Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

The day is here - the day when parents finally get rewarded for their efforts of decorating their children and parading them around to recieve "oohs" and "awws" only to go home with their grumpy-dumplings and toss them into bed as they crash from their sugar-highs and into sweet dreams...and then get to RAID their children's loot like pirates on the hunt.  Hooray!  CANDY!!!  Free candy that only cost us our sanity and patience.  It's a glorious day, isn't it?

I do love Halloween, actually.  I was raised in a household that celebrated the fun of Halloween, and I'm so glad that I got to dress up and be silly and indulge my sugar-tooth.

Today, we live in a different world.  Halloween is celebrated with safety on the brain - with harvest festivals and "trunk-n-treats" and only the rare and exceptional neighborhoods get to hand out carefully-parent-inspected candy to the trick-or-treaters.  Gone are the days of scouring the neighborhoods without supervision or running around town with your friends after dark.

Sometimes, it can feel like the scariest part of Halloween falls into the lap of the parents these days!

It can quickly become easy to want to overprotect your children, I completely understand.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with the adaptations that have been made to this holiday to ensure the safety of our kids or to increase the fun and diminish the "evil" nature of Halloween.  But, reality is that there really is scary stuff in this world, and I think Halloween can be a great time to talk to your kids about it.

Evil exists.  Bad things happen.  And, if we don't stop and take time to explain to our children in a calm and safe manner that life can get scary sometimes, we can be setting them up for some real fears later on.  (Don't worry - I promise to not go all Debbie Downer on you here...)

Halloween is a great time for a young child to safely encounter scary situations that might raise questions for them as well as emotions like fear or anxiety.  This is a great time to help your child build resiliency that will serve them well in the long run.

The great thing about resiliency is that it can be learned, and we as parents have the opportunity to model and nurture this important trait.  I found a great article by M. Tartakovsky regarding children's ability to develop resiliency, and she offers 10 tips that can help every parent navigate their way through these tricky times:

  1.   Don't accommodate every need.
  2.  Avoid eliminating all risk.
  3.  Teach them to problem-solve.
  4.  Teach your kids concrete skills.
  5.  Avoid "why" questions. 
  6.  Don't provide all  the answers.
  7.  Avoid talking in catastrophic terms.
  8.  Let your kids make mistakes.
  9.  Help them manage their emotions.
  10.  Model resiliency.
So, this Halloween, HAVE FUN!  But, as you are keeping your kids safe from harm, don't be overly concerned if they encounter a scary sight or sound now and then.  It's bound to happen at some point, and when it does, you can use the frightful moment as an opportunity to build your child's character and help them grow.

And...if you're in too much of a sugar-coma from all the Snickers you've snuck from your kid's plastic pumpkin bucket...well, just hit play below and relax.


Getting Messy

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Life with toddlers is often messy.  I can't walk across a room in my house without a Cheerio sticking to my heel or a crayon snapping beneath my feet.  Children are a package deal - with a trail of crumbs and sticky fingers that accompany their adorableness.  Yes, I'm constantly in awe of how my girls can take a perfectly tidy room and destroy it into a toyland of smithereens within a lapse of five minutes...or, however long it takes me to step away and prepare their breakfast.

But, the joys of having two kids so close together abound when it comes to activities.  Because they are only 20 months apart, I don't really have to worry about entertaining them each at their own level (slightly, at times, but not significantly) as they can share in the same craft or game or story time.

The other day, I (amidst the chaos) decided we would make a a project...together.  This seemed like a simple enough idea in the moment because (against the purist foodie that I am in my heart) I had recently purchased some easy "just add milk" muffin mixes.  Simple enough:  bowl, mix, milk, stir, bake, and voila!  Muffins!

I think it was by the third lick of the whisk that I realized my girls were going to be devouring these muffins all by themselves.  Batter was flinging about, and their JOY in the creation of it wasn't just due to their participation - but in the sheer mess of it!

I stepped back.  Hands off.  And I soaked up the image of their smiling faces, four little feet planted side-by-side on a chair, two swirling whisks splattering batter about, and I calmly stepped back into the scene and tried to reign in their fun towards a productive action.

You know what I mean - we all want to be fun and effective parents!  It's hard to walk the line of patient and frustrated.  I don't want to squash their little spirits - but, I don't want to be scrubbing muffin mix out of the cracks in my kitchen for years to come either!

The truth of the matter is, in order for them to learn and have's just going to be messy.

This is one of those moments where I get a glimpse of how, as a parent-to-a-child, God must view me at times.  He loves me, He wants me to learn and grow and desire Him more, and He wants nothing but blessings and goodness for my life...and here I am, flinging my mess all over the place, stirring up all kinds of trouble in the name of self-interest.  It's not all bad, but too often I can make things much harder on myself (much messier!) when I try to do it my way.

It's true that life is gonna get messy no matter what.  Only Jesus lived a perfect life and even HE didn't have it mess-free! (Far from it!)

What mess are you in the middle of right now?  Can you laugh about it?  Can you get help with it?  Can you hang on just a little longer?

