Just Me

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"NEW" Details...Part 4...

I have shared about the hard year I have had this year. Many times through this year, I waited on the NEW thing...the good thing...the fun thing...the exciting thing. And it didn't seem to happen. I stood in front of our Bible study group in October and said "God is running out of time to do the NEW thing He promised, He better get busy!!" 

I have shared that I have battled loneliness this year. The depth though, no one but those closest to me really knows. I know God fills the voids in our life, that He is enough. Period. But part of who I am is a help-meet. And when that other side is missing, HOW?? How do you fill that part?? How does God step in and "BE" that physical person in our life?? I think the magnitude of that void was partly due to the caretaking that Dave required. It went above and beyond the normal and it became part of who I am. I believe that one of my calls in this life is to be a Godly wife...so how does that fit in the life of a single, widowed mom?? I have battled greatly this year.

In Dec last year, I decided to join Christian Mingle again. More out of curiosity than hope. Just to see what might be out there. I did message a couple of men and even met one and developed a friendship with him. But honestly...it was HORRIFYING!!! I realized this world is full of FREAKS!!! Not the kind of pond I care to "fish" in. 

I went to IHOP in July with a dear friend. Before we went, I was praying over some things specifically that I wanted God to direct in while we were there and had time in the prayer room. And He did...in every area!!! One thing that I felt he was saying was I needed to step back from that hope and get off line. When we had time in the prophetic room, that word was spoken over me. I was in a "waiting season, a season of deepening"...hmmmm....I had no idea what the next few months would hold. And it was needful that I be focused on the Lord for the journey ahead. When I got home from IHOP, I stopped my account. 

I can't say that I walked those months focused and strong. Some of my loneliest days were during that period of deepening. I am sure partly due to the enemy fighting me. God was working and leading in my life and doing what needed done. And I am thankful for it.

I had no idea what was ahead though...

I knew that my subscription to Christian Mingle was expiring in early December. So, on December 1st, in a moment of nothing else to do and curiosity, I decided to log in and just see what was new on there since I last logged on. No intentions. No hopes. No plan other than log on and get back off before the account expired. 

Then he sent me a smile...

"Hi, I really like your profile...want to tell me more??"

"Thanks!!! What would you like to know??"

And the rest,as they say, is history. 

Yes, I have an amazing man walking life with me right now. To say things are going well would be an understatement. It's natural. It's easy. It feels so right. I can't say enough good things about this man! I am blown away (and often cry) when I am thanking God for him. We just click. Our humor is eerily the same...twisted, a little off, sarcastic...I have laughed and smiled so much this month that my face hurts! He is a total gentleman and has a deep respect for women...a respect you don't often see in this world. He is an amazing father. He is a very hard worker. He encourages me. He edifies me. He is a man of prayer...

I have a list of standards for whomever I marry. It is a 2 part list...one is a list the necessities...one is a list of wants. The wants are selfish desires that I have, bonuses from Jesus! He fits that bonus list...and fits it in an exceedingly abundantly way!!! The requirement list is yet to be seen....some I know he fits already, some require time to determine if the shoe fits...but it looks good so far! And it is so exciting!!!! And God continues to speak to me and He is saying to walk in this and enjoy what is in front of me.

To say that this man is "NEW" would win the understatement prize!!! I am LOVING this NEW adventure in my life!!!

NEW...think about that...God told me that was my word for 2014. I reflect on this year and though some of the NEW was not easy, it was worth it. As my year was winding down in October and I was walking through a HARD season, I really wondered what God would do before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve...I had no idea the HUGE blessing headed my way. I had no idea that I would sit and reflect and be thankful for the redemption and restoration that would be possible before that moment!!! 


I still don't have my word for 2015...I'm sure when He reveals it, I will share it...whatever it is, I know I can count on it. He is faithful. He is good! Always. 

In the hard. He is good.
In the day to day. He is good.
In the pain. He is good.
In the NEW. He is good.
In the loneliness. He is good.
In His plan. He is good.
In the doubt. He is good.
In the valley. He is good.
On the mountaintop. He is good.
Always. He is good.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"NEW" Details...Part 3...

More "NEW" for you today...

This one is so exciting to me!!! And I need to back track a little in time to give you the details.

I have been in church my entire life. I was taught at an early age to be involved in the local body of believers and have always been actively involved serving in my church. Whether it was singing, playing the piano, helping with VBS or the nursery...I was always involved. 

Dave and I began attending Fellowship in Oct 2009. I came from a traditional church setting and so the contemporary way of doing church was new to me. So, for a while I sat and soaked and observed. And looking back I needed that time of rest and even more importantly-growth! 

A few years ago the Lord started stirring in me...what was next?? What was going to be the way I serve in my local church body?? I started thinking about ways I had served in the past...music, kids ministry, teen ministry, women's ministry...where would God have me now??

As I began to think about those things, I thought of the verse that says, "who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." And then I started to think over my life...

I have faced a lot of difficulties in life...from my childhood on. I know the pain many women walk in through this life. I've experienced divorce, which included infidelity. I have done the marrying a second time and blending a family and I know the difficulties and challenges that can brings. I have done the fight of cancer. Then terminal cancer. I know widowhood. I know the prodigal child. I know the echo of singleness. I know single parenting (twice). I know marriage hardship. And other areas of life hardship...

BUT, I also know the One who got me through it all...

AND I love to tell my story of the One who got me through it all...

And I saw where God was calling me to serve.


So, I started to think about and seek how I would serve in that capacity. And God began to open some doors. 

The first was with a non-profit organization called the "Lily Closet". Our purpose is to minister to single parents and provide clothing and out reach to them. When I joined I wasn't a single parent, but I know single parent and I have a heart for them and the load they carry. It was an obvious door that God had opened for me and I walked through it. It has been such a blessing to minister with this group over the past couple of years. And it was a start in my call to minister to women.

The next door that opened was to take over our Friday morning Bible study at church. I have now been in charge of that for 2 years and I love our time together each week. My first Bible study changed my life and I pray other women experience life change through our time as well. It knits hearts and provides that connecting that we as women need with the loads we carry in this life! It has been a gift to be able to walk in this calling!

A couple of years ago, I looked around my church and knew we needed more. I even approached a couple of our pastors and tried to get things going, but God seemed to say "Wait." I wasn't sure why at the time, but trusted His timing and purpose.

Last October after Dave had passed away and I was settling into the new life in front of me, I felt like God was saying to begin. So, I set up a meeting with a couple of ladies that I felt God had directed me to approach and we got our heads together about what was next...we needed ideas to share with the leadership and a goal. And we knew we needed more for women at Fellowship. We came up with the idea to do a survey and see what feedback we got from the women we wanted to minister to. The pastors thought it was a good idea so we did it...and the response was amazing...the response was God saying "YES!"

I didn't know it...but at the same time that this was going on, God was stirring in the hearts of some other ladies in the church. When the survey came out, they contacted me and wanted to meet and share what God was doing in them. We had no idea at the time, but one lady in our church was already planning on doing the Priscilla Shirer simulcast in the spring...God was all over the "YES NOW" for the women of our church. We began meeting together and the Lord was leading and opening doors for the women. It was such an exciting time of YES from the Lord!!

We have had several organized events for the women this year. We have more Bible study options than before. We are planning our first one day conference for February 7th (and not just for the women of our church, for anyone interested!) It is so exciting to be part of this work..this calling that God has in my life.

As we met and prayed about what God had for us in leadership, we prayed also for God to direct in the structure of our ministry and He has done so. Our leader asked us to each pray what area we were to serve in the leadership team. God led me to co-leader of prayer. The "ironic" thing is, that over the past couple of years, God has been deepening my prayer walk. I had no idea He would call me to serve in that way in the leadership team for the women of our church. It has been an honor and privilege for me!!! I am thankful!

So, the "NEW" today that I share is my calling. A call to reach out and encourage women. 

Women who carry the weight of the world on their shoulder and just need to connect with other women who carry the same weight load.
Women who have a hard, empty marriage.
Women with a prodigal.
Women who hear the word "cancer".
Women who bury their husband.
Women who walk through being cheated on.
Women who are lonely.
Women who are the only parent in their home.
Women who have ghosts from the past yelling in their ears.
Women who need to see themselves the way God sees them!
Women who hurt.


I am blessed and honored that God placed this desire in my heart. It has been a thrilling adventure to meet with other women of our church and plan and follow what God is doing. It thrills my heart when I sit in a room packed with women and SEE what God has done in the past year for the women there! What an amazing adventure it has been! And I am so thankful I got to sit and watch it all unfold!!! 


Monday, December 29, 2014

"NEW" Details...Part 2...

Want some more of my "NEW"?? Here goes...

I am an emotional eater. Always have been. It has been such an outlet for me and the stresses in my life. When I turned 40, I determined to get into the best health that I could. I began weight watchers and lost about 25 lbs and also started running and got myself to the point of running 5K, I just never ran an official 5k. In May that year, I started having some foot issues and stopped running  until it eased up. Then summer came and it was crazy busy. I also have a difficult time with feeling defeated when I can't accomplish something. When I hit the track again, I was so discouraged and was no where near what I was before the foot problem. So between the two, I quit. Then in August of that year, we were told Dave was terminal. At that point, I had to take a backseat and I had to start focusing on his care and the care of my kids. So, taking care of me was not the priority. Slowly, during that time, I gained back the 25 lbs I had lost plus another 10. 

Once Dave passed away, it was time for me again. Since I had a lot on my plate and knew I had a lot of healing and processing to do, I decided to "baby step" changes in my life. My first, was on July 26, 2013 when I gave up pop. I basically drank a cup of coffee when I got up and drank pop the rest of the day. This was a huge step for me and I was so proud as each day went by and I wasn't drinking pop. I still have not had any and I do not miss it!! 

I knew I needed to make some more changes, but wasn't sure what was next. A couple of months later, a few of my friends started using Isagenix. I watched as they were sharing their success stories and decided that I would give it a try as well. So, on Dec 9, 2013, I jumped on that bandwagon and decided to get some weight off...like 70 lbs of weight off. Could I really do this??? That is a pretty lofty goal...

One of the things that Isagenix discourages is drinking coffee...anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE coffee. But I decided if I could give up pop, I could do coffee too. So my last cup of coffee was on Dec 8, 2013. My goal was to not drink any till I hit my goal weight, but I ended up making it ONE ENTIRE YEAR without a drop!!! On Dec 9, 2014, I had my first cup of coffee...YUMMMMM!!!!! So delicious in taste...but SO TERRIBLE in how I felt after I drank it!!! My mouth was running faster than my head and I felt like someone was twisting me inside between my heart and my stomach. HORRIBLE!!!! So bad, that I am almost afraid to drink it again! Decaf please??? And to think I used to NEED this to function?!?!?!

Then another baby step came in January when I started jogging again. I started training on my treadmill and was very dedicated to getting up at 4:00 every day and working out first thing! I was using the couch to 5k program, determined that I would run an official 5K this year. And in May, I did just that!!! There was nothing like that moment of crossing the finish line on something I NEVER would have dreamed I could accomplish! NEW!!!! I have continued to run and I love it! It is my therapy-physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually! I had a set-back in August when I started having pain in my knee and it got really bad. I was so depressed thinking I was going to need surgery and I knew that I would be laid up for a while. I also remembered what happened when I had a foot injury 2 years ago...it really depressed me. After attempting to just rest the knee for a while and seeing no improvement, I went to the doctor expecting to hear I had a torn meniscus...but instead he said it was a tendon issue and I could return to running as I was able to tolerate it!!! I was ecstatic...and scared too that I would give up. But...I was determined...and I started on Week 1 Day 1 of my 5k training. I didn't even feel like I was running when I started again. When I stopped I was doing 3 cycles of 17 min run/1 min walk...and now I was doing next to nothing. But I slowly rebuilt...slowly...and I once again am able to run 5K...my goal is 10k and I will do it! My favorite run is getting up on Sunday morning and running the sun up while listening to my worship and praying and thinking. I am even running OUTSIDE in the cold...Yes folks, miracles happen! 

