Stalker Saga

I write this blog not to preach or because I have all the answers – I do it to try to process and figure out my life. And I assume some others might be dealing with the same kinds of things, and I could possibly be an encouragement. However, in this case, I believe I do also have some serious advice to give. I will save that for the end.

Here is a bit of background to catch you up to our latest trial (literally). In what seemed to some as a bold and even irresponsible move, we relocated our family across the country five years ago, wanting a new life; in particular, longing for community and closeness after being nearly isolated for many years. We had always wanted to be a part of a particular small church denomination, so we chose an area that had one.

Image result for fresh startFor over a year after our move, we thought we had found what we were looking for. Our family laughed and partied with other families, I confided in dear friends, and when we had a personal tragedy, we were surrounded with love and care. We thought this was it. God had clearly brought us here to bless and comfort us with these wonderful people. Of course there were issues. When people are close, you can’t help but have conflicts. (We had avoided those in the past by moving around a lot and just never forming true attachments to people.) However, we committed to love each other and work it out, just as you do with family. And we truly did consider this church our family. So, we resolved to get issues talked out and taken care of.

But there was one problem that just wouldn’t go away. There was a single man at church (with Asperger’s) who was paying way too much attention to my teenage daughter and me. This included standing too close, expected hugs, intense staring, gushing compliments, gifts, heartfelt cards, showing up at our home without being invited, spending hours commenting on FB photos, photographing, and filming. We didn’t think we were in actual danger – we were “just” uncomfortable, we didn’t want to want to hurt feelings, we didn’t want to make assumptions, we didn’t want to cause trouble, we didn’t want to mess up this glorious new life God had given us. And we really did care about this man and his family. We did not want to hurt his reputation, so we kept this to ourselves. We tried hinting, separating, avoiding, guarding, instructing, and finally asking for help from those in authority. This man would back off for a while, but always came around to start up again. After 3.5 years of not seeing any progress, we left our beloved church with broken hearts. Although we were sorrowful, we were thankful to be free of this man and looking forward to moving on. But three weeks later when he showed up at my daughter’s play (about which he should not have known and which was 50 miles away from his home), we were met with the realization that this was not over.

I promptly went on Facebook with a vague post asking what we should do about a stalker. I immediately received so much advice and support. On that advice, we went to court to ask for restraining orders against him for both my daughter and myself.

Here are some details of how the hearing went. We could not afford to hire a lawyer, but we had a friend who had been advising us via FB and telephone. We were under the impression that since I filed on behalf of our daughter, age 17, I would be questioning the witnesses that pertained to her. However, once the hearing began, we found out that she was in charge of her own prosecution. And that even if she had been five years old, that would have been the case! I had stacks of notes, but they would not let her use them. I could not advise her or nudge her or even look at her. She is terribly shy and was terrified of being in court, so I thought we were doomed. I just prayed that she would know what to do, and the Lord was with her and gave her the words to say, with confidence and boldness. I am still utterly amazed at what she accomplished in that courtroom.Image result for Luke 12:11-12 esv

However, the respondent had a lawyer, so obviously they had the advantage. They never missed an opportunity to object to things we did; so much so that I became afraid to say anything at all. The defense was the Asperger’s, as well as the size of the church. Even though this man was told on multiple occasions by the church leaders, my husband, and myself to stay away from us, in email and in person, the lawyer argued that that was not clear to him and that he is just naturally affectionate. Also, every time we would complain that he stood too close or sought us out at church or events, the defense was that the church was so small that he could not avoid us. (Funny how all the other men in the church managed to behave toward us in a socially appropriate way… )

The hearing went on for three grueling hours. I had been told by our lawyer friend that crying would be to our advantage, but I was just so angry I couldn’t. My daughter and I both argued passionately for our case. However, in the end, the judge said that we had not proven willfulness or malicious intent, due to the presence of Asperger’s. He talked about how he completely understood how we felt and that we had made the right decision in leaving the church. He said he agreed that we had been between a rock and a hard place, feeling like we would be shamed or admonished (which we were) if we had refused the respondent’s advances. He affirmed that the play incident was clearly stalking, but that the other things we brought up could be “explained away.” In the end, he basically gave the respondent a verbal restraining order. He repeatedly went through all the places and situations that he could think of that the respondent is not allowed to go to. He sternly admonished this man to forget that our family ever existed.

I left disappointed in the verdict but also relieved – and overwhelmed by the huge answers to prayer that we had just received! It was over and this man was firmly warned in court to leave us alone. He should be sufficiently scared off. At least for a while.

During the past few months, I took to nervously chewing on and picking at my hangnails so much that they were constantly infected and I had band-aids all over my fingers. I noticed my jaw was continually clenched. My husband was getting 1-3 hours of sleep at night the week of the hearing. My daughter had a big bloody chewed up spot on her lip the day of the hearing. I remarked when we got home afterward that I hadn’t been that tired since giving birth. However, I had trouble sleeping that night (over two weeks ago now), going over and over in my mind what I should have said and when. As time has gone on, the replays in my mind have lessened, but I still can’t sleep well and have many nightmares.

