Saturday, January 25, 2014

for anyone who's had a bad hair day...

Do you ever have trouble believing that God really is in charge of everything?  Each detail of our lives is orchestrated by Him, His providence extends to every blade of grass and every hair on our heads… do you ever find that hard to swallow?

That not only does He hold galaxies in space which He flung there with the Word of His mouth, but He has the days of our lives planned down to the minute, and knows what each day will hold before we’re even born...

Sometimes I have trouble really believing this.  God knows this about me.  Which is why He gives me example after example in my own life (if I take the time to pay attention) of how closely He’s paying attention to the details...

Case in point: my latest haircut.

My hair had grown long.  I mean the kind of long where it’s not just split ends that are the problem.  It was to the stage where I couldn’t wear it down in any way that looked nice, it was too much hair to wear up, so it basically stayed in a low ponytail or French braid all. the. time.  (My last haircut was in New Zealand just before Ruby was born, and she’s 15 months old, so that tells you how long it’s been!)  

Why did I let it go this long, you ask?  

Well… (as any mother of young kids can attest) creating a window of daytime free from kids and house is a tremendous challenge.  And then so many other tantalizing activities beckon when I do get an hour of childcare arranged: shopping, exercising, writing, time with the Lord, time with a girlfriend, more shopping…

Also, I have yet to find someone in our area who can cut my hair the way I want.  (My husband is under the impression that this state of affairs actually extends to the boundaries of the known world, since every hair-cut I get, whether in the States, New Zealand or Central Asia, no matter how pricey or posh, leaves me feeling slightly disappointed...) 

All I really want - is this too much to ask? - is a basic layered cut, rounded on the bottom (NOT square on the sides or pointed in the middle), the shortest layer brushing my cheekbones, and the longest layer brushing my shoulders.  With these instructions given, I have received every sort of layered look you can imagine: from a posh square-cornered business-woman look you have to blow dry straight every morning with a round brush, to a choppy, sloppy bed-head look at its best after a week of no washing.

A year and a half ago here in Central Asia I got a haircut from a person on our street, recommended to me by several neighbor ladies (whose haircuts looked quite nice, by the way).  This guy did a fairly decent job the first time, other than leaving a sort of rat-tail in the bottom layer - which I did manage to fix at home, even though the placement of the rat-tail in the exact center of my back gave me a crick in my neck just trying to see it, let alone cut it… I really do not know how people manage to successfully cut their own hair. 

So, with my history of let-downs, I understandably cringe at the thought of getting my hair cut, and tend to take the easy way out (just don’t cut it) until I absolutely can’t stand it anymore.  

Well, last week, the stars finally aligned, and since I knew they wouldn’t stay aligned for long, I decided out of desperation to just go to the guy down the street again.  

So I tugged a hat over my long locks, and trudged down the street reviewing my choices for the word “layers” from the three languages we mix together every day.  The clearest word I know is the term for “stories” like on a building or a cake, which I’m not sure really gets the point across for hair.  (After every hair-cut I go home vowing to study more hair-cut words, but once the pressure is off I procrastinate and the learning urgency evaporates - until I’m en route to my next hair-cut, when I rue my laziness and my subsequently inadequate vocabulary…)

After waiting through two young blokes before me, it was finally my turn.  I sat down in the chair under the bare light bulb, submitted to a towel around my neck and the black super-hero cape around my shoulders, and watched as he began to snip off my dead ends.  I wasn’t sure how much to hope for.  I braced myself for the worst, while at the same time wistfully hoping that, against all odds, this would be the magic hair cut, the best I’d ever had...  

I was definitely not expecting what I ended up with: a sort of Russian shag-mullet, with a very short bushy top, longish pieces on the sides, and some very thinned stringy wisps on the bottom which still fell considerably past my shoulders. 

It was awful.  

I started sensing it was going to be awful when, after he finished trimming my ends (without really taking off any length), he picked up the entire top half of my hair, held it straight above my head, and chopped off about 4 inches at once.  

I kind of gasped… but he kept snipping away busily, and seemed to be going around again, so I didn’t say anything and continued hoping it wound’t be too bad.  Unfortunately, my hopes turned out to be unfounded...

It was just awful.

Still, at the place, I reserved judgment.  I did have some layers framing my face in the mirror, and I was pleased the length and weight were mostly gone.  He had been complimenting me on my hair as he snipped away (which would have been nice had he not been in the process of butchering it).  So I thanked him and paid him generously for his time, since it had taken over an hour.  

Then I came home.  I looked in the mirror by the front door, and… my hair looked like it had been hacked with a kitchen knife.  The layers were wildly spread - too short and bushy on top, too long and thin underneath, flat in the middle - and all the copious thinning and feathering made the ends stick out in all directions.  

