Lessons learned

The MR340 is nearly four days long. In fact, assuming I do it in 70 to 80 hours, it is almost exactly half a week spent either in a boat or getting ready to be in a boat. I know it will be strenous, and I know it will be mentally taxing, but mostly I know it will be long.

So, given the opportunity to spend two solid days on the water preparing my body and mind, I looked at the weather report and threw my stuff together. My plan initially was to put as many miles behind me as I possibly could. Just keep paddling, and when it gets dark find a quiet place to camp, and when the sun comes up paddle some more. I wasn’t going to put in any 18 hour days and four hour nights, but I knew being outside for that length of time would allow me to answer a number of questions. How should I pack my gear? Is the layout of my boat correct, or do I need to change anything? How will my hands hold up without gloves? What kind of food should I take? Am I physically ready?

Sometimes our experiences give us more than answers to questions we already have. Sometimes they provide us us with more questions. Ones we didn’t even know we needed to ask.

Question: What am I doing?

Obviously, I spent more more than just the past few days asking myself this. I think about it almost every time I paddle. What would compel a person to prepare for a challenge? I basically was saying “I am going to be miserable for four days, and in order to get ready for that I need to make myself as miserable as often, and for as long as possible.” Now, that’s overstating it a bit, but you get the idea. About a third of the way through the first day I found one answer.

dam on lake lewisvilleGenerally at Lake Lewisville the winds come from the south, so paddling along the dam it almost always looks like this. I took the picture not because I always marvel at the expanse of calm water stretching out before me, but also because I like that you can just barely see my destination out on the horizon, with the dam stretching out to an undefined spot next to it. I get the same feeling when I can see a bridge or structure in distance. I know that’s where I’m headed, and it seems so far away, but I’ll get there eventually. It’s far and away my favorite feeling when I’m on the water. A lot of times when I’m paddling really hard I’m thinking about how this effort will pay off on the river. I wonder how I will stack up against other paddlers. A lot of times I’m just thinking about my form. But paddling just for the sake of getting to the next destination is when I am at my most content. It is its own reason to paddle.

Question: Am I going about this all wrong?

I realized very quickly I might have the wrong philosophy in my training. Obviously I need to be physically prepared, but I kept remembering the “First Rule of Finishing the MR340,” which is STAY IN THE BOAT. Read the comments on rivermiles.com for an hour, and you will probably see this advise from veterans given to novices three or four times. Stay in the boat. You have a current. Even if you aren’t paddling, you are moving. If you are on land you are dead in the water (so to speak) but if you are on the water you can finish. So… I changed my M.O. and decided that I would go for time in the seat, rather than mileage. I was going to push myself, but if I needed a break I would take one. If I needed to eat something, or filter water , or take a picture, or talk to another paddler I would do it, but I would do it in the boat.

Question: Who is running the show here?

I am. I have nothing but time, and a nearly endless expanse of water to explore, and for the time being I can go anywhere. At least, for the time being…

The combination of going to bed the night before at 9:00, and my less than comfortable sleeping conditions, had me on the water much earlier than I anticipated on day two. Right off the bat the weather conditions were concerning but not terribly so. I figured as the day warmed up the wind would die off, and by two I should be headed north to the toll bridge that loomed about four miles away. In the meantime, I would ride the wind into Little Elm. It was when I made it to the end of that branch that my troubles began. I learned that running the show means you also have to deal with everything that’s thrown at you. It was almost noon, and the wind wasn’t letting up.clouds over lake lewisville In fact I was looking at cloud cover that could spell trouble. I turned around and it was wind full in my face all the way to the Little Elm bridge several miles away.

One of the worst parts about wind is how you are never sure what direction it’s coming from. If you are on the south shore you think it’s blowing from the northwest. If you are on the north shore you think it’s blowing from the southwest. You can’t ever get any cover, and if you don’t read it right you will wear yourself out going back and forth trying to find it. After crossing the arm I was on three times, I realized I had not only judged it wrong, and was very, very worn out, but I was on the wrong side if I was going to get back to the marina where I started the day. My other option was to stay on the north shore and turn right. I would keep heading north, hope the wind would eventually let up, and cross at the toll bridge and be home by 6 or 7 pm. It would probably be a 25 mile day. It was at this point that I found I knew the answer to another unasked question. Do I know the layout of the lake well enough to properly navigate in a situation like this? Apparently I do. I didn’t need to pull out my map once.

