Friday, March 4, 2011

Bieber Fever - (Part 1 of 3)

"Alright then, what's your favorite Justin Bieber song?" I asked the girls in a tone that indicated I'd given up trying to stay aloof. They talk about this guy so much and know all his songs, and I am at the point now that I realize I must re-enter the toxic world of the female teenage mind, at the risk my own sanity. I know… love does crazy things.

"Bieber fever" has taken the nation by storm, and captured the crazed hormones of teenaged girls everywhere… including the handful of dear African girls in our youth group. This phenomenon is not new. I am old enough to know that other singers and bands have blazed this trail before, from Elvis Presley, to The Beatles, to The Backstreet Boys… and I'm young enough to admit that I too got caught up in the boy bands of my own generation. Cute boys with cool hair cuts, flirty lyrics, and great moves will always have a mysterious power over young girls – it's happened so many times that I'm almost convinced that it's part of the curse and the first Adam would have been a member of N*Sync, crooning love songs and making Eve swoon every time he said the word "Baby."

I sigh when I recall the blind obsessions of me and my girl friends ten and fifteen years ago, and my first thought is that the male population needs a lesson in chivalry. Since I cannot accomplish that, I wish I could just put my arm around my girls now, look them in the eye, and say, "Knock it off… it's not real, it won't last, and it's a waste of energy that you could be spending developing your own noble and honorable character for a real man who will some day say these words and actually mean them for you and you alone." But wisdom and reason sometimes take a backseat when a girl can look at a wall-poster of a handsome face that won't leave or stop smiling at her, or when she can listen to a smooth voice on the radio every night singing that she is the only girl for him. So how do we as leaders deal with the next one-hit-wonder and Pied Piper of pop music? My theory is "Validate and Guide."

So, back to the original question… we're all sitting around the table together eating ice cream, and I scoop up a big bite, anticipating the girls arguing over which of the boy-wonder's songs they love the most. But before I can get my spoon to my mouth, they practically say one word simultaneously – "Pray!" "Oh man, Pray is such a good song… it always makes me cry… I love that song…" Some of the girls start singing the lyrics and dancing. Interesting… I think to myself and make a mental note to look it up later… enter the danger zone now – look out, Bieber world, here I come!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Productive Day

My definition of a productive day is when I write a long to-do list the night before, and then take great pleasure the next day in marking each item off the list one by one until they are all completed... before I go to bed that night. To-do list in hand, I had good intentions this morning. And then...

I had breakfast. With Jo-Lien. My breakfast was a healthy bowl of Special K, with berries and yogurt. Mmmm... and it makes the milk turn pink in the end. Which Jo-Lien was fascinated by. So I spooned up a little milk and held it out for him to try. He loved it so much that he lapped up every last drop of it! Then he smelled my Pumpkin Spice Chai tea, which naturally smells marvelous. So I spooned up a little tea and held it out for him to try. He made a terrific face - very much like my own face when I tasted tamarin leaf tea. Yuck! I laughed and shook my head, note to self - no chai for the kids. But then Jo-Lien took my spoon, dunked it in my cup and very carefully held up a spoonful of tea for me to drink. I let him feed me just as I fed him, and we got through about half the cup that way, both giggling and spilling tea all over. So breakfast took about an hour longer than planned...

Then Pastor Meng Pu came over for ESL class. I had planned to move forward in great progressive steps toward a greater understanding of (ironically enough) time, but the poor man was stuck on properly pronouncing the English  "Th" sound... didn't really help that one days of our week have that sound in them and that in ordinal numbers, most dates end with it... just picture a twenty-minute lesson on sticking your tongue out! Pretend you have sweater fuzz on your tongue, I tried to communicate... oh, the spraying that occurred in the process! Once he got it, after laughing until we were crying, he said, "Oh tank you teacher Connie! Hallelujah! Amen! Tank you!" More laughter as I corrected him - "Thhhhhhhhhhhank you!" So much for a greater understanding of time...

Then the boys took a nap, so Lian wanted some girl time, so she made coffee and we sat and talked for about two hours... about middle names. She is so frustrated, for Burmese names are not like American names, and Americans don't seem to understand that. She has three names: Dim Ngaih Lian. But all three names are important. They aren't like first, middle, and last names for us. So shortening it to Dim Lian is not really ok. It would be like making my name Con Ler. This presents problems at important places such as banks. So I listened and nodded and sympathized and drank my coffee for two hours as she vented in broken English about her middle name, or lack of...

Now it is time to have some soup and go to youth night! Where did my day go?? I spent most of it at the dining room table, talking like Daffy Duck ("thhhhufferin' thhhhhhhuckatash!"), making a mess with a two year old, and learning to be sensitive to the value of names in other cultures. I love days like this. I love that even though only a couple things were marked off my to-do list, it was still a full, productive day. I love living life in Little Burma.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Women

This weekend the youth night girls went roller skating and had ice cream sundaes! It was hilariously fun and so special. Our times together have become more and more precious to me, and I find myself loving them deeper, the more I get to know them. They've told me that I'm like their "Momma," because of the way I look out for them and care about them. While that makes me feel old - I'm used to titles more like "sister" or "aunt" - it also makes me feel special. I've never really considered myself particularly maternal before, but when it comes to my girls, I feel like I have strength and courage and love enough to fearlessly fight a lion to rescue them. I want to see them become who God created them to be - to overflow with joy, to live in freedom and grace, to make decisions driven by love and rippling with inspiration, to leave a dent in the universe. "Yeah," I think to myself with a smile, "yeah, I think I could handle being like a momma to them."

I've been thinking this morning about the girls God's put in my life over the years... amazing, beautiful little women, so full of life and love. It seems to be a pattern, and I've been so blessed. They've been girls that have warmed my heart with hugs and help, broken my heart with choices to walk away, challenged me with stories and examples, made me crazy with their decisions that I thought unwise, encouraged me with their faithfulness and courage. We've studied God's word together, baked together, pulled pranks together, prayed for each other, held each other accountable, laughed and cried and really lived life together. They are girls I will stand by and fight for, and they will always be part of my family. Different girls have come in and out of my life for different reasons and seasons...

IVCF Girls' Small Group - Greensboro, 2003

TCF Teen Girls' Bible Study - Winston-Salem, 2010

Now I have a small group of girls from a new generation, from other parts of the world, with different histories than any girls I've loved before. They have their own challenges to overcome, their own passions to channel, their own dreams to persue. I'm so thankful I get to share this part of their lives with them, and I pray that I can watch and be a part of something incredible that God will do in and through them.

I-House Youth Girls' Night - Fort Wayne, 2011