Years ago I was writing a book. As I wrote it, I invited my mom to join in the process. This invitation led to face-to-face conversations we’d never really had.
My mom began to share her story. There were parts that I knew well, but there were many parts I had never heard.
Something happened as my mom shared her story.
I began to see her.
At one point, my mom started sending me bits and pieces of her story through email. Like opening a deep well, she brought up buckets of words one serving at a time.
This was one of those emails she sent.
Words from my beautiful mom, Karen M.
My mother had a two-year-old daughter, but no husband. She met a man who lost his wife in childbirth. They married so that he could put a roof over her head and my mom could take care of the two children. Mom got pregnant right away. Seven months later, my twin brother and I were born premature. I weighed two pounds and was born with severe respiratory problems. When I was four years old, my father enlisted in the navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. We moved to live on base. My mother was very unhappy, so much so that she packed up and moved back home a few times. During one move we even stayed in a chicken coop.
We eventually moved to San Diego. There a neighbor’s grandfather asked to take me for ice cream. He drove to a grove of trees and molested me. I didn’t tell my parents because he threatened to kill them.
When I was 13, my mom still left for a week or two at a time. My father would drive to a little town bar to drown his sorrows. He stayed in the marriage because he loved my mother, but he wasn’t a strong man. He didn’t know how to pull the family together. Both my parents smoked heavily, and I was sick all the time. Because of the smoking and discord, my home was a hard place to be.
As she poured out her story, she shifted from the mom of my past to Karen. A daughter. A wife. A woman. An unprotected little girl.
A human being with feelings, dreams, hopes and pain.
I became acquainted with the 15-year-old who got pregnant and married a man (a boy) she didn’t love. I wept over the little girl sexually abused at the age of five by a neighbor’s grandfather. I grieved for the teenager who lost her first child when the baby was only eighteen months old.
One day we sat on the couch. I heard the familiar sound of a soft whistle in and out due to acute asthma. I imagined a little one who couldn’t breathe with two smoking parents.
I went to the bathroom and closed the door, tears running down my face.
When she told me how she fled at 20 to escape her husband’s cheating and abuse, I wondered why no one rescued her.
Something happened as her story unfolded. For years I identified my mother as “broken” because of our past, but the more I learned of her story the word “brave” became a better fit.
Why in the world are you telling me this, Suzie? What does this have to do with me?
For far too long I saw my past through a one-sided mirror.
–-> It all pointed to me. <–
My childhood. My feelings. My hurt. My pain.
Yes, we need space and grace to work through our past, to feel the hurt. I get that. But when it all points to us and that focus never shifts, we remain a wounded little girl.
There is no opportunity for compassion when all we see is our own story.
There is little room for any type of adult-to-adult relationship, even if a person has changed or is changing.
It has the potential to keep us forever stuck in the way things once were.
Maybe the thought of a conversation like I had with my mom makes you want to run.
Healing is hard work. Especially the relational kind.
Especially when they are still in your life because they are family.
Perhaps that person who caused you pain refuses to talk about the past in any form.
Maybe a conversation isn’t an option because they’ve passed away.
Perhaps this the actions were evil, or they are still a mess and a face-to-face isn’t wise.
I know all of our families are different. I know that I’ve been blessed to have a mom who has grown into a strong, loving and amazing woman. But hear me, I have others in my extended family that aren’t in that place.
It still applies.
It’s less about being in the same room with that person, and more about looking away from our story long enough to consider another.
When we take this step, it allows us to sort through their story, not as the wounded child or woman we once were, but as the strong women we are today.
It allows us to consider how their story impacted ours and that, my friend, is powerful information in the heart of a healing woman.
It gives room for compassion for the brokenness they didn’t ask for, either.
And if this is a close relationship with someone who has changed or is changing, it opens the door to work within the framework of today, rather than being forever clouded by yesterday.
That book became The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past.
It was published almost 10 years ago. The emails that were supposed to help me understand my story took on a life of their own. Those snippets became a part of the book with my mom’s permission.
You see, her story added depth.
It revealed how another person’s story can absolutely impact the next generation.
It showed that there was more to the story than just our own feelings.
The Mom I Want to Be recently went out of print and I mourned it as a loss. I scooped up the last few boxes from the publisher.
It will always be my favorite book because it’s where I discovered my mom.
Not the broken mom of my past, but the little girl who became a woman who eventually became my friend.
And that helped me to live free.
What about you?
Do you sense God leading you to take this deeper step in your healing? Are you willing to listen to the story of another person (in whatever way that is safe and best)?
If that’s you, I want to pray for you today. You are brave and strong and I celebrate that with you.
Friends, here are some resources that can help you.
The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future (Kindle version is still available)
The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for the Broken Places
If you prefer a print copy of The Mom I Want to Be or desire to lead a study in your women’s or mom’s group, there are about 100 copies left and we’d love to send an autographed copy to you or someone you love. The cost is $12 plus $3.99 shipping. (Email your request)
Thank u for your devotion today. It was for me. My son is an addict and we r considering a home for him but have been dealing with so much guilt and shame. Thank u so much for redirecting my thoughts to focusing on forgiveness and Gods love for each of us.
My family is going through a crisis right now with my brother. My parents are dealing with alot of guilt, especially my dad. He is not making the best decisions because of the guilt. Please pray that God will remove his guilt and help him to make the right decisions for my brother.
Thanks & God Bless!
