Healthy Dating Relationships- Part 1

"What does a healthy dating relationship look like?"

I've been asked more than once by older teens or girls in young twenties who are ready to consider a life long relationship.

It caused me to stop and really think.

Caring about another person is a vulnerable thing. It's hard for some people to be vulnerable, because it leads to a chance to be hurt. But that's part of it. Part of life. We get hurt sometimes. The fear of possibly being hurt can't stop us from a great adventure with rewards that are greater than the risk!

The subject of dating nowadays is a bit different than it was 20 years ago. Dating has become so complicated according to 1) my observations and 2) what girls have said. Now I've seen some young couples who have done things the way we are used to- they meet, get to know one another by talking and being together, he asks her out on dates, and they eventually become exclusive.

On the other hand, too many girls have said that they are disappointed with boys that seem to be in fear of them, or don't know how to start a conversation, or ask them out on dates, or rely too hard on social media for communicating.

The number of girls who have never dated is huge! (I'm sure moms of boys have things to say about this, and I welcome your comments. We would love to hear from you!!)

In the "old days", we dated to have fun with someone we may like, and eventually realized we both couldn't live without each other, or we parted ways. Nowadays it seems that couples want to have a commitment before they even start dating.

There is so much pressure to know where you stand instead of getting to know each other and taking a risk.

Sometimes it seems couples want to know the end  result before they start dating.

So what's my advice? Have fun without knowing the end result.

You may decide you really like him. You may decide you want to move on. You may marry him. You may break up! Young people say "I don't want to waste time". No one does. But there's no way to know ahead of time if you're going to marry someone. The risk is part of life. But so is the fun and the people you meet along the way. I heard great advice from someone- "Just leave them better than you found them if it doesn't work out".

Can we come back to a balance from the days of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye?" (I just finally read that book 10+ years later. I don't really agree with that approach, but was intrigued with the influence it had on our Christian culture, so I gave in and read it for myself).

Young people are so concerned with only dating who they are going to marry that they have become paralyzed in a way.

Sometimes you just have to date, chill, and have fun while you figure it out.

Ask God for direction and know that He will. He's not opposed to innocent fun. Or friendships. Or love.

We've made life into a complex puzzle in some ways, instead of embracing the process.

Stay tuned for part two.

Dating is Harder Than They Say

"Dating is not easy. No one tells you this. Pink and blue is real. You think it's all fun, but there's real conflict to work out." - an anonymous teenager

I've heard this more than once, so let's talk about it.

Yes, dating is fun, with outings and dances and pictures and such. But no it's not conflict free, because you are two humans.

I have heard two perspectives, and they are quite different. But both are worth listening to.

One is this- Movies and shows have made dating look so appealing and romantic and conflict free, that is the expectation of many. They are surprised when they begin dating and find the opposite sex thinks so differently, therefore there are things to be resolved. Even as teens.

The other is this- Bad examples are real and present. There is no problem believing that there are conflicts in relationships. The desire to see the good in dating and marriage is the prominent need...to know there is a good side to being with someone. They long for encouraging examples and advice about relationships.

We'll do a couple of posts on this topic this week.

Discussion Starter - (to ask your tween or teen)

Which of the above views do you think teens today believe? What do you believe?


Instagram and Young Girls- What Do We Allow?

Rachel Simmons, a guru on all things girl, wrote a Time article on Instagram and Tweens this week. I've talked about this topic so many times with moms on a personal level. This is a great opportunity to blog about it.

I posted this article and question on my Facebook pages, 5 Things and Girls 101, saying:  What do you all think? I'm in the minority I fully realize, but having social media accounts during middle school years add to the complication of a growing identity. But many have it I know. Do you mind sharing your thoughts? 

Here are the comments I received from moms, girls and teachers:

 Because of the drama involved with Instagram, my daughter voluntarily closed her account. She was tired of the selfies, of seeing what activity she wasn't invited to, and many other things related to all that. She hasn't regretted it once. She said, "I was becoming addicted to it."

My daughter is getting her first phone this week. She's already seen other girls obsessing over Instagram. At this point, she's not interested in getting it. Not sure how she'll feel about it in a month or a year, but for now, ix-nay on the Instagram for her.  "Instashame"??? Insta-no thanks.

My daughter is in 9th. I haven't let her have FB, but she has Instagram. In middle school it was all about how many likes/favs they get on a pic. "Ugh, she has 50 likes and my pic only got 48!" It's a status. There is even an app to get more likes..... My 5th grader has Instagram & I have to constantly tell her she has to keep her acct private. 
I strongly abhor raising girls with social media!

Teacher perspective: they start it at home, using social media. They bring it to school and cause a problem, disrupting their education.

I couldn't agree more. Many of my 4th graders have Instagram already.

Wow, I think this article is almost spot on...which is a little scary. I LOVE social media, but just decided to stop using Instagram earlier this week because of how intoxicating it can become to the way we perceive our social lives and even ourselves at times. This can be risking territory for young girls..and guys. Thanks for sharing.

As moms, we have to decide when is appropriate for our kids to have social media. At some point, it's fine. 

