Dancing on Injustice
"Adoption - A Better Way in America" is the title of a speech given by a 12 year old girl in honor of her birth grandmother and birth mothers and adoption advocates around the world at National American Miss's national stage in Anaheim, California in November 2016.
Here is the video of Annaliese's speech on YOUTUBE. Annaliese is the 2016 2017 National American Miss Preteen Miss Rochester.
VIEW ANNA'S SPEECH FOR HER BIRTH GRANDMOTHER HERE
Anna has always been an excellent and fearless public speaker having commanded the attention of audiences at pediatric cancer events, classrooms and even at professional basketball games.
At National American Miss, Master of Ceremonies Joy Soprano said during a crowning event, "We want these ladies to have a voice, and to be heard."
Anna did just that when she shared about her family's prolife ministry and a message to honor her birth grandmother who chose life for her father - Sam Arena - and therefore chose life for her, too.
Within an hour of initially posting the video, the Arena Family - founders of the prolife ministry Lifework Media and Arise Sweet Sarah Film - got a thumbs down on YouTube. They took the video down for a time to protect Anna while she was competing at National American Miss. They recently published the video again.
Anna has been on the front lines as an important member of the Arena family's ministry since a young age. Their message has always been and always will be one of peace and love and healing for the thousands suffering in the aftermath of choice with their film Arise Sweet Sarah. Anna's mother Sandy Arena - founder of Lifework Media and Arise Sweet Sarah is post abortive knows first hand the devastation of abortion.
Please take 90 seconds to view Anna's video.
Anna's father's adoption was a closed adoption in Rochester, NY in 1967. He was born April 13, 1967. New York State Non-Identifying information states that his mother was 20 years old at the time, and her mother died while giving birth to her. She was a secretary and she was beautiful. She was of American Indian and French ancestry. His father was older, an engineer and was Italian. If you or someone you know has information on his birth family's whereabouts, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Annaliese and to invite her to speak or share her gift of ballet and speech about adoption, visit www.annaliesearena.com.
Devotion by Ami Gallagher, Associate Producer of Arise Sweet Sarah (www.arisesweetsarah.com)
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Peace. Shalom. Ironically, in the waiting room of the abortion clinic
that I went to, there was a small rock next to a fireplace that said “Shalom”.
It was after my abortion that I noticed this rock. It was as if it was mocking
me. Peace was the furthest thing from my heart that day. In fact, it would be a
long time until I found true peace.
It was not until I went to a church service dedicated to aborted children and the efforts of pro-life ministries, I began to receive peace in my heart from the only true source, Jesus. That night at the service, I sat tucked away in the corner as everyone worshiped and prayed, and I allowed myself to cry. I allowed my heart to feel the emotions I had stuffed deep in my soul. I opened my heart to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Jesus would forgive me and in exchange for my pain, He would give me peace. In an act of bravery, I decided to go to the altar for prayer. As people surrounded me to pray, I felt emotions rush to the surface. The first was shame. How could I have taken the life of my child? The second was anger. How could the people in my life make me feel forced and without a “choice”? The third, strongest of all, was grief. My heart was heavy with grief. It had been for so long. But then, like a tidal wave over me, I felt it! Peace. The tears and sobs that were flowing freely began to subside. It was like a morphine shot to my pain. This peace carried me home that night. I cannot say I always have this peace. It is a continual healing process. I have my triggers and the sorrow comes breaking in like a flood, at times. But I will say this, every time I ask Jesus for His peace, He is faithful.
His peace truly is different from that of the world. It is a peace that goes much deeper than our circumstances and reaches much further than the world’s turmoil. The peace the world offers is based on condition. If you do this activity, take that pill, read through this book, talk to that professional, maybe you can have peace. His peace comes without strings or price-tag. It comes regardless of our circumstances. It comes often times despite our circumstances. The beauty of His peace is that all we have to do is ask for it. He is willing to forgive; willing to comfort; and willing to give us peace beyond understanding.
If you are struggling, swimming through the ocean of grief, read John 14:27 and believe that this peace is available to you.
Begin your journey to peace today viewing our film of healing after abortion Arise Sweet Sarah.
I once asked my then 10-year-old son Caleb the question,"How do you know I love you?" And he answered me without blinking an eye, "Because you didn't abort me." As I gazed lovingly and adoringly at my son after hearing him say this and trying to visualize a world without him, you can imagine how my heart hurt. As a woman who has aborted, his words cut deeply as truth in my broken heart as the reality of what he so innocently said unfolded.
I just received a novel yesterday written by my friend Renee Maimone which she worked on for many years. I have not read it yet, as I just received it, but she wrote the following to me in a letter included with the book:
"When a life is taken before one's time, things change. God will never reduce your significance by creating another you, therefore your blueprint will no longer interact with another. The loss is now suffered by those remaining. This includes ordained spouses."
And likewise, there is a song I wrote for Arise Sweet Sarah where our character "Sarah" sings of the loss of her unborn and the devastating choice she made to abort. The song is called "Destinies Lost", and it is about taking what was God's and what could have been through the choice of abortion.
