Honesty – Reposted with Permission from Dalas at Crunchy Lutheran Mommy

So many people have told me that what they love most about my blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy, is my honesty.  That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately… I haven’t wanted to be honest, not on the blog, not anywhere.  And now I feel like I’m in a Dr. Suess rhyme all of a sudden… sigh.  I still have lots of drafts backlogged in my files.  For nearly a month I neglected my weekly pregnancy posts.  I haven’t wanted to take a belly picture because that would mean I’d need to smile for it, and I don’t feel like I can give you an honest smile today.  Or any of the days I might have had time to put up a quick post.

Every time I see someone outside of my own home (which isn’t very often as you might imagine) I get the same reaction “You look so exhausted!”  Here I am trying so hard to put on a joyful, Christ-filled, my-cup-overfloweth countenance and every single person can see right through it.  So much for being a model pastor’s wife, right?  But that’s the truth.  Exhaustion is my truth right now.  Every tiny little activity is exhausting.  Serving my children is exhausting.  Enjoying my children is exhausting.

Every once in a while my Dad asks me “Do you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew yet?”  That’s been his concern this whole adoption, and sometimes it still comes up.  For months I have been saying no, but the question is starting to haunt me like a bad jingle I can’t get out of my head.  And I don’t even have any cutesy music to go with it.  I’m struggling right now.  That’s the only honest thing I have to say, and I hate to say it.  I hate to say it because the last thing I want is a slew of comments or messages or phone calls from people asking me if I’m ok or asking how they can help.  Just my pride talking?  Probably.

Prayer is good, but I know we’re covered in that already, without even having to ask.  So why even post?  Why not just say, we’re going through a tough transition time and I need to take a blogging break?  Why not run away?  I certainly feel like running, but running isn’t going to help me or anyone.  What might help though, is being honest, putting my weaknesses out there for the world and letting ya’ll know I am far from perfect.

It might help other adoptive families have realistic expectations for when they get home.  Did you know that the norm is actually to experience some level of post-adoption depression?  It’s very much like post-partum blues and depression, but even more common for both adoptive moms and dads, and even more complicated because of the deep sadness that naturally accompanies the reality of adopting a hurting child.  Adoption is all about loss.  We don’t like to talk about it much, just like we don’t want to talk about how redemption is all about the cross.  But the one is a living icon of the other, and the picture is poignant.

When we baptize our babies we dress them up in these beautiful white gowns and take family pictures and have a big reception and celebrate it.  Some families remember their baptisms every year (I know we do!) and we linger on the promises and the miracles that have been given to us in our gift of baptism.  But what we don’t see with our eyes as the pastor pours clear, sparkling water over that sweet child’s head is…  the blood, the death.  Because as much as baptism is about new life it is first about death, the death of the person being baptized, the gruesome death of Jesus on the cross.  There is a saying that as Christians we do not need to fear death because we have already died.  We died the death of Christ during our baptism, which means death has no hold over us – just as it had no hold over the God of the Universe.  And there, in the loss and only through that loss comes the beauty and the promise of true, abundant life.

Adoption is also about loss.  Life for these children only comes by means of very deep loss.  Everything that was their life has to die, everything that was meant to have been theirs, that should have been theirs was taken from them.  Only through that reality, can they begin a new life.  But the child isn’t the only one who loses something, the family also experiences loss.  In the end, it will be a blessing to us all.  But right now?  Wow is it hard.  We had a lovely little family.  Two perfectly healthy, bright, beautiful children – a boy and a girl.  Sweet, sheltered, secure little ones… not a real care in the world.  And then we took a hammer to all of that.  We shattered our perfect little family and we changed it forever.

Now we’re a family of broken pieces and broken hearts.  A family where half of our children still don’t understand what it means to have a Mommy and a Daddy.  I overheard my four year old daughter telling a lady the other day that the nannies dropped Hope in her crib when she was in the orphanage.  We try to not talk about things like that in front of her, but she hears and remembers everything.  There is so much her little mind is trying to process: abuse, abandonment, neglect, pain… crushing pain.  Things I never intentionally would have introduced to my four and two year olds, but now they are living those realities second hand by watching us as we try to help their brother and sister heal.

They were away from their home for two months; that was hard for them.  Neither of them have been as secure since that trip.  We spend hours a week in therapy, hospitals, referrals and appointments.  Time I could have been reading stories or making fun crafts or teaching them how to bake.  And us?  We’re exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually from all of it.  Suddenly we are a family with trauma, a family in need of an incredible amount of healing.  Overnight we went from having it all together to picking up the pieces.  Did we choose this?  Sort of, but not really.  Were we expecting it to be hard, even this hard?  Of course.  But just because trauma doesn’t always come without announcing itself doesn’t mean it isn’t just as traumatic when it finally walks through your front door and decides to live with you for a while.

Adoption is hard.  It is inherently loss, not just for the adoptive children, but for everyone in the child’s life.  Beautiful, lovely, miraculous things come from adoption.  But we do a disservice to adoptive families and their children when we overlook where that beauty came from. It came from ashes, ashes that are blown into a home, leaving the family to clean up the great mess that follows.  It’s not pity that I, or any adoptive parent, needs.  It’s prayer.  Understanding.  Support.  We need to know that if we don’t make that phone call or we don’t send that thank you note or if we never reach out for help it’s not because we don’t care about you.  It’s because our families have just been broken, and it’s taking all of our energy and strength to pick up all the pieces.

Sometimes we need you to reach out to us because we can’t reach out ourselves, but other times we just need space.  Sometimes we need respite, other times we just need a meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves.  Sometimes we need to sit and talk with someone who understands, and other times we just need people to stop asking how it’s going.  But most of all we need huge heaping doses of grace and mercy and love.  We need to know that the people in our lives are going to see our crazy, depressed, angry emotional roller coasters and they’re going to love us anyway.

