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Unplanned Grace, Author Q&A with Brittany and Natasha Smith

Hi friends,

It’s my distinct pleasure to bring you this interview and conversation with Brittany and Natasha Smith, authors of Unplanned Grace: A Compassionate Conversation on Life and Choice. This is a book I really believe should be in the hands of every follower of Christ and used as a resource by churches and community leaders everywhere. In Unplanned Grace, I found a unique, empowering and holistic resource that can truly change the world and so many lives.

I’ll admit, I was nervous before doing this interview. I wanted to craft questions that somehow did justice to the beauty of the book. Fortunately, God took care of that, and Brittany and Natasha were incredible partners in conversation. Their kindness and compassion left a deep impression on me. You’ll see what I mean as you read on. This conversation is not just about parenting and decision making, but there are so many principles that can be applied to so many hot-button issues today. It’s a conversation for everyone.

I hope that the conversation below inspires you, but even more than that, I hope you pick up Unplanned Grace and share it. The truth is, we have all had life-changing grace offered to us. May we cling to it and share it.

With love,

GY

[A special thank you to Icon Media Group who made this interview possible.]

Modern Witnesses in conversation with authors Brittany and Natasha Smith:

Modern Witnesses (“MW”): You wrote that Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” inspired this book. Can you expand on that and what pushed you to pursue this project?

Natasha Smith (“NS”): That verse came to mind after interviewing multiple women about their stories– why abortion was feeling like their only option, which negates the whole perception of this being a choice. They felt like they had no choice. And that alone is a tragedy.

So often, in every single one of those women’s cases it’s because they didn’t know of the resources in their own communities. They didn’t know that there were other options; they didn’t know that there was help. That’s where that verse really struck home—literal people are being destroyed because there isn’t that knowledge of the resources– and not just the unborn, but those moms, too. Those who might have made a different choice or would prefer making a different choice, but they just feel like they can’t. That’s a big reason why we want to ensure that every woman knows the resources [are there], so that she can make an educated decision for herself, and that’s really the heart of Save the Storks. To ensure we can do whatever we can so that every woman really knows her options and the level of support around her.

Brittany Smith (“BS”): [In the book,] I did a little bit more of the research, stats—some of the boring stuff, but I found it so interesting that the majority of women, 73% of women, choose abortion because they feel that they can’t afford a baby. They don’t feel like they have the financial resources to do so. Sometimes, the narrative is like, “Oh, they just don’t want a baby” or something like that, but really, it’s that they don’t feel that they are equipped because they want to give a baby the best life that they possibly can.

That was such an eye-opening stat to me because the church and Christians can get involved; the majority of these women need their physical needs met. They need housing; they need finances, they need a job. If we connect [them] with a pregnancy center, we can get them tapped into these resources. There are such practical solutions. Because this issue feels so big and political, people don’t know where to dig in. Starting with the economic and practical needs is such a great step.

“Sometimes, the narrative is like, ‘Oh, they just don’t want a baby‘ or something like that, but really, it’s that they don’t feel that they are equipped because they want to give a baby the best life that they possibly can.”

Brittany Smith

MW: I love that. You mentioned Save the Storks. Can you tell us more about the work that they do?

NS: Save the Storks is a national (USA) pro-life organization that exists to support other pro-life organizations, especially pregnancy centers. [It] equips pregnancy centers to reach more women. We do that through a variety of ways. One way, and kind of how Storks began, is through the mobile medical unit. We build vans that range in size, depending on what the pregnancy center needs, and then the pregnancy center owns and operates that and is able to go into the community and provide free ultrasound pregnancy tests. That bus forms a bridge between a woman who does not know about that pregnancy center and all those resources, to a network of resources she didn’t know existed before. We have an additional program that is helping pregnancy centers update their websites, marketing and leadership development to become a more excellent clinic that can serve their communities.

MW: You believe that being pro-life is actually the same as being pro-woman. Your say in the book, “I began to see how holistic and woman-focused pro-life ministry truly is.” Can you share more about your perspective with us?

NS: The idea of pro-life being pro-woman is that we do not see abortion as a band-aid to [a woman’s] circumstances, but we actually care about all of the circumstances that are pressing her toward abortion. Whether it’s a toxic relationship, or the economic crisis or so many different factors play a role and throughout the book you see the complexity of her decision. There are so many pro-life organizations that help meet those secondary or tertiary things that are ultimately affecting her decision-making process in enabling her to make her own decision, while also learning how to stand on her feet. It’s not just, take care of that and you still are stuck in that same scenario. They are really trying to elevate women to thrive.

