Archive for January, 2011

So, interesting weekend here at Casa de Stern.   We didn’t have any pressing plans, so this was the weekend that Steve and Josiah embarked on the adventure known as: Some Assembly Required.

I don’t know how it is in your home, but in ours the pattern for birthday gift-buying is always the same.  Unless it’s my birthday, I – after discussing it with Steve – do all the shopping.    This year, however, we discussed and then I went off the gift map and bought him this very cool ball-catching net thing.  Steve seemed a little skeptical when I told him about it, but when he saw it he agreed that it would be fun and Josiah was thrilled when he opened it.  Gift win!

That was then.  When it was neatly packaged in a box.  Today they took it out of the box and…gift fail!

This is easily an hour into the process.  Please note how it’s still lying on the ground.  Please also note that my husband does not enjoy projects like this a whole big lot.

I watched the action from my kitchen window and here are the thoughts that spun through my brain:

  • THOUGHT 1What a stupid gift.  Why did I think that thing would ever work for Josiah?  Why didn’t I call Steve and ask him to look at it first?  Where did I put the dumb receipt?
  • Sub-thought formingWhy do I have to do all the shopping anyway?  It’s not like I’m the only one who can operate in the retail world.
  • THOUGHT 2: Oh man, this is supposed to be a fun thing for Steve and Josiah to do together and now it’s going to turn into something frustrating.
  • Sub-thought: Why am I responsible for everyone’s relational success?
  • THOUGHT 3: Steve isn’t feeling well and this is going to wear him out.  Josiah will feel badly that he wore Steve out and it will create a mindset that playing video games is better than anything else just by reason of the low relational risk factor.
  • Sub-thought: Josiah will become a video gameaholic who lives in our basement until he’s 42.  He will never have a girlfriend which means I will never have a daughter-in-law.  Shoot.  I really wanted a daughter-in-law.
  • Sub-thought #2 It’s so unfair that these things wear Steve out.  It’s unfair that he’s sick.  It’s unfair that I picked out the gift that will remind Steve that life is not like it used to be.  Life is so unfair!  (Truth be told, this one hangs in the air a lot right now and I have to get really muscle-y with it or it will take over and this particular line of thinking is toxic.  I’m certain of it.)

Just in time, I felt a good fresh breeze-of-a-thought from the Holy Spirit.  “Do you really want to be in charge of these two men or would you like Me to take a shot at it?”

Hmmm.  While the right answer is obvious, I find it’s not always easy to say and it’s even harder to do.  The thing is that I hate to be in control.  And I love to be in control.  And I hate that I love to be in control.  It’s so tempting to smack ourselves around when something we do or don’t do seems to have consequences that we didn’t want it to have.  It’s easy to feel guilty or frustrated or fearful or unfairly treated.  But that kind of life is self-obsessed and exhausting and it creates a breeding ground for wrong thinking.

I looked out a few minutes later and it was still on the ground.  I said out loud in my kitchen, “I am not in control of this and so I will let them figure it out.”

I looked out just a minute or two later and…

Voila!  Done.  And they’re so proud (if you could actually see faces in my blurry cell phone pic, you would see that they are proud and happy.)  You see, there’s something about facing resistance together and overcoming it that’s way cooler than smooth sailing.   My tendency would be to buy a gift that makes me look like a hero, but instead I bought a gift that made my men feel like heroes.

God knows His stuff, I tell you, and on the days when I can pry my eyeballs off my own self, I have a clear view into His wonderful work.

Gotta go throw a spitball,



Speaking of Real Women…

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

Yesterday we asked the question, “Where have all the real women gone?”  and we discussed what qualities define womanhood.  I loved all the answers  – especially those that included the idea that real women are out there, but they’re not usually the celebrities or supermodels.  These are the women who do the tough work of life; they  love God, raise good kids, serve their world and are not defined by their wardrobes or wrinkles or net worth.

