825 Ways to Look Pretty

I recently saw the fall issue of Seventeen Magazine. I used to love looking at that magazine when I was a teen, so I picked it up and looked at the cover. Wow. As I read the article titles printed there, I felt so sad.

“825 Ways to Look Pretty”

“Get Everything You Want This Year: Great Body, Tons of Money,                                                                                                                                                              Amazing Clothes, Mega Confidence”

OH. My. goodness. Could there be a better publication out there to get teenage girls to think only about themselves? Most of them don’t need a lot of help in that category anyway. Getting them to think about anyone else but themselves can be a challenge.

Are there really 825 ways to look pretty? I sat and tried really hard, and I could only come up with eleven. Twelve if you count shapewear, but who wants to count that? I’m convinced that shapewear is a tool of the devil anyway. I’m pretty sure Seventeen Magazine is, too. So Seventeen Magazine thinks everything a girl wants is a great body, tons of money, amazing clothes, and mega confidence. Okay, so that’s what most women want, too, but should we really be promoting that to young girls?

Scripture would have some different things to say to our young ladies.

I think the Lord would say to them that their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body,” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Our girls should focus on having a healthy body. The focus in Seventeen Magazine is for a girl to have a body that will turn heads, boy’s heads. We really need to tell them to have more respect for themselves than that. They are precious, so precious. They were bought with a price, they have value beyond measure, just the way they are.

I think scripture has a different take on the whole “tons of money” thing, too. 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

The Bible actually has tons to say about money, and none of it has anything to do with anyone desiring to have tons of it being a good thing… take a look at the “Rich Young Ruler” who desired his so much, he couldn’t bear to let go of it…(Mark 10:17-21)

And what about all those amazing clothes

That one strikes a little closer to home for me, because this chick likes a cute outfit or ten. But really, should this be our main focus? Moderation is key. Always. And even better:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

In the end it doesn’t really matter how cute the outfit is if the wearer doesn’t posses that gentle and quiet spirit.

And mega confidence?

Even the Son of God knew he could not do anything without his father. He said, “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30). 

Then in turn, Jesus told us we can do nothing apart from him. He said to his disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Joh 15:5).

But then says it is through HIM that we can do all things! Philippians 4:13

Having confidence in our God given abilities is definitely something we want for our girls. We must show them that where all those abilities come from is where their confidence should rest. Even the most confident girl will eventually find herself in the company of someone that will challenge her self confidence. If she relies only on herself she will come up short. If she finds her strength in the Lord, she will stand tall even in the company of kings.

I thought about all those girls who would read that magazine and take in all that garbage. We owe our girls more than that. Those are false truths the world tries to pawn off on their precious hearts. Moms, it’s a battle, and we have to be in the fight. We have to be bearers of the truth for the generation of women who will follow us. If not us, then it’ll be Seventeen Magazine.

God’s Favor is All Over You

It was my day off, but I had somewhere to be early that morning, so I was getting ready along with the kids as they got ready for school. As I was putting on my makeup, I heard it. It was the distinct sound of dishes being loaded into the dishwasher. It’s an unmistakable sound. I listened intently for the sound again. In a few seconds I heard it. I knew my husband had left for work already, so it wasn’t him. My oldest two kids weren’t up yet and my daughter was shut up in her room getting ready. Most likely, she was on her third or fourth outfit of the day.

That left the youngest. Evan. I tip toed to the kitchen door and looked in. Sure enough, ready for school, there he was loading the dishwasher! He must have heard me because after a moment he looked over his shoulder at me and smiled. Then he continued on with his task.

He’s been really helpful like that for a few days now. Offering to help me do this or that. Asking if there’s anything he can do for me, not complaining when I tell him it’s time for a shower. Things like that. One might think its another Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but no. It’s really Evan. Only it’s a motivated Evan.

He’s trying to earn money to buy a certain toy he’s got his eye on. We don’t give our kids an allowance as a general rule. We feel like chores are just a part of being a part of a family. But on certain occasions Evan knows if he goes way above and beyond the call of duty, he’ll gain my favor, and I’ll reward him with some of the green stuff.

I do the same thing with God sometimes. There are times when I want God to do something in my life. Maybe I need him to provide money to pay bills, or open a door of opportunity. Maybe I want him to work in a friend or family member’s life, or come to my rescue when I’ve really screwed up.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. When I really need to hear from the Lord, or I need him to move in my life, I get real good at “being Christian”. I talk to Him more. I read the Bible more. I worship Him louder and mind my p’s and q’s. It’s all a desperate attempt to get His attention, and gain his favor. To get what I want from him.