(Just as a side note, if you are a family member or friend of an adoptive parent and you’re wondering why we aren’t asking for help, it’s probably because, especially when our children came from hard places, the kind of help we need is so specific that it would be difficult or impossible to just ask for a simple hand on something.  And if we tried to ask we would either come off as ungrateful or unreasonable or both.  Unfortunately, there are just situations where there is no real help that can be given without a logistical brainstorm involved.  Our children’s needs and our new family dynamics make simple things, like bringing in outside help, much more complicated.)

So here’s to honesty.  Here’s to dispelling the myth that adoptive families are superheroes that don’t need anyone’s help.  Here’s to coming out and saying that just because we signed up for this doesn’t mean we will always have our act together, and just because we “chose” these children doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, or week or month… or even year. We are just like you, and just like any family, when trauma kicks off its old, muddy shoes and decides to stay a while… we’re going to struggle.  And we are.

May the Lord, in His mercy, turn our sorrow to joy and our tears to laughter.  May He bring the dawn quickly and banish the darkness from our midst.  May He orchestrate the beauty from the ashes, and give us inclination to focus on neither, but rather to seek His face in this and in every season. Amen.

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Dalas is a mother to four with another on the way. She is seriously passionate about motherhood, adoption, being “crunchy” (a fancy way of describing how she keeps her family healthy) and her Lutheran faith. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy. You can read her original Honesty post here.

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National Adoption Month Series: StandUpGirl and Love’s Choice

http://www.standupgirl.com

StandUpGirl is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to providing pregnant or at risk adolescent and young adult women with insight into alternatives to abortion. The mission is to change hearts and save lives by educating young women on the development of the unborn child and alternatives to abortion. Standupgirl.com is a rapidly growing website whose scope is world-wide. We have volunteer “StandUpGirls” who moderate the site’s chat rooms, blogs, forums and respond to emails – from across the United States as well as in Canada, Africa and Japan.

Young women from all over the world are coming to StandUpGirl looking for information about pregnancy. They find educational material, real answers to their questions, and a community of women they can talk to about their unplanned pregnancies. StandUpGirl.com currently has over three million visitors each year, and while it is a great encouragement to see this many young people coming to the site, we are barely scratching the surface of the potential number of visitors on the internet.

Perhaps the most important component of the website is the real-life stories of girls facing their own crisis pregnancies and how our StandUpGirl team provides personal and individual guidance and encouragement to help these women make a choice that they and their baby can live with. The team provides visitors with contact information of local pro-life pregnancy centers where they can get the support and resources they need to journey through their pregnancy. Most guests remain on the site an average of 23 minutes, looking at phenomenal fetal development photography, life-like illustrations and remarkable videos. StandUpGirl.com is one of the most visited abortion-related website in the world! This energetic and beautifully designed website can now be viewed in several foreign languages and the StandUpGirl App can be downloaded from the Android and Apple markets.

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http://www.loveschoice.com

Love’s Choice was created to take an honest look at the painful beauty of adoption, and to provide tools to help each woman honestly assess the choices before her.

For girls out there that might feel overwhelmed as they try to make the best plan for their child, Love’s Choice is here to help and encourage, providing facts about adoption and tools to help them plan for birth, and either adoption or parenting. And, most importantly, Love’s Choice shares personal stories from real people who have experienced adoption –  adopted children, adoptive parents, and other birthmothers.

We want the girls that visit Love’s Choice to make an informed, confident decision about adoption or parenting. If they choose parenting, we hope the process of answering hard questions will make them a better, more intentional mother.

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StandUpGirl and Love’s Choice are not adoption agencies, nor are they in any way affiliated with any adoption placement programs. For more information about them, please visit them at www.standupgirl.com and www.loveschoice.com and on Facebook and https://www.facebook.com/standupgirl.

National Adoption Month Series: Lauren’s Adoptee Story

I was born on August 11, 1985 and adopted by my parents at five days old in Phoenix, Arizona. My birthmom was 19, not ready for a baby and even though my birthdad wasn’t in the picture, she didn’t want him to have any part in raising me, so she chose adoption.

I grew up knowing I was adopted. While it was legally a closed adoption, my parents made the selfless choice to stay in contact with Ginger, my birthmother. They sent pictures and letters back and forth throughout my life. And although they didn’t know it at the time, she lived only a couple miles from them, even shopping at the same grocery store when we lived in Phoenix. Naturally, this probably freaked my mom out when she found out later.

When I was seven, my mom and dad moved my siblings (biological to my parents) and me to Holland, Michigan to be closer to my mom’s family. The letters with Ginger continued but began to wane as time went on. I grew up knowing I had a biological sister named Tayler, seven years younger than me who my birth mom decided to keep and raise on her own. I was always excited to know I had another sister.

At 14, when email started getting popular, I asked my parents if they would be okay with me emailing Ginger sometime. My mom, although a little nervous and insecure about it, agreed, and contacted the adoption agency in hopes of getting any up-to-date info on her since we didn’t have her email address. When we got it and I wrote my first email to her, I was so nervous. What should I write about? Teenager things, I guess. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I wrote, but it started my first line of communication between my birthmother and me. We didn’t email every day, just once in a while to say hello. Ginger had mentioned we should keep it to a minimum to respect my parents and not make them feel like they’d been replaced or that I wanted to go back to her. I agreed.

