Author Archives: Stephanie

About Stephanie

I am a wife, mother of three (Seth-17, Lena-15 and Eli-12), ordained pastor, follower and vessel (albeit sometimes a broken one) of Christ. One of my other titles is that of homeschooler to my daughter (never saw that one coming!). Iced coffee, reading, baking, exploring, friendship, and musical theater are some of my favorite things. I enjoy speaking to and empowering women as they navigate various seasons in life. I hold a special passion for encouraging families with a child struggling with a mental disorder or other unique challenge.

Learning to Trust God When the Direction Makes No Sense

God’s answers may involve movement to unexpected places. And sometimes we find ourselves scratching our heads as we head in the direction.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!”  2 Kings 5:9

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.” Jeremiah 18:1-4

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” Matt 21:2

God meets us in places that seem mundane: villages, potters houses, a river, waiting rooms, grocery lines, neighborhoods, and work environments. But they become “burning bushes” when his voice speaks to us through them.

How many times have I fretted as I waited for God to move only to realize he’s been moving all along? But I had to move too. Into the Holy places.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. ” Proverbs 3:5.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

My Favorite Book of the Year: Braiding Sweetgrass

Author Robin Wall Kimmerer aptly named her gorgeous book Braiding Sweetgrass. Within it, she braids together indigenous wisdom, perspectives on our Creator, and scientific theory through the pages that are both essay and autobiography. Never have I read a book similar to this. It’s information, wisdom, and beautiful storytelling cultivated an awareness of my ecological “relatives” that barely existed previously .

Kimmerer’s membership in the Potowatami Nation and background as a professor of botany weaves together seamlessly as she shares lessons learned from the earth. Indiginous ideologies acknowledge a commitment to a harmonious relationship with plants: ” “Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” Because of what is shared here, I will forever be indebted to wild strawberries, pecans, and maple trees.

While lamenting the loss and dismissal of indigenous wisdom, the author shares how colonization and industrialization affects both her personal story as well as the bigger narrative of our country. “The consumption-driven mindset masquerades as “quality of life” but eats us from within. It is as if we’ve been invited to a feast, but the table is laid with food that nourishes only emptiness, the black hole of the stomach that never fills.” It left me pondering how we have messed up the commandment to be stewards of creation. What blessings are we missing as a result of a zest for control and accumulation regardless of cost?

Through sharing stories of her own pain staking experiences restoring nature, Kimmerer does not leave one in a state of discouragement. She lifts up hope. But it will involve commitment to doing the hard work together. “How we approach restoration of land depends, of course, on what we believe “land” means.” It’s on this premise that Kimmerer engages the reader. She paints an exquisite and compelling picture of a demographic of creation. Historically, our nature family is taken for granted at best, and treated with disregard at worst. But, as she says, we all live in a circle of reciprocity, not a line.We need each other. Even algae and salamanders. For her words, I will forever be thankful.

” “Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.”

Jesus Birth was Not Reason for All to Rejoice

Not everyone was happy.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”

Jesus posed a threat. His birth was not cause for all to celebrate. For those who enjoyed power at the expense of profiting off others, the Messiah was no welcome citizen. For Herod, this child did not symbolize life because it meant death to his kingdom. What were the chances that the Messiah would actually arise out of this little town as foretold? Certainly he didn’t really expect him to come as a baby. But the Magi’s inquiry about him confirmed his fears. And he was willing to keep his power no matter the cost.

Naomi Hanvey writes, “It’s kind of obvious why we don’t usually see Herod in the Christmas story. We don’t want to complicate the pure, sacred narrative with this subplot of murder and intrigue, right? The image of the nativity creche isn’t quite as picturesque when you add a paranoid king slaughtering children in the periphery.”(http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/blog-home/lets-put-herod-back-in-christmas?fbclid=IwAR0yvpscB4oPj76D-lYhm4cOKG1tkock0oyobBl_Wrh8O3XPxrZxgezoTKE)

But it matters. God’s hand can be threatening to those who find comfort in what the earthly kingdom values. Understanding the whole narrative helps us hear all that God says to us as his hand weaves through the plot. If a baby caused such fear in a ruler, we have to wonder why. When Mary and Joseph are exhorted to flee to a foreign country, we have to wonder why. Jesus’ life was speaking volumes before he could talk.

God speaks to the world through the whole narrative. When we leave out the uncomfortable parts, we miss seeing parts of God’s character and how the story speaks to us today.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

Why We Must Offer Up Our Full Selves to One Another

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:37-38.

We enter the season of giving. At least that’s what the ads and cultural nuances tell us. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate.

As God’s people, we show whose we are by the never ceasing laying down of our lives. Not just seasonally. Throughout scripture, God calls us back to trusting Him and recognizing our sacred commitments to one another.

Human nature longs to hoard and control. Kingdom nature longs to share and liberate.

God addresses measurement in scripture because intentional inaccuracies became a way of profiting off of others. ” You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:36. also see Leviticus 25). Accurate measurement was integral to the ancient trade economy. Measurements are made through pressing down, shaking, or running over. Regardless, measuring accurately is the focus; particularly when it affects one’s well being. A full trade was expected. not a few pinches off.

