Being You

How do you be yourself in a world that is screaming at you to do the opposite?

I don’t know.  I’m still trying to figure it out.  Actually, let me say that differently . . .

I know how, but I’m still trying to figure out how to completely let go of the words that come against me regarding . . . well, being me.

You probably know what I mean.

It’s easier to just fly under the radar.  It’s easier to not go against the grain.  It’s easier to avoid conflicts by not discussing particular topics and to dance around the deafening questions and silent assumptions of others.

It’s easier.

I know that being you is uncomfortable at times.  I know that being you can bring moments of walking alone when others don’t understand.

And even if we have found our identity in God, it is very easy to backtrack and worry a little too much about what others are thinking or speaking about us.

The bottom line is . . .

Life is too short for us to not be who we were created to be.

Plain and simple.

And yes, I’m ranting a little.  This is something really personal and present in my life right now.  I just know this is something we all deal with along the way, and maybe you need to hear these words too.

I changed a lot of things this year.  I changed my name, when I got married.  I changed the frequency of when and how I release music.  I branched out into more experimental electronic music (which has been my vision all along).  I also changed my hair color.

It would have been easier for me to just continue to produce what I knew would sell.  Worship music sells easier, but that (for me) is not a good reason to release a worship song.

My closest friends know, I am a worshipper to the core.  This has only increased since I started to make the decision to trust God and release the stories of what He has been teaching me throughout this journey.

The vision is to start conversations.  To stir up imagination and creativity.  To live more boldly and help others do so as well.  This is the me I’ve known I needed to be for a long time, but it took years of performing and pretending and being too afraid to stop the cycle to bring me to this place.

Life is too short to stay comfortable.

Life it too short to try to keep everyone happy.

The way I see it is this.  If there is only one person (per song or video I release) who is truly impacted by this vision, it will all have been worth the time and energy.  It will have been worth it all.

Because there are people in my life who went out on a limb to trust God by being themselves.

If they hadn’t, I know I would not be alive.

Life is too short for us to not be who we were created to be.

Be brave.

It will be worth it all in the end.

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Be Careful What You Say

It’s just about midnight and I’m wide awake writing. Rather than sleeping, my mind has been preoccupied with thoughts regarding the weight of our words and how each word we choose to speak has value. Whether they are deemed (by us) as neutral, negative or positive, the words we speak matter.

I’m trying to get more of a grasp on using my words with greater caution. I’m trying to think my thoughts through with a lot more precision and measure those thoughts with grace before they roll off my tongue.

I can think of more than a few occasions where I spoke too quickly and immediately saw the result of my lack of forethought and grace.

I can also think of more than a few occasions where someone spoke too quickly to me and left me standing there with their words playing over and over in my head.

We all have those words. The words we battle late into the night. The words we counter with prayer. The words that have affected the way we see and do, the way we ourselves speak.

Words cannot be erased and we need to remember that.

Sure, time heals wounds. But maybe life is too short for us to keep adding to the pre-existing wounds. Maybe we need to focus on healing the wounds that are already there.

Isn’t it interesting how quickly the positive words can fade, and all it takes is that one dagger of a word to find its way in and park itself right in front for years?

There’s no amount of “I’m sorry”s or “I didn’t mean it”s that can change the fact that words stick.  They stick easier than they peel off.

Which is why we need to be so careful. We don’t know what has already been said.

Be careful what you say
words are violent weapons
of love and
of war

Be careful how you say them
when you say them
they play over
and over
forever on repeat
a thousand apologies
cannot erase their sound
as they play round
and round
louder and more
distorted than before

Be careful what you say
because I have plenty of words
already playing
and I am unable
to erase their sound
as they play round
and round

Do What Scares You

Tell me your greatest fear
and I will tell you of a love
that is far greater.

A love that will cover every doubt
in your mind
until you find
the fear no longer there.

One of my favorite quotes this year has been,

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

It has been a reminder that fear doesn’t always have to be a negative force in our lives.  Fear can be the very thing that propels us straight into freedom unimaginable.

I’m not talking about reckless behavior.  I’m talking about making decisions that will no longer enable us to live in a paralyzing complacency, and to stop allowing our emotions to dictate the course of our destiny.

For several months, I have been struggling back and forth on finishing up a project.  A spoken word written on the topic of body image.  It’s a large part of my testimony.

It all started one Sunday at church.  The idea came to me in an instant, but excitement was followed by fear.  I would be going into territory that was unknown and new,  while being completely vulnerable with my story.

Every once in awhile, I would pace around my room and begin to write phrase after phrase.  In between those times, I admit I tried to find as many other projects to attempt to start instead.  And then, I would have the same weighty feeling come over me.  Again and again.

I was afraid, but I knew it was something I needed to follow through with, because maybe there was one person in the universe who needed to hear my story.

And for that one person, it would be worth pushing through the fear.

I had a dream a  couple years ago that had a tremendous impact on how I see the world.  In the dream, I found myself speaking with a woman who had a dark past.  I took her hands and said, with great relief and joy,

“Had I been afraid, you would not be here.”

When I woke from the dream, I had a new perspective.  I began to think about how my decisions to choose love over fear, on a daily basis, affects not only my life course but the lives of people I may not even know yet.

Every single day, I try to ask myself,

What if fear was no longer holding you back?

What would I do with my time?  How would I choose to speak and act?  How would it affect the lives of those in my sphere of influence?

By God’s grace, I finished writing the spoken word this week.  I plan to compose and record the audio shortly, as well as begin filming the visuals.  I’m glad I didn’t let myself stay afraid, and I trust that He will see me through the rest of the creative process.

What about you?

What is something that scares you, but you know in your heart it will set you free?

 

Praying by Faith, Not by Sight

Yesterday evening, a group of us gathered together on a ranch.  The purpose was to seek His face, with no agenda other than to experience His Glory.

As we worshipped, I felt the Lord impress upon me to make out a list of desires and present needs to surrender at His feet.  I also felt I was to revisit the list and write out the testimonies of what God did the following week.  As I wrote it out, I felt my faith increase, and I truly expected His hand to move upon each item listed.

Have you ever felt as if a situation became worse the moment you began to make it your focus in prayer?

I have.  In fact, I felt that way this morning.

When I awoke, it wasn’t long before I saw several of the items attacked, and for a moment my heart was discouraged.  Until . . .

I made the decision to not let what I saw affect my faith.

I prayed once more and surrendered it all at His feet, as I did yesterday evening.  I took a look from a new angle.

Instead of seeing my prayers as the reason for the attacks, I realized that perhaps . . .

God knew the attacks were going to come, so He gave me the strategies ahead of time to prepare my heart to stand firm and believe for victory.

We need God’s eyes.  We need to see things from His point of view.

So, before we ever make an assumption on what He is doing . . .

All we have to do is ask for His perspective.

 

Walking in the Spirit

When we walk in the natural, there is a certain level of control we feel over our lives, but that feeling of control is merely an illusion.  We fabricate our own plans and build a false sense of stability by trusting in our own abilities, all the while limiting God to whatever our flesh wants and desires.

Sometimes, without realizing, we create a God in our own image.  A God who accepts, even encourages, our behavior and justifies the choices we make.  With this frame of mind, we block out the voice of truth, and everything is filtered through what looks and feels right to us.

We may even find ourselves praying prayers that are rooted in manipulation.   Instead of surrendering to the Spirit, we already know what we want and choose to ignore His voice.

While saying,

“Your will be done”,

We are truly saying,

“Make this work out according to my will, Lord”

Walking in the natural may not involve a lifestyle of blatant sin.  It can be a life of settling for less than God’s best and staying in our comfort zones.  It trusts fear rather than love.

When we walk in the Spirit, we come face to face with the feeling of being out of control, as we hand all of our control over to God.   We put ourselves in the position of relying fully on Him to reveal His plans and choosing to not lean on our own understanding.  This goes against everything we are taught in the natural.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” —Galatians 5:16

All our lives, society tells us to put our trust in what will secure our future.  We are told to make decisions based off of what has worked for others, rather than being the unique individuals God created us to be.

To walk in the Spirit is freedom.  While the world focuses on what will be lost and what can no longer be done, the reality remains that there is much more to gain in the never-ending possibilities found in the Spirit.

Walking in the Spirit removes all boundaries and allows God to have complete access to change and rearrange our lives . . . as He wills.

A scary thought at times.

Even so, the thought of being outside of His will is much scarier to me than the feeling of being out of control.

It is much scarier for me to think about holding even a single part of my heart back from Him.

One thought I had this afternoon was about how Christians often say things like,

“Don’t pray for patience, or God will give it to you.”

It’s said in a negative tone.  You know what I’m talking about, right?

I admit, I’ve said it in the past.  I’ve also have many people say it to me.   Often it appears to be said in a joking manner, but still there is quite a bit of honestly written between the lines.  Excuse me for stepping on some toes (including my own) . . .

Isn’t patience one of the Fruits of the Spirit? (Galatians 5:22-23)

I suppose what I am getting at is that we can’t truly experience the deeper things of God, if we attempt to live a life of picking and choosing what we want of Him based off our level of comfort and how easy it will be for us to walk it out.

Total surrender does not involve us holding back any part of ourselves from Him.  When we ask Him to have His will in our lives, except for one or two things . . . we are still trying to be in control.

It’s a journey, friends.  It involves taking one step at a time with Him.  Allowing Him to reveal His truth to our hearts.  To make decisions to obey Him even when it feels uncomfortable, even when it hurts.  Learning to trust that the pain of missing out on even one aspect of who He is, is far greater than the pain of dying to ourselves.

I believe it is His plan for us to constantly be moving from glory to glory.  It is His will for us not to stay where we are, but to be continually growing our roots deeper into Him.

Lord, teach me how to walk not according to my flesh, but to walk wholeheartedly according to Your Spirit.  To rely on You, to trust You, above my own instincts, desires, hopes and dreams.  To listen to Your voice before I receive a word from any other.  

To stay in Your presence.

Soften my heart to Yours, so that my desire will be to hold nothing back from You.  Let my life be aligned with Your plans and purposes.

 Not my will, but Your will be done.

Creating an Atmosphere of Faith

I’ve been back in California for around six days now.  Up until yesterday, most of my time has been spent sleeping, as well as settling into my temporary home.  My mobile office/recording studio is now ready to go.  I even started to work on finishing up a single I began before moving a few weeks ago.  My goal is to get it out to you all within the next month.

This week has been set aside for much needed rest, even though I did spend an hour recording yesterday [oops].  I plan to hit the ground running next week and move forward with the things God has been burning in my heart.  I am excited and scared to be freelancing—that is the easiest way for me to sum up what I am doing.  [Side note: If any locals are in need of portraits, my camera and I are looking for more gigs!  Contact me for more details.]

So far, I have come to realize that I am even more tired than I thought.  It’s interesting how one often doesn’t know how tired they are until they stop for a moment.  It turns out, I truly needed to sleep and sleep, and sleep some more.  I needed to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen without any distractions.  I am so thankful that He provided me with a safe place to catch my breath and be restored.

It’s odd that most of my possessions can now fit inside one room.  It feels terrific.  During my recent travels, I walked away with a fresh desire to lighten my load and live off of less.  For over two weeks, I lived out of a suitcase and my camera bag.  To the best of my ability, I am aiming to keep my life as minimalistic as possible.  When God tells me it’s time to move on, I want to be able to go quickly and easily.

So, what’s next?  I have some projects to finish up and a vacation to look forward to in September.  You can expect to see a much more consistent flow of new audio and visual content coming from me in the days ahead—now that I am freelancing and making my passions my job!

This being my first week [in quite some time] without the promise of an actual paycheck, I’ve already wrestled with fear once or twice.  One of the keys to winning a match against fear is to make a list [in your head or on paper] of all of the ways God has come through thus far.  Fear cannot survive in an atmosphere of faith.

Another key is to not allow your heart to linger past today.  Don’t allow yourself to worry about tomorrow [Matthew 6:34].  If your focus is fixed on what has not been provided tomorrow, you will miss out entirely on the provisions found in today. [Check out one of my older posts titled, Enough for Today]

Living life in such a way is impossible without His presence.  So, I continue to press into  His presence which never runs out.  It is only in His presence where true faith is born.

Lord, teach me how to create an atmosphere of faith wherever I go.  Let my heart trust in You more than I trust my fears.  Let me be quick to count each blessing and miracle, remembering all that You have done.

 

 

 

 

Hello from Kansas!

This morning I woke up at a truck stop in Emporia, Kansas. By eight o’clock, I had successfully cleaned myself up and had many a conversation with lady truck drivers and fellow travelers. One in particular happened to be from California. We chatted a bit while we brushed our teeth. It felt strange, yet normal.

After living on a shuttle bus for almost two weeks, I feel like I could live anyway and live off of much less than I ever imagined. I can’t help but think that God has been preparing me for this all along, as I reflect and look back at all the steps that have led me here. From all of my mission trips, to my days as a street performer, leaving home, resigning from good paying jobs on a whim, following His light straight into the dark. I am watching in amazement as God uses every experience to strengthen and prepare me for each adventure.

His mercies are new every morning, and He has been supplying me with grace upon grace. As each wall of my comfort zone is stripped away, I find an even greater depth of intimacy with Him. Even in the midst of recuperating from a cold, I have seen His sovereign hand resting upon me. In my moments of exhaustion, He has met me here.

