Category Archives: self-improvement

Volunteers Matter: Melinda Hunley

Crisis Pregnancy Outreach has been 100% run by volunteers since its inception more than 30 years ago. No one has ever received a salary, which enables CPO to make an even bigger difference in the lives of Tulsa area women. We know that volunteers matter, and to honor them we periodically interview and highlight one of our volunteers. This week we hear from another wonderful volunteer, Melinda Hunley.

Q: How do you volunteer with CPO?
A: I have volunteered in a number of different areas for almost 9 years. Initially as a mentor, then I became the mentor coordinator for about 4 years. I also planned many holiday parties for CPO and Grace Girls. Now I do a lot of volunteer coordinating for some of our fundraising events.

Q: How long have you been volunteering with us?
A: About 9 years.

Q: How did you find out about CPO?
A: Through my church, Christian Chapel.

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer with CPO vs. other organizations? What is it about crisis pregnancies that drew you to us?
A: I was drawn to CPO because of the stories I heard during the CPO Sundays at my church. I was completely struck by how God brought families together through open adoption and stories from the birth moms about how CPO helped to change their lives completely moved me!!!

Q: Why is our cause so close to your heart?
A: Because CPO provides real/tangible solutions and help to girls going through crisis pregnancies.

Q: What have you learned about yourself since volunteering?
A: By helping with CPO I feel like I truly have a hand in helping God’s cause on earth!!! And that I’m pretty good at party planning!!! But on a serious note I’ve learned to rely more on God when sharing about the gospel. Working with CPO through the years I’ve had several opportunities to minister to girls in desperate situations and I always feel so incapable on my own. But these were the times that I just let go and let God! This was a huge boost to my own spiritual walk.

Q: How have you seen God’s hand at work in the ministry of CPO?
A: I’ve seen girls transformed from addiction and living of the streets to becoming a stable wife and awesome mother… all because of what God has done through CPO!!!

Q: What would you say to anyone considering becoming involved in CPO?
A: I would tell them to do it and prepare to watch God’s grace transform girls’ lives… and their own!

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Retro CPO: Why

Each month we will feature a “retro” CPO article, one that is pulled from our archives of quarterly newsletters. Whenever possible we will provide details regarding the author and date of publication.

This month’s Retro CPO article was written by a volunteer who is still VERY active at CPO, Kelly Jacobson. What a wonderful lady. It was written in summer of 2007.

At the Adoptive Family Support Group recently, I shared my thoughts on why God allows those who don’t want to get pregnant to conceive, and those who are dying for a baby, not to. Why God? Why did I conceive a baby at 19, when I was nowhere ready to be a parent? I couldn’t even make good choices for myself, much less for someone else. Why God, did you later take away my ability to conceive a baby, when my heart was dying from the longing to have one? Why?

I am no theologian. I didn’t grow up in a Christian family. I only started walking with the Lord, when I was 25. I don’t even know the names of all the books of the Bible, like my seven-year-old does. But sometimes I think I get it. Sometimes I think God shows me. I believe that the answer is that God wants us to need each other. As women who can’t give birth to our children, but have a supernatural longing for them, we need our birth mothers. As women who are in an unplanned pregnancy, we need help to make tough choices in a world where the “easy” ones are very acceptable and common.

Of course, God wants us to rely on Him. And, ultimately, He can make anything happen. But God chooses to use us to help each other. Think about that. The Creator of the universe wants to use us to fulfill His will. He wants to use us to do His work. He doesn’t have to do it that way… He’s the Creator of the whole universe. He chooses to do it that way. He wants to use you, adoptive families, to help Him heal the wounds that each birth mother lives with, when she is faced with such an enormous choice as whether to give her baby life and then what kind of life. He wants to use you, birth mothers, to fill emptiness in the heart of a woman who is dying to be a mom. He allows the unplanned pregnancy… He doesn’t have to. He places the longing into the woman who can have children… He doesn’t have to. He wants to because He wants us to come together in service and sacrifice to each other. He wants us to love each other the way He loves us.


When One Became Two

Today we hear again from one of our wonderful CPO birth moms, Angela McLaughlin. She shares her vulnerability with us regarding what it was like to know that the adoptive family for her son Sammy was looking to adopt again.

As I get older, I naturally have more stories to tell. And because my mind often works at warp speed, on it’s own agenda, I think a lot about these stories. I find myself telling the same stories over and over. You know, the ones your friends interrupt you to say that they’ve already heard it. These are the stories that we’re proud of. These are the stories where we did something good or brave or funny. But what about the stories that we don’t tell? The ones that make us uncomfortable, or lead us to learn things about ourselves that we aren’t proud of?

As you may have guessed, if you read my posts for this blog (here, here, and here), I’m extremely proud of my open adoption. I’m constantly amazed by this little family of love. I’m even more amazed since the Domers decided to adopt again. Abigail is now 15 months old and she’s truly incredible. She’s feisty, sweet, and cute. Man, is she cute. I’m enamored with her, so much so that I’ve heard from Samuel on several occasions “But you came over here to play with me!”image1

But it wasn’t so easy in the beginning. CPO has been asking me to write a post on this subject for awhile, and I’ve always hesitated. I couldn’t really figure out why. It seems pretty straightforward: Write about your feelings regarding the Domers adopting for a second time. But the post just wouldn’t write itself. I struggled with it, and after some careful thinking, I’ve figured it out. It’s not a story that starts with me being brave, or funny, or even particularly good. It’s a story that starts with jealousy and insecurity and doubt. And as I’ve realized, it’s a story that touches on some things that are pretty tough to think about. But, I’m ready to tell it. I hope it’s important, I hope it may help other people and I hope it will finally get CPO to stop asking me to write it. (I’m definitely kidding). So, here it is. The story of my reaction to Samuel getting a little sister.

It started with one of those questions that you never in a million years think you’ll hear. The parents of your child asking you how you would feel about them becoming parents again. I don’t remember exactly what I said, although Christina could probably tell you, she’s terrific at remembering things like that. But if I had to guess, I’d bet I said something along the lines of “Oh, I think that’s great!” And then the concerns set in. Concerns that were rooted in jealousy, insecurity and a narrow view of love. All the things I aimed to end in open adoption, and there they were, coming back to haunt me.

My first concern was about the birth parents of the new baby. What if they weren’t stable? What if they were rude to Christina and Damon? What if they were needy or demanding? I worried that I wouldn’t get along with them. I worried that there might be tension between the Domers and the new birth parents. Which would mean stress. Which would affect Samuel. And me! I admit it now, I was jealous. I had some of the same fears for myself that I had for Samuel. Admitting this brings me to the heart of the issue.

I’m a highly sensitive, emotionally high maintenance person. I can be incredibly anxious, and change and the unknown can have a crippling effect on me. It’s been an incredible blessing my whole life, and an immense struggle. And wouldn’t you know, I see Samuel struggling with the same issues. This is where I began to have serious concerns, even more serious than the ones I mentioned previously. I made an adoption plan for Samuel because I want him to have the best life possible, because I want him to always know that he is loved and have every opportunity in the world to be happy. And in my mind, especially in the first few days of her birth, I felt like Abigail might threaten this.

That’s right. I’m not proud of it. But I felt like Abigail might be a threat to Samuel’s happiness. Here’s the thing: Abigail was born under extremely dangerous circumstances and she spent the first month or so in the NICU, fighting for her life. There were some serious questions at times. Would she make it? And if she did, what would her condition be? And then Samuel broke my heart. One of the first nights after Abigail was born, I went to pick Samuel up and take him home. Christina and Damon asked me to step in, along with Damon’s sister, to help him understand and cope with what was going on. As it got later in the evening, he began to get more and more agitated, until finally he burst into tears, saying “I want my mommy and daddy.” I was helpless, and all I could do was cry with him.

A little biography- I have a younger sibling who struggles with mental disability. I love him dearly, but there were many times in my childhood and even now as an adult that I feel exactly the way that Samuel felt that evening. When you’re a highly sensitive person you require people to treat you a little more delicately than others. When you don’t get that treatment, which can be time consuming, it can be crushing. A sibling with a disability takes a lot of time. It can be extremely difficult to deal with, and I was terrified that Samuel would not get what I thought he needed. I was not only mourning my past, but I was afraid I would be mourning his future as well.

It’s more clear to me now that I was being selfish. And that despite the evidence I had in front of me, that I was not placing my faith in the love that built Samuel’s world. I may start to sound like a broken record, but LOVE builds open adoptions. Love builds all families. I loved Abigail from the moment I met her. I’m incredibly thankful for her, because she’s already taught me so much. She taught me to be brave, not to give too much thought to the odds against you, and to let my doubts go. She’s taught Samuel patience, self control and sharing. And while he’s still my number one, in some ways I’m able to be closer to Abigail. I’m not grieving over the loss of a child, so I’m less inhibited with her. I’m able to give her affection in a way that doesn’t cause me pain, something I’ve only been able to do in the last couple of years with Samuel. I’m so thankful for that.

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That’s my story of the Domers adopting again. It’s not always a pretty one, and there are definitely some moments that I’m not proud of. Open adoption is like that. Making one family out of two or three or four isn’t always easy; we all have different stories we want our lives to tell. At the end of the day though, maybe it’s best we take a step back and let the story tell itself. Because while we don’t always get the ending we want, if we can keep love in the forefront, it’s gonna be a good one.


Retro CPO: Thank You

Each month we will feature a “retro” CPO article, one that is pulled from our archives of quarterly newsletters. Whenever possible we will provide details regarding the author and date of publication.

This month’s Retro CPO article is a letter to Cheryl Bauman, written by a birth grandmother, in Fall of 2006.

Dear Cheryl,

I love being a grandma! I can have such a horrid day and feel emotionally drained, but when I see my grandbaby, I am recharged and totally zoned out in grandma land. It feels so good to be around Zachary. I love that little boy sooooo much that I just want to gobble up those cheeks forever. He is such a joy in my life, and a joy and blessing to my daughter and the adoptive family.

The adoptive family, Dennis and Melissa, allow us to be a part of little Zachary’s life. His birth mother, Michelle, watches him through the day once a week during the summer. During school periods, the adoptive family creates times that we can spend with this amazing little boy. They have never said “no” to us seeing him, and it is so very apparent to us that little Zachary belongs to them. They love him, play with him, and nurture him just as if he were their own biological son.

Since I’m at work while Michelle is watching Zachary during the summer days, I have her video him listening to me talk over the speaker phone to him. I don’t want him to forget my voice. He might not get to see me much during the summer because I’m so busy, but at least when I do see him, he can match my voice up with my face and give his grandma a big smile.

When I am at Dennis and Melissa’s house with my daughter, I see my grandson’s sweet little face light up with joy with his mom and/or dad come home. Little Zachary has a  big brother, Mason, who adores his little brother.

It’s been almost nine months since Zachary was born. Going backwards in time to my daughter’s decision about keeping the baby or making an adoption plan was a difficult time period. She fought her own desires and emotions to keep her child and put this sweet, little, innocent baby ahead of herself. She was then faced with answering and sorting through difficult questions of what was best for her child. In the end, she decided her child needed to have the benefits of a two-parent, Christ-centered family in his everyday life who are financially stable, drug and alcohol free, and emotionally ready to love someone else’s baby. Once my daughter made her decision, there was no turning back. No matter how emotionally difficult her decision had been, she stayed focused on the baby’s needs and not her own selfish thoughts or feelings. She was truly amazing.

I’m very proud of my daughter. She mad a wise and difficult decision that I could not do when I became pregnant with my first child at age 17. I, too, was unmarried. I raised my son the best I could, but because I had not been raised with the nurture, love, and the right kind of attention that all children need, I really did not have a clue how to provide that for my own son. Unfortunately for my son, he was raised by a very immature, emotionally unstable mother–me. The real story here is about the unborn child. He is the one who cannot make decisions about his life, and is at the mercy of his birth mother. If I could do it all over again, and I knew that I could be a part of my son’s life while he was growing up, I so would place him with a loving, Christ-centered family that I could hand pick myself… just like Michelle did.

Had Zachary been raised by his birth mother, his life would be so different. HIs birth father is very troubled. He is mentally ill and self medicates with street drugs. He also has anger problems, is controlling, and gets in trouble with the law.

My daughter has moved on with her life and does not have any contact with the baby’s birth father. She has decided that although she still has deep feelings for this troubled young man, she is not going to let anything jeopardize her happiness or her visitation with her son. She is now dating a Christina young mad who treats her like the center of the universe. She very much feels like a mother for Zachary. She is very protective and close to him, just like a mother should be. Michelle is a senior this year and plans to go to college next year and become a dentist. All of the promises made by the birth father are gone and have  faded long ago, but it has been for the best, because now Zachary is free from having to live in turmoil with a father who isn’t stable and makes all of the wrong decisions, and a mother who is trying to finish school, go to college, and work at the same time, so that her future may be secure on her own some day. My daughter’s life is back on track, and she feels great about her son and her future. I see a happy ending to this story, grandma included.

What I never thought possible in a million years came true for my pregnant, unwed, teenaged daughter, Michelle. She had a baby boy and placed him with a lovely Christian couple to raise as their own, and made the decision to only date young men who had a plan for their lives. These are two huge blessings that I hand on to each day and thank God for!

Thank you, Cheryl, for allowing God to lead you in your mission with CPO. This is an awesome organization. I cannot begin to say thank you enough for all of the help through Michelle’s pregnancy, labor, the emotions, the FREE counseling, and everyone’s thoughts and prayers.

Signed,
Grandma

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Volunteers Matter: Amanda Hudson

Crisis Pregnancy Outreach has been 100% run by volunteers since its inception more than 30 years ago. No one has ever received a salary, which enables CPO to make an even bigger difference in the lives of Tulsa area women. We know that volunteers matter, and to honor them we periodically interview and highlight one of our volunteers. This week we hear from a volunteer who is an adoptive mom of two CPO cuties, Amanda Hudson.

Q: In what ways do you volunteer at CPO?
A: I volunteered as the Mentor Coordinator for a short time, and I also have helped with the CPO gala. In addition, we have served as a host home for waiting families from out of state, and have been able to be a part of helping to provide Christmas to a CPO mom in need.

Q: How long have you been volunteering with us?
A: I started volunteering in December 2013. There are so many places where someone can volunteer within CPO. I think volunteering really allows someone to familiarize themselves with all the different facets of CPO.

Q: How did you find out about CPO?
A: We knew numerous people that had been involved with CPO, but my friend, Carrie Szatsmary, has been a close friend of Cheryl Bauman for years. When I expressed our desires to adopt, Carrie reached out to Cheryl and told her about us. I had actually gone to high school with some of Cheryl’s children, and we knew previous volunteers of CPO, as well as adoptive parents.

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer at CPO versus other organizations? What is it about crisis pregnancies that drew you to us?
A: I chose to volunteer at CPO because we have always volunteered at various organizations, but adoption is close to our hearts, and I believe that we are called to this organization. When we came to CPO we needed an organization that would treat us as a real couple with real life hurts and not just another waiting family to check off the list. The way CPO is with you through every step of the process really drew us to the organization.

Q: Why is our cause so close to your heart?
A: My husband and I fostered children before we adopted. Adoption, fostering, and loving children the way that Jesus adopted and loved us is what makes CPO’s cause so special to me.

Q: What have you learned about yourself since you began volunteering?
A: I have learned that I need to be more organized! I have also learned that I need to exercise more faith. It is my nature to worry, or try to fix things, and volunteering at CPO has exposed me to many people from different walks of life and taught me to let go. There is something so much greater than myself at work in this organization and volunteering has shown me that even in terribly difficult circumstances, there is hope.

Q: How have you seen God’s hand at work in the ministry of CPO?
A: God’s hand is all over CPO. It would be hard for me to pick one specific element, but for me personally, I witnessed how faithful God is through how He ministered to my husband and I because of CPO. As a ministry, CPO has restored my faith in God’s faithfulness to His children. When my husband, Kent, and I initially came to CPO, our hearts were broken. After failed fertility, the loss of our son, and very difficult fostering situations, we felt hopeless. God’s hand was ALL OVER our adoption. From us matching with our birth parents, all the way up to finalization, I watched God’s hand at work. We were blessed with our first baby, our daughter, Maris, on March 21, 2014. When we decided that we would like to adopt again, I never could have dreamed that we would be welcoming another baby so quickly. We received a call on March 7, 2015 telling us we had been picked to adopt another baby. On March 10th, our sweet daughter, Marion, was born. We had always said that if God dropped a baby in our laps we would know it was His will for us to adopt again. As my dad has said regarding Marion, “He didn’t just drop her in your laps, He put her in your pocket!” As someone who thought I might never have a baby, I stand in awe of how God has used CPO to minister to us.
CPO is a ministry that He used to give us the ultimate gift. There are daily stories of adoption, successful parenting in spite of crisis situations, and children whose lives are forever changed because of God’s hand on this ministry. As a ministry, CPO has changed the lives of many mothers who have placed and parented alike. It is amazing to watch what God has done in the lives of so many CPO mothers through this organization.

