Maine-ly About Turning 17

Summer birthdays can be really awesome or really weird. Parties can be big, all-out shindigs, or altogether nonexistent, because all of your besties are camping or traveling or working odd hours in summer jobs. Fortunately, Kayla is happy to celebrate anywhere we happen to be at the time. Due to its July 28th date, we’ve celebrated her special day in various places…once at the home of an old high school friend of mine while visiting D.C, once in Connecticut at the home of fellow church planters, and this year we celebrated in Maine.

We have been going to the same cabin in Ogunquit, Maine every summer for as long as Kayla has been alive. (She started her cabin stays in a Pak N Play, and has since graduated to a twin trundle bed.) The cabin is a ministry to those in ministry, and a has been huge blessing to our family. Robert and I left a couple of days early and stayed in New Hampshire, and then Cooper and Kayla met us on Wednesday for lunch and the rest of the drive into Maine.

We invited Lars Gren to join us for lunch, since he lives very close to our route. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that Lars is one of the “Saints on Strawberry Cove.” He is the widower of Elisabeth Elliot, and has now been without her for a little over two years. The last time we had lunch with him was on July 15, 2015 – exactly one month to the day after Elisabeth died. I was eager to catch up with him and see how he’s been. Despite a head on collision with a drunk driver last August, and dealing with residual pain of several compression fractures, he’s doing well.  He had just returned from California where he attended a wedding and spent time with the family of the bride – a young woman who had been homeschooled and part of a conference and ministry at which Lars and Elisabeth were often asked to speak.

We enjoyed his stories and sitting together on the patio, though it was hot and I’m not sure how Lars endured it with his long sleeves and sweater.  He also ordered hot water (with lemon) and let us know that he never drinks anything cold….unless it is a 7-up, and then, of course, it requires ice. When we told him we’d be traveling to Greece for our anniversary, he said he also traveled there “years ago, courtesy of the US Navy.” Said he’d trade duties with other officers and take the night watch, so that he could go and explore the various cities in which they docked during the day.

We discussed the family of Jim Elliot, whose brother died in the last year. Lars traveled to attend Burt’s memorial service, which sadly also ended up being a memorial for Burt’s wife, Colleen, who slipped on ice walking up stairs, hit her head and never recovered. Tragic indeed, but in a strange way also very meaningful to celebrate two lives at once and a marriage dedicated to Christ and missions together.

It was a really nice visit, and the Wenham Tea House was just as you might imagine – little old ladies eating scones, salads, and tea sandwiches catching up on all the local scuttlebutt. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, think Emily Gilmore and the ladies of the D.A.R.

Then we drove up to Ogunquit, walked across the drawbridge to Perkins Cove for ice cream, grabbed some chicken and veggies at a cute downtown market to grill for dinner, and played a cutthroat game of Spades.

Cooper’s girlfriend, Madison, joined us for the day on Thursday which was really nice, and began with a big breakfast together at one of our favorite restaurants, The Roost.  Gluten free pancakes, muffins, and waffles are always on the menu there.Friday was Kayla’s birthday, and the only day we spent at the beach. It was nice and sunny that day. Since 17 year olds and 20 year olds like to sleep way past 7am, Robert and I went for a run, stopped at The Love Shack juice bar on our way back (beets and carrots and parsley!) and then started working on the birthday girl’s special breakfast – gluten free waffles (made in one of her birthday gifts, a mini waffle iron) and pancakes, eggs, bacon, and fruit. Her other gift was a pair of long-desired Birkenstocks. Cooper gave her a pair of Crocs, so I’d say she’s all set for summer footwear.

After breakfast, we packed our lunch cooler and headed for the beach.

Though it was warm that day, it was not really warm enough to get in the water. (In my opinion, of course.) Kayla kept begging someone to go in with her, but when Robert finally agreed and hit the waves ahead of her, she wasn’t so sure anymore. Eventually, they both took the frigid plunge

She’s planning a waffle birthday party for herself this week while we’re away in Greece, and has lots of other activities lined up for the week without us – babysitting, assisting a wedding photo shoot, and time with friends.

I know parents are supposed to say wonderful things about their children, and especially on their birthdays, but I don’t feel any obligation to exaggerate here.  Kayla is just a wonderful young woman, and I thank the Lord for giving me the gift of being her mom. We’re watching her work out her own call to ministry and seek the Lord for direction about college and beyond, and I’m always impressed by her discernment and wisdom and willingness to listen to God. She’s focused on meaningful things, and though tempted, not swayed by the different choices and direction of others.Saturday morning had me up with the sun and sitting on a bench along the Marginal Way with my Bible and journal. The gift of quiet and beauty all around, I finished the coastal-view walk with a trip into town for coffee and gluten free muffins for our final breakfast together in the cabin.

I hope Kayla looks back on her 17th birthday with happy memories of “the cabin in Maine” and a day at the beach. Maybe someday she’ll even be glad for the time with Lars (though she baked in the sun and wondered if she’d end up in a blog post) and being joined, even if ever so slightly, to the story of their family and ministry. Maybe she’ll even join their ranks as a missionary and hero of the faith.

She’ll be reading this soon, of course, so I’ll sign off by saying…

Kayla, Yes, you ended up in a blog post again. 😉 I love you and thank God for your life of faith and faithfulness even (and especially) at age 17. God has gifted you with a strength and confidence and calling that I know He plans to use for His glory and the good of others. I really love being your mom, and I can’t wait to watch it all play out in His time.

In Pain (and tears) You Will Give Birth

Waiting for my dad at the Austin airport

I’ve cried myself to sleep more than a handful of times in my 47 years of life, but I’d never cried myself awake until last week. It made me think of Eve. In the third chapter of Genesis, Eve receives the news of how the unleashing of sin into the world will affect her, as a woman, specifically: pain in childbirth.

But the pain doesn’t end in childbirth, of course. Any mom will tell you that. Nearly every single day of raising a child involves pain of some sort, and it was the pain of impending and indefinite separation that woke me up with sobs that Thursday morning.

We had landed in Texas just two days prior, and spent the day before in Waco packing up all of Kory’s belongings and moving him out of the house in which he spent the last two years of college. It was the beginning of an ending.


Boys’ apartments…😉  Robert had bathroom duty.



After it was all packed and loaded into the UHaul we decided to try and visit Magnolia Market one last time. It would be my first time to actually get into the bakery and store, since the last time I tried was on the Monday of Spring Break in Texas, and I’m pretty sure THE WHOLE STATE OF TEXAS (and possibly Oklahoma) was there waiting in a 2+ hour long line. This, however, was the Wednesday afternoon before graduation weekend in Waco, and the crowd was much smaller. We shopped in the market and even got some delicious gluten free cookies at the bakery.

We took our Magnolia cookies to Common Grounds, because cookies need coffee, of course, and this is the place students get coffee, and study, and go on dates, and attend concerts. We’ve never visited Waco without making a stop at Common Grounds. (The owners live in a Fixer Upper, so we didn’t think they’d mind the imported cookies.) I got a Common Grounds t-shirt for Mother’s Day.

The caffeine and sugar fueled us to make the three-car/truck-caravan-trek to San Marcos that evening. The next morning (the morning of sobs), Robert and I went for a run, unloaded the truck into a storage unit, and picked up breakfast tacos and Starbucks all before 9am. An early start was made possible by my 5am tears and also felt necessary, because we would host a graduation party for Kory later that afternoon, and all of the grocery shopping and cooking still needed to happen. Those things ended up being a good distraction.

Robert got up around 6:30 after I’d had time to sit in my dad’s recliner with my Bible and my tearful prayers, and asked me if I was okay. I had actually been pretty weepy for about two weeks leading up to all of this, though he didn’t know that. I didn’t know exactly how to explain. I don’t know…just the anticipation of a more permanent goodbye, the prospect of no more long winter breaks, spring breaks, or summer breaks, the end of those precious, few, and truly wonderful college years, and the beginning of an independent “real” life in another state.

