Friday, September 10, 2010

Preparing for the Storm

You are at home, eating dinner and looking forward to a relaxing evening with your family, when you suddenly hear tornado sirens go off.

Where do you go? 

Maybe a first-floor bathroom? An interior hallway?

On Wednesday evening, as tornadoes began touching down in the Dallas area, hundreds of people in the metroplex were forced to find a safe place.

At our house, we head for the closet under the stairs. It’s a large closet, with plenty of room for the five of us. (Brett jokes of the day when he can turn it into his “man cave.”) Since it’s our designated “safe place,” I keep our weather radio, flashlights, extra batteries, a fan, and a portable DVD player in there for emergencies.

We’ve had to take shelter in the closet several times since we’ve moved here. My kids know the drill—when you hear the sirens, grab your pillow and blanket and meet us in the closet, where we’ll create a comfy nest of pillows, watch a movie, and have some snacks. This routine keeps the kids calm until we get the all-clear from the radar. 

Brett sometimes teases me about how fanatical I am about being prepared for storms. (He lived in Oklahoma, where tornadoes pass through as regularly as the ice cream truck.) I think it’s because I want to feel like I’ve got everything under control… even though, obviously, I can't control the weather. There's a reason they call these things "acts of God."

Ever since the first recorded natural disaster—the Flood--God has been reminding us that while we can and should prepare for the storms that come our way, we ultimately have to rest in His grace and trust Him to see us through.

In his book Has Christianity Failed You?, Ravi Zacharias pointed out something that I’d never realized about Noah’s ark: 

When Noah was building his ark, God gave him detailed instructions about everything: how high, no higher; how long, no longer; what species to include and in what numbers—details ad nauseum. But when all had been done according to God’s instructions and the door was finally shut, it must have been a terrifying experience to realize there was no sail or rudder on this ark. Who was in control? (emphasis added)

Think about that. If ever anyone was prepared for a storm, it was Noah. After all, God gave him a hundred years to get ready. The ark was Noah’s magnum opus—the culmination of a century of painstaking work in preparation for the greatest storm the world has ever seen. He must have studied the blueprint God gave him over and over as he constructed every detail of the three-story-high, football-field-length vessel. After all, his family was about to spend an entire year aboard this oversized life boat.  

Surely Noah must have scratched his head at God’s design for the ark--with no sail or rudder--and wondered, Who’s going to steer this thing? 

I’ve felt like that before. When storms of life have come crashing down, flooding me with such worry and fear that I feel like I’m drowning, I’ve wondered, How am I going to get through this? Sometimes I just can’t see past the crashing waves of doubt.

Those are the times when I head for the “safe place” of God’s protection. I grab my Bible and seek shelter in the cleft of the Rock, where God’s promises and presence keep me calm. And even with the storm still raging around me, I finally realize…

The God who created the storm is the same God who is going to steer me through it. 

What storm are you facing right now?

Whatever it may be--whether a natural disaster or a tempestuous situation--you can cling to this truth:

God is in control.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be . . .

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

How did you answer that question when you were a kid?

Miss B wants to be a horse trainer. Or a veterinarian. Or a teacher. Maybe all three—she can’t decide. (Perhaps she’ll be a vet who teaches horse trainers?)

J.J., on the other hand, is certain of her future career: she’s going to be an artist. In fact, she’s already trying to sell her creations. Here’s a photo of a drawing she did last week that she offered to let me buy for “only $100.” (She’s saving up to buy a puppy, she told me.) What a deal, huh?

Four-year-old Buddy wants to be an astronaut. Or a baseball player. (Move over, Alan Shepard—Buddy is going to play baseball on the moon!)

It’s fun to watch my kids grow into the people God made them to be. Each one is so unique! Miss B is rhythm and rhyme, J.J. is spunk and sparkle, and Buddy is charm and charisma.

As parents, there are lots of things that we can do for our kids. We can pray for them and raise them according to God’s Word. We can love them and encourage them. We can teach them and discipline them. But there is one thing we cannot do for our kids, no matter how hard we try:

We cannot re-create them.

It doesn’t matter how many parenting books you read or seminars you attend. You could follow the advice of experts or channel your own inner James Dobson. You could diligently instruct and train your child…

But you can’t change who God created your child to be. 

Other people’s kids may be smarter, more athletic, or more outgoing. But one of the most dangerous things we could say to our children is this: “If only you could be more like so-and-so…”  

If only you could make good grades like your brother. 
If only you could behave like the neighbor’s kid. 
If only you could play soccer like the coach’s child. 
If only…

But God didn’t create our children to be someone else’s kids. He created them to be the best version of themselves.

In his book The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg puts it like this:

As God helps you grow, you will change, but you will always be you. An acorn can grow into an oak tree, but it cannot become a rose bush. It can be a healthy oak or a stunted oak—but it won’t be a shrub. You will always be you—a growing, healthy you or a languishing you—but God did not create you to be anybody else. He pre-wired your temperament. He determined your natural gifts and talents. He made you to feel certain passions and desires. He planned your body and mind. Your uniqueness is God-designed.

Brett and I are doing our best to help our kids move toward a healthy, flourishing version of themselves. No matter where their paths may lead—to vet school, an art studio, or even NASA—we’re committed to support and encourage them as the unique people God created them to be.

And that goes for us grown-ups too. You'll never outgrow the person God created you to be. And no matter how much you admire others' talents or successes, you can't be someone else. You can only be you. The you God created you to be.

So what do you want to be when you grow up? Are you frustrated and exhausted from trying to be someone else—or are you moving toward God’s best version of you?

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Tattle Book: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny

You don’t have to teach your kids how to tattle.
It’s one of those things that come naturally—like breathing and saying “Mine!” and getting a bump on the head right before picture day. And if you have multiple children, you know that nothing brings out a child’s inner Judge Judy than a sibling breaking the rules or, worse, a sibling getting away with something the Tattler has been punished for. (It’s uncanny how kids suddenly remember and respect the rules so much more when someone else is breaking them.)

I thought we had tamed the tattletale beast in our family a few years ago. But as this summer wore on, with our kids experiencing a bit too much togetherness, I noticed that they were starting to hone their FBI informant skills again.

