Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflecting on 2013

So, a year ago, I wrote a post about the new year. I wrote about what I wanted to accomplish in 2013. I had so many dreams and wants and desires. Some got resolved or done…. some did not. I actually didn't even remember what I had said I wanted to do until I looked at my blog recently. So this year I am going to try and stick to my word and resolutions. Not for others-- but for me. I can be both super hard on myself and really forgiving (like too forgiving). I want to hold myself to a higher standard…. believe in myself and push myself to do good! So this post is going to revisit my 2013 resolutions and show what was done and what I didn't accomplish. So, here we go…

2013 Resolutions:

-Memorize and know scripture--I did not do well with this in twenty-thirteen.
 I want to push myself to do better this year and truly hide the gospel in my heart.
-Achieve goal weight-- Nope… haha that's all I am going to say about
that. Working towards getting healthy in 2014.
-Run a 5K without stopping/Become a runner--I didn't run a 5K without stopping, however, I did 
learn to enjoy running more. So, hopefully I will become a better runner and
finish that 5K this year.
-Begin learning a new language-- Thanks to an app called DuoLingo (this is an awesome app)
I began learning Spanish again. I also got an app to teach me more Swahili.
-Travel back to Kenya--Did it. Changed my life. Have already signed up to go back in 2014.
-Be a mentor to someone--Loved on and encouraged lots of young girls but no one specific.
-Perform a kind deed to 28 people (years of how old I will be) without expecting anything in return-- Don't 
know how many acts of kindness I did over the year… but I can always do more! :)
-Write a letter to my friends that mean the most to me and let them know-- I am doing this today!
-Learn to play guitar-- No-- but I would love to!
-Go on a road trip-- Yes… my rooms and I took a trip before school started this year.
-Allow myself to be vulnerable-- Yes… it was not in the way I expected, but I did allow
my heart to be opened and for people to make their way in.
-Go skiing-- Unfortunately, no.
-Read 10 books by October--or more-- (at least one a month)-- I didn't get to 10. 
-Go stay at a hotel by myself and just "get away" from life for a night.-- This is one I really wanted to
do but didn't get to. I WILL be doing this in my next year.
-Help someone in need.-- This is cool to see because I was able to do this for one of my student's
families this Christmas. I was able to get presents, clothes and food for them.
Probably one of the most amazing feelings in the world bc I could feel them seeing Jesus.
-Do something crazy and out of character-- Moved out by myself. That is huge… and so
far it has been great.
-Encourage staff at my school weekly-- I dropped the ball on this being done weekly. However, I did
get to encourage people that needed it. I want to do better at this, this next semester. 
-Make a difference-- This is like the acts of kindness. I think I am making a difference (so many
people in Midlothian are developing a heart for Africa)… but I can never do this perfectly.
I can always do more.
-Go to a casino-- Yes… the rooms and I went to Choctaw in Durant, Ok and stayed at the
hotel overnight, laid out at the pool and played on the slots 
and it was such a fun, relaxing time.
-Buy an expensive perfume for myself-- Nope… still cheap.
-Go on a non-budget shopping spree-- I tried…. but I still caught myself being worried. But I did buy
things that I wouldn't normally have let myself splurge on.
-Play in the rain-- Unintentionally. haha
-Learn to play chess-- Negative.
-Go out dancing with my friends-- I got to dance with friends…. but we were at a wedding.
And honestly it was more fun and not uncomfortable at times or too crowded. :)
-Keep a jar and fill it with notes of good things that happen throughout the year and read them on NYE-- I didn't do this… I need to this year though!

So these were my resolutions. As you can see I did some great things… but I slacked on some others. Instead of looking back with regret I will look at the good and move forward. Big things… I experienced Jesus in amazing ways, I was blessed enough to go back to Africa, I made memories, learned from mistakes and will continue to grow. So as far as I am concerned, 2013 was a good year. Here is looking at 2014…. may you bring even more growth, memories and beautiful life lessons. May you be filled with love, excitement and joy. Happy New Year everyone!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

He will supply every need.

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." 
-Philippians 4:19

My God will supply my EVERY need. He will do this according to His riches in Christ Jesus. We can be fully assured of this. He has crafted and formed us. Does the Creator not know every detail about His creation? He designed us. He knows and understands the longings we have and yearn for. He set these in us. Not to be spiteful, but to point us back to Him.

So many times desires arise in me that I believe are selfish and not biblical, so instead of taking them humbly before the throne, I push them aside, bury them and deny having these feelings. We are told, in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." That means in all situations. 

So why don't I do this? Why do I feel I can handle situations better than Jesus. Well, first and foremost, it could be because I am the worst sinner I know. I lie. I steal. I cheat. I covet. I lust. I hate. I break every one of the commandments. But thankfully, God's grace is so beautifully poured over me daily that I can remind myself that I am saved and forgiven. Another reason, is that I believe the whispers of Satan more than the whispers of Jesus sometimes. It breaks my heart to say that… but I do. I am a broken woman living in a broken world. So when I hear Jesus say, "Stephanie… be still. Wait and be patient." and I hear Satan say, "If you wait too long he may move on. Go ahead… text him. He loves Jesus… so this isn't bad." I am not following my shepherd. I can hear you now… "uhhh, but Stephanie, texting isn't bad." And you're right… it isn't. It isn't unless you have been told not to and you do it anyways. Texting alone is not a sin (however, I do believe it has completely altered conversation in the world today and given men--and women-- the ability to not know how to communicate and have relationships… but that is a different blog on a different day) but it is an example in my life. The act of texting is fine if done rightly… but when I run to a man to make me feel accepted, loved, worthy and attractive I am replacing Jesus for that man and that is when it becomes wrong. That is when I have made a man into an idol.

So today I am going to be meditating on Philippians 4:19. I will be speaking truth to myself and remembering that MY GOD will supply every need of mine. That He loves to align my heart up with His desires. He also welcomes me up to His lap to sit and cry out to Him. No request, hurt or desire is off limits. He sees me as His daughter and He wants me to run to Him in all things. There is nothing I can say or do that will shock or surprise Him. There is also nothing I can do that will cause Him to banish me or love me less. He loves me unceasingly. Nothing can change or alter that. What are you withholding from our Savior today? Whatever it is… don't you think it's time to take it to Him? Let Him comfort and help you. He is good… when there is NOTHING good in us!

Saturday, August 3, 2013


I am really good at showing a strong, put together, unfrazzled face. I have perfected the way it looks to be on top of the game, get through things and do so while looking as if it were easy, attainable and not difficult. However, that's a lie. I am such a screw up... I sin (often and daily), I am self-righteous (meaning I am VERY aware of other's sins--especially those who sin against me-- but have blinders on when it comes to observing my own sin), I am self-reliant (I seldom go humbly before the Lord and lay at His feet begging for grace, help or love... I get in my routine and zip through quiet times and rarely sit uninterrupted and still before my Beloved), I am a people pleaser to the core (I want people to like me... whether that is think I am attractive, funny, intelligent, athletic or even Godly-- yes spiritual things can become tainted as well) and above all else I am busy.

Now I know what you're thinking.... busy? Stephanie... that's not a sin. It wasn't on the Ten Commandments. Uhhh check that again. What does number one say?

It says, "YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME".  I can hear you now... "right Stephanie. I don't have other Gods in my life." I believe in Jesus and go to church. I serve and pray to Him. I don't believe in Allah or Mohammed or a golden statue. Yes, but do you spend large amounts of time in front of the mirror or at the gym? Then you are serving a god, which is approval of man. Do you turn to food instead of seeking Jesus in difficult times? Then you are serving the god of glutton. Do you work non-stop to get to that next level, to get that position, to get a bigger raise or to get recognition? Do you see a pattern here? When we were told to have "no other Gods".... that meant man made things included. Some of these things are good/needed things. I am not saying you should not shower or take care of your body so you don't develop an idol of approval. I am not saying you should not eat and quit your job to make sure you stay right with the Lord. I am just saying we have to be very careful with what we place our worth, time and energy in.

Jimmy Needham has a song out right now that I love. The bridge says, "Anything I put, before my God, is an IDOL. Anything I want, with all my heart, is an IDOL. Anything I can't stop thinking of is an IDOL. Anything I give, all my love, is an IDOL."

My prayer in this entry is not to condemn, judge or make you feel bad. My charge in this word is to edify, encourage, spur on, sanctify and refine. Refinement is a hard process. It's just like when you find a diamond. It starts out as a piece of coal. It has to go through enormous amounts of pressure and uncomfortable circumstances for it to become something so beautiful.

My youth girls and I are in the process of memorizing James 1:2-4 which says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish it's work so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking anything."

 This is the same thing... we need to consider it pure joy when we go through trials-- or times of sanctification and refinement-- because it is developing perseverance in us. This doesn't mean we have to be happy (happy and joyful are two different things) but it does mean we should count it has joy that the Lord is taking the time to take something dirty and ugly and worthless (a piece of coal) and fashioning it into something beautiful and timeless (a diamond). So I will rejoice in these trials and let the Lord sift these "gods" out of my life to allow a deeper relationship with Him.

