Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Count your them one by one!

Have you ever heard that cheerful upbeat children's song Count your Blessings

The chorus goes something like this: 

Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one  Count your many blessings see what God has done...

Well, 40 Days for Life has yielded some pretty amazing, special blessings! And I'd like to try and recount some of them here.  I'm sure I'll miss many of them and if each of you added yours we could probably write a hundred page book! God's poured them out so's nearly impossible to keep track of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE! 

First of the biggest blessings was seeing God's power, love and faithfulness displayed over and over again. Through each answered prayer, each interaction on the street, each divine appointment met, each new brother or sister stepping out in faith to love the hurting and broken; God's sovereignty and grace was displayed every single day!

Blessing #2: Meeting SO many compassionate, loving, gracious, merciful, Christ-like and courageous people. I count all of you as such dear friends and family, and was incredibly blessed to meet you all.  Many of you have shared your personal testimonies and stories with me, some heartbreaking, some amazing, some funny - but they all have inspired me and spurred me on to love and good deeds.  Each of you spoke into my life in some way; either in words or in actions.  What a blessing you all are and I love each of you so much.

Blessing #3: Seeing what gracious, cooperative unity in the body of Christ looks like. 
 Seeing the gracious efforts to work together and unite in prayer was incredible. I was BLOWN away at the celebration rally. We counted 11+ different churches/parishes - all different denominations - who participated. And I know of so many more from Lynden, to Kelso, to Woodland, to Portland to the Columbia Gorge who were praying with us. What a blessing to be able to work together in love to pray to end abortion.

Blessing #4: Growing myself, and seeing you all grow too! When I first started leading this I literally spent 10 minutes freaking out before each new phone call, and sweating and trembling as I imagined myself passing out if I had to speak in front of my church or anywhere else. Silly how your mind goes to the worst case scenario! :-)  The first week during planning at the start of February I probably had a meltdown every day with the worst one that next Sunday at church... To say the least I was stretched.
I think Paul has it right when He said, "He has said to me, 'my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest on me."  God's grace is always sufficient and I experienced that firsthand over and over again.  He IS faithful!
This effort was SO new to most of you, and I know it was stretching and even terrifying in many ways. I've been so inspired by each of you and your courage and selflessness.  Thank you for stepping out of your comfortable "church bubbles" and living out your faith. You all spread so much hope to the hurting, broken and lost people in our community and I know many of you were changed in amazing ways too. Seeing God work like that can't help but leave you in awe and amazement at who He is.

Blessing #5: Experiencing hard-hitting reality. Among all the good, incredible, and uplifting things God did the painful reality of abortion hit hard. WAY harder than I was prepared for.  It's impossible to not be broken and affected when you see women, especially young teens, going into the clinic.  Everything in you wants to stop them and plead with them to turn away, but you are completely powerless to do anything except pray and trust in the Lord to work. One of the days I was standing by the exit when a young lady rolled down her window and told me she had just had an abortion that morning.  My heart broke as I grieved for her... and still do. I never felt anger like I did that morning at our enemy who has deceived so many precious young ladies.  Oh... It hurts terribly when you step on that street corner and see the line between life and death, hope and hopelessness. But, as much as it hurt, I didn't want to leave. When you see each face drive into the parking lot your heart breaks and  your prayers reach a whole new level of intensity and urgency. You come face to face with the person who needs prayer at that very moment and you can pray specifically for them... sometimes even with them like Laurie was able to with 1 woman. My presence and experience at PP has completely changed my life.

Blessing #6: Learning to respond in mercy and love to anger and vulgarity. I was definitely not prepared for the intense anger we witnessed in people driving by.  For the most part the response we got from our community was either apathy or support, but there were many who were so angry and hateful towards us too. It used to bother me personally as I felt as if we were causing that anger. But as Pastor Bill has done so many times, He made it clear to me that their anger was because the Spirit was working in and convicting their hearts as they drove by.  They recognized a higher power in us but they did not want to surrender to it.
 Their anger was mostly at themselves and the Lord as I know they struggle to forgive themselves and accept the forgiveness of the Lord in obedience to Him.
  With each new angry and broken person who would drive by we would pray for the Lord to miraculously work in their hearts and save them from enemy's chains of sin and hopelessness. I know we all learned what it's like to be persecuted for our faith, yet responding with patience, kindness and compassion. I know it wasn't always easy to respond in love or the first thing we wanted to do when treated wrongly. But thank you for growing and learning through each new experience.

"If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests on you." 
(1 Peter 4:14)

 Blessing #7: Seeing hearts change. I know our gentleness touched a lot of lives and I saw it change at least two people. One instance of a heart change was of my new friend who I lovingly call "the pro-death lady" because of my first interaction with her. It took nearly 30 days of the Lord working on my heart to love and pray for her when I would see her nearly every day...but she changed to the point of calling me "sweetie" and stopping twice to have a normal conversation with me and a few others on the sidewalk.
The other example is of the angry man most of you read of who came back to ask forgiveness of my sister Valerie. Just two examples of the power of God that transforms lives! Read about them here: Several Hearts Changed...
God gave us many opportunities to answer so many questions and speak with so many people. I know the Lord will water those seeds that were planted in His timing.

Blessing #8: Learning how to defend the pro-life position. When I started I didn't hardly have a clue how to defend my position effectively. I didn't know how much abortion harms women and men, and
 how to respond to pro-choice objections etc. We all dove into researching and learned so much. Also seeing and sharing the interactions with pro-choice advocates between pastor Dean, Dad, Laurie, Pastor Bill, Mr. Emmerson and many others helped us think, learn and apply their wisdom to our lives and help us respond better in the future. I know we all learned along the way together and will continue to do so!

