Halfway There

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Last night I completed my first year of grad school.  I finished my finals for summer school and the next time I step in the classroom I'll be a "Second Year" which is bossy-talk for "Senior".  BOOM.

Granted, I have lots of work in the next two weeks finishing up "Supervision" requirements and beginning compilation of my "professional portfolio" which is a lot of busy work that amounts to a giant binder full of accomplishments and rigamarole that hardly anyone will care to lay eyes on.  Whew. Still, I'm sure in a year or so I'll be glad I've started organizing this information (or so they tell me) and either way, it'll get done.

So, I'M HALFWAY THERE.  Halfway to being an official "Marriage and Family Therapist".  One year away from a Master's Degree.  Unreal.

I am so thankful for any and all of you which have inspired me, encouraged me, and all around supported me through your prayers and words of affirmation.  I don't say it lightly when I tell you I could absolutely not accomplish this without the help of many.  So, GOOD WORK TEAM!  We're halfway there!

I can't tell you how much I need to be halfway done with this journey.  It's hard to convey the toll that sleepless nights, mountains of reading, and stressful test-taking have taken on me.  It's a paradox of effort - both growing in my passion and knowledge of something I desire to learn; and at the same time, stumbling around at times to grasp the courage and stamina to pursue such.  In a way, it's the longest labor of my life.

Parents - remember having a newborn? (Or maybe you have one right now!)  How much you want to stay awake, staring at that sweet baby, soaking up every single moment that you just can't bear to let pass without your acknowledging its beauty...And then, maybe minutes/hours later, dragging your shell-of-a-self out of bed to answer the cries of that baby's every need, every moment, every time, knowing you should have been sleeping while they were sleeping earlier and resenting the fact that you're resenting your own baby for keeping you awake AT ALL TIMES whether they are doing it out of their need or their sheer cuteness?  There's no regrets to staring at a baby, yet there's no replacement for energy/sanity/motivation in that moment of exhaustion. You can't win, and yet you win every time.

Sigh.  I get that.  I felt that with my babies, and I sort of feel that way now.  I want to study and read and learn every single thing that I can possibly absorb in this two-year adventure...yet, I know full well that I have got to step back and balance the priorities and be more-than-okay with accomplishing only what's within my grasp.  And the reality is (just as in parenthood) this is only the beginning.  The adventure doesn't stop at two-years, it really only gets better and better.

More learning will come.  The reading is endless.  The writing will not stop.  And, the cycle of learning-makes-me-humble-making-me-a-better-therapist-making-me-more-humble-making-me-a-better-therapist will continue throughout the rest of my life, I'm sure.  True growth demands humility.

I've never been more excited and more exhausted since becoming a mother for the first time.  Getting my Master's (at this time in my life, especially) is rich with complaint and celebration.  I can whine a lot about the homework, the amount of time it all takes, the stress and pressure it adds to my weary brain...but, never let me lead you astray - I freaking LOVE it.

God has put me in this place and time for this specific purpose, and I am having a glorious time being challenged and compelled and stretched beyond my imagination.  I had no idea I could accomplish the things I've done in the last year - and it's only by the grace of God and the help of others (yes, YOU) that I've even attempted these things.

I'm pretty stoked on what the next year holds for me.  I know it will be insane, challenging, busy, and full of moments of insecurity.  But, I have no doubt that I will be surprised by how God will use my journey to teach me more about who He is, and who He wants me to be - and maybe there will be something along the way that will speak to your heart too!

Let's do this!

Proverbs 16:3
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.

Praise & Worship

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Like many children, my girls love to sing.  And boy, do they!  Sing, sing, sing, everything.

Granted, both Josh and I are pretty liberal in our "songification" of things - completely uninhibited in lyricizing the most mundane of activities.  Doing the dishes could be a new rap parody, folding laundry becomes a nursery rhyme, or making dinner turns into a pop classic.  What can I say?  We're the Pardys, and we bring the beat.

So, it's no wonder that my girls (who are particularly verbose to begin with) tend to songify any and all activities they may encounter.  I adore their ability to create the most silly and random mixes, and I hope that they always feel freedom in this home to keep those creative juices flowing, even with the weirdest of compilations (Okay, a new song about Apple Jack from My Little Pony learning to fly and cook scrambled eggs with Jesus and taking a walk with rainbows.  Sure, okay, this makes sense.  Good job, honey.)

But, nothing stirs my heart like hearing my girls sing praise and worship.  Sure, they know the words to Jesus Loves Me or The B-I-B-L-E.  These simple, beautiful classics are embedded into Christian childhoods as a staple, and I'm grateful for them (and a bit nostalgic!)

But, recently, I've begun to embrace the power that these songs have, infiltrating my children's minds at such a young age, hoping that they stay in their hearts for years and years to come.  So, I've started to really intentionally look and listen for bigger songs, harder songs, and not turn away from wordy, complex songs that I might have originally labeled "too difficult" for their little brains to absorb.

A few Sundays ago, we sang one of these powerful songs.  I'd never heard it before, and the words just STUCK with me.  I just love those moments in church where you feel like you're learning something familiar all over again like it's new, taken aback in awe of the simplicity of GOD'S LOVE FOR ME and how incredibly divine it is.  The song was "Christ Be in my Waking" and maybe you've heard of it before, but if not, here is the Stuart Townsend version of it that I would encourage you to watch below.

So, now, after my girls have seen that video multiple times a day for the last couple weeks, they are learning the words.  I am too!  I'll admit there are a lot of words in that song (each one with purpose, no doubt).  My girls will be in the middle of playing ponies or dress up and burst into chorus "Jeeesus!  This is my der-no-vo-tion!..."  Stumbling through the lyrics, but wholeheartedly praising and worshipping, and most of all - letting the truths of Christ affect them from the inside out.

I love praise and worship, especially old hymns (this, coming from the girl who grew up in a small church where my Grammy played the organ in the sanctuary on Sundays!)  The sentiments of the old hymns carry beautiful memories for me, along with their ancient truths.

Power in the Blood, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Come Thou Fount, In the Garden, and Be Thou My Vision are just some of my favorites.  In Christ Alone is another "new classic" that is a modern song with an older feel that I simply cannot sing without shedding a tear.  It just might be the next song I choose to introduce to my girls.

What about you?  What are some of your favorite praise and worship songs?  I think it would be awesome to compile a good list and check them off week by week to teach my girls.  There's a little library in that brain of theirs, full of ideas and thoughts and sounds that take up space the more they sense the things around them.  I hope and pray that the words carried over the generations in these beautiful melodies are filling the shelves of their minds so they can always recall the truths they hold.

Check It Out: Venn Magazine

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hi Friends!

I'm thrilled to let you know that today you can find me over at Venn Magazine!

Check out my post, Mr. Right or Mr. Right-Out-The-Door...and be sure to scope out all the other  insightful articles Venn has to offer!

The Bearable Lightness of Being

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One of the craziest things about parenthood is how God can literally use anything to show you something new.  I know this isn't exclusive to parenthood, but sometimes the context of raising little ones isn't exactly conducive to what I would usually consider fertile grounds for deep thoughts!

The other day, watching Curious George for the millionth time, I understood a new perspective I hadn't considered before.  In this particular episode, Curious George discovers his shadow (remember, he's a good little monkey, but always very curious!).

He follows his shadow around town, learning how the sunlight affects his shape.  Suddenly, as he steps under the shade of a tall building, his shadow disappears!  Of course, as grown-ups we understand that small shadows get swallowed up by larger shadows, making the individual shadow seem invisible as the sun is blocked by a larger object.

The analogy of darkness and light representing Satan and Jesus is nothing new.  Scripture uses this metaphor many times, and it is a helpful as we look to God's creation for reminders of His guidance.  Certainly nearly everyone has, at one time or another, read or heard 1 John 1:7:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

This verse came to mind right in the middle of watching Curious George!

Shadows.  Sin.  Darkness.  The shadows are mysterious, intriguing, even captivating - but totally reflective of my self.  If I continue to follow my shadow, I will be drawn to other shadows, into a shady realm where I will inevitably lose myself in spite of following my self.  The darkness would swallow me up.  It would destroy who I was originally designed to reflect.  It would drain me of any definition I had previously held and continue to darken as time goes on.  Shadows can be very dangerous, and the longer we are in them, the harder it is to see where the light is coming from.

But, OH, how I long for the light!  Consider John's context in the verses surrounding that famous "walking in the light" quotation:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:6-9


We all have shadows.  Sometimes my heart is bitter from longstanding grief I want to try to control.  Other times I'm faced with very present in-the-heat-of-the-moment impatience or frustrations over the smallest things.  Sin is current, surrounding, and always looking to steal our light.  But, the light is always there, seeking us out and ready to envelop me in it's warmth, comfort, protection, and beauty.

Maybe Curious George didn't ponder his need for a Savior while chasing his shadow all over town (this is why I don't write for children's programming!) but, I certainly found myself dumbfounded at how the Holy Spirit can move with just the tiniest grains of consideration.

Don't ever think that God can teach you something right where you are - even if it's on the couch cuddled up in blankets with your toddlers sipping milk and munching on snacks.  Ask God to use your surroundings to reveal Himself to you, wherever may be.

After all, a little curiosity can go a long way!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Frenemy" (less commonly spelled "frienemy") is portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy" that can refer to either an enemy pretending to be a friend or someone who really is a friend but also a rival. - Wikipedia
My girls love each other...fiercely.  To the point of hugging so hard that it almost immediately turns into a random act of violence rather than the random act of kindness it started out as.   Sisters are a unique breed, and having two girls so close in age (just 20 months apart) their rivalry began as soon as I brought Daphne home from the hospital...and Matilda stole the socks right off her feet!

Matilda will never remember life before Daphne, and in most ways I think that is just wonderful.  Frankly, it's hard for me to remember days before Daphne, back when Matilda was the sole bearer of my mothering attention.  Now, they are a package-deal to me.  They are my dynamic duo, my double-trouble, my mimicking monkeys who go tit-for-tat over every nuance of the day.  Anything at any moment can spur bickering OR jubilation, each event triggering both competition and companionship.

