- Carissa Woodwyk
It's that time of year again...my favorite time of year.
The purest and brightest greens add their voices to the outside world, sweet little flower buds say they're ready to be seen, and the air...the cold brisk air begins to fade as spring gently pushes its way in. I love this time of year. I'm ready for this time of year. Something in it breathes new life. And each year, just like the last, I'm so in need of it.
As I find myself stepping into May and the newness of the world around me, two people fall back into my mind who always do so poignantly each year as April draws to a close...my mom and my daughter. Two people, two lives, that ground me to this world.
This world...both in its brokenness and beauty.
This world...both with its pain and joy.
This world...where both death and life reside.
For me, each spring, each May, marks significant moments.
May 15, 1943 - my mom's birthday
May 17, 2003 - the day my mom left this world to be in Jesus' presence
May 8, 2008 - the day I gave life to our first child
My mom....She was not the woman who gave me physical life, but she was the woman who taught me how to live life. A woman of strength, wise, intuitive, humorous, thoughtful, courageous, etiquette queen. I received intentional lessons about the kitchen to my clothes, to people and churches and makeup and nails, how to entertain guests to strategic ways to obtain used couches on "trash day." But mostly, she taught me what it meant to be "a lady." That's what she was good at. That's what she offered me. And now as I wear the skin of an adult, I see parts of these things in me, reflecting her. I love that. I want that. I'm grateful for that.
Yet, in the midst of the good and lessons and character development, our relationship didn't come without pain.
She was strong and I needed tender love.
She was precise and I needed space to make mistakes.
She was fearless and I needed someone to run to when I was scared.
She was strong and I needed to learn how to ask for help.
She was consistent with correction and I needed connection.
Brokenness and beauty.
My daughter...she's a girl who grabs onto life with both cautiousness and boldness. She's a helper and initiator, filled with ideas and intent. She's simple and straightforward, yet diligently charms your heart with her words and smile and eyes. Her spirit is tender and her mind is sharp. Her love for me melts me. The love I have for her moves me. Nurturing this life has changed me...is changing me. The parts of me that have been called out in this season are mysteriously beautiful, yet the ways I feel drained I'm confident you could see with your very eyes. You give, you serve, you pour yourself out. You find yourself weary and vulnerable, unsure and expectant. This parenting season I'm in, right now, is hard...really hard. At least the way that I've chosen to step into it.
Brokenness and beauty.
This season, this month, this week...it evokes my heart in a myriad of ways. I sit in the tension of both the good and the hard. And that's OK. I believe there's something really honoring in doing that. It honors the past, it honors the present. It allows for the future...to unfold authentically. There's this way that our humanness can deny the hard parts. Exhausting. There's also this way that our humanness can linger in the hard parts. Despairing. Either may make a person feel numb, justified, prideful, battered. But, that's no way to live.
Could it be that part of “honoring” our mothers means naming both the beauty and the brokenness, embracing both rather than eliminating one? When I imagine my little girl all grown up, I wonder what she'll remember about me, about who I was...to her, to her daddy and brother, to our friends, to the world. Secretly, of course, I totally want her to think I was the most perfect and fun and balanced mom, extravagantly loving everything and everyone around me. And then I wake up from that dream...and find myself hoping to be remembered not for how I escaped the broken moments, but what I did with those moments – acknowledging them, stepping into them...with dignity and honesty and grace, asking God to form something beautiful and purposeful out of my mistakes and all the ways I unraveled. That's how I want my children to remember me.
So, as we anticipate Mother's Day, I urge you to take some time to think about your mom...her beauty and her brokenness; your beauty and brokenness...and the story you both share. And then go to your favorite card shop and find that card - the card that says just the right thing. Now. Today. Whatever place you find yourself in the midst of holding those two realities together.
Remember her. Honor her.
And if you need it, whether because your relationship with your mom is fake or distant or gone, may the tender, loving, nurturing, relational parts of you connect with the feminine parts of who God is.
Mothering...it's profound and powerful, sacred and life-giving. Because we, in this mysterious way, get to take care of our little ones in the same way that God takes care of his little ones. It's because of his love that we are able to love the ones who gave us life and the ones who we give life to.
Happy Mother's Day.
Carissa Woodwyk is a wife, mother and marriage and family therapist. She is also co-author of Before You Were Mine: Discovering Your Adopted Child's Lifestory. She enjoys speaking on relationships, marriage, identity, adoption and the human heart. She and her husband have two children and live near Grand Rapids, MI.