The Complicated Heart
When Sarah Mae became pregnant as a teen, she chose abortion when encouraged by both her grandmothers. But through the shame and sadness, God's love still pursued Sarah.
About the Guest
- Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. http://www.twowaystolive.com/
- Listen to the entire episode "10: The Complicated Heart" from Unfavorable Odds™ with Kim Anthony with guest Sarah Mae. (1 hr. 11 min. podcast) https://www.familylife.com/podcast/unfavorable-odds/10-the-complicated-heart/
- Subscribe to the Unfavorable Odds™ podcast. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/unfavorable-odds/
- Check out all that's available on the FamilyLife Podcast Network. https://www.familylife.com/familylife-podcast-network/
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When Sarah Mae became pregnant as a teen, she chose abortion when encouraged by both her grandmothers. But through the shame and sadness, God’s love still pursued Sarah.
The Complicated Heart
Bob: Sarah Mae was a teenager when she learned she was pregnant. It was her grandmother who came and spoke to her, offering her counsel.
Sarah: She sat down next to me on my bed. She put her arm around me, and she said, “Honey, I really think you should have an abortion because, then, you can go to prom and you can have a life.” She was the first person who showed me love and affection; that I immediately was like, “Okay, I’ll have the abortion.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 29th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from Sarah Mae today about her turbulent teenage years and about how God ultimately worked in her life to turn things around. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’ve had people ask me over the years, “Do you have a favorite FamilyLife Today interview that you’ve done?” In, now, two-and-a-half decades of doing this,—
Ann: Did you say it was Dave and I? [Laughter]
Bob: —I went immediately.
Dave: That was our favorite interview, Bob; I don’t know about you.
Bob: Well, I’ll tell you what—your interview is exactly the type of interview that’s been a favorite; because my favorite interviews have not been necessarily well-known, big time celebrity people. We’ve had a chance to talk to some amazing people.
Dave: Well, thanks Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: I’ve had a chance to talk to heroes—people who have been spiritual heroes of mine. But the stories of redemption—the stories, where God takes really messy situations and says, “Watch what I can do,”—those have been my favorite interviews over the years—where people have said, “Our story was riddled with dysfunction, with challenge, with bad choices, with wrong decisions; and God did some miraculous things.”
Your story fits that a little bit, but you love those stories, too; right?
Ann: We all do.
Dave: I mean, you can ask my wife how often I cry in life, but I cry when I hear redemption stories.
Bob: We’re going to hear one of those stories today, and this is not an interview I got to do; or we didn’t get to do this one.
Bob: This is one that our friend, Kim Anthony, did for her podcast, Unfavorable Odds. She had a conversation with Sarah Mae, who has her own podcast called The Complicated Heart. In fact, she’s written a book by that title.
Sarah’s story is one of those messy stories. Mom and Dad got a divorce when she was young. She lived with her dad during her early years. When she turned 14, she was kind of wanting a little more freedom. Mom said “Well, you can come live with me.” She went and lived with Mom. Her mom was an alcoholic; she [Sarah] didn’t know it at the time. Sarah gets there, and a month in, she goes, “This is not a good place to be.” She finds a boyfriend; she winds up pregnant.
Here, as a young teenager, she’s confused. She’s not getting along with her mom; she’s not sure she wants to move back with Dad; and she’s expecting a child.
Ann: —at 16 years old.
Bob: And she described for Kim that she was just assuming she would be a teenage mom. There were a lot of other teenage moms in the school she was attending; so she thought that was what was going to happen until her grandmother came and said, “I can take care of this for you.”
Sarah: I knew what she was saying, but I didn’t really understand. I didn’t really know what abortion was. What was really difficult, I think, was—so this was in the spring when I found out I was pregnant. I was going to Pennsylvania for the summer, because I would go back with my dad in the summers.
Sarah: I fly back to Pennsylvania; and she [grandmother] wouldn’t look at me, or talk to me, or anything. I became like this outcast. That was harder than anything else because I no longer received love. My dad, who loved me and was such a good dad, I think he must have felt pressure from her because he started—he didn’t treat me unkindly, but he just sort of put up a wall—like there was definitely a wall.
I felt just completely utterly alone; but I still was like, “Well, I’m having a baby.” But I was so sick, too, which added onto it—just throwing up morning, noon, and night. There was no morning sickness; it was all day sickness. I was so frail and so sick.