Blessing #9: Seeing the power of prayer as God answered them...sometimes within seconds. SO many times I would pray for a little encouragement or a little more strength and He would answer immediately. One day he brought a lady with a latte within 15 seconds of my somewhat desperate prayer for strength and warmth.  Another day my family and I were feeling a little attacked and I was feeling particularly tired. Kyle and I stood out on Main street praying together and I silently asked the Lord to lift my spirit and send some form of encouragement to my heart. It took all of 5 seconds before a lady stopped at the curb with the window rolled down and handed me a card. It said, "Simply grateful for people like you. Thank you for your faith and courage. Keep fighting the good fight."  Wow. Those words of encouragement spoke to my heart. I was so uplifted and amazed at How God so faithfully answered my prayer.
Not only did God answer those little prayers, He answered big ones too. He answers our prayers that He would bless His endeavors and raise up an army. I literally was hoping and praying that we could fill just 3 days a week - Mon.Wed. and Frid. I thought that would be a HUGE success and amazing for the first year. Well, turns out God did that pretty quickly!! And He also brought people to come EVERY other day too. I can safely say there was not one day that went by when no one was there for at least 1 hour.
We saw prayers answered for strength and courage for believers to come out as so many of you took that first step of faith, even when it was uncomfortable!
I also got to thinking of how He answered our prayers for safety. We didn't have anything happen that was a hazard or threatening to our safety! Praise God!

Blessing #10: Raising awareness in our community.  Prayer is always heard wherever we are, but our presence there letting our community know we were praying continued to bring the reality of abortion to the forefront, allowed the spirit to work in hearts, gave us opportunities to spread truth and encourage people to pray with us.

Blessing #11: The chance to cultivate a culture of life in our children and youth. It was such a blessing to see parents bring their children and show by example that life is precious and is our duty and sacrifice to defend. This story of two children's thoughts on abortion as their dad wisely and graciously yet truthfully explained to them was SO neat!  From the mouth's of children...
I was also so grateful to Ann Stout for being SO supportive of 40 Days for Life and arranging for me to speak at the Centralia Christian School. Thank you Ann!

Blessing #12: Learning how to love and reach out to homosexual, transgender, pro-choice and liberal friends. One of the neat blessings during 40 days was not only to be able to reach out to abortion minded and post-abortive people... we were also given the chance to meet people from a wide range of lifestyles. What a blessing it was for us to meet folks we wouldn't have met without our presence at PP. If you've heard of the book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert you'll remember Rosaria Butterfield's conversion from an atheistic, liberal, lesbian, college professor lifestyle to coming to know the Lord, and eventually becoming a beautiful, godly Presbyterian pastors wife who home-schools her children and has adopted and fostered other kids! I love that story of God's grace that transforms lives. No one is ever beyond the reach of God and His mercy and redemption.

I know that God has brought these precious people to the PP sidewalk for a purpose and plan. Let's continue to pray that the love, hope, grace, compassion and kindness we showed to them will begin a relationship with them and help them see Truth.

Blessing #13: Hearing post-abortive testimonies from courageous and precious people. 
Let me tell you these stories are what get to me so deeply, and they aren't easy to hear. But, I am truly so grateful for the precious and courageous people who have taken the time and effort to share their testimonies. Sometimes they are so personal and painful still to tell, and they're always heartbreaking to hear of the hurt, pain, regret and shame they've felt afterwards. I can't help but be angry, SO angry, at our enemy the devil who has deceived so many... and then crushes them with condemnation and shame afterwards. I don't know if that's righteous or not, but I certainly feel it in me so strongly, like I've never felt before. I've prayed through flowing tears that our enemy will be defeated in Lewis County, WA and that his lies will be exposed. That the chains he holds captives in will be broken as they experience the healing redemption of our merciful Father and savior.

Praise God that He KNOWS your pain.  He sent His Son to die. He could have stopped it,but He didn't.  His gave us His Son so that we could be forgiven.  You are not alone, dear friend.  God knows your pain and He has made a way for you to be freed from the prison Satan wants to keep you in. That shame and guilt you feel is not from the Lord and not from anyone here on earth.  It is from our enemy.

 I grieve for these precious men and women... MILLIONS of them who are hurting. Nothing spurs me on to continue to fight this battle with intensity and urgency than hearing these stories first hand. How could I ever be apathetic again?  How could I not do everything in my power to help some choose life?

Blessing #14: Experiencing the Spiritual battle firsthand. I don't know about you all but I truly felt the spiritual battle being waged on that street corner. It's hard to explain it, but you probably have felt the same way if you've been out there.
"Our battle is not against flesh and blood, against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  
(Ephesians 6:12)

My faith was strengthened though as I felt the Lord's presence and power like I had never felt before. AMAZING.

Blessing #15: Living out our Faith
I don't think I could say it any better than Amy Larson's testimony on one of the feedback forms!
She wrote this and I wanted to share it with you all.
"I was initially worried that this was a protest. After some research, I was so glad to see it wasn't! This is a way that we can actively LIVE OUT our Faith.  I would love to see ALL Lewis County Churches participate.  We are called to stand in the gap. How can we not speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves?  God gives the armor.  We are called to STAND."

SO true!

Blessing #16: Laughing every now and then :-)
Being out there really can take you down a rollercoaster of emotions. But there were always those times of comedic relief that helped ease the tension when I and others needed it most.

 That first week when I had my meltdown at church Pastor Dean and Mrs. Wiebracht's dog Heidi sneezed and sent a slobbery snot-rocket right onto my skirt, ;-) She knew we all needed to laugh just then and Pastor Dean made one of his kind and funny comments that made everything better. On a serious note I'm SO thankful for Pastor Dean.  He has helped, encouraged, mentored, and answered so many questions for me. I'm so thankful for Him and his amazing, sweet, cheerful wife! Love you two so much!

Carol Druckman from Love inc. made me laugh so much one day at PP.  She showed up one SUPER rainy day in her nice work clothes for her lunch break. If I remember correctly she was dressed in black slacks, black dress shoes, black jacket and was holding a black umbrella and black sign. We prayed for a while separately and then I looked over at her and immediately thought how CUTE she looked. I mean seriously...she's adorable! :-)  I walked over to encourage her and she looked up with genuine concern on her face saying, "do I look like the grim reaper or what?? I've got all this BLACK!"   Oh my, I laughed SO hard!!  Love you dear so much and you have been such a blessing, support and friend to me!

