To my beautifully perfectly imperfect little girl,

To my beautifully perfectly imperfect little girl,
Today you turn six years old. 
I watched you playing on the playground recently and was in awe of the little woman you are becoming. There was a sweet little girl crying, you got down on your knees, put your arm around her and began to make her laugh. 
You have always been such a gentle spirit, such an empathetic soul. When you were just an itty bitty thing if you heard a baby crying in the store you’d instantly stop what you were doing and you’d become concerned with their tears. It’s a quality I resonate so deeply with. My heart swells when I watch you comfort those around you. 
Your love for people is intoxicating. I am not sure that you’ve ever met a stranger. Sometimes this quality scares the hell out of me, but I pray for protection and then embrace that you were created wonderfully and fearfully and God designed you to befriend all. You’re a prime example of what it means to love well. So *never* stop loving people. 
Just the other day you came home from school and said, “Mom, Dad, when I grow up I’d like to be a scientist.” When we asked what made you want to become a scientist you said, “because I’d like to invent potions that help heal those that are sick.” I sat in awe. It’s such a testament to who you are. I sit back and watch you and dream of what your future might look like. I often think, your little brain probably has the cure for cancer just waiting to be unleashed. 
You my dear are wise beyond your years. You are inquisitive and imaginative. You seek to find answers and you never stop filling your brain with knowledge. As your mom it poses challenges as we navigate the roads to your education and I try to gain my own understanding of how your brain is wired, but I’m also thankful for the challenge because in turn it keeps me challenged. 
You are a natural born leader and you are learning how to become a great leader. 
You’re stubborn as all get out and boy does that challenge every last ounce of patience I have in my body. Mostly because I myself am a stubborn woman. I pray that stubbornness subsides some and that you are able to be humble and ask for help when you need it. 
You my dear are so many other things and more. You are perfectly imperfect and I wouldn’t change thing about you! 
Six years ago you made me a mommy and I am forever grateful for that. I had no idea what I was doing and I was scared shitless but I was up for the challenge the second they placed you in my arms. You test my very patience and in the same moment touch the depths of my heart. You can make me both laugh and cry in the same moment. The last six years have brought with them some of the hardest moments of my life and some of the most joyous moments. I am proud to be your mommy and I cannot wait to see what year 6 has in store for you. 
I love you to the moon and back again…I win. 

Happy birthday beautiful.

Love,

Mommy

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Have Courage

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.”

Mark Twain

Just recently I watched as my daughter exuded courage. She had been given a bike, this bike didn’t come with training wheels. We attempted to ride this bike once before and that ended in frustration all around. I had a squirming toddler in my arms and it made holding her stable on the bike nearly impossible.

Having a perfectionist, strong-willed daughter makes for a challenge all its own, but it makes for a bigger challenge when something is not mastered the first time. She is good at many things, she is wise beyond her years… but she is stubborn and determined. Since the first attempt at bike riding was an epic fail she was determined to never ride a bike without training wheels again.

Well the other day seemed like a good day to ride a bike. The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining and it was just one of those days you didn’t want to spend inside. Daddy was home this particular day so we decided to give bike riding another go. Emma huffed and puffed and threw a tantrum of epic portion. She was determined to never ride that bike again. She stormed all over the house with her arms crossed and yelled all about how her bike was “stupid” and she “was never riding the stupid bike.” Now in our home “stupid” is a word we don’t use and she is fully aware of that. She faced a consequence and then my husband and I pulled her close to us and talked with her.

We talked about how we have two choices in life– we can choose to always do the easy things or the hard things. Les Brown says it like this, we can do the easy things and have a hard life, or we can do the hard things and have an easy life. We went on to talk about how in life we have to do things that are hard, things that scare us, things we might not want to do and things we may not be any good at. It’s how we experience life. It’s what makes us who we are. We all have to do it. We talked about how its okay to feel afraid. It’s okay to not be perfect at the task or to even master it. We talked about how we don’t have to rely on our strength, but that we have the strength of Jesus Christ and because of that we can do all things. We shared moments when mommy, daddy and her baby brother had to do something hard. She agreed to give the bike a try as long as daddy promised he wouldn’t let her go.

So outside we went. She hopped on her back and after just a few minutes she asked her daddy to let her go. He did and she rode her bike. She only made it a few feet before she took her feet off the pedals and fell down, but she got right back up and did it again. She rode her bike for a long time that afternoon. She would repeat the falling down and getting up bit every few feet but she never gave up. She was determined. She was beaming with pride. The smile she wore across her beautiful face said it all. We celebrated and cheered her on. We filled her with praise and told her we were proud of her.

We got back home and asked her how she felt. Her response floored me. She said, “I’m happy that God gave me the strength to do it!” A few nights later at dinner she shared her most thankful, “That God gave me the strength to ride my bike.” She gets it. God is going to use that girl to help him move mountains. She humbled herself. She knew that accomplishment was not done on her own accord. She took a risk and she had courage.

Youthful Perspective

“Those who look for beauty, find it.”

-Unknown

The other morning I was driving with my daughter and we had come to a red light. We had the most beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains right in front of us. Nothing was blocking that view. I sat in silence admiring the view and taking it all in. It’s so refreshing. It breathes life into my soul.

My daughter broke the silence. She wasn’t speaking to me per-say, she was just stating what she was seeing. From the back seat I hear her say, “wow that is such an amazingly, beautiful view.” To which I responded with, “yes, isn’t it so amazing to look out and see the snow-capped mountains in all their beauty?” She then said, “no mom, I was talking about those little dirt piles that look like mountains and have snow on them. They are so beautiful.”

Instantly my five year old is teaching me a lesson and reminding me of truth.

She reminded me of what was said in John 1 verse 3, that through Him all things were made. God created that very dirt. God created man from the dust of the ground. He created the snow and He told the snow when to fall and it obeyed and because of that it lay peacefully on the pile of dirt. Then I was reminded of what was said in Ecclesiastes 3 verse 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” EVERYTHING is made beautiful. God made in that perfect moment a beautiful snow-capped pile of dirt in line with beautifully, majestic snow-capped mountains.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we decided to stop for a brief moment and look around at the beauty that surrounds us. Would we even notice? Would we stop and let that beauty breathe life into our souls? Would we thank God himself for the beautiful snow-capped pile of dirt, knowing He created that?

Not only was I reminded in that moment that EVERYTHING has been made beautiful in its time, but I was reminded about perspective. It really is all about our perspective. In that moment all I saw was what I wanted to see. The beautiful mountains in front of me. I didn’t want to look around and notice the piles of dirt or anything else that surrounded me in that moment.

Then I think about the things that happen in life. The crappy, painful things we all have to endure at one point or another as the cost of living in a fallen and broken world. I really have two choices in those moments. I can chose to only look at the mountain in front of me or I can open my eyes and see the beauty around me.

What would happen if in the face of ugly dirt piles we clung to the truth and clung to the promise that God will use EVERYTHING for His purpose? What if we looked evil square in the eye and spoke the words of  Genesis 50 verse 20, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” How much more beautiful our lives would be if we simply looked at the piles of dirt and reminded ourselves that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time.

It’s easy to be consumed and narrow minded in the face of adversity. Let’s start being consumed more by God and less by ourselves and the things of this world. Let’s start opening our minds and seeing beauty in the snow-capped dirt piles rather than only the snow-capped mountains.

#dayofthegirl

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“Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders. An investment in realising the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention, and global sustainability.”(http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/).

On December 19, 2011 the United Nations declared that October 11 would become National Day of The Girl. The point? To recognize girls rights and the challenges they face.

We’ve come a long way in the way of Women’s rights, but still have a long way to go. While it’s important that we are still fighting for our reproductive rights, the wage gap, being discriminated in the workplace, continuing to fight for fairness in our voting rights, an increase in incarceration among women and maternity leave rights– to name a few. We are missing the bigger battle.

