The "11th Thing" Wisdom Deluge

 photo photo24-2.jpg
I ran a contest last month on my Facebook page where people entered the one thing they would add to my list of 10 Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls.   I read all of the submissions last weekend and it was the greatest evening I've had in a long time.  You guys are really, really smart.   I was forced against my will to choose my 10 favorites (you can see and vote for your faves here), but I wanted you to experience the wisdom that I got to sit under last Saturday night. The thing about "10 Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls" is- they're the same 10 things I'd tell anybody.  The application varies, but the principles are the same.  The same is true of these reader submissions.  Halfway through, you'll forget you were reading things written to tweens, and take a whole Post-it pad's worth of notes to self.

Last thing:  These were all sent to me without their authors' names attached so that I could choose objectively.  If one of these is yours, let me know in the comments or via the contact form and I'll add the attribution.  You should have credit for your brain-babies!

Enjoy these runners-up! love, Kate

Don't be fake, because that's a hard game to keep playing.

I've seen girls who try to impress their friends by being in sports they don't even like or pretending to have read every book in the library while they're secretly just reading summaries online. Trying to impress their friends in these ways are harmful and tiring.  Let people love the authentic you.

You don't need to know the (your) whole story to do the next right thing.

Sometimes we want to know how things will turn out. Where should I go to college? Who should I marry? What career should I pursue? But those things come. You don't NEED all the answers when you graduate high school. You need to know and do only the next right thing. The practice of doing the next right thing in little decisions makes the big ones more obvious, and it's easier then to choose the right thing in the big decisions. So when you can't see "around the bend" just do the next right thing.

Fairy tales are overrated!

Love shouldn't magically happen. Love that you choose, and that chooses you back is sweeter and more beautiful than you can imagine. Love that you fight for will fill you up, full. This goes for friends and men.

The college guy you're dating isn't as awesome as you think he is.

If you're a junior in high school, you wouldn't be caught dead holding hands with the 8th grader down the street. Sure, the 8th grade boy is probably getting high fives all over the place, but your friends are considering an intervention. If there's a cute, 5th year college senior sending you flirty texts, RUN. There's a reason he isn't dating girls his age and IT'S BECAUSE HE'S NOT AWESOME.

Find your thing and do your thing with all of your guts.

Having a hobby, a sport, an interest that captures your heart will form your identity and put you in a circle of like-hearted cool kats, and that, my friends, is a saving grace.

Find a way to laugh every day.

Laughing instantly changes your mood and lifts the mood of those around you. Don't take yourself too seriously. If you do, you just might miss an opportunity to be uniquely you and help others find their way.

Interact with people, not things.

Don't take life for granted. The people you wished you had spent more time with can get taken from your life.  Make memories with your friends and family while you can. Technology may seen like the best thing that has ever happened right now, but the things you will cherish the most are the times spent with people you love.  You won't remember all the selfies you take, but you will remember the happiness (and sadness) you shared with the people you care about.

Pretending to be someone you are not just to make a new friend is not worth it. You'll attract the wrong type of friends AND exhaust yourself in the process because being someone you aren't is a full time job.

Too many teenage girls so desperately want to belong that they will do anything to fit in, often with the wrong group. It is simply much easier to be yourself, stay true to yourself, and let common friends find their way to you. As a middle school teacher, I see this every day - a young girl exhausting herself trying to be someone she is not. It kills her energy and her spirit.

Be Courageous

Don't allow others' expectations to define your risks; not foolish, life- and reputation-ruining risks, but risks that might go against your established 'identity'. You're the 'smart/perfectionist/leader girl'? Don't be afraid to do something you might not be good at. You're the 'girly girl'? Don't be afraid to try out for a sport you love. Don't let fear of other's expectations of your identity inhibit your personal growth. Set yourself free! Your teenage years are awesome years of freedom where you can try new things and discover areas you might never have known you were gifted in or truly enjoy.

Work hard in EVERYTHING you do.

Your work ethic is being created now--if you learn to work hard now you will continue to work hard in everything you do. Also, how hard you work now will determine where you end up in your life.

