Rock Stars, Take Note

One of your kind is rehearsing with his band tonight, as many of you probably are as well. I know it’s what makes you good, all that practice.

Daniel JohnBut this rock star isn’t in a Nashville studio or a California warehouse-turned-venue, he’s on the stage in the gym at our home church just a block away. And he didn’t arrive in a fancy car or a stylish truck; he drove our family mini-van and it was stuffed full of four children, their scooters, and their snacks.

This weekend he’ll power through 12 mini-concerts in 3 days. He’ll look the part in his black jacket, loose scarf, and TOMS shoes. When he plays his piano, other musicians will give up their own aspirations on the spot. He’s that good. He’ll eat out late with his friends while nearby diners ask each other, “Doesn’t he look familiar?”

But what most of those fans and admirers don’t see is the man he is off the stage. Knowing he’ll be gone all weekend, he took the kids along to practice tonight in order to provide me some quiet writing time. Before he leaves, if he follows tradition, he’ll make sure the kids’ drawers are stocked with school uniforms and weekend play clothes. He’ll pick up an extra box of Diet Coke for me and a pack of flavored juice in pouches with tiny straws for the kids. Fewer dishes for me, more sugar for them.

He’ll call each night to make sure the kids didn’t throw fits and the dog didn’t run away when he was supposed to do his business. He’ll bring home chocolate covered marshmallows on sticks.

I just thought you all might want to know what kind of man is among your ranks. He makes you look good, this rock star of mine. He’s a credit to your species.



What We Want to See

I should have headed to bed sooner. I promised myself I was only going to watch a few minutes of the next episode of my current PBS period drama, but I couldn’t stop watching. And you know how those period dramas are – it isn’t as if the plot is clipping along or anything. It is just intriguing and beautiful, and I’m always lost waiting for a good stopping place.

The next thing I know, the credits are rolling. And tonight, so were the tears. I realized the thing I was enjoying the most about this series: everyone is changing in such surprisingly perfect ways. The selfish, grumpy old woman is sacrificing her accolades for the sake of another. The stuck-up old maid is finding a heart. The reluctant heir is trusting traditions he once thought were empty rituals.

I’ve known, of course, that readers want to read about characters that are round, not flat. They want to see a character transform. Nothing is more satisfying.

I believe there is a world of readers that would like to see the same thing in me. In you. See us change. Watch us transform from selfish, insecure youths to compassionate, confident adults. But as you see in the books, movies, and television we love, those transitions are difficult. For awhile it can be awkward. Sometimes there are misunderstandings. Often the one who changes has to deal with false judgements before the credits finally roll.

Thankfully, it all works out in the end. At least, in the good stories it works out. The heroine struggles and fights and perseveres, but eventually she comes out gold.

Yours can be a good story, too. Start by embracing the change.

A Rare Find: Amena Brown

Gungor (for my birthday) concert? Amazing. That’s all. I was in awe. So good. Check their tour schedule – if this concert is near you, go.

A bonus at the concert was spoken word artist Amena Brown. Her live performance backed by Gungor’s live music created an unforgettable experience. It won’t be exactly like the combination we were blessed to see and hear, but this is a clip from a few years ago. It will give you a sense of Brown’s way with words and presentation. Enjoy.

How is Your Feasting?

As I’m learning more about Lent this year – thanks, by the way, to those of you who contributed links – I was pleasantly surprised by the role of Sunday. I remember from my Church history classes that the early church looked on Sundays as the day of celebration, the joy of that first resurrection Sunday still fresh in their hearts. Continuing that spirit of celebration was a way of preserving the freedom and life that defines our faith in Jesus.

The celebration of Sunday is heightened during Lent because in the earliest traditions whatever you had been fasting was restored to you on all the Sundays that fall within the season. If you gave up meat for Lent, you could still have a steak after church! Sundays were days for the joy of feasting, not the sorrow of fasting. During Lent these Sundays must have been as highly anticipated as a small jubliee in the middle of a wilderness of discipline.

