Women hold up half the sky. --Mao Zedong

For a long time I have considered the impact of the people in my life and how their influence has shaped me in ways that I could have never inspired within myself.

Now I am an adult, I am a woman, and I am confident and comfortable with myself, I am creative and compassionate, caring and brave. It is not out of pride that I share this with you, but out of utter humility and gratitude. For the attributes that I possess are not as much a reflection of myself, but a reflection of those that have known me, poured into me, and have boldly paved the way of what it means to be a woman. Today, on this Mother's Day weekend, I take a moment to pause and say thank you.

In the past year, some of my closest friends have become new parents. I have watched two of my dearest girlfriends each carry their child for 9 months and have the miracle of giving birth to healthy and beautiful boys. I have watched them navigate some of the hardest moments of their lives. I have watched them sacrifice and struggle and love and nurture and learn and give and give and give. In their early story of motherhood, they have inspired an even deeper belief in the beauty and power of being a woman.

Three years ago, I met a mother who quickly became a dear and committed friend. I have watched her fiercely love and care for her toddler despite many moments where it would have been easier to give in and give up. In the midst of a long season of transition, grief, pain, and heartache, she keeps pressing forward, into the broken spaces and offering all that she has to her friends, her family, and her little gal.

Just over five years ago when I got married, I was given the gift of another mother, in the form of a bold and strong woman that has given and sacrificed to show her family her deep commitment and love, overcoming unbelievable obstacles and pain. She lives authentically, with a keen awareness of those on the margins and a heart of care. I look at her and am in awe to also be a recipient of her goodness.

And then there is Deb Walkemeyer, a force to be reckoned with, encompassing the wholeness of beauty to the core of her being. If you only knew her full story. If you could see all that she has faced, even the promise of losing her life twice, and then see where she is now. My mother is unashamed of who she is. My mother is confident, and comfortable with herself. My mother is creative and compassionate, caring and brave. Sound familiar?

You see, this Mother's Day as I think about these mothers around me, I realize that what makes them such incredible mothers is that they are incredible women.

All of the power and all of the tenderness coinciding in the being of these women...and not just these women, but so many others that I have had the privilege of knowing and having relationships.

I don't understand why and I don't understand how, but I have been surrounded by so many brilliant, brave, beautiful women.

Women who chase their dreams and live into their deepest passions, even when people have told them that it isn't possible or it isn't acceptable.

Women who, despite daily physical pain choose to live fully and press on in their journey in hope of wellness.

Women who open their arms and the doors of their home to remind everyone that there can always be space for one more in the aiga (family) and sacrificially share all that they have to do so.

Women who speak truth and fight against injustice, even when their story is filled with enduring injustice against them simply by the color of their skin.

Women who wake up in the morning and say yes to the day and getting out of bed, although combatting overwhelming depression that attempts to keep them down.

Women who continue to choose to love deeply and believe in hope, after being taken advantage of or abused.

Women that are writing a different story with their lives than the destructive lies and manipulative messages that tell us we are second class citizens, that our worth is in our physical appearance, that femininity looks only one way, and that we are not brave enough or strong enough to do certain things just because we are women.

I tell you that there are too many women in my life that have proven that women really do hold up half the sky. I can stand confidently in my own womanhood, believing and speaking good things about myself, because since the very day I was born, I had a phenomenal woman teaching me how. And that woman, my amazing mother, has taught me the importance of building a strong community to face the messiness and joys of life, thus the many women around me over all of the years.

To the women I know, thank you. There are not words to express my gratitude and the significance you have on my life and the lives of so many others.

To mama, thank you. For I have watched you hold the sky for 31 years, and I hope that I can be just a small reflection of the woman you are.

Today may we celebrate the mothers, may we celebrate the women, that hold the sky with their feet rooted on earth, making the world better and more beautiful by being exactly who they are: phenomenal women.