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The show most tweeted about, 13 Reasons Why, was made to spread awareness that bullying in schools is a major problem, sometimes resulting in suicide. This is such an important message, but I believe it is a message that was poorly – and dangerously – delivered. I implore Selena Gomez, Brian Yorkey, and the other producers to make changes in order to deliver an accurate message with a realistic solution.
Warning: This blog article contains adult content and spoilers.
13 Reasons Why was too graphic.
The show was based off a young adult novel by Jay Asher; the target audience was teenagers. However, the show included too much adult content for it to be appropriate to the target audience. In fact, the show is rated TV-MA. According to TV Parental Guidelines (1), the rating TV-MA means, “This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17.” Why create a show for teens with a rating that excludes teens? This defies common sense.
Had 13 Reasons Why taken out some of the cussing, drug and alcohol prevalence, sex, and toned down the graphicness of the rape and suicide scenes, the show would have reached its target audience appropriately and still maintained authenticity.
The crude language and alcohol use is in-your-face in the Netflix show. Someone please give the writers a thesaurus. The amount of cussing, especially “f*ck,” is repetitive and accomplishes nothing other than assisting in a TV-MA rating. Why can’t we see an example of what happens when a teen makes good decisions? Even the book doesn’t have half as much cussing as the show. The excessive alcohol use is shown as a normal, accepted, expected part of high school, when that is simply not true (nor legal, nor healthy). There was only one instance in all of Season 1 where a character turned down an offer for alcohol. The show could have offered examples that show teens don’t have to give into peer pressure, they don’t have to break the law to have fun, and life is smoother when we don’t make drunken mistakes.
The sexual content in 13 Reasons Why goes above and beyond what is necessary to get the message across. For the moment, let’s save the two rape scenes for later and discuss some other scenes. A sex scene is included in Episode 8 between Jessica and Justin that is unnecessarily graphic – a scene that never happened in the book, as Jessica and Justin weren’t even dating in the book. In another episode, we see Clay masturbating to a picture of Hannah and Courtney kissing – neither of which happened in the book. In Episode 11, Hannah and Clay’s first kiss quickly goes from sweet and hesitant to stripping and groping and only stops from progressing when Hannah has flashbacks – and again, in the book, all that happened was kissing. It’s honestly awkward for an adult to watch a sex scene between two teenage characters. It feels like watching child porn (albeit soft porn), and it technically would be, except that the actors are all adults. The actors have to be adults for this reason. If the show cannot use teenage actors for teenage characters, it’s probably a good idea to tone it down a notch. The movie To Save A Life, has a scene where sex was simply implied, but nothing sexually graphic was shown. The two teens go into a bedroom, but what happens in the bedroom is left unseen. Using creative means to allude to sexual activity rather than bluntly showing it would also help bring the rating to TV-14.
I was curious to see the portrayal of high school parties in the media is accurate, especially concerning alcohol, drugs, and sex, so I took a poll in a group on Facebook. The group consists of people I have never met who come from all over the USA and also from other countries. These people come from different backgrounds and beliefs. I asked 235 people “Were high school parties sometimes, always, or never as wild as those portrayed in the media?” The results:
These numbers show that while some parties really are as wild in reality as shown in the media, not every high school student goes to crazy parties, and not every party or get-together involves drugs, sex, and alcohol. Therefore, it is unnecessary for a show (or young adult literature) to constantly include such wild parties with graphic scenes.
The rape scenes are extremely graphic. I like what one blogger (2) had to say about the rape scene, “They did a good job of showing Hannah (the girl who committed suicide) and how she felt during the rape, but watching her body writhe with each thrust was completely unnecessary and not something we needed to watch in order to understand the gravity of the situation. When you read something, your mind is only going to let it go as far as your mind can handle but when you watch it, you are at the mercy of someone else’s mind, and this time 13 Reasons Why did a poor job of understanding how much high school and middle school aged kids can handle.”
Katherine Langford (Hannah) did a fantastic job of having her face go blank. Her eyes seemed lifeless. Many survivors of rape disconnect from themselves to cope with the rape both during and after the crime. I thought it was important to show that she tried to get away but never said, “No.” Sometimes, rape survivors do not scream for help or say no. Sometimes they shut down. That does not equal consent, and I think this scene was a terrific example. Unfortunately, due to the vividness of this scene, the message gets lost. Even if only the thrusts had been left out, it would have been more appropriate – yet just as meaningful – for teens.
Hannah’s suicide scene was also extremely graphic. This is a problem that is important to recognize. Guidelines exist in how the media should portray and report suicide. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (3), “Suicide contagion is the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide and can result in an increase in suicide and suicidal behaviors. Reports of suicide should not be repetitive, as prolonged exposure can increase the likelihood of suicide contagion. Reports should not divulge detailed descriptions of the method used to avoid possible duplication. Reports should not glorify the victim and should not imply that suicide was effective in achieving a personal goal.” An article by First Things (4) does a great job going into greater detail on how the show went against each guideline.
Why is it important to follow these guidelines? A quote from the organization Reporting on Suicide (5) says, “More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration, and prominence of coverage. Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.” While it may sound strange that suicide is contagious, think about all the other emotions and behaviors that are contagious. How do you feel when you’ve been around someone who is high-strung? Do you feel anxious? Some people follow fashion trends without even realizing they are doing it. (Skinny jeans and leggings, anyone?) Do you find yourself yawning when someone else yawns? The fact is, many behaviors, including suicidal thoughts, can be contagious. Because studies have proven this, it is important to be proactive in discussions and education about suicide, but to follow the guidelines created by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
13 Reasons Why sends the message that suicide is a solution, self harm is an acceptable coping skill, and seeking help is useless.
Knowing about suicide contagion, it is likely that 13 Reasons Why could easily trigger someone to choose suicide. Not only that, but the suicide scene was a graphic tutorial in how to kill oneself. This contrasts with the novel, in which we know Hannah used pills to kill herself, but we never had a suicide scene. Clay speculates how it happened, but we never know what pills she took, how many, where she was, how she was found, etc. The Netflix show had Hannah use a different method of suicide – cutting the arteries in her arms – and included a graphic scene showing every detail. Brian Yorkey said in Beyond the Reasons that the decision to make the suicide scene so graphic in the Netflix show was to make it uncomfortable to watch, to dissuade anyone from doing it. Unfortunately, I think their method did the exact opposite of what they wanted. It made the perfect how-to guide, complete with longitudinal incisions – a detail I desperately wish 13 Reasons Why had left out.
I have come close to attempting suicide twice. When I watched the suicide scene, my first thought was, “That was easy.” Hannah definitely seemed scared while doing it. She did act like it was physically difficult to do and like it hurt. But after those few seconds of difficulty, she sat back and relaxed. Her lips trembled slightly for a moment, and then she looked sleepy and peaceful. She didn’t cry. She didn’t seem to regret her decision. Her breathing, which had quickened during the act, slowed in the aftermath. I wish the writers had done the opposite. I wish the easy part was the act of cutting. I wish Hannah had cried, had asked herself, “What have I done?” I wish she had shown what happens to your body when you bleed to death… that you shiver and become incredibly cold. You become gray. Honestly, I thought the blank look in her eyes during the rape scene was more haunting than the peaceful expression during her death. Thank God I did not see this episode as a teen considering suicide, because it might have convinced me to go through with my plan.
It is already too late to hope that no one who watches this show follows through with suicide. Two teen girls, who did not know each other, committed suicide shortly after watching the show 13 Reasons Why, according to a KTVU news report (6). Whether or not the show was a trigger, it is clear the show did not offer them hope. It did not give them advice. It did not offer answers – except for the suggestion that suicide is the answer.
The Netflix show and the book portray Hannah was successful in her goal. She couldn’t get her message across while she was alive… that she felt unsafe, that she felt alone, that she saw no purpose, that she wanted justice. But she achieved sending that message through her death. Not only did she send her message, but she got revenge through her death. We all have wanted revenge on people who have hurt us, or at the very least, justice. In the show, all the characters are indebted to Hannah because of her death. These misleading aspects provide great incentive for viewers to copy Hannah.
Dear readers, getting a message across is not worth ending your life.
Another message the novel, but especially the show, sends is that asking for help only makes things worse. The characterization of the teachers, school counselor, principal, vice principal, and parents offer not a single example of someone a teenager can go to for help. In fact, adults in this show are totally oblivious. None of the parents knew when their teens were sneaking in or out of bedroom windows. In Episode 1, the communications teacher was lecturing on nonverbal communication. Meanwhile, all the students are texting each other an innocent, yet unflattering, picture of Hannah going down a slide. The teacher tells students to put away cell phones, but they ignore her; she has no control, and she is completely unaware that something is going on. She fails again in Episode 7, where she receives an anonymous note about suicide, but she did not do much to discourage anyone from suicide, aside from provide hotline numbers. She barely attempted to moderate the discussion.
The character who gives the strongest message that teens should not seek help is the school counselor, Mr. Porter. He had zero control over the Honor Board students in Episode 6. When Tyler came to him in Episode 5 for help because he was pantsed, Mr. Porter essentially asks Tyler what he did to provoke the boys. And while that is a question that needs to be considered, it was not the proper time to ask. But worst of all is the scene between Mr. Porter and Hannah in Episode 13. Hannah tries to tell Mr. Porter about her encounter with Bryce. Mr. Porter cannot be blamed for not knowing what exactly happened to Hannah at the party, but he should have asked about rape using the word “rape,” and he should have reported to Hannah’s parents immediately that she said she saw no reason to life and he suspected rape or assault.
Readers, please let me tell you, you do not have to die to make people listen to you.
So where should someone turn if they are struggling? According to Skye in Episode 11, cutting is a coping strategy. She says, “It’s what you do instead of killing yourself. Suicide is for the weak.” As someone who struggled for three years with a cutting addiction and has been in recovery for 11 years, this line ripped my heart out. Let’s be extremely clear about this:
Self harm is a coping strategy, but not a healthy coping strategy.
Self harm does not mean you are strong.
Self harm is dangerous and can result in disfigurement, infection, and death.
Self harm does not mean someone is not suicidal.
While I self harmed, I struggled with suicidal thoughts. I took a poll in a self injury awareness group to see if I was in the minority. I wasn’t. Out of 154 people polled, 88% said they have contemplated or attempted suicide. Only 12% said they had never considered suicide. Parents, teachers, and counselors – I beg you to know that if someone is practicing self harm, they are likely considering suicide. Please consider self harm a red flag – not a trend.
Readers, please know that you do not have to punish yourself. You do not have to feel pain to feel alive. You are worth so much more than you know, and you deserve better than self injury.
Perhaps the second season of 13 Reasons Why will address some of these issues. Perhaps the adults that finally became involved in the last episode of Season 1 will redeem the show. Perhaps some good examples of what a person should do will be shown instead of only what not to do. I understand that the show needed to generate suspense and curiosity to keep the show going, to cover the costs, but that should never be done at the expense of someone’s health – or life – and that is what happened with Season 1.
When I was in college to earn a degree in secondary education, one of the teaching techniques that was repeated constantly was, “Don’t just tell students what not to do. Redirect them. Show them what they can do.” In my teaching career and as a parent, I have learned the value of positive examples.
