Giving Life a Voice

~A guest post by Andrea Bailey, a dear friend in whom Christ shines~

I used to think it was okay to be quiet. In a time where words are excessive and peoples’ lives are laid bare in blogs and social media without caution, only to be consumed—chewed up and spit out– by anyone who has five minutes to read them…and then forgotten. Opinions, reflections, stories—words are in abundance and so prolific that the average person takes very little time to let messages conveyed in media actually stay and sink in.

So I have often thought it pointless to share my thoughts, to give my silence, ‘my experience’ a voice. After all, these things that seem so hard to share publicly, that have taken years to compose, will be consumed and forgotten in a matter of minutes. But even so, in light of all that has happened with the Planned Parenthood videos and conversations surrounding abortion, it is time to speak up—if only for those who cannot speak. It is time to be a voice among many faithful voices and to bear witness of God’s love for those who cannot speak for themselves.

So please, take a minute to hear my voice and reflect on my story. Let these words that I am sharing not be forgotten and may they be one of many choruses that sing the profound love of our Creator for His Creation—for humanity made in the image and likeness of Himself!

A Story of Life

There is no need to go into all the details of my life. Let it be enough to say that my mother was left with a choice—to give life or to take it away—and she chose life. And she was a courageous woman for doing so. Knowing the shame she would have to carry, the comments she would receive, the weight of raising a child alone…it was not as if she chose life and because she made the right choice, life was easy. It wasn’t easy and there was much cost involved. And she carried that choice for life, day in and day out, as she worked and cared for me.

As she raised me, she wasn’t alone. God provided for her needs, surrounded her with loving family who helped her carry some of the weight of raising a child alone. Grandparents, aunts, uncles… all loving me and coming alongside. An aunt and uncle who took me in when she needed support and continued to show love and cherish the life she had given. But her choice to give life still changed her and left a scar…a wound that had healed but that could be seen. And yet she carried it–she made the choice to love me and she lived out that choice each day.

Perhaps it is because of her choice to regard the sacred value of human life, the life of her child, that her legacy of sacrifice and love lives on.

Fast forward to life today. I am consumed with loving and giving care to the six beautiful lives that God has entrusted to me—six beautiful souls whom I love more than I thought was possible.

Three years ago, my husband and I considered being done having more children. A family of six, a perfect balance of boys and girls. Life was full but still within the range of manageable.

And then everything was turned upside down. We heard the words, “She wants you to adopt them….” This question was asked of us regarding the placement of our twins, not children of my own flesh and blood, but children that would become mine in every way.

And we said yes…though be it reluctantly. I knew what we would have to give up. Being an average middle class family, I knew that there likely would not be money enough to give our children the life I had envisioned for them—sports, dance, music, private education. I knew it would demand all of my time to raise twins and that would mean that the other children would struggle, would hurt, would feel alone, because there wouldn’t be enough of me. I worried because I knew there would be brokenness that would permeate the core of our family, and would change us. I knew our choice would limit what we would be able to do…it would be a cost that we would all bear. There would be stress that would threaten to unravel the cords of our marriage, of our family.

And yet, all I could think of when I heard the question, was my own mother…a woman who chose life in the midst of what it would cost. The woman who chose burden and limitations and a giving up of her own freedom.

And I considered the beautiful young woman before me who had courageously chosen life in the face of unrelenting hardship. A woman who had every reason to end life but chose to give life. And in sacrificial love, asked us to give welcome and a home to the beautiful lives she had carried into this world.

I am reminded every time I look at the six beautiful children that God has given to us, that this life is not about fulfilling our dreams or realizing every hope we have for those we love; rather, it is about giving welcome and care and love for those who need a place to rest and find shelter. It is about giving out of what we have been given.

Christian brothers and sisters, it is not my place to give prescriptive plans for your lives, but PLEASE consider and do not forget those who are discarded, dismembered and cast aside. Please ask, “What can I do to help women who feel they have no choice, to choose life?” DO NOT be tempted to consider what you will give up or how you will survive because God’s mercies are abundant and will be with you in all that you face.

