I was separated from their daddy, Tony, at the time of Lora's birth in Great Falls, Montana, and the first six years of her life were spent mainly with "Momma and Sissy." We were quite impoverished during these years, and every day was a struggle to keep going. But through the generosity of church family, the girls and I kept our heads above water. During the early years of her life, Lora was involved in ballet lessons, Crystal in tap dance classes. How did we afford these luxuries? Well, I was resourceful and found a studio that would give my children lessons in exchange for manning the studio as their receptionist on Saturday mornings. The girls thoroughly enjoyed these Saturday mornings, followed on the drive home by a stop at the local convenience store for an Orange drink!
The family reunited with Tony in the summer of 1986. Financially things were better but still tight. Lora wanted to play piano--and play piano she did! An ad in the local paper turned up a battered "beginner" piano for her early lessons. Crystal was taking classes for violin, and in the beginning, Mrs. Weddle taught Lora her piano basics as well. This time I ironed Mrs. Weddle's attorney-husband's shirts in exchange for the lessons!
Throughout their growing up years, the girls were kept active in our church. The family lived in Montana, California, Montana, New York, and back to Montana--and at every juncture, the Church Family became our extended family. Crystal and Lora became exceptionally close, and very protective of one another. One of my priorities was for the girls to attend private Christian school... and they did, no matter where they lived. There were only a few exceptions to this--Crystal spent 3rd grade in New York's public schools, and 4th grade in Montana's. Lora spent 1st grade and the first two months of her 4th grade in Montana's public schools. The family did without other things to provide for the kind of education I determined my girls would have.
Once Crystal reached 9th grade, however, Tony and I decided to let her attend a public high school. Crystal was much more reserved, and we both thought the large public school would help her to "open up." There was no such need for Lora! Lora had been involved in sports since the summer before first grade, starting off in tee-ball through the YMCA, then softball until the end of 8th grade, and volleyball from 8th grade through high school graduation. She had been a very popular catcher on her softball team, and knew most of the league on a first-name basis. In volleyball as a middle-hitter, with her "can-do" cheerleader-type spirit, the same became true in that league.
Lora had a tender heart towards the Lord Jesus and spiritual things from an early age. Both girls were baptized in the Catholic church out of respect for their Grandma Hernandez, but attended various Protestant churches (mostly charismatic or pentecostal) throughout the growing up years. Lora had been sexually assaulted when she was 7, and at the age of 9 felt she wanted to undergo baptism with our church not only to solidify her commitment to Jesus, but to help her feel "brand new" again. We also took her to a few sessions with a Christian counselor in town. I read every book I could get my hands on to educate myself as to how to best help Lora overcome this act of violence. I noticed through the years, however, that the best medicine for Lora--was Jesus Himself. It took time, but He accomplished what no one else could.
Lora battled poor self-esteem throughout her junior high years, and into the first year of high school. We had decided to keep Lora in a Christian high school since she certainly did not need any lessons in socializing *smile*! We thank God that we did. It was from her volleyball coach that we learned that Lora had become bulimic. It was in the spring of 1995, the year her sister Crystal was graduating from high school and going off to college 2,000 miles away. That summer Lora would begin dabbling with all kinds of "unacceptable" behavior (smoking, sneaking off, etc.)..
Finally, we had had enough of it. It was Lora's 15th birthday (December 1995), and she had gotten caught in yet another teenage act of disobedience, and I was in tears of rage. Her daddy, her high school principal, and I confronted her behavior. She broke down crying, sorry for all the concern she had caused and for her disobedience. "Mom, I don't KNOW why I'm doing these things!" she cried out. "How do I make myself do right?" I looked at her face, and realized--she was serious. Throughout this year, several friends of mine and I had been praying diligently for Lora to come through this season of sinfulness and rebellion with a new heart for God. In His faithfulness to us and to her, He answered!
Lora had always attended youth group services on Wednesday nights. Now, however, she started socializing with the kids there. One night in February 1996 she came home and told me she wanted to go on the summer missions trip with the youth group to Watts in the inner-city of Los Angeles. To qualify for this she was required to follow some strict training over the next few months. She had to attend all 3 weekly church services, with a notebook in hand taking notes during each sermon. At any given time, Pastor Doug could ask to see the notebook to review her notes. She was then required to attend special training sessions to learn to pray, and to learn various drama skits for their time on the streets witnessing in Los Angeles. We agreed... and OH! how God answered our prayers!
The closer she drew to Jesus, the more she blossomed as a person. She literally began to glow with a confidence He was giving her as she walked with Him. In April 1996, she started ministering in song (vocally) at our church, both during regular church services with solos and as part of the youth group's praise and worship team. She was to become the "Lora" she was created to be! On the streets of LA, I saw my daughter take a microphone and minister to the youth gathered around her about how God had healed her broken heart from the sexual abuse. And bulimia, though she always had to keep a vigilant eye to make sure she didn't regress, became a thing of her past.
Lora had always loved little children, playing "school teacher" to the neighborhood children, and becoming an actual teacher's aide in her private schools. She had a generous heart, and it showed as she used her babysitting money in high school to buy clothes for foster children that came to our church. In her summer before her first year of college, she met a young unmarried mother and began sending the mother clothes for her baby--because she felt that God had laid it on her heart to do so. She continued doing so on a monthly basis throughout her year at college. I never knew why she felt this need to be so generous, until the day after her death.
At her memorial service at her college in Ohio, one of the girls shared a story. Lora had told her that growing up she had had to do without a lot of material things, and that she wanted to be able to give to other needy children like she had been... that's why she gave... because she knew what it was like to do without as a child... and now as a college student she did without things so that she could bless others. She never told me this. I never even knew she had noticed doing without when she was little, because she never complained about it. But rather than becoming bitter or selfish, she became giving and compassionate... just like Jesus had been to her.
It was in this spirit of generosity that prompted Tony and I to look for ways to help hurting childen. Tony sponsors two little girls attend private school in Ecuador through the ministry program called Workers in the Harvest. Jan sponsors two little girls through Children International in Manila, Philippines. To read her personal blog about travelling to meet the girls, click HERE, and scroll to read "My Trip of a Lifetime".
From the Catholic Bible's Book of Wisdom, Chapter 4: (not accepted by Protestants as sacred, but rather inspired writing..) But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest.