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Why I Disappointed my Daughter for Christmas

Yes, I disappointed my daughter for Christmas, and I think it was the right decision.

But it was so hard to stick to my guns.

Why would I deliberately disappoint her for Christmas?

When she was five, she had asked for a $5 set of orange and blue ponies with hair to brush and braid, a minion toy, a Barbie that rides a horse that really walks, and a big white horse like her friend has.

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Every night for a week before Christmas, she reiterated her list.

I had shopped for her gifts months ahead of time. All the gifts were bought and wrapped. There would be no big white horse under the Christmas tree. I had disappointed my daughter.

My mommy heart wanted to search every website, race to the store, and spend more than I should just to see her overjoyed face Christmas morning. Yet, something said, no, this is a small lesson you can teach her now, for free.

My mommy heart wanted to offer her every precious thing that would bring her joy, but I knew the better lesson in disappointment.

Be happy with what you have. Disappointment brings a lesson of having a grateful attitude not an entitled one. Click To Tweet

We aren’t wealthy, but despite living on one income, we’ve been tremendously blessed to provide her with more than she could ever possibly need.

And she doesn’t understand real want.

I wonder if I’m doing her a disservice by not giving her more realistic expectations for life or age-appropriate growth opportunities.

She had fairly simple requests, but she didn’t need both horse toys. Her Nana had already bought her the Barbie Horse toy, and I didn’t want to overshadow it.

Plus, she was getting a pots & pans set and “Live” pet bird along with boxes of books, clothes, and educational games. She was getting too much already. I wanted fewer toys to spark interest and creativity, not overtake her imagination.

I disappointed my daughter for Christmas. I wanted fewer toys to spark her creativity not overtake her imagination. Click To Tweet

After all the gifts had been opened and we passed around the cards on the tree, including the White Envelope, I asked her, “Did you have a great Christmas?” I wondered if she even noticed.

She looked at the stack of presents around her, her face falling just a bit.

And I knew I had disappointed my daughter for Christmas.

“Well, I didn’t get a big white horse . . . ” she said quietly.

I smiled and gave her the words for a proper perspective.

“No, instead you got a tan horse with a barbie. You can’t get everything you want all the time. Maybe another time or you can save up for it.”

She wasn’t devastated. She was disappointed, for a rare time in her life.

And it was good for her. Learning to control her emotions is one of her personal challenges. Not receiving one unnecessary gift gave her a chance to deal with disappointment on a tiny level and successfully overcome it, gain perspective, and learn to be grateful, not entitled.

While chasing the ethereal ‘perfect’ Christmas for each of my children, I forgot to consider the expectations and lessons I was teaching them. Getting everything you desire for Christmas isn’t reality. It’s commercialism.

Focusing on what really matters (the coming of Christ and family, friends, togetherness, giving) is the lesson I really want to teach.

As I watched her process her emotions, she looked up and said, “It doesn’t matter. Jesus is the best gift of Christmas anyway.”

Lesson learned – for both of us.

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A Change in Perspective

Heaven Not Harvard started with my acknowledging that all the world’s pressure on my parenting was creating unnecessary stress, weighing on me, pushing me to be cranky and insistent with an incorrect perspective, trying be a perfect mom based on imperfect standards.

Inside my head, I yelled, ‘stop!’ And I shifted my parenting away from a generic “Harvard” goal and prioritized my focus on a “Heaven” goal. Over time, that mantra has shifted my focus in a myriad of ways, including my goals for myself, including my perspective on my marriage, and including events like Thanksgiving.

Today, I simply wanted to focus on being thankful, with a peaceful attention on the right aspects of my life, so I opened my Bible to Psalm 100, a prayer of thanks. Psalm 100 ESV - Heaven Not Harvard "A Change in Perspective"

Immediately I felt His voice, telling me to lay down the burdens of expectations, to rest in shouting for joy, worshiping Him in gladness.

So I did. My daughter and I sang Psalm 100 over and over, working to commit it to memory.

The rest of the day, I couldn’t help but look around and see the abundant blessings we have. Our lovely home is warm and cozy. Even now, the tantalizing aroma of a fresh turkey roasted to golden brown perfection still hovers in the air, hours after the dishes have been done, and slices of pie have been devoured.

We sat around our table, just the three of us, holding hands to pray, grateful to be together. I didn’t get out the fine china. I didn’t even pull out the table-cloth. We lit a candle in our centerpiece and used our everyday dishes.

A couple of years ago, I would have cleaned and stressed and let anxiety rob me of my joy. I would have invited the world to our house, but then worried about impressing them. I would have spent every spare second for days ahead of time focused on presenting my house and family in just the right way.

I am tearfully grateful that God has renewed my heart and given me a thankful perspective this year, to focus on making memories instead of ironing the good napkins. This morning, we watched the parade on television; my daughter thrilled over her favorite characters and balloons. I held her on my lap, smelling the baby shampoo in her hair, feeling her sink into me. She kept begging me to hold her, wanting to sit with me just a bit longer. And I was able to just be still, knowing that too soon, she won’t be little enough to sit on my lap, not too long until she won’t want to.

We called family and used technology to see the faces of so many so far away. We ate our fill, found room for delicious pumpkin pie and rich eggnog richly dosed with liberal amounts of nutmeg. At one point, we surveyed the overwhelming richness of our lives and said a prayer of gratitude, knowing many around the world don’t have an ounce of the things we take for granted so often.

The day was even more poignant when I found this old writing of mine.

