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Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings was previously interviewed by NBC about her professional beach volleyball career and her fourth chance to win the gold medal in Rio. Media outlets are highlighting her comments because she’s pro-family and pro-babies. Walsh said in the interview, “I feel like I was born to have babies and play volleyball.”

Shocking, right?

She even went so far as to say, “I’d love to win a fourth gold medal and I’d love to have a fourth baby.”

Four children…Wow!

Okay, if you can’t detect in my writing here, I am being a bit snarky. Let me explain why.

I am a huge advocate of life in the womb, out of the womb, and for celebrating motherhood. I understand Kerri’s comments because I too, feel like I was born to have babies. God gave me three of them and they changed my life.

Kerri commented: “Before I had more kids, I was like, this feels trivial. I’d been playing for so long, and I was like I need balance. All my eggs are in this one basket and it’s very self-centered and self-focused. They gave me that perspective and balance I thought I was missing. It took my game and my desire and my passion for life to the next level. I am hugely indebted to my children.”

A-ha! That revelation after we have children that the world no longer revolves around us because we are too busy raising these precious babies. It’s one of the greatest joys of being a parent when we realize that giving up of ourselves actually makes us happier human beings.

Now Kerri’s comments aren’t controversial. Yes, they do contradict some of modern-day feminism with putting careers before children and the whole “choice” mantra. There was some push back on Twitter from her comments. But who cares? She’s celebrating life. Three of them to be exact and maybe a fourth in her future.

Media outlets are now taking her words and labeling them with titles like, Liberals Go Nuts When Kerri Walsh Jennings Says… or USA Volleyball Star Makes Comment about “Having Babies” That’s Pretty Ballsy in This Day and Age. They are catchy titles meant to grab the reader but they are dishonest to Kerri’s comments who was simply sharing her life story.

As a writer, I have been guilty of this grab and attack technique. Someone celebrates our passion and we put labels on them to prove a point. I once called myself an anti-feminist because I disagreed so much with the feminist movement. I have written articles against feminism and I was even invited onto a radio program because I was a self-proclaimed “anti-feminist.” Then I realized something. Labels, catchy phrases, and shocking titles are not needed to define who I am. My life and the way I live it speaks for itself. I don’t want to be known for what I am against. I want to be known for what I celebrate.

That’s the thing that needs to change in our society and among us as women who celebrate the miracle of life, children, and motherhood. Just do your thing! Be a mother, celebrate your blessings, and even express how your children have added to your profession or career. Don’t define or label yourself how you’re different from women who don’t share your same perspective in life. Yes, you might get some push back from feminists who believe differently but don’t sweat it. Just be you and you will shine. You don’t have to win a gold medal to figure that one out.

I love Kerri’s comments but there was something that she said that wasn’t highlighted. She remarked, “My priorities are faith, family, and my career.” Now that’s balance and for those of us who share those same priorities let’s share the joy in that kind of living. That’s the woman God has called me to be and I am going to promote it- no labels needed.

 

More than a year and a half later, I still say broaden your viewpoint a little more pass the narrow lens of the news and social media. There is unity among us!

The Velvet Brick

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There’s an art exhibit at my local art museum that features photographs from the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement in all black and white. They are beautiful, emotionally captured moments in a time in our history.

Black men with crisp white shirts and tailored suits standing arm in arm in silent protest in front of a line of armed policemen. Two water fountains: one marked “white” and the other “colored.” Firemen hosing down a crowd of protesters. A beautifully dressed black woman and a little girl standing in front of a sign that reads “Colored Entrance.” A panorama of people at the Lincoln Memorial listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the March on Washington.

These photographs speak of a time in our nation that many remember and others, like myself, have learned from. They are captivating but what these photographs don’t do is show you the bigger picture…

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Photo courtesy of theradiancefoundation.org

The only way to describe it is my soul just grieved.

Tuesday’s viral undercover video from the Center for Medical Progress caught everyone’s attention on social media. Dr. Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services is caught casually eating her lunch while describing how she kills babies in routine abortions all while carefully trying to preserve fetal body parts for outsourcing.

It was mind-dumbing to watch. How could a person talk so casually about human life, and in such a callous and calculated way?

But really why am I surprised? As a writer, I have done enough research on the subject to discover that many medical and pharmaceutical companies use fetal organs for research purposes. Those human remains have to come from somewhere.

I am also not shocked at the fact that Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in this country with a staggering average of 327,000 abortions a year.

