Displaying items by tag: for the heart

A Mother's Legacy

Josh Boston, son of Heartbeat VP Cindi Boston writes about his compassionate and inspiring mother.10387696 10152847806316623 5441913189294826302 n

When I think about my mother, there are an endless amount of words, emotions and thoughts that come to mind.

I could easily talk about her courage or her kindness, how she has selflessly served our family throughout the years or sacrificially cared for her parents as they entered the realm of dementia and Alzheimer’s. I could recollect on how she graciously lead me through years of bad grades and adolescent rebellion or how she supported my brother in his soccer career - never missing a game despite being a CEO, caretaker and wife.

And whilst all of these things are accurate and worth the time it would take to reminisce them, nothing connects to the heart and ethos of my mom more than the picture that accompanies this tribute.

My mother has spent her entire life sacrificing for those less fortunate, those without a voice of their own - those incapable of fighting for their own rights.

She has given up dreams and accolades, a life of ease and one of plenty so that she could assuredly provide those in the target of humanity’s worst harm a chance of safety and a hope of life beyond the womb. She has spent countless days and long nights ministering to lonely, frightened teen mothers who have watched their worlds begin to crumble - seeking to provide each of them with hope, healing and arms to collapse within when all seemed lost.

And in the midst of this fight for the lives of those most vulnerable, she’s been placed on the front lines of a spiritual battle in which she’s incurred and faced insurmountable odds and a fierce opposition that would take the sanity of most, quite consistently.

Nevertheless, people most often describe my mother as having a glow about her, and a kindness within the depths of her. At times when circumstances have been most dark, I can recount walking into her bedroom seeing her on her mother’s couch reading her bible, listening to worship music and reminding me that no matter the circumstance, no matter the obstacle, we find all that we need at the feet of Jesus - her portion and supply, and her best friend.

No amount of words or writing will ever be able to fully explain or express her beauty, grace or kindness. No tribute will ever be able to fully contain the legacy she has left, and continues to leave. She is an enigma and a one-of-a-kind, a diamond among coal and a breath of fresh air, she is a best friend to many and a constant source of encouragement and love to all those with whom she comes in contact.

She is my mom, and I will never be able to fully express the love and admiration I have for her.

Love you mom,
Josh

 

Once a Mom, Always a Mom

by Kim Padan, Guest WriterEMPTY CRIB

In 1994, I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time as a mom myself. I was just two months into my pregnancy, but already wearing maternity clothes even though I really didn’t need them yet. I was simply so excited about my new identity as a MOM, and could not help but tell everyone about little Baby Padan.

In 1995, I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time as a grieving mom who lost her child.

What a difference a single year can make.

The full story of that single year is filled with some joy, but many tears. My husband and I wanted our baby; my pregnancy was intentional. We simply had no idea how many challenges we would face.

At the time Bruce and I found out we were pregnant, I was working full-time as a music therapist. At 14 weeks gestation, we went for a routine ultrasound, watching the monitor with great joy. The next day, I brought my glossy 5x7 photo to work, showing off my baby’s cute profile, with him sucking his thumb. The “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” were all that I had dreamed about.
But later that day, my dream began to change into a nightmare. Looking back, that term may be too harsh, but it’s how I felt at the time. On the very day I was showing off my first baby picture, I received a phone call from the nurse.

“Mrs. Padan, the doctor has found some anomalies on the ultrasound. He wants you to see a specialist.”

I’m Still a Mom of a Baby Who Lived

The following Monday, I had a more detailed, intensive ultrasound at Indiana University Medical Center. Because it was an emergency referral, I got the doctor on-call. After scanning me, he said I was experiencing “amniotic band syndrome.” It is rare, and there is no known cause, but because it happened during my first trimester, it was a very serious case. So much so that the doctor said, “You need to consider your options.”

I never thought I would ever hear those words. While I was not as steeped in religious practice as I would become later in life, I knew and agreed with the biblical and Church teaching on the sanctity of human life. In other words, there were no “options.”

The rest of the day is a blur to me now. I remember stopping in Rockville, Ind. before going home to see my mother-in-law and Bruce’s youngest brother, Chris. I remember crying a lot while Chris tried to console me. I remember calling my mom on the phone later that day, but I can’t remember how I broke the news to her. I simply remember being shocked, saddened, confused, and worried. From that day forward, everything changed.

But one thing did not change: I was still a MOM.

After many doctor visits, tests, and prayers, Gabriel James Padan was stillborn on Oct. 6, 1994. Born just after midnight, he weighed only 2 pounds, 3.8 ounces. His frail body was unable to survive the process of birth. Despite his tiny size, he made a big impact on our family. Along with his mommy and daddy, Gabriel was welcomed by two grandmas, two uncles, one aunt, and even church friends all at the hospital.

We arranged for a hospital chaplain to baptize him, since we know not when the soul leaves the body... and because I really needed the beauty of baptism to commend my little one to God. Two days later (the day before our first wedding anniversary,) St. Paul Church in Danville was packed for the funeral mass of a boy who never took a breath.

When people say to me “I’m sorry that your baby did not live,” I quickly correct them. Yes he did. My son was alive for 33 weeks in my womb.