BS: I have been at Save the Storks for two years, and I knew about pregnancy resource centers, but then I started to visit some of them and interview people who work there. I realized that the scope of services that they offer are huge. I had no idea before I started here. I think a lot of people in the church and in local communities don’t know that either. It’s not just, “Hey, we are gonna tell you we want you to keep your baby and then go on your way.”

They are with them every step of the way. There was a quote in the book, I want to say it was Kelly Mapes who said, “We are not going to ask you to do something hard and then walk away from you.” I think that is such a pro-woman approach because they are saying, “We are going to help you with the resources and help you figure out the barriers that are keeping you from feeling like you can have this baby or placing the child for adoption.” They want to walk with each individual woman, and they offer so many free services: free ultrasounds, free pregnancy tests, there are a lot of referrals, depending on the pregnancy center they do well woman exams, STI testing, and parenting classes. The parenting classes were eye-opening to me, too. They have parenting classes for up to two years at a lot of these places and then fatherhood programs, so it really is a holistic approach to the family and to each individual woman. They want to be with her every step of the way.

NS: I think a big reason why it is so holistic and intentional is so many women who work in the pro-life organizations and within pregnancy centers have gone through unplanned pregnancies or have experienced abortion, and so there is this level of compassion and empathy and really, understanding, where they are in that moment and someone who has gone through that saying either, “I’ve made that choice before,” or  “I’ve gone through and here are my kids and my grandkids. And this is what life is like now,” or “Here is how I found healing,” and so that brings an extra level of compassion.

“I think a big reason why it is so holistic and intentional is so many women who work in the pro-life organizations and within pregnancy centers have gone through unplanned pregnancies or have experienced abortion, and so there is this level of compassion and empathy”

Natasha Smith

MW: That is so powerful.

BS: I learned that even women who do end up having an abortion—the pregnancy center is still there for them. It’s not like they say, “Oh, if you make this choice; we are not going to be here for you.” There are after-abortion healing programs or counseling referrals, so it’s not just only focused on parenting or adoption, so I think that is really interesting.

NS: Their care for women is not dependent on her choice for life.

MW: I was reading through these remarkable stories that are so heartbreaking. You work with a lot of people who have experienced trauma. In what ways do you care for yourself and deal with vicarious trauma as you are working with stats and these stories? It is heavy.

BS: We wrote this book during the height of the 1st wave of COVID. I think there was a lot of that heaviness and dealing with a lot of these stories— I had never really worked in a ministry role before and people were like, “You have to be spiritually open. There may be attacks. You may need to prepare yourself.” I think I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been going into this. There were days when it felt incredibly draining or it just felt overwhelming. This subject is so hard and then it’s so political right now; everyone is so angry about it. I think a lot of times I just have to focus on the beautiful stories and also sometimes step away from it, turn off the news and go outside. Go for a hike or a backpacking trip and then come back to it. You are right. There is a heaviness to it. There are things that have popped up from people who I am friends with that I didn’t expect– having hard conversations with them. I’ve definitely learned a lot through this and learning that self-care is important, being in counseling for some people is important—so having to take a step back sometimes is necessary.

NS: She mentioned, earlier, we do a lot of hiking and backpacking together.

MW: I love that.

NS: We became really close friends through this process. [It] was good to leave the computers and the stories and the weight behind, and get into the mountains and just be with the Lord and have some moments of solitude and prayer. That for me— I can’t overstate the prayer scenario. There were days where I was weighted heavily, and I was like, “I can’t even bear it anymore.” I felt the Lord say, “There is such a thing as spiritual warfare, and this is heavy.” It helped me reorient myself where I was like, “Oh, ok. I can deal with that, then. God is stronger anyways.” Even though the stories are really heavy, I had the joy of meeting women face-to-face and looking in their eyes– women who could have been another number in one of those statistics who aren’t. Women whose lives are totally transformed. So many times, these women are saying, “I chose a better life for myself because of this. When I felt that extra support from other people, I had this extra a boost of energy to change my circumstances.” And they have ownership of that, and their lives are so remarkable and so beautiful. And now, they are wanting to help other people in the same scenarios.  It’s just amazing to see how one person can be a catalyst for change. That gave me a lot of hope through this process. If one person reads this book, and it changes their life; if one person reads this book and gets involved and does something that could create another beautiful story with such remarkable redemption– that keeps me going, for sure.

“Even though the stories are really heavy, I had the joy of meeting women face-to-face and looking in their eyes– women who could have been another number in one of those statistics who aren’t.”

Natasha Smith

BS: It’s interesting that the book grew out of a super heavy story that Natasha experienced, going down to Albuquerque. New Mexico is one of the few states in the U.S. that allows late-term abortion. The book grew out of that experience, which I think is beautiful. The circumstances were sad, but it’s beautiful that it allowed for the seeds for this book to happen.

NS: Trauma can do two things: you can become a victim to it, or you can stand up and it can be an instigator for action and change. That is what happened back when New York changed its laws allowing for late-term abortion. I went to Albuquerque because I knew that they had unrestricted abortion there, but I didn’t know so many of the details. I learned a lot there, and I learned about documented infanticide, and people who had died because they were not getting care, and going into anaphylactic shock and all of that. It was terrible. For a few weeks afterward, I was very, very weighted. I spent a lot of time in prayer, saying “What do I do with this?” It’s so hard. I felt like the Lord said, “Expose the darkness.” My thought from there was, How does one expose the darkness? It’s so dark, but that is when this idea [came] of, What if the church stands up as a light? We can expose the darkness. The call to action throughout the book is for the church to do something. To connect with the local pregnancy center, and ultimately—how many churches are there in America? Something like 300,000. So many.  There are less than 3,000 pregnancy centers. If every person did one, served one pregnancy center or did one thing, we could put a huge dent in abortion in America.

“I felt like the Lord said, ‘Expose the darkness.’”

Natasha Smith

MW: I loved when you said, “It’s not enough to just say, ‘Life is worth it.’ We have to say, ‘We’re going to help you. Yes, this is hard, but it shouldn’t be scary.’” You address rape and different types of abuse in the book. You mention the church must talk about these things and become an ally. You have extremely practical chapters filled with ideas as to where to start. What was the process like, the compiling of all these resources? Did you learn something new? Was there anything that stood out to you as you were collecting all of this?

BS: It opened my eyes to a lot of conversations that the church needs to start having more often. Even bringing in mental health experts. That was something that stuck out to me, especially when talking about sexual assault and abusive relationships, those were really hard to research and write about. I interviewed a therapist when I was working on those chapters, especially the domestic violence one, and I really think there are people who aren’t licensed therapists who could deal with that, but I think this is such a great avenue for the church to connect.

There are probably people in congregations who are therapists who have the training who could connect [women] with safe houses. Bringing people in or having a mental health training or looking at what it’s like to have those conversations [is important] because those are very tricky [conversations] and women’s safety is really at stake, especially with domestic abuse. It’s not just about saying, Cool, we are going to get you out. There is a process and a lot of steps that go before that. It’s a great opportunity for the church to bring in mental health professionals, even if it’s just a contract basis or have a mental health agency that they work with and can connect women with. This is such a great opportunity. It’s such a specialized knowledge that they need to have to help women in those situations.

NS: I would agree with what Brittany said. The extent of what exists is so much more than what we might initially think, but then there is also room for growth. That is something I have learned, and I am more passionate to see if we can fill those holes, especially in men’s ministry within this conversation. That is the voice that has been told to butt out and that they don’t get to have a say in this conversation. I’ve heard a few stories from pregnancy centers about men who have approached the Stork buses who said, “I wish this existed 20 years ago.”

There are so many people, both women and men, who have the weight of past abortions and don’t have a place to find that healing. I think it’s harder for men because they are told to be rough and tough and so they don’t really get to feel, and what happens when they do feel? That makes me more sensitive to – I wonder how much other abuse is happening, whether it’s alcohol abuse or substance abuse because there is this deep pain that is unhealed. The church has such an amazing opportunity to be there and to advocate for anyone who is vulnerable, for anyone who is in pain or needing healing, which is all of us ultimately, but especially for guys who might be involved in an unplanned pregnancy, and especially those whose partners chose abortion, that is an amazing opportunity for the church to be able to meet them and heal. It will take time and a lot of sensitivity to figure out how to do that well. In my research, I realized that is a big need and there is not a ton of resources and definitely not many studies on this, and I would love to see that change.

BS: Also important is that the church doesn’t have to be an expert in all of these issues, either. That is why there is the local pregnancy center. Even just creating a connection and a bridge with them is a huge first step.

MW: Now let’s say that there is someone who hasn’t read your book yet but finds this interview, and she is right now struggling with the weight of a decision, is there anything you would say to that young woman?

NS: Find your local pregnancy center. There is a host of resources and people who understand exactly what you are going through and have probably walked through that journey before and know the fear of the uncertainty and the unknowns. So, you are not alone in that. Find your local pregnancy center, and if you can’t, you can reach out to Save the Storks and we’ll do some googling and calling and find people who are around you who can support.

BS: There are people out there who want to support you and walk through this with you. It doesn’t have to be a snap decision. There are resources and support to process all of the fear and anxiety that come with this. I think sometimes pro-life people get painted as, “We just want you to make this decision, and do it because this is what we believe is right,” but really, I think a big thing I learned through this is pro-life people want to walk with women so that she understands the scope of all of the choices that are available to her, and I think the local pregnancy center can help her do that. No one should have to make a pregnancy decision without being fully informed of all of her options, and that is a really important thing that pregnancy centers can provide to women.

“Pro-life people want to walk with women so that she understands the scope of all of the choices that are available to her, and I think the local pregnancy center can help her do that.”

Brittany Smith

MW: There was an interesting quote in the book that said: “Ignoring the issue of abortion out of discomfort, or deeming the topic too political or polarizing, does not justify our silence.” We currently face a lot of polarizing topics in our society. Do you have any recommendations as to what our approach should be as we break silence on these important issues, not just limited to abortion?

BS: With pro-life issues in particular, staying out of politics and investing in the local community is so important in really changing hearts and minds on this issue, and probably with any polarizing issue. Actually connecting with men and women who are facing this decision and walking with them and understanding the fear and anxiety they are facing is a huge step. When you start to give a name and a face to the issue, it really starts to build empathy, and it allows people to step back from the rhetoric and the politics and help people on a person-to-person, ground level.

NS: I would say a similar thing. The starting point for any of this is humanizing the issue. Humanizing the fact that all of the people that we talked about are humans that are going through really hard things. And so, once we humanize, then we can have compassion for them. If you look at any of the great genocides of history and all the trauma of history it starts with dehumanization. Any topic that dehumanizes a person, the church should be the first to start humanizing them and say, “No, these people have value. These moms have value, the dads have value, the unborn babies have value, the abortion clinic workers have value,” and so we therefore should approach all individuals with this compassion.

Another piece to that is diving in and really trying to understand the Father’s heart. God’s heart for people. Who He has shown Himself to be through Scripture. We are supposed to be made in His image, and He is not political, and yet He cares about all of these issues. So, we should care for these issues. We can do it in such a way that goes deeper than politics could ever go. Even with Roe v Wade, if laws were overturned, abortion would still happen. That is not the core of the issue. The core of the issue is deeper than that and that is where the church can speak in and be a voice and actually transforming culture if we can get to that underlying issue, and I think that’s true for most of the topics that are going on. These blow-ups and big  controversial issues are just expressions of far deeper things.

MW: I really liked the sections in the chapters called Reflecting the Father’s Heart. That was really nice.

BS: That was all Natasha. She did those and the prayers, which I think were such a great added touch. You give a practical tangible way to get involved and a way to pray for it and ponder it. I love that it gave many different ways to think of the issues.

NS: If the church is going to be exposing the darkness, we do it by falling on our knees and asking God for help and for God to shape us so that we can be His light to the world around us.

“Any topic that dehumanizes a person, the church should be the first to start humanizing them”

Natasha Smith

MW: If you had to define Christianity in a sentence it would be:

BS: Trying and failing—to love God and your neighbor, but most of the time failing and needing God to help you.

NS: The gospel is the story of who God is and what He is doing, and then the invitation for us to enter into that story.

Final remarks:

NS: I think it’s a beautiful thing that God is currently and actively restoring all things, and He is allowing us to participate in that. Individually and as the church body, that’s what we are called to. For some of us, it might look more extravagant than others, but it’s all so important and kingdom oriented, whether it’s the brokenness in your family at home or a big ministry or overseas, that doesn’t change the value of that work because that is God’s kingdom penetrating into the darkness and redeeming it.

MW: This has been such a pleasure. I truly enjoyed your book, and I am praying that ministry leaders pick it up—I think we all need it, it’s so much bigger than this. It points to the gospel. I hope that everyone who comes in contact with this is blessed; that God may prepare the path for those who need to find this. It is a beautiful and rich resource. Thank you for all that you do in our community, at large. It’s changing lives.

Special note to our readers: There is a pre-order sale. Before Sept 1st. Anyone who orders Unplanned Grace also gets the free audio book. You can access that at Unplannedgracebook.com. You can purchase the book anywhere books are sold and put the order number in the website, and you get the free audio book.

About our guests:

Brittany Smith is a journalist, content strategist and serves as the PR & Content Manager for the pro-life organization Save the Storks. She loves telling stories that show how the pro-life movement truly cares about women, how women are stronger than our culture wants them to believe, and firmly believes that it’s always possible to change our own stories. Brittany hails from North Carolina and now lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she tries to explore the Rockies whenever she isn’t writing.

Natasha Smith is the Creative Projects Manager at Save the Storks where she supports the pro-life movement by telling stories through writing, video, and photography. Her academic background is in communications and biblical theology and she is currently seeking a Masters in Old Testament from Denver Seminary. Natasha’s love for the pro-life cause is grounded in the understanding that all life has value because every life is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). In her free time, Natasha enjoys deep conversations, reading good books, and exploring the magnificent mountains of Colorado.

For more information on Unplanned Grace, click here.

For more information on Save the Storks, click here.

For Stork Bus locations, click here.

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