Kim: So you’re no longer receiving love in your mother’s home; and you go to the people, who have been showing you love all along—your dad/your grandmother—and now, because you’re pregnant, that love has been removed.
Sarah: Yes; alone. I mean, that’s what it is—like you feel; and you’re 16. I just didn’t even know how to process it. I didn’t think through it. I wasn’t making plans. It was literally just: “I’m pregnant, and I’m alone; and I guess we’ll figure this out.” What started to happen was—everyone tried to convince me what to do.
My grandmother, obviously, wanted me to have an abortion. My stepmom was Catholic; and she wanted me to have the baby and, then, she would raise it like it was my brother or sister, which I was like, “No; that’s really weird.” Then I was like: “Well, I could do adoption. I know there’s families, who can’t have kids; so why don’t I do that?” But nobody liked that idea either; nobody was listening to me. Nobody ever said: “Sarah, how do you feel? What do you want to do?” Again, really confusing.
Then, finally, what happened—I was three months pregnant; and my other grandmother, who lived in Georgia—my mom’s mom—came to visit me. She sat down next to me on my bed. She put her arm around me, and she was so kind—like nobody was touching me, you know what I mean? She puts her arm around me; and she said, “Honey, I really think you should have an abortion because, then, you can go to prom and you can have a life.”
Kim: Oh wow.
Sarah: I just felt like she was the first person who showed me love and affection; that I immediately was like, “Okay, I’ll have the abortion.” One, because I wanted to be back in the fold; I wanted to be loved again. And two, I was just tired. I was tired and sick, and I couldn’t fight it anymore. I was like: “Whatever—whatever you guys want to do. I’ll do whatever makes everybody else happy.”
It was like this resignation. I told my grandmother from Pennsylvania, who told me she would have it taken care of; and so I was back in the fold. She had a friend, who was a doctor. After he examined me, he said I was way too fidgety for him to perform the abortion in his office or in an abortion clinic; so I would actually have to go to a hospital to be put to sleep.
The night before I had the abortion, I just sat in my bed and I cried. I held my stomach and asked the baby to forgive me. I went in the next day; we went to the hospital—they changed my name, because I had kind of a prominent family—and put me under completely. To my dad’s credit, he was with me the whole time; I mean, not for the actual procedure, but leading up to it. He held my hand; he was with me. I was so scared. Then I started to freak out and get real fidgety, and the doctor had to up my medication. He stayed with me until they wheeled me away.
Then they—you know, you count backwards—99, 98, 97...I’m out. I wake up, and it’s done. I move in with my grandmother, my dad’s mom from Pennsylvania, because my stepmom doesn’t want me to live at home anymore; because, at this point, she hates me because of what I’ve chosen to do. I sleep for two days at my grandmother’s. I wake up, and I walk into the kitchen. She’s got toast and a smile, and we never talk about it.
Kim: So you moved to Pennsylvania. You stay there, and you actually have a fresh start.
Sarah: Yes; well, first I moved—yes; so first, after the abortion, I moved back to Georgia. I stay there for one more year; and I finally realize, “This is terrible.” I was so sick of that town; I was so sick of everything it meant to me.
Finally, I was like: “I’m done. I’m moving back. I’m going to Pennsylvania, where nobody knows anything. I can get a fresh start. That’s what I’m going to do.” My dad wanted me to move back so, so badly. I moved back which was awful; because, now, things with my stepmom were even worse; but at this point, I felt, “Well, it’s better than living with my mom.”
So I move back; I get this fresh start. My dad has money; he gives me money. I get to go shopping; I get to have all new clothes. I go to this rich high school in the town of Penn State—where Penn State is—and I just get to completely start over. I’m the new girl; right?—like my braces are off; I’m kind of pretty. I grew up; I get attention. It felt really good to start over. I felt like I was getting a totally fresh start.
Bob: We’ve been listening to a conversation that Kim Anthony had with author and podcaster, Sarah Mae. This is a part of Kim’s podcast, which is called Unfavorable Odds, which is a part of the FamilyLife Podcast Network. You can hear the entire conversation if you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link there to this episode from Unfavorable Odds.
If we were to pull back and say, “Alright, given Sarah’s childhood/upbringing, where’s her life going to end up?”—right?
Bob: At age 16, she’s from a divorced family. Mom’s an alcoholic. She’s been promiscuous at 14; she’s had an abortion at 16. If you say, “What’s the trajectory for her life?” it would not look promising.