Q: What would you say to anyone who may be considering becoming involved with CPO?
A: I would say to them that there are so many ways to be involved with CPO, and you can give a little time, or a lot of time depending on what you choose to do. I would also say that volunteering is critical, because it shows you the many different parts of CPO. For example, as a waiting and now adoptive CPO parent, my perspective of CPO as an organization would have been completely different if I had not volunteered and gotten to meet parenting moms, and some of the other people involved with CPO outside of waiting families. I have also met amazing friends through CPO that I would never have been blessed to know otherwise.

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Adoption Vocabulary: Why We Don’t Celebrate “Gotcha Day”

Today’s article comes to us from Rhonda Fisher. Rhonda adopted Milly through CPO in October 2013, and has since become very involved in volunteering with us. She currently serves as the Ministry Director, which means she does lots of stuff, including editing and coordinating the blog posts you read each week.

Years ago when my husband and I first started considering adoption, we hadn’t yet determined if we would choose international, domestic, or DHS adoption. At that point, most of what I knew about adoption was from the international world. I was enamored with the idea of the “Gotcha Day” celebration. In international adoption and in DHS adoptions, this is the day when the child (often anywhere from 6 months old to teenaged) is first united with their forever family. I think it is absolutely wonderful for these families to annually celebrate the first day they laid eyes on their beloved children.

But for most families at CPO, that just isn’t the way it is. We are usually THERE at the birth, either in the delivery room or just outside in the hallway. In some instances (known as “drop ins”) we may not even know about the baby until he or she is being born, but then we rush right to the hospital and begin loving our child when they are just hours or days old.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the day Milly’s adoption was finalized. It was fun to think back to that exciting day when Milly legally became ours: visiting the judge’s chambers, having her last name match ours, celebrating with friends and family afterwards, and perhaps best of all: saying goodbye to legal fees. (Fellow adoptive families: you get it.)

But really, that day last year was just another day. Milly had already been “ours” for almost 9 months. There wasn’t anything a gavel or stamped document changed about how much we loved her, the way we appreciated her birth mother’s choice for her, or whether Milly felt like we were truly her family.5D7A0628

In our case, I was in the delivery room and I watched Milly enter this world. Her daddy came in a few minutes later and met her when she was still getting cleaned up. Her birthday IS our Gotcha Day. In our adoption story, there are three days we will always remember: the day we met her birth mom and she asked us to raise Milly, the day Milly was born, and the day our adoption was finalized. All of those days will always remind us of special times in our story, but we really only plan to celebrate her birthday.

Of course, this is just for our specific situation. Even some CPO families have genuine “Gotcha Days” because they received their child months or even years after birth. And that brings me to my other point: adoption vocabulary.

Gotcha Day is one of many words and phrases in the adoption vocabulary. It is important to understand the meaning and implications of some of the adoption-oriented words and phrases you may use regularly. I recently came across the infographic below and thought it would be very helpful for people who want to be careful about how they speak about adoption.

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This is not at all a comprehensive list, but we think it is a good start.

Lastly, I just want to thank all of the people in my life that have been willing to learn about adoption (specifically: OPEN, domestic adoption) and change their perspective about what that means in our interactions with Milly and her birth family. It can be hard to change the way you think and speak about things, but with the right motivation (redeemed birth families and adorable babies!!!), it is definitely worth it.


Retro CPO: The Almighty’s Art

Each month we will feature a “retro” CPO article, one that is pulled from our archives of quarterly newsletters. Whenever possible we will provide details regarding the author and date of publication.

This month’s Retro CPO article is a poetic tribute to birth mothers, written by one of our fantastic counselors, Jane Waters in May of 2004.

