The Peril of Princesses & ‘Passion and Purity’

Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast seduced me as an eighth grade girl. I yearned for adventure, and was desperate to fall in love (or at least have a boyfriend who wanted to hold my hand). As a nerd myself, it’s no wonder I picked the bookish princess as my favorite.

I grew up on a steady diet of princesses: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty (Aurora), Snow White, Rapunzel, Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine. Each film references their beauty, and every single girl falls in love. We didn’t just read or watch the sanitized Disney versions of these tales, either, but the Hans Christian Anderson versions like the one where the little mermaid hurls herself into the sea when she is rejected, choosing to become sea foam instead of living a meaningless life without her prince.

From an early age, I absorbed this message: for your life to have value or any degree of happiness, you must fall in love.

I can tell you the name of every boy I had a crush on beginning from the age of four. Age four. Apart from the one time I was a cat and the other time I was a clown, every other Halloween I was either a princess or a bride. My brother and I got married more times than I can count.

Falling in love became an obsession. I watched movies, studying how the girls attracted men. Thank God Google and Facebook didn’t exist at the time because I’m sure I would have spent hours googling how to talk to guys or stalking the boys I had crushes on.

For whatever reason, whether because I scared boys away by pretending I didn’t like them or because I came on too strong, the boys I liked never seemed to like me back. My journals from those years are full of me scribbling about my crushes—“I sat next to so-and-so in science lab today,” “So-and-so looked at me in the hallway on the way to algebra,” “I think so-and-so might ask me to the ninth grade dance.”

One Christian boy finally showed interest in me my sophomore year of high school, but then broke it off a few months in, saying his parents wouldn’t let him date. Devastated (I was so sure he was “the one”), I vowed never to let that happen again. Soon after, I read Passion and Purity.

Though I admire Elisabeth Elliot for her devotion to God, her courage in moving to South America to learn a new culture and share Christ with those who didn’t know Him, and her strength in spite of losing not one, but two husbands, that book really messed me up. I once heard her say on the radio that it is not necessary to be attracted to your husband. Love, romance and desire were the enemy of love for God. Men were to be “held at arm’s length.”

Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, wrote the forward to the 2002 edition of Passion and Purity, mentioning how P and P had inspired him to write his book. At the end of the forward, he (mis)quotes C.S. Lewis: “The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

The message was clear: falling in love could put your soul in peril. Falling in love was dangerous.

From then on, I took Elisabeth Elliot’s words to heart. I kept men at arms-length, always suspicious they would derail my love for God and His grand plans for my life. Men were the enemy of loving God whole-heartedly.

Didn’t Paul say much the same in 1 Corinthians 7? “It is good for a man not to marry…but if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (v. 1, 9)

“An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.” (v. 34)

Given the choice, I picked undivided devotion to Jesus over pathetically falling for a man. The Hollywood version of “Happily Ever After” was a myth and a mirage. My true prince was Jesus. And He was enough.

Until I met Adam. You can read our love story here, but when I fell in love, I finally understood the metaphor of “falling.”

I stopped avoiding the dangerous plunge into love and decided to experience the thrill of the free fall. I discovered that just because love is not safe doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to jump in and enjoy it.

In fact, when exactly does the Bible advise us to avoid danger, to stay safe or to be comfortable?

Instead of completing me or stealing my adoration for Jesus, my husband strides beside me, urging me on the way. Rather than detract from my love for God, he enhances it. Instead of filling a void in my soul, our lights burn brighter when held together in the dark.

Even so, my experience worshipping Falling in Love makes me wary of princesses as I think about raising my daughter.

Do I want her to feel beautiful, special, and feminine? Yes. Do I want her to equate beauty with self-worth? No.

Do I want her to be adored, admired, cherished, and wanted? Of course. Do I want her to derive her self-worth and life purpose from a man, searching for a man, like in the movie Jerry Maguire, to “complete her”? No way.

In spite of my hesitation to allow my daughter to play with princesses, I’m learning they, like all things in life, should be approached thoughtfully, and with moderation. Princesses are not banned from my home, but they are not encouraged, either. I censor movies where the princess falls in love, instead choosing movies like Moana, where the girl has a male friendship without having to fall in love with him.

I also want to avoid being duped by the media and marketers targeting my 3 year old girl. The term “Disney Princess” didn’t even exist until the year 2000. According to Cinderella Ate My Daughter author Peggy Orenstein, executive Andy Mooney stumbled on the princess idea when he checked out a “Disney on Ice” show and noticed all the girls were wearing homemade princess costumes. He wondered “how such a massive branding opportunity had been overlooked” (p. 13). Within a year of releasing the first Princess items, sales soared to $300 million.

Shows/dolls/movies-turned-books have crept quietly into our home, like commercials in book form. So we read them, then they disappear, to be replaced with stories that won’t cause my child to want more toys or encourage her to watch certain movies and shows.

I don’t hate princesses, I just don’t want Disney to brainwash my daughter into thinking she must be slim, beautiful or fall in love to have a meaningful life. I don’t want her to worship Falling in Love, but I don’t want her to fear it, either. Instead, I hope she will know she is special, adored and valuable because she is made in the image of God. And if she does fall in love one day, I pray Jesus will still be the protagonist in her happily-ever-after, just as He was when she was a little girl, a teen and a single woman.

***

Join me this month as we explore the theme of raising strong girls. I have way too many ideas and not enough time, but my goal is to post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this month. Shoot me an email at scrapingraisins (dot) gmail (dot) com if you’d like to guest post on this topic.

As it’s sex trafficking awareness month, I’ll also be sharing some resources on that topic. Sign up for my mid-month digest and end-of-month secret newsletter to stay updated on all the posts as well as to get links to interesting books, podcasts, recipes and articles I’ve come across this month.

Sign up for my Mid-month Digest and Secret Newsletter HERE:

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links

The Peril of Princesses & ‘Passion and Purity’--Should we encourage our girls to play princesses?

What Women Want

Today is my 39th birthday, the last year before I turn 40. I believe this calls for a bit of gratuitous self-reflection, don’t you? As I think about my daughter, I realize what I want for her is what I want for myself–and perhaps what we want universally as women.

***

In the work place, home, in courts, classrooms and cathedrals, women want to be seen, heard, respected, and taken seriously. In a noisy crowd, we want our voices to count.

We want “kindred spirit” friends and life partners who adore us. We want to be loved, admired, honored, and cherished. We long to know and be known. We want to find a tribe where we belong.

We want to belly laugh until tears run down the creases on the sides of our eyes and not take ourselves or the world so seriously all the time.

We want to do meaningful work—not just as mothers and wives, but also as we live out our personal callings to paint, write, sculpt, lead, heal, teach, preach, crunch numbers, and transform dull spaces into decorative places that cultivate creativity. We want to know our lives made a difference in the world-that some seed we planted while we were alive will flourish long after we are gone.

We want to be a voice for the voiceless and a champion for the oppressed.

We want to make peace with our bodies and stand naked in front of the mirror without self-loathing, shame or fear. We want to eat when we are hungry and stop eating when we are full. We want to recognize that wrinkles, bulges and stretch marks are beautiful signs of a life well-lived.

We want to be known for who we are and not for what we look like, what we do, or what we don’t do. We want to be enough.

We want balance. We want to be healthy. We want to be strong—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We want to be confident.

We want courage to try new things, meet new people and travel to new lands. And yet we want contentment with where we are, who we’re with, and what we’re doing, too.

We want to relax every once in a while. We want to snuggle on the couch, walk in the woods, or sleep in. We want to lose ourselves in music and dancing. We want to be so engrossed in conversation that we forget task and time.

We want to look back on our lives without regret, proud of who we’ve become and satisfied with where we are.

We want soul rest. We long for deep peace that comes in knowing we belong to God and that nothing can rip us from his hand.

We want to taste heaven on earth, catch glimpses of Jesus in our neighbors, and notice evidence of God in creation.

We want to be women who dance without shame, question without fear, and speak without being muted.

We want to be women who love fiercely and freely, because we are fiercely and freely loved.

***

Join me this month as we explore the theme of raising strong girls. I have way too many ideas and not enough time, but my goal is to post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this month. Shoot me an email at scrapingraisins (dot) gmail (dot) com if you’d like to guest post on this topic.

As it’s sex trafficking awareness month, I’ll also be sharing some resources on that topic. Sign up for my mid-month digest and end-of-month secret newsletter to stay updated on all the posts as well as to get links to interesting books, podcasts, recipes and articles I’ve come across this month.

What do women want?

Scraping Raisins Blog Themes

Interview with Author Beth Bruno {+ A GIVEAWAY of A Voice Becoming}

A VOICE BECOMING is written by a fellow sojourner, still in the middle of the journey, processing her own story as she casts a vision for her daughter to discover hers. Readers will join Beth in a yearlong journey of teaching their daughters that women lead, women love, women fight, women sacrifice, and women create. Moms learn how to use film and books, tangible experiences, volunteering, interviewing other women, traveling, and more in a creative and life-altering way to help solidify these important concepts in the mind and life of their young teen.

1. Why did you decide to write this book?
I did not set out to write a book like this. While my husband researched and designed the year that became the Man Maker Project: Boys are Born, Men are Made, I did my own research. Even less had been written about rites of passage for girls. And what I found felt insufficient given current culture and the realities youth face. My girls did not fit the archetype described in many existing books and I knew I would miss their heart if I employed those models. That, paired with the enormous expectations they had after my son’s “man year,” meant creation of our own journey was inevitable.

2. Tell us a little bit about you and your girls. What is your relationship like?
We are some pretty independent women! Once we got over the initial toddler Sunday school tears, my girls marched confidently away from me toward every new adventure. The youngest started overnight camp at age 7 (which I still can’t believe we did!) I’d say we’re close, but not intertwined. As in, I never struggled with being a helicopter mom. We share the passion gene and get fired up about strong women doing cool things. They play along with my quirky interests, but the older they get, the fiercer their sarcasm and teasing gets. I give them a lot of fodder, but down deep, I sense they love it.

3. Can you share about a difficult time parenting your tween daughter?
How to choose one? Lest you think all is easy and swell all the time in our household, believe me when I tell you I have been called “dictator of the universe.” My kids are still kids and I am still a very human and fallen parent. The biggest challenge for me is sustained empathy. There are a few themes on repeat in each child’s life and I tend to go through cycles of mercy and exasperation. In the Appendix, I write about Ella’s theme with friends and I have to tell you, this is one of those cycles for me. Deciphering between truth and perception, emotion and reason, makes it difficult to navigate problems with tweens. My challenge was to show up every time she needed me to. To be present in the pain and not checked out in fatigue. I did not always succeed.

4. How did your daughter feel about the year during the year? After?
Ella ate up my intention toward her. Honestly, it made me realize how much she needed my attention. She understood it was a big deal to “become a woman” and knew to take serious each thing we did together. I even think she was proud to tell her English teacher the books she brought to class were “assigned” by me. Since completing the year, I’ve noticed a beautiful, albeit difficult, by product: She is more mature than peers. Recently, she articulated this by saying “I’m going to run for President and make it mandatory that all girls have a Becoming year.”

5. How does your work to prevent human trafficking intersect with raising strong girls?
I spend most of my time addressing two different types of girls: “at-risk” and overly active. With community service providers, I am working on intervention models with vulnerable kids, response protocols, and prevention tools for those most at risk of being exploited. In high schools, I speak to the whole student body, but it is often the overly involved, good students who want to take on leadership. These two groups have something in common however: girls who live small stories are often more vulnerable to traffickers. It doesn’t matter if she comes from a chaotic home or a church-going family, if a girl has a gaping hole in her heart and she fills it with whatever feels good at the time, she is easier to manipulate. My passion to cast a vision for a bigger story, to lift girls’ eyes out of the daily obsession with bodies, boys, and besties, to a life of purpose and passion is my antidote to exploitation and ultimately, human trafficking.

6. You write a lot about story. Why has that become so important to you?
My husband and I have taken to calling ourselves story ninjas. There is something sacred that occurs when you’re in conversation with someone and they pause, or their voice falters, or they look askance and you know, right there, in that moment, story is present. Sometimes, we say, “whoa! Go back. What was that?” and if they want to play along, beauty unfolds. We have found that naming the story-moments has helped our marriage and parenting to be more dimensional, more whole-hearted. Just recently, a hurtful episode happened among the siblings. When we processed it, Ella named her story of feeling chronically excluded by friends so that when her own brother and sister did the same thing, she felt especially sad. It wasn’t just a thoughtless act on their part, it was salt on a wound and it triggered much more in her soul. Understanding story has helped us understand ourselves and our people in more meaningful ways.

7. Why a bike? What’s the significance of the bike on the cover?
Bikes are a perfect picture of adventure and for me, a symbol of story itself. When we were living in Istanbul, we became desperate for a hobby that took us into nature and relieved us from the concrete congestion of the city. We heard of bikes being sold under an overpass on the other side of the city, the only place at the time, and we ventured out to buy two with a toddler seat on one. We lugged those bikes on the ferry that crossed the Marmara Sea to Islands without cars. We drove for hours to a park with trails through the forests. We clung to those bikes like canteens in a desert. And they came back to the States with us. As the years passed, that bike ceased to represent adventure and became utilitarian: it got me places. Function replaced passion. But recently, 16 years later, I bought a new bike – a fast bike my family calls the Ferrari – to reclaim desire. I am intentionally writing a new story.

Our bike adventure in Holland was also far more than just a physical activity. It captured our need for challenge and my search for metaphor. The journey also fulfilled a long held dream my mom and I had. As I framed the Becoming year around God’s questions to Hagar, where have you come from and where are you going, the bike became the perfect symbol for the epic rites of passage I sought to create.

8. What’s next for you in your writing, speaking, and nonprofit work?
If I did it well in A Voice Becoming, I left women with a sense of curiosity around the idea of “big story living” vs. “small storied lives.” But I fear that the natural assumption will play into women’s already existing insecurities and comparison: if I’m not doing that big thing or if I’m not growing something, I’m not living a big story life. I want to talk more about that. Because in a world that extols scale, how do we derive meaning from the small, yet still be caught up in a grander vision? I’ll be speaking about a storied life, a scaffolding of womanhood, and passionate, purposed living for women.

9. And how does how your nonprofit work tie into the book?
We all used to think only highly vulnerable youth experienced sex trafficking, but more and more we see children of dual parent, dual income, church-going families exploited. When any person has a longing in their heart seeking to be filled, they become more susceptible to the attention and manipulation of traffickers. Compound this with assault and many girls tailspin into destructive behaviors leading to exploitative relationships. In AVB, I aim to lift girls’ eyes above the small storied living of most teens, with the usual obsession with bodies, boys, and besties, to cast a vision for a greater story being told through them. Simultaneously, I hope to empower moms to engage their own stories and journey alongside their daughters, hopefully responding to the call of God on their hearts to offer the fullness of themselves to this world. With a vision like this, there is little time for unhealthy relationships and instead a deeper sense of self that cannot be shaken.

10. What do you say to people who say strong women/ feminism and Christianity are at odds?
I hope I don’t sound too cheeky when I question which Bible they’re referring to? I see strong women throughout scripture, on the pages of the Old and New Testament. I think of Hagar who returned to abusive Sarah with courage granted from an encounter with God. I see Ruth and Naomi who traversed the desert on their own and humbly won the favor of their kinsman redeemer. Esther need not be explained, nor Jesus’ mother Mary, nor sisters Mary and Martha. What about Phoebe? The first woman to be named a deacon. Or Tabitha, the only woman called a disciple? Strong women peppered Jesus’ lineage, birthed him, ministered alongside him, and have carried the mantel of the gospel ever since.

WIN A FREE COPY OF A VOICE BECOMING!!!

ThA Book Review of A VOICE BECOMING {plus, A GIVEAWAY!}is week, I’m giving away two free hardback copies of A Voice Becoming.

One will be to those who comment on my Instagram post by midnight (MT) of January 18th and tag friends you think would be interested in this book. I’ll enter you one time for each new friend you tag!

Another will be for new subscribers to my newsletter between now and midnight of January 18th. Sign up for my mid-month digest and end-of-month SECRET NEWSLETTER here:

On January 19th (my birthday, just FYI;-) ), I’ll announce the Instagram winner in the comments section of that post and email the winner of the newsletter sign-up!

 

You can buy A Voice Becoming here:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BETH BRUNO traded the Blue Ridge for the Rocky Mountains after two decades in mega cities. Upon graduating from Northwestern University in Chicago, she and her husband moved to an even larger city, Istanbul, where they led campus teams with Cru. Ten years later they moved to Seattle where Beth received an MA in International Community Development and launched a nonprofit aimed at preventing domestic minor sex trafficking. Beth regularly speaks and trains around the topic of trafficked youth, including interviews with local radio stations and lots of coffee with the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement.

This post includes Amazon Affiliate links.

An Interview with Beth Bruno, Author of A Voice Becoming

How to Wreck Your Daughter {A Review of ‘A Voice Becoming’} + A GIVEAWAY

If you have a daughter, A Voice Becoming provides practical ideas for how to walk beside her with intentionality and humility as you guide her into what it means to be a woman.

We didn’t bathe or use toilet paper other than crumpled-up leaves and ferns for two and a half weeks. As an 18 year old, in-coming college freshman from the suburbs of Tampa, Florida, this rustic experience in the Upper Peninsula of Wisconsin wrecked me. Carrying 25 lb backpacks, we hiked, canoed, hiked some more, spent the night alone and shivering on the shore of Lake Superior, then, leaving our bags to be transported, we ran ten miles back to camp.

As a professional educator, I can testify that experiences are better teachers than books, writing papers or listening to lectures could ever be.

Blisters, freeze-dried food, digging holes for a fire pit (and “toilet”), and leading nine other girls using only a compass and 1960’s logging topo map smashed my nose up against the window of discovery.

Who was God? And who was I apart from my family? I wasn’t sure, but walking into the room the first day of freshman orientation sure seemed less daunting after encountering my physical capabilities and deficiencies.

Ancient cultures often subjected their pre-teens to rituals and experiences to celebrate and honor the rite of passage of children becoming adults. Noticing a void in these types of rituals in American culture, Beth Bruno planned an entire year of adventure, homework and exploration of what it means to be a woman for her 12 year old daughter.

She set out to wreck her daughter, then wrote about it in A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living.

Instead of prescribing how to live, she wanted her daughter to discover a paradigm of being that “elevates God to being so big we can’t fully understand Him and yet small enough to intimately know us” (p. 22). Beth planned a year to examine what breaks God’s heart in hopes her daughter’s heart would also break for those things.

Raising daughters requires us to do some soul-searching of our own. Who do we want her to become? How do we as mothers help her get there? How does our story impact hers? Though my daughter is just three years old, as her mother, I am already laying the foundation for the type of woman she will become.

If you have a daughter, A Voice Becoming will provide practical ideas for how to walk beside her with intentionality and humility as you guide her into what it means to be a woman.

Everyone else is vying to raise our girls—the internet, T.V., schools, their friends, and even Sunday school teachers. But what if we mothers took our roles as our daughter’s first teachers more seriously? What if instead of waiting for her to absorb the messages of the culture around her, we equipped her with the tools she needs to analyze, assess and one day even alter that culture?

A Voice Becoming is a challenge to women to step away from lackadaisical parenting and take back our girls. Beth models a move from passivity to actively engaging our daughters and walking beside them as they encounter the world.

She expertly weaves biblical stories, as well as her own tale of “becoming” throughout the book as she tells the story of guiding her daughter from the launch trip, through the five scaffolds of her year of Becoming, then culminating in a “legacy” event tailored to her daughter’s interests. She spends eight weeks on each of the five scaffolds: women lead, love, fight, sacrifice and create, integrating service projects, films, books and articles for her daughter to analyze throughout.

It would be difficult to read A Voice Becoming without being moved to action. That action requires purposeful planning to implement. It forces us mothers to excavate our own pasts to uncover and share our stories with our daughters. Planning this rite of passage for our daughters exposes our own fears, questions, gifts, and passions, so beware.

If you have a daughter under the age of 18 and long for her to love God with her feet and not just with her lips, I highly recommend reading and implementing the ideas in this book. Although some of the suggestions may be out of range for those with modest budgets, Beth provides creative ideas for funding and planning your daughter’s Becoming year.

In the final pages of A Voice Becoming, Beth’s activist heart bleeds with these words: “I want to be a hope-pusher, a darkness-disrupter, a justice-warrior, a grace-clinger. As I lead, love, fight, sacrifice, and create, I want to bring the fullness of who I am to the kingdom of God” (p. 162).

As mothers, one of our greatest privileges in life is to walk with our daughters in their journey of becoming strong women who love and live lives of love in a broken world; A Voice Becoming is a welcome companion on this journey.

***

WIN A FREE COPY OF A VOICE BECOMING!!!

ThA Book Review of A VOICE BECOMING {plus, A GIVEAWAY!}is week, I’m giving away two free hardback copies of A Voice Becoming.

One will be to those who comment on my Instagram post by midnight (MT) of January 18th and tag friends you think would be interested in this book. I’ll enter you one time for each new friend you tag!

Another will be for new subscribers to my newsletter between now and midnight of January 18th. Sign up for my mid-month digest and end-of-month SECRET NEWSLETTER here: 

On January 19th (my birthday, just FYI;-) ), I’ll announce the Instagram winner in the comments section of that post and email the winner of the newsletter sign-up!

 

You can buy A Voice becoming from Beth’s site or here on Amazon:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BETH BRUNO traded the Blue Ridge for the Rocky Mountains after two decades in mega cities. Upon graduating from Northwestern University in Chicago, she and her husband moved to an even larger city, Istanbul, where they led campus teams with Cru. Ten years later they moved to Seattle where Beth received an MA in International Community Development and launched a nonprofit aimed at preventing domestic minor sex trafficking. Beth regularly speaks and trains around the topic of trafficked youth, including interviews with local radio stations and lots of coffee with the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement.

**This post includes Amazon Affiliate links.

Follow along as we explore these themes on Scraping Raisins this year:

Scraping Raisins Blog Themes

When Sex Trafficking Is Right Under Our Nose {An Interview}

Sex trafficking awareness. Interview with Daniel Lemke. Red flags, pimps, porn and what we can do about it.

Daniel Lemke biked 12,608 miles in 15 months to raise awareness about human trafficking. I interviewed him in Colorado in September of 2016, just a couple months after he completed his tour around the perimeter of the United States.

As January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and Daniel recently published a book about his experience, called Kissing Lions, I wanted to share this interview with you. I’ll be sharing additional resources this month as well. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and is happening right under our noses.

Me: What are some things you have learned about sex trafficking over the past 15 months?

Daniel: Most victims are runaways or from the foster care system. In fact, 1 out of 3 runaways will be trafficked. [According to heatwatch.org, two in every three kids will be approached by an exploiter within 48 hours of running away from home.]

This is some of the slang and vocabulary associated with sex trafficking I learned:

Survivors of sex trafficking are called “sparrow.”

Victims are a “commodity,” “item,” “product,” or “the bottom bitch.” From the outside we see them as a prostitute, stripper, and/or pornstar.

A pimp (male) or madam (female) are the “care providers,” “boyfriend,” “captor,” or “sugar daddy.”

The second in command, who will recruit and basically do anything for the pimp, is called “the Bottom Bitch.”

A gentlemen or “good guy pimp” is called a “Romeo Pimp.”

An aggressive or abusive pimp (like in the movie Taken) is called a “Gorilla pimp.”

A John is the client.

Me: What are some red flags to look for?

Daniel: I’ll give you an example. I had an experience during an open mic night at a café in western Colorado. The barrista knew nothing about the menu and the woman in charge, the “boss lady,” was constantly looking over her shoulder and had shifty eyes when a man would come in.

At one point, a man in a suit entered, acting like he owned the place. Pulling the boss lady aside, he kissed her and held her arm. I overheard him call the women “baby girl,” and his demeanor shifted as he chatted with the men around the room. The waitresses were flirty with the male customers, and were very good at flirting.

So all these signs made me suspicious: not knowing the menu, the manager being pulled aside, the charming gentleman addressing all the men, and the flirty women.

Nail salons and massage parlors are also often covers for sex trafficking. Usually if it has the word “lily,” it can be a code word.

Me: How does the customer find the place?

Daniel: Numbers on bathroom stalls and ads in newspapers can all be codes. Craigslist or backpages.com have entire sections dedicated to adult services.

Me: What are some signs that a child is being trafficked?

Daniel: Pay attention to who they are with and where they are they looking. Are they cowering? You should look for markings, bruising, tattoos behind the ear, on the chest, on other places you can’t see, or on the lip. They often won’t have any form of ID and will often be absent from school.

In my travels, I often used Couch Surfing to find places to stay. I once stayed with a pimp. I was able to ask him lots of questions. He told me the youngest kid he found was 16. He often found his victims by going to a mall or fair. He would walk up to a girl and compliment her and if she was confident, he didn’t even bother.

But if she was self-deprecating or seemed insecure, he would play into her emotions. He knew how to manipulate her so she would think he loved her. In fact, most victims usually refer to the pimp as their “boyfriend.”

Me: How did you know he was a pimp?

Daniel: As I entered his house, God immediately prompted me to get to the heart of things and be different. I’ve learned that if you don’t get to the heart of things within the first 30 minutes of meeting someone, you won’t.

“What is it that you do?” I asked him.

“I am an urge provider,” he said, kind of joking. “ I work in the exotic film business.”

I knew I couldn’t change his opinion, but needed to love him and show him Christ. He was extremely charming and even bought me an expensive steak dinner, and took me around town.

I learned a pimp makes an average of 200,000-400,000 dollars a year.
This guy would charge between $50 and $100 a girl per time for three to eight times a day. Most pimps will have multiple girls, or boys. That income is all untaxed.

It’s really hard to convict a pimp. The police needs hard evidence and the pimp knows how to avoid getting caught.

Me: What’s the role of pornography in sex trafficking?

Daniel: Pornography increases the demand for sex trafficking. Pimps sometimes have women do that first, then hold it over their heads.

I actually want to reach pimps. I want to convert pimps to legitimate business men and change their mentality. I want to get men on board in reaching them. I want to demolish the demand because pornography can lead to sex trafficking.

Me: How is this problem being addressed in the church and other communities?

Daniel: Not enough. I had a hard time getting churches to host me in my travels. Men’s groups need to talk more about pornography because there’s not much accountability. The pastors need to talk about what healthy love and sex is because otherwise our kids are getting it from the media. Also, many pastors don’t even address the men directly. Men like to fix things, so when they don’t see a way to fix it, they don’t even try. Of the organizations fighting sex trafficking I met with, probably 75% were headed up by women.

Me: What is the best way to see sex trafficking decrease in the U.S.?

Daniel: I fully believe that the only way to end sex trafficking is to have a firm and strong family dynamic. I think it needs to start with the man. Daughters need a strong father or she’ll go seek one out. Boys need to understand how to be a gentleman and a protector rather than a predator.

Me: How can the average person help?

Daniel: First is prayer. Second, people can help through finances and raising awareness. Restore One in North Carolina is one of the few organizations helping male victims of sex trafficking.

You need to talk and do. You could set up an awareness night at church and show a movie. One good one is a documentary called Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. There’s also a very accurate movie based on a true story called Eden. Hot Girls Wanted is a rough documentary that’s pretty poor quality about the porn industry, but it gets the idea across.

You can talk to legislators. Senators and house reps are actually really easy to get ahold of and then they’ll set you up with others. They need to figure out what laws are working and which ones aren’t. It’s different in every state.
You can go into your local police force and ask what you can help them with or partner with a local organization that is fighting sex trafficking.

Victims and pimps need counseling, a safe environment and reintegration into society.

William Wilberforce, an abolitionist, once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

***

Resources Daniel Mentioned:

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls (documentary on the sex trafficking industry)
Eden (available with Amazon Prime)
Hot Girls Wanted (documentary about pornography)

You can buy Daniel’s book about this experience, called Kissing Lions , (in paperback, but also on Amazon kindle for just $4.99!) Listen to him talk about it on Youtube here.

***

Check back for more posts about sex trafficking awareness and raising strong girls during the month of January.

Sign Up for My Secret Newsletter

If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for my mid-month digest and end-of-month secret newsletter to stay updated on all the posts as well as to get links to interesting books, podcasts, recipes and articles I’ve come across this month + some giveaways for subscribers.

This post includes Amazon affiliate links.

(This post was edited at 1:14 pm on 1/10/18)

Sex trafficking awareness. Interview with Daniel Lemke about pimps, porn and the sex trafficking industry.

How We Raise Strong Girls

Do you want to raise a strong daughter? Here is a prayer for moms of daughters.

I want to raise a strong daughter. Of course, the word “strong” means different things to different people. Here’s what it means to me.

I’ll start with my daughter and the strength I already see in her.

She bolted ahead of us on the trail yesterday and picked up a white, round stone, her pigtails capturing flecks of the falling sun as she hoisted the rock into the river. At three years old, my daughter knows her own mind. She feels no shame and would gladly spend her life as a nudist if we let her.

She exudes confidence, curiosity, playfulness, humor, and bravery.

She stretched out her tiny hand at the museum last week and held a blond tarantula, earning a green sticker that said, “I held Rosie.”

Moving over to the next museum worker, she stroked the shiny, ridged back of a two-inch cockroach. Chills ran down my spine. I abhor cockroaches. It took everything in me not to shout and yank her hand away. Calm, and not realizing she just did something most adults wouldn’t be willing to do, she touched two of the most feared creatures without a thought.

I dread the day my daughter dresses in the clothes of shame, fear and self-doubt so many of us wear each day.  When she’s embarrassed to be naked, aware of what others think of her and terrified to try new things.

“Are they yucky?” she asked me, pointing at a terrarium of black scorpions.

“Do you think they’re yucky?” I asked.

She looks to me to define the yucky things in life for her. When you’re three, people, places and things can be easily categorized as “yucky” and “not yucky,” as “good” and “bad.” There are good guys and bad guys and very little in between. But just because I dislike certain bugs, foods or activities, I want to be careful not to influence my daughter to have the same likes and dislikes as me. I want her to be herself, not just a clone of her mother.

We moms are our daughter’s first teachers. A good teacher provides the means for students to learn at their own rate, in their own way and through their own experiences.

We moms are the curators of experiences for our daughters, gathering artifacts and inviting our girls to touch, taste, see, hear, and search for glimpses of God in the museum of life.

As I perch at the beginning of this journey as a mom to a little girl, what does it mean to raise her to become a strong woman? What wishes morph into prayers as I watch her toss stones into rivers and cradle deadly spiders?

Perhaps they’re the same prayers you have for your daughter?

To me, each of these prayers is a plea to see strength birthed in her:

I pray she knows she’s adored by God and by her parents.

I pray she is radiant, full of light and life.

I pray she weeps with compassion, bends to the ground in humility and allows others to march first in her life parade at times, though she is strong enough to lead on her own.

I pray she asks questions, listens to answers, bucks social norms, embraces a holy curiosity and has reverence for diverse people, rugged nature and God-sightings in the ordinary.

I pray she knows her gifts and how to use them.

I pray she tastes, sees, touches and hears heaven on Earth.

I pray she learns early on how to say “no,” but has the courage to say “yes” when the time is right.

I pray she falls in love with Jesus. The real-deal Love, not just the cultural Christian variety.

I pray she intuits a need and meets it if she can.

I pray she laughs often and chooses humor over negativity and critical words.

I pray she holds few regrets in a long life.

I pray her life experiences–the suffering, celebrating, successes and failures–cultivate patience, peace, and wisdom.

I pray she is not afraid to love wildly and be wildly loved.

Sure, I hope she enjoys what I like–reading, sleeping to the sound of cicadas in summer evenings, dramatic thunderstorms, running her hand from mane to rump on a horse, trying exotic foods, and collecting fascinating friends, but I also need to give her space to try on different personalities to find out who she is meant to be apart from me.

To have a strong daughter, I need to be strong enough to keep quiet at times and let her live into that woman. My prayers spoken over her as she sleeps with her small arm tossed over her stuffed dog culminate in a simple sentence–that she knows who she is and who she’s not.

This is what I mean when I say I want to raise a strong daughter.

What we want for our daughters is ultimately what we want for ourselves.

To be cherished.

To be respected.

To be safe.

To make a difference.

To be strong.

***

What about you? What is your prayer for your daughter? Who do you hope she will become? What is your role in her journey? 

***

Join me this month as we explore this theme of raising strong girls. I have way too many ideas and not enough time, but my goal is to post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this month. Shoot me an email at scrapingraisins (dot) gmail (dot) com if you’d like to guest post on this topic.

As it’s sex trafficking awareness month, I’ll also be sharing some resources on that topic. Sign up for my mid-month digest and end-of-month secret newsletter to stay updated on all the posts as well as to get links to interesting books, podcasts, recipes and articles I’ve come across this month.

Related posts:

Dear Daughter

What I Want for My Children

Our So-Crazy-They-Just-Might-Work Ideas {for (In)Courage}

I’m honored to share at (In)Courage today. You can read the full post here.

Sun sliced through the window of our third-story vintage (aka old and falling apart) Chicago apartment and I thought again about this idea I had entertained over the past several months. I missed living overseas, teaching, and interacting with other cultures. What if I emailed the nearby college and asked about volunteering in one of their ESL classes? I cocked my head to listen for the sleeping baby and tiptoed to the computer.

Flipping open the laptop and searching the school’s website, I scanned the list of ESL instructors. I smiled. One of them was an alumnus of my college. Searching for the right email, my ringing phone pierced the silence. I jumped up, but it was too late. The baby wailed from the other room.

Months later, I finally sent that email and got a prompt reply. Yes, there is a need for volunteers. Yes, you can bring your baby. That’s great that you lived in China and speak Mandarin, but the need is in a class of Saudi Arabian students. Can you come on Monday?

My eight-month-old on my hip, I met the instructor at the door to her classroom. The room was full of shy Saudi men and women. Some girls wore western clothing, but one donned a full burka and all the women wore the traditional hijab, a head covering of a scarf or hat over their shiny black hair.

I visited the class just four times before the teacher approached me after class with a strange question. A student had asked if she could live with us …

Continue reading at (In)Courage.

You can sign up for daily notes from (In)courage here, or sign up for the Scraping Raisins mid-monthly digest and monthly secret newsletter here:

(Image by (In)Courage)

 

State of the Blog (and some exciting changes)

State of the Blog (and some exciting changes). Blogging, writing, newsletters, monthly themes, guest posters and living for Jesus.

Maybe you’re interested in social justice.

Or perhaps you’re a mom desperate to find meaning in the monotony.

Maybe life hasn’t gone as planned—God detoured your life and you are far from where you thought you’d be.

Or you’re a missionary limping from years of living overseas, trying to find your footing again as you integrate back into your home country.

Or maybe you’re a new writer, petrified, but electrified by the prospect of unleashing your words into the world.

Whoever you are, I’m honored you’re here—either by accident or by intention, my words are in your inbox, in your hands, or in front of your eyes–and I’m humbled.

I started this blog because I had some things to say about reentry, motherhood, race, writing, and living out a life of faith in practical ways. I didn’t think about “platform,” “SEO,” “branding” or “monetizing my blog.” In fact, I started it in 2012, wrote four posts, and only told my husband. But when I dusted it off and began writing again in 2015, writing felt like standing nude and exposed in a crowd. It was terrifying–and exhilarating.

I hoped for heads nodding and whispers of “yes, yes” as you read. Many of you have reached out via email, comments on the blog or on social media and let me know I wasn’t alone.

Thank you.

Some of you are new here and thinking, “So, if she doesn’t have a “brand,” then what is Scraping Raisins about?”

Good question.

What is the purpose of this blog?

If I were to distill this blog down to a single message, it would be this: How does Jesus impact our everyday lives?

And specifically:

How does Jesus sway me and you to swing to the rhythm of the Holy Spirit when culture pushes us a different direction?

How does Jesus model love and inspire us to serve family, friends, neighbors, strangers and even enemies?

How does Jesus teach us to create, live inspired lives, fight injustice, and see the sacred in the small?

And how does this all play out when it comes to our roles as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, employees, neighbors, creators, citizens and thoughtful human beings?

You know, all the easy questions in life;-)

If these questions boil in your veins, too, then we’re sharing the right space on the internet. I look forward to learning, growing and being inspired together in 2018. Here are a few of the exciting changes I’m making this year.

Changes in Email & Blog Post Frequency

This will be the last post to come directly to your email inbox if you subscribe to my blog. I’ve decided to move to a mid-month digest and end-of-month newsletter where I’ll share what I’ve been reading, listening to and some things that are working for me. I’ll also tell about some opportunities to win free books and audio books, which will be exclusive to my newsletter subscribers. If you haven’t yet, be sure and sign up for my newsletter here if you want access to the secret content and perks of being a subscriber.

Why cut down on the frequency of emails?

I want to cultivate a relationship with you and I feel less, but more personal, email interaction will help this. I also want to write more posts without feeling embarrassed that you’re getting bombarded with multiple emails from me each week. 🙂

If you’re still interested in reading each post, then be sure and follow me on my social media channels, as I’ll be sharing posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Otherwise, you can wait and catch up on reading posts all at once, as I’ll link to posts in the newsletters.

Changes in Content (sort of)

As a planner, I find I do better when I have a theme to write about. Because of this, I’ve chosen monthly themes to center my posts around. I may write an occasional post that is off-theme, but for the most part, the month will involve essays, interviews, guest posts, list posts, and how-to’s revolving around the monthly themes, which I’ll share at the bottom of this post.

Another big change is that I want to open up the blog to invite guest writers each month, so if you’d like to contribute, visit the “Write for Me” tab at the top of the blog (coming soon) and email me a thoughtful post or idea. I love hearing from other voices and providing a platform for new writers to share. I want to make room in my small corner of the internet for you to send your words out into the world. Welcome.

I also plan to include monthly interviews with men and women who inspire us to buck cultural norms and live Jesus-centered lives. I have several friends I want to introduce you to in the coming months.

And though I’m still resistant to having ads on my site, I’ll be pursuing affiliate partnerships with a few companies I love and don’t mind supporting in order to pay for the operational costs involved in running this site and keeping my content free for you as the reader.

