To ALL Who Mother

I wrote this a couple of years back and thought I’d brush it off again for Mothers Day weekend. This weekend used to be a painful one for me, but it is now something to be celebrated. Not because I have a house full of children, but because I’ve allowed God to enlarge my definition of motherhood over the years. 

Mommas, I’m thinking of you today. Those of you who are battling potty-training, bad attitudes, and car seats. Those of you who are driving every-place-in-town for soccer, dance, baseball, etc… Those who are losing sleep over your teenager trying to carve out their own personality. 

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I’m thinking of you mommas who gave birth to angels who were here for just moments, then gone from this world. You mothers who have never held your child, due to miscarriage or because of exercising your legal right to choose, only to realize the true gravity of your choice later. You are a mother. It’s absolutely okay to grieve, even if others think you should be “over it” by now. 

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I’m thinking of those of you who are not yet mothers but long to be. You who have spent years trying everything to become a mother…Thousands of dollars, tears, and heartaches only to stare at yet another pee-soaked plastic stick that brings nothing but disappointment. I’m thinking of you. 

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I’m thinking of you mommas who have devoted your whole lives to raising fine children, sent them out into the world as upright citizens, and now your empty nest has left you feeling empty and confused. I’m thinking of you who are estranged from your babies, no matter how old they are. Those of you who love your Prodigal and are waiting for his or her return. 

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I’m thinking of you mommas who no one else seems to recognize, because of your non-traditional mothering. The stepmothers who do all the work but get little reward. The grandmas and aunts and friends-of-the-family and foster moms who raise others’ children because somebody can’t or won’t do it themselves.

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I’m thinking of you adoptive moms who’ve spent months or years trying to build your family by way of a distant partnership with another momma you never knew. I see how it hurts when you have to put up with dumb questions from nosy strangers. I see how it stings when people ask ridiculous things like “…but don’t you want to still try for one of your OWN?” I’m so sorry that some people can’t see what incredible mothers you already are. You are so noble and I love you for it. 

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The truth is, all of us mother someone. We help shape others’ lives, encourage them into the person they’ll become, bandage a few boo-boos and wipe a few tears along the way. So look around you today. Celebrate all mothers and those who mother, and think of who might be hurting more than smiling on this day. Look for the ways they mother and thank them for contributing to the future of our world. Hug them and let them know that if they’re hurting, you’re hurting alongside them. 

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Much love to you, mommas. Allow God to enlarge your definition of motherhood as he has mine. You’re my heroes. 

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-Krysten

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Redefining Our Good

I can hardly believe that I get to be among the women participating in 30 Days of Story at Sarah Farish’s blog. I have read some amazing stories of trial and triumph, all with God at the center of them, writing and rewriting the stories Himself.

I have to admit, this is very, very scary for me. Partially because I’m telling about some of the most messed-up times in my life. And partially because I sorta feel like I’m going through another mess right now. I haven’t felt worthy to be sharing my story. I’ve been hearing that voice again that says I’m nothing; no one wants to hear about my junk. Nothing I say can help anyone. I’m so screwed up, so how is anyone ever going to see God through me?

But that’s precisely why I think it’s important — no, imperative– that we share our stories. If we go through things and come out on the other side, then the whole thing is over. Great. But what did we learn from it? What could someone else learn? How might hearing how God brought us through our mess actually help someone else look at their circumstances differently?

That’s God’s recycling plan. He uses broken bits of our stories to piece together something beautiful. He’s rewritten my story and redefined my good so many times. It’s just what He does.

Here’s part of my story that I shared on Sarah’s blog, and a glimpse into how God has rewritten it.

Pain, Joy, and Thankfulness on Mother’s Day

Yesterday my husband had been texting back and forth with our pastor, who also happens to be a good friend. They had just returned from a trip but flew home on different days so he was checking in with us to make sure Todd had landed safely and such. I was teasing him about texting while driving (don’t worry people, it was mostly in between much more dangerous moves) and he said “I’m just going to let him know that we won’t be at church on Sunday then I’ll be finished.” Why wouldn’t we be at church on Sunday? Then he reminded me that it was Mother’s Day, which I (and by extension, we) have dreaded for several years now. I’ve pretty much avoided being anywhere that might include a big to-do about being a mom, because you see…although I do not have any children myself, I actually am a mother. And that makes Mother’s Day confusing, sometimes offensive, and always a somewhat painful.

One reason that I’ve dreaded the M Day for many years is because of something I very unfortunately share with millions of other women across the nation: I am a mother who never gave her child a chance at life. Yes, that ugly thing you’re thinking about is true: abortion. As much as it pains me to admit, I have experienced the crushing pain of knowing that my child’s life was taken before it really began, and the even more excruciating reality that it was my own selfishness that took it. For years I could barely even think about it, much less speak or write about it. But God has done some amazing healing work in my life and has shown me that if I am willing, He will take even the ugliest parts of my messed-up life and will use them to gain glory for His name. I now know that it was not for my own sanity that He has led me to an incredible place of knowing what His mercy really means —mercy, MERCY! to someone who participated in taking her own child’s life — but so that I can remember the mercy I have been shown and be able to show it to others in the worst of circumstances.

Another reason why I have never cared for Mother’s Day is that I am a stepmom, which for some reason seems to be a more terrible thing than being an axe-murderer. When I was married, my life didn’t just change by becoming the wife of a man who was full of integrity and honor, but it changed because I also instantly became a mother to an adorable young boy. I love that boy as much as I love my husband. He accepted me into the family so easily that it was almost surreal, and we became very close almost immediately. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking…well, that just means your a step-mom, not a real mom. And you would be part of the reason I’ve always stayed home from church on Mother’s Day. I actually had a woman stand in the church lobby once, telling me a story and said something to the effect of “well, I know you’re not a mom, but…” I interrupted her and reminded her that I in fact was one, to which she replied “well, I know, but I meant you’re not a real mom.” I suffered through the rest of her story then went into the bathroom and cried. It has been said that stepmothers have all of the work, sacrifice, and commitment that a biological mother has, but none of the benefits or reward. I think in many cases that is probably true. I remember a few times when my son (no, I don’t call him my step-son) said something to the effect that I was more of a mom to him than his actual mom was. I know that in our family’s case, because of her choices, that is very true. But in all families that is not the case. Most of the time a stepmother is not an evil wench who can’t wait to have her “own kids” to somehow out-do the competition, but rather another loving mother who wants to help raise wonderful children, no matter where they biologically came from. If you are a stepmother and you treat any of the children under your care any worse or better than others, then shame on you. You are not fulfilling the obligation that you signed up for when you made your wedding vows, knowing full well that all of those words also applied to the daughters and sons you inherited through marriage. I don’t care what anyone says about me, I know that I am a mother. I love my son (even though he is far from being a little boy anymore) and would give my life for him. If that’s not a mother, I don’t know what is.

Not a real mom. You don’t have kids so you wouldn’t understand. It’s not like you have your own kids. These are some of the things people, mostly other women, have said to me verbatim. Many times it has been people in my own family who know about my past, know that my grown son is now a prodigal in the most complete sense of the word, and know that we will not be having any more children. And they say these things anyway. It used to bother me, eat at me, drive me to tears and anger. Now, I am much closer to God than I ever was and because I realize His plan for me, these ignorant comments are easily deflected, even when I know they were purposely meant to hurt my feelings. (Yes, people unfortunately are that cruel.) Because just like Joseph, what was meant for evil in my life, God has turned to GOOD. Now, not only do I not live in shame and fear that someone will find out about my past, I willingly share it to help others in the same situation. I lead others through a recovery group for post-abortive women, to help them work through the overwhelming amount of contradicting feelings they have once they realize the gravity of their choice. I’m healed, they can see it is possible,  and they begin to heal. Now, even though my husband and I will not be having any more children, it is not something that I feel is a lost opportunity. Rather, God has brought me to an incredible place where I understand that being a mother has a much, much larger definition than I ever dreamed it could. He guided me to Isaiah 54 years ago where I saw that He had even bigger plans for me…

Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
   Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth!
You’re ending up with far more children
   than all those childbearing women.” God says so!
“Clear lots of ground for your tents!
   Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big!
Use plenty of rope,
   drive the tent pegs deep.
You’re going to need lots of elbow room
   for your growing family.   -Isaiah 54: 1-6, The Message

I am a teacher and I literally get the chance to mother hundreds of children, many of which do not necessarily have a Godly mother to teach them at home. The joy I get from that is incredible, and at the end of the day when I finally make it home, I now understand why my energy has been completely spent on my kids at school, and that’s how it is supposed to be for me. Thank you, God for allowing me to appreciate that now and never feel like anything is missing.

So today, I am excited to greet my friends with a “Happy Mother’s Day.” I don’t have to avoid anything or stay home depressed or keep from being joyful for those who have always enjoyed this day without exception. I will smile and truly be happy for them and for myself on this day. I am no longer thinking of the loss and the shame and the bitterness that once surrounded this day. God has made all things new, as He always does. I appreciate the incredible mothers, young and old, that I have around me who come in all shapes, sizes, and types. And I’m thankful to count myself among them because I know that God has allowed me to be a mother, even if it looks a little different than most. I’m thankful that my little girl is with Him, and He is caring for her the way I never could, but that I will have the chance to see her someday. I am thankful that God’s arm is still not too short to save my prodigal son and bring him back someday. I am thankful that, as painful as it is, my husband and I are standing together to wait until our son understands that all he has been searching for is the same thing we all search for…God’s love. I am thankful that this day, I will be focused on the Good that God has promised me, in any way that it comes.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”-Isaiah 43:18-19