The Swan the and Peacock

Since it’s halloween–and since I’m on vacation–a rerun of one of my favorites.


My baby went trick-or-treating this year. My baby is seventeen. And I have no problem with that.

I imagine, based on a lot of argument I see in cyberspace, that she was not appreciated everywhere she went. The complaints are legion that teens are too old, too greedy, too whatever. I don’t know–I’ve always gone by the belief that I’d rather have a kid at my door asking for candy than one doing something else somewhere else that could hurt him or someone else.

But maybe that’s just me.

I don’t know what the appropriate age is when neighbors cease to see you as a kid. I know I haven’t. That’s what mattered to me most that night, I guess.

Oh yes, I also see her as an adult. I see the sophisticated sense of humor, the compassionate concern for real world problems, the coming alongside her parents as a partner more every day.

But I also see the little girl playing dress up, and the Disney-watching princess. I see the fear of being sent into a big world still feeling like a little girl. I see the need to hold on to childhood traditions as childhood itself flits away. I feel the need as well.

It’s not about the candy. OK, maybe it is when it’s a full-sized Three Musketeers. Who can blame a kid? (Especially when I’ll take half of that.) It’s about being a kid. It’s about remembering all the other Halloween nights and all the other costumes and all the other friends, some gone and some remaining at your side, who have traipsed those streets with you over the years.

It’s about a moment in time when you can pretend you’re someone else. In this case, you can pretend you’re something other than a hatchling adult, teetering on the edge of an unknown future.

She knows next year she will be the adult handing out the candy. She knows it. I know it. Just tonight, let us pretend it isn’t so. Let us play dress up one more time. Let mommy see her princess (or swan, as it was this year) in Neverland one more time. Then, tell us it’s time. But not before.

Why We Should Stop Praising Pretty

As (probably) the last installation the the lies we tell girls series, I have a fantastic guest post from my friend Lauren. I love her perspective on what she wants her two young girls to learn about true beauty.

Here’s Lauren . . .


“What does ‘pretty’ mean?” I ask my just turned 4-year-old.

“I don’t know.”

“Are you pretty?”


“Well, how do you know you’re pretty if you don’t know what it means?”

“I look in the mirror and see I’m pretty.”

She’s right.

Pretty is in the mirror. Pretty is surface and fleeting.

Have you ever looked up the meaning of the word “pretty” in the dictionary?

Pret-ty — attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful or handsome.

The truth is, the words we choose matter, especially when we’re talking to children, and “pretty” is an inadequate compliment.

Sure, I’ve said it. We all say it: “Oh, what a pretty baby!” “You look so pretty!” “She is just too pretty.”

But let’s be honest, folks.

People aren’t “pretty.”

Stuff is pretty. Dresses and headbands and Disney princesses and flowers and makeup are pretty. Living, breathing people with hearts and minds and talents are not pretty.

Praising little girls for being pretty prioritizes their appearance over their heart. Praising little girls for being pretty teaches them to seek approval and self worth in the wrong things–in having the right jewelry, the right clothing, the right hairstyle, the right body–and, inevitably, sets them up for failure.

Praising little girls for being ‘pretty’ ignores their true value as daughters of the King.

You are worth far more than rubies. — Proverbs 31.30

R1-06007-020AThere are two primary definitions for “beautiful” in the dictionary.

beau-ti-ful — 1)pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.

2) of a very high standard; excellent.

Let’s get one thing straight.

God didn’t create “pretty” things in His own image. He doesn’t create a people who are “attractive with being truly beautiful.” His work is perfect and beautiful, and “of  a very high standard; excellent.” Always.

You are beautiful for you are fearfully and wonderfully made. — Psalm 139.14

When we think of princesses, we think of pretty-frilly dresses and tiaras and flowing locks.

Strong is beautiful

My 4-year-old isn’t into pretty princesses. She wants to be Batman when she grows up.

The Dark Knight is, by no stretch of the imagination, pretty. Batman is strong and courageous and philanthropic and just–not a terrible role model, if you ask me. As I told reporters regarding last summer’s #texasstrong flood relief fundraiser, I want both of my daughters to know that strong is beautiful.

We get so worried about being pretty. Let’s be pretty kind. Pretty funny. Pretty smart. Pretty strong. — Britt Nicole


Let’s stop using “pretty” as an adjective for people. Let’s stop limiting little girls to pretty.

