Amy Ford and Joanna Brown talk about the struggles they experienced as a result of being pregnant and unmarried during their teen years, and offer hope to young women facing similar challenges today. (Part 2 of 2)
Girl #1: When I first found out I was pregnant, I felt worthless.
Girl #2: I didn't even really believe it. At first when I looked at the test, it said a big "yes," and I said, okay, yes, I'm not pregnant. I go like, there's no way.
Girl #3: I remember being paralyzed in fear and like my life was just completely spinning out of control.
Girl #4: I was just afraid for the reputation of my family, if it was gonna tear my family apart or it was gonna bring us closer together.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Those comments are from young single pregnant women. They're actual comments from a video by the ministry Embrace Grace. And we're going to be talking about unplanned pregnancy, how to deal with that, both as a young woman, as a friend, as a church community and as a parent on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and Jim, there was not a dry eye in the studio last time as we talked about this very sensitive matter that has such deep implications for all of life.
Jim Daly: It's true, John and I think if you didn't hear last time, download it, get the CD, do what you need to do, because I thought there was some powerful points [sic] that were made. And today we're gonna continue that discussion and talk about the goodness of God in creating us male and female, the fact that He's given us the gift of intimacy as an expression of His love for us and where in Christian homes even, it goes sideways and it gets corrupted because of the enemy of our soul. And I thought our two guests last time did a wonderful job expressing what had happened to them and their hopes for the future and the way God, now several years later, has taken care of that pain and righted the wrongs that were made.
I also want to mention, this week is the National Sanctity of Human Life Week. And one of the things,
there's so many things I'm proud of at Focus on the Family, but one of the things is our Option Ultrasound program. And over 300,000 babies have been saved through that.
John: That is an amazing—
Jim: It is!
John: --number, Jim.
Jim: I love that!
John: Three hundred thousand babies!
Jim: Yeah, this is where we collaborate with pregnancy resource clinics around the country and these are pro-life clinics. And I should say pro-woman and pro-baby clinics and they just want to make sure a woman who's in this very difficult moment, trying to make very difficult decisions—life-and-death decisions—that she's fully equipped to make that decision. And my hat goes off to all of these wonderful folks that are working in the PRCs, as we call them. What we do is supply ultrasound machines. We scholarship ultrasound machines into these clinics and to have over 300,000 babies saved, puts the biggest smile on my face.
John: It's been a wonderful program and of course, thanks to all in the audience who have supported Option Ultrasound. Don Hodel was the president at the time—
Jim: Yeah, he was.
John: --that, that program got approved. And it's meant so much to us to see so many women benefitting from that. Now in the studio last time we had Joanna Brown and Amy Ford and they're back with us again today. They actually went to high school together (Laughter) and—
Jim: I love that!
John: --yeah, they each experienced an unplanned pregnancy. And Joanna works in our communications office here at Focus and is married to Doug. They have three beautiful daughters. Amy is the president and cofounder of Embrace Grace, that ministry I mentioned earlier, which provides training and resources to young, single pregnant women through the Church. And she's written a book called A Bump in Life. We'll talk more about that. Amy is married to Ryan and they have four children.
Jim: John, let me say from the get-go, I think there's 300,000 churches in the U.S. I think every church should do the Embrace Grace program--
Amy Ford and Joanna Brown: Amen. (Laughter)
Jim: --because it gets them engaged with the real culture. And sometimes and understandably, we in the Christian community get tagged with being separate from the culture. I say, let's engage it. Let's go find those girls and Embrace Grace can equip a church to do that and create a ministry around that. And also let me say welcome to both of you. Welcome back.
Joanna: Thank you.
Amy: Thank you for having us.
Jim: Amy, I'm excited about it. Fill in the blanks. What else would you like to say about your ministry?
Amy: Well, Embrace Grace, we have a 12-week semester, where the churches across the nation provide a safe place for girls to run to when they have an unplanned pregnancy. You know, a lot of times the church'll say, they're pro-life and yes, keep your baby. But then sometimes when a girl chooses life, they may shame them or condemn them or shut their doors and say they're not welcome here. So, we want it to be a safe place.
And so, we provide all the tools needed for churches to have small groups and to work with their local pregnancy centers and into their community, bringing these girls with unplanned pregnancy into the church, so they can learn what a family looks like and hear about Jesus. And you know, we can't fix all their problems, but we can point them to the One that does. And we just want to tell them how much God loves them and get them set up to parenting. Or if they do adoption, get 'em set up for choosing adoption.
