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.

How We Can Support Families of Kids with Special Needs Adjusting to Quarantine

We all belong to each other.

In these days of social distancing, my soul and my body miss the daily connections. Specifically, I am aware of the absence of those with whom I engage in my routines. As a substitute teacher, I float around to different schools but because of repeated contact, these students and staff impact me. Our familiarity with one another cultivates trust and intimacy. I am aware of the struggles they bring to the classroom.

We are all adjusting to this new normal. And we are all losing something something. For my friends who receive specialized instruction, school provides a network of professionals who strive to help students build their skill sets. These social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech pathologists, paraprofessionals, peer buddies and teachers form a “village” to help families help their kids become confident and more independent.

For the families of these students, the quarantine brings about changes in routine which is difficult for many of them, E-learning is not something easily done independently. For the parents, helping their children process the adjustment is challenging.

Parents of these students: I see you. Not literally but in the faces of your children in my mind. I pray for you. Know that I miss them and am a better person for having the privilege of being in their presence.

For the rest of us, consider what you can do to make life a bit easier for families in this situation.

  • Ask about food preferences and order a delivered meal for them
  • Send them a gift card for pizza delivery
  • Send a card to the student
  • Offer to run errands for them. Getting away may be difficult for them
  • Pray for them

“Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Phillipians 2:3-4

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us!

Why I’m Trying Not to Worry About Tomorrow

Last night, I panicked. For the first time since the news of the spreading Coronavirus began infiltrating every media venue in which I engaged, a shock of fear hit my chest. An image across the tv screen pierced my soul. The reality of the landfall hit of the storm became real. Each day, I felt the gut wrenching consequences inch closer.

People diagnosed in my community.

Graduation ceremonies cancelled

Communities quarantined

Jobs lost, businesses closing

And it all felt too much. It felt as if the world was spinning out of control and I wanted off.

But God speaks into my fear: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34

I remember that encountering unexpected circumstances is nothing new. Navigating life in this place naturally leads us to crossroads and detours. The temptation to depend on human driven logic to maintain control lures. We jump to grasp our hands on anything that may prevent the catastrophes playing out in the mind. Those items become our “golden calves.” As Michelle Reyes says ” There’s nothing saying that our stash of toilet paper, food, disinfectant, or hand sanitizer will save us. It’s one thing to be prepared; it’s another to ascribe to the objects we buy a magical aura of protection. ”

So I am choosing to trust God. Even when I know the future is unknown. Even when hardship surrounds me and inches closer. Because God holds me through each day no matter what happens. And that promise is enough.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us!

How God speaks “more” into our “less”

Amidst the confusion and fear of the coronavirus, a truth emerges that we have known along: we cannot control everything.

Waves of panic flood through us when we encounter that reality. Fear permeates in the air. As we inhale the heavy air, our lungs struggle to regain their regular rhythm. How will I survive this storm? Where do I seek refuge?

The disciples knew a bit about feeling helpless.

“One day he and his disciples got in a boat. “Let’s cross the lake,” he said. And off they went. It was smooth sailing, and he fell asleep. A terrific storm came up suddenly on the lake. Water poured in, and they were about to capsize. They woke Jesus: “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Luke 8:22-23

Storms were nothing new. But being trapped on the water in one? Terrifying. How will we survive this storm? Where do we seeks refuge? Left to our their own minds, hopelessness blew with a powerful force.

But they weren’t alone.

“Getting to his feet, he told the wind, “Silence!” and the waves, “Quiet down!” They did it. The lake became smooth as glass.” Luke 8:24

The storm calmed. But that really wasn’t the point. The one who has that kind of authority had not left their side. And never would. Then he said to his disciples, “Why can’t you trust me?” Luke 8:25

We live in a broken world. Escape from the pains in this place is not guaranteed. In our moments of panic, our desire to control our circumstances kicks in. And sometimes we realize we can’t. We simply have less control than we want to acknowledge. But Jesus meets us there. In the storms. And the voice that can silence the raging winds can make us “unshakeable.”

“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. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33.

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Why We Don’t Always Eat Dinner at the Table…and it’s OK

We don’t always eat dinner at the table. Especially right now. Our dining room table has morphed into a cubicle for my husband and a desk for my daughter. I’d like to say the current surreal way of life for many of us contributed to our current behavior. But, truthfully, this set-up isn’t completely new for us.

