Loved?

One of the most important and one of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned this past year is this: I can’t make people LOVE me the way I want or need to be loved, or to love me at all…

BUT Christ loves me so much, and I CAN share HIS love with others, and love them well, REALLY WELL, because HE loves them well.

People will hurt us, people will let us down, some people will even stop actively loving us. That’s literally happened to me over the last year. Abandoned. Rejected. By Family. It was devastating.

Christ ALONE is the perfect Love that casts out fear. His love is supernatural, it’s amazing, it’s healing, it’s restorative, it’s transforming and it’s sacrificial. His love is perfect. As His beloved I have access to that powerful kind of love, not because I myself posses that kind of love, but because it is bestowed upon me, it’s poured on me, it springs up within me by the power of Christ working in my life and in my heart.

He loves the unloveable – He loves even me. A tired, washed up mother of two, recovering codependent, worrier, unworthy, unrighteous, broken woman who is Much Afraid but has been declared BELOVED by the God of the Universe, the Good Shepherd, Emmanuel.

I’ve been transformed into Grace and Glory and given abundant life to share and pour out to others so they too can see how beloved they are, and be transformed into who Jesus made them to be. Only a Love THIS powerful could have done THAT.

For any who feel alone, discouraged, abandoned, left out, cast out, pushed aside, thrown away…

For any who feel like Christmas will lack joy and instead bring pain or hurt…

For any who still yearn for Someone to love them…

He does. Love YOU.

My (actual and only meaningful) Christmas Wish

This has been a rough year for me. It’s been a really hard year for my ‘framily’, and for SO many of my friends.

Life is hard. Life can be devastating.

I don’t need to list all the ways and reasons. I don’t need to retell of the devastation and tragedy and disasters.

We shouldn’t forget, but how can we not remember. It’s ongoing.

How do we make it through? How do we carry on? How do we pack up all the grief and sorrow and sadness and sling it on our backs and take a single step?

I know. I know it sounds cliche to say ‘Jesus’. How is it Jesus? How can a ‘man’ from 2,000 years ago who we can’t see, how can a ‘legend’ in some of your opinions, how can a ‘relic’ in other of your opinions, change hearts and lives and being hope and being peace, and being joy, and love??

Because He’s real. He’s Almighty God. He’s ancient prophecy fulfilled. He’s whispering ever so gently into your heart and knocking on the door to your soul. He is the Son of the Most High, and he’s also the only guy who walked the earth that was and is God. He’s unfathomable and yet relatable. He’s divine and yet mortal.

He is Hope.

He is Peace.

He is Joy.

He is Love.

I don’t know where some of my friends are spiritually, maybe you don’t believe in a higher power. Maybe you want to but maybe you are hurt and angry with current circumstances. Maybe it’s something that doesn’t make logical sense to you. Maybe you just don’t believe and you don’t have a reason.

I get it. It’s not my job to judge.

But it is my job to speak up and share MY story. My journey, my song. Maybe it will change your mind, maybe it won’t. Maybe it will make you think, and maybe you’ll think ‘well that’s nice for her‘.

I did title this ‘My Christmas Wish’ so I’m going to share it with you:

I want to make sure to say this clearly-

The only reason I am here on this earth is to point you back to Jesus. If I have ever failed in that, it’s because I am human. If I have ever succeeded, it’s because of the grace and love of God. Every good thing that I have ever accomplished or been, is because of God and His grace and His overwhelming love.

This life is tough and filled with uncertainty and unfairness and injustice and riddled with people who pretend to speak for God. But just because some apples are bitter and full of rot, doesn’t mean all apples are rotten.

Please, if you have ever wondered about your spiritual life, if you have a need, of you feel abandoned or hurt or angry and alone, or even have questions about what happens after you die, if you’re just curious or wondering, call me. Text me.

Or somebody.

Don’t go it alone anymore.

I am grateful that I serve a God that is good, kind, full of grace, who loves us.

And my wish this Christmas, is that amidst the heartache, turmoil, hardships, and sorrows of life, that you get to meet Hope. Because Jesus is Hope- and He came to earth as a human to BE that Hope for you. You don’t have to do this life alone.

#HopeHasYou #ChristmasHope

#notalone #splintersofHope #christmasWish #adventreasons

Joy: the 3rd week of Advent

Joy.

The third week of advent.

What exactly is joy, and what does it mean to you?

Is it that happy warm feeling when we feel that all is well? The anticipation and excitement of something on the horizon that will make us happy? Good feelings of positivity and always looking on the bright side?

If so, how long is this feeling supposed to last? I mean really, is it a magical feeling like when you step into Disneyland for the first time, but then by the end of the day it’s worn off because you’re exhausted and have sore feet when you leave the ‘Magic Kingdom’?? Is it sustainable or is it fleeting?

The Bible says:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5 : 16-18

My joy is not dependent on me.

If it were, I wouldn’t be joyful. But there is joy amidst tears, Joy amidst sorrow, Joy amidst suffering.

When anxiety was great within me,

your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 94:19

Joy is my Lord Jesus.

And no matter where I am or what is happening, He is with me, He has me.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12

My joy is not dependent on me.

Nothing can steal Him away from me, or me away from Him. His goodness, faithfulness, love, mercy, patience, kindness, grace, truth, favor… none of it is dependent on ME. It’s always wholly dependent upon Him. It’s because of His dependable and steadfast – 100% of the time, all the time, all ways and always that my trust in Him and for Him is strengthened.

Therefore, I have joy.

If we look at JOY as something that comes with our faith, our trust in the Lord Jesus, then it’s not dependent on us. It’s dependent on Him. It takes the pressure off of us to be happy all the time. I’m not happy all the time, but I have joy because Jesus has me. Joy that is not shaken, joy that cannot be taken, joy that cannot be broken, joy that cannot be stolen. Joy is knowing Who goodness come from, Who salvation is, Who loves us so much he came to set us free. Joy is hope and peace together, calmness in our hearts because we know Hope Himself will carry us through- that’s joy.

My joy is not dependent on me.

The shepherds heard it first- Behold, I bring you tidings of great JOY!

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:10

The fulfillment of the promise for a messiah- this was it!

His promise to you for salvation, for hope, for peace that endures, and for joy that exceeds anything you’ve ever known is here for all to accept.

Joyful ness. Being filled with joy.

It doesn’t depend on us.

It’s made complete in Him.

Not so Magic Beans

So often, I talk to God about how I want to be the taco.

🌮

It’s an ongoing theme in my relationship with Him.

Yup. On the Mexican food plate of life, < strong>I want to be the taco

Come on, it’s the main feature. It’s crunchy, golden yellow shell, filled with (preferably) tasty shredded beef, and topped with lettuce and tomatoes and a tiny dollop of sour cream and then shredded cheddar. Yum.

I want to be the taco…

An authentic Mexican food kind of taco. Not a taco supreme or fast food taco. I mean a beautiful golden taco, featured on the menu, carefully set on the center of the plate, set before watering mouths.

I want to be the taco…

It’s pretty and it tastes SO good. Everybody likes the taco. It’s why we have Taco Tuesday!

But then in my prayers and conversations with God, He gently whispers, ‘Steff, you’re not supposed to be the taco, I need you to be the beans.’

What!?!?

I don’t wanna be the beans, the beans are blah, the beans are boring, even my son doesn’t like the beans and let’s them sit there on the plate and go cold and uneaten.

No.

An internal argument begins…

One of prayer, but an argument nonetheless…

Me: I don’t want to be the beans Lord. I really really would like a chance to be the taco.

God: But Steffani, my child, my beloved, I made you to be the beans. Palate cleansing, they help cool the sting of the hot sauce.

Me: So, I’m the beans.<<< : Yes, the beans. And so the struggle and conversation goes on. But Lord … No Steffani, you are the beans. And then I think, well, the beans DO have sustenance, I mean, they ARE a staple. They DO soothe the palette after burning your mouth with hot sauce…But no!!! No. I still do NOT want to be the beans Lord. People don’t notice the beans, they don’t eat all the beans. I don’t really have a choice here do I?? So many other people want to be the taco too. In fact, we have a LOT of tacos, a lot of wanna be tacos, a lot of fast food tacos. Look at Hollywood, the music industry, politics, Highschool campuses. Even in our christian circles we have celebrity status individuals. People that are featured and regarded. Even in congregations there are super star members, tacos, highlighted and ‘respected’ for their righteousness or their brokenness or their willingness to serve, or their whatever… The world needs more beans. And while I wish I could be the taco, I recognize the need for being the beans. The sustenance, the common, the regular, the plain. The ones who are always there. The constant, faithful, trustworthy, the ones who don’t need to be the center or the highlight, or the regarded. Maybe some people think I’m a taco. I don’t feel like one. I secretly (well not now) want to be a taco, but it’s really never worked out. I just know that with a little seasoning, a sprinkle of cheese, I’m going to be the best side of beans I can be. When I wrote this initial article, it was merely a Facebook post, and it was about a year ago. I hadn’t fully embraced it, I didn’t want to. A year later, and my heart is still yearning to be the taco… but I know through opportunities and examples of His faithfulness over the last 12 months, I’m the beans. em>I may not be the taco, but at least I’m on the plate. ❤️💔

#BetheBeans

#makeitontheplate

#splintersofhope

Advent week 2: PEACE

Peace.

