May your weekend be filled with surprises. When you laugh, may snorts soon follow. When you smile, may your teeth be clear of broccoli. And when you cry, may you not apologize or try to hide it. Let your tears remind you of your humanity, your compassion, and your deep capacity to feel. Slow down so that you may fully consider your joys, your sorrows, and the beauty of ordinary days. Enjoy your weekend, friends.
In high school, I loved all those little sayings I heard Christians say. You know the ones - When God closes a door, he opens a window. Or Don’t put God in a box! My personal favorite was when one of my friends in my small group went through a break up with a boy, our small group leader proudly announced: Rejection is protection! And we all promptly dove for our journals to write that one in big, bold letters.
I tried to use that one once on my current small group to see what they would do. They just stared at me and rolled their eyes. Then they laughed because they knew I was joking.
Maybe teenagers in 1995 were a lot more corny than teenagers in 2013. Or maybe it was just me.
There are things our daughters (and sons, too!) need to hear us say. And even though the clichés may encourage some of them and may look cute on a poster, they will most likely fall flat on young ears. Here is my best attempt to come up with 12 non-cliché things our daughters need to hear us say.
1. I have hope.
I could tell her “Have hope.” But, I speak as a daughter here, it means more to me to see my parents have hope than for them to tell me to have hope. My hope (or lack thereof) speaks louder to her than my words about hope.
Show her you have hope – you trust God with your family, you have hope for her future, you see light in dark places.
2. Live with God rather than for God.
It is common to tell young people to live their lives for God. And though I get the sentiment, I have seen how telling her to live for God can be confusing. The truth is the life she now lives, she lives by faith in Jesus. To tell her to live for God could lead her to try to perform for acceptance rather than living from the acceptance that is already hers in Christ.
God isn’t sitting out in the audience of her life, waiting for her to get things in order. No, he’s standing with her on stage. Even better, he stands within her. Remind her of her kind, compassionate, powerful companion who goes with her wherever she goes.
3. I’m sorry.
Of all the words I’ve ever spoken to my children, these two seem to have had the most powerful impact. Admit you are wrong when you are wrong and own the consequences.
4. Be who you already are.
She needs to be reminded of who she is, not who she is expected to be. In Christ, she is loving, even if she is acting unloving. In Christ, she is patient, even if she is acting impatient. Appeal to her new creation identity rather than simply shaming her for her wrong behavior.
Tell her she is beloved. Tell her she is beautiful. Remind her what is already true. Invite her to live into the truth of who Christ is forming her to be.
5.You can’t save people.
Only God can do that. I grew up with a mom who knew Jesus and a dad who didn’t. So I spent four years of my young life carrying the weight of my dad’s salvation on my shoulders. The story ends well as he accepted Jesus when I was 11. But looking back I realize what a ridiculous expectation I put on myself. Remind her to pray for those who don’t believe, but to never carry the weight of trying to save them on her own.
6. I’m trusting Jesus. Want to join me?
John says this one a lot to our kids (our twin girls are 9 and our son is 6) when our family is in the midst of a transition or facing something potentially scary. It may seem a little corny for older ones, but the message it sends is this - I am trusting God and am okay whether you join me or not. I invite you to join me and would love for you to join me, but the choice is entirely yours.
I’ve heard it said you can’t make a kid eat, sleep, or use the bathroom. And I’m going to add this: you can’t make a kid trust God. Remind her that your faith is your own and so is hers.
7. You have something to offer the world.
I realize this dances dangerously close to You are a unique snowflake. But it’s kind of true, isn’t it? She is the only one of her there has ever or will ever be. She is made in the image of God and has the distinct privilege of carrying that unique image around in the world. Christ lives within her and will come out of her through the filter of her unique personality. Remind her she has something (lots of somethings, actually) to offer the world. Walk with her as she experiments with what those things might be.
