Stephanie's Story: A Fresh Start

I met Stephanie back when we were college interns living and working in New York City. We were neighbors that summer, living out our dreams in the city. We never once talked about God or faithto be honest, neither were even on my radar at the time. Fast forward to 2016, when Steph and I re-connected over social media. Let me tell you: This girl's heart is so on fire for the Lord, and I'm floored by His beautiful faithfulness in her redemption story. Thank you for sharing, Stephanie! — M

photo c/o  Amanda Watson Photography

photo c/o Amanda Watson Photography

Last year was a hard year. In all honesty, it was downright awful. Imagine getting hit in the stomach with one painful blow. You try to gain composure and find your footing, but every time you attempt to stand, you are hit with another blow. Once to the head. Then to the knees. Let’s not forget your rib cage, your upper torso and again to the stomach just for posterity.

This is a lot of what 2015 felt. Life had dealt what seemed like an unfair hand. A sick mother. A depressed father. A foreclosed home. Broken finances. A shattered family. A failed best friendship. A broken heart. A dead-end job and an endless pursuit for the next step. A bad relationship. A weary and broken down me.

I couldn’t stand, and every time I found some strength to try again, to get back up, I would be knocked down. I would love to tell you how through it all, I remained faithful to God and I held firm to my faith, but I didn’t. I grew weary and with each trial, I found my faith waning like a candle in the night. I felt my heart harden and slowly began to turn away from God.

My first love. My God. My Father. My friend. My everything love.

The One who I had grown so close to and who had brought me through the high tides and crashing waves of seasons pastI couldn’t find Him.

What’s a girl do when life happens and it leaves her broken?

Where does a brokenhearted girl go when she forgets who she is and when she turns away from the only love that truly satisfies? 

She runs to lesser gods, of the human kind.

When I’m hurting, somehow I always find myself running to the arms of a man. It makes sense, right? As women, our strongest and most dominant desire is to be wanted, to be pursued, to be loved. When I am hurting, that desire becomes tainted, liked everything else in my life. Last year found me in this broken place a lot. Waking up in the arms of some guy, in an effort to assuage a bleeding heart. Locked hands with a guy, all in the hopes of avoiding the pain locked in my soul.

He is on the cliff. He is in the lead up to the jump. He’s IN the jump, and He is AT the landing point.
— Lana Vawser

2015 saw a lot of me being reckless with my body and my heart. Even though I knew it was wrong, I didn’t care. I was so broken down by life, I stopped caring about taking care of myself. I stopped pursuing God because I deemed myself unworthy of His love. Life had robbed me of so much, and then, I had gone off and done these terrible things. I was dirty in my eyes, forgotten.

But God...

There’s always a “but God” moment because He’s just so good like that. He, in His ever so patient and gentlemanly-like manner, kept knocking at my heart. He never stopped pursuing me. And you know what He told me first? Not, “Stephanie, I need you to repent for this and that thing you’ve done.” Or “Stephanie, I need you to go fast and get yourself right.”

You know what He whispered to my heart to get my attention? (This is the part where I get a little teary.)

He told me, “It’s okay to not be okay.”

What? God did just really just say that? Is that really You? Is it okay that I am hurting and that I am tired? Is it okay to feel this way?

And He gently and so patiently repeats (which He has to do a lot for me): “It’s okay.”

There I sat in my bed, weeping, grieving, sobbing, crying out to God. It was the most beautiful, ugly cry I have ever experienced.

Because God knows me.

God knew that life was going to happen to me in 2015. He knew the tests and trials headed my way. He also knew the decisions and paths I would choose to go down in response to my brokenness. He knew all along, and I am certain that He was with me down every wrong path I chose. He knew I would run from Him and He knew I would run out of places to run. He knew I would need to just cry at His feet.

2016 brought me to a new city, new state, and a new season of my life. My journey brought me to the beautiful state of California. To be honest, I am still healing from a lot of the hurts I experienced from last year. And you know what, that’s okay. I cannot count the number of obstacles I faced in getting here and the number of challenges I’ve encountered since being here. But you know what? I am still confident in the One who called me here, and I firmly believe that wherever God calls you in this life, He will be there.

So yes, it has been hard. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. But I am confident in the one who called me into this vulnerable season of newness and of letting go of seasons past. Last year was one of the hardest years I have ever seen. Here I am in a new season, learning to let go and lay down my burdens to God once again. I will sit here, here where God has called me, and let the tears fall. I will unravel and rest in His presence. I will sit at His feet and let Him replace my mourning for joy. I will let him make me new. I will come undone, unwind and allow Him to fill me up, right here, here where He has called me to be. I will let go of what was and allow Him to heal me, right here.

He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.
— Isaiah 61:3

I am the prodigal son. I am the one sheep out of the 100 who gets lost. And you are, too. In both of those stories, we cannot forget the most important part, not the one who was lost but the loving embrace of the Father/Shepherd when the one lost returns home.

I want anyone reading this to know, you don’t have to be perfect to come to God. God is not about performance. His love is merciful. So even if you feel dirty, and like you are covered with the shame of this life, God calls you whole, pure, loved, cherished, wanted. When all we see is a mud-stained wedding dress, God sees you draped in a gown as white as snow. There is hope for you yet and still, my friend. Your story will be redeemed.