Matilda Turns Five

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Saturday my firstborn will turn five years old.  I know I will blink and this moment will seem like a lifetime ago, but for now, I am reveling in the present instead of the reality that the last five years have flown by unlike any other in my life.

Having children is like having my own, personal time machine that catapults me into the future faster than I could ever imagine.  While the weary days inch by, the memories pile up at lightning speed.

Too quickly, there is a past created by a mountain of moments that hold a piece of my heart forever.

Matilda is turning five.  This feels monumental.  My brain and heart are having a hard time reconciling sentiment and reality.  I let myself get carried away with thinking how soon more milestones will crowd  my maternal memories.

So, what do I do to cement this moment into my own story?  How do I make my mark on this day to let her know, in her own time, how special this phase of life is to our family?  Well, of course, I write her something!

I'm not much of a poet.  I can spew truth for days, lay out my soul for others to read, but when it comes to eloquent speeches I'm often at a loss.

Nevertheless...indulge me.  This isn't for you.  This isn't for anyone but my Matilda.

I pray someday she will read this and see my heart.  In all my mistakes as a human, as a mother, as a friend, I pray she knows in her core how deeply I depend on Jesus for how I raise her.  I hope her bones feel their worth in His eyes alone.

I have faith that through all the ups and downs we will have as mother and daughter that above all she will hold on to the fact that when I met her, I loved her, and nothing will ever change that.

Through the years and forever, I can't wait to get to know her more and more.  My first girl.  My Matilda.


Wonderful You

There are so many parts that make up wonderful you.
Your humor, your beauty, your wit.
You are silly and mischievous, loud and fierce.
You will grow to know these parts of you,
And I hope you let them each shine bright in your own way.
You will develop more parts, some lovely, some challenging.
All parts needing refinement by the grace of our Creator.
But as the world surrounds you, confronts you, inspires you,
Remember this:
Each of us is fearfully made, wonderfully different.
Some people are smarter than you.
Some people are funnier, some prettier,
Some richer or more popular.
But none of them are more you.
No one else is all you.
Only you are you.
You hold your very own wonderful.
Hold it closely, dearly.
Use it well, let it shine.
God made only you to be wonderful you.
And you are greater than the sum of your parts, my darling.
That's what I love most about you.
All of wonderful you.

Happy Fifth Birthday, Matilda Hazel Darling.

Stormy Weather

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's rained a lot here lately.  It seems like the chance of rain is always looming, and while it's been a refreshing break from the heat, it makes for an unpredictable day of weather.  Should I bring the umbrella?  Do I wear the rainboots?  Can we schedule the get together on the patio?  etc.

These are not difficult questions.  They barely interrupt my day, and are merely annoying at worst.  But, then, night comes and thunder booms and tornado warnings scroll across the bottom of my TV.  There's always a chance it gets worse.  There's always a possibility this downpour turns into something scary.

Sometimes life can feel like that - like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Do you know this feeling?  Just because the storm missed us last night, doesn't mean we'll be the lucky ones next time.  I can play a superstitious game with myself, thinking that I had something to do with my own good fortune, when most of the time it was just the blessing of God's protection and fortunate wind in the right direction.

Reality is, nothing keeps me from misfortune...but, nothing separates me from God either.

A lot of life happens within the boundaries of two questions:
Why me?
Why not me?

I don't know about you, but too often I'm asking one of those questions.  Something good or bad happens to me or someone I know, and all of a sudden my mind is struck with winds of doubt, and my worries are blown out of proportion to my God.  Bottom-line reminder:  GOD IS BIGGER.

God is bigger than my needs.  God is bigger than my loss.  God is bigger than my questions.  God is bigger than my understand, my hope, or my fears.  God is bigger.  He cares, He's in control, and He is never changing or leaving.

As I look out the rain-streaked window, I notice how blurry and confusing the outside world appears.  It's splotchy and unclear, and I lack the whole picture by just looking through the frame I have.  God is clarity.  He's all-knowing and all-caring, and by trusting in Him I can put aside my silly superstitions and wholeheartedly believe that the clouds will part soon.

Sometimes it rains.  Sometimes it pours.  But, thank goodness, our hope is not in a "sometimes" God.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Q&A: Counseling Career?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dear Pardymama,

A lot of my friends come to me with their problems or asking advice.  I've thought about going back to school for counseling, but I'm not sure I'd like it as a career choice.  Can you tell me what it's really like?  
Counseling Career Confusion

Dear CCC,

Absolutely!  If there is one thing I never get tired of talking about (besides my children) it's counseling. Several of my classmates and colleagues have that same gift of being the "go-to" friend for advice among their peer group.  Clearly, your friends perceive you to be trustworthy, empathetic, and a good listener.

You've probably felt wise at times and totally uncertain at others.  Sometimes it's hard to know what to say or how to say it, and your investment in your friendships and concern for those you care about can make it difficult to clearly know how to handle a situation at times.  That's relationship.

Becoming a therapist absolutely utilizes those natural gifts you already possess.  But, the client/therapist relationship has a secure boundary held by professionalism and confidentiality that can allow for process and progress that's quite different than any other kind of relationship.  An education that hones your skills as well as equips you with tools you couldn't otherwise learn outside the classroom, can provide you the next step to really expand your abilities into an expertise.  Therapy is quite different than advice giving, and it does require an endurance that will sharpen your listening skills to a fine point.

Though I've barely dipped my toes into the client-pool, I can tell you so far what it is like to actually sit in a room week after week and listen for 50 minutes straight to someone's story, issues, questions, confusion, anxiety, worries, hopes, or hurts.  It's exhilarating...but, it's not for everyone.  I can certainly understand why others would find it draining or boring, just like how I'm not meant to be a firefighter or accountant!  But, I find therapy strangely exhausting and energizing at the same time.  It's like reading a good book, when you read late into the night and feel tired but just can't help but want to keep going and find out what happens next.  When I'm there in that moment, I always want to be there.

It's intimidating, and humbling.  Sitting with someone in a little hub of vulnerability, where the whirlwind world sits just outside my door with the "In Session" sign hanging on it, I recognize the intrinsic privilege I have of getting to be "that person" for the clients that sit before me.  Though it might seem daunting at first,  I have a peace that surpasses my understanding when I sit in that room.

I rest on the security of God's purpose for my presence in that moment, and on the education I've invested in learning - leaning on the wealth of information, tools, and support that my Supervisors and classmates provide me.  I trust the science and the data and the Holy Spirit all at the same time.  And I prayerfully do my best to balance my life inside that room with the one I live outside it.  I'm still me...just looking more thoughtfully through the lens of "therapist" and less as the invested friend I would be if I had a connection to the client I'm helping.  This is a really important difference to note, because it's what allows me to leave this emotional context at the office, and not bear it when I go home.

I would suggest you go to therapy if you haven't already, so that you can get the client's perspective on the experience.  Then, speak with local counselors you trust about their own practices.  There is a wide range of motivations behind why people become mental health professionals, and the audience that they serve can vary just as much.  For me, I feel like I'm fulfilling something that has always been percolating inside me.  It will be a lifelong pursuit to grow as a therapist, as it's an ever-changing field that appears limitless in its study.

Whatever you choose to do as a career, keep on being that wonderful "go-to" friend that people can trust with their hearts.  Empathy is a gift that can't be overused.  Trust God with your gifts, and you can't steer wrong.

Dead Weight

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The other night, amidst the wind and the rain of an autumnal thunderstorm, we heard a crrraaack followed by a THUD in the middle of the night.

Sure enough, when we looked out the window in the morning, a giant tree branch had split from one of the trees in our backyard.  It was giant and dangling precariously, so my husband got out the saw and put it out of its misery.

I didn't even know that branch was dead!  I had no idea that somewhere inside it was rotting and weak and doing no good whatsoever for the tree.  It was just hanging on, waiting to meet its demise.  It had no purpose.  It just was.  And now, that it's safely removed and out of the way, the tree can continue to be fruitful and grow as it is meant to.

[Hmm.  Suspiciously sounds like I'm about to make an analogy here.]

Now that I'm seeing clients on a regular basis, I'm so privileged to get to join with them in their various journeys.  I get to witness brokenness, growth, confusion, compassion, and progress - sometimes all in one day!  But, most commonly, I get to see dead weight fall to the side.  Dead weight they didn't even know they were carrying.  Dead weight that had no purpose but to take up precious energy and resources from them, stealing joy and creating roadblocks in their journey towards real growth.

Dead weight comes in many forms.  I'm constantly challenged to hand over my worries and concerns to God.  Again and again I am reminded that God is in control, and my weakling efforts to predict and protect my own future are zapping me of my opportunity to stretch my trust and faith in Him alone.  Sometimes my dead weight is a rotten self-image, or a jealous thought that corrupts my core.  Sometimes my doubt drains me dry and I can't help but feel forgotten.

Then, something wonderful happens.  Truth sets the dead weight free.  Truth like "You are fearfully and wonderfully made" or "For I know the plans I have for you" or "Perfect love drives out fear" and even those bits and pieces of a larger picture of Capital-T TRUTH that are deeply rooted in my soul help me shake free from the burden of deception that tries to hang on for good.

Sometimes those dead branches take years and years to rot until they are ready to truly break off.  Sometimes we don't even know they are zapping us dry inside.  Sometimes, like the branch in my yard, it can appear totally normal and part of the whole...until one day it becomes so obvious it was only standing in the way of progress.

We all have dead weight.  And sometimes it will take a thunderstorm to shake it loose before we even know it's there.  But, when that happens, get ready.  Sunshine and new growth are on the way.

Fall Y'all

Friday, October 3, 2014

It's FALL!  This is when I start singing "It's the MOST... wonderful time... of the yeeeeear"!

