That phrase is often followed by squeals of delight and the pattering of little feet as children run to be scooped up in the loving arms of their father. However, not all children get to hear this phrase. For some, they are left wondering who daddy is, and why daddy isn't there. There is a troubling trend of fathers being absent in their children's lives, a trend that has long reaching consequences. Studies have shown that the absence of a father in a child's life can affect a child in a very negative way, and has further consequences on society. A report in 2011 in Psychology Today published these sobering statistics:
Beginning in October of 2015, the CPC has been offering the “Fatherhood Bootcamp” class to our male clients. This class provides new or expecting fathers with the skills and knowledge they need to help take care of their child. It also helps prepare them for when their children grow up, so they know what to expect and can lead their children down the right and righteous path. Most importantly, it teaches fathers how to love their children, and sacrifice themselves for their children just as Jesus sacrificed himself for us. Too many mothers have been forced to play the dual roles of mother and father. While single mothers usually strive to do all they can for their children, parenthood was never intended to be a job performed alone. Being a man is not easy. Being a father is more challenging. Being a godly father is even more challenging still. However, the rewards are exponentially greater than the challenges. Every father should experience the joy of scooping up their child and having little arms squeeze his neck; just as every child should be filled with joy, love, and excitement when they hear the words, “Daddy's home.”
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. - 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
(This blog entry was penned by one of our male volunteers.)
That title might sound a little strange at first, so let me begin by providing a little backstory. My four year old nephew loves dinosaurs. Now when I say he loves them, I mean he has a complete and total preoccupation with them that borders on obsession. It is actually quite impressive. He can tell you what kind the dinosaur is, when it lived, whether it was an herbivore or carnivore, and about any other tidbit of information you may ever want to know. I once made the mistake of calling a dinosaur he was playing with a Tyrannosaurus Rex when it was not one. He looked at me with his big blue eyes and effectively made me feel like an idiot with the retort, “I’m not playing with a T-Rex. This is an Indominus Rex.” Well then. Now I know.
My sister does a great job encouraging his passion. Coloring books, toys, and t-shirts adorned with dinosaurs galore fill his closet. This obsession with dinosaurs has caused a few headaches and embarrassment at times though. My personal favorite example of this would have to be the time my sister took my nephew for a walk down the main street in their small town. My nephew refused to answer to his name, and in fact would only respond with growls and roars. This would be okay had he not been roaring as loud as he could at every person they passed complete with dinosaur-style walking. If you can imagine an elongated, high stepping stride with hands drawn into his chest startling elderly women and making other toddlers cry as he roared in their faces.
As embarrassed as my sister may have been, I find the situation as equally wonderful. We are a society completely inundated with technology. This technology can be a great tool when it entertains and assists us. Yet, children today spend more time in front of a screen than ever before. My nephew’s dinosaur demonstration on the sidewalk was a display of creative and active play that seems to becoming more and more rare all the time. A generation ago screen time was limited to the television. Now in addition to watching televisions kids are surrounded by PlayStations, Xboxes, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, iPhones, tablets, laptops, and more. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children today now use electronics at a rate of more than four to five times the recommended allotment. When a child’s first reaction to “I’m bored,” is to grab the nearest electronic, then Houston, we have a problem.
Numerous studies show the undisputed benefits to creative and active play that just cannot be replicated by anything with a screen. On the other side on the coin, overexposure to electronics can have devastating effects on the developing brains of children. Between the ages of 0-2, children’s brains triple in size and continue at a rapid rate until age twenty-one. Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli, or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010). While that fact alone may seem scary, children who use too much technology also have higher rates of obesity, mental illness, aggression, addictions, and sleep deprivation (Anderson 2007, Rowan 2010, Mentzoni 2011, Tremblay 2011, Boston College 2012).
So, what exactly is creative play? Creative play includes games, painting, building, drawing, pretending, or any other artistic or imaginative activity. The benefits of creative play are endless. Specifically, creative play helps build intellectual curiosity in skills such as math, geometry, measurement, and more. The creative process helps kids develop critical thinking skills every time they ask themselves questions such as, “What color should I use when drawing this picture?” or “How high can I build this tower before it would fall over?” Physically, creative play helps small children master fine motor skills through actions like holding a paint brush or taking two Legos apart. In addition, creative play can give children a positive opportunity in which to express their feelings therefore promoting emotional well-being.
Active play has some of the same benefits as creative play. Playing outside gives children the opportunity to learn about nature and the world around them by exploring. Active kids have far less rates of obesity and juvenile diabetes (Tremblay 2011). In fact, kids with an electronic device in their bedroom are 30% more likely to be obese (Feng 2011). Team sports or other athletic opportunities not only possess the obvious physical benefits such as gross motor skill development, but also have social and emotional ones as well. Children who belong to a team have better cooperative skills, tend to make friends easier, and are less shy.
These facts can seem overwhelming. What are parents to do in a world that seems to thrive on technology? Like anything in life, moderation should be key. Technology doesn’t need to be outlawed, but parents should definitely keep responsible expectations in mind for its usage. Take this as an opportunity to invest in your child’s interests. Go for a bike ride, paint a picture together, play a board game, make a blanket fort, play catch, and by all means, walk down the street with your hands drawn to your chest and roar together like dinosaurs. After all, “Rawr!” is just dinosaur for “I love you.”
“Sanctity of human life.” That phrase can cause some people to cringe with uneasiness. The notion of the value of human life has certainly taken on a political edge where abortion is concerned. Politics is ripe with candidates who expound their beliefs on the matter, and though the Caring Pregnancy Center does not support, perform, or refer for abortion, this article is not a political essay. Rather it is an attempt to explain how the value God places on human life is the reason we do what we do. First, a little history lesson: On January 13, 1984, then President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22, 1984, as the first ever Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. The date commemorated the eleventh anniversary of when the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all fifty states with the Roe v. Wade decision. According to the Guttmacher Institute (a pro-abortion, non-profit organization) there have been approximately fifty-eight million abortions in the United States since Roe v. Wade took effect in 1973. We continue to recognize the third Sunday in January every year as a day for Americans to focus on the value of each and every human life, remember the millions of lives lost, and celebrate the babies saved from abortion. This year’s Sanctity of Human Life Sunday will be held on January 17, 2016.
Pregnancy centers like the Caring Pregnancy Center are often criticized by the pro-abortion lobby as only being interested in the birth of babies versus the well-being of that child or its family after it has been born. However, in the true spirit of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, the Caring Pregnancy Center provides emotional, physical, spiritual, and material help to men and women during pregnancy and well after the birth of their baby on this day and every day. We believe that the lives of our clients are as sacred in the Lord’s eyes as those of their unborn children. The assistance we provide is to improve the life of the family unit as a whole, which in turn can improve the quality of life in our community.
As evidence of this, our parent organization, Care-Net, released a report showing the value of pregnancy centers to communities all around the country. In 2014 alone, the over 1100 Care-Net Centers offered over $56,826,000 in free services to families in need. That’s hundreds of thousands free pregnancy tests, free ultrasounds, free baby clothes, free diapers, free parenting classes, and many other services at no cost to the client. Yet, the most important commodity we offer for free is compassion, help, and hope. All of this is made possible by an army of over 30,000 volunteers and over 462,000 donors across the country.
On a more local level, the Caring Pregnancy Center’s impact on the communities of North Iowa is evident by the numbers. In 2015 alone, the Caring Pregnancy Center saw 1709 appointments while providing sixty-six pregnancy tests, fifty-four ultrasounds, 183 hours of classroom education, and 53,994 material items at absolutely no charge to our clients and those seeking emergency assistance. The casual reader of that statement may ask, “Yes, but at what cost to the amount of taxes that I pay every year?” The answer to that question is: None. The Caring Pregnancy Center does not and has never accepted government taxpayer money. We are able to keep our ministry going thanks to our very own small army of seven staff members, forty-one volunteers, and approximately 350 donors; and the tenet that the life of every child, every mother, and every family is sacred in the sight of God.
Does this network of centers, volunteers, and donors save lives? Absolutely. Guttmacher Institute statistics show that the rate of abortion has dropped consistently since Roe vs. Wade. However, there is still much work to be done. On this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday we at the Caring Pregnancy Center ask that you remember the lives lost to abortion, celebrate the babies saved, and pray for the mothers and fathers struggling with the uncertainty of an unplanned pregnancy. All life matters, both that of the born and the unborn. For in our Father’s eyes, all life is sacred.
It’s that time of year again! School has been under way for over a month. There is just something special about the beginning of a new year. Whether it is a first time student excitedly waiting for that big, yellow bus, or the seasoned senior going through their “last first day”, a new school year just seems ripe with potential. Anything is possible!
Sometimes though, despite eagerness or a willing attitude, that potential or possibilities can quickly fade into frustration bathed in tears. Special needs students can face a wide gamut of challenges that a lot of their peers can scarcely imagine. Mental, physical, or learning disabilities can make basic school tasks such as homework, or even simply paying attention to the teacher a real burden. Some of our clients’ children are no exception to these struggles. I am going to turn over part of this blog entry to the hands and insights of one of our moms. She knows firsthand what it takes for her child to succeed from day to day. Though the specific condition the client mentions is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), her words can resonate truth with parents of children coping with any disorder, condition, or even those who are just simply having a bad day.
”Having a child with a neurological disorder can be trying at times. Even with proper medication, a normal day can be very chaotic. Simple tasks like picking up toys can take hours, while trips to the store can become a full on adventure. It takes three very important things to be a parent of a child who has ADHD; patience, understanding, and lots of love.
Having a full and true understanding of this (and any) disorder will be your greatest benefit. Along with any and all information your child's doctor will give you, do as much research as you can. When it comes to day-to-day activities, patience will be your greatest virtue. Maintaining a calm but firm attitude is the best way deal with any outrageous behavior your child may display. Even though you may be frustrated when your child is having a frantic or even manic moment, show them lots of love and affection. Knowing you love them regardless of their disorder will help them push through the day.” -CPC Client
As I read her words I was struck how alike this advice is to how our Heavenly Father treats us. How much are we like a child with ADHD? Even when we know what the Lord expects of us, we can often become distracted by what looks more appealing. When we have a problem we will frantically try to solve it ourselves when it might be better to sit peacefully and listen to what God has to say. When temptation does get the best of us and we give in to sin despite our best efforts, the Lord understands us and loves us anyway. Where would we be without God’s patience, understanding, and lots of love?
Unlike many new parents, God has never needed to learn patience. He did not have to acquire it. The Lord IS it, and He continually displays it. God shows us the way to righteousness and salvation, but we often reject that teaching and turn instead to what is easy or feels good in the moment. We reject God’s goodness in this way through refusal or inability to learn. Nevertheless, God is patient. He will not give up on us. His love is unchanging and forever. What a gift the Lord has given us by faithfully showing us His patience, understanding, and love. Just like the special needs child who understands his mother’s love regardless of his daily challenges, we too can continue to push through. God’s love sustains us every moment and every day until that great day when we can grow and learn to be like Him.
It is often funny how many times women will compare themselves to other women. We are all unique individuals so there really is no use in doing this. More specifically is when we moms compare ourselves to other moms. God made us differently and blessed us with our own set of challenges relating to the little people under our wings. Maybe it is just human nature to doubt our abilities, or perhaps we want so much for our children we cannot help but notice when we see other moms doing what we think we never could.
I certainly remember after my first son was born noticing the primped and polished mom at the grocery store at a time when I could not have felt more unattractive. I took in her perfectly styled hair, cute outfit, and beautiful sleeping baby and marveled at how perfectly she had this whole mom thing figured out. I can never be like that, I thought as I tried desperately to calm my screaming son who had spit up all over me. My ponytail, wrinkled t-shirt, and jeans just did not measure up to what I had considered her standard of perfection.
Have I got motherhood figured out now? No, that's a fantasy. The reason I say that is because no job in the world is as rewarding, unpredictable, stressful, challenging, fun, or important than that of being a mom. Children can boost their mother's ego, crush it with an iron fist, or go from one to the other at a speed an Olympic sprinter would envy. My three year old daughter is especially good in this regard. She is silly, playful, sensitive, and has absolutely zero filter. She and I were playing on the couch one day making faces at each other. Oh, how my heart soared as I heard that sweet little giggle, UNTIL.... “Wow, mommy. Your neck just got HUGE!” What you need to understand is I have what you could call an “at-risk” chin. In other words, if I don't keep it at sea level or above it is at risk of doubling in size. It's not a pretty picture I can assure you.
Her response was just another piece of evidence of what I think it takes to survive as a mom: a sense of humor. Anything can and will happen when it comes to kids. Having a sense of humor does not make you a good mom, but it certainly helps keep a person sane. I know I certainly would have checked myself into the nearest mental institution long ago without the ability to see that almost everything will be funny eventually. Whether it be the botched home hair dye job that my eldest son described as “scary gwoss,” the sliced cheese in the dvd player, or the many permanent marker art masterpieces adorning my walls, the frustration I felt at the time pales in comparison of how those memories make me smile now.
It is important to remember when we go through those times of feeling completely overwhelmed, frustrated to the point of tears, or worried about the people our babies will some day become, that that “perfect” mom from the grocery store just might be us to someone else. I will be the first to admit that I frequently wish I was a better mom, as most moms do, but I am often surprised how many people in my life tell me that I am doing a good job. My friends with one or two children regularly marvel at my ability to parent four. “I just don't know how you do it with four kids,” they might say. I usually like to quote the comedian Jim Gaffigan when I am confronted with this statement. “Imagine you're drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.” I don't think it matters how many children we have. Whether it be one or six, motherhood will always feel like a roller coaster with no brakes at some point or another. We need to remember to just hang on and enjoy the ride, bumps and all.
So why do we compare ourselves to other moms? Whose standard is it that we don't think we are living up to? That other mom's? Society's? God's? I think if we really are truthful with ourselves, it does not matter what other people think of our abilities, it is our own standard that we feel we fail to meet. I have come to understand that there is no such thing as the perfect mom, but rather there are moms who love their children perfectly. We call the Lord our Heavenly Father. God refers to Himself in this way, yet in Isaiah 66 God likens His love for us to that of a mother.
“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you...” -Isaiah 66:13
God's standard is really the only one I should ever try to meet. For God made me the mom that I am and he loves me just for being me. No matter what I do, or how hard I try to convince myself that I am not enough, I am always enough for God. He sent His son, Jesus, to die for me, as He did for all of us, because He loves me just that much. It seems silly to assume that God in His almighty wisdom would have made a mistake giving me the kids that he did. I don't need to live up to anyone else's expectations. God loves me the way I am, and that's enough.
So after debating your suspicions you took a home pregnancy test. You may be experiencing a wide range of emotions depending on the result. If your result was positive you may be wondering what to do next. One of the most informative options available to our clients is ultrasound. One of our peer counselors will be there every step of the way to explain the process and support you before, during, and after your scan. The use of an ultrasound by our trained nurses is incredibly helpful in determining whether your pregnancy is viable or not. In other words, is the baby located in the uterus. Ultrasound scans can also help to pinpoint your baby's approximate gestational age and heart rate. Following your ultrasound the peer counselor will discuss all of the risks and benefits of the options available to you. Being fully informed is the best way to insure you are making the best decisions for you and your baby. Having a baby can be both a wonderful and frightening time. It's important to remember that no matter what, you are not alone. We are here to help. If you would like to schedule an ultrasound appointment, please call our office at 641-424-2237.
So that time when your period was supposed to start has come and gone. Wondering if you are pregnant can bring it's own set of worries. We can help you find the answer. If you would like to have a free pregnancy test, schedule an appointment with our office. The test is easy and pain free. One of our peer counselors will answer your questions and explain the pregnancy test procedure to you while maintaining confidentiality. Our pregnancy test is self-administered insuring your privacy and comfort. To schedule an appointment, please call 641-424-2237. Remember, you are not alone!
We humans regularly use our beliefs and personal experiences to make assumptions about the people, places, or organizations in which we come into contact on a daily basis. We make assumptions when we do not fully understand a situation. We have a tendency to build elaborate ideas of who people are going to be, or how things are going to go, rather than actually being in the moment of discovering what they truly are. We do this because we like to make sense of the world around us. It is a natural reaction to try to fill in the gaps of our understanding by making up our own story. The danger in making assumptions in this fashion is that we run the risk of pigeonholing those around us into a rigid, preconceived notion of what we believe to be true versus what reality actually is. Many times, our story is wrong and we have done nothing more than perpetuate a flawed misconception.