Back to the weight loss...Most of my journey in my health has occurred in 2014. I hit it hard and strong for the first part of the year then really started battling with emotional eating again after all the problems I was having with my daughter. So from April until Nov, I yo-yo'd the same 5-7 lbs. By the end of Nov, I saw that the scale was starting to creep up again, not a lot, but enough for me to know either I was going to keep going up or do something about it and get serious again. So, a friend of mine and I determined to hit it hard as of Dec 1st. And I have!!!  I am currently down 63 pounds and only 7 more to go to reach my goal!!! I have gained so much confidence and feel good about how I look...for the first time in my life. I still can't believe the girl looking back at me in the mirror!!! 

This journey has been a huge "NEW" in my life for many reasons. I have proven to myself what I CAN do...that when I put my mind to something, I can accomplish it and accomplish it well! I have a "NEW" life in front of me and have done some things I never would have done 63 lbs ago! The old has past, the NEW has come!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"NEW" Details...Part 1...

My blog world friends know that my word for the year was "NEW". I have blogged many times about the struggles of my year, but didn't give specific details because I choose carefully what I write. I don't want to reveal what I shouldn't and bring shame to anyone. 

However, I feel it is time to share details and share my story of 2014. It was not the "NEW" I ever would have picked. It's not the way I would have chosen my year to go...but this is how it went...and with her permission...this is our story.

Sarah is my oldest child. She has a radiant personality. She has also been the one to give me the most gray hair! We have had struggles in our relationship for several years. She is a very "determined" girl and we butted heads often. 

Everything came to a head though in February, when after some bad choices she made, I put my foot down and told her if she didn't want to follow the rules in our home, she was free to leave.

And she did.

And I was devastated.

I walked through it at first with my feet firmly planted on the truth of the word. God gave me the word "No matter how today's page in my book of life looks, the enemy does not get to write the final chapter". And I was trusting God that He would bring my prodigal back home. I knew it could be long. I knew it could be painful. I knew it could be hard. But I also knew He was holding her. 

But...then in March...the grief hit. And it hit hard. I sank into somewhat of a depression over her. This was her Senior year and I was missing everything that I as a parent, who had raised their child, should not have to miss. I would sit in my van at the bus stop and she would walk by me like I was invisible. Knife to the heart. There were choices made that shattered my already broken heart into even more pieces. It was a HARD season for me.

I then started to question God..."WHY?? After all I have been through, why this?? Why now?? Why her?? I am not Superwoman. I am human." My faith was rocked at it's core this year. I was angry. I was alone. I was rejected. 

In July, she came home for about 2 months. I was walking in the hope that we were on our way back to being mom and daughter again.Things went well for the first month, then we started having some of the same issues again. Choices were being made that I could not tolerate in my home. And so I spoke with her again and told her that if things didn't change, we would need to make some decisions. So she left. 


She chose what I would not choose for her. Now what?? Jesus, help me get through this process. 

Around the end of October she and her boyfriend came over one Sunday afternoon to visit. She then told me she had some news for me and showed me a picture of a pregnancy test that was indicating positive. I was going to be a grandmother. She was going to be a mother. 

Emotions all over the place. Thoughts started spinning. 

She is 19. Her whole life is ahead of her. And now a baby. 

They left and I went outside and did a LOT of crying and thinking and talking to God. I sat for over an hour and poured out my heart. 

This is not what anyone would choose for their child. But it is where I am...now what?

As I sat and cried and prayed and cried and cried some more, the Lord spoke two things into my heart and mind..."Stephanie, I breathe life...I gave that life..." and He also reminded me that "My ways are not your ways...trust me!" 

That helped, but my emotions were so raw and my thoughts were all over the place. So I did what I knew I had to do...I plugged into truth. I scheduled an appointment with my counselor and dug in deep to what God promises in His word. I was blessed that this happened to fall during the week of two special services at my church. 

On Wednesday, I attended Fan into Flame. My first one to attend in the five years I have been at Fellowship. And the first word spoken was "If you are facing disappointments in life, raise your hands and then those around you will pray over you!" Ummm YES!! ME ME ME!!! And several laid hands on me and prayed! And I could feel the peace of God being released. Then the last word shared was "You need to be thankful for something...start thanking God!" And so I did. I thanked God for the gift of a sweet grandbaby! The gift of life! She could have chosen an abortion and no one would have ever known. But she didn't. And so I did. I thanked God that I have a sweet grandbaby to look forward to holding. 


By the next evening, I was doing better with it all. There was a worship and prayer night planned at our Springhill campus and I attended that as well. I went with a much different heart and mindset than I had even the morning before. God was filling me with peace and love. And I was able to go, pray, and worship my Savior. 

I have had the privilege of being at Sarah's doctors appts with her. The last one, I saw my grandbaby...the little hands by the little face! I have heard the sweet heartbeat twice and twice my heart has skipped a beat!!! FINALLY...one I can spoil then send home! Or pass off when they cry...or have a poopy diaper...

Sarah is now more than my daughter. She is my friend. Our relationship has transitioned and it is fun and many times beautiful. I got to buy her, her very first maternity outfit...she looked so cute with the baby bump that is forming! Such an honor for me. And when I looked at her standing there, I was in awe. Not just over the fact that I saw my daughter who is going to be a mom, but I saw the gift of God's restoration of a broken relationship. 

Sarah has been open with my kids about her choices and that they need to choose better. She is seeing and I am thankful! This road could have been so much longer...and so much uglier...

