Vulnerable

I’ve sat upon the floor of hell. The enemy escorting me there time and again. Each time, climbing out — to what I was never really sure and for reasons I couldn’t comprehend. While seated on that floor, the breaking of my spirit, my confidence, my very essence happened in the most painful ways.

Years later, God gave me the strength to climb out for good and to never fall into that space of unworthiness, shame, doubt, condemnation, judgement, perfection again. He offered a hand that led to a redemption of epic proportions. That’s not to say that I don’t struggle with each of those things from time to time, but now I know to choose not to live in that lie from the enemy any longer. Jesus has created a path of righteousness, lined with His blood, full of His grace, where I’ve been ushered into and made whole. Clean. A new creation.

I don’t take this lightly, friends. In the washing of His blood, He gave me a story. One to be told so that none of us ever feels like we’re walking in this life alone. He’s provided me with a voice that some will hear, but not others. He’s made me palpable for some, but not for everyone.

The good news is that none of us have to carry the weight of the Great Commission all on our own. You’ve been given a story, a voice, a group of people who will only be able to hear the story you tell in the way you tell it. Your experiences will speak to the hearts of people that mine never will. Your life and redemption will usher in people to the Cross who would never hear my voice.

Over the last couple of months, when I’ve tried to think through how I write about what breaks my heart, how I remain vulnerable without floodlighting people, and how to help people with whom I have influence to see the goodness and trueness of a loving God – I continue to come back to being true to the walk He’s called me to walk. Right here. With you.

Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability — the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome – is the only path to more love, belong, and joy. The downside? You’re going to stumble, fall, and get your ass kicked. Worth it? Yes.”

It’s hard to be that vulnerable. Maybe we don’t all do it en masse like this crazy fool *points at self*… but I hope that you have someone(s) who will allow your full vulnerability and that you feel safe and secure in the telling of your story while you’re there.

You were created for this time. This space. This unfolding. I’m praying that your confidence to walk in it is encouraged daily and that you are reminded often that you are a beloved child of a King.

Ephesians 2: 10 10 For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. 52057067_10218550456971100_425165667398844416_n

 

Advertisements

January is for Stretching

William Wordsworth says, “fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Over the last several years, I’ve worked hard to learn how to be vulnerable and honest, but not in a way that makes me seem whiny or like I’m complaining. Just living a transparent life. I’ve taken cues from authors I find to be revealing and honest and faithful; Brene Brown, Lysa TerKeurst, Deidra Riggs, Ann Voskamp, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Harper, Kim Hyland, Holley Gerth, Michelle DeRusha, and so many other bloggers, social media heroines, and truth-telling mommas!

Women who walk in their truth with shaky legs, write with a pen that isn’t very steady, and embrace vulnerability with a racing heart are my kind of women. Brave. Bold. Honest. Storytellers and community makers. How many times have we been able to read a blog post, part of a book, or a Facebook post and find a piece of commonality, a sense of togetherness, and a reminder that we don’t have to do any of this alone?! We find strength and encouragement from one another – it’s exactly what we need to be able to survive our own day sometimes.
9959c37c980da3ba9fa4b2995cf239f5
Recently I was asked to not share from that place of vulnerability that God has been helping to craft within me over the years as a way to minister to the women in my world. I was asked, essentially to choose; kingdom or not – ministry or not – vulnerability or not – honesty or not – community or not – brave or not – bold or not. I had to decide – shaky legs, unsteady pen, racing heart, or not. Suddenly I was confronted with a choice to either embrace who I’ve been created to be or to push my girl back into the closet where most of her life she had to hide her true self for fear of not being loved, or accepted, or cherished, or worthy enough, or good enough, or any other thing we can throw in there.

My word for the year is Purpose, but my word for January is Stretching. I’ve taken a break from writing, from social media, from all the things that I thought I was supposed to be doing and poured that into seeking God and what He’s asking me to do. I’ve stretched into the Word, into His voice, stretched to hear Him with confidence and clarity. We’re told that when we earnestly seek Him, we will find Him. Y’all, I was on a hunt! From a recent book I read written by Michelle DeRusha called True You, I learned to sit in His presence a little better. She started with 5 minutes a day, and so I did too. Just doing not one thing. Just sitting. Not laying down trying to fall asleep, not reading a book, not praying even. Just soaking in Yahweh. The very name Yahweh is breath – it can’t even be spoken. Sitting in the breath of the Creator was necessary. I’m up to about 15 minutes now since I started this about 6 weeks ago. It’s hard and sometimes I’m really easily distracted, but other times I’m rewarded richly with a clarity unlike anything I’ve ever felt.