Check out Jimmy's song that I mention earlier called "Clear the Stage"... you will be blessed by this man and His Gospel filled lyrics.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6smGew7dGto

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Proverbs 22:6

There are many things I am passionate about. If you have ever read my blog you know that one of those things is Africa... obviously. haha Another thing is camp ministry... I worked as a summer staffer at a camp from 16-22 years old. Half of that time was at Camp Copass in Denton and the other part was at Pine Cove Christian Camps in Tyler. Both allowed me to love on people and share Jesus with them. So that kinda of threw me into this next thing that the Lord has really laid on my heart.... teenage girls. I love pouring into this age. They are so impressionable and so eager to know and learn and grow. When I was in college I would work D-Now's and loved getting to meet new girls, hear their stories and encourage and help lead them. When I moved back to Midlo to student teach I lived at home and went to church with my family. Because there wasn't anyone really my age at my parent's church, I began working with the youth. I taught Sunday school and lead worship on Wednesday nights. I loved it... I was able to hang out with and encourage these girls who were only a few years younger than me, but looked up to me. I eventually started a Junior/Senior bible study and invited these girls over weekly to do life with them. I looooved it. This grew my heart for not only high school girls.... but the ones getting ready to move on to a new season of life.

Flash forward a few years and I am back working with youth. More specifically, Junior/Senior girls. It is just such an incredible blessing. These girls love Jesus and want to know Him more. They want to know what they need to do to experience Him fully and deeply. They long to know His word and breathe it. They see need around them and are in tune with the solution only resulting in Jesus. They yearn to love well and like their Savior. I am blown away by their desire to be captivated wholly by their Beloved.

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."    -Proverbs 22:6

::Lord, let me love well. Break my heart for what breaks Yours and in doing so radiate Your goodness in everything I say and do. Allow me to be a vessel that leads others to You. Let my actions and speech be edifying and let my girls know that I love like You... without judgement or stipulations. God... my girls are so important to me. Use me to lead them to Your throne and let me be humbled and sanctified while doing so. ::

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trust Me.

What a terrifying command that is. Trust Me. "You mean You want me to let go of EVERYTHING?" Trust Me. "But what if it doesn't work out?" Trust Me. "I am only a teacher, God, I don't make a lot of money." Trust....Me.

I am about to move out in about a month. My roommate Lauren is marrying her best friend... so I am getting the boot. haha I am excited for her. I am thrilled she has found the one her heart desires to live life with and further the Kingdom with. I know that Mark makes Lauren happier than anyone else could. But... I have to move out. haha I have only lived with a handful of people and Lauren is the one roommate I have lived with the longest. We met at a bible study me and a friend started and it kinda just went from there. I tell people that because we didn't really know each other, and weren't good friends before, that's why it worked so well. There were no expectations. There were no requirements. She had her life. I had my life. We shared a dwelling and bills. But I didn't go in looking for deep, lifelong friendship. However, that is what I am leaving with.

We went from not knowing each other to being inseparable. You knew if Stephanie was there, Lauren would be too (and vice-versa). We began to realize that we were so alike in so many ways. Yes, we have had our rough patches (and when they were rough... they were rough). But, we lived life together. We grew in Christ together. We saw each other in rough times, heartbreak, death, loss of jobs, diagnoses. But we were also pivotal in the good times that came into each other's lives. We went on mission together; traveling to Uganda and Kenya, Africa, and loved on orphans, widows and the "least of these".

I was there when Mark E. Cohoon literally walked into her life. I was there when the flirtation began. I helped her get ready for their first date, let him use my key to get in and decorate her room for Valentine's, cried when he called me and told me he was meeting with her dad and planning to propose, sat and talked and searched for hours helping him find the perfect ring, planned and schemed on how he should propose and how to get her out of the house and now watch as she is planning the most important day of her life.

I have not been the best friend or roommate. I am selfish. I am stubborn. I am messy (both spiritually and physically... I AM an "artist" haha right Lauren?). I have let past hurts and insecurities prevent me from being vulnerable and opening up or intentionally investing whole heartedly at some points. I, in return, have hurt her. But I am thankful for grace. Grace, that because of Jesus, she has given me. Grace that the Lord has given both of us.

I don't like change. I don't like not being in control. I don't like feeling alone or uncertain. But all of these things are about to happen. And it's for the good. It will cause be to grow up a bit. I will have to learn to rely on Jesus more, instead of myself. I will need to become more intentional and outgoing. I will have to invest and invest well in friendships if I want them. I will have to TRUST. Trust that Jesus is better.... which He is. Trust that Jesus is in control... which He is. Trust that if all else fails and I am poor that Jesus will be completely sufficient for me... which He will.

One of my favorite songs right now is by Aaron Keys called "Trust You, Jesus"... which is completely fitting for this season of my life. The lyrics go:

"Father of Heavenly Lights... Fount of wisdom and love. All is laid bare in Your sight... You know my ways. I believe You will provide... all I need in my life. And I will not fear anymore... for I will ever... Trust You, Jesus. Trust You, Jesus. Trust You with my life.

You hold the world in Your hands... God of mercy and life. Knew me before I was born... called me by name. How could I ever respond... but to fall and adore. I live to know you more... Lord I will ever... Trust You, Jesus. Trust You, Jesus. Trust You with my life.

Let not the wise.... trust in their wisdom. Let not the strong... boast in their might. Let not the rich... glory in riches. I will trust You. Let not the wise.... trust in their wisdom. Let not the strong... boast in their might. Let not the rich... glory in riches. I will ever...

Trust You, Jesus. Trust You, Jesus. Trust You with my life."

Here is the video on YouTube to watch and hear it...

So I don't know what this next season of my life will look like. It is scary and exciting. It is unseen and yet planned out already. So all I can do right now is humbly fall on my knees, with my eyes facing upwards and cry out I will "Trust You, Jesus. Trust You, Jesus. Trust You with my life..."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Oh how I long to be sanctified rather than comfortable...

"You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."  -Psalm 16:11

God, you offer me eternal joys and pleasures. You are better than anything this world has to offer. You provide more satisfaction than anything I try to fill my life with. So, why do I worry? Why do I get anxious or stressed? Lord, I try to take You and put You in "my world" and act like I am such a great Christian woman. However, I shouldn't be trying to fit You into my life. I should be revolving my life around everything You are. Using this temporal time on Earth as a ministry and an opportunity to make Your name Famous! Beloved, I want to be so incredibly saturated and filled with You, that I can't help seep You. I want You to naturally come out of everything in me. Not forcibly so I am perceived as a woman fearing and seeking You... but authentically.

Father, I try to radiate You so boldly that I turn it into being about me. I try to manipulate and trick people into thinking I have got it all together, when really... I am such a screw up and am ridiculously broken. But you find that beautiful. So instead of me trying to be perceived as "perfect', Lord, I ask that You allow me to be keenly aware of my need for a Savior. To pray fervently... rely fully... Seek You wholly... and desire You intimately. God-- allow me to learn how to be fully dependent on You. Open my eyes to see how it looks to follow submissively. Whether that means to learn so I can be prepared for the future or simply for the now. Make me YOURS.

I want to experience the riches and beauty of Salvation. I want to experience true and pure Joy that only can come from being loved perfectly by You. I want to enjoy the freedom of Your Presence by continually trusting You at all times. So Lord, cultivate these things in me. Grow and mold me into a woman who is fearing You. Remind me that I am nothing apart from You. That the characteristics of goodness and beauty that people are attracted to, are only glimpses of You in me. That I am seen not as a "good girl", but as a woman who whole heartedly is seeking Your face daily and is doing all I can to point others back to You. Because this is my desire, Jesus. I long to lead others to Your feet and love people well like You called me to do. Humble me daily--hourly--minutely--secondly(??haha) Constantly chip away the bad. This is a painful process. I understand that. But oh how I long to be sanctified rather than comfortable.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Heart's Story

This time last week I had just gotten home from Kenya. This week has been a whirlwind of things to do, family activities, hanging out with friends, fireworks and parties and scary surgeries for my papa. I literally haven't stopped all week. While seeing friend after friend I have had the question, "So how was Africa?" I find myself saying "It was really good."but then nothing else. I have gotten the same look over and over and it kills me to see this look come across my loved ones faces.... disappointment. They want deep conversation to follow. They want to hear about the ones I loved, the adventures I experienced, the way the Lord revealed Himself to me and the miracles of His power. But I stop. Not because He didn't show up.... He did! He was so incredibly evident. Not because I got nothing out of the trip... because I did. My life has been forever changed by these people and my love for them (and their loved that was reciprocated to me).

The things I have seen and heard are hard for me to put into words right now. I fell in love with these babies. My heart will never be the same and part of it will always be in Kenya. Those two weeks were so amazing and fulfilling and beautiful. So why can't I tell people what I saw? Why can't His story come out in verbal form and spur people on for His kingdom? I don't know... Maybe I haven't fully dealt with being back yet. Maybe I have been so busy I haven't allowed myself to decompress and comprehend what has happened. I saw and experienced so much during my time there and it is quite overwhelming for me to try and verbalize everything that occurred. Or maybe I just have to figure out and pray about what I need to share. I know that I was called to Africa and that the Lord has placed this love for people, and especially children/orphans, in my heart to love on them and share about my love for them. I completely believe that this is a huge part of my "life story" and that it will continue to build and grow as I age. I don't think this was my last trip to Africa and I know that I was chosen to do some major work for the Kingdom. So I will pray for the words to say (something I have never done before). I will ask the Lord to show me what I need to say and how I need to say it. I will ask for clarity and for smoothness in speech. And most importantly, I will ask that the Lord uses me as His voicebox and that nothing that comes out of my mouth is apart from Christ. That He is reflected in everything I say and that the people that hear about this experience will be forever changed by the love of our Father.

I love Africa.... I love Kenya... I love Nakuru... I love Fiwagoh. Our Beloved knew this and wired me to fall in love with precious babies half way around the world. He orchestrated me to develop this desire to care for them and pour into them. He yearned for me to love them hard-- to the point that I feel completely empty and broken when it is time to leave. But that same God has also reminded me that He is my loving kindness, my heartbreak healer, my comforter, my romancer and my strength. So when I am weak, I count it as beautiful... because that allows Him to reveal His might and power. Selah.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Broken Heart

Have you ever had a broken heart? Like hurts to breath, makes you cry, gives you a sense of feeling lost and helpless, nothing seems to be able to soothe that deep, embedded pain? This is how I am feeling right now. Not because of a man... no I haven't given one my heart fully before, so the Lord has been really sweet to guard me from that. Yes I have some chips and nicks in it... but it has not been hurt severely and will be pretty whole and full whenever I give it to the man that the Lord has prepared/or is preparing for me. No... the reason for my broken heart right now is because I gave it to 200+ children in a little town in Kenya, Africa. It was given out through smiles, hugs, kisses, encouraging words (both spoken and written), laughs and winks.

Years ago I felt a deep burdening for Africa. This confused me since I had only been on an airplane for the first time two years before. Also, Africa seemed so distant and unreachable for a little small town Texas girl who had just finished her first year of teaching. I mean money wasn't an issue since I was banking educating the youth of this nation (sarcasm) but the thought of flying to an unfamiliar, possibly dangerous land just didn't seem like something I was going to do. Even though I heard the faint whisper "Go." I pushed it aside and moved on. I met my roommate at a bible study, we became fast friends and decided to move that summer. I finally had a friend that was passionate about the Lord in town with me... and later I would find out, about Africa and adoption as well. The thing about the Lord that I love is that He is what I like to call the two C's.... consistent and constant. He doesn't ambush or override... but He gently whispers and spurs. With that spurring I realized I HAD to do something. So I began sponsoring a child from Lesotho, Africa. I thought, as any oblivious, bible belt, Jesus lovin' Texas girl would, "I am making a difference." And I was... but my ridiculousness and pride were so loud I couldn't hear the sweet whisper of my Beloved saying, "Go." So another few months went on and I still felt like something was missing. One day I was so confused and uneasy I began painting and ended up making a HUGE canvas with a picture of Africa on it and the words "Pray for Africa." So I did. I began to pray for this "random" continent that for some reason was overtaking my mind and thoughts. But... it still wasn't enough. I mentioned it to my roommate... you know the one who I had just randomly met and decided to move in with a few months before... and she said, "Let's go!" Now here is something about Lauren Benesch. Her middle name is impulse. She thinks and does. I think... and sit for months and argue back and forth and freak out and get nervous and then usually don't. I thank the Lord for putting Lauren in my life. Not that I wouldn't have eventually listened and obeyed and gone... but having someone I knew go along with me and even say it wasn't crazy, was doable and go made it easier.

So after months of searching we found out about Visiting Orphans... the rest was history. It was tough... my parents (ahem... mostly my mother) was scared. But I ended up going... I spent a week in Uganda and a week in Kenya. I was on 9 different airplanes, went to multiple orphanages, remand homes, villages and churches. But I came back with one thing forever branded on my heart.... DANIEL. An 8 year old little boy that grabbed my heart and did not give it back.

My heart was broken coming back. I never thought I would see Daniel again or get to go back to this country that ripped my heart out. I prayed for, talked about and looked at pictures of him daily.

Two years later, June 14, 2013, I stepped on an airplane that was headed for Nairobi, Kenya. I was going back to see Daniel. I was humbled by the fact that I was headed back to Africa-- a place two years before I thought was an impossibility-- to see Daniel. Fears of him not remembering me crept into my mind. Would he know me? Want to see me? Care to even give me another chance? This is part of my journal entry from the night I arrived at Fiwagoh...

