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Camp for All

Yesterday I sent my youngest to camp – Camp for All. She’s been looking forward to this day all year. It’s her camp. Her big thing. Remember when she went last year? She came back changed. I learned lessons too.

We are all excited for her to have this opportunity. A few weeks ago we had some interesting conversations about her birthmark. She told me about some new friends she met who didn’t believe her birthmark was real. They thought it was a sticker. One new friend looked everywhere for the stickers. He wanted one. I told her maybe he was onto something. We could market birthmark stickers. Remember how huge the mustache fad was? Hmmmm….

She encounters situations constantly.

Because she has something different.

How does she handle them?

With grace.

When she looks in the mirror, she sees what makes her different and she smiles.

BEING DIFFERENT IS NOT A BAD THING.

She teaches me every day. 

Pray with me that she’s a bright light at camp this year. But for those of you who know her, you know she will be.

She just is. A bright light.

This year, for the talent night, she’s dancing to a song she learned during VBS.

Spreading the light.

Wherever she goes.

I just love her.

(she’s my little hero)

Next time you look in the mirror and see something you-just-don’t-like- think of my girl. The girl who doesn’t see something she doesn’t like, although the world would tell her differently.

She sees herself. And she smiles.

So, Beautiful, next time you look in the mirror, SMILE.

And be a bright light – to yourself.

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Camp and confession

Last week I told you about my daughter’s birthmark puzzle, her something different. This is my week for confession and to tell you about a camp that changed her thinking and in turn will impact her life. Ok, and my thinking changed too.

She sits in my lap and we look at pictures from camp. There are so many things I want to say. So many questions I want to ask. Who are these kids? Why are they at camp? What qualified them to be there? When I look at the faces, I see such happiness. But I keep looking. Trying to see what puzzle pieces don’t fit in them. I want to point and ask questions. Why doesn’t she have hair? What’s on her arm? She looks fine, so what’s wrong with her? In that moment I become like every person that has ever asked the dreaded question.

The “What’s on your face?” question.

That is when I learned a big lesson. This was not a camp for kids to discuss skin issues, have lessons on skin care, or therapy for living with something different. It was a camp that invited kids who have skin disorders to find a safe place to have fun with others who had something in common with them. Every time I asked what was wrong with one of her new friends, I was reminding her that there was something different with her too.

She didn’t see the girl with spotted arms as a girl with spots on her arms, but her friend she whispered secrets to after lights out.

She didn’t ask her friends why they were at camp. She just played with them. Without questions. Without seeing them as someone with a disorder – a something different.

If I look at others with skin issues as having something different about them, I’m doing the same with her. That hit me – hard. So I stopped asking. I looked at each one as someone who made my daughter smile. Her new friends. I saw her new friends with different puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together.

I have to confess something else: I didn’t just ask her about the kids in the pictures, when I dropped her off at camp, I wanted to stare at the other kids. I wanted to know why each one was there. I was curious. But there was something more… I wanted to see something different in them. I wanted to see people with more struggles than we have. I didn’t – until we were leaving. A group of kids were just arriving. Covered from head to toe and wearing shields over their faces, they definitely had something different. You know what, they still smiled. Huge smiles. I left thankful that our struggles are so small, with a sprinkling of guilt for the selfishness of my thoughts. After we picked my daughter up from camp, we did talk about that group of kids. It was the only time my daughter gave us information about the kid’s skin issues. She explained it this way “Mom, you have food allergies. They have an allergy to the sun. It’s kinda the same.” Schooled by my daughter! Yes, we are all the same.

So… she went to a camp for kids with skin disorders and didn’t have lesson on skin care? What was the purpose??? The purpose went far deeper than lessons on skin care. Community and Normalcy. It was for kids who normally have struggles to just have fun – to just be kids with others who can relate.

The skin care lessons came from it being ok and normal to have a skin care routine. I’m sure the counselors slipped in comments about skin care. How do I know? My daughter (post-camp) doesn’t go outside without a sun hat and puts on sun screen like a pro. She also doesn’t fuss about her skin care routine. Just so you know, this is a complete turn-around!
At this point you are probably wondering what my daughter’s skin condition is. That answer will come next week. I’ve not shared it publicly before because I didn’t want people who know her to think of her differently. If people are going to think differently of her, they already do. This is my chance to bring awareness of what some people face. Oh, and she gave me permission.  I will also tell you guys what she said about something in my last post. I made an error. (It also shows me her post-camp thinking and how she has changed!)

This is my chance to make a difference by showing how living with a “something different” doesn’t mean you have to live differently.

Build bridges in relationship with others mean not allowing your something different to set you apart as someone different. Always be who you are – unique and special. Let your identity define you without letting who you are be defined by your something different.

The Birthmark Puzzle

I have four beautiful daughters. They all have things that make them unique. I know — that’s every family. But we have something that really is unique — something different. My youngest has a birthmark. At first glance, it’s a puzzle piece on her face that looks like it’s from a different puzzle. As soon as you get to know her, it becomes such a part of who she is that the lines of the puzzle pieces fit together seamlessly and fades into a part of her personality. The more you know her (and love her) the more her birthmark fades until it isn’t even visible as something different.

Here’s a little secret that sometimes I don’t even believe myself:

She likes her birthmark. She even treasures it.

Most people don’t believe me when I tell them the secret. Maybe I’m deluding myself and don’t see reality. It’s just so contrary to the world we live in. People question me about removing it and I’ve even been accused of not doing the best for my daughter because we haven’t “taken care of it.” I know they mean well, but they aren’t the ones who know her. Sometimes I watch her primp in the mirror. She angles her chin a little to the side to check out her birthmark. Touching it gently, she smiles. That loving gesture speaks louder than words. Yes, she loves her birthmark. It’s as much a part of her as her fingers and toes.

This profound acceptance of her birthmark is probably our fault because of how we’ve raised her. I’ll proudly take the blame for that one. I know one day her thinking might change. I can’t begin to count how many people have assured me it will. They say one day she’ll come to us and tell us how much she hates it. It might happen that way. But I will not speak that unacceptance over her. If she comes to me one day thinking differently than she does now, we’ll tackle it them, with open arms and loving hearts. But for now, I know that we’ve raised her with the knowledge of how much God loves her, and each one of us. We all have something different and it makes us unique and that much more special! God puts our puzzle pieces together and although the world might think the pieces don’t fit or belong to a different puzzle, each puzzle is complete just the way it is.

Yet, there’s something she doesn’t like:

How people respond to her birthmark.

People are uncomfortable around different. Kids can even be afraid. They think it is painful or might be contagious. Most of all they are curious. I’m ok with curious. I learned just how curious I can be! (That’s another post in the works! Stay tuned!) Beyond the comments of the curious, I’m not ok. I get angry. I get tired of the questions. I don’t want to explain why we haven’t “taken care of it.” If you are still asking that question, then you didn’t HEAR anything I’ve said. Yet, many people don’t listen. The puzzle piece of her birthmark makes people uncomfortable.

I will not take away my daughter’s treasure because other people are uncomfortable.

Yet I am not a perfect parent. I make mistakes. I made one last week when she came home from camp. I’ll tell you ALLLLL about it – next week.

Building bridges with people requires you to look past what makes you uncomfortable.

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