by Michelle Gibbs, Family of Restoration Ministries
My Journey into Motherhood
My heart for young single moms comes from my own journey. I was raised by a single mom. My parents never married and separated when I was around five years old. When I was nine, my dad started attending church and eventually became saved, so on our weekend visits with him, my brother and I would also attend church. However, growing up in two different households was confusing. Although my mom believed in God, we did things very differently in both households. There were many times when I wished we could go back to being a “complete” family again.
In navigating the different lifestyles of my parents, I was left confused and led by my flesh. As I moved through adolescence, I was living a lifestyle that went against everything the Bible teaches. Despite my Christian upbringing, I allowed myself to stray from His word and became pregnant at the age of 16.
When my family discovered the news of my pregnancy, they were all so very disappointed. I vowed to get my life in order; I was not going to become a statistic! I immediately transferred to a school for pregnant teens that was geared towards my success. I worked hard during my pregnancy to play catch up in school and two weeks after delivering my son, I returned to finish out the semester. I was blessed to have a nursery in the school where I could bring my son daily while I focused on my studies. I graduated with my toddler son right by my side however, in all my planning, the one thing I did not plan for was single parenting. My son’s father was sent to prison for his criminal activities.
My Passion for Single Moms
Juggling my many responsibilities, I continued to work part-time at a local department store until I received a phone call from the school social worker who gave me information about a mentoring job at a maternity home for pregnant teens. This was exactly what I had been praying about, a job where I could help others. The ladies and I would go into community agencies and schools to share our experiences of teen parenting in hope of discouraging others from choosing this same path. Most of us were raising our sons and daughters without the help of a father and I could see the brokenness in each of us. I resented myself for not choosing a better man but even more so, for not choosing the path that our Father in heaven intended.
Working as a Peer Counselor led to other job opportunities within the agency. I was asked to start an aftercare program for women in the community but this required schooling so I enrolled myself in college to pursue a degree in psychology.
During this time, my passion for young moms continued to grow. I could see the brokenness in them that I had seen in myself.
My educational journey gave me the degree I needed to pursue my passion but it was the hands-on training that I received that helped me capture the big picture, especially The Parenting Journey facilitator training. This parenting class was different and helped the women look at things through a different lens: the emotional aspect of parenting. It was a safe place to tear through the layers of brokenness in a way that is healing to the heart. Upon completing the 5-day intense training, I began facilitating my first class and the impact was amazing.
My Second Chance
At this point, my life was pretty much “together” and I was building my relationship with the Lord. I met my now husband Darryl who came to my agency to talk about his tragedy on how his 8-month old daughter was shaken and killed by her licensed child care provider. After enduring this nightmare, he found the strength to fight for a change and lobbied to have several laws passed in New York, one being Cynthia’s Law, named for his daughter, which now makes it a crime to shake, slam, or throw a child under the age of five causing serious physical injury. I was so moved by his passion to help prevent and educate others on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) while keeping his daughter’s memory alive.
Our friendship developed into a relationship and together we combined our passions, mine for single moms and his for saving babies. He became the SBS educator at my agency and I would assist him at his speaking engagements. When we moved to Pennsylvania and I started working at Family of Restoration Ministries, it was only logical that he and I together educate the moms on the dangers of SBS and how to prevent it.
Giving Others a Second Chance
It is important for me to educate the women through the sharing of my own experience but also as an example of family. Far too often, I hear women stand strong in the belief that they can raise their children on their own and while this may be true, it is not what God intended. A single parent who is just scraping by has little time, energy or skill for parental duties and might have children who are at risk for a variety of problems. Women who find themselves in a situation that leads to single parenting need encouragement to seek adequate resources that help provide a stable, nurturing home in which children can thrive.
Today’s culture tends to undermine what parents are trying to teach their children, rather than support them in the their role. Social media, movies, music, and video games often glamorize immorality and promote everything that goes against the institution of family. Sex is presented out of the context of God’s plan to create families and is no longer reserved for marriage by most. We must lead by example. Prayer is the single most important thing we as Christians can offer. I offer my work, with so many others across the country, as a prayer that true family values will be restored in our society.
Michelle Gibbs is the Outreach Coordinator and Case Manager for Family of Restoration Ministries. She has over twenty years of experience working with pregnant and parenting teens and young women. Michelle is a proud native of New York and enjoys spending time with family and friends. Michelle lives in Ephrata, Pennsylvania with her husband Darryl and their five year old son Darryl Jr.
The mission of Family of Restoration Ministries is to restore, teach and equip individuals and families through Christ-centered programs. The current programs of FoRM include:
- House of His Creation, a maternity housing program which includes birthmom support,
- Caring 4 Young Families, a monthly support group to young parents including facilitating The Parenting Journey™ classes,
- The Cynthia Gibbs Foundation, a teaching program on issues related to Shaken Baby Syndrome,
- Other hosted events to bring together parents and children around purity, relationship building and family fun.