Thursday, December 29, 2011

Truth Thursday

This music video is a song that has touched my heart and reminds me DAILY that the Lord is for me and that He is in control of my life!

I love this beautiful song... My very talented friend Kevin Jones sings this amazing. I wish I had his version of it (I will beg him to record one). Still love this song though!!

Speaking of Kev... he leads my wonderful church every Sunday morning in worship. He is seriously one of the most talented singers I have ever heard. I get to sing harmony (haha it's a process) with him every once and a while and I absolutely love leading our church to the foot of the cross with him. He is crazy talented and his band Reverchon is insane! So great... here are two of my faves of theirs!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I want Jesus.

I am going through a season right now. A season of change (which I am not a fan of), a season of realization (which can be difficult for a prideful person like me) and a season of waiting (ouch). It has been very humbling so far to see how I handle these different situations and how I react to the different ah-ha moments the Lord reveals to me! Because, to be quite honest, it has been a pretty great struggle these last few weeks. But I came to realize that the struggle underneath every struggle is unbelief.

Unbelief? I have been a Christian for about 20 years... how do I have unbelief? I know that my identity is found in Christ alone. I know that I am a Beloved daughter of the most high King. I know that I have been ransomed, captured, captivated and pursued. I know that I am sealed in the blood of Jesus... but just because I know this.... does that mean I believe it?

When life is going peachy for me, and my kids at school are listening to me and not being defiant or screaming at me (haha that'd be nice)... it is easy to see Jesus. When that guy is calling me daily, texting me to tell me that I was "put on his heart" that morning and that he prayed for me, and being pursued in a godly is easy to see Jesus. But what about when that doesn't happen? What about when I have a child laying in the middle of the hallway crying and screaming at the top of his lungs? What about when I have a parent that is being hateful to me and calling me incompetent? What about when I find out the guy who was supposedly such an amazing man of God...was leading me on and other girls as well? Then what? For me... I go into shut down mode. I realize that my expectations are not being met, and that they probably were unrealistic or that I messed them up somehow; and I close myself off. I become impatient at school. I become bitter to that parent and their child. I think that all the good guys are gone, because the men are few and far between, and either think I should lower my standards or give up altogether. Basically I shut down my lifeline to Jesus... my heart. However, instead of shutting down our hearts, we should rather cultivate and tend to those places that are the most tender. It is perfectly possible to be content in the Lord and still desire something you do not have.

Singleness can be a difficult label. But something we must remember is that the word single is not defining or determinative. It is an adjective. It's describing something about me at this moment in time... it's simply a description. There are times when it is more difficult than others. When my car breaks down, when I am afraid, when something isn't working at my house, when I am lonely... I desire that assurance from a man. I am fully capable of doing it-- but my heart leans towards someone stronger, braver and better at those things than I am. I yearn for headship over my life. I do! Many have a problem with the word submit. "Wives submit to your husbands..." That isn't hard for me. I desire to be submissive. I long to have that leadership over me and someone to guide and direct me. I desire to be known fully and completely by a man. I want to have someone to love, live life with, encourage, bless and serve alongside of.

And if we don't have it, we begin to believe lies..."my life will begin when I get married", "my ministry will begin when I get married", "I'm not married because there is something wrong with me" (we fear we are not enough or too much), "I'd be married if I was in a better place spiritually", "I'd be married if I trusted God more", "I have made God angry with me, so He is holding out". These are completely false. They are lies. That's why it is so important for us to be anchored in the cross and tackle those lies when they come to our minds.

In Piper's book, "A Sweet and Bitter Providence", he says this..."If we can keep our eyes on the cross of Christ, where God infallibly certified His love for us...then the pain He ordains for us will not undermine our sense of being loved. Instead, we will put our hands on our mouths and bow before His all-loving, all-ruling providence. We will trust Him to only do us good - whether it feels good or not at the moment. And we will wait for the day when all will be repaid and made plain." Meaning... we cannot look at our circumstances as a means of measurement. God has so many beautiful attributes... He is wise (He knows what is best for his children), He is generous (He gives what is best for his children), He is loving (He does what is best for his children), and He is good (He is what is best for his children). All of these things should sustain us. They should excited us. Encourage us. Fill us. Bless us.

Because yes, I desire to be married and have kids. But above being a wife, above having kids, above having sex, above feeling encouraged by a man, above losing my label of singleness, above having a husband to live life with... I.WANT.JESUS. He is NOT a consolation prize. He is the treasure. He is the best. He is the greatest. There is nothing better. There is nothing compared to Him. He will not leave you. He will not give you fading satisfaction. He will pursue always, cherish continually and love eternally. He is everything.

"The most important thing about you is what you think about when you think about God!" -A.W. Towzer

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Learning how to Nurture Contentment

Today was a hard day. I don't like to "air out my dirty laundry" or my "girly moments" but tonight was hard. I was believing lies and those lies were overlapping the truth I have in my life. Thankfully the Lord has blessed me with amazing women in my life that speak truth over me, join me in this warfare and get on their knees and intercede on my behalf.

My beautiful friends sent me scripture to meditate on and pray over my life and I loved it! Some of them were already underlined in my bible and was a good reminder of truth I had once heard, while others were new and applied wonderfully to the current posture of my heart. My precious friend Ashley recommended going to and listening to their Singles Conference (click on the village church link and it will take you there). I had already heard the first session about "Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus" and loved it. So I went and listened to the second session that was called "Nurturing Contentment"... and wow. The Lord is so perfect to give us exactly what we need, exactly how we need it at exactly the time we need it. I was bawling through the entire session--and it was 55 minutes long.

It was hard to listen to, but the truth was radiating through the computer. One of the most powerful things that Beau said was "Because I didn't cultivate and nurture contentment in my singleness then I took discontentment into my family. My role as a husband, father, preacher... all of those were and are still effected by this." That got my attention. I realized that I am not discontent because I am single or because my job drives me crazy this year. I struggle with these issues because I struggle to trust in God. My posture of heart is displaced. Because we serve a sovereign Lord. He IS what is best for me and always DOES what is best for me.

Beau broke it down a little further and defined contentment two different ways:
-The first definition was by Sinclair Ferguson. He said, "Contentment is the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the LORD at His disposal."
-The second definition was by Jeremiah Burroughs. His definition of contentment was "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and Fatherly disposal in every condition."

