What’s Your Line?

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Jesus speaking: “‘Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her'” –Luke 10:41-42 (The Voice).

This week, my almost-21-year-old son (his birthday is in a few days!) told me that his friends say I’m their favorite parent of all time because I did not ‘freak out’ over his getting his eyebrow pierced.  He’s not my first child to say this to me.  I have been the go-to parent for many activities.  My kids have never asked me not to attend one of their events (although I have refused many), and my daughter’s friends have suggested me as a designated driver (when they were too young to drive) for late night TP-ing pranks for the cross-country teams or to team events.  Since I have never been in the ‘cool kids’ group, it amuses me that the next generation thinks of my middle-aged self as a kindred spirit.  What separates me from other adults in their minds?  Am I better?  Oh, that’s just laughable.  Am I wiser?  I can bluff a good game, but I know it’s smoke and mirrors.  Am I prettier or more fashionable?  Yeah, no.  There’s a reason I don’t post my photo on my blog.  I think it’s that I remember what teen and young adult years were like.  I remember that all I really wanted was for someone to believe in me.  Someone to say, ‘You’re not crazy for wanting to follow a dream.’  Someone to tell me that the world won’t come to an end if I make a mistake or do something I would regret later.  Someone who would love me unconditionally and not let me face my consequences alone.  Someone who wouldn’t draw a line in the sand over ‘a million details.’

I wanted freedom with a safety net.

So, when my son told me that many of his friends and their parents think I’m an anomaly–the friends in awe of me, the parents thinking me crazy and too tolerant–I felt the need to offer a glimpse of what I have to offer.  In no way do I believe I have parenting figured out, nor do I believe that I’ve done the raising of my children ‘right.’  This post is not meant to shame, judge or condemn anyone.  Believe me, I have had many Psycho Mom Moments and have freaked out immaturely.  You may have another piece of the puzzle that I haven’t seen.  The point is that we stop criticizing each other and start playing on the same team!  Let’s work together to equip our children so that they will have a foundation to grow stronger and wiser in equipping their next generations.

So, here are some questions to ask yourself before you ‘freak out’:

  1. Is it life-threatening?  A piercing, a tattoo, a funky hair color or cut will not bring down civilization.  If they are 18 or older and don’t need your permission, be careful about withholding your blessing. I tend to *sigh* and roll my eyes.  My kids call me on this all the time–as they smile or chuckle.  Do you really want your line in the sand to be over something like hair? A young adult will process that thought to mean, If my mom freaked over a piercing, what will happen if I ______. We can squelch communication between us by our reactions to the little things.
  2. Is it immoral, or just embarrassing for you?  This one’s tough.  Some denominations have super-strict policies on personal modesty.  I cannot tell you what’s right for your household, only that I have researched and read all the Scriptures by myself and with others and have come to my own conclusions.  I invite you to do the same–setting aside the church party-line and really process what God is saying through those Scriptures.  Often, the choices of our young adults conflict with our own insecurities of what our friends, family and church leaders will think.  As a parent, my child should never carry the weight of my insecurity on their shoulders.
  3. Am I afraid of losing control over their lives?  You already have.  … (I’ll let that sink in for a moment) …  And if you feel that you have to resort to shaming or guilting them into compliance, you may have lost more than control over them–you may have lost them.  Recognize they are adults and will make some choices you would never dream of making.  You don’t get to live their lives anymore!  I would rather have a relationship and an open channel of dialogue with my children, than children who don’t ever want to be around me.  If you would rather prove to your children that your way is best, then realize that you may not have enjoyable family times.  You have to pick your battles–and every choice they make cannot be a battle.

Every year, my daughter has a Christmas party for the high school girls she mentors and several of her close friends.  They come over for a tree-trimming, homemade soup, Christmas movie evening.  Last year, a 15 year old opened a soda bottle and it exploded all over my kitchen counter and floor.  I looked over, laughed and got out towels to mop it all up.  All the girls helped, and the embarrassed girl was able to laugh … eventually.  One girl looked over at me like I was an alien.  She solemnly said, “My mom would not be laughing at this.”  It was soda!  Just a mess.