Jim: Hm, in this area of parenting and speaking to parents of teens, this probably comes around only once or twice for most parents, where they may be facing what we heard at the top of the program, your teen daughter saying to you, "Daddy, mom, I'm pregnant."
You're not equipped even as a parent. Sure, we're the ones that are supposed to be full of wisdom and committed to the Lord and know what to do in every circumstance. But all of a sudden we're hit with a flag. We don't know what to say necessarily. Give us some points right out of the gate here. What can a father and a mother say that will be so meaningful that 10 years from now when they're celebrating either through adoption or keeping that child or the young couple getting married, they're celebrating the 10th, 15th birthday of that child that may not have lived. What would you say to that mom and dad to make sure they say the right thing in that moment, that they're not prepared for?
Amy: Right, well, most definitely we still love you. And I think that I worried about that when I had an unplanned pregnancy myself, that my parents weren't gonna love me anymore and that I had brought shame upon my family. So, to say, we still love you and that your life's still is gonna go on. All the dreams that you had before, you can still pursue your dreams and everything's gonna be okay.
And if a parent is freaking out, just kind of freak out on the inside and call a friend; call your pastor. Talk it out. But before you react, just try to get counsel first. Just saying, I love you and even if you need to go walk outside or call someone and just say, give me a little bit of time. Let's talk again tonight, something like that just so that you don't say something that they have to hold onto forever or remember, because they're already so terrified about what your reaction is gonna be and they want to make you proud and they're upset that they're in that situation. So, to just say it's gonna be okay and we're gonna get through this and I'll love you and I'll love your baby, is huge.
And we actually are working on for next year starting Embrace Mercy, which is for the parents of the girls that have unplanned pregnancies because they have feelings and things to work through, as well. And so, we have already started it at our home church where all this was birthed from is Gateway Church in South Lake, Texas. So, Embrace Mercy is there, but we're working on packaging it on a nationwide level.
Amy: Embrace Grace is now in 18 states and 60 churches across the nation and we just want every church to be a safe place for girls to turn to instead of run away from because of shame and guilt. You know, when we invite girls for the first time to church, it's like pulling teeth sometimes. They say, "Oh, I thought you were gonna over my list of sins. I thought you were gonna tell me I was going to hell. I thought you were gonna tell me that my life was over." That's what the unchurched think that church is.
And so, they think it's about behavior modification, when it's about a heart transformation, when all we want to do is to point them to the throne room of God and show them how much God loves them. But they have this perception that the church is just there to tell you what's right and wrong, when that's not it at all. But for some reason the church is known more for what it's against than what it's for and we have to change that in our culture.
And so it's hard when there's a lot of people sometimes in the church that say, you know, oh, I had actually a pregnancy center director not too long ago came up to me and say, "You know what? It's really hard when we have some girls that just try so hard to stay pure. It's so hard and it is. We all know that. It's hard, but we can do it. It's just hard. But then we have these other girls that get pregnant and you all are throwin' 'em baby showers and they're single and pregnant. Like how does that make sense? Are you condoning sin? Are you, you know, celebrating sin?
But God brought me the Prodigal Son story. And in thinking about the son who went off and spent all his dad's money and was irresponsible and did all these things he shouldn't have done, and he decided to come back home. And I love it in the Scripture it says, "And while he was a long way off, the father ran to him and he put a robe on his back and a ring on his finger and he said, 'Son, welcome home.'" And I know a lot with these Embrace Grace girls are your daughters, if you're listening right now and you have daughters, you may think they are a long way off. But God just wants us to turn to Him and He will run to them. And then the brother--
Jim: (Chuckling) Yeah.
Amy: --remember the brother. He's like, "Well, that's not fair. I've been so perfect. I've been this kid that's just served you and done everything right." And the dad says, "Son, everything that I have is already yours. You have everything you need in me, so go, pick up your stuff. Let's go party and celebrate that your brothers is coming home."
Amy: And that's us. That's the church. We should be celebrating that our brothers and sisters are coming home to Him, even if they just turned, even if they're just still a long way off, we can still celebrate that they're comin' home.
Jim: That's a good word. And I've never thought of the Prodigal Son story being kind of recast in a daughter context.
Jim: And this would probably be what would have driven her away—
Jim: --to have that unplanned pregnancy. Joanna, I want to get you in here, because last time we talked about your story, kind of ended it where you were still in that rebellious phase a bit.
