Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mom’s Photo Albums

I’ve spent the past 18 days looking through a magnifying glass at the last 48 years of my family’s life.

I bought a Groupon that will allow me to have 1,000 photos scanned and turned into digital files. I jumped at the chance, because I am the *lucky* inheritor who received all these albums when Mom died._MDS3114 (2)

Mary and I decided I would take the albums and eventually scan the photos into the computer. Um, yeah. Mom’s been dead almost seven years and I’ve scanned about 30 photos. So having someone else do it for me (and at a discount!) was a blessing…

AND a curse.

Going through my parents’ lives from 1963 to 2003 has been way more upsetting than I expected. Looking at their early years in the albums, it was cute and quaint to see ways their newlywed years mirrored my own newlywed years. Nostalgia set in for the years when babies arrived and grew, and turned into awkward adolescents who hadn’t yet grown into their teeth. (Ahem.)

But once I hit my brother’s high school years, anger began to simmer a bit until it boiled over into, well, pissed off. It makes me mad to see the letters my brother received after his appointment to West Point, and to read all the hope so many people lavished on him. Because now? I have the unwanted hindsight to know he would be dead in eight years.

And that just PLAIN SUCKS. There is no other way to say it.

I look at these photos of graduation parties, weddings, trips to West Point, football games, and holidays. I see smiles and joy. For all anyone knew, our family was perfect and idyllic. Who wouldn’t want to be a Steele? And yet, I knew the dark underbelly of a marriage that had unraveled years before. I was the last of three kids at home and had a front row seat as my parents’ marriage took its last gasping breaths before it, too, died.

In these 1990s photos, we had no idea we were hurtling toward complete destruction. I see images of my high school graduation, and – with hindsight – realize it wasn’t JUST a young girl looking into a bright future. It was the last hurdle before the finish line of my family’s marathon – a marathon that ended badly with a DNF.

This photo is what does me in.dfds

My parents are hugging my brother after his graduation from West Point. At first, I tear up because I imagine the pride my parents felt at their son’s accomplishments. Then the tears prick my eyes a little deeper as I realize that they lost him. They buried their son. How does a parent DO that?!

And then, I look at the photo and get a little glimpse into heaven. Because, to me, this is what I imagine heaven was like on the day three-fifths of my family reunited. Dad must have buried his face in his son’s cheek, while Mom’s arms were finally full again. And at the same time, Jackson welcomed them home with joy. And strength. And love. Most of all, with hope restored. Because this photo shows truth, not some pasted-on smile that comes from years of protecting the underbelly. This photo shows culmination and redemption and unconditional joy.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have walked over to them and wrapped my arms around them and never let go. And one day, I will.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Say “Potato,” I Say “Gross!”

Everyone knows that washing your hands is the best way to fight diseases. Ever since Katie was old enough to walk, I started a habit for our whole family. As soon as we enter the door, we do two things before anything else: 1) remove shoes, and 2) wash hands!

Sometimes, the kids grumble about it a bit, but I’m a stickler. They aren’t allowed to enter the rest of the house unless hands have been washed. I’ve been known to force request other kids who are visiting our house to do it too.

A while back, I read about this experiment that will show kids why hand washing is imperative. I wanted to share the results on my blog so y’all would see how disgusting our hands get.

Katie came home from school one day and I wouldn’t let her wash her hands. We followed the experiment instructions and peeled then boiled the potatoes. Once they cooled, one went into a jar without any touching. Another was handled and groped by both Jackson and Katie, then sealed in a jar. The kids washed their hands well, then handled the third potato before it was sealed in the last jar. Here’s how they looked after the first day:_MDS2804

About ten days later, this was the result:_MDS2938

Ewww! I can hardly stand to look at that! The untouched potato was slimy and unappetizing simply due to being an unrefrigerated potato for 10 days. But the dirty-hands-potato is DISGUSTING. Brown and green mold erupted all over. The clean-hands-potato isn’t perfection, of course. It has a nice coating of white fluffy mold, but I think that’s from being sealed in a jar too.

The moral of the story is WASH YOUR HANDS!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


This past weekend is permanently etched in the granite of my soul. Katie turned eight. We celebrated with friends and family for two days. Then we celebrated Dan on Father’s Day.

And then? To top it all off, we rejoiced that two prodigals have come Home.

First, Dan was baptized._GBP9051

Then our daughter, Katie. Our world is cynical and jaded when it comes to religion. But seeing the excitement and joy she has for Jesus (notice I didn’t say “religion”) lights a new flame of hope in my heart. After watching Dan’s baptism, I didn’t think my smile could get any bigger. But this photo proves me wrong!_GBP9071

I haven’t written much about it on my blog because I am respecting Dan’s privacy and his tendency to keep his emotions tucked in his heart. (The poor man tolerates my blog so well!) I will try not to embarrass him, but I have to expound a little bit on his journey.

I have been a witness to a transformation – a melting – so profound it is nothing less than a miracle. The love of my life has decided to follow the Love of my life. If you ever doubt the power of God’s presence, the redeeming love of Jesus, or the light of the Holy Spirit, bookmark this blog post and come back to look at this photo often.

I speak the truth: God is real. He is holy, worthy of adoration, alive, shockingly loving, and the BEST giver. (If you want more details on the story, I’d be happy to share them privately.)_GBP9055

To God be the glory. Thank you, Jesus, for the way you love us. Amen!

Friday, June 17, 2011

On Katie’s Eighth Birthday

IMGP2090 Dear Katie,

I feel like I should be saying goodbye to the baby/toddler/little girl version of you, and hello to this all-of-a-sudden grown up kid who has appeared in our lives. I spent many days of your life doubting that we would *ever* make it to this point, because it seemed your growth was taking an excruciatingly slow amount of time. In my mind, if time was going any slower, it would have been going backward.

And now, look at you. I won’t say the dreaded, “They grow up SO fast” cliche that I abhor… but I will say your changes have astounded me. You are a living, breathing contradiction. One moment, you have the poise and elegance that hints at your life as a young lady and – one day – an adult woman. A few blinks later, you resort to the sulking and pouting that transports me back to the Terrible Twos.

Eight is such a contrary age to be!

I am surprised at how your experiences are starting to mirror my own childhood. As I tend to you, I am starting to recover my own memories. This morning, I was brushing your hair and (for the hundredth time) flashed back to when my mom used to brush my hair over breakfast. But this was a different flashback. In that instant, my mother was alive again for me. Your presence connects me to my past in a way I never imagined would happen.

Here’s the thing about eight and memories: I remember being eight, which means you’ll remember things you’re experiencing now too. That’s cool to think you might remember your first summer camp trip, or how your teacher had a habit of laughing out loud at herself. But the idea of you remembering makes me cringe too, because I know this means you’ll remember the hurts your heart might feel or the mistakes we make as parents. You’re going to remember LIFE now, which is scary and exhilarating at the same time.

Despite all my faults and failures (every mother has them, you know; you will too one day, God willing), I hope you remember this above all else: I love you. There is nothing more profound or more simple that I can say to you. I love you in the most broken, imperfect, passionate, adoring way that I know how. Look hard enough and you will find fault and plenty of ways I could love you better, but it’s the best offering I have to give you.

I love being your mommy. I love watching you evolve into the treasured soul God designed you to be. I have no idea how that masterpiece is going to turn out, but I DO know it is breathtakingly beautiful to watch the creation take place.

Happy birthday, sweet Katie. I love you!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14

I have loved you with an everlasting Love. Before time began, I knew you. For years you swam around in a sea of meaninglessness, searching for Love, hoping for hope. All that time I was pursuing you, aching to embrace you in My compassionate arms.

When time was right, I revealed Myself to you. I lifted you out of that sea of despair and set you down on a firm foundation. Sometimes you felt naked – exposed to the revealing Light of My Presence. I wrapped an ermine robe around you: My robe of righteousness. I sang you a Love song, whose beginning and end are veiled in eternity. I infused meaning into your mind and harmony into your heart. Join Me in singing My song. Together we will draw others out of darkness into My marvelous Light.

Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 61:10; 1 Peter 2:9

[This is the June 14 devotion from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.]

Monday, June 13, 2011

Efficient and Organized

I have often been accused of being anal retentive and Type A. If the shoe fits… I am not embarrassed to wear it!
Click here to check out JC’s Loft today and find out what tool I use to stay organized and efficient when I go grocery shopping.
{Update: The JC's Loft blog was closed and the link no longer works. If you would like instructions, leave a comment and your email address and I'll be in contact. I'm sorry for any confusion!}

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Scooter of Life

Jackson and I decided to do two errands on foot today. After Katie left for Girl Scout day camp, Jackson and I left the house; me on foot, Jackson on his scooter. Our first stop was the Post Office. Our second stop was Walmart.

