I Love How God Made You

I was standing in my black bathrobe with sopping wet, just-showered hair hanging down my back, waiting for my coffee to finish brewing, when my 4-year-old daughter said out of no where, “Mom! You’re the cutest one in our family!”

She was gazing at me starry-eyed. Like I was a Disney princess. (And not a Disney villain like Cruella DeVille, which is really who I am sure I looked like.)

“What did you say?” I asked, unsure my un-caffeinated brain heard her right.

“I said, ‘Mom, you’re the CUTEST one in our family!!'” She said with even more passion this time.

And I laughed!

I couldn’t help but think about how ugly I have felt lately. How I turned 30 this year, and am still trying to love my post-partum body (that got stretched pretty good by my 9 pound, 11 ounce baby boy born in December.) And I thought about how I always wear make-up. To cover the dark circles under my eyes, and the acne that’s been there since high-school. And how I often don’t feel very beautiful at all. I’ve even been tempted lately to stop at the local tanning joint, “Sun Your Buns,” to tan this skin, I don’t always feel pretty in.

But before I could think through any more of my many insecurities, she interrupted:

“I love how God made you,” she said.

I love how God made you. 

I looked at her. Her big, blue eyes looking deeply into my brown ones. Her blonde bedhead spilling into her beautiful face. Her gaze, not leaving me.

“I love how God made you.”

Her words echoed. In my thirsty heart.

And, I knew she meant it. With all of her little heart.

Her heart that is often bigger than I realize. 

I bent down, all undone. In my bathrobe and wet, tangled hair and held her little body against mine.

“Thank you,” I whispered, with our foreheads touching.

“But,” I assured her, “I think YOU are the cutest one in our family!” Then I tickled her and she giggled. And I said, “I love how God made you!” She smiled and wrapped her little body around mine. And we stayed like that for a moment. Wrapped in love.

Wrapped by full acceptance. Wrapped with our beautiful bodies God gave us, around each other.

Both feeling a little more loved. A little more beautiful. Than before.

Do you want to know something?

Selah’s words stayed with me.

I felt “cuter-than-usual” that day.

Because when a 4-year-old boldly declares (when you have no make-up on and look like a drowned rat) that, “You are the cutest one in ourfamily!!”– you just have to choose to believe her.

And it ministers to the deeper parts of you. The ones you try to shove down. And cover up.

And maybe we are all a little more insecure than we like to admit.

Maybe we all feel a little “ugly” sometimes.

And maybe, sometimes, we just need someone, anyone, (even if they’re 4 years old) to say:

“Hey.”

“You’re cute.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“I love how God made you.”

Because beauty comes from Him. You know?

Beauty isn’t something we achieve by working out, or wearing trendy clothes, or dabbing on more make-up.

Beauty is part of our make-up.

It’s a part of us. It’s instilled in us. By the fingerprints of God. When He made us. When He formed us in the womb. In the secret place.

Beauty…is what God makes.

And He made you. Remember?

 

God created you exactly how He wanted you to be. 

For His glory. And He delights in you.

And you are made in His image. To reflect Him, and His beauty. 

And maybe no one will tell you today, but, I think…

You’re pretty cute.

And,

I love how God made you.


Now, it’s your turn to spread the beauty. So, pass it on. Stop and tell someone how cute they are. And, “I love how God made you.” And see if, (even if they laugh), if their face does not brighten a bit. And they don’t become a little more beautiful as a result.

#Spreadthebeauty

The Beauty Of Right Now

One day there won’t be anymore smudges on my windows. I won’t trip over toys in the hallway. Or in the shower. Everything will be in perfect order.

I know this because when I go visit my parents house, it’s clean. Freshly vacuumed, and furniture polished. Everything is as it should be.

And I think, “Someday, my house will be clean.”

But you know what? In that day, I’m going to miss this. I’m going to miss them. Being little.

I will look out my unsmudged windows and cry for the fingerprints that once marked them. For the little girl who once stared out of them and dreamed.

