Champion for life

I’ve written ad nausem about my volunteer work with the Pregnancy Center and my thoughts on abortion and my own walk with God. It’s been part of my own need to be intentional with my walk with God. And honestly, it’s been hard. It’s been a really hard, ugly, painful journey. I’ve cried. I’ve seriously ugly-cried when I didn’t want to, in front of friends who were supportive and showed me the love and grace of God. I’ve resisted and punched pillows and begged God to just make it easy, not painful.

But God has chosen to have me walk through the pain anyway. While I wouldn’t willingly choose it, He chose it for me and so I walked through it — and I know I will continue to walk through it as He continues His healing work in my life — and I will do it with joy in my heart because He has chosen what is best for me. Painful though it may be, knowing that He’s got only my best interests in mind is comforting.

About a week and a half ago, the director the Pregnancy Center pulled me aside right after a counseling session. My first thought was that I had accidentally said or some something wrong, but as soon as we went into her office, she told me, “Well, as you know we have time scheduled at the banquet for client testimonials. We only have one person for sure and another who can’t be there but wants me to read a letter that she’s written. So…”

It’s at this point that I started to laugh. It wasn’t nervous laughter, exactly, or out of fear and excitement. I just couldn’t stop myself. I think I was really laughing at God and His timing because I had just, maybe three weeks earlier, given the most crazy-fast testimony of my life at School of Ministry. I was totally not prepared for it but I just felt like it was something I needed to do. And there I was, at work, with my boss about to ask me to fill in the missing client testimonial with my own story of how God came in and rocked my world.

So as I sat there in my supervisor’s office, laughing like a straight up mad woman, I completely felt God’s calling and I didn’t need to take the time to say yes. He was only just confirming that He wanted me to do this, and I knew based on my SoM testimony and some other stuff that’s been going on that He was ready for me to take this opportunity.

I prepared two versions of my speech, one long and the other short. I didn’t know until I got up there and spoke which one I’d have time for. I gave the short version but in the end, I could have given the long one. It’s funny — usually when I am speaking I feel really nervous, but I still love getting up there and doing it anyway. The night I shared my testimony at SoM, I was shaking and my heart was racing. But at the banquet, I felt a sense of peace and comfort and calm that literally was something only God could have provided me with. If 60 people and my pastor make me nervous, logic says 300 people and my pastor would make me about three times as nervous — but I was utterly calm.

I enjoyed my time up there and while I don’t have a video of it, I would like to share what I talked about. I didn’t give the speech exactly this was because I got up there and did my own thing, but this was the rough outline of my talk. I’m warning you; it’s long!

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The Ventura County Pregnancy Center was a ministry I never wanted to support. I don’t want to ruin the end of this story, but given the fact that you see me up here tonight, I think it’s fair for you to assume, correctly, that God utterly rocked my world and changed my heart. But you should know before I came to support what the Center does, I wanted to run away from it and everything it stood for.

I found myself pregnant at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. I was 15 and dating a much older boy. It was a recipe for disaster, but I didn’t really have any rules or restrictions at home because I was a good kid. I got above-average grades, I was polite and well-spoken, and above all else, I willingly went to church regularly. My family wasn’t religious or even spiritual, but they loved that I had a solid group of friends who knew right from wrong and didn’t get into trouble. When I found out, alone in a friend’s bathroom, that I was pregnant, I knew instantly I would have an abortion, regardless of what I knew about human life from church. I didn’t want anyone to think any less of me for getting pregnant so young, so my boyfriend drove me to an abortion clinic on a Saturday morning in January, just a few weeks after I found out, and he drove me to his apartment to spend the night that evening.

Not long after that, maybe just a few months, the youth leaders at my church pulled me aside. They had somehow found out about my pregnancy and subsequent abortion, and in order for me to stay on the youth leadership team, I had to take a post-abortion Bible study called Healing Hearts. The women in the group were all very sweet but I was 15 years old and the only reason I was there was because I wanted to be able to check off the box that said “Krista can be a youth leader again.” I finished the study and even though I wanted to be anywhere but there for those few hours a week, God planted seeds in me that I wouldn’t see bloom until many years later. Even though I was just checking off a box, being in the Healing Hearts class reminded me that life has so much value, not just a baby but our lives as women and mothers as well, and it also showed me the tremendous love of God. A few years after I’d taken the class, I left the church with a very angry and bitter heart.

For almost ten years, I lived this angry, broken life. And in the shuffle of me losing my religion and God, I became a champion of the pro-choice cause. I was incredibly vocal about women and their right to choose what they wanted to do with their bodies, regardless of what I’d learned when I took the Healing Hearts class. After all, I reasoned, I absolutely had to support a cause that allowed me to graduate high school, go to college, and earn a graduate degree when no one else in my family had before.

One image in particular from this time that stands out to me is when I was in my final semester of grad school. I studied school counseling and took many counseling courses, followed by several internships. My first internship was at UCSB and at the intern desk where I sat, I stared at the iconic blue circle poster that read, in giant letters, KEEP ABORTION LEGAL. I took a picture of it and posted it on facebook, so proud of myself for standing up for the rights of women and fighting for men to keep their hands off of my reproductive rights.

