One Hundred Eleven

Photo on 2012-01-25 at 16.36

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
Advertisements

One Hundred Seven

IMG_2247

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?”

One Hundred Two

DSC_0002

I told a friend recently that I thought I would be a different person once we were moved and settled into our new home. Turns out, I was right, but I’m not such a fan of the new person I’ve become. I’ve been angry, self-focused, and a recluse. As good friends are wont to do, she gave me a better perspective, and told me to extend myself some grace. I’ve been dealt a lot of change in 2016. And while I still refuse to acknowledge it, stressful situations cause me stress! I’ve experienced a lot of death so it makes sense that I’m now experiencing a time of grieving.

We had good plans in place. Good plans that we felt were going to glorify God and help us to enjoy Him. And we have watched as plan after plan has crumbled and died.

Just this week, I wrapped up a reread of Genesis and took special note of every occurrence in which the people of God put their trust in their own plans and it didn’t work out. The great fathers of the people of God – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – at times? They all acted like total idiots. Sitting in my comfy chair in the year 2016, knowing the entirety of the story, I can comfortably judge them as they simply did what they thought was best. I can point my judgmental finger at them and shake my head as if to say, “Dude, just trust in the Almighty God of the universe. He’s got this!”

(Just another plank in my eye situation.)

I have been grieving and angry as all of my best-laid plans have turned out to be different from God’s. And to be completely honest, I’ve resented that his perfect plan includes another baby for our family. I’ve been confused as to how a solid month of completely debilitating headaches have been best for me and for my family. I’ve wondered how on earth he will provide for our family when, instead of our growing our income, he’s expanding the number of mouths to feed.

Of course, a reread of scripture always points to the faithfulness of God. When his people act like idiots, he makes a way. He rescues. He redeems. He’s not surprised. He brings all things together for their good. When the Green Door House disappeared, God provided the Triangular House, and I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful we are that we are here instead of 20 blocks south, where we wanted to be. I wake up and spend my days in a concrete reminder of God’s faithfulness to our family and a testimony that his plans are better than my own. The great cloud of witnesses is surely watching and saying, “Dude, just trust in the Almighty God of the universe. He’s got this!”

I still miss it. I still doubt. But this morning I woke up and peeked at my sleeping children (who always look like cherubs when asleep) and felt in my soul, “We can do this. We can add one more person to this crew. This is going to be so good!” I hadn’t felt or believed that even once during this pregnancy. Of course, I knew we didn’t have a choice – we do have to do this, but today, I knew that we could. Not because we are amazing parents and not because all of our questions are answered and our financial burdens have been lifted, but because God has declared that this is his plan. He has always been faithful. Through some of the very scariest times in our lives, he has provided. He’s the Almighty God of the universe. He’s got this.

Amen.

 

 

 

One Hundred One

DSC_0001

I finally deleted a couple of reminders from my phone this week. Every morning at 8:00 for at least a month now, my phone has been dinging to remind me to write a few thank you notes. After a week, I acknowledged the sound, inwardly cursed myself for being lazy, and got frustrated that whatever I was in the middle of (drinking coffee, probably) was too important to stop doing and write the notes.

