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

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.

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.

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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.

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The Butterfly Effect: Handling Rejection as a Christian

Are you good at handling rejection? What should we do when people reject us because of our beliefs and values as Christians? Embrace the Butterfly Effect!

How are you with handling rejection? What should we do when people reject us because of our beliefs and values as Christians? Embrace the Butterfly Effect!

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One early fall afternoon a few years ago, I’d been crying. I had shared my passionate fire for Jesus with a friend, but she didn’t want to hear it. Her marriage was struggling. I shared how my relationship with Christ had transformed my marriage. But all she could hear was more things for her to do when she felt like she was already doing everything.

Not only did she reject a Christian take on marriage, our friendship ended.

Later, I replayed every word in my head. I had tried come alongside her, speak with love, gentleness and compassion, and being real about my own brokenness, failures, sin, and redemption.

But something had gone terribly wrong!

I kept trying to rephrase it, find just the right words, but nothing I did seemed to matter. She just grew less willing to listen. She walked away from our conversation and friendship without even a good-bye.  I was just devastated.
But I realized that handling rejection well has to be part of our walk as Christian women. We are supposed to share our testimony, prepared to also share in suffering for it.

2 Timothy 1:8 ESV “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,”

Trying not to let my hurt derail me, I needed some time with God. Seeking His solace and comfort, I went outside to be alone to 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? What should I do to heal this fractured relationship? 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 to 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.

Are you good at handling rejection? What should we do when people reject us because of our beliefs and values as Christians? Embrace the Butterfly Effect!

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 when we stand out as vibrantly alive in the midst of a dead world.

One tiny butterfly amidst a tree full of brown leaves was all the more beautiful because of the contrast between her and the surroundings.

Are you good at handling rejection? What should we do when people reject us because of our beliefs and values as Christians? Embrace the Butterfly Effect!

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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.”

Chills raced over my arms. I felt God’s words flow into 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. In my excitement and immaturity, I may not have presented my faith with gentleness or waiting patiently for the right time. I’m learning 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.”

Jesus knew we would need help handling rejection!

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!

Ephesians 5:8 ESV “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”

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?

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.

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

Most believers will tell you we all have moments in which we cling to worldly things. Selfishly holding onto something that isn’t what God wants for us, we later realize it was holding us back from best 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. And in doing so, I learned that I am such a happier person without the very things I used to think made me ‘happy.’

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.

Are you good at handling rejection? What should we do when people reject us because of our beliefs and values as Christians? Embrace the Butterfly Effect!

I’m learning to listen more, talk less, serve more, 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.

But, I have to choose to 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 see His butterfly effect in me. And for those who aren’t, I will plant a seed.

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Purposefully Practical #1

I am trying to be honestly transparent in my posts, making sure every word is Godly and Biblical. But as I have been working on my parenting, I realized that a lesson about anger and temper is a wonderful tool to help our walk become more Godly; however, some practical tips may be more helpful at times. Like when your child is smearing her somehow naked body with soap in front of the sink when all you asked was for her to wash her hands. . . those are the moments I need real answers about how to parent without getting angry.

I wrote about Temper Tantrums just a couple of entries ago, about the power of letting go of our selfish nature and choosing not to be angry in our discipline. I can honestly say that nothing has changed my household more than refusing to get angry. Getting angry was about my kids, dogs, cat, husband being stumbling blocks to getting my way. Putting aside what I want and simply serving God has gentled me tremendously, but I am still working on practical solutions because in the moment of disobedience or stress, I need a plan so I know I can stay on track with controlling my temper and yet not allow her to rule the roost.

My daughter has had very little regulated schedule for the past two years. We have enjoyed that freedom (between my endless stream of doctor visits), but preparing her for more structured activities is important. Teaching her to follow rules, be on a schedule,  and be able to work independently on a task are some of the skills we worked on today.

