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.

 

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Ninety-seven

DSC_0018re·gret
rəˈɡret/
verb
feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).

My church is studying Lamentations during Lent. On Sunday we were greeted with a big whiteboard with the question, “What is your biggest regret?” and we were encouraged to write our answer, anonymously. I thought about it all throughout the service, but never wrote anything on the board.

My husband and I talked about it on the way home and shared what we considered the biggest regrets of our lives, as well as the biggest regrets of life more recently.

I haven’t stopped thinking about regrets.

We are moving out of our house at the end of the month. So today, I’ve had house regrets on my mind. There are plenty of little things, like aesthetics. We’ve never hung anything on the walls of our master bedroom. For almost 8 years now, the walls have been completely bare. It’s as if weren’t willing to put down roots/a nail in the wall. It wasn’t until our house was going on the market that we finally finished ripping down wallpaper in the bathroom.

There are bigger regrets. I can only name 4 of my neighbors. I’ve never seen the inside of any other house in my neighborhood. I thought about organizing a neighborhood potluck dinner, but never acted on it. Our neighbor’s wife spent most of the past year and a half wasting away from alzheimer’s and I only took him a meal a couple of times. Actually, I made the meals but made my husband deliver them, because I didn’t want to enter into that grief.

I didn’t show enough hospitality. I hosted showers, a few parties, a Thanksgiving meal, but I didn’t regularly open up our home to share with others. I made too many vague, “We should get together sometime” invitations and never followed through with them.

In this home, I didn’t love well. I wasted time and opportunities. I was lazy. I lied. I yelled. I didn’t repent quickly enough. I did damage. I held grudges. I hurt on purpose.

As we close this chapter of our story, I am filled with regret. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been so much good that has taken place here. Of course there has been. Two of our children were born within these walls. We celebrated numerous birthdays here, including my very favorite 30th. Every square inch of this home is colored with memories and laughter. But too much of my life these past 8 years has taken place within these walls to the point that they almost served as a fortress that few were allowed to enter. My life and my world shrunk down until everything outside of my comfortable space was of distant secondary concern.

The green door house, while still not officially ours, is a symbol of hope to our family. It’s a  symbol of redemption. It’s a clean slate, a second chance. A chance to know and love our neighbors. To show God’s love in real, practical ways.

What will God do? How will he move? How we he grow and change us? What kinds of opportunities does he have in store? What does life in the green door house look like? What does life lived out of the green door house look like? The answers are so close I can almost touch them. Pray with me that these desires would be so much more than just desires. That when the Spirit moves, I would act. That I would have fewer regrets and more rejoicing.

 

Ninety-five (My one word for 2016)

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As I mentioned already, I’ve been coasting through life with the pause button pushed. Every single area of my life has been affected: relationships, motivation, prayer, exercise…everything.

I’ve never done it before, but one word seems to be popping into my head to serve as a reminder/motivation/goal for the new year.

That word is MOVE.

I’ve been reflecting on all the different meanings of the word and the different areas of life that it touches.

  • Location-
    May this be the year we MOVE to OKC.
    May the Green Door House become our new home.
    May Oklahoma City become our city, our community, our home.
  • Body-
    May this be the year I commit to MOVING every day. Exercise has never been a priority, but I know how important it is. I’ve been thinking about how much my personality and tendency to want to please means I might benefit from a personal trainer.
  • Feelings (be MOVED)-
    May this be the year I attend more theater productions, hear more live music, and surrender more fully during worship.
    May I read more stories and more memoirs and more compelling non-fiction.
  • Relationships (MOVE toward others)-
    May this be the year I practice true hospitality.
    May I initiate conversations and relationships.

May 2016 be a year marked by MOVEMENT.

Happy New Year, friends!

Ninety-two

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Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.

It’s all over the Psalms, this call to wait. We wait because there’s something on the horizon. We wait because the answer is unknown. We wait because we have no choice; we are not in control.

Yet there is a difference between waiting and pressing pause.
There’s a difference between waiting in faith and putting your life on hold. 

As I reflect back on 2015, it seems as if that’s exactly what I’ve done for the last half of the year. I pushed pause back in July and I’ve been stuck there ever since. Believing that God is calling us to the city, we put our house on the market. We packed up our home and we entered into a season of rooms off-limits, possessions unavailable, and unexpected showings. We stressed over fingerprints on walls, shoes on carpets, and smudged windows.

We stopped living in our home. We fixed our eyes on what we believed was just ahead and we closed our eyes to where God still had us.

Paused. On hold.

I stopped writing. I used the excuse of needing to keep my desk clear and my office clean. I had packed away most of my books. I thought it was temporary. As time has gone on, it has become easier and easier not to write, not to reflect, not to dive into scripture, not to pray.

Paused. On hold.

We’ve gone the past 4 months without a small group and without real community. We believed we would be moving quickly and didn’t want to invest in a group we would inevitably be leaving soon. As time went on, even though the desire was there, it became easier to not be involved.

Paused. On hold.

I’m not sure when it became sinful, this paused lifestyle, though perhaps it was all long.  I do know it was only yesterday that I was convicted of it. I’ve clenched my teeth, I’ve rolled my eyes, I’ve formed fists, and I’ve lived as though God has forgotten me. Has he been teasing us all along? Has he not called us to move?

“God is at work, even in the silence,” a wise friend said to me yesterday.
“When your Father’s hand isn’t readily apparent, it’s only because He’s readying gifts. Gifts always come out of the unseen and hidden places.”     -Ann Voskamp

Today, I’m clinging to those words. Today, I’m recognizing and repenting. Today, I’m looking back on 2015, and looking ahead to 2016. I’m setting goals and dreaming dreams and praying prayers, including the “impossible” ones.

Today, I’m asking God to help me un-pause, and instead, to live.

Eighty-seven

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I’ll be honest; not much has changed since I wrote about needing to look on the bright side of this in between time. It’s still a constant struggle, and it’s only made worse every weekend, when, whether for church or just a trip to the city, we eventually have to leave.

I drove home from church yesterday listening to Sandra singing that “Whatever my God ordains is right, to Him, I leave it all,” (“Sweet Comfort,” song 5) and with tears streaming down my face. My husband and I are so tired of leaving the city. We are tired of feeling cut off from the church and the community surrounding it. We feel like our motives for moving are good. We truly feel called to be there. When I got home, I texted my pastor: “Why hasn’t God moved us yet?” He replied, “I wish I knew.”

Remember last year when I changed my prayer, and God answered in a major way? I think it’s time to change my prayer. I won’t stop praying for our house to sell. I won’t stop praying for the green door house. I won’t ask you to stop praying. But more than our house to sell and the green door house to be ours, we need to pray for contentment. 

In my bible study, my leader shared a story of a girl with alopecia who, instead of only praying for God to restore her hair, started praying for God to give her peace in the midst of her circumstance. He answered that prayer. That struck me right in the gut. I won’t stop praying for God to take away my son’s diabetes. It will be my impossible prayer every year, until it happens. But I also won’t stop praying for God to use diabetes to increase my faith. I have often said that diabetes has changed my prayer life for the better. It’s so true. There’s not much in life that makes you feel more helpless than watching your child suffer and not be able to change it.

In college I had a friend undergo brain surgery. I remember praying so hard for her and learning so much about prayer and faith and helplessness. I remember feeling a bit guilty that something good was coming into my life while something so awful and difficult was happening to her. It felt selfish to feel thankful for how God was working in my life because Rachel was suffering. But as God spoke and my first grader recently memorized, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

So why hasn’t God moved us yet? “I wish I knew” as well. But this is a fruitful time. This is a time of learning, and trusting, and praying, and sharing, and crying, and asking, and searching, and waiting. It is God at work in his mysterious ways and I trust that it will all make sense someday.

