National Adoption Month Series: Christina’s Adoptee Story

I was born in Medellin, Colombia. My birth mother is a maid there, but I do not have any information on my birth father. Immediately after my birth I was sent to live in an orphanage in Medellin and was cared for by nuns. When I was fourteen months old I was adopted by a young couple from Grand Rapids, Michigan. My adoption was finalized in Colombia on October 17, 1983 and a few days later I left for the United States with my new parents. I was met at the airport by my new, extended family which is quite large.

This is a letter I wrote to my birth mother although she may never read it. It explains the depth of gratitude I feel towards her and the love I have experienced in my life since being adopted.

Dear Mother,

As a mother myself I can only imagine the heartache you must have felt sending me to an orphanage, hoping for a better life for me than you could provide. You knew me before the world did, as I grew from one cell to multiple cells, growing bigger every day. I kicked and punched and slept in your womb. I felt the love you had for me.

I often wonder, when I was born did you cry for me? Did your arms and heart ache for me? As a part of you, I believe you did. I know you wished you could have kept me and watch me grow. Mother, out of love you sent me on to a better life.

When I was still a baby, a new woman and man became my mom and dad and oh what a life they have given me. They watched me learn to walk and talk. They saw me fall and shared my joys and my sorrows. I know the joy that I brought them when they lost hope of having a child. I am a daddy’s girl and he is an amazing man, a God-fearing and loving man. My mom cuddled me, sang to me, played with me, and disciplined me. I know this is the childhood you wanted me to have with an extended family that adored and loved me. My grandparents were the most amazing people I have ever met and I was blessed to call them my grandmas and grandpas. Mother, you gave them a gift and your spirit was always with me.

I kept growing into a teen, and although I went through the typical teenage uncertainty and awkwardness, I was always extremely proud of who I was and still privileged with the life you gave me.  I grew into adulthood without too many incidents. As a young woman, I became a mother. At the birth of my daughter, I felt the elation you more than likely also felt when you saw me. There was a little sorrow in my heart though because you were not there to see this child being born. My mom was there and was able to share the birth with me. My daughter would not have been possible without you and your choice.

As a mother of three wonderful children now, I cannot fathom how you could have given me this life. These three children are the gift that would not have been possible without your sacrifice. Thank you, mother, for choosing life. Thank you for choosing adoption. This life I have is amazing. To quote a popular movie, “I never did thank you for this extraordinary life you gave me!” This is my thank you to you, a woman I may never again meet on this earth, but my spirit knows you and will see you in heaven.

My adoptive parents are amazing people who have raised me in the Light of Christ. I am beyond blessed with this life I have been given.

~~~~~

Christina is a single mom of three wonderful children. Being a mother is the most challenging yet rewarding job there is for her and she wouldn’t change one thing about being a mommy.

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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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Unplanned Motherhood: Day 1 – Abby’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 spring of 2012 I went in to my school clinic, worried because I hadn’t gotten my period and had been sexually active recently. So I went in and just waited for my name to be called, looking around at all the pamphlets, wondering what all these other students were there for, wondering if they knew what I was there for. When I went in I needed to pee into a cup and they told me it would take a couple minutes. I waited anxiously and then the nurse comes back in and tells me the news I was dreading to hear, not because I did not want a baby but because of what my dad would do when he found out. The nurse said “the test came back” then there was a long, silent pause… “POSITIVE.” Right when I heard that word, tears immediately started rushing down my face from the fear I had of my dad finding out. After I calmed down the nurse proceeded to ask me are you planning to continue this pregnancy as if she was expecting me to say no I’m going to have an abortion. I look at her and I am distraught. I think, how can she even ask that? Of course I am going to keep my baby, I replied. The nurse then asked me are you sure? Yes, I replied. So I went and finished my day out at school.

When school ended I called my boyfriend and told him that I was pregnant. He was very calm and said everything will be fine. After I got off the phone with him I called my sister. As I was telling her I was crying and she was crying, saying how could her little sister get pregnant? We both knew how my dad was and knew we couldn’t tell him, at least not right now. So every day that passed I acted normal, went to school, came home, acted normal and took my prenatal vitamins without my dad knowing of course.