There is so much wrong with abortion and cutting the life of a human being short because of fear, uncertainty, selfishness and career goals. Abortion robs the world of so much including the dignity of the woman who partakes, and also robs the world of a preordained destiny with a plan and a purpose. No, I can't imagine a world without Caleb. And worse as a mother, because of abortion, I am left to imagine a world that includes those I aborted and what could have been. I am also left to process and silently deal with the deep sorrow that comes with such imaginings.
Abortion was set before me because of the potential success I would have in life attending college. For the full details, you need to watch my film Arise Sweet Sarah. I must ask those who advocate for the "progress", "advancement" and "empowerment" of women to choose abortion in order to pursue "success" this question: If I placed before you, your BORN child's life or the continuation of your career, which would you choose? I guarantee it would be your child. I hope it would be your child.
So why then is it okay to snuff out that life while that child is forming in your womb? What is the difference? And furthermore, why must the success of a woman to pursue a career and motherhood be mutually exclusive?
It is not, and it is NOT progressive or empowering or right to advocate for a young woman who may find herself unexpectedly pregnant to choose one or the other.
Thank you Renee for writing your novel and putting these truths before the world. And to my fellow women? Once a life has been created inside of you, you need to embrace what is exclusively given to you by God as the privilege to carry and birth that life - whether you are able to parent or not (because trust me there are plenty who will parent for you and will be honored to bring that legacy forward).
The world's blueprint will forever be changed if you decide to take what is God's and the destiny that is in motion with abortion, and like me, you will suffer deep, indescribable loss. Don't ever be the woman who must look into her son's eyes and hear those words come forth from his mouth. You can choose life and legacy and years from now will be a stronger and more progressive and empowered woman for it.
My son just turned 14 the other day and he continues to "wow" me in ten million ways. I am enthralled by him.
When I was 18 years old, my boyfriend at the time bought my mother and me a barren little Christmas tree that he had gone to the woods to chop down himself. Despite his attempt to be kind and fill our home with the merriment of the season, I despised that ugly, little Christmas tree.
A senior in high school and the youngest of five children, I was the only sibling still living at home. This boyfriend and I had been dating for about six months, and he was my first love. My mother was recently divorced from my father and those days – like the Christmas tree - could best be remembered as sparse. Sparse food. Sparse clothing allowance. Sparse heat in the house. Sparse money. And now a sparse and barren tree to match my sparse and barren heart, and outlook on life. That year was not the best, and little did I know it was soon to get much worse.
Soon after the tree arrived, so did the news that I was pregnant. The boyfriend with the pathetic tree, upon hearing the news, suddenly went missing – in the company of another girl - and it was swiftly decided by the adults in my life that I would be having an abortion. And that was it. No explanation. No discussion. No options. No boyfriend. And soon to be - no baby. And as quickly as it was decided, quickly did it happen, and off to the clinic I was sent to terminate my “little problem” just days before Christmas – December 18, 1983 to be exact.
Tragically, this past October, my nephew Christian died. He was very special to me for many reasons, but very much also so because of this fact. That same Christmas in 1983, a few days after my abortion, I spent Christmas Eve with my older siblings and their families. Two of my sister-in-laws during this Christmas event were pregnant, and one with my dear, nephew Christian. I remember sitting in the living room trying my best to be festive to the season, rejoicing in their pregnancies and this celebration, but at the same time secretly and shamefully feeling like the lowest human being on earth – barren, empty, sparse and unloved - like the Christmas tree. Here they were pregnant, and there I was shell shocked and feeling rotten to the core having gotten pregnant in the first place, and now having had an abortion. Worse of anything, I felt all of this in my own private world of despair, carrying my new, secret identity like a cloak of black over my entire being. No one knew, or at least no one was talking about it, and to round out my emerging, stained identity were forbidden memories of a dark and stank abortion clinic located in the heart of the ghetto of Atlantic City where my child and all my self-esteem were violently ripped from me only to be tightly zipped back up in a silent box of grief never to be discussed again.
This time of year, I can’t help but remember and revisit my grief and experiences which can be triggered in a myriad of unexpected ways including seeing something as simple as a stark, barren branch on a Christmas tree. In spite of the forbidden nature of grief after abortion -- something I am so vehemently toiling to change -- the triggers must be dealt with in a safe and secure way. Tears that were never shed and sorrow that was never expressed can be like a cancer to the heart and emotions. We must allow ourselves to fully experience our grief and the disappointments of life, and to express them in any way that feels comfortable and safe whether public like me or not, and in doing so we open the door to memories, words, tears, processing, forgiveness, healing and wholeness, as compared to silent shame, guilt and lonely pain. We say in my recently released, feature-length film Arise Sweet Sarah which shares my abortion story through the power and gentleness of narration, song, dance and symbolism, "The silence of shame is torment." And, indeed it is. I used to think I was the only one who suffered as such, until I went public with my story, and suddenly I became a safe person for others to tell their stories. Community and safe fellowship is a beautiful entity when contending with an issue like abortion, and I was truly surprised by the volume of women in my circle of experience who had also been impacted by abortion. My life mission now is to help unlock the box of secrecy surrounding the unfortunately, common experience of abortion through the power of the arts so women and men can find freedom and acceptance to share and heal. Our vision with our work and the film is to serve as examples of courage so others follow suit, and so we can continue to build our prolife armies linking arms as those who have "been there and done that" and deeply regret it. We bare our vulnerable souls so that others choose differently until the day Roe V. Wade is reversed in this country.
Watching Arise Sweet Sarah is often a first step for many to open the box of silent grief and regret after abortion. It helps to know our film was made by those who know, care and who have been there. We invite
women and men and siblings of aborted children and grandparents, aunts, uncle
and friends, to learn more of our work at our website www.arisesweetsarah.com, and make this the year the journey to healing begins. Read Writer/Director/Producer Sandy Arena's Full Story Here: http://www.sandyarena.com/My-Abortion-Story.html
It's been a little over a week since our long-awaited release of our
film Arise Sweet Sarah. I want to share with you today a peak into a
very special moment shared between my daughter Alexis Gaetano and I
(director/writer Sandy Arena) pertaining to the black, ripped up box we
use in the show (and now film) that signifies "the secret" of my
abortions. For those who know the show and film, inside the box there
are two small blankets - pink and blue - representing the two aborted
children of our character "Sarah". Sarah is me. I am Sarah. Alexis, my
oldest daughter, plays Sarah in the live show and now film and has the
very difficult job portraying the deep emotions of a woman who suffers
in guilt and shame after abortion. Alexis is accustomed to carrying this
box around on stage and during filming as it is used during significant
moments throughout the show to demonstrate her remorse, guilt, shame, anger,
sadness - the basic tragic moments of a mother's heart broken after
abortion. In the live production, she throws it in great anguish
offstage while singing "What Kind of Mother Does That?" which basically
is a scene of self hatred where Sarah is hiding in shame and disgust in
the bathroom at church. The throwing off stage detail was partially to
show her anger, and partially also as a way to get the box offstage to
prepare for the next scene - a logistical moment if you will to help our
show run smoothly. During live shows in fact, Alexis would throw the
box so hard, that we always had a stage person in the wing to catch it
(lest it knock an unsuspecting actor out in the wing). The box then was
a mess, not surprising. It was ripped apart and torn and patched back
together with black duck tape after years of traveling and use - kind of
like my heart over the years as I traveled this journey of healing
after the most hideous and horrendous experiences of my life - killing
my children. (To know more about that, you have to see the film.) But
back to the box, at the film release, my beautiful daughter Alexis had a
gift for me. She was so excited for me to open it. It was a special
surprise, which she is so good at executing and is known in our close
family and friend circles to be a whiz at knocking your socks off with a
surprise. So at the release, finally, after the film showing was over,
and after we had made our way through hundreds of people who were in
attendance, she made me stop for a moment to open my gift. And
thankfully, our event photographer Jennifer Frey was there to capture
it! What Alexis did was take the old, broken down, ugly box and decorate
it to make it beautiful. She added flowers and fluff and pearls and
felt and paint and ribbons. She adorned it with one of the most
significant lines in the film which is "It's a miracle when we find the
strength and courage to arise. I choose to arise." Inside she wrapped up
the little blankets and added flowers to them and also added two baby
tshirts - one pink and one blue to signify our lost children Seraphina
and Simon - my babies, her siblings. So our ugly prop box is now a
masterpiece of beauty to remind me of the love and redemption of my Lord
and the blessings of my daughter, my children, my family, this film and
this show. I share pictures here with you of these special moments
including some scene photos of Alexis carrying her box during the film. I
assure you when I opened this gift it was an "ugly cry" despite the
fact I was at this big party event! You know the kind I'm talking about
that makes your face scrunch up and sounds come forth that are not of
this world. Thank you to my beautiful daughter. This is the most special
gift of all and I will always cherish it. So when you see Arise Sweet
Sarah, which I hope you will do, when you see the box in the film, know
that now it sits in a special place in my house serving as a reminder of
the two little ones who would now be grown who aren't with us, but who
we can't wait to meet in heaven. God bless you all!
To order a copy of the DVD or to host a movie event, see our home page: http://www.arisesweetsarah.com/.
To see photos of this moment and the box, visit:
Written by Ami Preble, Founder/Director Created4Life
Ami is also a Cast Member of The Life Ballet
Why do we do it?
Why spend hours, energy and finances on this cause?
Why even bother when there is such a disregard for life in our culture?
We do it for the babies.
Not just for the ones waiting to be born, but also for the ones already lost.
Every ounce of effort brings our babies lives a purpose.
They were not lost in vain.
Out of the pain and despair, there is this hope….
That as you see me mourn my beloved child, you will desire the baby in the womb.
That if you have already lost a child, you will come out of the secret shame and begin to heal.
We do it for the mothers.
For the ones that are hardened by their choice and have stuffed it down deep in their souls.