Living with shame is something I am very familiar with. It plagued me for years. It became a huge idol. It took such a place of priority in my heart and mind that it shaped my view of self and it influenced how I interacted with the world. My esteem, my self-image, my thoughts, my words to and about myself, my relationships…they were all prisoners to shame. But God’s love covered my shame. Jesus liberated me! (Sniffle and praise)
I can appreciate your words, Suzie. And your book, The Mom I Want To Be, it helped me to continue on a path of healing. I can’t wait to read your newest book; I’ve already started spreading the word.
Penny, JM, and Jeanne, I will be praying for you all and for those and that which you mentioned.
Love in Christ
This probably sounds so selfish but I.wush my family would listen to my story and hear me.
It’s hard when they don’t, Laura. One of the wisest pieces of advice that I have ever heard is that if a biological family isn’t able to be what you need, then ask God to help create that family. It might be a friend, a support group, a godly counselor or mentor. It might be a church, a family that is not your bio family, or a strong group of women friends.
Write down your story. Every word. Say everything you want to say, and then hold up that letter to God who knows every detail and loves you like crazy. Ask Him to redeem that story. Ask Him to fill up the gaps left by the telling of that story. Then, as He heals you, ask Him to lead you one day to share that story with others who are in need of hope.
Wise words, wise advise. Praying it will help many! Rising beyond our past and fostering forgiveness in our hearts brings us to a stronger place of living free from the burden of carrying the past pains in our heart.
Beautiful. And yes. I’m stepping out into the unknown of helping women who have struggled with addiction. I have no idea what that looks like yet. But God does. I’ve let finances limit ne too long. With God all things are possible. Thank you for the hope! Praying with you!!!
I love how you were able to enter your mom’s story and find healing. If we don’t allow God to transform our pain, we will transmit it. Sadly our kids are first in line.
My mother lost her dad when she was 10, never had the space to grieve, was given excessive resonsibility for younger siblings instead. I definitely sensed (but did not understand) her pain and anger of childhood cut short when she was raising me.
Astrid, your words are some of the most powerful I’ve heard in a long time: If we don’t allow God to transform our pain, we will transmit it. Such a true statement!
I feel so broken that I don’t know if I will ever be healed this side of heaven.
Brenda, I could name women who felt exactly like you who have found healing. Angela. Sherry. Keri. Jennifer. Stephanie. Peggy. These are just a few that immediately come to mind.
When I look at scripture I see Mary, a woman who was tormented and alone. Yet she became one of the most respected, faith-filled women in scripture.
Based on these real-life women, I have come to understand that there is no person so broken that God can’t heal her. So today, in faith, I reach with both hands to Heaven and ask God to pour out hope over your heart and thoughts. To help you walk daily until this truth becomes reality. You are loved. You are seen. You are His and He has not given up on you, nor has He forsaken or abandoned you. Father, make her whole, bit by bit, moment upon moment, day upon day, and layer by layer. Peel away anything that keeps this much-loved daughter from discovering renewed joy and hope. In the powerful name of Jesus, amen.
Praying for God to lavish you with his love and begin a beautiful restoration in your soul. Allow Him to gently begin to mend your broken places, one step at a time.
Praying Psalm 23:3-5 over you today:
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
There is nothing to difficult for our GOD.
Brenda, May I pray for you today?
Lord, You can do more than we can ask or imagine. You can redeem our lives beyond anything we could ever hope. Father, pour out your love on Brenda today. Let her see herself through Your eyes: Chosen, A Masterpiece, Loved, Redeemed! Thank you Lord, for all You do that we can’t even begin to see! In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen!
Brenda, may God reach down from heaven and comfort you. I can’t imaging the pain in your path, yet God knows and loves you with His exquisite love. Lord, pray Your holy prayer for Brenda, by name, as her name is carved in the palm of Your holy hand. Caress her wounded heart and heal her Lord.
In the mighty power of Jesus’ name.
Brenda- thank you for your transparency. You may not feel completely whole this side of heaven but I pray your brokenness becomes the very place for love to enter and transform your story. You are worthy of love and belonging and you never suffer alone.
“In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.” Isa 63:9
Suzie, what a hard post this must have been to write and I hope you know how encouraging and touching it is to us in need of healing. Love you!!!!
I have to give the kudos for this post to my beautiful friend and mother, Karen. She’s the inspiration. What courage it has taken for her to allow us to share our story — the hard parts, and today the beautiful parts of discovering who she is as a woman. I love her like crazy. <3 She’s pretty amazing.
Years ago when Suzie asked me tif I would share my Stort with the world , it was the hardest thing ever. It was also the best thing I’ve ever do everything. Suzie got to know me as a little girl, a young teenage mother and a very insecure person. Her getting to know me as a person helped her to learn why I was the why I was.
Through Gods healing and my family’s support and forgiveness, today I am a strong happy women.
Thank you Suzie. I love you dearly. Your mom .
You are such an example of love.
I love hearing mom chime in on this post. Thank you for being willing to do the hardest thing ever!
Powerful. Thank you Suzie and thank you Karen for being brave, for going first, for pointing to others, and most of all for pointing to Him. Beautiful.
Suzie, I want to thank you for this. I was running through my talk for MOPS today on how the past lasts. I randomly looked at FB in between my practice runs and saw this post immediately. The one thing I was missing was this point: When we stop seeing our past, we can start seeing their’s. I will mention you and your book at MOPS. I am assuming this came from it. 😉 Your message was both timely and God-ordained.
Thank u Suzie for sharing with us. Indeed, it helps me to be a little more brave in facing my own past & to look away from myself to others. God is good.
Thanks for sharing your story & your mom’s story!
Is it possible to still get a copy of the book?