She gave me a card for Christmas and I want to share what she wrote...as I read it, the tears poured...Thank you God!!! You are so good!!!

There are not enough words for the love and appreciation we have towards you!
 You are the best mom a kid could ask for and soon to be the best GiGi a grandkid could ask for! 
We love you so much. And I thank you for raising me in a loving Christian family! 
We love you more than anything! 
Sarah and Jeff


On January 1st this year...when I knew what my word was, I though I also had an idea about how my year would go. I had done the hard stuff....for a long time. So the "NEW" was going to be a year filled with good stuff. Smooth sailing. Happiness. Contentment. Joy. Maybe even love?? Then February hit and the "NEW" was not what I anticipated. It was more of the hard...really hard...faith rattling hard. 

But when I sit today and reflect on the 361 days that I have called 2014, I see "NEW" and lots of it. As I walked the path, I didn't see the turns, twists, and destination. But God did. His ways are not my ways. And His ways are good...I don't just have my daughter back, I have a friend. 

And that my friends is "NEW"!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The End of My "NEW" Year...

This year has been a year full of things I did not anticipate walking through. As you all know, the Lord gave me a word for the year and it was "NEW". Well, this year was full of new, but not the new I had anticipated. 

My year started out with lots of new...I was losing weight, embracing the life God had given me and accepting where I was in life, filled with hope for a wonderful, better year ahead. 

Then "life" happened...basically a shattering for me. Within about a month, I found my faith being shaken at it's very core. I tried to walk through strong, full of hope, but hope was lost. I questioned God..."WHY??? After all I have been through?? WHY MORE PAIN?!?! I am human. I have been through ENOUGH!"

The Lord did breathe hope into my life throughout this year. I can't say that I have walked a victorious, faith-filled year, but I kept walking. I read a book this spring that helped me out in this process. The Lord let me know that I was gripping dreams and hopes, too tightly. I had to release (well, He had to do some prying)  my fingers off of those dreams and hopes that I held so dear to my heart. I had to trust Him in a way that I never had to before. It was not an easy process...I can be a tad thick-headed...but lovingly He worked and wooed my heart to the point of me letting Him have my hopes, dreams, pain, loneliness, relationships, anything that had a higher place in my life than it should have...it was challenging and a process, but He faithfully got me through it. 

I had the wonderful experience of visiting IHOP (International House of Prayer) this summer with a dear friend! That was a "NEW" experience for me and changed my life. God spoke clearly to my heart while I was there and so much hope and renewed strength was poured into my heart while we attended. The word from the Lord was powerful and life altering and I am so blessed to have that NEW experience!! Now, to figure out a way to get back there and soak up the prayer room again...

I continue my weight loss journey! Through the difficulties this year, I stopped really working on it. I am now less than 10 lbs from my goal and I feel amazing! I am continuing to jog and I still love it! I had some knee issues in Sept that got me off the track for a while, but it didn't stop me!!! I feel great!

Another NEW....Myrtle Beach! I have cherished, wonderful memories from that trip! I am so thankful and blessed that as a single, widowed mom, I was able to take my kids there!! We laughed...we made memories...memories that I cherish and hold close to my heart!

A very NEW thing for me, is  in July 2015, I will become a Gi-Gi...a Glammy Grammy!!! I am in denial that I am (old) enough to be a grandmother...but apparently I am! I am excited about this little one that God breathed life into...I got to see it's sweet little face in an ultrasound last week...it melted Gi-Gi!!! Oh be still my heart...

I remember standing in front of my Bible study group in Oct and sharing a testimony that God was running out of time for Him to do His "NEW" thing in my life. But, as I sit now, on December 17th, 2014, and I look back... I see it. He is so faithful...

Life. My life is NEW. I am in a completely different place today than I was on Jan 1, 2014. I am a new person. I have sat on the potter's wheel for most of this year. It is a hard place, pounding, stretching, forming, smashing, then forming more...the Potter's hands at work. I hope I look a little more like Jesus than I did on Jan 1, 2014 this year. I know I have had that "deepening" in my walk with the Lord  that was spoken over me at IHOP. Oh, we have gone deeper...painfully deeper...but I sit today rejoicing. I SEE the NEW...it was a slow process. Not something that happened over night, but I am a NEW creation...so many old things have passed away and become NEW in my life. 

God is STILL doing some NEW things as the year draws to a close...I am listening, following, and filled with hope. He is such a good, good Abba daddy! I am looking forward to the next adventure in the new year...I think my adventures have just begun...stay tuned! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I have done a lot of reflecting today. Reflecting over the past year. Not just the 2014 year, but thinking about where I was last year facing the upcoming holiday season.

This year has had some high highs and low lows. Of course, this being Thanksgiving, I am thinking about the things I am truly thankful for...

I am thankful for healing. Last year, this was by far the hardest day of the holiday season. I remember I could not get past the void I felt...the empty chair that was next to me on that holiday. I fought tears the entire day, even as I was eating dinner with my family. I still feel the void, but it is much easier this year. 

I am thankful for those who have walked with me through this year. This has been a really hard year for me personally. I have battled things that only those closest to me know about. I so appreciate them listening to all of my whining (and there has been a LOT of it)...and letting me cry out! I really needed that support and it is truly appreciated! Love you!!

I am thankful for change!!! One year ago, I was 50lbs heavier...today I ran. I have worked hard to get myself in a healthier place and I have learned so much through this process! I ran my very first official 5K and a passion for running was birthed in me! I had almost 2 months of knee issues that put me in a non-running place and I was so scared I would not get to run again...but I am! I lost a lot of what I had build, but I am rebuilding. Running is therapy! It's my happy place! It is mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. I have learned so much about myself and beat many things I didn't think I could beat!! Now to get off that last 20 lbs...(today probably won't help that endeavor!)

I am thankful for provision! God has provided for me and my family in crazy amazing ways! I am facing a big loss of income starting in January, and I know though it may be tough and faith shaking, God will provide for me...cuz He promises He will! 

