Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: While dealing with the guilt of abortion, Luana Stoltenberg remembers hearing about a God who is quick to forgive.

Luana Stoltenberg: It was like, “Wow. There is hope. Maybe He could love me through this. Maybe He could forgive me for this.” So I received that because it was all I had. I mean, how does a woman deal with the fact that she killed her own child? How does she? If you don’t have the grace and the mercy and the forgiveness of God, what do you do with that?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, January 21.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We get a lot of emails here at Revive Our Hearts from women pouring their hearts about issues in their past, choices that they’ve made that have measurably complicated their lives, and things about which they have deep regrets.

We’re trying to call women to experience freedom and fullness, that they don’t have to live with the shame and the guilt and the regrets of their past even though there are some of these things that they cannot go back and undo or redo.

Today on Revive Our Hearts, I’m so thankful for a new friend, Luana Stoltenberg, who’s joining us. She lives in Iowa. She’s involved in the pro-life movement and in a ministry and an outreach called Operation Outcry, and you’ll hear more about her story.

Luana, thank you so much for taking time here at a convention, a conference where we’ve just met, there’s a lot going on, it’s a busy day, but you’ve taken time to come out and share your story with our Revive Our Hearts’ listeners. Thank you so much.

Luana: You’re welcome. It’s my honor.

Nancy: I know that when we talk about regret, that’s something that you have. You know exactly what that word means. If you could go back and live your life again, I know there are a lot of choices that you wish you had made differently. As you look back on your life, you didn’t grow up in a family that really knew the Lord Jesus, and you didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ yourself.

Luana: No, I didn’t. I was raised in a main-line denomination, and I knew Jesus died on the cross for my sins, but I never really knew Him personally. I always had this picture of Him maybe up in Heaven with a baseball bat just ready to hit me over the head if I did something wrong. I just never thought I could be good enough, and so I guess that’s how I got to that point in my life—just thinking, “I’ll never be good enough, so why not just have fun?”

Nancy: And you did have fun, or what you thought was fun. As a teenager, you became involved in promiscuity. How did that begin for you?

Luana: Well, I think, as I look back on it, it began because of the dysfunction in our home, and probably the lack of a relationship with my earthly father. I just thought love was giving myself away. I thought love was maybe sex, or that’s how I could find love, to give sex.

I became sexually active when I was 15. To me, that was very young, but maybe nowadays it’s not. I got pregnant, and then I got married to that man and then ended up having a miscarriage. Being that I was so young, and he was so young, he was only 19, we ended up getting a divorce.

Then I really thought I was on my road to freedom because I didn’t have my parents telling me what to do, I didn’t have a husband telling me what to do, and I thought, “Wow, this is going to be great.” I got into another relationship, and that’s when I got pregnant again. And, by the way, Nancy, I was on the pill when I got pregnant that time.

But this time, I knew I was too irresponsible to be a parent. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t want to tell my parents that I was pregnant again and didn’t learn my lesson, so I went to a friend of mine who had had an abortion. She told me it was safe; it was easy, and that it solved all her problems. Being 17 years old, I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll try this. Other things hadn’t worked.” That’s when I sought to get an abortion and did exactly that.

Nancy: You drove there?

Luana: My boyfriend drove me. We went together.

Nancy: You’d made the choice already in your mind, “I’m going to have an abortion”?

Luana: I don’t think I did. I wanted someone to justify it, but I knew in my subconscious that it was wrong. In fact, I remember getting to the clinic and them saying to me, “How do you feel about this today?” I said, “It doesn’t feel right. It feels like this would have to be murder because I know that this has got to be a baby.”

I’d been around enough to see my mom get pregnant and other people get pregnant, and I know a baby comes, so it did not feel right to me. And I was raised that it was wrong. We hadn’t heard a lot about abortion because this was 1976, but I knew it was wrong.

They were very quick to tell me, “This is just a blob of tissue.” I remember them putting a dot on a paper and telling me, “This is as big as it is, and it’s just a blob of tissue. This will be easier and safer than if you carry your baby to term.” That is exactly what they told me. It was a medical facility. They were all dressed in white. I’m this 17-year old kid, and I’m thinking, “I should be able to believe these adults who are medical professionals, so I guess they must be telling me the truth.” But that wasn’t the truth at all.

Nancy: How long did this whole process take once you walked in the facility, from that point, until you actually were having the abortion?

Luana: When I walked in the facility, they counseled with me maybe ten minutes, if you would call it counseling. They showed us a filmstrip of just cells. Back then they just had slides, and it was of cells. That’s what they told me the baby was. So I would say it maybe took two hours from the time I walked in the door and the process was underway.

