The Gift Our Daughters Really Need

Whitley,Flower child

I wish I could erase this pattern that cripples women, the one that starts as a preteen and follows us through life. This unhealthy space of not liking the way we look. I blink slowly trying to remember when this started, or why it started. Was it the images on television or the porn I found in someone’s house when I was a girl trying to figure out what being a woman was all about?

I remember thinking that day when I realized that people pay money for this trash- So, this is what you think of women?

Don’t you know that I will be one soon?

This is someone’s daughter and you are someone’s dad.

Is this all you think that we are? Painted and displayed and broken.

I felt sorry for her, the girl on the front cover bare.

I am bringing up girls now and I feel the weight of this enormous task that is laid out before me.

God, please help me to do this right.

My daughter asked if it was a good time to talk. When your preteen wants to talk to you, it’s always a good time to talk. This “shut the door, tell me everything you are feeling” stuff is starting to happen. God knows how much I want to be good at it.

I want to have the answers and play it cool when something throws me off guard; I want to have the words to ease her troubled mind.

And it starts.

I feel bad about my body.

I feel bad about my mind, like I’m not smart enough.

I decided to start with the “I wish I could change my body” talk first.

I tell her about the change that is happening, that right now her mind and her body are trying to catch up. I talked to her about comparison and how she just needs to be the healthy version of herself, that there is no weight limit or jean size that can be her guide for this. The hormones are invading her space and she is growing, developing, and morphing into a young woman right before my eyes.

This stretching out place happens both in our bodies and our mind, but somehow we need to carefully walk our daughters through this. They need to know that their bodies are a gift; that they are a gift.

So, I pulled out this scripture verse knowing that it takes a lifetime to really get this, but I quoted it anyway.

“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 ESV)

Of course, men and women look at the outward appearance while God looks at our heart. But, all I saw sitting in front of me was a girl who looked just like me; and I wouldn’t change a single thing about her.

Something comes to me, a thought, a way that I could help her. I grab my soft middle, the part that I wish wasn’t there and say, “Is this what you notice when you look at me?”

She shakes her head and says ‘no’ softly.

“I didn’t always have this soft part of me. At times I wish it wasn’t there, but it gave me you.”

Bringing forth life changed my body, but more importantly, it changed my heart. So, I thank God for the stretchy middle and the miracle of giving birth. I thank Him for helping me when I was underweight, stressed to the max, ill, and unable to sustain a healthy pregnancy.

I knew that in moment I needed to give my daughter the gift of seeing her mother love her imperfections and show her what it looks like to honor and respect my body.

I am not measured by my soft middle, or the size of clothes that I wear. I am not my title, or the position I hold. My worth is based on the contents of my heart, that’s all.

If I can teach this to her at eleven and reinforce it over the years. If I can guard carefully the words that come out my mouth about my body image, I can make a lasting impact.  If I can do this and change the way she views womanhood, I could change a generation-the one that she will be leading.

But, I can’t do this without you doing the same thing for your girls.

Maybe if we link arms and allow our strength be larger than Kim Kardashian’s butt displayed all over the internet, we can be the women who not only teach about the power of a woman’s worth- we can be the women who live it loud enough to quiet our daughter’s insecurities.

So, as I sit here wrecked with a list of things I need to buy for my girls for Christmas, I know this is the most important gift I can give them, the gift of championing the worth of women. All the women, those on display and the ones starving and cutting themselves to dull the pain.

But I must start first with the miniature versions living in my house.

Are you with me?

Love you like crazy,

Jennifer Renee

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Give Yourself A Gift This Year

walking with my baby

My nine-year-old crawled in bed with me. Yes, she still does that and I love it. She’s the baby of the family and my little cling on. She wrapped her arms around me as I wrapped her up in my arms.

“Mom, I need you to pray for me.”

“Is something wrong?”

“I am having bad thoughts…like something bad might happen.” She whispers.

I began to pray, asking God to help her to not think those thoughts or worry and then prayed for a hedge of protection around my family. I asked God to help me with my thoughts and that I wouldn’t worry either.

Tears fall softly down my face as my daughter starts praying.

“Jesus, I just want to be the best me that I can be. Help me to do that. I want to be the best me I can be.”

She begins to tell Jesus how she falls short at this with words from a nine-year-old heart. It reminded me of how many women have basically said the same thing with bigger words laced with regret.

How many women feel like the worst version of themselves? Too many.

My tears fall on her as we say ‘amen’ while I search for words to tell her about how God sees her heart and would honor those sweet prayers of her. I find the words and remind her of the worth found deep inside of her and that maybe, just maybe, she’s being too hard on herself.

And my mind drifts to countless conversations and endless words from women I know doing the same thing, being ridiculously harsh and unkind to themselves.

I think that’s what we all want; to be the very best version of ourselves and every day we have a million opportunities to blow it. But, we press on knowing that God sees our hearts and searches all the deepest places within us.

Everyday we give our days like a gift to the God that formed us, and most days we wonder if it’s enough.

Years ago in a moment of mentoring I apologized to someone who became more like a sister and less like mentee. I told her how I wished that I had done more to help prepare her for the road ahead. She looked me in the eyes and said something that I’ll never forget.

“Jennifer, sometimes we learn more from Clark Kent than we do from Superman.”

Her words set me free; I hope they will set you free too.

In all this striving of trying to be the very best version of yourself, perhaps it’s time to look at yourself through the filter of “I am enough” and give yourself a big fat break.

Perhaps that could be your Christmas gift to yourself, to be a little nicer to the woman you look at in the mirror.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee