Friday, April 11, 2014

What I’ve Learned: Jesus is the Real World

I thought about calling this series Jesus in the Real World because of all the ways He’s shown up for me in music, movies, people, sunsets, just life.  But then I realized it would be more accurate to say that Jesus is the real world.  Everything in it is His.  When I don’t see Christ, it just means I’m not looking or listening or tuned in the way I need to be.

We’ll start Holy Week Sunday, one of my favorite and most conflicted times of year.  We have our family traditions related to this time of year, and more questions come up as the kids get older.  They spent last week building a Resurrection garden with grandma and Aunt Sherry, and we’ll take that to Athens with us next weekend for Easter to spend time with my family.  We’re starting a new tradition, putting a small-enough-to-fit Jesus in the tomb of the Resurrection garden on Friday and then having the kids come out Sunday morning to see the stone rolled away and the Jesus figure gone.  Some kids get Easter baskets; our kids get empty tombs and the truth of a Risen God. 

Jesus, thankfully, is not small enough to fit or stay within any kinds of boundaries.  He’s everywhere.  I’ve found Him in endless loads of laundry, in the face of a homeless man, in the five minutes I have to socialize with other mamas during AWANAs pick up.  I’ve heard Him in the whirl of the white noise machine breaking through teething cries that last for hours.  I’ve seen Him at midnight as D stares at Asher or Eowyn knowing he has to wake up for work in five hours but fine with the fact that they are awake and want to smile and coo.  I’ve seen Him in Wren drawing pictures for Sammy to make him smile and Sammy agreeing to play with Wren’s dolls if they will ride on Thomas the train instead of just prance around.  He’s with me, always.

Honestly, I could blog on what I’ve learned forever and never be finished.  In a way, I will since I’ll continue to blog and lessons from the Lord will be here, even outside of this series.  For now, I’m going to call this the final entry in the What I’ve Learned series, though I will post a sort of Jesus Year index throughout the weekend and next week, more for my information than anything else.  It will be a list of songs and books and movies that heavily affected this exploration.  I want to remember and I want to continue to move forward.  I want to carry it all with me and continue to collect the new experiences.

I’m toying with the idea of picking up the Trying New Things and Little Things series on the blogs again since I am in a place to start some new resolutions, I think.  Things are calming down a bit, as calm as they will ever be.  I’m going to continue to write because I won’t journal any other way, and I like it.  Feel free to continue to read. 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

What I’ve Learned from One Republic: Everything That Kills Me Makes Me Feel Alive

 I don’t think One Republic meant their song to be taken the way I’ve interpreted it for my own life and Jesus year.  Jokes on them. 

"Counting Stars" is a song where the chorus talks about feeling wrong doing the right thing and feeling right doing the wrong thing.  I’m guessing in rock star speak that means the debauchery that comes along with rock star life is not right, but it sure does feel good.  Maybe it goes deeper than that and I’m wrong, but this song hit a chord for me because it’s very accurate when applied to the Christian life.  If you live “the right way” according to the world, it should feel spectacularly wrong and if you live the “wrong way” it should feel right.  Follow so far?

As Christians, we are called to take up our cross and die, every single day.  Die to self.  Die to personal wants and desires.  Die to everything.  Christ inhabits us.  We follow.  Everything that kills me makes me feel alive?  That should pretty much be how all Christians feel.  Anything that kills me and my self-absorbed desires should make me feel alive because it means I’m living in Christ.  The most alive I feel is when I am focused on Christ.  He forces me to look outside myself where I find all these places He wants me to be and all these things I’m supposed to be doing.  He also makes me sit still.  I can’t do any of those things effectively when I’m living for me. 

According to the world, the right thing is to look out for number one and pursue our own desires, our own happiness, build ourselves up, work on self-promotion.  According to the Lord, no.  There’s a reason we were asked to take up a cross, a tool for execution, to follow Christ and not just told to pack a bag with all our things.  Following Christ is going to kill us, for sure on the inside, and sometimes we will give over our physical lives for it.  But that should feel right.  “Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly.”

And I want to drown in my commitment to Christ, to be washed over by my love for Him.  I want to say, “Yes, I have never felt more alive now that I am dead to sin and living in Christ!”  I want that daily.  When the selfish desires and human reactions kick in, I want Christ fighting within me to beat them down.  If it looks wrong to the world, that’s okay.  If it looks right to God, that’s what I’m going for. 

Now when I hear this song I usually blast it and belt out the chorus.  Again, a secular song that has become a born-again anthem for a crazy suburban mom in a minivan.  Oh, well.  If it looks wrong to the world, I’m probably good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Plumb: I Don’t Deserve His Love, But I Still Get to Have It

I’ve blogged about this song previously, but I cannot overstate the profound effect it had on me when I heard it.  It is very rare still for me to get through the entire song without crying or singing or both, which sounds like a baby whale screeching.  That’s how I praise the Lord.

Plumb wrote it for her son, a child who can give her a run for her money sometimes but is obviously the light of her life.  I didn’t know that going in as it sounds so much like a song to Christ, and it didn’t affect me when I found out.  There are lyrics that, to me, can only describe a relationship with Christ.

You're the reason that I'm alive
You're what I can't live without

I don't deserve a love that gives me everything
You're everything I want

I love my family with a passion and they, like Christ, are forgiving and right next to me, even at my worst.  But I don’t believe, and I don’t want any of them to believe, that a relationship with a person can ever fulfill all their needs or give them everything.  Our reason for living is more than each other, even if being together is a huge part of it.  For me, this was a love letter from God saying He will chase me, catch me even when I run, be by my side always.  As previously mentioned, I had a very hard time accepting the being loved part of my relationship with the Lord.  My epic failures cause me to see myself as unlovable in front of a Holy God.  But Plumb’s lyrics knocked me over with the raw honesty, the facts of having a relationship with Christ.

Your heart is gold and how am I the one
That you've chosen to love
I still can't believe that you're right next to me
After all that I've done

There’s not much I can say except, listen to the song.  Also, D is creating art based on a vision in my head that pops up every time I hear this song.  He is an amazing artist and has been working on it for some time, but because it’s going to hang in my living room and because I am so passionate about it, it’s taking him forever.  He doesn’t give himself enough credit when it comes to art anyway.  I’ll post it when he finishes and reference back to this blog.

Here the song by pasting this link:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What I've Learned from Free-Range Kids: Fear Has No Place

Lenore Skenazy blogs here, and wrote Free-Range Kids based on the same topic she covers on her blog.  Skenazy proves through research that the times we are living in are not any less safe for our children than they were for us, but our hyperawareness of every bad thing that happens everywhere all the time has made us think it is.  We’re raising kids who leave home as adults unable to make their own decisions because of fear, fear of everything.  Skenazy argues that it’s the parents and our society creating this monster since we are not encouraging or allowing our kids to assess practical risks and take chances developing their independence while they are home.

Skenazy’s book showed up at a point in our lives when D and I were hit in the face with this problem times about a thousand.  Wren’s Celiac and the addition of every gluten-filled bread crumb on the planet being an actual, real threat to our child has caused more than a few hiccups in what are considered normal childhood activities.  How do you raise a free-range kid when a wrong food choice or forgetting to wash hands before a meal increases their cancer risk?  And what if Wren gets contaminated enough to do internal damage but not to make her vomit or show outward signs leading to the contamination continuing until there are very real, hard to fix problems staring us in the face?

Of course, we have to raise Wren to learn to manage her Celiac and take on the responsibilities related to caring for herself.  But when and how much do we ask her to take on at each age?  That question has been debated between our pediatrician, our naturopath and us endlessly with no clear answer.  For sure we have to proceed carefully because Celiac compromises adrenal function which controls fight or flight mode.  What does that mean?  Taking on too much too fast could cause unnecessary stress on Wren’s body, especially if we ask her to make decisions she’s not ready to make or that require too many steps or risks.  She’s five, and adults have a hard time managing and staying safe in cross-contaminated environments.

