The Village Girl Handbook 2 will be released this fall. As in the first volume, there will be a section of the book devoted to thoughts from girls around the world. It's important for girls to not only be able to relate, but also to receive perspective. Hearing from voices worldwide will aid in just that.
If you know a girl (or lady) who lives in another country (or another state), I'd like for you to make contact asking her to respond to the following prompt.
IN 30 WORDS OR LESS, TELL GIRLS WHAT YOU'D LIKE THEM TO KNOW ABOUT LIFE
Here's an example: "Laugh. Receive grace. Extend it. Be a searcher of beauty. Leave each situation better than you found it (as much as possible). Ask God's help! You've been created for this."
You can share this post with them, copy and paste the prompt and send it to them, or just ask them and have them type it up.
Please send their response to me through email- firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure they include their name and where they are from (age is optional).
Please make sure the responses are
From outside of TX
30 words or less
Their own words (not a quote)
I'll need them by August 10! Let me know if you have any questions.
If you'd like to know more about this book I'll be glad to share what it's all about. If you'd like to know more about the first book check it out here.
I'll never forget my teacher's aide rushing into my classroom to tell me she saw my son Hayden in the principal's office his fourth grade year. I was a little slow in recognizing the significance of the situation.
He probably got hurt during recess, I offered, knowing that the nurse's office was next door. Her telling expression let me know...that wasn't the case. I was quickly summoned to the office where a dejected Hayden sat in a chair by the principal.
While Hayden sat silent (looking extremely nervous), I was given a brief summary of the account. I was told that Hayden had punched a kid because he had incorrectly surmised that the kid threw a rock at him when in fact (the principal told me), the rock assault could have been an accident.
I was swiftly given two options for Hayden's punishment; licks or three days of "In School Suspension". I chose BOTH (hoping spectators would know I discipline my kids) and then left the office and marched down the hall to my classroom trying to simmer down.
How could he?! This was the kid who'd been taught from toddlerhood to give up a toy rather fight over it. This was the kid who'd coach himself "Stop, breave (breathe) and fink (think)" when he'd get angry as a three year old. And really? Now he was throwing the first punch?
Hadn't everyone that knew me witnessed my countless talks with my kids (both my own children and my students) about being a peacekeeper and telling an adult when someone wouldn't leave you alone....and now I'd failed at ensuring my son played by those rules?... Would I become a laughingstock? What would the church members think? Would this hurt the reputation of my (pastor) husband who teaches peace, patience and kindness from the pulpit?
That afternoon, when I finally gave Hayden a chance to speak, I found there was more to the story. The friction between Hayden and the other boy had grown over the course of a couple of weeks with Hayden trying to be passive; a trait I'd so carefully ingrained in him. But the torment had finally accumulated to a point where Hayden broke.
I learned that teachers knew that the boy had made numerous attempts to escalate the situation (by use of insulting language and other means such as slight shoves before he decided to throw rocks at my kid), but nothing had been done about it.
Being that the news had already spread that evening by the time Wednesday church rolled around, I was asked a question by a male church friend who had detected my frustration toward Hayden.
Are you mad at Hayden because you're embarrassed about the situation or because you truly think he did the wrong thing?
Initially I thought he had done wrong. I'm still not sure what I expected from my son, but one thing was clear. After talking to those who witnessed the interaction, it was confirmed that Hayden had been severely provoked. My church friend posed an interesting question. The answer was that I was more worried about what everybody would think, and the possibility of my son becoming a public vigilante, than whether or not he made a reasonable decision considering the circumstances.
The next day I talked with the principal who agreed that 'pops' and a day in ISS were enough punishment. I apologized to Hayden for making my reputation (and his) more important than his emotional and physical well-being. I apologized for all the times I coached him when he was younger to give away a toy he was rightfully playing with just to keep the peace. I cringe today and have apologized again as I think about the damage I may have caused. I'd repeatedly failed in looking out for my kid's best interest.
I've failed since with the girls too, on various occasions, even recently.
When it comes to instructing and disciplining our children there's a simple equation we'd all do well to follow.
Your kid does something wrong (in the eyes of God)?...You discipline them.
I think as parents, too many times we allow the following unnecessary forces to influence our instruction and discipline:
Our fear of embarrassment. I've coached the kids on how not to be weird. I can become too involved in their clothing choices (Do NOT wear those sandals with your athletic shorts). Is that really a moral problem? I'm afraid people think one of my kids talks too much.The other, I worry, doesn't talk enough to people she encounters. Will people think she's rude? He's sick, but will people wonder why he's not at church this morning? And so I guide them (badger them) to be children who are pleasing, that is, to people. Don't we as adults know, that's IMPOSSIBLE?
We worry that others will find our kid annoying. Closely kin to my fear of my kids embarrassing me (or themselves) is the worry that others will find my kids annoying. I muddle down the definition of wrongdoing by getting on to my kids for behavior that may annoy the company they're with even though there may be nothing sinful about their behavior. Don't fake laugh. Don't raise your hand too much in class. Don't hug too long or sit too close. Don't tell lame jokes or that story that no one wants to hear. Rather than considering whether or not their behavior is wrong, I use wide brushed strokes in my guidance; prohibiting any behavior that may not be easily likable.
We 're too concerned that someone might misunderstand. Too many times the appearance of the matter overrides the heart of the matter. Not long ago I forced one of my kids to go out of her way to be overly friendly to someone who had treated her poorly over a course of several months (a simple "Hi" and a smile wasn't enough, I thought). Why? Because the girl's mom wasn't aware of the situation and I didn't want the mom to think my daughter was unkind. The fact of the matter is that my daughter could have been kind without the unnecessary display just to avoid a misunderstanding.
We give too much thought to what other parents deem appropriate for our own kids. Will they think she shouldn't be allowed to walk to school by herself/ have a cellphone/ take selfies/ eat at McDonalds/ drink a soda/ watch that movie... The question should always be, What does scripture have to say about this? Not, What will the Jones's think?
Paranoid parenting is unhealthy. Parenting strictly by what we believe scripture says may lead to our children experiencing rejection for what is thought unlikeable or popular. There will be those who disapprove of things we allow our children to do. That's unavoidable. But through allowing their true self to seep through, they'll find those who love them for their quirks and through their immature and sometimes awkward life stages. Those who patiently and lovingly stick around are the ones they need to be around anyway.
When we seek to teach our children what is pleasing to God, and stop worrying about pleasing the hoards, life will be less confusing and less disappointing for our children, and for us too.
Train a child in the way he should go...Proverbs 22:6
Check out the new book here.
Sorry. Have to mention it again...("The Village Girl Handbook"). Among the stories in this recently published book (I keep talking about) is a story I wrote about about a super lady who was my pastor's wife during junior high and high school. Ms Donna was (and is a gem) and I wanted the world to know it. I got a handwritten letter from her today reminding me once again what a treasure she is. It included some "tea party" pictures from days with Ms Donna. Don't be jealous of my hair (or my sweet jeans).
We called her Ms. Donna. She had perfect blond, chin-length hair that turned under. She wore red lipstick and bright colored dresses on Sunday. She was soft spoken, but you listened to hear what she would say. She was our preacher’s wife.
She and her husband, Brother Jimmy lived in the rock house across the street from the church. It was a small gingerbread-looking house that was owned by the church. It was a plain with tan carpet and white walls. Soon after moving to Iredell, Ms. Donna decided to paint the entire downstairs an unpopular color, the color of a green olive.
Though some might underestimate the possibility in a color likened to the hue of puke, it looked quite beautiful. She made that little house fancy. I know, because she invited me and a couple of other girls over for a tea party and luncheon when we were teenagers.
On Tea Party Day, I wore an unladylike blue jean skirt and a shirt that had been decorated with puff paint (which was popular at the time but probably not appropriate for a tea party). She served croissants and other fun foods on her fine china and talked to us like we were ladies and friends; something we hadn't thought yet to consider ourselves. Her invitation and kindness made a good impression on me.
When she would see me, she would ask how I was, and she really wanted to know. She wasn't just being nice.
My admiration for Ms. Donna would only continue to grow as I learned more about her. She and her husband, Brother Jimmy had five children. Their youngest son was born blind, but it was easy to recognize that he had been raised not to let this disability limit him. One daughter had died tragically, and another would battle cancer at a young age.
Ms. Donna would serve as a picture of faith. She never appeared to be angry or feel sorry for herself. Neither did she seem eaten up with worry, even when her husband had a terrible stroke that left him struggling to walk or speak. All of these things seemed to further her need to talk to, and count on, Jesus.
She was dainty and beautiful like the pale flowers that edged the teacups she used to serve us. Yet she was strong, the complete opposite of the fine china that decorated her dining room. I was loved by Ms. Donna. It wasn't a part of her job description. She was just good at it. She was good at it, I suppose because she loved Jesus. Ms. Donna took the time to learn who I was. But it was in the time I took to learn who she was that I was changed for the better.
Future volumes of The Village Girl Handbook are in the works. If you have a story of a mentor, someone who encouraged you during your middle school or high school years, I'd love to hear it. Send me an email if you're interested in including your story in a future volume in the special section of the book Your Village.
No doubt you've given, or been given, this piece of advice. I know I have.
Certainly we don't want our kids to act like someone else to try and fit in. We don't want them fake laughing, constantly making duck lips to look "just so" for a selfie, or putting too much effort into following the latest fashion trend just to feel like they fit in.
We want them to be comfortable in their own skin. We're well aware that our daughter won't likely make friends by altering her personality to fit in with the girl (or crowd of girls) she's interacting with. The other side of that coin is if she does make friends by intentionally changing her behavior in order to seem more pleasing, she'll likely attract friends she probably won't be able to keep, or else she may attract friends that don't foster the great character we hope will be instilled in our children. We know all of this. And so we work to make them secure in who they are.
I recently realized that one of my kids has matured to a point of being pretty comfortable in their own skin, thanks, in part, to culture and to my years of coaching.
But, boy oh boy, my job's not done.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Though we don't want our children to try to be somebody else, and though we don't want them to be insecure, do we really want them to be themselves? I know I can be a force to reckoned with when I'm being myself. My kids can be too.
When I think about my children, my husband and those I've been called to befriend and encourage, they need me to live beyond myself and my natural whims.
In being myself, I can be selfish and jealous, rude and impatient.
Naturally, I don't like to wait.
In being myself, I use saracasm at the expense of others.
In being myself (truly myself) , I'll more times than not, choose to do things that bring ME pleasure or accolades...or comfort...or happiness.
The same goes for our children. In being themselves, our children will all too often behave like spoiled and selfish creatures. It's the human default.
So it's our duty to stretch them beyond what's natural, again.
Sure we should teach our kids that they shouldn't try and be somebody else.
Let's teach them to be content and confident in who God made them to be. But it's not his plan that they be themselves, for themselves.
Beyond teaching them who they are, more pertinently, we must teach them who they are in Christ. He sat an example of being oneself, selflessly.
God has fashioned you in such a way that you can...
I saw you two sitting beside each other last night. Hallie, you were on the couch. And Rylie you were right beside her as you leaned over while the two of you looked at her phone whispering about something you both found comical.
I heard you laugh...together. Not one of you laughing at the other.
You girls even took a selfie...the both of you...without being asked.
The crazy part (as if this wasn't already crazy enough) is that one of you had company, so I know you weren't just interacting positively out of boredom.
I've watched you through the years doing normal sister things. I've observed, countless times, one of you hog the bathroom and then exit proudly, your towel piled on top of your head, while your junk remained; heaped on her side of the sink and spilling on to the floor. I've listened to the other of you beat self-righteously on the door with zero grace demanding to be let in ten minutes before her exit.
I've watched you fight over a possession that would typically be claimed except that I was asking the rightful owner to pick it up and put it where it belonged, in which case you fought, both claiming (pointing the figurative finger) that it was hers.
Car trips haven't been too bad for years. But only because you each take an entire bench seat. You drown out the world with your pillow and your headphones; blasting the playlist you so carefully created before we left the house. You each forget the other is in the car until it's time to stop for a restroom break.
Sure you've taken up for each other a time or two when someone outside our family has criticized or mistreated your sister. That's what siblings do. They hold outsiders to a higher standard than they hold themselves. How dare anybody (besides me) treat her that way?
Was it the ice cream? Did yesterday's impulsive purchase of the Bluebell flavor The Great Divide have some sort of counter-cataclysmic effect that turned you into foreign characters...friends?
I can't be sure, but you give me hope. I fully expect to hear arguing later, over whether or not the YouTube video one of you is playing loudly in the kitchen is annoying. I'll be patient and let you work it out. I know from my own experience that the process from sister, to friend, to best friend is a long one.
I'll remember that one of the ingredients to such a friendship is a number of failed attempts. I'll know that the disappointments and heartbreaks that will come from outside (and probably in) our family will serve in helping you to better care for one another (as has already happened a few times).
Until then I've stolen this selfie off your Instagram account to remind me that it just might happen. While I wait I'll think about my own sisters, my best friends. I'll be thankful that we got it right, even if it took a little while.
I sat in Hallie, the middle's, bedroom a few evenings ago just catching up on the events of the day. As I reached down to hug her goodnight my eyes fixed on a Christmas gift I gave her a couple of years ago. It was a simple piece of wall art I found at TJ Maxx.
The words, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star stamped across the board, I hoped, would remind her of her brilliance and encourage her in her endeavors. I'd crudely strung a piece of twine across the bottom to hang her theater ribbons. She was so fond of them her eighth grade year.
