An Introvert's Guide to Friendship

Recently my friend ML celebrated one of those big birthdays that ends in a 0. So we went ziplining.

And then had a tea party.

Perfect, right? Yes! Absolutely perfect!

Because right after loving the Lord Jesus, her ever growing family (21 grandchildren at last count!), and the church, ML loves women. Women of all ages, stages of life, and types of strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

It's been a long time since I laughed so much. Phew. What a dear group of ladies.

Later I pondered just why it is that someone like me, a profound introvert, takes so much delight in being with other women. Especially women I've known for a long time, shared the joys and griefs of life together. Laughed uproariously with and wept with.

The answer's pretty simple: because God made us - all of us, not just extroverts - for relationship!

These days it's clear to me that our friendship stands today because my sweet friends have so often gone the extra mile to make relationship happen. Left to my naturally introspective self, I'm pretty sure I would have friends, but not to the deep sister level which we share.

Because at various times I've had a bunch of objections to the idea of having deep girl-friendships. Maybe you share some of these?

Thankfully, God has seen fit to override my concerns and has given me some beautiful sisters to pray with, to share what God's doing  and teaching, to love, laugh, and sometimes cry with.

So with the advantage of some hindsight, here are my current thought on those original objections.

1. I don't have time for friendships!

I've definitely said this. And in some seasons of my life, it's been partly true. When I had six, seven, eight, nine children at home, life was super busy! My focus needed to be on caring for these little and bigger ones. Raising children requires hard work and attention. Ironically, in many ways these years, surrounded by many, many children, were very lonely times.

And yet. Not as lonely as they might have been.

Because even in the craziest times, my friends continued to ask me to join them to walk and pray. We couldn't make this happen terribly often, but we kept trying, grabbing a Saturday here and there, especially during summer breaks. Sometimes they just came out to my house. Those visits, infrequent as they were, gave each of us encouragement and strength for the various tasks we each faced, and our friendship grew as well.

At an earlier time in my life, when I had three children, I'd meet with two moms at some unreasonable hour on Friday mornings for prayer. We'd slip away from home before our children were up and return in time to finish off breakfast and start our days. Sure it was hard. But totally worth the effort!

Here's one more idea. I read once of two moms who would call each other to pray over the phone each weekday. They'd spend no more than five minutes praying for each other and their children. Then each would move on to her daily responsibilities knowing her friend was praying for her. What a strength.

2. I don't know anyone who shares my situation!
Yep, this has also been one of my complaints. I had this vision of a friend who would have umpteen children like I did, homeschool them, and share many of the same day-to-day concerns I had. Ha-ha! Somehow I never met her!

And you know what? It doesn't matters! In reality, sometimes the very differences in our lives make our friendships stronger, not the opposite. Do you work and your friend doesn't? So what? Enjoy learning about her days and she can learn from yours! Whether you are married or single, childless or have a house full of children, if you both love the Lord Jesus, that is plenty for a solid bond of friendship! As you begin to share your lives and pray for one another, friendship will grow.

3. But my husband is my best friend!
This has been my third excuse. And it's true - Tim is my very best friend. There's no one I'd rather spend time with than my husband, and he with me. We talk about anything and everything, and he is the first one I always want to tell things to, whether it is about the crazy double agent pigeons used in WW II I just read about (true!) or a deep emotion.

BUT - there's still something different about having friends who are sisters in the Lord! Friendships between women look different than the type of friendship seen in a healthy marriage. Tim takes joy in my friendships with other women, knowing they help me be a better wife, mom, and follower of Christ.

We've been friends since some of our children were babies.
And now we're gray haired ladies attending their weddings.
This one was in D.C. last December.
How fun is that?!

OK, fellow introvert, have I convinced you?

But what, you might be thinking, can I do to make a good friend?

I can't take any credit for the friendships the Lord has given in His kindness. But in thinking back over how the ones I have have developed over the past two decades or more, here are a few thoughts.

1. Friendships often are born as a result of working alongside others. 
So find opportunities to serve - teach children's classes, join with a couple of other families for a homeschool co-op, work in women's ministries, etc. As you work, you'll build trust and naturally share your lives. Love the women you are rubbing shoulders with and see what God will do.

2. Find one or two other women to pray together with.
No matter what stage of life I've been in - high school and college, newly married, old-time married, no kids, tons of kids - my closest relationships have been with women I prayed with regularly.  "Regularly" might be too strong a word for some of those periods, as mentioned above, but we kept trying. Share your lives. Be vulnerable and honest. And then pray. As well as having the great joy of seeing over time God's work in each other's lives, your hearts will be knit together in love.