The Caring Pregnancy Center and its clients are not immune from the power of assumptions. Not one client is exactly like any other. Each one has his or her own unique story that defines them. Are there similarities or common threads at times? Of course. However, overemphasizing the commonalities only serves to limit what the CPC can, and does, do in its ministry from day to day.
“You go to the CPC?” That was the question often posed to me seven years ago when I first became a client of the Caring Pregnancy Center. When my friends or acquaintances learned that I had made the commitment to be a CPC client it often surprised them. It was hard to miss the stress placed on the word “you”. In their inquiry they were saying that I did not belong there. I did not fit the neat image of what they assumed a Caring Pregnancy Center client would be. I had one coworker go so far as to say, “I thought they just gave handouts to single moms on Welfare or with drug problems?” My personal life did not fit the mold of her assumption and she was confused by it. The services provided by the center are hardly handouts. You might notice that I called being a client a commitment. This is because clients must take ownership in the process. It is true that the items and classes provided to clients by the CPC are at no cost, but they are not free. The word free implies receiving something for nothing. You see, clients earn the help the are given. Clients take classes, hold down jobs, go to church, take their children to the doctor, volunteer in the community, and even, in some cases, learn English. All of these things are ways that clients seek to better themselves and their children. Material help is earned in this way, through the effort of the client seeking to improve the life of their children.
Even with this in mind, I would say the greatest contribution the Caring Pregnancy Center provides is not one of monetary value, and one in which the center gives without questioning whether the clients deserve it. This is the area where the reward does not have to be earned, it is truly given for free. What is the greatest commodity provided by the staff and volunteers of the CPC? It is all of those intangible things that our hearts long for as a member of the human race. It is acceptance, compassion, consideration, and unconditional love that transforms the lives of CPC clients far more than receiving diapers or baby food.
You might read that sentence and see it as a pretty bold statement. “That's awfully subjective,” you might say, and you would be right. The notions of acceptance and unconditional love are not exactly quantifiable, however, I feel comfortable making this assertion because I have evidence from my own unique story. I find myself incredibly nervous at the prospect of sharing my story so publicly, but I also feel that it is important to do so. I am not comfortable sharing my identity as the subject matter relating to my past is deeply sensitive for me. But it really does not matter who I am. It is the outcome of my story that matters much more than my name. As I said earlier, I became a client at the Caring Pregnancy Center seven years ago. My coworker who was surprised I was connected to the CPC assumed all clients at the center were single, unemployed, and had an education level not higher than a high school degree. I fit into none of these categories. Rather, I was a married mom of two children with a college education and a full time job. I came to the Caring Pregnancy Center because medical bills had left our family completely destitute and unable to even afford formula for my two month old daughter. My first introduction to the center was a kind voice on the other end of the phone as I sobbed in desperation about the inability to feed my own child. I felt sure that I was a horrible mother and that kind voice assured me that my financial difficulties did not define who I was as a mom.
What that kind voice did not know at the time was that my feelings of inadequacy as a parent did not stem for our financial struggles. I had a secret that I had been carrying for years. My secret left me feeling only negative emotions about myself. All I knew was guilt, shame, and self-loathing. I could not see myself as anything but a horrible mother because I could only see myself as worthless. At many times in my marriage I would secretly wish my husband would divorce me and take my children away because I thought they deserved so much more than I could ever offer. Eventually, I would share my secret with the counselors of the Caring Pregnancy Center, but only in the most limited fashion. I worried that if anyone truly knew the extent of what I was I would be judged, rejected, or dismissed. On the outside, people would look at me and assume that I had my life together, but inside I was drowning in a sea of despair and regret.
