"The choices we make change
the story of our life." ©
Sunday, April 02, 2006
When I was a young girl, I would dream of some day being a wife and mother. I would lie in bed at night and imagine of my future family, thinking about the first time I’d tell my husband I was expecting. He would come home from a long day at work to a white house with green shutters. I’d have a candlelight dinner waiting. I even knew what I’d serve: baby back ribs, baby carrots and baby peas.
I would be glowing—not from the candlelight, but from the “joy of expectancy.” My husband would glance at me from across the table and cock one eyebrow. I would nod enthusiastically. We’d embrace, and then we’d head to JcPennys to pick out our first, baby outfit. It would be perfect.
But what really happened, years later, was quite different. I was riding home from the doctor’s office with my mom. We were both silent. As we drove, I saw a familiar car heading in the other direction.
“There he is.” I said, pointing.
My mom turned the car around and we followed him to the McDonald’s parking lot. There was another girl in the car. I jumped out and motioned for him to join me. She looked the other way.
He followed me to the brown-topped, garbage can. This person had, not long before, professed his love for me, yet as I dared to look into his eyes, his gaze was as cold as ice. After dating for three years, things had not been going well lately. The girl in the car had something to do with that. But my own longings for that “ever-lasting love,” which couldn’t be satisfied in him, also played a part.
“I’m pregnant,” I told him.
His expression didn’t change. “You’re lying. I don’t believe you.”
My hands protectively covered my stomach. “Fine, don’t believe me. I don’t want anything to do with you any way. I don’t need you. This baby doesn’t need you.”
That was one of the last times I talked to him.
I was seventeen. One day I was your typical high school senior. I was an honor student, a cheerleader, and a yearbook editor. I worked part time at McDonalds to pay for gas for my used Dodge Colt. The next day, I discovered was a mother-to-be. My life as I knew it was over. And I was ashamed.
The Shame of Being a Teen Mom
I see girls like me every day. They’re young. They’re pregnant. Sometimes, like in my case, their boyfriend is out of the picture. Their friends soon follow.
That’s what happened to me. My best friends moved on and enjoyed their senior year. My boyfriend was definitely out of the picture. I couldn’t face going to school pregnant, so I dropped out of regular high school to attend a community school for troubled teens. And inside I was very troubled. I was also lonely and scared. Me a mother?
When I work with teen moms, I can read their faces. I know what’s happening inside them. They have chosen to give life to this child within, and most of them feel as if they’ve sacrificed their own life in the process. These girls cry themselves to sleep at midnight with Jay Leno laughing in the background. They wake up a noon to soap operas, and wonder why they can’t have someone like that cute guy in the movies who always says and does the right things. I was there. I was that girl.
These pregnant teens also tune in the radio, hoping to drown out their sorrows. Yet the songs talk about everlasting love, about relationships, about commitment. And they wonder if there’s such a thing.
Most of all, these girls hate going out because they always get “the look.” You know, “The look.” I remember how it felt. My sin was before me everywhere I went, literally. There are many sins you can commit and no one will ever know. Teen pregnancy is not one of these.
These young pregnant girls wear their shame like a chain-male cloak. And it’s a heavy cloak indeed. I remember. Yet, thankfully there was a group of women who shared their love and offered me HOPE found in Christ.
Looking back now, there was nothing unique about that group of women. They were Christian friends of my mother and grandmother. See, I grew up in church, but then I strayed. I'd wanted to do things my way. My pregnancy was just one of the consequences.
This group of women could have condemned me. They could have ignored me. Instead, they invited me to their weekly Bible Study that was held at my grandma’s house. After months of sitting at home bored, I went because I had nothing else to do. When I got there, I headed straight to my grandfather’s Lazy-boy and kicked up my swollen feet. They gathered around me and studied God’s word. I would love to say that my knowledge of the Bible grew during this time, but it didn’t. Instead, I’d promptly fall asleep.
Even though I snored while they studied, something else was happening in that room. First, there was prayer. Thinking back now, I often wonder now if they circled up around while I was drooling on the headrest. I can almost guarantee it. These were praying women.
Second, they welcomed me. They loved me. I was important to them. I had no idea why, but I was. These women gave me a baby shower when my son was born. They visit me. They checked up on me. I felt special.
Third, these women were an example to me. They loved each other, loved their families, and they wanted to live the right way. Most of all they loved God. The same God I had turned my back on. And they showed their compassion in a real way.
One theologian is quoted as saying, “What value has compassion that does not take its object into its arms?” I was that object.
These women took me into their arms and their lives. Because of them, and because I believed in the Jesus that shared, my life did a U-Turn.
When I was six months pregnant, I gave my heart to Jesus. I prayed, "Lord, I've screwed up big time. If you can do something with my life, please do." As you can see from yesterday's bio, He has been faithful! (Praise Him!)
Helping Others on the Same Road:
Now, seventeen years later in Kalispell, Montana, where I live, there is another group of women who remind me of the dear ones I just spoke of. They are welcoming. They are loving. They are accepting, and they also pray.
The ones I’m talking about are those in our Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) steering teams--the groups that I helped to launch. These two groups of women come from all walks of life, yet their desire is the same. They long to show young moms God’s love, and they do it by giving their time and their compassion.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy loving these young moms in our groups. When they first come to us, they have walls erected around them, pasted with big “Keep Out” signs. They’ve been hurt too many times, and they don’t want to risk it again.
Most of these moms are involved in the party scene. Most are high school dropouts and come from bad families. They’re usually pregnant by an older guy—and he usually has more than one kid. The girls cuss, they smoke, and when they first come, they often roll their eyes and cop a 'tude. Yet they tolerate our devotions, where we share how God is working in our lives, and they allow us to pray with and for them.
Mainly they show up. Just like I showed up at that Bible Study. I needed something, bad—even though on the outside it only seemed like I needed a nap. These girls need something too. They need to know they’re special. Just like I needed to know.
I wish I had the time and ability to meet face to face with every one of the one million teens every year who discover they are pregnant. To give them a hug and share the HOPE that can be found in Christ. While this is not physically possible, God has given me the opportunity to do so through my book, Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom. Through this book, I speak to the heart of a pregnant teen--as someone who has been there.
What about you?
I can't end this blog without encouraging you to consider who, in your life, needs to feel the love of Jesus through your care, your smile, your open arms.
After all, you can never imagine the type of U-Turn possible . . . but God can. He knows how lives can be transformed from heaps of ashes into displays of beauty.
I understand that too . . .