Thursday, January 22, 2015

Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

The annual March for Life in Washington D.C. is taking place today, on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Since that time, close to 60 million lives have been lost to abortion in the United States.

I wish I was marching for the weakest among us in D.C. today with the literally hundreds of thousands of people who are there. But I'm watching the live coverage on television (you can watch too by clicking HERE or HERE or on EWTN if you have cable or satellite).

It looks like a beautiful and sunny day in D.C., unlike two years ago when my mom, sister, and I went and it was cold and snowing. I had the blessing of sharing my story on the steps of the Supreme Court with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign on that day.

Watch the video of me speaking:

Anyways, I hope to be a part of the March again soon. It is so special to be in the midst of all those people standing for life.

Today feels like such a heavy and solemn day. I keep thinking about how something that happened on this day 42 years ago, abortion being legalized, impacted my life decades later. I take responsibility for my choice to have an abortion, however, if abortion had not been legal, I never would have sought a back-alley abortion and would have taken responsibility for my choices. I wouldn't be living with the regret that I will carry for the rest of my days. I wouldn't have to imagine who my child would be today, now at almost 5 1/2 years old. And so many women who have been deceived by the legal right to choose also wouldn't have to carry this pain for life. I am so thankful for how God has healed my heart, but there are days when my heart deeply hurts. Today is one of those days. I think it's important to feel the pain at times, to never forget and to be encouraged to keep fighting, both for the unborn and for the mothers and fathers who find themselves in a situation where they might consider having an abortion.

This post left me:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mothering Their Legacies

I had the blessing of being one of the contributors of the book, New Life Within <--- click on link to find out more about it and to purchase your own copy! I want to share here what I wrote in the book about my motherhood journey thus far.

Mothering Their Legacies

Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew I was meant to be a mother. The desire was embedded deep within my heart. As a child, I literally remember having dreams about finding abandoned babies in random places such as grocery stores and me rescuing them and taking them home to forever love and care for.

I knew that being a mother was part of the calling God had on my life, though I never could have imagined just how it would unfold. I never imagined that one day I truly would be fighting to rescue babies.

For me, motherhood looks a bit different than it looks for others. It does not consist of diaper changes, story time, and rocking with lullabies before sleep. Rather than holding my children in my arms, I hold them in my heart. I mother their legacies. But that does not make me any less of a mother simply because you cannot see them here. The forever impact they’ve made on my life and how they’ve changed me are proof enough that I’m a mother. Their mother.

This is my motherhood journey thus far…

In February 2009, I found myself alone in a bathroom, staring at the two blue lines that would forever change my life. I was 19, unmarried and completely terrified to discover I was pregnant. Yes, I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but not yet. Not now. Not like this…

Though I had grown up in a Christian, pro-life home, I never imagined this would happen to me. After all, I had planned on remaining a virgin until marriage. Yet, somehow along the way, the world had seduced me.

Feelings of panic and fear immediately gripped my heart and that dreadful word captured my thoughts… abortion. The culture told me it was my choice to decide whether or not I was ready to be a mother.

My mind was consumed with thoughts of the shame and humiliation that would come with telling those I knew and loved that I was a pregnant and unwed teen. I didn’t want people to discover the lifestyle I was leading. I didn’t want to face the pain sure to come with choosing parenting or adoption. I didn’t want my body to change from pregnancy. I didn’t want permanent ties to the baby’s father. I didn’t want my entire future as I thought it should be to be forever altered. I could be a mother when I was ready, but it wasn’t then. I convinced myself that having an abortion was my only option and the only solution.

Because I was only 6 weeks gestation and it was a pill I would be taking and not a surgical procedure, I convinced myself that it wasn’t really an abortion. Because I couldn’t feel any movement yet, never heard the fast thump, thump, thump of the baby’s heart beating, and my belly was not yet round with child, I thought it wasn’t a big deal. I could push thoughts of this new life within out of my mind and heart.

I wish I could tell you that I did not take that little pill that I thought would solve all my problems… but I did… on February 6th, 2009, a day that will be etched into my memory forever. If only I had known that even though I was ending my pregnancy, I would never again not be a mother.

Immediately after the abortion, relief washed over me, and I was ready to get back to my normal life and forget the nightmare ever happened. However, the pain quickly began catching up with me. I drowned my inexpressible sorrow in things like partying, drinking, and dating a new guy. I so desperately wanted to fill that empty, gaping wound in my heart.

