The Truth About True Beauty That We Must Teach Our Daughters

She tried on every dress in her closet.

And then she moved to mine.

Nothing looks good on me, she said near tears.

The Truth About Beauty That We Must Teach Our Daughters

I wondered how we could both be looking at the same reflection and see something so different. I saw a beautiful teenager getting ready for the luncheon I was speaking at, but she saw much less.

She’s growing into her own skin, discovering what she likes about herself and learning to accept things she can’t change.

It’s hard to be fifteen.

“Honey, that dress looks great. You look beautiful.” It didn’t matter how I said the words, if she didn’t believe them.

I kept checking my watch. I didn’t want to be late, but I really wanted her to go with me like we planned. It wasn’t just clothes, it was imperfect hair and make up and just a bad day.  The harder she tried, the harder she was on herself and the clock was unforgiving.

“Mom, I really want to go with you. But I don’t feel good about myself today and I don’t want to make you feel bad about yourself.” Sometimes the hardest part of motherhood is knowing what to say when your kids hurt. Especially when there just aren’t words to take away their pain.

I tried to comfort her, but eventually, I had to leave. Puling out of my driveway with her standing there, a single tear trailing down her cheek was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Her choice made both of us sad, but I understood it. I still have days when I don’t like me.

I pulled over at the next street and texted my husband, “Be gentle with her.”

But he didn’t see my message because when he heard her bedroom door shut, he was there, lightly tapping on it.

He waited. She didn’t answer.

So he quietly opened the door without saying a word. She was sitting with her back against her wall, torn by her decision. My husband sat down next to our firstborn and put his arms around her.

She put her head on his shoulder and cried.

He held her and never said a word.

He didn’t have to say anything because he already said everything.

By the time I got home, she was in comfy sweats with her hair pulled back and they were baking a cake together. Tears were replaced with teasing and I could tell she was feeling better about the day.

They say beauty is only skin deep, but they probably weren’t freshmen in high school where every day is like a Pinterest fashion show. Our daughters our growing up in an image-obsessed world.

And it can be tough to feel beautiful in a filtered world.

Later, I kicked off my heels and propped up my tired feet and scrolled through Instagram. I clicked on my daughter’s account and scrolled through her images  like I do occasionally and what I saw there took my breath away.

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Pure beauty. The kind that has nothing to do with a bad hair day or clothes that don’t feel right. The kind of beauty that isn’t found in how we feel about ourselves, but instead how we love others-— (which ends up making us feel good about who we are)-that’s what I want my daughters to see in the mirror.

That kind of beauty doesn’t come with a great outfit, a perfect complexion or shiny hair. It is found deep within.

Pulling her aside I showed my teenager the picture. “Honey–this is the first time I’ve seen this photo you posted while we were in Africa at Mercy House. Look at it. You don’t have makeup on. You’re jet lagged and probably need a good shower. But I’ve never seen you look more radiant.”

Bad days are part of life and we don’t always feel good about what we see in the mirror. We have to remind our daughters that this has very little to do with true beauty. They need us to emphasize inner beauty as much as the world emphasizes outer.

She looked closely at the picture of her selfie with her African sisters. I saw her remember how loving others feels. She was reminded that these girls who live on the other side of the globe didn’t care about her outer appearance. They simply loved her for showing up and being their friend.

“You are beautiful,” I said again.

And this time, I think she believed it.

This is the Most Important Thing You Can Do For Yourself This Mother’s Day

I’m no parenting expert, but one time my child did say that I was the best mother she ever had.

So, there’s that.

I love being a mom. At the end of the day–no matter how many mismatched socks are in the laundry pile or how dirty the van is or how many kernels of corn are under the kitchen table, I am glad I said yes to motherhood.

But it’s no surprise that motherhood is hard.

Hard like crying yourself to sleep. Hard like second-guessing every decision. Hard like someone else’s bodily fluids on your person. Difficult mothering days are like a suckerpunch in the gut. And like a mood swing gone wild, the next day is beautiful and tender it takes your breath away and makes you want to do it all over again. And again.