For the baby boy who held me hostage to the couch, because he wanted to nurse 23 hours out of the day, and whose big blue eyes would lock with mine while he did, and nearly take my breath away.

And I will ache for a day…exactly like today. All messy and undone.

Someday I won’t wake to crying in the night. I will have eight hours of glorious, undisturbed sleep, every night. (If I want it.)

But, I won’t want it then. I’ll somehow want this.

I’ll want the nights back when the baby woke me up with his cries, and my daughter crawled in between the safety of our warm bodies to forget her nightmares. And remember her dreams.

Someday I will have time. Time to write. Time to shop. Time to do whatever I want. Too much time. I won’t have a baby boy nursing at my breast, or a toddler trying to hug (and kiss) that baby boy while he is nursing at my breast, because, “He’s so cute, Mom,” she says over and over again. And we won’t be piled on top of each other, into that one spot on the couch. (Because everyone knows when you love someone, you should sit on top of them.)

Someday I will cook dinner in peace. I won’t be tripping over my 4-year-old who steps exactly where I step, right before I step there. And I won’t have a baby boy strapped to my chest while I try to do the dishes and bounce him to sleep at the same time.

Someday…they won’t be strapped to my chest. They’ll just be strapped to my heart. I will wash the dishes and stare out the window, hating how quiet it is. Hating how easy it is. Hating how clean it is.

And all I will have are these memories.

Of us all piled together. Of me not having an inch of personal space. Of not getting a chance to shower, and instead getting showered in spit-up, and high-arcing pee during diaper changes.

And I will miss it. I will miss them–just like this.

I will miss them being little. 

And I don’t know why my daughter pretends she’s a mermaid named Elsa in the bathtub, or why she drenches the floor with her splash-kicks–except that, she’s little. And this is her world right now.

And I don’t know why my baby boy wants me all the time, or why he screams when I put him in his car seat, or why he wakes up the moment anything remotely romantic happens between me and his dad. But he does. And he’s little. And this is our world right now.

And I’m going to miss it.

The other day my husband popped in for lunch. I was not expecting him, and the house was a disaster. Clothes were in heaps in the living room, the kitchen wasn’t tidied. My hair was in a giant messy bun, and I had no make-up on. My son was asleep in my arms (in our usual spot on the couch), and my daughter was laying on the floor looking at her books.

“Hi,” I said, with a smile.

I knew what it probably looked like. I knew it looked like I accomplished nothing. I knew it looked like I didn’t care. And…I was about to apologize to him. I was about to say, “I’m sorry…” For the house. For my hair.

But before the words came out, I noticed something.

Smudges on the windows.

Smudges because she had been standing there hoping he would come. Watching for his car. And it hit me like a ton of bricks: someday we won’t have smudges on the windows.

And in that moment, there was just something about the way her blonde hair fell into her face as she lay on the floor and looked at her books. And there was something about the way my son was laying, so comfortably in my arms, like he had melted into me–and suddenly the words, “I’m sorry,” didn’t seem to make sense any more.

And instead I said, “I have a beautiful, beautiful life.”

And I meant it.

Tears formed in my eyes. Because just for a second, I saw it. It was just a glimpse, but I saw it. The beauty of right now.

Right now.

I have a beautiful, beautiful life. 

And I’m writing this, so I remember.

And I’m writing this, so you remember. And so you don’t forget. Wherever you’re at today. Whatever you accomplished. Or didn’t accomplish. However clean or messy your house is, don’t let Satan steal this one glorious truth from you:

I have a beautiful, beautiful life. 

Right now. 

Today. 

And these days often feel long.

But someday, they will feel short.

So very short, the time that our kids were little.

And we will all long for it back. This time. With them.

It’s like a breeze. Like the wind.

You can’t take a picture of the wind. You can’t keep it. You can’t capture it. And you can’t take it with you.

You can only feel it while it is blowing.

And it’s blowing now. 

So turn towards it, and let it blow. Turn towards it and just…feel it. Let your hair fly and get tangled in it. Because someday, there won’t be any more smudges on the windows. And you’ll long just to feel it again, this wind,

their breath on your skin.

