girlhood

Why You Should See "Queen of Katwe"

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Disney's Queen of Katwe opened in theaters on Friday and is a huge departure from the studio's typical films. Based on a true story, it is nothing short of stunning. I took my 10-year old daughter and her first request upon leaving was, "Can we own this one?" Here are 5 reasons this is worth watching:

1. Phiona, the protagonist, is an uneducated girl from the slums of Kampala, Uganda who discovers a talent and a passion embedded within. She is relatable enough to American girls (she argues with her mom) and yet different enough to stretch their familiarity. She is Ugandan! How rarely are we given a heroine from another country whose accent is even difficult to understand at times!

2. This is a story about Uganda: it's economic disparity, it's poverty, it's struggles and it's joy. There are no white people! It is filmed in country. And it does not shy away from the brutal reality of Phiona's life. In a way that is entirely age appropriate, viewers face the fear that Phiona's only future may involve being taken by a man.

3. It is pro-marriage. Phiona's chess coach is a loving, caring mentor as well as husband and father. His wife financially supports their household so he can work with the slum kids. Their relationship is a healthy example of marriage both for the chess club as well as the viewing audience.

4. There are strong female leads without debasing the male characters. Phiona's mother is a richly complex character. In her we see the fight to survive and provide for her children mixed with realism and cynicism. As we watch Phiona develop and change, we see similar growth mirrored in her mother. Theirs is a beautiful, loving relationship.

5. It is simply inspiring! You will find yourself cheering for a chess game and simultaneously crying and laughing with all the kids. They are delightful. (And for those of you with an intolerance to pain, it has a happy ending!)

Get thee to the movies!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4l3-_yub5A

When Broken Bones Resurrect a Heart

Summer began full of glory. I planted colorful annuals. Strung the bistro lights. Dusted off the swim towels.

Our first guest brought chilled wine and we enjoyed grilled chicken on the deck.

Work slowed. Our newly turned 16-year old drove himself to his job. The 10-year old walked to the pool alone. The new teen was babysitting.

It was the first week and all seemed divine.

Cue record scratching (the new teen argues the sound should be that of a pristine stained glass window crashing to the marble floor of a European cathedral). She should get to decide. After all, it’s her story.

On the last day of the first week, she played wildly with her babysitting charges, jumped high on the trampoline, splashed in the hose strung from above, and landed in all the wrong ways. Ten hours later, after x-rays, cat scans, morphine, surgery, and anesthesia, she left the ER with several screws, plates, and a cast the size of a ski boot.

Summer abruptly ended.

I left the hospital numb, but the emotions were not far behind. On day one, I snuck away to cry. Big fat tears streaming down my face for all the losses: her favorite camp, her first job, the 5 days my husband and I planned for ourselves. I also ate: big handfuls of chips and lots of bites of all the sweets family had brought.

On day two, I cleaned. Like a mad woman, I decided to empty our closet of old clothes and file cabinets of graduate papers from 8 years ago.

On day three, I realized I was feeling everything with far more intensity than my daughter. I wondered, perhaps the gravity of it all hasn’t set in. Maybe the deluge of grief will come soon. Yet she seemed happy, chipper.

We drove to the medical supply store to rent a wheelchair and I asked her, what’s going on? Why do you seem so at peace? Why do I seem sadder than you? Teach me.

And she did. My 13-year old injured child had found goodness in the hurt: she felt loved by all the calls, texts, gifts, and visits. Because of her pain, she felt embraced.

My new teen had a long approach to life: there will be more summers, more camp weeks and more opportunities. Life has not ended, though her previously planned summer had.

And this child who self-admittedly lacked gratitude, lay in bed thanking God. Thanking him that it was not her head. Thanking him that it was not the kids she babysat. Thanking him that she would heal and be well again. She had found the gift in the wound. In 3 days.

And so on day 3, I resurrected.

I decided to come out of the grave of grief and join my daughter in the land of the gospel, where hope reigns and the messy beautiful lives.

If my daughter could choose to see goodness despite her discomfort, dependence on help, and overwhelming loss, then who was I to remain melancholy and mopey? If her eyes were set on gratitude, how could I not join her?

Did it dismiss the pain? Did it remove the grief? Of course not. But it aligned our eyes to the one who offers comfort: to see the gift, and gaze upon the giver.

My daughter broke her leg and then she showed me the gospel.

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For The Mom Who Aches For More

 
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Dear Mom,

Is this you?

You have battled thru the Mommy Wars and wrestled with sleep training and discipline methods and school choices and career/stay at home dilemmas. You have fought to find your own voice and now you know, in your bones- you are valued, purposed, wanted.

And more than anything, you want your daughter to know this too, beyond question.

You read Sarah Bessey and Addie Zierman and connect- your faith has taken a beating too. The same Evangelical space no longer fully holds you. You attend IF: Gathering and your heart swells- there are strong women speaking your language. Jennie Allen and Jen Hatmaker and Ann Voskamp remind you- you are strong, valued, purposed, wanted.

You are a mama to a tween. And you are wondering. How in the world am I going to raise her in this new spiritual space I find myself occupying?

You look out at what's available to your kind and you find princess archetypes, balls and promise rings, purity and covenants and spiritual weekends and you think, fine, good, but insufficient. The weight of your daughter's glory hangs in the balance and requires so.much.more.

You look out at her kind and you see young women living small stories, preoccupied with a world of their making of which they are in the center, being swallowed whole by the drama and gossip and narrative of teen culture. You wonder, is it stoppable? Preventable? Especially when you glance back at your kind and realize some of them never grew up. You have people in your spaces still living small stories.

[bctt tweet="You have people in your spaces still living small stories."]

In fact, you realize this is an epidemic. Too many peers have yet to discover their voice. Too many are preoccupied with a world of their making. They can't see past the immediate, the constraints, the hurdles, but worst- they don't believe they're needed, valued, purposed.

And so you look at your daughter. This young girl becoming.

She must know in the core of her being that God has purposed her. She must know He is the center of the story of which she is called to be a part. She joins the tale He is telling, through the passion he has placed in her heart. And the drama? The drama is the unfolding of redemption; the story of mercy poured out on a people. Who will be her people? What will be her place? Which problem will she embrace?

Because you realize, a girl living out her passion does not have time for drama of the teen sort. She is too busy growing in curiosity and wonder and being wrecked by a God who calls us to a story of epic proportions.

Is this you, Mom?

Is this you looking for hope for your girl-child-becoming?

Can you recall a memory of when you were first wrecked? When you were young and naive, did you ever get preachy and make everyone around you feel guilty? When were you so gripped with passion that you sacrificed time and money to advance your cause?

Mine? I became a right-wing, secular humanist-fearing activist in high school because of a camp I attended. I came home and raised my voice and got all heated about certain magazines in our public school library and went before our school board and landed front and center in our local newspaper. It makes me chuckle and roll my eyes now. I would love to take my principled 17-year-old self out for coffee!

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But you know what? I was passionate. I had been wrecked by God. My faith was young and naive and maybe I was hearing him wrong, but I loved him and wanted to align my life with the things he cared about. I did it in messy, broken ways... the way we do when we are following a story one chapter at a time.

Do you want more for your daughter? Pray that God would wreck her. Pray that she would develop a passion that sets her sights on a meta-narrative and gets her out of the small story of American teen drama. Welcome her into your own passion.

And mom? If you lack your own, well, you know where you must begin.

