Friday, August 31, 2007


"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2)

Earlier this week, I paid two hard-working men to remove two trees in my backyard. As shown above, only a stump remains. Most people might think it ludicrous to remove two trees that seem to be healthy. But these trees had a family secret.

They were hackberry trees. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with the tactics of hackberry trees, here’s a bit of their family history:

Hackberry is a weak tree [that is] subject to split and which [is] vulnerable to major wind and ice damage. Hackberry bark is very thin[;] the tree damages easily and is susceptible to disease, eventual rot[,] and catastrophic limb loss. Roots can raise sidewalks and interfere with mowing. The tree is messy with an abundant loss of small limbs and fruit each year.

The rains this summer caused the two hackberry trees to have major growth spurts and made them soar to scary heights, which in turn made them more vulnerable to splitting in the very near future. So I decided that it was time to take preventative action to reduce the chance of them collapsing on my house.

Although my backyard is now completely barren, my outlook is not. I’m excited about the prospect of being able to plant grass in the spring and of having it grow. Maybe I’ll try my luck with other plants as well. Or maybe even a garden could be in my backyard’s future.

But none of that could even be considered while the two hackberry trees were growing there. They blocked out light, and thus life.

I like that the tree removal coincided with the beginning of fall (though not technically here until September 23 or much later in Texas). It reminded me of how the leaves will soon fall off the non-evergreen trees, causing them to be bare, but only for a season. The “death” of the leaves allows for new growth in the spring.

As with all good metaphors from nature, I’ve been pondering what pruning I need to do in my own life in order to be more fruitful. Are there things on my schedule that could be trimmed in order to allow me to use my time or my talents in better ways? What relationships do I need to cut off and which ones should I invest more time in so that they can blossom? There’s always some pruning to be done to my budget, but am I willing to stick to it?

Throughout my ponderings this week, I feel like God has been preparing me for a season (or maybe longer) of pruning. I pray that He will be gentle and that the end result would glorify Him. I definitely feel like a work in progress.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Daddy's Girl

Four years ago today, the phone call came. I had just faxed in a medical power of attorney for my dad as a precaution when the phone rang at my desk at work. The voice on the other end said that my dad had been rushed to the hospital in San Antonio. Within the hour, a minister called to tell me that my father had passed away. A pulmonary embolism, a side effect of his hip replacement surgery, had taken his life. On the day of his funeral, only a few family and friends gathered. The disease that had claimed residence in his mind twenty-two years earlier had taken him away from his friends and from me.

My dad taught auto mechanics at the local high school for twelve years prior to the disease, and during that time, everyone knew and loved him. He never met a Chevrolet that he couldn’t fix, and he had the trophies from car repair competitions to prove it. We couldn’t drive through town without him waving at everyone because he knew everyone and their cars as well.

After he was diagnosed with cerebral Whipple’s disease back in the 80s, a lot of his personality changed. I was only in first grade, and so he became kind of scary to me. I felt as if the Daddy I knew left in the middle of one night by ambulance and never came back, though he was physically present for a while after that.

But eventually, he had to be put in a nursing home while he was still in his forties, knowing that he didn’t really fit there but that he couldn’t function in society either. Somehow in that misfit place, he managed to find his way and keep connected to the life he once had. For instance, he kept tabs on everyone back in his home town by reading the paper, even though most of his friends didn’t keep up with or keep in touch with him. The Cowboys had always been and continued to be his team, no matter how badly they played. Other things that the disease couldn’t take were his ability to diagnose car problems, his craving for sweets, especially strawberry milkshakes from Dairy Queen, and his ability to leave one bite of a meal. And, amazingly he held onto his faith, though it was a bit distorted as a result of his illness.

When I think back on my dad’s life, it makes me very sad to think that he never had the chance to teach me how to dance and to be present at all my school events that he heard about and that brought him joy, and he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle whenever my wedding day comes.

But I am so thankful that God left some reminders of him in my life. I need only look at my feet and see my webbed toes to be reminded that they came from my dad, as did my height. I inherited his ability to leave one bite of a meal uneaten and his knack for keeping a place, especially a garage, neat and tidy. And I have a sneaking suspicion that my sister’s and my ability to identify cars at night by their headlights (though she’s much better at it than I am) came from my dad.

I didn’t do the best job of honoring my father while he was on this earth. I can only do my best to honor him now and keep the memories of him alive. And for today, that’s exactly what I’m choosing to do.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Happy Birthday to . . .

My mother!

Although we celebrated my mother’s birthday back in June so that her sisters and other relatives could come surprise her, today is her actual birthday. I’ve been thinking about how I could honor her on her special day and thought I’d share a portion of the wonderful legacy that she has bestowed upon my sister and me.

One thing that I love about my mother is that she leads by example and does so in so many areas of her life. For one, she is a woman of strong convictions, but she does not force them upon others. (Although my sister says there is some sort of eyebrow raising that occurs to indicate Mother’s displeasure; however, I am not familiar with it.)

