One Hundred Twelve

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I’ve had four babies, lost a lot of sleep, and lost a lot of brain cells since college, but I remember this from my Psychology classes: “Correlation does not imply causation.” Simply stated, just because two things are related, that doesn’t mean one thing causes the other. The example I remember most clearly states that murder rates are higher in the summer and so are ice cream sales. You wouldn’t say that ice cream causes people to commit murder, right? (Perhaps the lack of ice cream might…)

Anyway, I say all that to say this – my phone has been dying a slow, painful death for the past few weeks. It finally gave out completely just yesterday, the same day my new phone arrived. For the past week, I’ve been unable to do anything but send and receive texts. No calls (aside from the many, many butt-dials my phone sent out. Sorry to those of you who received those!), no emails, no Instagram, no Internet surfing. Additionally, for the past week, I’ve played cards with my children, read more books aloud to my children, and been more patient and present with my children and husband.

“Correlation does not imply causation.”

And yet…

I can’t deny the simple fact that, with my phone not even available as a distraction, I was much more present and available to my children. My first instinct was to wallow in the disgusting truth for just a bit – that I’m addicted to my phone. However, I quickly moved on because the fact of the matter was, I was having way too much fun playing cards with my kiddos to be too bothered. Additionally, when the desire hit hard enough, I grabbed my camera to take pictures, instead of my phone. I snapped some (much more quality) pictures, turned the camera off, and returned to the moment. No posting, no sharing, no checking “likes.” What an absolute blessing the death of my phone turned out to be.

Now my new phone is here and it’s a bit more snazzy than the last. The gifs! The emojis! The slow-mo videos! The ability to actually download the latest versions of apps! The temptation is there to return to my old patterns and habits. For now, however, I’ve seen what life looks like when I’m a bit less plugged in, and oh, how sweet it is.

One Hundred Eleven

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My kids have only been on summer break for a week now, and already there are heart issues to address and character development to hone.

And I’m talking about my own. 

Leftover frustrations from the night before had me behind yesterday before I even started. Then one kid was up before me (by 6:15!), having apparently helped himself to my leftover iced coffee, then proceeded to talk to me (before I’d had my own coffee!) in a voice loud enough to wake the dead (and his sleeping sister). Those two were closely followed by the last two and the five of us were rolling by 7:15.

As it goes, the kids were “starving” for lunch by 10 a.m., so I gently mothered their hearts and encouraged them to prepare their own meals.

I yelled at them to fix their own damn food at whatever ridiculous times they were hungry and not to bug me when “real lunch time” came around. 

I had a meeting at 11:00 and was all set to be 20 minutes early when the coffee drinker spilled his drink (packed precariously in his lunchbox), my daughter’s foot was smashed in the door, and a moving truck blocked the street (on trash day) so I had to make a classic 11-point turn just to get out of my neighborhood. In my frustration at the moving guy doing his job, I ran over a curb, cursed the curb, then punched the gas and made all my kids carsick.

Did I mention my meeting was a staff prayer meeting at my church? 

By the time we were just a couple of blocks away from the church, I could see how utterly ridiculous I was acting and I repented to my kids. We talked about bad moods that we don’t fully understand, hypocrisy, and taking our anger and frustration out on whoever happens to be in our path. I had done it all. I was graciously forgiven by my children. I shared honestly with our church staff. I was prayed over.

My bad mood remained. 

By 2:00 (when my ravenous kids were ready for dinner), the baby was blissfully asleep and I was drinking the last of the iced coffee (a 3-day batch gone in a day!) it hit me: I preach and believe strength and rest are to be found in Jesus, but I look for strength and rest in coffee, in well-behaved kids, in a baby who naps more than 45 minutes at a time, and generally in having things go my way.

Repentance. Forgiveness. Under-reacting. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

I’ve got a lot to learn. Praise God for his gentle, forgiving nature and for the gentle, forgiving people he’s put in my life, who seem to understand better than I that we are all works in progress.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

One Hundred Ten

18451601_1515745338444512_1058982181723269952_oI was having dinner with friends last Monday night and we were going around the table, each sharing what we had done for Mother’s Day. Breakfast in bed, brunch after church, a picnic and games at the park, lunch at Sonic and then naps at home…the stories varied but each lady was pretty pampered in some way. I told my rather pathetic story about my husband having to serve in the nursery at church that morning, my kids misbehaving during church, not wearing a nursing-friendly dress (yet again!), needing to cook some chicken before it went bad in the fridge, and in general not having a great Mother’s Day.

