Saturday, August 01, 2015

Becoming You

We are not quite to 13 yet, but you are getting closer every day. I love you, sweet girl, & this is some of the best advice for becoming the BEST you! Take it to heart, Gracie girl.  XOXO

Ten Truths for the Teenage Girl – Because It Matters Who You’re Becoming

This past Saturday a sweet woman and a friend I’ve known for some time invited me to a birthday tea she hosted for her 13-year-old girl. Before the celebration, she asked a few ladies to write down a few things to encourage her girl as she is stepping boldly into her teenage years. As I sat and stared a blank document all last week, these ten things came to mind that I wanted to share with her. But as I read them aloud to her Saturday afternoon and handed her the letter for good, I  had the desire and got the blessing to share these ten things with other teenage girls if they had ten minutes to put down some homework, and read a little blog. So, here we are. Of course, this list is just scratching the surface of things we need to be teaching those younger than us, but we have to start somewhere, right? The only thing that is coming between us is a computer screen, but imagine us sitting across a quaint little table from one another sipping on some hot tea. 

Dear Gracie,
Life is learned as you live it, but as my mind started spinning, my fingers slowly started typing the things that I wish someone would have told me at 13 years young. And although I’m sure someone did tell me these things, I probably didn’t listen because I probably thought I already knew everything. Grin. So I’m praying that even if these words seems useless or boring to you today, that you would keep them tucked away and read them when life seems confusing or hard.
For years I’ve loved the word becoming. It’s one of those words that I’ve latched onto for different reasons and at times have even desired to start a ministry called “Becoming Ministries”. Don’t tell me you don’t think things like that, too. And if you don’t, well, just humor me. I really latched onto that word in college because I remember thinking that that season would either make me or break me. That who I chose to become in college would influence the rest of my life.
That is true, but what I realize now is that it starts long before college.
The choices you make affect who you are becoming long before you ever get to college.
You are always becoming. You never arrive. That is, until you meet Jesus face to face. Until then, it’s one long (or short the way you look at it) journey of becoming more like Jesus Christ. Because each circumstance and situation we find ourselves planted in is another opportunity to respond like Jesus would.
Hence my love for the word, becoming.
So, as you are becoming a young woman devoted to the Lord, here are a few things I’ve learned on my own journey of becoming who God has called me to be, for such a time as this:

1) God is the author of your story, not you.
That is so much easier said than lived out, but it is the Gospel truth. He has a plan and a purpose for you that is greater than you could dream up or imagine. If you think your dreams are big, imagine how big His dreams must be for you! If He is the author, He knows the beginning, the middle and the end. Nothing is too complex for Him, no detail is left unnoticed, and His timing is perfect. Sometimes life can be complicated, hard and confusing, but that’s why we have to remember that we have the God of the universe in charge of our story.

2) You are beautiful.
I want you to hear that with fresh ears. God made you unique. He made you, you. And He made you in His image. Since you bear His image, I am praying that as people see you, they would see His face shining upon you. Beauty really is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
Side Note: Yes, it’s okay to like cute clothes, just don’t let that be your measure of beauty. (I mean, let’s be honest, some girls like to shop. Hand raised!)

3) Know the Word.
And know what it says about you. If I’ve learned one thing, I’ve learned that if I can’t always believe what I think about myself, and I can’t always believe what people are saying about me or what the internet says about me,  I can believe what the Lord says about me. I can rest in the truth of His word and the promises He gives.

4) Life Consists of Seasons.
Just like the four seasons come and go, so will different seasons of life come and go. Don’t despair! “This too shall pass.” is true in both sweet and bitter seasons of life. While you don’t need to wish any of it away, remember to savor the sweet seasons, take the joy when it comes and stay faithful during the bitter seasons. Worship in the good times and bad. Jesus will be faithful over and over and over again. It’s in the valleys that God develops your character.

