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.

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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

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A Mentor, Teacher-Mother – Lana’s Story

From the time I was a little girl, I loved to teach. As a child I would ask my teachers for extra worksheets to take home so that I could play school with my younger sister and neighborhood kids. My mother was a prime example of selfless, mothering love, putting aside her career to be a stay at home mom to my sister and me. She set a strong example for us and helped me realize that one day I also wanted to stay home with my kids and raise them. She is the person who helped me realize my God-given gift for teaching and later encouraged me along that path when I was headed in the opposite direction.

When my sister and I got older, our mother had the wisdom to place Godly women in our lives that we could look up to. Knowing that it is sometimes easier to talk to someone other than your own mother, she encouraged us to find trusted mentors outside of herself to confide in. It had a huge impact on me as I developed relationships with many influential women in my early life.  As I went off to college to study music education, I met other women who had a significant role in shaping me as a person by listening to me, praying for me and encouraging me in my relationship with God, prayer-life and daily Bible study.  Even today, I continue to make time to meet with women who shape and influence my view of what a mother should be and the kind that I hope to be one day as well.

When I graduated from college, I started teaching Sunday school in my home church and had the opportunity to myself become a mentor to other young women. I befriended a couple of junior high and high school girls and I spent time listening to them and praying with them. I’ve discovered that my goal in mentoring, or discipleship, is to help girls answer their own questions about their walk with God and assist them in understanding and applying the bible in their daily lives. I also try and get them to recognize the impact that prayer can truly have in every circumstance. Through discipling, I hope to be able to guide younger girls through life from a Biblical perspective instead of a worldly one; just as I desire to one day do with my own biological children.

I started my career as a music teacher in a public school near my hometown and teach over 600 kids each year. In my early years as a teacher I had a hard time connecting with some of the more difficult students but the school’s counselor was always willing to sit down and take the time to help me understand each one of them.  After hearing many hard stories, I began to realize that I didn’t need to hear a child’s story to know that they desired individual love and attention.  I started to recognize that no matter their circumstances, I could encourage them and help them grow.

In those early years of teaching I also began to offer piano and flute lessons out of my home. The personal interaction with students in a one-on-one learning situation is very different than teaching in a classroom of twenty or thirty-something students.  It has been empowering to see their uniqueness, watch them grow as individuals and be able to encourage and inspire them to know that they can succeed.

As a mentor and teacher now for several years, I have discovered a deep passion to teach others how to study the Bible. I recall fondly how many of my mentors inspired me as a teenager and young adult to develop a love of God’s word, an active prayer life and a godly character that reflects the Holy Spirit. It made me realize that what I look forward to most in parenting my own children one day is to raise them to know and understand the bible in a way that can help them have a thriving relationship with God.

But in the years that have elapsed since my college days, I have yet to marry and have children of my own. I never expected to be living this many years as a single adult. Growing up, I never had to worry about the next thing because it would just happen. In my mind, when a person finished one thing, they just went on to the next life event. First I went to elementary school, then junior and senior high and from there, college. Once college was over, I expected that I would simply get married and a few years later have kids.  When I graduated and found myself still single, I focused on the next goal: getting a job and moving out of my parent’s house. A few years later, when I had accomplished those dreams as well, I was surprised to find that I had still not yet met my husband.  And while I love the life I have, with a variety of mothering roles, I am still on the lookout to find a husband with whom I can share a life-long covenant and have children. If and when that day comes and I haven’t yet had a chance to bear children, it may be quite a life-perspective change.  At that point I know I will go through a mourning process to let go of the dream of being a biological mother, but for the present, my focus is on living for Christ with what I have and choosing to live intentional about where God has placed me now and the lives that I can impact.

In the meantime, it is my heart’s desire to continue teaching and mentoring in my community.  Since I work in a public school, incorporating Christ into my daily lesson plans is not an option. I had to be creative with all the Bible teaching inspirations floating around in my head, so I created a website to share my Bible study resources and ideas with other people and help them learn how to study the Bible as well. I have also written a devotional curriculum for families to use with their children at home and it is my growing desire to be able to start a weekly discipleship group for kids where I can teach them to study the Bible in a more active, gripping way. In the future I also hope to open a community home for girls as they journey from life as a student to life as an adult.  A home like this, that offers spiritual discipleship as its model, would give young adults the financial and spiritual support they need as they transition into adulthood.

