Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Lies We Believe

Disclaimer: A ugly, raw, and real view of a sinner's heart is about to be displayed. Thank goodness for grace and the blood of Jesus that covers me fully and washes this Pharisee white as snow.

During a time of the year where there is extra emphasis on being thankful for what you have, or more aware of what you have been blessed with, I feel I have become more aware of my sin. A sin that is stated in the Ten Commandments...a sin that, in this day and age, has almost become accepted. Covetousness.

"Oh my gosh... I wish I had her life!!" "She just bought a new house? Gosh-- I wish I had a job that paid more than this. I struggle going from pay check to pay check... Must be nice to have extra money to do that!" "She is getting married? Ugh. Why can't I find a guy that loves Jesus like that?" "She is so pretty and fit.... If I could just lose ______ amount of weight maybe people would find me attractive and worthwhile as well."

The thing about this sin is that it can be displayed in many different facets. From being disappointed that a former interest is no longer available (and not just that but headed towards marriage), to having a friend announce she is pregnant with her third child, to someone simply having a new exciting thing happen in their life that you don't have. All of these things cause envy and jealousy in my heart... this is sin.

The fact that I feel I deserve something or am entitled to something is not biblical. The fact that I get upset, or my feelings get hurt when I am not granted the same gifts others are, shows an ugly picture of my heart. When I look at others as being "loved or blessed" and look inwardly at all I am not receiving... that shows an incredible amount of immaturity and misunderstanding of our Father. We have a Good, Good Father. Just because we are not receiving certain gifts that others are does not mean that we are less loved by our Beloved. We don't have the capability of seeing what we need or when we need it. Our God loves us fully and deeply and richly... and that, in no way, is displayed by the amount or the size of the gifts we have received. When we look at His love in relation to our gifts we are missing the ENTIRE picture!

C.S. Lewis says, "God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing." Meaning... if I am upset about not being a wife and mom at 30, or living in an apartment, or not looking different... then this shows a clear look at my heart. If I am not happy or don't have a peace about my life... that shows that I am not looking to the Father to satisfy and consume me with His goodness. If I look to these temporal things as worth then I am so far off track. Are these good gifts? Yes. Are these things that my heart desires? Absolutely. If I never get these things will that change the way the Lord sees me or shows His love to me? No... not even a little bit. Because here is the thing... this entire life that I was created to live is... get ready for it-- it's quite shocking... NOT ABOUT ME! Gasp. I know right! Crazy. It's not about me. It's not about my happiness or success or fulfillment in Earthly things. It is about Him. It is about His kingdom work that I was created for. And it is about bringing Him all the glory and honor and praise and making His name famous. Jesus did not come to make Stephanie Marie Daniell a top notch wife and flawless mom with a great job, zero school loans, and a perfect body.... He came to forgive sins. He came to give freedom to captives. He came to give hope to the hopeless. He came to save us.

"The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared to hope." -Timothy Keller

Lord, let me seek righteousness. Let me seek Your face above all else. Allow me to have a grasp of truth and when I lose sight of that, draw me back in. Continue to pursue this heart that believes lies, flees when frightened, and fails over and over and over again. Allow me to be a woman that reflects Your character humbly. And if to do all of this means I am single, childless, and living pay check to pay check so I must rely on You daily... Give me Jesus!!!

Friday, July 17, 2015


I have been home from my annual Africa trip about a week now and am just beginning to process things. This year was different than most… we didn't have a huge list of to-do's... which allowed for a lot of intentional time with the kiddos. We got to truly know them… hear their stories… live life with them… and invest in them. It was actually one of the most rewarding and difficult three week spans of my life. When you jump into life with someone you see the good, the bad, and the ugly. After hearing some of these stories my heart broke in ways that I never knew possible.

One specific child impacted me in a way I was not prepared for. His name was Zablon and he had only been at the orphanage a few months. He was noticeably timid, shy, and pulled back. We were the first team he had ever met-- and maybe the first mzungus (white people) he had ever had contact with. This child, though unsure at first, was constantly by my side early on. Whether I was at the school, down at the field, or sitting with the kids at supper time, Zablon was there. I remember vividly one night we were tucking in the younger kiddos. We would go from bed to bed, tuck them in tight, whisper Nakupenda Sana (I love you so much), and pray with them. On this particular night I decided to go to the boy's dorm. Many of the children that have stolen my heart at Fiwagoh are little boys, so I chose to go over there and spend some extra time with them before they went to sleep. After hugging a few of the boys I walked up to the bed of Zablon. His head was down, his covers were up around his face, and he was pretty still (not like the other crazies running around the room). I tucked him in, whispered I loved him, and tried to look at him. He wouldn't budge-- and in fact-- he put effort into not letting me see him. I giggled and said, "Hey-- Z… why won't you look at me?" and that was when I saw them… tears. A lot of tears. All over his sweater, his mattress, his covers, and now my hand. Becoming worried I asked him, "Baby, what's wrong?" He said something that was unrecognizable due to the heavy crying that had taken over his body. "What? Say that again-- I couldn't hear you!"…. "I don't have a mom and dad. They are dead. I am all alone."