Hope on a Mother’s Day of Grieving

There are many details of this journey I won’t share in this article. The reason I’m sharing this story is to say that I know many women in our churches and communities struggle with Mother’s Day. Some studies indicate that as many as 25 percent of pregnancies end naturally in miscarriage. Many women carry to term, but experience a stillbirth as I did. Still others suffer the anguish of losing a child to SIDS.

There are many women who have experienced pregnancy, but their children are not around to make breakfast in bed, or pick dandelions from the front yard. To these women I say, “I get it.” This holiday can be tough.

But you are still a MOM. Whether God has granted you the blessing of additional children or not, you are a MOM. Human life begins at conception, not at birth. Every child ever conceived matters in the eyes of God. Every child conceived is gifted with a soul... and these innocent ones are in union with God eternally.

As mothers, we miss our kids. But as women, we can find peace in knowing that they are being taken care of by our Lord and the great family of saints in heaven. What joy there is in knowing that!

Years before I was married, a friend said something that has deeply impacted me to this day. She said she had nine children. I was confused; I only knew about the three kids I saw with her at Mass each week. “Oh Kim, there are just three here now, but I had six miscarriages. Those kids are just waiting for us in heaven.”

How beautiful is that? In the years since, I have spoken to many women who have lost babies, and I encourage them in this way... Count your children. All of them. Born alive, miscarried... whatever the outcome, count your children. If we are to proclaim the Gospel of Life, let us boldly tell the world about every baby we’ve ever had.

Now, I also realize there are women reading this who lost their babies by the choice of abortion. You are also mothers. You and your children are also precious in the eyes of God. As bad as abortion is, please hear me when I say, Jesus loves you and wants to heal you with His Divine Mercy. You are made in God’s image and there is a place for you in God’s family, in the Body of Christ.

As a young woman, I always wanted to be a wife and mother. I am both. Bruce is the wonderful man who made me his wife. Gabriel is the little boy who made me a Mommy. That is worth celebrating every Mother’s Day.

 

Kim is a self-professed charismatic-pentecostal-evangelical Catholic who uses far too many exclamation points! She loves travel, stamping greeting cards, reading, and the Chicago Cubs! Her pro-life upbringing was put to the test when she was encouraged to abort her son Gabriel. Kim rejected the idea of abortion, and after losing her son at birth, she felt compelled to get involved in the movement. Kim served on the board of the local pregnancy help ministry for seven years, then as Executive Director for eleven years. Since stepping down, she has begun writing and speaking wherever God permits. She has a periodic column, “Called to Witness,” in the Peoria Diocesan paper, The Catholic Post. Kim has been married to Bruce, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, since 1993. Together they fostered 41 children, ages 4-18, over eight years. They now enjoy the blessings of non-traditional grand-parenthood! Kim blogs at http://gabrielsmom.com

Bearing Another's Burdens Without Being Crushed

by Jaimy Craemer-Adjei, LPN, Heartbeat Medical SpecialistBearBurdens

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

What does it mean to bear one another’s burdens?

In the Pregnancy Center it can be a daily unconscious ritual to bear another’s burden, and in the attitude of Christ, it is part of our calling. In that “routine” moment when a woman pours her heart out to you behind closed doors, you are bearing the burdens of Christ. You are following the commands of Christ as you offer a listening ear and kind words. You may be the only friendly face this woman sees in her life right now, even though you are a stranger.

But isn’t that part of who we are? Strangers in this world – with a higher calling?

And what exactly is the law of Christ that we are to fulfill? In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…”  and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). As we put Christ first in our lives and love Him with everything we have, we can then turn and love our neighbors – our clients – the women coming to us with one of the biggest burdens in their lives – an unexpected pregnancy. But here she is, in your consulting room, and you are the one taking on her burdens in that crucial moment of her life.

As nurses we take on so many things. Our families, our profession, our education, our church – and life can get overwhelming. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  The problems in not just our lives, but the problems in the life of the pregnant, devastated woman sitting across from us, can be overwhelming at times.

But it is not our responsibility to bear these burdens forever.

We are told to come to Jesus with our burdens, and He will give us rest. It’s that simple. Give it to Jesus. The devastated woman who feels she simply cannot handle one more crisis… the unborn baby whose life hangs in the balance… everything that weighs us down at the end of the day… give it to Jesus.

Jeremiah 31:25 says, “For I have given rest to the weary, and joy to the sorrowing.”  He has given us rest and joy. Thank you Jesus for rest and joy! As we turn over the heavy loads we carry day in and day out, we will be able to rest in Him and have joy in our lives. What a privilege our Father in Heaven has given us to allow us to turn our sorrows and burdens over to Him.

As we play this unique role in life, as we touch the lives of so many, we have to be reminded to give it all to Jesus – it's all in His hands anyway. As you see your clients in distressing situations, remember to pray, and turn her problems (on your shoulders) over to Christ, and He will give you the rest you so desperately need.

God bless each and every Nurse doing the work of Christ, bearing the burdens of others, and making a difference in the born and unborn souls of this world. Happy Nurse’s Week!!!

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

 

What does it mean to bear one another’s burdens?

 

In the Pregnancy Center it can be a daily unconscious ritual to bear another’s burden, and in the attitude of Christ, it is part of our calling. In that “routine” moment when a woman pours her heart out to you behind closed doors, you are bearing the burdens of Christ. You are following the commands of Christ as you offer a listening ear and kind words. You may be the only friendly face this woman sees in her life right now, even though you are a stranger.

 

But isn’t that part of who we are? Strangers in this world – with a higher calling?

 

And what exactly is the law of Christ that we are to fulfill? In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). As we put Christ first in our lives and love Him with everything we have, we can then turn and love our neighbors – our clients – the women coming to us with one of the biggest burdens in their lives – an unexpected pregnancy. But here she is, in your consulting room, and you are the one taking on her burdens in that crucial moment of her life.

 

As nurses we take on so many things. Our families, our profession, our education, our church – and life can get overwhelming. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The problems in not just our lives, but the problems in the life of the pregnant, devastated woman sitting across from us, can be overwhelming at times.

 

But it is not our responsibility to bear these burdens forever.

 

We are told to come to Jesus with our burdens, and He will give us rest. It’s that simple. Give it to Jesus. The devastated woman who feels she simply cannot handle one more crisis… the unborn baby whose life hangs in the balance… everything that weighs us down at the end of the day… give it to Jesus.

 

Jeremiah 31:25 says, “For I have given rest to the weary, and joy to the sorrowing.” He has given us rest and joy. Thank you Jesus for rest and joy! As we turn over the heavy loads we carry day in and day out, we will be able to rest in Him and have joy in our lives. It is such a privilege that our Father in Heaven has given us to allow us to turn our sorrows and burdens over to Him.

 

As we play this unique role in life, as we touch the lives of so many, we have to be reminded to give it all to Jesus, for it is all in His hands anyway. As you see your clients in distressing situations, remember to pray, and turn her problems (on your shoulders) over to Christ, and He will give you the rest you so desperately need.

 

God bless each and every Nurse doing the work of Christ, bearing the burdens of others, and making a difference in the born and unborn souls of this world. Happy Nurse’s Week!!!

 

Jaimy Craemer-Adjei, LPN

Faith and Obedience in the Path to Effectiveness

by Peggy Benicke, Executive Director at Robbinsdale Women's Centerfaith and obedience

Have you ever thought, “Okay, Lord, here’s what I’m planning to do. Please bless and provide.”

Have you felt the Lord’s clear calling to do something that you were sure was impossible to achieve because you thought you didn’t have the money, staffing or resources? Maybe you were willing to step off the “cliff” of faith but were held back or discouraged by others with influence. I’ve encountered these circumstances many times in my 22 years of pro-life ministry and look forward to helping you not only navigate these challenges but also helping you to achieve miraculous, God-glorifying effectiveness and growth in your pregnancy help organization's future.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

I’m very excited about encouraging you at the upcoming Heartbeat International Annual Conference and look forward to sharing amazing testimonies of not only effective ministry but significant growth through faith and obedience during my workshop. Topics we will explore include:

  • Am I certain of my specific role in this ministry?
  • Discerning God’s next steps, (“Is that really your will Lord?”)
  • Being quiet and listening for God to reveal His plan
  • Surrendering to His will
  • Finding the courage to step off the “cliff” of faith when all the odds are stacked against us
  • Convincing those with influence who may discourage us of the importance of faith

Peggy Benicke joined Robbinsdale Women's Center in Minneapolis in 1995 and has served as Executive Director since 2000. Peggy's background in business and marketing and her personal experience with unexpected pregnancies have enhanced her leadership at RWC. She gives God all the glory for the many lives saved from abortion. Peggy and her husband Ralph have 2 daughters, and 3 grandchildren. In addition, Peggy was recently reunited with her daughter whom she placed for adoption at age 17 and now has an additional five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Meet her at the 2017 Heartbeat International Annual Conference.

What’s in a Name?

by Ducia Hamm, Associate Director of Affiliate Servicesbaby name surprised

Names have always fascinated me, maybe because my first name is Ducia (pronounced Doos-ya). It was given to me by my dad who emigrated from the Ukraine. Now here in the good ‘ol USA, Ducia is considered an unusual name but go to the Ukraine and it’s a common girls name.

Names give us identity – Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle . . . you get the idea. Before I had children, hearing “MOM!” wouldn’t make my head turn. Now, when I hear “MOM!” – you bet my head turns – after all they’re calling my name.

Names have meaning. Parents often choose a name for their children based on what they mean. That’s what my friend Sue and her husband did. They waited over three weeks to name their oldest son because they wanted his name to fit his personality. Sue & Pat chose Isaac, which means “laughter” and it fit baby Isaac perfectly.

Ducia means “sweet soul." I’ll let those who know me best judge whether it fits me or not.

When we think of the story of Daniel and his friends’ captivity in Babylon – the fiery furnace or the lion’s den tend to be what we think of. But in reading the first chapter of Daniel, something interesting about the power of a name emerges.

Daniel 1:3-7
The king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility - young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace - and to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to serve in the king’s court. Among them, from the descendants of Judah, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief official gave them other names: he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah.

Why the name changes? What made the boys’ Hebrew names unacceptable to the Babylonians? The meaning of their Hebrew names centered on the one true God: Daniel – God is my judge; Hananiah – Yah has been gracious; Mishael – who is what God is; Azariah – Yah has helped.

