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 was a young mom, I had very fixed ideas about how the perfect mom should be and what she should allow her children to do.
For example, they would certainly never, ever play on those hand-held video games in church.
And...they would never pretend to shoot one another. How uncivilized!
We would have set amounts of screen time and instead of listening to the radio in the car, we would of course, sing the alphabet song or recite our multiplication facts.
Besides all this, I was fairly convinced that organization was the key to keeping things running smoothly. Books were alphabetized and legos were sorted according to color. And...I vacuumed every day.
And then, one day my oldest son came home from preschool and promptly told me that his best friend's dad was a 'bad guy.'
He proceeded to tell me that his friend's dad must be a bad guy because he carries a gun and he's in the Marines. "Bad guys carry guns," he told me.
Ah. Not perfection. I had some back tracking to do.
Now, I have a whole arsenal of weapons in my house. I detest it. And...I also think it's ok.
My kids have also been known to have a charger at church in my office, so they can juice up their pocket video games when the batteries run low.
It's not ideal. It's not perfect. But, I will tell you something.... it's a lot more authentic. It's a lot more real.
Yes, my kids scope out places in the forest to battle it out with their nerf guns. But, they are playing together. And they could sit for hours (if I let them) playing video games. But, they can't wait to show me the new level they've reached. And, our legos are all mixed together and we don't follow the directions....
It's all just a beautiful mess. I think I'll take that over 'perfection' any day (well, most days....a perfectly clean house once a month would feel like heaven, but that'll have to wait about 18 years).
My house is drafty. It was built in 1935. The windows are thin and not tightly sealed. Since it was built in 1935, there are plenty of projects to do, so I haven't done a thing about the draftiness besides slide a draft stopper thing under my front door.
My kids didn't notice the draftiness, but they did notice the draft stopper.
The door's hard to open with that under it. The door mat keeps getting pushed out of the way. We trip over this draft stopper as we leave - it's cumbersome.
Today, my youngest son pulls a magazine insert card out of his pocket and says, "Oh, Mom, I found this in a magazine. It's FREE. Free Housewarming....". And he hands the card to me with a big smile on his face.
I looked at it. I looked at him. And I smiled as I said to him, "Oh, Coop. Thanks. Housewarming."
He was still smiling as his brothers said, "What is it?"
"Housewarming," he says.
He was certain this was going to make his mom happy. A free way to warm our house. The card was actually an advertisement for credit cards...for those who had just moved to the neighborhood. And I ended up explaining to him that a 'housewarming gift' is when someone brings you something that makes your new house feel more like a home - like a plant or plate of cookies or a door wreath.
I guess my explanation is true, but today there was a homewarming at my house. Warmed by the care, giving and, love that carried that card in his pocket all day, just so he could give it to me over dinner.
The free way to warm our house ended up being that card, but in a much different way than my youngest son had anticipated. Housewarming. Homewarming. Heartwarming.
I've known that this year anniversary of mine was coming up for some time.
Today marks my one year anniversary of ordination. It is a big deal in 'my world' - although in the scheme of the world, not such a big deal. However, we all do seem to mark time by remembering anniversaries.
Last year at this time I:
was snowed in
postponed my ordination due to snow
cancelled Advent 4 due to snow
and....was fairly certain that 'this time next year' things would be very different. I was certain getting a year under my belt, so to speak, would make all the difference in the world.
So, here I sit, one year later and it seems like the only thing that is predictable in my world is the snow. The irony of 'potential significant snowfall' in the next few days is not lost on me.
I've been waiting for the "Oh, I've done this before" feeling to hit. I would love to feel like I know what I am doing....but every day I wake up and know that I don't know what the hell I'm doing.
But - don't be scared (especially if you attend the church I serve). I really don't have a clue...but God does. And, if I have learned one thing over this past year it would be, when serving God becomes predictable, then we're probably serving ourselves.
I crave organization; ministry is messy. I crave predictability; God's unpredictable. I crave rest; God is relentless. So, here's where I am at on my one year anniversary:
Right where I started.
Confused and unsure.
But faithful. To be sure, I fail sometimes, but I am trying. Of course...it's going to snow; it's only fitting, because last year at this time I said, "I'll probably never have to deal with this again...".
So, what difference does a year make? I am not sure.
But, this much is clear - I will be spending the rest of my life making the differences God calls me to (and calls you to too), whether I happen to be able to point to them or not.
The other day I was having coffee at an area Caribou Coffee shop. I looked down at the sleeve on the cup and read: Life is short. Stay awake for it.
Caribou Coffee's been stealing from the Gospel of Matthew. Really - they have. Check it out: Matthew 24: 42 - Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your LORD is coming. (For Advent 1 reading click here). It's probably an occupational hazard that I read a coffee cup and think of Jesus, but still....
Truth be told, they haven't been stealing, but they've tapped into something that we all know - the fact that many of us feel like there isn't a whole heck of a lot to stay awake for. During this Advent season we are urged to stay awake, look for life!
I probably over analyze things, although I like to think it's looking for a deeper meaning, but as I looked at that coffee sleeve, urging me to stay awake for life, I thought:
'Isn't that an interesting dichotomy [yes, I actuallythought that word - dichotomy. I like it...much of life is such dichotomy]...if there's so much to stay awake for, why do I even need this hyped-up caffeinated beverage?
As many of you know, I drink more Diet Mountain Dew than possibly any other person on the planet. I like my caffeine. So, the more I've been thinking about this coffee sleeve, the more I've wondered, do we need the caffeine to stay awake for life?
Because if we do...then we are in trouble. Trouble may not be the right word, but....you know, life itself is enough to stay awake for. There are amazing things happening and coming, but we don't see them sometimes. At least I know I miss amazing things on a daily basis. Maybe we are too numbed out on caffeine, I don't know.
The reason I liked the question, "What do you stay awake for?" so much is because it points to what Matthew doesn't say. If I could rewrite Matthew, which would probably get me in loads of trouble with Bible translators, I would add that piece, "Therefore, keep awake, because there's much to blow your mind going on out in the world. You certainly don't want to miss it." I'd probably need to add some more therefore's and art thou's and thy's.
Matthew reminds us to stay awake. And Matthew says that the LORD is coming, so we should stay awake for that, but he doesn't ask us: What's so compelling about your life that you would want to stay awake through all hours of the night without the added assistance of caffeine?
So...what do you stay awake for?
Matthew would say, stay awake for Jesus.
So - would I, but I would add this one caveat... how?
If it's not the caffeine that's getting me through life, then what is?
I stay awake for:
crisp morning runs which clear my head
kisses from boys who don't care they've been throwing up for three days
texts from friends which make me laugh out loud
small gifts which make a big difference
pre-school kids who hug me tight
smiles from strangers who receive an invitation
There are more to be sure...but those are the things I've stayed awake for today (and I've only be awake for 7 hours). I stay awake for those things, because I see God in them. I see the person of Jesus in smiles, in tears, in touches... Honestly, there is something saving in those for me - something Jesus-like. Something realer than real.
I'm not inspired by the perfect cup of coffee, but I am inspired by the perfect imperfectness of Jesus.
And I don't need caffeine to keep me awake for that. I know there are people who read this blog who aren't sure if they believe in God... and I guess I stay awake a lot because of that...because I once heard someone say, "If you've ever wondered about Jesus, about life after death, I'm here to tell you there's nothing truer in the universe. That's my job."
I stay awake because I know that to be true...
What do you stay awake for?
Think about it.
And then....really stay awake for it, because it will be there that you will meet Jesus.
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.