Love Goggles – my daughter is the most beautiful girl in the world

Do you have Love Goggles? I bet you do.

I have whispered a shocking secret to my daughter many times since she was born.

“You are the most beautiful girl in the world,” I would say, gently kissing her cheek or forehead.

Then add, “to me,” lest she wake up one day completely surprised that she isn’t. That day came sooner than I could have ever imagined.

My daughter had a wonderful playdate with a friend that turned emotional quickly. Hangry is a real thing. It was such a dramatic meltdown, from perfect harmony to disaster in less than a minute, that it was almost comical.

Our emotional center of gravity comes from our identity.

We shot each other sympathetic looks over the Oscar-worthy shenanigans happening with our little girls as my friend and I tried to wade through the whiny tears to decipher the conflict.

“She said she was more beautiful than me.” I heard screeched from across the room.

“Well, she said her mommy told her she was the most beautiful girl in the world, but you told me I was!” Followed by my daughter sinking to the ground in tears.

We both laughed and tried to calm down our girls by telling them that they were different, and both equally beautiful.

But hours later, my daughter could not get past this crisis of identity. I had told her she was the most beautiful girl in the world, and her friend’s mommy had told her daughter the same thing! How can this be true!?!

Just driving down the road, hot and sweaty after blueberry picking. I was not prepared to deal with such a deep question.

Her identity was shaken for the first time.

As always, I struggle with the underlying dynamics of a moment, in this case helping her understand that she is beautiful, what beauty means, and how what I told her was and will always be true.

Is my daughter the most beautiful girl in the world? Yes, I see her thru love goggles. Click To Tweet

Do you tell your daughter that she is the most beautiful girl in the world? I do. And I think I'm absolutely right to do so. I've got my Love Goggles on.I thought for a moment.

“Well, moms look at their children through love goggles. When we look at our children through these lenses of love, we see the most beautiful child in the world . . .

But every mom feels this way about their kids. It is part of loving someone that you see them with different eyes when we wear Love Goggles.”

Her mouth formed a silent oh, and she nodded. My explanation made perfect sense to this little girl with a gigantic heart.

It's part of loving someone that you see them with different eyes when we use love goggles. Click To Tweet

But even as I said these words to her, I could feel God nudging me, to hear Him say that He sees us through Love Goggles. He sees our flaws, but loves us so much that he sees past them and loves us with a reckless, crazy love.

Then I heard Him say, “and didn’t I send Jesus and the Spirit to give you Love Goggles for the world?”

Didn't I send my Son and the Spirit to give you Love Goggles for the world? See them thru Me. Click To Tweet

I pictured my husband, my two teenagers, the angry neighbor, etc. and I realized how differently I am able to view people through the lens of Jesus, seeing their hurts and hearts, their need for love, and for God’s love, and how differently I’ve learned to react to life.

God calls to me, calls me precious one, My beautiful daughter. He sees me in ways that others never will. He sees the ugly in me, but loves me more.

God says, ‘let me change your ugly’ instead of throwing me away.

He looks at all of us as the most beautiful us in the world and means it in a way that causes even a mother’s love for a child to pale in comparison.

Letting myself BE loved in this way has given me the best perspective for the people in my world. Because I can see the way they need to be loved, too, even in their ugly.

I hope my daughter learns to see herself through God’s eyes too.

She doesn’t have to have a crisis of identity once she understands beauty truly is seen through the eye of the beholder and a pair of really Righteous love goggles.  😉

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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.

Dear Birthmom,

Have you ever had a letter you wanted to write, but knew you could never send it? It would be too real, too raw, too vulnerable? What about talk to someone who is out of your life? Sometimes, I have so many things I’d like to say specifically to our daughter’s birthmom due to our unique circumstances. This is not a letter to any birthmom. I will share that letter soon.

Today is National Adoption Day and my spunky lil’ punkin woke up ready for Christmas. She has been a bright light all morning. She told us that to feel the Christmas spirit you have to stretch your arms out wide, take a deep breath, and spin. It is mornings like this that make me feel so blessed to have a chance to mother this tiny tornado, and wish I could talk to her birth mother.Christmas Spirt

Every year as soon as the first signs of spring appear, I start mentally preparing to write her birthday update to our birthmom; I carefully craft the letters and select perfect pictures to tell the story of her year. The first few letters came easily, I was just so grateful for this gift of an amazing child. But this last year I struggled more than usual. I always keep the letters light, warm, and open, but I have things I wish I could say to her.

