I LOVE Your Kids—Especially Giving Them Back to You

Filed under From Marriage to Motherhood Live Well on Jul 20 12 by

This column is a chronicle of my journey from marriage into motherhood, and how I came to terms with all the difficulties in between—from the decision of whether parenthood was for me, to the heartbreak of a failed pregnancy, to the upkeep and continuation of a healthy, Godly marriage. Welcome.

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I have always had a special place in my heart for your rowdy teenager—perhaps because I was one. Having always considered myself the “black sheep” of the family, I generally understand the struggles a teenager goes through, even if they are not fun for everyone else to deal with. My mom and I had a shaky relationship from middle school on—mainly because I was extremely hard headed, and I got it from her (sorry Mom, I love you). I know you may feel like teenagers are abducted by aliens; unfortunately that may not wear off till their twenties, at least it didn’t with me. I still love teenagers, even if being one was not the carnival ride I had hoped for; I gravitate towards working with them. During the summer after I got married, I worked at an outdoor center with a lot of teenage groups—high school, youth groups, volunteer firefighters, JR ROTC, etc.—helping them conquer fears of heights, mountain bikes, and each other. At church, I worked with the local kids in youth group. These interactions helped me realize that there was a place in my heart for kids. I really enjoyed that place, but I also liked sending them home at the end of the day.

The youth group I worked with was in a rural town. It was a place that attracted lots of tourists in the summer and became an “everybody knows everybody” kind of place in the off-season. It was in the “Bible belt,” where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting three churches, but youth groups in the area weren’t exactly thriving. Ours in particular was kind of the rebel group, the kids that probably got kicked out of other groups, or school, or just didn’t have anywhere else to go and no one to care. It wasn’t a group where the kids could quote Bible verses off the top of their heads, or had been in church with their family every Sunday. But I loved them. I loved their rough edges, the fact that they were pierced, and that their hair was all different colors.

Those kids taught me a lot those years. They taught me that teenagers still need approval and want boundaries from adults, because they know those things translate to loving them. I was able to sit down and just talk to them as a friend, someone to listen to their struggles. I especially loved leading a girls’ senior high small group. I told them that I had screwed up my teenage years royally, but that God had given me something to hold on to after that. He healed me, and taught me that he still loved me, still wanted me, and could use me for something beautiful. Those moments of just loving on those girls opened my heart to new levels of understanding what God had for me. He gave me something to give to them too, something I didn’t think I had. I don’t know if I knew it at the time, but it built in me a longing for someone to love like that.

One girl from that youth group in particular touched my heart greatly. This girl had it rough growing up—like many kids she came from a single parent household, always wondering why her dad had left her and why her mother never seemed to love her. But God had given her some amazing natural gifts; she pretty much schooled herself, as her mother didn’t enroll her in school (and didn’t really homeschool her either) and she mostly taught herself to play the piano as well. She was resilient, defiant, and extremely guarded. We didn’t exactly hit it off, though. I tried to constantly pull her out of her shell, and she shot daggers at me with her eyes as I insisted she interact with the group. Whenever we were all sharing our stories, she would mumble something quickly and then try to shift the attention to someone else. She was like an injured bird—she tried to protect her heart from other people, because too many of them had let her down. Slowly she started to open up, and she began to let me know her and love her. I was unable to not love her. She was spectacular. Her maternal instinct for others was amazing; she often guarded the other kids, trying to be to them what no one had ever been to her. But she didn’t see her talents and her beauties, because the people who were supposed to revel in those things, the blood ties that were supposed to bind, never had.

That girl is my sister now—not by marriage or legal adoption, but by my heartstrings. Dave and I adopted her into our family, though I’m not sure we ever asked her if she wanted to be or not. Her “adopted” family is quite large actually. It seems she had the same affect on many people, and though she grew up with little kin, there are now so many people that hold her dear that she could choose a home pretty much anywhere. She has grown into an amazing woman, working with kids that are also tough to love and excelling at it. But the thing she gave me was a gift that will never end—a heart to love someone new, for no material gain of my own except to see them grow and teach them that they are something of beauty. She taught me that maybe my heart had room for someone else. But I know that God brought her into my life for a bigger change of heart, and just maybe for someone who I wouldn’t give back at the end of the day.

As I write this to you, I am forty-one weeks pregnant. Yes, that’s overdue (Baby, did you hear that? Time to COME OUT!). I talked to the girl mentioned above just two days ago, and she is elated to meet her new “brother or sister.” Between her and this little one about to come into the world, there were a lot of steps taken towards making the decision to add to our family of two, but she was a part of preparing me to make that choice. I want to say thank you to that girl who opened my heart and helped me on my journey towards parenthood. I love you dearly, and I know I can love this little one partly because of you. Thank you for being a part of my ever-changing voyage.

-To be continued-

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Leigh Eddy Nelson
Leigh is currently a stay-at-home-mom, or SAHM, ministering to the community around her at The Oaks Camp and Conference Center in Lake Hughes, California. Writing has been a passion of hers since she was a little girl, and God has given her a gift to share her experiences in life, love, marriage, and her journey to, and through, motherhood. Follow her journey here every month!