This is a girl who had a good night sleep, but also a girl who has a strong sense of belonging.
This is a girl who knows her name – who reprimanded anyone who called her "honey" or "sweetie" or said she was beautiful at the age of two. "I not honey. I MADELINE."
This is a girl who confided in me the night before that she was going to grow up to be a great leader, like Moses.
She's three – one of the most impressionable, at times difficult, yet beautiful stages.
Isn't this what family was designed for? To be that warm place of belonging, where love is constant and unconditional. A place of security that allows them to know who they are – to dream, spread their wings, fail and try again.
Family is where it starts.
And for every year that our children grow, they need that strong sense of belonging. They need that sense of, this is who we are: the Millers (insert your last name). Everyone else may approach life that way, but we approach it this way. The next family may not have the Saturday morning breakfast feast as their tradition, but we do.
The traditions we create and the love we generate infuse belonging into each of our children's lives.
Yet that is not where it ends.
Everything we offer this life is only a means to the end. Family provides that sense of belonging that gives our children the desire and confidence to impact the world; the belonging that perpetuates a sense of their own identity. If we miss family as our priority, we've missed the mark completely.
Because their sense of belonging in this temporary home is only a shadow of their belonging to a heavenly home – to their Heavenly Father, who knows them by name.
This child, who is three, is far from perfect. She climbs over tables and counters, she throws books and toys when she get mad, she tests me.
Yet, she doesn't need to be perfect to belong. I know who she is. Her temper and defiance do not define her. She is a child of God and that is how I treat her – through discipline, by grace.
This is how we step in as Jesus to our children. We stand between their sin and who God created them to be – by grace. We step in so they can discover the miracle of Jesus for themselves through our example.
And it is when they can say, I am a child of God. This is who I am. I know where I belong – it is then they will understand the true means to the end for which they were purposed.