Friday, January 9, 2015

Do You Ever Worry? -- A Story From the Sidewalks

Several weeks ago a sweet lady came up to me at church. She always rejoices in the number of saves for the week and comes to encourage me in the work on the sidewalks. She also had a question: "Do you ever worry when you're talking to these moms that the environment that the baby will be born into is going to be very bad? I mean, I would just think about the possible abuse and bad situations this baby is being born into."

To put it mildly, "Yes."

I think about that all the time. There is no way that you can sit with someone for 2 hours and hear all the reasons why they can't have this baby and not really feel in your human heart that they're right - they can't have this baby. It's too hard. It's too dangerous. It's too sad. Yes. I worry about it all the time. But on the sidewalks God often gives you real-life stories to show you that He is God and you are not.

Several months ago L came to the mill and didn't even make it into the parking lot before deciding to come on the mobile ultrasound unit with me. The counseling session was tense (at least for me) for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest concerns was that this was a high-risk pregnancy to begin with for health reasons, not to mention all of the environmental difficulties. The whole time I'm thinking, "I completely understand why she feels like she can't do this." But then she had the free ultrasound that we offer and she just melted. She was so in love with her baby and couldn't get over how "Lil Peanut" was so perfectly formed and so safe inside of her. It was at that moment - not because of anything I had said, just because of what she saw that God had made - that I knew she had made a choice for life.

Ever since that day, she and I have been in touch. She texts me the sweetest things. Just tonight she replied to one of my texts and said, "Love you more."

In the middle of November she texted me to tell me that she had lost the baby. She was nearly 20 weeks along. Just another 4 days or so and that would be termed a still birth. We talked and cried.

A few weeks later I hadn't heard from her in awhile and I texted to make sure she was doing ok. She called me a little later and said, "I just wanted to tell you something. I didn't really know how to tell you in a text but when you texted me earlier I was standing in the bathroom with a handfull of pills just thinking that I could end all this pain. At that moment my daughter was calling for me to help her with something and when I went into the other room I saw my phone vibrating. It was your text. You saved my life and I just stood there and said, 'God, you are good.'"

That is my answer to "do I ever worry about what these babies will be born into?" Yes. You cannot go to the sidewalks without thinking about what a life in this world could mean. But people don't make life. God does. God opened the womb. God spoke, and there was. And God can take it away. God gave L the gift of life for a very short time and then God took it, and that too can be a gift. If L had never been pregnant and had never come to the mill then we wouldn't be friends right now, and no one would have texted and saved her life that day in December. Of course, God saved her life and He didn't need me to do it, but He chose to use me. He is doing much greater things than we can see and so we have to trust Him. We have to let God be God. We have to go to the sidewalks and say, "I don't have all the answers to all of your questions, but I know a God who does. His name is Jesus and He will leave you in awe at what He can do in a life that trusts that what He has said is always and only for good."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why You May Be Doing the Right Thing

As many of you probably know, my sister and I go to one of the abortion clinics (mills) in our city once a week. We are sidewalk counselors with Cities4Life, which, I'm sure, engenders all sorts of questions you'd like me to answer. But that is not the scope of this post; I apologize.

Wednesday is our "mill day," which means that we spend 3-4 hours on the sidewalk on Wednesday mornings, pleading with mamas and daddies for life and offering them help and hope.

So why? Why do we go? I mean, the answer is simple. I'm sorry, I don't have a shocking answer for you. Quite simply, there are little people that are murdered in our city every. single. day., and if God's people won't speak, who will?

But as I post my mill report each week on Facebook; and as people stop me at church to ask all kinds of questions; and when the stranger at Harris Teeter wants to know where I got my sunburn so early in the season (and I think to myself, "gee whiz, does she really want to know? I mean, what if she's had an abortion? What if she blows up in my face because, after all, it's her body; her choice?"), I feel very conscious of the fact that people sometimes view me as "more holy" for doing what I do. And I also feel very keenly that this ministry is not for everyone. . . nor should it be.

Many people tell me, "I could never do what you do." Or, "Wow! You're right on the front lines of God's work!"

May I say to you, "So. are. you."

You see, this sidewalk counseling thing just sort-of happened. I have wanted to do something like it for a long time and wasn't sure how to. On top of my own personal desire, I have a friend who was already doing this, and took me and my sister out one day to get an idea of what it's like on the sidewalks. And then, on top of that, my sister and I had the same morning available, and it was the morning that Cities4Life was needing additional counselors. So, now we go.

And your Wednesday morning looks something like getting up and making coffee and getting the kids started on math and jotting down a few things you meant to get at the grocery store on Monday and folding a load of laundry. Before you know it, it's time for lunch. Or maybe you get up and head to the office, and come home at 6pm, and eat dinner and do the dishes for your wife, and tuck the kids in, and turn out the lights, and thank God for another long day and a good bed to sleep in so you can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

May I say to you, your work under the sun is for Him. At this season of my life, I go to the sidewalks on Wednesday mornings. And I love it. I love counseling. I love seeing mamas choose life. I love working with the Wednesday team. I love making dear baby things for little people. This is the season I'm in. This is what God's put in front of me to do, and I hope that, should this season ever end, I've been found faithful in doing what He's given me to do now. And putting laundry in the dryer is no less holy than telling a mama that abortion is murder. A proof of this is simply that Jesus didn't show up on this planet as a 30 year old man and start preaching to the multitudes. No; he grew in the belly of a woman and was born of her; he played in a carpenter's shop and "got lost" in temples and ate good food and drank good wine and lay down and rose up and walked by the way for God. It's all for Him! It's all holy.

Maybe you should be doing hard things that you're not doing. That's a problem. But God loves daily faithfulness and He puts us where He wants us to grow and sets things before us that He wants us to do for Him. So go and do, for the glory of God! May He find His servants faithful in all their work for Him under the sun.

Some have asked if there's a way that they can help with the ministry since it is not realistic for them to be on the sidewalks right now. The answer is always yes! There are always things to be done. But personally, I put together blanket bundles to give to the mamas that choose life, and I am working on a website where donations can be made for specific items to go in the bundles. I will be posting that in the next week or so. I am always thankful for your prayers. My work is not more holy than your work, but it is sometimes harder. . . sometimes. I am grateful for your prayers. And I thank God for the work that He gives you to do under the sun, and the unnumbered ways that He lets us work for Him. This is the good life.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Room -- Before and After

As many of you know, nearly a year ago my sister got married. My sister and I shared a room since the day she was born, so there was just a little adjusting to do after she got married. Just a little. It took me forever to actually "move into" her side of the room because I'm too sentimental and can't just make big changes all at one time. But I eventually managed such feats of change, and then, over Christmas holiday, I completely redecorated the whole room. That was the biggest project I have ever undertaken. By the end I was in tears, as everything I touched seemed to suddenly need more work. I'm pathetic. We already covered this. See my last post.

But anyway. . . so I redid the whole room, and I absolutely. love. it. Lily has been asking for pictures of it for quite a while now, so without further delay (nearly 4 months seeming to be delay enough), here is my room.


Mama painted this room for us and made the curtains when we moved into this house nearly 11 years ago. Whether Leah had gotten married or not, it was time to refresh the paint, even though we both loved the yellow color and the sweet, girly feel of the room.

This was actually Leah's side of the room, which I successfully took over after about 4 months of her marriage :)

Leah calls this set of pictures the Wedding Shrine. You can't see them in this photo, but they're all from her wedding, partly because I love her a ton, and partly because those are the best pictures we've ever had. Below the shrine is my tea table which looks a wreck. Basically, I knew for months that I would be painting and refreshing the whole room, I was just waiting for Christmas Holiday to have enough time for the project. So everything is sort-of sitting in my room waiting to be put in its intended place after I paint, etc.

This is my favorite spot in my room. My hope chest serves as a bench. But my favorite part is the hat and flowers hanging above it.

Oh no! It appears a boy got into my photo :)


So in the "new" room, I went for the fresh, clean look. I absolutely love everything about my room! I love all the blue with pink accents. I love the white everywhere. I love the touches of embroidery (you can't really tell from this picture but the frames above my bed have pink and blue ribbon embroidery samplers in them). I just love everything about it!

And, I love that I get to share it with people. Every week when we have co-op at our house, the ladies who aren't teaching come up here for tea and fellowship. It just makes me so happy that I get to share all of this with other people. 

I don't think I got a good picture of it in the Before Pictures, but my desk used to be an ugly yellow laminate countertop. With some ideas from friends via Facebook, I painted it with chalkboard paint. I love it! I can write verses and quotes on it; to-do lists; welcome notes to people coming to have tea with me, etc. And the boys come in and draw pictures, or leave me messages. It's so fun! I also love the contrast of the black with the blue walls.

The bunting says "His banner over me is love." 

This is my refreshed tea corner. It's so fun to have girls from church over for tea, or just to wake up in the morning and have tea and read before starting the day.

Lily, this picture is especially for you, because I wanted you to see the drawer pulls. They have little vines etched on them. I thought you would appreciate the completely refreshed look of the desk :)

As I write this, I flatter myself that anyone in their right mind cares what my room looks like. I mean, really. . . But I am so thankful for the Lord's provision for me. None of this is deserved. It's a gift. I had tremendous fun putting it all together and decorating it. But I am utterly grateful to the Lord for His provision. Having my sister leave was one of the hardest things for me. But I have so enjoyed getting to pull this room together and then share it with so many friends: having them in for tea, or leaving them to fellowship while I go teach for co-op, or having my sister over. It really is a wonderful outlet for me. 