Sometimes it's hard for me to tell which way these little frenemies will sway.  As they play together (Barbies, puzzles, coloring, blocks, trains, dress up...the list goes on and on) there will be sweet moments that take my breath away followed almost immediately by bursts of outrage that escalate out of control and lead to tears and time-outs.  I'm raising some spirited girls here, no doubt.

But, I take heart.  I have hope because I chat with my own sister on a regular basis and look up to her and love her dearly.  We're only friends now, not enemies to any degree - but, this wasn't always so.

While my sis and I are nearly 5 years apart in age, growing up on a farm in the middle of the country kept us indoors and in each others way the majority of my childhood.  For the most part, I wanted to be her - she was older (and therefore got to do more "fun" things that little ole me), better at everything (again, older), super pretty, and very popular.  In "sister world", this translated into totally justifiable reasons to seek constant revenge on her.  To sum up:  I was out to get her most of my childhood.

I was pretty awful to my sister.  We laugh heartily about it now, but make no mistake that my shenanigans brought my parents plenty of grief over the years.

For instance...
I remember one family vacation when we were road tripping as a family and stopped at a gas station for snacks.  I decided upon a giant blue slushie as a treat (one of those big gulps you fill up at the machine) and as we were walking back to the car, my sister was in front of me, opening the door to the mini-van.  Her back was turned to me, and without a second thought, I launched my slushie at her back!  FOR NO GOOD REASON!  It exploded into a glorious, gloppy mess, and I burst out laughing at the sight of it. (You have to admit, you kinda wish you were there to have witnessed it.)

There are many stories like this...unfortunately.  And, while they make for wildly entertaining anecdotes to pass on, they don't exactly paint the picture of sweet girls in matching outfits that every mother dreams of when she's raising daughters.

Yet, this competition served my sister and I well in the long run.  (Years of maturity works wonders).  Her creative and ambitious spirit encouraged me to strive harder, achieve more, and believe in myself.  Over the years, as we each developed our own independent strengths, I was able to more easily appreciate our gifts and aspirations.  To this day, we learn more from each other and support our ongoing ventures, whether their silly (Should I cut my hair?) or serious (Should I go back to school?)  I pray my daughters grow into their friendship the same way.

My girls have a gift in one another, and it's a crazy-awesome-scary sight to behold.  While I hope that I won't be cleaning up slushie-attacks any time soon, I certainly wouldn't put it past my girls.  I know their relationship will ebb and flow in the years to come, but like my own relationship with my sister, I want them to know that no matter what - they've got each others backs - even if it's a little stained from slushie now and then.

Stars and Stripes Forever

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

As I dress my girls up in patriotic fashion, I'm blessed by the FUN that we get to experience as we reflect on the meaning of our freedom and the gratitude we feel for those who have bravely fought for it.   While we prepare for an evening filled with overeating, overcrowding, and overwhelming awe as we gather to watch fireworks fill the night sky, I'm also nostalgic for the past July Fourths of my childhood.

I love July 4th!  As a kid growing up on a farm in the middle of Kansas, I grew up shooting off more fireworks than watching them.  Though, there was one tradition of going to a local golf course the weekend before the fourth to watch a huge fireworks display, much like we will do with my own family tonight.  In my memories, this tradition is filled with fun, laughter, and lots of waiting until the evening sky would finally darken enough for the first flames in the clouds to be visible.

Now, as a parent, I can only imagine the massive amounts of prep that went on behind-the-scenes that made this event possible.  Food was prepped, friends were called, parking was a nightmare, carrying all the blankets and lawn chairs, staking out the perfect spot, trying to calm the nerves of restless children, and then undoing it all at the end of the night only to drag your exhausted kids home and plop them in their beds smelling like grass and bug-spray.  Wow, thanks mom and dad.  Thanks for enduring effort to make memories for our family.

And now, here I am, hoping for the same.  I look at my goofy girls, and while I'm already tired at the thought of this evening, I'm grateful for the memories we're making right now, right in the moment.  To see my kids' faces light up when they watch the fireworks (fortunately my girls are exhilarated by the sight) fills my heart with stars.  But, the stars wouldn't exist without the stripes.

As parents, we earn new stripes daily.  Some of these came in a literal sense, as the stretchmarked scars on my belly will prove.  But most come in the form of never-ending acts of love and kindness that parenthood forces you into enduring.  Yes, I would love to be the kind of person who willingly looks for new opportunities to think of others first and consider needs other than my own...but, I'm human, and that's much easier said than done.

Parenthood has given my ego more battle wounds than I ever thought my sense of self could withstand.    I get easily frustrated and impatient on an hourly basis, yet I'm constantly motivated to give more, be more, care more, love more.  Why?  Because my children fill my world with stars.  Stars that shine brighter and longer than any perfectly, beautiful memory I could ever imagine.  They create awe and wonder in my universe unlike anything else.

So, as you lather your kids up with sunscreen, take another helping of potato salad, and finally lay in bed tonight exhausted from making memories - take a second to look at the stars.  Your stars.  And be grateful for the stripes that make them possible.

Happy Fourth.
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