What I Want My Daughters to Learn from “The Bachelor”

My dearest daughters,

You may have heard of a television program called “The Bachelor” and its sister program “The Bachelorette”. Hopefully you haven’t actually seen them yet but since it appears the series has no intention of ending any time soon, you are bound to be exposed to it one day. If you can, avert your eyes and change the channel quickly. But if, like me, you find yourself in a weak moment and drawn in by the spectacle of 25 nice-enough-looking young ladies throwing off every shred of dignity and self-respect (and clothing!) in an effort to capture the affections of one questionably worthy young man, here are a few things to remember.

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1.  Men enjoy the chase. If you don’t believe me, ask your father. Most guys think the idea of 25 women vying for their attention would be a dream come true but the truth is most of them would get overwhelmed or bored by it. You don’t need to make it too easy for the guys you date when you reach dating age (around age 30 should be fine) but that doesn’t mean you should play hard to get either. There is a middle ground. If you’re interested, it’s fine to show it a little (does anyone remember the fine art of flirting?), but leave it at that and don’t fawn all over a guy. Let him earn your attention and it will mean more to him. Wait for HIM to call YOU and ask you out on a date, and let him make the arrangements. And you can bet that if he’s the type who wants all the ladies to come to him and make it effortless, he’s not going to have much ambition for anything else either. Like finding and keeping a job, for example.

(I’m aware that most teenaged boys are not entirely sure how dating works either and my “antiquated” ideas about it might mean you don’t go out much until you’re older. I’m OK with that.)

I’m also thinking about all those girls on The Bachelor who think it helps the relationship progress if they physically throw themselves at him. What if he doesn’t want to kiss you? You’re leaving him no graceful way to say “no”. How about you let him anticipate that first kiss for a little while instead? I think it says a lot about a girl’s opinion of men in general when she acts as though guys are all ruled by their sexual urges. Good men aren’t slaves to lust.

(side note: when I was a teenager my mother told me not to call boys. I thought that was a stupid rule. After all, if I didn’t call them they might not call me. I now know it’s not a stupid rule, and it’s the rule at our house. Blame Grandma.)

2.  Preserve some mystery. Yes, I’m going to talk about modesty because clearly no one on The Bachelor is familiar with the concept. I’m not going to talk about sex outside of marriage because you already know where our family stands on that issue and as soon as I say the word “sex” you’re usually so mortified that anything I say afterward gets lost in the shuffle.

Once upon a time it was considered scandalous for a lady to show her ankles. Apparently men in those days could not be trusted to contain their lust at the sight of a luscious pair of ankles, but luckily today’s men can handle themselves better. However, that’s no reason to let it all hang out, girls. Show some respect for your body and the people around you, and choose clothing that is appropriate. I’m not saying we should not be satisfied with our bodies or even a little bit proud of the way we’re taking good care of ourselves, but the world does not need to see all your goodies. Some things need to be left to the imagination, and those same areas need to be preserved for your husband and/or your gynecologist. Bachelor contestants, If the producers feel the need to put a little black rectangle over part of your body, that’s a sign. We don’t need to see all that. In general, girls, when in doubt cover it up.

The Bible tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Let’s treat them that way.

3.  Oversharing does not = closeness.  Oh girls. I cannot emphasize this one enough. Sometimes you meet someone and you either feel like you’ve known them forever or you want to know them forever, and you may feel the urge to share some intimate detail or story from your past to help you feel closer to each other. Don’t. In the beginning stages of a relationship, both of you are on a need-to-know basis. Someone who has been on one or two dates with you does not need or want to hear about the time you wet your pants during the class spelling bee or drove your car into a tree after your high school boyfriend broke up with you or that you can’t sleep unless all your spices are in alphabetical order. All of these facts do indeed shape who you are, yes, and I get that you think it will help them understand you. But people need to know you better before they can be trusted to properly handle such traumatic information. It doesn’t make you closer. It makes the hearer uncomfortable and the sharer look desperate. Bachelor ladies, the television viewers are squirming in their La-Z-Boys when you start spilling your guts prematurely. That’s called word vomit and it’s just as distasteful as it sounds.