Today, I took 8 minutes while my son did homework beside me and wrote three thank you notes. I deleted the reminder and felt 10 pounds lighter.
Can you relate to this at all? Have you had good ideas of something thoughtful to do for someone else but lacked the discipline to follow through? Did you beat yourself up afterward?
Here’s the thing- it’s not the thought that counts. I really wish it was, because I’m incredibly thoughtful in my head, but it’s not.
Last week I also set a reminder that today is Star Wars Day. It’s May 4th. May the fourth be with you. It’s nerdy, but we embrace nerdy around here. Thanks to The Force Awakens, we are all Star Wars obsessed yet again in my house, so I knew I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate the day with my kids. I am also pregnant and tired and today is a long day of homework and laundry. So I knew I had to be intentional about doing something fun or the day would slip by and the opportunity would be lost for another year. When my phone reminded me yesterday afternoon about the big day, I pulled down the cookie cutters, made sure I had the ingredients for the sugar cookies, and schemed the rest of the days menu.
The kids were delighted, the cookies were tasty, and letting the kids help in the kitchen wasn’t nearly as stressful as I always assume it’s going to be. Had I failed to make the cookie dough or ignored my phone’s reminder, and let my kids know tomorrow that I thought about celebrating Star Wars day with them…but didn’t…well, they probably wouldn’t have been very excited. I doubt they would have said, “Oh, that is so sweet of you, mom. Thanks for thinking about doing that. We would have enjoyed that.” Of course not. Like any normal person, they would have been bummed. If they’re like me (and they are, for better or worse), they probably would have responded, “Why on earth did you tell us about something you thought about doing but didn’t? What’s the point in telling us? Just to bum us out?”
It’s not the thought that counts.
One of my pastors literally wrote the book on this. He talks extensively about caring for his church members by reminding himself to care for his church members. He sets reminders to check in with people on a regular basis. He wants to do this anyway, but given the huge number of people he meets, knows, comes into contact with, and the fact that his brain never stops working, he needs to be reminded. It almost sounds uncaring to have to remind yourself to care about people, but he points out that wanting to care for people but never doing it? That’s uncaring.
I got a text today from a dear friend telling me that I’m a joy-giver to her.
My son brought home a letter from his teacher listing specific things she loves about him and that make him “officially awesome.”
A friend sent me flowers in the middle of a particularly difficult season in my life.
My dad used to send me comic strips that made him think of me.
Of course some of those are more elaborate than others, but the point is, they all followed through with their thoughtfulness. And truly, that’s what counts.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

 

Ninety-nine

DSC_0033

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.

 

Ninety-one

68cf4198-b044-4f21-aca9-982a63a382b2

I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s Advent devotional and the reading from a few days ago has stuck with me:
“Joy…the gigantic secret gift that He gives and we unwrap, that we never stop unwrapping– we who were barren now graced with the Child who lets us laugh with relief for all eternity. There is nothing left to want. There is nothing left to fear: ‘All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.’ And His love for you never will. So loosen up, because the chains have been loosed, and laugh the laughter of the freed.”

Click here to read the rest of this post…

 

Seventy-nine

Photo on 2012-01-25 at 16.36My oldest is 9, so in no way do I consider myself a “veteran” mom. However, as I reflect on the early days of motherhood, and when I talk with moms younger than myself, I am struck by something specific.

Young moms (by young I mean new to the gig…not necessarily young in age) need one thing more than anything else.
Grace, ladies.
There is nothing but Grace for you. An overwhelming, abundant, perfect Grace. If there’s one thing I wish I could get Keely 9 years ago to understand, it would be Grace.

Your house is a mess but your kids are alive? Grace.
You haven’t showered or brushed your teeth but your kids are fed (and alive)? Grace.
You yelled at your 18-month-old? Grace.
You’re not sure how many hours of TV your kids have watched today? Grace.
You don’t have homemade treats for small group or playdates? Grace.
You don’t attend small group or playdates? Grace.
Your husband’s work shirts are dirty or he has to dig through piles of clean laundry that’s never put away? Grace.
You don’t remember the last time you had 2 minutes of peace so that you could pray or read your bible? Grace.
You’ve fed your family McDonald’s twice this week? Grace.

Ladies, God sees. God knows. God hears your heart’s cry.
Jesus died for your freedom.
Freedom!! Freedom from guilt (Oh, mom guilt. It’s a KILLER.) and shame and expectations and obligations and fear and doubt and worry. He hasn’t given us an unrealistic ideal of the perfect wife and mother and expect us to achieve it. He gives us Jesus, who fulfilled every expectation and every obligation and every bit of the law because He knows we can’t.

Do I live each day in freedom and with full knowledge of the Grace God has for me? Nope. Not even close. I still beat myself up. I still hold myself to impossible standards. I still feel like a failure every day. I still worry that I have completely and irreversibly ruined my children.

Some days those things feel true. So.True. Especially when the evidence seems to be stacked in the favor of all of those things.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
(Lamentations 3:21-23)

If I could have you in my living room for coffee, or walk around the block with you, or text with every single one of you, or put my arm around you and whisper to you (which would totally make me uncomfortable but I would do it because I want you to know how serious I am), I would preach Grace to you. Grace to you. Grace to me. Grace to your marriage. Grace to your children. Grace to your weary, tired, lonely, shame-filled heart.

Grace upon grace.