I made the decision to cross to the south and get back to the marina, where there was cover from the wind. I also knew I could get help there if I needed it. I made the crossing, paddling non-stop. I don’t know how I wasn’t completely physically exhausted by this point. Adrenaline and beef stew out of the can seemed to be working!

After making it across I was forced to turn to the east, with the wind coming at me now from behind. It was at this point I was forced to admit that, even though I was running the show, things were out of my control. The boat was being almost continually turned sideways and then swamped with water. With my destination seemingly just around the bend I found myself floating next to a completely full canoe. Stay in the boat indeed! I swam, emptied my boat of both equipment and water, and called Matt, my room mate on my nearly dead phone. Luckily I didn’t need the shore patrol to come get me, which was my first inclination since I didn’t know exactly how far away from civilization I was.

canoe on lake lewisvilleConclusion: Let’s call it a learning experience.

I learned a lot over those two days. I finally feel comfortable giving instruction to Tim and Steve Murray, my ground crew, regarding what I will and will not need during the race. I found out that my seating position, along with too much trail mix gives me indigestion. I learned it’s better to bring your pee bottle into the tent with you, so you don’t have to go outside three or four times in the middle of the night.

But most importantly I realized I have all the tools I will need to finish this race, as long as I stay in the boat. July can’t get here soon enough.

Christian.

Qajaqs and kenus

On July 23 Christian and I will take off on one of what National Geographic has listed as one of the 100 great American adventures. He’ll be in his canoe and I in my kayak. Many people who hear about this think the idea of 340 miles on one of the great rivers of the world is looney. What they don’t understand is how very reliable small these boats are. Here’s a little interesting (I think) history of these boats.

Kayaks got started in Siberia about four thousand years ago. The original design (the umiak) was about like a kayak except that the top was open. So, a kayak is , in fact, a type of canoe. Closing the top made the umiak useful for voyages out into the frigid arctic seas. Those early skin on frame boats were probably the most advanced hydrodynamic watercraft in the world – and the Wright brothers would have appreciated the technology as they rigged up their aircraft.

Qajaq is the Inuit word for hunter’s boat and they were extraordinarily effective. They could be paddled into arctic oceans and used to silently approach seals, walrus, and other prey. The Eskimos and Greenlanders would take them out for days at a time, even learning to sleep in them by laying our off to the side of the boat – floating the upper body on the water. The most important requirement, though, was stability. Imagine yourself in a small boat, on sub-freezing water, in the open ocean. Anything that isn’t rock solid stable can mean a quick death for the kayaker!

My boat was built by a company in Tacoma, Washington – specifically for use in the Pacific ocean. It’s a 17′ 5″ composite fiberglass boat, weighing 45 pounds, with two watertight bulkheads for floatation. I can flip the the boat, sure. But, by bracing myself with my paddle, I can stay upright even under some pretty rough conditions.

What’s the downside to this design? First off, I can’t really move my legs much. They’re inside the boat and stretched out in front of me. My rear end is about two inches above my heels and I’m sitting upright. I guess I should take yoga more seriously! Also, because I’m sitting at the level of the water, I can’t get as much leverage on the paddle. Kayaks are, however, so much cooler than canoes!

Christian is taking another tactic for the race – the canoe. His boat has an even older pedigree than mine. We, in the U.S. think of canoes as indian boats but the oldest known canoe excavation dates to about 6,000 years B.C. – from Holland! Those earliest canoes were basically dugouts. Heavy and slow, but tough. Variations of them have been used all over the world. The American Indians took them to another level by building them of bark. They were lighter and faster – and could still be built big enough to carry many people and large loads. The other advantage of their construction was that they were easily repaired when punctured.

They’re “open decked” so, not as adapted for rough water. But the Missouri River is fairly smooth – until the wind kicks up or a barge comes by. For those conditions he’s rigging up a skirt. The front and back of his boat will be covered with waterproof fabric that will keep at least most of the water out! When he’s passing a barge he’ll tuck in behind a wing dam and take a break while I’m out playing in the rough water. He’s sitting higher in the boat, so he’ll have better paddle leverage and, best of all, he’ll have the ability to move his legs around.

