“If I told you my story, you would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go.
And if I told you my story, you would hear Love that never gave up.
And If I told you my story, you would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine.
If I should speak, then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin.
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins.
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in. Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.
This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.”
~~ “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave ~~
My name is Michelle Nehrig-Shultheis and this is my story. I pray that you read these words and read of Him.
I came to Christ in August 2004. On December 29, 2004, my beautiful daughter was conceived. She was conceived out of wedlock, and, to many in the church, she was born in sin. But she was just what God used to reach me. In many ways, I was not prepared to be a single mother. In many other, more amazing ways, ways I knew nothing of at the time, God knew exactly what He was doing.
From the instant her father and I came together, I had a very strong suspicion that I was pregnant. I wouldn’t take an OTC pregnancy test until March of 2005 to have my suspicions confirmed. It was during that period of time that we buried my great-grandmother. I was not close to her growing up, as she lived in Minnesota, and we were in Indiana. But I firmly believe that it was because of her prayers that I’m here to write this story out for you today. I was her eldest great-grandchild, so I read at her funeral in Minnesota.
On September 29, 2005, my beautiful daughter, Emma Grace, made her debut into the world. I joke about it now, but I’m pretty sure I was serious at the time. I tell people she was evicted. She had overstayed her welcome by 9 days and it was TIME! She was the one who made me a momma. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with her, my life became more than just about me. Then, the moment I met her — my socks were knocked off! I had no idea that a ‘little’ 8 lb, 3 oz person could completely take my word by storm. I knew life was going to be tough. When I had told her dad that I was pregnant, he said that he would support me whatever ‘choice’ I made. As though there was a choice OTHER than to bear this child and raise her the best way I knew how. Shortly after; however, I would learn that he still hadn’t grown up and would not be there for her or I.
I was so fortunate during these difficult times; I had my mom and my grandparents to lean on. I know my grandparents were upset because Emma’s dad was not doing anything to support this child he helped bring into the world. We were on food stamps, Medicaid, and TANF. All government programs that I would have NEVER thought I would ever need.
All through my teens and 20’s and into my 30’s, I sought the love that daddies are supposed to give. My biological father was never around, and I never had a good, strong male role model to be there for me. Alas, I was always ‘looking for love in all the wrong places.’ I gave a piece of myself to any male who showed me a little bit of attention. I thought that if I gave them what they wanted, they would, in turn, give me what I wanted. Much to my heartbreak and disappointment, I was wrong.
When I came to Jesus, I thought this would be the answer to my proverbial prayers. I thought life would begin to be EASY. Boy was I mistaken. But every challenge, every hair-pin turn, every obstacle that came my way, God gave me just enough grace for that day and for that moment and for that situation.
When my daughter was about 6 months old, I had her dedicated in our church. Her Godfather was the minister of music at our church. I was convinced that God had chosen him for me. And he adored my daughter. So, still being confused about what it was like to hear from God, I pursued him. And then I got pregnant a second time. This time, it was a boy.
I thought that we would end up together. Looking at the situation now, I’m grateful that God knew what He was doing at the time. Despite the fact that I thought my world was ending.
If I believed I had no idea what life would be like with one child, I was completely baffled by what life would entail with two little ones. The Lord saw fit to meet all of my needs then, despite being a single mother to two small children-both still in diapers!
My daughter is the one who gave me the title ‘Mom.’ She taught me how to be selfless; how to give until I thought there was nothing left, only to find out there were reserves the Lord gave me.
If my daughter taught me how to be responsible, then my son taught me how to cut loose and have fun. My sweet Elijah does not know a stranger, and to this day, no matter how frustrated or upset with him I am, he knows he can make me laugh. He knows that he can bring me to the brink of insanity with his loudness, and then with his magnetic personality and winning smile, he pulls me right back in.
Looking back, I see how He was stretching my faith. He was pursuing my heart and wooing me. He was showing me how He would be there for me always. He was showing me how He would always meet my needs. Even if it didn’t look like I thought it would. He knew best.
As the saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.” This is certainly true in child-rearing. I was working full-time, dreaming of the day I could NOT be working full-time. The kids were in a wonderful daycare, and we were all happy as clams. With some daily struggles, of course.
There’s another saying. “Don’t birth an Ishmael.” Well, from the time I knew I was expecting my first child, I wanted to be a homeowner. My mother was a single mom, raising me and my brother. I know she did the best she could with what she had. But we moved…a lot. My dream was to provide a solid foundation for my children, within the four walls of a house.
I remember seeing a home on a busy street in my town. It was cheap. Once I took a look inside, I knew why. It was two stories, and when you made it to the second floor, you felt like you were being propelled toward the street! The house was slanted! But I, in my infinite wisdom, just knew that God had this house for me! Well, at every turn, there was a road block. I was trying to birth an Ishmael and do things my way. Little did I know what God had in store for me!
In 2011, over Christmas break, we went to Culver’s for lunch (as a side note, I hope you have a Culver’s where you live, they are delicious burgers, and it’s a wonderful atmosphere!). I was scanning the local listings, and as soon as I saw pictures, I KNEW it was the home for us! I contacted my agent, and in March 2012, we moved in and began a new adventure.
You know the other saying, right? “All good things must come to an end.” Well, in the summer of 2015, the Lord brought a wonderful man into the lives of me and my children. We went wayyyyy back. We knew each other when I was in high school. We had tried to ‘date’ back in 2008, but again, the Lord knew best, and it wasn’t our time.
We got engaged in August, and were married in October. I sold my home, as it just didn’t fit our needs. I always said that God put me in that home and He would have to put me out! He certainly did! Little did we know that we would be better off not in MY home or HIS home, but with something of OURS. So, we are currently in the process of finding OUR future home.
Through every hair-pin twist and turn, overcoming each obstacle, sometimes hanging on for dear life, He has been with me. He has proven faithful through my answered prayers AND my unanswered ones. It is when I’ve looked BACK that I discovered what He was doing. Which is for the best, because I would have shrunk back in fear. We aren’t always ready for what He has in store for us, but that’s the beautiful thing. He readies us.
My life verse is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” This is something I’m still learning.