It was around that time that God began tugging at my heart and calling me back to church. I reached out a new friend, Megan, and started talking to her about God. Megan encouraged me to attend her church and with a lot of trepidation, I did. It ended up being a very welcoming place, but I still felt out of place. I still was clinging so tightly to some of my old beliefs, such as still being pro-choice, and so in a fit of desperation I began praying, “God, change me in the ways You need to change me.” It was almost a constant prayer because I wanted so badly to not be the person I was before, but I was struggling to let go of this pro-choice identity that I created for myself.

About 18 months after starting this new church, Megan and I had a conversation about teenage girls getting pregnant. I’d never told her before about my own experience and so that day I nervously I told her, “I was one of those girls. And I felt like the only thing I could do was to have an abortion.” Before, when I told people these this, their response was something along the lines of “I’m so sorry you had to make that choice, but I’m so thankful you had that choice.” They really encouraged my pro-choice identity that I’d constructed for myself. Megan’s response was so different: “I’m so sorry that happened and I just want you to know how much God loves you.” It completely threw me off. I was prepared for judgment and shame, but what I felt instead was acceptance and grace and God’s love.

That began the journey that lead me to realizing that the Pregnancy Center was something I would eventually support. Looking back, I clearly see that God was calling me to become a champion for life, even if I couldn’t deal with that truth yet. Everywhere I went, I encountered conversations about abortion or about being pro-life. I heard things at church and on the radio and while talking to friends who had never spoken to me about abortion before. The kicker came when I went to a class at church and the evening’s lesson was on procrastinating when God was calling you to do something. I came home that night, shut my bedroom door, and wept. I could no longer deny  what God was calling me to do. The neon sign in front of me was flashing as brightly as it could.

During this time, I had moved in temporarily with my friend Megan and her husband. In the middle of summer 2012, I came home from a vacation exhausted and emotionally wiped out. I’d made the mistake of looking at a calendar and calculating how old my child would have been — 13 years old just a few days from the day I did the math. That night, with Megan standing in my bedroom, I felt not shame or embarrassment as the sobs escaped me but a deep, ugly, awful grief. I’d never felt grief over the loss of my child before because I’d never felt like I’d lost anything, but that night, I was overwhelmed not by the fact that I’m merely had an abortion but by the fact that I had lost a child. I had always stood firm on the fact that I gained something by choosing an abortion, but God was showing that the my truth and the truth in His word were not aligned. He was making very clear to me many of the things I learned in Healing Hearts years before: those babies lives’ have value and they matter and they’re just as real as a screaming, newly delivered infant.

That night, my dear friend sat in the dark with me as I ugly-cried, and she prayed a prayer that still resonates with me. I’ll never forget her words: “Lord, I thank you for Krista’s grief. It means you’re working in her heart.” Now, at the time I wanted to interrupt her and say, “Thanks but no thanks. I don’t want this grief.” I would have done anything not to feel that heartbreak, but eight months later, I can finally say I understand why she prayed that prayer. I’m so thankful for the grief, too, and that God had changed my heart. He totally answered that prayer, and just a few months later, I went through the craziest five days of my life: I had training to become a volunteer at the Center on a Friday and Saturday, on Monday I had an interview with Mary Anne, and on Wednesday I had my first volunteer shift. He does indeed answer our prayers.

I’m so thankful for each of you in this room tonight because we really couldn’t do what we do at the Pregnancy Center without you. Whether you’re supporting us financially, or spiritually as you pray for the moms and babies we serve, or tangibly with clothes and diapers and formula, we literally couldn’t do it without your support. I wanted to share with you tonight some of my story, because this really is only scratching the surface because I want you to know that the Pregnancy Center is not only an amazing resource to women with babies and mamas-to-be, but it’s a place for women who’ve already chosen abortion in their pasts. I mentioned earlier that I took a Bible study as a high schooler called Healing Hearts. Because I’ve had an abortion, taking the study is a requirement to counsel at the Center. I wasn’t required to take it again because of the class I took so many years ago, but honestly, I really needed to start my time volunteering at the Center with a heart that was focused on God and the healing work He was doing and had done in my life. Mary Anne suggested that I join a study called The Hem of His Garment and I did. It was honestly such a great study where I could really deal with some things, including my abortion, that were still painful in my life. And to be completely honest, finishing that study really encouraged me to take the Healing Hearts Bible Study again, this time with the right attitude of heart. Even though I took it for all of the wrong reasons the first time, God still used what I learned during those years where I walked away in defeat. He never let me forget, no matter how much I tried, that I wanted to fall at His knees and seek forgiveness for what I did and for what I’d lost. So I’m taking it again, starting just a few weeks from tonight. I want to let you know first-hand what kind of resources you’re helping to provide to women like me and I want to thank you for helping creating a safe place where we can come to know and understand not only God’s plan for life, but also for allowing us to come and experience God’s healing and forgiveness in a way that many of us have been avoiding for so long. Thank you for helping to take away some of our shame.

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I am just so thankful for God’s grace and second chances. He has truly changed me and answered my prayers… and in the pain, when my heart feels like it’s broken and I just cannot take it anymore, I know that He is present and He is my power and that He will sustain me!

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