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pieces

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I had stopped at a cute display of wine-themed gifts when it happened. As I stared at the mustache-shaped drink marker, I felt it. The pieces all tumbled out from my core and landed on the floor. They scattered all around me.
I made a fist with my left hand and pressed it up against the hole that was left in my chest, and tears gathered at my bottom lids, then quietly and carefully dropped onto my cheeks.
I felt my shoulders rise and fall, with deep breaths attached. Not again, I whispered to myself. I actually began to wonder how there was any way I still had tears left.
I looked down at all the pieces, unsure of what to do.
They lay there, to my left. My shopping cart to the right. I gently leaned over and began to scoop them up. A woman stepped around me. “Excuse me,” she said, and I barely glanced up as the shame overcame me and the tears continued to fall.
I stood up and wondered where I was supposed to put the pieces I had gathered, and  realized these pieces weren’t what you …

prepare

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It seems as though all we do this time of year is prepare.
For me, I have to prepare everything ahead of the rest of the world, it seems. My family lives several states away, so that means shopping early and preparing the gifts to ship in time for when Christmas actually starts.
I usually take off time to go see them, so that means preparing weeks in advance for all the volunteers and teachers at the church, making sure they have everything they need for when I’m gone.
I prepare my house, trying to make it all feel festive by putting up a tree and pulling out all my favorite decorations.
This year, my heart is heavy. Well, it’s pretty much been heavy all year I guess. But this Christmas is particularly painful. Which I guess is fitting for Advent, right?
[Did you know that if you google the word “advent" right now, the headline “Kris Jenner, 59, Flashes Her Ample Cleavage, Shakes It With a Candy Cane for Love's Latest Advent Calendar Video” comes up as fourth? Keep it classy, Kard…

when I think about leaving

I think about the time I had you over to watch a movie with a bunch of others and you inspected my bookcase just to make sure we could be friends.
I think about that time I was at your house until 3am playing “Your Best Life Now” and you fell off your chair laughing.
I think about the time we sat at a table at a church potluck together and suddenly I thought it might actually work to stay.
I think about the time you showed up at my door with two other friends, with me expecting the two of us to go have breakfast, but instead you all plowed your way into my home with donuts and a puzzle.
I think about the time we sat for hours while I crocheted and you sewed something and we sang to The Sound of Music at the top of our lungs. (And I recorded it on my phone to use for blackmail later.)
I think about the time you collapsed onto my sofa and declared you were moving in because it was so much better than yours.
I think about the time you paid your son to take credit for one of your moments of, ah…

the hush of advent

On the Meyer’s Briggs personality test, I am an INFJ. When I first tested for this in seminary, I was borderline N/S and F/T. Then when I had to do my family genogram (http://www.genopro.com/genogram/) for my Marriage and Family Counseling class, I discovered something very interesting. I had my immediate family all take the Meyers Briggs and the rest of my family all tested as S’s and as T’s. My counseling professor (Dr. Zink) told me this is why I am on the borderline of both N and F, saying that I was probably naturally an N and F, but my environment (i.e. family) forced me into acting more like an S and a T. (Then, of course, I recall how Dr. Zink told me those were the two that are the hardest to be different from your family. Story of my life – once a black sheep, always a black sheep.)
What does this have to do with Advent? Weirdly enough, snow.
Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while know the love affair I have with snow. It’s God’s cruel joke that he called me to a chur…

So I Was Nominated...

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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…

leave

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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 ma…

notice

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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 awa…

still

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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 eve…

loss

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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 em…

new

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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 fo…

two silences

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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 f…

reach

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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/


change

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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 chan…

five minute friday - tell

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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".
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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 …

a lament - - - selah

This spring I did a series on expectations – what it actually would look like if we tried to live our lives without them. If you go back and read the series, you’ll see I never come to any kind of solid thesis (that wasn’t the point). But I did come out of it realizing that as great as it sounds to avoid hurt in life, it just didn’t seem possible to truly live without expectations of some form. It seemed like regularly the logical part of my brain collided with my heart. And I let my heart win.
Here’s what’s funny.
I think that I hoped deep down that I would, through the writing, stop having expectations of the people in my life. That somehow I would have learned this powerful lesson through all those painstaking words I wrote and felt… that somehow I would be free of what often hurts me.  Disappointment.

Yeah. That didn’t happen.
Surely goodness will follow me.
I don’t know why I wanted that, other than the obvious reason of it seems like such a great way to live your life. But I did, bec…

regret

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This has been a challenging four years. A lot has happened in my time in Arizona… a great deal of joy and laughter. Even more growth and stretching. And many tears.
Tonight, for the first time, I actually heard a small voice inside me say, “I regret coming here.”
And right now isn’t even the worst of times I’ve had here.
So I had to pause.
(My version of pausing is to write. Well, first I cleaned and organized my office. Then I sat down to write. Because I don’t know how I feel until I write it.)
I panicked as soon as those words entered my mind, because I don’t know if they are real. True. Or the enemy working against me.
There is something keeping me here. It’s a strong and powerful force. It would have to be to keep me tethered to a place so far outside my comfort zone. So far away from my family. So far away from what I consider home.
But it’s home here, too.
It happened when I fell in love.
With this season.
“But then I come down here… and this fits, too.”
I am just waiting for the thing t…

unsettled

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I sat down to write today, remembering I still had one more post I wanted to do to finish off my series on expectations. I don’t think I’m going to do it. I realize I could write about expectations a lot more, and the last topic is one that I think would be too much like the others. And while I’ve enjoyed the consistency of doing a blog series, I go back and read them and see what sounds like a self-pitying martyr. I don’t want that.

So here I sit, staring at a blank white page on my computer screen, knowing that writing is just as much a discipline as it is an art. That’s why it often hard for me to go back and read some of what I wrote. It’s not great writing, but it is self-reflection, which, as you may remember, is what I feared would go away in my life once I moved here and entered a different environment, one that didn’t have that focus like my time in St. Louis did.


I’m wondering if I’m doing too much self-reflection, and there is nothing attractive about navel gazing. Then I rem…

crushing grapes

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There is something powerfully heart-crushing about realizing you don’t mean as much to someone as they mean to you. If you’ve been reading around here for a while, I’m a pretty intense feeler, particularly since the beginning of this year, when I finished writing the talk I gave for the Women2Women conference, and made a significant breakthrough: that we are completely known and loved by the God of the universe (anyway), and to feel and understand that kind of love on earth we have to let yourself be known by others.


This caused me to be very intentional with my communications with others, my best friends and co-workers, the friends with which I feel a kinship and the family members whom I love. It’s had varying results, to be sure. It’s been painful, without question… which is where I come to the “heart-crushing” part.

You know that awkward moment when you’ve carefully and thoughtfully picked out a Christmas gift for someone and you didn’t get anything from them? That’s what this is li…