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Yes, Bristol Palin made a mistake, but it’s not the one you might think. Her mistake was having sex before marriage. The baby was not the mistake. Let me repeat that: the baby was not the mistake. He is a consequence, one that will profoundly change Bristol’s future, but not necessarily sink it, or the political future of her mother. I speak from experience that an “unexpected” baby can be a Godsend, not a ruinous event in a young girl’s life.

My book, Living in Defiance, is about three sisters, one of whom has to deal with the result of foolishly following her heart instead of her faith. I watched my sister deal with the consequences of a teen pregnancy. It was hard enough suffering through that with her privately; I can’t imagine having watched it play out on America’s tv screens, ipods and smartphones as the Palins have.

But just because the gossip and media attention are cruel and vicious right now, there is still the possiblity of a bright future for any family that finds itself in this predicament. Let me give you my personal example: 

In the early 70’s my family used to camp in the mountains. In the summer of ’73, we discovered a beautiful, sleepy, small town in Western North Carolina. My sister also discovered a boy there; her soul mate, really, but who would have believed that? The following summer we moved to this town and, not long after, my sister announced she was pregnant…at the age of 15.

I can not repeat the things my mother said to my sister. Sadly, while my sister forgave her years later, I don’t think my mother ever forgave herself. Certainly, my father and most of the locals weren’t much kinder. Florida trash. Floozy. Slut…you name it, they said it. I can still hear my mom’s high-pitched, screechy voice as she screamed hysterically at Suzy. I don’t blame her, nor do I judge her. I know the things I’ve said to my own children just for breaking a glass, God forgive me. I cannot even begin to imagine what probably came out of Sarah Palin’s mouth. The stress must have been tremendous.

Mys sister Suzy was pushed by both families to have an abortion and she agreed. How could she refuse? After all, it was pretty clear this would “ruin her life,” and there was “no future for an unwed mother,” especially since she would “never claw her way out of poverty.” With prophecies like that, abortion was a godsend. In the doctor’s office, however, Suzy changed her mind and said she couldn’t go through with it. The phone rang and it was the father of the child and he said he didn’t want Suzy to go through with it, but he still didn’t want to marry her, either.

Suzy went, instead, to a half-way house in Alexandria, Virginia to have the baby and give him up for adoption. A month before she was due to deliver, the father of the baby finally stood up to his father and told him he loved Suzy and was going to Virginia to get her. Suzy told me years later that this boy had asked her to marry him much earlier…on their first date! They were simply meant to be.

The two teen-agers were married and God’s plan unfolded for their lives. She and her husband gave their hearts to the Lord and went on to have two more children. Suzy matured into a mighty, spirit-filled woman of God, finished her GED, earned a degree as an R.N., and became a licensed minister in the Church of God, all while raising children and helping her husband farm. She was a popular speaker at women’s conferences, went on mission trips and also worked as a Hospice nurse for over two years. During that time, Suzy led several people to the Lord, literally some from their death beds.

No one who met my sister was immune to her infectious smile, vivavacious personality, gentle faith, and graceful ways. The love of Christ literally shined from this woman like a beacon on a hill.

When breast cancer claimed Suzy in 1999, over 800 people attended her funeral. In a town that twenty-five years earlier had spurned her, affection poured out. The funeral was standing-room-only; former patients wrote good-byes in the local newspaper; people we hadn’t seen in years called with condolences. And the “unwanted” baby that was almost aborted grew into a man who now pastors a church in that same small town.

Suzy is not only the inspiration behind my character of Hannah, but her story is the reason I know God can take the most grim, hopeless situation and show us the beauty in it. Profound, miraculous happy-endings are possible when we “let go and let God.”

If you are the mother of a pregnant teenage daughter, I pray you will think before you speak and then speak with love. If you are the daughter, please don’t abort that baby. Give God a chance to do what he does best — bring beauty from ashes. He loves you; he loves that child you’re carrying. Trust Him to work it out. 

And my prayers go out to the Palin Family.

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