Are You Confident?

Confidence.  I think about this word today because I read a story about a woman who changed her hair color.  She became so much more confident.  A silly thing–an external change–altered her perception of herself and influenced how she interacted with others.  

I look up the word.  Confidence means you have assurance about yourself and your abilities.  But where does it come from?  Why are some folks so confident?  They move forward with a security–a trust–that they can launch out into new frontiers with sure success.

Others have ideas that flicker out like snuffed flames because they can’t imagine themselves ever really doing what they want so badly to do. They cower under the reality of potential criticism, inexperience, and insecurity. 

As I imagine a picture of confidence, I realize that confidence comes from the deeply held belief that we’re unconditionally accepted, equipped, and commissioned by God to do things.  If we fail, it doesn’t matter: we’re accepted (and even in failure, God works out a favorable outcome).  If we feel inadequate: we remember God equips (and in our limitations, God shines).  If we feel uncertain: we recall that God has set apart the good works for us to accomplish. We’re commissioned.   

When my writing book showed up on amazon, I had a moment of sheer terror.  It was public.  I was going to be mocked!  I was going to fail and forever go down in history as the poor woman who tried to write a book (in reality, nobody really thinks about us as much as we imagine).  But when I picture the confident me–the one whose confidence rests in God who does not fail us–I took a deep breath and remembered the truth. 

Living with flair means we cultivate a picture of confidence.  What do we want to do that a simple lack of confidence hinders? 

Journal:  What takes our confidence away?


Your Fresh Start

This morning my daughter brings out her whiteboard easel and draws me a coconut palm.  She says, “Mom, you will love this.” My coconut obsession has infiltrated my daughter’s imagination. 

She carefully chooses the right dry erase markers.  A whiteboard offers the kind of freedom and mistake-proof activity just right for her age.  Permanent errors do not exist with whiteboards.  You just start fresh with a simple wipe of a cloth. 

“Let’s start fresh,” is a phrase we repeat in our family, not just with the whiteboard, but after disagreements, complaining, failures, or bad moods.  We give a hug and say again, “Let’s start fresh.”

Reading about whiteboards, we discover that the non-porous surface means the ink cannot sink in, and even if it could, the dry erase markers have a chemical compound that makes the ink dry too fast for staining.  So the color rests on top, and you can wipe it away, leaving no residue on the surface.

Living with flair means we work as a whiteboard.  No matter what happens today, we can start fresh right now.  This failure doesn’t sink in and doesn’t stain.  We don’t let it.  We start fresh. 

Journal:  Who needs a fresh start today?


The Exploding Green Waffles and Why I’m Making Memories

I’m not crafty, imaginative, or even energetic when it comes to holidays.  I wish I were a mom who decorated better, thought of more exciting traditions, and planned memorable and delicious meals.

I’m not that kind of mom.

But when it comes to children, even the tiniest (and I mean tiniest) efforts don’t go unnoticed.  I learned that from my Halloween Boo Platter that became public school legend.

I stir the waffle mix and let my daughter add a few drops of green food coloring for St. Patrick’s day.  She can’t stop giggling.  I’m starting to worry, however, that this isn’t going to work.  

We pour way too much into the waffle maker. (See?  I can’t even get this right!) The children scream and run around the kitchen to alert me to the explosion.  

Then I realize something:  I guarantee that this time next year, my daughters will remember the exploding waffle maker that oozed green slime.  Can it be that my mistakes make this a beautiful memory?  

Eventually, the waffles are ready.  But I’ve made green waffles that don’t really look that green.  Plus, they exploded out of the machine.  

We are celebrating St. Patrick’s day with almost green waffles.

It doesn’t matter that they aren’t even that green.

It doesn’t matter that they aren’t even that well-shaped.

What my daughters really care about–what really makes this memory–is the exploding waffle maker.

And that was the easy part.  I didn’t even have to try for that one.   

Journal:  What tiny embellishments (or failures!) can make a lasting memory? 


A Very Public Failure for My Daughter

Yesterday, Barnes and Noble slates my daughter to perform a piano piece as part of a fundraiser for the Music Academy.  Neighbors come, cameras focus, and parents beam.

But when it is her turn to perform, my daughter bursts into tears and freezes.  She cannot even approach the piano.

Instead of forcing her onto the piano bench, we gather up her blue puffy coat and the sheet music in her red tote bag and travel home as fast as we can.  

She slumps into the house and says over and over again, “I couldn’t do it!”  She cries and falls onto the couch.  She writes apology notes to the neighbors and her piano teacher. 

And then something beautiful happens.  The neighbors send messages that they went to the event to support her, and it didn’t matter whether she performed or not.  She could turn away from a thousand stages, and they’d still come every time.  My daughter, not her performance, mattered. 

