What I Want My Daughter to Know About Beauty

To my precious Calla Grace,

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I am writing to you today, on my 31st birthday, as you are sleeping soundly in your bed.  You are not even a year-old yet and I already worry for your future.  Your Daddy would say that this isn’t anything new, I worry about you and your brothers all the time.  But this is different.  I worry about the world you are growing up in.  I worry what this world is trying to teach you about the way that you look.

 

You are the most breathtaking baby I have ever laid eyes on.  I love the way that you smile with your whole face–especially with your gorgeous blue eyes.  I love your soft thin brown hair and your angelic, unblemished skin.  You are beautiful in every sense of the word.

 

But what I want you to know, sweet girl, is that beauty is so much deeper than what we can see.  True beauty comes from within.

 

There is so much that surrounds us that screams for attention to our outward appearance.  You can’t open up a computer or turn on the television without some tainted and distorted view of beauty:  As much bare skin as possible, cleavage for all to see, and a perfect body to boot.  I worry about the effect these over-sexualized images have on your brothers and do everything I can to guard their innocent eyes.  Now I also worry about the effects these images will have on you too–but in a different way.  I worry that they will make you feel like the way God made you isn’t good enough–and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

 

God knit you together in my womb and has already numbered all of your days (Psalm 139).  He knows how tall you are going to be when you grow up, he knows what your body shape will be, and what color your hair will be.  He knows when you will start getting gray hairs and the number of lines that will crease your face when you are ninety.  He knows because He made you.  And He says that you are wonderfully made.  That’s what your Daddy and I say too.

 

When I was young, my mom and dad (your Papa and Lola) would lovingly tell me that I was beautiful inside and out.  But for some reason, I don’t think that I ever really felt beautiful.  In fact, I had this twisted notion that the phrase “beautiful inside and out” was some type of consolation for not being outwardly beautiful enough.  Sweet one, that is the opposite of how I want you to see beauty.

 

Being told that you are beautiful on the inside is the most wonderful compliment you can ever be given.  Don’t discount these words, precious girl.  A girl who radiates beauty from the inside will ALWAYS be the most beautiful.  Not because of the size of clothes she wears or how perfect her complexion is, but because she has the love of God within her–and NOTHING is more beautiful than that.

 

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  -1 Peter 3:3-4

 

I would love to say that it gets easier as you get older, that you become more confident and content with the way that God has made you, but unfortunately that just wouldn’t be the truth.  The same insecurities that have plagued women my age when we were young continue to rear their ugly heads even as we get older and supposedly wiser.  As I look in the mirror these days and see the toll carrying three babies has taken on my body and the lines that have found their permanent place along my eyes and around my mouth, it makes me sad that I don’t look how I looked 10 years ago or 15 years ago–when I still thought I wasn’t pretty enough.

 

God tells us that outward beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31), which means that is how he designed it all along.  He didn’t intend for women to look the same in their thirties and forties as they did in their teens or twenties, despite what Hollywood wants us to believe.  There is a difference between taking care of our bodies and making them idols that we worship with our time and money.  Don’t fall into this trap as you get older, my sweet girl, and I will try not to either.  Treat your body with respect and take care of it, but do not let the pursuit of the perfect body consume your thoughts.  It’s not worth it in the end.

 

Most of all, sweet girl, I want you to look for the beauty in others.  Surround yourself with people who are gentle and treat others with kindness and respect, who love God and let the Holy Spirit guide their steps.  When we love God, we love others well.  It might be difficult to see the beauty in people who are unkind to you, but continue to look for it.  Show kindness even when a sharp answer is warranted.  Be a joyful peacemaker to all those around you.  Honor others above yourself.

 

For this, my darling girl, is true beauty.

 

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A Back to School Prayer for our Kids

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Sometimes I get frustrated that the Bible gives us such little explicit instruction on the task of raising children.  Honestly, there are few things that matter more than raising up the next generation to love the Lord.  I have been a little weepy at the thought of my firstborn starting first grade this week.  His love for life and zeal for God is amazing (and encourages me daily), but there is still so much I feel like we need to teach him.