Several ribbons have fallen and likely made their way under her bed amongst empty water bottles and socks who will likely never reunite with their partners in the basket that lives in laundry room downstairs. She's won several ribbons since then who are probably stuffed in a makeup drawer or lying in the abyss we call her closet.
This shrine has lost its meaning. I'm glad.
Though I mean well, I've erroneously, through the years, shared a potentially harmful message with my kids.
In attempt to help them be secure, I've spoken words to help them believe that when it comes to beauty, brains and character they're tops! ...Except for when others make them feel they're not. And except for when I make them feel they're not because I have to correct them, or even when I say careless things because I'm cranky (How long has it been since you've washed YOUR HAIR?!, How are you NOT getting this?)
Correction should be given carefully, but so should compliments. When our children see us put confidence in their flesh, they will inevitably be disappointed when their flesh fails, as it will time and time again.
Our children need to see us bewildered at how God has made them and who God is making them to be. When they see our focus and confidence is clearly on God and his work they are more able to love themselves without having to shine above others (or else shrink in the shadows).
Marveling at God's work in their lives, rather than in their stellar behavior or their awesome talents or features, enables them to love others without the need to try to continually outdo (to ensure they hold their I am special title). It permits them to believe that I am special (and that others are too) because we're created and spurred on by a God who does the incredible in each of us.
Here's what I wish we all had the faith and courage to tell our children:
You are special. You're special because God made you with a unique story to live. You're not special because you're better than anyone else.
You're beautiful; a fearfully and wonderfully made individual...just like everybody else our amazing God lovingly created.
You're knowledgeable and capable. God has given you the ability to do the good things he wants you to do. You're wise when you don't boast of those capabilities. You're wise when you need not be convinced of this gift through the compliments and acknowledgement of others. You're wise when you remember that God's grace is available when you fail to properly use your knowledge and abilities. You're wise when you remember to use your abilities for his purpose.
I pretty much stink at this right now. I often choose the fast track to security for my children; a quick pat on the back, a graceless remark about another child (in effort to make mine feel better), and through puffy words that deflate as quickly as they inflated a false sense of confidence.
I can do better. I'm sure we all can. After all, God's still working in all His children.
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
You see, I've only had one opportunity to model apparel and I skipped out. Around five years ago there was a fashion show planned at our church. The girls (Hallie and Rylie) and I were invited to participate. I begrudgingly agreed.
We went to Dillards where somebody else (who declined to ask about my taste) picked out my clothes. The girls were thrilled, especially Hallie who was given a black and white polka-dotted top with a cute hot pink blazer and some skinny jeans. Rylie could have cared less what she'd be wearing, she was just excited she'd be on stage. Outfits were planned.
The closer the fashion show got, the more nervous I grew. I don't care for being a visual focus. Put some clothes on me that don't suit me and I really don't enjoy being a spectacle.
The day before the show, Hallie came down with a bad case of the flu. And you want to know what? Besides being sad that my baby was terribly uncomfortable, I was secretly relieved that I had an excuse to ditch my modeling gig.
That's it. That's the only time I've had a chance to model (unless pageants count). I was a contestant in The Old Settler’s Reunion Pageant when I was around ten. It was held outdoors in a pavilion the last week of July. In the middle of our parading ourselves in front of judges and the audience, a strike of lightning blew out the electricity. All contestants were summoned backstage where we near melted. I was with my cousin who was also a contestant when we found out that our Granny had just been taken to the hospital.
I cried backstage for a host of reasons. I cried harder when I didn't win.
So here you have a few reasons I despise putting myself out there.
Fear- What if I'm ineffective? What if I'm ill-received? A laughing stock? What if I fall?
My avoidance of discomfort- Modeling usually requires I wear something that isn't me. Typically, the apparel is itchy/strange/not me/confining. Modeling is in opposition to one of my favorite pastimes, relaxation.
It's a contest (of sorts). Will I get picked? (Win the contest/Be adored because my clothes and myself are cute…) If I'm not going to get picked, I'd rather not play.
That's why I guess I was surprised when I opened scripture yesterday and felt a special calling, not only for me to model, but to invite you to do some modeling too.
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord...with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
And so you became a model
1 Thessalonians 1:4-7
Maybe it's more than an invitation. Do we really get to choose if we model or not? People are watching. Rather than choosing whether or not we want to model life in Christ, we choose to be a good model or a bad one. There's no such thing as a closet Christian. You're on stage whether or not you know it.
Sure we’ll face rejection when we speak truth and live it. We may fear others watching us fall when we don't live truth because we’re human.
Modeling Christ can be uncomfortable. It calls us to put on clothes of humility and forgiveness which are often confining.
Often we won't be adored. We’ll lose in an earthly sense when we put ourselves out there with the idea that a life like Jesus’ should be mimicked.
If you're a Christ follower then you've likely been blessed to have observed a good model or two yourself. Either a grandmother, parent, Sunday school teacher or neighbor showed you what it was like to live for Christ. Their comfort, their fear and their need to make life all about themselves lost priority when they experienced the power of serving the Savior. And you saw that.
How can we not follow suit?
The world, our neighborhood, our homes need models, imperfect ones, who point them to the fullness found in Christ. They need to be shown, to be told.
The deepest of joy is often found in the midst of fear and discomfort.
We're about to be busy, busy this weekend (not that the past month hasn't been a flurry of activity). But it's Father's Day weekend, a time to reflect and be grateful (even though you were smart with me this morning).
I've been fortunate enough to be surrounded by good fathers. I can't say enough about my dad. He's always been the picture of the invincible. He's strong, but gentle. He has such a love for God's word; a love that has influenced me greatly.
Your dad's pretty amazing too. I've half grown up under his care. I'm grateful for how he's always been there for us in every way that counts.
I've also got my brother and brothers in law who do a great job fathering their kids. (I do have some awesome nieces and nephews for which I suppose they get some credit).
And I can't forget to mention the host of fatherly figures we've had through the years in the churches we've been in. God has been good to place Godly men in our lives who have cared for us and loved us much like we were their own.
Let me get back to the point, which is you.
You're a great dad. You make the kids erupt in raucous laughter. You've faithfully and calmly been the driving instructor for the two oldest (and teacher of other things for all three) because I apparently freak them out. Your even, collected nature provides stability in times of imagined crisis and keeps us held together when things are really out of whack. I could keep going, but I've near reached a good word count without even having got to the point.
One of the most valuable things I believe you do as a father is love me well. I know I run the slight risk of sounding self-important. That's not what I mean.
A good father intently loves the mother of his children.
He hugs her when he comes home from work. He lets her emote when he really can't relate one iota with what she's feeling. For those times he has no idea what to do for her, (Do I hug her, reason with her, or hide?) he makes a best attempt, even with the high risk of failure.
He is supportive; encouraging her to do the thing her meager confidence didn't convince her to do. He's her confidant in matters he doesn't even understand. His children can't help but notice he is always for her.
He shows his son that leading a family is accomplished by sacrificially loving his wife. He shows his daughters that there are men out there who put themselves second to the one they committed their life to. He teaches his children the meaning of love, honor and cherish as he sticks by their mother's side.
His love for the mother of his children is a model that will not only aid in the raising of his children. He offers them a picture of what their future ought to look like when they outgrow their first home.
A good father plays with his children, teaches them and protects them, but he also prepares them to love well and look well for love when they come to an age where they seek to start a family of their own. Just wanted you to know you do a good job with just that.
I sat cross-legged on my living room floor last night bubbling with joy. Everywhere in front of me sat a beautiful girl or woman with a story. What's so special about that, you might think. Everybody has a tale. (Of course they do.)
I sat encircled by ladies who have graciously shared tender parts of theirs. They took their own personal experience, whether it was embarrassing or still even a little painful in some cases, and they laid that experience bare for the world to see. I'm just plain lucky to call them friends, but more than that, I've been personally touched by their willingness to be agents of God's grace in the telling of what He has done in their life to whomever will listen.
These are the local faces of The Village Girl Handbook. Along with fifteen other fabulous ladies (who live elsewhere), this group has put more than words on pages. Between the lines they're cheering on growing girls by becoming vulnerable and committed to an audience they've never met.
But I guess that's how life works. There are people who watch our life stories play out and then those who will never know of the things we've overcome, or learned from, unless we tell them. We can do life simply working by the clock, influencing and encouraging those in our peer and familial circle or we can recognize that there's a larger audience who could benefit from a display of God's faithfulness.
We're mindful of what God has brought us through, what he has taught us, and our intent is to share that very thing in the hopes that it encourages.
Please pray with us that those who pick up The Village Girl Handbook will feel encouraged and empowered. Pray that they will be reminded that God loves them and is writing a good story even in the midst of struggle or a season that seems directionless or fruitless.
Please consider your own story and how you might share it with someone who would be encouraged by it. Share this post with someone you know who has a powerful testimony.
Think about getting a book in the hands of a girl who needs to know more about God's grace.
A second volume of "The Village Girl Handbook" is now being complied. The deadline for stories is August 11. Each story needs to be around 400-600 words and presents a personal story of struggle during middle or high school that ends in overcoming or perspective. (I've got an outline I can send to anyone interested). Let me know if you have a story you'd like to share.
I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them... John 17:26