I’m a shower-every-single-day kind of girl. I like my hair to be clean and I like to smell nice. It’s been a couple days since my last shower and I have now become quite accustomed to bathing with baby wipes and washing my face in the Walmart restroom. It honestly makes me laugh. I welcome the awkward and the uncomfortable. Life is much more joyful.

We are now on the final stretch of the tour. Our last stop is in Dallas, Texas. The closest I’ve been to Texas has been the airport, so I am rather excited to see a bit more of the state before I head home on Monday.

Special thanks to all of the truckers who put up with me running around the parking lot with my camera. Also, special thanks to the Flying J truck stop for providing me with the opportunity of purchasing this crazy wolf shirt that I am wearing today.

All Things are Possible

As of today, I have now been to the same amount of states as days I’ve been traveling.  Tomorrow will be a week since my trip first began.

Where am I now?  Wisconsin.

I had the lovely pleasure of dipping my feet into Lake Michigan in Kenosha this afternoon.  It was stress relieving to walk barefoot on the beach while shooting photographs.  Most of this trip has involved driving, so it was a nice change to get outside with my camera and unwind a bit.

As much as possible, I’ve been spending most of my alone time in silence.  It’s a refreshing change, bringing healing to my soul, after many months spent in a chaotic environment.

I am reveling in simply being present in His glorious presence, allowing His glory waves to remove the debris of yesterday.  Ever so gently, He reminds me of who I am and who He is.  He helps me to remember that I am never alone and that He is more real than the sand beneath my feet.

I close my eyes.

I wait.

I listen.

Holy Spirit, wash over me and remove everything that hinders my heart from hearing Your truth.

Lake Mich_Waves_9499

My heart comes back to life, as He reaffirms every dream found within me.  The deeper things that only He and I share.  And just as I begin to think I can’t dream any bigger, Heaven opens wide and I find myself being taken higher and higher.

Higher and higher into Kingdom reality.

Lord, the place where You dwell does not have a ceiling.  Teach me to live in Your Kingdom reality.  A place where all things are possible.

Align My Eyes with Yours

We made it safely to St. Louis, Missouri yesterday evening.  I admit that most of the days are starting to blur together and I find myself constantly going back to my schedule to figure out the day and the state we are currently in.

That said, I am adjusting well.  I am getting used to sleeping in my tiny bunk, which is a top bunk.  I am hitting my head less on the ceiling and figuring out more efficient ways to change my clothes while horizontal.  It’s strangely comforting, even though it reminds me of what it would be like to sleep inside an MRI machine.

I am at peace.  My mind is clear.  I feel like I am returning to my usual self, for the first time in awhile.  More and more, I am realizing how stressful my job was and I am so thankful God brought me out of that situation.

Lord, You are good.

I tell people all the time how important it is to get away and gain new perspective.  To step away and refocus.  Sometimes our dreams are right in front of us, but we can’t see them until we look at them from a different angle.

“Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.”—Psalm 25:4-5

This is where I’m at.  Throughout the last six days of traveling, God has been solidifying the answers to decisions I have been praying about and revealing His plans for me in a way I wasn’t able to see before I refocused.

Regardless of how long this trip lasts, I know I will be returning with restored vision and a fresh confidence to walk boldly into the direction He is calling me.

“Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”—Psalm 86:11

Unite my heart to fear Your name.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so reveal to me Your holiness.  Bind my heart with Your wisdom.  

“O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places.”—Psalm 43:3

Let Your truth be the filter that guards my mind.  Lord, let me not worry about any other voice but Yours.  

Align my eyes with Yours.  Give me eyes to see what You see.

 

Wait. Listen. Respond.

Wait.

Invest a moment of your time to stop and . .  .

Listen.

He is always speaking, always moving.

And when He speaks . . .

Respond and

Act.

Take that next step.

He will meet you there.

We stayed in Fort Wayne, Indiana last night.  A friend of the band blessed us with a place to stay and a shower.  Yes, it was the best shower I have had in quite some time.  I feel like a woman once more. 😉  One of their dogs even randomly appeared and snored by my side all night.  It was just like being at home with Chad.

At this moment, the bus is headed to Chicago.  I am doing well, even with quite a bit of sleep deprivation.  God is here and He is good.

I told a five year old today that he needed to pray for me to have energy like him.  He prayed for me on the spot,

“Thank you, Jesus.  I ask you to give Stephanie a lot of energy.  Help her to also do a lot of silly things.  Amen.”