Besides being utterly consumed and distressed by what all going to court entails – entering a completely new legal world, wondering if we should spend the money on a lawyer, worrying about being counter-sued, fearing for our safety – we also had the sorrow and shock of losing almost all of whom we thought were our closest friends,

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whom we thought would stick with us forever. When we moved here five years ago, we had been looking for a family. People to “do life” with. Instead we were accused of being paranoid and unkind and dishonest. We were yelled at and placed under church discipline. We lost what we came here for. We lost what we thought God had brought us here for.

So, after moving around for years, and thinking we were finally settled, we find ourselves having to start all over again. It’s hard. We were burned. Severely. We find ourselves delighted and encouraged by the new friends we are making, but always on the lookout, wondering what disaster will befall us in the next few years.

However, the Lord is certainly carrying us through this ordeal. While it surely hasn’t been easy, he is giving us what we need:

  1. We quickly found that when we started asking people about this problem, virtually everyone immediately saw the issue as we did. We received support, advice, reassurance, care, and most importantly, many prayers. Besides “regular” people, we had input and encouragement from many with credentials:

-Three teachers

-A pastor

-Two security guards

-A former police officer

-Two self-defense experts

-Two counselors

-A lawyer

-Three former stalking victims

-A social worker

We heard over and over again:

-Trust your instincts.

-Protecting your family does not make you a bad Christian.

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-Just because this man hasn’t been violent in the past doesn’t mean he won’t be in the future.

-What you describe is clearly stalking.

-There is a reason you are worried; don’t discount it.

-This behavior is not to be ignored.

-People with Asperger’s can follow instructions.

So we thank God for the blessing of validation (Proverbs 17:17, I Cor. 16:13, Gal. 6:9, Psalm 103:6).

                                 (Note – In this post, I am imitating the style of another encouraging blog post that I recently read.)

2. We have seen the “coincidence” that so many pertinent articles and videos have come across my FB newsfeed just when we’ve been needing encouragement and counsel.

So we thank God for his wise and compassionate use of social media (Romans 8:28, Romans 11:36).

3. I want to emphasize that neither my daughter nor I was ever physically harmed or violated. I have come to see this difficult time in our lives as a gracious lesson and warning for us. Having never dealt with crime or abuse in any way, and by nature not being a worrier, I have just never been concerned about things like this. Understanding the reality that these things happen, yes. Sympathetic to others, of course. But in denial that something like this would happen to us. I was too trusting. And who knows what will happen in our daughters’ lives as they mature and move out from under our safekeeping. This ordeal may someday be used to spare them from something much worse. Now they will know the warning signs and quickly act to get help or remove themselves from the situation.

So we thank God for kindly teaching us to be more wary, while at the same time protecting us from true harm (Proverbs 25:26, Luke 22:36).

4. We have a friend who said she was up for hours one night praying that we would have a good graduation day and not be bogged down by this. (We did! I honestly hardly gave it a thought, even though I had been utterly consumed the day before.) We have an Image result for caring for othersacquaintance who dreamed that she was supposed to protect our daughter, so she committed to continually pray for her safekeeping. Someone we just met at our new church offered to be an escort for our daughter whenever and wherever she needs it. Old friends with whom we had lost contact have come out of the woodwork and offered to give testimony in court. My mother came to visit for a week while we were in the midst of all this, and quietly took care of the house and helped our kids with school, while I was consumed with court papers and legal issues and tracking down witnesses. Most strikingly, a FB college acquaintance (now good friend!) of ours who just so happens to be a lawyer took time out of his busy schedule to patiently and kindly assist us with all the new legal concepts we had to learn and helped us with strategy. He was quick to respond and instruct, always with sympathy and understanding. Oh, and did I mention that he helped us for free??

So we thank God for the blessing of his people. We have learned the hard lesson not to put our trust in man (Jeremiah 17:5), but also are receiving tangible godly encouragement through… what? Through the saints (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). As with so many things, there is a balance here that we are being taught to find.

5. Throughout this tribulation, I have said repeatedly that it seems that the Lord took the
Image result for pulpitleaders and others at our new church aside and whispered, “Psst. Here is what needs to happen to best minister to this family during this time.” Every sermon preached and Sunday school class taught and hymn sung during those first couple months seemed to be custom-made for us in our present situation. I was brought to tears multiple times at God’s provision in this way. I brought home stacks of notes, verses, and hymns to incorporate into my devotion time.

So we thank God for the blessing of his Church, as well as his good and wise providence. (Ephesians 2:19-22, Psalm 37, Luke 12:6-7.)

