Wednesday, July 16, 2014

You Are Beautiful

You Are Beautiful, Grace.  1,000 times over. You are beautiful. From the inside out, you shine, sweet girl. Below is a letter from a parent to a daughter. Though I didn't pen these words in this order, my heart has said them...prayed them countless times. My mind has raced with these same thoughts and ached with the realization that some day you might not believe me when I say, "You are beautiful." So here it is, in the words of another aching parent, Matt Walsh. I've plugged in your name, so you hear these words in your own ear, your brainy smart head and in your heart of hearts. You are beautiful.

Dear Daughter,
I hope you never notice the magazine rack at the supermarket.
I hope you never see the billboards on the highway or the ads on the side of the city bus.
I hope you never learn about Hollywood and the fashion industry.
I hope you never listen to pop music.
I hope you never walk down the makeup aisle.
I hope you never hate your own appearance.
I hope you never pick up the habit of putting yourself down whenever someone compliments you.
I hope you never feel the pressure to physically conform to the perverse standards of a disordered world.
I hope you always stay exactly as you are right now. Innocent, carefree, unencumbered, pure.
But these could only be the hopes of a foolish idealist like me. I can rub the genie lamp and make a thousand stupid wishes, but you will grow. You will start to learn about the culture that surrounds you. You will form opinions about yourself. Your vivacious, bubbly happiness will give way to more complex emotions. You will develop new dimensions.
In these times, here in your very early life, you only cry because you’re hungry or tired or you want me to hold you. One day, though, your tears will come from a deeper place.
And, when that day comes, I want you to remember one thing: you are beautiful.
Beautiful. A work of art — full of life, exploding with a unique, dynamic, vibrant energy.
Beautiful. Eyes like the morning, a strong and powerful spirit, a face that brims with joy and hope. Beautiful because you were formed by God. Beautiful because He has known you since before you even existed, He has loved you since the beginning of time. Beautiful because you’re real, beautiful because you are.
Remember this. It’s important that you remember it, Grace, as you live in a society that’s dedicated to making you forget.
Those commercials and movies and songs and cosmetic products and plastic surgeons and diet pills and trendy clothes and Cosmo magazine covers — they will all try to feed you something. An image. A broken promise. A false salvation. A poison. An airbrushed, manufactured, painted over, photoshopped, marketing ploy. A ‘sexiness’ that’s about as beautiful and feminine as an assembly line. A ‘hot’ that’s more sterile and processed than canned food.
This is the price of living in a culture of consumerism. We all pay the toll, Grace. Your family included.
See, modern humans spend every waking minute surrounded by advertisements and product placements and carefully crafted, focus grouped ‘messaging’ of all kinds. It tears you in a million different directions, but the lesson is always the same: you are not good enough. You need to be ‘improved,’ they’ll tell you. Demolished and rebuilt. Shamed and made over. Pulverized and perfected.
They pull out their metaphorical shotguns and blow giant holes in your psyche. They hollow you out and convince you that they’ve got the right thing to plug the gaps. They create a void in your conscience and pour their propaganda into it. This is why we have an unachievable, inhuman, digitized idea of beauty in our society. We’ve fallen for the ultimate scam, and the scammers have reaped dividends.
...Apparently, the shops in the mall have collectively determined that every woman is a size zero and none of them care about dressing modestly (I still don’t understand how there can even be such a thing as a ‘size zero’ — all human beings must, according to physics, have some mass, right?).
Of course, these stores are wrong. Most women aren’t rail thin and many of them aren’t interested in dressing like music video back-up dancers. You just wouldn’t know it based on the selection at these boutiques, which, it would seem, have a clientele consisting mainly of mannequins and runway models.
---a guy can walk into any clothing store and find something that A) fits, and B) provides his body with basic coverage, which is the whole reason clothing exists in the first place, according to Wikipedia. As you will eventually discover, women have an entirely different experience. For them, even something as simple as clothes shopping becomes an all out assault on their values, priorities, and body image.
