Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Well, it's that time of year again...when I notice a drawer getting a cluttered, a pair of pants I never wear, and before I know it I'm in full-fledged purge mode, cleaning out the closets of all the things we don't need that's taking up space in our home.

The other day, I realized my four-year-old outgrew almost every pair of pants she owned.  This seemingly happened within a span of two weeks, her little legs just shot right out and within days she acquired an all-capri wardrobe that sent her ankles shivering in this wintry season.  How did that happen?  Upon buying her some longer pants, I was soon to find other ill-fitting clothes hiding in my daughter's dresser, and so began the task of clearing out and handing-me-down my girl's apparel.

Half-a-dozen trash bags later, all our closets had been lightened.  I have to say, having just moved across the country 7-ish months ago, I'm amazed at how much superfluous accumulation we had taken on within our 900 sq. ft. apartment.  Yes, the girls had rightfully outgrown a bit of their clothing, but Josh and I had our fair share of giveaways as well. T-shirts I just never wear, pajama pants that have an annoying drawstring, a shirt that shrunk in the dryer, a jacket that hasn't been worn in seasons...you get the picture.

The great "toy purge" is always my favorite - getting rid of all those ridiculous knick-knacks that somehow go from this-will-shut-my-kid-up-at-the-moment-necessary-survival-item, to junk in the span of only a few days.  McDonald's toys, stocking stuffers, puzzles with missing pieces, baby stuff they've lost interest in...it all adds up to a pile of someone-else's-treasures that get sacked up and ready to deliver to Goodwill (or the garbage bin, depending).

Ah, there is always a wonderful sense of pride and relief when I shove all that "extra" out of my home. While some of the items get passed on with nostalgia and feelings of sadness (I just can't believe my baby outgrew that sweet kitty jammie onesie, it was soooo adorable and now she'll never wear it again!) I take a deep breath and embrace the new freedom of what is to come.  I know new "things" and new "items" and most of all, new memories are always right around the corner.

Purging my house of unnecessary stuff also got me thinking about cleaning out more than just tangible junk.  What am I hanging onto inside that is simply just taking up SPACE?  Am I used to familiar worries or concerns or desires that have no bearing on my life right now?  Are there things I need to kick to the curb and move on from so that I can better use that mental space to store up new items like patience or grace that I could really, truly put to good use?

This got me thinking, and I'm still thinking and praying about it.  What is there to get rid of?

That residual guilt I have for leaving my girls in the care of someone else, even though I know there are times when it is absolutely the best thing for both of us in the moment.  That should go.  Ah, but that guilt feels so necessary - I wear it so well, and I think I might need it to keep me feeling okay about doing what I'm doing.  Really?  Nope, it's got to go.  Lord, help me replace that guilt with grace and strength.

What about that approval I need from others to feel like I'm going above and beyond in balancing my work and family?  Maybe that should be boxed up and sent away for good.  But what if someone thinks I'm not doing the right thing?  And it feels good when another person looks up to me.  I like other people's approval.  But, do I need it?  Do I wait for it in order to make decisions or be inspired?  It needs to be let go.  Lord, help me to seek your guidance and inspiration and remember that only You're approval matters in my life.  Help me replace that approval with genuine motivation to serve well.

What about you?  Hanging onto unnecessary clutter in your heart or mind that is just taking up useless space?  Maybe it felt good a long time ago, or maybe it even served a valid purpose when you needed it...but, can it be let go?  Can you join me in asking Jesus to replace that void with peace, grace, or kindness?

Purging isn't easy.  It's messy and emotional and it conjures up all kinds of memories and dirt that makes me want to rent out a storage unit with unlimited space.  But, limits are vital to thrive in this life, and they can be put to beautiful use when I ask God to reorganize the essentials.

Now, that's what I call real relief.