Together on the journey,

Beth

 

Kisses From Katie, A Book Review by a 12 year old girl

Girls and Books Kisses From Katie is one of my favorite nonfiction books of all time. It is about a girl in her upper teens who gives up her luxurious life in Little Rock, Arkansas for the rural regions of Uganda as a missionary and later, a mother of over 15 Ugandan children. At first, her stay was temporary, but the need for love in Uganda drew her in and wouldn’t let go. She began as a teacher, raising just enough money for her own food and a little extra to help those in need. With much effort and prayers, she succeeded greatly and ended up with many children, a nice home to host picnics and meals, and a well- funded organization to sponsor Ugandan children by giving supplies, uniforms, meals, and even money to the kids and their families. Nonfiction books normally don’t excite me, but Kisses From Katie hooked me in until the end.

kisses from katieMy favorite part from Kisses From Katie wasn’t her extraordinary success in her business for Ugandan kids, or her dedication to all of her children, but it was her attitude through it all that set her apart. Throughout the entire book, she continued to state “It was God who brought them to me” or “I wasn’t the extraordinary one. I was the host for the extraordinary One doing His thing” or something like that. Her face was always on the Lord, and never on herself. She’s humble and kind, which are the two most important things I look for in an autobiography. Katie also was relatable and easily connected with me as I was reading. She never said “I was strong” or “I never cried,” but she actually explained her sorrow and pain, like there was nothing to hide. It truly is Katie’s lovable attitude and humility that supports my claim that Kisses From Katie is my all time favorite nonfiction book.

Ella, age 12

Girls Who Rocked The World, Book Review by a 9 year old girl

Girls and Books Girls Who Rocked The World is a nonfiction book about heroines. It is packed full with women/girls who have rocked the world. From the age of the Egyptians to the 21st century, this book will teach you about past girls who have stood up for what they believe in. Along with all of this new knowledge that is included, many girls were interviewed and asked “How will you rock the world?” This will help girls come up with ideas for how they will change lives.

Girls Who Rocked I highly suggest this book to girls 8+ who love nonfiction and have a thirst for knowledge. Some of the girls included in this book you may know, such as Joan of Arc, Sacagawea, and Harriet Tubman. Some you may be just learning about, such as Laura Bassi, Coco Chanel, and Wilma Rudolph. I loved this book because it was very inspiring. This book inspired me by making me want to show everyone that men aren’t the only good engineers. Also, I liked this book because I can connect to some of the emotions felt by the characters. Another reason to adore this book is because each chapter is a good amount of pages so that you don’t get too bored, and don’t want too much more. This book is very good, and I hope you will try it out.

Sophie, age 9

Because He Loves Her, He Focuses On Boys: Part 1 of Dad's Role in his Daughter's Becoming

Because He Loves Her This from the amazing man I call husband:

"A few weeks ago during a family hike in the foothills of Colorado, my 12-year-old daughter Ella pulled alongside me on the trail. Without warning, she asked me the most stunning (and difficult) question: "Dad, why did you start a ministry focused on men and boys? Aren't girls important too?"

At first my heart broke, knowing that somehow she had internalized a wrong notion about the importance of men over women. But then, as I started to answer, I began to see her face lift, her eyes meet mine, and hope renew. Here's what I said:

In the heart of every person is a deep hunger for a father - boys and girls alike. All of us, no matter how old we get, long for something from our dads. We want to hear his words of blessing, validation, affirmation, and kindness. Even after our fathers pass away, we still long for him. It's just the way God made us all.

But when, for whatever reason, we don't hear those words, we don't have that admiration, and we don't receive that blessing, something in our hearts gets hurt. Really hurt. Maybe it's because he has turned violent and takes out his anger or fear on his children. Or maybe he doesn't know what to do or say, or is afraid, or doesn't think it matters, and therefore doesn't say anything at all. Either way - violent or passive - a father who doesn't give his heart to his kids hurts them deeply.

And it's the deepest kind of hurt, and both boys and girls suffer as a result. So part of the work I do is to help men not hurt their kids or their world by being true men of God who are not violent and not passive, but instead, show up.

But there's something more.

When girls have this kind of hurt (and ouch does it hurt), they tend to take it inward. They find ways of sitting with that hurt, and often end up hurting themselves even more. For the most part, a girl deals with this father-wound by becoming more hurtful to herself through her own choices. This is a terrible consequence, of course.

But when boys have this kind of hurt (and ouch does it hurt), they tend to take it outward. Something in his heart shifts, and the rage, confusion, anger, hurt, whatever, ends up not only hurting himself, but also lots of people around him. Far more often than girls, a hurt boy ends up hurting others, and the results are even more devastating. He takes his pain and spreads it around. He has the potential to end up doing a lot of harm to other boys, other girls, and society in general. Even if he's not violent, he grows up to be a man who continues the cycle of not giving his heart to his children, and it continues for generation to generation.

Therefore, the other part of the work I do is to help boys grow up into godly men - and to help dads raise up godly men out of their boys. It's actually because you (my daughter) are so important, so valuable, so precious, that I want to do whatever I can to help create a world that grows up good men so that you have a good husband and your children have a good father. You deserve that. It's not that you are unimportant. In fact, it's because you are super important!"

If you are the parent of a son, check out Restoration Project for resources, expeditions, and support for Dads.

Why being a Cool Mom is so Important for our Girls

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Over the weekend, my youngest daughter asked to call my Mom several times. She likes to tell her everything about everything, but she especially likes it that my Mom knows exactly what she’s talking about. She knows the lyrics to songs, she knows most of the TV references, she can text like nobody’s business and she remembers all the details about all the friends. Yet, she’s on the other side of the country. They see her a couple of times a year. To some degree, this comes naturally. My Mom has always been fun and easy to talk to and has worked with kids her whole life. But to a certain extent, she knows how important it is to speak her grandkids’ language. In preparation for watching them in a few weeks, she is studying their favorite TV series. She knows how far it will go as she becomes parent for 10 days. (Yes, Mom. We’re leaving for 10 days!!!)

As I walk my 12-year-old daughter through a year of Becoming, I have learned the importance of being cool in her eyes. It doesn’t always mean, nor require, being as hip as my own Mom, but I’ve seen the value in earning points in her eyes.


She needs me to be emulatable so she can ascribe meaning to her own future.

Our girls need to respect their mothers. They need to be a little impressed. Awe inspired is optional. But creating a vision for who they can become is not. If we’re going to call our girls to offer themselves fully to the world in all the ways God has created them to be, they need to see us doing it first.

To launch Becoming, I took Ella to Turkey - land of her birth and part of our family story. For all sorts of reasons, it was important that she return. But there was one outcome I knew it would have, needed it to have: I needed her to see her mom navigate a foreign city, speak a foreign language, and take care of the two of us alone.

Her resistance was immediate. She questioned me every step of the way, every day. In a mixture of not remembering the culture, nor understanding what was happening around her, she doubted my lead. It seemed like I was saying, “trust me” repeatedly. But by the end of the trip, her fear had morphed into awe and respect. And awe and respect turned into an attitude of “I’m going to do that too.” Facing fear and learning to access your own strength is an invaluable gift to our girls.

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I’ve noticed similar reactions when she has joined me in a class at the gym. Seeing me follow the moves of the instructor (that I’ve been doing for years) as she struggled to keep up, gave her enormous respect for me. Likewise, when she has seen me speak to an audience or hears about something I’ve written, she is impressed. The respect, coming in big or small doses, helps curb the annoyance that comes naturally.

And here’s the thing. I’m not doing anything to purposefully impress her. I’m living my life with intention, bravery, and to the best of my ability. So are you. Dear reader, you are a hero in your own right. In your own sphere of influence, out of your unique skills and passions, you too are living with intention, bravery, and to the best of your ability.

Too often, I find we allow our adolescents to go their own way and do their own thing. They are so involved in activities and with friends, that they miss out on watching us when they most need to be watching us! If we don’t conjure up awe and respect in their eyes, those friends and activities will be far more alluring and the person they will want to emulate will be BFF, not Mom.

Let's be Moms worth emulating. Let's raise a generation of girls who have a vision for themselves and their future because they watched their moms live in some pretty cool ways.

I am Raising Strong Girls because the World Needs their Strength

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You are stronger than you realize. It has been our mantra for our littlest these last few months. She has needed the reminder, our chanting in her soul.

Unlike her sister, she was not born believing she could do anything. She does not look at mountains and dream of summitting them. She does not scale climbing gyms without hesitation. She does not volunteer for everything that gains her attention.

She does not wear her courage on her sleeve, but it is there. It comes out of nowhere when we least expect it! Like last year when she tried out for the talent show. What?!? Or decided to give overnight camp another try this summer. Or last week, when she ran for Governor of her class. What?!? Or got her ears pierced this weekend after years of saying she was not ready.

What has readied her soul?

She is 9 and there are moments, still. The family hike she refuses to finish. Tantrums as the elevation gains and lots of agony to motivate her forward. But at the top, oh it is worth it. And she declares it. And we celebrate her strength, her courage.

We remind her, see? You are stronger than you realize.

And I want her to know, it’s okay to feel fear. It’s okay to tremble when you give a speech and squeeze your eyes shut when you get the shot and miss us at camp. It’s okay to have a healthy amount of doubt in your ability. I think it’s called humility. Some of us are naturally more gifted than others.

But it’s downright beautiful to try, despite the fear. She has grown oh, so beautiful this year!

Sophie We have a friend who has his own mantra. He tells my husband, “Show up, speak from the heart, and let gift happen.” We remind each other, frequently.

Show up. Speak from the heart. Let gift happen.

Because we are full of gifts the world needs. Our courage opens the door to bless others. Remain in fear and risk robbing others of blessing.

But gifts are also abundantly available to us. When we trust God with what he has for us, when we show up and speak from the heart, we receive - from others, from the experience, from our own defiance of fear. And He has so much for us to receive!

I am raising strong girls because the world needs their strength. Sometimes they need to be reminded, they are already far stronger than they realize!

Do You See Me? A Question for Girls

Someone wise whom I can't remember said, "I write to know what I think." This is one of those.

My prayer today went like this:

God, I need a break!

I need a break from picking up the pieces every afternoon, as day crawls into evening and we are pulling punching bag up stairs to be beaten and to absorb the pain that we are weary of absorbing...

I need a victory because she needs a victory, desperately, and one that lasts longer than an afternoon.

I need her to come home smiling, for real, and not just because in her hunger and relief to be safe she has forgotten that really she's in pain.

I need her to eagerly walk out the door, just one day, instead of having to nudge her to walk the 50 yards to the bus stop and do it all again.

And it's torture to make us relive this, we who were girls and have already suffered our fair share of junior high days and junior high girls and junior high boys and junior high male teachers who shouldn't be and junior high rejection!

How brutal to resurrect those feelings and double the shame, making every rejection our rejection, again and again.

I need a break!

I'm tired of praying for her best. I want her to win. For once, I want it to go as she wants it to go. I want her to come home victorious, not requiring hours of making sense of it and shaping it into something manageable, tolerable.

I want to stop questioning, every single day, if it's time to fight on her behalf or if this challenge is one to mold her. I am done wondering if she's processing it correctly or through skewed emotion.

So today when she comes home from tryouts and when the cast list is posted, I'm just warning you, I don't have much left. Tank is empty. I'm fragile and cracked. Hear me? Thank you for listening, God. Amen.

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Have you noticed that all of the hilarious, make me feel normal in the insanity of it all, videos of motherhood stop at adolescence? Lots of get-me-through-the day toddler videos and now-that-they-are-talking humor, but dead silence around the is-anyone-feeling-my-pain-with-these-pre-teens stage.

Or is the absence due to the awkward truth that their pain is so familiar, so similar to ours? Sure, there's the crazy stuff that comes with puberty and immaturity, as one blogger describes so well. There's also the stuff of life, the crap we adults face all the time, put so well by Halee Gray Scott.

Perhaps the torture I felt today is that the question my daughter asks of friends, teachers, and coaches is "Do you see me?" and it's the same question I'm still asking.

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I wonder, is it the question every girl asks?

When Strong Girls Outshine

Strong girls This one. She is fierce. Strong and determined, athletic and stubborn. She fills rooms with loudness and song, jumps down staircases, and slams doors shut. The opposite of soft is the picture of her steps through life.

This Fall? A concussion. Pulled hamstring. Bruised and blackened hand. So far.

And here is my question: Without tempering her passion and ability in any way, how do I soften the edges? Because sometimes, I get cut. She can pierce too easily.

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We are in the stands watching and waiting from above. Her event has been called, but she is the 4th heat. Near the dive blocks is a chin up bar and she and some boys her age are kind of goofing around under the guise of warm-up. A boy agonizingly pulls himself up to the bar. One. The next boy gets on. Three. And then she goes. One. Two. Three. Four. Five.... Twelve. She jumps down beaming.

From the rafters we are simultaneously proud and smirking. In minutes, we know, she will rub it in. The boys will try again, at least once, to prove themselves and because surely they did it wrong the first time. Then she will show them again how much stronger she really is, their arms still skinny and lanky without post-pubescent muscle. One will mutter admiration. The others will scoff, shamed.

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For the first time in years we are out to dinner with friends, alone. Their two match our youngest two in age and we spend our kid-less night discussing them. Their son has given our daughter a run for her money for years in academics, student government, and P.E.. Apparently, she is one of the few girls he has kept as a friend, respecting her participation and ability in P.E. as so many other girls chat on sidelines. I imagine my daughter becoming a confidant, a sound board for him later until one day he wakes up and realizes it was her he loved all along. Isn’t that how every story ends? The tomboy athlete is every boy’s best friend, but never the one pursued.

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She has already summited her first 14’r, a Colorado rites of passage and achievement she wears proudly. Though we are a hiking family, collectively, we rarely make it to the end of any hike. The youngest is far too distracted by boulders and tired by short legs and we never seem to start our journey early enough to summit before the sun starts to set.

We are on vacation with friends and though we left the trailhead as 11, we are now 4, trudging up the incline: my two oldest, myself, and one of our friends. She is 50 feet ahead at all times and I am breathless. Eventually, I project my panting, “I cannot keep this pace! You’ve got to slow down.” Minutes later when I need to catch my breath again, she acts annoyed. There is a determination to lead, to summit, to finish, that I am both awed and dismayed by. Would she leave her mom behind to reach her goal? Finally, I make that choice for her. Another 1/4 mile uphill, I sit and wait for them to climb the last bit, head pounding and heart heaving out of my chest.

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I am raising a daughter in a new era and thrilled by the conversation, new products, academic incentives, and expectations of girls. I delight in her ability and desire to do all the crazy things she does. Inwardly, I smile that she can outrun, out push-up, and out pull-up the boys.

So how do I fan the flame in such a way that those around her don't burn? It's not her responsibility to care for boy's egos, but what about being sensitive and spurring others on rather than gloating? She should get to finish hikes, but how can she be a leader who walks alongside rather than races to the top?

She shouldn't have to squelch her speed, her knowledge, or her passion because it overwhelms the boys, but how can I teach her to be a confident and strong girl who learns the art of encouragement, listening, and compassion?

AandEHike web

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We who mother, we are girls. We were tree-climbers and knee-scrapers and beauty-dreamers. We planned our proposals and wrote screenplays for our weddings. We are not archetypes of pink princesses or overalls on rope swings. We are all.

And my goal with my daughters is to embrace the all.

Share with me your story? When were you told you were too much? Were you squelched to save face for a boy? Were you raised to hold it all beautifully? Do share.