Every story starts with characters, and I’d like to introduce you to the most important ones in mine. My name is Heather, but you can call me Mama Bear. I have good reasons to play pretend with my name, and if you want to read Why I’m Mama Bear please do! My husband Grizz (“If you’re going to be a bear, be a Grizzly!”) and I are Daddy & Mommy to the most beautiful girlie bear cub going-on 4 years old (meet Grizz and Girlie Cub above). Parenting her sweet little self has been our greatest joy in life so far, and we could not be more grateful…I mean, just look at her. She likes to play pretend too, and we captured her little-ness playing princess in my wedding dress with her beloved Pinky Bear (yes, even Pinky is a bear).
Our journey to this kind of parenthood was not for the faint of heart, and we know many can relate. Life is full of adjustments we make when it turns left and we want to go right. Like when you are 30 and single and wondering if God even has marriage in mind for you!
Grizz and I met in 2008 through the digital meeting place of eHarmony. Truly, ours is “an everlasting love” as the commercial goes, in fact we were asked to be on one of their commercials but as much as I love Hallmark movies, even I drew the line with simply giving our testimonial.
With all kidding aside, we are so grateful for that meet-up space as we near celebrating our 9 year wedding anniversary! We love sharing our story, and bits and pieces will emerge here, but know we care for the single-hearted joining us too…much of our character formation came through the years of learning contentment in the seasons of life when things weren’t as we imagined they’d be, and we believe God helped us thrive there! He continues to do so…
From time to time you’ll see and maybe even hear from Grizz, who runs a successful business that spans a good portion of our beautiful state of Tennessee. My first priority is my marriage and supporting Grizz in business is one way I live that out. Whether I’m serving him out of my nerd gifts by reading leadership books, or doing what I love to do – speaking to his people – I aim to give him my best energies as often as possible. Being a Mama Bear means many things, including that I love my people first and best. The permission to prioritize my people is what makes me enjoy my work here at A Mother of Thousands all the more!
But how did I become a mother of thousands?
In 2012, our dream of growing a family took a detour from “our plans” when we faced the reality that we were a part of the “unexplained infertility” community. We knew we would adopt at some point, my background in adoption law seeded a passion in me to adopt long before Grizz and I met, but we didn’t know when the right time would come. After going through several attempts with infertility treatments and surgery, we prayed, a lot…and we came to the very personal decision to stop further treatment. We were both deeply assured that our next step was to begin our journey of adoption. At the time, we decided to move forward with both an international and a domestic adoption at the same time…knowing the other would pause when one went through.
But when we made that fateful decision in April of 2013 we didn’t realize that in God’s creative display, he was actually conceiving a child in our hearts who would be born to us through a domestic adoption only 9 months later!
Since then the headline of our family story for the last several years best reads: BLESSED & BEAUTIFUL. In so many ways Grizz and I feel the goodness of God in the life we are living. While we focus on the goodness as often as possible, the side story in our adoption journey involves people with complex situations, harassment, and for me personally…grief and hiding. While my joy in marriage and parenting our daughter was and is supreme, I carried infertility grief and a secret sorrow for a deteriorating destructive relationship with our daughter’s biological people whom I just couldn’t help. In order to best care for my own emotional health and my family relationships, I stepped down from public view, resigned from my ministry leadership position at the time and literally transitioned to meeting with women in the hiddenness of their living rooms or the basement of my home. I figuratively and literally went under for a couple years…
In the meantime too, we fostered a teen girl who we had known for years through a mentoring program. There were moments collected during that season that we cling to for hope that God’s love through ours made a difference in her life. We hope for more in that relationship in the future, but life is hard. Relationships are messy. And our hearts were broken. We experienced our human limits deeply, and have ever since been learning how God’s grace meets us in them.
In February of 2017, Grizz and I renewed our home studies for adoption, and within a week we were “expecting” twin boys through an unexpected local adoption. For 5 days we walked around in a daze imagining what we would need to get and do to prepare ourselves and our home for a toddler daughter and twin baby boys. They had already been born and were waiting in a nearby hospital, ready to be showered with love we were ready to give them in large supply. Since we were told placement could go quickly, we prepared names and it felt like dreams were again coming true for our family. At the last minute though, literally, the minute we were suppose to get the release to go pick them up, we learned the case took a turn and we never saw the boys.
Naturally, we grieved.
We made space in the week to sit with sad, and continued to learn how to care well for our souls. God did well to take care of our souls too though, and surprised us with insight into that situation and our own lives, giving us relief that He does indeed know best.
