Motherhood [dedicated to Kirsten]

Friday, September 24, 2010

I know it's been a little while since I've written. I have officially turned thirty (thank you, thank you) and I'm still waiting for that epiphany of wisdom that I was really counting on when the clock struck midnight on my birthday. Oh well, I'll have to settle for regular old will-to-get-up-in-the-morning-ness as usual. Luckily, I have a zillion things to be thankful for - so even if my baby starts screaming at 6am, I'm up and at 'em, counting my blessings and trying not to stumble into the overflowing hamper on my way out of the bedroom.
I think that motherhood will dominate my thirties, dare I say "define" them. People often use this term negatively. Many people refer to definition as the ultimate derogatory comment. "I'm a woman, but that doesn't define me"..."I'm an Office Coordinator, but that doesn't define me"..."I'm a blogger, but that doesn't define me"... Okay, maybe you don't hear that one as often, but you all have definitely heard "I'm a mother, but it doesn't define me". I mean, heaven forbid.
I get it - this is something that stay at home moms made up in order to retain their sanity. This is something that Oprah has allowed women to express so that a new mom feels liberated enough to put down the laundry for one second and pick up her book club pick of the month instead. This is something that working moms tell themselves to justify putting in the long hours so their children have health insurance. It's a woman's scapegoat phrase to comfort her amidst the reality that she can no longer hold adult conversations without mathematically configuring in the back of her head when the last time she breastfed was and therefore how long does she have until her nursing pads explode like the Hoover dam giving way...
But maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't with how you define yourself. Maybe the problem lies in how you define motherhood.
Last night, a sweet friend of mine endured the most heinous of nights. She's only been a mother for 6 days, and she is already teaching me new meanings of motherhood in limitless ways. Following a very unexpectedly early delivery, her baby boy entered the world with his share of challenges, and last night he took another unexpected turn in life - needing emergency bypass surgery. Please read his story and pray with us for baby Ewan...I know you will find his mother's account of it excruciating and inspiring:
I can not even possibly begin to relate to the unimaginable things that my friend has endured and will face in the future. She has looked death in the face and chosen to see the grace of God instead. She has laid her son (her only begotten) at the feet of Jesus, knowing that only He alone could heal. And He did! But, what's more...even if He didn't, this mother continues to know that God is good. No matter what. Truly, that is the power of a mother's love. She has chosen to hand the illusion of control over to God, and to be firmly planted in the palm of His hand, and His plan.
God have mercy, Christ have mercy.
Motherhood isn't about task-management. Being a mother doesn't mean you start every day with a checklist and balance your self-esteem on the grim potential of completing that list before daddy gets home and still finds you in your jammies. It isn't about folding clothes or cooking dinner or making sure there's toilet paper in the house. It isn't about making sure your kids are polite or clean or even safe... These are all wonderful aspirations, don't get me wrong - there is a reason that women are equipped to multi-task and still remember who's birthday it is that month. These are lovely things. But they are not motherhood.
What my friend reminded me last night, was that motherhood is ultimately the privilege of sacrifice. I don't mean the kind of self-help-Dr-Phil kind of "give your kids the last of the ice cream even though you want to devour it yourself" kind of sacrifice. No. I mean, "cry your eyes out realizing you are not and never were in control of this child kind of sacrifice that starts with the most unbelievable act of selflessness that ever existed" and giving your child to God to allow His will to surpass your own desires. Whoa. That is some serious love. A love that I can only hope to attain someday. A love that I strive to catch a glimpse of as I hold my baby tight and pray over her with tearful gratefulness.
I am humbled. I am in awe.
We are all working towards becoming more Christ-like, trying to allow the Father to mold us a little each day, fearful that pain may come with each new touch of His hand, but grateful for His guidance and protection. It is an agonizing privilege to watch Kirsten be molded so painfully by the Father right now. Her little babe is a miracle-machine, and we await anxiously alongside her to know the plans God has for him. None of us know what to say. I know she would be the first to admit it is only by God's grace and the prayers of many that she lives through each minute. Still, she reminds me daily what it is to be a mother.
Thank you! If that is what motherhood is...please, God...let it define me.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Remember that old show, Thirtysomething? That ABC super-drama about young families and couples just trying to stay sane in the late 80s? I was in grade school when that show aired, so I'm having the privilege of watching it now on Netflix. I have the luxury of mocking their hairstyles and their baggy clothes - remembering "way back when" at the time I thought "those people are OLD". Now, I sit and stare at the screen thinking - do I look like that? (No, not the silly hair and clothes, well, at least I hope not). But, every time I walk by a student on campus, now I am face to face with the reality that I can no longer ever be mistaken to be one of them again...I'm old. Tonight marks the beginning of the end. It's my last week to be in my twenties. One week from today, I will...gulp...turn 30.
