Refugee Resettlement: On The Frontlines: Christian Compassion Meets Rugged Reality

imageExcerpt from the book:

For the past 2.5 years, I have been actively involved in assisting refugees as they adjust to this strange new land, the United States. This is not always easy, especially when there is a language barrier. Most of the women I have met do not know English. How can I build a friendship with a woman who has endured horrific hardships when there are no words we can exchange?

Sometimes the silence is deafening. It is a silence created from grief, from loneliness, oftentimes desperation. The silence envelops me and washes over me as I sit on the couch next to a widowed Iraqi mother at her apartment. Her husband was killed working as an interpreter for our Army. There are no words I can speak to comfort her as she cries. I do not know Arabic. She does not know English. But the blurry photo of the aged woman on her lap tells me everything. My Iraqi friend misses her mother, a mother on the other side of the world in a combat zone. As we shed tears together, she murmurs those two words over and over: ‘My mom.’ It is all she can say. I know there are mountains of words she would like to express, but they remain bottled inside of her.

The silence spoke volumes on that brisk winter morning when a friend and I drove to the apartment of a Congolese single mother. I intended to introduce the two of them, to somehow explain that this new American friend would be her English tutor. As we arrived, the crumpled figure of this Congolese woman sat shivering on the edge of the sidewalk. She usually greeted me with a beautiful smile, but this time her teeth could not stop chattering. Her face appeared drained of all strength. It must have been 40 degrees outside and she had no jacket. Finally, a fellow refugee arrived with a blanket and helped us figure out what had happened. For 2 hours, she had been locked out of her apartment. As she shook relentlessly, we hoisted her off the sidewalk and to her feet. I wanted to do more. I wanted to say more. I wanted to find out how she could have been left outside for 2 hours without anyone coming to her aid. Where was her son? But I was just there, a spectator, unable to offer more than my presence.

Yet offering my presence has been the key to breaking the silence. Sharing my life with a refugee takes patience because this requires a unique friendship, a friendship which extends beyond cultural and language barriers. It is a friendship built on trust. These foreigners that I share my life with are not the typical immigrant. They have been broken, they have been battered and bruised. And I have been given the privilege of meeting them at a time when hope begins anew. Can they trust that life will be better in this foreign land? Can they put their guard down and share their heart with me? The widowed Iraqi mother knows she can trust me. I did not tell her those words in English. It is learned when we go to the market, learning new words as we shop together. It is learned when I hold the hand of her daughter on the little girls’ first dental visit, discovering that 12 of her 20 teeth are rotted. Trust is learned as my presence has endured the test of time. And where there is trust, fear cannot endure. Together we experience the gift: Shared silence brings healing.

Within 5 miles of my home in Knoxville, there are dozens of churches filled with people who will never know the intimacy of sharing their life with an ‘outsider’. I imagine that Christianity may have never spread beyond Israel if the early Christians discriminated against ‘undesirables’ such as Romans, barbarians and Pharisees. I am a busy mother to 7 children and 2 grandchildren and I, more than anyone, can give excuses as to why I have no time to befriend refugees. And yet, there is a fulfillment I experience by helping the helpless, defending the fatherless, caring for the widow. My Christian faith should look captivating to a crumbling world. Only because of Jesus’ teachings about love and radical hospitality have I chosen to do what I do. I want my children and my foreign friends to see my faith in action.

 

Amazon Book Description: The topic of refugee resettlement has become a divisive issue in the United States since the terrorist attacks in Paris. Being on the frontlines of refugee resettlement in her community, Brenda Weatherly has a window into a world that is uncommon for most Americans. Having become acquainted with over 100 refugees in her city through volunteer work, as well as sharing meals with over 40 refugees in her home, Brenda offers a voice that is not often heard: the voice of reason. Discussing the need for Americans to advocate on behalf of refugees, while acknowledging that there are challenges involved with a clash of cultures, Brenda does not peddle easy answers.
Join Brenda in this book–part-memoir, part non-fiction– as she takes a critical look at the resettlement process and discusses:

Her convictions as a Christian in helping ‘the stranger’
Her personal experiences as a volunteer with refugees
Europe’s challenge with unregulated mass migration
Her desire as an American citizen to balance compassion with discernment in who we allow to enter our country
The Elephant In The Room: Islam, diversity and women’s rights
A game plan in how we can help refugees assimilate to a new culture
The need for a complete overhaul of the current system of refugee resettlement

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Do You Want To Review My Book?

imageOn Tuesday, May 31, my Ebook “Refugee Resettlement: On The Frontlines: Christian Compassion Meets Rugged Reality” will be published to Amazon. I am looking for a few folks who would like to review my book for free in exchange for an honest review on Amazon. I am looking for people who have time to read it and post the review within 7 days. The book is 105 pages long.

