a new view

Just the briefest of notes to celebrate something that I’m super excited about: I got a new job!

Wings of Shelter, the non-profit organization that owns/runs the safe house that I’ve worked weekends at for the past year offered me a full-time position as their programs coordinator/executive assistant last month. I’m still sort of surprised because on paper (and truly, even in real life) I’m under qualified, so I’m super excited and extremely humbled that I get a shot at working with them in this capacity.

I think the amazing thing for me is how I can see Jesus working out the road for me to get here. I think of little baby Stephanie, sobbing over her laptop at seventeen because she just read her first article about human trafficking and she wanted to do something, anything. I’d never been so rattled and so throughly struck to my core over anything at that point in my life.

Throughout college, my time on the mission field, coming home and my visit to India last year, my heart has stayed pretty fixed on fighting it and I’ve done the best I can to absorb information wherever I can: documentaries, articles, symposiums, training sessions. I’ve looked at well known organizations over the years like The Polaris Project, The A21 Campaign and International Justice Mission pouring over job descriptions realizing that I lacked the specific education that most groups wanted.

But here we are, with a new opportunity that I can’t believe I get a chance at–so, so thankful that Jesus sent me this type of fan mail. He’s doing stuff, even when I forget He is. Meanwhile, I’ll be getting used to a more flexible schedule (and some pretty heavy administrative duties) that will allow me the freedom to do more exploring than I have recently. I think I could get used to that.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
my new work view

Ready, set, on to the next adventure!

psalm 131

Psalm 131:1 – 3
Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—now and always.

This has to be one of the most simple, most profound Psalms I’ve read lately. I’m at that stage of “I haven’t spent enough time with you here” in my time with Jesus that totally betrays how much I’ve been starving myself. Guilty as charged—but also, not really, because I’m probably harder on myself than Jesus is. He’s just happy to see me at this point.

How can three verses be so convicting, so game changing?

I read the first few words with eyes burning and conscience seared. Am I really able to say this of myself? I don’t even feel like this is remotely true.

tumblr_myanc7gW7r1qb9pa3o1_500

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.

Oh, that it were true! Oh, that it were something I could say with confidence. What was David’s voice as he said it? Was it with questioning eyes turned heavenward, seeking an honest answer of correction if need be? Was it something he believed with a full an uninhibited trust?

My heart betrays me. My voice is thick with the pride and haughty sludge that churn in my core—how did I get here? I don’t feel anything spiritual, and maybe I don’t even feel any remorse yet. I still dully in my sin, only vaguely aware of it’s presence as I approach the throne, trepidation in my steps as I consider, Am I truly okay? Are we good here?

Oh, Lord Jesus. I don’t feel it, but I know it. I now my heart and my insides and I know how bitterly evil they have been. Every little photo I see, every comment, every situation I hear about; I hear the song of the Pharisee that you so quickly identified as “missing it” falling out of my mouth. “Thank goodness I am not these people”, I condescend casually as I lift eyes towards heaven, choking on my piety as I’m tripping over the man in the road; he’s too weak from the attack by the robbers to even call out to me.

I desire to be able to be still like a weaned child, but first comes the removal of pride and haughtiness. As frequent of visitors as they’ve become, they haven’t stayed so long that I cannot evict them without probable cause. But I fear I cannot even recognize them anymore—they blend into the surroundings of my soul with ease now.

Help me, help me, help me, Jesus.
I am lost without you.

our eyes are not big enough

I read something the other day that one of my friends posted about consistency being how they could feel and recognize Jesus.

It was interesting because I almost immediately disagreed with it. In fact, at least in my experience (whether it’s right or correct or not), I feel Jesus the least when my life is consistent. I think that’s why everything here has been so difficult for me.

I feel Jesus the most when I am out of my comfort zone, when I am insecure or when I’m forced to try something new. I feel Jesus when I smell pungent new smells, and see the colorful canvas of the wide world and free fall into the rolling plains. I feel Jesus when I have nothing but Jesus, and my words are inadequate because they aren’t understood. I feel Jesus when I don’t know what’s coming next and when I have to wait for Him to tell me what to do. I feel Jesus in the adventure—in the freedom from monotony and routine and obligation.

Sometimes I think Jesus is my only consistency in life, and I like it that way. I like the imagery of He and I, roaming around together. He’s the one who said a prophet isn’t accepted in his own town and the one who spent time traveling all around with twelve guys loving and caring for people all over—and it wasn’t even at His home.

Praise the living God—it is alright.

Jesus wandered.
Jesus wandered with purpose.
And Jesus is with me.

The joke is on both of us because Jesus is present in both the consistent monotony and the wild adventure. Maybe our eyes are not big enough to see Him as He really is, in all His splendor—being fully wild and fully dependable, fully God and fully man, fully strong and fully soft.

Oh, what a wonderful life it is to share with such a Creator.

“He’ll be coming and going” he had said. “One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down–and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” 

 C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

with everything but ourselves

Sometimes we don’t have words for those we love as they’re in turmoil. We can receive their words, try to comfort, do what we can. I’ve recently come to believe that none of really know what we’re doing or how to truly fix anything with ourselves or one another, even and especially sometimes when we’re walking with Jesus. I think what we need to do more often than not is to simply sit with our loves in the dark places, wordlessly, but physically present.

