Hey mama, don’t take it personal: A Guest Post from Suzie Eller

Every once in a while you meet someone and you instantly “click”. That happened for me recently when I met Suzie Eller. She’s a former Broken Girl whose life reflects the beauty that is available to us all when we allow God to mend our hearts and walk us through forgiveness. 

Growing up in a dysfunctional home doesn’t set us up to be naturally good parents (if such a thing exists) but Suzie’s life proves that even broken girls can be great mamas!

Welcome our dear friend Suzie…

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When your memories as a child were painful, you can become super sensitive to the words from your own children. After all, you want better for your children.

So when you try hard and they still throw a tantrum, or say “I hate you,” or embarrass you in the grocery store, you might want to take it personal.

Hey, don’t you know how much I love you!

Why are you embarrassing me?

Don’t you see what I do for you?

But this is the scoop:

Your child is a work in progress.

She has no idea of your past pain and that’s a gift. You’ve given her innocence and a childhood.

He isn’t big enough or wise enough to make your hopes for a good family come true. It’s not his job, and his shoulders aren’t big enough to carry that burden.

So, what do you do?

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Mama, we take personalization out of the equation.

It’s not about you.

Your child is a little warm body with a brain that is still developing (and will be until their early twenties), and you and I have the most amazing responsibility and gift of teaching and loving and shaping them.

So, when they throw a fit in WalMart, forget the people around you. Don’t worry about what they are saying, and focus on your child.  Stay calm. Be the adult.

Because this is a defining moment.

Your child has what you did not. . .  a calm, reasonable, loving parent who is willing to tough it out through the bad moments.

A mama who knows that parenting is wonderful and hard.

A mama who sees this as a teachable moment so that her child can grow into the amazing adult he or she will one day be.

A mama who teaches rather than loses it.

When we don’t take it personal, we shape our children’s memories, instead of our old memories shaping our child.

Suzie

I hope this will be a helpful resource: The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past      to Give Your Kids a Great Future.

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Suzie is an International Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and author, former radio co-host, and Bible Gateway blogger.

She’s a woman who believes that our past shapes us, but does not limit us! (Read Suzie’s story)

She is an author of articles, columns, and seven books including her most recent books:

The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness and The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places.

Most important, she’s a mom, wife, and “Gaga” to five beautiful babies.

Suzie lives in NW Arkansas and when she’s not writing or speaking, she’s with her family, or hiking, or filling the kitchen with smells of her love language of cooking.

Rebuilding and Reclaiming: A New Generation of Ruth & Naomi’s

Elise & Mom

My prince

My pint-size, just passing through, prince

I was thirty-one and recovering from a hysterectomy that I didn’t want to have and my husband was in Africa just two weeks after my surgery. (Sorry, this is a blog for women. I have no problem talking about mammograms and the fact that I don’t have a uterus.)

The reoccurring nightmares that I had been having finally stopped, the ones with a faceless man standing in the doorway leading into my room trying to hurt me.

I stopped fighting in my dreams. I stopped writing and hiding behind fiction because I was too afraid of the faceless man. I started the brave act of telling my truth and writing about the jacked-up, messy side of healing from years of emotional baggage and dragging deadweight from yesterday.

I was ready for whatever. But I had no idea what that would look like.

I was on my knees crying in surrender, terrified of the unknown and what was next for us as a family. I just knew in my heart that my husband would come home and that we would be on the mission-field next with my miracle babies, ages three and one. I would be in a tiny hut with no Wi-Fi trying to speak Francais Afrique and have to bake my own bread. And let me just add that my accent is strong and southern…and I would need language school for years just to help me change my bad habit of chewing on words and adding extra syllables that are unnecessary. Sometimes I talk like Reba McEntire sings and I don’t think it’s cute when it comes out of my mouth. But, she’s cuter, smarter, and can pull it off and make a lot of money from it.

My overactive imagination was playing tricks on me. I was a hot-mess trying to surrender to the unknown while on pain meds and trying to figure out which part of my surrender was Jesus…or maybe I was just high.

