Strong Women…


My Dear Girls,

Last week was International Women’s Day, as I learned from my Instagram feed. I was inspired to share with you some thoughts about actions and attitudes I hope you have as strong women:


1. Realize that femininity – embracing your God-gifted characteristics and roles – doesn’t undermine your strength, but rather adds to it. You were made in the image of our Creator, with unique differences from men that will allow each of us to accomplish unique purposes in this world, for His glory.

2. Live weak, recognizing and relying on your need for a Savior’s strength. You don’t have to fear or hide your shortcomings nor imperfections, knowing that your weaknesses are an opportunity for Jesus’ power to be made perfect in and through you. Rest in the Truth that you are enough and are fully loved, just as you are, even as you are being ever changed to become more like Him.

3. Appreciate and be confident in your bodies, choosing to focus on their capabilities over the flaws. Just the mere fact we were made to birth babies – without drugs if chosen – and sustain their lives is an amazing testament to our physical and emotional strength and endurance! I’d put the strongest men in the world up to childbirth any day! 😉 Beyond that, know that you can run hard and fast, be aggressive on the court and field, dance with beauty and grace, or whatever you put your mind to do. Let the phrase “just a girl” motivate you, rather than slow you down!

4. Prioritize self-care. You are mind, body, and spirit, and to care for yourself well involves not neglecting any of these areas. Believe in the power of exercise to refresh, build, and reveal your strength. Find an exercise/sport you enjoy, and prioritize it as a healthy life habit. (And if you haven’t yet found one you love, keep looking – it’s out there!) Understand a healthy relationship with food is a main way to sustain your strength. Strive to eat real, healthy foods when you’re hungry, but also understand that moderation is ok! Know that stress, and it’s negative effects on your mind and body, are real, and make time to unplug and relax, doing things just for yourself. 

5. Cultivate and appreciate authentic friendships with other strong women, through which you’ll find and give strength, acceptance, affirmation, and community… and sometimes laugh with ’til you cry/pee – depending on your age! 🙂 Your girlfriends will be among your fiercest cheerleaders and prayer warriors for your entire life. Search for friends who are kind, loyal, selfless, and low-maintenance. Steer clear of mean girls, who build themselves up by putting down or excluding others. And most of all, remember to BE a true, encouraging friend yourself.

6. Understand you don’t need a man to complete or affirm your worth, and wait for one who isn’t intimidated by your strength, intelligence, or dreams but rather values those qualities over your appearance. 

7. Don’t look to society, the government, or any other earthly authority to determine nor validate your worth or strength as a woman, but search for the Truth revealed in God’s living and active Word, the Bible. Study and find ultimate affirmation in Jesus’ completely counter-cultural interactions with and treatment of women.

8. “Work hard, play hard, and leave the rest to God.” (Florence Griffith Joyner, Olympic track champion). Dream big, and know that, while you can do everything, you can’t do it all at once. Prioritize your dreams in careful, prayerful consideration of your life seasons and responsibilities, with your family at the forefront. The biggest lie to 21st century American women is that we can do it all, and do it well; don’t buy it.

9. Don’t be intimidated by other strong, successful women, but celebrate their successes with them, resting in the knowledge that we all shine in our own ways and at our own times.

10. Know when to speak up, and when to remain silent. Have meaningful conversations, and walk away from gossip. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Remember that, even when you may not  feel like it, you ARE strong and beautiful. Because your mama said so. 🙂

Here’s to Strong Women,

Me 

When You are Tired…

My Dear Girls,

One day, you may be a wife and mom to young kids – or not.  And you will likely have a job outside and/or inside your home, with inevitable busy seasons.  Either way, you will definitely, 100%, beyond a shadow a doubt, have times when you are tired – as in, too tired to think, exhausted, or as we say in the country, “worn slap out” kind of tired.  When you come to that point, here’s some earth-shattering advice on what to do next…

STOP.  REST.

But… but it’s not that simple. Yes, yes it actually is.  Unless you want to crash and burn a few days/months/years later.  There are not many excuses that are more important than your health and overall well-being, which is really what you’re sacrificing when you choose to skimp on rest.  We must care for ourselves first, if we are going to be able to care for those who we love so dearly and who are depending on us!  Preaching to myself here, over and over again…

Most women today are stretched way too thin – partly by our many roles in serving others and partly by our own decisions and commitments (that too often aren’t as necessary as we think).  The bottom line is that you are not a robot; you were designed by your Creator to rest – on a daily and weekly basis.  The Lord gives us rest as a gift.  He even modeled it for us in the creation of the world.  But we have to take it, to prioritize it, because no one else is going to do it for you!  On the contrary, most people will take as much of you as you are willing to give.  The Lord revealed the importance of rest and its power on my physical, spiritual, and emotional health a couple of years ago after I went through some health issues that led me to examine my lifestyle and habits and make some hard, but necessary changes.  They weren’t easy lessons to learn, but I’m so grateful I did.  I would encourage you to study what the Bible says about rest.  God wants us to rest in Him, recognizing that He is God and we are not, as we let go of the control we often cling so tightly to.

