Thursday, May 5, 2016

Polly

Writing Prompt: He had my name written all over him.
Writing Time: 15 minutes

He had my name written all over him. Literally. Polly. Polly. Polly. Polly. At least 50 times, it was written on his skin in blue marker. I stopped in my tracks. Stared. I couldn't help it. The man looked to be 60 years old but only at first glance. My stare continued and it became clear that under the grime and the sunburn and the shaggy, unkempt blonde hair, he might have been 40. Besides the letters, the man wore dirty plaid cargo shorts and leather sandals, one heel strap loose from its seam at the inside of his ankle. Finally, he looked my way. His eyes darted from mine to the ground, to the tree, back to me, back to the ground.

Polly.

I tried to look away.

Polly.

What a strange, unsettling coincidence. That's how I would remark to my friends later tonight. I was meeting them for drinks at our favorite bar. I imagined describing the details of the scene. I'd include the absence of anyone else in this corner of the park. Maybe I would mention the boat approaching the landing behind the man, and how the sun was low enough to catch the metal of the bench and momentarily blind you.

He wasn't sitting on the bench. My favorite bench. He was standing beside it, one hand resting gingerly on its back. Waiting. Waiting for me? Don't be ridiculous, Polly.

Polly.

I didn't know where to turn. He'd seen me. He was the sort of person most people steered their path around in a wide berth, not wishing to smell him, much less chance touching him. I could see in the low hang of his neck, the silent rejection he encountered in every hour of  every day. My father had taught us that every single person had dignity and worth. Even when they didn't know it themselves or they had buried it by their choices, still they possessed it. My father taught us to always leave a person feeling more certain of their dignity than before they encountered us. Damn it, Dad. If I walked away now, this man would know rejection once more. I could feel the threat of my father's disapproval from heaven above.

Don't get me wrong. If I sensed any danger, I would have walked away. Briskly, my eyes and ears on alert, I would have left the scene. There was no danger here. I knew it as well as I knew my own name.

Polly.

Monday, May 2, 2016

10 Things I Love In This Life




1. My son's laugh. Timothy's laugh is the most delicious combination of giggle and belly laughter. It is physically impossible not to smile when I hear it coming from another room. The sound, especially when it is near my ear, is a mood altering drug.

2. My husband's touch. The first time he met my closest friends, we were out to dinner at a favorite restaurant. I wore a sleeveless black blouse and fidgeted nervously throughout the meal. At one point, he leaned over and lightly kissed my bare shoulder. That simple, gentle touch was felt straight through to my fingertips . I love when he takes my hand; when he absently caresses my back as he's passing by; when our feet rest against each other as we fall asleep. Matt's touch is full of reassurance and tenderness in the ordinary moments of our lives.

3. My daughter's smile. From four weeks old, Annabelle has specialized in open-mouthed, pure-joy smiles. I have considered printing every single photo I have of her top notch smile (there  are many) for a photo album that could cure any sad day.  The fact that I am often on the receiving end of her smile is one of the deepest resources of happiness I could possess. 

4. My stepson's hugs. Nethanial has the warmest of hearts but he's also nearly a teenager, which means sometimes the hug is a from the side, one arm around the shoulder, quick release version. That's ok, because those only increase the value of the other version he's capable of offering. From the time I first bonded with him six years ago, he has demonstrated great skill in the field of hugging. Arms wrapped tightly, his smooth cheek pressed against me and his thick, messy hair tickling my chin. It's a treat every single time.
5. A novel that makes me doubt I am any good at writing. That sounds negative, and the experience has the potential of negativity, but in actuality it is a great thing. Reading a sentence so well crafted that I can't imagine writing one of its equal, or finishing a paragraph with the sensation of seeing that moment of the story with my own two eyes - it fills me with satisfying excitement and the driving ache to write more.
6. Finding a new favorite. I'm of the mind that we need not limit ourselves to a very few select "favorites." A favorite gives pleasure. It's uplifting and encouraging. So discovering a new favorite is such a blessing! Favorite hiking trail, favorite lighthouse, favorite coffee shop (requirement: best chai tea in town), favorite song, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite episode of your favorite show, favorite prayer, favorite hairstyle, favorite shoes, favorite scripture verse, favorite sound, favorite photo. They are a bouquet of gratitude; a collection of guarantees that there are things to enjoy in my life.
7. My characters. I don't know if I will ever have my books published. I don't know how many people will read them or whether or not they'll be glad they read them. What I do know is I have created people I love. I care about them. I'm interested in them. I look forward to hearing what they have to say and where they will take me next. I discover more about them and myself the more time we spend together.
8. Pasta.
9. Lake Michigan. My roots run through the woods of the Upper Peninsula to Lake Michigan. The lake touches home - both my first home and my current one - and it touches adventures away from home. I close my eyes and listen to it. I feel its waves slapping my feet. In its calm moments I see serenity poured out to the horizon and beyond. I snap picture after picture. Sunrises, sunsets, swims, boats, beaches, hikes, lighthouses, dunes... They are all splendid on Lake Michigan.