The turning point came on November 18, 2013. It may seem strange that I can remember the exact date so easily. This was the day I was freed from my secret. This was the day I experienced unconditional love from others so profound that I finally began to realize that I was worthy of being loved in this way and that nothing from my past could change that. By this time I had been a client for six years and had had two more children. I had long since learned that the Caring Pregnancy Center was a place that I felt safe and accepted for who I was. Though I had this understanding, I still put in considerable effort into hiding a significant part of my life. My shame consumed me and it was exhausting. I was at the CPC on this date attending the monthly Bible study the center offered, and I had come to consider it my favorite class. This particular lesson was on the introduction to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. I had heard or read the Beatitudes many times, but for some reason they never particularly touched me in a meaningful way. On this day however, as the class facilitator, Nancy, read aloud I became overwhelmed when she reached Matthew 5:4.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I felt as though a great weight had hit me. I could not contain the emotion overtaking me, though I tried desperately to maintain control. I kept my face turned downward as tears dropped silently onto the table. Even now, I feel overcome as I write this. I did not know what this feeling was originally, but I have come to believe that it was the Holy Spirit compelling my heart as if to say, “It is time to let go of the secret.”
“Why can we gain hope from these verses?” Nancy asked. I was surprised that I was able to answer when I was called upon, but it took considerable effort to do so.
“Sometimes the world feels so full of evil that it seems easy to become cynical or jaded,” I found myself saying almost automatically. “This passage reminds us that the world will not always be this way. Through God the dark can become light.” I do not know if it was the tears in my eyes, or the slight quiver in my voice as I spoke, but through her gaze I could tell that she could see the emotion that had built in me. The remainder of the Bible study passed without further incident. I noticed Nancy made sure to draw attention away from me; a small gesture for which I was incredibly grateful. The instant class was over I made for the door in a hurry under the guise of going to the bathroom. After composing myself, I returned to the classroom to retrieve my things. Before I could get that far I met Nancy in the hallway. “Are you okay?” she asked. I explained to her what I had experienced including the urging I had felt in my heart to “let go of the secret.” She took me to a private room, and with her encouragement, that's exactly what I did.
As I told my story, I was steeling myself for what I considered would be the inevitable reaction: rejection, disgust, and blame. For someone like me it is a common expectation. I expected blame, because the truth was that I blamed myself. You see, I am a survivor. I survived a violent sexual assault that left me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That was my secret. I carried the guilt and shame from my assault so long that I came to believe everything that my assailants had said about me. I was worthless. I was insignificant. I was unlovable. I was abandoned by God. I was hopeless. When I finished explaining what I had been through I braced myself for Nancy's response. I felt sick because of the look of horror in her eyes. I never wanted anyone to think less of me, and I was sure that was precisely what I had done. I stared at my lap, unable to look her in the eyes any longer.
“It's not your fault,” I heard her say as she wrapped her arms around me in a warm embrace. “Nothing you have said could change the way I feel about you.” I began to cry once more, but these tears were not the same as before. They were not the tears of mourning or despair. Rather, they were tears of the relief that comes with being comforted by someone you know cares about you. Yet, it was not just Nancy's arms that held me, but the Lord's as well. The consolation I had begun to feel in that moment was the reintroduction to the idea that I was lovable despite what I had been through. The Lord does not love me for what I have or have not done. He loves me simply for being me.
Over the next several months, the Lord used Nancy and the other ladies of the Caring Pregnancy Center to bless me in more ways than I can count. Nancy led me through a one on one Bible study that helped me to understand that God's plan for me does not begin or end with the tragedy I endured. The CPC has helped me to understand my fear and anger, shown me unconditional love, encouraged me, stood by me, and even helped me to find forgiveness for those who had hurt me so. It has not always been easy, but things are definitely easier. I still suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I still feel fearful and anxious at times. However, what has changed is that my fear and anxiety are no longer rooted in a soul rendering hopelessness.
The Caring Pregnancy Center will always hold a special place in my heart and the women there forever have my gratitude. However, the credit for my transformation and healing goes to the Lord. He is the master architect of our lives. He knows our hearts and what we need to thrive. I needed to be reminded of God's love for me. The CPC was just the tool He used. Whatever was broken inside of me, God led me to the ones that helped bind me back together again. My financial difficulties were the reason I made it through the Caring Pregnancy Center's door, but it was the intangible blessings the Lord had in store for me that kept me there.
