Raising Empowered Girls in a “Lemonade” World

Last night, I tucked her in and marveled at the way her body stretched the length of her bed. She wrapped her arms around my neck, and I breathed her in, her freshly washed hair sweet and powdery against my cheek.

It wasn’t long ago she was toddling around the house like her little sister. Now she’s a young lady. She’s compassionate and kind. She’s strong, both in character and physically. She doesn’t get caught up in girly pettiness, but rather walks her own line.

I love that about her.

Raising girls in today’s world is an exercise in faith. There’s a lot of talk on what it means to raise strong men, but there’s even more talk about how we’re supposed to be raising strong girls.

Train them to be dragons, to breath fire in this oppressive world. That’s the most common message I hear today, but what does that strength really look like? How’s a fire-breathing girl supposed to behave in this evolving world of ours?

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Unless you live under a rock (and sometimes motherhood feels like just such rock), you’ve probably heard that Beyonce just dropped a new album that’s got the world buzzing.

Now, I’ve heard only bits and pieces of the album. I have not listened to every song because, you know, who has time to listen to Beyonce?!

But I’ve listened to a little bit, and I’ve read several of her lyrics, and here is my first impression. Visually, Beyonce’s new videos to go with her songs are appealing. There’s no denying Beyonce can entertain.

The songs are catchy, too. Not in a Hansen’s “Mmm-Bop!” sort of way. Heaven’s, no. They’re catchy in a stop and listen sort of way, because that’s also Beyonce’s skill. She can deliver music that makes you want to stop and listen.

But the message of the album? Well, I’m not a fan.

Clearly there has been some hurt in Beyonce’s home life. Her lyrics about a cheating spouse are not, I believe, merely fictional. I don’t think Beyonce wrote that album as a creative exercise. It came from a place of experience; it came from a woman who walked through the fire of betrayal, and made it through to the other side.

For her strength, I applaud Beyonce. I’ve watched friends walk through the devastation of infidelity. It is a betrayal unlike any other to have your spouse turn away from you, and the only way to recover is to fight: Fight for your marriage, which I’ve seen people do and make it to the other side. Or fight through divorce, a sometimes heartbreakingly inevitable consequence of infidelity.

In a world that sees marriage as a dispensable commodity, I commend Beyonce for (apparently, based on her lyrics) fighting for hers.

But…

Tidal, the production company that dropped Beyonce’s album, has described it as “a conceptual project based on every woman’s journey of self knowledge and healing.”

Really? EVERY WOMAN? That’s a bold claim.

As women we are bombarded with the message that we are good enough and strong enough, and we don’t need any man to “complete” us.

Well, sure. There’s some truth to that statement. I’m raising my daughters to be strong, independent women because marriage isn’t a guarantee. I’m not looking to raise little Stepfords who can only function in the protective arms of a man. I want my girls to know they don’t need to find their self-worth in men.

But they shouldn’t be looking to find their worth in themselves, either. This is where Beyonce’s message of empowerment is not just wrong – it’s dangerous.

Take the following lyrics, for example: “Who the f*** do you think I is/You ain’t married to no average b**** boy/You can watch my fat a**twist boy/As I bounce to the next d*** boy/And keep your money, I got my own.”

Let’s set aside the terrible language for just a second, as if that wasn’t reason enough to caution girls away from Beyonce’s newest album. Let’s ignore that and simply focus on the meaning behind the words.

Is this really the message we’re applauding today? This is the anthem of strength we want our girls to emulate?!

If this is what raising a fire-breathing dragon looks like, then I’m kindly going to step out of the ring, and I’ll bring my girls with me.

Raising girls who can stand strong in a world that tells them they’re nothing but sex symbols, now there’s the challenge. It’s such an oxymoron to listen to Beyonce sing while also watching her gyrate half-clad through most of her music. The message is conflicting: You’re good enough on your own merits, but your empowerment is entirely dependent upon your sex appeal.

Girls, hear me: You are worth far more than simply well-toned bodies.

It is a great honor and privilege to be a wife and a mother, but those things do not a woman make. Equally as important, however, is the understanding that strength isn’t dependent on your ability to wield and lord power over a man. Using sex as a weapon against your man? This is not a message we should be celebrating!

Strength isn’t elevating yourself above everyone else, particularly not over the men in your life. You want to show strength and beauty of character, young ladies?

Learn to let a man lead.

This is the beauty of womanhood. It is kind and compassionate, gentle and, yes, it is very, very strong. A woman’s worth doesn’t lie in her self-knowledge or her sexuality. Her strength does not reside in her ability to make men bow down at her feet and worship the ground she walks on.

Oh, no. A woman’s worth lies in the fact that she was merely created.

You are women created by God Himself.

You were knit with strength from the Creator of this world – a strength that cannot be explained. It cannot be sung. It cannot be wrapped into lyrical prose.

It can only be lived.

This strength is what will walk you through the hardest times of life. Accepting and believing that your worth lies only in who you were created to be by God is the anthem I want women to sing. It is the anthem I want my daughters to hold high.

Believing that they are worth more than they could ever imagine on their own, that “self-knowledge” is actually a myth, is the song I want to dictate their days.

This is the lemonade in a world full of lemons.

The Sky Weeps

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EDITED TO UPDATE: On January 22, 2019, New York governor Andrew Cuomo passed a law legalizing abortion up until birth. I have re-shared this post to address this current development. Replace “Planned Parenthood” in this article with “New York City” and the discussion remains valid.

For an example of just one of the slippery slope consequences, consider reading this post about a heartbreaking event that occurred in Colorado:

A Woman’s Right to Choose: We Have Failed

***

I huddled under the umbrella, shivering violently against the cold. Or maybe it was the oppression that still lingered beneath the soggy soil under my feet. As the tour guide spoke, I ingested his words, trying to fully comprehend the horror of it all. But of course, I can’t comprehend it. I’m only seeing pictures.

But still, I felt the ghosts whispering a haunting refrain in that place, and I knew that the oppression lingers for a reason.

It poured rain the day I visited Dachau, which felt right. I can’t really imagine the sun ever shining over those graveled walkways, glinting off the barbed wire fencing that once coursed with electricity and served as a quick death for martyred souls. I can’t fathom the dichotomy between a lovely spring day with birds singing joyfully over the ovens that burned thousands and thousand of bodies.

Can beauty and evil really coexist like that?

But I know that they can – of course they can. It happens every day. Beauty and evil intermingle, clouding our eyes and veiling the horrors around us. But sometimes, I think we have to see the evil in the rain to truly understand the depth and depravity.

I wasn’t going to write about Planned Parenthood and those videos that have been released. So many other people have written about it, and I’ve already said my piece on abortion.

I told you that we failed.

I told you that we can’t ignore Kermit Gosnell.

I didn’t want to talk about it again. I didn’t even want to watch the videos, because I can picture the horror in my mind, and that felt like enough.

But then I remembered Dachau, and I remembered that sometimes you have to see it up close, in the rain. Sometimes you have to get your feet dirty as you trod into the dark places. Only then can you truly get a glimpse of the horror.

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Yesterday, I watched the fourth released video – the one that took us a little bit further. I walked into the lab and watched as body parts were sifted in a petri dish. It was the same way I shuffled parts aside in ninth grade when I had to dissect a frog.

Here’s the heart.

Here’s the liver.

But these weren’t frog parts. They were human. I saw intact hands, tiny fingers raised in surrender, pulled violently from the safety of the womb.

I saw a fully formed leg. Little eyes that would never see the light of a summer day. Mangled and torn, the evidence of abortion screamed at me, and I felt my stomach churn the same way I did when I stepped into the oven room at Dachau. And then I heard the exclamation of the lab technician:

“It’s a boy! It’s another boy!”

I stopped the video there because the weight of it all felt too great. It was like standing in the freezing rain and hearing the stories of the men who were tortured ruthlessly, viciously, violently, all because they bore the label “Jew.”

It wasn’t a “clump of cells.” It was a boy. A little boy who would have bounded with little-boy energy. He would have eaten dirt and played with bugs, fallen and skinned his knees, and probably been too rough when he got excited. He would have hated baths and brushing his teeth, and probably would have given the best hugs.

HE was a BOY. He was real – a human being.

The city of Dachau was remote during the World War II era. This made hiding thousands of people there easier. But still, there were residents living outside the gates. Good German citizens, without the stigma of a forbidden religion, lived and worked just on the other side of evil.

Did they wonder about the smoke that billowed from the trees day and night? Did they question the emaciated men and women who arrived by train and trudged into the shelter of the nearby woods? Did they know and pretend they didn’t? And do I blame them?

Speaking out would most certainly have had ramifications. It was better to keep your head down and pretend you didn’t see.

Friends, we can’t keep our heads down anymore. We’ve been escorted directly into the furnace. We can’t pretend it isn’t there. This has to go beyond the legality of what Planned Parenthood is doing. We must get to the very heart of the issue.

Abortion is murder.

I say this with a bit of a cringe, because I know it cuts deep. It’s a blatant statement, and it may make some of you feel judged or alienated. Maybe you’ve experienced abortion, and these statements cut to the quick. Hear my heart on this: I do not condemn you as a person. I condemn a society who told you there was no other way.

As I write this, the clouds hang heavy over my house. It’s been raining steadily for almost two weeks now, and once again I’m reminded that sometimes the horror is better seen and experienced underneath the weeping sky. We can’t pretend it isn’t happening – we can’t pretend we don’t know.

And what do we do?

This is the trickiest part of the equation, isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be. There are Crisis Pregnancy Centers popping up all over the United States. These are safe havens where young, scared women can go when an unplanned pregnancy leaves them feeling lost.

Let’s start here.

Call your local Crisis Pregnancy Center and ask them what they need. How can you help? What can you provide? And then spread the word. Let’s give young women a chance to get top care, solid counseling, and the ability to choose life for their unborn children. Let’s stop telling them they have no other choice but to abort.

Let’s give them the choice of life.

What do you say?

