A Mother to the Motherless – Stephanie’s Story

I have a daughter. The day I met my daughter was my first day working at a charter high school for at-risk kids. Ti flitted into my classroom, rail thin, dressed provocatively; hair dyed some unnatural shade of pink and her need for love written across her face. In my mind’s eye it was as if there was a spotlight shining down on her. God spoke to my heart, “Watch out, this one is special.”

Of course they are all special. I wouldn’t have been in this particular school if I didn’t believe that. The place was filled to the brim with kids who were literally not wanted by any other school and often, it appeared they were not wanted by their own parents either. My daughter was no exception. From birth, Ti’s mom and dad “parented”(if you can call it that) as if they didn’t care what happened to their children. She was left prey for any perverted man who was on the prowl. Outside of my husband, there is a short list of men who have not violated her. She was taught early that her usefulness was mostly sexual. Her parents went so far in their neglect as to sign over parental rights to an ill-equipped sibling who only perpetuated the cycle of abuse and neglect. By the time she was a freshman in high school and walked into my class, she was using drugs regularly, promiscuous, completely detached from any kind of “home,” but to me and to God, she was a treasure.

I continued teaching at the same school while Ti hopscotched from friend’s house to the streets, to boyfriends’ homes, to her abusive dad, to her neglectful mom, to the streets and round and round she went. By the time she was 16 she was hooked on meth, and most people had given up on her. What hope was there if she dropped out of school? What hope was there if we couldn’t even find her?Through all of this she and I managed to keep in touch; a phone call here, a lunch there. Sometimes Ti would come by school, but most of the time not. Her brief stints of silence when she was on the streets interrupted our communication, but she always came back. “Miss. Kramer, can we go get lunch?” I got married and she got clean, but she still struggled. She still fought demons. One day, while trying to hide from the abusive meth-head drug dealer she’d been seeing for a year, Ti realized that she was either going to die, or she was going to stop. She asked Jesus to come into her heart and she quit meth. Yes, she quit meth. Only with Jesus can a girl shake a habit like that with no treatment.

I was able to extract some of her story over lunch one afternoon; details Ti had shrouded in shame and secrecy for many years. Accounts of the atrocious things that kept her from growing or healing came thundering down on my head like hot coals. WHAT KIND OF PARENT LETS THAT HAPPEN!?!? I was so angry. This precious baby girl was simply not cared for in any way. For whatever reason, her parents were completely remiss to love, protect and provide for this dear one. What I really saw sitting before me was not a 17 year-old, but a six year-old girl, neglected and broken from the inside out. Seeing this shattered girl before me I knew she needed a mommy. A REAL mommy. My husband and I started asking Ti to come spend the weekends with us. I’d take her to counseling, she’d spend the weekend and then I’d take her home on Monday. She’d work and detach once again, because detachment was the only way to cope in her mother’s home. Finally, realizing that we were making little progress with her still in the abusive situation I asked my husband, “What if she came to live with us full-time?” By this time, Ti was 18, technically and legally an adult. I knew in my heart that she would never heal if she had to stay in that home, in that neighborhood, in that city, with those people. We decided to float the idea to her and see what she thought. She literally almost jumped at the idea. We were clear that this was not a “you can live here and do what you want” situation. This was an opportunity to heal. This was a chance at 18 to finally know what it was like to have parents. There would be rules. There would be expectations, but there would be actual parents. Parents who love. Parents who discipline. Parents who protect.

A year at Bible school in Sweden and four years of college in the states later, we now have a 24 year old daughter who is going to walk as a Summa Cum Laude graduate in Behavioral Health this year. I still recall clearly the moment Ti decided to tell people that I was her mom. She said, “You do what moms are supposed to do. There’s no other way to describe what you are to me.”

Many people think, “But, she’s an adult. How can you parent an adult?” A few things come into play. Foremost is the impedance of emotional development when the use of narcotics, abuse and neglect are present. Ti did not even know what size shoe or bra she wore when she came to us. Why? Because no one had ever taken her shoe or bra shopping. Her mother had never taken the time to show her how a bra is supposed to fit. ALL of her clothes and shoes came from friends’ hand-me-downs. She brought only one small backpack with her when she moved in. That was all she had. Her parents weren’t that poor; she was just that neglected. Ti didn’t even know to feed herself. With absolutely no clue how to eat a balanced diet, she would eat at weird times during the day and live on hot Cheetos, dry tuna and instant ramen. And while many a college freshman has thrived on this diet, the problem with Ti was that she didn’t know anything else. The high level and amount of abuse she had withstood left her with severe PTSD, flashbacks, awful nightmares and addictions that were harder to kick than meth. So, did she need a mom? Yes. She did.

