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?

 

Never, Never, Never Give Up

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It wasn’t a special occasion to warrant a gift, yet my mother quietly came to my door and handed me a small token.  A silent plea, perhaps.

Never, never, never give up,

the small, decorative plaque read.

Though I felt I had already given up entirely, I hung it on my wall.  Right next to the closet I had been secretly defacing.  Carving out my suicidal thoughts with razors deep into the walls.

I thought for sure I was going to die and that everything would disappear the moment I did.  I figured if the eating disorder didn’t take my life, I would do it myself.

I felt I had given up.

I felt all hope was lost.

It’s been seven years since the last time I pressed a blade into my skin,
yet rarely do I ever go a day without thinking about the scars that remain.

I used to get discouraged because I’d often have the same old thoughts try to return and haunt me.  Telling me I hadn’t actually changed and that my testimony wasn’t real.  Telling me I was worthless because of the damage I had done to my body.

It took years for me to get rid of the shame attached to the constant reminder of my past, and today I realized I no longer see it the same way.

Instead of shame, I choose to see hope.

In this moment, as I write out this simple post, I can’t shake the feeling that there is someone else (more than one) who needs to have these words handed to them, as my mom did that day.  I know I cannot convince you of anything, but I do have a small gift of hope to offer.

Hope that there is always a way through whatever darkness you are facing.

Hope that freedom is real and available to you.

Hope that your past, and even your present, doesn’t have to define your future.

Hope that you don’t have to give up.

Dear one . . .

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.”

Grace for Today

By living with less, I’m finding abundant joy.

Each morning brings a fresh measure of grace to see me through the day [says the girl who hasn’t taken a shower in three days].

Years ago, I know this would have been a much bigger stretch for me, but I am thankful that God is giving me the opportunity to grow without my normal luxuries.

His grace has no bounds.

I’ve learned that good quality dry shampoo does wonders for my unwashed  hair [for the first few days], but today it is starting to get a little bit grungy.  Well, it is what it is at this point.  I will probably talk about my next shower for years.  It will be the best one I have ever had.  That said . . .

Compared to what I am watching the Lord do on this trip, my hair really doesn’t matter.

Also, I went into Walmart three times today and it didn’t even phase me.  If you know me, you know that even the thought of going into Walmart gives me anxiety.  Walmart is only okay if I plan it out and bring moral support.  Yes, I went into a Walmart in Dayton, Ohio this morning.  Three times.  Alone.

I am enjoying the simplicity and ever-changing adventure that comes with traveling to new places day after day.  This is the first time I’ve driven through this part of the states.  Today we drove through Ohio and Indiana to get back to Michigan for the band’s show this evening.  A lot of barns and corn.  It’s lovely and fun to shoot.  I’m a happy photographer-camper.

I have no idea where this journey is headed, all I know is that God is pouring out a tremendous amount of grace and endurance for me in the present.  Leaving my previous job was the best decision I could have made.  I feel so much lighter.

Lord, continue to lead me in this season.  Show me the path I need to walk.  Let my eyes stay fixed on You.  

Reveal to me Your righteousness, and let Your holiness take control of all that I am.  Let my thoughts, my words, my actions be aligned with Your Kingdom plans.

Guide me with Your peace, so that I will no longer be swayed by the circumstances surrounding me.  Holy Spirit, have Your way.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

Which Risk Should I Take?

I am standing at a crossroad very similar to one I stood at a couple years ago.  In less than a few weeks, I will be leaving my  current full time job and continuing on with my journey elsewhere.

My decision to resign was not simple.  My position includes my home, which meant I would need to find a new place to live.  It  meant I would not have a steady income and that I would need to find a new job.  I have also been on the cusp of burning out and it was almost too exhausting to even consider stopping and changing my life path right now.

That said, I realized that my health was on the line and I needed to take care of myself.  So, I gave my notice and felt completely at peace.  In that moment, it was as if a large burden fell off my back.  There was hope.

This place of employment was a stepping stone.  I found healing here.  I found people who I am proud to say have become part of my family.  I thank God for this season, but I also know that it is time for the next season to begin.

The peace I felt is still with me and so is a new excitement.  Thankfully, Chad [my dog] and I have a place to live during this transition, but I don’t know a lot beyond that.  I stand at this crossroad, asking myself,

Which risk should I take?

Do I go down the path I already know, and fall back on what I know I can do?  I could do that.  I know I could do that and get a job quickly.  I have experience and already have a lead or two.  This would be a risk.  Maybe I’d have more money, that would probably be true, but do I want to take this risk just for the steady income?

I’m learning that I don’t need as much as I thought I did.  In fact, I was a lot more joyful when I had less and was able to do the things I’m passionate about.

I expect to be scoffed at by some for saying things like this.  I’ve had people look at me [in the past] like I’m being irresponsible for not saying yes to the first job that opens up.  After all, that’s what we have to do, right?  Here’s the deal . . .

I’m twenty-six years old.  Life is only going to get more complex at this point.  I figure, if I don’t jump now, will I ever have the courage?  I see this open window of opportunity and it’s terrifying, but I know I eventually need to jump and see where it leads me.

Anyone who ever wound up doing what they are passionate about had to take crazy [and sometimes unpopular] steps to get there.  I know that in order to see my dreams come to fruition, I am going to have to put myself out there and start walking it out with God today.

I don’t have time to start tomorrow because tomorrow is always going to be out of reach.  Regardless of how nonsensical and out of the box it may seem to other people . . . is this the risk I need to take?

Money has always stood between people and their dreams, but I know that God is much bigger than money and my dreams combined.  I know that my first job is to listen to Him and follow His direction.  I’ve seen Him provide in supernatural ways, when I’ve had a steady income and in the seasons where I’ve lived from one day to the next.

I think I’ve made up my mind.

Which risk should I take?

I’m going for the path I haven’t yet taken.  I’ll take the risk to do what I was created to do.  The risk to do what I am passionate about, even if it means I have to face the unknown in the process.  After all . . .

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
― Max DePree

Your Present is Bright

It’s easy, isn’t it?  To get so caught up in what is not yet here.  To so quickly be willing to trade in the moment for the promise of what is to come.

It’s in our nature, in all reality, to seek out the greener pasture.  In those times when all hope seems to be lost, we reassure ourselves . . .

“Things will get better.”

That’s advice I’ve been quick to give in the past.  It’s a string of words that honestly have become empty of all power to me.

I don’t know that it will get better.  Perhaps the only thing that will make things get better is a change of heart and attitude, but I cannot even begin to assume anything beyond my own self.  Only God can see the heart.

One thing I’m learning on a personal level is that many of the disappointments in my life have been caused by my own expectations.  If my outlook is distorted, how would I be able to see anything as it truly is?

How would I even recognize what better is?

There is so much of an emphasis placed on things getting better and of the wonders waiting for us on the other side.

From experience, I know that I am never happy or content when I put my hope in tomorrow.  When I cope with my surroundings by telling myself that “if I can just make it through this” the new things coming are going to change everything.

As someone who, in the past, has coped by jumping from one new thing to the other.  New isn’t always better.

In fact, new will never give you the lasting satisfaction you are longing for.  It isn’t until we embrace the mundane, old and ordinary, that we will ever be satisfied.  It doesn’t matter how bleak our past or spectacular our future.  I’ll be bold and say that we will quite possibly miss the better when it arrives, unless a change within takes place.

It gets better today.

It gets better as we begin to allow God to change the way we think, the way we see, the way we live our lives.

It gets better when we give up on chasing our dreams and meet with God right here, right now.

It doesn’t mean life will be perfect.  You know that, I’m sure you do.  Things will not be perfect until we are at home with Him.  Terrible things happen every day.  I get that.  I understand it well.  You do too.  But . . .

I am learning that we don’t have to carry the weight of this world that we face.  I am learning that there is always light to be found.

Don’t give up, there is hope found in the now.

Look up.

Your present is bright

because His light

is all around you.