raising daughters: little girls watch and learn

raising daughters

It was year 1996 and I was 15 years old.

Sitting on the floor, daydreaming to Backstreet Boys new radio release “As Long As You Love Me”.

I had it playing on repeat on my little black boom box and a part of me felt it was written just for me.

I had this vision of being at their concert.

Front row.

And out of all the girls there, Nick Carter was going to be mesmerized by me.

He was going to take my hand and pull me up on stage and sing that song without ever having his eyes leave mine.

There would be a spark that neither of us thought was possible.

A connection beyond words.

The beginning of a love story.

Where we were going to become absolutely inseparable.

Meant for one another.

To be together forever.

. . . . . . .

After dinner, I am packing up the leftovers and hubby is wiping off the counters and I tell him the story of how I was convinced I was going to marry Nick Carter.

“I just knew that all he needed was to simply see me,” I say, “and it would be love at first sight.”

 “Wow,” he chuckles, scratches his head.

Clearly speechless and amused all at the same time.

And I laugh out loud because oh my goodness all of it sounds so ridiculous, so hilarious.

I was a typical bookworm teenager with long brown hair, big round glasses, trying to cover up the pimples on my forehead and waiting for my prince charming to sweep me off my feet.

I was a girl uncomfortable in my own skin, admiring the beauty queens in a Seventeen magazine, buying that blue eye shadow or that voluminous mascara, hoping it will make me pretty.

Now I was a mom.

Where did the time go?

. . . . . . .

Day in and day out it feels like my daughters will be little forever.

Then I notice the shoes are getting tighter, clothes are getting smaller, and they are getting taller.

They are growing into women.

Slowly yet so quickly.

And I look at the reflection in the mirror and see that I’m aging as well.

I am convinced I am still 22 but the fine lines around my eyes, the way my skin feels, the way my body looks, the way my face has changed – all of it reminds me how fast the clock is ticking, how fast everything is moving.

Slipping into my pajamas, I observe the cellulite, the sagginess, and voice the distaste with my body out loud.

Husband hears the words and frowns.

He tells me, this time more seriously, how it really wounds him when I insult myself.

He asks me to stop.

Reminds me that I am fashioned by God’s hands.

“And the girls hear it,” he says, “Don’t give them that example.”

A knot forms in my throat as I listen and nod and fall even deeper in love with this man.

. . . . . . .

A few years back I was at an outlet mall and didn’t think much of the advertisement ahead of us.

In fact, I don’t think I even noticed until my oldest, who was 5 at the time, spoke up.

“Why is she doing that, mommy?”

She pointed to a large poster plastered on a window of a Victoria’s Secret store.

An image of a models backside.

Wearing absolutely nothing but a lacy black thong.

Arching her back with her arms up against a grey wall.

Legs slightly parted, derriere sticking out high.

“Why, mommy?” she asked again.

I looked at the ad and sighed.

“They call it modeling,” I explained, “The truth is, it’s inappropriate.”

I took her hand and together we kept on walking while my mind was racing all over the place in trying to figure out how I could further this conversation with words that were easier to understand.

I wanted to tell her that what she saw was not the definition of beauty, not the definition of being a woman.

And it angered me.

To be in a situation where no matter how I was going to put it, no matter what I was going to say, it was still going to be TOO much for an innocent 5 year old to grasp.

. . . . . . .

We live in a world where self appearance is idolized now more than ever.

Wherever we look, women are being told to be sexy, to be flawless, to flaunt what they’ve got.

Young girls and mamas are chasing beauty above else.

Flipping through Victoria’s Secret catalogs and provocative fashion magazines.

Vying for the perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect outfit for a perfect selfie.

While little daughters everywhere watch and learn.

One pastor’s words immediately come to mind.

“Some people have the entrance of a palace and contents of a hut.”

It makes me think about my girls, how I want them to be far from that description.

I think about their self image, their future, what I want them to value most.

They sit beside me as I put on mascara and blush.

They ask me to paint their nails and beg me at the makeup aisle to buy them that shimmery lip gloss.

With fresh curls bouncing against their face, they twirl in their new Easter dresses and feel beautiful.

I watch them and smile and know how there is so much fun in being a girl.

