Being Back, Dressember & Being Sexier in the New Year

I have not forgotten you, my little blog. I have missed you, but been too overwhelmed by the vast array of mayonnaise options and soft drinks to sit down and process anything via writing. 

I can feel that I’ve been missing it too. I can’t even journal because all that bleeds out of my pen onto paper is a variation of the phrase:

I don’t know how to feel. It’s all just weird.

Not bad, just odd. I mostly have questions about why we do this and value that… questions I never used to have. Thankfully I’ve been prepping myself for the overwhelming materialism and individuality complexes for months, so I wasn’t as stunned as I thought I’d be.

I mean, I won’t lie. When I saw my sister’s 37 pairs of shoes that all looked similar to me (Miss Minimalist three pairs of shoes for the past year), I definitely felt the excess, which was following by a subtle longing to have that many options for matching with outfits, which was followed involuntarily by a rebuke in my mind along the lines of “But you don’t need that many shoes, Steph.” Thoughts of my kids with shoes that are badly worn or none at all are hard to get out of my mind. 

The eternal conundrum of my life, you guys. ‘Merica.

My biggest frustration is at how well-informed, opinionated and influential we are as a nation (or at the very least have the opportunity to be) and how we feel that’s enough. I’m terrified of being another voice riddled with pretension and superiority (because I’ve seen things) or even another voice with valid opinions and biblical wisdom, only to remain in the sidelines convinced that pretty words are enough and that action is for the radical elite (and I’ve already paid my dues). I’m thankful for the people in my life that show me that not every American is all talk, no action, all education, no change, because they get me off my high-horse and remind me again of the lesson I should have never forgotten after a year of being judged based on my skin: Stereotypes are generalizations about the culture and aren’t true for everyone.

There are world changers and lovers and fighters for justice… even here in America. Forgive my haughtiness and my quick judgements on a culture that I’m attempting to relearn again. I never was very kind or humble on my own anyway.

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Speaking of world changers, I’m thankful for Blythe Hill and everyone at International Justice Mission, especially this past month. I participated in 26 of the 31 days of Dressember last month to celebrate femininity and raise financial support for IJM; with the funds raised they’re able to combat sex trafficking on a international and domestic level. I’ve been aware of sex trafficking for years and have wanted to help be a voice for the voiceless, as they say. I’m admittedly not the most feminine girl you’ll meet, so this last month was a challenge, especially since I’d just barely returned from Tanzania, but I’m honored to have “decided to try”, as the campaign challenged. I myself raised a very small amount of $230 towards the overall total of $130k, but again, it was my honor to be involved in any way. It also really helped me defeat some of the feelings of pointlessness that inevitably surface when you go from playing mommy for dozens of kids to having the largest dilemma of your day be what shirt matches with these pants?

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And it’s a new year, everyone. 

Happy 2014 to you all. I hope that you do enough looking forward to be excited for the future and enough looking back to remember all the ways you’ve grown and overcome in the past 12 months of 2013.

Last year I was in Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika ringing the the New Year with fireworks with the Rasmussens and our team. This year I was snug inside with Tori and Kari watching the ball drop on Long Island, NY. It’s hard to say where I’ll be next year at this point.

On my end, I’ve been pondering about resolutions, as we’re all prone to do this time of year. Last year I shared a bit about how I didn’t want to make resolutions, and gave a list of first time for 2012–this year I actually want to make some resolutions. Something I’ve noticed is most of my energy goes into thinking of ways I can improve myself: more bible time, more gym time, more reading up on classic literature time (none of which are bad, and some of which I’ll being trying to do as well. Discipline is not my nature mode of operation).

…Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

– Philippians 2:3 – 4 

The point I’m making is that I can’t name a single year I’ve ever made a resolution with someone other than myself in mind. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if I hadn’t been out of the country for a year, but with that long absence comes an uncomfortable awareness of exactly how individualistic and self-focused I’m prone to be. This is a very Western mindset, that we somehow support, even in Christian circles, by turning Christianity into a “be a better, smarter, wealthier, sexier you” self-help program, instead of a life fueled the Spirit, grace and discipline that comes from esteeming God as the highest prize in our lives.

Even as I write now, I write in a state of musing. I’ve been wondering how I can dedicate more of myself, my time, my resources to others, to people I know and love in 2014, and while I can’t present a monthly schematic of how I want to implement that, I have ideas and something in me tells me that it’s a step in the right direction.

I’ve been told that as a returning missionary, the worst thing I can do is use the phrase “I’d like to challenge you all to (fill in the blank)”, so I’m going to make an effort to not do that. Instead, I’m going to try something a bit new on my blog that has previously been more of a monologue than a dialogue, by asking a question:

How can you and I strive to put others before ourselves, fight for the defenseless and “change the world” right where we are at this point in our lives, as the word of God has very specifically asked us to?

Have at it! I’d love to hear everyone’s input. I have a few ideas, but I could always use more, and I love hearing about all of God’s people functioning in their circles and bringing Him honor in all they do. We’re built for love and for community, so let’s live it. Let’s make ask Him to make His word a reality in our lives this year on all levels. You all are an encouragement to me and help keep me going when I want to give up, so let’s help each other. Get creative, blog, share, do! 

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