6. My daughter and I have been experiencing the deep comfort of a devoted husband and father. I have always felt confident that my husband would protect us if needed, but now we are privileged to see that vigilance lived out. Again, I don’t believe we have been in true bodily danger, but my husband is clearly on the lookout and is ready should that someday be the case. I feel deeply loved when I see him physically insert himself between us and this man and others when we have been forced to meet, and volunteer to speak with various authorities on our behalf.

So I thank God for a husband who is committed to his vows as a husband and father. (Psalm 103:13, Ephesians 5:25-28, 1 Timothy 5:8.)


  • If you find yourself in this kind of situation, please follow the counsel we wish we had received from the beginning. Trust your instincts! We can’t help but feel remorseful that we stayed in these distressing circumstances for so long. We wanted to be kind. We wanted to give the benefit of the doubt. We wanted to be good Christians. But the truth is that pressure was put on us (by others and ourselves) to go against our consciences. Image result for conscienceWe were not loving our family by repeatedly putting them in an unhealthy situation, and we were not loving this man by allowing him to behave badly toward us. I am profoundly grateful that the Lord kept us from any real harm, but we deeply regret not acting more decisively much sooner. If you are uncomfortable with someone’s actions toward you, he won’t listen to your requests that he stop, and you can’t get anyone to help you, just get out. Don’t draw things out and hope for the best. The more I read about this type of thing, the more I am learning that it only escalates. Move on with your life and trust that God has something better for you elsewhere.
  • That being said, remember that it’s not your fault. I worried over and over (and have been told) that I sent the wrong signals, I wasn’t clear, I was too nice, I overshared, etc. No. While I see that I behaved unwisely in the beginning (and I have learned my lesson!), that does not excuse this man’s inappropriate actions and outright refusal to submit to our wishes. I will again quote an excellent and recent blog post that is focused on a much more serious plight, but which can clearly be applied to any number of situations:

“The world we live in is a world full of sinners, ourselves included. When we are confronted with the grotesque sin of someone else, …, it is a temptation to blame yourself for what he did. He is responsible for what he did, and he alone is responsible for what he did. If you try to take any of that on yourself— ‘maybe I did do something to encourage it,’ etc. you are embracing vain speculation instead of sober reflection.”

  • I have no problem with men being the authority in the church. I support it. I also believe that the role of a husband and father is to protect his family. However, the court may not agree. If you find yourself or your child in a situation like this, the man needs to hear from you that he is expected to back off. And, likewise, have your daughter tell him to leave her alone. Image result for leave me alone
    And keep records that this was done. This may be extremely awkward, especially for a teenage girl, but it is important. We had a hard time in court because our daughter was not allowed to say that her father had spoken with the respondent on her behalf. That was considered hearsay. And both of us were mocked by the lawyer for not screaming and calling for help when he was around.
  • If you ever must go to court on behalf of your child, it is very likely that she will not have to prosecute her own case (from what I hear, our case was an exception), but you probably won’t know that until you get there. So prepare her. Practice over and over. Have her bring her own notes because you may not be allowed to share them with her.

I hope that you will rejoice with us in how the Lord is caring for us in this situation, and that our story will encourage those who might be prone to worry, that they might expect to see the Lord work in a similar way in their lives. I am so thankful to say that through all these means mentioned above, my fear is dissipating and I am feeling more restful in my outlook and expectations. God is good. And this time I will just go ahead and quote the previously mentioned blog post because it was said so beautifully:

“From the beginning of this trial, we were faced with one of the most difficult balancing acts that I know of. The first thing is to rest in God’s promises, trusting Him for answered prayer, and the second thing is to surrender the outcome completely. If all we do is say ‘thy will be done,’ this can be indistinguishable from a pagan stoicism. If all we do is claim God’s promises, without surrendering, what we are doing is trying to dictate to God. But holding the two together is a work of the Holy Spirit. The best I can figure out, the thing that indicates this balance is happening is that you carry the thing as a weight, not a worry. A weight must be carried, and it must be carried across the finish line. But it can be carried. A worry just chews you up and you can’t carry anything anywhere. And so we thank God for all His promises, and for the arms to hold them.”

I Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Psalm 100:5 – For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

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Strength and Dignity

Image result for bent over with griefMy (few) readers probably know that I lost a baby to an ectopic pregnancy on June 1, 2013. While I believe I am as pro-life as I can be, technically I had a medical abortion to “finish” the deadly work that had begun in the
tomb inside me. After the first few months of mind-numbing grief, I settled into the avoidance of thinking about it at all, due to the guilt and despair that would take over if I did let it in. With the help of the Lord, and his work through my dear husband, I believe I have gotten past most of that.

However, obviously this loss is still a source of sadness and emptiness for me. I terribly miss this child, and I miss having a body that produces life.

Usually when the anniversary of Roe v. Wade comes up, I simply try to let it go by my FB newsfeed without dwelling on it. But this year we had an unholy trinity: the inauguration of a vulgar president who up until five minutes ago was perfectly fine with every type of abortion (1/20), the proudly repulsive display of the Women’s March (1/21), and the bloody anniversary of Roe v. Wade (1/22). These all took place place 1-2 weeks before my own child would have been turning three, and the three of them together pushed me over the edge.

I have long lamented that I couldn’t have traded “situations” with one of these mothers demanding the (continued) right to kill her child. Why did God give me the anguish of losing my very much loved and wanted baby, while at the same time “inconveniencing” this other mother so much that she is willing and downright happy about murdering her child?

I am shocked and horrified by the disgusting displays I have seen, and bemused by my friends’ defenses or dismissals of them. These women (the same people, by the way, who insist that a man can actually be a woman if he merely feels like it) are downright obsessed with their reproductive organs. Didn’t feminists used to ask to be known and respected for their minds and accomplishments? I almost asked what Gloria Steinem would say, but that’s right, she was there. So I guess she’s OK with it.

And now they dress up as a vagina or a uterus. I know that many of them are doing so in an undignified protest against Donald Trump’s clear disrespect for women (Is a demand for respect make any sense at all when one is dressed as a vagina??), but there is another motivation at play, as well. Their purpose is not to take pride in the life-creating and sustaining roles these body parts possess, but to demand that if life should “happen” to show up there, they not only should have every right to snuff it out, but that I and others like me should have to pay for it and cheer them on while they do it.

From a quick Google search, it looks like women who have lost babies in various ways (ectopic, miscarriage, or stillbirth), together with women who suffer from infertility add up to about 30% of the female population. That’s a big number. I don’t claim to speak for all of them, but when I see private parts worn by women all over the country Image result for pregnancy lossas some sort of bizarrely defiant protest against babies, I mourn the fact that my own reproductive system betrayed me and brought me death instead of life. When I see our nation’s capital littered with maxi pads, I hurt for the women who have a monthly reminder that their wombs and arms are achingly empty. When I see a pregnant woman on camera matter-of-factly admitting that her cause is to call for the right of women to (continued to) murder their own, my heart aches and I want to take these babies home with me.

I am angry that this is becoming the face of womanhood in America. I am also angry that our new president seems to hold women in a place of derision. And I am angry that so many women have fallen in line with one or the other of these distortions. But this week, mostly I am hurting – for myself, and for all the other women like me who want no part in this. Who have both regard for other women as well as self-respect, and refused to vote for such a clearly immoral man. And who also cherish and desire the God-given beauty that is motherhood. We don’t have to support either of these detestable options that our country is giving us this year. Let’s aim higher.

Proverbs 31:25 – Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Meditations for the Manager

hurryGo-go-go! HURRY! This is what I’m thinking most of the time. And, honestly, what I’m saying most of the time. I have high standards for myself and for others, and time management is just one of the issues where that trait is made obvious. I get up as early as I can stand, so I can fit in all the things I’m “supposed” to do before the kids get up. I scarf down my food so I can get to the next thing on my to-do list. When I’m shopping, I walk as fast as I can so I can manage to do as many errands as possible, as well as burn more calories.

So, when the kids called me on that fateful day over three months ago, of course I ran. Not because they were in danger or because they run the show around here. But they wanted to show me their Tarzan tricks on the tree outside, and my goal was to oblige them “real quick” before I went back to whatever project I was working on. So, since I was hurrying, I broke my pinky toe on the edge of the door. And with that my hurrying came to a screeching (literally) halt. Ninety-nine days later, it has not healed, and there is also something wrong with the rest of my foot. We’re not sure what.

Proverbs 16:9  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

(Fitting for the occasion, wouldn’t you say?)

feet up

Feet up!

At first, it was a fun “vacation.” It was so leisurely to have hubby and kids taking over my typical duties. Dirty dishes? Sorry, I can’t do that. Laundry? Nope, out of commission. Kids need something? Go ask your dad! Woo-hoo! I was free! Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t make wise use of my time. I tackled all the “sitting down” projects that have been on my to-do list forever. I sewed, made spreadsheets, shopped online, scrapbooked, and emptied my inbox. I listened to talk radio and did wayyy more online political reading and debating than I’ve ever been able to do.

But there’s only so much of that I can take. School isn’t getting done (at least not to my standards), the dishes are all filthy, the bathroom is unspeakable, my muscles are disintegrating, the kids are weary and grumpy, and I have. had. enough.

I’ve been thinking, what is going on here?? Every year we are behind on school. There is always a death or a move or some other catastrophe that prevents my schedule from being completed as planned. So, every year, I keep cutting the workload. This year I even cut our scheduled school days (I always plan the entire school year in advance.) But we’re still behind. Always behind.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

(Including myself!)

However, I realize that we’re behind by my standards. No one else is telling me to do all that I try to tackle. Florida doesn’t require a certain number of school days. The kids always do well on their standardized testing. I can see progress. I know they are learning. So, what am I worried about?

Psst. I’ll tell you a secret. We actually didn’t finish one (especially difficult) year. Read that again. We. didn’t. finish. Incompleteness is simply not acceptable to me. However, I realized that in that case, that was the only way forward. To not finish. And I’ll tell you, it was such a relief!

Unfortunately, the confidence that my kids are doing fine and that they don’t have to know everything (and, actually can’t) lasts about a week each year, and then my refrain returns to: HURRY! Get the school done! DONE! And not just done, but done well.

Ecclesiastes 9:10a “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…”

We do classical homeschooling. Things like Latin, Shakespeare, memorization, in-depth history and Bible classes. I want to push my children to excel. I want them to do more than what is typically expected. I want them to have a better education than I had. I want them to be able to defend what they believe, work hard,
clearly communicate with others in writing and in person, prosper in business, and successfully raise up the next generation. I have high hopes, as I said, and desire the very best for them.exceed

To that end, my instinct is to pursue every subject for them. And, along those lines, to do all the assignments and problems in the book. It took me years to learn (and accept) that just because something is in the book, that doesn’t mean we have to do it. (But why do they put it in there, then??) Since there is never enough time, I have learned that I need to lower my expectations. So we mostly dropped Latin. I have the kids do half or a third of the problems on a given assignment. We’re stretching more subjects over two years instead of one. And this was all *before* I was stuck on the couch all day.

My dependable eldest daughter is my go-to person for… pretty much everything. Always has been. Right now, thankfully her school days are usually pretty short and she can help the other kids with theirs. But since she’s also in charge of laundry and dinner, of course things are falling through the cracks. I am actually putting away old assignments that I (or my daughter) have graded, without discussing errors and having the kids redo things. This. Is. Unheard of.

And of course, it’s not just school that is affected. The house is a disaster. All the time. And really, I have never been a clean freak, but we are way beyond my limit now. Hubby and kids are reaching their breaking point. They are tired of the workload and just plain worn out. Last week I posted the following status update:

Nervous breakdown time… THREE months of an incapacitated mom means the house is a WRECK. Want a clean dish you feel OK about eating out of? Well, you won’t find one in our cabinets. School done and corrected? Well, maybe half. Charlotte’s glasses have been broken for weeks, and she’s supposed to be wearing them strictly, as well as patching for 2 hours a day. I keep forgetting to take Wyatt to speech (Please remind me that it’s tomorrow!). I keep forgetting to have the girls practice their instruments. All of the scissors in the house are gone. All of the rulers in the house are gone. All of the timers in the house are gone. I. can’t. tell you. what was going on in the bathroom. My kids are asking why I’m so grumpy. I just started bawling because dinner didn’t turn out right. I. need. to. walk.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

you-cant-do-it-allNow, I’ve “known” for years that I can’t get it all done. (And written about it – yes those are three different links.) And as I said, I believe I have taken that to heart at least to an extent. But now I certainly can’t get it all done. And neither can my family. Going back to my question of why there always seems to be something in the way of my plan… Duh…

God has thrown out my plan.

He has been pushing me to slow down for years and I clearly wasn’t getting the message. So I’ve been put in time-out. And I will just have to accept that my kids might not be able to articulately explain the Travels of Marco Polo, write a paragraph without misspelling half the words, recite the Latin declensions, or remember the times tables. At least not this year.

But I hope that when this is over, they will have learned some other lessons that are just as, if not more, valuable in life. How to take care of others who need it. How to keep house. How to be agreeable even when they don’t feel like it. How to work hard, even when they are tired. How to cook. How to delegate and work as a team. How to pick up after themselves without being reminded. How to practice their instruments without being reminded. How to do their school without being reminded.

Hmmm, maybe my expectations are becoming a bit unreasonable here… Shocker. You see how my mind works? Even as I am trying to find peace in lowering my standards in one area, I immediately go into high gear in another!

So let me rephrase my hopes for what comes out of this:

I hope that I will have gotten it through my thick skull (for good this time)message that I should not admonish myself (and my family) for what we didn’t accomplish, but be thankful for and satisfied by what we did. That I should pray over my duties and ask for guidance as to what is most important in any given time. That I should be willing to let the “perfect” go, in favor of the truly good, which certainly the Lord knows better than I.

I’m not coming out against pursuing excellence. But I read recently that impossibly high standards are actually low standards in God’s eyes. This was a powerful statement to me. As with everything in life, there is a balance to homeschooling, housekeeping, and family life. I just hope I find it sometime before my kids are grown.

Psalm 116:7 “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

I Have a Brother

As some of my Facebook friends may have noticed, I’ve been reading The Faith of Christopher Hitchens by Larry Alex Taunton. I eagerly preordered the book on Amazon, shortly after I heard about it.

You see, my father passed away six years ago. At the time of his death, he was involved in an online debate with an atheist co-worker friend over CH’s book, God is Not Great.Hitch2

I also love writing and debate, am a staunch defender of my conservative Christian views, and sometimes get into trouble for being bossy, gruff, and insensitive. In other words,

I am my father.

