Joan Reynolds

Real Faith, Real Life & Real Joy
Browsing Community

Abortion….The Silent War Women Fight Alone


I came very close to having an abortion, in fact as close as fifteen hours away from one that was scheduled for the tiny life within me.

In the Christian communities I have been a part of over thirty some years, that information alone could be enough to change people’s opinion of me and, depending on their experience and position on the issue, that might be positively or negatively.

In some of their eyes I would be celebrated for having made ‘the right choice’. That seems nice enough, in that I get to tell my story openly most times, without the fear of the judgement that will definitely accompany someone sharing that she made a different choice. To others I committed a sin being pregnant outside of marriage, something they know they would never have done, so they may step back a few inches as though my sin might be catching. For most churches in that time, I was a single parent they didn’t quite know what to do with or for, as my children and I were outside the realm of most their ministries.

Sometimes people don’t really think about the fact that of the three choices available to a woman in that place,  none of them seem ‘right’ to her, even by Webster’s definition: morally or socially correct or acceptable. Whichever one we choose will be accompanied by a shame that we will have to work through, perhaps for a lifetime. The church can be a loving place to heal, or it can be a continual judge and jury. Each one can only be seen on its own merits, but it is a tough risk when your silence offers you much more more reliable protection.

In truth, it is much more complicated than even the choice itself, and only someone who has been faced with that dilemma in their own life may ever experience the compassion I feel for the women who have had abortions, especially those who truly regret it. I feel for the woman who gave up the only child she might possibly ever bear for adoption,  who may also be told she did the right thing, but that can ring hollow in a childless life.  For the one who experienced an abortion and yet keeps it secret as most do, being handed a rose at their church on Mother’s Day can be so devastating they may purposely avoid church on that day.

My Dad was a veteran of WWII. He was barely 25 when he Captained  a battalion of men through horrible circumstances in the Battle of the Bulge and  then awful experiences in Belgium and Germany. Though he came home seemingly in one piece, with a British Medal of Honor, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, he never mentioned the war once during my lifetime of knowing  him. I was born the year after he returned and he died when I was fifty-eight. It was something he just couldn’t talk about. He couldn’t sort out all his emotions, so he just put them in a box he never re-opened.

Though he went on to raise a family, be a successful businessman and a great father to four children, to this day I don’t know much about his war experiences or his wounds. I know he could be super critical and hard on his kids, but he wanted us to grow up strong, at least emotionally stronger than perhaps he had been. My emotions were often crushed as he seemingly did not want to acknowledge them. It was only when I thought about my own brush with abortion that I had even a clue as to why he was emotionally distant sometimes, angry and frustrated at other times, for seemingly no related reason. He had experienced a time as a very young man when he couldn’t  allow his emotions to cloud his mind while he did what he had to do, which was often not something he wanted to do, in order to follow orders and protect all the others in his care. I am sure it was this thinking that came to the surface for my Dad when I became pregnant out of wedlock ; I was already a single mom to a five yr old, four years after my husband divorced me to be with my best friend. I am sure my Dad worried my life would be terribly hard, though he and I never spoke about how difficult it would have been for me  had I made any other choice.

Although Dad came home after the war to start a new life and family, his wounds never totally healed. Many of them were buried, deep in his heart, alongside the friends he lost during the war. He had killed people, and seen friends be killed, his best friend hit by mortar  just feet from his side. There is no healing balm for that, save the Oil of Gilead, straight from the heart of God himself, and I pray that my Dad finally found that healing and peace when he came face to face with his maker. He deserved it, having silently carried those hurts for a lifetime, all the while providing for his family and walking out a good christian life here on earth, always mindful of the ones who never made it home.

Perhaps that is why, when I first met the women of the crisis pregnancy center where I was to volunteer, I broke down in tears when I got back to my car. I knew that I was among women who had fought in the same war into which I had also been drafted, for no one knowingly signs up for this one. So many of us have had sex before marriage, but if we didn’t get pregnant, we could pretend that we hadn’t. Abortion took away much of the reason for shotgun marriages, but it left the decision heavily on the heart of the woman involved, who like my Dad in the war, had very little emotional preparation for such a life and death decision.

