Eighty-nine

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In the secret of His presence how my soul delights to hide!
I want that to be true of me. I want it to be, but it’s so not.

Perhaps a more accurate statement would be:
“In the secret of a Netflix binge how my soul delights to hide!”
or
“In the secret of a mindless novel how my soul delights to hide!”
That doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

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Eighty-two

DSC_0006“Being dependable and reliable are good things, and those are a part of who you are, but they’re not all you are.”

This truth from my counselor is starting to make more sense, as I’ve sought out opportunities lately to be Keely and not just Mom. My role as mom is huge, and life-changing, and good. As mom I am needed and depended upon and expected to be reliable, and that’s good for me. My issue is that I equate my identity with those things. 

A few weeks ago I attended a baby shower dinner with some girlfriends. I laughed a lot, I ate cheesy garlic bread and attempted to drink everyone’s pink dipping sauce. I talked about Parenthood and Friday Night Lights and home days.
I got to be Keely, and it was good.

My husband and I are “shopping” for a new small group. We attended one last week and, while our children were there with us, I had the opportunity to introduce myself, engage in discussion about that week’s Psalm, and share something I had learned that week.
I got to be Keely, and it was good.

Over the weekend, my husband and I spent 4 glorious hours alone together in OKC. We ate dinner by the canal, enjoyed a free dessert, sat on the front steps of the green door house and prayed for it to be ours. We drove with the top down and laughed and talked and held hands.
I got to be Keely, and it was good.

On Monday night, I attended a new-to-me Bible study. I only knew two of the ladies there. I shared what I had learned from the first two chapters of Tim Keller’s book on prayer. I shared a bit of what’s going on with my family and prayed for the stress and worry of selling our home. I made a ridiculous comment and told everyone they should feel free to tweet me.
I got to be Keely, and it was good.

Being Mom will always be a part of me. Even after my three kids are grown and gone, that role will continue. I’ll always answer to that name. I’ll always be reliable and dependable to my kids. But the danger is real that I can completely lose myself in that role and forget that God created me as a whole multi-faceted person.

I’m giving myself permission to remember those other parts of myself and to explore new areas that bring me joy and make me come alive. It’s helping me to take the pressure off of finding “that one thing” that I’m passionate about. It’s helping me to actually enjoy the things I enjoy, guilt-free.

Little things like:
Watching an episode of Parenthood while I eat lunch
Reading a chapter of my current book
Journaling a bible verse or lyrics to a hymn
Sitting on the back porch with nothing in my hands, and just listening

I’m discovering the beauty in enjoying what I enjoy, and not pressuring myself to enjoy what someone else enjoys.
I’m enjoying the freedom to be Keely.
Enjoy the freedom to be you.

Seventy-four

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As we discussed the idea of exploring my interests my counselor used the illustration of a painter being paralyzed by her blank canvas. Sometimes she literally needs to just throw some paint on there to get over the barrier that perfectionism causes. He knows I fancy myself a writer, so we used writer’s block to connect the idea. From what I’ve learned, from a blogger/author I trust, one of the writer’s versions of splattering paint onto a canvas is to practice Morning Pages. Morning Pages are a simple idea of three pages of unedited, unplanned, pressure-free writing. They are meant to shake out the cobwebs and free your mind of thoughts, worries, or ideas that might be lurking in the shadows, threatening your creativity.

Like a lot of you can relate to, I’m sure, I can think up a million reasons to not try something I’m slightly scared of doing. My goal of writing my memoir this year has never gotten off the ground because I put so.much.pressure on the idea. While I thought I intended to write out my story for the sole purpose of getting it out of me and getting it down on paper, in reality, I expected so much more.

First, I expected it to be easy. Despite the books I read, the blog posts I found, and my own pastor’s knowledge that it’s actually really hard work, I figured my inspiration would carry me through.
Second, I expected it to get published and make me famous. Of course I did. I expected to be discovered for the witty, clever, wise-beyond-her-years gal I’ve had like 4 people tell me I am. Move over, Jen Hatmaker, Keely Steger is on the scene. That’s a death sentence right out of the gate.

