Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Wanna Be Like Mom

My oldest will be nine next month.  She is a little firecracker--tough and athletic while also tender and caring.  A few months ago, she mentioned that she wanted to get her hair cut like mine.  I keep my hair short and even have it shaved some in the back.  My hair is really thick and the texture is not the same as hers, and I haven't felt like the look would work for her.

The time she first asked, I told her no and she opted for a shorter do than normal but still longer than mine.  She then wanted to grow it out for a few months before deciding last night that she once again wanted to go short.  "I want my hair like yours.  I want to be like you."  I told her she was welcome to cut it short again but that I still didn't think she could do my cut.

When she got it cut today, she sat in the chair and told her hairdresser that she wanted it like mine.  Both her stylist and I agreed that it probably wasn't the right cut for her yet, but we compromised with a similar style that is just a little longer (and does not involve any shaving).

Why am I telling you this?  And what in the world does it have to do with God?  This is the women's ministry blog, right?....  Well, I'm telling you because I can't stop thinking about how she wants to be like me.  She wants to wear clothes like me (she loved to wear similar maxi dresses this summer); she wants her hair like mine.  It's easy to see the desire to be like me as cute (or maybe even annoying), but I keep seeing something more.

If she wants to be like me on the outside, then, chances are, she's becoming a lot like me on the inside.  My actions, my attitude, my relationship with Christ are all being shown to her in the day to day living, and she is becoming like me.  Part of me has known this from the day she was born, but it is something I still find overwhelming at times.

As she becomes like me, who is she becoming?  Is she becoming selfish? hot headed? gracious? judgmental?  welcoming? kind? like Jesus?

Somehow it's easier for me to see the things that need changing in me and take them lightly when I see only how it affects me.  But when I see its ripple effect--how it trickles into my children's lives, my husband's life, even my Facebook friends' lives, then it wakes me up.  I don't want my sins to be carried into the next generation.  I don't want people to look at me and see me.  And I don't want my children to look at me and want to be like me.  I want them to see Jesus, and I want them to want to be like Him.

(I know, I know, that doesn't change the hair cut....But, maybe it will change me....)

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (I Samuel 16:7)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Life Lessons in the Christmas Tree

Oh, I know today is Thanksgiving, but I kinda figured you'd all be too busy to read Stitches on Thanksgiving Day. By the time you get around to this, you'll be in full on Christmas mode. For the record, I have so much for which to be thankful. It would take pages to write out everything. Perhaps most of all, this year I am thankful for God's strength in my weakness, for God's joy in my sorrow, for God's peace in my storm.

On to the Christmas tree ...

Our house has a beautiful curved stairway that just called for a giant Christmas tree, so my mom graciously gave us a 12' tree as a housewarming gift our first year here. I start assembling the tree early- to mid-November because it takes me at least a week to get all the branches straightened and fluffed. My kids get crazy impatient waiting on me to finish it, and I no sooner put the top piece in place than P2 comes toting the big bucket of plastic ornaments that the little kids are allowed to hang.

Last year, I didn't care that much and didn't properly fluff out the individual sprigs of fake greenery. It was harder to find good places to hang ornaments, and while a 12' tree is impressive, I could tell it was a bit of a mess. So this year, I was determined to do the best job ever at straightening, aligning, and fluffing this tree. I would "take my time and do it right," as the kind Mr. Rogers used to encourage us on his t.v. show.

As I worked on this tree, I quickly realized this was an analogy of working on my children's character. A picture of how we as parents work to straighten out character traits and align our children's moral fibers as we try to grow them into God-honoring, Christ-loving adults. Here are some lessons I learned while working on this tree.

1. Start at the bottom. I can do a better job on this tree when I start with only the base piece in place and take the branches one layer at a time. Same goes with the kids. To build their character, we start with basics when they are young kids. Show kindness. Share with others. Be loving. Start with the basics and build up.

2. One branch at a time. It is easiest to straighten up the branches and sprigs when I work on one branch at a time, rather than getting lost in the task of the entire tree. On a branch, I start with the sprigs on the inside, closest to the trunk. That sets a great pattern to fluff the sprigs most visible on the outside of the tree. How true is this with kids? First, when teaching big life lessons, it's so much easier to deal with one at a time. Young kids especially can't deal with too much information at a time. Simple instructions make lessons that stick. Second, handling the deep inner character naturally spills out to what is seen on the outside. Remember the tongue reveals what is in the heart.

3. Sometimes I mess up. Our tree has 5 parts. They used to be labeled A-E (and oddly enough, the top piece was A, even though that was the last piece to add.). The tags have long since disappeared, so I just have to use my eyes to figure it out. I got the first two right, but then put on layer B before layer C. I worked on it several minutes before I recognized the error. And when I tried to fix it, it was difficult to remove layer B. And so with the kids, I am an imperfect human parent. I may try my best, but I will mess up. It's not easy training up kids with godly character. It may even be difficult to undo the mess I made, but with God's strength, grace, and wisdom, I will continue striving toward that goal.

