2013, Ready Or Not

Monday, December 31, 2012

An entire year has flown by again.  So long, 2012.  It wasn't the end of the world, but the Mayans aren't the only ones needing a new calendar - tomorrow we will all hang up new clean slates to start off 2013 with our best foot forward.

What a year it was.  I was laying awake at 5am this morning snuggling my ornery 17-month-old and reflecting on how just a year ago I was snuggling my 5-month-old.  Whoa!  When did that happen?  When did she grow all this hair and start talking and dancing on command?  And when did my Matilda (now 3) sprout up and start singing full choruses of Disney movie theme songs and teaching her sister how to put on socks?

One year might as well have been one light year away from where things were last year.  Little kids are non-stop changing machines, and if there was ever a time to stop and be completely perplexed as to how we can all compete with their ability to adapt...well, this is the time.  Sure, we are all adapting around them at the same rate (well, we're trying at least).  But, I step back for a second and am amazed at my little girls' ability to simply absorb and develop, process and exercise, adjust and relate - all as if they'd been doing it for decades.  

I could learn from this, is what I'm thinking.

With the turn of another calendar month, comes great will and intention toward positive changes.  I have an entirely new year laid out before me and a completely new list of wants and needs and plans that I hope for.  I have every intention of success and yet, somehow, before the clock even strikes midnight, I fully know that not everything I hope for will come true in 2013.  I definitely won't work out as much as I should, I can't possibly eat as many vegetables as I want to, and most certainly I will opt for purchasing something entirely frivolous to my financial goals.

Toddlers are not the best reactors to change, I'll admit that.  Their irrational tantrums, lack of tact, and self-centric universe obviously limits their ability to function appropriately at all times (in fact, none of us have truly conquered this, have we?).  Nevertheless, they undergo extreme change on a constant basis, literally from the inside out.  As their bodies and minds grow at a rapid pace, their outside world is either changing, moving, or being discovered as something entirely new to them.

While they don't hide their feelings towards the challenges of life, they don't try and run from them either.  With open arms, my girls embrace (albeit, kicking and screaming at times) whatever lies ahead.  It doesn't mean they like it, it just means they take it, grow from it, and accept the world around them, come what may. They adapt.  They change.  They grow up.  And they enter into the next day with the same vigor, never wondering if they wished for an alternate route or what would have happened if/if not, etc.  They wake up and GO! Day after day after day.

2013.  Let's do this.  Bring it.  Bring me change.  Bring me pain.  Bring me joy.  Bring me tears over triumph and angry fists over injustice.  Bring me peace that surpasses my understanding and humility beyond my own strength.  Bring me contentment in the midst of frustration and confusion in the face of doubt.  Let me ask the hard questions.  Let me seek God for the answers.  Test my faith if you must, and let me show you the Jesus inside me who fights when I can not.  2013, use this vessel to bring about the adaptations to my being that are necessary for my purpose.  Make me uncomfortable.  Make me reach out.  Make me less so I can be used for so much more.

2013, I dare you.

I don't know what the year will bring.  I don't know who or what I will encounter or how I will adapt to it all.  I don't know the future, and I'm glad I don't.  This constant mystery of life that is us churning out the future and creating it into the past is a present-day thrill we all get to experience.  It comes with emotions and feelings that make it all heap up into one giant "good intention" that we look back and call "purpose".  We pluck out the best and worst and wonder what it was all for.  We have regrets and hopes and lump it up to a wonderful word we call "effort" so that it doesn't sound so bad when we admit we didn't do what we wished we had.

Change doesn't need a midnight or a countdown or confetti or champagne.  Change requires two things:  you and time.  We can all allow for this.  I can.  I must.

Whatever changes 2013 may bring my way, I pray I embrace it with the confusing joy of a toddler first waking up in the morning to a new day.  I might shake my fist or stomp my feet or explode in an inexcusable cloud of emotion...but, I hope I take it head-on and allow the change to work its way into my soul.  I pray God uses each day to shape me into the person that can best be used for His plan, not mine.

2013.  Ready or not, here I come.

Christmas Chaos

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

 What in the world is going on with the holidays this year?  Am I the only one who feels like everything is starting to spin out of control right before the big day is even here?  Am I going to lose my mind just in time for Christmas morning?  Or do the Mayans have it right after all?

Goodness gracious, this has been an insane season.  This last week alone has felt more chaotic in every way than memories of many Christmases past.  Personally, it is just a crazy-busy time.  (I know I'm not alone in feeling that!)  My hours at working seasonal help at Williams-Sonoma have picked up significantly as Christmas approaches, so much so that I was happy to pawn off some of my work time on another girl who was really trying to earn as many hours as possible (yay - win/win!).

