Kids: Becoming ‘Beautiful in the Heart’

Every time I open my top dresser drawer, I see it. It pokes out from underneath a red bra I hardly ever wear and a plastic baggie filled with my kids’ baby teeth. Sometimes I push these things further aside so I can see it better. It’s a simple frame, with a card inside – decorated pastel brushstrokes around a single quote:

“What is important is that my children grow up to be beautiful in the heart.”

Beneath is a line and attribution to “an African Nyinban woman.”

Now, I’m not sure who the African Nyinban woman is (or if it’s really some grizzled white-haired writer at Hallmark), but I’m thankful for the simple words, which have brought me comfort for upwards of 13 years.

I received the card from a coworker when I was pregnant with my second child. I sometimes wonder if she was struck by the simplicity of the statement too, or if it was just the first card she saw when she was rushing into the market to buy a half gallon of milk and a bag full of apples. Either way, though, I’m grateful she found it. I’m grateful she connected me with such a powerful concept.

The sentiment isn’t complex, nor does it seem particularly profound when I see it here now. But I know it struck me as profound when my children were born. (Thus the frame.)

I hung it in our “baby room,” which each child shared in succession. I positioned it right above the changing table, and I looked at it often. And I suppose my husband did, too. And so did anyone who was kind enough to help with the kids in early days (aunts, uncles, grandparents) – all would have seen it when they were trying to get the baby wipes out with one hand. But part of me also wanted my kids to see it. Or not really “see” it, I suppose – I mean, obviously they couldn’t read – but to “absorb” it somehow. I wanted them to know that this is all that was important to me. I didn’t need them to be brilliant or ingenious or gorgeous or Michael Jordan. I didn’t need them to be the first kid in their playgroup to speak in complete sentences or the first to throw a ball with any clear direction. I didn’t need them to be perfectly dressed, perfectly coiffed, perfectly clean or perfectly neat. All I asked is that they grew up to be beautiful in the heart. … A simple request, and huge at the same time.

Now the framed card lies in the top dresser drawer, underneath the red bra. It gets shuffled to the side from time to time, when I’m fishing for my travel jewelry case or need the round-neck camisole. But every time I see it, I still want to thank the African Nyinban woman (or the white-haired Hallmark writer). It reminds me of what my goal has always been, and to work toward it every day. It reminds me what my definition of success is, and what it isn’t. It reminds me to be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, and to know that I’m doing my job. It feels attainable. …

Tell me about your favorite quote: Do you have an inspirational phrase you’ve let follow you most of your life? Where did you get it? Do you keep it pinned above your computer? On a post-it note on the fridge? What about it inspires you?


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12 thoughts on “Kids: Becoming ‘Beautiful in the Heart’

  1. So, THAT’S where it went?????
    I truly have loved that ever since you brought it home. I believe it gave us a guide and a goal in the raising of our kids. Helped to show us what was truly important in the simplest way.
    Take it out of that drawer Laurie and let’s put it in it’s rightful place on the wall. And now about that red bra…

  2. That is so sweet, I’m assuming that is your husband above… *waves* My hubby ignores my blog and pretends it doesn’t exist! haha 🙂 *sigh*

    The quote that always runs through my head (a little lame…) is “Make all your mistakes before you turn 30” – and I probably quoted it wrong. I don’t remember who wrote it either. But I read it when I was about 20 (I’m almost 29 right now) and I thought it sounded fantastic.

    I don’t know why. Honestly, now I hope I keep making mistakes (and learning from them and growing) until I’m old and gray.

    But I always remember that quote.

    I really like yours better. But it frightens me a little because *I* have to teach my children to have a beautiful heart and I’m afraid I don’t know how to do it!!

  3. Hi, Kristi! Yes, that’s my hubby! He’s a sweetie. …

    Well it sounds like you’re going to have to find a new quote next year (something along the lines of “Make all your mistakes before you turn 40 …”) : )

  4. I have two quotes that inspire me. The first is: “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins”. I heard a boxer say this when I was a young boy. He was outmatched in his fight and he got the tar knocked out of him but he never quit. The referee had to stop the fight because the boxer literally couldn’t get his hands up to defend himself. He had the heart of a lion and the spirit of a warrior. I wanted to be that strong and that brave. So when things get tough I am reminded of this fighter and his courage in the face of a brutal defeat.