It is here that I learned that I was guilty of making assumptions too. I assumed others would reject or blame me if they knew the truth about me. I assumed God had abandoned me. I assumed all the negative feelings I had about myself were undeniable and unchangeable. My assumptions had limited me to a very narrow, cynical, and sorrowful life. Making assumptions is the safe bet. It is so much simpler to presume we know the truth instead of investing ourselves to its discovery. How different could the world be if we were bolder and sought the truth wholeheartedly? Though I may never understand why I was hurt, I find solace in knowing that God does. After all, I am blessed. For blessed am I who mourn, for I am comforted.
As we walk through life the temptation and opportunity to judge those around us can be so obvious that it can almost feel destined to be. After all, we make judgments all the time: the difference between right and wrong, what to wear, whether to stick to that diet or stray, or in the political arena as we attempt to decide which candidate would best represent us. Judgment for decision making purposes is an inevitable thing.
However, what of the human element? When is making a judgment of another person right or wrong? People are very good at pointing out the things that offend or disgust them in another person. Unfortunately, all too often the emphasis of judgment becomes the person instead of the action. Human nature causes us to scrutinize our fellow man. As petty as it sounds, there are those that feel better about themselves because of the unenviable circumstances of someone else. “At least, I'm not as bad as that meth addict.” “Well, I have never slept around.” Whenever the temptation to judge another arises we must ask ourselves, “What would God want me to do in this situation?” The Bible talks a great deal about passing judgment.
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” -Matthew 7:1-5
In this passage Jesus warns us not to look at the sins of others in a hypocritical way. No matter how one chooses to look at it, we are all sinners. God does not put a hierarchy on sin, only human beings do that. If we go back to the examples used above, those with addictions who lie and steal in order to feed their habit are not more guilty than the one who speaks in jealousy and anger. Those with a promiscuous past are not more condemned than shoplifters or domestic abusers. There is no minor sin in the sight of the Lord. He takes all of our mistakes very seriously. It is important that when we are tempted to pass judgment on another, to remember not only that we too have sinned, but also that in many cases, we do not know why others have ended up in the situations where we have found them. That is why it is so important to always try to approach each situation as how God would: with grace and kindness. An often used quote illustrates this well: “Be kind. For others may be facing a battle you know nothing about.” We may not always know the reason others have made the sinful choices they have. After all, as a wise pastor once said, “No little boy ever says, 'When I grow up I want to be addicted to drugs,' and no little girl ever wished to be find herself controlled by a pimp and prostitution.”
So what is the consequence of judging others based on their mistakes when we too are just as guilty of a sinful nature? The passage from Matthew is pretty clear. If we judge others, the Lord will judge us with the same level of scrutiny that we have shown. That consequence seems pretty straightforward. However, there is another consequence to passing judgment that most people do not consider. Recently, there has been a story floating around the internet that exhibits this other consequence so well it would feel negligent not to pass it along here. It is unclear if the story is true or merely anecdotal, but the core purpose highlighted in the story is undeniable regardless of the story's origins.
One night, a young woman found herself at the doors of a church. She had never felt lower in her life and entered the church during the service with a heart filled with despair and desperation. As the service progressed, her anguish melted away as God tugged at her heart. She answered God's call and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The young woman had a very rough past that involved alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. Yet, from that moment on, the change in her was evident.
As time went on, she became a faithful member of the church. She eventually became involved in the ministry teaching young children. It was not very long until this faithful young woman caught the eye and heart of the pastor's son. The relationship grew, and they began to make wedding plans. This is where her problems began.
You see, about half the church felt that a woman with a past such as her's was not suitable for the pastor's son. The church began to fight and argue about the matter. So they decided to have a meeting. As people made their arguments, tensions increased and the meeting began to get completely out of hand.
The young woman became very upset about all of the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry, the pastor's son stood to speak. He could not bear the pain it was causing his wife-to-be.
He said, “My fiancee's past is not what's on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of the blood of Jesus to wash away sin. Today you have put the blood of Jesus on trial. So does it wash away sin or not?” The whole church wept as they realized they had been slandering the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Too often, we will use a person's past or mistakes as a weapon or means to pass judgment on our fellow man's worthiness. Forgiveness is the very foundation of our salvation. It is essential. If the blood of Jesus cannot wipe away the sins of others completely, then it can not cleanse us of our sins completely either. Without this purifying forgiveness we are all doomed. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! It is so important for us to remember that the Lord's forgiveness is forever, He will not snatch it away the first time we make another mistake.
