really feel it? Spiritually hungry? Go to the Word. Keep at it. The Lord will not hide his face from you. He will feed your soul. And eventually you will be driving yourself to the store to get a box of Cheerios. But you have to reach for one first.

I Received Grace…

June 27, 2007

As published on MSN.com June 25th, 2007
http://lifestyle.msn.com/familyandparenting/babyandpregnancy/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4999437

A young woman, pregnant by a stranger’s rape, chooses adoption over abortion.
By Donna Lewis
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It was January, and cold. I sat in the frigid car, my insides twisting in fear, tears streaming down my face. It was an ugly cry. I sobbed out loud, and pounded my head on the steering wheel. What now? I was at a complete loss. I prayed for an earthquake that would make the brick building in front of me crumble and crush my car—with me in it. I just wanted to be dead.

This was my second abortion appointment. The first was canceled because I had to pay for the abortion up front, and all I had was a check. They didn’t take checks. I had to make another appointment. This was it.

I took a deep breath and started the car. Frosty air blasted from the vents and kicked me out of my hysteria and into a dull, nearly comatose state. My nose was completely plugged, and my eyes were swollen and felt like gravel. I should have headed back to school, but I didn’t want to. All I knew was the overwhelming need to flee the clinic parking lot.

It had all started four months before with a group of friends out to have a good time downtown. Since there were so many of us, we all agreed that if we got separated, we would meet back at a particular building whose lobby was usually open after hours, and where we liked to hang out on the roof and talk about everything and nothing. Forget getting in touch by cell phone—at the time, only CEOs and high-ranking government officials had them.
We did get separated along the way, when I had to go to the restroom and my friends took off. I couldn’t find them, so I decided to go to the roof of our building and wait.

I waited for a few minutes. Since it was October and somewhat chilly, I decided to wait in the lobby instead. I got in the elevator, and a man entered a few floors down. This man pressed the emergency stop button and coldly raped me as I struggled in vain to fight him off. He got off at the next floor and left me a crumpled mess on the elevator floor.

My mind was in chaos. What had just happened? I could make no sense of it whatsoever. My brain cells slowly reorganized themselves in an attempt to deny the incident. I left without meeting my friends and simply went home, took a shower and went to bed.

I am not sure I would have ever mentally revisited that night again. But I was pregnant.

Initially I would not even entertain the idea. I was stressed. Finals were around the corner. My dad was let go from his job. There were plenty of things that could cause stress and mess with my system. I even refused to acknowledge the vague nausea I felt every night. Nerves, I supposed.

But after three months, I could not deny it much longer. I told a friend of mine who worked with me at the library, and she took me to her OB/GYN. I had never been to one before. I gazed at the diagrams of unborn babies on the wall, used so that women who were excited about their babies could see exactly what was going on inside their bodies. I couldn’t stop staring at the tiny little toes on the picture of the four-month pre-developed baby. Ten tiny toes. Perfect.

The doctor didn’t notice my gaze when he came back with my test results. Even though I knew it already, it still felt like I’d been hit in the stomach with a baseball bat when I heard, “Well, the test is positive. What would you like to do?”

After collecting my breath, I asked for clarification. “Do? What should I do?” He looked right into my eyes and said, “I can schedule an abortion for you if you like.”

Silence.

Likely knowing that I would have sat there in his office in a stupor all afternoon, he gave me a card with a phone number for the clinic down the street, wished me luck, and ushered me out.

I grew up in a home that followed the teachings of Jesus Christ. I had dedicated myself to that relationship years earlier. It was expected that I would graduate from college, have a wonderful career, marry and have a bunch of children. This horrible event was not part of the plan; I had never discussed with anyone, investigated for myself, or even really heard in passing, what a woman’s pregnancy options were.

Interestingly enough, my faith simultaneously drew me toward and away from an abortion.

The word “abortion” meant nothing to me. What had profound meaning was the phrase “pregnant out of wedlock.” This phrase reverberated through my life, sending feelings of doom. I felt intense shame and embarrassment. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. It did not matter how it happened. I was, effectively, a statistic. Another black girl pregnant out of wedlock.

God set up some teachings that He knew we would need in order to be happiest and healthiest. It pleases God to see us live according to design. This includes the ideal of having children inside the protection of a good marriage. However, because of this principle, some Christians show disdain, even revulsion, toward women whose sexual lives are made public through pregnancy. That anticipation of judgment, pity, and being shunned as an “outsider” in my own church drew me toward an abortion. I did not anticipate grace from people.

