Hi, Jim Daly here. Today's culture deeply needs help, but in times like these, the light of Christ can shine even brighter.
So be encouraged to share his light in this broken world. Listen to the Refocus with Jim Daly Podcast. Without time limitations, I'll have deep heartfelt discussions with fascinating guests who will encourage you to share God's grace, truth, and love.
Check out the podcast at RefocusWithJimDaly.com or wherever you get your podcasts. I think it's important for you to hear that God, he is not taken off guard by this. And you know what?
He already knows and he's just waiting for you to turn to him. That's Serena Dykeson, and she joins us today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller. And as we get into our topic today, let me just share that this is a program that contains some thematic elements that won't be appropriate for younger audiences.
It's true, John. And you know, people, sometimes they're concerned that we're airing content that deals with nitty gritty stuff. But hey, as the body of Christ, we need to talk about what really happens in marriages, what really happens in our households. Why? Because I think it can help us better prepare and know how to respond maybe to friends or family members or maybe even in our own relationship.
So I get it. We do cover tough topics from time to time. And I appreciate the warning there, John. You know, in the Christian community, we often talk about choosing life and we try to reach women in desperate situations before they make a life altering decision to terminate a pregnancy.
Probably hundreds of phone calls every month come into focus related to that topic. But we don't usually discuss how to deal with emotions and struggles if you have had an abortion. And man, unfortunately, I think many, many women and men, too, feel exiled from Christian circles when abortion is part of their past, no matter, you know, what the circumstances are.
Maybe that describes where you're at or your experience or a friend or family member who has made that choice in the past. We want to help bridge the gap and remind you that there is grace in Christ. That's the whole story of the Christian faith, that Jesus died for our sins. We just need to turn to him and confess those sins and repent of them.
And healing is possible. Serena Dykeson will help us better understand that through her story. She's a speaker, author and founder of the ministry called She Found His Grace, and they reach out to help women who have experienced abortion or sexual trauma. Serena's captured her story in the book She Found His Grace, a true story of hope, love and forgiveness after abortion.
And we have copies of that book here at the ministry. Click the link in the show notes or give us a call. Our number is 800 the letter A in the word family. Serena, welcome to focus on the family. Thank you for having me today. Well, it's so good to have you. Your story is so powerful. And I read from the get go, I so appreciate your vulnerability and sharing it to help others.
I know your heart already, and I know that's your goal. It's not to, you know, put out things that are embarrassing or anything like that. It's to restore people, which is exactly what Jesus would have us do. Right.
That's right. So let's let's go to the beginning. Paint that picture of your life growing up before what we'll describe as you described it, the nightmare occurred. So what what kind of childhood did you have?
What was going on? So I grew up in a pretty poor family. We did not attend church, dysfunctional family.
And we were you my sister. I think that a lot of us grew up that way. But there's a lot of shame and guilt in that.
Right. And so that was just a pain point for me. And, you know, looking back, it was a root system. Like my parents, that's how they grew up, you know, and it was a generational curse. And so for us, we moved around a lot. It wasn't uncommon to just move in the middle of the night and we would just be on to the next thing.
So it wasn't very stable. I think my parents did the best they could with how they grew up. But I always knew that there was something better. I think God planted that in my heart at a young age, even though I didn't know that. Looking back, it was just I knew that there was something better out there. And and that really was something that I held on to.
And so, yeah. Describe your personality at that point. You seem like you would have been a pretty optimistic, bubbly person. No, actually, I lacked a lot of confidence. I struggled with my worth. I felt like I just remember being a little girl, just very, very shy.
Didn't feel very worthy. Did not feel very confident because we didn't move around a lot. And so I always felt like I lacked behind everybody. So I was very, very quiet, very shy, but just loved, loved people, but just didn't know how to navigate that. You said your parents helped, I think, and I'd love to hear more about this, to form you into a people pleaser.
Yes. Yeah, that's interesting. I was that way, too. I think I was very much a people pleaser. But how did it happen for you and why did it happen? Yeah, it was a very much a defining moment for me. I remember there was just one day we lived in a lot of dysfunction, a lot of mess.
And, you know, I wanted something different. And I remember one day just being in our kitchen, cleaning it. I thought, I'm going to just take care of this, you know, and I took care of it. And I remember my mom coming in and she found, like, I did not do it well enough, you know, and she took it out.
She took everything out. And I had to redo all of the dishes. And I remember at that moment, at that moment, it was the enemy planted a lie that I was never going to be good enough. And I at that moment, I remember thinking, if I just strive, if I, you know, and at the time, I didn't understand striving. But I, as an adult, I look back and I identify that I wanted to just feel worthy.