8. I trust Christ in you.
When I was in high school and would have a problem I was trying to work through, my dad would listen and offer advice, but he would often end our talks with this statement: “You know where to go.” He never freaked out, never tried to push me into a decision. He could have said “I trust you” and that would have built my confidence some. But what I knew was that he actually trusted Christ in me – and that is where the mystery Paul speaks about in Colossians 1:27 comes in – Christ is in me. So it’s me, but it’s him, but it’s me, but it’s him – what a beautiful mystery indeed.
For me, knowing my parents trusted me built my confidence – but knowing they trusted Christ in me took the pressure off.
9. You are deeply loved.
Or, to put it a little differently, I like to use these words from Andrew Murray:
10. You are not alone.
This could be one of the most heartbreaking realities I see among girls – they feel so desperately alone. Remind her you are with her, Christ is with her, and be careful not to try to fix her loneliness. This may be the very intimate place where Jesus could show her his companionship as he never has before.
11. Want to go get some FroYo?
She might roll her eyes. She might say no thanks, Mom. She might rather spend time with her friends. Keep asking. When and if she finally says yes and you have the chance to sit across from her with a cup full of cake-batter flavored frozen yogurt with strawberries and gummy worms on top, look into her eyes and release your own agenda. If she wants to talk about the weather, let her talk about the weather. Be curious. Be open. Be available to her even if it seems like she doesn’t care if you’re available or not.
She does care. She absolutely cares.
No, that’s not a typo. Sometimes the one thing our girls need to hear us say is nothing at all. Words mean nothing if our lives don’t speak for us. I am personally aware of how I sometimes use words of belief to cover up for my lack of real belief in my daily life. It’s easier to tell my kids a bunch of things that are true than it is to live as though I believe those things are true.
I’m reminded of a story Brennan Manning shared in The Wisdom of Tenderness of the elderly Uncle Seamus who joyfully skipped along the Irish shoreline. And when his nephew asked him, “Uncle Seamus, you look so very happy. Do you want to tell me why?”
And he responded, “Yes, lad. You see, the Father is very fond of me. Ah, me Father is so very fond of me.”
May we be able to speak love into the lives of our girls only and always because our Father speaks love into us – and may we say with Uncle Seamus, the Father is very fond of me.
As I said before, this list is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure tomorrow I could come up with 12 more. But since I shared earlier this week one thing your daughter doesn’t need you to say, I thought it only appropriate to offer some things she might need to hear. And if I’m very honest, I need to hear them, too.
What would you add to the list?
In the middle of a radio interview I did last week, the host decided to take calls from listeners. This happens during longer live interviews – the host greets the caller and then hands the reins of the conversation over to me. Might I pause here to point out how this practice evokes equal amounts of panic and excitement into my bones.
I panic because I have absolutely no way to prepare for what a caller might say. This isn’t a problem in normal conversation but on the radio it gets a little tricky. Because after exactly 15 seconds of listening I will be expected to have some kind of “expert” answer which stands in direct opposition to both my personality and the natural way I believe a conversation is suppose to work.
I gag. Still, I realize this is the nature of interviews like this and I accept it as part of the process while I work desperately to avoid ever trying to sound like Dr. Phil by refusing to say statements like “How’s that workin’ for ya?” and “Do you wanna be right or do you wanna be happy?”
Still, there is also something exciting about having people call in. It’s true, there is no way to prepare for what someone might say, but that’s kind of the fun part. There is no way to prepare for what someone might say!
In a way, this takes the pressure off and frees me up to be myself.
So last week when the host opened it up to callers, I got that familiar ache in my knees I always get when I am anxious and also excited. One of the first callers was a girl, a junior in high school.
After two minutes of listening to her story, it was obvious she was a good girl – dedicated student, obedient daughter, sweet disposition, high anxiety, unrealistic expectations of herself. Her main concern was being a Christian in high school and wanting to be a good example for her friends.
But it was hard, she said, to always be a consistent one.
Then the host turned it over to me.
I made a few observations, told a story about how I could relate – I don’t think anything I said added much to the conversation in that moment, which was fine. This is the downfall of handing over the reins of conversation to an INFJ on a live call – I can usually assess the situation fairly accurately but it takes a lot of time for my observations to reach my mouth.
