Motherhood: Grace & Mercy

For most of my life, Mother's Day was hard--a holiday I tried to skip over.

My earliest childhood 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 just four-years-old. She was in her early twenties, and having two kids by twenty-one, rushing into marriage, and struggling with her own 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, but it really does take a village. 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.

When I was seven, my dad met Val, and they were engaged within six weeks. She knew marrying my dad meant instantly becoming a mom of two, but 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, pulling away and distancing myself from my past. Once I met Jesus at seventeen, He made it clear He wanted to redeem every single part of my life—including the wound of abandonment I carried so closely. 

Years of silence between my birth mom and me ebbed and flowed; 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 her own story was so God-orchestratingly similar. In the absence of my biological mom, God brought me a gift through Val, but He wasn’t done.

Into my mid-twenties, I hesitantly gathered enough faith to believe God might restore my 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. 

As grace began to grow, I made the risky decision of inviting my birth 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 could redeem in that way. 

A few years later, when my husband and I decided to begin our parenting journey, we started with fostering. Each child we hosted was a boy, and I was convinced that when it came time to carry my own child, it, too, would be a boy. 

Because God wanted to redeem every single part of my life, He blessed us with a daughter. While my husband was beyond excited for the glitter and tea parties, I found myself flooded with feelings of inadequacy and fear around having a daughter. I cried. I prayed. I surrendered. And I once again asked God to make this part of the ongoing restoration He was doing in my life.

My first daughter is almost two, and as God would have it, I’m expecting another daughter in June. While their first names are simply names we both like (and honestly the only ones we could agree on), their middle names are near to my heart: Grace & Mercy. And through God’s tremendous grace and mercy, this story continues to be written.

While Mother’s Day still isn’t my favorite holiday, I am beginning to enjoy it a bit more. While I hold both deep wounds and deeper blessings hand in hand, 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; my mom, who made heart-breaking decisions that allowed me to have a more stable life; Jesus, who can truly redeem our stories beyond our wildest imaginations; and now my daughters, who are living representations of God’s incredible grace and mercy towards me. 

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.

--by Liz Schauer

 

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