Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Baby's Diary

Wednesday’s assignment was to write a speech over lunch on fetal development which we had learned about that morning from Wanda Franz, the president of NRLC, who has a PhD in Child Development. The instructions said to be creative, so I decided to take them up on the offer!

Many are fascinated with reading other’s diaries... people they admire or people who have an interesting perspective on life, like Anne Frank for example who had a peek into World War II through an attic hideaway. Today people spend a lot of time on Facebook or Twitter or blogs :-) because they can catch a glimpse into someone else’s reality. 

But have you ever wondered what it would be like if we could find out exactly what it was like for each of us to be inside our mothers’ womb for nine months? I wish that we could remember as adults what it must have been like during the earliest days of our lives. 

The good news is that now with advanced modern technology we can know more than ever before how each of us grow during the first months of life - and its an absolutely beautiful and break-taking process.

As a baby, perhaps this is what my diary would have sounded like.. (if I could have actually written a diary of course!)

Lennart Nilsson
(Sperm entering egg)
Oh my goodness! I’m alive!!! - a genetically complete, totally unique, single celled organism too small for anyone to see. You might be asking - how did I come to be? My dad’s sperm, a very persistent fast-swimming at that, united with my mom’s egg and ta-da! at the exact moment that these two completely separate cells united - you got me! I have all the DNA genetic information that I will ever need - from the beginning. 

Lennart Nilsson
8 days
You can now call me “Embryo”. I’ve traveled down my mom’s fallopian tube and found a safe home on the wall of my mom’s uterus. Snuggling in close, I’ve attached myself permanently for the duration. All my cells have differentiated and know exactly what part of the body they will become - whether it be my digestive system, my nervous system or my muscles. 

I’ve grown so much! I am now 1/6 inch long. My heart is starting to beat with my own blood and my other organs are starting to form too! How exciting! 

More growth - I now have eyes, legs and hands starting to develop. Life is good.

You’ll never believe it - I have brain waves now!!! And.... drum roll please, fingers and lips! I am happy to announce that I made my first movement yesterday as my nervous system is developing nicely. Especially around my mouth, I can finally start to feel things!
Lennart Nilsson
8 weeks
Super exciting news! I have a new name: “Fetus”. I am kicking and swimming around in my little swimming pool and the best part is that I still might be a surprise to my mom. She can’t feel my movements yet, but all my major body parts are present in my one inch long body. I have fingerprints too! 
12 weeks
WEEKS 9-12
So much is happening it is hard to keep up with journaling. I have fingernails! I can’t wait until I can have manicure parties with my mom someday. I starting to feel more and more... I think my brain must be developing more and I have more nerve endings everywhere. The best part is that I can now suck my fingers. Don’t forget - I love kicking and dancing. I think I’ll like swing dancing when I grow up. 
Lennart Nilsson 
18 weeks
WEEKS 16-18
The coolest thing happened: I had a dream last night! I think I saw a tall man with a kind, shining face and he was holding me tight. It made me smile. 
I also have skin and hair now - blonde to be exact. 
20 weeks
Just recently I realized that I can hear sounds! A very soothing voice is talking to me all the time - it is very sweet and reassuring. It must be my mom. I can’t wait to meet her! Sometimes I can hear a deeper voice. Yesterday the voice came closer and closer, and it sounded like it was talking straight to me. It sounded as if he was saying, “Hey baby, can’t wait till we get to meet you! Only a couple more months... Hang in there.” Well daddy, I can’t wait to meet you either! 
Lennart Nilsson
Today I felt a pressure right on me - as if my mom was placing her hand right over me. I kicked back to let her know that I can feel her - its such a fun game.
32 weeks
WEEK 32 
Sorry that I haven’t written in awhile, its taken all my energy to gain weight and height. I am so big! Its starting to get cramped in here - any way that I can get out soon? 

I am starting to have something in my lungs that I think is going to help me breathe better when I’m on the outside. Mom and Dad? I am SO, SO, SO excited to meet you finally! I have heard your voice for so long - you seem very wonderful. But I am going to miss hearing your heart beat, Mom. It helps me go to sleep. 

This is going to be a quick entry because ready-or-not-here-I-come! I’m ready to get outta here! 
I wonder what you’ll name me?

