Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

The summer of 2008 was a rough one.  I was going through a fairly unpleasant divorce (is there such a thing as a pleasant divorce?), I had spent a year away from the kids that I had raised for three years, my roommate was getting married and moving out, my lease was almost up, and I could not find a full-time job.  My teaching job from the previous year had taken its toll on me.  I taught kindergarten at a Christian school, but the truth is that I had no business teaching that year.  I was an emotional mess.  That, combined with less-than-pleasant school administrators, made for a horrible year.  And then it was summer.  I should have breathed a sigh of relief.  But the summer brought a million uncertainties.  What next?  I should have prayed more.  I should have sought God more in all of it.  But honestly, I was tired.  Life felt hard.  I was spiritually numb.  I was done.  I needed to go home.  Back to Texas.  Back to family.  Back to my kids.*

I moved out of my parents' house when i was 17, and I went to college.  Aside from the summers that I spent back at home in Corpus Christi, I never lived at home again.  I moved from Missouri to New Zealand to Tennessee.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I would load up and make the drive to the Dallas-Fort Worth area where all of my family had settled.  And then I would go back home to Tennessee and spend the rest of the year missing everyone.  In my mind, home was Tennessee.  It was where I belonged.  And then one day, it wasn't.  That's where I was when I got the call.

I wouldn't have been ready for it any other time, but that's how it works, you know.  God plants a thought in your mind.  He works and moves (or sometimes doesn't move) to get us to the place where we are open to His plan.  The night before I got the call, I had a fleeting thought of looking for a teaching job in Texas.  It was the first real thought I had about moving back to Texas in almost a decade.  And my Tennessee job search was a miserable failure... so I thought maybe Texas.  I decided not to tell anyone, especially not family.  Not just yet.  And then the next morning my dad called.  The church that he pastored in Texas was looking for someone to come and take over their children's ministry.  And he wanted to know if I was interested.  And I definitely was.

A month later, I was on my way.  I packed up a Uhaul truck... twice, actually, but that's a different blog for a different time.  My brother drove the truck and we towed my little Ford Focus behind it all the way to Texas.  I settled into a new home, a new job, a new church.  I started small with our little children's ministry, making little changes here and there.  I took over our Sunday morning kids church.  I taught the kids new songs.  I got involved in women's ministry.  I joined forces with my mom to teach a Ladies Sunday School class.  I started a Thursday night Bible study for pre-teen girls, hoping to instill some truth into them before they hit their teen years and the boy craze hit.  By the way, I learned that I was too late.  They were boy crazy when I got them.  But I taught them nonetheless.  We cooked together, worked together, studied together, and prayed together.  Satan fought me on those Thursday nights.  There was always traffic while going to pick up the girls.  I was always more tired on Thursdays than any other day of the week.  I got sick multiple times.  But we kept going.  And girls were saved.  And the truth was planted- the truth about God and real beauty and dating and friendship and forgiveness.  

That was three years ago.  Things have changed.  Our church has changed.  My pre-teen girls are now teens.  I am now married.  My extended family has grown.  Everything looks different.  And Jake and I have just accepted new jobs at a new church so that we can go to church together.  In three weeks we will be moving an hour away from where we live now.  We are excited, but honestly, after working for my dad for three years and being less than 10 minutes from my parents' house, I am feeling a little sad.  I have loved spending my days with my mom, working on Bible studies and newsletters and solving the problems of the world from our church office.  With a brother and a dad and a mom all in the same office, I have rarely found myself at a loss for a lunch partner.  We occasionally skipped lunch and headed to a local estate sale.  Being an O'Dell means that one must love bargains and old things.  Estate sales are perfect for both.  But most of all, I have spent three years working in an office with some of the most genuine Christians I know.  And I know they are family, and I admit they are not perfect, but they are most certainly real.  And I will miss them.

