Monthly Archives: October 2014

Haircuts and the passage of time

Noah's first haircut, June 2007

Almost since the beginning, I’ve given all the haircuts in the family. No, I’m not a trained hair stylist — I started out of necessity. Occasionally, I have an “off” day and the results are less than stellar. But for the most part, I do an OK job. No one runs away crying at the horrible hair of my kids or husband.

While this started out as a cost saving measure, it has transitioned into something so much more.

A baby in our family usually gets his first haircut by age two. For girls, I do little more than trim the ends to even them up. Boys take a bit more work. That first haircut is an exercise in patience — both for me and the child. I need help from my husband to hold their head while I’m making cuts, because they cannot understand the notion of sitting still for five seconds. It’s always bittersweet to see those baby locks fall away. I pick up a clipping to save. To remember the sweet curls,Noah's first haircut, June 2007 the baby-fine softness of their hair. Then there is that moment when they look in the mirror after the haircut and stare with no recognition of who they are. 🙂

As the babies turn into toddlers, they do much better at sitting. Some get frightened at the noise the clipper makes. All are curious. The hair changes. Gradually. A bit darker maybe, fuller, less fine.

Grade school kids just want the haircuts done, often opting to have it all buzzed off. I notice when they haven’t been doing an adequate job of washing their hair, and I instruct them. We have one-on-one time to chat about how they are doing, or other things that might be important to them at the time. Now the hair is full and strong, and they have settled into their own hair color. The hair changes. Almost imperceptibly. Growing thicker, coarser.

During the teen years, the hair changes dramatically. Hair that once was straight now is curly. Coarse hair turns fine. Limp, fine hair now has a ton of body. It’s interesting, what hormones do to hair. Yep, those bodies are changing. Hair is greasier. Again I give reminders about personal hygiene as we have our haircut chats. They also have more of an opinion on how they want their hair to look. Style. I try to accommodate, but I have no training. I learned on the job and my methods are primitive, to say the least. Sometimes mom doesn’t cut it (haha, pun not intended, I saw it after I wrote the sentence) anymore, and they seek out someone more experienced and professional to do the job. I’m fine with this. Less work for me. Right? But there is a twinge of sadness, as I see them begin the separation process toward independence. And I miss the chats we used to have as I cut. While I recognize this as normal, healthy and good, there is a part of me that longs for them to stay little and cuddlable.

As adults, sometimes a mom haircut is preferred because they recognize the cost savings to them. Their hair is mature now, as they are. Settled into their true color and style. Just as they are. We again chat. Sometimes this is the only alone time we have in a week or more. I no longer need to remind them of personal hygiene. They get it now.

As I cut hair year after year, every six weeks or so, I watch time pass by. I reflect on the changes that I have seen represented in the fallen hair on my bathroom floor.

And I’ve seen the process continue into adulthood as I’ve cut Don’s hair. When I first started, he was younger than our oldest child is now. He had very thick, slightly wavy, coarse hair. It took a LOT of pruning to make it lay nicely. Over the years I’ve notice a bit less in the dust pan at sweep-up time. I’ve noticed a little gray, a bit of receding at the temples. A little more gray. Finer hair again. Time goes on. I am hit with the realization that we are getting older. How did this happen? Weren’t we just married a couple of years ago? I don’t feel any different.

I remember all the hair on the floor. I remember the changes. The changes represented there encompass several lifetimes.

What changes will the future hold? Eventually all the kids will grow up and leave. No more haircuts, no more chats. But, Lord willing, Don and I will grow old together. I won’t necessarily feel it, but I’ll see it in the hair on the bathroom floor.

Hair clippings on floor

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Filed under Children, Home, Odds and ends

Stories of God’s Provision – Our home

In January of 1996, when our fifth child was born, we were renting a tiny two-bedroom, one-bath house with an itty-bitty back yard. We had 4 kids in one room, and the baby slept with us. We knew this arrangement would not be manageable much longer.

