Mara Isn’t Bitter

If you google the meaning of Mara, you’ll find that it means bitter. This dates back to the Biblical story of Naomi. Naomi changed her name to Mara when her husband and sons all died and she was left alone in grief. But Naomi’s story is a redemption tale that ends with joy and gratitude as she seeks to reinvent her life anew by loving and caring for others.

But the Mara I know, isn’t bitter.

As a melodramatic teenager fumbling her way through relationships, futures, choices, and self-discovery, I met my beautiful friend, Mara Owens, in 1995. My sixteen-year-old spirit was immediately drawn to this sweet, fun-loving, God-honoring woman with the most joyful laugh. So much of who I am as mother, wife, and woman of faith, I learned from her.

Mara shares a similar story with her namesake Naomi. She has courageously made a new life for herself after a valley of heartache and loss. Mara moved to my hometown in Montana with her husband and nine-month-old son to start a church in 1995 that thrived with a revival of hearts wanting to know God. Then 9/11. The church was torn between visions of how our paster should minister to the hurting country. The toll on their marriage after the church split and an overseas move for Mara’s husband’s new calling as Navy Chaplain led to divorce. But like Naomi, Mara’s story didn’t end here and she won’t be remembered for her losses. She has discovered gifts and talents and never misses the chance to bless others.

Mara is not bitter

3 things Mara is (and none of them are bitter)

  1.  Thriver. After four years as a stay-at-home mom, Mara discovered her gift of athleticism when she began tae kwon do at the age of thirty-five, traveling the state winning competitions and ministering to young woman. She trained Marines and other branches of military in Okinawa, and once Mara found herself back in her home state of California co-parenting her son as a single mom, she kept using her gifts. She became a fitness trainer and supported herself working alongside her high school son at Trader Joe’s. Mara never gave up. She always moved forward. And she did it with a smile. Now she’s moved across the country and has started a life as a flight attendant. A savvy business woman, with a kind soul. Mara picked herself up after devastating life change, from pastor’s wife and homemaker to athlete, fitness trainer to flight attendant, excelling at all. She is a mother and a friend, appreciating the beauty and flavor of her life in all circumstances. Mara is not just a survivor. Mara is a thriver.
  2.  Courageous. A broken church in a small community leaves betrayal and separation of friends. What Mara faced when our church family broke apart was a devastating blow. Friends chose sides, gossip spread like disease, and hurt cut so deeply. Picking up the pieces of their life and moving it overseas and into isolation was a breeding ground for festering heartache. Broken upbringings strengthened their grips and loneliness told its lies. What happened next would be the greatest regret of Mara’s lifetime—Mara had an affair. The oncoming divorce left a wake of pain that spanned communities of families and friends. But Mara overcame. I can’t imagine the courage and humility it took having to repeatedly announce and explain what had happened over and over again and to so many. I remember my own devastating grief when I heard of my dear friends and mentors splitting. They answered the bleeding questions of my heart’s need for closure with such grace and kindness and even asked for my forgiveness. Can you imagine the pain? Their personal divorce so painful enough but having to wear their failure publicly and seek their penance from so many? Mara’s courage and abundant grace marvels me to this moment. Who could overcome that? Mara forged her way. Never losing sight of her faith, her beautiful spirit prevailed. Mara is courageous.

  3.  Uplifter. Mara has turned disappointment into a ministry of grace, forgiveness, and the power of redemption. With more than enough reasons to grieve and feel bitterness, Mara is nothing short of bitter’s opposite—the sweetest soul you could ever meet. Who can extend mercy so unabashedly but someone who’s known its forgiveness so intimately? Who can be so joyful and tender but someone who has so much newness for which to be grateful? Who could know peace so fully but someone who has known such loss? Mara serves others as a flight attendant and encourages her over 600 Facebook friends almost daily with inspiration, personal stories, calls to grace and forgiveness, humility and love. She started a place for her thoughts at Marty’s Muse. And she seeks to tell her testimony to help other women avoid the lying temptation of infidelity by opening a conversation of honest transparency with healthy ways to deal with wayward thoughts and broken lines of communication. Mara wants to inspire communities of women to love each other without judgement, come together as encouragers who can hold one another accountable in love. Mara is an uplifter.

Mara’s story isn’t a bitter one because Mara isn’t bitter.  Her story has taken heartache and disappointment, failure and loss and become a story of beautiful redemption because she kept her eyes on her God and her spirit in humility.

She is a woman to admire. Every woman—whether of failure, of divorce, or of years in servant motherhood—should be inspired to make a change, to find her gifts, to start again, to leave the past behind, to redefine her life. Her life teaches us that our story is never over, never marked by failure, never too deep in heartache, never too late for beautiful new beginnings of success. Good people fall short; strong people get weak; but God can use it all. Nothing goes to waste.


Romans 8:28 NLT

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

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