After a few weeks it started getting much much harder to hide because I got morning sickness and was throwing up constantly. I could not keep anything down and was not eating much. At that point everyone knew about my pregnancy already: my little brother, my sisters and my mom, everyone except my dad of course. My sisters convinced me to let them tell my grandma who is a pastor at a Christian church and we all thought she would be sympathetic seeing as how my mom was a teen mom also and what not. But we thought completely wrong. My grandma was the worst person to tell. She started calling me a prostitute, saying that I open my legs to everyone and that she doesn’t want me to go over there and doesn’t want my sisters helping me. How can my grandma can say those things!? She is a pastor! She is supposed to help me. Not only is that the right thing to do but I’m her granddaughter, we are family. How she can do this to me? Soon after that my dad found out and confronted me. I didn’t even know what to say he was so angry. He didn’t even want to talk to me. He had told me that my grandma told him.

My dad talked to my boyfriend’s parents and they came over to talk to me and my boyfriend, telling us how hard it’s going to be and all the responsibility and everything. Then we just went on with our days acting normal. Because of my morning sickness, I was not eating, was losing a lot of weight and I looked really sick. I went to my first doctor’s appointment with my boyfriend and his mom to fill out some paperwork. I was getting really warm and took my sweater off, but I was still so warm. The receptionist was getting ready to hand me some more paperwork when all of a sudden I black out. The next thing I knew a nurse and my boyfriend were holding me up and putting me into a wheelchair. I went into the examine room, they ran their tests and proceeded to tell me I was very very dehydrated, and that I needed to drink water or they were going to put me on an iv. After that my boyfriend’s mom insisted I go to her house all the way in Cornelius so that somebody will be watching me in case I faint again. I didn’t want to, I only had 2 more weeks of school left and I lived in Portland. I couldn’t move with only 2 weeks left.

That night my dad came into my room and said he thought it’s better if I went with Alex (my boyfriend) and his mom. I immediately started crying. I knew my dad did not want me there and he was just using that as an excuse to get me out. I said ok I will move with them. My boyfriend of course was very happy about the news of me moving in. So I went to their house and I missed the last 2 weeks of my sophomore year. Since I did not do my finals, I failed all of my classes. But things were going good at my boyfriend’s house, we got along just fine and things were great but having no money and no nothing was starting to get very boring. I felt very lonely, missing my sisters and hated my dad for making me leave, and even more when I found out he gave all my stuff to my sisters.

Another thing I had to go through was my boyfriend’s parents constantly telling him to leave me and talking about me a lot, saying that I control him too much and that I’m just going to take all his money and leave him. I could not stand being around them. Lucky for me my boyfriend would not listen to them and stuck by me through everything.

Once my daughter Nataly was born and 6 months old, I started working because we had no income at all and my boyfriend’s parents were constantly asking if I could lend them some money. I did not want to do that because they don’t borrow, they just keep and I never see any of the money I lend them again.

The next year was my junior year and I did not go to school because I moved all the way out to a city I never even knew existed. I had no friends out there, and I needed to notarize a paper in order to go to school which my boyfriend’s mom never did. So I missed out on my junior year of school. So summer went by and I worked, but once school started up again I was determined to go. I registered for an alternative school, needing 14.5 credits to graduate, so I started going to school and working after school. It would be a bit stressful at times because my boyfriend didn’t work or go to school but he did get his GED and started to work.

During my senior year something horrible happened. My boyfriend’s stepdad was a drug dealer and he got arrested. Police came to the house and searched through everything. Luckily we were not involved in any of that but DHS started coming and I got terrified, thinking what if they take my baby, what would I do? How can I live without Nataly?! I got so scared and left. I moved to my cousin’s house for a while and then when everything calmed down I went back to my boyfriend’s house.

Now I am trying to graduate by this summer and I am planning to go to college to be a dental hygienist. I may have lost all my friends once I got pregnant but I’m not worried about that. If they were really my friends, we would have kept in touch and I made a couple new friends with kids also. Now I just look at Nataly and cannot even begin to imagine how my life would have been if I didn’t have her. I never once regretted having her. I love her more than life itself and I am so thankful for her.  I have a very good feeling about what my future has in store for me.