And, yes, they surely do still exist!  Here are some of my favorites, described by three words, just for fun:

  • My mom, Ellen Joyprecise, wise, humble
  • My mother-in-law, Eleanorstrong, faith-filled, inspiring
  • My sister-in-law, Susannurturing, industrious, faithful
  • My sister-in-law, Molly: loving, strong, courageous
  • My sister-in-law, LindaMOM, smart, organized
  • My sister, Cherylcreative, loyal, empathetic
  • My sister, Lilafunny, fun, intercessor
  • My dear, dear friend, Chris: loyal, steady, lovely
  • My daughter, Whitneywise, authentic, prophetic
  • My daughter, Toriclever, passionate, loyal
  • My daughter, Tesspoised, feminine, intelligent
  • My bff, Pamoutrageous, fun, makesyoulaughnomatterhowhardyourdayhasbeen

Real, beautiful, strong women of God,each and every one.

This is your chance to give a big three-word shout out to the real women in your life!  List your favorite women in the comments and pick three words to describe them, then send those wonderful ladies this way…it’ll make their day!  I’m going to be posting some more  tributes to my favorite women throughout the day here as well.

Thankful to know the best women in the world,


P.S.  I just realized it might appear that I put my own picture at the very front of the line up top and I want to point out that is actually my mini-me, Victoria Stern.  Over and out.

1)  No crying today!  You’re welcome.

2)  Here’s something that’s been bothering me lately:

I’m old enough to remember when the women we admired were unapologetically elegant.

And when they weren’t trying to out-outrageous anyone.

And you didn’t have to compare their 8×10 glossies to their mug shots.


And they were funny without sacrificing their sense of decency and femininity.


And they dressed like…ladies.



Which inspired reactions like this *one:


So, hi 2011, here’s my question for you:

Lady Gaga in her dress made of meat



Singer Kesha stating the terms of employment


What happened?

Now, I know these are all famous women in the public eye but history shows us that as go our heroes, so goes a generation.

So, what do you think?  Where is this generation of women going?  What defines a real woman in the 21st century?  As a mom of three daughters and a pastor who longs to raise up an army of strong women of God, I would love to hear your thoughts on this fascinating (and very important!) subject.

Hoping to dance like Ginger and dress like Grace,


*Jimmy Stewart makes me swoon.  Steve knows and is okay with the situation.  I don’t think he believes I have a chance with Jimmy Stewart.  End of asterisk.

Writing from the Waiting Room

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Today, I made a startling discovery.  I learned that writing from a hospital waiting room is almost like writing from the ocean at sunrise or a snowy mountain peak.  The grandeur of nature inspires the most profound and poetic thoughts, but  so does the view from a landscape that is emotionally stark and yet so deeply significant.

Isn’t it interesting that beauty and suffering each trigger the same creative response?

The further I walk this road, the more certain I am that my theory is true: there is a beauty in suffering that is not quite like anything else.  It’s not a noisy, audacious sort of beauty but rather a makeup off, trappings stripped, down-to-the-syrup loveliness that transcends former expectations and defies human description.  It’s secure and peaceful in ways that more traditional beauty is not.

A beautiful forest could be destroyed by a single match.

A perfect relationship can be dismantled by a single conversation.

The perfect day is always fighting the gravity of the clock.

All these things are truly wonderful,  and it’s right to enjoy them, but they do come with a hidden-yet-hovering question mark:  how much would it hurt to lose this?  Beauty in suffering, however, has no risk of ruin.  It is already reduced to the loveliest components of life; the fundamental elements of faith.

I think I’m finally beginning to believe that Paul wasn’t offering a pound of flesh when he said that his determined purpose was to intimately participate in the sufferings of Christ. He wasn’t laying down the idea of a lovely life, he was picking it up! Paul understood, and I hope that I will spend my life coming to understand, that the view from  the cross really is indescribably beautiful.  It is the definition of full joy because there is nothing left to lose and everything to gain.

“For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.”  Hebrews 12:2

Thank You, Jesus, for bringing me to this vista today.  With beeping monitors and hurting people being wheeled past my chair, I have such a clear view of Your heart.  I would like to paint this moment on a canvas.  I would hang that painting over my couch so that everyone who sees it could behold Your beautiful ways and be free of the fear of suffering.  Instead, I will hang it in my heart and hope that they see it in my life.

If you’re suffering today, I am praying for you and believing that He will bring beauty from battle in every way.  Please leave a comment or send me an email so Steve and I can pray for you.  It is an honor to stand with you in your fight.

In Praise of the Beautiful One,


  • Life is hard
  • Life is short
  • and it’s not fair
  • But God is good
  • In every day
  • in all ways
  • And all He does
  • is beautiful
  • Beautiful is His strategy
  • It’s His character
  • Everything on His to-do list for Tuesday
  • is Beautiful
  • Though this day includes a waiting room
  • a spinal tap
  • and weighty results
  • Even in this day
  • This stormy, spinning day
  • Life is
  • Love is
  • God is
  • Beautiful

This I know.

Believing for a lovely day,


Update:  It’s only 10:05, and the day has already been beautiful.  Steve fell asleep during the spinal tap (oh, how thankful I am to have married a man of peace.)  I had the most lovely time with Jesus in the waiting room – filled with comfort, joy and a very cool revelation that I will share with you tomorrow.  My phone kept buzzing with messages from friends and family…thank you for surrounding us with prayers and peace.  If you know someone who is in the midst of suffering, please send them this way in the morning – we’re going to meet together on the beautiful battlefield.

Here’s something:

Radical:  Reclaiming your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt.  This book is taking Christendom by storm right now!   People kept telling me about it, so one day I decided that I wanted it RIGHT THIS MINUTE and asked my lovely assistant, Stephenie, to pick it up for me.    I’m only a few chapters in (because wanting a book right this minute and reading it right this minute are two entirely different propositions) but I’m loving it so far.  David Platt challenges the American church to step up and live a life of radical faith. It’s  a message we desperately need and it’s resonating in all the right ways.   Now, back to the lovely assistant part.  Steph went to our local Family Christian Store and bought said paperback for $14.99.  You can buy it at the link above for $5.49 and the Kindle edition is just $5.  If you’d like to share your savings with me, we can go buy a latte and laugh about how I paid way too much for a book I haven’t yet had time to finish.

On a personal note, so many emails, messages and calls yesterday after our church showed our lil’ video story and several other churches prayed for Steve during their services.   I wish I could find words to say what this means to me and to my family.  We are humbled, grateful and have never been so glad that we have lived our lives in the House of God.  It truly is a place of healing, hope and joy.

Longing for a Life of Radical Faith,


P.S.  If you missed church at Westside yesterday – perhaps because you were attending your home church in Zimbabwe or you were in a fight with a conquistador and therefore detained, or maybe you were working diligently on a lil’ smokies sculpture for your NFC Championship party – have no fear, you can see the message and our testimony right here.  Please be forewarned, my office was a mess that day but I have since straightened the place up.

When God Looks Like You

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Yesterday was a hard day.  In fact, this week will not be making it into the Great Week Hall of Fame  any time soon.   It’s not that specifically bad things happened.  No flat tires, no stomach flu, no nuclear strike.  This was just a week when the battle made me weary on so different many levels.

Yesterday, I was in a particular funk.   I’m sure you’re familiar with days like that.  Days where nothing is really wrong but nothing can possibly go right either.  Days that are bulky and cumbersome – just sort of awkwardly built, you know?  That was my yesterday.

But God knows funk, He surely does.  And He knows how to find us behind all those burdens.  He came for me yesterday and not in a fire or an earthquake or a whirlwind.  He came to me through people.  Random emails, visits and phone calls were life to me as each dear treasure said something different  – but something exactly right.  Each one, I”m convinced,  spoke exactly the words He would speak.

And then there was my friend, Cheryl, who works with me and stopped by my office with the happiest bouquet of yellow tulips I have ever seen.  She put them on my desk and said, “Jesus told me you needed these.”    I promise you, it was Jesus.  I did need a bouquet of happy but I never would have told anyone.   I keep looking at my tulips and thinking how much Jesus must love me to interrupt Cheryl’s busy day and send her out for flowers.  And how awesome is it that Cheryl loves Jesus so much that she hears Him in the middle of her busy day and then actually does what He tells her to do?

Oh friend, whatever you face today, please know how deeply He loves and cares for you.  Look for Him in the faces of those who offer kindness and look for Him in the face in the mirror.  I think that on any given day, we all need to see Him and we all need to be Him to our hurting world.

Thank You, friends o’ Bo, for looking so much like God.