Dedicated to loving them all

Today there was an event called “The Sidewalk Café” which is part of MSUM’s Welcome Week where student organizations have the opportunity to set up a table to advertise what their group is all about.

Obviously, Dragons for Life participated.

We decided to try something new by setting up a survey with colorful beads and mason jars. There were two jars. One was a pro-life jar and one was a pro-choice jar. People were instructed to put a bead in whichever jar best described their opinion and it was honestly so cool.

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The survey

As to be expected, we got some negative feedback. One girl who I knew and actually greeted by name tossed a handful of beads into the pro-choice jar and stomped off, completely ignoring my greeting.

Another person hostilely approached our table and demanded how we could value a fetus’ life over a woman’s, to which I calmly responded,

“That’s a great question. The motto of our organization is actually ‘dedicated to loving them both’ and—”

to which I was cut off and told that actually, that wasn’t possible and that I should take a philosophy class and change my opinion. To really drive their point home, this person took a pen and plunged it into the table we were using, dragging it along to make a huge gash in the plastic (I don’t think this person realized that this table wasn’t actually ours).

While we were being lectured for having the audacity to set up a table and share our opinion (while having a jar and bead survey to actually invite others to share their opinions with us), we calmly sat and listened.

And then there were all the people who were watching this whole thing go down. They witnessed a very angry pro-choicer yelling at two very calm pro-lifers who simply listened. They saw that we were secure enough in our opinion to sit back and allow ourselves to be scolded.

Every argument she made I was able to debunk in my own head, but I wasn’t going to share it because I knew this person didn’t want to hear it, and that it would not only bounce off their close-minded bubble, but likely create a bigger scene than this person was already making.

As the angry individual finished scraping our table and was walking away, my co-tabler kindly called out, “Thank you for speaking with us, we appreciate your opinion,” which gained another hostile response that “no, we didn’t” and so on and so on. So, there was that.

But we also had many very pleasant conversations. Many people timidly approached our table and we encouraged them to put a bead in a jar and that we wouldn’t judge them for their choice. A number of them put a bead into the pro-choice jar and sheepishly stepped back, waiting to be lectured. But we didn’t lecture.

We smiled and said, “Thank you. What’s your name?”

“How are you?”

“Are you a Freshman?”

“How is Welcome Week going for you?”

“If you’d like to hear our spiel we’d love to share it with you, but if not that’s okay.”

“Here, take some candy.”

“Have a wonderful day.”

Many pro-choicers had the boldness to calmly tell us why they were pro-choice and we listened and said, “Yes, I hear you. I understand what you’re saying.”

Other people struggled with knowing where to place their bead.

They said things like: “I don’t really know what I think yet.”

“I’m pro-choice, but…”

“I’m both.”

“What’s the difference?”

Many of them also noticed the fetal models we had placed by the jars. They asked, “Can I touch them?” and made comments like, “Oh, so cute!” and “I didn’t know they were so big.” We chatted with a group of girls, who had all put beads in the pro-choice jar, for a few minutes and one of them said, “You guys are actually so sweet. I was honestly kind of scared to come over here.”

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Our precious fetal models.

I think the reason the bead and jar survey worked so well is because people want to feel like their opinion matters and that they’re being heard. And so many people were willing to hear our opinion after we made it clear that we were willing, and wanting, to hear theirs. And the best part was that it got people thinking and talking about abortion which is HUGE. Not only that, but we were also able to communicate to the other side how we genuinely DO love women facing unplanned pregnancies by how we treated and loved everyone who approached our table.

And for anyone who is wondering, YES, we did count up the beads and here are our results! Keep in mind that we’re on a predominately liberal campus. And also, that every person, including those who placed a bead in the pro-choice jar encountered our kindness and noticed our fetal models. All in all, we are very excited for another year of educating people, assisting women, and saving some babies.

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The results!

The heartbreak of being an educator

I have just finished up my junior year as an Early Childhood major. Next fall, as a senior, things will intensify significantly as I become within arms-length of my degree. Course work, practicums, student teaching, and lesson plans will take up the majority of my time, so in response to my professors’,  my work advisor’s, and experienced students’ advice, I have decided to not continue working, at the childcare center I’ve been working at for a year and a half, next fall.

This is where the heartbreak comes in. The foundation of effective education is relationships. So, after working with this group of toddlers for 10 months, I’ve become increasingly attached.

I’ve watched their language and personalities rapidly develop.

I’ve celebrated their 2nd birthdays with them.

I’ve helped potty train them.

I’ve witnessed how quickly they learn the alphabet, learn to count, learn how to imaginatively play, recognize the first letter of their names, learn to voice their opinions.

I’ve learned to understand their developing language and requests when onlookers would have no idea what they were saying.

I’ve watched the little girls’ hair grow long enough for pigtails.

I’ve held their sticky hands.

I’ve held them in my lap.

I’ve eaten copious amounts of the pretend food they’ve made me.

I’ve rocked them to sleep.

I’ve helped teach them manners, how to say “please” and “thank you”.

I’ve welcomed their hugs. Their sloppy kisses.

I’ve had the honor of nurturing and caring for these children, their parents’ greatest treasure, worth more than any silver or gold.

I’ve loved them.

But now…. It’s time to say goodbye.

Within the past two weeks I’ve been aware of all the lasts. Cuddling them more. Holding their hands a little tighter. Rocking them longer than necessary because I know I’ll never rock them again.

I wrote a Facebook post about time, and how quickly time escapes us. My time with these children has run out and I am so thankful that I had the time with them that I did. I know this is just the beginning of my heartbreaking goodbyes as an educator. As educators we love these children with our whole hearts, but, sadly, we only get them for a little while, not forever.

I know that as time passes they’ll get even bigger, and smarter, and I won’t be there to witness it, but I’ve had the privilege of watching them grow and develop during such a significant time in their lives.

They’re so little. They’re going to forget me and the relationships we once had.

But I’ll never forget them.

I went to see “Unplanned” last night. Here are my thoughts.

“Unplanned” is a true story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director, and her journey of escaping the abortion industry. I even read the book the movie was based off of.

Yet the movie still shook me.

The movie is rated R, rightfully so. It doesn’t hide the horrors of abortion. I was weeping as the credits at the end of the movie rolled. I wanted nothing more than to draw near to God after the movie, sobs escaping my throat as I prayed, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry for what we are doing! It is not okay. Put a stop to whatever evil insists that it is okay for us to kill our babies, Your precious creations.”

I woke up this morning feeling sad. I read through some psalms, all praising the Lord, exclaiming joy. I didn’t feel it. I went to church where the message was on joy. I still wasn’t feeling it.

I know God is good in this horror. I know that my true joy comes from God. But I also know that I am justified in my sadness today. Even Jesus wept over the sin of the world. I will not wallow and I will not let my sadness consume me, but for today, I am grieving over and remembering the millions of children who never got to see the light. Who have never been held or snuggled or tickled. Who have been discarded in biohazard bags as waste. While there are families who mourn the loss of a miscarried child, there is an aborted child who is forgotten because she was never wanted.

But I remember.

I will not forget them.

So, today I am sad.

Establish the work of our hands.

I’ve always had somewhat of a fascination with hands. I think I get that from my mom. I’ve always admired the intricacies of the fingers and the palms, and the stories our hands tell. Our hands can do horrific things, but they can do such beautiful things as well.

I was reading through some psalms earlier this week and stumbled upon Psalm 90:17: “… establish the work of our hand for us –yes, establish the work of our hands.” I began to wonder what it would look like if I asked God to establish the work of my hands. What exactly did that even mean? Here is how I interpreted it: to ask God to establish the work of my hands is to ask God how He would have me use my hands to love and serve the people He has created. So on this particular day, that is what I did. I asked God to establish the work of my hands and was hyper aware of everything my hands did that day.

Some of what my hands did looked like this:

  • Wrapping my hands around a friend in a hug
  • Using my hands to brush away the fine wisps of hair off a dozing toddler’s face during rest time at my job
  • Tickling another toddler to hear their infectious giggles
  • Holding the door open for someone entering a building behind me
  • Picking up my phone to call my mom so she knows that I love her

But a lot of it looked like this:

  • Blocking a hit from a wildly frustrated 2-year-old
  • Wiping the tears from a devastated preschooler’s face
  • Spontaneously cleaning a child’s vomit up off the floor (because no one can ever plan for this)
  • Staying late to help a stressed head teacher at work
  • Washing crusty snack dishes that reek of cheese cubes and turkey meat at the end of a long work day
  • Taking out the trash
  • Playing with the hair of a sad roommate

Now, I am in no way listing off these things to say, “hey, look what an amazing person I am, yay me!” because all of us use our hands to serve people everyday without even realizing it. But to show that many of these things weren’t pleasant things to do, yet they were all rewarding. They were rewarding because God had given me the mindset that this day wasn’t to serve me, but serve those around me. I feel like asking God to establish the work of our hands is similar to Colossians 3:23-24 which says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” 

Beautiful things happen when we turn our attention to those around us instead of ourselves. I believe there’s a reason our eyes look outward, at those around us, and not at ourselves. We were not created to serve ourselves. As sinful humans we are inherently selfish, and when we seek to only serve ourselves we feed our own selfishness which leads to continual discontent.

My friends, I encourage you to ask God how He may use your hands to serve! In a world that demands, “Do what YOU want; Do what makes YOU happy; Don’t think about others, focus on YOU! YOU come first” step out of your own head and into the lives of those around you. Actions truly do speak louder than words, so I urge you to prove to those around you how much you love them by how you care for them.  How can you be Jesus’ hands and feet to those around you today?