All the women at the center were touched in some way by the legacy of abortion; some spoke about it, many did not, but there was a silent camaraderie, no, that is not the correct word, it was more that we shared a sacred silent compassion in that room. I felt a sense of home, but also of purpose, that made me weep and thank God in gratefulness for all these women and for so many more.

There is hope for the victims of this war. Many people think only of the baby when they think of the victims, but they would be very wrong. There are parents and grandparents who may never be. There are uncles and aunts who may only be sisters and brothers. Mostly a mom and a dad, and possibly a brother or a sister, of one very special and particular child, who will never meet them this side of heaven.

There is accurate and factual information that can help a woman  prepare for the decision only she can make. One of the deepest regrets of many is being told it was nothing but a blob of tissue, only to find out five or  ten years later it was already a life with a heartbeat that could be seen on ultrasound only four weeks from conception. Resentment from not having been told the truth, prior to making this decision, is one of the worst things to get over and a hard thing to release. The woman is victimized all over again every time she relives that decision, as she will often over her childbearing years, perhaps her lifetime. God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness is both extremely necessary and also lavishly  provided, when asked for personally by women in these tough situations.

At a crisis pregnancy center, there are other soldiers who can come alongside her, whatever her choice has been or will be, to help her with what is ahead. There are women who are themselves one or who have been close to one of these veterans, people who understand what she has been through and what she is feeling.

As for me, I am ever grateful God is allowing me to use all that He has shown and taught me to be aware of, so that I may encourage  and uplift  those very courageous souls who have sidelined their own lives, often against the will of those closest to them, to do the very difficult work of being mother, father, head of household and spiritual leader of the child they decided to have and to raise, with no guarantee of any help. To be there for the woman and families of the one who gave a child life, and yet surrendered it for adoption, in order to give it a better chance than the one she might be able to provide for it,  to make sure she is encouraged and celebrated for her choice as well. And for the one who chose abortion, to surround her with the love of God and mercy of imperfect but loving others who welcome her to the ranks of other wounded warriors whom she may never before have met,  and yet may sit next to her in church,  and  to share God’s amazing healing and His promises for her life and her future.

Different times and places, different ranks and titles, but as with all vets when they get together, a common bond that needs not even be spoken. You know what I know. You have seen the enemy face to face. And there, but for the grace of God, go all of us. Like my Dad, I live my life ever mindful of the ones who didn’t make it out as easily as I did, and the ones who didn’t make it out at all. If it were in my power, I would proudly present each woman who has been in this war with a Purple Heart, for we have all fought hard on the front lines of this battlefield, and we have all been wounded, in a place that may be impossible for most to see.  I am so grateful that God’s own medal of honor, His son Jesus Christ, is always ready and waiting to heal all of our wounds, even and especially this one, once and forever when we ask Him to come into our broken heart.

Because unfortunately, this war is far from over.


Handicapped ….For His Glory!


I have struggled, over my lifetime, to find an answer to the recurring question of why I seemed so different; more emotional than others, more inclined to seek the truth, more concerned with people’s feelings than their bank accounts (or my own).
I have met so many people who seemed to find the right partner, the right job, to enjoy the pleasures of life so much more easily than I did.
For some odd reason, I often found my inner comfort zone to be right  where others saw discomfort. I was secure where they would feel lost. I was at ease where they were acutely distressed.
I am beginning to understand that while I appeared to have every basic body part and brain function in tact, I have apparently always been handicapped. In the same way that a blind person has extra perception when it comes to hearing than many of his sighted friends, I always seemed to pick up on heart waves that no one else noticed, or if they did, they could not describe them as easily as I seemed to be able to.
I know now that all those times that I had such a different experience than what appeared to be the normal response of those around me was precisely because I was indeed handicapped, with a sensitivity to the spirit God put in me at birth, made only more profound after I asked Jesus into my life at age 37.
As so many people with severe handicaps will testify, I appreciate things in life that others just don’t even seem to notice. I am aware of the kindness of people and the workings of God in ways that others can’t begin to comprehend, especially when they consider experiencing my circumstances. And in the end, those handicapped individuals almost always say they wouldn’t change a thing about their lives, because their experience of it has been so rich and so filled with awe and wonder. I have to say that from my vantage point, I would totally agree.

A Fun-eral….What A Great Idea!