If we take a look in Genesis 3, the Fall, we see where discontentment is born. Adam and Eve believed the lies the serpent fed to them and sin was established. Sin says that other things are infinitely honorable, desirable and more worthy/satisfying than God. But Jesus has come to save us from our sin. He has come to heal our crippled souls. When we are discontent we show a lack of gratitude and an abundance of arrogance. We believe that ultimately we could run our own lives better and have a better view of what we need and deserve. How ridiculous are we? What makes us think that we are entitled to any of this? When we are so discontent we focus on what we don't have. What the Lord blesses us with often highlights that we haven't gotten what we truly want.

I was frustrated that I let my heart get to this point. So how do we get out of it? We need to first and foremost have a repentant spirit. Repent from those murmurs and grumblings that shift your focus from blessings to discontentment. And then we need to pray and ask the Spirit to teach us how to be content. In Philippians 4:12 Paul is writing to the church and says, "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I HAVE LEARNED the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." He learned, which means he had to be taught. We should constantly be asking the Spirit to bring sin to the surface and cut that sin out of our lives and replace it with goodness.

I have had the opportunity to have many people write me and tell me about how they are hearing truth from these blog posts. My prayer is that the Lord uses this cry and tough stepping stone in my life to encourage and spur you on as well. I pray that you become content in the Lord and His promises for your life and that you seek Him through every situation. He loves you and has GOODNESS for your life... even if it's hard to see it at the moment.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why do I worry? Why am I anxious?

Heavenly Father
You always amaze me
Let your kingdom come
In my world and in my life
You give me the food I need
To live through the day
And forgive me as I forgive
The people that wronged me
Lead me far from temptation
Deliver me from the evil one

I look out the window
The birds are composing
Not a note is out of tune
Or out of place
I look at the meadow
And stare at the flowers
Better dressed than any girl
On her wedding day

So why do I worry?
Why am I anxious?
God knows what I need
You know what I need

Chorus (3x):
Your love is
Your love is
Your love is strong

This is so the cry of my heart right now. I am a worrier. I am anxious. I KNOW that God knows what I need... but I don't think that I fully believe He can fulfill those needs. But I need to look to the Gospel and realize the promises He gives me each day:

Psalm 147: 1-11
"Praise the LORD.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.

He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love."

He loves us... and His love is STRONG. He is not a weak God. He is powerful and delicate. He is big and intricate. He is to be feared, but also completely sovereign. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere. He is our Beloved. Our Pursuer. Our Daddy. Our Comforter. Our Lover. Our Captivator. Our Creator. Our Encourager. Our Joy. Our Protector. Our Worth. Our Security. Our Refiner. Our Life.

He is good.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

But most of all, I miss him.

Tears. It hit me today... "What a precious little boy!" "That's my Daniel", I reply, looking at my computer screen. It's five simple words from a random lady that brings me to tears. I am sitting in a training... dazing and wishing I was in my classroom... when my mind turns from Math TEKS to Africa. Tears. Not simple watering. Burning liquid inside my eyes. Straining in my throat. I have to get up and go to the restroom to try and regain my composure. how can I yearn for him so much? I was only with him for a few days and yet he is burned into my heart.

I miss it. I miss the uncomfortableness. I miss the difficult sights. I miss the beautiful language. I miss the excitement. I miss the humbling ways the Lord allowed me to feel, when people I did not even know were so ecstatic to see me. I even miss the smells. But most of all, I miss him.

He is eight. At least that's what he believes. His health is poor and his English is worse. But I understood him. When you hear love is a universal language it is so true. The first night I ever laid eyes on him I knew it. There was something different. I had already spent a week in Uganda and hugged, played with and prayed over hundreds of kids. But when he looked at me that first night, my heart grew 10 sizes.

We bonded immediately. I tried not to scare him, or to play favorites, but I couldn't take my eyes off of him. I felt a tug when he looked at me. The first time he smiled, I remember like it was yesterday, my eyes filled with tears. I instantly knew that THIS child was different than the rest. That THIS child would not only get my attention or prayers or love... but he would get my heart.

We would hug. Oh those hugs. I could hold him in my arms forever. I remember before we left I was bawling, holding onto that embrace as long as I could, kissing his sweet, dirty cheeks and whispering... "Stephanie loves you. Do you know that? Stephanie loves you! I love you so much. Do you understand me?" He would smile, unaware of the situation that would soon take place, and simply say "yes". Then I would repeat it. I think I was afraid he didn't truly understand or know the depth of my love for him. I think part of me was afraid he would forget. He would question. He would think I left him and wouldn't realize its because I HAD to not because I WANTED to.
I still wonder if I will ever see him again. Is it possible? Has the Lord ordained it? Or is he just a little boy who stole my heart? Is he just a child who openly trusted and loved a mother figure when his had disappointed him? I get angry sometimes. I wanted to love him forever. It is hard to be given someone to love and cherish and develop a relationship with and then have that child stripped away. It almost seems unfair. But then I have to remember two things: the first is that God loves ALL His children and has the best for them. So if the best thing for my precious Daniel is to live in Africa his entire life and have a family of 85 "brothers and sisters" and never get adopted or taken out of Nakuru then I have to be okay with it. And two, if the Lord has another road for me to go down that never lets me cross paths with this beautiful child again, I have to trust it is the best for my heart and my life. I have to choose to look at the good in it and not the torment I feel. Because the good news is, that torment is of THIS world... so when I am in a life that torment and sadness and oceans aren't barriers-- I believe I will one day hold my baby Daniel again!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thinking Happy Thursday Thoughts

- Handwritten Letters
-Christmas lights at night
-When you glance over at someone and he is already looking at you!
-Waking up and remembering your dream...
-...being able to go back to sleep and continue your dream!
-Texts to hear that someone is thinking of you.
-When someone plays with your hair!!
-When a person's laugh is funnier than their joke.
- The way it sounds when someone special says your name.
-When someone remembers something you have said.
-The look on the groom's face when he sees the bride for the first time.
-Making eye contact with a person who knows exactly what you're thinking without saying a word.
-Being able to fall asleep right away.
-Going to bed knowing you can sleep as long as you want.
-When he smiles at you.
-Words of affirmation that remind you how precious you are to the Lord and His will!

Happy Thursday! :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Insecurity... You are not my friend.

We as women know this too well. It can be brought on by many different things. Your man admiring another woman. You not having a man. You listening to the world when they tell you that you are not on the "timeline" like you should be. Or even listening to the soft, faint whisper of your own voice saying "What is wrong with me?"

