Tag Archives: daughters

This is Fifteen

Fifteen.

Today you turn fifteen and I’m feeling very emotional about it. I can’t say exactly why, only that some ages hit me harder than others. I remember crying the year you turned seven, for no particular reason except that seven seemed so much older than six and I felt like a season was coming to an end.

Today it’s feeling less like a season coming to an end and more like a new beginning. Like you are embarking on a journey that will lead you straight into a new world — one that you are inventing and crafting for yourself — and straight out of the comfort and safety of the world I created for you.

I finally understand why there are entire sub-groups of the population that celebrate Quinceañera when their daughters turn 15. In these Latin American countries and communities 15 is seen as an important coming of age for girls. Large parties are held to recognize her journey from childhood to maturity. And that’s what it feels like today. Like I am finally having to recognize and accept you have crossed the threshold from childhood to maturity and are walking quickly toward adulthood.

I realize that this didn’t happen overnight, but there’s something about 15 that feels like this journey has suddenly gone into warp speed. This past year has been full of so many moments reminding me that you are no longer a little girl. It’s almost like someone gave you a check-list of things to do to signify you are leaving behind childhood and you are rushing to cross-off every item.

First love. First driving lesson. First phone. First bank account. First broken heart.

You got your braces off. You started making a list of colleges you might want to attend. You are earning your own money through babysitting, pet-sitting, and tutoring jobs.

In two days you leave on your first missions trip. You are traveling out of the country…without me!! It will also be the first time you won’t be home for a major holiday (somehow I did not make that connection when I agreed to this trip all those months ago).

I know it’s just the beginning. A sign of things to come. There will be more trips, more stamps in your passport. More time behind the wheel of a car, and more planning for college and life after highschool. More holidays spent away from your family, more time spent with friends and on dates.

So much more.

But the truth is it’s not just all of the things you are doing that has me feeling this shift, this change in trajectory. It’s also the changes I see in you. Physical changes, of course: you’re stunning, no longer a child’s face, but a young woman’s smile. And those long, long legs! You are now as tall as I am and will likely surpass me soon.

More striking, though, are the changes to your personality. At the core, you are still you — goofy, adventurous, dramatic, loving, talented, fiercely loyal, strong, and smart. But these traits have evolved. I see how a recently-developed maturity overlays each of these and makes them something different. You are protective of your family, vocal about social injustice, devoted to your friends, generous with your time, serious about using your gifts, but also humble and willing to admit your mistakes and shortcomings, committed to doing better and being your best-self. I am often amazed by how self-aware you are, a trait I find lacking in many adults, and especially in teenagers and children.

The most significant part, though, is that while you are this woman-child walking boldly toward adulthood, growing more confident with each step, I see you pause every now and then and look back over your shoulder at me. Are you making sure I’m still there? Not wanting to leave me behind? Or saying, “come on, mom, keep up! I need you with me”? I’m not sure which. Maybe a little of both. But I can tell you that taking this journey with you is simultaneously the greatest joy of my life and also has me completely undone.

But then, that’s motherhood in a nutshell.

My beautiful girl

Happy birthday my darling girl.

 

 

No more labels, no more boxes

You’re only 11 years old and yet I am beginning to see the bruises left by society’s labels for girls; from comparing yourself to others and deciding you don’t measure-up, you aren’t as good. And it breaks my heart.

But I am resolved that it doesn’t have to continue, that together we can demolish the world’s benchmark and bust out of that box you are trying to put yourself in. We can drown-out the voices of others so you can hear just one voice, the only One that matters. Because I have my own scars from years, and years of wearing other people’s labels and trying to fit in their boxes, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that happen to you.

So here’s the thing I most want to tell you, my precious, sweet girl: You are.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are loving.

You are funny.

You are fast.

You are clever.

You are a leader.

You are (fill in the blank with whatever you want to be).

Because YOU get to decide who you want to be, no one else. No one else has the authority to place labels on you.

You are made in God’s image and that makes you precious, and valuable, and free. It makes you a conqueror.

He created you to do great and marvelous things in order to honor Him. He wants you to show the world just how wonderful you are because it is a testimony of His great power and love that He created someone as spectacular as you.

God does not set height and weight requirements for being His beloved daughter.

He does not require straight A’s or straight hair to win His approval.

He will never suggest you quit because you are not the fastest, the prettiest, the most graceful, the smartest, the tallest, the funniest, the most popular.

In fact, He has already put you on the team. You’ve made the cut. He’s called you according to His purpose; His plans. And He wants you, desires you, to come and be a part of His team.

Just. As. You. Are.

