Dear Almost 16

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You are believing lies.

You are believing lies about yourself that are being hissed and whispered into both of your beautiful open ears.

My only weapon against these lies is the following truth:

There are people who care about you.

There are great people who want to be your friend.

They are not all boys.

There are deceptive people who want to be your friend.

You are not choosing wisely.

You are not letting the appropriate people help you.

You have tremendous power and you are using your power to make terrible choices.

When you make good choices, it doesn’t cover up the bad choices you have also made.

Your good choices will not help you or others until you realize your bad choices are harmful for you and others.

You are responsible for both choices.

You have to be sorry for your bad choices before your good choices will matter.

You have to be sorry enough to turn around and stop going down the path you are currently on.

You cannot do what you need to do by yourself.

But you DO have everything you need nearby to get through.

UNLESS:

Unless you toss away the good and race to the bad.

Unless you only listen to your own internal voices.

Unless you think you can decide “the best way” all by yourself. None of us can.

Unless you continue being tricked and deceived and lied to about who really loves you–and you are believing the lie.

You are not as good as you sometimes think you are.

You are not as bad as others sometimes think you are.

There is more to you and for you than anyone can know.

There are dangers, dead-ends, and demons that you are speeding towards that will shock you when you get there.

Slow down.

Turn around.

Walk in truth.

This. This is why we did The Hardest Year.

Today made all the appointments, all the court dates, all the blood draws, all the tears…totally worth it. Today I was playing with the baby, now two, and his brother and sister. When it was time to leave, the baby said, “I wanna go wif you,” and grabbed my hand. We all looked at each other. Mom and Dad were weary from the road. Sister and brother needed some extra space, the baby stated his case, and I was over the moon thrilled. The bag was still unpacked, the car seat got changed, and we were on our way to see the Birth Mom.
She’s 16 now and working at a grocery store. She knew the family was coming into town but wasn’t expecting to see them until the next day. Other extended family was also in town and dining out at a restaurant. I was supposed to go meet them for dinner but then, “I wanna go wif you” happened, and well, all plans went up in the air to be rearranged around that one statement.
I decided Birth Mommy needed to see the wee one before the rest of the family so we drove right to the grocery store. It was about 7:30pm and she would be getting off work at 8:00. The store wasn’t busy so we marched right in. When she saw us, she blushed, gasped, put her hands on her knees , leaned forward and said, “HIiiiiii!” Two-year-old smiled and said “hi” back but was quickly distracted by the giant Dora the Explorer balloon soaring over her register. “Dowa. BIG Dowa.” Giggles all around by BMom and her co-workers. We took a stroll so she could get back to work. I just followed him around the grocery store. He pointed and named everything. “Apples! Chips! Juice! Milk!” He noticed a star shaped balloon in his reach and began singing:
Twinkoo twinkoo widdoo sarr
howwI wondoo whatchoo aww
It didn’t matter to him or to me that his star balloon said, “I’m the Big Sister.” He scooped that ribbon in the crook of his chubby elbow and let the plastic weight jangle along behind him while he sang and explored freely every inch of the grocery store. After every aisle we kept coming back to check on Big Dowa. She was still there swaying over BirthMom who waved with delight on our every return. We made our way up and down each aisle and when it was time to go, we walked hand in hand to the car together.
This. This one moment made it all worth it. And there are many more to come. Not every day. Maybe not even every year, but every single time together is a treasure and a reward for persevering through The Hardest Year.

Smiles and Quiet Hugs

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After watching a carefully crafted attack scene on a popular PBS show, I was overwhelmed with compassion for the mistreated character and the countless others who have experienced similar circumstances.  Even as this character chose to hide so as not to interrupt the household’s special event and then wisely reached out for help, viewers see the immediate deeper emotional struggle that continued to rip and tear at her soul.  There are people who can’t know.  There can still be more devastating consequences that must be minimized or prevented.  There is timing to consider in telling the truth.  There will be others who can’t or won’t help–how and to whom can I reach out?  Recovering from such a situation is not unlike a head trauma or concussion where regular thought processes and prioritizing are greatly impaired.  On the outside the harmed may be physically functioning, but the psyche itself has been violently jarred.  There is remaining integrity to protect and cherished privacy to defend.  It seems an insurmountable series of exhausting and further degrading obstacles.  This process of internal recovery takes far more time and attention than tending to the bloody lips and torn clothes.  How do I now continue to function in a world where this can and does happen?  How can I pick up and move on?  Who will help me?  Why has this happened?  How could I have prevented it?  What did I do to invite such an awful thing?  It’s too much to figure out.  Pack it up, put it away.  Exist.  I can’t talk about it.