Amazon Book Description:

The topic of refugee resettlement has become a divisive issue in the United States since the terrorist attacks in Paris. Being on the frontlines of refugee resettlement in her community, Brenda Weatherly has a window into a world that is uncommon for most Americans. Having become acquainted with over 100 refugees in her city through volunteer work, as well as sharing meals with over 40 refugees in her home, Brenda offers a voice that is not often heard: the voice of reason. Discussing the need for Americans to advocate on behalf of refugees, while acknowledging that there are challenges involved with a clash of cultures, Brenda does not peddle easy answers.

Join Brenda in this book–part memoir, part non-fiction– as she takes a critical look at the resettlement process and discusses:

  • Her convictions as a Christian in helping ‘the stranger’
  • Her personal experiences as a volunteer with refugees
  • Europe’s challenge with unregulated mass migration
  • Her desire as an American citizen to balance compassion with discernment in who we allow to enter our country
  • The Elephant In The Room: Islam, diversity and women’s rights
  • A game plan in how we can help refugees assimilate to a new culture
  • The need for a complete overhaul of the current system of refugee resettlement.

If you are interested in this assignment, please email me at Brenda.weatherly@yahoo.com.

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Malawi Schoolchildren In Need Of Food

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Charles and Mary with 3 of their children (Brenda on the right) and 2 grandchildren.

For the past 14 years, I have kept in touch with a sweet family from Malawi, Africa. Our friendship started after the mother, Mary, read an article that I had written in an internationally-distributed magazine. The magazine somehow made it all the way to Malawi and we began writing letters back and forth as pen pals and now keep in touch through Facebook. Mary’s husband, Charles, is a school teacher and Mary is the school’s treasurer. I am honored to say that Charles and Mary chose to name one of their daughters after me. Brenda is now 12 years old and in 7th grade.

Throughout all of these years, our mutual friendship was based on our love for the Lord. I have never been asked to send money to them. Charles and Mary, although living in a country riddled with many problems, have chosen to focus on teaching the children at the school rather than succumb to despair and desperation. That is, until this past week.

I received a message from Charles letting me know of the dire circumstances they are in. Malawi has been hit with a severe drought. There have been no rains since July 2015. Because of this drought, the people have not been able to plant their crops. Corn is difficult to buy and it has become very expensive. Charles said, “Absenteeism is now a major challenge as most minors cannot come to school on [an] empty stomach.”

malawi

The above photo is of the Mulambe school. There are 89 students enrolled, but today (April 27) only 14 were present.

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Of the above photo, Charles says: “At Kadyang’anda school 103 learners enrolled but only 16 were present (April 27). We used to receive soya flour from the government but funding ceased. Sourcing of food was left in the hands of the community which is failing completely. If we can have maize it can be grinded into flour and cook porridge and this can encourage minors back into school.”

I promised Charles and Mary that I would do whatever I could to help them feed these children. The only thing I know to do is to write a blog post and share this on social media. If you would like to ensure that these precious children will not have their education interrupted and if you would like to know that they are being fed at least one full meal per day while at school, I ask you to consider donating towards the purchase of sugar, salt and maize as well as the cost of transportation and milling involved with this process.

I am trying to raise $1,000 for these children. The funds would cover the cost of both schools feeding the children through July 2016. I am thankful to call Charles and Mary my friends. I know that if the tables were turned, they would be helping me in my time of need. Please prayerfully consider making a donation that will go directly to these schools in Malawi. You can either make a donation directly to my Paypal account, brenda.weatherly@yahoo.com, where 100% of the money will go to the schools. Or if you feel more comfortable donating through a GoFundMe account, you can do so here, but please be advised that GoFundMe will deduct a 5% fee from each donation. Thank-you for your generous support!