My girls and I have it, but I made them wait until the end of middle school to get it. Here's my thoughts:

1) don't give access until you are ready to monitor it (and that includes knowing how it works)

2) remember that middle school is a time where identities are very fragile so take that into account
3) social media is not a "right", it's a freedom that you can give permission for or say no to
4) you can say "not yet" instead of "no"

What are your thoughts?


A Prayer for our Families- When God Reveals His Son

Jadyn Noelle photography
Until my typing ability improves, I may do some REALLY short posts, which are a duplicate of my Facebook posts, on 5 Things.

I can do voice text over my phone for Facebook, so it's much easier.

If you're on Facebook, "like" us!

This is today's post.

A great prayer for pray for our kids- In Galatians 1:11 is Paul talking about how he received the gospel by revelation. "I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ". Verse 15 says "But when God...was pleased to reveal His Son in me..."

Let's pray for our family that God will reveal Himself to them. It's nice to know it's not just up to us, but He will do this!


Why I Slowed Life Down

Newsflash! A month ago, I had my one year anniversary at my first full time desk job in over 20 years. Even though I went in with a multi-year plan, I also had my last day of full time employment a week later.

I decided to give my notice, but then agreed to periodic part time work to help through the transition, until a new person was hired. So I technically ended this week, after a very long "leaving" haha.

So many factors went into this decision. I realize how lucky I am to even have the choice.

1. Let me reiterate that I LOVE ORU (Oral Roberts University). This is where my husband and I met and went to school years ago, where two of my girls go now, and where I worked this last year. I also say, and mean it, this is where some of the top quality college students go! I loved being in the mix with the students on campus, had FUN with and so appreciated my boss and co-workers, and am so grateful for the quality people who make it an awesome college. I will miss all of that for sure. I'm so glad for the things I learned, the students and people I met while being so closely involved on campus, and I'll miss running into my daughters for sure!

2. For many years, I worked part time from home doing a variety of things. I always find a way to make a little money. (I'm sure I still will). Then four years ago I took a leap of faith and began to not work at all (for money), with the support of my husband, to concentrate on the girls ministry and program I was attempting to take community wide.

Looking back, I can see what was accomplished in a couple of years of effort: community girls camps and workshops, after school programs, invitations to speak began, a cookbook published, a book on middle school was started, and a book proposal was requested by a publisher then denied  (to be resurrected!).

3. Then about a year ago, the time for college hit with my girls. Life got more expensive, and I thought I'd help the family budget by contributing again. So I took a full time job at the college my girls attend. My husband didn't ask me to, I just decided to one day. I think I felt the self imposed pressure that "this is what we do now that we're almost empty nesters", and I also felt a bit of fun excitement over a new season and new challenge.  I guess I thought I could do it all for a short season.

4. But now I know I couldn't do it all, at least well.  I took on more than I could chew. Often in our culture, we do too much, and run on fumes, instead of doing what we are meant to do, well. It's easy to fall into. I've always been the type that wants to do one thing and do it really well....not so much this last year!

After trying, I realized I couldn't do a very full time job, be the family member I want to be, take care of myself, and take care of a growing girls outreach. At least not while staying sane. :)

Granted, part of me feels wimpy at this realization, because the whole world lives like this, it seems!

But the other part of me is thinking "No wonder our world is as it is!" Life is out of balance, in many ways. I don't do well flying by the seat of my pants in every area, all the time.

What my spirit wants, is to be where God wants me to be. Exactly where that is, is what I was trying to discern over the last few months. As I was trying to be responsible and help contribute to the needs of family, the Lord started challenging me - wouldn't He take care of me if I take care of His needs (what He wants to accomplish in my family and life, as well as in girls and moms, through whatever He leads me to do)? At the same time, I don't feel like taking this job was a mistake, at all! Don't misunderstand. It had so many good parts, I gained skills, made great contacts, and loved the people interaction. It was tremendous and necessary. But the American/human self-sufficiency is so ingrained in us, even if we don't think it is. I know from experience.

I fought a mental battle-  of being logical and responsible, yet wondering if God was sure He wants me to concentrate on a life well lived and a calling, more than a full time job, (for now. I can't guess the future). I wasn't even sure I was hearing right, because my spirit felt very out of whack compared to how I had been. I felt wimpy and guilty at not being able to do both. Everyone does this, shouldn't I be able to?

I AM entrepreneurial and work oriented, just in a different way. I do have long term business and ministry goals. There are so many ideas I want to see come to fruition! They need more time and focus than I have been able to give this last year.

5. I've lived long enough to know that there are seasons to life, and desires change. I have been a stay at home mom, worked part time from home, and now worked full time, all while having kids. So I've done each, and felt right doing each at the time.

I knew when I quit that I would be misunderstood by some, maybe judged, but I felt willing to take the misunderstandings, and even the jokes. "The four hour work week" and "I'm leaning out, not leaning in".......yeah, yeah, yeah. hahaha. I can see the humor. (Those are plays on two current books, if you didn't know).

One person asked what message my quitting was giving to my  kids. (I didn't mind the question, it was a good one). That made me think, and I was happy with the answer. What's my message? Sometimes it's better to  make the hard decision, to go against the flow, to make the unlikely choice, when it feeds the spirit, the family, God's purpose for us, and life in general, instead of employment that feeds in a different way. I realize I have the choice, because my husband works and okay with this. Some don't have the choice I realize, and I'm only speaking of my experience. Some may say my message could be "quit when it's hard" or something similar. I knew that was a possible misunderstanding I might have to deal with, but I knew that wasn't my message.