Dear Birth Mother,

I haven’t heard from you since she was still in the NICU, the day you planned to come back to see her one more time, but never called and never answered a call or email again. How did you walk out of that hospital without her? She has your ears, you know.The first time I saw her yawn, I could see your mouth in hers.

She’ll lay in bed with me in the mornings and tell me her dreams. Her dreams of being a bear trainer and a circus clown, and I’m awed by your sacrifice that built my family. I want to call you or send a picture right that minute, hoping to catch the way joy sparkles in her with my clumsy iPhone camera. But just like my phone’s lousy ability to capture the truth of her beauty, a picture wouldn’t capture her spirit either. Although this video is one of my favorites.

Sometimes, I’m really angry with you. You put cocaine into her tiny body, and I couldn’t stop you. While they scanned for brain damage, I held her tiny head, frantic for her. Despite being premature and some early breathing difficulties, she seems alright, but tiny signs make me wonder. We can’t know the future battles she may face due to the alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.

I also don’t understand not wanting to know her. I have emailed a few times, willing to keep communication open. Not one reply. There are moments that I feel like a mother is the one person who can celebrate all the tiny, insignificant, earth-shattering, wonderful things she does. Then, I wonder if you would understand, if you have that mothering instinct at all?

Or if that instinct is what encouraged you to give her away? Because you did bring her into the world. You gave her life. Not every woman would make that choice.

Maybe you’ve never answered an email because a single word to me would open a floodgate of regret. Maybe you have a hole in your heart, shaped just her size. I don’t want to remind you what you’ve lost. That’s why I stopped emailing so long ago.

Every time she calls me “Mommy” my heart wants to burst. The other day we were talking about her adoption and if babies remembering being born. I asked if she remembered her “real” mom. I don’t know why that word came out of my mouth, because I always use “birth” mom to describe you. Maybe it still doesn’t seem possible that she is mine. But, you know what, she looked right at me and said, “You’re my real mom.” And I am. I’ve been branded in snot, puke, poop, and hugs. I’ve played dress up and tea party, and had to discipline her when watching her chubby cheeks stained with tears was breaking my heart. I’m as real as it gets, but you’re still a part of her, too.

I try not to worry about how she’ll feel in the future. I don’t know if she’ll be more than curious, but I do know she will always have a hole in her heart for the people who gave her away. I pray I’m doing my job so well, it will be only a tiny thimble space of emptiness that won’t ever bother her. But I wonder if she’ll ever come looking for you. Will she turn toward your family, aching to know why you gave her away. Part of me doesn’t want her to need you, but I want to be OK with her loving you, too. Our hearts aren’t limited in how many people we can love.

I tell her that God always meant her for our family, that she grew in my heart as part of His plan for her. Yet, during those teen years, will she ever yell, “You’re not my real mom!” at me? I pray that she doesn’t ever feel like that, or even if she does, we’ll both know she didn’t really mean it.

Dear BirthmomToday is just another Saturday, even though we know it’s National Adoption Day. And I’m celebrating her and our family. Daddy made traditional Belgian waffles, so delicious they didn’t even need syrup. We’re gonna stay in our jammies until lunch time.

We’re having a pillow fight. We’ve never had one before. I handed her the pillow and walloped her. Her eyes got wide with surprise, she was allowed to hit me? Then the laughter started to bubble up bursting into huge giggles, dissolving into giant guffaws as we bashed and bonked, great reckless pillow fun.

And you’re missing it. You’ll never know how her tiny, baby chuckles could fill a whole room with laughter. You’ll never see her jaw drop in amazement when she learns something new.

When I write to you each year, I worry over ever word, wanting you to be happy you chose us to raise her, wanting you to agree that I’ve been the best mom I could be for her, but I worry you’ll judge her height and weight and wonder if I’ve been feeding her too much junk food. I worry that you’ll hate her haircut or the mural I painstakingly painted on her bedroom wall. I wonder if you’d approve of the deep faith she is developing. Then I think, you gave her up because you couldn’t take care of you, should your opinion matter to me? Two seconds later, I hope you’re doing alright and are making better choices.

And I have times, I wonder if letting her go left a huge hole in your heart, if there is anything I could say that would make it hurt less, feel better. You did the right thing. She has a stable home, a family that adores her, and close friends who practically live at our house.