Two years later, in my junior year of high school, we began to email regularly, learning more and more about each other. We talked about our personal lives and I learned that in addition to Taylor, I also had a little brother who was two at the time, from her new marriage to her husband. Inevitably, the conversation about meeting in person happened. I was so excited, but so nervous, when I got that email. How would my mom feel? Would she be mad that even came up? Would she be angry that we had been communicating as much as we had?  Maybe she’d be okay with it if she came along to meet her? And so I had that conversation with her. To my surprise, she was thrilled, cautiously thrilled. Of course I’d expect her to be insecure about it. After all, I’m HER daughter. She’s the woman who raised me, fed me, took care of me when I was sick, disciplined me, taught me everything about life, hugged me and told me she loved me. But she was so excited I asked her to go with me to meet her. And so we booked our tickets to Phoenix.

We flew out there the week before I turned 18. I had just graduated from high school and was ready to find out where and whom I came from. My mom was a wreck on the plane; she hates to fly. I waited anxiously while my mom squeezed my hand the entire four hour flight. We landed in Phoenix and my heart began to race. Walking through the terminal into the lobby was surreal. I wanted to vomit, smile, scream, dance around, but instead, I just walked.

And then, there she was. Blonde hair, green eyes and short. It was like looking into a mirror. We hugged for what seemed like hours; I couldn’t let go. This was my mother, the woman who birthed me. The woman who chose life. This was the woman who selflessly gave up her firstborn daughter to a family who desperately wanted a baby after trying for seven years to have one of their own. The woman who gave birth to me on my daddy’s birthday, August 11th. I suddenly made sense. The first thing my mom said to Ginger and me was, ‘Wow, you both are shrimps! Now we know where Lauren gets her height!’ We all laughed and the ice was broken. I met her husband, Dane, my little sister Tayler, my little brother Mason and we all headed out of the airport a little less nervous.

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I spent the entire week with them, while my mom stayed with relatives in Phoenix. I asked Ginger every question I ever had. Why didn’t you keep me, but you kept Tayler? Why did you choose adoption? Why didn’t you fight for me? Why, why, why? She answered everything without sugar coating or dodging, just straight forward, which is exactly how I answer questions. I realized the concept of nature vs. nurture. I wasn’t raised by this woman but our mannerisms are the same, we sleep the same, laugh the same, smile the same, speak the same. Our personalities are so similar, it’s insane. I am bold, stubborn, kind-hearted, forgiving, strong-willed, direct, and I don’t take crap from people. Now I get why I had such an identity crisis as a kid; I am so different from my family in terms of personality, even down to my delivery of words and my thought process. I am all Ginger. Looks, personality, everything.

I also met my grandparents for the first time. I am the eldest of the grand kids, so it was very special to meet them. They cried and called me their granddaughter. I met my cousins and aunt and uncle for the first time and still have a great relationship with them. We celebrated my 18th birthday together with my mom and relatives before heading home, both of us feeling great about everything that happened that week. But also relieved it was over and excited to see my new family again in the future.

That was twelve years ago and there hasn’t been a year since where we haven’t seen each other. I visit Arizona every year and they have also visited Michigan a few times. I have taken vacations with them, been there for birthdays and holidays, surgeries, and various other events. Ginger has been by my side, watched me grow into an adult, heard listened to me talk about my silly relationships, met my husband and embraced him like a son. She attended our wedding on June 30, 2012 and my little sister Tayler was a bridesmaid. She and Dale look forward to being grandparents someday.

I’ve been able to watch my little sister grow into the woman she has become and watch my little brother grow into the feisty teenager that he is. We are family. I can’t say she is my mom, or an aunt, or friend, or whatever label you want to put on her. She is my family; her whole family is my family. There isn’t any other way to describe them. All I can say is that I am blessed. I am blessed to have parents who were so accepting of Ginger, allowed me to grow up knowing about her, let her be a part of my life, embraced her when she was a physical part of my life, and consider her family. I am so blessed to have a birthmother who is so strong and selfless, and respectful of my parents. She never stepped on their toes as parents, she is grateful to them for raising me how they did and proud to be a part of our family. She will always be there for us.

