Monday, November 23, 2015

Does God Know Your Name?

Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.  Isaiah 43:1

When I speak I always want to hear the stories of the people who come.  Earlier this year Vanessa Cordes told me her family's story and it's so great I wanted to share it with you.  She was happy for me to share and it's great timing because yesterday was her cutie's fourth birthday. Here's their story ...

John and Vanessa Cordes are both on staff at Fellowship of Cinco Ranch.  They are a sweet, sweet family They felt God calling them to adoption in Ethopia.  They had daughters and planned on adopting a boy.  When all the paperwork was filled out and submitted John began to grow a beard.  As the weeks and months went by and he was asked about his beard he would say ... "we will see my face when we see our sons face".  

The beard grew and grew.  They had fun with the beard ... putting pencils through it, etc.  When people asked about his beard the answer was always the same ... "we will see my face when we see our sons face".  They never expected it would take so long to get the picture of the boy who would be their son.  

For five long months they waited for a picture ... and the beard grew.  It was hard not to become discouraged during the wait as they so desperately wanted to see the face of their boy.

Finally they received his picture!  A little boy with a big smile named Abas.  John shaved his beard and they began to make plans to travel to meet their son.  

During the waiting to go meet Abas they researched what his name meant.  They knew the names in that country had meaning but they couldn't seem to find his particular name anywhere.  

Eventually they travelled to Ethiopia.  They had been informed that Abas' mother had died in childbirth and his father was living and working some distance from the orphanage.  John and Vanessa decided to travel to meet Abas' birth father.  Because the dialects/languages are so different they had to take two different interpreters with them.  

They found Abas' father and through interpreters spoke with him.  At the close of their conversation they asked what Abas' name meant.  Abas' birth father laughed and said "bearded man".



Please understand ... John no longer had a beard when he was in Ethiopia.  

So ... while a little boy whose name means "bearded man" was waiting to be adopted in Ethiopia, the man in America who was adopting him grew a beard and refused to cut it until he saw his little boys face.

I think that is amazing.  

God knew who was going to adopt Abas.  And he knew the little boy whose name meant "bearded man" was going to be adopted by a man who was bearded until he saw his sons face.  

And God knows our names too.  

"And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."  Exodus 33:17

Happy 4th Birthday Abas!  I love your smile!  God knows your name!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The View from the Back (reprise)

This article was originally published in "Home Life" magazine in April, 2009.  Someone recently asked me for it and the link to the Lifeway website where it is on line is not working ... so here it is.  Just a fun little background on this article.  Bill had been asking me for a long time to write down some of my stories.  I kept telling him that I liked to tell stories, not write them.  He finally said .. "just write one down, please".  So I did.  Then I called him at work and said "I wrote one story down, now what?".  He said ... "I don't know, call and see if someone wants it".  So I called "Home Life" and asked if I could submit an article.  They said "No, only previously published authors could submit writing to them.  I asked how to go about that and then mentioned that my husband told me to submit something and I'm sure no one would want it and I was just trying to say that I did it.  She kind of laughed and said "go ahead and send it to me ... that way you can say you did it".  Within the hour she called and asked if she could buy the rights to the story to publish.

Here's the irony ... it was an article on SUBMISSION.  Over and over I was telling Bill "no" when he was only asking one thing.  And when I did it, look what happened.  Life is funny like that.

