Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The One Who Sees Me

I'm back in Genesis.  This morning I read the familiar story of Hagar, the maid-servant of Sarah, who was given to Abraham so that he could finally conceive a child... since Sarah had decided that God must not be able to keep His promise and she should take matters into her own hands.

First of all, I can't say that I really blame Sarah for doubting at this point.  She was NINETY, after all.  I mean, did she even WANT to be pregnant at that age?  I'd be tempted to look for a way out as well.

I gave up on childbearing at the ripe old age of 35.  Little did I know that God fully intended to use this old body to bring another baby into the world.

Sweet little David.

So worth it, but my body is still screaming over that one.

I totally get Sarah's take on things.

Second, bless Hagar's heart.  I mean, let's call it what it was... sex by force.  She was told to do it and she did it.  She had no choice.  She gets pregnant (like she was supposed to) and then is abused by a jealous Sarah.

So she ran.

And she found herself lost in the middle of a desert.

And here's one of the things I love about this story - the angel of the Lord found her there.  HE WAS OUT LOOKING FOR HER.

In the midst of a desperate place, Hagar discovered that she was being sought after... by GOD.

I've experienced that.

One of my most desperate times came as my father's health rapidly deteriorated and I began to understand that I was going to be the one to walk him through death's door.

My father was terrified of death.  My father was a frail and broken man, who found himself completely alone at the end of his life... except for me.  And our relationship was fragile at best.  I knew that he was going to be relying on me to carry him through and I knew that my "dad tank" was completely empty.  I had no idea how I would fulfill my obligation as a daughter.

I was in a desperate place.

I look back on the afternoon that he died and am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude.  I know without a doubt that God was out looking for me (or looking out for me) that day.

After Hagar's encounter with the angel, she gave God a name, which I find beautiful.  She called Him, "The One Who Sees Me."

The thing is - Hagar's circumstances didn't really change.  She had to go back to the mistress who abused her and was jealous of her.  She had to go back into servitude.  She had to have Abraham's baby and then watch her son lose his position and inheritance as the "first born" when Sarah finally had a son of her own.

Her life was hard.

But I don't think she felt alone anymore.

I was afraid that I would be alone with my father when he died.  Deeply afraid.  I didn't verbalize this fear to anyone (not completely sure I could've put words to the fear I was experiencing).

My dad died during the Tulsa ice storm of 2007.  The city had pretty much shut down and I found myself in my dad's apartment, away from my family and really stranded as my father declined rapidly.  We couldn't get dad to a hospital.  It was very clear that Dad would die right there... and soon.

But God came looking for me.

My dad's cousin flew in right before the storm hit (a trip he'd been promising for months that finally came to fruition with no foreknowledge of dad's impending death).

Hospice was able to get to the apartment the night before he died.  They were wonderful and stayed with me the entire time.

Mark got through the crazy, icy roads to be with me as dad's final hours closed in.

My two dear friends, Molly and Ronna, decided to make a risky trip just to give me a hug (and, I think, a treat of some sort) - and unexpectedly found themselves with me as dad died.

My pastor decided to "drop by" to pray with dad, not knowing he was literally an hour away from death.  He stayed with me and coached me along the way.

And another dear friend arrived just minutes after and was able to hold me as I grieved not just the death of my father, but the death of dreams and hopes for my dad and our relationship unrealized.

I wasn't alone.  I still had to go through it.  But I wasn't alone.

In fact, in the hour following Dad's passing, seven beautiful people surrounded me in the small living room of my dad's apartment.

Hagar named Him perfectly.

He is The One Who Sees Me.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I finished reading the book of Job this morning.

I've read Job before, several times, and I'm always struck by just how bad things got for Job.  What a nightmare.  There have been seasons in my life (not unlike my present one) where I am compared to Job by someone (or several someones) because of the seeming unrelenting nature of a particular struggle.

But wow.  Job had it bad.

And my life is good.  Not without struggle, but very, very good.

I'm grateful.

I guess I would sum up the book of Job this way...



I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

... Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

My grandmother used to say this to me every single night as she went to bed.  I thought it was sweet and kind of silly.  In my mind, the later I stayed up the more I could accomplish.  I had so much nighttime energy as a kid... a young adult... a thirty-something.

That's gone now.

My mind is usually fully shut down by 9 and my body begins to follow suit just a little while later.

But I've finally begun listening to my grandmother, who's been gone from this earth now for many, many years.

When I get up early, I have time and space for me, for a moment of quiet to think, read and pray.  When I don't, I play catch-up all day and never get around to the quiet time I so desperately crave and need.

Wow, I'm stubborn.  I'm 41 and just now applying this simple lesson to my life.

I've always convinced myself that sleep is so much more important to me than quiet.  But now I'm starting to really value that 45 minutes of quiet before the rest of the house begins to stir.  I'm finding it's something I've needed all along and I've been depriving myself of it.  In turn, the motivation to continue the habit is building.

Kind of like that diet or workout plan that you think is going to kill you when you first start, but you find tremendous value in once the numbers on the scale start going down.

You all probably learned this lesson a long time ago.

Like I said, I'm stubborn.

Anyway, so far so good.  I missed one morning and sure enough, I was never able to get back to my bible so that day got dropped... but I made it up the next day.

Right now it is pretty much like something to check off my "to do" list, but I'm believing for more.

Trusting that obedience will bring about the deepening and satisfaction that I crave.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Struggling Well

"Are you 'struggling well'?"

My pastor uses this phrase often.

I like it.  It's allowed for a necessary paradigm shift in my thinking.

We all struggle.  We grapple with sin, hopelessness, despair, frustration, depression, anger, jealousy... the list goes on and on.

But there's a sense of shame attached to the REALITY of this struggle.  We're not comfortable with these imperfections and feel the need to suppress them - at least I do.

I've spent a LOT of energy over my lifetime trying to cover up my struggles.  The end result has never been pretty.

What I like about the phrase "struggling well" is that it acknowledges that the struggle exists within me, but challenges me to battle it out in a way that is pleasing to God.

I can definitely say that I'm consistently struggling.

I wish I could say that I'm consistently struggling well.

Working on that.

Today I started a Bible reading plan.  Again.  I've lost count of the times I've STARTED a Bible reading plan - only to drop it a few days or weeks in because life is just so crazy busy.

I thought I'd make this blog a bit of an accountability partner for myself.  Putting it out there, so to speak.

Because the truth is... it's the Word of God that gives me the power to struggle well.  I can't do it on my own.  I just don't have it in me.

I don't know how well I'll do.  I don't want this to just be another thing to check off my "to do" list every day.  I want God's Word to be "life" for me.

But I think I'm going to have to just get in there, gut it out, and hope for the "life" part to come.

I'm using this as my resource: and following the chronological sequence because I think it will be interesting to follow as I'm teaching the boys ancient (and medieval) history this year.  It'll be cool to see how it all fits together - and I think will open my mind and heart to more opportunities for teaching my boys and discussing truth with them.

But regardless of how well it goes along my history plan, the crux of the matter is that life isn't getting any easier, friends.

I need Him more than ever.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

He's 12!

Jackson Mark Steele - my first born son - turned twelve this week.  I'm okay with it.  I really am.  What I'm NOT okay with is that this means he will be a TEENAGER in just one short year!

How is that possible?  It's happening too fast.

I adore this boy.

He is quirky, loving, kind, helpful and insanely smart.

Here's a conversation he had with his dad not all that long ago...

Jackson:  "Dad, I think God created me to change the world."

Mark:  "Wow, Jackson.  Yes, I believe He did.  He created you to change the world."

Jackson:  "Yep."

Several seconds of quiet...

Jackson:  "Through time travel."

This is my son.  I love who he is and who he is becoming.  

I love (and share) his passion for books.  

I love his persistence.  

I love his relentless curiosity.

I love that with his glasses on he can look a lot like Harry Potter.

I love that he sometimes acts a bit like Brick Heck.

He is a joy to raise and I am looking forward to the man he will become.

Just so long as it doesn't happen too quickly.