And so if I did this, if I strive to do this, if I strive to do that, then maybe I would be worthy enough. And that was definitely a defining moment. And it really set the tone for bad things to come. So at 13, that nightmare began. Describe what it was in appropriate ways for the audience.
Right. So we as a family, we really didn't do a lot with other people. It was just normally the four of us because there was sexual trauma that my mom had experienced in her life.
So she worked really hard to protect us. And at this particular season in our life, we had an uncle that started coming back around and aunt and uncle. And one particular night, I was asked to babysit at 13. And I remember being so excited about that because that was just kind of an honor to be able to babysit little cousins. But what ended up happening was I was sexually assaulted.
And what happened was that sexual assault resulted in an unplanned pregnancy. And we found ourselves and you were 13. I was 13.
I was 13. I did not understand all of it. All I knew is my mom talking about staying away from certain people. But we never talked about the nitty gritties of that, you know, of the why behind it. And this particular uncle was not an uncle that she said to stay away from.
So this was totally off guard. My family, my parents were so shocked when they found out what happened. How long did that occur? It was over months, if I remember correctly.
Yeah. So I there was as I began digging into my story, I was able to get into court documents and find out, you know, that there was twice that that happened that he sexually assaulted me. And but I held on to that secret. I didn't want anybody to know what happened.
I didn't know how to tell what happened. Oh, yeah. I mean, that's so confusing and so traumatizing at that age. I mean, it's it's unbearable in the true sense of the word.
You could not bear it. Right. Right. And and also just knowing how my family talked about sexual abuse, it was like, oh, man, this is not your mom's experience. It sounds like.
Right. So what what happened to free you from that situation? What occurred? So there was one day I was on the bus and there was actually an older student and I didn't even really know them, but I knew I needed help. And so I ended up sharing with them not knowing what was going to happen. And what ended up happening was was that they went to the school counselor and they told the school counselor what had happened. And so I was in choir class and the guidance counselor came in and got me and took me down to the office and she asked if I had been sexually abused. And at first I denied it and then I finally disclosed and I felt like a weight was lifted off. But I also knew my parents were going to come and I did not know how they were going to react to that.
And that was so scary. But what my parents, they ended up coming. They took me to our family doctor and confirmed that there was a pregnancy.
Yeah. And he was the one that suggested the abortion and our doctor. And I later found out that he was Catholic and I really think it was a misplaced compassion, you know, that he thought that that was really going to help. And this is one of those difficult, most difficult, very low percentage pregnancies where there's rape or incest.
I mean, it's less than 2 percent of those two instances before we get into that. And that's really heavy. I just want to go back to the friends for a minute, because I was really amazing that they heard your story. Didn't sound like they knew you that well, but somehow you felt comfortable enough to open up to them.
That's amazing. And then for them to do the right thing, that that's really impressive. It is that they did go to the counselor and say, there's a problem. Yeah, I'm I'm forever thankful that they did, because I did not know them and for them to go and share just knowing that I needed help.
And that's an amazing string of events that worked, obviously, to your benefit, to get this revealed and get get on the path to, you know, a long term healing. Let's go back now to the doctor and, you know, the advice he's giving that you should get an abortion. You're only 13. You probably felt I mean, I can only imagine how much you felt like a child. Like, I don't have a say here.
Yeah. So one, I was very uneducated. I did not understand all of the ins and outs of it. You're 13.
I'm 13. And the other thing I had never heard the word abortion before. I had no idea what abortion was.
I had no idea. All I knew was that my parents were struggling. They were upset that we have a doctor that, you know, a doctor has our best interest in mind. So I just thought, well, you know, they're they're going to help us. They're going to help us. And I didn't know what that helped look like. And so I remember them saying the people outside the clinic hate you.
So make sure you walk in quickly. So there were protesters at the clinic? Well, on that particular day, there was no one out there. But they had planted the seed so that we would not have conversation with them. And I remember at that time, my mom being so angry hearing that because she said they don't understand what we're going through.
And I just remember like, and not knowing, understanding all of the ins and outs. And on that particular day, there was no one out there. And as someone that goes out to the sidewalks of abortion clinics now, you know, I always tell people, like, make sure that you're presenting in a way that you're a safe person out there. Because, yeah, because as I think back of my mom, her defenses were already up.
And how can we, you know, if someone's yelling out there or misrepresenting, she was not going to hear it. The uncle, the abuser, did get convicted. Did you, that experience, did you feel some vindication, some closure?
Did it help you? Good question. So going through the court process, it's a long, long process. I can't imagine for a 13-year-old girl to have to testify.
Yeah, going to the courts. There is a lot of fear, a lot of shame. And I think people tried to protect me the best they could. And I think what people need to understand is, even though he was convicted and he went to jail, they're still, that doesn't get to the wound.