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Hiding Behind Masks – An Unnamed Mother’s Story

When I was growing up, my favorite Halloween costume was Super Girl. It was the first and only time that my very practical mother ever let me have a store-bought costume. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends that I would not be going as a gypsy (draped in scarves and grandmother’s vintage jewelry), a business woman (Working Girl, anyone?) or a princess in a flower girl dress from one of my many aunts’ weddings. I was thrilled that this year I wouldn’t have to wear my raincoat over my costume (rainy Oregon) because the entire full-body suit was made of plastic. But even more exciting for me was the mask. It was wonderful; with blonde, perfectly-styled, molded plastic hair, a porcelain face and a make-up job complete with ruby red lips. For the first time in my life I felt beautiful. But more than that, when I wore the mask, I could be someone different. It made everything perfect on the outside while hiding the real, flawed person underneath.

As I grew up, I realized that I could wear masks in real life, too. I became a pleaser, ready to do anything for anyone to win approval. I was perpetually sunny; the girl who was friendly and fun, but not close to any one person. A girl that held a lot of secrets and a lot of scars deep within. I learned to never reveal too much about myself, because that would give someone power over me and even worse, I worried that once someone knew what I was really like, they would be disappointed. And the fear of rejection was unbearable.

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So I developed and wore many masks over the years. Masks I thought people wanted to see. I had a well-behaved daughter mask, an upstanding Christian girl mask, and as I grew into adulthood, I put on a corporate business manager mask and eventually, loving wife and doting mother masks.

It was exhausting keeping up every facade, especially when the person hiding behind all the masks was so broken from the years of pretending and keeping secrets. For most of my life, I had hid from my family the fact that I was sexual assaulted on two separate occasions; once when I was six and another at sixteen. Because of those, I feared true intimacy of any kind and went into a marriage where I never expressed what I was thinking or feeling. Yelling or even raised voices were traumatic for me and I developed a strong aversion to nagging or bickering. In my effort to please everyone around me, I lost myself and my own desires for the future, taking on everybody’s hopes and dreams as my own. I felt guilty when plans didn’t work out the way my friends or husband wanted them to; that it was my fault for not being able to please everyone.

When I was young, I had never considered having children. My own childhood was filled with pain, guilt and a load of responsibilities caring for my younger siblings and endless chores around the house while my parents worked full-time. I wanted to study music and perform, but when that dream died, I was lost. What was next for me? I thought God provided an answer when I met a man; so six months later we were married and I convinced myself that the new dream was to be a good, Christian wife, making and raising good Christian babies and baking cookies.

Unfortunately, the motherhood mask was the hardest one for me to wear. After five years of wandering in the infertility desert and all that comes with it, getting pregnant was the Promised Land. Or so I thought. Pregnancy actually ended up being one of the hardest experiences of my life at that time. Inwardly, I loathed every moment of it, but on the outside, I forced myself to be sentimental and “glow” like many of my friends had during their pregnancies.

When my son was born, I was secretly thrilled that my doctor told me he would be my only natural child. But three years later, I was devastated to learn that my month-long ‘flu’ would not be cured with antibiotics. At the time, I could barely keep up with my strong-willed, ridiculously active and verbal toddler, how on earth could I handle another one just like him? After a second high-risk pregnancy, ending with ten weeks of prescribed bed rest (impossible with a three-year old boy); I was relieved to deliver a nearly full-term baby girl. The doctor and I both agreed that I should never do that again.

For the next several years, I juggled raising two children, working a stressful sixty-hour a week job all while dealing with a husband who was becoming more and more detached from reality. Keeping my super-Christian mask in place was becoming too much and I knew that something had to give. I never anticipated it would come from another brutal sexual assault which would result in a complete mental breakdown and subsequent hospital stay.

My marriage, already badly suffering, could not survive the posttraumatic stress and eventually fell apart. The relationship with my parents became strained, and I could no longer be the cold-hearted executive at work anymore, so I ended up moving several hundred miles away, back to a place that I felt safe with just my children and me on our own.

After that, keeping up with all of the masks became impossible and I finally began to let some go. My motherhood mask was replaced by a new and much heavier one, single motherhood. Surviving each day as a child of God, saved by grace, became much simpler and more real than I ever thought I would allow. I don’t miss the married mask, but I sometimes long for something to hide behind when I walk in the church door without a husband and it’s obvious that life has gone awry for me. Showing even that much vulnerability is still something I struggle with.

