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Transformation Story: Unconditional Love

Transformation Story: Unconditional Love

Health, is a blessing many of us take for granted until our health or the health of someone close to us begins deteriorating. Once it is affected, we realize it's importance. What if someone you loved had a lifelong disease, something that would never change for the better, only take turns for the worse... How do you think your life would be affected?

“My mom has MS. (Multiple sclerosis). She was diagnosed with it before I was born. Her disease kills the cognitive decision part in her brain. Basically, her motor skills, memory and decision making abilities are all kind of shot. She's there, but she's more like a selfish kid, than a mom.”

“How was it, growing up with your mom?” I asked her. She explained,“I actually thought she hated me. I didn't understand that it was the disease that made her that way, and that she had no control over it. She would shut me out and treat me bad so I thought I was just a horrible kid, but really she didn't even know that what she was doing was wrong.” This woman explains how she was passed from relative to relative to be taken care of since her mother couldn't. She actually cut her own finger so that her mom would notice her and have to talk to her. “The disease made her seem so selfish. I felt like I had no mom, and on top of that, she made really poor choices.” Because her mother's motor skills were effected as well, this woman encountered many traumatic experiences with her. “There were so many car accidents, she fell in the pool, she would fall down the stairs... I remember when I was 6, she fell down the stairs when I was home alone with her..she was carrying a laundry basket so I took all of the clothes that had spilled and put them under her head to prop it up because she wasn't breathing. I called my dad... I was so scared. I just wanted someone I could run to when I was sad or scared you know, someone who would hold me and talk to me, but my mom wasn't like that. I was always the one taking care of her.”

“Who was your support system during all of this,” I asked her. She said “My whole family, literally everybody.” Diseases can do one of two things to a family...either completely tear it apart, or draw them closer together. For this woman, she was lucky enough to have the second happen. “My grandma kind of stepped in as my mom, and the rest of my family was always there whenever I needed them.” She has an older brother as well, and he and her father were her rocks and role models.

Now that she is older, her relationship with her mother is very different. “With age comes understanding and I know that my mom can't help the way she is, she can't change, so I started putting my feelings aside and tried to make things easier on her.” This woman loves her mom to death. She will do anything for her. She drives her to her appointments, takes her shopping to get her out of the house, writes things on sticky notes and places them around the house so if her mom forgets things, she can look at the notes to remind herself.  She even rearranges the rooms in her home to make it easier for her mom to have things to hold onto as she is walking through.. “You know what I think changed me the most... watching my friend's mom die from MS. I realized I don't want to take my mom for granted anymore. You never know which fall will be the last fall, or how quickly her brain could start deteriorating..”

“So how do you think your mom's disease has affected you as  a person?” I asked her. “In what ways do you think this has made you a better person?” She responded, “Well I think it's made me more sympathetic, it's definitely made me stronger and know how to take care of myself..”   To end the interview I asked if she would change anything. Her response..“You know, as much as it sucks sometimes, I wouldn't change it. Without her disease, I probably wouldn't be who I am today.”

- A the word changes contributor 

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Transformation Story: Belonging Part II

Transformation Story: Belonging Part II

 

The last article explained a young man's journey through adoption. It spoke of the struggles and adjustments he went through to get to the happy place he is at today. Now I would like to share the adoptive parents side of the story...

            I began their interview by questioning what made this couple begin to take in foster children in the first place. The parents tag-teamed back and forth as they explained a day many years ago where their daughter came home almost in tears explaining how she met a new friend that day, that didn't have a mommy or daddy. Their daughter asked them if the girl could live with them because she hated the home she was staying at that moment. “It broke our hearts to see our daughter's heart so broken, so we agreed to take this little girl in. We had no idea how hard it would actually be, but something about that little girl permanently opened a place in our hearts for orphans, and the children with no voice.”

            This little girl was the first of many to pass through their home. They explained the struggle of worrying about their own children, if they were safe, making sure they did not feel replaced. They explained how emotionally taxing it could be most days, “It can break you sometimes. The kids will push and push and say they hate you, and you aren't their parents, and while you know they are only doing this to see if you actually care about them...it still hurts. I will admit, with the first sets of foster children, we did not know how to handle this but each child taught us a lesson and now because of all of those lessons, we are blessed to have one of our foster children join our family for good!” She says, while grinning from ear to ear.

            “What was different about this boy that made you want to turn from foster to adoptive parents?” I asked. The father chimed in saying, “I believe God gave us a new level of patience, understanding, and love just for him.” They explained this boy came into their lives older than most of the children they had taken in. He had experienced things that the family had no idea how to deal with. The mother said, “From the very moment I met the boy I felt something special. I saw past his hurt to his huge heart, and I wanted to find a way to take away all of the pain so his heart could fully show.” After she met the boy, she sat down with her family and discussed the possibility of him living with them. She explained her fears to the family, how different this boy would be then the rest that had moved in, but she kept saying how special he seemed. It only took her a couple of days to convince the whole family to let him in, and this was the start of their new family.

            “It was not easy. He pushed extremely hard when we first got him,” the mother explains while looking to her husband and laughing. “There were many times I wanted to give up but my husband would be my rock and stand firm, then we would reverse roles and he wanted to give up, but I would stand firm.” They explained how hard it was to try to parent when the child had been so hurt he can no longer trust people. First, they gained the boy’s respect by just loving him unconditionally and listening to him, letting him know he was valued. Once they earned his respect they began to really teach and parent him. “They tell you going into adoption about how hard the process will be, but I think they need to explain the rewarding side of it more. Once the child begins to feel loved and starts crawling out of the shell they have been living in, you get to see the real person minus the pain and that person is pretty incredible.” This boy came to them broken, distrustful, angry, quiet and rarely smiled. The parents explained that today, this boy volunteers with others, does not immediately judge, he is calm and engages with people, is an incredible listener and wise beyond his years, and it is rare to seem him without a smile on his face.

            You have heard both sides of this story now. On each side there is struggle and barriers to overcome, both sides had to gain the trust and approval of the other, but love conquered the fears and love won out. Humans need to feel a sense of belonging, whether you have found your place of belonging or not, there is always someone out there still searching for this connection. If you feel a certain pull towards a person, listen to that, and build that relationship because you could be that person, that will end up changing their entire world.

 

- A the word changes contributor

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Transformation Story: Belonging

Transformation Story: Belonging

Adoption family

 

Humans instinctively search for a place to belong. The first place most people feel this, is within their families, but some are not so lucky. I had the opportunity to interview a young man that was adopted. I wanted to understand what his search for belonging was like, and to begin to see life through his eyes.

            I began the interview by questioning the hardest parts about being adopted. I wanted to understand what went through his head as this family welcomed him in. He began to describe the lack of trust and belonging he felt. “After you have been in and out of so many different homes, you begin to believe people don't really want you. I mean they do, until things start getting hard or you begin influencing their 'real kids' lives.” The family that ended up adopting him had two kids of their own. They were a nice Christian family. He was a bad boy; he said “I remember walking into their house thinking this will be nice for a couple of weeks. I figured that's all I would last and when the mom told me to start unpacking my bags, I refused.” He's laughing as he recalls this, but when I asked him how long it took to really feel like he belonged. His smile vanished quickly and tears began swelling up in his eyes. “I'm going to be honest, because most people think that if a family adopts you, then you should feel lucky and honored because they chose you and this immediately makes you feel like a part of their family. I do feel honored and lucky; it's not that simple though. You question why they chose you. Are you just a project for them to feel good about their lives and tell their friends about? What do they want from you?” He had been passed from family to family so many times; he couldn't believe anyone really wanted him for him. “The foster families would call me their child when I was making them proud, but when I started to slip, it became 'Oh sorry we tried, you just won't fit in here.' So to fit in anywhere and truly feel like I belonged is the hardest part about being adopted.”

            This left me wondering how he adjusted and what made him begin to trust the family. He responded by explaining “Something about this family was different. It took me months before I began to believe I could stay in their life. It was because of the mom's ability to put up with anything and everything I threw at her, that I began to trust them and start to try to adjust to their lifestyle.” Because the family proved to him over, and over that they would not walk out of his life, no matter what, he began trusting them and taking steps in faith to try to make it work. He started with the little things...unpacking his bag finally, hanging up posters in his room, taking a shower without asking if it was ok, eating food from the pantry not feeling like he owed them anything. This grew into attending family functions, going on vacations with them. When meeting new people, the parents would introduce him to their friends as their son. “When they introduced me as their son, not their adopted son, something really started to sink in and I could see how hard they were trying so I wanted to do my best to make this work as well.”

            This young man was very honest in explaining that he's not sure if he will ever feel like he 100% belongs, but he tells me that doesn't matter as much as it used to him. He still has moments where he questions if they still want him, but he explained he's learning this has more to do with the way he feels about himself, than the way the parents feel about him. “I want you to know something...something I think about when I start doubting if they love or want me.”. “Ok, let's have it,” I respond. “I sit and make a list in my head of all of the things they have done for me, all of the nights they spent up talking me through hard times, all of the people they have stood up to for me, all of the times they could have kicked me out but chose to work through the problems instead, the fact that they don't have to put up with me but are choosing to remain in my life. I know that this family is what I would dream a family would be like and I am extremely grateful they chose me. I know how lucky I am to be a part of their lives and I think this is also why I doubt that I belong because why did I get so lucky?”

            Stay tuned next week for the adoptive parents side of the story. How did they make it work, what struggles did they face and overcome?

-A the word changes contributor

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Transformation Story: Feeling Your Loss

Transformation Story: Feeling Your Loss

LOSS

It was the end of sophomore year, sitting in class she listened to the teacher drag on and on. The door opened behind her, she turned to see her principal pointing to her and asking her to come with him. Nervously she gets up and follows him. The whole walk to his office is silent, she is wondering “What could I have possibly done wrong?”. They arrive, he opens the door and inside is sitting her aunt and uncle, her best friend and her best friend's mother... When she asks what is going on, they tell her to take a seat. The principal looks nervously around the room. Finally he opens his mouth and says, “We are so sorry to tell you this, but your mother has passed away.” The rest of this memory is fuzzy to her. She remembers screaming and crying and being in complete shock. What had started off as just another normal boring school day was now the day her whole world was turned upside down.

It has been 7 years since that day. She tells me, although the pain will never go away, it does not hurt as bad. “Death is not something you ever fully overcome, it is something you learn to deal with.” When I asked her how she learned to deal with it, she replied “By having support systems. The support of my best friend's family, they became my family, I honestly don't know where I would be without them.”

When her mother died, her best friend's family took her in. They  helped her grieve. She told me it was so important for the first month to just be able to grieve in whatever way she needed to, and have that family be behind her 100% of the time. “I think just knowing they were there whenever I needed them, any time of day or night, helped fill the void and made me feel less alone in the world.” She recalls one time sitting on her bed, she just started screaming and the mother ran in, (in her underwear and mouthguard), sat on the bed and held her until she became calm again. “They loved me, even though I wasn't a real member of their family, and they tried to make things feel as normal as possible for me. Their mom took on the role of my mom for a while.” 

She lived and grieved with this family for a month but then decided she was strong enough to go live on her own with her Grandma. “Deep down I wish I had stayed with them longer, and I wish I had talked to a therapist because moving to my grandmas I began numbing the pain instead of feeling it.” She began drinking heavily on weekends to deal with her pain. She had quit talking about her mom and instead just made the feelings disappear. It wasn't until she met her boyfriend that she started pulling herself back up again. Her boyfriend became her go-to person, she could talk about any and everything with. He made her feel less alone and his family became her family.

It has been 7 years since that terribly painful day, she now has a daughter of her own, and is living in her mom's old house. She tells me she still has days where she wants so badly to be able to have her mom to talk to; things regarding her own daughter, life advice...just the normal things a girl and her mom would talk about. When those days comes she goes to the cemetery and will sit at her mom's grave and talk to her, cry to her, catch her up on her life, and tell her she loves her. Her pain is not gone, but she has learned to talk it through. She has surrounded herself with people that love her and now she has a family of her own she is raising. “In all honesty I think there is no right way to deal with death. I think the only thing you can do is have incredible people surrounding you, that you can count on and just talk through whatever it is you are feeling.. The pain will never be fully gone, but I know one day I'll see my momma again, and for now she is looking down on me, smiling at the woman I have become.”

Thank you L.S. for this moving story.  

a the word changes contributor

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Transformation Story: Finding Faith Part II

Transformation Story: Finding Faith Part II

If God has a purpose for your life, one way or another He will get you to it no matter how long it takes. God opened her eyes to her purpose one year prior to the opening of their restaurant. She went on a mission trip to Guatemala and felt an overwhelming feeling that this was exactly what she was supposed to be doing with her life. She felt she had found her calling and had a distinctive knowing that eventually, her and her husband would be down there for a longer period of time working in orphanages.

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