Dear Daughter, Modesty is About Strength, Not Shame

{This is my latest article written for Her View From Home. Click here to see the original article.}

I’m the mom of two girls, one in middle school and one in high school. Sadly, we’ve been having the same discussion about modesty and what clothing is, or is not, appropriate since they were about eight. But I finally realized that we’ve been having the wrong conversation.

There’s been much debate over school dress codes, and how clothes are made differently for boys and girls over the last few years. There’s been outcry over girls feeling body shamed, called out in front of peers for a peeping bra strap or wearing leggings, receiving detention, being sent home, or even suspended. There’ve also been parents rising up to call out the clothing manufacturers for the grown-up silhouettes being produced for young girls, and explain to school administrators how difficult it can be to find shorts and skirts that meet dress code lengths.

I’ll admit I’ve been relieved that my kids attend a conservative Christian school with a very clear-cut dress code, making clothing debates in the morning a bit easier by being able to say “that’s against the school dress code”. Sadly, though, I realized the message my girls have gotten from teachers, peers, and even me about the “why” behind the dress code has been inconsistent, at best. A recent conversation with my teen daughter and a friend brought to light their growing frustration over feeling like the sole purpose of the dress code was to make sure their male peers were not tempted by their bodies.

As a mom, I felt sad and a bit convicted that I had not done a better job of explaining the purpose behind modesty. It’s a topic that is not always easy to explain, but hearing these girls honestly share their understanding (or lack thereof) based on things they had heard or read, I finally understood what had been lacking in my explanations, and what, in general, is lacking from the conversation as a whole.

Click here to read the rest.

 

photo credit: Send me adrift  via photopin (license)

Join Our Summer Women’s Bible Study

Dear friend,

As a reader of Neither Height Nor Depth I want to invite you to join me for a free online Summer Women’s Bible Study I’m hosting. Beginning in July, each week I’ll send out an email with a brief lesson/story and list of daily scripture readings and prayer prompts. Then at the end of the week I will be hosting a Facebook live where we can all come together to discuss. But don’t worry if you can’t make it, the discussion will still be active after the “live” portion so you can read other’s thoughts and comment with your own. And if you’re not on Facebook, that’s OK, too! You will still receive the weekly email, allowing you to dig deeper into the Word this summer.

Our summer study will last 5 weeks, and it’s designed to be flexible, allowing you to study when and where you can!

If you’d like to join us, you can sign-up here.

And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to “like” Neither Height Nor Depth on Facebook so you can join the online discussion.

All my best,
Jelise

I’m a superhero mom

I’m a superhero mom.

I don’t wear a cape or unitard, have a mask, or knee-high leather boots.
Most days it’s jeans and sweaters, often with holes. It’s yoga pants stretched past their prime, stained t-shirts, and comfy shoes — always comfy shoes. But these clothes allow me to get dressed quickly so I can respond to your needs. They allow me to bend and reach and cradle, and snuggle without worrying about wrinkles. They allow me to climb and chase, to walk grocery aisles and pace hallways.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I don’t own an invisible jet or Bat-mobile, nor can I fly, or leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Instead I drive a van or a station wagon, definitely something with four doors and lots of storage. I transport book bags, diaper bags, sports bags, and grocery bags. I transport you – my most precious cargo. I map out my route each day, plan outings and errands around nap times, school days, and dance classes. I drive countless miles without leaving our home town.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I don’t have super-human strength and my body doesn’t regenerate or instantly heal from cuts and bruises.
But I feel everything you feel. When that boy broke your heart, mine shattered into a million pieces. When you made that basket after sitting on the sidelines all season I felt your joy overflowing out of me and running down my cheeks. When you were scared about the first day of school and worried no one would like you, your fear and uncertainty ran through my veins and tightened my lungs.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I can’t climb walls, spin webs or stay young forever.
Instead I climb mountains and obstacles fighting for you, advocating for you, making sure you get a fair shot, and every chance to be your best self. I spin tales of imaginary adventures and silly, made-up songs to help you sleep, to help you laugh, to help you heal. And while my body ages, my heart grows larger each day.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I can’t travel in time, see the future, or make time stand still.
But I can live in the moment, enjoying each day with you, seeking joy and contentment instead of perfection and affluence. I can see glimpses of the adult you are growing into and I can help prepare you for tomorrow by recognizing your gifts and talents. I can be present, be available, be encouraging and forgiving, and always, always tell you how much you are loved.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I don’t always win the battle, defeat the villain, or claim victory.
Instead I arm myself with the armor of God, battle hate with love, and claim victory in my inheritance as a child of God. Each day I try to show you how to do the same, by speaking truth and love into your life, and leading by example.