4. Sometimes I miss one. Every now and then I step back to look at the tree and discover a whole branch that isn't straightened. Did I completely miss it or did someone come by and push it out of alignment? Both happen when shaping my kids' character. Sometimes I've missed something. I didn't realize I needed to specifically say, "Don't use your middle finger to point to things." Yes, that really was an issue at my house. Sometimes outside forces influence my kids and push them off track. A friend not raised with our standards may tempt my child. I have to act quickly to straighten things out again.

5. It can be painful. My arms are all scratched up from reaching into prickly branches. Ouch. Shaping a child's character can be so painful sometimes, too. The one time P1 tried to sneak money to buy ice cream from the ice cream truck when we has said no just about broke my heart ... flat out defiance and stealing? Clearly, we needed to do some serious reshaping of his character. That time we went straight to Scripture and had him write out the 10 Commandments and identify which ones he had ignored.

6. The higher branches are harder. On a 12' tree, there comes a time when my arms just can't reach, and my arms are sore from trying to reach as high as I can. I need help. Enter my knight in shining armor, i.e. my very tall husband with a very tall ladder. I am so grateful I am not trying to shape our children's character alone. Tim and I rely on God's wisdom, lots of prayer, and the godly heritage in which we were raised to help us in this task. We are also surrounded by amazing Christ-loving friends who stand along side us. It really does take a village. I'm so thankful for ours.

7. You're never really done. Well, the tree is up now, and mostly, the branches are straight and fluffy. I still walk by and redirect an errant branch. And next year, I will start the task all over again. Shaping my children's character is not a task I will ever finish. As they grow older, I will hopefully, prayerfully shift from a role of instruction to a role of influence. I will always be praying for my kids. I will always be their mom, wanting them to offer God their very best.

Blessings, friends! May you fully enjoy this Advent season!

Friday, November 16, 2012


I've told this story to several of y'all recently, but a friend of mine encouraged me to tell it here just one more time!

Several years back, my friend Margaret* and I met up for dinner. She had recently moved about a bazillion miles away... okay, okay, so maybe that's a slight over exaggeration. She moved from McKinney to North Fort Worth. But it felt like a bazillion miles away.

So, we met-up in Lewisville for a night of catching up. I was so excited to have a break from my mothering duties AND getting to see one of my bffs. It promised to be a night of belly-aching laughter.

Needless to say, I was so not excited when a woman came in with a young child, and they were seated directly next to us. And I really wasn't happy when said child began, promptly and continuously, to scream and carry-on. and on. and on. and on. And she didn't even look like she cared a flying-flip!!!

I mean... COME. ON. This was my one break! Throw me a bone already!

And when my friend Margaret went to the restroom, I just... looked at that woman (admittedly, I probably had a bit of scorn in my eyes) and that screaming child. And then I decided that when Margaret got back to the table that she and I would play our "Probably" game... but this time, with a twist.
BACKGROUND: What IS The Probably Game?

Margaret and I have played "The Probably Game" since I can remember. Honestly, we originally started it to "lessen" people who, in our minds, appeared perfect. I know that makes us sound like... well, like the kind of girls that no one would want to be friends with... but is more than likely because both of us tend to hide our insecurities under a veil of humor. But, here is one of my first memories of an example of "The Probably Game":

Margaret went with me to the Acura car dealership because I had fallen hopelessly in love with their RSX and my other car had been obliterated by a woman from Georgia in a mini-van (but that's a story for another day). Anyway, there was this guy at the Acura dealership who was all dressed up in his rich-boy finery and was there to test-drive an Acura NSX (a car that, at the time, went for roughly ninety-grand... wait, sorry... the words just aren't as powerful as the actual number... $90,000... for a car. for a college kid. Seriously... just LOOK at all those zeros!!!)

So, Margaret and I, in a state of half-jealously and half-disdain made up a scenario for this young bloke: "Probably... he is the heir to a fortune made entirely off of the sales of toilet paper, and probably he has no friends (which is precisely why he is buying this car) and probably in two years we'll see him begging under the bridge at Harry Hines with that NSX as his only companion."

I know, I know... not super nice, but really it was more funny to us than anything. But anyway, back to our dear friend at the restaurant with the screaming child...

When Margaret got back to the table, I motioned my eyes over at the woman and said, "Probably... probably her husband was deployed to Afghanistan and he has been there for six months. Probably, her dad sent her a gift card to this restaurant because he had it laying around the house and he doesn't like to go out to eat since his divorce, and probably this is the first time that she has had a meal cooked for her and served to her by someone else in the past half-year."

Margaret, of course, picked up immediately... "Probably... her child has an ear infection in both ears and has been screaming all week. Probably, she has an appointment with the pediatrician tomorrow and she won't be able to pay because all of their money is wrapped up in paying for their house payment."

And for the rest of the evening, every time we heard that baby cry. every time she looked apathetic to the screaming in her ear. every time the waiter filled up her iced tea. every time... we looked over at her in empathy. When the baby would scream, yet again, we often remarked to each other, in our oblivious "probably" state, how much we appreciated what the troops were doing overseas.

Soooo, yeah, we made all of that up. I mean... who knows, maybe it was true. But we were just guessing at things that probably would make us feel understanding, empathetic, considerate... instead of annoyed, judgmental, and condescending.

And in the time that has followed that dinner-out, I have used "The Probably Game" hundreds of times... mostly to help me identify with someone that might otherwise annoy me, or anger me, or hurt me. And it works. so. well. And I have just recently come to understand that it works because I am trying, in my human way, to tap into the way that Jesus sees people. For example, the woman at the well (John 4:6-30,39-42)... Jesus knew her situation... He knew that she had been with a whole bunch of guys. He knew that she was hurting. He even knew what had gotten her into that situation.

Yeah, but newsflash... I'm not Jesus. I don't know what is going through. I don't know where they have been. I don't know who has hurt them. abused them. slandered them. teased them. And since I don't know sometimes it's so difficult to feel empathy and compassion... so that's where "The Probably Game" comes into play in my life and hopefully in your life. It gives me the empathy and compassion of Christ where there was none.

You should probably try it. It will probably work. It will probably help Him... to help you... to help them.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
And, if you want to practice, feel free to come up with a "Probably..." for why I am late (again) with my post! Some of you might actually hit the nail right on the head! Ha!

*Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. Hehe!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Christmas all year round

Yeaaa!  The first radio stations are playing Christmas music!!  Honestly, we have been looking for Christmas songs every day since listening to the XM Halloween station.  (Did you happen to catch that one  - it was soundtracks to old scary movies.  Lots of witches cackling, squeaky doors, wolves howling - pretty hilarious to listen to while driving through carpool!)  So, now it's official.  On November 13th, XM has started playing Christmas music on at least two stations.  And, I'm sure that the local stations are not far behind as it seems like it starts earlier and earlier each year.  I'm certain that some of you probably think that it is too early.  But, I am one of those "Christmas Nerds" who love to sing along with Christmas carols no matter what the time of year is.  I am always sad and depressed when the songs disappear from the radio waves on December 26th.  Couldn't we have just a few more days of "Deck the Halls and "Silent Night"?  Does Christmas have to be dictated by the calendar, only celebrating the season between Black Friday and New Year's Day?  Shouldn't we as Christians celebrate Christmas all year long? 

Now, that I start thinking about it and why I love Christmas songs so much, here is what I've decided:  Christmas songs just plain make it easier to get into the Christmas Spirit.  So, why not celebrate that the songs are playing on the radio earlier and earlier each year?  Why complain that the stores are getting out Christmas decorations even before Halloween and that Thanksgiving is being overshadowed by Christmas?  If we are honest with ourselves, it shouldn't take songs and decorations to make us in the mood for Christmas.  We should be celebrating the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ every day.  But, the reality is that we just plain get too busy to celebrate Christmas all year long.  Life too often gets in the way - school, sports, vacations, hobbies, etc. etc. etc. 

So, the next time you hear "Joy to the World" or "Jingle Bells", don't sigh and think"Not already!"  Smile, hum along and see if your mood doesn't improve.  And, don't forget to say a prayer of thanks for the real reason behind all of these songs. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's Time To Soar

Last week, as I drove to pick up my daughter from a playdate, I saw a hot air balloon. Granted, this is a frequent treat for McKinney residents, as we often see these colorful delights floating gracefully through the sky. Still, this one, in particular, grabbed my attention as it was so close it seemed I could almost jump in the basket and hitch a ride.

 I turned into a neighborhood and saw the basket clumsily brushing against trees along the roadside. Clearly, the pilot was still learning how to maneuver the balloon. Still, before long, it was soaring through the clear blue sky. How I wanted to ride along!

Since then, as days have passed,  I have frequently thought of that moment. I think it is because it is a bit how I feel right now. I suspect I am not alone. You see, I long to soar for God.

 It seems every day, new dreams awaken in my heart. God-sized dreams. They are aspirations for which I am not qualified. Most of them both terrify and excite me at the same time. They seem utterly ridiculous! In fact, the world would surely laugh if I spoke them out loud. Yet I know they are from God, as my desires only grow stronger with prayer.  I want to soar.

