Poison Dart Frogs are some of the tiniest and beautiful creatures on the planet; they are also incrediably deadly. So, why call this blog "Tiny Dart Frog"? It goes back to the old adage - good things come in small packages. We are all created exactly as God has intended - unique, strong, and beautiful.
When I turned 16 my dad taught me how to change the oil in my car and how to change a tire. I sort-of paid attention, but not really. I have no interest in cars outside of their practical use. So, breaking down on the side of the road is way up there on my list of dreads. I always fill my car up with gas - I am not one of those people who gage the miles just so I can inch by on the last 1/8 of a gallon - I fill up as soon as the gas light comes on.
Today, as I was leaving seminary, I stopped to fill-up - just to be sure I wouldn't run out. I hopped in my car and was on my way. All of a sudden the car began sharking violently and most of my control over the car was lost. I was able to pull over to the side of the road. I got out, and started to walk around the car. I had no idea what I was looking for, since, as I said, I know nothing about cars. But as a approached the rear tire, the problem was obvious. Flat tire.
We are not talking about just a low tire here. It was totally blown. Holes in it - on both sides. There was absolutely no way I could drive it; I was an hour and a half from home; and...I certainly don't remember that tire changing lesson my dad taught me. I distinctly remember thinking - "Why do things have to be soo hard right now?"
Two separate times I was asked, "Geez, what did you do to this tire?" It was that bad. Why is everything blowing up?
Needless to say, I was not happy. I was cursing and frustrated and wishing I was home. But here's the thing - I saw all these angels today. Things do blow up - but then there are these angels that show up.
*A woman turned around, came back and got me, and drove me to the seminary. *The song on the radio was singing, "if you put your light with my light, we'll make the world a little brighter". *A good friend at seminary is a whiz with cars - drove me out, filled the spare, took the blown tire off, and put the spare on....followed me to a tire store. *The men at the tire store met me as I pulled in - "You need a new tire?"...Uh, yeah. 5 minutes later, brand new tire on the car and I am on my way. *Grandma was at the house to get the kids, so I don't have to worry about them. *It wasn't raining or cold (this is huge for me).
The truth is I was scared, crying, and frustrated and simultaneously incredibly aware of people, even strangers, loving me through it. That is an amazing thing.
Things blow up...my tire was just a reminder to me that this is so true. Angels show up too...lights and love, hands and hearts joining together to put things back together.
I have this sort-of funny thing going on with my youngest son involving communion. Most parents I know have children that either take communion or don't - really no in-between. And, in most churches there is a given 'practice' involving communion. Some churches begin communion whenever the child desires (or the parent), some churches it's the 2nd grade, some churches it's 5th grade, and some others still it's 8th grade. The "acceptable" time to commune is up for discussion.
Cooper, who is now 6, really fits none of the categories, accept the first - whenever the child desires. He's the in-betweener kid. Last year on Maundy Thursday we were involved in a Seder Meal. Cooper listened attentively the whole time (at least as well as a then 5 year old boy can). After this ritual, we all went up to the sanctuary and stood in a circle. As the bread and wine were being distributed, he cupped his hands and looked up into the pastor's eyes, as if to say, "Me too. I am a part too. I love Jesus too. This includes me too."
I think about that a lot. I know that Cooper understood, as fully as any of us do, what the celebration of Holy Communion is about. And I think as we grow and wilt, ask and deny, open ourselves and close ourselves, we all come to new and fresh understandings of communion and God's love for us.
I haven't gotten to the funny part yet....this year we returned to our home congregation after being gone a year. Cooper decided he didn't want to take communion anymore - he said he wasn't supposed to. And - I thought it didn't really set a good precedent me up at the altar forcing him to take communion (that surely can't be grace...). So, he stopped taking it, also excusing himself by saying he didn't like the grape juice. I let it go. Besides, there is precedent for those not feeling worthy to come for a blessing as they confess their sins, instead of receiving bread and wine (although I don't necessarily agree with this - who among us is worthy?).
Today though, just a few weeks before Maundy Thursday, he cupped his hands and looked up into the pastor's eyes... different pastor, same feeling. The pastor looked at me, looked at him; Cooper looked at me, looked at him. I said, "Okay. Yeah, give it to him." He asked. What can we say to that?
Ask and you shall receive - it's the promise of Jesus. Ask for grace, ask for love, ask for forgiveness, ask for just a foretaste of all that God has promised to each of God's beloved children. Because when we ask - we receive, one way or another.
Today I got dirty. The sun was out and I had some weeds to pull in my garden. I had looked forward to this since the weatherman predicted a mid-week warming. I expected to have a lovely time, anticipating the smell of the earth, squirmy worms, and the promise of planting tomato plants soon. These are the things I expected. But, when I invited my youngest son to help me out, I 'found' something else.
"Cooper, do you want to help me pull weeds in the garden?"
"No," he said. "Why not? It's great out," I asked.
"Well, I'll help, but I'm digging for dinosaur bones."
Well, you and I both know that Cooper was not going to find a dinosaur bone here in Northern Virginia. His expectation was intoxicating. The whole time we were out there, he kept digging. And every time he would hit something, he would say, "Mom! I think I found one. I bet it's a T-Rex."
After a few of these I said, "Do you really think you are going to find a T-Rex?"
"Maybe not a whole head, but maybe a tooth, or at least a crystal," he says.
I smiled. Expectations. Anticipations. Maybe I set mine too low? And, maybe it doesn't matter if I set them too low or not, because today a mischievous, red-headed six year old, surprised me and reminded me that there are still numerous discoveries to be made.
My youngest son and I have been coloring a large poster together (see our work!). My oldest son looked at it and said: "That's ironic. Cut down a tree to make a poster that says 'Save the Rainforest'." Isn't that ironic? Good point...
So true: Remarked to me by my nine year old son today upon our first big snow storm - "Snow sure wouldn't be such a treat if you lived in Alaska. And recess would really suck because I bet they wouldn't let you even throw a snowball. You'd probably be lucky if you got to build a snowman. It's pretty great for us though, huh, mom?"
My name is Christine Stephan, although I answer mostly to Mom or Pastor.
I am a Lutheran pastor for an amazing group of Jesus' disciples just outside Washington DC AND a mom to 3 of the best boys in the universe.
I blog here about family and faith and frustrations....That thing we call 'life'.
My boys are passionate about all things legos, anything involving a ball, video games, and chocolate.
I am an avid runner, a lover of interesting books and deep conversation, a very amateur writer, and also a lover of chocolate.
I also love theology (which is weird, I know), but I don't love theology more than Jesus.
This blog is hardly ever profound, but it is real. As a pastor and I mom, I find 'real' to be more helpful in my journey with Jesus than crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's.