Just a few short months later, I found myself once again sitting in a bathroom, alone with my thoughts and another positive pregnancy test. Yet again I had the same choice to make. How could this be my life? How had I gotten so far from what I had been taught and what I believed about abstinence, purity, and the sanctity of life? I was digging myself deeper and deeper into a pit of destruction and despair and I was too broken and weak to pull myself out. I cannot even put into words the agony my spirit was in during these months.

I was sick of things as they were and felt ready to “get my life together.” I just needed to have this one last abortion and then my life could move on. I reasoned that I had already had one abortion, so what’s another? My life appeared to be a hopeless, helpless mess and it was too late for me to have the beautiful God-scripted story that I had longed for. Little did I know that my Heavenly Father was not surprised by my choices and He still had a plan… far beyond anything I could imagine or comprehend.

The appointment was set at Planned Parenthood for August 15th, 2009, just three days after my 20th birthday and a half a year after my first abortion. After August 15th, I would get my life together. After August 15th, I could move on and have a fresh start.

The day of my scheduled abortion came and went and my baby was still safely growing in my womb. God was fighting for my life just as He was fighting for the life of the one who grew within me.

The Lord made it abundantly clear that I had come to a fork in the road in my life and had a very big decision to make. He whispered to my heart that if I chose to have another abortion, I couldn’t imagine the pain and darkness that would follow. But, if I chose LIFE, I couldn’t imagine the beauty that He would bring.

On a lovely August evening around dusk, I was alone with my thoughts, watching the pink clouds dance across the sky. It was in that moment that the decision suddenly became clear to me. I knew what I had to do. I had to obey Him… and choose life. Although I didn’t know what would happen next or where He would lead me, having answers to my questions no longer mattered because He was with me. He promises to give us just what we need the moment we need it. There must have been rejoicing in Heaven on that summer evening in August when my child’s life was saved.

The choice was no longer between abortion, adoption, and parenting, but now only between adoption and parenting, both of which ended with my child having life. For a time, I truly believed I was going to choose adoption. After wrestling with the decision for weeks, however, God showed me that His plan for my life was parenting.

Early in my pregnancy, the Lord revealed to me that I was carrying a little girl named Lily, which means “purity and innocence.” Lily was to be a symbol of my renewed purity and redemption in Jesus Christ. I selected Katherine to be her middle name, not realizing at the time that Katherine also means “purity.” In Christ, I am washed white as snow.

My God was with me when I chose life for my daughter and through all the months I carried her, He sustained me. He was with me when I told my family the news that there would be someone joining the family. He was with them when He supplied the love and grace needed to accept me back home. He provided every penny needed when I didn’t know how I would pay for doctor and hospital bills without insurance.

Seven months later, He was with me when I arrived at the hospital to deliver my daughter, two days past my due date, after a healthy and normal pregnancy. He was with me on that dark, stormy day, March 16th, 2010, when that little monitor was put up to my swollen belly and those dreadful words filled my ears, “I’m so sorry… her heart is no longer beating.” He was with me in the quiet, early-morning stillness, as I waited to deliver the body of my daughter who was already waiting for me in Heaven. He was with me when I held the body of my precious flower, Lily Katherine, who whispered goodbye before I had the chance to say hello. He was with me when the silence threatened to suffocate me.

He was with me through the loneliest night of my life as I cried from the very depths of my soul, lying in my hospital bed with the body of my lifeless daughter beside me. He was with me during those few precious, sacred moments I spent alone with her, giving her the hugs and kisses that would have to last a lifetime. He was with me the next afternoon as a blanket was placed over her tiny body and she was pushed down the hallway away from me, never to be held by her mommy again. He was with me when leaving the hospital with empty arms, a broken heart, and shattered dreams. Left with many questions, He was with me when no answers could explain why she was taken so soon. He was with me as I watched her tiny casket, placed inside her cozy Moses basket, be lowered into the opened earth and become showered with tears, rose and lily petals, and dirt.

Lily Katherine’s name took on a whole new meaning… she will forever be pure and innocent. I struggled with wondering why God would let me carry Lily for all those months and love her so much, only to take her from me. But, I have peace in knowing I made the choice to let God be God, to let God give and God take away. I can rest assured that I did the right thing by obeying Him. My daughter died with dignity.

