Friday, December 27, 2013

A Decade of Grace and Life

Today is my first child's tenth birthday.  Birthdays are a big deal at my house.  We love a good reason for celebration--especially the celebration of life.  This birthday is extra special though. Each year that I celebrate his birthday, I cannot help but think about the journey we've shared.  The past ten years have been filled with challenges and life-defining moments.  While it's a longer story, I hoped to share part of our story, so you can understand how special this guy is to me.

The year 2003 began with much hope.  I was a senior in high school & had been accepted into my top choice in colleges.  Graduating as salutatorian, I would receive scholarships to attend & would be the first in my family to attend a 4-year college (and the first to graduate).  I planned to pursue a pre-med degree, until my grandfather's health deteriorated quickly.  This changed the course of my career choice, because I realized I could not stomach terminal diseases or their effects. Within weeks, I also was heartbroken to lose the only man who had been consistent in my life.  He died at the end of February.

In addition to my grandfather's death, my mom finalized the end of an unhealthy marriage, and my relationship with my high school sweetheart was sure to end as we both had very different visions for our lives.  Despite some major life changes, I managed to stay focused on my big plans for my future.  All of my hard work would pay off & I would have the opportunity to follow my dreams & escape.

I was almost to the finish line, when two days before giving my graduation speech, I found out that I was pregnant. I was in disbelief because of how careful I was about "controlling" this situation, so how could it even happen?   Whether it was the round of antibiotics (that I was given no warning about) or the imperfect time of dosage each day, arming me with birth control hadn't provided the safety or assurance that my teenage brain thought it would provide.  I was sad and scared and mad.

Despite my prior beliefs about abortion, I had bigger plans.  I had worked so hard, carrying a high GPA, participating in athletics year-round, serving in leadership positions in multiple clubs, working since I was 14--my entire scholastic career was flashing before my eyes.  "Ruined" is what they said.  "But you can take two doses of medicine and everything will go away."  "Don't worry, it's just tissue--the size of a grain of rice actually."  "Jesus forgives, He wants you to be happy."  "You don't want to miss out on all the things you've worked so hard for." In the counselor's office at the abortion clinic three hours away, I started to think that choosing life meant choosing death of my dreams.  As I moved from room to room, it was a blur, but when I joined the room of other women--some visibly showing, reality hit.  And the prayers for the unborn were answered with a peace in the heart of a young, scared girl who realized this child was fearfully and wonderfully made.

Suddenly, I stood and searched for the Exit signs.  As I left, the lady at the front desk reminded me that I could not get a refund of the $400 I paid to ensure I wasn't a failure or another teen mom statistic.  I assured her that Life was enough.

That evening, I told my mother and we cried together.  We also prayed.  Over the next several months, I worked double shifts and battled morning sickness, but felt an overwhelming peace and energy that calmed my heart.  I had no intentions of not going to college, but I also had no idea about how it was going to happen.  While my mom helped to change my living arrangements, I prayed that everything else would fall into place--not typical for my type-A personality.

A month before I was set to leave for college, I was on my way to work on a beautiful sunny day.  I was going too fast around a slight curve when it suddenly began to rain hard.  Before I knew it, I couldn't see a thing and my car was spinning.  When I opened my eyes, a transfer truck was headed toward me head-on. I closed my eyes to pray and when I opened them, my car was on the other side of the road but I was alive.  The witnesses at the scene who stopped indicated that part of my car went under his truck, but spun out.  I was completely unharmed, as was my unborn son.
Little did I know that the accident meant that I would be able to pay off my car with the insurance value and buy another car with cash, allowing me to not worry about a car loan payment.  This was the beginning of God's provision.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:25-33

Whether it was generous tips at work or the kindness of my church community & school mates that provided almost everything I'd need for this special boy, I had almost everything I needed before leaving home.

However, on the way to Athens, my mom received a call from the campus property manager letting me know that she had double booked my assigned apartment.  But, by the time we arrived, they worked out another assignment at the only place they had left.  It was going to cost more money, but I didn't worry because of God's provision in the past.  As I walked up the stairs and began to unload my stuff, a young girl came outside.  She began to tell my mom that she had prayed for another young single mom to live close to her (most of the other neighbors were married graduate students).   This amazing woman would become my best friend and disciple me and love me through some of the most difficult and amazing times.

As the months went by, my belly grew and my classes became more difficult.  Taking 17 hours was intense without being pregnant.  Add in the sleepless nights, being away from home and a stolen car and it was pretty crazy.  As I entered my third trimester, I celebrated my 19th birthday and received a random call from my father.  As a child of an absent, alcoholic father, I was the typical perfectionistic maybe-I-can-earn-his-love-by-making-something-of-myself kid. It meant a lot to me that he called around my birthday, as he had admitted before that he didn't know the actual date that his first child was born.