We all have insecurities. Some of them are similar and some of them are different. The hurt us. They limit us. They distract us. They tear us apart and leave us wounded. The cheat us from having an abundant and intimate relationship with our Beloved. They are suffocating at times and jipping us from our abilities and gifts that we have had bestowed on us.

Many insecurities come from how we feel by men. I don't want to look like I am bashing men because I am not. I love men... my FAVORITE person in the world is a God-fearing, selfless, kind, compassionate, humble man. I have seen how you can be a "manly-man" but still passionately pursue the Father through the example of my Daddy. He is friends with everyone... and their mother, grandmother and their dog. He loves people and shares that love with them. He invites people in, makes people feel welcomed and special and knows how to brightened your day if it isn't going so well. The other day, in fact, I was having a terrible day and my Daddy just happened to call. After complaining about my day and then ending the conversation with him, I got another call from him almost immediately. He told me to get ready and he would be at my house in 20 minutes to take me out! It didn't matter that the Rangers were playing. It didn't matter that he had been gone all day at work and was exhausted. He loved me so purely that he hurt when I was hurt and he wanted to do anything in his mere earthly power to bring a smile to my face and make me feel loved. So all that to say, I am not bashing men. haha

We all long to be affirmed. I know I do-- that is my love language so I thrive under steady affirmation. I mean, what woman wouldn't want to hear "You are timeless. You are captivating. You take my breath away. You are so beautiful. Desirable. Unbelievable. Exquisite."? But what if no one told us that? Would I be okay? Would you? Or what if the words are said, but they are empty and meaningless? How would we feel if they were said because they were suppose to be said? Does that make us feel hopeless? If he doesn't think we are really beautiful or captivating are we dubbed worthless? What if he is not a man who gives compliments? He just isn't that considerate or just doesn't think about it? What if he has pictures on his computer, in his room, on a calendar or gorgeous women? And what if we are in no shape or form anywhere close to looking like that? Can we still feel sufficient in our media-driven society that pushes appearance and looking young? What if you are single (shout out) and there is no man that you have found that is someone you want to take home to Daddy? Does this make me... err I mean you... a loser? Hopeless? Incomplete? Can we only find womanhood in the presence of a man?

Men are not our problem. It is what we are trying to constantly get from them and manipulate them to do that makes this all messy. We cannot find our worth and womanhood from our men. Guys have become our mirrors that we look at to see ourselves as valuable. Pretty. Desirable. Hopeful. Worthy of notice, time and attention. We watch the way they respond to us. We try to read and dissect every expression and mood to define whether it is us they are into or if we have competition. But I tend to become so incredibly frustrated in this process. And I know that it is because I feel shot down, and my pride is wounded.

Maybe the real person I am frustrated with is myself. Maybe I am mad that I feel I need any of this or that any of this is needed to make me feel better. I don't need anything else in this world besides what I already have. As if this life battle we face daily isn't difficult enough, we sabotage ourselves. We condemn ourselves. We think, like I said earlier, "Why am I not handling this better?", or "Why am I letting this effect me the way it is?" or "I know better than this. I can't believe I've fallen for this again!"

But the enemy is winning when we second guess. He desires us, and has more to gain, when we are set-back. Because I-- whoops I mean we-- are way more likely to want to quit when we feel hopeless and lost. When we feel weak, stupid and like such an idiot. It makes me so angry that I can be so easily shaken at this point in life. Like I should be stronger now. Because usually when I feel secure in the Lord, like Jesus and me are besties, a huge earthquake wrecks my sync. So this is a fight that will continue-- and hopefully one day soon I will find a way to overcome it. Until then... I will put my hope in Jesus and continue to state that I am no friend of insecurity and the chaos it brings to my life! But the exciting thing is that I know the outcome and it is that I am on the winning team. And THAT gives me hope.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Painful Singleness

Singleness was created by God to be a blessing. An initial plan to give us the intimacy with Him that He created us for. But we, as sinful man, destroyed this intimacy and pulled away from complete intimacy with God and loneliness came about.

As a 25, almost 26, year old woman I have this conversation almost everyday. It is usually prompted by an unanswerable question followed by a surface compliment then ended with a reoccurring question, "Stephanie... why are you single? You are just so cute.... why don't you have a boyfriend?" My vocal answer and head answer usually sound terribly different. My vocal answer is, (giggling while talking) "Well I don't know... maybe he is just around the corner!" But my head answer sounds something like this..."I don't freaking know. You think I am doing this on purpose? You think I LIKE to be one of the only one of my friends that isn't having babies, or married, or seriously dating someone? You think this is my choice? Cause it isn't. So stop asking me questions like this is MY fault!" haha Thankfully the Lord blessed me with a filter and everything I think doesn't escape from my mouth! I know that people do this because they care about me and my happiness. But what I have found out is that talking about singleness usually feeds Satan's plan to get my eyes off of the 'blessings of singleness' and focus on the 'hardships of singleness'... aka jealousy, bitterness, loneliness and self-pity.

I think people think this is like an entitlement and if you don't have it then there is something horribly wrong with you. Like, if you are married then you are godly and have your life together, but if you are single it is a punishment for sin in your life. But these lies are what get our view of singleness so distorted. Singleness and the pain of it's struggles should not drive us to long for marriage, but to long for a reunion with our Creator.

Singleness comes with many different attributes. One often found is loneliness. This is not a unique quality to singleness though. You can feel this in many different stages of life. I have friends that are married and have husbands that are emotionally distant, absent or abusive... that is lonely. I have a friend who just lost her best friend and husband of 30 years to cancer in February... going to bed, to the grocery store, to normal everyday things by yourself now is probably lonely for her. Loneliness is not just felt in singleness. It isn't even something that will kill you... but I can honestly tell you that when I am experiencing it, it seems quite unbearable at times.

I am a hopeless romantic and love, LOVE! So when I think of a possibility of never being truly known by another person it hurts. Never having a best friend that is always with you. Never having someone to constantly encourage, spur on, reveal secrets, dreams, fears, and longings to... that hurts. However, I am reminded that this is a gift. I read a blog and a girl wrote and shed some light on this. She said, "The pain of loneliness is such a gift. Like all pain, it lets us know that something somewhere isn’t quite right. My loneliness reminds me that this world is unsatisfying and insufficient. It’s a signpost that prompts me to seek help outside of myself. Each jab of loneliness tests my heart: do I believe in the ‘enoughness’ of God? Will I believe in what He says even when life seems to testify otherwise? He says I have everything I need. He says He will satisfy the longing heart. And each twinge of pain provides a reminder to cast my gaze heavenward and to refuse to be comforted by anything but Him."

