Coast to Coast – Summer with the Stenbergs

It’s half way through summer, and I really can’t believe it. I have spent the past couple weeks catching up on being away from home during the whole month of June.

We had the opportunity to drive back to the West Coast this summer. That drive! I’m still recovering! Nothing reminds me of how big or diverse our country is like driving coast to coast…and then doing it all over again!

It was quite an experience, packing the seven of us, including our dog, into a minivan and driving for over 40 hours one way.

Looking back on our vacation adventures I realized that “It’s not a vacation with the Stenbergs without”:

– A ridiculously long road trip… Seriously Elijah started thinking the car was his baby prison. And Caleb still pipes up at gas stations “I have to use the bathroom!”. Come on man! We just left home 2 minutes ago!!!! You don’t have to use the bathroom at every stop anymore!

– All the energy drinks… Keeps Daniel driving and driving on the road.

– A noise complaint within the first 15 minutes of being in a hotel. I mean really people?! It’s before 8:00pm and my kids have been in a car for 13 hours. At least let us have a chance to get settled before phoning in the noise complaint!

– Being stopped in pretty much every public place by people who would like to talk with me about my family. My kids make me feel a little famous! Haha! Although the reactions range from, “Wow you have such a beautiful family!” To the gal at Walmart eyeing Daniel and kids with distaste and then, after seeing the Bible verse on Daniel’s shirt, commenting: “Well at least you’re going to the right place” … hmm I’m still not sure what to make of that…

– All the snacks… Ones that don’t melt or crumble into all the crevices of the van are best. But at some point, you just stop caring.

– Usually this is where I would mention someone puking…but we made it through the whole vacation this time without any of us getting sick! Woohoo!!

– Starbucks! (Ok, I do miss having a mom and pop coffee stand within 5 min of everywhere. In my opinion they usually have the best coffee for cheaper.) However now that I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, Starbucks totally hits the spot! And it’s just the best on vacation.

– Silas getting naked at parties… I mean really, using the bathroom while you are playing with friends or cousins is overrated.

– Being creative with eating out.  When you realize your boys are already getting bigger and eating more than you expect. I tried to have stuff for peanut butter and Jelly in the car. But somehow the bread kept getting squished and becoming inedible. So…eating out on a budget it is!

– Being told there is a bear and her cub that live very close to where you are hiking and to not let the kids or dog chase it or try to pet it. Yep… think we will make sure that doesn’t happen, and while we are at it, find a new place to hike!!

– Making use of peeing in a bottle. (Advantage to having only boys.)

– Your kids giving one of your best friends dating advice: “You just need to go on a date with all the single men in Seattle.” (Side note: My boys better not take their own advice!)

– Great Bible teaching! I’m so thankful for all of the people that volunteered to run the kids programs at camp. It really is the best when you can drop off your kids at someplace fun and just sit down and enjoy hearing the message from Gods Word without all the distractions.

– Awesome friends!

– Amazing family!

– All the laughter!!

The kids actually did great, I really can’t complain. Elijah was pretty frustrated at times. Seriously though, he’s one and a half and the whole “being strapped into something where he can’t move” is pretty much the worst form of torture to him right now. So, for that being the case he did really well.

We had a great trip, so good to see family and friends that live so far away, but after a month on the road, it was so nice to get back home to Jersey. Nothing beats sleeping in your own bed after being gone for weeks!

Our journeys, being separated from loved ones and thinking of all those who mean so much to us and are spread out all over this country I am reminded of Philippians 1:3-6.

Philippians 1:3-6

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Paul often starts his letters off thanking God and praying for the people and church he is writing to.

There is longing in his tone about his desire to see them again. And an excitement about how God is at work in their lives.

When our family travels to visit family and friends, I am reminded of how Paul feels as he starts off these letters.

There is such a thankfulness for them, a joy in their friendship. They have partnership in the gospel, and a longing to see each other again.

When we are together with friends we haven’t seen for a long time, or meeting family after a year of time passing. There are some great things that happen. We start sharing about how things are going, and how God has been at work. We hear about how God is at work in our friends and families lives and in their church’s. We joyfully reminisce about God’s faithfulness.

When I start sharing the stories of what God has been up to in my life, my family, and my church family, I am reminded and encouraged again, as I recall God’s faithfulness in those life events that have happened since I last talked to that person.

It leads me to think we should be recounting the faithfulness and blessings of our Lord more often than we do.

We also share about the struggles and hard things in our lives. When we are being real and honest about our hardships, praying over each other naturally follows. There is so much encouragement in praying over each other in our struggles.

All of this pushes me to praise God! He is at work. He is worthy of praise in the blessings. He is worthy of praise in the struggle.

I love, love, love having the family of God extend out so far. To be encouraged and to encourage as we travel the length and breadth of this country.

I love hearing about what God is up to all over the place.

Having all these conversations also reminds me to get excited and share about what God is up to with the people that I get to see all the time. It can be so easy to get distracted and not share what you are excited about or encouraged by to the people around you. But man, it is so important to cheer on and share with the people that you are living life with in the everyday struggle.

It was so sweet to get home. To pull in and smell the air and think: “It smells like Jersey. It smells like home.” I continue to be filled with hope and anticipation at what God is up to here.

God has filled my life with so many amazing people wherever we go.

What a blessing that month of travel was to me and my family. But what a greater blessing we have in what God is doing in our country, from sea to sea.

Let us be encouraged and let us encourage. Let us remember each other, take joy in the memory, and pray.

God is at work!

Chafing Against my Role

Motherhood! Oh! Motherhood. It is a glamorous calling isn’t it?

Said no woman ever….

At least in this current setting and culture.

Motherhood is messy, frustrating and often thankless. However, you can actually broaden this quite a bit. I think it’s safe to say many stages in life are messy, frustrating and often thankless. There are many times we find ourselves in the trenches, chafing against our calling or just the status quo of our current situation.

There was a time I felt like my sole purpose in life was to take care of my babies and support my husband in his ministry.

And if I’m being honest, it was a struggle. It was also a struggle I didn’t see coming.

In my younger years I would often look forward to the days when I would have my own baby’s and an amazing husband. When I would stay home and read books, take the kids to play dates and the zoo, make dinner and sit down around the table with the family.

I still love all of these things. But they were often serene pictures in my head. Seen through unknowing rose-colored glasses. Absent of the crying, discipline, inconsistency, exhaustion and yogurt melts fused to my hair.

When the time came that I had all of it, I was surprised to find out how different it felt with a front row seat.

(I talked a bit about it in my last blog post in particular with the struggle of little ones.) You are Not Alone.

Sometimes I would take stock at the end of the day and think about what I had been able to be accomplish. There were days I would get so much done! And at the end of those I would feel pretty good about myself! Then there are the days when we didn’t get out of our pajamas, and I ordered take out for dinner because I didn’t want to deal with the massive pile of dishes in the sink. And, at the end of those days, I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t “get it together”.

