I’ve found myself sharing the amazing story of my oldest daughter and her beautiful family on more than a few occasions lately. Hers is a story of perseverance. I wish to share it with you here, but I should clarify that it is from my perspective not hers, so I will get her approval before posting it publicly on the WWW. Missy is my daughter by marriage. The dictionary would define that relationship as step-mother/step-daughter, but I am not fond of the term “step” because of the horrible press that step-mothers receive in stories and fairy tales. I am not her mother, she has a mother that loves her very much and is very much a part of her life; but, she is my daughter in every sense of the word. I loved her the moment I first saw her and have never looked back. I attach easily to people, especially children and this relationship was no different when it came to my heart attaching to hers.
Her parents divorced when she was a baby, just 18 months old. Her mother remarried when she was 2 or 3 and Her father and I met when she was not quite 5. She had just celebrated her 7th birthday when we married and became an official family in the eyes of God and men. She spent an equal amount of time at both houses and was raised in an almost schizophrenic way, meaning that the two households were drastically different and forced Missy, a pleaser by nature, to change her personality to make each household happy. It worked well when she was young. As a teenager, she could no longer carry the burden of pleasing two different sets of parents, and had limited life skills to solve the issue. This is the crux of most broken homes. Divorce only makes life easier for the adults on occasion and rarely ever does it help the children. In any case, she made the decision to try to create the family that her parents could not give her. At 16 she was a mother and she and Mr. were on their own doing their best to raise a child. Making their own way in the world was more challenging than they had anticipated, but they were humble and wise enough to return home and get their feet under them. They lived with Missy’s mom for a while, saved some money and ventured out again: this time with a running start. Missy had graduated a year early and earned special certification that allowed her to work in the travel industry. By 19 she and Mr. had saved some money and were ready to get married.
This all sounds easy enough, but there was a lot of turmoil in those few years. Lots of prayer and perseverance got all of us through that very difficult time of uncertainty and worry. That is not the amazing part of the story though. Missy and Mr. started making some really smart life decisions. They matured very quickly and did not take the responsibilities of parenting lightly. By age 20 Missy was expecting her second child when she got the phone call. Missy’s cousin, Annie had called with news that CPS had removed her baby girl. Annie had admired Missy and Mr.’s relationship and parenting skills and trusted that they would take good care of her baby girl. Annie wanted to know if Missy would adopt baby girl. If so, Annie agreed to sign over her parental rights. I think Missy’s heart was ready to sign at that very moment, but she and Mr. took the time to seek counsel from her mom and from us before making the commitment. Baby girl was one year old when she came to live with them and a new baby would be born only a few short months later. By the time the couple had celebrated their first wedding anniversary they were the parents to 3 beautiful children and managing quite well.
Three months later another phone call came. This time it was from Mr’s brother. Again CPS had been called and he wanted them to take his 6 month old son until things settled down. Missy and Mr. didn’t think of themselves. They didn’t worry that they would have to pay for a third baby in diapers and formula, or that they didn’t have a car to accommodate them all. They didn’t count the cost of time and energy into caring for another child and Missy didn’t hesitate that the responsibility would fall squarely on her shoulders and would essentially make her captive in her home for most of the day. It is not that they were naive. They knew that each of these things would be a factor. No, the fact is that Missy and Mr. had a deep profound respect for all of human life and to say “No” when asked to help love and care for that life was just not an option in their minds. So for three months, they cared for all four children until the boy was able to find another loving foster home and eventually return to his father.
Since then Missy and Mr. have given us two more grandchildren for a grand total of five. Patrick and I are in awe of Missy and Mr. and their beautiful clan. We have learned patience from watching them with their own children and witnessed a complete self-giving that would make any parent proud. They took their broken childhoods and didn’t settle for being victims of circumstances, but learned from the good and bad alike. They forgave their parents’ mistakes and looked forward to building a better family life for their own children. And that is what makes them both such amazing people, amazing parents, and wonderful witnesses to this broken world.
Missy called to ask what to get her dad for Father’s day. I’ll admit that he is hard to shop for! What she has probably never considered is that she is already giving the best gift a child could ever give to a parent: a life lived selflessly and for God.