They will have latest obsessions and boy crushes and relish in the moments of getting all dolled up.

And I want them to enjoy this process of flourishing and maturing and discovering.

But my heart is overwhelmed with a desire for them to hunger for God more than anything.

I want them to awake each morning with a strong sense of who they are in Christ.

To start each day with the question of how they can serve others instead of trying to look like some vogue ad.

I want them to become women of substance.

. . . . . . .

Two summers ago I read this prayer.

A prayer for a daughter.

As a mom, I knew this was the declaration I needed.

I needed to hang these words somewhere where I can see them, where the girls could read them again and again.

A daily reminder.

A discussion starter.

So I finally pulled some blank canvases out of my closet, squirted a tube of black paint onto a dish and began to write.

May she be bread and feed many with her life and her laughter
May she be thread and mend brokeness and knit hearts
May she be dead to all ladders & never go higher, only lower, to the lonely, the least & the longing.

Truth is, at the end of the day, it all comes down to more than just words.

It all starts with leading by example.

And I pray they see in me who I yearn for them to be.

That they won’t see a mom struggling with insecurities or a mom busying herself with the things of this world.

Instead they will see a mom after God’s own heart . . . .

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is your faith costing you anything?

my faith costing me anything

I read about a little girl sold into sex slavery.

Seven years old. Tied to a pole and raped again and again every single day by multiple men.

Then I read about another little girl who is abducted. Molested. And buried alive in a trash bag.

Her body found days later, clutching to her teddy bear.

And I’m boiling with anger, cracking at the seams, weeping into my hands because my God, this stuff is so hard to digest, hard to comprehend, and stabs so deep, and why, why, why does it have to happen!

The evil running rampant makes me feel so helpless.

It almost makes sense to just look away because what can I possibly do?

But as I observe the life around me and my so called problems, I wonder if my faith is costing me anything.

. . . . . . .

My flesh constantly wants to be comfortable.

It is constantly afraid of opposition.

My beautiful daughters. My incredible husband. My little circle.

In an instant I can lose it all, everything can come crashing down.

And I tell God I don’t want it!

I pray for everything to go well, be well.

I plead with Him.

Thing is, what my heart should really be crying out for is a steadfast spirit, a spirit that is not afraid, a spirit that is brave.

Because who are we kidding?

Even though there is power in our words and in what we believe, even though great faith pleases God, it’s not always about what we want and how we want it.

We can’t twist God’s arm.

We can declare again and again but we can’t avoid trials.

His plan involves struggle.

Genuinely following Him means walking through the fire.

Yet none of us want to.

. . . . . . .

While driving in the rain, stressed out and running late, I listen to Chris Fabry on the radio discussing the topic of faith.

“Faith without pain is what,” he asks, “what would you put in the blank?”

The calls start pouring in.

People from all over the nation share what it is to them personally.

One woman takes the words right out of my mouth.

“Faith without pain is shallow,” she says.

And ain’t that the truth!

You can say all you want about how much you trust God.

You can say all you want about how much you love Him.

You can sing and dance when everything is always flowing like honey.

But if you haven’t walked through raging flames, you have very little idea of what it means to truly worship Him.

To praise Him when no miracle or breakthrough is in sight.

To seek comfort in Him when it’s hard to hold on, hard to go on day in and day out.

I listen, I wipe my tears and nod.

Yes, yes, yes!

Faith without pain is shallow indeed.

. . . . . . .

Our desire for peaches and cream, cherry on top, blue skies and smooth sailing is completely understandable.

We are human.

We don’t want to hurt.

And there is one popular website that helps us chase the ideal life.

Pinterest.

I know it stirs creativity and inspiration.

But, it also encourages self preservation.

I scroll through all the beautiful images and within 20 minutes I am thinking about how I need to do something nicer with my hair.

I need to do my nails that color.

I really need to work on my thighs and my abs.

I need that denim vest.

I need that Chevron maxi skirt.

I need to put some festive pillows on my couch.

Actually, I probably need to redecorate my house altogether.

Soon my mind is flooded with thoughts of what I don’t have and I’m sitting there thinking about how to better my outer appearance, how to better the appearance of my home, how to dress my girls better, how to make my little world perfect because apparently it’s not perfect enough.