I am thankful that His ways are not my ways. This is a bittersweet mindset because truth be told, I really want my way. But there is such comfort in those words...when I see chaos, pain, disappointment, loneliness, even an empty chair, I can rest knowing this is not where my story ends! Early this year, the Lord gave me a word that I have clung to frequently, "No matter how today's page in the book of my life looks, the enemy does not get to write the final chapter!" I don't understand why He does what He does, or allows what He allows, but I can trust, rest, and KNOW...

He redeems! 
He restores! 
His plan prevails! 
He loves! 

I am thankful for those around me today that I love. As a single mom, it's me and my kids! I am thankful for each of them and I am so thankful that I don't spend this day alone...I get to enjoy it with them!! (plus a few others!) 

I am thankful for HOPE! There have been many times this year when hope was absent from my mind and my heart. Times I had to just choose to believe the promises of the Word, and there were times that I didn't really believe and I doubted. Everything I saw in front of me wasn't making sense and seemed void of hope. But God does fill our hearts with that hope we need when we plant our feet on His truth. And I am thankful for the grace He pours on me when I doubt.

I am thankful...thankful for a wide open future. Thankful that I can embrace the adventure. Thankful for a loving Abba Bridegroom who never leaves me and loves me like no other! I am thankful that He has a plan for me and it is good and full of hope! Today, I am thankful that His ways are not my ways...

I am thankful for those who have walked through my journey in the blog world...thank you for reading my words, my heart, my story, my journey...

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014


I was doing my devotions this morning and the author was talking about umbrellas...and my mind started to wonder...or maybe it was the Holy Spirit at work.

I am facing a road in life that requires complete Holy Spirit control. It is not a road that I want to walk and truth be told, if I could rewrite this chapter, I would. But I can't. I can only CHOOSE how I am going to walk it. 

This is what the Holy Spirit was speaking to me...I have an umbrella, we all have one. And it is not a small umbrella. It is the umbrella of influence that I hold in my hands. I saw words all over my umbrella, the words are my motives, my attitudes, my actions, my story, my choices. Whether I realize it or not, there are many people that stand under my umbrella. Many don't have a choice to be under it. (my kids, my family, those in my sphere of influence) But the thoughts that began going through my mind were "Stephanie, what words are on your umbrella? Are they words that would DRAW more people to desire to be under your umbrella, or they words that would make people to prefer to stand in the "rain" than be under that umbrella??" Hmmm...Ouch??

Then my mind went to the other umbrellas that influence those that I love...other relationships in those lives. Some I can not control. Some I honestly do not like. But is my umbrella going to provide a preferred shelter in life? Is it going to be a better influence than the other umbrellas that they may stand under? What does it take in this life to have the better influence?

We all choose. Every day we choose. To do life God's way or our own way. There are times when everything in me does not want to do it God's way, but I know his way is best. And I choose. I know honoring him, even when no one else sees the sacrifice, is given an eternal measure of reward. I would be lying if I said that I was not at times, battling my flesh and my spirit in a way that I can almost visualize. There are moments when the spirit is winning and then there are moments when the flesh is rearing its ugly head and working hard to conquer. But all it requires is me choosing God's way to truly win the battle...even when there is no apparent victory on this earth. 

I know when I do it God's way, I prefer to hold that umbrella and others will prefer to be under it, because my umbrella is a much more peaceful, joy filled, loving place to be. I was left with the thought, "What does my umbrella say?" 

I leave you with the same thought...what is written on your umbrella??

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Revisiting THAT day...

Grief is a psychotic beast. Things are smooth sailing then the wave hits and knocks you off your feet. 

Yesterday, more than a year later, I walked into 2 funeral homes for viewings and also attended a funeral for the first time. I knew it could stir some things. But I didn't know it would stir so much. 

The first was for my aunt. I went alone. I walked in knowing many faces, but not sure which would remember me. Those situations take me out of my comfort zone. But I pressed forward because I know what it meant to have people there for me in those moments. 

The second was for a wonderful, loving, funny, Godly man from my church. I first met his wife, Betty, 4 years ago in my "Breaking Free" Bible study. I fell in love with this sweet, Godly, wise woman! I even told her she was my "adopted church mom" and she continues to refer to herself that way! Virgil, her husband, as well as Betty are the face, hands, and feet of Jesus in human form. He served in many ways in our church. He greeted before the service frequently and always offered a hug and his beaming smile! And as a bonus, since I have lost my weight, he referred to me as "skinny lady"...not gonna deny how much I loved hearing those words! A couple of weeks ago, Virgil had a stroke, and like Dave, the Lord decided to give him the ultimate healing and took him home. 

Virgil's viewing was held at the same funeral home as Dave's. I dreaded walking in. I would be lying if I said, there were not multiple times I wanted to turn my van around and drive back home. But I know retreat is not the answer when we battle. Even if it is just a battle of our comfort. And when I got there, I couldn't just walk in, pay my respects, and walk out. There was a line...a LONG line. A line that required me to wait and look around, and walk through, and stand, in the same room Dave was in for 80 long minutes. I was alone again. I couldn't get out of line and go chat with someone I knew, because I would lose my spot in the line. So I stood the majority of the time in silence with my thoughts and emotions. I watched Betty, standing by her husband, and remembered. I remembered hugging so many. Saying the same words, "We know where he is....his life's work is done...I will see him again." I was revisiting THAT day. I thought about her all day, the time she spent in front of a mirror preparing to walk out of the door to go see that face that she loved. How hard it was to make the drive to the funeral home. How much you don't want to get out of your car and walk in. If you could just fast forward to the day it doesn't hurt any more. The psychotic beast of grief then takes you to the flip side of the beautiful hope we have in Jesus. Just knowing what he is experiencing! The joy that is in front of him. The fact that he gets to worship at the feet of the One who is Worthy. As I stood in that line, so many thoughts went through my head. It was hard and I wanted to retreat, but I knew I couldn't. And truthfully I wanted to be there for Betty. I know. I have been there. And I did it. Steps forward yet again...