So, little one. Here’s what I want you to do for me. I want you to repeat after me:

“I am wonderful.” (Psalm 139:14)

“I am precious.” (Isaiah 43:4)

“I am strong.” (Proverbs 31:25)

“I am not afraid.” (Joshua 1:9)

“I am never alone.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“I can conquer anything.” (Romans 8:37)

Then I want you to go find your Bible and highlight those six verses listed above and read them regularly. Remembering that the only labels you should believe are the ones found in that book. The only voice you should listen to is His voice.

(And maybe, sometimes, your mama’s voice, too. Because she knows a thing or two.)

And then, once you’ve read those verses over, and over, and over, then you kick that box you’ve been trying to fit into out the door. Put it in the trash pile, and don’t ever take it back. Because the only label I ever want you to wear is this one:

I Am His

 

Check out the new video created based on this post:

You strike a woman, you strike a rock

Updated March 8, 2017. Originally published August 9, 2014.

Several years ago I was in South Africa on a business trip that happened to coincide with their Women’s Day. The national holiday, which is celebrated each year on August 9th, commemorates the day in 1956 when  20,000 South African women marched to government buildings in Pretoria to protest the inequality of women, including a law that required black women to carry “identity passes”. The peaceful protest marked a significant milestone in the women’s and race equality movements in South Africa. It’s reported that after marching to the Union Buildings the women sang a song called Wathint` abafazi, Strijdom that includes the line wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo, which translates to “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”.

The same strength, resolve, and courage of those women can be seen in women across history and geography. I think all the way back to 478 B.C. and Queen Esther, who stood up to her King and husband to save her people. I think of Americans Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony who paved the way for women’s rights in the United States in the late 1800’s. I think of women like Manal al-Sharif and Aziza Yousef who are fighting today  for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. And then…

I think of my daughters.

What will it be like for them to grow up as women in the 21st Century? Living in a world that is becoming an increasingly more global society, where the plight and struggle of women in foreign lands must become the fight and protest of women across the world. I wonder, will they take for granted the freedoms and equality they have in their land of birth? Or will they read about girls in India being raped and neglected, and cry tears for them? Will they see TV reports about the girls who have been kidnapped from their homes and schools in Nigeria, forced into slavery and marriage, and become incensed? Will they learn of the girls stolen or bought from their homes in Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America and sold into slavery right here in their own backyard and feel motivated to act?

Will my daughter’s know that they have the  power  responsibility to fight for women across the world? How do I raise my girls to understand that there has never been a more opportune, more precise moment than right now to take action and change the future for all women?

To know that when you strike a woman, you strike a rock.

It’s a staggering responsibility, but I’m comforted to know that there are those who have gone before, paving the way. Organizations like The Seed Company and their Esther Initiative, with the single goal of translating and sharing over 20 Bible stories that will teach women of their value, worth, and the love of God. The Esther Initiative

Companies like Noonday and Fashion and Compassion that are creating “pathways out of poverty” for women in underdeveloped and vulnerable countries around the world. And organizations like Days for Girls ensuring no girl misses school simply because she doesn’t have access to sanitary supplies.

Because, when you strike a woman, you strike a rock.

And I can teach my girls through example.

By shopping from companies that empower women artists and entrepreneurs, I can show them that what we buy and how we spend our money can make a difference in the lives of women around the world. By planning and leading a women’s retreat twice a year I can show them the importance of self-care and nurturing their relationships with Jesus and with other women.

When I speak of other women I can comment on their strength, their hearts, and their virtue instead of their clothing, their hair, or their size.  When I engage with other women I can treat them as equals, as sisters, and as friends, instead of as competition for men, or jobs, or attention.

I can show them through my words and actions that strength is beautiful, kindness is powerful, and education is the key to unlocking doors; that they deserve to be cherished and respected by the men in their life. And to always remember the One who envisioned all they could do and be when He created them with love.

Because, when you strike a woman, you strike a rock.

 

graduation
Education is the key to unlocking doors, girls

There is more. So much more that can be done, needs to be done so my girls grow up to be sisters of change. But this is where I start.

Because, when you strike a woman, you strike a rock.

To my daughters, and to all of the beautiful, strong, and smart women in my life and around the world: Happy International Women’s Day!

Four reasons why I do mommy dates

One of my favorite childhood memories is from when I was about five or six years old. My little sister was having her adenoids removed, so while my mom was with her at the hospital all day, I went to work with my dad. Sure, part of what made that such a cool memory is because at that time my dad worked at the White House and I got to see the well-oiled machine of support staff that keep the White House running day-in and day-out and the underground city they worked in: mechanical rooms, florist shops, kitchens, wood shops, and more (I might be remembering this with rose colored glasses, but to a 6 year old it was pretty cool).