We were all laughing and my friend Janet remarked, “I’m expecting a blog post about this!” Here’s the post, Janet, but it’s not the one you were expecting, I’m assuming. 🙂

My oldest is not the most emotionally expressive kid you’ll ever meet, but he’s thoughtful and kind and can be very sweet. It’s all packaged in a dry, sarcastic package that leaves no room for doubt who his parents are. He made me a card and addressed it to “The greatest mom anyone could ever have.” I was incredibly touched by that title, and I pondered it for quite a while that morning.

It struck me that I don’t have to achieve or aspire to that title. That’s how he sees me. That’s who he says I am. It’s not an award to be won. It’s a status already achieved, and he’s the only one who can proclaim that about me. (Ok, so could my other 3 kids…)

I’m choosing to believe that those are his honest feelings, and not just some sweet words he chose for the special occasion. But even if his opinion changes as he ages, there are things that are true about me that are true because of Christ. Those things cannot be achieved or earned. They have already been purchased and secured for me. I’m talking about how God sees me, and who he says I am.

I’ve got that card on display to remind me of these truths, and to remind me of the amazing child(ren) who call(s) me Mom and see(s) me as the greatest.

 

One Hundred Nine

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One day last week we had plans after school. It was a mini-festival of sorts, complete with food trucks, a moon bounce, music, and lawn games. But it had been a long day, towards the end of a long week, and none of us had been home, and we were all tired. So on the drive home from school, the kids and I changed the plan. We decided to stay home, make dinner and cookies, and watch a movie.

The baby fell asleep on the drive, so I left her in her car seat in the van and I sat outside while she slept. My other kids scattered into the house, changing clothes, grabbing snacks, turning on the TV. After a few minutes, my son joined me outside and I was surprised when I looked up and saw him standing next to me, dressed like he was headed to church. He had on a nice button-down shirt tucked in to his jeans, with his belt and nice brown school shoes to complete the look. He had even re-fixed his hair.

I told him he looked handsome and then asked him why he was so dressed up. He casually replied, “No reason. I just love this shirt. I look good in it and it’s so comfortable.”

I was struck by this. When I know I’m not headed anywhere farther than my front porch, I immediately remove anything remotely presentable and choose something comfortable. Sweats and a t-shirt, please and thank you. But my son, even though he knew the plan had changed and the only date we had was with Episode VI, still wanted to wear something he loved and that made him feel good.

There’s nothing wrong with putting on my sweats at the end of the day.

There’s also nothing wrong with choosing my very favorite outfit even though “no one” will see me in it. Sometimes I convince myself it’s a waste to wear something I love if no one but my family will see me in it. I think I have to save some things for being seen in and let my family see me in a constant state of shabbiness.

This mindset extends beyond my closet. I have a journal I was given for my birthday last year that I still haven’t written in. Not because I don’t need it or want it, but because it somehow feels too special to “just write” in. Because it has a hardcover and a pretty design and it came from a thoughtful friend, it’s surely too special to mark in. I’ll just use my $.50 composition book, please and thank you.

Surely you do this, too. You have a candle that’s just too special to light. Or a pen that’s just too nice to use. Or a necklace that’s just a bit too fancy to wear on an ordinary day.

Let’s all take a cue from Sam. Let’s wear our favorite shirt, even if we only have it on from 5 p.m. until bedtime. Let’s do more things that bring us joy. Just because. Isn’t life too short to live any other way?

One Hundred Eight

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Earlier this week I was driving around town with my van full of kids (all mine) and with my windows down, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio, so of course I cranked it up and sang it loudly, thoroughly embarrassing my kids.

The next day, packing up the van to take the kids to school, I grabbed our “antique” CD holder so I could put some new music in the van. I chose a disk from my college days and was transported back in time as Third Day, Jars of Clay, Caedmon’s Call, and Leigh Nash poured through the speakers. I instantly recalled lyric after lyric to song after song on the album, despite the many years that have passed since I last listened.

And I was struck with thankfulness that, at one point in my life, all I ever listened to was “praise and worship” music.

My kids listen to a healthy variety of music, mostly pumped through our house daily with Pandora. They love John Williams and Michael Giacchino, but do they know more Ray LaMontagne lyrics or more Sandra McCracken?