Because often, if I can just embrace the mess and keep my eye on what's to come...well, it just might lead to a delicious ending.

Half Full

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do you ever get up in the morning and just know you're going to have a rough day?  Sometimes just getting out of bed and pouring that first cup of coffee is the only "win" we have all day.  I understand.  Oh boy, do I understand!

For the last few weeks, my husband and I have abruptly woken up to the sound of angry screams and yelling.  Toddlers on the rampage, first thing in the morning. 

Call me crazy, but when I became a parent I envisioned early mornings (maybe not this early) of happy children skipping into our bedroom as we woke up to their smiling faces eager to take on the beauty of a new day.  It's not like I had delusions of perfect lighting and birds singing like in those coffee commercials you see on TV...but, I certainly never anticipated the adrenaline-erupting scene from Rambo that gives me a heart attack each and every day.

I don't know what sets these crazy girls off, but within minutes of waking up, they are screaming and fighting with each other nearly every morning.  Someone bursts into tears and then bursts into our room demanding justice which usually involves the negotiating talents of a Harvard-educated lawyer (neither of which we are) to talk one of them off the ledge.  The momentary apocalypse subsides within minutes, but by this time...well, to say we've been catapulted from the wrong side of the bed is an understatement.

It can take all of my patience, prayers, and poise to pull myself together and not have a sour mood the rest of the day.  You know when you want to punch your family in the face before breakfast, it's going to be a rough one.  Whew.  (Can I get an AMEN?)

You often hear that the best remedy to diffuse a bad attitude is to think of everything you are grateful for.  Ok (deep breath) deal.  I pray, I thank God for my screaming-yet-healthy children, for my home, for my husband, for the coffee I'm making the third round of by this time of the morning, and so forth.  And I am reminded of the old adage to "look at the glass as half full and not as half empty" as they say.  The power of positivity can be incredible, no doubt (thank you, Norman Vincent Peale).

My day can be turned around in this moment, or not.  It's really my choice, and it's a powerful one.  My next prayer is for my attitude to not only change, but to be useful...I'm pouring into two-legged-sponges-with-feisty-brains, after all.  A Mother isn't just a title - it's a lifestyle, 24/7, and I'm going to need that second helping of grace to make it to nap time!

It's during this prayer that I realize my glass isn't half full.  It's FULL.  Really full.  I was so focused on trying to see the half-way mark that I didn't realize there wasn't one.

There's no "half full" with Jesus - it's all or nothing.  Jesus doesn't need me to be positive - Jesus needs me to need HIM.  And, when I'm having one of those terrible days that drives me to the point of needing to remind myself of the tiniest things to be grateful for, I might be missing exactly what to focus on.

I can't change the day if I can't be changed.

And I can't lead my girls by example if I'm not letting myself be changed by the power of Christ on a daily basis - yes, even before my first cup of coffee on a morning full of mayhem.  The volume of my children's yelling and fighting might not change by my viewing them in a more positive light.  I might wait a few extra minutes before I lose my mind, but the fuse is still too short.  Instead, I am reminded of the goodness of the power of Christ in me - how, in moments like these and many others, I don't have to call on my own strength for extra patience or guidance (Hallelujah).

If you're struggling to see the halfway mark on your glass...stop.  Your gratitude can't save you.  You can name every hair on your head and it will never match the understanding, wholly accepting, merciful peace that Jesus grants us in our most ugly moments.  Only Jesus can quench our thirst for harmony.

We should all be "more" grateful, "more" understanding, "more" thoughtful, and "more" positive (aren't you exhausted and feeling guilty already?) But, whenever I am those things, don't be mistaken to think it's by my own strength, it's not!  I can only ever be those things when I've finally given up on my half, and I'm fully focused on the overflowing, brim-toppling, surface-spilling grace from the Heavenly Father.

That's when I can know for sure - it's gonna be a good day.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The other day, I was going about my usual routine of getting ready to go out.  For me (a total make-up fiend) this usually involves a quick moment to "put my face on" and face the public as if I'm well rested and give a care.  I gazed into the mirror, dabbing on moisturizer and smearing foundation, covering up the flaws and accentuating the positive so to speak.

Then, I noticed something on my forehead, a small blemish that I hadn't been aware of.  Yuck, what's that?  Ugh, breaking out again?  I rubbed my forehead, trying to figure out the best way to conceal the flaw, but nothing covered it up.  I looked closer, frustrated and confused as to why it didn't disappear under make-up.

Then, in that split-second, I realized that I didn't have a blemish on me at all - it was a speck of make-up on the mirror that had given the illusion something was on my face.  Relieved, I wiped the mirror and went on with my routine.

In that ridiculous moment, I thought how foolish I was to instantly assume something was wrong with me.  I don't have the best skin in the world, and so I immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was my face that was blemished, and I left no room for argument.  Then, my perspective changed.  And when I saw the blemish for what it really was, my perspective of myself changed too.

We can be so quick to find the flaws in ourselves.