From the very first session, when therapy began
You could not yet see your part in His plan.
God is at work to turn dark into light
Transforming your pain with His infinite might.

You cautiously tell me about all of your pain
That it all feels so ugly, like a permanent stain.
There are so many problems, so where will you turn?
Well, I know Our Father, and from Him you will learn.

As you search for what’s best, it feels like too much,
Your desperate heart needs God’s healing touch.
In the midst of the pain in the darkness of the hour,
You look, but cannot see, God’s almighty power.

I watch as you grieve, weep, bargain, and curse
You suffer intensely but put baby’s needs first.
After months have gone by, you finally see
Adoption is the answer that sets your heart free.

His peace now flows through you and blankets your heart
As you choose the way for your child’s perfect start.
Blessings to others radiate from your choice.
Heaven applauds and the angels rejoice.

To make the decision to give life anew.
Fills the canvas of life with a brilliant new hue.
So, thank you for letting me be a small part
Of the healing that you now know as The Almighty’s Art!

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Volunteers Matter: Amy Brotherman

Crisis Pregnancy Outreach has been 100% run by volunteers since its inception more than 30 years ago. No one has ever received a salary, which enables CPO to make an even bigger difference in the lives of Tulsa area women. We know that volunteers matter, and to honor them we periodically interview and highlight one of our volunteers. This week we hear from a volunteer who is also one of Cheryl’s assistants, Amy Brotherman.

Q: In what ways do you volunteer at CPO?
A: I am the family host home coordinator, as well as one of the assistants, so I mentor adoptive families and help with birth moms a bit. In the past years, I’ve also helped in various small ways, collecting baskets and gift cards for the CPO gala, volunteering phones at the office, etc.

Q: How long have you been volunteering with us?
A: Since we first put our own life book in, about 12 years ago.

Q: How did you find out about CPO?
A: Through friends at our church home.

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer at CPO versus other organizations? What is it about crisis pregnancies that drew you to us?
A: At first, it was because we wanted to adopt through CPO and we were fulfilling our obligation of volunteer hours. My husband and I were struggling through infertility issues for many years and we were so ready for a baby! To be honest, it was very hard to focus on anything but my own longing for a child. But as my years with CPO continued, and beyond the birth of our babies, I honestly began to volunteer simply for a love of the organization. I have seen many ministries at work throughout local and larger communities, and many are wonderful, but CPO is one of the few which truly, TRULY is Christ’s hands and feet to women, babies, and families who are in great need with no agenda but to love them.

Q: Why is our cause so close to your heart?
A: I will forever be thankful to CPO because it brought our youngest (Sam, who is 5) into my life and my family’s life. He is a joy and it is such an honor to be his Mommy. He was meant to be in our family and he is so wonderful and precious! And because I love his birth mother Lauri so much. She is an amazing, loving, wonderful person who I am so thankful to call a friend. Her whole side of the family is amazing and knowing them and that Sam can know them just makes all our lives so much the richer.

Q: What have you learned about yourself since you began volunteering?
A: I am learning how blessed I am to be a part of the story of CPO! There are incredible families and ladies who work here. And I am very happy to be a part of it. Also that God can work through me even in a situation where I am not talented or very good at something. He can still use me if I am willing to try.

Q: How have you seen God’s hand at work in the ministry of CPO?
A: If you have even heard of one family’s story through CPO, you will know how God works here. He is literally building families and healing broken people through the ministry. Girls in crisis who thought placing their baby for adoption would be the end of their world, but could see no other choice, have told me that it ended up being the very best and most selfless, proud decision they made in their whole lives. And I’ve seen girls get incredible support who decided to parent and make friendships that will last a lifetime.

Q: What would you say to anyone who may be considering becoming involved with CPO?
A: As far as volunteering- many hands make light work!! Even the smallest contribution is so incredibly helpful. If you are an adoptive family whose hours are complete- consider that God led you to this ministry to keep on contributing, even if only a little bit. I know moms get busy and it’s hard to make a priority, but this is a ministry where God works, and what better way to teach our children than to lead by example in serving?

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Retro CPO: From the Heart

Each month we will feature a “retro” CPO article, one that is pulled from our archives of quarterly newsletters. Whenever possible we will provide details regarding the author and date of publication.

