Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Mark and I will be in Iowa for the next 5 days, so don't expect much blogging form me! Mark, Malachy, and I have had a wonderful Christmas this far. We really enjoyed Christmas service at Willow on Friday. It was great to have the family over for lunch today. Kim cooked us all a great meal and Malachy is becoming very attatched to Uncle Noah! Joey and Malachy had fun palying together and it was so nice for us all to be together. Later on Mark, Malachy, Dad and I were able to visit with the Traynor clan at my Aunt Marys and that was super fun too! We are looking forward to seeing Grandma Stanger and all the rest tomorrow! Enjoy the rest of your Holiday. Best wishes...Steph
(if this post is confusing to read it's because it is late and I have 1000 thoughts in my head right now but I wanted to make sure I said Merry Christmas before we leave for Iowa)

Just a little Christmas fun- above: Malachy and Joey play Santa with Jason.

Below: The Stanger clan at Christmas services...yes Malachy is sticking out his tounge =)

Friday, December 23, 2005

I couldn't be more proud...

I'm at church and I was just walking throughout the halls back to my office to pack off and I couldn't help reflect on the past week. Putting up with all the judgement over being closed on Christmas, all the work people put into preparing for this week (like running dmx and power to every strand of garland in the massive auditorium) it was all worth it!! The halls and offices are empty but the auditorium is full of attentive hearts, the atrium has families gathered around tables, and "volunteer central" is buzzing with people who are so excited about being able to serve God, share in community as well as eat GREAT food! And I couldn't be more proud of being apart of this church.

Those of you who are tech people know how hard it can be to let God touch you in a service. We are easily caught up in the details behind the service that we often miss the big picture. But this service has moved me and brought me tears every time I've seen it. ( which was more then once) It is a masterpiece!! It couldn't have been done any better. Even watching it an overflow I was in awe of what God has done through this team of incredibly blessed people I have the honor to work with. I feel as if the "tech" was as big a "communicator" in this service as any person on stage (if not more). The lights were so beautiful that they brought you into a feeling of unearthly radiance where all things really were possible with God. The sound was vibrant and dynamic it did justice to the awe inspiring vocals and compositions!! And video...Wow!!! What an incredible tool we have found and really used to the best of our ability!! The video team really did an unbelievable job! Their creativity and skill is really inspirational. Every thing they put on those LED screens captured me and stirred emotions with in me. I could relate to the videos and I felt like they were speaking into my heart! Well done!

I know this all sounds very sappy and such but when something is right it's right and you just have to acknowledge it and give Glory to God.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I wasn't playing hokey Malachy really was sick!

Random picture of my Promiseland team for your viewing pleasure
( I thought this post needed some visual support but I didn't have any new pictures in my laptop )

Took the little guy to the doctor today and Malachy has Roseola. Which doesn't seem to be a big deal at this point other then the unsightly red spots covering his entire body! We have been told he is no longer contagious...The 3 days of 104 fever was the contagious stage. Unfortunately the rash will move onto his face and leave us special Christmas memories in all my photos!! I bought him the cutest outfit for Christmas from Gymboree! (and an additional Santa outfit from Target!)

Just an FYI the ABC world news tonight piece about churches being closed on Christmas looks like it will air tomorrow night (Thursday) at 5:30...However this is the 3rd night in a row it was suppose to air so we will see!! It is up on their website as a teaser for tomorrow so I'm feeling pretty confident.

My very special friend Crystal has had a challenging week. Her mother has had some health scares so please keep Crystal and her family in your prayers! Crystal and her entire family are very close to me and have been a blessing to my entire family we love them deeply!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

If you want to follow the story...

Here is an e-mail we received from Cally with the info for the upcoming news stories on closed for Christmas. She sent the e-mail yesterday so we beleive these shows will be on tonight! WE checked the ABC website and it did not look like the segment aired last night.

The "Closed for Christmas Day" issue continues to capture media attention. If you saw cameras here on Saturday, that was ABC World News Tonight. On Sunday we hosted NBC Nightly News. Here's what's happening:
ABC World News Tonight -- Willow Creek and a Gene Appel interview will be featured in a segment, probably tonight. The producer just called me and said right now we're on the schedule, but he'll bump us to Tuesday if there's so much news they would have to edit the segment. So probably tonight -- if not, tomorrow.
NBC Nightly News -- barring big "breaking" news, Willow Creek and a Gene Appel interview will be featured on the Tuesday news program, along with Fellowship Church and Pastor Ed Young.
Fox News "Hannity and Colmes" -- this is a national news discussion program that draws a large secular audience. Mark Ashton will be interviewed for 6-7 minutes on the Tuesday program @ 8PM.
CBN (Christian Broadcast Network) -- Mark Ashton will be interviewed for 3-4 minutes by Lee Webb on the CBN Newswatch show Tuesday @ 2:30 our time.
If something else major comes up, I'll let you know. Hopefully a week from now, this issue will be behind us -- and God will use all the uproar to inspire great kingdom gains!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Malachy Sleeps!!