10. The Eucharist. I could say so much but Jesus said it all. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (John 6:51).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Away From Elsewhere

I sit at my desk wearing a fleece jacket zipped to my neck and a thick afghan blanket over my legs. The culprit is the A/C vent in the ceiling over my neighbor's cubicle. He's comfortable, by the way, as the vent doesn't force the air straight down but rather outward in each direction. My hands, starting to tan from time in the occasional sunshine we have been treated to lately, are icy cold on the keyboard.

No matter how I feel about my job overall, this is reason enough to wish I was elsewhere. 

Elsewhere. 

I keep planning little escapes in my head. Places to visit, adventures to take. They're all elsewhere. I want to put my baby girl in a carrier on my chest and hike the trails I used to enjoy. I want to take a day away with my husband to revisit the waterfalls a few counties north of here. There was a day like that from one of our dating summers and it stands out in my memory as particularly splendid. I'd like to take my little boy on an adventure, maybe explore a farm full of animals or go camping for a night, just the two of us. The idea thrills me to take them all, plus my stepson, on a drive to Holy Hill for a day of beauty and fun and peace.

Or I could write. Elsewhere, I could write. Elsewhere, I could sit for hours with my manuscript and pens, marking up the pages with changes and improvements. I could move closer and closer to being ready to seek a publisher. 

I want, I want, I want. I could, I could, I could. There is no contentment in letting my mind be occupied in this way. These aren't bad things to be desiring. Some of them might come to fruition in the near future with some good planning. Focusing on them at the expense of what is right in front of me though, is unacceptable. Instead, contentment might be exactly what I ought to seek right now. 

In our everyday language, contentment has taken a bad rap. We use the word too often to refer to "settling" or "resigning." Settling for less than what you desire or seek; Resigning yourself to circumstances you wish were different. We talk of someone being content with the hand they were dealt, content in their comfort zone, or content to put up with this or that. Maybe we are using the word incorrectly.

Contentment - definition: the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind
Content - definition: satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else

Ease of mind. Satisfied. Sounds deliciously wonderful to my restless heart.

I do believe I have feared contentment at times. If I am content, will I stop dreaming? Will I stop striving for greater things or improving myself? Will I no longer seek new experiences?

The answer to those questions might be yes, but it's completely up to me. Instead, contentment can be exactly what's needed to be ready for the next dream, the next experience, the next change. Contented peace of mind will allow me to be my best self, present and engaged instead of anxiously longing for the elusive elsewhere. Contentment will open my eyes to the goodness of the moments here and now, to the blessings I take for granted. Contentment will soften my heart to understand why my path has taken me to this place with these people instead of that place with those people. Contentment contains patience, cheerfulness, calm, and joy. 

Contentment is starting to sound a whole lot better than Elsewhere.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Wearing the Writer Hat When There Are So Many Hats to Wear (Or Replace "Writer" With Whatever Hat You're Having Trouble Keeping On Your Head)

In perusing old posts on this blog, I happened upon this statement: "My first book didn't get written because I had nothing else to do. It was written because I chose to write it." I need this reminder once in a while, as every writer likely does. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a full time employee. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, friend. You could write your own list, I'm sure.

During the stretch of time in which I wrote that first novel, I did not yet hold some of those privileged titles. I have gained a beloved spouse and family in the years since then. So the argument is valid that it was much easier to choose to write then than it is now. It is harder now. It is more complicated. You know. Your life now is not likely the same as your life when you began as a writer. How then do we continue to wear the hat of Writer when it is so difficult to balance it on the stack of other hats we wear?