At her job, she exemplifies what it means to be loyal and what it means to serve. She has worked at the same job for almost forty years, helping others learn to use their arms again after a stroke or an accident. She cares deeply about her patients, and it is evident in her work ethic.

With what God has blessed her with, she has demonstrated what it means to be a good steward. She takes good care of herself and manages money incredibly well. Raising two daughters and sending them to college on a single income without taking on debt is nothing short of miraculous, and she’d be the first to give the praise and glory to God for His financial provision as well as for healing her from cancer four years ago.

In her free time, she somehow manages to bless others with her hobbies--whether it be baking a treat for someone‘s special day, writing in calligraphy on a card, doing counted crossstitch to give as a gift, or loaning out a great book that she’s read and recommends.

And all of her leading by example is covered by prayer as she is a devout prayer warrior, whom I am grateful to have praying for me!

So on this her special day, we honor her and thank her for her amazing legacy, for knowing our hearts, and for loving us well!!!

With much love,
BITS (Bluebonnet In The Snow) and BITS-E

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Lately, I seem to have developed a love-hate relationship with deadlines. I meet them, but it’s not a pretty process.

When I have a deadline, like the one set for tomorrow, I take out my writing project and then go through the following steps:
  • My mind thinks of at least two or three new writing projects that I would like to start, so I begin an outline for each new project.
  • I decide to check all of my blog feeds, multiple times.
  • I then check my email, multiple times.
  • And at the end of that, I try to go back to the project with the looming deadline. At least for a little bit, until I decide to write a blog post (like this one) or the urge to surf the internet hits again.

Inherently, I like the idea of deadlines because it means that a task will get done and that I can check it off my to-do list. However, in order to meet a deadline, I can’t be complacent; I must take some action. That’s the part that I seem to have trouble with. Not that I don’t want to do the task per se, but that I don’t want to do it on someone else’s timeline. (Yet, with this deadline, I even had a bit of a say in setting it.)

All of this behavior boils down to rebellion. And rebellion, at its root, is a failure to submit to authority. Not a pretty picture.

So, I’m going to try to get back on task and rebel against my rebellion, if that’s possible. While I’m doing that, consider what you rebel against. Do you have trouble meeting deadlines, obeying speed limit signs, complying with library or DVD rental due dates, or submitting to authority in general? I’d love to hear what causes you to rebel and how you combat it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Charting Growth

My pastor briefly mentioned in his sermon a couple of weeks ago that you can’t watch growth; you can only measure it after the fact. The illustration that he used was that of being told that his children had grown; however, he hadn’t seen the growth in their height because he is around his children all the time.

Along the same lines, I recall a bold statement by author and speaker Angela Thomas who spoke at a conference that I attended. She shared about how she desired to be changed each year such that the people she spoke to one year would recognize her in future years at conferences but would be able to tell that there was something different about her.

I want that same thing too. And to some degree, I can tell that I’ve grown. If I think back to what I was like in high school, I can definitely see that I am not the same person. I am a little less self-absorbed, I’m not as OCD with cleaning (though I still like to keep things organized), I’ve switched from being a cat person to a dog person, and I’ve broadened my palette and actually eat some vegetables. None of those things happened overnight.

And yet, somehow, I get frustrated with my spiritual growth because it doesn’t happen fast enough. Becoming more like Jesus is difficult in our fast-paced world because we want an instant change, or at least I do. I don’t want to hear that it is a process. It seems like it doesn’t count if it isn’t a dramatic transformation like Saul/Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus:

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:17-22)

Although I haven’t had instant change like Paul, I would be remiss if I said that I haven’t grown spiritually. In the past seven or eight years, God has stretched me in some interesting ways. He’s challenged me physically. He’s challenged me mentally. And He’s challenged me emotionally.

In the midst of those challenges, I have had some failures. I have given in to fear at times, sometimes to the point of anxiety and more health issues. I have given in to self-reliance at times, only to see that I can’t change myself by myself no matter how many checklists I create.

And so in taking my personal inventory and checking for growth, I can definitely see that God has been faithful. I don’t know what I’ll be “when I grow up,” but I hope I look more like Christ.

“Thank You Father for being faithful to work in me amidst my failures and backsliding. It is You who makes forward progress and all growth possible. Give me eyes to see the growth in others and encourage them in their spiritual walks.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Gift of Believing

I’m reading Blue Like Jazz a second time because my small group wanted to discuss it. After re-reading the first five chapters, one thing that has been impressed upon me is how God opened my heart to believe that Jesus is His Son and that He had to die on a cross for my sins. I didn’t struggle with believing that when I made a “public” decision to follow Christ on Christmas Day 1988. And today I still don’t struggle with believing that.

By saying that, I don’t mean that I completely understand grace or that I fully understand the ins and outs of the Trinity. I still have a lot to learn about grace and how to show it more often to those in my life, and I probably have even more to learn about the Trinity than I can grasp. But the concept of Jesus as my Savior came naturally.

I now know that was a gift.

Some people desperately struggle with making sense of Christianity and believing. Some people are just wired that way. Wanting to have good proof and to make logical sense of things before grabbing hold and believing.