This morning was the funeral. And just like Dave, it was held in our church. I walked in alone. I sat in the back. I hoped someone would sit with me or I could find someone I knew to sit with through the service. I really didn't want to be alone. God brought a sweet man who is a pastor locally to join me. He and his wife prayed for Dave and I and have followed my journey some since Dave passed. We were able to chat and it was a time for me to rejoice and share how God has provided so greatly for me through the past year. It was a sweet time of testimony to God's goodness in my life.

As I sat, I also watched. I watched as Betty took her seat. The seat of honor as I referred to it. The seat of the widow. The one who loved that man like no other person has loved that man. I remembered so vividly when it was my turn. I remember feeling the strength and presence of the Lord so closely. How in that moment of the deepest pain a soul carries, being able to also rejoice and worship in awe because we know where our husband is at that very moment. The service begins and words are shared. We laugh. We cry. Then we worship. We stand in awe of our loving Jesus who has made the way that we don't deserve. I watched Betty and remembered exactly how I felt that day, as she stood and lifted her hands in praise of our Savior, I remembered. I felt again, all I felt THAT day. Such sorrow, but such hope. Such sadness, but such joy. Such peace...that passes our human understanding. 

Then it was my turn to walk by the family. I hugged her close and I told her. I told her I felt her heart. And I did because I have that widow's heart as well. I remember. I don't think you can ever forget. 

I know I have been called to minister to women. I had no idea that one I would reach out to as a new widow would be one I admire so much. And my heart aches for her and for the days she has ahead of her. I love her dearly and I hurt for the pain she has ahead. But just like me, she knows the Prince of Peace and I know Betty will walk through this process and rest in her Jesus.

I shed a few tears through the funeral. Touched by the love of our Savior and the love others had for Virgil. I shed some tears knowing the pain they are experiencing. As I left and drove away though, the dam broke and the tears poured. They poured because I was there just one year ago...and I was there again today. But I was there with the eyes of one who's heart has been touched with the salve of healing that only our loving Jesus brings. I sat in that psychotic moment of one who is grieving and healed at the same time. It was a bizarre, painful, beautiful moment. As wordy as I am, I don't have the words. It was as if I was in two places at once. I sit now, with tears streaming because of it all. 

As much as this has touched my heart and life, today is not about me. Today, I honor Virgil Haynes. He was a light in this dark world. His smile brightened the room. He loved those that Jesus loves. He was the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to the world around him! (and he called me skinny lady!) So, Virgil, do me a favor and say hello to Dave for me. Tell him, I am good. I am really good! God has blessed and provided and healed! I am embracing and living life and it is GOOD!!! Virgil, you are loved. My life was blessed because I knew you.

And for you Betty...you are a woman of incredible faith. The road ahead will be not be easy. There is a new normal. You loved deeply and because you loved deeply , the pain is deep. And I know you wouldn't have it any other way. You too, are a shining example of the Savior's love on this earth. I admire you. And I am honored to walk this journey with you. I have been and continue to pray for you. I am only a phone call away. I love you deeply! 

THAT day...that day when you taste what God has so freely offered. The peace of knowing where our husband is because God has chosen to give his son for us. He is worth of it all. 

I saw the funeral director today that worked with me when Dave passed away. I think it is only fitting as I remember the song he shared in his office as I was finalizing Dave's arrangements to share it yet again because He is..."Worthy of it ALL"!!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

1 year....365 Days Later...

One year...12 months...365 days...so hard to believe. 

It feels like forever since that day. 

This week has been one of much reflection for me. I was told on Friday, June 28th last year that Dave would not make it through the night. But he was a strong, strong man, clear up until the end, and a week later, he crossed the finish line of this life. 

One week...

That was the longest week of my life. I have reflected much this past week on what we were all walking through a year ago. I sit today and think "How did I do it? What kept me functioning for an entire week of waiting on such a painful moment?" I remembered the nights of not having a nurse here all night and having to set my alarm every two hours to go see if he was still here or to give him his pain meds. I remember the nights when I had a nurse here and I would awaken with every step in the house wondering if they were coming to get me because it was time. I remember my friend calling me from church on Sunday morning so I could listen in on the worship that morning. I remember friends stopping by with a coffee or just to sit with me. I remember the many hours spent by his bed, holding his hand because I was determined to be there when Jesus took his other hand and welcomed him home. I remember the hours of waiting... I remember so much about that week...

I have also reflected on my year of healing. I think part of what makes it so hard to believe that it has been a year, is because of where I sit today. 
It has been a year of discovery for me. 
It has been a year of deep pain for me.
It has been a year of continued faith walk for me. 
It has been a year of seeing what I am made of. 
It has been a year of setting goals and reaching them. 
It has been a year of days of loneliness.
It has been a year of support.
It has been a year of deepening friendships.
It has been a year of AMAZEMENT at the way God has blessed me and provided for me!
It has been a year of challenges. 
It has been a year of at times, disappointments.
It has been a year of divine appointments.
It has been a year of LIVING!
It has been a year of learning to be content and embrace the journey, even when it is HARD!
It has been a year of God moving and directing.

I am a one year old widow today. One year. I feel like it has been forever since that day. I feel like I have done life alone for much longer than one year. 

But today, I don't walk in sadness. Which honestly has surprised me. I rejoice in knowing where he is today and has been for the past 365 days! I wonder what he has done, who he has talked to, what he thinks and feels. Someday, I will know! 

I rejoice knowing that when life is hard, we have two options...to grow bitter or better. I did not want to sit at the end of this journey of grief and be an angry, questioning, not trusting my Savior person! I wanted to be whole, healthy, and trusting in the goodness of God! I am so blessed and thankful to sit today, embracing this life journey that God has given me! My story is not over, He is still writing it. And I trust that the best is yet to come! 