One sweltering July afternoon, while my mom and I were watching the kids swim, I asked her advice on how to curb the tattling. She gave me a brilliant idea, borrowed from our friend Joye, a longtime kindergarten teacher.

“Whenever the kids come to you with a tattle, have them write it down in the Tattle Book,” Mom said. “Assure them that if they write out the situation in detail, you will read it later. That way, they’ll get it out of their system and will soon forget about it. And you’ll have a good laugh later when you read all the things they’ve written about each other!”

It sounded like a good plan, so I decided to give it a try.

I went home and found a spiral notebook in our school supply stash. Since it was a three-subject notebook, I decided to expand the “tattle book” idea. Not only is our Tattle Book a place for the kids to tell us about their perceived offenses, but it also includes a section for Brett and me to “tattle” the good things we catch our children doing, as well as a section for us to record the funny things they do or say (you know, those cute things you think you’ll remember forever but usually forget in a few days).

The results have been hysterical! Our 3rd grade daughter’s tattles on her siblings are long and detailed. (She loves to write, so she’s creating a veritable novel about all the injustices done to her.) Our 1st grade daughter’s tattles are rife with all caps and underlines and exclamation points, making sure you hear how MAD she is!!!! And our 4-year-old takes so long to write his tattles (because we have to spell the words for him) that he’s completely forgotten the offense by the time he’s written it.

The kids enjoy reading and rereading all the positive things their dad and I have “tattled” about them. And Brett and I are trying to remember to jot down all the funny things they do, like when our son mistakenly sang “Jesus diapered all the children, all the children of the world” this week.

I have to admit, the Tattle Book is one of the best ideas I’ve ever borrowed.

Did you know that God has His own Tattle Book? Oh, it’s not called that, of course; but the Bible talks about God having a book where He records all kinds of things about us. For example . . .

  • God records our days. “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16)

  • God records our deeds. “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:12)

  • God records our despair. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8)

  • God records our deliverance. “Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued.(Daniel 12:1)

  • God records our destination. “Nothing evil will be allowed to enter [heaven], nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:27)

Scripture tells us that everything we do and every day of our lives is recorded in God’s book. And it kind of makes you wonder . . .

What do you want God to write about you in His book today?

Monday, August 30, 2010

If I Could Change Anything...

It was 7:00 on Sunday morning, and I was enjoying a rare birthday treat: sleeping in while Brett got the kids ready for church. I wasn’t fully asleep, though, just in that blissful drifting-in-and-out-of-dreamland mode. I could hear the kids snickering in the kitchen, with Brett helping them make breakfast.

My lazy musings were quickly interrupted when my four-year-old son bounded onto the bed and shook me awake.

“Mom… Mom… MOM!!!!”

I rolled over and mumbled something like, “Mm-kay. I hear you. Stop shaking me.”

“Mom! DON’T WAKE UP!!!” he instructed. “We’re going to surprise you and say ‘Happy birthday!’ And look, I made this card for you! So don’t wake up, okay?” He jumped off the bed and scurried out of the room, all footsteps and giggles.

Um, okay.

And so began my first day of my thirty-seventh year.

It was a fun day—starting with “Happy birthday, Mom!” and homemade cards, then worshipping at church (and blushing at my husband’s sneaky surprise), and having fun with the kids. I got just what I wanted: an entire day in which I didn’t have to cook, clean, or be responsible for anything. 

At dinner last night, Brett and I were reminiscing about how much we’ve been through together. Then he asked me, “What’s the best thing that has happened to you in 37 years?”

“That’s not a fair question!” I protested. After all, there have been a LOT of wonderful things—how could I pick just one? I grew up in a great family, had fun in high school, enjoyed my years at Texas A&M, loved working at Word Publishing, and now have a wonderful husband and three amazing kids. How could I pick something as “the best”? I’ve been abundantly blessed.

And yet, I’ve also had lots of obstacles along the way. My dad’s death . . . frustrations and failures . . . miscarriage and medical problems . . . betrayals and ministry struggles.

Over a free birthday hamburger and fries (thank you, Red Robin!), Brett and I began to muse about how things would have been different “if only”—if only my dad had been around to help us, if only we had handled that situation differently, if only we hadn’t gone to that church, if only we hadn’t had to deal with those medical issues . . .

Then again, I don’t know if I would change anything.

I've learned a lot of things the hard way. But I’ve learned them well. And those experiences radically shaped my life and transformed my faith from zealous idealism into seasoned maturity. The pain has made me stronger. Deeper. Humbler. More desperate for God. More vulnerable to others. More grateful for life’s blessings.

Pardon the cliché, but these 37 years have been a long and winding road. But it’s the road that led me here. To this place. To this family. To this ministry. To this community.

And no matter how I got here, this is exactly where I want to be.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Dinnertime Discussion

Last night at dinner, Miss B was eager to show us something she’s been learning in her 3rd grade class: how to sign the Pledge of Allegiance. (Her teacher is fluent in ASL.) She only knows part of it, but she was proud to show us what she had learned so far.

As she signed the first few words of the Pledge, Brett and I began to ask her if she knew what they meant.

“What does pledge mean?” I asked.

“It means to make a promise,” Miss B quickly responded.

“That’s right, honey,” Brett said. “What’s allegiance?”

“Oh, we talked about that in school today,” she said. “It’s being loyal to someone.”

And on we went. “What’s a republic?” “What does it mean to be under God?” “What’s indivisible?” (The sign for indivisible is really cool, by the way.)

All three kids were eager to voice their opinions, which led to a lively (if unconventional) discussion of government and authority. For example, four-year-old Buddy suggested that “under God” meant that God was above you, since He lives up in heaven; while J.J. offered that “indivisible” was like a candy bar that you have to eat whole, as opposed to M&Ms that you can sort by colors.

Then we got to the part of the Pledge that Miss B hadn’t yet learned to sign. But we were on a roll, so we asked her anyway. “What’s liberty?”

She wasn’t sure, so we explained to her that liberty means freedom. We talked about the Statue of Liberty and slaves being “liberated” and politicians who are called “liberals.”