My previous post reminded me of a memory that floated back into my consciousness this weekend, as I was again telling life stories with family.My youngest son noticed, at the ripe age of eight or nine, that while our extended family was seemingly never able to plan re-unions, as other families he knew had, ours did make time to get to funerals.

Since he also noticed that during the three or four days we were together we had a great time, sharing stories and crying and laughing together;  all the emotions he knew were sacred to his Mom and made her feel most a part of things….connection really, deep sharing, truth telling.  As he would later play a similar role in his own circle of friends, he was able to get right to the heart of the matter:

“Mom, when you get old and are about to die, I am going to call all your family and friends and tell them you died. Then they will all come for your funeral and we will have a big party and you will be there to hear all the nice things they say about you!”  That was one of the most poignant remarks he has ever made to me, and he has made many. There was a ton of insight into not just what matters to me, but I also believe what matters to God.

I struggled for years with feelings of abandonment, unworthiness, and sheer black-sheep-itis, as I seemed to be such a round peg in a square hole where my immediate family was concerned. This was probably because I took everything personally, what they called overly sensitive, and often it wasn’t meant to be taken that way; the same ability that is often helpful when being sensitive to the needs of children or wounded adults I may not even know very well. God made me this way for a reason, and I think it helps me to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and it has taken me thirty years of God’s grace to let my own family off the hook and appreciate all they did, and tried to do, to assist me on my journey in this life.

So having a Fun-eral, a time where I got to receive all the gifts of acceptance, love, and I am sure, to notice their  gratefulness that my peculiar talents were not taken from the family mix just yet, that there was still time for them to enjoy my peculiar uniqueness for a little bit longer, sounded like a great idea! That sounded like something that would bring joy to my heart and, as my son noted, ‘you would have so much fun, Mom’!

I just noticed that if you take the word ‘funeral’ and merely move the r back a space and change the order of the two words formed you have Real Fun. And that is exactly how life seems to me when we affirm each other while we are still here living it!

I guess ever since then I have been trying to bring the fun in funeral to people’s everyday lives, by acknowledging, in the present, what they really bring to this party called life. I suggest that you tell your loved ones and friends now, while they can still hear what you are saying,  the things you want them to know and then it won’t be stuck inside you after they are gone. It will be a gift to them and a gift to you, but even more than that, an offering that I believe  is also a precious gift to God.

You Say What Others Are Thinking….


I had a conversation with a beloved spiritual mentor after church today, bringing her up-to-date  on the things God has been doing in my life in the past two weeks. I am blessed to have a number of friends who get as excited as I do to hear what God is doing in each others lives. When I wondered aloud why I seem to talk about those things, she said “You say what others are thinking, but often don’t say.” Sometimes I think most people are only comfortable saying the good stuff about someone after they have lost someone close to them. It seems a shame we don’t tell them the little ways we see good (and God) in their lives more often while they are still with us.

I guess what I do could be the flip side of  gossiping. I was never fond of a gossip… someone who circulated tidbits of information into the consciousness of friends and family, seemingly only to see where it all ended up…. it always had such a negative connotation to me.  I seem compelled, however, to tell  the positive things, the little nuggets that most people might never say, except perhaps at someone’s  funeral. As another friend said to me this weekend, “you look for meaning in the little things” and usually I do and seem to find big meaning there.

I also feel compelled to write the note, send the email, make the phone call, just to tell someone how magical their words or actions were, either in a particular situation, or in general. I notice the little stuff that makes up the whole, but is  not often mentioned. To me the gift is in seeing the giver and the real gift they brought. It was not the gold, myrrh and frankincense that I remembered about Christ’s birth, but the incredibly long journey the three kings made to be present.

Sometimes the other side of this coin means I say something spontaneously that might sound off point, though hopefully not offensive; I notice this mostly around my sons (a subtle rolling of the eyes perhaps), who have had to hear me talk far too much over their lifetimes, while I struggled to make verbal sense of all going on around me. I have also embarrassed them by sharing things which included them without first getting their permission. My oldest started this blog for me four years ago and told me to practice writing these things down. He knew I had to get them out, and perhaps this keeps me more focused, as well as keeping me from telling my tale to someone who may not need to hear.

