All posts by Traci Stead

Damage Done

I opened the bedroom window and crawled back under the covers. The sun was shining brightly on the green and yellow birch leaves of an autumn morning. Propping myself up a bit I stared out the window, whispering to God my daily concerns. I noticed the tree give a shiver and a few leaves fall off the branches. I didn’t notice a breeze waft through the window, so I was surprised by the action.

Turning my attention to the Bible in my lap, I began reading the morning’s scripture. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed more leaves drift from a shivering branch. How odd, I thought, it’s like a Peanuts cartoon, leaves falling without reason. Every few minutes a branch or two would tremble and off would fall a few more leaves. But there seemed to be no air movement to cause it.

Staring intently at the tree, I now noticed a small sparrow flit from one branch to another. As she repositioned her perch, a few more leaves slowly fluttered to the ground. This continued for a brief time, and then she flew off to the holly tree across the road.

The leaves would have fallen off the birch in a week or so. It wasn’t as if the bird had done anything horrible, but I wondered about the “fall-out”. Did the bird have any idea of the damage she had done? Did she know that she had hastened the tree’s seasonal death? Did she know the results of her behavior? 073

Snuggling down under my comforter, I whispered to God some more; apologies for havoc unintentionally wreaked on the world I live in. Often I live my days concerned about myself, never noticing the leaves that I have shaken from my friends’ trees. If I have caused you to tremble and lose a bit of your self as I flew off to the holly, I am truly sorry.

Good nature and good sense must ever join; To err is human, to forgive, divine. – Alexander Pope

Moving

There is a job hazard to being a preacher: Moving. I know, lots of jobs require picking up and resettling every few years, but it seems the lot of the preacher’s family is seldom to put down roots.

There are some ministry families that make it through their children’s school years without a move, but it doesn’t happen often. We have lived here for nine years now, an eternity for some churches. My children have friends, childhood memories, traditions, and shallow though they be, roots. It has been a blessing to stay in one home, one town, one church for most of the boys’ childhoods. It is an answered prayer.

After we lived here a year or so, I planted fruit trees. A sign of stability, permanence. I asked God to let us stay here at least until the children were out of school. I wanted them to experiece having a hometown, a place to call theirs. It seems God has answered that prayer.

But, it also seems, that the sense of permanence does not come with having been in a place for many years. Last week, I noticed an advertisement in a church paper for a minister in Ireland. Knowing my children love to “speak” in an Irish accent, I spontaneously and jokingly suggested we try for the job. The younger child was stunned. 001

“You mean we’re moving again?!”

Honestly, he has been here for all of his memory. What did he mean by AGAIN!?

And then it hit me. Perhaps we have not moved for nine years, but moving has always been a threat to our family. Several years ago we spoke with the boys about the possibility of moving if the church couldn’t afford to pay us any longer. The boys agreed to tighten their belts and stay put, but evidently they also put two and two together and knew that it might not last.

I’m sad that the black cloud of impermanence has burdened my children’s childhood, but perhaps it has also taught them a lesson. This world is not our home.

Enjoy the time you have, the friends you make, the memories and experiences and happinesses, but remember that you don’t belong here. We live in a hotel waiting for the day when the house will be ready.

An Open Letter To Church Ladies

My two teen sons and I walked up to the gate and asked to be let in. We were working concessions at the local university basketball game. I was surprised to see the long line waiting to get in already. I know we had a good season last year, but the line seemed a bit excessive for a pre-season game.

We inventoried the booth, greeted school friends, and settled in to our posts as the guards opened the doors to let everyone in. Girls in varying amounts of clothing poured through the doors like a little kid pouring syrup on pancakes. The floor could not sop up all of the skin that was streaming through the doors.

“What is going on?” I asked. It seems we were selling concessions for the homecoming concert, not the ball game. I was in shock.

At first I was mortified to see nearly naked girls left and right, under my boys’ noses. Bosoms bobbed up and down wobbling across the hall on four and six inch stilettos. Rear cheeks smiled from scantily covered mini-dresses. Make-up was the only covering in full abundance.

As the line continued to join us indoors, my shock turned to sadness. My first instinct was to ask the girls if their fathers had seen a picture of them before they left the dorm rooms. Later, I wondered if they had fathers, and would the fathers care?

And, finally, I thought, this is my fault. How many times have I looked at a girl and thought, she’s attractive. How many times have I based my opinion on someone because of how they looked? How many times have I wondered what others think of me based on how I look?

And here is the kicker- I AM THE CHRISTIAN! I am the one who knows that God loves me because He is God not because I look good. I am the one who knows that Jesus died for me while I was still a stinky rat swimming in sewage. I am the one who has the Spirit of God residing in my flesh, shining forth his beauty to the world around me.

Yes, Church Ladies, we have taught these girls no better than the world’s message: How you look is how you will be judged.

Of course, these misguided girls thought that the look they should go for was a Victoria’s Secret catalogue cover, but really the message wasn’t any different than the one church ladies send out: We love you because you look nice.

I left the concert with a new resolution. Once a week I will fast from my looks. I will remember that God is the beauty I want people to see when they look at me. No make-up, no special clothes. No fragrances, no jewelry, no special hair-dos. Nothing but the beauty of Jesus.

Will you join me?

Bad Words

“Megan said the “B” word!”

I could not imagine that my sweet, little kindergarten student actually said the “B” word, so I probed a little further. It turned out that the word in question was “bra”. Not a dirty word to most of society, but to this little one it was scandalous.