Make yourself comfortable, it whispers.

Focus on yourself.

Make yourself happy.

Fulfill those wants.

Seek more.

Get more.

I shut the computer off and dwell on the truth Ann Voskamp shared here.

She says it so well.

How we all want the prettiness of Pinterest but true beauty is found in wrestling with the ugliness of the world.

It’s about facing the injustices head on instead of turning a blind eye.

Being activists instead of hiding in our palaces.

Living sacrificially by disadvantaging ourselves.

This is what matters, this is the definition of beautiful.

. . . . . . .

I feel like sometimes our faith in Christ is filled with a whole lot of empty talk.

“Tell me what a man owns and I’ll tell you what he really believes in,” I read, “track a man’s time and it will show you who he really worships.”

I stare at the words, scribble them in my journal, and repeat them again because I am blown away.

This faith walk.

We make it all about us.

Our little bubble and it better not pop.

Then I watch this short film and every fiber of my being wants to scream in everyone’s face to snap out of it, to wake up.

Because my God, if our faith isn’t costing us anything then what do we really believe in, who are we really worshiping?

There is a world that needs us.

Us, believers, who talk so much about how blessed we are, how fortunate we are.

It needs us.

And yet we go on our merry way, filling our schedules over and over with pretty and splendid and fun, doing whatever feels good and easy.

. . . . . . .

Saturday morning I sit with my husband and we discuss taxes and bills, my next prenatal appointment, and what’s for dinner.

It’s the same ol’thing of dirty laundry and dirty dishes and the toilets need to be scrubbed and the girls are running wild in their room.

He drinks his coffee, I sip my tea and I tell him how tired I am, how the mundane sometimes drives me crazy, how I want to go on a vacation.

A long, long, long vacation where I can forget about everything.

And we dream for a bit then wander into the topic of suffering.

I tell him all the horrid stories I read about, how mind boggling big the harvest is, how the book Your Church Is Too Safe is wrecking me.

“I don’t want to live in that bubble of self worship,” I say, “I want to be brave.”

Many women out there are walking on a cloud of elegance and I want to ask them if they would be willing to get their hands dirty, if they would be willing to step out of their fancy brunch outing and into a world that is filthy and dangerous.

I think of the priest in Russia.

Father John Sergieff.

His every day thing was to go where none of us want to.

While people of privilege and status insulated themselves from that crowd of muck and misery, Pastor John did the opposite.

He would walk into the ugliest parts of the city filled with addicts, thieves, prostitutes, predators, orphans and widows.

He would lift their downcast faces with his hand and look into their eyes and tell them the most beautiful truth.

“This is beneath your dignity. You were created to house the glory of the living God.”

. . . . . . .

On my way home from a farmers market, I wait at a traffic light.

I look to my right and see a woman sitting on the edge of a sidewalk.

She’s covered in dirt, lost in thought, with no shoes and empty hands.

And I think of the words Sergieff spoke and they fill me with so much sadness.

Because I clearly see how much I have yet to learn about loving like Jesus does . . . . .

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the words spoken over me

Sara Joy

My phone alerts me that I am 20 weeks, that I have hit the halfway mark.

And I click on the app.

I read about how my baby is now the size of a banana and feel a bit queasy at the thought of my upcoming ultrasound.

There is excitement in finding out the gender but then there are also fear-stirring questions.

Because my mind tends to go there.

To that place of wondering if everything is okay.

No one ever walks into the exam room and expects to hear bad news.

Yet it happens.

Pregnant women receiving bomb dropping words that shake them to the core.

Baby’s organs not developing.

No kidneys.

Or no liver.

Or spinal cord complications.

Or no heart beat.

I hear the stories, I read the stories and they stop me dead in my tracks, they turn my stomach into knots.

. . . . . . .

It never really occurred to me that I could be pregnant.

My cycle was a few days late which was something I was accustomed to.

And it felt like I was moving into a different season in my life.

Where I was now a mother of much older children, with more time to accomplish some goals for myself.

But two nights before Christmas, as I quietly slipped into bed and made myself comfortable, I felt a leap in my stomach.

“You are going to have a girl.”

“You will name her Sara.”

“She will fill your home with joy unspeakable.”