Less than two years after my dad died, Christopher Hitchens passed away. They were close in age, and died of the same cancer. In this way,

My father was Christopher Hitchens.

It is due to these strange coincidences, as well as my seeing Hitchens in various video clips and reading (admittedly not many) of his writings, that I developed an affection for him from afar. I remember immediately being drawn to his sarcasm and “cut to the quick” style. I also appreciated the delicious contradiction apparent in some of his beliefs and opinions. (Along those lines, I am also fascinated by Kirsten Powers and Tammy Bruce.) I cried when he died, not only over him, but also because he and his death reminded me of my dad. It’s a connection that may seem odd or even a stretch, to someone I’ve never met and hardly read, but there it is.

So, of course I knew all of this going into the book. But now I am in the middle of the chapter entitled Brothers. You see, Peter Hitchens is the younger brother of Christopher. He is also an author – a conservative Christian author. This chapter blindsided me. I had already known of Peter, but I had never connected that information to my own life. As the outspoken conservative Christian who might make Southern evangelicals cringe,

I am Peter Hitchens.Peter Hitchens, October 2012

But as the perfectionistic eldest in the family who has always been sure that I know best,

I am Christopher Hitchens.

Likewise, as the younger sibling who is the polar opposite of the eldest,

My brother is Peter Hitchens.

However, as the committed socialist atheist,

My brother is Christopher Hitchens.

There are a lot of parallels here, criss-crossing over each other in a jumble. I am not trying to say that I am as intelligent, influential, or accomplished as either of these men (or my dad!). I am just saying that I identify with all of them in different ways. Life is complicated and can be difficult and disappointing. (Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing that inspires me to write!)006

From the book mentioned above –

One might be able to avoid conflict with a family member when he only has to listen to his opinions at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But here were two columnists writing regularly on politics, religion, and social issues for prominent newspapers and magazines. …they read each other and wrote knowing that this was so. Each brother was always aware of the other in the manner of a woman secretly keeping up with her ex-boyfriend on Facebook…

Whenever Christopher spoke to me of Peter, it was always in a favorable way. But in a more honest moment, he acknowledged the broken nature of the relationship and offered a reason for it: “Accident of nature. We were born only two years apart. Consequently, we competed with each other for everything.” He wasn’t looking at me when he said this. That he and Peter were at odds bothered him. He mostly dealt with the conflict by alternately pretending it didn’t exist and fanning the flames.


008Many, if not most, of my Facebook friends might not even know that I have a brother, and that’s saying a lot due to my frequent sharing (or oversharing) of most things personal. I won’t go into it more than that in order to respect his privacy and that of the rest of my family’s.

But I wanted you to know that I have a brother.

His name is Brad.

Let’s be Honest Here

I’ve always been very open about my experience with my ectopic pregnancy. And I’ve always equated it with a miscarriage in my writing, assuming that what I went through was pretty much the same as what a woman having a typical miscarriage would be dealing with. However, there is one significant difference. I had to make the decision to end my tiny baby’s life. In truth, I had to have an abortion.

This has left me with guilt that I’ve been pushing down for over two years. I had never spoken of it to anyone – not even my husband; not even God – until yesterday when I finally let it out in a letter to my husband. I’ve been living with this unspoken horror that I might have been able to save my baby. Every time one of these thoughts has come to my mind, I’ve pushed it away with the attempted self-assurance that we did what we knew to be right at the time, and even if we were technically wrong, we would not be held responsible by God because we didn’t know. Of course that’s not going to be quite good enough, especially for a grieving mother, so it’s been nagging at me all this time. I never wanted to express it to anyone because I felt I would then bear some responsibility to find out the truth and I was terrified by the idea that I might be confronted with the reality that I was a murderer.

After I wrote the letter, my husband strongly assured me that we were blameless. It turns out that he had been dealing with much the same feelings. He didn’t want to tell me because he didn’t know I was also dealing with it, and he didn’t want to put thoughts in my mind if they weren’t already there. Of course it would have been better for us to be going on this journey together, but I truly appreciate his desire to protect me. It took him two years and hours and hours of research to put to rest his deep sense of regret and responsibility. As a father and a husband, he felt a tremendous burden to save his baby and his wife. He felt rushed into a decision at the time, and simply had to rely on prayer and doctors’ advice.

The reason why I’m finally letting this out is because of the Planned Parenthood videos and controversy that have come up this past summer and into the fall. It’s been difficult for me to get back into the pro-life movement, as I’ve related before. However, since I’m big into politics, and since it has been over two years since we lost Roghnaithe, I have been following the videos and reading about it a lot in recent months. Pro-lifers are finally fighting, and I’m truly excited to see that and am hopeful for big change. However, in my reading, a few times I have come across some well-respected writers asserting that ectopic pregnancies can often be saved. Even to the point of being flippant, they declare that the embryo can simply be moved to the uterus, so an abortion is not necessary. As you can imagine, seeing these comments was like a knife in my gut. My response was to quickly close the articles and move onto something else. And of course, then I wonder if people are thinking of me and wondering how I could have done such a thing. I have come to the conclusion that these off-hand remarks were completely irresponsible and harmful. This is the kind of thing that can ruin a movement’s good name.

My husband is a scientist at heart. He was pre-med in college, but decided against medical school. He has worked his entire career in the medical insurance industry. I trust his judgement. In his two years of researching this issue, he has come to the conclusion that there really is nothing that could have been done. See, an ectopic pregnancy simply means that the embryo is growing outside of the uterus. It could be in the fallopian tube, the ovary, or somewhere else in the abdomen. Ninety-five percent of ectopic pregnancies are like mine was, in the tube. It is impossible for the baby to be nourished long-term in that situation. It is impossible to move the baby. During his research, my husband only found one (supposed) example of a doctor who claimed he had moved the baby, and that was in the 1920s. And the doctor said he was sure he could never do it again. Other than that, he could find no other successful cases.

And, being in the insurance industry, he pointed out that if the medical industry could make money by doing this surgery, they absolutely would. “People would mortgage their houses to save their baby,” so of course doctors would offer this service if they could. So the potential argument that the medical industry is full of extreme pro-choicers who are on a mission to make sure they get to abort as many ectopic pregnancies as possible does not seem reasonable.

Now, for the other five percent of ectopic pregnancies that end up in the abdomen somewhere, there have been multiple cases where a successful transplant has occurred. Of course this is worth looking into, and I would definitely encourage mothers in this situation to do so. But for pro-lifers to flippantly insinuate that “it’s totally possible to save your baby” in the case of ectopic pregnancy is extremely thoughtless and just downright cruel. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just don’t understand the differences in the types of ectopic pregnancies, but they should make sure that they have good information before they go recklessly spreading misinformation.

Image result for miscarriage griefWhich may bring up the point in your mind – how can I be criticizing these other authors for not backing up their claims
when I’m doing the same thing? You’re right. I’m going for it anyway, though. My husband has asked me to refrain from doing the research he did, which of course is now my instinct to do. But doing that would take many hours away from my other duties, and inevitably bring more heartache. So if you don’t want to take my (and my husband’s) word for it, I completely understand. But I would ask that if you are planning to share this kinds of (mis)information, please do the research first. I’m sure there must be many, many other grieving mothers (and fathers) who are having the same kind of experience I am and I would like to prevent them from the suffering and remorse that I’ve been going through.

Proverbs 28:18 – Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.

Healing or Hiding?

Last night we went to a fundraiser for our local crisis pregnancy center. It was our first time going. I had heard about it before, but never considered going because I figured it was one of those things where you pay $100 a plate. Or, at least, that was a good excuse. (Turns out the dinner was free and donations were optional.) I really just didn’t want to hear about abortion.


When I agreed to go this year, I was feeling fine about it. Night out with my husband and friends, you know. But as I was getting ready, I reached for the bracelet I bought that reminds me of the baby we lost almost two years ago. In my rush, I paused for a second and made the connection.

During the dinner, after I couldn’t focus on the food any longer, I had to start thinking about what was being said. I fingered my bracelet as we listened to the passionate speakers and watched an upsetting video. I tried hard to blink back my tears. These millions of women who didn’t want their babies – why couldn’t one of them have had an ectopic pregnancy instead of me?? It’s not fair! They would have been relieved, I would have been spared the pain of losing mine.

I went home somber. I felt good about going to the banquet and participating in this ministry, but I did not need another reminder. I have enough to deal with.

I have enough to deal with. I have enough to deal with.

I was quite shaken by my father’s death five years ago, and I changed. I couldn’t enjoy a good tearjerker anymore, and my formerly news junkie self couldn’t handle much of that either. Entertainment needed to be light, fun, and mindless. I mostly stopped reading theology or politics, and turned to Good Housekeeping and the like (bonus – I have become a better and more adventurous cook!). I ceased most of my beloved FB debating. Of course, over time, I slowly introduced these things back into my life. Then almost two years ago, we lost our baby and I went back into my hole again.

Now, it is true that I am in a different season of life anyway. Five years ago, my four children were ages 2-10. While I was a busy stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, I only had two students. Their subjects were relatively easy. There were no hormones raging through the house. Now I have two more students, and the older ones have heavier subjects, busier schedules, and more sensitive hearts. Other difficult things have come up in our lives. I am sure that all of that contributes to my choice of subject matter. Like I said, I have enough to deal with.

So I avoid what is too painful or too strenuous. Even today I caught myself. I opened two articles to read. One was a sobering reminder about the persecution of Christians in other countries. The other was a sardonic piece about who should have to bake cakes for whom. Guess which one I read and which one I “didn’t have time for” after the first couple sentences.

