Archive for March, 2012

I heard on the radio this morning a news story about a video trend exploding across the country on YouTube. It’s a video called “Do you think I’m pretty?” and apparently it goes something like this: 12 and 13-year-old girls are making videos of themselves, talking to the camera and telling a little bit about their friends – or lack thereof – at school. The question at the end of the video is, “Well, do you think I’m pretty? Or do you think I’m ugly? Tell me the truth.”

As of this morning there are over 4 million hits on these videos from thousands of adolescent girls across the country. Four million! The host of this particular morning show made an interesting point: “Whether or not a young girl believes she is pretty is one thing; but there is no way she can possibly be prepared for the avalanche of cruel comments that will be posted in response to her video. Even if she’s drop dead gorgeous, people will say mean things just because they can. And because there’s such tremendous anonymity on the internet, you can say anything you want and no one has to know who you are.”

This is cyber bullying on steroids. What young middle school-aged girl, already insecure and overly sensitive, is not going to obsess over every negative comment posted and then dismiss the positive ones? What is it in our psyche that makes us unable to appreciate our own selves? Not in a puffed-up arrogant way, but simply because we are uniquely our own. The radio host and his crew decided to focus on one particular video and traced the girl back to a city in Colorado. Frightening in and of itself, this opens up a whole new world to pedophiles and would-be traffickers that someone can be so easily tracked down from a video posted on the internet. When the crew called the mother and told her what they had watched featuring her daughter, the mother said she had no idea the video even existed.

Please hear me: I am not condemning this mother. No one can possibly know her story or why she didn’t know about the video. Maybe she’s a single mom working two or three jobs because a dead-beat dad walked out on his family. Maybe she’s struggling to slay her own dragons and has lost her child or children in the process. Maybe she wasn’t taught by her own family’s example how to be a good parent and she simply doesn’t know what to do or how to connect with her own kids.

My point is simply this: somewhere in this young girl’s mind and heart, she is desperate for someone to affirm her, validate her, and tell her what she longs to hear. “I am valuable to someone.” It goes way beyond physical appearance, although I would bet this is the only way she knows how to express her need for attention. Be better, be thinner, wear nicer clothes, be more popular, have prettier skin/hair/makeup. The list goes on and on and on.

What does it say about our society as human beings – created and designed for relationship – when our children are screaming into cyberspace for attention and affirmation? The internet is a wonderful tool, no doubt, but as with every other advance throughout human history, it must be kept in balance. We must ensure that it falls way down the list of priorities in our lives, and certainly not allow it to be the barometer for our children’s love and appreciation of themselves and each other.

I fear we are losing our children to a world, a society, an environment that is not even real. And the only way to protect them – to snatch them from the grip of a cyber-society that is nameless, faceless, and shameless – is to regularly connect with them. They need to hear our voice, they need to feel our touch, they need to see our smile and embrace the warmth of our approval.

A friend said to me recently, “You know, I’ve come to realize my children will never love me as much as I love them. They can’t comprehend that kind of love. They’re not made that way.” It was a stunning revelation. She’s right. But what really struck me as I chewed on that statement throughout the rest of the day is this: our Heavenly Father can say exactly the same thing about us. We will never love Him as much as He loves us. We can’t comprehend that kind of love.

Our love for each other and especially our children is broken at best. We all have wounds that shape and, unfortunately at times, define us. Our perception of ourselves and the lens through which we view and respond to the world and people around us has to constantly be checked, evaluated, and adjusted. And I’ve found a great place to work on those adjustments: the word of God.  Check it out:

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Psalm 139:13-16 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Isaiah 49:16 “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Luke 12:7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

We humans are a fantastic mix of fragility and strength. We endure excruciating physical and emotional pain, we accomplish the seemingly impossible, and we press on against insurmountable odds. But at our core, in our heart, we are as fragile as a word, a look, a touch. And no one knows this better than the One who gave us our very breath. So walk gently with the world around you.

The mark you leave behind may very well be a permanent one.

The Beauty of Transition

Our house recently went under contract. We’ve lived here for a little over nine years. It’s been on the market for awhile and we’ve had lots of traffic – mornings, evenings, and weekends. Although I do draw the line on an 8:30 a.m. showing on Saturday morning (no, you may not show my house unless your client is able to overlook the fact that we are all still in bed sleeping.) I receive phone calls that go something like this:

Real estate agent: “Mrs. Hood, My name is [realtor]. I’d like to show your house this afternoon between [specific 2-hour window]. Would that be convenient?”

What I say: “Oh yes, that will be fine. Thank you for calling. If you would please give us a call when you leave the house you’re showing before ours, I will round up my family so we can be out of your way. Thank you so much.”

What I’m thinking: “dear Lord, is there any way I can get the dishes washed and put away, the beds made, the floors vacuumed, and the smell of last night’s bacon out of the house in two hours????”

It really hasn’t been that bad. The downside is we have two very active children who invite friends over after school several days a week. Between football, cheer leading, and baseball our house looks like a sports equipment and spirit wear store. Challenging does not begin to describe my attitude towards keeping the house ‘show ready’. The upside is everyone in the house has learned what their duties are when we get ‘the phone call’. We go into action like little army ants planning our strategy for a summer attack on a family picnic.

The dilemma comes now as I begin to reduce nine years of our lives to boxes. My youngest son learned to walk in this house; my oldest son got his first car while we lived here; my daughter became a competition cheerleader and survived her first crush (not at the same time, thank you very much). School papers and projects, daily writing assignments from when my children were in kindergarten, random broken things stuffed into the back of a drawer (how did this end up in here? I ask myself), gift receipts from Christmases long past, cards for every possible occasion, and dried up homemade play-dough that could easily be used as a hockey puck or murder weapon – take your pick.

Admittedly, it is frustrating. It seems the more I pack the more I find that needs to be packed. Some things are easy: the Christmas china which comes out the day after Thanksgiving and is put away on New Year’s Day; the multitude of extra blankets and sheets I keep on hand because – actually, I don’t know why I have so many; picture frames that don’t have pictures in them yet; and a host of recipe books that I haven’t opened in years, mainly because my brother is a chef and when I want to try something new, I call him.

There’s also a wonderful feeling that comes from going through all the stuff of life. No doubt about it, memories are one of the great joys of digging around in drawers and cabinets. A first tooth; pictures from vacation or a backyard cookout; birthday and anniversary cards; movie ticket stubs; DVDs from when my kids were toddlers; a special piece of jewelry. Christmas mornings and letters from Santa, birthday celebrations, Super Bowl parties, and Friday night pizza have all made their mark on our home. Packing all the things we will take with us as we transition is a beautiful reminder that we have built a life. It’s real, it’s tangible, I have proof!

My daughter decided to give away most of her substantial stuffed animal collection to our local Good Will store. At first, I questioned whether she would regret that decision. But her comment to me settled it. She said, “Mom, I know all the names I gave them. I don’t need to have them anymore to remember how much I loved them.” Wow. If this were a movie, the previous scene would have played out something like this:

Mom, looking sentimental while fidgeting back and forth on her feet, questions daughter’s decision to give away her stuffed animal collection.

Daughter, dropping her shoulders and tilting her head, makes profound statement regarding said animals.

Mom stares blankly, realizing daughter is light-years ahead of her when it comes to perspective.

For my son, this is a wild, new, wonderful adventure. He has willingly trekked around with us as we scope out new places and is careful to find something good to say until he can confirm our opinion. Then the truth comes out. “Whew! I was hoping you would hate that one. I felt like I had to squish my shoulders together just to walk down the hall!” LOL. He is forever my thinker, processor, and balancer. He wants to make sure everyone is good before he tells you what he’s really thinking. Once he knows he’s in safe water, though, hold on to your hat. He’s gonna’ let you have it with both barrels.

Suffice it to say we are approaching this new chapter with sentiment, sweat, and a little apprehension (couldn’t think of an ‘s’ word to go there. I hate it when that happens!) I know that we will find just the right place, at just the right time. I have no doubt that after a few home cooked meals, some shared laughter, a family celebration or two, and a few of my children’s friends over for a spend the night party, our new house will become home. And I’m reminded that as long as we’re a family, it doesn’t matter where we transition to.

What matters is that we do it together.

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