Christen Young

My life, my story. My life for His glory.

Category: Children Everywhere (page 1 of 2)

Teenage Terror (aka Happy 13th Birthday Raine)

2015-08-25 07.40.08

Today, my first baby, Jillian “Raine,” turns thirteen and gets to finally be the teenager that she has thought that she was since about the age of two. This morning she left for school, speaking in an Australian accent that she swears is British and dressed in imitation of “The Doctor” specifically the 9th Doctor from Doctor Who. I hugged her, kissed her, pinched her chubby cheeks, and sent her off to school shaking my head in wonder at how strange amazing my little baby has grown to be. She is as tall as me now which is hardly an accomplishment, but I literally remember her just being born and the trauma beauty of giving birth to my first child. Continue reading

Good Books and Better Friends

Bad Book

Growing up, our family did not watch TV. We didn’t even have a television, so every time we went to a friend’s house where we could watch TV, we would immediately go into a TV immovable TV trance. When we were home, we read a lot. My house growing up was filled with shelves and shelves of books of every genre. Not only that, but we also made weekly trips to the library, voraciously consuming any book that caught our attention.  Continue reading

Mother of the Year…Or Not.

            Pre-Meltdown Decker
Yesterday, my four year old, Decker, and I enjoyed a quiet, breakfast meeting at the local Library’s cafe.  I met for prayer and Bible study with my bestie, Heidi, while Decker sat in a comfy chair and watched Netflix movies on my old phone.  He was so well behaved and quiet that at one point I had to check to make sure that he was still even there. (Don’t worry, he was just sitting behind Heidi and since I am short he was hidden.)  At the end of the meeting, he lovingly kissed me and asked politely if we could go into the library.  Feeling like the world’s most amazing mom, I marveled at his good behavior as we have been working really hard to help shape him and guide his typically strong will.

We walked to the children’s area where I browsed books and he flitted from place to place, climbing on playthings, picking books, and watching other kids play.  He picked some books to read with me while we were there, and we sat side by side snuggling as we read.  Then, it was time to go, and I enforced the three book take home limit that he knew about from the start.  However, when it came time to take only three books, he was less than happy.  When I say less than happy, I really mean that he growled, yelled, and like a tiny terrorist; started giving demands.  He then threw off his shoes and told me that he was running away forever.  Like the USA, I don’t negotiate with terrorists, so instead I firmly ordered that he come with me or face punishment. Instead, he ran off angrily and when I searched for him he ran, laughing, expecting me to try to chase him in a cat and mouse game through the book aisles.  This was not my first rodeo, so instead I gathered his shoes and books and walked slowly toward the checkout desk. I walked purposely and looked forward, pretending to ignore him, yet watching him in the glass which mirrored him following far behind me, issuing more threatening demands.  Normally I am a fan of immediate punishment and have been known to put my children in time out in the middle of wherever we are, or whatever store we are in.  However, knowing Decker, this was not my best move as it would escalate into a full blown tantrum in the middle of the quiet library, so it would be better to discipline in the privacy of our home.  Not only that, but if he ran I would have to give chase throughout the entire library and more chaos would ensue.  He followed me to the checkout desk, but then ran off screaming and hid in the back of the library behind a chair.  I finished checking out and calmly walked to the back of the library where a young man looked stunned to have a child hiding behind his chair.  I smiled at him and gingerly scooped up Decker (who is way to big for me to hold considering my issue with pain, but I had no other choice).  Decker struggled to escape, but I ignored him and walked on.  Then came the tricky part. I had to get my books and his drink out of the book basket while not letting go of him.  I put him down and held his hand, not letting him go.  He screamed to be let go as I continued to ignore him, scooped up the books, then quietly asked him to hold his drink.  He grabbed his drink and threatened that if I didn’t let him go he would dump it all over the floor.  Reprimanding him, I put my books down, snatched the drink and looked for the closest trash can.  As everyone in the library was now watching us, a sweet woman asked if she could help me carry my books and stuff, so that I could grab him and walk out to the car.  There was no judgement in her voice, just a true, loving desire to help.  I asked her to throw away the drink, thanked her profusely and then calmly carried a screaming Decker and everything else out to the car.  I silently strapped him, as he roared and threatened, into his seat and trying to get a reaction from me, he declared that he would unbuckle his seat belt as we drove away.  I told him, still calmly, exactly what his punishment would be if he did that and he immediately halted his attempt. When he settled down a little bit, I explained that when we got home, he would receive punishment for his numerous offenses and listed exactly what each one was and why it was not acceptable.  
Once home, he continued his tirade, but this time it was as he sat in “time out”. I had talked to him about each of his offenses and exactly why he was receiving the consequences of his actions–he understood, but that didn’t mean he was happy about it and tried every excuse to worm his way out of his punishment.  I had to stay strong and consistent though, so I maintained his consequence and walked away from him while replaying the whole situation in my head.  I love that Decker is strong willed…I know, not many parents would say that, but it is true.  I know that when shaped by the Lord, his strong will can be used for God’s glory.  It can help him to stand firm in his faith and not waver, however, without discipline, without shaping from the Lord, it leads to sin.  I critically examined my actions in the situation.  Should I have punished him immediately, chased after him, left the books there, done something different? My mom always quotes a friend who says that “God gives us each one strong willed child to keep us humble.”  Was this my lesson for the day, humility?  I sought the Lord, praying that He would give me wisdom, that He would shape Decker.  In the end, Decker calmed down, repented of his actions, and truly asked forgiveness. We hugged, kissed, and snuggled then finished the day without any other issues. I am sure that other parents will criticize my choices or actions, yet I know that I remained calm, consistent, and I don’t answer to the crowd of onlookers–I answer to the Lord. Is discipline something that I enjoy doing? No, not even slightly, but I know that the outcome for sin is severe if I don’t. Romans 6:23 ESV “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Just as I have to answer to the Lord for my actions and face His discipline and consequences for me, if I love my children then I have to discipline them in accordance with the Lord and His will.  Just as “the Lord disciplines those He loves”, I will continue to show my love to my children through appropriate discipline as the Bible commands.
Hebrew 12:5-11 ESV “…’My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises ever son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seems best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Updates and “Baby Watch 2013”

