Saturday, June 14, 2014

Am I Teaching my Daughter to Hate the Way she Looks?

As my daughter was splashing and laughing in the bathtub tonight, I found myself looking at my reflection in our medicine cabinet mirror.  I'm not sure why I was staring at myself for so long.  But there I was, analyzing the person I seem to just be getting to really know.

The first thoughts in my mind were critiques as I stretched my neck closer to analyze my thirty something face.  "Ugh, those laugh lines don't disappear."  "How many more gigantic pores can I get?" " Why did I have to stay out in the sun so much when I was younger?  Now I have sun spots."  "Is my skin starting to droop under my chin?"  I would smile and frown over and over again watching the crow's feet around my eyes stand their ground.  I stared into my eyes looking at a woman starting to age, not the girl that once stared back at her.  Gazing at my reflection, I began to see more than time marching across my face.  The woman staring back was someone I realized I respect.

As I looked at her, I saw maturity that had never been there before, and that's not because I have gray hair (not yet, anyway).  There was wisdom there that was missing a decade ago.  There was more composure, grace and confidence.  I thought to myself, "I like this me a lot more."

What a foolish woman I can be!  I get so obsessed sometimes over what I look like.  My husband gets tired of hearing me fret over wrinkles and dress sizes.  I tire of it.  And what bothers me most is that I will be teaching my daughter to hate the way she looks if I don't stop the nonsense.  She imitates me every day.  It would break my heart immensely if she were to one day look in the mirror bashing herself like I do.

I know that most women do this to some degree.  Looking like the women on television and in magazines becomes our goal.  Isn't that what the articles in the magazines at the grocery store check-out are about?  They tell you how to lose weight to look like your favorite celebrity, and how to get your hair, make-up and clothes to look like people that live in Hollywood.  Because if you are just like them, you will be happy and accepted.  Right?

The problem is, it's never good enough.  You can never have a perfect body that never ages or changes as you have children.  Once you have the perfect outfit, someone else has one more perfect.  We aren't Barbie dolls.  We are humans that are most beautiful in our original form, without the make-up to cover our flaws.  We aren't immortal.  We will not stay forever young.  We're fallen creatures in need of our God to make all things right.  That's why even the stars in Hollywood, with all of their money and botox, still need God.  Nothing apart from Jesus Christ will ever truly make them know joy.

With this in mind, I am making a conscious effort to model for my daughter an appreciation for the way I was made in hopes that she will appreciate herself.  Though wrinkles reproduce, I will embrace them as a reflection of life lived.  I will remember that God made me, and what He sees is what I caught a glimpse of in the mirror tonight.  That's what I want my daughter to learn about beauty.  You may not recognize it until it is revealed.  And that's the life of Christ I want her to see through me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How to Be a Good Parent

As parents, we are flooded with information these days.  There is always new research telling us what foods we need to feed our children, how to get them to reach developmental milestones faster,  how to succeed in school and the list of things to avoid grows every day. There are websites, blogs and Pinterest boards with nifty ideas to keep your toddler occupied and talk to your teen.  Google provides a seemingly endless list of articles on the pros and cons of just about any parenting technique there is from infancy through adulthood. But it seems like all of this information is just a way to feel like we are in control of the way our children's lives turn out.  We try to protect and nurture them so that nothing bad ever happens, but the reality is that the world will never be safe. They will know pain; our best course of action is not to shield them from that truth, but help them prepare.

You hear of children being abducted constantly.  Not only is the world around us not as safe as it was when I was a child, what's in our homes isn't either.  Now we know things that are harmful that our parents had no idea about like second-hand smoke and lead based paint.  We hear of bad parents all the time who left their child in the car or home alone...but didn't our parents do the same things?  I know that I would be out playing for hours, and my mom didn't think anything of it.  No one ever got hurt aside from getting hit by a ball or falling and skinning their knee.  Now, you can't take your eyes off of your children, because of the fear that something bad might happen. And also because of the belief that you're a bad parent if you don't always have your eyes on your child.

There is so much pressure from the time you conceive.  There are choices about whether you want a midwife or doctor to deliver the baby, home birth or hospital birth.  What kind of stroller, car seat, crib and other baby necessities are the best? Will mom nurse the baby or bottle feed?  Who will be best to watch the baby? What is the right decision about going back to work?    Of course, there are articles that will convince you of what is best until you read an opposing one and then get thoroughly confused.  This is just the beginning, of course.  As the child grows, there are decisions to make about school, extracurricular activities and how to handle relationships they form.  It sounds exhausting, doesn't it?

It seems that our society has become one in which parents no longer feel support from family as they once did.  Now, we Google it.  We find the answers on discussion boards and social media sites where we get answers from people we haven't seen in years or complete strangers.  Grandparents often live in different states as do extended family.  Our own broken families have left us with few family members that we are close to.  Friends provide support, but they are often busy with their own families.  

