There are certain challenges in life as a parent that you expect to face. Terrible twos, a broken bone, tears from betrayals by close friends. These were things that I thought I might deal with as a mom of four. But teen pregnancy? That was NOT something I ever thought would be a part of our story. Eighteen years ago, we found ourselves navigating this experience.

As I began reflecting on this time in our lives, my daughter Allison and I met and recounted our feelings and struggles together. I hope you will gain some hope from our story.

The challenges I faced as her mom were many and were often unexpected. I had seen some signs of rebelling against the role of a pastor’s kid as she went through high school. She was testing the boundaries in movies, music, and even friends. At the same time, she was a good student and wanted to pursue nursing or physical therapy in college. I could see she was trying to see if she could successfully have one foot in both worlds. Every insecurity as a “good mom” and “good pastor’s wife” were going to become challenged in the coming months. Suddenly issues of busy ministry life paled in comparison to the greater struggles we would face together with our daughter. It was to become a time of prayer and refocusing our priorities.

Young woman in the bathroom with a pregnancy test.

In the Beginning

It was one month into my college freshman daughter’s first time away from home. She came home one weekend with shattering news. She was pregnant. Allison had called a neighbor to pick her up at school so that she could be at our friend’s house to soften the blow. My husband listened to the news, his mind reeling with all the possibilities of how this could change things. He had just taken over as senior pastor while the current pastor was on a 3-month sabbatical. Would he need to resign? What were his responsibilities as a pastor and as a dad? Someone later suggested that he bring our daughter before the church to apologize for her sin. My husband quickly told them he would resign before he could allow that to happen. He knew the spiritual and emotional consequences of that could send her far away from the Lord.

Concerned parents comfort their crying teen daughter.When I first heard the news, it was as if I was watching someone else’s family story unfold. She was only 18 years old and my hopes for her were suddenly all in question. How had I failed her? How could I help walk her through this when I had no idea which would be harder to live: the struggle of raising a baby as a teen, or the heartbreak of giving a baby up for adoption? What kind of credibility would we have as Christian parents, in the ministry to others, when our family was suffering like this? Still reeling from the news, I told a wise woman at our church, “This is my worst nightmare.” She lovingly replied, “No, this is not your worst nightmare. That phone call in the middle of the night that she had died in an accident—THAT is your worst nightmare.” Her comment put life in perspective. God was defining a truth that I would need to hold onto. This would be a tough road, but it was not my worst nightmare.

Allison’s struggles were greater than my own. She had already done a pregnancy test alone. She had already had a conversation with the young man that had not gone as she had hoped. I am sure that coming home to tell her parents was also on the list of things that she dreaded. That first day she seemed unmoved and tough. She was hurting. She had hoped she could dodge the inevitable questions that would follow. Allison told me she wished she could “skip ahead to the details of what to do next” and gloss over facing the “how she got here.” There were so many emotions that she pressed through during this pregnancy. At first, she tried to go on with business as usual. Then she tried embracing the pregnancy as if she were a grown-up. She finally began the repentance process.

Glossing over the repentance part to make sin feel “normal” is a temptation that we all face. ‘Everybody is doing it.’ ‘This is nothing new.’ ‘It’s not a big deal.’ These are all platitudes to make us feel like sin is normal, even acceptable. I watched my daughter wrestle and struggle with feeling God let everyone else get away with sinful behavior but not her. I remember holding her on the bathroom floor as she cried that everyone else does so many things far worse than she did. Why did she “get caught”? I can look back on this time in her life to say that it was God’s mercy to draw her back to Him. It wasn’t until she landed on the reality that she would need to face this with the Lord that she got some clarity. Isn’t that how we all are about our own sin until we are ready to go to the Lord for repentance?

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Young woman meets with doctor who is taking notes on a clipboard.

Walking the Hard Road

After we talked to a doctor in our church, we were directed to a Christian adoption agency where we met an incredible woman. She would walk through this struggle with our family and would help sort this out. Her ministry didn’t influence decisions for the pregnant mom, but honestly worked through the realities of keeping the baby or giving the baby up for adoption. The woman was a resource for me too, helping talk me through the pain of thinking my daughter had just changed the course of her life. How could a 19-year-old college student raise a baby? Would she ever get to pursue her dreams of career and family? I worried that she had messed up the plan God had for her life. I prayed often that this would be a circumstance that would draw her closer to God.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

Deut. 30:19, 20a

The good and the bad of walking in community with others is the freedom others feel to express their opinions. As parents we got a myriad of comments and advice. We were already struggling with whether we were fit for ministry. We didn’t need others to try to get the whole story of where we went wrong. Trust me, we were constantly playing that line in our headsYoung woman folds her hands in prayer over an open Bible.

