PARENTING FROM THE VIEW OF TEENAGER

It’s Not About Me

The Makings of a Prima Donna:

I am the middle child, the only girl, and my love language is quality time; so you can bet that I get a lot of attention. I’m the only girl on my dad’s side of the family, and there’s one other girl on my mom’s side. I’ve never had to fight for attention.

On top of the attention I get at home, I’ve grown up on the stage. By the end of my senior year, I will have been in thirty-one stage productions. As a kid, I would sing for anyone and everyone. I have grown up in the spotlight.

This being said, my parents have had to figure out a way to let me thrive in the spotlight without becoming a diva. It’s a delicate thing to handle. If they lifted me up too much, I would get arrogant; but if they didn’t praise enough, I would think I wasn’t good enough. How does one handle this? I’ll tell you.

Who is the Real Star?

My family has never shied away from reminding me of my talents. They’ve always been very supportive. However, the never let me forget who the real star is. My parents would remind me by asking these questions:

  • Who gave you your talent?
  • Who should you perform for?
  • Who deserves the glory?
  • Who can take your talents away?
  • Who is the real star?

The answer to all of these questions is Jesus.

My parents have never once allowed me to take the credit for a performance. They have always gushed over all of my performances, but they never let me take the credit. This, I think, is the greatest service they have ever done for me.

On My Own, I’m Nothing:

I have never thought of myself as superior to anyone else. People shine their lights in different ways; mine just happens to be a very public way. I’m not any better than anyone else.

I’ve never once thought that I got to where I am by my own talents. I know that any success I have is solely by the Grace of God. I’ll work hard to try to succeed, but I know that I won’t get anywhere unless it’s His plan. I also know that any talents I have can be taken away. Talents aren’t a right; they’re a privilege. I constantly pray that I won’t forget the only reason why I perform, which is to glorify God. I pray that I don’t get caught up in my own ego, and that God gives me the patience and the self-control to be able to shine His light when I’m off the stage even more so than when I’m on it.

“Be Their Mallory”…

“Be their Mallory…” is a phrase I hear quite often. My mom says this to remind me that I have the opportunity to impact the lives of those who are younger than me by giving them my attention and loving on them.

To be someone’s Mallory- to look past popularity, influence, age, success, etc. to show a younger, less fortunate, or impressionable person the love of Christ by showing kindness, love, patience, and humility; paying attention to them, letting them feel loved and special, and disregarding your own comfort or feelings in order to make an impact on their life; seizing the opportunity to make someone else feel loved and cared about; using personal success, popularity, influence, age, etc. as a tool to build up someone else.

The phrase, “Be their Mallory” Or, “You are her/his Mallory” refers to the girl who impacted my life when I was a kid. Her name was Mallory. We did CYT Atlanta when I was in elementary school and she was in high school. We were in The Chronicles of Narnia, where she played the White Witch and I played a chorus member in her entourage, and Seussical the Musical, where she played The Sour Kangaroo and I was a Cadet Chorus member.

I was a weird kid, y’all. I was painfully awkward. I said weird things, I did weird things; if I met the me from back then, now, I wouldn’t like me at all. I was really, really weird. But I enjoyed every moment of every rehearsal. The older kids, for the most part, were very nice to me, despite my behavior. Some of the other girls who were always nice were Rachel Walls, Katie Pruitt, Megan Hoag, and another girl whose name I can’t remember. These girls were very nice. They were sweet, when they could’ve easily been awful to me. But Mallory is who I will always remember.

The others were all very sweet, but I knew that they were just trying to be nice. Mallory always looked genuinely happy to see me. I really felt like she liked me. In CYT we would have little bags that you could put notes or gifts into, and she would send me one or two little messages that said, “I love you, girly!” or “You’re doing great!” or something like that. I don’t remember her doing anything other giving me hugs, giving me attention, and sending those little messages. But that was more than enough to have the biggest impact anyone has ever had on my life, outside of my family. It was such a big deal to me that an eighteen year-old, popular, star like her would give a third-grader nobody like me. I was confident and had plenty of friends, but there was just something about being noticed by someone like her that made me feel special. I just remember how loved she made me feel.

Of course, the way she treated me made a huge impact on my life back then, but the real impact hit several years later when I became a teenager. I started to have an understanding of how the older kids felt when I was a kid. And then I realized how incredibly annoying I was back then. Not only was I weird and awkward, I was hyper, impulsive, and irritating. I was that kid. I was probably such a pain to be around, but that’s what makes it so amazing.

Not only did Mallory go out of her way to be kind and loving, she had the patience and compassion do so despite my behavior.  The problem with being nice to impressionable little kids, is that they follow you around… everywhere. They don’t have that social sensor that tells them when they need to leave a big kid alone. I remember following her around everywhere. I always wanted to be around her because she treated me so well. I adored her. And she never once lost patience with me. I never in a million years would’ve guessed that I was probably driving her crazy. She showed me the love of Christ rather or not she wanted to.

She didn’t have to treat me the way she did. She could’ve been mean, or just ignored me, but she didn’t. She chose use her popular, star-status to make girls like me feel like a million bucks. It never even occurred to me that she treated anyone else the way she treated me. She was probably just as nice to every other girl, but it felt like I was the only one who she paid attention to.

She graduated from high school when I was in fourth grade and I haven’t seen her since. I’ve looked for her on all of the social media sites, but I haven’t found her. She will probably never know how much she means to me, or the depth of the impact she made on my life.

When I realized the sacrifice she made in order to treat me with the love of Christ, I knew that it would be my goal and my privilege to do the same thing for as many people as I could. Because of Mallory, I know how much of an influence I can have on a kid’s life because of her influence in mine. I know how it made me feel, so I know it could make someone else feel.

Now, I am the age Mallory was when she touched my life. I look at these kids who are at the age I was and I see people who can grow up to carry on the cycle that started with Mallory. I do my best to make them feel loved, in hopes that one day they’ll do the same for the next generation. It can be very hard to be patient sometimes. Kids can be really annoying, and it’s worse when they won’t leave you alone. It can be very frustrating. But anytime I start to lose patience, I think of how many times Mallory was patient with me. If she could do it with me, I can do it with them.

I am so thankful that I have the understanding of what us teenagers can do. My goal throughout my high school/middle school experience has been to be someone’s “Mallory”; to make them feel as loved as I did.

Mallory’s influence is one of the main things that have kept my ego in check. I look at success and popularity as an opportunity to make a bigger impact, instead of it being a personal goal. I know that any popularity and success God allows me to have is a privilege; a tool that I can use to show Jesus to those around me by my actions and words. With it, comes the privilege and responsibility of using it to shine the Light of Christ and bring Him the glory. It has nothing to do with me.

Out of My Control:

You’d think that, as a performer, I wouldn’t like the idea that I’ll only perform as well as God allows me. I do all of the warm-ups and exercises I need to get ready to perform; but even if I do everything perfectly, if it’s in God’s plan that I fail, nothing I can do will stop that from happening.

I believe that everything that happens has a purpose. Every little thing is a piece of God’s puzzle. So it gives me great comfort to know that He is in control of everything. I do the prep work, but in the end it’s all up to God. If perform and I fail by my standards, I have peace in knowing that I did exactly as well as God intended. That goes along with one of the questions at the top: “Who should you perform for?” My audience could be a room with four people or an auditorium with hundreds; but, either way, I perform for an audience of one. And that one Person is the only one who matters. He is the one who gave me my abilities in the first place.

If I have to sing with a cold, I do my best despite the cold, but with peace in knowing that God has a plan, and His plan is perfect. So if that means I bring the house down, than God will make it happen. I will only do as well as God allows. He gives me the talent, and He will use it in any way that He sees fit.

 It’s  a Privilege, Not a Right:

My parents have done a great job with teaching me about humility. They love what I can do, but they make sure I remember that I am just a piece of God’s puzzle. Any time they have affirmed what I can do, they redirect the glory to God and remind me that He is the one who allows me to do what I can do. Regardless of who you are, your talents or special abilities aren’t a right, they’re a privilege- a very special privilege.

Unfortunately, we-as sinful creatures- forget that all of the glory belongs to Jesus Christ. A great example of this is my love for a vocalist named David Phelps. I love David Phelps. I border-line idolize him. It’s a problem, really. David Phelps is to me what Justin Bieber is to adolescent girls. If I go to a Gaither Vocal Band concert and listen to David Phelps sing He’s Alive, it is so easy to let the powerful lyrics that carry the world’s greatest message slip past me and focus all of my attention on the near perfection of David Phelps. That’s like getting a letter in the mail and putting all of the attention on the envelope. David Phelps is successful and freakishly talented, but he’s still just a piece of God’s puzzle.

Humility Smothers Jealously:

I’m very thankful that I’ve never really struggled with jealousy. Nothing is more toxic to a person than jealously. Jealousy has been the cause of many awful events throughout history such as Cain killing Abel, and Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery. Jealousy can cause people to do terrible things.

In the performance world, jealousy is pretty much inevitable. If you’re not jealous, someone else is. Acting arrogant in front of someone who is jealous of you would be like spraying WD-40 on a lit match; it acts as an accelerant. However, humility smothers jealousy.

A great example of this is my relationship with a lady named Beverly Pruitt. Bev and I are both in the adult choir at First Redeemer Church. She is relatively new to the choir. I met Bev during a rehearsal for a praise team special. She was super sweet, so I liked her right off the bat. When it was time to start practicing for the Christmas Spectacular, I practiced and practiced and practiced this one song that I was going to audition for. Long story short, I bombed the audition… like badly. I didn’t get any solos, and Bev got the one I wanted so badly. Bev came out of nowhere. All of the sudden she started getting lots of solos, and quickly became a favorite. It probably would’ve hard for me to not feel a hint of jealousy, since I’d been in the chior for longer and then she popped in out of nowhere and became the favorite. In the performing world, someone like her, who becomes so successful basically overnight, can easily step on other peoples toes. But her attitude made it impossible for me (and everyone else) to feel anything other than joy for her success. She is beautiful and talented and popular, and everybody absolutely loves her. She is probably the most liked person in the whole choir. If you were to talk to Bev, you would feel like you were talking to your biggest fan. I’ve never met anyone like her. Everyone knows how talented and popular she is, but you’ll find no trace of an ego in her. She’s so sweet and down to earth that it’s impossible not to love her. When you leave a conversation with Bev, you feel better about yourself because she treats you like she’s honored to be talking to you. It’s crazy. Because of her genuine humility, everyone adores her. Everyone wants her to succeed. She shines the light of Christ everywhere she goes, and spreads the love of Jesus in everything she does. I’ve learned a lot from Bev. She is a perfect example of how important humility is.

“Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.” –Proverbs 29:23

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