Lil Bit and I have traveled to my mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving. I haven’t felt like crying for weeks, but as soon as I sit here for a few minutes surrounded by the house where we fell in love, a house literally filled with pictures of him, I start getting teary-eyed.

For the first time in months, I am not so busy that I can barely survive the day, giving me time to think. Maybe the holiday season without him again is making me emotional. Maybe just being surrounded by his family, his children, and his pictures reminds me more of what I am missing. Especially with Lil Bit doing her best to learn to crawl and “talking” up a storm, we realize how much he is missing. This house with its warmth and charm brings so much of his spirit to my heart. I pray everyday for his safe return because this life is not the same without him no matter where or what day it is.

Four years ago, I didn’t know if he would ever come home again. This year, I don’t know if he will ever have to deploy again. The world is an uncertain place. While we can rest assured God has a plan, He doesn’t let us in on it. We have to make the most of the season and the moment we are in. This year, this quiet day of enjoying sweet peace together was more than all the riches in the world.A Change of Perspective Heaven Not Harvard

Toys litter the corners, not quite tucked away. A few sticky places on the counter await renewed energy in the morning. Some dirty dishes are “soaking” (ahem, not really) in the sink. I’ve waved the white flag of surrender at the dog hair, and yet, my house never looked so beautiful as it does today.

All it took was a change of perspective, realizing we have no guarantees, that every season has its reasons to celebrate and to mourn, that God’s goodness is all the time, and when our perspective is His, He never fails to lead us home.

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Fairy Tale Proposal and Happily Ever After

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Eleven years ago today, I got pulled over by the sheriff. I couldn’t imagine then how one “traffic stop” would change my life.

In 2016, I was so excited to sit in the very spot of this momentous encounter with our sheriff with my daughter and watch this video of her daddy’s surprise return from Iraq which had a bigger twist than I realized.

I was stunned. I had no idea what was happening. Until I watched the reply, I wasn’t even sure what I said – on NBC, MSNBC and now YouTube!

Now I can say, even with all the challenges we have behind us and all the challenges we have before us, I would say YES again.

April 6, 2006 felt like an ordinary Thursday, not a Fairy Tale Proposal.

Today, reflecting on where we’ve been, I can see how much God has grown our marriage since that day. And we’re so blessed to have had it filmed to share forever, and have such a wonderful start to our lives together.

When the sheriff pulled me over, I couldn't imagine how this would become a fairy tale proposal. Click To Tweet

Struggling with a terrible surgery, disability, and recovery, I’ve had a really rough year. And my husband stepped up. Despite working early mornings, long shifts, and short weekends, he has selflessly given to me when he has been home to do so.

He has cooked and cleaned. Even shooing me away from doing chores a couple of times, he said, “I’m trying to take care of you! Would you just let me?!” Sometimes, in order to be a blessing, we have to let others be our blessing. And what a blessing it is to have someone offer to care for you not out of obligation, but out of love.

Sometimes in order to be a blessing, we have to let others bless us. Click To Tweet

I have felt my husband’s ‘thank you’ for all the times I’ve served him quietly, and I felt God’s love through my husband. Even in the worst moments of the past few months, I’ve had reasons to be grateful instead of complain.

Even in the worst times, I’ve had reasons to be grateful.

I live in a country which has wealth more abundant than 90% of the world can imagine. I have the luxury of being sidelined and sick because we have a stocked freezer and pantry. And internet to allow me to visit friends all over the world from my couch.

And my husband has sacrificed his time, his energy, and his hobbies to be home to care for me. He spent all day Sunday (during Turkey season!) making a gourmet feast because my being stuck on the couch for months we haven’t been able to go to our local Mediterranean restaurant for my favorite dish. So he made fresh from scratch fettuccine Alfredo with wood-fire grilled steak in a balsamic reduction sauce with fresh homemade bread. I know, I’m spoiled!

Why did I originally share this post on Veterans Day?

My husband is a soldier. He has served overseas many times in various capacities during his time in the Marine Corps and US Army. He spent four years of his life in Iraq, trying to defend our values and nation from those who spread hatred. While not untouched by war, he has come home alive and unhurt. Not everyone can hug their veteran today.

Also, Veteran’s Day is our wedding anniversary. We are celebrating 11 years of marriage this November. Six months prior to getting married, he came home from Iraq and surprised me with this outlandish proposal.

I thought I was getting arrested, but instead I was getting a fairytale proposal.

Military life isn’t easy. We can spend time complaining or be grateful. We live in a country so free people can scream from the top of their lungs ideas that are completely opposite of what our nation stands for, and a soldier will say, “but I fought for his right to say it.”

Eleven years ago today, I got pulled over by the sheriff. I couldn't imagine how one "traffic stop" would change my life with a soldier's fairytale proposal.

My marriage isn’t perfect, but it is growing stronger. We have enough. We have each other, a lovely home, and amazing kids. I get to choose my perspective. When I choose to focus on God, the complaints die away unsaid, my heart turns from bitter to blessed.

Every low moment in our lives is a chance for God to whisper His perspective into our hearts. Each small joy is a gift to us. Every challenge a chance to grow and overcome. Even in moments that destroy and devastate, God shows up. He is present, giving us rest, using people to love us.

I am supremely grateful for a husband who has given me so much, I honestly couldn’t think of anything I really want except to grow closer.

The fairytale isn't having perfection, it's having perspective, God's perspective. Click To Tweet

James 1:2-4 ESV  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

I’m counting it ALL JOY, learning to be complete, realizing in Christ, I am truly lacking in nothing. And that is how our fairytale proposal turns in our Happily Ever After.


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