Now, many of you (probably still in your twenties) are thinking "Big deal [old lady] so it's another birthday!" and many of you (already in your thirties or beyond) are thinking "It's wonderful, you'll love it!" Indeed, I waver myself. I mean, it's not like I haven't known this was coming! Some days I think "THIRTY! That's exciting! People might start taking me more seriously or asking my advice! People will look at me and think - 'Hey, she's got a good man, a good job, and a cute kid - what a life!' so I MUST have it all! I am living the dream!" and some days I think "Is it just me, or is that Oil of Olay ad STARING at me and shouting obscenities like 'Retinol!' and 'Age Defying!'?" (It's true, with each new decade the cosmetic aisle makes you take one big awkward step to the right, literally shoving you towards youthful pursuits down your very own crows-feet timeline.)
So here I am, right at the cusp. I'm about to embark in a whole new chapter of my life. But, until I do (let's remember I have one precious week left, and I thoroughly intend on flaunting it) allow me to take a glance back. Welcome to the twilight zone.
Welcome to Twentysomething.
One thing I will not miss in my thirties (and I'm counting on this, Lord, are you listening?) is drama. D-R-A-M-A, drama. Somehow it has found me wherever I turned in my twenties (heck, sometimes I chased it down myself, punched it in the face, and bought it a drink afterwards) and that's exactly why my twenties reads something like the caption in the tv guide under the Lifetime network. See for yourself:
When I turned twenty, I had just gotten married. I was a newlywed living outside of Nashville, TN. He was in a band and I was in major need of a therapist. I had just moved across the country, abandoning all friends and career goals for - you guessed it - love. It was a highly dramatic time in my life, filled with passion and jealousy and every other emotion that a boy might write a song about for you. The depression was inevitable, yet shocking. We clung to Jesus and each other, but there were many nights that I stayed awake wondering what was wrong with me...and I made a shining effort to bring each option on my list of woes to the surface. A few years of prayer, counsel, some medication, and slowly-developed-friendships, and I was on the road to being healthy. I had done it! I had fought with the devil and won! I had pulled myself up by my bootstraps and changed for the better. My marriage was worse for wear, but our sights were set on healing and housing...signs of commitment! We bought a house, he got a dream job, and I was thumbing through paint swatches to distract myself from picking out baby names instead. I was ready to live life, having new perspective, feeling older and wiser. He was ready to live life too...but not alongside me. That was it for him. He was out. We never spent one night together in that big beautiful house.
The pain was excruciating. I immediately needed to sink my teeth into something productive, something just for me, something positive and persevering - so I enrolled at a local university to finish my degree. I also sought therapy from anywhere I could get it - professional, church, friends, family, my credit card at the nearby mall... I was in survival mode. My heart made it, but my marriage didn't. After months of living a nightmare, of crying myself to sleep every night, after being forced to sign papers I swore I would never even was over. I was 24, a Christian, and divorced.
I graduated late the next fall, and I needed change. Not just change...a fresh start. I got back in touch with some of my friends from my teenage years -my California college years - afterall, my ole roommate had just gotten married and she had that cute brother who grew up to be quite a looker. I always loved my time in California, it felt like home. I needed home...comfort...peace. I decided to move back to California and everyone around me was thoroughly supportive - confirming my belief in my plan and myself. Maybe this life could turn out to have some hope afterall - maybe even some fun? That ole brother of my college roommate was more than willing to show me around California if I'd like a personal tour...and the more we talked, the more I wanted that tour. By the time I flew out to see California, I'd found an apartment and a few weeks later I was moving. I packed my car with all my belongings (what little I had managed to keep through the devastation) and headed west. Forty long hours later, I was sitting in the middle of a barren apartment in California, waiting on my new boyfriend to meet me so he could assemble my tv and blow-up bed. This is when true signs of hope began to spring up, and the healing I had been working so hard to achieve finally started to show up. A therapist is wonderful - they can listen to you all day, they can show you a caring face and help you sort through all kinds of emotion...but there ain't nothin like a handsome boy kissin you on the lips to sweep you off your feet and spin your head around to make you realize to your core that THIS PERSON LOVES YOU. And Josh did love me. And I him.
We were married later that year, purposefully the day after Thanksgiving (what a glorious day! an entire day devoted to gratefulness!) and we pursued a healthy marriage as fervently as we had pursued each other - with purpose and Christ at the center.
It's true what they say, "a healthy marriage takes work" - its just that they don't always apply another famous saying "do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life". Totally true. I love that Josh Pardy, let me tell you. And as if my telling you wasn't evidence enough (forgive me), but as the story continues...a few happy years later we welcomed another Pardy into the family. Matilda Hazel Darling Pardy was born last November, and has only increased the joy of our home exponentially each day since.
And that pretty much sums it up.
That's my twenties. Ups and downs, indeed. There were times I'm pretty sure that I could've personally been sponsored by Kleenex, and I could've used the endorsement.
I know that there will be pain in my thirties. I know that there will be trials and unforeseen worries that await. But, I'm so thankful to be entering this next decade in a season of blissful hope and utter happiness. God has been so good to me and my family.

So long,'s been a ride.
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