I stubbornly stayed positive, kept my winter hat on, made pizza for dinner, and prayed it would look better after a shower in the morning and some scrunching with gel.

It didn’t.  The top fro-ed out around my head like a lion’s mane, and the feathery bottom layers clung to my shoulders like an 80’s mullet.  I did the best I could with a stretchy headband on top, but it needed three or four bobby pins to tie down all the sticky-outy ends, and when in desperation I braided the bottom, I actually had a legitimate rat-tail.  (Ugh!)

I had a good cry in front of the mirror (it didn’t help that I started my period in the middle of the night), put my hat back on again, and went to meet a friend for morning tea.  Thank God women everywhere can relate to bad hair days!  My friend was very sympathetic and encouraging, and we had a nice time wandering around the few shops in the center of her town...  

It was while in one of these shops, browsing amongst the usual junk (gaudy costume jewelry, chintzy purses, faux-leather wallets, Mardigras masks), that I found the headbands.  

Now, I am not a headband person.  Most are so tight they give me a headache, and I don’t really enjoy the way my high forehead tends to bulge and shine if I pull my hair straight back.  Thin headbands create dog-ears of hair on the sides which flop forward in a cocker-spaniel-esque way, and fat stretchy headbands tend to slide backwards off my head unless stabbed with bobby pins in multiple places, and then they leave a weird kink under the back of my hair.  

But the headbands I found that morning were none of those things.  They were broad, lightweight, loose and flexible when I stretched them.  Each was covered with a wider band of suede fabric in colors that were actually tasteful - black, muted brown, sky blue...  And they were only $1.50 each.  

I bought the brown one and the blue one, and walked out of the store feeling completely different.

It wasn’t just the headbands.  My hair didn’t look any different.  It was just that I had remembered:

God cares about things like bad hair days.  

Look!  On the very morning after my bad haircut, in a shop I’d never been in before, He planted tasteful, comfortable headbands in colors I actually wear.  (Those of you living near a Walmart might not be able to appreciate the rarity in this part of the world of discovering ANY clothing item or accessory with that combination of characteristics…)  

God did it.  

That’s the kind of God He is.  

The next day was Sunday, and after not washing my hair for a couple days, it had calmed down somewhat.  I wet it slightly in the shower, scrunched it with my fingers, added some gel and one of my new headbands, and - surprise, surprise - it actually looked halfway decent!  (Well, other than the fact that the bottom layers are still hopelessly thin and straggly, the back still has no body, and the overall shape still looks uncomfortably 80s-rock-star-esque...)

After living with my new look for several days now, I still cringe slightly when I glance in the mirror but I no longer feel like groaning or retching...

(OK - sigh I'm going to show you some photos, 
and I can hear you all say, "That's not so bad!"
Keep in mind, these are the "AFTER-I-figured-it-out-a-litle" pics…}

Why does hair matter so much to women?  God says it’s our glory, and that it’s given to us as a covering… in the context of Hebrew women, that meant modesty in a church setting, since women were required to cover their heads.  But I suppose in a broader sense, hair for women might be a symbol of our femininity?  

At a deep level, every woman longs to know she is beautiful.  I really believe a desire to be lovely is hardwired into the hearts of little girls from the time they’re born.

Take my daughter.  Whenever I have trouble doing her hair in the mornings, all I have to say is, “Daddy will think you are so beautiful!” and she sits still.  As soon as I’m finished, she toddles straight to Daddy and looks up at him with this hopeful, wistful expression on her little face.  He never fails to notice she’s had her hair done, and says, “Oh, Ruby, you look so beautiful today!”  And she preens and smiles and touches her hair gently, and rubs her hand down her shirt, and looks back up at him and beams and shows her dimple.  She positively blossoms under his praise.  

Girls need to know they’re beautiful.  

And - guess what?  The God Who created us that way cares about the details of our lives.  The God who makes no two blades of grass or snowflakes alike cares about whether or not I like my haircut!  

He knows how limited this context is that He’s put me in, how few options I have here for looking beautiful.  He knows I still want to look nice and feel pretty.  

And even though He let me get the worst haircut I’ve ever had, the next day He handed me two perfect accessories and said, 

“See?  I haven’t forgotten about you.  And don’t forget - hair does grow, you know

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? 

And not one of them is forgotten before God. 

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 

Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows!”

(photo credits: William Broughton, age 6)


  1. I love this :) I totally understand that little-thing-that-changes-everthing feeling, the reminder that the Omnipotent Creator of all things also cares about the wrinkles in my own life.