For more information about the Malawi drought, please read these news articles:

Africa Drought Fears Grip Malawi And Mozambique

Malawi Declares State Of Disaster Over Food Crisis

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Upcoming Ebook About Refugee Resettlement

NewsTalk

I was invited to speak on NewsTalk 98.7 this past November along with my Afghan friend, Parwiz, about refugee resettlement and the Syrian refugee crisis.

I am in the beginning stages of writing an ebook titled, ‘Refugee Resettlement: On The Frontlines.’

Some of the topics that will be covered are:

  • My convictions as a Christian in helping ‘the stranger’
  • Personal experiences as a volunteer with refugees
  • Europe’s problems with unregulated mass migration
  • My desire as an American citizen to balance compassion with discernment in who we allow to enter our country
  • Coming up with a game plan in how we can better help refugees assimilate to a new culture
  • The need for a complete overhaul of the current system of refugee resettlement
  • The Elephant In The Room: Islam
  • Brief interviews with refugees and refugee volunteers

Coming soon to Amazon!

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My Top 10 Books of 2015

I read 56 books in 2015. I’d like to share with you my 10 favorite books of 2015. You’ll see that I enjoy biographies/autobiographies.

These books made the Top 10 because they deeply impacted me in some way:

born survivorsBorn Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope

 

 

secret thoughtsThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith

full body burdenFull Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats

hardest peace

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

great fireThe Great  Fire: One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide

insanity of obedienceThe Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places

to be a friendTo Be a Friend Is Fatal: The Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind

seeking allahSeeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

nesting placeThe Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

a thousand shall fallA Thousand Shall Fall: The Electrifying Story of a Soldier and His Family Who Dared to Practice Their Faith in Hitler’s Germany

Coming soon…My Book Challenge for 2016. If you have any recommendations for a book that you think I’d enjoy, please let me know!

 

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Before Welcoming Syrian Refugees…

Before welcoming Syrian refugees into the United States, there are a few challenging questions that we, as Americans, should ask ourselves.

Are Middle Eastern refugees that are currently living in the United States thriving?

patty_layla

Sharing Easter dinner with a few of my good friends.

From my personal interactions with refugees over the past 2 years, I believe that Middle Eastern women, in particular Muslim women, are especially at risk of isolation and cultural alienation. Refugee mothers that I have befriended from African countries have made a determined effort to learn English as quickly as possible and to become active in the community either through employment or church activities; Middle Eastern mothers are often isolated at home.

Join me as I give a background summary of a few women I have gotten to know over the past 22 months. These 4 women came to the United States fleeing persecution with the intention of beginning a better life. The relief from danger has now been overrun by feelings of emptiness, homesickness and/or anger over what they have lost. They are torn between a home country that is unsafe and a host country that feels foreign and unwelcoming. *Names have been changed to protect identity.*

Lana has been living in the United States since October 2014. She arrived from Iraq with a supportive husband, a 3-year-old and 2-year-old and also 7 months pregnant. She knew no English, so each time her family came to my home for dinner, she sat silently while her husband engaged in lively conversation. Fast forward another year to November 2015. Lana still does not speak English. Her life revolves around her 3 lively children in a small apartment in a sub-par neighborhood. Her only avenue of socialization is by communicating with the family and friends she left behind in Iraq through Facebook and phone calls.

Consider Abida, an Iraqi refugee in her early 30’s, who has been living in the United States for 6 years. She still knows only rudimentary English. Each conversation with her is strained because of the language barrier. She, too, spends her days at home with her 3 young children. Her husband unexpectedly sold all of their belongings this past July to move to a different state 30 hours west for the promise of a job that did not pan out. They are now attempting to begin life all over again in a new state which I am worried will leave Abida further disconnected.

Scarlet waiting at the airport for Fatima.

Scarlet waiting at the airport for Fatima.