 

**DISCLAIMER: I know that there are moments when we need to take care of ourselves. But pleasing ourselves should not be our sole purpose and motivator. God’s most important commandments (according to Jesus) are to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:36-40). Living to please ourselves is a great way to become discontent.

the blessing of anxiety…


Anxiety has been a struggle for me as long as I can remember. I remember being little and it presenting itself as separation anxiety whenever I was separated from my mom. I got stomachaches a lot for no apparent reason, and I would often refuse to eat. It really became a problem though, when I was in middle school. My anxiety would cause me to become physically ill and I began missing an extensive amount of school and failing my classes. I was 14 when I started taking antidepressants for anxiety.

The medicine helped tremendously and I was able to manage my anxiety through high school and my first year of college. I was beginning to consider what it would take for me to wean myself off the anxiety medication. Then, suddenly, I became a hot mess in the fall of 2017.

I had just moved into an apartment with my best friends and I was so excited. Life was going so well. But, out of nowhere my anxiety started to take over again. I couldn’t eat. I would sit in my apartment and outwardly it appeared as though I was relaxing, but on the inside my heart was racing. I would let out a breath of air I didn’t realize I was holding. My back and neck would ache from being tense all the time. I would sleep excessively because that was the only way I could escape my constant fight or flight mindset. I would sit in my classes and try to catch my breath because my chest was so tight and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would suddenly start crying without any real reason. I aimlessly groped for any sense of peace but there was none to be found. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had such a good support system. My parents and siblings offered wise words and my roommates tried their best to understand, but I still felt so isolated. The thing about anxiety is that it is completely irrational. If you’ve never experienced it, it’s difficult to relate, because, honestly, anxiety still doesn’t make sense even if you have it or have experienced it. I made the tough decision to give up my pride and pursue Christian counseling for a few weeks.

A week or so later, at the end of September I went to the clinic for my yearly physical and filled out the anxiety/depression questionnaire they’ve given me every time I’ve gone to the clinic since I started taking medicine for anxiety. My heart dropped as I found myself checking off the “all of the days” box for “loss of appetite”, “feeling as though something bad might happen”, “sleeps excessively”, “has no desire to engage in enjoyable activities”, etc., etc. because it became apparent to me that I was not okay. I blinked back tears while my doctor went through my questionnaire with me and explained what my answers meant for my mental and physical health. I avoided her pitiful gaze. I broke down when she told me she was going to double my anxiety medication dose because it was obvious that I was suffering. “But I’m trying to get off this medicine!” I thought to myself. “I want to be better. I don’t want to need this medicine to function.”

However, probably one of the most frustrating things I had to deal with was my own guilt for struggling with anxiety. I had respected people tell me, “You just need to trust God,” and it honestly broke my heart. It was as if people were telling me that this hell I was experiencing was due to my lack of trust in God.

I know some of you may be reading this word vomit and referring back to the title “the blessing of anxiety” and thinking, “Alright, Victoria. But where is the blessing in this?” It took me a while to figure that out, too. First, let’s look at the last sentence in the previous paragraph. Would a gracious God really be punishing me for a lack of trust? Well, according, to John 9:1-3, no. God’s Word says this: “As he [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” The passage goes further to describe how Jesus healed this man and restored his sight and how the power of Jesus was glorified through his healing. So, could it really be that my suffering from anxiety was a blessing and not a curse? During this time I fell in love with another passage, a passage I actually wrote on canvases and have displaying in my living room, and that is this:

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [the figurative thorn in Paul’s flesh] away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10

My anxiety is one of the thorns in my flesh. It is a huge weakness. But it is not for nothing. My suffering is not in vain.

I have a powerful quote to share from Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. I know that taking medication for anxiety can be a controversial thing among Christians, but what Max Lucado says in his book gave me so much peace and eased my guilt so much because I felt so much guilt for needing to take medicine and pursue counseling for my anxiety. He says, “It [meaning overcoming your anxiousness] will require some work on your part. I certainly don’t mean to leave the impression that anxiety can be waved away with a simple pep talk. In fact, for some of you God’s healing will include the help of therapy and/or medication. If that is the case, do not for a moment think that you are a second-class citizen of heaven.

I personally believe that God has equipped those who counsel and those who create medication to do what they have done. If there is something wrong with your ankle will you refuse to take pain medication? Why then, if your heart or brain is hurting would you not take medicine to help ease the pain in your heart/brain? (Thoughts for another time).

Anyways, eventually my upped dose of medicine began to kick in and I was able to use some of the coping techniques my counselor taught me. I was able to function, I was able to eat, and I was no longer constantly on the verge of tears. I could breathe again. I do not look back on that season in disgust, like, phew, glad that’s over! but with fondness. What a sweet season that was for me! My soul rejoices with how much my faith grew through that suffering and I was able to experience raw dependence on God that I had never experienced before. I gained a new understanding and insight into why Christians suffer. See, popular opinion seems to often think that Christians never face hardships because of our faith in God. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Being a Christian does not mean that you are exempt from hardships, but you are guaranteed that if you let Him, God will use those hardships. We live in a sinful, fallen world, but God has the power to turn the bad things into good things. God used that season to teach me more about Him and to draw me into a more tender, personal relationship with Him. I was able to see His love and affection for me more clearly. My prayer is that God is glorified through this story, and that He will be glorified in this blog post!

Another blessing that has come from this is that God has allowed me to experience this to all the better reach His people! Anxiety is so, so common, but as I mentioned earlier it is a very isolating experience because not everyone understands it. But I do. I get it. If you suffer from anxiety I understand and I empathize. I am not “all better” from anxiety. I’m not currently in a crippling state, but anxiety is still a daily battle. God gifted me with this story to relate to His children and to you and show that, “hey, this really sucks. But God is good, and He loves you and He will use this.”

I truly do hope that you were able to take something away from my story, and my vulnerabilities. Thank you for reading to the end, and I want to leave you with one last passage of scripture that is one my favorite verses:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERY SITUATION, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7



P.S. If you struggle with anxiety or anything else, please feel free to reach out to me! I would LOVE to talk with you!!


{The photo featured above is of the tattoo that I got towards the end of this season of life. I got a cross as a constant reminder of what the Lord has done in my life, primarily when He sent His one and only Son to die for me on the cross, but in my day-to-day life as well. I want to remember how God has blessed me, what He has taught me, and how He has been faithful to me.}

Your Plan is Better

I am 21 and a junior in college, and I honestly thought I would be married by now. I had pictured myself getting married by 21 (or shortly after turning 21) like two of my sisters did. I couldn’t wait to find a husband, become a homemaker, and add my own personalized contribution to my parents’ collection of grandbabies, while giving my numerous nieces and nephews some new cousins.

That was my plan. I went to college after high school with a vague idea of what I wanted to study, but mostly I was husband shopping. It didn’t really matter what I studied anyways, because I figured I would meet the love of my life within a year or two and finish college later.

But God’s plan was different. I am over halfway done with college and I am loving every second of my Early Childhood Education major. God has unleashed a fiery passion in me to not only love and protect children who are already born, but those who are unborn. There is no husband on the horizon as far as I can see and I’m learning to be okay with that. Sure, I have (and still do) wept in despair wondering why God is withholding one of the deepest desires of my heart –to be a wife and become a mother. I have prayed raw prayers saying, “God are You even listening to me? I need this. Why won’t you give it to me? My heart is breaking because You are holding out on me. I need a husband.” And God has patiently responded, “Am I not enough? I love you, and I have a plan for you, you just need to trust Me.”

 The funny thing is that neither of my sisters who married so young planned on that happening. One of my sisters really didn’t plan on ever getting married; she wanted to be an overseas missionary. My other sister didn’t really plan on getting married either; she was very involved in her college major. One of my brothers-in-law had simply accepted that he was going to be a bachelor for the rest of his life before he met my sister. These stories go to show how rarely our ideas of how our lives should go actually come to be.

See, if I was married at this moment I wouldn’t have the freedom I have to pursue the career that I am, or to completely throw myself into the pro-life organization I have co-developed on my campus. I wouldn’t be living with the most Godly, wonderful women I get to do life with. I wouldn’t be working at my current job, and I wouldn’t be in the lives of the people/classmates/coworkers that I come into daily contact with. Best of all, I wouldn’t have developed the trust I have in God if He would have just given me everything I had asked for immediately when I asked for it. God is showing me that His plan is better.

I know this is just a small part of my story, though it seems big now, but all that God has taught me will have an eternal impact. God has demonstrated His faithfulness in ways I have never seen before. I don’t need a husband to find security, I have full security in God. I don’t need to have a husband to feel complete because God completes me. I always kind of thought that God demonstrated His faithfulness to people by giving them whatever they had asked for immediately when they asked for it. But no, God has shown me that He is not limited to what I want Him to do; that He loves me and has a plan for me, and He will be faithful in carrying out His plan for me. Absolutely, I still long for marriage and hope that it is in God’s plan for my life, but whatever God has in store, it is better than what I could have ever asked for.

Waiting can be hard and waiting can be excruciating. But God, I know that Your Plan Is Better.


{{Takeaways}}

You may be thinking, “Aww, cute story, Victoria”, but this isn’t just my story! It is just one of the billions of stories glorifying God and His faithfulness, and I hope that it encouraged you and helped you to see God’s faithfulness and love for you in your own life!


{{Truths to Remember}}

“… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ~ Romans 5:3-5;

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13