Josh has also been working late a lot, maxing out his days before deadlines and new semesters arrive (he is an administrator at a local Christian high school).  And, for some ridiculous reason, I took it upon myself to primarily try and craft the majority of Christmas gifts for the family this year.

She may not have my same affinity for crafting
Side-note here on Christmas crafting - WHAT was I thinking?  I absolutely got suckered into amazing photographs off Pinterest and talked myself into the affordability that people will appreciate the effort of my endeavors and thoughtfulness over an alternatively less personal gift.  Oh me, oh my.  Well, I truly am counting on my family seeing the heart behind much of my production.  All in all, much has turned out fine or even better-than-I-expected-in-the-end.  But, let me tell you, it was not without much trial and many errors!  (I realize I can't expand yet on what I actually have worked on, so as not to reveal any gift secrets, but trust me, many a mess was made in the name of Pinteresting!)  Looks like everyone might be getting gift cards next Christmas.  Haha.

Back to the chaos.  So, you take all those obligations, and you throw in a couple toddlers.  Okay!  On top of all the time I don't have to do the laundry or dishes, I will cram two little bodies into that schedule and do my darndest to offer them attention or at least the promise of food, water, shelter, and hugs.  We've done our best to make intentional time for seeing Santa, having friends over, and keeping our home merry and bright (even if it does mean the tree has fallen over a grand total of SIX times now...seriously?)  We've watched many a Christmas movie (Matilda now loudly announces "Did you hear that?" after she burps, thanks to watching Elf) and indulged in holiday treats that let us know that, without-a-doubt, Jolly Old St. Nick is on his way (if none of that gave it away, then listening to Matilda sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" every single night as she goes to sleep really seals the deal).  Indeed, this Christmas-a-go-go is in full swing.  And as the checklist only seems to be getting longer and longer, I know that somehow, someway, everything will manage to get done before this next week is up.

And then, the world stopped last Friday.  You already know what I'm talking about.  You can't turn on the TV or Internet for two seconds without seeing a new update or story about the horrific events of Newtown, Connecticut and all that occurred there on December 14th.  We see the news, we read our friend's status updates about how we all feel just sick and sad and grateful and confused about it all.

And just like that, I'm stopped in my tracks and holding back sobs as I cling to my babies and thank God for what He has given me.  I'm at a total loss for words in my prayers for the families and parents and everyone even remotely tied to that event in any way.  And then my mind wanders for a second and I consider all the horrors of the world that I don't even know about.  All the children that only God can see hurting.  All the names that go unread.  All the pain that feels unknown.  And I'm angry and just so so sad and confused.

And I'm supposed to go Christmas shopping and bake cookies in the middle of all this?  I'm supposed to fold laundry and stuff stockings and carry on like it doesn't matter?

God, what in the world?

Yes and no.  Yes, we must carry on.  No, not as if it doesn't matter.  It matters.  It all matters.  In fact, it's for these reasons and many more that Christmas even exists at all.  Right?  There wouldn't be a Christmas, after all, if we didn't need a Savior.  And, just when we think we are going to go crazy from watching Christmas commercials on TV, something unimaginable like the Sandy Hook tragedy happens and we are reminded in an instant of what truly matters and how we are so, so desperately in need of a Savior.  All of us.

A sweet moment not taken for granted.
I have more questions than answers in this life.  But, I don't need a lot of answers.  I only need the one answer that matters most, that conquers death, that diffuses confusion, and creates new mercies with every act of love - I only need Jesus.  We all only need Jesus.  I don't mean to diminish anyone's questions or doubts, in fact, I encourage us all to take this time and ask God the hard questions and keep looking for how we can strengthen our faith, especially at times of amplified emotion (which the holidays already are, regardless of what's on the news).

This frantic state of hustle and bustle that the holidays throw at all of us also got me thinking about the first Nativity and what it must have been like.  I look at my neatly sculpted Nativities that sit about my home and I see the Christmas cards flooding in that have serene pictures depicting the birth of Christ and I get this warm and fuzzy feeling about how calm and beautiful it must have been.  It seems so precious, so perfect, as if I can only imagine it with Silent Night playing the background and the warm glow of the Christmas Star shining overhead to perfectly light the scene.

