Telling People They Are Awesome

My disclaimer on this post is that I’m going to use illustrations that come from my experience in the church, but don’t think that people act like typical people just because they belong to a certain socio-economic or religious group. If you do that, you are going to miss the whole point.

You’re Totally Awesome, Dude

Pixie Dust and The Wizard Behind The Curtain

Before I get to that story, let me tell you about an old blogpost I re-read from Kathy Sierra. Called “Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity. The gist is that people use marketing techniques to game the system and it’s that “pixie dust” that is promoted to be the magic answer to the branding and promotion of ones product.

It is not unlike the last topic, taking to task the online and marketing Gurus who provide methods, for a fee, to making you and/or your customers (….whoever you want to win over) an overnight success. Even if they are well-meaning, plenty of so-called experts aren’t really helping you to be what truly makes you awesome: being the best you can be, living to your potential, inspired to rise to greater heights of what you hope to be or accomplish.

Buzzwords, Buzzword techniques, and the fast path to wealth and awesomeness is something people will pay for, and that means a lot of gamers are going to enter the field to make sure they can take advantage of it. That also means there is going to be an aftermath of broken dreams, and the disillusioned.

Sierra succinctly sums it up:

There is a world of dif­fe­rence bet­ween hel­ping someone *appear* more awe­some and hel­ping them actually BE more awesome.

And that in some ways reminded me of a small, but rather sorry, experience I had a long time ago that left me with a distinct sense discomfort that helped shape how I like to deal with people to this day.

A Moment of Clarity

I had gone to one of those big Christian conferences that are comprised of all sorts of people from different denominations, cultures, and backgrounds. It was one that had really pumped up my own sickly and struggling grip on walking out my faith. It wasn’t called a Revival, but it was effectively working as one for me.

Maybe because of that, I was a bit more open, hopeful, and vulnerable to what people said to me. Anyway, after one of the services (there are several at this sort of convocation), a well meaning man spoke to me. He said something very positive, something like “I see you are -positive ‘blah,blah,blah’, and you will -positive ‘blah,blah,blah'”. I felt very encouraged, I felt that he had been moved by some inner insight to share that with me.

As the conference moved on I happened to pass by that man speaking to someone else, using the very same words, the very same expression, the very same way. They weren’t special insights meant for me. This well meaning man was gaming the system.

I suppose he felt this was his ministry of encouragement or something, but for me, it was a searing disappointment, because it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel sincerely anything. I felt my sense of trust was breached and trampled. I didn’t ask for his words, and wasn’t even hoping or looking for them. He offered me something artificial, when I truly needed the genuine. He sprinkled around some pixie dust, because it had good effects on people. For him.

And to this day, as convinced as I am of the importance of affirmation and encouragement, if I cannot garner together the individualized and sincere words that are infused with my own sense of care and compassion, or affection or desire to connect… I don’t want to give a substitute. I don’t believe in “placeholder” love, that consists of words or token actions merely meant to make someone feel good for the moment.

That is a terribly selfish thing to do. It is pixie dust spread around to make the giver feel better about themselves. If you tell someone they are awesome with that motivation, spare them.

They are better off without your false words and insincere methods. The world is better off without them.

How To Tell Someone They Are Awesome

First -to outline the negative shape before drawing in the detail- do not tell someone how much they matter or how great they are when showing them is better. Words will often cloud the message, even if you intend to mean them. That too often turns into “meaning well”, and you know what the old saying is about good intentions.

If words are all you have, tell people something that you can follow through on… a generally inclusive way of telling them they matter and are awesome “I look for the beauty and glory in you”… because I look for that in all. And then make that your purpose, your own rule of life.

Do something for them that helps them be the best version of themselves.

Then when you tell them you think they are awesome, or that they matter to you, they will trust it, and it will build something meaningful into their lives.

Give them tools of value, words of value, and actions of value. Take something of yourself, and invest it in those tools, words, and actions. Infuse something of your love and care into what you give to others. That will make them feel awesome. Then you can tell them they are awesome and might even have an opportunity to share something that will make them even more awesome.

The outcome of that is what they do with that thing themselves, what they get to experience from it.

This has its way of spilling over and making us feel pretty awesome as well, but that is not the goal or the point of what we tell others, or what we share with them.