How can I possibly capture in just a few paragraphs all that Lily’s life means to me… God saved her from abortion and used her life to save mine. He used her to bring me back to Himself. He used her to bring healing from my abortion. He used her to restore family relationships and friendships.

I have given my first child the dignity of having a name, as an acknowledgement that he existed. I believe the Lord has revealed to me that my first baby was a boy. I’ve named him Luke Shiloh, meaning “light and peace,” because God has brought light in the midst of the deepest darkness and peace to my wounded, aching heart.

If you choose life, no matter the outcome, you’ll have no regrets. These aren’t empty words from someone who doesn’t understand and has never walked this road. I can say ‘I get it’ because I truly do. I’ve walked the road twice and I’ve chosen both ways, and I will forever regret my abortion, but I will never, ever regret choosing life… even if I had known from the beginning that Lily would go Home to Jesus before drawing her first breath. God has a wonderful, beautiful plan and purpose for each life created in His image.

My story is full of brokenness and heart-wrenching pain, yes, but please don’t allow that to be what you take away from reading this. It is my hope and prayer that the lasting legacies of Luke and Lily will make an imprint on your heart. And that my story will point your eyes to redeeming, merciful Jesus, who brings beauty from ashes and makes whole what was once broken. He truly works all things together for our good and His glory.

The Lord used both my two babies who never spoke a word or took a single breath to forever change my life and future. For me, motherhood is keeping my promise to Lily and Luke to always be their voice, to share their lives and legacies as long as there is breath in my body, to speak out about the beauty and sanctity of each irreplaceable, individual life. I now write regularly on my blog and on other websites and speak all over the country, sharing my story of darkness to light. At one point I never wanted anyone to know about Lily and Luke, but now I want the world to know they are my children and I am their mother.

This is but a glimpse into my mother heart… to some, it may appear that I have no children. But, I can assure you… I do. They may not be alive on Earth, but they are more alive than you and I will ever be here, dancing eternally with Jesus on streets of gold. There is so much more to my bittersweet journey of motherhood and I believe there will be more pages the Lord will script in days to come. This is where He’s brought me thus far. This is how He’s given me a passion and a purpose to rescue precious babies… the dream I had as a little girl has come true.

This post left me:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Leaving a Mark Across the World

Each year, like clockwork, January reminds me that Lily's birthday is coming soon and she should be turning a new age. I feel my heart growing heavier.

I am so thankful for friends that have helped me see Lily is not being forgotten by others as the years press on, though I fear she is.

My friend Brittany wrote the following in an email this week:

"So funny how you can think so much about a child you have never even met. But seeing your posts and pictures, just going about my day, I think about Lily and Luke a lot. Who would have ever thought they would make this great of an impact?"

My friend Karen from Australia wrote in an email this week:

"As for your feeling that more people are forgetting dear Lily....I cannot look at a Lily flower the same way again, it will always remind me of you and your dear daughter and the story of redemption God has worked in your life...Isn't it good I have lilies in my backyard? :)"

A couple days ago, my best friend/sister-in-law Kala was talking about something, which I won't mention specifically here. But it was something that most people wouldn't think twice talking about and how it would be hard for me to hear about it. I tried not to show how it hurt my heart, thinking about Lily, yet she already knew it would. She was so kind, sensitive, and loving towards me and reassured me that there will never be another Lily Katherine and that she is very special to her. I told her that just hearing her be sensitive and understanding like that makes a world of difference.

And truly, it does. Having people love Lily and I, think of her, and express that to me, I cannot tell you how much that eases the pain. It lightens my load in a way I cannot describe. I am so thankful to the Lord for blessing me with the friends that He has. And it makes me smile to know Lily is being thought of, even when I'm unaware, by people across the many states and even the world.

This post left me:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Grief Points to the Sanctity of Life

At times I get the impression from people that they are curious as to why I love and miss Lily as much as I do since she never lived outside the womb.

Can a mother's love be comprehended or explained? Is Lily's value found in her days that were numbered few?

No, I don't love her because of anything she did and she doesn't have value for living a long life or for accomplishing something remarkable in the eyes of the world. I love her for simply being who God created her to be. He created her to live her days in the safety of my womb. She lived no more days than she was purposed to and no less days. She is valuable simply because she is HIS. She was crafted by His hand, in His very image. She's a masterpiece, His masterpiece!