In doing this I started associating my work accomplishments, with my self-worth.

This method of estimating value is…..  A DISASTER!

Confession… I still struggle in this department…. I have to bring this one over and over again to the Lord.

Also, let’s just take a minute and talk about this whole ‘stay at home mom’ thing. What was once considered the ideal: supporting your husband by staying at home and taking care of the children, is no longer loved by society.

It’s all over the television, music, and the internet how, as a woman, I should have goals and dreams and all the people in my life, especially my husband, should support these dreams and goals at all costs.

Career is highly valued. And, hey, having a career is great, and should be valued. But am I ‘settling’ because I don’t have a career? Does it mean that I am worth less because I don’t currently bring home a paycheck? Or does it mean that I am worth less because I don’t have a career that is valued high in society? Or maybe just one that “I” don’t value?

Does it mean that my husband loves me less because my dreams or passions are on hold while he follows his calling?

My husband has often been involved in more “glamorous” callings than I have. When we met and were married he was in a band for 8 years. He was the “front man” in the band. (OK, so his work life was not glamorous.) But the whole band thing was pretty cool. Watching him play all the shows was fun. Their band had a bit of a following for some years, and eventually they were really good. Then we started having kids (that’s a longer story than I feel like getting into right now) and shortly after kids he went into ministry full time, and then to school full time. And now he is Pastoring full time. He gets the chance to preach the gospel into people’s lives from the pulpit every Sunday. Really, it’s an everyday type of thing, but Sundays are a big deal.

Honestly, I’m so proud of Him and all that God does through Him. He will be the first to tell you, it’s not about him, it’s never about Him. It’s all about Jesus and what he is doing through him in ministry. And using it to glorify God.

But God has called him into some roles throughout our marriage that sometimes take a lot of time and energy. Which means at times I have needed to put more time and energy into the kids or work. And there are times I have struggled with this…because it makes my life harder. (God loves to inconvenience me… haha!)

Not only does it make my life harder, but if I look at it from a worldly perspective (which I never do…right? Hah!) …his role is more exciting than mine.

Come on God? Can’t I glorify in a more glamorous way? I feel like you put me in the back seat! …. And there’s kids back here!?!

As I wrestle through evaluating my self-worth and my general purpose in life, God grabs hold of me and gently leads me back to the truth.

My confidence in myself, and my self-worth, can’t come from my accomplishments or big dreams, or a title. My self-worth can only come from who I am in Christ.

In truth, it’s really not about me at all. It’s about bringing Glory to God.

My role currently is just as important as my husbands. And I’m enabling Him to follow God’s call on his life. Really God’s call on our lives. We are very much in this together.

Daniel and I can both pursue passions and callings that God has put on our hearts, but we need to do them together, centered on Christ. Supporting one another and enabling one another.  Always talking through what is working and what isn’t. Making a point to be sensitive to the other person, and at times that means putting something on the back burner, for a season.

I want to be cheering each other on and not jockeying for position.

If I start looking for my worth in a more “glamorous” calling you can bet that is when I will start jockeying for my position and pushing my agenda through.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to support Daniel in this way.  He could not do the ministry that God has called him to if I didn’t. I’m thankful for the opportunity to raise all these awesome little men with an amazing husband. They are the biggest blessing and I am so grateful that I can teach them about the hope, security, love and grace found in our Lord and Savior. He is our shelter, He is their shelter, in this broken world. What is more important than that?

And later in life, if I have a more “glamorous” calling it can’t be about me. It must start in the humble submission to Christ, and glorifying God, it always must be about bringing glory to God.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Goals 2018???

Here we are. The beginning of January. I feel like I have a bit of a Christmas hangover. Not in the traditional sense of the word hangover. But the week between Christmas and New years, I usually designate to do nothing but “party” with my family. We play with the new toys(AKA put together legos.) Play games, eat cookies, go to movies, read books and just spend time together not worrying about the to do list. This year I made a Turkey dinner for Christmas eve so we could eat left overs for a few days and when I did cook, it was light easy meals.

I love that week, it’s one of my favorites of the whole year. But now I’m in recovery mode. There is lots to do as I catch up from the month of December. It’s a bit overwhelming.

Often the week between Christmas and New Years also brings about a time of reflection. And then expectation as we go into the new year. We set goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.

As I reflected on this past year, I can’t help but feel thankful and undeserving of all the blessing the Lord has placed in my life. There is also a part of me that feels sad, missing the close relationships and some of the fun activities I used to do with the boys in Fergus. Although, side note: I heard that the bakery there is closing. So sad! I used to take the boys there all the time.

As I sat down with my coffee in hand and my planner in my lap I started to think about my expectations and goals for this new year. And let me tell you, this is an issue for me! My expectations often exceed the reality!

Here are some things that I thought of for goals for myself for 2018.

First of all, my messy house drives me crazy, My messy house. If I go to someone else’s it doesn’t bother me. But when I am living in my families mess I can go a little nuts. One goal would be prioritizing cleaning up after myself, and teaching the boys likewise. Haha!

Here’s a video of my house for fun. This is often my normal! 🙂

Secondly I had a beautiful baby this year. My adorable Elijah. But as many of you know he came via c-section and, well, I had a baby. So my core is super weak. I never did anything to strengthen it this time. The biggest problem with my weak core, is my back. My back is hurting more with all the daily lifting of toddlers and sometimes waking up in the morning my back is already hurting. Strengthening my core, wold be another goal.

Thirdly, (this I mentioned a little bit in my video.) I need to potty train Silas. Its time. I will leave it at that.

Ok and let me just throw in a few more things I would love to start on this year.

Piano for Judah and Asher

Learn to cook some more meals.

Continue to find ways to get to know my neighbors and get into the community

Explore the area more, there is so much to do here!

Read more

Be more consistent with my blog, and continue to grow in my writing skill

Run again

Train the best dog 😉

And continue to make new friends

 

You can see how quickly my expectations get out of hand!!! I’m ridiculous.

So I Prayed about it. I thought about all of these things. All of them being good things.

And you know which ones God put on my heart to strive for in 2018?

 

NONE OF THEM!

 

“Seriously, I came up with a lot of good options God!”

But no, as I prayed and read Gods word over that week between Christmas and New Years I had a resounding thought over and over.

Prayer, make Prayer the foundation.

Sadly too, often when I’m striving to get all of “the things” done, I let those things trump prayer.

Prayer can seem unproductive and pointless because, it doesn’t make sense in our human minds. God is not here in the flesh for us to talk to, and often results are not what we expect or in our timing. Satan wants to undermine the importance of prayer in our hearts and minds. He wants us to keep thinking its pointless.