Life has been so crazy lately that I haven’t had time for many updates.  One friend described our listing our house this month at the same time as KeKe’s baby being due as ambitious…I tend to think of it as insanity.  Along with our usual family activities we re-carpeted, painted, and staged our house to sell it, as well as preparing for the arrival of KeKe’s baby.  Needless to say it has been very busy here and I have been totally overdoing it physically.
My pain levels have been super high as my increased activity levels have lead to my 20+ trigger points throughout my back and neck becoming very angry and making things pretty miserable.  Thankfully, this week is Spring break and I have been able to spend most of my time resting in bed trying decrease the muscular pain.  Sleep has been non-existent, but that is pretty normal with chronic pain.  So, my prayer requests are for the muscular pain to decrease and for me to be able to get some quality sleep.  My praise is that my meds have decreased my nerve pain dramatically–if I can get my muscular pain to settle down too then that would be wonderful.  With so many trigger points, I am starting to research the possibility that the trigger points may be causing the shoulder dysfunction instead of the assumed reverse theory.
  We are still on call in the “Baby Watch 2013” as KeKe is now almost 40 weeks pregnant.  She is of course eager to get the baby into her arms as we all are as well.  She is pretty much the cutest pregnant mommy ever and still looks all stylish even with her giant belly.  We love her so much and Jared and I are so proud of all that she has accomplished especially since moving to Springfield.  Before moving here in January, she graduated high school a semester early and is already enrolled for classes in the Fall.  She is super smart and has done all the research and preparation as far as reading and classes go to prepare for the birth and care of her sweet baby, Julius.  Though she often stays with us (and we hope to have a guest room set aside for her when we buy the new house), she has her own apartment and is thriving while a lot of the other foster teens in her independent living  program are sadly floundering.  She is very driven to succeed and it makes us very proud to watch her do so.  She is going to be a great mommy and we are blessed to have her as part of our family.  
In addition to welcoming KeKe into our family, we are privileged to welcome her boyfriend, Jared, too.  Note, this is not my Jared (Young), this is Jared Sardis.  Two Jareds is a little bit confusing–not usually to us, but to outsiders when we start talking about Jared marrying KeKe it can end up sounding really awkward if they don’t know that she has a Jared too.  Jared (Sardis) is a really awesome, supportive father.  KeKe was friends with him for over four years before they dated and similarly to my story, we relate in the fact that we are fortunate that although we wrongly chose to have sex outside of marriage the blessing is that it was only with our “baby daddies”…haha!  Jared S. and KeKe are planning on getting married eventually, but since they are so young they are wisely waiting until they are older instead of rushing into something.  We really respect Jared S., because as desperately as he wants to be here for the birth of his first son, he is currently off in South Carolina at boot camp for the National Guard.  This sacrifice of his first few months away from KeKe and the baby will in turn provide them a better future and educational opportunities.  Thankfully Jared S.’s dad is flying KeKe and the baby to Jared’s bootcamp graduation when the baby is just a few weeks old so that he can see them, but Jared won’t be entirely finished with his program until August.
People often assume that KeKe has no parents and that is why she was in Foster Care to begin with, but that is not the case with most children in Foster Care.  She has both a mother and father that she keeps in touch with and in their own way they care about her very much.  They are just haunted by addiction and behavior that keep them from being the kind of parents that she deserves.  She loves them very much, yet things are complicated.  I also get asked about how long she has been in Foster Care and the answer is that she has been in the system since she was four years old and has been in more foster care homes then she can count.  The things that she has been through break my heart as I wouldn’t want even my worst enemy to experience much of what she has been through.  The amazing thing is that her outlook on things is so positive and God was truly with her throughout all of that time.  
When she was young, she accepted Jesus in her heart.  Her grandfather was a huge spiritual influence on her.  He had a sordid past, yet in prison he gave his life completely over to Christ and walked away from his sinful life.  He shared the scripture and the Lord’s love with KeKe.  She also was able to attend church and Sunday school on and off throughout her years with different foster families and was baptized.  She and I often have long discussions about faith as I do my best to clumsily answer her questions.  I love her desire to learn more about the Lord and that she can see God’s hand working in her life.
KeKe has a heart wrenching story, yet God’s beauty is shining through it all as He is truly making beauty out of the ashes of her hurting past.  We can see the Lord working through her pregnancy and through the love of all of you surrounding her.
So many of you have prayed for her, encouraged her, and provided practically for her needs.  It has been overwhelming for her to receive so many blessings, yet it has shown her how many people care about her, many without even knowing her.  She rarely asks for anything even when she has a need, so when I asked her what she needed for the baby she initially said that she didn’t need anything.  I asked her to let me look through her stuff from an “old mom perspective” and decided that her needs were great so we went and registered at Babies R Us.  I also posted the needs for her apartment online and we watched how God used each of you to quickly provide for her needs and even wants.  I was as amazed as her to see my college roommate, a high school friend of mine, and so many others reach out and bless her with the things that she truly needed or dreamed of having.  Some dear friends opened their house to us for her baby shower, and it was the biggest baby shower that I have ever been to.  Friends of ours from church, MOPS, and the college group, banded together to bless her richly.  Later, she asked me why so many people that didn’t even know her were giving her gifts.
 She didn’t want to be seen as some poor, needy foster child, and didn’t want that to be the reason that people were so generous with her.  I explained that giving is just one of the ways that people can show that they love her and care about her future and “not that she wasn’t special”, but gave her examples from my own life of how people had felt the Holy Spirit’s urging and provided for me by paying for massage, bringing me meals, helping with my children, etc. and it is the love of the Lord that is in our lives that leads us to love others.  So, thank you for loving on her and on our family by providing for our girl, KeKe.  
We love having another member of our family and blessed that she fits so perfectly in our family. With her green eyes and dark hair, she looks a lot like Cadence leading my brother Scott to exclaim “What the Cadence!” when he saw her picture.  People often mistake her for my sister or other relative which is funny because she looks more like me then my actual sisters do.  She finds it difficult to see anything as permanent, so to see our family truly as a permanent family is instinctualy tough. It is nothing personal about us, it is just that she never has had that permanency and when she did get her hopes up that a family would adopt her, she was always disappointed.  Growing up she prayed for a family and now with the birth of her son, she will have a little family of her own.  However, I pray for the day when she can truly feel that she has a much larger family–that we are her forever family and that she also has a huge family in Christ.  I could tell her a million times that we will always be there for her, but for her to actually feel and trust that would be a miraculous step.  I already feel that instinctual motherly love for her that she will soon feel for her newborn, and I pray that one day she will be able to understand how we can have that kind of love for her and will grow to love us too.  We want her to feel that she belongs and that we are there for her in everything.

How I became a grandmother…

On Sunday night at our church’s college group a few months ago, the leader, Josh, who is a close friend of mine, asked me to make an announcement about KeKe’s upcoming baby shower.  The following dialogue took began:
Me: “When I was thirteen years old my daughter, Jackelyn aka “KeKe” was born…
(at this point shock and pity in the looks on some student’s faces led Josh to interject)
Josh:  “Don’t forget that not everybody knows you yet, Christen.”
Me: her Mother”…not me…
I then went on to talk about the baby shower, etc., however, the looks on so many of the students faces were priceless and also hilarious.  KeKe and I would laugh about it for weeks, but the reality of the situation was that we were all trying to define the undefinable. We so loved her as part of our family, but yet it was awkward for all of us to introduce her as our daughter while she just introduced us as “her friends”.  She had been part of so many families as a part of foster care before that she didn’t trust the permanence of us in her life and it was hard for all of us to explain our developing bond to people that had known us all for a while.  Although, she said that she was fine with being our “daughter” and “sister”, I know that at the same time she felt awkward and unsure about it.
As we neared her birth date, she and I had the aptly named “define the relationship talk” about what she wanted me to say to the hospital staff about my relationship with her when she was delivering.  She told me that I should just say I was her mom because she didn’t want the hospital staff to feel bad for her since her boyfriend was off at boot camp and there was not going to be any biological family there for her.  Then the following conversation ensued:
Me: “I would love to be called your mom and who cares if they think I was a slutty thirteen year old. (actual age I was when she was born)”
KeKe:  “They will probably think I am a slutty 18 year old since I won’t have my boyfriend there.”
Me:  “Well…like mother, like daughter.” lol!
At 41 pregnancy weeks exactly, KeKe was scheduled for an induction and on a snowy, messy, morning, she and I made our way to the hospital.  Being the responsible mother that I am, I had called a few days before to ask if they had any pre-admittance instructions for her.  The woman on the phone told me that she should eat a very light breakfast of bland toast, etc.  Upon getting settled in the room, the nurse asked her if she had a huge last breakfast since she wouldn’t be allowed to eat or drink until after the delivery.  KeKe replied that she had a huge last dinner, but only a muffin that morning since she was following instructions.  The nurse told us that whoever gave us those instructions was incorrect and that she should have chowed down that morning.  My daughter, KeKe, is a total foodie and this news was worse to her then knowing she would be laboring all day.  I felt so guilty for being the one to get the wrong info because as the day wore on, she complained more about being hungry then she did about being in pain.  At one point a few hours into labor she even said, “I am dying, and the only thing that can save me is food.”  
On intake, the nurse started asking KeKe about her family health history.  When she came to the question of how KeKe’s maternal grandmother had died, KeKe was unsure.  Since I had been introduced as the mother, the nurse looked to me for the answer to which I replied “I don’t know, she wasn’t my mother” mumbling something about how we had a complicated family situation.  After that I was referred to by the nurse as the “stepmom” which was really funny and KeKe chastised me jokingly for not being able to come up with a better answer on the spot.  
Her labor went fairly quickly and she progressed well.  I watched her handle her pain like a pro and I was bursting with pride for how well she was doing even thought I knew she felt awful.  I really felt like I had loved her like one of my own children before, but this whole process made that love multiply a million times.  The relationship was defined–she was my daughter and I was so proud of her!  I knew the pain that she was going through and my heart was traveling through the sea of emotions with her.  After nearly 12 hours of long labor, KeKe began to push and I was able to be there to hug her, love on her, encourage her, and see every part of the birth.  Her epidural pump machine had stopped working at this point, so she had to push with all the pain of a natural delivery.  She pushed like such a champ that after only 13 minutes of really hard pushing, she had popped out a nine pound, giant baby.  Baby Julius Alexander Sardis was born…a perfectly beautiful baby boy with the most thick, dark, beautiful black hair.  I burst into tears when he was born and so did she–it was the most amazingly, beautifully, bonding experience ever. 
With the baby on her chest immediately doing “skin to skin”, she couldn’t take her eyes off of baby, Julius, and I couldn’t take my eyes off both of them…well except to see the placenta delivered which was actually really cool and the doctor described it as “a beautiful placenta”.  The doctor had to give her a lidocaine injection to numb her for some stitches and while just 20 minutes before she had just been screaming at the doctor not to touch her with the giant injection needle, she was so in love with her sweet, Julius, that she didn’t even notice the pain of the huge needle. Julius was cleaned off on her chest, but not bathed or anything for several hours later, yet when she smelled his hair she asked what made him smell so good.  (Excuse my crudeness in the following…)  I replied “the smell is your vag”…to which she replied, “then my vagina smells good”.  We were dying laughing and even the doula bravely sniffed him and indeed agreed that he smelled really good.
