Story, rewritten

A story about abortion, rewritten.

I know what darkness looks like.  I know what emptiness is.  I know what it is to live so separately from God that you feel swallowed by death.  That was me.  That was where I lived.  It’s hard to receive the light that is God until we face the darkness that envelops us without Him.

I grew up in the small town in Northern California, where everyone knew each other’s story – or, at least, there were stories to tell about everyone. But to be able to trust others with the truth of your own story – that was a different matter.

Arbuckle was a farming town – lots of teachers, lots of farmers.  My dad farmed almonds.  My grandfather was the town doctor.  I was the oldest of five, two sisters after me, then two brothers. We lived outside of town, first in a yellow house with a screened in porch and a huge walnut tree growing in the front yard. We rode our big wheels down the road to the creek.  Then when my dad began farming full time we moved to a mobile home – the fastest way to get a new house — right into the middle of the orchard that my dad planted with his own hands.

I used to think it was something about living in a small town that made it impossible for me to feel truly free…. Most people had grown up there, had gone to the same high school that their children now attended, and knew everything there was to know about each others’ families. And even though a place can dig its personality into the skin of your soul, there is something else that goes much deeper that keeps secrets locked inside.

I was so shy growing up that sharing the true story of my heart – all the aches and dreams and joys and regrets –- was something I was afraid to do. I was far more worried about what people would think of me than about being honest about who I was. So, this is my story about my struggle to trust God with the secrets in my heart.

When I was fifteen years old I started having sex with my high school boyfriend. I grew up being told that sex was something “good girls didn’t do until after they get married”. So, okay, then, I wasn’t a “good girl”. But what was critical, more important than anything to me, was that my image as the “good girl”, would not change.

I struggled to maintain the “good girl” image people had of me. I cared desperately about others’ approval, and I couldn’t bear the thought of my parents or my friends ever knowing that I was sleeping with my boyfriend. That just wasn’t something “Jennifer” would ever do.

I was the girl with the good grades — meek and shy in social situations — strong in sports. In my rural high school yearbook, I was the girl voted “most likely to succeed”, “best dressed”, “best smile”.  I worked hard to be liked, to be accepted. So, when I became pregnant at sixteen, just before Christmas of my junior year, the only thing I could think about, the only thing that was important to me, what I knew I had to preserve, was the image of myself that I worshipped – My idol, Jennifer, the “good girl”.

I was so swallowed up in the darkness of Self that I couldn’t even face what I had decided to do. Something was going to have to die, and it wasn’t going to be me.

The images I remember — the visits to the counselor to get approval for the abortion . . . the other girls in the waiting room . . . the lights in the room….the noise of the machine… the procedure itself…..all open and close in my memory like the shutter on a camera.  All while my parents thought I was Christmas shopping.

There were two other vivid moments that I remember as the most repulsive and the most horrible. The first was when I sat alone, under the cold December sky in my family’s almond orchard and I made the decision to get rid of this “problem”.  The second was when I was at basketball practice the day after the procedure and I felt such enormous relief that no one, except my boyfriend, knew what I had done.

The choice I made, at sixteen years old, to have an abortion, represents the darkest place in my heart. It was my choice to end a baby’s life for the sake of preserving the life that I thought was mine. But that was the lie. Even though I thought I was fighting for my life; I was really giving in to death.  My heart died that night in the orchard — and with it, so did the baby growing inside me.

I lived for countless years in utter shame of what I had done while at the same time still justifying my decision to myself. It was two and a half years ago, the summer after I had just finished co-leading Mothers Together — and twenty years after the abortion — that God knew I was finally ready to start peeling back the layers of my heart and help me deal with the ugly mixture of shame and fear and pride and rebellion that were keeping me in bondage to myself.

Ironically, as co-leader of a large mother’s ministry at my church, I was in the position of standing up in front of 100+ moms week after week promoting our theme verse for that year for which I was supposed to be a prime example. It was 2 Cor. 12 where God says to the Apostle Paul, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” And the Apostle Paul then tells the Corinthian believers, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

But the reality was that I wasn’t experiencing God’s power through my vulnerability, and I certainly wasn’t boasting about my weakness because I was still hiding my biggest secret.