I felt like crying and reading my Bible would be the sane thing to do, so I turned to this passage and God whispered words to my mending heart.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27 NKJV)

My husband was building an orphanage in Africa while God was rebuilding my heart.

When we are in recovery, both physically and spiritually, the ugly rises to the surface of our hearts and it looks a lot like fear and trying to control the unknown. Which is not possible, in case you haven’t figured that out.

In that moment it wasn’t about finding ways to control my life, it was about finding a way to lose it. It was about the laying down of my selfishness to find a life worth writing about and living. It was about the crucifying of this flesh and learning what dreams were worth entertaining and which ones that were selfish pursuits and vanity-induced ambition.

I cried and asked God, “What does this scripture really mean?

And answered, “…Of course my answer is yes to whatever you are asking of me. Even if it scares me silly and is messy.”

In my heart I felt like God was saying this…

“If you take care of and tend to the orphans and widows…and all those in between, I will take care of you.”

So, you want me to take care of the messy middle girls?

God did not spell out my next step. At all. He just told me to leave the light on at the door of my heart and make room for the wounded wanderer and all those who might come to me for a little while. And so I did. I focused on the widow and opened my home and my heart for a little pint-size prince that I didn’t get to keep.

And late at night I would write for my messy middle girls and found my tribe and my un-muted voice. I allowed my heart to gravitate to the strong women in leadership, kicking against transition, and I knew my job was to hold her hand and let her know that she was my kind of crazy and that eventually, she would be okay too. I knew that if she could be brave enough to surrender to living life upside down, counter cultural, and set apart…she would be free and happy and fulfilled for the first time in her life.

I am the Ruth to a bunch of Naomi’s wrestling with bitterness and finding the courage to go back home changed and softer, not just used up and mangled on the inside.

I was the woman with her hand outstretched reaching for the hem of His garment; reaching so hard I knew that in time I would have it some kind of healing.

Days unfold and we feel ourselves at the stretching place where we wait and hope in things unseen. We want to become better at the waiting and allow room for hope in the unseen. And then think we are crazy for actually thinking that it will rise from the dusty ashes of having what we thought we wanted taken from us. We are a little spoiled and a little too calculated. And we are definitely way too comfortable, we sit on padded pews and we never have to wonder where we will sleep or if we will have three square meals and all the snacks in between.

We want safe and easy. A, B, and then C.

We want plan A and stomp our foot telling God what plan B should look like.

As if we know better.

We wrestle with people instead of wrestling to be an un-muted voice for those waiting for us to get our crap together and realize that life was never meant to be all about us.

We ask for red flags and warning signs and sometimes we see them waving and know that God calls us to a messy kind of love that hurts and costs us something, if only our need for control.

What God does not need is another controlling woman. He needs a Spirit-controlled woman with an untamed fire inside of her that spurs her to action and getting her hands dirty.

Our bodies fail us, our minds find less space for trivial things like where you put that long list you needed to make to help you stay on track and the even larger task of being all things to all the people becomes less important. Your “people group” becomes smaller even if the number of people that you have been called to serve enlarges.

If we can’t remove some distractions from our life…He will love us enough to remove them for us. And sometimes breaking up with our former life is exactly what we need to usher in change that sets us all the way free.

Lately I have been wrapped up in this passage in Isaiah 61: 3-7 (NKJV) for weeks and these words are impacting me:

He has sent Me:

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall rebuild ruined cities…instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.”

Maybe all you see in your life is ruins and ruined cities…but God is rebuilding something inside of all of us right now. We trade up with God every time. Instead of shame, double the honor. Instead of confusion we find ourselves rejoicing. Everlasting joy is ours because He wins and we win with Him. Don’t go by what you see, God is in the rebuilding business. Stop fighting with people and start fighting for them. Be the Ruth. Go find the next Ruth. Be the Naomi who refuses to have her named changed to “Bitter”…and give birth to sometime new from what you thought was dried up and in ruins.

