Belle is the BEST!

I was in line 1.5 hours prior to the doors opening for the first showing of Beauty and the Beast with 15-20 people in front of me in line. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one excited about this movie; the theatre was sold out. One year ago, I heard it was being produced as a live action film, and, immediately, a friend and I started planning… our husbands were taking the kids and we were having a girls’ night out! Yes!

In the theatre, I was giddy excited each time one of the songs of my childhood came up in the movie and was enthralled from start to finish. Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite princess movie and the latest Live Action version did not disappoint!

So why is Beauty and the Beast (in my opinion) the best?

  1. Belle is Selfless. She sacrifices her own life to save her father’s and gives up her chance of escape to help the wounded Beast. Even more, the Beast becomes selfless. He later sacrifices the chance to break the spell that has taunted him for years by letting Belle go. Anytime you see a selfless act, it is incredibly beautiful. And of course it would be; it’s a demonstration of Christ!
  2. Belle is “Fearless.” This term is used multiple times to describe Belle in the latest Live Action version. She stands up to the Beast on numerous occasions, fights against the wolves in the woods, and stands against the town in support of her father and, in the end, in support of the Beast. What courage! What could we all accomplish if we didn’t give in to fear- fear of pain, rejection, embarrassment, failure… so many ways we can allow our impact to be stunted… If only we were fearless, like Belle!
  3. Belle is “Odd.” She isn’t afraid to be different. It is obvious she is not like the other girls in her town. She doesn’t “follow the crowd” but is unique and comfortable in her individuality. Yet, she also isn’t different just for difference sake; it’s intentional, done with wisdom and maturity. It’s this difference that makes her educated and wise enough to turn down Gaston’s advances. If that is what “odd” means, call me it anytime!
  4. Belle is Adventurous. “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell.” Come on, sing it with me! Not only does she daydream about adventure and something more grandeur than marriage to the egotistical Gaston, but she embraces the adventure she finds herself in- talking to candlesticks, clocks, and more. Oh, what we miss out on when we refuse to step out into the unfamiliar!
  5. Belle sees past the Physical. “He’s no monster, Gaston; you are!” All the girls in town want Gaston, yet Belle sees him for what he truly is: arrogant and self-centered. Then, she meets the Beast who is frightening to everyone else and is able to look past it to find the gentleness that lies beneath. This is a rare quality throughout time, and when absent, it often gets us in a lot of trouble. Just imagine the different life Belle would lead if she didn’t see past the physical appearance of these two characters.
  6. Belle is Independent. She’s not looking for a man to come save her. However, she doesn’t think men are evil either. She is confident in who she is, isn’t willing to settle, and is open to the right man when he comes along. This is so refreshing to see when, in today’s culture, girls can seemingly be found in one of the two extremes- desperate or man-hating.
  7. Belle loves Books/Reading. I taught English; need I say more? Of course, I do because what English teacher leaves words unsaid? She challenges her mind, finds beauty and adventure in the pages of a book, and sees value in learning. And she desires to share that learning with others. Knowledge is power, am I right?
  8. It highlights the significance of a Father. This movie shows the importance of a father’s role in her daughter’s life. He believes in her, encourages her, and protects her. Without this, would she be all the traits listed above? My guess is no.

Each of these reasons are things I pray for my daughter… that she is selfless, fearless, adventurous, sees past outward appearances, is independent, loves reading, has an invested father (check), and yes, that she’s odd (or at least doesn’t follow cultural norms). Even in relation to all other princess movies, Belle breaks the mold! So far, I haven’t convinced Ali that Belle is the best, but I’m still working on her! 🙂

 

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The Grass is Green!

My husband wants a minivan badly. So much so he has been calling my Highlander a van for the past six months and taking me to look at them “for fun.” Then, here I am tonight, test driving a minivan and understanding that it is completely practical and convenient getting kids in and out and knowing my Highlander just won’t work when kid #3 arrives.

There is a lot of controversy on vans these days. I feel like moms either love ’em or hate ’em. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t see a minivan as a trophy of motherhood; yet, I also don’t think its the anti-Christ of cool moms, either. My kids may beg to differ in about ten years when I’m still driving it around. I think I’m just to the point of acceptance; I believe it is best for the future of our family.

Yet, as soon as I get to that moment of acceptance, we are driving home from the dealership (no car purchased yet) and my mind takes me to a funky place. I begin thinking about the potential loss of a job I greatly enjoy; I wonder if saying “no” to a job offer several months back (based on what I felt was best for my family) may have hindered my relationship with them. Now, I’m about to make another sacrifice (losing cool points by driving a van), and a moment’s feeling of bitterness creeps in…

How did that sneak in there? I had completely forgotten about this interaction with the job until this moment.

Uh-oh! I’m now in a battle of contentment… a place I find myself often. I’m sacrificing my career, independence… those terms don’t seem to truly capture what I feel like I would have as a career-driven woman. But honestly, I was on track in that area at one time in my life and devastated that I wasn’t able to become pregnant and have the “mom” title.

When will I see the grass under my feet for the green-ness it already possesses? Okay, yes, I see lots of green grass in the life I have. My children are beautiful (seriously, physically beautiful- we make pretty babies); they are joyful, sweet, a beauty to watch grow and develop, and each amazingly, beautifully unique from birth. And even more, they make me laugh! So the better question is why can’t I be completely present in the grass I am standing in rather than trying to straddle the fence? Now that’s a pretty picture!

I am learning to take time to rest, to not get too busy or overworked. Because it is then that I lose sight of the grass and see only the tasks/to-do lists that sit on top of it. Breakfast, clean the kitchen, lunch, clean the kitchen, dinner, clean the kitchen… when I focus too much on my tasks, I start glancing over the fence and then I begin to overlook, belittle, or – worse – completely miss the green grass I am standing on. Instead of looking across the fence, I should be looking at what’s right in front of me… a devoted husband, two precious babes, our first home, a beautiful and supportive community around me, … beautiful, lush green grass!

So the next time my focus and desire begins to drift to the neighbor’s yard, I will do 2 things:

  1. Stop and take account of the incredible blessings I have been given.
  2. Give thanks. Thanking God for what I have often leads to a changed attitude.
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Martha, Martha, Martha

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:38-42

I wish I was a Mary. I struggle daily with being a Martha and being envious of all those around me who gracefully and peacefully walk through life as a Mary.

I long to sit at the feet of Jesus and truly soak in more of who He is and, therefore, become more like Him. It seems cliche, but even in the most practical sense I will choose productivity over time with the Lord… Oh, my kids are sleeping? I SHOULD be having my daily quiet time with him, but I CHOOSE to tackle the task that I just can’t seem to get done when my two beautiful kiddos are awake. Oh, let me run get this done real quick and then I’ll sit down to play… but I find three other tasks I can do “real quick” before I ever get to play time.

I find so much of my worth in my productivity and having ‘things’ in order. When my house is cluttered and dirty, I get frazzled and easily irritable. My mind is in a constant state of planning- if a task or event gets changed, I immediately begin planning how to best use the ‘free’ time. I even can find myself planning time to play with my kids so I don’t get distracted by the tasks I have to accomplish. It’s a sickness, really!

I’ve had acquaintances tell me, “you always have it together.” (Notice the subject- acquaintances. Close friends know that to be far from the truth.) That phrase has begun to break my heart- for two reasons. #1: It can stir up pride in my heart. As I said, I often find my worth in having it together. #2: No growth happens in relationships with people who seem to have it all together. We learn from being real and messed up and honest with people. Who do I confide in and seek counsel from? Not the people who have it all together, but from those who I’ve seen go through junk and come out the other side more like Jesus.

And what do I do with this haunting of the Martha-mindset? I have to fight against my very worldly nature in each individual instance beginning with the tiniest battle. Celebrate the small wins and begin building on them and restructuring the way I think. Ultimately, I must pass up the dishes during nap time and rest in Jesus so He can change my heart. Because the more Mary-moments I have, the more Mary-hearted I’ll become.

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Beauty or Beast?

We have three rules in our house:

  1. Be kind.
  2. Be honest.
  3. Obey right away.

So what do you do if by 10am, your child has broken all three of them- some of them more than once?

That’s my question of today. Wow, it’s been a rough one! I have NEVER taught my daughter how to lie. It’s probably my biggest “pet peeve.” I tell on myself even when I don’t need to. My husband will come home from work, and I feel the need to “confess” I didn’t make the bed (because, you know, he wouldn’t see that when he walked into our room. Nor does he even care if it does get made.) Sin nature at its finest, I guess. And after multiple battles with being kind and obedient, lying seemed to push me over the edge. I had no idea what to do.

My husband and I are firm believers in not punishing in our anger. I don’t win on it all the time, but I do try. I sent my daughter to her room, so I could think. Did she stay in there? Nope. Only by God’s grace was I able to keep my cool. We spank in this family- we spank for direct defiance. So when I told her to go to her room and she responded, “no, I will not,” she knew that was the consequence. As well, she still had to spend time in her room… all so I could think about what to do about the lying… this was not going well!

