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Lupita Nyong’o on Beauty

This may be the most wonderful, significant thing I’ve heard about beauty this year.  I cannot add a word to it, just my tears this morning.

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“My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy.”

“I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty, but around me the preference for light skin prevailed. To the beholders that I thought mattered, I was still unbeautiful.”

“And my mother again would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.”

“And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you.”

“And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.”

Thank God for Lupita, and her beauty, and her talent, and her bravery, and her compassion, and her strength, and her struggle, and her words.

Don’t Miss The Point (What I Learned At Sports Camp, Part 2)

On the last day of Sports Camp I was walking around the outside of the baseball field with my charge, Hunter, holding his hand so that he wouldn’t make a break for the woods – or the road.

We were dragging our hands along the fence to high-five the kids in the lineup when I heard the coach shout, “Miss Kate, could you go get Jackson*?”

I looked up and there was Jackson.  A sandy-haired eight-year-old who’d gotten mad, slammed his mitt into the ground and stormed off the field.  He was grinding his foot into the grass with his bottom lip stuck out so far he could have tripped on it.  I handed Hunter off to a teenager who was helping me shadow and thought,

“Here we go.”

Jackson had been a tough cookie all week: whining about every injustice, every inadvertent bump at the water cooler.  He argued about his place in the lineup, which bat he received, and he made a big fuss about having to hit off a tee during practice.  And now, here was Jackson, running off, pouting, and exhibiting 27 types of selfish, attention-seeking, childish behavior**.

My instinct was to launch into Mom-mode and make this a teachable moment.  The plan was to ask him why he was mad, find a solution, give him a firm speech (in a caring tone) about how throwing fits is a waste of time and energy and not a productive way to get what you want.  (Neither is it socially acceptable for an 8-year-old and no one will want to be your friend if you keep pouting.)  Then I would shoo him back onto the field where he would wait his turn with renewed patience and be reconciled to his teammates.  End scene.

But on the way over there something caught inside my heart – I did not go with my gut.

I found myself thinking, “Nothing that could have happened on that field warrants this reaction.  He’s reacting to something else.  Something bigger.”

It occurred to me that this might be it.  The reason he was at Sports Camp, or the reason I was.  It occurred to me that Jackson had been at Sports Camp all week and this conversation about to take place between us was likely the first (and last) opportunity for anyone to really hear him.  So I bucked against all of my instincts:  I made it my goal not to react.

“When he tells me why he’s mad, don’t react.”
“When he tells me what he really thinks about the coaches, don’t react.”
“When he mouths off, don’t tell him he’s wrong or suggest an appropriate way to express it.  No teaching.  Just listening.”

Jackson must have been expecting me to go with my gut because when I took him for a walk up to the top of the bleachers, he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and asked with surprise, “Am I allowed to be up here?”

I smiled.  ”As long as you’re with me, it’s okay.”

He knew I was on his side.  Then it all poured out – and I listened.

Jackson talked all about his baseball team, his big sister, his summer vacation, his favorite memories with his uncle, and all the injustices of Sports Camp.

In less than 10 minutes I heard what I was listening for: Jackson’s mom was in the hospital.  His parents split less than 6 months ago, and he was afraid.

I get that.  I lived that.

That afternoon, Jackson didn’t need someone to put him in line.  He didn’t need someone to shoo him back onto the ball field with a stern pep talk.  Maybe he needed shooing the day after that and the day after that and the day after that – but on the last afternoon of Sports Camp, eight-year-old Jackson needed me to tell him about forgiveness.  He needed to see the hope of Christ in my life, and he needed me to tell him how much a good church can be like a family.

The point of Sports Camp is not to teach kids how to play sports; it is to teach kids about Jesus using sports.  If getting a kid back on the baseball field interferes with an opportunity to tell him about Jesus – baseball can wait.  The point is Jesus.

“Don’t miss the point.”

That’s what I learned at Sports Camp this year.

 

*Names changed to protect the precious.
**To be fair, he is a child.

 

(What I Learned At Sports Camp, Part 1: Kids Are Not The Future)

Kids Are Not The Future (What I Learned At Sports Camp, Part 1)

Here’s what I learned at Sports Camp 2012:

1. Eating small sack lunches for five consecutive days is better when you are not pregnant.

2. Sleeping on a partially deflated air mattress is better when you are not pregnant.

3. Running around a baseball field in the sun all day is better when you are not pregnant.

4. The ability to drink 3 cups of coffee a day helps.  A lot.

5. There is an inverse relationship between pregnantness and the experience of sports camp.  The less pregnant you are, the more enjoyable camp is.

6. There is also an inverse relationship between hours of teenage-girl-flirting and the experience of sports camp.  The less hours of teenage girls flirting with teenage boys who live in other states, the more enjoyable sports camp is.

7. There is an inverse relationship between the number of rats in the field house and the experience of sports camp.  The less rats sneak into the field house, the more enjoyable sports camp is.  (This year there were zero rats.  There was a frog, but the data shows no correlation between midnight frog sightings and the experience of sports camp.)

In all seriousness, this year was really, really special.  There are three short lessons burning in my heart that I’m excited to share here.  Here is the first; the rest will follow this week.

Kids are not the future.
Children and teenagers are not the next generation.  They are the current generation.  They are not the future of our country; they comprise our country.  Young people are not the future of the church; they are the present of the church.

I just spent a week watching a hundred high schoolers get up before sunrise, dress in gym clothes, and spend six hours sweating it out in the sun teaching kids to play basketball, baseball, soccer, football, track and field, gymnastics, softball, cheerleading, golf, and ultimate frisbee.  I watched them lead small group lessons over their lunch breaks – learning names, telling stories, and sharing the good news of Jesus.  I watched a hundred high school students care more about connecting with kids than being cool.  They sang songs and performed all accompanying motions/dance moves; they cheered for kids enthusiastically.  They exhibited responsibility, patience, kindness, and maturity.

They paid money for the opportunity to come and serve.   What have you done this summer?

Teenagers and children are not the future of the church; they are the present of the church.

-Do not patronize them; expect great things from them.  (Their lives don’t start at 18-years-old.)

-Do not dismiss their preferences; listen to them.  (At times it seems they speak a different language; it’s worth learning.)

-Do not tolerate them until they “grow up;” expend yourself to engage them now.  (You can learn from them, just like they can learn from you.)

-Do not babysit them; teach them. (Kids are young, not stupid.)

The children and teenagers in your community are not the future.  They are the present.  Don’t lose them.

What I Learned At Sports Camp, Part 2: “Don’t Miss The Point”

Sports Camp

Hey, guess what!

I’m not writing anything today because I’m getting ready for Sports Camp 2012.

Remember we work with teenagers?

(That’s why Dan had this terrible beard.
And why we read books by teenagers.
And  why I’ve perfected my gory scar stories.
And why I have lots of opinions for teenage girls.
And boys.)

Remember how they sometimes live with us for weeks at a time?

And we take them to camp?

And misguided beach adventures?

And remember last year’s sports camp – when there was a rat in the field house?  And a Braves game?

Well, that’s what I’m doing today.  Cleaning, baking, packing, organizing, planning, shopping, more packing – oh, and raising children.

Later, y’all.

 

Scar Wars

Sometimes we play a game called “Scar Wars” with our teenagers.

Scar Wars is a great game in which each participant tells the story of one of his or her scars.

Ideally, you would tell your best scar story.  The scar story that is the most gruesome, the most shocking, the most idiotic, the most suspenseful, or the most hilarious.  As you might imagine, the game quickly becomes an exercise in storytelling, exaggeration, one-upmanship, and vocabulary.  The winner is often the one who can come up with the most convincing description of pain – “searing, excruciating, blinding, debilitating” – that sort of thing.  If not, then it’s the person who was doing the most moronic thing when they got scarred.  Like the last time we played, Caleb won for holding a gas can too close to a fire in his back yard when it combusted in his hands, giving him a tiny cluster of perfectly round scars where the drops of burning gasoline landed.

(You can see why this is a great game for middle schoolers.  And boys.  And those with a flair for the dramatic.)

Sometimes we use a bracket system to determine the winner, and sometimes we use a trusty applause meter, but no matter the method, winning Scar Wars comes with the respect and bragging rights due a good scar.

Today, in honor of Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be with you”) I decided to share some of my best Scar Wars stories with you.

 

Most idiotic:
 One afternoon, as my little brother and I were playing unsupervised in the basement (all good stories start this way), we decided, “Let’s take these old couch cushions and stack them in a big pile.  Then let’s stack these books onto this folding chair onto this swivel chair and use our masterfully constructed tower to climb up on top  of the deep freezer.  Then we can jump off the top of the freezer onto our cushion pile!”

And that is what we did.

The thing I like about this story is that it is impossible to predict where the injury occurred.  Did I fall off of the book/folding chair/swivel chair tower?  Did the deep freezer tip over?  Did my brother land on me?  Did  I miss the cushions?    The possibilities are endless.  Here’s what actually happened:  I made it up the swivel chair, then the folding chair, then the books and onto the freezer successfully.  I was perched on top of the freezer, crouched down so that my head wouldn’t go through the ceiling tiles.  I launched myself off of the freezer and landed onto the soft, springy pile of couch cushions.  In fact, the cushions were so springy, that they in turn launched me (and by “me” I mean “my forehead”) right into a protruding corner of the wall.

At this point I had a very intense multi-sensory experience.  First I heard my brother go “WHOAH!”  Then I felt my head pounding, then I saw swirly blackness, then blood.  Then a lot of blood.  A minute later we were upstairs and my dad was gently cleaning my face and saying, “You got a little boxing cut right in your eyebrow.  It’s really small, they just bleed a lot.  What were you guys doing anyway?”

“Oh, we were just jumping off of the deep freezer.”

I think that all kids should play unsupervised in basements so that they can amass these kinds of character-building experiences.

 

My little eyebrow scar, with me in every photo since 1993. (In my right eyebrow, your left. Well, not YOUR eyebrow...you get it.)
My little eyebrow scar, with me in every photo since 1993. (In my right eyebrow, your left. Well, not YOUR eyebrow...you get it.)

Biggest scar:

One afternoon, my little brother and I were playing unsupervised in the cul-de-sac.  We were building bike ramps with Erica and her brothers.  You know bike ramps – where you put a cinderblock in the middle of the street and 2 big pieces of plywood going up one side and down the other.  As bike ramp professionals, we knew that the trick to getting some serious air was to back all the way up to the end of the street, pedal as hard as you could (so that your bike reached maximum velocity by the time you hit the ramp), and then jerk up on your handlebars just as your front tire hit the peak.

Why did our parents let us do this?

You might not know this yet, but there is an irrational, first-born, competitive, insecure, perfectionist monster living inside of me.  I have a problem saying no.  I want to be the valedictorian of everything.  I wanted to be the valedictorian of bike ramp jumping.

I stared intently down the street at our make-shift ramp. Focus. I leaned forward onto my toes and pedaled with all the strength in my thighs and calves and abs and arms.  And just as my front tire crossed the little black line where the two sheets of plywood met, I yanked up on my handlebars with gusto.  And I flew.

Then, in slow motion, I flipped.  An X-Game-caliber 360°.
Then I landed.
Then my bike landed on top of me.
Then my friends rushed over with great concern.
Then I looked up and said, “Did you guys see that?  I flew like 3 FEET in the air!”
Then I hobbled inside and my mom poured peroxide on my knees and I hated her.
Then I was a legend.

 

(You absolutely should listen to comedian Brian Regan talk about his bike ramp experience here.  Laugh out loud funny.)

Most miraculous:
When I was 17, I was in a car accident that should have wrecked me.  I was driving at night, in the rain, on the freeway, heading home from a show downtown.  I realized, through the sheets of rain, that my exit was coming up quicker than I thought.  I should have gone on to the next ramp and circled back through town, but I didn’t.  I switched lanes in a hurry and my car hydroplaned.

I fishtailed the whole way down the exit ramp, all my efforts to regain control in vain.  In slow motion I spun twice and hit a tree, right on my driver’s side door – I must have been going at least 45 miles per hour.

I remember seeing flashlights, a blonde woman inside the ambulance, watching them cut off my clothes, waking up inside a CAT scan on a bright orange backboard and picking tiny shards of glass out of my shoulder.  Then I woke up for good and my Dad was there.

When we went to see the car, we were stunned.  The drivers side seat was gone.  The impression from the tree was so deep that the door was bent in past the center console.  My steering wheel was sticking out of the drivers side door – right through the metal.  The roof had waves in it; it looked like half a car. The tree struck right where I was sitting.

I didn’t break a single bone.  I didn’t have a single cut on my face.  In fact, I didn’t really have any cuts at all – a couple little nicks from glass, a tiny one on my shoulder and one on my elbow.  I walked out of the hospital that night a little nauseous, a little bruised, and on A LOT of muscle relaxers, but largely, miraculously, fine.

Most disgusting:
The scar, formerly known as the black crater of burnt flesh on my forehead, formerly known as a pyogenic granuloma, formerly known as skin cancer, formerly known as “what the heck is that bump on my head?”  (Story here.)

 

So happy Star Wars Day, and happy Scar Wars day.
May the fourth be with you!

(Share your best Scar Wars story in the comments and I’ll do the applause meter in my house.  I’ll also share my favorites in a post next week.  Spread the word. #Scarwars)

Chronic Over-Correctors (Thoughts on Going Viral)

We humans are chronic over-correctors.  Recent circumstances have brought this tendency of ours to the top of my mind again.  But first, a few thoughts on going viral:

1. There are some really skillful, talented cussers out there.  To the lady woman who called me a self-involved, half-witted !@%^$#   *@%$#%  @$&***^%, bravo.  That’s a new one.

2. People can bring Hitler into any conversation.  Even conversations about teenage girls and motherhood.  This is a direct quote (which I deleted) from an old post: “Hitler was breast fed.”  Really?!  Okay moms, everybody just BE COOL.  We’re all on the same team.

3. Sorry Twitter and Google, but Facebook rules the internet.  For 5 days straight the Teenage Girl post was getting 2.5 views per second, averaging 200,000 views a day, and at least 95% of them came from Facebook.

4. It doesn’t matter how many people read your blog, your kids still don’t take care of themselves.  C’mon guys, Mom has writing to do.  It’s like they’re 4 years old or something. Wait…

5. I am committed to staying on the side of the creators, not the critics. (Read this.  And this.)

6. Advice and opinions are cyclical, which brings me back to the over-correctors thing:

C.S. Lewis used to say that for every current book you read, you should read a really old book.

He listed a lot of great reasons, but his point that I can’t shake this morning is this: people are far too quick to develop chronological prejudices.  As in, “It’s newer, therefore it is more relevant.  The way we do things now is better, smarter, and more efficient than the way our parents (and grandparents) did things.”

I think about this a lot at church when I hear things like “This is not your grandparents church.”  ”We aren’t afraid to be authentic, real, raw.”  ”We believe in engaging the culture.” “We hate hypocrisy.”  ”We believe in community and doing life together.”

As if our generation invented authenticity.  Like all the Christians who came before us for hundreds of years loved hypocrisy and judgement and nobody before us ever thought of using the New Testament church as a model.

When you take a step back the pattern is obvious.

And it has been painfully obvious in the 1,000+ comments on the “Ten Things I Want To Tell Teenage Girls” post.  I’ll use point #8 (Your reputation matters, and you should care what other people think about you) to illustrate what I’m getting at.

A couple generations ago, this hardly needed to be said – it was obvious.  People lived in smaller, more rural communities.  The internet didn’t exist.  Your word was your bond.  You shook on it.  People got married younger.

But people, when left to their own devices, tend to go too far.  People went from building a good name within a community (wise) to finding their worth in what others thought of them (damaging).  And everything got all messed up.

  • People became chronic people-pleasers.
  • People were afraid to say “no.”
  • People felt overwhelming pressure to conform.
  • People put as much stock in a stranger’s opinion of them as they did in what they knew to be true of themselves.
  • Criticism felt like a personal attack.
  • People lived as slaves to the opinions of others.

So we over-corrected – again.  The next generation of people held high the banner of “It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about me!”  Which is freeing and healthy – to a point.  Not caring what other people think is great in terms of determining your value and worth, in terms of being creative, in terms of doing what’s right even if it’s not popular, and standing up for what you believe in.  But in our zeal we took it too far, and everything got all messed up again.

  • People sacrificed relationships with parents (and friends) because they didn’t care what their parents (and friends) thought.
  • People became hardened to advice (and often common sense) because they “didn’t care what anyone thought about them.”
  • People jeopardized their futures because they were too self-involved in the present.
  • People started to uncensor themselves, voicing rude or gossipy remarks under the guise of “I don’t care what anyone thinks; I’m just telling the truth.”
  • People became selfish.  They made their own opinions the standard.  ”It only matters what I think.”

Because adolescence is a time when kids are testing boundaries and discovering themselves, teenagers are especially susceptible to the lure of “I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me.”  I hear teenagers saying this stuff all the time:

 ”I’m going to get this face tattoo and if my boss has a problem with it, then she’s shallow and cares too much about appearances.”

“If Suzy thinks I’m too snobby then she doesn’t have to be hang out with me anymore, nobody’s forcing her.  I know I’m a nice person and that’s what matters.”

“I’m going to take the job at Hooters even though my parents don’t want me to.  I don’t care what anyone thinks about me; I need a job.”

That kind of reasoning is short-sighted, self-centered, and immature.  I love what Dr. Ted Roberts says about maturity.  He wrote, “Maturity is not a vague philosophical concept, but a trained ability to meet the demands of reality.”

Yes.

  • Not getting a face tattoo isn’t being a conformist, it’s being mature.  Meeting the demands of reality.
  • Caring what Suzy thinks (in order to reconcile a friendship) isn’t weak, it’s mature.
  • Being nice to someone that you don’t like isn’t hypocritical, it’s mature.
  • Keeping your mouth shut isn’t cowardly, it’s mature.
  • Listening to your parents advice and preserving your reputation isn’t letting other people control you, it’s mature.

I have no doubt that people will take the advice “Your reputation matters; you should care what others think of you” too far.  They’ll swing wide like so many generations before them and run themselves ragged, thread-bare, trying to get everybody to like them.  They’ll make themselves crazy thinking about it, and that will be a tragedy.

We’re over-correctors.  We are kids on a balance beam, trying to get to the other side of life uninjured and unembarrassed.  We wobble one way, then the other, trying to find a balance that’s sustainable – a way of living that will get us from one side to the other without all the violent back-and-forth.

I think the balance is grace.
Grace for ourselves, grace for others.
There is no other way.

Dear Boys…

After I posted “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls,” a lot of people came out of the woodwork and said “What about the boys?!?”

In fact, I got quite a lot of hate mail about my urging women to dress with some self-respect and not “saying anything” to young men about respecting women.  To which I replied (respectfully, in my head) “Um, that’s because the post was written TO GIRLS.”

I decided not to write a “10 Things” for teenage boys for 1 reason:

  • I’m not a guy.
  • I’ve never been a guy.
  • I don’t know how guys think.
  • If I wrote a list for guys I would have to call it, “Ten Things Girls Want Guys to Know.”  Which, come to think of it, might be kind of helpful, but not at all the same thing as man-to-man advice.

(I guess that’s 4 reasons.)

But my husband, who is a guy, has been a teenage guy, and knows how guys think, wrote his list of “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Boys,” and I think it’s awesome.

Also, my good friend T.J. (who is a guy, has been a teenage guy, and knows how guys think) wrote a list on his blog, and it is equally awesome.  You should go read it here right now.

Here is Dan’s list, for all the young men (and not-so-young men) out there, and those who love them.

Ten Things Dan Wants To Tell Teenage Boys

1.  There are no shortcuts to respect. Shortcuts to popularity? Maybe. Shortcuts to hype/cred/fame/swag? Sure, whatever.  But shortcuts to respect? None. You earn it or you don’t. You earn it by giving it to people that deserve it. You earn it by giving it to people that don’t. Men, women, kids, the elderly. Teachers, parents, the greeter at Walmart. You earn it by the way you carry yourself. The sooner you realize it’s what you really want, the quicker you can quit looking for shortcuts that don’t exist.

2.  Person not parts. Often, you will look at a woman.  Your teenage years are a good time to master the habit of seeing a person and not just body parts. The girl you’re checking out not only has a nice butt – she also has a name, a personality, parents, goals, dreams, and a life that doesn’t involve your staring. Plus, that respect thing will be easier if you look her in the eyes first.

3.  Control your sexuality or it will control you. With the right boundaries, sex is cool.  And for a teenage guy, sex seems like this overwhelmingly huge part of life. But it is NOT worth wasting your whole life for. Sex is best in its proper time and place – if you rush and do things your way, you’ll regret it. Sex can drive you to do stupid things. As cool as you think it is, remember this for a little perspective: your parents did it too.

4.  Laziness is a disease. Other men will treat it that way too. Men may disagree with your opinion, your values, or your lifestyle and still give you some credibility. Let them believe you’re lazy, and you might as well not open your mouth again. They’re not listening.

5.  There is fine line between confidence and arrogance, but a canyon between confidence and insecurity. Act like you’re supposed to be there. When you believe yourself, others believe you too. People look for someone willing to take on challenges, willing to say ‘I got this.’ Be real, be yourself, but be the best version of yourself. The best confidence of all comes from knowing that whatever happens, I’m coming out the other side. After all, what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger. ( FYI: the respect from #1 will kill arrogance before it starts.)

6.  Whatever you’ve been asked to do, do just a little bit more. Exceed expectations. If your Mom’s expecting a ‘C,’ fight, claw, and scratch for a ‘B.’ If Dad asks you to wash the dishes, wash them AND take out the trash.  I know this sounds like nothing but extra work.  But in business, this gets you new customers. In basketball, this improves your free throw percentage. In relationships, it builds trust and responsibility. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is only five letters. Just a little ‘extra.’

7.  Women do not think like you do. You think you look cool because you’re wearing a new shirt. She thinks you look cool because you actually ironed it. You think ‘I love you’ means ‘I think you’re fun.’ But she’s thinking about words like ‘forever’ and ‘always’ and ‘The Notebook.’ Speaking in this romantic language as a teen guy is like trying to speak to hostile Latin King gang members after watching an episode of Dora. You don’t really understand what you’re saying, and you’re going to get yourself shot.

7b. Oh, and those women want you to pull your pants up.

8. Speak up. Sometimes you have something meaningful to say. Say it. Say it where people can hear you. Speak up! Speak up when you say hello, when you ask the girl for her number, when you’re answering a question. If it’s not worth saying proudly, it’s not worth saying. (This doesn’t apply to cell phone conversations)

9. You will not fail if you do not try. In other words, feel free to avoid failure at all cost. But only if you’re content being single, broke, jobless, uneducated, unknown, and unaccomplished. If that’s not what you’re looking for, you’re going to have to buck up and give it a shot. And sometimes, you’ll screw up. That’s part of life. Remember:  if you failed two times out of every three times your entire career in baseball (and hit a .333 average), you’d be in the top 26 all time! (http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/batting_avg_career.shtml)

10. Real men. For the rest of your life, you’re going to hear about all kinds of real men. They are going to be described to you as men with superhuman strength, impeccable taste in fashion, loads of cash, and the charisma and charm that every woman wants. You’re going to hear how real men wear pink, real men drive Fords or Chevys or Porsches, real men grow beards, real men drink this, or go here, or use that. They’re going to use this kind of language because you were made to be a man. And for someone to question your manhood is to deny you a valuable part of who you are. The last thing you want women or men or society or culture to think is that you are somehow ‘less of a man.’

Here’s the secret: this real man that you’re supposed to measure up to doesn’t exist.

The only man that you’ve got to worry about striving after is the man you were created to be.

You’ve got to wake up in the morning determined to meet your potential head on, to no longer judge your success by the products that they’re peddling, but to judge yourself by standards that have existed since the beginning of the time:

Am I going to make excuses or am I going to make something happen?

Am I going to make my life count or am I going to waste it?

 Am I going to make my life about what I have or about who I am?

After all, answering these questions well will get you the best kind of respect there is: True, solid, ‘conscience-clear,’ left everything out there, self-respect.

Go read T.J.’s list too, and start encouraging and building up the young men in your life.  

The world needs them.

 

 

Ten Things I Want To Tell Teenage Girls

UPDATE:  Ten Things I Want To Tell Teenage Girls is going to be a book!  Three “Ten Things” books are slated to be released September 2014 from Broadman & Holman Publishers (LifeWay Christian Resources).  Official announcement is here.  Get excited!

 

1.  If you choose to wear shirts that show off your boobs, you will attract boys.  To be more specific, you will attract the kind of boys that like to look down girls’ shirts.  If you want to date a guy who likes to look at other girls’ boobs and chase skirts, then great job; keep it up.  If you don’t want to date a guy who ogles at the breasts of other women, then maybe you should stop offering your own breasts up for the ogling.  All attention is not equal.  You think you want attention, but you don’t.  You want respect.  All attention is not equal.

2. Don’t go to the tanning bed.  You’ll thank me when you go to your high school reunion and you look like you’ve been airbrushed and then photoshopped compared to the tanning bed train wrecks formerly known as classmates – well, at least next to the ones that haven’t died from skin cancer.

3.  When you talk about your friends “anonymously” on Facebook, we  know exactly who you’re talking about.  People are smarter than you think they are.  Stop posting passive-aggressive statuses about the myriad of ways your friends disappoint you.

4. Newsflash: the number of times you say “I hate drama” is a pretty good indicator of how much you love drama.  Non-dramatic people don’t feel the need to discuss all the drama they didn’t start and aren’t involved in.

5.  “Follow your heart” is probably the worst advice ever. 

6. Never let a man make you feel weak or inferior because you are an emotional being.  Emotion is good; it is nothing to be ashamed of.  Emotion makes us better – so long as it remains in it’s proper place: subject to truth and reason.

7.  Smoking is not cool.

8.  Stop saying things like, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me.”  First of all, that’s not true.  And second of all, if it is true, you need a perspective shift.  Your reputation matters – greatly.  You should care what people think of you.

9. Don’t play coy or stupid or helpless to get attention.  Don’t pretend something is too heavy so that a boy will carry it for you.  Don’t play dumb to stroke someone’s ego.  Don’t bat your eyelashes in exchange for attention and expect to be taken seriously, ever.  You can’t have it both ways.  Either you show the world that you have a brain and passions and skills, or you don’t.  There are no damsels in distress managing corporations, running countries, or managing households.  The minute you start batting eyelashes, eyelashes is all you’ve got.

10.  You are beautiful.  You are enough.  The world we live in is twisted and broken and for your entire life you will be subjected to all kinds of lies that tell you that you are not enough.  You are not thin enough.  You are not tan enough.  You are not smooth, soft, shiny, firm, tight, fit, silky, blonde, hairless enough.  Your teeth are not white enough.  Your legs are not long enough.  Your clothes are not stylish enough.  You are not educated enough.  You don’t have enough experience.  You are not creative enough.

There is a beauty industry, a fashion industry, a television industry, (and most unfortunately) a pornography industry: and all of these have unique ways of communicating to bright young women: you are not beautiful, sexy, smart or valuable enough.

You must have the clarity and common sense to know that none of that is true. None of it.

You were created for a purpose, exactly so.  You have innate value.  You are loved more than you could ever comprehend; it is mind-boggling how much you are adored.  There has never been, and there will never be another you.  Therefore, you have unique thoughts to offer the world.  They are only yours, and we all lose out if you are too fearful to share them.

You are beautiful.  You are valuable.  You are enough.

 

(Read “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Boys” here.)
 
(Read last year’s “Ten Things I Want To Tell New Moms” here.)
 

0.15 Seconds of Fame

Today my friend Beth wrote a post about the time she and I almost trampled a Hollywood star into the ground.  The time we almost trampled teeny tiny, Oscar-nominated Michelle Williams, to be more precise.

Yes, seriously.

“It all started, as many of my high school memories do, at the mall, where a casting call was being held. With visions of James Van Der Beek and Joshua Jackson dancing in our heads, my best friend and I decided to give it a shot. The casting people took our photos and information, but said they probably wouldn’t need us. Much to our delight, they called us a few days later—and our parents, recognizing the opportunity for global superstardom, pulled us out of school to be extras.”

You should read the rest of her very funny story about our Dawson’s Creek appearance and our almost-fame here.

The episode was set at a No Doubt concert, and Beth’s outfit was by far the most…creative.  The costume lady was really banging on all cylinders when she gashed Beth’s sweater open in several places and added safety pins, which were in no way functional  in repairing the gaping holes over her midriff, and thus could only be described as “decorative.”

I was given a red pre-slashed shirt that, mercifully, had a hole-free black tank underneath it.  I had the appearance of a ragged, perhaps homeless, ladybug.  (Incidentally, my friend Hayden was also there, and SHE was given a camo corset that laced up the front and the back, and we called her G.I. Ho for weeks.)

Now, I’m sort of coming out of the national television closet here, as the fact that I was on an episode of Dawson’s Creek has gotten me through many a “2 truths, 1 lie” ice-breaker game.  Every time I have chosen to disclose this information, the response is the same:  ”We want proof!” But as this was a decade ago, before DVR and Youtube, the only proof was a single recorded VHS tape which is probably deteriorating in one of our parents attics right now.

But, for reasons I cannot comprehend, someone has put the episode on the internet.  And so, friends, here you go.

 

 

When I watched the clip with Dan he insisted I not tell him where I was – he wanted to see if he could spot me.  Upon seeing my graceful run into the arena behind Michelle Williams he said,  ”There you are!  That’s you running like a crazy person!  I recognize that trot.”

That’s what five years of marriage gets you.

 

Alan

Friends, meet Alan.

Alan is on the far right.
Alan is on the far right.

He is 16 years old.  Alan has been coming to the youth group and hanging out with our family for about a year now.  (Madeline thinks Alan is her best friend.)

One of the things I admire about Alan is his willingness to try new things; he’s brave.  You see, since Alan has been hanging out with us, he’s done the following things for the very first time:

  • Been to a concert of ANY kind
  • Spent a night away from home/family
  • Been out of the state of Alabama (we live roughly 30 minutes from Tennessee and 45 from Georgia)
  • Been to an indoor pool
  • Played Marco Polo
  • Played disc golf
  • Played pool
  • Played air hockey
  • Been to Chuck E. Cheese
  • Been to a driving range
  • Tied a tie
  • Been geocaching
  • Prayed out loud (in front of another person)
  • Memorized a Bible verse
  • Eaten an omlette
  • Eaten stuffed pasta shells
  • Eaten taco soup
  • Made and eaten a homemade milkshake
  • Been to Bridge Street (a mall across town)

When it came to our attention that Alan was 16 years old and had never tried or done any of these things, it became a game of sorts. What can we introduce Alan to?  What can we make him do?  His comfort zone is constantly being challenged and stretched, and he always rises to the occasion.  Is there anything he won’t try?

So here is a list of some more things that Alan has never done, which we plan on tackling one at a time.

Alan has never:

  • been bowling  (WHAT!?!)
  • been camping
  • been on a boat/canoe/plane/train
  • been to the beach/ocean  (WHAT!?!?)
  • ridden a roller coaster
  • been putt-putt golfing
  • tried sushi
  • done the electric slide (or the cupid shuffle)
  • played monopoly
  • played poker (or Uno)
  • baked a cake (cooked or baked anything)
  • ridden a horse
  • fired a gun
  • changed a tire (or oil)

Can you even believe that!?!?  (I hope you’re feeling blessed right now.)  I’ve written all of this at Dan’s urging and with Alan’s permission – and now the three of us want to hear from you!

What things do you think everyone should do at least once?  What life-enriching things does Alan just HAVE to do? I’m not talking about life list kind of stuff; there are a lot of people who have never been skydiving.  But what should every 16-year-old guy have done in life?  What would you like to see him try?  Please, share!

We’ve had a lot of fun getting to know Alan; he’s a great guy.  This whole experience has reminded us how worthwhile it is to be secure enough in yourself (and to be thirsty enough for life) to try new things.  To be ever-stretching and growing.

God is good; life is good.  Seize the day!