It just doesn't get to the wound. And I think when people think, oh, if they just go to jail, that'll fix it, right? Justice. Justice.
And yeah, he should go to jail. Hear me say that. But the thing about it is, then we have to work on our own healing. And I think the biggest part for me was forgiveness. I had to learn how to forgive because it was a poison that I was drinking. And it was hurting no one but me.
You know, that's the right thing to say and to do. But I could feel women gasping when you said it. Like, how could you? Almost like they're upset at you that you could actually find forgiveness for him.
How could you? Now they're mad at you. But it really does indicate perhaps something that they've not been able to forgive somebody for. So they're reflecting that. Right.
So speak to her. That woman who just gasped and said, how could you forgive that uncle? Right. Don't you know what he did to you? Right.
How did you find forgiveness? Right. I hear that all the time. I when women, they'll hear my story and they'll say, you know what?
But that's your story. And I think what they're really saying is they're responding in a wound. They don't know. They haven't walked through that forgiveness. And I think what people need to understand is it's not saying that what he did was OK. What it's saying is that I am choosing to lay that at the foot of the cross and I'm going to let the Lord do what he does there. You know, because on this side of heaven, justice will never fully be served.
Right. And and I think what what the Lord did in the forgiveness for me was, you know, I'll never forget sitting in my living room and I was in Lamentations three fifty eight. And the Lord said, did did I save you? And I and I said, yeah. And he said, did I pull you from the pit? And I said, yeah. And he said, did I redeem your life? And I was like, yeah. And he said, well, would you get out of the way and let me do what I'm going to do? And, you know, talk about like, whoa. And I remember that day fully just surrendering that to the Lord and the Lord giving me new eyes to see him as a very broken person in need of a savior. But only God could do that.
And I think it's just being on a journey with the Lord, being very close, being willing to want to touch the hem of Jesus and let the Lord do what he's going to do and not what Serena wants to do, because when Serena was walking in, what Serena wanted to do, it was a miserable place to be. And just to note, that is a big step. And some people struggle with that step.
And I get that. And they're hearing you and they're feeling upset because they haven't been able to take that big step and they're still drinking the poison. Yeah, that's just it, drinking that poison.
And at some point you have to choose, am I done drinking that poison? Serena, let's turn to recovery in this area, relationships, et cetera. You're a freshman, I think, in high school when you met your husband, Bruce, which is amazing. You hear these stories from time to time. But, you know, you met him very early. Describe that and then how you kind of just emotionally managed through feeling vulnerable to somebody again and, you know, having some kind of relationship there. So I met my husband, I was a freshman in high school. And, you know, I say that, you know, it wasn't how we thought it was love. It was really a lust thing. But, you know, hey, you know, we had to learn that, we had to learn that way as young, right? Not coming, I totally understand this coming from a broken family.
You don't have a lot of boundaries and rails. You don't, you don't. You got to figure it out.
We have to figure it out. And so Bruce was this stable person that felt very safe to me. He felt safe, but not safe, if that makes sense, because I was not a healthy person. And he grew up in a Christian home. He grew up in a Christian home, he had something that I saw different in him.
And so we, yeah, we just started dating pretty quickly and miniature golfing and just those fun things that you do in high school. And then, you know, because I didn't know my worth, that turned into a relationship that it shouldn't have pretty quickly. Physically.
Physically, physically. And because I thought, you know, that's what I needed to do to feel worthy. And so what happened was we faced an unplanned pregnancy. And Planned Parenthood had just been in our school. And we thought, oh, we can trust them.
Just so uneducated. And so we went to Planned Parenthood. And I remember we drove into this, this neighborhood that we typically would not have gone to.
It was out of the norm, but that's where they were located. So we went and they said that I was pregnant. And of course, they said, you're young, you're in school, and you're poor. You should abort your baby.
And we went out to the parking lot. And Bruce, you know, he's in a Christian home. Lots of things swirling in his head of, oh, my girlfriend is now pregnant. And the lie I think we believe is, oh, if we just have an abortion, then no one will know. And I'll let him speak on that later.
But the thing is, he said, what do you think about having this abortion? And I shared my story with him for the first time. And he had never heard that part of my story. And at 13, I didn't know what abortion was. But at 16, I did.
And I knew that was something that I was not going to do. And I just remember him sitting in the parking lot with me. And he said, you know, we don't have it figured out, but we'll figure it out. And we chose life that day. Wow, that's amazing.
I mean, it really is amazing at that age to put those pieces together. You point to Genesis 50, 20. Describe that verse or tell us what it says. And then how did it speak to your heart in that moment? Yeah, you know, what the enemy meant for harm, God was going to turn it to good. And I didn't know that at the time.
But yeah, it's hard to believe that when the arrows are flying, right? How are you going to turn this into good? How are you going to turn this into good?
Right. But through our life, we've just seen God do that, you know, with enemy meant for harm, God is turning to good. And so we're just so thankful that, you know, on that day, we chose life. And man, was it hard to go and tell our parents?
Let me tell you, it was not easy. And it was a sucker punch to them. But I tell you what, not only was Bruce's parents amazing, and once they like, took a step back to come alongside of us, but also the church, we fear the church when we're walking in this, we fearing man and judgment, we make some really bad decisions. And what we found is, you know, our Heavenly Father loved us as so much and, and what happened was the church, you know, they came alongside of us. What I love the best about this was they didn't let us sin in our sin. Like they talked to us about, hey, you guys have to stop sleeping together. Like that's got to stop. Yeah.
But we're going to love you. And so they came alongside of us and they helped have a baby shower. They taught us how to budget, they would help us find houses. But the thing is, like, they just didn't give it.
They taught us skills and the whole process and it was beautiful. Yeah. And in that context, before we end today, and I want to, we're going to have Bruce come and join us for tomorrow.
And that will be insightful to hear from him. But in that context, you got married. How old were you when you got married? We were 17, 18. Like we were young, we were so young, like, okay, to give you an insight on this whole thing, we got married the same day my husband graduated high school, which I don't recommend ever, but we were so young and we're like, the family's here, let's just get married. So we got married that morning and my husband graduated high school that night. And so we were young, we got married and we added to our family. And by 23, we bought our first house and we thought life was good.
We thought we were beating the odds. Yeah. You know, right at the end here, I think it's important to have you speak to that woman who has had an abortion, maybe a Christian, maybe not a Christian. And how would you encourage her to deal with this? And maybe she's never dealt with it. Or maybe it's a boyfriend.
Right. So if there's someone listening today that's had an abortion, I think it's important for you to hear that God, he is not taken off guard by this. And you know what he already knows, and he's just waiting for you to turn to him.
But also to take it deeper. A lot of times we hear, I know I've been forgiven. And that's awesome. But there's freedom, he wants to give you freedom, so it's not as a secret, so that he can use your testimony to help others choose life. And so if there's someone listening that's had an abortion, abortion recovery was a life changing event for me, just because I finally was able to grieve my child, I had permission. And also just how Jesus met me in my brokenness, and he put a healing balm on my heart. And so I know that God wants to put a healing balm on your heart. And it's just so important to take the next step in that healing process. Well, it's healthy.
It's healthy. You know, he's our creator. He knows how we're wired. He knows every closet in your heart, even the ones that are locked, dead bolted, sealed. And what a refreshing reminder that God wants all of you. He wants all of us.
The dark stuff, the good stuff. You know, and the freedom he wants to give, because if it's not hidden anymore, you know, we can use it to glorify what he has done on the cross for us. And that's where we want to be.
Because if we're holding on to that secret of abortion, it only messes up how effective we are for the kingdom. Serena, thank you for this part of it. Let's stay together. We'll have Bruce join us for tomorrow. Is that something we can do?
That sounds great. Thank you. Thank you, man.
What a reminder that God is in your corner and he wants to be there for you. And this is a very difficult topic. We get that. And that's why we will often say, you know, let your children go play if they aren't of an age that can manage this kind of content. But it's good to talk about it. I mean, so many parents bury their heads.
I mean, Serena was 13 years old when this happened to her. And you at some point in this culture have to have discussions with your kids because they're going to be exposed to so many different things. And John, what a great reminder about our counseling team here at Focus. We're here for you. We've been at this over 40 years. You're not going to surprise us. You're not going to embarrass yourself by calling us.
Kind of like those kids that Serena talked to on the bus. Let us give you some input, some advice, spiritual advice to help you on the road to recovery. And I know and I'm confident that the team can do that. Plus giving you some resources to help in that journey for those who can help us financially. I would say send a gift of any amount, become a monthly donor. Jean and I do that.
I know you and Dana do that. It's a great way to help us with our budgeting. And if you can do that, we'll send you a copy of the book.
She Found His Grace by Serena as our way of saying thank you for joining us in ministry. If you can't afford it, we'll get it into your hands. We'll just trust others. We'll cover the cost of that. It's not about the dollars.
It's about what you need as a tool. So just get in touch with us. Yeah. We're a phone call away. Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459.
Or click the link in the episode notes. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. Plan to be with us next time as we continue the conversation. And once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ. We'll talk with you, pray with you, and help you find out which program will work best. Call us at 1-866-875-2915.
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