Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Grief is a Gift

On Friday I was on a ladder scraping paint off the back of our house. The rain started coming down, but I was tucked under the eaves so I stayed a few more minutes. I stood there thinking about all of the musicians that had died recently. We lost Kenny Rogers, Joe Diffie, and Bill Withers. As I was thinking of them, as loud as a person can hear internal words, I heard these words, "Grief is a gift." It prompted me to think about losing my two brothers. The grief of losing my brother Mike truly changed my life because I wanted to change how I loved people. When you tuck into the Lord with heavy things, He creates beauty that could have never been there before. The words kept repeating in my head like a drum during all of this.

Grief is a gift. Grief is a gift. Grief is a gift.

Never in a million years could I have imagined that Denbigh would lose his brother Michael the next day to a tragic accident. It's a terrible thing to have in common with someone. We have now both lost a brother Michael. They both died days after their birthdays.

When you lose someone, you have this feeling that the world should stop and grieve with you. It was unnerving to me that the world kept on spinning when my brothers and babies died. You want to shout at people who are walking around like nothing happened. "Please grieve with me." In this strange world we are in right now, it feels a little like the world did stop to grieve with us. It is a sad and yet comforting reality. In some way, we are all grieving. We miss the people we love and want to be near them. We have a longing to be more intentional. May it be so. May our hollow relationships and empty activities be replaced with depth, gratitude, and value.

I know there are people who feel sad for others and there are empaths. We empaths feel the emotions of others. I once touched my mother on my brother's birthday and felt a wave of grief so strong that I released her as if I had touched lightning. It's the same with my husband. I can quietly wade through my own grief with Jesus, but his grief is unbearable. It's so palpable to me. I can hardly breathe at times. The ache is so intense. I prefer the hard moments, the raw times of truth with others, but this ache is terrible beyond words. Please pray for my tender hearted husband.

Grief is a teacher.

I have learned some things about grief as we have surrendered close family and six babies. Don't ever fight it. Don't try to cheer any one out of it either. Let the horrible weight of the thing settle in on you. Use it to rip apart every selfish part of you and sit with it. Beg Jesus to take every single ounce of it to bring Him glory. May the one taken by the last great enemy to be destroyed (death) be used to bring many to salvation. I am not suggesting that you don’t get help if you need it. I am conveying the power of God to do something beyond our comprehension when we walk through things with Him instead of running from them.

There is a time to grieve. Take that time.

I also learned to grieve by giving. Sitting with the broken is home to me. I can't tell you how many me toos I utter under bridges. It's the strangest sense of belonging. I don't belong in a place, but with a people. It's healing beyond words. So, you'll find us out tossing gift cards and food to homeless people this week to honor our Michaels. We won't be yelling, "Towanda," like in Fried Green Tomatoes. We'll be yelling, "Tomichael!" To God be the glory.

There are wide bits of redemption already being woven into this story. Take heart.

Michael was a kind and caring young man. He was an engineer, loved gutting houses, loved his church and friends, and rebuilding cars. He died helping a friend. He went out with his boots on. Denbigh is flying to South Carolina to be present when they bury his brother on Friday. They are moving his body from Tennessee to South Carolina to be buried near his mother’s home. Please keep her and all of the family in your prayers. Pray for Denbigh's travel safety too. Thank you kindly.

If you'd like to help us give gift cards to the homeless in his honor, you can give at

Cry if you need to.

Grief is a gift.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Engineer's Wife is Fascinating!

The Engineer's WifeThe Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a completely fascinating story of the woman who stepped up to build the Brooklyn Bridge when her father-in-law was killed and her husband took ill. I cannot remember having heard this story and the extraordinary lengths that Emily Roebling went to in order to see this vision to completion. In a day in time when women did not have jobs and wore huge dresses unsuitable for work, Emily took on an unimaginable challenge. She dealt with the business side of things as well as actual oversight of the job sight. She faced so much ridicule for being a woman, but amazingly prevailed. You'll have to read the story.

There is some fiction added into this story. The author added a story with PT Barnum, one of the richest men in New York at the time, and his emotional affair with Emily. There is no basis for this. Looking at her life, she seemed like such a devoted woman. I wonder if this addition to her story would have been an affront to her character. The rest was a great read. Captivating tale.

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Human(kind) Inspires Kindness

 Human(kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back TogetherHuman(kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together by Ashlee Eiland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love kindness. The concept behind this book is to showcase kindness and lack thereof in a memoir, short story style. She shows us how racism has effected her personally. Her style is Melanie Shankle meets LaTasha Morrison. Her stories of her kind grandma and the kindness she encountered growing up are great encouragements. You can see clearly how small things and words can give people hope for the rest of their lives.

One thing I enjoyed reading was when she was involved in a homeless ministry. She sat down and ate McDonald's with a man who had very little to say to her and was thankful. Later on we see her angry at a woman trying to buy her dinner because she was black. That made me think about how I receive people. Do I receive some people well because I think I am helping them and others not so well because I think they are condescendingly trying to help me? How can we help each other learn best? Kindness.

