She was successful at nearly everything she set her mind to do. Captain of the basketball team. Band and choir member. A 4.0 grade-point average. She was trying to do well, trying to be good. So how did she end up here, pregnant at 17 and sitting in an abortion clinic?

Looking for Love

Lori Schumaker said she never doubted God’s existence during her childhood. Her parents took her to church and read Bible stories to her each night. But even though she had knowledge of God and believed He existed, she never really knew Him on a personal level. She never knew how much He truly loved her.

So when she grew from child to teen, the talks about abstinence until marriage didn’t entirely make sense. Without including God in their reasoning, her parents explained sex outside of marriage was wrong because of a set of moral rules they said Lori needed to follow. But they also said to not have sex until you loved someone.

“In my mind, I justified that I loved (my boyfriend),” Lori explained. “… but it wasn’t a healthy relationship whatsoever. Yet in the core of my spirit, where God talks to us, I knew I shouldn’t be doing it. And I knew my parents had told me … you have to love someone. But on the other hand, they said just wait until you get married. We didn’t talk beyond that. I knew I was wrong, but I didn’t know why God said it was wrong.” 

Decision Made

When she found out she was pregnant, Lori panicked. She knew her parents, especially her military father, would be furious. Her greatest concern was how her dad would respond to the unexpected news.

“There was a lot then about what do people think,” Lori explained of how her father ran their home. “I was always trying to earn his love in that kind of scenario. … I was doing great things and was successful in every which way, but inside there was this brokenness that carried forward in my life, and I couldn’t feel loved.”

Lori feared her dad and the potential he would kick her out of their house. She also felt the guilt of knowing she did something she shouldn’t have, and a teen pregnancy was not how her life was supposed to go.

While her boyfriend remained in the picture for a time, her dad took over the decision-making for what Lori would do next. His decision? Abortion.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Lori said. “He was not going to have me embarrass his family. I and my boyfriend were told that’s what we were going to do. There was no talking about it. He was just very, very angry at me.”

With the decision made for her, Lori found herself sitting in a waiting room in Planned Parenthood. 

But she wasn’t alone.

The Still, Small Voice

As Lori sat waiting for someone to take her to a back room, she was surprised by how many women of all ages filled the seats around her. She felt overwhelmed with knowing they all were there for the same reason.

“It really floored me,” Lori remembered. “And I just thought, ‘This many people are choosing to end this life. To end their pregnancies.’ And it kept making me think, ‘What are we doing? Why are we all doing this?’ And I just remember being very overwhelmed with feelings.”

Lori knew in that moment she did not want to go through with the abortion. She said she knew it was wrong, describing the evidence of that truth as something that felt like a knife stabbing her in her heart. But despite the emotional turmoil, she wasn’t alone. Lori kept hearing a whisper of a voice in her mind and heart, a voice telling her she could run from this place.

When they called her back, though, she followed. 

“As I’m waiting for the nurses and the people to come back, each time they walked out of the room and I’d be alone, I’d think, ‘OK, go, you can run now; you can run now,’ ” Lori said. “But I was frozen, and I didn’t.”

The sights, and especially the sounds, are forever fixed in Lori’s memory. But even now she can look back and know God never left her, even as she pushed away His voice and followed through with the abortion.

“Up until that very last second, God was in there with me, trying to help me,” Lori said. “He hadn’t bailed on me. He hadn’t said, ‘You’ve sinned, and you’ve made this bad choice. I’m not forgiving you; you’re on your own.’ He didn’t. He was there every step of the way, even as I was choosing sin. … God never leaves us.”

Layers of Healing

In the years following her abortion, Lori grew closer to God. But even though she had begun reading the Bible on her own, she still failed to see herself as Jesus sees her. And because of that, she failed to accept His forgiveness. She knew God was telling her He had forgiven her, but she just couldn’t understand His forgiveness and grace.

“I would say it was like an onion,” Lori said. “The healing came in layers, little by little, different things, and God would meet me over the years and say, ‘See, I have forgiven you; you’re OK.’ ”

But it wasn’t until another traumatic experience that Lori saw God’s grace. 

“Interestingly … two months after I had had the abortion, I was in a really bad car accident. And somehow in that, on the other side — I think it was my mom knowing I was still in such grief about this — she said to me, ‘Lori, your baby probably wouldn’t have made it through this car accident.’ And there was something in that when she said that.”

Throughout the 20 years of healing and learning to accept God’s forgiveness, Lori experienced the pain of an abusive marriage. After fleeing that abusive relationship, she had even more healing to find. But through the prayer of a mentor as well as a pastor, Lori soon found herself able to step out of her shame and allow God to wipe her clean. She finally saw herself as worthy, knowing God called her wonderful.

“There are so many things I’ve done that I could say, ‘Oh, I regret doing them,’ ” Lori said. “However, God took every one of those, including the abortion, and showed up to show me His glory. To show me His word is true when He says all things come together for the good of those who love Him.”

And God didn’t stop with healing from her abortion. He also brought healing to her relationship with her father. After telling her parents she felt it was time to start sharing her story to encourage others, her dad apologized.

“What my dad said was the most precious thing ever,” Lori remembered. “He just said, ‘Lori, please, will you make sure when you share that story that they know it wasn’t you who made that decision? Will you make sure they know it was me? Because I need to take the fall for that. That was me, and I’m so sorry again.’ ”

Lori knows this is yet more evidence of God’s healing in her life.

Set Free

It took work, Lori said. Finding healing and living in the freedom from guilt and shame didn’t happen overnight. But she stressed getting to know Jesus. Finding a Christian counselor and having a Christian mentor were key elements to her healing.

“(God) doesn’t take our life and rebuild it the way it was,” Lori said. “Because we always talk about that rebuilding as if it’s the best, but it’s not. God’s rebuilding is far better. God takes what you were, He takes the mess, the crumples of everything, and He puts it back together in a way we never envisioned, but in a way that’s far more beautiful than we ever could have imagined.”

Lori said it’s her family that’s far more beautiful than she could have imagined. She lived most of the decades following her abortion in fear God would punish her with infertility.

“That’s not the kind of God we serve. … (He’s) allowing me the opportunity to take that mess and turn it into my message. I can relate to so many women. I’m a biological mom to two boys, and I also suffered a miscarriage, and now we’re adoptive parents as well. Because another woman chose life, we have a little girl, and our family wouldn’t be complete without her.”

Lori expressed how thankful she is for what God has done in her life. She now sees motherhood through different lenses and experiences, encouraging women every chance she has through her mess-turned-message. 

The Front Door and the Back Door

Now with a platform, Lori writes on her website and even published a book on her adoption experience. She wants women to walk in freedom and leave regret behind them. Because God is there for the woman walking into the doors of the abortion clinic, and He’s there for the woman walking out the back door, too.

You can read more about Lori’s story and find her book, “Surrendered Hearts,” on her website.