Why I Can’t Stand “Strong Female Characters”

 My siblings and I were watching a bonus feature on a TV recently (Avatar: The Last Airbender, if you must know), and it was titled “The Women of Avatar: The Last Airbender”. One thing I’ll point out first is that none of these “women” were over the age of eighteen, so in my mind they were all still children or very young adults. But as the creators, fans, and writers talked, and as the clips to back up the view that all these female characters were “strong” characters played, I noticed something.

Most of the time, these girls were yelling. Or beating up a couple grown men. Or challenging authority figures.

And I started thinking, since when did strength become synonymous with disrespect? Really. Think about all the Disney Princesses over the years. How many of them are what you would call well-mannered, respectful young women? Please understand, I am not “anti-women” and know that I am directing this post to a Christian audience. If you don’t believe and live under the authority of God’s Word, the Bible, this is all likely going to sound repulsive to you.

Young Christian women and girls, what are we told strength is? Where does it come from? What does it look like?

Is it challenging any and all authority at any time? Is it fighting against any sort of rule or regulation? Is it speaking up whenever we have something to say? Does strength come from our biology? Does it come from the fact that we are “liberated” and no longer in the “oppressive” society our grandparents lived in?

What is true strength? What does a truly strong woman look like?

I can tell you with certainty: she doesn’t look like Suki. She doesn’t look like Belle. Or Jasmine or Elsa. Not like Black Widow, or Mary Watson.

She looks like my mother, like so many of the mothers and wives I know. Like the elderly women at my church who gather to pray every single Tuesday morning. Like Mary. Like Martha. Like Ruth.

Would anyone deny that Jesus was a strong person? I doubt it. And yet He is most often described in Scripture as meek or humble. As obedient. Do you know what meekness is? It isn’t shyness. It isn’t flinching away. It isn’t cowardice.

It is strength.

Under control.

That, ladies, is what our “strong female characters” lack.

They lack control. They lack obedience. They lack humility. They lack, because they are of the world, Christ-likeness.

And sisters, is that Christ-likeness not our goal? Isn’t it what we are to be striving for? Not to the be the loudest voice or the stronger personality. But to be obedient to God and those whose authority He has, in His perfect will and plan, put us under.

Our husbands.

Our fathers.

Our church leaders.

Our teachers.

Our mothers.

None of us- male or female- will ever truly “be our own boss”. And you know what? That’s a good thing.

Jesus wasn’t exactly His own boss. He bowed the knee of obedience to His Father. Every day, in every situation, no matter what the culture around Him said, He obeyed God.

He took direction. He used His strength, His power, for God’s purposes. He was not loud or obnoxious or rude. He was not constantly trying to show up others. He was not yelling about His rights. He was quietly, contentedly, going about God’s work.

Am I? Are you?

The world tells us a strong woman doesn’t have to listen to anyone. It says that obedience is demeaning. It tells you, loudly, brightly, happily, that if you submit or obey that you are weak.

Ladies how much strength does it take to give in to your flesh?

Not. Much.

How much willpower does it take to snap irritably at someone? To roll your eyes at your dad’s face or his back? To talk back to your mother? To know that you know best?

None.

On the flipside, how much strength does it take to tell yourself “no.”? How much strength does it take to obey God?

He tells us to be grateful for those in authority over us, to pray for them. He tells us that a strong- a meek- daughter of His is obedient. That she finds pleasure and joy in obeying. He tells us quietly, honestly, lovingly, that obedience is the mark of His children. That it is a way we can thank Him for the marvelous gift of salvation.

How much strength does it take to smile and joyfully obey? To be still and speak later, in private, when you’re calmer? To take a deep breath and submit? To turn away from sin?

It takes more strength than we have.

We cannot be true strong women without Christ. We cannot be meek without learning how He was meek. We cannot be good ambassadors if we do not study, stand by, and practice, our King’s laws.

We have no hope of every having true meekness in our own power. It is through genuine prayer, repenting of disobedience, and studying Scripture that we become strong. All our strength is in Christ- we are nothing without Him.

So ladies, please. Let’s be cheering for the “meek females” in our lives Let’s honor them- not the sad, distorted shadows the world tries to tempt us with.

Let us make honoring God our priority and goal- not honoring our flesh.

Saying Goodbye… Again

Over the last seven years, I have said goodbye many, many times. I’ve come to expect the word in relationships. For all the times I’ve been viscerally reminded that nothing lasts but Christ, each parting or separation is still as painful as the one before.

Goodbyes are a part of life. There are the “until tomorrow” ones. The “when you get back from your trip”. Then there are the “I’ll see you again one day in heaven.” “Be safe on your trip to your new home.” And of course, “what did I do wrong? Why did you disappear? I can’t even tell you goodbye.” They are all partings, some for longer times than others.

They all hurt.

Today, I stood at the house of my friends and told them goodbye for the last times. Over the last eighteen months, we had gotten together most Saturday nights for ice cream and nerdy fun. They know my crazy side- the imaginative one. They see all of me. I saw them lose their father last year. We have watched Sherlock, played Real Life Games, eaten loads of ice cream, and now they’re moving to Mississippi.

Another goodbye.

I didn’t cry today- that happened last week after our last ice cream hang out. I cried as I realized that in the town I live in, I once again am friendless. That the people who know me at church know part of me. That my new friend lives an hour away and is much more productive and busy than I am.

It hurts. It hurts to feel alone again.

As I look at Facebook or listen to people I know talk, I realize that people actually have friendships for more than a couple years. That some people have been friends since they were little kids. That some people get long friendships. That’s good. It’s wonderful, and I’m happy for them. It’s a precious gift and if God has given it to you treasure it. Tell that friend how much they mean to you.

Actually, tell a friend what they mean to you no matter how long your relationship has existed. People need to know.

In all that, however, as always, God remains. God is constant, faithful, and always present with us.

There is one goodbye I will never have to say, one parting I will never have to fear, one Perfect Friend, Father, King, I will never lose.

And that is Jesus Christ. That is my heavenly father. My Savior. My King.

“He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5b). That was my favorite Bible verse when I was about eleven. It is making its way back to that place now. As is Romans 8:28-29.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.”

Nothing.

No one- including me.

He will never leave me, never let me go.

Ever.

He will always be. He is I AM. He is my eternal friend. He is my Rock, my solid ground. And though others may come and go, good and hard times pass, He will always remain.

I will never have to say goodbye to God.

Have You Ever Heard an Almost-Grown Man Giggle?

I have. In fact, I hear it at least once every summer. The giggles get deeper and hence more endearing every year.

Earlier this summer, my brother’s two best friends drove in from Missouri for a visit.
And it was awesome.

I always love when Caleb and Zachary come to visit, because no matter how old they are, it’s the same every year.

Both boys yell “Philip!” and Philip laughs self-consciously and says “Hey!”

And then they bro-hug and it’s all good.

We haven’t lived in Missouri for six years and yet these three boys are still just as close as they were when none of us were teenagers and they were all shorter or just as tall as me.
Now we live in Arkansas, Caleb has finished his first year of college, Zachary is in public school, Philip is playing basketball, and I haven’t been taller than any of them in like four years.

They sat in the den one afternoon, playing Tanks. Zachary wasn’t playing at one point and would periodically call out something like, “Philip… that was pathetic” or, “Shoot him!”.
And Philip would laugh that laugh that makes his face get all red and his hands shake and his tank would get shot because he was laughing so hard.

pzc

I was standing in the kitchen, listening and grinning and laughing at them.

Because when three boys all over the age of sixteen and all of whom have voices just as low if not lower than my dad’s start giggling at each other?

That’s when I know that I have an amazing life. That’s when I know my brother has amazing friends.

These boys have never ignored him, never forgotten him, and never passed up a chance to see him.

 

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Seeing Philip happy- the kind of happy Caleb and Zachary make him- that just makes any room re-arranging, any noise, any zoned-out-ness, it makes it all worth it.

So thanks guys. Thank you for giving my brother such a wonderful gift, and giving his older sister the gift of seeing him so happy and having so much fun.

It’s been hard for him, you know. Living here. But when you guys come up in the summers, even just for a few days, you make it easier. You make him laugh and let him be comfortable and just let him be him.

Thank you for that.

An Ode to My Sunday School Class

I’m alive y’all! Between graduating, looking for a job (getting a car!!), finding a job, getting training to officially get said job, and then WORKING said job, I’ve been just a little busy.

But. I’m back.

***

Almost two years ago my family and I started going to a new church. I was halfway through my junior year at that point- over on the far end of the Youth Group. Due to a lot of things, some of which being my own fault, I was looking forward to graduating and being able to pick my own Sunday School class. There are a lot of different classes at our church, organized by topic, not age.

A month or so after we had started attending this church, the Youth Group took their annual three-day Spring Retreat. This meant that on Sunday, there would be no Youth Group. Since my siblings and I didn’t go, we were on our own. Philip went with my parents, but I was allowed to chose a class to attend that morning.

There were several that looked interesting, but one caught my eye. It was a class only for women- the only class with a specific audience. I decided to go there.

After wandering around the hall for several moments, I found the classroom and poked my head inside. I was a little late. As I smiled and asked if I could join them, I realized that the class should have had a different name. At our church in Missouri it would have been the “Golden Agers”.

I knew in that moment that it was the class for me.

All the ladies welcomed me in, delighted for some reason that I was there. They went around and quickly introduced everyone. I only caught one or two of the names unfortunately and on later visits ended up making a diagram of the table that I could fill in as I listened and was able to put names with faces.