Because I’m a superhero mom.

I'm a superhero mom

Image Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

What makes a good parent?

What makes a great parent? Or even a good one? It’s a question that I have asked myself many times over.

I used to know the answer…before I had kids.

Oh yeah, it was so clear to me back then. Good parents set boundaries, loved fiercely, read nightly, kept to a routine, played lots of classical music, prayed with their kids, helped with homework, disciplined, modeled values, and showed up. And in return they had well-behaved, polite, kind-hearted, honest, hard-working children who loved the Lord.

I’m now in my 15th year of parenting. I have honestly done all of those things on the “good parent” list more than not (well except maybe the classical music part). Sometimes some of my kids exhibit some of those qualities I thought would come in return, but never do all of my kids exhibit all of the qualities at once. And so I have also yelled, cried, pleaded, threatened, hidden in my room, bent the rules, changed the rules, and completely checked-out.

The end of the school year is both a relief and a bit of a regret. Another year down, another year closer to when these chickies leave the nest and there are glaring reminders all over of how imperfect my kids are — the awards ceremonies, the report cards, the standardized tests, the calls home from teachers and administrators, etc. And the thing is, it’s not the fact that my kids are imperfect that bothers me — I expect that and know that — it’s that it all feels like a recrimination of my parenting skills and choices.

Surely the mother who beamed proudly as all of her children received one academic award after another knows something I don’t. Surely the father whose son not only received the Christ-like behavior award, but prompted an impassioned speech from his teacher about this wonderful young man’s character, has done something I haven’t. Surely the friend who gets phone calls from the teacher just to tell her what a joy it is to have her children in his/her class has this parenting thing down to a science.

I tell myself this and I really want to believe it. I need to believe it. Because if it’s true, then it means that I have the ability to raise “good kids” and to be a “good parent”. I just have to figure out the right formula.

Of course the flip side is that it also means that in 15 years of trying I haven’t found it yet and I’m running out of time. My kids are closer to the age of leaving home than not and they are still making really bad choices. Choices that break my heart and scare me. They seem hell-bent on learning lessons the hard way, and not always learning the lesson the first, or second time around. Sometimes I feel like we are living in one bad after-school special after another and walking on the fringes of that one mistake that will change their lives forever.

So here I sit with this question: what makes a good parent? Because I really, really want to be one. More than I’ve wanted to be anything else in my life I want to be a good parent. This is the most important job I have and God has entrusted these three lives to me. There are no do-overs, and I desperately want to get it right.

But you know what I want almost as much? I want a friend to say, “You are not the only one. I know exactly how you feel.” I want a friend who comes alongside and says, “my kids did all of those same things and they made it, they turned out great.” I want a listening ear without judgement, and advice without recrimination. Because the hardest part of being a mom who feels like she isn’t getting it right is having the rest of the world agree with you.

Every well-meaning friend who has offered unsolicited advice or lectured one of my children in front of me, is a confirmation of “you don’t know what you’re doing, so let me take it from here.”

Every teacher or church-leader who has said, “why don’t you have your kid do xyz, it will be a good influence on them,” is recrimination that I haven’t provided enough good influence and my kids really need some more.

Every person who has come up and said, “let me tell you this funny story of this thing your kid did yesterday,” and then proceeded to tell me a highly unhumorous story of what my kid did wrong, is a reminder that I’m raising kids that make poor choices, not in a vacuum or in the privacy of their home, but front and center with the rest of the world watching and judging.

So yeah, I really want to know what it takes to be a good parent — and if you have figured it out, please tell me. But until then, I desperately just want someone to love me and love my kids in all of our imperfection, without judgement.

photo credit: Darren Johnson / iDJ Photography Mother and Son via photopin (license)

You are a daughter of the King

 

I have battled with my weight most of my life, to different degrees. And most of my life I have received messages that because of my appearance I did not measure up, I was less than.

