I walked across the parking lot, unlocked the door, and reached around to switch on the lights. I checked the telephone for messages, turned on the typewriter, and placed my purse in the bottom drawer of my desk. Then, I headed down the hall to the kitchen, plugged in the coffee pot, paced back to the front where I signed in for the day, and started the copy machine. Soon I had the files opened and was sitting in the conference room after placing a worship CD in the machine.
Shortly after, my 'sisters' began to arrive for our morning worship time before the doors to New Hope Family Services, a pregnancy care center, opened for the day. I was so appreciative of each one who quietly came to me with a hug — their eyes brimming with unshed tears.
If even one had spoken, the floodgates would have opened. It was my first day back at my job as a part-time receptionist and client advocate following the death of my oldest son Marc from cancer. They had supported me in every possible way since the discovery of his illness some two years earlier. For the past year, we all had shared at weekly staff meeting about feeling Satan's oppression as we struggled to help care for and counsel young women in crisis pregnancies.
Since we are a pro-life Christian agency, we expected wrenches to be tossed into the works on a daily basis. Marc's long, drawn-out illness hadn't dealt directly with our ministry as much as it had with each of us personally as mothers. I'm sure each of these wonderful women were silently asking God that they might never have to face a loss of their own child, while continuing to hold me and my family before God's throne. At the same time, it allowed us to see each client in a new light: some facing decisions about their unborn children, and some trying to heal from the loss of abortion. It certainly heightened our awareness of all the issues involving New Hope — from pregnancy decisions to birth parent and adoptive parent decisions and, just as important, the loving godly counsel to all who came through our doors.
I was not a stranger to death. Another two months would mark the sixth anniversary of the sudden home going of my wonderful husband Jim at age 73. Seven months after he passed, I was in Tennessee at the bedside of my best friend Jane as she went home to be with the Lord. Within two years, I was to experience the death of a newborn grandson, and tried honestly to answer my son's tearful questions as to why God took Jacob, who was so dearly wanted, while some young women had child after child without a thought or care for either their health or the baby's. It stretched their faith mightily, and as I struggled with it myself, the conclusion I came to was that I could survive losing my grandchild, but I could not survive losing my faith. During the last few months of Marc's fight against this terrible disease, I was beyond weary and, at 69, had allowed my thoughts to stray more than once toward simply staying home permanently.
Financially I didn't need to work, so family urged me to go away for a while, perhaps to Florida where I had friends who had issued invitations to come for an extended stay. Yet, after much prayer I decided that New Hope was where I both needed and wanted to be. Could the front desk run without me? Absolutely! It is the Lord's work, and it will go on no matter what. However, God had given me this thought as I worked my way through my grief: perhaps I could help . In the community that New Hope serves, many mothers and grandmothers have lost sons and daughters, some to needless tragedy, and many of them didn't have the support system I had, especially faith in Jesus Christ. Now I could listen and associate with the pain and tears of their losses while sharing how God had helped me deal with mine.
One of the biggest reasons I decided to go back to work at New Hope had to do with God bringing back to my mind the case of a client who came into the center for a pregnancy test. She already knew she was pregnant. The woman told me she was leaving our center to have an abortion. She was very matter of fact about it and gave me all the reasons she felt it was the only option. Certainly, this woman had many problems, both emotionally and mentally, as she had dealt with abuse and used both drugs and alcohol. She admitted to several earlier abortions, yet as we spoke she also said that she was in good standing with God because He understood she wouldn't be a good mother. I tried for perhaps an hour to witness of God's plan for her and her child, but when she left, it seemed certain she was on her way to abort her baby. On my way home that afternoon, I found myself crying, thinking I hadn't done enough to try to convince her to consider life for her baby; and even worse, for a moment I wondered if that baby would even have much of a life considering the mother's history. I quickly asked forgiveness for that errant thought, recognizing it was from Satan, and not the Lord.
The next day, I shared these thoughts with my co-workers, and we prayed for her. Seven months later our director received an unexpected call from the hospital to come and pick up this very baby we had thought was lost. Somehow, God's Word became real to this mother, and she spared this little one's life. Even more wonderful, I was at the center when the baby arrived to go into our foster care until adoption. I looked down at the most beautiful, perfect little girl I'd ever seen, and it was as if God Himself was saying, "You do your best, and I'll take it from there!" This time my tears were joyful on the ride home.
A friend recently sent me an e-mail with this thought: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." Perhaps the storm that taught you to dance — an unplanned pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, or other loss — can be used by God to open a pathway for a client. Sharing these things isn't easy, but hopefully it brings out a rainbow once the storm is over. My tears still fall, both for me as well as for some of my clients, but each time a mother chooses life, I feel I'm getting back a little part of my son.
Joan Anderson has 6 sons, 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. She works at New Hope Family Services, Inc., a CPC and adoption agency, in Syracuse, New York, as a part time receptionist and a client advocate when needed.