As my daughter’s growing belly began showing more and more, it felt like all eyes were on us as we walked into the church for Sunday service. The people that treated us normally were the most refreshing. Those that would stay away or try too hard to press in made walking into church so difficult. My husband went to the elders and offered to resign if they felt that was necessary. They assured him that our daughter was an adult, and he was not expected to step down. We were relieved and were resolved to walk through this with the most integrity before the Lord that we could muster.

Allison got all kinds of comments. “How could you give a baby away?” “How could you support a baby on your own?” “What were you thinking?” She would tell you today that the comments that were positive stories of a bright ending were helpful. They gave her hope. Often, she would hear the hard experiences of others. Women she hardly knew told her stories of their abortions or pregnancies, intending to let our daughter know she could talk to them. Instead, they were heavy weights to carry. I wish I could have filtered those comments for her. I’m not sure I really could have protected her. And God had a plan and did not need me to intervene and act as if I knew better. God was in control whether I always felt that or not.

Allison sought the Lord about whether to keep the baby or give the baby up for adoption. My husband and I knew we couldn’t offer our opinion on this. Our opinion would only give her a way out from hearing from God. It was going to have to be her choice to live with, so she would have to be the one to listen to the Lord and try to obey. She wrestled with this decision and ultimately felt that it was best for the baby to be raised in a home with two Christian parents. Never did she feel this was a comfortable or easy choice for her. She told me that she knew it was best for the baby, but not best for her. To this day she felt that her daughter had a better start in life with an adoptive family.

Woman flips through photo album.

In Hindsight

There are times we stumbled through as a family. We all said some things we wished we hadn’t said. So many emotions and fears for her future sat right in the forefront of our minds, distracting us with lies. We relied on God’s promise that his compassions are new every morning.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22, 23

I often wrestled with the Lord about whether I had failed our daughter as her mom. When I became numb to the pain and needed someone to help me process, sometimes that person was my husband and sometimes it was a friend. If Moses needed others to hold up his hands when he got weary, I knew I needed this too. (Exodus 17:12) Interestingly enough, I did not find it easiest to talk with my closest friends. Some were mad at my daughter and took on that offense. It was easier when I talked to someone a bit removed from our family. I needed to be sure that this trusted friend was not judging me as a bad mom or expressing ugly emotions about the daughter I love. A friend who wasn’t too close to the situation could speak more truthfully and less emotionally. That is what I really needed.


Some things that helped us along the way:

  • We each separately cried out to God and let each other know that we were praying. Often it was too hard to voice this or do it together, but we did know we were all praying. This gave us great hope and helped us to persevere.
  • After our daughter had done the hard work of going to the Lord and confessing her failings, she was right to focus on the future. Where does she go from here? What plan does God have for this child? What plan does God have for my daughter?
  • Giving our daughter unwanted advice could get us all distracted. We didn’t want our thoughts to be a place that down the road could be a break in our relationship with her. She was going to need to make the hard decision on her own.
  • She had lots of time to wrestle with the Lord about her future, and wrestling is what she needed to do. “Lord, I am broken. Where do I go from here?” could be a good place to start. It was the wrestling with God and hearing his heart for her baby that brought her peace in the midst of the pain.
  • It would have been ok for Allison to excuse herself from conversations that were hurtful. She listened to far more opinions than she should have had to endure. Some of those caused deep wounds that the Lord would need to heal.
  • We each found someone who we could talk to that would listen to our wrestling without judgement. Allison found someone she could trust to talk to about her options for the baby. It was helpful for her to hear that there was peace but pain in the adoption process.


Rays of warm sunlight burst through a green forest of trees.

God’s Hand in the Outcome

Today it is 18 years later, and Allison would still say that giving the baby up was the hardest experience she has ever had to endure. She still feels it was right for the baby, but it was so painful for her. We were fortunate to be able to visit the baby on birthdays for lots of those first years. It was many years that Allison would cry all the way home. She loved her daughter. Her hope was that there would never be any doubt about her love.

Allison was married 6 years after her baby was born, and now has a husband and two boys and a girl. It wasn’t until this daughter was born that she truly felt the forgiveness of God. She wondered during those years if she had given away the only girl she would have. She wondered if it was God’s judgement or punishment for what she had done. She began to feel the grace and compassion from God’s heart that she had known in her head but had not felt in her heart.

Today Allison is an active and thriving believer, serving her church on the stewardship board and helping with sound and technology. My heart is so grateful to God that she was able to get from a dark place to a place of freedom in Christ, knowing who she is and what she has learned. Her Christian testimony will always include the healing from our Lord, and some scars she endured
along the way. Isn’t that true of all of us? We all have a story that includes healing and scars along the way. My prayer is that God uses the scars for his glory; that others will be able to see a faithful and compassionate God who doesn’t let go!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20