Women · Writing

Rejecting abortion: a call to greatness

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetIn last night’s debate, Hillary Clinton suggested that a woman should be able to end her pregnancy up to the child’s birth, primarily in case of a tragic situation that places the mother’s life in danger. She advocates partial-birth abortion, the stopping of a baby’s heartbeat in a mother’s womb and then the violent removal of that baby from the mother’s body.

It is easy for me to take a quick, almost un-thinking approach to that idea. No. Never. A child’s life should never be taken, not for any reason. The end.

But when I take a step back and think of what I am saying, it causes me to stop and think for a moment. No one wants to tell a mother that she must lose her life. No one wants to “force” death upon another person. No one wants to tell a mother who feels hopeless in light of her circumstances that she must “suck it up” and endure this pregnancy and, in some cases, even die.

Perhaps, however, opposing abortion is not a position that insists on the death of another. Perhaps it can be a call to greatness.


My literature students recently finished reading Elizabeth Janet Gray’s Adam of the Road. Adam is a minstrel, and his father, Roger, before him. Early in the story, Roger tells Adam that “a minstrel sings what his listeners want to hear. It’s not for him to ease his own sorrows or tell his own joys. He’s to find out how his listeners are feeling and say it all for them.”

Later, Adam meets roaming minstrels who tell stories that are not like Roger’s. “They were short, exaggerated tales mostly making rude jokes about friars and monks and rich abbots.” You have to give the people what they want, the minstrels say.

At first that sounded like what Roger used to say. “But when Adam thought it over he decided that it was quite different. Roger told tales that fitted the good in people, tales about courage and danger and adventure and love.”

My students and I discussed how the deVessey’s tales appealed to the baser side of human nature, but Roger’s tales encouraged the goodness in people. He called people to the life and beauty that they were made to be, and to inhabit. And they responded in kind.


Certainly being anti-abortion is a matter of morality. But perhaps it can also be a matter of encouraging the goodness in people instead of the baseness. Perhaps we must understand a rejection of abortion not as placing a restriction on a woman’s life, but as a call to something higher, and a belief that any woman can, in fact, rise to goodness.

I can never claim to understand the hardest situations in which women find themselves pregnant: abuse, poverty, an absent father, rape, an inviable baby. But I am certain that abortion only invites despair and death. It only encourages a mother to continue in her hopelessness. It calls to the darker sides of human nature and presents itself as a solution. Yet it is only a quick “fix,” a death that sadly leads to more death: the partial death of a mother’s very being as she is torn from the child which has its existence from her own; the death of a mother’s body as she reaps the consequences of such trauma; the death of a mother’s spirit as she mourns for the rest of her life the baby that she never knew.

Abortion preys on our weaknesses. It calls to our selfishness and to our deepest fears. It presents itself as sometimes the only charitable option. Should a baby be given life only to grow up in extreme poverty? Should a baby be given life only to live for the rest of its days with a severe disability? Our hopelessness would say no. Our despair would say no. Our fear would say no.

But we are more than our darkness. While evil and sin are so very real, they can never destroy the image of God. They can never completely exterminate the goodness in the very heart of our created order. Humanity is life and goodness and beauty, as well, if only we can live into our creation.

Rejecting abortion is not a heartless imposition of a life of despair and difficulty onto another person. In fact, it is the opposite. It is a call of hope that any woman—all women, whatever their circumstances—can rise to goodness and to strength and to love. It is a firm belief in the goodness of life, and not just the life of their unborn baby, but in the life of the mother. It is an affirmation of her existence and her ability to carry this child, to love this child, to give this child life, both inside the womb and outside. That life might look like raising the child, or it might look like adoption, but her gift to her child can only lead to a multiplication of life.

I want to believe that human beings can act in a way that is true to our creation. We were created “very good,” full of the brilliance of our Creator. We were created with the capacity to hope and to love and to believe and to trust. Our world and our own selves tell us daily that our only options are smallness and baseness. Yet our very existence would say otherwise. We were all made for greatness. We were made to be co-creators, to give life and to share life. We were made to love.

And denying the woman in a clinic waiting room the opportunity for an abortion is not denying her life. It is, instead, offering her a chance to truly live. And we must walk alongside these mothers. We must sing to them the tales of adventure and of courage and of love as they, too, discover that they are capable of greatness.

Marriage · Midnight Musings · Writing

{midnight musings} On support, and success

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“You could be a poster mom,” the nurse at the doctor’s office said.

Because my baby is gaining weight. Because I try to feed my daughter good things like cheese and broccoli. (Trust me, many meals consist of mac and cheese, too…) Because I got out of the house and made it to my appointment on time.

I paused for a minute when she said it. There is no reason for her to say that to me. I am only doing what every mother desires to do for her children. My only response, and one that has had me thinking ever since I heard myself say the words:

“Well, I have wonderful support.”

In that moment, my heart ached as I thought of all the mothers and babies who do not have what we do. We have loving and supportive extended families. We have a community already here at Notre Dame who brought us meals, watched our firstborn, welcomed our son with joy, and came over to be with me just in case I needed something those first days of flying solo with Dad back to class.

And most of all, I have a husband and my babies have a father who attentively and sweetly loves us.

In my few years as a wife and now as a mother, I have often wrestled with the suggestion that my role is to support my husband in his vocation. Yes, it is. But often that suggestion sounds to me as if my support is at the giving up of my own desires and dreams. As he pursues his desires—and this primarily for the purpose of providing for us!—I am to take a supportive role, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, caring for our children, doing all I can to be sure he is given every chance to succeed. Again, yes.

But what I realized is our roles are so much more mutual than I came into marriage thinking: he leads, I follow; he provides, I support. They are not so simple.

Our support is, and must be, mutual.

Just as I make lunch for him (occasionally these days; sorry, babe!), attempt to facilitate some quiet in our home so that he can focus on his studies, or even just get up with babies at night so that he can be well-rested for class the next day, so he comes home with a smile for his family, makes bath time full of giggles for Edith, or snuggles a baby while I teach a few online classes.

I realized that we both have vocations—different ones, but equally important. And in these vocations, our role is to support and help the other to succeed. Does it still often feel like a sacrifice, like small deaths every day? Yes, of course. But we both die these deaths and make these sacrifices for the success of the other.

And as I seek to support my husband in his pursuits, I could not do that without his own support and love.

My babies are happy and healthy. I am able to get out of bed in the mornings, feed my family, love my children. We laugh and sing and play together. We thrive in the love and support of a father and husband, and we are thankful.

For all of those who have not been given this mutual love and support, we pray. Lord, hear our prayer.

Lacy Updates

{catching up}

I have the writing bug again. It might be the rain outside, or the newly-arrived sweater weather, or just that three weeks after John Henry’s arrival I finally feel like the pregnancy-induced brain fog is lifting. Of course, there is now the sleep-deprivation fog, but somehow my mind feels far more able to read and write and think than I did when I was pregnant.

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetWe welcomed John Henry Lewis (he goes by John Henry) on September 10th and he fits seamlessly into our little family. He is a chunk—weighing 9 lbs 6 oz at birth and putting on weight like it’s his job. He has his dad’s cowlick, the squishiest of cheeks, and he likes to cuddle far more than miss Edith ever did.

Big sister seems generally delighted by the whole thing. She has started offering him kisses (always on the mouth), playing with his fingers, asking about baby every time she wakes up from a nap or gets up in the morning. She is quick to hear his cries and eager to help—I love asking her to get me a diaper and watching her march across the room to the shelf. Sometimes she gets distracted on her way there or back to me, but she is quite reliable when it comes to that task. (Others seem to invite a bit more sidetracking—and then forgetfulness. Like cleaning up her toys.)

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I have never before been a stay-at-home mom, and the adjustment is proving to be more of just that: an adjustment. I come to the end of my day and often wonder just what I did. Of course, I fed babies, changed diapers, rocked babies, put babies down for naps, got babies up from naps, hopefully made a meal or two, read books, played with blocks, possibly ran an errand. But so much of that feels like survival that I often feel like we did nothing but survive. I am reminding myself often that caring for these little people is something, something great, actually—they are entirely dependent on others (primarily me!) for their existence and it is a great task to spend my days meeting their needs.

“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”

—G.K. Chesterton


Fear and the cross

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset“He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the cross, and you will find yourself entirely.” (St. Catherine of Siena)

I count the children in the pew a few rows up. Seven. Wait, the mother is wearing one too. That makes eight. A few rows ahead, six. I watch another mother chase her son to the back of the church only to realize he has, somehow, already made a full circle back to the front and is dashing across the room in sight of the whole congregation.