I thought I would write a letter to Dave today and share it with you, my blog friends! 

Dear Dave,

You have now spend 1 earthly year in heaven. I can't help but think of you every single day. Not with sadness, but with rejoicing for you. There are days I really miss being your wife. I miss your laughter and your smile. I miss the way you shook when you laughed your hearty laugh. But I would never dream of asking you to come back, not even for a minute. 

I had my first dream about you just 2 weeks ago! It was so weird to converse with you. To hear your voice again and see your mannerisms. It really threw me that after almost a year, there you were. As upsetting as it was, it was also good to "see" you again. So strange this grief process...

I am doing well. I think you would be pleased and it would bring you peace to see where I am today with my life. God has taken care of me, just like I told you He would. I am living!! I am embracing where I am right now. And I look forward to whatever adventure He has in store for me. Maybe you already know...

I just want you to know that no matter where my life goes, you will always be part of it. You were a big portion in "The Life of Stephanie Szalla"! Though your part in my story ended one year ago, you greatly affect the plot in the rest of my story! God changed my life through knowing you. I learned Him in ways I never would have otherwise! You were a great tool He used in my life. I am grateful!

I am so thankful I got to walk your last 8 years on this earth with you. I am so glad we lived out our vows!!  I am grateful that I was holding your hand in that sweet moment for you! I am thankful that you "adopted" my kids! They still miss you as well! 

I rejoice knowing you are LIVING in a way I can only guess about, but someday will know as well! I am so thankful that you knew Jesus and made sure I knew you knew Jesus as well...it has brought such comfort and peace through my grief journey!

You are not forgotten...you never will be!


One year...12 Months...365 Days...I wonder what I will be writing one year from today?? I wonder what life will hold for me in the next 12 months?? I wonder what God adventures I will walk through in the coming 365 days?? 

Whatever it is, I am ready! And I am thankful to have known this man. I am thankful that I sit where I sit today. I am thankful for healing because of my Jesus! I am so thankful that God has never left me, even when I FELT like He had, He never did. Not for a moment. 

Today, I reflect, and I look forward as well...
1 year later... 
I still say, "God is good! I am loved! I am blessed!"

Monday, June 16, 2014

346 Days Later...He Gives and Takes Away, Blessed is His Name...

He gives and takes away...my heart will choose to say, Blessed be the name of the Lord!

I just walked through both of those experiences...The Gives part...

I had the awesome privilege of taking my kids for a week away to Myrtle Beach. Sarah last saw the ocean about 6 years ago. Kaitlyn has only seen the ocean once at the age of 3. And Trevor had never seen the ocean. And it had been years for me as well! I never understood why people would want to go year after year to the same place for vacation. I always thought , "Mix it up if you can go on vacation every year!" But now I get it!! I think I could be an official "Beach Bum"!! I can not remember the last time I had a vacation that lasted an entire week either. A few days away is always great and I have enjoyed them thoroughly, but going away for an entire week like that was so refreshing! 

I have had a rough few months as I have shared! This trip was such a gift...the timing of it was perfect, especially after the season I have just walked through. My oldest is leaving for the Navy in Sept and I really wanted to make some family memories before things change permanently for us. And it was wonderful!

Days spent without a care in the world...I reflected often about the past year + of my life. It has been the hardest period of time I have walked through in so many ways. And as I laid there, ocean water on me, sand between my toes, and the sun beating on my body, all of it was a lifetime away! I didn't have to get up and be responsible!!! Ahhhhh!!! My kids are old enough that they were self sufficient. I didn't have to fix breakfast or lunch for anyone. I didn't have to help them get dressed. It was a stress-free, responsibility free, job free, time for all of us. 

We laughed...a LOT!!! Mom cut loose and got goofy with the kids. We made dance party videos in the van while we were going here or there! We took walks on the beach...I took walks on the beach alone and even ran twice!! We ate out at some really good, fun restaurants! We shopped and splurged! The girls parasailed, we rode the skywheel, went to Pirates Voyage, and hit the beach as often as possible!! 

The timing of this trip was perfect for us. We are approaching one year. One year! 365 days! So hard to believe...it feels like a life time ago. My life has moved forward. I am embracing it and honestly loving it! I took my kids to Myrtle Beach. I did that. As a single mom, I was able to do that. I drove us there. Drove us around...I did it! It felt amazing as their mom to be able to do that, especially after the past year for us. What an honor and a blessing. It was really empowering for me as a single woman to accomplish this for my family. I needed that boost. There have been times in the past few months, that I really didn't want to do single. It was overwhelming and I felt like there was no way I could do it. Now I do. It has been a process for me in the past 2 months of accepting, embracing, and learning to love where I am in my life. God has worked and moved and I am thankful for a place of contentment and accomplishment. The refining fires are not fun, but they are always worth it! 

I would be lying if I said that I don't hope to be called "wife" again. There are many things about marriage that I miss. And I would be lying if I said my eyes are not open! LOL!!! But I am ok until God brings the right man into my life. I've made my list of "must haves" and my lists of "wants" and God sees them and He sees the "him" He has chosen for me. Until that time, no matter how long it is, I am happy. I am joy filled. I am embracing. I am content.

The Takes Away Part...

Yesterday was a tough day for our family. It was the first Father's Day without Dave. It was a weird out of sorts day for us. The first day back from vacation and day filled with church then baseball. It was a tough day. Another slap of our reality. Another "first" after loss. 

I asked my son how he was doing with Father's Day this year, he responded with a "so so" response and then I saw him wiping tears. I see the void most in his life. He needs time with guys. It doesn't matter how great of a mom I am, I CAN NOT be the man in his life. I am praying that God will send men to pour into this boy who is becoming a man. He so badly needs a Godly male in his life. Someone to spend time with him and pour into him. And just be guys together. I watch him as he is with the guys on his team, he glows! I know he needs so much more...and thankful his Abba sees it too!