What 13 Reasons Why can do to improve their message:
- Really focus on the ways Hannah’s suicide had side effects she never wanted (such as her parents’ emotional and financial state, Clay’s false-guilt and suicidal thoughts, Alex’s suicide attempt, the lawsuit, and the unbearable guilt many of the characters feel).
- Talk about PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Giving names to these conditions helps people to know that these feelings can be identified, they can be given help, and healing can happen.
- Create several adult characters that are good for teens to confide in. A competent teacher, counselor, parent.
- Show what could have happened had Hannah talked to her parents.
- Provide an example of a student who is open with his or her parents, and show the good results of such a relationship.
- Give reasons why someone is too valuable to have their life stolen by suicide.
- Send the message that surviving friends and family of a suicide victim are not to blame for a decision that was ultimately up to the victim.
- Continue all the things that have been done well: the scene transitions, the music, the casting, the acting. All of these were powerful.
- Continue showing how hurt and lost Clay and Hannah’s parents feel.
What parents can do:
- Watch out for red flags but also be aware red flags don’t need to exist for someone to be struggling with a mental health issue. (secretive behavior, excessive arguing, a drop in grades, drug and alcohol use, disinterest in hobbies, too tired to eat or shower, etc.)
- Do not supply alcohol and drugs for minors.
- Provide and require adult supervision at parties.
- Make your home a fun (safe) place for your teen to have friends over.
- Set curfews and rules.
- Enforce consequences and offer positive reinforcement.
- Be aware of what goes on in your teen’s life on social media.
- Be open and real with your teens; tell them about your years as a teenager, your regrets and your proud moments.
- If your teen is going to watch 13 Reasons Why, watch it with them.
What teens can do:
- Report bullying. If the person you reported to fails to address the situation, report it to someone else.
- Stand up for classmates who are being bullied.
- Don’t give into peer pressure when it comes to drinking, drugs, and sex.
- Find a responsible adult you trust and confide in him or her often.
- Know that the rules your teachers and parents enforce exist because you are loved.
- Know your worth is not based on other people.
- Know that what you are going through will not last forever, even though it feels that way. Each day is a success.
- If you think someone is dealing with depression, self harm, addiction, or contemplating suicide, tell a trusted adult immediately. Your friend may not appreciate it at the time, but you might save a life.
If you are struggling, please contact a professional. You don’t have to do this battle alone. Your journey can start with some of the resources I’ll list below. In addition, while I am not a professional, I’ve been in dark places, and I’ve come out of them. If you need someone to listen to you, if you need to talk to someone who has survived and healed, leave a comment, and I’ll be there. I don’t know you, but I love you.
As a Christian, I feel compelled to add that you are so incredibly valued, that Someone gave His life for You. He bled so you don’t have to. He conquered death so you can have heaven. He has a purpose for you in this world. You are so loved, more than you can ever possibly know or even imagine. Jesus knows you, and He loves you.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Focus on the Family counselors: 1-855-771-HELP (4357)
M-F 6am-8pm (Mountain Time Zone).
13 Reasons Why Not to Commit Suicide: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/13-reasons-why-not?_ga=2.147574068.2048394733.1501526918-1820413583.1501526918
Suicide Lifelines by State and by Topic:
Christian Lifelines for suicide, addiction, abortion, homosexuality, and more:
To Write Love On Her Arms: resources for suicide prevention, self harm, and addiction:
Discussion Guide for 13 Reasons Why:
1. “The TV Parental Guidelines.” The TV Parental Guidelines, http://www.tvguidelines.org/ratings.htm. Accessed 28 Aug. 2017.
2. Harrington, Jamie. “WARNING: DO NOT LET YOUR KIDS WATCH 13 REASONS WHY.” Totally The Bomb.Com, 9 May 2017, totallythebomb.com/do-not-let-your-kids-watch-13-reasons-why. Accessed 28 Aug. 2017.
3. “What does ‘suicide contagion’ mean, and what can be done to prevent it?” HHS.gov, 21 Aug. 2015, http://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-does-suicide-contagion-mean/index.html. Accessed 28 Aug. 2017.
4. Kheriaty, Aaron. “Killer Show: ’13 Reasons Why’ Romanticizes Suicide.” First Things, http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/05/killer-show. Accessed 28 Aug. 2017.
5. “Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide.” Reporting on Suicide, reportingonsuicide.org/recommendations/. Accessed 28 Aug. 2017.
6. “Two families endure suicides, blame popular Netflix show.” KTVU, 22 June 2017, http://www.ktvu.com/news/263334963-story. Accessed 28 Aug. 2017.
I was fortunate to be in the “path of totality” for the 2017 solar eclipse. (Basically, I was able to see the full eclipse for a few minutes.) The experience was much more than I had expected.
My husband and I grew up in Michigan (MI), and our family is there. My husband, myself, and our toddler daughter now live in Missouri, which put us in one of the best places in the country to view this eclipse. My husband’s family came down from MI for the event. My mother-in-law has some relatives who live near us, although my husband doesn’t know them very well. This was the perfect event for a family reunion!
Photo credit: AccuWeather
We drove out to a farm that had this big field with hills on either side. It was the perfect setting for the eclipse, a natural auditorium.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had never seen a solar eclipse before, and the news was constantly stressing that a person can go blind from seeing an eclipse. Schools were closing because it wasn’t right to put that kind of stress on teachers. The teachers would need to keep each of their students from looking at the sun without special solar glasses and to keep them from scratching or denting the glasses, which are basically a blindfold; the glasses allow you to see absolutely nothing but the sun. Police were going to be busy with all the added traffic in our little rural area, and car accidents by distracted drivers were expected. Banks feared that police would be too busy to help them if there was a robbery, and so banks closed. I even saw reports that zoos were bringing animals inside. All this chaos made me a little unsure of what was actually going to happen. All the reports said that the safest way to view an eclipse is online or on TV, but I wanted to see it in person, without our cumbersome technology.
In the quiet of this rural farm, we ate a picnic lunch in the shade of the trees. The humid Missouri heat was oppressive. I felt sticky, heavy, and tired. The thermometer read somewhere around 95°F (35°C), but the humidity made it feel worse. The sun was extremely bright, and I wore sunglasses when I wasn’t wearing the solar glasses.
My father-in-law downloaded an app on his phone that announced updates on the eclipse. “Eclipse begins. Glasses on.” I put on the glasses, which were like the paper glasses you get for 3D movies. I could see nothing. I looked up at the sky and saw a small, orange ball. The top right section had just a tiny crescent blacked out… the beginning of the eclipse. I took my glasses off and was blinded by the light. Oops… next time, look away before taking off the glasses. However, my eyes were fine.
Several minutes later, it seemed as though nothing had changed. Yet, when I put on the glasses and looked at the sun, the black crescent had taken over more of the orange ball. And then we all realized how much cooler it was. Although nothing looked different without the glasses, the heat was simply warm. It no longer felt like the sun was cooking your skin the moment you stepped out from the shade.
With about 15 minutes to go until totality, I took off my regular sunglasses, no longer needing them. Although the sun seemed to be shining like normal to the naked eye, the light seemed to be that of a cloudy day. Yet, there was not a cloud in the sky.
My father-in-law’s app chimed a five minute warning. After that, things changed quickly. We could watch the light around us grow dimmer with every moment. It was strange and eerie. The light was similar to what you see at sunrise or sunset… kind of a yellow hue, like a sepia photo. However, the light from a sunrise or sunset comes from the side, from one direction, casting long shadows. It was 1:15 in the afternoon, and the sun was directly overhead. The light came straight down, and there were no long shadows like at dawn or dusk. It was extremely disorienting. It gave me a feeling like something was “off.”
Within moments, it was as dark as a night with a full moon. With the solar glasses, I watched until there was just a sliver of orange left, and then it was gone. The eclipse app announced, “Total eclipse. Glasses off.” Everything was still. Even the birds were quiet. The temperature dropped. My almost-two-year-old ran around curiously, asking, “Moon? Sun? Moon? Stars?”
We looked up into the sky, no longer blinded by solar glasses, and we saw a spectacular sight. There was a dark circle in the sky, completely encircled by a thin ring of white light. It didn’t make me squint. Surrounding this were stars, which were actually planets. I believe we could see Jupiter, if I was told correctly.
For a few minutes, we stood in the dark, and we stared at the light.
Before I was ready for this experience to be over, the app announced, “Glasses on! Glasses on!” I hadn’t yet looked away when the tiniest sliver of light burst past the moon, and I involuntarily squinted and looked away, unable to handle the extreme light of direct sunlight. I put on my solar glasses, and through them, I could only see a thin line of sunlight peeking out from behind the moon. How amazing that such a small section of sun can be so incredibly intense! Without the solar glasses, it was already impossible to look straight at the sun.
Now everything happened in reverse. The birds resumed their songs, and the light dramatically increased with each moment. It was like a sunrise, but from straight above.
Unfortunately, my toddler did not understand that we could no longer look at the sun. She kept trying, and I had to shield her eyes and carry her to the car, where I distracted her until she forgot all about the strange phenomenon that had just occurred.
It had only been 10 minutes or so, but the heat had returned in full force. My daughter had missed her nap and was getting tired, and we were all hot. We packed up and said our goodbyes. By the time we got in the car, we had regular sunglasses back on to shade our eyes from the summer sun and were thankful for the air conditioning blasting in the car.
It was over.
I sat in the car for the ride home and reflected on all I had just witnessed. At home, all my Michigan friends and family were saying that it was noticeably dimmer, and the temperature had dropped slightly, but other than that, it was just another day. I was so thankful I was blessed to see this.
The day after the eclipse, my husband, who is a pastor, received a phone call that a church member in a nursing home was not responsive. The three of us drove out there, and we sang hymns for the man, who was a retired pastor. He lay in bed, cancer ravaging his body, sucking in ragged breaths that seemed to take so much energy for each repetition. We were confident he could hear us, and he seemed to be more relaxed while we sang with his family. My husband read him the commendation, and then he said, “You can go to God.” My husband left the building so the family could have some time alone with him, but the man took his last breath and left.
As I rode along for the drive home, I thought, “He didn’t even get to see the eclipse yesterday.” And then I realized how silly that thought was. Our world is like a perpetual eclipse. We can see around us in the dim light. We can know God is with us, that He loves us, just like we can see the sunlight behind the moon during an eclipse. But when this life – this eclipse – is over, the sun we see will be Jesus, the Son of God. Even the smallest sliver will be more than we can imagine or behold. Just as the birds sang at the end of the eclipse, the angels will sing when we enter heaven. Our sepia world will be in full color.
I was excited about the 2017 solar eclipse, and I’m excited to once again be in the path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse, but above all, I am excited for our figurative “eclipse” to be over. I am excited to no longer deal with pain, sadness, hatred, war, sickness, and death. I am living for the day I will meet Jesus face-to-face and live in a perfect world like God first intended.
My photo of the eclipse. It didn’t photograph the way it looked in real life. There was more black in the center, and the ring of light was thinner, but the light was white like in this photo.
