Mrs. Tricia Goyer: We just think I can’t do this. I don’t have enough strength. I can’t handle the people’s stares. I can’t handle the comments. But just know that God has a good plan for you, and He can bring beauty out of something that’s really hard.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s a woman who was facing a difficult teenage pregnancy. And it wasn’t easy, but God has done a miracle in her life through the past few decades. You’ll hear more from Tricia Goyer on today’s Focus on the Family and thanks for listening. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, Tricia Goyer, she was boy crazy – that’s probably the best way to describe it – as long as she could remember. And she had her first crush, I think, in fourth grade, which isn’t always different. That’s kinda normal. Her first kiss in eighth grade and her first baby just after she graduated high school. That wasn’t exactly the plan, but God is using her story to help thousands of teenagers, not just in the United States, but literally around the world. She’s author of the book, Teen Mom and joins us here at Focus today. Welcome back, Tricia.
Tricia: Thank you so much. It’s great being back again.
Jim: Talk about your upbringing a bit. Were you in a Christian home? Or did – you know, what led you to be boy crazy?
Tricia: You know, I was born to a single mom, so she had me in college. I didn’t know my biological dad until I was 28-years-old. I found him when I was 28. And my mom married my stepdad when I was 4. And he was kind of a silent figure in the La-Z-Boy. He was there, but not really involved in my life. So, I think I was really just had that hole in my heart for a male’s affection. And so, at a young age, just was interested in boys. Started dating in eighth grade. Became sexually active as a very young girl, just trying to fill that void, just wanting to be loved in ways that I didn’t find at home.
My mom became a Christian when I was in the second grade and so, from the second grade on, I started going to church, but really that was like a separate part. Sunday was going to church and learning about God, but the rest of the time, I just did my own thing.
Jim: Tricia, I want to emphasize that for the parents listening.
Tricia: Mm hmm.
Jim: I would say today our purpose is to encourage teen moms particularly, but also the parents and grandparents of those girls and boys. In fact, I was thinking this will be a good thing for my boys to listen to together and talk about it, use it as a tool to talk about what it means to be a man with my two boys. And if you have daughters, what it means to be that daughter of God, that Eve. And so, as you listen today, there may be some really straightforward stuff that we’re talking about, but I would encourage you as a parent, not to put your head in the sand, ‘cause whether your kids are in public school, Christian school or even homeschooled, they know of people who are sexually active, who talk about it at least and that’s the purpose for us talking about it today. So, again, I appreciate your willingness to be so honest. Talk about that 15-year-old Tricia. What was going on in that part of your life and at that moment? Here you are going to church on Sunday, but if I could say it this way, messing around the other days of the week.
Tricia: Absolutely and I – I could say, I loved God. I wanted to live a good life, but I think I just wanted that relationship with a boyfriend, too, and at 15-years-old, I found myself pregnant and very scared, very – I felt alone. My boyfriend wanted me to have an abortion and I thought, this is the way out. I didn’t want to have to tell my godly grandmother that I was pregnant. I didn’t want to have to go to church pregnant and thought abortion’s the answer. I actually went to Planned Parenthood and they said, you know, “It’s just a blob of tissue. We’re just gonna scrape away a few cells. It’ll be over before you know it. You can go on with your life. You never have to think about it.” And as a 15-year-old, I clung to that. I thought, “Okay, this is it.” Had never really heard about the sanctity of life in church, in youth group. Never really thought about it. It was just, this is an easy way out.
Jim: Would that have made a difference, do you think in your mind at that time, if they would’ve talked about it?
Tricia: I think so. I think so. And just if someone just would’ve shared truth with me, I think I would’ve made a different decision. But they just offered, you know, we’re just scraping some cells away. It’ll be over before you know it.
Jim: Yeah, you had no counterbalance to what they were saying to you.
Jim: Did your parents know you went to Planned Parenthood?
Tricia: Yeah, my mom was there. Yeah, my mom.
Jim: She was there with you.
Tricia: And then, you know, she’s again, a Christian mom and I think we were both just, okay how do we get rid of this? How do we …
John: Looking – looking for a solution.
