Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Ahh, December with your beautiful white frozen coverlet of flakes, your sharp, crisp pull of fresh air in the morning, your gentle sliding of tires into other tires into trees and... yeah, I'm not a big fan of winter. But it's not really here right now, either. The only time snow is acceptable to me is a week before Christmas, and then it needs to melt by the 26th and not come back for a year. This never happens, by the way.

Despite all that, I have a tremendous amount to be grateful for this year. It's been a trying year, to say the least, but we have an amazing, gorgeous, healthy little miracle of a baby boy and that puts everything else into perspective.

I had so many issues with my health after he was born that it kept me from enjoying the things I should have been enjoying. I don't really mind sleep deprivation, since I was never one to sleep a great deal to begin with. I slept fitfully, at best. Now, when I DO sleep, it feels awesome.

I went from accomplishing twenty things in a day to being lucky to get a load of laundry finished in 24 hours. I went from cleaning two houses in a day for cash to wishing I could hire someone to clean my own house because I just didn't have the energy or the time to even begin. I went from cooking a couple of times a day to eating frozen meals other people brought to me because I would just not eat rather than try to make a sandwich for myself.

Never in my life have I been so dependent on others. Never have I had to give up so much independence, so much pride, so much ... dare I say it? Control.

It puts things into perspective, that's for certain. I started going to a therapist for the first time in my life. I started taking Prozac. I started to admit that I can't handle every single thing that gets thrown at me on a daily basis along with the battle I go through with anxiety nearly every moment of every day. There's something that's so difficult about admitting all of this but, at the same time, something so freeing about admitting that I'm not in the driver's seat.

And, to be honest, I don't want to be.

I just lost a very good friend. She was 83, but the age didn't matter a single bit when we were together. I saw so much of myself reflected in Fran Troyer, and often thought I'd be much like her when I got to be her age. When I met her, she had just started to use a walker, often but not always, because her muscles weren't working the way they should. Over the decade plus that I knew her, she became completely wheelchair bound. We discussed the struggle and frustration she felt with that and with other muscles in her body, talked about what God had in mind for us on our journeys, prayed for each other, and respected each other's opinions even when they weren't the same. We learned from each other. I loved her like family, and when I learned that she had passed from this world, a big part of me fell apart. She was one of the smartest, strongest people I knew... and she was gone.

The struggle for control we had talked about so often came back to me once again and I realized that it's not a struggle at all. We're not in control, plain and simple. We can try to force things to be the way we want them to be, but if it's not meant to be, it's not going to happen. The only thing we can do is pray, and then do our best, day by day, to do what we feel is right in every situation. For so long, my husband has been a one-day-at-a-time guy and I've tried to plan out my whole life. He seems more at peace every day than I've ever been for a moment in my life.

It's time to change.

When I began this blog, it was called "A Year of Reinvention", as you might know if you've been reading that long, but so few have. I quickly realized it was going to take a lot longer than a year to become the person I wanted to be, the person I was meant to be, because I didn't even know who that person was yet. And it would take a lifetime to get there.

I'm always grateful for another Christmas, another new year, another fresh start. 2015 was peppered with sorrow and joy, as most years are, but this one was particularly seasoned. I'm interested to see what 2016 will bring, and live in the hope that, day by day, there will be happiness to be found.

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season.

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I Believe in Miracles

I grew up hearing the stories from the bible -- miraculous moments in lives of individuals millenia removed from my own life. As I got older, I often wondered why God did not work in huge, miraculous ways like He did back in biblical times. It wasn't until I was much older that I began to realize that He still does exactly that, only on an individual basis.

I've talked before on the Journey about how long my husband and I tried to have a child together. Throughout our entire relationship, we raised three children together from childhood to adulthood. The 4, 7, and 9 year old kids I met and soon found myself a stepmother to (but mother in my own heart) are now 18, 21, and nearly 23 years old. Married for 11 years this past month, we were actively trying the entire time to get pregnant. There are no words to describe the agony of watching month by month pass without a positive pregnancy test. No words to tell someone who hasn't experienced it what the pain in your heart feels like when you want something more than anything else in the world -- something simple, something good -- trying everything to get it but never being able to attain it. Having doctors tell you that there's nothing wrong with either of you, that they don't understand why it's not happening for you. Trying medications, different theories. Watching nearly every single one of your friends spend their most fertile years making beautiful little replicas of themselves, listening to their birth stories, seeing them hold the hands of their little ones as they walk through the parking lot. There is no way to describe the feelings that swirled around in my heart for so long -- jealousy, emptiness, fierce desire, failure, gut-wrenching, soul grating torture.

My excitement and enthusiasm at the beginning, back when I was a 27-year-old bride, began to fade after about a year. My prayers began soon after that. I asked God regularly to help me to be fertile, to do whatever I needed to do to be healthy and have a healthy baby. A year later, I was panicking a bit because I was nearly 30 and you hear all those stories about the number of eggs a woman has... well, you know. I was more bold with God about what I wanted and when I wanted it. In my early thirties, I began begging Him. In my mid-thirties, I began resenting Him and everyone I knew who had a child in the time we had been trying. I went through all the stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression... sooooo much depression...

...and then Acceptance.

At some point, and I don't know how or when, I gradually came to the point where I thought, 'This is my lot in life. No one will call my 'mommy'. I'll be the cool aunt, the fun stepmom, the goofy older sister, but I'll never be Mommy. There's a reason, whatever it is. And I have to stop hating God because whatever the reason is, it's got to be a good one. I have to stop hating my friends because they're my friends, and it's not their fault that they're fertile and I'm not. And I have to stop waiting for it to happen because, at this point in my nearly 40-year-old life, barring some insane miracle, it's not going to happen.

In January of this year, some insane miracle occurred and I became pregnant with our son, Stephen Paul, and gave birth to him sixteen days ago. I can't stop looking at him. I can't stop holding him, smiling at him, telling him how much we love him, how much we wanted him, how much Jesus loves him, how long we waited, how beautiful he is, how we're going to tell everyone that he's our little miracle baby. Motherhood is the most amazing, heart-wrenching, frightening, wonderful thing I've ever done. I cry every day, whether it's from being completely overwhelmed or from being completely overjoyed (to be honest, it's both). I'm more in love with my husband than I've ever been, more exhausted and in pain than I ever thought I could be, and more fulfilled than I ever imagined possible.

Thank you, God. Thank you for our miracle, for hearing our prayers even when I doubted you were listening, for giving me what I wanted at a time when I needed it most. Your timing is perfect, your path is the right one, and I'm so delighted to be on it.

