In Season

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The last two nights have been rather sleepless for me.  With the sun setting later and my kids wound-up from playing, bedtime has been getting later and later and more and more frustrating.  Last night, I came home from school to find my eldest down with fever and a sore throat, and my littlest bouncing off the walls as if she'd been feasting on espresso beans all day.  Brutal combo.

When it comes to sleeping habits, it's been my rule for a long time to simply take the shortest route to the most sleep.  Whether that means everyone sleeping together or letting them share a bed for a night or whatever - just sleeeeeep (please, please sleep).

So, last night I camped out in the living room on the pull-out bed and had a slumber party with my girls.  We stayed up late watching Little House on the Prairie, and while we threw ideals out the window, we embraced each other and made due.

So, here we are, snuggled up on our make-shift-hotel-like-recovery-room-couch-bed watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and eating Cheez-its and cereal bars for breakfast.  Some days just have to be like this.  Some days, fever trumps all other to-dos and productivity is reduced to what-time-she-last-took-Tylenol and where-in-the-world-is-the-remote-to-the-DVD-player.

And I'm so grateful for these days.  Certainly I hate to see my baby sick to any degree, but a case of the sniffles is in itself a good reminder that our health is taken for granted far too often.  I'm so glad I live a non-traditional life/schedule that allows me to stay home when I need to, to be able to feel this degree of neediness in this season of my life, and to engage with my girls when the best medicine is a hug and an episode of literally-anything-animated.

Oh, Lord, help me to cherish the sweetness of these times when the answers seem so simple.

This season is not for the faint of heart.  The incessant talking, the whining, the development of me-ness and manners and manic emotions can get so overwhelming as a parent that I find myself praying aloud multiple times a day just to get through.  It's exhausting, and the lack of sleep through this time in my life only adds insult to injury.

But, this season is so full of little gifts, and I'm determined to pluck them out of the mania and wring them dry of their beauty along the way.  When my little girls just want a hug, when they yell for me to comfort them, when they snuggle up (or even knee me in the ribs climbing onto my lap) I'm trying my best to soak it up, take it in, and cherish these moments that will so quickly turn complicated in the future.  My singing them to sleep or praying over their "ouchies" won't last forever, even when the reality of the day-to-day feels like the drama-of-the-moment is never ending.

The day will come when they will have more ouchies on the inside than the outside, when it will be harder for me to interpret what they need and what will help them, when I won't know the answer or be the answer to their hardest questions.  That season will have it's own gifts, along with the impending challenges that I'm not yet ready for.  (Some of which honestly scare the holy-guacamole out of me!  i.e. boys, love, puberty, mean girls at school...)

Thinking of that future season settles my mind in the present.  I know God is working on me right now to become the mother they need when that time comes...but, in the meantime, I'm thrilled to kiss feverish foreheads, watch cartoons, and snuggle my whiny tots while the rest of my world is on pause for the day.

Sometimes a sick day brings the healthiest perspective.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

On Failure

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In the rush of the day, in the crazy busy-ness , in the whirlwind we call life, it seems to me that most of the time we are all just doing our best to avoid failure.  Failure can look different to different people within all kinds of circumstances.  For me, sometimes failure means losing my cool and yelling at my kid, or snapping at my husband instead of thinking before I speak, or even choosing to watch TV instead of doing my homework.

But, as I get older, these instances of failing are beginning to look less like moments of insecurity, and more and more like progressive opportunities.  I'm not saying all failure is good.  Certainly there are times that failure is outright sinful, and my repentance is as necessary as my humility in order to reap the full benefit of God's hand in my life.  But, I am saying this:  The only difference between failure and progress is perspective.

This struck me the other day when I was considering my frustrations as a parent (a common theme here on PARDYMAMA!)  I was biting my tongue, taking deep breaths, and praying through another moment of choosing peace and patience over my all-too-reactive anger.   I imagined how God must be looking at me through parental eyes - how He must look at all of us at times - and yet, He's not having to take deep breaths and settle Himself down over disappointment in us.  It's not that I don't disappoint God (absolutely, this should be obvious!) but, rather, that He can see the big picture - where I'm headed - the lessons I'm gaining, and so forth.  I just pictured God smiling earnestly at me and encouraging me "Oh dear'll get it.  Remember my Words.  Trust in Me.  Depend on ME."