So, what does this look like on a practical level?  Well, for starters, sleep is a basic human need but often viewed as a privilege here in America, where people pride themselves on productivity in exchange for rest.  I recently read an article that the number one cause of aging is lack of sleep – hence, the phrase “beauty sleep.”  Did you know our brains and bodies actually take time to repair and regenerate while we sleep?  Beyond sleep, try to carve out a few restful times into your day.  Try simple things like waking up early to have a quiet time with the Lord, not working at your desk through lunch, sitting down to eat meals, taking work breaks, limiting your time on social media (or whatever in the world we’ll have in the future), having parts of your day that are “unplugged,” or just making yourself sit still for a few minutes here and there without DOING anything (Why, oh why, is this so much harder for women than for men?!).  Also, taking at least part of one of your weekend days for a sustained Sabbath rest is so important, and although I neglect it more often I’d like to admit, I have resolved to do better!

Most importantly, learning how to say no – often to the good, in exchange for the best (probably a topic for another letter) – precedes rest.  I have had to learn to reevaluate and change some habits that had set the tune of my life to frantic rush, which really is no way to live.  And although I still struggle from this from time to time, it doesn’t take me as long now to tune in and get back on track.  Don’t wait as long as I did to learn the power of rest and to freely accept what’s already been so graciously given to you.  You are not God, you are not a robot, and you ultimately are not in control, so give yourself permission to surrender to and be restored through the wonderful gifts of His freely given rest – both physically and spiritually!

Resting in Him,

Your Monday-Tired Mama

Three Magic Letters to Reset Your Attitude

Dear Kate & Annabeth,

One day, when you grow up, you will have many jobs and responsibilities that, while you will ultimately be thankful for, you may find yourself struggling with at times.  It’s easy to lose motivation and fall into a complaining, versus a grateful, attitude pattern.  A few people smarter than me have reminded me at different times in my life of a magical three-letter word that holds the power to reset your attitude from negative to positive – get.

I have to make and clean up after what sometimes seems like endless meals and snacks each day, but I get the pleasure of feeding my growing family healthy food out of an abundant pantry and fridge, often enjoying quality times around the table, while many mothers in the world shed tears over starving children.

I have to do some work during a Fall Break family vacation, but I get the opportunity to have a fulfilling job and to shape future teachers.

I have to pick up the countless socks, toys, and scraps of paper that my family leaves all over the house, but I get to have an active, loving family and opportunities to serve someone else in love.

I have to drive my mom taxi to and from school, preschool, dance, play practice, church, and what feels like a thousand other places each week, but I get to spend quality time talking and hanging out with you guys and watching you grow in your talents, friendships, and work ethic.

I’m preaching to myself here, too.  Despite my best efforts, my attitude can be pretty crummy sometimes.  And it becomes a spiral – the more we focus on what’s wrong, the more wrong we see.  But I get another change to reset my perspective and remind myself of my blessings and opportunities every day, every hour, every minute – and so do you.  So, when the “have to’s” all seem overbearing, stop and remind yourself of the power of “get.”

All My Love,

Mama

To Be Significant…

Today was my Gran’s, your great-grandmother’s, birthday, and her fifth birthday spent in Heaven.  She would have been 96!  She was the most wonderful person – a true Christian and Southern lady in every way – and countless people are better for knowing her, myself included.  Kate, she had so much fun with you as a baby and toddler, and Annabeth Margaret, her namesake, she would have absolutely loved you!  Gran didn’t leave behind a list of impressive worldly accomplishments, but she touched many, many lives for God’s glory by authentically caring for people and truly living out her faith.  Her life is a great reminder of where our true significance really lies.

I wrote a tribute that was read at her funeral, which concluded with this quote:

Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love. – Mother Teresa

I came across another quote earlier today and thought it was so simple and true:

To be significant, all you have to do is make a difference with others wherever you are, with whatever you have, day by day. – John Maxwell

It reminded me of the Vacation Bible School pledge I learned as a child:

I will do the best I can, with what I have, where I am, in Jesus’ name today.

Or, in simplest terms, God’s basic command to us in His Word can be summed up as follows:

Love God.  Love people.

So, don’t over complicate success or significance by adhering to the world’s standards.  Significance is found in a life lived with true meaning and purpose, which is revealed only in an abiding relationship with the Giver of Life.  Be surrendered to Jesus, be intentional, work hard, and you will undoubtedly achieve significance both in this world and eternally.  I pray often that each of your lives would be used for significant purposes, both big and small, to His glory.

All My Love,

Mama