Person #1: When I first found out I was pregnant, I felt worthless. I didn’t even believe it at first when I looked at the test it said a big “Yes,” and I said, “Okay yes I’m not pregnant?” Like I was like there’s no way.
Person #2: I remember being paralyzed in fear, and like that my life was just completely spinning out of control. I was just afraid for the reputation of my family if it was gonna tear my family apart of if it was gonna bring us closer together.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Those actual comments from young, single, pregnant women are from a video by the ministry Embrace Grace. And today, we’re going to be talking about unplanned pregnancy. How to deal with that as a young woman, a friend, a parent, and a church community. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller. And Jim, when we recorded this, there was not a dry eye in the studio.
Jim Daly: Yeah, it’s so true, John. If you didn’t hear our broadcast last time, go to the website and download the broadcast or find us on Apple Podcast, or Spotify, it’s all out there. It was a powerful discussion with an amazing display of God’s grace and healing. And today, we’re gonna continue that discussion and specifically talk about the goodness of God in creating us male and female. The gift of intimacy between men and women is so often twisted and misunderstood, but in the right context, it’s an expression of His love for us and really, a wonderful thing, a gift that He gives us. I thought that our two guests did a wonderful jog of being real about their mistakes and heartache while still sharing about how God showed them grace. Several years later now, God has taken care of their pain and righted those wrongs, those sins. And it’s amazing to hear the hope and healing in their voices. I also want to mention, this program is part of our celebration of national sanctity of human life week. A time when we recognize the amazing fact that all of us are created in the image of God and that every life is worth saving, even and especially, the pre-born child. One way we fight for the pre-born here at Focus on the Family is our option Ultrasound program where we work with ministries that provide free ultrasounds to women who are considering abortion. It’s truly an amazing program, and I’ll talk more about that a little later.
John: And if you can’t be here for the continuation of our program, stop by our website for details about Option Ultrasound and resources that we can put into your hands if this is something that you’re dealing with, Unplanned pregnancy. Our phone number is 800-A-FAMILY and online we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Last time we had Joanna Brown and Amy Ford, and we’re gonna hear more from them today. They went to high school together, and they each experienced an unplanned pregnancy. Joanna is a former colleague here at Focus on the Family and is married to Doug, and they have three beautiful daughters. Amy is the author of the book, A Bump in Life and uh, lives in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. She and her husband Ryan have four children, and Amy is the president and co-founder of Embrace Grace, the ministry I mentioned at the beginning of our time here. They provide resources and training for young, single, pregnant women through the church. Let’s go ahead and listen now to day two of that conversation.
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, let me give this some context from my perspective, um you know, so often we’re here at the microphones talking about marriage and improving communication in marriage, and that’s a good thing. I think, I’m committed to the fact that thathelps save marriages when we do marriage better. In this area of parenting, speaking to parents of teens, um, this probably comes around only once or twice for mostparents. Where they may be facing what we heard at the top of the program. Their 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 go … 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.
Jim: Can I add an observation perhaps, um I would think and I think I would be prone to this, to be completely honest. I would wanna say all those things and then I would use probably the most ill-time, worst informed word ever, which would be but, what you’ve done is fill in the blank. So I’ve said,
“I love you, “and I say, “you know we’re gonna get through this,” but you have wounded me. That’s probably not a good thing to say at all.
Amy: Ugh-- that’d bea stab in the heart
Jim: Cause it’s a crusher, and it separates you from your daughter.
Amy: Yeah, I definitely think so, but you know I think that that’s a good opportunity t, to get them plugged into church so um, and we justwant 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 are … 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 … did … 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 they,
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 like 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 brother is coming home.”
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: From there … 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 didn’t, you know, I had an abortion, went off to school, living my dream, you know. Okay, now I’m at college and I’m in a … you know, everything else is gonna be fine.
But when you go through an abortion, they tell you … they …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 just … it’s a Band-Aid and they’ll … you know, you’re fine now and that’s not the case. So, I … you know, I went through depression and all through college and still, 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 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 again and have to tell my parents again. And um, I thought … I told Doug, I said, “I’m keeping the baby.” I don’t care what anybody says. I am … this is … 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, pro-life. But then once you have your baby, they’re like, you know, then its guilt, guilt, guilt and a lot of condemnation. And they don’t … they’re not there to help you afterwards.
Joanna: And …
Jim: That’s quite a truthful, but indicting statement.
Joanna: 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 and I was … they 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 it … 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, its 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 had a … I was strong in my faith, not that I had … I was close to God at the time, but I knew He was there. And 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 … 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. That was … 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 … what … 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. You’re um … 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 I … 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 um, 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, isn’t that … 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. How much should moms … 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?
Amy: So, for my oldest, now actually with my book release, A Bump in Life that came out last year, it was my time to tell him, you know, my story, ‘cause I knew I was goin’ public with this and I’m traveling and speaking and it was time. So, I sat down and told him and I had all my friends praying and my pastor’s praying. Everybody’s praying, ‘cause I had never wanted him to think that … look at it as any kind of rejection to the fact that I almost aborted him, but I didn’t.
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. There … 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 you … 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 overcomer 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 God … or 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 spec … 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 was trying
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 down … write a letter to her unborn baby.
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, 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 lifes 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, I appreciate the prayer and the hearts of those two ladies, and if your family is facing an unplanned pregnancy, do contact us here at Focus on the Family. We have help and resources for you, we have caring Christian counselors to talk with you, and to pray with you, and to help you take some next steps forward during this difficult time. Our number is 800- the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or you can learn more at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: John, we’re celebrating sanctity of human life week, and I hope people can feel, I am excited about our efforts here at Focus on the Family to not only say we value life, but to actually do something together to help pre-born babies and their moms. We have that program called Option Ultrasound where we work with ministries that provide free ultrasounds to women who are considering abortion. And through Option Ultrasound, we have saved a life to date, 425,000 babies.
Jim: I mean, that is amazing, and you can join the team and bring hope to those moms and the babies, by becoming a monthly supporter, or when you make a onetime donation of $60 to save a baby’s life. When you give to
Focus on the Family, I wanna send you a complimentary copy of Amy’s boon, A Bump in Life to further inspire you and help you in your ministry to moms with unplanned pregnancies.
John: We hope you’ll get those resources and uh, make a donation at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or by calling 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Now join us next time as we hear stories of hope and redemption from a small pregnancy resource center.
Unidentified Person: There’s hope, there’s hope for the hopeless, and what just is such a awesome thing to me is that He will entrust these precious, wounded women to us because He doesn’t just wanna put ‘em into a place yeah, get drug free and all that, but I mean there’s so much more.
End of Teaser
John: On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and 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.