A group of around thirty high school girls are currently rocking my world. Each week I load up my car with baked goods, kantha quilts made out of recycled saris from India, twinkle lights, pillows and blankets and head over to the local Catholic high school. I do my best to create a safe place of beauty- to offer a pause in the busy week- a time for the girls to take a break and be reminded of who they truly are. We call it Redeeming Eden, because we are on a journey to reclaim what the enemy stole thousands of years ago and continues to mess with today.
The father of lies is in the business of stealing our true identity as beloved daughters of God. But we're not just daughters. We've got an older brother who fights for us valiantly and ALWAYS WINS, as long as we call on Him. It's been said that a woman who knows God as her Father and Jesus as her older brother is unstoppable. That's the truth I'm determined to pass on to these young women.
These are the sorts of questions they've ask me:
“How do you find yourself after you've been lost?”
“How can I find myself- who I truly am- because when you put on a different persona it's hard to figure out who you are?”
“If you feel you're starting to change (badly), how can you go back to who you really are?”
They want an answer to the question, “Who am I?” and then they want to know how to hold on to that identity. Those girls aren't that different from their mothers and grandmothers. They aren't that different from any of us.
We can begin to answer these questions by going back to the beginning- back to the place where it all went wrong. There was a time when things were as God intended them to be. Hearts were free from despair, doubt, self-hatred, confusion, competition, comparison, grief and disappointment. The world was as it should be, because the people knew who they were and who God was. Needs were provided for by a loving Father who could be trusted. There was rest. There was certainty. There was security. There was peace.
But the enemy of our souls couldn't bear to see us experience what he had forfeited for himself. Satan, the accuser, entered the scene with the goal of getting man to doubt God's goodness, provision, and trustworthiness. He knew that if he could get our eyes off God and onto ourselves, he could begin to drive a wedge into the utterly life-giving relationship we are privileged to share with our Creator.
How did he do it? Once such goodness and perfection had been tasted, what could cause a person to walk away? The enemy accomplished this by tempting Eve to attempt to grab the identity of God for herself. And we have been caught in the trap of self-reliance and self-worship ever since.
God had given Adam and Eve the freedom to eat the fruit of every tree in the Garden of Eden, save one. One tree was off limits. The enemy drew Eve's eyes to the forbidden fruit and seductively suggested that God was holding out on her. He whispered, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
You will be like God. No longer dependent, no longer being taken care of, no longer being provided for- you will do the providing. You'll be self-sufficient. You won't need Him anymore. You will be in charge. When your eyes are opened, you'll see how powerful you are.
May we never forget the identity of the one doing the talking. We read in John 8:44 that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Because make no mistake, he is whispering the same lie to you today. He is tempting you to trade the incredible gift of being protected, delighted in and cared for by your Heavenly Father, for self-sufficiency and trying to do everything in your own strength. He is tempting you to trade the gift of having your big brother fight your battles for you (battles He is guaranteed to win) for heading into the battle by yourself, unarmed and vulnerable.
We have to decide whose voice we are going to listen to. We have got to grasp hold of our true identity, who God says we are, and kick to the curb the litany of lies that is fed to us on a daily basis.
Who are you?
You are chosen. (1 Peter 2:9)
You are God's masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
You are precious. (Isaiah 43:4)
You are provided for. (Philippians 4:19)
You are delivered. (Psalm 32:7)
You are free. (John 8:36)
You are the daughter of the Most High God, the Creator of the galaxies and beyond, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
You are the sister of the Rescuer, the Bridegroom, the Alpha and Omega, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the one who is called Faithful and True.
Remember who you are by looking at the One who made you. Define yourself by your relationship to your Father and Brother, and you will be unstoppable.
May we fight for the truth and demolish the lies.
May we set an example for the next generation to follow.
May we become an army of women who trust in the Father and rely on the Rescuer.
So grateful that when I am weak, He is strong,
My favorite part of leading BLAZE is getting to answer questions.
Middle school-aged girls are filled with questions. They have doubts, they desire clarification, and they want to share their thoughts in a space that will allow them to make their relationship with God personal and meaningful.
Somewhat in contrast to past generations, seventh and eighth graders of today are unwilling to go through the motions. They want something more.
BLAZE was created to give women the words and the tools they need to lead their daughters closer to Christ with confidence. But BLAZE is only a conversation starter. For this curriculum to truly have a long-lasting effect, it must be brought into conversation outside of the school or the small group or the youth group. For the words in this written curriculum to truly transform the hearts of young girls, it must be brought into the home.
We have done our best to create a component of BLAZE to make this possible. The Between You and Me: Mother-Daughter Devotional was put together to give moms the words to spend intentional time in conversation with their daughters about the lessons taught in BLAZE. Whether or not this is used in conjunction with any of the other aspects of the curriculum, this beautiful book has the potential to lead to the most important form of faith formation: conversation in the home.
But, I am writing to you today because I am very aware of a challenging truth; it is not enough to just make conversation starters like this accessible. You - as moms, grandmas, aunts, and sisters - need to invite this sort of dialogue into your homes. You need to be willing to create the space for girls to express their doubts and share their ideas. Sure, the Mother-Daughter Devotional is a beautiful gift that will look lovely on a bedside table, but for it to truly serve its purpose, it must be opened. My hope is that this book looks well-loved after it is read. I hope it is bookmarked and highlighted and scribbled in. And, I pray that the words no longer exist only on the pages. I pray that these words have ventured off into the hearts of both you and the precious child of God who you are reading with.
But above all, whether you use this curriculum or not, I hope that the open space which you create in your home for conversation is a hospitable one. May it be a space where girls can feel comfortable asking any and every question on their heart about God and faith and the Catholic church. Trust me, they have all of the questions and I guarantee, some of them will make you uncomfortable. For many of these questions, you will not have the answers. But fear not, your job is not always to respond. Your job is to hear and embrace. More than answers, your daughters need to know that their questions are okay. Their doubts need to be affirmed.
I know you want to have all of the answers. I do too. I know that you will fumble to answer certain questions in an effort to be the best at-home catechist that you can be. I do this all of the time. But it's time to be okay with not knowing. Your daughter would much rather you sit in the unknown with them than try to answer their doubt away.
And here's the beauty of entering into conversation and diving into the BLAZE curriculum at home...if you allow it to, it will teach you too. I pray that you are open to this.
And if you don't know how to sit in the unknown, let me give you one small piece of advice: let your daughter try to answer the questions for herself first. Find out what she thinks. Ask her questions. Let her know that you don't know all of the answers and give her permission to brainstorm what she thinks the answers may be.
In a truly fruitful conversation, both parties leave the dialogue with a takeaway. Give the middle schooler in your life permission to teach you about God in your attempt to teach her. I guarantee, if you welcome BLAZE into your home, it will change your heart as much as it will change your daughter's.
So, here is BLAZE. I hope that you are as excited about this gift as we are to give it to you. I pray that you may not only welcome it into your school and church, but that you would welcome it into your home as well.
Your daughter needs you. She wants to ask you the same questions that she is asking her friends or her religion teacher. Give her the space to do that.
In BLAZE, you will find some of the words. You will find a few of the answers. But mostly, you will find conversation starters. You will have the tools to learn about the Lord alongside your daughter. I implore you, don't let this moment pass you by. The time for your daughter to build a foundation for her faith is here and now and you are the best person equipped to lay down the bricks, one conversation at a time.
PS: I know you have a million and one questions about BLAZE and we have done our best to answer as many of your questions as we can! For further questions, please see our FAQs and if you still need answers, please contact us!
I arrived at the home of an 8th grade boy, whom I had never met. I had no idea what his mother looked like or what her name was. My daughter, also an 8th grader, had texted me the address. The instructions were to show up, silently take pictures, and leave.
It was the highly anticipated 8th grade dance, and this moment was the infamous “pictures before the dance” event. It was all a very big and important deal, and by invite only. And to be honest? It was weird.
Let me tell you why.