5) Be Humble.
At church my pastor always tells us to “go low”. Going low means being humble, staying humble, becoming a servant instead of searching for the spotlight. Serve, serve, serve. Invest, invest, invest in people. Never get too comfortable in your routine that you can’t go out of your way to help somebody else. Work quietly with your hands and your Father in Heaven will reward your faithfulness. Be faithful in the small things. You’ll never be too good to do something “meaningless”.

6) Be bold.
In a world of social networking, we can hide behind our computer, our phones, or our iPads. Be bold. Learn how to communicate face to face. It’s a life skill that’s becoming extinct, especially to our teenagers. Refrain from posting things online that you wouldn’t say to someone in person. Passive-aggressiveness (posting something for all to see when you only mean it for one to see) is not attractive.

7) True Love Waits.
I don’t mean that in the way you hear it in church all the time. Staying pure until marriage is a gift, by all means, yes, pursue purity. It’s much harder than you think in the sex-saturated world we live in, but whether you believe it or not, it’s possible. What I mean is, wait for a man that will pursue you, not confuse you. (And be careful not to be the one doing the confusing, either. We girls certainly know how to manipulate.) Wait for a man that will protect your purity, not use it. You are responsible for how you present yourself; so present yourself in a way that’s worth protecting. Sex doesn’t equal love, so wait for a man that loves and respects you enough to practice restraint towards you instead of giving into temptation before marriage. Building a relationship and romance takes time, something we’ve lost the art of in a world with technology at our fingertips, so don’t feel pressure to rush things. Remember, before you are someone’s wife, you are first their Sister in Christ, so don’t settle for less than being treated like a Sister. Your future husband will admire and value you. But also remember, there is forgiveness in Christ. You are not your past; your future spouse is not his past. The Lord redeems and renews. Praise God! But be patient in the waiting. (That’s coming from a girl whose story is still being written. It’s not easy at all. Not one ounce is easy. But Jesus is good and He is better.)

8) Pursue Your Calling.
You may not know what the Lord is calling you to do today, and that’s okay. But pursuing your calling is a bold and courageous thing. Run after the things that make your heart swell. Ask questions, ask for wisdom. Be friends with those younger than you, older than you and in the same season as you. Do things you love to do. Make a plan, but keep in mind that you can make all the plans in the world, but the Lord is the one who directs each of our steps.

9) Your Words Matter.
Speak kind words to, in front of, and behind your friend’s backs. And make sure your words and your actions line up with each other. Be honest. Be loving. Be kind. Be generous. A lady named Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Make people feel loved with your words and actions. In a world of email and text messaging, don’t loose the wonder of snail mail.

10) Laugh.
You are never too old or too young to simply stop and have fun on this journey of life. Laugh until your stomach hurts. Laugh with your friends. Laugh with your family. Enjoy life Savor it. Journal about it. Talk about your experiences. Visit places you think are interesting. When all is said and done, you don’t want anyone to remember you as a Negative Nelly. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom and joy! So own that joy, live it out and share it with those around you.
You are dearly loved, my Sister in Christ. This I know, the Lord has a plan for your life that no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind can comprehend or imagine. Believe it. Believe that Jesus is better.

“No one has ever seen,
 no one has ever heard,
 no one has ever imagined 
what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
“3 So trust in the Lord and do good.
Live on your land and be dependable.
4 Enjoy serving the Lord, and he will give you whatever you ask for.
5 Depend on the Lord. Trust in him, and he will help you.
6 He will make it as clear as day that you are right.
Everyone will see that you are being fair.
7 Trust in the Lord and wait quietly for his help.
Don’t be angry when people make evil plans and succeed.
8 Don’t become so angry and upset that you, too, want to do evil.
9 The wicked will be destroyed,
but those who call to the Lord for help will get the land he promised.
10 In a short time there will be no more evil people.
You can look for them all you want, but they will be gone.
11 Humble people will get the land God promised, and they will enjoy peace.”
Psalm 37: 3-11

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Four Agreements

Grace, you have finished another year. You are a 6th grader now. Congratulations! You finished well and worked hard this year. You loved your teacher, Mrs. Grage, and she loved you.  As I sat in the PTO Volunteer luncheon chatting with several teachers, it is clear that you are known for being kind and fun.  Mrs. Juarez mentioned again how you moved her with your kindness and empathy when her father died last year. Mrs. Chambers said you were her girl and she would like to just take you home; keep you close.
Oasis Family Love

Of course, they will miss you and claimed to be jealous that you are likely moving across the ocean. What an experience! You really touched my heart one morning last week when you were praying in the car. "Thank you, Lord, for this awesome experience of living in another country. I know that only a few kids get to do this amazing thing and I'm so thankful for the adventure. Help me to make the most of it and learn and share and help me love like You love. Help us when we miss our friends and family and help them, too, when they miss us."  Your gratitude is showing, even while we are waiting.  You know delays do not mean no, just waiting for the right time.  We have no idea what He is preparing for us, but we know that He has our best interest at heart.

Lakeside celebration!
Grace, I am just so thankful for you. I'm so thankful for the gift you are. God has really blessed me with such a lovely, kind, and creative daughter. You are growing up and while I want to make it all slowwwww down, I can't wait to see what is unfolding in your life.

So, here is a bit of wisdom I read today.  It's good for me and it will be good for you. Rules to live by. I know, lots of rules - let's say principles or guidelines for good living; guidelines that will make a quality life and reflect God's character.  I am going to start taking more about these principles so that we are living them, not just hearing them or reading them. Let's make them part of who we are. 

Be impeccable with your word.  Don't take anything personally (this one is hard for me).  Don't make assumptions.  Always do your best.

We have some learning, growing, and shaping to do.  XOXO to you, sweet girl. I hope you are having sweet dreams.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Love Notes

We are well into our back-to-school routine and you, Gracie girl, are LOVING school.  Every day, you come home with a thumbs up for your day at school. Not to say that every thing that happens is A-ok, but you are rolling with it. That delights me! You DELIGHT me!

I was reading this morning-something I like to do when it is quiet in our house. I found this list of 64 positive things to say to kids from Creative With Kids. Wow! What a list! Many of them sound familiar because I have said them to you. Some, I haven't yet said, but I will. Just so you don't forget, I am putting them all right here for you to read and remember. I love you, Gracie girl, and I want you to know how special and valuable you are to me and to your Creator. You were His idea in the 1st place and you were 1st loved by Him.  He has GREAT ideas! What a joy that He has shared you with me!

  • You are loved
  • You make me smile
  • I think about you when we’re apart.
  • My world is better with you in it.
  • I will do my best to keep you safe.
  • Sometimes I will say no.
  • I have faith in you.
  • I know you can handle it.
  • You are creative.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Your ideas are worthwhile.
  • You are capable.
  • You are deserving.
  • You are strong.
  • You can say no.
  • Your choices matter.
  • You make a difference.
  • Your words are powerful.
  • Your actions are powerful.
  • Your emotions may be powerful.
  • And you can still choose your actions.
  • You are more than your emotions.
  • You are a good friend.
  • You are kind.
  • You don’t have to like what someone is saying in order to treat them with respect.
  • Someone else’s poor behavior is not an excuse for your own.
  • You are imperfect.
  • So am I.
  • You can change your mind.
  • You can learn from your mistakes.
  • You can ask for help.
  • You are learning.
  • You are growing.
  • Growing is hard work.
  • I believe you.
  • I believe in you.
  • You are valuable.
  • You are interesting.
  • You are beautiful.
  • When you make a mistake you are still beautiful.
  • Your body is your own.
  • You have say over your body.
  • You are important.
  • Your ideas matter.
  • You are able to do work that matters.
  • I see you working and learning every day.
  • You make a difference in my life.
  • I am curious what you think.
  • How did you do that?
  • Your ideas are interesting.
  • You’ve made me think of things in a completely new way.
  • I’m excited to see what you do.
  • Thanks for helping me.
  • Thank you for contributing to our family.
  • I enjoy your company.
  • It’s fun to do things with you.
  • I’m glad you’re here.
  • I’m happy to talk with you.
  • I’m ready to listen.
  • I’m listening.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • I’m grateful you’re in my life.
  • You make me smile.
  • I love you.
  • Monday, October 20, 2014