She will ask lots of questions in the future, I’m sure. I know my feelings will change too. So for right now, this minute, I’m grateful but wonder if you know what you’re missing.

The Secret Service

What do you do when you are so angry you can’t function, so bitter the walls are closing in on you, so empty there are no words? You join the Secret Service.

A few years ago, my marriage was failing. We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t talk much. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team. And while we didn’t fight often, by the time we did, we’d both been harboring so many hurts and slights, that we were boilers ready to explode.

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying to be the “good” wife, be a good person, live morally and he was just such a jerk. He was selfish and mean. He wanted to hunt more than he wanted to be home with us. He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. From using the last of the milk, but not putting it on the list, to breaking my favorite dishes with his carelessness, to leaving me home with the stomach flu and toddler to sit in a boat waiting for ducks. If I ever complained, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I was going to be able to live the rest of my life with this awful person who just hurt me at every turn. I guarded my heart from him, went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would wake up and start being what I needed. What a selfish creep .  .  .

. . . I was.

When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my sin, my need for Grace, and true forgiveness. I can’t tell you how it changed my heart. A veil lifted. I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and pains.

I realized that I had been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the place God should be. I wrote a post about my running away from God, trying to use the world to fill my emptiness a few months ago. When I keep reading about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept praying about it. I kept reading the Bible and praying.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

When I pursued God, asked him to fill my heart, to give me what I need, my cup got full. I was able to stop seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function. As God filled my heart with grace and forgiveness, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

And I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time, not literally, but emotionally. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall we were building between us. Even when I had been doing the right things, I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful things I had done for him during the day and wait for his thanks. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

I was holding up my heart via the laundry or dishes, and he was smashing it over and over. But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing this to serve him or to get something from him?”

Ouch! I wanted love, recognition, respect.

Wait, he probably did, too. What if he was being a jerk because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs? Ooh, and all of a sudden, I saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion. I saw a soul God wants in His kingdom.

And a lesson came to mind about how we serve the needy, but it really resonated with how we serve anyone in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Our Father sees in secret. God will see my serving my husband quietly. Loved people love people, (See 1 John 4) and I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could see his need for me to love him. I started looking for ways to serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret things for my him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

I started to look for ways to just quietly do things for him without his asking. Like noticing that his toothpaste tube is nearly empty and replacing it, adding it to the grocery list when his shower gel is running low, making his lunch and preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been long.How the secret service saved my marriage. Heaven Not Harvard

One of those jobs that I wouldn’t have even thought to do before I let Christ reign in my heart is picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the floor of the bathroom. Every morning. He literally has to walk past his closet (where his hamper is) in order to leave the house every morning, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor wadded up under the edge of the vanity. I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Several years ago, I would have nagged him about being so lazy and careless or even selfish for leaving them there. It would have become an infection between us. A couple of years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that my service to you is about humility and being used by You without drawing attention to myself.” I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When my heart got filled with service, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. I started giving him some grace when his day at work had been too much for him and he needed some silence before he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

Because nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return. Nothing I ever did changed my husband’s heart more than my secret service and how I softened towards him by doing it.

And when I was sharing with a friend who was struggling in her own marriage about how mine got turned around by God, I told her the story of the dirty underwear, how I would pray, “Thank you, Lord, that these underwear remind me my husband isn’t in Iraq.”  Her eyes filled with tears, and she joined the ranks, our Secret Service.

She started to see the same truth that God had pointed out in me. Our culture asks what is in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude, and I’ve never been more full of joy than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity, gross underwear.

badgeBesides, the underwear was just a start. Once you join the Secret Service, you will find so many ways to quietly serve people, and those are my treasures I hold in my hand like sweet pearls, knowing I am seen, I am treasured, I am loved by my Heavenly Father.

Are you in? We’re taking new members everyday.;)

 

 

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The Butterfly Effect

We aren’t supposed to blend in, we’re reborn to stand out – I call it the Butterfly Effect.

I’d been crying. I had shared my passionate fire for Jesus with a friend, but she didn’t want to hear it.

I replayed every word in my head. I was trying to speak from love, with gentleness and compassion, being real about my own need, sin, and redemption.

Was I explaining Him wrong?