Jim: And uh …
Joanna: Rebellious and angry.
Jim: Rebellious and angry, your parents had divorced. It kind of turned you from being and wanting to be a good girl in a[n] 180-degree different direction, which you relented then and you and your boyfriend at the time, who's now your husband, Doug, had premarital sex. But we ended it there. I want to hear really a perfect place where you, the prodigal daughter—
Jim: --where you went from there. Who ran out to meet you?
Joanna: My story didn't end there and I wish I could say everything was perfect and Doug and I, you know, end up getting married and everything was fine and that didn't happen. And our dating relationship at the time was not healthy and it wasn't good and it was a long-distance relationship. And we ended up, I had an abortion, went off to school, living my dream, you know. Okay, now I'm at college and everything else is gonna be fine.
But when you go through an abortion, you go to the abortion clinic. They don't have counselors there that tell you what you're gonna experience following, you know. Everybody thinks it's a Band-Aid and, you're fine now and that's not the case. So, I went through depression and all through college and still seeking that, you know, still very angry and very hurt with my parents' divorce. And of course, Doug and I were still seeing each other, but it wasn't the, you know, not the best relationship, but I end up, you know, pregnant again.
And so, now I'm just finished my freshman year in college and now I find myself pregnant and I'm 19 and where do I go from here? I'm shaming my parents againand have to tell my parents again. And I told Doug, I said, "I'm keeping the baby." I don't care what anybody says. They're not putting the baby up for adoption. This is what we decided. I'm gonna be a mom now and I'm gonna, you know, pull up my big-girl pants and figure this out.
And I didn't feel that there was anybody there that was gonna love me and say, "You know what? It's okay; God still loves you and God forgives you." Because the church has always been, you know, everybody's pro-life, pro-life, prolife. But then once you have your baby, they're like, you know, then it's guilt, guilt, guilt and a lot of condemnation. And they're not there to help you afterwards.
Joanna: And …
Jim: That's quite a truthful, but indicting statement.
Joann: Yes. And that's what was hard for me, is I was now trying to, okay, now I've gotta go get a job. I can't do what I want to do. [I] had majored in public relations. Well, now have to drop out of school and I've gotta go now just find a job just to survive for, you know, me and my child.
And so, I go to this Bible study andthey had an altar call and I just went down and I broke. And I just remembered just crying before God, just asking God, take the anger away. Take the guilt away. I need to be set free. And He immediately healed me. I mean, the anger, the guilt, the resentment that I had, the condemnation, everything went away. To say that now I don't, you know, the abortion never crosses my mind anymore, no. I still deal with that, you know, so many years later. But I've been forgiven and I feel free. And now I can talk about it. I would never talk about it. I don't think a whole lot of people knew that I had even had an abortion. I never told anybody.
But now and I feel free enough that I can say, you know, this is what happened to me and you can talk about it.
Jim: Joanna, let me ask you this, because you had your abortion and you had actually two other pregnancies before you and Doug got married. I want to get your response to this, because in many ways it irritates me when we talk about truth. Of course you've got the circumstances—the consequences—
Jim: --of the decisions you made.
Jim: And you have to own them.
Jim: And you did.
Joanna: And yep.
Jim: And in many ways, with your second pregnancy out of wedlock, to be able to say deep in your bones, I hear you saying, "I'm a mom. I'm not going to terminate the life of this child. I'm gonna be this kid's mom."
Jim: And I felt it and heard it when you said it. But you still have the consequences. You didn't finish college. You had to get a job that probably paid far less than what you would've hoped for. But to have three pregnancies and to have to go to your mom and dad like that. Cheap grace.
Jim: Somebody may have said, "Joanna, she just can't break the habit."
Jim: And I'm sure if we do this, it's condoning behavior, I'm sure after the first time you were pregnant. What irritates me in that regard is that we would put a label of "cheap grace" on God's sacrifice for us.
Jim: If it's 70 times 7—
Jim: --you know, whatever the number would be, three pregnancies in a row—
Jim: --without a husband. You're the woman at the well.
Joanna: Uh-hm. I am and I still knew God was there. That's the one thing I'm thankful for, is that my parents grounded me. I was strong in my faith, not that I was close to God at the time, but I knew He was there. And I wasn't, you know, I was still seeking, but I was so young that I was still rebelling at the same time. I don't know if that makes sense. But I always knew, you know, God's still there. He's still real. I knew that deep down in my soul.
And I think once Doug and I got married and both of us put God first and both of us committed our marriage to Him and committed our relationship, once we put God first, everything else, then He's like, I can bless you now. And there were consequences, absolutely, you know. Doug and I struggled financially.
We were, you know, so then now we're 21, newlyweds and we've got two kids and he's going to school and I'm making $1,000 a month workin' at Walmart. And we lived in a little small, 600-square foot apartment.
There are consequences to your actions where if we had done it right and if we had waited, and then finished, you know, college and had the right jobs and things would've been different. But at the same time, He took everything and has now changed it where He's blessing us. There's so many people who say, you should be a statistic. Statistics say Doug and I should be divorced by now. We should be forever in poverty. We you know, when you're young and married, you're not gonna make it. God is not a God of—
Jim: --yeah, so, you're evidence of the consequences, but you're also evidence of God's grace.
Joanna: Yes, absolutely.
Jim: That is a good way to wrap that.
Joanna: And what I love is my major was in public relations. I moved down here, come work at Focus on the Family and come join the public relations team. (laughter) And when I joined in 2008, when I started, I thought, it was God telling me, I haven't forgotten what your dreams were. I still love you and I still remember what you wanted to do back 12 years ago in college.
And here you are. You don't have a college degree, but you get to work in a field that you've always wanted to do. And He's blessed my marriage. He's blessed my kids. You know, and now I look back and I'm like, to see my (weeping) my child now who is 17 and she's gonna, you know, now we're looking at colleges for her and to think that, that child, you know, when so many people may have said, "Put her up for adoption," or you know, "You shouldn't have her." She's this beautiful amazing girl, who loves Jesus and loves life and I, you know, all three of my girls are just that way and they just are a breath of fresh air. It makes me think God's showing me, you know, He still has His arms around me and He still loves me and whatever consequence, whatever sin there is, when you put your focus on Jesus, it's gonna be okay.
Jim: I love that Scripture, "His mercies are new every morning.
Joanna: Every morning.
Jim: I mean, that's—
Jim: --our Lord. Amy, the thought ran through my mind listening to Joanna, she's the mom now of a 17-year-old girl. You both have children and both have teenagers.
Jim: How much do you share with your child about where you have been and the journey God has taken you on?
And so, we sat him down. I mean, it was about 10 minutes of we love you, we love you, we love you, we love you, we love you. And then, okay, here's what happened. And so, we told him and he did so well. He had a lot of questions, but what's cool though now, he's on fire for God, by the way, on fire. And he's actually been sharing his story in youth group and stuff. But he says that, you know, Satan had a plan for him before he was even born. And he was an overcoming before he was ever born. And so, he tells all his friends that, you know, "I'm an overcomer and I have a story and that Satan didn't want me to live, but I'm here and I'm gonna use every day to make a difference." And that's what he does. He is a leader and he's amazing.
Jim: So, he feels like—
Amy: He does feel—
Jim: --got a gift.
Amy: --he feels chosen, special and it's beautiful.
Jim: That's incredible. I love that, that he embraced it that way.
Jim: And actually, out of honesty, your ability for you and your husband to talk to him and share that story with him empowered him.
Jim: It didn't disenfranchise him, which is beautiful.
Jim: You share a story, as well, Amy in your book, A Bump in Life, which I do want folks to hear, because I think it, too, expresses this so beautifully and it involves a young woman named Sarah who became pregnant at 19.
Jim: She, too, was convinced she'd be a terrible mother, like the story you shared last time. And as she contemplated abortion, Sarah decided to write a letter to her baby. Describe that for us.
Amy: Yeah, that was a real turning point for her, 'cause she had convinced herself that abortion was the only way to move forward. She couldn't see financially how she could have a baby. She was in a band and this girl was a genius, as well. She's so smart and she just tried to think through it all and she couldn't really see how it was possible for her to move forward and she was 19 and pregnant. So, one day she had decided that she was gonna go to a restaurant and write a letter to her unborn baby.
Amy: And it said, "Dear Baby, I want you to know why I have to do this. I can't give you the love or the life that you need. I'm not ready to be a mom. I know you'll go to heaven, because you're innocent and you'll be very happy there. Love." And when it got to the part where she was supposed to sign it, you know, she was just like, how do I sign this. Like, who am I to this—
Amy: --baby? And so, she just sat there and she was just thinking for a minute and then she just scribbled "Me," like that's all she could do. She couldn't write "Mom."
