Mother’s Day reflections were filled today with hope and joy, the first year in several that has been the case.

On Mother’s Day 2015, I spent most of the day in tears. Tears I pretended were in happiness, and they were in part, as my kids have always filled me with love. But that May, my husband and I were living deep in our own closet of secrecy, knowing our son is gay, but not knowing what to do with that. My heart was weighted with fear and sadness, not knowing how to marry his sexuality with my own scriptural beliefs. A darkness hung over me like a black cloud.

The next year, 2016, Mother’s Day started as usual with breakfast and coffee in bed. The cloud had lifted as God lead me to an online support group of Christian parents of LGBT kids, and my study of the topic began in earnest. That was the year of grace, love and hope, and I felt almost giddy at the lift in my spirit. And yet I wondered if this would be the last year my mom and mother-in-law might be speaking to us, as I knew we planned to share our son’s homosexuality with family soon and I was fearful of their reactions.

Still the tears didn’t start that year until I got on social media to share and enjoy all of the Mom posts and memories. As always, Facebook was filled with smiling moms and kids. So I clicked over to the MamaBears page and my joy bubble burst. Yes, there were smiling photos, but they were interspersed with so much sadness and regret and grief. So many moms had kids who had left home and were lost in addictions, who were in rehab or psychiatric facilities, who had committed suicide. So many LGBT people whose moms wouldn’t acknowledge them. Many moms had made mistakes when their kids came out and had caused walls of hurt that were difficult to climb. So much hurt on a day that should be filled with love.

This year, Mother’s Day fell on my daughter’s college graduation weekend, so I was able to spend some time with both of my kids, as well as my mom and mother-in-law. No secrets this year, and still we sat in complete love. What a blessing. My tears this year were of joy and thanksgiving to my Father, who in His wisdom lead me and my family on this amazing journey.

The sermon in church this morning in Abilene Texas was entitled “A Momma’s Prayer” and focused around the biblical story of Hannah, who grieved and prayed her way through many years of infertility, to have her faith rewarded with a son, Samuel. While the sermon stopped at that point, I was reminded of how the next part of Hannah’s story got me through an important part of my own story.

I had spent many days deciding to mimic Hannah’s commitment of her son Samuel to God. I’d close my eyes and visualize handing my precious son over to God. He was already God’s, but I needed the reminder. As moms, we are in control of so much of our children’s lives; it was easy for me to forget that his salvation was never about me.

Right now, I’m in the car on the drive home from a family- and memory-filled weekend, and I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned about being a mom.

Honesty. Our family has gone through a lot in the last decade. The rough times started when my father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS in 2006. At the time, our kids were 11 and 9. We researched and knew there was no hope for a cure — this was fatal. How do you tell your kids that their grandpa is going to die, and probably within a couple of years? So we tried to protect them. We told them a lot of what to expect, but we avoided the question of his death. When eventually she found out, our daughter was very angry with us and told us it was always better to know we were telling the truth rather than wonder what we might be hiding.

We re-learned that lesson when we again tried to protect her and kept our son’s sexuality from her for nearly nine months. We had valid reasons but caused so much hurt, and temporarily fractured our family.

We are stronger united.

Unconditional love. That sounds obvious, I mean what parent would say their love for their child was conditional? But the reality we have seen over the path two years is many parents when put to the test, buckle.

Unconditional love means loving your child regardless of their sexual identify, sexuality, their choices, their friends, their habits, their weight, their IQ, their … whatever. Love them. No matter what. LOVE THEM. And tell them you do.

Be human. Don’t try to act like you always have it all together. Instead let them see that you recognize when you screw up (they already know you do). Tell them you are sorry. Tell them you made a mistake. They will learn more from you when you are human than if you pretend to be super human. Show them it takes strength to own up to mistakes.

Learn from your kids. When you embrace your imperfection and understand that doesn’t make you a lesser parent, it takes you to amazing places. As I’ve walked this journey with my family these last few years, we have learned together. God stripped me of my ego and false sense of control, and when He did, He opened me up to listening and learning.

My daughter’s faith and prayer life got me through. She encouraged me to be better and stronger. She became my peer, my spiritual mentor truth be told.

And my son’s courage and confidence in himself and his salvation caused me to completely re-evaluate what I had always held to be true. When I did, I learned I was wrong in so many ways. His unwavering patience gave me time to grow.

Our word of the year is “transparency.” And with that openness comes grace. The lessons of giving grace as well as receiving it are blessings. Share those with each other and grow together.

I still have so much to learn about being a mom, but each new phase builds on the previous one, and this last phase of our family has built a strong base for construction.

Next Mother’s Day, my daughter will be living her life several states away and another era of motherhood will be in full swing.

I can’t wait to see what that phase is.

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