4.  Jealousy is ugly. The very premise behind The Bachelor is designed to encourage jealousy, with certain girls getting picked for one-on-one dates and others feeling left out. There is always a time during each episode that finds the girls jockeying for position and trying to get “alone time” with the bachelor, and there’s always at least one girl who dissolves in tears because she didn’t get “her time” and she was coming over to talk to him and so-and-so got there first but she talked to him earlier already and it’s just not fair. Does this make her seem more attractive? No. When I met your father he was dating four other girls. All were just “friends” that he liked to go out and have fun with, but it would have been so easy for me to get jealous. I can only say it was through God’s power and not my own, but I decided that if he wanted to be with me, that’s where he would be and if not, then I didn’t need him. I had my moments for sure, however I didn’t let jealousy get a foothold and I figured if your Dad wasn’t the guy for me, God would send me someone even better. Because God is awesome like that.

5. Don’t waste your time together talking about other people. Ashley I., I’m looking at you. She whined and cried last week because she didn’t get her one-on-one time and then when she did, she spent half of it complaining about the other girls. Um, no. I don’t know about Bachelor Chris but whenever someone starts trash talking another person to me, I remember the words of Dr. Phil, “If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you.” A person who will gossip about Susie to you will likely gossip about you to Susie. Don’t be that person. Don’t let other people be the subject of your conversation on a date.

Also, Ashley? By talking about all those other girls all you’re doing is reminding him how much more pleasant they were to be with because they weren’t whining about everyone else.

6.  Real love is not a game. Yes, The Bachelor is a game show of sorts with contestants and one hapless man as the prize, bless his heart. What viewers (like me) tend to forget is that these are real people (like me) with feelings and dreams and a whole back story that we don’t usually get to see. It’s easy to sit at home and pick these ladies apart – after all, they applied and competed to get on this show, ostensibly to win the heart of a man they’d never even met before. I don’t understand what drives that decision. But I hope you remember in years to come that when a boy asks you out on a date, he has feelings just like you do and if you aren’t interested in getting to know him there are kind ways to let him know. Let him keep his dignity and don’t dent his self-confidence, and likewise don’t pretend to like him if you really don’t because it wastes your time and his. Don’t let yourself get caught up in a game of trying to win someone’s attention if you aren’t really interested.

Sweeties, I don’t ever want you to look to television, especially not The Bachelor, for your idea of how a woman should behave. That’s my job, and if I’m doing it right you should be able to hear my voice over all the noise the world is making.

Love You Forever,

Mom

One Word 365 2015: Finding my Focus

I’m just going to come right out and say it: my word for 2015 scares me. I guess I brought it on myself by praying for God to confirm one of the three or so words I had swirling in my head, and this was the one he brought into focus. Yeah, that’s right: FOCUS.

Thanks to the lovely www.tracimichele.com for my graphic!

Thanks to the lovely Traci at http://www.tracimichele.com for the graphic!

In all honesty I’ve gotten used to being a bit scattered. I think maybe I’ve been enjoying claiming that flightiness as part of my inborn personality, and maybe it is. But the hard truth is that if I had more FOCUS I could get more done and done well. It’s far too easy to play the “made that way” card as an excuse to get out of more grown-up and disciplined behavior. But God never meant for me to get stuck in some kind of “faith journey adolescence” and it feels like He’s calling me to step up my game in this way.

I take pride in my ability to multi-task. I may be writing this post right now but I’m also aware of the people in my house moving around, the television show in the next room (Jessie, again), and the next five things I need to get done (make breakfast, take a shower, finish cleaning my office, make more coffee, clean the cat litter) and I may or may not be pausing in between sentences to do some of those things. (not the cat litter though. Gross.) But multi-tasking is not my friend, people. Multi-tasking by its very nature means that each task is not getting the attention it deserves. If I took the time to focus on each job, maybe it would take less time to complete AND it would be done with more excellence. Maybe it’s possible to do it all, but you can’t do it all at the same time and do everything well. At least I can’t. And I’m not settling for “good enough” any more.

I’m also a dabbler. My Grandma used to tell me that I loved to start things but I never finished them, and while it made me mad when she said it, there’s some truth to that. I am prone to picking up new hobbies, for which I happily collect supplies and make plans, and then laying it all aside like yesterday’s newspaper when I find it’s not as easy or fun as it looked. My craft cabinets are tangible proof of the activities I’ve started and never completed. And with the surge in social media nowadays I am being exposed to all manner of projects that I otherwise might not have noticed. I can be scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook news feed and see that a friend has taken up Zentangles, for instance, and I start thinking that maybe THIS is the creative outlet I’ve been looking for. This dabbling is another one of those things I’d like to work on in 2015. Just because someone else does it doesn’t mean I need to jump on the bandwagon. I want to focus more on the forms of artistic expression that really capture my heart, because there is worship to be found there.

