Pro Life Meets Grace

I wrote a post a few days ago entitled “Every Life Matters.”

In it I shared my passion for the pro life movement and my firm belief that life begins at conception.

I believe everything I said but it left me with an unsettled feeling that I couldn’t shake. Something just didn’t sit well in my heart.

Was it fear of how others would label me? Discomfort at placing myself so entirely in an unpopular camp? The Spirit’s promptings of the airs of self righteousness that trickled through my words?

Those things for sure, but there was more.

I finally realized, it felt unfinished and unsettling because it was.

This was only half of the story.

I firmly believe that life begins at conception and that from the very first second that life should be protected, advocated for and fought for.

But I also believe that being pro life means advocating for, protecting and fighting for the lives of women, not just babies.

It means not ignoring the stories of the women who feel abortion is their only option, and allowing those stories to drive us to hard questions.

It means advocating for real, viable solutions and accessible support for women struggling with mental health issues.

It means supporting local pregnancy centers in their goal to give women support emotionally, physically and spiritually whether or not they choose to carry out their pregnancy to term.

It means crossing social, economic and racial barriers to reach the hearts of women living out realities I don’t understand or cannot identify with personally.

It means fighting for laws that will offer protection and healing for vulnerable women.

It means grieving with them.

It means listening to their stories and not offering unsolicited advice or uneducated options.

It means offering truth, grace and support to women who have chosen abortion in the past or are choosing abortion now.

It means choosing words and actions that bestow dignity and value on women who are considering abortion.

It means raising young men of integrity who will treat the women in their lives with respect, dignity and honor.

It means surrounding our daughters with both men and women who will protect, empower and validate them to live out their fullest potential.

It means supporting struggling mothers, getting involved in foster care, providing permanency for children who need to leave their first families.

It means grace.

Grace that humbly admits I have few answers to the difficult situations women find themselves in leading up to this decision.

Grace that acknowledges we live in an imperfect, marred world where sin and darkness berate, abuse and destroy.

Grace that sees my own brokenness, fragility and sin.

Grace that covers, forgives and redeems.

Pro Life meets Grace when Jesus enters the scene.

Jesus offers us life abundant, regardless of the wreckage of our lives.

He infuses hope, courage, resiliency and beauty into our mess.

As a Jesus follower, and a pro life advocate, this is the message I want to carry.

~AF

Every Life Matters

We’re just a couple weeks past Mother’s Day and my stomach churns every time I scroll through my Facebook feed.

Just a short week ago, we proudly posted pictures of our children, our mothers and our grandmothers.

We applauded women of all ages and validated the sacrifices they make to bring life to the world.

On Mother’s Day moms enjoyed breakfast in bed, flowers from their partners and tender thank you notes scrawled in preschool print. Everywhere we looked we saw the message that mothers deserve to be seen, valued and encouraged in their role; that what we are investing in is beautiful, irreplaceable and important.

Mother’s day proposes to us that women deserve to be recognized for the courage, resilience, and sacrifice they live out daily in their quest to give themselves to the next generation.

Mother’s day told women that they are strong, capable, remarkable and seen in a world that would have us believe otherwise.

But today, my Facebook feed stands in stark contrast to the messages of Mother’s Day.

Today women are saying,

We demand control of our bodies and our lives.

We are victims of a war against femininity.

We want a voice.

We deserve respect.

No one else gets to trump our rights.

All I can think as I watch friend after friend share outrageous, passionate, angry memes, posts and videos is…

Where are the women who, two weeks ago, valued life and motherhood? Where are the women who said they would willingly lay down their lives for the little people they birthed?

When my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 18 months, I would have given anything to take his place and go into that operating room myself. Instead I placed him into the arms of a stranger wearing a gown and mask and stood sobbing in my husband’s arms as he was carried away from me.

I would give anything to go back in time for my four other children and take the betrayal, abandonment and hurt they experienced. I would give my right arm in a heart beat if it meant I could erase some of that pain or change some of their first mothers’ choices that have led to such difficulty in life for them.