Moms do it all.

We fish the icky things out of the dark scary disposal.

We sniff diapers.

We clean and trim other people’s finger and toenails.

We give up the other half of our bagel so our child can have a second breakfast.

We smell socks to determine if they are clean or not.

We wait for hours and hours and hours in car lines, doctors offices, at dental appointments, practices, rehearsals and recitals.

We clean up messes we don’t make.

We give up our bodies, our beds, our figures, our very lives for other people.

We sacrifice something we really want for something our kids really need.

We say yes.

And then we say yes some more.

We say yes without getting anything in return.

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Because that’s what moms do.

The most important thing you can do for yourself this Mother’s Day: remind mom (even if she’s you) that what you do is important. The unseen, unknown hard work of motherhood is changing your kids’ world.

Even if no one recognizes it. It matters.

Small service may feel small, but size doesn’t matter. What you do matters. It has long-lasting, eternal significance.

And there isn’t anyone else in the world who needs to hear this more: Mom, your small daily acts of service, your mundane–it matters so much more than you think it does.

Because when we embrace our yes–as messy and undervalued as it may seem some days it gives us the passion to keep saying yes every day.

It reminds us why we love being a mom:

We love that our teen daughter wants to borrow our clothes (Keep telling yourself it’s the highest compliment).

We love it when their feet are no longer the same size as ours though. Whew.

We love that our son who will be 13 next week, still grabs our hand when we are walking together.

We love that he mumbles sorry when he drops it quickly-just in case anyone’s looking.

We love that our baby still acts like our baby. But not to be confused with acting babyish. Some things are not meant to be loved.

We love the handmade cards and the small collection of homemade pottery.

We love the noisy car filled with arguing, fighting kids (everywhere we go). Ok. we don’t really love this.

We love the hope that one day our kids will sleep in on Saturdays (This is also when you know that you have ARRIVED).

We love that our children don’t hold grudges and are easy forgivers.

We love that no matter how hard of a day it’s been–no matter how much we yell or mess up, our kids still want us.

On this messy parenting road, we can always find something good to be thankful for. No matter what. Always.

Because deep down, we know one day there won’t be anyone asking to borrow our clothes, reaching for our hand, making us handmade cards, filling our car, our home, our lives with noise, leaving a trail of mess and mayhem in their wake.

We love that even though we don’t love every minute, every phase, every hard mothering day that leaves us weary and wondering if we are doing it right–we love that God chose us to mother our kids.

And that makes even the hard moments, so good.

 

 

[Click to download the above 5×7 Mother’s Day Printable]

edited repost from the archives

Because Sometimes Being the Meanest Mom Might Also Make You Mother of the Year

You’ve probably seen it by now.

The viral video of the Baltimore mother in bright yellow beating the hell out of her rioting teenaged son in the middle of the street.

She’s being called “mother of the year” by some and abusive by others.

And whether you’re cheering her on after watching the video or wanting to call child protective services, I’d bet a dollar her son has called her the “meanest mom in the world” before their very public moment.

Listen. I’ve been called it for much less.

because sometimed being the meanest mom might also make you mother of the year

If you’ve ever told your child no to protect or provide for them, followed through on a consequence with your teenager, or refused to give into their demands, you probably have the battle scars that come with the Meanest Mom title, too. If they are too young to say it, just wait.

I love my kids and my kids love me. But they have tried to manipulate situations, move my resistance, maneuver their way around the truth and mistake my compassion for weakness.

Motherhood is not for wimps.

When my kids think I’m at my meanest, they are really seeing my fierce love for them. They just don’t recognize it for that. 

When I was 16 years old, I misjudged the time and realized I was going to miss my curfew. This was long before cell phones and so I did what any other new driver would do, I sped. Just as the policeman was pulling me over a few blocks from home, my parents showed up.

I’ll never forget their words, “We will take it from here, Officer.”

