Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So I Was Nominated...


I'm honored to have received a nomination for the Liebster Award by Karen Brown over at Stooping for Manna. Karen is a dear person in my life, who God only placed into my life for a season, but our connection has long passed the time we had together in the same city and the same church. I am grateful for her encouragement and her amazing spirit and what it has brought to my life.

Here is her shout out: "Stephanie has a way of slowing down moments and inviting her readers into them- so that you must feel, think, and experience as a reader. She is an honest and brave writer, and beautiful friend." Um... yeah. Speechless.

Liebster is a German word that encompasses the following meanings: dearest, sweetest, kindest, lovely, and valued. That's a great word to name an award after.

Nominating someone for the Leibster is like giving credit to someone who has a blog that you would like to bring attention to. It's a way that we, small-fry bloggers, can cheer each other on.

The rules are that I must give five fun facts about myself, answer the five questions posed to me by Karen, then... I get to nominate five others.

So here goes...

Five Fun Facts About Stephanie:

1. I knew God called me to lifelong ministry while in a van riding through the mountains of Colorado, with a friend's feet in my lap, and Mere Christianity in my hand. 

2. I got lost on the Metro in Paris when I was 19. It would have been terrifying if I wasn't with three other girls who made me laugh during the whole experience.

3. One of the major events that changed my life involved a needing a locksmith, freezing cold weather and a neighbor who didn't own a phone book. But seriously, who needed one anyway, with Al Gore's internet invention?

4. Six months after I picked up the guitar, for my dad’s birthday present, I surprised him by playing a guitar solo for the first time during a communion service. I played his favorite song "Amazing Grace" and he cried. I won’t ever play that song for anyone else.

5. One of my favorite things is snow. I don’t enjoy driving in it, obviously. But I love how it takes a brown and dead and barren land and makes it shimmer and look beautiful again. I haven’t seen snow in two years. :(

Questions (nominees, answer these as well):

1. Why do you blog?

Because I don’t know what I think and feel until I write it.

2. What are your spiritual gifts?

In a generic spiritual gift test, teaching, wisdom and leadership are my top three. My motivational spiritual gift is mercy. (i.e., my motivation for all other gifts is based in compassion for others.)

3. What was your favorite class in college? 

Since seminary was more recent for me, I’m going to pick a class from that instead of college. And my favorite class was on the book of Joshua. Not because the book of Joshua is all that fascinating or that I loved the professor, but because it was there that I learned how to exegete a passage of scripture, which is an amazing skill to have been taught. It also opened up my eyes to both and beauty and the destruction of the Old Testament, God’s character, and human nature.

4. From where does your inspiration for your writing come?

My answer is identical to Karen’s: That's easy. It comes from life. From what I read, what I experience, who I meet, and what I'm feeling. Organizing life into words on a page truly helps me process and make sense of it all.

5. If you had a warning label to wear, what would yours say?

“Warning: emotional baggage attached. This one is intense and serious. But if you can get past it, she’s not so bad.” (I think.)

And now it's time for my own nominations. But first, here are the rules (if you can):

      · post the award on your blog
      · offer thanks and a link back to the blog/blogger who nominated you
      · share five random facts about yourself
      · nominate five other bloggers who you believe deserve the award and have less than 500 followers
      · answer the questions and ask five of your own

I went through the list of bloggers I read on a regular bases, but all have more than 500 followers. So, sadly, I cannot fulfill all of the rules… Sorry!

Monday, November 24, 2014

leave

I find myself checking my phone a lot lately.

My email. My phone log, my text messages. Every few minutes. Just in case I missed it.

I have a hard time leaving those I love. I even tend to hang on and stay long past the expiration date. It’s funny, though, but I generally don’t see myself as a hopeful person. But hope is the only thing that keeps me from leaving.

Hope is holding me captive.

This seems like this should be a good thing, no?

Not if it’s false hope. Then my heart will just continue to break and I will waste my time, energy and most of, my love… on this “hope.”

Walking away is hard. Because when someone has crawled into your heart (and in my case, they normally fight like hell to get there) it's very near impossible to let them go. There are very few people in my life who I consider close friends, and even fewer I count as those who get me. I don't have the emotional energy to spend on frivolous small talk, because I seek deeper connections because that is what makes sense to me. I am picky with whom I invest my time, because I prefer to reserve my time for those who reflect sincerity and authenticity...

and who are not afraid of mine.

Do you have any idea how rare that is to come by? And it takes me a long time to trust others, so if you've made it this far with me it's for a very intentional reason. 

That's why it's so hard for me to leave. Because I don't want to. 

But sometimes I have to.

*this post was inspired by an old Five Minute Friday prompt word that I never got around to writing about.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

notice



Say something I’m giving up on you.

Because I am. I tried to hang on. Short of showing up on your doorstep in tears, I gave you more than enough opportunities to notice. To notice what I was going through. To notice how much I need you.

Anywhere I would’ve followed you

Actually, no. I didn’t just give you opportunities to notice. I straight up said, “I need you.” This wasn’t just some expectation I had for you to “notice.”

I’m still learning to love.

I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. And neither of us has to be. It’s also a lovely reminder than we are both starting from the same place.

Say something I’m giving up on you.

It’s not my nature to give up. I’m a fighter. Always have been. When I know someone who wants to can be better and it matters, I fight to see them become better. I walk beside them, challenge them, love them through it.

But when they don’t notice either you or what you’re doing… Or notice you and what you are needed from them, it is time to stop the fight and walk away.

I’m sorry that I didn’t get to you.

Walking away, giving up, not getting to you… will you notice? Why do I hate myself for caring if you don’t?

I’m saying goodbye.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

still

 I’ve missed a lot of prompt words from FMF lately, which is too bad because I know how powerful those posts can be for me to write. But my life is just not in a place where I’m willing to be aware of enough that I remember to think,“Oh, it’s Friday. That’s means blogging.” Especially since I can’t seen to get FB to show the reminder post on my newsfeed. "Out of sight, out of mind" is how most things have been going for me lately, unless you’re a significant person in my life.

So I’m doing my own version. Not for 5 minutes. Because BAHAHAHAHA. But I still find so much value in the inspiration words. This last week’s prompt word was “Still.”



It’s 4:30am. AGAIN. I roll over and sigh, because HELLO, it’s 4:30 am and once again, I woke up and my mind is now officially racing and I’m composing an email in my head and thinking about that last phone conversation I had with friend X and wondering if I remembered to confirm my haircut appointment on Friday and asking myself, “Do I ever text X back to let them know when I could do lunch?” and remembering that there are now two bulbs burned out in the ceiling fan light in my living room and oh, that’s right, I need to go buy a new sprayer for my backyard hose at Home Depot.

Breathe.

AndthenireallywantthenewchestnutpralinelattefromstarbucksbecauseitremindsmeofbakingcookiesatchristmastimewithDaleandirememberthathenevertextedmebackandnowithinkheisprobablymadatmeandwhatdididothistimebecauseallididwasaskhimathoughtprovokingquestion

STOP. Breathe.

My favorite verse in the Old Testament is in the book of Exodus. Only a nerd like me would have that answer when everyone else says Jeremiah 29:11 or Ezekiel 36:26 or Isaiah 41:10. (Though mine very narrowly beats out Isaiah 53:5) But I love it. I hold it close to my heart.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I think what I like about the verse is that although it reminds me to be still, it also reminds me there IS a fight going on. Whether it’s a fight for my soul when it comes to sin, a fight for an idol that needs to be crushed in my life, a fight that involves the health of my father, a fight that requires taking a stand for truth…. There always seems to be a fight in life. Maybe not in a “I’ve got my dukes up” or an “I’m gonna take the hill with a pop gun” kind of fight, but a fight for my ever-constant divided heart. A fight that reminds me of why I get up in the morning and why I breathe in and out every day. A fight that reminds me why my mind won’t stop racing at 4:30 in the morning.

It’s a fight because I care.

Is being still in a fight of this kind just as simple as the cliché of stepping back and trusting him?

Or is it more?

Or is this stillness a resolve? A surety?

(That word always reminds me of that old William Gadsby song, made gorgeous by Sandra McCracken: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWAXkaWS8o0)

As I’ve been studying through the like of Moses this Fall, one of the greatest takeaways has been how we often focus on our circumstances rather than on God. But I struggle to reconcile this when our circumstances are a result of God working… and so I must focus on God when it comes to obeying him, not focusing on the fear of “what if?” within that obedience. That's what it means to not get hung up on our circumstance... and get hung up on him.

Most of the times, this doesn't feel like a stillness. Because we also learn from the many times Israel obeyed (or disobeyed, which happened an awful lot, too) the Lord, there was anything but stillness around them.

Maybe for me, a stillness comes in knowing that what I am doing, where I am going, and who I am is all a direct result of who God is and that while chaos abounds, my soul will rest in him. 

[Even that sentence makes me a little tired.]

Maybe it means being tired at the end of a long ministry day, but not exhausted. Maybe it means waking up at 4:30 several mornings in a row with a million things on my mind that will not shut up. But then again, maybe it doesn’t.

I don’t sound very still, do I?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

loss


Loss.

