You are loved…

Sometimes we can look at our current circumstances, see absolutely no way out of them – but we cling to Him knowing that He is all we’ve got left. When everything else is gone, taken away, or stolen – He remains.

Lamentations, an often overlooked or less discussed book in the bible, is where my heart was drawn Saturday while driving home from my mommas. It was mentioned in a book I was listening to and it prompted me to go read it once I was home. While The Message is not my usual translation, it’s the one my kiddo is using this week, so it’s the one I’m using too.

In Lamentations 3 – Jeremiah openly shares his suffering. Jeremiah was a faithful servant who God called to prophetic ministry over 40 years and five kings of Judah. God spoke over Jeremiah from a young age and told him that from the time he was in his momma’s womb, God had a plan for him. This isn’t a history lesson on Jeremiah – I’m not nearly equipped to teach about prophets. I do feel equipped to teach about being a person called by God for a specific purpose, and who also suffers.

Lamentations 3 is broken up into three sections: God Locked Me Up in Deep Darkness, It’s a Good Thing to Hope for Help from God, and God Speaks Both Good Things and Hard Things into Being.

I’m positive that each one of us can look at a season in our life, and maybe that season is right now, when we’ve felt like we were locked in deep darkness. Maybe it was a season we wrestled with God about this thing, or that thing, or all the freakin things. Friends, count yourself among those most anointed! We all find ourselves in the place of deep darkness and a full on wrestle with God.

How many times have we felt as if we were being walked right into the darkness? That our cried out prayers were locked up in some space never to be heard, and surely to go unanswered? How often have we felt knocked down, dragged out before everyone to be mocked, judged, or ridiculed? How many times have we just wanted to give up all together?

Jeremiah says in verses 19-24, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.a533ab3c174c2cedaade21264460da01

Sometimes we can look at our current circumstances, see absolutely no way out of them – but we cling to Him knowing that He is all we’ve got left. When everything else is gone, taken away, or stolen – He remains. He waits. He asks us to enter into quietness with Him; relationship. He doesn’t want to skirt us around the mountains we face; He wants us to plow directly through it, knowing He is walking with us always. He is tender for us. He loves us. His justice will prevail over us. When we call out to Him, He does hear us!

Sweet friends, we can’t always see and we rarely understand the works of God. We don’t see at the million foot view that He sees things. I wish we didn’t have to face some of the things we face. But we do. We live in a broken, sin-filled world. There is a plot to take us down! The enemy doesn’t so much need to disprove to us who God is, he simply needs us to believe that his way is better. More enjoyable. Easier to swallow and fathom. Just generally easier to plot through life.

A holy life won’t be easy. It will be the hardest thing we do, but it comes with the sweetest reward. And, as followers of Christ, what we have here is just a blip of what’s to come. His promises might feel far off and they may seem out of reach… oh, man… do I ever know it! WHERE IS MY PROMISE, GOD?? I wish I could tell you… “Hey, friend – here’s your promise. I found it just around that corner.” I can’t. And I won’t try. But I will encourage you to keep.going.

Continue wrestling about things you don’t understand.
Continue asking for clarity.
Continue asking for the next step.
Continue seeking Him above all things.
Continue to wonder.

Also – continue to pray expectantly. To hope expectantly. To remain in a posture of surrender. To have faith that surpasses all understanding. To remind yourself that God is good and you are loved.

He is good. You are loved.

I’ve got a voice, now what?

I write from all the messy places with no real focus on any one thing.

One of the hardest parts about writing for me has been finding my audience. A friend recently told me that I have found one, and I agree… and also don’t.

I write from all the messy places with no real focus on any one thing. One of my ideas was to ask you guys what you want to read. Then I wondered if I was supposed to offer suggestions of what you might want and my list looked a little like this one:

  • Single momma stuff
  • Christian single woman stuff
  • Christian homeschooling working momma stuff
  • Momma to an addict stuff
  • Church hurts stuff
  • Surgeries gone all wrong stuff
  • I feed everyone stuff
  • I house everyone too stuff
  • Even stray cows would be safe with me stuff
  • I can’t find a date (let alone a husband) to save my life stuff
  • Abortion/Rape/Abuse survivor stuff
  • Chasing unicorns stuff
  • I’m a lil too hood for my own good stuff
  • Sometimes I cuss stuff

The reality is that I enjoy writing about all of these things. And I think you all have come to expect some of these really hard topics from me. The reality also is that means my readership might not grow. It might stay right where it is and we have to decide if we’re okay with that – like how I just roped you in on that one?! 😉

In the meantime, I have to do some things – like create an email list, launch a new website with a great lead magnet, and probably start adding some affiliates. This might take some time, but I’m ready to jump in with both of these tootsies and I hope you all are too!

