Someone close to me — a person I have come to care about and admire — recently wrote me a note about why he voted for Trump. He could not, he said, in good conscience vote for Hillary with her stance on abortion.
I get that and I don’t. My dislike and distrust of Donald J. Trump runs deep and cannot be shaken. No amount of arguing from the other side can or will change my mind.
I have great nephews and nieces, sisters and brothers who share his same mindset. To me it is mind-boggling that they can listen to this freak of a president bluster his way through meetings, talk gibberish and create havoc with the nation and still defend him.
Yet, when I think about it, my friend’s distrust and disgust of Hillary no doubt runs as deep as mine is for Trump. So, I must give him as well as the many others I know who lean in the opposite direction of me politically some slack.
That slack has been slow in coming. But it is coming. I sense it coming around the bend. My heart is softening and though my convictions have not changed, I want to make peace.
This whole division in the country has reminded me on numerous occasions of the Civil War. Fathers and sons fought on different sides. Mothers saw their children turn against each other because of politics. And though I can sit here and say one side was definitely right and the other wrong, that didn’t make it any easier for a mother to see her family fall apart. The fact that both sides felt so deeply that they were willing to die for their beliefs hits me hard.
How do we make it through this?
This morning as I was accompanying my poodle who refuses to walk on a leash on the quiet streets of Cuenca, I got to thinking about this great divide between those who call themselves pro-life and others who opt for pro-choice. Those who defend the right of the unborn and those who defend the right of women to weigh in on what is best for them and the unborn.
I got to thinking about the miscarriage I had when I was 20.
In college, my rebellion took the form of sexual activity. I was far away from the rules and regulations established by my fundamentalist parents. It was in the late 60s, early 70s and rebellion was rampant, even on a Christian college campus. Rule-breaking was in the air and I was bound and determined to do my own thing. I avoided alcohol and drugs. I swore some and enjoyed sex.
I wasn’t promiscuous in the sense of multiple partners. Not at all. But I fell head over heels in love with someone who I was sure would be my husband one day. Because I was a Thornton, I would not use birth control. I had a mixed up notion that God would not let me get pregnant because of who my father was and what he did for God’s kingdom on earth. Talk about twisted up theology and irresponsibility.
My life centered around D. and my soul connected with his and I felt we were one. I breathed him. I would begin my prayers to God (oh yes, I stayed connected with the deity I was rebelling against) and, instead, say D. My world had shrunk to the size of this one young man and nothing could shake me– not even his frequent attempts to break up with me or hurt me.
I look back now and see a girl who had no self-confidence, no idea of what she was worth or who she was. I see a lonely, empty young woman who was desperate to be loved and eager to please. I feel her pain and tears still flood my eyes. I was in love and not ready for it. I was addicted to a young man who did not know how to handle it. But I was smitten. My soul intertwined with his and I was stuck.
The summer between my junior and senior year I had a miscarriage. I lived alone in a small apartment on the second floor of a white frame house. The hot Arkansas summers made my garrett an oven. No a/c and most evenings, the air didn’t move. The heat soaked everything. I worked as a cook in the local hospital and would ride my bike to work at 5:00 every morning. I’d tumble out of bed, put on my white uniform and saddle oxford shoes, climb on my borrowed bike and pedal a mile or two to the hospital. One morning as I was careening down a steep hill in the middle of town, I got an intense craving for lima beans.
I hated lima beans. Could not, would not eat them, even if it meant sitting longer at my dad’s table until I cleaned my plate. Yet here I was, flying through the pre-dawn streets, wind whipping my long hair and tears stinging my eyes, longing for a bowl of buttered lima beans. Something was off.
I missed one period, then two. By the third month I was beginning to wonder if I was pregnant. I wasn’t alarmed as I wanted a baby. I wanted to get married and begin a family. D., however, did not. He had made it clear that should I get pregnant, the baby was not his.
The summer was drawing to a close and one morning I woke up to excruciating pain and a great deal of bleeding. I didn’t go to a doctor. I didn’t seek medical help. I stayed in my apartment and let the pain continue. Later, I passed a great deal of blood and clotting. I didn’t have an official diagnosis, but I knew.
I had miscarried. The baby was no more.
I was sad but not bereft. Part of me knew this was for the best. But 45 years later I can still remember that day with such clarity and I think of the child that might have been. With passing years, I have thought he/she would have been 15…25…40. I might have been a grandmother by now. At times I have shed tears of the things that might have been. For years I felt I had lost out on an important part of life. I felt abandoned by God. Punished by God. But never did I stop believing in God.
God and I have had an intense relationship through my 65 years on earth. Love/hate. A boxing match. Sparring. Jacob wrestling with Jahwah didn’t have anything on me. I have screamed at my creator and I have asked forgiveness. I have struggled with expectations put on me by others and found relief in being myself with the one I believe knows me best of all.
My miscarriage when I was 20 set me on a path of seeking out who my God is. Not my parents. Not the univeristy’s. Not my friends. I went back to square one and wondered if I believed at all. Over time, I knew I did. Brilliant friends who believe there is no God were not a problem. I knew what I believed at the most basic level. My core was solid and that was enough for me. From that position I started to test. I can’t quote scripture and verse, the one statement in the Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
I began tasting. And testing. Every step of the way. I was in conflict many many years about so many things. But without fail, I would come up against something I had been taught was gospel and absolute truth and I would see that grace was there, in abundance.
Grace. So many Christians fail to understand the immense gift that is to us. Nothing we can do or say prevents God from showering God’s grace on us. Nothing. Not being irresponsible with money. Nor going through life without goals and discipline. Nor having sex without protection. Or having sex when the time isn’t right. Not pushing the limits on virtually every aspect of your life, not because you want to but because that is how you are made and no other way fits.
I have been that person. I have made so many mistakes and been so irresponsible at times but never once have I not felt the presence of God in my life. I have without fail experienced grace time after time. Sure there have been consequences and I’ve had to work things out, but God’s amazing grace has enveloped me through everything. Not one day, one decision, one event has exceeded God’s peace and gracious presence in my life.
So what does that have to do with my friend and his belief about abortion.
As I aged and grew more and more alone, I sometimes wept that I would have no children. That my life would end without passing on some of the rich things given me by my mom and dad. That my limited influence on earth would cease with my last breathe. One night I talked with my mom about this and cried. She listened and tried to assure me that all was as it should be. She cared. She had no words.
A decade or so passed and I met David. We married (I as 50, he was 57) and began the difficult adjustment two people have when both have been single for most of their adult lives.
In February 2005, almost two years to the day after we married, when we were too old to be considered for adoption by most agencies, David and I became parents of Katherine Marida Vander Plaats. We were chosen by a teenager girl and her grandmother to be parents to the child they could not care for. We were fortunate to be present at her delivery and when she was one day old we took her home with us.
And thus began the roller-coaster ride of parenting this headstrong, amazing little girl.
And this is what I’ve discovered and believe with all my heart. That beautiful, brown-skinned, curly-haired baby girl was the one I had lost twenty-so years ago. That beginning of life I felt inside of me when I was 20 years old had come too early. God’s timing was later…much later. Katherine was conceived by another young woman but delivered into my hands for life.
I see daily how similar Katherine and I are. How she says and does things so much like me I marvel and smile at the surprise God has given me. She came into this world with some of the gifts of my mom, with some of my gifts as well. She is mine. David’s too, of course, but even he sees the similarities.
God’s timing, God’s plan for people is not limited by anyone’s schedule, actions, decisions. I truly believe God brings to pass what is best for all when it is best for all. And though humans make mistakes, make bad judgements, get lost and lose their way–God ultimately makes all things right.
No one knows what is going on with someone else. No one knows what the future holds for the unborn and for the one making critical decisions. I know without a doubt — and others can call me crazy all they want — God will bring to pass whatever God wants to come to pass.
That means a fetus in utero may arrive at another time.
That means a woman who cannot see how she can give birth to the life inside her is not the ultimate decider in whether or not that spirit will live.
The God I believe in and entrust my life to is fully capable of creating all things new at any and all times.
Whoa boy, I can imagine the response I get from this (that is should anyone find their way to my blog) And that is fine.
I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that God is able…
to create life, restore life and allow it to flourish in the right time
to mend broken spirits and restore hope
to infuse peace in an atmosphere of hate.