"Finally we got here. I was moved to tears when the gates to the compound opened and the children came sprinting towards us. All the kids were hugging and grabbing at us... but then I looked up and saw him. Daniel. He was looking at me... and smiling. My heart flip flopped. I bent down, set my stuff on the ground and smiled at him. He ran to me smiling and hugged me. Obviously I began crying. I had dreamed about how that moment would have been and it was just like it. Amazing. The Lord was so sweet to allow that... and abundantly so much more. Child after child approached me.... excited to see me and remembering me. I was so fearful that no one, especially Daniel, would remember me... and in fact they all, remembered me. I.am.speechless."

I long to be back in Africa. My heart misses Daniel so much. The sound of his voice. The warmth of his hands. The beauty of his dirty feet, laying on top of mine. I miss the others too... all the way from a crazy little 4 year old to a mature 21 year old. I miss them all... I miss hearing them sing out "Emmanuel... our God is with us!" I miss everything about them. They are my heart... and this is just the beginning. When the Lord whispered "Go." He didn't just mean back in 2011. These kids have become apart of my life... they have become my family. I care for them with all that is within me. We are told not to make promises to the kids that we cannot keep. They take things literal and wouldn't be able to understand if we weren't able to follow through with those promises. So as Daniel was sobbing on my chest I was searching for what I could tell him that I knew I would be able to truly mean. So this is what I told him...

Me: "Daniel... baby open up your eyes and look at me. Look at me. I LOVE YOU... with alll of my heart. You know that right? I tell you that all the time... everyday. Yeah? Right?"

Daniel: "yes."

Me: "Then listen... I am going to do everything I can to come back and see you. This isn't goodbye... this is I will see you later. Because Daniel... I WILL see you again. I love you too much to not come back. I will be here playing with you, holding your hands, kissing your cheeks and saying 'Nakupenda Sana, Sana, Sana, Sana' (I love you so much, so much, so much, so much). I don't have any kids... but I love you like you are my son! So don't cry... because we will see each other again. And I will be praying for you everyday and write you and send you pictures. Because.... I.love.you."

Daniel: "I will miss you..."

And then I lost it. But our God is so good that I trust in Him and His promises for my life... so I don't have to worry. Because He has put this love and desire for Africa in my heart... and He will bless my yearning and desire to do His will, make His name famous and love on His children!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2 Days Until Africa

I haven't been on here in months-- this was a crazy semester. However, I have had a lot of people ask me if I was going to blog about and from Kenya. Well... my old computer went Ker-plunk a few months ago so that is not going to be happening this trip. However, I am going to write before, and journal while I am there, and write what I went through and experienced and blog about it when I get back.

It's crazy. This will be my 4th mission trip (twice back to Africa). And even though I have been to different places and continents... it always starts out the same. Hard. Hard spiritually, mentally, physically.... hard. And if you think about it, this makes perfect sense because we were told of this. In James it says..."you.WILL.face.trials.....of.MANY.kinds!!" You see, I am going to do the Lord's work. I am going to be an ambassador for the Lord. I was asked "Who shall I send? And who will go for US?" And I replied, "Here I am Lord, send me!!" (Isaiah 6:8) And so to Satan... I am a threat. I am walking on his territory. I am bothering him. I am boldly going to these precious people that he has tried to claim and am telling them that witchcraft, and idol worship and child sacrifice is not how you gain God's love. I am showing them that all you have to do is, "Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved."(Romans 10:9) And it's simple and easy and attractive... and honestly, that pisses Satan off (sorry mom). I will say it this way... it frustrates him to his core. He hates God and he hates his followers (me)... so when I am going out there speaking truth and declaring the GOOD NEWS... he wants to trip me up. Whether that is get me sick.... whether that is put a distraction in my mind.... whether that is make me nervous.... or put doubts in me. He is going to try the best he can to make this trip as unsuccessful and meaningless as possible.

However.... apparently Satan forgot who I serve. Because I DO NOT serve a little man made idol that I can control. You see, I DO NOT serve a God who gets easily tripped up and confused. I DO NOT serve a God who loses faith or boldness and cowers when confronted with difficulty. I just don't. I serve a God who is BIGGER. I serve a God that is STRONGER. I serve a God who is STEADFAST. I serve a God that is MORE POWERFUL, MORE INTELLIGENT, and BOLDER. And most importantly, I serve a God who is VICTORIOUS. My God has already won. And that REALLY angers Satan.

I have not even began packing my clothes yet.... I have washed a lot so that is a step. haha But more importantly than making sure that all my stuff is prepared and ready (and I understand that is pretty important)... I want to make sure that my heart is prepared and ready. More importantly than making sure that I have clothes to be dressed in that are appropriate for Africa.....I want to make sure that I am dressed in my armor. That I am fully covered in my belt of truth, my breastplate of righteousness, my shield of faith, my helmet of salvation, my sword of the Spirit and that my feet are fitted with readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:10-18) I am excited to be going back to this place that holds my heart. But more importantly than that.... I am excited to spread the good news.

"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  Selah.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Speaking Truth....to Yourself

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you"... the main art in the matter of spiritual living id to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must turn on yourself, unbraid yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope in God'-- instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, of who God is, of what God has done, and of what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance..."  -Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

How many times do we listen to ourselves? You're not good enough. You're not pretty enough. You're not smart enough. You're not fun enough. You're not skinny enough. You're not spiritual enough.

And why do we do this? We do this because we are not talking to ourselves. We are listening to the words in our head instead of clinging to the truth. What is the point of preaching to ourselves, you ask? Well, we are so prone to wander and forget truth and the gospel that it isn't just a suggestion... it's a necessity. Like Dr. Lloyd-Jones reminded us in his quote... it's biblical. Psalm 42:5 proves it. 

So how can we preach to ourselves?

-We need to know scripture so we can combat the lies we are listening to with truth.

::I'll give a personal example... today I was listening to lies about my body image and having thoughts of hatred towards myself. But I remembered what I have been learning about preaching to myself so I began doing it in the car. "Stephanie, you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)." "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised, Steph (Prov. 31:30)." "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:3-4)." Its crazy how when you begin to fight off the lies with His promises how renewed and uplifted you instantly can feel.::

-Another way of preaching to yourself is to realize what the ROOT of that sin is. Like, I know I have self-esteem issues.... but besides being displeased with my body, what am I really struggling with? Come to find out-- once I poked and prodded around the issues I saw the answers. 

"I am upset about how I look and how that makes me feel!".... well...why do you care? "Well, I don't like that this is how people perceive and see me!".... well.... why do you care? "Well, I just want to look good in people's eyes!".... well.... why do you care? "Well, I just want to be liked by people and I think that if I don't look good then they won't see me a certain way or like me."....well (you see the pattern)... why do you care? "WELL, I guess because I am a people pleaser to the core and am really finding my acceptance and approval in them and not in Jesus!" Ding Ding Ding.... we have a winner. 

My issue isn't about being a certain size, or looking a certain way, or even feeling a certain way. My issue is that I have an idol of approval in my life. My heart is more concerned with others than Jesus.... and THAT is a problem. Bottom line... if we don't understand the character of God, we will default to thinking God doesn't love me! These seasons of hurt or difficulty or suffering can make us bitter towards God. However, when we go through these situations they are intended to bring us closer to Him. He knows what to bring us through so sin is exposed and we can become more Christ-like! And ultimately-- this will make us sharper tools in His hands. Wow... how humbling? So if I have to go through the valleys to become more sanctified.... bring on cruddy valley. But during those times I need to remember to not be a victim or passive in my struggles.... but to run to Him and speak truth and the Gospel to myself.

 Listening to yourself "assumes" your right. Talking to yourself assumes you're wrong!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2 Corinthians 4:17

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." -2 Corinthians 4:17

How encouraging is this? The junk that I go through daily. The sadness that overwhelms me. The circumstances that break my heart. The sin I run back to every day and night. All of this "light, momentary affliction" is preparing for me an eternal weight of GLORY beyond all comparison. I am encouraged by that. I am so incredibly thankful for a God who sees the sin I seek satisfaction in and yet still forgives me when I come running back and fall before Him on my knees.

I also love how it is referred to as light affliction. We are a sinful people, living in a fallen world. We are exposed to sickness, death, betrayal, abortion, temptation, rape, slavery, famine, mental diseases, racism, and hate. We each have our own junk that consumes us and eats at us. We all have some "affliction" in our lives that hurt and drag us through the mud. To many of us these circumstances don't seem "light". They actually seem quite heavy. They weigh us down, drain us and sometimes make us feel empty and alone. However, the word in the middle of light and affliction, I believe, may be one of the most powerful words in this entire passage: MOMENTARY. As in "short-lived or an instant; ephemeral." This means that it will pass. It will not last forever. There is an end in sight... and it is not only good-- but BETTER!