Perhaps all it can come down to is giving yourself an honest answer to this question: Is writing still worth it?

If the answer is yes, please proceed to the next paragraph. If the answer is no, I wish you well and hold absolutely no judgment against you for your decision. In fact, I hope you're blessed by this realization as it likely frees you from the tedious burden of clinging to a pursuit you are no longer called to follow. If the answer is maybe, give yourself some time to mull it over.

Okay, since you're reading this, I shall believe that you gave a firm nod of the head in the direction of your computer monitor. Yes, you thought, it is still worth it. How about we say it aloud? "Yes, writing is still worth it! My life has changed. My responsibilities are many. My interests are varied. Among all the other titles I hold though, I am also a writer and I want to remain a writer." Still with me? Let's keep rolling.

I dedicated myself to writing when I was fresh out of college. Single, living with my sister and dear friend, working an easy, stress-free job as I waited for that career-starting position to come my way - my lifestyle was tailor made for taking up writing in the manner I'd long hoped to do. The way circumstances allowed me to be immersed in the endeavor of writing, to adorn myself in the identity of Writer, is something I could not fully appreciate until those circumstances changed. I thank God I had those years when I was lonely and bored with my job. I don't wish to return there but I certainly find I am grateful for them! After that period of abundant harvest though came the time of dryness.

Writing fell by the wayside as I unwrapped the gifts of romance, marriage, babies, and more fulfilling work. It became that dear companion of my past: missed, remembered fondly, and promised a future reunion as soon as the time is right.

Ha! As soon as the time is right! If you're relating to this post in any way, you understand why the idea makes me laugh. To put it succinctly, the time has not been "right" and I do not expect it to be "right" in the foreseeable future. When you live a full life (which is a great enhancement to your writing), the time will always be wrong to return to writing. You are highly unlikely to stumble upon some fresh period in your life that is perfectly shaped for a commitment to writing. The answer to this unfortunate truth? Write anyway.

Your life is unique. Your writing is unique. No advice or plan will completely suit everyone. Still, I hope you can find some encouraging help from the things I have found work for me. Here is how I wear my Writer hat when there are already a pile of hats on my head.

  1. Wear Your Writer Hat Proudly: Wherever you are right now, announce to the world, "I AM A WRITER!" Claim it. As cheesy as that may sound, it is an absolute must if you are going to follow through on your writing goals. Do not hide it. Do not be ashamed of it. Be proud of your identity as a writer. As with anyone who talks incessantly of only one thing, this should not translate into you making sure anyone and everyone must listen to you talk about your writing. You can be proud and unashamed without being alienating. The things we love ought to be shared naturally and joyfully. So, why is it that so many writers hesitate to admit to what they are? Even when asked about your interests or passions, do you avoid mentioning writing? Or at the very least couple it with other lesser hobbies as if it is not a priority in any way? I have done that. I've mentioned it dismissively or avoided it completely. In doing so, I was betraying my true self. When someone is showing genuine interest in you, they want to know the real you and you are a writer.
  2. Do Not Procrastinate: In this I am not only talking about writing. If you make it a general rule to avoid procrastination in any of your responsibilities, you will discover that you can find opportunities to write. Procrastination creates an atmosphere of 'too much to do.' It makes it easy to become overwhelmed, to resent the tasks of daily life, and to decide there is always something more important to be done instead of writing. Refusing to procrastinate in other priorities will make it tremendously easier to not procrastinate on your writing goals. If procrastination is currently a well rooted habit of yours, patiently retrain yourself. I guarantee it will bring about positive change in all areas of your life.
  3. Enlist Help: Your significant other, your kids, your roommates, your friends - these folks can be considered as hindrances to your writing. Often it is only a subconscious idea but it has very real and negative consequences on your attitude toward both writing and those individuals. Yes, at times they can cause delays in sitting down to write. They can distract you and fail to understand the writer in you. Help them become your helpers instead of your hindrances. Share how important writing is to you. Compare it to something that matters to them in a similar way so they can gain perspective on your writing life. If you're a scheduler, setting aside specific and regular times for writing (something I haven't worked my way up to yet), be up front with them about that schedule. They will adjust. Share with them what you write when it is appropriate or helpful to do so. Find little ways to involve them and communicate that you need them. The people closest to you can be your greatest voices of encouragement, confirming you in your efforts and challenging you to follow through on your goals. If they don't naturally develop that voice, ask them for it.
  4. Use Writing Prompts: When you're blocked completely, not a single sentence forming on the page, use writing prompts. When you're frustrated by your writing falling terribly short of what's in your head, use writing prompts. When you want to hone your skills, break new creative ground, or test your imagination, use writing prompts. When you want to have some writerly fun, use writing prompts! I've only been employing them for short while but they have become a highly effective tool for kickstarting my brain. There are a million and one available online. Some are more useful than others. You can search for prompts created for your particular genre or simply find one that interests you and go from there. Write for as long as you wish from a prompt or set a timer and challenge yourself to write as much as you can before the bell. However you choose to use them, they can be excellent aids for any writer.
  5. Read Books: This should be obvious, I think, but just as it can be difficult to see any available time to write, it can be the same for reading. However, we need to feed our brains with the fruit produced by those who labor in the same art we are attempting to create. Even if it takes you half a year to finish one book, always be in the midst of reading one. Much like writing prompts, picking up a book to read can churn up the ideas in your own mind. Sometimes a fine example of your own genre is what you'll need. Other times, a book that is outside your typical interests as both a reader and a writer will lead to greater creativity in your work. No matter what, be a reader as you work to create more for the world to read.
  6. Get Some Readers: Nothing makes you feel like a legitimate writer like having readers! It is a thrill, scary and exciting, to hand your work over to another human being and ask them to read it. When I do it I am filled with hope and trepidation. I want them to love it, of course, and be glad they spent their time and energy on it. When they come back with a positive response, I am filled with renewed motivation to keep my Writer hat on my head. When they return with critiques, I am sad but grateful to know where I failed them as my readers. Ask a variety of people to read your work. Join a writers group that is both welcoming and willing to challenge you to improve when you share your words with them. Promote your blog or other writing medium to gain readers. Sometimes a stranger, unswayed by their love and affection for you, can be the most helpful reader. Other times, someone who will handle you with care as you struggle to keep plugging away on that draft is exactly who you need. Every reader is tremendously valuable.
  7. Believe You Have a Contribution to Make to Humanity: I hope that doesn't sound trite. I firmly believe this should be part of our mindset for every title we hold and hat we wear. It is true of my place in the world as a wife, as a mother, as a worker, and no less, as a writer. Our gifts and passions were stitched into our unique design by our creator. There is a reason I love to write fiction while my husband loves to write song lyrics. There is a reason I find beauty in words in a way that reminds me of how my grandmother found beauty in the flowers and birds. We each have a contribution to make. Ultimately, that is why it is worthwhile to diligently fulfill our roles in this world. Every single one of them. When they are simple and straightforward, bringing joy to ourselves and others, or when they are difficult, complicated, and even painful, the titles with which we have been gifted in life are our paths to contributing to the amazing, intertwining existences of humanity. In the end, I hope that one of the great ways I honored who I was created to be was by being a writer.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Envelope

Writing Prompt: “My life changed the day I found that huge envelope stuffed with cash in the coupon exchange bucket at the supermarket.”

Writing Time: 10 minutes

I’d like to say I did the right thing. I’d like to say I didn’t think only of myself. All I can honestly say is my life changed the day I found that huge envelope stuffed with cash in the coupon exchange bucket at the supermarket.

Yellow, worn corners, thick with papers inside. I picked up that envelope with the thought, “well, someone gave up on serious couponing.” I expected cents and dollars off, not actual dollars. I glanced through the rest of the bucket and took the envelope with me, planning to flip through the coupons while I shopped and return what I didn’t use to the bucket. I was standing beside the sweet potatoes when I opened it up.

Five thousand dollars. I wrapped my fingers around the bills, not daring to lift them out of the envelope for others to see. My mouth went dry. I counted it three times. Five thousand dollars. My first thought was to bring it to the customer service desk. My second thought was of how many month’s rent would be covered by this cash. How many car payments or medical bills or grocery store runs. In that moment, surrounded by unaware shoppers and clutching the handle of my cart, I believed I had been miraculously blessed.

Had I not prayed for this? Lord, you know my needs, I’d whispered as I sat at my kitchen table this morning. Please help me, Lord. Please, help me. I know You will not abandon me. I believe you can show me a way through this.

Yes, that envelope was an answer to prayer. A wondrous, exciting answer that made me want to leap for joy right there in the produce section.

That was seven months ago. I still say it was an answer to my prayer, just not the obvious answer I imagined. No, nothing like I imagined.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sometimes At Dusk

Writing Prompt: Sometimes at dusk we would see him come out from the hidden interior of his…
Writing Time: 15 mins

Sometimes at dusk we would see him come out from the hidden interior of his ramshackle home. Never in the morning. Never at noon. Only at dusk. The place was a rustic cabin, aged and uncared for over the years. In the evening, when the daylight was fully spent, the soft, flickering lights emanating through the windows suggested candles. None of us had ever seen inside so it was only speculation.

When I was especially young – five, six, seven years old – I assumed he was old and the sightings in the gray of twilight did nothing to correct that assumption. My sister, two years older, and I would huddle at the window of our sun room to watch. The crowns of our blonde heads down to our eyes were as much as we dared to show of ourselves. We’d whisper our guesses of who he was, always certain we hadn’t hit on the correct answers.

An escaped convict hidden away from the authorities. A man who ran away from an abusive family years and years ago, still afraid. A rogue spy who had enough of the lies and secrets and just wanted to be left alone.

The truth was nothing like our adventurous imaginings.

When I was fourteen, I realized he was young - maybe thirty or thirty-five. He moved into that cabin behind our backyard when he was twenty-three. 

A Little Prompting

I have a new love. In all my years of writing I have never used writing prompts. Well, that's not entirely true. If I think really hard, I can remember my 9th grade English teacher Miss Roberts (huge difference maker in my life!) conducting writing activities in which we were given a topic and needed to write on it for the remainder of class. I don't remember how well I responded to them at that time and I know she didn't make use of them often. So, let's focus on the present.

In January, I finally joined a writers' group for the first time. Oh, how I wish I had done this years ago! We meet once a month and share our writing projects. For the last half hour of the meeting, we use a writing prompt provided by one of the members. We write for only five minutes then share what we created. Plain and simple, it's my new favorite thing.

The prompts provide an itty bitty nugget of an idea. A start. A seed. When I read or hear the prompt, it's a thrill to know that in that moment there is no telling where I will go with it and yet in merely a few minutes I'll have formed a fuller concept and put words to the page. Each time it feels like I am being introduced to myself anew. Sometimes the result is tepid but other times I stare at the lines I wrote and wonder, "Where inside of me did that come from?"

This being the case, and the other case being that I have desired a return to blogging but have inexplicably struggled with writer's block each time I open a blank post, I shall make use of writing prompts here on the blog. My hope is that it will be fun and interesting, and will continue to break out the writer inside of me. I am excited to meet her each and every time.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

On the Water

Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.
When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on the shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them.
But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!" He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. 
They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.     Mark 6:45-52
I am much more familiar with Matthew's account of Jesus walking on the water than I am with Mark's. The number of words and actions that stood out to me upon my recent reading of this passage tells me that anytime I've studied this particular story of Jesus, I made use of only Matthew's account.

Right out of the gate, I note that Jesus made his disciples go in the boat and leave him behind. It gives the impression that they didn't want to leave, didn't wish to be separated from him. They had just witnessed the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. They were likely amazed, but confused, and had questions for Jesus. I would guess they were looking forward to some time spent with Jesus without the crowd so the twelve of them could ask those questions and mull over what had happened. Instead, Jesus tells them to take the boat to the other side of the sea and leave him behind.

On their way they encounter high winds and waves. It is stressful, exhausting, and possibly frightening. And Jesus is not with them. They don't know he's watching them from the shore. They don't know he is seeing their travail.