Much love to you.

Jennifer

Photo cred: Chelsea Rustad, my incredibly gifted friend with a heart for adooption.

Will you pray for our Ruth and her family waiting for her to come home? Click on the link to find out more about Ruth’s unfolding story. She has a Mom, Dad, and siblings that ache for her to be home. It’s been a long wait and they need you to bombard heaven for them. Let’s fight for our girls.

 

When it’s Time to Fight

Can I be honest?

It’s been a rough week. One of those “seriously if one more thing…” kind of weeks. It started out pretty subtle. A minor annoyance here, an unwanted thought there, but has continued to escalate to the point of a full out break-down with an ugly cry last night.

Then all the pieces fell together. Last night in the dark I asked Jesus to show me what was going on and He did.

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A week ago I apparently opened a can of worms with a little blog post. I’m not sure what happened but it went a bit more viral then I ever expected it would.

Almost two weeks ago I attended a conference with 800 women in ministry. Friday night Christine Cain started her powerful talk to us with this statement “Our enemy has always hated women, and women with a voice he has always detested.”

I agree with Christine. Satan puts a lot of effort behind silencing us from speaking truth. And when we choose to speak up, when we choose to bravely stand for truth; it seems to tick him off.

Last week I spoke up about something that was heavy on my heart. This week my family has been tormented at every turn. I can’t help but think the two things are connected.

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As soon as I made the connection I got mad. My tears dried up and I was ready to fight. I learned a long time ago how to fight the good fight of faith. I meet a lot of women who think it’s wrong to fight, but it’s not. I believe we are invited by God to fight. The problem is when we forget who we’re fighting for and who we’re fighting against.

For: in favor of; in support of: to advocate, to be on one’s side, to champion, encourage, esteem, to hold with honor, root for, support, value

Against: in opposition to; contrary to; adverse or hostile to; in resistance to or defense from, counter to, facing, in opposition to, opposed to, conflicting, incompatible

It’s time to fight! Time to fight for our kids, our friends, and our families. To fight for love, for truth, for justice. To fight against our enemy (not man, but Satan and the powers of darkness), to fight against sin and oppression and injustice.

God invites us into the battle. He asks us to take up our sword and wield it boldly against the enemy. He equips us for the fight. He is our shield and ever present help in time of trouble. He is our strength and our protection. He fights for us and against our enemy. And when we join Him in the battle we get a front row view of His power and might.

It’s okay to get mad. It is okay to raise our voice and shake our fist and call out our enemy on his sneaky schemes.

We have a real enemy. And sometimes he rears his ugly head and messes with our lives in a very obvious way. He is single-mindedly focused on our destruction. He wants to shake our faith and keep us silent. But… greater is He that is within you and me than he that is in the world.

Yes, it’s been a rough week. Yes, I’ve been attacked on every side. But I am not discouraged. I am equipped for the fight. I’m standing beside the ultimate Warrior, and I am not afraid.

~Keri

Are you in a battle this week? How can we fight for you in prayer? 

Photo by Wili_Hybrid Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by hmmlargeart. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

My Unfolding, When Love Runs Towards You

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Almost seventeen years ago I told him to run and that loving me would be a little too messy for a pastor’s kid like him. He couldn’t help what his heart felt, love ran towards me instead of away. Sometimes messy, complicated love is what a structured renegade really wants.

He told me he would wait because he knew I was what he wanted. He stirred his hot tea and I felt sorry for my new best friend who made me feel safe. We were so different that everyone tried to keep us apart. My friends, his friends, my inner circle, his folks and even my mom had their doubts.

But love doesn’t run away from you, it runs towards you. We sure tried to listen to everyone, but we ran towards each other anyway.

Like the father ran towards the prodigal son, like a safe preacher’s son with a lovesick heart, he ran so hard towards me that love had to teach me how to run towards him.

