Embraced by Graceposted on April 16th, 2012 / by Brittani Riggie-Vannoy / 63 Comments
This is my story.
By the time I was 17, my second dad—the man who raised me—had abandoned me. When I hit the prime of my troublemaking years, there was no dad around to discipline me; only a brokenhearted mom. I could get away with just about anything. And I mean anything. I was that fatherless girl—scandalous, reckless and unruly—the untamed kind your momma said to stay away from.
I am leaving out the dirty details. One, because they aren’t the point, and two, it would take all day. These are the ugliest, most dreadful parts of my story. But it’s the damage left behind by my senseless, unmanageable behavior that makes my redeemed heart that much more beautiful.
In August of 2008, that careless, rebellious girl moved away to college with no supervision in sight. I made my own rules. Nobody was there to control me or place boundaries on my dangerous path toward destruction. I immediately caught the attention of the guy across the hall (let’s call him ‘G’). And we were in a relationship from that very first week until just a few weeks before school let out for summer.
*Insert dirty details here. I’m sure you can imagine the trouble I found when I got to live my rash and risqué lifestyle with no restrictions. Whatever awful mess you’re imagining, I probably did it.
The entire year is really just a blur of sex, drugs and alcohol. And no big surprise, one Thursday morning in April, I was staring at that weird plastic stick. It was screaming PREGNANT before I was even done peeing. ‘G’s’ only response, other than a blank stare was, “Why are you crying, Brittani? It’s fine!”
FINE? Really?? I was anything but fine; I have never felt so mortified, overwhelmed and weak. I was pregnant and my life seemed forever wrecked. I was convinced that I became garbage, and nothing could rescue me from this tragedy.
At this point in life, I rarely went to church—maybe once every 6 or 7 weeks. But I went to church that Sunday. I will never forget the vivid memory of the end of that service, standing with my head bowed and eyes closed, desperately begging God to hear me:
“God, PLEASE, please make this baby die, if it is even a ‘real baby.’ Just do it right this minute so by the time I get home I’ll be bleeding and know that I’m okay, my life isn’t over, and I will be able to be happy again. Please, God. I am begging you.”
Interrupting my pitiful cry, Pastor Robert declared that famous one-liner, “If you died right now, are you sure you would go to heaven?” Great timing, right?
“Well, okay, God; I probably won’t go to heaven NOW, since I asked that. I guess if you have to let it (if it’s a real baby) stay alive, I am going to need some serious miracles here. Because, God, I absolutely do not have the strength to handle this. I just can’t do it.”
Two weeks later, ‘G’ broke up with me. I’ll never forget the exact words he said: “Sorry, Brittani, but I want to have a life.” Have a life? I wanted to ‘have a life’ too! The kind he was referring to. One that a knocked-up girl just can’t participate in. But I couldn’t see right then that if anyone had a life, I did. That precious, innocent life inside me was bringing a bigger, better life than I had imagined in my wildest dreams.
In those next days, I had to deal with ‘G’ moving on to another girl. I can’t even begin to describe the pain of watching your boyfriend get together with some other girl minutes after dumping you. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE PREGNANT WITH HIS KID. Every minute was an hour, and I had nobody, absolutely nobody. I genuinely felt that there was nothing I could do, nowhere could I go, and I was destined for absolute misery for eternity. I could not escape the heartache and frustration of watching everyone else carry on with life while I sat fully crushed, broken and defeated. I repeatedly cried out to God:
“Why are You doing this to ME? Would you just solve ONE of these problems? Take just ONE of these punishments away from me? Please.”
After making it through the most devastating weeks of my life to that point, I ended up moving home. As months passed, I became less frightened of being pregnant and most of the torture began to disappear. But I still felt alone, unwanted and desperate.
All my life, I had been set on having an abortion if I ever got pregnant. I am so thankful that God’s plan is a million times better than my own. When I ended up pregnant, it was none other than a miracle from God that abortion didn’t cross my mind. I wasn’t at all opposed, and probably would have been first in line. God was right there protecting my daughter, and me, too. God saved that baby’s life, so she could save mine. Without her, who knows when I would have met Jesus or where I’d be right now.
When I was 7 months pregnant, a friend told me about a group for unwed pregnant girls called Embrace Grace. I had nothing better to do anyway, so I thought I might try it out. I was so anxious, I probably turned around 20 times before I actually got to the meeting that first night. I couldn’t grasp the idea of any church group for broken, knocked-up sinners like me. I figured it was a bunch of ‘churchy’ old ladies, pretending to like me but who would never see me as anything more than a slut. But, desperate for anything to hold onto, I went anyway. I had no idea when I walked in that Monday night I would never be the same again. My life and my destiny were completely changed, and with it, the life and destiny of my unborn baby girl.
There, I could escape being ‘that pregnant girl’, and just be Brittani. It didn’t matter that I was pregnant, or that I had made so many messy mistakes. These people simply wanted to love me. In our meetings, I heard familiar stories of God: about hope, forgiveness, and grace. It sounded pretty and perfect, but I felt sure those things didn’t apply to a girl like me. Of course, God forgives and Jesus died to cover it all, but I wanted to tell them, “You have no idea just how much junk I’ve got to cover!”
When I first saw God, it was when these brave, bold women of Christ chose to reach out and rescue me from my hopeless misery. They showed me God’s unconditional love and grace, and His huge plans for me despite my mistakes. They were brave enough to love the unlovely—that hopeless girl who I once was, and those usually shamed by society, especially church society.
One special EG testimony night, women came and told their own dirty details, and showed me that when they were damaged, lonely and knocked-up messes—God met them right there. I saw real miracles in women like me; they had happy families and husbands and babies. It was hard to believe at one time they were just as afraid, devastated, and pregnant as I was. I realized if God gave them a beautiful ending, maybe He would do that for me too. I finally understood that the God stories I had heard so many times counted for everyone, even imperfect disasters like me. Just maybe, He could remake this wild-child and let me be His child.
After that revelation, I was determined to see Him for myself, read with my own eyes, and experience Him on my own. I bought a Bible and spent nearly every minute left of my pregnancy in my bed reading it. The words that had seemed so meaningless and confusing all my life now made perfect sense; as if God wrote them just for me. I sought Him, and He found me. Right there in that frightening and hideous place where most people assume God would never go. His word made things perfectly clear—Jesus was mine and He would have died just for me—despite my cracks and stains. He completely loves me. Unconditional means NO CONDITIONS. He gave me a brand new heart and I was a brand new woman.
By this time, I had collected a million baby names and I changed my mind a hundred times a day. But, God called my baby girl by name before she was born. Only, months after she was born I realized exactly why He called her Scarlette.
[Scar-let: Adjective/ skarlit/ of a brilliant red color.]
I can’t think of a more brilliant red color than the color of the blood of Jesus. It’s that very blood that will allow me to spend eternity with my baby girl in Heaven. His scarlet blood…that’s my Scarlette. He planned for her to draw me to Jesus before she was ever born. SHE WAS BORN TO BREAK THE CHAINS. He didn’t deal me death for my sins; He blessed me with life instead.
Today, I’m 21, finishing my bachelor’s degree, and a very proud Momma to a gorgeous two-year-old princess. I teach Embrace Grace now, the same group that rescued me from the devastating darkness when I was pregnant. When I got pregnant I felt my life was completely shattered and I was sentenced to an eternity of feeling miserable and worthless. I was so unbelievably wrong. The promises of God have NO EXPIRATION DATE, and my hopes and dreams of a fairytale ending are not destroyed. His promises don’t change just because you get pregnant; actually, His promises to me became bigger and more beautiful when Scarlette’s life began. Now I get to experience each blessing with a beautiful little girl by my side. My God knows how to make beauty from even the ugliest ashes. And here I am nearly three years later—holding Jesus by one hand and my sweet baby with the other—and I am living a life more beautiful than anything I could ever have imagined.