A little girl who never opened her eyes to see this world has opened my eyes and heart to see what's truly important in this world. God has taught me more about selfless love, grace, the redemption of Christ, and the sanctity of human life through a little girl who never spoke a word or took a breath than anything else in this world. Lily changed my entire life, my heart, and my future. Her life is sacred because she was created by God and He has given her life great purpose! No striving on my part to get others to recognize her value will make her any more valuable. Simply by existing, she matters. And I can rest in knowing her value doesn't change depending on what others think of her. My love is no less real even if people don't understand.

It was a gift the Lord gave me when He opened up my heart to love her as much as I do. And because of how much I love her, I miss her with that same great measure. The grief, in turn, is also a gift, for even that points to the sanctity of her life and each life, no matter how brief!

I pray Lily's life is a reminder to us all that nothing we do or have makes us valuable. The car we drive, the house we live in, the job we have, all these things are temporal. Our value comes in being children of God. Each of us has been valuable from the moment of our conception and nothing in this world can add to or take away from that intrinsic value.

This post left me:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Please Support This Amazing Ministry!

Hello blog readers, please consider supporting one of the ministries that is nearest and dearest to my heart. Chloe from Eternal Hope Memorial Portraits is an incredible artist who draws gorgeous memorial portraits for grieving families all over the world who have lost babies, in honor and memory of her daughter, Hope. She offers this amazing gift FREE of charge! As you can imagine, it takes a lot of her time and money in materials. When she was working on Lily's drawings (she did one of her face and one of her hands), we literally emailed back and forth for months as she worked on her portrait, making it just perfect and even better than I envisioned. The portrait of her face hangs on my wall, where I see it nearly every day and never grow tired of looking at it. Anyways, Chloe is doing a fundraiser to raise some money so she can keep her ministry going. Unfortunately, if she doesn't raise the money, she will have to close down EHMP. She has blessed so many families and wants to continue to be able to do so. She is trying to raise $1,000 which is really not that much. Please, please consider supporting her so many more families can be blessed by her artistry. Even just $5 or $10 would go a long way if many people contributed. Please share about her fundraiser as well, even if you cannot contribute. There are only 3 days left! Your contribution will help Chloe to continue to honor her daughter in this precious way, will celebrate the gift of life (no matter how short), will bless other grieving families, and will really bless my heart as well.

Click HERE to read more about the fundraiser, to contribute, and to share.

Here is Lily's memorial portrait that I treasure so much! It literally looks exactly like her. Click HERE to read more about her portrait and see more photos.

This post left me:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Drive down Memory Lane

I spent Christmas in Virginia with family. One evening, my grandmother, sister-in-law, and I stopped in a town called Waynesboro for dinner.

Waynesboro is where I was living for the short few weeks that I was pregnant with my first child, whom I have named Luke Shiloh. Honestly, God has brought supernatural healing to my heart and I don't feel shame over my abortion. It really amazes me how much He has worked in me. I think of that child often, but it's not as heavy of a loss as losing Lily has been.

But there was something about being in Waynesboro that flooded my heart with sadness. As we drove through town, we passed where I used to live, the place where that dark night of my abortion took place. We drove past the pizza place where my friend and I got pizza from on the Sunday after my abortion, when I felt so much relief and thought I could put it behind me forever. Little did I know one day I would be writing about the memories from that day. And we drove past the gas station where I so clearly remember pulling into the parking lot one night when I was pregnant because I felt so nauseas and thought I was going to have to throw up. There is a feeling in the air of that town that takes me right back to that place and it's almost as if I'm staring at my 19-year-old self. It's already been six years since then.

I don't feel shame or condemnation. I feel sadness for the life that was lost and for my innocence lost. I wonder who my child would have grown up to become and how he would have looked. I feel regret because I can never change a decision I made so hastily. I truly had no idea the gravity of that choice. I was young and naive and was trying to run from my problems. It makes me sad to remember the pain of that time in my life and how young I was.

At times, it doesn't seem like it really ever happened, but then I take a drive down memory lane and the feelings and thoughts of that time come flooding back, breaking my heart all over again.

I will never, ever forget. The feeling of being pregnant for the first time. That time. That choice. The first child of my heart.

This post left me:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Grace Greater than All Our Sin

The following is a chapter from a book by Elisabeth Elliot that richly blessed and encouraged me, so I wanted to pass it along, as I'm sure it will impact others with similar experiences as well. There are some important truths here.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives." -1 John 1:8-10

A fifteen-year-old girl made up her mind to disobey God and her mother. She gave away her virginity. Her excuses: "Daddy didn't love me very much," and "everybody's doing it."