My brother-in-love Richie and sisters Lydia and Valerie and I went out to dinner one night after being out at PP and we seriously were so tickled at something we laughed the entire time at Wendy's! People were probably looking at us like we were crazy... but I guess we've gotten a little used to that by now. :)

Dr. Moreau and his sweet, beautiful daughter Celine are some of the funniest and happiest people I've met. Dr. Moreau would generously keep asking if I wanted anything. At one point he asked,"can we get you a coffee?"  I replied, "Oh no, I've had my fill... I've already had 7."  Imagine his shock thinking that I had already had 7 THAT DAY... not spread out through a few weeks. I quickly explained that I had only had 1 that day... the other 6 were from weeks past. He said,"Oh phew that's good... but I guess that would have explained your energy level!"  Then later he brought us prayer warriors some chocolate to share. Then later said, "just remember if Bowes sends the orders for Pizza, Moreau will answer!"  

Well he didn't need to twist my arm for that one!
I sent orders to Moreau for pizza the next week for Pastor Bill, John and Richard who had been so faithful to stay for 4 hours EVERY Tuesday.  John made me laugh!  He enjoyed that pizza so much and joked that if I had pizza at PP more often he would be there no questions asked. :-)
John's the only one who smiled for the camera... and even waved too!
Pastor Dean finally got his revenge too. :-) For years I've teased him about his California blood. He would always show up to church in LAYERS of jackets and a warm wool hat during the winter months. I called him "Mr. Bundles" one day and it stuck.  Well, one Friday us girls were shivering like crazy. Pastor Dean and Mrs. Wiebracht and Linda Clements showed up and went to work getting us some tea and extra layers. I then became known as "Miss Shivers."

 Then the next Sunday at church Pastor Dean called my dad and us girls, "Papa Pete and the shiver sisters." :-)  Made the whole church crack up!

Let's see... there were so many other little things that helped lighten the difficulties through it. Little comments and funny stories.  Special smiles and hugs.  What a loving group of people it was...almost like we were family. (oh wait... I guess we are family. The family of God!)

Blessing #17: Divine appointments.
Wow. This part was SO neat to see.  So many times God would specially ordain a certain person to be at PP in the right spot at the right time when a question or comment was raised!  Read more here: Amazing Divine Appointments

Blessing #17: Being pampered with selfless gifts. During 40 days I was given 7 free coffees plus tea. (expensive ones too!)  2 free umbrellas; 1 thrown out from a driver who stopped at the red light and 1 from Jesus. ;-) Pastor Bill said it belonged to Him. I think Jesus must like Mossyrock because His umbrella is black and red. It sure will come in handy during Timmy's Mossyrock baseball games!
 We were given 2 free AMAZING dark chocolate bars, a Chinese food dinner, a pepperoni pizza and popcorn. Yum! A sweet friend gave me her scarf with a message to go with it one rainy afternoon. And I got a fancy new rain-jacket from the Kast's!
Mr Taylor gave me the  most precious gift of all though. A card with a beautiful, poem on it. Of all those things this one touched me the most.
It goes like this:
How good is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable friend.
Whose love is as great as His power,
And knows neither measure nor end.

Tis' Jesus, the first and the last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home
We'll thank Him for all that is past,
And trsut Him for all that's to come.

And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him for all that's to come.

 (Shh...don't tell anyone but it pays to be out there on the sidewalk!)
 God is good, and I'm blown away by His special love and provision and the selflessness and giving hearts of people in our community.

Blessing #18: Seeing God provide. My expenses added up to about $1400 dollars total. Well, as of today God's provided all of that plus $120 extra to apply to the 40 Days for Life fund!  Thank you Lord and thank you all for your incredible generosity!

And Blessing #19:  I get to be an aunt soon!!!!!  My precious little peanut is due this Saturday. I hope she comes and meets her fan club soon... I don't know if we can bear the wait much longer!

In closing out 40 Days for Life I can't help but marvel at my miracle niece who was adopted at 6 days old.  It's amazing thinking back on how something so terrifying as cancer and infertility God used to grow my sister Lydia and brother-in-love Richie.  They will be the most amazing parents in the world in my very unbiased opinion. :-)  Love you three so much!!

My sister Lydia has such a gift with writing so sweetly and from her heart. She wrote more of her story and what the Lord taught her one morning at PP here: A Special Update... Have a tissue ready.
Amazing to think that peanut's  hair color, eye color , skin color, personality, what her voice and laugh will sound like and so much more are contained in that tiny little embryo.  That was my niece at 6 days old. The miracle of life is incredible; God is good! 
 Oh, and by the way, when you go shopping with your co-auntie's and soon-to-be grandma for a girls day shopping and you happen to stop at Vanity Fair and you see about 20 different baby dresses all cute, and colorful, and adorable... save yourself some grief and just buy them all.  It's too hard to choose.. trust me.

I'll keep you all updated now and then with news, thoughts, stories and testimonies. I have many stories and testimonies from the feedback forms that I will share too.  Keep checking back!

Thank you ALL for saying yes to the Lord's leading and making all of this possible. Love you all so much! 

Praise the Lord, great things he has done! 

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace." 
(Numbers 6:24-26 NASB

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Centralia 40 Days for Life Video!

My sister Victoria did a beautiful job putting together all the pictures from 40 Days for Life into a video...along with some great music and scripture!  I tried to get as many people in the pictures as I could, but alas this is still only 3/4 at best of those who participated!  Sorry if you're not in there! :-(  

Also here's another neat one from the halfway point!

I know it looks like the same video but they're not. :-)  We just REALLY like that adorable picture of Thaddeus a lot! :-) 

Monday, April 10, 2017

The close of 40 Days for Life!