I am excited about our new church and our new opportunities.  We are moving into a two bedroom apartment, and I am so excited that I could turn cartwheels (and our new apartment affords the room for such things).  The friends we have made at the new church are already some of my favorite people.  There is so much hope, so much possibility.  But I have five more days here.  Five more days to be in my same old office doing my same old things.  I will go out to lunch, even though I should save the money and bring my lunch.  On Thursday I hope to find a good estate sale to visit.  And on Sunday, I will spend one last day of worship with the family I already loved and the church family that I have grown to love and, of course, a few church people that I have to force myself to love.  Sunday night we will decorate our cars for trunk or treat, and we will pass out candy and hot dogs and we will share the gospel with our community.  It will be a perfect ending to a great three years here.  Three years of healing and ministry and family.  And for all of those things, I am incredibly thankful.

*My kids are not really my kids.  They are my nephews, but they were my kids for three whole years and no matter where they live they will always be my kids.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Got Sprigs!

Oh no! My hair was sticking out all over the place.

"Sprigs!" I said.  "I got sprigs!"

That's how come I started to cry.  Cause sprigs are shortie little sticklets.  And they are not attractive, I tell you. 
- Junie B. Jones is a Beauty Shop Guy*

Everyone has done it.  We almost always regret it, but we have all done it.  We have our reasons.  Convenience, money, time, or maybe we are looking for something new and different.  We have all learned that it is a mistake, but experience is not always a memorable teacher.  Sometimes we forget.  And today, I got my reminder.  Today, I cheated on my hairdresser.

To be fair, I am fully capable of doing certain hair-related things on my own.  I can color my own hair.  I can even put foil highlights in my own hair if the top layers are short enough.  And it's a good thing.  I have more gray hair than the average 34-year-old, and so if I didn't do some of the maintenance myself, I would never be able to afford the upkeep.  But today, I did the unthinkable.  Today, I walked into a hair salon that I had never heard of, and I entrusted my hair to a woman I didn't know.

My first clue should have been this: I found the salon on Groupon during my lunchbreak, and when I called, they were free to take me.  But I rationalized this in my mind.  Busy salon, but it was around lunchtime and people were eating and not getting their hair cut.  Makes sense.  So, I chose my hairstyle, texted the photo to several girlfriends for input, and I got back all positive responses.  Sold.  This was the goal.

Within the first five minutes of my haircut, sweet Clarice the hairdresser and I had become friends.  She told me about her family and her life and this new job she was working (she had only been at this salon for three weeks), and we exchanged basic pleasantries.  And then I asked a question that I should have asked before the haircut started.

What did you do before you started here?
Um, I was in school

Oh, Clarice.  Really?  I tried not to panic.  Clarice worked very slowly.  I assumed that was good news for me.  It wasn't.  By the time she finished, I had a thick top layer of hair that was cut straight across at shoulder level.  Shoulder level.  Only about 6 inches shorter than when I came in.  I also had a thin layer of hair underneath that was approximately four inches longer on one side (only 2-3 inches longer on the other side).  She looked at my hair with a puzzled look, and then she decided to face the obvious.  In order to fix the mess, more cutting was necessary.  At this point, I had been sitting in the chair in Clarice's private hair cutting room for approximately 45 minutes.  And I had lost a huge amount of hair.  In the mix of this last part of our conversation, Clarice had made the mistake of telling me another shocking truth.  She didn't have her license yet.  Apparently, she was waiting for it to come in the mail, but here was a woman that was working in a full-service salon that didn't even have a license to do it.  I made the prompt decision to cut my losses and run.  And run I did.  I told her I would have to think about what to do next with my hair since it was shorter than I had intended.  I pulled my hair into a ponytail to cover the craziness, mumbled a lie about possibly returning tomorrow to get it finished, and I left.  The second I stepped out the door, the magnitude of the situation hit me.  I have been growing my hair out for so, so long.  I have resisted the urge to cut it all off.  I have trimmed and deep conditioned.  And in one fell swoop, Clarice had erased months of my patience.  And so I cried.  And I cried.  And I cried some more.

I was crying too much to make the phone call to my regular hairdresser.  Plus, who wants to have to make that call after such a huge mistake?  So Jake called, and we headed across town to see Letty, my lovely hairdresser who always does exactly what I ask for.  I wondered if she would be able to fix the mess Clarice had made.  When I got there, she combed out my hair and assessed the damage.  And she didn't laugh out loud, but I feel certain that she was laughing on the inside at my puffy eyes and butchered hair.  And I don't blame her.  It was ridiculous.

