Monday, March 27, 2017

Another Inspiring Story . . . .

Want to read an inspiring story?  These super well-written, heart-felt words 

penned by Caroline's big brother, Kyle will definitely inspire you!

Being wombmates, and close friends all their growing up years, Kyle knows Caroline well, 
and he has expressed who she is and what God has done in her life so well!!! 
Caroline's story has been greatly affecting all of us, and Kyle has done an amazing job in capturing and documenting her inspiring story!  Please take of few minutes to read it and you'll be inspired too! 

(Reprinted with permission by author Kyle Bowes from his blog "Kyle's Files."  
You can get to his blog from our side bar of family blogs.  Thanks, Kyle!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

God Can Use You to Reach the World: The Inspirational True Story of my Sister, Caroline, and Forty Days for Life

Do you ever doubt that God can use you?

Maybe you are shy or insecure, like we all are at times. Maybe you cave under the pressure of your peers too often. Maybe you think sin has too much of a grip on you. You admire the Christian heroes all around you, but you know you can never be one of them.

Well think again, because my sister Caroline is living proof that God will use you if you will only commit yourself to Him!

The beginning of this year, Caroline said "yes" to God in a way that would stretch her way outside her comfort zone. She decided to run a Forty Days for life campaign--a peaceful prayer vigil to pray for the end of abortion outside our local Planned Parenthood clinic. While I really appreciated her heart to stand for the unborn, honestly my first thought when she told me she was going to coordinate a vigil was:

"Say whaaat?"

You see, I have grown up with my awesome sister from the womb onwards. I know her very, very well, and so, I knew leading a public event wasn't exactly her forte. She is a sweet, smart, over all very beautiful young lady, but she is most definitely an introvert. She hates making phone calls. And public speaking. And confrontation.

And those thing were kind of what being a Forty Days for Life local coordinator was all about.

Caroline knew all this. She knew how much it would stretch her, and yet the burning desire to serve God and stand for the defenseless compelled her. Her desire launched her into orbit in the vast unknown outside her comfort zone like some crazy, brave NASA astronaut trying to reach the moon. There was no aborting (pun not intended) the voyage, only strapping on her spacesuit--or in this case, her spiritual armor--and getting right down to work.

She had said "yes" to this journey because of her faith in God What else could she do?

Now make no mistake, this courageous step of faith did not mean that suddenly she became an eloquent, gifted public speaker and prayer vigil leader. It was almost painful to watch her worry about her first few phone calls and meetings with local pastors. She would always take a sibling along to her first few meetings, not to be an "Aaron" for her like Moses, but to at least provide some much needed moral support. She was still naturally timid--to the point where even speaking in front of our own church was too scary at first. She had our dad give the first few announcements about Forty Days for Life. At one point, after a particularly hard morning, the stress and worry overwhelmed her, and she cried in one of the back rooms of the church.

I was almost tempted to be mad at God for putting my introverted sister through all these struggles. I appreciated her heart so much, but still, didn't God see that she was not naturally gifted for a leadership role like this? Didn't He see that it was making her cry and breaking her down?

And yet, even at these low points, I started catching glimpses of the work God was doing, not only in the heart of my sister, but in the heart of our community. Caroline met fellow Protestant and even a few Catholic friends who vastly encouraged her and helped her to stand strong. The prayer vigil schedule started filling up with eager prayer warriors willing to make a stand for life. Caroline started giving the announcements at our church. She started reaching for the phone as soon as it started ringing, shouting, "I'll get it!!". She spoke for forty-five minutes in front of the small army of prayer warriors she had  gathered at the Forty Days for Life kickoff rally.

The prayer vigil started. Caroline trekked out to Planned Parenthood almost every day to get the vigil off on the right foot and to encourage her troops. She became known affectionately as "The Little General" as she kept her prayer warriors on track and committed to praying to end abortion.

She started meeting the "unfriendlies", those who thought she and anyone praying to end abortion were anti-woman bigots. She didn't shrink from the challenge to show them differently. After long, emotionally-draining days in front of Planned Parenthood, you could find her back at the house studying up on the facts about Planned Parenthood, Abortion, and the devastating effects both have on women. I have gotten to see this knowledge in action several times as we have been approached by "pro-choice" people in front of the clinic. She demonstrates her love for them, while at the same time standing strong for the truth and debunking a lot of the false pro-Planned Parenthood, pro-abortion arguments thrown at her.

