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Grace of Repentance
Karen
Washington, United States

I found a prayer this morning that touched my heart: Lord, You asked for my hands that You might use them for Your purposes. I gave them for a moment and then withdrew them, for the work was hard. You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice, I gave You a whisper, so that I might not be accused. You asked for my eyes to see the pain of poverty, and I closed them for I did not want to see. You asked me for my life that You might work through me, and I gave you a small part that I might not get “too involved”. Lord, forgive me for my calculated efforts to serve You only when it is convenient for me to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, and only with those who make it easy to do so. Father, forgive me, renew me, send me out as a usable instrument, that I might make seriously the meaning of Your Cross and Your call to “come follow me.”  Amen

I grew up in Washington State in the Lutheran faith with my parents and eight siblings. We were faithful Lutherans. We weren’t allowed to watch TV, go to movies, listen to worldly music, drink alcohol, pierce our ears, color our hair, or wear makeup. We went to church every Sunday and Wednesday as a family and attended every event, fundraiser, and retreat hosted by the church. Our prayer life consisted of “Our Father” at night and singing “Jesus Loves Me” with my mother as she tucked us into bed as children. Happy times… 

At age 12, I was molested by the neighbor boy, after which I felt like a dirty little Christian girl whom God didn’t love. I kept silent about what happened for two years until I told my mother. After talking to my mom, she was supportive at the time, but nothing more was said or done about the situation. 

During the two years’ time between the molestation and disclosing to my mom – the whole time – I thought I was pregnant because I was gaining weight.  I was sheltered, very naïve, and always tried to please everyone at the expense of myself.  I was teased incessantly at school and at church because of my weight and my awkward shyness. As a youth or teenager, I never read the Bible, prayed on my own, or truly practiced my faith.  I just went to church, studied Luther’s Small Catechism, and went through the motions to get confirmed as a Lutheran at age 14.  

After graduating from high school in 1989, I started work as a nurses’ aide at a local nursing home and went to business college at night. After receiving my business certification in information management, I decided to join the Air Force.  I was the first female in my family’s religion to serve in the military.  This caused quite a stir!  I was told the military wasn’t a good place for a Christian woman.  They warned me about how evil the world was.  I decided to join anyway, despite the warnings from my loved ones and my church family and friends.

At age 18, before I left for the Air Force, I left my childhood Lutheran faith. I didn’t believe in the man-made rules that the board members were imposing on people in the congregation. I didn’t want to be the hypocrite that most of my friends in church were, so I figured it would be best if I left that church. Because I was taught that my family’s church was the only true faith, I felt it best to not go to church at all. When I left my family’s religion, I was told that I would go to hell by my best friend, and I received many letters asking me to repent and believe in the gospel. It was heart wrenching. I believed in God, but I never practiced my faith in any way. 

After basic training and technical school, I immediately fell into the party scene: I partied, drank lot, and had many boyfriends. God was the last thing from my mind.
My time with the military was very successful.  I was promoted from airman first class to senior airman and won Airman of the Quarter while serving as an information specialist. I was then offered a job at Headquarters to work as the general’s personal secretary, and I was also in charge of the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year ceremonies and training. In 1993, I was awarded the Enlisted Apprentice Information Manager of the Year award. My military career was running full steam ahead! I only thought of my work, but I partied a lot and was tempted by the pleasures of the world and of the flesh. I only called to God when the actions of my behavior caused me distress.

One day, my friends asked me if I wanted to play a game, the Ouija board. I didn’t know what that was, so I said I’d play. We went to a room at the end of the co-ed barracks and played with it. The board moved by itself. It told me that I would have two children and own my own business, which I do. It answered questions that only I knew and no one else in the room knew. I got so scared that I fled that room and never went back and never touched a Ouija board again. Every time I passed by that barracks room, I got a cold feeling throughout my body. In hindsight now, I know that this is when the evil one came into my life even more, because I was a non-practicing Christian who was listening only to the ways of the world at the time. 

At age of 22, after three years of active duty, I became the information management specialist and unit historian for a local Air National Guard base. I also worked as a dialysis technician. Both careers were going well: I was promoted in the Air Guard to staff sergeant, and I loved my dialysis technician job. I served in the military for seven years. 

The years from high school through my military career were spent in spiritual wilderness, away from God. I ignored God’s call yet called out for Him only when I needed Him, thinking He wasn’t listening, yet I fell victim to the ways of the world even more. 

I reached the lowest depths and felt like I lost my soul after I made decisions that hurt others and myself and cost someone his life. I had an abortion when I was seven weeks pregnant. 

At age 23, I got pregnant, and my boyfriend and I got scared. I was excited about the pregnancy and even told my family about it.  But he wanted me to abort and, wanting to please him, I agreed. But, since it was my Air Guard weekend, I first asked my friends what their thoughts were on abortion. I was told the lie that it was only cells at this point, so early in the pregnancy. Many of my friends had abortions – one had two and the other had four! 

I was anxious about my decision, but I followed through and called the number for the abortion clinic. I scheduled the appointment and my girlfriend drove me in. I don’t remember any counseling, just someone asking me if I knew what I was doing – I remember saying yes. It was all a blur. I don’t even remember what the doctor’s face looks like. But, after the cannula was inserted, my baby was no more.  My uterus bled and cramped in pain.  I knew I made the wrong decision, and I wept bitterly. Oh, the despair, the grief, and the remorse. Afterwards, I dug a deeper hole for myself and told my family that I had a miscarriage. My brother saw through the lie and confronted me and said he knew I had an abortion, to which I lied and said I didn’t. 

I felt like God would never forgive me, would never love me again. I hated myself.  I was terribly sad.  I miss my baby every day.