I am so blessed to have more family that loves me and who I can love. I am so blessed to have a husband who has only been supportive of the relationship I have with my birth family and eagerly waits for our next trip to visit them. I am so blessed to have a ‘dad’ in Ginger’s husband, Dane. He accepted me as part of his family, considers me his daughter, even though he came into the picture years after my adoption and encouraged Ginger to connect with me.

~~~~~

Lauren Haveman is a real estate agent for City2Shore Real Estate, She and her husband, Todd, reside in Hudsonville, Michigan with their two dogs, Dweezel and Lola and enjoy cooking, camping, and living the Michigan seasons to their fullest. Ginger and her husband continue to live in Phoenix AZ and Lauren and Todd still visit them every summer; it feels like their second home.

lauren

A Changed Life: What I took Home from #Allume

In addition to a large box of books, notepads, keepsakes and trinkets that I had to hike ten blocks in the hot, South Carolina sun and find a UPS office to ship home for $27, I boarded my 6 am flight home to Portland, Oregon with so much more. A head exploding with new information, thoughts and ideas to write about, a heart full of new contacts and friends and their warm stories. And a body weary from the hustle and bustle that only a cross-country trip for five days at a blogging conference with hundreds of other women can produce.

I got the chance to meet some of my favorite bloggers, authors and speakers, listen in on some amazing, life-changing sessions and keynote lectures. Nearly all day long for three days I was able to engage in deep and heart-wrenching conversations with new acquaintances from all over the world and in every sort of walk of life and circumstance. I made business connections and networked with big names in Christian literary agencies and publishing companies and spoke with several remarkable philanthropic organizations that aid and serve people in varying cultures living through a multitude of tragic events and conditions. And I shared a tiny room with three women I had never met before, who, by the end of the conference have become dear and hopefully, life-long friends.

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Of course I had my expectations and preconceived notions of what Allume was going to be like. Some were unrealistic or just wishful thinking that didn’t come true. Others were fears and apprehensions that for the most part were relieved and overcome. I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and work up the courage to talk with complete strangers about my writing and the Made to Mother Project, exchanged business cards and asked for social media follows. I pushed away the initial feelings of envy and competition to really listen to other writers, authors and “mommy bloggers,” and I ignored the “not good enough” thoughts that nagged at my soul as I listened to the wisdom of those who have gone before me and have twice (or six times) the platform or book deals that I have. I learned to encourage and cheer on others, practice TRUE hospitality in many different forms, and to change my default mindset from one of of categorizing and comparisons to blessing and reassuring others. Finally, I came away from Allume with the new mantra to trust Him with this calling I have received, to write the story that was assigned to me, work my own patch of land that He has allotted and to repeat, repeat, repeat.

Allume seriously changed my life last week. It reconnected and uplifted my faith in Christ and it gave me the motivation and help to adjust my self-talk and trust God more with my tiny little microphone IN HIS TIME. And, on a completely different note, it gave me a front-row, inside look at the SOUTH. And, wow, I fell in love with that part of our country! I drank gallons of sweet tea, consumed plates of grits; I adored the “y’alls” and drawls and simply cherished the downright, sweet southern hospitality of everyone I met there. And I will be back. Soon.

In the meantime, I have resolved to take a little time off from my crazy obsession of blogging, promotion and social media to rethink, reevaluate and refocus myself. Countless Allume speakers convicted me to spend more authentic time with my family and community, and realign my writing priorities and future so they fall UNDER my first priority as a wife, mom and friend. That being said, as November quickly approaches and with it a big month of sharing adoption stories here at M2M, you are going to see fewer personal posts and less participation in linkups and promotions. I want my family to know that they are the most important job I have; I want more of others and less of me, and I want God to receive ALL the glory through the continuing work of the Made to Mother Project. So, thank you, Allume, for an amazing week of self-reflection and transformation to live more intentionally, love bigger and embrace true hospitality!

what i took home from allume

5 Things My #Allume Roomies Should Know About Me

This is getting real. I am going to #Allume this week…in 2 days, 6 hours and 23 minutes to be exact. I am leaving my three kids with my husband in the middle of the week to get on a plane and fly across the country to Greenville, SC for the Allume Conference for four whole days. I still can’t believe it. I am excited. I am nervous. I just might throw up.

Allume is this amazing community of Christian women who write, blog or aspire to. They hold a conference each fall to refresh, encourage and spur on women writers through inspirational speakers, fellowship gatherings and skills workshops. And this year, I GET TO GO! I first heard about Allume last winter when I began this crazy blogging journey. I knew it would be good for me to attend a blogging conference and there were three that I was mulling over. I finally settled on Allume mostly because of Sarah Mae, a blogging hero of mine.

I went shopping last week for new clothes, jewelry and a new purse so I can attempt to fit in with all the gorgeous, stylish and professional women that I know are coming. I’m packing my husband’s laptop (mine is being sent away for warranty repair), several notepads and pens, blog and book business cards and (gulp) a M2M book proposal that I have been working tirelessly on for an interview with a literary agent. Please cross your fingers, toes and whatever else you can that I don’t blow this!

So, now for the real question you are wondering about…why am I posting about this??? Well, in addition to gearing up for next week’s adoption month series and preparing for my trip, I have nothing else ready to post, nor do I have the time to promote it this week. Also, a couple weeks ago, one of my conference roommates that I haven’t yet met in person wrote a post on her blog about a few things we should know about her. She then challenged us to do the same and last week, Allume echoed that challenge, so here goes. To Aprille at Beautiful in His Time, Katie from Wonderfully Made and Jennifer from Jennifer’s Life Between:

1. Even though a test I took in high school said I am an extrovert, I can be really shy, awkward and self-depreciating at first. But get me talking and watch out, I might dominate the conversation. I am getting better at asking reciprocating and insightful questions, but if I’m a little hesitant, don’t give up on me. And if I talk too much, please feel free to tell me to shut up or take a breath and then talk about yourself.

2. Sometimes I talk, shout and laugh in my sleep. Sorry. BUT, I’m super nervous and we probably will be going to sleep very late every night anyway, which hopefully will help me sleep so deeply…or restlessly because I am so nervous. Either way, hopefully I won’t have time to sleep-talk.

3. Next to all the scheduled events and my aforementioned interview with a literary agent, I have no plans and know no one there. As such, I’m extremely nervous about striking up conversations with complete strangers and terribly afraid of having no one to talk to and sit with, so please include me on anything that you can!

4. I’m not much of a dress-up, hair and make-up, fancy person like I used to be when I was younger. In fact, since I had children and became a SAHM, I am pretty sad to say that I have gotten frumpy and not super stylish. I am trying to fix this, though, perhaps a little too forcefully as I went shopping last week literally just for this conference. So, any styling tips and shameless compliments would be much appreciated!

