Dear Girls…

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To My Dear Girls,

There is a popular song out these days; one I don’t turn the radio on for but that plays in several of the stores I frequent. One of the lyrics goes something like, “Girls become Lovers and turn into Mothers…” (Don’t quote me on this and I don’t suggest downloading the song either, just know it’s something like that.) It is lines like this one that permeated my girlhood; all about how a girl was to be a Lover. I really had one concept of who I was to be, what love would mean, and what life would look like, and every ounce of it was intertwined with sex. I would be a girlfriend who would give sex. I would feel and show love via sex. I would live my life – no matter what career choice, location, or sexual orientation – peppered with sex. The whole reason to dress a certain way was to get the attention of males…for one purpose…to make them want me. I would try to keep a body size and look so that I would appeal sexually to men. I would strive to be a pin-up-type so that someone would want me. I would act certain ways around guys in order to reel them in and hopefully feel some sort of security of being liked. All this, my girls, by the time I was in third grade!

These “ideas” and images came from observing certain family members’ behaviors and by spending an exorbitant amount of time in front of unhealthy media (t.v., radio, etc.). (Let me take a quick moment to tell you that I have no intention on judging any adult figures in my life during my childhood. When God is not your center – your vision, there is nothing left but the inevitable Fall. Since then He has created beauty from ashes and replaced unforgiveness with grace and love. In other words, Girls, Jesus has redeemed the days! Never forget what your names mean…Hannah – Grace; Charis – Grace! These names were not by chance or accident; your Daddy and me wanted you to know and share much Grace! You will always begin this with the family God chose for you to grow up in.) I long so much for you and every girl to know the Truth. I don’t claim to know it all, but I hope what I do share will shed a little light…will give you a beginning…hopefully a new beginning for a new generation.

Lie #1: Your body is best when it is appealing sexually.

Truth: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

Lie #2: How thin and air brushed you look determines your worth.

Truth: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

Lie #3: You need to dress in a seductive way; “flaunt what the good Lord gave you!”

Truth: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. I Peter 3:3-5

Lie #4: Love is sex.

Truth: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails… I Corinthians 13: 4-8

Lie #5: Men will love and respect you by how you look and what you give them.

Truth: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word… Ephesians 5:25-26

Lie #6: The goal of life is to be happy and if you are in a relationship where you have days of unhappiness, divorce should be coming to the forefront of your mind.

Truth: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

For Scripture says…“I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Romans 9:17

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time… 2 Timothy 1:9

These six lies were only the foundation. By third grade I was already very self-conscious of my weight and I was receiving no encouragement otherwise. I was very dependent on the approval of others – teachers especially. I did not have any close friends and so I turned to dreaming of “getting out” – I couldn’t wait to grow up and live my own life! Yet, this “own life” that I desired to live was based on a set of lies as well. Whatever television show or soap opera I was sat in front of or whatever “girl power,” “flaunty” music I listened to became my inspiration. So, I would live for the lie: to make lots of money, to live in a certain body, to be dependent yet say I was independent of any man, to be tolerant of all ways of life, never calling sin a sin because it was just “freedom of choice.”

But then, Girls, something happened that I had not planned. A Man, a True Lover of my Soul, came and found me. He found me sitting on the unfurnished floor of a Projects Apartment with no food in the kitchen and a car that barely worked sitting outside and through the courage of a beautiful woman of God He reached out to me. My Mom had made a lot of choices since she was 16 that were not the greatest – haven’t we all! – but one great choice she did make that will resonate for all my eternity is this: She said ‘Yes.’ Yes, I could go to church with this lady. It had been Momma’s church when she was a girl, back when she remembers family picnics, church youth group, and her own sweet beginnings. (Don’t judge your Nanna, girls, her story is my story, it is your story, and it hasn’t ended yet!) From that moment on, I would never be the same.

I wouldn’t become a part of His Bride until the summer before 8th grade, but 17 years after walking down that first aisle into my Bridegroom’s arms, I can look back and see how He had always pursued me! There was not a day in my life when I wasn’t loved by Him. I have always been the “apple of His eye” – just as you are!

Walking into His arms was my true beginning at life, and beginnings for any newborn are sweet, fully dependent, wobbly, and…full of mistakes. 17 years and I still fall down, Girls. 17 years and I still struggle to fully believe Him. 17 years and I still don’t think I have let myself fully surrender to His grace and love. 17 years and I still hate reflections – mirrors! 17 years and I would still rather shop for home decor than walk into a girls’ intimates store. (I can’t tell you how many I delete from my inbox without ever opening them.) 17 years and I still hate the thought of going home to face my family and their stares at my body and their questions of size and diet. My other number…5. 5 pregnancies now, and I have still had to lean into the arms of your Daddy and my Father and try to believe the words of worth they sing over me. 5 pregnancies and I’ve still had to try to enjoy this time instead of dreaming ahead of days in size___ jeans. Hannah and Ruth, I want you to know you made a woman out of your Momma (smile)! Your brothers never gave her the hips she has now! (Your Daddy thanks you from the bottom of his heart!) I thank you also because you really have made a woman out of your Momma, and I mean way more than the hips!

I am determined to do my part in stopping the generational curse of “misguided worth beliefs” for you. I don’t want you to grow up in a home where you hear your mom constantly complaining about size, looks, and money. The world will come at you full speed, Girls, and what I hope to give you is a sense of direction and God-fidence behind the wheel. Your Daddy and I are very careful, and becoming more so, about the things you watch and listen to. You will rarely see a commercial in this house – not never, just rare – because we know what lies they hold. Lies about how when you use this soap or that toothpaste you will automatically become more attractive to the opposite sex. Lies about how you need these clothes or shoes to make your New Year start off in the best way. Lies about how you will be more angelic by wearing and flaunting little lacy outfits in a body shape that is unrealistic. Lies about how making guys compete over you or you compete over guys against 10 or so other physically beautiful women is the new way to find true love. Lies that certain foods will fulfill you. Lies, lies, lies. You want to know if they really affect a person that much, my Grace Girls, just ask your Momma or your Nanna or your Grandma! Just ask the girl you are talking to who’s eyes occasionally drift over your frame, how your jeans fit on you, and how your hair and make up lay just so. (Even pregnant women do it.)

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It would be nice and easy to just say “No more t.v.” or “No more secular radio,” but even if we made that decision in our own homes (which may be something our Bridegroom calls us to) we would still have to learn how to live in and not of it every time we walk out our front doors. Every time we’d go to the store to buy another pair of jeans we’d be confronted with huge posters of little, no varicose or spider veined or cellulite legs. We’d stand in front of fluorescent lights and be shocked to find this there or that under that! Every time we stand to check out at the grocery store we will have to literally pry our eyes away from the sides and stare awkwardly into the back of the head of the person in front of us or try to make our eyes settle on the Paula Dean magazine over the latest on Days of our Lives or the stars who are making headlines for being anorexic or five pounds overweight. The fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is everywhere, Girls; it may not always look like an apple, but it’s appeal is just as strong as it was for our first Mother.

Eve, the mother of all, who lived shameless, naked, pure, and perfect before her husband, her world, her God, would hear and heed the slithering tongue of the Serpent and walk right into the lie that she wasn’t enough…that there was more, outside of God’s will for her, if she was to live life to the fullest. Girls, ever since, women have been trying to take off shame every time they take off clothes. Ever since women have been trying to see their bodies, their surroundings, their lives as a blessing rather than a curse. And ever since God banned Adam and Eve from the Garden, putting swords in front of the gate to keep them from returning the same way they left, we have been stumbling along in the muck and mire we longed for, that we believed would be the better way, the more fulfilling way. Ever since, and here is where our Grace begins Girls, our Bridegroom has been making plans to restore what was stolen from His Girls. Scripture does not say once Adam and Eve were shut out of the Garden that He shut Himself in. Quite the opposite!

The Story goes something like this: when He saw we were yet sinners, lost, living in the lies, believing the lies, He left the very perfection of heaven – The Eden of all Edens – and came down into the stench and mess of a stable…of a sinful world…and He walked through it! He lived in it! With ever footstep, He made a path for our own. He walked all the way to Calvary where He would take every lie upon Himself and nail them to the cross. “It was there, by faith, I received my sight…” He would make a way for us, Girls, to live in the Grace you were named after, the Grace you are meant to carry to all – this Grace is the garment that covers all shame! He would now clothe us with Robes of Righteousness…the clothes of Eden! With every step we make in faith and grace, we are one step closer to living in the world of Perfection, but here’s the really amazing part of this grace – in God’s eyes, Little Girls, when we become His Girls, we are already restored! The days become redeemed! Every lie has it’s new place beneath our feet! We can stand, out from behind the bushes and the fig leaves when our God comes calling because Christ’s shed blood makes a Way – a Confident, Bold Way right to the Holy of Holies! (Hebrews)

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So, how do we live this Bold, Confident Way? Well, here is where it gets so simple that the world chooses to dismiss it most of the time. (We are self-seeking and self-gratifying humans, after all, and if we can’t put our own blood, sweat, and tears into it, we think it doesn’t amount to much.) Yet, I will tell you, My Sweet Girls, I have found no other way…none!

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~Read His Word! For every bite of physical manna you take, take atleast twice as much spiritual Manna from His Word! (There are many words out there, but none will offer fulfillment and peace and joy like the Words of your Prince!)

~Memorize His Word like you would a love letter from a sweet boy. Your Daddy sent me sweet emails and letters in the months before we were married, and I have them all! But even more strengthening to our marriage and our personal lives have been the Love Letters from our Savior.

~Pray – Talk to Him! Before you call or text that BFF, before you check your email, your Facebook, your tweets, or your Pinterest, check in with the Friend who didn’t follow you but pursued you! He who actually cares about your statuses and what you are thinking and feeling.

~Follow through with Romans 12:

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope,patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

~Do not go it alone – your Momma has done that many times! Yet, do not go it with everyone, either. There will be a special few in your live, Girls, just like there were with Christ. It’s not that you are to be non-inclusive, just careful. (And even in your care be quick and willing to extend forgiveness for hurts…they will come from others…they will come from you.)

~Believe God. If all these other words above were deleted from this letter, these two would remain. You’d like to think that those two words would come naturally when you make your vows to Christ – I have wanted to think so too – but what I have found is this…a marriage isn’t made on a wedding day, it is begun. You will spend the rest of your days “making love” – making a marriage. You will spend so much of your life learning to love, to trust, and to believe. You will spend many days fighting your unwilling, unloving, untrusting, disbelieving feelings. You will seek to have steps and rules and formulas to make it all as it should be; you will seek this, but you will not find this, Girls. The only Treasure you will find when you earnestly seek is Christ alone! And yes, despite what you think or what the world says, He does have all the answers. And no, despite how you plead, He will not share all of them with you. But, and you can always stand on this, He will never leave you or forsake you; He will never deceive you! He will never withhold any good thing from you! Believe Him!

Some day when you Girls read this and we sit over coffee and talk about these raw words, I hope we do so in comradery…as sisters of Grace. My name doesn’t mean Grace like yours’ do, but when I found out it’s meaning in college I knew it was grace anyway! Anastasia – “new life.” Tears come even now at that Truth. It was His dream for me, His dream for you, His dream for all His daughters (and sons). And it has been through your Daddy, your brothers, and you, my Grace Girls, that He has brought me closer to living this “New Life.”

I have little to offer you, Girls. Your Daddy and I didn’t choose a money-laid path; I don’t know if we’ll ever have a bigger house with more room or more closet space or ways to make my boards on Pinterest a reality. But this, I open my heart and hands and I offer you this: New Life. Choose Christ because He first chose you.

Believe God.

With Every Breath,

Momma.