I spent several years in deep depression, but I also started journaling and asking God to lead me to Him, to the truth. I tried going to different churches, trying to find God and His truth. I repented several times back into my Lutheran faith then left again. I was even re-baptized as a non-denominational Christian yet found no true happiness.
I married my Catholic husband in 1998.  In June of the next year, we had a beautiful baby girl who was baptized into the Catholic faith.

Six years later, I converted into the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit had been calling me to receive the sacraments and to restore my relationship with God. I am the only Catholic in my family. Through the miracle of God’s grace, He called me home to the Catholic Church, so that I could repent of my sinful past, find the healing I needed to forgive myself, be set free from the mortal sins I had committed, and forgive others who had hurt me when I was a child. God wanted me to be reunited with Him through the sacraments of His Holy Church and for me to love myself again. Through the Holy Spirit, God showed me that He loved me and always has. 

My first powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit was at my first confession before confirmation into the Church. After repenting of my multitude of sins and the sin of abortion, Fr. J. touched my head and prayed the prayer of absolution over me. As he prayed, it felt like fire flowing from heaven down all over me. It literally was a warm feeling that spread down my body. So powerful was the sensation, I dropped to the floor and burst into tears in joyful thanksgiving and praise.

I went on a Project Rachel retreat in April 2006, right after my confirmation into the Catholic Faith that same month. We had our 3-day retreat with Fr. N. There were about eight of us, if I remember correctly, and we had all come from different lifestyles. We shared our stories on Friday together. We went to Mass on Saturday and we prayed. We had intense conversations, and the living scripture reflections moved us to tears. We were going to have a memorial Mass for our babies on Sunday, so on Saturday afternoon we were asked to pray about our babies, what the sex of the baby was if we didn’t know, and to name our babies so we could commemorate them the next day. I remember going to the chapel by myself. I had never prayed the rosary before. During my sobbing cries, I picked up a blue rosary for my baby, and I bawled and bawled. As I started praying the rosary under the crucifix of Christ Jesus and sobbed, as I reflected on what the sex of my baby would be or the name, it was then that I heard Blessed Mother Mary and my son! My son was with me! Our Lady was with me! I could hear their voices! I could feel their presence! I could hear them both praying the rosary with me! And, that night, Our Blessed Mother Mary sang me to sleep as well! God granted me an amazing grace that day! Oh, how wonderful is the Lord! 

That Sunday, after the memorial Mass, I wrote to my aborted son in a letter, “On this beautiful sunny Sunday day, a memorial Mass will be held for you and the other aborted or miscarried children at a Project Rachel retreat, and I grieve for you, I cry to you, I talk to you, and I think about you! Oh, my son! I must tell you, though, my beautiful son, that God’s grace is truly amazing, and I praise Him for turning my life around and kicking the devil out of my life forever! Through God’s grace and through the forgiveness of sins, this sin of abortion, a mortal sin, has been washed away in the Sea of Grace forever! Praise God to whom I am forever grateful! My son, I know it was you who prayed for (me) and led (me) home…through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of our Blessed Mother Mary, your great-grandfather, and all the saints! I thank you for your continued prayer! I love you! Thank you, my beautiful child! I miss you! Forgive me. I love you always and forever. Love, Mommy.”

My son’s name is Matthew John. He would have been 24 this year. He died October 7, 1996, on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. 

With the help of the Project Rachel post-abortive ministry retreat and the Holy Catholic Church, God led me home to Him. God’s grace and mercy astounded and changed me! My life has been restored, and I know that God loves me, He cares for me, and He had always been there for me, even when I ran away from him. 

Even my family has started the healing process: When my daughter was 14, I told her about Matthew. She cried after I read my letter to Matthew, and said, “Mom, I’m glad you didn’t listen to the devil a second time.” I cried and hugged her tight. I’m so thankful for her, for her life, for her presence! I am also thankful for my wonderful husband and for all he does for our family. What a blessing they are! Thanks be to God!

Three years ago, I told everyone in my family about the abortion in the presence of my daughter. My parents wept at the news. They told me they already knew about the abortion, that my brother had told them, and that they had been waiting for me to tell them myself. Some of my brothers didn’t understand why I had an abortion, why anyone would have an abortion. I told them that you can be Christian and a good person, but the devil is very good at deceiving anyone and tricking them into thinking abortion is okay when it isn’t or that sins are okay, and they aren’t. My sisters and sisters-in-law cried and hugged me. 

I know that I am not alone in this journey. I am not the only one who has had an abortion and has regretted it. In revealing my abortion story to others, I have met many women and men just like me who suffer in silence due to the loss of their son or daughter to abortion – they are women and men in our parishes, our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, even our family members. 

You see what God has done? God has whittled away at my stone-cold heart and soul and transformed me. He has called me to be His witness, to stand up for life - all life - and stand up for Matthew now, as his life did matter, to pray for the end of abortion, to give counsel and comfort to those who have had an abortion, and to instruct people not to do what I have done. It is only through God and His grace that I can ever truly be myself. I am thankful that the Lord loves me so much to have sculpted away those painful, diseased branches of my soul, so that I can grow deeper roots in my relationship with Him, learn to love myself again, and trust God and His plans for my life. 

I have been a volunteer for Project Rachel post-abortive ministry since 2006, but I truly feel God is calling me to speak publicly now about my abortion experience and the loss of my child. 

Let us pray that God will provide the grace of repentance and healing to anyone who has had an abortion, helped with an abortion, or worked in the abortion industry, and let us also pray for the men, women, and family members who also grieve for their lost children, brothers, sisters, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, or nephews. Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice and your unending love for us! In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Thank you for listening to my story.

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