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spiritual

Water your grass.

Social media is hard.

I’m not talking about the ever changing algorithms, shadow bans, relevant hashtags etc. (though those things are HARD). I’m talking about the whole comparison thing.

There are a few bloggers I hate follow. That’s what I call it. Hate following. These bloggers make my eyes roll from here all around the world. I look at their pictures and judge them and screenshot pictures and text other people judge-y things about them. A few months ago I admitted something about the #1 girl I hate follow. If she said “Stephanie! I’ll be in Portland! Come be my tour guide for the weekend!” I’d drop everything and go hang out with her.

The driving part of my hate following? Envy. Jealousy. Insecurity. I think this girl isn’t anything special, I think I’m nothing special, and yet somehow she is making money by being not special and I’m stuck staring at an “Add New Post” screen, trying to convince myself that any of my blog ideas are worth typing out.

Her income continues to grow. Her following and influence continues to grow.

and I’m sitting here sipping my iced coffee all alone, watching judging her Instagram stories and dreaming about one day making a consistent profit it off my blog. Healthy, right?

I made a goal to read a book of the Bible this month and since I have less than a week later, I decided I should do it. Like right now at this moment. Which meant it had to be a quick “easy” read. Easy in that there weren’t a lot of words, not that it was a light beach read. I decided… eh, how about 1 Peter. Just because I’ve read it but I can’t think of anything it says so that means it will be new to me.

This literally jumped out of the pages at me:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind. (1 Peter 2:1)

I stopped to think about it. That envy word. I thought of this blog post. I typed in the title and then felt convicted to not get distracted from finishing the book. Then I got to this part, the words of Psalms repeated in the letter from Peter:

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.
He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”

U.G.H.

Those two parts weighed so heavy on my heart. As I sat thinking about them, all I could think of was the idea of watering my grass. Not literal, but you know. When I sit and sip my iced coffee, cynicism leaking out of my heart, hate following the landscaping on someone else’s yard, you know what happens to mine? IT. DIES. It gets neglected and ugly and looks even less like what I’m wishing it was.

I was reminded of a Bob Goff quote I saved on my phone a few weeks ago:

Bob Goff Quote // stephanieorefice.net

The way to battle this really ugly envy I have growing inside of me is to, like Bob Goff says, be captivated with purpose. Or, as one of my favorite musicians, Jonny Lang, sings:

Jonny Lang Lyric // stephanieorefice.net

Instead of spending all of my energy hate following other people and then finding my creative energy tank run dry when it’s time for me to pour into my own stuff, I need to just patch the hate follow holes in my heart and my soul. It’s crazy how envy can really be the poison of your soul – it’s hard to be excited about anything you do, because you’re always comparing it or wondering if it’s as good or deciding it’s better and then trying to figure out why it has less appeal than someone else’s.

Y’all it feels so good to get this off of my chest. It’s been like a quiet, secret, invisible poison that’s been stifling my creativity and my joy.

Anyway. Social media is hard because I just see all the things and it makes me feel all the things, and a lot of those things aren’t good. I’m going to scroll less and blog more. Double click less and post pics more. Just work on my own thing without worrying about what other people are doing for awhile.

Have you ever felt this? Help me out with ideas of how you’ve combatted it.

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The rearview.

Last year I shared that one of my friends was sick. Before I left for Nashville, she was finally relieved of the cancer. My friend Donna, who has been so important to me, is gone.

I’ve been praying for her to have a baby for 8 years. I have physically (and awkardly tbh) put my hands on her stomach and prayed for her insides. All I can wonder is if the cancer was already growing in her brain at that time, and why would the Holy Spirit lead me to put my hands on her stomach and pray for her if this is what was going to happen.

All of those tears. and prayers. and this is where we’re at. Well, where I’m at.

Donna was my waiting person. While she desired and longed for a baby, I desired and longed for a husband. Thinking about my wedding feels really empty these days. Not my marriage. I’m looking forward to my life with Justen, but when I think about the actual day of my wedding I just feel overwhelmed with sorrow and heartache. Eight years ago, Donna and I met in this Waiting Room of our lives and she’s gone but I’m still sitting here dreading the day I walk towards Justen and turn back and see an empty chair. All in my heart, obviously, but still. There is a huge hole in my heart. and I am not the only one. Donna was so loved, because she was such a wonderful, loving person. Loving Donna and being loved by her has changed my life.

So I dread the day I walk ahead without her.

I committed to praying for Donna so often that I even wrote her name on my rearview mirror. You can imagine how hard the drive was the day I got the news of her tumor, always seeing her name each time I glanced back.

As I’ve been processing and beginning the grieving process (what an awful rollercoaster) I keep thinking about that picture and I had this realization.

Moving forward and stepping forward isn’t just about keeping your eyes glued straight ahead.