I love photographer Kate T. Parker’s “Strong is the New Pretty” project (and upcoming book), which challenges stereotypes with stunning and empowering images of her daughters, ages 5 and 8, in their element.  Kate wants little girls to know, “You don’t need to be pretty, perfect or compliant to be loved.”

“Pretty” won’t get them too far

Let’s stop elevating pretty and, instead, elevate strength and courage and kindness. Let’s teach our daughters that God didn’t create them to be “pretty.” Let’s make sure they know where their true value lies.

Because when they’re 15 and their face is covered in acne, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

When they’re 30 and their hips and belly are covered in stretchmarks, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

When they’re 50 and their hair is gray and they’re drenched in sweat from hot flashes, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

And when they’re 80 and their hair is white and their face is wrinkled, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

Let’s stop praising little girls for being pretty. Let’s teach them to praise the One who made them beautiful instead.

A version of this post originally appeared at

img_5004-2Lauren Flake is an artist, author and advocate near her native Austin, Texas, at You can follow her adventures as a wife, mom, Alzheimer’s daughter and #TexasStrong blogger at For the Love of Dixie on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

One of Those Women (Who Didn’t Want It)


I am one of the women who knows it wasn’t just locker room talk.

Ask me how I know?

I’ve never told—not anyone but a very few who have suffered similarly. We have a solidarity, we women who know what are and are not “just words.” I’ve told family members who deserve to know, like my husband and girls. Oh, I want those girls to know.

I have written some difficult blog posts, but this is definitely the hardest. I don’t want to hurt people I love. I don’t want to talk about what happened. I want to leave it in the past buried. But unfortunately, these things never stay buried. They resurrect at the worst times, tainting your marriage and your trust in people (men) and your memories of good days just when you thought they were dead.

They are never dead.

A family member sexually molested me from the ages of 8-14. I don’t want to name that family member. I love my other family members too much, and they do not deserve the hurt. I was not raped, but I was touched in ways a grown man should never even think of with a little girl, ways a man should never talk about or think of with a grown woman either who has not clearly assented. Ways no one should have touched me until the day I married this wonderful man who has to carry that baggage along with him, too, which is so not fair.

He has been nothing but honorable his entire life. He is a man who has never, once, engaged in or deemed acceptable what we are being told “all men do.” Yet he carries the baggage from another man who considered it his right to take whatever he wanted. Not fair. Not fair. Not fair.

And it isn’t just me.

I personally know four women who have been raped. Not four Facebook friends out of hundreds—four flesh-and-blood people I know and interact with. They are normal women from all walks of life. And those are only the ones I know about. There are more. I see others every day, and I don’t know it. They don’t make it public information, because the shame is so locked down, unwarranted as it may be.

They are Christian women who did not engage in any behavior that “asked for it.” As if there is any such behavior.

One I saw and don’t know may have been you.

Pulling Weeds: Being Thankful for Real Community

The hurt itself, the memories that come unbidden, the nightmares we cannot forget, are enough. To compound them by finding that people we have believed in as brothers (and some sisters) in Christ are prepared to dismiss that hurt? Beyond nightmare.

Jesus had some words for how we are to treat one another in this community of believers. Quite a few words, in fact. Here are just some:

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13.35

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12.10

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15.12-13

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6.31

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12.9

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Romans 13.10

Brothers, we feel harmed when you dismiss those who have hurt us as “no big deal.”

We do not feel you laying down your lives for us when we hear that “what’s in the past is in the past.”

We do not feel honored when you call sexual threats “macho.”

We feel betrayed. We feel left along the roadside like the man who was robbed and left for dead. We feel angry.


–It’s the sin we brush aside because Christians don’t talk about that sort of thing.

–It’s the horror we accept because some of our own have been guilty, and we don’t dare admit our weakness.

–It’s the evil we don’t want to define because we would have to call so many to account for their careless words, and we don’t want to lose all those people. Confront the words, the jokes, the innuendos, and we risk being told we’re overreacting, it was only a joke. Only locker room talk. All men do it. So in order to keep our people, we don’t judge the talk. It’s just easier.

–Worst of all, it’s the sin we refuse to acknowledge because women are supposed to be submissive, and listening to their stories might empower them to realize that’s a lie forced upon them like so many other things have been.

But — we feel angry.

Don’t forget that last one. We who have a difficult time forgetting what happened to us? We will not forget this, either. We will be stronger than you have any idea, because we know what it is to rise from ashes and live again, stronger than before. We have discovered the reality of Jesus’ promise that evil doesn’t stand a chance against his people.

