Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Abortion Debate

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a debate at a Christian law school near my home. The topic of the debate was "Does Abortion Help or Harm Women?"

I was particularly interested in this debate because I am acquainted with the woman who defended the pro-life side of the issue. She is on staff at the Crisis Pregnancy Center where I volunteer. She has had an abortion in the past, and has been involved in counseling women through post-abortion Bible studies for 19 years. She told her story as a part of her presentation for the debate.

The woman defending the other side of the issue had, as someone else put it "degrees as long as both my arms." She is obviously highly educated, and has been involved with the pro-choice movement since 1970. She was soft-spoken and congenial, but for all her education, she did little to further her point of view during the debate. (In my opinion.)

During her times to speak, she talked a great deal about getting along, and the need to understand the "other side" and the contradictions both "sides" have made with their arguments. I got the feeling that she was there to discuss the big picture of abortion, and point out what was wrong with the pro-life "techniques" of persuasion, rather than argue the specific question at hand; does abortion help or harm women?

When she did get around to discussing the main topic for a few minutes, her sole point of argument was that the majority of unplanned pregnancies happen to young women who are unmarried and living at or below the poverty level. She spoke about the difficulties of expecting these women to take on the extra burden of the expense of a child. She quoted statistics about how children born to these women are much more likely to be abused, go to jail (if they are boys), repeat the actions of their mothers (if they are girls), and never finish high school. She practically called it cruel to allow children to be born into the world when their lives would be so difficult, and she was of the opinion that asking women to take on this burden was asking too much of them.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that I am strongly against abortion, and that I have good reason to be. But I found myself with mixed feelings at the end of the debate. So little seemed to be accomplished this way. I yearned for this woman's heart to change. She was so impersonal; bound up in her statistics.

This morning I found myself sitting in my bedroom talking to myself. ...Well, not really to myself. I was imagining what I would have said if I was the one doing the rebuttal after she had made her opening statement. Would you care to hear it?

"Ladies and Gentlemen, my worthy opponent has said a great deal about the need for us to get along, and understand both sides of the issue of abortion, which is true. She is right when she says we need to know how the 'other side' thinks. That doesn't mean we must agree, but how can you change a mind when you don't know how that mind works?

However, I find very little in her statements that addresses about the topic at hand. Her main argument has been based on statistics that she says we will not accept, because we are biased against them. She is right when she says that the pro-life and pro-choice movements are always suspicious of one another's research. I find that rather amusing, because she's right - it's true most of the time! But in this case I'd have to disagree. I do think the statistics she's quoted are accurate.

She says that the pro-life movement tends to focus solely on the unborn child, and the pro-choice movement solely on the woman, and that such a bias in either direction is unfair and un-logical. Again, I agree with her. We do wrong if we focus on the unborn baby at the expense of the woman. She is very much in need, and we need to help her. I see these women all the time at the Pregnancy Center. I go there because I care about them, and want to help them. Abortion is harmful, and would totally change their life if they were to have one, but most of them don't know that. I'm there to make sure they are informed.

I say this to point out that Miss ______'s argument is also based a great deal - but not entirely - on the life of the child. She says it is not worth bringing them into the sort of life they would have. She accuses us of focusing too much on the child, but her own argument is rooted in the same person, to a degree - though I do understand that her main point was that the mother is going to suffer if asked to bring a child into the world she lives in, and care for it.

So here we have a main problem that we both agree on; children born in unplanned pregnancies are born into difficult circumstances. However, we both give different solutions to the problem.

Miss ________'s solution is to kill the children before they ever enter the world. She hopes to avoid the added difficulties by making sure they are stopped as quickly as possible. She admits that ending the pregnancy does not solve the woman's condition in life, but says that it will at least make sure no new difficulties are added. She emphasizes that women should be able to chose when, where, and how they bring life into the world. It is their liberty and their right.