Wow! God is so good. Thank you SO much all of your effort, service, amazing and encouraging stories, support, stretching yourselves out of your comfort zones.... and most importantly for your prayers! I could go on and on: I AM SO THANKFUL FOR EACH OF YOU!! Praise the Lord, great things He has done!
Centralia 40 Days for Life has been one of the most amazing, faith building and inspiring experiences of my life. I know it has been the same for you all too! Thank you for following the Lords leading and stepping out in faith and courage to be a part of this incredible effort... making it possible for lives to be saved, hearts to be changed and faith to be strengthened in God's people. Because you said "yes" it opened the door for SO many others to do the same and grow in the process!
Although we didn't tangibly see a life saved, we saw SO many hearts change as we talked with many people who came to oppose us. We prayed with many people; those who were post-abortive & seeking hope, 1 PP supporter who might also possibly be a staff member there at Centralia, a homeless girl, countless people who stopped to join us, a man who was once shouting every foul word there is who came back a few days later to ask forgiveness, and woman who stopped to give us coffee and countless others I wasn't there to witness. We shared the good news and hope of Christ with many....having long civil conversations with pro-choice advocates who came out to exercise their first amendment right beside us. We shared truth with drivers who stopped to ask questions or share their opinions. And even if nothing of that ever happened, we ALL have grown so much, seen God's heart for the defenseless and lost, learned how to defend our pro-life position, grown in courage and strength as we've seen God's power displayed as He has answered prayer after prayer... sometimes in a matter of a few seconds. God is good!!
Even though we didn't see a life saved at our location, our prayers contributed to the over 430 babies saved this spring in the US and abroad!!! Wow. 430 precious little ones who will get the chance to live and come to know the Lord. 430 mothers and fathers who were spared from a lifetime of pain and regret. That's about four times the size of the group of people that came out to PP yesterday. I can't imagine what an impact they will make as they are born and share their testimonies of surviving the silent holocaust of abortion.
We had a wonderful Celebration rally yesterday for the the last day of 40 Days for Life! 106 people (including little people) came out to pray with us, and then we had a pizza party, worship and sharing stories at the amazing Chehalis Foursquare Church. I was expecting and praying for around 40-50 people.... lol. We had to buy more pizza to say the least!!
One of the most amazing blessings was to see the body of Christ come together in unity. Seeing about 7 area churches/parishes come together in prayer for the unborn and all those affected by the tragedy of abortion was SO amazing and inspiring. Plus we had several more churches near and far praying for us in their services and personal devotions! Even a couple from Lynden, WA stopped in to encourage us and let us know they were praying! I was blessed beyond measure to meet SO many Christ-like and compassionate people, and I learned so much from each of you! Thank you!
I'm not sure how to pick up my "normal" life after 40 Days for Life! But I know I will not stop praying and trusting that one day abortion will come to an end. I have LOTS of ideas floating around in my head of how we can continue to promote LIFE in our community and share the hope of Christ... so pray with me for God's direction and strength and let's all continue to pray for the end of abortion in our nation. 
Some pictures from the LAST day of 40 Days for Life! 

One of the many things I learned during these past months...  is to say "yes" to the Lord's leading whatever it may be, do what you can with the strength and grace He gives, and trust God to multiply your efforts. This is HIS endeavor, and HIS heart. As one of our participants so eloquently said, "I know I will not stand before our precious Jesus and say I stood silent."

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor an helpless and ensure that they get justice." 
(Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT) 

"The eyes of the Lord are toward those who do right, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns His face against those who do evil." 
(1 Peter 3:12) 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Several hearts changed by Love and forgiveness - Day 34

Have you ever wondered if our presence outside PP actually makes a difference? 
If you're like me, I'm sure every now and then you'll have doubts if standing and praying for hours on end is really doing any good. Or you might get discouraged by the anger and obscenities thrown in your direction from drivers passing by.  
 I'm sure each of you have had those days of weariness when you just want to 'throw in the towel' and go back to the comforts of life before 40 Days for Life.  :-) 
But, I've learned those times of human weakness are when our almighty and loving Father sure likes to show up and make His power perfect in us. (2 Corinthians 12:9)  That's when He likes to strengthen us by His grace and do something so amazing and miraculous in and through us that we never thought or imagined could even occur! 
Well, here are just two more amazing testimonies of God's faithfulness to transform lives. The past few days we've witnessed two hearts drastically change since the start of 40 Days for Life

One of these precious people I met on the first week of 40 Days for Life.  It happened to be a time when I was out by myself on the main sidewalk, and as I stood holding my umbrella and praying, I noticed an older lady heading my way on the crosswalk.  I smiled at her and made room for her to pass by. 
As she got near she immediately started to voice her opinion and her belief that pro-lifers really are "pro-death". In her own words she said that "pro-life people only care about babies before they are born and could simply care less about people outside the womb."  I simply listened to her with the best that I could come up with for a smile, and although she didn't give me time to respond I gently said, "Ma'm that's not true. I love people of all ages." 
She didn't stay for long. I had mixed emotions towards her. On the one hand I felt compassion for her, wondering what her life must have been like to produce so much anger. But, on the other hand I struggled to pray for her.  Honestly, I was taken aback by the way she had confronted me and although I knew I needed to love her and pray for her - getting that logic from my head to my heart did not come easy!

With each new day I was out there I would see her walk by.  It seemed every day she would take a walk down the sidewalk. But she would always be careful to cross the street or circle back behind PP and take the back alley to avoid walking by us. 
Every time I saw her, at least for the first few days, I would have this inward struggle in my mind. I didn't want to love her or pray for her. I dreaded seeing her cross the street and head our way. I was happy to point her out to my mom identifying her as the "pro-death" lady.  My heart was not right towards her in the slightest.  
I finally had this thought come to mind - that I had once been in her shoes. That I had rejected One who loved me and that I was wholly unworthy of any His love and mercy. I was reminded that even when I have been unlovable, Jesus's love is never ending and is poured out on me unreservedly. I was convicted about my cynical heart, and asked the Lord to give me a heart of love and compassion for her - the same love He gives to me.  
Eventually, I started to see her differently. I realized that she probably had a very difficult life especially without the hope of Christ.  Every day I would smile and hope she would look in my direction or come back so I could talk to her.  And every time I would pray for her; that she would have a change of heart and that she would see Christ's love in us on the street. I prayed He would draw her to Himself and ultimately save her soul. 