If you're like me, I can be quick to be critical of myself.  Not just body image or skin quality - but, how I mother my children, how I love my husband, how I treat others, and how I manage my time.  I can quickly point out the flaws and things I'd like to change - that's the easy part!  But, am I seeing everything from the right perspective?  Am I able to step back and spot the blemishes that aren't really blemishes at all?

None of us see ourselves as others see us - and, chances are good that people think we look a lot better than we think we do.  I'm all for self-improvement - don't get me wrong - but, in  a world that constantly tries to tell us (especially as women and mothers) that we're not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc..... (the list is long, as you know!) sometimes it's okay to clean the filthy mirror and see who we really are:  beautiful daughters of the King, working hard, loving well, and striving to make a difference (even if that difference for the day means not burning the frozen waffles in the toaster that morning - hey, that counts!)

Go take a look at your gorgeous self - flaws and all - and please, do yourself a favor and clean that mirror!  You might just smile at what you see. (I hope you do!)

Keep it Simple: Confessions of a Mult-Tasker

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Women are known to be superior multi-taskers.  Mothers are the super-human versions of the ultimate multi-tasker, wearing multiple hats that help them meet the needs of others, their home, and themselves.

This morning, my 2-year-old woke me up at 4am.  I heard the "click-clunk" of her door opening and her little feet pattering in hall coming my way.  I got out of bed, met her at the doorway, and scooped her up in my arms.  She didn't say anything, no crying or whining, and she simply melted into my neck as I breathed in whole hunks of her whispy hair that still smelled of sleepiness.

Who knows what woke her up?  A bad dream, a strange sound, or maybe just restlessness had prompted her to crawl out of her crib at an ungodly hour and come find comfort.  Either way, she just needed her mama.

I rocked her in my arms a bit before returning her to bed.  I swayed back and forth, stroking her hair and rubbing her little back, remembering the hours I would spend doing this when she was but an infant.  I am so grateful for these times when my being provides everything that is an answer to her needs - I know it won't always be so simple.

In my weariness, this sweet moment made me nostalgic, and I thought to myself - Oh how I wish I could only be a mother.  I laid my sweet baby in her bed and snuck quietly out of the room, miraculously not waking her sister laying in the toddler bed only a foot away.  I went to go back to sleep, and spent the next hour pondering the sadness of my nostalgic thought.

Then, it occurred to me:  What if I gave myself the freedom to just be a mother? What would it look like to just let myself do that?  I don't need to be everything all at once all day long.  I can't be.  Why am I trying to be, for goodness sake.

I'm wearing a lot of hats these days.  As a wife and mother, a writer, and a grad student, I often feel like I'm working three full-time jobs with no pay.  My days are filled with the hazy lines of where one part of me ends and the other begins.  I find myself increasingly frustrated with not being able to "find balance" or multi-task beyond my capacity.

When I first became a mother, I had three glorious months of maternity leave.  I stayed home, stared at my baby, and knew it was a sacred time in my life that would be short-lived.  It wasn't "easy" by any means, but it was simpler and such a special time in my life that it needs no romanticism to be remembered as lovely.

When I returned to work, I had a new schedule that included working from home one day a week.  This started off fine - as my newborn slept on and off throughout the day and remained immobile in her swing or bouncy seat while I did the work I needed to do.  However, as my baby grew, so did her needs; and it wasn't long before I yearned for the separation between work and home as I chased my crawling child, made a phone call, attempted to nurse her, and answered emails all at the same time.  It was crazy-business, and it made both jobs SO much harder.

Here I am again.  I have two kids who I desperately want to engage with.  I have the luxury of being able to stay at home with them and be with them.  And I am constantly allowing myself to be bogged down with the pressures of work and school that are all vying for first place in a mental race inside my head.

I'm needing to re-establish some serious boundaries in my life.  I'm realizing that motherhood is the only job that doesn't allow for you to tell others "I'm sorry, can't you see I'm working right now?  That will have to wait."  If I was sitting in a cubicle at a computer, I would never expect another employer to walk up to me and ask me to mop the floor while I was sitting there.  See what I mean?  So, why am I expecting myself to be able to work for multiple "employers" all at the same time?  I'm just being a bad boss if that's what I expect.

I need to let work be work time (even if it's at 5 in the morning like today), let school be school time (even if it means watching less TV), let couple time be couple time (oh yeah, I have a husband I adore), and let mommy time be mommy time.  I want to want to be there for my kids.  I'm tired of letting my other (albeit important) tasks interrupt the focus of my life.

I needed to be reminded that life can be simple.  It can be me, holding my child, just swaying and praying, and that is more than enough to take up all of me in that moment.  I'm praying now for God to help me be able to establish clear lines of how to appreciate it all, but not feel like I need to do it all at once.  I'm called to be a wife and mother, a writer, and a grad student at this time in my life.  This season is not as simple as I might have once thought it would be, and maybe you know how this feels too.

How many jobs are you trying to do at once?