It’s a word that provokes a lot of emotion. The loss can progress over time, but can also decrease over time. What kind of crazy-ass supernatural kind of emotion does that?

Loss does.

Sometimes loss is inevitable. Sometimes we’ve seen the writing on the wall for a while; perhaps the roller-coaster of the experience hardly made the loss a surprise.

But you’re still riding on that roller coaster. This means there are ups and downs, terrifying moments of scream-filled terror and also let-go kind of joy-filled moments that set you free.

Loss does this. It’s CRAZY.

I’m facing a few losses right now. But there is a pretty big one in the midst of several tiny ones and I normally would be absolutely wrecked about this. But I am not.

(And it’s freaking me out. Hahaha. The humor is not lost on me.)

Part of me hopes my calm demeanor over this loss is simply God’s graciousness to me. Oh, please, let that be the case.

But another part of me is wondering if I’m simply numbed myself to the emotion because I saw the writing on the wall a long time ago.

I pray it’s the first. But I worry that my human nature means it’s the second.

I’ve written a bit here about family, http://neverbeenherebefore.blogspot.com/2013/10/being-tethered.html  and about how being so far away from mine has been difficult. More difficult than I ever thought it would be. It’s a different kind of difficult. It’s beyond a loneliness, but a palpable feeling of always being left out… of not belonging anywhere. I mean, when you end up spending too many Thanksgivings and Easters alone because your family lives 22 hours away and no one here thought to invite you over, that hurts. I’m not going to lie. It kills me inside each passing year.

So I’m in a situation right now where my friends are my family. And that is hard, because being the weirdo I am, friends just don’t come easy to me. They are hard work. Not just for me, but for them.  No one gets me. I’m a mess. I’m complicated. I’m a pain. So I’m grateful for those who stick around and love me when I’m unlovable. So when I lose a friend it’s like losing a member of my family. And for me, who loves her family with every inch of her soul, that? Devastating.

But this recent loss of friendship that’s left me calm has been devastating in a different way. Because I put myself out there, was honest about how I was feeling. I didn't ask for anything in return, though I certainly wanted one, because I value and love the person. But I didn't demand anything. I just shared my hurt.

Crickets.

Nada. Nothing from them.

Ouch.

BUT - maybe three or five or ten years ago this would have killed me. But today it doesn’t. It’s hard… but it hasn’t broken me. Maybe it’s because this friend never occupied that much space in my heart. *she says with hopeful vengeance in her heart*  Maybe it’s because God is being incredibly kind to me, because my heart can only take so much. Or maybe it’s that I am growing up and realizing that I did nothing wrong. And they did. And I can rest easy in that, where as other times I’ve gone over and over everything in my mind, combing over memories looking for things I screwed up. This time I’ve also given them the opportunity to hear how I felt with complete honesty. No games. No “what ifs” or “I could have been clearer” or “I should have” moments. There was no veil with me. This is a big damn deal. And you what? It didn’t kill me like I really thought it would.

Don’t misunderstand me. I miss my friend. I am grieving this loss. But there is no self-doubt here, and this is my breakthrough. I put myself out there, I was rejected, and it’s ok. I don’t want to go through this. I don’t want this loss. But I am also sure it’s not my fault I am going through this.

I've been completely honest and authentic with this friend and this time instead dwelling and looking at things from every angle of how I could have screwed up, I am realizing that I finally was true to myself, take it or leave it, and that my friend is the one who messed this up. Not me. There were no games played here. I was me, and this brokenness in our friendship is not a result of me playing a game or being unclear or having unrealistic expectations. For once, I’m not agonizing over whether it’s not my fault. Because it’s I know it’s not.

I’m sorry. But this is SERIOUS breakthrough material.

Whew. Why do I always feel like I need a glass of wine after I post something here?

Monday, October 06, 2014

new


I have been spending some time in the book of Exodus lately, learning about how the Israelites acted when they were living in slavery.

Discouragement is the one word that kept standing out to me this week.

Then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend about 4 years ago, when he had just moved to a new state, had a new job and started his life over. He was recalling our time together in the town we’ve both moved on from and he called it, “my time in the desert”

Maybe that’s my time here, right now. While I am actually in the desert, so the irony is not lost, I am wandering. I am lost. I am trying so hard to trust God when I just don’t feel him in this. Or maybe it’s that I feel so much of him and I don’t know which “feel” to listen to right now.

Wandering the desert makes me feel dry, dusty, gross and dirty.

When all I want is to be made new.

One of my favorite verses in running through my head right now (I need to write a song about it.) “He makes all things new” and I long for a time to be refreshed and not discouraged by it all. I long for a time when I can see God working in my life and it isn’t so damn hard.