The View from the Back

       A few years ago I was asked to teach a marriage seminar at my church.  I quickly compiled 5 of the 6 weeks of material, but for some reason, I kept postponing the writing of the lesson on submission.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in submission or know that it was a biblical principle laid out in God’s word; it was just that it was never a topic about which I could get excited about studying or writing.   
       Over and over I read the text in 1 Peter 3:1 where Peter instructed “wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands” or even more convicting, Colossians 3:18, “wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”   I consider myself a modern woman, able to think for myself and capable of taking care of myself.  I think there was just something about the word submission that well, quite frankly, it rubbed me the wrong way.
       The week before I was to teach the lesson, I traveled with my husband to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in San Francisco.  It was a trip we had anticipated for quite some time and we loved exploring and enjoying the charm and beauty of the city.  All week, in the back of my mind I kept thinking…I really need to write that lesson.  The day before we were to leave, (and two days before I was to teach this lesson that I wasn’t so sure I understood myself); I told the Lord he was going to have to give me the lesson.  And give it to me He did.
       After a tour of Alcatraz on a very windy and overcast day, my husband Bill and I saw a sign advertising bike rides across the Golden Gate Bridge.  “Let’s do it!” we decided even though from where we stood there was too much fog to even see the bridge. 
       As we went to pay, we saw a tandem bike and decided that surely that would make our trip twice as fun (honestly I really thought we would look cute on a bicycle built for two!).  The owner of the bike shop was happy to rent the tandem bike to us, but not without some warnings and a “test drive” around the parking lot. 
       He began by saying…”Riding a two seater bike is a lot harder than it looks.  You’ll have a lot of fun but you really have to work at it.”  (Is that a great metaphor for marriage or what?) 
       His next warning was…”Let your husband do the work.  He’ll keep the wind off you and protect you on the ride…you just enjoy the view.” 
       So off we went.  I was fully preparing to enjoy the view when I realized that the person sitting on the back of the bike (the stoker they are called) has no brakes.  It is a strange and scary feeling to know you have absolutely no control of the bike.   We were facing a four hour bike ride where I was going to have to trust Bill completely (another great marriage lesson!).
       As we were biking, several times I started to pedal faster than Bill.  It wasn’t that I meant to or was unhappy with our pace; I just got ahead of him.  And literally every time I did this, Bill’s feet flew right off his pedals.  We’d have to take a second to regroup, at which time he would remind me that I was supposed to be letting him do the work.  (I really was trying – but remember, it’s harder than it looks!)
       The reward came right before sunset.  We had climbed hill after hill to reach the bridge and when we finally crossed it, it was the most amazingly beautiful scene I could have imagined.  Out of nowhere it seemed, the fog lifted, the winds died down and the view was spectacular.  The sun was sparkling off the water, ships were coasting out to sea and small boats were coming in for the night.  It was even more beautiful than the postcards in the hotel gift shop.  I was enjoying every minute of our ride and soaking in the breathtaking scenery. 
       I yelled to Bill (it was quite loud with cars zooming by) “isn’t this great!” to which he replied “I don’t know…I’m just trying to get across.”  And get across we did.  We took lots of pictures on the other side, enjoyed the beauty of God’s world and the pleasure of accomplishing our goal, before we headed back to return our bikes.
       It got dark while we were gone and on the trip back, somehow, we hit a large cement block.  Bill literally flew off the bike, rolled on the ground but amazingly landed on two feet.  He was a little scraped up and maybe more than a little shook up, but I was still sitting on the back of the bike.  He asked how I stayed on the bike and I said (as sweetly as I could) “baby, I’m letting you take the falls…I’m just enjoying the view.”  I was really starting to like this!
       When we returned the bike the owner looked at me and said “did you let him take the lead?”  When I responded affirmatively he said “and you really enjoyed it didn’t you?” 
       I knew right then and there God was saying to me,   “baby girl, here is your lesson on submission.”
       After the ride, we celebrated by going to Ghirardelli Square for a giant hot fudge sundae.  While Bill was ordering I scribbled on a napkin the lesson I knew God had given me.  I keep that napkin in my Bible as a constant reminder that submission isn’t a bad or oppressive thing.  In fact, the original Greek word for submission, hupataso, means to come under as if to protect.  I no longer view submission as some outdated, subservient idea…although that is how I think Satan would like me to view it, but rather I prefer to think of submission  as God’s way of letting my husband take the hits and do the work and letting me enjoy the view. 
As I learned, it’s not as easy as it looks. If I try to get ahead of my husband I literally knock his feet out from under him.  Although I couldn’t see what was up ahead, Bill could.  He took the wind, a bad fall, and pulled the bike up a lot of hills, but working together and letting him take the lead, actually made the ride easier on both of us. 
And I’m telling you, the view from the back of the bike is great!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Delighting in this Day

