The Nuances of Being a Nice Girl

Imagine being an 11-year-old girl walking into her first day of middle school. The unfamiliar sites, sounds, and smells bring anxiety, excitement, and a healthy dose of fear. Will I be able to open my locker? Will I have a friend to sit with at lunch? Will I survive dressing down in PE? Will I be prey to the notorious middle school mean girls?

Being a middle schooler has never been harder than it is today.

During my junior high career, I managed life fairly well. Being both a cheerleader and band member, I straddled a wide divide of friend circles. To most, I was known as being a “nice girl”. Making good grades, kind friends, and staying above the fray. Do I have regret, sure. Do I wish I could redo some conversations, definitely. The most blaring injustice I committed was my keen ability to be silent.

One fateful week in early February, the student council was prowling the halls with Valegrams in hand. Being a gifted, cheesy poem writer, I had been asked to write a poem to be given to a certain boy from a particular girl. After writing this labor of love, I handed the masterpiece over to the proprietor, soon to realize the poem was going to be signed from someone else. A girl who had no idea she was sending this. Someone who often was the center of teasing. A person who needed to be defended.

And I let it slide. Not wanting to ruffle feathers, I stayed silent. Maybe she wouldn’t find out I was the one who penned the poem. Maybe she wouldn’t be upset after all. Maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t really matter.

As I sat in math class, on Valentine’s Day,  I shifted nervously in my seat watching the Valegrams be passed out. To my horror, the boy receiving the card read it aloud in front of the class, sending the unsuspecting girl into a hysterical fit of sobs. In that moment reality hit like a dagger to my heart….My silence had made me a mean girl.

Our daughters don’t have to be silent. They can adopt the nuance of being nice.

Nuance = a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, sound.

What if our daughters shifted the meanings of their words to bring life? What if their expressions reflected compassion, love, and friendship? What if the sounds coming from their mouth were joyful noises instead of  insecure jealousy? What if they gave voice to the bullied, included the outcast, showed compassion for the lonely? What would it look like if our teenage daughters embraced the nuances of being nice?

Change would begin to happen. The climate of our middle schools would shift. Students would start to believe they are good enough. Valuable. Loved. Cherished. No longer would the middle school years be clouded with a veil of insecurity and sadness. Our hallways would look different because nice is contagious and preciously rare.

In four days my oldest daughter will take her first steps into an unfamiliar middle school hallway. Some moms and daughters have collectively decided that this class of girls will CHOOSE NICE. When others slander, they will speak up. When others insult, they will encourage. When others isolate, they will include. This is a new class of girls who will commit to loving well, despite their own insecurity. Instead of waiting for others to set the tone, they will be the cultural trend setters. Will it be hard, yes. Will they be ostracized for it, maybe. Will it make a different, absolutely.

And we can’t challenge our girls to choose nice, if we don’t choose it first. Will you join us in this pledge to adopt the nuances of being nice? The return is well worth the things we have to lay aside.

 

 

 

“Give Your Child the World” Give Away

Growing up my parents sent me and my sister on trips across the world. Starting at the tender age of eleven, I began participating in international peace camps through an organization called Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV). My travels took me to far away places such as Brazil, Sweden, Belgium, and Slovakia. Living for a month at a time with children from around the globe, I fell in love with various cultures, people groups, and places. Beginning to see other cultures in light of my own, differences weren’t obstacles to our friendships. Skin color didn’t determine the depth of our relationship. Language barriers couldn’t stop lifelong bonds from forming.

Experiencing the world at a young age helped me to value all people. Most specifically those different from my mainstream, upper-middle class, white, American, Christian self.

Camps like these are rare and hard to come by. I don’t take it for granted that my parents sacrificed much to give us these opportunities. Besides a semester long stint in Switzerland, my kids haven’t grown up with the same opportunities I had. Longing for them to experience other cultures, we have had to actively seek ways to help them touch the world afar. It sounds like a great goal, but it is hard to know where to start. So the question becomes, “how can we spark a love for other cultures in the hearts of our children, when it is so far removed from our every day lives?”

Author, Jaime Martin, has found a way.

Continue reading ““Give Your Child the World” Give Away”

Why We Can’t Be Happy For One Another

There is a massive epidemic sweeping our nation. Invading our homes, stealing our joy, creating havoc in the midst of our every day lives. Hardly any person stands untouched by this widespread sickness. It is called by a name we all know well: DISCONTENTMENT

Discontentment wears many faces. It looks like the teenage girl analyzing herself in the never-satisfied mirror of life. It often appears in the blank stare of a weary mom who scrolls through social media, desiring any life but her own. Too often it is in the heart of a man, trying to provide for his family, but thinking someone has it better. Easier. More adventurous. A greener yard on the other side of the longed after white picket fence.

Discontentment often shines brightest in our inability to be happy for one another.

Crying “uncle”, we blame social media, the tool that we love and loathe all in the same breath. Blaming accessibility into each others lives, we give it up for a season. Our lent sacrifice. I’ve done it. It works. Clearing my heart of those pesky little things called jealously, envy, coveting. When I don’t know what is happening in the lives of those around me, I can be content. Happy with my own blessings. Satisfied with my own life.

Honestly, it is sometimes just what we need for a short time. Hard trials and struggling seasons can call for a period of hunkering down. Kiss Facebook goodbye. Maybe for good. The real issue comes when we shelter our heart from community. When we can’t celebrate others triumphs. When anything good that happens for you, breeds discouragement for me. This shows a deeper issue of my heart. Hiding life away, removing it from the forefront of my mind, I feel better. Appear better. But the sickness still lurks in the darkest corners of my soul.

Hebrews 10:45-46 commands:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

How do we spur one another on when we hide from what is happening in their lives? How can we meet together regularly, if we feel threatened by their blessing? How can we encourage one another if I see their gain as my loss?”

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine authored a 30 day Bible study challenge. Signing up for it I was stoked to participate in this step-of-faith moment for her. Gifted and a brilliant writer, I yearned to see God bring people to this study, hungry for His word and like-minded community. As her followers climbed in number, I was giddy with excitement. Then God whispered into my ear…“Tell her, Sarah.”

“Tell her what you see God doing in her life. Tell her how her words speak truth into your heart. Tell her how God is using her to reach thousands. Encourage. Admonish. Uplift. Celebrate. Be happy for her.

And so I did. 

God spoke more into my ear that day then just encouraging this one friend. It needs to become my default. My lifestyle. God is on the move, using people all around me in all manners of ways: to reach young kids, minister to teens, care for unwed mothers, teach in the public school, home school their own kids, serve on the mission field, and even in small risks like inviting their new neighbor over for coffee. It comes in all forms, arranged in diverse colors. It looks different for each one of us.

Sometimes we feel threatened by others success. “If her ministry succeeds quickly, maybe mine will look less worthy.” “If his job pays more, maybe I am not good enough.” “If God calls that person to take a risk, maybe my faith is too weak to be used by Him.” “If God increases their platform, maybe what I have to say isn’t worth anything.” These are all lies we believe. Insecurities we cling to. Self-doubt that must be let go. We can’t live like this. The church can’t grow like this. Seeing each others callings, we need to be torch bearers. Cheerleaders. The first to raise a holy fist bump. Saying good job. Well done. Keep at it. God is on the move, and He is using you.

Our hearts depend on it. Our church body can’t survive without it. The future generation is at stake as much, if not more, than our own. What would it look like if our teenage daughters saw us wildly and genuinely celebrate each others gifts, talents, and triumphs. It would change their relationships, their schools, their hearts. Today, tomorrow, and for eternity.

So this is my start. It might be hard at first. My flesh may want to self-protect. My heart may not always feel like it. But it is what God is asking me to do. So I will pray He shows me how.

To celebrate and to be happy.