It was a frequently used term in the 60’s and 70’s, we use it politically for any anti war efforts, we ask our children for it paired with quiet, but do we really know what it is?

Merriam-Webster defines peace as:

1: a state of tranquility or quiet: such as

a : freedom from civil disturbance

b : a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom

2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive

thoughts or emotions

3: harmony in personal relations

4: a- a state or period of mutual concord

between governments

b- a pact or agreement to end hostilities

between those who have been at war or in

a state of enmity

5: used interjectionally to ask for silence or

calm or as a greeting or farewell

Oxford dictionary says:
1: Freedom from disturbance; tranquillity 2: Mental or emotional calm.
3: A state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended.

When the Bible says Jesus is our peace, what does that mean and what does that look like?

Silent Night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright?Doesn’t feel like it.

Amidst sirens, bickering children, people honking at each other, cell phones dinging, news of natural disasters blaring in the background, allegations of numerous counts of misconduct across the nation, arguing of political stances, I’m overwhelmed.

I’m overloaded and over stimulated. I’m overly tired, and over taxed in my daily duties. Like you, im just trying to get by and make through the day.

How can I, how can we, find peace in today’s culture? The kind that endures all these things?

Jesus.

No Eye Had Seen

No eye had seen and no ear had heard. Angels on high proclaimed His birth.

It happened quietly, with no audience, the one and only son of the Most High came down without fanfare, without a palace, without a title to begin His earthly destiny from the cradle to the cross.

The world in solemn stillness lay, unsuspecting of His coming, most unaware of His presence or purpose. But He came that evening. Perfect peace.

His blood would ultimately be the source of our peace, as He freely let it spill to cover our sin.

Galatians 4:4-5

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Sweet little Jesus boy, they made you be born in a manger. Sweet little Holy child, we didn’t know who you was. Didn’t know you came to save us Lord, to take our sins away…

Mine Eyes was blind, we couldn’t see…

We didn’t know who you was.’

Robert MacGimsey 1934

We really didn’t know who He was or why He came or what He would do. Lamb of God, Son of man, Emmanuel- God with us.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God WITH us,

and God with US.

To bring peace, the kind that covers and endures.

The kind that only God can give or bring or be. Peace. Emotional calm, freedom from oppression, free from sin, free from fighting, free from civil disturbances, free from unrest. Calm hearts, calm minds, calm interactions and relationships. Security and order, rest and agreement, end of hostilities.

Peace.

Emmanuel. God among us, to bring and be salvation. The only everlasting peace. That peace is ours when we trust in the Lord Jesus.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This why He came: to be our hope, our peace, our salvation.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

As we go through this second week of advent, let us be thankful and mindful of the peace that endures, because of the blood of Jesus.

Lord thank you for your hope, your mercy, doe coming to bring salvation so we could be reconciled to God, through Your blood on the cross.

Kyrie Eleison, ‘Lord have Mercy on us’

Advent Week 1 : Hope

Hope.

It’s something I thought I held within my own grasp. Something I had to cling to, to muster up, to produce even. Hope is something you have, isn’t it?

When imagine hope, I imagine the scene from Lord of the  when they’re in the battle of Helms Deep. Every year, around Thanksgiving we watch the whole trilogy of Lord of the Rings.

In this scene, from The Two Towers, a group of Nordic like people, the people of Rohan; men, women, and children, are holed up taking refuge in this rock called Helms Deep. They’re surrounded by the dark forces of Sauron. Orcs, trebuchets, trolls; thousands are descending upon them. And as they were told to look to the east at the break of dawn, there shining over the hilltop came a furious riding thunder of men and horses lead by Gandalf the white. They came as defenders. And there is was: hope.

Yes we are LOTR fans, and Star Wars too. We’re fun like that. But when I watch that scene, I cry, not just because it’s a moving scene, but because I know that feeling of relief and God providing another way…

Hope saves, comes to the rescue, conquers, carries, and provides a way out. Doesn’t it?

I had felt hopeless and I didn’t know the way out, I didn’t know the way through. I had all but stopped walking and was almost choosing to despair. I was saved, meaning I was secure in my salvation, but then why did I still feel helpless and hopeless?

The struggles we have as a family are not ones that have an end in sight, or a season to endure. They are ever present and will be part of our lives because they’re the way our brains work. I hadn’t accepted or fully understood that concept yet. The disabilities our daughter faced seemed like a thousand trolls and orcs chasing us with arrows and clubs. It was scary. And this was no movie, this was life. My life.

I was surrounded by darkness and because it had been so dark for so long, I stopped seeking the Light…

I’ve written this and shared this story before. The story of how Hope found me…

As I sat in my car yelling at God for not being there, not showing up, not making a way OUT that’s when the light broke through, and it grabbed me. It was a palpable experience, not a weird out of body or ‘I heard God’s voice’ or anything physical. This was heartwork happening.

I did feel my heart quicken, beating faster as the scripture of Romans 5:3-5 came to mind.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

The Lord was showing me a way THROUGH…He was showing me that HE was my Hope, that I was weary and tired and it wasn’t up to MY strength, it was dependent on HIS strength and ability, one I could fall back on and rest upon. He would do the heavy lifting as I lay there and simply LET HIM.

Hope, had me. Hope HAS me…

What?!? This was like a rush of new information and good news! It wasn’t up to me!? I didn’t have to keep being strong? Good, because I didn’t have anymore strength to pretend or to fight.

I surrendered that night. And Hope scooped me up and carried me through.

Enough strength for one day at a time. New mercies every morning, which sounds cliche, but finding my keys, a hot cup of coffee left by my husband for me to start my day, a particular song that came on the radio, these small mercies made it bearable as we continued that season to drive 2 hours one way to therapy Monday-Saturday to try and help my daughter. I needed those small mercies, and I wanted to recognize them. My endurance slowly began to increase. The stronger I became the more I was able to grab back on to Hope, to cling with whatever strength I had. Today, I cling to Him with all my might. Hope. His name is Jesus, and as we enter this first week of advent, He can be your Hope too.

Long ago, in the darkness a baby came into the world. In a barn. So simple. No warm palace, no regal entrance. Lowly shepherds were the witnesses to this seemingly unremarkable event. And yet, the match was lit, and the darkness didn’t seem so dark anymore. His presence, Emmanuel, God with Us, means we don’t have to rely on ourselves. We shouldn’t rely on ourselves. We are weak, weary, unfit, and unable.

He is strong, mighty, perfect and able.

This first week’s reflection on Hope, He does make a way through, He carries us, and rescues us from ourselves. Right now. Today. This season of Hope can be new, it can break through.

Let Hope have you.

Read Romans 5 the whole chapter

Lord let those that are hopeless let you have them, let us reflect on your goodness and how strong and able you are as our only Hope. Amen.

Accusations. What side are YOU on?

In this current cultural landscape

and climate of accusations carrying so much weight, I’ve been pondering some practical applications of ‘accusations’ in my own life.

My first re-evaluation (give it a minute and read the whole thought):

“There are two sides to every story.”

The second thought that I’m re evaluating and that keeps me chewing and chewing:

“People’s perception is their reality.”

Ok. Now you’re ready to enter my thought process typed out and splayed before you. Proceed with an open mind and and open heart.

Earlier this month I had a conversation with someone I’ve been struggling to forgive for some things that happened awhile back. I care about this person and their family, and I’ve been praying about when to approach and confront, in the spirit of love and forgiveness. It was really the Holy Spirit compelling me to speak up, and let’s just say it was really difficult for me to obey but I did. I had to share my accusations of how I didn’t feel our family was loved well, and how I felt let down.

I was expecting a completely different response than I received. I walked away confused, a little disappointed, and questioning my perception of what had transpired. I was even beating myself up and thinking I had no right to feel hurt in the first place. My thoughts are both my strength and my weakness. I tend to overthink things and over analyze my own words to death.

Fast forward a couple weeks. Another instance came up where my husband and I were on the other side of the hurt, and the accusations came at us this time. I would have initially responded a little self protective, a little defensive, and may e even a little argumentative. But my first response was sadness. My first question was “How??” How has I let my friend down? How did I hurt? How could I have loved better? I’m not quite sure because this situation hasn’t really been resolved yet, but it’s been rolling around the corners of my mind, I’ve been chewing it like a cow chews it’s cud. Here’s why.

Pulling in my two thoughts from

earlier: every story has two sides, and perception is reality…I’ve now been put on both sides of this situation, in two very separate set of circumstances. I can see how the person I ‘accused’ may have felt even though I chose to respond differently. The reason I choose to respond differently is because I know exactly how the person who has ‘accused’ us feels. Hurt. My friend feels hurt. Whether I tried to hurt or love or not hurt and didn’t love enough… my friend feels hurt. And I don’t want that.

I wonder how much more healing would or could come if we were able to change our perception and perspectives more often.

I wonder if we could and would love each other better, with the sacrificial love of Christ.

I wonder how I can love my friend who I clearly hurt better.

I wonder how the hurt I feel can be healed in the situation where I feel let down.

I wonder if the person I accused can gain better understanding and how can it be better resolved.

I know the simple answer to all of these is Jesus. I just don’t know how He’ll do it.

But I know He can and will.

I’ve learned that when we STOP and put ourselves in someone else’s position, it can provide understanding and help us love them more. I want to love more.

Before I ‘accuse’ again, these thoughts are going to help me process. I hope they help you too.