She Speaks...and She Writes

jadyn noelle photography
The last few days have been glorious, spent with friends at the She Speaks 2013 Conference put on by Proverbs 31Ministry led by Lysa Terkeurst in Charlotte, NC. Somehow, this ministry is new to me. I tagged along with friends who were planning to come.

I've heard of Lysa Terkeurst, but never wanting to follow a trend if I can help it, the popular book Made to Crave has never been read by me, but has been by thousands of others. After hearing Lysa speak at the first meeting, I thought, "WHY have I never listened to her?! Or read her books?! She's amazing!"

So much for avoiding trends. There is a reason she is popular right now, she is full of incredible wisdom, yet so humble, normal and funny- so relatable.

This conference has inspired and challenged me in so many ways. Women from all over the world came to be a part. I met a friend Helen Taylor who came all the way from New Zealand, with her newly published book in hand, Walking the Bridge, which I cannot wait to read. She shares her story of how God turned her life around after she almost took her life.

I met women who blog and write and mom like me, and many who have the hope of writing a book. I heard stories that I desperately hope get published, because I want to read their full story, not just the teaser I got to hear in a workshop. There was a woman who survived cancer and became a widow in the same year, and after all she had been through, she found herself having to forgive her husband's murderer. There were those who told of abuse they survived, but each one had an incredible story of how God reached down and brought them out of the depths of despair, into a beautiful new life. So many women had countless incredible stories to tell. It showed me that God really is at work reaching out to the worst, most hopeless and impossible situations, and bringing restoration as only He can.

Redemption was definitely a theme of the week. And restoration.

I also observed how insecure every woman was. Many of us put ourselves on the line, by either speaking or submitting writing in front of a group of peers to be critiqued. Many had meetings with publishers, to pitch an idea for a book.

Everyone was insecure. Wondering about themselves. Not sure of themselves. Scared.

I realized everyone is the same. We all have to work through it. Even Lysa Terkeurst said she gets so scared to talk she wants to throw up. Wow. And she's the head of the whole shebang.

So we push past the queasiness. We push past the insecurity, and just do it.

And we survive.

I'm so glad for the new things I tried this week. For the commentary, the publisher meetings, the critiques...all of it taught me something.

I decided to call myself a writer. I haven't done that before, not really. Obviously I write, but it seemed so presumptuous to call myself a writer. I realized that even though I skipped that more difficult writing class in high school and chose the easy route, because I couldn't imagine ever wanting to write, I will most likely be writing in some form the rest of my life. I keep writing things, so I must actually be a writer, right? It was just a mental shift, calling it out and owning it.

So, I call myself a writer.

She writes!


Why I Don't Think Middle Schoolers Should Date

One of the top pressures girls face in 6th, 7th and 8th grade is to have a boyfriend. It seems to “legitimize you” in middle school. Girls feel tremendous pressure to grow up too soon, while at the same time still wanting to be young. It’s an internal conflict and very confusing.

We parents get confronted with this dating decision earlier than most of us would choose to.

In middle school dating could mean a boy and girl like each other from afar, pass notes through friends, or ignore each other awkwardly in the hallway. It could mean the couple is going out on public dates and making out in the movie theatre.

There’s not just one correct way to date or not date. Parents have all sorts of opinions. Our children are each different too.  So I'm just going to offer some thoughts to consider, having watched my own and many other teens go through their teen years.

When middle school hits, it seems otherwise confident girls struggle with their identity. All of life’s meaning seems to squeeze into three questions: Am I pretty? Am I popular? Do I have a boyfriend?

This pressure is tremendous, but our girls need to know they have much more value than their looks and acceptance at school.

Nicely ask the honest question of WHY she wants a boyfriend. Listen to what she says. Make her come up with an answer. Have her come up with actual pros and cons of having a boyfriend now.

Help her determine her motive.  She may want a boyfriend just because she feels incomplete or out of the social scene otherwise. I would ask, "Do you really enjoy him, or do you like who you are because of him?"  I want to teach my girls that other people's hearts are valuable and fragile and not to be played with. I don't want boys using my girls to get what they want. I don't want my girls doing that to boys.

Have you considered this? Friends are valuable and generally last longer. It's easy for a really good strong friendship to later become a dating relationship. It's much harder to recover a lost friendship after dating too soon and hurting the relationship. More fights happen between girls about boys than anything else. So much drama is wrapped up in dating life. Is it worth it?

Consider the value of waiting for things. By design girls love to give their hearts away. For a believer, giving her heart and love to Jesus will bring much more fulfillment to her life than a boy will. There’s no rush to give her heart to another person. At this age, it will bring heartache. At some point, giving her heart will be the right thing to do! It helps girls to know that. It's all about timing.

From a parental perspective, the value of waiting has another angle.


This line represents 6th grade to graduation. If boyfriends start in 6th grade, look how many years there are to get through. It's easier to delay freedoms and give them when it’s time, than to allow freedoms only to have to go backwards. The earlier the desire for a boyfriend is encouraged, the longer and harder the road. On the other hand, if girls spend time in teen years growing in maturity and friendships, odds are better for happiness and less heartbreak.

What does she do with her feelings? Let your daughter know there’s no way you can stop her from liking a boy. It’s completely natural. There’s nothing wrong with noticing cute and nice boys. As my husband puts it, you can like him, but it doesn't mean you need to do anything about it. If girls are honest, a big reason they agree to date is the thrill of the moment that a boy asks her. She feels “seen”, “noticed” or “chosen”. Is she only responding to that feeling, and not so much the boy? Knowing that feeling may come, but it doesn’t require action might be a relief to her.

Teen years should be fun and as drama free. Our daughters may put up a fight with these boundaries, but later will be thankful. Our job as parents is to help them grow up well. Sometimes they need us to protect them from the pressures they feel, even if they won’t admit it.

Is the benefit of early dating worth the risk?


Middle School Matters!

So we just finished a Girls 101 camp for girls in middle school, where the topic of much conversation was identity, influence, friend problems, boys, pressures and other middle school matters.

I'm not sure why our culture works this way, but generally speaking, it seems many girls who grow up confident and free, somehow around 6th, 7th or 8th grade suddenly find themselves not so sure of themselves anymore. Even if it's subtle. Most girls go through this, (though I'm sure not all).

Should I be more this way or that way? I'm not sure where I fit in anymore. I'm not really like them, should I change?

It's probably always been this way, yet it seems our current age has even more pressure than it used to for teens. At least in my working with girls, I find it is true that they at least combat these thoughts, whether or not they ever act on them.

There is tremendous pressure for girls to grow up too fast. What is happening beginning in 6th grade in many places is, in my opinion, not things 6th graders should be dealing with. Nevertheless, in most places, girls will at least come up against these things- pressures of growing up too fast and having their identity Girls 101 to the rescue!!

Because of all these reasons, we think it very important to converse with girls on these topics before they hit. In a setting like this, girls can talk freely about how these topics seem to affect girls in general, they don't have to share personal experience. As we discuss how things are in schools at large, personal application hopefully happens. I think that it does, based on anonymous things girls write at the end.

If a girl knows who she is, what kind of a person she wants to be, what kind of friends she desires and what kind of experience she would like to leave middle school with, she can equip herself to confidently get through teen years.

This Middle School Matters camp is designed to help girls think through these issues they will face, strengthen their identity where it may be weak, give them a higher vision, and most importantly, help them realize they are not alone in their experience.

It's amazing to see how relieved girls are when they find out most everyone is feeling the same way they are. Why do we think everyone else has it together but us? Even we adults fall into this.

Girls made collages representing who they are.

Magazines, media, tv shows, music, books- they often "sell" girls on what teens are supposed to be interested in. Typically it's mostly things like fashion, clothes, shopping, flawless skin, skinny bodies, popularity, great hair and boys. 

Like I told the girls, I love make up, clothes, hair products and fashion. However, those are not the most important things that life should be based on. We flipped through 4 magazines I just pulled off of a shelf at Walgreens that many teens read. As we analyzed what it says the typical teen girl is supposed to be interested in, here's what the girls came up with (the "I" on the poster is the stereotypical girl that magazines are marketing to):

There was a whole lot about butts, boys and boobs. Cute butt, coming soon! Go up a cup size! 

Girls are SO much more complex than that, wouldn't you agree? I know it's not the purpose of the magazines to do much more than sell us on these things, but in the context of the whole of culture, girls are being given the message over and over and over again that THESE are the goals of life. 

These are the things that in reality really are most important to many girls! 

Top teen girl stresses are summed up in 1) am I pretty? 2) am I popular? and 3) do I have a boyfriend?  

These are normal stresses for girls, but the intensity of them is what has changed. The constant media messages bombard girls daily. We need to combat that.

So we talk about their strengths and interests, who they are in multiple facets of life, and what goals and choices will lead them to the future they want. What talents do they have? What kind of grades and goals do they have? Who are they hanging out with? What dreams do they have? What kind of character do they have? How do they treat people?