5. If I could pick ONE post from M2M that is my all-time, must-read favorite it would have to be: When Good Enough Just Isn’t and Living a Simpler Life. Okay, yes, I know that’s two. I just couldn’t help myself. Enjoy!

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When Life Won’t Slow Down

So, in the summer, life is crazy. Plans are spontaneous and vacations abound. Then the fall comes and I’m like, “Thank GOD! We can finally slow down, get back to a routine and enjoy autumn.” Yeah right. School starts and the season changes and, yes, we do have a routine, but is it really less chaotic than the summer? I don’t think so. I still have an older child to get to school on time, homeschool lesson plans to create, finalize, print off and teach, 4 different lunches to make, dinner to plan and prep, babies to change and get down for naps, and oh yes, A BLOG to write, promote and answer emails for!

And then, because it is fall, I’m crazily sorting, cleaning, tagging and boxing up outgrown clothes, shoes and toys to sell at my favorite children’s and maternity consignment sale, for which I also do the marketing and PR. AND, lucky me, hunting season is about to begin, which means I will not see my husband, and my children will not see their father every weekend for nearly the entire months of October and November. Which also equates to having fewer mommy-sanity breaks during these two months, either. (sigh)

So, suffice to to say that I am run very ragged right now and I apologize if I am not answering emails or posting amazing motherhood stories as frequently as I had hoped. I’m certain it will get better soon. Of course then the HOLIDAYS will be here. Who am I kidding? I seriously think I have this misconceived notion in my head that life will slow down, but honestly it never does! Oh well, it certainly keeps me on my toes and prevents boredom, though, doesn’t it?

All that being said, while I try to keep my head above the water at home and prepare for the AMAZING upcoming “adoption month” stories I have planned for you in November, I’d like to repost some of my favorite oldie, but goody mama stories. I hope you enjoy!

A Mentor, Teacher-Mother: Lana’s Story
You don’t have to have biological or legal children to be a mother. Sometimes, a woman can take on a mothering role in the lives of others as a mentor and teacher. Lana’s story is a beautiful example of this precious and important job.

A Life of Adventure:  Beth’s Story
Life can throw us all sorts of curve balls; teen pregnancy, single motherhood, blended families. Motherhood is an adventure and Beth’s story paints an exciting picture of how life can be full of adventure as well if we choose to never let circumstances get us down.

Grown to Mother: Kara’s Story
There are working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, part-time mothers and to each her own. But sometimes we get to the middle of our lives and wonder if what we did was right. If the sacrifices were worth it. And then we reach a crossroads; where will we go from there? Kara shares her own personal struggles with this in her powerful, ‘coming into her own’ story.

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The Love Rock Story – Reposted with Permission from Susan of Love Drenched Life

I have had a beautiful life filled with lots of laughter, smiles, and lots of love, beautiful children, a wonderful, dedicated and loving husband, solid friendships and a community that loves and supports their neighbors unconditionally. But sometimes life brings circumstances that are completely out of your control. In those times, it’s important to remember the beauty in life, love​,​ and knowing​ that God can​ — and will​ — bring a peace that surpasses all understanding​. Love Rocks was inspired by two girls who lived with immense love and joy. In their honor, we have chosen to s​hare that love and joy with anyone willing to receive it. Thank you for​celebrating with us!

On Oct. 20, 2013, the unthinkable happened to my family. My daughters, Anna (6) and Abigail (11) were hit by a car in front of our house. Both girls went to Heaven that night without warning. Since then, my husband Tom and I have had to navigate grief that we wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Our house is now empty – no laughter, no dance parties, no morning cuddles, no fighting about homework or bonding over our favorite meal. Empty.

We decided shortly after the girls went to Heaven that we were not going to allow the tragedy of one night to define our girls’ lives here on earth and the life they were now living in Heaven. Their legacy would not be this tragedy but rather the love and joy that they poured out to everyone who knew them and hopefully everyone who would hear their story.

We did not have choice on whether they went to Heaven on October 20th. We do, however, have a choice on how we live our lives honoring our Creator and honoring the lives of our sweet girls. And so, we choose love and joy!

Anna’s and Abigail’s lives were full of so much love and so much joy. They had a way of lighting up a room with their presence and putting smiles on the faces of those they came in contact with. They loved each other dearly and they were definitely sisters – maybe not by blood, but by the way they knew exactly how to push each other’s buttons. Anna adored her sister and wanted to be around her all the time. Abigail loved her little sister and was annoyed by the fact that Anna wanted to be around her all the time. True sisters!

Anna loved horses, Abigail loved theater. Both girls loved to dance, climb, be with their friends and loved family time. They would prefer a game as a family over a movie any night – LIFE, UNO and Jungle Speed being their all-time favorites. They were beautiful beyond words, both on the outside and more importantly on the inside. They had giving hearts and loved to find ways in which they could help those in need. They were insightful, kind, nurturing and loving to all who had the honor of being in their presence, especially their friends.

In April of 2014, 6 months after the girls went to Heaven, Tom and I felt nudged to share a project that we as a family did for our wedding in June of 2011. The girls, Tom’s mom and I spent time cutting out fabric hearts from our favorite fabrics and then Mod Podging them to river rocks. We made one for each of our guests to take home and another one that would be written on by our guests for us to keep. These little rocks have held a lot of meaning in our house since our wedding day and are placed in various rooms so that we can enjoy them no matter where we are.

That little nudge to share took on a life of its own. On April 20th, I launched the Facebook Page, Love Rocks. I shared a bit of our story and our hope for spreading love and joy through these simple rocks and included a tutorial for how to make them. Before pushing the publish button, I had to come to terms with the fact that nothing may happen with this little idea of ours. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and sent our idea out into the world.

What has happened over the past 5 months has been miraculous. Love Rocks have been shared in our little town, our state of Oregon and in every other state in the U.S. Love Rocks have been shared in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and Australia. I’m still waiting for a picture to be posted in Antarctica.

There are photos of Love Rocks in parks, on beaches, on The Great Wall of China, in front of the Eiffel Tower, on doorsteps, in hospitals, at weddings and at funerals, in a secured NASA facility and at Anna’s and Abigail’s tree.

There have been so many stories of how these little rocks with fabric hearts have found their rightful owner just when they needed it most. They have warmed hearts and brought so much Love and Joy to this world — so much more than we could have ever imagined when we felt nudged to share.

The inspiration for Love Rocks comes from Anna, Abigail, and our loving community that supported us and continues to care for us. The outpouring of love and the immense joy that is felt throughout the world is their legacy – one filled with hope, light and laughter.

My girls’ lives were and are beautiful. They have taught so many how to live a love story and I am very proud to be their mom.