So without further ado, here are the themes for this year …

2018 Themes for Scraping Raisins

 

Scraping Raisins Blog Themes

 

Sign up for the secret newsletter and/or follow me on social media to join in learning how Jesus wants to empower us wherever we are to be transformers, wonder-catchers, and seekers of the sacred in the ordinary this year.

Sign up for Mid-Month Digest & Secret Newsletter Here:

10 Social Experiments to Slow Down, Save Money & Live Simply in 2018

Everything around the college campus got a bit wonky when the sociology classes would do their social experiments on the rest of us. One girl started randomly holding hands with her guy friends. Another guy sat down with total strangers in the cafeteria during each meal. And another boy barked at people as he walked behind them on the way to class.

I’m not asking you to do any of those things. Most of the experiments I have in mind can be quietly conducted with little evidence at all that you are attempting to buck social norms. But they will require you to step out of what might be most comfortable for you.

Are you ready to be weird with me?

I’ve tried out most of the ideas in this list, but a few are new goals for a new year. Each of these ideas will help you to slow down, save money or live more simply. As you read, consider joining me in a few of these experiments this year. Here we go.

1. Stop buying cheap/new clothes

Kick off this social experiment by watching the documentary The True Cost on Netflix. Or read this book about fast fashion for an overview of how the clothing industry of cheap, disposable clothing (like Forever 21) not only exploits cheap labor in other countries, but fills our landfills.

Many larger cities have Once Upon a Child for good, quality used children’s clothing, 29 states have the adult version of this, called Clothes Mentor. I’ve had a lot of luck at our local thrift stores, though you can’t necessarily go with a single item in mind.

I’ve been doing this for nearly two years and have managed to buy all used clothing for myself and my family apart from shoes, underwear, socks and boy’s 4T and 5T pants (they wear out too quickly!) When we haven’t gotten used, we’ve tried to at least buy American-made, though that can get pricey.

If you’re like me and don’t want to schlep a bunch of kids with you to a thrift store, then there are a ton of online options for you. One is called ThredUp and has a great referral program where you get $10 to spend and the person you refer gets $10 to shop after they place their first order (this link includes my referral code–no extra cost to you!).

Later this month, I’ll be publishing a long list of places to buy used clothing, so stay tuned.

2. Don’t throw food away–ever

As much as 40% of our food goes uneaten in the United States, according to a Harvard study. Another article from USA Today says, “if we were able to recover all of our wasted food, we could provide a 2,000-calorie diet to 84% of the population, said Dr. Roni Neff, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who led a first-ever study examining the nutrients we’re tossing in the trash.”

I think it comes from my years living in China on a missionary’s salary, but I live like someone who went through the Great Depression. Throwing food away is a mortal sin in our household.

Most expiration dates have several days or even weeks of leeway added in, so stretch your food a little farther. Another way to waste less is to meal plan. When each vegetable in your fridge is bought for a purpose, you are less likely to throw wilted, unused veggies away at the end of the week.

Now that I live in Colorado, it’s time to join the masses here who compost. I haven’t purchased one yet, but I’m considering buying either this small composter you keep in your kitchen, or a larger one that goes right in your backyard. Both have really good reviews on Amazon. Have you composted? I’d love to hear some tips!

3. Do a phone detox

I’ve only done this once, for a week, but it was magical. I heard birds, I saw butterflies and I talked to old ladies on benches. But I haven’t done it again. So by writing this, I’m building in a bit of accountability for myself. I plan to stay off my phone during my Sabbath times (see #8) and take a more extended break from my phone one or two weeks during the year. I also plan to remove all social media and email apps from my phone except Instagram (I just can’t). The book Glow Kids has some terrifying data about how screens are affecting us and our children if you need some convincing that this might be a good idea.

In 2017, a bunch of high schoolers in Colorado pledged to stay off social media during the month of October, which sounds like something I might like to try. Otherwise, I’m thinking Lent would be a good time to go off my phone or at least off some or all social media (can you tell this is a problem for me?)

What about you? What kind of phone detox would work for you this year?

4. Invite a non-family member to your home every week

With an introverted husband, once a week may be a bit much, but since plans often get cancelled, we are shooting to invite someone over to our home for a meal or to play games at least once a week. Whatever we do often enough becomes habit, so we want to make this a priority this year. I’ve found that asking is the hardest part, but after that, I rarely regret having people into my home. Many of us attend churches and small groups, so it is easy to get caught in the Christian bubble. But who did Jesus eat with? We want to share our table with people who are like us, but also those who are very different from us this year. The books The Art of Neighboring and Making Room have revolutionized the way I now practice hospitality. If you’re interested in learning more about hospitality, check out the Facebook group called “Sorta Hospitable” that I started in December.

5. Make awkward small talk

I’ve written a bit about this, but I’m trying to be intentional about noticing the people around me. By attempting to talk to the grocery cashier, server at the restaurant or neighbor walking his dog, I can learn to appreciate people made in the image of God. Even though I’m an extrovert, I would rather have a one-on-one heart-to-heart any day than try and shoot the breeze with someone. But sometimes awkward small talk is the gateway to relationship. I met one of my best friends from the last two years at the park, so I know it’s possible.

6. Own less toys

The book Simplicity Parenting influenced many of my opinions on the stuff our kids have. Kim John Payne writes: “Nothing in the middle of a heap can be truly valued. The attention that a child could and would devote to a toy is shortened, and eclipsed by having too many…Ironically, this glut of goods may deprive a child of a genuine creativity builder: the gift of their own boredom.”

Simply put, “As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.” (p. 62)

My friends and family have given me a hard time about this, but we have a “no gift” rule for birthday parties. Fortunately, my oldest is still pretty young (5), so he hasn’t been to a ton of birthday parties, but I’m usually able to convince him that gifts from his parents and grandparents are sufficient. We also tell him that the party itself and all his friends being there are his gift (which he believes for now).

And while we do purchase some new toys for our kids (these have been a HUGE HIT), we encourage the grandparents to contribute money to pay for experiences like museum passes or gymnastics lessons instead of buying them new toys. The toys we do have, we keep in the garage and switch out when the ones inside aren’t being played with as often.

7. Have someone live with you

Have you ever thought of having someone live with you? We unexpectedly had a Saudi Arabian girl live with us from 2012 to 2013 and it was such a positive experience that we bought our new house with that in mind. Several of my friends have had exchange students live with them or housed an international student like we did. Yes, it’s challenging to have someone in your space, but the deep relationships, cultural learning, and authentic living that come out of it is so worth it. We just found out we’ll be having a girl from India live with us until May, so we are excited and nervous about sharing our space again.