This month’s Retro CPO article is an email sent to Cheryl from a birth mother, R, in the fall of 2005.

Cheryl,
Wow! I am online, and searching under links for crisis pregnancy, because the number I had for you didn’t work, and look where it gets me! Your email address! This is so awesome! I know you remember me. It’s been so long since I have heard your voice or seen your face, but you know that I think about you and CPO and all the help you’ve given me in the past, almost every single day.
In fact, I wouldn’t be here today if not for your organization and the simple acts you perform for young, single pregnant women with nowhere to turn. I talked to Lynn about 2 years ago now, and told her about how I was doing. At that time, I was working, attending church, and doing everything I could for my two children, M and C. And then all of a sudden, I took a turn for the worse. I got back with my ex, and became pregnant again.
Seems horrible, doesn’t it, that I could get back with such a monster and attempt to ruin my kids’ (and mine!) already fragile lives and bring another being into the world? But things got better (after I ended the relationship, which had begun again in September 2003) after I kicked him out of our apartment in November 2003.
I wasn’t alone in this pregnancy, Cheryl. I met wonderful people while working at Lowe’s Home Improvement, while I was still pregnant with my youngest son, B. One of those people is Shawna, my best friend in the whole world, my sister in Christ, my reason for renewing my faith in our Lord Jesus. She has no children, and the only reason we became friends was her strong faith in God and her willingness to help people. Shawna and her husband, Larry, have been such inspirations to me.
I only wish that I could highlight other girls’ lives with hope, like Crisis Pregnancy Outreach did for me. You have helped me, even when you knew that I wasn’t on the right path, even when you knew I was putting myself, a man, and his and my needs before God and before my children, who came first in my life.
Your organization gave me so much strength, when I thought I wouldn’t make it, when I had no courage, even when I was miles and miles away from you, in a whole different state, to still be determined, to still attempt to walk the path of righteousness, to hope when no hope seemed real and available to me, for my life and my children’s lives, and now look! I have three beautiful children, a wonderful and safe place to live, marvelous friends and family with whom I share my support, and my loving God who forgives me at every turn and whim. God is good, all the time!

Love in Christ,
R

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Parenting Success Story: Kelsey

Many women who come to CPO during their crisis pregnancies choose to parent their child. We are happy to support them in their efforts with counseling, mentors, parenting classes, and more. From time to time we would like to highlight one of our parenting success stories. This is the second installment in our series, again written by Ashley Ledbetter.

