Mesa, AZ, July 2010
Although promised in her patriarchal blessing that she would be married in this lifetime and be the mother of children, Genie turned 39 still single. Demonstrating exceptional patience and humility in her prayers, Genie then met and married the father of seven children. The couple has since adopted two abused teenagers as well. Genie talks about being a stepmother and the challenge of giving up one’s whole will to the Lord.
I had polio as a child. To look at me, I don’t necessarily look handicapped, although I walk with a limp and my right arm has a pronounced look about it that is different from normal. It always draws attention.
I joined the church at the age of 19. No matter whether a gentleman belongs to the church or not, most men do not care for handicapped women. At least at that time, a handicapped person was considered damaged goods.
I did date, but with most guys something always seemed to get in the way. And like most young girls, love and a family were what I longed for. When I got to be in my late-20s I thought, “Well, okay. I’ll focus on the career.” I had a very fulfilling career as a department head for a county library system, but it was not the same joy as raising my own family.
My patriarchal blessing told me I would marry in this lifetime and have children. So when that didn’t happen as I thought it should, you can imagine what went through my head: “What have I done to be denied that blessing? What did I do?” I got into my thirties and, as I approached 35, I started resigning myself to the fact that I was going to be single the rest of my life. My hopes and dreams for a family ended. I came to the conclusion that I had really done something bad to screw things up. This created a tremendous spiritual crisis for me.
There was a time I did not live by an LDS church building and had trouble finding transportation to church on Sundays. My attendance at church during that time was not consistent, but a new job gave me the opportunity to move to another state. I made sure I was living near a church meetinghouse so that I wouldn’t have the same problem and could be active again.
My new home teachers were so kind to me and decided to bring a singles group to my apartment for Christmas caroling the first Christmas in my new apartment. It was then that I saw my future husband for the first time. I was at a point in my life where I was feeling pretty downcast. It seemed clear that marriage wasn’t going to happen for me. I hadn’t been to church consistently in quite awhile which bothered me. I wasn’t living every principle of the gospel in its fullness and felt a heaviness of heart.
A distant cousin and I are the only members in my family to join the church. Since I didn’t have a lot of contact with my cousin, I had to figure things out on my own. So I got down on my knees and told Heavenly Father, “I don’t know why I was told in my patriarchal blessing that I would be married in this lifetime and have children and that the Lord would help me know who this person would be. I don’t understand this. I don’t understand what I did wrong to lose that blessing.” I told the Lord that the only thing I knew to do was to pray for the gentleman who was supposed to be my husband. After a lot of tears I prayed, “If this is the result of a transgression that I am not aware of, then I pray for the man I was supposed to marry. I pray that you’ve already given him a wife and family and I ask that those blessings that were meant for me will go to this gentleman and his family.” That was a very difficult thing to do. It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life – to let go of a promised blessing that was precious and dear to me. And for about a year and a half to two years, that’s what I would pray.
During this time, in my new ward, there was a little five-year-old boy named David who latched onto me for some reason. I was waiting for Sacrament Meeting to start one Sunday and David said, “Genie, why aren’t you married?” How do you explain to a five-year-old why at the age of 39 you’re not married? I simply responded, “I haven’t met the man who Heavenly Father has prepared for me.” And he said, “You have too! You’ve met Brother Hancock.” David pointed to a man sitting toward the front of the chapel seated with his children.
This little boy did everything he could to connect me with this gentleman. If there was a ward activity, David would take my hand and pull me over to Brother Hancock and get us to talk. But it still didn’t click in me that this was the man I would marry.
Personally, I believe Heavenly Father created a conspiracy of sorts as David was not the only one playing matchmaker. I had an aunt and uncle who were always telling me about a man in their area who was perfect for me. I was never given a name. But they mentioned him frequently and gave me updates on his family life. Finally, I had to tell them, “I can’t have you tell me that this man is so perfect for me but that he’s married and has seven children.” I requested that they not say anymore about him. After our first meeting though, it became clear that this was the gentleman whom my aunt and uncle had been talking about all those years. The difference was that he was no longer married.
Things happened quickly after that. David didn’t believe us when we announced our engagement and said it wasn’t nice to tease him. However, he became content after he saw my ring and insisted on being in our engagement photo. We were married for all eternity about six weeks later in the Chicago Temple. I was forty years old. I learned that the Lord’s promises are real and are true if we will remain faithful – no matter what our age – no matter what the circumstances.
What did you think about his having seven children of his own?
I had always wanted a large family so the number didn’t scare me. My attitude was always “the more the merrier” where children were concerned. But I had to confront the ramifications of being a stepparent. My husband’s children ranged in age from about 20 to 9. I knew enough to understand that each age brings its own set of situations – and while I recognized that I was not officially a biological parent, I understood that I would be impacting their lives as much as they would impact mine.
What was the greatest challenge for you in accepting this new family into your life?