Sometimes quality of life is more important than what culture pushes us to do. There is tremendous pressure on women from one angle to work, and pressure from another angle to not work. It's a catch-22. But it's a battle we all feel!

There is also something that tells us once the kids are older teens, the mom being at home isn't as important. But now I realize that isn't true, for me. There is something to be said for peace in the home, and being present in the way our family needs us to be, instead of trying to do it all, with partial ability.

Some can handle it all. At this stage in life, it wasn't my forte! So I decided to make a change.

I can't compare what God is leading me to, with what He is leading others to do. What He asks of me may not be what He asks of you, and vice versa. But for me, the ministry He's called me to is not an option. I don't want it to be! There are people waiting to be reached, plans waiting to be done, writing to be completed, that won't be done until I'm ready to make the room in my life for the purpose He's put before me. And I'm happy to do it! It needs a certain amount of time and energy. I can't help but do the girls ministry. In my spare time, I'm doing research, writing (sometimes only in my head), thinking about the issues of the day, talking to girls and moms, planning events, buying cute things I see for meetings, thinking up new curriculum. It  doesn't take effort. (well, the writing does). I'm happy and excited to do these things. They are energizing!

SO, I am giving my focus to this ministry, to family, and to a balanced life. Meanwhile, I'm asking God to continue to provide for all that we need, like He always has. We Americans can be so good at feeling the pressure to meet our needs ourselves, whether we need to or not, when we can turn to the Lord instead.  Doing our part, (and knowing what that part is), and then letting God do the rest, is what He requires. I plan to enjoy this fun season as my girls enjoy the college years, like I did. I'm so blessed they are there! As I get in my place He wants me in for this season, I believe He'll bless every member of our family. I'm thankful for a husband that gives me this freedom.

And because of the exciting news that my girls outreach became a non profit this summer, I look forward to growing it. When I think of the potential Girls 101 Foundation has, plans are endless!  The issues facing girls today as they grow up are only becoming bigger, and we want to help girls grow up well, and be an encouragement to those raising up girls as well.

That is my newsflash. Just so you know. And an explanation why blogging has been scarce the last few months. It was a full year, lots of milestones and happy occasions, coupled with difficulties too. Isn't that how life is.

P.S. One final tidbit of news. Carpal tunnel. I got that in the last few months on the job. Or I may not have gotten it (they can't name what is wrong with me yet for sure, it seems to be a combination of things- all I know is that my hand doesn't work right anymore, and that my arm is in a constant state of feeling abnormal). That might have pushed me to a decision making point, whether to keep working or not. I'm dealing with doctors to fix it now. I can't write legibly (torture as a journaler), and can only type for very short amounts of time. (This blog took multiple settings!) So I'll need a little time before all those writing goals come to fruition.

Speaking of blogging, I miss it! But by the time I finished typing all day at work, the last thing I wanted to do was type more at home. But blogging will continue. I'm experimenting with voice typing, and maybe even using someone to type my voice text into blogs.

I look forward to this new season. More to come!


It's Apple Month!

Happy September 1! It's APPLE MONTH! I'm so happy that one of my daughters remembered and said something. It was a small encouragement that traditions really do matter. SO, this month I'll post a few apple recipes to make for your families and friends, starting with what I'm making today- Bavarian Apple Torte.

Bavarian Apple Torte-

1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
Cream Cheese filling
Apple Topping
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar in a small mixing bowl; stir in vanilla. Add flour and mix well. Spread in bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a greased 9" spring form pan.

Spread cream cheese filling evenly over the pastry; spoon Apple topping over the filling. Sprinkle with  nuts (optional).

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes; reduce temperature to 400 and continue baking 25 minutes. Cool before removing from pan.

Cream Cheese Filling:

1 - 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well.

Apple Topping:
4 cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Place apples in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top and stir apples to coat.

(recipe originally from Southern Living Magazine, passed down from my mom).

It's almost time to pull out the "5 Things- Holiday Style" Celebration/Cookbook that I wrote a couple of years ago! It covers ideas, traditions and recipes for October, November and December. If you don't have your copy, go to Amazon and search for "5 Things- Holiday Style". It's available on Amazon Prime too!

Here's the link to get yours: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/182-7559382-9740359?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=5%20THings%20holiday%20style


FINALLY..(drum roll).... We are a Non-Profit!

It seems we've been waiting forever to say this, but it's finally a reality! 

Girls 101 Foundation now exists as a non profit.

The picture above is of myself and my friend, Laura, who volunteers with me in Girls 101 at a local public school. Laura had a non profit that she decided was for me instead, so after meeting with a lawyer, making it all legit and legal, we changed the name of her non profit to Girls 101 Foundation. She remains on the board with me. What a gift. Words cannot thank her enough.

And we are learning as we are going!

My other board member is my college roomie, who I just went to see in L.A. She is a psychologist in Long Beach, and gives so much insight to issues of the day. 

Our board had our first conference call after work one day. I decided to sit on campus and enjoy the pretty day while we talked. 

So much more to say, but I am busy getting ready for our "10 Year Celebration and Benefit" on July 29. 

Have you bought a ticket to join us? We are celebrating the beginnings of the girls outreach started 10 years ago, and what it has become now. It evolved from Girls Club as they called it then (no matter what name I tried, the girls wouldn't call it anything else), to Girls 101 as we have branched out to the community.

We are in two schools now, and plan to start two new ones in the fall. Every school we talk to is interested, so it's really a matter of funds and volunteers!

If you are interested in volunteering, or giving, please let me know. Or buy your ticket to our Event and come see what we are all about!

Tickets can be purchased until July 22 at www.girls101.org. See "Purchase Ticket" for event information!





5 Biggest Challenges for the American Teen Girl - Pt. 2

Meet Olivia. A girl I've known her whole life. She graduated from a large school district here in town, spent a year in college, then followed an "itch" that wouldn't leave. She is now at the University of Nations in Kona, Hawaii, working with YWAM (Youth With a Mission), doing missions and other exciting things, where she has found freedom!

I asked her recently for some insight into high school.

"What are the 5 biggest challenges of American teen girls?"

1. Figuring out who they are without the constant opinion of other girls who are also insecure in who they are. Trying to stay pure in a society that is all about showing that the unpure way is the only thing that will make you "desirable" or "wanted", not only by guys but girls too. Girls want to surround themselves with those other girls that guys want. It gives them security knowing that they are "in" and people notice them.

2. Teenage girls struggle with the societal opinion that "true love" is the climax of happiness in life. Whether that be through a movie that everyone talks about, music that is popular, or even the school system that pairs people off at every occasion (dances, homecoming, etc.) If you don't have "match" or have someone to make you not "single", then you don't fit in.... you are by yourself in a sense. You wont be happy until you have fallen in love.

3. Teenage girls don't understand what love really is. I know that I didn't learn the difference between love and lust until after I graduated high school. Understanding that lust looks for what it can get, and love looks at what it can give.. it is often misunderstood that people are "in love" when they are truly in lust.

4. Teenage girls struggle with talking to their parents about what is really being said at school or by their friends. Often times I found that myself, or my friends were embarrassed to tell our parents about what people REALLY say at school, and what really happens. I know that sometimes my friends or I would do something that was so shameful, but if we told our parents we were scared they would either get involved, not let us hang out with said person, or be so shocked that it would intimidate us to wonder what their reaction would be. There is a lot of pressure, especially in today's age, to be the girl that your parents can brag about, or are so proud of,  that when you do mess up, it is so devastating to your reputation. It minimizes the times that we are transparent or real with where we are really at in life. I found that a lot of times I would not want to admit even to myself that there was a problem because that was not "who I was", or at least who I was told I was, by my parents or friends.

5. American girls struggle with the pressure of college. It is expected that we have things figured out about where we are suppose to go in college, what we are suppose to be doing, how we are going to afford it, etc.  At the same time,  we are juggling extra curricular activities we are told we need for said future. Sports, grades, volunteering. There is all of this pressure to "know what is next". To often we are asked WHAT we are going to be doing rather than who we are, what we love, how we are.. the things that matter. We are not told enough that people will be proud of us for just simply doing what we love. It is looked down upon to choose to not go to a university or not know what you want to study. Pretty much every one of my friends that are in college have wasted thousands of dollars because they felt pressure to pick a major before they even knew what they loved or liked. That is mainly an educational flaw, but parents can help in giving that security to say that it is okay to not know who you are yet. It is okay to have no idea at 18 years old, and be told that in the next 5 years we are not going to be anywhere close to who we are in our teens.

Overall I think the number one thing teenage girls struggle with is security. We struggle with who we are, who we are suppose to be, and what others think.

Of course I had to ask her for more detail, especially about #4. As a mom, this hit me. The fact that our kids may not be real because of not wanting to ruin their reputation, even with us. So do we remain clueless when they really need help? I needed a concrete example of what goes on they would consider shameful, or questionable to tell mom, but is a real thing going on at school. I didn't know if she would give me an answer, but I asked anyway!

Ok, so a situation would maybe be the complete and total acceptance of sex, and actual encouragement of it in high school these days. Promiscuity is encouraged and applauded for some reason. It really depends on the group you are around. I had three groups of friends in high school-- my party friends, my athletic group of friends, and my best friends.. all different. Yet in each group the story was the same. Although of course in the party group this was much more likely to be found. But especially senior year, everyone is thinking " This is the last year I want memories" . Even leaders of the Christian clubs and kids you would never expect to fall did... and it was disappointing to me, but accepted and applauded in the grand scheme of the high school population. Whether that be sex, alcohol. (which usually go hand in hand) and all of the other things that come along with the insecure high school teenager.

I would say the most important thing that a girl would need in high school especially in our generation and culture is a safe place to really be honest about whats going on. Spiritual warfare is SO STRONG.. and the amount of people that are trying to fight it, or believe that it's even real, is dwindling rapidly.


The 5 Biggest Challenges to American Teen Girls- Guest Blog

Jamie is the one in the picture who just graduated. I've had the privilege of getting to know her as she and my daughter have been friends at ORU. She has stayed at our house, spent a month in Africa with my daughter on missions, done Bible studies with us, helped with Girls 101, plenty of things. She has impressed me with her heart for God and what she's allowed Him to do in her life.

She would say she has changed a lot since her teenage days, and has let God into the difficult places, and let Him grow her up into the person she was made to be. She also has a blog where she shares some pretty profound thoughts, so you may want to follow her.

I wanted to ask her to answer a question I've had for girls who are still relatively close to teenage years. Things have changed so much since we were teens, and I have been curious to hear the thoughts of a few girls who can answer this question:

"What are the 5 biggest challenges to American teen girls?"

Jamie's answer:

That's a big question.
1. The pressure to grow up. I feel like a lot of girls just want to be "there" already. They want to wear makeup sooner and play outside less. They want to do what the older grades are doing because it looks cool and more fun.
2. Trying to figure out who you are. Girls want to be so unique but they also don't want to be the odd one out. Nobody ever wants to be the one on the outside of the circle, so I feel like a lot of girls give up things they like in order to be somebody that fits in. They want the likes on Instagram, Facebook, and in school.
3. Boys. They aren't as nice as they seem, and they aren't as mean as they seem. They're young, you're young. Girls want somebody to care about them, they want somebody to call theirs. They want that attention and I think a lot of stupid things happen because they're young and they don't understand the weight of their actions. It's honestly not a big deal to them at the time. Purity isn't really all that cool at that age.
4. Knowing who to be influenced by. Media is crazy today and girls see these beautiful pictures on Pinterest, Instagram, TV, music videos, wherever, and they see how cool that looks. They want their life to hold as much carefree, spontaneous and unique adventure as they see. They see how much fun it looks. Christian media hasn't done a spectacular job of being appealing in the media, and half of that is because we copy what the secular world is doing and slap a cheesy Bible verse on it. Girls don't want to be the odd one out, plain and simple. In the media, they don't see all these perfect girls missing out.
5. Partying. It's happening earlier and earlier and I think that's because of how easily it spreads. Through Snapchat, texting, and pictures that are posted online, girls see girls in the grades above them do it and they think it's okay because they weren't "the first ones". They want to have harmless fun. They hear the stories of their friends laughing for hours on end, or about how they don't remember taking this picture or walking to this place and a lot of girls want to be able to join in on those exclusive conversations.
The overall thing I keep going back to is acceptance. From friends, boys, the older grades, parents, etc.
My name is Jaime Bofferding and I'm graduating from Oral Roberts University with a Psychology degree and a business minor. I am passionate about people, media, and promoting Jesus in an authentic and real way. Check out my blog at: jaimebofferding.wordpress.com

Jamie would say that she has found answers to these challenges in her relationship with the Lord, and finding her identity, purpose and acceptance in Him. 
This is a helpful summary of what we can watch for as we guide tweens and teens into adulthood. Girls definitely feel the pressure of these things, and if we know what the problems are, we can be better equipped with some answers.


Being Female in Today's World - Part 2

jadyn noelle photography
In Part One of this series, we talked about how society views women, as well as some thoughts you shared about the value of being female. If you missed it, catch up HERE.

We left off asking the question, what should our focus be? Who are we supposed to be as females?

There are so many strengths of females, but we'll just touch on four.  

When I spoke on this subject a few days ago, the audience was from age 9-92. As I thought about adapting the subject to the audience, I realized that these strengths are true whatever age or stage you are currently in. So it applies to any age! On the subject of tween and teen drama (or mean girl stuff at any age), because I have studied the subject for awhile now, these four at at the top of my list, because of one thing I've noticed.

For every conflict that is common among females, it is in most cases a strength that is misused.

Each of these wonderful strengths has a common misuse. What if we as females, of all ages, could recognize this, and operate in our strengths? So what are these strengths?

1) We are made to have close relationships.  We are made to want and are able to have deep friendships, relationships, and intimacy with God. It's been said that we have an inner relationship manual inside of us. We know when something is wrong and we generally want to do something about it, even if we don't necessarily know how. 

The misuse? Females will often compete to be the closest person to others. Or we'll fight to keep our spot of closeness among friends. Much girl drama is fought over this good strength gone bad. Who's the BEST friend? If a new girl enters the scene, often girls will be mean to her, in fear that she will "steal" her friends away. This misuse shows up in other ways in older stages in life as well. 

2) We are made to be life givers. We can give birth yes. But we are also able to give life in other ways, at every age young and old, with our words, actions and love. Can you think of a time you felt "brought to life" by someone else's words or actions? What do your words do, benefit others or tear them down a little?

The misuse? Our enemy will fight against this strength by influencing us to do the opposite. Often we use our words and actions to tear others down instead of bringing life. Once again, this is especially true in mean girl stuff, but it applies to many other life situations too. Females can be our biggest support or biggest hindrance. You have to decide how you want to be used- to bring life to others or to tear them down? Listen to your words and see what you hear.

3) We are influencers. We can affect and make change. We can change a culture slowly by how we birth and raise godly character-filled children. We can change situations by our prayers. We can change feelings of those around us by our encouragement. We can stop mean girls by speaking up, or by sticking up for a friend, by understanding why people do what they do. You can be a godly example to your sphere of influence.

The misuse? Females are able to influence in ways that are negative. Manipulation is a distortion of influence. But also, think of females who have used their influence in ways you wouldn't choose. Many use their femininity in ways that affect culture and girls in ways that aren't godly. They definitely have power and influence. Girls often follow and want to be like them. On a local level, have you ever been to a school that has an atmosphere affected by the cattiness of females there? They are influencing for the negative, but they are influencing. The good news is, if a few girls decide to be different, they also can affect the atmosphere of a school by standing up against the competitive mean nature of some girls. 

We have to choose how to use our influence. For the good of others, for our own selfish motives, or to be used by God to make life better for others?

4) We are made to reflect beauty. Women love to create beauty. It is evident, in how we make a house a home, decorate a room, or create beauty in centerpieces for women's events. In another angle, we all want to know if we are beautiful. What happens when girls take a picture on their phone? What is next? They all want to see what they look like, then decide if it needs to be taken again. We are all looking to be beautiful. If you are among the ones hiding, not wanting to be in the picture, or not wanting to see the picture afterwards, what are you avoiding? Not appearing beautiful? It's a natural inborn question that we need the Lord to answer- Am I beautiful? If we don't let the Lord answer it, we will look for the answer in many other sources, but we'll get it answered. 

Our beauty is not only in our appearance, but even more in our confidence and godliness. What if we stopped obsessing over physical, still took care of ourselves without obsessing, and decided to be confident about the goods we were given? The hair we have, the eyes we have, the body shape we have naturally. What if we asked God what was truly unique about us from His perspective, then ran with it? 

The misuse is rather obvious in today's world. We have a cultural obsession over looks, unattainable perfection that we can never measure up to. We have paranoia over how we look and how others see us. We misunderstand beauty and focus on the wrong things. True inner beauty is the best makeup anyway (and I definitely still wear makeup!!) True beauty transforms how we look. 

In a world that shows females in so many negative ways, we have to be proactive in helping girls and women know their true strengths and purposes, and see value of being female. 

We can't forget, Jesus is our core, our center, our stability, our anchor. Without relationship with Him, and without understanding how He created us to be unique and amazing, we will use our strengths as weaknesses. He takes away insecurity as we grow with Him. He takes away competitive selfishness, as we understand our value in Him. As we grow in our relationship with Him, He makes us more able to see others in a better light, When we aren't busy battling for our own position, we are able to help people get into theirs. 

On Mother's Day this year, no matter what age or stage you are, not only celebrate moms, but you can celebrate being female. It's a good thing! 


Being Female in Today's World- Part 1

jadyn noelle photography
The subject of raising girls in today's world conjures up many thoughts, proven by MANY conversations I've either been a part of or have eavesdropped on in public. It's rarely a boring conversation!

I had lunch with some people at work the other day that I don't know. When the subject of raising daughters came up, one of the ladies said the funniest line, as she summarized her thoughts on raising her own daughter. She said, “When my daughter was 9, I said ‘I can’t do this’; when she was 11 I considered sending her to boarding school; and when she was 13, I considered going to boarding school!" That's a good summary of a fairly common thought!

Recently in preparation for my talk at a local church on the value of being female, I asked a question on my Facebook page "5 Things" to see what women had to say. I asked the question: One of the values or benefits of being female is _________:

Some answers you gave: 
  • giving birth and giving life
  • we are caretakers yet taken care of
  • we are emotional creatures and life would be meaningless without emotion
  • having such strong, raw emotions-sometimes it hinders, but mostly it helps me to experience life in the truest sense
  • motherhood
  • the innate ability to be compassionate
  • nursing a child
  • we are strong- stronger than we think
I add to that that we are creators, receivers, have power, are able to nurture, we have an intuition, an inner desire for relationship, we hold families together, and are able to go deep with the Lord.

Everywhere I go, I hear people say “OH NO” to raising girls in today’s world. Why? The reasons seem to be the dangers, it’s hard to control what they do in a culture so immoral, the pressures so strong and the role models so low. Raising girls is expected to be hard. But I say that’s the wrong point of view.
Let’s talk for a minute about how females are viewed in our society. First, there is so much gender confusion in today’s world. Knowing the value of why God created males and females has always been important, but it's becoming increasingly important. The strengths He gave each are important.

When I say “how females are viewed in society”, I’m talking about culture in general-  the culture we live in- the news, the media, the movies and books, the music, the culture in schools and on social media, etc. Not necessarily how you are living your life. How our culture portrays females slips in, no matter how protective we try to be, so it’s good to understand and think through these issues with our girls, as is age appropriate. I am generalizing in the broadest sense.

Think of baby girls- they are everything sweet, cuddly and princess-y. Girls are talkers and fun and frilly. As they grow into toddlers, we talk about how smart they are, what they are learning.

The elementary years are adventurous years, where they try new things and find new talents- maybe sports, leadership in school clubs, music, drama, art, being smart, enjoying life. Somewhere toward the older elementary years, the worrisome thoughts creep into girls' minds about looks, girl drama, mean girls and sometimes the confusing, yet fun subject of liking boys! Many adults look at these girls as though they are way too young to possibly be worrying about any of these subjects, but the young girls are definitely feeling the stresses early.  Thinking about looks, popularity, boys and how to deal with drama.

 As teen years hit, many in our culture have a view that teen years are going to be certain way. There is little we can do about the fact that girls become high maintenance, hard to get along with, sassy to parents and into things such as friend drama, dating, immorality, partying, etc.  We sometimes fall for this! But I disagree that it's a given. 

As adults, sometimes we are afraid of these years and are reactive instead of proactive.  We may assume the worst and expect things to be hard. We may put up with negative behavior in girls because “that’s the way girls are”. We put on our “YIKES” hat and think we can’t affect our girls in this stage. I believe that is so untrue!

People rise to the level of expectation. God never said the teen years have to be a terrible experience. They may have some difficulties and have rough periods, but we don't have to expect the worst and toss up our hands. If we consistently teach godly principles and have those as our standard, maybe some drama can be saved. We can concentrate on character at each stage and have that be our guideline. It certainly doesn't mean that the years will be a breeze, but we can prepare for them way ahead of time. Actually, the young years are the training ground for how teen years will be.

The biggest problems  in teen life become – who are my friends, do I have a boyfriend, and do I look good? The value of being female begins to show up as “how do I look, and am I desirable to guys?” instead of who they are inside, what they are gifted with.. what we see. Their view has often changed since childhood.

What’s interesting, in talking with many tweens, they feel tremendous pressure to grow up too fast. It’s easy to assume they want to, but when I've asked, almost 100% say they would rather remain young longer, and just enjoy being a kid. Who knew. 

As we grow older, the value that society largely puts on adult women is still in our looks, our youth and our sexiness. Like that’s the biggest aim we should have. That feeling gets transferred to our kids very young. The Girls 101 workshops we've done with girls as young as 5th grade prove that they have thoughts of self loathing about their looks and their size already. Negative thoughts don't necessarily go away as we get older, we just mask it differently. Some women have gotten beyond it, and don’t see their value in looks. But the pressure of perfection and our looks is very prevalent. The Lord helps us through that as we mature. We can get beyond it.

Even the mean girl stuff- that doesn’t always go away with age either. Women are either our biggest hindrance, or our biggest support. There is nothing more powerful than a group of women who support each other.  Women who aren’t competitive is a beautiful thing. On the other hand, little is as destructive as mean women. 

As adults, there are varied expectations of women. Either we are expected to get a degree and make good money and compete with men, or we are to be the best stay-at-home-super-mom there is, making everything from organic sources while blogging about it. But we are to be busy and excel at whatever we do, regardless of what we choose. AND, we are to stay desirable no matter what happens; stay young, keep our body in shape after birthing several children, etc. Whew!

Older women- do you feel expected to be available, to help raise more kids (grandkids), to afford this, work here, volunteer there, be good moms and grandmas? Maybe it’s finally time to live your dreams, when in reality you are tired from making everyone else’s happen.

I don’t think all of these negative assumptions society makes about females, or that we put on ourselves, is how God intended us to be when He designed us. I don’t think He made us to be difficult and competitive. 

I think we misunderstand femininity and expect too little.

Maybe we are just misusing our strengths!

In Part 2, we will take a look at:

What should our focus be then? What are the strengths God gave us as women?

Stay tuned.


Reading Partners

 Do you know about Reading Partners yet?? It is a fabulous organization, connecting adult volunteers with children who need help reading.

One of my hopes through getting volunteers to local schools via Girls 101 workshops, is that volunteers will fall in love with reaching kids and want to share their time even more, outside of our workshop time. My friend Laura volunteers with Girls 101, but now with Reading Partners also. Once she got into Sequoyah Elementary where we've held Girls 101 workshops, and met the children and saw the need, she was hooked. She started giving her time weekly to tutor a couple of children who need some extra help. I recently got to meet some ladies who head up this organization. I asked Laura to share a few words about her experience. If you love education, love to read and want to be part of the solution, this is an organization I'd recommend. I'll let Laura say it in her words:
If you are the kind of person who loves to read, enjoys spending time with children AND you feel drawn to do something very special.... someone is looking for you.  There's an awesome program in place at a few local elementary schools called "Reading Partners".  It's an educational non-profit organization that provides one-on-one literacy tutoring to students struggling with reading.  As one of the volunteers I have been gifted with watching children develop a true love of books, reading and a more vibrant curiosity about learning.  I have seen them go from bored to eager and from gloomy to confident.  Ever thought that you could be a Hero?  Through this program you can be a mentor, a leader, and a friend to a student in need.  I encourage you to contact Jill Stillwagon at jill.stillwagon@readingpartners.org or call 918-949-1979.  I tutor at Sequoyah Elementary in Tulsa and would love to see you there.   Laura Francis


Easter Lamb Bread

Easter celebrations. What do you do? The one tradition that has been consistent in our house is the lamb bread. 

Be careful what you start when they're young, moms! :)  Actually, I love making this lamb bread, though I admit this year it is a stretch. I'm tired, but I have two days to rejuvenuate before then. Over the years it's finally become easy to make. Not so much in the beginning. 

It represents the Passover Lamb, and ultimately, Jesus. When the kids were younger, we'd comment about what the Lamb symbolizes as we made it or had dinner. Last time I asked,  I was met with silence and stares. Time to move on. HA. They all know already. 

It's sad to tear it apart and eat it.  Especially the head. But it brings giggles to young ones too.

I'm sure it was sad to give up the cute little lamb to be sacrificed back in Bible days too. 

Here he is before he's cooked. He gets so puffy when he's done! Wait, I can't figure out how to 
reposition the picture. Oh well, here he is, uncooked and sideways.

I'm so thankful this Easter weekend for Jesus being the Passover Lamb, the final and perfect sacrifice for us all. 

A group of college girls and I have been studying the subject of Covenant in Bible study this semester. 

The lesson this week was perfectly timed with Easter. Knowing that Jesus was the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins, and seeing it so detailed in the Bible, is something that never gets old. God has gone to great lengths to make an amazing covenant with us. It's my favorite Bible study I've done.

Here is a dedicated group of young ladies:

Happy Easter everyone! You now know about lamb bread, and have enough time to try and make it!

Oh a recipe. Basically, make your favorite kind of homemade bread. Roll it out flat. Cut the shape of the main body out. Use extra dough to add on feet, a head, ear, and a little tail. Half the dough you will use to roll out bread balls to put all over the body. Let is rise like you normally would and bake!


Rating Girls on Social Media

This was in the news yesterday.

March Madness Bracket Rates High School Girls

At a high school in Maryland, some guys set up a bracket of the top 4 best looking girls in each grade, then they would vote for the best looking.

And it's all public, on social media.

Use this news story as a talking point with your kids to see what they're seeing on social media.

Does it matter? Why is this ok or why is it wrong? How does it affect the guys voting and how does it affect the girls?

What's interesting, is some girls do this to each other (pretty much) on Instagram....mainly in middle school. They vote each other out of a contest of girls, based on the pictures posted. That's not much different, do you think?

Discussion Starters: Have you seen girls or guys do this to each other on Instagram? Why do people do this? How do you think it makes people feel?


Why She Prayed Each Day To Be Lighter

Dark skinned beauty is less represented in our culture than it should be, that's a given. Have you read or watched this amazing speech that left Oprah and Chaka Khan (among others) speechless?

Best Supporting Actress Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, of 12 Years a Slave, felt so underrepresented by the entertainment industry as a young girl of Kenyan descent growing up in Mexico City, that she prayed she “would wake up lighter skinned”. She would check each morning to see if God answered her prayers.

He didn't, at least not in the way she originally wanted. Watch this moving speech.

I think she is proof that beauty comes in all shades.

Thank goodness for role models like her.


Tulsans, A Must See- if you like stories of hope and forgiveness

A friend of mine passed this news on to me today. An author of one of the most riveting books I've read will be in Tulsa this week to speak at a church.

I must pass this opportunity along.

Immaculee Ilibagiza, the author of "Left to Tell- Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust"  is going to be speaking this Wednesday night at St. Benedict Catholic Church, 2200 W. Ithica in Broken Arrow. 

She is the woman that survived the Rwandan Genocide by hiding in a bathroom with 6 other women for 90 days while the Hutus used machetes to kill the Tutsis to death. She has a great message of survival and forgiveness.

It's not often we get to see someone in person who has survived such horrible circumstances, chosen to forgive and use the experience to inspire people. 

I urge you to read her book.

And to come see her speak if you can!


Too Much for Mom?

Let's get controversial- I have some friends and girls I respect that I know will disagree with me, and let me say I'm not into bashing PEOPLE, and I've sung along to Beyonce before, but I AM into being discerning of intake.

I'm sharing this blog from The Matt Walsh Blog today, as food for thought. So take a moment and read America- You're Too Smart To Listen To Beyonce before continuing.

I share this because of the point he's making- about being careful of the input we are listening to and putting into our spirits. If you read the lyrics and subject matter of the songs referred to, I agree- which is why some music, tv shows and movies I won't listen to or watch...for me, it's really because I respect my mind and spirit too much to let things that I feel are going to not feed my spirit in a positive way or will "kill brain cells" (my words).

Obviously Beyonce is an amazing performer, but I'm saying if we want to be discerning about input that affects our insides, as much as people are into being discerning about food that's put inside of us that affect our bodies, this is something to think about at least.

Can I listen to things that are opposite of what I believe in and teach?

As someone asked me "What do you think is going to happen if you do listen to it?" Nothing dramatic in small doses maybe, but if that becomes the normal intake, do we believe that what goes in doesn't affect our thoughts at all? Or affect our culture at all? It's at least something to think about.

It's interesting that Beyonce said in an interview she's too embarrassed to play these songs in front of her mom. 

As my husband has told our kids, which is a pretty balanced perspective, once in a while we can have junk food, but we have to be careful what it is and how much we have, or it affects our health. We need to watch our "diet".

H also tells them if they find themselves in bad moods, sad or having attitudes, they should stop and take a look at their music and media intake. It affects us.

I would love if Beyonce used her amazing talent for a better message. She's such an influencer of young people, both girls and guys alike.

Please feel totally free to share your thoughts, whether you agree or not. I'm interested to hear. If you disagree, I'd love to hear the reasons why.

I am into making people think, so I'm open to people making ME think. :)

What do you think?