Silence. Stillness. I felt like I was watching this interaction in slow motion- with all the wildness going on around me- and was at a loss for words. I know many of these kiddos are orphans. I can comprehend that most of them have gone through difficult situations and circumstances…. but this. True, excruciating pain… coming from a 10 year old little boy who was broken. He was hurting. His heart longed for comfort, rescue… and all I had were words. I scooped him up to me and did the only things I knew to do in a moment like that…. I prayed over him and wept with him. I wept for the hurt he was experiencing. I wept for the mom and dad that he missed. I wept for the loneliness he felt in a sea of children. I wept for the fear that- I can only imagine- would come with moving to a new city, home, and environment where you know nothing or no one. Everyone was leaving to go to the next dorm but I wanted to stay. However, I left. I reminded him I loved him, kissed his forehead and cheeks, and walked out of the dorm. 

The lump that was in my throat was suffocating. I wanted to run away. Run from this hurt. Run from this pain. Run from this responsibility that was so weighty. But I couldn't. I walked to the girl's dorm… hugged and kissed many of them-- not lingering long enough to think-- and eventually left the other hugs and kisses to my team members and walked upstairs. I smiled and hugged older kids along the way… walked into my room… and fell to the ground. The weight of this sorrow completely took over my body and I couldn't escape. I wept in a way I had never wept before. Every emotion flooded out of me and my body was inconsolable. My leader walked in to ask me something and I unleashed all of those frustrations and emotions on her… "I don't understand this. Why is this happening? How is this fair? It's too overwhelming… it's too big! What can be done?" She reminded me that when dealing with orphan care it is hard. When dealing with orphan care, it hurts. And when dealing with orphan care… we have to look at a smaller picture because if not we will get too overwhelmed and defeated. I cried myself to sleep that night… thinking of the little boy, just down stairs, that had done the same.

The next days became opportunities for intentional words of affirmation. Encouraging friendships, pointing out good qualities, and reminding Zablon of gospel truth. He is not alone (Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."), He has a Father (Psalm 68:5 "A father to the fatherless…"), and that he was loved (John 3:16 "For God so loved the world-- For God so loved ZABLON-- that He gave His only Son; that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life!"). We looked at the stars-- the most beautiful display of stars I have ever seen-- and I reminded him that when he looked at the stars and he was feeling sad, or lonely, to remember that just like we can't even begin to count the thousands of stars in the sky…. that is how it is with God's promises for our life. We cannot even begin to imagine how much He has in store for us and our lives. Again, we prayed and I still had a hard time believing what I was saying. This child had been through more pain and abandonment in his life than I have ever experienced (I found out later that week that he never knew his dad and that his mom had taken Z to Nairobi, dropped him off on the street a couple years before, and left him. Abandoned him. Just walked away…a good samaritan found him, had mercy on him, and took him home. She grew to love him and care for him-- but her children got jealous and began abusing Zablon until a neighbor took him out of that situation). He was hurt over and over again and I couldn't help but feel that next day I would be adding to that rejection. I would be leaving him… would he understand? Would he comprehend why I had to leave? Or would he feel that once again someone had let him down. After I took him to his room, I went back out and prayed. I prayed for answers. I prayed for the Lord to reveal His plan. I urged the Lord to show me what small way to help these millions of orphans as one single woman from Texas-- with a teacher's paycheck.

As I was talking over some things with my leader later that night she mentioned she had just received a new list of the kiddos that needed sponsorship-- and Zablon was on there. "I want him!" I heard myself saying… it was such a beautiful revealing of God saying… "here's how you can help. Start with just one!" That next morning I got to explain that I would be his sponsor. I would pay for him to get to stay there, have food, go to school, have a uniform, and stay healthy. I would get to write him letters, send him pictures, and stay in contact with him from thousands of miles away. I would get to continue to be involved in his life and remind him of how loved he was even though I was leaving." He smiled bigger than I had ever seen him smile on that trip… and it had nothing to do with me. I truly believe the Lord allowed me-- messy, sinful, screwed up me-- to be a reflection of His love for Z. He allowed me to be apart of this beautiful story of redemption. 

