Maternal Instinct

A couple of years ago, I was working as a vet tech at a regional equine hospital during the spring foaling season. A foal came in with its dam due to an illness, and unfortunately the foal had to be humanely euthanized after trying our best to correct the problem. Now, the protocol for such an event (since, in veterinary medicine we can’t explain things to the mare) is to perform the euthanasia and leave the mare with her deceased foal for a few hours to give her time to understand. Then, either the foal is removed, or the mare is transferred to a different stall. In this case, I was instructed to move the mare. So, I clipped a lead rope on her and she followed me calmly and willingly across the facility. Until she saw another mare and foal; then she pulled at the lead, and turned to try to go back to her old stall (where her foal was still laying). She whinnied frantically and kicked me in the hip. I was fine, but very upset. What is wrong with her?? She KNOWS her foal is dead, why freak out now?? I wondered. I’d understand soon enough.

This past spring, my husband and I welcomed our first child to our family. However, in February of 2018, I had a miscarriage with my first pregnancy at about 6 weeks along. I was shocked at how heartbroken I was.  Not because I don’t value life, but because I thought that since I only knew of the pregnancy for a few short weeks I should have gotten over it pretty quickly. When I first realized that I was in the beginning stages of miscarriage I was devastated. The only way I knew how to describe how I felt was the way that mare panicked and cried out when she left her dead foal behind.

I felt this horrible maternal instinct, but had nowhere to go with it. For the next six months I wanted desperately to have a baby, and cried over what felt like hundreds of negative tests. Every pregnancy announcement and image of moms with their kids killed me, and every time I felt that way I understood a little better why that mare kicked me that spring day a year or so before. Maternal instinct isn’t just for people. God created animals to feel that powerful, protective desire as well.

It’s for that reason that the recent battle between pro-life and pro-choice has me so upset. If I hurt so badly after knowing about my baby’s existence for only 2 weeks, how could a mother go on living life normally after aborting her child at any stage, but especially late term? Even the animal kingdom knows better than to abandon their young and not feel pain over it. I even thought that once I had my son in my arms this spring, I would recover more completely from my losses, but I was wrong. I still mourn my miscarriages. It still hurts; I expect it always will. After all, it’s not just about how many kids are in your family pictures. It is about life itself.

Of course, this is only my story. There are many others with similar and even more painful stories out there. God declares that children are a heritage of the Lord (Psalm 127:3), and they are to be valued! The price to pay for hurting one of God’s precious children is high: Luke 17:2 says “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea than that he should offend one of these little ones.” That’s a very vivid picture of the absolute sanctity of life.

I certainly don’t have all the answers to society’s problems, or even the answer to the abortion crisis happening right now, but this I know for sure: life is precious. Deep down, we all know it. Even the animal kingdom knows it. We may not ever succeed in improving the society we live in, but may God help Christians to hold fast to His Word and value our children the way He calls us to.

Suzie Altena

Who I Am and Who I Am Not

A lot of us have sad and tragic, yet honest stories about our childhoods or lives in general. Some of us have been through a lot more than others. I decided to use a presentation I gave in a college class as an opportunity to witness to you all, by showing you who I really am, who I’m not, and maybe along the way, helping you find out who you are, too. I’d like to start with a quote from Pastor John Piper. He says, “Not only is all your affliction momentary. Not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. All of it is TOTALLY meaningful. Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or fallen man; every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is working for you a peculiar glory you will get because of that. I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. Don’t say it’s meaningless. It’s doing something! It’s not meaningless! Of course you can’t see what it’s doing! Don’t look to what is seen. When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40. When a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out… Don’t say, “That’s meaningless!” It’s not. It is working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore, therefore, do NOT lose heart. But take these truths and day by day, focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God, and preach them into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.”

This quote has come to mean so much to me. To tell you why, I’ll start with when I was in the 8th grade. I have a father who is an alcoholic. At 14 years old, I found him in the garage, attempting to take his own life. Thankfully, God was gracious and his attempt was unsuccessful. But such a situation can take a toll on a little girl who thinks about how she could have lost her daddy, no matter how difficult his circumstances with sin made the relationship.

In my junior year of high school, I had another sad event cross my path. I lost my grandma. Not only was she my grandma, but she was my role model, my confidant, and one of my best friends, even if I didn’t get to see her often because she lived out of state. Yes, God took her to be with Him in all His glory in heaven, yet there’s something that is just never the same when you lose a person who means the world to you. But, I pressed on.

I’ve also struggled with different types of mental illness since I was about 10. Anxiety Disorder, Depression, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are the three I’ve had experience with. My senior year of high school, I really struggled with the depression. I was suicidal and did a lot of self-harming to cope with the pain I was feeling internally. I had a lot of support from wonderful friends, and God provided me with the resources to get the help I needed.

Fast forward to a couple years out of high school. Sexual assault. A gross sin and a crime I never would have thought I’d fall victim to. It drains you emotionally. It clouds your vision with fear, guilt, and shame. But this does NOT define me. Like Piper says in his quote, “You are NEW and CARED FOR.”

One might wonder what I’ve learned from all of this. If there is one thing I have learned in all of this, it is that God is good ALL the time. Not just sometimes. Not just when I’m feeling happy. Not just when things are going my way. He is GOOD. ALWAYS. How did I manage to get through this? Only by His grace. Do I still have struggles I face every single day? Yes. Is God still good? Yes. Is God still faithful? Yes! ALWAYS!

Now, all of you may still have the question, “Who am I?” Well, first, I’ll tell you who I’m not. I am not who my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder says I am. I am not defined by who my earthly father is, and I am not going to let myself wear the label “daughter of an alcoholic.” I am not defined by the different emotions of shame, guilt, fear and all of what comes with having been sexually assaulted. Who am I? “I am the daughter of a King Who is not moved by the world. For my God is with me, and goes before me. I do not fear because I AM HIS.”

“And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3: 18-24).


Trusting God through Afflictions

One of the most incredible stories in the Bible can be found in the book of Job.  As we read through this book, we can see how Job went through a horrible loss, and yet God led him through and upheld him in all things.  In one day, Job lost his entire fortune, his children, and his servants but still kept faith in God.  Over the next few days he was stricken with horrible diseases and was brought almost to death.  Even after all seemed lost and he was given seemingly every excuse to curse God, Job was granted the strength to keep his faith in God and was even given great rewards and blessings.

As we travel through this earthly pilgrimage, we often find ourselves in situations that we would rather not be in.  We sometimes find ourselves echoing the words of the psalmist in Psalm 77: “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favorable no more?”  Whether it is because of a loss of a job, a death of a close family member, or persecution from the world, we are called to maintain our faith in Christ to lead us through all things.

As we look back on our lives and throughout history, we can see countless examples of God using trials to the advantage of his children.  We are called to constantly trust in Him and to know that everything will work out to our profit.  One passage that has always given me strength through trials is II Corinthians 12:9-10.  In this passage, the apostle Paul is given a “thorn in the flesh”, and asks repeatedly for it to be taken away.  The answer he gets is something that we all need to hear when facing adversity. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”