I hate how much pain my personal agony has caused my children. They don’t know and couldn’t possibly understand what I struggle with daily, but it’s all I can do to try to keep things going and keep the mommy mask in place. I love my children with all of my heart, but I don’t love motherhood. I despise the never-ending monotony of chores and most nights I just want to go to sleep without my hands smelling like poop or bleach.

Both of my children have emotional delays and if I were really being honest, I think they would thrive and soar if someone else was their mother. A better mother would make sure that they get the structure and help they need. I’ve met so many amazing women that are unable to have children of their own or others whose kids cannot walk or breathe without help. And many who have lost their children entirely. I am awed by their strength and courage. But what I struggle with is why God didn’t give my angels to one of them?

I know that God has a plan for us and I hope that His grace and love continues to be sufficient so I don’t have to feel like I need to wear masks for the rest of my life. Perhaps one day He will allow me to forgive myself and help release the crippling guilt I feel every day about the choices that I’ve made. Sometimes seemingly small things have had big impacts and I find myself getting stuck playing the “if only” game. However, I know that is not healthy and I’m working on it. Finally, I hope and pray that my children will grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults and only remember the fun times I’ve tried to create on the days when mommy was not too exhausted to wear her cool-party-mom mask.

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The author to this story prefers to remain anonymous, but I think she presents a wonderful opportunity to talk about the not-so-joyful parts of motherhood and, frankly, just personhood.
It’s okay to own not loving motherhood. It’s okay to say you don’t always like your children. And it’s okay if you, as a woman, don’t even feel called to be a mother. We all have scars and ugliness that we would rather put a mask over than open ourselves up to the possibility of more hurt.

There is no judgment or condemnation here; just support, love and prayers. And hopefully, there is also healing. Healing in sharing our stories, our confessions. Healing in feeling camaraderie with others who’ve been there before or are there right now, too. And the strength to move forward toward a healthier future. And maybe, just maybe, some day we can all be released from the fear and bondage of wearing our masks.

Can you relate to this mother? Are there sometimes when you don’t enjoy motherhood? Do you put on masks to protect yourself as well?

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The Story of How I Became a Parent Coach – Guest Post by Hannah at Foundations Parent and Life Coaching

I’m going to be honest. The past 18 months of my life’s story have been hard. Hard down to the deepest parts of my soul. My heart has grieved as my dream of life and family have been shifted and refined. There have been days that waking up and moving through the simple rhythms of the day has taken all my energy and focus.

In the summer of 2012, my life turned upside down. My marriage of over ten years suddenly and dramatically fell apart and I found myself waking up to the reality that I was drowning in the busyness of life. It had been my desire to live with purpose and intention for many years but I had allowed small and seemingly harmless things to take up residence in my life. The constant checking of Facebook, the obsessive following of blogs and the pursuit of a “perfect” body had robbed me of living present and purposeful for each day. Fear had taken up residence and was driving my choices and my beliefs about myself as a woman, wife, and mother. I have known from a young age that I was created for relationship with God and that I am loved by Jesus. But there is a difference between knowing and living. And there is no fear when I choose to live by faith.

As the physical aspects of my life seemed to crumble around me, a beautiful awakening was growing inside of me. I remember walking one day and crying over the sheer disbelief of what was happening to me and to my family. In that moment I realized I had two choices. Either I could wallow in self-pity, bitterness and anger, or I could choose to embrace this season and what it was teaching about myself and who God created me to be as a woman, mother and friend. During this time of my life I am learning what it means to live free from fear and fully present in the gifts of today. I am learning that even when life doesn’t look like what I want it to, there are gifts in that place that must be recognized. By identifying the gifts, my heart overflows with hope and joy. I am learning to put my phone down and to step away from the computer. I am learning to stop being busy and start playing with my kids. I am learning to let go of how far or fast I can run and enjoy the act of moving and being. And I am learning to laugh and to find joy even in the midst of a painful season.

