Journey to Myself

Hello, Mini-Women. I LOVE being here for a visit! Thank you, Leslie, Hannah and Asher for having me. It’s sort of like coming home, you know?

The reason for that? Because this is a place where everyone can simply be who she is without feeling afraid that someone’s going to say, “You are so weird,” or “Did God miss blessing you with the cool stick?” Here you can just do you.

Even here, though, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly who we are. So hard that I wrote a whole book on that topic, called Everybody Tells Me To Be Myself But I Don’t Know Who I Am. (Possibly the longest title ever) We can all get there, but it’s a process, a journey. It takes as much time for us to discover who God made us to be as it does for us to physically become who we’ll be as adults. Just looking at the pictures I’ve shared here of me growing up proves that, right?

The difference is that our bodies sort of grow by themselves. We don’t have to focus on how long our legs are going to get or what shape our noses are going to take (although I spent my middle school years wishing I COULD do something about my schnozz!) When it comes to our inner selves, however, it seems like the choices never end. Should I be more outgoing? Should I figure out when to shut up? Should I be more creative? Should I try to act like I’m smart and maybe I’ll fool people? Should I laugh more? Laugh less? Laugh louder? Laugh without snorting?

I’m still on that journey of discovering exactly who God made me to be, I think because it continues as long as we’re on earth. But I have learned this about the process: the word “SHOULD” needs to be erased from our vocabulary when it comes to being authentic. Perhaps if I take you through my tween journey to myself I can show you what that looks like.

I was about nine years old when I started to think about who I was.

age 9

Up until then I was pretty much on automatic pilot, but in fourth grade the questions started. SHOULD I be playing outside when what I really wanted to do was read 24/7? I actually had nothing against being outdoors, as long as I could take a book with me. (I always wanted to read on the limb of a tree like Louisa May Alcott did as a kid, but it was really uncomfortable. She must have had bigger trees.) SHOULD I try to beat Douglas Ledbetter in math grades, when what I really wanted to spend time on was the stories I invented in my head? I tried being outdoorsy and becoming a whiz at fractions, but it made me seriously anxious. I think that’s when I started biting my fingernails. What if I hadn’t finally decided that I was a reader and a creator of stories, and not an athlete or the next Einstein? I probably wouldn’t be writing this post for you right now.

When I turned ten, it seemed like friendships got a lot harder.

age 10

SHOULD I spend all my time with my BFF (because if I didn’t, she would give me the silent treatment for days) or make friends with a lot of different people (which I was figuring out I was kind of good at.)SHOULD I take up my whole recess time in a tornado of girl drama, or hang out with people who loved to giggle (and snort!) as much as I did? What if I’d chosen to limit myself to one main friend and talked about everybody else behind their backs? I might never have grown out of it – and then I DEFINITELY wouldn’t be writing this post for you. And I sure wouldn’t have written Girl Politics.

By the time I turned twelve, boys had entered the scene – for every other girl in the seventh grade except me.

age 12

I was faced with the dilemma: SHOULD I pretend I had a crush on some kid just so I’d have something to talk about at the lunch table, or just have fun with the people –girls AND boys – in my youth group who didn’t care if I was “going out” with someone. (I always wondered where we were going to “go” without cars and money …) SHOULD I beg my mother to let me grow my hair long like everybody else who wanted to look like Cher, or concentrate on the confirmation class where some of the stuff I didn’t understand about God was being explained? What if I’d opted for boyfriends (as if I could have gotten one) and hippie hair instead of discovering that I could actually pray? On my own. Without anybody telling me what I should (there it is again) say. I sure wouldn’t be here suggesting topics for your Talking To God Journal, because I wouldn’t have one myself.

Speaking of that journal, if you want to write in yours, why not talk to God about the SHOULDS you find yourself believing. Are they really you – or are they just what everybody says you SHOULD buy into?