When I go back, it’s almost like I can have a flashback and remember it like it was yesterday: laying on the table, looking up at the ceiling, and being scared out of my mind. They wouldn’t allow my boyfriend to come in with me.

The pain was incredible, and what I remember most was the labor of that suction machine. I remember when I knew something significant was going through that tube. I mean, it just almost startled me. I thought, “What is that?”

I sat up, and I kept trying to look in this jar that was to my right, but they kept pushing me back on the table and telling me I had to lay still, that it would only take a minute, and I knew in my heart of hearts what was going on, that it was my baby that was going through that tube, and that I was ending that baby’s life.

When the procedure was over, they put me in a room and said, “In twenty minutes, if you feel okay, you eat these cookies and have this juice, and you’re free to go.” I didn’t feel okay, but I just wanted out, so I told them I felt fine.

On the drive home, it was excruciatingly painful. I remember laying in the backseat of the car just crying, and I was bleeding profusely. So when I got home, I called them on the phone and told them my situation. They said to me, “You are no longer our problem. You’re going to have to call your doctor.” That was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want my parents to know my dirty secret. I didn’t want anybody to know where I had been. The last thing I was going to do was call a doctor.

I remember laying there, Nancy, just waiting to die. I didn’t know if I was going to die that day.

Nancy: So what did you do?

Luana: I think spiritually a part of me definitely did die, and then I began a path of total self-destruction. I started drinking immensely. I started doing drugs, and that was one thing I had never done. I had always vowed with my high school friends that I would never do drugs. I got into drug abuse and became even more promiscuous. I broke up with my boyfriend, probably just in days, because every time I would look at his face, that’s what I would see, that abortion.

Nancy: You broke up with him?

Luana: Yes. I broke up with him because I felt like he didn’t care about me. I thought, “You didn’t save me. You didn’t want this child that was a part of both of us.” So I broke up with him. Then I moved out of town—I would always move out of town, that was my pattern.

I did get back with him and ended up getting pregnant again, and so I had another abortion, and then I moved on from him quickly. I threw my life into work and partying.

Nancy: Let me back up to the second abortion. The first one had been so traumatic.

Luana: Very traumatic.

Nancy: What was going through your head when you decided to have the abortion the second time?

Luana: I think it was absolute hopelessness and self-destruction. I was at a point in my life where I didn’t really care what happened to me. I felt like I didn’t care about myself, and I didn’t love myself, so how could anybody else love me. So it was just have fun, and what happens, happens.

Nancy: Of course, you weren’t having fun, really.

Luana: No, I was not. I was miserable. I was so depressed, and then I’d think if I drank or did drugs that would help, and that only made it worse. So I was just spiraling down like crazy, and men were just using me and abusing me because I was a willing participant because I couldn’t stand myself. I thought, “Maybe, maybe there’s a chance this one will care.” None of them really did because I didn’t care about myself.

Nancy: So you continued in the lifestyle of promiscuity?

Luana: I did. Three abortions later, my life was a total disaster. I tried to kill myself three different times as well during that entire process, but what saved my life was my mom had come to know the Lord, and so had my dad, and both of them were praying for me.

Nancy: How much did they know?

Luana: My parents didn’t know that I’d had abortions at all. They just knew my life was a train wreck. They knew I was drinking. They knew there may be drugs involved, but they didn’t know that I’d had abortions. They’d seen me with a lot of different guys. Once in a while I would bring them home because I wasn’t living in the same city, but they just loved me.

Nancy: Did they tell you they were praying for you?

Luana: They did. In fact, that’s what ultimately, well prayer ultimately brought me to the Lord. It was a conversation with my mother on the phone. She started talking to me about my life, and in my head, I was thinking, “You have no idea what I’m involved in, Mom. You have no idea what I’ve done.” Then she said on the phone, “You know, Luana, Jesus loves you so much, and if you would make a commitment to Him, He would change your life.”

She said, “I can only think of how much I love you. The worst thing I can think you could do would be to kill somebody, and I would still love you. I would visit you in prison,” she said. “How much more would the Lord love you.” It was like, finally, I saw hope. It was like, “Wow. There is hope. Maybe He could love me through this. Maybe He could forgive me for this.”

So I received that because it was all I had. I mean, how does a woman deal with the fact that she killed her own child? How does she? If you don’t have the grace and the mercy and the forgiveness of God, what do you do with that? That’s why I think there’s so many angry women out there trying to justify abortion and are so vocal about choice, because how do you justify that?

I listened to my mom that day, and I came home and prayed with my mother. She took me to a meeting, and they talked about the love of Jesus Christ. They had an altar call, and I ran to the altar. I don’t remember getting up. I just remember running to the altar and receiving the Lord as my Savior, and my life changed that day. It just changed. I came home, and I felt like a new person. I didn’t do drugs anymore. I was delivered from them.

Nancy: Just immediately?

Luana: Immediately. I had no desire to do them, no desire at all, and I had no desire to drink anymore either. I found myself a church, and I threw myself into my work and sort-of vowed that I just didn’t need men anymore. I was going to love my Lord. So that’s what I did.

Nancy: How did the Lord help you to deal with the guilt of what you had done in the past of taking the lives of those three babies?

Luana: What I think He did—I think He dealt with me one thing at a time. At that point, He sheltered me from that. I still thought about it. I would see women pushing a carriage, or I would see them holding a baby, and I would think about my babies. But I think He was just covering me for that moment until I got married and wanted to have children.

I did meet a man. I did get married—he’s a wonderful man—and then we did want to start having a family. Then what happened was I went to a doctor appointment and had a laparoscopy and laborotomy. At that time I would never tell the doctors I had an abortion because I was way too ashamed of it.

Nancy: Had you told your husband before you got married?

Luana: I did tell my husband. I told very few people. My husband was one, and my sister was another, and that was it. They were the only two I’d ever shared it with.

Nancy: So you go to this doctor, and they usually ask you, “Have you been pregnant?” What did you say?

Luana: I lied. I said, “No.” Then she began doing the laparoscopy and the dye test you could see on the screen. She turned the screen toward me and said, “Have you had abortions?” I couldn’t lie. I said, “Yes, I have.” 

She said, “What I am seeing is you had the vacuum aspirator method. What I’m seeing is that your tubes have been literally crushed and have been literally sucked right down to your uterus.” She said, “One of them is 90% blocked, the other is 100% blocked.”

She said, “You will never have children. In fact,” she said, “I’d really like to do a hysterectomy because I’m afraid you’re going to have an ectopic pregnancy.” Then she patted me on the leg and said, “Now you can get dressed. I’ll talk to you later. You need to make an appointment.”

I laid there, and I felt like time stood still, because all these things went through my mind. Now I was going to have to deal with these abortions, and not only was I going to have to deal with that, but I was also going to have to go out and tell this husband, who had not been a part of my life when I was doing all that, tell him that the choices I’d made, the sins I’d committed were now going to affect his life. He was going to have the live the consequences of that sin, and I didn’t know what he was going to do with it. It was a very scary time.

Nancy: Because he wanted children?

Luana: Yes.

Nancy: So he was in the waiting room.

Luana: Yes. I went out and told him I needed to talk to him. We went home, and I shared with him what she had said, and he said, “I love you, and I’m going nowhere.”

Nancy: And that was, I’m sure, a huge part of your healing process as you had to deal with those past choices.

Luana: It was a huge part of it, and it also helped me in my relationship with the Lord because I had a father that I really couldn’t trust that much and now I had a husband who was showing me what Christ was like, and I could even trust the Lord more with my life.

After hearing that, I began to look into abortion and what the consequences of it were, what the risks were, what the truth about it really was. I remember looking it up in books and seeing fetal development and seeing where my child was when I aborted it, that my child had fingers and toes, could suck its thumb. It even had fingerprints, and I was devastated.

Nancy: Things that nobody had ever told you.

Luana: No. Nobody had ever told me. I was absolutely horrified. All of it came back, and I started thinking, “This was a baby that went through that tube and was dismembered those days, and I had three children.” I had to face the reality, too, of the fact that the only children I would ever bear, I killed.

It was a stark reality, and then to see the deception around it, how the abortion industry will deceive women just for the money. I felt so violated. Someone had destroyed my life, and for what? I don’t want anybody to think that I did not have a part in it and that I wasn’t responsible for what I had done, because I was. I made that choice.

But there was an awful lot of deception that went with that choice, and I want women to know the truth about what abortion is, that it is taking the life of an innocent child, and even though that child is killed, that woman will be wounded for the rest of her life.

Nancy: When was it that you felt like you needed to get involved in doing something about this issue?

Luana: I had already felt like I did after I researched it, but I did get very involved in it. I got involved in the Crisis Pregnancy Centers that opened in our area.

Nancy: How did you get involved? I know that some of our listeners may not ever have been involved in an organization like that and maybe don’t even know how they can get involved.

Luana: We were in the beginning stages, but if anyone that is listening now wants to get involved, just call your local Crisis Pregnancy Center and tell them that you want to get involved. They have a training program, and they will train you.

I became a peer counselor. I also answered phones and was a receptionist. I did an abstinence program also. I went into the schools with a friend of mine and talked about purity and abstinence and gave my testimony. I talked about what happens with an abortion. So I became very involved.