But when my mother’s ministry role was over, God in his faithfulness and kindness allowed all my good plans to come crashing down. At first as summer approached, and my role at the church was about to end, I was excited for what I saw as an opportunity to be fully present for my husband and children.  I anticipated carefree times to do fun things with them now that I no longer had to squeeze in phone calls and emails and planning during the days and evenings.  It was going to be great! I wouldn’t have the guilt and anxiety of juggling that former extra responsibility.

But then there was that afternoon in June, when my oldest son wouldn’t obey, and I freaked out and locked myself in my room, telling this little seven-year-old, blue-eyed boy that I didn’t want him to talk to me and I didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

On the other side of that door I cried, in desperation, feeling alone and terrified.  The despair of my outburst wasn’t just the result of a tough day for me as a mom — one of those many times when I would mess up and say the wrong thing and be harsh instead of loving.

What was happening behind that door was that God was beginning to reveal the depth of darkness that I had lived with for a very long time, parts of me I had not been able or willing to see about myself, all the fear and selfishness and hurt and pride that had demanded me to put myself first — first over the needs of my husband and first over the needs of my children.  I had to come first.

Not being willing or able to deal with the shame and pain of my abortion created other wounds that plagued me for a long, long time:  the wound of never feeling good enough, the wound of believing I didn’t have a voice, the wound of needing to prove my worth in order to feel valued.  It’s pretty awful to have to confess that I craved ministry leadership for the sake of being valued and affirmed by my peers. My life had become all about me.

It was on the other side of that bedroom door that God’s light broke through and I was willing to admit I needed help. It took the loving encouragement of my husband for me to be able to take steps towards dying to that pride that had convinced me I had to do everything on my own. 

I went into months of counseling where I discovered the gift of speaking and being heard and accepted and loved. I spent hours opening up to friends from small groups with whom I had never really been vulnerable.  I received healing prayer for my abortion and will never forget sweet friends coming into my home and revealing to my heart, in listening prayer, that in that moment that I felt the most alone, the most despair, felt in the deepest darkness – during the night I made that decision, in the orchard, to end the life of my baby – Jesus was still there.  He sat beside me on that cold ground and loved me still.  And that is what both breaks and heals my heart and makes me astounded by His love the most.  He had never turned away.  With this community around me holding me up, I continued to feel God the Father gently leaning in and speaking his love and mercy into my heart.

Now since finally – by God’s grace – choosing to face the truth of my shame and fear and sin – rather than run away from it and continue to try to survive on my own, I am learning to let my weaknesses be His power in me. 

I remember the details of that summer of rebelling and then trusting, and the people who came around me, pulling me up to the Father, a testament to the need for community around us.  We can’t do this on our own.  I had my Father God, who grabbed my hand and never let go, and I had friends around me who let me be vulnerable and reminded me how I am completely loved, absolutely cherished,  steadfastly adored. 

But, oh, it’s not like the struggle of focusing on myself rather than on God is over!  It’s still a challenge for me.

But the verses in the beginning of Colossians 3 pour over me as my constant companion:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  . .  Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.

God is redeeming even my role here in the same mother’s ministry at my church, and in my role of serving women He brings into my life.  I am learning to lean into Him now, seeking Him with a grateful heart, a new life. I no longer want to hide in the darkness. He has led me into His light, where I want to walk with Him. I hope and pray that you will want to come out of whatever darkness holds you in fear. I pray we all will help each other learn to walk in the light of his truth and love.

I know I want to live in the redemption of his love for me – even with all my messiness — telling a new story I am now excited to share.

I am so grateful to share my story with you.



  1. says

    Jennifer, what a beautiful post. Thank you for being so open and willing to share. I really, really crave what you describe in the last paragraph, but still find myself clinging to self-made idols like pride and masks. You've shed some light into a place I've been keeping a lid on… the place where I hide behind the idol of "privacy" and thus don't let God get everything out. I long to synchronize my public and private selves, and you have motivated me. I have printed your words and tucked them in my journal… I need this reminder every day. Thank you so much.

  2. Alyssa Santos says

    Thank you. Brave girl. I can't tell you how many people I love that I pray for that they'll trade the years of shame for light and freedom. He is gentle and faithful but tenacious, Our God. I rejoice in your light.

  3. says

    This is such a story that shouts of God's love and tenderness and I am so in awe of that change from darkness to light. I know what you mean because in so many ways, maybe not exactly the same, I think this is what the Father has called us all to in our own lives and we all have experienced in some form in knowing Him and calling us anew. Thanks so much for this story.