If you want to comment, will you share one of your SHOULDS? I’ll go first. I’ll go first. At this point on my journey to myself, I’ve found myself asking SHOULD I write more books, or retire like most people do at my age? What if I decide I’m done? I’ve pretty much determined that God isn’t saying that yet. SO here I am with you … and loving it. Thank you for letting me be part of YOUR journey.

now

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

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Identity: Asher’s Journey + Tips

Hi, Tribelet! It’s Asher here, and this week we’re continuing on a topic very near and dear to my heart – identity.

Imagine this…

As you walk down the hallway at school, you recognise almost everyone by what they’re known for. The girl carrying a huge cello? She’s amazing in orchestra. The guy who grins as you walk past? The class clown. The kid with hair almost as messy as her half-open backpack? She’s the best writer in your class.Identity 1

It seems like they’ve got themselves figured out already. All you have is a whirlwind of questions.

What about me? Who am I?

Are you familiar with those questions? With my not-so-great grades, friend group made up of misfits and lack of ‘defining qualities’, I struggled with them a lot in as a tween. I felt lost and inadequate next to my peers, who seemed to have found their talents already.

Things started to turn around when I taught at Vacation Bible School for the first time. Working with the kids was so rewarding – I began to realise that I could make a positive difference with the gifts I have. At school, I started working harder and smarter, which resulted in my grades climbing. I also discovered some things I enjoyed doing, like drawing and participating in this blog (I’ve been on it since 2015!).

In the next couple of years, my grades improved a lot – I became “the straight-A girl” to most of my classmates. That was exactly the recognition I craved before! But you know what? I didn’t feel any more significant for my improved achievements. If anything, it opened the door to a whole new set of insecurities – What will people think if I fail? How can I keep up my standard? What if I can’t… what am I then? I began putting my identity in grades.

Fast forward to now.

I still struggle with putting my identity in achievements and what others think, but I like to think I’m improving. Looking at things in a long-term perspective helps – if I do badly in a quiz, it won’t affect my future much at all, and it’s better that I fail and learn earlier than when it’s too late. I don’t know much more about who I am, but I’m learning.

I recently encountered a new question:

‘Do you think you are important?’ my Bible study teacher asked.

What would your answer be?

To God, we’re all important. You probably know that already, but believing it is key.

As Romans 12:3 (MSG) says: “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”

Next time you feel incompetent, take a minute to remember what God has done for you. He clearly cares a whole lot about you! So do try to see yourself as He sees you – His beloved child, regardless of how significant you or others think you are.

So, what steps should you take if you’re struggling with your identity? Here are a few things that worked for me:

Don’t…

* Compare yourself to others – it’s toxic! Head over to my “Body Image: Comparison” post if you’d like to know more…

* Be afraid to talk – one mistake I made in my early middle school years was not sharing my thoughts with family/friends. In hindsight, talking about identity questions really does help – your loved ones have probably encountered the same problems before!

* Put your identity in the wrong places – you might be an amazing dancer, Miss Popular, or drop-dead gorgeous now, but all of those things could go away in a matter of seconds. Instead, focus on eternal qualities you have, such as how you’re always there for your friends.

Do…

* Write in your ‘Talking-To-God Journal’ – I wrote in it so much while I was struggling with who I was. It helped me get everything off my chest and keep things in a God-perspective. If you’ve journalled for a while, it’s also great to look back at old entries and see how you’ve progressed along your identity-journey, and how God came through for you in the past.

* Be okay with not knowing who you are – you are not alone! Many adults, let alone tweens, fully know their identity. God will help you learn more with time – for know, appreciate what you do know, and know that you are important.

* Come here for support – we’d be more than happy to pray for your requests, answer your questions and encourage you! Do stick around, we’re all in this identity-journey together.

If you’d like to comment, we’d love to know: What do you put your worth in? And please share your personal tips about identity struggles if you have any!

I hope you all have a blessed week!