"Picture what you want  your life to look like by the time your teen years end." What kind of choices will take you toward those goals and away from those goals?

A favorite is having older girls in high school and college share their thoughts, experiences and advice too. We had some amazing older girls gladly give of their time to these girls.

Many of our workshops are character based and we love those. This workshop came from the angle of faith based, so we shared tips on filling our mind with Scripture and promises of God when our thoughts turn negative. Knowing who we are in Christ puts us in a strong position to stand up against so many of the stresses of teen years.  

Very thankful for the group of volunteers who help lead these camps and workshops! I couldn't do it without them.


5 Things Story- Women in Their 70's and 80's Share Their Secrets

Today I'm super excited to have a guest blogger, Sharon Braner of SISTER CHAT blog. 

Sharon is a good friend of mine, a lady who is always in the middle of something. She leads awareness efforts about human trafficking, she's volunteered with me in Girls 101 workshops, she has a blog and a bookclub, and she spreads the word about a spectacular teen summer camp that her son Andy Braner runs- CAMP KIVU for teens. Whew!

I asked her to investigate and snoop around among her friends, and ask moms who have "finished" raising kids, "What are 5 Things you are glad you did?" Sometimes ladies who are mature in years think that their advice might be outdated for today's world, but I find that usually it's not. In fact, when I read their 5 things, I shouted YES! This fits exactly in today's world. Values are timeless. We'll let Sharon take it from here!

"5 Things Story

Yesterday I sat at a kitchen table with two older friends, one in her 70’s, the other 80.

We get together once in a while to share knitting patterns and problems, but after about the first 20 minutes the conversation always turns to current life issues each of us are facing. (I am SO blessed to have older friends that are a few years ahead of me in this life! Their wisdom is remarkable!)

I asked them, “What 5 things did YOU do as a mom that you are so glad you did?”

I literally watched their faces change as they silently moved back to the glory days of mothering their young. One has two grown sons, the other two grown daughters. Their children are kind, loving, strong adults and now raising children of their own.

Maybe time has erased the tension, worry and that huge feeling of responsibility young moms often battle, because now those two lovely ladies beamed in the joy of those memories of babies, toddlers, and teens.

(It’s ALWAYS good to know women that are still alive, upright, & functioning in the empty nest period of life. These two are just fine!!)

Their answers were a collaboration of sorts because they agreed on so much. Evidently their 5 elements are (or maybe WERE) just standard rules of “how to grow a child.”

Their thoughts: (not in any order of importance.)
  1. READ : Start reading to the babies when they are BABIES! Read to them every day, make sure they see YOU reading, take toddlers to the library, have lots of books in the house, turn the TV off and READ. Cultivate the joy of reading. Read history, biographies, and FUN fiction.
  2. FAMILY MEALS: Every night without fail. Even when harried schedules intervene “make a table.” Turn the TV off and SIT at the table. When it gets difficult, make the meal simple, but put it on the table and face each other. Family members get to know each other at the dinner table. (Phones in a basket by the door when family comes in, picked up only when leaving the building. No answering phones during dinner.)
  3. RESPECT: Moms must model respect by treating every single human being with dignity. Treat children with respect, listen to them, and never speak in degrading or condescending tone. If disrespect by others is witnessed, take the opportunity to talk about it.
  4. CONSEQUENCES: Every child must learn that bad decisions are followed by unhappy results. Time out, taking away a toy or privilege, etc. As hard as it is to want to protect them, learning consequences at home is far better than learning is from the principal, police, or the judge. Forego the temptation to be a drill sergeant but face issues one at a time with appropriate responses. Discipline quickly and love deeply.
  5. FAITH: Take them to church always; making sure teens are involved in a great youth program. Pray aloud and often, read the Bible every day at some point. Talk about the character of God. Let them hear you praying for them and others. Teach them to think beyond themselves and their own needs. Be sure they learn they are not the center of the universe.
Well, I took a deep breath and realized that I’d failed in many of these areas, even though my sons survived and are happily functioning adults. I’m sure my friends failed from time to time as well. I suppose the lesson is to TRY to be consistent.

I worked hard at being a good mom and have been heard to say in years gone by, “If they amount to anything I’ll take all the credit, if they become serial killers I’ll take the blame.”

How foolish! As influential as parents are in their children’s lives, God is and must be the #1 parent.

THE most important ONE thing I’ve ever learned: God answers the prayers of mothers!"