Well, it had been about 29 days when my brother Kyle, myself and one other sweet lady were out praying on Thursday afternoon (3/30). I was a little tired so made myself comfortable sitting on the wooden planter box on the Yew. St. sidewalk. I looked up once and happened to see her across the street. I watched her as she crossed over and walked nearby me and down the alley behind PP. Nothing out of the ordinary.  
A little while later she came back - this time walking right by my brother Kyle on Main st.  She stopped and said a few words to him, turned the corner and said a few words to the other lady, and then came walking towards me. My first thought was, "Lord help me love her and give me the words to say!" As she came close I smiled and said a warm hello. She smiled right back and said, "hello sweetheart!"  and continued to walk past me. 
"Whoa!" I thought. " What in the world happened to her!??" 
As she walked by I wished her a good rest of her day, and she did the same and even said, "Stay warm!" 

I was totally surprised, and walked over to my brother and the other lady to ask what she had said to them. 
Kyle said she had very nicely thanked him for being out there, saying that she was praying and that her daughter worked inside PP.  And our other sweet prayer warrior said that as she passed, she almost ran into her (she had been looking down, praying and walking down the sidewalk) But, as the older lady passed she kindly said something like, "Oh you're fine sweetie, no problem!" 

Wow! Either she's bipolar...or God is softening her heart! I can't help but think that as she's seen our commitment and our peacefulness every day she passes by us, it's changed her view of pro-life advocates.  I KNOW our prayers for her have not been in vain, and I hope and pray she will come to know the Lord as her savior and experience the abundant life found in Him alone.  
I was so encouraged by that! I had had a rough morning that day, and honestly had felt quite discouraged and weary. I had prayed that the Lord would encourage me in some small way as I sat there. And as He's so faithfully done in so many ways and to so many of ya'll, He answered my prayer right away.  It's so amazing looking back now... thinking that He sent her of all people! The very lady who had been so hard for me to love and have compassion for. He sent her to encourage my heart that day. Wow, God is so good!
Please keep praying for her salvation. It sure would be neat if God allowed another divine appointment where one of us could share the good news and love of Christ with her!

Ok, testimony number two! This one started that same morning of Thursday (3/30). Valerie and Victoria had gone out to PP to cover several hours that morning. They were about an hour and a half into their time when a man walked across the street and headed their direction. 
He stopped at them and immediately began shouting and cursing at them. This was by far the worst confrontation any of us had ever had since he probably used about every foul word there is in the English language (My sister Valerie said later that she didn't really know what most of what he said even meant, so I guess in one way that was good.) 
Valerie tried to reply now and then but he didn't seem to want any discussion. So my sisters both just stood and took it. They demonstrated their kindness and Christ-likeness to him with gentleness.  Just like Peter encourages us; when we are reviled, we do not revile in return. When we are persecuted we endure it with patience. We are to follow Jesus's example. They were living their faith that morning, as difficult as it was. 
Afterwards, Victoria called home in tears to tell us about what happened. Poor thing was so shaken-up and bothered! Valerie was also shaken, but amazingly managed to hold herself together. They told me later that as soon as he left they prayed for Him. Wow.  

Well, about an hour later he came back. This time Rich and Janet were there praying too. He stopped at them and behaved just like he had with my sisters.  Rich handled himself SO well and eventually was able to ask the man to give him a few minutes to answer his questions and assumptions. The man listened - but only for a little while. Rich was able to share some truth with him and mentioned that our family had adopted several children.  The man eventually left - still in a bit of a huff. 
(Thanks so much Rich and Janet!) 

Well, last Sunday (4/2) my whole family including the kids, plus two friends, went out to PP for a little while. After an hour or so, Valerie comes running around the corner announcing that the man was walking towards them on the opposite sidewalk.  
Sure enough, the same man came up to us, walked right past Kyle, Abe and Dad... and stopped at Valerie. 
He immediately said he came to apologize for his words and behavior and that he had been so wrong to speak to them like he had.  He asked for forgiveness. 
Oh my! I could see it in Valerie's body language that this came as quite a surprise. I was almost brought to tears as I saw her graciously forgive him and smile. 
He went on to say that he was having a hard day, and that he also was saddened and upset by his daughter who was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. 
He also said that he didn't fully agree with us, and that he thought abortion should be allowed for certain hard cases. My dad asked him to clarify what he meant, and listened to him as he mentioned incest for one. Dad then kindly offered him a card with more info, and briefly said that from the very words of women who have been sexually abused, abortion only makes it SO much worse. 
As my dad was sharing this the man was actually listening and was open to discussing it. His mind even seemed to change as he agreed that adding the death of the baby to the emotional trauma of sexual abuse would be devastating and pile insult upon injury.

Dad eventually asked for the man's name and the name of his daughter. We all introduced ourselves, and he even asked about the kids we had adopted since he remembered Rich's words. We pointed the kids out to him since they were there with us that day. 

Dad eventually asked if he could pray for his daughter right then, and the man said that would be great! So we gathered around him and prayed together. 
As the man left we all thanked him so much for coming out and talking more with us. He thanked us too and gave side hugs and hand-shakes as he walked away.


Who would have thought that only a few short days after Valerie and Victoria's experience, that we would be praying with that same man and have a such a peaceful and kind interaction with him!?  Praise the Lord! 

Such a transformation seems almost too good to be true. But, taking these interactions from face value, it sure is amazing seeing such a change!
Thank you all SO much for your prayers - they are powerful! 

"Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as LORD in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ, will be put to shame.. For Christ also died for sins, once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God..." 
(1 Peter 3:13-18 NASB) 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Where is the hope?

Today is one of my favorite days out at PP. Well, I guess I say that almost every day!  :-)  Love you all! 
But today is special because of Pastor Bill, John and Richard who faithfully come EVERY Tuesday morning and stay for 4 hours! 9am to 1pm they can be counted on to be there outside Planned Parenthood! 

These days we always have our fair share of conversation in between prayer and Pastor Bill has been so kind to share much of his life experience, advice and answers to Theological questions with me! I love this opportunity to learn from him as well as get to know him and my other brothers in the Lord! 

His example today was especially neat and encouraging for me to be apart of and witness, and I wanted to try and write it out to document it. :-) 

Many times when approached by people, I'm quite unsure of what is the best way to interact and respond.  Some folks need real facts and answers in a quick and engaging way.  Some folks just need an ear that will listen and a prayer offered.  Being able to watch my dad, Pastor Bill, Pastor Dean and so many others interact with people is such a great opportunity - and whether they know it or not they are training and disciple-ing me and all who are blessed to watch-and-learn! This spring chicken is still "learning the ropes" and I'm so thankful for my "elder" and more experienced brothers and sisters!

Today was one of those awesome opportunities, and God taught me a few things too. :)

About half-way through our time at PP a blue mini van parked across the street at the auto parts store.  Out stepped a mid to late 50's man with a big ole' Duck Dynasty beard, long hair, and a fair share of mud on his pants/shirt - pretty much the poster child for a mountain man look. :-) 

I commented to Pastor Bill as the man walked across the street to meet us, "This should be interesting!" 

Immediately the man launched into about a 15 min. monologue about the evils and unfairness of child support that is "slammed" upon the children's fathers when their wives divorce them. 

I tried my best to follow along his lengthy story but I admit, my first thoughts were, "so...what does this have to do with praying to end abortion?"  I was quite confused to say the least.  :-) 

Thankfully, Pastor Bill led by example and kindly and compassionately listened to this man. (I had to keep biting my tongue, but was SO thankful to let Pastor Bill lead and have his example to follow)  Occasionally Pastor Bill would ask a question to clarify, or make a comment to let the man know he was listening. And he always had such a spirit of love, gentleness and care for him, even when our friend was less-than-respectful at times in his words and actions.
 As our friend continued to monologue about the unfairness of child support, Pastor Bill commented with gentleness and in a non-confrontational way something like, "is it better to take the child's life, than pay child support?

Our friend immediately said no. But continued to monologue. :-) 

As the man continued, it became pretty clear he had suffered a very difficult life, laced with much dis-function, betrayal and divorce. (I'm unsure how much was true, but Pastor Bill gently pointed out to me afterwards that it's not up to us to judge his story or even believe it, but just listen.)
In all this confusion, the point that I gathered from what had been said so far was that the man was hurting and angry because of the way his life had gone and he was searching for some glimpse of hope in all of it. 

Eventually, the man came up for air and Pastor Bill was able to gently share some hope with him. He agreed and understood that this life on earth can be very brutal, unfair and messed-up. He understood that life is filled with brokenness and difficult situations because of hurting and hopeless and sometimes even cruel people. He shared that we are out here to pray for people in all of these broken and difficult situations and circumstances, and that we are concerned for their well being. 

And then he shared that the only hope we have to cling to in this life, the very hope that helps us and guides us through the difficulties of life, is Jesus Christ. 

Pastor Bill then asked our friend if he would like to pray with him. 

This seemed to be exactly what our friend was looking for. With eagerness he immediately said he would like that. P. Bill asked for his name, they shook hands, and then prayed a simple yet powerful prayer for him.  

Afterwards, we genuinely thanked our friend for having the courage to come speak with us and share his side of the story. I told him with a chuckle that I was so thankful that he didn't simply drive by and shout at us, or give us the 1 finger wave, but that he was willing to take the time to communicate with us. 

We continued to stand for a few seconds, and I was expecting any minute for him to go back across the street since it seemed he had calmed down and said all he thought he needed to say. 

I was quite wrong - apparently he had more he wanted to share. 

Because of our gentleness and love expressed for him; he was able to actually open up about what was truly bothering him. 

 Paying for child support wasn't the source of the pain and anger, or even why he came out.  Abortion was. And he finally felt comfortable enough to talk about it. 

He had been affected by the tragedy of abortion in his own family. His first wife (now ex) had been abused by her father. He had driven his girlfriend (now ex wife) to the abortion clinic years ago.

It all began to make sense. I finally understood why he had come out to talk with us and why he had spent the first 15 minutes trying to justify abortion by the tragic stories he had told. 

More than anything he had been trying to convince himself, not us, that abortion was ok. 
Although he wouldn't admit it, I know he was hurting and had felt convicted as he drove by us this morning.
We continued to gently listen to our friend, offering some "uh huh"s, "that's terrible", "so sorry"s and questions now and then.  The only words I could choke out to say to him after he told of his first wife's abortion was, "I'm so sorry." 

At this point the woman he had with him in the car got out and yelled across the street to hurry up or she'd be late for her appointment. We chuckled with him, and thanked him again for taking the time to share his side of the story with us. 

As he left, I told him that no one is ever beyond the reach of God's grace and that Jesus loves him. He waved and smiled at us as he drove off. 

We hope and pray that God will work in His heart and water those seeds. Although we didn't say much, at least the man now knows there are Christians that truly love and care about Him in the name of Christ. Perhaps God will use it in his life to reach him and draw Him into a relationship with the Lord. 

Up until the past couple days when I've had the opportunity to meet a few post-abortive men, I never really knew the scars that men deal with from abortion. I knew it hurt  and affected women, but I hadn't given much thought to how it affected men up until then. 
Not only does abortion emotionally and psychologically scar women for life, it also affects men almost just as painfully. Pastor Bill pointed out to me later that the pain parents experience losing a child is the same - no matter if it was miscarried or aborted, or even if the child was born and passed away from an illness or accident. Parents should never have to bury their child, no matter the age or circumstance. 