In Judaism there is this custom that believers have where they will enter into mourning for the dead for seven days. This custom is referred to as shiva. 

shi·va (ˈSHivə/)
noun
1. a period of seven days’ formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral. Ex. “She went to the funeral and sat shiva”.

I like the idea of people being brave enough to walk into atmospheres that they cannot fix, they cannot change and just being. It sounds vulnerable; I’m not usually comfortable walking into environments where I feel I have no solutions. Americans as a whole are conditioned to avoid this feeling, I think, because our whole culture seemed to be packaged with this stout-hearted, “I know what I’m doing and I have all the answers” mentality.

Sitting shiva.
Wordless.
Solution less.
But present.

There is a value in our presence that I don’t believe we fully understand. We’re so busy trying to fill the void with solutions, productivity—we search for neat and tidy conclusions in life where sometimes, I think, there are none to be found. It is not hopeless, and I hope that’s not the message that I’m conveying. There is something oddly intimately about being present with someone in shiva. I think something we’ve lost in the West here is that we fill the chasm of space between our bodies with everything but ourselves.

Maybe we don’t need answers.
Maybe we don’t need distraction,
or meaningless chatter,
or trite quips.

Maybe we need a look, a touch,
the skin of another human being,
soft and tender and warm,
saying, “I am here, and I am with you”.

For however long we have, we are together—without condition and reservation. This is our intimacy.

The opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy.
– Richard Bach

how we do this on that west side

11206019_10155643254895220_5126192768675363742_nRecently I was allowed to fly free for a few weeks on the West Coast with some of my dearest friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since my graduation (which was an upsetting three years ago, guys). I cannot even begin to put into words how rejuvenating it was for me to get out of the routine of my life here at home, clock out of the salon, leave my lipstick behind and just go. It didn’t come a moment too soon, since all work and no play was making me the dullest of boys.
giphy-facebook_s

I was definitely spoiled by my friends, with so much one-on-one conversation, slice-of-life moments, reminiscing and impossibly fun scenarios–like driving all over LA in a mini coop convertible, visiting La Jolla to see the sea lions and the beautiful, wild Pacific and a chilly evening at Dockweiler for a bonfire.
11257152_10155615674305220_351667488617879670_n

11141353_10155615720695220_6018609145871962649_n

11151071_10155626169040220_312303178295700785_n10501754_10206935101755591_3516896204813691471_nMore than anything, it was amazing to feel excited again. I’ve been so focused on doing all the responsible, consistent, adult things that I’d forgotten what it was like to really let loose and have a good time.

I had so many lovely moments like, breakfast at Crave with Meghan, followed by hours of thrifting and sharing life moments together. We’ve been consistently skyping on Wednesday nights for several months now; she’s come alongside me to be my community and share in Jesus time with me because of how I’ve been struggling with church lately. Somehow she managed to do about 50 hours of writing for her spec script, radio drama, pilot and host a weekly podcast twice, and still be emotionally available to me, host me for two weeks and cart me around for LA adventures. She’s a gem.
10520523_10155643253490220_6164372294628367685_nDay trips to San Diego and Griffith Park with the only Juan for me, who’s the biggest adventurer I know and makes everything epic regardless of what it looks like on the surface:

11350511_10155626169980220_9205882880423492479_n

11233500_10155626169680220_3769777081074565881_n

Slumber parties with Jenna, who’s still the feisty, little mama bird I remember her to be even though she’s got her own office and an assistant at the Dream Center and in charge of all the short term teams. I got to go out on the streets with her for Adopt a Block and go out to dinner with everyone for Lizzie’s birthday. Work hard, play harder:
11261691_10155615720405220_6650566907342921458_n20301_10155615720780220_2917313180792565303_n

11013368_10155615673615220_1211764635141579390_n

Jenna and Lizzie took me for my first tattoo experience at Alchemy Tattoo in Silver Lake the very first day I got there. What started as a consultation turned into getting the tattoo immediately since it was so simple. Shout out to the ladies for holding it down while I almost lost my cool in the moments leading up to the needle actually touching my skin.
11181873_10155615673680220_1763650329262669564_n17782_10155615550340220_2571254107121616422_nI’d been thinking about this tattoo for almost three months prior–I wanted something that I knew I would always look at with fondness, something I’d never regret. Africa was the first thing I thought of and I knew in my heart that was the one I wanted. I got a simple outline of the continent with a heart over Tanzania because I will always have a part of my heart left there. I got it on my shoulder because it’ll easily show with all the tank tops I wear, but will be easy to hide if I go overseas again with any basic t-shirt. It was just one more little adventure to have within my time in California.

Chelsea was actually the one who took the photo of my tattoo during one of our lovely little tea dates at the tea shop where she works which features a lot of really cool graffiti that I took advantage of. She’s a lovely soul and it’s so fun to see her “adulting”, as we call it, so successfully and see her giving heart to all she does.
11168031_10155615719940220_6244346845578417979_n-110983363_10155614861165220_5855377802720402432_n

There’s really too much to try and recount in a post. Many of you won’t know the friends I’m referring to, or possibly about the places I went. In the end, it’s a wonderfully personal time that brought life and light to my soul again–if we’re fortunate in life, we all have kindred spirits, illuminating moments like this. So imagine that when you read this, and I think you’ll meet me where I’m at.

11109707_10155626170100220_987005687808786738_n

Oh, Florida. It was hard to come back to you, but nothing is forever.

I thought I lost my heart way back in Florida
Then I found it in California…