God’s love stays the course even when the ride is bumpy and blinding and brutal. Even when loving messy, insecure hearts is baffling. Love still stays because it’s crazy-stubborn like that.

I still run sometimes, especially when I’m hurting or sick. I tried to run this weekend at a big conference reverting back to my ‘broken girl syndrome’ because I assume I’m only loved when I’m nice. Sweet. Annoyingly forgiving. Gah, that’s exhausting. I had nothing to give, but I gave anyways and God blew my mind, gave me new hearts to love, and open doors.

My heart knew who I could run to when I was sick, my Broken Girl BFF and soul sister, Keri. She took care of me, truth be told, she’s never witnessed me that ill or messed up.

She spoke truth into my heart like true friends do and she knew exactly what to do when my blood sugar level dropped so low I almost passed out. Later, she called me the equivalent of a spiritual lapdog who feels the need to stay by the side of someone who is hurting. She’s right. I run towards the hurting, but run away when I’m hurting and frail.

My heart gravitates towards certain people, our stories unfold and soon I understand why. Inside of our beating hearts is a gravitational pull, our hearts are like magnets. Together we are better and less twisted because in our brokenness we are the very same messy, complicated kind. The kind that lets us know we are not alone.

I still run, but this time I know who I can run to. Most of the time I just run to God like a rag doll and let him do His cutting surgery within. I’m so honest with Him, I always have been because His love pierces through me and sees every wrecked place. His love fixes me, His mercy is stronger than the frailty in me. His love makes me run toward Him and He runs to meet me.

I’m not the same girl my husband married sixteen years ago. I’m more confident and I’m less insecure. But sometimes when I’m weak and the furthest thing from the nice Southern girl who learned to turn the other cheek…I wonder if I’m still worth it. So I run away to my tender place with my first love, my Savior, and I’m reminded why He loves my fragile, complicated heart. And in that flailing moment, I know for certain I’m definitely worth it simply because I’m His girl and always will be.

Man, I wish I could be normal for like fifteen minutes…and then those fifteen minutes are up and I realize that those minutes were the most wasted, boring fifteen minutes of my life.

I can’t wait to share the rest of this Unfolding journey and the book I’ve been writing this year with you. I can’t wait for you to read more of Keri’s work…because it’s amazing and will help you. I’m her lapdog.

We are still Broken Girls, but this time it’s for a different reason, it’s for you and for the unfinished, unfolding story inside of you.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

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Fifty Shades of Confusion

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The first thing you notice about Jasmine is a smile that lights up a room and soft, welcoming eyes. But, sit down with her for just a few minutes and you’ll be surprised by the road she’s traveled. I was surprised to learn that this beautiful, put-together mom spent six years of her life trapped in the sex industry where she was beaten, abused and turned to drugs to cope with the reality of a life she never agreed to.

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She slid the heavy packet of papers across the table to me; I could tell that her heart was even heavier. I started thumbing through the documents as she started talking. “These girls… they’re right here in our community and they have nowhere to go. I want to open a safe home for them. A place for them to go and recover from the hell they’ve been ensnared in. Human trafficking shouldn’t exist here, not in our neighborhood. How do we help them?”

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She could barely talk through her tears, “Our marriage is falling apart. He pays more attention to those girls on his computer screen than he does to me. I’ll never measure up; I’ll never be enough for him. I hate myself and can’t do this anymore.”

~

I fasten my seat belt and pull a new book out of my bag as the plane makes its way down the runway. Through the author’s words I’m instantly transported from my safe seat on the airplane to a shipping container filled with 59 women. Women who were deceived into thinking that new life and new opportunities awaited them on a distant shore, but discovered too late they would be joining the 27 million enslaved in human trafficking around the world.

~

I log onto Facebook after being off line for a few days and find my news feed filled with posts from women who are “so excited” and “can’t wait to see” a new movie coming out in a few months. The movie? Fifty Shade of Grey. 

Can I be honest? I am so confused.

I’m confused by the message we are sending our daughters. We’ve fought for decades and generations to be treated as equals. We’ve fought to be seen as people and not as objects. We’ve fought for our right to say no to unwanted sexual advances. Why would we, through reading this book and watching this movie (and others like it), risk confusing our daughters with the message we are sending them?

I’m confused by the message we are sending our sons. We’ve declare that no one has the right to sexualize us or enslave us. We’ve fought for stricter punishments for domestic violence and date rape. We teach our sons to honor and protect women. What message do we send them when we tell Hollywood that the brutalization of women isn’t just okay but it’s what we want them to make movies about?

When women say yes to Fifty Shades I wonder if we confuse the men who buy little girls for their own selfish pleasure. I wonder about the message we are sending to husbands and sons who are wrapped up and consumed by their addiction to pornography. I wonder what message we are sending to businessmen who travel internationally and are offered their choice of women to satisfy any desire they have. What message are we sending to men who have been taught that no means no when we send a book to the New York Times bestseller list that says our no means yes?

We can’t say no to human trafficking and yes to erotic novels.

We can’t say no to date rape and yes to Anastasia Steel.

We can’t say no to pornography and yes to Fifty Shades of Grey.

We can’t say no to the victimization of women and hand Hollywood millions of dollars when they produce movies like this for our entertainment.

We can’t pretend that us reading a sexually explicit book and a 12 year old girl’s body being sold a dozen times a day aren’t connected because they are. We either stand up for the rights of women or we don’t.

My friend asked me an interesting question the other day. “How on earth are so many girls trapped in the sex industry if we all have mothers?” It’s a valid question. What mother wouldn’t fight with every ounce of strength in her body to rescue her daughter from a predator? Yet, as women, as mothers, we are not fighting. We are not raising our voices and saying “no more”. We are not going into the darkness and rescuing the daughters. We are sitting poolside with our worn paperbacks and in dark movie theatres with buttered popcorn and we’ve forgotten this war we are in. And, ladies, we are in a war. When we allow ourselves to be entertained by movies like this the enemy wins.

Contrary to what E L James might say, there is no grey here.

~Keri

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. – Ephesians 4:19

Join the fight against Human Trafficking. Learn about how you can help through A21, Project Rescue, or other ministries rescuing daughters around the world.

Photo by Cedric Lange. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

It’s Supposed to be Hard

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Remember the movie from the early 90’s A League of Their Own? It’s about two sisters who join an all-female baseball league during World War II. The older sister, played by Geena Davis, is by far the better player and soon becomes the star of the league. Her team is doing well and makes it to the league’s first World Series. Days before the series begins, her husband returns home from Germany after being wounded in the foot. By this time it is apparent that she loves baseball and is passionate about the game. When her husband returns home she decides to quit the league and return home without playing in the World Series. Her manager, played by Tom Hanks, tries to talk her into staying. He tells her that it’s obvious that she loves baseball and if she quits now she will live with a lifetime of regret. She answers, “It just got too hard.” At that moment he gets very serious and leans in closer and says, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

It’s supposed to be hard.

We live in a culture that says it’s supposed to be easy.

Grey hair? Nice ‘n Easy

Sagging skin? Two minute facial mask

Hungry? Hit the drive through

In a hurry? On-line banking

Tough boss? Get a new job

Failing marriage? Get a new spouse

Browse through the Sunday adds and over and over you’ll see it: Quick! Easy! Time saving! Oven ready! Just add water! Instant! Fully cooked!

Everything around us tells us life should be easy. Except the Word of God.

God’s Word tells us it’s supposed to be hard.

Wait. Pray. Seek. Persevere. Press.
Trust. Follow. Deny. Fight. Run.
Turn from sin. Crucify your flesh. Carry your cross.
Turn the other cheek. Give to the poor.
Love your enemies. Speak the truth.

According to the Bible life is hard. And I’ve noticed that the more you trust God, the bigger risks you take in following Him, the harder it gets.

I’ve been praying a simple prayer lately, “Lord, help me to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.” Everywhere I look He is showing me examples of the hard, but good, way to live.

