The Brave Voice

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(FreeImages.com/GerardoAlvarez)

The woman, brushed back her brown hair, pensively looked at the computer screen one more time, and bravely wrote the words.  With a simple click of the mouse, her words were posted.  They were words, expressing something that she cared about and appreciated.  She had asked for feedback on her post, and she was not disappointed by the amount of comments she received.  They poured in.  The post had definitely “plucked a few strings.”

The feedback was very honest.  Some was super positive, some was very doubtful, some was skeptical, and some was clearly negative.  She had asked for honest feedback, and she had received it.

At first, some of the feedback stung.  The words were raw in their honesty.

As the woman read all of the comments, she realized that she could view the responses two ways: she could take them as rejection and/or harsh criticism, but that wouldn’t be fair because she had asked for honesty.  The other choice would be to feel honored that people felt safe enough to voice their opinions to her.

One commentator even apologized for voicing some skepticism, and she quickly assured that person that they should never apologize for having a voice.

Every day, we have these moments — these encounters with others — when we choose how we will respond to the voices around us…

Over the past year, I have been feeling called into this place of freedom — a place where I can have the courage to speak and to not feel it necessary to apologize for my voice.  …apologizing for my existence.

It is not a matter of being offensive with my voice because that would be a different matter.

It is a matter of answering this defining question: 

“How will you respond when the temptation is to shut down, to hide, to walk away from freedom because of the fear of the risk and the fear of rejection?”

Here are thoughts that I recently wrote:

“There is an enemy that wants us to apologize for existing, wants us to fade into the background, wants us to hide behind our fears and insecurities and rejection, wants us to not exist…

There is a Lover/Creator who keeps telling me to not apologize for being, thinking, believing, and feeling.

He keeps telling me that He placed His voice inside me, and that regardless of who agrees or doesn’t or who likes me or not, that I am to stand bravely and securely because I am unfathomably, completely, lavishly loved!

This entire past year, the Lord kept telling me, “[…], you know your freedom; now walk in it.”

It brings tears to my eyes every time I am made aware of how He is changing me, making me brave, helping me to become His warrior-princess!

Am I perfect? Far from it!

Do I make mistakes? Daily.

BUT, this I know: I am learning the freedom of being completely secure in eternal, unceasing, undeserved Love!

…and I am learning the beautiful humbling merits of His grace!

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Do The Women’s Marches Represent Women?

mother and daughter

(FreeImages.com/ChrissyPauley)

As a fellow woman, I watched the coverage of the marches, heard the words of the pop stars at the women’s marches being held across the world, and I was disturbed.

I am a woman — honored to be a woman! My body is miraculous…! But, Madonna and Ashley Judd do not represent me or a lot of women. It saddens me to think that the language, attitudes, sexual innuendos, visceral attacks on those they see as their opponents are supposed to represent the epitome, courage, strength, and image of being a woman. Thankfully, they do not represent me!

Rather, I identify with the Proverbs 31 woman, Margaret Thatcher, Gladys Alyward, Amy Carmichael, Mother Theresa, Abigail Adams, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jane Austen, and many such women who understood that it is not weakness to display a character that espouses sincerity of heart and intentions, intelligence, wisdom, unbelievable courage in the midst of hardships, and a willingness to put the needs of others first. These women are heroes — not because they used disgusting language to rant at those they hated and implied disgusting sexual innuendos.

If we want to make a difference, let’s be a difference!

I tell my kids that all the time… If you think something is wrong, how does that make it okay for you to do the same thing (same heart attitude) in revenge?

We call for unity, but where is the action being taken to step across the bridge?

…or does bridge-building mean that the other side has to cross to our side of thinking?

To be honest, I see very little attempts being made to actually build bridges, unify the country, seek common ground, and spread peace and good will.

Instead, let’s listen to those — truly listen to those who view things differently.  Let’s treat everyone with respect — no matter how they voted.

Let’s be the difference we want to see!