Dave: —would not look good. But here’s what I think we’re going to hear—“But God”—
Bob: Right; right.
Dave: —two great words in the Bible. Every time God shows up, things change, and redemption is a part of the story.
Bob: And one of the reasons why these stories are so powerful for all of us is because we may be, right now, in the kind of mess that Sarah was in at age 16. You can look at the circumstances of your own life and go, “You know, I don’t know that there is any hope for me, given all that’s gone on in my life.”
As we’ll hear from Sarah, there is hope for everyone, no matter how desperate your circumstances are. Let’s listen as Kim turns the corner here and brings in the “But God” part of Sarah’s story.
Kim: When did Jesus enter the picture?
Sarah: So I did not choose God; He totally chose me. When I was a little girl—I told you my stepmom was Catholic—so I used to always go to Catholic church with her; I didn’t like it—but she had a Bible next to my bed. I would pick it up, and I would always start in Genesis. I would try to read a page; I never understood it, so I would close it back; right?
But then, my sister—we have different dads—and she was going to—I was probably nine, maybe, so she was real little: three or something like that—and my mom had dropped her off for a visitation with her dad, and he never came back; so we didn’t know where she was. I’m living with my dad; but of course, I know my mom’s trying to find my sister. I just started to pray, every night, to a God I did not know; but I believed there was a God. I just didn’t know anything about Jesus or who He was. I was praying; and I just remember being like: “God, please find my sister. Please find my sister. Please find my sister.”
After six months or a year, they found her in another state. When they found her, something cemented inside of me that there was a God and that He heard me; that was very significant. I didn’t know anything else, but that was something significant.
Fast forward, I’m living in Georgia, 14 years old. My uncle comes to visit, and he gives me this Clay Crosse—he was a Christian singer—cassette tape. He’s like, “Here, you might like this.” Why on earth I chose to listen to it, I have no idea; [Laughter] but I did. I put this tape in. I remember crawling up on my bunk bed and just listening to it. I just started to cry; and I just started to pray—I was like, “God, I don’t know what this man is talking about.” I knew he was singing about God; I knew he was singing about someone called Jesus, but I didn’t understand it. I remember praying, “God, I don’t know what that is; but I want it.” I’m just bawling, asking God to give me whatever it is that this man is singing about.
And so there was another thing. Then that same uncle—he was just visiting from out of town, so he didn’t stay—but while he was there, he took us to a church. Now, you have to understand—I’d only ever been to a Catholic church. In fact, I didn’t even know there was other churches. I thought there was only Catholic; I had no idea! We go to this church; we walk up. They open the doors; and people are like clapping and singing! [Laughter] I was like, “What is this?!” [Laughter] I remember I had this thought go through my mind—it didn’t make any sense at the time—and it was: “The Spirit is here,”—
Sarah: —which I wouldn’t have understood that, but that’s the thought in my brain.
I just remember thinking: “Wow! People are smiling,”—like they seem to be happy to be in church—“This is weird.” After the music, that I’m loving, we sit down. The preacher starts to preach, and I can understand him! I feel like—he gives the sermon—and I was like: “Wow! He just talked like a normal person.” I felt like I understood what he said. That was another sort of cementing. But then, my uncle left; and of course, I didn’t go back; but I always remembered it. I couldn’t drive; it wasn’t like I could drive myself there—that was just another thing. So then I was like: “Oh yeah, I believe in God. I don’t know anything, but I believe in God!”
Sarah: So fast forward, again, to Pennsylvania; moved back. I’m in 11th grade now and all the cool kids go to this thing called Young Life® on Wednesday nights; you know?—it’s to just get out of the house. I was like, “Well, I want to get out of my house; so I’m going to go, too.” I go to this thing called Young Life.
That is when I began to finally hear the gospel. That’s when I finally began to hear that Jesus was, not just God’s Son, but that He was God and He came to die for us and that He died for our sins and rose again so that we could have life. I mean, I was hook, line, and sinker. I got a Bible; I started to read it. I could understand it—like God was just opening my eyes. I didn’t have some date that I came to know the Lord. It was a puzzle—it was like all a wooing and a piecing together. But I will say I was reading the Bible; I was learning. I was going to Young Life. I went to Young Life camp—I did all the things; you know?