I can’t make art for the sake of art and beauty. My art has to be appreciated and applauded.
I can’t play sports because they’re fun and I enjoy them. Someone has to think I’m doing a great job.

I am addicted to approval. I have spent my entire life trying to please and that is a hard habit to break. Like so many kids, my mom was the center of my world. If she was proud of me, I could conquer the world. And for a multitude of reasons, performance meant a lot to her. So from a very early age, I learned to quantify my worth. Making mom proud took good grades, great stats, large numbers of books read, songs performed on pitch, words spelled correctly, laughs received, etc.

Let me just say this- if it sounds like I’m blaming my mom or beating up her memory, please know that it has taken quite a bit of counseling for me to understand that that just isn’t true. It is imperative to dig, uncover, and acknowledge the hurt and the broken messages from my past in order to find freedom and redemption. By design, moms have a crazy amount of influence and impact on their children. For better or worse. And I know that I can’t keep my kids out of the counselor’s chair, either.

Where am I going with all of this?
All of this is at play as I face the “simple” question of:
What do I want to do, explore, discover, create, enjoy? 

So do you see why this question is so imperative for me to ask?

Seventy-three

DSC_0034About a year ago, my husband and I started seeing a counselor.

About a year ago, I started writing here.

“Coincidence? I think not!”

It’s been a crazy, grief-filled few months for both my counselor and me, so we haven’t been able to meet regularly for a while. We caught up yesterday, and I was struck by our conversation. It felt a bit like the final scene of Seinfeld: “Haven’t we had this conversation before?”

I heard myself talking about my lack of time to myself, my loss of identity, my roles defining me, my struggle to find a hobby, a passion, something I love. We talked about my struggle to grasp the idea of God’s imminence.

We talked about “self-care,” and I admitted that the phrase makes me cringe. This summer, as we’ve gone through the tiring process of preparing our home to sell, my body sent me crystal clear signs that it was tired and stressed. I saw my doctor about heart and breathing issues. I got shingles. I was living off of my kids’ snacks, large chunks of cheese, and beer. I knew I wasn’t taking care of myself like I should, but I honestly thought I was doing okay at managing my stress. And even though the last time we had talked, my counselor and I talked about “stress points,” like job changes, moving, etc., I still didn’t fully identify myself as “stressed.”

I told him that “self-care” falls into the category of “soft” things that make me uncomfortable. I’m such a highly functioning person. That’s why my stress often doesn’t stand out clearly to me. I can still perform my duties. I’ll still show up (unless I have stress-induced shingles…or a migraine). I’ll still do what’s expected of me. I’ll still try to please you.

Admitting I need to take care of myself requires me to admit that I have weaknesses. I can’t do everything. I can’t please everyone. I can’t show up for everything. I have limitations. I might disappoint people. I might have to choose between two really good things. I’ll have to find someone to watch my kids for me. I’ll have to ask for help.

And then, as if all that isn’t enough, I’ll have to figure out what self-care looks like…for me. And that overwhelms and paralyzes me.

My counselor encouraged me to be curious, to explore, to try, to make messes, to spend some money, to loosen up a bit. He asked me to think about the times in my life, the situations, experiences, etc. that made me come alive. I told him nothing came to mind. I told him what I really want is for someone else to tell me what those times were. I want them to tell me what to pursue and I’ll do it. I’ll perform. I’ll do my best. I’ll try to please them.

Instead of throwing his hands in the air and shouting, “Damn, girl! You just don’t get it!” (Which I kind of want to yell at myself right now), he said, “That sounds like a good conversation to have with the people closest to you. Maybe sitting down with a good friend who has walked through life with you and seen you grow and change and “come to life” would be just what you need. They might not have the answer for you, but maybe a conversation like that is the next step in this journey.”