Thank you, reader, for listening to me ramble a bit. I'm going to go feed by baby boy and cry a little more.

Stephanie Jean

Psalm 139:13: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Money... It's a Hit!

"Don't Give Me That Goody Good... "
You Know the Rest, Sing Along!
I got my first real babysitting job when I was thirteen years old, and I have never been unemployed since then except on one short occasion when my ex-husband told me I didn't have to work. (That lasted two weeks. Yes, yes I HAVE to work.)

Most of the time, I have had more than one job. During college, I worked part time at the School of Education and the Space Physics Research Lab, and also cleaned houses on the side. I temped, I worked retail, and even did a stint at a place called the Safe Sex Store (believe me, you likely don't want to know details, but I was behind a counter so don't worry, I can still run for office someday.) Since college, I have worked five to six days a week for the last nearly two decades -- doctors offices, magazines, freelance writing and editing, tutoring, teaching high school and college, mentoring, cleaning houses, house- and dog-sitting, quality control, machine shop, coffee shop, video shop, health and beauty, social media/marketing... you name it, I have probably dabbled in it or spent a prolonged amount of time in it. I have a degree from the University of Michigan and one would think I'd be doing pretty well these days at nearly forty years old.

Well, that's true. I am. I am healthy, married, pregnant, and much more than content -- I am happy.

Oh, you're gauging how well I'm doing based on my financial status?

In that case, I'm a mess. True, we have no debt except for our house, but at the moment we make less than 30K a year combined and we're on Medicaid, WIC, and my husband and daughter are getting so many grants and scholarships from the federal and state governments to go to college your head would spin. Sadly, many of you think I'm the enemy right now. You're working so hard to support people like me, right? I should get off my lazy @$$ and get a job, right? You should be drug testing my whole family to be sure we aren't spending any of that money you give us on drugs, right? That we don't 'deserve' your money? In the course one short paragraph, I went from being an educated, intelligent, competent, hard-working, upstanding citizen to someone that has to live with shame and stigma, persecuted and scrutinized because I have the audacity to take handouts.

Yeah, you bet I'm taking handouts right now. I've worked 2/3 of my life so far, paid into this system every step of the way, and I'm not looking at this through the eyes of someone who 'deserves' it. I'm looking at this through the eyes of someone who needs it right now. There's nothing between the first couple of paragraphs and that third paragraph that changes who I am as a person -- but in the eyes of America, it certainly changes how people look at me.

When I stand in line at Meijer with my monthly WIC coupons, getting free milk and peanut butter and cereal and cheese, I can feel the discontent of the cashiers because of all the hassle they have to go through. I can feel the stares of the people behind me, watching as I painstakingly line up exactly what I'm allowed to 'purchase' in a row, separate transactions for each coupon, and then another transaction at the end for the things that aren't allowed to be purchased which I'm buying with my own money. (Yes, I'm STILL working... oh, you thought I was unemployed? No, remember? I still have TWO JOBS. My husband is also working while he takes a full load of credit hours each semester.) I am re-asked every time I go to refill a prescription at the pharmacy if my insurance has changed and, if not, why are they still billing my old insurance instead of Medicaid? (The answer is 'I don't know... you're the ones billing the old insurance, not me!) But I'm made to feel as though this change in my earning status and my family status (because, you see, I'm pregnant so there are FOUR people living in the household, not three...) makes me an outcast. It automatically makes me a pariah. Me: the girl who has held at least one job and up to four every single year of her life, even when eight months pregnant.


We live in a country where the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. No, not just high schoolers working at McDonald's make this. (Servers make $2.13 an hour and are actually making NOTHING but your tips after taxes.) Many adults who have been laid off from good paying jobs of $25 due to cut backs in their industry are forced to go out and find a job making the same amount. Many college graduates still make this right out of college, and for a prolonged period of time. 40 hours a week at $7.25 an hour is $290 a week before taxes. For full time work. Add in having a family, not just being a single kid living at home making 'extra' money above your allowance... add in two parents both making $7.25 an hour working full time, then take out day care for each kid, rent or a mortgage, insurance on the house, the car payment, gas money, groceries, electricity bills, trash and water and sewer bills, forget any luxuries like internet or cable/satellite... people are barely making it these days. MOST people are barely making it.

And then there are the ones who are making it. The ones who look down at the rest of us, assuming we don't work (or at least we don't work hard). Assuming we are taking 'their' money. Assuming we'd rather sit on our fat, lazy butts than get off unemployment and that we're probably spending any money we have on drugs and beer and neglecting our children...

Does this sound too harsh?

Do you know anyone like this?

ARE you like this?

This is not an angry diatribe at the 1%. This is a reality check for anyone who makes assumptions about people who are struggling.

Matthew 25:34-40 says:

  Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The bible doesn't tell us to check into people's backgrounds as much as possible before deciding if they deserve help. It says to help them. Jesus didn't do thorough investigations of work ethic and financial history before he loved people. He just loved them. He met their needs. He fed them. He spoke kindness to them. He lifted them up and empowered them.

I have to ask -- why aren't we doing the same?

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Some Racists

These kids won't hate each other unless someone teaches them to.
Oh, the stories I can tell. So hey, let me tell them. That's the whole point of this blog! I can say whatever I want!

My grandfather, Paul, was born in 1912 on the boat on the way over from Hungary. He grew up in a Hungarian-only section of South Bend, Indiana, where he didn't even learn English in school. The teachers kept passing him and his siblings without teaching them anything, just so they didn't have to deal with them. He taught himself English as he grew up and certainly met with his share of hatred, being different from the other students in class. But it built in him a desire for unity that refused to tolerate racism as he grew older.

He built houses, did construction, worked hard his whole life. One of my favorite stories about this man was when he put his house up for sale in Niles, Michigan. The neighbors came over after the sign went up and had a little talk with Paul. They told him, in no uncertain terms, that they wanted to be sure the house was only sold to 'whites' and not to the 'coloreds' because they certainly didn't want any of those living in their neighborhood. My grandfather listened carefully and, the next day, pounded a new sign into the grass in the morning that read: For Sale -- White OR Colored.

Well the neighbors, of course, were irate. Such blatant disregard for their desires, for their neighborhood, for their... uh... racism. They came back over and raised holy heck, telling him all of their reasons and admonishing him for his new sign. My grandfather listened carefully and, the next day, pounded a new sign into the grass in the morning that read: For Sale -- Colored Only.

You see, skin color meant nothing to this man. He was dark-skinned with his olive complexion, his parents were even darker, and their parents were so dark-skinned they could very well have been from Africa. He didn't care. What he cared about was what was in his neighbors' hearts -- and the ugliness that he saw drove him to stand up not just for himself but for others who had been in a position of oppression as well.