When most of you think of canoe you most likely think of the aluminum “barges” you plowed around as a kid. Those things weighed up to 80 pounds, were fat, and very stable. If that’s your vision of a canoe you wouldn’t recognize his ride for the MR340. It’s a carbon fiber composite and weighs about 30 pounds. It’s long – about 22 feet – skinny, tough, and fast. That long part makes it difficult to turn, though. And, if the wind or river current does start to turn it, it’s tough to keep straight. To cure that problem, he has a rudder. While I’m paddling on one side to turn or maintain a straight line, he just kicks the rudder and keeps his paddling cadence going – less wasted effort. The skinny part, and the fact that he’s sitting higher, means it’s tippy. But, heck, a bicycle is tippy! He’ll be able to blaze along and take more breaks to stretch his legs. His canoe doesn’t have the watertight compartments of mine so, to keep it afloat should it fill with water, Christian is installing floatation bladders. They won’t keep the water out but, if the water does get in the boat won’t sink completely.

Those are the ships of the White Rock Navy. I mentioned in an earlier post that our goal is to finish the race in under 75 hours. What do you think? Who’ll be in St. Charles first – the qajaq or the kenu?

It’s a slow start…..

I hit the publish button on this one before it was ready. If you got that, my apology, and here’s the finished version.

We’re about 12 weeks from the start of the 2013 MR340 – so, we’re the “last trimester.” I haven’t posted anything here for a while so I thought an update might be good. It’s been a slow start with my training because life keeps happening. Lots of work, family emergencies, and uncooperative weather, you know how it is. I’m continuing with the pushups and situps but can’t wait to actually paddle more. Unfortunately, the predictions for next week are more cool weather. Say some prayers for heat, guys.

We’re also slow on the fundraising front. So, since there’s not a lot of news about kayaking, this post will be about the cause.

When a woman walks in to BirthChoice it’s usually because she’s worried she might be pregnant and wants to get a test. She may be single, married, or in a committed relationship. She may be hoping for a baby or fearful of what the test results will show. She may be all alone, with her husband or boyfriend, or a with family member or friend. The person with her may be pressuring her to go to an abortion clinic or, the opposite, they might have brought her there.  In any case, all the services she receives are at no charge.

If the pregnancy test is negative, they educate her about why she may have missed several periods and what the next steps are. Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)  can be the cause.  Also, various forms of birth control that use hormones can affect a woman’s cycle. For instance, after long term use of the “depo” shot a woman may not have a period for six months. If she does not start her period in another 1-2 weeks they encourage her to come for a retest. They discuss STD testing, relationships, sexual purity and Natural Family Planning (NFP) when appropriate. Unlike some pregnancy resource centers, BirthChoise is not a medical clinic. They only provide two medical services – pregnancy tests and sonograms. Some centers, though, like one in Joplin, MO, do offer free STD testing and other women’s medical services.

If the pregnancy test is positive, a sonogram may be performed. BirthChoice volunteers then begin exploring all the choices the woman may have in making a decision to keep the baby, have an abortion, or place for adoption.  This is an emotional time and it’s important that the woman (or couple) have all the information and resources they need to make an informed choice. Quite a few misconceptions are cleared up at this point. The woman is given a Decision Guide sheet to look at the Pros and Cons of the choices, both short and long term.  If abortion is being considered, the types of procedures, their risks and their consequences are discussed.

If the woman has made a definite decision at this point to have an abortion, she is given an abortion packet with the booklet A Woman’s Right To Choose, a sheet on questions to ask her abortionist – are they a medical doctor, currently licensed, have complaints against them, will the procedure hurt etc., a pamphlet for Rachel’s Vineyard for post abortive counseling, and a factual explanation of abortion procedures at different stages of pregnancy. The woman is offered a chance to see our Medical Director if her concerns are high risk factors. The client is encouraged to call if she needs referrals after the abortion procedure. And most important of all, her initials and the baby’s father’s initials get forwarded to our prayer chain. She is encouraged to pray about her decision and not react out of panic, but from a place of clarity. A follow up call is made the next day to answer any other questions that may come up.