(This is me! Abigail - 'Source of the Father's Joy')

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why I am Pro-life

Last week we had 2 speech experts spend two whole days with us, helping us become more confident in our public speaking skills - giving us constructive feedback that was really helpful.  On Tuesday, our assignment was write a speech over lunch, talking about why we were pro-life... The following is my speech written out to how I think I said it, I gave it off of keywords in person :-)

Every since I was a little girl, I have believed that all life is precious. My mom asked me when I was three years old - "what do you want to be when you grow up Abby?" Among other things, I mentioned that I wanted to be a nurse who took care of children all over the world. 

Every day, I saw children on the street, dressed in rags and begging. No one loved them and no one cared. I saw these children every day when my family and I were doing mission work in Romania for 5 years. I knew that even though the society considered them trash and the scum of the earth, God considered these children special, and therefore so should I. When I was 7 (our last year in Romania), my parents got involved in a street children’s ministry. I loved going down to the train station, where many of them lived in the sewers under the street, to serve them lunch. I loved watching many of their faces light up with just this small act of kindness and love. 

You might be wondering, what does this have to do with being pro-life? 

It has EVERYTHING to do with being pro-life - because of the foundational principle of the movement that ALL life is precious: whether it is elderly, disabled, unborn, or considered useless. These values became firmly rooted in me through my experiences in Romania.

My passion to become a nurse in order to protect the voiceless and hopeless did not waver through the years, it only strengthened. We moved back to the United States when I was 8 because my grandma was diagnosed with cancer. But through chemo, radiation and most importantly through God, she went into remission for 4 years almost as soon as we moved back home! But when I was in 7th grade, the cancer came back. We did everything that we possibly could to provide her with the best of care but the cancer was too widespread, and she spent her last five weeks on earth in an intensive care unit. While we basically lived in the hospital with her, I was able to experience for the first time how many medical professionals have no respect and do not help provide for people at the end of their life. Some nurses tried to drug Grandma up so that she would be so sedated she wouldn’t be a hassle. We fought for her - even though she couldn’t speak because of a tracheotomy, we could still communicated that we cared about each other - through hugs, through smiles, through notes passed back and forth. She was very alert and wanted to live as long as God wanted her to live. Some of her doctors pushed for us to end her life sooner, but that would have robbed us of our special goodbye that was peaceful and full of love. My grandma knew that we loved her and that we thought that her life was worth living and fighting for - and she too fought for every breath so that she could be with us just a little bit longer until her dying day. 

The nurses in that hospital impacted my life forever - those were 5 very formative weeks in my life. Those few nurses who were advocates for my grandma and respected and encouraged my family day in and day out made a difference in my grandma’s life and in my family’s life. From that point forward, I have wanted to grow up and be like those nurses so that I can fight for the lives of others who have no advocate. 

Then in high school I became more involved in the pro-life movement. I wrote in essay contests, participated in projects that reached out to the elderly and disabled in my community, raised money for orphans and the unborn, and even participated in a speech contest (where I went all the way to nationals). All these activities and more challenged me to research why I believed life was worth fighting for. Every year I became more and more convinced that God not only created every single individual in his image, but he also created each one for a purpose - no exceptions, no mistakes. Because this view is extremely opposed, I wanted to become more educated so that I could be an effective advocate for those that society has deemed unworthy of value and respect -  and this is why I wanted to attend the NRLC Academy this summer.

Many factors have shaped me into who I am today and why I am so passionate about protecting life. It is because I have seen with my own eyes (despite my initial perceptions and prejudices) that ALL life is precious in God’s eyes at any age or stage of development and therefore worth defending. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

6 Ways to Defeat a Pro-life Candidate

The Political Action Director gave a lecture on Thursday - "6 ways to defeat a pro-life candidate". I thought that these points were really important with the 2010 elections coming up! She is so smart and well informed and it was great to hear that she thinks that pro-life candidates ALL over the country have wonderful chances of be elected this election cycle. Keep praying and read the following list... encourage ALL your friends to vote. Not voting at all is the same thing as voting against the pro-life candidate.

The following is her speech/handout summarized:

#1: Fall in love with your candidate
NRLC encourages pro-lifers to get involved in campaigns - active participation builds a strong campaign. But too often pro-lifers get so excited about their candidate that if he/she loses to another pro-life candidate, the pro-life grassroots person becomes like a child who has lost a game (especially in a primary)... he takes his toys and goes home. He doesn't support the pro-life candidate who won, and won't volunteer in the campaign. Pro-life candidates need the active support of all-lifers and all too often without that full support,  a pro-abortion candidate wins.