We are actually taught that we need to keep our current position in context. Sneak a peek at your side mirrors, watch where you’re going, and check your rearview mirror to see what’s behind you. The stuff behind you is literally a part of moving forward. Donna can’t physically go forward with me anymore. No more out of the blue Facebook messages at the very moment I need them the most. No more walks around camp talking about how much waiting can suck sometimes. No more tears shared between us. No more messages seeing how she’s doing as our camp friends announce the pregnancies she’ll whole-heartedly celebrate. Those things aren’t going to happen again.

But they’re never going to have not happened. They’re never going to be erased from my life, their impact never going to be undone because they’ve ceased happening. I get to glance at them and keep steering forward.

What an absolute treasure it has been to know Donna Parkinson. May all of you know someone so wonderful and cherish them (AND TELL THEM) every single day.

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Rules for Self Discovery

Desiring Egypt // stephanieorefice.net

You know what will rock your identity?
Moving from one community of people to another in a quick time, especially when the community of people are both your church family and your co-workers on both ends.

This same thing happened, a little differently,  when I left SoCal and moved back to the Northwest. It’s not that I changed or anything, but it was like I was handed a blank canvas with the same paint and given the opportunity to paint something new. Get that? Same paint. The same foundation was there, but I got to make it look different if I wanted.

Two months ago I quietly left the church I was raised in. That denomination has a really strong identity – its own language and yearly events, global community, consistent program names, matching outfits – and then just like that, I stepped away. I moved towards a new group of people who already know and love Justen and started to squirm my way in.

A new canvas for my paint, if you will.

I keep thinking of this thought from the brilliant A. W. Tozer.

Rules for Self Discovery:

  1. What we want most

  2. What we think about most

  3. How we use our money

  4. What we do with our leisure time

  5. The company we enjoy

  6. Who and what we admire

  7. What we laugh at

 

Have any of you ever “started over” in a new community? Has it given you an identity crisis at all or is it just me? ;D

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When Jesus says “No.”

You know how people say that God answers prayers with three answers: yes, no and wait? I think that saying is dumb. God’s not like a Magic 8 ball with only a few generic responses. I think sometimes in my life God has answered my prayers with “LOL OK if you really want it…..” which is neither yes, no or wait. Sometimes I think he answers prayers with complete silence, which isn’t “wait.” I understand the heart behind limiting God’s answers to our prayers, but I don’t agree with it.

The past few weeks have been a complete whirlwind, and not just for me.

One Saturday morning I woke up with a heavy heart. I was attending the worst kind of funeral and praying for one of my lifelong friends and another one of my best friends brothers. There was a lot on my heart, and I got frustrated because I sometimes feel like God isn’t actually doing anything in the lives of people around me – do you ever feel like that? Like your prayer request list is long and your praise list is full of who God is, or ways you’ve seen him work in the past, but nothing you’ve been praying for seems to turn into a praise?

I got to thinking about when Christ was on earth. One of my favorite blog posts is called When Christ Wasn’t There, and I think about that lesson often – what Jesus teaches us when he seems to be staying away from our hurt. But sometimes Jesus walks straight into our hurt, like the time Jesus was going into the town of Nain and as he was walking in, a funeral procession was walking out. A widow had lost her only son.

Jesus saw her and his heart went out to her and he told her not to cry. Then he brought the dead son back to life and gave him back to his mom. We read that in Luke 7:11-16. It’s a really beautiful story. Especially for that woman and her son and everyone in the presence of that miracle.

idk

…but what about all of the funerals Jesus DIDN’T interrupt? What about those widows, those mourners? What about the parents whose child Jesus DIDN’T heal, or the blind man who never saw?

 

There’s a weird peace in that. You know.. it’s just Jesus doing his Jesus thing and healing some and not others. Not because one is better, one is favored, one is more loved or important… but because Jesus just does what Jesus does and that rarely actually makes sense to people. Like seriously, if I was God’s PR person I’d be requesting a meeting to discuss what appears to be the series of poor PR decisions he’s made in the lives of those I love recently.

but I am not God’s PR person. I’m not called to strategize and evaluate the decisions of God. I think if anything I’m called to just stand there in the face of all the crap of life,  wrap my arms around the people I love, weep and say “I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.”

and there we have it. One more thing not required of me – to know. I don’t think I want to know, because I think the burden of that knowledge is far too heavy for my puny little human heart, my limited human mind, to bear. Adults often spare children the hard stuff of life; we soften all the D words – divorce, disease, death… and we let them glimpse the reality of grief, but we spare them the full weight of it. and maybe that’s what God does for us. Maybe he spares us the weight of why babies die and why changing your Facebook profile picture to say “PRAY FOR THIS PERSON,” doesn’t necessarily spring Him into action.

I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.

I keep trying to tell God what would really make him look good to nonbelievers – healing, restoration, healthy babies, financial favor…. and God continues to interrupt some funerals and not others, to heal some lepers and not others, to bring eyesight to some but not all. I don’t know why, but realizing that this isn’t some new pattern of behavior for Jesus has helped me have some sort of peace. God’s will be done, and I doubt I’ll ever understand it on this side of Heaven.

I don’t know, man.

I just don’t know. 

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T R U S T the pilot

If there’s one thing in my life that I’ve kind of mastered, it’s being on airplanes.

Actually… I’m on one RIGHT NOW as I write this.

I recently found myself on an airplane, getting ready to land. It was a really bumpy flight and they made the flight attendants sit down early and there was a lot of tension in the air. It wasn’t the hugest thing – sometimes air is weird, right? It just is. It wasn’t that I was SCARED or NERVOUS, just tense.

We were getting closer and closer to the ground, and that’s when I started freaking.

I wanted to yell to the pilot “SLOW DOWN, SIR!!! YOU ARE GOING TOO FAST!!!!”

Honestly, I thought we were going to be unable to stop, speed off the end of the runway and I would die outside of the Denver airport, but then I realized I could at least check that off of my 101 list, kind of.

We hit the ground hard, and the little flappy things on the wing flew up and the plane started fighting to slow down and then… it slowed down… and soon enough I was safe and sound inside of the Denver airport as they were shutting down ALL THE FOOD PLACES (that’s a completely irrelevant point, but I just wanted to make it).

As we were pulling into the gate, I thought to myself… Stephanie, you need to take a chill pill. You are not a pilot. You actually referred to a part of the plane as the “flappy things.” I don’t know what a single button in the control panel does, I have no real idea how a plane defies gravity and flies in the air… I am actually really clueless about piloting a plane.

trust the pilot // stephanieorefice.net

I think I do that a lot with God, if I’m honest.

I’m in the back, watching stuff out the window, thinking “HOLD ON, MISTER. WAIT A MINUTE. ARE YOU SURE? REALLY?”

The things I am freaking out about are things I have absolutely no control over. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to be critical, because being critical at least makes me feel like I’m a part of something that’s actually too big for me to assist.

I guess that’s what Jesus means when he talks about not worrying. God’s the pilot, we’re the passengers, and it’s not His job to consult us for our desired landing style or to teach us what the purpose of the flappy things are; it’s our job to trust and it’s His job to pilot.

Easier said than done for sure, but when we realize how little our worrying accomplishes, we are able to heed the words of Queen Elsa and LET. IT. GO.

Here’s to embracing the turbulence and trusting the pilot.

#JESUSTAKETHEWHEEL

 

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When Satan tempts me to dispair…

A few months ago I was at the Imago Dei Eastside Gathering. It was a hot Sunday evening in the little chapel that has no air conditioning, just windows opened and fans going. The lights were off to keep it cool. We sang the song “Before the Throne of God Above,” and as I stood there reading the lyrics, unable to sing, tears fell out of my eyes.

before the throne of God above // stephanieorefice.net

 

Before the throne of God above // stephanieorefice.net

Let me be real. There are sins in my life that I struggle with so consistently and so deeply that my life feels like it’s one giant spiral of repeating the same sin, hearing the same deceptions, believing the same lies, and praying the same words out of guilt. I am full of bitterness and cynicism, judgment and eye rolls. and some days that is made so much more aware to me than others.

and on those days, Satan camps out in my guilt.

A month or so ago, I had one of those mornings. and I was driving to work, and as I turned onto the street by my church I thought “I’m so full of sin and yet I’m someone’s YOUTH PASTOR!? I should quit my job and let them find someone who screws up less.” and I really started to beat myself up over it. But then I remembered the words of a Mercy Me song that say “There’ll be days I lose the battle, grace says that it doesn’t matter, cuz the cross already won the war.” (Greater – MercyMe)

and I started crying my eyes out because that was the truth I needed to be reminded of. Deep in my spirit I heard the Holy Spirit say “Stephanie. Repent and move on.

But repent. Not just “ask for forgiveness.” Repent; the whole turning away from sin and walking the other way.

There are nights when I lay in bed and I cry and thank God for protecting me from the certain sins that really wage war on my heart. I am so grateful to have survived a day without any battles.

and then other nights.

Before the throne of God above // stephanieorefice.net

Other nights I lay in bed and cry and apologize for all of my careless words and my bitter heart. I hang the head of my heart in shame that my actions often terribly misrepresent how I feel about the Lord in my heart.

But Jesus stood in the gap. For me. For my sins.

He took the receipt straight up to the counter and he paid for the meal he never tasted. It’s covered. Taken care of. Put the wallet away, because your money is no good here.

Pastor Matt once said that God is just as if he has no mercy and he is merciful as if he has no justice because you cannot have one without the other. It took me a very long time to understand that, but once I did… it changed so much.

and because of that, “for God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me,” is one of the most powerful phrases I have in my arsenal to combat the lies of Satan, the enemy, who loves to kick me when I am down.

BUT THE CROSS.

MY sinless Savior.

MY pardon.

Do not let your burdened, exhausted, weary heart forget the redemptive power of Christ’s life sacrificed on the cross. Soak up that liberation, and live like you have been saved. You’ll struggle, you’ll fall, you’ll be disappointed in yourself, you may even disappoint others.. but don’t EVER forget that you. are. free.

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