If the woman indicates she is strongly considering continuing her pregnancy, education on having a safe, healthy pregnancy begins. Miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy precautions are reviewed. If the pregnancy is 20 weeks or further along pre labor precautions are given. The most important thing is for the woman to have access to affordable or free (depending on financial circumstances)  prenatal care. Birthchoice has resources for both. They try to set up the first appointment before the client leaves. Clients are given an education packet containing information on fetal development, nutrition, and prenatal care and this is reviewed. Also, issues specific to the client are addressed such as domestic violence, relationships and marriage, adoption information, financial counseling,  and how to tell their parents or boyfriend they are pregnant. Spiritual counseling is offered.

Other resources and referrals are available. If adoption is being considered, they’ll set up an appointment with an adoption specialist. Sometimes a referral is made to Nurse Family Partnership which is funded through the YWCA. In this program for low income women with a first pregnancy, a nurse visits the mother-to-be about every two weeks and follows her through her pregnancy. For women without resources, referrals are made to agencies that can help with food, maternity homes, and housing or shelter.

Two programs that deserve special mention are the Gabriel Project and Rachel’s Vineyard. The Gabriel Project pairs women with specially trained volunteers who support them with spiritual, emotional, and material needs throughout the pregnancy and beyond. They also have their GEMS Program for prenatal and parenting classes. Rachel Ministries of Dallas provides access to spiritual direction, mental and physical health care, and moral and emotional support for post-abortive women.

Of course, these women didn’t get pregnant by themselves. The fathers, if they are involved, are encouraged to  be part of this process and are offered separate counseling and support through many of these same programs.

Baby items like diapers and diaper bags, car seats, strollers, cribs,  clothes, and formula are also available to low income women clients at the end of their pregnancy. And, during the pregnancy, gently used maternity clothes are available. They try to follow the woman and her baby for a year after the baby is born. During and after their pregnancy the client can come in any time to meet with a peer counselor or nurse and watch education videos on topics like breast-feeding, postpartum depression, spiritual counselling, parenting skills, and child development.

BirthChoice operates at two full time locations – with one part time sonogram nurse. That leaves a need for an approved 20 hour paid part time position for an RN or sonographer and 2 volunteer nurses to be trained as back ups.  These positions will most likely require sonogram training for an RN. We ask for your prayers that the right individuals find BirthChoice and walk through the door ready to go. It’s important to have the funds available to cover the training. This is the White Rock Navy goal for 2013. Any funds raised over training costs will go in an education fund for materials that will be used for teaching their clients   We can do it with your help but, like my physical conditioning, we’re off to a slow start. In 2010 I asked first for your prayers for me and the people of Haiti – and you came through. Now I’m back again. Please pray for Christian and me as we vigorously train for this event and  for these women in crisis. Think about what you can do financially to support this educational funding. No matter your stand on the pro-life/pro-choice debate I hope you’ll agree that the work being done to serve these women is worth your attention. Ready? Click HERE to make that donation.

Thanks,

Ned and the WRN team

A funny thing happened on the way to Waverly

In 2010, on our way to the hotel in Kansas City, we drove across the Missouri River. I looked down at it and realized I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t really paddle 340 miles in four days. I very nearly suggested we turn the car around and give up on the whole idea. Of course there was no way I could really say that, so the next morning I was in the boat ready to start the race.

The first checkpoint was Lexington, 50 miles from the start. I was tired, sore, and scared when I pulled in. I was grouchy and snapping at my crew and, knowing I still had 290 miles to  go, was even more convinced that I was in way over my head. I watched much younger racers loading their boats and giving up and it started sinking in that I couldn’t go the distance. The next checkpoint was Waverly. It was “only” 23 miles further and I figured I’d at least do that before calling it quits. So I let Sharon,Tim and David prep me and the boat and pushed off again. They told me later that, after I left, they all agreed I’d never finish the race.

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A funny thing happened on that leg. I started thinking about Miami – 32 miles from Waverly – and our planned stop for the night. If I could get THERE, I’d find the tent and sleeping bag ready. I was in a lot better mood when I pulled in to Waverly and told my ground crew to rig the lights on the boat – I’d push on into the night. When I got to Miami I was thinking about Glasgow and wondering if I should keep it up for 32 miles and maybe sleep there. But, Tim and David were settled in so I crawled in my sleeping bag and slept better than I had in a long, long time.

From then on it was one stretch at a time, one boat ramp at a time. Just paddle to the next bridge, around the next bend in the river. I threw away the maps I’d been carrying of the whole distance. I’d pull in to a check point and ask Tim “How far to the next check point?” I quit worrying about the entire race and just took it one bite of 30 or 40 or 50 miles (or less) at a time.

I’ve already blogged about how motivating it is for me to see the numbers of people who tune in by subscribing to the blog (about 30) and liking the White Rock Navy on Facebook (we just passed 50). It’s a kick for me every time I see the numbers go up but I’m greedy and want big numbers! When I’m out on that river and it’s 105 degrees I need to know there are lots of people behind me. So, do me a big favor and help spread the word.

One person at a time from now until July 23. Then it will be 1 mile at a time for me.

Thanks,

Ned

I Dreamed a Dream….. Choice

Ned and I went to see Les Miserables at the movies 2 weeks ago. He had read the book decades ago but I did not even know the story, just the music. I have wanted to see it forever, it seems.

I think I felt every emotion I have in those 3 hours. We both left profoundly effected and moved. I have listened to Anne Hathaway sing the title song a dozen times on u-tube trying to realize what I connect to so strongly. It finally occurred to me the verse “he took my childhood in his stride” is what I am thinking when I am seeing a client at BirthChoice who is very young and in an unintended pregnancy.

I have asked many of these 15 or 16 year olds “Was it worth it?” and EVERYONE I have asked has said “NO!” emphatically. They did it seeking love or to keep from losing their boyfriend, hoping for that dream. Suddenly, they are expecting and poof – their childhood is over and the dream is shattered unless he will be there for them. Now, some people believe that by getting rid of the “problem” pregnancy that these girls can go back to the dream and all is well. I learned of a manual used in a sex and health ed program for young girls that states “abortion can be a positive experience.” In my 3 years working with women who are post abortive I have never heard this claim. What I have heard is quite different. In the movie, Fantine has her child and although her life ends tragically, she saw her child as the good part worth huge sacrifices. The impact of that child Cossette’s life, no one could have imagined. Three days before I saw the movie I read a column in the newspaper by a female journalist who stated she felt guilty admitting it but she still loved the movie, even though she was hoping that in the movie version it would be modernized because of how the original story portrays women. She also stated we are lucky we are living in different times where woman don’t have to sacrifice for their children and aren’t expected to. Not knowing the story, my curiosity was piqued. After seeing the movie I was annoyed that I could not remember her name to quote her unbelievably ridiculous, selfish statements. That absurd thinking, that history needs to be told with a politically correct slant doesn’t make it historical anymore. How does someone develop such a mindset? She may dream a dream that things were different but wishing does not make it true. Nothing takes a childhood or part of a woman’s soul away more than abortion except a pregnancy from rape followed by an abortion – where there are two victims and two crimes. I have heard this direct from my clients: “I didn’t know… They didn’t tell me… I can’t sleep without nightmares anymore… I can’t have children now… they treated me like garbage… I would never do it again… The staff wouldn’t look me in the eyes…” We wouldn’t need post abortion retreats like Rachel’s Vineyard if abortion returned them to the dream and made things right.

So, I dream a dream where women are given all the facts and complete choices and understand the consequences from whoever they go to seeking support and information about what they can do about their situation. We try to do that at BirthChoice so the decision the woman makes will be positive and enhance her life, not make it worse or destroy it, or even possibly endanger it.

BirthChoice is there for support after the choice too – whatever it may be. And I have seen women who chose life bring their babies for us to see after they are born, proud and happy, and yes maybe tired. But they have another chance to dream the dream.

Sharon

The MR340

This blog has been “on the air” for three and a half years and now we’re headed back to where it all started – the Missouri River and the MR340. Most of you already know what that’s all about but, for our new recruits a recap is in order.