Fatima arrived December 2014. My daughter, Scarlet, and I were the one’s to pick her up from the airport. Two months later, Fatima’s son, “Ali”, a single father, arrived from Iraq with his elementary-aged son. Ali, who had worked in military special forces for 8 years, was now relegated to factory work. Money was scarce. Each time I visited the family at their apartment, their demeanor continued deteriorating. There were problems with Fatima’s medical insurance. Because of her extensive health problems, she could not afford the medication for her asthma and high blood pressure. In April, I joined Fatima at the hospital when one of her asthma attacks left her too weak to walk up the flight of stairs to her apartment. In June, I tried to call Fatima and Ali to check on them. The phone was shut off. Their neighbor told me that they had abruptly moved back to Iraq.

Finally, meet Jazmin, my Iranian friend. She is Muslim. She married a non-Muslim, so to continue living in Iran equated to prison. Jazmin has been living in the United States for 6 years. While her English is good, she feels a deep loneliness at being separated from her extended family. Her daughter is constantly bullied at school. Jazmin does not work, so she has plenty of time to brood in their 1-bedroom apartment about how their lives have come to a halt. Jazmin’s main goal now is to ‘find happiness’. She said she may divorce her husband and return to Iran with her daughter.

ESL_women

ESL Class

These real-life examples are not embellished. I do not share them as a means to ‘smear’ refugee resettlement or the refugees themselves. I believe that the American public has a right to know of the challenges we face as a nation over not properly understanding the importance of cultural assimilation in the lives of refugees. My volunteer work has taught me that integration into a local community is essential for the success of a refugee placement. I did the best that I could with the women mentioned above, but integration is a two-way street. It goes back to the questions in my previous post that I believe must be asked of prospective refugees: Will you be willing to adjust your lives to Western society? Will you promise to learn English as quickly as possible and integrate into your local community? Refugees must understand that if they are not willing to do these things, it will be a long and lonely road for them. We can promise safety, but we cannot promise happiness.

For Americans who are pro-refugee and in favor of allowing Syrian refugees to come to the United States, here is a  tough question for you.

Are you willing to be more than a public voice for refugees, but also a friend and advocate- which requires a sacrifice of your time?

My suggestion is for you to use the energy you have currently been spending on pro-refugee social media posts to instead contact your local refugee resettlement agency today and find out how you can make a difference in the life of  a refugee that is already here.

If Syrians are permitted to immigrate to the United States, what will our response be?

We have to prepare ourselves for the likelihood that our country may soon see Syrian refugees arriving.

If Americans are not willing to welcome Syrians into their communities, can these refugee placements be considered a success?

Will we- 1 year or 5 years down the road- see an influx of Syrians determined to make their way back “home” after our country has spent billions of dollars in the initial vetting and resettlement process?

Can our government brainstorm any alternatives for the Syrians that could keep them in closer proximity to their home country so that those who prefer to return to Syria after the war can feasibly do so?

park

My friends and I gathered at the park for a picnic from U.S., Iraq, Iran, Israel and Congo.

My hope in volunteering with refugees is that they will become thriving, successful American citizens that contribute to making the United States a stronger country. Without a doubt, most of the refugees I have met are hard-working, hopeful, grateful people. Their children are thankful to be receiving an education and many of them have high aspirations in life; to become a doctor or nurse is a common goal that I hear. America is the land of opportunity, but sadly for some, we are the land of loneliness. Syrian refugees who have already arrived in the United States battle isolation and financial and cultural hurdles. One of them described his new situation in Baltimore with these words: “For me, everything is blackness.” My hope is that President Obama will consider my plea to carefully weigh all of the ramifications of welcoming in a traumatized people group that 1) may not be welcomed by their neighbors and 2) may not have the capacity to fully assimilate without extensive intervention.

These are complex and deep questions that deserve deep thought. Honestly, there are no easy answers. Everyone has an opinion. I look forward to hearing yours.

 

 

 

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Refugee Resettlement: Balancing Compassion With Discernment

faina_dinner

Refugees from DR Congo enjoy lunch at the Weatherly house one Sunday after church. Photo courtesy of Saul Young, Knoxville News Sentinel.