I found this photo that was a little closer to the real thing, but still not quite the same. The sun still looked far away, and the ring of light was more white.
Photo credit: http://keizerfire.com/2017/07/26/solar-eclipse-information/
Today, July 3, 2017, makes one year since my husband was ordained as a pastor after graduating from seminary and being installed at the church where he has been Called. Time flies!
For those who don’t know from my past entry on Call Night, a graduating seminarian who will be a first-time pastor gets a Call. This is something the seminary professors do with churches requesting a pastor. They prayerfully consider where each seminarian should go. They try to take into consideration if the seminarian is married, has kids, wants to be near family, wants to be rural or urban, or has any health issues. However, nothing is guaranteed. Ultimately, you go where God puts you.
Both my husband and I grew up in south-east Michigan, although we had lived for four years in Indiana for the seminary and one year in Illinois for vicarage (internship). My husband grew up in a rural town with a population of about 5,000. I grew up in the suburbs with a population of about 31,000. We requested that we be within a day’s drive of family – the closer the better – but no more than 8 hours. We said we wanted our daughter to grow up knowing her relatives. We also had some health concerns that definitely ruled out three states. We requested no inner-city church, because the traffic and the crime would really cause me health problems concerning my anxiety disorder. We had no idea where we were going to go; we only knew it would be in America.
The way seminarians in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod learn of their first call is very… dramatic. The seminarians all sit up front as a class, just like graduation. Meanwhile, the wives, kids, family, and friends sit in the back. (Thankfully, my parents, sister, and parents-in-law were there to support me so I didn’t have to go through this alone.) We go through a very long church service, which is both aggravating and wonderful at the same time. Aggravating, because you just want to know where you are going to live. Wonderful, because the hymns, Bible verses, and sermon have such a beautiful peace that strengthens and encourages you.
One-by-one, the seminarians are called by name and then told the name of the church, city, state, and district they are Called to. Some seminarians get more than one church, which is happening more and more, especially in rural churches, as Christianity weakens in America.
This is how the seminarians, their wives, and their kids learn where they will live. After the service, a seminarian can quietly refuse his Call, but this is rare, and to do so means you may never get another Call. It’s not good for one’s career. However, when one accepts a Call, one does so assuming that this could be the only Call one ever receives and/or accepts, and it could be where he stays until retirement. Of course, many pastors do receive other Calls during their careers (in a much less dramatic way), which they prayerfully consider and then either accept or deny. A pastor will usually stay at his first Call for three-to-five years to get a foundation under his career and not cause too much change at once for that congregation.
(A nervous wife waiting for the service to begin)
Frank and I had been receiving hints that we were getting a Call to Michigan, and we were delighted that we would be by family. When I heard my husband’s name called, followed by Missouri, I was in shock. Absolute shock. I had never heard of the town. I had never even been in the state of Missouri. Not only was it not Michigan; it was a drive even further than 8 hours away. I suddenly felt like there was this gaping chasm between my family and me. I looked down at my baby, and I couldn’t imagine her growing up without her aunts, uncles, and grandparents. My heart just hurt. I said, “I have to go. I have to leave.” And I walked out of the church and went to the basement where the bathrooms are. My mom and sister followed. When they caught up to me, my mom said, “It’ll be okay.” And then my sister – who is so strong, rarely emotional, so level-headed – burst into tears and grabbed me up into a hug. And then all three of us stood in the basement, sobbing.
After the service, during pictures, I was just numb. I was relieved to finally no longer be wondering where we were going. We weren’t being sent off to Alaska or some other terrible cold state; so that burden had been lifted. Everyone kept coming up to us and saying, “Perry county! You’re going to Perry county!” I wanted to scream, “WHAT IS PERRY COUNTY!?” (I had forgotten my Lutheran history lessons… it’s where Lutheranism was brought to America!)
(After the Call Service with our announcement poster)
Although it was getting late in the evening, the seminarians and their wives meet with their new district president. We found the room where we were assigned and met the Missouri District President. I liked him immediately. He put me at ease. He described our town, and he made it sound charming. The one thing that concerned me was how rural it was… a town with less than 500 people. This was more rural even than the town my husband grew up in. The Missouri DP said the one thing he could say about our congregation is that they need a pastor who will connect with them and just love them. We can do that, I thought to myself. I have a passion for loving people who have been through difficult times.
The next few months were spent with Frank finishing up his classes, graduating, receiving an academic award, and packing, packing, packing. All with a baby. When our daughter was 9 months old, we locked up our tiny apartment for the last time. I got in our car with my mom. My dad got in his car. Frank got in the Uhaul, and we were off for a long, long day of driving. Thankfully, our daughter was so well-behaved in the car and never fussed… until the last two hours. Then she made up for it by crying the entire two hours.
We pulled into town just after it got dark. We weren’t sure where the house was, so we pulled into the church parking lot. We got out and were greeted by 10-20 people who had come to meet us and help us unload. They pointed out the driveway, which was hidden in the rural darkness. We asked if we could walk through the house once before everything was brought in, just so I could plan what went where. (I had all my boxes color-coded with post-its according to what room they belonged in.)
I remember walking into the living room through the front door. I was overwhelmed. This was my home… for at least the next 3-5 years, if not more. I hadn’t lived anywhere for longer than a year since we were married. I walked into the kitchen and came to a stop. It was all brand new. The cabinets were a light-wood color. The backsplash was a brownish-copperish color. All the appliances matched in color. And so much counter space! So many cabinets! After having teeny, tiny apartment kitchens, I was thrilled. It even had a double sink with a window over it. And a tile floor, which made me so very happy after having a dining room in the apartment that was carpeted, which does not mix with a baby.
There were so many things I loved about the house… a huge basement, windows in every direction (unlike our apartment that had windows only on the north wall), a huge yard, three bedrooms and three bathrooms. But I was also overwhelmed. Everyone started unloading the truck, and really all I could do was make sure my crawling baby was happy and out of the way. I didn’t know anyone, and in the flurry of activity, I was struggling to remember names. Most of the boxes got unloaded, and we called it a night. Everyone left, and we started getting the beds set up, figuring out where to sleep and how.
The next few days were a struggle for me. Members of church dropped by to donate food, do some last minute repairs on the house (they had remodeled the kitchen and basement before our arrival), or just to say hello. I couldn’t eat any of the food, due to breastfeeding a baby with food allergies. It did help feed my hungry husband and parents, though! My baby, although breastfed, did not latch. This meant I had to pump for 20 minutes every three hours in order to feed her and keep up my milk production. That, in turn, meant that I had to constantly close myself off from everyone and hide away while I pumped. It seemed like every time someone dropped by, I was pumping. I could hear voices I didn’t recognize talking with my family, and I didn’t get to join in the process of getting to know our visitors. I knew my family was unpacking things without me helping them decide where to put it. I love help packing, but I actually enjoy unpacking and organizing everything myself.
I also struggled with being so rural. A drive to the grocery store meant 30-40 minutes. So if we went to the store, that was 40 minutes, plus, say, 40 minutes to shop, and then 40 minutes to get home. That’s two hours. That meant, if I pumped at 1pm, we could leave at 1:30 when I was done pumping and put everything away. Two hours for the store got me home at 3:30, and I needed to pump again at 4. There was no time for anything more than a quick lap around the store to get what was needed. In addition to this, I needed to coordinate my daughter’s feeding and nap times and proper storage for breastmilk. Due to the food allergies, I sometimes couldn’t find what I needed at one store, so I would need to go to another, but I didn’t have time.
I was tired, overstimulated, and so unsure of the future.
Sunday finally came, and we went to church. We got to meet the congregation. Another pastor preached for the last time. Later that afternoon, Frank was ordained and installed in a special church service, and then there was a meal with everyone afterwards. Again, I couldn’t eat much due to food allergies, so I nibbled on a few things and spent most of my time making rounds so I could meet everyone and try to memorize names. One thing I knew immediately – we were blessed with a congregation who was inviting, warm, and just so excited to have a pastor. Everyone loved our daughter, and I knew that although she was going to grow up without her relatives, she would have plenty of church family.
(Ordination and Installation Day)
The first few months were difficult for me, which was no one’s fault. My clinical depression, anxiety, and post-partum depression were kicking my butt, along with all the new changes – a baby, a career change, and a big move. The depression got so bad, I even became suicidal, and I had to start seeing a doctor and get counseling. Depression is a disease that has a terrible way of lying to you, convincing you that you are worthless and your family is better off without you. We also discovered the house was full of brown recluse spiders, which are pretty common in most older houses in Missouri and very, very difficult to get rid of. I’m not afraid of bugs, but I was TERRIFIED of my baby getting bit by these venomous spiders, especially since we were finding them in her toys, by her crib, etc. It really triggered my anxiety and OCD.
I share all these trials for the sake of other seminary wives and wives of pastors. You can be Called to the best congregation possible, but still deal with debilitating depression simply because it is a huge change, and it’s one you have absolutely no control over. If you need to do counseling, do it. There is no shame in asking for support during such a huge transition.
Slowly, as I learned more about my surroundings, met more people, got to know our congregation, I settled down. I learned our church and small town are very active. They have all these traditions that we experienced for the first time: the first funeral, first wedding, first baptism, the church carnival, the county fair, the Christmas country church tour, the children’s Christmas program, Christmas Day, Holy Week, Confirmation, Easter Sunday, the church chicken dinner, Vacation Bible School, the church softball team, the parking lot 4th of July party. We are always busy doing something with people from church and the people of the town. We’re never lonely. We feel so welcomed.
I also experienced my first Missouri winter. The winter of 2016-2017 was mild in the midwest, even in Michigan, it was still even more mild in Missouri than in Michigan. My family kept sending me pictures of all their snow and gray and slush. I kept an eye on the temperatures in Michigan. Meanwhile, although cold, it was nothing like Michigan in Missouri. We had two dustings of snow and one ice storm. The weather was mild enough for me to go for a walk. I didn’t hate being outside in winter like I did in Michigan and Indiana. Autumn stayed much later, and spring started much earlier. All of that meant that my seasonal depression was very, very mild. I had a few rough days, but not rough weeks or rough months. This alone makes me want to stay in Missouri forever.
We also experienced our first tornado in February. We only had hail damage that resulted in a new roof. The next town over was struck by an EF-4 tornado, tragically causing one death. The way the towns and churches pulled together to help those who lost their homes was inspiring. All the grocery stores had food drives. The community groups on Facebook organized donations. Churches raised thousands of dollars at door-offerings. It was a type of neighborly love I rarely saw in the city.
And that neighborly attitude is always present. Whenever one person drives or walks past another person, he waves a hand. Whenever I am out for a walk with my daughter, people stop to say hello, offer us fresh vegetables, talk about the calves being born. It’s this little town that time forgot.
One year ago, as I sat in this house, wondering what the future held, I felt so unsure, unsteady. I knew God’s plan for my husband, but what was my calling? What was my purpose? Today, as I sit here typing this, aside from missing my family, I never want to leave this town. The people here are important to me. I have fallen in love with the rolling fields and the country sky. I have adapted to the culture here and decided I was meant for this way of living my entire life. It’s a good place to raise a family. It’s a good place to make friends. It’s a good place to grow in faith and knowledge of Jesus. God knew what He was doing when He Called us here, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be scared, as long as I still trust in Him. I don’t know if it is God’s plan to keep us here until my husband retires, but if it is, that would make me happy. I don’t know if it is God’s plan to move us to another Call or Calls in the future, but if it is, I will trust in Him.