As I was pondering all of this over the weekend, I began thinking about Jesus and how Mary must have felt when he was growing up.  Obviously Jesus was the perfect Son of God and would never sin even in his youth…but I find comfort in knowing that even so, Mary and Joseph probably discussed the best ways to bring him up just like my husband and I do about our very imperfect children.  The Bible tell us so little about Jesus’s childhood.   But there is one tiny verse that encompasses the monumental years of his youth that I have been dwelling on:

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
-Luke 2:52

As school begins once again, this is the verse I am praying for my children, specifically for my oldest.  It includes three of the most important aspects of a child’s life:  mind, body, and spirit.  Each of these aspects come with their own strengths and weaknesses, with obstacles and challenges to overcome in every facet of life.

 

In Wisdom

Lord, I pray that you will allow Caleb to grow in wisdom this year.  I pray that he will learn everything he is expected to know academically.  I pray that he will be successful in his studies and that he will be a diligent worker in what is asked of him.  Most of all, Lord, I pray that you would allow Him to grow in YOUR wisdom.  Help him to learn more about your character through his interactions with others.  Help the scriptures and stories we have been sharing with him from your Word to be a lamp to his feet and a light to his path.  Give us, his parents, the wisdom to help him discern between right and wrong in the situations he is faced with this year.  Above all else, help him learn to love You more.

 

In Stature

Lord, I thank you for the lives of our children.  I thank you that they are healthy.  I pray that you will protect their bodies and help them to continue to grow strong.  Protect them from illness and harm, Lord.

As school begins, I pray that Caleb will know that he is created in your image.  I pray that he will know that is “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  I pray that he will know that You created him exactly the way that you want him to be.  At times, words from others can be cruel.  Protect his heart and help him to rest in the truth that he is a priceless gift to us and, most importantly, to You…so much so that you sent your son for him.

 

In Favor with God and Man

Lord, I pray that you would allow Caleb to be a light for you.  I pray that he would be obedient to his teachers and kind to his classmates.  I pray that he will show kindness and compassion to everyone, but especially those who are treated poorly by others.  Give him the strength to stand up for the outcasts.  I pray that he will have integrity to do the right thing even when no one is looking.  Help him to surround himself with people who will help him grow closer to you.  I pray that he will be both a leader and a follower– a follower of yours but a leader for his peers.  Help his words and actions to be pleasing to you.

 

All this I ask in the name of your son Jesus.  Amen.

 


 

No matter whether your child will be attending public school, private school, or will be homeschooled, I think this prayer is all-encompassing for what we desire for our kids.  And I fully realize I am asking God for a lot…I certainly don’t expect my children to be perfect.  In fact, I need to pray much of this same prayer for myself.  But this is what I most desire for the lives of my children.

When we place the well being of our children in God’s very capable hands through prayer, we are surrendering control to Him.  I’m not sure there is anything else as equally scary, freeing, and comforting as this.  All I know is that He is certainly more capable than I am!

 

 

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PS- I thought I would create a printable scripture card for those of us who wish to consistently pray this prayer for our kids throughout the year.  Stick it on your bathroom mirror or in the visor on your car…any place that you will see it regularly.  There are 4 identical cards on a page…you can print one for yourself and give the others to friends/neighbors if you would like.

Click on the image below to access the printable file:

 

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Is your child heading off to school soon?  What else would you add to this prayer?  

 

 

 

My Body Made Me a Mom

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It’s summer.

 

Which means that clothing is out and skin is in.  Nearly everywhere I look (online, on TV, and even out my bedroom window), I see people with tanned skin and fit bodies.  People who are running, exercising, and sunbathing…all while showcasing their near-perfect figures.

 

Having just had a baby 4 months ago, I am doing none of these things.  In fact, I am trying desperately to wear as much clothing as I possibly can while still staying cool.  Because, I can say with absolute certainty, nobody wants to see what lies beneath.  Maxi dresses and denim jackets are my new best friends.