After reading Skenazy’s book, D and I sought the Lord as to how to turn over some, but not too much, of the Celiac responsibility to her.  We started with Sunday School.  We moved to AWANAs this year, and Wren has LOVED AWANAs and is finishing up Cubbies.  So far, so good.  We’ve kept it simple and made the steps she has to follow limited.  She knows the drill and is not stressed by it. 

As we come up on each new challenge, like yes or no to VBS this year for three whole hours with multiple snacking/cross-contamination issues and the possibility of Play-Doh and flour activities, we seek God to help us not make a fear-based decision.  We want to make a guided, responsible decision based on the obvious risks, but fear alone as a motivator isn’t going to do any of us any favors.  We have to prepare Wren, and we also have to decide when going it on her own is above her level at this point in her life.  We want the Holy Spirit leading us, because as Skenazy points out, if I look to the world and to media alone, I will never even let my kids leave the house, let alone enter a house with Wonderbread.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Hair and Jesus: Looks Shouldn’t Matter

Wren wants to cut her hair, really cut her hair.  So Friday we have a girls’ date to let her chop it as short as she wants and see if she likes it. 

I think before my Jesus year and time spent trying to focus on what matters, I might have attempted to talk her out of it.  The reason would have simply been hair doesn’t grow back overnight, and I wouldn’t want her to be upset if she didn’t like it.  My response when she told me the other night: whatever you want to do.  It’s just hair.  Because it is, and if I stress that it is something worthy of getting upset about, then that’s what it becomes instead of being just hair.

I would like to say vanity is not a struggle for me, and I think it’s probably not as much as it could be.  There is something great in never being classically pretty, having a face that doesn’t fit standard beauty proportions, being called too pale, too thin or too not muscley (that’s my word for still fairly thin but with loose hanging skin instead of muscle).  I learned early not to bank on being liked because I was cute.  I had to actually develop a personality, though that did not always make people flock to me.

It’s a double-edged sword though.  By telling someone they are physically beautiful all the time or focusing on all the ways they are not physically beautiful, it sends the message that looks matter.  And I would guess if me or any of my close friends kept a tally of how often our comments are about someone’s appearance, it would startle us how often it is the focus, good or bad.  What if I tallied all the times I just thought about appearance, mine or someone else’s?  That makes me think vanity may be an issue for all of us. 

Jesus didn’t seem to be into looks. He was described as “having no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” Isaiah 53:2

He didn’t comment on people’s appearances but rather the state of their hearts.  He loves people even though He can see beyond their outward appearances, therefore seeing our ugly on the inside which is where ugly really lives and matters.  I wonder what He thinks of our obsession with celebrities losing baby weight in a week, people being “fat-shamed”, and selfies.

It’s obvious I can’t blindfold my kids and pretend everyone looks the same.  Wren has made it obvious since these are comments that have all been said very loudly in public places in the last six months:

Mom, that girl’s hair is pink!
Mom, that man is brown!
Mom, that man is wearing a ponytail, but he’s not a girl!

There are times I’ve wanted to crawl under the grocery cart and die, but I have just said, “yes, everyone is different” and all of these individuals were awesome, seeing Wren for what she is, a child noticing that not everyone is the same, pointing out differences as just differences, not insults.  (Where Wren is not observant: her family.  I told her grandpa has brown skin since D’s dad is from Venezuela and has dark skin.  She was blown away!  Wow, Grandpa IS brown!  Cool!  Never noticed.)

While I tell my kids they are beautiful because I think it’s good for every kid to hear that, and I think they are beautiful, I try not to place beauty as the ultimate.  And honestly, I try not to say it often because being called pretty is addictive like heroine.  After physical appearance praise, being called a hard worker, kind, or a person with a servant’s heart can leave the person receiving those compliments thinking, “Thanks, but am I pretty?”  Maybe that’s just the voice in my head who needs counseling, though that voice is dying more as I get closer to God.   

Looks are not the most important thing and shouldn’t really even be on the list.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23  Being hot is not there.  I want to praise my kids for what is valued by Christ, and I want to value the same things as well as try to inhabit those virtues.  It’s not easy in a looks-obsessed culture, and it is taking a ton of conscious parenting and wise word choosing.  We are wired to see and speak on very surface things in this culture and country.  But it’s worth the effort. 

So, we’ll see what Wren’s hair looks like after Friday.  I’m sure it will be fine, and either way, it’s just hair.  I hope she can live in a world where it’s always just hair.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Leena: What it Looks Like to Show Jesus

We have the Jamie Grace station on Pandora, and she sings a million songs I love. “Show Jesus” is one that reminds me and the kids of Aunt Leeners, or Leena if she’s not the adopted aunt of your kids. It talks about living life in a way that shows Jesus to everyone through your love, you smile, just your presence. Since I met her in 2006 when were wide-eyed newbie middle school teachers, she has been a light I can always look to.  I’ve learned more watching her live out her Christian life than I have hearing anyone else talk about their own.   Here are some reasons why:

Faith During Loss

Leena’s dad passed away in 2011 after a valiant fight with cancer that was looking good. Everything turned at the last minute, and he passed when Leena was 28, way too early.

Leena’s family is one of those that could have really wholesome sitcoms written about them. They are precious, kind, and ferociously attached. As her dad battled cancer, I watched what it looked like to see someone prioritize everyone over herself, and I saw her family pull together beautifully to support her dad and each other.

Throughout his illness Leena prayed and believed he could be healed. We all prayed with her. Even on his deathbed, Leena still prayed that he would stop hurting, would recover, would be okay. When he passed away, she let all the prayer warriors who were waiting to hear know and asked for some time to recover.

Leena praised God after her dad died, praised Him for giving her such a wonderful father, for ending his pain. She mourned, of course, but she never lost her compass; she kept her heart pointed towards Christ and fell into His arms to recover instead of pulling away. And somehow, she kept up with friends and family, checking on everyone, coming to birthday parties and dinners. I’ll never forget this time in her life which was so painful but so awe-inspiring for anyone watching her.

Show Me the Money

In the middle of her dad’s illness, Leena was nominated for Teacher of the Year. This is huge, especially since she was still relatively new at teaching. She won on her campus and then made the finals for the district, which put her in the top five category. I believed she was a shoo-in.

On a night that should have been celebratory, Leena’s dad was too sick to attend the banquet where the winner for the whole district would be announced. Leena attended knowing her presence would be expected and gracefully applauded the teacher who was awarded the prize for that year.

Here’s why I love her: The prize for Teacher of the Year is acclaim, but it’s also cash. Teachers’ salaries aren’t great, so anyone who says all they want is the prestige is a liar; they want the cash.

In an unexpected turn of events, there was a raffle at the door. If you came to the banquet you were entered for a chance to win $1000, the same amount given to the Teacher of the Year winner. Leena won. Not only did she win, but she screamed, “Yes, that’s all I really wanted anyway!” before she could stop herself when her name was announced. This made me love her more than I thought was even possible.

Her Life is a Service Project

Call Leena anytime of day and she will more than likely be volunteering or serving in some capacity.   She doesn’t talk about helping out; she does it.  From chaperoning teens on international trips to helping at local food pantries, she takes what Jesus said about serving others seriously, every day. 

She Likes my Kids

Sammy tried to breastfeed through her shirt and she didn’t even flinch.  I have a picture; enough said there.