Lots of my Christian friends are talking about The Shack now that the movie, based on the book, is out. I have not seen the movie yet, but I did read the book several years ago, and I think there are some important things that need to be said.
The Shack tries to tackle the need for a relationship with God, getting rid of religion. I am all-for having a relationship with Jesus. Although I believe the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has correct doctrine, I’ll be one of the first to admit that the LCMS can be guilty of being the “Misery Synod.” But just as we need both Law and Gospel, I think we need both relationship and religion. We need that personal connection with God, but we also need the respect and reverence that comes with the religion that God, Himself, outlined in the Bible.
This brings me to my next point. I love stories of how God has worked in people’s lives. I listen to the music on the local Christian radio station whenever I’m in the car. I often feel closer to God when I’m out in nature than when I’m in a church. However, those things should never replace God’s Word. Those things should never cause us to change God’s Word, and that is exactly what The Shack is guilty of.
In a world where gender identity is in crisis, changing the gender of God the Father – for even the seemingly innocent reason of the main character’s experience of having an abusive father – is not biblical. I’m not saying there is something wrong with women, or that women are less than men. I am saying that the Bible only uses masculine terminology to define God. Yes, it sometimes uses feminine terminology to describe God, but that is only in metaphor. “The Shack” takes it a step further. (For more on the topic of the Trinity and gender, you can read this article from Got Questions.
Lastly, The Shack flat-out contains a heresy called modalism, which can be traced back all the way to the 3rd century. The Trinity is a miraculous and tricky concept. The Bible teaches that there is one God, but three separate and distinct persons. Modalism teaches that there is one God who is one person but has different modes. Modalism is evident in The Shack when God the Father and the Holy Spirit show their scars from the wounds Jesus received on the cross. Let’s be clear: God the Father and the Holy Spirit were not crucified; only Jesus was crucified. Only Jesus died. God the Father did forsake His Son because God cannot tolerate sin, and Jesus was carrying the sins of the world on the cross. Jesus was forsaken so that we would not be forsaken. It’s sad and tragic and yet beautiful and miraculous. (For more on the topic of modalism in The Shack, you can read this article by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).
The god in “The Shack” is not the Christian God in the Bible, but rather, a god created by heresy.
I’m not saying don’t read the book or see the movie. I am saying you need to know your Bible before you do – and if you don’t know the Bible, don’t use The Shack to learn about Christianity. If you want a relationship with God, I encourage you to find a church that teaches correct doctrine. I HIGHLY encourage going to Bible studies, because that is where you receive an education on God’s Word, when you get to ask your pastor questions. In the LCMS, pastors go to seminary for at least four years. They learn a lot of in-depth facts about the Bible, and they want to share those facts with you. I am a firm believer that education grows faith. Worshiping God in church with fellow believers strengthens faith. Reading and hearing God’s Word revives faith. Don’t lean on misrepresentations, like The Shack, to feel spiritual – lean on the real thing; lean on The Book, the Bible.
Who here is sick and tired of hearing about Trump?
I sure am.
This election and presidency has been by far my least favorite (which I guess doesn’t say much, since I’ve only been of voting age for the past three elections, but still).
I have never had so many friendships hurt and ended because of a president. I also never saw that coming. Back during Obama’s elections in 2008 and 2012, there were definitely disagreements. I’m a conservative Christian, and I was going to college in Ann Arbor, Michigan – a very liberal city. The difference that I saw back then was this: We’d have a debate, get emotional sometimes, but then we would cool off. It would die down. We’d all still be friends.
I never in my life thought that I would have people stop talking to me because I voted for Trump. I never in my craziest dreams would have expected people to call me the hideous things I have been called in the past several months. All of it is so ugly.
People have told me I must not be a Christian, because no Christian would vote for Trump. This hurts me to my core, because Jesus is my main reason for living. No matter who I vote for, I will be voting for an imperfect person. In this particular election, both candidates have made unspeakable mistakes in their pasts. I voted for a sinner. Trump is a sinner. Hillary is a sinner. I am a sinner. And I am a Christian because I know I need Jesus. We all need Jesus. Trump, Hillary, even Obama need Jesus. Whether or not they believe Jesus is their sole Savior is not something I can judge. My faith does not rest on Trump; my faith rests on Jesus, and that is what makes me a Christian.
People have told me I am a racist. Ouch. Yeah, I am white-skinned. I have golden-brown hair and blue eyes. I speak only English despite three years of Spanish classes. And although I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, I never had a black kid (or a student of any ethnicity) in my class growing up, although my grade school is a little more diverse today. We were just a bunch of white kids with no background and no culture. I saw people of different ethnicities, but I didn’t have much contact with them until I went to college. I remember watching the movie Ruby Bridges when I was a kid and crying my eyes out for her. In college, remember going to an African American church to purposely immerse myself in a culture where I stood out as the minority (and I remember the overwhelming love and acceptance they offered). I remember my first black friend in college, and the pain she suffered with sickle cell anemia; I remember watching her say her vows at her wedding, where she continued the African American tradition of “jumping over the broom.” Although I am white, although I grew up in an area of America that is not particularly diverse, I am capable of empathy, and I am capable of loving others, whether they have many similarities to myself or many differences.
People have told me I am anti-woman. One person even called me a rapist. I normally try to not let words hurt me so deeply, but this time, I was wounded. As someone who suffered sexual assault for nearly three years, I believe teaching people that “no” means “no” is important. As someone who attended a court case on child molestation for one of her friends, who prayed to hear over ten counts of “guilty,”I think justice is important. As someone who has three close friends who were raped and raped brutally, I believe it is important to teach people to keep their hands off. As a mother of a daughter, I believe it is important to teach boys to respect girls with both their actions and their words. I am not a rapist. To call me a rapist is to diminish that word and make that accusation diluted when it comes to someone who is truly a rapist. Do not throw that word around lightly. Has Trump said reprehensible things to women? Has he done horrific things? I cannot say for sure what exactly he has said or done, thanks to the media being so ridiculously quick to spread rumors before fact checking, but I do believe Trump is guilty of not respecting women. Believe me, I felt shame when I checked the box next to his name on that ballot. Believe me, as I walked into our city hall, all I could think of was the name of the boy who ignored my “no” all those years. I don’t like supporting anyone who has hurt someone else so deeply and intimately.
When it comes to refugees, I don’t even know where to begin. On one hand, I fear for our country’s safety, but on the other, I am sick with worry and grief for these people. I think of the mothers and their children, and I look at my daughter, and then I can’t see her for the tears in my eyes. I’m torn.
So why did I vote for someone who clashes with some of my deepest convictions? If you read my previous post, you know.
I recognized that this election was life and death.
I used my vote to defend life.
Please don’t fault me for that. Please don’t cut me out of your life for that. Please don’t call me anti-woman or anti-black or anti-Jesus or anti-refugee.
The thing is, all those people are suffering – women, refugees, blacks. But the death toll for the unwanted unborn is 100% (except for those who survive by a miracle). The unwanted unborn are starved to death, burned alive by chemicals, or torn limb-from-limb. And it needs to stop. These innocent infants are among the most defenseless of our people, and I chose to use my vote to defend them. I simply could not vote for a woman who condones partial-birth abortion. I could not do it.
(Photo from 2017 Walk for Life)
Many of my liberal Christian friends believe that there are other ways to decrease abortion – and they might be right! But I firmly believe that saying something is wrong is important if it is wrong. I firmly believe it is an oxymoron to say, “Abortion is wrong, but let’s keep it legal.” I think we need our laws to reflect morality, and then we need to offer assistance that also reflects that morality. We need both. We need both the liberals’ and conservatives’ ideas on this issue if we are going to save lives and help women.
I don’t expect you to agree. I don’t expect you to cheer me on. I don’t expect you to become pro-Trump. I’m not asking for any of those things.
I just ask that you respect me – me as a person. I ask that you try and understand that I made the decision that I did out of love – love for the unborn who have no voice, love for the woman who is suffering PTSD from abortion, love for the minority who is targeted by abortion.
I ask that you recognize the reasons I couldn’t vote for Hillary are just as valid as the reasons you couldn’t vote for Trump.
America is very diverse. I think it would be a rare, rare thing if everyone you loved shared your perspective in the exact same way as you. That’s why it is so important to learn to love people with whom you disagree.
If you voted for Hillary, I still respect you. If you are pro-choice, I still respect you. I will not call you names. I will not accuse you of being things you are not. I will not cut you out of my life. I will listen to you.
To be clear, I do not want to use this post to talk about the several reasons I didn’t vote for Hillary. I do not want to use this post to trash talk Trump. This entry is not meant to turn into a debate at all because I am not trying to get anyone to agree with me.
What do I want you to take away from this post?
To love each other. Love the liberal. Love the conservative. Love the democrat. Love the republican. Love the refugee. Love the women (through respect). Love the unborn.
(Gasp. Yes. Love Trump. By that, I mean pray for him. Pray for him to succeed, to learn to be a good leader, to say the right thing and to learn when to be silent. Pray for him to grow in wisdom. Our country depends on it. You don’t have to like him. You don’t have to agree with him. You don’t have to vote for him in four years. But stop spreading news before fact checking. Stop calling names and making fun of physical appearances. Stop doing anything you would teach a kindergartner not to do. When Trump does or says something you disagree with, speak out against him in knowledge and truth, not in hatred and name-calling and rumors.)
And when I fail to take my own advice to love those whose beliefs conflict with my own, I simply ask you this…. forgive me.
One really awesome thing Hillary has accomplished through the presidential debates is bringing the issue of abortion to the surface. Abortion is a topic that many people usually avoid. It’s emotionally charged. It’s sad. But the past few weeks, social media has been blown up with this topic. I’ve learned a lot about both the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life perspectives. I hope that my approach to this topic has changed accordingly. However, the facts have not changed: Abortion murders children, hurts women, and is almost always unnecessary. It is a topic that is vital to talk about. We cannot be silent. Not only are children’s very lives at stake, but women’s physical and mental health.
Let’s start off by identifying the positions and their core beliefs. I’m going to make it as simple and straightforward as possible by narrowing it down to two positions: Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, although I recognize the following does not fit everyone perfectly.
The Pro-Choice position usually presents the following beliefs:
- Women have a right to decide what their bodies go through, whether that be pregnancy and delivery or abortion.
- Women have the right to end a pregnancy based on fetal defects, financial and relationship status, rape, birth control, or any other reason.
- Abortion is often necessary.
- Elective abortion should be legal.
The Pro-Life position usually presents the following beliefs:
- The preborn child has the right to life from the moment of conception, having a different body separate from the mother.
- No one preborn child is any less of a person than another; all have the right to life regardless of fetal defects or the mother’s situation.
- Services to help pregnant women should be made readily available, whether that be medical care in the event of a difficult pregnancy, financial assistance, or adoption services.
- Abortion is rarely medically necessary.