They didn’t think twice about marching my butt home and if there had been a TV camera, they probably would have waved.

I was never late again.

(I’m about to sign my daughter up for driver’s education and Hey, Mom and Dad–I totally get it.)

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Life teaches hard lessons. And if we let our kids learn them, they might just learn from them.  Sure, we can protect our kids from consequences, but should we? They might just miss the lesson if we rush to make everything okay. Maybe they will think twice before they make the same mistake again.

I go toe-to-toe regularly with my kids. And it’s not because I like a good fight.

It’s because of love.

These are some of the non-negotiables in our house that earn me the Mean Mom title. They are of course, sandwiched in loved, bathed in grace and taught consistently (most of the time):

1. Lose it or break it and it’s lost or broken. (We might help you with it, but if you expect it, we definitely won’t).

2. Our family goes to church. You will go, too.

3. People who live in our house, do chores.

4. We apologize when we hurt people.

5. Your email, pictures and Internet history will be looked at by your parents. (Remember we agreed to this when you received access?)

6. If you don’t take care of your stuff, you can’t borrow mine.

7. If you want something, save your money.

8. Sometimes you have to fail at something to later succeed at it. (This is why I quit reminding my kids to do their homework, check on that missing paper, turn in that extra credit, etc)

9. Eventually, you will run out of clean clothes if you don’t do your laundry.

10. If I go out of my way to help you and you’re rude, the next time you ask for my help, I will say no.

11. We will always forgive each other, no matter what. Love conquers all of the above.

Does this list make me a mean mom? Probably.

Life has a funny way of teaching the best lessons–if we let it. Sometimes the very best lessons are in the consequences.

I hope one day my kids will look beyond the words and rules, and they will understand the deep, abiding love for them that sometimes makes me seem mean.

I know I did.

And who knows, they may even see a glimpse of Mother of the Year.

5 Things My Daughter Is Teaching Me About Changing The World

I emailed the principal at the high school and asked him what he thought about my daughter missing a little more than a week of school to go to Africa with me.

It will be life-changing, he said.

Yeah.

I thought of all the reasons it would change her perspective, remind her what really matters and shift her awareness.

Parenting is funny.

It turns out these are the exact things she is teaching me during this journey. I’ve learned so much about my 15 year old this week and mostly, from her. She’s more compassionate than I thought, more selfless than I imagined, more genuine than I dreamed and she has challenged me to be a better me. She has been to Mercy House many times, but with 6 flights this week to not only visit Mercy House, but also Fair Trade Friday partners in other places, it’s stretched our limits.

It’s like you pour love into your kids their entire childhood and then at the right time and in the right place, they overflow it on others.

Here are 5 things my daughter is teaching me about changing the world:

1. Selfies are okay when they focus on others | I’ve never been a fan of duck lips or selfies. I’ve taught my teen to know there’s a time and place for both. But she chose the right time and the right place because she turned a selfie into something about others and these girls, her peers in so many ways, fell in love with their girlfriend from America. I watched her put them first over and over again and I learned that sometimes selfies aren’t so bad.

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Don’t take yourself too seriously | We have shared a lot this week-a bed and a mosquito net, bottles of water and the same Kleenex a time or two. We’ve traded sweatshirts and soap and a good attitude when things go wrong and a nudge in the side when we needed it. If traveling across the world with your daughter will teach you anything, it’s this: don’t to take yourself too seriously. She reminds me when I’m too proud or frowning. She’s raised her eyebrows at my sighs and impatience. She tells me to smile more and give more. I’ve watched her hold hands and hug dirty children and wipe away a tear or too. She gets it.

Remember to have fun | Sure kids need to be rescued and loved and sponsored, but they also need to have fun.  My daughter is a child-magnet. They flock around her like flies. She’s always ready for a quick game to play. I laughed so hard at the Kenyan chanting slap game the Rehema residents spontaneously played in Kenya.  I stood back and watched, but my daughter jumped right in the middle of a popular game in a different culture and nearly won the bag of Skittles up for grabs.  She’s half little girl and half woman and she’s a constant reminder for me to loosen up and have a little fun.

