Friday, June 27, 2014

Who knows...

With the overwhelming response of my last post, I thought maybe it would be good to write a post just telling you why I started this because it is truly a story of God working in my life for His greater good.

We have to go back several years to get the whole picture, well at least the whole picture up until now. (who knows what is in store!)

Many years ago, our family was in such a great place. God had blessed us with an amazing home that I had only dreamed of, I had finished college and was teaching (which I had wanted to do for a long time) and Trey was with a fire department and truly loved what he did; it was more who he was than what he did. In February that year, Trey was honored for his hard work and dedication. In April, things changed completely and quickly. A series of events, decisions and actions (some in our control and most out of our control), led to what felt like a deep spiral of loss, despair and hurt.

Trey lost his job, and with it, a large part of his identity. In the next two years, we lost our house to foreclosure, our only reliable vehicle, and even more devastating,  many relationships. Some of those relationships just simply walked away and some just didn't know how to handle all the bad so they just faded into the background. (after being hurt several times, I will say we also probably withdrew out of fear, creating more isolation)  We were under the heavy blanket of waiting to find what was going to happen next and we were hurting to the core. To make matters worse, we felt isolated, and confused and almost violated as much of what we were going through was undeserved and unfair. We cashed in Trey's retirement and praying, felt led to start a bakery/deli called Five Loaves Bakery and Deli. We had never owned our own business and were so clueless about what we were doing, that despite our strong opening months, unfortunately the bakery also went under and with it, the $75,000 we had invested. ( and the last money we had to live on) At that point, there were very few people left in our cheering section, and we were succumbing to self pity and devastation. We sort of circled the wagons around our little family and did our best to hang on tight to God's promises and teach the girls about faith and perseverance in action. Eventually, after 2 years without, Trey finally found a full-time job and things started improving little by little.

Blessings did happen throughout those years; God never failed us. When the house was foreclosed, we had nowhere to live, but God provided a sweet little house that would allow our pets at a price we could afford through a couple we knew at church. We started just going through the daily motions and trying to put the awful last few years behind us. The problem is that there is so much residue left from those years. I personally had lost a lot of faith in people (especially those closest to us) and in systems designed to protect people. I had a lot of trust issues. On the flip side, I also saw the goodness of people, usually who barely knew us, in how they stepped up and gave our children Christmas that year or helped buy us groceries. It was an internal conundrum, a battle of wills to see whether I would stay in a protected environment or put myself out there again for relationships to flourish.

Knowing God's design is not for us to be alone, but not really having a group of friends any longer, I felt the need to connect. I asked my mom to go with me to a ladies' Bible study at our church. It was a Beth Moore study of Esther. It changed the course of my life. I was quickly drawn to Beth with her intensity and attention to details in the scriptures. She is beautiful, funny, knowledgeable, and inspiring. In these studies, we would discuss our homework and then watch an hour long video of Beth talking/teaching. One Wednesday night, after teaching Algebra all day, I attended the study with Mom. I wasn't really part of the discussion at the beginning, as my mind was elsewhere. When the video started, of course I focused.  Then something really strange happened. As I stared at the TV screen, it was like Beth's mouth was moving but no sound was coming out- as if someone had hit the mute button. All I saw was Beth on the screen teaching, and all I heard was God clearly saying, "You are supposed to be doing this." Immediately, I argued. If someone could have recorded my thoughts that night it would have been something like : "Are you crazy, God? I am NOT Beth Moore! She is adorable, fashionable, knows your Word inside and out. She is so full of energy and speaks to people so well! I can't even keep a best friend! You've got the wrong girl, God!" and he would just respond "You are supposed to be doing this." I spent the entire hour trying to convince God that he had the wrong brain. That somehow he accidentally opened the wrong mind and spoke; maybe he meant the girl in front of me or something. Honestly this is the only time so far in my life I have audibly heard him speak to me and his words never changed, "You are supposed to be doing this." As soon as the video ended, I was teary-eyed and very emotional despite not hearing anything Beth said (which I am sure was amazing and am a little sad I missed it). I just sat there kind of dumb-founded for a few minutes and looked up and mom was watching me with that motherly look. I said to her, "I just think that I am supposed to be doing this; talking and speaking into women's lives." Can you believe, she looked me straight in the eye and said, " I know. Me too." What??? Now granted, my mom has a condition that affects her hearing, so maybe she didn't understand what I said, but she answered what God wanted her to answer. I am not sure if she meant that she was supposed to also or if she agreed and felt that God was leading me to it, but I was, well, astonished. I had a LOT to process that night and the weeks to come.

So once I came to grips with the idea that God wanted me to speak, teach or something to women for His glory, I just felt this need to do something but had no clue even where to start. That is where this blog began. I had seen blogs of all kinds and thought it couldn't be that big of a deal and that if I just shared it with people I knew then that would be a start, right? Amazingly, setting up the blog was easy and then God gave me a lesson to share. I spent a couple of hours typing and revising a voila! I had my first blog post: "Perhaps." I then wrote once a week for four weeks. Every post had about 50 views which was really cool, but didn't seem to be whatever it was God wanted from me. Then He placed me in a position within a Christian based company where I would have the opportunity to speak to women and share Him with others on a fairly regular basis. For the last two years, God used this position to teach me, to build my confidence immensely and to restore my faith in friendships and others and to even restore some damaged relationships. I changed so much over these two years that you can actually see the confidence change from the outside in just pictures.
I want you to look at the selfie pictures. Obviously my hair is different, but ignore that for a minute and look at the eyes and the smile; can you see the confidence change? I know I sure can!

Recently, I felt the winds of change again and have felt a need to take the next step in this incredible journey. I am still clueless about where this will end up or what I am supposed to do, but I am taking one step at a time. Mom suggested that I begin writing again. So, the other night I was awake and thoughts about what I should write were swirling in my head. The next day, I wrote my last blog post. Within three days, over 1100 people have viewed that one post! That is incredible and a little crazy to me! God is such an amazing interpreter that he took my simple words and made them something that others relate to and that spoke to them! So that is where I am right now. I would love someday to teach and speak to women about what I've learned over the years with my walk with God. I am still no Beth Moore! Someday I hope to meet her face-to-face to tell her thank you for being obedient to his call.

This post is a little different than the others as it is more just my story, but I hope that it encourages you to know that even in the craziness of all those dark times, God was teaching and molding me and giving me things that someday may come out in a post that will speak to someone I don't even know. When you know God has told you to do something and you have no clue how to even begin, just do something; just take a baby step. I love the saying that often we can't see the whole staircase, but God just wants us to take the first step! It is so true. If I had not stepped out and asked my mom to go with me so I didn't have to go by myself to the Esther study; if I had not responded to God's urging that night; if I had not started to write a blog two years ago; if I had not said 'yes' to an opportunity in a company at a time when one extra thing seemed impossible to add to my plate; if I had not listened to my mom and written that last blog...If I hadn't, make no mistake, He would have found someone who would have and I would have missed out on a period of growth, friends, love, confidence, blessings and preparation for the next step. Don't miss out! He wants to use YOU! If you refuse, he will use somebody because the ultimate goal is to expand his kingdom, but oh my could be YOU!

Esther 4:14 " for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?" 

On a sidenote: The verse above has been my guiding verse for the last two solid years. The company I spoke of allowed me to lead a team of women and I used this verse as our team verse. I called our team the "Royal Beauties". More than once, God showed up in the details and gave me the assurance that it was all His plan. I even recalled at one point that my name, Stephanie, means "Crowned One." How cool for God to show me that this is more than just "right now", but that it is past, present and future and he sees it all at once.

Blessed more than I deserve,