The Mother God Made Me to Be


By Karen Valentin

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My journey from newlywed, to mother of two, to single mom – trying to heal – and become the mother God made me to be

Karen lived an adventurous single life but longed for a family of her own. After years of maintaining her vow of purity and waiting for a man who shared her Christian faith, she fell in love with her best friend and co-worker. They married. She bore two sons. They divorced.

With humor, honesty and raw emotion, Valentin tells her story of wrestling between God’s will and her own, with visions of happily ever after. In the midst of her weakness and grief, she experiences God’s strength and restoration like never before. Through her family and friends, mission workers, the pastor of Graffiti Church, and her two beautiful boys, God turns her ashes to beauty and her sorrow into joy.

The Mother God Made Me to Be contains a discussion guide for book clubs and church groups.



“It was a beautiful day, perfect for a wedding.”


Why do you want to marry me?” my fiancé asked. I gripped the phone tighter and almost lost my breath. It was the morning of our wedding. My hair was in curlers, my white dress hung on the door, and my family bustled about in my sister’s house, getting ready for the big event.

I stepped outside with the phone. It was a beautiful day, perfect for a wedding. “Why are you asking me that, Gavin?”

His response sent a wave of nausea through my body. “I’m at a crossroads here,” he said.

My sister Diane poked her head out.

“Lisa’s ready to do your hair.”

“One sec,” I said, waving her off as I walked farther away from the door. I tried to speak into the phone, but I paused. I felt like a game show contestant ready to lose a million dollars and a trip to Tahiti if I gave the wrong answer. But this was my life on the line—the life I’d envisioned with him.

“What are you doing to me? How dare you! How dare you do this to me right now!” That’s what I really wanted to say, but I was the one who didn’t dare.

“Because,” I said, “I can’t imagine my life without you in it. I see my future in you, I can see our kids we’ll have one day in you, and because I love you. That’s why.”

He said a quiet “Okay,” and I hung up the phone not knowing if he’d show up that day.

I held it in. I didn’t tell a soul. I let my thoughts swirl around inside like a growing storm as everyone around me lit up, growing in their excitement for the wedding. We piled into cars to head over to the venue.

I should call off the wedding even if he does show up, I thought as I sat in the back of the car, looking blankly at the cloudless sky. This is no way to start a marriage.

We arrived and everything was lovely. Delicate flowers of cream and wine adorned each table. Just outside, the veranda was beautifully decorated, and the arch where we were to exchange our vows was covered in lilies. I willed my tears not to come.

“Isn’t it so pretty,” my mother said, taking it all in.

“Yes.” I smiled.

Diane was holding the large garment bag with my dress inside.

“Let’s go upstairs,” she said. “You don’t want Gavin to see you before the ceremony.”


My sister and mother walked me into the bridal room. Champagne and cheese and fruit platters covered a small table. My oldest sister, Tilza, who had driven in from Vermont, burst through the door in excitement.

“There she is,” she gushed, hugging me tight. “You already look so beautiful!”

Little by little the room filled. As each of my loved ones entered, there was an outpouring of love for me. Their sweet affection weighed on my heart as I imagined their joyful faces transformed into pity.

Gavin’s sister peeked her head through the door. “We’re here,” she squealed. “Are you guys almost ready?”

The noise and bustle in the room seemed to stop as I focused only on her.

“He’s here?”

“Yeah, he rode with us,” she said casually between a kiss and hug for my mother.

All the tension in my shoulders relaxed. The storm of thoughts stopped swirling in my head and settled down into two words: cold feet. That was all it was. Cold feet.

I’ve Never Dreamed of Being a Princess

I dipped into the cheese and fruit platters. My appetite was back.

My friend sat me down to do my makeup, and soon it was time for Diane to help me into my dress. It was beautiful. Not what I’d originally wanted, but Diane had insisted I try it on.

I would have been happy with a plain white dress from Macy’s. “I’m not a princess,” I had argued at the bridal shop. “I’ve never dreamed of being a princess.”

“This is your wedding!” she’d scolded. Diane wanted everything perfect. She was the one who’d ordered and paid for my formal wedding invitations—after I told her I could just make them by hand.

“What is wrong with you?” she’d said then.

She repeated this at the shop, adding, “You have to wear a wedding dress!”


I tried on the simplest, “non-wedding,” dresses they had, but I didn’t like the way any of them looked.

“Just try this on!” Diane insisted, extending the poofy dress I had scoffed at earlier.

“Fine!” I growled, wishing this whole bridal appointment would just end.

The saleswoman helped me put it on, and as I looked in the mirror I couldn’t believe how it made me feel. I walked out with a small, embarrassed smile on my face. Diane was right.

My sister and my aunt Irma came close to me, smiling.

“Oh my God, honey, you look beautiful,” Irma said, beginning to cry. “Do you like it, sweetheart?”

It was a strapless gown with ruching on one side of the waist, which spread out toward the skirt in delicate waves. It was simple enough: no bling, no lace, not as poofy as I had imagined. But most of all it made me feel beautiful.

“I love it.”

I spun around and watched myself waltz in the mirror. I didn’t want to take it off. Irma took pictures to send to my mother in Florida. This was really happening.


This was really happening. I held on to my father’s arm as we stood at the doorway waiting for the cue to go outside. It suddenly felt hard to breathe. Through the small opening in the window blinds, I could see my niece slowly walking, scattering flower petals on the aisle. I looked at my father, who was focused on looking straight ahead. He seemed nervous, too. Just outside the doorway some friends and family looked at me with bright smiles and snapped pictures. My cousin Lizzette was the only one to notice the look on my face.

“Breathe,” she said, gesturing for me to take in a deep breath. We did this together, then both exhaled. I looked at her eyes as we repeated the breath: long inhale, hold, then release. The wedding march music began, and my father led me outside.


We walked around the small corner, and there he was. Gavin looked handsome in his black suit and wine-colored tie. He was smiling. I smiled back as my body and breathing relaxed.

“Who gives this woman to be married,” the pastor asked as we reached the arch of white lilies.

My father responded in his thick Spanish accent, “Her mother and I.”

He kissed me on the cheek and handed me over to my soon-to-be husband. My father, who had loved and treasured me all my life, who’d given me his very best, handed my heart into Gavin’s care.

The music stopped. Gavin looked into my eyes as we promised each other forever love.

He Wasn’t My Type

With cheers from our family and friends we walked away from the altar, our clasped hands raised in the air. Soon I was back upstairs in the little bridal room, this time with my husband. He held on to me tightly but kissed me with careful tenderness. I felt safe. “You’re my husband,” I said, holding his face. Neither of us discussed the morning phone call. His gentle smile was enough to make me push it out of my mind completely. This was the man I had fallen in love with.


We had met teaching gymnastics in New York City. He wasn’t my type at all: I was attracted to Latin men, and Gavin was African American. After my last boyfriend, who was anti-social, I now looked for someone as silly and outgoing as I was. Gavin was an introvert, yet it was his soft, humble spirit that drew me to him as a friend. With all the loud, attention-seeking coaches in the gym, Gavin’s quiet sweetness was a breath of fresh air. He played the guitar like my father, and I picked up my lessons with Gavin where my father had left off. He was my rock climbing partner, my Rollerblading buddy, and my movie companion. He taught boxing in the sports complex, and I was his loyal student. He bought me my first and last pair of boxing shoes.

I didn’t have to wonder what I was doing on a Saturday night. I was hanging out with Gavin. When my first book came out, he was the first one in line to have it signed. When I sang in church, he was in the front row. I encouraged him to play guitar in public, and when he started playing the blues at open jams, I was his groupie. He was without a doubt the best friend I’d ever had. Walking with him on beautiful city nights, I would often sigh to myself, thinking, I wish I were attracted to this man! He would make the perfect husband. Who else would carry extra hair ties in his duffel bag just because I was always forgetting mine when I came to work? Who else would call my awkward junior-high-school pictures sweet and tell me he saw a girl always willing to smile and let her inner light shine? Who else would Rollerblade behind me, pushing my back as I stood completely still on my skates, because I was tired of blading home during the public transportation strike? As I zoomed through the city streets on my Rollerblades, with my arms spread out like a bird, he was, literally, the wind beneath my wings.


During one of Gavin’s boxing matches, a year into our friendship, my wish that I would find him attractive came true—a little too late. About a dozen co-workers and I were ringside watching Gavin battle it out. Everyone was cheering, but I was the loudest as I jumped up and down with each round. “Go, Gavin!” I shouted over and over again.