    • oneofHisgirls says

      I so agree with you, Julie, that the Father calls each of us out of out darkness and into His light. I can't even see my sin without His eyes — His light shining on me. Bless you!

  4. says

    Oh the tears. I can so relate to your post. There are many things I've done in the past that continue to plague me and I believe I still wear masks. I long to be free. I crave true joy in my life.

  5. says

    I'm holding back tears as I read your words. It never ceases to amaze me how God can take our brokenness and make something beautiful. And He truly HAS made something beautiful in you. In sharing your weakest, darkest moments, it reminds me that my own weakest, darkest moments are redeemable and that I am not the only one who struggles. It is SO freeing to speak the truth about where we have been and then hear God confirming in our hearts the new work He has already begun, isn't it? Every time I share my story of struggling with depression/anxiety, instead of feeling vulnerable, I have felt nothing but love and acceptance. I'm learning not to be ashamed about sharing the painful pieces of my heart, because it is really all about Him and what He has done for me. Thank you for sharing!

    • says

      Oh, Stephanie, thank you, friend. Your writing is amazing–I love how He uses you to advance His kingdom and bring hope. Thank you so much for your encouragement. Love to you, friend.

  6. says

    Thank you Jennifer for sharing your story. It’s hard to be open and honest when Satan has used shame to keep us apart from the Lord. I thought that I’d share the other side of me here with you and the rest of the girls…my own personal journey of trying to have a baby. Your words, “letting my weakness be his power for me” has resonated in my own journey of infertility. I don’t know why God hasn’t granted us children…but through this weakness he has enabled Ellie Fun Day to be born.

  7. says

    Jennifer, wow what a story. God has recently revealed to me that I need to open my heart and share my story and bring others who do not believe they are worthy of God because of what they have done… and since then I have found others like you who have a similar calling! I look forward to discovering more about your blog!

  8. says

    I am so thankful I stumbled across your blog. I relate to many things you talk about. When I became vulnerable only a few years ago, it allowed God to work in me and my life changed. I am a recovering alcoholic, so my story’s a little different, but the feelings of no self-worth and striving to be accepted rings true (even still today I have to fight the lies with His truth!). As you know, the enemy is constantly on attack. I grew up a christian but could never live up to (what I thought were) God’s “standards”, so rebelled. I have learned God doesn’t have standards, but I didn’t know that and BELIEVE that until recently.

    If you have time, you can read my blog posts. I just started so there’s not much there, but my story and struggles are there in various posts. As I work on my “ministry” each day, I am so pleased by how many women I come across willing to be vulnerable and open up like you have, like I am. THIS is what changes lives. THIS is what changes peoples perspective of who God really is. He doesn’t love us only when we’re perfect. He doesn’t bless us only when we obey. He doesn’t punish us when we make poor decisions. My website isn’t just a blog. It’s a store. But God has been telling me to write so I have been focusing on that. Everyone has a story. Our stories are meant to be shared so that we may touch others and bring them to a closer relationship with the Lord. Each of my tee shirt designs tells a story. They pass on powerful encouraging messages and open the door to share God’s love and His Word. They are based on scripture, with simple statements the world can understand. The purpose is to bring the world to Christ and strengthen those who are already believers.

    Funny, I know just where Arbuckle is. We have a place not far from there in Orland! We are N. CA peeps.

    My website is:

    My blog:

    You are a blessing,

  9. Wifey Weiss says

    Hi.I can relate to you.I was 21 yrs old and i to had an abortion.I did it because i was also afraid of what my family was going to say.Fast forward to present day,and im happily married to the same man.We have 2 beautiful girls and by the grace of God im a born again christian.Thank you for such an inspiring testimony.I to had to deal with alot of demons that came up after i had my abortion.But i do feel im a stronger woman for it.
    Thank you and i hope to keep in contact with you.
    Im from South Africa and would love you to email me on the following email address.
    wifey.weiss@gmail:disqus .com
    Thanks again.
    Geraldine Weiss

  10. says

    Thank you for sharing the testimony of our Faithful God and knowing His strength is perfected in our weakness. Truly I see how God does use all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. He is the One and only true God that restores…even what locusts have eaten, our Redeemer! Thank you for your obedience. I’m praying for you!