When I am sitting at home alone for the 4th time in one week because my roommate is out with her boyfriend, and I feel like no one is thinking about me, cares about me or even knows I am alive...I have to rest in the hope that only comes from the truth of the gospel and the goodness of my Beloved. Because if I am just sitting around having a woe is me attitude I am wasting this gift of time without distraction. Whether that lasts for a year or two or until I am called home to glory, it is still a short time to fully fix my eyes on the Lord. Loneliness wasn't designed to teach us to long and pray for a spouse. It was designed to teach us to long for our Creator. Loneliness doesn't happen because Jesus is not enough, it happens because we don't have enough of Jesus.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The FAITH of a Child

Anyone who knows me well, knows that this school year has been quite different than the others. I leave daily with a pounding headache. I yearn to love, impact, mold and care for my precious babies.... but it is hard. This is the toughest group I have ever had. I KNOW that I will grow to love them as my own. I KNOW that it will become easier as they become more comfortable and mature. I KNOW that once they get my schedule down and I begin to realize their learning styles that we will mesh better. But now? No bueno amigos. I want to cry often. And that is when I don't want to scream. It isn't all of them... and the ones it is, it's not even really their fault. They were taught these traits and habits. And now it is my job to break the habits and begin the reconstructing process.

I was talking to one of my best friends last weekend about my class and I was disheartened. She said, "I knew things weren't going as normal by your facebook status." I don't want to be a negative person or a Debbie Downer. I pray daily that the Lord lets me love them hard and like Him. That He allows me to see them through His eyes and forgive them like He forgave and forgives still. THEN... I got this. A precious blonde haired, blue-eyed angel in my class brought me this card. It had cut out hearts all over it and it had a poem that was called, "Why God Made Teachers". He then told me that he had been praying he would get me as a teacher, loved me sooo much and thought I was the best teacher he had ever, ever had (I know he has only had one other teacher in his life but it was still sweet words).

These words brought tears to my eyes. These words reminded me what my purpose on earth and as a teacher was. To be a friend and love someone who may not receive it anywhere else. To help them understand creation and live in a way that would radiate Christ in every conversation and action. To pour into their lives, show them right and wrong and help them grow in stature and wisdom with God and man. And lastly, to show them how to make a difference in the world by first hand showing them how I can make a difference. To encourage. To serve. To love.

Thank you LORD for your grace and mercy and showing me that even when life is tough.... a) YOU never leave my side and b) You use others... even six year olds.... to bring me back to where I need to be. Which is at your feet daily and humbly!

Why God Made Teachers
By Kevin William Huff

When God created teachers,
He gave us special friends
To help us understand His world
And truly comprehend
The beauty and the wonder
Of everything we see,
And become a better person
With each discovery.

When God created teachers,
He gave us special guides
To show us ways in which to grow
So we can all decide
How to live and how to do
What's right instead of wrong,
To lead us so that we can lead
And learn how to be strong.

Why God created teachers,
In His wisdom and His grace,
Was to help us learn to make our world
A better, wiser place.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Truth Speaking Thursday

This doesn't have to be a hateful or bad thing... it can be a blessing. A gift from the Lord. Hope for good and the future!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Whose Self-Righteous? Not me... Why are you looking at me?

Last week at church Rod spoke over self-righteousness. Ouch. The week before, he spoke on forgiveness. Double ouch. The Lord gives us these tough lessons to sift us, break sin away from our lives, but ultimately to refine and bring us closer to Him. I have so much sin in my life... we all do... but I realized mine is more dangerous but it is covered up by "good qualities". My holiness can actually be what drives someone away from the Father. Of course, then it wouldn't be holiness. Let me start from the beginning...

We read the well known parable of "The Prodigal Son". In Luke 15:11-32 the story is presented by Jesus. This parable illustrates God's redemptive grace and mercy. It is a beautiful story of His unconditional love and forgiveness. It shows that God pursues and seeks sinners. If you don't know it here is a brief overview.

A man had two sons. Jesus tells about the youngest son coming to his father to ask for his inheritance ahead of time. The youngest son would only receive one-third of the father’s inheritance but he still wanted his share; this was showing the highest disrespect possible. He takes the inheritance and runs off to spend it "living it up" (the ESV refers to it as reckless living). After he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in the country. He was reduced to hiring himself to work in a pig pen. For a Jew, to tend to pigs was the height of humiliation since they were deemed unclean according to the Old Testament dietary laws. Even the pigs ate better than he did and he realized that his father's servants lived better than the conditions he was in. The young son was humbled beyond belief, and reached the end of his rope, and decided to return to his father's household and beg to be hired as a servant! In verse 20 it says "...and while he was still a long way off the father saw him, felt compassion for him, got up and RAN to his son and kissed him!" His father did not only except him, he ran to hug him and forgive him. Not only that but he called to his servants to bring the finest robe, a ring, sandals, kill the fattened calf and prepare a feast for his son that had returned to him!

Here comes the self-righteous part. The older brother heard the feast going on and asked a servant what the occasion was. The servant told him that his brother had returned and the feast was in honor of his safe arrival back. The brother was livid. He had stayed. He had obeyed. He had worked hard and continuous. The young brother was selfish. The young brother squandered their father's money and was disrespectful. The father comes out to invite the elder brother in and the brother unleashes his anger on the father. His father answers with tender violence (a way to scold yet love). He answers his oldest son, "Son, you were always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was fitting to celebrate and be glad at your brother's arrival. For your brother was dead and now is alive; he was lost and now he is found!"

This parable is a great illustration of our relationships with Jesus (the father). We are the sons. Some of us go out and have lived a crazy life. Some of us have lived according to the commandments and the laws. Whether we relate more to the younger son or the older son, this reminds us that the Lord pours out and lavishes this wayward son (and his brother) with grace and forgiveness. A misconception that everyone has is that we think that sin= breaking rules. However, it goes far beyond that. Good behavior may be the most damaging and damning thing a person can do. You see, the younger son can see that he isn't righteous and worthy before God. But the older brother is blinded by his "good deeds" so, in turn, he can't see the unrighteousness he posses and how his "good behavior" is as disgusting to God as his younger brother's "bad behavior".