I’ve been blessed with rich friendships and Leena is someone I can’t imagine living without.  Wren and Sammy both pretty much scream “Aunt Leeners!” anytime songs by Jamie Grace about being an awesome Christian come on.  And they should.  My Jesus year and my life wouldn’t be the same without her.

Friday, April 4, 2014

What I’ve Learned From Jen Hatmaker: So Much I Have No Title For This

Here’s Jen Hatmaker’s blog.  Go read it.  Please come back. 

Did you come back?  Wow, I wouldn’t have.  She is awesome.  Why aren’t you reading more of her blog and buying all her books.  Is this a relative reading?

Anyway, I can’t even remember how I stumbled across the gem that is Jen Hatmaker, but I love her.  If I ever visit Austin and see her I will probably make a total fool of myself, even more than usual. 

Here’s the short list of what I love, though it's not short:

Ø   She was raised in what sounds like a pretty standard Christian home, grew up, questioned everything and fell head over heels in love with Jesus even more;

Ø  She is honest about flaws in the church, but she LOVES the church and is trying to be the change she wants to see (stole that last part from Gandhi);

Ø  She says hard stuff but in a loving way, and her goal has never seemed to be to stir the pot for the sake of hurting people or causing controversy;

Ø  She gets love, like real love, Jesus love, loving people more than politics or rules or reputation or the easy way.  She wants to love like Jesus;

Ø  Her writing style makes me laugh, sometimes out loud in a very obnoxious way where I can’t explain why I’m laughing because I can’t stop long enough, but I try anyway;

Ø  Her writing makes me cry;

Ø  She introduced Sarah Bessey’s writing to me;

Ø  The book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess;

Ø  This could go on forever.

Add this to the list.  This week she said some hard things on her blog about what happened with World Vision and her stance on issues, and she took some serious verbal/typed beatings for it, and I'm not sure why.  In reading her words, I saw someone who had prayerfully sought the Lord and was hurting and was putting it out there in the way she knew how.  I respected it.  I respected that she knew she’d have to deal with some heat but did it anyway for the people it would touch in a positive way.  She prayerfully seeks and tries to convey what she finds.  She knows people have different opinions, she stands firm on Biblical truth, but she doesn’t condone hating your neighbor because they don’t agree with you.  She is all for loving them so much they don’t even know what to do.  I want to learn to build community like she does.  I want to learn to not be afraid to say hard things.  I want time to refine my writing style like she has, because reading her words is like someone pouring poetry into my ears and letting it swim freely in my mind and heart. 

So if you currently have not liked Jen Hatmaker’s page on Facebook, do that.  You’ll see when she posts new blogs and can jump on them like I do.  Read Seven.  Sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy her writing like you do meeting with an old friend because that’s what it feels like.  An old friend I might stalk if I can ever drag my crew to Austin.  I’m sure all six of us will make stealthy stalkers.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Hair-Pulling: Being Right is Not as Important as Being Right With People

Wren ran into the living room screaming that Sammy had pulled her hair out.  Her hair did have a desperate look about it, and she launched into a tale of woe and betrayal that led to her hair problem and Sammy being the cause of it.  Unbeknownst to her, Sammy sauntered in behind her with a busted lip. 

 Me:  Wren, what happened?
Wren:  I told you, Sammy pulled my hair.
Me:  Did you do anything to Sammy?
Wren:  Uh….
Me:  Think hard, he’s standing right behind you. 
Wren:  Maybe.
Me:  He’s bleeding.
Wren:  I did punch him in the mouth. 

Understand I had two sleeping infants nursing on me, a noise machine on and was pinned to the recliner.  My goal:  get to the bottom of this without waking up Asher and Eowyn.  Mission not accomplished.  The girls stayed asleep, but I still have no idea what happened between Wren and Sam.