  11. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. God’s grace is beautiful and liberating in every situation and in every life. My story is different, but when a heart is enveloped in darkness, God’s grace is truly sufficient, and brilliant!

  12. Sharon O says

    Love this story, and isn’t it wonderful how a good christian counselor can help pave the way to wholeness? I have been in counseling for a lot of years and never regretted any of it (other than the bad counselor I had for two years) I finally got wise and moved on.

    • says

      Dear Sharon, yes, I am so thankful for help, for community around me to help me see Him. When I try, in my pride, to do things on my own, I fail, miserably. I am grateful for wise counselors and for the courage He gives us to ask for help. Thank you so much for your words here, Sharon.

  13. Stacey K says

    Wow. I have tears in my eyes while I type. Truly incredible testimony. I love your ministry and am joining as a follower. God bless you.


    • says

      Stacey, what a blessing your sweet words are. Truly. I am so grateful to have met you here. What a joy-filled adventure this is — all because of His grace. Just amazing. Thank you.

  14. Leslie says

    I identify with your testimony so much…not because I had an abortion, but because I had other sin and fear and darkness in my life. I too lost sight of who I was, in Christ, and ended up on a dangerous path that almost ruined me and my family. I think you are so brave for sharing you story and so incredible for being “real”. I love women that are willing to be real and humble for the sake of bringing glory to God, even when it’s hard. Thanks for sharing this. You have no idea how much it means to me!!

    • says

      Leslie, I am so thankful for how God knows these dark places of ours and, in His love, shines His light on them, turning them upside down to reveal His hope and beauty when before there was none. I cherish your words here, and pray for your continued bravery and strength in Him, guiding you to continue to trust Him even more, surrender even more. {I pray this for myself, too.} Love to you, friend. We are not alone here.

  15. says

    Jennifer, I so loved meeting you in person. Your testimony brings me to tears. So beautiful is your journey and so brave you are to share it. I wish I had known your story as I sat next to you. I’m grateful for the screen between us that I can know you better through your beautiful words. How odd the barriers that we (I) hold up in real life meeting, but are free to spell out here for the world to see. Your words are healing for so many. Bless you for your honest heart and transparency. I have much to learn, friend.

    • says

      Karin, oh, how amazing that I got to meet you in person! You are so warm and kind and generous, friend. I am so glad to be in this community with you. Thank you for your love and encouragement. Yes, I am tired of hiding. . .and I am grateful He gives me words to point to Him and His redemption of what is otherwise so broken and hopeless. Bless you!

  16. Sherri says

    Jennifer – your words are so moving to me, and I can so easily relate! I was you growing up in church, the “good girl” facade firmly in place – that is, until I became pregnant at the age of 18, by the boyfriend who also attended church with me, a “good boy”, as well. After a few weeks of heart wrenching turmoil, I made the decision to have the baby, and I’m ashamed to say much of that is due to the fact that my boyfriend (who became and still is my husband) would not allow me to even speak of another option. After 24 years of marriage, and soon-to-be 23 yr old, and 19 yr old daughters, I still struggle with the very wounds and feelings of worthlessness you described. I’ve felt for a while that no one really knows the REAL me, not even me…..thank you for sharing your story.

  17. says

    this is beautiful.
    I wrote a book about how God redeems pain– and this, oh, this, is exactly what my heart has been saying.

    In the middle of our deepest sorrows, God IS.
    Thank you for bravely sharing your story. <3

  18. says

    Oh Jennifer…there IS beauty in opening up those broken and dark places of your heart, because that’s where He meets you, in all your messiness, just as you are. And it’s where community can surround you with real love and real acceptance and real grace…and where you can embrace community, sharing your story so other women know it’s okay to take off those masks and be real. Because we all have messy pieces we’d love to hide, but when we boast of our weakness, we boast all the more of His strength and His goodness. I just love your heart and reading this, your heart exposed in all its dark mess, makes me so glad I found this place and found you, friend. Someday, I’d love to meet you in real life and hug you tight…but if not, I look forward to celebrating our weaknesses and His strength at His feet someday. <3

    • says

      I would l so love to be with you right now, Stephanie. Your exuberant, loving, joy-filled encouragement makes me smile! I am boasting with you, friend! So thankful for you and your loving heart for our Father! XO