Let's talk a bit about my grandmother who was raised to believe a little differently. She often glared at people regardless of skin color because that was just her personality -- judgmental and irritated and negative most of the time -- but African Americans made her very uncomfortable. Whether it was because she was taught to feel that way or it was just the culture that surrounded her at the time of her upbringing that said it was all right to discriminate because some people are better than others, she made it a point to differentiate between black and white. Once, a young African American her son's age was coming over to the house because his father was going to be there discussing business or something of the sort with my grandfather, and grandma coached her young son (my uncle) very carefully NOT to mention that he was black. Don't say anything about him being black. Black, black, black. She used the word so many times with such a negative connotation that when the young visitor arrived, my very young, very white uncle couldn't stop staring at him because he was different. He then asked the other boy, "What makes you so white?" because he was coached not to mention the fact that he was black and he was obviously confused. Was my grandmother fearful of embarrassment that her young son might notice that someone was different from him? Sure. But what did she do wrong in this situation?

She made it appear as though this difference was something negative and forbidden, that this difference was something not to bring up because the poor young 'black' boy would be ashamed of the color of his skin. Keep in mind that this was the same woman who gave a glare to a young African American man in the kitchen of Burger King while he was getting her burger ready for her and I whispered to her, 'Grandma, stop being such a racist' and her completely shocked reply was, 'I'm not racist! I just don't want them touching my food.'

You see, because some people who are racist... they just don't have a clue that they are. To them, skin color is an important factor in deciding who a person is and what they stand for, because they have been steeped in stereotypes from the moment they were born. Their 'history' is important to them and they want to wave a certain flag which, to them, represents said history. They see nothing wrong in telling their children not to have black friends because, to them, African Americans sweepingly are all somehow the cause for crime, drugs, violence, and all of the rest of the problems in the United States.

Interestingly enough, though, the problem is so deep, so ingrained, so rooted in history that when you really dig into things, you might actually see that the population of African American people in the U.S. is NOT the problem. So many are just living out the centuries-old consequences of the problems that have happened TO them.

White people left England because of oppression, to build a new land and culture where they could be free to express themselves and be who they were meant to be. To do this, they claimed land that did not belong to them, murdering and displacing countless Native Americans and deeming them savages (because they were different). They then employed the free labor of captured and chained and beaten African slaves, sold them as property, stripped any and all humanity away from them, deeming them savages (because they were different). Throughout history, if you name an ethnic group, the white people have a racial slur term for them. Asians, Italians, Africans, Jewish people --

Oh, but let's take great pride in America, shall we? Let's raise our American flag high and speak loftily of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Let's talk about all of our wonderful freedoms. Let's celebrate this beautiful melting pot of diversity where we all get a chance at the American Dream!

...don't we?

Except for the people we ripped the land away from.
Except for the people we brought over here as property and never stopped treating them that way.
Except for the people we blame for all of the problems we caused.
Except for the lack of education, except for the lack of justice, except for the lack of safety we provide, except for the lack of care we take with the feelings of anyone who is different.

Oh, but not me, you might say. But do you avoid 'black neighborhoods' on your route home at night because you will most certainly be accosted, raped, and murdered should you deign to drive through them?

Oh, but not me, you might say. I have black friends! I doubt that. You wouldn't call them your 'black friends' if they were really your friends. You'd call them your friends.

Oh, but not me, you might say. I volunteer at the food pantry in the black part of town twice a month because I have such a heart for those people. (Spoiler alert: if you think of them as 'those people', they're not really people to you. They're your project.)

White police shooting unarmed black men is a problem. The incarceration statistics in light of the population statistics of the African American community juxtaposed against the same information about Caucasians is ludicrous. The education levels that we sweep under the rug with the quick dismissal of 'But, we have Affirmative Action!' are disgusting. That same quick dismissal applies to words like 'reparations' and 'segregation'. The idea that we're so far beyond slavery and segregation that we have no need to continue repairing the damage that we created is rampant and, at the same time, completely untrue.

Get out of your house and go take a look into someone's eyes that's a different skin color from you. Their eyes are no different, there heart is no different, their hopes and dreams are no different, their wishes for providing a better life for themselves and for their children are no different and, most importantly, their place in God's heart is no different.

Slavery is still here, it's just taken a different form. Education is the key to the beginning of a solution and I'm not talking about the education of the 'poor black population'. I'm talking about the education of the privileged white population.

When your kids start a story with, "This black kid at school said..." stop them in their tracks and tell them that, while their are differences in skin color, there is only one race -- human. They can just start the story with "This kid at school said..." Unless we stop segregating in our minds and allowing our children to do so, stereotypes will never end.

When someone takes umbrage at a sign that says "Black Lives Matter" and instead changes it to "All Lives Matter", explain to them why it's so important that African Americans are heard so that change can have a clear path to occur. Of COURSE all lives matter. We already know that. But by putting an emphasis on black lives, maybe the white people will realize that BLACK is a part of ALL for once.

When someone insists on waving their confederate flag as a piece of history, remind them that the swastika flag is also a piece of history and stands for the exact same thing -- one race thinking they're better than another race, so much so that they're willing to kill people over it.

Finally, for those of you who might be waiting for some word from God that we're all the same:

"Do we not all have one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother, so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?" --Malachi 2:10

"My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and another poor man with dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one wearing fine clothes giving the rich man a good place and the poor man directions to a footstool, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?" -- James 2:1-4

And my favorite, of course: "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another. As I have loved you, you also love one another. By this, all men shall know you... that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER." -- John 13:34-35.

A change needs to come, and we cannot just sit around doing the same things the same way, perpetuating lies and hurt and hatred in the name of history, and expecting a new outcome, blaming the African American community instead of ourselves when nothing changes. Become an instrument of peace, of enlightenment, of education, of love, of justice. Read, research, study, learn, and help others to do the same. Stand up for the truth, for the oppressed, for those who are different from you. Sometimes the love and understanding of one person can change the trajectory of an entire culture for lifetimes to come.

Just ask Jesus.

Stephanie Jean

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Favorite

There's a longstanding joke with my cousins that each of them is my favorite cousin. Of course, I don't HAVE a favorite cousin (*wink wink*) but it's fun to tell them all that and watch them fight over it. Granted, we do this in a joking way, just like when my grandfather told all of us that we were his favorite grandkid as long as none of the other ones were around (spoiler alert: it was actually me, I'm sure.) But isn't it funny to watch different groups of people who think they're the 'favorite' get all bent out of shape when they realize that there's no such thing?

