Losing in a Princess Pageant

This past weekend, I took Riley to a Princess event where little girls could meet “Cinderella,” “Ariel,” and “Aurora.” They were able to get their pictures taken with them, and were able to sing and dance with them while they did little performances. It was basically Riley’s 3 year old dream come true :).





After 2 hours of the meet & greet and performances, they had a “Little Princess Pageant” where the little girls at the event would take turns walking down a red carpet holding the hand of one of the Disney princesses then they would wave and twirl on stage. There would be a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner. I had not planned on letting Riley compete in this pageant, but when she saw the crowns that they were giving away as the prizes and I realized that there were only 4 other little girls there anyway (so her chances of winning something were pretty high), I gave in and let her do it.




I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that I was surprised when Riley didn’t place (I’m such a typical parent, aren’t I? I forget that not everyone is as captivated with my child as I am!). When Riley realized this, she collapsed into my arms in heavy tears. Let me tell you: my mamma heart shattered into a thousand pieces. I’m not sure my heart had ever hurt so badly for my daughter. I felt her pain, and it took every ounce of willpower for me to hold back my own tears as I comforted her. That moment itself crushed me, but what also consumed my heart was the realization that this is only the beginning. I am so not ready for this part of parenting! The part where I have to watch my kids get rejected or heartbroken.  I can handle dirty diapers.  I can’t handle the heartbreak.    

Granted, I don’t think Riley really understood what had happened. In her little 3 year old world, I think she was actually just upset that she didn’t get a crown. I don’t think she understood that she had lost and other girls had won. She’s too young to compare herself to other girls and wonder what she is lacking or wonder if she is good enough. But I know that is coming eventually, and I can barely stand the thought of it.

As we drove home, Riley said “I’m so sorry, Mama.” Just when I had thought that every part of my heart had already been shattered, I realized there was still more that shattered right then. I quickly consoled her, telling her that I love her so much and that she didn’t need to apologize for anything! I love her just as she is, no matter what. I don’t need her to win any silly pageant or to get a special Princess crown. I couldn’t bear the thought of her thinking that she needed to apologize to me! I want more than anything for Riley to know just how much I love her and delight in her. I want her to know that I am completely smitten with her. I am captivated by her, regardless of how she performs in life or whether or not she succeeds in her endeavors. She will always be enough for me, exactly how she is. I don’t want a single part of her to change or be like anybody else. Even if she fails at every single thing she attempts in life, it doesn’t change the way I see her or love her for even an iota of a second. My heart will always be enthralled by her.

And then it hit me. There was a deeper lesson here for me. God was whispering, “This is how I feel about you, my daughter. I am enthralled by you. Completely captivated, just the way you are. I don’t want you to change or to be anybody else. Regardless of how you perform or if you succeed, you are enough. Even if you fail at every single thing you attempt in life, it doesn’t change the way I see you or love you for a second.”

And I was floored. I know this is true, but I don’t think I ever really understood how it could be true, until I have experienced this as a parent with a daughter. I am God’s daughter, and He wants me to be me. He doesn’t compare me to anyone else. And yet over and over again I say to him, “I’m so sorry” for who I am  – just like Riley said to me. As if He is disappointed in me – something I feel and fear often.

Before I had Riley, I was on staff with a College Campus Ministry with Greek (fraternity and sorority) students for 4 years. There was someone else on staff before I got there, and under his leadership he ministry had over 100 students involved in it. Then he left staff, and I got his job. Over my 4 years as the staff, I watched the ministry dwindle and dwindle, until it finally died during my last year. I cannot tell you how much shame I feel from that. I have carried so much baggage from the experience, feeling like a complete failure. I have often internalized it as something being wrong with me. “If only I were different.” “If only I was more like that person on staff, and less like myself.” “Who I am is a detriment.” “My personality isn’t good for anything. I am a liability.”

As if who I am is an accident. As if life is a Princess pageant I’m competing in, but not getting placed. As if there are other princesses that are receiving the crowns of God’s approval, while I watch from the sidelines.

It’s not easy to translate the way I feel about Riley to my understanding of God’s relationship to me.  But I know that He wants me to.  I cannot fathom God enjoying me and delighting in me even half as much as I do Riley, and yet He does even MORE.  He is capable of perfect love, and He lavishes it on me generously. 