When I fail, something inside me (I would consider this "something" to be the Holy Spirit utilizing my conscience and conviction) tells me to do better next time, to stop relying on my own strength so much, to remember that there's a better path (albeit, often harder) and to choose differently in the future.  This recognition gives me unfathomable hope to change, be better, act differently.  This is the Spirit of Christ in me, working through even the most mundane or tumultuous moments.

THAT isn't failure...that's progress.

Seeing my weaknesses from God's perspective allows me the security to move forward, embrace grace and forgiveness, and grow in the progressive depth that my faith offers me in my actions.  It also reminds me of this verse:
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ my rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We all do our best to hide our weaknesses and avoid failures.  But, when failures come and the temptation to shirk into our own insecurities is quick to follow, I hope you take a deep breath and choose to embrace the progress Christ offers in those quiet moments.  I know He's still working on me, and I'm so grateful for each moment of progress I encounter, even if it takes me some time before I can step back and appreciate the true perspective of how God uses it in my life.

Kids Ruin Everything

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Someone once said that trying to clean the house with little kids is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.

I couldn't agree more.

I don't know which is more of a disaster - my house before attempting to clean it, or the chaos that follows once I start tackling the chores with the "help" of my children.  Making the bed becomes a battle of sheets and blankets, folding laundry turns into fort-making piles of towels and towers of socks and underwear that eventually get shoved into drawers.

And then, in my effort to allow them to help, Matilda multi-tasks swiffering and holding the cat at the same time, only to end up slightly scratched and bursting into tears seconds later. (Not to mention the hissing feline hiding in the corner giving me the stink-eye.  Sorry, buddy.)

I love that they want to help...I just don't want them to help.  It's frustrating, it takes time, it take extra patience, and there are times I'd rather just let the house crumble around me than put up with the fighting and frustrations that manifest in the process.  Whew.  (Can I get an Amen Sister!)

It's within these moments of loud chaos that I find myself thinking "Kids ruin everything!"  Usually this is instantly followed by a pang of guilt that turns into a prayer for extra grace and gratitude (Serenity now, Lord!)  But, today, it occurred to me - "Yes, they DO!  And thank God for it."

Life before children wasn't boring, but it was highly predictable.  It was quieter, yes, but it was also much more static.  (This isn't to say that child-free couples can't live dynamic, wonderfully full lives!) But, there are simply lessons I wouldn't have learned about myself had my children not thrown some wrenches into my efficiently-functioning-just-the-way-I-like-it wheelhouse.

There's a term in therapy we use to describe a system that keeps functioning according to status quo called homeostasis.  It's not necessarily negative or positive, it's simply a way of keeping things going and maintaining stability and equilibrium within a system - in this case, my home.  Change occurs when something from the outside rattles this ever-functioning system.

Change rarely occurs without discomfort.  Growth can't happen without a few growing pains.  And my children are constant reminders that they are in the best way completely ruining my comfort zone, my balance, my homeostasis.

My kids have ruined my very-conditional love.  My kids have destroyed my lack of patience.  My kids have obliterated my shallow capacity for grace.  And they've completely thwarted all my attempts to remain selfish and focused on my wants over my needs.

I simply can't survive this ever-changing, crazy, unpredictable home without trusting God more, developing greater patience, love, and grace, and totally laying myself down day after day.  I may live in a loud, messy house.  It might get scary-bonkers at times.  But, I'm grateful for the nonsense of this growth that continues to strengthen and challenge me hour by hour.

Kids ruin everything...perfectly.

Father Time

Thursday, June 12, 2014

For Mother's Day, I wrote a post that was really for the moms-to-be, for the moms who might be aching to celebrate, for the women who have yet to fulfill their dream of mothering and are sighing deeply in the midst of waiting.

photo cred: Molly Snelson
Well, this one's for the dads-to-be.  The other half of the couple-in-waiting to are so often overlooked when terms like "trying" or "infertility" get thrown around as if it were as simple as waiting for an Amazon package to arrive on your doorstep.  But, it's seldom that simple.  And, while the wives get cards and girls-nights-out and encouraging pats on the back, men who are waiting to be fathers rarely get the chance to express their own frustrations and pain, especially on days like this coming Sunday.

While it will seem like the rest of the world will be waking up to coffee and burned toast in bed, lovingly unwrapping gifts of goofy ties and humorous coffee mugs...I want to take a moment to talk to the dads who are still eager to clumsily hold that baby of his own someday.  God is using this time for you, guys, and you are not forgotten.

When my husband and I were hoping, waiting, praying for our firstborn to be conceived, it was a strange process for Josh.  Not only did he have to balance his own dreams of what fatherhood meant to him, but he had to care for mine as well.  And, for the first few months, I took it upon myself to relish in the burden of waiting.  Meanwhile, Josh confusingly wavered between sympathy and frustration, not knowing how much of the emotional toll was really his to claim.  And, I was too focused on my own body, desires, and anger to allow him any room to grieve and process in his own way.  After all, I was the one who would carry the baby, clearly it matters more to me.  No, that's terribly, terribly wrong.  And, looking back now, I'm sorry I didn't recognize that my husband's lack of expressing his emotions was a source of protection and comfort for me, and not in any way a  sign of his lack of investment.

After a few months of bearing the roller coaster of "trying" (by the way, don't we all just hate that term?) we breached a new level of understanding.  I shared with Josh how every month I didn't get pregnant felt like getting rejected from a job I was perfect for.  Here was a position that I dreamed about, had all the exact experience, knew I would be a great fit for, could commit to, and would do anything to get...yet, when I saw another pregnant woman or got my period, it was as if God Himself was turning me down in the middle of an interview.  I'm sorry, the position has already been filled.  Thanks, anyway.  No feedback.  No reasons.  No explanation.

This idea clicked with Josh, and the power of the analogy shed new light on his emotions.  Maybe he didn't know the pain of hoping to be pregnant, only to have hopes dashed in a single bathroom break once a month...but, he knew what it felt like to get rejected from a job opportunity, and that brought empathy into our relationship in a new way.

While he was able to relate to my emotions, however, it was months until I started to truly recognize his emotions invested in the experience.  It wasn't that he was holding out on me or keeping secrets about how he felt.  Like most men, he genuinely was unsure how to interpret the feelings he was experiencing.  Waiting to become a father is twofold for men, emotionally.  If there's two duties for a husband that seem to be nearly universal in most relationships, it's the need to provide and the need to fix.

These are wonderful characteristics.  They are simple, direct, and often effective when paired with a woman's ability to nurture and engage.  But, when it comes to conceiving a child, they are of little solace.  Josh could not provide an explanation, and he couldn't fix the problem - month after month.  We were waiting on the hand of God to intervene, and (as are most experiences with waiting for men) his impatience quickly manifested as anger and inadequacy.

Guys, this is totally valid.  Those feelings are not wrong or bad.  And, while your wife might be in need of a hug more than you going for a beer with the guys and taking a jog to blow off steam - waiting is a time to take care of your self as much as your spouse and your future family.  But, don't stop asking God for help.  Don't stop telling your wife why your angry (and direct that frustration at your Xbox instead of your fragile wife!)  Don't stop growing in this painful process that has the opportunity to truly shape you into the man you will have to be when those 3am diaper changes finally arrive.  You are becoming resilient.  You are becoming adaptable.  You are becoming a father right now.

A word to my mamas-to-be:  You are not alone in this.  Don't forget that your husband is your partner, your friend, your strongest advocate for what's best for you...not just your babymaker.  He loves you, he wants what you want, and the more you can team up toward the goal of becoming the people God wants you to be together the better parents you will make in the future, and the deeper the experience will be for the both of you.  If you feel alone, if you're not sure how your husband feels, Ask him.  If he doesn't know how he feels, believe the best about him.  His feelings matter as much as yours do, but you have to listen (sometimes to actions more than words) before you can interpret what he's saying.

This Father's Day, my husband will be hugged fiercely by our two daughters.  To the point of annoyance and insurmountable joy.  Fatherhood has brought my husband more challenges and happiness than probably anything else in life ever could, and I'm so grateful to know him in this role so intimately.  Fatherhood didn't begin when he changed our daughter's diaper or even when he held her for the first time.  It isn't counted in the number of ties or socks or silly crafts he will receive over the years, and it's not comprised of even the sweetest moments of butterfly kisses or storybook readings.

For Josh, and for many dads, Fatherhood began way back when God started shaping Josh moment-by-painful-moment into the man our family needed him to be.  God uses time as an element of conception just as much as any biological essence.  Dads-to-be, maybe you won't be unwrapping any goofy ties this Sunday, and maybe you will have to wait for a while longer before your baby is in your arms, but your joy can be complete today.  You already have everything you need to provide and fix what's within your responsibility.  And, I pray that God's timing continues to mold your marriage, as He did with mine, to create a unity welcoming of the child he's preparing for you.

In the meantime, know you are not alone.  Know you are a craft in progress.  Know you are enough.  Know you are understood in your anger and frustration.  And, Happy Father's Day...right now.

One Year Ago...

Monday, June 9, 2014

I'm stressed out.  I'm worried sick.  I'm constantly doubting.  I keep myself awake at night concerned over making ends meet, paying off debt, putting food on the table, keeping my kids alive/well/healthy/happy, and maintaining a faithful front that believes above all else that my God is bigger than it all.  (Anyone relate?)

How far have I fallen?  How short is my memory?  How foolish is my soul?  How flimsy is my courage?  How flailing is my trust?

One year ago today, my family traveled 2,000 on hope, faith, and the prayers of many.  We left the home, friends, and work we knew to start a new life across the country.  We packed up all of our belongings, tearfully hugged goodbye the family that surrounded us, and made the big move from California to Tennessee.

One year ago.

Can you believe it's been a year?  I can't wrap my brain around it.

We didn't have a job.  Really, we didn't even have the prospect of a job.  But, I was enrolled to start grad school last August, so the clock was ticking for us to start planting new roots in a soil rich with mystery.  We had been called to a new life...and God provided.

After a few months of unemployment, living off prayers, credit, savings, and the gifts of many, our prayers changed from "God, provide a job" to "God, thank you for providing what we need, when we need it".   The words of Paul had never seemed so clear:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.    Philippians 4:12-13
And, God was remarkably faithful, even through our trials of doubt and fear.  He did provide what we needed when we needed it, as He deemed fit, and we are so grateful.  Josh did get a wonderful job, after four months of unemployment, and it couldn't have been more perfect for him.  As we settled into our new state, we look around us and are amazed and bewildered at God's provision in our lives.  These are the moments I am reminded that I simply don't know how people live without Jesus.  I, for one, couldn't have survived it.

Yet, here I am, a stressed out sinner, roaming my own desert like a blasphemous Israelite too shortsighted with inconvenience to remember the Jehovah Jireh that has far from forgotten me.  SOMEONE HIT ME OVER THE HEAD ALREADY!  I'm a spoiled child that's scared of an unknown future, with no record of a past that gives me any evidence to support such fear.

So now, in my disbelief, I turn to the Scriptures of Paul once more:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Do you have doubts? Fears? Insecurities?  I know I'm not alone in this.  There are some days that the need overwhelms the faith and I wonder how it could possibly work out.  And then, I remember back a year...just one of the many examples of God's pure, unchanging faithfulness in my life journey that shows me clearly how I am not forgotten, how I'm NOT in control, how this life is not mine for worrying.

Stress has a way of stealing from present joy.  It exacerbates all concerns and burdens me more than reality.  And, the reality is, the truth is that God is bigger.  God is present.  God is able.  GOD IS, so I don't have to be.

Peace and thanksgiving be with you today, friends.  Thank you for your incredible support over the last year as our family has transitioned through so much.  God has great things for His children, and I'm grateful for the vulnerability to share my journey with you - the gift of a growing faith is fragile and often ugly, but I'm blessed to show you an honest heart amidst the doubts, and the unchanging Word of God that proves beyond all reason that God cares.

Whatever your journey today...rejoice.
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