No one should have to live anxiously about making a mess.  Lighten up with each other! Lighten up with yourselves!

Have you figured out yet that this post isn’t just about parenting, but about how we treat others?  Do you recognize yourself in the parent or child role?  If we freak out over the smaller things in life, will we have credibility with the really intense things that come our way?  I’ve had hard conversations with teens and adults.  People tell me their dark secrets all the time because they say they know I will show them compassion.  I will hold them accountable, but I won’t make them confront anything alone.  If another person is involved, I offer to go with them to have the conversation.  Most of the time, I help them see the situations as a growth curve.  It may be life-altering, but no moment has to become your life identity.

If you must have a line in the sand, let it be over abusive ways, integrity issues, ignorance and prejudice.  Because we should freak out over character flaws that determine our world’s culture.

Certainly, we all need people to watch our backs and keep us from destroying ourselves and others.  I pray that you find your security in God so that you recognize when you or others truly need wise help.  

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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Through The Decades Of My Life

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‘Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete’ –Romans 12:2.

This week, I turn 49 and will enter into my 50th year on this earth.  My birthday always finds me reflecting on who I’ve become and how the world is different.  In 49 years, I’ve seen technology explode our planet and make the world much smaller.  I remember the computer room my dad would take me to at the university where he worked.  That computer took up more space than my bedroom in my house.  I think it might have been bigger than my parents’ room, as well.  I remember fully embracing the risen Jesus–not just loving the Bible stories, but really and truly loving Him.

That would have been the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I remember women’s places changing from home to career.  I remember the first woman professor in my dad’s engineering department.  My dad didn’t know he taught me inclusivity by respecting her work.  He never got on a soap box; but he lived his professional life without feeling threatened by women.  I developed the belief system that as a woman, I was equal to men–even within church positions.

That was the 1970s.  

As a teenager, I remember listening more to what my parents talked about with each other.  As children, we observed more of how our parents lived than what they tried to tell us.  As a teenager, I had enough brain development to understand more of what they  talked about.  I learned how to treat people with compassion and how to live my life with integrity–mostly the same person in public as I am in private–by watching how they acted in public and at home.  I learned what to look for in a politician and what to look for in a life partner.  I remember the list I wrote before God of what I hoped He would provide.  Jud embodied that list.

That was the 1980s.

As my life progressed and my view of the world broadened, I understood more of my mom’s perspective–especially in raising children.  I found how daunting a role ‘Mother’ is.  However, I still believed that I could find answers in a book that would give me the formula on how to raise godly children.  I still believed a formula existed for most of life’s endeavors.  I still believed a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way existed for marriage, children and church.  I began to understand just how wrong my beliefs were.

That was the 1990s.

At the turn of the century/millennium, I remember knowing that I had become a farce–as a mother, a wife and a church-goer.  I had played all the games, followed all the ‘rules’, and read all the books; but none of those things made my life turn out the way the ‘teachers’ said life would become.  I no longer found the presence of God in church, I couldn’t live up to the suburban-soccor-mom stereotype that people lifted up as the godly way to live, Jud and I had to re-learn what it meant to have a ‘christian’ marriage by re-learning how to be a wife/husband to each other–not the one-size-fits-all husband/wife rules of all the ‘christian’ marriage books, classes and seminars.  God began to reveal that sometimes church can have its own ‘world’ attitudes.

That was the 2000s.

Now, in this next decade, I can take all I’ve learned from the previous decades and transform even more.  After learning some facts about Bible interpretation and scholarship, I’ve had to re-learn how to read the Bible and accept its limitations.  I’ve found that by accepting the limitations (and many months of confusion, throwing a book or two against walls, and a few screaming matches with God, followed by some not-speaking-to-Him time), the Bible has more meaning, relevancy and depth than I ever dreamed.  Frankly, the stories have become so much more interesting and passion-filled–especially stories about Jesus.  I’ve learned to welcome and embrace the humility of broken living. I’ve learned to allow churches and pastors the same broken-ness.  Transforming my mind, God has developed a deeper sense of compassion, justice and a fuller belief in His power and work in this world. I look forward to having more and more revealed to me and our world about God’s heart, thoughts and ways for us.  I look forward to the struggle, the heartache and the joys as we become more and more like Him.