- Elective abortion should be illegal.
Hillary’s comments on partial-birth abortion helped me realize that Pro-Choice people often don’t understand the Pro-Life perspective. If I saw what Pro-Choice people were seeing, I wouldn’t want to be Pro-Life either.
The main misconceptions I found were these:
- Christians believe receiving and/or performing an abortion is unforgivable.
- Pro-Life people do not care about women’s physical or mental health, their financial status, their relationship status, or if they have been raped.
- Pro-Life people expect a mother to die along with her preborn child in the event of a life-threatening pregnancy.
- Pro-Life people are blind to the instances where abortion may be medically necessary.
While the Bible does say killing the preborn is wrong, the Bible never says a sin is unforgivable if the person asks for forgiveness. Everyone who asks is freely forgiven.
Pro-Life people are not always good at expressing their concern for women because we get so caught up in the life-and-death situation of the preborn child. We focus so much on the rights of the child, we forget about the needs of the mother. We need to be better at caring for women. Please forgive us for not doing our best in this area.
I think it is time for Pro-Life people to change their approach in two ways. The first is to start focusing on women. One of the ways to show we care about the mental and physical health of women is to talk about what abortion does to the woman. The second is to explain why abortion is almost always unnecessary rather than just make that claim.
Abortion Hurts Women
So how does abortion hurt women? Let’s look at the different abortion procedures and their risks.
In a first trimester medical abortion, the woman takes a drug called Mifepristone (RU-486), which cuts off nourishment to the baby. The baby starves and dies. The mother takes Misoprostol (Cytotec) 24-48 hours later, which causes severe cramping, contractions, and heavy bleeding to expel the baby from the mother. During all this, the mother is not under medical observation. Women may experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and heavy bleeding. Women have died from medical abortions, usually because they are performed before an ectopic pregnancy can be detected. (An ectopic pregnancy is when the baby implanted in the Fallopian tube rather than the uterus). Medical abortion is also mentally traumatic, as the mother is often alone during this process, may see her baby, and often must flush her baby down a toilet. (1)
First trimester surgical abortion, also called Suction/Aspiration Dilation and Curettage (D&C), is the most common abortion procedure. Dilation & Evacuation (D&E) is a similar procedure done in the second trimester. During pregnancy, the cervix is naturally clamped shut, protecting the child. During a D&C and D&E, the cervix is unnaturally forced open so that the abortionist can gain access to the baby, either to break him/her apart with a suction tube in the first trimester or with sopher clamps in the second trimester. Because the cervix is forced to stretch, damage is often done that increases the risk of spontaneous miscarriage in future pregnancies when the mother may want a successful pregnancy. After the baby is broken apart, the uterus is scraped to draw out any body parts and tissue that may have been left behind. Sometimes, not all the tissue is removed, and as it rots, infection can occur, and sepsis may set in. This is life-threatening for the mother. Another risk is perforation, hemorrhage, damage to the reproductive and digestive organs. Sometimes, mothers are assured the bleeding is normal, only to go home and hemorrhage. This is an especially high risk in the D&E procedure.(2) (3)
A third trimester abortion procedure called Induction and Stillbirth also poses great risk to the mother. A large needle is pushed through the mother, and Digoxin is injected into the baby. The mother is then sent home to wait for her cervix to dilate. She may go into labor at any time. She may be unable to make it to the clinic in time and give birth on her own at home or wherever she is staying. She may be alone. Women in this situation often give birth over a toilet or in the bath tub. I cannot imagine how terrifying a situation this is for the mother. If the baby is not delivered whole, a D&E must be performed, and the mother faces the same risks mentioned previously. (4)
Partial-birth abortions create less risk of perforation and hemorrhage for the mother. The mother is induced. The cervix is still unnaturally dilated, so the risks of damage to the cervix and future miscarriages still exist. Forceps are used to turn the baby feet-first into a breech position. Giving birth breech is painful and dangerous for the mother. Most mothers in labor with breech babies have c-sections, but not so in the case of a partial-birth abortion. Once the baby is fully delivered except for the head, scissors are forced into the base of the skull, opened, and twisted. Suction is then used to remove the brain. After that, the dead child is delivered. (5)
Of course, the worst physical risk to women concerning abortion is death. Studies find that in America, Denmark, and Finland, maternal death is significantly higher in abortion cases compared to delivery. (6) Unfortunately, in America, it is impossible to know how many women die from abortion, as that is often not listed as cause of death on death certificates. Instead, the secondary cause of death is listed (uterine perforation, hemorrhage, sepsis, etc.). (17)
Unfortunately, the physical risks of injury, infection, future spontaneous miscarriages, and maternal death are not the only ways abortion hurts women. The emotional trauma is often far, far worse.
Rape is perhaps one of the biggest crimes possible, in my opinion. It strips women (and men) of confidence and leaves them with fear. Although most rape cases do not result in pregnancy, some do, and it is important not to forget the women who do face such situations. While it makes no logical sense to kill a person for the sole and simple fact that he or she was conceived in rape, we need to remember to also focus on the mother. She has been through a trauma. Putting her through yet another trauma is cruel. Many argue that nine months of carrying her rapist’s child is trauma, and while I believe it is true that this would be psychologically distressing, the trauma of ending a child’s life is far worse. For more on rape and abortion, this article goes into great detail and is well worth the read: (7) http://afterabortion.org/2004/rape-incest-and-abortion-searching-beyond-the-myths-3/
I have held the hand of a friend who has been through this nightmare of a situation. Through absolutely no fault of her own, she was raped. She became pregnant. She had an abortion. Although the rape itself has caused post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the abortion experience is included in her flashbacks and nightmares. Even worse is the guilt she has felt. For the first couple years, she and I spent nearly every evening talking. I tried my best to keep her calm as she faced another night of nightmares. I told her as often as I could that she is forgiven, both by Christ and by her baby in heaven. There were nights I cried out to God because I wasn’t sure if she would ever believe she could be forgiven. There were nights I wasn’t sure she wouldn’t take her own life. I am not saying that she had some terrible days here and there; I am saying every day was like this for years, despite professional help. I never, ever want to see another woman broken by rape further shattered by abortion. My friend’s reaction is not rare. The term Post Abortion Sydrome (PAS) now exists, and professional counselors are trained to treat it. You can learn more about PAS at http://postabortionsyndrome.org/. (8)
Abortions also aid rapists. Not only can rapists get away with their crime and from parental/financial responsibility in the event of abortion, but abortion conceals the crime, allowing it to be repeated. The terrifying reality in many incest cases is that minors are raped by a family member, become pregnant, and are coerced into getting an abortion. The minor is then sent home with her rapist, and the cycle continues. This was the case for three teenaged girls living in Baltimore. The father repeatedly raped them for nine years, resulting in ten abortions. At least five of these abortions were performed at the same clinic. Had that clinic done as required and reported that these girls were minors (sex with a minor is rape), the rape would have been revealed. (9)
While I lived in Fort Wayne, the abortion clinic there went under investigation. Indiana Right to Life made a Freedom of Information Act request, which revealed 1,833 errors and omissions in Dr. Klopfer’s reports at his abortion clinics. The omissions included failure to report abortions done on minors. One of these girls was only 13 years old. Once these errors and omissions were revealed, Dr. Klopfer’s back-up physician with admitting privileges ended his professional relationship with Dr. Klopfer in December 2013, which caused Dr. Klopfer to no longer be able to practice abortions in Fort Wayne. While this investigation was underway, the 40 Days for Life Campaign was in process. I took part by sitting outside the abortion clinic, praying. Even after the campaign was over, I continued visiting on Thursdays, the days that abortions were performed. I remained silent and peaceful. I simply prayed. It was cold; it often rained. My heart broke each time I watched the last nurse leave and lock up. I couldn’t understand how a person could let the rape of a 13 year old girl go unreported. Eventually, Dr. Klopfer’s license was revoked, and the clinic closed. (10)
Legal Elective Abortion is Unnecessary
It’s clear that abortion hurts women. But is it ever necessary? Let’s assume that it is sometimes necessary to end a pregnancy in order to save a mother’s life. Before the legalization of elective abortions, the practice of ending a life-threatening pregnancy was legal. Most Pro-Life people would want one life saved rather than lose two lives. We simply ask for the laws to return to this status.
The sad fact is that the vast majority of late-term abortions performed are not to save the mother’s life. According to the National Coalition of Abortion Providers in 1997, about 3,000 to 5,000 partial birth abortions are performed each year, with most of them being performed in healthy pregnancies.(11) Surveys performed in 2003 and 2006 report that no late-term abortions were performed to save the life of the mother. A survey of 18 clinics in 1998 revealed that only 9.4% of late-term abortions were for medical reasons. Among that 9.4%, the majority of late-term abortions were done because of fetal defects rather than to save the mother’s life. (12)
Even if the mother’s life is in danger after the 24th week of pregnancy, and the pregnancy ending is the only solution to save her life, such as may be the case with conditions like preeclampsia, ending the life of the baby is completely unnecessary. Nurse Christy Lee Parker explains this from her first-person experience. Because late term abortions are done after the age of viability, the baby can survive. The two scenarios go like this: Induce the mother, kill the child, and deliver – or induce the mother and deliver the child. That middle step in the first scenario does not need to happen. The first scenario also poses greater risk to the mother. The logical choice would be to deliver a live baby rather than abort. (13)
What about abortions including those done before the 24th week? Dr. Alan Guttmacher of Planned Parenthood said, “Today, it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.” Dr. Landrum Shettles says, “Less than one percent of all abortions are performed to save the mother’s life.” Only 2.8% of abortions are performed for medical reasons, including non-life-threatening reasons. (14)
Even in cases where abortion is often recommended, such as ectopic pregnancy, there are other options that sometimes go undiscussed. Between the years 1809 and 1935, there were 316 ectopic pregnancies that resulted in live births. In 1914, a German doctor performed an autotransfusion rather than an abortion in an ectopic pregnancy. In 2002, autotransfusion had a 99.84% success rate, where both the child and the mother survived. In 1917, a child in an ectopic pregnancy was successfully transplanted from the mother’s Fallopian tube to the uterus. With today’s technology, why aren’t we doing more to make ectopic transplants a reality? Many mothers who experience an ectopic pregnancy desperately want their baby to live. How many mothers would get to keep their child in the event of an ectopic pregnancy if we stopped focusing on abortion and started focusing on treatment? (15) (16)
So what can we do to help women? We can help them with resources. We can make sure our churches are readily prepared with a list of Pro-Life clinics. We can financially support Pro-Life pregnancy centers that provide free pregnancy tests, free ultrasounds, free medical care, free counseling, and free adoption assistance. We can love pregnant women, regardless of the way they became pregnant. We can forgive women who have been through abortion and help them find professional counseling for PAS.