It’s blowing now. 

 


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The Secret Beauty Of Being A Mom

mom

She doesn’t know it, but the note she sent me stays by my kitchen sink. She doesn’t know it, but I’m still thinking about what she said to me on the phone today. She doesn’t know it, but I still desperately need her.

I need her words.

Her warmth.

Her love.

She lives 93 miles from me. But today when we were on the phone, and I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and talked to her, and told her what the doctor said, and all the worst-case-scenarios I could think of—I didn’t feel like she was 93 miles away. I felt like she was right there.

She listened, and I could feel her nodding, I could feel her smiling. I could feel her coming through the phone and wrapping her arms around me, the way she did when I was little. When I would sit on her lap and lay against her chest, and I would press my face into her hair, and breathe in her scent. And I’d play with her watch, and make the time stop, and she’d let me take off her rings and put them on my fingers. And I always asked her again what each one meant. The diamond was for when Dad proposed, and the plain silver one, was the one Dad gave her on their wedding day. And the blue one, the star sapphire, he gave her just because he was in love. With her. And that one was my favorite, because it had a hidden beauty. When you held it just right in pure sunlight, a sharp white star appeared. And not many people could see it, but when I sat on Mom’s lap and slid her rings loosely on my fingers, I could see it. And when I did, I was in awe of the beauty. The secret beauty.

I have heard so many people say they don’t want to be like their mother.

But I just want to say: I want to be like mine.

More than ever.

Not because she was perfect. But because she was there. Always.

Mom was smart, and talented, and beautiful, and could have easily had a full-blown, successful career. But she gave up everything to stay home with us five kids. Because my parents believed something: that moms should be with their babies. And babies should be with their moms. And so, we shared rooms, we pinched pennies, we shopped at Gabriel Brothers, and always ordered water with lemon when we went to restaurants, (which were only rare and cherished celebrations.)

Mom would pack our school lunches, and dump the money out of her birthday cards just to take us shopping, and make us homemade pizza and birthday cakes. She’d fill the whole house with the sweetest aroma. And some mornings, we’d wake up to it, and run down the steps to find her in the kitchen. Baking away. With flour in her hair. And on her hands. And on her jeans.
And in those moments, she never looked more beautiful.

We’d come into the kitchen and she’d hug us so close that our cheeks touched, and the flour would spread from her cheeks, to ours. And sometimes we’d come down the steps in clusters and she’d just hug us all at once, and say, “I may not be rich in the world’s eyes—but I’m rich in my kids.”

And we always laughed when she said this, because, it was just a funny statement. But deep down, I knew she meant it. Because I saw it all over her face. I saw it in the flour on her jeans. The smile behind the glow of the candles on our birthday cakes. The scribbled notes in our lunches. The glorious Christmas mornings she and Dad stayed up all night to make special for us.

I saw it in her life. In the way she refused to let anything separate us from her. To let anything steal her motherhood. To steal her greatest treasure and joy. Her kids.

Mom sold homemade pies from her car when we were little—just to keep us together.

Because she believed in being a mom. No matter what the cost. And it did cost. I don’t know how women looked at her. I don’t know what comments the cashiers might have said. I don’t know what the bank tellers might have thought as they looked at our statements. But Mom never told us what we cost her.

She only ever told us—that we were her greatest treasure. Her riches. And her wealth. And in her eyes, this couldn’t compare to anything else.

We may not have had the latest tennis shoes, or the best clothing, or the most extravagant family vacations—but we had her.

And she had us.

And in the end, that’s all that really matters.

All the money in the world. All the riches, all the jewels. All the grand houses, and clothes, and cars—cannot compare with the treasure of having a mom who is there.

And if my mom taught me anything, it was something she taught me with her own life: Be there. Be a mom. Don’t let anyone steal this great joy from you. Because the world wages war against motherhood. And you have to fight back. You have to fight for it.

There will always be more money to be made. There will always be a better identity to be achieved. There will always be a better name to be made for yourself. There will always be more ministries to invest in. But your kids are with you for such a very short season. And then, they are gone. And they are precious treasure. To be discovered, and enjoyed.