I believe that God has entrusted me with the gift of teaching and mentoring and I try to use it in service to others as a mentor, teacher and friend. Overall, it is my desire to be a prayerful, patient and gentle woman who is full of grace and spends undivided time and effort with my students, mentees and hopefully one day, my own children, teaching them about God’s word.

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Lana teaches Music in the greater Portland, Oregon area and is the author and creator of the free online resources Studying the Bible: Resources for Adults and Children and Summer Family Devotions as well as the Scripture Journal for chapter by chapter Bible study notes, available for purchase here.

Just Wait – Jennifer’s Story

“I will NEVER have children,” I quipped to my husband and our friends standing nearby. Blinking away the tears, I scanned the vacant campsite once more. It was morning and there was still no sign of them anywhere. Where had they gone last night and why hadn’t they come back? The unanswered questions had plagued my mind as I tossed and turned all night and this morning.

Every year on Labor Day weekend our church has a campout at Fort Stevens State Park. Located just south of the city of Astoria, off the Oregon Coast, Fort Stevens offers beach access, hot showers, numerous bike trails and quickly became a favorite spot for many of us. This year my husband David and I had decided to share a campsite with my mom and younger siblings.
Soon after, a familiar bunch of teenage girls arrived and set up camp directly across from us. There were five girls altogether, three of whom I was particularly fond of since I had watched them grow up. In the years that David and I had served as youth leaders in our church’s youth group, we saw them transform from grinning, giggly sixth graders into beautiful, sophisticated young women.
Two of them in particular, Julie and Mindy, were practically like younger sisters to me after we spent several days and nights together earlier in the summer, ministering in Rosarito, Mexico; not to mention the cramped bus we shared, driving there and back. I hadn’t seen much of them since the trip, but now here they were to enjoy the great outdoors and coincidently, freedom from their parents.
We greeted them warmly when they arrived, but before we knew it, they were off again. The girls pitched a medium-sized nylon tent, tossed their belongings inside and hopped in a couple of cars destined for who-knows-where. This proved to be their pattern for the duration of the weekend, but much to our relief, they always returned by nightfall. Always, that is, until that fateful Sunday evening.
With smoke-blurred eyes and stomachs full of gooey s’mores and other “nutritious” camping food, David and I decided to turn in for the night. There was still no sign of the girls. They had left immediately after dinner, accompanied by some boys we didn’t recognize. Surely, they would pull up at any moment, I thought, but something deep inside told me differently. To bide some more time, David and I bundled up and headed through the trails for a night hike, but when we got back we were disappointed to see they had still not returned.
Now it was morning. Willing away the exhaustion from a sleepless night, I fumbled to get my shoes on and peered outside. Not a single car was parked in their site. “Darn,” I sighed and began to pray – and – worry even more for their safe return.
The day trudged on as we packed our gear and tidied up the place. By now other church members were aware of the situation and they checked in with us periodically. Eventually, our pastor drove up, concern clouding his graying eyes. He stretched his arms around David and me, embracing us firmly and encouraging us to go on home. “I’ll contact the girls’ parents and stay until they’re found,” he reassured us. David nodded and, placing his arm delicately around my trembling shoulders, he coaxed me in to the car. Everyone else had already left; we were exhausted and knew that we would have to go in to work the next morning.
“Kids are NOT an option,” I stated again on the ride home. “These aren’t even my children, yet my stomach is knotted with distress!”
Later that evening the phone rang. A familiar and guilt-ridden voice was on the other end, apologizing for the girls’ tardiness and irresponsible behavior. It was Julie.
“We were too drunk to drive back,” she explained. “We certainly didn’t mean to worry you.”
“Are the others all right?” I questioned abruptly.
“Yes, fine, except that we’re all grounded for life!” she exclaimed.
“Well, serves you right,” I retorted, half-chuckling, but so relieved to finally hear her voice. I thanked her and God for the good news and climbed in to bed. I did not feel well. Not only with a headache but a bit of nausea; both of which I attributed to the past days’ stressful events.
But the next day, even after a good night’s sleep, I felt just as awful. So, after requesting a sick day from work, I turned to David and asked him to get me some things from the store. Jotting a few items down, I folded the note and deposited it in his pocket.
When he returned from the store, the expression on his face told me that he had bought all the things I requested. A few minutes later, I emerged from the bathroom, my face glowing but streamed with tears. I placed the positive pregnancy test in his palm and crumpled to the ground. He followed my lead.  Our eyes were glued on those two little lines, certain that one would fade away. But it didn’t.
Once the numbness and shock wore off, we dialed up everyone we could think of with the incredible, wonderful news. And just a few short months later, we called the same roster of family and friends, again, to alert them this time that we were expecting twins, and both girls, no less!

Our twin girls, Breanna Rose and Rebecca Renee, are teenagers now with a younger brother and a preschool sister. Raising these children has become my greatest joy and my greatest challenge. The four of them fill my days with endless wonder, and whether I’m snickering at their childish antics or sobbing with exhaustion at the day’s end, I don’t regret a minute I spend with them. All I can say now is that God must have been softly chuckling to Himself when He heard my ironic proclamations of remaining childless. “Oh, just wait,” He must have said to the angels with a twinkle in His eye, “just wait.”

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Every Woman Has A Mama-Heart

I started this project because I realized that in my thirty-ahem-something years, I have been positively influenced by many women, but I have also had the joy to be able to encourage and mentor others as well. I believe that women were designed by God for close relationships…not just with their spouses and biological or adopted children, but with all kinds of other people. As women, we problem-solve through communication, find comfort and are encouraged by community and we are wired for emotional attachment, nurturing and taking care of others. It is my sincere belief that you do not have to have a child to be a mother. A mother is simply a woman who loves, guides, supports and reassures someone else, regardless of relation, legality or age. So in that regard, every woman is a mother and we were made to mother.

The opportunity to mother follows us throughout our lives and we all have our own unique and moving stories about the women who mothered us and the people we have a chance to mother as well. These stories are inspiring and heartwarming and whether they move us to laughter or to tears, they exude a powerful message of hope and ignite a spirit of comradery among women on the huge and diverse battlefield that we call ‘a mother’s love.’
This made me think that there should be a place where women can come together, even if it is through a computer screen. A place where women can read about each other’s trials and triumphs and feel encouraged, uplifted and find strength in that they are not alone; that someone else has experienced the joys or heartaches they are going through and be refreshed and renewed knowing there are others out there with the same struggles. That there is life on the other side! Stories of motherhood and the bond of womankind can be like that. Since the beginning of time, women have been encouraged, supported and influenced by other women. I want to share those stories.

I’ll kick this off by sharing mine and I hope that perhaps you’ll let me share yours.

I am who I am today because of several women’s impact on me over the course of my entire life; first, by my own mother, who I followed around and idolized as most little girls do. I wanted to watch and help with everything she did whether it was cooking, cleaning or the way she lived her life. As I grew, so did the number of influential “mothers” for me; babysitters, aunts, other girls’ moms, teachers and the cool, teenage girls that I looked up to and wanted to be just like. As I grew into young adulthood, I found more women to admire; famous personalities, my new sister-in-law and older friends that I could turn to for advice and mentoring. Sometimes it was just an acquaintance or someone I hardly knew that would be in my life for only a brief time, but, even today, I could say they had a large impact on the adult I would become. And, even now, I am still being impacted every day by the women I interact with, shaping who I will become tomorrow and years down the road.

My own evolution into motherhood started when I was very young. I grew up the youngest child in my immediate family and as such, I never got to experience having younger siblings to take care of. That always sort of bothered me, so I made up for it by pretending that my dolls, younger cousins and some of my little friends were my little sisters and brothers. While my peers and I dreamed of being doctors, astronauts or ballerinas when we grew up, new dreams came and went, but the thing that always stuck in the back of my mind was to become a wife and mother. Even as a young kid, I loved small children. In middle school, I began volunteering in my church’s nursery and babysitting for family friends. By high school, I had several, regular families that I babysat weekly and I spent many hours imagining the man of my dreams, our wedding and finally, the family of 3 or 4 kids that we would have and raise together.