In high school I was told, “you have such a pretty face, if only you weren’t fat.” In college I watched as my girlfriends always got asked to dance when we went out, and I sat alone at the table.

My first real job out of college a colleague and friend told me how she and our boss (a woman) had been talking about me, discussing how I was so smart and hardworking, it was a shame I was overweight because this would hold me back in my career. Years later, a male boss told me I didn’t have “the right look” to be the face of the company in the media, even though I wrote all of our press releases and marketing materials (a male boss who was 50 pounds overweight, I might add).

At my healthiest I was a size 12, having lost 60 pounds after giving birth to my twins. I was running 3-4 days a week, even participating in 5k’s and 10k’s. It was hard to keep up this workout schedule with three very young children and a full-time job with a commute, but I did my best. I felt strong and beautiful. In 2007 I started a new job. I was making good money, doing interesting work, well-respected, and getting to travel the world. I felt really good about myself. About 5 months into this job I went on a business trip to Thailand. I was sitting in the hotel lobby with a male colleague talking…I don’t even remember what the topic of conversation was but at some point it turned to health and fitness and he asked me if I had ever thought about exercising. Before I could answer, he said “you know if you worked out you could lose some weight.”

This colleague had looked at me and decided that I must not take care of myself. Because I did not fit his ideal of health or beauty he assumed I did not exercise. Even though I was the fittest I’d ever been in my adult life. Even though I had just run my first 10k the month before.

In that moment I felt defeated. Like a failure. Because despite all the good things I was doing for myself, to take care of my body, I did not meet his standard of health. I didn’t measure up to what my colleague or much of the world around me declared as fit and beautiful.

And I felt inferior.

Nothing had changed. I still had that job. I still had my health and strength. I still looked the same on the outside. But on the inside I felt unworthy. I felt unloved.

Because I was measuring myself and my worth against worldly standards, it was easy to believe what the world told me. I let one off-hand remark, one opinion from someone I barely even knew, tear me down.

And it’s not just about my appearance. Throughout my adult-life I have at times felt like a bad mom, bad friend, and bad daughter. I have judged my marriage against worldly standards and found it lacking. I have doubted my skill and ability in my career based on another’s harsh words.

I have craved praise and compliments and confused approval for love.

But here’s the truth that the world doesn’t tell us: we’ve already been chosen.

Each of us has been hand-picked with love. And it is a love so deep and so fierce that wars have been waged, enemies cut-down, and evil defeated — for me, and for you.

There is a great King who has claimed each of us as His daughter. And now He’s just waiting for us to claim our inheritance and live like the heirs that we are.

 

Romans 8:15-17 (TPT) says:

15 And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!”16 For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!”

17 And since we are his true children, we qualify to share all his treasures, for indeed, we are heirs of God himself. And since we are joined to Christ, we also inherit all that he is and all that he has. We will experience being co-glorified with him provided that we accept his sufferings as our own.

We are God’s beloved children, His daughters. And that means we are not supposed to live in the fear of never being good enough. It means that we will never be orphaned or alone. It means that we, being joined to Christ, will inherit all that He is and all that He has.

And in case you’re wondering what that inheritance is, it’s heaven. Eternal life. And He’s reserved a spot for us at His table. The places are set and our name cards placed with loving care in anticipation of our arrival (1 Peter 1:4).

So what does God want in return? I mean He must only reserve a spot for those who can be good and live up to His standards, right?

Jesus put it very succinctly in Matthew 22:37-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Are we supposed to keep the commandments and follow God’s teaching? Absolutely. But God knows we will fall short and make mistakes trying keep his commandments. Yet unlike the world He does not condemn us when we fail (Romans 8:1).

He wants us to love Him. He created us, He claimed us, He protects us, He has reserved a spot in heaven for us, and what He wants in return is that we love Him.

This is why the Truth is so hard to believe. How can we believe that we are so important, so loved? How can we walk around declaring we are a princess, a daughter of a King?

The world tells us we are not good enough. The world records and catalogs every mistake and shortcoming. It tells us we have to try harder, do more, be more, and then, maybe we’ll be accepted.

God says: beloved daughter, you are my child and I love you. I have a spot ready and waiting for you in my castle. You need not fear never being good enough. All that I have is yours and all I ask is that you love me and desire to be by my side.

You are a daughter of the King.

you are a daughter of the King

 

 

Romans 8:38-39