Then Jesus takes to the water. He begins walking across the sea. Easily could we think "He's going to them." Jesus must be walking to his disciples, his closest companions, friends, and followers. He sees their hardship and He is going to them. Thus my surprise when I read "He meant to pass by them." What?! This is the line that baffled me when I read this passage recently. It's been on my mind for at least a week. "He meant to pass by them." He was simply going to walk by them and leave them to the storm? He wasn't going to help? He wasn't going to get into the boat with them and calm the wind? Really, Jesus? Why?

It took until today, thinking on this yet again, to change my tune. "He meant to pass by them." As in, He meant to get close enough for them to see Him. Close enough for them to call to Him, to ask Him to help. Yes. That is what Jesus meant to do. Instead of keeping His distance, waiting out the storm, or even helping from afar - instead of this, He would draw near. He would help them in the midst of their trouble. He would make Himself personally available to them.

I'm not claiming this is the only possible interpretation of this moment in the Gospel. As far as what the disciples themselves realized about Jesus in that experience, I can't speak to that either. I am simply speaking as a person of faith reading this passage yet again and considering the manner in which our Lord sometimes chooses to help His beloved ones. We might want Jesus to stay with us in the particular manner we prefer, but He says no, you must go forward in the way I'm instructing you. We may want Him to appear in our midst, in our struggles, and take over the helm of the ship. He instead draws near and waits for us to recognize Him and call to Him.

God's help, His saving grace and guiding hand, often come in surprising ways. He's apt to choose the less obvious, the less understandable manner of meeting us on our wind tossed boats. And in every instance He commands, "Do not be afraid!" Do not fear! Trust in me! Know that I am here, that I, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, am available to you. I am here. Be not afraid.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Home Is a Moving Object

Time has an insatiable appetite, hording each present moment into its collection known as the past. Except even its ownership of all those moments doesn't satisfy. No, time must be sure we can't recollect what was ours. So it chips away at things, induces change, until the circumstances that made our memories are hardly recognizable. This is the conclusion I came to as I drove away from my hometown a few weeks ago. The building blocks of that structure, the "home" of that place, are gradually coming apart. Not crumbling or breaking, nothing so tragic as that. It's all the ordinary process of time passing, that's all. Blocks are removed, reshaped, separated from the rest. We all experience it. People move, people die, businesses close, buildings are remodeled, roads are rerouted. Essentially, time happens. What can we do about it?

Maybe the better question is what should we do about it? Because we can cling to the past. We can reconnect with as many old friends and acquaintances as we can find. We can dwell on what we no longer have. We can focus on memories until we are certain all was better then than now. But should we?

As I drove the two hours back to my present home after a weekend at my former home, my babies sleeping in their car seats and the radio giving a soundtrack to my thoughts, I let myself ponder all this. My conclusion: home is a traveling vehicle. It carries us, holds and contains us, and most of all, it moves with us. The old adage of "home is where the heart is" may be one of the most well known cliches of all time but that doesn't make it false.

We moved to our current home 5 1/2 months ago. I know exactly how long we've been here because it is the same as my little daughter's age, minus a week. We moved in a state of upheaval. Baby Girl spent one single night in our home in Menasha. We returned from the hospital and rested in a rocking chair while every other piece of furniture, article of clothing, and cooking utensil was packed up and hauled out. Then my husband began his new job, sleeping at the worst motel in our new town, and the kids and I had a limbo week at my parents' house while we waited for our place to be move-in ready. We unloaded all those boxes in Manitowoc and we were home. In the weeks and months that followed I have answered the "does it feel like home yet?" question countless times. I realize now that I've been answering incorrectly. I usually talked about what still needs to be done to settle in. I described where we were at in the stages of unpacking and decorating. I spoke of feeling like a stranger at our new church or how I don't have friends yet, stopping short of admitting just how lonely I am. I mentioned my gradual familiarity of the city's layout and what stores or restaurants or parks we've tried out. None of that answers the question though.

If I answered with clarity I'd say simply, "Yes." Yes, it feels like home. Just as our duplex in Menasha felt like home, or our apartment in Appleton after the wedding, or the apartment and then house I shared with my sister and friend in the years before being married, it feels like home. Because it is where I live. Not where I used to live or wish I lived or where my extended family or various friends live, but where I live now. It is where my life is happening. Home is a moving object. If I understand what makes a place or situation "home" then I can be sure to never leave it behind or have it taken from me. It will move and change with me, surround me at all times. It will be the scene of my life being lived, and that alone will give it the privilege of being called home.