 

Having my third baby and now being thirty, this baby weight just wants to hang on.  My stomach (which used to be flat) has become “squishy” at best, my thighs have expanded with each pregnancy (despite the fact that I am running), and my arms will occasionally wave back at me when I excitedly greet a friend or neighbor.  Oh, and I think I have lost enough hair to rival a whole family of cats.

 

To add insult to injury, the universe seems bent at reminding me of my monumental failure at being fit by showcasing moms on blogs, on TV, and on Facebook who look better than ever having just given birth a few weeks or months earlier.

 

This is not my reality.  My reality is that I can only workout one or two times a week (if that) and I am currently about as pasty white as a ghost

 

My reality is that I can try my very hardest to eat healthier and “count calories”…but that Dr. Pepper each morning is my one guilty pleasure.  And I am convinced it helps me make it through the day.

 

My reality is that I don’t have the time or energy to focus full-force on my body.  I have a husband and three kids to take care of, a relationship with God to foster, friends and family to encourage, a blog to run, and a church to attend.  I could probably get back into my pre-pre-pre-pregnancy size 4 jeans if I really wanted to…but my body is not my top priority right now.  My kids are.  My husband is.  My relationship with God is.  My friends and family are.

 

My reality is that my body has made me a mom.  Rather than cursing it for all the things that currently irritate the heck out of me, I can be thankful that I was healthy enough to carry three precious children within me.  This is a privilege I do not take lightly.

 

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Every pound I have gained has provided nourishment for three beautiful children.

 

Every stretch mark on my stomach a reminder that life was once formed there.

 

Every hair I have lost a memento of the thousands of prayers that have been prayed for the health and well-being of the three precious miracles that God has entrusted to me.

 

I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never get my body back.

 

And that’s okay with me…my body made me a mom, after all.

 

And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

 

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If you are reading this and you have become a mom through the beautiful act of adoption, please recognize that the same sentiment rings true for you as well.  Your body has enabled you to take care of your children and to put the needs of your family ahead of your own wants and desires (even that of a fit and fabulous bod).   :)

 

 

 

2014: The Year of Rest

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This time of year, the web is abuzz with ways to make and keep New Year’s resolutions.  Fitness inspiration, goal-setting worksheets, and cleaning schedules are all created in an effort to help us find practical ways to stick with our goals.

 

 

These are all good things…they help us live with purpose and manage our time more effectively to focus on the things that really matter.  In year’s past, I too have joined in the goal-setting fun by creating a home management binder, writing down my goals, and downloading various cleaning schedules.  In fact, just hours after I finished writing the first draft of this post, my friend Crystal’s new book Say Goodbye to Survival Mode arrived in the mail.  Much to my surprise,  I was quoted in Chapter 3 as a success story for how goal-setting has positively impacted my life (which it continues to do)!

 

 

But this year, I am resolving to make 2014 a year of contentment and rest.

 

 

No resolutions.

 

 

No goals.

 

 

No cleaning schedules.

 

 

No fitness plans.

 

 

This might have something to do with the fact that we are getting ready to embark on a major life change in the next 7 weeks that will rock our world for a while.  Or maybe it is just because I feel God’s prompting to be still and let Him do the work in me.  Or it could possibly be my own laziness cloaked in good intentions.  After all, the Good Lord (and my sweet husband) knows that I have many, MANY things that I could work on to improve myself.  And everyone knows the best way to make such changes is to create objective, measurable goals…

 

 

But I’m throwing that all out the window this year.

 

 

I’m going to embrace the person God has created me to be and let the little things go.

 

 

I’m going to try my hardest to enjoy this precious time with my kids without the stress of “doing it all” weighing on my shoulders or upholding a schedule that once seemed like a good idea but now feels like a giant burden…making me feel even worse about myself because I can’t even manage to even stick to the goals I meticulously laid out just a few short weeks ago.

 

 

The things that really need to be changed in me…the things that really matter (which are not at all related to cleaning schedules or fitness routines), I can’t do myself anyway.  These things are matters of the heart (like selfishness, self-centeredness, and pride).  Instead of focusing my time and energy on the less-important (but still good) things like fitness plans and an organized house, I’m going to pray that God will etch away a little of the ugliness in me each and every day until I am transformed by His doing, not my own.

 

 

After all, when Jesus encountered people who were worn out and exhausted trying to uphold the ridiculously high standards of the Law of Moses, he didn’t hand them a goal-setting worksheet and tell them to try harder.

 

 

Nope.  He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28, 30).

 

 

A light burden…rest…an easy yoke.  Deep breath.  Ahhhhhhh.

 

 

Isn’t that the way God intended it to be all along?  Are the cultural expectations of increased productivity clouding God’s vision for our life…an abundant, restful, content life???

 

 

The next time I start feeling that I’m not good enough or not accomplishing enough in this life of mine (which will probably be as early as this afternoon), I’m NOT going to take out a pen and make a to-do list.  Instead, I’m going to open the Bible to be refreshed and renewed…rested and revived.

 

 

This year will be a year of rest for me.  Not literally, of course, as the amount of sleep I get will soon be equivalent to that of a giraffe (which is about 2 hours, in case you were wondering).  :)  But a year of rest figuratively, emotionally, and spiritually.

 

 

What about you?  Could you use a little less guilt and a little more rest???

 

 

 

Leaving One Paradise for Another

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It’s amazing how a little break from the mundane day-to-day tasks of child rearing can help one’s perspective on parenting.  For the first time in several years, Prince Charming and I took a (non-business related) trip just the two of us.

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We went for a long-weekend in Mexico and had a wonderful time laying on the beach and reading books.  That’s pretty much all we did on our trip.  Some  might think this is a boring vacation but this was honestly a dream come true.

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The beach is my favorite destination on earth and unfortunately it is also over 500 miles away from where we live in any direction!   We soaked up all the sun that we could (without getting horribly burned) and were able to connect and relax together as a couple.  It was wonderful.

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As much as I loved our Mexican paradise, it made me realize how much of a paradise we had waiting for us at home.  Two healthy, happy, vibrant, joyful, rambunctious children can certainly drain our energy…but they bring us unending joy and a calling straight from God.  I cannot imagine life without them.

Parenting is hard work.  It is monotonous.  It is humbling.  It comes with accidents, sicknesses, and spills (and I certainly don’t look like the smiling mom in the Bounty commercial as I clean them up).  Parenting can strain a marriage.  It can bring us to our knees in wondering how to best raise our children.  But having the opportunity to raise a child is an incredible privilege…and when we put it into perspective, it is paradise.

 

The dictionary defines paradise as:  “a place or state of bliss, felicity, or delight”.

 

Despite the hard moments, I think we will all agree that there are many moments in our journey as parents that are pure bliss and utter delight.  When your child reaches up and smiles at you for the first time, when your toddler grabs your face and says “Kissamee” (kiss me), or when your almost-kindergartener tells you that you are beautiful and the best Mommy in the whole world.  Those are the moments to savor.  Those are the moments of paradise.

 

Parenting might not be the most relaxing or peaceful calling in the world.  But if we’re all honest with ourselves, we can only lay on the beach reading books for so many days before our lives (and arms) begin to feel empty.  For me, that was exactly 2.75 days of beach laying.  :)  God has given us all a desire to do something…to make a difference in this world.  Although it might not seem like it in the day-to-day grind of life, each day that we forego our own desires to meet the needs of someone else (i.e. our children), we are making a difference.  It might seem like small and insignificant sacrifices right now…but someday those little people we are nurturing day in and day out will become big people.  Big people who are difference makers of their own.

 

Sure, the beach is amazing and we all need a little down time to relax and reconnect with our spouse (which will be a priority for my husband and I over the next several years of intense child-rearing).  But when it comes time to head home, we can do so with a huge smile on our faces…because we’re just leaving one paradise for another!

 

 

As I was writing this post, I was reminded of one of my favorite country songs when I was in high school, anticipating someday having a family ((with totally unrealistic expectations, of course).  I certainly don’t looks as happy cheesy (or skinny) as the mom in this video, but it is a great way to put the crazy life of raising kids in perspective.  Enjoy “Just Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Vassar: