Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Street

What makes you really happy? I mean the kind of joy that makes you feel like you could do anything, say anything, maybe even talk to that guy in your class that’s so cute. I’m talking about that feeling inside of you that bubbles over and spreads a smile across your face you can’t control. Do you ever have days like that?

Some days I do, but mostly it comes in small moments. I was wondering the other day if I had those moments when I was a teenager. It was a long time ago in a galaxy far away, but I do still have fuzzy memories of middle school and high school. I don’t remember being an especially cheerful person. I think most of the time I was so convinced that I was ugly, dumb, worthless, and on my best days just invisible, that I struggled to find those moments when I was truly happy.

Then again, what made me happy back then would seem silly to the grown up me.  A smile from a crush, a friendly conversation with someone popular, a compliment from a teacher I looked up to. I think about the things that made me feel like I was worth something, and  honestly I still struggle with the same issues now…just maybe a grown up version. The crush I so desperately wanted to notice me (who actually did, but didn’t have the guts to say so back then—whole other lesson there) is now replaced by my husband, who I still want desperately to notice me and love me. The popular kids are now just people in my circle that I view as better than me for some reason—prettier, more confident, successful. And the teacher I looked up to is just replaced by my boss or my colleagues.

I often like to think I’ve outgrown my teenage insecurities, but the harsh truth is that you never just “outgrow” sin. And face it, desperately seeking our worth in anything other than our standing in Christ is sin. To face it, you have to make a conscious choice to change. And therein lies the real challenge. Can anyone really change? I mean the kind of deep change that alters how you see yourself, how you see others. What does that even look like?

Let me see if I can paint you a picture in five steps. This story was told by James MacDonald in a Bible study series called I Really Want to Change, So Help Me God, and it illustrates a great picture of the process of real change.

1) I walked down a street and fell in a hole. It took me a long time to get out. It wasn’t my fault.
2) I walked down the same street and fell in the same hole. It took me a long time to get out. Why did I do that?
3) I walked down the same street and fell in the same hole. I got out quickly. That was totally my fault.
4) I walked down the same street and saw the same hole. I walked around it.
5) I walked down a different street.

It can take a long time to move through steps 1 through 5, especially when we’re young and immature. I know I fell in so many “holes” when I was young, especially when it came to the things I valued in myself and others. The desire to be loved is so powerful it can pull you into a hole so fast you may not even recognize you’ve fallen.

So here’s my challenge to myself, and to you, if you’re willing. I’ve asked God to show me my holes, and help me see the different street. He is so faithful, and He’s already shown me both, and now my moment to moment task is making the CHOICE to take the different street. What “holes” do you have in your life that you keep falling into? Do you really want to change? Can you honestly pray for God to reveal to you a different street, and do you have the courage to take it, not just once, but moment by moment from this point forward?

**This is still such a new experience for me, this whole blogging thing. I’d love to hear back from any of you that can share your own thoughts.**

Friday, September 23, 2011

5 Ways to Get Your Parents Off Your Back

#2 Clean Up Your Mess!

Photo by Erin Willis
So one of our favorite sayings as expert justifiers (convincing ourselves and others that the wrong things we do are really okay) is this: “No one’s perfect.” It’s a fantastic statement mostly because it’s true. I mean who can argue with that? There is no one past, present, or future who’s perfect. So you think: How can my parents give me such a hard time for one mistake? I mean really, I know for a fact they did the same thing when they were my age…Grandma told me. So why does it matter so much that I didn’t clean my room, or that I bombed one test, or that I was ONLY ten minutes late getting home? What’s the big deal?
      Let me fill you in on a well-known but much despised fact. The way you handle small situations is an indication of how you’ll handle big ones. No, failing to clean your room isn’t the end of the world. But how about a room that is in a constant state of disaster? What does that tell your parents? I can speak to this one from personal experience. I believe there may still be a lingering odor in my room at my parents’ house from the Easter eggs I forgot were in the bottom of my closet when I was about ten. Not to mention the peanut butter sandwiches, clothing, sweaty volleyball shoes, and books scattered everywhere. It wasn’t pretty. And to this day, my parents take great satisfaction in reminding me of how messy I was. And I still struggle with organization and cleanliness…just take a peek into my car.
       It’s easy for me to say, “No one’s perfect.” I have other areas of my life where I excel, and this is just the way God made me. I am organizationally challenged. I’m messy.  
       But think about what you’re really communicating to your parents. You’re telling them that you’re messy, that you’re still a kid, and that you don’t take yourself seriously. Now, maybe you’ve got it together in other areas of your life. I was a very good student, good athlete, had a job, and I stayed out of trouble. So having a messy room didn’t affect things too much when I was a teenager. (It certainly does now, but that’s a whole other article)
       The question is, what’s your “messy room?” In what area of your life are you unorganized and sloppy? What could you do to send a message to your parents that you’re growing up, you take your responsibilities seriously, and you can be trusted in larger things? Maybe it’s your grades. Maybe it’s your attitude when they tell you to do something you don’t want to do. Maybe you’ve been dishonest about your social life.
       Think about it. If you can put forth the effort to be more responsible in a small area of your life, you have something to show them, something that says you can be responsible. You can be trusted. And once you can be trusted, you’ll hear the beautiful sound of the word “Yes!” Of course you’re not perfect. Your parents know that, and don’t expect you to be. Just show them you can clean up your messes.
       So what "mess" can you start with in your life? 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