It just so happens that this Sunday I’ll be feasting at my birthday meal. Actually, on Saturday I’ll be doing the true feasting. Dan is taking me out for a meal and a concert. It will be my Sunday. I’m going to treat it as a celebration, too, and not stress about the calories or the lost sleep. I’m going to celebrate with my husband and dear friends.

This is probably the best feasting of all: sharing life with others in Christ. It is a true communion meal when our awareness of Him is present in our conversations and our hearts are encouraged with laughter and stories. No matter where we find ourselves, whether in plenty or in want, there is a place for celebration. This weekend as you gather with your family, your friends, or your community, remember to take time for feasting! Eat them up. Drink in all their sweet goodness. And even when the feasting day is over, remember the Wedding Feast that is yet to come and everlasting. See you at the table.


*great cupcake photo from Clare and Dave on Flickr


The Problem With Smart Girls (Part Two)

Judging by your responses to yesterday’s post here and on my Facebook page, I’d say this is a topic of interest. Read “The Problem With Smart Girls (Part One)” or the article that inspired the post, and then let’s look at some possible help for our Smart Girls (or ourselves).

The conclusion of Halvorson’s article is a good starting point:

No matter the ability — whether it’s intelligence, creativity, self-control, charm or athleticism — studies show them to be profoundly malleable. When it comes to mastering any skill, your experience, effort and persistence matter a lot. So if you were a Bright Girl, it’s time to toss out your (mistaken) belief about how ability works, embrace the fact that you can always improve and reclaim the confidence to tackle any challenge that you lost so long ago.

Between the author’s instructions, my original thoughts, and your feedback, I’ve come up with a short list of ways to fight the general fears and insecurities of Halvorson’s so-called Bright Girls. (I’m using Smart Girls as my own derivative.)

My Answers for Smart Girls:

1. You Need Support – In the Rare Rocks analogy, this is your setting. Many of the comments from yesterday mentioned the people (moms, husbands, friends, etc.) who had pushed or encouraged the Smart Girls to overcome their initial fears or insecurities. These girls need parents who are willing to push past emotional outbursts and keep their daughter’s true to their studies (in instruments, art, academics, and so forth). If you parent very young girls, you should consider changing the way you reward her vocally. Remind her she’s not just “good” and “smart” but she’s also a “hard worker.”

My daughter Claire’s nemesis is cerebral palsy. At eight years-old, she still meets weekly with occupational and physical therapists who are in a constant battle with her confused neurological system. Yet Claire insists on staying in dance class and races to the playground as soon as she gets home from school. She knows she doesn’t move like all the other girls, but she doesn’t mind. As she trots off with the therapist late on Monday afternoons,  I try to remind her, “Work hard today.” She always does, and I know it’s going to make a big difference for her one day.

I also think Smart Girls who are prone to perfectionism need another kind of support, too – the kind that reminds them that they don’t have to perform well to be loved. In my second year of Bible College I nearly had a nervous break-down. I’m not sure even what that means, I just know there were lots of tears, too much pressure, and one scared girl. My Dad stepped in. He removed me from all my classes, my volunteer work, and my life. For two weeks my instructions were to ONLY do things that relaxed me or brought me joy. I read a lot. I painted. I listened to music and took naps. Smart Girls need coaches and advocates, but they also need unconditional fans. I want to be that for my Smart Girls.

2. You Need Discipline – In the Rare Rocks analogy, this is the cutting and polishing. In everyday life this is where you fight your flesh. You exercise even when you would rather sleep. You wash dishes even when you would rather watch Netflix. You teach your children to obey even when you would rather just stay in your chair and surf the Internet. You practice piano even when it doesn’t come naturally anymore. You fight for your character growth by making small decisions everyday.

My Mom is famous for telling us, “Discipline your art!” I never realized how difficult that really is until I started writing. Now I know what it takes to write something well, and I often think, “I’d rather read someone else’s blog!” The point of discipline (of any kind) is to train yourself to do what is currently impossible. Smart Girls need discipline. They need to be reminded that practice will eventually make perfect.

3. You Need Success – And I don’t mean beginner’s luck or sweepstakes success. I mean, yeah-I-worked-my-tail-off-for-this success. You need to face something that looks impossible or totally outside your abilities, and you need to beat it.