What we forget sometimes is that we already have God’s favor. We think that by being “extra Christian” He’ll take notice of how good we are being and reward us, give us what we want. Doing the things that we hope impress God only serve to benefit our relationship with him, apart from our immediate need. So how does one get more favor from God? He’s already met our most urgent and primary need. He gave us a Savior and He restored our broken relationship. The answer is, we can’t get more favor than that.

My son has worked really hard for his reward, and I will honor his effort and buy him the toy he wants. He has managed to work his way into my good graces! Yet the truth is, we cannot work our way into God’s good graces. Not one bit. Jesus did that for us. What we can work on is our relationship with Him. Then we will learn better how much we can trust Him to meet the needs we have and some of the wants we have. I love to give my children the things they want, as long as the things they want are good for them. How much more then, does God love to bless us in the same way?

God could not favor you more than he does right now. Go ahead, lean into Him, talk to Him, and listen to Him. You’ll see. His favor is all over you.

How To Survive Raising Teens, Part Deux

Today’s post is the follow up post to Sunday’s post where I shared four other tips for surviving and thriving during these tumultuous years of raising teens. It is a unique time in child rearing, but it can also be enjoyable. Hopefully these principles will encourage other parents of teens to keep up the good fight and finish well! Okay, so here’s the “final four”.

Ask LOTS of questions. About everything. Remember “Columbo”? “Just one more thing, Ma’am,” Forget observing their “privacy”. They don’t get privacy in your home. They only have a room of their own because you don’t want their junk in your living room. Friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. If you don’t know what those are, then you are not paying attention. Pick up their phones and see who they are texting and calling. You pay for it. It’s called accountability. When you ask questions, just be ready for the answers. And expect the truth. I tell my kids that it’s their responsibility to tell me the truth; it’s my deal how I choose to handle that truth. Lies strip them of freedom and trust and those things will have to be earned back over time.

Have LOTS of conversations. Talk to your kids. Don’t be afraid. After you ask all those questions, talk those issues to death. Those conversations can be painful at times, but in the end your kids will know you can be trusted with whatever it is they need to say. Be willing to talk when they want to, too. This may mean some late night rap sessions after they come in from an evening out, but so what. You can sleep after they’ve moved out.

Provide unity and consistency. There must be a public show of unity. If parents disagree on a course or decision, this must be worked out in private. One parent must submit to the other in situations where there is disagreement. Unity in private also is the goal, but sometimes this is just not possible. Disagreements in front of the kids over what should or should not be allowed makes for unclear boundaries and confused kids. There must also be consistency. What is allowed or not allowed should be the same today and tomorrow. Exceptions should be carefully made and discussed. Teens are still lost without clear boundaries. They do push those, but it is a test of your unity and your consistency. They really do want both.

Stay off their roller coasters. Teen years are fraught with emotional roller coasters. And parents of boys are not immune to emotional outbursts. Girls do not hold a corner on the emotional market. Do not climb onto those roller coasters with them… and help them get off when the ride comes into the station. Someone has to keep their head when they are going through those tough times, it should be you.

I can’t say that if you stick to these practices I can guarantee you will raise perfect kids. So far as I know, God is the only parent who ever managed to do that. Perfection is not really the goal anyway. We want to raise respectful kids with great character, love and passion, who will go out into the world and be salt and light. We want them to change the world.

How To Survive Raising Teens

Just kidding. But you got a little excited there, didn’t you? I mean, wouldn’t it be great if someone could tell you in a hundred words or less how to get through those interesting, challenging, mind blowing, years of raising teens without pulling your hair out?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love raising teens. I didn’t think that I would, but I do. Like many parents, the fears I had about the potential pitfalls of those years had me freaking out about going through it FOUR times. I am happy to say, it has been my very favorite stage of parenting to date. While I have loved pretty much every stage, this one, this time that worried me so, has been great. I will put out this disclaimer: I have great kids, not perfect kids, but great ones. I mean, I know you do, too, but I am serious here. My kids don’t drink, smoke, or chew and they don’t swap spit with kids that do. Now if that were all twenty first century parents had to worry about I think we’d all feel comfortable going away for the weekend and leaving them with the house. Parenting teens today has a whole new set of pitfalls and snares that our parents didn’t have to worry about.

Mostly when I say I have great kids, I believe it’s more in spite of me than because of me, but I do think Matthew and I have done one or two things right. I’ll tell you what those things are, just in case those things might help you navigate this unique stage of child rearing. I’ll share the first four today, and the last four on Wednesday. (I’m sure the anticipation will make you crazy.)