Amy: But she folded it up and put it in her pocket and she just kept remembering that, that I'm a mom, you know. Whether this baby was planned or not planned, I'm a mom to this baby and that was a really a big turning point in her decision, her ultimate decision that she actually chose life. And she had a little girl.
Amy: But writing it down on a piece of paper like that, just realizing, you know, it's so hard sometimes for these girls to really understand that there is a baby and you're the mom, whether you're the birth mom and do adoption or whether you're the mom in parenting. You are a mother to this child and for the next nine months, you're carrying this child. And we think birth moms are amazing, oh, as well, to sacrifice your body for nine months to save the baby's life and do adoption is a beautiful thing that they should be honored, as well. I wish adoption was more of a topic that was talked about. A lot of times these girls, they'll say, "I'll do abortion or I'll parent, but I'm not doing adoption." They think it's weird. But it doesn't have to be. It's hard for sure, but it can be awesome.
Jim: Amy, as we are wrapping up, I mean, first of all, Embrace Grace, what an awesome ministry that you have founded and for all the girls that you're touching and the parents of those girls and the churches of those girls and the potential churches—
Jim: --of those girls that you're touching. It is a great work and we'll link to it so folks can get there.
Amy: www.embracegrace.com, if you want to start a group (laughter) at your church.
Jim: And that's good, but more importantly, there will be parents and maybe some teen girls listening right now and I think it'd be great for you to pray for them and to give them that wisdom that both of them will need to do this well.
Amy: Love to. God, we just pray right now for anyone listening right now, that whether you're single and pregnant or have an unplanned pregnancy and it just wasn't what you had planned or if you're a mother of a daughter that has an unplanned pregnancy or a mother of a son with an unplanned pregnancy, I just pray that you pour your grace and your mercy and your peace over each one.
And that I just pray that they choose life and I pray that the parents speak life over their daughters and sons that are in this situation. I pray that there's life all around and I thank You so much for this gift of life that You've blessed them with. And we thank You for the miracle that You have placed in their life and their families. And I just pray that everyone can wrap their arms around the situation and look to You for all their answers and all their help that comes from You. In Jesus' name, amen.
Jim: Amen. Thank you, Amy Ford, Joanna Brown, thank you for being with us.
Joanna: Thank you.
John: Well, what a great way to wrap up this conversation with two guests who have brought such heart and insight into this matter. And I trust that you found some hope and help in what we've shared with you these past couple of days.
Now if you're experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, I hope you'll contact us here at Focus on the Family. We have many resources that might help you make sense of this difficult time, like Amy's book, A Bump in Life.
We also have a team of professional Christian counselors, who would love to talk and pray with you and help you work through the issues that you might be dealing with. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY: 800-232-6459.
And if today's conversation has motivated you to play a part in helping save a preborn child and to reach out to that mother, as well, let me encourage you to participate in our Option Ultrasound program here at Focus on the Family. We mentioned this earlier and it's a wonderful program. Thanks to financial partners like you, together we've been able to provide more than 650 grants for ultrasound machines and training in pregnancy clinics throughout North America. These machines and services allow us to help a mom who's thinking of abortion, see the reality of the life within her. And the wonderful result that we've mentioned here before, more than 300,000 babies have been saved through this program.
Now please won't you participate with us in reaching out and saving lives? Your donation of any amount will help us reach out to pregnant women who, like Amy and Joanna, really didn't have anywhere to turn, and provide them with support and encouragement to choose life for their precious children. You can donate atwww.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And we'll say thank you for your gift of any amount by sending a complimentary copy of Amy Ford's wonderful book, A Bump in Life.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family. And on behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you to join us on Monday. We'll have some terrific advice about raising children. It's some good 'ole common-sense discipline ideas from parenting guru, John Rosemond. That's next time when we'll once again, help your family thrive in Christ.
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Amy FordView Bio
Amy Ford is the co-founder and president of Embrace Grace, a non-profit organization which has the goal of inspiring the church to minister to women facing an unplanned pregnancy and to single moms. Amy is also a public speaker and author of the book A Bump in Life: True Stories of Hope & Courage During an Unplanned Pregnancy. She and her husband, Ryan, have four children and reside in Arlington, TX. Learn more about Amy by visiting her website: www.amyford.com.
Joanna BrownView Bio
Joanna Brown is the Senior Communications Coordinator for the Media & Public Relations team at Focus on the Family. She has worked for Focus since 2006 and has previously served in the broadcasting and administration areas of the ministry. Joanna and her husband, Doug, reside in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have three daughters.