Archive | October 2012

I’ll Drink To That

Evening gowns and high heel shoes.  Black ties and shined shoes.  Multiple place settings and dimmed lights.  Flower shaped butter and sweet tea in champagne glasses.  “Let’s Do Dinner” the program read as we took our seats for the evening’s Plated Banquet.
Our presenter walked us through all of the proper etiquette techniques while having both Business Meeting Luncheons and Professional Ballroom Dining experiences.  She talked about how to know which fork to use and that when you cut your meat, cut away from yourself.  She showed us how, the way you leave your napkin when leaving the table, sends a message to your server as to whether or not you’ll be back.  (I’ll admit, it was quite entertaining seeing one guy take his with him and then watching the waiter silently freak out when the table wasn’t uniformed.)  The guest of honor is seated to the right of the host and the next most important guest is on their left.  She spoke of who drinks when during a toast and demonstrated how to give a proper toast.  Then she had everyone practice.
Rebecca, the hostess of our table, raised her glass and said, “I would like to give a toast to Stephanie Brown.  We don’t know why you’re here, but we know it’s important.”  We all laughed because it had quickly become the joke of the weekend.
Lately, I’ve been wanting to see all of these random pieces of my own story fit together so badly that I couldn’t help but feel that toast on a larger level.  I couldn’t help but think that I have no idea why I’m here; here, as in this place of my journey right now.  But I know it’s important…

When Grace Begins to Fill the Cracks

Note: the names have been changed to protect the innocent guilty ones needing to go unidentified.

I don’t know about you, but when the phone rings in the middle of the night—I automatically assume that something is terribly wrong; even when I was a kid.  My first question was always “who died?” when anyone would call our house after 9:00.  So, when my phone rang about 8:15pm—I just assumed it was someone looking to make a Cook-Out run or something.  I wasn’t ready for the news on the other end of the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey.”  I could hear the fear in the quiver of his voice.  “You need to come to the hospital.  It’s bad.  I don’t know if he’s gonna make it this time.”

“What? If who is going to make it?”  I was grabbing my keys and trying to make sense of the broken details.  It didn’t really matter who.  I heard it in his voice that I needed to come and come right now.

“Joseph.”  I almost dropped the phone.  “His little body.  I just,”

“I’m on the way.”

Joseph.  A competitor who rarely lost, but this was a battle he could have never trained for.  Yet, it looks like his opponent never stops practicing on his face.

I was in the ER sooner than I probably should have been able to arrive, but when that name shows up on my phone—I drop what I’m doing and go as fast as my car allows.

“Can we see him?”  I asked while he hugged me like, if he let go, it would only mean that this was all really happening.

“Two at a time.  It’s bad.”

“Go with me?”

He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and my heart sank as I considered what all of this could mean.  How on earth would we talk about God’s love and healing when the person who first taught this little man about God and the person who put him in this hospital bed are the same?

Black.  Blue.  Bruised.  Bleeding.  Bad.  Yes, it was really bad.  The foundation of his whole world was cracking.  His safety, his home life, his faith.  Our champ looked frail.  And small.  And my friend was right.  This was bad.  I didn’t have to find the right words to say to this little guy; he never woke up while we were there.  We stood there crying and praying and knowing.  Knowing that we felt certain how Joseph really got to this bed in the Emergency Room, despite the story being shared.

“There’s gotta be a special place in you know where for a parent who does this to their own kid.”

“Nope.  There’s room at the cross for them too, if they want it.  Jesus loves that parent and you the same.”

“Yeah, really good thing God loves us in ways we don’t deserve.  And that he doesn’t ask my opinion when it comes to how to handle people like those parents.”

What on earth were we gonna do?  How would he sit next to them in Sunday School next week?  How would I help him to teach this kid about forgiveness and a Heavenly Father when the word father probably made him scared for his life?  The foundation of his entire world is crumbling beneath him.  Lord, show us how to be there when Grace begins to fill the cracks…

When A Shower Cleanses More Than Normal

I do some of my best thinking in the shower.  I don’t know if it’s because that’s one of the places in our house where you are truly by yourself or what but a good shower usually helps me think better.  Normally, I shower in the morning.  I don’t think that’s even pertinent to my story, but in case anyone ever asks you– I typically shower in the morning.  Last night, I’d had a really long day and I guess thought a good, hot shower would wash it all away.  I’m not sure, but I do know that as the hot water fell over my tense body– everything began to feel okay. 

I’m also known to sing in the shower.  Put that on your list of “Useless Things to Know About Stephanie” too.  You know, right under the one that says I normally shower in the morning.  This one’s slightly more pertinent though, because it was in my seemingly random singing that God calmed my spirit and steered my heart a little.  And wouldn’t you know it was another Laura Story song…

Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

I think God met me halfway on my prayer for a burning bush, because it was definitely hot in there but His move was quiet.  I’m really thankful, in the midst of what feels like utter and complete chaos in my world, that God continues to invade my space and remind me that He’s still bigger.  I’ve known that.  I have.  For years now even.  But in the midst of my Crisis of Belief, I needed Him to say it again.  And He did.  In a way that I heard Him…

The Questions that Wake Me Up

Lately, I keep having this recurring dream where I’m standing in the middle of a giant, bright white room with black pieces of paper flying around me in a whirlwind.  On each paper, written in white chalk, are questions.  Here they are:

What if it doesn’t look like what everyone expects?

Did I hear God correctly?

Have I genuinely listened?

What happened to the girl who used to always smile like she had a secret?

What if I’m really bad at it?

 How can I call myself a believer but struggle with this much unbelief?

What if my heart can’t handle continuing to wait until he’s ready?

What if I’m really bad at it?

If I KNOW I’m right where I’m supposed to be, then why can’t I rest in that and just where is the peace that passes all understanding?

How did all that I know to be true get so jumbled?

Is something wrong with me to question this much?

Should I have said yes five years ago?

Am I enough?

Am I too much, overwhelming?

How am I supposed to know that I know if this is truly God’s best?

Have I bought into a really good looking lie?

If God often speaks in a whisper and I’m supposed to hush and listen for it, then is it wrong to pray for the burning bush instead?

I tend to wake up feeling incredibly overwhelmed, even though I know it’s just my heart being fleshed out before me.  While I also already know the answer to most every one of them, I’m longing for the day that I’m bold enough to say them out loud…

Better Left Unsaid

“So, what’s this mist you’re in?”

How could six simple words feel so threatening?  I could feel my eyes filling with tears and all of a sudden had no idea how to answer that question.  We normally talk about everything just fine, but I immediately felt intimidated and that wasn’t normal for us.  He wasn’t trying to intimidate me and I knew that.  There wasn’t a secret mission to the question, yet somehow I felt like he could see right through me and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.  Could I really be that honest?  No.  At least, not yet.  I’m just not ready.

“I don’t think I can go there with you.”

I knew that made no sense to him, we talk about most everything.  I knew there was no way not to take that offensively.  I tried going there anyway.  Well, with the semi-cryptic version at least.  There was so much that I could have said to answer that question, so much I wanted to say but I let fear take the lead instead.  I’m a writer and words just completely failed me.  Maybe I wasted the moment and wasted words when I didn’t take the chance to say the things I should have when I had the chance.  It just seemed like a lot of what I was thinking and feeling and going through was better left unsaid in that moment.

“Let Team Stephanie stand in the gaps right now.”  How on earth can they when I’m not sure how far I’m willing to let someone else into all of this?!?

Told ya, I can be really hard to love…

Team Stephanie

During the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament every year, one friend of mine will do two bracket predictions.  One she takes incredibly serious and really considers all of the legitimate factors in deciding who will be the most likely to win within each match up.  The other, she does based solely on which mascot would win if they were the ones to face off or even which jersey she likes better, claiming “the jersey makes the team”.  She asked me last season, if I ever had a team, what my jersey would look like.  To which I had to say, “Umm…. have we met?!?  Clearly, either hot pink/black and sparkly or light brown and teal.”
 
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I was reminded of that conversation when I recently got challenged, by a different friend, to discern who is truly on Team Stephanie and to surround myself with those people.  He was blunt enough to remind me that we aren’t supposed to get through life’s challenges on our own.  He reminded me that God put us in community with each other on purpose and that I needed to learn to lean on others better.  He reminded me that I did need to be wise about how I did that though; even Jesus narrowed down who got to be closest to him in his darkest hours.  But to be willing to let Team Stephanie stand in the gaps for me right now as I walk through this hazy mist.  He reminded me that those on Team Stephanie are always going to be willing to speak my love language when I need them to, I won’t have to tell them that I need them to, that they’ll wear the hot pink jersey even when they hate pink, and that it’s okay to send them to bat while I sit this inning out.  I thought I kind of already knew who was on Team Stephanie, but I took his challenge seriously (I’ve learned to always take him seriously) and have done some re-evaluating these past couple of weeks.  I’ve learned a lot!
 
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 Today, I got a text from another really good friend of mine (who has vocally been Team Stephanie for a while now) that ended with “just breathe and let your team take over for now”.  So, I’m trying to choose to do just that.  I have a feeling it’s not going to be easy for me to do, because I don’t tend to ask for help very well.  Plus, I’m not always the easiest person to love.  I have it in me to be pretty high maintenance and hard to get along with.  So, with that disclaimer in mind– you can decide if you still want to be on Team Stephanie or not.  No hard feelings if you opt out.  I’ll try to give nothing but grace in return.  Besides, the jersey IS kinda girly…
 
 
 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  (Proverbs 17:17)

In a Hazy Mist

I walked out the back door into the hazy mist and made my way to Button.  (My little Honda Civic, for those of you who just thought, “Button?”.)  I’ve walked out that same door every afternoon for almost four years now and normally I’m captivated by the sounds of high pitched squeals and laughs from down the slope.  Today, they didn’t even draw my attention.  I can’t even tell you if they were outside.  I normally speak to everyone I pass by on the sidewalk, but today I can’t tell you if I even passed anyone.

I made my way home and tried curling up with a really good book that I’m incredibly close to finishing, but gave up after reading the same paragraph about five times and still not having a clue what I had just read.  My mind kept wandering to the same place, but it wasn’t the author’s point.

My phone rang multiple times, each time with people that I normally love talking to.  Today, I struggled to get through short conversations.  There’s only one conversation that I could seem to think about, but it never seems to happen.

Like the hazy mist that I stepped out into this afternoon is my mind this week…