Thursday, April 15, 2010


A friend of mine recently got married, and she said something very intriguing to me when she described the feelings she had on her wedding day.

She said, "There was this part of me that wasn't ready to let go of my parents, because I never quite had the relationship with my dad that I wanted. I wasn't fully ready to "let go", because I didn't feel the safety of his love. Does that make sense? It does to me, because I know it is backed by research. Children who are secure in their parents love are more likely to feel the safety to spread their wings and leave the nest, because they know their parents will always be right there, cheering them on. "

I had to stop and ponder what that looks like in our relationship with our heavenly father.

As I've come to understand the mistrust I have in people, I've wondered if there is a connection between how I see them (as untrustworthy) and how I see God. How do you really know if you trust God? I feel as though my actions (such as moving my live to St. Louis to go to seminary) show some measure of trust in him and his providence. But is that all I use as my measuring stick?

Last Saturday I was offered a job. In this economy, being fresh out of seminary, that’s a pretty big deal.

Not just because it would mean moving halfway across the United States to a place where I don’t know anyone, in a town full of mostly retired people. But it’s a big deal because this is a job where I’d get to use my degree, use my gifts, in a denomination which I largely respect. But these last few days have been pretty close to hell for me.

Saying no to the only job offer you've had so far is just as much of a step of faith as saying yes to the same job offer. If I say no to the church in Arizona, it could be looked as one of two ways: 1.) That's it's stupid to say no to a job in this economy, that's almost everything you went to seminary for, and is a great opportunity. or 2.) Saying no could also mean that I trust the Lord has something else in mind for me that’s more of what I need right now. What I’m currently doing is putting enough pressure on myself that I might as well believe the world will fall apart if I don’t make the right choice.

However, I feel like it’s just a stupid to take this lightly. It took a long time for my call to be revealed to me. I graduated college without any sense of direction, not knowing at all what I wanted to do fro a living. I just knew I wanted to serve God. The process from then to now has been a process of hurt and hope, damage and restoration, love and grace. But why is taking the next step such a challenge for me right now?

In thinking of the answer to that question, I cannot help but think of Thorton Wilder’s words: "In Love's service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”

My wounded soul doesn’t preclude me from trusting the Lord. At least, I don’t think it does. But what it can do is make cloudy the goodness he has so often extended to me. My wounded soul was born out the hardship and pain, and sometimes that’s so much easier to see than his blessings.

Posted via email from stephanienels's posterous

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Belonging to God - Part 2

So I'm leaving tomorrow morning on a flight to Phoenix. I'm packing, thinking about the questions I need to ask while I'm there, wondering what this leg of this crazy journey will bring...

It's a really weird thing to be terrified of what will happen next and still trust that God knows what he is doing (I'll be writing more on this trust later... I've realized what a big issue this is for me right now). This uncertainty grips my heart and seizes nearly every waking moment of my life right now. It's all consuming, unforgettable and just plain hard. When I start to articulate my feelings to those I love so dearly, I realize that whatever happens, happens. If I don't have a job after I graduate, the world will not stop turning. (A friend sent me an email on Tuesday saying just that, reminding me that I told her that when she was going through something similar. Oh, how we easily forget.)

So much of what I am feeling right now plays into my story. The story I've unpacked and unraveled in the last 9 months. It's the story of my past, the story that made me who I am today. The way I think and behave and feel is all connected to what I've already been through.

But it is my story. I cannot change it. I can only seek to live well through it and understand it as best I can. I've learned why I react the way I do when I'm critiqued, I've learned what it means for me to be in process and how to be okay with that, I've learned what it means to be a saint... and so much more I haven't even posted about.

Something you may notice, if you see the labels off the the side of my blog, is the label "Identity" has the largest number of posts. There is a very important part of my story connected to that, which I don't have time to fully write about now. But here's what God has to say about identity:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be q a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices s acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”


“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy
. -1 Peter 2: 4-10

I am a people for his own possession. I am uniquely created for something. I belong to God.

As I sat as Osage Lake two weeks ago, in silence (save the birds and the wind) the Lord whispered to my heart and said, "You belong to me." There are so many reasons why this statement is huge - because of what I've already been through in my life and because of my own story. This matters. This is big. I am chosen and precious, I am set as a seal upon his heart, I have been called out of darkness into his light. This is a truth to which I will cling.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Belonging to God - Part 1

I may have a major decision to make in the next two weeks. Or I may not. Bleh.

In my "old" age, I've learned I don't like change very much. I don't like seasons of unrest or uncertainty. These seasons make me feel anxious, worried, and well... downright awful.I struggle to really trust the Lord in these times, when I don't know what he's up to, what the world is up to and what I'm supposed to do.

I'd like to be able to say that I am 100% trusting in him. As my Creator, I am sure he knows what's best for me. I am sure he loves me. But sometimes, when it comes down to the brass tacks, I just freak out. I struggle with trying to figure out what decision will honor him, to do what he wants and I struggle to actually make the stupid decision because I am so worried I will not be in his will. I wrestle with the tension of what my responsibility is and how his sovereignty plays itself out in my life. Yet I realized something very interesting on my long drive back home today. I realizing that what I am learning in the midst of this wrestling is the importance of being bold.

It's hard being in the Reformed faith sometimes, because there is such a big focus on our sinful nature. I understand why this is important, because unless I truly understand the gravity of my sinfulness, I can never fully understand why Jesus had to die on the cross. God's holiness required a payment for my rebellion.. in the form of a perfect sacrifice. The only one who could do that was God himself. That's how big my sin is. That's how big his holiness is. But...

he rose.

I can't stay on Good Friday, dwelling on the great sacrifice he gave me. I shouldn't. I must honor it, be reverent to it, be thankful for it and be in awe of it. But I must not get stuck on Good Friday... because Sunday came, and on that day sin was defeated. My sin was defeated. Your sin was defeated. If I focus on Friday I will miss the party. And that party is what allows me to be bold.

I sin. But I am not a sinner. That's why I can't dwell in a perpetual state of Good Friday. Jesus' death and resurrection defeated the sin in me and gave me a new name: saint. It feels strange to say that sometimes, because I feel like I'm being prideful. But Romans 8 tells me that I am in the Spirit. That's something to rejoice in. That's something that makes me bold.

There's a great old hymn, written in 1838, that beautifully illustrates not only what it means to be bold, but WHY we can be.

Come boldly to a throne of grace,
Ye wretched sinners come;
And lay your load at Jesus' feet,
And plead what he has done.
"How can I come?" Some soul may say,
"I'm lame and cannot walk;
My guilt and sin have stopped my mouth;
I sigh, but dare not talk."

Come boldly to the throne of grace,
Though lost, and blind, and lame;
Jehovah is the sinner's Friend,
And ever was the same.

He makes the dead to hear his voice;
He makes the blind to see;
The sinner lost he came to save,
And set the prisoner free.

Come boldly to the throne of grace,
For Jesus fills the throne;
And those he kills he makes alive;
He hears the sigh or groan.

Poor bankrupt souls, who feel and know
The hell of sin within,
Come boldly to the throne of grace;
The Lord will take you in.

Listen to it here.