~~~~~

Susan lives in Forest Grove, Oregon. She is a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister and friend. She loves God with all of her heart. You can read more about Susan and the Love Rocks movement she founded at www.love-drenched-life.com or on www.facebook.com/lovedrenched.

 

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Unplanned Motherhood: Day 4 – Marleny’s Story

This story is part of the M2M Series, Unplanned Motherhood: Stories of Teen Moms. To read the others, please click hereIn order to capture the purity of these young women’s accounts and the integrity of who they are as teenage mothers, I have done very little, if any, editing, so please be warned; their stories, in addition to being choppy, are raw, unadulterated and may not be suitable for all readers.

In December 2011 when I found out I was expecting a little bundle of joy, I was only 14 years old. I was so scared! I didn’t know how to tell my dad that I was pregnant. I knew that he was going to react negatively. My stepmom and I were really close at the time so I went ahead and told her. She promised me not to tell him until I was ready and had everything figured out. I knew that abortion wasn’t an option I don’t believe in abortions. I never have. I was thinking about keeping the baby.

One day I came home from school and my dad called my name. He sounded so mad at me. It turned out that my stepmom had told him that I was expecting. He slapped me across my face and told me that he was upset with me. That he never imagined his baby having a baby. I felt really bad inside. I kind of understand where he is coming from now that I have my daughter. I could never imagine her getting pregnant at 14. He told me that I wasn’t old enough to have a baby and that it was his decision whether I was going to have the baby or not. I told him I wasn’t going to have an abortion and he told me, okay, we will work around it. But he would change his mind all the time. He told me one that that he would help and that I had his support and the next day that I wasn’t old enough to have a baby. My stepmom and I talked about it and she said that I was going to have the baby, to not worry about anything because she was going to talk to my dad. Well, she did and it turned out that he agreed with me having the baby, but that they had to be the legal parents of my baby at the time. I didn’t know if that was true. They told me since I was underage the baby needed to be signed over to their custody. It was really weird that they were telling me all of that. What made it weirder was that my stepmom was trying to get pregnant for a really long time. She was even reading fertility books and it seemed pretty strange to me.

On my first appointment, I went ahead and asked questions about all the legal papers and who would be the legal guardian of the baby. The doctor told me that my age didn’t matter. That if I have a baby no matter at what age, I would be the legal guardian. I was so confused. I didn’t understand why they wanted to take the baby from me, but once I saw my stepmom reading all these books and talking to my dad about all the plans they had with my baby, it all made sense. They had wanted a baby and since they had trouble conceiving, they were planning on taking my baby away from me. I had a big conversation with them about it and they kept on saying the same thing; that I wasn’t old enough and that I was going to have an abortion. I refused to have an abortion and he told me that if I didn’t, he was going to kick me out of the house. So I just left the house.

When I came back all my stuff was outside and I was really confused. I didn’t think my dad was really going to kick me out, but he did. That day my mom came and picked me up. She took all my stuff to her house and we talked. She asked me why my father kicked me out and I told her everything that happened with my stepmom and dad trying to take my bundle of joy away from me and how they were telling me that since I was underage, they had to be the legal guardians of my child. She was mad, but once I told her that I didn’t agree to it and that they told me if I didn’t have an abortion, they were going to kick me out, she was furious. She called my dad and they had such a long conversation. Till this day, I don’t know what she told him. All I know is that she was really mad and that they had an argument about it. Months passed and my dad didn’t talk to me at all, I would see him around but we wouldn’t speak. He was still pretty mad and at that point I really didn’t care because all I thought about was my baby.

I was about five months when I found out that I was having a baby girl. I was so happy. When I got home I showed my mom and she was pretty happy too. It kind of sucked not being able to share my happy moment with my father. I called him but he didn’t pick up. I guess he was still kind of mad.

Months passed and August came. I was excited because my birthday was coming up. On August 3, I turned 15 and I had such a good day. I went out to eat with some friends and went swimming, too. It was a fun day. On August 17, I had such a good day as well. I was sitting down, eating a big burrito and drinking a big cup of pop. I guess I didn’t have such a great diet. I was just there relaxing and eating and all of a sudden I got the urge to pee. I got up and went to the bathroom. When I got up to flush, I realized that it wasn’t pee, it was blood. At the moment I was really scared. I wasn’t having any pain, so I didn’t understand why I was bleeding. I called my aunty and she rushed me to the hospital. I thought I was miscarrying, but I was too far along to have a miscarriage. When we got to the hospital, they asked me if I was in pain and I said no. The lady checked me and told me that I was 5 centimeters dilated. They told me that they were going to take me to a different hospital because I was only seven and a half months along, but that they couldn’t because I was dilating way too fast and they thought I was going to have the baby on the way there. The set me in a room and I still couldn’t feel the contractions, but once I got around 8 centimeters, I started feeling them and they were horrible. I thought I was going to die.

On August 18 at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, I delivered a beautiful baby girl. I named her Isabella. I was so happy. I went through so much just to have her in my arms. We stayed for 3 days in the hospital and got dropped off at home. My dad still didn’t call me to see if I was okay or if my daughter was okay. It was all over Facebook, so I’m pretty sure someone told him that I gave birth. He was just mad and didn’t want to talk to me.

Time passed and when Isabella was about a week old I found she was sick. She had something called Jaundice and was hospitalized for 4 days. It was so boring being in that hospital with no phone, no access to any internet. All there was to do was sit there and watch TV. I was going crazy. They told me that I was allowed to leave, but I didn’t want to leave my baby there alone.

