"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you in with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt...and go out to dance with the joyful." - Jeremiah 31: 3-4

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Last night, I was unashamedly among millions of giddy and overly dramatic Twilight fans around the country at the midnight release of the third movie in the saga - Eclipse. I will not hold back in admitting that I was really excited to see this movie. I've been a lover of the books since they first came out and credit Edward, almost single-handedly, for being the catalyst in ending an unhealthy relationship. I know, it's pathetic but God works in mysterious ways, right? So as silly as this may sound, this story does hold a special place in my heart. :)

The theatre was packed, obviously, but we got there early enough to get pretty good seats. As soon as the movie began you could honestly feel everyone holding their breath, praying that this movie would not let us fans down as the first and second ones had. After the first scene, I was pretty confident that it would not disappoint! It was already head and shoulders above both Twilight and New Moon in acting, directing, special effects, lighting, camera work and just about every other thing that goes into making a movie! For the first time, you actually felt like Edward and Bella were really, truly, desperately in love with each other. Something that lacked in the previous films due to poor acting. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are actually dating now in real life, but who knows. That's really not important.

But wow, before I got into a scene by scene description of the entire movie (which I could easily do because I really did enjoy this film), I want to get to my main point.

Towards the middle/end of the movie, there is a part where Edward and Bella have the house to themselves. They are sitting on a gorgeous bed that Edward bought simply because Bella would be staying the night (vampires don't sleep so there was never a bed in his house before). Edward reminds Bella of his request for her to marry him. An institution that Bella has little faith in due to her parents marriage and divorce at a young age. Bella has refused multiply times before, but this time comes prepared with a "compromise."

She tells Edward that she will marry him, under one condition. "Anything you want," is Edward's response. Bella proceeds to move closer to Edward and to keep it somewhat PG rated ... seduce him. After a short, sensually charged kissing session Edward pulls away. Bella is upset and Edward notices. He assures that he does indeed want to... but is trying to "protect her virtue." He tells Bella that he knows it's "not a modern thing" but he wants to marry her first before having sex. Bella next line brings me to my point --

"No, it's not modern. It's ancient."

At that... BOY! Did some sirens go off in my head! What the heck kind of message is this sending to all of these young girls watching this movie?!!? I'm currently working with a group of middle school girls and it APPALLED me to think that they may watch this and get the impression that saving sex for marriage is an ANCIENT idea!

Well, apparently someone else in the audience was having the same thoughts because not a second after those words left Bella's mouth I heard a mother (from the sound of her voice) call out "No it's not kids!" The whole theatre started laughing so much that we missed the next few lines. I replied with an "Amen!" along with others who were both agreeing and mocking the comment, but most were in agreement with some quick cheers and clapping. I must admit, it was pretty hysterical and I was honestly glad that someone had to guts to proclaim truth in front of nearly a hundred people.

Ultimately, Bella does agree to wait until they are married and Edward officially proposes, very romantically if I do say so myself, puts a ring on her finger and lifts her up off the bed to twirl her around while accompanied by the uber romantic soundtrack which makes every girl in the theatre let out a collective "awwwwwwwww." I'm not usually one to fall for the cheesy movie romance but I was all smiles. I couldn't help it, it was just one of those magic movie moments like when Rose jumps out of the lifeboat to go back to Jack in Titanic or when Noah exclaims "It wasn't over! It still isn't over!" and runs to kiss Ali in The Notebook. I'll stop now, but you get the point. Moments like that touch the hearts of women because it's what we were created to desire! God created us to be captivating in the eyes of our husbands so when we see things like this, it grabs at us in a way that not many can even explain and most men will never understand.

But unfortunately, out current culture has been slowly but surely crushing the true nature of romance. Even in the examples I gave, Jack and Rose, Noah and Ali - neither were married and both had sex. I can't even recall a movie right now where a couple actually gets married before they have sex. All of the romance we see in our current culture is romance outside of marriage.

In some way, I'm very happy with the Twilight series and with Stephenie Meyer for actually following the proper timeline of a relationship. Yes, of course it's not perfect and there's many flaws with the Bella/Edward relationship but ultimately, they do wait until they are officially, legally married before they have sex.

It's sad to me that I have to mentor these young middle school girls and constantly battle against what they are seeing on T.V., watching in movies and hearing in music every single day. There was a time when it was looked down upon to sleep around. Not so much anymore. I was watching a show on abc family recently, who's new slogan is "a new kind of family," and a new kind of family they are! Every one of their shows is based around terrible morals and no boundaries. In the show I was watching one of the characters, a 15 year old girl, actually said to her 15 year old friend "If you haven't been together in that way, then how do you know you're actually together?"

Really? REALLY?! I was disgusted. I'm actually getting angry writing about it now. How dare these producers try to convince these girls who are barely more than children that having sex is just what you do when you're in a relationship?!

I'm aware that I can become overly passionate about things like this, but this is an issue that I have zero tolerance for and refuse to defend in any way. It is 100% wrong.

What happens when these girls do have sex and find out the harsh reality that it's not all sunshine and roses! What happens when they are destroyed by the boys that they give themselves to and don't understand why they feel so empty, alone and confused when they were led to believe that sex would complete them and make them feel loved and worthy. What happens then?

It's something that's been bothering me a lot lately, especially since starting this job and being around these incredible young women. I hate to think that any of them will be seduced by our culture and begin to believe these lies.

I'm sorry if I offended anyone. If you know me well enough, you should know that I'm not saying this because I'm perfect and judging others who aren't. You know my story. You know where this passion comes from and you know that I am fully aware of the hope and restoration that Jesus Christ provides!

Girls -- realize what you're worth and don't settle for anything less than everything God has planned for you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Living for Jesus.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

I remember when I first came across this verse in Philippians. I meditated on it for quite a while, trying to figure out exactly what Paul was saying. It's one of those verses that sticks with you, probably for good reason.

I'm currently reading a book called "Back to Jerusalem" about the Chinese church and their vision to bring the gospel to all of the unreached nations between China and Jerusalem, most of which are nations that persecute and directly oppose Christians. It's an incredible story of faith, determination and the power of our Lord. But perhaps the most amazing part of the Chinese church is that they are fully prepared to die for Jesus Christ. Most even expect to die! They take what Paul said thousands of years ago and live it daily! They find no other purpose in their lives other than to share the good news of Jesus with people who have never heard His name. If they die along the way, it was for Christ and therefore gives more glory to His name!

At church on Sunday, I heard something that seemed to explain this verse and the faith of the Chinese church. In so many words, if you wouldn't give up everything for Christ (your home, car, money, zip code, etc.) and if you're not willing to die in the name of Jesus Christ, then you have no idea what it is to LIVE FOR CHRIST!

If you won't die for Jesus, then you're not living for Him! It's really that simple.

That's not to say that we should all wish death upon ourselves. Quite the opposite actually. We should all wish for ourselves a life so filled with the love of Christ so we can share His name! But if God wants you to uproot your life and move to another country, another state, even just to the next town over... would you? Would you die to yourself and allow God to live through you? Would you accept His will for your life or would you refuse because you don't want to give up your country club membership? More extremely, would you say "yes," if asked if you believe in Jesus even if the result was death?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recently, I've been forced to face a deeply rooted issue. It's one of those things that you can ignore and still function normally but somewhere in your heart it's slowly eating away at your confidence and ability to look at life clearly. I'm not sure when this first developed in me. I could guess it was some time in middle school. Those few years were not easy for me, as they aren't for most kids. It's a time of insecurity and instability. Everything is changing. Mind, body and soul are going through a serious transformation. Those few delicate years can break someone easily and totally. Luckily, things were not that serious for me and I escaped with only minor scrapes and bruises but injuries none the less. If you'll allow me to be vulnerable for a moment, I can explain.

I had a close group of girlfriends during middle school. We did everything together, went to the high school football games, got ready for dances, went to the mall, had sleepovers, talked about boys... basically everything 13 year old girls do. We were best friends. But then suddenly, seemingly overnight, I was out. I was no longer "in the group." I had been replaced by someone else, simple as that. Perhaps the reason was that I did not have a boyfriend and all of them did. So not only did I have no friends but I had no boyfriend. For a 13 year old, that is the end of the world and it hurt me more than I would have ever admitted back then.

After middle school, things got a little easier. I had newfound confidence in high school and got through the first couple years without much incident. Junior year brought with it a little more struggle. First boyfriend meant first broken heart which of course brought out that insecurity again. Someone I believed would be there, if not forever then at least for more than a few months did not want me anymore. Blah blah blah, it all seems so silly now but I took it pretty hard at the time. I now can look back and see that it wasn't so much that particular person that hurt me, it was the idea of being unwanted that really crushed me. That idea haunted me throughout the next four years.

I was abandoned time and time again during those years and every time, it hit me harder and harder. Why didn't anyone stay with me? Friends, boyfriends, mentors... no one stuck around. I tried so hard to make myself feel wanted. I dated the same boys multiply times because they would fight for me. I wanted to be fought for, even if it was only a game to them. Nothing made me happier than being pursued, even if I knew deep down that a relationship could never really work. All that mattered was that they said they wanted me. Regardless of how many times they got me only to leave me again, I still always eventually took them back. I was desperate to believe that this time things would be different and they would stay. Obviously, they never did.

People will always disappoint. No one is perfect. Even someone who you thought did everything right will make a mistake eventually and upset you. I guess what I'm learning from all of this is that you can't expect to find yourself in others. That's what I did. I tried to find myself in my relationships and friendships and when the person failed to meet my expectations and needs, I would fall apart. I was looking to them to hold me together and if they couldn't do that then I didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't even know myself! I became a soccer fan, a baseball fan, a football fan, a skater girl, a hippie girl, a party girl, a drinker, a smoker, a lover, a lover of punk music, a lover of rap music, a lover of techno music, a classic novel reader, a poetry reader, a military book reader, considered transferring schools and even considered moving to a different state! Simply because of the relationship I was in at that moment! I wanted desperately to know who I was but I didn't even know where to start. I wasn't even sure what my favorite color was!

Flash forward to present time. I could write a book about all that happened to help me discover myself, but I don't really have that kind of time right now. So I'll just quickly tell you where I'm at now....

I'm Stephanie. I love sunsets, looking at the stars and sitting around a campfire. I read fantasy novels and classic literature. I like the beach but I'd rather be in a cabin surrounded by trees and mountains. I love to write and it's a small dream of mine to write a book someday. My favorite color is black because it's classic. I'll say I hate dressing up but really, I love it. I am a Christian. I love Jesus Christ and I live for Him every single day. He is the center and biggest part of my life. In Him, I find myself.

When others were not loyal to me, when they abandoned me and hurt me, Jesus never left my side even for a moment. Even when I was anything but loyal to Him, He was true to me. And that, my friends, is what this life is all about.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. - Colossians 2:6-7

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Being a Disciple of Jesus.

Discipleship has always been an interesting topic to me. What is a disciple? How do you disciple others? Who is fit to disciple? How can you be a good disciple? What is required for a discipleship to be beneficial? So I began studying discipleship in the Bible. I looked at what Jesus asks of His disciples and in turn what He promises them as His followers.

The first thing I noticed was that Jesus says the words "follow me" a lot. He doesn't just say "believe in me," although obviously believing is the first step... He says follow me. He tells everyone and anyone to believe in Him. John 5:24 "...whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me..." John 7:38 "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said..." Anyone can believe in God. He throws that out there for the world. If you believe, you will be given eternal life, a beautiful, wonderful, amazing, gracious gift from our Father in Heaven. But who does He tell to follow Him? His disciples.

"The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, He said to him, "Follow me." - John 1:43.
"And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of me." - Mark 1:17.
"And when He had spoken this, He said to him [Peter], "Follow Me!" John 21:19

I looked up what the word "follow" means in Greek. "To be in the same way with, to follow after, close upon, to follow intently after." Intently, I loved that. We are called to follow Him intently. With purpose. Intentionally seeking Him. So already with my Greek dictionary open, I looked up the word "disciple." I wasn't really sure why I hadn't done this already since it was the main point in my study, but better late than never. It listed the obvious ones, "a learner, follower of a teacher, pupil," but what I found interesting was the last sentence in the definition. "After Christ's death and resurrection, the term disciple takes the broader sense of follower, believer, i.e. Christian."

To call yourself a Christian is to call yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ. And to call yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ means promising to follow Him, obey Him, love Him, trust Him, serve Him, have faith in Him, not be ashamed of Him, do as He did, honor Him and share His love with others.

Is it easy to be a disciple? I don't think so. It's much "easier" to live as the world lives and disregard all existence of something higher, something more meaningful, something deeper. But is it better to be a disciple? Oh yeah, it's the best thing we can achieve while we're here on earth. The world is a temporary place. It will disappear and all will be destroyed. But the glory of God will live forever. We will live forever if we are believers and followers of Jesus Christ! Death is a terrible thing but Christians rejoice in the fact that we are not created to die, we are created to live and to live forever with the One who created us!

In my opinion, being a disciple of Jesus is not simply believing. Even though that is all you have to do to receive eternal life, that is not enough for me. I don't want to just believe, I want to follow! I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, continually growing and learning in my relationship with Him.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Be still.

Exodus 14:14 ~ The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Psalm 37:7 ~ Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him...

Psalm 46:10 ~ Be still, and know that I am God...

Sometimes God just wants us to calm down and trust Him. He knows what He's doing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Is it bad to question God? I know He is all powerful, all knowing and controls everything in my life and in this world but am I totally wrong for wondering why He puts me in certain situations? Or why He puts things on my heart only to say "wait" and confirms His plans only to reveal a whole new path? Sometimes I wish Jesus would just knock on my door, sit down at the kitchen table and over a cup of coffee tell me exactly what He wants me to be doing for the next couple of weeks. Then in a couple weeks, we could repeat the process and I could get another set of plans. I imagine that I'd really look forward to those days drinking coffee with Jesus. He'd take His with three sugars and a splash of hazelnut creamer.

But I guess that would take out our need to seek Him. If He just showed up for a planned meeting twice a month would we have to get down on our knees and ask Him what He wanted for us? No, because we would just check the calendar and see that our meeting was scheduled for the 12th of May at 10:00am and go about our daily routines making a mental list of things to go over with Him on May 12th.

He wants us to continually, constantly and consistently be in His presence, asking for His guidance. Desperately seeking His truth and knowledge every day of our lives. And even if we don't agree, even if we think we could do it better... we obey. Because in the end, I promise you that His ways are always better than ours.

So yes, I guess I do question God sometimes. I question His reasons for allowing me to meet people that I love with a piece of my heart that isn't often awakened, only to pull me away and place me on a separate continent. I question why He put my friends all the way across the country and I question why He isn't providing me with a steady job. But I've never questioned His ability to know more about my life than I could ever imagine. And no matter how much I question Him, I will always trust Him. With my future, my life, my money, my relationships and my heart - I will always trust Jesus above anyone and anything else.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Let It All Out

One of my favorite songs is "Let It All Out" by Relient K. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I only just realized the song was more deeply about Jesus than it was about a relationship. I can remember the exact moment that I finally understood the true meaning of this song. I was in Kenya, in a shuttle on the final leg of my journey back from Meru. I made a playlist of songs to get me through the next six to seven hours and put this song on there. It was raining and I was looking out the window at the countryside when I really heard the lyrics for the first time.

"And you said I know that this will hurt, but if I don't break your heart then things will just get worse. If the burden seems too much to bear, remember the end will justify the pain it took to get us there."

I love how you can listen to a song or read a verse a hundred times and then one day, it just hits you. It comes alive. It finally means something. On that rainy day of traveling in Kenya, God spoke to me the exact words I needed to hear.

Instead of hearing the song as I had every single time before, as a love song intended to convey the pain and struggle during a fight or break up, I heard a conversation between myself and Jesus.

He said "I know that it hurt, but if I didn't break your heart then things would have only gotten worse."
I said "I know, but it was a lot to go through. You understand that, right?"
He said "It was a heavy burden to bear, but it was worth it! You are here now! I have you back in my plans and in my arms."

My turn around was not easy and yes, it was painful but the outcome was better than I ever could have asked for. I got a whole new life! A new heart. A new mind. If it weren't for that pain, I cannot honestly say that I would have ever been able to receive those things. I lost a lot but I gained so much more! In the end, God used what Satan intended for evil, for good.

Now, every time I hear that song I remember my conversation with Jesus and why He had to break my heart... in order to save it.

"Reach out to me. Make my heart brand new. Every beat will be for You, for You."