I know that being made new doesn’t really happen – our wounds and scars remain long after they are healed. I’m ok with that. But being new is also about moving on and all I feel right now is stuck. Stuck in the dirt. Stuck in the mess. And right now, stuck with used tissues covering my desk as I think about discouragement.

Friday, September 05, 2014

two silences




I really wish I could tell the difference between the silence. The bridled silence I'm afraid I too often control. The caged silence for which I blame myself.

When he is silent, it hurts. When I forget to listen it hurts, too. It just takes longer to hurt. And when it comes, it rushes fast like a desert storm rolling over the dirt in the valley. Powerful and bursting forth I break the silence of my own feelings. The bursting forth as I sit in my car in my garage and I just cry.

Sometimes I can't hear you.

Sometimes you don't speak.

Why must it be so hard to listen for a whisper? To speak...so easy. To listen to others, myself... little effort is required.

But your whisper. Can puncture a heart. Will break through the silence.

And your silence even when I'm trying to desperately to listen? Well, that itself is a whisper. In a promise. A promise of words read and heard before. I cling to this. Even when it's hard.

I wish for whisper often, maybe all the time. I wish for whisper I could hear even when I'm not listening. I wish for whispers I could hear when I don't want to hear them.

Longing for these words, these whisper, so echoes the imposition of life. It's so the Romans 7.

Help me to learn and listen in the silence, O Lord.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

reach


















he reached down to me
i tried to reach up

that didn't work

what makes more sense...
him lowering himself
reaching
for me

or for me to actually reach him?

my arms are too short

yet still i reach
swatting away his arm
more times than i care to admit

i can do it own my own, i think
my reach is pretty strong

i am pretty strong

nope

this reach
is grace
undeserved
unaccomplished by me

this reach is joy
forgiveness
love
mercy
the ultimate compassion
for a dead-in-sins soul

his reach is long enough
wide enough
strong enough

he reached for me
grabbed me out of slimy pit
the mire and clay

he gave me a place to stand

it's on his grace
it's on his love
it's with him


http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/


Monday, August 25, 2014

change



I looked down at my phone and sighed the biggest sigh in the history of the world.

Yeah, ok. I might be exaggerating. But that’s how I felt this morning.

They say that habits form with repetitive choices and positive reinforcement. Well, I was used to getting a text message from a friend. Nearly every morning for the past few years I would get some hilarious or crazy text from a friend. Usually about nothing important. Something stupid that happened at Starbucks or at work. Something on the internet that was crazy. A song that made them feel. Something that would make me laugh.

That changed a few weeks ago. Thus my sigh. Old habits die hard.

I miss the texts. The stories. The laughter. The conversation. And now I have to start my day boring. Boo.

It’s amazing how a person can come into your life and crawl right into your heart and come to mean something so much to you in a short period of time. It’s amazing the hole they leave when they go.

I don’t like change like this. So much change is good. So much. But not this. The words of Jesus are in my brain right now, John 15, “any vine that does not produce good fruit must be pruned…” I imagine this might be a pruning. And God’s pruning is always a beautiful and right and good thing.

But it still hurts.

I like all my vines, thank you very much. That’s why I put them there.

INFJs cling tightly to those we connect with, because that connection is so very rare. We don’t want them to leave, so God has to resort to extreme measures to prune from me (that’s been his m.o. in the past). 

I hate it. 

http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/

Friday, August 15, 2014

five minute friday - tell


Today’s post is for Five Minute Friday for my VERY FIRST TIME EVER, and the urging of my friend Karen. Five Minute Friday is where whoever loves and writes is urged shut down their critical voice and and write on a prompt word for five minutes straight. No editing (hahahahaha is happening in my head right now, by the way.) Today's prompt is the word "tell".

____________


She sat across from me in my office and I hear her say the words that will not let me go. The words I keep hearing from people. The words that resonate and by now, simply hurt,

“I don’t feel like I belong here anymore.”

What is my job, now, at this point?” I’m asking myself inside. Wondering how to respond. My heart is tearing and I close my eyes for a long while as we sit together. I almost feel my heart cave in, that familiar feeling of heartache. But this time it’s not about a boy or a friend or family member or a loss. This time it’s caving in dread.

To tell me that you don’t feel like you belong anymore immediately sets me into problem-solving mode. I guess because I know that we could talk and talk and talk about what I know the balcony issue is and know that we will never get to the dance floor and figure this out. It’s as if this telling is yet another way I’m feeling the shovel slam into the dirt and dig the hole bigger and deeper, to make room for yet another body of someone who wants to leave.

I refuse to throw a handful of dirt on this grave. But I don’t know what to do instead.

I am fearful for how many more times people will tell me this.