Does she even know what lying is? Does she know that lying is wrong? Have I ever taught her that?

I didn’t know the answer to any of those… therefore, our conversation included the explanation of lying and why it is wrong. My daughter’s given name is “Alethia,” which is the Greek word for Truth. So, we discussed her name, who is the ultimate Truth, and why her daddy and I thought it significant enough to give her that name. She seemed to get it, I guess… for a 3 year old.

In all my conversations with my daughter after poor behavior, I often feel like she apologizes just to get something or because she wants to make me smile. Literally, she’ll ask me to smile after she misbehaves and will say “sorry” to produce said results. Today, I think her desire to go outside helped her to apologize a little more quickly than other days. And this leads me down an even more challenging road of parenting analysis- am I really reaching the HEART of her behavior?? I don’t want her to behave for me or to get something; I want her to follow after Truth!

In talking with a mom I have the utmost respect for (who also, unknowingly, led us in determining our family rules), she reminded me that reaching the heart doesn’t happen in one moment. It is partnering all these moments together along with those of good behavior, daily conversations, modeling Christ-like actions and behaviors myself, and so much more.

As much I want to do everything right with each encounter I have with my daughter, I know that I am imperfect. I must rest in the grace of my Father, seek His wisdom daily, and pray He penetrates & captures her heart in spite of my parenting failures (everyone has them, right?)

Welp, nap time is over. Time to go wake the beast… I mean… beauty.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. –Deuteronomy 6:6-7

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And the Rollercoaster Continues

I continue to be amazed and baffled at our journey through adoption and growing our family. My last blog post was back at the end of March where the Lord challenged me to release my expectations and plans for our adoption story. And boy has He thrown a curveball our way. We found out about a month ago that we were 14 weeks pregnant… surprise! In fact, the lesson I “learned” on releasing my expectations happened about the same time as our pregnancy- coincidence? Even in writing this so many emotions wash over me. For those who know me, are following our story, are struggling through infertility yourselves, are trying to understand what this journey is like, or stumbled upon this post randomly… I want to share the truth of my emotions. But beware: they are not all pretty!

Confusion: On the way to get the second pregnancy test to ensure the first one was correct, I literally said aloud in the car, “Lord, what are you doing?” I truly haven’t thought for a second during this journey that a second biological child was in our future. And if I’m honest, I thought: “Are you really going to let me walk the path of a miscarriage? I said I wanted to help people who were walking the infertility journey and that miscarriage was something I believed to be far more difficult than my journey, but I don’t want to know that heartbreak.”

Joy & Amazement at our God: We are going to have another baby!!! We get to experience pregnancy and childbirth again! My husband and I had been praying for a child by the end of the year (through adoption). We felt the timeline was unlikely and, therefore, would be a true testament to the power of God working in our adoption journey. I was overcome with joy and amazement to learn that our due date is December 18th.

Guilt: Why have we been given another blessing when so many others long for “just one?” How will I tell those that I love and have been walking this infertility journey with that we are pregnant? Why are we the ones that received this blessing and not the countless others who are on a similar – or even harder – journey?

Hesitation/Nervousness: What will people think when they find out I’m pregnant? Especially those who have given to us financially and supported us in prayer along our adoption journey? Will they trust our hearts for adoption and pursuance of it? How can I show everyone that this is an added blessing and we want both with all our hearts?

Hopeful: I immediately made plans/dreams (I know, I never learn!) that we could call this surprise child and our adopted child twins. What a fun way to refer to them when they would look nothing alike. This was truly an exciting idea for me!

Despair/Loss: When I called our case worker and shared the news, she informed me that based on the agency’s policy, our adoption had to be put on hold until the biological child’s first birthday. It seems extreme, but I felt like I had lost a child and was then offered another in his/her place. In just a few days, my dream of “twins” was shattered.

Guilt: How could I feel any sorrow in the midst of this exciting news?

And through the Lord’s grace and with the help of my husband, complete Trust and Faithfulness in the Lord’s plan. The Lord is not surprised by our pregnancy; He delights in it as do we. The child He has chosen for us through adoption has not changed because of this exciting news. It, again, just comes in a different timeline and package than I had anticipated.

And back to Joy: We are having a baby!!! What a great story! We got exactly what we prayed for: a child by the end of the year that speaks to the power and provision of our God! Even we didn’t expect His power to show up in this way.

So… here’s to 3 kids by the end of 2017!!!

