Being Real


I’m preparing for a couple of different get-aways during October. I already mentioned the adoptive momma retreat that I’m planning locally, which I hope is going to bless the mommas attending. I’ve also been invited to attend a different adoption retreat in Seattle soon, also quite small and intimate. At each retreat there are mommas I’ve known for awhile, and others I’ll be meeting for the first time. But we all have adoption as a common thread. I’m looking forward to curling up on couches with hot drinks, sharing stories and hearing stories, and being encouraged.

My prayer for both events is that God will move powerfully and personally in the lives of each attendee. That He will speak the words each woman needs to hear. That we will leave the event, each having encouraged someone else and each having been encouraged herself.

But about that encouragement thing.  How do we best give it?  Receive it?

When preparing for a gathering with other women, it can be easy and tempting to pack our bags with our cutest (thinnest? most flattering?) items of clothing.  To do our nails and get fresh haircuts.  To dust off our happiest stories and our proudest moments, prepared to smile and show the bits of our lives that look most pulled together.

There’s nothing at all wrong with sharing happy stories.  They’re tremendously powerful and we all need to hear them.  But I’ve found that equally powerful moments in relationship — moments when encouragement is just as rich and long-lasting– come when we are real about both the joy and the hard inherent in motherhood. When we’re brave enough to say that this part or that part of our life is a real struggle. When we admit how we don’t have it all figured out. Where we transparently share the real aches and the true sorrows that go hand in hand with the shining moments of joy.

When we share from the full range of our experience, we give each other a chance to say, ‘Me too.’  The stories of struggle reassure that quiet momma in the corner who wouldn’t bring up the topic on her own but fears she’s the only one struggling with that particular thing.  The stories of joy give hope that good moments are coming and remind us of joy we’ve maybe forgotten in our own lives.

So as I pull out my bags and prepare to head off for each of these weekends, along with my comfy yoga pants and my softest socks and my adoption-themed t-shirts– OK, and some cute clothes too–  I’m planning on bringing my real, honest, authentic struggling self.  Yes, there’s a bit of me that’s still tempted to only show the shiny side of my life.  That’s afraid being real will be too much for some.  But in my heart I believe that real community only happens in a spirit of honesty and truth.

Beth Guckenberger, at the Created for Care weekend I attended last spring, said, “May we be more real than impressive.”  To that I would add, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”  (Col 3:14)  I think keeping those two things firmly in mind open us up to be encouraged by others and to be encouragers ourselves– to really grow in relationship and in community.  And that’s something I very much want.


And, remember, we encourage each other in tiny ways every single day:  Dear You…a letter for all of the hard days


  1. Such a great reminder, Mary! We just recently had our second annual Reaching Hearts With Hope Retreat and it was so powerful & refreshing to hear from transparent hearts. We need each other on this journey …. the collective “real” us is powerful and effective as we help each other along. The Lord isn’t intimidated by our shortcomings, failures and disappointments. He’s so faithful and good to meet us right where we are.

  2. Amen.

  3. I am so excited for our retreat Mary!!! Great reminder as we get ready to go. 🙂

  4. When packing to be away from home, just bring what you would wear at home. The rest is just going to sit in your suitcase, or if you do wear it- you are going to be uncomfortable. If you are comfortable in what you are wearing, your appearance will look good and the peace you feel will shine through.

    After going to Seattle for a three week stay learned that I wore the same things over and over (after throwing in the washer) because they were what I was comfortable in. Luckily I had packed two pair of shoes because by girls and I each had to throw one pair of shoes away after 10 days; we walked so much. So when we went to New York for two weeks- I knew to just pack what I was going to wear and nothing more. That trip I washed items out in the bathroom sink and hung to dry. It gave me tons of room for souvenirs.

    Enjoy your trips. They sound like a lot of fun and a great relaxing time. Seattle is an amazing city. We loved the music museum and traveling back and forth by ferry as well as our stay in a cottange on the oceanfront in Ocean City.

  5. Hi Mary! I have been following you for about a year now and have so appreciated your heart, honesty, and encouragement. We just brought home our sons from Ethiopia who are 12 and 15. We also have four daughters at home from 10-15. The boys have been home for almost 3 months and we are homeschooling. We do not have an adoption support group and I have been looking at a couple of retreat possibilities. Could you tell me what you think might be a good one to attend? Know Refresh is on February and my husband and I could easily go as we live near Seattle. Thank you!!

    • HI Krista,
      REFRESH is an awesome option, especially if you live near Seattle. My husband and I attended together last year, and really got a lot out of it.
      If you decide to go in 2015, let me know. I’m pretty sure I’ll be going too. (Here’s the link for anyone who doesn’t know about it: )


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