So there you have it. Lily, I hope you enjoyed this post because you've been very patient for it :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thank You to the Man at IKEA

To the man who helped me load a huge box into my car at IKEA, I just want to say "thank you." I will probably never see you again, and I doubt you'll ever see this, but the world should know that there are still people like you out there.

Yes, I'm that girl who drove clear across Charlotte during rush hour to find a huge blue and yellow store she'd never been to before (getting slightly lost along the way) and then wandered around feeling a bit claustrophobic; finally found what she was looking for; waited for 35 minutes just to check out; and tried to be back in time to take a boy to rugby practice. Yes, that was me.

It all started with parking in Lot E. Where are we, the zoo? Can I get a safari bus ride to and from my car, please?

So after finally finding the huge section of this windowless warehouse that I needed and waiting in line behind several Swedish families, I finally get to the counter where I asked the guy where to go and what to do, because I've never been here before. When guys answer your questions with "Oh, that's cool," that is not a good sign. No, sir, I'm sorry, it's not particularly cool that I've never been here before; nor that I'm clueless about what I'm doing; nor that I asked you for help. You work here. This is your job. There is nothing between you and me, other than that you were the next available assistant. I would have gladly gone to any one of you at the desk, so you can stop smiling and talking and explaining in a condescending, "let me help this poor clueless girl" kind-of voice, as if I'm particularly partial to you over any other employee I don't know. What's more, when you have to ask me to help you load the box onto the cart, re-assuring me that I really am strong enough, that does not endear me to you. I'd be way more impressed if you called the other guy you work with, who was standing 10 feet away to come help you. How about some manly service, because, after all, I asked you for help knowing that I can't lift pieces of furniture by myself.

And with that in mind, I wish it had been in my mind when I left the building. I'm not really sure how I thought I was going to lift the box I couldn't lift in the store, into my car outside the store. That doesn't make much sense, but I have to tell you, they're not much into assisting at IKEA. I was hoping the checkout personnel would realize I couldn't lift this on my own and send someone to help me. But they didn't. So I thought, at least I have it on this cart and I can sort of tip it into the back of my car. And I was in a hurry. No time to wait while they call someone from half-way across the IKEA continent to come and help me.

So by the time I walk all the way out to Lot E with a cart that is lopsided and wants to turn in every direction I'm not going, I finally get to the car. Ya know, the back of the car is a lot further off the ground than I remember. There's no tipping to be had. I think the guy in the car behind me saw me sigh in a depressed, life-is-miserable sort-of way. I just couldn't imagine walking all the way back to the store with the uncooperative cart, finding someone to help me, walking all the way out to my car again, and then loading the box. That just seemed like way too much. I'm pathetic. I know.

Enter the man in the car.

First of all, I would like to thank you for leaving your warm car for the freezing cold. That is not something to be taken lightly.

I would like to thank you for using your manly strength to do what you clearly knew I could not do on my own.

I would like to thank you for doing the job you came to do, and no more; realizing that seeing a guy walking towards you in an empty parking lot can be scary for a girl.

I would like to thank you for talking coherently and cheerfully, not creepily; acting chivalrously; looking manly. . . like, with pants that are significantly higher than your knees, and hair that doesn't look like you live in bed. High bar, I know.

I would like to thank you for not complaining when it was hard. . . harder than you thought, to get that box in the car.

I would like to thank you for having a girlfriend who realized this was harder than you thought it would be and came to help. She will make it possible for you to serve others, by serving you.

I would like to thank you for keeping gloves in your car. Clearly this is not the first time you've helped someone.

I would like to thank you for accepting my thanks in a modest, unassuming manner, and then being on your way.

In short, sir, I would like to thank you for treating me like a lady by being, yourself, a gentleman.

You may think I go too far. But I think otherwise. There are very few men, I find, who balance strength with sensitivity; manliness with modesty; brawn with brains, when there's nothing in it for them. God made you a man. Thank you for fulfilling your calling, whether you knew that's what you were doing, or not.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekends Are For Rejoicing With the Best of Friends

Weekends are for sharing the best of moments with the best of friends.

And maybe you've heard it an hundred times and maybe it'll take a bit to tell in this quiet corner – how I love her and how we've shared a life together, but it must be retold again.  There's no way around it...the retelling of all this wonderful goodness.

You see, we met in September – that September when she was 8 and I was almost 8.  We just weren't so sure about each other in those days, and you know, her sister's name is Sarah, too, and so maybe I should only be friends with Sarah and Leah should be friends with Lily?  But our moms made us play together and we hid in the bushes and romped through a field and got red clay all over our clothes and that was the beginning.