But at the same time, that very same faith drew me away from the abortion. I knew of God’s great affection for children, and His fierce desire to protect them. The Bible repeatedly speaks of how God wants us all to be like children. I knew He would not be thrilled if I decided to abort. I anticipated God’s anger, which drew me away from an abortion. I did not anticipate grace from God either.

The fact is that I did receive grace. But I had to take a risk to receive it.

A few days later I called the number on the card I got from the OB/GYN and made an appointment for an abortion. When I tried to pay with a check, I was told I had to come back later. So two weeks later I did.

But the day I returned, hoping for a compassionate face, a smile, something, all I got was a cold question: “Do you have proper payment?” She didn’t even look up. Something happened in that moment. Something broke inside me and I turned around and left without a word. There I sat sobbing in my car out in the cold. Lost.

After that I slowly changed my mind. I felt incapable of parenting, but I wanted this baby to live and decided to take a personal risk on her behalf and face whatever came my way. I told my parents. I told people in my church. And to my great surprise, I received grace. I was treated with such love, affection, compassion, and acceptance, it still amazes me. I couldn’t even absorb it all at the time, but later the realization of it brought me to my knees in grateful tears for those people who demonstrated real grace to me—the kind of grace that God wanted to show, no matter what I might have decided.

Many have asked me why I decided to make an adoption plan for my daughter Vanessa, when some people would have understood if I aborted. I don’t think there was any one reason—so many things merged into the eventual decision. I think my choice had four components:

Truth: I saw the truth of what was happening inside me. When I saw the medical pictures of fetal development, I couldn’t deny that she was human.

Love: I secretly loved that baby. It seemed to me then that I wasn’t supposed to love her because of the way she was conceived. I came to realize later that the love a woman has for her child has incredible strength—no matter what the child looks like, what handicap he may have, or the way he was conceived. I also wanted this child to have one thing I could not provide—the love of a daddy who had been waiting for her.

Vision: I had a vision of what I wanted. I wanted to be a mother someday. The conflict that went on in my head was this: How I could be a good mother later if I aborted my first child? I struggled with the knowledge that the value of a child is constant. My circumstances would continuously change. Should one of my children live or not live, depending on my changing circumstances? Or should I protect my children in the face of unpredictable circumstances? My desire became to protect this child, even though I couldn’t figure out how to protect myself.

Belief: Even in my numb state, I believed that doing the right thing would benefit me at some point. The right thing was to let this child live. It did not feel good. I knew I would have to walk through five more months of stares, questions, and self-perception struggles. But I believed, and it turned out to be true.

The process of my pregnancy was the most painful, difficult, and frightfully emotional thing I have ever gone through. The healing process was not easy either.

However, I am now much stronger having fought my way through it, and I have been able to incorporate my experience into my life, and my career as a life coach. I believe that most women can choose to use similarly difficult experiences to become stronger, more self-aware, and more compassionate human beings.

Seeing my beautiful daughter has been a huge factor in helping to heal my wounded spirit from the violence of the rape. Beauty was brought from ashes. The world now has this incredible person with potential to give back in ways I cannot foresee. She, too, has brought grace into my life.
In the years since we’ve been in contact, I am increasingly proud of the decision I made. I am also proud of my daughter, a fabulous addition to the world. She is a happy, intelligent, centered, socially aware human being, preparing to be launched into young adulthood and make her mark in the world.
Take a risk to receive grace into your life. You might be surprised where you find it.

Donna Lewis is a wife, mother, and personal coach (www.lewiscoaching.com). She and her husband Gerald live in Washington with their two toddler girls, Kathryn and Stephanie, who are getting to know and love their birth sister, Vanessa.

Protecting my Stuffed Horse

March 26, 2007

Kate and Stephie Closeup
Kathryn (on the right) is almost three, and a little obstinate lately. Not terrible – she is an eager to please child, funny, and beautiful (biased mom that I am). However, lately she has taken to obeying when and if she good and well feels like it. She has also entered the “MINE!” stage…including every variation thereof (It’s MY turn!; It’s MINE!; No! MINE!)

Well, today, I was packing us up for a vacation we will be taking, and on her bed was a new package of diapers for her baby sister, Stephanie. Kathryn picked them up and brought them out to the kitchen, and stood on top of them and said “I’m surfing!” (I honestly don’t know where she picked that up — we don’t surf, read about surfing, watch surfing or talk about surfing.) So I laughed and then told her to bring the diapers back to the bedroom.