Tricia: How do – looking for a solution and they gave us an easy way out or so we thought.
Jim: Talk about the months and maybe even years after that. Did that boyfriend stick with you or was that all – all over at that point?
Tricia: I was with the same boyfriend for a couple years and that was when my second pregnancy was with the same boyfriend. And I think, I thought because I’d had an abortion, I need to just make this relationship work, because I gave up this child to be with him, ‘cause he wanted me to have an abortion, so I need to make it work, even though it was a bad relationship. He was physically abusive at times and – but I – I sacrificed so much, I felt, to be with him.
Jim: Let me ask you this for that – that heart longing that you talked about a moment ago. Did you think this was the young man, I mean, literally a teenage boy, was he the one you thought you would marry? Was that your girl’s heart that…
Tricia: You know, I think…
Jim: …This would be the guy?
Tricia: …Every young girl thinks that. I mean, that’s why they – they want that love and they give themselves physically, ‘cause they think this is the person I’m gonna be with. This is the person I’m gonna marry. Looking back, he was not marriage material, but I just wanted that so desperately.
Jim: Well, and you weren’t mature…
Jim: …I’m sure, at that age and even talking about it with your mom, certainly probably not your dad. I don’t know your parents, but I’m just thinking generally that would be a very difficult discussion with a 16-, 17-year-old girl to be that open with her parents about the guy she’s dating.
Jim: Did you have that kind of conversation?
Tricia: Not at all, not at all. It was just this was my boyfriend and they really didn’t have any say and I was just going on with my life how I wanted to live it. After the abortion, it was a very dark time. I think I put up lots of walls. I felt numb inside, just kind of going through the motions. Faced a lot of shame, faced a lot of regret, really was really going through my high school years, kind of almost as a zombie, because I couldn’t deal with those emotions, so it’s better just to shut off all emotions.
Jim: Yeah, that’s a good way to describe that emotion, that feeling. Talk about being pregnant a second time, you said with the same guy. You’re 18? 17?
Tricia: I was 17-years-old.
Jim: And what was the discussion then with this young man?
Tricia: You know, it was my senior year of high school. And a lot of young women get pregnant a second time wanting that baby. Wanting to kind of redeem what they did and here I was a senior in high school. I was a cheerleader. I was on the yearbook staff, honor roll student and as soon as I found out I was pregnant, um, I knew that I was gonna have the baby. And I ended up telling my boyfriend and we’d been on and off and actually saw him with another girl in the car. Had him – my mom was with me, flagged him over and told him I was pregnant, and he said, “You need to have another abortion” and I said, “There’s no way I’m gonna have another abortion.” And that was it. We broke up and he was dating that other girl in two weeks and I just knew that I wanted to have the baby. I dropped out of school, was really sleeping till noon, really depressed, felt alone. But it was during that time I think my darkest moment that I realized how much I needed God.
Jim: You know, people that have not gone through that, Tricia, find it hard. I mean, we’re rational. We’re thinking, why would she do that? Why would she be pregnant a second time? Didn’t she learn anything the first time? Talk about the feeling of that and maybe even the answer to the question. Why – why would you go down the same road and expect a different outcome?
Tricia: Absolutely. I don’t think I purposely meant to get pregnant. But once I was, I knew I wanted to have the baby. And I think a lot of young women, they do think there’s gonna a baby that loves them. There’s gonna be someone there for them. There’s gonna be someone, even if this relationship doesn’t work, I have a piece of this relationship. And so, all those things were going through my mind as I found out I was pregnant again.
Jim: In that two-year period, what changed your heart? I mean, did anything change your heart? Or did – did you just feel differently, that you wanted to keep this baby?
Tricia: Well, I discovered that my baby had arms and legs and a heartbeat, so a lot of regret of having that abortion. Really, I realized that I made a bad choice and I realized that I took a child’s life. And then the second time, I just knew I wasn’t gonna make that decision again.
Jim: Talk about meeting your husband, John. Here you are, pregnant, I think. How did you and your husband, John meet?