Summer has come and gone.  We are on week two of school now and trying to get used to the routines again.  The other day I posted something on facebook that seemed to strike a cord with people.  I got phone calls and messages from people who said .. "I needed to read that".  One person called and asked if she could use it as a guest post on her blog.  I said "of course" ... which only reminded me that I had a neglected blog and that maybe I could post it on here too.  Here you go ...  and hope your year has gotten off to a great start!

Delighting in This Day

One day last year my daughter Brittany was swimming in a swim meet which was very important to her. She wanted to do well and trained hard all season. As the day unfolded we realized it was not going  to go like she had hoped. To say it was not her best swim was a total understatement. She did so poorly her coach suggested having her tested for mono as he felt something must surely be wrong.
Her disappointment after the meet was great.  In fact, it was the only time I ever saw/heard her cry about a sport. My husband Bill and I felt helpless in what to do or say and we were both sad right along with her.
Later that night as we were discussing how the day went. I told  Bill that I had texted Brittany a Bible verse early that morning. He said he had done that as well. When we asked each other what verse we had each sent,  completely randomly, we had both picked the exact same verse.
Psalms 118:24. This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
It still seems so crazy to me that of all the verses in the Bible we both sent that one to her. I was so glad we hadn't sent one about winning the race or anything like that… Because that didn't really matter. What mattered at the end of that day ... When she was discouraged and sad and wondered if it all had been worth it .. Was right at the heart of that verse. Regardless of what that day brought, it was the day the Lord had made...and whether we liked that day or not, we could rejoice in it.
We weren't happy rejoicers. We didn't think it was great to be rejoicing...look, we didn't even feel like rejoicing...but it was the day the Lord made and that was a good enough reason to rejoice.
The literal Hebrew definition of rejoice is "to delight in God's grace". So it wasn't even that we had to say "awesome, great day!" (because it was not) ... but we could know God was gracious towards us, towards Brittany.
There are plenty of other times when we've wanted to yell "man down!" in our family and we've shed tears and questioned why or wondered what we could have done differently.
But then we remember..."this is the day the Lord has made (despite what happens) and we will rejoice (delight in God's grace) and be glad in it.
Shed your grace on us Lord. 
We need it and will delight in it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What I didn't read in any of the articles about sending a child to college ...

This time last year I was in the "end of senior year" frenzy.  It was the "last" time to do lots of things, the first time for prom and of course, graduation.  I remember reading/seeing lots of articles on how to survive sending your child off to college.  Some were funny, some eloquent and many thought provoking.  

Since it's that time of year again I’ve noticed the sharing of many of these articles again.  Many of my friends, who are in the midst of the senior year send off festivities for their own children, are starting to feel emotional as they think about taking their children to college for the first time.  As much as I’ve read about college send off (and yes, it can gut wrenching), I’ve seen far less written about “picking up”.  And, trust me, no one is more surprised than me that I've found that part to be emotional too.

College drop off seemed to be one part expectation of the new beginnings for my daughter mixed with too many more parts of anxiousness about what those new beginnings meant.  Anticipating drop off I kept thinking about the morning our whole family loaded up our Suburban and took her, our firstborn off to kindergarten.  She had new shoes and a cute red dress. She had picked out her own backpack and lunchbox … she was set and ready to go.  As we were making our way towards the school I turned around in the car to give her one last instruction.  I was going to say, “Don’t forget to sit at the front of the bus on the way home”, but my throat caught and I knew I couldn’t get the words out without crying. 

So I let it go and hoped and silently prayed she would remember all the things we had talked about in the first five years of her life. 

I had to trust that she knew what to do.  