Out on a Limb

Friday, January 24, 2014

The other day I wrote about "passion" - that overused term that we all sort of cringe at because we think our true calling might still be beyond our grasp.  As a grad student, I read a lot.  It's not just the amount of reading that I have to do that sometimes makes my eyes itch and my brain swell...but, it's the content too.  While I (freakishly) love just about everything I'm required to read, it's not breezy stuff.  We're talking hardcore, mind-numbing literature that (for a chronically slow-reader like myself) makes me stop and glare at the letters on the page and wonder how I ever found my nose stuck in the middle of a giant textbook labeled Advanced Psychopathology.  Yikes!

But, one of the great things about my diving into all these scary texts is that once in a while I stumble across something that just has to be shared to the masses...something that you would never in your life (most likely) happen upon in your own daily reading routine or local book club (that is, unless your book club has a hankering for self-help or maybe lost a bet and is now obligated to read about Family Therapy.)

All this to say, as I was reading the book Doing Family Therapy, Second Edition: Craft and Creativity in Clinical Practice by Robert Taibbi, LCSW (ah, now you see why you will never stumble upon these words by accident) I read this passage regarding finding one's calling, and I thought it was too beautiful not to share.

I hope you enjoy this refreshing and inspiring view of finding purpose in your work...

This is work that flows from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, work that soaks in all of who and what you are.  It is work that goes beyond the boundaries of a "good job" with its means to other ends, or the "career," that track that we follow to some ultimate level or publicly recognized as success.  This is work as a calling. 
While the notion of a calling conjures up the sound of celestial choirs and beams of radiant light falling down on you from above, it most often begins with only a whisper of some inner voice telling you that this is something you should do, the flicker of an image across your mind that gradually, over time, grows into a vision that pulls you forward.  A calling is realized when you step back form what you are already doing and sense that this work is something htat you are not only good at, but were meant to do.  You have found a medium for expressing who you most are.  Like the artist, you become caught up in the flow of the work, you can lose sense of time, you are absolutely engaged.  You do the work not because of what you might get for it at some time in the future, but because of what the doing does for you in the present... 
If you are able to live this way, to wait and listen, then go to work to make your inner and outer life mirror to each other, then your life is filled with gut-sure honesty, with true integrity.  It will be a differently life than the carefully built one that keeps discovery locked away, that sets its marker early on and moves steadily forward.  To bring faith and discovery and honesty into your life, into your work, is to walk out on a trail on a crisp morning following the sound of the hawk flying above rather than the painted sign on the tree.  You may suddenly find yourself sitting out on a limb or looking over the edge of a cliff and not know why or how you got there.  You may look down and feel afraid, but if you look inside you will find courage; if you look up, you will see visions.

Isn't that awe-inspiring?  I wish I wrote it myself - but, I'm so glad to have read it! Who knew therapy textbooks could be so eloquent, right?  I hope that shed some light on your own calling and I pray that God will continue to reveal to each of us how we can better use our skills for His ultimate purpose.

Have a great weekend everyone.  Find the courage and keep looking up.

Red Flags

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dear Self,

Watch out for red flags in life.  Sure, there are the regular dangers - obvious temptations that most are
 normally guarded against.  Things like lust, gluttony, hatred...those things are commonly repulsive and there's often support to build up the moral courage to avoid them.

But, lately, there've been other red flags.  Flags I'm not so sure you're aware of and I want to hit you over the head before you become completely blind to them.  These are the red flags of distraction.

Your iPhone has a giant red flag, your computer, your stack of homework in the corner over there.  Your bills, your blog, your Facebook, your calendar, your Instagram, even your devotional that you don't read every day (might I take this opportunity to remind you to not forget about that one entirely).  These things are not good or bad.  They just are...and they are enormous filler-uppers of your time that you never intended to distract you so completely.

You need to pray about this.  You need to hand over some of the control that you are disillusioned into thinking you have.  You need to lay down these "priorities" and stop considering these options as if they are obligations.  They are not.  Not when you have reality flashing before your face at lightning speed, and you are losing sight of the fact that the present is turning into the past faster than you can type about it.

Turn the tv off.  Put the iPhone down.  Let the blog go for one more day.  Email that person when you actually have time...they'll wait, I promise.  These red flags are stealing more than just moments from your day - they are warning you against true destruction, losing yourself into these objects instead of into purpose.

