{Celebrating Beautiful} Your Child Is Already Accepted, by Teri Lynne Underwood

In blogging for the last 5 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: parenthood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
 
I got to meet Teri Lynne Underwood when we both attended the She Speaks conference in 2014 (I think I say that a lot – I made so many friends there that I still keep in touch with!) Teri Lynne was further along than me in the writing and parenting journey, and she has been a tremendous encouragement and resource to learn from. She is always quick to make time for me and share what she knows and has experienced. Teri Lynne just released her first book, Praying for Girls: Asking God for the Things They Need Most, and it is SO good! Be sure to grab a copy if you are in the middle of mothering to a daughter! 
Here is Teri Lynne Underwood on Celebrating Beautiful…

From my spot in the parking lot, I watched as students poured out from the high school as the final bell rang. I saw couples walking hand in hand, groups of boys laughing, and girls engaged in what looked like serious conversation.

As I continued to wait for my daughter to exit the building, I noticed the slumped girl with her head bowed.  She shuffled to her car, just a few spaces away from where I was parked.  My heart ached for this girl I didn’t know. Her demeanor revealed the discouragement as heavy at the book bag on her back.

I wondered what her story was, who was waiting for her at home, when she’d last been encouraged.

As my own girl climbed in the car, I asked about the girl I’d seen. “She’s a loner, Mom. She never talks, and I’ve never seen her with anyone.”

And, from there, my girl launched in her own animated description of her day, my questions already forgotten in her enthusiasm.

By the time we got home, I knew about all the antics that had taken place that day at the high school.  Casiday did her homework, and I started supper.  But the picture of that heavy-hearted girl kept surfacing.

I whispered a prayer as I finished our meal preparations.

Again, I found myself wondering what the girl’s story was.  Was anyone at her house preparing her dinner? Who would help her study for the Chemistry test? Who was there to love and accept her, just like she was?

It’s what we all want, right? To be accepted fully and lovingly.

And it’s what we want for our children as well.  We long for them to avoid the sting of rejections, the pang of loneliness. But, we know there will be days when our babies do know the heartbreak of being unaccepted.

How can we prepare them? How can we help them navigate the inevitable relationship struggles they will face?

In seventeen years of parenting, I have found the best answer is this: to remind them time and again of the acceptance they have in Christ.

Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother, the One who will never leave or forsake them, the one who has chosen and called them by name.

It’s a lesson we keep teaching, a truth we keep repeating. Because it’s the truth that can change everything. When the days come and your son or daughter aches from being left out or different, make sure you’ve laid a foundation upon which to build, a foundation of truth and hope found in Scripture.

We all crave acceptance—but the freeing truth is, we already are accepted by the One who fashioned us and created us in His own image.

Here are a few verses I love to speak over my daughter to remind her of the acceptance she has in Christ…

For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. Ephesians 1:4

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:16

The Lord is near to all who call out to him, all who call out to him in integrity. Psalm 145:18

We all crave acceptance—but the freeing truth is, we already are accepted by the One who fashioned us and created us in His own image.

Teri Lynne Underwood is a pastor’s wife, ministry speaker, and Bible teacher. As the founder of www.PrayersforGirls.com and mother of a 17-year-old daughter, Teri Lynne is a cheerleader for girl moms and the author of Praying for Girls: Asking God for the Things They Need Most. Connect with Teri Lynne on  Facebook and Instagram.

{Celebrating Beautiful} Not Just a Face Only a Mother Can Love, by Kathy McClelland

In blogging for the last 5 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: parenthood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
 
I connected with Kathy McClelland when she joined my book’s launch team. And I was so interested when Kathy came out with her own book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, which details her son’s unexpected special needs diagnosis and provides gentle and affirming guidance for parents of children with special needs. Learning from other parents has been tremendously beneficial to us, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know Kathy and her family’s story.
Here is Kathy McClelland on Celebrating Beautiful…

The night my son Nathan was born he made a sour face.

The labor and delivery nurse said to me, “That’s a face only a mother can love.”

I was too drugged post-surgery to process what she said, let alone respond with something I would’ve said to my then three-year-old like, “That’s not very nice!”

Almost four years later, her words still sting when I think about them, especially because we were in the midst of discovering our little boy was born with birth defects. Nathan has abnormalities affecting his brain, spine, heart, and kidneys. He was later diagnosed with Cri du chat syndrome, a rare (1 in 50,000 births) chromosomal disorder.

Almost everything about him is different. Aside from his obvious facial differences, he eats with a feeding tube, needs to be catheterized intermittently, and still isn’t walking or talking. Yet these differences are no reason to say he’s a child only a mother can love.

In his short life, Nathan has managed to win his way into the hearts of family members, friends, therapists, caregivers, medical professionals, and teachers. His eye contact is piercing at times. He freely gives his affection to people by making kissing sounds and leaning in for hugs. And although he generally has a flat affect, when he does smile it lights up a room and leads people into sweet, joyful laughter.

His presence is a gift. It’s not because of what he does or doesn’t do. It’s because of who he is–a very sweet boy buried within a syndrome that entraps his mind and body.

All too often, I think that nurse’s comment reflects a general attitude many people have toward those who are different – oppressed, needy, weak – whether they would openly say those things or not. As a society, we are often afraid and put off by other’s differences, rather than in search of their beauty.

Looking back, I see how God was working to redeem and heal that nurse’s hurtful words.

Three special friends offered to come to the NICU and hold Nathan when we couldn’t be there. They rotated through a schedule of early morning and late nights shifts. These ladies showed up to love Nathan, proving that he wasn’t just a baby only a mother can love.

It was a beautiful expression of love for a boy who will likely be overlooked and judged by many. NICU nurses would later talk about these three ladies as the “baby holders” and “church ladies” who took such good care of him. Their love for Nathan impacted not only our family, but the NICU staff as well. They chose to openly care for him even though he is different.

From the outside, my son isn’t the typical portrait of beautiful. But on the inside he offers great beauty. My little boy is teaching me there is beauty in differences and that he is most definitely not just the face only a mother could love.

Kathy McClelland is the author of Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent. Her second son was born with a rare (1 in 50,000 births) chromosomal disorder which catapulted her into the world of special needs parenting. A former marketing manager, she now blogs at kathymcclelland.com about finding beauty and hope in the midst of broken dreams. She is also a regular contributor to PreemieBabies101.com and has published on TheMighty.com, EllenStumbo.com and Sparkhouse.org. She lives with her husband and sons in Austin, Texas.