{new things}

I’ve been hanging out in the book of Matthew this week. 
And honestly, it’s been more of discipline than anything else. A sort of, “Lord, I’ll show up if you will” effort. Then this happened-

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

-Matthew 9.17

It’s comforting and convicting all at the same time.
We’ve got to let go of what we once loved but doesn’t really work so well anymore.
for the old skins would burst from the pressure

It seems as though every day I’m home I find an old wineskin-
sometimes it a t-shirt or picture frame.
or the the job I had before the race.
or the way I once did church.
or a relationship that is/was so very comfortable but holds me back from fully following Jesus’ call…

Some mornings I wake up and don’t want to look for a new theoretical wineskin. Some mornings the old skins are comfortable and worn in and known and smell like home.  Some hours of the day I long for them- for familiarity… for easy.
But I know these things are not for new wine.

And so I am making hard decisions.
Asking uncomfortable questions.
Writing all the emotions down.

And doing new things.
Like paddle boarding,
and starting a new job
and joining a new gym
and getting a new phone number.

These seemingly very basic things are actually quiet a big deal.
They’re necessary but hardly natural.
Acts of faith in the everyday.

I navigate these new wineskins with great expectancy.
The expectation of meeting Christ in these moments- in these new things.

Is there an aching in your heart for something different, more, or better?
Sweet friends, I pray tonight you have the courage to seek with expectation the newness Christ has for you in this season.

{it takes a village- my friend aaron luke}

Eleven Months.

It seems like an eternity before it begins.  And then, three weeks in, on the way to your second country- your realize… I no longer have eleven months left.  It never slows down.

Then it happens, between the teaching English, the washing babies, the all night worship… Somehow you end up here.  With only eleven weeks left.

This journey is not my own.  The story I’ve lived for the past fifteen months has been very much shared with a special community.

Over the next eleven weeks, I will attempt to express my gratitude.  But will undoubtedly fall short.  To those who have journeyed with me, you have stars in your crown in Heaven for this.  The list of those who impacted my race is, of course, longer than eleven- it has taken a village.  Each one of you reading has touched my race and my heart in some way, your prayers, your blog comments (Susie and Terri), and your support made my race what it is.  I have been able to love those around me because of the love shown to me by every one of you.

From the bottom of my heart-
Thank you.

read my letter to my dad here
or last week’s letter to my mom here
or what i wrote to my older sister here
or what i had to say to my little here
or what i shared about heather here
or my letter to amy here

•••

Aaron Luke,

I have traveled the world and remain
convinced, you are one of the greatest people on it.  Your friendship is a very tangible
testimony of redemption in my life.  For that, I do not have the words to thank you.
You see me for who I am- and belay me for who I could be… always pushing me to take risks and believe in myself.  
You are a constant.  Thank you for being the man of God you are, for always being compassionate, humble and kind.  

I love you so much!
-steph

{happy birthday dad}

paddleboard pictureDear Dad- you’ve taught me how to lay brick
jack and jill style, to be big by being small,
to always lock the car door, and eggs are best
cooked over a campfire. 

I love you more than local coffee shops,
rock climbing gym memberships,
and antique hardware store finds.

Happy Birthday!
-love steph

{the here and now}

It sometimes seems as though life is a series of countdowns-
Expiration and “best by” dates.
But we call them… “seasons.”

In High School I waited for college.
In College for graduation.
After college for marriage.
After no marriage for the race.
While on the race for home.

And now.

Now is without expiration.
Now is ordinary time.

Now is for books, and the beach, and Auburn football.
Now is for a full time job.
Now is for family and traditions

As plain as it sounds- it’s thrilling.
It’s as much unknown as travel-
To live each day without a looming deadline.

It’s full of empty calendar dates and potential.
It’s new in its very own right.
It holds promise.

So I walk into this season-
how’s that for a cliché?
perhaps for the first time without expectation.

{it takes a village- my friend amy}

Eleven Months.

It seems like an eternity before it begins.  And then, three weeks in, on the way to your second country- your realize… I no longer have eleven months left.  It never slows down.

Then it happens, between the teaching English, the washing babies, the all night worship… Somehow you end up here.  With only eleven weeks left.

This journey is not my own.  The story I’ve lived for the past fifteen months has been very much shared with a special community.

Over the next eleven weeks, I will attempt to express my gratitude.  But will undoubtedly fall short.  To those who have journeyed with me, you have stars in your crown in Heaven for this.  The list of those who impacted my race is, of course, longer than eleven- it has taken a village.  Each one of you reading has touched my race and my heart in some way, your prayers, your blog comments (Susie and Terri), and your support made my race what it is.  I have been able to love those around me because of the love shown to me by every one of you.

From the bottom of my heart-
Thank you.

read my letter to my dad here
or last week’s letter to my mom here
or what i wrote to my older sister here
or what i had to say to my little here
or what i shared about heather here

•••

Amy,

You are steadfast.  You called out growth in me when I didn’t see it in myself.  You are selfless and strong, and brave in ways I hope to be one day.  You love really well…really, really well.
More times than I can count, you’ve finished my sentences with exactly the words my heart couldn’t find.
I am grateful for your gentleness, wisdom, and friendship each and every day- and couldn’t truly say I was home until we had coffee together in your kitchen.  Thank you for opening up your home to me always and sharing your family with me for the past three years!

p.s. we have GOT to get a picture together

love you so so much!
-steph

{one week later}

I’ve been home a week.

And all those times I dreamt about no longer living out of packing cubes. That takes work. Anything not furniture and not eleven months old is in a box… somewhere. Anything clothing is mostly not fitting. And anything relational is complicated at best.

My mother will certainly be canonized a saint for her resilience through the decisions I’ve made and unmade this week and the process of getting me to a wedding in Nashville a mere three days after coming home.

all the feelings

Sometimes I forget the reality of a year. I wonder why things are so different, why things that used to be so easy are for some reason REALLY IMPOSSIBLY hard all of a sudden. And I’m gently reminded… a year.

A full year.
And a year full.

Full of deep conversations. Full of questions and reading. Full of doubt and revelation. Full of joy and full of heartbreak.

I ate a lot of rice, and taught Ntsiki her multiplication tables. I walked the streets of Cambodian slums and watched the sun set in Lesotho. I made hard decisions and cried myself to sleep more than once. I traveled by tuk-tuk and foot, almost never by car.

I wore basically the same thing every day, and it never involved makeup. When wifi was available I messaged family first then the closest of friends. Nobody freaked out when I hadn’t called in three weeks, one of the greatest gifts of having people who ‘get it’ in your life.

I read my Bible every day. Not out of legalism or duty. But because it’s how God speaks to me. I prayed really big prayers and got to see some of them come true. Others I continue to pray and believe for.

I’ll be honest with you, I cried coming home. Walking the airport terminal alone for the first time, so thankful for that season… and also feeling not ready to come back, as though I was just getting the hang of some really important new things- afraid they’d vanish when I returned home.

Life on the race was a cocoon, a boot for a fractured food if you will, and I wasn’t ready to take the boot off and try my new tricks in the big old real world.

But here I am in the big old real world, one week later, and I remind myself as often as I need to-I’m not all things for everyone I know. I don’t have to push or earn. I don’t have to unpack in record time or make every decision perfectly.

Here’s the good news, I can rest when I’m tired, read when I’m hungry for words, reach out when I’m lonely.
I don’t have to be strong all the time, or on all the time, or talking all the time. I can say, “no” to that breakfast date.

And under that, the deep foundation for that, more good news: God made me, he loves me, and he’s inviting me into a way of living that’s drenched in grace, in true rest, in connection and communion with him and with each of you.

It’s easier for me to live that way in a beautiful cocoon place, surrounded by babies and culture and big mountains.
But it will get easier, day by day, to live that way here, too, at the chiropractor, and Target, and when I’m answering email, even when I’m walking into a new season of responsibility and expectation.

This is what I know: I tasted something on the race, in Southern Africa specifically, that I want to experience every day of my life. I felt connected to the people, to the God who made me, to the beautiful world he created.

So how was the race? It was one of the greatest gifts I’ve even been given, and it gave me a vision for how I want to live August, and September, and on and on.

The race was communion filled and grace-filled. To use Shana Niequist’s metaphor, It was a year with training wheels on, teaching me to live a new way, and I’m going to ride this fancy new two wheeler all over the neighborhood, thankful for every moment I rode with the training wheels on, getting me ready to ride in the big old real world.

 

{HAPPY BIRTHDAY NTSIKI}

happy birthday sweet ntsikiSweet Ntsiki,
You are ten years old today… look out world!
You love to take pictures and videos.
Your laughter is contagious.
You’re learning your multiplication tables this year! WOOOOOHOOO!
You are excellent at sharing with your friends.
You LOVE to eat chicken- bones and all much to my
dismay.
Your favorite Bible Story is Psalm 27.
You hate goodbyes as much as I do.
You want to be a veterinarian when you grow up.
You love hot chocolate and popcorn.
You are brave.

 

I love you to the moon and back times ten.

{it takes a village- my friend heather}

Eleven Months.

It seems like an eternity before it begins.  And then, three weeks in, on the way to your second country- your realize… I no longer have eleven months left.  It never slows down.

Then it happens, between the teaching English, the washing babies, the all night worship… Somehow you end up here.  With only eleven weeks left.

This journey is not my own.  The story I’ve lived for the past fifteen months has been very much shared with a special community.

Over the next eleven weeks, I will attempt to express my gratitude.  But will undoubtedly fall short.  To those who have journeyed with me, you have stars in your crown in Heaven for this.  The list of those who impacted my race is, of course, longer than eleven- it has taken a village.  Each one of you reading has touched my race and my heart in some way, your prayers, your blog comments (Susie and Terri), and your support made my race what it is.  I have been able to love those around me because of the love shown to me by every one of you.

From the bottom of my heart-
Thank you.

read my letter to my dad here
or last week’s letter to my mom here
or what i wrote to my older sister here
or what i had to say to my little here

•••

Heather,

You were a constant in the months leading up to the race.  Every anxiety I shared with you was met with graciousness and words of peace.  And while on the race, you are one of those who ‘get’s it’- I am learning every day how rare a treasure that is.
Thank you. Thank you for sharing in the excitement and emotion of the past eleven plus months.  Thank you for timeless gift of scripture and an amazing book that I’ve poured over and underlined new truths in monthly. Thank you for taking a chance on a friendship with a girl who cries a whole awful lot… it has meant the world to me.

love you girl!
-steph

{t-minus twelve days}

20140720-112820.jpgleave it to a traveling blogger to start a blog series then spend the following eight weeks in absolutely beautiful countries without wifi…

for all of your love and support and prayers in the final weeks of the race I give thanks. and I promise to fill you in on the final seven “it takes a village”ers come august.

until then, keep finding adventures wherever you may be!

-steph