Alright, here you go:

Find parenting mentors| Matthew and I met a really cool couple several years ago who had successfully raised three children to adulthood who all happily served the Lord and loved their family. We watched this family, and asked those people LOTS of questions. We asked their kids some, too. How did they do it? We learned a lot from that family, and much of what we learned we use with our teens today. One of the best things we learned from our mentors was how to take things in stride. Most things are not nearly as desperate as they seem in the moment. Ask yourself, “Is this going to matter in five years?” Most of the time it won’t. But for those things that will, stay vigilent!

Get reinforcements|  Find a young adult to spend time with your tween or teen and invest in them. Someone who loves the Lord and holds the same values you do and are trying to instill into your kids. Pay this person to spend time with your kids if you have to. They will say what you are saying to your teen, only they will say it cooler. News Flash: you are not as cool in your kid’s eyes as you were when they were five.

Making their faith their own| Kids entering middle school need to have a conversation with you about owning their faith if they have not already. They can and will ride along on your faith skirt tails as long as they can, but the time comes when they have to step up and make it their own. This will shape how they act, who they choose as friends, and how willing they are to be salt and light among their peers over the next few years. This is not something you can leave to chance. Even if your child became a Christian at a young age as ours did, they still need to “grow up” in their faith just as their bodies and minds are growing up.

Get them into meaningful service within the body of Christ| Sixty percent of all kids raised in church leave the church in their early twenties. How can we prevent this? Matthew and I firmly believe that if your kid spends time in your church or other Christian organization serving in meaningful ministry, (as in their presence there actually matters and they are really making a difference) they will get a taste of how it feels to be used by God, and they will never want to be without that feeling. Your church should offer these opportunities to kids as young as sixth grade. If they don’t, find a church that does. Mercy Lokulutu of Celebration church in Florida says to students,“We don’t need you to be the church of tomorrow, we need you to be the church of today.” (www.mercylokulutu.com) 

So if you are just starting on this journey of parenting a tween or teen, or if you’ve been at it for a while, hopefully these tips will help. Matthew and I have blundered up plenty in raising our kids and we have found that God’s grace does cover a multitude of sins. Teens need parents who are engaged and plugged in, not fearful parents or parents who are too busy to invest in them.

For Girls Only

I had my GYN yearly this week.

I say it was my yearly, but it was more like my year-and-a-halfly. I’m not fond of my yearly, so I put it off with just about any kind of excuse. Having run out of excuses, I made my appointments for both my mammogram and my exam for the same day. Why ruin two good days, right? Mammogram first, then exam. At least that’s what I thought. I show up for the mammogram with plenty of time to spare, sign in, sit, and wait. I wait a long time. I bought six new apps for my phone. I love shopping.

Finally, I am called back for the x-rays. As I follow the radiology tech back to the changing room, she looks back at me and says, “I decided to fit you in early since you were just sitting out there.” (Huh? Early?) Then it dawned on me. I had my two appointments mixed up. I stopped dead in my tracks and said as much. She laughed and said, “Happens all the time. Let’s go ahead and get your test done, and send you on up. I’ll call them and tell them you are coming.” I’m already calculating how this mishap is actually going to save me an hour or so of my time. A nice bonus for this kind of day.

So I take off the clothes I have on from the waist up, and put on a hospital gown backwards. Wrapping it tightly around me, in vain of course, I walk into the x-ray room. I let the tech make pancakes out of what God seemed to think was enough bosoms for me, and in all honesty it wasn’t too bad. I try to make a joke out of the fact that I hardly have enough tissue to worry with even having an exam, and she tells me it’s a lot better than those “big ‘ol boobs she has to fit on the screen.” I guess everyone has their own job challenges.

After that, I fly back into the changing room and quickly put my clothes back on. The tech shows me a shortcut to the elevator, and up I go to the next part of my humiliating afternoon. Profusely apologizing for my mix-up, I sign in and sit down to wait for my GYN appointment.

A nurse I had not met before calls me back. First thing, she wants to get my weight. I think, “This is not a good way start to our relationship.” Why is it that the scales in doctor’s offices are always wrong? Did someone put a brick in my pocket?

The nurse leads me into an exam room and checks my blood pressure. Then she tells me to take off all my clothes, and put on a paper towel vest and cover myself up with the other paper towel provided. She didn’t actually call them paper towels, but that’s what they are. I thanked her for my daily dose of humiliation, and she left me alone to figure out how to manage.

I rush through the process because I am always paranoid that someone is going to bust through the door while I’m still working out the logistics of my paper towels. It’s never happened, but I’d rather not be the joke around the lunch table.