And then there’s this blog. I tend to write about whatever crosses my mind or heart, and that’s fine. But I need to spend a little time deciding what its purpose should be and maybe even capturing that purpose in a vision statement of some sort. There’s a part of me that really hates to be tied down and chafes at any sort of restriction on my creative impulses. However there’s a lot to be said for having some kind of guideline to keep me on the right path.

I tried on and rejected several other words for 2015: Intentional, Mindful, Simplify, Concentrate, Excellence, even Distill.  One of the finalists was Present, because I want to be fully present in whatever I’m doing, not halfway there. I examined words that would encompass what I felt God calling me to focus (yes, I meant to do that) on this year. In the end, FOCUS was the word that kept coming up over and over.

So while 2015 is fresh and new, my goal for the year is to learn how to FOCUS – to figure out what I’m really about and what I do best, and concentrate on those things.  To distill all the noise and details clamoring for my attention into what matters most. To really listen to what my husband and kids are saying. To stop trying to do ten things in a mediocre way all at one time and instead focus on one or two that I can do with excellence. To look for Him and listen for His voice. To remember what the ultimate goal is.

Begin with the end in mind.

One day at a time.

One step at a time.

Eyes on the prize, always.

In His everlasting goodness, God gave me a scripture passage to go along with 2015’s word:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. – Philippians 3:12-16 (The Message)

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What about you? Do you participate in the One Word challenge? If so, what’s your word?

One Word 365: How’d I Do?

If you’re not familiar with the One Word 365 movement, it’s basically an alternative to making New Year’s resolutions. Participants choose a single word to focus on for the year, or sometimes the word chooses them. You can find more in-depth information and suggestions for words here. It’s definitely not too late to get on board for 2015!

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My word for 2014 was MOVE, chosen partly because my family knew we would be moving from one state to another in the middle of the year. The preparation for the move and the fallout afterward consumed most of the year. We physically moved our household in June, just after school ended for my two girls still at home. And then there was the settling in that needed to happen. I’m happy to say that just six months post-move, we are involved in a church that we love and my girls are making friends. It’s my hope that the move will be something God uses in their lives to make them stronger and more confident that they can handle whatever life throws at them, as long as their trust is in Him and not in their circumstances. That’s a good lesson for me as well.

I was also hoping that I would make more of an effort to MOVE my body, as in exercise, but that didn’t happen. I did receive an activity monitor for my birthday in August, so there’s still hope. I’d like to get my teenager to walk with me a few days a week because it would give us a chance to talk and spend some constructive time together, so I’m working on that. The hardest part is actually getting myself out the door.

Another part of MOVE was the prayer that God would move my heart closer to Him. To help me memorize more scripture I took up a new hobby this year called Art Journaling. You start with a mixed media sketchbook and basically anything goes. My plan was to use my journal to illustrate Bible verses that have special meaning to me but it quickly evolved to include song lyrics, which is not surprising to anyone who knows me even a little bit. My youngest daughter quickly asked to join me because the lure of paints, stickers and glitter was just too much to resist, so the art journaling became our go-to activity in the summer whenever she was bored. I’m still trying to coax my older daughter into trying it. I think she’d love it! We’ve collected quite a bit of supplies and have gotten quite good at certain art techniques. Here a couple of my favorite pages from this year:

Let Your Light Shine

Let Your Light Shine

 

Live Worthy

Live Worthy

A Page From Quinn's Book

A Page From Quinn’s Book

 

MOVE was a bit of a slam-dunk for me and I knew that when I chose it. I knew I’d at least accomplish the interstate move, right? But God has moved my heart this year too and shown me that He can be seen and worshipped in more ways than I thought.

I take the lessons I learned this year with me into the new one. Tomorrow I’ll post about my word for 2015 and it scares me a little, y’all.

Something About That Name

I love Christmas! I know, I know – lots of people say the same thing and yet it’s hard to see any evidence of joy in all the scurrying about and scrambling to find gifts. I myself am scurrying right now because we’re having an Open House party and the house is anything but ready for company. However, waiting until the last minute is my usual tactic. It’s how I roll. So if you look at it that way, I’m right on schedule.

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the special pleasure I get from knowing that even saying “Merry Christmas” is speaking aloud the name of Christ. People who all year long might never give Him a second thought still speak His name at this time of year. They may not think about what they’re saying but I hear “Christ” in it, and it gives me a little thrill to hear His name coming from some unlikely directions.

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Another thing I really enjoy at Christmas is the music. It runs the gamut from traditional carols to contemporary Christian worship tunes to fun songs about Santa to silly ones about murderous reindeer. (RIP, Grandma) And you can hear these songs on the radio or your Spotify playlist being performed by everyone from Mercy Me to Melissa Etheridge. But every year the same questions start to swirl in my mind and I struggle with a way to ask them without sounding judgmental, because at heart I know we’re ALL sinners and none of us is any better than the next.

What I wonder about is this: when a secular musician sings about the new King being born, does his or her heart speed up just a little bit? Does it make something in their spirit stir? Does it affect them at all? Do they even realize what they’re singing about? Is His name just another word in the lyrics? Do they think about the gravity of God Himself coming to earth in the form of a helpless baby to save all of us from ourselves?

When CeeLo Green croons, “Mary, Did You Know?” I wonder if CeeLo himself knows.

When Weezer sings, “O Holy Night,” I wonder if they know why it was so holy.

When Barenaked Ladies performs, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” what are they thinking when the words “remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day” pass their lips?

(Am I the only one who thinks of these things?)

I’m certainly in no position to gauge anyone’s relationship with Christ or lack of it, although I do believe that we can know people by their fruit.

So when I see people whose fruit (at least what’s made public) consists of self-glorification or partying or a lifestyle that doesn’t reflect Christ’s presence in their lives in any way, it can be jarring to hear them singing “Silent Night” to a newborn King it seems they’ve never met.

And if I’m totally honest, there is a part of me that wants to snatch back “my” holiday from people who don’t even know Who He is and don’t seem to care about finding out. Who are all these people who think it’s okay to sing about Christ the newborn King at Christmas and record songs with bleeped out lyrics all the rest of the year?

But what takes the starch out of my self-righteousness indignation is this: there is power in the name of Jesus.

POWER.

Wonder working power. And mercy. And grace. Everything we need, contained right there in the name of Christ our Lord.

The name that the Bible tells us will one day cause every knee to bow and every tongue to proclaim His Lordship. (Phil. 2:10-11)

There’s just something about that name.

And it doesn’t matter if the name is spoken by the most God-fearing man on the planet or the lowest sinner (and those could be one and the same person).

I’ve heard it said, and I believe it, that God can and will use anyone for His purposes.

Some of the people who will say His name or sing about Him this season have no idea of the power they are wielding.

But I do and one day they will too. And His name is beautiful music to my ears.

So you just keep on caroling, Billy Idol. Put the name of Christ out there on the airwaves. Make Him known far and wide. Someone out there needs to hear the name of Christ and it might just be from your lips that they hear it.

Keeping Thanksgiving Real

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Have you noticed the “holiday” editions of magazines at the checkout counter lately? I’m a sucker for magazines.  I shouldn’t be allowed to go to the grocery store any more because I regularly find myself seduced by the magazine cover stories: “101 Ways to Make This Thanksgiving the Best Ever”, “36 Adorable and Easy Table Decorations”, “Clean Your House Top to Bottom in 15 Minutes”. Every lifestyle magazine on the rack right now is slam full of tips and tricks to (supposedly) make your Thanksgiving one that your guests will remember forever, and for good reasons, not like the year the dog ate the turkey and then threw it up on the living room rug.

The one article that’s missing is the one I need most: the one on how to manage my expectations. I always seem to start the season with a grand plan and a head full of expectations, and I inevitably end up disappointed.

See, there’s a part of me that keeps thinking that one day I’m going to have that magically warm and festive Thanksgiving with the elegant table and the matching dishes and the Martha Stewart-y meal, with the fire burning merrily in the background, and the happy, smiling children, and I need to get over it already. I don’t even have a wood-burning fireplace and my table arrangements do not ever approach anything resembling “elegant”.  That’s just not my style. And all those nice little touches do not a Thanksgiving make. (If you do manage to regularly create that sort of celebration, well, my hat is off to you.)