At one point when I was a young teenager, Elisabeth Elliot, famous author and wife to martyred missionary Jim Elliot, came to our church to speak at a ministry to women conference. My mom and I attended her session themed, “Called To Be Mothers.” She said to us that all women in some way are called by God to be mothers and that it, more than any other job, is the highest esteemed profession we could ever receive. No matter how young or how old we are, whether we marry and have children of our own or not, that calling never expires. It simply shifts to fit a different part to play in different people’s lives, but whatever the role, being a mother to someone will always come out of it. It is how we were created; it is what we are called to be.
Even as a child, Ms. Elliot’s words rang so clear to me and only strengthened my resolve in the life I wanted some day. Of course, in true immature young adult fashion, I was distracted from this goal many times over the next few years. But even amidst high school graduation, college days, frat parties, sorority rush, college graduation and first jobs, the desire to follow my calling to be a mother was always in the back of my mind. I would examine my life and ask myself, would this boyfriend be my future husband? Is this city a good place to raise a family? Would this job hire me if they knew I plan to quit as soon as I have our first baby?

There were a couple of undeniable setbacks in my ideal situation. As a freshman in college at 18, I thought I had found “the one,” but after a series of bad choices and inevitable consequences, I ended up suspended from school, broken hearted and back home with my parents. I dated other guys, made more foolish choices and got pregnant at 20. It was not the way I had imagined my family would start, nor was it with the man of my dreams. I was still in college so had no home to raise the baby in, aside from my parent’s, or a job to support it. As such, it was not an option in my mind to keep the baby and I never even considered raising it as my own. I knew there was a good family out there and when I found them and placed him in their arms and they took him home, I did not grieve about being unable to keep him. I was his mother, but he was not mine to keep; my role in his life was to simply carry him for someone else. You can read more about that story here.
I learned from that experience that I wanted to have a family the right way, so I worked harder and prayed more fervently for that to happen one day. I wish I could say that I never made any more mistakes, but of course that wouldn’t be true. However, I did get the wonderful pleasure to mother in other ways. I continued to volunteer as a mentor to young kids in my church and a cabin counselor at my favorite summer youth camp. And, eventually I became an aunt, which was the best and most favorite mothering role up until that time.

When I met my husband and had children of our own, I felt my mama-heart complete being able to do what I had dreamt long ago; stay home and raise them each day. Of course it is by no means an easy job. Sometimes I feel like it is as full of frustration and helplessness as it is joy and happiness. I am by no means a perfect mother. I make mistakes and have to ask for my children’s forgiveness daily, but I have never felt a love for anyone in the way I feel love for my children. It is indescribable. I would do anything, become anyone and sacrifice everything for them. When they hurt physically or emotionally, I literally feel the same pain in my heart. And when their little faces light up with excitement, joy or happiness at a new discovery, accomplishment or thrill, I am right there with them, experiencing it for the first time again.

As our children grow and we add to our community of neighbors and friends, I continue to have the pleasure of mothering others. From the kids I get to teach and play with in Sunday school at church, to helping a friend by watching her kids, or even being able to encourage young adults and mothers that I meet through doing life with others. I am living the calling that I had as a young girl and continuing the legacy of motherhood I received by the women who in many ways were mothers to me. And I enjoy being able to pass the torch of motherhood on to my own daughters and the other girls and young women I meet, just as we are called by scripture to do in Titus 2:4. I also hope to accomplish this through the Made to Mother Project, by allowing women all over the world to share and be encouraged and inspired by the diverse stories of different kinds of mothers. Would you like to add your voice? If so, I would love to hear from you! You can email me at wynter@madetomother.com, and for more information about Made to Mother or to read the many amazing stories that have already been submitted, please visit the website, www.madetomother.com.

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