A snippit of my story...

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Beauty For Ashes

For every girl who has been abused or wounded by a past abortion and carries this secret deep inside her soul, my story is for you.  You are not alone. You are loved!

Terri Kelley

I don’t ever remember a time of not knowing God.  From my earliest memory as a child, I loved Him and felt He loved me -- and although I would spend most of my life questioning, challenging, and feeling unworthy of this love, it would be what ultimately saved me down a very long and broken road.  I now understand that... I was chosen --- I am His --- and for that, I am grateful. 

  

Fear not, for I have redeemed you --- I have called you by name,

YOU ARE MINE.  Isaiah 43:1

If given a choice, my life is not the one I would choose but it is the one God chose for me to live, perhaps for such a time as this. If you are like me, mistakes and heartache can often feel like many years of wasted time, but I believe God loves redeeming the hearts of his broken people and multiplying the lost years back to us with great purpose.

   

Like many young girls, I often dreamed of someday falling in love and marrying a man that loved God just as much as I did.  My dad was a youth minister in our church while growing up, so our lives revolved around church activities and a bunch of teenagers that I loved --- so much that I wanted to marry a youth minister and someday have that same life.

  

From an early age, my heart wanted to please God so I have often asked Him why He would allow my young life to become littered and confused with the debris of sexual abuse.  I was about 8 years old and not fully aware of what was happening to me or why, but I understood the words said and the threats made by my abusers, so in fear I kept quiet.  I often wondered if anyone could see what was happening to me.  Did God see me? Was He angry with me?  The secrets I carried inside left me confused about God and questioning if I had done something wrong.

  

Our family would move and settle in a small central Texas town where I would soon become a teenager and start Jr. High School.  It was the early 70s and a lot was going on in our country... women fighting for sexual liberation, equal rights, and protesting "make love -- not war"... all of which I was not too concerned about, but the church seemed to be.  My family became part of an ultra-conservative church that leaned hard into a woman's place in the world, and that sexual sin (or any sin) would send you to hell. Girls were taught that sex before marriage would mark them unclean and that no Christian boy would want to marry an unclean girl.  I would soon learn that Christian boys wanted sex just as much as non--Christian boys so it became a bit confusing whether the same rules applied to them as they did to us girls. There was a lot of talk about sin and hell and very little teaching about Jesus and forgiveness, grace, and mercy. The church would create a fear of God and leave me wondering if I would ever be good enough to make it through the pearly gates. Nothing about sexual abuse was ever talked about. 

   

   

I was learning that a girl had no voice, it was a man’s world,

and the church left no room for mistakes.

It was the summer of ’77 just before my senior year of high school and my friends and I were excited about our upcoming senior year together and our plans after graduation.  I had been planning to go to Abilene Christian College (University) since the first time I stepped foot on the campus in the 60s.  I dreamed I would meet my future husband there, get married, and have a big family. I had big hopes and dreams but all of them would fall apart this summer as I was faced with a decision that would turn my life upside down and send me spiraling down a path of destruction for many years.

  

The phone call came that summer day with the nurse on the other end telling me she had my test results back and it was positive. I was pregnant. I don't remember much about the minutes, hours, or days that followed the call, but I do remember the panic and overwhelming fear I felt as I was left to deal with a pregnancy at 17 years old and the painful circumstances that landed me there.  Several months earlier, I began dating a guy that was known to be the bad boy in school.  Initially, he was attentive and protective which made me feel loved and seen but slowly his behavior changed and became controlling, manipulative, and abusive, and I found myself always trying to prove that I was good enough for him.  His desire for sex kept me on an emotional rollercoaster as I wanted to prove my love and loyalty to him (his condition) yet honor my purity vow.  Over time my no(s) became personal rejections and in one night everything would change when my “no” was not enough.

  

I was now pregnant, alone, and paralyzed in fear as I thought about the potential fallout from church, school, and home... none of them being a safe place to go for help. I felt as if I was staring down a road of shame and rejection from everyone I knew, no matter how I ended up here. I informed my boyfriend that I was pregnant but he did not want the responsibility of a child so he gave me money and told me to get rid of the problem.

 

I was alone and afraid in my secret with nowhere safe to go and

everything to lose, so I went looking for a way out. 

 

  

I scheduled an appointment at a local OB-GYN clinic to talk about my options. The doctor said I had two choices…  have a baby or terminate the pregnancy quickly as it was now only a blob of tissue. I knew little about abortion and there were no sonograms available to us, so I trusted the doctor, paid the money, and walked into the clinic to terminate. Memories of that day are in bits and pieces but the intense feelings I experienced still fall on me today.  I was terrified and sad as I lay on a cold table with tears rolling off the sides of my face knowing my "someday" baby would never be.  A part of my heart was being ripped away and I felt powerless to do anything about it. Then the room became quiet and I knew my blob of tissue was gone.  In its place stood grief and darkness. I walked out of the clinic that day hoping for relief but instead felt heartbroken and somehow knew my life would never be the same.

  

I would grieve alone and bury the secret of my abortion deep inside,

along with all the other secrets I carried. 