If you're like me, then it's rare that you just hold your kid and only be a mom for a moment.  I'm always thinking ahead to the next chore on my list:  what emails need to be sent, what chapters need to be read, that project I'm presenting, that paper that's due soon, what blog should I be working on, that article I'd like to write, those contacts I need to connect with, that phone call I should return. those library books that are overdue, the milk that's running low, the meat I forgot to thaw, the oil change that my car needs, the birthday card I have to get, that check I need to mail, etc. etc. etc.

Welcome to the mind of a woman, right?

How did my life get so crazy that I'm trying to juggle all these things at once!?  (And I'm guessing your life is no less crazy - we each have our own version of juggling mayhem!)  I remember learning to juggle tennis balls in gym class.  I was never very good at juggling, but one thing I do know is that when you learn to juggle, you don't throw all the balls up in the air all at once - you'll only watch them all fall down in chaos.  But, if you keep your eye on one ball at a time, you can get into a rhythm that allows you to focus on each one of them in their given time.

I know I can't always keep the boundaries from intersecting.  Sometimes I will have to stop swinging my girls and take a phone call.  Sometimes I'll need to put my kids in front of the TV so I can cook dinner or write an urgent email.  And sometimes it will be a great example for my girls to see that their mom loves what she does by using the gifts that God has given me and why it's important to work hard.

But...most times...being a mom is the only thing I need to be for my kids.

They don't need me to be a student, or a writer, or a great cook, or a perfect housekeeper, or a super hero.  I can't juggle it all on my own, and I want my girls to grow up knowing that I didn't!  I have a supportive team and a mighty God who is here to keep me in line and encourage me along the rocky road of life.  And, I have two sweet daughters who gave me the (literal) wake-up call to remember how simple it really can be.

[Time to put the computer away.  My mommy shift is about to start.]


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Every time I pick my daughters up from nursery at church, there are a billion stories to unfold out of their little mouths.  While my two-year-old, Daphne, babbles on and on pointing at her scribbles on her craft for the day, my nearly-four-year-old has much more to say.

Usually Matilda will ramble about the games and songs and show me her own crafty feat of the morning, and she usually gives a full account about who did what and if there was a toy she had to fight for that day.  She commonly throws in a detail or two about the Bible lesson they learned, but often this is mixed up in a jargon of realities and facts met up with her grand imagination.

"Mom.  We learned about Jesus and the animals and how bad they were with the Noah and that the rainbow has the colors and I still like pink but when we saw the red and blue and the whale was blue too and so big that Jesus made the whole world because that's when the teacher says today we have to sit down and I just danced and it was all about how we grow just like grass and sheep and they just eat it all up!"

You get the picture, right?

There's bits and pieces of truths in there, swirling around like a whirlpool of information in her little noggin, trying to make sense of what's up and what's down.  As a grown-up, sometimes we don't dictate it like a child rambling on and on, but I can sure get just as mixed up about what's important and where to adhere my focus.

I want to grow, I want to learn, I want balance, I want to love Jesus more, I want to be a better person, I want others to think I'm a good person, I want to make a difference, I want to feel secure, I want to be more humble, I want to understand grace, I want to forgive more.  Sometimes my brain can't keep up with all my heart desires and so I'm weary in my weaknesses and tempted to give up all together.

Then, last night, as we were praying our nightly prayers before putting the girls to bed, Matilda didn't ramble at all.  She just said "Trust in the LORD with all your heart.  Amen."  And that was that.

My eyes widened and I hugged her and we went on to talk about the snippet of the verse that she had learned in nursery that I wasn't even aware of her learning.  A real truth had STUCK.  Simple, solid, life-altering TRUTH.  As soon as she said it and saw how proud we were of her, she kept repeating it.  Again and again (and again) she has since said the verse, ingraining it not only in her mind - but in mine as well.

I can remember learning that Proverb as a young child as well, and I'm struck by how something so familiar can almost get too familiar that it gets lost in translation.  In a world where it feels foggy and scary to just put one foot in front of the other day after day, I'm reminded that God is with me, keeping my path headed in the right direction.

Notice that it doesn't say where the path will's doesn't say there won't be hills or valleys or even rivers to forge through.  It doesn't say there won't be bad weather or muddy banks or that we even have the right footwear required for the journey.  Don't let those thoughts distract you from the one thing that keeps us all focused on exactly where we're supposed to be:  Trust in the LORD with all your heart.

When God Shows Up on the Way to Old Navy

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I originally guest blogged this post for my friend Stephanie over at A Wide Mercy.

Here is the post in full...

When Stephanie asked me to write a blog about taking a leap of faith, I about fell out of my chair. If she had asked me even the week before, I would have had plenty to tell. Three months ago, my husband and I moved 2,000 miles with two toddlers and no job in sight. However, at this moment, I knew exactly what God was telling me to write, and that wasn’t it. 

I had two hours of free time. FREE time. Child-free time. And, this just about never ever happens for me. My husband had just that morning received an official offer of a job that we’d been praying about for months, so I was feeling on top of the world that afternoon. Our journey of unemployment had come to a sudden halt, and I was ready to celebrate. The relief of having a couple hours to myself brought on the most delicious of problems: What shall I do with my time?