Didn’t that sound fancy and formal? When I say skills we worked on, let me translate that for you, I mean I attempted to get my child to behave in any kind of appropriate way. Today the struggle was our daily routine. Getting her to eat breakfast has seriously been a struggle for years. I’ve been dreading her first days of organized school because she eats so doggone slowly.

Rather than wait for school bus days, I decided to start adjusting this behavior today. A year from now when it is her first day of out of the house school, we all will be better prepared.

Our day started off with a bowl of dry cereal (milk makes it too mushy to consume, apparently) and a handful of blueberries with her glass of milk. None of these foods are new or different or weird, but handing her breakfast food has traditionally been a battle. She hems and haws. She takes a bite or two and sits there. She stares into space, wants to watch TV while she eats, she talks incessantly, so we end up spoon feeding her just to get her to eat. If we take it away, she is starving ten minutes later.

After spooning two bites into her mouth, I decided that this was it. I wasn’t going to do this anymore. She is FOUR for-the-love-of-pete! I prayed to God and asked for some idea to change this behavior.

“Eating your breakfast is important. Food makes you grow healthy and strong. This is what I am serving today. You have 15 minutes to eat this cereal and drink your milk. When the timer beeps, if your food isn’t gone, you will have a consequence,” I said.

I was quiet and firm. Walking over to the microwave, I set the timer so she could watch it ticking down and went back to washing dishes and cleaning out coffee pots, etc. She didn’t say another word. She ate. At 9:18 to go, she shouted, “DONE!” I praised her and kissed her. “Good job! You worked really hard to get your breakfast finished quickly. I hope you eat like this all the time.” Beaming with pride, she hugged me.

Then I sent her to brush her teeth, which she did for two minutes, then came back for her next set of directions. Going to her room to make her bed took awhile. She was in there playing (imagine that!). After a few re-directions, I told her I was going to set the timer for five minutes. She started crying hysterically, jumping up and down. God grabbed me and told me to listen to her emotions, not ignore them.

I brushed away her tears and asked her what was the matter. She was afraid she couldn’t do it in that time, so I doubled the time, assuring her I believed she could easily make her bed. I kissed her and sent her running laughing to make her bed. She came and tagged me at two minutes. Then I sent her back to pick up her toys, she was back in another two minutes. She even told me not to reset the timer, she could get it done. In a total of four minutes, she had picked up all her toys and made her bed. It was like magic. Amazing.

IMG_4280-3.JPGI gave her clear expectations that were developmentally appropriate for tasks that were not new. I made racing the timer fun, giving her pride in her accomplishment. She felt empowered instead of over powered. Mommy WIN!!

Discipline is crucial, not to create automatons, but to create children who are respectful of authority, kind to others, empathetic, loving, obedient, and ultimately self-sufficient and confident. Learning how to use calm, consistent discipline in my home has been a game changer for me, but sometimes the day-to-day issues that arise take some ingenuity to solve without resorting to the negative behaviors of my past, especially when her temper is still wildly in play. I have to remember she is 4, that her coping skills need guiding so that someday she can deal with her emotions just as easily as she made her bed today, a skill that four months ago was new. Maybe in a few more months, my ability to be quiet and calm will be second nature to me as well.

At least today, God ruled my heart which allowed me to deal with her attitudes and issues appropriately. Using the timer even helped her eat more quickly at dinner when she wants to talk so much that she ends up not eating, which made daddy happy, too.

Update – day two – she ate, made her bed, picked up without actually having to set the timer, just had to ask her if she needed one. I recognize all children aren’t motivated the same way, but most children will respond to something fun. Seek out how your child has fun and use that to motivate him/her.

Setting a timer, making a task feel like a game, can be a tremendous motivator for us too. Have a task you’ve been dreading? Set a timer or stopwatch to see how quickly you can get it done. I will do this with dishes or laundry sometimes to help me get through it quickly.

Like Mary Poppins once sang, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” We like to use music and a timer to make unpleasant tasks fun. Any ideas that have worked at your house?