The “D” word entered our house on 9-17-13. It isn’t a dirty word to most of society, but it rocked our world. Scandalous doesn’t even begin to describe it. Diabetes.

Diabetes seemed so inoculous,  so ordinary, so mundane, until it was declared by a doctor upon my husband. Suddenly its meaning changed to  kidney failure, blindness, amputation, stroke, heart disease, death. It was shocking and unexpected. It stopped us in our tracks, and only now after nearly two months are we starting to fall out of the funnel cloud.

Matt and I already were losing weight and exercising, doing all of the things we should be doing to stay healthy, but diabetes happened anyway. We learned about carbohydrates and how many are acceptable for him to have. We learned about insulin and how to give him a shot in the stomach. We discovered that most people have diabetes 5-10 years before they ever even know it. We learned about all of the bad side-effects of diabetes and recommitted ourselves to living healthfully.

Matt’s glucose levels have stabilized enough now to come off of the insulin. He watches carefully how many carbs he eats and at what time he eats them. He is continuing to lose weight. We feel like we have been given a second chance.

But, a couple weeks ago, Matt left town to attend a conference. Travel, the conference schedule, and restaurant food meant that his numbers began to escalate. Time to refocus and reassess. We learned something new: you don’t recover from diabetes. It stays with you for the rest of your life.

There is another word that holds little meaning to most of the world, but to a Christian it is disheartening. The word is “SIN”. Sin often seems inoculous, ordinary, and mundane. It is disheartening because it is so deceptive, like diabetes. It sneaks into your life without your notice. It hides little secrets under the rug. It tells you it resides across the street, not at your house.

But then the Great Physician makes his diagnosis and offers a second chance. Although sin can kill you just as easily as diabetes, there is also a way to escape its grasp. Sin is a lifelong predicament, but should you find yourself lulled back into complacency toward it, you will be offered another chance at obedience as soon as you refocus and recommit.

Instinct is Insanity

Isabelle is an innocent, yellow lab who lives down the road from us. She has a great family, is friendly, and stays in a kennel that I walk by daily. She is also the bane of my existence right now; you see, Isabelle is in heat.008

Captain our 1 1/2 year old beagle is desperate to get to her, though he doesn’t know why. He can smell her fertility clock half a mile away, and he can’t stand it. He whines constantly, a high-pitched, complaining, whine of desperation and frustration. He whines to be let outside, then whines to come back in. He can’t sleep at night, is restless all day, and is misbehaving at an alarming rate. Instinct is driving him insane.

Last night we headed to bed around 10:00, but Captain couldn’t relax. At 11:00, I arose with him and let him out. When coyotes started howling and running our way five minutes later, we headed inside to safety. But still Captain was dissatisfied. I took him to the livingroom, so that at least Matt could sleep, and settled myself on the couch. A while later, there was Captain again, sidling up to the couch, begging for comfort. He was shaking, trembling, definitely upset; “Make it stop, Mom,” he seemed to beg.

Humans live by instinct too. Day by day they go through their lives trying to figure out why they can’t find satisfaction. Eating whatever they desire, sleeping with whomever seems good at the time, clawing their way to the top of society’s ladder, all of these things should bring happiness and contentment. But instead, most people pace the floor at night unable to rest or relax. Dissatisfied and discontent, they plod through each day trying to hide their trembling from all of the other discontented people.

Captain’s frustration will end in about four more days, but only to return again when the next female’s alarm goes off. There is no way for me to explain to him what is going on and why. Thankfully, we are not left alone to our instincts. God has told us what and why. He has explained the enemy and his threats.

When you hear that old coyote start howling and running your way, why not throw open the door to the Master? Push yourself up to him and beg him to make it stop. “Please, Daddy, save me from myself!”

MY SON

Our dog, Captain, is standing beside me with his toes stretched up onto the edge of the dining room table. He wants a bite of the crab salad and crackers that I am snacking on, but I keep pushing him down and scolding, “No!”  Grabbing hold of his collar, I reinforce my command. He grimaces, huffs, and then walks around my chair to try a different angle.

Amos and Captain
Amos and Captain

We have had Captain for nearly a year, and he often reminds me of my second son, Amos. Amos and Captain both don’t believe in asking permission but in offering an apology after the fact. Both are very energetic and easily distracted by bugs and things along the side of the road. Amos is very tenacious when challenged, and Captain is extremely persistent in trying to solve a challenge as well. In Amos’s case it means discovering new ways to complete an art or writing assignment, for Captain it means discovering another way to pull the chain out of the ground so he can chase a chicken.

Both dog and boy are cuddly, wanting petting and hugs at all times. Both enjoy the outdoors, being with friends, and eating a good steak, though Captain only gets the bones.

But that is the difference. Amos gets the steak. Amos is allowed to share my crab salad and crackers. Amos is my son.  He can sit on the couch, even lie in my bed. Amos can get a snack whenever he wants. He calls me “Mom”. He belongs in the family. He is loved beyond measure.Not on the bed!

No matter what happens to Captain, he will never be allowed on the couch, to eat the whole steak, or to sit at the table with the rest of the family. He is a dog, not a son.

God didn’t choose us to be his pets. He doesn’t keep us on a leash, feed us on the floor, or push us away from the couch. God welcomes us as his children, well-loved and well-cared for, petted, hugged, and very much cherished.

 

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12

Jonathan and Captain
Jonathan and Captain