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Once upon a princess

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Raising daughters of the King

Raising a daughter is not for the faint-hearted. Parents battle a world that does everything possible to open innocent eyes and awaken inappropriate desires far too young.

Some parents defend their children by banning all forms of princess play, television, and outside influence. Others’ strategy includes little to no limitations or boundaries. Is there a place of balance? Is it truly possible to exist in the world but not be of it (John 15:19)?

In order to shape our daughters’ worldview, we must know what influences us – as mothers, women, and daughters of God. Do we monitor what influences our own lives; always on guard, ever aware? Do we set the bar high, measuring ourselves and our interests against Scripture? The next generation is watching.

I had a conversation with several women actively involved in Mennonite Brethren churches across Canada, and it gave me a peek into our shared values and lifestyle goals. Once we understand those, we can better understand what we have to offer our daughters.

Have MB women changed?

Many conversation participants think we have changed in a positive way over the last 50 years. They believe we have more opportunity to share our faith and be involved, that we have a louder voice, and are moving from traditional roles of only serving in the kitchen, with children, and with other women, into visible positions of influence.

The doors have swung open for women to move outside the home and find work and fulfillment in ways previously unexplored. A by-product of these new opportunities is busier work and volunteer schedules, leaving little time for deep, meaningful, and challenging relationships. Women who stay at home say they have a hard time connecting with women juggling work schedules. Those who work outside the home say the necessity of a dual income results in a tired working mom, who still carries the majority of homemaking duties.

There is a felt expectation upon women to excel at church, home, in the community, and in a career. Our daughters see our exhaustion and feel our stress. For better or worse, it affects them.

Calling all women

Biblical character is shaped by example. “Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:3–5).

A true sister in Christ challenges others to grow up and leave behind the childish ways of the world in exchange for God’s great riches. She encourages women to freely express the love, joy, and peace that come from God.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. The Christian community desperately needs women to rise up and befriend and train the younger generation. Seniors can mentor empty-nesters. Empty-nesters can mentor mothers of teens. Mothers of teens can mentor young families. Young families can mentor newly marrieds. Newly marrieds can mentor college students. College students can mentor teens, and so on. No one is exempt from Titus 2.

Conversation participants say most MB women take this responsibility seriously, but don’t always know how to live it out or make meaningful connections with other women. Furthermore, we have no desire to add another “thing” to our to-do list.

We desire a pure lifestyle in our relationships with members of the opposite sex. We avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and situations that could lead to danger or temptation. If we’re married, we speak highly of our husbands and refuse to participate in the passive-aggressive relationship manipulation and husband mockery that seem so popular today.

We believe the external signs of physical beauty cannot improve upon the magnificence that’s found in a heart in love with our Lord. We desire to pass on an appreciation for the gift of femininity to the next generation.

This kind of woman is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and this influence is what all our daughters need and crave. She might be the woman sitting next to you each Sunday morning, yearning for an introduction and invitation into your life.

Role models

Many mothers guide their daughters and model authentic faith. However, some mothers have actually hindered faith. Several women around the table shared their thoughts about their own mothers:

“My mother was the most God-fearing/trusting/loving woman I’ve ever known. She taught me that faith is sometimes all you have. Through divorce, sickness, being a single mother with two girls in private school, she may have been stressed but she always said, ‘God will provide.’ I strive to show my daughter that same faith and strength now.”

“My mother spoke often about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, making him a real part of daily life.”

“My mom was very busy with work and house stuff, and was so exhausted in the evening she never had times with God that I saw. She didn’t pray out loud, didn’t read her Bible, didn’t ever praise God for a blessing received. Her faith world was so private that I couldn’t mimic or model her words or behaviour.  This led me to a crisis point, where I felt that either Christianity must be false or impersonal, or that my mother was not saved. I wish she would have slowed down, worked less, bought us less, and been more present in communing with her children relationally and intimately.”

“I never saw my mom read her Bible. She did it in the early morning or late at night in her room. Our children need to see us commune with God.”

“My mother didn’t apply the rules she enforced on me to herself; instead, she made up excuses as to why it didn’t apply to her behaviour.”

Pretty princesses?

A quick walk through the toy section of the local department store will convince even the biggest skeptic that little girls are taught to dream in shades of pink. From Disney to Barbie, the aisles are stacked floor to ceiling, fuelling the debate surrounding princess obsession. Is it healthy? Are we setting up our daughters to worship at the altar of physical beauty? Or is it innocent fun?

The harsh reality is that not every girl gets the prince. The glass slipper doesn’t come in every size. And sometimes, when the clock strikes twelve, the fantasy shatters.

Locking princess merchandise in the castle tower won’t guarantee happily-ever-after any more than embracing it will. The best way to safeguard a girl’s heart is to ensure neither Disney nor Barbie sits on a child-sized throne. Teach girls what really matters by living transparently before them, with a heart that longs for God more that it longs for its next breath.

Our daughters are the daughters of a King. They’re heirs to an inheritance beyond their wildest dreams. This makes them princesses in the truest sense. But here’s the catch: so are we!

It’s our job to model a grateful heart for this undeserved inheritance. If we want our daughters to know their Father is a King, then we must live like our Father is the King. Stop stressing over dress sizes. Stop poring over fashion magazines. Stop salivating over expensive homes. Live by example. If you don’t have a daughter, model for someone else’s daughter how it looks to fully appreciate our royal heritage and understand our Saviour’s sacrifices that provided adoption into God’s family.

This type of involvement – this type of sacrificial love – contributes toward raising a generation that fears the Lord, loves truth, and walks humbly with God.

The influence of media

Media bombards. Our daughters typically see more than 250 advertisements each day, selling them everything from food to clothing, and birth control to alcohol. These ads tell girls that beauty is for sale, packaged in T-shirts with questionable innuendos.

Considering the images and messages assaulting us, it’s no wonder our daughters struggle. It’s no wonder we struggle. Our sex-saturated society dismisses
traditional values as outdated and boring. Christian morals appear terribly restrictive and close-minded when pitted against racy adventures and flamboyant merchandise.

Yet, God’s voice – not the voice of culture – needs to be the main influence in our daughters’ lives. They learn to listen for God’s voice when they see Mom listening to, beseeching, praising, and waiting on him.

In his book, Bringing Up Girls, James Dobson assures readers that girls with strong relationships with their fathers (or a reliable father figure) and with active, involved mothers are more likely to refrain from early sexual encounters and from drug and alcohol abuse, are less swayed by trends, and value themselves more than those left to flounder their way through the teenage maze alone.

Connecting the dots

Young girls will be challenged and encouraged when they see adults they respect loving God with their whole heart, seeking him, and making him the love of their lives. Pledge to be that kind of adult to a young woman in your community.

Instead of lamenting over the missing mentor in your life, become that woman for someone else. Who are we challenging to grow and leave behind the childish ways of the world in exchange for God’s great riches? Into whose life are we pouring? Into what relationship have we earned the right to share the ageless truth of God’s love?

Becoming part of the community that raises a child isn’t about adding another thing to our list. It’s about throwing out the list and reprioritizing according to God’s Word. It’s about making time for the things that matter most. It’s about not simply surviving, but thriving in real and meaningful relationships.

If each woman reaches out to one sister in Christ and pours into her life, eventually all women will find an encouraging relationship. It’s time-consuming, can be heartbreaking, and will stretch us in ways never imagined. But, it’s one thing within our scope of influence that could change eternity for another’s soul.

Happily ever after

A woman can embrace femininity and the wonderful way God created her. We can celebrate our unique make-up without embracing the messages the world tacks on. Women are not weak or inferior. Women are often deep and profound, and capable of far more than we realize.

But women are not men. God made us different and gave us different abilities for a purpose. When these purposes are realized, it ultimately brings him great glory.

Do we want to raise daughters fully devoted to God and ready to follow him anywhere? “It can’t happen through you if it hasn’t happened to you,” says radio and TV minister Lloyd John Ogilvie. Let’s start now, asking God to reveal what needs to change in our lives, in our homes, and in our hearts to positively affect God’s precious daughters.

Stacey Weeks is a member of Orchard Park Bible Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. She and her husband Kevin have three children. She blogs at staceyweeks.wordpress.com.

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