3. Give it time.
Don't expect deep relationships to happen over night.

4. Sometimes - just have fun!
Deep friendships won't be forged by fun times alone. But a friendship made by years of working together and praying together benefits from plain old fun and laughter. So give it a shot - try ziplining! Or maybe skiing! Or have a tea party!

Skiing with friends this past winter. 

On my design board...

So often I have such good intentions about writing more regularly in this space! But as usual, life is FULL! Right now Faith and I are up to our ears in the time sensitive college application process. Give us another month, and we ought to have that wrapped up. 

So instead of finishing my started posts on what our book club is up to this year or working on my piece about friendship for introverts, how about if I show you what I'm working on in the quilt realm?

This is the start of what will be a king sized quilt for Tim's and my bed. I'm crazy about batik fabrics, so that's what I choose for this piece. It's going to be e-nor-mous, but happily since the individual squares are just four strips, they go together super rapidly. I have no idea how long it will take to finish, but working with these lovely fabrics makes for a few minutes of color therapy each day!

Two Simple Tools for Smoother Homeschool Days

"Procedures pages" in my half-sized clipboard

We've been at school for over a month now, and as of this week we finally have all our various external classes and activities running full-steam. This year we have only three kids at home. How did THAT happen? Last year it was four, the year before five, and the year before that six! The daily parts of living are certainly becoming simpler around here. But other aspects of parenting continue full-steam ahead. I've heard it said that with little ones, your hands are kept full, but with older children your heart is full. There's definitely something to that.

Anyway, I wanted to share two things that have been helpful in getting this year off to a smooth start.

1. Procedure Pages (A.K.A. Mom's Cheat Sheets)

I have a large school binder loaded with all sorts of important info like literature lists, schedules, attendance records, grade record sheets, information about our online classes, and so on. This binder has many of the planning details for our school year, but sometimes what I need is quick access to the "hows" and "whats."

And that's what the "procedure sheets" give me: instant access to daily schedules and the week's flow for various subjects. No more wondering, "Now what am I supposed to do for Latin on Wednesdays with Ben?"

That one is for me, but this next tool is for the kids.

2. Weekly Assignment Pages 

By the time our children reach upper elementary and junior high, we want them taking more and more responsibility for accomplishing their own work. Junior high is a great age for working on study habits and skills. By high school they are largely on their own for scheduling their days. (I give them slots when they need to meet with me, and they have to work around their online or community college classes.) This has resulted in pretty seamless transitions to college (and real life) where they must take personal responsibility for their time.

When the older ones were at home, I didn't have time to hover. We laugh about the impossibility of being a helicopter parent when you have nine children! But with my youngest two sons, that could be a real danger, so I find myself frequently purposefully backing off.

Weekly assignment sheets have been a super helpful tool for the boys as they organize their week's work, and make it so I don't have to ask, "Have you done your math yet?" There are many, many weekly student planner templates available in the internet world, but I like this one from the Five J's blog.  You customize it by typing the particular subjects for your child. For many of Paul's classes, the daily work is very straightforward, so he just marks off when he has finished the day's work. In other classes, it is helpful to plan exactly what needs to be accomplished each day, so that also goes on the chart. Paul has been using charts like this for a year or two, and he (and I!) find them indispensable.

Ben, 6th grade, is not as crazy about keeping tabs with his work on a chart as Paul is. Nonetheless, I think there's a lot of benefit for him in doing so, so we continue to work on it.

Responsibility is essential to becoming a mature adult. Look for opportunities to develop responsibility in your kids, whether it is in tackling their chores without reminders, caring for siblings, or doing their schoolwork.

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much."  (Luke 16:10)

More Fun With Scraps

Disappearing Four Patch

There's something inordinately fun about making something from oddments that might have been thrown away!

I wrote recently how Faith and I were inspired to make several quilts and other projects from beautiful scraps. Well, while working on those projects, I decided to do something utterly radical, at least for me:

I would sort and organize my scrap fabrics!

I know. Pathetic.

Yeah, I had a number of boxes sitting on my basement shelves. Which over the course of years became a horrible, jumbled mess. Corduroy mixed with calicoes. Silky pieces tumbled around with flannels. At one point, in frustration, I just ditched several boxes, virtually without looking inside.

Our summer foray into scrap quilt making inspired me to get serious about sorting, tossing, and keeping only what might really be useful.

You know what? It wasn't that hard to do, and it has been SO worth it.

Some quilters have gorgeous storage systems such as this or this one.

But I needed to do something quick and cheap, using what I had for the most part. So I sorted small scraps by color and put them in plastic shoeboxes. Larger quilting fabric pieces of fabric I folded and put them on the shelves or in a couple of larger storage boxes not shown. The basket on top holds orphan blocks.

If you do nothing else to improve your fabric storage - check out this tutorial on how to fold quilt fabrics for storage. It's brilliant! So simple, and gives you tidy packages all the same size.

Zambian fabric being folded
All done!

After the fabrics were sorted, it only seemed right to do something with them. So I made the quilt shown at the top of this post. It's a Disappearing Four Patch, which is super simple and super quick. For each block you cut four large squares (10"), then slice and dice them, rearrange, and sew together. Maybe you can get an idea from this picture which shows the pieces rearranged, but not yet completely sewn.

Since the front was made only with fabrics from my stash, I decided to do the same with the back. Modern quilters often piece together fabrics for more interesting backs, so I decided to give that a shot. I even threw in a leftover wonky star square from my orphan block basket. Here's what I came up with:

Quirky back of Disappearing Four Patch scrap quilt

Big stitch quilting in two colors (navy and cream) brought this one to completion. Working with what I had on hand was such a fun challenge! Who knows what might spring next from the stash!

I Blinked...

It's the sentence every overwhelmed young mom hates to hear:

"They grow up so fast!"

Sometimes the words sound a bit different, but the gist is the same.  "Enjoy them while they're young," with an implied, semi-ominous, "Because before you know it..."

As an older mom, I've been surprised by how much I want to pass on this startling insight to young moms. Instead I bite my tongue, knowing such "wisdom" isn't uber-helpful to an exhausted mom who feels some days last an eternity.

But I'm living through one of those times when the reality is inescapable.

Though some individual days and weeks take eons, added together, the eighteen years of childhood move with lightning speed!

Amanda with best friend (and sister) Faith

Last weekend we moved Amanda, our sixth child, up north to attend Purdue.

Moving in

Wasn't it only yesterday she was a toddler tornado creating havoc with paint and scissors?

It took a while, but in time I came to believe she was only trying to create something. She had an innate sense for finding paint stashed away in various places around the house. Her desires to create exceeded her judgment and ability, but she's always been an aspiring artist.

Today, instead of making messes, she creates lovely things.

Amanda also delights in bringing order to places. From a young age she has enjoyed organizing closets, the food pantry, and other spaces. Do I need to tell you how wonderful this is? Just for fun, this girl has often spontaneously picked a place to reorganize and tidy, leaving not chaos but streamlined orderliness behind!

Guess what she's studying at Purdue? Interior Design, where she gets to draw and paint and design spaces on computers to her heart's content, plus figure out how to craft spaces for maximum usefulness and harmony. This area of study seems a good marriage of her love of beauty and order.

Amanda is named for my great-grandmother, Amanda Belle Ellis. Amanda Belle was a pastor's wife who raised six sons and six daughters. She was a large and gentle woman with a big heart who expressed her creativity through quilt making. Amanda Hope is a tiny and gentle woman with a big heart who expresses her creativity through paint, fabric, spaces, and just about anything she can get her hands on.

As Amanda has matured, it has been wonderful to watch her use her ever-increasing abilities to bring joy to others. She has delighted to help remodel and restore various spaces both in our home and in others'. It is our hope that her training at Purdue will only further her abilities and usefulness in these ways, while also giving her opportunities to grow in the Lord.

Before she ever made the decision to attend Purdue, Amanda (along with her dad and two beloved mentors) made several trips on Sundays to Lafayette to visit churches. Having settled on one, she downloaded and listened to many of her new pastor's sermons during the summer. It's only been a week, but wow - this church has done so much to help our daughter feel at home in her new town! There's good solid teaching and great fellowship, with a deep commitment to serving the local church. We're thankful!

Not that many years ago

OK - I'm biting my tongue here, trying not to tell you young moms to --well -- you know what!  My dad used to put it to me in a different way. When all our children were little he would say, "Drink ye deep!" I like that. So, yeah, "drink ye deep." Love those years with littles! But then be ready for the years with bigs, too.

Yes, you blink, and suddenly your children have grown up. It's inevitable. And it's good. For our goal isn't to raise children who remain children, but, by the grace of God, children who grow up to become mature, godly men and women. Rather than wring my hands over seeing another child entering adulthood, I'm going to give thanks for His work in her life and look forward to seeing the next chapters.