That first Sunday was one of the most restful and enjoyable experience I had had at the church to that day. The lady teaching had done a lot of research on the chapter of Hebrews that they had studied that week and shared from what she’d learned as we went through the lesson’s questions.

Later that week I received a note in the mail from someone in Little Rock. We didn’t know anyone in Little Rock really at the time, so as I opened it I had no idea who could have sent it.

It was from one of the ladies in the Sunday School class. I’d like to take a second to point out that as of yet, we had only been attending the church for about a month and our names were obviously not in a church directory. I don’t know how she got my address- I was impressed that she remembered my last name!

The note simply said that she had enjoyed meeting me and hoped I would come again soon.

Between that day and my graduation the next spring, I visited the class three or four more times. Aside from the next Spring retreat, the other times were often mornings when I needed a break from Youth Group and would quietly slip out of my seat in that room to head over to the people I have affectionately called “my ladies”.

Since I have been regularly attending the class, I don’t speak as much as i did when I was visiting. That is due in most part because I just love watching them all too much. I’ve loved seeing the interactions between them all, putting together their life stories, hearing their prayer requests and the way they remember people who need prayer. I love the two ladies who attend that are in their 4o’s. I loved listening to the organist talk about Jesus this last week- her character to share about as our class retold the nativity story. She shared that she had lost several very, very dear friends over the last four months, and how in each o their passings she had seen a different aspect of Christ’s love and perfect timing.

The ladies in this class are my example. They are the people I pray I can be like one day, the people I want to approve of me, the ones I want to know even better. They are faithful prayer warriors, servants to their families, friends, and church, and a joy to be around.

They’re my ladies and I love each of them dearly. They have given so much to so many people and I know that by His grace, God is pleased with them.

The Stick Girl: Chapter One (Part 1 of 2)

In Which a Girl Meets the World

I can see!That was the girl’s first thought.

 It’s white.That was her second thought.

Her eyes roved this way and that, examining the world she’d been dropped into. She couldn’t remember anything before- no people, places, not even herself. Everything was blank in her mind, just like the expanse around her. A deep breath steadied the panic that was threatening her sanity. What kind of place was simply white? Or was this how every place was? How could she know?

Looking down, the girl peered at herself. Two stick legs, both with a round ball at the end. A dress made from a triangle. Skinny arms with circles for hands. The circles raised themselves up to her face. She could feel with these things, feel that her hair was also thin and curled outward slightly at the ends. Her face was unblemished, bare, except for two dots that let her see and a long curved line of a mouth.

She blinked again, preparing to open the mouth and try to make a noise. Before she could find out that such an action was impossible, a dark shadow covered part of the white world. It looked like a mountain range- or it would if there hadn’t been some strange log slanted across it. The girl frowned mentally since her mouth seemed incapable of movement. What on earth could it be?

The shadow moved slightly, as if hesitating, then in a flash of movement, raced across the whiteness, darting this way and that, moving first quickly, then slower. At one point the entire mountain-thing shifted and the log flipped over for the briefest moment to wave back and forth furiously before righting itself. Slowly, the girl began to see something else on the white place. Somethings, really.

Square, she thought. It’s a square. Indeed it was a square, with a triangle on top. As time passed, two more squares appeared, then a rectangle that started at the bottom of the square and rose almost to the top. Two swirly shapes were suddenly on either side of the rectangle (The girl had started calling it “door”, although she couldn’t quite figure out why). To the left of the large square, the girl watched as two large “c’s” took shape, then another swirly object on top of the “c’s”.

Just as she was getting used to these strange this appearing, the shadow-mountain disappeared. She felt safer with it gone somehow, as though now she could explore these new objects in private, without having to worry about prying eyes. She felt her small mouth relax as she thought about smiling. Who on earth could see me? There’s no one else here. Her train of thought from this point was obvious: No one here? Does that mean there are other… people… somewhere? This thought was too much, at least at the moment, so the girl tried to ignore it and turned to examine the large square.

Hmm. The rectangle, or “Door”,  had a small circle  on it off to the right. The girl tentatively reached forward, wondering if the circle did something interesting. Yes! It did! The round ball that was the girl’s hand could grasp the circle and- oh! It turned! The girl felt something new. Not fear…excitement. Yes, that was it. A knowledge from some unknown place told her what to do next. PushPush!

She pushed, and Door moved. With a deep breath, the girl, who had just noticed she couldn’t close her eyes in fear, looked up from the ground to find out what Door wanted to show her.

The Challenge: Revisited and Revived

Hello, everyone! It’s been something like a month since I last posted. To make a long, long story short, my mom has pointed out that my previous idea for The Challenge would basically be a wonderful way for me to expand an idea from my novel. So, after weeks of listing every kind of writing I’ve done, seeing the small category of “untried” writing, and pressing my family for ideas, I’m ready to start again.