For two alternatives to Planned Parenthood in the Tampa area, look at:

Oasis Pregnancy Care Center

Guiding Star/ Life Choices Women’s Care

 

Grace, Grace

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Monday’s post was the closest I’ve ever had to a viral post. It was shared hundreds of times, and had an estimated audience reach of well over 20,000. Small potatoes, perhaps, but large enough for me. You know what I noticed in all the sharing and commenting that happened on various sites?

People were so very kind and respectful.

I understand that, for the most part, people who shared my post also shared my views. And the people with whom they shared the post, also held similar views. So it is grace that a post that could have received much negative feedback was, in fact, met with hundreds of positive, encouraging comments.

There were some who disagreed, but they did so respectfully. I watched as hard dialogues took place in comment threads, and I was so proud of this community of believers on the internet. These people who stood up and boldly shared a societally unpopular opinion, and who then respectfully dialogued with their friends and peers on their differences.

This morning, I read a post from TED regarding Monica Lewinsky’s recent talk, and the hateful, vitriolic comments that she faced on social media platforms because of it. The post made me sad, because it shows that there really is still so much anger and hate out there. Not every circle provides a safe haven for hard conversations, and that’s so unfortunate, because where is grace when there is hate?

How do we discuss hard things if we don’t have grace, forgiveness, understanding, and a willingness to accept that someone may not share our opinion?

If we can continue to walk down this path of tough dialogue with respectful discourse, what could possibly happen? If we could show grace to those with whom we so desperately disagree, what could we work out?

Sometimes grace is simply knowing when there’s no point in talking. I refuse to fight online with someone I’ve never met. If it’s obvious that my worldview is completely opposite of the one providing negative feedback, I will simply statement my disagreement, then walk away.

If it appears we can have reasonable dialogue, I’m up for it, but only if it’s acknowledged that we probably won’t change one another’s minds.

Grace can go a long way. Grace in the face of disagreement is a powerful tool. Thank you to my community for showing me that Grace is alive online. We can have these hard conversations, my friends. And we should.

It’s all under the banner of Grace.

I’m thankful for this community today.

A Woman’s Right to Choose: We Have Failed

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I’ve let this post simmer a little bit, not really sure if I wanted to tackle it. In general I do like to avoid controversy, but the more I chewed on this one, the more I realized that it was simply too much. Because not enough people are standing up in outrage over this. Not enough of us are leading the charge to call it what it is.

Also I have a uterus, so I get an opinion.

On Friday, March 19, Michelle Wilkins went to the home of Dynel Lane to answer a CraigsList posting for baby clothes. Michelle was seven months pregnant. When she arrived, Lane lured her into the basement under false pretense, and then she beat Michelle severely and cut the baby from her womb.

Thanks to Michelle’s strength and presence of mind, she was able to call police who quickly responded, transporting her to a nearby hospital where she was well-treated. Michelle survived.

The baby, a little girl who was to be named Aurora, Sleeping Beauty, did not survive.

Lane arrived at the hospital hours later with the dead infant in her arms claiming that she’d had a miscarriage.

Dynel Lane will not be charged with murder.

This story in an of itself is horrific. The gruesome nature of the crime, which was carried out under a pretense that all of us have followed (an innocent Craigslist purchase), is sickening and heart-wrenching.  It is clear that Dynel Lane is a sick and twisted individual, and I cannot think about Michelle Wilkins without tearing up.

And the horror grows.

The coroner who examined baby Aurora could not determine that the child lived outside the womb. Despite claims by Dynel’s husband (who did not know of his wife’s gruesome crime) that the baby gasped for air, there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the child had lived for any length of time. The coroner could not find evidence that the baby girl’s lungs had inflated.

Therefore the child could not be qualified as a person under Colorado law.

We have failed.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court announced it’s decision in Roe v. Wade, affirming that a woman has the right to an abortion until viability. Since that time, abortion has been a hot button topic, with women nationwide demanding their right to choose abortion if they feel it in their best interest.

Let me be very clear in this: By demanding our right to choose, women, we have failed millions of children. And on March 26, 2015, we failed Aurora Wilkins in the most devastating way.

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Of course the coroner had to come to the decision she did. Of course she had to rule that Aurora was not a living person. She had to, because our right to choose demanded that she make that ruling. A woman’s right to choose has redefined the viability of a living child.

We have failed.

Our right to choose as women has determined that a child in utero does not qualify as a person. It has to be this way, of course. Because if we deem a child in the womb as a person, then there is no way to classify abortion but murder. Therefore, we have removed the designation. We’ve covered our tracks so that we can choose.

We have failed.

I do believe that abortion may be the most heinous and vicious stain on my generation. And to be clear, I’ve never been in support of abortion, nor have many of the people closest to me. When I say “We” have failed, I say so only because it is a collective “We.” Because the women of my generation have demanded their right to choose what happens inside their womb.

My generation has failed.

We’ve failed the millions of babies who were never deemed viable. We’ve justified it, and twisted the meaning of viability until it’s come to this. Dynel Lane will not face murder charges because we have the right to choose.

We. Have. Failed.

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