You can't say no every time to every body; but, you can say yes to the things that matter most, most of the time.  These red flags around you are distracting you from being able to see the joy that surrounds you.  They steal your peace and obstruct your vision for what you want your life and time and energy to be spent on.

Self...take a deep breath.  You are not going to get this right the first time.  Ask God for extra grace as you take little steps in practicing new patterns, praying your way into a routine that seeks calm and reveres quiet.  These distractions don't have to be put to death, you can still write, still read, still peruse the status updates and photos of your friends...but, all in due time.  Embrace the freedom to take part in it all, and allow yourself the pleasure of being able to do so, instead of feeling burdened by thinking you are "so needed" and allowing your thoughts to be pulled in chaotic directions.

Be thankful for the red flags.  These distractions are warning signs, flashy and justified and sometimes intended for the good of others - but, they are toxic when overused, misused, abused, or dominating time that is meant for your calling.  Time better spent in the present.  Energy better used in being vulnerable.  Life better lived for His glory.

Pluck the red flags out, replace them with white ones, and surrender your burdens to the One who will never fail you when it comes to time management.  Yes, Jesus even cares about the loudest of moments, the craziest and most chaotic of schedules, and He's here to help you sort through the rubble and see a clearer picture of how this all fits together.  Let Him take His time with you.  He's never late.

One more deep breath.



Friday, January 17, 2014

Motherhood is sneaky.  It gets crazier and more challenging by the hour, yet exponentially rewarding as it dominates life with no warning.  Even in those early hours of becoming a mother, when my baby was still under the supervision of doctors and nurses; when the congratulatory balloons in the corner haven't lost their deflation, and neither had my belly, the idea of becoming a mother was still comforted by the ideal that "my maternal nature is sure to kick in now".

The early days of motherhood are sacred.  This new creature overwhelmed my mind, body, and spirit, and what was a concept growing inside my body mere moments ago suddenly became a tangible expression of unconditional love.  The idea of this agape started as soon as that pregnancy test first glowed with positivity, yet it wasn't until actually holding the person that embodied this ideal that made me first step back and gasp at my arrogance: How could I have ever possibly thought I knew how to do this?

The only thing that can prepare you for being a mother is having a child.

Now, it's been a little over four years since I first held my eldest daughter in my arms, and I continue to look at both my girls with giddiness and fear.  These are MY children? How do I do this? Motherhood does not come naturally, no matter your background, training, experience, or expectation.  It boggles my mind every single day.

There's nothing natural about putting my body through excruciating aches and pains to deliver a new person into the world. There's nothing natural about getting up in the middle of the night a dozen times to feed, change, or just want to stare at this little human.  There's nothing natural about worrying irrationally about new fears I never even knew I had simply because my new responsibility to another can be too much to bear.

There's nothing natural about craft parties at 5 in the morning, about watching Curious George on my cell phone in the middle of a grocery store, about owning 14 tutus and 8 princess dresses (estimate), about getting irrationally angry and punching the wall because I stepped on another lego and just about broke my neck.  There's nothing natural about washing sippy cups, carrying crayons at the bottom of my purse at all times, or making up songs about poop.

There's nothing natural about getting screamed in the face, thrown-up on, snuggled to a suffocating degree, and then wanting to be around this same person with a nearly unhealthy compulsion to kiss her cheeks right off her little face.

There's nothing natural about wanting to meet the needs of someone who literally follows behind my every step deconstructing and destroying the efforts of housekeeping, laundering, cooking, or cleaning that I exhaustedly repeat with no end.

And most of all, there is nothing natural about willingly, uncomfortably, growing and changing into a more selfless person each and every day. But, that's the mystery and beauty of motherhood.

Motherhood makes no sense.  It's a perfect reflection of God's magical, perfect, insanely irrational love for us.  There is nothing natural about it, because every maternal instinct I have in me - to love, care, and give beyond myself - is absolutely the love of Jesus seeping through my body out into the open world.