Every mother I know would throw her life recklessly on the line for her child.

So what changes so dramatically when a baby travels down the birth canal and lets out that first feeble cry? At what point do they magically become human and worthy of protection when a mere few months earlier we say their existence is only optional?

If life does not begin at conception, when does it begin?

At 10 weeks?

20 weeks?

30 weeks?

40 weeks?

And who gets to decide at what point a new life is formed enough to have rights of its own?

We go to great lengths to get prenatal care and help women make healthy choices during pregnancy.

Why does it matter if my children’s birth mothers exposed them to harmful substances in the first two months of their lives if they weren’t really classified as a life at all?

And what determines our value?

Who gets to decide which lives are valuable and which ones are discarded?

Are we put on some type of scale to determine our level of significance to the world to decide whether or not we hold enough value to deserve an existence?

Maybe it’s our level of dependence on another human being, our physical or mental capabilities. Maybe it’s our IQ level or emotional intelligence that should dictate our worth.

Maybe it’s whether or not our birth was planned, if we developed fully in utero or if we were wanted.

Who gets to decide?!

I care about this because the ripples of abortion are deeply personal to me.

Four of my children deal with physical, emotional and neurological differences that set them apart from their peers. They learn differently, they process differently, they see the world through different eyes.

Would you put them on a scale and rank their worth next to their peers in accordance with their abilities?

If life before birth can be evaluated and discarded based on certain qualities, why not after birth as well?

What if someone could have seen the extent of my children’s struggles and abnormalities?

What if the years of neglect, trauma, turbulence in foster care, unusual chromosomes, neurological damage, physical weaknesses and difficult family circumstances they were entering into were deemed to be too difficult?

What if someone had decided they were not worth it, not wanted, not valuable enough?

“They’ll just spend years in foster care when their teenage parents cannot care for them.”

“They will struggle all their lives; it isn’t fair to them.”

“Their mother isn’t ready to have a baby. She’s so young.”

Who would have protected their right to the beautiful, rich lives they live today? Who would have imagined the unique, irreplaceable talents and skills they bring to the world, my world, today?

Where are those women?

Where are the women who will sit day and night beside the tiny plastic bassinet in the ICU while a vulnerable premature baby fights for life, surrounded by wires, tubes and monitors?

Where are the women who will take in the child who has lost their first parents, been abandoned, neglected or abused, believing that the life they are taking into their care is worth the sacrifice of comfort, time and freedom?

Where are the women who will fight passionately for the rights of every human life to be preserved, protected and valued?

I Believe women should have rights…but not for women’s rights to be placed above every other human’s rights.

I don’t want my rights to trump the rights of my children, my husband or anyone else.

That is not equality and that is not the kind of world I want my daughters to grow up in.

I want to raise daughters who value their femininity and see the incredible ability for nurture, intelligence, beauty and life they bring to the world as women.

I want to raise daughters who are willing to lay down their comfort, sacrifice their freedom and discipline their minds and hearts to serve their communities, families and the world we live in.

Women who can both lead and follow.

Women who will travel across the globe to invest in developing careers for women living in poverty, to dedicate their lives to raising the next generation, to empower their husbands and sons with strength and integrity that only a woman can inspire in a man.

I am pro life because I believe life begins at conception and that God is the author and keeper of each new life.

I am pro life because I believe each new life is carefully crafted in the image of God, and therefore every life matters and that every life deserves to be protected.

I realize I have painted this picture very black and white. I know there is unimaginable pain, trauma and so many complicated layers to this issue. Probably some of you have been triggered very painfully by this post, and for that I am so sorry.

The pro choice movement would lead us to believe that a woman’s choice to abort brings freedom, healing and empowerment to women caught in impossible situations.

However, they leave out the reality that abortion accepts sacrificing the life of an unborn child is necessary and acceptable. The ramifications and ripple effects of that declaration are devastating.

The pro choice movement also fails to acknowledge the incredible physical, psychological and emotional trauma women experience post abortion. Abortion rarely improves a woman’s difficult situation, but instead adds another toxic layer of grief and loss. It emphasizes the results of trauma as a problem versus the trauma itself.

I don’t join protests, tout political jargon or support all the people, movements or bills that are passed under the name of pro life.

But I am pro life and I choose to stand firmly by the truth that life begins at conception and that every life has value.

~AF

“For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.” -Psalm 139

Too Expensive, too Hard…or Just Don’t Want To?

Deep breath.

Exhale.

I have to write this blog right now because something I just read on facebook is making my blood boil but I try to make a habit of not saying controversial things on social media because it just seems useless and my sister didn’t answer her phone so I couldn’t vent on her about it so here I am!!

Exhale.

Ok.

So the ironic thing is that the facebook thing started out really positive.  It was an article about pro-life, which I reposted by the way, and in a nutshell basically said if you’re not the kind of person who is willing to celebrate the lives of mothers and children in needy, chaotic, messy places then maybe you’re not as pro-life as you think you are.

Read it here

The part that made my blood boil was reading through the comments on the post.  Inevitably the topic turned to adoption since the article briefly mentioned it and the comments were concluding that certainly adoption would be a lovely choice if only it weren’t so hard and so expensive!  Apparently, the government makes it “nearly impossible” for people to adopt.  One woman said that she would love to adopt “a few children” if only it weren’t so expensive and difficult.

So…

I have something to say.

  1. ADOPTION IS NOT TOO EXPENSIVE!

International and domestic adoptions are expensive, this is true.  In common language this means that if you want to adopt a healthy infant directly at birth from his or her birth mother OR you want to adopt a child from another country you will have costs that range from $10 000 to $50 000.

My husband and I adopted our two daughters during the last year and half.

We are a young couple – aged 25 and 26, who also got married very young with very few pennies to our name.

I stay at home every day as a stay-at-home mom, school volunteer, housekeeper, etc.  Nobody pays me to do any of the things I do.  I don’t get paid to wash clothes, dishes or bed sheets.  I don’t get paid to buy groceries…in fact, it’s the opposite!  I don’t get paid to feed my family, write this blog, pick up toys or organize dusty closets.  In short, I am useless financially!

My husband is awesome, but he’s just a normal guy.  He holds down a 5 days a week landscaping job with no benefits.  In the winter time he runs his own snow removal business in our little town.  He works hard to pay for the food on our table, clothes on our backs and monthly bills.

We don’t have a huge house, a fancy car or money built up in our savings accounts for our retirement.

We are average Canadians…

and we adopted.

The truth is, adoption is only very expensive if you have decided you will only adopt a healthy infant or if you’ve decided you would like to adopt internationally.

Adoption here, through the public welfare system in Canada, is not expensive at all.

In fact, there are financial benefits we are receiving for our two adopted daughters that will make raising them less expensive than the baby I’m carrying who is to arrive next month!

Don’t kid yourself.

If you’re using the excuse that you can’t adopt because you think it is too expensive you are just looking for an excuse.  There are over 30 000 children here in Canada whom you could adopt for next to nothing and receive financial assistance for any special needs they may have.

You will not pay a dime for your home study, paperwork, or even lawyers in an adoption through public social services.  If you need to do some travelling while meeting and transitioning your child, you will be at least partially reimbursed for that cost.  If you adopt a sibling group, a child with special needs or an older child there are numerous government financial benefits you can apply for to help cover the costs you may have for specialized therapy, counselling, equipment, etc.

The sad thing is that these benefits are in place primarily to motivate people to consider adopting these children.  Tell me I’m not the only one who feels that is very wrong in the prosperous country we live in!

The real question you need to be asking yourself is why is it so important to me that I adopt a healthy infant or a child from another country?  What is it about children from other countries that is so much more valuable than the children in my own city?  What is it about a healthy infant that is so much more appealing to me than a child with physical or emotional damage through no fault of their own?

Don’t get me wrong.

I am a huge advocate of all three types of adoption!

One is not better than either of the others.

However, if financially you are not in the place to be able to spend $10 000 to $50 000 on an adoption, but say that you would love to adopt…why have you not considered public adoption?