I’m excited to head into this new journey, I’m grateful for the encouragement from my hope*writers group, and I’m ever grateful for each of you!

Share the song already…

None of us fully know what others are facing day to day or what’s happening in another person’s heart. Encouragement is never wasted.

Sometimes a friend will reach into your inbox to say words that affirm who we are and the path we’re walking. She’ll share a song that reminds her of you.

She told me that hearing this song that talks about desiring deep, connecting relationships reminds her of me. It’s how she sees me. And it’s what she likes about me. She called me courageous…

… little did she know that I sobbed into my hands last night calling myself stupid. Little did she know that just last night I was doubting all the ways my heart has loved and cared for others; with its deep desires, its longing for something real to grab onto, and the need to skip over all the nonsense and jump right into the deep, dark end with another soul.

Stupid for loving hard, for being so vulnerable, and for allowing the opportunity to be broken happen over and over again. Punishing myself for not learning lessons, for continuing to seek the things a person hides beneath, and to tear down walls to create healthier people even if it means pieces of me are lost in the process. Stupid for desiring the deep, connecting relationships that come with an overload of risk.

I asked a friend once why God would allow my heart to be so fragile that it stays in a continued place of brokenness – and this is why. Because God gave me the desire to love others so profoundly and with the sincerity to see the underbelly and not run away or be afraid. Because of these experiences, God uses my readiness to share words to bring hope to others. He’s created me so that in my willingness to be open and transparent, others can find their own opportunities to be brave. He’s made it so that other people can see something He’s placed inside of me and find their own ways to be vulnerable and courageous.

God will use each one of us to bring glory to the Kingdom. Our obedience to tread into the space He calls us is up to us. We get to make the decision to walk the walk He has for us, or not. Sometimes the enemy will have us questioning everything and everyone – doubting who we are and to Whom we belong. The enemy would rather have us imprisoning ourselves for the perceived weaknesses we have rather than stepping into those soft spaces of who we are created to be with bravery and courage.

Last night, the enemy tried his trickery… and it worked – a little bit. In true form, though, my Daddy God wasn’t going to let the voice of the enemy destroy His spirit in me and He directed His daughter to speak His words over me, to refresh my soul, and fill my tank. Obedience is critical when it comes to Kingdom work.

When you see something in someone, speak it out.

When you notice the bravery on that momma in the store, speak it out.

When you see that daddy doing his best at the park with his daughter, speak it out.

When you see your coworker accomplish something she didn’t think she could do, speak it out.

When you see that person you’re not even sure you like very much take a step in humility, speak it out.

When the Lord prompts you to speak into someone else, do it.

None of us fully know what others are facing day to day or what’s happening in another person’s heart. Encouragement is never wasted. Remind someone about how their gifting is making an impact in the Kingdom because the enemy is always on the prowl to take us down! Speak some meaningful truths to someone this week. Tell them the things you like about them and the things that you see God doing through them.

The song: https://youtu.be/1Wk8ZRgXQnY

The struggle is real…

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. 

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.

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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.

Day 6…

Five ways to win my heart.

One of the things I’ve noticed since moving to TX is how people “do church” here. Church in the bible belt is much more cultural and/or obligatory and a lot less about a person having a growing, deepening, personal relationship with God.

In the last couple of months, I’ve talked to other people, from other areas, who also noticed the same thing. And, to make me feel like it’s truly legit, my pastor talked about it during his sermon yesterday. Finally, I feel like my theory is supported and has some footing.

All of that doesn’t have anything to do with today’s post, but I think that it’s important to point out how I’m not crazy from time to time. 😉

Five ways to win my heart.

Winning my heart is tricky business. I love really big and I can accept love pretty well, mostly. But, if we get into that whole romantic love thing… well, I’m pretty guarded and messy there. I’m healed. I’m whole. I’m careful.

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So, let’s talk about other ways to win my heart and not about “oh, baby, I want to marry you” kinda ways, mkay?

 

 

Coffee, as soon as my eyes pop open – that wins my heart. Well, until I get married… let’s be real, shall we? There just might be something else that pops my eyes open in the morning once I have my hunka man… buuuuut until then – coffee.

Man on man love. I love me a good bromance. When I see men encouraging one another, praying for one another, and supporting one another – all my “I wanna have his baby” sirens start to go off. Mind you, I’m not having anyone’s babies, but the sirens still work, amen? Yes.