Colossians 1: 9-14 For this reason also, since the day we heard of itwe have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

Two Critical Things to Pray for Your Children

Dune sunflower

What do you pray for your children? I pray about all sorts of things - salvation, future spouses, godly friends, Christ-like character, growth through trials, escape from temptation, and so much more. As part of my daily prayer card plan, I have 31 different cards with scripture reminding me of various matters to bring before the Lord concerning my children.

But I want to tell you about one simple and profound prayer that I think encapsulates essential truth.

I wish I could say that Tim and I have been praying this for years for each of our children, but it's only recently become a staple in our prayer chest. We learned this prayer from our pastor, Tim Bayly, who regularly prayed it for his children.

So what is it?

Pray that your children will hate their sin and love the Savior.

That's it. Two critical things.

So why should we pray that our children will hate their sin?

Our kids (like we do!) need to recognize their sin, hate it, and turn from it.

Children raised in Christian homes frequently have trouble seeing themselves as sinners. They all too often grow up as little Pharisees, able to see the sin of others around them, but thinking they are clean. I see this all the time in my own children and others - from the 3 year old who recently told me, "I'm not a sinner; I'm obedient!" to older kids who are too sophisticated to actually say that but act just the same.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.       (I John 1:8 )

Pray that your children will see their own sin (not their brother's!) and grieve over it.

Because until they recognize their sin, they will not truly have a need for the Savior.

And that's the second thing we need to pray - that they will love Him who gave His own life for the punishment of their sin.

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut 6:4, 5)
Love responds with obedience.
 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14: 15)

Praying for our children to hate their sin and love the Saviour is just another way of praying that they will have hearts of flesh and not hearts of stone.

 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ex. 36:26.)

Charles Spurgeon talks about how hatred for our sin and love for God are entwined and result from the state of our heart:
In the fleshy heart there is a tenderness of the affections. The hard heart does not love the Redeemer, but the renewed heart burns with affection towards him. The hard heart is selfish and coldly demands, "Why should I weep for sin? Why should I love the Lord?" But the heart of flesh says: "Lord, though knowest that I love thee; help me to love thee more!"

Dear mothers, give yourselves to praying for your children! And as you do, frequently pray that they will hate their sin but love the Savior!

You who love the LORD, hate evil! (Ps. 97:10)

Scraptasia! (A Cautionary Tale)

This is a cautionary tale of how one small quilt project grew into five quilts plus a couple of pillows.

And all because I couldn't bear to see some scraps go to waste.

It began with this twin quilt.
Quilt #1. (Shown not in kids' guest room but another bedroom.)

 I thought it would be a fun project, one that I could experiment with "big stitch" hand quilting. Maybe it would work for our children's guest room? Yes, it would do fine.

But for some reason I couldn't stop there. Oh, those lovely scraps of "Quilter's Candy Mirage" from Connecting Threads! What to do with them?

Well, there is a toddler bed in the children's guest room, so why not see if I could pull together something for that small bed?

And this little one was born. Yes, it's off center. On purpose. I'm getting more and more fond of wonkiness in quilting. But some in my family find the asymmetry unsettling. Oh well!

Quilt #2

By this time, it was clear I'd need to make a second floating star twin quilt for the upper bunk. What good was there in having two quilts that matched but left the third bed out in the cold?

So I made a second. (Or perhaps I should say "am making." It's pieced, but I'm still quilting it. By now I'm a huge fan of big stitch quilting. It's perfect for a busy, impatient woman!)

Quilt #3: 2nd star quilt in PVC lap quilt frame

Which left another pile of gorgeous scraps.

Which meant one thing: I needed to make another crib quilt. After all, there's a crib in the other guest room next door!

And that's how this starflower quilt came into existence.
Quilt #4 

But still there were scraps! What to do?

Pillows! I'd recently seen Rachel Hauser's beautiful "Ziggy Strings" tutorial and been intrigued.

Wait! I told you there were five quilts, but I've only shown four!

Faith, not to be outdone in the use of scraps, decided to make a quilt for a sweet foster baby using some of the cream scraps plus various other fabrics left from other projects. And here's what she came up with!

Faith's quilt, still in progress (binding not finished); book covers embroidered name.
(Blogger insists on turning this picture sideways!)

I thought we were done there, but all this stash-busting motivated me to actually organize the jumbled boxes of fabric tucked away on my basement shelves, which then led to another quilt... But more on that later!