Browsing Tag

Written by Steph

Community, Faith, Family, God

As we face transitions

September 30, 2015
fair traveler with vintage suitcase at the station

fair traveler with vintage suitcase at the station

I want to take a second before this post to say, I have missed you ladies! 

This summer held All. The. Things.  The first week of June my older sister had her third baby, making me the happiest aunt to three you ever did see.  Immediately after, I was forehead deep in sports camp and vacation bible school and sleep-away camp and “water olympics”… all the joys of working in full-time Children’s Ministry. 

Then, in August, my sister and brother-in- law filed for divorce.  There have been so many tears and late nights as my family figures out what comes next.  We are living in the “just take the next right step” season, and if I’m being honest… it’s not my favorite.  

I haven’t written about it, in fact, I haven’t written about anything lately.  So while I am so excited to get back into this blog, I am also nervous.  Sharing about community hits close to home.  Community has both kept me near the cross and discouraged me tremendously the past few months.  

I hope you will find grace in these words, and if you’re going through a season of hardship I pray you are surrounded by a community of believers who keep you near the cross.  

Seven.

The number of times I’ve moved in my life. Two were byproducts of my dad changing jobs and transferring locations.  The others were my choice, like going to college or moving to Nashville, or leaving for the World Race.  You might remember from this post, I love change and newness.  No one signs up for a mission trip to eleven countries in eleven months if you cringe at the word change.

Life is full of ending and beginnings and community is no different.

Some are planned and calculated, some are abrupt, and some are the natural progression of life.

Each move and transition brings with it incredible opportunities for community.

Each season also boasts the incredibly difficult tasks of re-defining community and the frightening reality of being honest, vulnerable and transparent with yet another group.

I will be the first to admit that at times I am paralyzed by the thought of new community.

In fact, I actually had a conversation with a teammate month three of The World Race, that went something like this::

ME: I’m not really here for “community” I have my community back home in Nashville.

TEAMMATE:  Are you kidding??! why would you come on something like this if you didn’t want to build community?

ME:  I’m just good, I’ve got “my people” already, I’m not on this thing to make friends, I’m here to help people.

TEAMMATE PROBABLY BEAT HER HEAD AGAINST THE WALL BECAUSE I WAS  THE WORST MOST STUBBORN AND RIDICULOUS SOUNDING WORLD RACER… 

It is nearly impossible, and guaranteed destructive, to travel the world with a group of amazing people and insist on not creating community with them.

Obviously, my stance on community changed.
Lovelies- God did a work in my heart, allowing for community.

He allowed for honesty and vulnerability to tether us together.

The women I traveled with were His provision and portion.
They were my sounding boards and accountability and advocates.

They were my strength some days and pains in the neck others.

I would not trade them for anything!

Today, we live forever away from one another.

We will most likely never all be in the same room again.

But every memory, and prayer, and tear, and joke from that season, intricately holds the seven of us together.

You have women in your life who will be there forever.

Sisters, mothers, cousins, BFFs…

and you have women in your life who will be there for a season.

Community will look different as you go to school, and travel, and date, and get married.

Teams and clubs and groups are fluid and it takes a whole lot of grace to navigate community well.

My prayer for us this morning is that we will look at the community in our life as daily bread.  I pray we will be the body of Christ to those in our life TODAY.  I pray for the courage to be vulnerable one more time, with one more person.

And I pray especially, for those of us in the middle of turmoil, help us to ponder in our hearts the many ways you show your love in our lives. Open our eyes and our hearts to the community keeping us near the cross during this time.

Faith, God, Relationships, Spiritual Life, Suffering

On Seeking More Than A Cure

July 1, 2015

SW_Jordan+McQueen

I grew up knowing we would go two places religiously.
Church and Church Camp.
They were my places, they were filled with my people.

Church was where I was baptized and Church Camp where I recommitted my life… every. single. summer.  The two places are so intertwined in my memory I cannot think of one without remembering the other.

No matter where we moved, Fairview was home and Wesley Woods our home in the woods.  I was my most brave self in these places; my most vulnerable and innocent, most trusting and free spirited.

Church and Church Camp were also two places I was most deeply hurt.

Church Camp was the thing that made me the topic of a mean girl’s xanga post in sixth grade.
Church Camp was the place I was told someone had “run out of grace” for another.
Church was where I was told to, “get the hell out of my pew.”
Church was where I shared that her placenta had maybe torn and it was whispered in my ear, “perhaps it’s for the best.”

And of course it wasn’t The Church or The Church Camp who hurt me- but in the same way the smell of chlorine makes me think of Thanksgiving, or a single line in a song makes me twenty-one again… the hurts and the memories and the people and the places are all tangled up together in this mess of emotion.

I don’t think it’s a surprise or coincidence or even that poetic to be deeply hurt in places where I once felt most at home.  I don’t think it’s a mistake or incredibly unjust.*

I think this world is fallen and we are broken.
I think this in not our Eden.
I think the places our hearts are most vulnerable are the places at most risk of being deeply hardened.
And more than that- I believe we are a culture more concerned with finding a cure for our hurts than healing from them.

Today, and every day, you have permission
to not be tough.
to cry if you need.
to question and doubt and be confused.
to have an extra cup of coffee and sit with Jesus.
to seek more than just a cure.

There is grace enough for your hurts at the cross.
And there is grace enough here for you!