Letty set to work, making no guarantees, but assuring me that she would try her best to give me a haircut that would allow me to keep some length but would also make sense.  She kept reminding me to calm down and breathe.  And she cut and evaluated and measured, and I have to say that I didn't think she'd be able to do it.  I didn't think she could pull it off.  I thought it was too far gone. But after about 30 minutes and a little bit of genius, she had created a haircut that didn't make me cry.  I loved it.  And so did my husband.  She was the hero of the day.

I drove away from Letty's, and I kept thinking about the disasters that I have created and seen created by people being too impatient, too cheap, too impulsive with their hair.  A girl in college turned her hair green because she was sure that ash brown would look beautiful over her bleached golden blonde.  It didn't.  And I have gotten chin length bobs when I meant to get half inch trims.  And people cut sprigs when they mean to cut bangs.  It's just a mess.  And really, we get what we deserve.  Because after our first childhood experience of cutting our own hair and seeing how it turns out, we really should know better.  We should leave it to only the most experienced and trusted professionals.

So, if you hear me talking hair changes, please question me.  Make sure I am seeing someone I trust.  Not sweet Clarice, who would make a perfect coffee companion, but a terrible haircutter.  Not my friendly neighbor that has never had training but has a reputation for giving cheap haircuts.  Not Super Cuts or Great Clips.  Make sure I am seeing my tried and true hairdresser, one that has other customers that have cute hair.  And a word to the wise, if your hairdresser doesn't wear her own hair, it might be advisable to not let her take scissors to yours.  The end.

*If you are a parent and you are not reading Junie B. Jones books with your children, you are missing out on laugh-out-loud hilarity.  This particular book is my favorite in the entire series.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Independent Fundamental KJV-only Biscuit Eatin' Baptists... a little lesson on the way I was raised

I am a preacher's daughter, a P.K.  I hate that term.  I also hate all of the dumb stereotypes that people like to throw out about preacher's kids being wild and crazy.  Seriously, I feel guilty when I don't put the shopping cart back in the shopping cart return and when I throw away recyclables.  I don't have the conscience to be too wild and crazy.  Besides, I am not just any kind of preacher's daughter.  I am an Independent Baptist preacher's daughter.  And that, all by itself, changes everything.  My Independent Baptist preacher kid friends know what I am talking about.

When I met my Southern Baptist husband, he had never heard of Independent Baptists.  I introduced him to a world he had never known.  And honestly, we are a people like none other.  At this point in my life, I don't necessarily claim the title of Independent Baptist, but don't tell my dad that.  Because as strange as my upbringing was, I would not trade it for anything.  I am thankful for wonderful Godly parents who made choices about how to raise their six kids based on what they believed the Bible said, with a little bit of tradition mixed in.  As time has passed, many of our Baptist churches have changed and there is no real standard for what you will find in the average Independent Baptist church.  But for those of us who spent the 80's sitting on hard pews, drawing on the back of tithing envelopes (which was strictly forbidden), we remember the way it used to be. And for the number of friends and readers who are not familiar with the Independent Baptist way of life, sit back and I will enlighten you.  Here are the real Independent Baptist Distinctives.