What Am I Really Saying?

What really works is love. Love is never cheap, and has no substitution. Everyone needs and wants it, and when you give words or anything to another person with real love attached, you give the world what it really needs.

Pixie dust looks pretty tawdry in the real light of day, and quite unnecessary.
Spirit of the Night

Spirit of the Night
Grimshaw, John…
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The Mommy Wars

Reposting this from Nov. 3, 2004 in the interest of defining some things about SAHM’s and some of the cultural myths that are *still* with us.

While keeping track of the election results and discovering new blogs I came across a set of things that caught my interest and have the common thread of comments on parenting, and being a mommy in particular.

The first was a book,Home Alone America, which the webpage headlined as reopening “The Mommy Wars”. I suppose that is related to the “Cultural Wars”, or a subset of sorts. I read the interview with the author, Mary Eberstadt , and she basically uses research to point up the problem of parental absenteeism, which includes the role of Mom, though it doesn’t restrict the problem to that. ( According to reviews).

The second thing was an article from the Wall Street Journal, which you can access in pdf form, here or look up on the Wall Street Journal site, it is called, “The Carriage Trade: Stay At Home Moms Get Entrepreneurial”.

The third, also a book review article, is

The all-too-female cluelessness of “I Don’t Know How She Does It”

Those were the inspiration, here are my thoughts-

…. but first, know that I am not wading into the mommy wars. If you are going to read my thoughts, get ready for a realistic look at what it is to be a SAHM in our culture, and not a blow by blow dissection of working women’s choices.
Continue reading The Mommy Wars

Just Who Are These ‘Church Ladies’?

Inspired by Sarah Flashing who is doing an admirable job of providing commentary on our culture, and recently on specific Church culture, I started to think about how I define this term that I have used, ‘The Church Lady‘. I pretty much presumed that we all know this lady and have similar thoughts and feelings about her. As she has become defined, however, I am not so sure I presumed correctly.

So, how do I see ‘The Church Lady’? And how far have I conformed to this stereotype, myself?

  1. She is the SNL caricature of old fashioned clothing, and as recorded in Wikipedia:”uptight, smug, and pious”…”She often takes others to task”…”whenever she felt that she had demonstrated her superiority, she would do her “Superior dance” in which she would rhythmically strut to organ music in front of her alleged inferiors”
  2. Much of the Church Lady’s attributes in our real churches are the result of following the prescribed dress, demeanor, and attitudes handed her by the mainly male leadership. This is usually in the name of various virtues and denominational references. Some women sincerely try to emulate the sets of rules with the best of intentions, some struggle without knowing how to be otherwise, and some find themselves completely at home in the persona.
  3. Church ladies are secure in their constricted world of social rounds inside their church circles. They are – and often proudly so- a callback to the ’50’s women of the past… with their own substitutions for bridge parties and coffee klatches. They make it equally as difficult to break into their cliques as any elite social organizations of that time.
  4. They are mixed in among the sincere and the faithful, so that they are not identifiable by image alone, but rather by the undermining critical spirit hidden in their pious smiles, the impossibility of gaining their acceptance by any except their own standards.
  5. Her view is small and parochial, she doesn’t want to be bothered by larger concerns of the world, except in the most generic way possible, she stands aghast at the great unwashed masses. Her world is neatly pressed, and deodorized… brightly smiling, preferably.
  6. But sometimes she is determined to break from that smallness, and sometimes she proves herself a tireless worker in ministries to the less fortunate
  7. Sometimes she provides a safe haven of grace and hospitality, lovingly setting a fine table for guests or providing meals for the distressed. Her home cloistered from the outside world can be a place of peace and respite.
  8. She is mindful of boundaries that make the difference between a place of order and grace and chaos
  9. She is the amalgam of women, both sincere and hypocritical who seek to have a Christlike life. The one succeeding in spirit, if encumbered by distractions to many rules of appearance and lifestyle…. the other giving rise to the many jokes and bitter memories of being ambushed by her.

My own Church lady role has consisted of trying to conform to the mold of my newfound Christian faith, back in the day ( 1970’s ). Some of it was finding my way through the maze of real versus substitute virtue.