We get in our heads, "I read my bible, I serve in church, I give monthly, I love, I do what I am suppose to... and THIS is what God has done for me." We need to get something through our heads real fast. We are always getting better than we deserve! Just because you do what you're suppose to doesn't mean you are holier than another person. Both of the sons cared more about themselves than God. One went into the far country and one's heart went into the far country. Even though outwardly the older brother seemed to have it together he didn't. The older brother didn't just need an attitude adjustment, he needed to be saved!

But there is good news. The Lord doesn't just run to the prodigals, he runs to the self-righteous as well. I realized that I am the big brother. It made me sick to think that I might have been the reason for some people being turned away from the Lord. However, the Lord loves me so much that He revealed this to me so that I could turn from my self-righteousness and run into my father's arms. My righteousness doesn't matter on my own because I posses no righteousness without Jesus.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Month Down.

Exactly one month ago I arrived back in the States after being in Africa for 2 weeks. I feel so many different emotions going on right now. There is sadness because of the horrible conditions I left these babies in. There is emptiness due to the longing I have to hold these children again. There is confusion that I have when I think "why am I so blessed to live in good conditions and they are not?" I was going through my Africa journal and this is what I wrote on my flight home...

July 11th

"We are on our 9th and final plane ride home. We are about an hour away from Dallas and I am anxious to get home. I have mixed emotions... as one would when their heart is on two different continents. Lord, this has been two of the most difficult weeks of my life (and I am not exaggerating saying that). Father, I didn't doubt but you showed up in so many huge and evident ways to not only me and my team, but to the orphans, the pastors, the workers and the people of Uganda and Kenya as well. Some of those times we saw/felt you were: -- T-Shirts at 2nd prison, -Police stop late at night, -Eldoret hotel situation, -Gas station late at night, -Catching planes to Kenya and to Ethiopia, -Visas (enough money to get them after they went up overnight) to get into Kenya. God I know there were so many other times I didn't mention but those were ones that stood out to instantaneous answers to our prayers. Thank you for loving me so much that you chose not to only use me as a tool on his trip, but that you would also give me an opportunity to draw closer to You and have a clearer vision of You and Your Kingdom. By simply revealing Yourself clearly to me, I have this new and heightened sense of love and desire for You. Let me not lose that vision and focus. Allow me to use this experience to not exalt myself, but to exalt You! God let these stories and pictures point to Your love and grace! As I go back let me remember how to rely on You even though situations aren't always going to be as uncomfortable as what I have experienced here. Don't let my focus turn to guys or other insignificant things. Let my heart be surrounded with things not of this world. Let me RADIATE you when I return. My heart will yearn and hurt for these babies I left in Africa, however, let me not be burdened by their circumstances, but by their salvation. It doesn't matter where they live now if they don't know You and won't live eternally with You. It doesn't only need to be a concern on how they're being fed physically but spiritually as well. Burden me to be on my face that ALL of these babies' needs (physical, emotional and spiritual) are being met. God let me never, ever forget everything You have taught/showed me and Your incredible Universal Love!"

2 weeks of being in Africa. 15 days of loving on people who don't know what it looks like. 342 hours spent thinking about someone other than myself. 20,520 minutes of being outside my comfort zone. And 1,231,200 seconds of being led and completely relying on the Lord.

Gosh that puts my entire life in perspective. Just think if that happened more often what kind of impact we could have on these people groups and the world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What Can I Do?

I tossed and turned all night. Images and circumstances I experienced in Africa were overtaking my dreams. I was so distraught I literally began to sob in my sleep. So overwhelmingly that I woke myself up. My heart and mind were going thousands of miles away without me telling them to. They were fleeing to the babies I held a few weeks ago. The ones I loved. The ones who would hang on me, cry out to me and cling to me as I tearfully told them I had to leave. My heart was searching them out. I got on to check my email and my attention was drawn to this article about the famine in Africa. Anything Africa interests me, so I clicked on it and when I did I saw this...

Clicking through the pictures I began to sob again. I am not saying this lightly. My heart was hurting so badly that I was sick to my stomach. These beautiful people are not just people to me. These are my babies. These are the ones the Lord has placed in my heart. These are the children that taught me how to worship whole heartily. These are the blessed ones who showed me what true reliance on the Father looks like.

They are hurting-- dying--and I am sitting back in my nicely air conditioned apartment in the United States and doing nothing. I use to try and justify myself.... well I sponsor a child in Africa. And? What else? I don't think in James 1:27 it says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.... (and after you go on a mission trip and sponsor a child or two you are excused from this!)"

I read today that 9 MILLION people die a year from hunger or hunger related causes. All this is going on as I throw half of my breakfast away because I don't feel like finishing it. Or as I go out to eat for the 6th time in one week. As I complain about how I am gaining weight and wish I could lose a few pounds.


What can I do? How can I make an impact? I feel so helpless. The most severe drought and famine in 60 years is occurring in Somalia and Kenya and threatening the lives of 11 million people--a majority of those are children. I just got back from Kenya... that means my babies are endangered. So what can I do? I can help through organizations with the means to make something happen. I sponsor kids through an organization called World Vision. They are in Africa and there is a way you can donate to help out these hunger pains.

So you only get to eat out twice a week. So you can't go to a movie every weekend for a while. Do you realize if you simply with held going to the movies every Friday for two months (Sept. and Oct.) that would be $85.50. If you get candy and a drink every time that would be about $144.00. One hundred and fourty-four dollars... that simple. When you look and see that we are the "wealthiest country" it should be hard to say no. Do you know that if you own a car you are wealthier that 93% of the world?

We should feel guilty not helping. It doesn't take a lot to make such a huge impact. Donate and or sponsor a child. You could save a life. A precious child of our most high God. A brother or sister.

and help end this horrible famine that is stealing the lives of this precious people group!

::Lord I pray you burden our hearts to love your children. I pray you burden our hearts to get on our faces for these people. God you are bigger than any drought or famine. You can speak it to be and rain can come flooding down from the heavens. Father give us faith and a desire to intercede for this people group and pray on their behalves. Lord I ask for you to allow food and nutrition to get to them. I ask for help. I pray that your people are fed and healed not only physically but spiritually as well.::

Monday, August 1, 2011

He has plans to HELP you... to give you HOPE and a FUTURE!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to HELP you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a FUTURE!" -Jeremiah 29:11

If you grew up in the church, then chances are you know this verse. It was embedded in our "church lingo" early on and repeated to us over and over throughout the years. "Stephanie, don't forget..."The Lord has plans to HELP you and not to harm you... He has plans to give you HOPE and a FUTURE!" But what about when bad things happen? What about when situations occur that hurt? What about when my heart gets broken--or even chipped-- how is that beneficial to my future?