My mind was being flooded with images of the past, too. I thought of the yellow “hundred number chart” I laminated and the inflatable globe I purchased in the weeks leading up to our first year of homeschooling, the Saxon math books, all of the trips to the library, the museum, swimming lessons, Legos, BB guns, pocket knives, paper routes, and countless baseball games and picnic dinners at the ball park.

I’ve never played virtual Tetris, only real life Tetris.

How does a mother let go – even of a son who makes her very proud and is moving on to good and important things? I don’t really know. The ache is still there. It makes me think of other moms who have lost children to angry rebellion or worse, death. I can’t even fathom the pain of the mom of the freshman boy at the University of Texas (my alma mater) who was randomly stabbed and killed a couple of weeks ago on campus just a moment after hanging up from a phone conversation with her – updating her on the pick-up basketball game he had just played at the gym and his upcoming final exams. I had those same conversations with my college kid on a weekly basis, too. I can’t imagine receiving the next phone call she got from a girl standing nearby whom the boy asked to call his mom back and say goodbye knowing he would not make it. I’m praying for her.

My goodness. On to happier moments…

The party was so much fun. Not only did Robert’s parents make a cornhole game for us to play, they also made a life-sized Jenga game. Everyone took their turn.

It meant so much to us that Melinda (my youngest sis) and Brent came from Denver.


And Lois, too! She’s seen us through every year of Kory’s life and done more than her fair share of kidsitting.
So thankful she made this her first stop on her summer sabbatical.


Kory’s girlfriend, Rebecca, drove from Waco to celebrate with us.


The over 40 crowd sat on the deck.


A Fossil messenger bag was our gift to the world’s newest businessman.


The whole gang – thanks to Lois’ self-timer.


A Dad and his daughters. Grandad was at every Baylor move in and out, even when
we gave him the option of staying home and catching up with us later.

Friday morning, we were back on the road to Waco. (That’s right, two round trips in three days.) Kory had one last physical therapy appointment in town, and wanted us to see where he’d been going and meet the staff. It was fun to meet Brandi, whom I called twice a week every week to pay for his appointments and also his physical therapist. It was a picnic lunch at the lake (party leftovers!) after that and then we checked into our hotel.

Saturday was graduation. Kory’s ceremony was at 2:30, so Robert and I took advantage of the morning by going for one last run around campus and getting one last Common Grounds coffee. Actually, he got iced tea and I got the Hotel California. (Seltzer, coconut milk, and lime)

It’s a beautiful campus, and I wish I had a few more pics to prove it!


This part of our running route dead ends at Common Grounds.
Baylor IS known for having the largest Starbucks on
a college campus – in its library.


We beat the graduation crowd only by about 2 minutes!
We had a very late breakfast at Cafe Cappuccino and indulged in their gigantic gluten free pancakes, and then it was time to go to the ceremony.
With chocolate chips, of course.

We, and many others, were there an hour early, but passed the time watching the graduates give shout-outs to their families on the big screen. Such a great idea! We managed to catch Kory giving his on our cameras and phones.


Baylor’s interim president gave a very meaningful and exhortative speech. He addressed the sexual assault accusations and incidents head on, adding that the exploitation of anyone is never to be a part of the Christian’s life. He reminded the graduates that Christians are to be neither complacent in the midst of injustice, nor live in selfish comfort and luxury when there is great need all around. He called them to give and to sacrifice. He asked them to consider the truth that they are accountable to God in this life and in the life to come, and he urged them to use all of their days following graduation to honor Him. Perfect.

Hugs from sis.


Melinda and Brent – the newlyweds!


No, I didn’t set out to find a green dress, but this one found me at Loft one day recently, so…
Checking out that diploma on the way to dinner.
It was about an hour long wait at Chuy’s – almost everyone’s favorite Mexican food place – but well worth it considering that every restaurant in town had crowds gathered outside. We sipped on iced tea and ate way too many chips with salsa while we waited.

Sunday morning was Mother’s Day, because why not compound the emotion of graduation with the day set aside to honor moms? Ugh. Who came up with this idea? I’d like to make a motion that we move Mother’s Day to July, or maybe just get rid of it altogether. I fought the tears from the first worship song of the morning at Kory’s church, and then completely lost the battle in the parking lot after Robert prayed for Kory and we hugged him goodbye. I’ve learned on a few different occasions that the Greek word for “weep” is “klaio” and connotes “uncontainable, audible grief.” So, weeping. Yeah, that is exactly what I was doing. I felt bad for not being able to control it for Kory’s sake.

But I’m so grateful that my grief is really a good kind of grief, the kind that indicates the love and the bonds of motherhood. The kind that grieves the loss of more time together and delights in remembering happy memories from years gone by. I’ll take that kind over the alternative any day. This is the pain that gives birth to life, and though I was resisting it, in my heart I know that this is the way it’s supposed to be. Childbirthing is just plain hard…but also good.

So, it was a long trip back to my dad’s house that afternoon, but a stop in Austin for a “family happy hour” at my sister’s house was a nice way to break up the trip. She put together a little buffet of beautiful and tasty snacks and cold, refreshing drinks. The girls chatted and laughed in the kitchen while the boys all watched the Spurs game on TV.
My sister inquired about the weekend. “Did you cry?” she asked.
There was no crying on Monday, though. Floating the Texas rivers is such a fun and nostalgic activity for me, but it doesn’t mix well with sadness or tears. I’ve been wanting to return to this childhood pastime for years, and Monday was our day. High 80’s, blue skies, lots of sunshine, and no place to go except into the water for the next two hours and straight to get ice cream afterwards.

We topped off the day with steaks on the grill, a lingering dinner on the deck, and fireflies lighting up our view of the wooded yard. Kory sent text messages to say he had arrived at Pine Cove (where he’s working only for the summer) and was about to embark on getting his CDL, so that he and his fellow counselor, Ja’Kory (true story), can drive a school bus full of Overflow campers (the two-weekers) around this summer.

Kory and Ja’Kory, the bus drivers. Surely this will end up in a camp skit someday soon.

It’s the birth of a new season for him…and in spite of the pain, I couldn’t be more happy.

A Trip, A Tea Party, & 3 Winners!

Macy’s on 34th
John Piper’s Advent reading plan on the Bible App has been giving me a lot to think about and be challenged by lately. Here’s part of what day 22 said:
“You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird, so spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.”
Urbanspace on Vanderbilt
Thank you, Jenna, for the recommendation!

You can also travel to New York City and take in all of its elaborate window displays, giant Christmas trees, and holiday music playing everywhere and forget to set your mind on Jesus. You can even host a Christmas tea party for a great group of teen girls, make gingerbread houses, create handmade gifts, and eat Christmas cookies without considering the baby born to die.

But we tried not to do that this week.

Mary & Izckra got to try the gigantic doughnuts.

Just choosing to go to NYC at the beginning of a busy week was an opportunity to trust God! I had to fight the temptation to fret over all that was not yet done back home, but the calmer of the seas was providing peace and helping me to laugh at the days to come.

We tried the pistachio-cardamom gluten free bread and the chocolate truffle cookies.

First we had a taco, cookie, and doughnut feast at Urbanspace on 44th near where we parked. Then it was shopping on 5th Avenue – Topshop, GAP, Uniqlo and more.  Later we hit the H&M near Macy’s, of course.

It was a Sweet Sixteen celebration for Mary!

Skating at Rockefeller was the plan, but the girls decided against it once we were there. It was pretty cold and windy out, so we headed underneath the big tree for dinner and more shopping – gluten free Mediterranean wraps, soup, burgers, sweet potato fries and Starbucks. Wandering around in Anthropologie took us about an hour, but no one dared purchase anything due to the mile-long check out line.

Saks 5th Avenue is directly opposite the Rockefeller tree.  If you’ve been there, you know that if you turn 180 degrees from looking at the tree you see the front of Saks. Not only are the window displays beautiful there, but they do a light show on the front of their building every ten minutes. Such fun treat – and a lot to take in in just one spot!
My old friend Mike stopped by Rockefeller for a quick hello and then swiped us all onto the subway headed in the direction of Macy’s. From there we Ooo-ber’d it took an Uber back to our parking spot and enjoyed chatting with our driver who is planning to enter the NYPD Academy in January and shares a love for the show Blue Bloods. How cool that someday soon he’ll be working for Commishioner Tom Selleck.  😉

Saks 5th Avenue Light Show
Wednesday was spent getting ready for the tea party (and tonight’s open house), and Thursday morning we enjoyed having several of Kayla’s friends over for her annual tea party. I just love this tradition!
Dress Code: Pj’s

Some friends have moved away and some weren’t able to make it this year, but just look at how much they’ve grown! When we first started doing this, I could totally envision this past Thursday’s scene in my kitchen – big girls enjoying all the same tea party activities that they did when they were little.  Does anyone ever outgrow a love for decorating gingerbread (well, graham cracker) houses?

Tea Party 2008
Thanks for reminding me of this pic, Virginia!

After decorating our houses, we moved on to the actual tea party part – eating finger foods and drinking hot tea, hot chocolate, and we’ve added coffee in the last couple of years. We used to read a children’s Christmas book together while everyone was eating, but this year we switched to a passage of Scripture. I chose Mary’s song – the magnificat – to read to these girls who are all probably about the same age as Mary was when she was visited by the angel.  We talked about the meaning of “bondslave” and discussed Mary’s virtuous character and love for God as revealed in her song. I pray that each of these young women continues to grow in her desire to know and serve God in the same way.

Next we made our gifts for mom – a coconut oil, sugar, and peppermint hand and/or foot scrub…

 And pocket sized hand warmers – fabric squares sewed together and filled with rice which can be heated in the microwave. I thought I might have to spend a lot of time helping them with the sewing machine, but thankfully (and impressively!) several of the girls knew how to use it.  I hardly had to help at all, because they just naturally helped each other.

The boys hung around for a while before letting us have the house to ourselves.
So nice to have them home!
So nice to also have Ms. Abbott with us – or “Sabbott” as she is now affectionately known.
Even Sabbott got sewing instructions from Jessica!

There was cookie decorating and game playing later and I enjoyed every minute of the morning into early afternoon – even the kitchen cleaning from which I could hear the girls laughing and chatting in the living room. Truly a delight.

Mary’s song always serves to help me remain in awe and worship during this season…

My soul exalts in the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on generation after generation toward those who fear Him… Luke 1: 46-50

Thinking on the Mighty One, the Savior, and His mercy have sustained me this week.

John Piper has given me words to pray in request for a heart that is spellbound by the incredible gift of the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection…

“Oh, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you; for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.”

May your heart be wakened by the Spirit this Christmas to the reality of the God who put on flesh for you, to Emmanuel, the God who came near.

And now for the winners of the giveaway…

(I used this website to help me draw your names!)

For bundle #1: The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield, and the Bird’s Nest Necklace.

Congrats, Itamar!

And for Bundle #2: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, and the Bird’s Nest Necklace.
Congrats, Angela!

And I decided to add a third prize: The One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp.
Congrats, Michelle!

I’ll send these your way mid-January and I pray they encourage you as they have me. And if you’ve already read them, pass them along to someone who could use them!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Week Of Thanksgiving

Last week went way too fast, and had to be highly scheduled as you can see.  Our boys arrived home for the Thanksgiving break Monday night after Robert, Kayla, and I had gone to bed. Cooper picked Kory up in Boston on his way home from Gordon College which was so perfect. Since Kayla and I would be gone early the next morning, I had to leave them a schedule for Tuesday.

The schedule included a list of mealtimes and appointments.  One kid to the spine & sport clinic for a scoliosis check up (all is well!), one kid to the dentist for a cleaning and wisdom tooth evaluation (which led to a wisdom tooth extraction appointment for the Christmas break), and one to the eye doctor, because a much needed prescription for new contacts was being held ransom there until an updated exam was in the books.

When you add in the cooking meals, monitoring of everyone’s checking account, school schedules, social engagements, and summer plans, it really becomes a full time job. The calendar is always up on my phone, and I don’t know what I would do without my iPhone “alerts.”

I decided to include cookies to soften the rude awakening: Welcome Home! Now…get up, get dressed, get in the car, and hurry! Time’s a wastin’!

There was, however, still time for reunions with old friends.  My boys got time with several of their “back home” friends – both at our place and at their friends’ new places. And Kayla got time with her friends at a Gilmore Girls party the day after Thanksgiving.  (More on that soon!) Thanksgiving Day was also a fun reunion of old friends.  That and enjoying lots of new friends, too.

My family still likes to eat breakfast on Thanksgiving Day while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, so I made two paleo dishes: Sausage-Rosemary-Sweet Potato Frittata (from Danielle Walker’s Meals Made Simple) and Almond Butter Blondies. (I double that recipe.) Lots of protein to keep everyone satisfied until our 1pm meal.

I had to make these in our toaster oven, since the big oven had a 20lb turkey in it.
It worked surprisingly well!

Pies and sweet potatoes were all made the day before, but not until the late afternoon, since our backsplash was getting its grout on Wednesday morning. Not having access to the kitchen for most of the day was a bit of a Thanksgiving challenge, but I’m so happy about these much needed upgrades.

This pic is actually from Tuesday when the backsplash was installed.
Our across-the-street-neighbor put it in and gave us a tutorial and a few tedious jobs
along the way. We were so thankful for his willingness to teach us.

Our first guests arrived fully awake at around 10am – can’t you tell? Actually, their mom forced them out of bed, so she could come early and help with the meal prep. Can’t believe these guys are all in COLLEGE now. Just yesterday they were all 7 years old.

From left to right: Baylor, Boston University, Gordon College, UMass)
All gluten free except for the flaky crusted fruit pies which Izckra brought.

 Here they are a little more wide-eyed, because…food.

This year we tried moving our dining room table into the living room and using smaller long tables from church in the dining room.  It seemed to work pretty well.

Our guests were a true blessing. Our worship leader, Cindy, and her family, since she had not yet given birth to baby #2 (4 days overdue at that point!) was here, and local students, too – one from New York, one from Kansas, one from Vietnam, one from China, and one from Kenya. Three from Amherst College, one from UMass, and one from Smith. Each one with a story and each one with a competitive spirit in the after-dinner game of Taboo. My friend, Izckra, and her family as well as our beloved Lois were also able to join us.

This guest book was a wedding gift 24 years ago, and we are only a couple of pages away from it being totally filled up. If I remember correctly, it was given to us by one of my grandmother’s friends, and it seemed like an odd gift at the time. Turns out it was somewhat prophetic, and having a steady stream of guests in our home throughout the years has been one of our greatest blessings. Truly. A blessing to us, and to our kids, too.  In fact, it would not really be a holiday or a Sunday lunch if we weren’t “having people over” to put it in their words. The community the Lord has provided for us over the years is something I am so very thankful for. Each person has left their mark, and we are forever changed.