I always used to laugh when Mom said she was “rich” in us kids. But now, as a mom myself. I am beginning to unfold this mystery. There is a different kind of wealth, that this world cannot know, nor can it offer. It is the hidden wealth of being a mom. Of discovering the treasure. Of obtaining the richness of love in your children. And letting them find it in you.

There is something so secret here. So sacred. A hidden beauty—just like the star in Mom’s star sapphire ring. It only shone in the purest light. Very few ever saw it, and yet it was there all the same. This secret beauty. That could only be witnessed by a little girl, who was allowed to sit on her lap, and play with her watch, and make the time stop. Who took off her rings, and and searched and waited for the bright star to appear–in her ring. And in her eyes. And in her love.

And I found it, Mom. I found the treasure. She is two-years-old, and wakes up with wild blonde bedhead each morning. And she is more full of life than anyone I know. And when I look into her blue eyes, gazing into mine, sometimes I swear that star appears. And the beauty catches in my throat. And it’s unlike anything I ever dreamed.

I found the treasure, Mom. And you were right. The world doesn’t see it, the world doesn’t know it. But I’m finding it, Mom. I’m finding it right here in the secret places. This hidden beauty, where no one sees. When my daughter now sits on my lap, and breathes in my scent. And makes time stop. And searches for the star in my ring. And in my eyes.

You have shown us, Mom, the secret beauty of being a mom. And what real treasure is made of.

Thank you for giving us yourself.

All of you.

Maybe you weren’t rich in the world’s eyes, but you were rich in us kids. And because you were rich in us, you made us rich, so very rich, 

in you. 

And we rise up, and call you blessed. (Proverbs 31:26)

 

The Zombie Mommy In The Mirror

scared woman
Last night, when I saw my reflection in the mirror, it actually startled me. My daughter was simply brushing her teeth, and I was helping her steer her toothbrush into her mouth and away from the nasty drain (where she likes to put it). And when I glanced up into the mirror, I jumped. Because this woman with black mascara and eye-liner drooped about half an inch lower than where it should be, and looking much like a zombie, was staring back at me. “Whoa!” I exclaimed, and quickly grabbed a tissue and wiped off the melting mascara that had somehow turned me Zombie Mommy by night fall.

To be honest, I was kind of surprised I hadn’t scared anyone else in the house with my horrifying looks. You’d think as I was coaxing my two year old daughter, with my arms wide out to, “Come here!” she would have shrieked with panic and hidden under her bed or something.

But she didn’t.

You see, before I saw “Zombie Mommy” in the mirror that night, we were actually having a lot of fun. And I was doing something I don’t do nearly enough–I was playing with her. Not like, “Oh, that’s cute honey,” while I distractedly went through my facebook newsfeed. But I actually put my phone and iPad away, and was fully hers. We were in the living room playing what she was calling “the boat game.” (One of my childhood favorites.) It’s where you take the couch cushions and make them a giant raft on the floor, and then the big storm comes, and you save each other from the sharks, and rescue each other from drowning in the “water,” and you scream the whole time. (I highly recommend it.)

And while this was going on, and we were shrieking and saving each other and rolling around on the floor–I had no idea my hair was a wreck and my eyeliner had smeared below my eyes, and that I looked like a zombie. I just knew I was having fun, and so was she, and in that moment, that’s all that mattered.

The great thing about being Zombie Mommy is that before you look in the mirror and see a zombie staring back at you, you are usually having a fantastic time.

I fully agree with John Piper who says, “The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness.” (pg. 33, Don’t Waste Your Life) You wouldn’t take someone to the Alps and lock them in a room full of mirrors. Because the greatest joy doesn’t come from seeing how great you look, it comes from gazing on a majesty that is greater, and more powerful, and more glorious than yours.

toddler play

And in motherhood there is something greater than the Alps right in your living room. There is this glory right in front of you, staring back in the eyes of a little boy or girl who very much bears the image of God.  And His glory.

But sometimes we miss it.

