Extending Grace is dedicated to helping connect single moms to the underutilized resources that make a big difference in children’s lives. Assisting local churches and organizations to create their own outreach to connect, encourage and support single moms is just one more way we help.
Please understand, when legal grounds for divorce are stated, about half report they have been emotionally abused. Also, know that an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Research shows that 67% of single parents in the US do not actively attend church because many fear they will be judged. Isolation and judgement and not helpful. Being a single mom can be very isolating and single moms feel stretched in many ways including resources, time, finances, parenting, etc.
Kim Vestal, a speech-language pathologist and mother of six children, three girls and three boys. The oldest son had cerebral palsy and was medically fragile. She was a “stay at home” mom for ten years. When her oldest was 11 and her youngest was four, she and the children had to flee their home due to her husband’s consistent volatile temper. At that time, she had no degree, no job experience and no money. Within six months she had a part time job as a teacher’s assistant in an elementary school and was able to rent a place for the family to live. It took eleven years of hard work, going to school full time and working full time, while raising kids to get her degree in speech- language pathology. Currently, Kim leads a growing single moms group at a local church and is networking with other churches and organizations to provide effective ministry to single moms in the area.
I’ve Been There ~
I guess now is as good a time as any to give you a snap shot of myself. “I’ve been there” seems to be a thread woven throughout my life.
Military “Brat”? ~ I’ve been there. My dad retired from the Air Force, so growing up we moved a lot! My brother, sister and I were all born in different places. They were born in the states (two different states) and I was born in the Philippines. My parents were great about taking advantage of exploring the surrounding area/countries where we lived.
Traveled the World? I’ve been there! Most of my worldly travels were as a result of my dad’s career in the military. I’ve been to : the Philippines (but not for long) I was born during a typhoon, got salmonella, almost died, the Air Force evacuated our family to Gainesville Florida to save my life, I almost died there too – I will save this whole story for another time. Obviously, I lived. ;),Michigan – where my parents are from (born and raised – met in high school), Oregon, Colorado, Germany – where we lived for 5 years, France, Switzerland, Holland (a.k.a. The Netherlands), Austria, Luxembourg, Spain, Belgium, Lietchtenstien, California, Florida, Haiti, Brazil, Bolivia – These last three were on mission trips as an adult
Made poor choices as a teen? I’ve been there. Won’t go into all that now but chalk it up to boy trouble in my high school years, which lead to a cockeyed self image.
Left college to get married? I’ve been there – one year away from graduation. What was I thinking?
Stay at home mom? I’ve been there. Honestly that is one blessing for which I am so very thankful. I was a stay at home mom for 10 years and enjoyed being able to be available for my kids, their activities, to be a home maker and plan activities for our family.
Raised a big family (by today’s standards)? I’ve been there. I carried and gave birth to 6 remarkable children. 3 girls and 3 boys, all a year and half and less apart. So, it was much like being pregnant for 6 straight years. There are great benefits to have them so close together: their interests were similar, their schedules were similar, we moved – for the most part- as a unit.
Have a medically fragile child? I’ve been there. My fourth child and first born son, was born with severe cerebral palsy. He was wheelchair bound, G-tube fed, non-verbal, and so on. We spent countless hours, days and weeks in hospitals for various reasons and surgeries. However, He was delightful! Anyone who had the opportunity to meet him loved him. Although he couldn’t talk, he could communicate. He would smile the best smile, he loved music and was so emotionally touched by music and only giraffes have bigger, thicker, longer eye lashes than Will! He would steal your heart! He was never seen as a burden to the family, but a blessing.
Been in an abusive relationship? I’ve been there. The man I married had a volatile temper which did not present until our oldest was 8 months old. With the first incident I was shocked and stunned. I had never been treated like that and had never witnessed anyone being treated like that, I didn’t know what to do. It blew over, we moved on. There were good days, bummer days and bad days. My husband became increasingly controlling, abusive and unfaithful as the years went on.