I look at my little baby and wonder; will we be able to help her navigate the world without fear? Will we be able to give her the freedom she needs to try and fail?  Will we be able to let go of our need to protect her in times when God gives her opportunities to fly?  If we are fearful something bad will happen to her, she will be, too. 

 I think of John 16 when the thought of her being hurt pierces my heart.  Jesus told the disciples his time with them had ended.  They would face death, but the Holy Spirit would be with them.  He told them they would have trouble in this world, but he has overcome the world.

I know our time raising our daughter is short.  There will be times when we need to step back.  She will need to learn that no matter the troubles she has in this life, Jesus has overcome.  It is in his name she will suffer.  Who are we, as parents, to stand in the way?  Jesus didn't protect the disciples from ever knowing suffering or pain.  The Father did not protect Jesus.  And it was all because of love.  It was all because God loves us so much, he knew hell itself must be endured to save us from the destiny we deserve.  

I hope that we raise our daughter to be confident enough to say she would die instead of deny the name of Christ.  We can't save her from every uncomfortable circumstance for that to happen.  We have to allow her to face her fears.  I would walk through fire, stand in front of a firing squad or lay on train tracks if it meant saving my child.  What is much more difficult is to know she is going to get hurt and do nothing about it. 

I think we need to stop worrying ourselves so much  over what we need to do as parents and focus more on what we need to stop doing.  We may need to stop working so much so we can spend more time with our kids.  They want us more than they want stuff.  We may need to enjoy our children in the middle of the mess and chaos and stop trying to make our lives look like our Pinterest page.  We need to just stop trying to be something we aren't.  God loves us stripped of all of our stuff, status and make-up.  We need to reflect that to our kids.

Children really are a great example of Christ's love.  They are born loving us parents unconditionally, warts and all.  It really is amazing what they teach us if we stop all of the activity and give them room to be.  Sit in the classroom of your child.  The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Stopping to See the Joy of Motherhood

This evening, I sat outside in the grass watching my baby girl put rocks in a Tupperware container and throw them out over and over again.  She squealed with delight like it was a new celebration every time.  I looked over grinning at her as the sun crept down into the sky.

Just minutes before this, I couldn't stop thinking about the two-week high grass that blew in the wind, our mammoth hedges and garden that sat plowed but seedless for weeks.  I was embarrassed that our yard looked this way.  I even commented to a neighbor how the grass was going to be mowed soon as she was taking a break from mowing her own yard.

Yet, watching my daughter get joy from a Tupperware dish and rocks, changed my mindset.  I thought about all of the busyness around me.  I could hear lawn mowers and weed eaters doing their jobs to tidy up unkempt lawns.  It dawned on me how my daughter has forced me to slow down.  I couldn't do yard work right now or any other work that required my full attention.  I have to watch her, and watching her has forced me to really see her.  I have seen the little person she is becoming and the discoveries she makes every day.  Really being with her and seeing who she is has also forced me to stop being so busy.  I would rather tickle her and play peek-a-boo than cut the grass sooner.  I don't want to miss one hug or kiss, because some menial task is taking my attention away.

There have been years when no little one has graced our home and there will be years to come when she will be gone.  Those are times to get the yard looking nice, the house decorated just the way I want it and to pursue career advancement.  Right now though, she is way too important to stress myself over things that really don't matter in the light of eternity.  I am a mother.  Now that statement has eternal significance.  That statement bears the weight and seriousness of a true calling.

I don't know why I am a mother and others are not, but I can assure those who yearn to hold a child in their arms; I do not in any way take motherhood for granted.  I hold each hug a few more seconds, breathe her in and kiss her again.  I hold her little hand when we snuggle and pray over her every night.  She knows her Mommy loves her.  It is a job I take very seriously.

With that being said, everything isn't done around the house.  I deemed it more important to spend the evening cuddling with my baby, reading her stories and helping her fall asleep.  My heart is full. It was a good shift.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I'm Only Human; My Journey Reconciling Grace and Works

I wish I could get everything straight in my head.  It's like a squiggly line of tangled confusion.  My view, my acceptance of God.  It is anything but clear right now.  It is anything but easy to follow or even look at.  I have for so long required God to do what I want before I accept him.  It is daunting to realize the pain I have caused him; the distance I have ensured.

It began in my infancy.  It began in yours, too.  Our moral compass began to form as we first tried to defy adults around us.  Their response to this sinful nature, began our journey.

I learned early on that being "good" paid off.  If I was good, meaning if I followed directions given to me by adults (parents, school teachers, babysitters, Sunday school teachers, the bus driver), I would be rewarded with their favor.  To me, this also translated into believing that if I were good enough, I would merit their love.  If I was perfect enough, if I was quiet enough, stood in line straight enough, got perfect grades and perfect attendance, I would be loved.  Otherwise, I was barely noticed.