I have been a volunteer with a refugee resettlement agency in Knoxville, Tennessee since January 2014. My family and I welcome refugees to our city by taking them to get their Social Security cards or medical screenings and I teach ESL one day a week. We have also welcomed refugees into our home for meals from many different countries over the past 22 months. We have done our best to befriend these newcomers to our city so that they will have the best possible chance to be integrated into American culture. I want my children to have a compassionate heart for persecuted peoples and people of all nationalities.

refugee_protest

Unrest at a European train station

Over the course of the last few months as the migrant crisis in Europe escalated, I have found myself in a state of anxiety about what the future may hold for Western Europe. I have friends and family in Germany who are singing a different tune today than they had been last year. In January, when I asked their opinion about welcoming refugees, they seemed very open to assisting them. Now, they said their whole country is being changed and they are worried that Germany will not be able to cope. When I see YouTube videos uploaded almost daily by regular citizens showing brawls in migrant camps or of heated protests between Germans over the refugee crisis , I feel anguish. Some of these refugees who have fled persecution in the Middle East are expressing heartache that the very violence they fled has followed them to Europe because of the open borders.

My own feelings towards refugee resettlement are being transformed before my very eyes as I struggle with what I know to be morally right: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’ Yet, my greatest prayer is for my own children to grow up in a country that is secure from the threats and terrorism that we see in the Middle East. As a mother, how can I deny this same hope to a Syrian mother? 

parisMy heart has become in even greater anguish because of the turn of events over the past week: Paris attacked by terrorists possibly from many different countries. And in the wake of that, thousands of Facebook users changed their Profile Pic to that of France’s flag colors. I changed my Profile Pic in solidarity as well. But not everyone stands in solidarity with France. An Iraqi refugee family that has been living in the U.S. for 18 months (father, mother, 2 grown sons, 2 high school sons) that my own family befriended chose to change their Profile Pics to the colors of the Iraqi flag. Under one of the grown son’s profile pic, his mother (a woman that I have shared many dinners with) wrote in Arabic: ‘Go to hell, America. May God curse America and Israel to hell.’ I replied with a warning to use great caution when making online curses against a country that has taken them in, provided them with refuge, financial assistance and free education. Up to this point, there was no indication that there were any negative feelings toward the U.S. I took them to be very friendly, engaged, thankful refugees.I am still in shock over the French attacks and over my “friend’s” post. Because of all the emotion and confusion I’m experiencing, I deactivated my Facebook account, but not before screenshotting this damning post and reporting it to the refugee resettlement agency. 

syrianRefegees2_2374507bWhat are my thoughts now about allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States? Six months ago, I would have rolled out the red carpet for them. Now, I am hesitant. I believe that we need to use extreme caution about who we allow in the United States if we want to continue living with freedom and pleasant ease. We need to include difficult questions in the vetting process, such as: What are your thoughts on American culture? Will you be willing to adjust your lives to Western society and teach your children to value our values? Will you promise to learn English as quickly as possible and integrate into your local community? And maybe one of the toughest questions to ask of Muslim refugees: What is your prayer for Israel? Some may cry that this question is too personal and unfair, but I believe it cannot be ignored. Why is it important to ask this question? If a Muslim cannot suppress his hatred for Jews, then he should not be permitted to immigrate here. To live in a modern, welcoming society, all nationalities and religions must be protected and valued. If Syrian refugees would like us to accept them into our country, then they need to be ready to lock arms, neighbor to neighbor, with people groups they may have a cultural or religious aversion to: Christians, Jews and homosexuals. They don’t have to agree with those peoples’ religions and values, but they need to be willing to join this great American melting pot. If refugees cannot do this, then the United States should not be encroached upon to accept them in our midst. It would not mean that we rejected them, rather it would mean that they rejected us.

Statue of Liberty seen from the Circle Line ferry, Manhattan, New YorkI believe that the United States government should not downplay the anxiety voiced by its citizens regarding Syrian refugees. President Obama recently stated, in reference to many Governors wanting to deny entry to Syrian refugees: “Apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion… They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns.” Personally, I am not a politician nor do I speak for Republicans; I am speaking as a concerned mother who would love nothing more than to continue offering hospitality to persecuted refugees, trusting that my government’s scrutiny in refugee vetting has ensured my safety. I am not attempting to drum up unnecessary fear to advance a campaign. There are not many Americans who can say that they have opened their home to share meals with Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans, as my family has done. We are not naive to the dangers that Islamic extremists have carried out and continue threatening to carry out. Having a sympathetic heart towards the persecuted is heroic, but demonstrating collective discernment towards the admittance of refugees promotes a love for humanity even more courageous than immediate displays of compassion. We owe it to our own citizens- as well as Syrian refugees who are seeking refuge here- that this great country will continue to be a safe haven for future generations.

