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

Don’t Worry

“Are we there yet?” “Where are we?” “I want that now!” “What if?…..” “Don’t forget!….” We’ve all heard and asked these questions before, and usually get answers like, “Trust me.” “We get there when we get there.” “Stop worrying.” or simply, “no.” Why do we ask these questions? Because we want to know? Because we’re curious? Because we don’t trust? Because we worry? What is worry? What is trust?

Often times I find myself in a stage of life where I’m not sure who to turn to. Worry clouds my thought and judgment. I can’t think straight. I am driven by a single thought. “What if?” I find no comfort in friends, no comfort in family. My home feels like a prison and my life, hell. Worry is all around me like the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and I am Peter, sinking slowly.

Why didn’t Jesus save Peter then and there? Why did he even let him sink? He could have kept Peter walking solidly on water all the way out to Him, but instead He chose to let Peter see the tumult around him, to lose faith for a moment, and to sink. This is where I am right now. I am sinking. I am hopelessly drowning. I see the storm around me and I lose faith. I lose sight of my goal and my savior and focus on the world around me. But wait. Peter does not sink. The story is not over yet.

Peter cries out to Jesus to help him. This is very significant. Here he is, sinking in a massive storm, thinking that he is going to drown, and Jesus gives him a tiny bit of faith, enough faith to realize that he needs help. I need help. I must humble myself to understand that I indeed need help and I lift my hands to heaven, fall on my knees, and cry in a loud voice, “Father forgive me. Save me from this tumultuous storm. Lift me into your safe embrace. Keep me from falling.” Peter found faith, the faith that Jesus gave him, and cried for help.

And Jesus responds. The Savior reaches out his hand to rescue Peter and pulls him up out of the storm. He responds to Peter’s desperate cry for help, his small amount of faith. You see this is why we must never lose faith. Even the tiniest flicker of faith, the quietest prayer, the smallest plea for help, the Lord hears it and He will respond. Jesus denied Peter the ability to walk on water in order that he might save him. God does not say no in order to reject us, but to redirect us. He has everything in the palm of His hand, your life’s story, your falling and rising. He knows what is best, what you need the most, and He will always lead you to it. He will always respond to your cry of help. Put your full faith in Him, the creator of all. You will stumble and fall, but He will lift you up again. He will answer when you cry. He will lift you up.

Jared Vandyke

In Memoriam

“Footprints in the Sand” is my favorite poem. This work, which is usually attributed to Mary Stevenson from sometime in the late 1930s, has always held a special place for me. It once hung beside the stairwell of my grandparents’ house, hung by a string nailed to the wall with one spindly stud, and the frame marking a clean square on the dusty floral wallpaper whenever I took it down to read. But even though the house has moved on and the poem in its dusty frame has been boxed away to who-knows- where, “Footprints” continues to gain meaning in my life as I get older and realize both the trials and the blessings that growing up and growing apart entails.

The deepest sleep one night I dreamed

That on the beach I walked

God was by my side each step

And quietly we talked.

Then on the sky my life was flashed,

The visions all serene,

Two sets of footprints in the sand

Were there in every scene.

And then I noticed in some scenes of suffering, pain, and strife

A single set of footprints at the worst times of my life.

“God, you said you’d stay by me,

In good times and in bad,

Why then did you leave me

Each time my life was sad?”

“My precious child,” God answered,

“When your life had pain, I knew.

The single set of footprints

Were the times I carried you.”

This poem is no Psalm, and nowhere in the Bible will you find the phrase “A single set of footprints” or any variation of it. But the themes of the work – doubt, frustration, and comfort in the realization of utter dependence on Another – are carried through in many passages. In frustration after decades spent waiting with no apparent heir to the promise, Abraham doubted God when he was finally told that Sarah would have a son (Gen. 17:17). Peter, in the face of “the wind boisterous,” doubted the safety of walking on the waves to Jesus and began to sink (Matt. 14:30). Thomas, the most famous doubter of Scripture, doubted the resurrection of His Lord and friend when the disciples came to him with their news (John 20:25). And yet, in all of these instances and more, God reassures – sometimes with a rebuke, sometimes fervently, and sometimes gently. In this poem, God answers the doubt of His servant with the word “precious” and the reassurance of His sustaining grace. We have all experienced – and continue to endure – “scenes of suffering, pain, and strife.” But in these moments, even while (with our earthly perspective) it would appear that we face life alone, we have only to wait on the Lord to receive those reassurances. The support expressed by a member in the church family. The coincidence of a devotional or a sermon topic lining up exactly with some trying situation in our lives. Even a poem, read as a child and reflected on years later, can provide that extra motivation we need to lift our chins and look up to the One who wrote the history of the world and knows the end and the significance of our own stories.

Ashley Huizinga