You’re never too old to try something new | The minute the coffee ceremony started, so did my worry. The black liquid gold filled to the rim and I knew I would need to drink what was offered. My daughter eagerly sipped and nudged me. “But I like tea,” I whispered to her. “Mo-om,” she said. I took a drink and the sweet warm coffee tasted different than I imagined. I took another drink. “I love it,” I whispered. “I told you,” she said. I’ve watched her cross cultural boundaries in fearless abandon. We’ve stepped over rotting oxen heads and legs on dirt roads (the only parts Ethiopians don’t eat), passed out live chickens, and eat a wide variety of different food (turns out lamb is a new favorite for her), but we aren’t big fans of fried termites (yes, we tried them.) I want to be this brave when I grow up.

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Nothing matters more than people | I’m a doer. I’ve always got my nose in a book trying to figure something out or answering an email. More than once my daughter has reminded me to put away my resources and tools and live in the moment. It’s a powerful lesson and she’s a good example.

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Our kids will teach us so much.

If we let them.

 

Solidarity, Moms: Less Is More

Every April I can smell it.

Summer.

It’s coming and we are always ready and waiting.

Honestly, we are pathetic these last months of school. We’ve carefully counted up our missed days and tardies and we are barely gonna make without a truancy officer at our door. We stopped our second grade reading log weeks ago (she sadly discovered the Diary of a Wimpy Kids series and although I hang my head in shame, she’s reading like a champ!)

I’m longing for pool baths (you know what I’m talking about, good moms bring shampoo to the pool, moms like me let the chlorine do its magic), sleeping in until after the sun comes up and swapping the Netflix password for reading time from my kids (insert wicked laugh).

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I don’t know about you, but some days I feel the pressure to never let my kids down, to parent “the whole child” with excellence, to always be fair, and provide for their every want and pack up summer with All The Fun. Our culture has been sucked into perfect parenting deception. And every Spring, I sort of panic and evaluate how I’m doing.

I’m pretty sure I already told you guys that when my youngest discovered the secret stash of baby books, it didn’t take long to realize hers was 1/16 of her siblings. I had been tucking pictures and cards into the book for years thinking I’d get to them some day. She’s 8 and “someday” never came. She seemed pretty disappointed, especially that the “first haircut” envelope in her baby book was empty. So one day while she was at school, I did a manic scrapbooking session and glued like a wild woman. I guessed at weights and heights and dates on all the first. I mean, it was correct, but I was there, so there’s that. It was hardly creative memories-worthy, but it would work. I had it all figured out except for the haircut thing. So, while my school-aged kid slept, I snuck in her room and snipped a lock of hair and put it in her book and acted like I found it in my secret hiding space.

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It turns out I’m quite convincing. If that doesn’t make you feel better about your mothering today, I don’t know what will.

At the risk of sounding like a really bad mom, more and more I want to give my kids less in life. Because in a lot of ways, it is giving them more:

1. Less structured play and scheduled time: Last week, my younger two used a hammer, some string, a rubber band and nail to make an instrument in our Mercy House building after they tired of helping me paint. It was a night of imagination and it was awesome. Even later on, when my second grader’s said “instrument”  left a small gash in her head. It was fun after the bleeding stopped. Just ask her. Of course, some fun leads to lessons about swinging sharp objects . I love summer because it lends itself to more unstructured time. My kids thrive on free time and it seems so limited the rest of the year. Let’s choose to resist the pressure to fill All The Hours with things to do. Some of my favorite moments are when I can’t find my kids in the house. They are sprawled on a chair reading or tinkering in the garage. Or you know, finding their imagination.

2. Less focus on themselves and more on others: I want serving others to be so ingrained in my kids lives, they don’t even know they are serving (or mind it). Putting others before ourselves isn’t hard when it’s a way of life. But it is more challenging to complain about all you don’t have when you’re face-to-face with someone with a lot less. I believe every North American needs a regular dose of perspective. The best way to be thankful for what we have–is by serving someone with less.