And we didn't go to the same church and we were homeschooled so we didn't see each other very often.  But we would play our hearts out when we were together and the things we made and the voices we had for everyone in our families and the games we played.  And the best was when we could have a long weekend together and we would play house like you've never seen anyone play house before; and we would have doctors appointments and children would be born; and we would play church and we would draw our wedding pictures and make phonics curriculum and make dinner and discipline our children and all of this was the forging of a friendship.  Birthdays were always spent together.  And every Saturday there'd be that ringing of the phone and the retelling of all the "motherly" things we did that week and our "failures as mothers" and "what the kids were up to" and it was all part of our longing to one day be wives and mothers and we just couldn't imagine anything better than pretending until the time.

But then in 2003 we both moved away.  Lily and her family moved south and we moved north and for about 6 months we didn't have each other's phone numbers and what if we never talked again?  And there were tears and loneliness and longing for the best of friends.  And I remember it clear as day, that one afternoon on the porch, me so sad and missing Lily, and Daddy coming out and saying that he understood and that he and Mama had planned a surprise and Lily and Sarah were coming to visit for a few days!  And that began the annual tradition of spending a week together.  Some years we would go there and other years they would come here, and even one year we spent one week there and one week here, but for the past 9 years we haven't missed a summer visit.

Oh, there are a thousand, thousand memories wrapped up in those visits.  And of course we still talk on the phone every week (sometimes more), but there's nothing like our annual visit.  There was the year of the Pride and Prejudice video and those...what exactly were those accents?  And there was the year where we disagreed about modesty for a week.  And there was the year when our sisters were sewing all week and we were enjoying all the times that we weren't driving them back and forth to sewing.  And there was the summer that we sipped tea and made quiche and had photos taken, us all matching, and read together and talked together and played together.

And then there was the summer that so many longings started coming true and Lily stayed up way into the wee hours texting a boy whom she loved.  And the waking hours were spent giddily tiptoeing to her phone to "see if it was him." And we talked about him and how they met and what he said and what he did and what she was thinking and I was standing there the time he first called her.  And we would read together at breakfast and we would sip tea in the afternoon and we would go to Amelie's and order French Lavender Lemonade and we would take pictures together and make jewelry together but always, it always came back to the boy and what he was doing and what he said today and what he wanted her to know and what he was working on and...

That was this past summer...July 21st.  And these posts from the boy, they became known between us as The Daily David.  And so we started talking more because, me, I'm so far away and I want to feel close, and so I'd call and ask for The Daily David and she'd tell me and my heart would catch a little bit...with joy that there was that perfect someone to love her, and with sadness that there won't be another summer, just the two of us doing things.  And there won't be another Christmas where I send an ornament just to her.  And there won't be many more letters to Miss Freeman.  And someday soon I'll edit my contact list to say "Mrs. Bowman."  And you see, there's been a lifetime of waiting for this.  Since the day we met in September of 1999 we've played wife and we've played mother and we've longed to be married and we've made wedding pictures and wedding plans and we've sent family newsletters and we've prayed long and hard and we've shared all of this together and been so excited for the day that it would all be happening for real.

And so on Friday morning – me, I'd been up late and was sleeping in just a bit and the phone rings at 7:44 and Mama brings in the phone and says "It's Lily." And my heart just skips a beat because I've been waiting for this and they'd been to The Messiah the night before and I was just so hoping that he'd ask her after that concert in the city at Christmastime. And I say, "Hello this is Sarah" and I'm trying not to sound giddy before she's said a thing. And she says it, just like she always does, "Hi, this is Lily," with that little dip on "Lily." And then, "I just have some news I wanted to share..." And we talk and I'm the one who's on the ceiling whenever there's the least little bit of excitement and Lily, she just sits like a lady and enjoys it all on the inside. And then, the part I've known all along and it still catches me by surprise a bit, "So will you be my bride's maid?" And, "Yes, of course, with all my heart!"

Oh, this has always been how I've wanted it to be – a phone call at an unexpected time and us getting to share it all together.  And she told me everything I would want to know and she promised to send pictures of the ring and she told David he couldn't post anything on facebook until she had called me because there's been a promise made for these 13 years that we would find out in no other way than the way we've shared everything every Saturday.

To David and Lily ~ I am so excited for the both of you and wish you a wonderfully blessed-by-Him marriage from the bottom of my glad heart.

Lily, dearest, I love you exceedingly and am so thankful to our God that He has kept us over many years and given me such a friendship as this.  I am thankful beyond words to share all of this with you, just like we've always imagined.

David, you're a blessed man and frankly, because I know all of the Daily Davids, I know she's a richly blessed girl.  Love her well, because we take care of God's good gifts.