Tricia: Well, you know, before that, it was – I was about six months along and my mom and my grandma’s Bible study group reached out to me. They gave me a baby shower. They invited me to Bible study. They invited me to church and I just realized, I woke up one day and said, “If these women still love me, maybe God does, too.” And I gave my life to Him. I started reading my Bible, praying and I started praying for a future husband. I thought it’d be years down the road. You know, I signed up for college and I’m gonna have to be on my own for a while. But God answered that prayer quicker than I thought. The day Cory was born, it was three weeks after my high school graduation. I ended up graduating with my class and I had Cory and went home the same day. You know, I’m 17, so have a baby, head home. And that night, I got a call from my Grandma. She said, “John Goyer is coming over.” And that was my pastor’s name. I thought, okay, the pastor’s coming over. And then she said, “No, it’s his son’s coming over.” And John had been, kind of the head of the young people in the church.
Jim: The youth ministry.
Tricia: And youth minister, he was – it was a very small church, so they would do outings or ski trips and he just came over to bring a teddy bear and a card and to say congratulations. And I’m like, oh, you’re kinda cute. But no, it was literally the day Cory was born that he came over to see me and to see the baby and just to wish us good luck.
Jim: Let me do this. We’ve got John here. I want to bring John into the conversation and talk to both of you about this. John, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Mr. John Goyer: Thank you, Jim.
Jim: You are kind of the knight in shining armor. How old are you at this point when Tricia was 17?
John G.: I was 22 at the time.
Jim: 22, did you think – were you just fulfilling your pastoral duties? Or did you have a little bit of an objective?
John G.: At that time, just the pastoral duties. My – as Trish mentioned, my dad had planted a church and it was a really small church and I was starting to work with the young adults and high teens, just trying to give them a connection and community inside our church. And Trish had started attending and I saw this – this young lady getting – was getting more and more visibly pregnant over the time, but I saw passion in her for serving God, something that I hadn’t seen before. And that’s when I started to notice her actually at that time. She’d been coming off and on before that for a couple of years, but that was the first I actually really noticed her that way.
Jim: Now if I remember correctly in the story as we talked about it, your grandmother perhaps or your mom, I can’t remember who, warned you that Trish is not the kind of girl you want to get to know.
John G.: Yeah, this was a couple of years prior. I was in church and at that time I was still in the Marine Corps and so, I would come on the weekends periodically to visit and I was in the second to the last row of our little church and the door opened behind me. Someone came in and so, it was like right at the end of worship, so I turned around to greet them and it was Trish and her mother. And I was stunned. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. So, after church I went to my mom and said, “Who was that girl that was sitting behind me?” And she said, “That’s Tricia and she is bad news. Stay away from her.”
John F.: (Laughter).
John G.: So, I did.
Jim: Yeah. Tricia, I mean, that’s not – we’re kind of nervously laughing about that, but that is what happens. What kind of spot were you in? How could you go to church? You said you, you know, you went to church with your mom. You gave your life to the Lord in some way, but not in every way. How do you reconcile that? And speak, I think generally to the teen girl, who has these desires that aren’t holy, they’re not appropriate and you’re living kinda, like, two lives.
Tricia: Absolutely, well, I – I really think I dedicated my life to God when I was pregnant. That was the moment. A decision before that, I went to church. I loved God. I knew the songs, but I hadn’t committed my life to Him. And I think it’s easy to go to church. You know the routine. You know the – you sit in service. You have your friends there. I’d pass a note with my friends during service. So, really, I enjoyed church and I think I loved God and I think I wanted to be a good person, but my desire for that love and that fulfillment, that hole in my heart just drew me into the arms of this young man.
Tricia: And so, I think, um, it was really just – it wasn’t like living two lives. It was like I wasn’t complete, ‘cause I hadn’t given myself completely to God and so, I was trying to complete myself in this relationship. But, of – which, of course, is not where we find completeness and wholeness in another person.