Tomorrow is yet another "first" after loss. Tomorrow would be our 9th anniversary. I know tomorrow I will reflect on that evening 9 years ago...and the journey that those 8 years together took us on. Maybe tomorrow I will share some of those things...I know my mind will be busy...

My last blog was on the "Greater Invader" and in my losses, I still see that there is a Redeemer. I have tasted both the giving and the taking in this life. I think after you have experienced loss and pain, the blessings are that much sweeter! As I walked and reflected last week, I was truly overwhelmed by the good things God gives his kids. He has blessed me. He loves me perfectly and completely! He empowers me to walk this painful, wonderful life. I am thankful and blessed more than I thought I would be...and I am not yet to the 1 year point of this journey as a widow. He blows me away in how He has worked in my life. He has healed in so many ways. He has refined (and is still refining this woman) and I am thankful for that process. He is good! And I am thankful!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

335 Days...11 Months Later...The Greater Invader...

Invaders...we all have experienced them. I have had my share in this life. I have experienced the worst of them in the past year. 

Today makes 11 months since Dave passed away. As I was running yesterday, the Lord started speaking to me about these invaders and I started reflecting on some of them in my life...

The invader of cancer...Cancer became our reality 4 years ago this month. Dave had started having pain in January 2010 and then went through test after test, procedure after procedure, doctor after doctor, until he was finally diagnosed in June of 2010. He endured several surgeries, numerous scans, more doctor's appointments than I can count in the years he battled that disease. As his wife, I sat and watched and supported. I became a nurse to my husband.  I prayed for him, cried with him, and walked with him. As a mom, I still had kids to take care of and taxi around. It is a load no person should have to carry. Cancer was a huge invader in my life. 

The invader of death...then came July 5th, 2013 and I said my earthly good-bye to my husband. The week before and the week after he died were two of the longest weeks of my life. I look back and honestly do not know how I made it through. I will never forget them. Death. A horrible invader in this life.

The invader of lost dreams...I have blogged about some dreams that I have had to give up lately. Not easy to do. The Lord graciously showed me that I needed to pry my fingers loose, and release them to him. Trusting him for what is best for me. It was a challenging time for me in so many ways.

The invader of divorce...I still have the affects of divorce in my life and the life of my kids. I see it frequently...I guess I had hoped after 12 years that it would be a little less evident in their lives. But it is not. And it hurts my momma heart deeply. 

The invader of singleness...after living as wife and caretaker for so long, it is a strange adjustment to make back into singleness. And when it involves a death, it happens in an instant. I became a widow on July 5th, 2013 at 5:01 pm. There have been times that I have truly HATED being single in the past few months. It slaps me in the face when I see the "couple" world we live in...you don't realize how few singles there are until you are one! I am truly happy for my friends when they go on a "date night" with their husbands...and at the same time I get truly envious. It has been a huge adjustment. 

I could name more...I have experienced more of these invaders that life can bring our way...but there is a GREATER INVADER than these...

My Redeemer, Jesus!!

The invader of cancer...Jesus came to give us life more abundantly! By His wounds we are healed, in more ways than one. Many would say that Dave was not healed, but the truth is, since he knew the Lord personally and had placed his faith in Jesus, cancer was just the step into his presence and Dave received the ultimate healing!! Jesus is a GREATER INVADER than cancer!

The invader of death...oh death where is your sting?? Oh grave, where is your victory?? Even Jesus lost a friend in the death of Lazarus, and he wept in that moment! I have cried many tears over my husband since he died. But knowing Jesus changes the way we mourn. Jesus died a physical death, but crushed our enemy when he rose again 3 days later! So, there is a GREATER INVADER than death...LIFE because of Jesus!!

The invader of lost dreams...I had to let go...and as I sit now, having done that, I question what my hesitation was in letting go of my dreams...the path that I had picked out for myself. What was I afraid of?? That God would put me in a place of unhappiness and misery?? His word is FULL of promises about the GOOD things he does for us, the GOOD plans he has for us, why would I not believe that the dreams he would give me would be GOOD?? God is giving me new dreams...a dream of embracing where I am in my life. I am a momma! I love my kids and my time with them is getting shorter and shorter. I am involved in ministry at my church and I LOVE what God is doing in that area...He is giving me new dreams for my life and I really am in a place of contentment. There is a GREATER INVADER than that of lost dreams...God's dreams and plans for me, his daughter and bride!

The invader of divorce...I have to admit that I am still in many ways waiting on the redemption in this to arrive. But I know the promises of the word, that what the enemy means for evil, God can use for our good! There is a GREATER INVADER than divorce...and if he says he will do it, HE WILL DO IT!!

The invader of singleness...this has been a really tough one for me recently. It goes along somewhat with the loss of dreams. I am thankful that the Lord has really worked in my heart and mind and has brought me to a place of contentment in my singleness. I am embracing the life in front of me instead of wishing all the time that I had someone to share it with. I am ok where I am. God is giving me new dreams for my life. Yes, I would still love to remarry, but until the right one comes along, I am happy...content...at peace with my life. A couple of months ago, the thought of not having a man in my life was a horrible thought...today, not so much. This is big progress for me! Many times in life, we have to change (and be willing to change) what we focus on. I'm single...and it is a fun place to be! I do hope to remarry and I am open to dating, but until then, I'll let Jesus pour into my life and let his love overwhelm me! There is a GREATER INVADER than singleness...My Bridegroom, Jesus!!

I wonder what Invaders have come into your life. Are you facing the impossibles that life can throw at us?? 

Relationships that fall apart. 
Marriages ending in divorce. 
Loss of Job.
Financial ruins. 
Prodigal Children.
You fill in your blank____________.

Are any of these beyond the love and redemption of our Savior?? He is the Greater Invader in our lives...and He is good!

Romans 8:28 "And we know that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose!"

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This song has become my love song with my Savior lately. I listen to it and have the moment of just me and the lover of my soul...enjoy!