What exactly is the real reason behind your lack of action?

If you read the article about pro-life, continue your train of thought from there.

Are you really pro-life if you are not willing to adopt the child struggling with brain damage due to his mother’s addictions during her pregnancy?  Or should she have aborted after all?

Do you really want to adopt a needy child into your home, or only one that fits certain criteria for a comfortable, safe and happy life?

Digging deeper, do you really believe that all humans are unimaginably valuable in God’s eyes; His created works of art; made in His image?  If so…how will you choose to live out that reality when it comes to this social crisis in our country and our world?

ADOPTION IS NOT TOO EXPENSIVE!

Maybe you just don’t want to do it.

Adoption through the public system in Canada and the US is basically free.

There may be costs down the line, but they are costs you may have to consider with biological children as well.  You may need a bigger house, bigger vehicle and bigger grocery budget.  You may have to give up buying take out and learn to cook.  You may have to drive a mini van instead of the SUV you prefer.  You may not be able to decorate your home as you’d like or keep the yard perfectly manicured.  You or your spouse may have to work less or not at all.

As for the ten, twenty or even fifty thousand dollars you would spend on a private or international adoption…I would say this.

How much did you pay for your last vehicle?

How much do you spend on coffee or lattes in a day, a week, a month…a year?

When is the last time you got a secure loan from the bank…and what was it for?

How much money did you spend on your last phone upgrade?

We are filthily rich in this land of freedom, abundance and prosperity.

Is adoption too expensive?

Maybe that depends how much you think those lives are really worth and what you’re willing to sacrifice.

$10 000?

$20 000?

$50 000?

How high would the price tag be on your child?

So, you say…it may not be too expensive but they sure make it hard!  All those rules and paperwork and scrutiny…

2. ADOPTION IS NOT THAT HARD IF YOU REALLY WANT TO DO IT!

You probably did just as much paperwork to buy your home, do your taxes or write your will as you will do to complete your adoption.  If this is something you really want to do, it really won’t be that hard to sign a few papers and check off a few checklists.

Is there lots of scrutiny into your personal life?  Yes.

Is there lots of questions…some that are uncomfortable?  Yes.

But it’s really not that hard.

I am grateful to have worked with a system that has rules in place to be sure that children are being adopted legally, safely and sensitively into homes that are prepared to meet their needs.  Are there silly rules and procedures that feel like an obstacle course?  Yes, sometimes.  But know that while some things may be obvious to you, they may not be obvious to everyone.  Or maybe you just have something to learn.

The number one goal is not to make life easier for you.  Get over yourself.  The number one goal is to protect the children who are vulnerable in this system, and they are very vulnerable.  I am grateful for that protection.  I am proud to tell my daughters that it took a while to find just the right family for them because their adoption worker knew that not just anyone will do.

I am grateful to have received training, advice and guidance before we jumped into raising children who have had attachment disruptions, brain trauma, emotional insecurity and behavioural challenges.  It is different than raising a child from birth and you’re going to be much better prepared if you are willing to learn some things from someone who has had experience.

I am grateful to have formed an intimate enough relationship with our social worker through all those meetings and phone calls to be able to be honest about the hard stuff, ask questions without feeling bashful and know that somebody has my back through it all.

Without all the paperwork, meetings, training classes and scrutiny…I would not have been ready to parent my children.

If that feels too hard…then you probably haven’t put it all in perspective…or you don’t want to do it as much as you’re telling yourself you do.

No, I’m not going to let you off the hook.

There are children waiting for families all over the world, and if we really tried, we could find homes for all of them.  It’s time to stop making excuses and start being honest.

It’s not too expensive,

It’s not too hard,

If you want to.

That kind of want needs to come pouring out of hearts that have experienced adoption into the family of our Abba Father.

That kind of want flows from hearts that know what redemption, freedom and sacrifice mean.

Hearts that understand grace at the hands of our Jesus.

Hearts that have experienced transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hearts that in return want to pour out love on others.

I pray for this kind of want.