Practically, I looked to the future and wondered how I was going to support myself and my two young boys. My thought and desire had been to stay home with my boys until they were in school full time. But with the ending of my marriage that was no longer financially possible. Late one night I was roaming the web looking for ideas. As I researched different options, I stumbled across the Parent Coaching Institute. As I read the description of the program, I knew it fit my giftings, knowledge and my desire to partner with others to experience an engaged and wholehearted life. Parent Coaches team up with parents in a unique relationship that equips parents to engage in life from their strengths and giftings as a parent and person to move them towards their dream for their family.

I graduated this month as a Certified PCI Parent Coach® and have started my own coaching practice called Foundations Parent and Life Coaching. My heart is to work with parents and individuals who want to build a solid foundation for a thriving life. Parenting and just living in general require being purposeful; otherwise busyness and distractions will crowd out the things that are truly important. Sometimes we come to a season of life where we need to be purposeful in establishing healthy, sustainable practices for ourselves and our families. That is when working with a coach can be beneficial. The coaching relationship is all about partnership. We work together to establish the rhythms that will help you and your family be your best selves.  People come to coaching for a variety of reasons. For some it is when they have a newborn and are learning about who they are as a parent and what they want for their family. For others, it is when their child is school aged and they are struggling to find balance between screen time and physical activity. Some parents finding coaching helps them navigate a diagnosis. No matter the reason, what I know to be true is that when we are working towards being our best self, we give a gift to our children that will impact their future in the best way possible.

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Hannah is a teacher with a background in early childhood development and is now certified as a parent and life coach. You can find more about the exceptional Parent and Life Coaching services she offers on her website Foundations Parent and Life Coaching or read her thoughts about thriving daily rhythms at her blog The Daily Rhythms of Life.

 

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Being Myself: An Unconventional Mom – Sarah’s Story

I never planned on being a mother. While other little girls were rocking little dolls to sleep I was spending time in my room doing…well, I don’t really remember what but it was important! I spent hours upon hours of my childhood alone in my room and was perfectly content there. Things were organized to my liking and I could read, daydream and listen to music. Basically, I could be myself.
You see, when I was growing up, I thought that becoming a mother meant that you lost yourself. I was raised by a fantastic stay-at-home mom who sacrificed every bit of herself for her family. She got up early and stayed up late. She cooked, cleaned (sort of) and basically ran herself ragged being a wonderful mother. This was my example and while it wasn’t bad, it gave me pause. I didn’t want to be like that; I wanted to be ME.

It has never been important to me to following others’ expectations or typical life patterns. I had my eldest daughter a month before I turned nineteen. Right out of high school and dating a boy my parents detested, I rebelled and married him just to spite them. I had my daughter in the summer of 2001 and, at the time it was strongly suggested by well-meaning family and friends that I should give her up for adoption. I refused. And while I concede that it is certainly not the right choice for everyone, I knew the moment I found out I was pregnant that I wanted the baby. I didn’t really know why, except that everyone was telling me that I couldn’t do it. And them’s fightin’ words to me! I would prove them all wrong!
I didn’t go to birthing classes, nor read any books; I just had a baby and worked it out. Truthfully I think that was the best way for me. There was no pressure to conform to certain standards because there was so little expectation of my success. So I was just ME, with a baby. I parented the way I lived my life; with many mistakes and awesome comebacks.
The demise of that first marriage came upon the realization that my husband was an angry alcoholic and also using methamphetamines. I just couldn’t stand to see my daughter exposed to that and so I did my next rebellious act and left my marriage. I say it was rebellious merely from the standpoint of my parents, who were initially adamantly opposed to the marriage and, as it turned out, equally opposed to me getting divorced.
I took my daughter and moved 35 miles away from all my family and most of my friends and started over from scratch at the ripe age of twenty. It was during that time, fighting for custody of my daughter for two years, that I really came to understand my full potential as a mother. I had always been someone who was easily intimidated and now I faced down an angry, verbally abusive man for the right to raise my child on my own. It is the times like these, when we are forced to do things that make us petrified, that we understand how much we are willing to do for our kids and then to realize how much we actually CAN do for our kids.