These are all questions I have asked... some I have been wrestling with this week. I sit alone, with my overwhelming thoughts, trying to figure everything out. And you know what I learned through the sweet whispers of my Beloved? I learned that sometimes situations happen as a testing of our faith.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
James is all about trials and situations where our faith is tested. This isn't the Lord being spiteful. This isn't the Lord being rude and having fun with His 'puppets'. This is the Lord loving us so much, wanting the absolute best for us, and trusting our relationship confidently that He allows Satan to put this into our lives. Nothing passes by the Lord's hands unknowingly. He doesn't sit helplessly and wish He could do something. He is all powerful and all knowing. The outcome is in His possession before the situation even presents itself.

The Lord allows these situations to ultimately bring us closer to Him. To refine us. To make a teachable moment out of it. Or to simple stretch and strengthen us for the future. Our God is GOOD! Our God is BIG. Our God is POWERFUL. Our God is the preeminent LOVER, PROTECTOR, and SUSTAINER. Our God is BEAUTIFUL. Our God is MATCHLESS. Our God NEVER FAILS!

So when you read Jeremiah 29:11 for the thousandth time remember that His plans are good. His plans are beneficial to your life. He chose you and that means you are His. He hasn't brought you this far to forget about or give up on you! He's got your life planned out so perfectly that you cannot even imagine everything He has in store for you! Trust Him... because when you do you will see the HOPE and FUTURE He is orchestrating!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Walk Away.

The Lord has taught me some big life lessons lately. He has taught me that vulnerability, no matter how uncomfortable and scary it is, is necessary and can be quite beneficial. He has allowed me to see that the walls I have up are actually a lot higher and thicker than I thought. And I think the hardest thing he has taught me (or allowed me to see through HIS eyes) is that I am His daughter. His baby girl. His pride and joy. His offspring and His love. And that He thinks... scratch that... knows that I am worth so much and deserve goodness. He has shown me the importance of standing up for myself and how boldness in those situations can be so worthwhile.

This is not easy for me. Some of you may be shaking your heads at that. Some of you may be thinking, "But Steph, you are confident. You know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and you stand up for that. You are good with your words and say what you think!" Wrong. I am terrified of rejection. I am a people pleaser to the core and completely dislike feeling that way. I would rather be hurt or inconvenienced than make someone else feel that way-- even if they need to know! I have been known to be a door mat and I have years of footprints covering me. However, that has Satan written all over it. That's not of Jesus. He doesn't send embarrassment and shame.... He sends mercy and love.

So what do you do when you are in this situation? I happen to be in one right now. I am a words of affirmation girl and its crazy how the sweetest things said to me can totally cloud my vision. The Lord promises us that He has a will for our life. One abounding with help and hope and a future. He has so much rich scripture displaying those promises...

"I have come into the world as light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." John 12:46

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart ! I have overcome the world ! " John 16:33

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matt. 11:28

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak " Isaiah 40:29

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine" Isaiah 43:1

"I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." John 6:47

"Jesus said: 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies'....." John 11:25

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" Heb.11:1

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be moved, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed." Isaiah 54:10

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them, I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy maybe complete" John 15:11

"...but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." John 16:22

"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. " Isaiah 46:4

"I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me." Proverbs 8:17

"...the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! " Isaiah 30:18

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:7

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." Jeremiah 29:12

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:1,2

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3: 5,6

".....He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths...." Isaiah 2:3

" But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour. " Titus 3:4-6

I know that was a lot of scripture reading but it is just so incredible how many times and ways the Lord has revealed His promises to us. If you are like me then you say, "yeah but what about this (fill in your current problem) hateful person at work, family member I don't get along with, guy situation? God... like I know that you tell me to trust you with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, but Jesus I thought this one was different. He acted like he cared. He seemed like he was really interested and wanted to date me." We have to trust God in ALL situations... not just the ones that slip through our hands that have a strong hold on all of our problems. We have to choose to lay everything down at the feet of Christ and believe that He is so good and has such a purpose and plan for our life that it is crazy better than anything we could ever imagine.

And then walk away from it. I feel like I lay it down and then just stay by it... trying to grab little pieces that splatter out of the pile or parts that are hanging off the side. That is not true submission. That is not true reliance on the Lord. So walk away. Give everything to the Lord, TRUST that He is in control and walk away. You never know what the Lord has in store for you-- maybe down the road that guy will be the man He has planned for your life. Maybe through growth the Lord will allow him to pursue you in a way that is pleasing and approved by the Him. So walk away.... if he doesn't run after you....keep on walking!

So thats where I am right now. I am on my face praying. Praying for His will. Praying not to feel dumb and stupid in this situation--because it wasn't anything I did... that is just Satan trying to distract me from running up into my Beloved's arms and letting His promises wash over me. And praying that He turns His ear to me and hears His daughter's cries. Because I am hurt. I am disappointed. But I know that the Lord will never, ever forget or forsake me. So I am walking...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Love them. Love ME."

For my loyal followers you may have noticed that there is something new to this blog. Thats right... I changed it from I am my Beloved's and My Beloved is Mine to a shorter name... it is now simply Smiles with Stephanie.

If you have read any of my last posts I just returned from Africa where my life was shook up. I prayed going in that the Lord would ruin all of my plans and shake me up something good. Well as it goes... "ask and you shall receive." And boy did I ever. I received a lot. I received blessings far beyond anything I ever thought or dreamed. I received love from children who had be beaten, abused and neglected. Some left on doorsteps. Others left on streets or among the garbage.

"Love them. Love ME." I heard God whisper the second day I was there.

For a white girl growing up in middle class America, my problems all of a sudden seemed dramatically insignificant. In America you are taught to look out for number 1. Don't show weakness. Vulnerability is not an attractive quality. As Christians we are taught the opposite...
"So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last." -Matt. 20:16;

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." -2 Corin. 12:9;

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1.

"Lord... they are in need of so much. How can I provide what they need? How can I give them comfort? Why was I given so much but they are given so little? (Silence.) Jesus? (Silence) Father? (Silence) Beloved? (Still Silence) Why aren't you listening to me? What am I doing here? Why have you chosen me? Where have you gone? What do I do?"