From that clarity, the confidence to walk in the Purpose for which I’ve been created is so overwhelmingly clear, I couldn’t deny it if I wanted to deny it. So while I may have to modify some things in order to make all of my world coexist together, I will not back down from the mission He’s given me!

Friends, sometimes we have to make hard choices. I’ve learned that making them in the moment, with all the emotions of it, usually leads me down a path from which I may not be able to recover. However, when we take the time to seek Him and His will, counsel from people whom we trust deeply, and time to sit in His presence – the answers will come. His will for us will be clear. We may not understand it all, but understanding isn’t what we need. We walk in faith and obedience, He makes the way. 

Whatever is in front of you right now, I pray that you step into it with shaky legs and unsteady hands. That you fully embrace who God created you to be and that you remain Kingdom focused when the world around you wants to defeat your God given mission. Walk in the godly confidence which can only come from the Creator of the whole entire everything! Be bold and brave!

 

One word, 12 words

Happy New Year, friends!

The other evening I had an idea to come up with 2019 things I’m thankful for throughout the year. That’s 5.5 things per day and 39 things per week. Lucky for you, I’m not going to share of all them with you, but believe me – I thought about it!

I’ll admit that I’ve done the thankfulness journals and I find that I’m normally a pretty grateful person. I know all the ways I’m blessed, but I don’t often document them. However, something has been pressing on my spirit to recall things to my mind more often, and to sit in a place where I’m more often thankful and less often questioning.

This past year has left me with a lot of questioning and I’m just not willing to take that into this new year with me. What are some things you’ve decided not to take into the new year with you? Have you called them out by name and maybe heavily rebuked them in the name of Jesus like this crazy girl might have done?! 😉

As some of you know, I like to choose a word for the year and allow my heart to focus on that word and allow my mind to consistently be pulled back into that train of thought when I start to find it wandering into the unknowns. And I still plan to mostly do that this year, with a twist, though.

I will have my word for the year, but I also plan to have one for each month. I think one of the things that can sometimes hurt me is being too macro-minded when I haven’t spent enough time being micro-minded. This year, the intent is to do both. Who wants to be on this wacky ride with me? C’mon… you know you wanna!

So, the word for the year is… Purpose. That word was given to me for so many reasons. I’m at a fork in the road; this way or that way. Am I going to choose the easy road or the one where my purpose lies? Does my purpose lie down both of them, just a bit differently? In fact, what is my purpose? I’ve thought I’ve known it for a long time, but maybe I don’t know it at all! See why it’s my word, but also why it needs baby words to go with it??

e0a47b2239ed45bd48137744ced32ac6My word for January is stretching. I’m totally stealing it from a message series that was announced last week at church and the first part of the series happened today. I have no shame in this thievery!

February: Revealing – this will be a time to get real with myself and to reveal my weaknesses, failures, brokenness, strengths, desires, etc…

March: Exploration – to be fair, the first 10 days or so of the month, I’ll be on a trip part work and part pleasure. I hope to spend some time exploring the world around me, but also myself inside that world. I’m hoping for a lot of good, quiet moments in March!

April: Energy – where is a natural place for my energy to pour over? When I exude energy that brings me joy, what does that most often look like?

May: Service – this is typically a really busy month for me. Like really busy. So, my service might look like one thing, but God is teaching me something totally different. Also, where else or how else can I be serving amidst my own chaos so that I’m able to focus more on others than on myself.

June: Reflection and Gratefulness – this is my birthday month, and I like to spend some time reflecting anyway, so now I’m doing it with some intent behind it!

July: Growth – as I get closer to understanding my purpose, how am I growing it? Learning it? Mastering it? This is the time to settle into the purpose and allow God to show me where I need to grow in it.

August: Audience – once I know my purpose, and then grow my purpose, who is the audience for it? Where should I be directing the energy and the service and the purpose? August may not give me those exact answers, but I hope to learn more about what my audience might look like in this month.

September: Rooted – I hope that once I know my purpose, grow in it, find my audience for it, God will allow me to find a solid root system to keep me pressing into that purpose. The root system will be the people whom He assigns to this mission with me, I kinda mess the whole people thing up when it’s left up to me.

October: Expectation – this is pretty self explanatory. Prayer and expectation this month.

November: Action – what is God calling me to do exactly? Am I ready to actually put action to it? If being a master gardener is my purpose – what am I doing? By the way, being a master gardener is likely not my purpose. Who knows, though. 😉

December: Rest and Replenish – it’s been a long year by this time. With all the other busyness of this month, I’m going to look forward to resting in my purpose, asking God to replenish me for the upcoming year, and reminding myself that some good progress was made in 2019!

* I reserve the right to move these words around throughout the year! heh.

I also feel like I need to say that I really don’t like the whole “what’s your purpose” terminology/semantics/wording. I’m a much bigger fan of knowing my why… why am I here? why am I the one who can do this? why am I the one whom God called for this particular thing? why do I need to be here to do this? God might wish I didn’t ask so many why questions, but then I figure He made me and knew I’d ask them – He made me still. 😉

The struggle is real…

Are you single and okay with it?

I’m not. Not always.

I spent a good deal of my life learning the art of self-sufficiency and independence, but, in some ways, it was to my detriment. So much of my time was spent convincing myself and others that I didn’t need anyone and I started to believe it myself.

The truth is that we do need people. I do. And if you’re being honest, you do too.

It doesn’t mean that I sit around wailing and wanting… although, sometimes I do feel like there is plenty of wailing and wanting happening! heh. It means that sometimes I wonder why my longings are still longings. I get stuck in a place somewhere between being hopeful for a godly marriage and feeling like a hopeless lost cause. I want to believe in it and I also want to be realistic. Yanno?

What I had to realize is that struggling with it isn’t a bad thing. It’s okay to question and wonder about things that we are asking God to do in our lives. We can trust Him and still wonder about the outcomes. Remember my last post where I talked about being frustrated, and that this last year has been one rolling frustration? Yep… my heart was all part of that frustration too.

In the last year, I’ve tried lots of ways to deal with the things that are hurting my heart… I’ve tried to run from church, I’ve tried to drink it away, I’ve tried to get lost in books and movies, and if I’m being really honest, I even thought some physical comfort would do the trick. Thankfully, I didn’t explore that last option more than a passing thought.

The truth of it all is that none of those did or could comfort the longings I felt. Sometimes, for months and/or years, I am able to just go along with normal life without thinking about my desire to be married and other times it’s like I’m being punched in the face. Over and over. A violent reminder of my worthlessness, my inability to close a healthy relationship, my lack of the necessary skill set to secure a man, my inability to attract a man, every flaw on display.

Recognizing how the enemy works was critical to overcoming the constant beating I was doing to my own heart. And there’s a good chance you’re doing it to your heart too. Maybe not today. But maybe you did yesterday or will tomorrow.

Friends, the enemy finds our weaknesses and he is masterful at using those spaces to dig in his feet and whisper untruths to us. He knows how to angle himself in such a way that we only hear his voice – he wants to stand between us and Him.

We are going to struggle. It happens. We have a choice how we struggle and with whom we struggle, though. I’ve made a choice not to struggle with the enemy… I want to struggle with Jesus. With knowing Him better, with allowing Him to know me better, with getting closer to His heart and the things He has for me… that’s my struggle these days.

994fb0e61a2381fdaf0b0c7a837045a7

As believers, we’ve fed ourselves some untruths like; push through the pain and/or the longing, if you loved God enough you’d be patient and not question His will for you, if you trust His will for your life then you could truly be content in this season. Bleh blebby bleh bleh. The truth is that we gain His power and grow stronger and closer to Christ in moments of our own weakness. When we are in the midst of a struggle and our dependence is all on Him, then we’re closing that gap the enemy uses to speak lies to our hearts. Let’s stop being people who are pretending to be okay when we’re really not okay. Let’s embrace the areas we struggle and struggle with the One who has the answers. Let’s stop shaming other believers for not being content enough, faithful enough, or patient enough. Let’s walk each other to the cross, keep one another in prayers, remember that we’re all just trying to live our best lives and make it into eternity with our Creator.

My name is Stephanie, I love Jesus with every bit of my soul, and I struggle. And He struggles with me. Because I am His and He is mine.

What in the world…

Who knew that when I posted my last post, on July 3rd, at 5 pm, that just a few short hours later, everything in my world would change. It’s funny reading it now.. like talking about how I struggle to focus on things because I’m often focusing on so many things. Well. That shut me up.

And made me focus.

Today I was reading something on another blog about how to continue writing when life is blowing up around you, and I was reminded that writing is something that is important, of course, but that it’s also okay to take breaks when needed. Writing is often an escape, but it’s also a place for me to sort out emotions. Until there are too many emotions to sort out in any particular moment. And having some grace with myself to step back and process is important.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about how I would come back to this space and at what level would I share what’s been happening..

Here we go…

On July 3rd, I was home alone, when some crazy, angry, delusional person opened fire into my apartment. Only by the grace of God I didn’t get up to open the door when I heard someone coming up the steps (like I normally would’ve done) and that the shooter didn’t understand the layout of my apartment and where his bullets were landing. Forty-five minutes later, the same shooter opened fire into another apartment in the next complex over. The alleged shooter was caught three days after the incident and is in custody awaiting trial. That’s all I can share, and that’s public knowledge. The rest is tied up in legal mumbo jumbo.

We are safe.

Trying to process through that with my kiddo and myself, while in the midst of a huge work project, and then into my busiest work season has been… challenging. And difficult. And life-altering, to say the least.

One of the things that made me angry at myself, though, was how I got angry with God. Not at first.. I was grateful for His protection, in the beginning. But then I was angry. I was angry that I have felt like the last year has ripped me open over and over again. I was angry that every time I thought we were swinging toward some lasting goodness, there would be another punch to the neck and something taken from me. I was angry that with every wave of grief over the last year I leaned into Him and dug deeper in my relationship with Him. And then this happened. It was the literal straw that broke the momma’s back. I was getting closer and closer to Him and this was my reward? This was what surrendering to Him looked like? NO thank you. I mean, I’ll love Him, but not like that.. it hurts too much.

But then… God.

I tried so hard to stay mad at Him. Have you ever tried to be mad at someone and you just couldn’t?

Maybe it was the softness in His spirit;
or the gentleness of His love;
or the patience He showed toward me;
or the tenderness of His relentless pursuit for my heart even when I was so done;
or the willingness He had to let me be angry and not be mad or hold it against me;
or the desire He had to love me even though I was not being lovable;
or the mercy He showed me when I screamed that His way was too hard;
or the grace He freely gave to cover me as I crawled back to Him.

This was between me and Him. There was no one to walk through this with me or to encourage me along the way… it was me and Him. On an island. Working through some messy stuff. Have you been there? On that lonely island?

80486ec8a931ba35f1868461336a981a (1)

Here are some truths I’ve learned, some for the first time and some for the second or third time…
He didn’t put me on that isolated island. I did that to myself. I refused to allow anyone to walk through this with me because I was too busy being mad. And angry. And bitter.
He didn’t do this to me. We live in a fallen world with broken people. The enemy is real and he knows how to cause division. It’s his whole purpose on earth. Trying to separate us from Him.
He didn’t push me away from Him. I went headstrong in the other direction.
He didn’t force me to stay near to Him if I didn’t want to, I have a choice in the matter.
He didn’t hide Himself from me when I was ready to go to Him.
He didn’t try to offer me an explanation, He just wanted me to trust Him.

We’ve all heard the phrase that bad things happen to good people. And godly people. Being a good, godly person doesn’t mean we’re immune to the suffering of the world. But it does mean that we have a Place of retreat when the suffering is too great for us to handle alone. It does mean that we have a Provider who will find a way to keep us moving forward. It does mean that He will knock down walls to remind us that we’re important to Him. And that He loves us deeply.

We are His beloved.
He is our Defender.
We have a purpose.
He will position us for our purpose.

Oh, friends, sometimes it will be hard to let His love take hold of us and carry us. He wants to be near to us and has a steadfast love for us. His faithful pursuit for our hearts is steady. Even when our thoughts are all jumbled, His promises for us will come to pass when we remain in a place of surrender and obedience. Temporal existence is just a blimp on the radar when we have eternity in mind. I want to be a woman focused on eternity and the Kingdom. Even when it hurts. Even when I’m angry. Even when I’m scared.

 

 

Day 8…

Share something you struggle with. 

I have lots of struggles… way too many, I think. One of the things that frustrates me about myself is that I can sometimes have difficulty focusing. Even this post has had four different “struggles” already because I can’t focus on which one I want to write about here. (and now we’re on day 3 of it just sitting here because I can’t seem to finish it.)

My focus can either be all-consuming on one thing or it’s completely scattered on several (read hundreds of) things. In either event, there isn’t the balance I’d like to have in order to be and stay productive and efficient and effective.

Sometimes the ideas I have will overwhelm me so much that it’s paralyzing and so, nothing happens even though there are so many good ideas about something. And sometimes I just have overall commitment issues… like this 30 day writing challenge. We’re on Day 8 and I’m totally over it and it’s taken me like 3 weeks just to do 8 days! haha.

Maybe we’ll see Day 9… maybe we won’t. 😉