This weekend I watched two movies, Jobs and The Help. Both of them were stories of people who were trying to accomplish something while facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges along the way. Then I spent some time on Saturday with a group of people who are choosing hard every day; brave families who have opened their homes as safe places for any child to come and find love and security. That kind of love is hard to give.

God is asking us to step out of our comfort zones and into hard places. He’s asking us to be brave in the big and small moments of life. To risk loving, to risk giving, to risk speaking… to say yes to the hard, when we know it is good.
Is it scary? Yes

Is it safe? Absolutely not

Is it worth it? Yes. Yes! A thousand times yes!

Why? Because it’s the hard that makes us lean on Jesus. It’s the hard that makes us bow our knee in surrender. It’s the hard that makes others pay attention. It’s the hard that brings forth fruit. It’s the hard that brings glory to Christ.

It’s the HARD that makes it GREAT!!!!

If my choice in life is easy and average or hard and great…. Lord, LET ME CHOSE HARD!!

~Keri

Photo by Ron Zanoni. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Girls, I Don’t Think You’re A Problem: You’re A Beautiful Solution

God is within her. Ps 46:5

As women we feel the pressing noose of comparison until we allow God to set us free. Sometimes we are the ones who tighten the noose and make it so tight we feel our breath leave us and our voice trails off into silence.

For about ten years I have removed the noose. As in, placed my hands on the jagged rope and loosened it until I could safely slip it off and trash it.

The only way we can correct a lie is with truth. I did word-searches in the Bible and studies on certain things, or wrong thoughts, that were tripping me up. I cried. I prayed. I wrote feverishly into my journal about things that ticked me off, things that inspired me, and prayers on paper. My freedom cry happened on bended knee and paper dreams. But, the journey was never meant for only me.

When we start a freedom journey to wholeness we give others permission to do the same thing. We miss out on really awesome things if we say things like, “I’m too much of a mess to make a difference.”

Your mess has a very powerful message; so don’t be afraid to use your best words and sometimes your worst words until you figure out how to tell your brave, messed up story.

I talked for hours with friends and heard phrases like, “Me too” and “What can we do to help women be free from this?”

We spilled out our thoughts across the table, shared a meal, and found our message. The freedom journey is sweeter when we take others with along for the wild, beautiful ride. Our connective thread that brings us girls together in those sacred moments of wrestling is this:

God is within us and will work through us.

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (Ps 46:5 NIV)

And, we are stronger together than we ever were standing scared and alone.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecc 4:9-12 NIV)

In many ways this is where big girls learn to hold hands again like they did when they were little.

If there is one thing I know about myself it’s this, I get girls. I just do. I have sisters, one of them my flesh and blood and is kind of like my other half. We are day and night different and yet somehow our mannerisms are so much alike. I adore her, am amazed by her, and I still love to dig in her closet all these years later. Together we are better and sometimes double the trouble. And even in our late thirties, we still say things like, “Don’t tell Mom.”

We were always compared. I hated it then. I still hate it now because day and night are equally glorious in my mind. You can’t have one without the other. When day runs out of sunlight and trees cast long shadows, we know the bright moon will show us its face and bring a beauty in our darkness. And isn’t it magical, these different kinds of light?

As a mother of two “day and night” daughters, I find myself holding my breath as people compare them. Like one is better than the other and I can’t see it because my love is unconditional for both of them. I only see two very different, world changers that light my world on fire and bring me such joy and sometimes madness. Because where there are little girls you will find a little bit of drama or a lot depending on the moment.

But sorry, I just don’t believe that girls are a problem and only capable of drama. I think that in time and as they grow they will be beautiful solutions and nurturers to those around them. Right now is the hard, figuring it out part. That’s called parenting and it’s the hardest, best thing I’ll ever do.

I kiss those girls when they start to cry.