Let me back up.

We live in a country where the straight white male has traditionally been, and is still, more privileged than any other gender, race, or sexual orientation. He often will vehemently deny this thinking that, because it's 'not his fault' things are this way, that inherently makes them NOT this way. But they are. They are this way. And any single step toward a change in this realm is fraught with systemic upheaval from the very beginning. Giving women, or African Americans, the right to vote? Pay equality? Allowing for the idea that the gender you are physically born with might not be the gender you identify with? Giving same-sex couples the right to marry? Putting socks and shoes on women, letting them out of the kitchen or the bedroom or... you know... the cave... and into working society? Educating people of other races? Drinking out of the same fountains!? *gasp* All have been met with fear, confusion, rebellion, sometimes violence and death, negativity, shame, horrific words that can never be taken back, and for what?

For the sake of someone who is not straight and white and male having the audacity to think that they deserve equal treatment?

These are some of the issues we'll be tackling coming up soon and from both a secular and a spiritual standpoint. The mantra we've always taught our children is the same as I will impart to you here, dear reader:

Nobody is any better than anyone else, for any reason, in the eyes of God. Therefore, nobody should be treated any better or worse, for any reason, at our hand. The way we treat others is a reflection of the way we feel about ourselves and our deity and, if we claim to be Christians, we should understand fully that whatever we've said or done to anyone else in our lives is what we have said and done to Him.

How would you treat Jesus if you found out He was a gay black woman?

He is.

How would you treat Jesus if you found out He was a transgendered Asian man?

He is.

How would you treat Jesus if you found out that He has no favorites, that He doesn't care what you do for a living, who you're married to, what color your skin is, what anatomy you were born with or how you identify with it, how you believe the universe came to be, or whether or not you believe in Him?

He doesn't. He doesn't care. 

All he cares about is love. If you don't have that in your heart, then you have nothing.

Did I mention to stay tuned?

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, July 23, 2015

*crickets*

A Photo of Me on the Beach This Summer
Yes, I still exist and, in typical groveling fashion, I come to you with my apology for waiting so long to write. I see by the Blogger stats that over a hundred people are viewing my website each day which is both humbling and greatly appreciated. Therefore, let me catch you up on some things.

I am seven months along in my pregnancy and, for those of you who aren't aware, we've waited and tried for over a decade for a baby. I helped my husband to raise three kids (technically my stepchildren but I hate that word because I feel nothing in my heart for them other than they are my children...) and now we're having our first together. Health-wise, things are pretty amazing for a 38-year-old first-time birth-giver. Never had a day of morning sickness, just a few bouts of heartburn. I'm tired a lot but, then, I'm always tired a lot for one reason or another. It is THE strangest thing in the world to feel a human being kicking you from the inside of your body (particularly 800 times in ten minutes after I make the mistake of having a sip of Mountain Dew.) And, in ten weeks, little baby boy Salisbury will be out in the world. I hope he takes after my husband. He's pretty cute.

Yes, we have a name.

No, we're not going to tell you. Yet.

I've stopped cleaning houses and am now focusing on just my writing and editing jobs, all of which I can do from home (or from anywhere) which means that my schedule is a good deal easier even though the work can be taxing on my brain and I have to be careful not to become too lax in my waking, eating, working, and sleeping routines. And exercise. *grumble*

I say all of that to say this:

God is amazing. The older I get, the more I read, study, and research, the more I learn, and the more my heart opens and is filled with trust and faith and joy. I have lived nearly my whole life with an anxiety disorder and I'll admit that it will likely never leave, but the more I place the day in God's hands, the more He gives me peace no matter what happens. I'm less angry and frustrated, happier, more trusting in others, and generally more positive about my family's life and future than ever before.

My youngest sister has an incredible opportunity with a well-established band and will be performing and making money doing what she loves. I have no doubt in my mind that God is working things out in her life for good as He promised in Jeremiah 29:11. ("For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.") My middle sister, a soldier in the U. S. Army, is home on leave after just getting back from an agonizingly long tour in Afghanistan, and is safe and happy and looking at her own future after she gets out in just over a year. My daughter is going to her dream school in just a few weeks with a nearly-free first semester of college and very little balance for her second semester which we feel God will provide for when the time comes. My husband, the love of my life, is absolutely thriving at school, is involved in so many ground floor programs and has made so many great connections with teachers, administrators, and students, that when he graduates in May we are confident God has something incredible in store for him as well. Our baby is healthy and exactly on target for his due date in late September and I have had the easiest pregnancy in existence despite my advanced age and lousy back.

And, as for me? I am absolutely nothing but inspired by all of the joy and happiness surrounding my life right now.

There is a flip side, and we'll come to that in an upcoming blog series. I do not consider myself favored over others because of my faith, nor do I consider myself better than anyone because of my belief system, skin color, or anything else that attempts to label who or what I am. These are issues that will soon be tackled, so tune in more often and I promise I'll be around.

For real.

Many thanks to all of you who read and to those who sometimes respond as well. I will always address your comments and questions.

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Christianity and the LGBTQ Community

We all belong, in the eyes of God.
Well, it took me long enough to get back here, didn't it? I drop a bomb on you like "I'm pregnant after 10 1/2 years of trying" and then I disappear for weeks at a time. Sorry about that! I'm nearly 19 weeks along, and we have our first ultrasound coming up in early May. We've heard the heartbeat twice and it's pretty incredible. The whole thing is a whirlwind, that's for sure.

But let's talk about something else for now, shall we? This isn't a 'Stephanie's having a baby' blog, though I'll post small updates from time to time like now. It's a blog about following, step by step, on the path that God has laid out for each of us, but walking together at the same time. It's okay not to believe in God and still be a follower here -- it's okay to be who you are here, no matter what. Truly being a Christian is about embracing and loving. Not simply 'tolerating' (worst word EVER) people who we feel are different from us. Because the bottom line is, no one's that different, really. We're all human, we all have a brain and a heart and blood running through our veins, and we all have the capability to love or to hate. I choose love. I hope you do, too.

Lately, you may have noticed that a great deal of my blogs or Facebook posts or tweets have been about the LGBTQ community. It's been on my heart very strongly for many reasons -- politics and the media and so-called 'Christians' are just three of them -- but I've discovered it's more than just that. I am feeling led to write about it. Not on the blog. A book. A full-fledged book, filled with stories and research and discussions about the LGBTQ community and Christianity, from the perspective of Christians and non-Christians, LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ persons alike.

I won't go into a lot of detail at the moment because, to be honest with you, I don't have a lot of detail yet. I don't know what the play-by-play will look like. I do know what the end game is, and that's that LOVE wins. (You can check your bibles for that one, it's in there!) I sent out a preliminary survey on social media today and, within just a few hours, received over 250 responses. SurveyMonkey only lets me have 100 for free, so I'll have to pay to see the rest, but it will be worth it. I'm gathering information that will help me to formulate the direction of the narrative I'm being prompted to tell the world. From the fast and far-reaching response in just these few hours, I can tell that it's not just on my mind and my heart... it's on YOUR mind and YOUR heart, too. Everyone has something to say, and I want to hear it.

Then I want to tell you what God has to say.

I can't wait!

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Biggest Announcement Ever

My husband and I had already been through a whirlwind of good and bad when we finally got married ten and a half years ago. In fact, as I write this, today is the thirteenth anniversary of our very first date -- the 'safe lunch date' (ala When Harry Met Sally) at Ponderosa where we showed each other the very best of ourselves and each hoped the other would like them enough to see it through to the next date. Once we showed the very worse of ourselves to each other and still made it through, we made the commitment to be together forever. We got custody of his boys (our boys!) less than a year later and, another couple of years down the road, his daughter (our daughter!) too.

We worked together for seven of those years in a high-stress environment but never forgot what a great team we made. We acted in and directed theatre productions together, doing our very best to put on a show we were proud to give our audiences. It seemed that everything we did together succeeded in the end -- great shows, happy customers, smart kids -- but one thing we tried never seemed to work.

When you're a teenager in health class in high school, you're under the impression that having sex one time without a condom will get you pregnant. And that can very well be true, kids, so... ya know. Wear one. But when you're a committed couple making the decision to have a baby of your own together, so much anticipation goes into it. Each month, you hope for a positive pregnancy test. And it certainly doesn't always happen the first month. Or two. Or three.

The medical definition of 'infertility' is going without birth control for an entire year and failing to get pregnant. It's an ugly word, but it doesn't necessarily mean you can NEVER get pregnant. There are hundreds of options, of course. But let me tell you that when one year becomes two, and two becomes five, and five becomes ten -- sometimes you second guess yourself.

Who am I kidding? You stop second guessing yourself somewhere around year two. Then you begin to be filled with fear and anxiety, despair and depression. Every happy person who has conceived, whether they are your friend or not, starts to become your enemy. No matter how joyful you want to be for the bun in their oven, you find yourself looking for excuses to blow off their phone calls, busy yourself with work and/or new projects, and sit in your bathroom in tears wondering, "WHAT is wrong with me?" while you beg God, over and over, every day, every hour, to give you the thing you feel like you want more than anything in the world.

Thoughts like, "______ doesn't even WANT a baby! Why is she pregnant and not me?" "______ will be a terrible father! How could he get his girlfriend pregnant, and I'm still waiting?" Horrific judgments about people you like in 'real life' seep into your brain. In addition to the guilt you feel over that, you also begin to blame yourself. "If I hadn't done _________ when I was ____ years old, maybe I wouldn't be being punished right now." "This is happening because I _________ a few years back, and I probably deserve it."

Like a death, you go through the stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression...

This isn't happening to me.
I'm SO angry that this is happening to me and I can't do anything about it.
God, I will give absolutely ANYTHING if you let me have what I want.
I just want to crawl in a hole and die because this is happening to me.

The last stage of grief is acceptance, but I found that, with infertility, there's a secondary stage of this. False acceptance. On the surface, I did a great job of appearing like everything was all right. I could go through the motions of baby showers, big smiles, holding little kiddos in my arms. When people asked, I could say the right words: "It will happen if it's meant to, and if it's not, then I will be the best auntie ever!" "God has a plan, and I'm just trusting in whatever that is." "Of COURSE I'm happy for you! This is wonderful news!"

But, month after month, I would hold my depression inside, pee on a stick, fail again, sob again, hide my real feelings from everyone including my husband, and think to myself, all the time... it's never going to happen. I'm past my prime. There aren't enough eggs left. We don't have money for fertility treatments.

No one.
Will ever.
Call me.
Mommy.

Somewhere during that stage, I began to spend a great deal of time focusing on changing my attitude for real. I went from saying that God has a plan to really believing that God has a plan. I went from praying that He would give me what I want to praying that He would give me the strength to accept and rejoice in what He wanted. I went from making it my only focus, to making it my main focus, to making it peripheral in my brain, to finally actually coming to a place of acceptance that God is in control, I am not, and whatever He has in store for me is a hundred times better than what I could have envisioned for myself.

Our sons grew up, graduated, and went off to do their own thing. Our daughter is a senior in high school, accepted to her dream college, and leaving in August. My husband is fulfilling his dream and God's path of getting his degree by going to school full time and he's absolutely thriving. I have gone from working a string of jobs that sounded right on the surface (but really weren't) to working for myself and making a living that supports all of us by doing what I love and not being beholden to be at a certain place at a certain time -- all on my own schedule with none of the drama of an office, or a boss, or even an early morning alarm clock. I am healthier emotionally and spiritually than I've ever been in my life, and I thank God for that every day when I wake up, have my cup of coffee, read my devotional book and my bible, and snuggle my dogs because I get to work from home.

I have learned to let go of my agenda, to seek the kingdom first, and -- as the bible says -- He has added the rest of the things I've wanted once I got my priorities straight.

With no fertility treatments, with no IVF, with no trips back and forth to a doctor to frazzle my nerves, OUR nerves, my husband and I began the year 2015 by very quickly finding out that we were, indeed, going to have our first baby together.

The most joyous feeling came upon me in the middle of my bedtime prayers one night in early January -- like, my insides just jumped for joy, the feeling you get when you fall in love for the first time, and part of me just knew, that even if I wasn't right then, I was going to be pregnant this year. This was it. And a few weeks later, all of the signs of early pregnancy popped up, we did our home test, and, for once, I cried not because it was negative but because it was positive.

It was POSITIVE.

Yesterday, my husband and I went to the doctor together for my first prenatal appointment, answered a million questions, and we heard our baby's heartbeat. He laughed with excitement, I cried with joy and then laughed at my own crying, and every nurse, nurse practitioner, doctor, receptionist, phlebotomist, and financial counselor that we saw was filled with joy when we told them how long we'd waited and about the miracle that had come into our lives.

One hundred and twenty-four months is a very, very long time. But it was GOD'S time, not mine, and I have to believe that it's the right time, the perfect time. I can work from home, I can be with my baby and earn a living at the same time... our older children are all raised and self-sufficient and wouldn't it have been tremendously difficult to raise a baby and three teenagers all at once? God knew what He was doing.

I was waiting on Him, but He was waiting on me.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth, I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. --Psalm 89:1

I want to thank every one of you who has prayed for us throughout our journey.

This is only the beginning.

All praise and all glory be to God. I will say, or feel, or know this deep in my bones every day of my life.

Stephanie Jean

Friday, January 23, 2015

Big News

Yesterday marked an important day in my own Journey. I finally became an ordained minister and my credentials are on their way. I'm not a different person from the one I was on Wednesday, and this doesn't make me any more special than anyone else. But it's important to me, and it was (believe it or not) a big step for me to take.

I know a few people who have done the same thing as I did: clicked on the link, typed in their name, and were instantly ordained. I know there's a difference between studying in seminary school and typing your name in a box. I do. But I also believe that when you feel called to do something, you need to do it. Even if it sounds ridiculous, or pointless, or ordinary. There's something about taking a step in the right direction that makes the ordinary extraordinary.

I've been thinking about doing this for quite a long time, actually -- over a year, at least. I'm not sure why I hadn't yet but I'm pretty certain it's because the timing wasn't yet right for me. I don't believe in coincidence, as you might know if you're an avid reader of this blog. (All two of you. Both of whom I appreciate. Greatly.) So when an acquaintance of mine with whom I worked a few years ago for a very short time popped up with a question for me, needing someone to officiate her wedding, I put some feelers out for my 'go-to' guys in this area, but none of them panned out the way they should have if it were meant to be. The first thought that jumped into my head was, 'Well? What are you waiting for?' and I told her that I'd been contemplating getting ordained myself so if it didn't work out with the others, I might be able to perform the ceremony on her date in a few months.

Then I did it. I just... did it.

I know, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal, right? Because YOU could go do it right now, with no forethought, no prompting. But it was a big deal to me. When I left that job a few years ago it was because I was feeling compelled to leave. The money was good, the work was what I'd 'always wanted', but I just had a bad feeling about it; it felt toxic to me, every day. One of the last exercises we did while I was there was to write out what we would want someone to say at our funeral. I kept my tiny scrap of paper because that was the moment I knew I wasn't supposed to be there anymore and made up my mind to leave as I'd been feeling called to do. Everyone else's paper had something about business or money or legacy on it (none of which were bad), but mine stuck out like a sore thumb, talking about how God's words would work through me to make a positive impact on people's lives.

I'm not a writer because it makes me incredible amounts of money. None of my three jobs do that. I'm a writer because I feel like that's my ministry. Using the words God gives me to encourage, help, reach out, bring comfort to, and otherwise 'minister' to people. So it only makes sense that I should have a certificate that says that's what I am, right?

Every day, I'm one step closer to figuring out the 'why am I here' question of purpose that most of us contemplate at some point or another. Granted, I might not ever fully be cognizant of the reason but it's the step-taking that matters.

That being said, I can now officiate weddings -- the man/woman kind or the same-sex kind if it's legal in your state (which, if it's not, I'm hoping it will be soon.)

Thanks for walking with me on my Journey. I'm happy to be on yours with you as well.

Stephanie Jean

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dreams to Reality

There are dreams we can't do anything about. My favorite dreams are the ones in which I'm flying. I'll be running as fast as I can across a long stretch of open land with my arms out, just like a little girl playing, and suddenly I'll lift up off the ground. Long, airborne jumps become a free-flying experience where I lift up over the treetops, looking down on buildings and people who are unaware of my sky-bound presence. The feeling is indescribable in words, but it's something I feel deep in my bones and I ache for it when I awaken from these dreams. They happen so seldom these days but, when they do, I'm filled with joy and excitement and I try instantly to fall back asleep to experience it for just a little while longer before coming back to reality. Because, in real life, I can't fly.

Then there are dreams we CAN do something about. Goals we can aspire to and achieve, desires we can build upon to bring them into reality. I'm not just talking about our dream home that we want to build, or a career path we want to follow in our schooling. Those, too, of course... but, more importantly, dreams that will change the course of humanity.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his infamous "I Have a Dream"* speech which, as yet, still cries out to become a reality. Every time I feel like our nation is making headway, or that the human race is becoming more civilized... more human... another disappointment comes along to throw a wrench into things.

How is it that, nearly 52 years later, we haven't made much headway in the grand scheme of things? How is it that, so often, one group of people looks at another group of people and thinks that they're better? That they're more important? That they deserve more in life? How is it that groups of people are left behind while others step right over the tops of them to take what they want? How is it that, in 2015, we still can't all look at one another and see equals?

You've probably heard the 'I have a dream...' part of the speech a hundred times, so often that you've forgotten what it even says. But how about this gem?

"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of 'Now'. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

His words were true in 1963, and they're true now. They're true not just of racial injustice, but of the injustice that plagues the LGBT community, of the injustice that plagues the low-income community, of the injustice that plagues women in the workplace, single parents who are raising their children and working three jobs, the retired community who aren't receiving enough income to make ends meet and have to go back to work.... there is injustice everywhere, so much so that by taking all of these minority groups and adding them together, you find that a majority of people are being treated unfairly.

And so, in 2015, I cannot stress enough the urgency of 'Now', just as Martin Luther King, Jr. did in 1963. Change doesn't just magically happen. Gandhi said to be the change we wish to see in the world. Have you been treating someone as 'less than' because they are different from you?

Stop that.

Have you been feeling superior to a group of people because you think you worked harder to be where you are and it's their own fault for not doing what you did?

Knock it off.

Have you been assuming that God puts favor on you because of your belief in Him, that He hears your prayers before others because of the works you do on His behalf?

Quit it.

Regardless of whether or not you can accept that we're all equal in the eyes of God, we ARE, in fact, equal in the eyes of God. And so when MLK called for this justice to be a reality for all of God's children, we should be finding every opportunity to do so every day of our lives until that dream becomes a reality.

I can't fly. But I can write. And maybe, someday, words will change the world.

What can you do?
DO IT.

Stephanie Jean

*Click on the link to read the entire speech, and happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Widening the Narrow View


I'm sometimes taken aback at the narrow view of God that so many people take. I don't see Him as this long, white-haired fogey amongst the clouds, waving His large white hand willy-nilly, doling out reward or punishment as He sees fit moment to moment. To be quite honest with you, regardless of whether you follow the 'Father, Son, Holy Spirit' mentality where you instantaneously picture a male, God is much bigger than gender, too. I choose to refer to Him as a Him because it's what I was brought up with, not because I believe He has male anatomy and relates better to His male creatures. Each one of us was created in His image; that goes for females as well as males.

That goes for LGBT people as well as heterosexuals, too.

*a hush goes over the room*

If you're a follower of the Journey blog, you likely read about my trip to Provincetown in Massachusetts, and my tears of joy at the church where they were celebrating ten years of marriage equality. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, personally, that one's sexuality is not a choice that one makes. That should make complete sense to everyone... because, why would anyone CHOOSE to be ostracized, bullied, thought of as 'different', or sometimes beaten to an unrecognizable pulp or murdered? Yet here we are in 2015 with just as little tolerance for people who are 'different' from us as we had back in the 1800s. Or, you know... in the caveman days.

I've become a binge-watcher of Grey's Anatomy. A little over a month ago, my husband and I started watching it together from the beginning, never having seen an episode before (well, I hadn't...) and we're now 20 episodes into the seventh season. That's what I mean by binge watching. And if you haven't seen it but PLAN to, then I have to give you a

SPOILER 
ALERT!

STOP 
READING 
RIGHT 
NOW 
AND 
JUST 
COME 
BACK 
NEXT 
WEEK 
WHEN 

BLOG 
AGAIN!

But seriously, two women get married in this episode. When Callie's mother finally tells her that  marrying a woman and having a baby out of wedlock are two things that make her certain that her daughter will not be in Heaven... I cried AND got sick to my stomach at the same time. Because this is not just a character in a television show... this is a representation of parents everywhere in the world. Callie begins to cave to this mentality, as she becomes distraught at the cruel, cold, UN-Christian heart that her mother brings to the picture. But Miranda Bailey comes to the rescue with a speech I could listen to a hundred times:

"Okay, first of all, you do not need the law or a priest or your mother to make your wedding real. And the church can be anywhere you want it to be -- in a field, on a mountain, right here in this room, ANYWHERE, because where do you think God is? Come on! He's in you! He's in me! Just right here, in the middle of us. Your church just hasn't caught up to God yet. Your mother... she hasn't caught up to God yet. And, by the way, she may not EVER catch up... but it's okay. It's okay! If you are willing to stand up in front of your friends, family, and God, and commit yourself to another human being to give yourself in that kind of partnership for better or worse, in sickness and health? Honey, that IS a marriage! That is REAL, and that's all that matters. Besides, I got legally married in a church. Look how well that turned out."

This is a phenomenal monologue for a number of reasons. First, she is talking about a much bigger God than most people have a concept of, and she is 100% correct. He's in all of us, and we are all in Him. In the second place, it's not a matter of what other people think of your marriage or commitment from the outside, it's what's on the inside that counts. That love between two people? God blesses that. Don't believe me?

It's in the bible.

"Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. FOR EVERYTHING GOD CREATED IS GOOD, AND NOTHING IS TO BE REJECTED IF IT IS RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING, BECAUSE IT IS CONSECRATED BY THE WORD OF GOD AND PRAYER." I Timothy 4:2-4

God didn't just create love, God IS love. When two people give themselves over to a covenant to love one another for the rest of their lives, it should be received with Thanksgiving. By forbidding same-sex couples the right to marry, we are not, in any way, upholding the 'sanctity' of marriage. The sanctity is between God and the couple. Outside of those three entities, no one else has anything to do with the sanctity of any given marriage. Which brings me to another thing Dr. Bailey touched upon in her speech. The very last sentence: "Besides, I got legally married in a church. Look how well that turned out."

The mockery being made of marriage in the U.S. and in the world has nothing to do with whom we allow or do not allow to get married. It has everything to do with what we make of the vows, of the covenant, of the sanctity of what we have entered into. I am divorced. My husband is divorced. Neither of us went into our first marriages thinking that it would be a 'starter marriage'. We meant what we said when we said it. Perhaps we were too young to have made the decision, perhaps our hearts changed, perhaps our significant other changed, or perhaps we were just not meant to be with that person from the beginning. I know one thing: this marriage, the one we have to each other... it's impenetrable because we had God as our foundation and went into it with unconditional love for one another, taking our vows very seriously. And let me tell you something else while I have your attention...

His male anatomy makes not one single bit of difference to me.

I fell in love with a man and, in this world, one could call that 'lucky'. Lucky that I found a person of the opposite sex who was perfect for me. The things we have in common, the enjoyments we get out of our life together, the views we have on the world, on spirituality, on religion, on politics, on love, on marriage, on ministry, on education, on child-raising, are all perfectly compatible. I fell in love with a person, and it didn't make any difference to me that he just happened to be male. If she had been a female, I would've fallen in love with her just as hard as I fell for him...

But boy, would my world have been different. Imagine the hatred spewed at you daily for loving the person you love. Imagine people staring at you, threatening you, telling their children to look away or stay away from you, picketing your wedding with signs about how you're going to Hell, beating you up behind a bar and leaving you for dead or, worse, killing you. And all for loving the person you love. Take your spouse and everything you adore about them, change their gender, and imagine your whole world being turned upside down by hate.

Or imagine this: a world in which people are not only FREE to love and marry the adult human they are loving and marrying, but they are encouraged to do so. They are given the blessing of their parents because they already have the blessing of God. Imagine a world in which we don't harm or bully or torture or kill people because they're different* from us. A world in which we love and accept each unique person for who they are.

Jesus did that. They killed Him, too.

It's time we actually did what Jesus would do. Stand up for what we believe in regardless of what other people think. Stand up for love because it's all He stood for. And take a stand against hypocrisy because we're ALL sinners, but we're ALL covered by His love, which makes us white as snow.

If you want to preach something at people, preach THAT.

Stephanie Jean


*(I've already been through the 'but the bible says' arguments and refuted them one after another by putting them into context and with using other sound doctrine, so I don't care to hear it here, please. See the above verses which are NOT taken out of context. If you have questions or concerns, direct them to a private message on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/AJourneyofReinvention. I promise to answer every email I get.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Don't Be That Guy

Don't be that guy.

You know, that guy nobody wants to hang out with because he constantly complains all the time, about absolutely everything? You never feel good when you're with him, you just feel like you're being totally drained of all happiness simply because he opens his mouth? If you say something good, he finds a way to turn it bad or worry or warn you about any or every aspect of whatever it was you were happy about to begin with? You know, that guy who, just by showing up to a party instantaneously makes it the worst party ever, or you spend 95% of your energy at the party avoiding him so you don't have to be sucked into the black hole of negativity? He mopes, whines, tells depressing stories, gives doom-filled statistics, and seems to have no hope whatsoever for anything at any time?

Don't be that guy.

But, you know that OTHER guy, the one who smiles every time he sees you, whether he's just finished a ten-mile run and is exhausted, or has the flu, or his dog just died? That guy who builds you up and encourages you even when you don't have any energy left or you feel like nobody is listening, and nobody cares? That guy who always answers the phone when you call and listens to every word you say, not just waiting for his turn to talk, but REALLY listens? The one who takes your negative statements and finds a way to make them positive, to give you hope and support every step of the way? You know that guy who writes you a note out of the blue and emails it or posts it on your Facebook page just to tell you that he thinks you're great and lists all of the reasons why? That guy who everybody wants to talk to at the party because he never says a single bad thing about anybody, ever? The one who wants to hear about your dreams and then helps you make a plan to make them come true?

Be THAT guy.

If you change your way of thinking, talking, and interacting to a more positive mode, you'll be surprised at what you can accomplish and what others will want to help you accomplish. That's what we're all about here on the Journey -- helping each other take steps, small or large, toward their goals. Becoming better people -- more positive, hopeful, and full of joy and contentment. We're in this together, and we're not going to let each other down or put each other down.

Thanks for being a part of it!
Stephanie Jean

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Deliverance Vs. Endurance - Steel Cage Match

I just figured out why I'm often unhappy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ALWAYS unhappy. But I spend a great deal of my time wishing, hoping, praying that things were different. Asking for more money in case something goes wrong and I don't have enough to pay for it, wishing that I had a cheaper gas and electric bill, hoping that I'll win big the next time I go to the casino, or praying that a better opportunity will show up soon. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those things -- with wanting to be delivered from your circumstances, or with dreaming of a better life.

The problem lies in the constant desire for something different. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: when I was in elementary school, I couldn't wait to be in high school like my cool older brother so that he'd want to hang out with me. When I was in high school, I missed the simplicity of elementary school because I was miserable and couldn't wait to go to college where people would finally treat me with respect and stop being immature and making fun of me. When I was in college, I missed my parents and little sister back home, and I couldn't wait to graduate and get married so that I could move closer and get started on 'real life'. When I was married the first time, I was miserable because I had wasted four years of college wishing to get out of it when, really, it would've been fun if I'd allowed myself to enjoy it, and now I was in a depressing marriage and couldn't be happy until I finally got divorced and found 'THE ONE'. Once I found 'THE ONE', I couldn't wait to have a baby so that we could live happily ever after. Once I spent ten years unable to reproduce... well, you get the picture by now, right?

"God is more interested in changing US than He is in changing our circumstances." -- Joyce Meyer.

Well, that just shoots an arrow right to the heart, doesn't it? All of these things I prayed for over the years and none of it has been completely fulfilling without SOMETHING else, and it's because all of this time, I haven't allowed myself to be completely fulfilled with GOD'S PLAN for the day, for the week, for the year, for my life. I've been asking Him to change my circumstances for 37 years but never have I thought to ask Him to change ME.

Joyce Meyer goes on to say, "He does not delight in watching us suffer or have a difficult time, but He does delight in our spiritual growth. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that most of our spiritual maturity develops during the hard times in our lives, not during the easy times. Opposition stretches us. It stretches our faith, teaches us not to trust in ourselves to solve our problems, and gives us compassion for other people who go through difficulties. The apostle James said that our trials will eventually bring out patience and that when patience is fully developed in us, we will lack nothing. He even states that we should be exceedingly joyful in various trials and tribulations because of what they are working in us."

What if we were fully joyful in whatever God gives us to sustain us throughout the day? What if we remained faithful and trusting that, no matter what the circumstances, He would be there to give us what we needed moment by moment and that if we really would seek Him first, He would be faithful to HIS promise and add all these things to us? What if we prayed for joyful endurance rather than deliverance? What if we prayed for a change in US instead of a change in our circumstances?

Going through a difficult time in your marriage? What if, instead of asking God to change your spouse's mind and make them different, you asked for Him to make a change in YOU... your outlook, your mindset, your patience, your kindness, your thoughts, your ability to love unconditionally?

Going through a difficult financial struggle? What if, instead of asking God to rain more money down upon you to help you pay for what needs to be paid for, you asked Him to change your outlook on what 'struggle' really means, and to really believe that you can trust Him for your provision on a daily basis instead of living in fear that your world is going to collapse?

Whatever your circumstance, it's not wrong to ask Him to deliver you from it or to make it better. But, at the same time, start asking Him to show you what you're to be learning from the circumstance while you're in it. Start asking Him to help you to find joy in every day, regardless of what you're going through. Start asking Him to help you to seek Him (His way, His plan, His kingdom) first and to trust in Him unconditionally to give you what you need -- not just to survive, but to thrive.

I guarantee, He will come through every single time without fail.

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Beginnings... Every Day!


In case you just crawled out from underneath a log (likely because your NYE hangover...) it IS January 1st, 2015. As annoying as that guy is who always says something like, "This is the first day of the rest of your life!" with a huge, cheesy grin on his face, he's right. It is. As much as you want to smack that girl who keeps posting, "Today is page 1 of a 365-page book...", she has a point. It's a fresh start. It's a new beginning.

But, when you think about it... isn't every day?

Isn't every moment?

I was recently asked to speak at St. John's United Church of Christ in Elkhart and, since the new year was fast approaching, I talked at great length about how we don't have to wait until January 1st to start over. God gives us a way to come to Him every moment of every day and say, "I screwed this up. Please fix it and let me start over." Because the fact is, being human and being imperfect are inseparable phrases. We will never be perfect. We will always make mistakes. But God loves us anyway, and we can always come to Him for forgiveness and a fresh start.

Each year, we make resolutions. We're adamant about them at the beginning and really good at keeping them... until we don't. Once we slip up, we're more apt to slip up again because our resolve has faded. That little voice creeps in that says, "See, I knew you couldn't do it. You messed up, you'll mess up again, so you shouldn't even bother." The trick is to talk back to the little voice because THAT little voice is not your friend. Learn to say, "Of course I messed up. I'm not perfect. But I'm not on 'the prize at the end'. I'm on 'the Journey'".

What is it for you? Is it diet and exercise? Is it breaking an addiction? Is it reining in your untamed tongue? Is it organizing and scheduling? Is it spending more time with friends and family? Is it a relationship-with-your-Higher-Power thing? What is it for you?

Just know that, whatever it is, 2015 is here and, regardless of how many times you've screwed up in the past, or how many times you'll screw up in the future, there's no shame in trying.

And there's certainly no shame in trying again, and again, and again.

If you're reading this, you're in my prayers this and every year. You can do this! And, even when you can't, God can.

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Stephanie Jean