These are the 2010s.

I’d love to hear from you!  How have your views of yourself, life, God changed over the decades?

 

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Leading By Example

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My goodness!!  Sometimes I wonder if we truly live in the 21st century?  I’ve read several articles about the Voting Rights Act, Paula Deen (and several other ‘celebrities’ who have let loose with racial and offensive slurs) and Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman over the past few weeks.  I can’t say that I understand much about the Voting Rights Act issue.  Being from Arizona and born in the mid-60s gives me little frame of reference for racial prejudice (illegal immigration didn’t really touch me back then).  Visiting my mom’s stomping grounds in Texas and living in Alabama for 4 1/2 years in the 1990s give me some perspective.  As a child, I remember the days-long road trips to Texas and staring out the car window in boredom.  I saw many signs on restaurants that read ‘Members Only.’  When I asked my parents what that meant, my mom responded, “Only white people can eat there–it’s how they get around the laws.”  Once, when I felt overly-bored of the car and hungry, I said, “So we could stop and eat in one of those places?”  Both my parents stiffened and said, “We will never go to a place with one of those signs.”  At 7, I began to understand prejudice and where my family stood.

Because of those experiences, I understand, from an ideological view, why the Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act.  However, in order for that view to be just and fair, I believe we must repeal the electorate, have each individual vote counted and the majority vote of the people decide our elections.  “Our country has changed,” explained Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.  I want to believe that theory.  But, how can I?  I’ve also read many articles about Texas immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision putting into effect a voter identification law that previously had been blocked.  I read articles about egregious racism by international chef and personality Paula Deen.  The Trayvon Martin case breaks my heart.  And, so my friends from the South don’t think that I’m picking on them, a contestant from Philadelphia on one of my favorite summertime shows (MasterChef) tweeted some really offensive, racist remarks.  Don’t get me started on Alec Baldwin, Mel Gibson or the many other celebrities who while inebriated or just in rage have let loose indefensible insults.  Has our country changed?

Transitioning takes so much time.  I think of all the moves we’ve made with the military.  It took about 3-6 months to feel settled.  It took about 3 months to adjust to our first child, 6 months to adjust to our second child and 18 months to feel like we had control with three (notice I said ‘feel.’  I’m not sure we ever had control….).  Changing a whole nation and culture takes decades; but it does happen.  I look at South Africa, where we have dear friends, and how far they’ve come in 30 years since apartheid and how far they still have to go.  Our friends have said that they are not sure what will happen when the ailing Nelson Mandela actually dies.  He symbolizes grace and forgiveness in a volatile state, much like Gandhi did for India.  Much like Martin Luther King, Jr. in our country.  My heart grows weary and heavy when I think that many of our ‘symbols’ become martyrs.  Mandela’s long life is an exception to that rule.

So, I worry over the implications of not having the Voting Rights Act to protect minority voices in our nation.  I worry that our country’s stability rests on laws and not in the hearts of its people.  Discouragement surrounds my heart at all the injustices I see and feel.

But, I do have hope.  I read multiple articles about the first integrated prom in Wilcox County, Georgia.  How students at the high school went against the adult views of having a ‘black prom’ and a ‘white prom’ since the 1970s and organized their own prom.  My heart almost burst with pride at the courage and tenacity of these students.  I know so many youth and young adults who protect their peers who are bullied.  I cheer on the multitudes who will not accept another suicide in their towns and have befriended the ‘fringe’ kids in their schools.  May we learn by their example how to ‘work at living in peace with everyone … [and to] look after each other so that none … fails to receive the grace of God’ (Hebrews 12:14, 15).

Our country has a long way to go before we see stability with all the transitions.  We won’t know if overturning the Voting Rights Act corrupts the democracy process until we have an election.  But, I know our youth and young adults can accept the challenges that our generation gives them.  We have raised an incredible generation of young adults capable and willing to take ownership of their culture.  Let us celebrate our children and our children’s children as they learn to lead our country and our world.  Let us encourage their efforts to build bridges and seek to live in peace.  Let us stand confidently alongside them as they discover that the foundations we laid are actually springboards for them to go farther than we dreamed possible–just as we have grown past our parents’ and grandparents’ expectations (and perhaps desires).  Power and control are hard to give up; but for us to move forward, we must make room for the next generations to show us where to go.