They suddenly became too heavy to carry. “It’s too heabby, mom.” And she grabbed her stuffed horse and made for the den to play. I wavered for a moment. Do I just let it go and take the diapers into the room myself? They were a little bit heavy for a little girl to carry. Then I realized that she carried those “heabby” diapers all the way to the kitchen, she surely was strong enough to carry them back. So I called her and told her again – “Take the diapers back to the bedroom, Kathryn.”
Kathryn fooling around

After the third command, she finally realized I was serious (a blow to my “immediate obedience” philosophy). But by that time, her little sister Stephanie crawled into the kitchen and immediately went for the stuffed horse, which opened the floodgates for Kathryn’s fierce protection of her toy. “No! It’s MINE! MY TURN!” Meanwhile, I was still looking at Kathryn expecting her to obey the diaper request. So she looked at me, glared at Stephanie, and tried to pick up the diapers along with her big stuffed horse so Stephie couldn’t get to it.

Now that was too much for her to handle. She struggled for a few seconds more before putting everything down, and then bringing the horse to me for protection from her invading sibling. Then she, with relief, quickly took the diapers back to the bedroom.

I shook my head and tried to remember what I was doing before that episode. My ABBA tapped me on the shoulder and asked “Do you have a stuffed horse preventing you from obeying ME immediately?”

Hm. There are many assets that I try to protect when God asks for my obedience. I can’t do both – I have to give my assets to Him to hold for me, while I go do what He asks. I risk a spanking if I struggle to do both for too long.

A good example is my struggle not to go back to work. I love being a stay at home mom. It is something I have always said I would do if the Lord ever let me have children. But now we are always so close to broke! So periodically I think – If I would just go back to work, things would be ok. I have worked for the last 15 plus years, and it has always been a source of comfort and control for me. Protecting my stuffed horse. (Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me state here, that I believe that the Lord has NO direct commandments in Scripture about whether or not mothers should or should not work outside the home. This is simply my own agreement with Him).

If I allow myself to dwell there too long, I end up doing a poorer job mothering my children and caring for my husband, which for now is my full time job. So, I have to give my assets (financial in this case) to the Lord for him to hold while I obey. It is really interesting the relief that I feel once I realize that His capable hands are holding the things that I care about, allowing me to obey with freedom and abandon.

I don’t think I ever did finish what I was working on, but somehow it doesn’t really matter right now.

How to Have God Show Himself to You

February 18, 2007

We had finally hit it. The “NO” stage. My daughter Kathryn at 18 months had discovered this word. Along with her happy babbling, she started adding her marked dissent to situations that do not suit her.

Sometimes she just practiced the word for no real reason. In the car…”No no no no no no no..” or while playing “No no no no no no no no” or even when she meant to say yes to a bowl of applesauce she sometimes said “No no no no no no” (and then got mightily upset when I responded with an “OK” and took the applesauce away. Hahaha!)

I have to admit, it became exhausting. I think if she only realized that what I had for her was so much better! Getting a bath, cleaning her bottom, giving her dinner (rather than just Saltines)…

I remember hitting this stage in my Christian life. When I first got saved, I was SO happy and grateful that I just wanted to please the Lord no matter what. Until He asked difficult things of me, like giving up certain relationships or doing the work to change a habit that did not please Him. Then I entered the “NO” stage. Of course, I didn’t categorize it as such because I was so good at disguising my “NO” with really spiritual sounding excuses. I can’t imagine how irritated my Abba must have been.

“Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him” (Jn. 14:21) [Emphasis mine].

The key here is in the last four words. He will show Himself to us when we show our love for Him through our obedience. The more obedient we become, the more revelation of His presence we will feel in our life. Jeremiah tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).

Do you ever wonder why sometimes you cannot hear or sense God’s presence in your life, even though you know He is there? I did. I have found for me that it is often because at times I do not seek Him with a whole heart, and I am not always obedient to the things He has asked. God does not show us the next move until we are obedient to the first thing He has spoken to us. It is a progressive process. He entrusts the small things to us first, then moves us to the larger.

Sometimes we can become so focused on seeking the activity of God that we don’t seek God Himself. Hebrews tells us that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. In the Old Testament we are told, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).

Do you have a situation in which you are giving the Lord a sophisticated, well researched “NO”? Let me encourage you to do whatever it takes to change that to a “Yes”. Obey Him! The Lord has such wonderful things in store that we don’t know of! Things that will fill our souls and give us joy…it is what He desires for us – hope and a future. But we must do it His way.

Sometimes, we do not have to seek Him out to know His desires. We simply need to choose to obey His words. The more I seek Him, the more clearly I hear Him. And when we hear Him we must simply obey so that we may be empowered by His presence.