This was the most demonstrated when a fledgling counter rally was organized against Forty Days for Life by several young ladies of the local college. They stand on the same street corner with us in front of Forty Days for life, holding signs like "Pray to end Judgement" and "Jesus didn't shame woman, and neither should you". They often stand right in-between all of us prayer warriors holding our "Pray to End Abortion" signs. It is almost a comical scene, though without Caroline's leadership and encouragement to love these ladies, it could have been potentially a very volatile, emotional one. These ladies expected us to respond in a negative way. They assumed we would try to kick them off "our" corner. They were completely caught off guard by our appreciation that they were there and our desire to engage in friendly discussion about our differing viewpoints. They've thanked Caroline for being so "chill", as they put it.

And soon, Caroline and our family will be meeting with the woman who is leading the counter rally and a pro-abortion man running for senator to talk more. We hope to be able to plant more seeds of truth in their hearts.

Then, on Friday, God took it one step further. Caroline got a call from the national leader of Forty Days for Life, the Shawn Carney as she put it. He asked her to speak in front of the national rally of vigil leaders, to share her testimony. This would have probably struck Caroline mute with terror but a couple of months ago, but last Friday she answered immediately, "Yes". No, "Let me get back with you" or "Let me pray about it". Just yes.

Talk about a transformation.

"I've learned that you just have to say 'yes' to God, wherever He takes you," Caroline told me yesterday. "He will be faithful to uphold you and see you through."

That's really what it all comes down to, isn't it? Can we trust God enough to lay our lives in His hands, to allow Him to do whatever He wants with them? Can we trust Him even as He launches us into orbit outside our comfort zones, can we dare to dream that He can use us in mighty ways? Yes, yes, yes! I would say. I've seen it happen right in front of my own eyes. I've seen the way God has used my sister Caroline in mighty ways when she submitted her insecurities and fears to Him and took that leap of faith. It inspires me!

Someday when I grow up, I want to be more like my sister Caroline. Don't you?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Very Special Testimony . . .

Most of you have probably seen this on either Facebook or Caroline's blog. 
But I just wanted to post it here for those of you who haven't read it yet. 
(And also to keepsake it here for our family's journal!) 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
It is so good to read Lydia's heart expressed for the women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy.  
It really speaks to what we wish people knew about our two-fold mission.
We are out there on the sidewalks of PP as a voice for the babies, but also praying with greatcompassion for the moms as they go through such emotions and turmoil, and are being greatly persuaded and even deceived into believing that having an abortion will fix their "problem,"
Every day that we have been on the sidewalks, we get quite a few angry comments from folks that they think we are judging the moms and their right to choose what they do with their bodies. 
But we know the truth, that abortion always kills a baby, and is very harmful to the mom in many ways.  And we want to help them avoid more pain and suffering.  We want to be there for them with compassion and support, not at all condemning them.  

So there I was.  The sun was peeking out between the occasional misty drizzle as I sat there, alone, on the sidewalk.  I am 9 months pregnant with our first child, a little girl whom we adopted as an embryo at literally 6 days old.  When we signed the paperwork that made her "ours" she was only a precious, tiny speck, complete with a unique--and never to be repeated--genetic code. The story of how and why she came into our lives is pretty amazing and fresh on my mind as I sat there, head bowed, on this chilly morning in Centralia. 

About an hour previously, my little sister Caroline sent me a message letting me know that the 10-11 am slot was not filled with 40 Days for Life prayer warriors on this particular Wednesday.  I happened to be heading "out town," (a term we rural country bumpkins use for Chehalis & Centralia) and decided to grab a 40 Days sign "Pray to End Abortion" on my way to Planned Parenthood. 

I've stood there in front of the clinic a few times before with my husband and family, which has been a stretching but amazing experience. Today was nothing like those other days. God had something to teach me, as I sat trying to ignore the vulgarities and flip-offs thrown in my direction from drivers on the busy street. 

When family and friends were there, we would chuckle about how popular we are to receive so many #1 signs from our "adoring" fans, and visit cheerily between periods of silent, fervent prayer for the unborn, the women who carry them, and the staff at our little clinic. 
Since I was by myself today, I had the opportunity to really focus on prayer. I am no prayer expert, and wasn't overly confident that I could sit there alone and pray for an ENTIRE. HOUR. I mean come on folks, that's really asking a lot of an introverted, scatterbrained, 36 week pregnant lady who can barely go an hour between restroom breaks! 

As I made myself comfortable sitting cross-legged with my sign propped up on my knees - my prayer was "God, give me your heart, let me see through your eyes, break my heart for what breaks yours." It's amazing how swiftly and powerfully God answers prayers sometimes! 
Immediately it hit me. Here I was, 21 years old, pregnant, alone, sitting on a sidewalk.  I felt vulnerable, and a bit unsure of whether I should be there or not. Although life has not always been easy, (in fact, my husband and I went through a pretty tough struggle with cancer and infertility) I can say with absolute, certainty that there has NEVER been a time when I felt truly alone.  There has NEVER been a time when I didn't have a solid, encouraging shoulder to lean on in times of confusion or crisis. I always had my family, close-knit church family, and Heavenly Father to turn to. 

