by Laura Knox, Options Now staff
A bubbly, vivacious preteen met me for our photoshoot, cell phone in one hand & a huge smile on her face. Akira giggled & posed while we chatted about family, life, and navigating a new school. As we would move to a different location, Akira would run to the camera to check the photos, telling me her favorites & suggesting new poses we could try. As we wrapped up her individual shots, Akira ran back to the car to get her brothers, and 3 little boys tumbled out of the back of the car. Watching Akira hold her brothers, instruct them in how to pose...seeing her love for them...was so refreshing and sweet.
That day was very special for me, because I wasn't just photographing a former patient's child. I was photographing my former patient's child. Way back in 2003, Akira's mother, Tasha, came into Options Now (then The Pregnancy Support Clinic of Valdosta). I was working part time in the office there on West Gordon Street. I worked with patients and did some data entry while I was finishing up graduate school. Tasha was only 2 years younger than I was, and we hit it off.
Tasha moved to south Georgia in 2002 and within a year found herself pregnant and very suddenly alone. She heard about Options Now from a friend in her neighborhood, and she came in for support. After having suddenly broken up with her baby's father & living far from any family she had back home, Tasha needed support. She came in for counseling & parenting videos, but mostly for connection. Preparing to be a single mom in a new community without any real support system was difficult. Walking through that difficult season with Tasha showed me her strength and her dogged determination.
Tasha and I had lost touch after she had "graduated" from Options Now's program, but we reconnected several years ago on Facebook. Tasha married when Akira was 3 & has since added three little brothers to the mix. I had kept up occasionally with Tasha, but I hadn't seen Akira in person since she was about a year old. To see her all grown up, becoming a young woman, was such a special experience for me.
After the photoshoot, Tasha & I chatted about life, reminiscing back to the first time we met. Tasha's journey has been challenging at times, and life hasn't been easy for Tasha & her family. But they have not given up in overcoming the overwhelming odds stacked against them as a family. I told Tasha that one of the sweetest parts of the photoshoot was hearing Akira call her stepfather "Daddy." Through all the challenges they have faced, this family has continue to work toward being a family.
Many women like Tasha relocate to Valdosta each year, whether attending the University or being stationed at Moody. Some relocate here because of a job or a friend or a boyfriend. When women move to our community, we have an opportunity to impact their lives if they find themselves in crisis. Instead of turning to the world's answer for an unplanned pregnancy, we have an opportunity to offer women support, love, and Hope. You have an opportunity to join in our work at Options Now. By giving your time, talents, or resources, you can be part of the life-changing work at Options Now. Are you willing to be used by God by volunteering at Options Now or Repeat Boutique Thrift Stores? Are you willing to make a donation or offer your professional services as an in-kind donation? Please contact Maryann Meli at email@example.com or 229.333.0080 to discuss ways you can get involved in making a difference in the lives of women like Tasha that God brings to our community.
Be sure to check out our other calendar stories here or click here to make a donation. Also, please be praying for Akira as she turns 13 on March 12! It is an exciting month for her as she becomes a teenager and begins to grow into a young woman. Pray for her and for her family to have God's peace and protection, and that Akira would grow to love and serve the Lord all of her days!