Never compare what stage of life you're in with where someone else is or where society says you should be. Every person's journey is distinctly different and beautiful.

We often have a preconceived idea of when and how we should experience different stages in life. "I must graduate college at this age and have my career rolling at that age. I should be married by this age, and having children by that age." But our stories are all different. Jesus obliterated any need for comparison. The Great Shepherd is leading and guiding us, and He knows exactly where we need to be and when.

Don't treat your parents badly, because when you get older they will be your closest friends.

I think that so many girls push their parents away instead of embracing one of the closest relationships they will ever have. Parents care the most about what happens in their child's life and will be there no matter what happens. They also have a ton of wisdom.

Be Kind.

You can be remembered as the girl who got all the guys, the one who made straight A's, the girl who threw the biggest parties, the "Christian" girl, the "mean" girl, the "jock" girl, etc., etc., OR you can be remembered as the girl who was KIND. Our teenage years can be all about self-discovery, self-fulfillment, self-esteem. SELF. How about making it about someone else, every now and then? Say hello to someone you've never talked to, before. Help a friend study for finals. Volunteer at a local church or charity. Pay someone a compliment. Make a donation. Thank a teacher. Thank a pastor. Thank a parent. AND REALLY MEAN IT. Spend a little time, each day, being nice. Just because. Practice kindness early. Make it a habit. Let it change you. Then, see how it will change the world.

Now go read the captions/descriptions (here) for the 9 quotes in the photo and the one I couldn't fit in there (from Mary Kistler which says, "If you believe in fairy tales, learning to spin gold from straw provides a more certain future than hoping every guys is a prince charming).  Their explanations are so good!

Pete the Cat is My Theology

My mom often says, "Song lyrics are my theology." What she means, obviously, is that when theology is expressed poetically and set to music, something magical happens.  As you roll that lyric over and over in your mind and on your tongue, your inner truth cat sits up and you get all swirly and emotional because it is at once SO TRUE and SO BEAUTIFUL.   That lyric sums up decades' worth of thoughts and experiences.  It communicates your deepest truth so succinctly that you can only describe it as perfect.  You think, "THIS.  This is what I believe."

I think that children's literature is my theology.

I cried reading a Pete the Cat book last week.

 photo petethecat.jpg

I don't mean that I "was touched" or I "welled up."  I mean that I had to stop reading, and shed actual tears, and my children became very concerned about me.

I've also cried reading the following:

-  Little Blue Truck -  Just Plain Fancy -  The Empty Pot -  Horton Hears a Who -  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (OH MY GOSH, C.S. LEWIS, JUST KILL ME DEAD.) -  And every blame time I read The Jesus Storybook Bible

I can't even handle children's literature.  My inner truth cat goes into a catnip-paper-bag-frenzied-joy-romp.  I cry at least 50% of the time.

I like children's literature because it's simple.

You don't have to impress children; they are filled with natural wonder. You don't have to persuade children; they are filled with innocent trust.

Children's literature doesn't contain logical fallacies or one million prepositional phrases or an excess of adjectives.  Children's literature just drops truth bombs in perfect, poetic ways and lets the truth stand on its own two feet.

Albert Einstein said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

I believe that.  I believe that little hearts and young minds can understand deep truths.  Understand all of it?  Of course not.  Do any of us?   But I believe that the biggest, most important truths aren't that hard to understand; they're just hard to live.

I am going to work on this kind of truth-telling.  Precise and simple.  Like poetry, like songs, like children's literature.

Like Pete the Cat on materialism and contentment and living with open hands:

"I guess it only goes to show, that stuff will come and stuff will go.  Do we worry?  Goodness no."

Yes, children of mine.  Stuff will come and stuff will go.  Do we worry?  Goodness no. Yes, HEART OF MINE.  Stuff will come and stuff will go.  Do we worry?  Goodness no.


Do you have a favorite piece of children's literature?  Please share it!  We'll make a library trip this weekend to pick up some new theology. 

Every Single Second

Parents have love-catch-phrases.  They are the things we say when we tuck our kids in at night.  You know - "I love you to the moon and back."  Or, "I love you with my whole heart."

