Friday, April 24, 2020

Finishing Strong: My Princess Book

"Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic." -Robin Sharma

* * * * *

I'm a huge believer in finishing strong. In my book, enthusiastic starts are easy. There's plenty of motivation to be found in the early stages of any commitment, but sooner or later, every enterprise hits a seemingly solid wall of frustration and failure. 

And many times, that's where the project dies. But it's no cliche to say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The satisfaction to be found in not only finishing what I've started - or even better, finishing stronger than when I started - is to me the sweetest success of all. 

* * * * *

Back in the day, I used to make a lot of journals. For decades, I've logged my then-babies' milestones, logged our family road trip adventures, and collected a hodge podge of old-school recipe clippings. As my daughters grew older, they started making journals too. Some were undertaken just for pure artistic fun, others served as custom collections of essays, reports, and projects done for our classes. 

About ten years ago, two significant events changed up my journaling mojo. 

1. My youngest daughter wrapped up her homeschooling career as well as mine, and there went my best excuse for journaling as a priority in life.

2. I began to present my journalistic endeavors in blog format. Editing photos and typing text trended over glue sticks and cardstock, and the old days gave way to the new. 

This double whammy of a  transition probably happened over the course of several years but looking back now, it feels to me like a dramatically abrupt shift. Apparently, I ran out of journaling juju in a snap.

Because this weekend, I ran across my ancient pile of half-done journals. 

Yep. Some were barely started, others almost done, but each one had come to its own special place of hitting a wall, and in my frustration, I'd laid it aside and never come back to it. 

Until now.

But as I sifted through the pile and looked over my abandoned works in progress, my finisher's instincts kicked in and I made a promise to myself. 

I'm finishing up each one of these suckers, no matter what. 

* * * * *

It was on a Friday night maybe ten years ago that I found myself lying flat on my back on the carpeted floor of a suburban hotel ball room, staring up at the acoustic ceiling tiles and feeling my entire perspective on life suddenly snap into place.

The room around me was crowded with people - the vast majority were teenagers - also lying on their backs, also staring up into the same acoustical tiles, and while, if they were listening at all, I have no doubt that their lives might also have been changing. I do remember quite a few stifled guffaws and giggles, so I'm not sure how much was seeping into their ears. But these are the ways of teenagers and God does indeed work in mysterious ways. 

I was at a Lutheran youth gathering. Our speaker was a thirty-something slightly chubby youth pastor from Minnesota, the Lutheran homeland. In plain, direct language and engaging good humor, he talked to us about relationships and sex and self-worth.

That sounds so hokey and boring and even cringe-worthy when I say it like that.

But thankfully, he didn't say it like that. 

He first spoke to the young women in the crown, and said something like this:

I understand what it is that you want, ladies. You want to be loved. You want to be cherished and cared for and loved in such a way that you know you come first to your beloved, you will always come first. You ache to be loved for exactly who you are, you want to be respected and protected. You wish to be adored. And you deserve that. All of that. 

Someday, you may meet a man who can love you in these ways. But the boys your age are not ready yet, so be careful not to give your heart or your body away to them until they prove themselves worthy. 

 But there is someone who already loves you perfectly, just as you want to be loved.

God. Your heavenly father, your king.

And you are his treasured daughter, his princess. You are a princess of God. 

* * * * *

Now, to be honest, the Minnesota youth pastor said this way better than I just did. He spoke with snap and sizzle; his words electrified the crowd. About halfway through this part of his talk, which lasted an easy quarter hour, the sniggers and whispers abruptly died away and the room fell dead drop silent. 

I saw several girls wiping away tears. I felt a lump in my own throat. 

We knew, every girl, every woman in that room, we knew exactly what he was talking about. 

And we felt the power of that perfect love come over us, and a sense of comfort ease into our souls.

* * * * *

The boys and men in the room were aware that something was happening, but bless them, they couldn't fully grasp it. But then it was time for our speaker to turn his attention to them.

Young men, these young women around you are the princesses of God, but you are not the princes. A prince simply sits back in the authority of his blood line and awaits his turn to rule, but that is not your destiny.

You are God's knights. Your duty is to protect God's kingdom and defend his honor. You will go wherever he sends you and act on his behalf to bring his light and mercy to the world. You will do these things not on your own authority, but only in accordance with God's authority and you must live up to his standards at all times.

Between missions, you must return to God's feet, kneel before him, and learn from him. Only by applying God's wisdom to your own life will your reputation grow. 

Now I've seen you looking at the princesses of the kingdom. I know you'd like to win the heart of one for yourself, and in time, as your training advances, that will come. But now, while you are earning the privilege of a princess's love, your knightly duty is to protect the honor of all princesses, to defend them against all harm and wrongdoing, to ensure they are all treated as God's precious daughters should be. 

Because you are his treasured son, a true knight of God. 

Now we were all spellbound. From the males in the room I sensed a healthy surge of adrenaline and testosterone; an unspoken pride in this charge. I felt each young man square his shoulders and stand a little taller (except we were still lying down, so I guess they actually laid a little taller) in this new sense of purpose.

From the young women, I felt a further awakening, a new awareness of who these boys were and what made them tick. No wonder these girls couldn't get their peers to behave as proper boyfriends; they needed to slay some dragons first. 

* * * * *

This was a night that changed my perceptions

around youth ministry,
around teenagers,
around what it means to be created by God. 

From this day forward, I told and re-told this story - in my own fumbling way - to the kids I met with at youth groups. I passed out stickers of princesses and little toy knights - like army men only wearing suits of armor and carrying swords. As I said goodnight to them, I looked at them hard and said, "You are a princess of God. You are God's knight."

I let these images and comparisons soak deep into my soul, so that I didn't have to remember them consciously when I spent time with the kids. I did everything in my power to treat them like princesses and knights. I felt in tangible ways my ideas about who we are, we children of God of all ages, undergo some pretty radical transformation.

And I knew deep in my heart that it was true. I am a princess of God.

* * * * *

Around that same time, I was noodling through the craft store one day and found a tiny pink sparkly notepad in the bargain bin. Without hesitation, I reached in and drew it out. "This will be my book about fairies," I announced to myself.

Years flew by and I found my creative energy for a fairy book to be entirely stifled. The whole concept made no sense to me. I've never been particularly drawn to fairies but I'd told myself that's what this book was meant to be about, so I felt rather stuck.

I consoled myself by swapping out the cheap lined pages for an assortment of hand torn art papers and replaced the wire spiral with a ribbon. 

The new and improved book sat empty for years.

"This is my little book about fairies. It's been waiting a long, long time to be born. And finally that day has come."

As soon as I wrote those words, a new thought burst into my mind.

It's not a book about fairies. It's about princesses.

This is a book about my life as a princess of God.

And now, at long last, my book is complete. 

* * * * *

Want to see the other journals I've finished? Check them out here:

The Presidents' Pocket Biographies
My Princess Book
My Stash

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