And then we got to the final phrase of the Pledge: “…and justice for all.”

“What’s justice?” I asked her.

I was confident that she knew this one. After all, Brett and I have talked to the kids several times about the difference between justice and fairness. Plus, Brett has preached on the justice of God, and Miss B recently memorized Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

“Oh that’s easy, Mom,” Miss B said brightly. “Justice is a store that sells girls’ clothes.”


Just when you think you are finally getting somewhere with your kids…

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Riding the Bus and Other Adventures in Letting the Kids Grow Up

In a lot of ways, our subdivision feels like a small town. Sendera Ranch has its own playgrounds and fishing ponds, fireworks and festivals, and even its own elementary school. The girls really enjoy going to school with kids they know from church and around the neighborhood. And though the school is only a few minutes away, bus routes wind through the streets to pick up the neighborhood kids.

For two years, the girls have been begging us to let them ride the bus. But each time they’ve asked, Brett and I have said no. (We want to make sure they are safe, and Brett is concerned about the possibility of antics by the older boys… maybe because he used to be a precocious fifth-grade boy himself?)

So for all this time, we have resisted. No, girls, you cannot ride the bus. We want to take you to school.

But this year has been a season of letting our older children start to do things on their own. Miss B’s first trip to the lake with friends (and without us). J.J.’s first sleepover. The girls riding their bikes on their own on the walking trail behind our house.

We still have boundaries, of course. We know the parents of the girls’ friends. And we’ve set parameters for their bike rides so they’re not too far away from the house. Still, bit by bit, the girls are starting to develop independence and are putting into practice important life skills we’ve been teaching them at home.

But still, it’s so hard to let them grow up! I admit I struggle with my primal, and at times overwhelming, desire to keep my kids with me 24/7. Whenever they have a conflict with a friend or issue in school, I have to fight the urge to jump in there and fix it. And when they’re ready to do things on their own, I instinctively resist, yearning to keep them as safe (and as close to me) as possible. Though, deep down, I know that’s not best for them.

As all parents know, there’s a fine line between protecting your children and smothering them. Yes, we are responsible to love our kids, teach them, protect them, and enjoy them. Our children are blessings from the Lord who captured our hearts from the very first moment we cradled them in our arms.

But here’s the rub: if you keep your arms wrapped around your kids too tightly, you’ll stunt their growth.

Let’s face it: we all know grown-ups who have not actually grown up. Their well-meaning parents made sure they never experienced frustration or failure. And as a result, they never learned the art of adulthood. After all, Mom and Dad always stepped in to save them, eliminated their consequences, fought their battles, and (let’s be honest here) are probably still paying their rent.

I really don’t want our kids to turn out like that.

Brett and I love our children—as I often tell them, “All the way, with all my heart, all the time.” And we are often on our knees before God, asking Him for wisdom and grace as we strive to be parents who give our kids both roots and wings.

And if you’re a parent, that’s probably your goal too. While your specific choices for your kids may be different than ours, our desire as parents is the same: to equip our children to be God-honoring, capable, independent, responsible adults.

And like it or not, that starts with giving them little freedoms.

For our family, one of those “little freedoms” is a big yellow bus. So that’s why at 7:15 a.m. on school days, you will find me walking the girls to the bus stop at the end of our street. I’ll hug them good-bye, wave as the bus closes its doors… and then pray like crazy every step of the way home.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's Your Story?

Hello again, blog-land! After spending a wonderful, lazy summer with my kids, things are settling back into a routine around here, and that includes my blog. Though I tend to blog in fits and starts, I’m hoping I can post a little more regularly this school year.

If you’re following me on Facebook (or live around here), you know that our kids went back to school this week. So the past couple of weeks were a flurry of clothes shopping, haircuts, doctor’s visits, and all the other stuff you have to do to get the kids ready for school. For my oldest daughter, that also means appointments with her ophthalmologist and her glaucoma specialist.

She has been going to the same eye doctors since age three, and by now, everyone in the office knows her and greets her by name. (It’s kind of like that guy on Cheers: “Norm!”) She was so proud this latest round of check-ups, because so many people complimented her on how much she’s grown and how lovely she’s become.

The next morning—back on one of those lazy, sleeping-in summer mornings (sigh)—Miss B and I were the only ones awake in a quiet house. She snuggled beside me on the couch and asked, “Mom, why does everyone know me at Dr. Packwood’s and Dr. Flowers’?”

Lazily stroking her hair, I said, “You know, honey. It’s because of everything you’ve gone through.”

She curled up her legs and tucked her bare feet under the ruffle of her pink horse nightgown. “You mean, because I’ve had surgeries and stuff?”

I chuckled at the understatement. “Yeah, you could say that.” It took me a moment to realize that she was asking a genuine question.

And then it hit me—she doesn’t know her own story!

Oh, she knows bits and pieces of it, of course, but so much of her journey took place when she was so young that she honestly doesn’t remember much of it. (Which is probably a blessing, since those were a traumatic few years.)

So I spent the next half hour, just the two of us, telling Miss B her story.

I started with her unexplained headaches at age three, followed by the terrifying day her fever spiked, her left pupil inexplicably dilated, and we were whisked into the ER. Then the MRIs and CT scans and tests—and the specialist in OKC who couldn’t explain the pupil but thought she might have high eye pressure. The dreadful confirmation of that, followed by an emergency eye surgery that failed and another surgery that was so intense that she was bedridden for weeks (ever tried to keep a 3 year old perfectly still?) and caused significant side effects. Then a surgery on her right eye that failed and another surgery to put a tube in that eye. Then dozens of exams under anesthesia to check her pressure when she was too young to sit still to take a pressure reading. Oh, and all the surgeries since then, not including the laser ones. Not to mention the panicked trips between Austin and Fort Worth to take care of various complications, and the ever-present reality that we’re only ever a day away from another surgery. (Last week, her glaucoma doctor told us that she’ll probably need surgery this year on her left eye. Sigh.)

“But that’s not the whole story,” I assured her. “Your story isn’t complete without the God part.”

