At 19 years old I had big dreams for my future with career, travel and life with my amazing boyfriend, Ryan.
I grew up in a family that loved and supported me. We went to church, but I really didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. However, I found myself pregnant and totally scared. What would happen to the future I was planning? My parents would be so upset. Plus, Ryan felt the same way. Out of fear we both felt that abortion was the only option available.
We scheduled the abortion appointment and went in to the local abortion clinic. We had even pre-paid for the procedure. I was so emotionally distraught, that I ended up hyperventilating and passing out in the surgical room. I woke up to nurses fanning me and trying to hand me a glass of water. “You are too emotional to make this decision today” they told me, and sent me home. “You can come back another day, but today you are not getting an abortion”.
I went back to the waiting room and told Ryan, “We’re still pregnant”.
We decided in that moment we would “figure it out” together – Even through worst-case scenarios – homelessness, our angry parents, jobs or no jobs. We took that deep breath and told our parents, and to our amazement, it wasn’t as bad as we feared. Yes, they were disappointed in the timing, but they loved us and were so supportive of us both.
Ryan and I had been together all through high school, and decided to get married before the baby was born. When Ryan asked the pastor who had led him to the Lord to officiate the marriage ceremony, he replied, “No, I’m sorry I can’t marry you two because you’ve sinned”.
We felt like such horrible people – We couldn’t even get married right.
We did find someone else who did perform the ceremony, and got married. But we felt like we were both second-class Christians wearing this scarlet letter of shame. It was like the church people didn’t know whether to say “Congratulations” or “I’m sorry”, so they said nothing and ignored us. We felt alone in a crowd of people, so we simply stopped going to church for about 10 years.
Our beautiful baby boy, Jess, was born on November 5th, 1998. He was the sweetest face I had ever laid eyes on; he was (and still is) a glimpse of The Father’s love from heaven.
Even though my small family and I weren’t going to church, I was on a personal journey. I kept trying to process who God is from man, and the hurt we experienced from the church. A friend invited me to a new church in town. I had nothing on my schedule, and couldn’t think of a good excuse, so I said, “Why not”.
When I walked in the sanctuary – The music, the people, the message – There was just this peace unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I even volunteered to decorate for a women’s conference, which was huge for me – I had never done anything like that before.
During a worship service, I had what I would describe as a vision: Snap-shots of years before of me being single, pregnant, scared and sad. But then the snap-shot changed of me throwing baby showers. Which that year, it seemed as if all my friends were pregnant, and I was the one who was planning all the parties.
As I was leaving the church, I saw the Groups Pastor and told her about this “vision” I didn’t understand. She said, “Why don’t you start a small group Bible Study for girls with unplanned pregnancies”.
I had never led a Bible Study. I was terrified, and yet so excited. My heart came alive at what she was saying.
After 3 months to prepare with no curriculum available, I took a book called “Embrace Grace” by Liz Curtis Higgs, and began a study with three girls. One of the girls that came wore a coat (in August, in Texas) because she was so ashamed of stepping foot in a church – And yet, I was so proud of her for coming. The other two were afraid to make eye contact. But over the next 12 weeks we just kept encouraging them, telling them about Jesus and reassuring them “You’re going to be a great mom” and “You can do this”.
It was amazing watching the transformation. They were empowered as women to be the moms that God created them to be. They started looking up, making eye contact, and squaring their shoulders with confidence. By the end of the 12 weeks all three of them received Christ as their Savior, and began their own personal journeys with Jesus.
The next class had 3 more girls – Then 8 – Then 14- Then 21 - And just kept growing and growing and growing. Other churches started calling us and asked us to show them how to love on these girls. We started writing our own curriculum, and then started a non-profit to put this in churches around the country.
Today Embrace Grace Groups are in over 700 churches in 49 states and 10 countries. We believe that pro-life is a stance, but pro-love is an action. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. We want to draw these young women to God’s side with love, making sure that no single woman has to walk alone.
Side-note: Remember the pastor who refused to marry Ryan and me. Well, two years after we were married, he called my husband and asked him for forgiveness. “This is one of the worst mistakes I’ve made as a pastor” – Yes, my husband did receive the apology and forgave. Then 16 years later, I was speaking at his church with my son, and in front of the congregation, confessed that he had a religious spirit. “Would you forgive me, Amy?” Then to our son, “Will you forgive me for planting seeds of rejection in your heart before you born?” In that moment of confession, I could feel the healing power of forgiveness and mercy, and church wounds being healed. It was amazing. All of that just made me realize that the power that the church has with women who have unplanned pregnancies.
I went to church my entire life, and it never crossed my mind that I could go to them in my time of need for prayer, guidance or support. That’s what our ministry, Embrace Grace, wants to change. We want the local church to be the FIRST place a young girl facing an unexpected pregnancy runs to, not the last place because of guilt, fear or shame.
If you remember nothing else from my story: God turns ALL things for good for those that love Him – And that’s what He did for me.
My name is Amy, and this is one of my miracle stories.
**Amy Ford is the founder and president of Embrace Grace, a non-profit ministry that partners with pregnancy resource clinics (like Zoe Care) and local churches to help young women who are facing unplanned pregnancies. You can find more information at www.embracegrace.com**
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