The girls? They were all beautiful. Not that being beautiful is a problem, but I mean...they were crazy beautiful. As in, they looked like they were thirty years old beautiful. The dresses their teenage bodies were poured into were a far cry from what I wore to my 8th grade dance. Honestly? I think I wore a circus tent that my mother found on the floor, beneath the sale rack at Burlington Coat Factory. That is not even a joke. If I find a picture I will post it to prove it. But these dresses? These were adult woman, red carpet dresses. Cut low, and hemmed high, if it were not for the braces and awkwardly posed selfies, you would never guess they were just fourteen. And yes. I was the mother who brought my daughter's dress to the tailor to sew up the plunging neckline, and who had to resist the urge during picture taking to run up to my sweet and innocent girl, pull her dress down, all while praying out loud to Saint Maria Goretti.
I have two incredible daughters. One is the nose pierced, dressed in all black, insanely talented artist who is “room cleaning” challenged, did not have a date for the 8th grade dance, and who has a plan to skip college and become a successful and highly sought after tattoo artist; a dream I have come to peace with. The other is the long haired, varsity cheerleader with a boyfriend on the football team, and who keeps her room clean with a plan to get married young, become a mom, and do good work as a therapist. They are different in so many beautiful ways, but at their core, both girls are compassionate and hysterical and I am proud to say, have a personal relationship with the Lord. They have their own “friend group” and they keep busy with art, school, cheer practice, work, social activities with their peers, family time, as well as their fair share of hours in front of a screen. On the outside, they are typical and healthy girls who are doing great. But spend a little time with them, and you will quickly learn that on the inside? On the inside they feel anxious, depressed, ugly, and often very much alone.
And when I was their age, guess what? I felt that way, too. And it almost killed me. I think it is killing our daughters, too.
Does that sound too dramatic? I recognize it might. And yet, I will not edit my words. I have four children and I have watched my very own race a million miles in the wrong direction, all in the hope of fitting in. And yes. Death is a very real option if we do not catch them in time. And as I presently travel a road I pray no parent ever has to travel, I know that the truth is....many of you are already traveling it...and many more of you will. And so I feel charged to proclaim the truth of what is happening even if it hurts your ears and pierces your heart. I feel obligated to break this “kid code” that our children are living by and forcing us, as parents, to cooperate with; this “do not say anything to that parent of the kid bullying me or that teacher who treats me unfairly, or to the mom of the underage kid who is drinking because if you do, you will make life for me worse” code. Have you heard your own child say this to you? It is an incredible system our children have silently agreed to follow, leaving parents feeling helpless, and putting countless young lives in real danger.
Sisters, the truth is, our girls are slowly dying. And it starts in the Middle School.
Before sitting down to write, I threw out a question on my personal Instagram account asking young girls, “What was the hardest part of Middle School for you?” Many responses came in, and they all said the same exact thing.
One girl brought me to tears, sharing, “If you do not fit in, you are nothing, which is obviously not true, but the feeling kinda' starts in middle school.”
Another wrote, “The hardest part for me is learning to stay true to myself and not go with the popular kids.”
Both girls address the lie, and the pressure it places on them. Is it better to be popular by being someone God did not intend you to be? Is it better to fit in even if it means being someone you are not? According to the responses left in my feed, these are the serious struggles, and all too often the answer to these questions is an astonishing and most heartbreaking “yes.” Most girls will do whatever they need to do in order to fit in. I spent the majority of the day wishing I could cup these girls faces in my hands and through my own tear filled eyes tell them, “You are not nothing. You are chosen. You are beloved. Do you understand that? You are not nothing.”
My daughter's friend was over the day my own Blaze Kit arrived, and so we went through it together, like kids on Christmas morning. I pulled out the “truth vs. lie” cards and read them out loud. Everytime I read the LIE (“I need a boyfriend to be happy”) the girls would giggle then say, “Oh yeah, that IS true!” And sure, they were being silly, but even so, I had to pause and think about it. In their heads they knew these were lies. But in their hearts, they believed otherwise. Because the truth is, they are fed the lie more than they are fed the truth. And as far as I can tell by my own weekly grocery bill and the size of my children, if you want something to grow, you feed it. And so I have to wonder. In a world that will not rest at feeding our young girls lie after lie, are we doing our part? Are we feeding our girls enough truth?