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Why I Hold A Special Place In My Heart For Planned Parenthood

fetusWhere would I be without Planned Parenthood? My life would look so much different. How, you ask? I would have a sister 9 years younger than me. I never got to know her. Her life was snuffed out at the Santa Barbara Planned Parenthood back in 1985. Planned Parenthood holds a “special” place in my heart because a piece of my family was destroyed there.

The situation that led to my sister being aborted was not a simple one. In fact, most people will say that out of any abortion, my mom’s is the one most understandable, the most logical. She had been raped by a friend in the small town where I grew up. As the town’s only licensed childcare provider, my mom babysat this man’s children. After the rape, my mom remained silent to protect this man’s wife and 4 children. A month or two later, it became clear to my mom that she was pregnant. After discussing with my dad and her doctor, it was recommended that she have an abortion. The pregnancy was early enough that “it wasn’t a baby yet” and surely out of any unwanted pregnancy, this one wins the prize as the most unwanted. But my mom was hesitant. She made the appointment at Planned Parenthood, hoping to receive some counseling before the abortion, but on the day of the scheduled abortion, while waiting in the office with my dad, she had second thoughts. As they brought her to the back room to perform the procedure, she began crying and said that she changed her mind. The “nurse” impatiently let her know that my dad had paid extra to have my mom put to sleep and she’ll feel better afterwards, so my mom went through with it. She remembers waking up feeling like she had cried throughout the whole abortion procedure. She was led out a back door with crackers and orange juice so that those waiting up front wouldn’t see her vulnerable state.

As a 9-year-old girl, I wasn’t aware of any of this. The only thing I knew was that one day my mom was going to have a baby and then the next day, I was told that she had a miscarriage. It never occurred to me that all of the crying she did after her miscarriage-crying alone while doing dinner dishes, crying while doing simple chores around the house- it wasn’t because of a miscarriage, but because of an abortion. She lived in silent depression for 6 years. Then in a turn of events that no mother ever wishes to go through, she had the opportunity to be free from the pain of the loss of her unborn child .

She hadn’t heard those words in 6 years, but there they were again: Planned Parenthood. Santa Barbara.

PlannedParenthoodsignI was 15 and pregnant. My doctor told me that the best thing for me to do was to schedule an abortion at the Planned Parenthood in Santa Barbara. I wouldn’t even have to tell my parents; it could be set up secretly. It sounded like the best way out of a terrible situation. I told my doctor that I would ask my parents about it, but I was fairly certain that they would agree that abortion was the best answer.

Surprisingly, they didn’t agree. They were actually very against abortion. Why? I had no idea since they had not vocalized an opinion about it up to this point. They were now adamant that they would do whatever they could to help me through the pregnancy and into motherhood. I must admit that even though the horizon looked dark and scary as a pregnant teen, the thought of not having to go through an abortion lightened my load considerably.

It wasn’t until after I became a mother at the age of 16 and my son was 3 months old that everything came out into the light about my mom’s “miscarriage”. When my mom came home from a training session to become a crisis pregnancy counselor, I could see that she was an emotional wreck. When I asked her why she had been crying, she told me that she had to learn about abortion procedures. I understood why that would be difficult, but I didn’t understand the abundance of tears. When I went back to my bedroom, I believe it was the Holy Spirit that spoke to me and reminded me of my mom’s pregnancy when I was 9 years old, a pregnancy that was blocked from my mind. And the words were whispered in my ear, ‘Remember the miscarriage your mom had? It wasn’t a miscarriage. It was an abortion’. I felt my breath catch in my throat and knew that I had to ask my mom about it. When I went into her room, she was sitting on her bed, still crying. I asked her point-blank, “Mom, the reason you’re so sad, is it because you didn’t really have a miscarriage all those years ago? Did you have an abortion?” Shaking her head yes, that’s when everything came out in the open about the rape, abortion and hidden depression.

My son, Andrew, and me. 1995.

My son, Andrew, and me. June 1995. I was 18, Andrew was 2.

Today I know that representatives at Planned Parenthood would tell my mom that she did the right thing, that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, that it wasn’t really a baby yet, only a developing fetus. But I know that these words are lies. The abortion was the more violent of actions in comparison to the rape because it was the taking of an innocent life- my mom knew this. Abortion in crisis situations is not the right thing because I lived through the other side, the side of not aborting, the side of choosing life for my son. It wasn’t easy for me. There were many sacrifices. There were feelings of shame and hopelessness, but when I look at my 22-year-old son now, I feel no shame. I have no anxiety or hidden depression about whether I made the right choice or not. When I look at my son, I feel joy.  His life is something to celebrate. My sister’s was, too. Her life is worthy to be acknowledged, just the same as all of the other 56 million other babies aborted since abortion was legalized.

Seeing the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood sparked in me a raw nerve. At first it was one of anger. Now it is one of pity and sadness. I pity the Planned Parenthood reps who choose to lie to the very women they are paid to help. I pity them because they do not come alongside women in crisis pregnancies as their advocates and rejoice with these mothers as new life is brought into this world. I feel a deep sadness for the pregnant women who have been told that this is the only choice they have and that they should be proud of that choice. Abortion is not a choice worth choosing. It is defeat. I feel sadness for the countless people who have not had the opportunity to adopt an “unwanted” child because that child was taken from them before birth. I pity our selfish nation that would more easily pay for the disposal of unwanted babies than offer real, practical (even monetary) help for mothers in crisis situations.

Let’s stop with the stupid masked words used by those in the pro-choice movement. Abortion is murder. A fetus is a human life. Murder is wrong. A human life is worth living. My family knows firsthand the pain of abortion and the joy of an ‘unwanted’ baby.

To Planned Parenthood employees and supporters: Please reconsider your position. Politics and financial gain aside, choose humanity. Every life matters, both the women and the unborn children. They both are precious in God’s sight.

To my parents: Thank-you. Thank-you for supporting me in the face of ridicule and condemnation from others. Thank-you for loving me unconditionally and for making big sacrifices those first few years of my son’s life to ensure that your grandson was welcomed with open arms.

To my mom: I am proud of you for facing the demons of your past, for coming out into the open on behalf of wounded post-abortive women and helping them receive the love and care they deserve.

To my son: I love you and am thankful to be your mother. My life was changed for the better the day you were born, August 21, 1992.

To my sister: I am sorry. I truly am. You did not deserve this. Mom and I both look forward to that first embrace in Heaven.

weeping

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2015-2016 Homeschool Plans for 6 Children, Kindergarten through Senior

familyThe 2015-2016 school year is already almost here! This year will be my 16th year homeschooling. I will have children in grades: Kindergarten, 2nd, 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th. Tiffany will be graduating this year! It’s hard for me to believe- The little girl that I taught how to read and write “just yesterday” will be finishing up high school and branching out on her own this spring.

I’m excited to see what this year brings. We will be taking part in a homeschool co-op again where my kids will be taking several classes each. Kaylie will also continue with art classes at the Community School of the Arts. As far as curriculum goes, this is what I have scheduled so far from youngest to oldest:

scarletScarlet, Kindergarten

josieJosie, 2nd Grade

lilliaLillia, 6th Grade

isaacIsaac, 8th Grade

kaylieKaylie, 10th Grade

tiffanyTiffany, 12th Grade

Previous posts on homeschooling:

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My Favorite International Recipes

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In a previous post, Enjoy The World At Your Dinner Table, I explained my family’s love for international cuisine combined with our desire to open our home in hospitality. I’d love to take this post to share with you some of my favorite recipes from around the world. My husband, children and I have adventurous palettes, so some of these recipes may be off the deep end for the traditional American table, but I hope that I can encourage you to reconsider what ‘normal’ is. Even if we never make the same recipe again (because nobody liked it), we are sharing in an experience that brings our family closer together and allows us the freedom to verbalize what our true likes and dislikes really are. We can’t say that we don’t like Cuban food or Ethiopian food or Iraqi food if we have never tried it, now can we?

cabbage-rolls-1This first recipe, Sarmale, was recommended to me by a Facebook friend from Romania.  It is sour cabbage leaves (which can be found at any European or International foods store- they are in a glass jar) stuffed with sauteed onions, rice, ground pork or chicken and parsley. Place the rolls of stuffed cabbage in a large casserole, cover with tomato juice and bake for 1.5 hours. You can also add diced bacon to the layers of stuffed cabbage leaves to give the flavor an even greater depth. The stuffed sour cabbage is delicious paired with mamaliga, a Romanian polenta. I used parmesan cheese instead of cheddar cheese.

tiff_haitiTwo years ago, Tiffany, my eldest daughter, went on a 2-week trip to Haiti to visit orphanages and local schools. She told us about a common food in Haiti, Pastelon de Harina de Maiz, a type of cornmeal and ground beef casserole. Americans are familiar with Shepherd’s Pie (ground beef and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes); well, this one is the Caribbean’s version of that, you could say. This tastes really good with a simple green salad.

koshari-zizoWhen you want to cook on a budget and don’t want to skimp on flavor, I recommend trying Egyptian Koshari. There is no meat in this dish, so it’s vegetarian-friendly. The main ingredients are lentils, macaroni,  rice, onions and tomatoes. A Facebook friend from Egypt and fellow homeschool mother told me about Koshari and I’m glad that we tried it.

 

banh miA little more time-consuming (if you want to prepare everything from scratch), Banh Mi is mouth-watering perfection! My husband watched a food show about Anthony Bourdain’s travels to Vietnam. According to Chow.com, “of all the dishes to result from the French influence on the Vietnamese culture, the banh mi sandwich is one of the tastiest. The baguette, mayo, and pork may be borrowed from French cuisine, but the addition of jalapeños and cilantro makes this decidedly Vietnamese fare.” You don’t have to bake French baguettes from scratch like my husband did though–and that will save you hours of work!

Filipino-pancit-featuredPancit! I can’t recommend international cuisine without recommending pancit. This Filippino dish is made with rice noodles, meat (you can choose chicken, pork, shrimp, beef, or a combination), and various veggies. My husband learned to make this when he was in the Navy back in the mid-90’s and now that I have a Filippino daughter-in-law, we eat pancit almost on a monthly basis.

karniyarikA Turkish friend recommended that I try Karniyarik, an eggplant dish that is stuffed with ground lamb or beef. This is also more time-consuming, so much so that when I went to the local Turkish market for ingredients, when I told the owner which dish I was preparing, she said, “Oh no…why did you choose this one to begin with?” I laughed and silently thought, “Why did my friend recommend this?!” But I did it, granted I took a few short cuts…The Turkish owner showed me a can of fried eggplant, so I was able to bypass the steps of peeling and frying all of the eggplant. It still tasted delicious. And if you live in the Knoxville area, I highly recommend bringing your business to Quality Turkish Market where they have also opened up a cafe in addition to their small store.

chicknsWe love Middle Eastern food, especially when it is shared with friends in our home or theirs. One of the first times we had an Iraqi family over to our home for dinner, we prepared something that is similar to Chicken Biryani: Chicken With Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice. This dish has many variations throughout Middle Eastern countries. This particular recipe is from the Jerusalem: A Cookbook which I highly recommend. We served it with flatbread and tabbouleh.

chotpotiOne last favorite that is simple, flavorful and easy on the budget is a recipe from Bangladesh, Chotpoti. Don’t be scared off by the ingredients.  Corn chips, garbanzo beans or split peas, hard boiled eggs, tamarind paste, ginger, cilantro, sugar, diced boiled potatoes, red onions, diced cucumber, diced tomato, chopped green chilies. You mix all of it together and the flavors are unbelievable.

I’m always looking for recommendations of new foods to try, so if you have anything you’d like to share with me, please do so! If it’s something easy, I’ll be sure to make it. If it’s something difficult, I’ll pass it on to my husband (cuz I can do that and he likes a good challenge). Bon Appetit!

 

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