Real modesty vs. a dress code for Christian women, real charity vs. a knee-jerk reaction to every church related plea for time and money, time managed by priorities of a spiritual demand rather than the merry go round of meaningless, time-filling (killing) Church activities. Real piety of prayer and compassion vs. the religious conformity to outward shows of pseudo-holiness, real love and sense of ones own depravity vs. bemoaning the world going to hell in a handbasket, real investigation of the Word of God rather than Bible study by rote in hand delivered palaver. Real devotion to Christ rather than hard-driven, hard-bitten dogmatism to the party line.

Mark D. Linville in his all too accurate picture of a fundamentalist’s church life, leaves us in his essay, IN PRAISE OF THE CHURCH LADY ( a pdf file) with these thoughts:

I suspect that the Church Lady—who, in my memory is more an amalgam of many people who had an early influence on me than an actual person—had something less than an articulate and carefully reasoned theology. I would not be surprised to learn that she harbored some religious beliefs that were downright silly. I know that I could take her in a fight today. But she is yet another example of those crude earthen vessels, in which God has placed His treasure, and which He is able to use for His good purposes.

…I am convinced that the Church Lady is needed today more than ever. It would be the height of foolishness for anyone to expect to pass on the baton of a robust faith to their children in these days and in this culture without immersing them in a community of
believing people as I was. The unchurched child in the nominally Christian family today will find anything but a Christian role model to set his course. There may be attempts within the home to instill faith and Christian virtues, but the prevailing winds of our culture are blowing strongly in the opposite direction.

What defines the difference between those church ladies who are affectionately, if amusedly, remembered and who left a positive impact on ones Christian life and those who are recalled with some bitterness and disdain? I believe it is the element of love. Love which is sincerely desiring the best, and in this view the proverb that love covers a multitude of sins may be our very own. That for all the faults of many well-meaning Christian women, the deciding factor of reflecting Christlikeness is this quality of love.

As a ‘Church Lady’, this is the goal: not throwing off rules or remaking images, but reflecting Christ Jesus, Our Savior and His gospel. These women who provide nourishment, who clean the hallways and rooms of our lives, who are available for prayer, who seek to the best of their ability to serve and support are mixed in with some who are hypocritically self-serving under the pretense of their pious smiles and their eternal preoccupation with the small details of rulebook infractions. The Gladys Kravitz‘s of our churches.

I personally desire to be a Church Lady with a difference, one that aspires to all the virtues of Christ in a faith the genuinely works by love. One that is honest enough to look at herself, and look at her world and adjust the lens, and throw away the false filters. I chose to be a stay at home, homeschooling, home birthing, fundamental doctrinally, conservative dressing, values-oriented woman for reasons. Well thought out reasons, but not those that I would apply universally to every other Christian woman. My mainstay of a message is that we appreciate each others sincere effort to follow Christ Jesus, that we honor Him in our lives and in the world, that we support each others efforts, even when we don’t fully approve or understand. The benchmark is whether one loves Christ. Church ladies have a responsibility to adjust themselves to that benchmark. And when they do, who will be laughing, then?

Living Life Well And Wisely

I’ve had to do work on my finances again…which has turned much of my reading/ research time to the Finance pages of different sites. While working my way through the advice and portents, I came across this article that puts all those hard won truths of large families into one succinct and heart warming summary. Read it to make yourself wiser and to put some sunshine into your soul. Think about someone you love, and what your family means to you, and save yourself some spending mistakes at the same time.

Sound like a good deal? I thought so.

A Rich Legacy by Laura Rowley:

My dad had a successful practice, but instead of the sports cars, Hawaiian vacations, and the ample homes of his peers, he spent his money raising a boisterous brood of 11 children. By age 40, he already had 10 kids, the youngest (me) nearly four years old. I just crossed the 40-year mark, with a much smaller houseful of kids, and my youngest is also nearly four. I can’t call him up for advice anymore, so instead I take my cues from how he chose to live his life. In that, I’ve found a rich legacy.

1. Thrills are truly cheap.

2. Everyone chips in.

3. Be generous and honest.

4. Space is secondary.
….because I realize it’s not the space you have — but what happens in that space — that counts.


Replay, Seasons in a Woman’s Life

This is probably the last I will do of ‘replays’, I didn’t save much of my material when I updated or deleted things from my website. But this is one that I like to reread, just to remind myself when I feel overwhelmed by the clamor of this modern life.

