Friday, April 29, 2016

Looking Back.... Hannah's Story

Growing up in a small, southern town, and being raised in a prominent family in that community, never made it easy for me to share my story. From the minute I found out I was pregnant during my freshmen year of college, I ran away to another state and hid from anyone that could find out. I was in a broken relationship, and I knew that I didn’t have a chance of giving my baby a Christian father figure. Through a lot of endless prayers and my supportive parents, I found a "home away from home" with the Liberty Godparent Home. They showered me with love and patience as I healed and made a plan for my baby's future.

For many years, some of my closest friends never knew that I placed my daughter, Grace, for an open adoption. Guilt and shame seemed to grip me, and for some reason, I couldn't find my voice as a birthmother. So for 12 long years, I sat in the shadows, and watched as other birthmothers found their voice and told their story.

A couple of months ago, a woman from an organization called Starkville Pregnancy Care Center came to me for marketing advice. She told me about the small clinic here in Starkville which was close to Mississippi State's University’s campus. She explained how they tried to witness to college students at MSU who found themselves pregnant and scared. They tried to give the young women who came to see them options other than abortions.

I knew instantly, that this was a way that I could not only tell my beautiful story, but find a way to give other young women the courage to choose life during an unexpected pregnancy. So many girls only see two options in front of them: abortion or parenting. They miss the magical option of adoption.

There are some things in my life that I'm not proud of, but adoption is the one, beautiful choice that I made, and therefore I will hold my head high.

So today, I'll start sharing my story, and hopefully it will save a life of a little unborn girl or boy. 

To any birthmothers out there that cannot find their voice, this message is for you:

 "You are beautiful in every way, and the life that you gave, is worth sharing. Don’t waste it by hiding away in the shadows.” 

To the young girl who is reading this and finds herself in an unexpected pregnancy

"You are precious. You are loved. And you are NOT alone. This day will someday pass, and you will look back on it like it was a distant dream. You’re right, it IS your choice, and with that choice, you could give the most amazing gift of love to your unborn baby. Your life doesn’t end with this pregnancy….. it’s just beginning. Take a deep breath, dust your shoulders off, and listen to the words of the song “Oceans" by Hillsong. That song gave me the courage to speak out and find my voice, and I pray that it will give you a little bit of courage as well."


Friday, March 25, 2016

A Turning Point in Life

          The softening of my heart was a long process and it began with the choice to allow myself to give up control and let God in. When I found myself pregnant at just 16 years old I was terrified and angry but still never accepted that I needed to grow up and take responsibility. I wanted everyone to take care of me and fix the mess if gotten myself into. That's why, at first, I couldn't help but be bitter, finding out my parents wanted to ship me off to a maternity home to live with a bunch of old dragon ladies who were going to tell me what to do and force me to scrub the floors. There was no way I was going 4 hours away from my home my friends and all the trouble I was still involved in. I had a boyfriend at home that swore to me we would be together forever and many “friends” that insisted they would babysit for me and never let me down. The mindset I held at this point in my life is what my dad always like to call “magical thinking”. I had big plans, solid goals, but no drive to achieve them or even get them started in most cases. As far as I was concerned everything was going to fall in to place because I deserved it to.

I’d made up my mind, I wouldn’t go. “I’d rather sleep outside, eat dirt, die.” I told my mother.

God, however would not take no for an answer and through months of having my life fall apart he allowed me to think clearly and accept that my life needed to change. I lived three different places and none of them worked out. I led a life not of the strong, responsible woman that I foolishly tried to make myself out to be but I was a kid, quite frankly a dumb kid. To no one’s surprise my relationship with the father of my child was failing right along with any meaningful friendships with anyone remotely decent. I drove the good people away and attracted the bad ones like moth to a flame. It’s crazy looking back now, amazed that I had no idea I would soon burn out.

When I’d finally exhausted all my options I went home. That’s when you know you’re at rock bottom, it looks just like this: me, not for the first time, standing just outside the threshold to my parents’ home, yesterday’s makeup running down my cheeks and on to the shirt that hadn’t been washed in weeks, begging for my 89th chance. Like the prodigal son I was forgiven. Unlike him I was not immediately trusted, I had no privileges or freedom and I gave my parents the last of the fight I had in me to show my discontent. I hated them for laying down the law but a still, small voice reminded me how I’d gotten to this place and how I knew I needed to get out. I applied to the Liberty Godparent Home program in Lynchburg Virginia and was promptly accepted and given a date to move in.

 To my great surprise, my first day at the home I was greeted by my young, non-reptilian case worker with sense of humor that made me love her immediately. In the weeks following I met the rest of the equally young and fun staff who welcomed me in and sympathized with my hormones and homesickness. The first 21 days at the home you have no access to the phone or computer. They enforced this to help with the adjustment period. I did not use it to adjust. I whined and moped and planned my escape. I developed a hate for the other girl in the residence and kept busy arguing with her and writing angry letters to my cruel parents cursing them for abandoning me. One worker noticed my poor attitude and reached out to me to find the cause. We stayed up hours past lights out while she pulled down the walls around my heart brick by brick.

For once I didn't resist the helping hand I was offered. I took my time more seriously. I listened in church and bible study. I did my chores with gratitude in my heart and contributed all of my energy into making my temporary home a more peaceful place to stay. I studied every day and got my GED and my drivers permit. My belly was growing in time with my love and concern for the tiny life inside. With the realist mindset I was developing came horrible thoughts of what would happen to us. The women at the home advised me to look into adoption. I met with an adoptive couple and agonized every minute over what truly mattered to me when it came to being a good parent.

When the day finally came for my son to arrive it had only been days since id made the decision to parent. It was the scariest day of my life. Jonah Michael was born 3:36 on January 5th, 2015. Looking into his eyes for the first time I was sure I knew what love was and that everything was going to be okay.

Those nine months were the hardest of my life but I know I came out of that place a better person. Liberty Godparent Home loved me while I was learning to love myself and more importantly loved the little baby I was growing in my belly and wanted us both to thrive. I can't place the exact moment when my heart changed but somewhere between laughing about crazy housemates and crying because I put the wrong sauce on my stir fry is when I left my childish ways behind and my broken pieces were healed.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Education is Key!

Over the last few months, the LGH team has been evaluating how to better equip each resident to reach their educational goals.  With the strong resources in our community, I knew that we would be able to grow our educational program to bring on even more successes.

As it currently stands, the residents have been enrolled in online schooling through Liberty University Online Academy.  The LGH classroom is monitored by the houseparent and school work is graded by a teacher off-sight.  For some of our residents, this plan worked well while others struggled to stay focused or learn how to navigate online schooling.

Starting Jan 19, the LGH students will be attending Liberty Christian Academy Alternative School.  The set-up is pretty amazing as they will be able to leave the Home during normal school hours while still being able to receive the same LGH support services during the day without any issues.  This means that we have the flexibility to pull them out of class time for counseling and medical appointments, while providing an even stronger team to help each young lady.  This also means that they will be able to continue with online schooling but under the supervision of a licensed teacher right beside them to assist with any questions or tutoring. One of the best parts about this plan is that with the support of donors, we will be able to offer this opportunity free of charge to our residents.

We are excited for our young ladies and look forward to celebrating as they reaches their education goals!