This solution ignores the fact that the children are already in the world. There are millions of children, all over the globe, who are suffering. They are starving. They are naked. They are uneducated. They are abused. Yet our solution to this is not to kill off the children. No person in his right mind would suggest that as a solution.

These unborn children are already in existence. Their mothers have already made the choice to bring life into the world. They have already exercised their right to decide.

I know many a poor family with several children. They struggle to make ends meet. Should I suggest that they eliminate a child or two to help with financial difficulties? 'Oh, let's just kill off the two year old, and you'll be able to make it.'

Of course not! No one would think of such a thing. But what about a 2-month old? A two-day old? It is equally unthinkable. Suppose we go two days before birth?

My point is that as soon as a woman finds out she is expecting, she is already entered into the responsibilities of motherhood. Those responsibilities will continue for years. If she, at any time, is allowed the freedom to "cancel" those responsibilities by killing her child, then, logically, she should have that freedom at any point in her child's existence. It is the most warped form of logic to suggest that her "freedom" applies only to a certain time frame of her motherhood.

My solution to the problem is two-fold. First, to prevent these pregnancies in the first place. Miss______ is right when she says that women need to be more responsible. I am not sure what exactly she refers to when she says that, but I just want to mention that I see women all the time who were on birth control and still got pregnant. Abstinence is the only foul-proof method of preventing pregnancies. I know it's politically incorrect to suggest that, but it is still the truth. ...But that's a topic for another time.

Secondly, we need to provide for the women who are already unintentionally pregnant and are unsure where to turn. They need to be educated. They need financial help. They need to be informed on all their options. My worthy opponent took offense, earlier, when I said women are being lied to about abortion, but it is still the truth; they ARE being lied to. They do not know everything it will involve. They do not know the risks. They do not know about the side effects that can be hidden for years and then pop up. They have no idea what they are getting into.

Abortion is harmful to women. The arguments Miss _______ have presented totally ignore the fact that the "problem" - the child - is already here, and what has happened can not be undone. Abortion purports to be able to "turn back" the clock, by undoing "the damage," but time machines are the property of science fiction. That woman is already pregnant, and if she crosses her natural mothering instincts - which a part of her very being, even if she is not aware of them - she will suffer trauma later on in life. It may be 50 seconds afterward, and it may be 50 years; I have seen both. But it will happen.

We need to be about the business of protecting both the unborn and their mothers. Because abortion is harmful to women."

...I think that would have filled up the 4-minute rebuttal time. :)

For those of you readers who don't know it, my father was born to one of those mothers who was poor and unwed and logically "unable" to care for a child. According to Miss X, he should have been aborted.

And I would have never lived.

Chew on that for a minute.

Here is a passage for you to meditate on today:

"If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth He not know it? and shall not He render to ever man according to his works?"
Proverbs 24:11-12

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Wind of the Past

Like most of the east coast of America, (I assume), we are enjoying splendid spring-like weather this week. I know it won't last, but it's been absolutely wonderful while it has been here!

I spent two hours doing yard work this morning, clearing up some places where I'll plant flowers in a of couple months. The sun was warm on the back of my head, and a comfortable breeze kept things nice.

After the work was done, I walked to the back of the yard to get a view of the big picture. The flower beds against the back of the house looked great!

As I stood in that corner of the yard, my eye fell on a nearby tree. A swing hangs from one low branch. On a whim, I strolled to it and fingered the yellow rope thoughtfully, then sat on the wooden seat and pushed myself into a gentle motion. I closed my eyes, felt the sun on my cheek, the puff of wind in my hair, and I let my thoughts take me back....way back...

For as long as I can remember, there has been a swing in this tree. Oh, it's been replaced several times, and moved to a different branch once, but this back corner of the yard has always been the swing tree. Some of my earliest memories grew from this tree, like bright tender leaves on its greying branches.

For a while I just sat there and felt, rather than thought.

The sun hitting my cheek was so familiar. How many times had I felt it just like that, while sitting here? It always came from the left.

Moving through the air, feet off the ground, hands twined around the rope, my eyes are shut. I don't see blackness - the sun is too bright for that. It's more of a solid orang-y glow that surrounds me. The gentle movement of the swing is as familiar as my own walk.

It has been at least a year since I swung on this swing. I realize it with surprise. But that gentle movement, through a warm orange glow, shocks my memory into overdrive. Sensations come flooding over me...

...The softness of the "tassels" on our first swing. It was just the frayed ends of the white rope, but they were so soft....

...Dirt in my shoes, scuffed in from the many stops and starts I made...

...The exact feel of that wooden board...

...The brush of scraggly grey tree bark against my bare arm when I swung crookedly and hit the tree...

And the sounds. Oh, the sounds. Our road is just off a major highway. The hum of traffic is ever-present. In five minutes we can drive to an airport, stone quarry, or fire station. The jets fly over our yard, the quarry blasts shake our windows, and the fire whistle sounds at random times. But for all that, our backyard can be very quiet much of the time.

Like now. Yet even now, a breeze kicks up, in the tree tops behind the garden. The wind catches in the branches of that great big oak tree, and bounces from oak to pine. The gentle murmur swells to a louder one. It is all as familiar to me as my mother's voice. That wind. Those trees.

If I listen closely enough, I hear voices and sounds in that wind.

...The hum of the lawn mower on a summer day....

...Children laughing and screaming over the sound of the mower...The smell of lemonade mingles with that of gasoline and freshly cut grass. Somebody has brought Daddy a drink...

...A hammer pounding and an electric drill whirring - and Daddy's voice telling us to stay off the fort until he is finished making it...I feel sand on my skin, fresh from the sandbox under the fort. It is rubbing off onto the ropes of the swing...

... My younger brother is swinging in the swing across from me, in the next tree. We are pretending we are blind, and we talk to each other about what we hear. It has been so long since I heard that young boyish voice!...

...My older sister is pushing me, her small hands on my back. Her voice reminds me that it's her turn next...

...Now she is in the swing across from me. We sing gospel songs at the top of our lungs, over the sound of the lawn mower, hoping that our unsaved neighbors will hear us through their open windows...We kick our feet in the air and rejoice in victory when our shoes go flying off...

...I hear Mom calling for lunch, and I smell the hamburgers as Daddy tends the grill...

...I hear my own young voice, crying...pouring out my troubles to an empty back yard on a quiet afternoon, after fighting a math lesson that just didn't want to be learned...

It is all so real. I can hear the voices so clearly on that wind.

Then I feel tears on my cheek. These are real. I can't help myself from thinking, from feeling...from asking.

Where did the years go?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Starting a Web-based Business, Part 2

Welcome back!

In this series, we've been discussing how to start earning income from home through a website-based industry. (If you missed part 1, go here.) In other words, in the kind of business we've been talking about, there's more to your business than just the computer screen; you're selling a product or service.

Last time we covered how important it is to count the cost before getting involved in an entrepreneurial venture. You don't want to put your hand to the plow and then quit when the going gets tough. You've got to be in it for the long haul, and be committed to hard work.

You also must realize that even if your business is based around something you love to do (sewing, for example), you will probably have to do things in that business that you hate. I love shopping for our Simply Modest business, for example, but I hate loading inventory on the site.

Guess what? I have to do it anyway; because I'm not only the boss, but also the employee. There's no passing the buck.

So be prepared to be challenged and stretched. It's quite the adventure! Reward yourself every so often. Sometimes I hold myself back from something I want, until I finish uploading "such and such" amount of inventory - then I treat myself.

Today I want to talk about the traits you will need to develop in yourself as you become a business owner. You may be good at some of these things already - in fact, it's highly likely that you've got at least one covered, judging from the fact that you want to start a business, and these are business skills.But few people start out having all these bases covered. I know I didn't. And I still don't. It's a learning process. But little by little, I'm growing.

