A Good Story

By Angela Sanders

“You have turned my mourning into dancing…” Psalm 30:11a

After three years of living with relatives while their mother struggled with profound loss, eight-year-old twins Tinlee and Leila are relieved and happy to be living with their mother, sister, and two little brothers again at Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children as participants in the Children’s Hope program.

“It’s really good here,” Leila says with an enthusiastic nod.

“Yes!” Tinlee agrees. “We’re all happy here. I remember before my dad died. We lived with him and my mom, and we were really happy. But then he got sick, and he died.” Pensive, Tinlee remains quiet for a few moments before continuing. “My mom took it really, really hard. She was so sad she didn’t know what to do, and her friends who weren’t good for her told her some of the wrong things to do. She made some unhealthy choices, so we went to live with other people while she figured it out.”

“We stayed with Nanny, Aunt Nelle, sometimes Nana, and Uncle T,” Leila says. “It wasn’t bad except for at Nanny’s house.”

“Yeah,” Tinlee adds. “She was mean.”

“But Nana was really good,” Leila reminds her sister with a shoulder pat.

“Yeah, she was really fun,” Tinlee agrees. “She would always take us to the park and get us ice cream when we were good. Then she passed away.”

“Uncle T loves us, too, though,” Leila offers.

“Yeah,” Tinlee nods, “but I worry for him because he cried when we left to come here. He knew he was going to miss us. I liked living with him. Sometimes, I would just put my head on his shoulder to feel safe, and he never made me move it.”

Tinlee and Leila were reunited with their mother Shelbi on the OBHC campus about six months ago. “It was a happy surprise,” Leila says, “We didn’t even know we were going to get to see her, and then we got to live with her again!”

“I was so proud of her,” Tinlee explains. “I knew she must have made a lot of healthy choices to get us back, and it probably wasn’t always easy. But she loves us and didn’t want to be away from us, so she did it. Now we can all be together forever!”

The Simmons family is thriving with the support of OBHC. Shelbi is currently a student at OCCC, where she works regular hours through the school’s work study program. When she completes her education, Shelbi will take the next steps toward independent living through the Children’s Hope program, but for now, she and her little brood are tucked safely away in a cozy cottage adjoining their family advisor’s home. Occupying four of the available bedrooms, they are able to enjoy both privacy and together time without the stress of having to worry too much about income for now.

Tinlee and Leila

“It’s so great!” Tinlee says, smile wide. “And another family is moving in with us this week. It’s a mom and two kids, so I get new friends!” Tinlee spins around in her chair. “I can’t wait!”

As residents of OBHC, Shelbi and her children get to attend enrichment classes on campus. So far, Shelbi has completed Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, Parenting with Love and Logic, and a nutrition class. The children attend classes similar to Vacation Bible School. “They teach us how to be nice people and be responsible,” Leila offers. “And we color rainbows and stuff.”

“And they teach us how to help people when they need it,” Tinlee adds, “but you can’t always help people. Sometimes they have to do things themselves, and sometimes there are other people who can help them better and you just have to wait and be patient.”

Tinlee and Leila are grateful to those who are financially supporting their family so they can be together while their mother finishes her education.

“My mom is happy again,” Tinlee says. “So she can help us and have fun with us. It makes us feel safe like when my dad was alive.”

“Yeah, we’re living the good life,” Leila says with a serious nod.

Tinlee continues, “We have a good story now. We’re just telling it because we want more people to have good stories, too.”

*Tinlee and Leila’s photos have been changed to protect their privacy.