"Love them. Love ME."

"Love them? How do I show them love? Will they even understand it? These babies have gone through situations in life I cannot imagine. They have been raped. They have been hit. They have been taken advantage of... and thats just the ones under 15. God... you are good. I know this--and forgive my disbelief or question for a second-- but why? How? I don't understand why this has to happen to them. Why not me? I know you. Put this upon me because surely if I die I will come to your kingdom... but for some of them who are so close to death... they don't even know you or your promises of freedom. What about them? How do I insure that when I leave at the end of this day that they will be in YOUR hands eternally?"

"Love them. Love ME."

"Ok God-- so by loving them I am planting a seed. (Matt. 13:6-8) I have heard this since I was younger... I need to just speak your name. Tell that truth and pray that the seed takes root. Even if I can't see the harvest. Is that what you mean?"

"Love them. Love ME."

"Ok so by loving them (Matt. 25:40)... I will not only be loving these children but I will be loving You which will in turn show them You?"

"Stephanie...just love them."

You see... we try to over rationalize everything. We take the easiest of instructions-- "Love them. Love ME."-- and turn it into a dissertation over the theological significance behind the word love. Its pointless and meaningless. We listen to Satan's lies and we are filled with fear, confusion and doubt. Thank goodness I was seeking Jesus so diligently that I was able to discern the lies coming at me like flaming arrows (Eph. 6:16). If you simply put your life into your Beloved's hands... He will grow you in ways you never imagined!

Monday, July 11, 2011


Uncomfortable is a word that I would use very freely 16 days ago. "My bed is uncomfortable to me tonight." "This hot shower hurt my skin and made me uncomfortable" "These new shoes are uncomfortable." My discomfort was circumstantial. It wasn't life threatening. It wasn't overwhelming (even if I dramatically made it seem like it at the time).

I just got back from spending 15 days in Africa. I was in Uganda for a week and Kenya for a week. I thought I knew what it meant to be uncomfortable until I went there... I soon learned that all my "reservations and discomforts" were going to be thrown out the window and that my prayers for brokenness, to be humbled and sifted would soon be answered in a very BIG and LOUD way.

Hurt. This word was seen in so many different ways. There was hurt everywhere I looked on my trip. People were hurting... physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. They were hungry. They were naked. They were dying. They were in pain. They were abandoned. They had diseases that were both visible and hidden. There was so much hurt and I was overwhelmed.

Yearning. These people were yearning for more...or even some. They yearned for food. They yearned for shelter. They yearned for love-- a simple smile would do. They yearned to feel worthy. They yearned for things that I could not give them. They yearned for satisfaction and all I could do was point them North. I could only provide the hope for yearning that comes through faith. The yearning that comes from a Savior not a "mzungu" (white person).

Faith. These people love Jesus... and they love Him hard. There is no reservations when they worship. They don't worry about the volume of their voices, the appearance of their actions or even if those actions are being noticed! They lose themselves in their Savior. They scream out to their Beloved and know that He is not only listening to them, but that He is understanding their pain, desire and faith.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the POOR. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the CAPTIVES and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are OPPRESSED, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor!" -Luke 4:18-19

I prayed for the Lord is break my heart and to ruin all of the plans I made. I desired my uncomfortableness to be tested and for my faith to be stretched. I hoped to see the Lord... to truly SEE His works. To experience Him in a way I had never experience Him before! I craved to be humbled and "forced" to completely rely of the Lord. To have my control and stubbornness stripped away and left completely vulnerable and empty. Not only wanting the Savior but whole heartily needing Him.

On this trip I was bruised, broken, spent and left vulnerably opened. I can honestly say it was two of the most difficult weeks I have ever experienced. However, the way I experienced the Lord was unreal. Things happened that you only read about it the bible. Prayers were answer instantaneously. I never doubted the Lord-- but because He loves me so much He allowed me to see Him in a completely different way. He allowed me to see Him in a supernatural way that is unexplainable. He didn't need me to be used on this trip but He allowed me to serve these people and babies as a tool of the Lord. And in doing this He allowed me to draw closer to Him and have a clearer vision of Him and His Kingdom. He revealed parts of Himself to me that I would not have appreciated, understood or desired had it be shown to me anywhere else or at any other time. He let me die to myself, be reduced to nothing, be 110% humbled and vulnerable (which is not a fun or desirable place to be) and give Him all the honor and glory and praise.

::Sweet Jesus as I come back to my life here God I ask for opportunities to talk about what I experienced in Africa. Allow me to use this not to exalt myself but to exalt YOU! Father, let these stories and pictures point to Your love and grace. As I get back into the swing of things let me remember how to rely on You... even when the situations aren't always as uncomfortable. Don't let me be easily swayed by pointless things, but instead let me heart be surrounded with things not of this world. Let me radiate you in my interactions with others. My heart will yearn and hurt for these babies I left in Africa, however, let me not be burdened by their circumstances but by their salvation. It doesn't matter where they live now if they don't know where they will be living eternally and desire for it to be with You. I shouldn't be consumed with how they are being fed physically but rather spiritually. God let me never, ever forget You and Your universal love!::

Monday, June 13, 2011

Brokenness Made Whole

Becoming a Woman of Prayer. I always thought that I was where I needed to be in my prayer life until recently. I have been very convicted lately about this area of my walk--or lack there of. When I think about how rich the Word is reguarding prayer I think of a few key verses...

"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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." Philippians 4:5-7

"In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears." -Psalm 18:6

"If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." -Matthew 21:22

But after meditating on such verses I think about how often I do this... Is my gentleness evident to all? Am I free from anxiousness? In my distress do I CRY out to the Lord (first)? Do I believe I will receive whatever I ask for in prayer? And the reoccurring answer for each question is... NO!

This morning I read about Hannah in 1 Samuel. Hannah was barren and yearned for a child. Unlike me, she did praise God despite her pain. Unlike me, she continued to pray the same prayer believing that the Lord would hear her cries and answer her. Unlike me, she did find comfort completely in the Lord and His presence in he life. She didn't allow certain circumstances to determine whether she approached the throne or not. She was seeking God in the good times and in the bad times... in the times of strength and in the times of weakness.... in her joy and in her bitterness. Instead of getting mad or complaining about the hand she was dealt, she took it before the Lord. And in verse 18 it tells us what happened..."Her face was no longer downcast!" Simply by taking her troubles to her Father, her misery was released from her. Now this doesn't always happen. Sometimes the Lord allows us to go through these difficult situations and uses them to teach us perseverance (James 1:2-5) and how to draw closer to Him.