I mess it up all the time.  I yell at my kids, I keep them in time out too long, I feed them pita chips and fruit snacks for breakfast, I strap them in their car seats and take them for a drive cause I am too frustrated to want to chase them around the house or peel them off the walls one more time.  And, each and every time I am reminded how ridiculously wonderful and scary it is that I'm given the opportunity to be Jesus to these little humans.  I'm so grateful to worship a God who gave us His Son and His Word to turn to when I feel so out of my element.

There are so many incredible aspects and gifts that come out of motherhood.  When I see my girls giggling or sharing or singing, I'm glimpsing at bits of heaven here on earth.  But, one of the greatest parts of motherhood I never saw coming:  laying down my ideals for what I thought would come so naturally, and accepting the amazing truth that what comes unnaturally is so, so much better.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This is my 301st blog post.  When did that happen?!

I don't know whether that number seems impressive to you or not, but I can tell you one thing - I never saw it coming.  When I started PARDYMAMA about 4 years ago, I was sitting in a cubicle, bored out of my gourd and looking for an outlet.

I would peruse the internet in between tasks like every other red-blooded American out there, and I read a variety of blogs, all having been established for years and very clear with their message, voice, and content.  When I would consider starting up something of my own, the idea was always quickly devoured by insecurities:  What did I have to say?  Who cared?  Would anyone read it?  Do I have time for this?  What if people hate it?  Am I even good at this?  And so forth.

It began sloooowly, and I would still consider it today amidst it's "early stages" though it's clear to me now that it won't be ending any time soon (a foggy option that I have probably considered a dozen times or more in the first couple years).

I started writing simply because it was 1) something to fill my time, 2) a creative outlet for me, and 3) what I needed.  How much I needed it, or even why was still beyond my grasp, but it wasn't long before my habit for writing grew into a full-blown addiction.

I struggled for years to seek out a real "passion".  I had a plethora of interests, I had a shallow-yet-diverse scope of talents to choose from (jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, so to speak).  And yet, I wrote and wrote with no neon signs pointing me towards a clear goal of achieving anything of grand significance. I wrote for myself, about myself, and primarily continue to do so today.  My writing process has always consisted of three simple steps:  Ponder, Pray, Publish.  That's it.  That's my magic formula.

I see many friends grapple with the notion of finding a "passion".  And, in today's "gotta-be-somebody" world, this overused term can paralyze the most gifted of hearts and minds.  The pressure to feel valued in a singular talent or to find the majority of your life's satisfaction within a mere resume of feats is altogether disillusioning to any normal human.  We are all pretty good at a lot of things, but very very very few of us are spectacular at a solitary task.

Toss out the word "passion".  Just crumple it up and curb that sucker.  Instead - take inventory:  What do you spend your time doing?  Why?  We live in chaos and stress ourselves out over the mundane chores of the day, but when we can step back and look at our routines we might start to find some consistencies, some patterns that we find we simply can't live without.

This is life, this is what you are alive for.

I was living my life's "calling" for years before I stood back and appreciated it for what it was.  I was just being me, being honest, following Christ as best I could, living out the process that it takes for me to function and improve and fail and need and seek and find and start all over again.  And 300 blog posts later, I still fight the same old insecurities I did from day one.  I still have obstacles that get in the way of my calling.  And as much as I need and love to write, it's still work for me.  Nobody ever tells you that about "passion".  No one ever says "it's what you're best at, but it just might kill you".

Let go of the pressure and pray through those insecurities.  Keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, and let us encourage one another in the plight against passion and instead seek out the beauty of the patterns that make us who we are.  Let's ask God for the continued grace to give us the opportunities to live out our lives in the way He deems best, worthy of the hard work it requires from our weary selves.

Stop looking for your passion.  You're already living it.

Junk Drawer

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Do you have a "junk drawer" in your house?  Perhaps you have a junk closet, or a junk room, or a junk warehouse for that matter.  (I won't tell.)

In every home I've lived in, I've always maintained a junk drawer.  Somehow it follows me from location to location, regardless of the "organized" state it may start from at move-in-day-one, it never fails that it very quickly becomes a deep abyss of...well...junk.