For the ones that mourn silently, haunted by what could have been, struggling with regret.
For the ones that are in the midst of decision, wondering how they will deal with an unexpected pregnancy.
For the ones that desire the child but are surrounded by people who don’t.
We do it for the Fathers.
For the ones that weren’t given a choice or a chance to be a father.
For the ones that forced a choice and struggle with deep remorse and guilt.
For the ones hardened by apathy, crippled by fear, and burdened by a culture concerned with inconvenience.
We do it for God.
For a master creator who so lovingly forms the babies into being.
Who whispers to a world,” please accept these as gifts.”
Who aches with a broken heart when even one is rejected and sent back to Him.
Whose heart breaks to see so many wounded hearts, so many impacted by death and lost.
So, if you look upon our faces and see us with weary eyes, and heavy hearts, know this:
We will not stop!
Our resolve is that every child will be given the chance to dance. Every person the opportunity to heal. So that our God will be given the glory, and we can receive His gifts with grateful hearts.
It will come about after this. That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
and your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. -- Joel 2:28
I woke up weeping the other morning. I had been weeping in a dream that I was just having, which was an extremely vivid, heart wrenching dream about abortion. The deep grieving I had been experiencing in this dream translated to the natural, and continued for three hours thereafter.
What I saw and heard in this dream -- the images, the declarations, the despair, and yet the hope - was profound. I believe it was a message from the Lord for all of us engaged in the fight for life. Approximately 3500 destinies are lost to abortion each day in our country. One in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45, and these statistics are not exempt in the church. The death toll is staggering and impact on our lives is astounding. We must no longer turn a blind eye to the atrocity of death of preborn humans in the womb. People are suffering from the pulpit to the pew and beyond in the silence of guilt and shame. True healing and forgiveness that only comes from Jesus Christ - our Lord and Savior and lover of our souls - must be released for this to end.
In the dream, I was in a Planned Parenthood. It was a gigantic facility - the size of a hospital. I was attempting to befriend some of the clinic workers there with the hopes of helping them to recognize LIFE, and the error of their ways. They were discussing some surgical instruments that were used to perform abortions, and how these instruments were hurting women. They were nonchalant and jovial about the pain the instruments were causing women. Their tone was cheerful and casual.
They asked me my opinion about the instruments and the resulting pain on their clients. I was dumbfounded, unsure how to answer. I then ducked under a table so they wouldn't hear me, and met with my friend Crystal - a prolife warrior of God - and started weeping. I shared with her that I wanted to love these ladies and help them see God, but I was overwhelmed by the loss of life from this facility and by the fact that almost 100,000 babies had died there. I couldn't get myself composed. I came up from under the table and my weeping intensified. I told them I just couldn't sympathize with their dilemma (the hurting instruments) and that I loved them so much. I said I was sorry, and I had to leave.
I then walked into a large room and as soon as I entered this room - still weeping - the room transformed to a sky blue color filled with brilliant white light and became a classroom. I walked out of this room feeling hopeful and started down the corridor - still weeping - and I heard the word of the Lord say, "I am making this place a hospital for women." He would turn Planned Parenthood facilities into places of hope, life and healing for women, and places that would glorify Him. No more abortions would be performed there. He is doing this, He said.
My weeping continued as I walked into the Planned Parenthood parking lot. There were hundreds of women arriving for abortions of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnic backgrounds. Their faces were numb, lifeless, and without expression. Off in the distance was a school bus filled with children in uniforms. They were piling out and chasing each other in great joy. They were laughing and playing, and had arrived at Planned Parenthood for a field trip. I was still weeping. One lady coming for an abortion asked me if I was crying because I had had an abortion. I told her that yes, I had had an abortion many years ago and that I had cried many tears because of that. I told her that on this day, however, I was crying for her.
I sat in the parking lot and watched the women crowding in, one after another, after another. Then I saw the hand of God come down and with each woman that filed by me, a tiny, dead baby manifested - the size of a minnow. God then lovingly and carefully picked each tiny body off the ground with his thumb and forefinger and laid the bodies - one on top of the other - in tiny piles of dead corpses. I sat and looked at the piles of dead babies and wept even harder.
When I woke up from this dream at this point, my weeping continued.
My weeping continued for three hours and was coupled with extreme pain, reminiscent of the labor pains I have experienced. "A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world." John 16:21
During this labor, the Holy Spirit released music in the most beautiful of melodies, and also words of forgiveness from Him for men and women suffering in the aftermath of abortion - women like myself; women like those I saw in the dream. I have received many songs from the Holy Spirit for The Life Ballet which we have incorporated into the show.
This beautiful song has been recorded with our record label Verb Records (with vocals by Corey Brooks of Spoken For and Candice Sesco of The Sescos) and is now part of our storyline during the scene when our character Sarah dances with Jesus, and He crowns her with dignity, forgiveness and purity.
