This week I was joined by Kristan Gray, Executive Director of Nebraskans United For Life, to discuss the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and her book No One Could Know.
We have a loving and merciful God!
I recently had the chance to join Jim Havens of Love Will End Abortion. We talked about healing after abortion, resources that are available, and took some calls as well. I am always inspired by talking to people who have shared their abortion stories and found healing in the process. God is good, folks, and he has the power to transform lives.
In April 2011, I began working with the post-abortion ministry Rachel’s Vineyard. The ministry hosts weekend retreats for men and women who have chosen or been a part of an abortion. Over the years I have witnessed many amazing transformations in the lives of retreatants. Not only that, I have learned an incredible amount about faith, forgiveness, and the pain that abortion can cause in a person’s life.
The retreat weekends have a unique way of helping men and women come to know forgiveness and experience the loving acceptance of others who have also chosen to abort their children. The weekends offer a safe, non-judgmental, non-politicized environment for post-abortive persons to tell their stories, examine how abortion has affected their lives, and be heard.
But what makes the weekends so effective at bringing about healing and peace in a person’s life? Perhaps the secret lies in the importance of storytelling.
Read the article here.
Forgiveness is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people forming relationships that are necessarily imperfect. Nobody goes through life without hurting others or being hurt by others. Forgiveness is a necessary part of our lives, and those who have experienced unforgiveness can attest that it brings an immense burden to our lives.
Forgiveness can be an incredibly difficult process, but it is noble work and the rewards are many. If you are someone who carries unforgiveness around, have this be the year you begin working on letting go of the anger and resentment. It’s not easy, but it is well worth it.
Read the article here.
I’ve said before that one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against abortion is prayer. We pray for the unborn. We pray for expecting mothers and fathers. We pray for abortionists and people who support abortion. However, one large group of people that I don’t think we remember in our prayers (at least I haven’t) is our fellow pro-life Christians. I’m not talking about just the leaders. I’m talking about the everyday pro-lifer. My heart has been heavy lately as I’ve heard recent stories of people shouting hateful things at women leaving abortion clinics, calling them murderers, and I’ve read comments on social media, from some Christians, condemning post-abortive women to Hell and saying they deserve any misfortunes that have befallen on them.
These pro-life Christians are mad about abortion, as they should be. Anger in itself is not always a bad thing. There is such a thing as righteous anger. I’m angry about abortion. I’m angry about the lives lost and lives ruined in the aftermath. I’m mad that there are so many people out there who don’t see the truth of what it is and what it does. I’m mad that I made that choice as a teenager.
My anger will never control me though. My anger will never take up more space in my heart than the love and mercy that I received and learned from Christ. When anger takes over our heart space, the door to the truth closes and lies are free to roam — lies that say another person isn’t loved by our Lord because of their sin. That’s not what Jesus taught us.
Jesus loves every single one of us sinners. He wants us all to be with Him in Heaven. He did not become man to dine with the righteous. He came to offer His forgiveness and mercy. Oh, but there were some that didn’t appreciate that. They were called the Pharisees.
When the woman who was a sinner wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears, the Pharisee said, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39).
Jesus forgave her. He said, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:47-48).
When Jesus ate with sinners, the Pharisees said, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11).
Jesus said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.…” (Matthew 9:12).
Aren’t we all sick? Aren’t we all sinners? Who are we to judge who is deserving of dining with Jesus in His Kingdom?
Saying hateful things to people puts up a barrier that prevents them from turning to Christ. If a Christian shouts at a post-abortive woman, calling her a murder, is she going to turn to a Christian when she is in despair? Will she turn to Christian organizations when she needs healing? Will she turn to the Church when she realizes something is missing from her life? Think about that.
The truth is, she may, but that is because our Lord’s love is greater than hateful words. He will open the doors that others have shut. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter” (Matthew 12:13-14).
Jesus will remember who played a part in shutting the doors to others, but He will forgive them too, when they repent.
We should never shut doors by our anger. It’s also not our job to push people through doors by telling them what they need to do. What we must do is open the doors for others by being kind, by understanding that there is a story behind every sin that is oftentimes very painful, and by praying for those who have not met Christ. Sometimes it takes time for them to walk through the door, but it will be so much easier if it’s been opened for them. This doesn’t mean we need to condone sin. It just means we need to love people where they are at. For example, instead of calling a woman a murder because she had an abortion, one can say, “I’m so sorry you went through that. If you ever want to talk about it, let me know.” If you don’t feel equipped to listen when she/he is ready to talk, refer her to one of the many wonderful post-abortion ministries (Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard etc.).
I love that Pope Francis has been outspoken about the need to forgive post abortive women. He was not the first pope to do that, though. Saint John Paul the Great, in Evangelium Vitae wrote these beautiful words:
I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and to his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.
“With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”
“With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”
Pro-lifers do or should know that abortion hurts women if not immediately, eventually. Pro-abortion people don’t believe that, though. Condemning post-abortive women is a very effective way of silencing them, thus hurting the pro-life cause.
More importantly, it prevents them from reaching out for healing, as they are fearful of people like the ones that screamed at them and judged them.
Most importantly, it’s keeping them from Christ. Don’t try to prevent someone from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Don’t try to prevent me from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a lost battle anyway as our Lord will be reaching out His arms to these people. I’ve felt this embrace and it crushes all anger and hate.
Join me in praying for our fellow pro-life Christians, that they will not allow anger to rule their words, that they each will be an example of Christ by extending mercy and love to all people, regardless of their sin, and that they will open doors.
I went to the Planned Parenthood peaceful protest in August with my 14-year-old son. I actually had other plans that day so I almost didn’t go. However, after praying about it, I knew that nothing I had going on was more important than standing up for those that cannot stand up for themselves. I thought, when I look back on this day 20 years from now, am I going to remember that I went on a girls trip to Omaha early enough to get a swag bag at the bath bomb store? Probably not.
But I will remember the day that I made history with my son.
I remember sharing a first-time experience with him–a peaceful protest.
I remember praying the Rachel Rosary with my son. I also remember feeling anxiety because I thought he would not want to pray with me. He is a teenager! I remember being relieved and overwhelmed with happiness and thankfulness to God when he not only stood by me, but also said it with me.
I remember seeing faces not anything like the way pro-lifers are often portrayed. I remember seeing faces filled with love, but also eyes filled with sadness for the injustice that takes place behind the brick walls of the abortion clinic.
I remember seeing so many people huddled together in prayer.
I remember seeing a girl with her head on the ground, praying with every cell in her body.
I remember hearing people drive past screaming out of their car windows and I remember praying for those people. I bet most of the people standing on that sidewalk prayed for them too.
I remember seeing familiar faces of those I’ve seen at other pro-life events who, after several years, are not giving up this fight.
I encourage all pro-lifers to not only make time for one of these events, but take your children with you. It is a wonderful learning experience and it will make more sense to them than you might think. Children are pro-life. If you ask a child who sees a pregnant woman what is in her belly, they will say a baby. If you show a child a picture of an ultrasound, they will recognize a baby. Their uncorrupt hearts know that it’s a baby.
I know the conversation is kind of uncomfortable to approach, but talking to them about moral issues is so important in this culture that inundates them with adult information at too young of an age. This month, during 40 Days for Life I took my 14-year-old and 6-year-old to pray in front of the abortion clinic. We were the only ones in front of the clinic at that time so it was awkward for us, but again, my 14-year-old prayed the Rachel Rosary with me, and the time we were there was amazing because it taught all of us that sometimes doing the right thing is uncomfortable. It was good “practice” for their futures and mine.
During our drive to the clinic, I explained to my 6-year-old why it was important for us to be there. I explained that when a woman is pregnant that there’s a baby growing inside of her, that some people understand that baby should be protected and not hurt while others believe that the baby doesn’t have rights until it’s born so it’s okay to hurt the baby. I told him that we were going to pray for those babies but I also told him that we needed to pray for the mommies that were scared, that they would be comforted. We needed to pray for the fathers, that they would support the mothers and their babies. I told him that we needed to pray for the doctors who are hurting the babies, that they will see that what they’re doing is not right and that they will stop and instead, fight for the babies’ lives. I told him we needed to pray that everyone who believes that these babies do not have rights while in their temporary home, sees the truth.
My 6-year-old understood this. It probably seemed like common sense to him. Of course a baby is a human that deserves to be protected. It’s only we adults that, through trials and tribulations of our lives lose our way and insert untruths into our morality and justifications for our misdeeds. If only we could look at some of these big issues like children do, before their minds are filled with all of the stuff this world throws at them.
Christ calls us to become like children. It’s obvious why. Not only do they see things with an uncorrupt mind but they know that they are dependent upon their caregivers for support. We are dependent as well. We are weak. We need to admit we cannot end abortion on our own and instead, lean on Christ through our prayers.
Again, I cannot express how wonderful the Rachel Rosary is. Before each Hail Mary you pray for another person affected by abortion–the teenager who is pregnant and afraid to tell her parents; “the mother of a poor family who unexpectedly becomes pregnant and is advised that abortion is the ‘logical’ choice for her family’s sake”; for “the counselor who allows the pressure of ‘political correctness’ to influence her counsel”. If you want to teach your children to pray for others versus judge or have feelings of hate for them, pray the Rachel Rosary with them.
So, 40 days is not quite over. Please consider praying in front of your local abortion clinic. Please consider taking your children. Teach them that abortion is wrong. Teach them to stand tall and do the right thing even when they feel like they’re all alone. Most importantly, teach them about God’s healing, mercy and forgiveness that is available for all of us by praying for post-abortive women and men, abortionists and people who support abortion.
Someday, when our children are older they will, with sadness, read about a time when abortion was legal. They will read about the lives lost and lives scarred. They will read about the protests. They will read about the people praying in front of the clinics. They will read about the people joined in life chains. Amidst the sadness, they will smile and say, I was there. I was part of that history. I made a difference.
In 1999, when I was 17, I had an abortion. I’ve told my story many times and always feel ashamed at it’s simplicity. It seems crazy to write this but, I’ve felt envious that I didn’t have an abusive boyfriend that forced me to do it or a horrible childhood that led me to feel that there was no other way out. The truth was, I made the decision because of some very superficial reasons and I never thought that the decision would impact me the way it did.
I was raised in a single parent home. As a child I was shy, nice and had faith; however, in high school, became somewhat disorderly and with a mother working two jobs to support herself and me, I did not have anyone to stop me from partying and looking for acceptance in the wrong places. At age 16 I started dating a boy who was in college. Shortly after my 17th birthday I thought that I might be pregnant.
I remember crying uncontrollably in the pregnancy center room after it was confirmed that I was pregnant. My best friend asked the counselor what my options were and the counselor, with sad eyes, showed us a model of a pre-born baby. My already loud sobs got even louder as my best friend said, “How could you show that to her!” She grabbed my hand and we quickly left. We drove to her home, looked up abortion in the phone book and made the appointment. My mother was sleeping when I got home that night. I told her that I made an appointment for an abortion and if she didn’t take me I’d find someone who would. She didn’t say anything and I have no recollection of her trying to talk me out of it (about 15 years later my cousin told me that she remembered my mom and I fighting about it the night before it happened. She said my mom was trying to talk me out of it. My memory of this is just gone but I believe that it’s true.)
At some point I called my boyfriend and told him everything including needing $300.00 which he gave me.
The morning of the appointment my mom borrowed my grandmother’s car because ours wouldn’t make it to the clinic which was almost two hours away. I was embarrassed that my Catholic grandmother knew. My cousin Amanda, who was a year younger than me, tried to change my mind but I wouldn’t listen to her. She was the only person I remember that stuck up for my baby and I’ll forever respect her for that.
I don’t remember too much about the day of the abortion. People were yelling when we arrived but I don’t remember what they said. I don’t recall receiving counseling or education. I do remember sad eyes in the waiting room that belonged to girls like me and I remember the doctor looking at the ultrasound and then telling me that the baby was no bigger than his pinky nail as he held up his little finger. Per my cousin who was in the room with me, she again asked me if I was sure and then she was escorted out of the room until it was over.
At some point after it happened, I blocked everything out (which is probably why I still don’t remember the argument with my mother) and became emotionless about it and about other things in my life. I had three very close family members die shortly after and I didn’t shed a single sincere tear.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second son in 2009 that memories from after the abortion flooded back. Even though they cause me pain and sorrow, they also melted my frozen heart and allowed me to heal and let Jesus back into my life. Before these memories came back I thought that I was just a cold person and I hated that I couldn’t connect to my child. Then, I finally remembered that I did regret aborting her and I cried for her. I remembered sitting in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car as we drove to my home from my homecoming dance. As I wept, I told him that I thought I had made a mistake …
Another memory that came back was of a very close aunt of mine that died. I remember that, shortly after my abortion, I had a dream that she was watching over several babies. One of them I knew was mine. They were in a beautiful, peaceful clearing, surrounded by trees, a lake and air that almost sparkled. I remember that dream comforting me because my aunt babysat me when I was little and she always took care of children. I remember being comforted that she was taking care of mine. Out of all the dreams I’ve had in my life, I remember this one as if it were yesterday.
Another memory, in 2000, being overjoyed when I (and the man I later married) became pregnant with our first son. I remember walking home from the place I was working, watching the sidewalk as I walked, hand over my stomach and just knowing I was pregnant and thinking, God’s given me a second chance. At that time I didn’t have a relationship with God. I had left the church years before, but I remember thinking of Him.
The closer I grew to God, the more memories came back to me. I have to think that He knew that I wasn’t ready to receive all of them at once just like I wasn’t ready to trust in Him and accept his forgiveness for so many years.
Years later I would find other evidence that she was in my mind even though I thought I had blocked it all out. Going through old things of mine I’d find … a poem … a short story … a drawing of a little girl in that same clearing, which would always come back to my mind even when her memory was blocked out. My happy place was what I thought it was, until I accepted forgiveness and remembered that it was always her place, and now, our place, a place that Jesus Christ has welcomed me into so I could be close to him and to her. I meditate on that place and I imagine what it would be like to be there with her, holding her hand and kissing her forehead. She’d be 16 this year …
Back to 2009, when I was pregnant and all of these memories were returning, I also felt such a strong pull back to the Church. My family and I started attending every weekend. I knew that I had to and wanted to go to confession but I was so scared that God and the Church would not accept me. I thought back to my teenage years, after the abortion. I asked a close family member of mine if she thought I would go to heaven. She hesitation and said, “I don’t know.” I didn’t want to go but I was suffering. What I did was all I could think about. It’s hard when, I’d be at work with tears welling up in my eyes my throat feeling like it was closing shut but, I would just have to keep it all inside and stop myself from actually crying because how would I explain that? It’s not like I gave birth to a child that died. Everyone would understand that and know why I was upset but I couldn’t say that I was upset because of a child I chose to abort. I felt like I didn’t have a right to cry and I didn’t even fathom that I could grieve. Being at home was worse. I had told my husband that I had had an abortion before we met (another memory that came back later) but he didn’t know that the reason I was angry and shut off and depressed was because of that. I don’t even think he could understand how I could be so upset so many years later and he didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even say the words. I would email him … my husband who, at that time, I’d been with for ten years. He tried to reach out and I would lash out at him saying that he had no idea what I’d been through or how I felt … or I’d burst into tears at random times …
My mother went from being my best friend, someone who I’d call every single day, to someone that I couldn’t even be in the same room with. This has ripped our relationship apart and I have no idea how to make it better. I have deep-seated resentment for her for not being more strict with me, for not offering me any other solutions (at least, none that I can remember at this time) and for blaming me. In my head I think that, she thinks it was all my fault but I really wouldn’t know that because we don’t talk about it. I’m her only daughter and we hardly speak. This is the mother that did everything for me, who always tried to fix what was broken in my life whether it be a toy, or my feelings or my bad decisions. This though, this was permanent … and I have forgiven her because I know that she did the best she could and I know that she is a wonderful person and a wonderful mother but, I just can’t figure out how to get back to where we were …
I did, eventually schedule an appointment to go to Confession. I don’t know what I was thinking doing that because, by scheduling it, it wasn’t anonymous. I gave him my name. My character is to remain anonymous even if I’m confessing something small. I’m very introverted. God works in mysterious ways though. The priest that took my confession ended up giving me a Rachel’s Vineyard brochure.
I contacted them and even made a donation. The coordinator and I emailed over the next year but I avoided going to a retreat, telling myself I was fine because I had gone to Confession.
Finally, in 2011, when I could no longer deny that I was suffering, and after several loving invitations, I attended a retreat. On the day that I was supposed to go I was still having anxiety and second thoughts but my husband encouraged me to go. He is such a blessing to me.
At first, I admit that I felt disconnected to God. I felt embarrassed that my story was so simple. I grew up without a father but my mother did make my childhood wonderful. I was made fun of growing up and was rebellious in high school but, that could have been anyone’s story. Adults in my life didn’t try to talk me out of it but no one forced me to do anything either. It wasn’t until the second day, in the afternoon, when we were sitting in a circle in a chapel, when I felt a change. This perfectly peaceful chapel had big windows and I had chosen a seat that was in just the right position for the sunlight to hit me, warming my entire being. One of the team members wrapped a prayer shawl around my shoulders that was made by a local prayer shawl ministry. I don’t know how to explain it except that, I could feel their prayers and I could feel God’s warm embrace and I decided at that moment that I was going to let Him in and I was going to trust Him. That is something that I cannot say I had felt since I was a child.
The retreat was the best experience of my life. For once I did not feel like an outcast. I was able to cry for my baby, for myself and for the other amazing women and men that I met. I left there feeling like a new person. I had a new outlook on life, on people in general and I knew I was not alone. I left wanting to be a better person, mother, wife and Christian and felt like I could actually reach that goal without feeling like I didn’t have the right to do so.
My life has been wonderfully different since that day. I am not saying that I don’t have my bad days. I regret. Some days I just want to cry. Some days I’m angry. I still feel sad thinking about what my baby would look like now, wondering if my baby really would have been a girl, wondering if she will be a baby in heaven, or a child or an adult and hoping and praying that I will meet her one day. I feel a twinge of jealousy when I hear about adopted children reuniting with their birth mothers, wishing I would have made that choice. But every day, no matter how I’m feeling, I know that God is with me and that He forgives me and that I am growing closer to Him.
I want other women and men to feel forgiveness. Receiving healing and allowing Jesus into my life saved me and I can never thank Him enough for it. I live for moments with Him and my eyes have been opened to His presence in this world whether it be in nature, in the good works of everyday people or in the faces of the heartbroken and the hurting. I not only love Jesus with all of my heart and soul, but I am able to show love to my husband and children more than I was before. Every one of them had a hand in my healing and I thank them. My amazing husband never gave up on me and encouraged me to get healing when I was resisting it. My eldest son … he was the reason I decided to straighten out my life which was spiraling downhill so fast. My youngest, before he was even born, helped me unlock memories of my daughter. She’s not hidden anymore. She’s real. I remember her. I remember crying for her. I love her and I’m sorry for what I did to her. My husband and all three of my children helped me in my journey to Jesus Christ. They are amazing gifts from God.
Rachel’s Vineyard will always be near to my heart and I have helped on several retreats since my own. I pray for God to use me and my story to help others. I pray for those who are devoted to the healing of men and women who are suffering. I pray for the unborn. I pray for women and men who feel like they’re in a hopeless situation, that they will feel God’s presence and know they are not alone. I pray for those who don’t see the unborn as people, that their hearts will be changed.
Photo by GM Spear.
I am writing because I want you to know that I care about you. I care about your well-being, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. There are some things I want to tell you, and although you don’t know me from the next guy, I hope that my words will not fall on deaf ears.
The first thing I want to say is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you found yourself in a position where you felt as though you needed to make the choice you did. I know it must not have been an easy choice, and I’m sure you did your best to determine the right choice given your situation.
It’s true that there are a lot of things I don’t know about you. I don’t know who you are or why you chose to have an abortion. I don’t know if anyone encouraged you in that choice or if anyone tried to dissuade you. I don’t know if you listened to people you should have ignored or ignored people you should have listened to. I don’t know what kind of support you had at all. Were there people who listened as you described the choice you had to make or did those people who were supposed to listen neglect to do so?
I don’t know if you have second-guessed your decision. Maybe you almost turned around on your way into the abortion clinic or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you were happy with the decision at the time but regret it now. Maybe you regretted it immediately. Maybe you are not sure whether you should be regretting it or not. Continue reading
There was once a man who beat another man to death, hid his body, and then ran away for fear of being discovered.
There was once a man who slept with another man’s wife … and then put her husband in circumstances that would most likely lead to his death … and it did.
There once was a man who stood by and did nothing while innocent people were murdered. In fact, he encouraged it. He hated people because their beliefs were different from his. He encouraged hate and murder of Christians.
How do we react to people who partake in actions as heinous as these? We might judge, hate, ignore or pray. Surely good people wouldn’t do these things right? We might consider them hopeless … but God might have a different plan. You may already have guessed who these men are. They are Moses, King David and St. Paul.