“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
--Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Denise Howard had a choice to make,
one that she believes everyone faces during life’s storms.
“When we’re up against a difficult situation we can take one of two roads. Back when our child passed away I remember clearly thinking that I could become bitter and move away from Christ or I could draw closer to Him. I am so thankful I decided to draw close. I had no idea all He had in store.”
That was more than two decades ago, before Denise’s “seminary degree” (stay tuned for that definition) at Love Worth Finding and the position she began April 1 as a Life Choice’s client advocate.
Denise’s decision to “draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8)” did something remarkable for her anatomy; it enlarged her ears! Not literally, of course, but as she listened to God’s voice, He took what was undoubtedly already a strength (good listening skills) and turned it into a super power (Spirit-filled capacity to truly hear and empathize with others). This super power is now literally saving the lives of preborn children.
And now we’ll pick up the story from somewhere closer to the beginning.
Denise and her husband, Jeff, met in high school and later “noticed” each other in adult Sunday school. They married in 1985 and worked together in a family-owned furniture business from 1989-2000. During those years, they gave birth to Joy (now 31), Jeremy, (now 25), and their third child, Deanna Grace, who was born with a chromosome disorder and went to heaven at the tender age of 8 and a half months.
The storm that followed and the peace that prevailed brought Denise to Love Worth Finding in 2000.
“I loved my time at LWF. I was talking to people on the phone about difficult things they were going through.” In addition to supporting others through listening and prayer, she says, “I was able to work with people to help them take hold of what they’d heard and try to figure out what resources they could use to take the next step, to become doers and not just hearers of the word. For instance, I worked with a woman who had her own ministry handing tracts out in airports, so we redesigned one of our resources for her to use.”
In the meantime, because she was regularly poring over sermons and other LWF materials, she was feeding an ever-growing appetite for wisdom and knowledge. “All the messages I heard; I feel like I’ve been through seminary sometimes.”
As she grew spiritually, Denise contemplated getting an actual seminary degree but instead felt the Lord leading her to address one of the most important topics of our time: abortion.
When she received a job offer from Life Choices earlier this year, her call was confirmed.
Now at Life Choices, she is able to use her listening superpower, the knowledge she gained working for LWF over the last 17 years, and a number of resources LWF has donated for her use in her new position.
Because her own heart was broken, Denise is able to talk to her clients “about how broken the world is and about how the broken place they’re in is a part of that.”
Her work takes her beyond the statistics—an estimated 60 million-plus preborn children aborted in the United States since Roe v. Wade in 1973—to the realities that bring young women to the door at Life Choices and similar ministries across the U.S.
High connecting factors bringing clients to Life Choices ministry include street life (often involving prostitution), drug abuse, moral slide, ignorance, and cultural norms.
Of those norms, she says, “Everybody seems to think it’s ok to live together. Even many Christians think it’s an ok lifestyle. If it’s not bad to live together, the reasoning gets skewed. This (living together) isn’t that bad, so that (abortion) can’t be that bad either.” The culture, Denise says, teaches young people to “think of abortion as birth control.”
So Denise listens when girls tell her they made a mistake, or they didn’t know, or the father is no longer in the picture, or they want to leave “the life,” or they need the next “fix,” or that it’s just plain too hard to think about going through with the pregnancy. Regardless of the circumstances involved, her first aim is always this: “We have to show them that this is a life.”
Equally important, Denise works to show each client that the life she is carrying is created by and treasured by a loving God and that her own life is of inestimable value to Jesus Christ.
“At life choices, we desire to share the Gospel with every person who comes in,” she says, “realizing their eternal destiny is just as important as that baby’s life. This reminds me of how important (salvation) was to Dr. Rogers, as he always called people to come to Jesus!”
When the light goes on, and when the client carries her child to term, Denise celebrates the life-affirming choice. And in her mind, she goes back to that choice to take the road less traveled, the road that connects her to the Life-giver Himself.
Speaking of herself and her husband, she says, “We’ve been able to minister in amazing ways because of what we went through. Such suffering puts you in a category you don’t want to be in. But Christ suffered. We all suffer.”
For Denise Howard, reaching out to Jesus during that suffering has made all the difference.