Her piano teacher calls to tell her that learning the piano isn’t about performance.  She tells my daughter that she can choose when, if, and why she wants to perform at all.  Learning the piano has intrinsic value as an end in itself.  The goal was never public applause, flashing camera bulbs, and bragging parents.

Nobody is disappointed. 

My daughter nods with understanding.  She wipes her face and remembers that she loves to make music.   And I remember the gospel truth with every comforting phone call:  it was never about performance.  God’s love and favor are never dependent on my good performances.  The sooner children learn this, the more they might relax into the freedom that comes with being unconditionally loved, accepted, and valued.

I ask my daughter for permission to tell her story.  She says, “Sure, Mom!”  It doesn’t bother her anymore.  She knows now that it’s never about performance.  And it isn’t a public failure after all. 

Journal:  Am I tempted to believe my worth is in my performance?


Doing Everything Exactly Wrong

I’m reading a book to my daughter that mentions a bunny with a nose that wiggles.  I learn that a bunny wiggles her nose for a very curious reason.  It’s not to help her breathe, smell, or provide any obvious help.  Apparently, a rabbit wiggles her nose only when she’s attentive.  The more interested a rabbit is in something, the faster her nose wiggles.

A thrilled bunny, caught in wonder, wiggles her nose.

My daughter turns to me and says, “Mom, am I doing it?”  She’s right up against my face, her nose touching mine.

I lean back and observe her.  She’s moving everything except her nose.  “Sweetheart, you’re moving your eyebrows up and down, not your nose,” I tell her.  She then puffs her cheeks, puckers her lips, wrinkles her chin, and even blinks her eyes rapidly.

But she can’t get the nose to wiggle.

She focuses, going cross-eyed looking down upon her nose.  I hold her face, offer some advice, and wait. I consider the task before her and realize the difficulty of mastering that particular movement.  She does it exactly wrong as part of learning the skill.  By a process of elimination, she figures it out. Finally, she moves her nose and her little nostrils flare a few times.   

This won’t be the last time we go about getting it right by getting it all wrong first.  How many times in my own life have I done everything exactly wrong on my way to figuring it all out?

Doesn’t God hold my face close, waiting with me–patiently directing– as I get it right?  My little one, that curious bunny hopping about, wiggling her nose, reminds me that living with flair means I sometimes do everything exactly wrong as I explore this great world with wonder.  And that helps me get it right eventually.


When You Feel Unstable

I’ve been walking a lot lately.  This morning I woke up thinking about a quote from Oliver Wendall Holmes:   

Walking, then, is a perpetual falling with a perpetual selfrecovery. It is a most complex, violent, and perilous operation. . . 

When I walk, I deliberately destabilize myself, catch myself with the next foot, and repeat the process.  This is how I get places. 

I stroll all alone down my street and then up the big hill.  As I walk, I crunch the fallen and abandoned acorn tops with my shoes.  That crackle of flattened cupule (the lovely word for the acorn shell) delights me somehow.   My gait looks silly–Chaplinesque without the cane–wobbly and off-kilter as I seek out shells to flatten.

It’s a little dangerous and slippery.  The shells cover the walkway and make me aware of my steps.  I’m smiling with the game of it.  Here I am, falling and recovering, leaving a wake.  I’m unstable and then stable.  But I’m still in the game. 

Later, I arrive at the school doors and begin the walk home with two girls by my side.   We three crunch acorn shells, each in our own segment of sidewalk.  That microcosmic movement–walking–as a perpetual falling and recovery showcases the complexity of our whole journey.  We fall; we recover; we get to crunch acorns on the way. 

PS–I’m thankful for days of walking.  For those who cannot walk today, I honor your journey.   And for those in rehabilitation and physical therapy, I’ve learned from Holmes just how difficult that process is. Keep up the hard work!  May God quicken your recovery!   


The Best Definition of Courage

My daughter and I were talking about taking her training wheels off and learning to ride a bike.  She became very quiet and said, “You know, Mom, little hills mean little boo-boos.  And big hills mean big boo-boos.”

I said, “So I guess you want to avoid the big hills on your bike.” 

She paused and said, “Oh, no.  It just means we need a bigger first aid kit.”

There you have it:  Courage means I ride full speed ahead, anticipate the wounds, and prepare with a great first aid kit.  For my daughter it means Hello Kitty band aids.  For the rest of us, it might mean we fill our kits with authentic friendships, strong ties to a community, a vibrant relationship to God, and the kind of space to heal.  It’s not the height of the hill that matters.  It’s not the danger, the risk, or the potential for failure.  Wounds are likely.   So I build the best first aid kit I can.  That’s some 5 year old flair.