Nevertheless, I am in and out of this drawer more often than others in my home.  While my book shelves might gather dust, or my CD collection may go untouched for months, the junk drawer is a daily necessity to my every day life.

Batteries go out on the tv remote:  junk drawer.  I need to level that picture frame:  junk drawer.  Coupons for that one pizza delivery place:  junk drawer.  The list goes on and on.  You might even find an umbrella or a couch in there at the bottom, as it seems to be more like Mary Poppin's suitcase than I care to admit.

As you can see - it's a TOTAL WRECK.  But, while there is zero thought or effort assigned as to how I organize this little space - there is equal part guilt for keeping it so haphazard:  zero.  I feel no shame in my little junk drawer full of crud.  It works for our home and it keeps our junk out of the way in an efficient (albeit, untidy) manner.

Everyone's got a junk drawer.  We all have something that works for us that others might deem disgusting or questionable.  I'm not talking about morals or values or of anything of real consequence.  I'm talking about everyday chaos that we tuck away to just keep moving forward.  The necessary stuff we need to move past in order to just function.

I'm exposing my junk drawer today cause it's an analogy for all of us living under the illusion that others have it all together, or others have their life more "organized" than we do.  Probably not.  Probably they have a junk closet (or warehouse) that works for them that's helping maintain their sanity too.

All this to say, junk drawers happen in life.  Don't sweat the small stuff, so to speak.  Don't think that gal Pinteresting her latest seven-layer-dip for her Literature and Wine book club party tonight doesn't have somewhere she stashes that half-used chapstick that she just won't throw away.

Whatever.  You get it.  We are all a mess who need Jesus - the one and only junk-organizer who can whip us grimey-trashmakers into shape through His love and grace alone.

Now, where did I put the duct tape?

Boiling Point

Monday, January 13, 2014

Did you know if you place a wooden spoon over a boiling pot, it won't boil over?

I recently had my eyes opened to this simple fact and it has been a game-changer in my kitchen.  I made hardboiled eggs the other day, and sure enough, the bubbles spurted and blurted and I watched as the steam rolled off the top of the pot while the water stayed confined to doing its job:  cooking the eggs.

I don't know how long I have been boiling water all wrong!  Needless to say, a long time.  There have been countless, unnecessary messes all over my stove simply because I didn't take advantage of the resources that were right in front of me the whole time.  Who knew?

Even little helpers need help
As I watched the water boil, I thought how often I allow my own frustrations to surface, spill, and pour out all over into a giant mess when I try to live life unassisted.  I drive myself CRAZY with expectations, obligations, and unpredictable changes that I feel helpless to control.  Then, a friend calls and offers to watch my girls, my husband hugs me and prays for me, or someone just emails me an encouraging note.  And, I'm helped.

And the tensions ease.  My soul returns to calm, my blood pressure drops to normal, and my peace is restored by the touch of an outside helper.  I'm surrounded by wooden spoons, if only I allow them to help.  I have wooden spoons at my arms-length, if only I'm humbled enough to reach out and ask.

Who is your wooden spoon?

It's vital for me to have people in my life that I can call on for the tiniest and largest of reasons.  I mentally seclude myself and the pressure rises, but when I speak openly and ask for help, I'm almost always genuinely refreshed at the willingness and generosity of others to show up in my time of need.

Asking for help also models humility to my children.  I must keep this in mind!  We all need each other.    I hear so many mom-friends offering help to others in various ways, extending themselves beyond reason and spreading themselves thinner than tissue paper.  (I am one of these!)  But, let's remember that we are in a super-amazing time of life that can work as a  beautiful exchange program - helping and asking for help - both of which our children need to be taught.

As life gets crazier (because, who are we kidding? This ship is never slowing down) let's keep reminding each other that we're not in it alone.  No one has it "all together".  None of us are actually pulling this whole parenting thing off without a hitch.  It's difficult and the world doesn't slow down around us when we just want to sit on the couch and fold laundry during nap time.