(Jan 21, 1999)

Seasons and women are twining together within my thoughts, the blurring and disintegration of the two, and our losses because of it. The thread of explanation:

We (our society and our own selves within it) try to create a seasonless environment. Changes and the need to make adjustments just make us irritable, such interference with our plans and schedules! We get this false sense of control from heating, cooling, and humidifying systems, from the mini environments of our cars, homes, and offices, and it extends into our mental and emotional environments. We have these ideal pictures of what we will accomplish and how we will fit living into our frameworks so carefully wrought. But weather, electrical supply, and other personalities don’t always amenably comply, and we wake up exhausted and disappointed from trying to form our world. That can be a blessing, you know: to step outside of the perfect, tight, and well-run schedules. There is even a cliche’ for it…smelling roses.

In a woman’s life there is such a crush of busyness that runs from the mid-twenties to the mid- thirties. It seems we must become so many titles and fulfill so many expectations that we build our card houses precariously balancing everything and hoping all the while that all will “just stand steady”. Please, please, please.

But life as a whole is a progression of seasons, seasons of learning, seasons of doing, seasons of resting. There are beginnings and progressions and endings, and we are wise to observe such things. Because we may artificially mask the changes of the seasons does not always mean we should. Our means are tools for us to make our adjustments, not our weapons for fending off phases forever. We would not choose only sunny days all the time if we really thought carefully about it, and we would not stay fixed at twenty years old, or in a high state of romance, either, if it was static and false. A woman’s life has phases like the moon and seasons of nature, each with its own particular joys and chores.

If I garden like crazy, working on too many plans, where is my joy in the June’s special rose effects? It will not be repeated for another year and maybe not in that special way in a lifetime. So, seasons of marriage, and children, of skills and production, of caring and being cared for, wax and wane. We have a marvelous skill of discernment of time, and we have only the need to take the time to put it to use. “Lord, teach me to number my days”.

Lies I Was Told

In the discussion on parenting styles, Mommy Wars (working moms vs. SAHM), twixter woes, and related topics, I thought I would list some of the lies I was told in my own generation ( tail-end of babyboomer). They went like this:

  • Don’t have more than two or three children
  • divorce is better for the kids than unhappy parents
  • You can’t afford more than two or three children
  • Making a home doesn’t count, having a stylish home base does
  • You are only as worthwhile as the paying job you hold
  • Being with children deadens your mind
  • You have power to mold your children contrary to any other factor
  • You will not be able to wait til they are in school!
  • You will have a life again as soon as your children are in another’s care
  • Your generation is different- and better
  • Old fashioned mores aren’t applicable anymore

Those were just the ones I grew up with, after becoming a Christian I took on a few more lies:

  • Children need discipline starting early- show them who is boss by making them “cry it out”( leaving them in the crib)
  • Your children should be exemplary examples of what you can do with them
  • They, and you, need to “act right” – the way the great WE deem best
  • Christian women who ‘work’ are better than Christian women who don’t
  • Volunteer for everything you can
  • Be at church every time the door opens
  • Don’t have so many children that it crimps your volunteer availability
  • Christians who dress right and dress well and who have children who do, are better
  • Women ought to shut up- especially you

The thing is, you have to wade through lies that don’t appear to be lies …everyone else is giving their lives to the same prospects…and you are all on one great lemming run together. Along the way are interventions of revelations, stop-and-view-the-results moments, harrowing experiences of seeing other people’s lives fall apart, and some honest looks at what your Bible really says; along with reading historical accounts of people and hearing speakers that found insights into alternatives. Supported with actual results.

But sadly, those last two examples are few, most is “live and learn”. It seems the norm for humans to go through phases of reassessment. In fact, maybe all these discussions on twixters? Maybe those are the reassessments of the thirty, forty and fifty somethings of today. Who are ready to give the very best five years of their lives to raising those ungrateful kids… and then feel they deserve a grand retirement with all the frills as compensation. Like their moms and dads received.