But in order to face the facts about abortion in this country, I do what many other people do. I compartmentalize this type of horror. It’s not a part of my immediate world so I draw a curtain over it and try to forget what I cannot change.

Tuesday’s viral video was a dose of reality for all of us who try to place a veil over what we know is the reality in our world. We came face to face with evil and she looks just like us. She acts just like us while casually enjoying a lunch. She is the product of what our society has become and there’s no way to describe it but soul grieving.

As I began to grieve over the reality of that undercover video, I decided to ask God for a scripture to encourage me that He is in control even amidst such evil. I decided to look up my daily bible scripture on my phone app and Proverbs 22:6 was the day’s verse. “Train up a child in the way they should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Well, I thought obviously that didn’t really apply and I began to search my bible for more revelation to the day’s events.

The next day, as I was scrolling through article after article of every news organization or blog commenting on Planned Parenthood’s callousness for human life or in defense of its position, Proverbs 22:6 came back to me.

I have always read that verse as a reminder to train my children in God’s commandments but I never really took thought about how that scripture applies to how we should guide our children through the everyday events of our world. Walking out God’s commandments is about teaching our children how to apply those commands to the world they live in, where evil like abortion exists.

I asked God to encourage me and instead he gave me a mission call.

While my soul was grieving over the evil in our world, God was reminding me of His calling on my life. I may not be able to stop abortion or control the reality of evil that I often want to close a curtain on but I can train my children to love the value of God-given life.

My generation has grown up with abortion as a part of our society. We’ve grown up with the lie that abortion is the answer to a mistake. But the world will never be able to teach our children what we know through the love of Christ: redemption and mercy.

I want my children to understand what abortion is and I filter the events of our world based on their ages. As parents, we need to share with our kids how we react to the evil we see in the world. If we don’t, they will only witness the reaction of the world that rejects God’s commands and allows abortion to be the answer. Don’t throw a curtain over the world’s events to shield your children from evil. Evil exists and it’s our job to train them to live among the darkness offering hope that only Christ can bring.

My children know that abortion is a sin but more importantly I want them to be able to understand that Christ already paid a price for our sins. I want them to know that life is messy and there is evil in this world but there is a freedom we can walk in that the world will never be able to give.

I hope my children are never faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I hope they understand that they are sinners and they live in a fallen world. I hope and pray that they understand forgiveness and grace so that they might be able to help future friends who are caught in what seems like an impossible situation. I hope that my children know that abortion is never the answer because God’s grace is sufficient for all our needs.

Sometimes God uses the ugly events of our world to remind me of my life mission as a parent.

As parents, God has given us all we need to change the world if we just train up our children in the way they should go. This doesn’t mean there won’t be struggle and hardship but it means there will be freedom to walk out the unexpected in their lives.

I pray one day that there will be an end to abortion in my children’s’ lifetime. I pray that organizations like Planned Parenthood are put out of business from profiting off of destroying life. But until then, as a parent, I have a mission to train my children about the precious value of all human life.

The world gives us abortion as an answer but God gives us an ocean of grace that says choose life and watch what I can redeem. Let’s train up our children so that they can offer up that same grace that the world fails to recognize.

“These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9

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Sometimes the hardest part of being a follower of Christ is learning to live among His followers. This is particularly true, when a fellow Christian is exposed for some kind of sin. But what if we put Jesus in the room? I mean, literally, in the room. How should we react and what side should we stand on?

Last week, Josh Duggar and the Duggar family was a trending story. This post is not going to rehash their painful family history. I don’t need to tell you what has already infiltrated almost every blog and news site.

Their story deals with a very painful subject- sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse of any kind is awful. It is sin that robs the victim and the culprit. I have seen sexual abuse rob so many of their freedom, both in their physical and spiritual lives.

But I have also seen the power of God’s forgiveness for the most ugly, heinous sins and I’ve watched people live out in freedom. A freedom that could only be attributed to the power of Christ.

As I was reading blog posts and news articles about the Duggar story, I witnessed the part of Christianity that makes me ashamed to live among His followers. The opinions, judgements, hatefulness, and metaphorically “casting stones” when we really don’t know their story.

But what if we put Jesus in the room?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is from Luke, chapter 7. Jesus was invited to eat dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. I imagine there were many people at this dinner. A woman enters the house and right away everyone knows who she is. Let’s just say, she is not the most respectable member of their society. Her sexual sins have been exposed and probably numerous times.

The woman does a remarkable thing. She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and then pours perfume on them.

The Pharisee questions the very truth of who Jesus is because He is letting this woman touch Him- a sinner. Gasp!!

Jesus then does what He does best. He calls out the hypocrisy of the Pharisee and lovingly forgives the woman of her sins. “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

As I read this story and imagine this woman being put in the spotlight and ridiculed for all her sins, I imagine myself in the room. All these people are taking sides. There’s the Pharisee with his righteous indignation, perhaps some of Jesus’ disciples who are worried about Jesus’ reputation, and maybe there are those who are just watching and waiting to see what it means to be a follower of Christ. Where do I stand when sin like this is exposed?

What I really want to do is shout out loud, “JESUS IS IN THE ROOM!”

Sometimes as Christians we are so busy taking sides and making judgment calls that we forget Jesus in the room. We forget that we need to be like that woman; bending down at the feet of Christ and loving Him because He too, forgives our sins.

The Duggar story is reminder of what it means to be a Christian and how we are to respond as a community of believers.

I don’t want to be that kind of Christian who is so preoccupied with the sins of others that I forget Jesus in the room. I belong at His feet, washing them with my own tears right next to that woman. As followers of Christ, we need to forgive more to love more because none of us are worthy when Jesus is in the room.

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It was an old abandoned stone building, probably dating back to the late 1800’s. The windows were all gone and it was all boarded up. Just the shell of a building was left but I loved it. The architecture was beautiful and I would often imagine what it looked like back in the day when it was probably owned by a wealthy New York City family. We would pass this building on the West Side Highway when my family drove to our home outside the city. I was a teenager then and I had big plans for that building in my heart… God knew.

Every time we passed by that building I would say, “There’s my orphanage!” There’s the building I would restore and create a home for children who have been abandoned, abused, and neglected. It was just a dream. A naïve dream of a teenager but that was my heart and vision at the time. Besides rescuing children off the streets of New York City, I was going to travel to Africa as a missionary and rescue children from extreme poverty and if I had time, I planned to raise my own family and adopt several children along the way. Oh, the naivety of youth!

Forward twenty-something years later and God reminded me of that building the other day and my future travels to Africa. No, He isn’t calling me to the mission field or back to New York City to restore that old stone building. Instead, He is calling me out of my own insecurities and reminding me of the heart of that naïve teenager.

I get caught up in my own little world on a daily basis. I often worry about me, my life, my success or my lack of success and feel very sorry for myself. It’s really the way of our world or at least in America. It’s like we live in a ME obsessed society. We are so focused on success, fame, and often, being noticed for who we are.

But God reminded me through the memory of that old, abandoned stone building of exactly what my calling is in life. I might have been a very naïve teenager but God birthed in me a desire to reach the lost, rescue the hurting, and change the world through the love of Christ. That dream of restoring that old building is really the reality of life for all of us who follow Christ.

We are like that run down building needing a really good restoration. We are bare and abandoned without the hope of Christ. Through salvation, God takes us and adds life to us as we grow closer to him. But we aren’t complete until we fill our lives with the purpose of reaching out to others and giving them a home and life in Christ, as well. Filling the walls of our lives not with our own success but with the stories of how our life, through Christ, has sheltered and nurtured others.

Maybe you are reading this and are feeling discouraged about your own life and plans that have not succeeded. Maybe you feel like your life has been a failure because the plans you dreamed in your youth have not become reality. That’s not, necessarily, how God works. He takes each and every one of us and our run-down walls and adds life to us as we give life to others. It’s usually not in the continent of Africa or in big cities but just wherever we find ourselves. God can do immeasurably more than we ask of him, if we are just willing to be used exactly where we are at and let go of those big, maybe naïve, dreams that God never intended for us.

I didn’t get to restore that stone building into an orphanage. I still haven’t traveled to Africa. God had other plans for my life. Great plans! But He still wants me to have the heart of that young girl who dreams big dreams, not of who I will become but who I will touch through the love of Christ. He lovingly redirected me out of my own prideful ambitions and reminded me that although my plans have changed and often times have gotten off track, my purpose in life is still the same.

My life is not about me or my success or my failure. It is about what God can do through me if I just get back to the heart of that naïve teenager who wanted to bring life to the lost and hurting. That’s my purpose, that’s my calling, and that is what can restore life and purpose in all of us. To be in a place in our hearts where we are willing to say, “Less of Me and more of You, God.”

Now time to get back to restoring more walls and making that building that is my life– a home.