Before our family got out of the car that day we said a prayer for her.  We then walked her in and she began her new school kindergarten adventure. Turns out that was the LONGEST day I could ever remember.  I wondered what she was doing, who she was playing with, if she liked it, and if the other kids liked her.  A little after three on that hot August day, a smiling little girl got off the school bus beaming with pride, independence and confidence.  The day had been a huge success.

Come to think of it, taking her to college began much like taking her to kindergarten.  Our family loaded up the Suburban with everything she needed to start her new life in college.  She had a new bedspread and towels and a few new outfits for “game days”.  As we set up her room there was so much I wanted to say … “do you know how often to wash your sheets, don’t walk at night alone, eat breakfast” … and on and on I could have gone.  But just like that day in kindergarten, I had a catch in my throat.  So I hoped and I silently prayed that she would remember all the things we had talked about the first eighteen years of her life.

I had to trust she knew what to do.  

Moving in was relatively easy.  We got her room set up, had lunch and needed to make one last, quick trip to Target to pick up a desk lamp for her dorm room.  We found the  lamp she needed and walked towards the cashier to pay.  You should have seen me on the way to the checkout.  It’s funny looking back … I was picking up anything and everything and asking, … “Do you think you need this?  Do you want one of these?  Do you want snacks for your room?”.   And with each “no” she said her tone became a little firmer.  She clearly wanted the lamp and wanted to leave.  Her dad said something to me like … “Nerves are kicking in … its time for us to go”. 

So we drove back up to her dorm and I realized we were just dropping her off.  In my head I was screaming  “NO! No … we can’t just pull up in front of the dorm like a carpool and drop her off.  There’s supposed to be a “moment”, right?”  But we pulled up in front of the dorm and her dad got out of the car.  He went around and opened her door and prayed a prayer over her.  It was beautiful really.

He said “Amen” and I thought that was it. Until (thankfully!) I remembered I had left my phone cord in her dorm room.   I’ve never been so glad for my forgetfulness as that very moment because it meant I got to walk back in the dorm with her for one last goodbye.  The goodbye “moment”  I was wanting.

I got my phone cord and took one last look around at my baby’s new room.  I turned to go and her roommate’s mom, who was dropping off her third (and youngest) daughter, asked me if I was ok.  Up until that exact moment I had been fine. Anxious, to be sure, but ok.  Right then the tears began to well up and they spilled over.  This was goodbye.  Caroline and I walked to the stairway and hugged one last time and she turned and went off to begin her new college adventure.  I walked down the stairs feeling a bit smug perhaps that I had nailed the college drop off.  A catch in the throat but not too many tears.  Then I saw some of her high school friends in the lobby and I cried real, sloppy tears.  (The funny thing is one of the girls called her mom later and said “Why didn’t you cry like her mom did?”  HA!)

The car ride home was fine.  Our second daughter didn’t say much.  Our third daughter was excited to be moving up from the back row of the Suburban to the second row and her 11 year old brother was THRILLED to have the whole back row to himself.  We got back to Houston and drove straight to a Chinese restaurant we all enjoy and for the first time said “table for five”. 

The new normal in our house took some getting used to, for sure.  I didn’t like walking by her empty room and not seeing a “lived in” look.  When I went to the grocery store I reached for things only to realize that she was the only one who liked it and therefore I didn’t need to buy it anymore.  It was those kinds of things that caught me off guard.  The first few days just felt weird.  No other way to describe it.

But the days she was gone turned into weeks and then into months.  Now a full college year has gone by and we are making plans to go pick up her stuff.  She won’t be coming home until mid July as she is heading straight from school to the camp where she will be working this summer.  We are all thrilled about this summer adventure for her.

But this is what I’ve learned after year one.  This is what I never read in any of the "how to survive" articles.  I’ve learned it was just like kindergarten.  I had to trust it was going to be ok.  And the girl whose stuff we are picking up is more confident, more independent and more radiant than the one we dropped off.

Going to the University of Texas was not where I envisioned her going to college. Up until spring break of her senior year I thought she would go to go to the college where my husband and I attended.  Once she made her decision however … and every moment since then, it has felt right.  UT has far exceeded my expectations.  I knew it was a prestigious university but what I didn’t realize was how kind the students, the dorm directors and administration would be to us.  I didn’t know there would be a group of “Texas parents” that would answer any/every question.  What I didn’t realize was how much I would enjoy watching my daughter embrace college life.

As fun as going up for a football or basketball game has been, the best day I spent on campus since drop off was one day in March when I drove up for my daughters birthday.  She had to “squeeze in” a quick lunch with me because she had class and dinner with friends and was meeting some other friends for cake on the state capital steps.  It was that day that I saw how happy she was at UT.  She told me all about her spring break trip with Young Life to Florida the previous week and how she had seen friends get baptized in the ocean while dolphins jumped in the background.  I drove home that day so filled up with how good God has been to us, to her.  How faithful He has been in taking our trembling hands and hearts and saying “trust me”.  

I cannot begin to count the times I truly felt the Lord was whispering to me “I’ve got your girl”.  It's a lot, at every turn.  There were a few times I even questioned Him on it because I thought He was letting me/her down.  But He wasn’t.  

Because her college experience was going to be different than mine, I had a fear of the unknown.  Looking back, that unknown has been a wonderful new adventure for us.  We have learned to love new things, a new place … yes, even a new school. 

So last week, while standing in line waiting on my order at the deli counter, I opened an email from the Scottish Rite dorm with “move out instructions” in the subject line.  I honestly thought I was going to burst into tears.  These were different kind of tears though.  Tears of pride that she finished strong, tears of sadness that her first year in a dorm I grew to LOVE was over, tears of thankfulness at God’s protection and provision for her, tears of joy for her new opportunities, experiences and friendships she has found … and tears of relief that all of those times God whispered to me that “he had my girl” and to trust Him … He meant it.

He has my girl.  He has me.  And a year I thought was going to be scary and unknown has become a memory of something loved and cherished. So here’s one more thing I think those articles forgot to mention … Pick up is amazing. 

Hook ‘em!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Because the internet asked ....

Yesterday I had the privilege of going back to Baylor University and speaking at an event for the Theta Kappa chapter of Chi Omega.  I was initiated there in the spring of 1987 .... in other words, a LONG TIME AGO.  The girls could not have been nicer and we had a lovely time. 

When they invited me to come they asked if I could tell them a little bit about my speaking and how my experience in Chi O has helped with what I do.  While I was preparing it occurred to me that perhaps one of my first public speaking "opportunities" was back in the spring of 1987 during pledging.  We had a "get to know you" event in the Barfield Drawing Room (which just so happened to be the same room where last nights event was held).  That day I "won" the "You have the most embarrassing moment" game and  I "got" to stand up and tell the whole chapter my story.

I was going to stop there last night but then I saw the looks on the girls  faces and asked ... "you want to hear the story, don't you?"  And they overwhelmingly said they did.  It was an unplanned "extra, added bonus" in my speech.  It's only been told to family and a few trusted friends and once at a PTA meeting.  In other words, not a lot.

When I mentioned the story on facebook today I almost immediately began getting texts that said .. "DO TELL".

So, here goes, right here on the world wide web ...

I was in the 8th grade.  EIGHTH.  That's important to note because this kind of thing should not happen to anyone ... much less an EIGHTH grader.  

My mom bought me a new pair of pink, wool pants with a flare legs (remember it was the early 80's although I'm not sure these were a good idea even then).  They had an elastic waist and I'm pretty sure they came from the JC Penney sale rack.  Apparently I thought they were snazzy because after I tried them on that night I decided to wear them to school the very next day.

I took off the pants, showered and the next morning put the pants back on for school.

I went to the bus stop just like any other day.  I went to first and second period and everything was fine.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Third period everything was fine too .... until ...

I was just sitting there in French class minding my own business.  Actually I was probably day dreaming. Our desks faced each other with a big aisle down the middle.  I felt something in my pants just above my knee and began to kind of kick my leg.  To this day I don't know why I didn't STOP.  But I kept kicking until all of a sudden OUT OF THE BOTTOM OF MY PANTS FLEW MY UNDERWEAR from the day before.  

OH NO!!!!!!!!! OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And they weren't just any old panties ... y'all (and this is where the story gets REALLY bad) ... they were GASP .... Raggedy Ann and Andy panties.  WHY DID I (an EIGHTH GRADER) HAVE THOSE?!?!?!  Someone tell me!??!?  

And so I did what anyone in that situation would do ... and I started acting like they weren't mine.  I said "EWWWWWW" and "GROSS" and made a scene while fervently praying  that no one would ever know they were mine.

The teacher called the janitors office and, as if to add insult to injury, I KID YOU NOT ... he came down to our classroom with TONGS.  HUGE tongs.  GIANT tongs.  And he scooped up my panties and they have never been seen again.

The end.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What's the Answer?

Yesterday at breakfast I asked Jacob what he wanted for dinner that night. (The very fact that I was thinking about dinner before 8 am is a flat out miracle).  I still haven't made a "big" grocery store run since our Spring Break trip and it's been slim pickings in the food department around here.  

I knew I was going to the store later and was hopeful he would tell me just the thing to make.  He suggested something that only has three ingredients so I said "PERFECT".  In fact, the recipe calls for a pound of hamburger which (miracles abound!), I just so happened to have in the freezer, already browned.  I set the meat out to thaw and knew I'd pick up the other ingredients after my exercise class.  

By four o'clock I had dinner prepared.  As in READY TO EAT.  

And I waited.

I waited because Bill usually calls about 4:00 and asks "what's the dinner plan?".  I'm pretty sure this started because he grew tired of walking in the door after work and asking the same question only to see  me get a panicked look on my face when I remembered that I meant to think about that earlier.  

I was so excited to actually have an answer for him ... but he didn't ask. 

We were meeting up at 5:00 at the middle school track meet.  Savannah made it to finals in hurdles (so proud and amazed at her jumping over those hurdles!  I can barely walk without tripping and she jumps over hurdles and makes it look easy).  

Still Bill didn't ask about dinner.

I was about to burst because I had an answer!

While I was driving home I called my mom because SOMEONE needed to know I had made dinner early!  HA!

Finally when Bill got home he asked and I think I saw a little shock and awe (and probably relief) on his face when I had an answer.  (yay me!)

And speaking of having an answer ... I've been writing sessions for a womens retreat on hope.  Today I was reading 
1 Peter 3:15-16. 

It says ...

     Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  

Basically Peter is saying ... if anyone asks you about your faith ... know the answer.  Be prepared.  Don't wing it.  Don't "think about it later".  

As fun as it was to have an answer for Bill on our "dinner plan" ... how much greater to have an explanation for the hope I have in Jesus.

I want to always have an answer for where my hope comes from.  

And I WISH I always had an answer about the "dinner plan".

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hello and Merry Christmas!

Well hello there dear blog readers.  I've missed you.  A lot.  I love to write but I also love my family and they keep me busy.  I'm hoping to write more ... be looking for it because I'm feeling kind of  "bloggy".  

I taught Sunday School this morning and I told our class that we love Jesus but we lost Him. (More about that in the links below). He is gone, can't find Him anywhere. When I looked up what I had written I realized two things:

1.  He's been missing for two years.  I thought it was only one.  Time moves quickly.  I've GOT to find Jesus!

2.  I never published the 2013 missing Jesus blog I wrote.  I think I just forgot to press "publish".  So I've done that now.

I'm going to keep looking for Jesus everywhere.  

And I might just go buy another one for my nativity set.  (hopefully I'll remember!).

Merry Christmas friends!

2013   "An Empty Nativity"     Read it here 

2014    "We Lost Jesus"            Read it here