Wren’s attempts at telling the story always involved a lot of pausing and editing.  She is a bad liar, and it definitely benefits me.  Here’s Sammy’s version:

Me:  Sam, what happened?
Sam:  I pulled Wren’s hair.
Me:  Did you pull her hair first?
Sam:  She hit me in the mouth.
Me:  Before you pulled her hair?
Sam:  We got in a fight.
Me:  What order did it happen in?
Sam:  I’m hungry.
Me:  Good grief, child, I am trying to help you!

Wren and Sam love each other desperately and fight so infrequently that Sam doesn’t really care who started it or ended it.  He generally just wants to be fed. 

Solution:  They both had to sit on the couch and not talk, though they could read or color, until the twins woke up from nap.  Any further fighting would lead to naps for them, too.  This worked beautifully. 

I’m a recovering need-to-be-right-all-the-time person, so a situation like this would have infuriated the former me.  I would have wanted to know who started the fight, why, how did it turn aggressive.  Now I know enough to feel certain there were no really innocent parties.  Sure, someone resorted to making it physical first, but that’s only part of the story.  My guess is a) Wren put more of Sammy’s prized race cars in her panties and laughed at him while he searched his room trying to find them, then he pulled her hair out or b) Sammy pulled his underwear down, put his tush right next to the back of Wren’s head, declared himself “fart man” and let one rip, therefore resulting in Wren punching him in the face.  They learned their lesson.  They didn’t fight anymore that day. 

Parenting helped me learn that most of the time I only get a portion of the story and that has taught me to look at life and assume the same thing. I’ve come to a conclusion:  being right isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, even if you are right.  Yes, I believe in absolute truth; I’m not wishy-washy about most anything and can and do offer truth in love.  But I’ve found leaving room for someone else’s voice, whether I agree with it or not, is a much better way to cultivate relationships than to launch my right answers into their face.  Knowing what I believe allows me to be open to other people’s experiences instead of constantly needing the last word.  And it allows love and truth to shine, not me and my know-it-allness.  It also hopefully lessens the amount of times I fall tragically on my face when I am completely wrong. 

I’ve learned I want the mommies around me to raise their kids however they see fit and not judge or feel judged on the hot-button issues (breastfeeding vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. crib, homeschool vs. public) as if there is only one way.  I want my Jesus without political affiliation, and I’m tired of each party raising their flag as to why they are right and therefore much more God-blessed, never where they need forgiveness or reform and repentance.  I want to not agree with people and hear them out, and maybe still not agree with them but never stop loving them or letting them know they’ve been heard.  I want others to do the same for me.

So while I may never know what led to the hair-pulling, punchfest, I know it doesn’t matter.  I don’t condone violence, and no child walked away thinking I do.  They both walked away knowing each may have been a little right and a little wrong and they learned what NOT to do if they want freedom from the couch.  And that was okay.  Everyone got a chance to tell their version of the story, to feel heard, and to recover from their emotional and physical woes while still dealing with consequences.  Feelings were considered over shaming the wrongdoer.  Everyone was valued even if they hadn’t made the best decision.  In a unique way, it all turned out just right.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What I’ve Learned Teaching Wren to Read: It’s All in the Unsexy

I knew instinctively I was not meant to teach kindergarten.  I actually only obtained my teaching certificate because I majored in English but did not want to be a starving artist.  Mainly, the starving part did not interest me.  I taught junior high for six years.  People called me weird.

I called people who taught K-4 weird because besides lots of boogers, kids asking you to unzip their pants (my response: wet your pants, but I am not touching you.  That’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen, my friend) and the noise level, K-4 teachers teach foundational skills.  Reading, writing, math, they teach the basics.  By 8th grade if a kid can’t read, I blame their parents and their K-7th grade teachers.  I will totally choose a scapegoat, and by the time they are 13, I have plenty of options.

Recently I’ve come to this realization: as a homeschooling mom, I will be the one teaching my kids foundational skills like the ones mentioned above.  I’m totally excited about this.  And I am fairly petrified at there being no one to blame if this does not go well.  Except, of course, myself. 

