What I’m Into (March 2017)

When my fellow author friend Bekah left me a message last week congratulating me, I had no idea what she was talking about… so I quickly hopped online and found out that my book A Different Beautiful is a finalist for the Christian Retailing’s Best Awards this year! Such excitement.

It’s been a season with some hard news – not only our friend Stephanie’s death but other friends and loved ones who are really hurting and facing a lot of loss – and this was such welcomed good news to receive!

Here’s a round-up of what I’ve been into this month – what I’m reading, links I love and favorite family moments…

I plowed through a bunch of great books in January, and have slowed down a little but am still reading more than I ever have before. I’m grateful for more opportunities when I can choose to read and an excellent “to-read” list that gets me excited to keep picking up books.

Most recently, I finished Toxic Charity (such fascinating insights, highly recommend!) and Good as Gone (this one was just OK for me; I liked The Girl on the Train better). This week, I started reading Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorious, Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, and children’s lit The War That Saved My Life.

On my nightstand right now

Connor recently finished the The 13-Story Treehouse and immediately borrowed The 26-Story Treehouse from the library… and two days later, when I asked him if he wanted to read a chapter with me, he said “I’m already done!” So, apparently, these are good reads 🙂

We also discovered a series at the library by Harry N. Abrams that focuses on girls and science, and my kids love it. We’ve read Ada Twist, Scientist and Rosie Revere, Engineer so far. The books are really cute and encourage imagination, exploration and innovation.
I had such a blast last week chatting on The Conversation Cafe podcast with Bekah Shaffer. Pour some coffee and come join us for a listen!

I read this article on International Women’s Day and thought it spoke such truth about the way that churches can show value and support women.

I love that of all the names that Jesus could have come up for Himself, He used the word Emmanuel. God with us. There’s something beautiful when you’re with people.” I absolutely love this article from Bob Goff that he wrote for Ann Voskamp’s blog!

After weeks of winter cookouts, bike rides and short sleeves, we got a change…Mother Nature can’t quite make up her mind here in the Midwestern United States!Sharing our family’s story at the Why Not You Today conference – what a privilege to speak to groups of women and learn from their experiences as well.
This silly girl and I got to indulge in pancakes for IHOP’s National Pancake Day in support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals!

Speaking of Children’s Miracle Network… these two cute faces were having fun shooting photos for CMN promotion for our local children’s hospital!A little indoor winter swim with his Cub Scout troop…
ALL THE BOOKS. Love our library time!

Have a wonderful week!

My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!

Interested in reading more with your kids about differences and being yourself? You can download a guide to the best children’s books on differences and disabilities when you subscribe to my monthly email newsletter!  Follow me on  Facebook and Instagram.

When my daughter asked why people always question her appearance

She gazed out the window as we pulled out of the grocery story parking lot, a look of thoughtfulness across her face.

“Mama,” she said in a tone not hurt, but pondering. Perhaps a little confused. “Why does everyone always ask why my face is red?”

My body reacts – chest tightening, stomach turning – each time I am presented with this kind of situation… an experience where Brenna’s skin differences are called to the forefront, when I know all she wants is to engage as a typical child, not as someone who is viewed as so “different” that all conversation and reaction revolves around her skin.

I was glad she couldn’t see the strained look on my face, because she notices the slightest changes in expressions, as I responded. “Well, your skin looks a little different that most people’s skin. And since those people haven’t seen skin like yours before, they want to know why you have special skin.”

She contemplated that and was appeased by my response.

But I didn’t give my full answer to that question on that car ride home. There is a second part to explaining why we field questions about Brenna’s appearance nearly every single time we go out in public.

Yes, adults want to know why because they are curious, maybe even concerned. But the hard truth is that they then choose to ask why immediately because they place their own curiosity above another person’s feelings.

We’re not four-year-olds trying to figure out the world. As adults, we know people are different. We know disabilities and differences exist, and we know what genes and chromosomes are, and we know that accidents and war and illnesses happen.

So maybe the first words out of our mouths shouldn’t be a question about someone’s appearance or disability. Maybe the first words out of our mouths should show that we value another person as a fellow human.

I believe that God gives us a unique opportunity when we encounter someone who is different than we are: to choose connection over curiosity.

When we can begin a conversation with a smile, with a “hello, how are you doing today?”, we seek to bridge by recognizing our sameness instead of divide by pointing out our differences. It is in this same regard that we can address a child’s (often inevitable) questions about differences – helping them to relate, showing them how to connect by introducing themselves, and educating them that we are all different.

I’ve been told by other adults that they feel uncomfortable when they see someone with a disability or physical difference, not knowing what to say, how to say it. Let’s not make this harder than it is; simply treat them as you would anyone else. A person is a person is a person.

I offer this gentle reminder to myself, to my children, and to others: while this is the first time you may have seen this condition, disability or physical marking, it has likely been the opening question or topic of conversation for that person nearly every time they go out in public.

I can’t speak for other parents who have children with differences and disabilities. But many whom I’ve talked with agree that they don’t mind educating about their child’s condition or illness… yet they would rather not have to field questions all day long. Life is much more beautiful when we can see our sameness first, and then find appreciation in learning about our differences.
A couple of years ago, I was pushing my kids on the swings at the park on a rare warm day in the late winter. We were thrilled by temperatures that were ideal for Brenna (since she has trouble regulating her body temperature and the outdoors can be tricky) and jumped at the chance to spend some time outside.

A woman was pushing her child next to me and pleasantly struck up conversation with me. When she mentioned how nice the weather was, I told her I was especially glad for the temperature because “my daughter has a skin disorder that sometimes makes it hard to be outdoors if it’s too hot or cold.” And the conversation continued on from there.

I’m sure she was wondering, and I gave her the answer. But it was within a nice conversation where she made it clear that we were just another family at the park to her. She chose to connect with us first, instead of immediately asking. She chose to listen before questioning.

What an opportunity we are given when we meet those around us every day who are different than us…and what a gift we can give, and receive, when we choose to prioritize another person’s feelings and humanity above satisfying our own immediate curiosity.

My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!

Interested in reading more with your kids about differences and being yourself? You can download a guide to the best children’s books on differences and disabilities when you subscribe to my monthly email newsletter!  Follow me on  Facebook and Instagram.