My own toddler walks and falls, walks and falls, in the back of the church. She leans against the windows of the cry room and bumps her head on the glass—purposely—again and again. We go out into the lobby instead where she inevitably finds the staircase hidden away in a dark corner. The baby in my womb kicks and somersaults and suddenly I can hardly breathe, let alone lift a protesting, back-arching fifteen month old because I just can’t imagine chasing her up the stairs. A mom herds three children out of the doors and settles onto a bench. I feel exhausted just looking at her.

Is this my foreseeable future? I am so tired, and I only have one. Is this where I am asked to attend the Supper of the Lamb for the next countless years of my life, on the other side of heavy doors, listening to the words of consecration through lobby speakers?

Lamb of God, have mercy on us.

I kneel and feel dread sink into my heart. I love my babies. I love this one that I know, and this one that I have yet to come to know. But I am afraid. Afraid of what will be asked of me in the future. Afraid of more kids, and then even more kids. Afraid that my life will be full of herding children in and out of mass, the grocery store, the (large) van, the bathroom, the house, the park. I know there is beauty in all of that, I do. I know that life enlarges love, and with each new life, there is only more love; but sometimes it is hard to remember.

Is this really what you are going to ask of me, Lord?

I lift my eyes, and there is the Lord, hanging on a cross. This is what He asks of me. Sacrifice. Self-gift. Suffering. Love. It does not matter, and I need not fear, the means by which he brings me to the cross with Him. I fear the means that He will use to bring me to Himself. How silly that sounds when I realize it. In the end we are all asked to join Him in this act of dying, each in different ways, all of them painful and hard but ultimately life-giving. And these little ones are not keeping me from praying. They are prayer. They are the Lord bringing me to Himself; not in silence and contemplation, but in sacrifice and in an offering of my life for theirs.

He desires only union with me. Communion. Oneness. Love. Divine life. Sonship. And He offers me the means to that end. I need not fear them.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Lacy Updates · Little stories · Uncategorized

Daily (I)

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Now that I have a home with sunlight and space, my succulent aspirations—and slight gardening aspirations—are emerging. I have a big pot of herbs on my front porch and little succulents are making their way around different spaces in our home. Edith especially enjoyed helping me pick out a few.

Edith continues to grow and change very quickly. She is attempting to say new words every day. Her repertoire includes “kaka” (water), “rafe” (giraffe), “duck,” “kack” (quack), “chee” (cheese), “ba” (ball), “bubba” (bubbles), and “hi!” (said very enthusiastically). She has the sign language for please down and is often seen vigorously rubbing her chest. Many times we don’t know what she’s asking for and if we ask her what she wants she will just do the sign even more intently. She just began nodding her head “yes” and understands when we ask her if she wants to go outside, upstairs, or for a ride. Often she has no idea what she is saying yes or no to, but it is quite cute. She also just started trying to sing along with us, so I have been trying to pull out those rusty children’s songs. Thankfully Jesus Loves Me is still firmly in my mind, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember This Little Light of Mine besides that one line.

We also have a water baby on our hands. She loved a brief stop at the campus beach along one of the lakes. She arrived in her little outfit from the morning (we had plans just to look), but as soon as she saw the “kaka!” her enthusiasm was too much and before long she was crawling and splashing in the water. She left with nothing on.

We are loving the Michigan cherries—there were never cherries in Durham, so it is awfully hard to turn them down whenever I see them. There are daily stained outfits thanks to the juice, but I almost relish the chance to simply run to the basement and pop in a load of wash. The cherries also remind me of home.

Lacy Updates

Settling in to South Bend

As we are far from family and many friends and beginning a new chapter, I thought I might use my blog to offer updates along with the occasional (read: infrequent) piece of writing.

Our summer so far has been a whirlwind of traveling for Edith and I, packing, driving 12 hours north, unpacking, and settling into our very own little house. There is something very strange about one-way drives and simply driving away from a place that has been home to us for two years. Edith and I began the drive from Durham at 5 a.m. so I feel like I hardly had a chance to say goodbye as we drove down the dark streets. In many ways, I feel like we were driving away from one stage of our lives—still a young, married couple with one kid—and driving into a new stage, one of adulthood that includes owning a home, having multiple children, a lawn mower, a water softener, and a washer and dryer in the basement. That last part I am not complaining about one bit; I didn’t even think to say goodbye to the laundry facility at our North Carolina apartment.

We love our new little house and are slowly settling in. As Travis said last night, the downstairs just looks like we’re messy people now instead of like we just moved in. The upstairs, however, definitely look like we finished moving in a few minutes ago. I likely overdid it and pushed myself too hard in the last few days so we are going to take the upstairs a bit more slowly—one clothing tub at a time. And I will spend a lot more time on the couch.

Our first dinner, just the three of us, in our generally unpacked and organized dining room, was tacos and corn and black bean salad, the latter of which Edith couldn’t eat fast enough. She is a girl after my own heart and I see a lot of corn and black beans in these future summer months.

South Bend is certainly a down-grade from Durham and I can’t say I have found much charm yet. We haven’t been many places, but I return from every drive a bit disappointed by just how ugly and run-down this city is. Our street, however, is lovely and our neighbors very kind people. One already mowed our yard for us. The farmers market, too, will afford many happy times and Notre Dame’s campus is a beautiful place to go for walks. There is a beach on one of the campus lakes that I am hoping to frequent with Edith. She spent most of her fourth of July cookout playing in the dirt so I think sand might be a big hit.

We are happy to have the move behind us, and happy to be here.

Books & Reading · Writing

Making the world more beautiful

miss-rumphius-inside5Recently, my beloved Hillsdale College has produced beautiful marketing videos, many of them highlighting alumnae doing remarkable things. It is exciting to see classmates of mine who are working for the Denver Broncos or producing for Fox News. They are polished, driven, and remarkably successful. I love seeing the amazing work of my friends and the passion that they have about their work.

But when I watch the promotions, I don’t only feel pride at the accomplishments of my friends. I feel something else, too. A twinge of jealousy, perhaps. An underlying doubt, certainly.

My life is not one that will sell my alma mater to prospective students. My teaching job and my days of raising a child, loving a husband, and doing the dishes at 9 p.m. every night aren’t necessarily polished, marketable sorts of things.

I believe in the goodness of motherhood. I know the goodness of family. I believe that what I am doing is important, and meaningful, but saying those words is not always easy to believe.

What am I doing, I wonder? Ought I be more ambitious? My degree, my journalism experience, my Washington Times internship, all formed me and made me but in light of those, my life now sometimes feels as if I am not doing anything.

These feelings come and go, never settled, although usually quieted by the knowledge—but perhaps a less solid conviction—that what I am doing matters. I tell myself that often, hoping that I will learn to believe it.

But tonight Edith was sitting on my lap, calming down before bed. We were reading Miss Rumphius, one of my beloved childhood books and one that I hope she will come to love, too.

Miss Rumphius is a librarian, a traveler, a polished, worldly woman who sees remarkable places and meets fascinating people and has many stories to tell her grandnieces and nephews as she grows older. She moves to the seaside and has her own sweet little cottage by the sea. But one thing in her life remains undone, the most important task her grandfather gave her, “the most difficult thing of all!”: making the world more beautiful.

Miss Rumphius plants lupines by her house and the wind scatters the seeds into the fields and hills by her home. She discovers the flowers far from her little spot of coast the next spring and finally knows how she will make the world more beautiful.

So she plants lupines all over the town. She walks the roads and the fields, past children laughing and calling her That Crazy Old Lady, around the churchyard and by the school, throwing seeds as she walks. And the lupines bloom and the town glows and the children call her the Lupine Lady.

As I sat there with my sweet little girl on my lap—which is quickly growing smaller as my belly grows larger with another new life—I heard the words in a new way. You must do something to make the world more beautiful. And I realized: this, right now, is how I am asked to make the world more beautiful.

I am not asked to do something remarkable or noteworthy or publishable. That doesn’t mean those things are wrong, or less worthwhile. But it does mean that we are all asked to do more than only those things.

We are asked to make the world more beautiful, each of us in our own different ways. This task is ultimately the most difficult and the most important thing we can do.

And this little girl and this new baby and this husband and this grad school wife life right now, these are mine. Perhaps one day they will include writing a book or getting another degree. But that is not now.

So I will work, and pray, and hope that my small efforts are even now and will one day make the world more beautiful.