It took me about two seconds to decide to go shopping. As any mother knows, the freedom to try on clothes at your leisure without someone griping at you and pulling on your arms is a gift unlike any other. This mama was SET on some seriously selfish time to go blow some cash on a new dress! Woohoo! Old Navy, here I come!

I walked out the door, confident and totally full of myself. I couldn’t remember the last time I had gone out by myself without an errand like “remember diapers” or “stop for milk” attached to it in some way. I was thrilled with the notion of escape and ready to appease my inner bargain hunter with some new duds.

As I took my exit, I saw her. A woman around my age, sweaty and in clothes much too small for her. She held a cardboard sign which read, “Please help. Need diapers. God bless.”  My heart sunk at the thought of who those diapers must be for, and I reached over and as I shuffled my hand around my purse, I realized I had no cash on me. Traffic progressed forward, and so did I. I turned and said a quick prayer for her. Poor thing. That must be rough. But, who knows, maybe she’s not even telling the truth. She probably just wants money. She probably doesn’t even have a kid.

I turned onto the road toward Old Navy and came to a stop sign. I could see the store in the distance, calling to me with the empty promises of consumerism that will fulfill my every insecurity. And then – GOD SPOKE. (How do I know it was God? Because I know myself pretty well, and I would never tell myself this. I wanted a new dress, after all).  God said, “Are you sure you want to go buy a new dress you don’t need when you live in a world where someone is asking you for diapers?” 

I rolled my eyes. I sat at the stop sign a full minute. I sighed and made a deal. Ok, God. I will go all the way back around. But, if she’s not there, then I’m coming back for that dress. Okay? I’m pretty sure this is when God rolled His eyes at me too.

I didn’t just turn around. Remember, she was at an EXIT. So, I had to literally drive another mile, do a u-turn, and then flip my hazards on and pull up to the corner where the exit let out. The whole way I was making excuses. God, seriously? Look how much trouble this is! I’m holding up traffic! I’m taking so long, she probably won’t even be there anymore! She was.She ran up, and I rolled down my window. And all of a sudden she was a real human, staring me in the face. She had a name. And a daughter. And a need.

I told her I would run to Target, that I had some things to get anyway, and could she meet me over at that parking lot by the bank in about an hour? She could.

I went into Target with a weird nervousness. I was on a mission, and it had nothing to do with me. God spoke, I listened, and now He was providing. You’d think this would have hit me in the face earlier in the day when we had been given the gift of a new job after three months of unemployment. Indeed, we were struck with gratitude for God’s provision…and there I was, ready to go blow it at Old Navy. Instead, I was blessed with the new opportunity to pass it on, pay it forward, and spread the love that had been shown to me just as readily. What’s more? When God tells you to do something and you do it, He makes it easy on you. The diapers that she needed were on clearance that day – go figure. So, I got her the BIG box, and I didn’t stop there.

I don’t just serve the God who meets needs. I serve the God that goes above and beyond…and that’s who I needed to reflect. I picked up a little stuffed animal for her daughter, and a small book of bedtime prayers with real verses inside.  I got some water and healthy snacks for them, and some nutritious toddler food as well. I didn’t know what to get, and it really didn’t matter. I just prayed, and purchased, and packed my trunk in the name of Jesus.She found me in the parking lot where I met her daughter and two male friends. I have no idea who these people are…but, I know God, and I know He doesn’t make mistakes when He creates life. 

I handed them the Target bags and they were incredible grateful.  And then, I told them my  story. I told them all how God had just blessed my family with a new job and that’s exactly why I’m able to be used to bless them now. I told them God cares, and it’s not easy out there.  I’m so sorry that you’re going through this rough time, but this is not the end of your story. And, then, I prayed for them. OUT LOUD and in the name of Jesus Christ. I prayed for their protection, their provision, and that they would be encouraged and dependent on Jesus alone to provide a way for them to be able to bless someone in return very soon.

I reached out, I looked them all in the eyes, I hugged the little girl and put my hands on the shoulders of the mother. I was human with them. WITH them.

And then, I got in my car and drove home to my girls and my shelter and my belongings I don’t deserve. I repented from my selfishness and thanked God for the opportunity to be part of something that made a tangible difference and reminded me of my ongoing need for Him alone. I thanked Him not only for His provision, but also His graciousness in overlooking my doubt and utilizing my stubbornness and turning it into ACTION.

Opportunities are everywhere. I’m amazed at what God places in front of us when we just start to ask Him to show us. Sometimes it is scary. It almost NEVER makes any sense at the time. We can almost ALWAYS justify a way out of it. But, when I put myself out there and make myself available to His work, taking action becomes the easy part.

A leap of faith doesn’t have to look like abandoning security and traveling 2,000 miles with two toddlers.Sometimes it looks like a trip to Target where you find diapers on clearance. Look out. Look around. 