But these resources are going to be harder to come by, depending on how this election plays out. If you are like me, you are struggling with this election. Hillary is a terrible person. Trump is a terrible person. Hillary is obviously Pro-Choice, as she wants to make even partial-birth abortion legal nationwide. Trump, who was previously Pro-Choice, claims he is Pro-Life (except in the case of rape), and who knows if he will do anything to defend the preborn. Very few third party candidates are Pro-Life. Evan McMullin is Pro-Life, but who knows if voting for a third-party write-in will make a difference. I believe the biggest issue in this election, bigger than finances, bigger than guns, bigger than war, bigger than what Hillary and Trump have done or said in the past, is the abortion issue. Three thousand babies die every day in America because of someone else’s choice. That means over 47 million babies have died since elective abortion was legalized in 1973. Remember, only one percent of them were aborted to save the mother’s life. To put this in perspective, how many Jews were killed in the Nazi Holocaust because people decided they were flawed and less valuable? Six million. The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the following definition of a holocaust: “a mass slaughter of people.” Abortion is the American Holocaust, and not just babies are victims. Over 47 million times, women have been hurt by abortion.
This election matters because the next American president will nominate between one and four Supreme Court Justices. If Hillary wins, she will not appoint Pro-Life justices. If Trump wins, he might appoint Pro-Life justices. If Pro-Life justices are not nominated, elective abortion will never be made illegal in our lifetime. Another 47 million children will be sacrificed. Women will be traumatized another 47 million times. The American Holocaust will continue.
When I was 12, I read The Diary of Anne Frank. I remember asking my mom why Americans didn’t help the Jews in WWII sooner than we did. Where was help? I ask the same question in today’s holocaust. Where is help? Who will help?
And now I ask you.
I cannot vote for Hillary. Even if I agree with every other stance she takes, even if I think her email security scandal is unimportant, the lives of 47 million cry out to me. I am not voting for Hillary. I’m not voting for Trump. I am voting to give the Supreme Court a chance. I am voting Pro-Life. I am voting for the preborn. I sacrifice my vote to give a preborn child a voice.
- Medical abortion procedure and risks http://abortionprocedures.com/abortion-pill/
- D&C abortion procedure and risks:http://abortionprocedures.com/aspiration/
- D&E abortion procedure and risks: http://abortionprocedures.com/
- Induction abortion procedure and risks: http://abortionprocedures.com/induction/
- Partial-birth abortion procedure and risks: http://www.abortionfacts.com/literature/partial-birth-abortion
- Maternal death risk in abortion: http://afterabortion.org/2012/higher-death-rates-after-abortion-found-in-u-s-finland-and-denmark/)
- Rape and abortion: http://afterabortion.org/2004/rape-incest-and-abortion-searching-beyond-the-myths-3/
- Post Abortion Syndrome: http://postabortionsyndrome.org/
- Baltimore girls raped and forced to abort: http://afterabortion.org/2004/rape-incest-and-abortion-searching-beyond-the-myths-3/
- Fort Wayne abortion clinic has 1,833 errors and omissions revealed: http://www.lifenews.com/2015/11/04/abortionist-forced-to-stop-abortions-at-last-indiana-abortion-biz-after-breaking-state-laws/
- Most partial-birth abortions done in healthy pregnancies: https://rtl.org/prolife_issues/partialbirthabortion.htm
- Most partial-birth abortions done in healthy pregnancies: http://liveactionnews.org/why-do-women-get-late-term-abortions/
- Unnecessary third trimester abortions: http://madworldnews.com/hillary-abortion-remarks-fact/
- Less than 1% of abortions performed are to save the mother’s life: http://www.abortionfacts.com/facts/8
- Successful ectopic pregnancies: http://www.personhoodinitiative.com/fact-sheet-on-ectopic-pregnancy.html
- Successful ectopic pregnancies: http://www.personhoodinitiative.com/ectopic-personhood.html)
- Maternal deaths resulting from abortion: http://www.lifenews.com/2016/01/22/women-are-dying-form-legalized-abortions-but-the-mainstream-media-will-never-tell-you-about-it.com
People who know me know I love researching ways to keep my family healthy, especially concerning our long-term health. I love knowing that my husband and I have less chemical exposure than we did a year ago. I love knowing that my baby is off to a good start. I never thought I’d be a “crunchy mom,” yet here I am. I truly believe that by reducing chemical exposure, we will have less chronic health issues which are riddling our society.
Most of my health choices have been simple because they affect no one outside my home. Any cleaning products and cosmetic products I use, I check with the Environmental Working Group to see how safe the ingredients are. (Check out my entries What Toxic Chemicals Do You Put In Your Body Every Day? and Chemicals In Our Baby Products.) and I buy organic and non-GMO as much as my budget allows. (One day, I’d love to have an organic garden.) But I’ve recently made a change that affects guests, too. That’s a bit trickier.
One day shortly after my daughter was born, I was perusing through my mom group on Facebook, and a conversation topic came up in a thread that interested me. One mom posted that she wants guests to leave their shoes at the door to keep her floors clean for her baby, who just started crawling.
The responses from moms saying that they don’t wear shoes in the house or allow guests to wear shoes surprised me. Then I remembered the daycare I used to work in. The two infant classrooms required employees and parents to remove their shoes before entering. It was annoying. Sometimes I’d be in there all day with aching, cold feet. Other times, I just needed to dart in really quickly and get the trash, but removing shoes felt like such a bother. But they had good reason for it: One of the best ways to reduce lead exposure to infants is by removing shoes at the door.
Remembering this, I decided to do a bit of research. Lead was removed from paint in by law in 1978 (1). Despite this, lead exposure remains a large problem. The CDC states that children under the age of 6 are most at risk because their bodies are developing so quickly. Pets and unborn babies are also at risk. The CDC acknowledges that even low levels can cause IQ and behavioral issues. (2). Elevated levels can cause anemia and permanent nerve damage.
A report called The Door Mat Study revealed that almost all lead dust in homes is brought in from outside. Using a door mat cuts that lead dust in half. Removing shoes at the door decreases lead exposure by 60%.(3) Using a door mat and removing shoes in a 5 month period removed 98.5% of the lead dust in one study. (5)
Leaving your shoes at the door doesn’t only reduce lead exposure; it decreases exposure to other toxins and bacteria, especially if your home is mostly carpet, which harbors these harmful substances. Coal tar is used in driveway and parking lot sealants. It is toxic and a known carcinogen. We bring this into our homes on our shoes. Do you live in a rural area? Agricultural toxins are just as much a problem according to one study in California. (4) One study revealed that wearing shoes in the home creates a larger source of pesticide exposure than eating non-organic produce. (5)
At this point in time, we live on a creek. Flocks of ducks, geese, and swans waddle by every day. The grass is covered with feces. Gross. Poop is obviously not something I want in my carpet – not even in microscopic amounts. Thinking about poop got me thinking about germs, and I found an article which explains that the bottom of our shoes contain more germs than a toilet seat, including C. diff and E coli. (6) (Think about that the next time your baby is gumming on a pair of shoes. Ick.)
Shortly after I did this research, another mom posted that she implemented a “leave your shoes at the door” policy, but relatives were not on board. She asked for help in making guests follow her wishes. The responses on the thread were all over the place.
“Have some washable slippers or cozy socks for guests.”
“Tell guests that you’re keeping your floors clean for your baby.”
“Have a bench and shoe rack by the door.”
“Warn your guests before they arrive so they can bring a pair of slippers.”
“Have a sign on the door with a catchy phrase.”
“Tell your guests if they don’t listen to you, they can’t come in.”
“Tell your guests if they don’t listen, they have to clean your floors.”
“It’s your house. You’re the mom. You’re the boss.”
I have joint issues. I have to wear custom orthotics to keep my joints in place, so shoes are a must for me. (I keep one pair of indoor-only shoes.) I also cannot stand having cold feet. I totally understand feeling uncomfortable without shoes. I don’t think I could ever tell family members that they can’t come in unless they remove their shoes, or that I’m going to make them wash my carpets and scrub my floors. But I did like the ideas of having a bench or chair near the door. I also liked the idea of having a basket for washed socks and slippers for guests to borrow. I haven’t been able to put those ideas to use yet because of money issues and our upcoming move, but they’re in my plans. For now, I do try to warn guests ahead of time in case they want to bring something cozy for their feet.
I never thought I’d be that person who wanted shoes left at the door. However, it’s the easiest way to keep my baby healthy – and it involves no extra cleaning, no medicines, and no crazy supplements. Sometimes, I feel bad – or even downright nervous – asking people to remove their shoes. But when it comes down to it, I know our guests care about my baby’s health, too.
Shortly after I made this decision and feared announcing it to guests, my Indian neighbors in my apartment had a family party. There were at least 20 pairs of shoes outside their door. I had to smile to myself and laugh.
- EPA US Environmental Protection Agency
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Healthy Child – Environmental Working Group
- Huffington Post
- Natural Child Magazine
- Healthy Wild and Free
Perhaps you remember my entry Saving South – an entry about my Lutheran high school possibly closing. Shortly after posting that entry and sending it to the board, our community received the tragic news that our school was officially closing.
My husband’s brother was graduating high school this year. It was a special year for my husband and me, too, as it was 10 years since our graduation. My husband and I drove three hours to go to the last graduation ceremony – both to see his brother graduate and to see our South “family.”
When you go to a small high school, every student knows every other student. We all know each other’s parents and siblings. Sometimes, even current students are familiar with alumni and vice versa. I was so strongly reminded of this when we arrived at the high school with our 8 month old daughter. So many people came up to us – even people we didn’t know very well. It took 15 minutes just for us to make it into the gym because so many people stopped to talk to us, even though we graduated 10 years ago, and we have been out-of-state for 5 years! It was like seeing family again.
It was so amazing to talk to the parents of classmates who couldn’t be there. I am so proud of so many of my classmates. Many of us went on to the ministry – whether becoming a pastor or a Lutheran teacher. Some of us joined the military. Others are raising Christian families. A few have become doctors. One of the parents was telling me how a friend of mine has delivered over 20 babies now. What a special career! How amazing to think that our high school helped provide the foundation for these special jobs. And no matter what career path alumni have chosen, South taught us how to share our faith, and that is the biggest calling of all.
I was flooded with so many memories – some were beautiful and others were painful. High school was a very trying time in my life. I was dealing with so much, and my best friend was going through even worse things. So much of that came back to me more vividly than it has in a long time, and it hurt.
I know some alumni don’t mind seeing South go. Some thought the teachers were too strict. Some went through terrible times in teenage years, and anything associated with that is unwelcome. Some went to the school and loved it, but then decided the bigger world was better. Others hated going to school there, went out into the world, and realized they took the school for granted. The earliest students had so much to overcome – not having a building, not having adequate study materials. The teachers had to fight hard to give the best education possible with limited supplies. (This later changed, and the LHS became a college preparatory school.) But when it comes down to it, no school is bully-free. No teacher is always understanding and forgiving. There is no one size fits all when it comes to schools. Lutheran South wasn’t for everyone.
But for those of us who loved it, it meant the world to us. When we struggled with our faith in those turbulent teen years, we had adults leading us in chapel, praying for and with us, and teaching us about the Bible daily. The Christian faith was integrated into every subject, teaching us how to keep our faith active in every area of our lives.
And for all of us who attended there, we all have happy memories in some way or another. We all had special friendships and learned hard lessons. I decided to search for these happy memories during my last visit to South.
I remember my first day there, walking into my class and seeing this punk kid sitting in a desk by the door. He looked so angry and annoyed. He did not want to be there. I made up my mind to steer clear of him. This memory is a good one because this freshmen ended up loving the school… and loving me. He is my husband. Life is funny.
I remember on a warm, sunny day my freshman year, our school of 17 students raised the American flag for the first time. We were in the newspaper.
We were in the newspaper a few more times for our handbell performances. Our handbell instructor was incredible. She was meticulous about proper technique, and she worked hard to find us challenging pieces and amazing opportunities to play, such as at the Detroit Athletic Club. By the end of my time with her, I had learned how to play up to 13 handbells in a duet!
I remember going to school in our double-wide trailer. One day, a storm rolled in just as school was getting out. I remember the clouds looking low enough to touch the trees – and green enough to match them. There wasn’t anywhere very safe in the event of a tornado, but we headed into the bathrooms for shelter where we made an amazing discovery. There was hail coming in through the vents!
I remember the woman who was our science and English teacher sitting on her desk, cross legged, teaching us Shakespeare and anatomy.
I remember ordering pizza every Friday with garlic butter dipping sauce. One boy dared me to chug it for $5… and I did.
I remember talking about the TV show LOST with our principal. We were obsessed.
I remember one boy in the class below me stuffing two grapes in his mouth like fangs and strutting around the room like a T-rex. We all nearly choked on our lunches, laughing so hard.
I remember one of the teachers, who was also a pastor (and who would become my father-in-law) leading a chapel service and using the song Dare You to Move by one of my favorite bands, Switchfoot. I about jumped out of my seat.
I remember near the end of my senior year, when our principal’s wife had a massive heart attack… how we all came together and prayed like we had never prayed before. Even though the doctors said she had no chance of surviving, she did.
I remember graduating with the four boys in my class. I remember breaking ground for the building of the gym – the first permanent building. We worked so hard to fundraise for that building.
I remember taking a picture with the guys in my class and with the graduation cake, and they all tried to smash my face in it.
I remember saying goodbye to Frank after graduation, and he hugged me. I remember wondering if he did it simply as a congratulation and goodbye, or if maybe he liked me. I remember later looking at our pictures and realizing he and I stood very close together, unlike everyone else. (We later went to college together, and he asked me out on September 25, 2006. We were married June 26, 2010.)
There are so many amazing memories I have from this school. The school has been taken away from us, but our memories will last forever. We couldn’t save our school. We couldn’t get enough students. The economy is just too difficult right now for parents to pay tuition, even with the help of scholarships and donations. In many ways, I feel like I failed my school because it’s gone now. But when I think about it, maybe it isn’t about saving South. Maybe it is about how South saved me. Maybe it is about the testimonies of all the other alumni who also cherish this school as more than just a school.
South gave us an education.
South gave us friends.
South gave us mentors.
South gave us a safe place when the world was too much.
South gave us a foundation for our faith in Jesus.
South saved us.
I will never grow tired of sharing my memories of my high school years. They are unique, special, and powerful. I thank God for the short time our Lutheran high school had to make a difference in people’s lives.
Raising the flag the firs time (2002-2003 school year)
The original double-wide trailer (Summer 2006)
Class of 2006 Graduation
Breaking ground for the building of the gym
The boys and me, right before they tried to push my face in the cake.
The current building
Today is a really big deal for me. Today marks 10 years since I last gave in to an addiction of self harm.
I don’t talk about this much. Honestly, I’m terrified to be public with this. I’m the seminary wife. I’m the soon-to-be pastor’s wife. I worry that people in the church will see me as a strange, twisted person – because what kind of person purposefully hurts herself?
However, I’m terrified not to talk about it. I am scared to death that somewhere out there, someone – maybe even a Christian like me – is struggling with self harm, someone who could be helped by my story. If I stay silent out of fear of judgment, then what did my experience teach me? What did it mean for me to go through that if it can’t be used for something bigger?
I’m sure there will be people who will hear of my past or see my scars and find me unworthy to be who I try to be – unworthy to be a pastor’s wife, a teacher, a leader, unworthy to be a mother. That’s something I need to face and something I need to learn how to deal with. The title of my blog, Broken Quiet: Writing Without Wearing the Mask, are all about breaking that silence, removing that mask, and helping people through my experience. I believe that’s why God allowed me to go through all that I survived – to help others.
So here it goes…
When people hear about cutting (or any form of self harm), they often picture some goth/punk/emo teenager who needs to get over an identity crisis and stop looking for attention and have a stronger faith. There are so many things wrong with this assumption.
First, many of those struggling with self harm are not teenagers; many of them are adults – some who started younger, and others who started in adulthood. Sadly, children also deal with self harm. It’s in our grade schools. It can start young.
Second, a person’s style of dress does not mean they are or are not depressed. You can have a blonde-haired girl who wears pink dresses every day, and she still may be dealing with depression. Appearance means nothing.
Third, sometimes self harm is not about attention, but sometimes it is – and that is okay. When someone is depressed, shouldn’t we be telling them to get help? Shouldn’t we be telling them that they need the attention of their parents/guardians, their teachers, and a counselor? Give these people positive attention. Help them see that they have meaning, because they are having trouble seeing it on their own.
Lastly, religion. When a Christian is shocked that I would do such a thing, I point out that several people in the Bible did the same, including Job (pronounced jobe). I read through the entire Bible, and I found several more verses describing people who cut themselves when facing extreme grief. These include Leviticus 19:28, Leviticus 21:5, Deuteronomy 14:1, Deuteronomy 23:1, 1 Kings 18:28, Job 2:8, Jeremiah 41:5, Jeremiah 47:5, Jeremiah 48:37, Hosea 7:14, and Mark 5:5.
I was a Christian, and I was a cutter. The time my faith was strongest was probably during the years I was cutting. Why? Because I needed God more than ever during that time of my life. I relied on Him just to get me through a mundane day. And honestly, now that I’m “normal,” I miss that, because now I have to constantly remind myself that I need God. I don’t turn to Him as naturally as I did before. All this is to say that people who self harm come from all sorts of religious backgrounds. Christians should not assume that a person has no faith just because s/he is struggling with a self harm addiction (or any addiction). However, I must add that I give all credit to successfully fighting this addiction the past 10 years to God. There is no one else who can do what He has done for me – no other person and no other god can love me like my God loves me.
If I haven’t lost you yet, allow me to tell you my story.
I had been through bullying and sexual assault at my grade school. The summer between 7th and 8th grade, our furnace exploded during an air conditioner installation. I was dealing with depression, anxiety, and PTSD – but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that my feelings were symptoms, and so I hid them. I hid them so well, not even my parents knew what was going on.
By the time I was 15, I was a complete wreck. The smell of a burning candle would make me relive the explosion. (I didn’t know this was a flash back.) I could barely muster up the energy to get through a day of school, because school meant smiling and pretending that I was normal, and a continuous act is exhausting.
One day, during the autumn of my sophomore year, I was giving my cat her medication. This required that I cut her pill in half using a pill cutting tool. The pill cutter sliced my finger. I immediately started scolding myself. You stupid idiot. You can’t do anything right. You deserve that cut. You deserve to bleed. At that moment, something clicked. Before I even knew what I was doing, I started dragging the pill cutter over my skin, creating several cuts. I got a very calm, sleepy feeling. I cleaned everything up, left the bathroom, and relaxed.
Thus began my habit. Create some cuts on my arm or leg, feel calm and peaceful, continue on with my day. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, like I just couldn’t handle one more thing, I turned to my razor, and soon I was feeling calm again.
A few months into this routine, I came across the term “cutting” online. I had never heard of it before. I had no idea other people did what I did. It shocked me and scared me that this was something people got professional help for. Finding out that I was a cutter made me realize just how serious my feelings were – that I really was dealing with a beast called Depression.
And yet, I hid. My routine was working for me. Cutting calmed me. Looking back, I realize I only became more withdrawn. The thoughts behind cutting were not healthy – believing I needed to be physically punished for every little mistake. Perhaps cutting helped me cope in some ways, but overall, it was a dangerous game to play.
About that time, teachers were noticing a change in me. After several comments, I admitted to my parents that I had been considering suicide and had even tried to swallow pills once. It was decided that I should start counseling. My dad found a Christian counselor for me.
Around Christmas time, one of my best friends discovered my self harm secret when she grabbed my arm. She said she couldn’t keep this secret for me. She told her dad. If I didn’t tell my parents, her dad would tell mine. I was angry at her. I felt so betrayed. I decided to take as much control of the situation as I could and tell my dad while I was in counseling. I knew he would be heartbroken, and I wanted the counselor to be there for him. (By the way, this girl is one of my very closest friends to this day.)
That night was the worst night of my life; it was even worse than the night of the explosion. My parents were hurt, confused, and so worried for their child. They received news no parent wants to hear about their daughter.
Counseling was the best thing for me, though. I found out why I always felt so calm and sleepy after a cutting session; self harm is a chemical addiction. When a person’s body is hurt, the body sends messages to the brain, and the brain releases endorphins to act as pain relievers. Eventually, a person comes to rely on that sudden release of endorphins, and an addiction results.
Addictions have a way of escalating until they control you. Eventually, I began cutting even when I wasn’t upset. Sometimes, I cut just because it had been awhile, and I felt like I craved it.
With counseling, help from family, teachers, and friends, and hearing God’s Word in church every week, I eventually realized that cutting was bad; punishing myself was bad. When the movie The Passion of the Christ came out, I was finally struck with the realization that Christ went through so much to carry my sin. He bled so that I didn’t have to. All my mistakes are already forgiven. I didn’t need to be punished; I needed to trust that Jesus paid my ransom because He loves me.
Now that I consciously knew I wanted to stop cutting, I still had to fight the physical addiction. At first, just going two days was a big deal. Sometimes I went weeks, but I kept falling back. At one point, I had gone months, and I was just not happy. I wanted to cut, still. I was just fighting it because I knew it was the right thing to do. I spoke to a counselor about this at a Christian camp, and he told me that until I really truly wanted to stop, relapse would be more than likely.
Not long after that conversation, I cut. And I hated myself for it. For the first time, I was so upset that I gave in. And that’s when I realized, I was ready to fight – not because it was the right thing to do, but because I wanted to be free.
Several months in, I started dating a guy at my college. We had gone to high school together, but he didn’t know about my cutting. When we started dating, I was very open with him about what I had been through. I wanted him to know what he was getting into, but I also wasn’t interested in dating someone who couldn’t respect me. As it turned out, he was the best thing for me. Whenever I had a craving or was struggling to cope with anxiety, depression, or a PTSD episode, he was there. Sometimes, my hands would shake because I wanted to cut so badly, but he would sit with me and hold my hands.
Today, 10 years later, he is still with me. He married me.
I still struggle sometimes. I will always be in recovery until this life is over, until I join my Savior in heaven and am finally cured from clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD. But God has put some amazing people in my life who have helped me come this far. My parents, sister, teachers, and my husband have been such a huge help to me. Organizations such as To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) and Celebrate Recovery are such an encouragement. One of my favorite bands, Switchfoot, supports TWLOHA. The songs, Scream, by ZoeGirl and Scars by Jonny Diaz are two Christian songs that have addressed self harm in such a meaningful way for me. God has put so many people in my life to remind me that He loves me, and I am worthy.