How much more confusing and damaging it is for the recipients of less violent acts of the same nature.  They may begin in otherwise satisfying relationships, lovingly and tenderly but in an instant irreversible.  It is tempting to mentally classify rape as violent and between strangers–drunk acquaintances at a party, or even during a kidnapping or robbery.  It is much more tenuous to validate the line between consensual acts and non-violent rape.  A private moment may progress from consensual to non consensual in a nanosecond.  Developing teens and twenty-something young ladies may not have the language or the courage or the foresight or the escape plan or the physical strength or the emotional fortitude to remove themselves from a situation where they no longer feel comfortable.  Even young ladies old enough by law to consent are extremely susceptible to deciding in a moment that they would rather deny the red flags and choose to love and trust the person they are with no matter what, promising to deal with the consequences of unwanted activities later.  This begins a rapid cycle of denial which prevents some from seeking out wise counsel in order to save embarrassment.  In turn, personal growth is stunted as is the development of authentic relationships, in love and friendship. 

Some rapes end in smiles and quiet hugs.

Arms of Love

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At the end of 2011 I got the extremely distressing news that my daughter was pregnant.  She was 13 and in the 8th grade.   A lifetime of firmly held beliefs, thoughtful politics, and conservative family values were violently tossed around during this emotional tornado.  When I finally figured out which end was up, I realized that it was time for me to draw upon all the fortitude I could muster and parent in a way I had never fathomed.  Simultaneously I needed to help my barely-teen discern her “up” as well.

Everything was a huge decision.   Nothing was without consequences or extreme emotion.

She decided to keep the pregnancy.  I supported that decision.

She decided that she wasn’t ready to be a mother.  I supported that decision as well.

She became an instant celebrity at her school, which suited her just fine.  I thought it was horrible.

She kept her grades up.  She also kept the 17 year old boyfriend.  Until he got hauled to jail.

In the process, the anchor that held firm was not our religious beliefs, but our relationship to a loving Father who we believe works all things together for his good.   Our good, bad and indifferent decisions are all moldable to his purposes.

Earlier that year my sister and her husband in another state had begun the process for adoption.  With the heartbreak of several miscarriages, an infant loss, and other challenges during their journey to parenthood, they were feeling the strong urge, or shall I say “calling” to adopt.  They had sailed through the foster process and were in the final stages of adopting a new family member.  They had already filed papers, received home visits and were accepting weekly photos potential children.  Something mysterious held them back from choosing one of these children.  Though they were all loveable, none of them had seemed the right fit.

I had even written a letter of recommendation months earlier for why they would make such excellent parents.  In all the teen turmoil, I had completely forgotten about their journey to adoption.  How strange.

When my sister mentioned to me that they would take the baby in a heartbeat, I told her she would have to fight me for her/him.  I couldn’t imagine anyone else besides me being the parent.  I secretly could not for the life of me anticipate and resolve how I would parent my teen mom AND her baby.  Would I insist that she get up with him?  Would I make her change diapers?  I couldn’t even get her to do her own laundry—how in the world would this pan out?

As my sister gently reminded me that they had been waiting and ready to adopt, it all became clear.  My daughter wrote a mature letter deciding that she would like her aunt and uncle to parent this baby she was carrying.  They lived close enough to visit, though not easily, and far enough to allow for growth, distance and healthy development—both for the teen birth mom and for the infant. 

A friend and mentor sent me a book that fed my soul during this challenging time.  “My Christian Pregnant Teen.”  It was a lifeline for me and I’m sure has been for many others.  One section of the book encouraged an Adoption Placement Ceremony which we were able to prepare with the help of our pastor and some other close friends.  The picture above was taken after the ceremony in the moments before baby left with his brand new family.  We are still one big extended family, but he and his birth mama are thriving separately—each held in arms of love, made for a purpose with hope and a future.

Hi Tiny Almost Baby

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Today is the day we found out about you.

You are now the center of our thoughts every moment.

You are important and special and have an amazing story.

God wanted you here in our family.

This is going to be tricky.

Do you know how important and special and amazing you are?

 

Today is the day we found out about you.

You are exponentially growing inside a young 8th grade girl’s body.

She does not know what she is doing the rest of this week.

She cannot even think about tomorrow—only today.

She is only 13.

Her boyfriend is a little bit older and knows he has done a wrong thing.

He was not allowed to be the boyfriend of such a young girl.

They are both very cute and good-looking and they love each other.

I told them both that you will be very cute and good-looking too.

Can you see how cute and good-looking you are?

 

Today is the day we found out about you.