She now writes, "I was not a Christian at the time but I knew of God and knew in my heart that it was wrong, as Romans 1:20 says, I was "without excuse." The truth in God's eyes was that I had chosen to live in disobedience. I followed with several meaningless relationships until I met my husband, we became Christians by God's grace, and married.

"I am now thirty years old, married to a loving and God-fearing husband, and have three beautiful, healthy children. I am able to stay at home in a very little house, and it would appear that I have all the world at my fingertips. And yet fifteen years later this sin is a grievous weight on my heart. I had made a mistake I could never change.

"The more I study God's Word and the more I desire His presence in my life, the more I grieve over this sin. Just this past year I have begun to realize that the Father's calling for purity and holiness is for me. The Lord spoke to me through Hebrews 10:22, 23: "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience, and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful."

"Is it possible? I wondered. Could the Lord not only forgive me, but cleanse my conscience and my body?

"My husband, knowing what I was dealing with, decided that we should separate physically for a time so that I could seek the Lord fully and be dealt with by His hand. So he moved into the guest room and was very patient and supportive, always ready to listen with love and forgiveness.

"My prayer for this time was Proverbs 20:27, "The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being." I prayed that He would search my inmost being and reveal to me how I could receive the cleansing offered in Hebrews 10:10, "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." I wish I could say that it was an instant cleansing (which was actually what I was expecting!) but instead it was a slow, painful process. One by one the Lord revealed past sins and hurts that I had long since buried. The rejection of my father, the shame of a broken relationship, each revealed and each mourned over one at a time. Often the memories came in dreams, and I would wake up sobbing and broken. Many of my sins I knew I needed to confess to my husband, because I would never be able to feel completely loved by him unless he knew the ugly parts of me too. What a wonderful man - he was always much more willing to forgive me than I was to forgive myself.

"After weeks of cleansing, I reached a point of physical and emotional exhaustion. I was at my lowest, and began to pray that the Lord would bandage all my wounds before I bled to death! I remember telling one very dear friend that I felt like "one great big open wound." She opened her Bible and began to read to me from Isaiah 61.

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,...
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair...
They will...restore the places long devastated;...
Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.

"As she read to me, once again I began to weep, but instead of sadness, I was weeping with joy! This was the healing ointment that my aching heart needed. How loving and faithful our Lord is. Only He could change this dirty, ugly woman into beauty and joy. It was more than I had thought to ask for.

"It has only been a month since I was given this Scripture, but my burden has been cast down at the foot of the cross, and I am learning how to stand up straight, without the stoop that carrying such a load has caused me. Does it still hurt? Yes. I still cannot read Isaiah 61 without crying. But I have been sprinkled from a guilty conscience and washed in pure water, and the One who promised me this has been found faithful.

"Why have I shared all this with you? I have trusted you with my heart, Elisabeth, to tell you this:

"Sexual immorality can be forgiven, but it causes pain like no other sin can (1 Cor. 6:18). I carried it around for fifteen years and as much as I wanted it to go away, it didn't. A girl's body and virginity are precious treasures, and when they are given away before marriage it is a painful mistake and can never be reclaimed. Anyone who says different is a liar. Please don't stop your plea to young people to guard carefully the trust God has given them."

Julia H. Johnston's lovely old hymn expresses the "marvelous grace of our loving Lord."

Sin and despair like the sea waves cold
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold
Points to the refuge, the Mighty Cross.

Another teenager who, by "sleeping around," squandered the one-time gift of virginity, began very seriously to walk with God when she reached her twenties.

"I thrill again and again as I realize the power of God to change lives so drastically. I dated a very exemplary Christian fellow. He proposed to me several times, and several times I declined, fearing engagement and marriage because I felt I could not tell my husband-to-be about my past, yet I felt it was wrong not to tell him. I would need his forgiveness, desperately, but I could not face the risk of not being forgiven, and consequently, of being rejected. I cried many, many nights over this unchangeable status. One day in Bible college I was talking with my dorm mother with whom I was very close. She was so pleased and happy that I took such an interest in her nine-year-old daughter because she wanted her daughter to be around godly young people. I could not but cry. In the past, parents had told their kids to stay away from me, and here was a heroine of mine saying she was glad her daughter had the opportunity of being around me. My tears, of course, made her inquisitive, and tremblingly, I poured out my story to her. I told her my fear of telling a husband-to-be. She encouraged me to keep no secrets from my husband as keeping secrets would create a barrier in my marriage. She assured me that should God bring a young man into my life, then at the right time God would both give me courage to tell him and would pour out His grace on the young man so that he would readily forgive me. That idea sounded not only impossible but ridiculous!