This feeling of success is one of my favorite things about college. The semester usually followed this pattern: see book list and get excited, see syllabus and get scared, begin coursework and get overwhelmed, – I can’t do this! I hate this class! my loving husband’s sweet silence – finally dig into material, sort it out, and learn something, close the class feeling like a mini expert in new topic. (I may be addicted to this happy feeling!)

Ada just needs to make a few turns on her own to taste the success of bike riding. After that, I’m afraid she’ll never want to stay home! And that’s the point of this whole post for my Smart Girls. It may take some support, some discipline, and a success story or two, but there is a lot of hope for Smart Girls. I know it will be bittersweet when those hot pink and purple streamers pull out of sight, but I’ll be smiling proud when they do.

How could a little support, discipline, and success help you, Smart Girl?


The Problem with Smart Girls (Part One)

This weekend Ada finally had the chance to redeem her birthday coupon for a new bike – her first! We would have taken as much time as she needed, but as soon as we rounded the corner of the bike aisle and she saw hot pink and purple streamers, I knew the search was over. On Monday Ada and her Daddy made plans for a “bike date.”

Training wheels were purchased along with the bike, but when Dan sat down on the front sidewalk to put it all together, he realized the wheels weren’t the right size. Ada had a choice: either skip the training wheels and go straight to two-wheeling or put the bike away for another day.

She decided to be brave, and through a progression of jogs up and down the street in front of our house, Dan taught her how to ride that thing in just a few minutes. Yet despite how quickly she learned, she doesn’t think she can start, turn, or stop without Dan right beside her.

Last week Jason Boyett tweeted a link to an article by Heidi Grant Halvorson for the Huffington Post called “The Trouble with Bright Girls.” In it, Halvorson describes the results of her mentor’s research among 5th grade students at the top of their class.

She found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts rather than give up.

Halvorson’s explanation is that girls tend to “believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.”

Were you a bright girl or do you know one? Does that ring true? It does for me! Halvorson believes this difference between the genders continues through adulthood, and, you guessed it, probably stems from childhood issues.

How do girls and boys develop these different views? Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their “goodness.” When we do well in school, we are told that we are “so smart,” “so clever, ” or “such a good student.” This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don’t.

I’m making a mental list of things I’ve given up on in my life based on this false assumption about my abilities (one of them being this very post that has seemed “too difficult” to pull together for more than a week now): piano lessons in 5th grade, basketball in high school, cooking after I got married. And what about the things in your future that you’re tempted to dismiss based on your own measurement of your ability to succeed? Here’s my short list for that one: graduate school applications, magazine query letters, getting in shape.

See, if Ada knew herself better, she’d know that she already has the hard part figured out. The starting, stopping, and turning are all dependent on the sense of balance that she already displays. She has the ability, but she’s missing two important keys: 1) trust in herself and her abilities, and 2) discipline to keep practicing until she gets it right. More about that tomorrow . . .

For now, what do you think? Do the results of this study make sense based on your experience?


Growing Up Macy












It was one of those conversations that was heart-breaking in its possible implications.

After completing her business in the toilet at my Mom’s house, I congratulated my three year-old, “Good job, Macy! You’re such a big girl.”

“No! I don’t wanna be big!” she scowled back at me.

“You don’t want to be a big girl? But you always tell me you want to be a big girl.”

“No! I don’t want to be big. I don’t want my teeth to break! I just want to be a little girl!”

I had no idea this was going on, but apparently Macy doesn’t want her teeth to get loose and fall out (as seems to be happening all around her to her sisters – ages 7 and 8). She does not want to grow up. Which would be fine with me – in theory.

I guess we all hit that at some point. We weary of this growing and maturing and becoming an adult. Can the real parent show up? We dread the future as it looms ahead of us unseen and possibly rife with trouble. Could we just stop this spinning now and join Jesus somewhere?

But as long as life continues, Macy is going to have to face losing teeth. And she’ll be fine. We all know that. You’ll be fine, too. Hang in there. Don’t grow weary or fearful to the point of stagnation. Trust the process.


Can you relate to Macy’s decision to remain a little girl forever?