And be ready, because as you love and care for those who are forgotten, you will face hardship and it will change you and it will leave a scar that can be seen. And you will bend under the weight as you are changed, refined, exposed. But God’s mercies are lavishly given.

I have been asked when grieving all that we have had to let go of, “But didn’t you know going into this that this would happen?” I guess I knew that it would require a great letting go of my dreams for our family as I knew it…but not to this degree.

And even so I can say, that in those darkest moments of grief and loss, I don’t ever have to question if we did the right thing. I know our choice to come alongside a woman who chose to give life is close to the heart of God and He tenderly loves her and the children she gave life to.

I have never doubted God’s presence with us in this journey though hardship has left us grasping and questioning with expectant hope. I have always seen God’s mercies poured out to us, when I thought this would break us. And finally, I have seen God’s deep care and love for our children—a love that exceeds my own. A love that is fitting them for eternity and teaching them to order their lives accordingly and love life. And I pray that their lives would continue in this legacy of giving life a voice.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry and he will say, “Here I am.” If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail…                               -Isaiah 58: 6-11

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What About This Joy?

How is it that the light of midday in August falls flat and heavy; it seems to near bake even the greenest of grass into a sickly hue by it’s unrelenting glare.  My toddler shifted on my lap, beyond squirrely.  My baby twisted and grunted and bucked around his grandma’s lap with the vigor of a newly mobile seven month-old.  The older three wandered around, a mix of listlessness and wildness.  It was forty-five minutes until the next tour through the historic Rockford Plantation; too little time to go grab a bite to eat first, too much time to hope for consistently decent public behavior out of my crew.  We sat on the long backless bench in the shade of the wide front porch, there on the periphery of history, and the light fell flat and heavy.

What about this joy?  Even there, baking in the heat, and hoping the baby’s cloth diapers would hold out long enough, and wondering how on earth I’d keep my littles from getting obnoxiously loud in the quiet museum of a home we were soon to tour; this joy, this bubbling mirth, just below my skin, pulsing through me steady.

Tonight too, facing the sink piled high with cooking pots and greasy dishes, I was all smile within.  Even as my toddler threw his unwanted food right onto the floor, onto the clean floor and rice went flying.  Even as my soul was awash with sorrow over the latest Planned Parenthood video, deeper than the surface storms of annoyance, anger, and despair, there it was, and is, joy.

I know it is the Lord’s doing, and I thank Him, acknowledging that it is a mercy, a grace.  There is something within me now unbroken.

I would call it joy, or this….light; it is love, and I feel held in it.  Much to the annoyance perhaps of my dear ones, it started when I began learning about Orthodoxy; when I began experiencing the Church in it’s liturgy and it’s people.  Something broken became unbroken, and the love of the Lord and the presence of Christ moved from my head to my heart.

I’ve had a dream without sleeping, and I don’t remember when it was, but it’s clear in my mind.  I’m in the sea, black waves rising like mountains, thunder and lightning crashing, swimming hard to keep my head just above the swallowing water.  I’m so tired and so scared.  Then through the peaks of the waves I see a man in a boat coming toward me.  I know, in the way one knows things in dreams, that it is Jesus.  He’s wearing a rough brown robe and there’s peaceful determination on His bearded face.

The scene switches and my face is pressed tight against a coarse fabric and arms encircle me securely.  I am held by Him.  I feel the waves rocking the boat beneath our feet and I burrow my face into His chest and breathe.  I am rescued, found, safe.

I didn’t get to see the rescue; I didn’t get to see how I went from near-drowning to held-safe.  Gratitude, soul-deep gratitude and strong peace, and arms locked around me protectively.

I would never have guessed that it would be Orthodoxy that would bring the knowledge of God’s love for me down into my heart as an experienced love.  But it did and I don’t need to know why it was this way for me.  I am rescued, held, loved; that is enough.

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