Be kind always.

Great read. Encouraging fun style. My 13 year old is reading it now. May it be a beacon for her to pursue kindness with all. Here's to something we could all use a little more of right now.

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I have cherished the quiet. I have sat long hours in creative prayer. I have needed this space for a long time and I had not created margin for it. There was much to do. You know how it goes. I have waded through discouragement and disappointment in people I hoped would cheer me on. I have gone over words of people mocking poverty and those in it, even my own neighborhood. I know Jesus loves those in poverty. His heart is for them. Then, like an old friend, Mr. Rogers’ words began washing over me in movies and podcasts and shows. I remembered why I came here to restore this place. Listening to one of my authors *Human(kind)* I remembered that I wanted to create a soft and safe place for others to land. The world is full of pain and we are hard pressed to find a place to heal. So back to work I go. Writing. Restoring. Praying. If you could pray for us to continue the work for and in our mission house, that would be lovely. I feel selfish asking with all that’s going on, but I know safe spaces are soon going to be needed more than ever before.
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Friday, March 27, 2020

I'm Steph. I Strip Paint, Write Words, and Read Books

 Hey y'all, I've been stripping paint for about 5 or 6 hours a day. I am about halfway through the back of the house. It's quite a challenge. It's a huge mess. It's a huge mess! I'm hoping to finish scraping by the end of next week so that we can open the pool. We need to change out the liner after a beloved guest accidentally ripped it.

How are y'all doing at social isolating? I read a post by Makoto Fujimura about how artists are inherently self-distancing and it is easier for us to cope right now. He is amazing. Watch this.

Nihonga Slow Art from Windrider Productions on Vimeo.

The part of this that is breaking my heart is seeing all of the people losing jobs, the sickness, the homeless going without food, The beauty is seeing people be kind and intentional. People are finding each other again. I am praying that the hurt, the pain, the loss, and the beauty lead people safely to the arms of Jesus. 

I am working on a personalized, guided prayer journal. It's twenty years of learning to journal summarized in the most simple way with your name embedded in scripture. I am hoping to use it to raise some money for our homeless friends. Say a little prayer for me. 

Denbigh has been out giving away McDonald's gift cards to the homeless. If you'd like to help him, you can give at

What I've read over the last few weeks:

Shift by Abby McDonald : rating: meh, kinda like a Sunday school lesson

Yes Sisters by Angelia L. White: rating: pretty good, shows the value of good friends

Shepherding Women in Pain by Bev Hislop: rating :Oh my word! It's a powerhouse

Listened to:

Murder on the Orient Express: great!
Pale Faced Lie: intense, but good!

I love y'all and I'm praying for you to feel the sweet nearness of Christ in your every day.

Friday, March 20, 2020

I read Joy at Work by Marie Kondo

This may be my favorite of Marie Kondo's books. It may be because it met me right where I am at or the fact that it goes far beyond the act of tidying. Marie quietly leads us to not only honor ourselves and our spaces, but also how to honor others. Instead of going into work with cluttered hearts and minds, we can bring clear thoughts, and even, you guessed it, joy.

I appreciate Marie. Her words have helped me release a lot of clutter and get to know what I actually love. It seems that our external clutter is often tied to things we need to release internally.

She tackles, desks, offices, work hours, and meetings. Our responsibility in these things greatly needs to be addressed. Her co-writer also helps us tidy our digital life. This has been a huge challenge to me to learn how to tackle things daily and store things properly.

Marie shared how she was afraid of going into television because people can be so cruel. Someone told her that she should do what she felt led to do because people hated her already. She was completely shocked that people would hate her for her work in tidying so she googled herself. The first thing she read was an article entitled "Why We Hate Marie Kondo." After reading these things, she decided to go ahead with television. I am thankful for her tenacity and courage. Great read.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Home Makeover: Social Distancing Edition

Hey y'all, 
we are using this quarantine (aka social distancing) to paint our 105 year old mission house. We let missionaries and those in need of rest come and stay with us to find rest. It's been a long journey of restoration, but when God call you, you stick to the path even when deeply discouraged. Some of that comes from people, some from funding, and some from not being able to go out to the homeless like normal. 

We are uncertain about getting to serve the homeless like we normally do, but I'm happy to drive down the streets throwing sack lunches like candy in a parade. Pray for our friends on the street. May your heart be open to seeing them as human beings. I promise you that we can not even wrap our minds around the trauma most of them have been through. 

Making the world better for one makes the world better. Use your time to write cards, make calls, and check on people. 

I am personally working on a bit of writing for a project that I have been thinking about for over a decade. It's a culmination of 20 years of studying prayer and journaling. I'm looking for quotes that have the word beauty in them and any scripture that you have personalized with your name in it. Send them my way. Please and thank you.

Sipping my lavender honey latte (I made myself) and signing off!
love y'all.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Y’all. Read Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

I feel like I walked this journey right along with Jennie. The enemy loves to pound the inside of my head until I can’t think straight anymore. I wasn’t sure that this was going to be a book I could enjoy. I wonder every time I pick up a Christian book if it is going to be full of nice Christian words or if it is going to tell me how to trust Jesus to fight back hell for me. I much prefer to be trained for warfare.  This book did not disappoint. I don’t want to cause any spoilers, but Jennie was up to her eyeballs in demonic oppression and could not see it. Her rescue came in the form of community and the book of Philippians. Read it. This is a book for all of us who hear those negative voices in our heads. There is a plan in place for our deliverance and redemption. 

She quotes one of my top ten favorite books quite a bit. Humility by Andrew Murray. I fell in love with it about 14 years ago. I can still tell you where I was when I read the forward. It was deeply convicting to me. You might want to grab a copy of that as well.

Growing up I was surrounded by plenty of negative voices. They tore at my soul and held me captive though you would never know it by looking at me. Some of them are still speaking hate over me. Even when I wasn’t with those people, those voices were on repeat in my head. For most of my life, I assumed my own inner voice was a jerk because the words were in first person. Then I learned that the enemy does that. He will eat you up and spit you out and make you think you did it. He’s the classic narcissist. The thing I have dealt with is learning to take those thoughts captive instead of being held captive. As I was reading this, I realized I could also take that voice captive. My role here is to bag the thing and run it as fast as I can to the feet of Jesus. If you take the time to document the voices of people and the words in your own head, you’ll see a common theme. That theme comes from one abuser. It changes every relationship we have. We no longer have to overreact. We don’t have to cower in shame. We have a choice to play offense here. We can fill our hearts and minds with words of life. Jennie’s book is a guided help to us all.

When we bought our mission house, I felt like the words coming at me were so powerful that they resembled death threats. I felt like I was walking through a dark underpass alone chasing God’s hand and guidance. Then I realized I wasn’t chasing Him and those were not my thoughts. May this word bring you  freedom.

Thanks to Waterbrook Publishing for graciously giving me a copy of this book to review.

Friday, February 07, 2020

I read Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews

Isaiah's Legacy (Prophets and Kings #3)Isaiah's Legacy by Mesu Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of Manasseh has always gotten to me. How could a man raised in Hezekiah's household and tutored by the prophet Isaiah turn so far into evil? Reading this made think of the ways the enemy has turned my own head as well as the heads of those I loved. We live in a day of sacrificing babies, a culture bent of worshipping sexuality and self. It seems shocking to read it in the context of the Old Testament kings, but we are also living it.

I really enjoyed this book as a whole. I had a hard time getting into it because of what seemed like an overuse of cutesy nicknames to me. It made the gravity of the telling seem less. About halfway through I was able to begin ignoring it and get into the story. There are gaps filled in and historical narrative that fills in blanks for you. Some, of course, is made up for the sake of story. It gives you a whole picture of the events that unfolded and led to Manasseh turning away from and returning to God. It's fascinating. It is also a warning of us all. Through it all, this is a story that will stick with me.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Holocaust Remembrance: Books Create Empathy

We must teach others empathy for all humanity.

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I read The Diary of a Young Girl and the Hiding Place in eighth grade. I can vividly recall the shock I felt sitting in my desk as our class read the books aloud. I had seen much of the underbelly of humanity at that age, but it was still so shocking. In fact, I am still processing it nearly thirty years later. Over a decade ago, I received a box of my great grandmother’s books. In it was a copy of Corrie ten Boom’s book entitled In My Father’s House. It was my favorite of her works. Do you know that she wrote nearly 50 books as she traveled the world and shared the gospel? One year, I read as many as I could find still in print. I’m still finding them. 20 or so that I’ve read. Her books on her life before the Holocaust are so rich. She talks about how her Papa ten Boom instilled a deep love of Jewish people. She learned how to simply teach the gospel by mentoring hundreds of young women and volunteering in a hospital for handicapped children. Even in death, she mentored my heart. Here are some other books I’ve read lately that have further opened my eyes to the horrors of Holocaust and what drives man’s spirit to an intrepid overcoming. The Brothers of Auschwitz, All the Light We Cannot See, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Out of the Depths, The Lilac Girls, A Man’s Search for Meaning. #internationalholocaustremembranceday #neveragain #books #📚#reading #readinggrowsempathy
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It took me to a few chapters to get into a groove with this writing style, but once I did, it got ahold of me. This story is told how you would hear it in an interview. The text is choppy as if you were listening to someone recount a deeply heard memory. I have read quite a bit from he WWII era, but this gripped me int he pit of my stomach. It’s truly shocking to see how humans can behave. The babies hot me hardest. They would hit them in the head with the butt of their rifle and throw them in the pile. One recounted tale told about the soldiers playing kickball with a baby until it died.

As with every horrific recounting of these times, I found myself staring at the words on the screen. How did humanity ever get to that point? How were so many people convinced that it was a good thing to treat human life as refuse? How do we keep this from ever happening again? How on earth did these people survive this?