And then, I really start to think about it.  Slowly I'm imagining the stench of barnyard animals and afterbirth.  I imagine (no matter how sweetly) the cries of baby Jesus and the sweat beaded up on Mary's brow.  I imagine the anxiety and fears of Joseph.  I think of the shepherds, stunned and skeptical with joy.  And I can't even fathom the chaos of the time - a forced census crowding the tiny town of Bethlehem, the scary authority of the cruel and controlling King Herod and how "political turmoil" is the lightest term I can think of for the state of Israel.

New International Version Matthew 2:16
"When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi."

This was not a pretty time, people.  The world was in CHAOS!  And there wasn't the refuge of shopping malls or Charlie Brown Christmas Specials or making fudge or wrapping gifts to take their minds off the fact that the world needed a Messiah.  I can not fathom the horrors that rocked the planet at that time...much like I can't imagine the horrors that exist today - this week - right here.

I don't bring this up to send us spiraling down a holiday road of depression.  No, no - not at all.  It feels as if the world has never been as bad as it is now...but, that's not true.  In fact, since the fall of man, we have always been lost.  Enter this:  the good news of Christmas!  One tiny, perfect, miracle baby was born to bring us the only hope we'd ever need.  Jesus could have chosen any entrance into the world, but he came at a time of great horror and chaos to deliver us and provide a path to eternal joy.  It sounds kooky, it sounds unbelievable, it sounds unfathomable, and yet, it's all true.

It's been an emotional roller coaster for most of us this month.  I don't know anyone who hasn't been exhausted lately.  It seems everywhere we turn someone is either sick or sad or just frustrated with this manic season.  And I catch myself daily being confronted with choosing gratitude and peace over anxiety and worry.  Because I have to be intentional in choosing it, it's not natural for me to default to a calm state of thankfulness in the middle of such a crazy, unfair world.  I can so easily find myself hung up on things like "I wish I had more money to buy this or that for my girls for Christmas" and now choosing to intentionally change that thought to "Thank you, God, for my [living, breathing, healthy, ornery] girls that I get to spend Christmas with."

Merry Christmas from the Pardys
If this last week has taught me anything, it's that the world isn't going to get less crazy until Jesus returns.  Our need for Him will never lessen.  And, with each step towards the chaos, I grow in my capacity to be grateful.  That is, because we hurt more, we recognize our need more, and can deepen in our gratitude for what we have been given.  Jesus isn't just the reason for the season...He's the only answer for peace on earth.

I pray love and peace to you and yours this Christmas.  I hope you can hug someone you love and laugh as you assemble ridiculous toys for your kids on Christmas Eve.  And, above all, I pray you find Jesus amidst whatever Christmas chaos you are experiencing.  This time of year is full of highs and lows of all kinds.  Emotions and anxieties and electric bills all run high, and it can be very easy to forget why we're all running around like maniacs.  This world might not get any quieter while we're in it, but we're all in it together.  Let's take a deep breath, thank our Savior, and spread the good news that we are not without hope.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 7, 2012

The time has come.  Team Pardy needs a much needed brrreeeaaakkk.  No, not from each other!  No worries.  Team Pardy needs a childless break!  Woot woot!  We are finally going on our first (yes, very first) night away since before having children.  Can this be possible?  Well, unless you count the two nights I was away giving birth to Daphne in the hospital...then, yes...very possible.

Oh my.  How could we have let 3 years slip by without a night away?  Some of you are probably gasping in surprise and some of you are shrugging out of embarrassment.  It's okay, come here - **group hug**

Like I've said before, children are a time machine.  The second you have them, they catapult you into a time warp that speeds up everything about life that you love (cuddling, sleeping, relaxing) and slow down all the things you can't quite handle (whining, vomiting, fighting).  And before you know it, three precious years have slipped by without your head hitting the pillow for a solid 10 hours straight.  It's true, I have no idea when the last time I had an entire night's sleep was, but it was well over three years ago. (Refill on this coffee, please?)

I extraordinarily value my husband.  I love him to pieces.  I want to stare at him and not be thinking in the back of my mind "How long do I have to wait after you come in the door before I ask you to take out the trash?  Is ten minutes long enough?  Fifteen?"  So, even though we get to connect in the evenings after the youngins are in bed, and even though we do make an effort to get out and have a date night every so often...we are far overdue to get away and spend the night in a room that isn't resonating with the annoying static of a baby monitor.  Whew.

Here's the thing.  I want to go.  I'm psyched out of my mind for it, really.  Ideally.  But...then, there's this thing called motherhood that has been nipping at my heels all week trying to get me to feel guilty about it all.  Argh!  What's with this?  Why does this happen?