Eighty-six

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His timing is not always perfect, but on Tuesday my husband said something that clicked something into place for me.

For the past few days I’ve been asking him to help me focus on what’s good about our current situation, because I’m struggling to see the good. We are in between places right now. We are not fully here, in our current home, but we are certainly not yet in our new home. (It’s still not even our home!) We are about a third of the way through Financial Peace University but have just begun working on our budget and trying to stick to it. We are bumping up against the way we’ve always done things and this new, wiser, better way of doing things.

So Tuesday, after a long day that left me weary and drained of hope, I asked him to help me see the good in this waiting period. After saying something about the beautiful fall weather we’re having, and the three healthy kids we have, and the food we were enjoying for dinner (and enduring my eye rolling), he replied, “I’m really glad we’re not living in the time before Jesus was born.”

I felt like that came out of left field a bit, so I asked him to explain what he meant. He said it must have been incredibly difficult to live with the promise of a Savior and a Messiah and not to know when He was coming. It must have been awful to live expectantly but die before He came. It must have been similar to the Israelites, freed from their slavery and looking forward to the promised land, stuck wandering in the desert for 40 years.

He’s right. Living through this in between time with our homes really pales in comparison, and there are plenty of good things about it. We are praying more. We are sharing our story and our situation more freely, and are therefore being prayed for more, as well. We are less tied down to all of our stuff, because it’s all housed in boxes in the garage, so we are learning how to be minimalists almost by accident. It’s easier to clean up the house. Because of the Financial Peace classes, we’ve already implemented some changes that will impact not only the home-buying process, but our future as well.

We are living expectantly, and not without hope. And while we may not know if it’s the green door house he’s ultimately calling us to, we believe and trust that God’s plan is best. We are calling one another to remember those truths.

Eighty

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A conversation with John, around the middle of May: “I’m calling to tell you that I got an offer on the house. He’s offering me $5,000 over my asking price, but he’s asking me to do a lot more work than I’m willing to do for $5,000. Besides, every time I think about this house, I think about your family.”

My husband, around the middle of July: “Our house hasn’t sold, so I’m just touching base to see what your timeline looks like. Originally you thought you’d be finished around mid-July, and I understand that once it’s finished, you will want/need to sell it. We’d like to enter into a contingency agreement with you if we can.”
John: “As far as I’m concerned, this house is yours. My wife feels the same way. We really want your family there.”

Nothing about buying a home in OKC has gone how we expected. Just a year ago, houses in the areas we were looking were barely even on the market before being snatched up. We heard incredible stories from friends who “just happened” to meet someone who “just happened” to be selling a home and they were able to get into an incredible area.

The green door house sits on the outer edge of this same popular, beautiful area of OKC. Houses go pretty quickly. John was always upfront with us about how many requests he gets about the house. He shows it multiple times a week and fields phone calls regularly. And yet…besides that one offer…nothing.

As I kept recounting those conversations to friends at church, my confidence grew that this is just God’s plan. That’s the only explanation for why this beautiful home in this beautiful area hasn’t been bought up from under us.

Multiple people have asked me what we will do if our house sells quickly and the green door house isn’t ready yet. While we would almost prefer that dilemma, the stress of that situation hasn’t had to enter our minds even once. God’s timing is perfect. I don’t doubt that we will understand that in an even deeper way when all is said and done.

Just this week, my husband checked in with John for a timeline update. For various reasons, the new finish date of October 1 isn’t going to happen. So while that means I might have to locate our fall/winter clothing in the boxes in the garage, that also means that we still don’t to have to stress, worry, or fret about our situation. Our home will sell. It will. To the right people at the right time. And we have confidence that when it does, the green door house will be ours.

So we wait. We pray, and we are surrounded by others who are praying on our behalf. When we despair, when we doubt, when we fear that it’s never going to happen, we call one another to faith. We ask for patience.

I really can’t wait for the day I get to share the next chapter of this story with you. I hope I’m typing it from my red desk in a sun-filled front room in a little house with a bright green door.