And women aren’t the only victims. Men might not be chasing Hollywood beauty, but we have our own unreasonable expectations, imposed on us by ourselves and the world outside. We all — men and women alike — feel the pressure to present a façade. We all want to appeal to the masses. It’s like we’re locked in this eternal competition to be beautiful, or popular, or successful, or whatever, except we set our bar for beauty, popularity, and success according to the standards of the very strangers we’re trying to ‘beat.’ We want to be like everyone, and liked by everyone, but also better than everyone. This parallel battle for sameness and superiority wreaks havoc upon our souls, and the damage can sometimes be irreparable.
It’s gotten worse now with the internet and social media. The struggle to impress our peers has invaded and consumed every minute of our lives. Grace, please understand this: of the entire population of the planet, only an infinitesimal percentage of them will ever be more than anonymous to you. Only the tiniest fraction will ever give you more than a passing glance. You should still love and respect these strangers, but you don’t need to impress them. Be a beacon of charity and truth to everyone, but you don’t need to worry about the opinions and judgments of every single person you happen across on the street.
It doesn’t really matter how they feel about you, yet many of us want to be desirable to everyone, even and especially those we don’t know. We want them to feel something when they look our way. Feel what? I don’t know. Envy. Admiration. Inferiority. A combination of all three, I suppose. We certainly can’t allow them to carry on with their day feeling better, or more attractive, or smarter, or more successful.
A silly way to live, isn’t it? We gain nothing from it, Grace. We do everything we can to impress the unknown faces in the crowd, and where does that get us? Nobody really cares in the end, anyway. Those faces are likely immersed in their own self-absorbed psychological vacuums, and whatever impression we make on them will dissipate as soon as we leave their line of sight.
We’ve all become like puffs of smoke to each other, evaporating just as quickly as we appear.
It’s a vicious, violent, tormenting cycle, and I don’t want you to be a part of it.
I’ll do whatever it takes to see to that, although honestly, I’m not sure what it will take, exactly.
Maybe I can just hold you close and love you.
Will that be enough?
And maybe I can just keep reminding you that you’re beautiful, even now, when you can’t really understand what I’m saying. Maybe if I say it often enough, you’ll believe me.
Will you always believe me?
I hope so. I pray so.
Remember...Mom is one of the very few people on Earth who will tell you the truth about yourself. The truth that, from your first moments in this world, you’ve been like a vision, full of warmth and light. You don’t need to be photoshopped or edited or remade or made up, and you never will. You don’t need a “touch-up” or a “correction.” You were molded by the hands of God and given to us as a gift from Paradise. You don’t need to add fad diets, expensive shoes, and forty layers of makeup to the package.
You will meet a lot of people in this world, and many of them are out to take something from you or sell something to you. So they’ll try to attack your self-image, suffocate your confidence, make you vulnerable, and seize whatever it is they want.
That’s the game.
Never play it.
That’s the lie.
Never believe it.
Never believe it.
I’ll protect you for as long as I can, Grace, but the day will come when I can no longer shield you from it all.
That’s why Matt Walsh wrote this letter (and I am sharing it with you, Grace). For the times when the pressures of the world — the constant, deafening din, screaming “you’re not pretty enough, you’re not good enough” — become a little too heavy to shoulder. Whether it’s 7 years from now, or 17, or 70 — whenever you need a reminder, here it is:
You are beautiful.



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Birthday Wishes

Once again, you picked a few favorite friends to celebrate your birthday - your double digit birthday - at Key Lime Cove. You sure do love that place.  That makes me happy. Making you happy makes me happy.You and your giggly friends enjoyed swimming, sliding, river riding, and the spa. Then there were cookies to decorate, bouncy balls to win, the photobooth squeeze play, and then that kitchen sink sundae! It was a fabulous time! Until next year... Happy Birthday, sweet girl. I love making memories with you.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Life is a Zoo

It's been quite a month for animal antics. We have a nest of three robins growing outside our window. The mama bird is fiercely protective, chirping and flitting from branch to branch when she detects us in the window. Despite her protests, we have managed to get some baby bird pics and footage. Gracie has been delighted with oohs and ahhhs as she checks on them everyday. See how they grow! Today, the nest is quite full and they stand up to meet mama's meal and stretch their wings. We'll see how soon they are booted out of the nest.