After slipping into the paper clothing, I pull myself up onto the exam table, ripping my paper towel nearly in two. Anyone got tape? After only a few moments my doctor came in and sat on her round stool.

We chatted a while about kids and life. I like my doctor. I’d much rather chat at Starbucks, though. At that moment, I felt at a bit of a disadvantage seeing that she was actually wearing real clothes.

When after a few moments of chatting she determined it was time to get down to business, she was able to keep the conversation going while she first checked my top half, and then my bottom half. She’s good. I wondered how her mouth and brain could operate on two totally different planes at the same time. Her mouth was talking about kids while her brain was evaluating my parts. It’s a gift.

With all the pleasantries and un-pleasantries done, she asked if I had anything else. I did.

I mentioned that I would really like to be able to sneeze without also then needing to put on a fresh pair of panties. I told her that while sneezing is hazardous, running is completely out of the question. I also admitted, that after four vaginal deliveries, I was fortunate that I didn’t have to drag my bladder around behind me, (love that visual?) but that it might be time to go under the knife and have that taken care of.

We talk a bit about my options and in the end she hands me a brochure to take home to read and think about. After she left the room, I look at the brochure. It is titled, “Urinary Incontinence” and pictures two seventy-ish ladies on the front. Nice.

I’ve heard getting old isn’t for sissies… but really? I want a brochure that pictures great looking fortyish women who through no fault of their own (rather from birthing big headed children) need a little tightening up in the bladder department. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

I Love My Church

I say this a lot. I love my church. I do. It’s crazy how much I love my church. That I can even say that about a church anywhere at all after all my family has been through at the hands of local churches is in itself a miracle.

So why do I love my church? Let me give you the latest example. Last Wednesday night my youngest son, Evan, attended a junior high prayer meeting at church. During that meeting time, one of the youth leaders stood and talked to the kids about the parable of the sheep. In case you are drawing a blank, Jesus told the story of the Sheppard who owned one hundred sheep. One little sheep went missing. The Sheppard left the ninety-nine found sheep and went looking for the lost one. The moral to the story being that while God certainly loves his “found” children, He is compelled to go find His lost ones.

So my son, along with all those other middle schoolers, was told that they, too, should care about the “one”. That they should think of a kid in their school who is the outcast. The one everyone picks on, who has to eat alone in the lunchroom, and that they should go after that one.

My son, who is eleven, gets into the car after church and tells me that during that prayer service he felt closer to God than he ever had before and that he couldn’t wait to come back to church. Then he told me about the parable, and their expected response. He told me that he knew exactly whom he was going after. He told me about a little skinny, awkward kid in his PE class that everyone laughed at and no one befriended. He told me that he was going to become that kid’s friend. I told him I thought that was a great idea.

So the next day after school, my son came home and told me, “I did it.” Having my mind on about a dozen things at that moment, I absent mindedly answered, “You did what?”

“I went after that kid, Marcus.” That got my attention. I asked, “You did? How?” Then Evan proceeded to tell me how the group of boys he was hanging with in PE began their usual snickering about Marcus. Right in front of them all, he walked over to Marcus and challenged him to a foot race. He let Marcus win. Then they talked for a while. At the end of PE class, Evan told Marcus that if he ever needed a friend, he could come to him.

Wow. I told Evan that many people, even grown people, go to church week after week, hear a great message, even feel all warm inside- but they often leave church unchanged. They never carry out the challenges set before them in church in any real tangible ways. They never let the Lord change them and grow them, but that he had been open to change and that God was growing him and helping him become the person He had in mind for him to be.

I want to hug those youth leaders. Over and over again. (But that would be weird, I guess.) So yes, I love my church. I love that I drive onto campus and feel the presence of the Lord in the parking lot. In. The. Parking. Lot. I know how crazy that sounds, but the proof is in the pudding.

I love that my kid loves church so much he even wanted to go to the women’s conference last weekend. How about your kids? Do they beg to go to church? If not, why not?

Andy Stanley once said,

“If you want your kids to abandon church when they are older, force them to attend a church you secretly wish you could abandon now.”

So how about you? Think about it. If you attend regularly, why? If you don’t, why not?

Do you love your church?

It’s a relevant question. You can certainly love God without loving your church, but that would be sad. When I stood with a couple thousand other women last weekend at the ReCreate Women’s Conference (I left Evan at home) and worshipped the Lord, I thought, “This is just the best!” God’s presence in that huge room was palpable. I never ever want to attend a church where God doesn’t show up. Seriously, what would be the purpose? There are plenty of places where God doesn’t show up… church should not be one of them.