Mine is,

"I love you every single second."

That's the one I tell them when the love is bubbling in my guts and I have to clench my teeth and my fists to keep from squeezing them too tightly, like Lennie Small.

This is what I told Henry this afternoon when he woke up all groggy and snuggly.  I smushed my face against his precious, smushy face and I whispered, "I love you every single second.  There has never been a second of your entire life that you have not been loved.  Every second that I've known about you, I've loved you."

 photo photo42.jpg
Then I felt a kind of aching swell up inside of me.  I thought, "There are children to whom no one has ever said these things.  There are children that have been neglected, forgotten, resented, and abused."

For a moment I despaired, hard.  I wished that I had infinite time and infinite resources and that I could love all the babies.  I wished that I could hold them all, skin-to-skin, and sing to them and read to them and kiss them and fix all their hurts, physical and otherwise, and tell them that I LOVED them, and that they were important and special to me.   I thought, "There are children that have not been loved every single second."

But something in my chest caught, snagged.  I couldn't finish that thought, because I knew it wasn't true.

There has never been a child that wasn't loved every single second.

I almost didn't write this post because I was afraid that it would sound like I was glossing over the NECESSITY of earthly, human love.  I assure you I am not.   I want to love all the babies because it matters, I know this in my bones, and much of my giving is directed toward that end - children getting loved well.

But because of what I believe to be true about God, I cannot say that there has ever been a human being that God didn't love every single second.  That He didn't yearn for.  There has never been a person that was excluded when He said that He longs to be gracious to you.  There has never been a person that God did not die to save.

This shapes the way I understand the world and they way I interact with all people, but I don't want to direct this thought OUT today, I want to direct in.

You have been loved every single second.

 photo photo26.jpg
There has never been a second in which you were not loved. There has never been a circumstance in which you were not loved. There has never been a thing you did, or a place you went, or a thing you believed that made you unloved, even for a second.

There is no season of hate or anger or disbelief that made God stop wanting you.  You cannot be mean enough to make Him give up on you.  You are not trapped; He will let you go, but He will watch you walk away with great pain, loving you every single second.

In your darkest days, in your deep, endless depression, in your worst, most offensive thoughts, you are loved.

Maybe you are an addict and you've known it for a while, and your nights keep getting darker and your mornings more uncertain.  Or maybe you are doing a thing that you swore you would NEVER DO.  Maybe you haven't changed your mind about it, you still hate it, but you're doing it anyway, which makes you hate yourself.

You are loved in the middle of that mess.   EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.

If you are absolutely OVER IT, and life has become, as dear Anne Lamott says, "just too life-y,"  you might be unhappy, unhealthy, unhopeful, and scared to death - but you are not unloved.  You can be un-everything else, but you are not un-loved.

You have been loved every day, every hour, every minute, every second.  You have been loved every heartbeat of your entire life.

When you were abandoned here, you were not abandoned there.  I cannot unpack the problem of evil here, or even fully in my own mind, but I can tell you this:  you were not delivered from all pain, but you were loved through all of the pain.  Every ounce.  You were loved every second.

God compares his love to parent-love.  He compares his arms to the wings of a mother bird, drawing her babies in close to her bosom, warm and safe.  He says he could no sooner forget you than a mother could forget the baby at her breast.  He says "I have loved you with AN EVERLASTING LOVE."  He says that he wants to give you good things, like Dads want to give their little boys and little girls good things, only better, because God is better than human dads times a billion.

 photo photo15-1.jpg
He loves us with parent-love, only purer.  More long-suffering.  This means that, unlike me, He doesn't ever want to give one of his loved ones away free to a good home when they are being really pig-headed and annoying.  He never loses it.  He never grows tired or weary.

The love that I have for my children is fierce, rabid, overwhelming, and immobilizing.  I love them in a way that doesn't even make sense.  But even that love is tempered by my own selfishness and humanity - by my need for sleep and food to be a pleasant human being.  My great big love for my kids is tempered by my impatience and my lack of empathy.

But God's parent-love is not constrained by those things.  His love is constrained by nothing.  His love is unhindered and unstoppable and unfathomable.

The great joy of my life is being this boy's safe place, the arms that comfort.  I love him, and I could never be close enough for long enough to breathe him in the way I want to.  I love him every single second.  This child of mine is loved EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.

And so are you.

 photo photo31.jpg
And so are you.

Happy Friday

Happy Friday!   I'm signing off for a social free media weekend (barring, perhaps, a #SundayConfession).   I'll be back on Monday with a new post among other things.

 photo stillworthloving.jpg
love, Kate

The Truth Does Not Need Your Help

 photo photo14-2.jpg
There is an article circulating, calling into question some of the images and details that have been shared about the persecution in Iraq.  I'm thankful for it, because it's wise and measured, and because the pursuit of truth is important - but I'm nervous about the public's response to it. I am afraid that upon reading that one of the pictures that has been shared dates back to ISIS operations in Syria (not Iraq) last year (not this July), that people will think, "Oh, this has all been sensationalized.  No children are being killed in Iraq, or at least no more than are dying anywhere.  It is not that bad."

Because it is that bad.  It just isn't that picture.

I want to grab the shoulders of the people sneaking not-quite-exactly-right pictures into articles and say, "You are damaging your own cause!  You are causing the public to mistrust reports of a very real genocide.   This evil is bad enough without your having to darken it up for public consumption.  The truth does not need your help."

That's the crux of it.  The truth does not need your help.  The truth can stand on its own two feet, thank you very much.  The truth does not need you running PR for it.  When you spin truth, it's not truth anymore.  The only thing you have to do for the truth is tell it.

Regarding Iraq, the truth is that people are being beheaded.  People are being raped, shot, hanged, and crucified.  The truth is that nobody is coming to kill my babies today, and the truth is that Christians in Mosul and Northern Iraq can't say that - people ARE coming to kill them and their babies.  The truth is that families are fleeing into the mountains and starving to death, ISIS on their heels, coming after them with evil and lies and death in their hearts.  And that truth is enough,  no misplaced pictures of decapitated babies required.

The truth does not need your lying for it.  Will you bring this thought into your speech and your internet sharing and right into the heart of all of your relationships?  The truth does not need my help.

Let us not manipulate by exaggerating our hurt or our oppression.  Black is black enough without us sensationalizing it for shock value.  Be brave, step up to the mic, and tell the truth.  Speak loud and measured and long.  Tell us what happened, and why, and how.  Tell us how it made you feel.  And then step back and let the truth stand.  Discerning, compassionate people will come to stand beside you.

Let us not aim to impress by exaggerating our happiness and our blessings.   Be grateful, step up to the mic, and shout praise.  "I am blessed.  I am fortunate.  I am excited that this wonderful thing has happened for me."  Then step back and let the truth stand.  Discerning, joyful people will come rejoice with you.  None of us have the stomach for showmanship; it sours fast.

The truth does not need your shady advertising campaign.  When we hear truth, it grabs us.  I wrote last month about an inner truth cat.  I still think about my inner cat often, because it describes exactly the sensation I have when I hear the truth.  I can also liken it to a bear standing in a river catching fish.  I stand there, letting all the words and all the life flow over me, feeling...feeling...feeling...then I feel it.  THERE.  That's the true thing.   And I reach out and grab it.  That true thing is what I was after; that's what will feed me.

One of the books I read to my kids often is Demi's The Empty Pot.  It's about a little boy named Ping who grows the most beautiful flowers in China, but can't get a seed given to him by the emperor to grow.  Everyone teases him when he comes before the emperor, head bent low, with an empty pot.  The emperor then names Ping successor to the throne because Ping had the courage to appear before him with nothing but "the empty truth."

The empty truth.  I love that.

I want to have the courage to appear before the world with the empty truth.  I want to show up, every day, truth in hand, and let that be enough.  No fluff.  No lies.  No spin to make the dark a little darker, or the light a little lighter.  I want to say what I mean, mean what I say, and stand - head high and unafraid - because the truth is enough.

The only thing we need to do to the truth is tell it.

 photo photo25.jpg
More from Kate about telling the truth:  "Honesty"