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Dear Emma:

There’s so many things that I could share with you about kindness, but the reality is, my love, you continuously show me what a kind heart truly looks like. Whether it be from your Sunday School teachers telling me how you love to find visitors who don’t know anyone and invite them to sit by you so they don’t feel alone or whether it be from other parents telling me about the sweet notes of encouragement you have written to make your basketball team friends feel so special, I have seen over and over a heart within you that genuinely cares about other people. I want you to know, sweet girl, that is such a beautiful quality that I pray you will always hold within your heart.

One thing I have always believed is that the greatest test of kindness is how we treat others who have wronged us. I will admit that it’s not an easy thing to do. In fact, let me just say that I am far from perfect, and I am still a work in progress with forgiving others. Sometimes I get it right, while other times I can  fail miserably…especially when it comes to those I love being hurt or mistreated. But I want to share a memory with you of a story that I posted on my Facebook page last year because it had such an impact on me. I share it with the hope that you will never forget how God used you to remind me of what kindness and forgiveness is all about.

“I saw it with my own eyes yesterday–a girl being anything but kind to my daughter. I have to tell you that every part of me wanted to go mama bear crazy and let this girl and her little group of friends know exactly what I thought about their mean behavior. Somehow I waited, but after we left the pool Emma got an earful. Everything from how she didn’t deserve this constant rejection (this has happened repeatedly with this girl) to the fact that I cannot sit by all summer and watch this girl act in such a mean way. Something had to be done. We discussed possible ways of handling it. Robb, of course, was more than willing to handle it and told us several things he was going to say the next time he saw her (Gulp). Emma assured him that she wanted to handle it…to which I was in full agreement. We went to bed and prayed asking the Lord to help us handle the situation. The next morning when Emma came downstairs the first thing she told me was that she had thought about it and had decided to share Ephesians 4:32 with her friend: ‘Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as  God in Christ forgave you.’ There’s so much I love about this. First, instead of getting caught up in all the drama, she choose to use God’s truth to direct her words, and I love how God laid this verse on her heart overnight. We had not even talked about this verse, yet she woke up with it on her heart. But as I thought about it, perhaps the most powerful thing is how the Lord put that verse on her heart not just for her friend but for ME because the second part of the verse had MY name all over it–‘Forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.’ As I thought about it, I had spoken to Emma about making sure that we don’t respond unkindly because that is not what Jesus would want, but not once did I ever mention forgiving this unkind friend. I was too riled up to even think about that, but as my sweet girl quoted the verse to me, it was as if God Himself was telling me with a megaphone, ‘As quick as you are to expect people to be kind–I expect you to forgive because I have forgiven you.’ Hence, whether forgiving comes easy or not, it’s what God has instructed us to do. So today we will head to the pool and do just that. We will be kind, we will forgive, and we will know without a doubt that we are pleasing God and doing what is right. Is there really anything greater? And the best part is–when we lay our heads on our pillows tonight we will have no regrets. Thank you, Lord, for showing up and showing this mama’s heart Your perspective and Your heart. Help me not to get caught up in how I FEEL about situations but to respond in what I KNOW is right and true. Help me to see others through Your eyes and to always be willing to forgive just as You have forgiven me.”

The reality is, lovey, whether we are 10 or 45, we all want to be loved, appreciated, and valued by others. We all  want to matter. Often, friendship makes our lives so much sweeter and makes us feel so special, but it can also bitterly disappoint us when it fails to meet our hopes and expectations. And it’s in these moments when we have been hurt or disappointed that we have to make sure that we don’t let it change our hearts and who we are. Regardless of what others do, we must remember that we are responsible for our own actions and how we respond to others, and we can never go wrong by showing kindness and forgiveness. No matter what, I also want you to always remember that there is a FOREVER FRIEND who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) and who has promised to NEVER leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b) and who will meet our EVERY need. In fact, He loves us so fiercely that He even gave His life for us. And because of that, we can CELEBRATE that in Him there is no greater friend. We can look to Him to learn how to show genuine kindness, forgiveness, and love because He alone is the author of love and kindness and the only perfect example to follow.

Love you forever,

Mom

Dear Emma:

If I had to pick a quality that everyone struggles with at some time or another, it would be humility. The reason why this can be a struggle, sweet girl, is because it goes against the very core of our human nature. The truth is: deep down inside, all of us want to matter. We all want to be significant. And sometimes that pursuit can take over within us and cause us to look for our value and worth from our accomplishments, to seek constant approval and applause from others, and to base our identity on what others think rather than what our Creator has told us in His Word. That is why it is so important that you know who you are in God’s eyes, for not only will it give you the confidence that you need in life but it will also keep you grounded in truth and humility as you understand that it’s not about who we are…but rather, it’s all about whose we are and His work within us.

One thing that I have learned along the way is that when we know who we are in God’s eyes, we are able to believe in ourselves and the incredible plan that God has for our lives. Now, I’m not talking about exalting ourselves, bragging, or constantly singing our own praises. Definitely not that. What I am talking about is a confidence that we are uniquely made and have talents, ideas, and abilities that were given to us by God. Often, I have seen that people who are confident are looked on as prideful while those who are constantly putting themselves down and who are unable to accept a compliment are considered humble. However, the reality is that those who are constantly focusing on their insecurities, putting themselves down, and paralyzing themselves with fears of failure are actually the ones struggling with pride because the focus is always on themselves–what they can’t do, what they don’t have, and what they will never be–rather that on who God has created them to be and what He has called them to do. When we truly believe that God’s power is within us and that He will do exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), we can be confident and humble both at the same time because we know that it’s not about us and it’s all about Him.

If you look in Proverbs 31, you will see a woman who knew who she was and had the confidence to live it out. In fact, not only was she confident but everything she had her hand in turned out to be successful. What I find interesting, is that not once do you read about her second guessing herself, questioning her abilities, or giving up in defeat. No, it was quite the opposite. This woman never stopped using what God had given her to live out what He had called her to do. She was able to accomplish so much because she didn’t waste time standing around wringing her hands on what she did or did not have; instead, she was confident in how God made her, how he gifted her, and how He would use her. Thus, we can see from her example that not only is its okay to be confident in who we are in Christ, but it is essential. Lovey, here’s what I hope you never forget: You are created in God’s image, you are His child, and He loves you fiercely and has a phenomenal plan for your life. If you will hold on to these truths, you will be confident and that confidence will not be one that is prideful and focused on yourself, but rather one that is rooted in the understanding that any success or accomplishment gained is from God at work within you and all glory goes to Him (I Corinthians 1:31).

The Bible has a lot to say about pride. In fact, it’s one of the 6 things that the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:17) making it something we should all take very seriously and guard against. Scripture also tells us that pride leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18). So how do we keep pride from creeping into our hearts? Well, the best example of who we can learn from is Jesus. In Matthew 10:10-28, the disciples were arguing over who would sit by Jesus in His Kingdom (which by the way, this was not the only time their prideful hearts wanted to know who was the greatest). Patiently, Jesus answered them by saying, “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” That really is the key, my love. If we want to live a life of humility, we must keep our eyes focused on pleasing Jesus and using our lives to help and serve others. I love what C.S. Lewis says: “It’s not thinking less about yourself; it’s thinking about yourself less.” Therefore, when we choose to think about ourselves less and to focus our hearts on others, we can avoid falling into the trap of pride and selfishness because once again, it’s not about us but rather about the opportunities all around us to help others and make a difference.

Here’s the best part of all–when we have a servant’s heart and live with humility, God has promised to bless us and honor our faithfulness. I remember as a teenager working at a teen camp every summer. It was an absolute blast, and it is where I began singing. Each week, I had the privilege of singing at all the meetings and even got to do a full concert every Friday night. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. However, I need to tell you that in addition to my singing responsibilities, I was also given the job of cleaning the girl’s bathroom every day. Now, I’m not talking about your nice clean little bathroom upstairs–I’m talking about one shared by 100 or more teenage girls! Let’s just say that it was far from glamorous! I remember mopping that nasty bathroom floor and cleaning some very dirty toilets one day, and for some reason I began singing “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). I’m pretty sure that He doesn’t have to lift you very high to be higher than cleaning bathrooms. LOL! But here’s what I learned: if we will be faithful and have a humble, servant’s heart in the small, thankless tasks in life, then we can be trusted with the larger opportunities down the road. “Before honor is humility” (Proverbs 15:33). I have often thought about all of those days cleaning bathrooms, and I find it so interesting that it was also the same time that God opened up the doors for me to sing and to do what I absolutely loved to do and what I am still blessed to do to this very day. I want you to always remember that God honors humility, my sweet girl. It’s not to be confused with insecurity. In fact, it’s far from it. Humility is confident, it’s bold, and it comes from a heart that loves God and loves people. Micah 6:8 sums it up best, “He has shown you, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Love You Always, Mom

 

 

Dear Emma:

The other day I was going through some papers and came across one that I will always treasure and just had to put into a frame. Apparently, you had been in Vacation Bible School and had been asked the question, “What is an example of something that really scared you, but you chose to be brave and overcame that fear?” You listed the following: getting bucked off of a horse, going down a big zip line, and getting baptized. Oh, how I vividly remember all of the above. In fact, my stomach still gets a little nervous thinking about them.

It’s a good thing, lovey, that I wasn’t there when you got bucked off that horse or you might not have been allowed back on that crazy thing! However, after your daddy recovered from seeing you flying through the air and knew you were fine, he helped you get back on the horse because he knew how much horses meant to you. So, with a determined look in your eye, you climbed back on that horse and have been riding ever since. Way to go! By choosing to face your fear, you have been able to continue to do what you absolutely love to do the most. So proud of you, sweet girl!

Now, the zip line, that’s another story…that ended up being more like you helping me face my fear! I’ll never forget how excited you and daddy were to take the plunge off of the platform that loomed 40 ft. off the ground! I, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with it. Being far from a thrill-seeker and, as you know, one that struggles with motion-sickness, going on a zip line was definitely not in my plans for that day (or any day), but I was very happy to watch you…happy until I heard these words:

“I will only go down the zip line if mommy goes with me.”

My heart sank because I knew in that moment there was no way out because how could I help you conquer your fear so that you could enjoy a phenomenal experience that I knew you would love, if I wasn’t willing to conquer my own? I remember you being so torn with wanting to go so badly but being completely scared to do so. I knew in my heart this was a defining moment: would we turn away in fear or step out into it?

After thinking through the whole situation,  I very reluctantly agreed to do the zip line with you and began to put the harness on…all the while wondering what in the world was I thinking. These kinds of things truly terrify me, make me sick, and present a very real possibility of looking like a complete spectacle with arms and legs flailing wildly out of control the whole way down. Yet, I knew that despite all of the above, this was a life lesson for both of us, so I took a very deep breath and continued on.

Seconds before stepping off the wooden platform, I began to second guess the whole thing and even said, “I really don’t think I can do this!” But as I looked over at you standing next to me on your platform and saw the way you were beaming with excitement to do the zip line side-by-side with me, I knew I couldn’t back down.

So, before I could change my mind, I closed my eyes, took another deep breath, and stepped off the platform into the air. My stomach and heart both felt like they had risen into my throat, I never moved a muscle throughout the whole ordeal (pretty sure I was in shock), and to add to my terror I ended up going backwards the whole way down! Yes, backwards! Do you remember that? Nothing like not knowing when or how you are going to land on your very first trip down! You, on the other hand, squealed with delight and LOVED every moment of it as you gracefully glided through the air with your arms outstretched like a princess. You went on to do it several more times and even got choked up when we had to leave. 

Beyond just being happy that I survived the whole ordeal, I walked away knowing that we had both experienced an important life lesson that when we face our fears we can conquer them. Life has so many things in store for both of us and what a great reminder to not let fear hold us back.

The last example you gave was probably one of your greatest fears: getting baptized. You accepted Jesus into your heart when you were three years old and you were not afraid to tell everyone about it. You have always been bold like that. However, getting up in front of the whole church was a different story, so we knew you needed to wait until you were ready. When our neighbor’s daughter (whom you greatly admire) got baptized, we thought you would be inspired to follow her example and do the same. But much to our surprise, we left that service and you emphatically proclaimed, “I am NEVER doing that!”  Thus, we decided that we would not push at all and let you work through your fear no matter how long it took. Again, much to our surprise, you decided out of the blue after a church service that you wanted to get baptized the very next Sunday which also happened to be Mother’s Day. You didn’t want us to tell anyone ahead of time or make a big deal out of it. (Who me??? I don’t make a big deal out of anything! I can’t imagine what you were talking about! LOL!) I’ll never forget how nervous you were, but your mind was made up and you followed through with your decision to follow Jesus in Believer’s Baptism. Your dad and I were so proud of you and our hearts were just bursting with excitement as we watched you so bravely plunge into the waters and rise out of them with such a huge smile on your face! Yet one more example of rising above your fear and for sure the best Mother’s Day gift ever!

The truth is, lovey, we all have fears. The Bible is full of examples of people who could have been paralyzed by fear. Think of how Moses and the Israelites must have felt when the Egyptians were chasing them down to kill them. As they passed through the waters of the Red Sea that had been parted, I’m sure they felt a little panicky and wondered if the waters were going to stay parted for them or if the Egyptians were going to catch up to them. And how about Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den with no way out? How terrifying was that? Or what about Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego who were thrown into the fiery furnace? Just seeing the flames and smelling the smoke would have done me in! None of these people knew if they would even make it out alive, yet they chose to rise above their fear and to place their complete trust in God.

I don’t have to tell you that life is hard sometimes. Unfortunately, you’ve heard a lot of words lately that I wish you never had to hear. Words like Pneumonia, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Alzheimer’s and Hospitals. You and I have been praying every night in bed for all of these things, and you’ve watched me do my best to be brave when, if I’m honest, my heart has been heavy and scared. But my prayer is that through it all, you have seen the way God has carried our family through. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and to give us strength and courage when we cry out to Him. I hope you never forget that, sweet girl. No matter what happens, God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is always with you! He is your strength, your help, and your everything (Psalm 124:8).

A famous quote by John Wayne that I know you’ll love is: Fear is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.

So, you keep saddling up, sweet girl, and know that God is with you and your daddy and I are here cheering you on and ready at any point to help you face your fear…even if we have to jump 40 feet to conquer it!

Love you forever, Mom

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Dear Emma:

A few years ago, I was out of town singing and you went with our neighbor Miss Julie and her daughter Kayla to an event at their school. While riding in the backseat of their car, Kayla mentioned that she had to write some thank you notes when she got home. You were only about 7 or 8 years old and your response was, “Oh, that’s your life too?” When Miss Julie told me the story, we both chuckled, but actually the more I thought about it, I couldn’t have been more proud of you as your mom because in that moment I knew that you got it! You truly understood that showing gratefulness is not a one-time thing, but rather it is what we do for a lifetime.

Lovey, we live in a world where gratefulness is sometimes hard to find. People don’t always see the importance of recognizing when others give of their time, money, and heart, and it can even come across like it’s expected rather than appreciated. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Ungratefulness has always been around. Even the Bible shares a story of blatant ungratefulness in Luke 17. As Jesus entered a village, he was met by 10 men with a serious skin disease. In fact, their disease was so bad that these men had to live separated from their families and society. Talk about a lonely and miserable life! These desperate men stood afar off from Jesus and lifted up their voices begging Jesus to have mercy and heal them. Jesus told them to go to the priest and show themselves, and as they went they were healed. After the fact, when they each saw that they were healed, only one returned to thank Jesus and give Him the glory. Wow. I can’t imagine being healed from such a miserable disease and not thanking the One who healed me. Yet, when we get too busy and do not choose to show our thankfulness to God and to those around us, we are just as the other nine lepers whose hearts were self-absorbed rather than grateful.

Gratefulness is a choice of the heart, a choice to recognize and give thanks for acts of kindness and deeds of love by those around us. 

I want you to know that I love the way you so willingly show your gratefulness by making beautiful cards for your teachers, writing thank you notes for all your birthday and Christmas gifts (pretty sure your record is 25 thank you notes that you wrote for your Nancy Drew Birthday Party last year) and for the way you always say thank you with big hugs to those who do nice things for you. Don’t ever change that, sweet girl, for not only does it bless other people but it also creates within you a grateful heart. And I truly believe that there’s nothing sweeter or more beautiful than when we are grateful for all the good things in our lives and for all the people who have shown us kindness and love.

Love you forever, Mom

 

My girl has always loved butterflies…so much so that we have often affectionately called her the Butterfly Whisperer. Without hardly even trying, she not only can catch the most beautiful butterflies, but she can convince them to stay perched on her finger and even her nose for the longest time. I’m convinced the second they lay eyes on her they know they are loved forever.

Such was the case this past weekend as Emma and her daddy went down to the meadow on a mission to catch the first butterfly of the season. It didn’t take long at all and she gleefully raced home with the most beautiful yellow swallowtail that I have ever seen. For Emma, it truly was love at first sight and all she wanted to do was hold this little creature and gaze at its beauty. However, her joy was short lived and foreshadowed by the fact that she knew she was going to have to eventually let this little creature that had stolen her heart go free.

 

She quickly busied herself by making a temporary home for what was in her mind the newest member of our family. After doing research online, she learned that butterflies eat flowers, overripe fruit and drink water. So off she went to find all of the above to equip the butterflies’ new sanctuary with everything it would need. However, that night just before bed and after having a little talk with daddy, it was decided that it was time to let the butterfly go. So Emma went out on the deck and took the little creature out of her butterfly holder, choked out a goodbye, and raised her finger to release it only to have the craziest thing happen – the butterfly would not leave her finger. Instead, it stayed there contentedly perched for the next 20 minutes. As if we needed this drama to drag out anymore than it already had! Emma was elated that the butterfly didn’t have any intention of leaving, so she lovingly put it back in its cage and decided it would be fun to watch TV together before bed.  Hence, there they sat in the living room all snuggled up together. It was at that point that I began to realize we had a problem. With every passing moment, Emma was getting more and more attached which I knew was going to make the inevitable goodbye even more difficult.

At bedtime, Emma said goodnight to her butterfly and got it all settled into its cozy little cage. As we went upstairs to her room, Emma chattered endlessly about butterflies and realized that we needed to pick out a name. I fumbled around and was at a complete loss because all I could think about was how sad she was going to be letting a newly named and thoroughly loved butterfly go. It didn’t take her long to choose one, however, and she quickly told me that she was going to name her April because that is when she met and fell in love with this sweet butterfly. She cheerfully kissed me good night and laid her head down on her pillow. As we laid there in the dark, I found myself actually wondering if it was even possible to have a pet butterfly. I envisioned us now having to find someone to watch our dog and our butterfly whenever we left town. Just when I thought my girl was starting to drift off, she broke the silence and startled me out of my thoughts by asking me if butterflies pee. Wow, laughingly, I told her that I would have to get back to her on that. (All I can say is thank the Lord for Google.)  Moments later, I kissed her head again and said good night and left her room, but it wasn’t even five minutes later when she came into my room with crocodile tears clouding her big blue eyes.

My heart sunk. I knew exactly why she was there.”Mommy, I love April and don’t want to let her go.” I gave her a big hug and assured her that everything was going to be okay. I told her not to worry about it and that we would figure out something in the morning. I got her all settled back in bed and then went to crawl into my own bed. It wasn’t long before those same crocodile tears filled my eyes. Oh, how I knew all about not wanting to let go. Why, in just a few short weeks my girl will have another birthday and will be in the double digits which only emphasizes how fast time is flying by despite my wish to keep her by my side forever. Okay, I knew I had to pull myself together before my husband came to bed and found me a complete mess over this silly little butterfly that had taken over our hearts. So with a sigh, I took a deep breath and said a little prayer for my sweet little girl in the next room over asking God to hold her precious little heart.

Morning came and Emma marched out of her room with a new resolve and a change of heart. After thinking about it, she realized that it would not be best for April if we kept her. April needed to be free to live her life in her own habitat. So Emma picked up April’s cage and took her in the living room to spend a little time together and then she bravely took her to our driveway as we all gathered around and watched her go. April flew around us as if saying goodbye and then happily flew off. We stood and smiled as we watched her go knowing that everything would be alright and that we would never forget this beautiful little creature that had touched our hearts.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I saw that Emma was okay and watched her skip away, I had my own little moment because I know someday I will be standing in the same driveway doing the very same thing with my little girl. And although I may have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I will smile and know that it’s going to be okay as she happily flies towards her dreams. So until then I will savor every moment, every butterfly, every colored picture, and every memory that we share together. And when that day comes, I will bravely turn to her and say:

You fly, sweet girl, just like your little butterfly and always know that I am here smiling and cheering you on because no matter where you go you will forever be close to my heart.

 

Oh, one more thing, as I was finishing up writing this blog yesterday, I got a phone call from Emma on her way home from school. She was so excited to talk with me she couldn’t wait until she got home to ask, “Mom, my classmate has a turtle that needs a home. Can we have him?” I will only let you guess my response to that question!!!

FIND YOUR WINGS

It’s only for a moment you are mine to hold
The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I’ll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I’ll want to know
You’re walking in the truth
And If I never told you
I want you to know
As I watch you grow

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

May passion be the wind
That leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong
Guide you on your way
May there be many moments
That make your life so sweet
Oh, but more than memories

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

It’s not living if you don’t reach for the sky
I’ll have tears as you take off
But I’ll cheer as you fly

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

Written by Mark R. Harris, Tony W. Wood • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

 

  • Linda Blass - You have so beautifully captured what everyone must do as we mature. First we are the one who must be confident enough of ourselves to say goodbye. If needed, we need that strong base a little while longer, it will still be there. Then, we must be strong enough to give our children that base.

    As a Christian, like the butterfly we find new life in Christ. We must leave behind some of our habits and more base nature in order to become what God intends us to be.ReplyCancel

  • Leanne Perkins - Paula,

    It’s such a blessing God gives us to be able to translate these events into our personal lives, struggles and victories. My baby will be 16 this year and all the talk around our house now is drivers licenses and college tours…and moving far away from the nest that has nurtured and protected her. Sometimes when I look at my Emma I still see that blonde ringletted little girl old who professed to never want to leave home or me. That image is always broken by the emerging young woman before me and my heart both breaks and soars in that moment. I’m both apprehensive imagining her off on her own away from my watchful eye and excited for her independence and future. I only get through each day, each fear, each wistful longing to be able to start over by the grace of God. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel