Thursday, September 22, 2011

Girl Power!

My youngest daughter, Sofie, is wonderfully complex. Strong and sensitive, she is a little girl more at home on the soccer field than she is at a "tea party". Though she will indulge her big sister and agree to play with Barbies, Sofie prefers to be running outside. She is imaginative, energetic, fast and fun. Sofie prefers bright colors to pastels. She dresses more for function than fashion. And while she does like to have her nails painted, she prefers her long, blonde curls to be loose and free as they blow in the breeze, as opposed to being tightly pulled back in a bow on top of her precious head. I wouldn't want her any other way.

(My Honeybug playing "Superheros" with one of her best friends and partners in fun.)

Still, the world has crept into my little girl's mind and her enemy has begun to whisper lies about who she is and who she is suppose to be. "Everybody calls me a tomboy, Mommy," she said somberly after school one day last week. Looking into her honey brown eyes, I saw hurt and shame. "How does that make you feel?" I asked her gently. She paused for a moment, and then with a single tear falling down her cheek, she said, "Not good."

Unfortunately, I have found that it isn't only kids who label her incorrectly. For in the past week, I have had several women smile and say, to me, "Your Sofie is such a hoot! What a tomboy!" In response, I usually smile and say, "I don't know. I think she is just a girl who knows how to play. She has girl power." It is tough to hide my disdain for these remarks. If only others understood my daughter the way that I do. Her strength, both inside and out, are undeniably feminine. And I find it demeaning and insulting that we have reduced femininity to pink sparkles and cute outfits with matching accessories.

So this week, I have taken it to prayer, asking God, Sofie's Creator, for guidance as to how I should respond to the world's perception of my little girl. Of course, I cannot change the simplistic view that some might have of her. Nor can I chase down and correct each and every person who mistakenly categorizes my daughter. Both of these things would, no doubt, help me to feel better. However, neither of these options do much to remedy the hurt that has settled in my daughter's heart.

Instead, I have chosen to use my best weapon against the world...God's word. In an attempt to nurture and heal Sofie's broken heart with truth, I have tried to give my precious daughter new eyes about what it means to be feminine. God's eyes. After all, Sofie is a girl. She is fearfully and wonderfully made and God's thoughts are precious towards her. (Psalm 139)

My daughter needs a new perspective on what it means to be feminine. She needs to see femininity as it is illustrated in the Bible. She needs to understand the wonderful blessing of "girl power". I suspect that many of us could use a crash course in how the LORD views femininity. For too many women have been listening to the world for far too long.

Let's start with Eve. Now, I know...there was that little thing called The Fall. Poor Eve got quite the bad rap for her "little mishap" in the Garden. Still, she brought life into the world and was the first woman to give birth without the aid of an epidural. That alone should give her snaps in the Girl Power Hall Of Fame.

Let us not forget Ruth. Widowed and alone, she chose to begin life anew in a strange land and remain loyal to her mother-in-law. Because of her great strength and sacrifice, Ruth met and married Boaz, gave both Naomi and herself a new start, and became part of Christ's lineage. Girl Power!

Then, there is Esther. My personal favorite. A young girl with an ordinary background and extraordinary beauty became queen and then courageously risked her life to save her people. Major Girl Power!

There are others...Deborah. Sarah. Elizabeth. Mary. Rachel. All uniquely strong and feminine. And I bet none of them needed pearls or lipstick to accomplish their purpose. Now do not get me wrong, I can embrace my inner frilly, foo-foo, girlie- girl self as much as the next gal. However, that is not what makes a woman feminine. Being feminine is a complex mixture of strength and sensitivity. Grace and gumption. Caring and courage. And you can possess those qualities and still get dirty, run fast, and play hard.

