Last night I met Frances. I wish I could show you her picture. She is a beautiful 24 year old native american indian woman. I can't show you her face, because she is in a rehab center and there are no picures allowed to leave the center. Frances is living there with her four children.
My Bible study group helped with a Christmas party at the center. There are 18 women and 37 children currently living there. We handed out stockings stuffed with toys, sang silly songs, read stories and Santa came to have his picture taken with the children. We served cookies and punch. All so simple really...there wasn't anything spectacular about it...except for their faces. Their faces lit up the room as we entered. We were tackled and hugged around the knees by all the children. These were very young women, some had newborns, some toddlers. Some of the women held back initially but their hesitancy didn't take long to melt. I heard them say over and over again, "I can't believe you ladies did all this for us!"
I was immediately drawn to Frances. She sat at the far end of the room surrounded by her three little ones and a newborn on her lap. There was an awkard silence as I first sat down next to her. Then she shyly asked, "Do you want to hold the baby?" Needless to say, I held baby Alonzo the for rest of the evening.
Frances has 4 children ages 5 and under. Baby Alonzo has to go to the heart specialist next week for tests because they think he has a hole in his heart and he may need surgery. He was born while Frances was at the center, as were all the other new babies that were there.
I think that Frances is one of the bravest women I have ever met. Here is a little of her story that she shared with me. Frances had been smoking pot everyday. Her children's father and her mom were also using drugs. One night, Frances and her man got into a physical altercation in front of the children and the police had to come. They were both taken to jail. While sitting in jail, Frances made a decision that made her courageous, vulunerable and terrified. She told the police that she was using drugs and that she wanted to get well for the sake of her children. She knew when she told them this, that they would remove her children from her care and she didn't know if she would get them back. But she knew she had to do this for them!
Frances was assigned to a rehab center. She has been there for 7 months and has a release date set for about a month from now. She had to serve her initial 30 days at the center without her children. Once she had been drug free for that period of time and was enrolled in parenting classes, nutrition classes and anger management classes, her 3 children were allowed to come live with her at the center. She said the little ones had a lot to adjust to living there, and they had to do a lot of work together as a family. Frances feels that is the first time that she actually bonded with her children.
She told me that she has gotten to know her children like never before and she now knows how to be a "mom". The center took great care of her during her pregnancy and one of the other residents was her coach at the hospital when she had baby Alonzo. She is very concerned about Alonzo's heart. She grabbed my hand and asked me if I would pray for him. We prayed right there in that hectic loud room full of Christmas revelers!
Frances shared with me all of the things that she has learned about herself, her weaknesses and her strengths. She has a very quiet gentle strength that makes me think that she is going to be fine. She has arranged for housing when she is released. She has a job lined up and her children's father is in rehab as well. She desparately wants to be a healthy whole family.
When it was time to go, Frances held me so tight. She asked that I not forget her and her kids. She wanted to know if I would pray for them and write to them. What a simple request. I was so honored to meet her and her children. I told her that she is possibly the bravest woman that I know and I will both pray for and write to her. I will never forget Frances and the sacrifices that she made to become the best mom she could be. I hope that she has her merriest Christmas ever, this year. I know that on Christmas morning, I will be thinking about her. She changed me.
From His Lap,
You can read my update on Frances here!