Re-parenting Ti has been a sometimes frustrating, difficult, but all-times rewarding journey. We not only taught her how to dress, buy bras, and eat, but we also did a lot of repair work in the areas of sexuality, proper relationships with the opposite sex, trust, spiritual healing, etc. Honestly, when Ti came to our home, I never would have guessed where the last six years would have taken us. But, when you become a mom, you are a mom forever. Parenting never ends. I still get late night texts because a boy has hurt my daughter’s feelings. I still have to issue correction when she blows things slightly out of proportion (girls and hormones). And, just like other moms, I still get to celebrate her accomplishments. I rejoice every day in what a lady she has become. Modest, beautiful, polite, well-mannered, and still so precious. I celebrate her amazing mind, which has been enriched and blossomed. SUMMA CUM LAUDE!!! Who would have thought? I am blown away by her compassion for others. Her career of choice is to help children like her. The hands and feet of Jesus in action.

I celebrate her dedication and hard work. My husband I were simply vessels willing to do whatever God put before us and we have been blessed to walk through this journey with Ti. But, she did the hard work. She did trauma counseling. She changed patterns and broke habits and addictions. She is a warrior, a fighter and a conqueror.

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So, I have a daughter. I’m not nearly old enough to have a college graduate for a daughter. But, I have a daughter. And I love her just as deeply, fiercely and passionately as if she were my own flesh and blood. I am beyond thankful to the Lord for giving me the blessing of being her mom.

~~~~~

Stephanie lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband Rhett and their two small boys, Brock and Henry. She has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and has put her M.Div. in Counseling studies on hold to raise her two small children. She is a teacher by vocation and a mom by calling. She volunteers with several women’s ministries, and find the most fulfillment in those that foster and guide the healing process for victims of abuse. You can read about her life, love and seminary at www.ignitingwholeness.blogspot.com

Steffi

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Mom’s Night Out Critics: Is Being a SAHM Anti-Feminist?

Several months back, I got a chance to preview the movie, Mom’s Night Out, which is still playing in theaters for a few more days. You can read my review about it here, but what I want to talk about today is the mixed and even NEGATIVE reviews it is getting from many critics. While not completely surprising since it was somewhat promoted as a funny chick flick but has a very Christian message, I can see how some might have been unpleasantly surprised in the theater. But to go so far as to call it “Depressingly regressive and borderline dangerous,” “Unabashedly anti-feminist,” with “Ugly sexism” and “Archaic notions of gender roles” – hold the phone, I have to take a stand!

What bothers me about these critics’ reviews is not what they have to say about the movie, but what they have said about MY JOB. In addition to being a tiny, unpaid mommy blogger and taking some very infrequent, small-time contracts for web and graphic design, my FULL TIME job is a stay-at-home wife and mother.

Do I have an old-fashioned notion of womanhood to want to stay home and raise my babies? Is my husband a sexist, chauvinistic or demoralizing man because his job is the one that pays our bills? Am I an oppressed and stifled nonproductive member of society because I have chosen to forgo my professional career in favor of a domestic one? Mama, please!

I take HONOR in my role, I am PROUD of my job and I believe with 100% of my being that what I do is vital to our future and more important than all the VPs, Fortune 500’s, fame and power combined in the whole, western world!

Now, do I believe that EVERY woman should be a stay-at-home mom? No way! I have several dear friends who have to work because their income is needed to provide for their families. I also know other moms who have very successful careers outside of the home and not only are they good at what they do, but they love to do it! Do I look down on them because they have chosen a different path than me? Absolutely not! In fact, I have learned many valuable lessons from my working mom friends. While they may work 40 or more hours away from the home, when they come back to their husbands and children, they are more present with them than I sometimes am all week long! Seeing this encourages me to be a better mom in the place where I am at.

So, here’s my punch line: I believe every woman is called to do what is right for themselves and for their families. And as such, we are accountable to no one regarding those callings except to our husband, children and our God, if we choose to serve one. Let’s stop pushing our ideals, notions and callings onto others. Let’s let women lead the lives they are convicted to lead no matter how simple or complex we think they are. And let’s support and encourage each other in those choices instead of slapping on hurtful labels and tearing each other down.

~~~~~

Mom’s Night Out is in theaters just through Thursday of this week. Get your tickets here and go see it today to show your support and tell the entertainment critic world that good, wholesome films about the domestic job we hold is NOT archaic, but is just as valid of a career choice for a woman to make as any other!

Moms Night Out Quote

 

Grace for the Imperfect Mama – Guest Post by Author and Blogger, Jenni Mullinix

As a single woman and a newlywed, I had grand ideas of what motherhood would look like. My children were never going to watch television during the day. I was going to be cool, calm and collected in the midst of trying times. The house would stay clean. I would serve nutritious meals every night. And my children would never throw fits, especially in public. I was a perfect parent before becoming a mother. imperfect mama Fast forward a few years and you will find me as the mother of an infant and toddler sometimes wondering how I’m going to make it through this crazy, beautiful thing called motherhood. There are dark days caused by a lack of sleep, toddler tantrums and other stresses that bring me to the end of myself. During these difficult moments the question that all mothers wonder lurks in the back of my mind… Am I enough? I’ve been pondering this question quite a bit lately. What I’ve decided is that the answer is NO. Despite what you’ve heard or read, it’s the truth–the gospel truth. This answer may seem wildly discouraging at first, but I found found it to be quite freeing. While I strongly believe the Lord has called us be the mother of the children He has gifted each one of us with, I am also quite certain that we cannot do this mothering thing on our own. We are not enough. We need Jesus–desperately.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5

It is only through the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit that we can do anything right. The Lord did not call us to be perfect mothers–He called us to be moms covered by His grace, relying on His Spirit to guide us through the mundane (and not so mundane) moments of motherhood. grace-covered mama Did you get that, dear friend? God has called you to be a grace-covered mama, not a perfect one. It is only when we choose to accept the gift of grace and allow the gospel to permeate every area of our life that we will thrive in our role as a mother. What freedom and joy there is in realizing this and taking it to heart! May we seek to bring glory to God by living out the gospel as we embrace the wonderful gift of grace that the blood of Jesus Christ bought for us. In what area of your motherhood do you need God’s grace today?

headshot 150About the Author: Jenni Mullinix is happily married to her husband and enjoys being a stay-at-home mama. She is fascinated with all things domestic which inspired her to write her first eBook, Clean Enough: Simple Solutions for the Overwhelmed Homemaker. In her free time, she enjoys deep conversations, drinking lattes, and diving into a good book. As a writer, Jenni is passionate about encouraging and equipping women to live called for the glory of God in every season of life. She would love to connect with you! Blog | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Twitter.

 

 

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Motherhood Vignettes: A Mother’s Day Week Tribute #5

What a fantastic week of Mother’s Day tributes! Thank you so much for sending in your Vignettes, for your comments, shares and likes! I have been so blessed by them and I know the women in your life that deserve to be celebrated this Mother’s Day have been too!

As we wrap up this series and begin preparing for the weekend, I want to recap the different kinds of mothers we have thanked.  We’ve honored the women in our lives that are as dear to us as sisters, those who may be a bit older that stepped into a mothering role when our own mother was unavailable, the one or more dear friends who feel our joys and sorrows and cry right along with us and those who mother the ones we love, like our children and others dear to us.

And then there are our own, traditional mothers: biological, adoptive, birth, foster, step, in-law and of course, grand. I’d like to take a moment and give a shout-out to those women who are recognized as our “real” moms and think of a new way to pay them tribute this Mother’s day.
I know I have several to be thankful for. First of all, my own mother, Rebecca. We have always had a special, close relationship and it has been a joy to grow up and watch her cultivate that same, precious relationship with my three young children. Also, my mother-in-law, Beki, has always been tender and loving to me and a fantastic grandma to our children. This sweet woman is now in advanced-stage Huntington’s Disease and we savor every moment we have left with her. And lastly, my stepmother-in-law (if that is an actual word!), Cheryl. I am awed by her strength, resolve and deep compassion. She is also the best hostess when we stay with them and loves my husband and our children as if they were her own flesh and blood.
All three of these woman, my moms, have enriched my life, inspiring and motivating me to be a better mother and woman and I am so very thankful for them this Mother’s Day!

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Finally, before we end the series, I want to give you one last opportunity to share a vignette or tribute to your own, traditional mothers in your life. Please feel free to write in the comments about them. They may be biologically or legally your mother, or just someone else you feel should be honored on this special day.