If birds weren't enough, Gracie discovered an alligator snapping turtle, an endangered species here in Illinois, while riding her scooter today.
Likely a she on the move to lay her eggs, the snapper was about 12 inches wide and 14 inches long. She had a pile of mud on her back about 7-8 inches thick.  At the urging of some FB turtle lovers, we found her in the ditch and rinsed/pushed off some of the mud from her back so she could move easier.  However, she did quite well crossing the road and getting into that muddy ditch. She had quite a powerful lunge and snap on her! OUCH!
Right along with the animal antics at home, we had a duck parade at school last week.  It seems that a mother duck nests each spring in the courtyard at my school.  The staff outfit the courtyard with a pond and all the corn the duck and her brood can eat.  However, after some time, the ducklings must be allowed out of the courtyard to find food on their own if they are to survive. Sure enough, the mama duck led her ducklings out of the courtyard, through the school hall and outside to find a new home. There was a complication as the runt of the brood was hiding behind the door and was separated from his 11 brothers and sisters, as well as mama.  The trusty custodian had to bring him out by hand. You can hear him the loudest and finally see him catch up to the others once released by the custodian. In fact, he is in such a hurry to catch up, he passes them up speedy quick. I love how the kids, especially my kiddo, gets a kick out of watching the ducks. Their giggles make it even more delightful.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

River Child

Gracie performed the River Child with her fellow classmates, as well as 3rd & 5th graders.  They were amazing. Check out a snippet from their performance:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tulpen Time

What a time we had in Holland, Michigan with our sweet friends, Kelly and Tom (the poser).  You were on a mission, Grace, to capture the essence of the tulip from every angle. It made me smile and I would venture a guess that you might score a camera for your birthday for your creative picture taking pleasure. =) Here are a few shots from the day.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Grace Speaks

Grace speaks:  Today I am thankful for my mother, who provides a home for me.  I am thankful for a roof over my head and I'm thankful for God, who created this world and cares for me.

Today we are visiting with good friends - fremly (friends who love like family) really- Uncle John, Aunt Kristin, UB, & Nick, Ben, Natalie. To Uncle Julio's we go with birthday cake in hand. Happy Birthday, in advance, to our dear UB.  It is a good day to celebrate. If only we had a sunny spring day with NO snow.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Photo by Valerie Wicks Photography
One of the greatest gifts we can bequeath our children is a passion for reading~

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I'm All Ears

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”  ― Catherine M. Wallace

Monday, December 09, 2013

And a Child Shall Lead Them

Months later and here we are busy as ever preparing for the most wonderful time of the year. The Gracie girl has one of the leads in the play at the CUMC, Hotel Bethlehem. As a stable girl at the Hotel Bethlehem, Grace sings about miracles and encourages Joseph to "never forget there is hope." She invites the hotel owner and the Samaritan visitor to offer the Christ child their heart and love as gifts to welcome the Savior. I am thrilled that Grace has an opportunity to shine and share the love of Jesus with others through this children's play. I'm so proud of her and praying for God to use her little...her big voice to point the way from the manger to the cross.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

No One Should Go Hungry

This has been a week of helping. The Great Chicago Food Depository put out a call for help to harvest a field of squash donated by a Morengo farmer.  This is a cause near and dear to our hearts so we volunteered. About 30 people picked over 33,000 pounds of squash in about 4 hours. This provided over 100,000 servings of delicious and healthy squash to Chicagoland families. What is not to love about THAT? Here are a few pics from our Grace FULL Day:

happy helper

baby squash

Grace is learning to use the clippers