The Fierceness of Girls


meadow-rue-merrill-fierceness3By Meadow Rue Merrill

I should have known my 13-year-old daughter had heart and strength and courage the day I picked her up from the stable. Her hands were cut bloody from the reins she’d pulled, trying to hold back a runaway 1,300lb. Irish Draught horse as it thundered through the trees with her on its back.

After I picked her up, Lydia broke down, crying beside me in our van. I was so overwhelmed that I pulled off the road because I was crying too. Wrapping my arms around my daughter, I took her bandaged hands in mine and told her how proud I was. Even though she was scared to get back on, Lydia now calls that wild, giant of a horse–the one her friends are too nervous to ride–her favorite.

When I went to her Grade 8 soccer game, on a windy October day, with sunlight streaming through the trees like cathedral windows, I didn’t expect that same feeling. With three minutes left in the game, Lydia was playing center midfield and her team was ahead by one goal.

She tore over the ground as fast as if she had four legs herself, always after the ball, always ready to stop it. She’d played all but a few minutes of the game, and the pain was etched on her face. One hand wrapped around her ribs, long hair flying. She leaned forward, willing her legs to go faster against bigger, stronger opponents.

When I saw her gasping for air, I wanted to call out for her to slow down. To stop. To breathe. But the clock was ticking, and the other team was determined. The ball kept rolling. And Lydia wouldn’t stop. I was crying again, blinking back tears and wiping my eyes as I sat on a bench witnessing the fierceness in her.

When the buzzer finally sounded and her team won, I grabbed my two young sons and hurried across the field to tell Lydia what a great game she’d played. Others were behind me, praising her strength and speed and determination. But Lydia wasn’t on the bench with the other players. A few minutes later, she emerged from the trees, face wet with tears. Hard breaths punctuated her sobs.

“I couldn’t breathe,” she said, still holding her ribs.

“Why didn’t you stop?” I cried, pulling her close.

“I couldn’t.” Her whole body was shaking. “The other team would have won.”

Coaches and a classmate came close, making sure that Lydia was okay.  She drew a deep breath and nodded, wiping away her tears. Together she and her friend started across the field, cleats digging into the sod.

I was so proud, so in awe of this girl who wouldn’t stop. With heart and strength and courage like that–with such fierceness–I knew that no matter what my daughter came up against, no matter the size of her opponents, she was not going to back down.

In an age when some still dismiss hateful words and actions against women as “macho,” and exalt sweetness and meekness as more feminine than fierceness; and view what’s on the outside as more valuable than what’s on the inside, I said a prayer for these girls. Because as they grow, so will the giants they face.

Though the ride be wild, the obstacles many, and their opponents tough, may God grant all of our daughters the determination not merely to hold on, but to overcome.


About Meadow:

meadow-rue-merrillMeadow Rue Merrill, a determined mom of six determined kids, writes and reflects on God’s presence in her everyday life from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. Her memoir, “Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores,” releases in May 2017 with Hendrickson Publishers. Find her and her weekly blog, “Faith Notes,” at