I tend to just want to ask a question or say, “Hmm, that’s so interesting!”
Which is decidedly not interesting on the radio.
Lucky for me, this particular radio host was deeply invested in the conversation and responded to her in an appropriate way – he told her the worst thing she could do is to try to have it all together in front of her friends.
Instead of trying so hard to be an example, just be honest. “If you struggle,” he said, “say so. If you hurt someone, apologize. Then they really will get to know you and they won’t have reason to call you a hypocrite.”
When the interview was over, I sat in my room and thought for a few more minutes about the conversation. I kept rolling her words around in my head: “I want to be an example to my friends, but sometimes it’s so hard to be a good one.”
The more I thought about her struggle, the more frustrated I got. I paced my room, made my bed with the excess energy. I thought about what the host said to her and began to think how I would put his response in my own words.
Here’s what I came up with: She isn’t supposed to be an example. Her friends don’t need an example, they need a friend. A real one. An honest one. A touchable one. They need a friend who doesn’t think she’s better than everyone, but one who knows she isn’t. They need a friend who knows she needs Jesus.
So what about being a leader and setting the example? Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what parents and youth leaders tell students all the time?
The more I think about it, the more I believe this well-meaning statement is not only a manipulative way to try to control our daughters’ behavior, but can also be dangerous to their spiritual health. When we tell her to be an example, we may as well just hand her a mask right there – Here. Hide behind this. Don’t let them see you struggle.
I know that’s not what we mean. I know. But it doesn’t matter so much what we mean, it matters what she hears.
And when she hears adults tell her to be an example, she thinks that means she can never mess up, can never have problems, can never just be a teenager with struggles like everyone else.
She might then mature into a woman who believes being a Christian means having it all together, saying all the “right” things, staying a few steps above everyone else.
She may become a person people look up to, but she will never be someone they can relate to.
She may be successful at managing her behavior, but she will always struggle to manage people’s opinions.
She may have a great reputation, but her character will be clouded with bitterness and anger.
She may be a good church-goer, but she will not know how to be a good friend.
This may keep her out of trouble, but it will suffocate her soul.
But what about holiness?! I can hear the protests now. Don’t we want her to be a light in a dark place?
Yes. But telling her to be an example won’t let her shine, it will just cause her to shrink.
She already is a light in a dark place, but here is the part most of us forget when we’re telling our teenagers to be an example:
Her light comes from Jesus, not from her awesome behavior.
Do you believe Christ himself has taken up residence within her? Do you trust him with her life – her decisions, her emotions, her relationships? Do you truly believe he goes with her wherever she goes?
If so, then instead of telling her to be an example, how about encouraging her to be herself?
When she is hurt, she can deeply feel it. When she messes up, she can own it. When she hurts someone, she can apologize. When she has doubts, she can voice them. And when she is joyful, it will be from a real place inside her, not a manufactured mask she puts on for show.
If you have a daughter graduating in a few weeks, don’t be afraid. As she packs her bags for her summer trip or her college dorm, encourage her to leave the mask behind.
Believe Christ is in her. Believe she already has everything she needs. And for the love, don’t tell her to be an example. Free her up to be herself – a girl who has the living Christ living inside her.
Need a resource or a gift for the high school or college girl in your life? (Or, let’s face it, for your 54-year-old self?) Consider one of the two books I wrote on this very topic: Grace for the Good Girl or Graceful (For Young Women). Both books encourage women of all ages to let go of the try hard life.
UPDATE: I have written somewhat of a follow up post to this one – since I’ve shared one thing your daughter doesn’t need you to say, I thought it only appropriate to offer 12 things she might need to hear. Let’s call it part two. Ish. Thank you for reading – it is a gift to say the very least.
May your soul be open to the way God moves and may you have the courage to move with him. Don’t despise the ordinary, for it is in those small places where the Divine makes his home. Let the simple graces of your everyday moments escort you further into the mystery of God. Remember the words of Jean-Pierre de Caussade: ”The soul, light as a feather, fluid as water, innocent as a child, responds to every movement of grace like a floating balloon.”