Thank you for your readership and sharing this week and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

 

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Motherhood Vignettes: A Mother’s Day Week Tribute #4

So far in the Vignette series this week, we’ve honored the women in our lives that are as dear to us as sisters, those who may be a bit older that stepped into a mothering role when our own mother was unavailable and the one or more dear friends who feel our joys and sorrows and cry right along with us.

But what about those women who have taken on the job of mothering those we love, like our children? Our spouse? Or even someone else dear to us?
Sometimes watching someone love the people you care most for, feels almost as if they are loving on you. Do you have a godmother picked out for children? Have a favorite babysitter, aunt, grandmother or someone else who loves and cares for your children as if they were their very own offspring? I know I do and I am so blessed knowing that whenever I need help or childcare, those women co-mother with the same nurturing and tender care that I do (and frankly, sometimes even better!). Moreover, if something ever happened to me, I rest in the comfort of knowing that my children would still have a host of mothers to love them like I would!
Has there been a special woman in your spouse’s, sibling’s, parent’s or friend’s life that you have watched fill a mothering need for them? A stepmother? A mentor? Or even perhaps a  caregiver? Motherhood can present itself in so many different ways than the traditional, but whenever or however it meets those needs in someone, it is precious and should be celebrated!

Please feel free to share in the comments a tribute to the women who have in the past or still continue to mother your children, spouse or other loves ones. They may not be their biological or legal mother, but they deserve to be honored on this day, just the same!

 

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Motherhood Vignettes: A Mother’s Day Week Tribute #3

A Tribute to My Fellow Crier – Tracy’s Vignette

Sitting next to the pool while the swimsuit-clad children take their lessons, I talk to Melissa. Originally just another lady from a mom’s group, Melissa has turned into a dear friend. There are a good many things I adore about her; her impeccable style for one, but beyond all of them, the thing I love most about her the is her tears. She is genuine; allowing herself to feel things and her emotions manifest in tears. I love this about her because it is proof of her sincerity. She is the real-deal. And I also love this about her because I am the same way.

We each have two children, at about the same ages. We find camaraderie in the similarity of our situations. We talk about life and motherhood, with both its pleasures and challenges. A few years ago our oldest children were entering kindergarten at the same time. We both agonized over the prospect of losing our full-time boys to full-time school. We cried together just a few moments after we dropped them off on their first day. Throughout that year our bond only grew closer and our fears turned into confidence.
And now, here we are again; faced with sending our youngest to kindergarten. It wouldn’t be truthful to say that there haven’t been a few tears shed over this, and I am certain that there are more to come. It was so hard with our firsts and now it is so hard because these are our lasts!

But I can rest assured because I know that whatever may come, Melissa will be there. She will listen. She will talk. And we will cry. She is my fellow crier. I love us just the way we are.

~~~~~

Who is your “fellow crier?” Can you think of that dear friend who has stuck by you through joys and trials and laughed and cried with you through them? Say thank you to her right now! Give her a shout out in the comments below and of course be sure to like, share and tag her in this post so she will see it!

 

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Motherhood Vignettes: A Mother’s Day Week Tribute #2

Empty-Nest Mamas – Rachel’s Tribute Vignette

In 2005 my young family made a big move to a new state. We had no job, two friends in the entire area and were clinging to God’s promise that not a single sparrow falls without His knowledge. Trusting Him to care for our every need, we continued in an interview process for a part-time pastoral position in a local church. Mere days after our arrival and the night before my oldest daughter was to start Kindergarten, we met with church leadership for one of several interviews.

That was the evening I met my flock of sister-mamas. The elders and their wives shared a BBQ and then the “men-folk” went off somewhere quiet for my hubby’s formal interview. I carefully tried to remember each woman’s name and the husband with whom she belonged. Becky’s home had just sold and she was moving nearby. We had both just survived the crazy housing market. Stephanie possessed a gentleness to which I was immediately drawn. Kim served the church as a compassionate counselor. Gail shared my love of thrift-shopping, most definitely a solid foundation for our future friendship. Candy was a labor and delivery nurse, and I just LOVE people who work with pregnant mamas. Linda ministered to women, which was my deep passion. Elaine and Annette were vibrant and engaging and hospitable and, well, just plain cute. Kathy was the church secretary and recorded everything at elder meetings with care and discretion – a gifted listener. Bernietta was on the search committee and gave the firmest hugs that warmed me to my toes. ALL of them were mamas. Some of them, recent empty-nesters, or a few short years from launching their chicks.

None of us could have foreseen the challenging year that lay before us that warm summer evening. Yet what comes most readily to my heart when recalling this season is a deep gratitude to God for placing these beautiful women in my life. In the following months and years, each of these women made room for me in their hearts. They “mothered” or “grandmothered” me tenderly during a season when I was away from “home” and needed their nurturing encouragement.

Some day in the future, when my own babies have flown the nest, testing their wings, and by God’s grace soar into His future for them, I want to follow the lead of these sister-mamas. I hope, like them, I will pause to reflect on my years with the busy, hungry, precious brood that God’s allowed me to nourish and prepare for flight. And then, may I wipe away the inevitable tears and re-feather my nest to welcome younger sisters who might just be in need of some motherly affection, guidance and love.