Friday, July 31, 2015

I Am Not Shocked

I have said little about the undercover investigative videos revealing the practices of Planned Parenthood in the harvesting and selling of organs and tissues from aborted babies. I have said too little. I have read and heard plenty. Articles, blog posts, response videos, rants, prayers, questions, arguments. But I have said little. I have held back because it has been incredibly difficult to find my words in this instance. That's not a common trouble for me. This time though, the words... well, they're here now and they are this: I am not shocked.

When the doctor in the first video drank red wine and munched on salad during the pauses in her conversation about the techniques that help preserve the wanted organs as the child is killed, I was not shocked. When the second video dripped with the woman's cold greed as she laughed over her dream of a Lamborghini from the profits of their sales, I was not shocked. When the third video was released and this time the investigative journalist was actually in the room while they are sorting parts of the baby and speaking in even greater detail of the commonplace practices, I was not shocked.

Now there is a fourth video. I can't watch it. I can't stomach it. But I have read a thorough description of it. The doctor pointing out the organs to be harvested. The assisting tech exclaiming that it was a boy. The mentioning of how they handle the situation (i.e. still carry out the killing & harvesting) when the baby is delivered before they can perform their procedure (i.e. born alive before the abortion can be completed). On and on. And still, I am not shocked.

Disgusted, heartbroken, sad, angry - all these things and more, yes, but not shocked.

I have wept. I have shook my head, hung my chin against my chest, and cried. My tears have fallen for these precious, precious children. I've cried for the mothers and fathers, the "doctors" and their assisting employees. I have ached for the pain of those who chose an abortion in the past, been involved in an abortion in the past in any way, have suffered over their decisions and actions and sought forgiveness, have tried to move on from it but now the viral videos force them to acknowledge once again and maybe to a new, gut wrenching degree what their choices meant. I have cried so many tears for them all in recent weeks.

After the third video was released, I was sitting on my couch reading one writer's thoughts on it and tears ran down my cheeks. My baby girl was asleep against my chest. Her dear heart beating up against my own. My toddler was playing on the floor a few feet from me. Intuitively - yes, intuitively after only 22 months outside my womb - my boy looked up, examined my face, and climbed into my lap to wrap his arms around my neck. I held him for a moment, willing myself to hold it together until he went back to his toys so that he would not feel my body shake with grief for all the embraces lost through abortion.

So why am I not shocked? They're called shock videos, and for many that is exactly what they accomplish. But for me, the atrocities being revealed are, dare I say, logical. They are reasonable realities. I feel like screaming it from a roof top or a street corner or better yet, a church steeple as the every Sunday crowd marches in. "WHAT ELSE DID YOU EXPECT? HOW COULD YOU EXPECT ANYTHING LESS THAN THIS?"

For more than 40 years we have legally been killing defenseless children. Legally. Condoned by the law. Labeled as a human right. The baby has been called a blob of tissue. Not a baby. Not viable. Part of the mother. As scientific developments have actually contradicted every "scientific" argument for the acceptability of abortion, science has been abandoned. We have moved on to rights. The right to choose. We fill women's heads with all they will have to sacrifice if they become mothers. All that they will miss out on. We tell them to choose what is best for them. Choose. Choose. Choose. Say it enough times and it can suddenly stand alone. No need to state what is being chosen: to end a human life. How dare we question the obvious fact that that woman has a right to choose whether or not to have that baby? We cower behind the "I wouldn't do it but who am I to tell someone else not to do it" defense. But that baby. That baby doesn't have a right to choose. That baby is dependent on the provision and care of the mother, no different than after that baby is born really and for a good long while beyond that. Let's not go there though. Then the platform would collapse. Let's just focus on the woman. Yes, let's focus on the woman! Or the man. The parents. For that is what they are. Many realize that before the abortion but still make that choice for a myriad of reasons. Even more women and men realize their parenthood after the abortion. Depression, anxiety, suicide, self-mutilation, self-hatred, broken relationships. Decade after decade of the aftermath of abortions swept under the rug. Kept out of the limelight. Off of the mainstream news channels. Decades of protests, marches, gatherings. Every single year a peaceful, massive march through our nation's capitol. Grown to as big as 650,000 individuals from all religions, all ages, all states and numerous countries. A march this size, over half a million people, if it was concerned with literally any other law on the books, would be one of the biggest news stories for days or even weeks across the land. But a march this size to protest abortion? Nah. Maybe it'll be mentioned, maybe not. Some quick shots of the protesters and some creative camera work that implies the few handfuls of pro-abortion protesters that show up are actually of nearly equal numbers. Empty chairs and presidential excuses when the Planned Parenthood executives are called upon to explain themselves. Decades, years, months, weeks, days of procedures. Such a clean, clinical term: procedure. So much nicer than "death."