#1: Organized

You've got. to. be. organized. Absolutely. You can run a business slip-shod (ask me - I did it the second year of our website!) but you will end up bouncing checks (I didn't quite do that one, but came close!), re-selling products that have already been sold to someone else, and forgetting to ship out orders.

If you aren't the naturally organized type, consider a business partner who is great at those things, or just whip yourself into shape. Ask yourself "could I make myself stay organized if I worked for an organization where my job depended upon my organization skills?"

Yes? Good, because you do.

If you want to be more organized, but aren't sure how to be, take the time to learn. The word "organization" is often thrown around as if everybody knows how to do it. That's not true; you have to learn. If you don't know what you're doing, you'll have your workspace neat and clean, but spend many precious minutes finding everything, because the space doesn't work.

#2 - A Good Accountant
Let's face it; a business means dealing with money. Can you balance a checkbook? Will you balance a checkbook? Do you know how to figure costs and profits? Can you keep track of everything?

No? Work on it. Get somebody who's good at it to teach you.

#3 - Skilled
This kinda goes without saying, but you must be good at what you do. This has to be something you can do in your sleep. That doesn't mean you have to be the best, just that you have to be good.

Aim for high quality, and be proud of your work. You're building a brand, and you want your name to be associated with high standards. Practice, practice, practice, and be confident in your ability to turn out good results every time, before you start marketing your skill or product. No customer wants to be a guinea pig.

#4 - Somewhat web-savy
Relax - you don't have to know html to run a website. Not now-a-days. But you do need basic computer skills. If you can blog, you can manage a website.

I'm sure that if you are looking into starting a web business, you want to know all sorts of information on which web hosts are the best, how much websites cost, what to look for in hosting, etc., so I'll probably deal with that in my next post. It's an important topic, so stay tune!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine Dinner

I promise I'll be back soon.

I'm coordinating a couple's dinner, "in honor of love and marriage," at our church this week, on Friday. All the young people will be serving a sit-down, fancy, homemade (well, almost all of it) dinner to the married folks at our church.

We're expecting 36-40 people.


For forty people!!!!
~ 6 dozen rolls
~ Cheesecakes
~ Frosting for a cake
~ Appetizers
Organizing volunteers

So much to do.

I love it, and I'm totally thrilled to be able to praise and honor the godly husbands and wives in our congregation.

But don't expect me to be around for awhile longer. Normal blogging schedule will resume when I recover. :)

Have a splendid week!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Worth It.

I gave today away.

It's a Saturday. So much potential. So many projects to accomplish.

But I gave it away.

I gave it away. With a smiling heart, and a gleeful laugh.

Because, you see, I was giving it to my younger sisters.

We spent today cleaning their bedroom. It took us nine hours, from start to finish. They had so much stuff in there, piled up, from all those moments when their young hands just didn't know where to put it, and their young hearts were overwhelmed by all the organization needed. A room can be semi-clean, (ahem), but not really clean, you know? Organized.

We took half the stuff out, piled in great heaps in the living room. We swept...and swept...and swept. We rearranged the furniture. We threw away SO much trash...and things no longer needed. We took EVERYTHING out of the closet and organized it.

Now it is beautiful. Peaceful. Feminine. Minimal clutter. Minimal stuff. Everything has a place. My youngest sister, who hates to clean, laughed, and said, "Now I'm almost looking forward to it being messy again, because I know where everything goes!"

And she does. She stuck with me all day - both of them did, actually. Their own hands helped with every project. They know where all their things are. And they can repeat the process of putting them away. I'm so proud of them!

It was a long day. I got tired. I got tired of saying, "let's keep going!"

But I didn't get tired of them. I didn't tire of praising them. I didn't tire of their arms being thrown around my neck, their lips planting a kiss on my cheek, and their voices saying, "thank you so much for helping us!"

I love a clean room. I love happy sisters. I love seeing dog-tired sisters, who have earned the right to be proud of their labor. I love a job well-done.