Healing will look different for each of us, and it will take a different amount of time, but the same Christ.  I love you girls, and so wish I could sit with you through the hurt and heartaches.  I wish relationships were easier and childhood memories were always innocent.  But I pray healing will come so fully and so deeply that you will be even more yourself at the end of this journey than you are today.  I pray for peace and courage that surpasses all understanding to surround you today.  I pray your own Church and Church Camp places will be restored.

“I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.” ― Wm. Paul Young

*note:: if you are being abused or neglected, physically, sexually, emotionally, or otherwise- please seek immediate help and shelter from someone you can trust.  this post was written from the perspective of hurt feelings, mean girls, and people who just say the wrong things sometimes.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE

God, Spiritual Life

on going through the hard places

May 6, 2015

As a feeler, and justice seeker, and writer
I desperately long for things to have meaning.
I have a deep desire to do work that matters, to write honestly, and talk about the hard things…
requiring me, to actually go through the hard things.

But not just go through the motions of the hard things, actually. go. through. them.
Intentionally and with purpose… with expectation-
like someone who has been promised something more.

If I’m being honest with you, I haven’t been going through through my hard things lately.

I am at that place
The exhausted place
The long list place
The poured out place

The kind of poured out people can see on your face-
but they don’t ask about
because the look both demands to be acknowledged but begs to be left alone.

That place where one more thing
becomes just another thing
and that one more thing doesn’t mean anything.

The hard place.

I haven’t opened my journal in over three months- for fear of what I might put in writing.

I haven’t paused at the end of my prayers just to listen- for fear of what I might hear. And I haven’t read the story of Job because maybe, just maybe, I want to stay here for a minute and not feel guilty on top of my frustration and sadness.

I say all of that, because maybe this week we can meet in the hard places.

It’s easy to write about the faithfulness and fulfillment of promises in the dawn-
to encourage and challenge one another when we’ve made it through-
to point to a Bible Verse or Ann Voskamp quote that helped give perspective.

Dear ones, I’m not through the hard places-
and most days I’m not going through them gracefully.
But this is what I know-most times most times
there is beauty just beyond the hard places-
andGod is not just beyond the hard.

The miracle of God is that he dwells in both-
the easy and the hard.

His presence is not waiting for me to get over myself in this season.
His gentleness is not moved by my frustration.
His goodness is not dependent on my journal writing.

Today, my prayer and my challenge for those of us journeying through the hard places is to truly truly go through them- wrestle through them if need be.
Not as people who have lost hope, or as “just make it though” women.

But set apart.
confident in His promises.
brave in our actions.
bold in our prayers.
seekers- not only of meaning- but of Him.

 

“Thank you, God, for the things you heal, the things you redeem, the things you refuse to leave just as they have been for what seems like forever.”
― Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

 

P.S
Some of the things helping me through my current hard places are
Boldly I approach (The Art of Celebration) by Rend Collective
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
fresh flowers, morning cups of coffee, and handwritten letters from my sponsor baby

 

What helps you go through the hard places?

Faith, God, Spiritual Life

New That Lasts

January 14, 2015

image

New doesn’t intimidate me.
Or scare me or cause me to question.

I love New Year.
I love clean lines and fresh beginnings.
Blank calendar pages holding promises of opportunity.
Empty “to do” lists meaning anything can happen
and I’m not bound to commitments.

But what happens when I “add new event” on iCal-
Or, as I inevitably will, break a new year’s resolution?
What happens when old habits win out against new attempts?
When the new doesn’t feel very new anymore….

I went on an amazing adventure in 2013.
An eleven month, eleven country mission trip.
New was easy to find.
New was easy to dream with
and set goals with…
and try to do better with…

Then, I came home to the very opposite of new. I came home to the town I went to high school in, I moved into a bedroom with furniture from my childhood. I drive the same way to work every day.

I started the new year with every intention of greatness,
every hope of being different and the energy to fulfill every new resolution…

It’s been two weeks-
and new has been replaced with normal. Radical with rhythm.
And the promises of a new season and all the potential for new habits are forgotten.

Because the feeling of newness doesn’t last.
Did you catch that?
the feeling of new doesn’t last.

In Second Corinthians Saint Paul writes,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed
away. Behold, all things have become new. – 2 Corinthinans 5:17

If I have a single greatest struggle in my relationship with Christ it is this.
I don’t always feel like a new creation.
I don’t always, in my flesh, act in accordance with my belief that The Cross was enough.
I would rather earn my newness.

Like a child in a proverbial bathtub
I constantly scrub and question and scrub and question
and jump in the mud just to watch the stains swirl around the drain
scrub and question.
and repeat.
Am I shiny and new enough yet?

Paul isn’t writing about personalities, or lists, or hair colors or even our habits.
Yes, there is continual sanctification going on-
and Yes! we desire to look more Christlike each day.

Spiritual disciplines are good and right.
But disciplines and doctrine are not what make us new creations.

Sweet girls, Paul writes of the eternal things.
The things that are unseen.
Our souls and our spirits-
the very things that were paid for once on the cross.
Our most true selves.
We have become new because we are in Christ.
The kind of new that lasts.

Let us not pursue the feeling of newness this year.
Let us not become distracted by imitations of new.

But rather, let this new year-
with all of it’s excitement and potential and symbolic newness-
remind us of the full restoration of all things to come and the sure fulfillment of God’s promises for his daughters. Promises not bound by our understandings of new, or our feelings, or our timeframes or lists. As the calendar fills up, and the rhythm sets in, and the excitement fades may we rest in this truth…

Your newness is full, complete, lacking in nothing, because of Christ.