May is all about moms and I am very blessed to share Stephanie McKinney’s story with you this week. She is teacher in Natchitoches Parish who cherishes the fact that she can use her past hurts and life lessons to assist parents and students as they go through the same things that God has delivered her from. These are Stephanie’s words…..
Beyonce praises it but it is very challenging to go from a, what you thought, happy family of four to a single mom raising two boys ages 13 and 8.
When I was married, I worked as a Teacher’s Aide in my hometown in Texas. I brought home about $800 a month. It was fine when I was married because he had a good job. I just worked to pay a few bills and then had some fun money leftover. After the divorce, I was broke. I had a house note, all the bills, and two sons to raise. I received a little child support. And my parents helped when needed but they couldn’t do much financially.
But guess what?
Every month my bills were paid, we never did without meals, and I had a little left over so we could continue to do occasional fun things. Every single month. I worried how I was going to make it happen? How can I pay my bills not to lose my home? I had so many worries and fears but God always provided. I vividly remember, I was down to my last few dollars and my monthly paycheck was still a week away. Thankfully, every bill was paid that month but I still needed gas money and one of the boys needed something for school. I could either get a few dollars in gas or give the money to my son. I chose my son. I always chose my sons.
I would have enough to get back and forth to work but we couldn’t go anywhere else. When I opened my wallet to give him the money, tucked behind my few one dollar bills there was a twenty dollar bill. He knew what I needed and He provided it for me. I swear it wasn’t there before. I cried thankful tears for hours
A year after the divorce, I decided to go to school for my teaching degree. I had an amazing group of teachers and administrators helping me and encouraging me. Every time I thought I couldn’t make it, one of them would step in, without even knowing it was needed, and encourage me to keep pushing.
My entire college education was provided by grants and it would have been impossible otherwise.
It took me longer than the average person because I had to work while raising two kids alone. But, with God, I made it. My whole reason for wanting to be a teacher is because my oldest son has a learning disability. In third grade he was considered a bad kid. Talking and disruptive, the whole nine yards. He’s actually a great human, but the teachers only saw the bad. In fourth grade, he had amazing teachers who knew right away that he didn’t have ADHD, he had a reading comprehension problem. They helped guide us through what accommodations he needed and it helped tremendously.
I remember crying in the meetings thinking that I somehow let my baby down. They assured me that I hadn’t and that we would all get through it together. And we did. I learned many things I could demand for him. I learned to push him when he needed it but mostly, I learned to stand up for his rights. It took a year but he got on the right track.
God laid it on my heart to get my degree so I could help other mom’s get through that.
I wanted to be there to hug them when they are scared when educators are telling them, “Something isn’t right with your child.” I can say, ”I honestly know how you feel. I promise, we will get through this.” Even though the chips were stacked against me, God knew what He had called me to do and He provided the path for that to happen. Next year, I will be doing SBLC full time on my campus, and I truly believe this was my calling from the beginning.
Divorce is hard. Being a single mother is hard. I would honestly do it all over again. I’ve learned so much about myself.I have wonderful memories of just me and my boys all piled into my full size bed for the first few months after he was gone because we all wanted to be close to each other. Memories of special times, birthdays, holidays, and just regular days. My sons and I have a very close bond that is unbreakable. It is because of what we went through together and what they saw me go through alone. With God’s help, I picked myself up, and pushed on because not doing so would have negatively impacted their lives and they deserve better than that. God made sure the three of us came out of top.
If I had to give advice to women going through a divorce or separation, it would be this: It’s hard. There are times you want to scream, cry and be angry. Keep your dignity and your pride. Hold your head up. You’re walking through darkness right now and it might seem like you’ll never come out of it, but I promise you will. And the other side is so much better than your past life. Just keep moving, reach out for help when needed, pray, and always remember, you not only have God but you also have a lot of people who support you that He has placed along your path. They are there for a reason. And if you don’t have anyone like that, I’ll be happy to hold your hand until the sun is shining on you again.
One verse that held true during that time was this, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” Because I never once, did I want.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1
“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10