Have you ever felt trapped? I’ve been there. Throughout my marriage, I did not see divorce as an option. I had an unbelieving husband and knew it was my duty to win him over without words but by my behavior. (!Peter 3:1). This among other verses were repeated to me by my unbelieving husband to shame me into my position as wife. I loved my kids, I wanted desperately for my marriage to be fixed, for my husband to value, honor and cherish me. I kept trying. I kept praying. Honestly, It got to a point where I would pray that he would he would die on one of his many business trips for our sake because I didn’t see divorce as an option for me. One evening, he kicked me across our living room floor in front of the children and said “You and the kids leave, I don’t ever want to see your faces again!” This was it! This was my window of opportunity! I handed each of the kids a black, plastic garbage bag, told them to fill it with whatever they wanted. While I was getting my and Will’s things, he cut up my bank card and took all money out of my purse. We showed up on my mom’s doors step that dark, rainy, January night — before cell phones. We began to start over from scratch.
Have you ever had to contact DHS to help support your family? I’ve been there. I was crushed. I was humiliated and didn’t want to make that first step. The phone receiver felt like 1,000 pounds. I was so ashamed to be “in the system” to ask for help. The lady on the phone was so kind and reassuring. They really helped me get on my feet, offering (actually requiring) a home to work program where I learned a lot about me, my marriage/husband situation, made a resume’, had practice interviews, etc. and I got food stamps – which I tell you, really was such a blessing! It felt so good to be able to go to the grocery store and buy food for my family. To provide for them and be less of a burden to my mom. It was a good thing!
Have you started the job force after being a stay at home mom for 10 years? I’ve been there. It was scary. I felt so insecure and also like I was abandoning my kids. God was so great though, I got a part time job as a teacher’s assistant, which paid little. Baby steps. Little was more than I had. This job allowed me to drive my kids to their current elementary school each morning and pick them up each afternoon so they could at least have the stability of their same school for the remainder of the school year. By August, secured a full time position in that school district and remained there in various positions for 6 years.
Have you been a single mom, worked a full time job and went to school full time? I’ve been there. I started in Warner Pacific’s Adult Degree Completion Program (which I cannot say enough good about!). This program was so doable! I was able to finish my Bachelor’s degree with hopes of going on to be a school teacher. My dream job was a speech-language pathologist(SLP) because I had the opportunity to be an assistant to speech pathologists for 3 school years and really loved that job. I looked into what it would take to become an SLP and realized it was out of my reach. Amazing, dare I say miraculous things began to unfold over the course of 6 months. By that time, I was taking my oldest, my daughter to the East Coast to begin her first year of college! We were still so, so poor. That trip is a story in itself! I will wrap up this section to say, The 6 months after my oldest graduated from high school, I graduated from college with my bachelors degree. Six months after my oldest daughter graduated from college, I graduated with my Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology!!! It is quite a story, I would love to tell some day!
Have you ever had a child die? I’ve been there. It was Will. It was unexpected. It was only one month before his 14th birthday. We had been to a country fair the day before. He was laughing, smiling, having a good time! The next morning I got up to wake everyone up for church and found that he had passed away in the night. It was beyond devastating. It was unspeakable shock, pain and grief. There are details here that I may share another time. The loss and despair and pain are deeper than any words can express. I never wanted to run to God and run away from Him at the same time. He had my son! A son that was my delight. That now all I had left was pictures and memories. I struggled with guilt for quite some time afterward and the pain and loss become fresh again, as I write.
Have you ever felt like you were pushing a boulder up hill, knowing that if you relaxed, even for a minute you would lose ground and get squashed? I’ve been there. Raising a family alone. Working full time. Going to school full time in a program where anything less than a “B” was failing. Dodging bullets, putting out fires, juggling the bills all the while being positive, moving forward and telling your kids there is no such word as “Can’t!” It took 10 years together and 2 years of separation, to put me “12 years in the hole” so to speak. It took hard work, persistence, perseverance, determination, love, support, encouragement – from friends and family. It took 14 years on the other side to finally feel like I wasn’t pushing a boulder up hill any more. There is no quick fix.
All of these “I’ve been there” statements are a story in their own right. These just touch the tip of the iceberg and as you can imagine, there is so much more to tell but I must say this:
I have achieved my dream job but nothing is better than being a mom! I love my kids with all my heart always have and always will and if I were asked to give up my career or give up my kids – even though they are grown, that career is out the window in a heart beat!
There is no way on this earth that I could have come out of what I did, have done the things I’ve done, built the friendships I have along the way, loved my children, kept a “can do” attitude, picked myself up from the depths of despair and more without being on my knees the whole time. The most important thing to know about me is my life is grounded in my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who is unshakable!