"This summer I had a few dates with a young man in his thirties. I'm his first girlfriend. We committed to communicate. Little by little I revealed something of my past, keeping it all rather vague. I was torn between wanting him to pick up on my hints and wanting him to miss them altogether. He revealed his past, too - he had been a good kid!

"We became engaged in March, to be married in June. In April the "right time" came. Bringing up my past seemed easy. It was late at night but he just sat at the kitchen table waiting patiently for me to talk until I had completely relieved my heart. He told me he had picked up the hints last summer. He was determined not to leave until I had told him as much as I wanted to tell him. I finally admitted to him that I was struggling with not knowing if he could forgive me if he knew that his arms were not the first to hold me, his kisses not my first kisses, and things that I should have been able to give him as "firsts" I could not because they were already gone.

"He told me, "I don't understand it myself, but somehow it doesn't matter to me, because I see what you are now, and I know what God has done in your life. You aren't what you used to be. I love you." I finally got my courage up and asked if it didn't matter either if our first night would not be the first time. He said, "I guess you expect me to say it does matter, but even that really doesn't. God has changed you. I still love you so much I want to marry you."

"The grace of God is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Something has changed in our relationship. When he says, "I love you," it means more than it ever had before, and my telling him my whole heart thrilled him because he knows that I am really committed to doing everything I can, even if it is painful to me, to make our marriage the best I can.

"He stated that he is still looking forward to our first night as a very special time and wondered if I felt that our first night had lost the specialness. I replied that it has not lost all special meaning because he loves me, and the other guys really didn't. "So," he said, "I am a first after all!"

"Isn't he sweet?"

Johnston's hymn continues:

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide.
Whiter than snow you may be today.

A twenty-four-year-old, supposing she was the only virgin among her peers, gave herself to a man she thought was "safe enough."

"Little did I know that this sexual union would lead to years of miserable attachment to this man. I felt at times I needed to die in order to get away from him. I gave in to my fleshly desires with other men, deceiving myself into thinking it was okay to go out alone with Christian as well as non-Christian men. I allowed them into my apartment, allowed them to kiss and hug me. I know my limits, I told myself, I know how far I can go. I had not surrendered my passions to Christ - I was still in control, and my foolishness led to more sexual encounters and much grief.

"God graciously gave me the gift of repentance and I began to pray to pray to be made pure again. I had my doubts. We tend to think that God is going to give us what we deserve, and we forget about His grace.

"Several months later God caused the head of a single man in my church to turn toward me. He cautiously began to make conversation with me, introduced me to his parents, maintained a certain distance. I, now wiser, followed his lead, but felt frustrated at the slow pace of the relationship - was he ever going to hold my hand? declare his feelings? God graciously gave me patience.

"The day came when he confessed his love for me and asked me to be his wife. We had never held hands or embraced, but we had come to know one another and knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, not because of sexual chemistry or physical attraction, but because of love and respect, and a regard for God working in our lives and bringing us together.

"God not only restored my sense of purity, He blessed me with a man that I couldn't even envision, let alone hope for. My husband was not only a virgin, he had never kissed a woman! It was too good to be true.

"God has allowed so much healing to come into my life because of the love of a man who purposed in his heart to remain pure. Although, sadly, I was promiscuous and "used," I received a wonderful gift. But why didn't God bless my husband with a virgin? I believe that He gave him instead a glorious opportunity to love his wife as Christ loves the church - not holding their sins against her, but accepting her and loving her unconditionally."

Nothing seems more miraculous, more difficult for us who insist on figuring things out, than this matter of grace. Logic has nothing to do with it. It is the incomprehensible and inscrutable High and Mighty One pouring Himself out in love for His helpless, sinning creatures. Through the sacrifice of Himself He offers us, when we ask for it, absolute forgiveness.

Nor does He merely forgive. He sanctifies us, definitively establishing a new quality of life in the cleansed soul, communicating to us His life and love, quite apart from any merit whatsover on our side.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe;
You that are longing to see His face -
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, infinite grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

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