A Letter To My Leaders

Bird In Flight

(FreeImages.com/MatthewMaaskant)

Today, I posted the following to my team of leaders:  (I wanted to share it since I think that more than just my team can benefit from this.)

Girls,

This is on my heart to say:

I want to encourage each of you to do your very best and stretch your wings, to awaken to your own gifts, but I don’t want you to ever feel that your worth is based upon your performance.

With all of this encouragement and coaching to grow and do better, it’s easy to start losing sight of the fact that we are all unique individuals on our own journeys.

I want you to understand that my biggest goal is for you to walk into the full “giftings” God has given to you, to not hide from them, to not feel unworthy of them, but to embrace them.

Let me tell you, I am learning this — learning to walk in who I am, regardless of who appreciates it, understands my unique gifts, or even believes in me.

I used to always base my worth on what others thought of me…

God is calling me to walk out my freedom now. It’s not always easy!!! There are days I walk in my victory in spite of the way I feel and in spite of the feedback I am getting.

God was showing me recently that each testing is an opportunity to have that pivotal moment in life when we make the defining decision to choose differently — to choose victory and freedom over fear, shame, and rejection

To My Four Sons

I really like how the green turned out. I think the trick is using a less contrasting final highlight than I have been using on my other knights. I think it looks more natural. Also this is the first time I got enough courage to paint all four of...

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=12225330&searchId=1d692e84a65e5fce12ee5106d1a0e3c6&npos=40)

Dear Sons,

Bear with me as I meander down “memory lane”…  I wanted to share a few thoughts for you as I think of the type of men I pray and eagerly await that you will become.  Today, you are boys, but in just a few more “tomorrows,” you will be men.

It seems like just a decade or so ago (more like three), I was the girl with the paper dolls, the piles of books stacked on top of my summer hammock, and the dreams of meeting and marrying her Prince Charming and having lots of his charming mini-mes to raise.

I grew up mostly with sisters and one younger brother.  I knew a lot about the feminine world, but the masculine world enchanted me.

Seeing these magnificent “creatures” of such broad shoulders, strong arms, tall forms, deep voices was captivating.  I was fascinated with the world of men: so much physical strength and leadership.

My dad was such a great example of the willingness to physically labor for his family.  He came from hardy German-stock and knew what it meant to work hard.  Monday through Friday, he worked at his job, and on Saturdays, he worked all day on household projects.

Those same hands though that could wield an ax and split logs, wider than my hips, also knew how to gently cradle my face and tell me that I was special.

It’s a beautiful thing to see that such strength can also yield such gentleness. 

As a girl, my daddy’s hands symbolized his protection and provision but also his benevolence.

Even when I wasn’t aware of it, as a woman, I “looked” for a husband who knew how to lead like a shepherd: with kind leadership that protects and provides.

I remember the first time I noticed your own daddy’s hands.  It was the weekend he came to meet my parents for the first time.  Your daddy and I were sitting at the table talking, and I looked down and noticed those hands of his.  They were lean, long, clean, and strong.  I could tell they were capable of demonstrating both strength and gentleness.  They were hands that were capable of wrestling the rotor-tiller and also of tenderly cradling a newborn babe.

I’ll never forget your daddy’s vows on our wedding day.  In part of his vows, he said, “…A knight must also both lead and follow.  I promise to be head of our marriage relationship as we both follow our Lord’s will…  Unclear leading is fruitless.  I will engage in daily prayer, seeking the Lord’s will for our lives. …My sword will slay many foes out in the world, but I will lay it down on our doorstep, reserving only gentleness and tenderness for you.  A knight fights first for his king.  Likewise, as high as I esteem you, I will place our king and Lord first in my life.  Secondly, but with equal vigor, a knight protects his princess, his wife…”

Your daddy has lived out his vows faithfully to you kids and I.  He hasn’t been perfect, but your daddy has with heart-felt conviction, lived out the sweaty, messy, soul-aching commitment to the promises he made to me those 13 years ago.  He has sought to lead us with humility, gentleness, and conviction.  This weight of responsibility can either drive you to despair or drive you to your knees in prayer.  Your daddy has been resolutely steadfast in looking to his Heavenly Father in prayer for an example on how to lead.