Later that week we had to make an important decision for our family, we had to decide whether to pay a large amount of non-refundable money to an adoption agency to be placed on a wait list that could last years. We knew the routine, we didn’t question the need for the money – we are talking about a human being, not an investment. But we knew we needed to pause and pray and consider what God was leading us to focus on that season. We planned a trip to visit my new baby niece, and thought that would give us a chance to listen and discern our next step once again.
At the end of a full day with 2 toddler girl cousins running through, in and out of a house, a dog trying to keep up, and a newborn feeding, crying, and diaper-filling, we felt peaceful, satisfied with the goodness of children and family growing. We weren’t exhausted, we weren’t relieved to not have a newborn, and yet we weren’t pining for another baby either. As Grizz and I laid down to pray and drift to sleep, a deep peace settled over me as I considered the idea of our family of 3 just resting in our three-ness. With all we have walked through in “parenting children” in our only 4 years, and with me on the cusp of turning 40 as I write this, I had peace at the thought of pausing the expansion of our family in order to simple be our family.
Growth is good until it’s not. Recognizing this is everything.
I chose to give voice to this peace and shared with Grizz, “I think I’m good. I think us being three, a little threesome family, I think this is good.” To this he sighed so deeply he almost woke the kids, he was clearly relieved and ready to rest in us too.
The next morning I woke one eye at a time, wondering if the grief had started in yet. I knew it would come, someday I’d grieve a necessary ending of something I once wanted. So far, it wasn’t that morning though, so I slowly made my way to the espresso. I’m much better able to handle surprise grief if I’m well-caffeinated.
Chit-chatting just a little (it was early ya’ll), my baby brother showed me the birthday gifts he’d bought for his wife: plants. So earthy. I love my brother, he is a social butterfly science genius who thinks triathalons are fun and plants are easy to grow. My brother and I are almost unrecognizably related on paper, but in person our big smiles give us away.
I only half paid attention at first, the espresso was still making its way to my brain. Then my brother introduced me to a plant that bore tiny baby plantlets, and “baby plantlets” caught all my attention, how could they not? Baby plantlets. Come on, that’s adorable.
He described how the succulent-type plant blossomed these baby plantlets along the edges of every branch, and that when they got heavy, they dropped to the nearby soil and created a whole new plant of its kind. He shared how the nursery worker warned him to plant her in a container because if he planted her in the backyard, “good luck stopping her”…because she is a mother of thousands.
The kicker too, is that they don’t produce seeds. They are barren.
Needless to say, I felt the presence of God surround me like the softest wool blanket against a bitter wind. This gift of creation, this image of hope for my heart on the edge of grief, was undeniably from my Father in Heaven, calling me to see a forever family much grander and fuller than I had allowed myself to dream. Here I was thinking maybe another child, maybe if I got really wild, twins. And all along God was thinking bigger…like thousands bigger!
Fast forward several months, and God began to draw me to the surface, the time had come to walk out of the shadows of fear and hiding, and return to writing and speaking. As I considered what it looked like to live in a little writing house on the interweb, I played with ideas and concepts and names, but nothing felt like home. Then one early morning long before I ever like being awake, I woke with the beautiful image of that precious succulent plant. I knew it was time to own my calling to be a mother of thousands, one who nurtures out of my own unique design, and to call other women into this wider hopeful vision for motherhood as well. Creating this space for words was a tangible way for me to walk into the light of a new day…
If I had not experienced the grief of a closed womb and the exhaustion of a weary soul, I may have never discovered this wider vision for motherhood that I have now…a vision that gives me such joy and hope I can hardly stand it!
My hope and aim is to invite you once a week to consider with me what this kind of life looks like, what motherhood could mean for each of us in unique ways, what a life where we simply plant small, root deep and then bear life could become…
For those who choose to “grow with us”, you’ll receive a friendly guide every month directly to your Inbox that may include a simple challenge to plant small in a practical way, or a nudge to root deep in a soul-filling way, or reminder to notice and celebrate more joyfully how you are already bearing life!
Oh lovelies, God has something for each of us here, we cannot go wrong with walking this life out with him this way. We will not have regrets at the end of our Story, and I am hopeful you won’t either, as we plant small, root deep and bear life together!
Thank you for taking the time out of your day to share this space with us. I love hearing from you, so please don’t hesitate if you have any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now let’s grow our forever families together,