Mid delivery, since she was dying of starvation, she requested an “Imo’s Pizza and a Mountain Dew” to be delivered to the hospital after the baby was born and our friend Juli graciously showed up with just that.  So, KeKe was wheeled into her hospital room with a baby in her arms and an Imo’s Pizza and Mountain Dew by her feet.  When in the room, the nurse asked how I was related to Jackelyn (KeKe).  I replied that I was her mother and happily accepted her compliments of how young I looked to be a grandmother.  Then I had the opportunity to redeem myself with the previously slip up with the prior nurse as she asked me the following questions:
Nurse: “Do you mind if I ask you how old you were when you had her?”
Me:  I just froze and looked awkwardly at KeKe not knowing what to answer and not wanting to lie either.
KeKe:  “In my family, we have babies when we are 18.” (which is a true fact biologically)
Me: Relieved that KeKe had interjected…and mad that I h
ad biffed my chance to redeem myself.
Nurse:  “I don’t judge, my mom had me when she was only 17, so I totally understand.”
Later, when we retold the story, people kept asking me why we didn’t just explain the true reality of our relationship, but it is not that easy.  To people that have known her a longtime, they know we aren’t her biological family so it is more comfortable to introduce us as friends even though we are more than just that.  KeKe is not legally adopted into our family, so she hates it if I say we adopted her even if I say “through love” because that confuses people.. She also doesn’t like being referred to as a foster child and we are not fostering her either so that doesn’t fit.  She doesn’t want us to be known as her mentor family either, because that sounds like we are only close with her because we were asked to be there…so that brought us back to square one…defining the relationship.
KeKe later told me that her caseworker of sorts and her doula asked her something to the extent of how she felt about me after going through the birth experience together to which she said that she replied “she liked me 100 times more”.  After the birth, she really accepted me as Julius’s grandmother since she and I had bonded through this incredible experience of his birth. While she birthed him, it was as if she was also fully birthed into our family.
She is the most amazing mom and just as when he was born, she still can not take her eyes off of him.  She once remarked that she is an awesome mom for not really having a typical mother figure around and she is right.  She has lovingly committed to nursing him, nurturing him, and being there forever for him.  She is just a wonderful mom, period.  Her natural mommy instincts are incredible and she is always full of questions for me and eager to learn everything about being the best mommy that she can be.  He is also a wonderful baby, so good, and so handsome.  I can not get enough of his snuggles and he draws a crowd of eager Aunt and Uncle onlookers whenever he is over here.  We try to have them at least stay here on weekends or as long as we can keep them here, because we love both of them so much and love spending time with them.  It also seems strange when they are not here.
Last week, God finally gave me the words to describe how KeKe joined our family.  I may not have given birth to her and we can’t legally adopt her, but she is ours just the same.  When asked about how I suddenly have an 18 year old…I simply say that “God gave her to us to be part of our family”.  When a baby is born, they don’t have to be adopted into their family–God just gives them to their family.  That is the same way with Jackelyn.  She may not have grown up with us, but God gave her to our family and she is fully our daughter, sister, and mother to the most beautiful grandbaby ever born.  (I am not biased at all.)
We love her and Julius so much and Jared and I are both proud to be grandparents.  Although, KeKe will say that me becoming a grandmother at 32 is weird, I love it.  I get a lot of compliments on how young and beautiful I look for being a grandmother and I graciously thank everyone and hope that I will still be getting those same compliments 20+ years down the road.  My mom says I love it because of the humor behind the compliments and that is true, but it is even more true that I love being KeKe’s mom and Julius grandmother simply because I am her mom and his grandmother and I love them so much.  When we first met KeKe, we wanted to be a blessing to her, but instead we have been so richly blessed to expand our family and experience the richness of Christ’s blessings as He knits us all together.
This past Sunday was Mother’s Day and the simplest act made me so joyful.  KeKe posted “Happy Mother’s Day” as her facebook status and tagged only me in it.  That may seem like nothing to most people, but to me that was a huge step.  She still test the waters of our permanence in her life, but I think that she is now accepting that a “Forever Family” means just that…forever.  Last night I texted her “I love you” which is something I often tell her, but I was unexpectedly brought to tears by her reply as I know that it is not something that she usually says to anybody except to Julius or her boyfriend, Jared (to clarify her boyfriend, and my husband have the same name, but are definitely not the same person).  She said simply, “Thanks I love you too you’ve really been there for me and I appreciate it.”  Those simple words were so precious, cherished, and dear to my heart.
God gave her to us as her family forever and I think that even in her heart, she knows that now.
Lots of love to all who follow my blog, who pray, and support our ever growing family!
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