You’re right in the middle of your next chance to act.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

It's been a long, long time since I've had a midterm.  In fact, the last time I even heard the term "midterm" was to reference the status of reaching halfway through my pregnancy and it had nothing to do with homework at all.  The only test I had to pass back then was the anatomy ultrasound and going shopping for more pink clothes.

But, this is a very different midterm.  I'm a full-time grad student, and I've never felt it more than these last couple weeks.  My many faces of midterms indicate just how thrilling and confusing it all feels.  I'm feeling thrill and pressure and eager all at once.  Tests, projects, papers, research, and genuine, honest-to-goodness library time.  Who in the world am I?  How did I get myself into this?

Ever have moments when you don't quite recognize your own life?

I was thinking the other day that if I ran across a job description of my life, I would turn it down in a heartbeat.  All of the hours and stress and fortitude necessary to keep up with the reality of it all spelled out on paper would be unfathomable to me.  It might look something like:

Wanted:  Caretaker for two humans that act more like monkeys than children.  Must be able to fulfill their every need at any given time, including overnights.  Must be able to meal plan on a tight budget and make sure household clothing is wearable at all times.  Must be able to fit in massive amounts of reading and paperwork on "downtime".  Research and writing proficiency expected.  Attendance at all meetings, curricular and extracurricular, required.  Must not forget to bathe on occasion.  Ability to function on little sleep a plus!  No pay, but many intangible perks.  Apply today!
Ha!  I would immediately disregard this position.  Who in their right mind would go for this?  And yet - here I am!  Smack dab in the middle of the irrational chaos, trying to soak up as much knowledge and memories as I possibly can.  I am being pushed to my limits and loving it.  I am wringing myself dry with every hour that passes, and then praying to absorb the importance and value of the present like a sponge left out in the rain. 

This is a specific season of my life that I've been called to.  Midterms is really a micro-analogy for these next couple years in school while I try to balance home life and homework.  There's no way I could do it without my husband, my friends, my family, my support, and my God who is greater and mightier than any cup of coffee (and I would know).  

I might be sleep deprived and over-caffienated, but I'm not alone.  

What's your midterm?  How are you functioning in the middle of your own chaos?

Many of us would never apply to the position that we're currently in.  Lots of times life throws us more than we could ever bear alone, and that's exactly how I think life should be.  The people around us, the challenges and trials that shape and mold us, they are all used in very specific ways to push us towards who we're meant to be.  With prayers for wisdom and perseverance, God allows us to take part in each other's calling.  In fact, maybe the last part of that wanted ad should mention something else:

*Must collaborate well with others and ask for help when needed.  Assistance provided upon request.

Now, that's something I'm glad I signed up for.  

Be My Guest

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ever consider writing or starting up your own blog but feel like you just aren't quite ready to take the plunge?  Ever think of a really great topic and wish someone would ask you to tell them what you think about it?  Ever want to take a stab at exposing your world for all to see and read about?  Here's your chance!

Guest blog for PARDYMAMA!

In the midst of midterms and the mayhem of motherhood, I'm calling on YOU to think about writing a guest blog for me.  This could be a real win/win for us, folks.  I'm thrilled to collaborate and support talent that I think reflects honesty and the truth of God, and it helps me keep my priorities in check by giving my family and school work the attention it requires while being able to keep this blog afloat.

Also, it would be a privilege to connect with other writers, parents, and creative people who want to utilize this blog to help get the word out and encourage others.  It also helps me keep quality content up here in between the times that I really need a break from reading and writing for a day (seriously, my eyes might be permanently bloodshot after this week!)

Submit your ideas, topics, or full blog posts to EMILY@PARDYMAMA.COM 

It might take me some time to get back to you, but I promise I will read each one!

As you know, PARDYMAMA loves to specifically speak to moms and dads who are struggling honestly with the everyday strife and blessings that marriage, parenthood, and other realities can bring into life.  I'm looking for honesty here - so, whether you are funny, dramatic, or just want to share a lesson that you've learned lately - bring it on!

I look forward to hearing from you!

TBT: Toddlers Are Like College Students

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's Throwback Thursday on the blog!  While I'm in the midst of midterm mayhem in grad school, I look back on this blog with even deeper understanding (and need for it's humor) than I did when I wrote it a little over a year ago... Enjoy!

With all the "Back to School" commercials I see on TV these days, it makes me all jittery and nervous with that excitement and nostalgia flooding my mind as I think back to my own school days.  It's been a long time since I've been in school and my own kids have a few years to go (thank goodness!) but, it still makes me tense when I see all those ads for pencils and notebooks and new Reebok Hightops with the velcro (okay, maybe there aren't commercials for those anymore, but ever since that style has had a resurgence in fashion, it makes me miss my grade school days!)

I started having flash backs of my school days through the years:  the boisterous elementary years, the awkward and torturous junior high days, the long and full-of-attitude-and-angst (thanks 90s music) hours of high school that seemed to tick by ever-so-slowly, followed by the happy-go-lucky days of college...footloose and fancy free, indeed.