The leaves are changing color, the temperature is dropping, and the hot beverages are flowing!  Hooray!  It also means that the holidays are right around the corner and before long we'll be wrapping presents and narrowing down new year's resolutions.

As much as I adore autumn, there is something both nostalgic and urgent about it that makes me cherish every moment. It's the beginning of the end of the year, and a great time to look back on all that has changed over the last several months.

How has your life changed in 2014?

Between a new home, a book deal, and starting my final year of grad school, I can't imagine a more transitional year (oh yeah, except for the year before when we moved across the country and started grad school....right.)  Turns out, each year has it's own ups and downs.  Each year, as the leaves turn yellow and orange and brown, I reflect on the beauty and challenges that have led up to this season.

People will talk about "seasons of change" as if there are periods of time where things stand still...but really, does that exist?  Sure, there are times of more tangible, obvious adjustments - but truly, we're all in the middle of transformation in some way or another.  Underneath all our surfaces lies a developing soul that is processing and growing and affecting the souls around it at the same time.  It's both creepy and wonderful, knowing that something is constantly at work "behind the scenes" in all our lives.

This fall, as you sip that pumpkin spice latte and get out that first scarf to keep you warm in the chilly autumn breeze...take a moment to recognize your own changes from the inside out.

What has affected you most this year?  How have you affected others?

And as we think through the ups and downs that will propel us through these final months of 2014, remember that that the pains and pleasures of our past aren't just a process we're experiencing...they're progress we take with us into the ever-changing seasons of our lives ahead.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I'm a planner.  I'm one of those freaks who likes lists and schedules and routines.  I make big decisions carefully, with lots of annoying research and consultations to back my reasoning for doing something so I can justify it later if need be.

So, when I bought a new car within two-and-a-half-hours of walking onto the CarMax lot, no one was more surprised than me.  Whew!

So long, Sparkle.
Saturday night, I drove to work at Pottery Barn Kids at the mall as usual.  My 2004 Chrysler Sebring named "Sparkle" was fine.  Then, I turn the key in the ignition to go home....and nothing.  My husband and girls came out to give me a jump, but still nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Sparkle was toast.

The next day, we had her towed to a local Firestone where they discovered the entire "Power Control Module" (whatever that is - apparently it's like the heart and brain of the vehicle) was shot.  We could've had it towed to the dealer, spent hours and probably an arm-and-a-leg to find out whether it would be super-expensive or super-duper-expensive to fix her...or, we could bid farewell to ole Sparkle and trust God to provide something right for our budget/family/timing.

It was a stressful weekend, I won't lie.

We had kicked off the weekend by getting up at 5:45am on Saturday and having a miserably unsuccessful garage sale where we made a whopping $20.  I was already tired and annoyed by the time I got to work, I never would have guessed my inconveniences were just beginning.  Ugh.

Days like that are rough.  They feel SO FRUSTRATING, and yet I'm left at the brink of insanity trying desperately to remind myself that really, truly, seriously this is NOT A BIG DEAL.  My family is safe. My family is healthy.  My needs are met.  God is in control and working for my good.

These are all true things.  True things that I had to repeat in my mind over and over and over again Saturday, Sunday, and Monday as my car met her demise and my anxiety rose to new levels.  It was a big deal to me, in this time and place, where my worries were all muddled up into dollar signs and mechanical lingo that was far beyond my realm of understanding.  Not to mention we hadn't even LOOKED at cars or considered what we might get if this ever happened.

But, God knew.  And, fortunately my brother is a Consumer Reports Guru, and my dad has actually built cars, and my husband has a level head that makes practical decisions under pressure.  So, when we came across a solid Toyota Camry that fit our criteria, the clouds parted and we finally felt like a clear answer was in front of us.

Meet "Sprinkles" - yes, my girls named it of course.
I'm glad it turned out to be a rip-the-band-aid-off kind of decision.  I simply do not have the time right now to stay up late reading reviews of cars and building up all kinds of concerns I have no control over (which I seriously would have done if given the opportunity!)  I'm so grateful my car just went ka-put! and I wasn't stranded somewhere unsafe or worse, with my kids with me on the side of the road or in some kind of dangerous situation.  If you have to be stuck somewhere, the mall parking lot is not the worst place in the world.

It was a whirlwind weekend.  God provided a car, and for that I'm grateful.  But, more than that, He shook my faith just enough to bring it back into focus just how well He cares for me.  I pray He provides me the faith to trust Him with a tighter budget, with the care of this new car, and hopefully not have to go through another crazy weekend any time soon to stir-up my gratitude for His provision.

Sometimes the car doesn't start.  Sometimes the future doesn't make sense.  Sometimes plans and budgets and expectations get stalled or stuck or go ka-put.  But, thank goodness, even if the Check Engine light comes on, the Power Control Module of my faith is safe and secure in the hands of the One who restores it constantly.  There's no better warranty in life than that.
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