Today, take a moment to ask for help for something.  Take a moment to offer help to someone.  If nothing else, we are breeding opportunities for gratitude.  That alone, is worth a moment to thank a wooden spoon in your life.

Don't wait until you've reached your boiling point.

School Girls

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Today marked a milestone for the Pardy girls: they started "school" today!  Okay, so it's not really, truly for-real school, but it is being away from mama and under the authority and care of another for about 5 hours.  Whew!

My girls, Matilda (4) and Daphne (2) are enrolled in a one-day-a-week Mother's Day Out program at a local church.  I had been gearing my emotions up for this day for many weeks now.  I scoped out the site well over two months ago and was thrilled with the care and attention and kindness that the staff showed.  I was also glad they were accepting youngsters mid-semester and able to fit my girls into a Thursday only schedule. (Like finding a needle in a haystack in the middle of the night, let me tell you.)

Matilda has been excited for the last 10 weeks anticipating the arrival of "School day".  Daphne, however, did not grasp the concept until her world came shattering down about 9:30am this morning when I said good-bye and handed her the kitty backpack with matching lunch bag.  (Somewhere in my heart I felt like the ratio of cuteness-to-sadness would be diminished by the sheer adorableness of a tiny pink matching back/lunchpack duo.  I was sorely mistaken.)  Still, I could hear her crying quiet down even 10 seconds later as I made my way down the school hallway.

Matilda was ready to high-five and start playtime and blow me off for good.  A big "thumbs up" and she became THE icebreaker of the classroom.  "Hi!  My name is Matilda.  I'm four.  I had my birthday party at McDonald's!" (This is her standard greeting to anyone who will bat an eye at her.)  Love that spirit.

My girls are growing up!  They are looking like real, for-real PEOPLE.  Like, actual humans who are their own little selves creating paths and adventures that stem off of the beaten road I've carved out for them.  Sure, they've always been individual beings, but there's nothing like seeing those little faces grow and shape into  tangible absorbers of real life.

I didn't shed a tear.  I didn't break down in the car.  This bodes well for Kindergarten down the road (no   promises, even the IDEA of it gets me a little weepy) but, I'm so proud of my girls for taking this step and working with me and Josh towards a routine and a goal for our family to function well.  It's exciting to think about how this will progress our family.  New crafts, new ideas, new friends, new education - all things that will soon fill my home (and my ears) out of one small shift in our routine.

School girls, you make your mama proud!


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I'm no expert on organization or how to de-crazy your life.  I tend to be a "just-make-it-till-bedtime" kind of mother, and all too often I am left staring at a to-do list with extra tasks still rattling around in my mind.  It never seems to all get done; and if it does, it's an extremely short-lived victory.

So, I've been trying my best over the last few weeks on "break" to summon the strength and motivation in order to plan for a bit more sanity in the year ahead.  My three "tips" below aren't original necessarily innovative.  But, they are simple, attainable, and it's what I plan to implement into my own life this year so that I can reach beyond survival mode and actually thrive amidst the mayhem.

Welcome to PLANUARY: my game plan for sanity this January which I hope inspires motivation in the days ahead.

1. MEAL PLAN is a four letter word in my home.  
Two four letter words for that matter.  Ugh.  The thought of it is intimidating and wearisome, I get it.  But, instead of planning out an entire month, or even three meals a day for an entire week - limit it to the one meal everyone has on their minds:  Supper.

Almost every day I felt this burden for coming up with a grand idea for sustaining the nourishment of my family and creating a Norman Rockwell moment at 6pm each night.  Rarely did this actually happen.  And, when left with no default to lean back on, I would all-to-often end up ordering pizza and justify the expense (both financial and caloric) with my stressful state and busy calendar.

Sure, pizza night is gonna happen once in a while - it should!  But, I want to plan for it, enjoy it, and indulge guilt-free.  While we might scrounge for breakfast and lunch (keeping bread, eggs, lunchmeat, and canned soups on hand is not so difficult after all) I know exactly what we're gonna have for supper that night.