I reminded her that the doctors still can’t explain what caused her left pupil to pop open. (To this day, it’s fully dilated; you can barely see any of her blue iris.) We call that her “God spot.” Because if it weren’t for that pupil, the doctors would never have started looking at her eyes. And if they hadn’t looked at her eyes, they wouldn’t have discovered the glaucoma. And if they hadn’t discovered the glaucoma, she would be blind. (Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness, because by the time most people find it, it’s too late.)

So, to protect His precious child, God reached down and touched her eye. The very thing that sets Miss B apart from other kids—her deformed pupil—is God’s permanent mark on her, the scar from which healing came. And though she’s self-conscious about that eye sometimes, especially when other kids make fun of her, it’s an essential part of her story. The story of God’s grace.

When you think of it, we all have a story. Ours is probably different from Miss B’s, but in a lot of ways, I bet it’s the same.

We were going along in life, minding our own business and doing pretty well for ourselves—until something unexpected tripped us up. Something painful, something scary, something we would never have chosen in a million years, something we desperately wish we could go back in time and erase. But for His own purposes, God chose to weave that into our life story.

And even though that painful thing probably left a scar, and though it may set you apart from other people, it’s part of your story. The story of God’s grace.

No matter what our scar is, God has included it in our story for a reason. And He gently assures us, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness" (1 Corinthians 12:9).

I don’t know what else God has in store for Miss B, and I don’t know what else He plans to write into my own story, or yours. But I do know how our stories will end:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1–5; emphasis added)
 Now, that's a story I'm proud to be part of!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When Will It Be Fixed?

All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe ... get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross.

—Colossians 1:20 MSG

Life was an adventure when our kids were ages five and under. Brett was a busy pastor, and I did my best to meet my editing deadlines while keeping all three kids—an infant and two preschoolers—happy, fed, and, well . . . alive. Sometimes my biggest accomplishment was just getting through the day!

At the time, we lived south of Austin, down by the hill country. It provided for some beautiful landscapes, but when your days are an exhausting whirlwind of changing diapers, refereeing squabbles, cleaning up toys, folding endless piles of laundry, and searching for the missing lids to sippy cups, you don’t want scenery. You want your mommy.

So I was thrilled when my mom called in early March to announce that she was spending spring break with us! I looked forward to seeing her and letting her enjoy the kids. Plus, my mom has that Mary Poppins–like ability to swoop in, delight the children with stories and songs, and even make a game out of cleaning the house together. (How does she do that?)

I eagerly picked up Mom from the airport, and on our way home, I gave her a quick tour of our community. As I drove past the dance studio where the girls took lessons, my three-year-old daughter J.J. wailed from the backseat, “Oh no! We forgot to go to dance today!”

“No, darling, there’s no class today,” I reminded her. “It’s spring break.”

I continued chatting with Mom as I showed her our church, the kids’ preschool, and so on. As we were nearing the highway to head back to the house, J.J. piped up, out of the blue: “When will it be fixed?”

“What?” I looked at Mom quizzically, and she just shrugged. I declare, having preschoolers is enough to make you think you're losing your mind.

Apparently J.J. thought I was not only crazy but also hard of hearing. So she repeated her question a few decibels louder. I said, when will it be FIXED?

I still didn’t get it. “When will what be fixed, honey?”

Exasperated, she said, “Spring! When will spring be fixed? I want to go to dance class!”

Oh! Spring break.

As realization hit, I couldn’t control my laughter. And neither could my mom. Pretty soon, we were both laughing so hard we were crying. I have no idea how I managed to get on the highway through all those gales of giggles.

Somehow, between guffaws, I managed to reassure my concerned (and befuddled) three-year-old that spring wasn’t broken. It was just a time when schools took a “break” and gave kids a week off to have a little fun.

This year, J.J. is in kindergarten and will experience her first actual “spring break” as a school-age kid. And believe me, she’s looking forward to it! We’re taking the week off as a family to relax and have fun together.

Still, I’m amused by the memory of J.J.’s innocent question: When will it be fixed?

Spring isn’t broken, of course. But if we’re not careful, our hectic schedules and everyday stress can distract us from taking care of what’s important. Amid the swirl of carpools and deadlines and sports practice and office politics, we can lose track of the things we care about the most—our families, our friends, our faith.

So while spring doesn’t need to be fixed, it is a chance for us to fix the things that are broken.

This year, take a few days off work and spend them with your kids. Whether you’re playing Wii or building block towers or shopping at the mall, take time to listen to them—and to tell them how much you love them. Surprise your spouse with a date or the romantic getaway you’ve been talking about. Meet a friend for lunch, or call a long-distance friend to say hello.

Maybe you’ve been saying that one of these days, you’ll get back in church. So why not today? This spring—and the Easter season—is a great opportunity to join a community of believers and refresh your faith in the One who gave His life for you and loves you more than you can imagine.

After all, He’s the only One who can truly give you rest from your weariness and burdens. 

And He’s the only One who can truly fix what is broken. 

This article appears in the March/April issue of Haslet Style magazine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who Are YOU Wearing?

On Sunday, the 82nd Academy Awards rolled out the red carpet for a constellation of celebrities, bedecked in the finery of Hollywood’s most sought-after designers. Interview after interview began with a nod to the celeb’s attire, as the reporter asked, “Who are you wearing?” and awaited the acknowledgment requisite to such events.

Yesterday, I took the kids shopping at Kohl’s, wielding my 30% off coupon, in search of Easter shoes. We lucked into a clearance rack that had several dressy things for the girls. As they tried on the sparkly dresses, they beamed in delight, spinning around and admiring themselves in the three-way mirror in the dressing room.

It’s funny how much your attitude can change, just by putting on fancy clothes. “The clothes make the man,” the old saying goes, and it’s true that when you dress up, you tend to have better posture, speak more precisely, and mind your manners more than, say, when you’re wearing sweats. My dad understood this, and he used to tell us, “Dress for the occasion, because your clothes affect your behavior.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, our women’s Bible study group is going through the Precept study of Covenant. In lesson 1, we observed a few Old Testament covenants, and we discovered that the ancient practice of cutting covenant included several elements, including an oath, a condition, a sign, a name change, witnesses, and a covenant meal. (Incidentally, does this remind you of a wedding ceremony?) This week, we’re discovering another element of cutting covenant—exchanging clothes.