When Bella was released I was so happy I was able to go home with my chunky butt. But then a month and a half later, she got sick again. She started spitting up a lot of mucus and it was coming out her nose at the same time. It got really bad so I took her to the doctor’s office and they told me that she was okay. It was just phlegm and babies spit that out a lot when they are newborns. They told me I should take parenting classes so I would know when things were going wrong with my baby. I knew nothing was okay when I took her back again and they told me the something. She just kept getting worse and worse. One night, she was having trouble breathing and I had to rush her to the hospital. It turns out she had pneumonia. Her lungs were filling up with fluid, I was so scared. My little bundle of joy was going through so much. She had to be hospitalized again because of it. I felt so alone being in and out of the hospital with my daughter and no one would call to see how she was doing. It was only me and her, no one else. I kept telling myself I had to be strong for my baby. It broke my heart knowing that she was sick, but I kept moving forward. I told myself that there is always a storm before sunshine. She got released from the hospital and for once I knew my daughter was okay.

Bella grew and grew. She started getting more independent and started talking, sitting up by herself and eating solids. She is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. Now, I’m 16 years old and Bella is one and a half. I have a job and I assist at a school in Cornelius called Create. Things are going really good for me and Bella. Yeah, it’s hard being a teen mom, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love being a mother. I love all the hugs, kisses and helloes my daughter gives me every morning and seeing her grow and the cute things she does and faces she makes. At the end of the day, I overcame everything to have my baby girl. I didn’t really have the help of anyone and I was only fourteen. I’m pretty sure anyone can do it.

Marleney

Unplanned Motherhood: Day 3 – Ana’s Story

This story is part of the M2M Series, Unplanned Motherhood: Stories of Teen Moms. To read the others, please click here. In order to capture the purity of these young women’s accounts and the integrity of who they are as teenage mothers, I have done very little, if any, editing, including their use of bad language, so please be warned; this story, in addition to being choppy, is raw, unadulterated and contains heavy profanity. Therefore, reader discretion is advised.

I would love to introduce myself to you, beautiful person. I am Ana and I am 17 years old expecting a baby and have a one year-old. My advice to you, young mothers and fathers out there is to never give up, have faith and hope in yourselves! You’re not alone in this. I struggle just like you and nobody said having a baby was easy.

As a teenager, I was one-of-a-kind, running around and thinking I can do whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted. I was the girl that hangs out with more guys than girls. I thought that guys bring less drama than girls, which was somewhat true. I always got kicked out of school, did drugs and used alcohol. I used to lose myself doing my thing. Sometimes I wouldn’t even show up to my house or school. I was loved by a few and hated by many! Still, to this day that is a fact in my life and I’ve learned to deal with it.

One day I fell in love with a boy I used to know from my hood, where we both live in Forest Grove. I started to date him and thought I was seriously, deeply in love with this guy that when he asked me to move in with him, I agreed. After dating for two years, I got pregnant with my baby boy. On May 12, 2012 I found out I was pregnant and I was the happiest girl in the world! Me and my man at the time were together and happy . We both were excited to have a baby together. That same day we found out, we went to my parent’s house and told them the big news. They were so happy for us. They supported us through it. By the time I found out, I was already 4 months, so I only had 5 months to go and the next month I would know the gender of my baby. The day we found out we were having a baby boy, my baby’s dad was happier than before.

Around my last trimester of my pregnancy, me and my man were having problems, so I left him and moved back with my parents. Around that time I moved out he still came looking for me, but I didn’t want to see him no more, not even in pictures.  I was fed up with him and his games. I disconnected my phone so he wouldn’t have a way to get ahold of me. I moved on with my life, I was set that I could do this. I always knew that God would not have put something in my life that I couldn’t achieve.  I enrolled myself back in school, stopped doing what I used to do. Not for me but the human being I was carrying inside me and my future. I was still this crazy girl inside but I knew I had to grow up. It took me a lot of time, but one thing I didn’t ever do was give up. I took baby steps. I’ve had my bumps in the road, but I’ve conquered them all successfully.

I got induced and on October 6, 2012 I had Damian. I was the “happiest woman alive!” I am not the kind of girl that cries, but I cried when I saw him for the first time. I remember that day like it was just yesterday. After that day I put my all to my son, till one day I got back to my old ways. I was hurting inside because I had a kid of my own to take care of. I was happy, but some kind of feeling I can’t explain was in me. I had a big bump in the road and I ended up being away from my son for a couple months. My parole officer sent me to a 4-5 month program/shelter home. I missed my baby like no other and it was the hardest thing I’ve done my life. It’s like someone killing you slowly, or worse. I would see him like every week or sometimes twice or on my passes if I didn’t get them taken away. I stayed longer than others because I smoked on my first pass. We usually get a urine analysis the next morning after you went on a pass. I was finding the sad part about this is that I knew what I was putting myself into.

This was a year ago and its crazy how time flies by. I successfully graduated from the Harkins House. Then soon after I got out I went back to detention because I went back to my old ways. I didn’t learn my lesson that easy! I would drink and smoke every day I would show up to school. I would leave my kid at home with my parents to go and do my thing, which is really cold and now my heart aches just sitting here and realizing the fucked up shit I would do to my handsome baby boy. At that point I didn’t give a fuck about NOTHING! I was really selfish, always wanting it to be about me and only me. I didn’t realize that I was not just hurting myself, I was also hurting the people around me. I spent like 2 or 4 whole weeks in a juvenile jail. I didn’t come out of my room. I wanted to be alone and when I put my mind to something I accomplish it like a champ! It took me that long to be alone in my cell, to get everything inside my selfish self. I even had court and didn’t want to go to a rehab where my parole officer wanted to send me to, so I stayed longer. I finally cleared my head up being isolated, thinking and sinking in all I’d been through in the time I’d been out and knew that I actually needed help. I then called my attorney and let him know what’s up with me. He was happy for me, so was my parole officer.