Contrast that to their “new” names whose meanings centered on several false Babylonian gods: Beltashazzar – Bel will protect; Shadrach – inspired of Aku; Meshach – belonging to Aku; Abednego – servant of Nego.

Assigning new names was a common court practice in the ancient world. Its blatant intention was to change the entire identity of the bearer until the life matched the title.

Actually, God is the one who originated the concept of a name change back in Genesis. God changed Abram's name to Abraham, meaning Father of many. Jesus followed in His Dad’s footsteps and gave the apostle Simon the name Peter which means Rock.

Matthew 16:18
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.

When we became believers – we either were given the name or took on the name "Christian" – one who follows Jesus Christ. The intent of the name changes for the Hebrew captives was to change their identity until their life matched their name.

It begs the question then: How intent are we as Christians to change our identities until our life matches the meaning of our name Christ follower?

Eph. 5:1-2
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So . . . What’s in a name???

Acts 4:12
Jesus Christ . . . Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

The Christmas Gift

A short story by Kirk Waldenbabychristmas

Though the date was December 14, Rick Shannon was not in a Christmas mood. Carols were playing on his car radio, but as he sat in traffic watching snow shower his car, Rick could only think of the reasons why he could not sing along this particular Christmas.

For one, Rick’s five-year-old advertising business he launched out of his converted garage was skating on ice much thinner than that which was collecting on the roadside signs. Today he had hoped to turn things around. But a meeting with representatives from Home Again, a restaurant chain of more than 600 establishments, started fast and seemed to fizzle at the close.

“We like your work, Rick,” the vice president in charge of advertising told him. “You seem to understand our Christian values. Your ideas may fit now, or perhaps later on. We’ll let you know.”

“When do I need to get in touch?” Rick asked.

“Oh, we’ll get in touch with you. And don’t worry, we will contact you either way.”

Rick had heard the don’t call us, we’ll call you line many times. If things did not turn around soon, he might be looking for work early next year. But it wasn’t as though he had children to feed. He and Joanne had always desired children, since the day they were married nine years earlier. They prayed, they went to every doctor they could find, and still no children.

For the last three years they had worked with an adoption agency. The wait, they were told, would be at least five years, perhaps more. Maybe seven or eight. As Rick’s mood faltered further, he wondered if he would ever hold a child of his own. And here he sat, two hours from home, with traffic moving at a snail’s pace. The snow fell even harder now. Would they close the roads? Would he even see Joanne tonight? He picked up his cell phone to tell her the bad news.

A change in plans
Before he could dial the number however, Rick was startled by a banging on the passenger door. The boy couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18; his hair was black, wet and sprinkled by the snow.

“I’ve got to get to the hospital!” He yelled through the closed window.

Rick looked him over quickly. Was he sick? Wounded? Or was this kid a thief or a carjacker? Rick didn’t have time to pray over the situation. The banging on the door was that of desperation. Rick popped the locks and the kid hopped in.

“Thanks man. I’ve got to get to the hospital. Can you run me by?”

Rick mumbled in the affirmative, asking where he was to go.

“About two miles up ahead. Not far. It’s on the left. You’re not from here?”

“No, Barrier Cliff,” Rick responded, trying to focus on this new situation.

“You’re a ways from home, man. You gonna try to beat the storm?”

“I might try . . .” but Rick was cut off by the chatty young man.

“You’ll need this, that’s for sure,” The kid was tapping Rick’s Bible, which he had pulled off of the passenger’s seat when he jumped in.

Rick smiled at the attempt at humor. He decided he could be friendly, even with all that was on his mind. The kid was talkative, and seemed honest enough.

“Have you read it all the way through?” The kid was inquisitive, too.

Rick nodded. What was this kid’s story?

“I’ve read it through too,” the kid told him. “Just gave my life to the Lord three months ago. And I’ve read like the whole Bible already. Wild what happens when you really need the Lord, isn’t it?”

Rick nodded again, but found it hard to force a smile. Rick was wondering where God was at the moment. Did the Lord even care about his struggles with his business? And where was the child he and Joanne so desperately wanted?

The kid interrupted his thoughts. “Yeah, it’s been a tough time,” he said as if Rick had asked. “But God pulled me through.” He was oblivious to Rick’s lack of interest in a conversation.

“My girlfriend had a baby,” he continued. “That’s why I’ve got to hoof it to the hospital. Couldn’t catch a ride, so I started walking. To see my boy. He was just born an hour ago. He came so fast and my cell was off at work. He’s two weeks early.”

He kept talking; all Rick could do was listen. “I won’t see him long, though. We decided to place him in an adoptive home. She told me I can’t say like, ‘gave him up for adoption’ cause we’re placing him. Our choice. She’s doing the right thing though, I guess. We’re just in high school. I just can’t do much for a baby right now. You think it’s okay, don’t you?” He stopped abruptly, waiting for an answer.

“You two made a wise choice. You tell your girlfriend she’s a brave girl,” Rick offered.

The kid was ready to talk again. “She is,” he said quickly. “She picked the adoption agency, even made the phone call. She liked the people there. She even asked the adoption people to pick the family. Then when they came to—like—talk to us about all of it, they talked about the Lord and He just started changing my life.” The kid was quiet for a moment, then kept going. “Funny, huh? It’s like God reached down and snagged me when I wasn’t even expecting it.”

Finding an answer
The kid’s next question caught Rick off guard. “You got any kids?”