Our film Arise Sweet Sarah was released September 12 and is available online at www.arisesweetsarah.com. The song can be downloaded on iTunes. We encourage anyone who suffers after choice to be ministered by this incredible song available here:
Watch the Scene of it on Youtube from the Original Motion Picture 'Arise Sweet Sarah':
In the meantime, I continue to pray for Planned Parenthood and this horrible industry.
"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12
Photo above from filming of Arise Sweet Sarah. See more photos here:
Watch our film trailer at:
View the first 9 Minutes of Arise Sweet Sarah here:
This is just one chapter in the hundreds of chapters that make up my life. But it is one that I care deeply about and one that changed everything in my life. This story matters so much to me that I wrote a show about it and started an organization devoted to helping men and women heal from grief in the aftermath of choice and advocating for children's health from conception to birth and beyond. The organization is called The Life Ballet. My family and I and others have traveled with our show around the country and into Canada to share truth and hope to the next generation and to those who suffer after abortion, as I silently suffered for so many years. One in three women will have an abortion by age 45, so I know I'm not alone. But because of guilt and shame, you may not hear of such a story. Thank you for reading it and for treating my heart with kindness. It's not easy to bare such a tale, but I do so so others may choose differently.
I had an abortion when I was 18 years old when I found myself in crisis pregnancy and rejected by my first love. Well-meaning adults scheduled my appointment and assured me it was not my baby that I would be killing, but rather was "just a blob of flesh". I was told I would forget about my child and that college was the next important goal on the agenda of a "successful" woman's life.
The abortion clinic was crowded and cold, and a giant cattle call of death. I was driven to the clinic by a high school friend who was as frightened and bewildered as I was. I waited in the lobby with all the other women, and I cried and cried and cried. Deep in my heart, I knew what was happening was very evil and very wrong. I was harshly scolded by a Planned Parenthood worker who barked at me to stop crying. Although this horrible organization lies to say they care about women's healthcare, their actions indicate otherwise. They care about making money off abortions and exploiting women and their unborn children in the name of greed and profit. Not one staff member there offered a kind word, a tissue, a shoulder to cry on, or most importantly another option. I was treated like a piece of meat, and my child, even worse, was killed and dissected all for a fee. It was the worst day of my life. I felt trapped, unloved and deeply rejected. I remember speaking with another woman in the waiting room who was hysterically crying too. She was already a mother and her husband was forcing her to abort their child. I will never forget her tear-stained face, as we both sat in that room our chests heaving with grief waiting for our turn to kill our babies.
After that abortion, all my dreams and self esteem were shattered. It was not the fairy tale life of which I had dreamed. I compensated and survived what had happened by acting out in rebellion and extreme defiance, drinking and partying. I self destructed and had another abortion a few years later. I rarely spoke about what had occurred in my life, and I pretended I didn't care. But deep inside I was scarred and broken. I felt worthless and alone.
I gave birth to my oldest child at the age of 26 and I had never been so in love in my life. I held her in my arms and I was completely in awe. I would walk through fire for her and it was at this point I truly realized what had happened in my life. I was wrecked in my every fiber of my being to know I had killed my children. I was mad at the world. I was mad at the adults. I was mad at the people who had lied to me and told me my babies were "blobs of flesh".
My oldest daughter Alexis is a performer in our show and dances, sings and acts the part of "Sarah" - a woman who regrettably suffers through abortion and then finds healing and forgiveness after a long and painful journey.
I held onto my secret for years, particularly when I was in church. If someone said the word "abortion", I would run to the bathroom to silently sob, just like I had done so many years ago in the abortion clinic. I was a mother now, afterall, happily married with three beautiful children. And I was a Christian. I thought, what kind of mother does this? I was so deeply ashamed. Of all my accomplishments - educationally and work-wise - motherhood and family was my greatest, and I could not wrap my head around the fact that I had killed my children for something as comparatively meaningless as a "career" and other things set before me in the name of sacrificing the lives of my children. I knew in my heart that I could have written those kids into my life with a little creativity and hard work, and that we would have been okay, whether I had raised them or someone else had through the loving option of adoption.
I finally came public with my story a few years ago when I was in my early forties when I found myself in a very unique situation in a public identity mix up when a woman with my same name who lives in my city was accused of murder. Everyone thought it was me when the story of this other "Sandy Arena" hit the news. I initially set myself apart from her in self-righteousness and claimed to be the "good" Sandy Arena, not the one accused of murder and who was all over the news. That was my initial reaction, until I honestly looked deep inside my heart and I knew this was not true. I knew that I had taken the lives of others - my children - even though society did not call it as such and that I had no right to set myself apart in righteousness. I shared my heart, my thoughts and my sympathies for the other parties involved in this situation in an opinion essay in our daily newspaper and my abortion story was out. It was terrifying, but I was free.
I was so impacted by
this very unexpected and public abortion confession, that I founded The Life Ballet. It has become my life work. Our show has been performed over the years by the ballet company my husband and I founded in 2006. The live
production is written in the form of a letter of regret to my unborn children where we share a message of life, hope and healing to the people suffering as I
had suffered in the aftermath of the "choice" of abortion for so many
dark and horrible years. Although it is based upon many of my own personal experiences, we have collaborated with, combined and changed many of the details of my story to protect the identities of those involved and to also, most importantly, let the world know this is NOT just my story, but every woman's story who has had an abortion, even if she is still in a place of denial. In addition to our live performances, we also dance in silence and in intercession in front of abortion clinics (Silent Dancers for Life) and most recently signed with the record label Verb Records to create a film adaptation of the live show called "Arise Sweet Sarah". This incredible film took a year and a half to complete. Not quite a Hollywood blockbuster in its budget, it was a $40,000 expense which has been a tough mountain for us to climb. Arise Sweet Sarah will be released September 12 in Rochester, NY at the beautiful Dryden Theater at the Eastman House, and hopefully at other locations across the country. It is my art and my heart and the best way I know
to tell my story of regret and hope in the wake of abortion. It is one way I
can honor my children's lives and the lives of millions of other children who never had the chance to dance.
As noted above, my oldest daughter plays the lead character in the show whose name is
"Sarah" and for this I am humbled and grateful. My youngest daughter
Annaliese dances the part of "young Sarah" (see first photo below). My husband and my son are also very involved in the show serving as extras, crew, travel agents, therapists and much more. We all travel together when we perform.
My mourning has indeed
turned to dancing and I can only hope my story and our show will continue to
lead others impacted by abortion towards a lighted path of forgiveness and
healing. I often say that to remove from society a child deemed unwanted or
inconvenient, is to release back into that same society a woman marred and
scarred by the choice of abortion. I believe there is a better way for women in
the great land of America. Killing children to get what you want out of life only teaches us that the worst kind of violence comprehensible is good and acceptable, which it is NOT. Our country was built by courageous and strong men
and women who were fearless and creative and who were pioneers. I know my
fore-sisters were birthing babies in covered wagons. We can certainly do better
for women than killing our children when faced with fear or uncertainty in the
event of an unplanned pregnancy. America needs to wake up the atrocities and horror of abortion and the basic human denial of life and liberty for children in the womb who have hearts, livers, brains, arms, legs and DNA, what is basic to all of humanity.
Children are the greatest blessing and are our future.I will end my story to say that abortion has far reaching consequences not just to women, but to men, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and the whole community. In a mother/son bonding moment I had with my son who is now 13 years old, I asked him how he knew I loved him. He answered without blinking an eye, "Because you didn't abort me." This unexpected moment in time broke my heart into pieces. It was certainly not a moment I ever dreamed I would have one day with my "wanted child" when I was 18 years old living out a lie in an abortion clinic.
I don't always enjoy baring my soul and sharing these dark events in the history of my life, but I do it so others may choose differently and with the hope that one day legalized abortion in America will end.
Learn more about The Life Ballet at www.thelifeballet.org.
Read more about our family and our expressive arts ministry at www.sandyarena.com.
It was my son Caleb's 11th birthday.
I love and cherish that kid with all my heart. I love ALL my children's birthdays, and around our house, we go all out to celebrate and mark the special day God chose to bring them into this world. Their lives represent another beating heart here on earth designed to carry forth God's master plan. How exciting that I have the awesome privilege to guide and direct my children - birthday to birthday - in this journey towards destiny.
Caleb is the kid who said to me a while ago, in a mother/son bonding moment, when I asked him how he knew I loved him, "Because you didn't abort me." As a post-abortive mom this moment shattered my heart into a million pieces. How do you respond to that?
I took a picture of my son blowing out his birthday candles and I saw in the beautiful blur of his face, the face of those I have lost. The word "unbirthday" came to me.
UNBIRTHDAY" equals all the precious moments missed and the candles I never lit. I will forever regret the loss of life I have experienced from abortion. I will forever speak forth the truth of this pain so that others
Happy Birthday my dear, sweet son Caleb. I am so very honored and grateful to be your mom and to get to see your amazing face each and every day of your life. And for those I have lost, I await the day in Heaven when I can light the candles on your cake....
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
what ever is right, what ever is pure, what ever is lovely, what ever is
admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such
Choosing life in the midst of crisis pregnancy is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Abortion is none of these and I know this to be true from first hand experience. Abortion brings about loss, shame, guilt and pain. . The moment I realized the error of my ways, deep self-hatred set in, followed by a long and painful journey to healing and forgiveness. There are truths about abortion that must be shared because I certainly would never want anyone to have to fall into this trap of deception and pit of hell.
I have had the honor and privilege of working with many children and teenagers in our prolife show The Life Ballet. To see their heart and passion to fight for their fellow human beings is a hopeful endeavor. "Ours is the generation that will end abortion," recently said one Life Ballet dancer Mariah with great certainty and conviction. You see, the children see abortion in very simple terms and for what it is, killing of a human being. All the other muck and junk and lies and deception fall beyond their ability or desire to process. It's a no brainer for them, as it should be for the rest of the world. (Baby+Kill=Unthinkable and Evil Beyond Words)
In the midst of my work with these kids, I have witnessed them going into travail; a deep mourning of intercession to bring about a birthing of something in the heavenlies.
