It is that time of year again ... the time for rainy spring days, the smell of budding flowers, and the sound of chatter on the softball field.

As I watch the tear-stained eighteen-year-old, I want to hug out all of the sadness and frustration she is feeling and tell her how much I love her. Tonight may be the last softball game of her high school career. A career cut short because a nagging knee injury needs surgery so that she can be ready to fulfill her athletic scholarship at college. As I gaze upon her face, I cannot help but think of how fortunate I have been to know this beautiful young lady. However, I know how easily her song could have been one that was unsung.

It was almost nineteen years ago that a teenager trembled as she tearfully said to her mother and father the words that every parent dreads ... "Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant."

What a frightening time for a nineteen-year-old as she is just starting her adult life and already facing an uncertain future. What devastation for the parents as this is the last thing they would have chosen for their daughter. Thoughts of "we have failed her" to "I am too young to be a grandparent" fill their minds. In a heartbeat, the atmosphere in the house becomes strained and the following nights are long for the teen as she drenches her pillow with tears. Tears that come only when she thinks no one can see or hear her.

Many try to persuade her to keep her options open, but there is only one choice for this determined teen. The little life within her has now become her responsibility, and she will sacrifice all she has to see that this precious being grows to be the young man or woman God intended him/her to be. She is at peace with herself and the choice she has made.

A baby’s first cries fill the air and an exhausted, but proud, teenage mom holds her young daughter for the first time. She is inexperienced, but is determined to provide for her priceless daughter the best way that she can. If the first few days are any indication, she has a tough hill to climb. Because of no insurance, she leaves the hospital early and takes her daughter home, but the baby girl develops jaundice and they are forced back to the hospital. Her pediatrician tells her to leave the baby in their care and to go home and rest.

"You have got to be kidding me!" she exclaims, refusing to leave her baby girl for even a moment. Something inside her clicks, and with a determination that surpasses anything she has felt up to this point, she comes to grips with the situation. "You are a mom now. Deal with it," she quietly tells herself.

"You have got to be kidding me!"
Life is not easy and many hopes and plans for the future are set aside. The early years are filled with tests and trials, but it is a time in her life that she wouldn’t trade for anything. During those rough days and nights, she need only look at this tender creation God has given her to realize that the best things in life are right before her in the smile, the coo, and the laugh of this darling baby girl.

Those eighteen years have flown by, and I ponder all of these things as we slowly walk away from the softball diamond today. I think about all the joy this baby girl (who is now a young woman herself), has brought into my life and to those around her. I remember all the basketball and softball games that we as her family have sat through, proudly cheering her on. Not only is she the best all-around female athlete I have ever seen, she is also one of the classiest and I am most proud of who she is off the court. She conducts herself with grace and humility and shows kindness to all who cross her path. I cannot imagine life without my Jen, my darling eighteen-year-old niece.

Tonight my heart is bursting with pride, love, and joy for this remarkable being that came into our lives. I shudder to think if she had not been born. How different our family would have been, not to mention the lives of an untold number of people whom she has touched in her everyday life.

A scared but determined teenage mom made a tough decision all those years ago, and through it, gave us all the gift of Jen.