And all of a sudden it seemed like I couldn’t catch my breath.

There were goose bumps all over me and I pulled the duvet over my chin and started to cry.

Because did the Holy Spirit really just whisper into my ear?

. . . . . . .

The following day I took the pregnancy test.

I went through a wave of emotions.

Shock. Fear. Anxiety. Doubt.

I have shared it all here and here and here.

All the while I have kept the precious moment of that one night all to myself, wondering if I heard correctly, if it actually happened and at times forgetting about the whole thing altogether.

Family and friends tell me I need boy.

Random people at the park, the deli department, the cashier line, they all tell me it’s a boy belly, that they’ve seen it countless times, and I smile and nod and tell them a healthy baby is all that matters.

Every night, my oldest clasps her hands together, shuts her eyes real tight and asks God to give her another baby sister.

And I go to bed dreaming the same scene over and over of bringing a little boy home.

Deep down in my gut I know it will be the exact opposite.

Then one evening, over dinner, my husband and I are discussing baby names and I decide to tell him the words that were spoken over me.

“Then it looks like it’s a girl for sure,” he says.

“Well . . . . lets just wait and see.” I respond.

. . . . . . .

When the ultrasound technician calls my name, I realize how tense I am.

My husband and I follow her through a long hallway into room #3 and quickly settle in.

She spreads the cold gel on my bare belly and before I know it, I see tiny legs and tiny hands at the screen in front of me and it all becomes even more real than before.

There is indeed a miracle growing inside me and I can’t help but feel all emotional and excited and anxious all at the same time.

After doing all the measurements, the technician looks at me and smiles.

“It’s a girl,” she says.

And a laugh escapes my mouth as I hear the words.

I look at my other half sitting beside me and we both laugh again.

A girl.

Another little girl!

Perfectly healthy and almost a pound.

“It sounds like you already knew. Do you have a name for her?” she asks, handing me some print outs.

“Yes,” I answer, “Sara Joy.”

Our sweet Sara Joy.

. . . . . . .

This morning, my oldest, who so fervently prayed, stuffs her mouth with cereal and looks at the profile image of her new baby sister hanging on the fridge.

“God heard me, mama,” she giggles, “He answered my prayer.”

And at that point I start to sob because I am in utter awe that God would speak to me.

That in the middle of all my plans, He came and ever so gently revealed His great plan and is beckoning me to trust Him . . . . . .

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this gospel we neatly tie with a big white bow

faith

Early morning light is spilling into my home and for a moment it feels like all is right with the world.

I pour boiling water over some lemon slices, smother butter and blackcurrant jam on Ezekiel toast and set everything near my bright coral chair by the window.

It’s peaceful. Cozy.

And I slowly take a seat, reach for the hot mug and begin to pray.

But the words kind of fade as I look around me.

Because all of it is just too lovely, too orderly.

The way my bible and journal are wide open.

The way Kingdom Come is playing in the background.

The way I’m relishing in the stillness.

My quiet time with the Father.

So neatly boxed and wrapped with a big white bow.

Yet someone, somewhere, is imprisoned in a dungeon for their faith, hungry and hurting, worshipping God on a cold, cement floor.

The thought grieves me!

How is it that I have the luxury of sitting here comfortably while many across the globe are on the run for their safety, writing scripture all over their bodies because a bible is unattainable?

. . . . . . .

There is nothing wrong with having this tidy, little space for fellowship with God.

Although, I have to add that most of us are more guilty of instagramming it than actually delving into His presence.

Not to mention, we forget how good we have it.

The honor.

The privilege.

The freedom.

To worship Him without fear of being slain to death.

We take it for granted.

We tend to squeeze Him into our schedule instead of having Him be the center of it all.

But this post isn’t about any of this.

. . . . . . .

As a parent, I find myself thinking a lot about our faith walk.

How it’s not this perfect, clear-cut system.

“Please protect me from the stomach flu,” my 5 year old prays.

After an exhausting experience of puking all night, she is scarred and terrified of ever having to go through it again.

And when we gather to pray as a family, it is her constant and desperate plea every single night.

Then one Monday morning she wakes up and vomits all over the kitchen floor and the shock on her face is heartbreaking.