Enjoy your weekend, friends.
I only have one link to share this week. Kids in Paraguay Make Music From Trash: They call their orchestra Landfill Harmonic. They’ve been featured on nearly every major news outlet over the past six months or so, but somehow I missed their story until this week. As you watch this 3 minute video below, let their music be a kind reminder of how God moves beautifully in unexpected places.
It’s Wednesday, the middle of the first full week of May. Exams are beginning, recitals are scheduled, teacher gifts are bought (or are at least on the list). The schedule calls for high gear, quick movements, finished tasks.
In the hustle of May, it can be easy to forget who we are.
And so I pause this morning, take a walk around the block, consider the day as it is and myself within it. As I walk, I whisper something ridiculous: I am not a robot.
This seems obvious, except it isn’t always for me. I recognize a compulsion to focus on tasks and an inability to celebrate their completion. Instead, I just move on to the next one.
There is something un-human about that.
I read in Richard Foster’s book on prayer, “Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth but from falling in love.” I pause to think about those words, rub my sore jaw. Love is a choice and love takes time.
Our souls aren’t made to hustle.
The winner of the 7 gifts from Monday’s Mother’s Day Giveaway is Laura Boggess. Nearly 600 of you entered that giveaway – maybe I’ll do these more often. Congratulations, Laura – check your email!
She told me not to touch the Jell-O as it settled in the fridge. It needed time. But I was only a little bigger than 7 and I just wanted a peek. The cherry red shined under the light. Was it wet? Was it gel? One finger in, that’s all it took. One finger to discover if the magic had happened yet.
It hadn’t. I found that out quick as I lost my balance, finger deep in red goo. It came tumbling off the glass shelf, onto the jam and the pickle lids, the linoleum and the pink jelly shoes. But that’s not the worst part.
The worst part is she was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, watching. And I didn’t know it.
There I was, unable to hide the sticky guilt of my disobedience. She could have yelled. She could have lectured. She could have scolded with a pointy finger and a go-t0-your-room. But that isn’t what she did.
Instead, she wore calm like a cloak as she moved towards me, a soft look on her face, love in her green eyes –mercy standing over me. And then, she began to help me clean it up – grace on hands and knees.
The yelling would have been easier to take. But I would have forgotten it.
I got my first glimpse of the power of grace that day in my mother’s kitchen. She didn’t change the whole world, but something shifted inside mine.
It was subtle, but it was powerful, too.
She will be the first to tell you that grace wasn’t always her response. Grace isn’t always my response, either. But for today, I love the reminder that grace leaves a deep impact on a child’s heart. The influence of a mother is a powerful force, one that deserves a celebration.
a mother’s day giveaway!
One winner will receive all of the following gifts:
- More Than Rubies: Newly released full-length album by Christa Wells and Nicole Witt. I have been listening to this in my car for a month now. Love.
- True Love Wins: Necklace from Lisa Leonard Designs
- ABC Scripture Cards: by Courtney DeFeo
- The Artist’s Daughter: a memoir by Alexandra Kuykendall
- Sparkly Green Earrings: a memoir by Melanie Shankle (P.S. The kindle version is FREE right now for today, May 6, only!)
- The Repurposed and Upcycled Life by Michelle Rayburn
- Grace for the Good Girl by me.
One person will win all seven gifts – to give to your mama or to keep for yourself! (Translation: you don’t have to be a mom or have a mom to enter). All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. And of course you can tweet or Facebook for extra entries. Just come back and say you did. When you comment, be sure to include your email address in the email field or we won’t have a way to contact you if you win (your email address will not be made public or used in any other way). An apology to our international readers, but this giveaway is available to US residents only. Winner will be announced Wednesday May 8 by 11 am EST. Happy Mother’s Day week!
UPDATE: Thanks to all who entered – the winner of the giveaway is Laura Boggess!
The content in this post is a re-edited version of a post written for my 31 Days of Grace series.
May you hold books with pages, mugs with steam, and hands who know your secrets. Set down comparison, regret, revenge, and all of your defensive explanations. Settle in, right where you are, refusing to wish for something different.