Shortly after Nathaniel was born, we started looking for another home to rent. Housing prices in the San Diego area have never been really low, but we figured we could afford a nice three-bedroom in a decent neighborhood.

We had a necessity list:

  • Backyard
  • Decent neighborhood
  • Not a busy street
  • In our budget
  • Minimum 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms
  • Big enough dining room to fit our table

And a wish list:

  • Bigger kitchen
  • Fireplace
  • Two-car garage

At the time, a place such as this was going for anywhere from $900/month to $1800/month. Our budget was $1200/month.

It was a different world then. No Craigslist with photos, just the classifieds in the local paper. Early every Friday or Saturday morning, I’d get a paper and scour the “For Rent” section. As soon as it was late enough to call, I’d make arrangements to see the places and then put my kids in the car and drive.

Some places were just awful — clearly wrong. Others looked not quite as bad. We put in several applications. We had a perfect credit score, so we figured it would be a simple matter of being the first one in line for a place.

But. We. Were. Wrong.

They would tell me on the phone that we were the first to view the house and apply. But, when I followed up with them later, after we’d seen the house with kids in tow, or had written on the application the number of children we had, they would tell us that someone had gotten there before us. Clearly they didn’t want five kids living in their precious piece of rental junk covered in seven sloppy coats of paint.

Clearly they were lying to me.

This went on for six or eight weeks. There were tears. I was discouraged.

Knowing that we were looking to move out, and understandably not wanting her income stream to be interrupted, our landlady had lined up a new tenant for the home we were living in. So we had a deadline to be out by March 31st.

As the days passed with no success, the stress began to rise. March 15th came and went. We decided to broaden our search geographically. We began considering places in Escondido, a small city just north of San Diego.

The first few homes we looked at were trashed, on busy streets or in gang-dominated areas of the city. Clearly not suitable.

As of March 27th, we had still not found a home. In faith, I had been packing everything that we did not need day-to-day. But my faith was wavering.

I saw a new rental listing in the classifieds. I called. Got the address. I requested an appointment to see the place.

When offered a choice of appointment times, I chose the earliest one possible — eight o’clock on a Saturday morning — even though I knew it would be hugely challenging to get five kids (all under the age of six) up and out the door by seven thirty in order to have time to drive to the appointment.

I didn’t want to take any chances.

As we were driving along, discouraged by the way things had gone in our search to that point, we wryly speculated how many coats of paint this one would have, how many missing light bulbs, how dirty the carpet would be, etc.

We drove by some definite fixer-uppers before turning and heading up a street that this house backed up on.

As we drove up the hill, we could see that the quality of the homes was different. These were newer, well-maintained homes.

Strange. This was NOT what we had been encountering up to this point in our search.

We pulled up in front of the address I had written down, wondering whether somehow I had gotten it wrong.

Don went in first, while I waited outside in the van with the kids. About fifteen minutes later, he came out, and he had a happy look in his eyes. He told me the place was really nice and the owner (who was a real estate broker) did not freak out when he found out we had five kids. He had four himself, he said.

He’d asked Don his occupation and income and given him an application to fill out.

I went in to have a look while Don took a turn with the kids. I went in, walked around in amazement. This was “exceeding abundantly above all that I could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

Our house in EscondidoIt was on a short cul-de-sac. In a neighborhood that was at the end of a dead end street on a hill. It had three big bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a two-car garage, a big “great room”, a backyard, a nice kitchen, a fireplace, and lots of storage. The carpet was clean, and the walls had only one coat of paint. The walls were dirty, but we told from the get-go that we could paint or do whatever we liked with them.

We had not even finished filling out the application when the owner handed us the keys. As he looked over the application, he said something about us probably being able to qualify to buy the place.

We were ecstatic! When we told our friends (who had been praying) the good news, our amazing painter friend Brad Stoner (shameless plug: offered to paint the place for us for only his cost of labor! Wow, wow, wow!

Three days later, we moved into a freshly painted, almost-brand-new house just in time to celebrate Daniel’s 3rd and Rebecca’s 6th birthday on April 8th.

But that is not the end of the story.

Fast forward ten months.

I’m in my nice cozy home, making dinner, when I notice a man coming up the walkway toward my door. I anticipated a knock, but there was none.

Concerned, I opened the door. The man was walking away. There was a paper taped to the door.

When the man saw me, he turned back and asked whether I was the owner.

I said no, we are renting.

He then informed me that the house was in foreclosure, and the paper was a notice of the auction that was to take place at the end of that month.

The notice included the minimum bid. The amount was not only unattainable for us, it was waaaay above the market value for the home.

The owner, as I said, was a real estate broker. He apparently had purchased this home and several others during a real estate boom a few years earlier. This particular house was purchased when the market was high; it tanked a year later.

The housing market was still depressed at that time. The owner, unable to keep up on the payments, had declared bankruptcy and let his real estate property go.

When we applied to move in, we had had no idea that he was in such sorry financial shape. We thought back to our initial encounter with him — how he had said, you could probably qualify to buy this house, and other small clues that we had totally missed.

We were devastated. Not only were we faced with leaving this home we loved, but we would have the arduous task or packing and moving plus all the associated costs and hassle. IF we could find another home, that is.

We started looking.

And we started asking questions to try to figure out how much time we might have before we had to get out. We asked our banker friend Ed. He worked in a bank’s REO (“real estate owned”) department.

Ed explained the process. No one will bid on the house at auction. More was owed that the house was worth. The ownership would then revert to the bank. It was the REO department’s job to get rid of the real estate as fast as possible, for fair market value.

Since we no longer needed to pay rent to the previous owner, and the bank wasn’t in the rental business, we lived rent-free for February. I called the previous owners and requested our deposit back. It was a long shot, I figured, but worth asking.

Amazingly, they returned our deposit.

A few days later, there was a knock at my door. It was a real estate agent who worked with the bank that owned the loan on the house.

I’m sure she was sent by the bank to assess the situation, and to figure out how to get rid of these unwanted tenants.

I told her we were already looking for another place to live. I asked her about the possibility of us buying the house, (knowing full well that it would take a miracle, because we didn’t think we had enough money for a down payment).

Her response was not at all encouraging. She said the bank always wanted the house empty before it was put up for sale.

We kept looking for another place to rent.

After the auction date had come and gone, I got a call from a man from the REO department of the bank. We talked a bit about the feasibility of us buying the house. He referred us to a mortgage broker they often worked with. We made an appointment to meet with him.

Again in March, we did not have to pay any rent.

By not having to pay rent for two months, and by the return of our deposit, we now had enough in savings to make home buying a possibility.

We asked both sets of parents for their advice. And we prayed much for direction. Don prayed for a very specific confirmation, much as Gideon prayed (see Judges 6:36-40). A particular response from parents. One that, while solidly based on Scripture, seemed random and not at all likely to occur. And that was the response that we received. I only learned of this prayer and answer after the fact.

God was going before us. Making our paths straight. We decided to go forward.

We filled out the heaps and heaps of paperwork associated with a home loan, and then we made an offer to the bank for the house we were already living in. After a little back-and-forth haggling, our offer was accepted. As a part of our agreement, the bank paid to fix a few (minor) existing problems in the house.

We did not pay any rent in April.

We finally closed on our loan late in April. We bought a new home, and didn’t have to move.

But there is even more to the story:

Within six months, the housing market began to pick up. By the time we sold the house, eight years later, to buy a larger one for our much expanded family, it had more than doubled in value. There is no way we could have predicted that timing. Yet, it was the absolute best timing imaginable.

As I ponder God’s provision in the matter of a home, I think the thing I am most struck by is how I worked and worked to achieve my goal of nice home for my family. This is a good goal. If I had been successful, I would have been so proud. But God allowed me to fail in spite of my best efforts. I came to the end of myself. I gave up pushing, and came to a place of surrender. God, your will be done. Then and only then did the floodgates open and his mercy and provision pour down.

This story is not about me. Not about Don. It’s about our Great God. Only he gets the praise and glory for this miraculous provision.

God has been very generous to us.


Filed under Odds and ends

Welcome to Urgent Care — Oh, you again?

Back to zeroEvery family has accidents and injuries. Big families tend to have greater numbers of accidents, due to the simple and obvious fact that they have a greater number of people. Our family is no exception.

But sometimes the number of urgent care visits becomes ridiculous. When I’ve made more than one trip per day, or gone twice in one week for the same kid, something needs to be done.

This past year we had a particularly rough season. There was a large gash on the head that required about ten stitches, a broken ankle, and several smaller things that I’ve apparently blocked from my memory. Seems that every time the kids went out to play, someone was getting hurt.

This had to stop!

Often, the accidents resulted from carelessness or just plain stupidity. We lectured, pleaded, instructed, made rules, enforced rules, yelled, prayed, etc. The kids just would not use reasonable caution, or learn to effectively calculate risk.*

Somehow, out of my frustration, I came up with an idea.

I’m not even sure how the idea came to be. Don thinks he mentioned something in passing about OSHA standards. I can’t remember. All I know is that one day, after yet another injury, I looked at a small chalkboard in my kitchen and decided.

I grabbed my chalk and wrote a big 0 (ZERO), and labeled the board “Accident Free Days”.

For weeks, it seems, we were stuck in the single digits, frequently returning to zero. It was discouraging.

But about 6-8 weeks in, something changed. The kids did NOT want to go back to zero, so they started being more careful — willingly. We moved into double digits.

When we hit 30 days, we decided it was time for a celebration. A whole month accident free! Amazing. We went to In-N-Out Burger to celebrate.

As with any method that we employ to train or teach our children, there is always a period of refinement as we discover unintended consequences. First, we had to define “accident”, because we have some future lawyers in the family who sometimes didn’t want to admit we needed to go back to zero days…. We came to define accident as any incident that requires medical attention significantly above the Band-Aid level, or that is likely to leave a mark or bruise lasting more than a few days. If they cry and carry on, it is clearly more serious, and requires us to go back to zero.

Soon, we discovered an unintended consequence, which turned out to be a huge blessing.

A seemingly unrelated problem was driving us crazy: certain of our children, drama queens that they are, would overly exaggerate the (minor) injuries they received, in a ploy for extra sympathy, or perhaps in an attempt to get a sibling in trouble. When this particular child (OK, I admit it’s one child in particular) learned that this would take us back to zero, we had almost no more complaining and carrying on. There was the self-interest in keeping the whole family on track, and also the peer pressure of knowing that if you are the one to deliberately take the family back to zero, you might feel some heat from irritated siblings.

This brings me to the next adjustment we had to make: How to handle the one child (developmentally delayed) who got ANGRY at the child who was injured, or even if he THOUGHT a sibling was injured. He so did not want to go to zero that he created a huge problem.

We decided this: If a child gets injured, everyone needs to respond to the hurting child with love and care, and make sure his needs are taken care of. IF one does NOT respond properly, they miss out on the next “reward” time that comes, regardless of whether we go back to zero or not.

It’s a little unconventional, but it’s working for us. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for creative solutions to the problems you face as a family. No matter what the size.

As of today, we’re at 119 accident-free days. 🙂

*Just to be clear: We don’t want our children to be paralyzed by fear, and afraid to take risks — very few worthwhile activities are completely risk-free. We want them to learn to make wise decisions based on a careful evaluation of the risks and benefits associated with the choices they are considering.


Filed under Children, Home

From Fear to Faith

There was a time in my life when I was fearful. I’m not talking about the kind of cautious fear that contributes to wise decision making. I’m talking fear that consumes. Irrational at times. Fear that makes your heart race and keeps you from sleeping. Debilitating fear.

Fear that:

– My husband would leave me.

– Something would happen to Don (accident) and I’d be left a widow with children I could not provide for.

– I would be in a horrible car accident.

– One of my children would die.

– A child would be severely injured or would be born ill.

– We wouldn’t have enough money and would lose our home.

– A child would walk away from God.

– That one of my kids would be badly hurt while playing.

– A teen driver would crash the car and die.

– Etc., etc., and so forth and so on….

There is always something else to fear. But  fear ravishes. It consumes and destroys. It robs. I did not want to be this way.

Slowly, God has changed me.


By allowing into my life some of the things I feared.

And in so doing….

– Letting me experience first hand his comfort and provision.

– Helping me see that He is enough even in the midst of heartache and devastation.

– Leading me to give birth with no medical attendant present — thus forcing me to fully rely only on God.

– Walking with me through the trials and hurts of life.

– Comforting me in times of sadness.

– Sending friends to minister to me during times of discouragement.

– Demonstrating his abundant provision in spite of my own failings and mistakes.

– Showing his timely answers to prayer.

I have lost a child through miscarriage.

I have had a child born with a severe birth defect.

I’ve had a child diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder.

I’ve had a baby hospitalized, with no idea of what was wrong with him. So many tests.

I’ve had a child diagnosed with Autism.

I’ve had a child walk away from God.

We’ve had times that were financially tight.

I’m watching my dad battle an incurable disease.

And I have seen, and continue to see, how God walks with me and gives me strength.

I’ve also seen God provide faithfully for us for 26 years. There are more stories of his provision that I will tell, in time.

He has brought me safely through 11 births, with a variety of birth complications.

He has enabled me to meet the challenges presented to me, always giving me just what I need in that moment.

He has taught me to run to him in prayer when discouraged, afraid, confused, lonely or sad.

He has provided me with ready friends who have held me (us) up in prayer during times of trial

He has provided good counsel when the decisions were confusing.

Over and over again, he has been enough. When the fear starts to rise up, and I feel the tightness in my throat. I recall his mercies. And I pray.

“Lord, Thank you that you are enough. Even if I lose everything I hold dear, I can never lose you. Thank you! Lord, let this be for YOUR GLORY.”

It is a conscious surrender to the will of God, regardless of what that looks like.

Practically speaking. I do NOT indulge my imagination! Enough already. I will deal with the problems that ACTUALLY arise. Not the possible ones. Or the hypothetical ones.

I read of those who have gone before who have suffered greatly and have endured joyfully. Corrie ten Boom and Elisabeth Elliot are favorites of mine. I read what they learned of God through their suffering. God was right there with them in their suffering, and will also be with me though my suffering.

I don’t fear — not because I believe I am invincible — but because I know my God is!

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength — carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Corrie ten Boom
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie ten Boom
“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
Corrie ten Boom
“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
Corrie ten Boom
“Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”
Corrie ten Boom
“There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety — let us pray that we may always know it!”
Corrie ten Boom
“If God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know – to tell us that this too is in His hands.”
Corrie ten Boom
Life is but a Weaving (the Tapestry Poem)My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
Corrie ten Boom

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Jim Elliot
“The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for, but we must believe that whatever it involves, it is good, acceptable and perfect.”
Jim Elliot
“God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering…. The love of God did not protect His own Son…. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself.”
Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes
“The only basis of peace is the cessation of the conflict of two wills: my will vs God’s.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“Teach me to treat all that comes to me with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“Christ is sufficient. We do not need “support groups” for each and every separate tribulation. The most widely divergent sorrows may all be taken to the foot of the same old rugged cross and find there cleansing, peace, and joy.”
Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes


Filed under Odds and ends