Then as time went on, my husband and I still wanted to have children, so we ended up adopting. We adopted a little boy from India. He was two when we finally got him because it was a very long process and the government had closed during some of it, but Zachary is now 19.

We called him Zachary because his name means "precious gift from God." That’s what I felt like he was. I had blown it three times. I had sinned three times, and the Lord still was gracious enough and to redeem the mess I had gotten myself in with a child. He entrusted me with a child. There was another trust issue that I felt, “Wow, Lord, You’re going to entrust me with this child after what I’ve done?” But He did, and it’s just been an amazing time with the Lord.

I know I would be dead right now if it wasn’t for the Lord and my relationship with Him and how wonderful He is. There is healing for women because God does forgive. He will forgive any sin. There is nothing we can do that will separate us from Him, nothing. If we ask for forgiveness, He gives it. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. In fact, the Word says He will take our sins and throw them as far as the east is from the west. That’s how good God is. What a redeemer He is and how loving He is.

I wouldn’t mind sharing one more thing with you, Nancy. When I came to this place and wanted to have children and felt like I needed to start speaking out about what abortion is, I wanted to tell my parents because I truly felt what I had done had not just affected my life, my husband’s life, but it had affected my entire family.

I literally changed my family tree. There would be three other grandchildren my parents would have had to hold and to love, nieces and nephews that my brothers and sisters would have had, and you can even go beyond that—what grandchildren have I robbed myself of? What great-grandchildren? There’s a huge lineage missing here.

So I wanted to ask my parents for forgiveness and the rest of my siblings. I come from a family where there’s six of us kids, so I began to pray about it. Then the Lord had me call them all together as a family, and I repented before them and asked them to forgive me for what I had done.

I said to my parents, “I’m so sorry, because there are three grandchildren that you’re missing, that you’re not going to be able to hold or love.” My parents quickly forgive me, but the reason why I feel like it’s so significant is because I just think that was so much the Lord.

My mom was diagnosed with cancer shortly after that, and then she passed away. So I really felt like it was an opportunity for me to ask forgiveness from them. On my mom’s deathbed, I was able to say to her, “Mom, when you get there, will you hold those three for me? Will you let them know how much I love them, how much I miss my time I would have had with them?”

Nancy: The enemy wants us to stay in the dark, to not come out into the light. I just know there are women who are listening right now. They’re listening to you, and they’re thinking, “I could never tell my story. I could not go to my parents. I could not tell my husband. I could not bring this out into the light.”

But I’m looking at you, Luana, and there’s a freedom. There’s a release. There’s no bondage there. You can’t undo the past, but God has really set you free from this, and it sounds like that coming out into the light has been a big part of that process for you.

Luana: Oh, yes. It has, Nancy. I think every time I tell my story there’s more freedom in it. I really believe that. When we share our mess, the Lord turns it into a message. When we share our tests, the Lord turns it into a testimony. So if I give Him glory, because there’s certainly no glory in it for me, I mean, I really messed up. So if I can give Him glory in it, He’ll turn it around.

His Word is so true. He says all things work together for good—nothing’s too difficult for Him. I do have freedom in it because I have taken it to Him, and I know that I know that I know He has forgiven me and it is under the blood of Jesus Christ. I don’t know how to explain that, when I came from such a love-less life, to be able to say, “I know God loves me.” That’s how much He does love us.

I’m thinking of that one verse that talks about how those who have been forgiven much love much.

Nancy: Luke chapter 7, verse 47.

Luana: That’s what I think of because He has loved me so much. People’s lives I’ve destroyed. I’ve hurt so many people through the choices that I’ve made. I killed three innocent children. I’m a murderer.

What a God He is that He has the grace and mercy that He could forgive me for that. That’s freedom to know that. That’s what I’d like any woman who’s hearing this to know—you can also have that freedom as well. The Word says it’s so. It’s not just for me. It’s not just for you. It’s for every single person out there, and there’s nothing they could have done that is too far outside of His reach—nothing.

Leslie: Luana Stoltenberg has been offering true hope in that conversation with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

God will always love you, and He’s ready to forgive no matter what you’ve done. She has specifically been talking about the effects of abortion. All week we’ve been marking the historic Roe vs. Wade decision, which was made on January 22, 1973. This week’s interviews will help you approach this subject with more knowledge and renewed sense of compassion.

We’d like to send you a copy of this series. Going back over it will help you remember what you have learned about this issue, or you can pass it along to someone else who needs to hear it. When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send the CD series. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Women are hurting from the effects of abortion, not just in the world, but also in the church. Luana Stoltenberg returns to help all women find healing. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.