5 Ways to Get Your Parents Off Your Back

#1  If you want to be trustworthy.

Photo by Erin Willis

The quickest way to destroy trust is to lie. But it’s our first instinct when we smell trouble. Fear can shoot a lie out of your mouth before you even realize it.  The trouble is, once that lie is out there, you can’t take it back. And before you know it, you have to tell another lie to cover that one. Lying is like quicksand, and it will bury your character.

The only way to avoid the quicksand is to avoid the lie to begin with. Tell the truth to your parents, even if it terrifies you. At least they’ll know they can believe you when you’re telling them something good, and they’ll go easier on you (most of them anyway) when you screw up. Cause face it…you’re a teenager; you’re going to screw up. 

See, here’s the thing…your parents actually WANT to trust you. But they also love you so much, they’re terrified beyond all reason that something bad is going to happen to you. And the more responsibility they give you, the more terrified they are that they’re going to give you too much, and you’ll end up dead in a ditch somewhere. Maybe it’s irrational, but trust me…you’d much rather have parents that are all over you because they love you so much than parents that don’t give a rip where you are or what you’re doing.

But, you say, why does it have to be one crazy version or the other? Can’t I have some freedom and sane parents at the same time? Yes. Absolutely. But a lot of that depends on you. Now, you can tell me I’m wrong and argue with my advice all you want. It’s your freedom, your independence, your life. Ultimately, you are responsible for the choices you make.


So what can you do to increase the chances that your parents will let you do the things you enjoy? First of all, be where you say you’re going to be with the people you say you’re going to be with. Call when you say you’ll call. Be honest when you do something wrong or irresponsible. That way, you’re telling your parents that you can learn from your mistakes. Learn to say, “I’m sorry (Mom/Dad). What I did was wrong. I shouldn’t have (fill in the blank). Next time this happens I’ll (fill in the blank).” Then DO IT!

It’s not rocket science…it’s not even algebra. If you make a sincere effort to be who you really are, say what you really mean, and do what you say you’ll do, people in general (not just your parents) will be able to trust you. It’s hard. No one is perfect. But if you can be trusted to admit to and learn from your mistakes, then you can be trusted with the freedom to make them.

And that's your WWW for the day...

Friday, September 16, 2011

I'm no Solomon

When I considered starting a blog that would speak to both teenagers and their parents, I have to admit my first thought was that I had no business giving advice. And who’d want to listen to me anyway? On most days I like to think my students are genuinely interested in what I have to say, but there’s no denying that they’re a “captive” audience. Given the choice, they’d happily trade being in math class for video games, texting, facebooking (is that really a verb?), or even sleeping.

But here’s the thing…for some reason I can’t explain, I have an enormous amount of love for the kids that come through my door. I mean, people say to me all the time, “I don’t know how you teach middle school.”

And I play the part of saint very well. “Yes, it’s tough. Those teenagers can be a real challenge.”

But secretly, I know that I’m blessed every day to get to hang out with them. I hope they all know how much I truly love them.

So when that little voice in my head says I’m not wise enough to advise anyone, and definitely not cool enough that kids would want to read what I have to say…I think about those kids in my class, those incredible minds just waiting for the fog of hormone overload to lift, and I pray that God will use my words to encourage them and to remind them how loved they are.

So read on, enjoy, and try not to take me too seriously.