Sebastian’s Big Family
by Angela Sanders, Freelance Writer
“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5 (ESV)
Six years ago, Cheyenne was in a dark place. Addicted to drugs, she was seeking peace and companionship in all the wrong places. “To this day, I’m very thankful for a friend—I like to call her ‘the one who wasn’t using’—who called me out,” Cheyenne says. “This friend said, ‘Sounds like you’re pregnant, girl!’ I did not think there was any way she could be right, but I went to Hope Pregnancy Center anyway and, sure enough, I was 24 weeks along.”
“Of course, at that point, it was too late to terminate,” Cheyenne continues, “so I decided to give him away. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop using drugs.”
In October 2015, Sebastian was born and ten days later was placed with a foster family. This family would become a more permanent part of his life than anyone anticipated.
“He was the BEST baby,” Juelye Nelson, Sebastian’s foster mother, remembers. “God was so incredibly gracious to all of us. Sebastian showed no signs of addiction. He was my second placement. My first had also been born to an addicted mother, and he was always restless, couldn’t be put down, but Sebastian was so content and so SMART! He would lay on his mat and watch me cook and do the things I needed to do and just smile.”
Juelye and her family lavished both Sebastian and his mother with love for eight months while working together with Cheyenne’s guardian. Juelye arranged for Cheyenne to see her son every Friday while in rehab. “It kept me going,” Cheyenne remembers. “She even made a little scrapbook full of all the things I was missing…including his footprints.”
Cheyenne wanted to get better. She prayed to God saying, “If I’m supposed to be Sebastian’s mom, please help me. Please show me the way.” God answered with 1 Peter 5:10, “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered for a little while.”
Cheyenne put her faith in Him, worked the steps of the program, and The Lord kept that promise. Cheyenne was able to regain custody through the protocol required by family treatment court.
Cheyenne’s and Sebastian’s relationship continued with the Nelson family. Sebastian still had a bedroom at the Nelson’s, and they still saw each other at least five days a week.
Juelye continues, “[As a foster parent], you know the child you’re keeping is going to go home [eventually] and your heart is going to break. When Sebastian went to be with Cheyenne, I didn’t feel that loss. I didn’t feel like I was losing him but gaining her.”
When Sebastian turned two, Cheyenne relapsed and lost custody of Sebastian. Because of a mix-up in the courts, Cheyenne’s rights were terminated, and Juelye and her family prepared to adopt Sebastian. For a year, Cheyenne and Juelye’s family did not see each other, and Sebastian bonded deeply with his foster parents. This made the transition back home after Cheyenne finished another round of rehab and the mix-up was corrected difficult for everyone.
Thankfully, everyone involved leaned heavily on the Lord. “I had a lot of anger,” Cheyenne admits. “I almost lost my son because they turned me in, but I understand now why they did what they did. Juelye had to protect Sebastian, and I’m glad she did. Because of them, I know what it looks like to parent with patience, love, and kindness like Jesus would.”
Over time, Cheyenne and Juelye were able to regain one another’s trust, and their partnership blossomed into a friendship more closely resembling a mother-daughter relationship than anything else. “We spend every holiday together now,” Juelye says, pure joy in her voice. “They sleep over on Christmas Eve. They come for Easter. They were here for Mother’s Day. Cheyenne even got gifts for me and my husband Bobby. I wouldn’t have it any other way! They are family to all of us. Our daughters feel like they have two more siblings.”
“I’m just so thankful the Nelsons are in my life,” Cheyenne says through tears. “They have been more help to me than they will ever understand, and I’m so grateful a godly woman was there to speak the truth of God’s Word into my son’s life when I was so sick. I love Juelye. I really love her. I just hope she understands how much.”
Cheyenne believes Hope Pregnancy Center played an instrumental role in Sebastian’s birth story. “I wish I could remember more about the two visits I made to Hope,” Cheyenne says, “but I was using then, so my memory is foggy. What I do remember, though, is feeling very welcomed and loved. I remember kind words of encouragement that calmed me down. I remember going in feeling lost and leaving feeling like things would turn out okay.”
Not only have things turned out well for Cheyenne and Sebastian, but their story is having an impact on the ministry of Hope as well. Juelye Nelson recently became Volunteer Coordinator for Hope’s Tulsa center. “Because of Cheyenne, I feel greater compassion for the girls who come to Hope,” Juelye says. “I also see potential in them. So many just need a support system, people to encourage them and then walk with them. Most are only making bad choices because they don’t know how to make good ones. I believe God can use Hope to help our clients flip that switch and start living for something bigger than themselves.”