~~~~~

Do you have one or a few “Empty-Nest Mamas” that stepped into a mothering or sister role for you when you were far from home or just needed that kind of relationship with an older woman that WASN’T your own mom? Please feel free to share about it or them in the comments and give them thanks this Mother’s Day week!

 

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Motherhood Vignettes: A Mother’s Day Week Tribute #1

In a week we will celebrate Mother’s Day by thanking our mothers and our grandmothers while those of us with children will revel in gifts, brunch, sappy cards or, in my case, getting out of town with 13 of my dearest mom friends to spend two nights NOT being moms.

But, in all honesty, what each mom REALLY wants is not a gift, brunch or sappy card and maybe not even a weekend away from husbands and kids. They want to know and hear from those they love most that they are appreciated. But what about the other women in your life that may not be your biological or legal mother or grandmother? Are there women who have stepped into that role when you needed nurturing and motherly love when your real mother was unavailable at the time? Perhaps you witnessed someone take on that job in the life of your own child, spouse or friend. No matter the person, no matter the length of time they filled that mothering need, they were like a mother and should be celebrated on this Mother’s Day, as well.

Those are the women, those are the STORIES I want to share this week.
M2M is open every day this week for your unfiltered, unorthodox tributes to any and every mentor, sister, mother or grandmother that has been significant in your life or for someone you love.

For a featured tribute, please contact me at wynterkaiser@gmail.com and I will give you a whole day’s post to announce your appreciation to them. Or, if you’d rather, please feel free to comment, like, tag, share, etc. your tribute to her here and in each day’s feature tribute as well. Let’s show these often unacknowledged women just how much they mean to us this Mother’s Day!

My Tribute to the “Sisterhood”

To the aforementioned group of women that I will be celebrating Mother’s Day getaway weekend with. My “sisterhood,” as we call ourselves. Rachel, Hannah, Katie, Lana, Lina, Jessi, Jill, Jenn, Michelle, Suzi, Molly, Megan, Margaret, Carolyn and our newly inducted members, Beth and Lisa.
Six years ago I was a new, stay-at-home mother with few friends and a lot of time to kill during the day. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED spending time with my baby girl. She was my everything and we did lots of fun things together in and outside the home. But there was something special about having a group of women who also had young children at home to meet with once a week, even if it was only for two hours of coffee, snack and idle, superficial conversation. After awhile, those barely-acquaintance relationships grew stronger and deeper, more open, authentic and raw. Over the years, some of these women have moved away from our area, some have experienced big, heart-wrenching changes and losses, but all of that has only bonded us tighter together until this group of women, our “sisterhood,” has become nothing short of my lifeline as a stay-at-home mom.

We made it a point, four years ago, to take an annual trip together and while not all of us can make it each year, our friendships remain firm and we have been blessed to add new friends who sweeten our sisterhood all the more. Of course, it has taken time to feel like I know each of these women well and I am always surprised at the new things I learn when I get one-on-one time with each of them, but I can honestly say that if I were plopped into a room with just one, any one, of them, we would have plenty to talk, laugh and cry about!

So, thank you, sisters, my dear friends. I cherish each one of you so much and am so thankful to be a part of such a fantastic group of women. I don’t know where my life would be today if I didn’t have each of you in it. What we have is special, rare and I pray that it continues for many, many more years to come!

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                                        Seaside, OR 2010                                                                Silverton, OR 2011

 IMG_2250             girlsweekend

                                     Sunriver, OR 2012                                                              Long Beach, WA 2013

Do you have a special, “sisterhood” group of women or even just one or two close girlfriends that you rely on like this in your life and whom you would like to pay tribute to this Mother’s Day? I would love to hear about them! Please feel free to give them a shout out in the comments below and of course be sure to like, share and tag them in this post so they will see it!

And stay tuned, tomorrow I will post another Motherhood Vignette Tribute!

 

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