But prayer is the opposite of that. It’s our direct line to the maker of the universe. Who holds all things in His hands. He is capable of accomplishing so much more that we can imagine. We are so simple and small, and yet He cares for us and longs to hear us pray. In the big and the small.

God has put prayer on my heart so strongly as I look into the new year. When I think of my kids, my marriage, my church, my community, my writing. I want to start with prayer. To let that be the undercurrent of all my goals. To set right my priority’s and to forge a way where maybe there wasn’t one. To bring  Prayer and God’s word should be the guiding light as I walk through my life.

Prayer and the truth of the bible is exactly where God wants us to start as we live out our days.

It’s simple and yet so hard. But as I look at being immersed in ministry and the community here. I know it’s exactly what I need.

Prayer is powerful! How great is our God!

 

Ephesians 6:18

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Psalm 5:1-3

Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

You are Not Alone

A few days ago, I started paging through one of my journals from a few years back. This was a period in my life when all my kids were little. I know, I still have little ones now. But this specifically was a time when I had only babies and toddlers.

I was lonely.

I was reminded of how overwhelmed I felt with all my babies. At this specific time, I had 3 children 3 and under.

Looking through those pages brought back a flood of memories. And not the highlight real kind. These pages brought me back to the real hard parts.

I was reading through pages where my tears spilled out into words.

I’ll share with you a few of them.

The time when I stopped by Right Aid to pick up a pregnancy test that would be telling me I was pregnant with Caleb. Here I already have two “babies” in my cart and I’m buying a pregnancy test. The stare the checker gave me made me want to crawl into a hole.

All the times I would load the 3 up in the van and go grocery shopping. The physical exertion of going grocery shopping…. I can’t even…  I’m not even going to try to put it into words… I would make sure baby was fed, put them all in their snow suits, load them and strap them in their car seats. Then I would go to Superstore where I could put the two older ones sitting in the front of the cart and then they had an extra basket area (above the regular basket), that I set Caleb in, in his infant seat. After our cart was loaded and the grocery’s where bought. I remember so vividly pushing the cart through the snow to the van. Buckling the kids back up, loading the grocery’s, and driving home. Pulling in to the garage, and not wanting to get out of the car. I would just sit and soak in the break before starting the unloading process.

There were times I wanted to leave the house so badly. But knowing the work it would take to leave and come back. Asking myself the needed questions “Am I in a good mental place? Do I have enough energy to do this?”

This was a time when our kids were 3, 2 and a baby months old. In fact, Judah was 2 for a month after Caleb was born, so there was a brief period of time we had three 2 and under. No twins. Often, I felt anxious when people would ask me how old my kids were. I never knew if the response I would get would be positive or negative. I was so tired from my own struggle, I was afraid of having a negative response from someone else. Could I handle it? Would it be too much, heaped on top of the negative thoughts already going on in my own head that day?

During this time, we lived away from family. There were no Grandparents to drop the kids off at when it all got too much. When I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, when I just wanted to crawl into bed and come out next week. It was on me, and yes, Daniel as well. There were some people that I could have probably asked for help from. But I felt insecure in this, I didn’t want to burden others. After all, “we put ourselves in this position, now we get to deal with it” right? “You know how this works, you could have prevented it”, because life doesn’t have any nuance…

To sum up, I felt alone, I felt unimportant, I felt tired, and I felt like a weirdo.

Now it wasn’t that I felt like this all the time. But on some of the pages on some of those days I felt it all.

I still refer to this time as “When I was overwhelmed with babies.” It is beautiful and messy.

I’m not writing this to garner sympathy. I’m writing because I know I’m not the only one who has felt overwhelmed with babies, or baby…or life.

I’m not the only one who has felt alone and far from help when sanity is slipping.

 I’m not the only one who has struggled with #momguilt because I’m not enjoying all the moments.

 I’m not the only one who has felt trapped in their house.

 I’m not the only one who hides in their “insert here”(bedroom, closet, bathroom, pantry…)

 If you can identify with any of this, let me tell you!

 You are not alone

 Especially this time of year. Christmas. I love it. But it exposes hard things. Finances, as we buy gifts. Weariness as more things get added to the plate. Missing people at our celebrations, either because we live far away now, or because they are just gone. Long dark days. And let’s not forget, snow to push shopping carts through. (Although this is not something I am currently dealing with. Praise Jesus!)

I don’t want to be ashamed to write about the hard moments because they expose my weaknesses.

Even recently, in amongst my pretty Instagram moments with my beautiful babies and fun adventures, there are some very real hard moments. They look different now. I can’t capture them in a snapshot. But they are there none the less. I’m still human, so are my kids, and so is my husband, I’m reminded daily we are not home yet.

And let me tell you the best news of all here. In my weakness, Jesus is there.

All these hard times, they can either push me to anger, frustration, and the vicious cycle of guilt. Or they can push me to look at the cross. They can push me into Jesus.

God’s Word is living and active, it is still relevant to our situations today. Go there and dig in. See what He has for you there. And if you don’t know where to start, ask. Ask someone, ask someone in your church, ask your pastor, ask me.

Pray. God longs to hear your heart. He knows. You can lay yourself bear. He can take it. Let Him be a friend in the loneliness and hard places. Pray for situations. I know sometimes it can feel pointless. But believe me it’s not. I like to write things down that I’m praying for. That way I can look back and be reminded of so many answered prayers. It’s not always the case for everything, but it surprises me sometimes how many things I have prayed for that have been resolved over time. And gives me a chance to remember, thank and praise.

Go to church. Be a part of the Christian Family. Sometimes during all the extra Christmas services, it can seem like too much. But often its’ just what I need. My blood family is 3000 miles away, but my church family is right here. And I need to be intentional with making time to be a part of it. Some of these hard things I dealt with when my kids were so little could have been alleviated if I had reached out to my church family and let them know I needed some help.

This Christmas season let us draw close to the Savior. When we struggle with hurt, sadness, anger, and you name it. May it be a reminder to pray. To get into God’s word and to draw close to Him. To be reminded that His grace is enough to cover us, in every single aspect of our life. That His word is relevant today, it is relevant to us, it is relevant to me. To let Jesus shine bright in our weak places.

This morning I went to see what God had for me in His word. I was feeling burdened and lacking in places. Here’s what I read.

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“I will give you rest.” With Me you will find understanding, pardon, peace. In my presence, you may lay bare your heart. What has been shattered, I will repair. I will unravel the knots. I will relieve your burdens. What is painful I will help you forget. Here, in my arms you will find rest. Just come to Me!

~From Fredrik Wisloff, Rest a While, The last paragraph.

What If?

Over the past months I have often drifted back in thought to the day Elijah was born and the events that surrounded his birth.

(Daniel wrote a blog post talking about those events Here.)

I have played the “what if?” game. What if we had both died? What would that have meant for the family left behind?