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The Hardest Part

The hardest part of our adoption journey for me, hands down, has been releasing my expectations for what my family would look like. And I have to do it constantly, I feel.

It started with infertility. I had to release the expectation that I would have my own children, that they would look like me, that Brett would be able to continue his family line with a son of his own flesh that carried his last name. Looking back now, those desires seem so insignificant to what the Lord did in and through us during that time- what He’s even doing in and through us now because of that time.

Through our infertility journey, I released those desires. I can say that I absolutely love our journey to having Ali and am thankful for it. I am closer to the Lord and closer to my husband because of it. It was through this journey that the Lord revealed His plan for us to adopt.

It’s funny, though. As soon as I identified adoption was His plan, I immediately (without even knowing it) started creating expectations for this process, as well. I wanted a child that clearly looked nothing like us, met certain “preferences” (we had to fill out a preferences form on race, gender, disabilities, medical backgrounds, etc), and – here’s the biggie – fell into my own timeline.

Well, I am quickly learning that just like having our first child did not fit into the “perfect” mold I had planned, this one may not either. In my mind, our children were going to be close in age with similar interests and enjoy playing together regularly. And for me, that all stemmed from having children close in age – which is quickly seeming more and more unlikely. And for some reason, I am [again] struggling that the Lord’s plan doesn’t match my own.

Any piece of those desires could be true without every part being true. I could have children close together in age as we could adopt an older child and they could have absolutely nothing in common. I could have children further apart in age that enjoy playing together throughout their entire childhood and consult each other for advice through adulthood. In the same way, all of it could be a part of our family story or none of it.

It seems so simple to comprehend when I write it out on paper, yet my heart continues to make plans and expectations that I believe will produce the “perfect” results for my family. And then I get so frustrated that the Lord has to continue to teach me the same lessons again and again. I learned this lesson through His gift of Ali- the journey, the timeline, Ali’s personality- all of it have been the best blessing to Brett and I. The “perfect” plan I had when we started trying to grow our family was not even close to the gift the Lord blessed us with. She is even better! So why do I get frustrated when this new plan does not pan out? Why can I not rely on His promises through His Word and the first-hand experience He has given to prove Himself worthy of my full surrender- even the surrender of my own plans and desires?

I don’t think having desires and dreams is wrong. I don’t think praying for those is wrong. But I do believe holding onto them too tightly is! And that is the lesson I continue to learn again and again and again…

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

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30 & On The Way Up

I will soon turn 30… whoa! When did I become an adult? Was it when I got my first “real” job? When I had a kid? Or a few weeks back when I decided to switch to non-aluminum deodorant and to replace all my plastic containers with glass after reading an article about how bad they are for you? I’m not one for cliche, monumental moments. Honestly, I have been pretty unfazed about turning thirty. But with it right around the corner now- man does thirty sound so much older. I am no longer “in my twenties.” “In my twenties” included college, engagement, getting my first job. All those seem to make me young- until next week when I move to “in my thirties.” What exciting things happen “in your thirties?”

And the idea of “going downhill” has already started in jokes and conversations with me and family/friends. But it’s not all jokes. Let’s be real- beauty is fleeting. I’ve been dyeing the grey from my hair for 5 years now (okay, maybe more). I’m already on the downward slope. Is this really the best I have to offer my husband? We’ve been married 7 years. I pray we make it to 50 plus. But if he got the best of me by year 7, that’s a pretty crappy deal for him.

All that to say, when I picked up a book I hadn’t read in a while I was happy when the next chapter was enlightening and encouraging on this exact topic…

Captivating by Jon & Stasi Eldredge says, “Contrary to what the world claims, Beauty does not diminish with time; Beauty deepens and increases.” In essence, we get more and more beautiful the more we are molded and shaped by the Lord. Jon and Stasi write it much more eloquently than I in connection with the way women were created. About having a “heart at rest” and an “inviting” spirit. About being “fully present” and vulnerable, “not giving way to fear.” There are so many great quotes from this chapter, Beauty to Unveil, and I encourage everyone to read it (males too- you can gain much insight on females from this book). I could include so many quotes from that book in this post, but I’m pretty sure copyright keeps you from quoting an entire chapter online. 🙂

The truth is, I walk away tonight with great hope in getting old. I actually believe that my husband hasn’t seen the most beautiful version on me. That I haven’t seen the most beautiful version of me. And I look forward to living out the change the Lord is working in me. He’ll need more than the next 50 years to change some of the hardened areas of my stubborn heart. But what joy to see His power and presence in my life as He changes me for my good and His glory!

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4

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