Wren has wanted to read forever and memorized The Very Hungry Caterpillar before the age of two.  She called it reading, though it was just awesome memorization.  We’ve been working on memorizing words and phonics as well as reading small books with a lot of repetitive words.  It’s so great to watch her develop and grow in this area.

Okay, so here’s another truth:  It can be frustrating.  I taught English for six years to smelly 8th grade-attitude-filled adolescence, but sometimes it is harder to watch my five-year-old say the word “can” and then four words later see the same word and say “water?” in a voice that thinks the word water might actually be an option.  It’s can!  For the love of all that is good, the word is can!  You’ve said it 17 times in the span of four pages!

My goal is not to get frustrated, to be very encouraging, and to remember that I don’t remember learning to read, which means patient individuals went through this same process with me and made it so beautifully seamless and uplifting that I assume I emerged from the womb reading Tolstoy.  That’s what I want for my kids. 

In re-reading Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey talks a lot about doing the “unsexy” work over and over for the glory of God.  She believes “that there aren’t actually any big things for God.”  I mean, He is God so what’s so big it’s just going to knock His socks off?  But Bessey quotes Mother Teresa and says “there are only small things being done over and over with great love.”

I think that’s what teaching your kids to read falls under, unsexy work done repeatedly, multiple opportunities to shower a child with the love of Christ instead of the impatience of humanity.  Time spent that makes a difference, not only because of the education a child receives but because of the love that is hopefully shown in these daily, monotonous, sometimes frustrating tasks. 

This time together reading Fly Guy, Fancy Nancy, and Biscuit books has shown me that no matter how many times the word “can” somehow turns into the word “water” in Wren’s mind, my response should always be the same:  loving reassurance, assistance, encouragement.  She’s doing great, and she’s learning.  One day she might not want me to listen to her read 17 books in a day, and I will miss that.  I want to be able to look back at these days and remember all the fun we had and that I taught her important things:  how to read and how to do unsexy things really well for the glory of God.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Lady Gaga: It’s Best Not to Live for the Applause

It’s kind of hard to say I don’t listen to much mainstream music when Lady Gaga somehow falls into the teaching category.  I do station hop on the way to work, so that explains how I heard Lady Gaga singing “I Live for the Applause.”  I used to be in drill team; catchy dance beats grab my attention, and I will stop and give them a listen.  If the lyrics aren’t hugely questionable, I might rock out in the car a bit.  The lyrics that caught my attention are not super complicated or intelligent, but here we go:

I live for the applause, applause, applause
I live for the applause-plause
Live for the applause-plause
Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me
The applause, applause, applause

I determined two things from these lyrics immediately:  Lady Gaga is popular because she so very much represents this generations’ need for approval; Lady Gaga does not have children. 

Let me explain:  In our culture of immediate response and gratification, it’s not hard to live for the applause.  Instant approval is just a click away as we look at our Facebook and Twitter feed, blog comments, email messages.  I’m not immune to this.  Outside of the digital culture, I sometimes look at parenting as something my kids should applaud me for.  The wiping of bottoms and feeding of babes become jobs I want constant thank yous and accolades for instead of appreciating that the long term commitment is the payoff. 

There are many downsides to living for applause, but one is that it makes me thankless.  When not receiving thanks for jobs I should count myself lucky to have, I stop having a grateful attitude.  This leads to me not being happy, content, and forgetting how good I have it.  Expecting thank yous from everyone else makes me forget how to give thanks. 

Biblically, living for applause is not encouraged.  With treasure in Heaven, we’re to consider ourselves slaves to God and others, grateful for what we have waiting, blessed and happy for what we have now.  An attitude of gratitude definitely gives me more joy than waiting for the chorus of praise from others.

So my advice to Lady Gaga is: don’t ever have children if you REALLY need applause constantly, and don’t become addicted to other people’s approval.  The one who died for you has given all you’ll ever need.