Enjoy your weekend, friends.
As I walk through the back door of the small building, I hear the low chatter from the group down the hall, feel the familiar warmth that comes with rooms filled with food and conversation.
Tonight is our last meeting and I briefly think back to that night in February when we met for the first time – how I was nervous to come because I only knew two of the people who would be here. And both of them were men.
Since then, we have gathered in the downstairs level of this small church, a healthy mix of both men and women – various ages and life stages. But it isn’t for Bible study and it isn’t a class.
There are no experts here.
We come as artists – that is the common ground where we meet. But we aren’t here to sell or showcase our art. Instead, we are here to enter into a safe community of people who are (as the gathering description says) “dedicated to the idea that we can’t do it alone, and that our hurts and egos and insecurities are keeping us from more perfect expression.”
This is The Listening Room, a bench for artists.
Most nights we sit in a wide circle in this basement and have conversation around pre-determined topics designed to uncover the artist behind the art. But tonight is our final meeting, and so they have pushed the long tables together to make a square in the center of the room, spread it with a disposable cloth, set out painted mason jars filled with pom pom tissue flowers.
We share a family dinner, conversation, and our art.
There are guitars and singing, autobiography and novel readings, sketches and paintings, creatures and clay. When it’s my turn, I read a few pages from the last chapter of A Million Little Ways, my book no one has read yet.
We end the night thankful, making plans to gather for a meal again now that The Listening Room is over.
Alone on my drive home, I realize I’m gripping the steering wheel and breathing more shallow than normal. I can’t stop tapping my left leg.
I feel alive and kind of terrified.
What is this? I wonder. Why was that so hard for me, to read my words in front of them? I’m supposed to be used to this kind of thing by now.
It’s true, over the past two years I’ve done a fair amount of speaking in front of people. I’ve given talks and led workshops. I have used microphones.
So why is it that reading my words in a dimly lit church basement among twenty kind artists ushers my body into trembling?
As I drive, words come to mind that offer an explanation for this feeling – they are words I read from someone quoting Brene Brown and immediately it comes to me: this isn’t fear I’m feeling.
This is vulnerability.
In this moment, I recognize the difference, take note of what this feels like.
Fear tells me to run away from connection.
Vulnerability dares me to run towards it.
It turns out the emotional line between those two experiences is fragile and thin.
This is what happens when we create rooms for listening. In these kinds of rooms, people meet on benches and share a common experience. And we stay engaged by being curious over people, the image bearers of God. But for me, in rooms like this, it’s important to share, too.
Part of listening is coming alive in the presence of others as we watch them come alive in our presence as well.
What are the listening rooms in your life? Do you have any? Do you need some?
Update: This bundle is no longer available.
I have never written an eBook. I would like to have one available by this time next year – even just a free one for you to say thank you for subscribing. People who have written eBooks tend to say everyone should write one. They’re probably right.
Ebooks are a fantastic way to spread ideas, explore a topic you want to learn more about, and maybe even make some money for your family. Even though I haven’t yet written one, I do like to read them. Most of my friends (and let’s face it, my family) have written one and they’re good at it.
I want to tell you about this amazing sale on eBooks incase you want to stock up on reading for the year (or 10).
Here’s the big idea: For 5 days only, I’m teaming up with more than 75 widely-known bloggers and authors in the homemaking sphere to spread the word - they are offering 97 of their most popular eBooks and eCourses, valued at just over $600, for only $29.97. Head here to see what’s all included or you can click here to buy the bundle now.
You may have seen this sale around other blogs you read yesterday and have wondered if it’s worth it. It’s worth it to me. I’ve never seen a sale like this one.
This bundle won’t be for everyone, but it seems like something some of you would really enjoy. And even if you don’t like every single one of these eBooks, you can customize your own collection to contain exactly the ones you want and know you’ll use.
I will list all the books you’ll get on a separate page, but just to give you an idea, the bundle is filled with tips on homemaking, mothering, organization, recipes, spiritual growth, home décor, pregnancy, baby care, frugal living, health and fitness and financial tools.
Pretty much every ebook I’ve thought about downloading is included in this bundle.
For example, NOT a DIY Diva by my sweet friend Melissa @ The Inspired Room (normally 3.99), iPhone Photography: The Visual Guide by Alli @ Alli Worthington (normally $9.97), and The No Brainer Wardrobe by Hayley @ The No Brainer Wardrobe (normally $7.99). I’ve been meaning to buy her wardrobe eBook and I haven’t but now, I’m just going to get all these along with 94 other eBooks in the bundle!
I don’t want to overwhelm un-interested readers with a long list of the 97 eBooks included. So for those of you who are interested in perusing the titles, you can see a complete list of what is offered here as well as to read the details (translation: I can’t help you with download issues, but someone else can).
Visit this page to see some of the free stuff you’ll get when you buy a bundle. These brilliant women have teamed up with 10 companies to bring you over $140 in bonus offers, giving you an affordable opportunity to get products you’ll use and love for only the cost of shipping, or in some cases, entirely for free!
Please note: This collection is only available from 9 a.m. EST on April 29th to 11:59 p.m. EST on May 4th. There will be no late sales offered. This post includes affiliate links, and I make a portion of the sale of each eBook bundle. Thanks for your support of Chatting at the Sky!
Here are 12 things I learned in April, in no particular order:
1. If you put Alexis Bledel in a movie with Zachary Levi (Rory and Chuck!), I’m going to watch it. And I’m probably going to like it even if it is cheesy and predictable.
2. Cutting flowers and branches from my yard and bringing them inside puts me in a good mood.
3. Thirty-six doesn’t feel any different than thirty-five. I know this seems obvious, but thirty-five felt way different than thirty-four. Thirty-four you are still early thirties and thirty-five definitely kicks you over to mid-thirties. But thirty-six still feels mid-thirties to me and I’m going to hold on to that.
4. Podcasting with Tsh helps me not to take myself too seriously.
5. Ollie’s sells Grace for the Good Girl for 4.99. I was unreasonably excited when I found a copy there. And then I thought . . .wait a minute. This is a discount store! But for real, to have her arrive at the discount store among some of my favorite authors feels like an honor somehow.
6. After getting to know him on American Idol, I have decided Keith Urban is cool no matter what he does. (See Nicole Kidman. See his taste in T-shirts. See country music. See Australia.)
7. I finally realized this month that every time I type Chris it comes out Christ. It’s like the Holy Spirit likes it and he wants to put a T on it. I also type Amazong for Amazon and thigs for things. So Christ bought a lot of thigs on Amazong is basically my nightmare sentence.
8. Todd Smith and I graduated from the same tiny private high school in Southfield, Michigan. He was the class of ’91 and I was the class of ’95. John and I spent an entire afternoon with Todd and Angie last week in Franklin without putting these pieces together. We figured it out later and I realize again how small the world feels when things like that happen.
9. When you have to give a talk to a group of people ranging from 5 year old girls to 65 year old grandfathers (and all the ages in between) the way to make it relevant for all of them is to tell stories and to talk about Jesus.
10. Monday is a great day to have a birthday because then you spend the whole weekend celebrating and you still have Monday to look forward to.
11. Two words that might change my life: Stitch Fix. My box is supposed to come today and I can’t wait to see what’s inside. I might hate it all. Or it might all be too expensive. Or it might just be a one time thing for me. But it’s my birthday month so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m including my referral code in this link incase you haven’t signed up yet and want to – maybe I’ll earn enough to actually keep some of the clothes they send. I’ll keep you posted.
12. It is possible for me to be consistent with a newsletter. Tomorrow will mark the 5th one I’ve sent this month! In May, I’ll start doing it once a month, but this month has been a successful experiment for me to play with length, content, and questions. I’ve enjoyed interacting with you through the newsletter, so thanks to those of you who have responded. (And of course, you can sign up here if you would like to receive the last letter of April and exclusive monthly updates starting in May).
What have you learned in April?