Cannolis… let’s just keep things nice and simple. If you wanna win my heart, bring me a cannoli. I didn’t get this voluptuous frame by eating salads all day… 😉

Ridiculous kindness. Like really, we can never overdo it on the kindness front. We need to pour it out of our pores like it’s the most natural thing we’ve ever done. We should be, literally, tripping over one another to beat the other one to the task. Think of a world where people are fighting about who gets to do the next kind thing. That’s my kinda world.

Acceptance… I have fought long, hard, and dirty for the woman I am today. I will accept nothing other than someone who can take me at face value. I can be a crazy, silly nutball or I can be a deep thinking lover, and everything in between. You can challenge me to be a better version of myself, but you must accept who I am today – with all of my wacky-do doodles.

Tell me about things that would win your heart!

We all need people…

God does not have any of us walking this journey alone. If we’re alone, it’s because we’re not being obedient.

Find your tribe. 

82b7e60e9b1ad83d0b2776295d311fb8If you know me personally or have spent much time with me online through social media, you know that I’m a professional retreater. I’ve written about it and my desire to get over it time and again. I’ve gotten very used to pulling into myself when I’m mad, sad, frustrated, disappointed, etc… I have little desire to talk about whatever’s bothering me until I’ve had time to get really real with God about it and to get over it myself. Then I’m happy to talk about it; mostly.

I talk about the importance of community all the time, to all the people. And yet… I heed not my own advice. It means visibly displaying weakness, disclosing my mistakes for others to see and judge, preparing myself to defend my actions or inactions. No thanks.. let me lick my wounds, make confessions to God, share with someone in my inner circle if I need another voice to help me. I know this goes against everything I say, advise, and talk about.. but… well, this is my continual hope to come clean and to be a better person.

Today at church, the message, in part, was about how we need community. It was really about Lazarus and raising him from the dead… but one point that I kept being drawn to over and over is that when Lazarus was called out of the tomb by Jesus he was bound tightly in burial linens, even his face was covered. Jesus instructed Mary and Martha to unbind him and to let him loose. Lazarus wasn’t able to unbind himself – he needed Mary and Martha to help him be free. He needed his community to unwrap him.

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Friends, we can’t unwrap ourselves. We can’t get free all alone. We need to invite people into our spaces and places, giving them permission to help us unwrap ourselves. God will continually bring people to help us walk in freedom as long as we keep seeking Him. We have to trust and have faith that the way He answers our prayers and cries to Him is the best for us and for us to see His glory working out right before our eyes. Either we trust that He’s faithful or we don’t.

If you don’t feel like you have a community, I encourage you to find one.

Now.

Immediately.

God does not have any of us walking this journey alone. If we’re alone, it’s because we’re not being obedient.

Find your tribe.

 

 

Removing Fences

As I was driving home from the grocery store today, I passed through one of the more affluent areas on the way to my apartment – far on the other side of the tracks. =]

I do appreciate beautiful homes with landscaping perfected for magazine covers. Some of these communities had brilliant water features with small ponds and lakes. When I was younger, my mom and I would wander through model homes just to marvel at how lovely they were; the floor plans, the kitchens, the bathrooms, etc…

But today, I saw something a little different. I saw barriers and fences. I saw restrictions and cages. I saw separation and exclusiveness.

The communities I drove by today were all gated. Access code needed. In other words, I wasn’t welcome there. Of course, I didn’t try, but even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to – unless, of course, I was given an invite from a specific person inside the community.

There was suddenly a separation. A me and them. A low people and a high people. A division in classes. It’s always been there, I know… but today I just saw it differently. It was eye-opening. Heart-opening.

I was suddenly aware about how we do this. How Christians do this. How we create a me and a them. A low people and a high people. The houses and the people who live in them didn’t make me sad, I was sad about us as people. As Christ lovers and followers. How many fences and barriers have we put up to keep out the riff raff? How many people feel like they can only approach us with a personal invite? How many people feel incapable to come to us because they fear judgement, harshness, and condemnation?

We are called to foster love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, on and on. And on and on. I wanna be a woman who envelopes the lost, who helps others find freedom, and who is always inclusive. I wanna be a woman who is approachable, unrestricted, and without fences of separation.

That’s what we’re called to do and be. It isn’t always easy. We find comfort in our safe places and in our comfort zones. Gosh, I feel like I know this so much more now after being recently uprooted from my own safe, comfort zone. It’s important to be and stay in community with one another. Yes! We are critical to each other’s growth and we nurture one another. But it can’t stop there.

Can we examine our fences? Can we double check our invites and make sure they aren’t exclusive, but rather inclusive. Let’s gather with people on both sides of the fences. The mes and the thems. Let’s have communities with less separation and more invitation.