I recoiled with each shot he caught to his face and screamed joyously with every shot he landed. When the referee threw Gavin ’s hand up in victory, it was euphoric. I saw him in that boxing ring, with his pumped biceps glistening, and, for the first time, my sweet, quiet friend was a sexy beast.

Moments later, I threw my arms around him. “I’m so proud of you!” I said, squeezing him tight. Our co-workers surrounded Gavin, congratulating him—and then I heard one of them say “Where’s your girlfriend?”

His response made my whole body tense up. “She missed it, but she’s on her way. Got caught up in traffic.”

I knew his ex-girlfriend was back in his life. They’d just recently begun to speak again, but the way he’d talked about her had made me think he wasn’t very interested in getting back together with her.

“I have to go,” I lied. “I have to meet a friend. But—yay, I’m so proud of you.” I practically ran out of there. I did not want to see her, and the jealousy that radiated through my entire being shocked me.


Ladies and gentlemen, stand to your feet for your bride and groom, Karen and Gavin!” The doors opened and the room exploded with applause as we danced in. I was overcome by the love that surrounded us.

“And now,” said the DJ, “Gavin and Karen will have their first dance as husband and wife.”

We held each other and smiled at our little surprise. There was a brief pause before the salsa music came on. I wiggled my shoulders and hips as Gavin stood there, pretending to be surprised. Then he took my hand like an expert salsero and twirled me around the dance floor as the room exploded in cheers and excitement again. The salsa classes we had taken regularly since we had first become friends had paid off. We laughed breathlessly after the dance and walked together to the fancy wedding table set up just for us. Our guests clinked their glasses with spoons to request a kiss from the bride and groom. We obliged.


Our first kiss had been at the train station as we were about to go in different directions. We had given each other our usual hug, except I hung on a little longer. It was a few days after his big boxing match, and my feelings had only grown stronger. As we began to let go I quietly said, “Kiss me,” and he pulled me into his lips.

It was exactly a year from the time we met, and a year later we were dancing at our wedding.

Blank Canvas

Weeks before the wedding, my little apartment in the city underwent major changes. I emptied out a large closet and several dresser drawers to make room for my husband-to-be. I filled numerous garbage bags with old clothes, useless trinkets, broken electronics, and countless other things I no longer used. I took down from the walls framed black-and-white photos I’d shot in college, colorful canvases I’d painted in oils and acrylic, clocks and decorative mirrors. I wiped my refrigerator door clean of every magnet from California to Paris. All my traveling and adventures were now stored in a little tin can. I even changed the bedspread from a colorful print to a plain lily-white quilt. I wanted an empty canvas—free from the person I was. This would no longer be my home; it would be ours. After our vows I wanted us to rebuild together, pick the colors, hang new paintings, fill picture frames with photos of our own experiences and adventures.

My last touch in the apartment—just before I left for Diane’s house—was something incredibly cliché: I sprinkled red rose petals on the bed.

Gavin carried me over the threshold our wedding night and we made love. It wasn’t the first time.

Blurring the Lines

I was still a virgin when we started dating. At my age, that was embarrassing to admit, but that was how I was raised, and the Bible’s warning against sex before marriage made sense to me. I didn’t want to share that intimacy with a man who wasn’t committed to me as a person, first. I’d dated and had serious relationships, but no man ever seemed worthy of breaking that promise. With each breakup I was relieved I hadn’t completely crossed that line. For me, sex wasn’t worth the risk of disease, pregnancy, or the feeling of being discarded after he was done with me. God had blessed my parents, who had waited for their wedding night, and they had been together for almost forty years. I wanted the same. So I made the choice to wait for my future husband, a man who would share my faith, and now I just knew I’d found him in Gavin.

He was raised in church and baptized at twelve, his mother was a Christian, and, although he hadn’t gone to church in a while before we met, he went every Sunday with me. As frustrating as it was, Gavin was respectful of my decision to wait. But it wasn’t easy to resist. His body was chiseled, his kisses were intoxicating, we had plenty of privacy in my apartment, and I allowed us to blur the lines of intimacy, staying clear only of intercourse. I convinced myself it was okay because he would be my future husband. I knew he’d be my partner for life with complete certainty.


Gavin and I were in love. We had as much fun together as boyfriend and girlfriend as we had when we were friends—only more. We were together always and became that annoying couple who always snuggled into each other and kissed whenever we waited for the light to change at the crosswalk or sat on the same side of the booth in a diner. When we were walking together, we were holding hands. If ever I walked somewhere alone, my hand felt strange just hanging there by itself.


