The Gift that (nearly) ate Bo’s Self Esteem

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

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,


  1. kathy says:


  2. mmichaelsummers says:

    The beauty and wisdom that God is pulling out of you in this season is truely inspiring. I know that, at times, you would much rather have things back to normal than to have God reveal himself through this situation, but the kingdom is being shaken and built much stronger than it was before. Thanks for being an unshakable voice for the goodness of our God regardless the circumstances.

  3. Alan says:

    I’ve just finished reading “Way of the Wild Heart” (again) and I can assure you that your gift gave them something far more valuable than throwing a baseball. Fathering Josiah is a huge deal because he needs help in becoming a man. And Steve is the one to whom much of that responsibility lies (God, of course, remains Father of the first order). Your gift was a wonderful opportunity to continue that process of mentoring, and in the process I am sure that God was continuing it with Steve as well. Every man (regardless of age) needs to know “he has what it takes” to play the man and God will arrange challenges that will test us in order to affirm us. Fact is, your gift was a slam dunk on many levels. A The hearts of a couple of the men in your life were greatly nurtured because of your considerate and well thought out gift selection:)

  4. bolovesjoe says:

    Wow, Alan – what an awesome concept! I read Wild at Heart as well – trying to understand the big man and the little man, but it’s been a long time. Thanks for sharing that!

  5. bolovesjoe says:

    Thanks so much, Mr. Summers. God is especially good when life is especially hard…somedays I feel it more strongly than others, but in general that idea is becoming the central, load-bearing beam in our home. We sure do love you guys!

  6. TheAccidentalDomestic says:

    Thanks for sharing this. This particular control freak (“Hello, my name is Jennifer, and I’m a control-a-holic”) has very similar internal discussions. It’s so hard to let God take over when I seem to think I have the answers. But what a gift when I finally get a clue and let Him. He always delivers, even if I can’t figure it out or see it until later.

  7. Heather Hiatt Sutter says:

    Wow, that was SO good! Thanks for sharing – the story and your life & thoughts too. Seriously, thank you. I learned a lot and was encouraged to change some things in my own self.
    (Plus, i REALLY like the way you word things! just so right on and cool!)

  8. Tami says:

    Love the thought patterns…fun to see someone else write what goes on in my own thoughts! The love/hate thing with control is such a big issue. Fits right in with where God has been bringing me lately.

  9. Gail says:

    . thanks Bo… I think that we all struggle with the control thing especially we mothers who THINK we are in charge..and He usually lets us know we are not, by someone or a word to let us know that we are not…. what a good word and i love the perspective of the men who posted.. it is always good to hear from them.. thanks for sharing Alan and Micheal..

  10. Annette says:

    I’m with you on this one.

  11. Taylor says:

    Bo, You are an amazing mother (to more than just your children) and a great example! Continually praying for you and Steve! Thanks for being an example of how to walk through hard times with GREAT faith!

  12. Jane Williams says:

    …….. and so here is my thought -processing, Bo as I read your thought-filled writing:

    Thought 1: Lord, she words that SO perfectly. I know EXACTLY what she’s saying and feeling.
    Sub-thought: Man, I wish I could write that way. I’m too wordy. It’s too hard. There’s too many better than I. No one wants to hear anyway. Why even try?
    Sub-thought Barrage: I can’t believe you’re even thinking these self-focused thoughts! Are you kidding me? This has NOTHING to do with you, Jane!
    Holy Spirit’s whisper: Jane, there are some things that just take time. PSSSST… Not the writing, Jane…. You.

    And so I’m found, Bo, once again in the midst of your story (in some other strange parallel universe)… with my own “some assembly required” project: ME. But this is one that the Holy Spirit and Jesus and the Father and I are building together. And maybe, someday, there will be the eloquent words to accompany this project — but maybe not. That’s okay. The words aren’t the point, it’s the LIFE that they represent that is. And now, somehow, there’s a quiet hope that this project, too, will be finished. Voila. Because in the words of an author I greatly respect: “facing resistance together and overcoming it (even if “it” is my own fears and doubt and sin) that’s way cooler than smooth sailing.”

    Thank you for letting me find me through your words.

  13. Donna says:

    Wow, that is such an awesome gift. It is amazing how God works through our “everyday situations” teaching us and making memories in our family. I can also really relate to wanting to “fix it” or be “in control”. It is hard to let go and “let God”.

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