I absolutely love how Lisa Brenninkmeyer opens the lessons in the Blaze Middle School Curriculum by quoting not Jesus, not the Pope, not a Saint. She quotes Taylor Swift. “Unique and different is the next generation of beautiful. You don't have to be like everybody else. In fact, I don't think you should.” Wonderfully said, Miss Swift. I believe this, and I am sure you believe this too. Now, we need to convince our girls.
On our way home from cheer practice, I shared with my daughter with her BLAZE water bottle in hand, that even though she was going into High School, the BLAZE program would be really good for her and her friends....and that maybe...I would lead them through the study. I honestly don't remember her response, which could go both ways, and if I am being honest there was the whisper in my head saying, “Good grief, Laura, you don't have time to shave your legs, how on earth will you add this to your plate?” But here is the deal. I can't lose another child to this Godless world that throws empty lie after empty lie in their faces and leads them away from Christ. I just can't. Our children are dealing with very grown-up issues and enormous feelings at an incredibly young and impressionable age. They are self-harming by cutting, vaping, underage drinking, experimenting with drugs, taking pills, being sexually active, fantasizing about suicide and going down some very dark and frightening roads, and I am telling you, more than half the time we have no idea. Not because we are not present. Not because we are bad moms. But because the world is moving too fast and we have not been given the tools to keep up. And this numbing, reckless, self medicating behavior does not begin when they are in high school, nor when they are in college, and certainly not when they turn twenty one. It starts in the Middle School. How do I know? Because I asked. And the girls told me.
I firmly believe as mothers, aunts, sisters, Godmothers, friends, and good women of faith, we are being called to step into the arena WITH our girls and fight hard for them. We need to become an undeniable presence and an unleashed force of protection in their lives that goes beyond signing up to bring snacks to the lacrosse field, or volunteering as class mom. We need to win their hearts back. We need to saturate them in truth. And we need to do it before it's too late.
BLAZE has intersected my life by nothing other than the almighty hand of God. As a mom who has been present, who did volunteer (up to a point) and who runs a home where church is non-negotiable, I have been struggling to see how I allowed one of my precious own to fall through the cracks. I have been beating myself up for not keeping my baby safe. And I have been searching for ways to ensure I am not blindsided by what is really going on with our youth ever again. What a blessing that the BLAZE program has done the bulk of the work for me. From the Middle School Girl's Curriculum Guide, to the Between You and Me Mother - Daughter Conversations devotional (my favorite!) to the 6-lesson Bible study to the Blaze Kit take-away gifts that reinforce each lesson from the Blaze Curriculum (the old catechist in me is crazy about this), BLAZE just might be the most important study in the Walking With Purpose library. I believe this. And I believe in this. And I pray you do, too.
So, where do we start? We start right now, by listening to Lisa, in her own powerful words, describe not only the importance of BLAZE, but of our crucial role in our daughter's lives. And we pass it on. We send the link to a friend, we share the videos with our girlfriends, we spread this truth like a blazing wildfire. And we purchase BLAZE. Not because I am asking you to, but because I believe God is calling us to. BLAZE is a life vest and oxygen mask - and we would be crazy not to reach for it. Sisters, these are the tools we need to save our girl's lives. Purchase BLAZE materials for your daughter, buy it for a friend's daughter, give it as a thank you to your Director of Religious Education, wrap it as a birthday gift. Just get BLAZE into someone's hands now.
My prayer is that with the help of BLAZE, God will make up for whatever I lack as a mother and fail to notice, and speak directly to my daughter's heart. I pray that one day soon, all of our girls will not only recognize but truly believe that they are not nothing but rather something; something so much greater than they can even comprehend. They are God's masterpiece, perfect in every way, and they need not ever kill themselves over trying to fit in, because the truth is, with God, they already do.
It's time we bring our girls hearts back home where they belong.
Won't you please join me?
Your Sister in Christ,
*When you purchase your BLAZE study, would you please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide us with the first name of the precious girl receiving this gift? We would love to pray for her in our daily intentions!!!