And in my weakest moments, I remember this:
But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5
Call Night – the night my husband received his first placement as pastor – has come and gone in all its whirlwind of drama and emotion. We have waited for this night for the past five years of our marriage. I’m so glad the wait is over.
This entry will be a bit long – about 10 minutes to read – but it’ll give some insight into what the big day was like.
My sister came in the late morning on the big day. She babysat Esther, and Frank went to counseling with me. We learned some new ways to deal with anxiety. (I can’t imagine why we’re dealing with anxiety. *sarcasm*) Then I went home to do chores, and Frank went to class.
Keeping my thoughts off Call Night and my eyes off the clock was not easy. However, my baby decided to be incredibly fussy, and a fussy baby turned out to be the best distraction. Frank and I took her to the Vicarage (Internship) Placement Service the night before so we could have a practice run of taking a baby to a big crowd after bedtime. She did really well, but it kind of ruined her normally happy temperament the next day – Call Day. She was very clingy and quite the momma’s girl. I thought she must be getting her first tooth or coming down with an ear infection because she had never been so clingy. Turns out she was just overwhelmed, poor thing. I felt bad, though, because she wouldn’t let any of our visiting family hold her, and it isn’t often they get to see her.
Frank’s parents arrived in the early evening. Frank cooked them a dinner of seared steak that had been rubbed with garlic hours before. He also steamed some sweet potatoes and broiled some fresh green beans. It was a delicious feast.
My friend, Jenn, came to visit me for a few minutes to give me a hug and a pep talk. She even sewed a tear in my skirt for me while I helped Frank with the veggies.
Then we ate, had a quick clean up, and rushed out the door to get to the seminary early.
I had a plan for handling my anxiety. I wanted to sit in a back pew so I could have an easy exit. If my anxiety got to be too much, I was going to leave and go to the next building over. Since Esther was so fussy, the plan was to have her stay with me. Unfortunately, since she doesn’t see family very often, and she’s just getting into the separation anxiety phase, I didn’t want to send her away from me, especially since she had missed bedtime the night before and would be doing so again. Thankfully, she sleeps well while being worn, and I planned on wearing her. It was also nice to have her with me because she’s in this with us. I remember feeling so odd two years ago during Vicarage Placement Night because the one person who was moving with me wasn’t allowed to sit with me at the service. But this year, I had a daughter, my little placement partner.
Even though we got there early, I was shocked at how crowded the chapel was. It was much more crowded for the Call Service than it was for the Vicarage Service. We couldn’t find enough seats together, so we had to separate. My sister and I sat with our parents, who met us there. My in-laws went up front, which ended up working out well because my father-in-law got some wonderful pictures.
The service began, and the candidates started their procession. As soon as I saw Frank, I teared up. I was so proud of him. This was finally his moment – the moment God had planned all along. Some happy tears were shed. And then I had to laugh, because we’re advised not to cry, and here I was, only a few minutes in, already crying. (I cry easily about pretty much everything – happy or sad.)
The service was absolutely beautiful. The Kantorei (men’s choir) sang some absolutely beautiful pieces that had a calming harmony and peaceful message. I immediately felt that God was with us, and I relaxed a little.
During the service, Esther fussed if I wasn’t holding her, but she did really well sitting on my lap and played with my sister’s hands, sleeve, nails, etc. I also brought a teething necklace, which she about chewed to death. She was so well-behaved, I even got to take notes during the sermon.
The sermon was well written. It began with a booming exclamation of “ARE YOU READY?” I felt a surge of adrenaline. Then he said, “I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering how you’re going to distract yourself through this too-long sermon.” We all laughed. He continued, “Is it by counting the bricks on the wall behind me? Well let me tell you, I’ve already done it. There are 22,574 bricks.”
He reminded us that the world doesn’t want to hear about Jesus, but God is going to enable us to withstand the world. We were reminded that we will fail and make mistakes, but there is no perfect pastor and no perfect family, and there is always Grace and forgiveness. He pointed out that even the Twelve Disciples, who had the “best seminary training ever” were unprepared for Jesus’ death. Yet, later on Pentecost, they were on fire with passion for the Gospel. Jesus chose commoners – sinners – to be those Twelve Disciples, and He still chooses common sinners to be His disciples today. He equips us an enables us to spread His Gospel of Salvation.
Finally, it was time for the candidates to come forward and receive their Call. Their full name was called, then the church name, city, state, and district. Esther started getting really fussy during this – of course, the pivotal moment. I got up and started pacing with her in the back of the chapel. There were over 50 candidates, and it felt like forever and a day before Frank’s name was finally called. I knew Frank was in line next to his friend, Zack. For some reason, I forgot my ABCs and thought he was after Zack rather than before (according to last name). So I was in the back of the chapel listening for Zack’s name when I suddenly heard Frank’s name. I hurried back in as the church and city were announced, although I was in such a crazy mix of emotions, I missed it. Then I heard the state. I looked at my sister, mom, and dad, and I asked, “Missouri? Did he say Missouri?”
My sister looked at me and said, “It’s okay. It’s only Missouri. It’s okay.”
I kept thinking, Oh my gosh. It’s Missouri. We’re going to Missouri. Missouri. Missouri. Missouri. Misery. Missouri. It’s so far from Michigan. So far. So far. So far. But it’s a lot closer than other states. So close. So close. So close.
At this point, I felt like a schizophrenic person must feel, arguing with oneself. So many conflicting thoughts. So many faces looking at me. More Candidates being announced. I needed to get out. I went to the basement and took a breath. I got Esther in the carrier to wear her. My thoughts started to slow down and untangle a bit. Then my sister came down the stairs, and she was just sobbing, and we hugged for awhile. My mom had a few tears escape too and joined in the hug.
Honestly, my sister’s reaction was exactly what I needed. I had no words. I had so many positive and negative emotions all at once. I really just needed to cry and to have someone cry with me.
Some other seminary wives were down in the basement too. Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one who needed some space to cry a little while holding our babies.
My mom, sister, and I composed ourselves and then returned to the pew with my dad. We stayed until the Kyrie, and then we all left to go to the next building because my anxiety was getting out of control. Once we got to the next building, I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach. The excitement, suspense, adrenaline, shock – it all just was too much. I was shaking and trying to remember where the bathroom was.
My mom called her mom. I talked with my grandma a bit, and I calmed down listening to her voice. By then, the service was over, and Frank joined us. We took pictures, and I posted our announcement on Facebook. Then it was time for Frank and me to rush off to our meeting with the Missouri District President.
In our meeting with the DP, we met with a deaconess intern whose internship was in Missouri and another seminarian and his fiance who received a Call to Missouri. We each learned a little bit about our churches from our district president, and we had some time to go through our packets. Frank and I learned that we are in a very, very rural area. Our church is looking for a pastor and family who relates well with people, who sympathizes and connects. I’m an extremely sensitive person. All my life, I’ve grown up thinking that it’s a bad thing to be sensitive. But recently, I’ve spent over a year in counseling learning how to use my sensitivity as a gift and a tool. I’m so excited that I have this opportunity with a church looking for someone who relates well. Frank is also well suited for this, as he is so patient and understanding. (You’d have to be, to live with me!) And Esther, well, she just brings joy wherever she goes! It was so exciting to begin to see how God is using this Call to bless us and bless people through us. I’m so excited to see what the future holds.
After the meeting, we went to the reception. Frank and I walked through the freezing cold wind and yucky rain with Esther to get to the cafeteria. I couldn’t help but think of how much warmer Missouri must be. I hate, hate, hate the cold!
Once in the cafeteria, we met with our parents and my sister and were able to go through the Call packet a little. We saw that our future church does most services with a traditional worship style and occasionally has a contemporary worship service. I am so excited about this! I think traditional worship is so beautiful, and it’s a great way to slow down our busy lives and remind ourselves of the respect we should give to God. I also love contemporary worship. I think it’s also important to get excited about God. I like when hands are raised, when people clap. I don’t mind an “Amen” here and there. Lastly, I think it’s important for churches to offer both styles of worship if they want to grow. I’m super excited that Esther will have exposure to both styles.
We all decided we were getting exhausted, and it was time to call it a night. My parents drove home. My in-laws went to the room they were renting at the seminary. Frank, Esther, my sister, and I went back to our apartment. The next day, my sister and Frank’s parents returned to Michigan.
Now that we’ve had a few days, our emotions are settling down. I’ve had time to cry. Esther has had time to sleep. Frank’s had time to catch up on homework. I’ve been Googling like crazy, trying to figure out where we will do our grocery shopping and what fun things I can do with Esther once we move. It’ll be a very rural lifestyle, that’s for sure. But now that I know what to expect and now that the shock has worn off, I am getting so excited.
I also needed to deal with some guilt. I felt like I was failing as a seminary wife. I had this picture in my head that the seminary wives come to Call Night in their Sunday best, wearing their biggest smiles, and sitting silently with a cheery face as their husband receives his placement. I pictured them going home and happily calling family with the news. I pictured them making arrangements the next day, full of thanks for wherever they are going. Meanwhile, I felt like I was out of control. I wanted to do something rebellious, like get another piercing or put a streak of some crazy color in my hair. I felt like if I smiled, my face would break. I knew I would silently cry as I heard my husband’s placement (whether I was happy or sad). I only wanted to go home and sit still and wait for the shock to wear off. I even considered staying home and watching the event through live streaming. I felt bad paying attention to Esther during the service rather than letting her cry with a babysitter. Whenever someone told me to “count my blessings,” I felt like a terrible Christian and immediately had to fight back tears. I spent a few days talking with seminary wives and pastor’s wives, and I found that many of them felt the same way. Some actually did skip the service and watched online at home. Many didn’t want babysitters for their babies and decided to wear them. Some had a glass of wine waiting for them after Call Night. Many spent a few nights crying in bed. One actually did dye her hair pink. Another said she wanted to scream if she heard one more person say “It could be worse,” or “Trust God.” I had to learn that all the negative emotions I was feeling were normal for seminary wives, and it didn’t mean I was a bad seminary wife. It meant I was human and needed to mourn what I was losing and adapt to what was changing – and that’s okay.
The one thing I am struggling with is picturing Esther’s birthdays and holidays. When I was growing up, I lived about an hour from family, so we always got together for birthdays and holidays. I knew all my cousins, aunts, uncles, and my grandma really well. Our gatherings often had 30 of us. It was always a loud, fun, crazy time. No matter what was going on in life, we all came together and laughed until our sides hurt. Right now, I’m picturing Esther on her first birthday with just Frank and me sitting with her. No cake, thanks to food allergies. I’m just so sad for my baby. I’m sure we’ll make friends in the church and community, but of course, no one can replace my family. I need time to mourn this, then accept this, and grow to be okay with it.
But other than the distance, every single thing about this Call looks absolutely amazing, and I honestly cannot wait to pack up and move there. It’ll be a wonderful place to call home! I have to say, God did a pretty good job picking out our placement! Although I will miss my family, God goes with us. I am excited – and even impatient – to start this journey!
God is good.