Keeping it simple:  Take inventory of what you have.  List meats and sides, and then match them up and cross them off the list.  Then, jot it down on a place where you can SEE it.  Don't think about it too much - just look at the days you know you will be home for supper and write down the idea (be sure to note if you need to defrost something ahead of time).  You don't need to roast a turkey every Wednesday - I have "frozen pizza" down for Friday night because I know that's a high-risk-ordering-in night for me.  Be practical, realistic, and only take it one meal/one week at a time.  If I can do it, you can do it!  Honestly, to look over and know what's for dinner is a HUGE relief for me.  It eliminates the guessing game and the burden, which is well worth the 20 minutes each weekend to look in my cabinets and write it out.

2. CLEAN HOUSE - what's that?
I can't imagine the thought of having every room clean in my home.  I go to bed thinking "Tomorrow I will have the energy to tackle this, this, and also that." Then I wake up early to the grumpy sounds of children arguing and everything shifts to the bottom of the totem pole until it's suddenly the end of the day and there are even more Cheerios ground into my carpet.  How do you spell frustration? C-h-i-l-d-r-e-n   I get it.

Keeping it simple: Don't tackle the whole house.  Don't even try a whole floor.  Just start with the most disgusting room (or closet, or counter, or teeny-tiny shelf) in your home and get it satisfactory.  No one is coming in with white gloves to test your cleaning skills, no one is bringing you a trophy later for your endeavors, no one is probably going to even notice that your toilet bowl went from Frat-boy-status to Mr-Clean-worthy.  Don't kill yourself, just do what you can and high-five yourself.

We ALL have dishes.  We ALL have laundry on our floors.  We ALL have swept those Cheerios under the couch before our playdate arrived.  Life happens and you can't live under the burden of maintaining a June Cleever home.  You are not alone - but, you are also not a pig.  You have 10 minutes to tackle ONE thing and it will make everyone feel better.  The best part?  Cleaning ONE thing usually is all the motivation I need to tackle just one MORE thing (when I have time).  And while it might not last for long, it's the small victories that help us sleep at night.

3. SAVE THE DATE - for your marriage.
Ever get those adorable "Save the Dates" in the mail for your friend's wedding?  Don't they look so picturesque and romantic?  While they might remind us of younger years when it was easier to go out and be alone with your hunk of a husband, it also can make me sigh in jealousy wishing life wasn't too crazy for dating the man I love.

Week to week is bogged down with obligations.  If I wait until Thursday to figure out a plan, I'm way too late.  If I can't find child care, I give up.  There are many hurdles when it comes to finding alone time with our spouses.

Keeping it simple: Text your babysitter RIGHT NOW - ask her for a free Friday night in February or March and then MARK IT ON THE CALENDAR.  Tell your husband to make sure that night is clear.  Put the date in your phone/email/planner so that you are sure to schedule around it.  If your doctor or friend or child's teacher asked you to save a date, you would.  Don't put your hubby at the bottom of the list.  Stick a happy post-it note on your fridge (right next to those wedding invites) and save the date.  You have plenty of time to think up fun and cheap ideas for what to do with that night, as well as save back some change to blow for the event (no matter how small or big).

That's it!  Choose one - or all - to implement into your own crazy life.  Send me YOUR ideas for how you plan to shift your focus, ease your guilt, or save your sanity this year!  As we exchange ideas and encourage one another, we might just make it to 2015 with smiles on our faces.  :)

Only Tuesday

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I get it.  You're feeling overwhelmed and maybe even already behind...and it's only Tuesday.

As I returned from a "quick trip" to Target (I went in for diapers - why am I carrying three bags?) I stumble into our home with my girls, all of us pink-cheeked from the ten degree weather outside.  I had found two packs of baby wipes in my back seat that froze solid, so I figure I'll see how they thaw out and let the girls use them as bricks for a fort in the meantime.

I check my email, my voicemail, I make a couple calls as I put "Despicable Me2" on tv for my girls to watch while I simultaneously pull out a smorgasbord from the fridge (graham crackers, shrimp, cheese sticks and cucumbers do make a meal, right?) I started putting away the things we "needed" from the store.