The week leading up to his birth J-Term was going on. J-Term is a week where they bring in special speakers to the seminary and many of the Lutheran Brethren pastors, as well as some lay people and of course the students from the school attend, and receive further training. I was able to attend this past one because my mother and father-in-law were staying with us and my mother-in-law was able to watch the kids.

It was really nice to go and sit and just listen and soak up the training and speakers. Mostly it was wonderful to not have a child hanging on me begging for more gummies while I try and listen to the sermon. Ha!

At J-Term I had so many people come up to me and tell me that they would be praying for me and my baby and the delivery. In fact, so many people came up to me to tell me they were praying, I said “Daniel I’m starting to get worried that something is wrong or going to go wrong! Everyone is praying for me!” Then I proceeded to laugh my worry off and go about my day.

But God was at work long before Elijah’s delivery day.

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant I had a dream. And in my dream, I knew that something bad was going to happen to Silas so I was doing everything in my power to protect him. He still fell and got a nasty cut on his head. But I was relieved, I thought to myself. Ok that was it! I saved it from being worse. But then I realized that event was an illusion and what was actually happening was Silas was in the bathtub by himself and it was filling up with water. And I watched as if from a distance helpless to do anything about it. Then I saw Daniel go in pick him up out of the bath and “save him”.  When I thought on the dream the next day I knew God was just telling me to entrust my children to Him. He knows all, He loves them more than I possibly can and He is in control, not me.

Flash forward to Elijah’s birth. As I was bleeding and they were prepping me for surgery I knew something was very wrong. Before I knew it, I was on oxygen and they were running, literally running at points to the operating room. Panic was overtaking me. But there was nothing within my power that I could do about my situation. As I felt the blood leaving my body and the panic overtaking, it wasn’t an audible voice but it felt audible in my head. “Do not fear, I am with you.” And then there was an overwhelming peace that descended on me. Whether I lived or died I had nothing to fear. God has me. I am His child.

God reached down His hand of intervention and saved Elijah and I that day. There was nothing I could do to save me, or him.

Pondering these events this afternoon brought me to think about our state as human beings. We think we have it under control. We have the illusion that we can save ourselves. There are so many religions that say you can earn your spot in heaven. Or that the path to peace is through ourselves or that we simply just need to be good. As long as we are a decent human being we are in the clear. We think that our view of the world dictates how the world actually is. We think we got it. I have it under control.

But the fact is, we don’t have it under control and our view of who we are doesn’t change reality. The illusion is just that: an illusion, a mirage in the distance that never comes.

The reality is, I am a helpless human being that has no ability to save myself. I am bleeding out in my sin, and there is nothing I can do about it. I can try to staunch the blood, but that is not fixing my inner problem. I’m still dying.

But God in His ever-loving mercy reached down His hand of grace and divinely saved me. Jesus came and did what I could not do. He did only what He can do. He lived a perfect life, and then He died on that cross, He shed his blood on my behalf, He covered me in is grace so that God the Father no longer sees my black heart, but sees His Son. He healed my inner problem. It is finished.

Now I still deal with sin. I won’t be perfected until God actually does call me home.

But I am right before the Father. There is no longer sin that separates us. Because of my faith in Jesus I am now a child of God.

I can’t explain the inner spiritual workings of how God makes this all possible. Just like I can’t explain the inner workings God did to physically save me and my son. Elijah was the most physically healthy baby that I have ever delivered. The doctor pronounced him a 10 and said, “I can’t find anything wrong with this baby.”

God has made me whole and complete in Jesus.

But Jesus didn’t just die for me, He died for all of humanity. And He longs for all to come to Him.

God brought glory to Himself that day. God showed His mercy and love to us. Just like He showed the world when He sent His son.

I will just share one last thing.

A few days before Elijah was born we finally settled on his name.

Elijah – Meaning: My God is YAHWEH

God brings Glory to Himself throughout all of it.

Praise be to God.

John 3:16-17

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

In the Quiet

Having quiet time with Jesus.

I used to think “once I have kids and I am a stay at home mom I will have time. Then it will be easy….”

Then I had kids. Wow. Was I wrong! hahahahahah!!!

Oh kids. I mean, I am at home often, but the schedule… Ummm….. did I say schedule? Wait what is that again?? Wait… what was I just saying?… hold on I need to take care of the spilled milk and the screaming baby and the toddler eating the cereal off the floor.

Yep, quiet time with Jesus got even harder! How am I supposed to spend time with the Lord when everything changes and everybody needs me and “I’ll get to it later” turns into, well the day is over… I need to go to bed so I will have the energy to do this all over again.

Every day I’m bombarded with how important my children are. And don’t I know it! They mean the world to me. But between social media and well-intentioned comments, I start believing that I need to make every moment count. They’re only young once after all. Besides, they all need to grow up to be astronauts and if they aren’t it’s because I didn’t spend an hour with them each individually every day nurturing confidence and expelling fears, or they weren’t in every sport, or I looked at my phone one too many times during the day.

I can reach near panic mode when I feel like I’m missing the boat here or there with things I haven’t been living up to for my children.

Often, I felt that I needed to fill all of the moments in the day with meaningful experiences, and always put my kids first. Because after all, they will grow up and this time is precious. And when they are gone I will miss these years. All of this is the truth.

So, when they ask if I will read to them I say yes, I take them to the library, to the park, to play dates, to the bakery, we make cookies, we finger paint, I teach them their numbers and ABC’s, and chores. And then somewhere in there I need to find time to keep up the house, exercise, do my job and love my Husband.

But all these things, while they are well intentioned and good. And not at all bad on their own, pushed God to a lower rank in my life.

Sometimes they push my husband to a lower rank.

Putting my kids first was never on the forefront of my mind. It happens in all well-intentioned ways. It just creeps in and takes over without my knowledge.

It is very prevalent in our society today. We feel so much pressure to be everything to our kids. And being a mom can become my sole, or main, identity without my really even realizing it.

Even though all of the things I was doing, with and for my kids, are good on their own, they are not good when they come at the cost of not having time for my marriage.

And they become especially not good when they come at the cost of not having time for the Lord.

They are not good, when they become my idol.

Those first months in Fergus when Daniel started seminary were hard. The summer started out hard. (You can read about that in this blog post) And then there were other circumstances that made it really hard, and I wondered if things would work out, are we going to be able to make it here. We have no jobs, and 4 little kids.

Nothing like hardship to remind you how much you need Jesus.

At this point in time I knew I needed to spend some quality time in prayer and in the Word. But I was having trouble because I didn’t know when to spend time with the Lord. I didn’t know when or how I was going to pour out my heart to Him like I needed to and be fed by the Word. I tried getting up early in the mornings. I hear wonderful things about the dark quiet before your kids get up, you can get a bit of time before the crazy of the day starts. So, one morning I tried it. I set my alarm for the wee hours of the morning. When that puppy went off I was so tired (I also had a newborn at this point: Silas). But I did it! I actually succeeded in getting up early! My plan was working!!

And then you can guess what happened… My kids must have got the memo…It’s like their internal clocks were set to my body motion. They got up with me… yeah….

Then I tried again the next morning…. Yep… same thing….

So, the next morning after everyone was fed, changed and Daniel had left for school. I decided to try a new tactic.

I said “Boys, I need to spend some time with the Lord. You are going down stairs and play until this timer goes off. And I don’t want you to come up unless it’s a dire emergency!” They looked at me with their surprised little faces. “Ok, Mom.” Then they headed down stairs. Two minutes later, “Mom! Mom!” Me “Nope, timer isn’t done.” A few minutes later. “MOM!”  Me “Did you hear the timer? Go back downstairs.” This happened a few more times. And then they finally started playing. And I got my time with the Lord.

I started doing this somewhat regularly, maybe not every day, but often. And it became part of our routine for that time in my life. It was a wonderful time, where I wasn’t incredibly distracted and I could actually pray and read in some “quiet”. It breathed new life into my relationship with the Lord. It reminded me that He is my friend and my Father. That He is close to me and I am the one who wanders far.

It also reminded me that He comes first.

Taking time away from my kids, and spending that time with the Lord, told my children that He comes first and not them. It is not ignoring my children. It is modeling truth for them.

That alone time is something that I forget is so important to live out and be an example in. I want them to put God first in their lives. What we put first trickles down into the rest of our lives. When God is first they will have the courage to say “no” when they need to, to stand up for someone when its important, to put others before themselves, to shine in the dark places. Not every time. Not all the time. As humans, my children will struggle in this as well. But giving them a firm foundation will help them to recover from their mistakes, from their shame. As the Word trains their hearts and minds the understanding, reasoning, courage and forgiveness of the Lord will grow inside them.

I want them to know that God’s Word will feed their soul. I want them to know that prayer is a life line, and God really does meet you there. I want them to know that you need to plug into church, the body of Christ, even though you may be bored there, or feel disconnected, or even when they hurt you. I want them to know that the church is for them, that it is their community.

I want them to know that the most important thing is not ourselves, but glorifying God.

If God is first the other things will fall into place.

If I teach them to put themselves first, I am setting them up for failure. I am teaching them that they matter more than anything else or maybe even anyone else.

I am a firm believer that God should come first, then your husband/marriage and then the kids.

Ultimately when I am filled up from spending time with the Lord, it gives me what I need to pour out to the other incredibly important things in my life. My husband, and my children.

And when I’m putting my husband and my marriage first, when we are a team, we are able to love and pour into our children so much more. We have more fun, more patience, and ultimately more love all around.

Now it’s a few years since this time, and each year it has looked a little different, with boys starting school, work and schedule changes here and there. Believe me it’s always a work in progress. I don’t do it perfect, I slide back and still wrestle with my sin in this area. But I know that the Lord needs to come first. And being aware of that has made all the difference.

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God

These Tired & Weary Bones

 

I am Tired with a capital “T”. For the past few weeks I feel like I am walking around like a zombie. It’s been hard to get moving, hard to be patient, hard to be creative, and hard to keep on top of anything.

There are a few reasons for this. One of the big ones would be the puppy. I know it’s crazy, I knew it would be crazy when we got her. It’s not the first time I’ve been to this rodeo. But I figure the reward will outweigh the crazy of the first few months… I’m hoping!! And just let me digress a little here. She really is a good puppy, she is catching onto training fairly quickly, and already walking on a leash nicely. The boys (in particularly Silas) love her. Silas just plays and plays with her, usually there is a lot of giggles and squeals while they are playing.
That warms this mama’s heart. But she is a puppy and there is a lot of work, so much training to do and keeping an eye on what she is up to all the time. Thank goodness for crates!!

Another reason is Elijah, he has been teething. This has caused him to be up two sometimes three times at night. Which in turn is making my nights feel like a series of short naps. Leaving me feeling like an empty shell of myself in the mornings. I can sometimes grab a nap here and there during the week, but not many and they are not long enough. Having the other little boys running around complicates the whole, ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ advice. Haha!

I have been feeling very encouraged with all the moving paperwork finally behind me. The vehicles are licensed, our health care is pretty much figured out, and we have our New Jersey divers licenses. The list has been long but I think it’s finally coming to an end. Now I’m settling into our new normal. Which to my dismay doesn’t happen overnight! Ha! I’m realizing it will just take some time for me to adjust to new patterns in life. And this whole not sleeping thing… well I think it’s safe to assume it will not speed up the process.

I have been wrestling through what it means when I read through scripture, and it talks about how ‘the Lord will renew our strength’, ‘He will lift us on eagles wings’, ‘He is our refuge’, and ‘cast your cares on the Lord’. (Verses listed in the bottom.) There are so many encouraging verses for us in God’s word. My go to book for encouragement is the Psalms.

But what about those times when I don’t feel like it? What about those times when He feels far? How does this help me here right now in my tired weary state?

One of the things that happens to me when I’m running on empty, is everything seems harder than it actually is and I feel more emotional about things than I usually do. Which in turn makes it harder to be the mom I want to be, the wife I want to be, and in general the woman I want to be. I try in vain to stay on top of everything and it’s just not enough. I’m not enough

This morning after I got everyone fed and the boys off to school, I grabbed my coffee, I brought my breakfast into the living room and sat. The sun was streaming through the windows and I forgot about my checklist and the laundry. I opened up my bible, to focus on the truths that the Lord has for me. And then I prayed. (Caleb and Silas were having so much fun down stairs that I was able to pray and be in the Word for most of the morning.)

And during that time something awesome happened. I felt spiritually refreshed and renewed.

You see the Psalms help me know that I have permission to complain. God already knows my feelings, my struggles. It’s no surprise to Him. My struggles may seem trivial in the light of what many others are going through. It may seem silly to complain about the sleepless nights, and whiny children, when I have friends going through cancer. And yet God cares about me, He wants me to give Him my burdens no matter how serious or trivial. To believe that I shouldn’t share these things with God because others have it so much worse than I, is just buying into Satan’s lies, that I don’t need to go to God over this, I can handle it on my own.

Then I read God’s word. The truth. And I just let the truth of who God is wash over me. He is God, He is Faithfull, He is in control, He is all knowing, He is sovereign, He is my Rock, a Fortress around me, He is compassionate, He is my Savior, He is my Father.

Sometimes the voice in my head is so loud, it drowns out what I know to be true. And then I go to the word and it washes over me and breathes life into these tired weary bones. Because I can rest in God’s grace. The grace that extends when I’m not being a nice mom, or a nice wife, or forgetting important tasks. The grace that is always waiting for me when I come to the cross in repentance, or when I’m weary.

Even though I may feel battered and bruised. Barely hanging onto my sanity, or walking around like a zombie. I still have the truth of who God is, who my Father is. I like to go to the psalms and read and pray through them. I can pour out my heart to the Lord, the good, the frustrations, the things that need repentance and my petitions.

Coming before my Heavenly Father may not be able to give me a full night’s rest, train my puppy or a visit with my family on the other side of the coast. My situation may not have changed. But my focus has. And when I have set my focus on Christ. It’s much easier to remember that this is a season, and I can rely on my God’s strength and power, not my own.

I just need to take it one day at a time, and set my eyes on Jesus.

And someday I will sleep again!!

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

 

Isaiah 40:31

Yet those who [a]wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will [b]mount up with [c]wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

 

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

 

1 Peter 5:7

Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

 

 

A New Chapter

 

Here I am sitting at a blank computer screen, watching the line blink, waiting for me to write.

I have been a little scared to jump back into it again. Between my last post and now, so much life has happened. My brain toggles between wondering if I have too much to say or do I have anything to say? Where do I start?

So forgive me as I clear the cobwebs and sweep away the dust, and try to breath some life back into my writing.

Just three months ago we packed up all our belongings. We had many heart felt and tear stained goodbyes. We loaded up our van with our survival supplies for our road trip, and what we would need for the summer. And then we waved good bye to our sweet, little, quiet town, Fergus Falls.

The end of a chapter.

I spent the next two months in my home town, Olympia, where I grew up, where I spent many hours at church, where I learned to ride my horse, where I learned to love the rain and the mountains, where I fell in love with my husband. It’s the place I know the best. I know what to expect there and how to interact with the culture. It’s where some of our best friends and our family live. And summer… ahh summer. It’s my favorite time to be there.

Going there this summer gave me a good amount of time to spend with my family, to let the kids get loved on by their grandparents, and Aunts and Uncles. To let them run around with cousins. To just soak it all in.

But it’s not home anymore. I still love it there, and love the people. But it’s not home. It wasn’t a place I could settle. It was a time of transition. A time to wrestle, renew and find peace in the Lord and His calling.

Daniel finally returned from Alaska from being gone forever…. Ok maybe not forever… But 5 weeks felt like forever! And we again loaded up all of the things… And we said a few more hard goodbyes.

Then we had a chance to take our time and road trip to the other coast. Where we pulled into the fast paced, intense, busy world that is northern New Jersey.

The start of a new chapter.

The day we pulled into town and unloaded our belongings into our cute little house, there was a huge wave of relief that hit me. “We are here, I can settle, this is our new home”

It really has been a huge relief to finally be here. We have been anticipating it for quite a while. And now I can exhale.

One of the things I have definitely been feeling is: overwhelmed. Everything is new, different and finds me out of my comfort zone quite a bit. Switching all of the paperwork, learning the roads, learning how people drive on the road (praying that I chose the correct lane to get onto the correct highway), understanding this different culture around me.

Finding my new normal.

It is truly an adventure. When I think of the adventure, or at least the word ‘adventure’, I often just associate it with fun, and forget that it’s a journey. And while it is fun, the truth is an adventure churns up a lot of different emotions.

I have been really humbled to know God has called us to minister to the people here. To be a part of Christ’s mission here. Part of what is uncomfortable is knowing that on my own I can’t do it. I feel my inadequacy, my insecurity, and my ignorance. I have asked numerous times “Why me Lord? How can you use me? There has got to be someone better suited, someone who is more outgoing, who is more talented.” And the Lord reminds me who I am focusing on when I ask Him those questions, and I am reminded of where I’m putting my faith, versus where I should put my faith.

What I’m really doing when I ask, ‘why me?’ is putting my faith in myself, and that’s when I doubt and become anxious.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I haven’t had many moments of doubt and struggle. That when I looked up at the mountain of what needed to get done I wanted to turn around, throw in the towel, that when I looked at how many miles I needed to go I wanted to crawl back into my bed. (Side note: And let me tell you, when you haven’t slept in your own bed for over two months, it’s like a dream crawling back into your bed for the first time.) I once told Daniel “I am not moving, I do not want to have to find another doctor for the kids! I like this one.” He laughed at me… I laughed at me.

A picture that has been brought to my mind over and over these past few months, is a little girl that is holding her father’s hand as he walks with her and leads her. She is carefree, trusting and happy to be with her father.

I need to be that little girl.

She takes her heavenly fathers hand and lets Him lead. I have a perfect, good heavenly Father that I can trust with everything. I may be imperfect and inadequate, but my Father is not. And while I may be powerless, my Father is not. He has called us here, and all the ministry and growth that we pray comes, will be because of Christ. I can let the weight of my self-reliance fall off my shoulders and I place my hand in Christ’s. I can take steps forward, knowing that His plan will succeed regardless of my shortcomings.

So, here’s to my new chapter in life! Here’s to new experiences and growth! It will probably take me the year before I can put away the Garmin and stop being stressed at the intensity of the grocery shoppers at Trader Joes and Costco! But I’ll get there.

I just have to mention a few things I’m loving (in no particular order), the bagel place right up the street on Washington, it’s delicious. I’m loving the parks, Van Suan was so much fun with the kids. I’m loving that the library is right across the street. I’m loving that NYC is so close. I’m loving the diverse culture. And the last thing I’ll list but certainly not least, is the people, our church. They have been such a blessing to us already and we are so excited to partner with them in ministry.

God is good. All the time. Even in this new chapter.

Especially in this new chapter.

 

Psalm 25:4-7

Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,

For You are the God of my salvation;

For You I wait all the day.

Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses,

For they have been [a]from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;

According to Your lovingkindness remember me,

For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.

 

 

Spring, the Latest at the Stenberg’s


Wow a lot has happened since the last published blog post. I was often writing in the evenings. But recently my hands have been full with a wide awake, usually happy, baby at night. I have also been plagued with new baby brain fog! But he is sleeping more now and that is getting a bit better. Also, boy have the last few months been emotional for me, exaggerated by post baby hormones.

 

Well my husband wrote out Elijah’s amazing birth story. I am still so thankful and humbly amazed by our God. I still find myself staring at his beautiful face and being reminded that we serve a God of miracles and that nothing is impossible for God inside His will. It’s also a good reminder for me as we start a new phase in our journey.

 

I am excited to announce that we are moving to Bergenfield, New Jersey! After things had calmed down following Elijah’s birth and I had some weeks to heal we candidated at Calvary Lutheran in Bergenfield. We got a chance to see the church, the parsonage, the town, and meet the wonderful people in the church. A bit after we visisted they extended us a call and we have accepted it. The whole process has been covered in prayer by the church and us and quite a few others. We feel this is where God is calling us and we are excited about this new adventure and chance to serve the Lord there.

 

It’s very far from the immediate family, the opposite coast, actually. There will be a lot of things for me to get used to, like driving! I’m not the most assertive driver, but I have been told if you are not aggressive you will get nowhere! Hopefully you will not see me in my van stuck on the road getting nowhere! Ha! And honestly I’m sure there will be a lot of differences that I won’t even know about until I experience them. There always is when you move to a new area.

 

They boys are very excited. After all they will be living 15 min from New York City and that is where the Ninja Turtles live, so that is just the best. I have tried to convince them that the Ninja Turtles don’t actually exist, but Asher will just give me his half smile and say “Sure, mom…” with the knowing look on his face that I just don’t know what I’m talking about.

 

One of the hard things we had to do last month was say good bye to our dog Kiaser. He was our 12 year old Rat Terrier. Daniel and I got him right after we were first married, and he has been on a lot of journeys with us and little Silas was quite attached to him. But he was having too many health issues and we had to say good bye. I’m thankful for the humor that my boys bring into some of the hard times. We were sitting at the dinner table and the boys launched into pets and tried to leverage Kiaser’s death into getting a turtle. And then Caleb pleads “Or at least a fish!!”

 

Now we are in the throws of the end of the Seminary school year. Daniel has four more weeks of school and then he graduates! I can hardly believe we are almost done. I’m kind of in denial actually… I have a lot to do, and I don’t have enough hours in the day. It will be so bitter sweet being done here. We are excited to get into ministry and settle down for a while. But it will be hard to leave this time and the good friends we have made here.

 

We leave at the end of May for Washington. Where I will be till late July, Daniel will be there for about two weeks and then he flies to Alaska to do the commercial Salmon fishing with his dad and a few siblings. After Daniel gets back we will start making our trek across the country.

 

I am trying to just enjoy this last time here without getting overwhelmed by the things that need to get done. I am also looking forward to getting some down time in Washington and enjoying spending time with family and friends there.

 

I would appreciate all the prayers I can get as we prepare to move, Daniel goes to Alaska and then we will be getting started in a new place, also we will be logging countless hours in a van with 5 children under the age of 7!!

 

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—[b]
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

 

The Day Elijah Came Into the World

By Daniel Stenberg

Karen gave birth to Elijah Quentin at 9:06 am on February 3rd, 2017.

He didn’t come when we hoped, or how we had hoped. But if he had come according to our hopes, he wouldn’t be here at all.

It seemed like we had been waiting for Elijah forever. True, the nine-month incubation that is pregnancy can drag on seemingly ‘forever’, especially towards the end, but there was more to it this time.

Being in my 3rd year of Seminary it’s time to start interviewing, or ‘candidating’ at churches. We had to wait for Elijah to be born however, as Karen couldn’t travel at the end of pregnancy, and then of course there would be the recovery time after birth. It felt like our future was stalled, like it was just waiting on the baby. So the sooner he came the better.

At least, that’s how it felt.

Also, my parents were visiting in January. My dad would be here for a week, and my mom would be here for three. Being as we don’t live close to each other it would have been nice for dad to be able to hold his newest grandson before catching the plane back to the Pacific Northwest. So the sooner he came the better.

We did all that we knew how to try to convince our youngest that it was time to breathe the fresh Minnesota air. It was time to meet his grandpa. It was time to let mommy and daddy take steps towards the future.

We went for walks. Not easy to do during a frigid Midwest winter. Thankfully the YMCA in town is heated and has a nice walking track. Karen kept working at her cleaning job. She ate spicy food. Short of taking castor oil (no offense dad, but you weren’t quite THAT important) we did all that we knew of to get baby to come.

Nothing worked. There were many occasions of false labor that we hoped would lead to actual labor, but again, our hopes were not realized. The little guy could not be convinced.

Dad left, and the days went by. It was getting close to the time when mom was going to have to leave. Karen went to her Doctor’s appointment the day before her due date and everything looked great. Baby was looking really good, and Karen’s body was ready to have the baby. It wouldn’t take much to set the wheels in motion, and so the Doctor agreed to induce Karen a couple of days later, so that Grandma would have a chance to meet the little guy before she too had to take a plane home.

Karen was pretty excited about this. She had never been induced before, and this meant that maybe she could actually get the drugs! Previous labors had been so quick, that there hadn’t been time. She didn’t regret having children au naturale, but given that this would be the last one, the allure of it being relatively painless was strong. Karen was looking forward to experiencing this side of labor and delivery.

On Feb. 3rd, at 5 am they started Karen’s induction, and everything started out pretty normal. All the vitals were looking good. The Pitocin had begun to get things going and her body was responding well. The Doctor showed up around 8:30, saw that things were progressing well and decided it was time to break the water. The water looked good, and since contractions were going to start getting more intense it was time to get Karen her epidural.

Now I didn’t eat breakfast, we woke up a little too late for that (4:30 am comes WAY too early for me) and since I have an aversion to seeing people stick huge needles into my wife’s backbone I decided it was time to go grab breakfast. Since she was getting an epidural labor should slow down a little, and I should have the 15 minutes it would take to grab a bite to eat.

So I left.

I got down to the car and there, to my intense frustration, my windshield had frozen over. Again. I had scraped it that morning. Well, scraped might be generous. I had cleared sight lines that morning in the frigid cold, and was frustrated that I would have to do so again. It is not a fast process, and it hadn’t warmed up much in the few hours since my last attempts. I decided against it. Who needs breakfast anyway? I headed back up to Karen and the delivery room.

When I walked in the door I was greeted by bloody towels. Everywhere. Not what I wanted, or expected to see. Karen was bleeding, and I didn’t know why, or how, or what was going on.

While I had been down fuming at the cold, my frozen windshield and empty belly, Karen had decided that since the epidural would remove feeling from the lower half of her body that she should get up and use the bathroom.

When she stood up, a gush of blood hit the floor.

That is not supposed to happen.

The nurse had her get right back into bed and called the doctor. I returned seconds before the Doctor arrived. I will never forget sitting in that chair and watching his face. He looked at my wife, he looked at the towels and floor, and back to my wife. His brow was furrowed, with growing worry.

“I know this isn’t what we had planned, but we need to do an emergency C-section.”

Those words tore into me.

They also kicked over a beehive of commotion. Nurses just magically appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly there was another bed in the room and they were moving Karen onto it. Next thing I know we’re being whisked down the hall, and into an elevator. Out the elevator and down the hall, around corners, through doors with keycards. We’re practically running now. Our pace couldn’t match what was going on in my head however. What was going on? Was Karen in danger? Was the baby? Both? Why is this happening? The questions spilled over, filling my cup of panic.

“Swallow it Stenberg, swallow it and listen”, I told myself.

The Doctor was telling me how maybe I could still be in the room, maybe they would have time to give Karen an epidural in the Operating Room (OR), and then I could still be there, and she could be awake. We could go through this together. At least I could hold her hand.

Except when we got to the OR they pushed her into the room, and they left me outside. There was no time. They had to get the baby out as quickly as possible. There would be no epidural. They were going to put Karen under. It had to be quick. The bleeding had to stop. There was no time.

I was ushered into a room that resembled a large closet. There was a patched couch along one wall, some stacked chairs in the corner, an overused desk and a squeaky rolling chair. I slowly sank into the chair, rested my head on the desk and prayed. The rush of the last five minutes washed over me and I began to feel tears carve paths down my cheeks and then fall to the floor. I reached out to family and friends via text and asked for prayer.

“Pray for my wife. Pray for my child. Please, just pray.”

One friend asked if he could come and join me, to be there as a support for me. I laughed ironically to myself. I didn’t even know where I was. I didn’t know where this room was. I didn’t know how to get into, or out of, this part of the hospital. I told him that I didn’t know how to get to him, or how to get him to me, so thanks for the thought, but at this point, just pray.

What else could we do?

Soon, a nurse found me. I don’t know how, but she found me. Maybe they put all the dads in that little storage room? I dunno. Just glad I’m not still stuck in there. She brought me back up through the labyrinth and into the Labor and Delivery department. She took me to the room they had moved Karen’s stuff into and told me that it wouldn’t be too long now. It was probably only 8 minutes, but it felt like an hour. Suddenly she was back at the door, asking me if I wanted to hold my son.

My son. He had made it. Praise God. I was filled with joy, but in the back of my head I couldn’t help but wonder: how was Karen?

I was brought to a room where Elijah was undergoing the battery of tests that newborns are subjected to. They told me he was great. Beyond great. He was an incredibly and surprisingly healthy baby. The awe in the room was almost palpable. For those of you ‘in the know’, Elijah scored an 8 on his first APGAR test, and a 10 on his second. 10s are unheard of. They just don’t give those out. But they did to Elijah.

Soon I was holding my 5th son. This was the first time I had held one of my children before my wife had been able to. Which brought my mind back to Karen.

How is my wife doing?

It wasn’t too long before the Doctor came in. He came in and congratulated me on an amazingly healthy son. He told me Karen was doing really well. She was on her way to the room they called ‘recovery’ and that as soon as she was awake and coherent they would bring her up, and she could start feeding Elijah.

She was OK. It was a good thing that I was sitting down. As the relief flooded my body and the tension that had been building relaxed I felt my legs go weak. Thank God that my wife is OK, and thank God for whoever invented chairs.

So what happened? Why the bleeding? Why the emergency C-section?

The Doctor told me that it turned out that Karen had a condition called ‘Vasa Previa’. It is a rare occurrence, and it is hard to spot during Ultrasounds, unless one is looking for it specifically.

Vasa Previa is a condition where the blood vessels that attach the umbilical cord to the placenta run in between the baby and the birth canal. When Karen’s water broke, the blood vessels broke as well, and that is what caused the bleeding. That blood was supposed to be going to Elijah, and since he wasn’t getting it they had to perform the emergency C-section.

About an hour later, Karen was wheeled into the room that she would spend the next three days in. I brought her Elijah, and they began the mother-baby bonding process. We were both so relieved to have a safe and healthy baby and mother that it took a while for the emotions to settle. It wasn’t until Saturday night that we decided to do a bit more research on Vasa Previa.

I hopped on my laptop and took a stroll through vasaprevia.com.

What I found filled me with a humble thankfulness that I find hard to accurately describe.

Here are a few statistics from vasaprevia.com:

  1. 95% of vasa previa pregnancies that are not prenatally diagnosed end in the death of the child. (Any instance that I could find of a baby surviving a case where it was not prenatally diagnosed they did so through a blood transfusion.)
  2. If a pregnancy is diagnosed as vasa previa, the mother is recommended to be put on bed rest between weeks 30-32, and then Doctors perform a C-section as soon as the baby is deemed able to survive outside the womb, typically weeks 35-36.
  3. It is strongly discouraged to let the mother go into labor and have the baby naturally, but should she decide to anyway, it is necessary to be prepared for a blood transfusion for the child.

The realization of what I was reading began to hit me.

My son was not only in the 5%, my son didn’t require a blood transfusion. Despite the incredible amount of blood that Karen lost he scored higher on the APGAR than any of our other children. He scored higher than children are supposed to score.

Added to that, we had TRIED to get Karen to go into labor. We had gone for walks, worked hard, eaten spicy food, and thankfully passed on the castor oil. If Karen had gone into labor, if her water had broken, anywhere else but in a delivery room, statistics and science say this story ends differently. If we hadn’t scheduled an induction so that Elijah could meet Grandma, if Karen hadn’t decided to get an epidural, resulting in the bleeding being caught right away, if…if….if…All the ‘ifs’ kept piling up.

It began to sink in.

Karen and I began to realize how God had provided for us. How God had blessed us. How miraculous the birth of our little Elijah was. Statistics and Science said that he shouldn’t be here with us. And yet here he was, in my arms. As I watched his chest move with each breath, I felt the tears begin to retrace their steps down my cheeks.

Thank you Jesus. Thank you for my son.

So how do we respond?

The initial reaction is to say, “God is good!” And He is good. But He would still be good even if He had decided to take Elijah that morning on Feb. 3rd, 2017.

Another reaction is to say, “God is faithful!” And He is faithful. But He is also faithful to those who lost their children to vasa previa, or any other complication that takes children too early from this world.

Another response is: ‘Man, God must have some plan for this little guy.” And He does. But it might not be what we would typically classify as ‘amazing’. You see, I believe that it’s similar to conversion, or testimonies. It’s similar to the understanding that those who go through a miraculous ‘Damasacus Road’ conversion experience are not more important to God than those who grow up in the Church, and have always had a relationship with Him. He just used some means that we would deem as ‘miraculous’ to bring them into the fold. I would argue that how he saves each of us is miraculous. In the same way, Elijah does not mean more to God than other babies, God just used means that we would deem as miraculous to bring him into the world.

How God chose to act in this instance doesn’t dictate His goodness, or His faithfulness, or Elijah’s future.

So, again, how do we respond?

With thankfulness that He acted. Karen and I are just so thankful that God chose to bless us with Elijah. We are overcome by humble gratitude. We know that it is not because of who we are as people, or as parents, but because of God’s grace and mercy.

We want to say thank you to all who prayed for us, and with us for the life of this precious little boy. Our God has answered your prayers. We humbly ask that you continue to pray for him as he grows. Pray that he would walk with the Lord all of his life.

It feels like in America, in Western Christianity, we don’t get to see what we would call ‘miracles’ very often. Well, a miracle happened on the morning of Feb 3rd, 2017 in the sleepy little city of Fergus Falls, MN. And if you need a reminder that our God is able to perform miracles, just take a look at this little face and be encouraged.

Praise be to God.

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.