We are failing to fight for the rights of little girls all over the world. Little girls are being denied education. Little girls are sold and treated as mere objects, used for sex. Little girls are being forced to marry and have children at the onset of puberty. Little girls are treated as invaluable and weak.

Each and every little girl has in them the potential to change the world. It’s our responsibility as older women to reach out and encourage those little girls. It’s our responsibility to remind them of truth. It’s our responsibility to equip them and support them. It’s our responsibility to fight for them. We are called to be the voice for the voiceless. We are called to help the widows and the orphans. We are called to be the hands and feet.

So in honor of National Day of The Girl, I encourage each and every one of you stand up and fight for our dear sisters all over the world. To pray for them. To encourage them. To speak truth to them. To educate yourselves on the issues at hand. To love them.

Beauty

As a mother of a beautiful  daughter it is my  responsibility to speak truth  to her and to help nurture  and build her self-esteem.  This means I in turn also  have to build my own self- esteem and be sure to not  speak any negative things  about myself in front of my  daughter. I refuse to ever  look in a mirror and call  myself fat— even on the days  when I feel like a whale. Why?  Because I don’t want my  daughter to overhear that  and think that her worth and beauty are ever defined by  her outward appearance. The  outside world will soon  enough tell her otherwise,  but by the time that happens  I hope that our work inside  the home will have a firm  foundation that will not be  easily shaken by the things  and people of this world.

My child dresses herself (and  usually doesn’t match) and  sometimes refuses to brush  her hair because she likes  messy hair. Yes, I let her  leave the house looking like  a hot mess. The reason? One  day soon enough she won’t  leave the house because her  clothes won’t be what the “ cool kids” are wearing and  one day she will refuse to  leave the house with messy  hair and that will be the  start of “bad hair days.”  I  look forward to those days. I  look forward to them because  they will be teachable  moments. They will be moments  I can use to remind her of who she  really is and where her  beauty and worth come from.

I am sitting here writing  this after I received a text message from a dear friend that read, “It’s always a good  start to my day when my mom  calls me fat.” When did it  ever become okay for us to  tell our children they are  fat!?!?! It is absolutely  unacceptable. We are suppose  to be a safe place for our  children to land. A place  they come to for truth and  reassurance. A place to be  reminded that what the world  has to say about us and our  bodies doesn’t matter. I am  blown away. I am enraged. I  think about my friend who by  the way is the most beautiful  person I have ever known and  is not overweight by any  means, but mostly I think  about my daughter. I think  about my daughter because I  can’t imagine being a mother  who speaks those words or any  hurtful words that tear my  child down. Our words have a profound effect on our children.

We have a little conversation that happens anytime we are going to play with our friends whether they are new friends or old friends. I adopted this from my dear friend because I love the simple reminder that it teaches our children.The conversation goes like this:

Me: Okay love, look at my eyeballs (so I know that she is listening)– what is the most important thing?

Emma: That we love each other mommy!

Me: And how do we do that honey?

Emma: We use kind hands and kind words.

I love the simplicity of the conversation, but mostly I love that it teaches my daughter to be mindful with her words and her hands because they have just as much impact in a persons life as mine and my husbands words have on her. It also teaches my daughter the importance of being kind and loving to herself. We’ve all heard the saying, “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” If my daughter can learn that if she wants to be treated kindly and loved well she has to treat others that same way, oh what a difference that will make.

She is a beautiful soul and her love for life is contagious. She radiates beauty inside and out and I am quick to remind her of that daily.

I have had several important people in my life who have been torn down and belittled by the most important people in their lives– their parents. And the problem is not just with our daughters but with our sons as well. Their self confidence and self love are just as important as our daughters. And I for one refuse to ever belittle or tear down my children. They are perfectly imperfect and I wouldn’t want them any other way. I will love my children regardless of what they look like, who they become and the choices they make. I will be one to remind them of their beauty and worth and where that truly comes from, because after all they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So let’s start loving one another and using kind words to build our children up so that they in turn can be individuals who use their words to build others up. Let’s learn to love ourselves and let that self love radiate onto others. And for those of you with kiddos whether they be itty bitty or full grown– start speaking kindly to them. Let your voice echo truth when others try to drown them in the lies.