One night as we cuddled on the couch watching a movie, Gavin said he had something he needed to tell me. He turned off the TV and I turned to his very serious face. “What is it, babe?” I asked.

“You need to know this before things go any further, because I know this is important to you.” He paused and I waited for him in silence. What could this be?

“I was raised in church and stopped going for a while, as you know.”


“When I started going with you I had to really ask myself, Do I really believe this stuff, or was I just raised to believe?”


“And I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t buy it.”

I felt my insides twist. My certainty that Gavin would be my partner for life crumbled with that one sentence. How could our relationship survive if we weren’t on the same page in our faith? How could he truly accept me if the most important part of my identity was nonsense to him? As sickening as it made me feel to imagine us apart, I knew we couldn’t walk together if we were heading in different directions.

I didn’t know what to say.

I went to the bathroom and sobbed, and Gavin quietly left.


Everything I enjoyed came to a halt. I couldn’t play the guitar without crying. When other men danced with me at salsa class, I would cringe. I stopped rock climbing. I didn’t have a partner to hold the rope and keep me safe anymore. Before Gavin, I was single for a few years. I’d gotten used to being alone. Now it was torture.

“Hey, it’s me.”

My answering machine had been blinking when I walked into the apartment. I was hoping it would be him. It was.

“Can we meet in the park to talk?”

I tried on dozens of outfits to make sure I looked good. I rarely wore makeup, but that day I carefully put on mascara, blushed my cheeks, and dabbed my lips with tinted gloss.

“Hi,” I said as I walked up to him by the park entrance.


He kissed me on the cheek. It felt strange for my lips to be untouched.

We walked in silence to a large rock, where we sat and talked for a long time. To my surprise, he agreed that breaking up was for the best. My heart crumbled as he reaffirmed what I already knew: “We’re two very different people,” he said, “who want different things out of life.”

We promised to stay friends and we held each other for a long time, trying to say good-bye.

But by the end of our time in the park he was kissing my lips and the tears on my cheeks. We couldn’t let go. I’d made my decision, and so had he. We would find a way to make it work. But it would never be the same after that day.

Your Faith Was Bendable

Gavin was scheduled to go to Texas to box with the military for a few months. He would train and compete in a big boxing tournament in San Antonio. We stayed at a hotel near the base in New York the night before he left for Texas. And that’s where we had sex for the first time.

“I want you to make love to me,” I said quietly as we sat kissing on the edge of the bed.

Gavin straightened up and looked at me carefully. “Are you sure? I don’t want you to regret it.”

“I’m sure.” I kissed him.

“I want to.” I kissed him again.

“I’m not going to regret anything.”

He laid me on the bed and took off his shirt. I took a breath and pushed out every thought that would ruin this moment. I didn’t want to imagine my mother, I didn’t want to think about God, or the promise of purity I’d made to him so many years ago.

I loved Gavin. And he needed to know how much I loved him. There had been a distance between us that was building. I was losing him. I could feel it. What if he went to Texas and decided not to be with me anymore? I couldn’t bear it. He needed to know how much he meant to me. Before he left, I had to show him that he had me completely—my mind, my soul, and now my body.

We locked eyes as he moved over me, and in one night of defiance, pain, and ecstasy, my years of waiting were over.


  • "THE MOTHER GOD MADE ME TO BE tugs at the reader's heart with vivid details of the joy of motherhood, the struggles of romance, and the disappointments of life. Yet, with descriptive scenes, the author draws the reader in to savor the journey from pain to a pleasant chapter of restoration, of freedom and acceptance. Young Moms will find this story to be a sweet reminder of God's provision. And in the midst of the challenges of motherhood, we see His redeeming love shine through."—Janet Perez Eckles, author of Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God's Fiesta

On Sale
Sep 5, 2017
Page Count
192 pages

Karen Valentin

About the Author

Karen Valentin has been a contributing writer for Daily Guideposts since 2005 and a main contributor to Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood. She has also written a young adult novel and two children’s books. A pastor’s daughter, Karen served as the children’s director for East 7th Street Baptist Church-Graffiti for four years under the pastorship of Taylor Fields. A graduate of Fordham University, she is an avid traveler who speaks three languages: English, Spanish and French. She is the proud mother of two boys.

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