But I  think what really made that day so special was that it was just me and my dad for the whole day. No pesky adorable little sister to take his attention; no hushed “grown-up” talks between he and mom. It was just us…and about 500 White House employees.

I had just barely turned one when my sister arrived so I don’t really remember a time when I had my parents all to myself. Spending the day with my dad felt like something really special. I think it’s partly due to this memory that I have found it important to have mommy-daughter or mommy-son dates with my kids.

My eldest was two and a half when she stopped being an only child. To make matters worse, she didn’t just gain a brother OR a sister overnight, she got both! I remember after I found out I was pregnant with twins holding little Hannah in my lap and crying because I was worried that my husband and I would be so consumed with two new babies, she would feel completely neglected and ultimately scarred for life! OK, so maybe that was the pregnancy hormones talking.

I do realize there  are people who have triplets, quads, or even more at the same time, and their kids turn out fine. I also realize there are people with very large families and kids who grow up with a new sibling being born every year or two for most of their childhood. So maybe having to share mom and dad with just two other siblings doesn’t sound like such a big deal…and I’m sure my kids would be just fine if they never had that one-on-one time. But, here’s what happens when we do:

First, the child going on the date usually gets to pick what we do. Oh boy! The excitement of being able to decide our activity and/or where we eat, without having to compromise, take a family vote, or yield to a sibling’s desires. This is like winning the lottery for them!

Second, we get to talk — uninterrupted! Sometimes I feel like I need a flashing sign that says “now serving number 45” and a deli counter number wheel just so my kids stop fighting about whose turn it is to tell me something really important, like how many EXs or YZs or whatevers their Pokemon cards have (I seriously do not speak Pokemon). And can I tell you the only thing worse than having to listen to a child give me a 15 minute detailed description of their Pokemon cards is having to listen to multiple kids fight over who gets to tell me about their Pokemon cards first! Not to mention when you have two in the same grade/class, there is always fighting over who gets to tell me what happened at school. So when it’s just one-on-one time there is no taking a number, no waiting for your sister to finish her 20 minute story about what happened during the 5 minute bathroom break, or feeling jilted because your brother got to tell me about the cool new math game you played today. Also, I have a teenager now. There’s a LOT she absolutely will not tell me in front of her brother or sister, so this one-on-one time opens up so many opportunities for her to share. And trust me when I say, I savor every bit of it.

Third, I get to see the best versions of who my children are. Seriously, when it’s just me and one child, they are the kindest, funniest, most gracious, well-mannered child in the world. But get them in the backseat of a car with their siblings and they turn into screaming, fighting, selfish, rude, head-spinning heathens! So it’s nice every few months to see a glimpse of who they might actually be one day, and to know that, indeed, they may have actually learned a thing or two I tried to teach them.

Lastly, these dates create sweet, sweet memories. Just like I can still remember that day with my dad from 35 years ago, I know my kids will remember these days for a long time to come. Often, at the end of a particularly long or exhausting day, after I’ve said ‘brush your teeth’ 20 times, and ‘who left their dirty dishes in the sink’ 50 times; while I’m tucking them into bed and simultaneously complaining about the fact that I can’t see the floor of their room underneath all of those clothes, I get asked, “mom, do you remember that time we went to see The Music Man, just me and you?” Or “mommy when is our next mother/daughter date? I really want to go back to Polka-dot-Pot and paint that jewelry box we saw last time.” Or my favorite, “mom, do you remember that time we went to the monster truck rally and got to eat cotton candy, just me and you? That was the best day ever.”

And selfishly I think,  ‘oh please hang on to those memories and let them be stronger than the memories of the tired mom who lost her cool one too many times.’ And I know, these dates are just as much for me as they are for them.

 

A letter to my daughters on their wedding day

It was a beautiful, blue-skied, May day. We sat in the historic church surrounded by gilded marble, a painted cathedral ceiling, and stunning artwork all around. Fresh flowers adorned the alter and a row of handsome young men stood at the front. One by one the bridesmaids made their way down the aisle and then the doors opened and the stunning bride appeared. I saw the huge grin spread across her groom’s face as he saw her for the first time. I saw the sheer joy radiating from her entire being as she made her way past family and friends to say “yes” to the one she loved; to say “yes” to forever.

As I stood witness to this new beginning for my cousin and his bride I got teary-eyed thinking about a similar day 15 years ago when I was the glowing young bride, walking down the aisle to my handsome, grinning groom. I thought about all of the joy and hope, the love and excitement. I thought about what it felt like to be at the beginning and starting on that journey and what it feels like to be here, 15 years down the road to forever.