Morning Tea

I had just put the baby down for his morning nap and my daughter and I had a little bit of time before she had to be at school. My daughter asked if we could have a tea party.

We went into her room and we had a pretend tea party. We then decided we needed real tea and rice cakes (her new favorite snack). As I reached into the cabinet to get the coffee mugs I saw two mugs that were packed full of memories.

When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time with my grandparents because I loved being there. We played, we rode horses, we played in hay bails, we rode in semi trucks and roamed pastures for hours.

Those memories are wonderful- but the most wonderful memories happened in the mornings. My grandma is an avid coffee drinker (must be genetic). She would sit in front of the mirror in her robe with curlers in her hair and sipped her coffee as she put on her makeup. I would sit next to her and watch her as I sipped my coffee from a cup that matched hers. They were sweet moments I cherish to this day.

As a kid we would always joke about how long it took grandma to get ready in the morning but I always admired and loved how she eased into her day. She never rushed. She took time to pamper herself and to make herself feel important. I rarely do that. I feel as though I am rushed from the moment I open my eyes to the second I close them at night.

As I sat there in my jammies and had a tea party with my little love I realized I am “missing it.” I am missing life because I am so often rushed from one thing to the next. I miss out on the things happening in front of me. Had I not taken a moment to slow down and just sit with my daughter for a tea party I would have missed a wonderful conversation with her. I would have missed out on creating moments for her and I to cherish with those same mugs my grandma and I used.

I could continue to live this rushed lifestyle of bouncing from one thing to the other and miss out on life. Or I could be like my grandma and take things slowly. I could sip my coffee rather than drink cup after cup just as quickly as I pour it.

For today I will choose to sip my coffee and embrace the day because I don’t want to spend another day “missing it.”

The heart of the matter

As a mother of a young daughter I have a huge responsibility to build her self-esteem, character and speak truth to her. I make it a daily habit to remind my beautiful little love of just how special she is.

I remind her of who she is and where that truly comes from. I spend time reminding her she is beautiful on the outside because that is important but it’s not my main focus. I want her to know who she is deep in her soul! I want to remind her of her strengths, her intelligence, her kindness, her gentleness and the love she possess. She will always be beautiful on the outside, but what is that if she has an ugly inside?

The other night my sweet little love and I were sharing some evening cuddles after our story time. She looked over at me and asked me if I liked myself and my heart. I looked her in the eyeballs and responded with, “Why of course I do honey. Do you like yourself and your heart?” She responded with ” Well yes mom I do!” Those moments and those conversations are shaping that young girls mind and thought process. I once read a blog post about how mother’s should never speak negatively about themselves because what we give out is what they perceive even when that is not our intention. I vowed in that moment to never speak a negative word about myself in front of my daughter. I believe that had I answered that question with a negative response she would have done the same. They mirror us more than we think and sometimes more than we’d like them too.

Since I remind my daughter of who she is often and make it a point to tell her all the things I love about her she is able to know that and be a strong, confident young girl. An example of that:

There is a kid in my daughters preschool class who is not very kind to her and says hurtful words. The other day at school he told her she was not very smart. I of course reminded her of the truth and then told her I was sorry that he says unkind things to her. Her response, “It’s okay mom he just doesn’t know who I am!”

She is absolutely right. He does not know who she is and the fact that she can respond in a way that most of us have been trying to figure out for years is amazing. She wouldn’t have been able to do that if she didn’t know the truth about who she. She doesn’t have to believe those things at 4 years old. She doesn’t even have to fully understand what they mean. All she has to do is know they are true and be reminded of them often because there will come a time when she will know what they mean and she will have to believe them and with enough practice and repetition she will remain a strong, confident woman.