Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Still LoLo by Lauren Scruggs

I snagged Still Lolo last month from Costco's book table and stuffed it in my own Christmas stocking. Lauren's story caught my attention a little over a year ago when our local radio stations spread news of her horrific accident of being struck by an airplane propeller.

The accident occurred on my birthday, Dec 3, 2011, and it came up in conversation with my parents and brothers a few weeks later as we gathered for Christmas. Around the kitchen island of my parents' home, which is situated in an airport community with a large hangar attached to their home,  I relayed shock that this beautiful young woman from Dallas was in serious condition after walking into a propeller. As a flying family, we felt a surge of empathy for the family. My pilot-brother Trey responded, "Well of course, the airplane's prop is completely invisible when it's going."

It must have been a tremendous labor of love to get this story down for all of us readers.
Why I'm grateful for the Scruggs' efforts:
- It's an interesting, intriguing story. While the accident of course highlights a crescendo to this family's suffering, there's much more to this story than the accident. It's one of their family as a whole - parents and both daughters - living each day to bring glory to God as a family. With mistakes, with pitfalls, but with a community of deep friends and deep grace.
- The Scruggs are from Dallas, so it's familiar to me: the neighborhoods, the hospitals, the landmarks, and many of the people involved in their story personalizes it a bit for me.
- I can hear Lauren's voice in the writing. She's funny and intelligent, and I laughed out loud and cried (probably cried more) reading her words.
- The collaborative style of chapters written by Lauren, her father, her mother, and her sister WORKS. It envelops readers into this family's story with incredible depth as we get multiple viewpoints. Marcus Brotherton, the mastermind behind this project, succeeded in fitting all the puzzle pieces of information and personalities and viewpoints together for crafting a seamless, intimate story.
- Lauren sharing her personal encouragement from reading Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner, which I just ordered on amazon this morning.
- I admire Lauren's mom, Cheryl, for several reasons. First is her humility in rebuilding her marriage as she came to know Christ after their divorce. But also because she recognized in Lauren a free spirit, and encouraged her to take time off from college for a creative pursuit in NY. She prioritized Lauren's off-beat personality and natural bent in determining how to encourage her daughter. From what I see in my own children, I anticipate that Corbin and I will have opportunities for that kind of parenting with at least one of our creative / free spirit kiddos.
- Lauren's sister, Brittany, emerges as a silent hero in this story, one that probably doesn't want to be in the spotlight. Her constant support and love inspires. And I'm touched by the closeness of these twins. 
- Title of the book - perfect. Still Lolo.
- Includes the bonus of a great look-book with full-color recent photos of Lauren, illustrates her journey to healing.

I purchased this book (instead of checking out from the library) because I want it in our home library. I want Basden and Esther to see Lauren's book on our shelves, to see her beautiful photos and read her beautiful words. I want them to reach for this book a few years from now and ingest the honest story of a very real, very normal modern-day hero. And I use the word hero with Lauren because by demonstrating courage and hope in the face of great tragedy, she lifts our eyes to the eternal ~ how normal, every-day people fight to keep hope in a God who does not, does not disappoint.

Finally, I think this endorsement sums up how I feel about Still Lolo:
"God often gives stories to strengthen the weary heart.  I think you'll find this story to be one of those." - Matt Chandler

A few more links -
Lolo Magazine - Lauren's e-magazine on fashion, food and fitness, launched shortly before her accident
Lauren's blog - (great!) inspiration out loud
Lauren's "I am Second" video
Jeff & Cheryl Scruggs- Hope Matters Marriage Ministries
Marcus Brotherton's blog - a gem

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Candid Confessions of An Imperfect Parent

I like this guy.
I don't remember how I came across Jonathon McKee's site, probably from an article he'd posted somewhere else, but I have kept up with his writings now for awhile. What hooked me on McKee's blog is that this former youth pastor researches teen culture, then passes on the important stuff to parents and youth leaders. I've learned about pop lyrics, pop artists, school dances, and all kinds of things through Jonathon's writings.
And now that I've finished his book, Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, I'm glad for the resource.
I am always, always encouraged by parents whose priority is to raise their family set apart.

What I liked:
- Includes some practical tips on investing in our kids during the teen years. One of my fav chapters is titled, "Hot Tubs and Nail Salons ~ Arenas where Communication is Cultivated." McKee encourages parents to be intentional in creating a regular platform for communicating with and building into our kiddos.
- His charge to parents to not give up, that even (especially!) during the teen years, to not give up and give in to lowering boundaries.
- McKee and his wife have three children ~ one in college and two in high school, so they're a step ahead of our family but still very much "in the trenches" of raising teens.
- He's doing the work for us ~ keeping us up to date on billboard music and teen trends. It is so helpful to be armed with information, even if we're not faced with that particular situation. It's a relief to be proactive and knowledgeable.
- Plenty of comic relief. Some laugh-out-loud stories, one in particular regarding a summer camp experience and BB guns that I read out loud to my boys.
-  McKee's parenting style meshes with those of us who love and appreciate the way Young Life loves kids. Relationship, relationship, relationship. And building that relationship in a consistent, gradual, day by day manner.
- This book would benefit families regardless of public, private or home school choices. But in the public school arena where our kiddos are exposed to so much, I am comforted by McKee's birds-eye view into what teens are dealing with these days, as well as his prodding to live set apart. I'm also comforted that he and his wife are navigating their children not to fear the world's culture, but to simply keep aware of it and live a life set apart.

What I didn't like:
The title. It's cute and catchy, but misleading. Naming the book, "Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent" demonstrates that McKee is indeed "in the trenches" and doesn't claim to have all the answers. But that demeanor surfaces clearly through his writing. I don't think the title captures the book's true message, as the focus is not that he's confessing to be imperfect, but instead he's providing encouragement and training for our journey in building deep relationships with our kids. His subtitle, "Building Relationships, Buying Breakfasts, and other Secrets for Connecting with Your Teenager" (too long for a title) suits the book much better.
Not a big deal. And worth the read!

McKee's website, The Source for Youth Ministry, is chock-full of resources - book lists, articles, movie and music discussions, etc. 
You can also subscribe to his blog at jonathanmckeewrites.com.

Again, McKee's bottom line in this whole parenting journey is building relationships with our kids. And these years are truly flying. I'm encouraged by Jonathan to know my children, to make TIME to spend together. Find a hot tub or a nail salon!