 

 

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Ah, Youth

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Many adults say that they can’t relate to teens.  Many adults are afraid of teens.  Sometimes, we adults wonder why teenagers think we are ridiculous?  Perhaps the question we need to ponder is, “Why do we think teenagers are ridiculous?”

Graduation season is upon us.  I’ve got 4 youth girls that I’ve watched grow through tough times and amazing times over the past 4 years.  As I write out their graduation cards and smile at their future, I remember why I love working with youth.  The energy, the passion, the joy and effervescence!  Not the drama–never the drama.  Not even when I was in high school did I deal well with the drama.  BUT, this post CELEBRATES our next generation.

When I worked as a youth leader, I figured out a few things quickly:

1)  Teens want adults to cheer them on.  They want adults who will believe in their dreams–even if they’re unrealistic.  They want adults to celebrate even small successes with them.   Those girls’ faces lit up and they couldn’t wait to introduce me around when I showed up at their recitals, performances, sporting events.

2)  Teens don’t care how old you are if you love them.  In my 40s, many of the teen girls gravitated to me.  They didn’t care that I grew up with their parents.  They only cared that I cared for them.  They listened to me, even though they wouldn’t listen to their parents who were saying the same things that I said.  It’s the time of life when kids want to find their own way and start to separate from their parents.  My own kids did–I was NOT ‘the cool youth leader’ at home … I was MOM.

3)  Teens want an adult to hug them when life throws them an ugly curve ball.  They want an adult to whisper that they may hurt badly now, but they will heal.  They want an adult to cry with them when life falls apart–even if it seems trivial in perspective to adult pressures.  They want their pain to be taken seriously.  They look to adults for stability and need us to express faith that even though today is unbearable, God can, and will, heal.

4)  Teens sometimes need just presence with no words.  I remember holding one girl when a dear friend committed suicide.  I remember spending time with her 6 months later when another friend killed himself and yet another had attempted suicide.  I remember there being very few words in those moments.  Ecclesiastes 3:7 offers wisdom, “A time to be silent and a time to speak.”  In the moment of crisis, often teens need adults who feel no shame in their tears.  A time comes to offer hope, prayer and reassurance; but there is a time to simply feel and empathize.

5)  Teens want to believe in the wonderful, the miracle, the hope of life.  They want to believe in God and that He loves us.  They want to believe they are part of something bigger, better, more than just high school.

6)  Teens want to be wanted.  They love it when youth leaders spend time with them.  My daughter recently took a middle schooler out to an educational store and they played with puppets to the delight of both of them.  The youth girls I mentored never said, ‘No,’ when I asked if they wanted to go to Starbucks or get some ice cream–and they didn’t want to leave quickly; they wanted to linger and share their thoughts, ideas and passions.

7)  Teens want respect.  They want an adult to listen to their views without belittling or condescending to them.  They want intelligent conversations that challenge without patronizing.  They want to grow in understanding their world and how to solve the world’s vast problems.

8)  Teens want adults who can laugh with them, laugh at themselves and enjoy life!  Not everything is a learning experience.  Sometimes, we just have to cut loose in healthy silly ways.  Laughter reduces stress and helps us put our annoyances in perspective.

9)  Teens want to know adults are in their corner.  They want help getting up, dusting off and bandaging up.  They want to know that they may get knocked down; but they don’t have to stay down.  They can heal the broken dreams, bring into focus what they really want to do and even change up the dreams altogether.

10)  Teens want freedom.  Freedom to explore.   Freedom to fail.   Freedom without ‘I told you so.’

For all the adults out there, have you seen it yet?  Teens aren’t much different than us.  We’ve just lost some of the passion, energy and belief that we can change the world.  Cynicism infects us as we find that our dreams may not come true in the form we hoped.  Hang out with some teenagers for a bit and you will find that the passion, energy and hope may invade you to your core.  You may believe in your youthful dreams again and have the maturity, wisdom and knowledge to affect change in your corner of the world.

 

 

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