We are told to "humble yourself under God's mighty hand that He might lift you up in due time". (1 Peter 5:6) It is wisdom that contradicts the "can do" attitude of our culture. Human nature speaks boldly to our ego and pushes us to act in our own strength. On the other hand, Christ persuades us to look to the LORD and trust Him to equip us for the journey ahead. By His power alone, we shall soar to heights we would never see on our own.

Some of us are resting.
And some, like me, are waiting for take off.
Others...they are soaring.

The LORD sees it all and gives us a cloud of witnesses to cheer us on in our journey.

Our world is broken. Our problems are real. It might seem as though our faith is crashing against the burdens of this life. But all is not lost if we place ourselves under Christ. God made us in his image and put us here, in this time and place, for His glory. Let's dare to use our God given gifts and talents in a lost world for Christ's sake. For if the Church would rise up, the world will surely see our beautiful Savior and experience His grace. It's time to soar!

Monday, November 5, 2012


I went away for the weekend.  And it was AWESOME.  I slept until my body woke me up.  I laid in bed and read at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I waited until dinner was ready and ate what someone else made for me.  It was blissful.  And was over!  In the blink of an eye...I was back home and was cooking for the family.  Running around to put things in place.  Looking at the laundry my husband "did" while I was gone.  And I found myself having to be reminded of the peaceful renewal I had experienced just hours prior.
But...the truth is...I need renewal every day.  You see...renewal doesn't only happen when I am away.  It can happen in the moments too.  The moments my little ones smile at me from across the room.  The moment I take a deep breath when I lay in bed at night.  When I get in the car after dropping a kid off at school.  These moments are times where I can recharge - however brief it may be.
I think what I like most about time away is the uninterrupted time alone with God.  It has become such a rarity these days.  And I really just crave it.  Even when I am home...time alone seems to be filled with tasks or thoughts or "stuff".  But, I CAN MAKE it happen at home too.  I CAN be sure to make it priority.  And I will.  I need it.  My family needs it.  And He deserves it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Worth the Wait

"God's perfect timing is worth the wait."  I heard these words today at a Bible study, and no words could be a better picture to me of adoption.  At no time before have I had to endure such a wait for something.  Though I've read in the Bible about those who waited years and even decades (or more!) for God's promise to be fulfilled, that hadn't been the case for me--until God started us on the road to our next child.  We officially began our journey to our daughter in August 2010.  Exactly two years later, August 2012, we received our long-awaited call with our referral where we were matched to our little girl.  We were given pictures, medical records, and her known history.  And suddenly, the prayers of the last two years were visibly connected (for me) to the precious child God had known all along.  No longer did it feel like my prayers were in vain as it occasionally had during the wait.  Now I knew her face, her smile, her past.  In that moment, I also knew and saw God's perfect timing as He matched us to her.

After the referral was given, the courts closed for almost two months (as they do each year).  We felt good about even this time because it was time we knew we needed.  As courts reopened 3 weeks ago, we began to get excited as it meant our process would begin to move again.  And then, a week ago, we learned that a paper was not signed in-country, and we therefore had not been submitted to court.  We also learned that a new medical form is required on all of the children, so that also has to be done before we can receive a court date.  Upon learning this news, I began asking the Lord, "Why?"  I thought I had figured out His timing and His plan, and suddenly it wasn't lining up the way I thought.  I didn't understand.  Fear began to creep in and doubts surrounded me.  But, in that doubt, God used His people and His Word to comfort me.  And I began to rest in that comfort.  My sorrow turned to acceptance as I remembered that God was indeed still on His throne and in control of even this.

Today as I was reminded that His timing is worth the wait, my eyes were opened to the joys He has surrounded me with during the wait.  I have been blessed with a group of 15 women in my Bible study group who I just adore.  I could name at least 30 people who have prayed for my daughter-to-be in the past week.  I have been able to be involved with my biological children's school this fall.  I can clearly see how the Lord has placed me in the midst of all that I'm involved in, and His timing is indeed perfect.  I'm reminded that walking with God is not me running ahead or lagging behind; it is a constant walk with the Lord--and that walk can include weariness, slowing down, and, yes, even speeding up.  The walk might not always seem fun, and I might not always see where I'm going.  I might not even like the path He chooses...but the One I'm walking with knows the way, and He knows the best way to take to get there, too.

I haven't seen the end of this journey yet.  We still have documents that need submitted and then 2 trips to Ethiopia before our daughter is home.  But, I can still declare with full confidence, "God's perfect timing is worth the wait."  

What is it you are waiting for?  The job you need in order to pay your bills?  The baby you so badly desire?  The love of a father you've never known?  The joy of a good day after countless bad ones?  Whatever it is, will you give it to the Lord?  I know it's hard, and some days it seems impossible, but He is worthy of your trust.  He is good, and He is true.  And His timing?  It's perfect....

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.  Psalm 130:5