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.

steffi2

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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39 thoughts on “A Mother to the Motherless – Stephanie’s Story

  1. I loved your story and truly understand. We became foster parents when our daughter was 12, no drugs, but all the abuse was evident. Long talks at night, much prayer and keeping her in church transformed this child. Thank you for your awesome post shared here at “Tell me a True Story.”

  2. These are the kind of stories I love to hear. Lives changed forever because of the willingness of others. Praise God!

  3. My MIL was just telling me about the story of this girl who needed a mother. I told her that it sounded like the girl was looking for my MIL to be her mother. I’m not sure she’s ready to hear that though. She loves little children, and as a school teacher deals with high school students all day, but this girl NEEDS her, like your daughter needed you. Thank God that you were there for her, instead of another meth dealer. Thank you for sharing your story with Turn it Up Tuesday.

  4. Pingback: Ti: A story of beauty | Fika Time

  5. Stephanie’s story is such a perfect picture of what Christ did and does for each one of us who call on His name, Wynter. I’m so glad you shared it here today. And kudos to Ti for overcoming so many HUGE obstacles and losses to graduate Summa Cum Laude! God is in the business of doing miracles through our acts of faith and obedience. So encouraging!

  6. This story has me crying tears of pain and tears of joy. What a beautiful story of God using His people to breathe life, bring healing, usher in redemption that is only possible in Him. So blessed to have linked up behind you at Jennifer’s #TellHisStory.

  7. What a beautiful story! It’s encouraging to hear of the broken becoming whole. Not every adoption story has a happy ending.

  8. You have no idea the encouragement you have given me this morning. We are in the early stages of a similar walk with a young man God made part of our family. There have already and will be again, tears, frustration, helplessness, happiness and joy. With much prayer, I trust for a beautiful ending to our story too. Thank you!

  9. I love this for so many reasons… two of which, off the top of my head and heart, are that our only girlie is moving out today and this reminds me that we are never done – or limited to – parenting if we stay open to it; secondly – we have parented a woman who lives with us for years… more years than her own mother was alive to do and even though she is older than us and much like a sister… she often refers to us as Mom and Dad. What an honor! I am visiting from Barbie’s Weekend Brew today and I am so glad I stopped by!

    • Wow, what a testimony! Bless you for being open to the mothering roles God has called you to! Thanks for stopping by M2M. I hope you’ll come back for more stories by moms!

  10. This beautiful story so touched my heart! Ti, and so many other teens like her, is one of the many reasons I love working with students! To love the unlovable, give hope to the hopeless and share the love of Christ!

    Thanks for sharing at Wow Me Wednesday!

  11. Being raised very abusively, a rough and tough kid myself who was in charge of all 5 of my younger sisters from the time I was 7. The blessing is that people occasionally were used by the Lord to drop in encouragement and growing in goodness. WELL, as I’ve often said, if the Lord had not broken into my like officially when I was 20 — April 15, 1966 — I would have been dead a long time ago from alcoholism, violence, or suicide. Instead, now I’m a missionary, a helper, a blessed lady. AND all my sisters and I were buried in sin. My parents came to the Lord before they died. I’ve written many stories about much of all of this. The proof has been the kindness of God YOU were used through that, too. That is a huge blessing…now and forever.

  12. I am bawling. What a life story. What a beautiful story. You and your husband have saved a life and have blessed this young woman… your daughter. God bless all of you.

    Thank you for sharing (and for linking up to the SHINE Blog Hop).

    Wishing you a blessed day.
    xoxo

    • Thank you! I’m glad you liked Stephanie’s story and I hope you’ll come back each week for more real mom stories! And I will keep posting them on SHINE

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