About Those Mean Girls: Things I Want My Daughter to Remember

Dearest Daughter,

You are officially a fifth-grader. Your smile is bright as you head to school, and I’m excited for you. It’s an important year, and you’ll learn more about world history, algebra, and grammar.

I’m also a little nervous about this year. Fifth grade is Big-Time. Junior high is only two years away and you’re taking classes you’ve never attended in previous years. Other things are changing too, such as your likes and dislikes, and even your body. Sometimes these changes can make a girl feel scared, confused, and lonely … even if she is surrounded by friends.

Sometimes frightened girls can say and do things that hurt others. I hope you don’t experience this within the next year—or ever—but you more than likely will, so this is what I want you to always remember when it comes to the mean girls.

You Never Have the Right to be a Mean Girl

Remember this well, little love: Regardless of the circumstances, you do not have the right to be mean to another human being. It doesn’t matter if you’re retaliating against someone who hurt your feelings or if you’re trying to prevent others from being unkind to you; permitting yourself to act in a mean-spirited manner is never OK. Using ugly, flippant words and mannerisms—even for a short time—can change you. Meanness often is used as a shield to protect feelings, but it can make your heart so tough that it forgets how to forgive, embrace gratitude, and even love.

So don’t—not even for a minute—entertain the thought of telling that girl (you know, the one the other kids tease) that she can’t sit next to you at lunch. Don’t roll your eyes at someone for liking a hobby or trend that doesn’t float-your-boat. And here’s the hardest don’t of all: Don’t ever, ever call another human being a nasty name. Not even if that kid says something that makes you feel useless … even if she says your mother is ugly … even if she picks on your little brother. Never repay unkindness with unkindness, because you can do better than that. You were created to do better than that.

Know Who You Are and By Whom You Are Loved

A mean girl is a bully, and lying and belittling are her most damaging weapons. She’ll tell you that you aren’t as good as her. She’ll say you’re not pretty enough, rich enough, funny enough, smart enough, or popular enough to join the spirit club, play with her at recess, or audition for the solo in chorus. She might turn up her nose at those new high-top sneakers you adore so much. She might laugh if she finds out that you still have a favorite Disney princess. And saddest of all, she might hate you because you love Jesus.

Don’t believe the lies, and don’t allow the lies to change you.

Daughter, you are beautiful. I’m not just saying that because I’m your mom. And I’m not saying that because you fit the bill for what society says is beautiful. You’re beautiful because the maker of all things beautiful says you are. Trust me: If a being created the formula to design and maintain gravity, he’s a heck of a lot smarter than even the most intelligent girl in your class. And not only is God brilliant, he’s incapable of telling a lie and he says you’re wonderful, cherished, and forever loved. He created every cell in your body—the ones you were born with and the ones yet to be made. And being who God made you to be is more than your right … it’s your responsibility. Your true value cannot be measured by the number of friends you have, shoes you own, or calories you consume.

Mean Girls Are Wounded Girls: Respond with Love

Instead of returning unkindness with unkindness, extend grace, show mercy, and respond with love.
Because a girl who’s mean also is a girl who’s wounded—not with a skinned knee or sprained ankle, but a bruised heart.

I know this well, darling daughter, because I’ve been both the victim and the mean girl. There was a time when I was so weary from rejection that I treated a co-worker with malice. I spoke harsh words to her with a curt tone. I cut her off before she could finish her sentences. I publicly questioned her intelligence while feigning my innocence. I did all this because she reminded me of the girl I used to be. She was uneasy with who she was and eager to please others, and I misjudged her meekness for weakness. I felt powerful making her feel small until I realized what I was doing. Then I felt plain sick.

Want to know what opened my eyes? She spoke love to me. She timidly, yet bravely walked into my office one day and said, “Angela, please tell me why you don’t like me. I think you’re smart and funny … and I really want to be your friend, but you won’t give me a chance. Why?” Her words were kind, strong, and true.

I didn’t have an answer for her, just a sincere apology.

That woman forgave me, became my friend, and even sang at my wedding.

If a girl says or does something with the intent of hurting you, there’s a good chance that she’s doing it because she’s hurting too.
It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it fair. But it does make sense. Emotional wounds tend to fester and tamper with good judgment, but love, kindness, and gentleness are all agents of healing. Even if kind actions don’t result in a new friendship, they will prevent bitterness from spreading in your heart. They will protect your soul from deeper wounding.

Press On

Should you feel the sting of meanness, you’ll never hear me tell you to shake it off, but I will encourage you to find your voice and press on. Don’t give up on God, humanity, or yourself, no matter how hard it gets. And always remember, you are never alone.The unconditional love of your Heavenly Father is the most important gift you’ve been given, but also remember how dearly you are loved by your earthly parents.

Remember that I will always be here for you.

I will always believe in you.

I will always cheer you on.

Love Forever,
Mommy

Author’s Note: I’m not the only mom who has tackled this subject by writing a letter/blog post to her daughter. Lisa-Jo Baker, author of Surprised by Motherhood  wrote a beautiful letter to her baby girl a few years back titled What I Want My Daughter to Know About the Mean Girls. I encourage you to read it. It’s lovely.

The Truth About Enough: For When We Need Rest

This post is part of the Finding Spiritual Whitespace Blog Tour that I am a part of, along with a group of soulful, journeying kindreds.

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One of the most difficult challenges I face as a woman is the onslaught of mixed messages about what it supposedly means to be a woman in our culture, as well as suggestions about how I could improve myself.

From magazine covers to TV ads to Pinterest, I’m constantly confronted with ideas about how I can do better – how I can look younger and hotter, host better birthday parties for my kids, spruce up my home, improve my children’s chances of getting an Ivy League education, please my man in the kitchen and the bedroom, or climb a few more rungs up the corporate ladder.

The moments when I ignore the call to be more and allow myself to feel comfortable with who I am – quirks and all – are often interrupted by a seed of doubt that sprouts fast and tall. Contentment and peace disappear.

Suddenly, my skin doesn’t fit the way I think it should.

I notice faint evidence of wrinkles on my 40-year-old hands, and panic rushes over me. Have I done enough for my age? Will I do enough in my lifetime? Do I even have what it takes to be enough?

Is there even such a thing as “enough”? Because truth be told, I often crave more than what I’m given, too.

Someone compliments my smile. But while I respond with warm words of gratitude, inwardly, I wish I had Carrie Underwood’s bright, toothy grin.

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My boss recently promoted me, and the opportunity both thrills me and rewards me. But fears of inadequacy also take hold, and I worry I don’t have what it takes to live up to the challenge. I’m afraid I will blow it. I also wonder how much further along I’d be right now if I was smarter, savvier, and hadn’t taken that six-year career sabbatical a decade ago.

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After spending an entire Saturday cleaning my house, my fingers collect wads of dark purple dust I missed along the stairwell. Then I remember I also forgot to wipe down the ceiling fan blades … and the baseboards … and I remember that load of laundry souring in the washing machine … and that I forgot to thaw the chicken I had planned to bake for dinner. I wish there was another Angela, because 24 hours isn’t enough for this Angela to accomplish it all.

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My son’s sticky lips land just above my eyebrow as he rushes outside to play with his friends. “You’re the best mommy in the entire world,” he shouts before slamming the door. Yet I remember snapping at him and his older sister only minutes earlier, and failure hits me hard. I try to shoo the negative thought away, savor the moment, and tell myself that I’m not a bad mom, only to defeat the positive thoughts with words of chastisement for not being better.

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During these times, I need to remember that I am both enough and not enough at the same time. It is only when I accept the beauty behind that paradox that I am able to breathe, rest, and allow God to replenish my weary, fragile soul with lavish grace.

Here’s the truth about ”enough.”

Because of God’s love and mercy and through Christ’s dwelling inside you, you have a purpose in this world, and you are the only one who can fulfill that purpose. Therefore, in that way, you are enough. You are smart enough, gorgeous enough, and woman enough to be who you were created to be. You are enough for the light of God’s love to shine through you and your broken places. You are enough to make a difference.

But, you’re not enough to meet every need in this world. In fact, you’re not even enough to meet every need of your family members, or your friends, or your boss and co-workers.

And that’s OK. Because that’s by God’s design. Not one of us made of flesh was created to be perfect this side of heaven. Our bodies will fail us. Our hearts will deceive us. Our minds will confuse us.

Just as I need Jesus to make me completely whole, so does the rest of the world. When we try to function as Jesus instead of simply living to show His love, we exhaust ourselves even further. We frustrate ourselves with the knowledge that we’re not the be-all and end-all, when in fact, that truth should set us free and bring us rest.

In her debut book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie Gray takes her readers through her journey to find soul rest. Bonnie’s writing is as lovely as her heart, and there is godly wisdom on each page.

Something she wrote early in the book resonated with me quickly and remained as I read the ensuing chapters: Bonnie once felt suspicious of rest:
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In her debut book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie Gray takes her readers through her journey to find soul rest. Bonnie’s writing and heart are lovely and there is Godly wisdom on each page. Something she wrote early in the book resonated with me quickly and remained as I read the remaining chapters:Bonnie once felt suspicious of rest.

I’ve had to make my own places of rest to shield myself from the world by planning well, solving problems, and pleasing others. It’s the kind of rest that is easy to check off, but it locks p my heart. Even trusting God became a test of my resolve. Rest became a battle to run away from the things that break me — instead of allowing the brokenness to bring me to him. All this running is exhausting. Because whenever I stop to face the silence, I have to face the truth. I am suspicious of a restful life. I don’t believe it can be mine.

When I try to be enough in the ways I was not intended to be, I become suspicious of not only my ability to rest, but my worthiness to experience it.

But I am worthy of spending time in the spiritual whitespace that unifies me with love and sets me free to be myself.

I am worthy of rest.

Bonnie Gray is the writer behind Faith Barista.com who wrote a book about her inspiring, heart-breaking journey to find rest, which garnered Publisher’s Weekly starred review. I’m taking the journey to find rest through this guidebook and invite you to read it too. You can get a copy HERE.

Tantrums to Happy Tears: Surprised by Motherhood

This post is written in honor and celebration of the release of a most beautiful book written by Lisa-Jo Baker. Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I never expected about being a mom, reads soft, yet powerful … much like a tender memoir. It is a book I wish I devoured when I was a newbie mom and it is a book that I’m so thankful for now during a time when both my little ones attend elementary school. It’s not a parenting book … “you should” and “you must” or “don’t you ever …” are not phrases you’ll find in Lisa-Jo’s stories. What you will find is encouragement, truth, and a reminder that “A mother continues to labor long after the baby is born.” Lisa-Jo’s words come in the voice of a friend and will make you feel brave, gorgeous and valued.

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Three thousand, seven hundred, sixteen days. That’s how long I’ve been a mother. It seems like a long time and then not much time at all.

The first child to call me mommy recently celebrated her tenth birthday and her brother will blow out seven candles in 17 days. The past decade conjured countless stories for me and my family of four. There are moments I want to relive, moments I want to redo, and moments I simply cannot recall.

Surprises? There have been a several …thousands of them.

What surprised me first and more than anything else about being a mom is that I didn’t have the proverbial knack for mothering that I thought came naturally to all women who carried life inside them for nine-months. I mess up. A lot. And when I was a brand new mama, I thought those blunders denoted failure.

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In the beginning, every day brought challenges that taunted me and made me question myself.

My daughter was healthy … beautiful … bright … lively and my love for her will never be measurable. She also threw violent tantrums that sometimes lasted for hours. These were not “ordinary” tantrums and I seldom handled these fits of rage well.

In fact I thought she hated me. I really did, and there was not a book on the planet that prepared me for that feeling.

I remember one day in our Texas apartment when beads of sweat lined up across her forehead causing wayward strands of hair to matte her cherry red cheeks. With her fists balled, her eyes shooting darts of fury, and her nostrils flaring, my daughter squalled in anger-induced hysteria.

Standing in front of my little girl at that moment I inwardly wrestled with my own sadness and anger, which were mixed with feelings of inadequacy. I felt clueless, helpless, and useless. My child had been lingering in that state of wrath for more than thirty minutes…nothing I tried diffused the situation.

Exasperated and frightened that one of our neighbors might call the police to report such chaos, I walked away from my girl and locked myself in my bedroom so I could call a dear friend who had three children. She listened to the burning, airless sobs that climbed up my throat and she could hear the wails on the other side of my bedroom door.

“I. can’t. do. this.” I choked. “I’m a horrible mother. I cannot be what she wants, what she needs. I don’t have what it takes to be a good mother to her and that’s what I want more than anything.”

My friend mostly listened and said few words, but when she spoke, it was powerful.

“Oh sweetie. You are exactly what she needs in a mother! God doesn’t make mistakes, Angela, you know that. God made her for you and Napp … He GAVE her to you and Napp. You can do this … with Him … you can do this.”

Peace filled me, even though my daughter’s screaming continued to fill our small apartment. I slowly opened my bedroom door and sat on the floor just inches from the girl-child I loved. Firmly gripping her shoulders I pulled her into my arms and I held her tightly while rocking back and forth. At first, she flailed forcefully trying to escape my embrace.

“No Mommy,” she yelled. “No! I’m mad, mad, mad! I don’t want to hug you Mommy. I’m mad. I’m mad. I’m mad!”

I didn’t let go. I couldn’t. Steadied by a calm I am certain was a grace gifted by God, I held my daughter close and gently pressed my lips on her wet head.

After another minute of squirming, she stopped screaming. She stopped fighting me. Her body went limp from exhaustion and her breathing was loud and heavy. Still, I kept her in my arms and continued giving her gentle kisses until she fell asleep.

We both took naps that day and when I awoke from mine, I felt stronger. I no longer doubted my purpose as a mom.

That story took place about eight years ago. More tantrums followed … hers … mine … my son’s … but I’m steadied by the truth that no matter how hard it gets, these two kids of mine were handpicked for me and my husband by God.

At ten, my sweet girl manages her emotions more graciously than she did when she loved Elmo and Dora. She radiates joy and kindness. She loves deeply and serves quickly. When I asked her for permission to publish the tale of her epic tantrum, she agreed … with one condition. She wanted to write something in her own words for the post. I took her deal … and when I read her words … I cried. Happy tears.

I almost cannot believe that I threw so many hissy fits when I was a little toddler. I don’t remember the tantrums, but that’s because I don’t remember all that much from when I was very small. I do remember dancing to Nemo music in my bedroom with my mom when we lived in Texas. I also remember pretending to cook my mom fancy meals from my play kitchen. She would pretend they were delicious.

When I look into my past and see where I am right now, a lot has changed. But I know something that has never changed … EVER … no mater how much I have changed: my mom will always be there for me! We have such good times together and we’re even planning a mommy-daughter weekend together soon and I cannot wait. No matter what happens to me in the future, I know that my mom will always be there for me.” – X. Nazworth, Age 10.

I needed those words and I’m going to keep them tucked tight to my heart. Tomorrow will bring more surprises, of that, I’m certain. But I’m ready.

Mean Streak

Photo Credit: iStock

Photo Credit: iStock

Growing up, my family owned a cat we called “Kitty-Bob.” With his fluffy orange fur, rotund physique and surly disposition, Kitty-Bob reminded me of a real-life Garfield. I’m certain that if Kitty-Bob could have talked, sarcasm would have been his first language.

Kitty-Bob wasn’t always mean. He had tender moments … moments when he’d want to snuggle close enough for fingers to gently massage behind his ears and underneath his chin. But, unfortunately, those moments seldom occurred and when they did happen, they were on Kitty-Bob’s terms.

For instance, if Kitty-Bob was resting on the couch and was affectionately approached by a person who didn’t know him better, that poor, unsuspecting soul would be greeted with sharp claws and teeth. Given that piece of information, one would ascertain that Kitty-Bob should not be touched. Well … that approach worked just fine until Kitty-Bob decided he wanted his ears stroked and bit the closest hand to him before he smooshed his large head under said hand.

I’m telling you, that cat’s mean streak matched his girth.

While I’d classify my temperament in a much nicer league than the dearly-departed Kitty-Bob’s … I’m not always kind. In fact, I have mean moments. More than I’d care to admit. I shared a glimpse of my inner mean girl over at (in)Courage today. I hope you’ll wander over to take a peek … and if I do, I sure hope you’ll still come back here … I promise, I’m usually sweet.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24