A Fresh Start

Happy New Year!

I know I’m a little late to the party…ha, ha, but better late than never, right?

I love the beginning of a new year, *sigh*. It’s a fresh start. There are so many new opportunities ahead. There are endless possibilities of what is to come. There is so much availability if we let it, for God’s goodness to manifest. I. just. freaking. love it. To me, it is so exciting. I guess it’s the optimist in me. 🙂

I’ve never been one to keep resolutions, but this year I decided to do my own take on a fresh, squeaky clean year and start 2018 by practicing gratitude. So, having been inspired à la Pinterest, I made a “blessings/gratitude jar”  and have been filling it up with Post-its with notes, memories, and moments jotted down from each day that I can read on December 31st, aka New Year’s Eve. I’ve tried journaling but it’s never stuck, and this is so much more fun for me. I highly recommend, it really gets the creative juices flowing! I made mine in two days  (I cut out letters from old magazines, bought Modge Podge, brushes, a large jar, Post-its and metallic pens for the notes. So FUN!). You can make your jar/container as simple or snazzy as you want, from simply getting a jar and slapping on a label that says ‘Blessings’ or get really into it and get some spray paint and glitter glue. Go crazy guys!

The second thing I am practicing is choosing a bible verse to be “my verse” for the year. I was listening to a message from church and when my pastor read this bible verse it just stood out to me so much that I knew I wanted it to be mine to meditate on and practice for the year. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart”. The word that really catches me whenever I read this bible verse is delight. I actually felt sort of convicted when I heard it; I can’t remember the last time that I truly ‘delighted’ myself in God, probably not since I truly started walking with God and fell in love with who he was. I want to learn how to delight in him again, to find joy in who he is and celebrate not only what he has given me, but what an amazing God he truly he is and remain in awe of him each day. I love that this verse is applicable to so many people. We all have a desire in our heart for something. For some it may be the hope of marriage, or perhaps for a couple a child, it might be a promotion, acceptance to a school, or a dream home. We all have dreams. And God’s promise remains, that he will fulfill. Our hoping hearts can rejoice, because he has promised us so. And we can thank him by living a life of worship and joy.

I was reading another version of Psalm 37:4 on my phone, it’s the bible translation that I read out of the most (The Good News translation) and it says, “Seek your happiness in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desire.” If you’re asking, how do I find true and everlasting happiness? The answer is not in money, people, careers, or material possessions, but Jesus. The Amplified version reads, “Delight yourself in the LORD, And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.” I’ve never realized that what I wanted and presented to God as requests would be considered a “petition”. Like, “Hey, God! I’m petitioning for a husband, here! I’ve got signatures from my parents and all my friends, wanna join?” That sounds so silly but that’s what I think of when I read that word. After all, *ahem* a petition, according to Google’s definition is a “formal written request, typically signed by many people, appealing to authority with respect to a particular cause.”  I’ve read that we pray not to change God, but because it changes us. So while presenting our requests to him is good, and what he wants, what’s even more important is the process that we go through-which takes me to my next topic.

My relationship with God has changed dramatically in these past two years because my prayer life has changed. I’m not saying my circumstances changed drastically (although, some significant things did happen, if that makes sense) but I can say with certainty that it truly blossomed when I began actually talking to God like he was my friend and not holding anything back. Being honest is important in friendship, and with God, I got brutally honest with how I felt about what was going on in my life. And oh, how very freeing that was.

Every night before I fell asleep, I would pour my heart out to him and just talk. For hours I would confess to him how I felt, and untangle all the knots that had been twisting up inside of me. Now, one would think that this would be very one-sided and maybe even counter productive, but in reality it is so peaceful and cathartic, so precious to have that time with your savior. At first, I felt like I was talking too much. I always felt like I was being impolite or like I was rattling on and on and that God would be bored listening to me. I kept apologizing and asking God if it was okay if I kept talking. Blame it on the Midwesterner in me. But then I realized that God wanted to hear my every thought. That he cared to hear about everything that was on my heart, even the things I buried or thought were unimportant or dismissed as childish or petty. Slowly that nighttime chat turned into whispering to him throughout the day which turned into talking to him all day long, whether it be quietly thinking out loud in the kitchen or speaking to him in my mind in line at the store. God has truly become the best friend I could ever have and he can be yours, too.  If you’re feeling lonely this new year, talk to your father in heaven, because he truly does yearn to hear from you. He will never tire of hearing your voice. He will always be there to hold you in your brokenness. And he will always be there to lead you when you are feeling lost.

I cannot wait to see what 2018 holds and I pray that you will take this year and put it into his hands. He has marvelous things planned for you.

 

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Song of the Week:

Hillsong UNITED- Not Today

Good Mornings and Good Days

I used to hate mornings.

I wasn’t one of those ”Rise and shine, give God the glory, glory!” people.

No.

I was a, “Hit snooze 5 times and drag thy feet until fully caffeinated'” type of person.

However, having an energetic puppy who likes to greet me with good morning barks and enthusiastic kisses has made me akin to liking those early morning hours. These days, I smile really, really big when I roll out of bed.

I love being the first one awake aside from my chocolate lab Charlie. I love doing my makeup while he chews a bone, making a cup of tea, and reading a morning devotional while listening to some music as I slowly awaken. There’s something so special to me about morning, because the possibility of the day hasn’t quite come yet; it’s still a total mystery.

I’ve been called an optimist, and I like to always think that each day has endless possibilities for God’s goodness. I love that I never know what God has up his sleeve and am always curious to see where the day will lead me.

I have to be honest though-lately, I’ve been worrying a lot, more than ever.

About what, you say?

Well, nearly everything.

My grandpa passed away 4 months ago and I miss him dearly. I think about him almost every day and I am so sad he won’t be there (physically) to see me get married one day.

If that does happen.

I don’t know what I want anymore, and well, to be honest it just really confuses me.

Things haven’t panned out the way I thought they would, and I don’t long for marriage the way I used to. I can’t figure out if that’s a good thing or not.

Deep down I think I still really want it, but at the same time I’m just so comfortable with the life I have now. I love waking up every day and going to bed every night feeling blessed and fulfilled, knowing I have everything I need. Jesus. Family. Friends. My dogs. Ahem, I mean **children with fur**.

My days are so joy-filled these days. I guess I’m afraid that a guy will mess all that up and disrupt this happiness I’ve found and security I have in this peaceful little bubble that I’m in now. I think the danger is that I don’t want to take risks anymore. I don’t want to put myself out there like I did before for fear of being burned. In the past 2 years my love life has blown up in my face twice, leaving me feeling foolish, a little wounded, and a lot more insecure.

I still believe in love. I’m just not sure if it’s going to happen to me or how to even navigate this very bizarre dating world we’re in today. But alas. We’ll put a pin in that for another time.

I’m approaching the big 3-0 next month and that milestone makes me a little nervous and asking myself if I’m doing the right thing career wise. If I should go back to school or try something new.

The funny thing is that no one is actually pressuring me about any of these things, except myself.

Why do we do that to ourselves?

Why do we let the world’s standards of success get in our heads and make us feel like we have to “have it all” and be so perfectly put together and never make mistakes?

Life is unpredictable. Trust me, I know from experience. I’ve had my fair share of plot twists and turns on my path. Yes, I’m a little beat up, but I’m still going. I always think, “If that’s what it had to take to get me where I am today, I’m grateful for the painful times.” And I really am. Life can still be beautiful after your storms. Yes- it’s imperfect. Sometimes choices are made on our journey that we never chose, but they end up being our story. So I embrace mine, and I encourage you to embrace yours, too. There is no shame in your scars. They made you into the beautiful, courageous person you are today.

If there is one thing I know for certain about life, it’s that it’s never the way I imagined it. But I still love the reality of life. The raw, real, feelings and pure, sweet emotions. What is sweeter than a true belly laugh with a loved one? Or tears of happiness that burst out spontaneously?

My favorite season is here and the crazy thing about it, I heard someone say, is that fall is so gorgeous, but everything is dying. It’s a season of change, of transition, as the old passes away, and it’s absolutely breathtaking. Maybe, dear friend, we should celebrate the beauty of the transformation of renewing ourselves, too.

I read once that God is the potter and he’s molding us like clay, and to imagine ourselves as that clay. How painful it would be to be reshaped at times, smoothed out and restructured into something beautiful and usable. How sometimes certain parts of us have to be taken away that are unnecessary and no longer needed. In turn, we become God’s shining, brilliant work of art.

As we watch the last of the leaves fall let’s celebrate the changes, the transformation, the wonderfully chaotic and messy moments that add up to our lives because God DOES have a plan. He’s evolving it into something good. Something greater than I am. And I will always believe that.

 

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Have a wonderful week my friends and stay warm!

 

Song of the Week:

Mosaic MSC- New Heart

Hills and Valleys

I fell in love recently with a song by Tauren Wells called Hills and Valleys. If I could’ve written a song about my journey with God, this would be it. It’s stunningly beautiful-both lyrically and melodically. If I had the talent and words to pen a love song to God, this is what I would want it to say.

Here is a video for the lyrics and to listen to it (I also love the Valleys Version and Hills Remix):

Since I’m musically inept, here is my love letter to Christ, inspired by this song.

 

To My Jesus,

We’ve been through so much together. And I’m still standing with you. I love you, so dearly. I read a quote the other day that said, “You can’t break a woman who seeks her happiness from God”. I feel that way-that I can’t be defeated as long as you are with me. I walk with the knowledge that you are always by my side. I want so badly to talk to you in person but I know there will be a time and place for that one day. Oh, how wonderful that day will be….yet I still have so much to look forward to on this earth. I know I fail every day. I am so grateful for your grace. But I know that my heart is in the right place. It’s been a messy road with some fulfilled, some broken dreams, but my love for you has and will never, ever, fade. I still don’t understand everything I’ve been through but it doesn’t matter because you are worth the hills and valleys. You are good. I trust your plan. I believe in this journey. Thank you for the joy you have released on my life this year. I have never felt such happiness. I am blessed to have Charlie in my life and my wonderful friends and family. I still trust you, Jesus. I know the people of my past are there for a reason. Some are memories and others were just lessons. On a particularly gray day I will look to you and remember that you calm every storm. I can’t wait to see what you will do with my future days. I know that they’re bright and beaming. You are my reason for everything. I adore you.
I am yours, forever.

All my love,
Stephanie

Fashion Blogger For A Day

Hey you- you good lookin’ group of readers! Today, I am taking some time to write about one of my other passions…fashion. It’s a world I absolutely love being a part of. It’s so accessible…fun…ever changing yet the classic pieces always remain. Fashion is so iconic, but it’s also an everyday part of lives that we all play a part in whether we realize it or not. I love the concept of style so much. Since I was young, I’ve been intrigued on how to cultivate my own personal style. It definitely has evolved. Rewind back 10 years ago to high school. A time of chokers, cargo pants, and way too much Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, and Aéropostale. I associate fashion with different time periods in my life. I remember what my best friend was wearing the first day I met her. I remember outfits my crushes wore, baseball tees, pea coats, and yes, there was even that one guy with skinny jeans. Yikes. I know, I know, no time for regrets now. My favorite dress in the 1st grade, the pink and white one with an ice cream cone on the front. My first attempt at wearing heels, playing dress up in a friends basement and the wooden Candies heels we’d all fight over. My first dance in 6th grade and the plum long sleeved cardigan I wore. The shoes I wore on my college graduation day. I do a happy dance when People Style Watch comes out with a new issue. I adore discovering little boutiques in the area and finding my own unique steals. Polyvore and Pinterest are good friends of mine. Target is my mothership. Sometimes Anthropologie makes me so happy that I want to shed a single, stylish tear as an ode to a beautiful embroidered blouse. Is that silly? Perhaps. But it’s also about celebrating beauty and a work of art, which is what I really believe clothing and accessories can be.

What I think confuses people is that they associate loving fashion with not having a brain. I admit it, not everyone who loves fashion has conversations about things other than Kate Spade, and perhaps overuses the word ‘cute’ one too many times. But I love fashion. I really do. Because it can be so many things-rebellion, luxury, comfort, freedom, and creativity all rolled into one. It’s fun, and I think that as long as you are well balanced in life it’s more than okay to love getting a new pair of shoes without worrying about being deemed an airhead. Because that’s the thing about fashion-it’s empowering. It can lift someone’s spirits when they finally find an outfit that they feel beautiful or handsome in. And yes…I shop a lot. Maybe too much…(especially online) but moving on…

From around the age of 9, I would draw dresses and outfits and wanted to be a fashion designer. My mom cleaned at a retreat house and in the summers I would sit in the desk of a room I’d picked out and draw on the endless amount of plain white paper tablets that were provided for the priests and pastors to write down their thoughts. I’d get piles of fashion magazines from the library and devour them. I’m quite happy with how my style has evolved over the years, gone are the days of platform flip flops and spending half of my high school paychecks on clothes. I do have to say that I’m pretty stoked that the 90’s are back, insert excited face here. Hallelujah to chokers, flannel, and nudey-brown lipstick! We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so as soon as I could work I got a job, to feed my never ending search for stylish outfits. I worked hard and saved for college, but I also spent pretty well, too.

I love the way fashion allows us to express ourselves. Some days I’m a high ponytail and sweats girl. Other days I’m a beanie, graphic tee, leggings chick. Sometimes I rock a skater skirt and tights with pretty flats. That’s the great thing about clothing-you can change how you want to feel at the moment. I’ve learned a few pretty cool style tricks over the years that have become my own set of ‘rules’, although they aren’t limiting but rather some suggestions when it comes to finding your own style. I’ve included some of my must haves for the upcoming fall season and my style ‘rules’.

 

Image 1 of Pieces Ribbed Oversized Blanket Scarf     

Ada Distressed Boyfriend Jeanproduct photo

              product photo

 

  • Blanket scarf-I adore scarves. I also have way too many of them. This spring I bought a blanket scarf from ASOS on sale that will be perfect for this fall. Blanket scarves are basically very large scarves that could also double as a blanket. They can be intimidating at first but they are really wonderful and there are so many different ways to wear them. Scour YouTube or Pinterest for different ways to style them.
  • Anorak-These medium weight jackets are not only incredibly versatile, they are also super comfortable. I have a dusty navy one from H&M and an olive green one from Gap. They’re great for cooler fall weather and can be worn in the spring time, too. Go for a classic cut and they will travel with you into the future with effortless, easy fashion days to come.
  • Boots– Besides Converse, I am deeply in love with boots. Tall, short, ankle or rain boots…I love them all. Tall leather boots can be worn many ways. Mixed with a long sweater and leggings is my favorite way to style them. Go for a bootie and long sleeved dress for a night time look. From flat to wedge to high heeled, you can definitely find your own style when it comes to this fashion must have.
  • Boyfriend jeans-This is a trend I’ve been wanting to try but I’m not quite sure if they will flatter my short legs. Still on the search for a perfect pair, and doubting whether anything can top my dark denim skinnies from Forever 21. I found this pair online that look really flattering. The key is to get a pair that fits in the waist and butt and still flatters the legs.
  • Crossbody purse-I have totes that I love, but when I need to run errands I always grab my crossbody bag. It’s easy, can store whatever I need, and gives my outfit a pop of color. Target has great ones that are under 40 bucks and they come in so many sizes and colors. I have the one pictured in fuchsia and I love it. Just be sure to not pack that baby too heavy or you’ll get sore when you’re out and about from all the weight, I know from experience. Ouch.
  • Striped tees-These are so popular right now and are always in style. And despite the rumors, the horizontal stripes can actually be quite flattering. They come in so many colors and styles, you’ll be sure to find one that you like. Doesn’t the one above look so cozy? It’s from Gap and is on sale right now.
  • A great vest-I recently got a BRAND NEW navy vest from J. Crew via thredUP, a new website that allows you to sell and buy new or gently worn clothing. I got my vest that was popular last year for nearly 80 percent off! Puffer vests can be worn with hoodies for a bonfire night, utility/cargo vests easily work over a dress for a mix of girly and industrial, and denim vests look great with a simple white tee in the summer. Sometimes the price is steep, but vests are a great piece to keep you warm and stylish during the year.
  • Borrow from the Men’s section. I’ve been doing this since high school. I used to wear men’s shirts from Gap all the time and cuff them or pair the long oversized tops with shorts. Some men’s clothing is way softer and more comfortable than women’s clothing. I’ve also got some men’s sweatpants and sweatshirts that I love to snuggle in during the winter months!
Steph’s Style ‘Rules’


1. Buy what you love. I have a rule where I only buy something if I absolutely love it. I’ve found that if I buy something that I just like because it’s on sale I don’t wear it nearly enough, and that’s money down the drain. If it’s a more expensive item but you know you could get a lot of use out of it, consider that when buying. A classic trench coat, for example may last you several years, as opposed to buying dresses and tops for 20 dollars over and over that you will only end up wearing a few times in the long run.

2. Don’t let the outfit wear you. If I look silly, I feel silly. Don’t let an outfit be louder than your own personality. In other words, if it’s too crazy for you or you feel uncomfortable, don’t buy it. Wear what feels good.

3. Know your body type. Over time, as you shop you learn what styles and colors look best on you. This is incredibly helpful, as it helps to streamline your look and helps you to predict what will look good on you in the future. I also always look at the size guide when shopping online, instead of playing the guessing game of will it fit right.

4. Classic is always in. Dark denim skinny jeans, pearl earrings, a great pair of black pumps all are timeless staples and are go-tos to when initially building a wardrobe.

5. The power of accessory. Scarves and small accessories like headwraps/headbands, necklaces and belts are great ways at transforming old outfits-play around with what you have and you’ll be surprised at the fun looks you can create with what you already own. Play dress up!

6. Shop around. I own high end and low end items, and I really don’t discriminate when it comes to shopping at stores. You never know the treasures (or mothballs) that await in a good thrift store. Also, try out new trends-you might just end up loving one of them. Online shopping has opened up a whole new world where you can buy from stores that were previously unavailable to you. Often stores will give you a discount on your first purchase by just signing up for their emails. I have an embarrassing amount of them that come into my email, BUT it has saved me tons of money by getting a first heads up on sales, free codes and coupons, and a sneak peek at new items.

7. Lastly, have FUN! Fashion is all about expressing yourself! Don’t take it too seriously and always dress in what you’re comfortable in and what makes you feel beautiful and confident! ❤

I had so much fun writing this post, I hope you enjoyed it! Have a wonderful day and feel free to jam out to the song of the week below:

 

 Song of the Week:

A R I Z O N A- Where I Wanna Be

 

Beauty For Ashes

What does it mean to find beauty in the pain? This phrase came to me the other night. I think it means to look at the broken, hard intersections of conflict and crossroads of life and look at the good that is coming from the hurt that has happened. I was at the store last night and usually when I am in there the people that work there are often…rude? I don’t know what it is, it’s really off. But I like the stuff  they have and it doesn’t stop me from going there. I had my items I wanted to try on and I approached the sales clerk who was heading my way and I smiled at her and asked if I could get a dressing room. She was upset and snapped at me and said, “I’m already heading back there.”

I was slightly taken aback by her tone but I thought she might be going through something. So I followed her back and said thank you as she opened my door and prayed when I got into my room that whatever she was going through that God would reach her heart and give her peace. Maybe she just got a text from her boyfriend that he wanted to break up. Maybe her mom is sick in the hospital. Or maybe she’s just really sick of people going into dressing rooms with 15 pieces of clothing and leaving them a mess (Not me I swear!). I was annoyed that the lighting in the room stunk as usual and the dressing room was about 2 feet wide but that’s another story.

Whatever it was, I think sometimes we forget that EVERYONE is going through something right now in life. We all have our own weight we are carrying at the moment. Our own struggle that God is using for His glory. But it’s not shameful. It’s not even ugly. It’s actually…beautiful. I think the most beautiful people that I’ve met in life have been through some type of challenge in their life and now see life as a gift. And the joy they have after the pain they’ve been through just radiates. It’s amazing what struggle can do to a person. It makes you appreciate life in a different way, I think. God said in His word that He would give us beauty for ashes.

You see…ashes aren’t ugly. They’re just…ashes.They’ve gone through a stage of transformation. Ashes are known to be associated with mourning, such as in cremation. It says in Isaiah 61:3,  ‘To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.’ God wants you to build your roots in HIM. He will give you great blessing. When I think of the word festive, friends, I think of the world celebration. And dead things? Oh, God’s got that covered. He knows a thing or two about raising things from the dead and making them new and whole again! The pain associated with death does not necessarily have to be associated with the mourning. Because ashes can still be turned into something beautiful by God. What man deems as useless God sees true, full, awe-inspiring BEAUTY. And that beautiful thing, friends? That’s YOU. Not just your friend, or that girl that passes by. Its y-o-u. Yes. You heard me. One of my favorite quotes I found in high school (quote person here) is about shining your light, and I think it’s very fitting. I would’ve chosen it for my senior quote had it not been ridiculously long. It’s by a woman named Marianne Williamson.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

What you consider a broken mess, God sees holy-gorgeous-incredible-total-awesomeness, to put it lightly. Sometimes we forget that everyone is walking their own path with boulders and brokenness along the way. So can we help each other carry the loads? Absolutely. How do you do that? I’ve done it by giving people I love hugs. Bible verses on cards. Texts. How about just asking how someone is doing from time to time? Or even meeting someone for coffee or dinner? We NEED people in this life. Why would God give us each other so that we would go through our struggles to go in it alone?

I wish I would have asked that sales clerk if she needed prayer instead of doing it alone in the dressing room. I wish I could’ve given her a hug or maybe that would’ve totally made the situation worse. But I know what I saw, and it was pain. Hurt. Someone in need of love, in need of a God who loves her dearly and could give her everything she needs and is available just by opening her life; her heart in less than a second by inviting Him IN. I’m not saying she wasn’t a believer, but I know she was hurting bad, so bad, and needed Jesus in that moment. So many people are going through life alone and it breaks my heart. I have needed my strong faith filled friends so very much recently and they have meant the world to me. I owe them so much. I could never pay them back for the love they gave me. I thank my Father in heaven to the moon and beyond for giving them to me at such a perfect time and for blessing me with them. God gives such perfect gifts, wrapped up in nice little packages called my loved ones.

I decided at the start of 2015 that this would be a year of change. And wow-wee! It really has been pretty insane at the changes that have happened already, and we’re only 2 and 1/2 months in. Jesus is SO SO SO good, I love him and His goodness and good gifts! The best decision I ever made in my life was to follow Him. Everyone seems to know when they decided to follow but I don’t remember my exact moment of when I came back to Him after being lost. I wish I knew the date, I’d celebrate it and get a cake and make it my Homecoming day with Him. Maybe I’ll pick a random day and celebrate it. I like that idea. I think I probably just want an excuse to eat a cupcake. I always wanted my birthday to be in May when I was younger (don’t ask) so maybe I’ll pick a day then. Maybe the 17th, because I like that number. I think I have my new Homecoming day! Romans 12:12 is the cover photo on my Facebook page right now and it’s one of my favorite bible verses right now, although I have trouble memorizing it, even though it’s super short. It says, ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’. Shouldn’t that be the motto for ALL of us as followers of Christ? Let that be the anthem of 2015 as we continue our walk with our King this year!

Song of the Week:

Britt Nicole-Stand

My Love Story-Part 1

Let me preface this by saying: I never thought I’d post something like this on here. I swore it to myself. I. will. not. talk. about. my. singleness. Because, A) It’s too personal B) Awkward? C) It’s like being naked in front of people! You’re kind of baring (no pun intended) your soul when you talk about stuff this personal, but I was asking God what I should write about, feeling really stuck, and I felt an impression in my heart to just pour my heart out about what I’m going through. I was recently reading in a blog and in a book about the subject of being vulnerable and transparent. While reading both I realized my favorite parts to read and what I gravitated towards were where the writers were being just so heartbreakingly honest about themselves and open about their own personal, internal struggles. I felt so touched, and I was saying to myself, ‘Yes, me too!’. It made me realize how we are all so much more alike than we are different, and how our pain can be so similar. God was showing me the power of being vulnerable.

There’s a quote that I love that says, ‘We read to know we’re not alone’. I really love that. We want to connect and know others feel the same way we do about things, or have gone through or are experiencing what we are, to find someone who can explain with clarity a problem we have. It’s in our makeup to want to connect and relate to each other. So. I’m being VEEEERRRYYYY vulnerable here and telling you my story. My love story, that is. It really has only been half-written so far, though. Although the true one belongs to my King, my first true love. The one who showed me what love really means, what it is and what it looks like. I’m taking a deep breath and decided I’m going to be more personal on here (because people need real, they don’t want a veneer). Being vulnerable is scary, but it also can connect you with people in ways you never realized. I guess I thought no one would be interested if I talked about my personal life on here, but then I realized, it’s MY blog. Who cares!? Of course I can talk about myself on here! If they no likey they no looky. Talking about yourself and posting it is frightening, but I know there are tons of people who are experiencing what I am. I hope you enjoy and I have to say, it was very freeing to let the keys tell my heart. Here it is.

I’ve always wanted to be in love. Not just that, actually. Because you can fall in love, but it’s not with the one you end up marrying. I wanted the final cut. The overstated and ever-clichéd ‘ONE’. Or the ‘Two’, as one pastor says we should be calling them, because Jesus is our One already. Can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of stuff. High five if you know the reference to that. I wanted the real deal. I was (still am) never willing to fake it with another person and quell my own loneliness at the expense of someone else’s heart or compromise what I want and need just to have a relationship. I didn’t want to mess up someone else’s heart for my own selfishness. Or give up on finding the real thing.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve just wanted to find my ‘person’ to marry and spend the rest of my life with and go through trials with and dance through this crazy life together. I’ve always wanted to have that best friend in life, partner in crime, and heart to care for, and I expected to have it by the time I graduated college. I wasn’t popular in high school, but I wasn’t exactly a social pariah either. I kind of floated. I felt like a loner to some degree. I had a few people I was close to that I cared about a lot but I didn’t meet my best friends until after high school. I don’t really know how people saw me. And, welp…I didn’t really care, I just wanted to survive the torture that is high school and make it to college, where I was fairly certain life would be better (it was). It was strange that I didn’t worry perhaps, I think I just always knew there was more to life than those four years. Popularity didn’t appeal to me that much (what was the point, I thought), and I felt comfortable with myself to a certain degree.

What I really wanted was for a guy to like me-not just think I was cute, but LIKE like me, (I know, 6th grade girl speak here). I wanted love. At that time, it was pretty much ‘movie love’ I desired. The kind of stuff I saw in the romantic comedies I ate up and drifted into dreamland with (I can quote more chick flicks than I’d like to admit from beginning to end with impressive panache) and was sung in  the lyrics in the angsty music I listened to that seemed to so perfectly describe my aching and tortured heart for a boy that didn’t care (Dashboard Confessional, anyone?). I had crushes and wanted to be noticed by a guy so badly. Boys may have liked me, but they never asked me out or pursued me. I didn’t have any idea of what TRUE love was-as in, Christ’s death and sacrifice for me. The mark of real love-suffering and taking on the horrors of sin and giving up HIS life for ME. I read in an article recently that Jesus was picturing my face, and yours as he hung there, bleeding and taking on the punishment of the world. That’s really a powerful thought, isn’t it? I didn’t know THAT love at 16. I also didn’t know anything about a Godly guy and what that looked like. I knew ‘Christian’ guys but they didn’t seem remarkably different from the ones that weren’t. I have to thank God for saving my young, innocent, and fragile self from dating so young. I would have so easily lost my identity to be with someone, anyone. I didn’t know who I was, or what I thought about anything and I know I needed to discover that, without that I would have morphed into someone else and lost who I already was-and who I could be.

When I got to college, I was certain I would find the one I wanted to be with. It was overwhelming and exciting at first. There were cute guys left and right, and I thought for sure in this sea of eligible young guys I would find someone great (Every time I read this line I start laughing, I’m sorry, continue). I didn’t ‘party’ in college with the exception of my first semester, where I went to 3 house parties with a girl who turned out to be a not so great friend. I was disappointed by the conversation I had with the guys that were introducing themselves to me. They either came on too strong and made me feel super uncomfortable, seemed half in the bag already, or the conversation was excruciatingly boring. I was crushed. Where was the romance? (What did you expect to find at a crappy college house at midnight with a bunch of wasted people, 18 year old Steph?) There were other crushes throughout college, but the guys who really were kind and intelligent and funny always seemed to be taken. The other ones just didn’t work out. Part of me always held back, and I know now it was the Holy Spirit giving me a reminder of what I wanted and deserved-a man of character, not a boy who would carelessly play with my heart. And, the majority of guys there seemed to be into drinking as their main source of happiness and that was never my thing. I mainly focused on my studies and worked my tail off, putting in long nights in the library in the back stacks with my ipod, water, and trail/chex mix (the essentials) and spent time with friends making awesome memories and enjoying my freedom as a college kid where my only worries were exams and socializing.

Five years post college (this May it will be) I’m still single. Did I think I would still be single at 27? Uh, that would be a negative. But I’ve learned more about who I am and who God is in the past 5 years than I could have ever imagined. Truly. I’m not just feeding you some corny lines about gratitude and trying to be sappy or make things sound a certain way. I really AM grateful for the journey God’s taken me on-to depths I never DREAMED of getting to at the age I’m at now. I’ve been so insanely blessed in numerous ways and each piece of my life He’s touched with favor and grace to get me to the place I’m at with Him, right now. It wasn’t easy getting here. It never is. There were some freakin’ dark, lonely, tough moments of my life but God was THERE. I couldn’t have made it without Him, and I know they would’ve been SO much worse without Him, my hero. Even the worst parts of my life God used for GOOD and caused me to understand His love even better because He MET me there, and loved me, and cared for me, and I was held by Him and when I was hurting and weak I had my Savior batting for me.

When you start walking with Him at first, yes-it takes some work-putting forth genuine effort out of a desire to know Him by seeking Him. But eventually you love Him so much it becomes a JOY to seek him. It doesn’t feel like a chore but rather exciting and interesting and the possibilities are endless because GOD IS. It takes trust, letting go, faith, patience and a sense of humor. You have to let go of your old self and all of that muck and junk. But my goodness…is a walk with God ever worth the investment. The beauty and peace and joy and freakin’ awesome blessed and beautiful relationship with Him you get to have when you give up yourself and your life in exchange for a life with God is traded for SO much more than what the world could EVER give you.

I’ve grown as a person and when I look back at where I was from that lonely college freshman, I am blown away at how much has changed. I know part of me is still that girl, with her optimism about life and romantic heart, but I’m now fully becoming my true self, the person God intended me to be all along, and every day I am attempting to take steps to be like the one I really want to be like-Jesus Christ himself. I’ve been stretched, pushed, prodded, broken down, beat up, and busted, and I’m wiser and stronger from it. It’s all been a blessing in disguise, the challenges. Truth be told, I don’t know where I’m going to meet lower case ‘him’. I don’t know how. Maybe I already have. I mean, I totally get God’s amazing power and abilities. I’ve seen it time and time again and again, and He truly IS a MAGNIFICENT God. I know I’m capitalizing a whole lot here but guys…it needs to be done. It’s God-He is, He is, He is, AMAZING! Back to the story-at my own little miracle I have the biggest doubts and sometimes scrunch up my face when I think of it and go, ‘Umm God? Is that really going to work out for ME? I see you doing it for everyone else by the age of 22…’ See, even when you have faith in God you will have doubts and struggles. Christians are not perfect and anyone who acts like it well…that’s just no bueno. Jesus is perfect, NO ONE else.  When you get older it can get harder to keep hoping, but you also grow stronger in who you are and your resilience gets a lot tougher. Maybe it’s from weathering all those storms. Here’s what I know. I’ve seen some amazing Christian men in my walk with God so far. At church, through friends. And they are out there. They actually (gasp!) exist. They have showed me such kindness, respect, humor, personality, and compassion, and most of all passion for God that it has given me great hope and joy knowing that there are men like that out there, living life like I am, seeking God actively and deeply, and echo what I want in my own husband.

Along the way I figured out what I need. Truly need. The must haves. That I know…that I know…that I know what I need. I need to laugh. I need someone who can dance with me in the street or the parking lot of Caribou and not care what other people think and just be free together, who can make life an adventure with me. I want there to be so much joy when were together. Silliness is my must have. I want him to have strong character and a deep faith in God, that it inspires me to be better. I want to be with someone who is compassionate and has a heart to love others the way Jesus does. I want someone who can teach me things about faith and life and myself and we can just talk and talk. I need someone who will tell me when I’m wrong, hold me when I’m feeling broken, be patient when I’m screwing up, and just take me for what I am, flaws and defects, past and present, right where I’m at. So. There you have it. That’s what I want, and that’s what I need. And in return for the rest of my life I will serve Jesus with you, try my best to give you strength by encouraging you when you’re weak but always point you to the Savior, help you to see your own beauty, hold your hand when you need to be brave, remind you of your good, and make you dance. A lot.

Here’s to all the girls out there, dreaming of a heart of their own to love. For now, we shall dance in our rooms to Prince with our sunglasses on and croon to Sam Smith when we’re feeling sad or croony (or maybe that will be just me) laugh with friends in the car about silly things like making accents like the GPS lady, have deep convos about God and share our ‘God moments’, have cooking experiments that turn out but sometimes make you feel like a Pinterest failure, read delicious and wise and intelligent books, listen to sermons that light your fire, and pour your heart into loving those sweet kids you work with because that’s what you’re meant to be doing right now. You’re going to sashay in the grocery store to the music because you should (cuz, uh, grocery stores play awesome music), paint and feel free, spend an embarrassing amount of time at Target, and laugh with your parents. You’re going to trust God, because He’s pretty dang good at what He does.

Odessa-I Will Be There

We Dance

The power of a song is so incredible. I am listening to a song by Bethel Music, called “We Dance”. It takes me back to a time in my life when I first fell in love with God, when He romanced my heart and showed me how amazing His love truly is. We walked together on this journey, full of amazing surprises and heaven-sent blessings, with so many joy-filled, beautiful moments that I will never forget. He showed me His face through people and animals and bible verses that spoke straight to my heart. He showed up in sunsets and songs and preaching, in conversations and books and random moments, on and on, and on. If you have an open, pure heart to know God and ask God to reveal Himself to you, I believe He will. I was just starting out, finding out who God really was, and He had so much to show me, and He still does. His love is truly endless. I love that about Him. I’m still on that path today, walking with Him, pouring my heart out to Him as I talk to Him every day, telling Him my thoughts, my musings and confessions, my hurts and happy moments. He holds my hand over the rocky places and I follow Him into the unknown. Sometimes He carries me when I can’t walk anymore. There are times when I am so exhausted and I just rest with Him, and He holds me and I am still. I love the beauty of the lyrics in the song. It says,

And I will lock eyes
With the one who’s ransomed me
The one who gave me joy from mourning

And I will lock eyes
With the one who’s chosen me
The one who set my feet to dancing

We dance
Just you and me

It’s nice to know
I’m not alone
I’ve found my home here in your arms

Jesus is my home. He’s where I rest my head at night. He’s the only person in my heart that gives me true, full contentment and, the one who can give me the most perfect love I need when all others fail me. His goodness and purity renew me everyday; His perfection is all I need. He gave me beauty for my ashes, healed me from my pain, and He taught me how to dance again. I can’t wait to look Him in the eyes one day, to see my beloved and thank Him for what He has done for me, to hug Him and laugh with Him, to talk to Him about everything that has happened, to ask Him random questions, to be in the presence of the one who loves me the most. I love what it says in the lyrics,

Finally ready now
To close my eyes and just believe
That you won’t lead me where you don’t go

What a beautiful portrayal of our journey with God. It really is a dance. It’s about trust, surrender, and letting him lead. You see, God is there before we go anywhere. He already knows what is to come. So in all honesty, we don’t need to be afraid. He’s our safety, our rock. He saw all the days of our life before they happened and He has a good plan for us. Why would He lead us to a place where he isn’t? Trust that you’re in His arms. Let yourself be healed by Him. His love is the music. Listen to it. Let Him take the lead and dance with your truest love, the kindest companion, and the greatest partner of your life.

Listen to “We Dance”:

Extraordinary In The Ordinary

I was debating about writing tonight. Today was just kind of ordinary. No fireworks or dramatic events, no epic revelations or plot twists here. Just a quiet, kind day, with sweet moments with the kids I work with and random chatter with co-workers. Our lives are filled with many days like this, and they can become a blur in our memory bank, often forgotten as if they never occurred. But they aren’t a waste, God made me realize this. They’re days of importance, days where the effort to go to our job and the hard work and toil shapes character and builds strength, and produces endurance, and prepares and makes way for the future, where bigger responsibilities lie on the horizon. I’m in the early years, where God lays down the foundation, where the choices I make today will effect me years to come. I don’t always feel like I’m making a difference, but I am. Every child I hold, owie I kiss, tear I wipe, encouraging word I speak, song I sing, and comforting hug I give leaves an impact. The conversations I have with parents leaves either negative or positive impressions, and the words I speak into my co-workers lives effects their heart attitudes.

Remember the Mother Teresa quote, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Your choice of words really do have an impact-whatever direction you decide to take. I’ve learned that sometimes the most important thing you can do for someone is to just listen. So many people just need an ear, to get what’s off their chest out there. After I listen I often pray for God to give me the words to help them. God is slowly and gently making me realize just how important each day is, whether it’s exciting or not. I wish my life was different right now. I get envious when I see Instagram photos of people traveling in Europe, and I wish I could drop everything to look at all the art in every museum in the world. I want to go on adventures from country to country and absorb culture and take pictures and journal it all down. But there’s also value to what I’m doing now, maybe even much more than if I was roaming around the world. I have responsibilities to pay off loans and bills to pay, and while seeing all of Monet’s work sounds fantastic, I have to have the patience and faith that I will get to do that one day, just not now. There’s beauty in the work I’m doing right now, and I grow every day with God. Each day he shows me something new and reveals to me His powerful and amazing truth. What if the place you’re in which seems so minute and unimportant is to help change a person’s life and lead them closer to Christ? What if you’re planting seeds and you don’t even know it? God has you where you are meant to be for a reason, my friend. We can’t discount the everyday, there’s so much value in what is sometimes not very exciting, albeit sometimes just, ordinary. But it’s good. Really, really good.

(Another) Song of the Week:

Elevation Worship-Give Me Faith

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_Voi3JM8ZA

The Honor

The rain is falling down outside my kitchen window right now and I’m thinking about the morning I had today. As I was driving to church I felt a sense of annoyance and lack of desire to go. I wasn’t in the mood to attend, I didn’t feel like worshiping or spending time at church, I would have much rather stayed at home and do something else, anything else. Don’t get me wrong. I love worship, it’s my favorite part of church, and I always look forward to learning and being taught God’s word, but I had this sour attitude and irritated feeling that I could be doing something else better. Still, I went. I know deep down on days like this that it means I really do need to go, and that there’s something there for me, waiting.

After I settled into my seat a family with three kids sat next to me, all girls, with what I’m guessing was a 3 year old, 5 year old and 7 year old, all cute as a button. The oldest one, who sat next to me was bouncing in her seat and I heard her say to her mother, “Mom, this doesn’t seem like church, it’s like a concert!” I smiled at her excitement and knew that they were most likely first-time attenders. I remembered my first time attending and how powerful it was; it was the catalyst to my faith deepening and it truly changed my life. I prayed that God would touch their hearts and that it would be a positive and memorable experience, and that God would have his hand on the family. The eldest daughter was doing the countdown and looked at me and we exchanged a smile and I asked her if she was excited. She nodded and smiled big and asked me if I’d ever been here before. I told her yes, and said the music was very good, and she turned back to say something to her little sister. When the music began she stood on her chair to see. I glanced back during worship and could see her singing the lyrics and could hear her voice, off key and so innocent. Her heart is so pure, the picture of child-like wonder. In that moment I felt tears fill my eyes, grateful to God for that family who, decided to sit next to me, and the little girl who unknowingly reminded me of the beauty of being able to follow Jesus in this life; to be in awe of my place of worship and not take it for granted, and to realize what an honor it is do so. As Christians we often take for granted how lucky we are to have places of worship to gather, be fed, and spend time praising the Lord and experiencing His precious Holy Spirit.

I am free to come to church and not be persecuted, like so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have been and are still today, I am free to talk about God where I live, and gather with other believers. Seeing that little girl, standing in the darkened room with the light shining on her face, singing about how Jesus is alive (Praise God that he is!) changed my negative, ungrateful attitude and reminded me how lucky I really am, and what an honor it is to worship my King. You see, God is not a harsh, brash, vindictive Lord, who corrects with hatred and spite. He teaches us his lessons in the most loving and gentle ways, nudging us softly, like through the picture of a small child, showing an adult the joy that exists in spending time with Him. He loves us and wants us to spend time with Him, and wants so incredibly deeply what so few us are willing to actually give up: our heart. Surrender it fully, and I guarantee you, your life will never be the same. Mine certainly hasn’t been. In your letting go, you’ll find everything you’d ever want; true, full, soul satisfying love, joy, peace, contentment, and so much more. In Him, you will have true victory through Jesus, who died so that you could be free from death. With Jesus, you’ll have an eternity to spend with the Creator, with the Savior, and the one who made you and knows you by name. So take the dive. Give up your heart. Let it go and put it in the hands of the one who created it. It’s an exchange you won’t ever regret.

Song of the Week:

Passion – Let It Be Jesus (Live) ft. Christy Nockels

Dance In The Rain

I was at work the other day, staring out the window at the sunshine, watching the kids yell and jump up and down, smiling at the wonder and excitement they had at an insect that was on the window screen in front of them. They were absolutely enthralled with the little bug crawling around, a mere pest to adults but a thing of wonder for a 1 year old. It was a beautiful day, green grass outside, sun streaming in, the cool breeze blowing through, and these kids couldn’t be more joyful. At what point, I thought, do we begin to lose that sense of wonder? It’s the joy we have as children, with fresh eyes, and a zest for life appreciating all of God’s creation that I long for again. I think I need to get back at noticing those things. As adults, don’t we all? I want to revel in God’s beauty, not let it pass me by. I often notice the sky in the evening and am blown away by what God decided to paint for the night. Why, I often think to myself, do people not stop to notice how amazing the colors look, the way the pink and orange blend and swirl together so beautifully? God’s artwork takes my breath away. But even I forget to appreciate what I’ve been given in other ways and forget to thank God for the gifts that I’ve been showered with continuously. Day after day, I am handed down a life that I do not deserve filled with a multitude of beautiful and beyond precious blessings.

So what happens in the time between childhood and adulthood that we lose that awe and wonder? Life wears us down, and we start to lose our joy, life gets hard, and we lose our sparkle, life gets stressful, and we lose our perspective. We feel the pressure and we lose our focus on what’s important. We forget to blow bubbles, we run for cover when it rains, instead of smelling it and jumping in the puddles like we would have when we were five. When was the last time you made a FORT? Remember forts?! Those were the BEST. Seriously. So maybe you’re thinking, I’m not going to find joy in a bug. Maybe not in a bug. But where is your JOY at? Do you have any these days, my friend? I know where mine is. One word. One name: Jesus. Out of Him flows all my joy. And with Him, I am learning to dance again. We have a song at work that goes, ‘Jesus’ love is bubbling over, Jesus’ love is bubbling over, ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch’. I remember when I was first getting to truly know God and how joyful and alive His love for me felt. It really was ‘bubbling’ over with passion and I could feel it within my heart, within my spirit, to the full, spilling out, rocking me to my very core. I praise God that Christ is now the center of my world, the peace that I have flows from Him, my character is derived from Him and any blessings I have, I owe all completely to Him. As we say in the doxology at my preschool, praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.

I think Jesus wants me to really embrace this life more, and be joyful. I love Romans 12:12. It says to, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” The Good News Version is translated as, “Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles and pray at all times.” I love that. How encouraging. Our hope in Christ keeps us joyful and is the true root of our deep-seated joy. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Surrendering all to Him is something I am learning daily and it gets easier with each test. I learned some profound lessons from a handful of 1 and 2 year olds- it’s time to start being more joyful again and finding awe and wonder in everyday moments and treasuring the tiny but profoundly wonderful things in life. Time to start smelling the rain again. I am reminded of this quote: “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” So. Eat the brownie batter. You know you want to. (At least lick the spoon.) Or the carrots, if you prefer…those are good too. Dance to the wait music on the phone instead of getting annoyed. Dance in Target, dance in the rain. Just, dance. Hug your dog. Go to concerts and lose your voice. Lay in the grass and read something worthwhile. Really stare at the stars when they’re out. You know what things makes your spirit come alive and truly sing. So do them. Laugh, and laugh often. Live in the moment, as toddlers do. I guarantee you, life won’t ever look the same again.

Song of the Week:

Bethel Music ft. Hunter Thompson-My Dear