Jim: Right, let me ask this on behalf of the parents of teenagers, which I am one and John, you are, too. If you as a parent, have an observation that maybe one of your kids, maybe two of your kids or more, don’t seem to be on the right track. You might go to church every Sunday, but you can see there’s something gnawing at you that they don’t get it, that they haven’t fully committed their life to the Lord, that they’re holding back and you may not even know in what ways, because they block it…
Jim: …From you, your ability to see it fully. But their friends at school know who they are…
Jim: …Maybe better than you as a parent. How can a parent, now that you are one, how can a parent be better at those observational skills? What questions could your mom and dad asked you back then to draw you out a bit more, to talk about that hole in your heart? What advice would you give us?
Tricia: You know, I think so many times we do the parenting stuff. We make sure they have clothes. We make sure they have food, they have gas money for the car, but we don’t spend that time with them and say, “What’s going on in your life? What’s going on in your heart? Do you think this relationship’s a good relationship? Is this guy marriage material?” Or – so many times we’re so busy doing the parenting part, we just don’t take time to sit down and talk with them and see what’s really going on in their heart. What are you reading in your Bible? Is God speaking to you in your life? Or what do you think about God? I mean, any of those questions, it may even be a com – uncomfortable at first to have these open conversations. Or have you thought about being sexually active? Or are you drawn in that way to, you know, spend time with your boyfriend in ways in healthy ways? I think the more we can ask questions, teens want us to have that relationship with them.
John F.: This is Focus on the Family and today we’re hearing some great advice from Tricia Goyer and her husband, John. And we’ve got Tricia’s book, Teen Mom: You’re Stronger than You Think as well as additional resources to have those conversations with your teen at www.focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and hear more insights from the Goyers as we continue this Focus on the Family conversation.
Jim: Tricia, I’m thinking of MTV and I’ve never watched a full episode. I’ve seen a segment just so that I’m up on what culture is talking to our kids about, which I would advise parents to do that. Be informed. Don’t bury your head in the sand, like I said a moment ago. But in that it’s almost like a glorification of the teen mom. In fact, I think it’s called Teen Mom.
Tricia: There’s Teen Mom…
Jim: As the show.
Tricia: …And 16 and Pregnant. There’s the shows and they show these young women having babies, you know, 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-years-old, having babies and their relationships. And it’s reality TV. It’s showing the – the trouble with their parents, the trouble they have with their boyfriends, but I wish there was something that would show, okay, let’s help this teen mom. Let’s show her how to make good choices, instead of just – these shows watch them spiraling down into these horrible choices.
Jim: Well, and not only that, but as they’re giving all those hours to, I think, lifting up even the difficulty of it, but still in some ways, encouraging teen girls to become a mom. Let’s try it to experiment. Then you have girls that are trying to live virtuously that are mocked in…
Jim: …The culture. I mean, the virgins are mocked, and teen moms are glorified. It just seems upside down, doesn’t it?
Tricia: It does and I have girls and I have a teenager now and some preteens and the things that boys say to them and the comments that are made and it is – they assume that girls are gonna be sexually active and they assume all these things about these young women, when we need to really glorify it. It is important to be pure and be holy and have that relationship with God.
Jim: John, I want to come back to you because there’s a beautiful story here about your redemptive heart toward Tricia and I want to capture that, because a lot of people can’t comprehend why you, a pastor’s son, would see in a girl who is pregnant at 17, could be the object of your attention and someone that you would want to marry. It seems incongruent. Talk about your heart for her and how the Lord worked on you to say, she is My daughter and she is valuable, even though she’s made poor choices.
John G.: We actually grew up in different, very contrasting families. My mom and dad were always together. I never doubted my parents would ever be together. They still are. We celebrated their 50th anniversary just a year ago. And…
Jim: Does that mean they didn’t argue, or they didn’t…?
John G.: Oh, they argued often…
Jim: (Chuckling) Okay.
John G.: …And sometimes in front of us, and – but they always worked it out. And I – they went through some very difficult times. My dad was effected by the recession back in the early ‘70s, lost a job, didn’t have work for a long time. That was when God actually called him into ministry during that time. And very difficult times with a lot of stress in our home. My mom was waitressing for a long time, but they always worked it out. So, I – I grew up in a home where I believed that relationships were commitments and I grew up in a home where it doesn’t have to perfect. You just have to be – stick it out and get in there. And my parents showed me what a healthy family looked like. And so, I wasn’t intimidated by it. I was pretty much comfortable with the idea of being a dad and I was just okay with that. But really, it wasn’t on my mind when I first went to go see her. When I took her the card and the teddy bear, we visited for just a little bit, but it accelerated rather quickly. We went on our first date just a couple of weeks later and so here we are on this date, Tricia and I. I took her to her first real date she’d ever been on. It was dinner and movie and we sit in a sit-down restaurant with a waitress and the waitress walks up and says, “What cute little baby. You must be a very proud daddy.” And I was like, “Thanks.”
