Monday, August 12, 2013

To my teenage daughter

A little background: This is the first draft of a letter I plan to give to Annie and any other girl I may have when they become a teenager. As I said, I am under-qualified to write this, but I want to get down some of my thoughts about the teen years before they become too blurry. I'm sure I will edit and add to this over the years as I continue to learn and mature in faith, but you have to start somewhere.

Dear sweet daughter,

To be honest, I don't feel qualified to write this letter and maybe I'm not, but there are some things I want you to know about being a teenager while it's still clearly in my memory. Only six years separates me from my thirty-year-old self and my eighteen-year-old self, freshly graduated from high school. As a stay-at-home mommy of two I feel a little caught in the middle sometimes. There are still many childish things about me and I'm painfully aware of the immaturities that have hung on all these years. I still cringe sometimes when I hear myself say something I know I shouldn't or throw an internal fit that would put my "terrible twos" son to shame. But I also count each gray hair that sprouts on my head (I guess if I can still count them then that's a good sign). I look in the mirror each year and watch the shadows under my eyes get a little darker. I feel the weight of the worries of this adult world and wonder if it was really only four years ago that I was still a teenager myself.

I've learned some, but not even close to all the things I should from my teenage years. As I look back at my old self now the thing that reaches up and punches me in the face the most was my obsession with myself. It's not an uncommon thing to notice in people, children, but especially teens. The world tells you it is all about you. Even your teachers drill it into your brain that you need to make good grades so than you can go to college and get a degree and make lots of money to take care of yourself. Good grades are good. Going to college is great. Getting a good job is fantastic. Having enough money to provide yourself and others is quite handy as well. Clarence, the angel from It's A Wonderful Life, tells George Bailey that there is no money in heaven. "Well, it sure comes in handy down here bub", George replies. There is nothing wrong with having money, but that is not why you're going to school and doing the best you can.

School is your task that God has given you right now. We all have tasks at different times of our life and it is our duty to the Lord to complete that task as best we can. No questions asked. As parents we encourage you and enforce rules about school as servants of the Lord. We are given the task to be sure our children do what they are told to the glory of God. When you graduate high school God will have a new task for you. It may be college or missions work or sweeping the floor of a mall. Whatever task He gives you it will be perfect for His plan and you will finish it with flying colors because He gives you the strength to do so. Do not listen to the world when they tell you that your number one concern should be yourself. Do not buy into the idea that your purpose on this earth is make yourself as happy as possible. You are here to serve others and serve the Lord. That is your purpose and God will reward you with joy much deeper than what you feel when that cute boy smiles at you.

In my junior year of high school, Facebook hadn't quite exploded like it later did and was still the thing. It was similar in that you could make your own profile and post pictures. That year I had two good girlfriends and the three of us were inseparable for a while. One day I decided to post a picture of myself (or a "selfie") on my account. I did what most girls do - took a few pictures while making various pensive and borderline seductive faces and edited it with different effects to make myself look as pretty as possible. Once I was satisfied I made it my profile picture. I checked back later to find lots of likes and comments telling me how great I looked, including some good-looking guys from school. Although I knew my two friends had seen the picture, there wasn't a word from any of us about it the next day at school, which was not unusual. However, that next night I logged on MySpace to find two new heavily edited profile pictures from both of them as well with plenty of complimentary comments and likes. It was remarkable how quickly my self-confidence went down as I watched the number of compliments they got match, and even exceed my own. We all later admitted that we checked back at all three pictures regularly to see who had the most likes and comments. Sick, right? I formed a silent competition with my friends over looks. Not enemies; not that girl in class that all the guys like and you just can't stand it. These were my good friends and we were evaluating our own worth in the most superficial way possible. We were hoping against hope that we would be voted the prettiest and the most desirable and if we weren't, it was crushing.

I say this not to make you lose even more respect for me, but in hopes that you'll understand how easy it is to fall into this self-centered pitfall. It is all around you every day. I'm not writing this to put an end to "selfies", but I am asking that you and every other female out there be real with themselves about what they are doing when they take a picture of themselves to post to Facebook, Instagram, text to their friends, etc. Ask yourself why you are doing that. Is what you are doing bringing glory to God or glory to yourself? Are you seeking approval from others? Are you relying on your own physical beauty to give you the self-worth you're searching for? Proverbs 5:6 says, "[Folly] gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it." Do not make the mistake of choosing to be naive and oblivious to your own selfishness. That's what fools do and you are not foolish. Make the decision to fess up and fix it. We are all prone to wander and inclined to think of ourselves first. We all need to end the day on our knees asking the Lord to forgive us for all the ways we honored ourself that day. If you can learn to do that as a teenager it will only get easier. Self-centeredness is a habit-forming drug. It feels good and it's addicting to take care of ourselves. It feels right because everyone else seems to be looking out for themselves, so why should we put them first? What's the use in serving all of these selfish people? Learn to be a light and others will see the greatness of God in you. Your friends, your teachers, your future husband will look at you with more awe than they ever had when they saw that picture of you in your new cute dress. You will be establishing a habit that is absolutely vital to have as you walk through life as a christian woman.

It is a difficult road and you will be tested at every turn. Many folks will be determined to pull you down into the mud, but your God never gives you more than You can handle. He will be your strength and will hold you through every mean comment you receive, every friend you lose, every boy that rejects you, every party you miss. He will never leave you and will praise you for your steadfast faith in Him and determination to put others before yourself. And maybe you will escape your teen years with a few less regrets than your dear old mom.

I love you, sweet girl, and am praying for you always.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Letter to the woman considering abortion

To the mother (or father) considering aborting your baby,

This is not an attack. This is not a lecture. This is not a letter to tell you how selfish and horrible you are. This is a plea. I'm pleading with you like I would plead with a man holding a gun and pointing it at my own children. Yes, it is that dramatic and it is a child inside your belly. It may be tiny and you can't tell that it's even there. It may be five pounds and kicking your bladder all night long. Either way, it is your child and it is fully dependent on you. The law recognizes this. If a man shoots and kills a pregnant woman he is charged with two counts of murder. Here's an example of this just happening a few days ago:

I recently read an article raising the question of whether or not it is morally right to post your baby's pictures on Facebook and other social media. The writer of the article was presenting the idea that the baby, no matter how young, has rights and parents are violating those rights by making the decision to post pictures of their babies. I'm not going to address that particular issue, but it is plain that most of the world acknowledges that a child has rights, no matter the age. It also acknowledges that, as parents, we have the very important job of protecting the rights of our children. We are their advocates. Everywhere we go - as we hold their hands crossing the street, translate their toddler jibberish for strangers in the grocery store, display their coloring pages on our fridge, carry them in our bellies for nine long months -  we are their caregivers, representatives, protectors, fully and completely responsible for their well-being.

That all sounds sweet and romantic, but it is hard not to get hung up on the doubts and questions and fears. I had those with my first child who was a complete surprise to my husband and I. Even within the comfort of my own home with a steady paycheck and a loyal husband, I was, at times, terrified. Yes, I was scared of how I was going to take care of and raise a baby and all the usual fears that a mother and father have. But I was often more afraid of how I was going to give up my time, my future, my list of things I still wanted to do, my life. The moment I became pregnant that is what I was asked to do. To give up my life. And that's what the world gets hung up on. Should we really ask women to give up their life just because there is a life inside of her? Shouldn't the life that just got started be snuffed out before we are able to see it's face and really have to think about what we're doing? Doesn't the mother's life, which is already in full swing, matter more than the tiny life that is still slowly growing? The mother will be losing so much more than the child, won't she? She'll be losing her freedom to drink, to smoke, to party, to go to college, to vacation on the beach, to have enough money to buy that hat she had her eye on. I'm not making this stuff up. These are reasons given by women who decided to abort their babies and they may be running through your own mind, even if you don't want to admit it. You, the terrified, lonely mom. You are already a mom. Most people acknowledge this fact as well. Go to the greeting card section of any drug store and find the "Expectant mother" section. You'll find all kinds of phrases like "Congrats Mommy!" and "I'm growing a human. What did you do today?". A human, not a fetus. Call up Kate Middleton and she'll tell you whether the world thought she had a "fetus" inside of her or a "royal baby".

It's a baby. It comes with lots of responsibility and lots of fears. It will ruin all your plans and keep you home on nights when you wish you were out. But it will give you more joy than any degree, any boyfriend, any string bikini and any margarita could ever give. I mean it - go ask people on the street or in a store if they have kids. Ask them if those kids have given them joy. They might say "Yes, but plenty of headaches, too." Or "Yes, especially when they're out of the house." We're all realistic about how difficult it is to raise a person. No one sugar coats that and no one is going to tell you it's a piece of cake. But neither is grad school and that's what a lot of women "choose" over parenting.

You do have a right to choose. Everyone has a right to choose. I have a right to choose whether I'm going to go on a shooting spree today or not. I have a right to choose whether or not I'm going to sit quietly and watch women abort, kill, dispose of their babies or stand between them and the innocent and beg that they reconsider. It's all I can do, but I think it would be wrong not to try. Your baby is counting on you even if he or she doesn't realize it. Even my own six-month-old does not realize she depends on me to keep her alive. She just knows that I do. She sees me and smiles because she knows I feed her, I cuddle her, I tickle her until she laughs. She never has to question whether I'll take her to the doctor if she gets sick or strap her into her car seat when we go to the store. She can't comprehend any of those things, but if I marched up to a clinic and handed her over saying, "Dispose of this somehow because I am not ready for this much work" I would be thrown into jail before you can say "Planned Parenthood". Why? Because she's a life. She's a little life just like she was a year ago in my stomach, only 12 weeks old. Defend this life inside of you, whether it appeared on accident or not. Accidents happen. Two-year-olds have dressers fall on top of them and suffer serious brain damage. Parents do not deal with accidents by giving up and saying it's too much to handle or too much of an inconvenience and neither should you. Take a deep breath, swallow those fears and stand up for your child. Reach out to a Crisis Pregnancy Center near you that will help you through your pregnancy and birth. Give a WIC (Women, Infants, Children) center a call and get registered to help you get what you need financially. They give you breastfeeding classes, discounts on baby supplies, food, encouragement, etc. Call someone you know who has a baby and ask them to help you through this. Any woman that has had a baby knows the difficult times and the wonderful times and you won't feel so alone going through it with someone who understands. Write me a message and I'll help you in any way I possibly can. Just don't pull the trigger. Don't value your life more than your child's. Don't choose to just push out of your mind what your baby is going through when you walk into an abortion clinic and let them tear the limbs off of your baby, literally. You are a mother and that is not what we do. We love our babies because it is a privilege to have such an amazing life in our hands, no matter the cost. You will never, ever regret it and I can promise you that.

Fellow mother, protector and friend

Baby at 9 weeks pregnant

Baby sucking thumb at 20 weeks pregnant

Baby at 23 weeks pregnant

Abortion procedure at 9 weeks pregnant

Abortion procedure at 23 weeks pregnant