I sternly correct them when it’s needed and I see something that needs to be addressed. I lovingly guide them and fiercely protect them because I know what a true gift I have in my day and night girls…and I wouldn’t change who they are for anything or who they are becoming. Even when it’s stinking hard and I want to pull my hair out.

I will always be the mom asking them to dance to a different beat if they want to. And when they write a messy song with misspelled words, I’ll ask them to sing it for me because I see how deep a nine-year-old drama queen can be. And I figure she’ll be taking me on trips one day if we are still on a ministry salary…

I see how diligent an eleven-year-old firstborn can be, how she craves the constant and needs a play-by-play of what our day might look like. I take her hand and say, “Make room for the spontaneous, you don’t have to always know what is coming next.” But, I’ll never ask her to not plan and make lists, because it’s apart of her and I love that.

I see the spark and passion in my tiny one and I rebuff the idea of “breaking her spirit” or asking her to be more “in-the-box” and easier to contain because I believe with all my heart that loving parenting, discipline with great fear and trembling, and bringing her up in knowledge of God will be exactly what she needs most.

By all means, baby girl, don’t you dare try to be like everyone else. How dull this world would be if we only had a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Shine the way and teach us how to be brave and small at the same time.

When you walk up to a complete stranger with compassion in your heart and ask them if you can pray with them…I ask God to show all the big girls how to be small again and give way to the miraculous inside of us. Hearts like that inherit the Kingdom, so don’t you dare forget that little girls say simple, powerful prayers and make a wounded stranger know they are loved and seen by God and by the smallest, unpredictable lady in training.

By all means, predictable firstborn, plan and schedule away…if that is what makes you feel comfortable in your changing skin. I’ll always have planners and paper for you, I think you will change the world and organize it later. I love the wheels that constantly turn and how you want to do so much, but have no idea where to start. But, don’t you dare for one-second doubt you can’t handle the change that is coming because I’ve watched you in amazement for eleven, short years and I know you can do all things through Christ, baby girl. And you’ll need to learn how to hustle…because sixth grade is brutal and you’ll be late to everything if you have to show up perfect.

You might always be picked last for the sportsy games at recess, I’m sorry about that. You get that from me.

You might pee in your pants sitting on second base like I did in the first grade and figure out that cheering for others is what you do best. So cheer. Be the girl that celebrates what you cannot do and clap till your hands hurt and the dusty pee stain dries. You’ll laugh about it later, I pinkie promise.

And when the jealousy comes, and trust me it will, cheer louder until you can’t hear it telling you that you’re supposed to be better at something you hate doing anyways.

You will have a lifetime to figure out what you love and what you want. Try it all if you want, even if it scares you a little. Or makes you pee in your pants. It happens.

There will be days you wished you were like your little sister.

Or like your big sister.

Or like an airbrushed star on the cover of a magazine. Lord, I hope not.

Oh, what you will miss out on in life trying to be something that you are not…when who you are becoming is your greatest gift to God, to me, and to the world.

Maybe you’ll be an overachiever. Maybe you won’t care what others think at all. Maybe you’ll make messy art and wreck every surface and tabletop in our house.

Make art anyways.

Make a mess.

Be a mess.

Clean up your mess.

And I’m going to be there to help you make art and figure out how to lead and how to follow…and that some boys are punks. Don’t even get me started.

And sweet Jesus, I’m going to need some help with the preteen, and in between, and the fifty shades of awkward that just invaded our tiny cottage.

I flashback to the moments of watching you walk up to the unknown little girls at parks and poolside and hearing you say this…

“Hi. Do you want to be friends?”

An introduction and an invitation, then blank stares from wanting to belong turn to smiles as you would take each others hand and rush off to play with sweet sunshine and summertime on your faces.

Sweet, grownup girls,

Don’t let your blank stares from wanting to belong and quick default of comparison be the noose around beautiful necks. Reject the idea that different from you is wrong, or that your gloriously differentness is a mistake or doesn’t fit.

Let’s skip and trip and be beautifully awkward together because hand-in- hand we are always better.

Much love,

Jennifer