John G.: Just kinda brushed it off. At this point, you know, it was just our first date. That’s all it was. And, uh…
Jim: But you brought the baby with you.
Tricia: I did.
Jim: (Laughter) Oh, my goodness!
Tricia: He was there.
John G.: He was there every date we ever went on, our little baby was there. And he was all the way to the end. In fact, the first time we ever left him behind was on our weekend getaway honeymoon, when we got married. That was the first time he didn’t…
John G.: …Go with us.
Jim: But, John, I gotta ask you man to man. How at 22 did you have the maturity to say, “I can do this, and I can embrace this child that’s not my own?” That is amazing to me.
John G.: I don’t know that I can even explain that one, because I just felt like I was okay with it. I think – I really believe that was just a God thing in my heart. I always loved kids. I would do children’s ministry when I – even as a teenager, helped my mom in children’s church as a kid and then led children’s ministry as a child and even went on to lead a children’s ministry in Montana for 15 years.
Jim: Tricia, you talked a moment ago about, you know, encouraging girls to pray for their future husbands.
Jim: How in the world did you end up with John? I mean…
Tricia: I know.
Jim: …this guy sounds golden.
Tricia: I know. I love that. ‘Cause you know, when we pray, you never know how God is gonna answer those prayers and I honestly thought it would be years and years before God answered that prayer. Um, and as soon as we went on our first date, and just he shared about God and what he wanted for his future. I’m like, I’m not letting this one go. I mean…
Jim: What’s going through your mind though? I mean, here you are a new mom. How many weeks was the baby?
Tricia: Two weeks.
Jim: Two-weeks-old and you go out on your first date…
Jim: …Your first real date…
Jim: …As a 17-year-old mom. Um, man, what was going through your mind?
Tricia: There was a lot of embarrassment and, you know, especially like the waitress says, “Oh, you should be a proud daddy.” I was just so embarrassed for him, but he just – the way he handled it, he just handled it with ease and with humor and he was okay with it. It made me realize that God had brought me someone that could love me and my son and that’s really what I prayed during my pregnancy, that God would bring someone that loved Him and that could love me and love my son.
Jim: And He answered that prayer.
Tricia: And He answered that prayer.
Jim: Move forward now. So you get married. How many months after you met did you get married?
Tricia: Nine months later.
Jim: I mean, so again, all this is happening.
Tricia: I was not gonna let him go.
Jim: So, I mean, you guys did. You just said, “Let’s do this. We know that we’re in love and that we’re meant for each other.” How did you embrace God’s – I guess, God’s perspective on all of this? How did you feel spiritually at that moment, with a child from a different person as a teenager? How did you correlate all that and – and kinda put it to bed or – or did it bring up emotions for you?
Tricia: You know, what I wanted was to forget the past. I wanted to be the good little Christian wife. We had two more kids almost right away. So, we had three under the age of 5 and I just thought I can go on with my life. I could be this young Christian mom. No one has to know that Corey was a product of teen pregnancy. But, you know, people would say, “How old are you? How old’s your son?” You could see them adding up in their mind, “How long have you been married?” And so, it would bring up and I felt uncomfortable. I felt ashamed still. I just wanted to go on and not have to think about that again, but God really showed me that no, He wanted me to not push that in the back, ‘cause there were other young women that were dealing with the same thing.
Jim: Ah, did that memory of the abortion come back to haunt you at all? I mean, how did you process that three, four, five years or particularly after you married John? How did you talk to him about what had happened? When – when did you two talk about that?
Tricia: I told him when we were still dating that I had an abortion and he says, “You know, God forgave you and I – I forgive you, too,” ‘cause I was just so ashamed and just knowing that he knew. But it would come back. I would have almost flashbacks in my mind. I would always think of like, oh, my child will be this old, this age and where would I be? And was it a boy or a girl? It – that – it never went away. And I think it – it did, I still was walking numb part ways and it was during – after we moved to Montana, I went to a church service and they – this woman stood up and she said, “I had an abortion when I was 19 and I’m leading an abortion – we’re leading a Bible study for women that had abortions. And I’m like, first of all, I couldn’t believe that she was standing up in front of everyone, because I didn’t even tell my best friends. John knew. Of course, the baby’s father knew. My mom knew, but nobody – none of my friends. I didn’t mention it and I just couldn’t believe that she would stand up there and talk about it. And she led the Bible study. It took me to the day of the Bible study started to call her up, ‘cause I was just so embarrassed and ashamed. But when I walked in that room and saw six other women that had an abortion, we all shared our stories, it was like the burden lifted, like I don’t have to carry this alone anymore. And it – it just brought this freedom and this peace and just seeing them and realizing they knew, and they loved me and John knew and he loved me and God knew and He loved me. It just brought so much freedom.
Jim: That’s strength and power of love. Tricia, I’m sure there is a mom, maybe a teen girl listening to the program right now. We don’t know. I know the reach is far and wide.
Jim: Speak to her heart, either as the mom or as that teen girl and can I ask you to pray today?
Jim: To pray specifically for their decision to choose life for that child that has come into this world in an unexpected way, but is still made in the image of God. Can you do that?
Tricia: Absolutely. Yes. Dear God, I just thank You so much. Lord, I thank You that You know this heart, Lord. You know this young woman, God. And I just pray peace. I pray for strength and I pray that she will just realize that You have a good plan for her life. She may not think that she can handle this right now, Lord, but You know her, and You know this child, Lord. I pray, Lord, that You will bring people into her life that will encourage her and strengthen her and that she will not walk in shame, God. I just pray that even as she’s making decisions about her future, that You will just remind her that You have a good and perfect plan. And I thank You for all these things, in Your name, we pray, amen.
Jim: Amen. Tricia Goyer, her husband, John, it’s been great to talk to you. Thanks for being with us.
Tricia: Thank you.
John G.: Thank you, Jim. Thanks, John.
John F.: Well, if you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy and you need help, please don’t hesitate to call us here at Focus on the Family. You are not alone. We have caring, Christian counselors they’d love to hear your story and offer some encouragement to you. It’s a free service that we offer because generous donors have stepped up and made that possible. So, there’s an online counseling request form for you to fill out at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And we’ll be in touch with you to schedule a time.
Jim: John, I keep thinking about what Tricia said towards the beginning of our conversation. If she would have known her baby had arms, legs and a heartbeat, she wouldn’t have chosen to carry that child full-term instead of choosing abortion. And it hurts my heart to think that, that the simple knowledge of her baby’s development might have changed everything for her and saved her baby’s life. What a lifetime of regret she will face. And that’s why I’m so thankful for our Option Ultrasound ministry here at Focus on the Family. We have a team of supporters, most of them listeners of this broadcast, who are committed to equipping pregnancy medical clinics across the country with ultrasound machines. And just as Tricia said, we’ve found that when abortion-minded moms see an ultrasound and get some counseling, over half of them are moved to choose life for their baby. Would you consider joining our Option Ultrasound team? We have the metrics and for every $60 you give, it saves a baby from abortion. It’s that simple. If you can join that team today and give a gift of any amount, I want to send you a copy of Tricia’s inspiring book Teen Mom: You’re Stronger than You Think, as our way of saying thank you for helping save lives.
John F.: And again, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or donate and get that book at foucsonthefamily.com/broadcast. And be sure to mark your calendar for the digital premier of our pro-life event, See Life 2020. It’s on Saturday, September 26th, and we’ve got all the details at our website. Next time, you’ll be hearing some simple ideas to connect with your spouse and really make a difference in the relationship.
Mr. Mark Merrill: I love to say that more marriages might survive if people remembered that better often comes after worse.