This time, however, I’m just going to write. I think that will be best for everyone, don’t you? Thanks for being patient as I realize that whimsical fantasy fiction isn’t really my forte. That being said, I do hope you enjoy the story.

The Challenge: Day Four – Outline

Hey, everyone! Sorry, I didn’t post yesterday or Monday. I’m still trying to get in the hang of having a daily post commitment. I just realized that the whole post I wrote on Friday (which was a rough outline) is gone! It isn’t in my drafts or published on my site. :/ Guess I’ll just have to start from scratch. Let’s get to it!

I’ve never made an outline for anything outside of a school paper, so this will be a new experience for me. Although I have a general idea of what it should look like, it may not appear in the format some of you are used to. And since there’s no way to tab over in this processor, please bear with the technical incorrectness of the outline. Thanks! 🙂

I. Chapter One

A. Introduce Maggie

1. Physical description

2. Emotional description

B. Introduce Maggie’s main problem

C. Introduce Ginny

1. Physical description

2. Emotional description

D. Introduce Ginny’s main problem (this will be a minor sub-plot in the overall story)

 

II. Chapter Two

A. Introduce Maggie’s surroundings

1. Ginny’s home

2. Ginny’s church

3. Ginny’s friends and family

B. Bring Maggie’s problem to the forefront

 

Okay, at this point, I’m thinking that I need to work on the actual plot over the rest of today and tomorrow morning. Then, hopefully I’ll be able to fill in more of this outline and finish it by the weekend. First, I have some questions.

 

Happy voting!

Sarah

A Note from Sydney, Issuer of The Challenge

Hi, everyone! I’m Sydney, Sarah’s younger sister.I wanted to write a post about The Challenge, so here is it.

Let’s talk about the challenge and what I think about it.

1. I have to say, Sarah, you really surprised me. Kind of. I remember a blog post you wrote about our Thanksgivings last year and some other projects.I’m pleasantly surprised by the type of story you’ve chosen, which brings me to my next point.

2. The story is about Maggie, who, with the help of her grandma, learns more about her family. She also learns that life isn’t about being a cool teenager who does questionable things.

That probably isn’t right, sorry, so let’s scratch that.

3. Okay, I gave you the challenge, so go for it…. Or whatever they say.

Good luck.

-Sydney

P.S. I’m still trying to figure out your prize.*sheepish grin* 

The Challenge: Day Three – Choosing an Idea

This isn’t normally a problem for me. I’ve been working on a single novel for almost three years now, so the big question of “main plot” isn’t really an issue anymore.

But this time? Ho boy.

To be honest, the first idea really is my favorite. I’m a Southern gal in every way, so a chance to write about my heritage and family (who would of course make cameo appearances) could be so much fun.

My second story option would probably turn into a memoir about my first six months in our now-hometown. Everything from the development of Real Life Games to the LEGO universe my brother and I created to running through the house with my little sisters as we played fairies I’d love to share all those things with you. But I don’t think now is the best time.

Call Me Grandma. I’ll tell you, this one warms my heart. It seems similar to the first idea…

So you know what? I think I’ll pick two ideas. I’m going to combine the first and third ideas.

It could be something like this: Teen girl (for a reason that will be decided when we get to the “Details” stage) has to go live with her Southern grandmother for her entire senior year of high school. While she’s not exactly thrilled about the idea (who would be?) she still loves her grandmother dearly. Or, she thinks she does. As Teen Girl begins spending more time with her grandmother and extended family, she learns that Ginny Holcomb might not be as normal as she thought.

Obviously there will be more to it than that (even this may change… I never quite know how things will turn out), but at least now I’ve got a start.

However, I still need a name for Teen Girl. I think something old-fashioned that can be shortened into a modern name would fit. Something even Biblical? Okay, I’m going to steal a best friend’s first name, because I think that will be perfect. Teen Girl will hereafter be referred to as Maggie (Magdalene) Bates. Ginny’s name is an old-fashioned shortening of Virginia, my maternal grandmother.

*RUBS HANDS TOGETHER* Bwahahaha! I’m now officially excited about this project. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find that this is what I do best instead of action-adventure-spy-thrillers. I’ve heard it said so often, write what you know. Even though I do that in my other writing, this may be the first time I’ve actually written something that doesn’t involved high-tech gadgets, explosions, or feats of mental gymnastics that can’t be followed even by the girl writing it. Hm… I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

Until tomorrow,

Sarah.

The Challenge: Day Two – Ideas

I don’t have much time today; I’m about to head for church after helping a lady pack up her kitchen. However, I do have a couple rough ideas:

A girl coming to meet her fiance’s Southern family for the first time.

The relationship between several siblings who’ve just moved to a new town.

The relationship between an elderly lady and her surrogate granddaughter.

Do any of those sound good? Let me know and get involved in the story!

Sarah out.