I look at these kiddo's pictures daily. I miss them. I love them-- more than I have ever loved anyone. And yet, I can rest easy because I know that God is continuing to spur them on and draw them closer to Him. He is writing their stories and preparing their hearts for great Kingdom work. He doesn't need me… but I am so humbled He has chosen to allow me to be a small part.
Zablon and Stephanie

Z and the boys (and me) being silly.

The day I told Zablon I was going to sponsor him (the last day always looks the roughest bc of all the crying)

My sweet boy

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I must decrease so He can increase.

I am not a humble person by nature. I have deep, sinful, pride that seeps out of every part of me. Pride that is jerky. Pride that is hateful. Pride that is sarcastic-- and not a funny, playful sarcasm that I appreciate… sarcasm that is meant to embarrass. I hate this about me. I hate that I get so angry and lose my cool.

I also hate being wrong. I hate having to apologize for my mistakes. It is hard for me to do. This goes back to my pride issue I just talked about. This is my temporal earthly exterior that is fighting with the goodness of the Gospel that has awakened this dead heart. I am in a constant battle between my comfort and my will. I try, earnestly, to portray Jesus in all that I do. I desire to point others to Him with my actions, words, and choices. Yesterday, however, I did not do that.

Anyone that knows me, knows this has been a very difficult year teaching for me. I have had a really hard time enjoying it. It isn't only the kids. A HUGE part of it, I truly believe, is my heart in it. I am a sinful, prideful person that wants my way to be the right way. Yesterday…. I saw that in getting my way, I may hurt others in the process.

Setting: My classroom

I had been monitoring the STAAR test a couple days so I had been out-- we finished all of the weather activities that were planned for the week so at the very end of the day, because it had been raining all day and because my kids had followed directions and been good for the sub, I decided to "graciously" allow them to watch an instructional film over weather. They enjoyed it…. until the end.

Student A: "Miss Dannnnniell…. why didn't we do Flashlight Friday today?"
Me: "Because we ran out of time… watch this film… it's really good!"
Student B (5 minutes later): "Miss Dannnnnniell…. what are we going to do after this?"
Me (pausing the film): "Guys-- there is just a little bit left in this and then we will move on. This is a privilege… pay attention to it, please. I have something we are going to do after this but you need to listen to this first so the activity can be done! Listen!"
:: At this point my blood pressure is beginning to rise. I was GENEROUS enough to allow them to watch this video. My OTHER classes always enjoyed watching this. Why can THEY not sit and be quiet?::
End of the film.
Student B (again): "Miss Dannnnnniell (they always drag out my name-- haha I don't know why)? Why couldn't we go out to recess? I just went to the bathroom and saw 5th grade on the concrete… (and here comes the words that turn Miss Daniell into the raging Hulk…) IT'S NOT FAIR!!"

Well…. let's just say that our class had another (we've had a few) come to Jesus talks. We talked about being respectful. We talked about being thankful. We talked about being ungrateful. I mentioned it wasn't everyone-- but enough to make it seem like everyone. The kids sat. They listened (better than they've ever listened before). And they were silent. I thought-- "Yes-- maybe I got to them. Maybe NOW they will understand." Then-- the climatic part of the story occurred. One of the sweetest children in my class-- who rarely gets in trouble, is always joyful and helpful and smiling-- came up to me. She shyly says, "Miss Daniell? I wish we didn't treat you so disrespectfully." And turned around fast. I didn't hear her at first and said, "What?" She turned back around… lip and voice trembling… and said, "I'm sorry our class isn't better."

This kicked me in the throat. I said, "Baby-- thank you. But you don't need to apologize." She tightly hugged me and began sobbing. I broke. My hard exterior shattered and I began crying. What was I doing? Who had I become? I let my comfort and pride become so inflated that I had caused a child to sob-- for no reason. She hadn't made a bad choice. She hadn't caused pain to another child. She hadn't deserved to be reprimanded. And one of the sweetest girls in my class was broken… because of me. The one who should provide affirmation and encouragement. The one that should provide guidance and wisdom. The one who should provide the feeling of love and safety…. had failed. Big time.