On October 2, 2013 I got into rehab. It was located in the same place but on the other side of the building. I kept realizing a lot of things there as well that I had to do and change about my lifestyle. I am thankful to that place even though it’s not a good place to be. I learned a lot of good shit in there! I’ve accomplished a lot of things up in that place and I am really blessed to have these people taking all bullshit I’ve put them through! I thank God for sticking with me and till this day keeping me sober and being a boss!

I graduated on January 30, 2014 from my rehab program. That’s when my “new journey” had just started for me and my baby boy and family. On March 2, 2014 I accomplished a year and a half being sober! I am Ana and still an addict inside and need help so I attend my narcotics anonymous (N.A.) meetings three times a week. I am the happiest and most blessed woman in this universe! On May 2, 2014, it was 8 months that I have changed my lifestyle and my decisions. I am like a new person, with good intentions, but still got that bad bitch in me! This July I will be getting off my paper/probation. I am so excited, there is no words to explain how I feel about myself and what I have done to be who I am today! One thing I would not change is my life. I believe that everything happens for a damn reason! I have no regrets, I’ve just made mistakes just like anybody in this lovely earth that our Lord gave us. I know that God has a plan for me and I am slowly getting there. This is not even half of my “crazy story,” this is just the top facts about what I’ve been through after I had my baby boy. I thank you all that take the time of day to sit here and let me share a part of my life with you. God bless you all!

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Unplanned Motherhood: Day 2 – Patii’s Story

This story is part of the M2M Series, Unplanned Motherhood: Stories of Teen Moms. To read the others, please click here. In order to capture the purity of these young women’s accounts and the integrity of who they are as teenage mothers, I have done very little, if any, editing, including their use of bad language, so please be warned; this story, in addition to being choppy, is raw, unadulterated and contains light profanity.

On April 11, 2012 I had just found out that I was pregnant. After a couple days went by I met up with my baby’s dad. I had told him that I was pregnant. He looked at me with a disappointed face. He had not taken the news very well. When he went home to tell his mom, he started to cry and asked her what he was going to do. He didn’t know how to take care of a child and he didn’t know how he was going to raise a child. His mom looked at him and said, “Son, everything’s going to be ok. We are here for you through good and bad.” When his mom was telling him this, his sister came through the door and said, “what?! Who’s pregnant?” He said, “my girlfriend’s pregnant.” She looked at him in an angry face and started to cry. She started to tell him how big of a slut I was and how many boyfriends I have had in school, but yet she didn’t even know me or ever take the time to speak to me. She didn’t like me one bit. I didn’t know why, the only thing I knew was that she wanted him to date one of her friends. That’s the reason why she would always talk smack about me.

After a few months went by my boyfriend and his mom invited me to eat. I went over to their house for dinner. When I was there his sister still hated me and started to talk smack to me saying to his mom, “what is that bitch doing here? Tell her to leave.” Her saying that made me feel awful and I started to cry. While I was crying she was arguing with her mom. Her mom told her to leave the house and not come home until later. She right away said, “I’m just not coming back. I don’t want to see this bitch.” So while she was saying that I got up and left. I felt so left out, I didn’t know what to do; I didn’t want to go home crying and my dad asking why I was crying. So I just went to the park till I got over it. Ever since that day I didn’t bother even going over there. Of course my boyfriend and I would hang out even though it wasn’t at his house. His mom would tell him to tell me to come over, but no way was I going to go over after what had happened with his sister.

When I was 6 months my boyfriend and his mom had asked me to move in. I thought about it and said to myself, “maybe his sister is not mad. Maybe she’s over it already.” So there I go moving in to his house thinking everything was going to be fine. When I moved in to his house I was still enrolled in school. So the time his sister would be there, I would be at school. So I really wouldn’t see her that much but when she would be there when I would be there she would just roll her eyes at me. I would ignore her because at the end it wouldn’t really make a difference in my life. This girl made my life hell throughout my whole pregnancy. But one day she will regret everything she said and did to hurt my feelings, I said to myself.

After I had my baby some of my family members and my boyfriend’s family came over to meet baby Jay R except his sister, of course. She still didn’t like me but I thought maybe by that time I had Jay R, she would grow up and realize that he’s her brother’s baby, her nephew. But same old news, she didn’t go of course because she didn’t want to see me. But it was fine with me; I really didn’t care because I knew that when I go back to her house she’s going to see him and want to hold him. Of course that hurt my feelings and everything but it’s not the end of the world so why worry about it.

When we were on our way home my boyfriend was talking to me telling me to ignore his sister and to not listen to what she says or did. When we got home his whole family was there and as soon as his sister saw me, she went straight to her room. I started to cry because it hurt me for the fact that she knows that he is her nephew and doesn’t even want to see him or meet him for the first time. While I was crying, his mom told me that she was going to get over and I said yeah, hopefully.

So days passed, months passes and a year passed. It took her one year to actually start talking to me. I thought it was so pathetic the fact that she didn’t talk to me or like me for the fact that she wanted her brother to date her friend and not me. But by the time she started talking to me I really didn’t care about her or anything because during my whole pregnancy she treated me like garbage. The only reason why I would cry about it was because I had the baby blues really bad. But by a year, they wore off so I didn’t even care about her.

To this day his sister still hates me but I can care less because she doesn’t buy me diapers, clothes, food or buy my baby girl formula. Yes, I got pregnancy three months after having my baby boy Jay R. Her name is Allison and she is the cutest, most wonderful, awesome baby girl. I love my babies and don’t know what I would do without my beautiful children. All I can say is that I’m one lucky momma and even if I had struggles and had to climb a mountain to get to where I am now, I know any momma can make it with struggles or problems. You just have to keep your mind straight and positive, telling yourself that you CAN DO IT! Because at the end no one helps you change, bath or feed your babies.

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