A story by Liz Schauer
For most of my life, Mother's Day was hard, a holiday I tried to skip over.
My earliest memory isn't of playgrounds, pets, or trips to the Magic Kingdom. My first memory is of my mom leaving our family when I was four years old. She was 25, and having two kids by the time she was 21, rushing into a marriage, and struggling with her own lifetime of brokenness was too much to manage. So she left, leaving me with the confusion and pain a young girl should never have to carry.
My dad handled single fatherhood with all the grace and love he could muster. My grandmother stepped up to care for me before and after school each day, teaching me of our cultural heritage, how to cook, and how to be creative. She was the mom I needed during those formative years.
At seven my dad met a woman named Val, and within six weeks, they were engaged. She knew marrying my dad meant instantly becoming a mom of two, and she chose it anyway.
Our family grew, and eventually, I grew past the awkwardness of calling a new person "mom." My teenage years were scattered with anger and anxiety until I met Christ at 17, and the more I spent time with Him, the more He made it clear that He wanted to redeem every single part of my life—including the wound of abandonment I carried so closely.
Years of silence between my mom and me ebbed and flowed through cross-country moves and multiple marriages. I lost hope and found it more times than I can count. And through it all, my stepmom became an ever-present source of love and support in my life, understanding my past because the narrative of her own story was so God-orchestratingly similar. In the absence of my biological mom, God brought me a gift through Val, who is wholeheartedly the mother I always wanted.
But God wasn't done.
Into my mid-twenties, I hesitantly mustered the faith to believe God might restore the relationship with my mom. I began to see my own abandonment as a sacrifice my mom made. She knew she couldn't care for us. Leaving, as difficult as it was, made room for people to love me in ways she never could.
I took a risk and invited my mom to my wedding—and she came. She brought her husband John, who has a faith background, which softened my mom to Jesus. In the months that followed, we began talking on the phone. She shared her struggles with moving, the joy of a neighbor inviting her to church, and the new-found community she had volunteering there. Only God.
I wish I could say this story ends with Mother's Day now being my favorite holiday, but it doesn't. I hold deep wounds and deeper blessings hand in hand, yet each year I find myself ever more grateful for my stepmom, who chose to become a mother in an unexpected way, my grandma, who raised a young girl during such crucial years, for my mom, who made heart-breaking decisions that allowed me to have a more stable life, and for Jesus, who can truly redeem our stories beyond our wildest imaginations.
So whether you find yourself feeling the pain of loss, the ache of regret, or the hurt of an imperfect mother, lean into God as Redeemer this Mother's Day, because I believe He wants to expand our gratitude as we look to celebrate moms and the many women it takes to raise us up.
If you are in a difficult season, we are here to help! Call 847-765-5000 (9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday) to speak with one of Willow's skilled, compassionate response pastors—and take your first step toward finding the help you need.
Celebrate Mom at Willow Creek this weekend, May 12/13! Learn more here.