Monday, August 31, 2015

Raising Girls to be Brave Women

When I was little, I wanted to be exactly like Nancy Drew. If I were brave like her, I would walk fearlessly into any unknown situation and not lose my cool. I would be smart and clever. I would drive my own car, face off bad guys, and solve mysteries. I'd wear a plaid skirt and penny loafers, and I'd be brave.

In reality, I was anything but brave. I was afraid of going to gymn class at 1 p.m. I was afraid of being kicked by a soccer ball or climbing the rope. I was terribly shy and didn't like talking to anyone. I was afraid of getting hurt. I was afraid of the dark, of boys, of shadows, of pretty much everything.

Sometimes I still feel like that same scared girl on the inside - a girl who worries and frets - a girl who is fearful and timid. I have to be reminded to be a brave women and to inspire a brave daughter.

What does it mean to be brave?

Fierce. Strong. Independent.

I want to be like that. I want my daughter to be like that.

In the book (and movie) The Help, the African American maid, Abileen, tells the little girl in her charge the same thing over and over. She whispers,"You is kind. You is smart. You is important." How sweet those words are to hear at any age, words that speak truth and challenge to our hearts.

But I would add one more: "You are brave." Turn to the younger woman in your charge and tell her these three thing...these three, very important, courage-inspiring, life-changing things. Tell her:

1) God has a plan for your life. It is not always easy to see the future. We tend to worry about what is around the corner. I know that I do. My mind is filled with "what ifs"... What if I'm too shy? What if I can't find my way? What if I fail? But we can be brave - despite our fears - if we know that God holds our future. Psalm 32: 7,8 has long been a favorite Bible passage of mine. It tells me that God has His eye upon me. It tells me that He is leading the way. It assures me that my braveness is enabled because He holds the results.

2) You have incredible role models. I had Nancy Drew. But I had other real-life role models too. I had grown up hearing about Florence Nightingale, Jane Addams, and Amelia Earhart. I had journeyed by covered wagon with Laura Ingalls and read braille with Helen Keller. I learned by hearing stories of other girls, other women, who had faced bigger obstacles than mine and survived. One of the best things about writing a book about brave women is that I've received notes from young girls - as young as 8 years old. They not only enjoyed the stories of these eight historical women, they were inspired by their lives. We can be brave just as they were brave.

3) You don't have to do it alone. Girls can be competitive. We give each other the once over and decide who is prettier. But life isn't a Miss America contest. I recently saw a video where 1,000 women dressed like Rosie the Riveter to celebrate the anniversary of the end of World War II. But they were also celebrating the bravery and camaraderie of women. These women, left behind during the war, rolled up their sleeves, tied up their hair and worked. They made ships. They were brave - together! And the women who celebrated came together too - young and old - to celebrate the courage of women. We are in this thing together. We can help one another. Together, we can be brave.

Are you brave? I think you are. Look into the mirror. Tell these three things to yourself. Then tell them to your daughter, your granddaughter, your nieces, your younger coworker, the child in your Sunday School class. We must speak into the lives of others.

Remember, God has an incredible plan for your life. He can make you brave. And you have incredible role models - women of faith who will inspire and motivate you. You aren't in this alone.

We are women together. Brave, smart, beautiful, kind, and important.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Aching Back and Why White-Out Doesn't Always Work

On a recent trip to our local home improvement store, I was helping my husband pick out boards. We are remodeling our 1960s-era kitchen, and he is cutting and staining cabinet doors. So, I was being a little picky.

The first board had strap marks across it. The second board had a big knot hole in the center. And the third board wrenched my back.

Ouch. I could feel my muscle twinge when I twisted just the wrong way. The board wasn't that heavy - just awkward. But I felt it. I knew I was in trouble.

Two days later, I'm taking a prescription tablet of cyclobenzaprine and Advil, and wishing I wasn't so old. I'm also wishing I could take back that one moment. Why didn't I settle for board #2?

Then yesterday, we went to pick up a piece of vintage treasure from a seller on Craigslist. $25. A bargain. I'm still a bit leary of meeting unknown sellers - and we were meeting at the storage facility which was fairly deserted. Just in case, I took my wallet out of my purse and hid it under my car seat. But it turned out just fine. The deal was made. $25 was a steal. And then we backed up our car to leave. I heard a whoosh of air.

We had backed up over a bolt. My husband was not happy. Luckily, the car made it safely home, and today Milt was able to repair the hole. But I wished that I could reverse time for just a moment. I wanted to rewind and have a do-over.

Have you ever felt like that?

What if you hadn't done that one last thing that wrecked havoc with your life?

When I was in college, they had these fancy new typewriters that let you back up and "automatically" erase with built in white-out tape. So cool. They let me undo my typing errors so almost no one could see.

But life isn't like that, is it? We have no back up ability. We can't rewind. We can't white it out. What's done is done. No crying over spilled milk, so they say.

So as I sit here - my back aching and looking at my Kia Soul with the bolt hole now patched, I realize that life goes on. We are a bit beat up, a little scarred, but we're still chugging. Moving forward - sometimes with a limp.

The only do-over that really works is God. How thankful I am that I believe in a God who forgives, who wipes my slate clean, who lets me heal and be purified even when I mess up -big time. Scripture tells us that even though are sins are scarlet, we will be made white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) And having tried to get stains out of carpet, I love that metaphor.

We will be made clean. Good as new. Better than a rewind because it can't be undone or merely covered up. Now, in this life, we will have slips and falls and missteps. Then, with God's help, we will  be purified, complete, perfected, healed.

I like the sound of that. Especially today.