I kept trying to rephrase it, find just the right words, but nothing I did seemed to matter. She just got less and less willing to listen. She walked away from our conversation without even a good-bye.  As the days have passed, I realize she walked away from our friendship, too, at least for now.

I was just devastated. I wanted to chase after her, keep trying to reason with her.

Trying not to sin in my hurt, I decided I needed some quiet time with God in prayer, seeking His solace and comfort. I am just learning how to truly let God be so real for me that I feel His love, but the Bible promises, if we seek Him, we’ll find Him.

Jeremiah 29:13 ESV  “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

I decided to claim that promise and went outside to find some quiet and pray. My daughter is wonderful at a great many things, but being quiet is not one of them. 🙂

“Dear God, I don’t know what to do. How do I deal with this pain? How do I heal this fractured relationship? How can I respond now in the best way to witness to her in the future? How can I be obedient to you in the middle of this hurt?” Tears filled my eyes as I prayed.

A small orange and black butterfly swooped over my head and fluttered its way deadleavesto the tree above. Squinting in the sunlight, I looked into the branches, but it was gone. All I could see was a bunch of leaves browning in the late summer heat wave.

But then the wind rustled the leaves, and the butterfly flickered to catch the cool breeze on her wings. Her vibrant wings shone against the dreary backdrop. God whispered into my heart that moment.

A beautiful butterfly can be lost among the dying leaves if she looks like her surroundings. Click To Tweet

A beautiful butterfly can be lost among the dying leaves if she closes up to look like her surroundings. It is only when she dares to open as a new creation that her beauty is obvious.

The Butterfly Effect is to stand out as vibrantly alive in the midst of a dead world.

One tiny butterfly amidst was all the more beautiful because of the contrast between her and the surroundings.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

butterflyinleavesChills raced over my arms. I felt God’s presence speak to my heart.

I’m not supposed to look like the rest of the world anymore. I’m not supposed to blend in. God is calling me to stand out, not as myself, but as a witness for Him.

I may not be blameless in the derailment of our friendship. I may not have presented my faith in the right way or at the right time. I’m learning discernment about how to best reach people where they are, but she wasn’t rejecting me, not really. For the first time, I truly understood the following verse.

John 15:18 ESV “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

She was rejecting Jesus in me.

I had forgotten what it felt like to be running full tilt away from God, walking away from people who could only talk about Jesus, the darkness in me refusing to be around their light.

Romans 8:7 ESV “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

Their light made the darkness in me so obvious. I got angry, indignant, and chose my way over God’s. Thank goodness, He didn’t leave me there.

Today, with the amazing truths God is revealing to me, I forgot what it is like to be on the other side of that.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit changed my life, my heart, changed my parenting, and my marriage. I wanted to shout it from the mountains. It was a miracle for my life and family.

Who wouldn’t want a miracle?

Who wouldn't want a miracle? People who don't know they need one. #butterflyeffect #newcreation Click To Tweet

People who don’t know they need one. People who have never truly come face to face with their need for salvation and grace.

She couldn’t see God’s blessings in what I was saying. All she could see was the things of this world she would have to give up to follow Christ. I think most believers will tell you that we all have those moments, moments in which we cling to worldly things, selfishly holding onto something we know isn’t what God wants for us only later to realize it was holding us back from the good things God wants for us.

1 John 2:15 ESV  “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Serving God has to be an all or nothing proposition.

Being sold out for Jesus is a decision. When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to God, and I started to understand grace, my whole heart changed perspective. Letting Him clean up my life is a process, but I had to surrender as master of my heart.

I would love to tell you this friend has come back and asked me what makes me so different, and maybe someday I can. I can’t say the hurt is completely gone either, but knowing my responsibility is to grow closer to God is comforting.

I’m learning to listen more, serve more, talk less, know that living differently, loving much, using His butterfly effect is my best witness.

We meet them where they are, not excusing their sin, but loving them anyway as Christ first loved us.

Are we supposed to blend in? Should we try to fit our culture? No, we were reborn to stand out - I call it the Butterfly Effect. I have to choose to be an open butterfly, spread my wings, letting people see His new creation in me, not let the world pressure me to look like them.

People who are ready, will be drawn to His butterfly effect in me.

I wish I had taken my own pictures, but didn't have a camera handy. I used a couple of photos that represent what I saw, courtesy (respectively) of www.abundantnature.com and watchingtheseasons.blogspot.com and www.ctahr.hawaii.edu