So here we are. Right back where we started a year ago. But I’m not the same person. Not even close. Even I can see that.

Thirty-two

DSC_0150When I started working for my church two years ago, my pastor/boss had me sit down and write out a Why statement. I was the first person to do this job, so I wrote a job description, a list of my various tasks, and my goals. But he was a total stickler about this Why statement. The idea behind it comes from Simon Sinek’s great book, “Start with Why,” and the title gives you the general idea. Start with why you are doing something, not what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, and keep that Why in mind at all times.

After multiple drafts of my Why statement, we settled upon this:
Love and care for people so people will love and care about City Pres.

My duties as the Administrative Assistant were vast and random at times. Mailing letters, editing blog posts and weekly emails and bulletins, writing checks, ordering supplies, sending flowers, organizing events…I did whatever I could to help get stuff done. But why I did those things was what mattered. My purpose- my Why- was to make people feel loved and cared for.

As I have started to work on my book, it was my husband who reminded me to start with Why. He asked me why I was writing a book. To be honest, his question caught me off guard and might have pissed me off a little, simply because I hadn’t even asked myself that question. I hadn’t started with WHY.

So the very next morning, I did. I started thinking and praying about why I wanted to write this story.
I know it will be a cathartic experience.
I believe it will bring me clarity and healing.
I trust that it is a story that God wants the world to hear.

But here’s WHY I’m writing it:
to bring more hope, more grace, and more freedom to everyone who reads it.

That’s it.

When I told my husband my Why and then told him the overall theme of my book, I told him that I wanted other moms to hear my story and to feel hopeful. He replied, “That’s not just a message for moms. That’s a message everyone needs to hear. Sitting here right now, hearing you talk, I can see things in a different light and I feel more hopeful.”

Start with Why.

Twenty-eight

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I love making New Year’s Resolutions. Last year I started calling them goals instead of resolutions, hoping to take off some of the pressure and to remove the inevitability of failure. I did…okay.

  • Use what I have before getting more (specifically journals, notebooks, stationery, etc.)
  • Don’t eat anything out of a package (started off strong, and seriously fell off the wagon)
  • Listen to podcasts again, in the car and on walks (had a good run with this, but stopped at some point)
  • Don’t let diabetes (my son has Type-1) stop me from making things (I still don’t bake as much as I used to/want to)
  • Break the 50 books in a year mark (YES!)
  • Make a special Christmas dinner (last year we ate McDonald’s on Christmas, due to my poor planning. This year, I got a migraine and I have no idea what they ate.)
  • Individual date nights with husband and kids (had a weekly Starbucks date with my husband for a while- need to start that back up (Spencers!!!), and did pretty good at getting semi-regular dates with the kids)
  • Become a diaper-free house (my daughter is pretty stubborn in this area. Wearing them at night is good enough for me, for now.)
  • Find a hobby that’s just for me (this one really ties into the whole passion thing and goes hand in hand with a goal for 2015)
  • Be intentional during the summer (I think I did okay with this one. I hate the hot months, and can quickly hibernate and let the kids watch movies all day. I’m sure there was some of that, but it wasn’t a completely wasted summer. I think…)

Here’s something I’ve noticed about myself when it comes to goals and plans. I love thinking about them, and sometimes seem to believe that simply thinking about them makes them come about. I read an article about working out, and my mind is so powerful, I can actually convince myself that I reaped some physical benefits just by reading about moving my muscles. I browse through blog articles about organization and clearing clutter, and expect that when I look up, my house will be clean and clear. I have thought extensively about writing a memoir, and am surprised to hear that you haven’t read it yet.

I’m working on my goals for 2015, and among them are some serious writing plans.

Blogging regularly is on the list, as is exercising the idea of Morning Pages, but the biggest (most terrifying, most seemingly impossible) goal?

To write that memoir. To do the work, sit in the reading room, and write out the story that God has written and is writing in my life.

