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May21ThuMay 21, 2020 Andrea Petkau
Mother. A title that brings so much encouragement, so much endearment, so much love. But for some, it is loaded. Not all relationships with mothers are happy and bring great memories and warm feelings. Some don’t know their mothers; some do and wish they didn’t. Some hear the word and cringe, remembering the struggle to feel loved by their mothers. Some feel the trigger of stress, anxiety, and failure. Others can’t fathom the word because all they want is to be a mother, years of trying to be that very thing, to be able to nurture, encourage, see another human grow. They can celebrate the gift of their own mother, but the idea of the word - the title - brings pain, tears, frustration, and desperation. Mother also belongs to many who are not a Mother by birth – they are a foster mother, an adoptive mother, perhaps a spiritual mother. This word, this name, this title – complex, complicated, emotional.
When I sat and thought about my blog for May, I knew I wanted to look at motherhood and holiness. But as I tried to unpack that idea, I realized that for me there are so many mixed emotions and feelings that come along with the title Mother. As I reflected further, I thought about my own journey, and how it encompassed a very real struggle with the idea of holiness but also highlighted the amazing strength of a community of women in my life. And so I decided that this month I would write about a personal experience that involves the love, support, guidance, prayer, and spiritual strength of many ‘mothers’.
I wanted to be mom. It was part of the painted picture I had in my head since I was a young girl. Get married to the man I love and become a mother to our children. Have a career of some sort, never drive a mini van, and live in a beautiful home decorated exactly how I pleased. And of course, finances would never be a challenge. But while some of the painting came into light, many of the details did not come into view as life didn’t go for me exactly as I had painted it. Perhaps it turned out to be more of a Picasso, than a Monet. Unexpected twists and turns instead of quiet uninterrupted streams.
I started trying to have a baby when I was 28 years old. I didn’t get married until I was 27 (this was not what I had ‘planned’ by the way…but c’est la vie). The battle began that year and lasted six more. It was the lowest time of my life – it became my own personal desert. I was bone dry; mentally and emotionally worn down, angry at my body, furious with God, and spiritually clinging on to what little faith I had left. I watched my closest friends have not one, but sometimes two babies – and tried to celebrate with them wholeheartedly, often wearing a mask to cover the pain of disappointment, the sting of a dream I continued to pray for, to long for. Looking back, I realize how much time I spent with a smile plastered on my face, pretending I was ok, worried that others would feel sorry for me – and swallowing every last emotion. I was not an ideal candidate for IVF given my history of polycystic kidney disease, and adoption was on the table – though not financially feasible for us at the time. I had given up. My Monet was quickly being covered in black spots, red spots, yellow splashes. I was being torn away from what I wanted for my life, and I was devastated.
Raised with morals, faith, and an understanding of the everlasting love of God, no matter how angry, how upset, and how devastated I felt, God always had the glimmer of a flame in the back of my mind, or was the oasis in the desert I was traveling. However, I had become so wrapped up in my own habit of trying to control everything around me that the oasis remained but a blur. I kept seeing it but was so distracted, I couldn’t quite get there. I couldn’t say the words, “Your will not mine Lord.” Women came alongside me they prayed for me while I sat staring blankly. They prayed for me as part of their own prayers, they blanketed me in kindness, words, attempts at empathy. But I was always left feeling that they couldn’t understand, they wouldn’t understand. They weren’t living my hell.
The day we found out we were pregnant with my son - probably 300 pregnancy tests later - I couldn’t believe, comprehend, or accept that this wasn’t a trick or false positive. In true transparency, I didn’t thank God first either. In fact, it took years for me to repair the relationship I had with God...
The day we found out we were pregnant with my son - probably 300 pregnancy tests later - I couldn’t believe, comprehend, or accept that this wasn’t a trick or false positive. In true transparency, I didn’t thank God first either. In fact, it took years for me to repair the relationship I had with God, and even then - three years after Felix was born - I found myself in another operating room anticipating a kidney transplant after a year of dialysis. But my faith had hit a turning point by the time I was lying on that operating table. I was able to reflect on the gifts I had been given - not in my time, but His. His grace continued for me as I experienced a true miracle following my transplant, when I was one in five that experience post transplant rejection. Christ moved, His people gathered around me and prayed. Holy women came to my bedside and anointed me with oil. People I didn’t even know prayed for healing and acceptance of the transplanted kidney – and in that moment, I truly recognized and grasped the Holiness of God. The miraculous work of God, his impeccable timing. I had finally come within reach of the oasis.
This month I turned 37. I am probably not quite half through my life – and I have experienced the true and miraculous measures of the Holy Spirit. Was I searching through this difficult time? Maybe subconsciously. Was I actively participating in Christ’s work, his call on my life? No. I wasn’t. Was I deserving of the gift I received in the birth of my son? Did I deserve this chance at new life with a successful kidney transplant? No. I didn’t. I didn’t deserve anything, and I learned I can’t control anything either. My personal journey of holiness includes a period of almost 10 years where I struggled – I scraped and scavenged throughout the desert looking for answers that were not given. I was tested, repeatedly. I hated God. I didn’t speak to Him. I willingly let others do that work for me.
Do I believe this experience is reflective of Holiness? Yes, I do. Did I witness the Holy work of beautiful ‘mothers’ or ‘women’ on my behalf? Yes. Did these women carry my personal cross and do the spiritual lifting during a time where I couldn’t even discuss or fathom God’s will in my life? Absolutely. This experience for me illustrates the actual almost unfathomable work of the Holy Spirit – the true stuff of community and individual holiness journeys – the adventure that is indescribable and mysterious yet overcoming. My faith grew and matured, those around me witnessed miracles, and all the while I was not always singing God’s praises. Yet gifts were given, prayers were answered, and I am now able to speak to others about the true faithfulness, grace, and holiness of our Father, God.
Whatever form of Mother you may be or wish to be – to those we know that mothered us, but didn’t birth us, for the people God gives us in our lives to provide quiet guidance - blessings be unto you all.
Whatever form of Mother you may be or wish to be – to those we know that mothered us, but didn’t birth us, for the people God gives us in our lives to provide quiet guidance - blessings be unto you all. For the lonely mother, the lost mother, the struggling mother, the tired mother, the single mother, the grandmothers, the aunts, the beautiful women in Christ – may we all learn from one another’s experiences and not take for granted our individualities. May we lean on each other for prayer and support when we cannot fathom another day of tantrums, tears, meals, loneliness, isolation and fear. To all the Mothers, to all the identities within the name, “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5: 6-7.
-This post was inspired by my own motherhood journey, but also the influence of other beautiful women I know. Dalene, Audrey, Sharlene, Jean, Dorothy, Lena, Agatha, Lindsay, Tara, Vanessa, Hayley, Melissa, Diana, Sarah, Kathleen, Caitlin, Jeanne, Julie, Bev, Laurie, Jessica, Katrina, Rachel, Laura, Jessy, Char, Nakita, Layla, Jillian, Tiffany, Renee, Kristen, Joanne, Bernice, Olivia, Kristy, Maya, Sara, Cathy, Penny, Danielle, Caitlin, Marissa, Amy, Isabel, Darlene, Brenda, Stephanie, and Rebekah.
For a resource developed by women in The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa territory on celebrating women’s unique motherhood journeys, visit https://www.facebook.com/SalvationArmy.WM/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1017875778607134
For a series of prayers for all types of motherhood figures in your life, developed by The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda territory, visit https://salvationist.ca/women-s-ministries/toolkit/mother-s-day-prayers/