I wonder how different my future might be if I believe this and live freely in this truth, rather than being constantly crippled by my fear of failure and belief that who I am is not good enough.  I wonder how much my heart might soar and thrive or how much more I might instinctively serve and love others when I stop living like I’m competing in a silly princess pageant.  I already have His approval.  Christ is the crown that guarantees my acceptance.  I don’t need to live threatened by others.   When others succeed, it doesn’t mean anything about me. Even harder to swallow is the fact that when I fail, THAT doesn’t mean anything about who I am, ultimately.  I am His.  And that is never going to change. 


Cute Mom or Wet, Tired Dog?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a women’s conference called “Pursue the Passion” with one of my best friends and our little babies. The worship leader was Meredith Andrews and the keynote speaker was Jen Hatmaker (my blogger/speaker/author crush), so it was pretty much a dream come true.

ma and michal


I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror before heading to the conference that Saturday morning, and I smiled. I actually looked like a cute mom. I was wearing a cute outfit, my hair was curled, my makeup was done. I felt good!

Of course, about 20 minutes into the first session, Copeland spit up all over me. And I’m not talking normal spit up. I’m talking PROJECTILE spit up, like a waterfall. I was soaked in it. My shirt was soaking wet, and so was my hair. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I heard the people sitting behind us gasp!

I took Copeland into the bathroom and tried to figure out how to take care of the situation. Of course I had an extra outfit for him, but not for myself. I cleaned him up, changed his outfit, and then looked at myself in the mirror, trying to figure out what the heck to do. I no longer looked like a cute mom. I looked like a wet, tired dog.  That’s the image that came to my mind as I looked at myself.  A mangy, exhausted little creature.

But as I stood there and looked at my reflection, this thought struck me: This is actually more true to my reality. My life right now is much more similar to a wet, tired dog than it is to a cute mom. My reflection suddenly communicated more truth about my heart and my soul than it did when I had first walked through those doors into the conference that morning.

10 days before the conference started, some of our upstairs neighbors were shot and killed by one of our other neighbors.  We were home with the kids when it happened.  We heard the gunshots.  It was nothing short of terrifying and horrific.

I haven’t known how to process it.  I haven’t known how to write.  How do you get over hearing your neighbors get murdered?  I’m not sure that you do.

It’s a strange thing seeing our condo on the news, even still.  It’s hard living here.  I’m sad and I’m scared and paranoid a lot.

One of the reason I have not talked about this much and haven’t really publicly come out with it is because it felt wrong at first.  Jordan and I would remind each other “we are not the victims here.”  We weep and grieve for these three beautiful lives lost, for their families, and for the brokenness of the world.  But we did not dare want to make it about us.

But yesterday we met with a crisis counselor from the Police Department.  One of the things she said to us really helped me to be willing to open this up and let myself process it more.  She said, “Do not downplay this.  You are victims here.  Most people will go through their entire lifetime without coming even remotely close to experiencing something like this.”  She gave us permission to claim our pain and trauma.

I really regret never getting to know these people who seemed so incredible and lived so close to us.  I sometimes think about how my life may have been richer, had I gotten to know the victims.  For days after the shooting, I would watch videos and read everything about one of the victims and I was constantly struck with the thought, “Wow, she was so beautiful.” Inside and out.

And then I freak out when I think about the shooter; about the thought that someone so dangerous lived so close to us.

I am paranoid over the fact that I cannot always protect my children.

I am baffled at the fact that God doesn’t always stop bullets, and yet sometimes He does.

If anything, this past year has really opened my eyes to the fact that belonging to God does not guarantee safety in this world.  I have never so intensely had to look at the ugliness and pain of the world in its broken and distorted face.  I’ve never so deeply longed for eternity, and yet struggled to be close to God in my current reality.  It is a daily process to continue to trust God and walk with Him while constantly being reminded that there is no immunity for the here and now.  Our security in Christ saves us from the ultimate destruction that our rebellious souls lead us into; but our security is not a material one on this earth.

I know that God is working in my heart through this, and that there is an invitation to trust Him in an even deeper way.  I know that He is good, always.  But I also know that life is not fair and His mercy does not always feel evident.

I don’t really have any resolution to this blog post, but I know it is good for my soul to write.  I know that I need to process this, and I am thankful for my little space here where I can pour my heart onto a screen whenever I need that release.  There is so much going on in my heart, this might become more of a raw space than ever before and I think I actually want to let it be that.  Far too much of the internet displays the “cute moms” and yet I wonder how many of us actually feel more like wet, tired dogs.  I wonder how many of us actually long for the freedom of the mirror projecting back an accurate picture of our souls.  And how many of us need the permission to be honest about it.