I don’t know if what I am doing is needed healing for my pain, coping with the stresses of life, or just getting lazy and avoiding the realities of this world. If I have crossed the line, when did it happen? Am I shirking my responsibilities “to the least of these” or can I give myself a break and understand that everyone has different roles and goes through different stages at different times? What about the people who have gone through so much more than I have and are still immersed in ministries and study? Like so much of my writing (when I get around to it), I’m just putting the question out there without being sure of the answer. It might be time to start challenging myself and caring for others a bit more. Maybe I’ll look into that tonight after watching a King of Queens rerun…

Happy Birthday, Dad.

021Dear Dad,

It’s your birthday today. I wonder if you know that in heaven, or if you’re too thrilled to be in the presence of the Lord to notice such trivialities. Of course, I know it all too well. We’ll be having apple pie in your honor – Avery’s with cheese, of course. The rest of us love you, but not quite that much. 😉

The last time we saw you, you were 65, a couple months shy of your 66th birthday. If you had made it to today, you would be turning 71. Seventies sounds old – like real grandparents old. Even cancer-stricken, you never seemed old to me. I know you were having trouble swallowing your burger at a restaurant outing during that last visit and it was strange that your hair had fallen out and come back in curly. But your broad smile was ever-present, as was your zest for life. It hadn’t really entered my mind that you wouldn’t beat the cancer; much less that four months later I would be back for your funeral.

But, here we are. I thought I would give you a little update on our family. Because, as I said, I have no idea if you are able to see us or care enough to pay attention at this point. I don’t know if nearly five years of lying face-down in awe of our Lord and Savior is enough for you to be ready to think of other things, or if there will be another thousand before that happens. I don’t know if you can feel time pass or if you can see us through the clouds or if you have met your fifth grandchild. Can you read my thoughts or my blog up there? Does God let you know when I tell him I miss you or do you get a funny feeling when you see me get teary over a picture of you?

So, here’s what’s been happening with us. Almost exactly a year (+1 day) after you went to your eternal home, we finally made it to what we feel is our earthly home. You know we were unhappy and having a hard time where we were. I thought you would be glad to see us make that move; happy for us and proud that we had the guts to try something new. We’ve been so blessed and thankful since that move. We sure wish we could have shared it with you.

The last time you saw Ellie, she was going on ten. This year, two days after your birthday, she’ll be fifteen. Wow, there is quite a difference between 10 and 15! Do you remember when you used to drive my friends and me to school and you 005would just sit quietly chuckling to yourself about how you could never get a word in edgewise? I’m reminded of that when I play chauffeur to Ellie and Miriam. All these funny inside jokes and stories that they can’t stop chattering about. So much energy and excitement to be with their friends. Besides being a giggly teen, Ellie has grown into a lovely, responsible young lady. I wish you could have shared in our pride as she has become our very capable church pianist, as well as an accomplished Bible Bee competitor.

The last time you saw Miriam, she was seven. She read the story of Noah on the phone to you right before you left us; do you remember? None of the rest of us could handle talking to you, but this dear girl wanted to connect with you one last time. Of all our children, she seemed to grieve your loss the most. Now, at 12, we know you’d be so proud of how much she’s matured, and what a deep thinker she is. Like you, she has a desire to know everything about everything. And, also like you, she has a passion for her beliefs that comes out frequently in discussions on religion and politics.

The last time you saw Charlotte (your Charlie), she was four. How I wish we could hear you call her that one more time. At nine, we see her little-girl-cuteness disappearing into pre-teen loveliness. Do you remember when you were my roller coaster partner at amusement parks? No one else in the family would go with me, and you would pretend to be scared until mid-ride, but then would start laughing with glee. I fell for it for years. Now I do the same for Charlotte, minus the trickery. I don’t think I could pull it off like you did. Like you, Charlotte is always enthusiastic about life, with a broad, beautiful smile. She’s our resident artist and fashion plate. You’d love to see what she can create!

The last time you saw Wyatt, he was 21 months! Do you remember when he was playing with your vacuum cleaner and you said he was going to be an engineer like you? It pains me that you two never really got to know each other. He’s almost seven now. The comedian of the family; but also sweet and thoughtful. I’m sure you would have gotten a kick out of his sense of humor, and you and he would have had lots of fun together. You would have taught him a lot.

DadThe other night, I took him out for his night out (yes, we do that, too!), and Wyatt asked me a question I didn’t know. I said that we could look it up online. He said that Daddy would know, and I was doubtful. “But Daddy knows everything!” Yes, I know that feeling. That’s exactly how I’ve always felt about you. We’ve missed so much with you being gone. So many fun outings, sweet holidays, boisterous game nights, and fun conversations. We’ve wished so many times that we could get your advice about something, and wondered what you would think about a certain issue.

I guess I just wanted you to know that we haven’t forgotten you. We think of you often and your legacy is alive in our children.

Proverbs 17:6  Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.