I gave today away.

And it was totally worth it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Starting a Web-based Business, Part 1

Recently, I received a question about websites:

Naomi said,
I noticed that you have a good number of websites. I am trying to start a sewing business online and I was wondering, how much does it cost you and how do you get your a websites started?

I read this, and had to chuckle. Me? Know anything about websites and web businesses? Yeah right.

But an honest question deserves an honest answer, so here I go.

To begin with; yes, I have quite a few "websites," or other web presences. To sum it up briefly...too many:

~ 10 blogs (yes, ten. No, they aren't all public.)
~ 1 Online Thrift Store, Simply Modest
~ 1 Online Bookstore, Better Books

This blog, The Fruit of Her Hands, is my oldest one, and the one on which I am most active. In just a few days, it will be 3 years since I began blogging. Simply Modest has been running for several years, but I only became a co-owner of it in 2009. Better Books is fairly new, and I'm still working all the bugs out on that venture.

So you can see that my experience with web presence has been limited to the past three years, at the most. My time in web business has been a short year and a half or so.

That being said, I feel that I've learned several things very fast - many of them the hard way. If you, like Naomi, are considering a web-based business, perhaps I can save you some hard knocks by mentioning things I've learned in the past couple years. Keep in mind that this is all based on my own experience, and is by no means an exhaustive list of advice. If you are better grounded in this topic than me (and that wouldn't take much!) please leave additional suggestions - or corrections - in the comments section.

For the sake of time, let's forget about blogging in this discussion. Blogging can be a money-maker, but it blogging for income isn't an avenue I've chosen to pursue at this time, and we want to discuss business right now. Let's talk about home-run businesses that are mostly web-operated.

In other words, the kind of thing a stay-at-home daughter can do, to have an income and still be involved on a day-to-day basis with what's going on at home.

It sounds so inviting, doesn't it? Make money, still be a daughter who lives at home, earn an income from your hobby, and wala!

It's not that easy. Truly, I went into web business with no idea of the tremendous amount of work a successful business takes.

That would be my first piece of advice to the entrepreneur seeking to start a web business; take good thought to what you're getting into! Even Jesus said that nobody goes to war without counting the cost, numbering his soldiers, and determining if he has a chance to win.

By started a web business, you are, in affect, becoming self-employed. That isn't for every personality. Not everybody thrives when they are their own boss. Be honest with yourself; do you have self-discipline? A lot of it? Are you self-motivated? Do you pay attention to details? Can you manage money? Do you inspect your own work, and hold yourself to high levels of quality?

Beyond the question of personality and character traits, there's the issue of time. If you treat this like a part-time job, you'll earn part-time, minimum wages. Or less.

Many young ladies work from home because of conviction. They want to be under their father's authority, and they don't want to treat their home like a hotel/fast-food place combo. They aren't afraid of being out and about, doing things outside the home, but they don't want to leave their focus out there.

But they also want to earn an income - not to build a career centered around personal ambition, but to become a asset to their home, rather than a liability.

That's not to say a job-less girl is a liability. In a non-material way, a helpful, kind, loving daughter and sister is worth much more than her weight in gold. And, even in a financial context, a frugal girl can be saving her family much more than she costs it.

But an income is nice. It's great to be able to not only help cover your own expenses, but also give gifts to others. And how wonderful it is to be able to give to the Lord's work, and further God's kingdom with money you've earned yourself!

So go ahead, if you feel led of God to do so; try a home-based business.

But the world of supply and demand doesn't soften just to deal with young ladies who are trying to be the "Proverbs 31" woman. Few people are going to say "Aw, look - so sweet! She's working from home; let's help her business along." Some people will, but not many. You cannot depend on good intentions to carry a business. Your motivations mean nothing if they aren't backed up by sweat, and time. If you don't put work into this thing, it will fail.

So count the cost. Do you have time? And the determination to see this thing through?

End of point one.

Somehow, I feel a series beginning.