    CSK Trailblazer of the Month

    Congrats to my girl, on of CSK's October Trailblazers! Trailblazers are students who have been selected for recognition because they have exemplified the learner profile and attitudes of the month.  Way to go, Grace!  I am so proud of you! You are also gearing up for Tournament of the Books & Battle of the Books! I know you thoroughly enjoyed your VIP visit with Ms. Kathy. I know it made this Mama's heart happy. XOXO

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

    Mama Said

    Mama said there would be days like this. She was right. The good thing is that God has the final word on days when disappointment fills our eyes to very brim and crowds our mouth with hateful words. S instead of sinking under the weight of our sadness, we ask Him to come and He promises He will. 

    "Lord, sometimes it would be real easy to get bitter, because we get up every day and people let us down;  because we hoped for plan A and somehow, we didn't even get plan B, but ended up with plan F because somebody said something, did one thing or a whole lot of things, and we can't shake it for
    anything. And You get it.  You get real close and you whisper, "I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust Me.  Call Me and I’ll answer.  I will be at your side in bad times. Don’t insist on getting even.  That’s not for you to do. I’ll do the judging, says God. I’ll take care of it...I will take care of you."
     [Psalm 91:14, Rom 12:19, Ps. 55:22]

    When we let go of bitterness, God leads us out of our wilderness.  When we let go of a root of bitterness, we let our lives grow better fruit. When we let go, we save the high cost of anger, the deep expense of bitterness, the robbery of our lives.  Bitterness sentences us to a prison and letting go lets us free. 

    So we pray: 'Lord, let us open our hands and let go and love big and bury axes and resurrect to wide open living. And let us feel how You love us like the best Father, gently kissing all our hidden pain with an everlasting grace. In the name of the One who loved us enough to let go of everything so we could.' Amen"    
    Ann Voscamp

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Counting Gifts

    We are visiting with family this week in North Carolina. I am counting gifts this week. Though my list was on hiatus, the gratitude remains.
    77.  Family recipes in my mother's own handwriting.
    78.  Recounting memories with my sister. She usually has some detail lost to me.
    79. Grace and cousin, Haddon, making the most delicious melt in your mouth pancakes. Lemon juice in the pancake mix? Who knew? Haddon, that's who. Yummilicious!
    80. Mimi sharing her Ella with Grace.
    81. Pliable hearts in the hand of a God who helps mend wounds between us.
    82. Oceans of fun. Literally. We are going to the OCEAN tomorrow. I am not sure who is more thrilled  - Grace or her water loving Mama. =) Happy! Happy! Happy!
    83. Time to just be.
    84. Friends who love me enough to miss me. I love them right back.
    85. Juicy peaches. It's not summer without a juicy peach staining your cheek sweet.
    86. Butterfinger trifle - a new something sweet. Looks like it's even low cal. BONUS!
    87. Breaking bread and sharing the Word with new found brothers and sisters in Christ.
    88. Reminders that He's got the whole world in His hand...little, bitty babies and the mamas and papas that grieve for them. The only peace is that Jesus is right there with them and they will wake in His arms and there forever remain.
    89. There is no shame in Jesus, but there is a safe shelter from the storms and tumult of this life. "Shame is a bully and grace is a shield. You are safe here. No shame. No fear. No hiding. It's always safe for the suffering here."  Ann Voscamp
    90.  Words from the heart and pen of Ann Voscamp. I am undone over and over and over again.
    91.  Singing dulcimer in Need To Breathe's "Multiplied".

    Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Cinderella DRAMA

    We wrapped up a fabulous summer theater program with Cinderella! We just love that enrichment program.  Grace found new ways to get involved and promote the show. She and Jerilyn ran a lemonade and sweet treat stand for donations raising $225 for the theater program.  Happy days indeed!

    Thursday, July 17, 2014

    No One Should Go Hungry

    Lending a helping hand at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  We repacked pallets and pallets of canned goods for distribution to food pantries all over Chicagoland. It was the kid/family repack day. What a privilege to serve for such a worthy cause! Those kids were on FIRE, each with their own job to do. Love it!

    Wednesday, July 16, 2014

    You Are Beautiful

    You Are Beautiful, Grace.  1,000 times over. You are beautiful. From the inside out, you shine, sweet girl. Below is a letter from a parent to a daughter. Though I didn't pen these words in this order, my heart has said them...prayed them countless times. My mind has raced with these same thoughts and ached with the realization that some day you might not believe me when I say, "You are beautiful." So here it is, in the words of another aching parent, Matt Walsh. I've plugged in your name, so you hear these words in your own ear, your brainy smart head and in your heart of hearts. You are beautiful.

    Dear Daughter,
    I hope you never notice the magazine rack at the supermarket.
    I hope you never see the billboards on the highway or the ads on the side of the city bus.
    I hope you never learn about Hollywood and the fashion industry.
    I hope you never listen to pop music.
    I hope you never walk down the makeup aisle.
    I hope you never hate your own appearance.
    I hope you never pick up the habit of putting yourself down whenever someone compliments you.
    I hope you never feel the pressure to physically conform to the perverse standards of a disordered world.
    I hope you always stay exactly as you are right now. Innocent, carefree, unencumbered, pure.
    But these could only be the hopes of a foolish idealist like me. I can rub the genie lamp and make a thousand stupid wishes, but you will grow. You will start to learn about the culture that surrounds you. You will form opinions about yourself. Your vivacious, bubbly happiness will give way to more complex emotions. You will develop new dimensions.
    In these times, here in your very early life, you only cry because you’re hungry or tired or you want me to hold you. One day, though, your tears will come from a deeper place.
    And, when that day comes, I want you to remember one thing: you are beautiful.
    Beautiful. A work of art — full of life, exploding with a unique, dynamic, vibrant energy.
    Beautiful. Eyes like the morning, a strong and powerful spirit, a face that brims with joy and hope. Beautiful because you were formed by God. Beautiful because He has known you since before you even existed, He has loved you since the beginning of time. Beautiful because you’re real, beautiful because you are.
    Remember this. It’s important that you remember it, Grace, as you live in a society that’s dedicated to making you forget.
    Those commercials and movies and songs and cosmetic products and plastic surgeons and diet pills and trendy clothes and Cosmo magazine covers — they will all try to feed you something. An image. A broken promise. A false salvation. A poison. An airbrushed, manufactured, painted over, photoshopped, marketing ploy. A ‘sexiness’ that’s about as beautiful and feminine as an assembly line. A ‘hot’ that’s more sterile and processed than canned food.
    This is the price of living in a culture of consumerism. We all pay the toll, Grace. Your family included.
    See, modern humans spend every waking minute surrounded by advertisements and product placements and carefully crafted, focus grouped ‘messaging’ of all kinds. It tears you in a million different directions, but the lesson is always the same: you are not good enough. You need to be ‘improved,’ they’ll tell you. Demolished and rebuilt. Shamed and made over. Pulverized and perfected.
    They pull out their metaphorical shotguns and blow giant holes in your psyche. They hollow you out and convince you that they’ve got the right thing to plug the gaps. They create a void in your conscience and pour their propaganda into it. This is why we have an unachievable, inhuman, digitized idea of beauty in our society. We’ve fallen for the ultimate scam, and the scammers have reaped dividends.
    ...Apparently, the shops in the mall have collectively determined that every woman is a size zero and none of them care about dressing modestly (I still don’t understand how there can even be such a thing as a ‘size zero’ — all human beings must, according to physics, have some mass, right?).
    Of course, these stores are wrong. Most women aren’t rail thin and many of them aren’t interested in dressing like music video back-up dancers. You just wouldn’t know it based on the selection at these boutiques, which, it would seem, have a clientele consisting mainly of mannequins and runway models.
    ---a guy can walk into any clothing store and find something that A) fits, and B) provides his body with basic coverage, which is the whole reason clothing exists in the first place, according to Wikipedia. As you will eventually discover, women have an entirely different experience. For them, even something as simple as clothes shopping becomes an all out assault on their values, priorities, and body image.
    And women aren’t the only victims. Men might not be chasing Hollywood beauty, but we have our own unreasonable expectations, imposed on us by ourselves and the world outside. We all — men and women alike — feel the pressure to present a façade. We all want to appeal to the masses. It’s like we’re locked in this eternal competition to be beautiful, or popular, or successful, or whatever, except we set our bar for beauty, popularity, and success according to the standards of the very strangers we’re trying to ‘beat.’ We want to be like everyone, and liked by everyone, but also better than everyone. This parallel battle for sameness and superiority wreaks havoc upon our souls, and the damage can sometimes be irreparable.
    It’s gotten worse now with the internet and social media. The struggle to impress our peers has invaded and consumed every minute of our lives. Grace, please understand this: of the entire population of the planet, only an infinitesimal percentage of them will ever be more than anonymous to you. Only the tiniest fraction will ever give you more than a passing glance. You should still love and respect these strangers, but you don’t need to impress them. Be a beacon of charity and truth to everyone, but you don’t need to worry about the opinions and judgments of every single person you happen across on the street.
    It doesn’t really matter how they feel about you, yet many of us want to be desirable to everyone, even and especially those we don’t know. We want them to feel something when they look our way. Feel what? I don’t know. Envy. Admiration. Inferiority. A combination of all three, I suppose. We certainly can’t allow them to carry on with their day feeling better, or more attractive, or smarter, or more successful.
    A silly way to live, isn’t it? We gain nothing from it, Grace. We do everything we can to impress the unknown faces in the crowd, and where does that get us? Nobody really cares in the end, anyway. Those faces are likely immersed in their own self-absorbed psychological vacuums, and whatever impression we make on them will dissipate as soon as we leave their line of sight.
    We’ve all become like puffs of smoke to each other, evaporating just as quickly as we appear.
    It’s a vicious, violent, tormenting cycle, and I don’t want you to be a part of it.
    I’ll do whatever it takes to see to that, although honestly, I’m not sure what it will take, exactly.
    Maybe I can just hold you close and love you.
    Will that be enough?
    And maybe I can just keep reminding you that you’re beautiful, even now, when you can’t really understand what I’m saying. Maybe if I say it often enough, you’ll believe me.
    Will you always believe me?
    I hope so. I pray so.
    Remember...Mom is one of the very few people on Earth who will tell you the truth about yourself. The truth that, from your first moments in this world, you’ve been like a vision, full of warmth and light. You don’t need to be photoshopped or edited or remade or made up, and you never will. You don’t need a “touch-up” or a “correction.” You were molded by the hands of God and given to us as a gift from Paradise. You don’t need to add fad diets, expensive shoes, and forty layers of makeup to the package.
    You will meet a lot of people in this world, and many of them are out to take something from you or sell something to you. So they’ll try to attack your self-image, suffocate your confidence, make you vulnerable, and seize whatever it is they want.
    That’s the game.
    Never play it.
    That’s the lie.
    Never believe it.
    Never believe it.
    I’ll protect you for as long as I can, Grace, but the day will come when I can no longer shield you from it all.
    That’s why Matt Walsh wrote this letter (and I am sharing it with you, Grace). For the times when the pressures of the world — the constant, deafening din, screaming “you’re not pretty enough, you’re not good enough” — become a little too heavy to shoulder. Whether it’s 7 years from now, or 17, or 70 — whenever you need a reminder, here it is:
    You are beautiful.