Even though you know that those times were filled with impossible drama and heightened emotions, as a grown up now days, you can't help but look back with a bit of wonder and joy at your own naivet√©.  "Oh, it's funny how I thought I had actual problems back then!"   We always associate these things with adolescence...this sense of our "small planet" being all there is that just escalates and grows until we finally burst into the "real world" and have to get a job or have a baby or say vows to someone we would die for.

But, I don't think it starts in adolescence...I think it starts right after we are born!  And, the more I thought about this, the more I realized more and more how similar my two-year-old, Matilda, is to being just like those ripe-minded twenty-somethings daring to take on the world one foolish/brave notion at a time!  (Don't get me wrong, I love a dreamer - I grasp and grasp to hang on to my ideals with all I can!)  So, here, I've concluded a list for you to chuckle over; a "back to school" analogy for parenthood...

Why Toddlers Are Like College Students

  1. They think they know everything.
  2. They are sure you think you know everything, but are also very confident that you actually don't.
  3. They expect you to feed them whenever they are hungry.
  4. They have no money.
  5. They want to wear pajamas all day.
  6. It's perfectly acceptable for them to wear pajamas all day.
  7. They believe toast is a meal.
  8. They never make their bed.
  9. They expect you to do their laundry for them. 
  10. They like all cereal, but somehow it always ends up on the carpet. 
  11. They can relate to every television show they watch.
  12. No matter what you say to them, they probably disagree with you.
  13. They aren't afraid to tell you how they really feel.
  14. Their music is loud and annoying, but too catchy to ignore.
  15. You wish you could get away with wearing the shoes they wear cause they're just so cute.
  16. A backpack is a perfect accessory for any outfit.
  17. They hate reading but they hate lectures even more.
  18. They would stay up and play till the wee hours of the morning if they could.
  19. They can never get enough Disneyland.
  20. They are always overtired, but never want to go to bed.
  21. They can talk for hours and you still might not understand what they're trying to tell you.
  22. They think the world's biggest problem has something to do with bad guys that look like Ja'far.
  23. They expect and want you to tell them what to do when they really need you.
  24. They really need you when the toy they want costs more than your rent.
  25. They make headbands look cool.
  26. They believe a couch is just as good as a bed.
  27. They are only as nice as their last nap was. 
  28. A road trip always sounds fun to them until they are trapped in the car.
  29. They cry when things don't go their way.
  30. They cry when things totally go their way.
  31. It's really hard to sit through church without playing on the iPhone.
  32. They think milk goes great with every meal.
  33. They love to experiment with new hairstyles.
  34. Just because they wore the same outfit yesterday is no reason to change clothes.
  35. They remember every inappropriate thing you say. 
  36. They laugh at their own jokes, even if you don't.
  37. Friendship means you share dress-up clothes.
  38. They think libraries are basically only for social get-togethers. 
  39. They believe adventure and new discovery could take place anywhere, anytime.
  40. They expect to see every place on the planet that they want to see.
  41. Someone smiling at them can truly change their day.
  42. They want to play house but not commit to anything just yet.
  43. They want to make friends with everybody.
  44. They want to be the loudest person in the room.
  45. They can see right through people who don't believe in them.
  46. They always want a snack, even if they just had one.
  47. The floor surrounding their toilet is always disgustingly filthy.
  48. Their room can never be dark enough.
  49. They feel loved when we buy them stuff, even little stuff.
  50. When they pray, they talk to Jesus like He is sitting right in front of them. 


You gotta love em.  

Happy new school year, everybody!

The New Job

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My husband has a new job!  After three-and-a-half months of waiting, Josh started his new job yesterday (can I get a Hallelujah?)!

Time to dust off those dress shoes!
Because so many of you walked this journey with us, I wanted to let you know how truly incredible God is in granting us the opportunity of this new job.  The first day for him to put on a tie and show up on time and meet with new people and earn a paycheck started yesterday...but, in reality, the beginning of this job started long before.

About a month after we moved here, we saw a listing for a job at the new school where Josh is working.  He was really interested in the school, but in complete honesty, he wanted to head into a Marketing position, and the job that was posted was not in marketing.  He was qualified for the job, however, so we began to pray about it.

For one, beggars can't be choosers...and we needed a job.  More than that, however, we decided as a team that we couldn't limit God to what we wanted.  How did we know what God had in store?  Who were we to try and cage God into the scope of our view?  God is so, so much bigger.  And, holding onto the truth that God wants the best for us, Josh humbly applied for the posted position.

Six weeks later, long after we thought the time had passed to even be considered for the position, Josh got a call to interview.  By the third interview, weeks into the process, something extraordinary happened:  the Head of the School had noticed that his gifts seemed to be steered toward creative ideas, and that he had real strength in brand management.  Little did we know, they were already considering bringing on a new person in Marketing full-time...and suddenly they were interested in Josh for a completely different position.

Josh came home that day awestruck, and we were dumbfounded at how God was working behind the scenes on our behalf.  Our journey of faith that took us 2,000 miles and three months into an unknown future were culminating into dreams we never imagined possible.  It wasn't going to magically resolve all our questions or dilemmas, but it was going to prove the unchanging faithfulness of God's direction in our life yet again.