Sarah: Okay, so Navigators is what I got involved in at Penn State. We went on this retreat; and the speaker that night said, “What would you do if Jesus walked in the room right now?” My immediate thought was: “I would hide. He would not want to see me.” Nobody had to tell me I was a sinner; I knew all of the bad things that I had done. I had so much shame. I thought Jesus would not want to see me, and so I would hide if He came into this room.
I don’t know if someone told me; I don’t know if it was the Spirit. I’m sure somebody said this, and my spirit connected; but they said something to the effect of: “Sarah, Jesus knows everything that you’ve ever done, and He knows everything you’re doing, and He knows everything you’re going to do, and He loves you, and this is why He died for you.” And that was it—I mean, I was done; sold—Jesus girl. That was it for me.
Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to an excerpt from Kim Anthony’s podcast, Unfavorable Odds, talking with author and podcaster, Sarah Mae, whose book is called The Complicated Heart. We’ve got copies of her book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
I’m just wondering how many folks, who are listening today, are in their mess, going, “I don’t know that Jesus can come in here and love me, given the mess I’m in.” And yet, what Sarah realized is—what the Bible says is true for anyone who’s listening.
Ann: —everyone. I so relate to this. I was teary, listening to the end, because this is very much my life. As a 16-year-old, I had surrendered everything to Jesus; and yet, I felt so much shame coming from a background of sexual abuse. I was promiscuous and I thought: “There’s no way God could accept me. There’s too much there.”
I’ll never forget being in this woods, all by myself, on my face before God, saying, “If You take me, I’ll give my life to You.” I’ve never, and still have never, experienced peace, love, and acceptance [like that]—it comes from God—because He loves us no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done.
Dave: And I just love hearing stories, like we said, of people being ambushed by the love of God. I mean, I hope there’s a listener right now that needs to know what we heard: “That you are loved. Regardless of what you’ve done/what you’re doing, God loves you.” It doesn’t make sense; it’s nonsensical in some ways, but His grace/His death on that cross was for you. If you respond to that love, it will transform you from the inside out.
Bob: Yes, and how do you respond to that? What should a listener do?
Dave: Just what Ann did, in the woods—is surrender—say: “Here’s my life. I choose to follow You. I choose to surrender to You, and I invite You to make me what You want me to be.”
Ann: I can remember repenting—of saying: “God forgive me. I’ve gone the opposite way of what You’ve called me to do, but I give You my sin. I give You my mess. I give You my life.” He takes that, and He forgives us, and He transforms us.
Bob: Well, and if you’re at a point in your life, where you’re ready to make that choice to surrender your life, I want to encourage you to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link there to a website that’s called “Two Ways to Live” that will help walk you through the choice that is in front of you: about how you’re going to live your life—about whether you will live your life for yourself with you in charge or whether you will surrender and live your life with Jesus in charge. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and check on the link, “Two Ways to Live.”
While you’re on our website, we also have copies of Sarah Mae’s book, The Complicated Heart. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Let me also encourage you to listen to the entire podcast that Kim Anthony did with Sarah Mae. Sarah talks about going to her dad and saying, “I want to move in with Mom,” because she thought mom was the cool mom. Her dad ultimately let her go back live with her mom; and quickly, Sarah found out what she thought was a cool mom was actually an alcoholic, verbally-abusive mom. Her whole story is just riveting.
You can download the podcast when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and listen to the entire interview that Kim did with Sarah Mae. There’s a link to the podcast on our website. If you’re not already subscribed to the Unfavorable Odds podcast, you can subscribe online. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Sarah’s book is called The Complicated Heart; and you can order that from us, online, as well.
While you’re on our website, today is, as you know, Black Friday; so everybody is shopping—kind of everywhere—on Black Friday. We thought we would do something for our FamilyLife Today listeners. We are making available today, and actually through the weekend, gift cards for the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway at half price. You can order a gift card today—give the Weekend to Remember as a Christmas gift to your kids, or maybe there’s somebody you know who just got engaged, or someone you’d just like to reach out to. Buy a half-price Weekend to Remember gift card today on Black Friday.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out how you can order the half-price Weekend to Remember gift card; and you can use this for yourself, if you want. In the spring, go to a Weekend to Remember for half price. Order the gift card today and then use that whenever you’re ready to go to one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.
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And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and we hope you can join us on Monday. Julie Plagens will be here to talk about what happened in her family that caused her not to talk to her mom and dad for more than a decade; and then, how that division was ultimately healed. Hope you can tune if for all of that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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