And then, I thought about my daughters. I pictured them as young brides, dressed in white, getting ready to start their own journey to forever. And there is so much I want them to know about marriage. So much I have learned along the way that I want to tell them; to help them prepare their hearts and fortify their spirits for what they cannot see or understand while still at the beginning. 

Fifteen years…in many ways it seems like a lifetime, yet I know in the big picture, we are only a quarter of the way through this journey. Still… a lot of lessons learned in the last 15 years; a lot of discoveries made, and the realization that I was completely, totally unaware of what truly lie ahead of me when I walked down that aisle.

If someone had told me, would I have listened? Would it have changed anything? If I tell my daughters, will they hear my words? Will I be able to prepare them for the journey that awaits? I don’t know. But, like any determined mother bear, I’m going to try anyway.

So here it is, a letter to my daughters on their wedding day:

My dear girls,

Today, your daddy and I are celebrating fifteen years of marriage. Of course, by the time you read this letter we will have been married for at least 25 years (because you are NOT allowed to marry until you have a college degree!) and by then this letter might have gone through a few revisions. But in the last 15 years we’ve learned a thing or two, your daddy and I, and I want to share a few bits of advice with you. Please humor your old mom and read to the end.

Hannah

Next to raising kids, marriage will be hardest thing you will ever do in life. Period. But it will also be the most glorious, exceptionally audacious adventure you will ever experience. Don’t let the hard negate the wonderful. When you are in the midst of acrimony and hurt feelings, knee-deep in anger and frustration, it will be easy to forget all that is good and beautiful about this man and this marriage. That is the enemy talking. Do not give him a seat at the marriage table.

Speaking of the marriage table and who is or is not invited, I hope you will remember to invite God into your marriage every day. But beyond Him, you and your spouse are the ones showing up and doing the hard work. Nobody else. So be careful whose opinions and counsel you seek. You have grown up in a very public world where every detail of life is shared in 150 characters or less. Please remember that whatever you say publicly can not be taken back — whether posted on social media, said among a group of girlfriends, or even vented over the phone to me. It’s OK not to share every argument or decision in your marriage with us. I will be here to listen when you need me, but I will also respect the boundaries you put into place. In either case, I will always be praying for you and that boy waiting at the alter.

Remember that you are a strong, independent woman. Embrace that part of yourself. It’s probably one of the things that boy of yours loves about you. But don’t mistake pride for strength, or selfishness for independence. There is a quiet strength in being able to put aside your ego and realize you don’t have to be — you can’t possibly be — right about everything. To remember that winning an argument is not nearly as important as demonstrating love and forgiveness. And believe me when I tell you that leaning on your husband for strength and trusting him to lead by example does not take away your independence. Instead it highlights your courage and indomitable spirit.

Olivia

Remember that when you think and speak highly of someone, you allow them to stand taller and rise up to their full, God-given potential. However, when you speak poorly of them, you are setting the bar low and people will often stoop to that level. If you want an exceptional husband, speak of him in exceptional ways. Regard him with admiration and respect.

Also, just one thing about intimacy. I know you don’t want to hear about this from your mother, but just trust me when I say that it’s important to the growth and health of a marriage. Don’t underestimate the healing power of alone time with your spouse. But just as important, don’t underrate the damage that can be done when too much time has passed without that physical connection.

Lastly, you need to know that love is not enough, but God is. No matter how much two people love each other, sometimes it is just not enough to keep a marriage together. But if you look to God to be your guide and your anchor; if you invite Him into your marriage and you both trust Him as your mighty counselor, there is nothing too big for Him.

Now, take a look at that man getting ready to walk you down the aisle. The one with the graying hair who sung you to sleep, helped you with your math homework, and taught you how to fish. He is the bar by which you should measure any man who thinks he is equal to the task of being your partner for life. He is the best living example I can offer you…not because he is perfect and has all of the answers. But precisely because he is not. Because he has made mistakes and asked for forgiveness. Because he has fallen short and sought God’s guidance to do better. Because he has loved me when I have been unlovable, cherished me when I have been unworthy of praise, and prayed for me in all matters. Because he has never given up. You deserve a man just like him.

I know you are young and in love, and caught up in the planning of the big day. But I hope you will keep this letter and remember my words when you need them. In the meantime, your father and I will be praying for you and that boy down at the alter, with the big grin on his face.

Love,
Mom

P.S. – Happy anniversary to my handsome, smiling groom.