Yesterday, Bug came home wounded once more by a classmate's careless proclamation that she is a "tomboy". I listened for a moment and then I spoke strongly, as a mother determined to vanquish the pain that had stolen my daughter's sparkle. "Sofie, do you know that God imagined you and created you to be the amazing little girl that you are? He and I both think you are special. There is no need to be something else. For you are not a tomboy. You are a strong little girl who God will use in a special way for His special purpose." Really?" she answered back. Though she didn't sound convinced. "Absolutely!" I assured her. "Just be the Sofie that God made you to be."

As a woman, raising up two girls, I want to challenge everyone reading this blog. Take a moment and think about the women we want our daughters to become. Soon, they will be the wives, mothers, friends and leaders of tomorrow. God has made each little girl for His purpose and He has a plan for each and every one. Some might prefer to sit quietly, read books, bake cookies, and play Barbies (I live with one of those as well). Others might be more like a "tomboy" (though I would caution you not to use that word in front of me or my little Bug). All of them have girl power!

Let's nurture our girls and build them up so that they might recognize their individual worth and embrace their God-given potential. Let's encourage our sons to do the same, for one day our boys will be walking through life with these same girls. Let's remember that our daughters, whether sugar or spice or some mixture of both, are created unique in appearance and in character for "such a time as this." (Esther 4:14) And THIS is a time for "girl power".

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Not At Home

Verse: "Dear friends, I warn you as 'temporary residents and foreigners' to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world." -1 Peter 2:11-12 NLT

This past week, as we were busy running errands after school, the girls spotted a Halloween costume store that had just opened for business. "If we are good...can we PLEASE go look at the costumes, Mommy?" the girls began to plead. I know there are those who dislike this American holiday. But the Arbuckle gals love it! The costumes. The candy. So. Much. Fun! I confess that I enjoy it as much as my kids. As we walked around the store looking at the colorful costumes, I was reminded of another Halloween, a few years ago, when I missed the Halloween excitement because I was away from home.

It was late October in 2009 and I was thousands of miles away from my cozy life in McKinney, Texas, thoroughly enjoying my time in beautiful Vienna, Austria. I had prayed and prepared for almost a year to be part of this mission team. While I served alongside new friends in Vienna, time seemed to pass quickly. The warm hospitality and friendships that greeted me allowed me to feel right at home in my new surroundings.

Then it happened. My husband lovingly sent a text message with a picture of my daughters, dressed up in their Halloween costumes, and ready for a night of trick or treating without me. All of a sudden, my heart was torn with grief as I contemplated all that I was missing with my kids that night. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I quietly imagined the squeals and laughter of my girls as they scampered up to doors decorated in fall leaves, scarecrows, and Jack-O-Lanterns and yelled, "Trick or Treat!" I pictured my son, Jack, as he pulled a wagon behind them, and collected cans of food for "Scare Away Hunger". I was missing it. All of it. And I desperately longed for home.

The moment passed. I collected myself, wiped my eyes and pressed on to focus on the work that was to be done that day in Vienna. Still, when I look back on my time in Austria, that moment stands out as one of the more defining moments of my trip. While I sat there and gazed at the smiles that looked back at me, I felt like God whispered in my heart, "Sweet child. Don't get too comfortable. This is not your home."

Now, I realize that to some, my story seems insignificant. Perhaps, even trivial. I mean, it IS only one Halloween that I missed in my kids' lives. Now, 2 years later, life has moved on and we will celebrate Halloween as we have in years past. Nothing has changed except the costumes the girls have chosen to wear on that "frightful" night. But I would argue that is not my point. The bigger picture I am trying to illuminate is that sometimes we need to remember...this is not our home.

We must be mindful, each and every day, of the moments that we can never get back. So take in the picture of this world. Consider everything. The good. The bad. And the ugly. Sit down and cry if you must. Then, dry your tears and resolve to get back to the work you have been sent here to do. Embrace your family. Make that phone call. Reach out to that friend who needs you. Take time to make a difference in the lives God has placed around you. Make some memories. And don't get so comfortable that you forget that there is work to be done. are not at home.

The picture that brought me to tears and inspired this post.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Forget Me Not

If you were a fly on my wall on a typical morning before school, you would hear the following...

"Got your lunch? Your homework? Your cell phone?"

Like many other preoccupied teenage boys, my son is forgetful.It's not his fault. In fact, I am sad to admit that he most certainly inherited this trait from his dear mother. Still, each day, we go through a checklist of tasks before and after school so that nothing important is left forgotten.

Like any other dutiful mom who is memory impaired, I have tried to pass on tricks to assistmy son with his affliction. We make lists. Use an academic planner. And I confess, I even sometimes resort to good old fashioned nagging.(A technique proven to be completely ineffective I might add) Still, he remains forgetful.

Many of us are...

We forget God's love.

We forget God's promises.

We forget God's character.

We wake up, the world dark all around us, and we forget.

But what if we made a pledge to ourselves to NO LONGER forget? How would our present circumstances appear differently if we remembered the truth in God's word?

Never forget...

We are chosen. (You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." John 15:16)

Dearly loved. ("I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me." Proverbs 8:17)

Secure. ("For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39)

And God is FOR us!
("And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28)

He remembers us in our darkest moments and leads us into His light. ("The Lord remembers us and will bless us." Psalm 115:12 NLT)

While our enemy attempts to lure us into desperation with fear and lies, we are empowered by God's unshakable truth. So today, I must make a choice. Rather than allow my challenges to tell me who my God is, I must choose to look up and remember. Despite how circumstances appear today, I "will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me." (Psalm 103:1-2 TLB) For He is worthy of remembrance.

As a beloved daughter of the King most high, I must pause and remember whose I am. He is the great "I Am". The LORD of Lords. Almighty God. And He will forget me not.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Help

Last night, in need of a "Mommy time-out", I went out with two of my favorite gals to see "The Help". Set in the early 1960's, this movie poignantly illustrates the racial lines drawn between Americans, a few years before I was even born. Paid pathetically low wages, these brave black American women were hired as house maids in affluent white homes. The movie portrays what life in that era may have looked on both sides of the tracks in Jackson, Mississippi. Sadly, I imagine many others parts of our great nation looked similar.

Surreal to me in many ways, the movie offered a glimpse of an America, that thankfully, I do not recognize. "The help", as these women were labeled, were the ones responsible for the vast majority of household duties, including cleaning, cooking, shopping, and childcare. My favorite scene depicts a house maid speaking truth into the life of a small white child as she lovingly tells her..."You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

Though foolishly considered too lowly to even use the household bathroom, this woman had the awesome responsibility of raising up this child. Because of "the help", this little girl would grow to know her worth to her Maker, even if she didn't know it from her own mother.

Today, I am pondering my own "help". Now understand, I don't live in the America that hires house maids. The only one cooking, cleaning, and shopping at my house is yours truly. (With help from the Hubs when he isn't at the office...many thanks, Honey) And I would never allow someone else to raise my kids, for they are far too precious to me. Still, God has given me "help" as I raise up my children to take their place in His kingdom.

How grateful I am for teachers, youth workers, mentors, coaches, neighbors, and friends whose influence helps my kids to comprehend how cherished they are by their Creator. How thankful I feel for the numerous Godly influences my kids find in their midst. Without fail, these faithful individuals grant me support as I teach my kids to passionately seek after the LORD.

The days of childhood are fleeting, and passing faster than I would like. One day soon, my children shall each take a piece of me and "the help" into the future. I want my kids to know they are kind. Smart. Important. But, as a mother, and a woman of faith, it is my greatest prayer that my children will grow to fully comprehend that they are His. The Bible tells us to "train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is older he shall not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6). Clearly, a task this big requires patience, a well developed sense of humor, and a whole lot of "help".

So, if you are one of the many people making eternal investments in my kids, I owe you a debt which I can never repay. Your God-given gifts are priceless and they do not go unnoticed. Truly, my gratitude for all that you do has no limit. Thanks... for "the help".