We had a short, but good chat.  After all of the years of tough-love toward him, my time in the word & understanding of Christ's great grace allowed me to offer forgiveness to him.  He indicated that he was anxious to start fresh and was excited at the prospect of being a grandfather (while furious at the other half of the equation).  I truly felt loved by him for the first time.  That was the last time I would talk to him.  Three weeks later, my neighbor came to the door with a phone call telling me that my father had been murdered.

Physical pain, despair, loss of hope poured over me. The redemption and the relationship that I had lived for and prayed for with my father was gone.  But the true redemption and the relationship that brought life appeared in this desperate, barren time.  Christ spoke to me through his Word.  My prayers were constant and my life depended on them.  My need was great and He provided peace and comfort.  His people surrounded me and cared for me.  They prayed for me and served me.  My father had gone, but my Father was here.

Just a little over one month later, I came home for Christmas and enjoyed time with my family. My Mom's unhealthy marriage had taken it's toll on my family and the closeness that many families experience hadn't existed for a while before the death of my father, but this year Christmas was different.  I enjoyed a time of forgiveness and healing with my family, recognizing that tomorrow is not promised.  As we exchanged gifts and prepared for the expected arrival in mid-January, I started feeling strange aches and a crazy burst of energy.

Just two days after Christmas, I started cleaning up my Mom's entire house and organizing everything (NOT typical for me).  It was a beautiful day and I had the urge to walk up her crazy hill and down to the church.  I did this several times.  I didn't recognize that this was labor (I didn't read any pregnancy boards back then).  I thought that your due date literally meant the day you give birth, I wasn't prepared two weeks early.  Despite my doubts, I knew I felt strange and achey so my mom insisted we go to the hospital.  My baby boy was born 4 hours later as I experienced one of the most amazing, life changing moments of becoming a mommy.

As I held my little boy, I knew what unconditional love was.  Everything else I was feeling is indescribable, but I never felt like choosing life was a mistake.  Quite the opposite.  I was grateful for the prayer warrior and angels and everything else that protected this amazing blessing.  I knew there were natural consequences of my sin, as the challenges with his father were already evident. But peace consumed me.  Love consumed me.  I felt forgiven & I forgave.

Over the past ten years, I have struggled with some of the other natural consequences of choosing life & raising a child as a single mother.  It has been very difficult at times.  When God didn't restore and bless the relationship with my son's father, I became very bitter and rebelled and denied my faith.  I experienced more consequences based on the poor choices during that time.  I tried feminism, atheism and sought to discover my purpose outside of Christ, but came up empty. Thankfully, this sweet boy served as a reminder of God's grace and unconditional love.  He continued to be a motivator for me to do well and finish school.  He also influenced my decision to come back home after graduating.

Despite the hurt and wrongs in the relationship with his father, I remembered the pain I felt of growing up without knowing my dad.  When I moved back home, I reluctantly agreed to attend church with a dear friend seeking God in her own desolate time.   On Father's Day in 2007, I realized that I still had a Father in Christ--that a Father's love doesn't leave just because we stray.  That an imperfect earthly father doesn't accurately portray our Heavenly Father.  I quit running from the Truth that had literally saved my life and the life of my son and came home.

So as I shared my story about my son's life, I hope that someone will see how Jesus the Son holds our life.  That my faith isn't just a lifestyle to adapt because I want to be a good, southern girl living in the Bible belt; It is my response to the need for a Savior, Prince of Peace, Heavenly Father, Grace-giving Lover.  I love because He first loved me.  I chose life and He saved mine.

And as I celebrate my son's life, I hope that we can think about how we view life and what it means to choose life.  Consider what it means to fund & support organizations that promote women's rights as the ability to abort a baby versus the real feminine empowerment of choice based on a women's innate ability to love & care for a child while still working toward her dreams in life.  True women's rights advocates should agree that we do not have to make a choice to have one or the other.

While I do not condone teen pregnancy, I hope that more women who find themselves in my situation can receive the grace and provision from His people and the message that choosing life doesn't mean choosing the death of their dreams.  Choosing life offers a different dream that can be fulfilling, motivating and amazing no matter what challenges you face.

If you feel compelled to play a part in providing grace & life to another mom like me, please consider supporting Choices Pregnancy Resource Center by donating here.


  1. Loved reading your story Cara! Knew only bits and pieces from the Freshman English class we shared our first semester at Georgia. So thankful for God's love and provision He's given you throughout the last 10 years! - Chane'

  2. how beautiful His love for you and your family. Keeping you all in prayers as we move to 2017! It is going to be miraculous!