In my study today it said "What do you typically do when faced with difficulties? Take them to God or complain to friends, get angry or upset, say things you shouldn't, etc." Dang. I felt convicted with that one. A situation that occurred just a few weeks ago came to my mind. I heard something that really hurt my feelings. I felt embarrassed, rejected, angry and sad. And instead of going to the Father with my hurt and disappointment I let that person know EXACTLY what I was thinking. It was immature and hurtful to him. It was not prayerfully considered. It was not edifying to him. It did not build him up, encourage him and it was disresepctful. It was directly said to make him feel as bad as I did-- and it worked. And I felt like crud afterwards. I didn't want to hurt him-- but I listened to Satan whispering "an eye for an eye..." in my ear instead of Jesus saying "come to me and I will give you peace". Thankfully, I swallowed my pride and was forgiven. But if I were to just automatically think to go to the Lord in prayer in every situation first then I would have never been in that position.

Unfortunately I don't think I truly believe that praying will help. I mean I constantly communicate with the Lord but I think sometimes I half heartily do it and don't fully believe in His power. I love Him so much and I know that He has my best interest at heart--so why don't I run to Him with my trials? Why don't I sprint to His side, crawl up in His lap and pour out my feelings? Why don't I take my heart ache or confusion to the author of my love story instead of complaining to my friends? I desire to be a woman of prayer. I yearn to be a Proverbs 31 woman who RADIATES Him in all situations... one that shows gentleness, isn't anxious and cries out to the Lord!

It is a process and I am so blessed that the Lord hasn't given up on me yet....

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" -Isaiah 6:8

It is 5:26 on a summer Friday morning... and I am awake. Not only awake-- but awake with thousands of things swimming through my head. Summer is a teacher's friend. This is the first day that I DO NOT HAVE to be awake by 5:30 (or even 10 for that case) and can actually sleep in. But as you can see-- that isn't happening.

The Lord has been so sweet to me lately and has allowed me to be pursued by Him in multiple ways. However, His ways and my ways don't always match up and His timing and my timing NEVER match up. So this has been a beautiful, yet humbling time in my life.

I leave for Uganda, Africa in 15 It has been such a long journey to get here. I remember beginning to feel a stir in my heart for Africa. I remember the day I felt compelled to begin painting and the end product was a piece that sits catty cornered in my room that reads PRAY FOR AFRICA with a huge picture of that lovely continent in the middle! I remember the process of supporting a child through World Vision but realizing that the pull I had towards this people group went deeper. I remember looking at trips, organizations, opportunities....anything and everything to get me over there. Prices were high. Trips were not what I desired (as a teacher I felt drawn to work with and love on orphans). Dates were inconvenient. Nothing seemed to work... so I thought I had misread the Lord's will. I must have heard His calling for me incorrectly because everything fell through and nothing worked out. But just like the Lord...when I completely gave it over to Him and convinced myself it must just be later on in life that I would get that opportunity... He provided. My roommate worked with a lady whose sister had just returned from Africa on a short term mission trip working with orphans. She went through an organization called Visiting Orphans, whose main goal was to love on these babies and share Jesus with them. Sold.

From then on the process has been absolutely unreal. The Lord blessed me with a love for painting (which if you remember started this desire) and He allowed me to paint my way to Africa as well. I have painted and painted and PAINTED... I have sold my canvases to friends, family members, at auctions, to teachers and even to some of my student's parents. My paintings have allowed me to share my story, and where I am going, and the Lord has received glory in all of it! And as of yesterday that painting has paid off and my trip cost is completely covered! Gosh the Lord is just so magnificent and yet so intricate in the way He pays attention to every small detail.

During the process the Lord has also allowed alot of needed sifting to occur in my life! Things that were needing to get pulled out of my life for my ultimate refinement were taken from me-- no matter how much it hurt tearing them from my hands. My sweet Beloved has allowed insecurities to be destroyed, desires to be met and some situations to be dealt with. In this time of the Lord pushing GO there is also alot of NO...and even harder... WAIT! I know that my Daddy has my absolute best interest at hand. Sometimes--scratch that--the majority of the time I am so self absorbed that I miss that and play the victim of "woe is me. woe is me". But lately I have seen the fruit of passionately pursuing our ultimate pursuer and the goodness He can do with a messy sinner like myself!

We often hear... God is good, all the time. Followed by... All the time, God is good! For the first time in my life, I think I am truly begin to understand and whole heartily believe it. And THAT is exciting!

Monday, May 9, 2011

100 Things: Part Ten

91. A Gift From the Heart

This is probably my favorite gift EVER to date. I have a student in my classroom who goes to my church. His dad has made two trips to Africa the last few months working with unreached people groups and has talked to me about my trip a few times! My little boy brought in this sculpture for Teacher Appreciation Week. It is a wooden sculpture of a teacher and students. I began to cry when I received this and my kiddos looked at me as if I was crazy! However-- this is the most special thing I have ever gotten!
92. The Daniells and Springers

I love these guys and girl like they are my own flesh and blood! These are my brothers and sisters! Such a great relationship all of us have!
93. Dress Up Days

Who doesn't like dressing up silly?
94. Floppy Hats

I just wish I had more places to wear these fun things!

95. Chick Flicks

If it grabs my heart, makes me cry or puts me into a depression about being single and wanting to find MY prince charming.... I've probably seen it and love it!
96. Kolaches

Breakfast is my favorite meal! You can have that food all times of the day! One of my fave breakfast foods are kolaches! There is a place out in West, Texas (by Waco) that has a Czech Kolache Shop. Everytime we go down to Waco or past West, we have to stop and get some goodies!
97. Uniball Pens

These make your writing look nice and neat!
98. Flip Flops

I love flip flops... you get to show off cute painted toes and it means summer is here!

99. Super Stay 24 Color Lipstick

Ok so I know this is a ridiculous picture but I wanted to draw attention to my lips! This new Maybelline lipstick is called Super Stay 24 Color. I put this lipstick on at 6 am and it is still on and bright! I am a skeptic on most things but I am sold on this product!
100. The End

Being done having to think of my favorite things!! This is Stephanie signing off-- over and out!