8. Observe the Sabbath

Out of all of these, this is the hardest for me. My main problem is that so many of the activities I enjoy doing–writing, running, and spending time with people, which some might consider Sabbath activities, often just serve to make me busy. My husband and I are also puzzled about observing the Sabbath when we have three children, age five and under. I need to revisit some of the posts I wrote for Seven Days of Soul Rest back in December of 2015… It may finally be time to read the book Rhythms of Rest. For my personality type (ENTJ), I know I need structure of some kind, but I also kind of hate rigid rules. Help.

9. Have your kids share a room

I plan on smooshing our kids together until my daughter is grossed out by her older brother. I’m guessing I have another three years … Right now, she is equal to the task. I want to do this is so we can have a guest room available for people who need a place to crash. St. John Chrsystom called this the “Christ room,” referring to the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you took me in.” Because we still have little kids in our home, I don’t think we’ll be hosting homeless or those coming straight out of prison (though I’m conflicted about that, honestly), but we are open to hosting strangers and have already had some opportunities to use our home in that way.

10. Read a book every month that takes you out of your comfort zone

Personally, along with reading more fiction and poetry (I’m a non-fiction girl), I’m aiming to read at least six books written by people of color this year. I only average about two books per month, so that’s a book every other month by a person of color. I have several books that will stretch you on this and this list. I’ve found that book clubs are a great place to challenge yourself as a reader and read books you wouldn’t choose otherwise.

***

So that’s it! Not too weird, really, and maybe you already do many of these things. What are some of your goals for 2018 that will help you to slow down, save money and live simply in the new year? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this list or on your own plans!

Here are the books mentioned in this post:

Simplicity Parenting

Glow Kids

Rhythms of Rest

The Art of Neighboring

Making Room 

Overdressed

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet? I’ll be announcing some exciting changes in my next post, so be sure you don’t miss it!

***

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Anytime you click on a link and make a purchase, you will pay the same amount, but I will receive a minimal commission.

10 Social Experiments to Slow Down, Save Money & Live Simply in 2018

 

 

My Children are Not Just “Little Sinners”

I have a confession that may or may not shock you. As much as I once longed to be a mom, I spend the majority of my days looking over the shoulders of my constant companions—my three tiny children—wishing I were anywhere but here. Highly educated, I feel largely unqualified and wholly unprepared to be a mother to tots and preschoolers. I often fall into the “just wait it out and survive” camp instead of the “thrive and delight in your circumstances” camp.

But the Holy Spirit snagged me in a few traps recently as I randomly opened the Bible. Not once or twice, but three times in ten minutes, I turned to passages where Jesus talked about children. In each one, he gently stood a child in front of his listeners as an object lesson and bade them look and listen.

“Welcome this child, and you welcome me,” he said in Luke 9:48.

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven,” Jesus said in Matthew 18:10.

And the kicker: “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” he said in Matthew 18:3.

Sitting in the last quiet moments of the dark morning before my three year old would crack open my door, climb into my lap and ask to watch a show, I cocked my head, thinking about my children. Surely God wasn’t talking about my children?  Didn’t he know how selfish, loud, ornery, hyperactive, rude, irrational, impulsive and sinful they are?

I studied culture in college. Other cultures often followed strange social rules, communicated differently, and could even hold an alternate moral code. We were taught to enter new cultures as learners, asking questions instead of bringing solutions. One class assignment led us to laundry mats, train compartments, and third grade classrooms to simply sit, watch, and take copious notes in order to learn how to do ethnographies and prepare us for our six-month long internships in developing countries.  We were taught to approach new people and places with a holy curiosity. Our professors urged us: before judging, observe; before speaking, ask; before asserting, listen.

As I read Jesus’ words that morning, something shifted and stirred in me, challenging me with these questions,

What if I became a student of my children, studying them as I would study a foreign culture? What if I stopped seeing them as little sinners, and started seeing them as little Christs?

As mothers, we are journalists and anthropologists embedded in the country of children. And if we take the posture of a student, what will we learn there? Assuming Jesus didn’t mean for us to take on the negative characteristics of children, what did he mean?

Seeing is not a new concept, but seeing—truly seeing, appreciating, and even revering—my children is a new concept to me. Barbara Brown Taylor makes the distinction between the “language of belief” and the “language of beholding.” We have our beliefs, but are we ready to see God trying to tap into all of life as we “behold” our children?

This year, my goal is to take advantage of the privilege of spending day and night in the company of the little people Jesus commanded us to emulate. I want to enter the country of children with the posture of a person who does not have all the answers, but suspends belief in order to behold.

What can our children teach us about kingdom living?

Children dwell in imagination land and conjure up mystical, magical worlds. They believe in a jolly, bearded man who flies around to houses delivering presents made by elves just as easily as they believe there are monsters in their closets. The lines between sacred and secular are marvelously blurred in the eyes of a child. They notice everything and model holy astonishment with hundreds of questions a day. They give extravagantly of their emotions—both good and bad. They love to be loved. They are silly and squirrely and come programed with giggle buttons.

Their little hands thrive on creating—cutting, gluing, weaving, drawing, sculpting and painting. They are novice artists, uninhibited by criticism or fear of failure. No one expects them to be “good” at anything yet, so they create with the wild abandon of the unshackled and unafraid. And they are utterly and unashamedly dependent.

It’s no mistake Jesus came to earth as a baby. In the Bible, small rarely equals insignificant. Instead, small represents latent power, potential and promise. Manna, mustard seeds, yeast, fish, and bread were divine symbols in ordinary form. The majesty, splendor and radiance of God hide in an infant nursing at the breast of a low class woman.

Incarnation chooses small, ordinary objects in which to veil the divine.

So when Jesus grabs a child and says, “see him,” “see her”—“welcome this little one and you welcome me,” he is pointing to the majesty of God hiding out in our tiny children.

Studying my children will take intentionality on my part. I am usually more intent on molding them into my image than seeing how they already reflect the image of God. I rarely consider them as the tiny priests and priestesses they are, with a direct line to God, unencumbered by adult burdens. Their air is still clean and unpolluted by sin and all the shame it delivers. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Does this mean I will stop teaching, guiding and modeling what it means to be a rational, god-fearing adult to my children? Of course not. But instead of seeing my children as a nuisance or as soiled and in need of cleansing, I will welcome, respect and revere them as little Christs. I’ll take the posture of one who enters other cultures to learn: before judging, observe; before speaking, ask; before asserting, listen. I may just see more of Jesus than I have ever seen before.

***

I plan on delving more into this topic in the new year, so sign up for my newsletter to be sure you don’t miss the discussion!