I do know at the dear age of 67, I find more people seem to be looking for that same type of meaning in their own lives, more people who are  appreciative of an affirmation of their best efforts and an acknowledgement of their time on this earth. That may be because we are getting closer to running out of it and we have all started losing friends and family whom we may have forgotten to tell how much we appreciated the amazing gifts they brought into our lives. Perhaps I am just pointing out the obvious, but I would rather err on that side, rather than assume they know what I’m thinking, or more to the point, what is in my heart.


Funnel Of Love!


It has been noted in our church recently how uncomfortable some people are with lifting their hands in worship, even though so many of our wonderful worship songs mention lifting holy hands. We have had two different services addressing worship and basically allowing that enthusiasm is appropriate in church and not an emotion of which to be ashamed.

I remember being often particularly moved by sermons in church or by the worship preceding it. I never really drew any parallel to whether one preceded the other. It may well be true that it did.

One pastor noted how his granddaughter holds her hands up when she wants her papa to pick her up and hold her in the comfort and security of his arms. It is difficult to resist that gesture, indeed. I thought also of how, when I hold up my arms to the Lord in worship, I am in the first moment very sure that everyone is looking at me. In the next moment however, I am confident that the Lord is looking at me, and everyone else disappears, at least from my awareness.

I am at that moment creating a kind of funnel of love. I block out anyone on either side of me and focus completely on what, or who, is above me. I feel as though in that moment God does draw me closer to Himself and lift me up, as I seem to be requesting. It conveys something very personal between us and even though I have to overcome my own fear of looking stupid, I am never rejected when I ask to be held. It does open my heart to whatever comes next in the service, and while I know that this is not a condition of hearing what He has for me in the message, it certainly does make my ears more receptive. One is usually willing to hear even something difficult from someone  who loves them.

We Are A Fragrance!


Everyday as I walk Gypsy to the ocean, both morning and evening, I pass a place where there is the most beautiful aroma. Where I notice it most is, oddly enough, right in front of a commercial garbage bin in front of some beautiful condos overlooking the Pacific.

I have walked down that same street twice a day for almost three months and never failed to detect the hint of it. I have brought a friend down who couldn’t smell it at all. I keep meaning to bring another friend, but actually, I really don’t care if anyone confirms it. I have gone to the nurseries in town and tried to locate a plant that gave off such a sweet fragrance (without my touching the leaves) but have come up short. No one knows of anything that would be sweet, not bitter, and yet give off the scent I am describing to them.

I merely thought it would be nice to plant under my bedroom window, where the smell of dog urine has occasionally wafted in unexpectedly during the night. I love that smell that I cannot replicate! Perhaps there is a good reason for that. It really encourages me to take that walk every day, and that is good for my health and my dog. It also inspires me to think deeper about the things of God.

He says in 2 Cor 14-16 that …”we are to God the aroma of Christ”….spreading everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. The fragrance of life. Can it be bottled and sold? No. Can I replicate that perfume I smell? Perhaps not.

Someone said it was probably a laundry sheet. Not at the times and days I pass by, it is too consistently the same. And it is a mix, smelling to the best of my ability to detect, rosemary, mint, and perhaps a third herb, but nothing bitter or too sweet. There is no sign of any of these plants growing anywhere on the street.

I have a new grandchild who, without any effort on her part,  summons up memories of my own children at the tender early stages of their lives. I remember the smell of them being so amazingly sweet. The back of their necks particularly held their fragrance as they got a little older. Not only did I love being in their presence, but I adored the aroma that was uniquely theirs.

I believe we are indeed a fragrance to God, and that He adores the aroma of us. Everyday I am reminded in the most uplifting way that where I expect to smell the scent of garbage, I am completely caught off guard by this wonderful scent. It is a lesson I hope that I do not forget, even if the aroma should disappear. Where else in my life might I be seeing garbage that may well be an amazing fragrance to God?

I Hope I Get This Back!


I was reading yet another wonderful message sent by one friend to another, asking to send it on to ten more friends and back to the one who sent it. This one happened to be a breast cancer awareness focus, and many of the positive messages were great. The sadness for me was I can remember it being circulated to me at least four different times over the years, and the friends to whom it would be sent remain pretty much the same.

