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 My dearest Isabella, you (or at least many of you) know her as Bella, is a very special girl.  She is indeed beautiful, talented, and in every way her mother’s daughter (if you know Rachel let alone grew up with her you know what I mean). She is the Sassy Princess.  She is the bulldog with a flower in her teeth.  She has a crown on her head, tilted sideways.  She is the one who comes upstairs crying that Joe hurt her.  When asked why she screams, “HE WAS DEFENDING HIMSELF!!!”  Why, how dare he?
     As we have ventured through life and the sweeping yet sharp curve ball that Trey’s cancer has thrown us I have been primarily responsible for making sure that Joe and Bella have their needs met, a sense of normalcy, and are best prepared for “what may come.”  This frees Rachel up to take the lead on Trey and to know that we aren’t leaving anyone behind.  We do our best to be our best for them.  I checked, there is no text book on this.  Wouldn’t you know that all my training on emotional needs and the passion that I have for comfort would come in handy?  I should have become an expert on, “How to deal with winning millions of dollars” instead.  My bad.
      From time to time we have been concerned for our Sassy Princess.  She does have quite the temper and tends to lash out.  Poor Joe has taken the brunt of this over the years and only recently, after much encouragement, has he begun to protect let alone defend himself from her aggressive nature.  Siblings will be siblings and I did mention that Rachel wasn’t exactly the most docile of children right?  Yet, as I talked to others who have had children go through traumatic times one theme rang true.  They said, “Don’t kid yourself, she is aware of much more than you think.  They remember more than you know, they feel much more than you’d like, and they are really confused…and afraid.”
     So what could it be?  Is she rebelling against all of the attention that Trey gets?  Is she afraid that he will die?  Is she worried that Joe or mommy or daddy might get sick?  Does she ask herself if she could get sick?  Is it all of the above?  None?  Does it really matter?
     I have the same philosophy on parenting that the great theologian Vincent Antonelli has on tipping, “It’s not parenting I believe in, it’s over-parenting.”  When in doubt…do.  So, I look at Bella and realize that whatever her need is, attention or security…or any other, it is most likely fueled by fear.  I have been trained that “perfect love casts out all fear.”  This isn’t from a text book, it can be found in 1John 4:18.  Either way, to me it’s one of those things you look at and think, “Oh, ok, I’ll just give her some of that perfect love.  Now, where did I put that?
     For those of you who read the bible this has happened to you many times.  You read something and go, “yeah…umm hmmm, I don’t really know what that is and I don’t know who to ask, where to go, and what to do.  I’ll just move on.”  I was the same way with this verse.  However, I think I’ve stumbled upon it.
     As we put her to bed and have that one quiet moment alone with her I sing her a lullaby that I made up years ago.  Many times she will ask me to pray for her.  Whether it be through that prayer or even just talking with her (especially after a rough day where she did not represent herself well) I say to Bella something like, “You know what?  You didn’t have a great day today.  XYZ is not ok and you can’t keep doing that.  But no matter what you do, no matter what you say, regardless of how you act you are my special angel.  I love you more than you could every imagine.  You may never be allowed to watch SpongeBob again (a frequent consequence of her actions…she is currently banned til September) but you will always be my daughter.  I couldn’t be more happy that God chose me to be your dad and you to be my daughter.  You can’t do anything that will stop me from loving you and whatever happens in life, I will love you.”  She always responds with a smile and a hug.
     Even as I read this now I am struggling with the fact that this is exactly how God feels about me.  I don’t know if I truly feel His love for me in that way.  I know it…but do I feel it?  Hard to say.  What I do know is that this is what He DOES say to me.  So I then say it to her.  You and I both know that I will not always be here for her.  I sure hope that it’s a long way down the road that I’m not but we are all temporary.  However, if I can love her in this way long enough she will realize and feel that love from not just me, her earthly father, but her Heavenly Father as well.  Then, that fear can truly be cast out by His perfect love.
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