Spending time with the parenting women and birth moms who have found their way to CPO is an enlightening experience. Not only because of their strength and determination but because they have tasted parts of this life that go largely unnoticed by those of us who have not shared in their circumstances. Stepping into the shoes of a girl experiencing an unplanned pregnancy triggers some empathetic initial responses. Two of my first thoughts were,“How difficult it must be to choose another family to raise your child so that they can experience a two parent household” and “How draining it must be to finish school while parenting an infant”. Well, I have recently been presented with an aspect to their journeys that had not previously crossed my mind, and it has deeply impacted my heart: “How painful it must be, after making the wisest choice possible for you and for your child, to stand vulnerably in the world and then become the recipient of reproach and rejection.”
Working backwards, Kelsey Fallis (age 23) is a single mother to Lucas (age 6). She is currently student teaching. She is inches away from completing her degree in education and beginning her career as a high school math teacher. She is the first in her family to complete a college degree of any kind, and she is not the oldest child, by the way. Lucas, when asked what he thinks about his mom, immediately says, “I like her.” Bottom line: Kelsey is a success story. She has overcome immense odds, made difficult and beautiful decisions for her and her son, and she is looking into the future with responsibility and newfound wisdom. When she tells her story though, the real obstacle to overcome was not pregnancy or parenting; it was rejection. Doubt. Condemnation. Discouragement. Wrongful judgment. These are the things that stood in her way. These are invisible barriers that reveal themselves in hurtful words and actions shared by relatives, friends, and even strangers. I considered sharing an example of the comments Kelsey has heard but, frankly, they are unworthy of repeating. They can be summarized by the general messages they carry: You are unacceptable. You are unworthy. You are a failure. You are hopeless. Your future is hopeless.
Anyone who has experienced an unplanned pregnancy, whether choosing to parent or make an adoption plan, may entertain the thought that “this now defines me.” So let’s be clear: IT DOES NOT. The girls who have chosen to partner with CPO have responded to their pregnancies with responsibility, thoughtfulness, maturity, and love. They choose to show these unexpected babes a love that surpasses everything else. They are willing to sacrifice their plans, desires, bodies, friendships, romantic relationships, and even family relationships all for one precious soul. These girls, whether they choose adoption or parenting, are heroes. If any decision or action does define them, it is their choice to resist running from their mistakes and to take responsibility for themselves and their children. They are not perfect. They are beautiful, loving, and selfless.
When Kelsey became pregnant at age 15, she knew almost immediately that she would choose to become a parent. She and her mother approached CPO with some curiosity about adoption but soon joined the parenting support group and began individual counseling to prepare to raise Lucas. Although support from Lucas’ father, E, wasn’t consistent, Kelsey did have the tangible support of her family members and E’s family members. She continued to live at home for the next several years to complete high school and an Associate Degree from TCC to prepare the way for her teaching certification. Raising a baby while enrolled in school proved to be one of her most difficult challenges. High school friends couldn’t relate to her new life of responsibility. Teachers failed to empathize with her circumstances and freely expressed their disapproval. Not only did school become an unwelcoming place, the church she was attending also rejected her because of her status as an unwed mother. Romantic relationships were difficult to attempt and sustain. Kelsey didn’t date at all until Lucas was 4 years old. In addition to these difficulties, she also received notable confrontation from strangers many of the times she stepped into public. In Kelsey’s words, “I was a 16 year old pushing a cart with a baby that looked EXACTLY like me. Everyone knew I was his mother or his sister… probably not his sister.” A trip to the grocery store became an opportunity for spectators to throw stones, and they did.
(SIDE NOTE: I’m imagining what someone might say to ME if I went to Target tomorrow wearing a neck sign with a list of mistakes I made 5 years ago. Yikes! Maybe EVERYONE should just start wearing them so that the playing field may finally be leveled. Let’s not forget: We. Have. ALL. Fallen. Short.)
Thankfully, for each of these hardships there were places of relief and encouragement. Crisis Pregnancy Outreach has a long list of resources available to girls like Kelsey. They offer free counseling, parenting classes, housing, mentors, and financial help, to name a few. Kelsey didn’t take advantage of several resources offered to her because many of the girls at CPO do not have any help from family members, and she did. She considered the needs of other girls who were truly “alone” to be in greater need than she was. For her, the greatest gift from CPO was deeply needed moral support and reassurance. Regular counseling and her relationship with the parenting coordinator, Tracie Roesslein, were sources of encouragement and motivation for her to keep moving toward her goals. She mentioned calling Tracie when she would be burdened by a harsh comment in the grocery store or when a relationship had wounded her and created what she now calls a “set back.” April Walters (a longtime CPO volunteer and adoptive mom) has been another support to her, she is currently assisting Kelsey in her search for a teaching position.
Almost 8 years from the beginning of her pregnancy, Kelsey is living with her dad while she fulfills the plan that has been in place for so many years. She will be teaching math this fall, hopefully moving Lucas to a new school and looking to buy her first home. She even has her first family vacation planned for this summer. Their destination is a surprise for Lucas, but it starts with a ‘D’ and ends with ’isney’… SSHHHH! 🙂image3
Parenting is difficult enough without the criticism of those around you, no matter who you are. Kelsey has encountered significant opposition, but God has been gracious to use it for good. (If you are looking for a good read in a similar vein, I recommend Joseph’s story from Genesis 37-50, ending with one of the most beautiful verses in the Old Testament, Gen 50:20.) Kelsey has continued to learn more about the Lord and His plan for her. Messages of rejection and judgment towards her and Lucas have not ceased; it is possible they never will. CPO has been able to offer her a light in the darkness while also encouraging her toward the true light that is Jesus Christ. It is with faith in His forgiveness and redemption that Kelsey can put out the fiery darts of the enemy. She says “When Jesus comes back, He will be the only one who can judge me.”
Kelsey and Lucas are now attending a church that accepts them with the true love and mercy of Jesus Christ. E has begun taking steps to be more involved in Lucas’ life.
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:9-12