I wish I could say I don’t care what I look like. But I still do. And while I’ve come a long way from the girl who used to check her make-up during 8th grade Social Studies class, and reapply my lip glass and Champagne eyeshadow (anyone else?) during study hall–I still care very much about that girl in the mirror. And she sometimes the girl in the mirror takes me away from the little girl in the room that is waiting for me, and longing for me, and crying for me to come and play ” the boat game.”

Though I don’t want to totally “let myself go,” I have to say, sometimes I really admire Zombie Mommy. Because, there is a reason she looks like a zombie, and no matter how “ugly” she looks, there is usually a very beautiful reason behind it.

And to the mom who looks like a zombie tonight–you are exactly where you need to be. Every time you nurse your baby, or change a diaper, or fall asleep in the glider–you are being a living and breathing example of love. And while you don’t need to feel guilty if you do find time to primp, you don’t need to feel bad about the times you don’t. Because those times you don’t, and you are blissfully unaware that your mascara is down to your cheek bones and your hair looks like Medusa–are actually some of your most shining moments, in your kids eyes. They won’t remember if you had your make up on, or your hair was straightened, or if it was in a giant messy bun–but they will remember that you made them feel loved. They will remember the time you rolled around on the floor and played “the boat game,” or any game at all. They will remember your laughter, they will remember your joy, and the way your eyes shone when you looked into theirs. And they will remember always, your arms open out wide to embrace them, and hold them close.

And as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t make you a zombie. It actually makes you quite beautiful.

 

The First Time You Paint Her Toenails

selah toenailsIt happened last week. We sat on the bathroom floor together. She squirmed in my lap, and pulled off her socks one by one. And I picked out the only color I had…for a brand-new two-year-old: light pink.

The novelty of nail-polish, Mom’s nail-polish, kept her little feet squirming. I tried to steady them in my hand, and even when I’d whisper in her ear, “Hold still,” her toes still wiggled a little bit. I carefully painted the pretty color on each tiny toenail. Amazed at how small each one was. And as I did, something happened.

Something happens the first time you paint her toenails. It only happens between mothers and daughters I am sure. I can barely name it. But as I painted her nails, I felt I was doing something much more grand, and I think she felt it, too.

It was almost too delicate to put into words. But it was as if I were showing her, her wings. Showing her the way to beauty. And soon tears filled my eyes. It was as if I realized all at once–she was going to grow up into a woman.

A beauty.

I can see her sitting before me in a white gown before the ceremony. And I’m buttoning silk buttons long all the way up her back. I’m helping her pin up long, loose wisps of curls. I’m down on the ground, painting her toenails…and remembering: this. This day, when I first painted her nails, when they were so tiny. And her feet squirmed. And her toes wiggled. And I will want to take her in my arms and whisper once more in her ear, “Hold still.”

selah toenail 2

I push the thought away, of the day she will fly away from home forever. And who will she fly with? It pushes back. Who would ever be worthy?

I see the way she already wins attention: effortlessly. Her bright blonde hair, and big ocean eyes, her long dark eyelashes, and pixie-like features. I know she already is: a beauty.  A creature like I’ve never seen.

Yesterday, a little boy in the booth behind us, would not stop standing up and calling for her attention. She turned, and stood, too. And then they just smiled at each other six inches from one another’s face. He reached out one finger, just wanting to touch her. And she reached hers back. They both giggled when their fingertips touched. Was this toddler love?

I think mothers see it long before we ever want to admit. The grandeur of raising a daughter. Of raising up beauty, in it’s purest form. A beauty that will one day take on a life of her own, and find the comfort of another man’s arms. A man who will never seem worthy of her…

Only because you saw her, in a way he never has. You saw her at her most delicate state. You cradled her when she was just a fragile bundle on your chest. You rocked her long hours in the night, and let her tears bleed into your shirt. And you remember the first time you painted her toenails. And the way you trembled at the beauty of this little girl. And tremble still.

And you will cry, with hot tears streaming down, not because of how beautiful she looks that day. But because of how beautiful she has looked every day since the day she was born.

selah toenail blanket