3. Less of me making everything all right: I packed my second grader’s lunchbox a couple of weeks ago without a lunch in it. Her teacher called me from school. I felt terrible about my absent-minded mistake. It probably wouldn’t have been that big a deal, but I also forgot to wait on the porch when the bus dropped her off a couple of days before (she’s working through some fear issues about us not being there, even though I was just inside). It was a good reminder that mom isn’t perfect and that even though she doesn’t mean to, she occasionally lets people down. We can’t always make everything perfect for our kids. Some days life happens. When we fail our kids (and we all will), it’s a great time to remind them of One who will never let them down.

4. Less of me fixing their problems: There’s this overwhelming temptation to protect my kids from failure. There are things I could “fix” that would reduce their disappointment and defeat in school, sports and well, life. But often we learn the most through natural consequences, losing and falling flat on our face. I remind them of forgotten lunches and notebooks for a season, but sometimes letting our children face the consequences is helping them more in the long run. We can’t always keep our kids from failure, but we can help them overcome it.

And so I say solidarity now, moms.  We are imperfect, messy people with dirty floors and two-day old pony tails. We don’t have it all together, but we love our kids and most days, that’s more than enough. We are doing just fine. And if we can remember to throw in one or two of these things, we might just make it to summer.

The One Thing You Can Do for Your Kid Who Sabotages Family Time

We sat around the dinner table finishing up our tacos, shredded lettuce and cheese scattered about.

“Okay, everyone, finish up and I’ll pass out the Bibles,” my husband said.

For years now, we’ve made an attempt to Break Bread after we’ve consumed it. Its been the optimal time for our family to connect, read a devotion or Scripture or two for a few minutes. Dinner is one of the only times during the day we are all together, mostly still and quiet.

I’ve said this several times, but it’s my favorite time of the day with my family.

Unless one of our children tries to sabotage it.

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Distracting. Irritating. Complaining. Whining. You name it.

While I don’t think there’s a calculated conspiracy or evil plan to sabotage, once I realized it was happening regularly, I acknowledged one of our kids had gotten really good at disrupting or all-together ending this intentional family time.

One night, I watched it unfold and I was frustrated. Not only because my kids all knew better, but because it was defeating. This cycle of trying and failing.

Maybe you have a kid like this too? Passionate. Strong. Determined. A Leader in the Rough.

It might happen at dinner or in the car, on vacation, while at school….

Big emotions all the time.

As my husband attempted to read, I watched my strong-willed kid make faces at siblings, maybe hoping to be sent upstairs… I thought about how well this child leads, when given a chance. I thought of one of our trips overseas, where complaining and griping threatened to ruin the day.. So, we handed over the maps and guides and said, “Okay, you be in charge. Lead us.” It turned out to be a brilliant parental move.

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We still have those occasionally.

A plan begin to formulate.

The next night at dinner I made my move, “Honey, would you mind if we did something different tonight?” I asked Terrell to hand the Bible to our determined child. “I like the way you read aloud (entirely true). Would you read to us tonight?”

Sure.

With character voices and inflection and without distraction, we had a wonderful devotion and family time.

We repeated it the following night. And the next.

I was amazed at how pleasant and peaceful it was and there may have been a high five or two between my husband and I.

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Honestly, my first reaction is to threaten and dole out consequences when the rules are bent or broken and it works well with a couple of my kids. But we can’t parent all our children exactly the same when they are obviously different. Over time, I’ve learned that the child acting out the most probably needs more love than consequences. More time than separation. More of me. And that strong-willed child needs a strong parent to let go of control.

So, instead of banishing your disrupting or disobedient child or punishing them for annoying behavior, let them lead.

You may just be surprised where it takes you.

10 Fun Ways to Keep Easter About Jesus

The Easter Season is the perfect time to practice intentional parenting. It’s more than bunnies and baskets and golden eggs-it’s an opportunity to teach our children about the most important event in history.

If we didn’t have the Cross, we wouldn’t have forgiveness.

If we didn’t have the Resurrection, we wouldn’t have hope.

If we didn’t have Jesus, we wouldn’t have anything.

 

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Here are 10 fun (and easy!) ways to keep Easter about Jesus:

  1. Read The Parable of the Lily and plant (or force) a lily bulb
  2. Create this easy, beautiful watercolor Cross Art
  3. Plant an Easter Garden 218495019391568479_3wI73Ndz_f
  4. Dye/hunt eggs. Share the reasons behind the traditions
  5. A Sense of the Resurrection – a great ebook to help little hands (ages 3-6) grasp the meaning of Easter.
  6. Make Resurrection Eggs. Read Benjamin’s Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs
    along with it.
  7. Bake Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday
  8. Fill Easter baskets with something meaningful (a new Bible, a cross necklace, eggs with Scripture)
  9. Make Resurrection Rolls for Easter morning breakfast
  10. Have a family devotion together and talk about the meaning of Easter (this is a good one)

updated post from the archives

The Hard Prayers of a Mother

We stand toe-to-toe.

Just like we did when she was a strong-willed three year old only I’m looking up at my teenager instead of the other way around. The argument has changed, but the passion and determination are the same.

I remember rubbing my hand over my swollen belly so long ago -praying that my daughter would be strong. I prayed that she wouldn’t give in to others, that she would fight for what she believed in.

All I can say is God answers prayers. Just usually not how I thought He would.

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When my kids were babies I prayed I could sleep. (Very holy prayers like, “Dear God, (yawn) Zzzzz.”)

When they were toddlers, I prayed they would sleep. (“Dear God, Is it actually wrong to turn the doorknob around?”)

When they are in school, I pray for summer. Halfway through July, well, you know…

When they were little, I prayed God would get me through the exhausting moments.

Now they are bigger and I pray He gets me through the emotional ones.

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When my kids make a great choice and put someone in front of themselves, my prayers become praise.

When my kids slam their doors, roll their eyes and push back, I mostly pray for me. (“Dear God, protect my children from my wrath.”)

Nothing could have prepared me for the hard prayers of motherhood.

One minute I’m beseeching God for wisdom, the next I’m telling Him I’ve got this.

One minute, I see a scary glimpse of rebellion, the next, revival.

For one child, I pray for kindness. For the other I pray for courage when kindness is absent.

For one I pray for goodness, for the other meekness when goodness is present.

And I pray for patience and self-control all the time for all of us.

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I have cried over harsh words and willful behavior and we both know I’m not talking about the kids’.

I have offered prayers of thanksgiving when they offered unprompted gratitude. (“Dear God, I am doing a fabulous job here.”)

I have sat next to their bed in the middle of the night and whispered broken prayers over them.

I have wept at their loss, their pain, and begged God to fix all that I couldn’t.

I have rejoiced at their wins, their gain, and praised God in the moment.

I wrapped each of my new babies up in blankets and offered them to God on a Sunday. He gave them to me and I gave them back. And I’ve spent nearly every moment since trying to figure them out.

Lately, I have whispered the hardest prayer of all: “Dear God, Break my children. Break their heart for what breaks Yours.  Do what You need to do in their heart and lives to draw them closer to You. They are yours.”

Maybe these are they hardest words a mother prays for her children? Or maybe just letting go of our illusion of control never gets easier.

But it’s this place that is my undoing: uttering these hard, gut-wrenching prayers when I don’t know what else to do.

Because I know He will answer.

All these things I pray and whisper over my children? He says them over me.

(“Come to me, Kristen. Give me that hurt, that burden, that sin. I discipline you because I love you. I break you so you will heal stronger.”)

I found Jesus when my life was wrecked.

And when the last thing a mother wants to pray over her child is chaos, so they can know peace, humility instead of pride, forgiveness instead of bitterness, joy instead of loss, it’s probably time she did.