I am passionate about families sharing meals together. Therefore, It should come as no surprise that my family practices it and I write about it . Research shows multiple benefits of family feasting. Anne Fishel, Ph.D., a family therapist and co-founder of The Family Dinner Project, says “The benefits range from the cognitive ones (young kids having bigger vocabularies and older kids doing better in school) to the physical ones (better cardiovascular health, lower obesity rates and eating more vegetables and fruits) to psychological ones (lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school).” 

What may surprise you is the fact that we don’t always eat at the table. This is the kind of revelation that is tempting to disclose in a hushed voice. It appears hypocritical at best and an indication of “culture caving” at worst. But sometimes, we have to acknowledge what is the best means to the end. Because sometimes something which appears to be the best practice for others may not be the best practice for you.

In my pre-child days, I balked at the idea of families not taking advantage of time together around the table. As an experienced youth and family pastor, I saw the effects of breakdown in communication and the temptation to find opportunities which led to further alienation. With the increase of food on the go and family activities fracturing time together, I longed for parents to keep meal time together as a priority. I viewed it as sacred. And still do.

But there can be more than one way to meet a goal. While my husband and I incorporated creative ideas for keeping the practice of eating together at the table fresh, dynamics in our family made it challenging at times. Mood disorders came to the table too. It’s our truth. And rather than forcing a venue that harmed, we created one that restored.

The point is about engaging and building relationships around the table. So sometimes, the “table” moves. And yes, a couch may be involved. But while we sit on the couch, we watch a video from Bible Project ) and discuss it. Or play a game. Or laugh through a shared favorite tv show. Every family comes to the table with different needs. The question is: How can we meet them?

We still gather around our table intentionally (and invite others to it!). But we know that the sacred act of gathering with others to nourish our bodies and souls can happen in more than one way. And we thank God for those opportunities. Because now, more than ever, we need to cherish time together.

Journeying Through Life With Those Who Came Before Me

Recently, I made a startling discovery. While exploring an ancestry site, my son discovered our family has royal lines. Granted, the royal lineage dates back to the 12th century at the earliest, but the revelation spurred me to investigate my history further.

Navigating through through the family tree, I encountered the names of people I have never heard and hidden stories I know nothing about. And I craved to know more about them. They laid before me as a mosaic of names and titles. Husbands, wives, pastors, queens, kings, and children.

As I scanned their movements and milestones, questions surfaced. What led them to pursue life in a different country? How did spouses meet? Why did nobility come into play and then go away for a few generations?

With curiosity coursing through my veins, I googled some of the more public figures. I wondered. Did they use their power for good or for evil? Fortunately, I found them to be characterized positively. Despite their distance from my life now, it mattered. Because we are connected. Their decisions shaped my life.

Those who became before me encountered the same intersections I do. Where do I go? Who should I marry? How many children should I have? Whats my purpose? How do I respond to tragedy? How do I parent?

I am a kindred spirit to those before me and those after me. I wonder how I am shaping others’ lives as I go my way. In the brilliant movie “About Time”, the narrator says “We’re all traveling through time together, everyday of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.” And I’m thankful to God whose hand is weaving through it all.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us!

Navigating Life Involves a lot of Left Hand Turns

I prefer the unobstructed views.

As I sit in the passenger seat of my blue minivan, I can feel the tension as my son arrives at the intersection. He is navigating the path to get his driver’s license. When he comes to those crossroads. the opportunity to make a left hand turn unfolds. As well as an often obstructed view.

I remember the anxiety involved in making a split second decision that carries serious consequences in a heartbeat. Like my son, I prefer to have time to ponder. But time isn’t always in our favor.

As children, we cling to predictability. It brings comfort and security. Sure changes occur. However, the landscape is somewhat familiar and choices seem relatively simple. In addition, the pace of life relatively slow.

Then the horizon expands as does the number of choices. And the realization that life is made up of a lot of left hand turns begins to materialize. We recognize risky decisions occur everyday.

Sometimes, we are afforded a fuller view than others. Sometimes, we are afforded more time than others. And sometimes, we have to make life altering decisions in a matter of minutes.

But the alternative is to not move forward at all. To let fear overwhelm and keep us in place. Jesus liberates us from spiritual paralysis.

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7

Left hand turns should not be avoided. Making decisions without the full view are necessary in this life. But we can cling to the reminder that God is with us as we navigate through it.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us!

Learning From the Experiences of Courageous Women

We learn so much from each other.

Recently, I finished reading When Others Shuddered: Eight Women who Refused to Give Up by Jamie Janosz. Exploring the lives of women known throughout history for their courage and perseverance brings me pleasure. I imagine a dinner party or afternoon tea gleaning wisdom from their experiences.

I may not live in their time frame but character knows no bounds.

Convictions catapult us into action. Risks are inherent. But, as Morecai says to Esther, “…. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” So God uses our talents and skills to make his voice heard and his love known.

Women have challenged the status quo through writing (Jane Austen, Hannah Moore), teaching (Mary Bethune), advocacy, (Dorthea Dix, Elizabeth Fry), preaching (Amanda Smith), generosity (Nancy McCormick), hospitality (Sarah Dunn Clarke) , and even military spies (Emma Edmonds, Elizabeth Van Lew)

“We’re all traveling through time together, everyday of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride,” says Richard Curtis through his movie “About Time.”

Who inspires you?

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How Van Goh’s Talent Points Us to God

We can learn so much from him.

A few years ago, my daughter and I ventured down to the Art Institute of Chicago to view a special exhibit of Van Gogh’s paintings. He is one of our favorite artists because because of his colorful moving works of art as well as his “scandalous” eccentric personality.

It is widely believed that he struggled with mental illness. That reality, combined with (or perhaps because of) his ability to see the divine intersect into the landscape of our everyday lives, resulted in his unique portrayal of the world.

His life story is fascinating and once you become aware of it, his pictures emerge as sacred messages of the way heaven intersects earth. We can hold onto the hope he held because in Van Gogh’s terms, we are “companions in sorrow.” He often pictured people in their wearied states in order to get the viewer to resonate with them.

But he always infused the image with hope.

Yellows, scenes (the “Sower”, orbital shapes (“the galaxy”), vibrant colors and strokes, and hints of light became venues of depicting that we are part of a bigger narrative. One that points to a Creator and Sustainer who interacts and watches over what is created.

Carol Berry, in her book Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent Van Gogh, writes, “Vincent, as a true contemplative, could see beyond the surface of things and reveal the metaphorical implications of the material world. He could sense the eternal message in the temporal. This is what he hoped to be able to convey through his art.”

Van Gogh’s talent incorporated all aspects of who God made him. He inspires us to not only see the landscape of our lives through the lens of our Creator but to come baring our souls to however we are called to God’s purposes.

How do you see the Divine in your view right now?

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Why I Am Learning to Consecrate my Life in all Seasons

Winter’s seeming stillness presses upon my body and soul. The gray days’ hues blend together with the exception of a tint of yellow occasionally swirled in.

The absence of colorful vibrant life touches my senses. Blooms do not greet me as I make my way outside into the crisp air. The silence of chirps, crickets, and lawn mowers is deafening. Stillness appears on the landcape.

Including my spirit.

I long for movement. It’s so easy for it to define who I am. The familiar rhythms of motion appear to inform my identity. But when they change or pause, restlessness emerges. Who am I?

The view outside my frosted window reminds me that nature has not lost It’s identity in the pause. Life is still at work even if I can’t see it. The giver of life is cultivating something new in the rest. Nothing has really ceased its purpose. God is still at work.

So I am reminded that my God defines me and calls me into different seasons. In all things, God is still at work.

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated Lord to Thee

Take my moments and my days

Let them flow in ceaseless praise

Let them flow in ceaseless praise

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Embracing Sacred Relief When Something is Found

I noticed it was missing.

The diamond on my engagement band adorned my finger for 24 years. After a while, certain pieces of Jewelry become second “skin.” They form familiar senses in your movements and often carry stories of your life.

If my engagement ring could talk, it would share it’s adventurous and somewhat scandalous journey. My now husband found the jeweler through a friend who agreed to offer a whole price deal on it. It’s trek to my finger included meetings between strangers in a mall parking lot to exchange ring for currency. And a funny story about my husband proposing to me on a Thanksgiving morning and me thinking he was joking at first. The ring has immense value to me.

So when I glanced down on a July evening two years ago and noticed an empty spot between the prongs, it felt as though my heart stopped. How could something that means so much to me be gone?

Immediately, those in my midst began searching. Fortunately my home is small. But so is a diamond. On our hands and knees, we crawled. Exploring every corner and examining every crevice.

And then my teenaged son found it! He went down to the basement with a flashlight. There, near the washing machine on a gray concrete floor, laid my gem. His shout of discovery caused a flood of relief through my veins.

The story reminds me of the “lost parables in scripture (Luke 15). We are worth so much more than the diamond yet God seeks us. May we be reminded of our immense value and proclaim it to others in word and action.

We love  because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

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