As the dust settled from my divorce battle, I met someone new. I had my second child within the context of a second marriage, and found the experience both wonderfully different and yet distressing all at the same time. For this child I was married first (as opposed to being married nine months into the pregnancy with the first one). People had different expectations of me. I was no longer just the teenage girl who got knocked up and would surely fail at any attempt to parent on her own. Now I was the responsible mother who everyone expected to register for baby gifts and go to ‘mommy and me’ yoga classes. Fortunately for me I was already used to bucking the trend as a parent. While I embraced some of these different expectations, I tossed most of them to the wind. I didn’t need all that societal pressure to conform into the perfect parent! I already was a good parent, with a beautiful and accomplished seven year-old child to my credit.
When my younger daughter was not quite a year and a half I went through a second divorce and, similar to the first time, I plowed ahead on my own. Yet, as is always true, it was different this time as well. I had lived on my own before and raised a child. I could do it again. There were no drugs or alcohol concerns involved and we resolved our divorce amicably, without fighting. This time around I was not nearly as devastated by the divorce because I had already proven to myself and those around me that I could be a good mother even if I was single.

So far, through all the ups and downs of being a parent of now twelve and five year-olds, I have come to the conclusion that I am a good mother because I am ME as a mother. Being a mom has not robbed me of the opportunity to be myself. I am still me. I still like to thumb my nose at the rules and be a non-traditional parent in many ways and in other ways I have found great comfort in traditional methods of child-rearing. I have not ceased experimenting with wild ideas like going vegan for ten months, homeschooling while working full-time, trying to learn Italian, extreme home-cooking everything from bread to condiments and making my five-year-old do her own laundry. I also have strict bedtimes and chore charts and make sure they eat their vegetables and behave respectfully.
The key here is that I have refused to let my own preconceived ideas about motherhood and those thrust upon me by society to define what it means to be a good mother. I am a good mom because God made me to be the mother of my children. In His infinite wisdom He knew that my children should be with me and I with them. He knew that we would grow, learn and fight with each other and come out on the other side exactly who we were meant to be. I have not lost myself; I have gained an expanded version of myself.
From the divorces, custody battles, moves, financial crises and blessings, vacations, snuggle times and every other kind of curve or victory life gives me I have remained ME. The biggest blessing I can give my girls is a mother who is herself! How else can my daughters learn to be confident, secure women who will go out and conquer the world? If they don’t have a mother who is willing to be herself then will they ever learn to be themselves? I must model the behavior I wish them to exhibit and so I have come full-circle. I want to be myself and being myself is ultimately the best way for me to be a mother and being a mother is the best way to be myself.

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Sarah is currently living in Damascus, Oregon raising her two daughters the best way she knows how with the loving support of her family and church. She works in the health care field and chronicles her thoughts on faith in her blog, Musings of a Christian Black Sheep.

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A Life Spent Loving Others – Mary’s Story

Mary was born March 12, 1980, the second child to Dan and Kathy. She became the younger sister and mentor to Leo-Paul (LP) and the older sister and friend to Tanika. From the very first moment of Mary’s arrival, she touched people’s lives physically and emotionally. At the tender age of 9 months while watching LP work with his speech specialist, she began mimicking the therapist through a two-way mirror. LP laughed at the sound behind the wall and then he too began to make the sounds that the therapist wanted to hear. Physically challenged from birth, LP learned to speak, walk and read following Mary’s lead.

When she was four, Mary’s family became a medical foster home for infants born to chemically-addicted parents. She became a voluntary consummate ‘mommy,’ changing diapers, diagnosing bottom rashes, redressing and feeding any baby that needed it. Burping them, burrito-wrapping them and singing them to sleep along with all her dolls and the dogs and the neighbor kids that routinely stopped in. By the time Mary was nine, she was carrying car seats and diaper bags and heading off to another hospital for another baby to bring home.
At 13 she met her sister Tanika, weighing only 3 pounds 11 ounces and measuring 14 inches long. Mary would soon call her “my shoe box baby.” Mary would take extra special care of this little bundle for the rest of her life. When she was fourteen Mary was the only person allowed to pick up and hold Tanika’s medically fragile twin sister, Tanisha. Tanisha lived in an infant hospice foster home and shortly after her visit with Tanika and Mary, Jesus moved Tanisha home. Mary held Tanika close to her for a very long time. She loved Jesus but she wasn’t ready to let Tanika follow Tanisha’s lead.