Death. We have characterized our era as one of death. Death that is perceived as acceptable, excusable, even desirable. Death of the most vulnerable, the most incapable of choosing for themselves, the most dependent on their caregivers. That is us. Someday that is what we will be most remembered for in the history books.

So, no, I am not shocked. We asked for this. We walked straight into this hell on earth. Eyes open. Hands idle. Steady pace. Why would we expect anything else than what we see in those videos?

Please do not mistake my words for hopelessness. As long as there is a single person on this earth speaking for the babies, there is hope. Our country is at a crossroads. A fork in the road. A point of decision. If we do not take a hard turn away from the direction we have been going, we will continue in that direction. Plain and simple. The progress will be logical and reasonable, just as it has been so far. The killing of unwanted children after birth will become acceptable. The choice to end the life of a handicap or ill child because of the difficulty/burden/pain/etc. he or she causes the parents will become legal. An ultrasound tech gets the gender wrong and the baby born is not the sex the parents wanted? Kill it. There is a genetic predisposition toward one disease or another, in the name of mercy then, just in case, kill the child before he or she might endure the disease.

Don't shake this off as absurd. Don't assume it could never happen. Do you think that when the Supreme Court decided that "ending a pregnancy" was a right that must be upheld by law that anyone in this country really expected all the results that came of this? Did anyone expect the numbers to reach 50 million? Did anyone expect so many parents to end their children's lives based on the mere chance they might have Down's Syndrome or a genetic disease? Did anyone expect the abortion industry to become so profitable? Or become partially funded by our own tax dollars? Did anyone expect the destructive aftermath for the women and men who regretted their abortions? No. I don't think anyone did. Or at least not more than a few. There must have been a few or the March for Life would not have been introduced the very next year. There was hope then and there is hope now.

I remember explaining to a group of teens a few years ago my stance on the effort to reverse the Supreme Court decision. I tried to explain that in the end, it wouldn't matter whether or not the law changed. Laws do not determine what is right or wrong. If something is right or wrong it remains right or wrong no matter what a law says about it. It is hearts that must be changed. Every heart that firmly believes abortion is not evil; every heart that refuses to take a good look at the issue or admit it matters; every heart that is on the fence and ready to be swayed in one direction or the other; every heart that fears speaking the truth. The hearts are where the change must happen. Laws ought to follow suit then, but at that point, would it matter? If the hearts are changed there is no one left choosing abortion. No one keeping those clinics open and profitable. The law would become irrelevant if still unchanged. Hope lives in changing hearts.

It is time we start expecting the consequences of our choices. It is time we had the foresight to know what is the next and the next and the next logical step if we continue down the same path. We must open our clouded eyes and together turn off this road. Find a new road. Choose to end the pattern. Admit we were wrong and begin to make it right. We can do it. We must do it. Continue to uncover the gruesome details and get people to face them. Continue opening and supporting pregnancy centers that welcome and assist mothers in need. Continue to stand peacefully outside the clinics, ready to speak knowledgeably and kindly with any person who needs to hear from you there. Continue to advocate for adoption and reasonable adoption laws. Continue to argue lovingly but firmly with anyone willing to converse with you on the subject. Continue to pray if you are a praying individual. And if you cannot continue because you never began taking any of these or other steps to help fight against abortion, then begin now.

We must create a world where abortion becomes shocking again. Imagine with me a future generation who has to learn from a teacher of this atrocious practice called abortion, who must look to history books to even know what it means, and are left wondering how it was ever legal. Imagine them thanking those who came before them for eliminating it. Imagine that world and make it the logical result of what we choose now.