OK, so after last weeks rant on every one giving me parenting advice Marks cousin (who I adore) Polly visited. Not knowing that I was fed up with all the judgements she informed me that her and her Mom (Marks aunt) had been talking about how hard it must be for us having to get up with Malachy all the time she told me they all feel so sorry for me...argghhh!! she continued to give me all the advice that everyone has already given me about how we should be putting Malachy to sleep.

They were here well after his bed time and I was feeling judged and akward...So in an act of desperation I left Malachy all alone in his crib! =( and he cried for over an hour!!! Not a little whining cry but full out screaming, snot running down his face, chocking on his tears cried!! When he finally fell asleep it was only out of sheer exhaution from the screaming and he woke up every hour and cried some more. I felt like the saddest Mommy ever! I couldn't sleep a wink, I just wanted to go hug him and tell him, "I'm still here...I still love you!" Soooo sad! Night 2, was alittle was not 1 hours of consistent crying just 2 hours of on and off crying ( I think he had learned to save his energy and pro-long my suffering!) However I did feel somewhat better because he had survived night one. Last night was night 3. He only cried on and off for about 45 mins and although I was alittle sad I was too tired to care too much. Tonight, night 4 I put him down with a bottle and havent heard a peep out of him yet!!

Yea! Mission accomplished! I do feel much better and I will say you were all right!! I had already known that you were...I read all the books too! But it's alot easier said then done...especially with your first little baby and when you suffer from sever anxiety like I do! But I'm glad that part of the parenting adventure is over. Just pray for me that I don't have to start all over after our trip to Iowa later this month.

In reference to my previous post about parenting...I just want to say that I appreciate the various encouragement, apologies and explanations I had received from many of you. You are ALL my dear friends and I know everything that was said was said with the best of intentions. I honestly wasn't angry with any one person. I was just angry with the situation and was feeling judged by the people who's opinons matter most too me. Wether it be friends, family, or fellow Mommys...I value your friendships a great deal and encourage you to challange me when you feel so called. Just be warned I may freak out occasionaly! Thanks for your love and support =)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

LOOK..we can all get along!

I took this from Kims blog because it was already edited so nicely! This was in the Sun Time this morning:

Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington may be closed on Dec. 25, but the megachurch's pastor has decided to preach on Christmas morning anyway.Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek, the largest predominantly white church in the Chicago area, will share preaching duties with the Rev. James Meeks in the pulpit of his Salem Baptist Church, the area's largest predominantly black congregation...

For several years now, Meeks and Hybels have been getting to know each other as colleagues and friends. But they would like their congregations to know one another better as well, to build a bridge between the often segregated white and black evangelical Christian communities. Toward that end, in June, 50 church members -- half from Willow, half from Salem -- spent a week riding a bus through the Deep South visiting historical civil rights-era sites. They called it a "Justice Journey."This Christmas morning, as Meeks and Hybels share a pulpit for the first time, will be another step on that journey toward racial reconciliation in the evangelical church, Meeks said."To see us come together," Meeks said, "I think it speaks volumes...

On Friday afternoon, Hybels, who was at O'Hare Airport waiting for a flight bound for Zambia in Africa, where he will spend this week at an AIDS clinic filming a pre-holiday sermon that will be beamed back to Willow next weekend -- they call it "Christmas on Location" -- e-mailed Meeks at the airport in Washington to say he'd be at Salem Christmas morning, with bells on, as it were.

Friday, December 09, 2005

and the drama continues...

This is from Time Magazine

Christian blogs are full of unseasonably vitriolic postings, full of Scriptural references, theological arguments and appeals to common sense. Evangelicals are attacking other Evangelicals in the media. And the debate within the Evangelical community is giving the rest of America a rare look at the divisions that do exist, usually quietly and below the surface, of the 65-million-strong Evangelical community. It is a reminder that this group, so often labeled the "religious right", is diverse both in theology and methodology. The church is in fact many churches, this bloc is no monolith, and this argument, says Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, "shows we're still all very human."...

Others worry that the fight may be more damaging than any impact from what they're fighting about. ""The central point is not what hour of what day the congregation gathers corporately to celebrate the birth of Christ," says Willow Creek's Hybels, "but rather that in our hearts and lives we allow the coming of Christ to transform us." On his blog, Louie Marsh, pastor of a small church in rural Arizona, quoted the Apostle Paul from the Book of Romans, who wrote, "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?" "I do know [that] this isn't something we should be fighting about," Marsh blogged. "Let's just focus on serving God the best we can."

I have only posted the parts that I agreed with the most so feel free to check out the full story if you are curious.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Willow will be closed on Christmas and I will be home with Malachy...

Here is what lead pastor Gene has to say about the apparently extremely controversial discion for willow to close on Christmas: (Kim had this on her blog and it came from an article in the tribune, I think Gene explained it best!)

"At first glance it does sound contrarian," said Rev. Gene Appel, senior pastor of Willow Creek. "We don't see it as not having church on Christmas. We see it as decentralizing the church on Christmas--hundreds of thousands of experiences going on around Christmas trees. The best way to honor the birth of Jesus is for families to have a more personal experience on that day."It's not that the church does not value Christmas, the day set aside to commemorate the incarnation of God on Earth. Willow Creek is organizing almost a week of worship ending Christmas Eve, and total attendance at the services is expected to top 50,000. The church has also produced a short DVD designed to reinforce the theme of the Christmas services and help viewers process spiritual questions that may cross their minds during the holidays.And Appel argues that family has always been at the heart of the Christmas story: the tale of a mother and father celebrating the birth of a babe in a manger.

I have seen the video and I think it will be a very powerfull tool!! I'm really excited about the opportunity it will present for familys close and far from God to focus on Christ Christmas morning.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I'm angry and stressed!

Most people won't read this because it is sooo long, which is probably good becuase it's not Steph at her best it's Steph fed up!

I feel really frustrated! There are many things adding to my frustration...lack of sleep, depression, not enough big macs but I think the biggest thing freaking me out right now is the judgemental nature of people regarding my parenting! I just want to scream back off! This past week alone I have been told that I'm afraid of my own child, I don't spend enough time with my own child, I should apply to be on Super Nanny, Mothers were intended to stay at home and not work, I'm not feeding him right, putting him to bed right, I'm spoiling name it...I have done it. Apparently I'm the WORST mother in the universe!! And the worst part's not strangers saying this to's my family, friends, and co-workers..all of you who know me it must be true.

I was watching Desperate Housewives last night (more evidence of my flawed character I'm sure) and I could totally relate to Lynette. She was trying to get Day Care started at the office so she could see her children more. The problem was they needed 15 children to be enrolled. The boss's wife was a stay at home mom but if she would bring her child in occasionaly it would be enough for them to get the day care. Lynette called this woman to ask her if she woud bring her child in to the day care. The women responded with an obscene amount of judgement and ridicule towards Lynette for working. She even said to Lynette I don't know why women bother having children if they are going to work. In which Lynette responded;"I'm a good mother." and the woman said;" you see that's the difference between you and I ...I want to be a great mother." I could have screamed because that is sooo real. That is totally how people treat you! Even if they don't say it that boldly they imply it. I have heard several times from Stay at Home mothers something like;" I would rather live in a card board box with my children then get a job. Mom's who work do so to support a lifestyle they choose." Give me a freaking break! For one thing you would NOT want your children living in poverty if you had the power to change it, so that is just insulting. And we are not just talking about the lifestyle of an occasional dinner out and clothe from Old Navy instead of the thrift store, we are talking about health insurance, dance or music lessons, proper meals, the list goes on. So please, if your husband is making more then 40k and you can afford to stay at home,while owning a home, 2 cars, nice clothe and so on do not presume to judge the rest of us who need to work for our ever so lush lifestyles we are "choosing".

People are way to judgemental and they often excuse theur judgement as some holy calling or righteousness. Especially in the Christian community. I remember being at Mark's fathers funeral and this man from their home church. (who I have never met before) Starts asking me what my plans are for Malachy's education. (I was only like 6 months pregnant!) Then he goes on to tell me the only correct way to do it is to home school Malachy and be home with him and he doesn't understand these women who...blah blah blah...I was like I don't even know you (or my son at this point) so how in the world can we know what's best for him yet!? I remember last year watching Dr. Phil and it was stay at home moms and working moms just tearing eachother apart and I couldn't believe it!

I always hear the TRUE statement: being a stay at home mom is like having 2 full time jobs with no days off...but let's remember working Moms STILL come home to their children! It's not like I come home and put my feet up. There are diapers to change, dinners to make, baths to give, tears to wipe the whole spectrum and we don't get vacation days from our children either. We also have 2 full time jobs. It's not a competition why can't we all just help eachother out!?!

I'm aware of my failings as a parent. My child won't listen to me, he hits me, he doesn't sleep...the list goes on. He does behave better for Kim and he is only a child. So yes, I'm aware that his behavior is a direct result of my failure to train him better and NOT beause he is a bad child. However I must say I do try. I try to be consistent. I try to discipline him and I do love him very much. So please cut me some slack it's hard enough without feeling like the whole world is against me.

DISCLAIMER: This "rant" is in NO way directed at my best friend in the whole world Crystal, she is an amazing Mom who I respect greatly and has been an encouragement and inspiration to me. Also this "rant" is not directed at Jami. Although I'm aware some of the things I'm adressing are opinions she holds and recently wrote about in her blog. Jami is another great Mom and her recent blogginig isn't what got me upset. I have been hearing stuff from people all week and I'm frustrated, upset, tierd and looking for a place to vent. I respect that most Moms are just doing what they think is best for their children.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Snow, Santa, and's beginning to look alot like Christmas!

Malachy is wide eyed at the idea of meeting Santa. (who he calls Nana)
Here is Malaachy with the Jolly fellow now...I'm not sure if he even noticed whos lap he was on!
We had to put some Christmas lights up for our first Christmas in a "real" house!
It has been snowing all afternoon...and I hear there is more to come in the next few days!
This is my (indoor) garland I bought...I hope the snow doesn't ruin it!
I'm so excited about the Holidays!! I can't wait till we put the tree up, we have been holding off in fear of Malachy destroying it! (or eating it) I can't wait to spend some quality time with my family and friends! Especially Noah, Lauren, and their new son Jack the beagle mix!