In 1 Samuel 18:1–5, we are told of the extraordinary friendship between King Saul’s son Jonathan and the future king of Israel, David. In the face of his father’s opposition to his friend, “Jonathan made a covenant with David . . . And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.”

Why did Jonathan give David his clothes? It was part of the covenant. As our study explains, “When Jonathan gave David his robe, David was symbolically ‘putting on Jonathan.’ In covenant, two become one. Likewise, when we repent and receive the Lord Jesus Christ, we enter into the New Covenant of grace, merging ourselves in Him. In doing so, we, in essence, put on His robe.”

In other words, we put on Christ. We become like Him.

This exchange of clothes is a recurring theme in the New Testament. Over and over, we are exhorted to lay aside the old self and put on the new self, to put aside our sin and be clothed with the righteousness of Christ—an idea rich with covenant themes.

Take a look at just a few of these descriptions:

  • All who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. (Galatians 3:26)
  • The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. (Romans 13:12–14; emphasis added)
  • Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21–24)

After urging Christians to put on the “new nature” in Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul spends the rest of the chapter describing what our new attire looks like:

So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-31)

When we partake of Christ's covenant of grace, Scripture is clear: we exchange our sin-stained garment for Christ's pure and holy one. And by putting on His clothes, we are wrapped in His identity. Our attitude and behavior are consistent with the character of Christ Himself.

We are clothed with Christ. And as the saying goes, “The clothes make the man (or woman).”

So this week, as you and I go through our daily routine of getting dressed, whether for the everyday routine or a special occasion, let’s look beyond our wardrobe and ask ourselves:

Who are YOU wearing?

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the Award Goes to ... YOU!

Last night, I turned on the TV to catch a few minutes of the Academy Awards. When I tuned in, the camera was focused on Ben Stiller, elaborately dressed as a blue alien from Avatar. (Whoa! Wasn’t expecting that!) As I watched the next few awards, I enjoyed scanning the crowd and seeing all the stunning gowns. (Did anyone else notice that this year most of the dresses were actually modest?)

Seeing the celebrities gush over their Oscar statues reminded me of Pastor’s Brett’s sermon last week. He’s been preaching through the book of 2 Timothy, and last week’s message was “Live Balanced,” drawn from 2 Timothy 1:15–18, where Paul says that while many believers turned away from him, one was a loyal friend.

Using a stability ball as a visual aid, Brett demonstrated the importance of strengthening your core by centering on Christ, rather than tilting toward the opinions of others—regardless of whether those people are criticizing and betraying you, or praising and blessing you. Either way, when you focus on the opinions of others, you lose your balance!

The acceptance speeches last night—reminiscent of Sally Field’s infamous (but slightly misquoted) line: “You like me! You really like me!”—made me realize how often we, too, earnestly seek the approval of others, clutching their praise like a treasured golden statue.

Yet when we take our eyes off Christ and look to others for their approval, we lose our balance. And if we’re not careful, we’ll end up like Humpty Dumpty, poised for a great fall.

But here’s the great news—when we stay centered on Christ instead of tipping toward the opinions of people, we will receive a heavenly award! It’s not a golden statue, but an eternal prize, one worth getting excited about.

As he closes his second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of this heavenly award:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7–8; emphasis added)

Someday, when we, too, have fought the good fight and remained faithful, we will be in the presence of our Lord, the righteous Judge. We will cast off this perishable body and put on the imperishable, be clothed in dazzling white robes, and hear the words we’ve been longing for: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

And on that day, the award will go to . . . YOU! Because, after all, He likes you! He really likes you!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You Could Have Just Asked!

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
--James 1:5

Thanks for your patience during my hiatus from blogging! I’ve been writing for publication, and the publisher has asked me not to post those stories electronically. But stay tuned! I’ll let you know where you can find them in the bookstores.

As we begin the Lenten season, I am looking forward to receiving free daily reflections from Dr. Larry Crabb. And thinking of Dr. Crabb, I was reminded of a funny incident that happened years ago . . .

A few years back, we lived just south of Austin in a two-story house that had a game room and all the bedrooms upstairs. My husband, an executive pastor at the time, worked in the study downstairs. Being an odd hybrid of working-stay-at-home mother, I didn’t have an official home office; instead, I lugged my laptop around the house and edited while watching our preschool girls, who were ages four and two. (Our little guy wasn’t born yet.)

The upside of working from home are the hours (anytime you want to work) and the commute (none whatsoever). But the downside is that sometimes the lines between work life and family life are blurred.

Such was the case one late morning when I was in the process of editing Soul Talk by—you guessed it!—Dr. Larry Crabb. I should mention here, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Dr. Crabb, that he is one of America’s premier Christian psychologists. He is scholar in residence at Colorado University and spiritual director of the American Academy of Christian Counselors. He is also founder of New Way Ministries, popular Bible teacher and speaker, and author of dozens of books on subjects ranging from counseling to family life.

I needed to call him to discuss the latest revisions to his book, so I set out lots of toys for the girls in the game room and told them to please play quietly while Mommy made a very important work phone call. And I told Brett to please listen for the girls and come upstairs if he heard anything. Then I took my laptop and phone into our bedroom and shut the door.

(I bet you can guess what happens next, huh?)

I was enjoying my phone call with Dr. Crabb—who is truly gracious, professional, and kind—when about midway into our phone conversation, the girls burst into the bedroom, squalling and bellyaching about some disagreement. (Note to self: I should have locked the door.)

“Mom! She stole my toy!”

“Did not!”

“Did too! Mom, she’s lying!”

“Am not!”

“Are too! Make her give it back! It’s miiiiiiine!!!”


Mortified, and trying to conjure up enough telepathy to make Brett come upstairs, I said into the receiver, “Excuse me, Dr. Crabb. I need to handle something really quick. I’m so sorry.”

Then I proceeded to deal with the situation. I can’t remember exactly what I did, probably something like confiscate the toy and put it in time-out, and then send the girls to their bedrooms. And I’m pretty sure I used that half-whisper, half-growling And you better get along or else tone of voice as I shooed them out of the room and shut the door behind them.