I took her out in the hall and apologized. I reminded her of my love for her. I said I was sorry for hurting her feelings. I hugged her and tried to restore the pain I had caused. After about 5 minutes she calmed down and said she was better. I even ran to catch up with her before she got on the school bus and hugged her again said "Love ya-- have a great weekend!" I called her mom and told her what happened. I apologized to her. I thought-- "you are good, Steph! You have faced your sins and asked for forgiveness." But then as I laid down for bed last night and the events of the day replayed in my head… I again, was broken. I sobbed. I prayed. I was so distraught about what I had done and become this year. And I knew what I had to do. On Monday, before we start our rotations, before we split up into reading groups, before I present the spelling and sight words… I have to apologize. I have to stand before my children and ask for their forgiveness. It sounds silly-- but it has to be done. How can I expect to lead these children the next 6 weeks and pour into them if they are hurt or feel scared? I have to show them what it looks like to humble myself and ask for forgiveness. It may be hard-- I may cry. But it must be done.

I share this with y'all to show that we as teachers, or parents, or friends, or human beings can so easily get wrapped up in our own selves that we can forget about the damage it can have on one another. I hate being wrong. I hate apologizing. But above my happiness and comfort-- I want to be sanctified. I want to be humbled. I want to take up my cross DAILY and love others like Jesus. I don't want to be someone who is hateful and tears others down-- but rather someone who reflects Jesus and builds others up. I will fail many more times… probably even this week. But-- I pray that the Lord continues pressing on my heart and burdening me to become less so that He may become more. I must decrease, so He can increase.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

To Those Who Wait.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Linger conference and Bethany Dillon Bernard sang her song "To Those Who Wait".  To say I crumbled is an understatement. I sobbed. I shook. I hyperventilated…. okay, it wasn't that bad but I did have trouble breathing because I had so much emotion coming out and I wanted NO ONE to look at me.

 I have written about waiting a few times on here, but it seems the deeper you get into the waiting process the harder and more painful it can seem. We are a selfish people who live in a society that is about the now and instantaneous satisfaction. If we are hungry-- we go to our kitchen and get food. If we "have nothing to eat" we grab our car keys and drive down the road to Sonic or Whataburger or Subway and grab something there. If there is a car in front of us driving waaaaaay slower than WE believe they should be going, we switch lanes and honk, glare, and speedily pass them (I don't honk-- or glare-- but I do feel frustrated and probably will say something angrily in my car to myself). Or we stand behind the sweet old lady that has a dang coupon for every.single.item. in her cart at the grocery store. We roll our eyes and sigh a little louder than normal and either switch check outs… or, like I recently did, wait and when I got up to the front the check out girl apologized and thanked me for waiting and I "humbly" smiled and said "it was no problem."

But that was a lie. It was a problem. I felt inconvenienced. I felt slowed down. I felt like someone who-- if I was honest and truthful-- was not as important as me… got in my way. We all have been in these situations. We have all felt bothered or irritated, and we look at that sin of anger and excuse it. But what about when we get angry about bigger things? What about when I feel jealous about my friends who all seem to be in relationships or are getting married or who are falling in love or having babies? What about the pain of loneliness that creeps up out of no where and reminds me of my singleness as a 29 year old? What about my ridiculousness in the fact that I feel cheated when someone else gets married or engaged and I don't? We don't talk about these sins or feelings… but they are true and real and harmful.

The Lord has been really sweet to me and has allowed this year that I kinda dreaded (my last year in my twenties) to be really good. It hasn't all been easy but it has been good. I have tried to fix my eyes on Him and choose joy! I haven't felt alone or sad or left out. I have felt content and loved and encouraged and saturated with grace upon grace. But it isn't always like that. Today in my study of Lamentations I was reminded of what it says in chapter 3 verse 21. The first part of chapter three the author is talking about the affliction and hard times he has faced. But he says in 21, "But this I call to mind…". He doesn't say "this is what I believe…or think or wish..", he says, "But this I call to mind." He is reminded of something. He knows truth and it gives him hope. Then in verses 22-23 it continues, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to end; they are new every morning; GREAT in Your faithfulness."

Hard times are going to come. They are going to hit you down and try and destroy you. BUT… we can stand against the lies and combat them with truth by saying, "This I call to mind… the steadfast love of the Lord NEVER CEASES!! His mercies NEVER COME TO END!! They are NEW EVERY MORNING! GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS!!" May this be the posture of our hearts (me included because I definitely do not have this down). May this be our first defense… to run to the scripture that is God breathed and to our Father who is always with us! And may this allow us to see Him as good and for us and sovereign over us!

As the Bethany Dillon song says, "I am waiting on You… You say You're good to those who wait."

To listen to this great song-- click on this link!! It will bless you immensely.