 

  

I married the boyfriend after graduation in hope of redeeming the sin of my abortion and would justify all the physical beatings I took as my deserved punishment.  Less than a year into the marriage I became pregnant and after a night of attack and beatings, I packed up and moved far away determined to put the pieces of my life back together again.  

  

It was just me and my baby girl, a new life, a new town, and a new job that I loved but it would not be long before I was drowning financially and would hit rock bottom.  My baby was sick from the moment she was born which often left us with no childcare, missed work, no paychecks, lost jobs, no insurance, and bills that I could not afford.  After having my car repossessed, I became vulnerable and desperate for help. That help would come in a new relationship... someone who seem kind and wanted to help us out.  But it would not be long before the relationship became abusive and identical to the one I had just run away from. After finding out I was pregnant, he gave me the option to have an abortion or he would walk away and leave us. Unable to support the baby I already had, I felt no choice but to go with him to the abortion clinic.  He walked me in, paid at the front desk, then left as I was processed, put in a room, and asked to lay down on a familiar cold table... just like the one I had been on a few years back.  The table would trigger memories of my first abortion along with the tears rolling down the sides of my face puddling onto the table. How did I end up here again?  The details of this day would be remembered more... the pain more intense... the grief much deeper.  After it was over, I lay alone in the dark silent room, sobbing and wishing I could just disappear. In many ways, I did disappear.  I walked out the door, went home, and never talked about it again.  

When the secrets took hold of my soul, they had the power to influence every thought, every decision, every relationship, and all self-worth.

 

 

Somewhere along the way, I gave up crying out to God.  I was convinced He did not see me or want anything to do with a girl like me.  The love I once felt He had for me, I could no longer feel.  I believed I was unlovable and going to hell.  My life was far from the dreams I had as a young girl but something inside me still longed for redemption and the fairytale so I worked hard to build the exterior of a strong independent woman that no one would ever see weak or vulnerable again. 

  

Years later I would marry again believing this would be my fairytale ending... until it wasn’t. After 25 years of marriage, we would divorce and it would leave my heart in a shattered mess.  I had prayed desperately for our marriage but my prayers went unanswered leaving me angry and again asking why.  I had become tired of the fight for survival - for love - for belonging. I stood at the edge of a cliff with no fight left inside of me.

  

It was at that edge that I had a vision of a timeline detailing every traumatic and painful event I had been through in my life.  As I watched, I saw God standing next to me in every painful moment and how He had never left or abandoned me but had walked through it all with me. As the timeline faded, I felt God telling me it was time to start a new journey. I was unsure what that meant but was tired and desperate for answers so I agreed to go with a request that He be gentle with my fragile heart... as if He did not know. 

  

The journey was long and difficult as God slowly revealed all the weight of grief, guilt, and shame I had been carrying since childhood. He opened my eyes to understand the deep wounds of my past and the oppression that had come from it.  Along the way He introduced me to the true heart of Jesus... and that changed everything! I began to understand the real love, compassion, and undeserved forgiveness that Jesus offered and stood for.  How had I missed this beautiful story of Jesus my entire life? This story of love and redemption was meant for a girl just like me?

 

Do you believe in miracles?? Oh, I do. God has been so good to give me these unexplained events that I call miracles so that I would finally see and believe.  Here is the final miracle that changed my life forever and set me free from the oppression I had been under for so long.   

 

I woke up one morning feeling the weight of so much loss.  As tears streamed down my face, I begin to hear children laughing and playing and thought it must be coming from outside until a bright light showed up in my room with Jesus standing between two children I had never seen before. Their faces were bright and happy and they smiled at me as if they knew me.  I was captivated as I watched them and suddenly I knew these were my two babies.  I had never allowed myself to see them as living children or give them an identity but instead had kept them buried in a dark secret place of my soul.  But Jesus showed me that they were real and fully alive and happy. He introduced them to me by the names He had given them— Josiah and Deborah... not names I would have given them. My heart exploded as He brought them out of the darkness and into the light.  He told me I was forgiven and loved and that someday heaven would reunite all of us and give us an eternity together. I could not take my eyes off of them as I loved on them with my smiles and tears. As the vision faded, my heart ached to see them go but felt free for the first time in my life  What a gift Jesus just gave me... all for the girl who believed she was unworthy and going to hell!  I went to my knees thanking Him and it would be here that I actually felt the chains that had me bound most of my life fall off and hit the ground. I was free!

 

I now know the full love of Jesus, the cross, and that the blood was meant for a girl, especially like me

 

"El Roi" - The "God who sees" me.  

  

Beloved, as God saw me in all my mess, He sees you too!  He sees your broken heart and the pain suffered from the trauma of abortion and abuse.  It breaks his heart too.  But He wants you healed and set free. He wants your heart back and to allow Him to write a beautiful new ending to your story. 

“He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.”  Psalm 147:3

 

If you have experienced the pain and regret of abortion, I hope you will find a safe place to share your story and begin a healing process that brings freedom and peace. YOU deserve it. I would be honored to hear your story and give you that safe place to land.  You can contact me directly and privately at Terri@FrontPorchGirl.com.

 

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