Women carried the measurement in a “pouch” around their mid waist made by wrapping a long piece of fabric around the body. The merchant poured the substance of dry goods into it. The exchange was very personal. From imago dei to imago dei.

Our transactions with others characterize whose we are: Loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. No matter what the season.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

Why We Can Embrace the Cost of Building God’s Kingdom

Building God’s Kingdom will cost you something.

Jesus didn’t spare words regarding the cost of following him. ” I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties…  John 16:33

Scriptural narratives bear witness to the struggles experienced when choosing to be part of God’s people. We are defined by the way we flip the earthly status quo on its head. Powers that profit from others feel threatened. Whenever Earthly systems of security are dismantled, resistance ensues.

In October, my church opened a homeless shelter in our building. After months of preparation and communicating with the village in hopes of gaining their support, our Tuesday night refuge began. And so did the resistance from the community.

The village government accused us of not following proper protocols (we did). Neighbors reacted with knee jerk reactions rooted in fear. Our pastor was depicted in a scandalous light. But we continued to fight for our brothers and sisters who can also be described as the “least of these.” Building Jesus’ Kingdom will cost you something.

As we continued, the anger rose. We were threatened with shutting down if we didn’t follow newly implemented codes for newly created zoning. We received slanderous and hurtful comments from others. But we continued to open our doors. Building Jesus’ Kingdom will cost you something.

Then something amazing happened. Evidence of God’s hand prevailed. High profile attorneys volunteered to represent the church. People sharing our vision spoke up; through emails and at the board meeting. Money was sent in. People came together to advocate for the restoration of others. Because following Jesus compells us to do it.

Here’s the paradox of Jesus’ kingdom: The “difficult” life is also the abundant life.

” The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “ John 10:10

As Ann Voskamp writes in her book The Broken Way, “The abundance is in the breaking.” When we experience difficulties for offering shalom to others, we are living abundantly. Because abundant living opens up a kingdom to others; not shuts them out. How we treat others has always been the defining characteristic of God’s people. Jesus modeled it and exhorted it.

He offers us this promise as we gain sore muscles, injured bodies, and discouraged spirits:

“But take courage; I have conquered the world!” John 16:33

*for more on our story, read this: https://patch.com/illinois/orlandpark/homeless-shelter-can-stay-open-after-smoke-alarms-are-installed?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_content=illinois&utm_campaign=blasts&fbclid=IwAR3K1IZFJ1Sta_O0o5zpo333Os-lUVI-2XkvhkKx1gGdUMPQcGQJZS-rQU8

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The Power Of Reminding Others They are Known

He remembered my name.

I first met Neil the previous week. As a shy sixteen year old, I ventured to the weekly high school gathering known as Young Life alone. I had heard enough chatter about it to pique my curiosity. In addition, I observed the engagement of the leaders with students on my campus at lunch time and extracurricular events. I wanted in.

It’s no coincidence that navigating my relationship with God around the same time. These leaders exuded something I had never seen: an unconditional love toward teens. Simply building relationships with them on their turf and in their terms.

I experienced a taste of it myself the first time I attended so I returned for the second week. I pushed through the intimidation of the 100 or so other students cramped into someone’s basement family room. As I walked in, his voice met me with a loud greeting, “Stephanie!”

He remembered my name. To remain unknown in a sea of teenagers can be a lonely experience. He remembered my name.

My life changed dramatically that day. I was reminded that I am known-to him and to God.

” Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands. “ Isaiah 49:16.

As a substitute teacher, I carry Neil’s words into the classroom. I try to remember the names of my students who I see repeatedly. Because we all need reminding, in a sea of social media images, that we are known.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

Remembering that God Beats GPS

They moved on from Succoth and then camped at Etham at the edge of the wilderness. God went ahead of them in a Pillar of Cloud during the day to guide them on the way, and at night in a Pillar of Fire to give them light; thus they could travel both day and night. The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people. (Exodus 13:20-22)

I have no sense of direction. GPS is a godsend. But sometimes, even technology can mislead me. Yesterday, I drove to a women’s conference. Unfortunately, where I normally park was under construction so I quickly pulled into a restaurant parking lot and opened my app for cheap parking. I found a place and proceeded to navigate to it.

The problem was that a series of unfortunate events led to confusion: the gps voice was not audible, it was pitch dark, and I was surrounded by city traffic. Feeling lost and frustrated, I repeatedly drove around the area; glancing at the glowing map radiating from my phone. I trusted in the gps, no matter how many times I drove around the block.

In retrospect, I ask myself why I pledge loyalty to my GPS but call out God when I feel a lack of direction. Certainly, pillars of clouds or fire don’t settle over me. However, I have the the Holy Spirit all around and inside of me.

I find myself not too different from the Israelites. They, too, gravitated toward worshipping man made “gods.” God not only visibly settled over them and helped them navigate their next steps but had shown himself to be capable of intervening for his people in the most miraculous of ways. Yet, they still struggled with trust.

May I hide these words in my heart:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
    Do not depend on your own understanding.
In all your ways obey him.
    Then he will make your paths smooth and straight. (
Proverbs 3:5-6)

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

Book Review: The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament

In her book, The Louder Song, Aubrey Sampson tackles a biblical practice that seems to have disappeared in contemporary faith culture: lament. Despite the fact that lament is woven through scripture (most blatantly in the Psalms and in Lamentations, it does not make a common appearance in personal or corporate liturgies. Sampson writes,”I am learning that powerful people do not know how to lament. They’re used to being able to affect a situation, leveraging their power for their own benefit or someone else’s. People in control don’t need lament because lament is for the helpless, the weak-those who have no advocate or way forward but for the mercy of God.” Lament points us to God. Simply, we need it.

Sampson not only takes the reader through the process of understanding the practice of lament but shares her own experiences with it through telling her own story of grief. She points out that lament allows us to sit in our pain and yet yearn for God’s ability to fill it with his “very good.” As the title implies, “God doesn’t avoid or ignore pain. He sings a louder song over it.”

The book is arranged in three sections: How, Yet, and With. Each theme pertains to the form of a prayer of lament. In addition, she introduces the four different expressions of lament as found in scripture and unpacks them. They find themselves woven through the personal stories shared throughout the book. Each chapter ends with a prayer of lament written by an assortment of ancient and contemporary writers.

As Sampson points out, there are more prayers of lament than prayers of praise in the Bible. That fact reminds us that we find good company in others who also acknowledged their posture of helplessness. For too long, I felt guilty feeling frustration, confusion, resentment, and even anger at God’s allowance of painful situations,both personal and in the world. I found hope and affirmation in her words.

Recognizing the purpose and significance of lament is essential as we seek restoration. The soul finds refuge in God’s character while also laying our grief before him. Lament opens us up to God’s character. Perhaps it’s time to embrace lament as a common practice as individuals and as the church. People are longing for Shalom. Aubrey’s book offers a path toward finding it.

What a Road Trip With My Son Taught Me

We must keep watch for those sacred moments with our kids.

My youngest son and I took a quick road trip to Michigan. The destination was my hometown. Although we have navigated this course more times than I can count, this trip was different. My son drove the whole way.

We are thick in the midst of driving hours for him to receive his license. He’s ready to invest in those hours of practice. Me? Not so much. Learning to drive indicates another mile marker of independence. For parents, those places mean an adjustment emotionally and logistically. Movement toward maturity involves change in relationships with others. That can be an uncomfortable place in which to sit when you are one of the “others.”

Originally I intended to sit in the driver’s seat. Because that’s what I have been conditioned to do. And as much as I don’t always relish my role as a chauffer, I have become a creature of habit. But my son asked if he could drive on this trip. Really? The whole way? Hesitantly, I took my place in the passenger seat. It’s where I belonged but it didn’t feel comfortable.

But yielding control has its benefits. God provides in unexpected ways.

The trip was not without some bumps in the road (literally and figuratively). He’s still learning. It would have been much more efficient (and I could have argued “safer”) if I drove. But that’s not how parenting works. If I had never allowed my son to walk, he would not have developed his muscles in his legs or made neural connections in his brain. Parents live the paradox of being protectors and liberators at the same time. And that can be an uncomfortable place in which to sit.

What I recognized was that this place, these moments were sacred opportunities. In the midst of the quandaries of figuring out how to navigate our relationship,God had provided a sanctuary today. We talked about school,the afterlife, and mysteries listened to podcasts. We even ate inside (gasp!) at McDonalds because he didn’t want eating interfering with driving.

I recognize this is my last round of big “liberation” moments with my kids. He graduates next year. My last child will be on his own. These moments are precious. I’ve tried to take advantage of impromptu opportunities in the car before. You’d think I would learn. Today, I will savor the gift we were given and pray that I keep watch for the next one.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com

What I Learn From Others’ Stories About Waiting

Lord, my longings are sitting in plain sight,
    my groans an old story to you. ..
(Psalm 38:9)

Waiting is not for the faint of heart. Human nature gravitates toward immediate gratification. The longing to see, touch, or feel that for which we desire permeates the heart and flows through our limbs.

At times, I find myself morphing into the character Veruca Salt from the book/movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” After realizing she didn’t get the golden goose, she melodically whines, “Don’t care how, I want it now!”

Craving idols of gold is nothing new. The Israelites knew a bit about that. My idols may not be made of gold but they originate from the same human problem: impatience.

I find myself in the company of others whose struggles are revealed in scripture:

The Israelites waited for a home

Abraham and Sarah waited for a child (and the promise of a multitude of progeny)

Joseph waited for liberation

Esther waited for the right time

Mary waited for the birth of her child and the manifestation of who she carried.

What I do, God, is wait for you,
    wait for my Lord, my God—you will answer!
(Psalm 38:15)

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