Teens and Sex:
Linda Tanners Story
by Betty Halliburton Linda
Tanners life of 17 years has been filled with
many traumatic episodes and moments. As she sat in the
living room of her foster parents home, she
recalled her shocking past. "I grew up really
fast. It was tough. Somehow, I managed."
By the time Linda was in sixth grade she had
already been enrolled at 12 different schools, partied
with adults, experimented with marijuana and alcohol and
lost her virginity. By the ninth grade, Linda gave birth
to her daughter Julie.
Linda attributes much of her unstable
past to a troubled family situation. She and her maternal
mother are currently working through their problems. But
at an early age, Linda had already begun searching for
comfort, help and love in the wrong places.
"I met my childs
father when I was 12. There was a lot of arguing at my
house. There was five of us in a two-bedroom."
Linda found refuge at her ex-boyfriends house.
"When I was there, they treated me nice and they
said I was one of their own kids. I was always
Linda admits the sexual relationship
just happened. "I knew it wasnt right.
I did it more because I didnt want to lose my
connection with him and his family." The two of
them used some protection, but the inevitable happened.
"After we did it, I had a feeling I was
pregnant. Then I was late and I told my mom. She was a
little mad, but she said we would have to deal with
What followed was an emotional roller
coaster that took Linda into a deep depression.
"I was really down about being pregnant. It was
so overwhelming. I didnt know what I was going
to do or how I was going to take care of it."
She recalled. "A lot of times I said I
dont want to be pregnant. A lot of times I
thought about suicide. Things would just build up
In addition to the depression, Linda
had some very serious medical problems. Her doctor had
diagnosed her with Toxemia. Then a month and a half
before Linda was scheduled to deliver, her blood pressure
rose extremely high and her liver had swollen. Linda was
rushed to Oberlin Hospital then transported to Fairview
General in Cleveland.
The doctors were forced to deliver the
baby early by cesarean section. Baby Julie was born at 3
pounds 12 ounces, but with some serious health problems
of her own. The infant was diagnosed with Turner
Syndrome, a disease that includes deformity and growth
problems. Little Julie was instantly hooked up to a heart
and lung monitor and was kept at the hospital for
The health problems of little Julie
only complicated her problems at home between her mother
and stepfather. "When I should have been on bed
rest we got in a big fight. I didnt care about
anything." I called the family caseworker three
times. Finally, I was removed from the home."
Linda stayed with an aunt for awhile, but that
didnt last. After three weeks at the Junction,
a runaway shelter in Lorain County, Linda was put in a
foster home twice, before coming to live with her current
foster parents Mary and Joe Tornabene.
"When she first came to live
with us it was eight months of struggle," said
Mary. We were very family oriented. There were rules and
regulations." There were other issues as well.
"Linda had to learn how to trust people. We had
a lot of rough times and much counseling."
Then on Wednesday, October 2, 1996
something happened. The Tornabenes who are
members of Church of the Open Door had been taking Linda
to church with them for four months. But on this
particular night the service was for teenagers.
"They seemed to have something that I
didnt have. It was peace." Linda
remembers. "The Youth Pastor was saying you can
be loved no matter what youve done. All you
have to do is believe in Jesus and you can go to heaven.
He said if anyone wanted to be saved to stand
Linda said whenever the pastor had
asked people to stand before, she wouldnt get
up. This time she did.
"I told them I needed prayer,
and I started crying and I asked Christ to come into my
heart." Her voice begins to tremble.
"It felt so different."
Lindas foster mother agrees. "The Lord
was able to touch her heart. To see her now. She had no
self-esteem. She always held her head down all of the
time, but like a cocoon, Linda has turned into a
Linda also noticed some instant
changes. "Everyone said I had a hard attitude.
After that night, they say I have softened up. I finally
realized that the only one who could help me was God. I
stopped swearing and smoking. My life has totally
Since her born again experience over
two years ago, Linda has had time to reflect on some
realities of her actions and believes that the Lord used
her tragedy for His glory. "Having Julie
wasnt good, but God forgave me. I realize that
it was bad to have sex before marriage, but after I
became a Christian, I also realized God used that for me
to come to Him."
As for her relationship with Jesus
Christ? "It means everything to me.
Theres no way I can change what I did. I still
have time to correct the future. Its just by
His grace. I should be in the gutter somewhere!"
Linda has been working with a program
through Cornerstone Pregnancy Services in Elyria called
Youth For Abstinence and she is hoping her testimony will
help other young people remain abstinent until marriage.
"If youre desperate
and searching for love and affection, dont look
for it in sex." She said adamantly.
"You are giving away a part of
you, and you will never get it back. "
What Linda does hope to get back is a
grasp on her entire life. She is still struggling with
some guilt and her role as a mother. For now, she has
Julie every other weekend.
Although Lindas story had
some very tough chapters, she is the first to admit that
the Lord is the author and finisher of her faith.
"People wont always be there, but God
will be there forever!"