I splurged on a couple of tablespoons of white potatoes and even had a piece of pecan pie for dessert, but am
still trying to stay on the GAPS/Candida diet for the most part. Feeling lots better, too!
Forgot to get a before pic!
Here’s a pic of the new counter (with appetizers!) and backsplash – though we hadn’t wiped off the haze of grout yet.
Even though it was cold and drizzly on Friday, we managed to pick out and chop down a Christmas tree at our favorite local tree farm. We even ran into friends from church there. (Hi Brett, Jenna, Edison, and Graham!) Wish we had thought to take a picture with them.
It was so nice to be able to chop down the tree all together this year, but I couldn’t help wondering if it might be the last time, and so I was determined to get a photo. They’re growing up and outgrowing home in some ways – ways that are probably good and healthy, but it’s all bittersweet to me.

There was the annual post-Christmas-tree-chopping trip to Starbucks, and then we said goodbye to Kory on Friday afternoon, but not before we put him to work on our Gilmore Girl party preparations (!). Cooper took off Sunday afternoon after having his old friend Cameron over on Saturday evening. Lots of basketball playing, zombie killing, and junk food eating.

All of it making me thankful. A full schedule. A full house. A full heart.

(And a full report on our Gilmore Girls Party and movie marathon is coming up next!)

He Asked For Her Number: Part Four

“Guys in my world seemed to value only girls who initiated relationships, flirting, and sex – girls who had absolutely no boundaries around their hearts or bodies.  At age fifteen, I found myself being molded into the kind of girl the world expected me to be.

The next season of my life was the most hellish I have ever experienced.  My desperate search for a prince who would cherish me forever had become my demise. I had listened to the voice of the culture and become the young woman it convinced me to be, hoping that the result would be the discovery of a happily-ever-after tale. Instead, my heart was mercilessly trampled time and time again.” 
Leslie Ludy,  Authentic Beauty

Eight years old was really too young to be going to see the movie Grease, but it was 1978, and the movie had just come out in theaters. My mom’s collection of vinyl records had already trained me to idolize Olivia Newton John’s voice and beauty, and so going to the movie was never in question. In my young heart and mind, it was a nice reprieve from all the Star Wars hoopla from the year before. (Though I enjoyed that one as well. Just not as much. Call me shallow and unsophisticated, it’s fine.) But even at eight years old, Olivia disappointed me when she tossed out her poodle skirt for black leather in order to please John Travolta. Something was just so wrong with that in my girlish mind.

I just thought of this but, Maybe Sandy and Danny are the reason I have such a difficult time getting on Team Jess in Rory Gilmore’s life!? They set me up to be skeptical and disdainful of rebellious tough guys dressed in leather. I mean, Danny was so sweet and gentlemanly over the summer and at the beach, and he was even turning from his macho ways by showing up at the carnival in a letterman’s sweater.  If Sandy had just stuck by her convictions, Danny may have been inspired to so much more. And I can’t even talk about Rory’s compromises for and because of Logan. It’s just depressing.

Anyway, my eight year old ideals did not change much over the years. I continued to believe that women should remain true to themselves fueled by God’s image in them and His faithfulness to them. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but one reason for all of this was probably that I had become a Christian right before Grease hit theaters. Now that I think of it, God’s timing was so perfect. Had He not sovereignly orchestrated my salvation then, I probably would have been greatly influenced in another direction by Olivia’s black leather transformation. And not only that, but by the many opportunities to rebel with peers all around me and conform to the culture.

Oh, I had my moments, but most of them were fairly mild in comparison to the risks others were taking. For example, I did wear a two piece bathing suit once in high school under pressure from my boyfriend’s family to “show a little skin.” And I may have had a margarita or two while sitting with his parents by the lake. See what I mean? Not exactly what would be considered a walk on the wild side in most circles.

(This is just my story. I believe that all conversions are sovereignly orchestrated and timed, and that all are in equal need of forgiveness from sin. My seemingly goody-two-shoes life was still laden with sin and in need of forgiveness.)

One thing that those early experiences left me with was a deep sadness now when I watch girls compromise their convictions and ideals, their value and worth, their image-bearing status, and their God-given personalities. It brings me to the fourth thing I hope my daughter will cling to as she navigates the dating world.

4. Personality Permanence is Important

This is really just an awkward way of using the letter “P” alliteratively to say Stay true to who you are in Christ, your gifts, your hopes, your dreams, your desires. Resist the urge to try and change yourself to meet the expectations – stated or assumed – of a man or of anyone, really.

Because Kayla,

God put much thought into forming you from the inside out. He wove you together inside my womb. You were fearfully and wonderfully made, and every one of God’s works is good. They are purposeful and unique and individual. You were skillfully designed by the ultimate of Creators, and He has a lifetime of days planned for you to, according to your gifts and calling, bring Him glory. (from Psalm 139)

And you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus ~ and again, created for good works that He prepared for you even before you were born. You were made to walk in those good and God-glorifying works. (from Ephesians 2:10)

You have also been bought with a price, a very expensive one. The brutal, unjust death of Christ Himself. Because of this, you are not your own, but are united to, indwelt by, and belong to Him. (from I Corinthians 6) What a privilege. Who can even fathom it? Our bodies, temples of the Holy Spirit?  Wow.

So, present your body to Him sacrificially in all situations – at home, on the track, on the stage, at church, with friends.  When you do that, you are worshiping Him. In fact, every act of obedience is an act of worship. (My favorite quote from Stepping Heavenward) And don’t let the culture, or men, or friends, conform you to their image or ideas, but do let the Lord transform you continually to His image and will. (From Romans 12)

Like Leslie told us in Authentic Beauty, listening to the voice of the culture will not bring you any happily-ever-afters. In fact, it may bring devastation. So, listen to the voice of the Lord. Be true to the person He created you to be, and to His calling, and to the gifts He’s given you. That’s where protection and life and joy and freedom are found. I can promise you that, because He promises that.

One thing that gives me hope that you will remain true to who you are in Christ is this:

Any guy who can’t appreciate the Pegacorn ought to be crossed off the list immediately.

But more importantly, any guy who can’t handle Jesus in you should be dropped entirely. You are worth so much more than that.

He Asked For Her Number: Part Three

“The sexual harassment isn’t what irritates me. For me, this isn’t frightening or even that uncomfortable. This is every single day. I leave the house. Men talk to me. I hold my breath and I am polite and I am unshakable and then I get home. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

That’s a quote from an article I read a couple of months ago entitled Why Women Smile at Men Who Sexualy Harass Us: On Being Nice in the Pursuit of Getting Home Safe.  My friend Erica posted it on Facebook (Thanks, Erica!) and I was intrigued, so I “saved” it.  Did you know you could do that on Facebook? Well, you can, and consequently I have about a hundred articles in my “saved” folder. When I finally got around to reading this one, I knew it was something I needed to talk with my daughter about. I do recommend reading it, but you should be warned that there is some language, and it is not from a Christian perspective. It’s written from one woman’s perspective on a fairly universal phenomenon, and it’s one I could relate to to some extent.

It’s why I chose this third item in the list of things I want my daughter to know and practice:

3. Protection May Lie in Politeness

The man who told me he loved my hair as I signed his political petition in front of Whole Foods? I really didn’t mind at all. It was broad daylight, and there were lots of people around listening. I smiled, thanked him, and tucked it away as evidence to whip out the next time my dad tells me I really need to start covering up all that gray.

The man who told me I was beautiful as I ran into a Connecticut grocery store early one morning to grab some goodies for my homeschoolers in Hamden? He was clean cut, dressed professionally, and just kept walking on by. So, while it was a bit startling, I didn’t feel any real fear.

The man on the bike trail who ran by and commented on my “nice form”? Well, I had to check that one with Robert. Amherst is a strange place, and I wouldn’t have put it past the 50-something townie to truly be giving me feedback on my running posture and gait. Really. My husband did not think that was the case, however.

The man in the Stop N Shop on Cape Cod last October, who, as soon as Robert and I parted ways to conquer the grocery list, leaned over my shoulder and whispered in my ear “you are so beautiful”?  Well, that was creepy. And Scary. I was shaken by his boldness. (Me, sweaty after a six mile run, no makeup, and rag tag running clothes. Ugh.)

The man in WalMart, though? The one, late one night, who mysteriously showed up on every aisle I was on, every single time? Even when I tried going to the opposite corner of the store? And then when I went to check out in a hurry, got in line behind right me? Truly frightening. 

I thought about telling the cashier, but didn’t want it to ignite the situation. So, I checked out and walked a few steps away from the register. I waited for him to check out and leave the store. It was so late that we may have been the only two left in the store. I tried to watch through the front doors and make sure he got in a car and drove away.  When I was fairly certain that he did I went quickly to mine, locked the doors and drove home crying and shaking all the way. I could hardly get the story out to Robert when I got home. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so threatened.

Now, if those things are happening to a middle-aged, married, mother of three, they are most certainly going to happen to my youthful, beautiful daughter. My 20-something friend Shannon told me just yesterday that in her experience, the cat-calling started when she and her friends were as young as 12. Ask any woman about her experience with this. I promise you’ll get stories. The writer of the article suggests it happens to almost every woman at some point, and that she has learned that ignoring it, or worse, coming back with an attitude, only feeds the fire. 

“When men are quick to remind us that not all men harass women, I’m quicker to remind them that all women (really, all) have experienced this at least once, but more likely, they have experienced it many, many more times than that.”

So, I want Kayla to know that politeness, even in the instance of inappropriate gestures and remarks, can diffuse a situation. If ignoring the person is not working, then smile, say thank you and move on as quickly as possible. Sexual harassment is not the time for sassy eye-rolling and tit for tat. In a broken world where fallen masculinity often plays out in dominance, abuse, and twisted sexuality, wisdom is key. Knowing that coming back with an attitude (no matter how justified you feel) will likely only escalate things and then choosing a different response is wise. In fact, it could quite literally save your life.

And by all means, when you come across a gentleman, delight in that discovery, and let him demonstrate his respect for you and other women. There are many men out there who highly value women and womanhood. Let them listen to your ideas. Let them encourage your dreams. Let them open your doors and help you with your coat or your chair. Let them walk you to your car or home and allow them to carry your groceries. Let them fend off the sick and broken men who are just out for a cheap thrill if they will. That’s the time for real encouragement and true politeness. That’s the way to inspire change in those men who will be inspired.

Still The Best Convent

Mother’s Day 2009
This is a re-post from 2009.  Nothing has changed except that everyone is now at least 3 inches taller than me, and it’s not ice skating lessons, ballet, field trips, and Little League games, but coordinating the use of the car, track practice, job schedules, college visits and care packages. I still believe motherhood has been the best convent (a community of persons devoted to religious life under a superior) for my personal sanctification. My “community” being my marriage to Robert, and our “Superior” being Christ. 
In The Five Aspects of Woman, Barbara Mouser discusses the sanctity of motherhood – the setting yourself aside for the purpose of motherhood. She explores the reasons women may try and “fit motherhood in around the edges” rather than devote themselves to it as they would a career or a cause. The reasons are fairly obvious…no instant gratification, no accolades, acknowledgments, or awards, no salary, and yet the requirement of an all-out surrendering of your time, your body, your sleep, your mental energy… three words, your whole self.

This just seems like a very long, painful, and unnecessary route to maturity, respect, and security. And though there are other paths beside motherhood to these things, listen to the requirements of the early church for the taking in of widows who are in need of financial support. These widows were provided for by the church in return for their service in the church and ministry to other women.

“Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”  

I Timothy 5:9,10

Mother’s Day 2013
In other words, the best preparation for leadership and responsibility for a woman was not a college degree, or a career crashing through the glass ceiling, but the giving of herself to her own home, her own family, and her own church.

It reminds me of a scene from my favorite book, Stepping Heavenward. In this exchange, Katy’s husband has asked her to visit one of his patients. The patient is a very young woman whose main ailments are boredom, apathy, and selfishness. The young woman talks of her efforts to help poor children (they were unruly and smelly) and mentions that she might have joined a convent, but those are now out of vogue….. (HA!)

“The best convent,” I (Katy) said, “for a woman is the seclusion of her own home. There she may find her vocation and fight her battles, and there she may learn the reality and the earnestness of life.”

“Pshaw!” cried she (Miss Clifford, the “patient”). “Excuse me, however, for saying that; but some of the most brilliant girls I know have settled down into mere married women and spend their whole time in nursing babies! Think how belittling!”

“Is it more so than spending it in dressing, driving, dancing, and the like?”

“Of course it is. I had a friend once who shone like a star in society. She married and had four children as fast as she could. Well! What was the consequence? She lost her beauty, lost her spirit and animation, lost her youth, and lost her health. The only earthly things she can talk about are teething, dieting, and the measles!”

“As you have spoken plainly to me, knowing me to be a wife and a mother, you must allow me to speak plainly in return,” I began.

“Oh, speak plainly, by all means! I am quite sick and tired of having truth served up in pink cotton and scented with lavender.”

“Then you will permit me to say that when you speak contemptuously of the vocation of maternity, you dishonor not only the mother who bore you but the Lord Jesus Himself, who chose to be born of woman and to be ministered unto by her through a helpless infancy.”

Miss Clifford was a little startled.

“How terribly earnest you are!” she said. It is plain that to you, at any rate, life is indeed no humbug.”
I thought of my dear ones, of Ernest, of my children, of Mother, and of James; and I thought of my love for them and theirs for me. And I thought of Him who alone gives reality to even such joys as these. My face must have been illuminated by the thought, for she dropped the bantering tone she had used hitherto and asked with real earnestness:

(Have I mentioned that I love books that use the words “hitherto” and “earnestness?”)

“What is it you know, and that I do not know, that makes you so satisfied while I am so dissatisfied?”

I hesitated before I answered, feeling as I never felt before, how ignorant, how unfit to lead others I really am. Then I said:
“Perhaps you need to know God, to know Christ.”

Stepping Heavenward, pp.262-264

Mother’s Day 2014
Cooper went with me to Texas to move Kory out of his dorm last year over Mother’s Day weekend.
We went to Austin Stone on Mother’s Day and ate lunch at Whole Foods = Perfect!
I wish I could say that I have devoted myself fully to motherhood and not tried to just fit it in around the edges. It is the hardest job in the world, requiring the greatest sacrifice – and I am selfish! I want time to myself, to do the things I want to do, when I want to do them without having to take four other people into consideration! And it may appear that I have completely devoted myself to my family from this glowing blog and the fact that I homeschool my kids and therefore spend nearly every day, all day with them, but don’t be fooled! I struggle with this giving away of self every day. And yet, in doing it by faith for 14 years, I have grown. It has been the main avenue of sanctification in my life, and I can truly say I am thankful for the transforming power it has been. Within the walls of my own home, I have found my strengths and weaknesses, fought many battles, and learned the realities of life. I have had to cling to Jesus, and have come to experience Him in the intimacy my heart so desires.

It has indeed been the best convent for me. 

It has now been 20 years of motherhood for me. (That’s right.  Kory turns 20 next month. How did that happen???) Come August, I’ll only have Kayla at home. (Poor girl!) Kory will be a junior at Baylor, and Cooper will be beginning a “gap year” of work and adventure in California. It is both heart wrenching and exciting to watch them go.  There will be many tears, but also much delight in watching them move into the next season of life. I have plenty of regrets regarding my failures as a mother from the last 20 years, but none regarding the choice to be a mom, even a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom for all that time. Katy’s right, it is Christ who alone gives reality to such joys as these, and I know Him more intimately because of the both the joys and the regrets.

Last Tuesday morning Cooper woke up to a terrible stomach virus. 12 hours of vomiting, fever, aches, chills, back pain.  Just horrible.  We had to head to the pediatrician’s evening office hours for emergency meds to alleviate the nausea so that he could keep fluids down.  He was down for the count for three days and in some ways is still recovering. I hated that he was sick, but I loved one last opportunity to take care of him before he moves out. One last chance to rub his head and tell him it would be over soon. One last time of cleaning up after him and offering him comfort, a cool cloth, and an iced drink. One last tangible way to show him that despite my nagging and frustration with him at times (many, many times), he’s mine, and I love him so much. 

Oh, they’ll always be my kids and I’ll always be their mom, I know.  But the season of hands-on motherhood is drawing to a close and I’m treasuring and pondering every moment.
I hope this Mother’s Day brings you much hope in Christ knowing that the call is one of great challenge and self-sacrifice, but also one of great joy and rejoicing. And I pray that hitherto you will exercise great earnestness in setting yourself aside for this purpose, if you are so called.  It is worth every explosive diaper, pool of puke, bedtime ritual, and Little League game.  I promise.

Love Affair With Trees (and Fetuses)

It was time, he explained, as he brought his business card to the door to warn us of the coming work in close proximity to our home. Cavities developing, branches dead, dying, and falling down meant that proper action was required for the sake of the tree and the people and homes nearby. Knowing it would soon disappear, I managed to remember to capture some images of the beautiful maple beforehand.
Plot maps show that we are not the  “owners” of the tree, though it is much closer to our home than our neighbor’s. Because of that, I always considered it ours. I didn’t realize how attached to it I was until the warning came of its removal, and I began to go about my days wondering how the whole landscape and the view from several of my windows would be radically altered. I loved seeing how it would change dramatically throughout the seasons through this window at the top of our staircase ~ a first glimpse of the day upon waking and heading downstairs to make the morning pot of tea in the kitchen where the maple greets us again through the side window. She felt like a familiar friend.  (We first met in 2002 when Robert discovered this little gem of a house for our family.)
But the workweek arrived and the progress was swift. Jamie, the foreman, saw me watching from the backyard and came over to talk.  He took me to the tree and explained exactly why she needed to go, pointed out the poison oak that was making its way up her trunk, and assured me that all roots and divots in our yard would be smoothed out and covered over. Delighting in his unusual kindness, compassion, and thoroughness, I felt the freedom to ask if Kayla and I could count the rings when they got to the trunk. 
“Of course,” was his reply. “We always count the rings for our records, and I would guess that this one is about 130-140 years old.”

We were captivated by the whole process, and found it difficult to stay on the normal tasks of our day. The chainsaws were loud (and sometimes got stuck!), the whole house shook each time a branch came down, and the chipper roared all day long chewing up leaves and smaller branches.

There were often men on our roof, and a bucket truck sent different workers hovering high and low all over our yard and right within our view.  Talk about distraction.  I suppose we could have packed up and done our schoolwork elsewhere ~ Barnes and Noble is a favorite locale ~ but it seemed we ought to stay put just in case. Plus, it was an education in and of itself.

On the same day the tree work began, I left the house early for my morning run. Walking past my other neighbor’s house ~ the one on the opposite side of the tree work, I caught a glimpse of her newest bumper sticker. Bumper stickers are an interesting and entertaining way to get a pulse on the culture of our town and region. Mocking the Christian Ichthus symbol, Darwin fish (with feet) abound, “My Other Car is a Broom”, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican”, and “Eat More Kale” are seen fairly often, and my favorite: “Get Real: As If Jesus Would Have Ever Owned a Gun and Voted Republican.”  Some of these seem quite incompatible with the other prominent bumper stickers: “Coexist” and “Teach Tolerance.”

My neighbor’s new bumper sticker says this: “Wendy Davis for Texas State Governor 2014”

(Remember now, I live in Massachusetts. We’re 2000 miles away from the Lone Star State.)

Bumper stickers and trees may also seem like incompatible issues for a blog post, but the two events happening on either side of my house this week got me thinking.  At one neighbor’s house, a statement about stewarding well the earth and nature, albeit it through the necessary removal of a beautiful creation.  At the other neighbor’s house another blatant (to those in the know) statement about “stewardship” through the removal of a beautiful creation.  Yes, both of the issues involve the choice to remove life.  It’s just that the former brings renewed life, sustained life, protection of life and the latter only ushers in several forms of death.

Wendy Davis made herself a national hero (to some) when she filibustered for hours recently to prevent the vote on a measure that would ban abortions in Texas after 20 weeks.

For many, the removal of a fetus is no different from the removal of a tree ~ a necessary and prudent choice. Both may be stricken with disease or deformity.  Death may be inevitable for each. Ending their lives may seem an act of kindness. Both may prove to be an enormous inconvenience someday, therefore early intervention and prevention seems wise.
Though they sound like such similar predicaments, they are vastly different in God’s eyes.  In fact, one is not really a predicament at all ~ though it may seem like it at the time.
As Christians, the first task given to us by God is stewardship of the earth. The animals, the birds, the trees and other vegetation, the rivers, streams, and oceans ~ they are all ours to rule over, to subdue, and to make productive.  The removal of a dying tree falls within godly stewardship of the created world.  
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
Genesis 1:28
The same rule, however, does not apply to human life.
You shall not murder.
Exodus 20:13
And even before we see it clearly in the Ten Commandments, we see it inherently after the creation mandate in Genesis after Cain murders his own brother Abel.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” And he said “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”  He said, “What have you done?” The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.
Genesis 4: 9-10
No, we don’t have authority over the life or death of another human. God alone has that authority. Psalm 139 portrays well the preciousness of what is going on in the womb.
For You formed me in my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You,  for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139: 13-16
What is foolishly believed by my neighbor and all of Ms. Davis’s platform supporters is that the right to end life will bring about true freedom and that this unqualified freedom is what is best for the women of our country.  The strange thing is that we constantly limit “freedom” in this country for the sake of ourselves and our fellow countrymen. Our laws mandate that we not steal, speed, use or sell drugs, kill (those outside the womb), or trespass. Even smoking is now a severely limited freedom in this country. But to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her uterus ~ a thing that is actually quite risky, and harmful to herself physically and emotionally, not to mention the other human involved ~ is, oddly enough, a highly disdained position.
I’m pretty sure my neighbor is not genuinely concerned about the welfare of the state of Texas, and I think she’s sadly mistaken regarding the welfare of the women and potential children of our country.
It’s so very disheartening to me and a tragic sign of things to come that a majority of folks grieve the one (the loss of the tree) and celebrate the other (the loss of human life).
On Wednesday, when the final cut was made, there was a crowd in my driveway and traffic slowed on our busy downtown thoroughfare. One couple parked, got out, and took pictures.  They requested a sliver of the trunk to show in their classrooms. Everyone wanted to marvel at the majestic life that had once been displayed in that tree. Several of us even gathered around, counted the rings, and celebrated the historical epoch the tree had witnessed in its 120 years.  It was a proper tribute, a godly recognition of the natural world given to us by a loving Creator.
The aborted fetus gets no such fanfare. (And it probably shouldn’t in this situation.) Though its life is quite short by comparison, its mutilated parts, in most cases, are quickly and mindlessly discarded. There is no celebration of the majestic and miraculous work which was in progress. Rather, the rejoicing is regarding the life that will never be, and the “freedom” the other seems guaranteed now that it’s gone.
Most of the women I know (and I need two hands to count them) who’ve chosen to end their baby’s life in utero are not celebrating, though.  They are grieving. Some decades after the fact. Oh, they know they are forgiven, that “therefore, there is now no condemnation”, but the ache remains. They would certainly never recommend their choice to another.  In fact, one of those friends recently took in a young, single pregnant woman, shared her own experience, and took her in for a heartbeat and ultrasound appointment. The young woman made the decision to keep her baby. We all rejoiced and plans were made for her care and support in the process.
Not all women’s hearts are aching though, and while that fact may be used as evidence in favor of the “right to choose,” I wonder if it’s an even more serious consequence in the form of a numbed and hardened heart. If lawmakers think this is a favorable condition for the females of our country, they are greatly underestimating the power in the tender strength of the feminine heart.  Protecting that natural resource would be to their advantage in my opinion.
The trees are lovely to be sure.  Women and children are lovelier. We were completely mesmerized with the process of removing the beautiful tree next door.  I just wish we were as concerned with the removal of children from this world and women’s hearts in the process.

Dear Taylor Swift…

Oddly enough, it was several several years ago in Vermont that I first paid any attention to you.  My husband and I decided to take an afternoon off and drive an hour north on a beautiful summer afternoon.  We ended up in a little cafe for iced coffee and cookies. They happened to be playing some sort of a documentary or extended news story featuring you there on the TV which hung in the corner near the ceiling. You must have still been a teenager then.

I remember thinking that I was supposed to disdain you, to think you were some silly, girly, flash-in-the-pan pop star.  Those were the murmurings I had heard. But I was drawn in by what I saw, impressed by what I learned.  You were intelligent, creative, tenacious, hard-working, kind, funny, and strong. You still are.

A few years later, my then small daughter grew into a tween and got interested in you and your music.  Now she’s a full-fledged teenager and still a devoted fan. She gets made fun of for this by some of her friends and others, but the more I learn about you and your music, I’m not sure why. Actually, that’s not quite true.  I think I do know why.

Kayla was pretty excited about her new RED hoodie last Christmas.
Listening to your music while wearing your hoodie (sort of) while drawing in her new sketch book.

And because my daughter adores you, I’ve done some research and learned a few things about you for myself. For example, you love your parents and appreciate all they did to nurture you. You are kind and gracious in the face of unwarranted criticism.  (That Kanye West thing….and your song about the Ellen Show on the Ellen Show are just two of many examples) You are more interested in your art than your fame. You dress modestly, and aren’t afraid to embrace and highlight your femininity. (And there’s the reason I think people love to hate you.  They don’t know what to do with a strong, yet beautifully feminine woman.) You are generous with your wealth. You are authentic and honest.  You know your own strengths and gifts and aren’t afraid to pursue them.  You consider others, but you are not a people-pleaser in the negative sense. You don’t take yourself too seriously. Your style doesn’t change to reflect what the culture demands. You are genuinely surprised at your fame and accolades, humble and human.
You are yourself, no apologies.

Thank you for these things that you are, that somehow you choose to be. They are things I want for my daughter ~ a confidence in herself because she is created uniquely ~ in the image of God Himself, we believe.

Funny how being a fan of yours gives her an opportunity to live out that confidence. Funny how it is, for my daughter, similar to being a Christian, something that is also misunderstood and mocked quite a lot around here.  She learns to take a gentle, firm stand on her respect and love for you (and other things unique to her), and at the same time, as strange as it may sound, she learns to do the same for her Lord.

Due to my extensive research, I have now also come to adore you (I really don’t know who wouldn’t after an honest evaluation) as well as your music. (Not everyone has to love your music, of course, but in my book, they should at least respect you.)  I was hopelessly devoted to Olivia Newton John all throughout my childhood, so it seems like the natural course of things to also love you in my forties. I may have even taken several solo road trips in the last few years to various New England cities, airports, friends’ houses in which I secretly made sure my daughter’s iPod was still connected to my minivan stereo, so that I could crank “Red” and sing “All Too Well” over and over at the top of my lungs. That’s my current favorite song of yours (with “Begin Again” and “Everything Has Changed” as close seconds), and you performed it ALL TOO WELL at the Grammy’s this year.

Speaking of your music, thank you for your lyrics.  They are not often sexual, but when they are, they reflect honestly the powerful and addictive nature of sex, like in “Treacherous.”

“And I’d be smart to walk away, but you’re quicksand.
This slope is treacherous, this path is reckless
This slope is treacherous, and I, I, I like it
I can’t decide if it’s a choice, getting swept away…”

Yes, we all get pulled by the gravity of that treacherous slope at some point in our lives.  Thank you for being honest and telling my daughter that it’s just that ~ treacherous ~ and you’d “be smart to walk away.” It helps me to talk with her about how difficult it is to walk away once there, and that she can make a decision regarding “getting swept away” particularly if she doesn’t place herself in tempting situations.

And thank you for lyrics that reflect how a man ought to properly treat a woman. “Trouble” illustrates that in a negative way, but gets a pertinent point across:

“Once upon a time a few mistakes ago, I was in your sights, you got me alone
You found me, you found me, you found me
I guess you didn’t care, and I guess I liked that, and when I fell hard, you took a step back
Without me, without me, without me…
And he’s long gone when he’s next to me, and I realize the blame/joke is on me 

‘Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in”  

It’s so true, Taylor.  So many women fall for unavailable, insensitive, selfish guys, because they don’t know their own worth, and so I’m glad you also sing about the good guys, like in “Begin Again”:

“Walked in expecting you’d be late, but you got here early and you stand and wave, I walk to you
You pull my chair out and help me in, and you don’t know how nice that is, but I do
And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ’cause he never did
and I’ve been spending the last eight months thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again”

A cafe date? On a Wednesday?  He pulled out your chair? Thanks for showing girls everywhere what they deserve, what they should expect.

And I love it that you mention family so often, Taylor.  When I first heard the song, “The Best Day,” I said skeptically to my daughter in the passenger seat, “I certainly hope Taylor is talking about her mom here.”

 “She is, Mom,” she happily replied.

“I’m thirteen now and don’t know how my friends could be so mean
I came home crying and you hold me tight and grab the keys
And we drive and drive till we found a town far enough away
And we talk and window shop until I forgot all their names”

And it was confirmed that you were talking about your love for your family when you say this:

“I have an excellent father, his strength is making me stronger
God smiles on my little brother, inside and out, he’s better than I am
I grew up in a pretty house and I had space to run
And I had the best days with you”

Thank you for showing my daughter how cool it is to love and appreciate your family.

And thank you for showing her that other families also like to pull out embarrassing childhood photos:

“Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed
And your mother’s telling stories about you on the tee ball team
You tell me ’bout your past thinking your future is me”
~ All Too Well

Hanging out with your boyfriend’s family at his house and talking about normal life ~ how refreshing!

And I even love your unapologetic portrayal of a woman’s desire to be a beautiful bride, to be married, sacrificed for, and settled into a future with one man.

“Romeo, save me, I’ve been feeling so alone
I keep waiting for you but you never come
Is this in my head? I don’t know what to think
He knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring and said
‘Marry me, Juliet. You’ll never have to be alone
I love you and that’s all I really know.
I talked to your dad ~ go pick out a white dress
It’s a love story, baby,  just say, “Yes”‘”
~ Love Story

While I will have to emphasize that getting married will never complete my daughter, nor should it be her ultimate goal, I’m thankful that the desire is validated somewhere in a culture that thinks it either an unnecessary, irrelevant institution or advocates for its aberration ~ which is sort of ironic when you think about it.

And I know they make fun of you for your supposed “serial dating,” but as you responded to Tina Fey in a Vogue interview, it’s only been two guys since 2010.

So… “don’t you worry your pretty little mind.  People throw rocks at things that shine.”
~ Ours

It’s so true, Taylor, people are so ready to throw stones, and you handle it with lots of grace and humility.  And speaking of those who mock you, it’s also true that women are the worst misogynists. The WORST. Let me apologize for that.  It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own jealousy. The thing is, you understand that, and it’s part of what enables you to rise above those petty, catty situations.  One of those totally uncalled for criticisms occurred recently when you wore this outfit.

Seems other women didn’t like that you chose a vintage, modest, DRESS.  I mean, what are you trying to do ~ repress our sexual freedom by covering your body and wearing something too “feminine.”  I think the confusing rule goes something like ~ one or the other, but please, not both. Thank you for not listening to the mixed messages, Taylor.  Thank you for being a lady, dressing like one, and sending the message that it’s okay.

The song that sort of “sealed the deal” for me regarding your worthiness of my daughter’s affection was “Fifteen.”  I want to thank you for being honest and bold enough to write this song.  There is so much truth in it.

“Cause when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You’re gonna believe them
And when you’re fifteen and your first kiss makes your head spin around
But in your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team
But I didn’t know it at fifteen
When all you wanted was to be wanted
Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now
Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday
But I realized some bigger dreams of mine
And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind
And we both cried…”

I spend quite a bit of time with women who “gave everything she had to a boy” and they regret it, are completely broken over it. Somehow, though, when the secular, pop culture world reinforces the biblical truth from the screen and stage, it helps those who might not be fully convinced of what God Himself has been gently teaching for eternity: casual sex is an oxymoron. When the message comes from you, even subtly, it encourages girls to hold on to something they probably already know deep down, since the law of God is written on their hearts.  I think you might even be aware of this, coming from a Presbyterian church-going family.

I’m just so thankful that you tell the truth.  So many in your business lie about the consequences of promiscuous, outside-of-marriage sex, glorifying the thing that so often brings shame and destruction.

So, my sincerest thanks to you.  That my daughter has chosen you as her favorite celebrity and pop culture role model is, so far, fine by me, because of your choices and message.  I say “so far,” though, because time has a way of testing things, and you are still young.  But you also started young, very young in fact, and you’ve maintained a rare consistency in that amount of time. I pray it will only continue and grow. More than that, I pray, as does my daughter, that you will come to know, in a deeply personal, saving way, the God who has granted you these gifts, this grace.

Hi Taylor!  Warmest greetings from chilly-in-December-Massachusetts!

Yes, we adore you, Taylor, and wish, as all your fans do, that we could be among your BFFs. Keep doing what you do best, and know there’s a mama and a daughter pulling for you, enjoying you, and praying God’s best for you.


Overheard at Whole Foods

On Wednesday morning, I drove to Whole Foods, parked behind the store, walked to our lovely, local bike trail entrance and headed out for my four-days-a-week-six-mile-run.  Typically, I can do this directly from my house, but the trail is currently under construction at my neighborhood access point. Whole Foods is only a mile from my house, and I certainly don’t mind popping in for a smoothie or some hot tea after my run. In fact, a Whole Foods breakfast is a regular occurrence in my life.  Robert and I have a date there every Monday morning after our run.  (Or I should say, after my run and his recumbant bike workout at Planet Fitness now that his back is giving him so much trouble.) It’s where we sort out all of the world’s problems, and have our weekly how-are-we-going-to-survive-this-week’s-schedule huddle.  I always look forward to my organic kale smoothie or egg and veggie scramble, to seeing just how much Robert’s plate will cost this week (you pay by weight), and starting the week by checking in with each other like this.

This particular Monday, though, we were in Baltimore for a pastors’ conference, so my run was along the “promenade” of Baltimore Harbor (beautiful!), Robert’s bike workout was in our quaint hotel’s rec room, and our continental, but fresh and beautiful breakfast was included in the price of our stay.  We returned late Tuesday night, so before returning the rental car, I set out for Wednesday’s morning run by myself (Robert at physical therapy. Sigh…), and then ran into the store for hot tea and cold water afterward.

MANY years ago at the Whole Foods flagship store (a.k.a. Crunchy Disney World) in Austin.
Everyone out of diapers by then!

As I was checking out, I heard the young woman bagging my small order of groceries saying something like this to the male cashier:

“I just feel so sorry for them.  They miss out on so many important things.”

She was seriously troubled, and there was hint of disdain in her voice. I wondered at first if she was talking about people who have to stock the groceries at night, or clean the store after hours.  Maybe she wished they could have the pleasure of people watching like her (always a fun pastime at Whole Foods), or interacting with customers on a more intimate level.  But knowing my context (and the ever-increasing cultural worldview), I had a sneaking suspicion she was talking about “stay-at-home” mothers. When she made these next statements, I knew my suspicions were correct.

“I mean, changing diapers all day is just so awful.  So many women are wasting their time with dirty diapers all day.  I could not do that.  I don’t ever want to do that.”

I was so tempted to say something.  It’s so funny (and often frustrating) the notions of a younger generation (though admittedly, I belonged to it at one time, and some would say I still do), and I was sure I could enlighten her with my own “stay-at-home” experience, but I thought it best to practice keeping my mouth shut and listen to how the young male cashier might respond.  What he said was great.  It was a testimony to masculine logic, masculine courage, and masculine practical wisdom, which is so very refreshing to me and alternatively maddening at times. Not that females aren’t logical, of course, but I do think we tend to be more easily deceived by our emotions and cultural “notions” and when this happens our logic weakens. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, I wanted to hug him when he said this:

“You know, changing diapers is just straight up a parenting responsibility.”

(And QUITE organic, I might add!)

That was SO much better than my snarky, “Ummmm, good thing your mom didn’t feel that way about you!”  or “I know!  Babies are just SUCH a nuisance!  Why would anyone choose to do that anymore?  So menial.  So much drudgery. Such a waste of an intelligent adult woman’s skill and competence! Ridiculous use of valuable time!” or “Yeah, I heard they are doing research and development for a diaper-changing robots which will end all need for ever having to touch your own child!  It’s amazing!  They are even programming it to feed and burp the infant.  As an upgrade, it will read books, tuck in at night, and give hugs and kisses. Revolutionary!”

Yes, sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let the man speak, which I fear is happening less and less these days. I mean, I don’t think this female grocery bagger would have said that a woman giving affection to a baby was wasteful, but like the man said ~ the “demeaning” stuff is part of a package deal called “raising human beings.” I was glad to hear that at least he was up for the task, which I fear is happening more and more these days.  The men value the crucial, but tedious investment; the women have been taught not to, and statistics say they often live to regret it.

I wondered if this woman remembered how a baby gets fed.  (Again, very organic!) Talk about a year or so of sleep-deprived slavery.  And that’s if you only have one child. I guess she thinks a career in bagging groceries is a no-brainer when compared to the career of nurturing human life. (Don’t get me wrong. I happen to value both careers, but in my book kids trump brown paper bags when there’s the option, and they are always more “important” ~ and organic to boot!

As I walked out of the store, having smiled at them and maintained my silence, I lamented the ever-increasing (yet not quite prevailing) negative attitude toward motherhood and then praised the Lord for the privilege of being a mom.  I thought about the many, many skills I have acquired in the process like event planning, semi-gourmet gluten free cooking, photography, business administration, phonics instruction, psychological and biblical counseling, long range planning, artist, interior decorating, war-time strategist, time management coach, care package design, financial consultation, Latin grammar instruction, nursing, fashion consultation, bow tie tying, hairstyling and more. Too bad they don’t transfer well to a professional resume. My diaper changing days are long gone, but they were replaced by endless amounts of the tedious and sacrificial tasks that make up everyday family life ~ grocery shopping, meal planning and preparing, baseball game attending, dance, piano, and gymnastics chauffeuring, life skill training, out loud novel reading, ongoing correction and training, clothes shopping, toilet, sink, and floor cleaning, and dishwashing, dishwashing, dishwashing…

I have been invaluably shaped and developed by what started as diaper changing. Please don’t feel sorry for me. I have a PhD in human nature and nurturing.  Believe me when I say I’m not missing anything “important” and certainly nothing organic.

(And if you are still not convinced that Whole Foods is a very interesting place to interact with people, check out this old post.)