In contrast to my life now, I didn’t ask many questions when I was growing up. If a teacher told me something or if I read something in a book, I didn’t question it. I guess I just had “childlike faith.”

Ever since college, I’ve had professions that require me to ask questions in order for me to be able to do my job. That tendency has carried over into many of my relationships, including my relationship with God. But the questions I ask today are geared more toward what I need to be doing to glorify Him and how I can walk more closely with Him.

“So Father, thank You for giving me the gift of believing in You and Your Son. Help me to be patient with those who struggle to believe in You and to point them toward You in whatever way I can.”

Monday, August 6, 2007


Today I arrived at work and found that our computers were down. The computer “migration” that was scheduled for the weekend encountered some difficulties and had to continue through today. That left us to ponder what tasks we could do without a computer.

The answer was clear: very few.

It was a bit stunning to see how dependent we have become on computers. Not just as a means of communicating, but as a way--the way--we do our jobs. My job is not in high-tech and was able to be performed before computers were invented. So, I know that it is possible to work without a computer; it’s just that it takes sooooo much longer. And the end product has to be put on the computer anyway to be disseminated to others.

All of this got me thinking about how much time I spend on a computer daily versus how much time I spend with God. It’s obvious from the above that I am fairly dependent on my computer and pretty lost without it. But can I honestly say the same about God? Do I depend on Him like I should? Do I notice when I’m wandering around on my own? Do I feel like I can’t live without Him?

If I’m truthful, some days I’m more dependent than others. Some days I’m totally independent of God, depending completely on my self. Those aren’t days I’m proud of. Thankfully though, most days God gives me at least a few reminders that I need to depend on Him by putting some big tasks before me--tasks that I know I can’t do on my own. But just as I “need” the computer for simple e-mails as well as complex documents, I truly need God for every task, big or small. I just need to get into that mindset.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"On" Living

One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to watch a good game. During the fall, it’s college football, especially Big 12 games. In the summer, it’s golf and tennis. But I’m more drawn to watching when “my” team or individual is “on.”

By “on” I don’t mean that the team or individual is merely receiving television coverage. By “on” I’m talking about when the team or individual is in the groove and is playing at the top of their game. Like today with Tiger Woods at the top of the leader board blowing away the competition. Or like the 2005 college football season when the Longhorns went undefeated and won the Rose Bowl with Vince Young at the helm.

But I don’t just follow those who are known for being the best. I followed Venus Williams who had an amazing come-back this year at Wimbledon in spite of being ranked 31st. And I followed Boise State last year beginning in early October when they crept into the top 20 rankings in college football and eventually went on to stun the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl.

Watching these teams and players when they are “on” got me thinking: If it is this much fun for me to watch them do their “thing” and do it well, how much pleasure must God get out of seeing the rest of us (whose daily lives are not broadcast on television) do our particular “thing” and do it well?

Like the person with a gifted singing voice who blesses the congregation with special music.
Or the person with the gift of administration who works behind the scenes to make sure things run smoothly.
Or those who volunteer their time to help others.
Or working parents who manage to save a little energy so that they can play with their children when they get home.

What if everyday Christians lived an “on” life each day using their God-given talents for His glory? What would that look like?

I know it wouldn’t be easy, but isn’t it worth striving for? After all, the heavenly rewards are far better than winning any sporting event, even those with a $35 million purse.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Looking Up

I noticed the other day that I’ve fallen into a bad habit.

Whenever I take my dog for a walk, I keep my eyes on the ground. I’m constantly scouring the ground around us to see if there is anything that Annie might possibly decide to rescue or eat. She’s a golden retriever, so she feels that it is her task in life to bring me “treasures,” unless she happens to discern that such treasures are edible, at which point she eats that treasure and goes in search of a new treasure that she can bring to me.

And so our walk goes something like this, “No. . . . Don’t eat grass. . . . Drop it. . . . [goes a few steps without trying to retrieve anything] Good girl.” Repeat phrases until we have made it back home.

I know that part of this is due to her upbringing, but that’s not my point.

My point is that for a brief second the other evening, I took my eyes off the ground and looked up. At that moment, God took my breath away. He had painted one of the most gorgeous sunsets that we’ve had all summer. And I almost missed it.

It made me wonder how many gifts from God I’ve missed because I haven’t taken the time to get my eyes off myself or my circumstances and simply look up. Besides sunrises and sunsets, I bet I’ve missed a bunch of smiles. There have probably been rainbows and butterflies and all sorts of neat and beautiful things that I've missed out on.

I don’t want to miss out on these treasures any longer. And so as I begin to lift up my eyes more often, I challenge you to do the same and let me know what you see.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of Heaven and earth."
--Psalm 121:1-2

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Pick Up Authentic Parenting

The book I discussed on Monday, Authentic Parenting in a Post-Modern Culture, by Mary E. DeMuth is available now. You can purchase your autographed copy directly from Mary by clicking on the title in the previous sentence. I encourage you to pick it up today!