"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Romans 8:26
It began one day at rehearsal. We were preparing for a trip to perform The Life Ballet in Lethbridge, Canada. God had called me to a serious fast (40 days) for this trip. No, wrong word. God had COMMANDED me to a fast. There was NO denying that this was what I HAD to do, and I ate only fruits and vegetables for this time period. My fast was set to end the day we returned to the United States from this trip. I had no idea what to expect on this trip. It would be our first "missions" trip to share the show, and our message of LIFE through song and dance. The above mentioned rehearsal should have been a good indication of the spiritual journey on which we were about to embark, one with a greater purpose than we could ever understand.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5
During the United States rehearsal, the performers started crying and they
cried for hours. They were all ages and sizes. They were crying out for their
lost siblings. (Many of the dancers, because of their involvement in the show,
had learned about their own parents' abortions and the loss of siblings.) So the
adults in our group just prayed over them, and let them cry. It was a
heavy topic, abortion, to be performing about, and they were young. Some as
young as six years old, including my youngest daughter Annaliese. I thought, at
the time, they were releasing a necessary emotion about abortion, and a
mourning of the loss of siblings. I thought they would cry, and it would be
over. I was wrong.
There would be more.
A few weeks later, we were in Canada, same group of kids, and were finishing up dress rehearsal. Things were going very well, technically "show-wise" speaking, and we felt prepared.
But then it started again. During one of the more difficult scenes, one of the performers started weeping. You could tell she was trying to hold it together. It was a scene towards the end of the show. We kept going. It was dress rehearsal and we were "doing" the show as it would be done the next night. After we were done rehearsal, we held hands to do our closing prayer, and the one girl was still slightly weeping. We started praying for safety and provision and thanked God for how far He had brought our group. We prayed for the hearts of the people who would see the show. We prayed for abortion and the unborn. We prayed a bit more, and then BOOM, it began. The crying. It was like a ring of fire from one kid to the next, and the mourning dropped upon them with a vengeance. It was no longer tears and crying. It was wailing. And wailing. And wailing. And wailing.
There were three of us adults present, and I was in charge and was pondering what we should do. We let them wail for about 15 minutes and the sound guy started looking at me kind of funny, tapping his foot and checking his watch. He then turned out the church lights. It was time for him to lock up and go home. We needed to respect him and that! It was indeed getting late.
So we gathered the children into a group. There were nine of them. We stuffed them into two cars and started driving them back to the hotel. They were all still wailing. We got back to the hotel and gathered them again - still wailing - and walked them through the parking lot, past the hotel front desk, onto the elevator, and then down the hall to our room. They were loud. People in the hotel rooms were opening doors to see. One man said to me, "Did someone die?" Holy spirit chills. "Yes, I said. They are crying out for the millions and millions of aborted children." He was speechless and shut his door.
We got back to the room and laid them on a bed and then they wailed and writhed
in pain. They were saying things like, "I feel the pain. I feel it."
My own Annaliese was saying "I want them. I want my brother and
sister." She was six years old. She was referring to her own aborted
siblings whom she now knew about because of The Life Ballet, my testimony. The
front desk called. "Is everything alright?" the attendant asked.
I honestly did not know how to answer that question. Because, yeah, no. As long as abortion is alive, well, legal and thriving in the world, "everything" is not alright.
We called intercessors at home after an hour or so as we helplessly watched them wail. We read scriptures over them. I quietly prayed in tongues and watched, wiping tears from my own eyes. People were praying for them all over the world.
Finally after about 3 hours, it was done. It was finished. They slept soundly and got up the next day ready to perform the show as if nothing had happened. Later that evening, after the performance, we drove back to our hotel and they were literally dancing and singing with joy and glee, in the same parking lot where the night before they had been in deep, deep mourning. They were one of my favorite scriptures in action, "He has turned for me my mourning into dancing and has clothed me with joy." Psalm 30:11
Since then my own children have been open and honest with me about the loss of their siblings due to my abortions. It has broken my heart that I have failed them in a manner such as this.
Recently, my oldest daughter Alexis drew a photo of her unborn siblings Sarah and Dean. Sarah is the name of the main character - a post abortive mom - in The Life Ballet (whom Alexis plays), but also the name of my first aborted child. I want her to always know the depths of my regret. This drawing was an extraordinary gift she gave me.
There are always tears when we do The Life Ballet, or when we do post abortive
healing studies and retreats. But nothing like I have ever seen that summer in
Canada from the children. It won't be until eternity, I am sure, that I will
fully understand the work and purpose of their tears. I am going to ask Jesus.
I am privileged to know Him. I am privileged to know these kids, so many of
whom I have seen over the years give it their all and sacrifice so
much for the sake of the unborn and the millions of loss parents. I am
privileged to be able to write, dance, sing and speak out against abortion during
my time here on earth with my Savior by my side.
A post was pointed out to me of a person who I was told has a position of leadership and influence at a mega church around here. This person was disgusted by pictures of aborted babies (called in the post, “fetuses”) that were displayed all over Rochester recently as part of a major prolife event here in our city.
This person mentioned the fact that people don't want to see the pictures because they are disturbing to those “who are trying to eat”. This person received 76 likes for this post. I can't comment back on the wall, so I will comment here for anyone who shares this divisive viewpoint who calls themselves a "prolife Christian".
First and foremost at the heart of this, please don't speak out against other pro lifers who are trying really hard to end abortion. Unlike my opponents over at Planned Parenthood who get paid for what they do, most of us work for free. And as you all "like" and speak out against the approach of hardworking, courageous pro lifers on a particular day, remember that almost 4000 babies died the day you "argued approach".
Sorry the pictures of dead babies has made you lose your appetite. If that's your feeling, then, well, you technically should lose your appetite everyday of your life. The “pictures” are there, happening every day, but unfortunately you just can't see them - they are tucked in the dark corners of your city. You have made peace with that which you cannot see and your ability to eat and really enjoy life has remained intact. It reminds me of the churches who just sang a little louder as the trains of screaming people went by them on the way to the concentration camps. “Let's not interrupt our lives to focus on such horror, shall we, as we sit here in church and worship God.”
I am so disappointed right now and frustrated. No, killing human beings is not nice at all and we should all feel sick to our stomachs every day to the point of losing our appetites, and not just the day the pictures came out onto the streets from the courageous souls. Get mad at the abortionists. Get mad at the people who vote pro abortion. Get mad at the lawmakers. Get mad at the devil. Get so mad that you get involved. Pray. Dance. Volunteer. Sit in the pregnancy centers. Haul boxes of junk out at the garage sales in 100 degree weather. Set up tables at a banquet. Run the sound at prolife events. Show up and take some pictures for us and them post them on your wall. Do something to help then those of us who are trying.
This person spoke about the hate and the anger these pictures evoked and that Jesus wouldn't do it that way. He'd hang out with the sinners. Of course He would and pretty sure He would be at the clinics and the pregnancy centers and vigils and the banquets and the shows and the garage sales. So where are you all? Where are the 77 "likers” who are mysteriously absent? It's the same old, same old at these events and the workers are few and the resources are so very scarce. If you hate the pictures, then hate them enough to join the effort and get involved. The movement desperately needs you. Talk to your pastors. Talk to your youth leaders. Every church in this city ought to have an ongoing prolife effort and battle plan in place, every day. Pick your project. There are many.
And as for the hate and anger that the pictures evoke, well, I've yet to meet or have a conversation with a pro abort that yielded something other than that and my approach DOESN'T involve holding pictures of dead babies. I could just be sharing my own post abortive testimony of how I regret my abortion and I’m STILL met with hate and anger and accusations. I know my sidewalk workers and fellow protestors and volunteers and prayers have even been met with worse - things being hurled at them from the road; death threats. Or what about the people who braved the capitol in Texas recently who had to hide in rooms because of the threat of guns? All THEY were doing was singing hymns in intercession and they were met with death threats. It's not a picture of a dead baby that stirs up the evil, it's the enemy rearing his ugly head against anything and everything that could stop this very successful campaign of death and destruction that has been legally permitted in our country for the last 40 years. It could even be a simple sign that says "I Regret My Abortion", or a dance danced, or a prayer spoken or a testimony shared. These activities and approaches too yield hate and anger.
So let’s lose our appetites from that, not from the pictures. I'm post abortive. Those pictures break my heart everyday and remind me to keep working hard and speaking out. I am VERY concerned about the heart of the post abortive mom or dad or sibling or friend. Abortion affects EVERYONE and I work everyday of my life on post abortive healing tasks. But abortion needs to end and be outlawed simultaneously, otherwise the funnel on one end of my job to bring healing to the post abortive just keeps filling up. The patients never stop coming.
Please, if you are a Christian and you claim to be pro life, don't slam the workers and their approaches. It’s working against the cause. They are trying. They are yielding results at a very slow pace. They are few. If you have something negative to say, then I would challenge you then to gather up your troops and immediately start doing something else. IMMEDIATELY. Time is of the essence. The babies die all day, every day, every year, for 40 years. They are indeed dropping off like flies as we argue.
The slamming and the jamming I've received MOSTLY comes from those who claim to serve the same Jesus I serve. 99 percent of the time the garbage I get is from Christians and why? Because they don't like my approach. For me, they don't like dance. They think it’s inappropriate and it doesn't belong in church. I've also been criticized and shunned by a Christian organization for using the scripture "Thou shall not murder" on an advertisement for our show. I EXPECT conflict with people who believe it is okay to kill a child. I don't expect it when it comes from "My Side" of the battle line. It's exhausting.
We will be dancing in silence in front of Planned Parenthood on University on Saturday morning from 10 am to 11 am this coming Saturday. I would be thrilled to see all 76 of the "likers" and the writer of that post at our pro life event where our approach to raise awareness is silent movement. The handful of us could use your help. www.silentdancersforlife.org and www.thelifeballet.org.