Sons, we live in a world of such conflicting opinions.  On one side, men are exhibited with primal grunts of raw, brute strength.  On the other side, men are portrayed as weak, imbeciles, insensitive, and inferior to women.  Neither is correct.

It is a fact that God has made men to be strong, but what does true strength look like?

Strength is learning how to yield your physical muscles to serve your family and to protect your family against harm.  Sometimes, protection means using physical attributes, but it should always involve spiritual strength and wisdom to guide around or guide through the dangers. 

Strength is also learning how to restrain your “fleshly” reactions and desires.  It means sometimes you do that which is inconvenient and uncomfortable in order to listen and meet the needs of the hearts of your family.

Sons, we live in a big world, full of many pit-falls, but we also have a Big and Good and Loving God who will guide you around those snares, if you yield to Him.

Your daddy got it so right when he said that a “knight must also both lead and follow.”

Sons, perhaps the biggest challenge you have to conquer is not enemies or temptations “out there” but the “enemy” within.  You see, Sons, if you can learn to yield to your Heavenly Father and in Him to conquer your own pride, anger, lust, greed, fears, etc…, you will have fought the greatest battles. 

Learn to conquer your own selfish desires, and you will know how to cherish the princesses God has in store for you.

Learn to control the unbridled “passions of your youth”, as the Bible calls them, and you will know how to treat others and yourself with respect and kindness.

See yourself as God sees you, and you will be able to view others as God sees them.

Replace the lies with truth, and you will be able to stand courageously for that which is good and right.

Sons, be men of honor who do the right thing — rather than the popular thing.

Be leaders who guide, rather than brutes who dominate.

Sons, never objectify women.  See them as beloved and created by God for His unique and special purposes.  Treat them with respect.  They are your complement, and they are to add balance to your life with their own contributions.

Sons, guard your hearts, your eyes, your tongues, your emotions, your bodies.

You are loved by God, created by Him for a uniquely, special purpose.  God has made you in His image.  Don’t let anything or anyone cause you to believe otherwise.

Stand firm in the Lord, in the power of His might.  Fight His battles — not your own.

Sons, know that no matter how many times you fall, and sadly enough, you will fall at times, there is a God who stands waiting and longing to forgive you and to enable you to live the victorious life He created for you!  Don’t ever give up. Get back up.  Stand.

Sons, above all else, know that I love you and even more so, God loves you.  If you don’t feel it or recognize it, cry out to Him.  He loves you with “an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  You are His beloved, forgiven and created to bring glory to His name — the name of the One who died to save you.

Much love,

From the woman who will always be your Mom/Momma

 

Are We Raising A Generation Of Heroes Or A Generation Of Villains?

 

Little Warrior 2

(FreeImages.com/DanColcer)

This morning, I read a recent article about another first-grader being suspended from school.  The 7-year-old boy was suspended because he pretended to launch a grenade while playing during recess.  Within the past two months, I have read about half a dozen reported cases of first-graders being suspended for similar play.

In response to recent tragic circumstances, our society is over-reacting and in the process creating an injustice — especially to young boys.

In the early elementary years, children are developing their ideas of what heroes are and enjoy imitating those concepts of heroes.  Most imaginative play, involving imaginary weapons, is a boy’s way of practicing and imagining what it means to be a hero — to be willing to protect and defend.  They are rehearsing what it means to be courageous and to be willing to fight a good fight.

In our attempts at removing any signs of potential violence, we not only demoralize and humiliate these boys, but we have now called their “hero-play” bad and in the process “villainized” our boys.  Rather than associating them with the “good guys”, we are associating them as the “bad guy.”  That is a social injustice!

These boys are simply being boys. Boys are created with a desire to protect and to defend.  They are more aggressive in nature in order to be courageous enough to face dangers.  

Do we want to raise boys who grow up to fear facing evil?  If so, then we merely need to discourage their efforts to imagine heroes, demoralize their character, and denigrate their name.

Most of what these boys are imitating is similar to what our military does.  Do we accuse our military of being villains instead of heroes when they fight to defend and protect our freedoms?  My young son wants to be a police officer or to be in the military when he is older.  I believe both are worthy callings.  I just hope that some day, if I am called to give the ultimate sacrifice (my son’s life) in order to protect the freedoms of others, that my son is not considered a villain for sacrificing his life so that we can keep ours.

Having “Hero Days” in school is an appropriate proactive approach.  Schools are wise to invite many different types of modern-day heroes to visit their schools.  Today’s heroes are medical personnel, EMT’s, firefighters, police officers, military veterans, volunteers for service organizations, the Coast Guard, service animals, community volunteers who help clean highways, etc…  If we want our boys to identify with heroes, then we must provide them with positive examples of heroes.

There are boys who become violent, but it’s not because they played imaginary heroes. In fact, the boys who become violent are often the boys who were made to feel insignificant, helpless, weak, and “villainized” as the bad guy.

The boys who become violent are often boys who are raised in broken families, a missing positive role model (his father), and/or spend too much time playing the evil guy in video games.  Boys need to be raised to associate with the good guys — not the bad guys.  (A rule in our house is that my boys are never to imitate evil or the bad guy; I want them to associate with good.)

We empower the bad guys by weakening the good guys.  When we tell our boys that imaginary “hero-play” is bad, we are damaging their associations with good heroes and affiliating them with the bad guys.

Boys must be taught that chivalry is not extinct but is honorable.  Chivalry means protecting and honoring those whom we esteem.  It means treating others with esteem.

If we want to raise men who will defend the honor of others, then we must encourage them that protecting and defending is honorable.

So many women feel they have to be tough and be the protectors of their families.  Why is this?  It takes grit and courage to live life well, no matter the gender.  But are some of these women so “tough” because they don’t feel protected and don’t trust the men in their lives to defend their honor?

Boys can be taught discipline and courage through positive activities, such as wrestling and karate, that hone their defensive skills but also teach them how to honor their opponent and how to maintain self-control.

Boys who have the tendency to become the “villain” are often desperate and angry, wanting to be heard and to feel significant.  In seeking to find “significance”, they will take the road of the villain if they feel they can be better heard and recognized that way then by being the hero.

If we want a generation of heroes, then we must encourage our sons to associate with and emulate heroes, to be honorable, to be courageous, and to feel heard.

If we want a generation of men who are spineless, of weak character, and full of anger, then we must squash their heroic ambitions and treat them as imbeciles and crooks.

That’s a sure method to turn our boys from heroes into villains.

Girlie With Grit

Who says a girl can’t be girlie and still have grit? 

I like my heels and my boots. 

I like my flowers and my jeans. 

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I like getting down in the dirt, and I like taking a shower afterwards. 

I bring tad-poles home for my boys, and I teach them how to wear ties for church.

Yes, I really do have tad-poles in a bucket in my house.

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I like boys who can imagine that they’re David fighting Goliath, brandishing sticks and garbage can lids as shields.  I also like boys who say “Please” and “Thank you!” and who know how to pick flowers for their Momma!

 

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I like reading a book to “chill”, but I also can shovel 17 wheelbarrows of mulch in one day while five months pregnant!

I like getting a pedicure before giving birth, but I also can endure Pitocin and deliver a baby sans pain-killers or meds.!

I like wearing girlie colors and dressing up, but I am not afraid of sweats and my husband’s T-shirts when I have a painting job to do.

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I am not afraid to plant a garden while 9 months pregnant and in 90+ degree weather, but I love my A/C too.

I am not afraid or ashamed to be girlie and to have grit too!  I believe that God designed women to enjoy beautiful things, to be sweet and gentle.  I also think He designed women to have grit, creativity, perseverance, and fortitude too.  I think it’s okay to have the “girlie” with the grit.  I am thankful that God designed me the way He did!

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