Those pats on the head, verbal inflations of the heart, sustained me until I would need the next fix. Does that seem sad?  An 8 year old girl only felt acceptance and love when she was told she met someone else's expectations?  Maybe not.  I think a lot of us were never told, verbally or non verbally, that no matter what we did or didn't do...we were loved.

I learned from church that I was so bad, Jesus had to die for me, but I never quite got the memo that my "badness" was washed away by the shedding of his blood.  I heard this message, but the expectation rang louder that good kids act a certain way and Jesus isn't pleased if you don't. If I were to be a good Christian, I had to be good all the time.  That's the problem...I could never attain this. There was a distinct separation between good kids and the bad kids.  I grew up believing that being good meant pleasing others, and this was the only way to be accepted.  I became like a mouse scurrying on a wheel in a cage.  I could never quite grasp the total acceptance and love I yearned to know.

So now, I ponder the meaning of grace.  I find myself grappling with the notion that I am wholly accepted and the debt is paid.  I don't have to do anything anymore.  I keep wondering what the catch is.  I know there is none, but my heart is waiting for God to be like everyone else; waiting for the fine print to be read where I must perform so that he will love me.

I sit here trying to stop believing that even Jesus wants more from me than I can give.  How very crucial it is not to teach our children that their worth is based on works.  Their worth is in their being.  In being a human being created by an almighty God whose sins have been paid for.  Yes, flawed.  Yes, a mess at times...but forgiven.  Truly loved...when acting morally and not.

I sit here reflecting on my many works done in the name of God grieving the fact that only a handful were done graciously, in the name of Christ.  How I have squandered time and resources so that I could distance myself from God-getting my high from meeting the expectations of others and ignoring God, because he didn't do what I expected of him.  How childish.

I digress.  These misgivings are forgiven.  These sins of pride and foolishness are wiped away by the blood of the Savior.  What a blessed gift.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

You're Turning One Today

It seems we just brought you home,
Our tiny bundle
The most beautiful thing we'd ever seen
Was born along with the flowers of Spring.

You've been so smart-
Right from the start.
You explore and investigate
The curiosities of this world.
Your beauty is unsurpassed,
The longer one looks,
The more they gasp.  

Your sense of humor
Makes everyone laugh.
You are such a happy, silly child.

We stop in our tracks
When you flash
that infectious smile.

You are determined and strong-
Attributes that will help you
When life seems so wrong.

Life will never be the same
Because you are here.
It is more vivid-bright.
Full of light.

We will never forget
The day you were born.
When we first caught a glimpse
Of the face 
We would forever adore.

               Happy Birthday Baby.
                       We love you.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

From Baby, to Toddler, to Adult; It's Happening Way too Fast

I have read a lot of articles and blogs lately that go into detail about the reality of day to day life with kids.  The authors expose their frustration and exasperation with lack of sleep, tantrums, outings and the general neediness of their children.  These commentaries are witty, funny and have an attraction that comes with honesty.  Most of them have a paragraph or sentence at the end that states how their kids are worth it all-every sleepless night, every time they can't leave on time, and every tantrum in the middle of the grocery store.

This past week, I have been especially appreciating our not so little baby.  The trials of parenthood seem small lately.  All of a sudden it seems, she is growing into a toddler.  I turn around to find her investigating anything she can get her hands on.  Recently, she found a dead bug and decided to munch on it as well as some cords lying on the floor.  Yeah, Mommy and Daddy haven't quite baby-proofed everything.

I realized how quickly 9 months has passed.  She is becoming more and more independent by the day.  As I was giving her a hug the other day, the future flashed before my eyes.  It was as though I could feel myself hugging this same little girl 20 some years from now.

I am letting go to allow her explore her world now, and I will be then, too.  Whether she decides to go off to school, start a business, travel, get married-whatever it is- I will give her the same tight squeeze before sending her on her way to find out what this world is all about.  I want to hold her longer.  I don't want her to get hurt or find that what seemed so exciting isn't that great.  No, I don't want her to feel the sting of rejection and disappointment, but I know she must.  It's a part of growing up that she must learn to endure and then, press on.

Rocking her last night, I told her that no matter what, we would be there for her.  No matter where she was, what happened, or what she did or didn't do...her parents would always be there to squeeze her tightly when she needed it.  That's our job, and we will never quit.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, Darling

On Christmas morning,
I don't want presents under the tree.
No, that's not what I need.

I hope you give me that smile.
I hope to unwrap a giggle
with every single tickle.
Please lay your head on my chest,
and throw your arms around my neck.
This is what I ask.
Forget about the rest.

Look up at me and smile.
Talk to me for awhile.
Grab my leg to pull yourself up,
and reach for me when you want to stand up.
This is what I ask.
I don't need lots of stuff.

Rest in my arms.
Go to sleep for awhile,
And let me hold you precious child.
To know you-
is to know love.
You truly are
a heaven sent, gift from above.