At 16 years old, Mary’s parents divorced, but that did not hinder her spirit. She was a cheerleader to all around her. She coaxed, prodded, pulled and harangued many people out of some of life’s deepest ruts. Two years later, in 1998 at the age of 18, she started doing foster care on her own while attending nursing school and became one of the youngest licensed foster parents in the state of Oregon. Over the next thirteen years, she would become a caregiver to more than forty children but ‘momma’ to only thirteen very especially loved babies of all ethnicities and all manner of health and drug-related problems. Her heart was always ready to love just one more little one. She was an encourager, inspiring babies who could not feel, to live and learn how to love. God blessed Mary with the gift to love those among us who are difficult to love.

After receiving her RN license, she continued doing foster care and began caring for the elderly and mentally challenged as well; the population pushed away from society. While physically caring for her patients, she also prayed mightily over them. She encouraged them and listened to their life stories. Every life mattered to the Lord and she wanted even those lost within themselves to understand how important they were to Jesus. She sang daily their heart-songs to Jesus.
God also blessed Mary with the gift to share Jesus with anyone needing to know Him prior to their earthly departure. One woman that Mary became especially close with asked her to pray that God would take pity on her and allow her a small place in Heaven. Mary assured her that Jesus already had her mansion built and that He was just waiting to bring her home. That evening, Mary’s friend moved into her mansion built with Jesus’ own hands.

Woefully, Mary had her own health problems. For years she had suffered from genetic endometriosis and ovarian cysts and the doctors had told her she would never be able to conceive her own baby. But when she had a miscarriage early on in her marriage, she was devastated. Not long after, in 2003, at only 23 years old, she was diagnosed with HPV and had to have a complete emergency hysterectomy. They would have never found out about the cancer if it wasn’t for that precious, lost baby.
Mary had also contracted a rare strand of bacteria during her second year of nursing school, which began to attack her vital organs causing sustained damage. The mounting health problems forced her to give up working as an RN. However, Mary’s joy and enthusiasm for helping others did not end, and so she worked more creatively at being a better foster mom to medically fragile infants. Her patience was limitless and her zeal for life inspirational.

In December of 2004 Mary picked up a two-day-old boy, Baby “J,” from the hospital with the intent to adopt. He was a drug baby, so she knew he would suffer from many developmental issues and probably have to have years of therapy and special education. Mary took it all in stride. She loved him as if he were her own flesh and blood. Two years later and two weeks away from signing Baby “J’s” adoption finalization papers, Mary’s husband abandoned them. After that, the state determined that as a single parent she could not adopt any child, but as a top-notch foster parent she would be allowed to keep “J” in her home as a foster child until he reached the legal age of eighteen years old. If he were allowed to stay in one foster home for seven years, permanency might be ensured. Her hope fervently changed to emergent prayers.
Mary kept and raised her boy and for the next four years he called her his momma and she called him her son. In fact, one time in mental health therapy, “J” was told that Mary was not the mom that carried him in her tummy, but he didn’t like that. He told Mary later that it made him mad at God because he loved her and wanted to have come from her tummy! Mary reassured him that she loved him with all her heart and that she couldn’t love him more if he had come from her tummy.

Just three months prior to his 7th birthday, in September 2011, after a state-induced whirlwind adoption process, “J” was placed in his “forever home” 2500 miles from where he had lived and grown up with Mary. She only got to say a quick goodbye before he was taken away by what seemed like the perfect family for him. Under the guise of an open adoption, the state caseworker told her she had to wait six months before contacting the adoptive family. Later, however, the adoption worker told Mary the family said there would be no more contact, ever. Mary’s heart was broken and she felt betrayed by the adoption worker, the state caseworker and his new family.
Months went by and then a year without any update on “J” from the adoptive family or his caseworker. Mary continued to grieve the loss of her son and wrote this to a friend:

“I know God will give me answers in time or when my time ends. I know eventually “J” is going to grow up beyond their control and want to seek out answers to those questions they could not answer, but that I can. So I’m praying that someday he will return to me with memories and we can be reunited.”