Asher

Embracing Whose You Are

Hello La Petite Femmes! I’m hoping that’s Frenchish for mini-women. Leslie here:) It feels like forever since I’ve posted but as always I have loved reading your comments and conversations. I admire how brave and honest you are in sharing as well as how much you welcome and encourage each other. It’s so fun to be a part of our Tribelet.

This month we are talking about “Embracing Who You Are.” Each week, one of us (Hannah, Leslie, Asher and Nancy) will share a little bit about our personalities and our journey to embracing the way God made us. Like Hannah said, we all have unique personalities with lot’s of different features. And a big part of life is learning to appreciate who we are and how God made us. Different.

Girl in Mirror Sketch

This is a really important topic to me because when I was your age- I lost myself for a little bit. And learned some really painful (but helpful) lessons in the process.

Here is the truth- We are all created in God’s image. And that is what gives us value. He made us. As we are. We are all unique with different gifts and talents. Wonderful combinations that He designed. And no matter what happens in life…Or what anyone says, no one can ever take away your value. Because your value comes from the fact that you are created in God’s image. And you always will be.

But what seems to happen too often, is we lose our voice.

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It’s a funny idea but stick with me. My friend Jo describes voice like this…

Voice: Our most authentic self. The real you. Your passions, values, gifts and talents. Your identity in action. How God designed you so that you could make a unique contribution to the world.

She asks the question, “How can brilliant, beautiful, strong, gifted mini-women (which we all are) grow silent?” 

  • We lose our identities
  • We make ourselves small

Her encouragement is that we don’t need to be sorry for how God made us. He see’s us as we are, who we fully are. He sees our stories, the life that we can bring. He sees our potential and purpose. He know us and hears our voice.

I say all of that because when I was your age, I lost my voice.

I always joke that if everyone was born doing the tango, I was born doing the twist. I always felt a little different from everyone around me, including my family. And for a long time, it didn’t matter.

I was creative, funny, full of energy and spunk. I loved life and couldn’t wait to see what each day might bring. I was always reading and playing pretend. I loved to watch movies and learn about new things.

And then I went to a new school in fifth grade.

And there was a group of girls that I wanted to be friends with. Because they were church girls. And they were “popular”.

I think this was the first time in my life I started seeing people as “popular” and “unpopular”. It might have been because of the books I was reading. (I didn’t have Ms. Nancy’s books back then) It might have been because I have an older sister who was figuring out her own journey. Or it just might be something we all wrestle with at some point in life.

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But something began to change in me. I started losing my voice. My authentic self.

  • I was creative but being a cheerleader was cooler.
  • I was full of energy and spunk (Calm down. You don’t have to shout) so I learned how to stay quiet and hide my enthusiasm.
  •  I was always reading and playing pretend but my friends thought this was boring so I stopped playing like I used to.
  • I loved to watch movies and learn about new things. Well, the types of movies they watched and some of the stuff I learned wasn’t good for my heart.

And by seventh grade, I had become a mean girl.

Until, one day I sat down at the table in the library. And all of my friends got up and moved to another table.

There was a new girl in school. And over the weekend (at a sleepover I wasn’t allowed to go to) I somehow got ousted from the group. It only lasted a few weeks but that’s all it took.

It devastated me.

Crushed me.

I bawled on my mothers lap for weeks.

And then on a Wednesday night at church, a woman said something to me that changed my life forever.

“Popularity only lasts in high school. No one remembers or cares after that. But popularity with God lasts a lifetime. And He is the friend who will never leave you or forsake you.”

It took me a few years to recover from what happened at that library table. I felt so rejected, so betrayed and honestly so confused. I didn’t realize how much I had changed. I didn’t know I was becoming a mean girl. I was just trying to “fit in” with my friends.

But here is what I learned through all of that…

There really is no popular//unpopular in the eyes of God. We are all created in God’s image. And that is what gives us value. He made us. As we are. We are all unique with different gifts and talents. Wonderful combinations that He designed. And no matter what happens in life…Or what anyone says, no one can ever take away your value. Because your value comes from the fact that you are created in God’s image. And you always will be.

God loves us. As we are. And He is the best friend in the world. Life will change. People will move. You will grow up. And the one person who will never change is God. He is the most kind and faithful person I know. He is easy to talk to. He always forgives us when we act like jerks. And He wants more than anything to get to know us. There are lots of ways to get to know Him better. Talking to Him (Prayer) Reading His Word (The Bible) and going to hang out with people who know Him (Church).

One or two good friends who speak your language is better than a whole crew who make you feel like you don’t fit in. Mini-women this is the truth. And you can take it to the bank. As I healed from what happened and went to high school, I was a little skittish about making friends. It took me a long time to trust people. And find my voice again. But I did. And along the way I met some amazing mini-women who liked me for me. Loud, spunky, creative and all. And man did we have fun. And still do:)

leeann, andrea and me

I’ll be honest, I was a little hesitant to share that story because who wants to say they were a mean girl? Or they ditched their friends to be “popular”? But making mistakes and learning from them is such an important part of life.

And I hope that this might help you in your journey to embracing who you are.

In your Talking to God journal,  ask God to show you what special gifts and talents He has given you. And how He might want you to use them to make a unique contribution to the world. Then make a list of 10 things that make you…YOU and/or that you like about yourself. And take some time and thank God for how He made you.

In the comments section, share with us your list of things that make you…YOU. And if you feel like you have ever lost your voice, I’d love to know how you got it back:)

Love. Love, Love,

Leslie

P.S. A lot of what I learned came from a book by Jo Saxton called “The Dream of You.” We always need to cite our sources:)

P.P.S. I love cheerleaders and quiet people. I just wasn’t created to be one. You be you!!!

 

 

 

Embracing Who You Are

Hello darling mini women!

 

We had all of March to talk about health and wellness and body image.  And I hope we keep weaving that into future posts, because I believe it’s so important to have a healthy life and mindset.

BUT just as important, is loving that part of yourself that God ALSO made so special – your personality!  This month you’re going to hear from ALL of us about embracing WHO YOU ARE.

Now, you girls are smart enough to know that if your personality involves you getting a little too sarcastic and mean, or being impatient with your little siblings or sassing at your parents, that those are things we need to work on.

But for today we’re going to talk about the sweet parts of who you are, whether it’s loud and silly or quiet and serious or some combination in between, that is exactly the person God made you to be!  He wants all kinds of people in the world, and you, my dear mini-woman reading this right now, fit RIGHT into where He put you.

For me, I can be a funny combination.  When I’m around people I don’t know, I can be very quiet.  I’m always a bigger fan of listening to conversation around me and trying to figure out people out, instead of talking so much myself.  I’m sure I’ve looked very shy to a lot of people.

But then you get me around a small group of friends I know very well or a family gathering, and I can really get loud and funny!  It all depends on who is there, but there are times I’m the loudest one in the room.  (My sister, who is naturally louder than me at ALL times, never believes me when I tell her I can be really loud and funny. 😀 )

And you know something, I like both parts of me.  I like that I can be quiet and listen, and I like that I can cut loose and joke and make people laugh sometimes.  I don’t consider either side of me to be ‘fake’ or putting on a show.

Two Sides of Me

Not only does God use different kinds of people in His kingdom, but I would say that He uses different sides of your personality for different situations.  When your friend is crying over a failed test, she might need a quiet hug or a funny joke – and YOU, the many sided-personality person that you are, will get better and better as you get older at knowing WHICH side of yours is going to help your friend in that moment.

I love that I have different sides to myself.  Not everyone is that way, and that’s ok!  Some are always going to be quiet, some always loud and that’s fine too!  As for me, I like my patchwork quilt personality, and I think God does too!

Patchwork Quilt

 

Tell me girls, in the comments below, how do you see yourself?  Are you a mixed bag, or do you have a steady theme of how you act in every social situation?  I’m curious!

Love you girls!

Hannah