It was a late summer evening. School was already back in session and while it felt like it should be fall, Oregon was in no hurry to say goodbye to the warm nights when the sun seemed to linger on the horizon, wanting to make sure that it was the last one to leave the party.
We sat on my parent’s patio, eating berry pie and drinking coffee while the kids took turns (a miracle in and of itself!) pushing each other on the tire swing down in the woods. From where I sat, I could see my sweet girl swinging with the air of carefree living that only seems to exist in those years before adolescence. I could hear her giggles and chatter and it made my heart equally want to burst with joy and also with pain. Joy from the innocence and pain from the knowledge that life was coming at her and coming at her fast.
A few moments before, I had been recounting to my mom some things that my daughter had shared with me about her recent interactions with ‘friends’ along with some of my own observations about what I’ve been seeing play out in the world of 9 and 10 year old girls. I think the entire conversation began when I shared with her an incredible article I had recently read that was written by my dear friend Sarah entitled, ‘The Nuances of Being a Nice Girl‘. All about the trials and tribulations of navigating middle school, it not only made me think about all that lies ahead for my daughter but it took me back to my own middle school years. Years which held so much potential but were filled with so much hurt.
As my mom and I talked, she reminded me of something that had happened when I was in the 7th grade. Something that frankly I had completely forgotten. Or maybe I just blocked it out of my memory. A group of girls, ‘popular’ girls, were having a sleepover. And not only was I not invited, but I was informed ahead of time by them that I wasn’t invited. Yep.
Now, that might have been the worst of it, except that it just so happened that the girl hosting the sleepover lived down the street from me. And that night, they decided to walk up and down the street together, lingering in front of my house for long stretches of time. They talked loudly and laughed loudly and made sure that I was aware of their presence.
I had front row seats for the popularity parade.
I listened to my mom recount the story to me with my mouth gaping open as the memory came flooding back. There I sat, a 40 year old woman, feeling the fresh sting of it as though it happened yesterday rather than 28 years ago. And, while I’d like to say that I’ve never experienced anything like it again in my life, that simply isn’t true. Oh sure, it may not be that overt, that obvious of a slight, but there are still moments even as grown women when we find ourselves sitting in the window watching the parade going by, wondering why we aren’t included.
And I wish I had all of the answers. I wish I knew why some people feel the need to rub it in, shout it from the rooftops (aka social media), and just generally make their parades known to the world. Life and getting older, personal experiences and a lot of prayer have shown me that it usually has everything to do with them and very little to do with us.
I see my daughter, standing on the precipice of adolescence and I know what it is that I need to teach her, to instill in her.
She needs to know that whether she is in middle school or she is middle aged, there will always be a parade. There will always be moments of feeling left out or slighted. Times when we wonder why we weren’t invited to that party or included in this group or that event.
And she needs to know that, most of the time, all of those things are simply beyond our control.
But, more than anything else, I want her to know what she can control. She can control whether or not she chooses to look longingly at those parades and allows them to determine her self-worth or whether she will be defined by her choice to join another parade. One that has the most loving, the most kind, the most merciful Grand Marshal of any parade in the history of parades. And that He calls her worthy, chosen, beloved.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives of Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of knowledge of him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)
She can control whether or not she will invite others to join her. Whether she will be an includer, a girl (and one day a woman) after God’s own heart. Whether she will point to Him as the Grand Marshal and allow her knowledge and love of Him to be a fragrant aroma, drawing others to join her as she marches to the beat of His heart.
I wish I could go back in time and tell 12 year old me that it will be alright. That as she sits there in her bedroom listening to the taunting voices outside, God is beginning a good work in her. One that will take her on a journey that isn’t always easy, but will teach her to be ever watchful for the hurting, the left out. One in which she will discover that being in the popularity parade isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. That those girls have their own set of hurts.
I wish I could tell her that one day she will write about her journey. That (and this will blow her mind!) her writings will even be turned into a book. That the parade of girls in front of her house will not define her.
Mostly I wish I could tell her to hang on. And not just to anything.
To hang onto the truth that God has a wonderful, amazing, sometimes messy but mostly beautiful plan for her life.
“But, as it is written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Thank you for meeting me at the fence today dear friends,
And don’t forget that our first book, ‘Life in Season‘ is for sale in stores and online now!