    Life doesn’t always go your way no matter how much you prepare and how hard you try. Bad things happen to good people and you just have to fight through it. You cannot just give up, you have to meet challenges and struggles head on. You have to fight your way out of it.

    The other quote I love is one that I came up with on my own: “Improbable is not impossible”. When I think about our Founding Fathers deciding to take on the most powerful empire in the world it must have felt impossible. Yet, they had the courage to send King George the Declaration of Independence. They knew that if they failed the consequence was death by execution. Still, they had the courage to fight for freedom. There was no way a bunch of farmers could defeat the King’s Army. It was a war they could not win, but they did. Improbable yes, impossible no.

    For all its flaws America is still the greatest nation on earth. It is a place where no matter how improbable something may seem, it is not impossible. It gives me hope that my nephews and niece will have a better life than I ever dreamed they would.

  5. I also have two quotes that I have thought of often throughout my adult life. The first one came from one of my favorite teachers. She was an aerobics instructor and she really pushed us. She would always say “when it really hurts, give it ten more!” I have used that as a method to keep going when I am tired at work or the end of the day but have things to do still, and of course when I work out. It may not always apply to what I’m doing, but it gives me that extra push. The other quote that I always keep close is, “God never gives you more than you can handle”. Sometimes it sure feels like you can’t take things anymore or that noone understands, or you can’t see an end or an answer to what pains you…but when I think about that quote I realize that “this too shall pass!”(okay, now thats three quotes!) I think it is important to realize that everyone goes through tough patches and even though we have friends and/or family to confide in, it feels good just knowing that even though it may not feel like it now, God wouldn’t let us be in this position if we weren’t going to be able to handle it.

  6. David — Those are great quotes! Those could definitely get you through some tough times when you need to work your way through something, especially regarding work.

    Btw, did you ever read John Adams or 1776 by David McCullough? Those books really bring home the fact that those men were so YOUNG (in their 30s, for the most part, except Franklin) and definitely not warriors — mostly lawyers. So yes, the idea that they took on this amazing challenge is really impressive.

    Thanks for the quotes!

    Debi — Thanks for two additional terrific quotes! I love that you apply the “workout-inspired” one to regular life! Excellent notion. And “God never gives more than you can handle” is truly a comforting one — helps in so many difficult situations, from emotional to life-threatening.

    Thank you for sharing!

  7. Ok, Laurie, here’s something that I read recently that really struck me. I read it in an article in CNN, I think, and I forgot to write down the author, though, and so now I can’t find the source:-(

    If two people truly love each other then they will become each other’s ideal partner. When you love someone, you make sacrifices for that person and you become who they need and if they love you, then they won’t demand that you become someone too far from who you are to begin with. But it is about compromise and a successful relationship requires constant work just like anything else in your life. True love also means that that person is the most attractive person in the world to you because that love gives you the ability to see them in a different light than you see everyone else. It’s not about finding that person that has the best job or the perfect figure, but finding that person that inspires you to become who they need you to be and makes you feel good about who you are. Anyone who has ever been truly in love already knows this.

  8. I have so many favorite quotes, its hard to choose.

    Artistically, my favorite quote is “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions” -Albert Einstein.

    It means a lot to me because it reminds me that the ideas I have can become a reality and it inspires me to make sure than happens.

    The quote I live by is “When one door closes, another opens, but often we are so worried about the closed door, we don’t notice the one that opened” -Hellen Keller.

    This quote is very true and I keep it filed away in my head to remind me when to turn around and see the open door.

  9. Carrie — Wow, that’s a great summation of true love! I agree with everything said. I often say (to those still looking) that love is really a verb — it’s something you do. Not just something that falls in your lap. Great quote.

    Nene (my lovely daughter) — Those are beautiful quotes, baby. I especially like the Helen Keller one!

  10. I think I’m kind of late to respond to this, but I have two quotes that I like — but I can’t quote the author for one of them other than a guy who was my boss/mentor. One of his favorite saying was “Don’t forget the first rule of holes — When you’re in one, STOP DIGGING!” It fits so in so many circumstances.

    The second is by Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” My career often found me in a real ‘man’s world’ (like at a trucking company) and this was a real help in navigating that world.

  11. Those are great, Helene! I’ve highlighted that Eleanor Roosevelt one myself, and I can certainly see where it would help in a lot of high-powered situations. And I love the “First Rule of Holes!” Too funny. I might have to pin that one up somewhere. …

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