Picking up the phone again, I distinctly remember being struck by a sinking feeling of realization—Dr. Larry Crabb had overheard the entire interchange with my kids. Dr. Larry Crabb, the premier psychologist and family counselor. The guy who trains counselors and writes books about parenting. He had just overheard me discipline my preschoolers.


Back on the call, I remember fumbling some kind of apology and then saying something like, “I’m sure you probably heard my kids squabbling. I hope I handled that right!”

Dr. Crabb chuckled good-naturedly, clearly getting a kick out of the situation. And I’ll never forget what he said next: “Yeah, I heard it. Your kids are just regular kids, that’s all. And don’t worry: you handled it well. But you know, I was here the whole time. If you needed help, you could have just asked!”

In the years since then, I have worked with Dr. Crabb on a few other books. We have a great working relationship, and he always asks me about our kids and our church. A few months ago, I was working with him on his current book, 66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God That Invites You into His Story. I asked him if he remembered that incident, years ago, with my squabbling kids. He did, and we both got a good laugh at the memory.

I’ve thought of that incident several times since then. Because, you see, every moment of every day, I have Someone much wiser and infinitely more capable of helping present with me. He is ready, willing, and able to help me raise our children in a godly manner. Best of all, He can not only give me counseling advice, but He can give me true wisdom.

And anytime I need His help, I could just ask!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Flashback Friday: Queen for a Day

Welcome to Flashback Friday! Here's a post from August 2008, on a day when I was doing a little wishful thinking . . . and got a much-needed God-nudge.

The thunderstorms that rolled in yesterday put a damper on our plans to go to the playground. So instead, we stayed inside and tried to make the most of the afternoon.

The four of us paraded upstairs, where Miss B pulled out the Dance Praise 2 mat and started some fancy footwork in the game room.

JJ headed to her bedroom to put on a play.“I’m going to be the princess,” she announced,  pulling out a tiara and a purple dress.

“Okay. What should Buddy be?” I asked, as her younger brother nosed around beside her in the dress-up box.

“Oh, he can be the boring guy,” JJ said dismissively.

Hmm. Okay. I handed Buddy a hard hat and instructed him to “be boring.” He put the hat on backwards and grabbed a toy baseball bat. “O-tay, Mama!” He grinned broadly. Huh. That boy couldn’t be boring if he tried.

I turned back to JJ. “What do you want me to be?”

She handed me some costume jewelry. “You can be the queen!” she announced. Then she handed me her prized Disney Princess magic wand—the kind that you push a button and briiiing! Your wish comes true.

Bejeweled with my magic wand, a sparkly tiara, and pink beaded necklace, I took my place on my “throne” (JJ’s bed) and began my reign as “queen.” It went something like this:

Buddy grabs JJ’s lip gloss when she’s not looking. 

JJ: “Hey, give me that! Hey! HEY!”

Buddy, clinging to the lip gloss with all his might: “AAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!”

Me, waving my magic wand: “I'm the queen, and I say don’t fight with your brother!” Briiing!

JJ giggles and smiles. I unfurl Buddy’s clenched fist, retrieve the lip gloss, and grab a tissue to wipe the glittery pink goo from his cheek.

A few minutes later . . .

Miss B, coming into the room: “Hey, what are you guys doing?”

JJ: “We’re having a play. I’m the princess!”

Miss B: “No fair, I wanna be the princess!”

JJ, firmly: “No. You can be the maid.”

Miss B: “I don’t wanna be the maid! I’m wanna be the princess!”

JJ: “Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! I’m the princess!!!!!!!!”

Me, waving my magic wand: “Children, get along!” Briiiing!

JJ and Miss B giggle at me and reach a compromise: JJ can be the princess, but Miss B will be the empress. (She's smart, that kid.)

This went on for about ten minutes, with my “royal subjects” (mostly) agreeing to do what I commanded with my magic wand. And with each briiiing!, I thought, Hey, this is great. We should play this game more often!

Don’t you wish there were some kind of “magic wand” to grab on those days when you feel like you’re about to lose your cool—or your mind?

Stop whining! Briiing!
Take your nap! Briiing!
Clean your room! Briiing!

Or maybe for you, it would look more like,

Overdue bills, disappear! Briiing!
Marriage, be restored! Briiing!
Someone, pay attention to me! Briiing!

But we all know that’s not how God created us. After all, if we had a magic wand, we wouldn’t need Him! What our loving, heavenly Father really wants for us is not a carefree life, but a faith that clings to Him amid life’s struggles.

A year ago, my husband sensed God’s call to plant a church. So we sold our home in Austin, packed up our family of five, and moved to Fort Worth with the assurance of God’s calling—but with no church members, sponsors, or financial aid of any kind. It was just Brett and me, our children, and God’s call.

One of the verses I kept going back to during those faith-clinging, loaves-and-fishes days was Psalm 37:5: “Depend on the Lord; trust him, and he will take care of you.” I often found myself reminding God of this verse: “God, we’re completely depending on You here. See this? You promised that if we depend on You, You will take care of us!” And then I’d sense God’s gentle response: Yes, my child, I know you are depending on Me. But do you trust Me?

Humph. I was kind of hoping God would just wave His “magic wand” and give us everything we needed. Briiing! Here are your church members. Briiing! Here’s a salary for Brett. Briiing! Here are your building and church office and worship leader and staff and children’s ministry workers and . . . You get the idea. But instead, God was teaching me to trust Him.

And He still is.

I’m no longer reigning as “queen” around here; that game ended all too quickly yesterday. But I am a daughter of the King, depending on and trusting my heavenly Father a little more each day.

And that’s the kind of royalty I’m proud to be!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Something Has to Happen

This morning, as I was driving Miss B to school for her first coaching session of the UIL storytelling team, I asked her if she remembered the elements of a good story. (My poor kids; other moms can teach their children how to bake, sew, and do all kinds of crafts—all I can do is teach mine how to incorporate a good throughline in their writing.)

