Each April, the women of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Pensacola are invited for a weekend retreat at Beckwith Camp and Conference Center. The theme of this year’s women’s retreat was Transitions to Transform.
From Friday evening until Sunday morning, 80 women from my parish deepened existing relationships and formed new connections as we prayed, played and shared stories along the serene shores of Weeks’ Bay.
For me, one of the most powerful, memorable events of the retreat was when we - all 80 of us in attendance - placed our hands on the altar in the chapel and blessed our Diva Statement bracelets.
Our Diva Statements are words or phrases that we created to remind us of our strength as women. Most of us stamped our word or phrase onto a metal washer which is tied to a cord to wear around our wrists as a bracelet.
My Diva Statement is: I am a butterfly.
My word that I stamped onto my bracelet is simply: BUTTERFLY.
Why, you ask? Let me try to explain.
My life has not taken the trajectory that I’d hoped for growing up in a happy, middle-class family. My plan from childhood through high school was to grow up, graduate college within the usual four-year plan, have a successful career, get married and have two or three children.
To say the least, my adult life has not unfolded in that order.
All the ”milestones” of life that most women hit occurred at an older age or not at all. Health problems left me unable to bear children; and it took me seven years to finish college. I met my soul-mate when I was in my 30s and didn’t marry him until I was nearly 40 years old.
My early years were that of a caterpillar, slow-moving and steady. In contrast, my 20s and early 30s were like a chrysalis - stuffed in an uncomfortable place while undergoing a transformation.
I made many mistakes in my life so far, but I regret nothing. Instead, I look at the bad choices I made in my lifetime thus far as lessons learned. Bad choices and consequences thereof have built character, and I am much wiser than if my earlier life’s choices had been good.
I am not the same person I was even five years ago - and for this transformation, I give thanks to God.
My heart has been broken into smithereens, and I once promised myself that I could never allow myself the vulnerability required to love again. In hindsight, I see that God did have a soul-mate planned for me, and if I’d married earlier I’d not have met and married my spouse.
My health has gone through some trials - but being ill has made me grateful for what my body can do at the age of "over 40.″ Although I am unable to bear children from my womb, God is continuing to show me that the word ”mother” is a wide umbrella term that encompasses so much more than those who either bear or adopt children. At mid-life, I am finally learning to love myself as God made me.
Transitions are part of life on Earth and no two persons ever transition at the exact same time or in the same way.
Just like the butterfly, I’ve had to go through metamorphosis to become the woman who God intends for me to be. Some stages were slow-going, messy and painful. Yet, without these experiences, I know I would not be the woman I am today. At mid-life I am finally able to fly confidently as a beloved creature of God.
I am a butterfly.
About the author:
Sarah Elizabeth McCarren lives in Pensacola with her husband, Brian Lowman. They are both members of St. Christopher's Episcopal Church. Sarah is a University of West Florida alumna and an avid writer, photographer and fan of Pittsburgh professional sports teams.