As this realization came to me, I contrasted the story of my life with the 60 MILLION women who have had abortions since Roe V Wade. Perhaps it hasn't been quite that many women, since some likely had more than one abortion. (60 million is the number of abortions performed.) Immediately I was moved with compassion and grief for these women, some even much younger than me.  The vulnerable, directionless, abused, and lost.  The women who are lied to, and who, out of pure desperation, (or by the adamant instruction of a boyfriend or parent) are led to make a choice that will haunt them for life.

"It is only a clump of cells." I wondered what I would do if I had been a 21 year old pregnant homeless girl, and if the only person who seemed to care told me that my 18 week old (which is the legal abortion limit in WA) clump of cells was really no big deal.  That there was a way out that could return my life to normal and save that clump from a life of not being.....wanted. (Huh?)  With no help and no direction...what might my decision be? 

The tears started to flow, and quickly my emotions got the better of me and evolved into sobbing.  "I have to get control of myself!"  My makeup was completely ruined, and I had an entire day of errands yet to accomplish! This was really weird for me, as I am not usually an outwardly emotional person.  I am definitely not a weepy woman, even during pregnancy.  I felt like this was a direct answer to my prayer as I felt completely, uncontrollably broken for women who continue to be deceived and wounded by lies and false hope. 
After my shift, and as I waddled back to my car, I looked up Matthew 9:36 on my phone. Being the sheep owner and lover that I am, I can always appreciate a verse that compares us with my fluffy four legged friends. I do find these passages to be quite accurate, ha!  This particular verse, which speaks of Jesus, is such a great reminder for us as we fight this battle on our knees.
 "When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Although my time on the side-walk was less joyful that it had been during previous shifts, (and quite frankly, made a mess of my face--think matchmaker scene on the Disney classic Mulan ;-) I left with a much deeper sense of Jesus' compassion and brokenness for the lost. 
I hope ya'll driving by know that despite the accusations from our pro-abortion friends, we are not there to judge or condemn.  We are there to listen, to love, to adopt your precious ones, to show you how Christ can transform our lives from something hopeless, to something far beyond what you could ever imagine or dream. We are humbly standing there together as a family of brothers and sisters, to set captives free, to see broken people made whole, to welcome you into safety, and to share in the forgiveness and love that Jesus extends for any and all who will accept it.  We are there to awaken our nation to the truth that abortion is a tragedy that hurts women and takes human life. And ultimately, we are SO ready to see it stop! 

My precious, beautiful little niece at 12 weeks 3 days old.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Our First 19 Days of 40 Days for Life!!!

Thanks to Victoria for putting together this video! 
(Unfortunately, we weren't able to photograph everyone on all the days! So there are lots of other sweet participants that are not seen in the video!  So sorry about this!)

Monday, March 20, 2017

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things . . .

Family, friends, . . . Fiddlers! (As in the coffee shop!) 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Our Precious Little Brielle

Brielle loves being a part of the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil on the sidewalks in front of PP.
She'll happily stand with us as long as we're out there, waving and smiling to the people driving by.
She is a beautiful testimony of life beginning under difficult circumstances, 
and yet such a precious life created in the image of God.
We're so thankful her life was protected when she was most vulnerable . . . in her mother's womb. 
We can't imagine life without her!  
(Photo from today ~ by Caroline)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

28th Anniversary Get-Away!

The quads were so good to us to watch the kids for two days so we could take a one-night, two-day get-away.  We decided to go to a new place that we have never been to before.  The town is called Sisters, and is about a five hour drive from us into Oregon.  The town has a "western theme" to it.  
The surroundings reminded us a lot of Flagstaff, Arizona with being mostly Ponderosa Pine forest and there was lots of snow on the ground!  
 The Best Western that we stayed at had these llamas on their property.  
They had feed we could give them. 

 Self-timer selfie . . .
 We visited a nearby fish hatchery . . . 
 There was a wild otter in one of the fish ponds . . . . : -)

 We could feed the fish . . . 

 We had fun exploring the nearby camping areas,
keeping in mind bringing the kids back to camp this summer! 
 This is the Metolious River that runs through much of the area around there! 
It was all very pretty! 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Check Out Caroline's New Blog . . . .

. . . for updates on our local 40 Days for Life campaign!  
Caroline tries to post regularly,
 so come back often and see what God is doing!

Small Steps - Immeasurable Joy

Also, for worldwide 40 Days for Life updates,
you can go here:
40 Days for Life Updates from Around the World

You can sign up to receive their daily updates via email!
Oh, and be sure to check out their "Day 7" update!  : -) 
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