Thus lies the other consequence of judgment. If others are undeserving of compassion and forgiveness because they have sinned, we too are undeserving. So how are we to respond instead? We can again turn to the Bible for the answer.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” -Ephesians 4:29
It is not our place to condemn each other for our errors. Ephesians tells us to build each other up so that we may all experience the Lord's grace. We do this by loving, forgiving, encouraging, and caring for one another. Quite simply put, it comes down to unconditional love. With unconditional love and God's forgiveness there is no need to pass judgment on those who have sinned. The Lord loves us no matter what our mistakes. We are to love others as the Lord loves us. We should not love someone simply because we think they deserve it. We should love others because we do not deserve it either. We are all sinners, we are all flawed, and we all have the same potential for redemption. Do not mistake the showing of unconditional love as condoning the behavior. Rather, it is the acknowledgment of the power of the blood of Jesus to conquer the curse of sin in others, as well as in ourselves.
As it has been quite some time since our last blog post, it seems like a good idea to share the wonderful changes that have been taking place here at the Caring Pregnancy Center. Perhaps the most momentous of these happenings is the addition of our new ultrasound machine. Thanks to the overwhelming support of the Knights of Columbus and other private donations, as of January we are now able to offer free, limited, diagnostic ultrasounds to our clients.
Why the need to go medical and offer ultrasounds? The answer is quite simple: life. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, some mothers can sometimes feel confused as to what to do next. Should they keep the baby, put it up for adoption, or have an abortion? As a Christ-centered ministry, we at the Caring Pregnancy Center would hope that these mothers would choose life for their babies. The ultrasound machine is an amazing tool to help show these moms-to-be that the fetus they carry is not just "a clump of cells." The baby in their womb is so much more than that. It is a precious human life. Seeing their baby's heart beat and watch as he squirms and kicks on the ultrasound screen makes the pregnancy truly real to them. The ultrasound helps foster a connection between mother and child that they may not have previously felt.
We felt so strongly about the potential benefits of ultrasound that the center first began offering ultrasounds to clients by an off site provider five years ago. The results were astounding. Every single mom-to-be who had an ultrasound ultimately choose life for her baby. The power of this option to young mothers cannot be more evident than in the scan of one abortion-minded client. Though she was certain that an abortion was the way she should and would go, the client consented to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound technician moved the transducer across her stomach, revealing the baby's profile. It was at this moment, as the client, her significant other, parent, and the client advocate watched the screen, that the baby turned its head and waved. At that moment, a bond was formed. The client now no longer viewed her pregnancy as just a fetus. It was a baby, her baby, someone to whom she now felt connected.. That once abortion-minded mom-to-be went on to give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy.
It soon became clear that if an off site ultrasound studio could be so effective, how much more so would one be on site. With our new capability to provide these limited, diagnostic ultrasounds at the Caring Pregnancy Center we are able to reach pregnant moms in crisis much sooner. Since the ultrasound annex went live in January, sixteen clients have received an ultrasound. Two of these were abortion-minded. We are happy to announce all sixteen moms, including the two leaning toward abortion, have chosen to carry their babies to term. Praise the Lord!
In other news, the Hy-Vee team competing at the Food Fight for this year's Globe Gazette Women's Expo took first place in the competition. The Hy-Vee team was so kind to choose us as the charity to receive free advertisement in the Globe Gazette. What a blessing this was to the center and to our clients. Our most whole-hearted thanks to Hy-Vee East and Hy-Vee West for thinking of us! Our first newspaper ad ran on March 15. Three more ads will run on May 15, July 5, and September 6.
In conjunction with the newspaper advertisement, the Caring Pregnancy Center also has an ad appearing on the digital billboard by the North Iowa Events Center near Target. We were able to purchase time on the digital billboard thanks to a generous grant awarded to us by the Kinney-Lindstrom Foundation. The ad will run during the months of March, June, and September.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read "Today at the CPC". It is our goal to keep posting much more frequently. As always, we are so appreciative of all the support we receive from the community, whether it be financial, donations, volunteers, referrals, or through prayer.
May God bless you all!
Caring Pregnancy Center