Us mamas just can't catch a break, right?  It feels like no matter what decision we make, somebody is going to be let down (well, let down or have a meltdown if you are a toddler, anyway).  You want to runaway with your husband and rekindle the romance, yet, you don't want to be checking your phone every twenty minutes just waiting for tragedy to strike.  You want to enjoy dinner by candlelight, but not at the expense that you accidentally forgot to tell the babysitter to not give the baby milk at dinner or she will be sick.  It all makes it just feel...well...not worth it!  Oh the woes!  What's a gal to do?

I hate this nagging feeling.  I've been combatting it all week, and here's what I've concluded:  What would I tell my daughter to do if she were me?  Darn tootin' I'd tell her to leave the irrational toddlers in the care of responsible, loving souls and get back to building her rock-solid foundation of a marriage before you really have to start checking for cracks, that's what!

Yes, the babies will miss me.  Yes, the babies will cry and scream and at one point demand more than the babysitters can provide.  Yes, there will be tantrums and food will most likely be thrown.  Diapers will need to be changed and tears will need to be wiped, I'm sure.  But, they will be fine.  They will live.  And they will learn a little, tiny, minuscule piece to the puzzle of life that changes their irrational behavior into a logical example:  Mom and Dad put each other first.  

Any steps we take that help solidify this belief for them, the greater chance we have towards them believing this for themselves someday.  Someday, that is, when they choose someone to conquer the world with.  And I really, really, really want them to choose someone who will put them first, just like their daddy puts me first. (First, right after Jesus, of course.)

Leaving my kids, even only for a night, stresses the crap out of me.  I'm just being honest here.  I have insanely responsible friends who love my children tremendously, and my girls adore them, and probably will show them more respect in the hours they're together than they show me in a whole week...yet, my stomach tenses up at the thought of them asking for me when I'm not there.  I clench up inside at the idea of them waking up in the middle of the night, disturbing our sitter's slumber, and being confused and emotional about misunderstanding why we're not at home.  It might be scary for them, but I'm the one conjuring up the real fear here.

Fear NOT.  Fear not.  Fear...not.  Okay.  No fear allowed.  Listen here, Fear, the girls are going to be just fine.  I'm going to choose to replace you with Trust and that's going to be the end of it.  I have amazing friends who, for some reason, have convinced me that it is actually a blessing to them to watch our children, so I'm going to trust them about that.  I'm going to trust that my babies will know in their heart I will see them just as soon as they miss me and be back before they really can't stand it.

I'm going to trust that all the over-planning/over-cleaning/over-worrying were unnecessary, yet vital baby steps towards my ability to let go and allow some healthy separation to focus exclusively on my marriage.  I'm going to trust my husband that this investment of time and money and energy and love is validated and treasured and reciprocated ten-fold, because that's what Team Pardy is all about and we've gotta long way to go in this road of life.

I'm going to trust God.  Thank you, God, You are in control.  Not only do you hold my babies in Your hand every day, but You also have provided the resources, the provision, and the opportunity to make this possible.  I trust in the definition of marriage, that God encourages me as a wife to not only make sure my husband knows he comes first in my world, but that I teach my children (and model to them) that family is structured accordingly.

This might seem like an awful lot of intention put into one little overnight getaway.  But, when it comes to our kids, don't we get a little kooky sometimes?   Mothers are grand multi-taskers and the number one thing we multi-task the best is worrying!  I'm not going to let my talent for concern wedge its way into Team Pardy.  Instead, I'm going to steer it straight into the storm.  I'm turning that worry on its head and taking all that energy and placing it directly into the palm of the One who cares more (yes, even more) than I do.

And so, yes, as I make my final checklists and sticky notes to ensure on my end the safety and schedules of my girls, I'm doing my best to remember that the underlying intention of this whole event comes back to this:  I love my husband.  We belong together.  We can take on the world.  And, so, to take on the world...we gotta step outside once in a while.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thank heaven for little girls 
For little girls get bigger every day! 

 Thank heaven for little girls 
They grow up in the most delightful way! 

Those little eyes so helpless and appealing 
One day will flash and send you 
crashin thru the ceilin 

Thank heaven for little girls 
Thank heaven for them all, 
No matter where no matter who 
For without them, what would little boys do? 

 Thank heaven . . . thank heaven . . . Thank heaven for little girls!

Ah yes, as that somewhat-creepy-yet-sugary-sweet song says, thank heaven for sweet little girls.  Being a mom of two daughters is, indeed, a delight.  I'm sure raising sons has it's incredibly endearing moments as well, and maybe someday I will get to wring my heart out for a little boy...but, for now, I'm the mother of girls.  