“But I prayed, Mama! I asked Jesus! Why is it happening?” she screams, her eyes wild with tears.

Because Mama and Papa have told her that she can come to Him for anything, that He hears her every word, that He will protect her.

And she doesn’t understand why God didn’t.

Why didn’t He do what she asked for, what she wholeheartedly believed for?

Where do you start in explaining to a little blue-eyed wonder that it’s not always so simple?

It’s not always about whether we have enough faith or not.

Sometimes God allows us to walk through tough things.

He never promised a tear-free life.

He simply promised to never have us walk alone.

And as a mom, who was once a child, you have to remind yourself that it’s all about baby steps, that with time she will grasp this truth, just like you did as well.

Still, to watch it all unfold, it hurts.

Seeing your child drown in bewilderment, opening your mouth to explain yet the words won’t come.

For everything in you wants to keep it easy as pie for them.

 “Don’t be so afraid, baby, He is still here, you are not alone,” is all I can tell her.

. . . . . . .

There is a memory I think of often whenever my kids ask, “When is Jesus coming?”

I was 10 years old, going to bed every night with this belief that He would return while everyone is sleeping.

That He would lift off the roofs of every home that served Him and have us rise from our slumber and descend into heaven.

In my mind, His coming was going to be this quiet, smooth, uncomplicated fairy tale event.

But one evening shattered that innocent image.

My parents were having a dinner party.

The house was filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

After dinner, they all gathered in the living room to watch a movie about Christ’s coming while all the kids played in the basement.

I decided to steal a glimpse before running off to play again.

And my eyes watched with horror people being captured and beheaded.

I gasped and hurried to my room, terrified and in tears.

“Are you scared?” asked my aunt.

She stood in the doorway, concerned. She knew what I saw.

“Is that real?” I asked, “Is that going to happen?”

She sat beside me, pulled me in for a hug and told me that no one really knows the details, no one really knows whether believers will be spared or not, but one thing is certain, there will be suffering no one has ever known before Jesus returns.

And as I listened, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Shock consumed me.

My world of Ramona books and coloring and soaring through the neighborhood streets in a banana seat cruiser cracked open and I began to see that there was so much more to the gospel than just how much Jesus loves me.

There was so much I had yet to learn.

. . . . . . .

In 2007, I found myself walking through a really dark season.

There was a thick chain of fear around my neck.

I was a first time mom who became extremely aware of everything that could go wrong and family members started to worry.

At one point, my mother in law called to figure out what was going on, to offer words of encouragement.

“You are a Christian. Have you forgotten that? Because you are His, He will not allow any harm to come upon you or your child.”

As much as I wanted to believe her, deep down I knew that our faith was not always about smooth sailing.

I asked her to think about the Christian parents who were at the hospital this very moment, watching their child suffer through leukemia.

I asked her to think about the Christian father who prayed every single morning before leaving the house yet was instantly killed in a head on collision.

I asked her to think about the Christian mom who was stabbed to death along with her two little boys in her own home by a drunk neighbor while her husband was serving in Afghanistan.

And there was really nothing she could say in return.

Because there is evidence all around us of how ugly this life can get, how none of us are exempt and how it’s not about being comfortable and safe, how nothing is truly ours, how this world is not our home, and how clinging to God’s incomprehensible peace is our key to standing unshaken in the midst of a storm.

. . . . . . .

At times, when I pray, I feel like God is somewhere far away.

I look at all the cars while stuck in traffic and think about how each person has a story, some kind of battle and it makes me feel like we are all just grains of sand, seeping through the cracks, trying to survive.

I consume a good meal and think of the children eating flies in the slums of India and I come up speechless as to how it’s them and not me.

I beg for miracles to rain down but what I want more than anything is for Christ to just come already, to take every suffering soul to their real home.

And I look at my girls and ask for wisdom.

Because there is so much they have yet to discover.

When their prayers aren’t answered.

When it seems like everything is going wrong.

When they don’t feel like God is near.

I want them to know that He is still in control.

In every situation, through all the unknowns, I want them to know that He is always closer than their breath.

That this gospel we cling to, it’s simple yet complicated, brings us hope yet leaves us dumbfounded, pours in comfort yet has us walk through afflictions, and always works in the most mysterious ways . . . . .

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