With my phone under my cheek, dishes in hand, I see my two-year-old out the corner of my eye as she proudly pours an entire box of goldfish crackers on our coffee table.  I would have screamed if I could conjure up the energy (or not been on the phone at the time) and instead I just sighed deeply at the sight.  I don't know if I was more frustrated with her or more discouraged in the knowledge that I would have to be the one to clean it all up.

I hung up the phone and closed my eyes.  It's ONLY TUESDAY!  And then it hit me.  Deep breath.  It's only Tuesday.  Get a grip, woman.  It's not the end of the world, it's not a major holiday, it's not even the start of the new school year (thanks to Nashville's fear of the snowpocalypse, my grad class was cancelled today).  It's ONLY Tuesday, and this is good news.

Right.  Good news, that's what I needed.  Even the smallest of victories can overcome the mountains of frustration when it comes to parenting.  I look over and see my girls giggling and then my four-year-old says "Mmm, this lunch is good!" and then she lifts her shirt up so I can see her protruding belly full from the bounty.

I'm so blessed.  I'm so grateful to have crackers on smushed into my carpet and frozen packs of baby wipes.  It's stupid and silly and not real problems.  My life is full of wonderfully inconvenient delays and frustrations.  It's maxed out with delightful complaints and glorious interruptions.  There is much to celebrate in the mischievous, the mundane, and the majestically messy.

Much to celebrate - and it's only Tuesday!  Deep breaths mamas - party on.

Fresh Start

Monday, January 6, 2014

I'm BACK!  Hello world, hello new year, hello FRESH START and new beginnings.

Last year was CRAZY and I don't expect any less insanity in 2014.  It will surely be different craziness, as I don't plan on moving 2,000 miles with two toddlers and embarking on a entirely new course for my life by starting grad school.  Still, the year ahead marks a milestone of transition that is in process as we continue to grasp our bearings on our new life in Nashville.

For many of you, the new year started last week, when the clock struck midnight and your diet kicked into full swing.  But, despited the blanket of ice that has immobilized the surrounding metropolis, today is a day of MOVEMENT in my soul for the coming months ahead.

Each year brings change.  Change is rarely comfortable, and so preparing for a new horizon of possibilities can feel daunting at times.  As I rested over the holidays (oh, and also worked my buns off at the mall handling the wackiest of customers) I was reminded how my actions are merely a reflection of the strength God provides me.

I do because He did.  Not the other way around.

I felt fear in looking ahead at my schedule for the coming year:  All the obligations I have as a mother to wipe noses and make sure I hug and kiss enough and read the right story books and get them to eat at least one vegetable.  All the passion I have as a wife to serve my husband well and encourage him and speak truth to him and love him with genuine respect and admiration and romance.  All the fortitude and determination I sink into being a grad student, the piles of books and papers and the unattainable task to always be the best in class.  All the anxiety and excitement of taking on my first clients for therapy and being vulnerable enough to absorb the critiques of my supervisors.

It's a lot.  It's too much for me.  But, it's not too much for my God, and not a surprise to Him at all that I recognize my weakness through the challenges of the life I'm living.

There are a lot of goals I have for 2014, but essentially they all culminate into one word:  thrive.  I don't want to just survive anymore.  I don't want to just see what's in store for the day and check boxes that get me from A to Z.  I don't want to just look down and see the tracks I've made in the path behind me, but I want to stake out new ground, uncover new strengths, and seek out fresh perspectives that I've never known before.

There are many midnights ahead of us to create, and recreate continual resolutions for the days ahead.  We can each take refuge in the strength we don't have by resting in the assurance of the stronghold that we do.  Thank you God for a fresh start, for the chance to change, to refine, to restore.  Thank you for new years and new opportunities.  Your grace is like new fallen snow, even as my dirty black boots trudge through the unchartered areas.

Thank you for the future.  Here I come.
Proudly designed by | mlekoshiPlayground |