 

Happy New Year, friends. Here’s to dreaming big in 2015 and giving yourself the grace to “never stop starting.”

Twenty-five

DSC_0001We’ve got this room in our house. It’s basically a garage, but it’s not the garage. Our two-car garage houses two cars, and little else, but that’s because instead of having an attic or garage full of “stuff,” we have this room.

For a brief, glorious moment in history, it was a semi-decent guest room. My aunt stayed with us once, and our friends Justin and Alicia. Shortly thereafter, it began its career as the junk room. I’ve tried, over the years, to redeem this room. I made it the school room once, but we preferred working at the kitchen table.

So it went back to looking something like this…

DSC_0025You can see here I was trying to redeem this and make it a Pinterest-like “mom space.” (I failed.)

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Time after time, it has served as a dumping ground for all the stuff we don’t know what to do with. It’s an eye-sore, it’s an embarrassment, it’s a total waste of space.

My husband has been attempting to surprise me for our anniversary/Christmas.

Worst.Idea.Ever.

I hate surprises. Truly hate them. If you tell me, “I have a surprise for you!” I instantly hate you. On the spot. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I eventually get over it, but I do hate you for a little while. It’s far better to keep a surprise a true surprise, meaning I have no clue whatsoever that you are planning something, then you just give it to me. There’s no hatred there.

So he’s been scheming something for the past week, or probably longer.

unnamed-2With a generous gift card, I bought myself a desk, chair, lamp, and a pack of my favorite journals and pens. I set myself up a writing space. It tucked into the corner of the junk room and it was just for me. I loved it. I Instagrammed it. I enjoyed that space for three glorious days. And then my husband kicked me out. He said he wanted to paint the room for me. Ok, that’s sweet, but I really wish I could just enjoy my space. We’re great at starting projects, but terrible at finishing them, so I had visions of my space being in a constant state of disrepair and never getting to enjoy it.

Turns out, he’s doing much more than painting it.

DSC_0008 DSC_0003He scraped down the popcorn ceiling (all hail the 1980’s!!), ripped up the carpet, and will be retexturing the ceiling, laying down wood floors, changing out the ceiling fan, painting the room, adding shelves, and giving me the reading room of my dreams.

Why do I know all this, if it was meant to be a surprise? Well, see above, re: I HATE SURPRISES. After he left the house one night this week, almost immediately after getting home from work, missing dinner and leaving me alone at the end of a long, stressful homework day, I was mad. I knew his leaving had something to do with a surprise- a surprise I already knew was lingering in the closet of “my room,” and I was so mad about it.

Yes, I’m a peach to be married to. 

He came home from his mystery errand and I was silently fuming. I was quizzing my son for his history test the next day, which gave me the perfect opportunity to give my (sweetly, thoughtfully scheming) husband the silent treatment and to shoot flaming daggers out of my eyes and at his head. He asked if we could talk. I stubbornly shrugged my shoulders, “whatever.”

Peach, I tell you. 

He knew why I was upset. He knows me. (And strangely enough, he loves me.) He told me that he wanted to tell me the surprise because he was at a point of no return and really had no physical way of keeping things a secret any longer. He had a large, comfy chair that he had just purchased off of Craigslist and he had no way of sneaking it into the house and nowhere to hide it from me. So he revealed the entire plan to me.

He’s giving me this room, complete with a lock on the door (!!!!) because in all of our time together, I’ve never asked for anything else. I’ve never dreamed of anything else. I’ve never come up with anything else that I’m passionate about. So he’s giving me the space (a lovely, lovely multi-faceted word that our counselor uses) to explore and enjoy that passion.

I wanted a corner. I wanted a functional, practical, beautiful corner of our junk room to make my own. It would do. It was good enough. But he wants to bless me. He wants to pamper me. He wants to give me more than I deserve because of his love for me.

He’s always doing that. Always picturing the gospel for me, showing me grace and love that I don’t deserve and don’t have to earn. Giving me grace and love because he loves me too much not to.