Thursday, January 29, 2009

Close to Home…

It was November of 1982, and the time was fast approaching that I would be leaving Nashville to move to Monroe, Louisiana. Long story, but God had given me clear direction that I was to step out in faith and move to Louisiana to open a Christian-based home for girls who truly wanted to get help with the issues they were facing. I found myself really torn about leaving – I knew God was calling me to go, but I also knew that I would miss getting to watch my nieces and nephews grow up. I was a very proud aunt, and one of my sisters had just given birth to a baby named Kathryne in July of 1982, and another sister gave birth to a baby named Janet in November. I knew that leaving a salary and going to Louisiana by faith meant pretty much that I would be separated from hearing these baby girls speak their first words and seeing them take their first steps. I found myself kind of struggling with that because when you don’t have any kids of your own, the closest thing you have to that is your nieces and nephews. Little did I know that making the decision to obey God in 1982 would prove to be what both of these two little babies would need me to do. More than 26 years later, I’m writing about what I was going through at that time, and I am so glad that I didn’t let my emotions win out. It always pay to obey God, but little did I know how much it would pay in my own family. Let me explain…

I never dreamed that on January 15, 1983, as I was driving to Louisiana and thinking about those two little girls and all my other nieces and nephews who were still little kids, that those two little girls who had just been born would one day need the very place that I was stepping out in faith to begin. Janet, the baby girl born in November, grew up to be a very beautiful girl and typical teenager, but found herself in the grasp of a serious eating disorder that she could not shake. You are going to hear about her a little bit later, but first let me tell you about the other little girl that was born in July of 1982. I knew in my heart that many girls would get the help that they needed over the years through Mercy Ministries, but I never dreamed that these two baby girls, my nieces, in their late teens, would look my way to find help for the desperate situations they were facing in their lives. I’ve asked Janet to tell her own story to you, so I’ll probably post that tomorrow, but I want to tell you about Kathryne myself.

In May of 2001, I was speaking at a conference in Australia when I received a message on my cell phone from my sister, Rebecca. She said it was urgent that I call her. It was unusual for my family to track me down when I was outside of the country unless it was important, so I knew I needed to call. When I did call, my sister told me that Kathryne was pregnant and she wanted to ask for my help and consider coming to Mercy. I was so stunned to hear this news because I found myself on the other side of the fence. It was now my family that needed help. I am used to being the one that’s looking at the family who needs help, so I sort of had one foot in Mercy and one foot in the emotions of my family. Obviously, I was trying to deal with this news from a whole different perspective.

Kathryne had just finished her first year at college in Charleston, South Carolina. Three weeks before she left for college, her high school sweetheart was killed in a tragic car accident, and it totally rocked her world. She went off to school feeling really depressed about her loss and trying to deal with the grief. It was there that she met a guy who played in a Christian rock band and they became very close. I was really happy that she was dating a Christian guy, but Christian kids struggle with the same things that non-Christian kids struggle with, and in clinging to her new-found friend to fill the void in her life, they ended up getting sexually involved and as a result, Kathryne was facing an unplanned pregnancy. I assured my sister that I would reach out to Kathryne as soon as I returned from Australia. To be honest, I was kind of glad that I had some time to cope with my own feelings about it before returning home. I spent some time pouring my heart out to my friends, Mark and Darlene Zschech, and I shed a lot of tears about it. Mark and Darlene very graciously offered their home for Kathryne to come and live, and they prayed with me to help me cope with my ‘aunt’ feelings. I was very grateful for their friendship and prayers, and I went back home ready to face the situation and be a support to Kathryne.

I met with Kathryne and her boyfriend and laid out all the different options. I was so proud of them when they told me that abortion was not an option and they knew they wanted to choose life. Kathryne said she wasn’t really sure if she wanted to parent or place the baby for adoption, but she knew she was going to have the baby. She expressed her desire to come to Mercy, followed through with the application process, and was admitted into the program. Through much prayer and counseling while in the Mercy program, Kathryne made the very courageous decision to place her baby for adoption. The way she chose the adoptive couple is another story in and of itself, but it’s definitely a God story. I am happy to say that Kathryne made that decision with the full peace of God that surpasses all understanding in her heart and mind. She told me later that the only thing she felt guilty about was not feeling guilty, and that she knew she had done what God wanted her to do. It was an open adoption. She was able to have the adoptive couple, Greg and Tracy, come to the hospital so they could be there when little Jackson was born. She named the baby Jackson after her high school sweetheart who was killed right before she went to college, and it all came full circle when the late Jackson’s parents came to the hospital to celebrate the precious life and the namesake of their lost son. A lot of tears were shed, but mostly tears of joy.

Now for the rest of the story…Kathryne left Mercy with her life fully committed to Christ, went back to college in Charleston, and got her degree. She returned to Nashville and worked at the National Federation of Independent Business in the compliance department. Eventually, she decided to put her resume in with Mercy Ministries. Because she was my niece, I told the personnel department that I was refusing myself from any interviews with her, and I would not be involved in any way with helping her get a job. I only wanted her to work at Mercy if it was a God thing. It wasn’t long before a position opened up in our intake department. You see, we have a number of people in the intake department, but we reserve one position for a graduate of the program because we want at least one person who has actually experienced the program and can speak first hand about the effectiveness of it. So Jana, the director of our intake department, interviewed about 15 graduates and finally called me to seek my permission to interview Kathryne because every time she prayed, she believed that Kathryne was the one who was supposed to have that position. I said OK, but told Jana not to hire her unless she knew it was right. After one interview, Jana called and told me that she hired Kathryne that day. Kathryne now works in our intake department talking to other girls who need the same help that she herself once needed. God is using her in a special way and she has been at Mercy now since May 15, 2008.

On October 4, 2008, I had the privilege of attending Kathryne’s wedding. God has blessed her with a wonderful guy named Jonathan and here they are pictured together.

For those of you who are facing things in your family, just know that none of us are exempt from problems. Like I said, all those years ago when I first started Mercy, I never dreamed that the two little babies I didn’t want to leave would one day need to call on me for help, and that they would be blessed in their later years through my obedience to God. Tomorrow I’m going to introduce you to my other niece, Janet – you are going to love her story.

God Bless!



Anonymous said...

These stories are amazing....thanks so much for all that you do! How wonderful.
I am SO interested in doing volunteer work with Mercy ministries. I've been praying about it...and then today I heard the news that there's a Sac home being built! I am so excited and looking for more information of course! Where do I go with all my questions?

Janet Galyen said...

This is Janet - the other niece mentioned in this blog. I just want to reiterate how proude I am of my cousin Kathryne and the course that she has chosen and is choosing for her life! There are 13 of us cousins (a.k.a. Nancy has 13 nieces and nephews) so I don't get to see Kathryne as much as I would like. Nevertheless, PRAISE GOD for what He's done in our lives!!! Love you, Kathryne!

Iris said...

Nancy, I relate to what you wrote: "when you don’t have any kids of your own, the closest thing you have to that is your nieces and nephews." I often say something similar to this to my mom, when I talk about my niece who will be born this June. I want to be a loving aunt to her and her future siblings.

This is such a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it!

Greg Murtha said...

Nancy...what a terrific story. The great thing is this story is playing out in my home today because, as you know, Jackson is my little boy. On this earth Jackson is the best gift we have ever received and Kathryne...she's a hero.