#2 Believe that your candidate is the only "real" pro-life candidate in the race and bash other pro-life candidates
In primaries, too many times pro-lifers attack other pro-life candidates as not being "pro-life" enough. Because some pro-lifers have attacked the successful pro-life candidate, the pro-abortion candidate will use that in pro-life circles to hold down opponent. Ironically the pro-abortion candidate is going to other voters, attacking the pro-life candidate as a "radical pro-life extremist".

#3 Support a really nice candidate who is pro-life but has no chance of winning
Millions of unborn children's lives are at stake. That's why the viability of a candidate must be considered when we decide who to vote for. There are some wonderful pro-lifers who may even be active in our chapters, who decide to run for office. However, if they can't gain enough support to be a viable candidate, they need to be encouraged to step aside for a candidate who can actually win and take action to protect unborn children. Supporting to make a statement, not to make a difference is the perfect way to defeat a pro-life candidate.

#4 Expect the candidate to sound like a Right to Life chapter chairman
People who are not directly involved in the pro-life movement are not going to be as articulate or well-versed on all the pro-life issues. Some candidates may not realize that there are certain "code words" that are interpreted differently by the pro-life community. Sometimes a candidate can be tripped up by the media, misquoted, quoted out of context. Give him a chance to explain what he really believes. Remember, words are nice, action is better.

#5 Expect the candidate to always make abortion the major issue in the campaign
November 2008 polls found that 34% of voters affected the way that they voted. Of those 25% said they voted for the pro-life candidate. While it is a distinct advantage for candidates to be pro-life and makes a difference in the outcome of an election, it also means 66% of the voters had other issues that were more important to them. In order to win, a candidate has to focus on many issues that will appeal to a broad variety of voters. When abortion is discussed in the campaign, the candidate must clearly and directly articulate his position, you can't expect the candidate to always make abortion the major issue in the campaign to sure way to lose an election.

#6 Vote for a third-party or independent candidate who has no chance of winning
When a general election is between a pro-life candidate and pro-abortion candidate representing established parties, there will be times when a third-party or independent candidate will get into the race, claiming to be the "real" pro-lifer. He will attack the pro-life candidate who has real chances of winning and get other pro-lifers to do the same. This is a sure strategy to elect the pro-abortion candidate. Pro-lifers who support the third-party to the detriment of the pro-lifer may feel like they have not compromised their principles - but if they succeed in indirectly helping to elect a candidate who allow the killing of unborn babies to continue, they compromised away something far more important: children's lives.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


We were given the book Brave New World to read over the weekend - if you've never read it, I highly recommend it. To say that it causes you to think would be an understatement. 

It was written in the 30's but is extremely insightful into questions that our culture is dealing with today - especially on the issue of suffering. The World Controllers, with the advancement of modern technology, have been able to genetically modify human beings and get rid of most diseases. Everyone takes this drug called soma daily and whenever they feel the slightest bit unhappy. The sole purpose of man is to be comfortable, "happy", and stable. In the effort to avoid pain and suffering, they sacrifice all freedom to experience independence, love, passion, beauty, joy, excitement - literally “anything for a quiet life.” The entire culture shifted from emphasizing truth and beauty to comfort and happiness. The State is highly motivated to keep people content and stable so that they will not become unhappy, think for themselves and try to overthrow the government. When the body starts failing with age, people are just given a large overdose of soma so that they go on permanent holiday and escape reality in death. The protagonist questions the active euthanasia of his 'elderly' mother, but the nurse responds that murder only kills the individual  - but after all, what is an individual? 

By displaying a dystopia, this books shows that suffering is a truly necessary component of a complete human experience. As Christians, we can recognize that suffering is a direct correlation from the Fall of Adam in the Garden and the subsequent sinful nature of mankind. Yet, reconciling suffering is still hard for me. I don't think that we should completely try and run away, masking all signs of suffering (assisted suicide would be an example of escapism). 

But one of the questions asked of us was this: Are all efforts to reduce or eliminate suffering the equivalent of providing soma, and equally to be deplored? What, if any, is the difference between researching the cures for diseases and providing 'merciful' euthanasia?

In all honesty, I really struggled (and still am struggling) with this question...I even called my parents to talk about it with them. And I'm sure that after we talk about it in class on Thursday, I'll have even more to chew on (I'll let you know...)

Soma, or anything that resembles it, should be deplored because it tries to completely mask all signs of suffering all the time. Yet not all efforts to reduce suffering seem to fit into this category. It would be inhumane to have morphine at one’s disposal but because “suffering is a natural part of life” refuse to give it to a person who has just been severely wounded in a car accident and is in agony for example. All I could think about was my Granny Ann, in her last hours of life struggling for breath, in severe pain and scared. We couldn't bear the thought of her dying in agony, so we increased the dosage of her pain meds to help her rest more easily until she died a natural death only a few hours later. But is our instinct to reduce or eliminate suffering wrong? 