“Uhhhh. No.” This wasn’t a subject Rick wanted to touch.

“Why not?” To go with “talkative” as a character trait for the kid, Rick noted “nosy.”

“It’s not that we don’t want kids,” Rick said sullenly. “It’s just that . . .” Rick’s voice began to trail off. What could he say to a high school kid? “It’s just that it hasn’t worked out.” The kid was silent, for a change. For a few moments, nothing was said.

The kid broke the silence, starting with some small talk. He introduced himself as Mike, and after a while they were talking as traffic broke loose and began to move. They talked about sports, a shared love of baseball and even about their spiritual lives.

Though Mike was young, Rick marveled at his insights. A few minutes later, the hospital came into view. There, Mike directed Rick into the parking lot. “That’s where I can go in. Hey, will you come in with me and see my boy?”

Mike hesitated for a split second. “My parents,” he said slowly. “They uh, they didn’t want—they couldn’t, you know—make it.”

Rick understood. Even if the day wasn’t what he expected, maybe he could help the kid a little. The snow was still coming down; he would need to find a hotel for the night anyway. Rick would call Joanne and let her know he would be home as soon as the roads cleared in the morning.

“It would be an honor,” Rick replied. “Let me give my wife a call.” Rick dropped off Mike and checked the signs for Labor & Delivery. He would find his way there in a little while, he told Mike.

Rick punched the buttons on his cell phone. In a moment, Joanne answered and Rick shared his story of a strange finish to a frustrating day. Joanne listened closely, then had a question.

“Have they already picked an agency?” she asked.

Yes, Rick told her, everything was settled.

A thought
Joanne wasn’t finished.

“What if God wants us to . . . well, if they wanted to pick a couple . . .” Her voice sounded hopeful.

“They’ve already worked it out,” Rick told her softly. “I’d better not get into our situation with them. It just wouldn’t be right.”

“I know, I know,” Joanne said, her voice failing to mask her pain. “You’re right. We’ve just waited so long . . . .”

The conversation ended and Rick went inside. After a few wrong turns in the halls of the hospital, he finally caught up with Mike. Mike stood outside the newborn window, gazing quietly at a tiny bundle on the other side of the glass, wrapped in a blue blanket. Rick walked up beside him and admired the little boy.

Both men, caught up in private thoughts, watched silently for a moment. This time, it was Rick who spoke first. “He’s a beautiful baby.” And he was. Mike responded with a nod.

“And look at his hand. Isn’t it cool?” Mike pointed at the infant’s left hand. And there, between the thumb and the forefinger, Rick saw an unmistakable birthmark. Immediately, he understood what Mike was talking about.

“The nurse told me about it, and when I saw it, I knew she was right,” Mike said. “It looks just like . . .” he didn’t get a chance to finish before Rick jumped in.

“A baseball,” Rick said with a chuckle. “You can almost see the seams in that little hand. It’s amazing.”

“He’s going to be a ballplayer I guess,” Mike said quietly.

“That must be his pitching hand,” Rick said with a smile.

Mike grew silent again. A minute, maybe two, passed.

“I’ll be back in a little while,” Mike explained. “Will you stay?”

Rick said he would, and Mike was gone in a hurry.

A gift offered
Rick sat in the waiting area reading a sports magazine while he waited. He glanced at a clock on the wall. After a half hour passed, Mike was back, walking straight up to Rick and giving him a hopeful, yet piercing stare.

“You said you didn’t have any kids, right?”

Rick started to get an idea of where this was going.

“And since it hasn’t worked out for you, me and Sara—that’s my girlfriend—we want you to have this baby.”

Rick simply stared back, not knowing what to say.

“God does things for a reason doesn’t He? And He put me in your car. We think it’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Rick looked in Mike’s eyes and saw nothing but honesty and conviction. A surge of elation quickened his pulse. He thought of Joanne, and all of the years of waiting. He thought of calling his attorney and getting the process moving immediately, before any minds changed.

Rick could drive home through the snow, get Joanne and be back by mid-morning. As soon as the adrenaline began to flow however, Rick was struck with a sense that he needed to slow the pace.

“We can’t do that,” he said without conviction. “You two made your plans already. Someone is probably waiting by the phone to hear about your baby boy.”

“We can change it,” Mike said. “They said whoever got picked wouldn’t even know until we sign everything. And the adoption people said we could change our minds.
That’s what we’re gonna do. It’s okay.”

Rick thought about Joanne and the long wait they had endured together. And now, it could be over. “Give me a few minutes, okay?”

A gift given
The kid had no problem with that, and Rick called Joanne. Something kept gnawing at Rick as he went to the phone, but he dismissed any thoughts. God had worked the whole thing out, hadn’t He?

During the phone call with Joanne however, the uncomfortable feeling returned. Their miracle would be another’s loss. They both knew it. Tears flowed as they came to their decision. Rick had to tell Mike.

He found him still in the waiting room, with a smile on his face. It was difficult for Rick to look him in the eye, but finally, he did.

“We just can’t do it,” Rick said, dropping the truth like a hammer. “Believe me; we want to with all of our hearts. We really do. But if we say yes, another couple is going to be disappointed, even if they don’t realize it.”

Rick continued as the emotions began to well up in his voice. “Your offer . . .” Rick paused and tried to compose himself. “It was the greatest Christmas present we could hope for, and I’m not saying ‘no’ because of you.” Rick finished as a tear rolled down his cheek. The kid looked like he was about to cry as well.

“But you—or I guess the agency—has already chosen the couple they believed God has for your boy. We’d better not change things at this point. Our day will come.”

With that, Rick thanked the kid again and turned toward the elevator. He knew he had to move quickly. He wouldn’t hold up much longer. Rick shuffled out into the parking lot with his head down, got in his car and found a hotel a block away. He hardly slept.

The next morning the roads cleared and Rick headed home to Barrier Cliff. Though hardly jovial, Rick still felt a small sense of joy as he drove into his neighborhood. The day before, he had spent his time dwelling on the missing pieces of his life. Today, he was reminded that he had given the gift of a son to a couple he would likely never know. Though he and Joanne would continue to wait for a child, he would remember this Christmas for a long time. A reminder of what Christmas is all about, Rick thought.

A reminder of the gift given
The few remaining days before Christmas passed without Rick and Joanne talking much more about Mike or the baby. There were things to do, and they were heading to Joanne’s parents this year—tomorrow—on Christmas Eve.

Joanne was running down her list of things to do before leaving town. “Did you get the mail today, Rick?” On the list was the need to pay bills before the end of the year, hence the needed trip to the mailbox.

“Naw, but I’ll get it,” Rick said. Rick eased down the icy driveway, watching his step. A sigh of relief went through him when he pulled out a stack of letters and saw no bills. There was however, a letter from Home Again Restaurants.

The envelope was thin, which rarely meant good news. Rick opened it, expecting the standard two-paragraph rejection. Instead, he saw two pages of correspondence.

The first sentence was all he needed to see: “Congratulations, Mr. Shannon. We look forward to partnering with you as we roll out our new advertising campaign.” From there, Home Again’s vice president followed with an announcement that their advertising buy would be 45% higher than earlier estimates. Rick’s idea had carried the day.

“Yes!” Rick barked as he pumped his arm—trying to keep his balance as he raced up the driveway toward the front door.

“Christmas is here!” Rick yelled as he came in the door.

“Great!” Joanne said, not understanding Rick’s excitement. “Phone is for you, Santa Claus.”

Rick picked up the phone, handing Joanne the letter. He gave her a thumbs-up sign as he said a quick “hello” into the receiver.

“Mr. Shannon?”

“Yes,” Rick replied as he attempted to catch his breath.

“That must have been Joanne. I could have told her,” the voice at the other end explained. “This is Paul Jensen from the Hope Adoption Agency, and we have a small Christmas present for you.”

Rick’s heart skipped a beat, or maybe more as Mr. Jensen kept talking. “He’s eight pounds, four ounces. You can come and pick him up here tomorrow, just in time for Christmas.”

Rick was nearly speechless, trying valiantly to put words together. “Yes . . . Sure—We . . .”

“Well, the baby was born last week and we were able to move things more quickly than we thought,” Mr. Jensen said. “He’s a cute boy. And I remember from the biographical information you turned in that you said something about being a baseball fan. You won’t believe this baby’s birthmark . . . .”

4 Years After I Answered Tiffany's 'Tough Call,' She Sent Me This Message

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Tiffany and her son, Jonathen, in 2016.
by Carrie Beliles, International Program Specialist

Last week, I received a Facebook message in the middle of the night. Most Facebook messages in the middle of the night are no big deal, but for me, this specific message was.

Why? Because God knew this message was exactly what I needed to hear at that specific moment.

I needed to wake up, to be shaken out of where I was mentally and reminded of a principle God taught me four years ago.

It is not about me. It is all about Him.

Let’s go back to four years ago, when I found myself the newly appointed executive director of a pregnancy help center in Germany. While I didn’t speak German, the center actually served a unique, English-speaking clientele. Our abortion-vulnerable clients consisted entirely of women connected to the largest U.S. military base outside of the United States.

And, I took on this role by accident. No kidding, by “accident.” Totally under-qualified, I had never worked in the pro-life world. I’d never been trained or even so much as volunteered at a pregnancy center.

I did however, have a background in the fight against human trafficking, where I worked directly with victims, so I understood there are hurting people all over the world who needed to be shown compassion. My only real qualification was God had been teaching me to love others and meet them where they were.

More importantly, I was also hurting. Having just walked through a recent trial in my own life, my marriage had weathered several years as a military wife, complete with constant separations that are part of the job description. Add to that, I was pregnant with my fourth of now five children.

Because of these—what I considered—disqualifying factors, I assumed I wasn’t ready to minister to others. After all, shouldn’t I fix myself first, then move on to help others? That’s how I was thinking, but of course, I was wrong.

Learning to Handle the “Tough Questions”

As the newly installed executive director, my board sent me to the 2012 Heartbeat International Annual Conference in Los Angeles, hopeful that a one-week training would help start me on the right foot.

In a city famous for its movie stars, dreams and miracles, I was slightly overwhelmed with the actual size of the conference. Heartbeat, I learned, is an international organization uniting over 2,000 affiliates working toward a common life-saving goal. Just walking the halls and meeting others who were doing this amazing work all over the world was an inspiration.

Though I was encouraged, I felt out of my league. Every one else at the conference seemed to be a much better director, board member or volunteer than I could hope to be. All week long, I kept thinking they all must know what they are doing. It was a humbling experience, to say the least.

The last day of conference, I attended a session titled “Answering Tough Calls” with Bri Laycock, the director of Heartbeat’s 24-7 pregnancy helpline, Option Line. Having served with Option Line since shortly after its formation in 2003, Bri was confident and it seemed she was able to answer everything thrown her way. She was professional, ready and prepared—everything I felt I wasn’t.

At the end of the workshop, there was a Q-and-A session. An attendee raised her hand and posed a situation she recently faced. I sat back and listened, thinking, “I have no clue what I would do in that situation.”

The client, it turned out, was pregnant in the midst of a marriage that was falling apart due to infidelity. Multiple families were involved, and the baby this woman was carrying would be of a different race from the client’s husband and her other children. There was no hiding the breech of trust.

I was overwhelmed just picturing the scenario. The consensus approach from the class, and from Bri, was, “Keep her on the phone, keep the connection open, and take it one day at a time.” I remember thinking how glad I was to not be dealing with that situation.

Two weeks later. Tiffany called the hotline.

I had just closed up the center, picked up my daughter from kindergarten and was on the autobahn heading home after a long day when the phone rang.

One Day at a Time

Tiffany’s first question was whether we perform abortions and, if so, when could she make the earliest appointment. As I listened, mother-to-mother to someone desperate with fear, I offered to meet up and talk. When someone, like Tiffany, needs to talk, they just need someone to listen. I could do that.

A mother of three young boys, a married family friend had taken advantage of Tiffany while her husband was deployed in the Middle East. Now, she was pregnant. My heart sank as I realized I knew the wife whose husband was the father of Tiffany’s baby.

My thoughts went back to that session at the Heartbeat International Annual Conference. I’d only been back a couple of weeks, so the conversation—and that fleeting sense of relief that, at least I wasn’t dealing with this situation—was still fresh in my mind.

I asked myself, “What would Bri do in this situation? How would she handle this ‘Tough Question?” How on earth could I help to “fix” this?

That’s when Bri’s answer at the workshop crystalized in my mind: Keep her on the phone. Keep the connection open. Take it one day at a time.

As I got to know Tiffany and listened to her story, God began to teach me to take one step at a time, one day at a time. I wasn’t going to “fix” Tiffany’s situation. There was no formula. There were very few words of wisdom I could offer.

I only had the love of Christ, which I have seen and experienced in my own life, and which I could draw upon to share with someone who was hurting, alone and scared. Extending love was all Tiffany needed at that moment. Looking back, I’m sure that, had I tried to impart counseling methods or a fixed scenario, I may have missed an opportunity to actually love her.

The Miracle of Love

This life of love starts right where we are. I didn’t have years of training or relevant experience; it was a core principle that came to light in the “Tough Questions” workshop that set me on course. Stay on the line. Keep the connection open. Take it a day at a time.

Often, we count ourselves out even before we give ourselves the chance to see how God works through us. Whether it’s our perceived gap in our qualifications, preparation or “life-togetherness,” we need to remember that it’s God who works through us, and He’s the one who qualifies the unqualified.

Hitting my Facebook message folder four years after we first met, Tiffany’s note jarred me out of the same thought pattern to which I—and I’m guessing, you—tend to default.

Tiffany is now a homeschooling mother of five young boys. She’s going back to school to pursue a degree in crisis counseling. She reached out to let me know that, because of the way God worked through our relationship, she wants to do the same for others.

What a powerful reminder of the God who supplies our every need “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” I know He has supplied mine. What a blessing to know He’s done the same for Tiffany.

You can read Tiffany’s story here

Praying for Your Center (When You Don’t Know What to Pray For)

by Keith Ferrin, Guest WriterPhilippians1

Sometimes we know exactly what to pray for. The woman walking out of your office who is trying to decide what to do next. The unmarried couple who just signed up for your parenting class. The board meeting next week where tough decisions need to be made. Your fundraising banquet that’s only three weeks away.

Yes, sometimes the prayer needs are very specific and very obvious. And sometimes they are not.

There are also times when you might know what to pray, but your supporters, friends, board members, and people who drive by your center don’t have a clue what you are facing.

What if there was a template – or more accurately – a guide for times when prayer is needed, but the specific prayer requests aren’t known?

At those times, the Apostle Paul’s prayer in the first chapter of Philippians is just such a guide. Take a look...

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Now let’s look at this prayer one piece at a time...

“...that your love may abound more and more...”

More than anything, the people who walk through your doors, call your hotlines, and take your parenting classes need love. To know they are loved. To see it. To feel it. To receive it. To believe it.

Our love needs to abound...more and more.

“...in knowledge...”

Simply put: There is a lot to know.

Whether it is new medical information, training to become a better advocate, working more effectively as a staff and board, teaching abstinence classes in the public schools, or navigating the ever-changing political landscape, we could all use more knowledge.

“...and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best...”

Sometimes you’re talking to a person who truly needs answers. Other times, the person you are with is scared to death and simply needs to know they are not alone. To have the Holy Spirit give us insight into when to talk, when to be silent, and what to say is a daily necessity.

“...and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ...”

