She is at a friend’s house to play. She’s six and she hates peanut butter but eats it anyway because that’s what her friend’s mom serves for lunch. She stays quiet about her preference.

She doesn’t want to trouble anyone.

On her ninth birthday she listens through thin walls as her parents fight about nothing and everything. She knows there isn’t anything she can do to make them love each other again.

She feels a sense of shame that she can’t explain.

She turns thirteen and is the third best friend of two fighting girls who both tell her their side. She feels overwhelmed with the middle-ness of it all.

She doesn’t sleep well at night.

She walks to her seat near the window in the back of her tenth grade English class, catches the eye of a friend across the room and notices the scowl on her face.

As she pulls a sweater out of her bookbag and shrugs it on half-way, she is aware of a nagging sense of shame and responsibility over the mood of her friend. Is she mad at me? 

She feels hurt and rejected but tries to hide it.

At seventeen she learns of her acceptance into the college her entire family attended. She is afraid to tell them she doesn’t want to go.

She feels responsible to live up to their expectations.

She laughs like her mama, likes country music, puts fries on her hamburger, and dreams about the future. She stays up too late and regrets it in the morning. She sees the moon in a winter sky. It makes her cry.

She panics in the spotlight but craves it at the same time. She makes friends easily but still feels lonely. She feels both too much and not enough.

She is smart and beautiful. But she doesn’t know it.

She moves through life like a well-trained cheerleader, elbows and knees locked, smile on her face. With shoulders tense and teeth clenched tight, she braces for tests and right answers. She is ready for anything. But not really.

In a world where everyone’s motives seem to drip heavy with expectation, she wonders if anyone knows who she really is.

There is a different way to live. Life isn’t about trying hard to be good. It’s about trusting God to be graceful in us.

Teaching our girls to be graceful doesn’t mean perfect. It means free.

She is specially marked by God’s divine grace. But she doesn’t know it yet.

That’s why I wrote a book for her.

Graceful: Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life is a book for teen girls and was released in September. I’m thrilled to share it to you today.

And if you are a grown up and this resonates with you, you could grab a copy of my book for women on this same topic, Grace for the Good Girl.

Be sure to come back Wednesday for a link to the free downloadable small group leader’s guide as well as a one page flyer for your youth pastor.

Portions of this post were adapted from Chapter 1 of Graceful. Read the full chapter here.

-by emily freeman, Chatting at the Sky