However the pain of an abortion is even more intense because it was not an accident or illness, but a deliberate choice. The parents not only deal with the grief of their dead child, but also deal with the intense guilt of taking their child's life.  
Over 80% of post-abortive women feel "self-hatred." 
According to this study; complications of suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol abuse, PTSD, eating disorders, increased smoking, divorce and broken relationships, repeat abortions, sexual dysfunction, and child abuse become more prevalent in men and women who have experienced the tragedy of abortion. 

Pastor Bill said he's counseled MANY post-abortive parents and said it's one of the most difficult things to work through. 

It's such a lie from the Enemy that abortion will make everything better! I've read so many stories from Silent No More Awareness and they all say, "abortion doesn't fix anything, it just makes me a parent of a dead baby."
  Such a tragedy.  But there is HOPE in Christ! 

Pastor Bill and I talked about it afterwards and it was really neat hearing his thoughts on the interaction and what he had felt the Lord leading him to do and say. 

I admit, when I'm confronted in that way by a man who is less-than respectful in his words and actions - I immediately put up walls and launch into "defense mode." I honestly was running through a list of pro-life arguments for the first 10 minutes. I wasn't really listening cause I was too busy coming up with responses and judging if his story was true or not! :-) 

But watching Pastor Bill gently and genuinely listen really struck me.  Plus, the words of a friend of mine that I've been learning from were running through my mind, "I have experienced more favor with opposing people when I listened first and then spoke second.  They seemed to care about what I'm saying when I'm not speaking "down" to them. 

I realized then that this man was not "attacking" but was simply trying to justify himself.  He was hurting and he needed to know that we cared for him, and even more importantly that Jesus forgave Him and loves him.  

I tried to openly listen from then on and allow the Lord to lead. 

I and Pastor Bill both felt we could have said more, or even tried a more evangelistic approach to show him his need for a Savior and share the good news. But we both came to the conclusion that in this instance just listening and showing our love and compassion for him, as well as praying for him was what he really needed and wanted. 

It taught me a lot about myself and about real-life. Being so young and inexperienced, I honestly haven't been exposed to the dysfunction and evil of our culture all that much. I haven't experienced the pain of losing a child. I haven't ever been in a situation when I truly felt hopeless or desperate.

I think those who are so openly supporting abortion are the ones who have been hurt the most by it. I learned that I must be SO careful and gentle with how I interact with pro-choice advocates. Listening to their stories and backgrounds is so important to understand where they are coming from and what would be most helpful for them to hear or not to hear. 

I'm SO grateful for all these opportunities to grow and learn! Even if we don't see a life saved, 40 Days for Life has given us all such an opportunity to grow. And God's been teaching us about His heart for the unborn and the lost - and showing us amazing glimpses of His power and grace! Praise the Lord - great things He has done! 

John, Richard and Pastor Bill
Other than that interaction, I had a good conversation with the 3 owners of the auto parts store as well!
They've been kind enough to let us use their restroom, and so I go in every now and then to use their facilities and try to make a little small talk too. 

Well this time one of the owners eluded to his viewpoint by saying something like, "I appreciate the way you do this, but you can't really understand what it's like to be in that situation if you haven't been abused."
I agreed with him that we will probably never understand just how difficult those types of situations are and that my heart goes out to women in such crisis. It also gave me a brief opportunity to share the very words and stories of sexually abused women - that abortion only makes it twice as painful and tragic. And that raising their child helped them heal as they experienced the joy of bringing a precious, beautiful life into their lives out of something so tragic. We talked a little more until a customer walked in. :-) I thought it was a neat opportunity! 
It was interesting, as I was washing my hands in the restroom before I had even talked to them much, I felt like God was leading me to make a point of speaking with them as I left. Turned out to be a neat opportunity! God is good! 
There was also a young man and lady that parked at PP and walked up to the clinic. It's closed on Tuesdays, and so I walked over and let them know they were closed. I wish I had pointed them over to Possibilities!  But for some reason that thought didn't cross my mind just then. :-(  They thanked me though, and I think having even such a brief interaction let them know we care about them. :-) 
And the really neat thing was that a special friend Phil, the chiropractor who works about 2-3 blocks down the street, brought us pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch!  It made P. Bill, John, Richard and I so happy!  He also brought some more amazing dark chocolate for us to share too.  What a kind blessing that was!  Thank you Phil! 

Well, that about sums up the highlights of today! God is so good! 

Monday, March 27, 2017

How good is the God we adore - Day 27

One of the many amazing blessings of leading 40 Days for Life is the opportunity to meet SO many wonderful, Christ-like and selfless fellow believers. It's almost a touch of heaven to meet so many new brothers and sisters - all with testimonies of God's faithfulness and goodness to share.  All fully devoted to our Lord and Savior!

How amazing it has been to see those who love the unborn and their mothers so much that they are willing to step outside of their comfort zones and into the storm - literally, spiritually and emotionally. :-)   Not only are these amazing folks willing to give of their time in prayer at home, but many have braved the frigid cold, the downpours, the snow and the wind to stand outside Planned Parenthood. They've stood fast, despite being reviled and ridiculed by the angry and hurting people driving or walking by.  They've come out even when they don't feel like it.  Broken toes and dialysis won't stop a couple of you!!  (Laurie and Carl - thank you!!)  

In dwelling on all of you inspiring people - it struck me the other day... 

Why do we do all this?  Or maybe, why CAN we do this?  

Why CAN we love other people SO much - most of whom we've never met?  Why can we love them enough to give of our time and our comfort to pray for them and stand-up for them? How CAN we love this way - returning kindness and compassion for ridicule and anger?

More personally - WHY can a naturally self-centered and comfort loving person like myself feel an overwhelming love and compassion for a blue-haired - nose pierced - backwards baseball cap teenage boy who walks out of PP and hands me a little pink sticker with the words "I STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD." 