Mary did not foster any more children after “J” was adopted and her health began to quickly fail. She was devastated and heartbroken on the inside, and even though she knew that “J” was where God wanted him to be and the family was a good match for him, she confided in her mom quietly that she felt her life was over. She had no energy to date again or make many friends and she was lonely. What she didn’t realize is that through the thousands of people that she touched, she had more friends than many people would gain in a lifetime. Mary’s heart-warming spirit encouraged veterans, the disabled, first responders, medical personnel on all levels, patients waiting for care, patients exiting care, surviving family members of newly departed loved ones and people from sea to shining sea. But she still prayed daily that God would send her a good friend and He answered that many times over as she rekindled old friendships through the internet.

Mary’s health continued to deteriorate with each passing week. The bacteria had compromised her entire immune system. She developed Crohn’s and Sweet’s syndrome in her GI tract and pseudo tumor cerebrii in her brain which began multiple types of seizures. By the middle of 2013, Mary’s lungs weakened to the point where she was getting pneumonia ever couple of months and her kidneys were functioning only at a 20-30% rate. Her liver, pancreas, gall bladder and spleen were enlarged and she could not stop vomiting. The doctors could not seem to diagnose her worsening condition. The disease continuously ravaged her already scarred young body over the years, requiring multiple hospital stays, serious surgeries and demanding test after test after test.
Her struggles were grueling to say the least, but her words were always uplifting for those around her. She would pray for the first responders that were urgently called to her home. She would pray for her family, hoping they would forgive her this ‘one last time’ for making them rush her to the ER when her heart wouldn’t stop hurting. She prayed for the nurses, doctors and technicians and that their jobs would be a little less ‘crazy because of her illness this time.’ She talked to God all the time.

In mid-November of 2013, she was finally diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect (a hole in her heart) and while she awaited more testing and the possibility of another surgery, Mary was near bedridden and had to have daily supplements of IV fluids and oxygen. She insisted on staying in the comfort of her own home, demanding that she not return to the hospital. Her family knew that under no circumstances were any resuscitation methods to be made if she slipped quietly away from them.

Although she was getting weaker and weaker, she still made the time to email a dear friend from grade school who was grieving a miscarriage. Feeling her friend’s deep pain of loss and the hopelessness of having to pick up the pieces after everything is said and done, Mary wrote this to her:

“I seem to miss my babies first thing in the morning. They are on my mind at noon, around dinner and then again at bedtime. They are the last thing I think of before I go to sleep and the first thing I think of upon waking. Each year seems to get better, but the pain doesn’t seem to go all the way away. Grief is so complicated. I can’t wait to get to Heaven to ask the Lord why He allows our Angel babies to be taken back to heaven and ask Him if we can touch them, hold them and smell them.”

On November 17, 2013 at 12:33 p.m., Mary, our daughter, sister, family member and friend solidly grasped Jesus’ hand and walked Heaven’s distant road home. She left a legacy reflective of a life filled with love for the Lord, a willingness to help no matter the chores because it meant doing ‘as Jesus would do if He were here.’ She left memories of her ability to laugh loudly, heartily and unashamedly. She left memories of her skill to sing off key, on key, or just forget the key and sing out loudly. And, she left us with the memory of her smile; her bright, enthusiastic, encouraging, dreamy and ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me’ smiles. Mary believed smiling broke through armored, tough exteriors and she proved that action correct more times than not. How can you not smile when twin dimples and blue eyes are flashing you?

                       2008 Mary (3)

Mary grew to become the woman Jesus wanted her to be. Her life lesson is twofold. First, her pain-filled illness was God’s rendering of Mary as a Masterpiece. The pain drove Mary into His open, embracing arms. He nestled her there, spoke loving kindness and mercy over her there, healed her a bit and returned her back to us. He honed her as only the Maker can. And secondly, her mother’s heart loved first her babies, but also that same heart loved the disabled, the hard-wrought, the lost and the found. Her mother’s heart beat with life for all connecting with her. Be rendered to God. Connect love with others’ heart beats.

Mary is whole, healthy and perfect in eternity. She is in heaven holding her angel babies and every other angel child up there. She is singing praises with the saints and dancing with her Savior. Her amazing, selfless personality is there blessing everyone in the next life.  And we, her family and friends still on earth, rejoice in the fact that we will one day see her face again. She will be there by Jesus’ side as one of the first to welcome us when we journey home as well.

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In loving memory of Mary Jo Lippincott, March 12, 1980 – November 17, 2013.
To see her memory slideshow, please click here.

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.