  19. Cate Krensavage says

    Jennifer, I am reading your blog for the first time. Just this morning, I asked God to release me from some of the very same feelings you experienced post MT co-leadership. It’s so counterintuitive. Like you, I gave a year of my life to ministry (at great cost to my husband and family). Perhaps mistakenly, I expected a year of joy and infinite blessings for my service including free time with my young girls and husband. Instead, I’ve had to face some of the pain and anger I feel over my youngest daughter’s genetic disorder. I see now that serving in ministry to such an extreme can mask all those problems I sought to cover up. Yet, God did listen when I asked Him. I saw you today on campus after reading your blog this morning. Lately, I’ve felt only my co-leader can understand what this “year of transition” feels like. It’s almost as if we need healing after a year of “spiritual formation” the hard way… when all along we expected to feel exuberance. Thank you for your words and insight. I know I am not alone. He is with me, and I feel human again.

    • says

      Cate, I am so thankful for being able to connect with you at church the other day–and your words here are live-giving . . No, we are not alone. I love how He brings us together to encourage each other on–and how He brings healing to weary hearts. I so hope we can continue to talk, and that Monday mornings at My Girls might be one of those places. Love to you, sweet friend. Jennifer

  20. KettyMargarita says

    Reading this helped realize how I’m so not ready to share my story yet. I really don’t want to go there, I don’t think I could talk about it or even to write it would be too painful. Knowing that you were once where I am today gives me hope, but it’s scary at the same time. I believe that God was there, in those dark days, with me…but can those days just stay in the dark?…I know, I know they can’t. And God’s light will break through at its due time, I’m simply not excited about it. Maybe this is stupid, I’m just being honest. By the way, I love the weekly e-mails. When I see “loop” in my inbox my heart jumps, God speaks through you. Thank you so much!!!

    • says

      I completely, completely understand this. I wanted it all to stay in the dark. It felt safer–all closed up, in a tidy box. I felt I had control that way. So, I kept those days in the dark for twenty years. . . Twenty years. God’s gentleness prepares us for His light. His kindness woos us to Him . . .and He surprises us . . .yes, He does, by His gentleness with our past. The truth–the stark realty of what darkness looks like when light is shining brightly upon it is painful . . Yes–much more painful than the experience of going through it (choosing darkness) those twenty years before. But, as painful as the light was, it was healing and beautiful and rebirth, too. Yes, it was the beginning of me. When the light shone on the darkness, I had a choice to enter into it or not. And the light was blinding at first . . .and it was tough to stay there–His truth making me crumble to my knees. But His love overpowers it all. His love is just so worth it. And the healing He brings in the light is worth the pain of getting out of the box and letting the shine right on in. Praying for you, sweet sister. Love His presence–all that He is doing–in you.

  21. bluecottonmemory says

    God takes our deepest wounds – whether we inflicted them or others inflicted them on us – and at the right moment, He knows when we’re ready to peel away those layers and layers of gauze binding we’ve covered them with – until the wound lays open and show it to Him to heal. I lost a little girl half way through a pregnancy – and He used that to heal this girl broken through a dad who walked out when I was 5.

    I’ve told my boys – that when you try to hide things – like sin or a high forehead with a bad hair-cut – you just don’t shine free and proud like you do when you come clean and let the truth come out and deal with it.

    Brave, courageous and beautiful are you, Jennifer. Redemption doesn’t mean hiding the sin. It means letting God wash it away to reveal His girl!

    • says

      MaryLeigh, I am so sorry for the loss of your baby girl. I can only try to imagine the heartache you experience by her loss. And to think that that experience–your healing–was the Father leading you to even deeper healing of your heart. Oh, friend.

      I am so grateful for you. Your words here are guiding me, as I sit, praying for His guidance, as I have to revisit my story and share it aloud to a group of women around the theme: restoration. And your wisdom, ending with the clincher: “Redemption doesn’t mean hiding the sin. It means letting God wash it away to reveal His girl!” is His light shining on me right now, guiding me. Thank you, sweet sister. Thank you. . . I know where to go, now . . :)

  22. zephaniah davis says

    Wow; that was a tough story to read mate; but it really helped me to look at some of my hidden stuff also. Youre one tough shiella Jennifer.

  23. Angel says

    Thank you for sharing this. I was reminded of how big and great God is. It’s not easy to share something this deep, but thank you for planting strength and courage in those who have gone through similar hardships.

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