The first day on the job was wonderful.  He is sipping from a blasting fire hose of new information, no doubt, every first-day-on-the-job feels overwhelming and exhilarating at first.   But, each person he has met has welcomed him with joy and affirmation.  He's right where he's meant to be, learning and growing and excited to use the talents that God has instilled in him.

We don't yet know the full extent that this new job holds for Josh.  Every job has its difficulties, and I'm sure as time goes on this one will present it's own challenges in one way or another.  Faithfulness does not make one immune to fact, it inevitably secures it.  But, right now we are so grateful to be resting in the assurance that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

Thank you, again, to all of you who have supported us through this crazy time in our lives.  We knew that at some point we would find our "new normal" and it feels like we are finally hitting our stride in our new city.  I know it will take months to continue to adjust to the changes...but, for now, the changes  have plateaued to a palatable level.

If you are waiting on God...if you are searching for answers...if you are frustrated by lack of direction...wait.  Time is a real element that God utilizes for His plans.  Time is never wasted when it grows faithfulness.  And time is sometimes all that's standing between you and the great big God that is working behind the scenes on your behalf.  Hang on.

Guest Blog: An Open Letter to Mothers of Toddlers (The Crazy Kind)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Today's GUEST BLOG is written by a good friend of mine, Stephanie. Not only is she an incredible writer, but she is a mama of four! You can follow her talent at A Wide Mercy and visit her Facebook Page to keep up with what's new.

Dear Mother of a Crazy Toddler,

I swear, it's not you. And it does get easier.
It took me a while to have kids. My husband and I were married just out of college, but my husband traveled for work, and we put off children for a while. When we were ready, I had the shock of my life when I realized most of what I learned in high school health class was a scare tactic, and it's actually NOT that easy to get pregnant. A year later I had a miscarriage that shattered my heart. A year after THAT, I found out I was pregnant. Thirty nine long weeks, twelve hours of labor, and one emergency c-section later, I was finally a mother.
My son, for whom I'd dreamed and cried and waited, was finally here.
Eighteen months later, his little brother surprised us all.

All of that to say, I wanted to be a mother. I waited to be a mother. I cried and prayed to be a mother. And when I finally got to be a mother, I was in waaaayy over my head.
All toddlers are busy. It's the nature of the beast. Their little minds are absorbing the world, one handful at a time, just as they are meant to do. But one of my sons was the crazy kind of toddler.  

When he was eleven months old he broke an "indestructible" outlet, pushed aside the plug, and was digging wires out of the wall when I found him (which was probably ninety seconds after I'd left the room).  
When he was three he woke up before dawn, scaled the kitchen cabinets while we were all asleep, and ate half a bottle of Tums. He has played in lighter fluid, been trapped inside a kitchen stool (his grandpa sawed him out while his grandma was on the phone with 911), and jumped headlong into a swimming pool after taking off his life jacket, when he couldn't swim. I used to point out danger to him, but when I realized adventure glinted in his eye any time he said, "I could DIE," I stopped using those words.
For three years my daily goal was to keep them both alive. I still can't believe we made it.
At the time, I wondered what I was doing wrong. Like Emily, I wondered, "Is it like this for everyone?" The answer to that question is no. Not all toddlers are the crazy kind. Some sit and look at books while their mother takes a shower. Some potty train under two years old. Some even know how to use a napkin.
Just not mine.
What I know now, that I didn't know then, is that those crazy toddlers grow. Their strengths become an integral part of your family. Mine is now a little boy. He loves stories of any kind, and will listen to me read until my voice is tired. He is compassionate, noticing how others feel and running ahead to give what they need before they ask for it.  He is emotional and affectionate, and he has a surprisingly developed sense of humor for his age.  
He still pushes every boundary in life, always testing the edges. My pediatrician once said, "He'll either be a CEO or run a meth lab, and nothing in between." I'm afraid she's right. But every day I thank God for bringing me two little boys in two years, and for the richness that once crazy toddler brings to our family.
When your kids are babies, you don't know them yet. You love them, but you don't yet know who they are going to be. Your whole life is about their development. You are running behind them at a pace that feels almost inhuman, chopping food onto plastic plates and changing diapers and averting the next catastrophe, all day long. At night you crash into bed, fall into a dreamless sleep, and wake up six hours later to do it all again. Every. single. day.
Hang in there, Moms of Crazy Toddlers. In a few years you will get to see who they are really going to be. Their development will slow to a breathable pace, and life will be about more than just keeping your kids alive another day.
You may even decide to do it all again. I have four children now, but I still say the toddler years with my oldest two have been the most strenuous in parenting. With my second round of babies and toddlers, I know that I don't know them yet, and that toddler development is exhausting. I know that pretty soon, they will be kids, and we will talk about more than nap time and "no's." And maybe, just maybe, one of them will be the "sit and read" type.  
After all, I've had my crazy toddler. I'm bound to get an easy one eventually, right?
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