What I mean by that is they will read these motivational sayings, give it a “right on!” and then forward it to the same friends they forwarded it to last year and the year before. I don’t know of any friends who have radically changed either their lives or their attitude about their lives.Most of them still  struggle with the same fears and negativity that has been holding them back for most of their adult lives. Most of their fears could be started with the question “What if……..” followed by something that might happen if they were to make a specific change. My question is, what if they replaced the possible negative outcome with a positive outcome. What if they changed jobs and/or made more money and were happier than ever before? What if they changed jobs and made less money and were happier than ever before? What if the money did appear for them to have their dream, but from a source that would not be revealed until they took the first step forward in faith? What if their life got better, happier, more engaged? Why do we never hear these “what if’s” with a good ending, only the feared worst case scenario?

I am feeling very separated from these well meant internet uppers right now. I feel as though if you are going to grab hold and do something positive, it is time to do it! We aren’t getting any younger or any more up to the task by waiting. What is holding you back and what if you changed the outcome to a fabulous one; would you still find a reason not to move toward it? What example are you showing your friends, your family? Could you be the person with a light who could show them the way out of the trappings of their lives?

Things have changed around you. The economy has changed. What if you embraced these changes with enthusiasm instead of fear and let that energy propel you to make a change you want to make? Perhaps your spouse wants to make a change and your fears are holding them back. What if that change held the key to the secure future or happy life you want? All I’m saying is, one result is just as probable as the other. By continually listing the fear, we make that the guiding force in our lives. Challenge it. See it if it is the only possibility. Say to yourself every day for a week the exact opposite outcome as the end of your ‘what if’ question and see how that makes you feel. What if I could have the life I always wanted, but I was too afraid to give up the one I knew? Now there’s a “what if” that should really make you stop and think.

What I hope to get back is the story of a friend who started living the motivational messages they formerly just forwarded to me, complete with her own version of being engaged in her own life in a new and positive way, making a change she has always wanted to make, and going full out toward the person she was uniquely created to be. Now that would be a reason to write my friends and celebrate!

What If We Had No Stress?


How would we handle our lives if we truly perceived them as not being stressful? I have really been chewing on this for the past few weeks, as I am readjusting to my new life. I am on a three-hour different time clock,  and I have let go of all my attachments; to things, furniture, houses, ways of making a living and ways of volunteering and connecting to people. That has left me with pretty much a clean slate upon which to choose what I want my life to look and feel like from now on.

What I noticed immediately was the difference between me and my family and friends whose days were caught up with keeping up with everything already on their plates. I recognized just how difficult it is for anyone to get any perspective on what needs to go, when staying ahead of crisis seems to be an all consuming job. Even though someone, perhaps a counselor or physician, may alert them to the fact that they have to rid themselves of some stressors, getting time to do that in their stressed-out environment is impossible. Making that time seems to only cause pure panic that everything will swamp them. It’s the story of the guy spinning ten plates in the air. If he stops focusing one may drop. If he doesn’t stop focusing he may go nuts from the pressure and they may all fall on his head. What is the solution here?

Some of us may have noticed a friend, suddenly stricken by an accident or illness, having to totally rearrange their priorities and though the immediate reaction is how will all the things they have been handling get covered, we soon observe that a peace has come over them that we never saw before. Often they have just, finally, had to put their health and their families first on their agenda, to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. It is amazing that we love them none the less for this decision, because we know it is the only way they will survive to remain in our lives. Why is it that we can’t see this until disaster befalls us? Why can’t we make similar decisions before we are forced to, when it really is in our best interest?

I have come to see, over the past four years, that everything bad that happens does have a silver lining, if we are willing to look for it. Every loss is indeed a gain, for God if for no one else, as we most often turn our attention fully to Him only when we run out of other options. He is capable of making all things new and using everything for our best. Total trust in that is the only fact we have trouble acknowledging. Why do we cling to our stress? Is anyone really making us, or does it just confirm some absurd reason for being here that we seem to have to be needed? We are needed, but often not for the reasons we think. I have been examining that for the past month, and found I have had little reason to blog when I was so happy and so stress free. What does that say about our need to constantly communicate our stress with others?

Hmmmm. I am still pondering all this in my heart. I hope to have more insight in the future. Until then, it is good to be back on my gypsy-like home page, back keeping in touch with life, love, and faith.

He Makes All Things New!


Today I put the last piece of the puzzle in place before I become a grandmother, and forget how to do anything else! I found my new church family. Its funny how you think you can do that last, after you get your house in order, so to speak, when you have made a major move.