But, you know, life as we have known it in the past couple decades seems like an unusual blip on the history of the generations being responsible for and to each other. There is so much out of balance that the corrections look like they will be very harsh. I hope not, but I think that it will take more honesty than the present discussion has given forth. It will take more than snarky Simonisms, tongue-clucking, and slick commentary.

Perhaps it will take a social valor we find uncommon, in finding the course and staying true- with all the sacrifice that means for our own little kingdoms and fairy tale castles in the air. I am not sure we have the heart for it, to tell the truth.

Our lies have made us so comfortable….not unlike our kids……

Twixter : Yuppy Hothouse Produce

I could be very wrong in this. Very wrong. But I was following the discussion on “Twixters” a bit and it occurred to me that it is an unlikely phenomenom for large families like mine. I think what got me started on this line of thought was this phrase “A flat screen television, it seems, takes priority over getting an apartment and growing up. Besides, I’ll bet Mom does a great load of laundry and makes a mean lasagna.” From Kay R. Daly

When you have a big family it soon becomes obvious that you can’t play housemaid to more than two or three slovenly pigs. Oops. I mean pampered princelings and princesses. It is not humanly possible…. without making sure that at some point it is over. But the Yuppy lifestyle of fawning parenting along with a schedule that would drive presidents mad doesn’t allow for time or will to suffer stand-offs or mistake-laden training sessions in growing up.

However, in saying that, I must also say this: I read through the little list of parenting tips by Daly and I don’t know if she has any children past pre-school age, but I have to beg to differ with her. Some of her advice was a bit sophomoric. If that is all it takes to raise kids right more of us would have had an easier time of it.

It isn’t all the parents fault.

Although some of it is. And that goes back to my submission that each generation buys into certain lies and needs to get themselves out of that entanglement and onto a proven track.

You see I have raised children that are now in that Twixter generation, and they have struggled, though only one to the point of returning home for a temporary retooling of life choices. My kids were raised with hard work and having to earn their own way. They have been putting themselves through those overpriced educations and they have been taking care of their own expenses…since age 18. I don’t completely recommend that, but if you had drill-sargent me as a mom you would’ve seen that as freedom and paradise, too.

I am not raising the younger children with as much vinegar stringency as those first five. I have had to work very hard to strengthen ties and give guidance to my older ones… they would have accepted it better if I had not bought into such silly ideas as “letting babies sleep through the night”, and “first time obey”. Not all children are so compliant; boy, I wish I could have put someone with that idea for just one week in my household in those years. I had children that would have broken that idea quickly. I have a better suggestion: get the parents on the same page about how those children should be trained, and what is expected. Start there.

Earliest mothering needs to be intuitively felt along…. and completely supported by those closest to the mom. That doesn’t happen as much as it should and that is how you raise tiny babies…. Babies need pure love and as much as you can muster.

The lie that women just need quality rather than quantity time with their children…that there can be absentee parents and well adjusted children- I don’t believe it. I haven’t seen it. There are families that are bound together in united work ethics or causes… those can work and things like that, but if you aren’t bonded in some way, don’t kid yourself. Humans of good character and ability do not just happen. They are nurtured, somehow, someway.

But back to the Twixters…. I maintain that if we will not take a good hard look at our own misconceptions we sure won’t do much to rectify theirs… I think Jesus said something along that line:

First remove the beam from your own eye…. and then you will be ready to remove the splinter from anothers.

From generation to generation some things don’t change….


Vodkapundit, Steve Green is bemoaning -albeit apologetically- Kids Today. And he has company in linked Ed Driscoll‘s blog.

They, drawing off a Times essay on Twixters feel that children are overindulged into staying immature and irresponsible. That societal shifts have created a new and mystic environment.

I say it is the same old dilemmas dressed in new clothes. And my! What a wardrobe of fantasy garments are available.

The challenge for each new generation is to decipher their particular form of cultural lies that they are asked to buy into; but other than that, the themes of finding meaning, purpose, and belonging are quite familiar in the story of man.

It is just that today’s generation has been told that there are no markers to the path, and they are trying like mad to blaze a trail for themselves with marred maps and missing map legends.

So in the laundry list of parental mistakes and society’s shifts, which are the real cause for the pile of work we find before us?

How does that list look? Mostly like questions.
Continue reading Twixters?