Miss B didn’t miss a beat. We had talked about this before she wrote her PTA Reflections story a few months ago. (Which, incidentally, was the only second grade entry I saw that featured not only a story, but also a title page, dedication, table of contents, and an about the author page. Sniff, sniff. She makes this mama so proud!)

“First, you have to have a character you care about,” Miss B said. “Next, you have to have a setting. Then, something has to happen. And by the end, the character has to learn something and be different because of what happened in the story.”

Granted, this is a very simplistic rendition of what we discussed. (For more on the elements of story, I highly recommend The Hero’s 2 Journeys, by Michael Hauge and Christopher Vogler.) But she at least remembered the main parts.

I hugged her good-bye and headed back to the car, ready to zip home and get J.J. ready for school. But during the drive home, I kept thinking about this:

Then, something has to happen.

It’s a simple idea, really. No story can be compelling, exciting, or motivating without something happening. You can’t just let your hero sit there and do nothing. (As Vogler said, “You can’t make a movie about going to work. Unless, of course, your hero encounters kidnappers, assassins, and terrorists on the way to the office.”)

In every good story, the hero encounters something—a challenge, a conflict, a quest. Faced with this obstacle, the hero has the opportunity to overcome and learn from it. And if the story is effective, the hero at the beginning is not the same hero at the end. A fundamental transformation has taken place somewhere along the way.

The same thing is true in life, isn’t it? No matter how much we want to avoid challenge or conflict, the truth is that if we’re ever going to become the people God has created us to be, something has to happen.

You can’t just sit there and do nothing.

What “something” will it take for you to stop reading other people’s stories and start living your own? What risk will you take, challenge will you overcome, dream will you fulfill? And most importantly, what’s stopping you?

Or maybe you have all the "something" in your life you can handle right now. You are struggling with (even paralyzed by) pain or shame or heartache or grief. No matter how much you wish you could grab an eraser and blot out that “something” from the pages of your life, your story wouldn’t be complete without it. You see, the Author has woven that “something” into your story, giving you the opportunity to work through it and, in the process, to learn, to grow, and to be transformed into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

Because it's the same in storytelling and in life: in every good story, something has to happen.

And if your life story is effective, you won’t be the same at the end. A fundamental transformation will have happened along the way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

For All the Craft-Challenged Moms Out There...

Valentine’s Day Haiku

Teachers want “crafty”
I feel like a lousy mom
On Valentine’s Day

I let out a sigh in the car pickup lane
As the girls pile in and both eagerly exclaim:
“Guess what, Mom? Next Friday is Valentine’s Day!
We get to make boxes to put on display!”

And it’s not just my two school-age kids who need aid;
But my son’s Mom’s Day Out wants a box to be made.
My kids think it’s great; they’re all eager to start;
Convinced that their boxes will be great works of art.

There are moms who can scrapbook and make crafts with ease;
But I’m the first to admit I am not one of these.
For I am a writer; words are what I do.
I’m no good with glitter, ribbon, or hot glue.

When it comes to heart doilies and glue sticks and beads
I can’t make them work; art supplies make me freeze.
I dread the notes teachers send this time of year,
Quite sure they are asking the one thing I fear.

We craft-challenged moms are so misunderstood;
We can’t make a red-and-pink box that looks good.
Maybe I’ll write something—that’s what I’ll do!
I’ll send the kids off with a Valentine’s haiku:

Children, I love you
Sorry your boxes are lame
But you are the best!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Someday I’m Going to Miss This . . . Right?

Last Sunday, I told you all about how I woke up in a quiet house, grabbed my Bible and a warm blanket, and enjoyed some rare (albeit much too short) time to myself before the kids awoke.

Well, yesterday was the complete opposite of that. Times ten.

It went something like this:

Just after 6 a.m., Brett walked into our room and turned on the light, stirring me out of sleep. “Jen? Jen?! Where are you, honey? I need to wear my windpants today. Do you know where they are?”

To his credit, my husband didn’t mean to wake me up. You see, he assumed I was awake because I wasn’t on my pillow, where of course he expected me to be.

Nope, I was sleeping at the foot of the bed.

Apparently sometime during the night, our three-year-old son came downstairs and climbed in bed with us. (I have no memory of this.) He then sprawled out horizontally in such a way that, defying all laws of physics, his tiny body covered the entire length of our king-sized bed. Desperate for a little patch of mattress to call my own, I crawled to the foot of the bed to stake my claim.

So that’s where I was when Brett flicked on the light. I mumbled something about there being clean khakis in his closet and for crying out loud you can’t preach in windpants, and pulled the comforter over my frozen feet.

“No, I need my windpants,” he said. “I’m preaching on spiritual exercise, so I’m wearing athletic gear today. Are they in the laundry?”

With a heavy sigh, I flung the comforter back and got out of bed, knowing good and well that I wouldn’t have gone back to sleep anyway. (Another one of those things they don’t tell you before having kids: no matter how deeply you could sleep pre-kids, the first night you bring your baby home, you are instantly and permanently transformed into a light sleeper.)

After a fruitless search of the clean laundry pile, the dresser, and the laundry sorter, I remembered that I had thrown a load into the dryer on my way to bed the night before. (See, I’m okay with the washing and drying part; it’s the folding and putting up part that trips me up!) A quick check of the dryer revealed the aforementioned pants—wrinkled but clean. (Whew!) I set the timer to ten minutes and told Brett they’d be ready soon.

By this time, as you might have guessed, the kids heard me breathing—which set off their sixth sense to wake up. The pitter-patter of little feet squelched any hopes I might have had for a peaceful morning.

And the real fun began.

Buddy wanted cereal for breakfast, but I forgot to run the dishwasher and we were out of bowls, so I had to hand-wash one for him. J.J. asked for oatmeal . . . until the teakettle whistled, at which time she decided that she wanted toast.

I continued through my morning routine of brewing coffee (first things first!), parceling out the kids’ vitamins (“Mom, I want the purple one, not the pink one!”), and refereeing typical morning squabbles (“J.J, don't tell your brother that boys don’t eat pink vitamins. That wasn't kind. Now apologize to him. . . . No, do it again, and this time I want you to mean it!”).