WHY do I love this boy, and his girlfriend, enough to shed tears the entire 45 min. drive home; fervently praying for their salvation and well being?  I couldn't get them out of my mind.  My nose was running so much I started running out of dry arm space to rub it on. ;)  I squinted hard trying to see through my teardrop covered glasses, sometimes driving by "braille" as my dad likes to call it. 
Why do I care about them?  Why do you care?

The only answer - the only reason why is because our Savior did the very same for me - and for you. 
Only His sacrifice was far more astounding. 

Even when He was reviled; He did not revile in return.  Even while He was suffering; He uttered no threats.  Even though He was abandoned by all; He never abandoned them in return.  Even though He was unjustly judged and persecuted; He graciously forgave His persecutors. The Holy One who knew NO sin; bore the very thing He abhors - our sin - in HIS body.  He payed the penalty that only I deserved to pay. 

And He did all this for what reason?
So that we might DIE to sin, and LIVE to righteousness. 
By His wounds we are healed.

"For what credit is there, if when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right, and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 
 For you have been called for this purpose; since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to the God who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." (1 Peter 2:20-24)

Because of His sacrifice - we are free to serve. We are free from sin's power and penalty, and one day we will be free from it's presence. We are called for this purpose - to love and live by His example.

My new friend; blue haired - nose pierced - backwards baseball cap and all, needs Jesus.  Just like I did.  Just like you did. Just like we all continue to need His grace. 

I wrote his name on the back of that little pink sticker, as a reminder to always pray for him and his precious petite girlfriend. 

The amazing thing is; God wants to use us to reach him, his girlfriend and people just like them.  Isn't it amazing that God CHOOSES to use our prayers for His purposes? 

This poem was given to me by a dear friend whom I've had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know through 40 Days for Life. Mr. Taylor and His wife are one of the sweetest most Christ-like people I've ever met - and he recited this poem one rainy afternoon to me as we stood at PP.  I will forever cherish it! 
It goes like this: 

How good is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable friend.
Whose love is as great as His power, 
And knows neither measure nor end.

'Tis Jesus, the first and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home
We'll thank Him for all that is past,
And trust Him for all that's to come. 

And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him for all that's to come. 

Each of you have experienced the goodness of the God we adore - our faithful, unchangeable Friend. May we continue to thank Him for all that is past - and trust Him for all that's to come! 


Now for some pictures from the past couple weeks!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amazing Divine Appointments

divine apointment n. An apparently coincidental encounter or event that has actually been caused by God for a specific purpose. This purpose may be obvious during the encounter or may become apparent only sometime later.*  

In big and small ways - God's sovereignty has been displayed the past 25 days, and it's been so neat to see!  One of those particular ways is how He so precisely arranges conversations with the right people at the right time at PP.  He knows EXACTLY who needs to be there at PP during that exact moment when a specific question or comment is raised from drivers or people passing by! Thank you Lord!

Here are a few examples!

One cloudy afternoon my dad was out alone praying at PP.  He was holding a 40 Days for Life sign (pray to end abortion) and also had a yard sign stuck in the ground around the corner.  A youngish man walked past him and turned the corner, then stopped at the yard sign and began reading it.  He stood there for quite a while looking at it, rubbing his chin and contemplating something to say. He continued to stand there, as if he wanted dad to notice him.  Well, knowing my dad, he wasn't going to let a possible opportunity to talk pass him by!! :-) Dad walked over and said something to him about the weather to open up any conversation if the man wanted to talk.  The man responded, "Well I have 1 question for you... how many have YOU adopted?"  My dad smiled and replied kindly, "Well we've adopted four! about you?"  :-)  You could see the wind fall out of the man's sails as he brought up another common pro-abortion point. My dad continued to have a great conversation with him - all with gentleness and respect as 1 Peter 3:15 tells us. What are the chances that that man would walk by at the moment my dad was there - one who had personally adopted children and was prepared to answer his first objection! Praise God for His wisdom!

Another example was one of my mom that I mentioned awhile back in a post.  My mom is so amazing with the kids, and most of the time is "holding down the fort" at home.  So the times she is able to join us at PP are sometimes few and far between - as much as she would like to be out there more!!  Well she "happened" to be standing there on the street corner at EXACTLY the right moment and in EXACTLY the perfect position for a driver who stopped at the red light on Yew. St.  The couple rolled down the side window and the passenger asked, "What about the 'crack' babies?"  (Meaning the babies exposed to drugs in utero) To which my mom responded with a smile, "Well, we have four of them in our home.  Just because they may be affected by drugs gives no reason to take their lives."  The passenger thought for a second, and then genuinely thanked mom as she rolled up her window. The driver nodded his head in agreement too! What are the chances that mom would be there at that exact moment, in the perfect spot, with the personal experience to answer the question of a couple that just "happened" to drive by at that moment!!

We had another really neat one happen just yesterday (Friday 3/24).  Mr. Emmerson was standing in about the same place as my mom and had a man ask him a similar question. Only this time the question was regarding special needs babies. The man said someone he knew had a baby in utero that had been diagnosed with Spina Bifida. He said that because the quality of life would be diminished for the baby, the doctors recommended abortion. What a difficult and scary situation this must have been for the parents to wrestle with.  Amazingly, Mr Emmerson replied, "well, it's quite interesting you would ask, because I have a sister with Spina Bifida." (Wow!)  Mr. Emmerson was able to share about his sister, and that all life is valuable, precious and worth preserving no matter the circumstances. All in a very gentle, understanding and engaging way!  I'm not exactly certain how the conversation ended, but from what I heard sounds like the conversation ended well. Praise the Lord!
 What are the chances that God would bring that man, with that question, to Mr Emmerson - who just "happened" to have a sister with Spina Bifida- and not one of the other 5-6 people that were there at PP at that time! God is good!

"Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are His." (Daniel 2:20)

*Source: dictionaryofchristianese