8f556-img_1295There are many, many good people standing with us, too. We will keep standing so long as anyone chooses to denigrate the image of God in women into less than He meant for it to be. It’s a turning point we cannot afford to ignore or miss.

Readers, if this is part of your past as well, know you are listened to and heard here. You will not be told to be silent. You will be heard and seen. I know this is a hard thing to have talked about. I didn’t want to. But if there is one of you who feels stronger because I did? That’s a win for me.

I saw these hashtags on Facebook this week from another women with a story to tell:



I love it.

Let’s not be silent. Let’s be strong.

Four Ways to Stop Bullying


I think the real teasing started for me in third grade. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the blue cat’s eye glasses I got that year. OK, so I loved blue. (Still do.) But my parents definitely should have steered me away from that particular fashion choice.

The painfully shy awkward girl who got straight A’s and could always be found in a corner reading a book? That was me. Years later, I discovered with our daughter’s diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome that I likely exhibited some of those characteristics as well. It made me a target for cruelty I didn’t know how to manage until much, much later.

So many kids know the feeling—the whispered rumors in the hallway, the subtle exclusion from certain groups of girls, the guys who laugh when you walk by. The targeted don’t really know why, but they know it’s not good.  Unfortunately, the “why” could be anything. Something different about a girl’s looks.

This week, I had the opportunity to post at All Mom Does with Four Ways to Stop Bullying.

Please continue to read here.



Right Raging


Four months ago I watched my sister dance at my daughter’s wedding. I didn’t know it was the last time I would ever see her. Which of us ever does know these things?

In two days, before you read this, I will be performing her funeral. This comes in a week when I already had the gargantuan task of delivering two sermons and four seminar talks. Add this. This that no one expected and never comes at a good time, no matter what else is happening in life.

Sara Groves sang,

“Death can be so inconvenient.

You try to live and love. It comes and interrupts.”

I get angry at death now, now that I’m older and realizing I may have to watch so many people I love go before me. Actually angry, like, “Hey, death, I know you don’t belong here. You are not part of the original plan. Stop coming and messing with good lives. You are not natural—you are alien. Go back where you came from.”  Except I’m not quite that polite.

I feel a little like Dylan Thomas, exhorting not to go gentle into that good night. But then, I often feel like Thomas—I have rarely gone gentle into anything I didn’t want. I make it a habit to rage against the dying of any light, so this may just be my nature.

But this is what I know from growing older. There are things I raged against when I was young. Things I thought were life and death and things that seemed so vital to get right.

And now I know they were things—and that is all they ever were.

IMG_9266I believed I could get parenting right, and I could get writing right, and I could get pastoring right, and I could get life right.

Now I know that “good enough” is a blessedly freeing two words, and God is the only one in the business of getting it right all the time. I’m not even sure anymore what right is on some of those points.

Now I know you do not win at life. You maybe summit it, or sail it. Whatever metaphor you choose, it’s not a contract or a contest, and you don’t know where the finish line is going to be. Sometimes, you can’t even see the next ten feet.

I spent too many of those young years trying to protect what I thought was mine. Attempting to control life so that it could not hurt me or mine. Thinking that the right laws or the right people or the right verses memorized in a row would be the difference between a perfect world and a lost one.

And now I know that the world is always hovering somewhere in between, and we don’t control one millimeter of its sway.

“All we have is to decide what to do with the time we are given.” I’ve loved that quote from the moment I heard it. What time are we given? We didn’t know my sister would only be given sixty-four short years. We didn’t know my other sister would only be given nearly twenty-six. Although, in fact, she beat all prognostics to get that far.

We don’t ever know.

IMG_0057What I do know, because I don’t know, is that I want to get the raging right. I want to rage against the light-killers and the hope-killers and the soul-killers that rage against God’s flesh creation. I don’t want to waste my time on fights that don’t matter.

What I know now is that keeping what I erroneously think mine is not my battle. The actual war is with my own heart, convincing it to give away everything.

While I’m at it, I’ll work on giving away hope and giving away love. They’re both in shorter supply than usual. I’ll strive to give away justice and to keep humility. 

I won’t go gentle into anything that sucks them away. I’m choosing my raging much more carefully now. In an oxymoronic way, it’s peaceful. It’s my best use of the time I’m give.