Things happened so quickly for us. My husband and I had met in January, become engaged by the end of July, and married about six weeks after that – all in the same year. It was fast for us let alone for the children. So naturally there was a transition time for all of us. I had never been married before which brought its own set of challenges. Combine all that together with becoming an instant stepparent. It was a joyful roller coaster ride that I wouldn’t trade for the world; but it did bring its moments. I believe we all grew as a result. We survived, but there were times when it was a challenge. I didn’t just inherit stepchildren as part of my new family, I also inherited an assortment of other relatives that played a key role in their lives.
Several of the children had not come to terms with the divorce. A couple still wanted mom and dad to get back together. So when Dad remarried, they often directed their anger towards me or acted out in unhealthy ways. I was often reminded that I was the intruder into “their” family. Mostly I got the cold-shoulder treatment or received the “You’re not my mother” sort of thing. But the Lord gave me strength beyond my own. Prayer and a few favorite scriptures got me through. One in particular is from Jeremiah 33:3 : “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” I clung to that promise that the Lord would answer my prayers and show us great and mighty things with our new family. He did and continues to do so.
A challenge came in trying to mesh the parenting style of three adults. I believed strongly that the mother of my stepchildren needed to be treated with respect. I also believed that the children needed to see us all unified – as unified as we could be given the situation. Consequently, if we came to pick up a child at their mother’s house, and that child hadn’t finished the chores their mother had asked them to do, we wouldn’t take them with us. We would send them back to complete what their mother needed done. At times it was difficult, but I believe it was worth the effort and energy. She was the mother of the children and deserved to be treated as such, just as I did not deserve to be treated like the wicked stepmother.
During the transition period it was rare to find a time when everyone was happy. We prayed and fasted and fasted and prayed. We explained to the children, “This is the pain of divorce. And this is why it’s so important to make sure you choose your eternal companion carefully. Hopefully you can avoid this.”
Oddly, in the midst of all this, I was called by our Stake President to a unique calling: he wanted me to train local leadership on how to help church members who were going through divorce, dealing with stepparenting issues, former spouses, etc. using only articles from the Ensign. The result was a 200-page notebook designed for church leadership. A second notebook on abuse issues was also created.
Would you describe the circumstances that led you to take custody of two abused teenagers?
We had never tried to prevent pregnancy after we married, but all the medical treatments I had had as a child hindered my fertility. That, coupled with my age, which was 40 when we got married, seemed to close the door for me to have children of my own. Our first came to us when he was 15. I was 52 years old at the time. Over the years we had considered adoption, but for a long time there was an age limit that made it impossible for us to consider it. When that requirement was lifted, and after much praying and fasting, we decided to move ahead – to open our hearts and see if we could adopt. We understood that it might not be an infant, but we felt we could provide a home where love abounded.
The day we were to have our first meeting with Family Services, we hadn’t even gotten out of the car when the counselor ran up and told us they had an emergency with a teenage boy, Daniel, who needed to be removed from his home and placed in a safe environment. She asked us if we would be willing to go across state with her to meet him. After the initial meeting, we invited Dan to come to our home for a weekend to see how he would feel staying with us. He came and never left. It was amazing to meet a child who had never seen or tasted jello, who had never had a suit, or who had never slept with sheets.
About two years later we got a phone call from Family Services saying they had another teenager in need, a 15 year old girl, and if they didn’t find a safe place for her to live within 24 hours, they would be required to put her into the foster care system. We were not foster parents, but had been been awarded full legal guardianship of Dan. When we got this call, it was Dan who said, “You have to take her. You have to protect her. You can’t let her go into the foster care system.” With just a couple of hours to decide, we held a family counsel. The decision was unanimous and immediate preparations began to make room for our new addition. We were awarded full legal guardianship of her as well.
Is Dan still living with you?
Dan moved out when he turned twenty. The severe effect of abuse reared its ugly head and he started getting into things that went against his baptismal covenants. It’s one of the sorrows of my life, to be honest. I remember the day he told me he didn’t deserve to be loved and didn’t trust any adult who claimed they loved him.
Our second teen is still with us. She is in college and doing well. But I worry for her as I still worry for Dan. She, too, does not always trust authoritative figures and sometimes seeks counsel from inappropriate sources. So I continue to pray trusting the Lord with my petitions.
What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned from your life experiences?
I’ve learned that the Lord is someone I can rely upon and trust in a very real way. I’ve learned that patience and humility are essential in all our lives. I’ve learned that even though It’s hard to acknowledge my personal weaknesses before the Lord, I need to do so and be specific in my prayers. I have always thought myself to be a good person. But to have to acknowledge to the Lord that I might have lost a promised blessing because I hadn’t been as good as I thought, was a tough thing for me to do. It certainly was the experience of a lifetime… and the blessing of an eternity.
At A Glance
Location: Mesa, AZ
Marital status: Married
Children: Nine(ages 39 – 20)
Occupation: Commissioned Artist
Convert To Church: 1970
Languages Spoken at Home: English
Favorite Hymn: “When Faith Endures”
On the Web: A website for products featuring my art www.cafepress.com/eshancock
Interview by Neylan McBaine. Photos by Amy Fraughton.
At A Glance