The Girl Who Grew You now knows she will have to rearrange her life.

She doesn’t know how to be a mom yet.

She knows how to love people and she’s very good at that.

She does not know how to take care of another person.

She has a lot of homework.

She is good in math.

She is busy at cheerleading practice and football games.

She is on the diving team.

She does not know how to drive a car yet to take you home from the hospital or to a doctor’s visit.

Who is someone who takes good care of you?

 

Today is the day we found out about you.

The boy who heard about you knows he is not ready to be a dad.

He has a job, but only in the summertime.

He does community service.

He likes to plan things, but did not plan this.

He knows you will be a great kid.

He does not know everything you will need.

He does not know how to take care of you or the Girl Who Grew You.

He only knows that he loved the Girl very much.

Who is someone you love very much?

 

Today is the day we found out about you.

The Girl Who Grew You is very worried.

She is so worried, she didn’t ask anyone for help for a long time.

Finally after many weeks, she told her good friend.

The friend was smart but still did not know how to help her.

So the friend told her mom.

The friend’s mom did know what to do.

She was also a Girl Who Grew someone when she was very young.

The friend’s mom had also rearranged her life.

She was a good person to tell.

Do you have a good friend you can tell things to?

 

The friend’s Mom brought the Girl Who Grew You home to her mom–your grandmother.

The friend’s Mom helped tell the Mom of the Girl Who Grew You that you were coming.

It was very shocking.

It was also very happy.

It was also very scary.

Have you ever done something that was happy and scary at the same time?

 

Today is the day we found out about you.

Today is the first day of many where you became very important to a lot of people.

A Letter to the Baby

Dear Sweet One,

I keep putting off writing this series of letters. I want you to know so many things about the situation of your birth, but there is so much emotion attached. This will need to be carefully worded.

Your sweet self was wanted by not just one mommy, but at least three. The year we discovered you were coming, your birth mom was still a school girl herself, just barely a teenager, but she was crazy in love with you and with your birth daddy. In a strange, beyond comprehension time warp your presence was sorely needed in the world at that exact moment in time. From the moment God conceived the great idea of you– right up to this, the day you read these words, you have always been chosen, wanted, and your presence on the planet a total joy. In an already hurting, painful, troublesome world, neither one of the people who made the beautiful combination of you were designed, chronologically, mentally, emotionally, physically or financially able to be responsible for you after you were born. So God had another great idea that He let us know about—He doesn’t always tell us what He’s up to—but this time He did. He not only made you exist against many odds, but also through lots of prayer and debate and hard decision-making prepared and revealed who your Mom and Dad, sister and brother would be. It is a very rare thing indeed for a third child, my third child, to have a firstborn who also has a big brother and a big sister, just like she does. In this and so many ways, you and your birth mom are very similar.

Addiction/Enabling

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You are such a smart girl.  I want to tell you something that many grown-ups either don’t know, or don’t understand, or know and understand but don’t care to apply or change.  You probably know it already but hear me out.

There is a type of relationship that seems fine to the people in it and to others looking in, but it is very destructive to both people and all their friends & family over time.

When one person needs something that they aren’t supposed to have, that is an addict.

When one person wants to help someone else they care about by giving them something or helping them have/get they aren’t supposed to have, that is an enabler.

People who are addicts can be addicted to all kinds of things:  good grades, approval, drugs, alcohol, nudity, sex, sexual favors, power, status (being popular) and more.  They feel good for just a few minutes and then feel bad the rest of the time until they get the thing they aren’t supposed to have again. That is what addicted means.  (You probably already knew that).

People who enable spend most of their time helping others.  They want to help because it feels good to be kind to others and help them feel better.  They want so much to be appreciated and loved and told that they are special.  Enablers mostly only feel good when they are helping someone else, and feel bad the rest of the time until they help someone again and feel better for helping.  That is what enabling means.  (You probably knew that too).

Addicted people are attracted to enabling people because they know they will help give them what they want.  They are tricky because usually they don’t know they are addicted.  They know how to act and what to say so that they get what they want from whoever they can get it from—not just one person.  They know how to hide this from the people who are helping them get what they aren’t supposed to have.

Enabling people are attracted to addicted people because they want to fix or help them.  They easily believe anything someone says if they can help them feel better, because helping someone else feel better will help them feel better.  Enablers feel validated or special only when they are helping someone else…not when they are alone figuring out things for themselves.

This is a terrible problem that is cleverly disguised as a perfect relationship.

Some people can be both an addict and an enabler at the same time.  It is hard work to stop being either one.

The Walk of Shame

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College kids have a term for returning after an all-nighter–same clothes as yesterday, messed up hair, sleepy eyes, and questionable hygiene.  I had a completely different walk of shame.

My walk of shame was from the guidance counselor’s office at my daughter’s middle school to the chair at the desk of the School Resource Officer.  I arrived that morning in a state of shock, wondering if my 14 year old was going to be allowed to stay in the 8th grade.  It was November so the school year was just getting started.

The Guidance Counselor pulled up her grades, “She’s doing great.  No social issues, no problem behavior.  What’s going on?”

I spit the words out  like a bug.  “She’s pregnant.”

“Who’s the boy?”

“You know him.  He’s 17.”

“I’ll be right back.”

After a brief muffled conversation in the hallway, she returned with the school Resource Officer.  She introduced me to him and asks me to tell him why I’m here.

“I just wanted to talk about homeschooling my daughter.”

I was so confused and baffled and curious what in the world the SRO could possibly have to say to me about homeschooling.

“Ma’am, you need to tell me about the young man.  Who is it?”

Realization dawned in that moment that we were headed down a brand new path that had nothing to do with homeschooling.

I didn’t want to get anyone else in trouble–especially having no clue what the trouble would be.  I only wanted to solve my problems.  I only wanted a roadmap for my daughter’s now completely upside-down future.  The guidance office was the first place I knew to look.

As I hesitated to reveal the information he asked for, the officer got very firm with me and raised his voice ever so slightly.  “I now have knowledge of a potential felony and am bound to report it, and you are bound by law to tell me what you know.  Now come with me.”

This was my walk of shame.

A wife of 20 years, mother to four, ministry leader and Christ-follower.  I zombie-walked through the crisp fall air of the middle school courtyard to a small closet of a room.  He offered me a Coke while he looked high and low for the form he had never had to fill out before.  Someone else’s silver lining, I thought.  I told the policeman everything I knew about the boy that had date-raped and impregnated my then 13 year old daughter.  The boy we wouldn’t allow her to date, but that we would take to church instead.  As I gave out phone numbers, birthdays, and other information, I felt like I was assisting to plan the worst surprise party ever.  Stunned does not begin to describe the slow motion funk I found myself in that day and for many months.

The walk of shame is something to avoid at all costs.

Initial Resources

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I read the “Survive Your Teen’s Pregnancy” book in one night–cover to cover.  What a tremendous resource!  It was such a sense of relief to read the thoughts and scriptures on each page. It helped us navigate discussions, journal thoughts & feelings, prepare for counseling, confirm decisions…it is a HUGE blessing.  

Here are some websites that may be helpful as well:

https://www.care-net.org/

The Keim Center

I went on the 8th grade field trip to the war museum shortly after her pregnancy was confirmed.  It was very eye-opening. Even though several girls rushed up to give my daughter hugs in the hallway, there was also some awkward shunning as well throughout the day from both girls and boys, so she’s not the “celebrity” I thought she was.  She wasn’t even the most obnoxious one on the bus–imagine!

We were at the end of our temporary denial phase (which we may revisit from time to time) and preparing for a trip to see family.  The author’s prayer in the book is that the Lord would fulfill the promise in Isaiah 61:1-3.  May it be so for us as well as every reader that stumbles onto this page.

 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

Because the LORD has anointed me

To bring good news to the afflicted;

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives,

And freedom to the prisoners;

To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord,

And the day of vengeance of our God’

To comfort all who mourn,

To grant those who mourn in Zion,

Giving them a garland instead of ashes,

The oil of gladness instead of mourning,

A mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.

So they will be called oaks of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord,

That He may be glorified.”

Where it all started

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In the summer of 2011 my younger daughter was a rising 8th grader.  She became pregnant after forming a secret relationship with a boy 4 years older than she is.  We discovered in November of that year that she had become pregnant weeks before her 14th birthday.  As a direct result of this situation, the person she had become involved with is now a convicted felon, a registered sex offender and has spent 2 years in jail.    My family’s life is still being affected by the choices of my young daughter.

With counsel, she continued the pregnancy, delivered the child, and wisely placed him for adoption in a loving home.  These were not easy choices to make, and there is still pain attached years later, but we believe they were Spirit-led decisions.   Most importantly, they were her decisions.

Some of the emotions present throughout this ordeal include:  shock/gratitude.  Regret/relief.   Disbelief /acceptance.  Shame/boldness.

Emotional health is as much a priority for me now as physical health was during my pregnancy with her in 1997, and her unexpected pregnancy in 2012.  We found a combination of assistance from our faith,  enforcing proper boundaries, and various unexpected sources.  It is my hope that this site will be a source of hope and resources for others.