The MR340 is the longest non-stop river race in the world and is one of National Geographic’s top 100 adventures. Racers start in Kansas City, MO. and have 88 hours to make their way to St. Charles (a little northwest of St. Louis). They can go straight through or stop anywhere along the way to rest and sleep. The record is around 37 hours but some folks take the entire 88 to finish. Racers run the gamut from young guys who have arms as big as my legs, paddling high tech carbon boats, to older guys out for an adventure in their heavy aluminum canoes. They are both men and women (a lot of those women will beat us guys by a large margin!), in solo boats and in teams of up to six paddlers in a boat. The interesting thing is that about 1/3 of the starters don’t make it to St. Charles – and many of those are the people you’d expect to finish fast, young bucks in fast boats.

The organizers say it’s “just you and your boat thrown against 340 miles of wind, heat, bugs and rain. This ain’t no mama’s boy float trip. This race promises to test your mettle from the first stroke in Kansas City to the last gasp in St. Charles” and that’s about right. The racers will tell you it’s 90% mental and that the other 10% is – mental and they’re right, too. Along the way we’ll find out about whirlpools and boils, barges, hallucinations caused by exhaustion, cramps, blisters, sunburn and dehydration, isolation, and river bouys and bridge pilings that want to eat us. We’ll roast in the afternoon sun and be chilled at night when the temperatures drop and we’re wet. We’ll be ravenous with hunger but have to force ourselves to eat. We may have to sleep on rocks, in parking lots, in the mud, or in the weeds.

We’ll also see spectacular sunsets, make amazing friends, sleep better than we ever have, and watch the Missouri sky at night with stars that are usually obscured by city lights. We’ll see Missouri from a perspective that few get – on one of the mighty rivers of our country. We’ll see our ground crews giving up a week of their lives, dedicating themselves to OUR dreams, and appreciate their sacrifice more than they can imagine. We’ll get in better physical and mental shape, and accomplish something many of us doubted we could do.

Walt Birmingham, one of the legends of the race, talked about it in his blog and it’s worth a read, click HERE to take a look.

That’s it in a nutshell. That’s what Christian and I are aiming for in less than six months. If you’ve signed on for updates or are clicking over from our Facebook page we truly appreciate it. As I said in my last post, we’re attempting a solitary sport but we count on you for encouragement.

By the way, I see we got our first contribution to the fundraiser. It’s just ten bucks from an anonymous donor but it’s a start! If you’re “pro-life” you’ll want to support this cause. If you’re “pro-choice” you should remember that Birth Choice of Dallas provides many women a choice they didn’t think they had, and think about helping out.

Ned

Recognizing the gifts we are given

About three months ago, while praying and meditating, it became clear to me that I needed to write a letter about getting involved. I had no idea at the time exactly what this meant or who would see it but I did what I was directed to do (as usual). I believe there is a purpose for this and have sent or given this letter to several people and organizations with zero response/feedback except from my two mentors in Shreveport. After hearing Ned’s post for today I wonder if you all are the ones to share this with. Pass it on if you so desire.

I grew up in an activist Pro-Life Family. Beginning in the late 60’s my Dad went to parishioners’ homes to give educational slide shows on abortion, which was about to become legal. He was president of Democrats for Life, yes Democrat politicians were able to be outwardly Pro-Life in those days. We lived and breathed Pro-Life in my home and my parents walked the walk. I am very grateful for this.There are many incredible stories about this, some miraculous and others tragic. When I left home for nursing school I remained Pro-Life in my beliefs but stayed on the periphery, participating in walks, attending masses, saying rosaries, and (rarely) picketing. Years later, married with 3 children, we found ourselves moving from St Louis to Dallas because of a job transfer. Our parish did not have a Pro-Life group and it was not the priority of our pastor to change this. With my busy life I did not want to take on this challenge. My husband and I, both still strongly opposed abortion, educated our children about this evil, but we did not walk the walk. I felt many emotions during this time of my life; anger, uneasiness, restlessness, and frustration. The Holy Spirit was working on me and God was preparing me for a radical shift.

 

Fast forward to 2009. My unemployed husband took a job in Shreveport. I was devastated and went unwillingly. While waiting to get my LA nursing license I decided I would begin volunteer sidewalk counseling. I was trained in Dallas about a month before we found out about the move and was disappointed when I learned they didn’t have sidewalk counselors in Shreveport. Most Pro-Lifers I talked to there were unfamiliar with it.. After an internet search my husband found the ARK-LA-TEX Crisis Pregnancy Center and gave me a gentle, yet firm push.