Trying to find cures for diseases cannot be always wrong because one of the ways that Jesus showed compassion was by healing people with incurable diseases. Yet is treating/curing diseases only really right when we are trying to find a cure that just helps the body fight better in order to return to its original design versus implementing an artificial way to eliminate suffering (like soma or messing with genetics for example)? Where's the line between ethical pain management and running away from suffering, in the process becoming more and more like a Brave New World? 

Bottom line: I don't know. Ironically this is a question where it appears that there are no easy answers and a question one must instead wrestle and struggle with instead. But I don't think that God is afraid of us asking big questions, and I am trusting that perhaps during the next five weeks, or perhaps later, he will reveal more to me in time.

Here's what I do know: trying to eliminate all suffering will not produce good results. Suffering is a permanent part of our world until Jesus' return because of our sin. And in the end, trying to completely eradicate suffering also eliminates the possibilit of experiencing joy, love, beauty and most importantly God's redemption. 

I also know that through God's redemption, he can use the suffering in our lives to refine us and make us more like himself. This alone should help us not be so afraid of suffering. But I will admit that I am sometimes still afraid

The world tells us to just escape from suffering....when your loved one is likely going to die, just be compassionate and end their life now. 

Here's something else that I know: when my Grandma Sue was in her last five weeks of life in ICU, the doctors pressured us to take her off the respirator - she was going to die anyway. But up until the last day of her life, even though she couldn't talk because of her tracheotomy, she was alive, alert, ready with a smile, and capable of both receiving our love and giving love away to us. Those five weeks that we spent with her in the hospital were some of the hardest yet some of the best moments that we ever got to spend with her. We were able to have a good goodbye: we were able to shower compassion and love on her, letting her know that her life was valuable and that we treasured her. Instead of dying with the knowledge that her life wasn't worth living anymore (which would have been the message that we would have sent if we had pulled the plug), she died a good death: in peace, with a smile on her face right before she lapsed into unconsciousness, and with dignity and respect. One of the greatest lessons that my Grandma Sue ever could have taught me was endure suffering with joy and grace because it produces hope, and hope does not disappoint. (Romans 5) What is that hope in? Jesus Christ our Lord who for the joy set before him also suffered when he endured the cross and who is now seated with God in heaven (Hebrews 12). 

Tonight was full of tears. Many, many tears... as I struggled with these issues of suffering and pain because I wanted to know what was right and as I relived the deaths of both my grandma and great-grandma.  But now I realize more than ever that suffering is not something to be afraid of or something that we should run from all the time. Even in the pain and sorrow that I am experiencing tonight, I would never want to replace the joy that I am also experiencing in celebrating the lives that they did live, the memories that we shared and the hope of knowing that one day we'll all be together in heaven where there are no more tears (Revelation 21:4).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth of July in DC!

I feel so blessed to have been able to spend fourth of July in Washington DC! Definitely epic.

All of the Academy (except Andrew - he went home this weekend) and a few NRLC Interns met at the office and walked over the Mall - people everywhere from every land and nation it seemed like! We staked out a spot on the Capitol Lawn - in the shade (thankfully, because it was HOT and muggy) with a perfect view of Washington Monument through an opening in the trees. All afternoon and evening, we ate, played Apples to Apples, played music (listened to Brandyn sing country - oh my), and just had a great time of fellowship. About 8pm, there as a concert that played even through the fireworks show! It was pretty sweet! Last year I sat on the steps of Lincoln Memorial and this year I was on the opposite end on the lawn of the Capitol!!! (Check out the pictures on PICTURES- WEEK 2)

The Metros were CRAZY - I looked it up on the internet and the Washington Post estimated that over a half a million people were trying to use the metro for the fireworks! But we beat the crowds by just walking the 22 blocks from the Capitol to GW. We've become practically experts in weaving our way through throngs of people now! :-)

The Academy guys, and a few of the interns, didn't want to go to bed by 11 since we have the day off work, so we grabbed ice cream and frozen pizzas and had a party on our balcony. We cranked up the music and even did a little swing dancing!  Quite a way to celebrate!

Yes, our freedom is a good reason to celebrate - but I was reminded of how much we can't take it for granted that we will always have freedom to just live and breathe. There are so many that want to take it away from us, and we can't lose heart or our focus and stop praying for our country and standing up for truth.