Two weeks ago, I had researched churches in my new locality and I actually narrowed it down to a couple I thought I would check out. I dressed for church (probably overdressed, by Southern California casual standards!) and drove to one of them and pulled into the parking lot about a half hour before the service. It was very funny, but God never urged me to get out of the car. I watched people greet one another in the parking lot, and go into church over the next half hour, but then I drove home. there was nothing wrong with what I saw. The people looked friendly and like people I would like, but there was just a caution to sit in my seat.

I feel at home pretty much every where I go. I have a tendency to make others feel comfortable. I am not terribly shy. So for me to find the place that is right for me, I really have to wait on God and feel His direction. That is not always easy. But today I could see why I hesitated. The church I went to today was just perfect for me. A non-denominational Bible-based church, but one with a very real outreach in many areas of the community. I had no problem being first out of the parking lot, then took a moment to stop by the newcomer’s table where I met a nice couple, then went in and sat in the church, where the musicians were warming up.

Soon people began to fill the church, and I was surrounded by many men and women my age who introduced themselves to me and included me in conversation. Then followed a wonderful service where the songs seemed hand-picked for me in response to all I have seen God do for me in this move (Great is thy Faithfulness was one). I found out after the service that the senior ministry usually sat on the exact opposite side of the church. Some people had taken their usual seats today so they all moved to where I was sitting. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the Lord! The last church I was in, I kept asking if there was any senior’s ministry and didn’t find out for a year that they all sat together and had a Bible study during the first service. I spent a year sitting alone. No one seemed to know or to tell me that there was a group I was looking for all that time, the church was that big.

This to me was all the sign I needed that I was indeed in the church God thought was best for me at this point in my journey. My other complaint at my last one was minor, but it was that they never played any music that I recognized from many years of being in the church. Today He gave me one familiar song, right off the bat. I had four people hand me their cards or their numbers and one gave me the newsletter of the goings on of the over 60’s. What a blessing!

Just like when I got my dog Gypsy, my first part of finding him was just to turn into the humane shelter parking lot and sit. I didn’t go into the shelter until the next week. Had I gone sooner, my dog would not have been there. This church did not even meet last week, when I drove up to LA to see my kids, as they were out in the community doing projects with non-profits. Had I gone to their parking lot that day I would have not been received at all. This was the appointed day. I love when things are that clear. Then I can just move forward and enjoy being a part of what God has for me, not wondering if there is something better, or doubting my choice.

Everything about this move has followed that pattern, as though God came here ahead of me and found everything I would love. I am enjoying finding all the good gifts He has laid out for me on this wonderful treasure hunt. My basket is overflowing with presents (and Presence), and I know that I am His much loved child. It is a wonderful feeling!

The Queen of Restarts!


A male friend of mine from thirty years ago (and another lifetime!) called today. I started telling him about my move to the other coast and my plans to fly out there and find a job and a place to live next weekend.

He has known me through several major moves, three to different states, one to a different country, so he is used to this kind of news from me. I haven’t done anything for twenty years though, so even he was caught off guard for a minute. Then he said, “Well, you are the Queen of restarts!”

I looked the word up in the online dictionary and it said “to begin again or anew.” That does feel comfortable somehow. Not so much recreating myself, but being willing to take a whole new look at life from a different perspective! I feel like I am just willing to put on a new pair of glasses and see what I can see.  A different climate, perhaps a new group of friends, a new place to put my computer and a few other belongings that will make the trip, a different path to walk my dog Gypsy, a time change of three hours. A new church family, and a new grandchild!!!

Yes, that does sound like anew more than again, the again  really means I have done this before ….but never in the same way, or with the same companions or the same attitude or mindset. I will gather up all that I am now and that is who I will be taking with me. The product of all those other moves and memories,  all the inner healing God has been working on with me over the years…..It is a-gain!

The one thing I do know is I will not be traveling alone. God will be right beside me, ready to share the wonder and joy,  heartache and helplessness. It is all part and parcel of the continuous journey we are on together. My hope is that He will help me use all the gifts and talents, healing and hope that He has put inside me wherever we land and that I will be a blessing to those that I have yet to meet, especially that grandchild!


« Older Entries