The songs on the City on a Hill album spoke truth to my heart throughout the rest of the day. Music has always been one of the most vital ways of keeping God’s truth and word in my heart and on my lips.

On the way to school, I was quizzing my fifth grader for his memory verse test: Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,  for our God is a consuming fire.” Mac Powell’s throaty growl was ringing in my ears and I realized what an advantage it was to have all of those words hidden in my heart.

Children are sponges, and I want mine soaking up truth, goodness, and beauty. I don’t have to be legalistic about it, but my Pandora stations may get shuffled around a bit.

(This is also on heavy rotation in the van.)

One Hundred Seven

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Today I found myself wondering how much damage I have done in my life, spreading false gospels. Specifically, I was remembering something I believed to be true during my Freshman year of college.

As I am wont to do, I spoke as though I had more wisdom and authority than I did in reality. I remember sharing with my small group, all of us single gals, that we wouldn’t find love (or maybe I said love wouldn’t find us? It’s a distinct possibility.) until we were fully satisfied with only the love of Jesus.

It sounds innocent. Maybe even virtuous.

But it’s wrong.

I met my husband when I was 20, just a year or so after I said and believed those words. Was I all of a sudden fully satisfied with Jesus? No. Certainly not. I’m still not. My heart was and is a sinful, idol-making-factory. And yet I met, befriended, fell in love with, and married this amazing man.

God doesn’t wait for us to be ready, to be good enough, to be worthy of the good gifts He gives. He gives them in His timing. His good, perfect timing.

How many false gospels am I still believing, living, and spreading today? My closest audience is certainly my children, and I have no doubt they are watching. What might they be seeing?

  • That their worth is found in their clean rooms, clean noses, clean clothes, or clean words?
  • That it doesn’t matter the state of your heart, it’s your outward attitude, facial expressions, and tone of voice that matter?
  • That being on time is more important that being well-cared for, well-prepared, and confident?
  • That food makes us feel better?

Thanks be to God, that the true gospel is both so complex and so simple – that we are more sinful than we dare to imagine, yet more loved than we can even comprehend, at the same time. So while they have a front row seat to my failures and mistakes, my anger and frustration, my sinfulness and selfishness, they are also seeing displayed:

  • That their parents repent, ask forgiveness, and name their own sin.
  • That we cannot be stingy with our forgiveness, because we have been forgiven infinitely more.
  • That they are loved, accepted, listened to, and respected.
  • That the cycle of repentance and forgiveness never ends.

Thanks be to God, “who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Ninety-nine

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For such an epic next page of my story, I wish this could be post 100, but seeing as how this story is no where near finished, a nice uneven 99 will do.

A few weeks ago I asked my small group to pray with me as I felt God opening my hands in a very real way and helping me to release my (illusion of) control on my life. There were so many things my family and I were facing that were completely beyond my control and I was really stubbornly struggling.

I had been offered a job teaching at the school where my sons attend. Though intimidated at first, I began to feel a strong desire for teaching and was really looking forward to it, when it became clear that it wasn’t a sure thing. I was even looking forward to trading in my sweatpants and mom jeans for a more professional wardrobe.

Our house finally sold and we moved on the last day of February into a room at my grandma’s house. We were still in communication mode with John about the Green Door House and were finally able to talk numbers and timelines. A few days after we closed on our house, we got John’s final asking price and it was $40,000 higher than anything we had ever discussed with him. It was completely clear that the Green Door house, for which we had prayed fervently for almost an entire year, was not the home for us.

To say we were confused is an understatement. To say we were hurt is an understatement.

But there is more to the story.

There is a job change in store for me, but it won’t include a classroom.
There is a wardrobe change on the horizon, but it will be more stretchy than tailored.
There is a new home for us, a wonderful home for us, with a bit more square footage than we knew we would need.

Team Steger is adding a new member to our roster. 

In His infinite wisdom and goodness and perfect timing, God has blessed our family with a new baby.

To say we are shocked is an understatement. To say we are being stretched is an understatement.

But what else can we do but give thanks to the Lord for his goodness and kindness and favor?
What else can we do but laugh (Isaac is at the top of the list of boy names.) and shake our heads and marvel at the way God has orchestrated this crazy story?
What else can we do but trust that He continues to do great things in and through our story?

He has done great things, indeed.