There are few things the enemy wants more than to destroy the purity and blamelessness of your staff, volunteers, and board members. He is a destroyer, and he loves to destroy marriages and families.

Too many times, we have seen the carnage left in the wake of moral failure. The enemy knows that. And he is attacking. Our best weapon in this area is prayer.

“...filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ...”

This ministry is life and death. Literally. The fruit of your ministry is life. Life for that unborn child. Life for that woman. Life for that couple. And life for all of the lives they touch.

“...to the glory and praise of God.”

God’s glory and God’s praise is our ultimate desire. We want everything we do to glorify the only One worthy of glory. And we want everything we do to cause those we serve to praise Him.

Amen.

What if you and I prayed that prayer on a daily basis? What if your staff prayed that prayer? What if your donors prayed that prayer?

When specific prayer requests are known – pray specifically. When they are not – pray Paul’s prayer.

Pray it. Share it. And then pray it some more. Lives are counting on it.


Keith Ferrin is an author, speaker, blogger and storyteller. His word-for-word, dramatic presentations of whole books of the Bible have been seen by audiences big and small on several continents. His passion is helping people not just read and study the Bible, but truly enjoy it! He has been partnering with pregnancy centers around the country for the last decade. He and his wife have three kids and you’ll find them doing something outdoors in and around Seattle. He blogs weekly at www.KeithFerrin.com.

The Olympic Challenge: Refuse and Choose

by Kirk Walden, Advancement SpecialistOlympics

The Olympics.

Every four years I can’t help but tune in. Sports I never watch at any other time are now “must see TV.”

Watching swimming one evening, I was mesmerized by the closeness of the women’s 100-meter freestyle event, where the USA’s Simone Manuel and Canada’s Penny Oleksiak tied for the gold medal by touching the wall in exactly 52.70 seconds. The third place finisher, Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, was just .29 seconds behind, barely enough time to blink an eye. And the eighth place finisher? Still only .66 seconds from winning the gold.

That’s close.

Usually, the difference between gold and bronze, or between bronze and 8th place, is not just natural talent or luck. Instead it is the extra effort of adding the extra practice time, of working on a start—or a turn—just a little longer than someone else. It is early mornings in the weight room, running when it is raining outside or deciding to skip the “day off” or the “you deserve a break today” meal and sticking to the regimen, no matter what.

The difference, in a word, is choice. The greatest choose to do the most difficult tasks, and refuse those things which get in the way on the journey to victory.

So it is with the Christian life. The writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 11 that Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing instead to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.”

Moses had to refuse and choose in order to fulfill God’s will for his life. Each day, we face “refuse and choose” moments. These moments may seem quite small, but added up, they are significant.

As an athlete chooses one more repetition after a grueling day of workouts, we—if we want to truly win the Christian race—must often choose another moment in prayer, another few minutes in our study of God’s word or another hour pouring into someone else’s life if we want that extra breakthrough in our walk with Jesus Christ.

Rarely does someone have to sit down and tell us which are our “refuse and choose” moments. We know, because we sense the Lord’s tug in our spirit.

Athletes sometimes fall short, just as we do. But the greats get back up and start choosing again—because they are looking to the rewards of victory.

Let’s take heart. Yesterday is behind us. Today is another day to refuse . . . and another opportunity to choose. Let’s choose, and be victors in the race set before us.

Lacking Nothing

Servants of ExcellenceLackingNothing

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:4

Like the Proverbs in the Old Testament, many see James’ letter as the New Testament’s letter of wisdom. Throughout James we see practical advice on how live out our faith (“faith without works is dead,” for example), and this counsel begins in the opening verses as James talks of trials and their role in our lives.

Trials, James tells us, produce endurance and perseverance in our character. This perseverance he concludes, makes us whole, mature and complete, “lacking in nothing.”

Honestly, I do not wish for trials. If I want good company in this view, I need look no farther than Jesus who, when facing crucifixion—the greatest trial of all—asked that “this cup pass from me.” Yet Jesus knew that unless he submitted to God’s will, even he would not be complete in fulfilling his mission to save humankind.

Jesus pushed forth through this unfathomable trial and was able to say with his final words, “It is finished.” This was his defining moment, when all could see Jesus was “mature and complete, lacking in nothing” just as James wishes for us in his letter.

We only get to completeness by trial. Apparently, this is the path. The trials may sometimes be small, asking us to persevere when someone treats us poorly. Or, the trial may be incredibly large, such as a physical or health challenge, the loss of a loved one, or rejection by others.

Our next trial could be financial, relational, physical or mental. We don’t know, and that’s the thing about trials. Rarely do we see them coming.

Trials are surprising, sometimes shocking. Many times we do not understand the “whys” of our trial. All we know is that it is our mission to persevere, and to count this trial as “joy.”

Why joy? Because we know that when we persevere, we grow in the character of Jesus Christ. As we follow Jesus, we prepare ourselves for entrance into his kingdom.

And we are reminded of Jesus who saw his greatest trial as one of joy. We are told in Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus persevered. He endured. If anyone is “perfect and complete,” it is Jesus.

God offers us a similar opportunity. The path includes trial. It is not the easy way, but it is the only way.

Trials are coming. We will look at those trials not with happiness, but with joy. Because we know when we persevere, we will be everything God wants us to be.

 


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

 

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