Never has it seemed so apparent to me that I am raising such girlyish-girly-girls than at this commercial-driven time of the year, Christmas!  Everything is gotta-have-it, toys toys toys and more toys, purple and pink and sparkly too!  There are entire aisles just beaming with hot-pinkness and you can't walk by them (you know which ones I'm talking about) without Barbie glaring you in the face screaming "BUY ME" through her perky little smile.  

My girls LOVE dolls.  They love dress up.  They love tutus.  They love princesses and Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony and anything that smiles and has bouncy hair and wears a dress and/or crown.  They are girly girls.  Whew!  What have I gotten myself into here????

I keep trying to remind myself that I'm raising future little mothers here.  Future little wives.  Future little bosses or managers or somehow-other-influencers who will in someway, hopefully, impact their peer groups and challenge those around them.  I do what I can to live a rather well-rounded, intentional, grateful and transparent life, one that's not limited to stereotypes, capabilities or finances.  I strive for excellence because that's what Jesus did.  I aim for the impossible, because that's who Jesus was.  (I fail constantly, but hey - that's part of the journey too.)

So, how do I help shape and mold my precious little girls into grateful little princesses rather than gots-the-gimmes Bratz through this season of giving and sharing?  How can I compete with these glitzy toy commercials when all I seem to offer them as an alternative is a boring advent calendar or another storybook depicting the Nativity?

This season is a toughie.  As my girls grow older, it seems the more and more Jesus and Santa are arm wrestling through the holiday, trying to win the war on commercialism versus meaning.  I want to celebrate it all, really, I want my girls to be just as excited for the story of Jesus as they are looking through the ToysRUs catalog...but, it's a challenge.  

Then, as I looked back in the backseat of my car today, on our way out to do a little Christmas shopping, it hit me.  I looked back, and they were holding hands.  Carseat to carseat, reaching out and holding hands just sweet as could be.  "Look mom!" said Matilda, "We holdin hands!  I got her." 

Suddenly, I think for maybe the first time, I realized that they really had each other.  Sisters.  They were girly-girls together and going to help shape who each other were becoming.  I think I have kept feeling so much responsibility as their mother, as the sole female who will influence their young journey, that I never stopped to think about how much influence they will really have on each other.  Kindness, charity, forgiveness, love.  These are all things they can give and receive as sisters, as girls, as little nurturers to one another that will empower them as individuals.  Barbie's got nothin on that!

At 3-years-old and 16-months, my girls are itty-bitty in the grand scheme of life.  But, now is the time that they are forming their little opinions about who they are, what girls do, what's important and so on. They test the boundaries of patience and trust.  They make sure they can call on me and rely on each other.  They care for and about each other, and I'm just so grateful they are sisters.  Of all the dolls, of all the toys, the beauty of their little friendship is far superior and irreplaceable.  

And, as we continue to read them and teach them the story of Jesus and what this season is truly all about, I can pray that God uses their influence on each other to help them along their path towards Him.  I have no doubt that each one of them was necessary to each other's life in order to become the person they are and will be.  That is SO COOL to get to witness as a mother!  (Plus, it takes a little of the pressure off me!)

Today in the car as I was strapping Matilda into her carseat, she said "Mom, can we sing that song? You know," and she hummed a few unintelligible bars.  "What song?" I said.  "You know, that Sisters, sisters song.  Never were there Sisters, sisters..."  OH!  It hit me - she was talking about "Sisters" from White Christmas - my favorite holiday movie!  

My heart beamed with joy, and of course I broke into song right then.  It made me so happy that she not only liked that song (I mean, we're talking future talent show competitors here, right?  The Pardy Sisters Duet?) but also that she smiled when singing it.

Maybe someday I will have a son, and if I do I will certainly be thrilled and surely confused about how to raise him.  (Ha!) But, right now, there is just something about having these little girls in my life that make me so acutely aware of how God places specific, innate traits in girls to make us who we are.  It may come with lots of chatter, sparkly shoes, and an affinity for all things pink...but, it is also comes with tendencies towards nurturing and compassion.  (Please don't write me letters about how your son is nurturing and compassionate, I'm not going there with this!)  I'm just saying I'm thrilled and grateful to embrace the tutus and all that comes with it.  

My girls can be wild, crazy, barbaric princesses sometimes, don't get me wrong!  But, no matter what, they'll be wild, crazy, barbaric princesses together.  And I pray it always stays that way. 

"Never were there such devoted sisters."  Thank heaven.
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