As I scooped out some dog food and opened the back door to let her outside, I remembered it was Fifth Sunday Feast at church. So I grabbed a frozen lasagna and threw it in the oven.

After breakfast, I sent the kids upstairs to get their clothes and come down to take showers. (I know, I know. I was supposed to do this the night before, but Brett worked late and it was a crazy Saturday and we got off schedule.)

Three showers, four outfit changes (“No, you cannot wear your red dress with your pink leggings and brown shoes!”), two squabbles, one art supply disaster (don’t ask), and one wrapped baby shower gift later, I had exactly fifteen minutes to take my own (cold by now) shower, fix my hair and makeup, get the lasagna ready, pack the diaper bag, grab the baby gift, get the kids' coats and Bibles, herd my crew into the minivan to get to church—and somewhere during the drive, switch hats from frazzled mom to pleasant pastor’s wife.

I wish I could tell you otherwise, but this is a pretty typical Sunday morning at the Stair house.

As I dropped off the last kid in his Sunday school class and made my way into the sanctuary (oops, I mean multipurpose room), I thought about something I read last week in Forever, Erma—a collection of favorite columns from the beloved humorist Erma Bombeck.

Those of you who giggled your way through Erma’s columns over the years no doubt loved her humorous take on everything from diapers to nosy neighbors. Her writing spans three decades of motherhood, from the harried mom stage (for which I am Exhibit A) to midlife and beyond.

Though I laughed till I cried at some of her own kids’ antics (and breathed a sigh of relief to know that our family is sort of normal), I was especially struck by the columns she wrote as an empty nester, after her kids were grown.

Erma wrote poignantly about how she had longed all those years for the time when her house would finally stay clean and she’d be caught up on laundry—only to grieve when it actually happened. She admitted that after years of telling her kids to pick up their rooms and fix their own snacks, when her grown children came home for a visit, she’d follow them around like a concierge, asking “Can I fix you something to eat? Do you need me to wash your clothes? Can I help you with anything?”

She wrote about how quiet it was after the kids left.

After laughing and crying my way through Forever, Erma last week, I’m trying to remember how wistful she was in her later years. So today, as I again went through our morning routine with the kids, I kept reminding myself to enjoy the moment, as busy and chaotic as it may be.

Because someday I’m going to look back and miss all of this . . . right?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Flashback Friday: Inquiring Minds Want to Know . . .

Welcome to Flashback Friday! For a while (or until I run out of material!), I'll repost something on Fridays for you to enjoy. This one is from November 2008. And, yes, J.J. is still asking me puzzling questions like this every day . . .

Several of you who read my latest post e-mailed me to say how cute JJ was to ask so many questions. And many of you shared stories about your own inquisitive little ones.

To be honest, JJ’s questions keep me on my toes! Anyone who thinks that you’d have to sacrifice your intellect to stay home with your kids obviously hasn’t ever had a five-year-old. Or at least a five-year-old like JJ, anyway. Far from letting my mind turn to mush, staying home with my kids has forced me to develop the ability to think on my feet, every day.

Just for fun, I kept track of the questions JJ asked me in the past twenty-four-hours. Apart from the relatively benign ones (“Can I watch a movie?” or “Does this match?”), here are—I kid you not—some of the things she has asked me, from the gross to the profound:

Yesterday afternoon, playing in the backyard:
· What do ladybugs eat? (Um, they eat aphids, I think. And maybe grass.)

· How long do ladybugs live? (I have no idea. Put it in your bug house with some grass and we’ll find out!)

· What’s faster: a leopard or a cheetah? ([The girls found a yellow ladybug and were arguing about what to name it.] I think a cheetah is faster. I’m not sure.)

· Are roly-polies and ladybugs friends? (I don’t know. Go ahead and stick that ladybug in the bug house with your roly-poly and see what happens.)

Last night:

· How come Gran calls it “supper”? (Because some people in the South call lunch “dinner” and dinner “supper.” That’s what GG and Papa call it too.)

· What would happen if I put my boogers in this fairy wand? (Eww! Gross! Don’t do that! Yuck.)

This morning:

· Mom, I have a secret. I asked Boo to do my art homework for me. Is that okay? (No, honey, that’s not okay! You have to do your own homework. If you ask someone else to do it, that’s called cheating, and that’s a bad choice. Besides, how are you ever going to get better at drawing if you don’t practice?)

· Are cats fuzzy? (Yes, they’re fuzzy. Technically, they’re furry, but that’s close enough.)

· (Looking in the mirror) I wish I could have Boo’s face, except not with glasses. Her face is prettier than mine. Can I have Boo’s face instead? (What? Why would you want her face? You’re absolutely beautiful, just the way God made you.)

· (Taking a bath) What makes the soap turn into bubbles? (Uh, I’m not sure. The soapy part, when it hits the water, gets all bubbly. That’s just the way soap is. [Clearly, I didn’t pay enough attention in science class.])

Today at lunch:

· Can I see my bugs now? (Well, okay. Here’s the bug house. Looks like the ladybug is still walking around, but your roly-poly isn’t alive anymore.)

· What does “alive” mean? (Um, let’s see. To be alive means to be living and breathing. To have life.)

· What’s “life”? (Life is, um . . . Life is what God gives to people and animals, to live and breathe and move. It’s what makes us different from rocks and toys and stuff.)

· So your daddy is like a rock? (Uh, no. My daddy died, but he is alive in heaven with Jesus.)

· Is your daddy in the ground, or in heaven? (Well, both, kind of. My daddy’s body is in the ground, but his soul is in heaven with Jesus.)

· What’s a “soul”? (Hmm. Your soul, or spirit, is what is inside you. It’s not your skin and bones but the inside part of you that thinks and loves and feels. The part that God made very special, in His image, and what makes us different than animals.)

Whew! See what I mean? And these are just a few of the things I’ve had to answer since yesterday.

Motherhood is a tough and often thankless job, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart—or mind. Every day, I do my best to nurture these three inquisitive children God has entrusted to us. And every day, I pray that I’ll be able to “speak the truth in love” in a way that honors God and helps them “grow up in all things, into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NKJV).