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.

Why We Need to Hand Over Our Burdens to Jesus

woman showing her hands

Giving up control is never easy.

One of the most emotionally gut wrenching scenes in the movie, “The Shack” is when Mack is forced to hand over the body of his deceased daughter to Jesus. As one might imagine, the pain and anger surrounding his daughter’s unexpected death at the hands of another man consumed him. Even his wife and other children had yearned for healing and restoration. But Mack’s complicated history had resulted in fearing the consequences of surrender. Control had become a comfortable “garment.”  Despite his earlier interactions with Papa, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the character Wisdom, Mack refused to let go of his burdens.

But holding on keeps us hostage.

Mack came to my mind a few years ago as I found myself in a dark place. An unexpected descent into depression created a heaviness in my soul. In the midst of it, guilt, fear, and anger were evoked as a  video of past events played repeatedly in my mind. I recognized that Jesus was beckoning me to hand the weight of these situations over to him. Initially I imagined myself placing it at his feet. But then I realized that I easily could run back, pick it up, and regain control.

Then Mack came to mind. Just as I saw Mack transfer his daughter’s body to Jesus hands, I pictured myself placing my weights onto his open arms.

Once, he grasps our burdens from us, it’s hard to grab them back.

What are you afraid of relinquishing? Jesus’ arms are outstretched and waiting.

“Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So let all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less”  Lauren Daigle, “Trust in You”

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

 

 

Advertisements

How Jesus Speaks into My Repeated Short Term Memory

Why is it so hard to remember?

The disciples entered the boat.  After finding themselves in the midst of the crowds drawn to him,  they finally get Jesus to themselves.

But then it happens. Someone notices something. It’s what’s missing that is recognized. No one brought lunch for the journey.

But the disciples forgot to pack a lunch. Except for a single loaf of bread, there wasn’t a crumb in the boat. 

Meanwhile, the disciples were finding fault with each other because they had forgotten to bring bread. 

And the arguing commences. Someone dropped the ball.  Now what? Hungry stomachs fuel angry spirits.

And then….Jesus.

Jesus overheard and said, “Why are you fussing because you forgot bread? (

Remembering the lunch isn’t the problem.

Remembering who is the Bread of Life is.

Did they forget Jesus was in the boat?

Don’t you see the point of all this? Don’t you get it at all? Remember the five loaves I broke for the five thousand? How many baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

They said, “Twelve.”

“And the seven loaves for the four thousand—how many bags full of leftovers did you get?”

“Seven.”

 He said, “Do you still not get it?”

I see myself in that boat. How many times does Jesus need to remind me that I have witnessed him multiplying loaves and fishes?

Yet, I forget.

Anne Vos Kamp in “The Broken Way” calls it “soul amnesia.”

Despite, witnessing the divine intersecting earth,  I am back to my human perspective of troubleshooting. One that often involves fear and sometimes blame.

Did I forget Jesus is in my boat?

Thankfully, his patience never ends. Despite my repeated short term memory. Nor does his desire to meet my needs.

Sometimes I need to hear the reminder. “Do you still not get it?”

This post is based on the text from Mark 8:14-21)

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

The Moment God Spoke to Me Through a “Burning Bush”

Often, we find ourselves standing on Holy Ground when we least expect it.

Friday I led a workshop for parents who are exploring new territory. As you know, parenting does not come with a handbook. Hills and potholes appear out of nowhere and we are left confused, exhausted, and strategizing how to be better prepared. When your children struggle with chronic health needs, navigating parenting becomes even more challenging. Because of our family’s experiences with mental health issues, God grew a burden in my heart for other families in similar situations.

Once we started digging ourselves out of the trenches, I felt God nudging me to educate, ,encourage and empower others. But how?

Visions began to unfold. Whispers from the Holy Spirit spoke into my heart. And I put them on the back burner of my mind.

Until one day. God spoke in the midst of my weekend routines; my familiar paths.

“God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

“Can you do a workshop for our women’s conference?” asked my friend. Of course I wanted to do it. But I wasn’t prepared. I had nothing put together. Was this a holy moment?

When you are confronted by God’s voice in a burning bush, you can’t escape. Especially, when you take off your sandals.

Later, I watched the fire radiate from God’s voice speaking into the vision that had been put on my heart. A workshop was birthed.  A new calling commenced.

The first time I presented that workshop, i walked in with trembling knees. Would anyone come? Did God really call me to this place?  The room; packed with women hungry for hope, became a sacred space.  I pinched myself in that moment.  It was real.

What is God speaking into your life? Have you taken off your sandals yet?

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

 

Asking God for Help to Help

group of people walking on the stairs

When you happen on someone who’s in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don’t look the other way pretending you don’t see him. Don’t keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs. Don’t count the cost. Don’t listen to that selfish voice saying, “It’s almost the seventh year, the year of All-Debts-Are-Canceled,” and turn aside and leave your needy neighbor in the lurch, refusing to help him. He’ll call God’s attention to you and your blatant sin. (Deut. 15:7-9)

But…

“Why should I give money I worked for?”

“He is just lazy.”

“God helps those who help themselves.”

“Why does she have so many kids if she can’t afford them?”

“Not my responsibility.”

“I’m not giving money for drugs.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers.”

“I don’t have time.”

“What will my friends think?”

Yet…..

Scriptural passages about sacrifice don’t seem to address conditional contexts.

Perhaps our Creator knows us a bit too well.  God has a way of seeing into the human heart and speaking into it . The more our fingers clench around our “treasures of earth,” the more God attempts to unlock our grip.

That’s painful.

Giving up control always is.

But if we don’t we miss in the blessing. The peace. The amazement of watching God multiply loaves and fishes-enough to feed all of us. Abundantly.

Our fingers our an extension of the state of the heart. God desires to transform them. As we do our fingers gradually uncurl and have the capability of lying straight out as we flip our palms upward in a posture of surrender.

Are you willing?

 

 

 

 

Who Knows? Perhaps You Have Come to This Place For Such a Time as This

12 When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:12-14)

Her brain spun. Her heart raced as she reflected on the decision that lay waiting. How did she get here?

She was a young woman. An orphan. A jew. A niece. But, most importantly, God’s daughter; consecrated and ordained for divine purposes.

God thrust her into an unexpected place. 

She knew of the fate of her predecessor: Queen Vashti: Disposable due to her voice. Resistance results in death.

How did she get here?

God thrust her into an unexpected place.

The implications of her choices were not lost on Esther. Courage didn’t end well for Queen Vashti. It might not end well for her. Either way.

What does she have to lose? Her life-either way.

But bigger than that-being used to carry out God’s purposes. That’s big.

“I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.”  Esther 4:16.

Courage thrust from inside. Liberation resulted outside.

Because Esther knew how she got there. And that determined her choice.

Ann Vos Kamp writes, “We could all be the ones outside the gate….The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this-is to risk your life for those outside the gate.” (The Broken Way)

Where is God calling you to “such a time as this?”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Like the Church in Acts 2: How Praise Defines Us

” All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k]and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2: 44-47)

No one ever said it would be easy.

Living in community is no piece of cake. We all have quirks, personality types, opinions, back stories, temptations….Why do we expect the church to be absent of conflict?

Anyone who has spent time in Christian community is aware of the situations that give root to arguments and it isn’t always over what would be expected.

“That’s not how we do it.”

“__________ministry (fill in the blank) is the most important”

“I only like _______________ music.”

“The money should be used for ___________________”

“______________talked too long”

“Will everyone eat that?”

So, if Christian community involves conflict, why would anyone want to join it?

They witnessed perseverance and praise.

The believers continued to meet together. Acknowledging disagreements. Acknowledging the  cultural, age and gender mix. Acknowledging varied maturity in understanding of discipleship.

Who does that?

People that acknowledge that relationship in community can only happen because of who infuses it.

Heaven intersects Earth.

That’s worthy of praise. And participation.

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

 

 

 

 

Living Like the Church in Acts 2: What is Required of Us to Share?

People will take notice. 

All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k]and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2:44-46)

Even to a culture familiar with communal living, the early church appeared to turn the status quo upside down. Humanity thrives in a pecking order. It feeds our desire for power. It’s no surprise the disciples argued over who would sit at the right hand of Jesus. Sharing does not come naturally. In fact, it demands a cost to self: time, energy finances.

In our culture of independence and a “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” mentality, the early church lived radically. Questions begin to surface:

Did everyone contribute their fair share?

What about those who may have taken advantage of the community and then left?

Yet, scripture doesn’t bother with those nuances.  Something big took place. Something that witnessed to transformation. Something rooted outside of this earth.

People took notice.

Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t perfect. It couldn’t be because we aren’t.

But the Holy Spirit is bigger than our idiosyncrasies. We can be generous to each other because God is generous to us.

Does God call all of us to live like them? Community can appear in different forms.

Indeed there are communities around the world which resemble the one found in Acts 2. One of them, the JPUSA community (http://jpusa.org/) is one of my favorite groups with whom I engage.

What does it look like to live Acts 2 while we live scattered among our neighborhoods?

*watching someone’s children for free so they can have respite or work to get back on their feet

*lending use of your appliances to others whose appliances broke down

*starting a neighborhood “little pantry” (http://www.littlefreepantry.org/)

*spending time listening to someone with whom you don’t normally engage

*offering your skills and resources to help someone in need

Living counter culturally involves risk. But Jesus’ call to follow him does not hide that. The benefits outweigh the cons.

And people will take notice.

And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)

*photocredit: Priscilla Du=Preez @unsplash.com

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come Join Us! http://fiveminutefriday.com/