So when things seem tough. When times appear hard. When the difficulties of this world resemble times that are unbearable and seasons that are troublesome... I will remember what 2 Corinthians 4:17 says. Yes times will be hard. Yes you will encounter trials. But if you have Jesus it will not last forever. It will be momentary. You will be saved from it. And you will soon experience greater joy, happiness and beauty than you could ever imagine. So if I must go through the trials and pain to get to Jesus... I will go through those hardships. Because if you were to ask me if I wanted comfort, happiness and for everything to go my way here on Earth or pain, hardships and Jesus.... my reply would boldly be "GIVE ME JESUS!"

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thankfulness is in the EYE of the beholder Sesh #1

Last night I saw my roommate waking around the house taking pictures. At first I thought she was just capturing some pics of the house.... then I saw her taking pictures of random things... like RAN-DOM! When I was drying my hair she walked in and said "I am going to take pictures of ONE THOUSAND THINGS that bless me... wanna join me!??!" I said ONE THOUSAND things? That is a lot! She said "Okay what about one hundred?" I said... okay-- I can do that! So here is a little fact about Stephanie Daniell... when she is challenged-- she doesn't back down! So here we go-- these are the things in my life that I see/experience and that remind me of how blessed I am! They may be things that are similar to you or completely different... and it may encourage you to stop and capture things that remind you of the goodness bestowed on us through Him! Just stop.... and remember... Thankfulness is in the EYE of the beholder!

1. I am thankful that I still get excited about the First Day of School! I am just a life long learner!

2. This is my view from my desk... I LOVE my crazy/bright/fun/ classroom. It shows off my personality perfectly!

3. I am so very thankful for my view outside the window on my hall. I get to experience the beauty of our Creator and His majesty through sunrises every morning!

4. The super cute flag that shows you where the coolest team is! ;)

5. Sweet friends at work make teaching fun!

6. For the first time in a loooong time our team is drama free, excited about teaching and developing awesome lesson plans! All is right in the Land of First Grade!

Until next time....

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year... Happy New Me!

It comes around once a year.... it is the time a year people are told to sit and think about what they want in life and make goals to reach those ambitions. Today is New Year's Day... as my Daddy said today "this is the first day of a new year. You have a clean slate and get to decide what you want your life to look like." So as I sit here I think about what I want in life.... so these are my New Year's Resolutions for 2013!

1. Know Jesus better. I don't want to just have my quiet time or read the bible.... I want to KNOW Jesus. I want to KNOW His word.... breath it. Live by it. Speak it. I want to be set apart and known as being a child of the Most High King. I want my life to reflect my Beloved and I want Him to receive glory through everything I do and say.

2. Go back to Africa. I miss those babies... I miss that language. I miss the way they abandon everything and get on their faces before the Lord. I miss my precious Daniel. I miss the way he fit perfectly in my arms and the sound of his sweet voice when he sang "Stand Up...Stand Up for Jesus!"

3. Get Healthy. I have wanted/needed to make a lifestyle change for a long time now. I have a trainer, who I used when I first moved back to Midlothian, that I am going to be meeting with twice a week again starting next week. Hopefully, I will see a change in my life and for the better!

4. Be a Light at School. I have been given such an incredible opportunity to be a teacher. I get to be in contact with my kiddos more in a day than their parents will. That gives me the awesome position to be a light to kiddos that may not get it anywhere else. I have the chance to love well, forgive, teach, mold, care for, and encourage. It's a pretty neat place to be in...

Basically-- I want to complete the things on my Bucket List. I think that because I am going to be turning 28 in October 2013 I would like to do these 28 things (some may be repeats from above):

-Memorize and know scripture
-Achieve goal weight
-Run a 5K without stopping/Become a runner
-Begin learning a new language
-Travel back to Kenya
-Be a mentor to someone
-Perform a kind deed to 28 people (years of how old I will be) without expecting anything in return
-Write a letter to my friends that mean the most to me and let them know
-Learn to play guitar
-Go on a road trip
-Bake a cake for someone special
-Allow myself to be vulnerable
-Go skiing
-Read 10 books by October--or more-- (at least one a month)
-Go stay at a hotel by myself and just "get away" from life for a night.
-Help someone in need.
-Do something crazy and out of character
-Encourage staff at my school weekly
-Make a difference
-Go to a casino
-Buy an expensive perfume for myself
-Go camping
-Finish movie suggestion list 
-Go on a non-budget shopping spree
-Play in the rain
-Learn to play chess
-Go out dancing with my friends
-Keep a jar and fill it with notes of good things that happen throughout the year and read them on NYE

Excited for this new year and to see what experiences the Lord allows me to go through!