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So I’m going to get real with you. Here’s how my Thanksgiving will likely unfold:

My family of four is going to drive several hours to get to my hometown, where we will stay in a hotel because there’s not enough room in my mother’s house for all of us to sleep. On the morning of Thanksgiving Day we will gather at my Mom’s modest home and my husband will watch football on the TV in Mom’s bedroom while my kids alternately watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on the living room TV, play with personal electronic devices, fight with each other, and whine about when the food will be ready. Mom and I will work together to make the meal and there will invariably be far more food than we need. My brother and his family of four may or may not show up before we eat, after we eat, or at all. We’ll leave the food in the pans on the stove instead of putting it in fancy serving dishes. Instead of sitting around the table we’ll fill our plates and take them into the living room, where we’ll eat while watching TV. Chances are very good that my mother will take charge of the remote control and the entertainment will be a movie on the Hallmark channel. After we eat, Mom and I will go to the kitchen and moan about how we cooked too much food, then we’ll put the leftovers away and wash the pots and pans by hand. Later we’ll sort through the Black Friday ads and decide if there’s anything on sale that’s worth braving the crowds. The rest of the afternoon will likely be spent looking through photo albums and catching up on what’s been going on since we saw each other last.

And so what if our family’s Thanksgiving is not much like the ones you see on TV, in the magazines, and on social media? It’s not “less than” either. Comparison is the thief of joy and I’m not going to sit by and let it steal my holiday joy this year. I’m going to choose to find the good, like I’m always encouraging my children to do.

We don’t have special place settings and fancy plates, but we’ll have more time to sit and chat because we don’t have to wash a lot of dishes.

We don’t have a large family and the huge table to sit around, but we’ll have the comfort of familiarity.

We don’t make gourmet meals with exotic (to us) ingredients, but I love the way my Mom and I fall into a familiar rhythm when we cook together. I’m all too mindful that one day this will be just a memory.

It’s not necessary to try to live up to some ideal image of what Thanksgiving Day should be. There are as many kinds of celebrations as there are families who celebrate. And that is exactly as it should be.

So, this Thanksgiving Day, you and I are off the hook. There’s no rule book or check list to follow, and it’s not a contest. In fact, the only requirement is found in the name itself: THANKS GIVING.

Serve turkey, or ham, or Chinese takeout.

Eat it around a pretty table, or sitting on the floor in front of the TV.

It doesn’t matter. The state of your heart is what matters.

On Thanksgiving Day, as on every other day, I want to find myself humbled and grateful for all the gifts God has brought my way.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.      James 1:17

What makes your family’s Thanksgiving Day different?

 

 

31 Days, Day 31: The Best of the Rest

photo credit: fotolog.com

photo credit: fotolog.com

It’s the end.  But not really.  There is so much great music from the 1970s that there’s no way I can show some love to all the songs that meant something to me.  I didn’t even get to touch on some of the country acts that crossed over, like Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, and Barbara Mandrell. So I will leave you with a list of songs I wanted to showcase but then I ran out of time. And I’m sure I’ll find a way to bring up a song or two on the blog in the course of my regular writing. So, for your listening pleasure:

Silly Love Songs by Paul McCartney & Wings (Paul was always my favorite Beatle)

Heartbeat It’s a Love Beat by Tony DeFranco & the DeFranco Family (Teen idol alert!)

Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (where’d they find that name?)

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meat Loaf

Afternoon Delight by The Starland Vocal Band (Scandalous!)

My Eyes Adored You by Frankie Valli

How Much I Feel by Ambrosia

Baby Come Back by Player (Ridge from “The Bold and The Beautiful” was in the this band. He’s in the orange/red shirt in the video.)

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot

Wildfire by Michael Martin Murphy

If You Leave Me Now by Chicago (Oh, Peter Cetera, you slay me!)

Sara Smile by Hall & Oates

The Logical Song by Supertramp (Genius!)

Black Water by the Doobie Brothers

Fooled Around and Fell in Love by Elvin Bishop

That should keep us all busy for a while. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little detour. I know I have. I chose this topic for my 31 Days series because I knew it was one that had a nearly endless supply of material and it would be easy for me. It was pretty easy except for all the links I had to find and add, and then sometimes I’d get mired down in YouTube watching more videos and YouTube likes to suggest similar videos and before I knew it an hour had passed.

This is the part where I should tie everything up neatly into a little bundle and talk about what I’ve learned. I don’t have any great wisdom to impart except to say that music is a gift from God and it is so much a part of my memories that I hear a soundtrack playing whenever I tell stories from my childhood. It amazes me how a tune can bring back sounds, smells, and feelings that I had long since forgotten, both good and bad ones.

So I’d like to sign off with the words of the inimitable Casey Kasem, whose American Top 40 countdown was so much a part of my childhood: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” And I would add, “Keep the music playing.”