I was hypervigilant while we walked to our destinations. I taught Jackson how to stop at crossings and look left and right, then proceed through the intersection (or across a driveway) by walking his scooter instead of riding it. There were a few points where he tired and I carried his scooter while we held hands and walked. At the start of our walk, there was a bit more frustration on both our parts as he learned STOP! really means stop. But as we neared home at the end of our walk, we were both enjoying ourselves. Jackson trusted my guidance, stopping when I asked him and waiting for me to catch up to him so we could move forward together.

We arrived home, ate lunch, and Jackson settled in for naptime. I started my daily devotion time, and here’s what I read in Jesus Calling: “As you gaze anxiously into the distance, you don’t even feel the strong grip of My hand holding yours. How foolish you are, My child!”

Walking with Jesus is just like my walk with Jackson. My son rode his scooter with his eyes on the next corner or the next glide downhill, never looking at his immediate surroundings to watch for cars or potholes that could wreck his scooter. His gaze was in the distance, his focus on the thrill of zooming faster and faster. Jackson was just being the foolish child he was created to be. My presence was barely a blip on his radar screen.

How many times do I ride the Scooter of Life without a second thought to Who is holding my hand or Who is plotting my course?

Thank you, Jesus, for steering me through danger and safety. Thank you for letting me simply enjoy the scooter ride, exploring the world safe in the knowledge that You are looking out for me. Open my eyes to sense your presence, and my ears so I can better hear your warnings AND encouragements. Amen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Holy Yoga Eye Pillows

My friend Jill is starting a new journey in her life. She is being trained as a Holy Yoga instructor. I am not a yoga lover, but she talked me into taking a Holy Yoga class with one of her friends who is already a trained instructor. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, and I liked the Christ-centered approach to yoga.

At the end of class, there was some meditation/prayer time. Jill’s friend passed out lavender-scented cloths for each participant to use to cover her eyes during meditation. Later, Jill was brainstorming some ideas for these cloths with me, and asked if I could think of way to make some eye pillows that would be hygienic enough for use in class when she becomes a teacher. This is what I came up with:_MDS2689

I found some cheap, white broadcloth fabric. White fabric is key, so it can be bleached. I cut these into 4.5” x 9” rectangles, then sewed them on three sides. I turned them inside out, filled them with Poly Pellets, and sewed them shut. The finished size is about 3” x 8” after a big seam allowance. (I don’t sew incredibly straight.)

I made a sample pillow first, and threw it in the laundry twice to check how well the pellets hold up in a washing machine. I air-dried it after the wash, and the pillow held up just fine.

These are so easy to make, affordable (I figure about $1.20 each for materials), bleachable/hygienic, scent-able (I think she can spritz aromatherapy scents on the outside), and I think they will be a beautiful tool during Holy Yoga prayer time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Fun Cupcake Decorating Kit

Tomorrow is Katie’s last day of second grade. Today is the class party; my last visit to her class for the year. Katie already delivered one gift to her teacher a few days ago - these hand sanitizers.IMGP8100

I also make Katie’s teachers the same gift every year: a special movie. Every time I volunteer in class, I take photos of the kids and the teacher. Then at the end of the year, I set the photos to music and give the teacher a copy as a memento of her year. This serves a dual purpose: Katie now has a collection of movies too. Each year, the class watches the movie at the end of year party, and the kids enjoy seeing a recap of their year. This year, one of the parents graciously donated 20 blank DVDs for me to burn enough copies for every kid in the class to have one.

Besides the movie, I wanted something special to take to the teacher today when I go to the class party. I saw a cute cupcake decorating kit on Pinterest last week. (LOVE that site, by the way! Thanks, Michelle!) I can’t find the original link to it, so I can’t link to it here. But I took the idea and ran with it, buying some cute items at Joann’s last night._MDS2692

I found a transparent paint can for $3.50. I found a mix of cupcake liners and picks, spending about $7 for 200 of them. A jar of red glitter sprinkles was on sale for $1.71, and I found a pack of foam cupcake stickers for $1. That brings my total for this teacher gift to $13.21. I added my own ribbon and tag that says “Summer Fun Cupcake Decorating Kit.”

I can’t wait to give it to the teacher and wish her a relaxing summer!


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