THREE WAYS MY TWELVE-YEAR-OLD IS TEACHING ME TO LIVE FIERCELY

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Fierce is the best way to describe her. She doesn’t quit—especially when her first efforts fail. She sticks with her friends—even when they’re easily ignored by others. She speaks her mind—no matter if some are likely to disagree.

My daughter Natalie just turned 12 years old, but her fierce streak amazes and encourages and teaches me. Even as I’m asking God to help me parent her well, I’m learning from the intensity and strength I see in her. Let me tell you why.

1. She’s Fiercely Determined

Fiercely she goes after anything she puts her mind to. When she’s not automatically good at something, her fierce frustration pushes her to keep trying. Eventually she moves beyond getting good to becoming great at it.

I can see it in her eyes when it kicks in: determination ignited by the initial frustration. I remember when I saw it on the soccer field. Before one game I promised her Graeters ice cream if she scored three goals. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t need to pay up. She did score twice in the first half, but with only 30 seconds to go in the second and the ball at the wrong end of the field, I knew I was safe. The ball went out of bounds at my feet and she raced to put it back in play. She glanced at me, and I saw the steely determination on her face. She dribbled that ball down the field and made the goal right at the whistle.

“So, are we going for ice cream?” she said on the way to the car.

“Oh, yes, we are,” I answered, silently reminding myself never to make her a deal if I was unprepared to pay.

She’s teaching me to be determined too. There are so many moments when I’m frustrated and I’d like to throw in the towel. Natalie helps me realize I can do all God has called me to do, if I’ll not give up.

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2. She’s A Fierce Advocate

She loves kids no one else pays attention to. And she’s loyal to them. If someone starts making trouble for someone with no voice, she will be that person’s voice. I’ve seen her do this since she was in preschool. She’s not afraid of boys or anyone bigger than her who causes a problem for one of her friends.

Her birthday party is this week, and among the girls gathered at our place will be several suffering in dysfunctional families and horrible home situations. Again and again I see her seeking out girls like these. She stands up for them when no one else will.

I really think I’d have trouble getting her back home if I took her with me to the Dominican or Uganda. Her heart is so bent toward those who can’t (or think they can’t) have a voice for themselves.

She’s teaching me to be an advocate too. It’s part of ministry, standing up for those who can’t stand alone. It tires me, but it fuels Natalie. I’m figuring out how to keep some of that gas in my tank too.

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3. She’s Fiercely Outspoken

“You know your daughter invites me to church all the time, right?” This was how one of Natalie’s schoolteachers greeted us at parent’s night.

“Well, are you coming?” I asked.

“I think I will, just to get her off my back!”

Natalie will tell anyone about Jesus anytime, and she doesn’t care what they think about it. Last year she started a Bible study at lunch. Another time she talked to us about a friend who needed a Bible. She decided to buy one for her out of her own money. And now she regularly asks her friend, “So, what are you reading in your Bible?” She understands some people won’t like her talking about Jesus, but she believes she must tell others about him.

She has the faith of a child: she can’t understand how someone could NOT believe in him. She’s always thinking, How do I get this person to church to hear the gospel? She’s more tenacious in inviting people to church than anyone I’ve seen.

She’s teaching me to be outspoken for Jesus. And she’s teaching me to encourage others to be outspoken too. I can’t imagine what would happen at our church if several dozen others were like her.

 I know I’m not the first person to learn by watching their child. But I’m probably learning more from this 12-year-old than I’m learning from many adults. She’s looking at the world with fresh eyes. She thinks she can conquer the world, and probably she can. She has no fear in trying to figure out how it all works. She’s teaching me I shouldn’t be afraid either.