  1. No Pants on Women.  Let me assure you, I wasn't raised with nakedness from the waist down.  But good independent Baptist women did not wear trousers in the 80's.  We wore skirts and dresses and our beloved culottes (knee-length or longer, of course).  Pants were for males and old ladies, because apparently once you became old, no one wanted to look at your sagging bottom  you in pants and so you were safe.  I did not start wearing jeans until my junior year of Bible college, and I thought I looked like a boy in them.  This was the year they changed the rules to allow "modest, loose fitting slacks" on women.  And we could not wear them until 1:00 p.m.  Up until 12:59 p.m., they were still sinful.
  2. No Movie Theaters.  Movies in your own home, acceptable.  Movies in the theater, unacceptable.  The truth is, I believe this started with the intentions of no movies at all.  Do not support Hollywood because it is wicked (and that's still the truth), but with the invention of the VCR, the no movie thing went right out the window.  We all brought Hollywood and its movies into our living rooms.  Heck, it was cheaper.  Still, I will say that my parents knew what we watched.  There was no sneaking anything by them, seeing a rated R movie when we were only allowed to watch PG.  I did go to the IMAX in high school with my family and we saw Jurassic Park.  And I kind of thought we might be going to hell for it.  Also, for the record, my first movie in a regular theater was not until 2008.  So there.  I am a freak of nature.
  3. No Mixed Bathing.  This sounds far dirtier than it actually is.  I don't know who got the bright idea to call swimming "bathing", but it indeed sounds scandalous.  In reality, it just means that we girls didn't go swimming with boys.  It means that every year at camp, there was a girls' swim time and a boys' swim time.  We carefully clothed ourselves for our walk to and from the pool, because the sight of a scrawny eleven-year-old girl in a neon colored Walmart one-piece might just ruin a boy for life.  
  4. King James Version Bibles.  Seriously.  Do not mock the KJV.  I kind of love it.  It's what I was raised on and what I have memorized my whole life.  I do read the ESV and the Amplified Bible, and I love those as well.  But Independent Baptists are serious about their KJV's.  I draw the line with the people who believe that you can't get saved out of anything else.  Those people are idiots.  It's not sweet to say, but it's true.  And you can use whatever you want to read from, but please do not tell me that you don't understand thee's and thou's.  If you don't understand what those words mean, I recommend you return to elementary school.  Unless you are in elementary school... in which case, you should stay there and learn something.
  5. Hymn Books.  We loved our hymns.  Bringing in the Sheaves.  Come and Dine.  When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.  First, Second, and Fourth Verses only.  The third verses are worthless for whatever reason.  I don't even know why hymn writers wrote them.  We Independent Baptists were too good for third verses.  And so we ignored them.  But please, whatever you do, give us those verses from the hymn book.  Don't print them in a chorus book or project them onto the wall.  We'll take our Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns Book, thank you.  We will even buy new ones so that we can place a hymnal dedication label in the front in memory of Aunt Deloris and Grandma Sue.  
  6. Southern Gospel Music.  I know we are not the only denomination to like it, but we Independent Baptists do love our four part harmony, or at least three.  We like fancy piano playing and shaped notes and convention songs.  And please sing lots of songs about heaven and the blood of Jesus.  We will shout and wave our hankies*.  And run the aisles if we are in deep South.  And bass singers and tenors are our favorites.  (Sorry, Craig)
  7. Door-to-door Soul Winning.  We like to go right up to people's doors and knock and ask people if they are going to heaven when they die (actually, most of us don't like it... most of us are scared to death of it).  Sometimes they say yes.  Sometimes they say no.  Sometimes they slam the door.  Sometimes they get mad and cuss.  And sometimes they want to hear what we have to say.  And sometimes those people accept Christ.  This is why we keep doing it.
Within the realm of Independent Baptists, there are a thousand differences, things that others were allowed to do that we weren't and vice versa.  I remember a pastor's wife scolding me for playing solitaire because I was using playing cards.  I was only eight.  And I thought she was crazy.  There were rules about music and dancing and gambling.  My dad remembers a day when preachers preached against sideburns and mustaches and wire-rimmed glasses and double knit pants and leisure suits.  No, seriously.  But it's too complicated to go through and try to figure out why.  At this point in my life, I can separate the spirit of the law from the letter of the law.  And I am thankful to know that I am free from the law altogether.  My strict upbringing served as a guide, a starting place from which I was able to work out my own salvation, as it were.

So this is me.  This is where I come from.  I am a little strange, a little different.  I am 34 years old and I have still never been to a water park.  (Seriously, who wants to spend a day swimming around in the dirt and urine of the masses?  Not this girl.)  But rest assured, if I ever change my mind, you will know how to find me.  I'll be the girl in the neon colored Walmart one piece bathing suit covered by culottes.

*My clever friend Caryn, also a Independent Baptist preacher's kid, writes about southern gospel music and hankie waving, here.


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