 

The love I felt when I walked through the door, from the receptionist and everyone else, was indescribable. As I sat in the waiting room it was apparent how important these women clients were. THEY came first not me, a possible volunteer! My life changed that day in ways I could never have imagined. After a quite lengthy application and interview process, along with much prayer and discernment, they accepted me! Never had I felt this way about any job for pay. I was going to have the privilege of volunteering to love and support women in a time of crisis in their lives. The bonus was that many babies lives were saved. I was working with other women who volunteered their time and and took their commitment seriously, some had volunteered for 10 years or longer. I could talk freely to our clients about how God loved them and their babies. I could speak the Gospel to them. Because I was a nurse I had the added bonus of being able to do health teaching and education about abortion and the adverse effects physical, emotional and spiritual. I  was able to chaperon about 70 ultrasounds – my favorite part. This window into the womb definitely changes the hearts of many expectant women when their babies sometimes wave or high five them.(I have pictures of both). If the pregnancy was early, just hearing the heartbeat would elicit a smile or sigh of relief. Sometimes the woman was shut down and there was no reaction. One young woman who was 23 weeks pregnant decided after her baby put on quite a performance that she did not want an abortion. But after leaving our clinic, was persuaded by a family member, who provided the funds, to have the abortion. These cases are heartbreaking. My Nurse Manager, Karen, wisely told me we can tell them and show them the truth and love and support them but it is God who changes their hearts. The programs at this center were comprehensive. They offered assistance to the expectant moms, who decided to carry and parent, at their learning center where they could take classes on nutrition, parenting, childbirth, finances, etc. and earn merit points to use for maternity clothes, baby clothes and other essential baby items. They could earn merit points for going to Church. The goal is to follow these women for 2 yrs. They did not only support them “from pregnancy to birth” as Pro-Lifers are sometimes criticized for. They also had certified Adoption specialists and they offered post abortion counseling for women who had abortions and were experiencing emotional side effects. After 8 months of volunteering I was offered a part time position as a nurse. The plan (my plan) was that I would complete training and do ultrasounds  for them.

 

God had a different plan. My husband’s job ended abruptly and he had to return to Dallas to find work. In the 10 months we were apart I continued to learn from, and be supported by, these amazing women. Having been “in the making” for 18 yrs they have been able to create a Center  that addresses all aspects of a crisis pregnancy and, with Gods grace, it is excellent. What did I learn? That we are in Spiritual warfare and God Blesses and protects his warriors. That the man who volunteered to clean the entire facility once a week and do all odd jobs and repairs was just as important as any other volunteer.He has been doing this consistently for at least 10 yrs. His wife called every night to get initials of clients we needed to add to her prayer chain. I learned that whatever your God given talent was it could be put to good use there, answering phones, babysitting in their nursery while the moms took classes, sorting donated baby items, knitting baby items and making baby quilts, working at the walk for life, computer programming, helping update the website, donating professional counseling sessions, driving a pregnant mom to a prenatal class, training to be a peer counselor or to teach a class. The list is long and the needs are great. The coolest part though is that the time commitment can be small. It’s just making and keeping the commitment. We are all one body, and in order for that body to function at it’s best all of its parts must be doing their job….no individual part is more important than the whole. We are the Body of Christ. We are his hands, we are his voice.

 

I am back in Dallas and God literally directed me to the right place at the right time. I have been given the opportunity to work at BirthChoice Counseling for Women, a Catholic pregnancy resource center in Dallas.They have been around for three years and are working hard to become centers of excellence.They have two locations directly across from abortion clinics, one being the late term (26wks) center. I did get trained to do sonograms and have had the privilege of performing those for a few weeks now.  I urge anyone who has experienced that nagging restlessness (the Holy Spirit?) to get involved in the Pro-Life movement in an active way, either by donating  your  time, talent or treasure. To learn about opportunities at BirthChoice, contact them at (214) 631-2402 or visit their Facebook page by clicking HERE, or contact the crisis pregnancy center nearest you.