Stefani's most-fantastical-reads book montage

Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows
Yellow Brick War
The Wicked Will Rise
Charm & Strange
Their Fractured Light
These Broken Stars
Big Little Lies
I'll Be There
Red Queen

Stefani's favorite books »

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I will never cease to be amazed at the human capacity to survive. Internally, I feel like absolute chaos - my heart has a hole in it, my soul hurts, my mind cannot stop the 'what-if' and 'I should have...' thoughts. It boggles my brain that I can still somehow get out of bed each morning, take care of my children, attempt to maintain relationships, and try to move forward.

All I know is that on my own, I would be nothing more than a puddle on the floor at this point. I am so thankful that He is with me through this.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A leap of {FAITH}

I was raised in church.

That statement has always been my 'get out of jail free' card when I am asked about my religion. I would explain that I was baptized, confirmed, and married in the Lutheran Church that my mom was raised in. I attended Sunday worship with my mom and grandma, took part in Sunday school, sang in the choir, and lit candles before the service. I sang hymns {once I figured out how to read the music in our ancient hymnals} that I didn't understand, knew when to say Amen, recited the Lord's Prayer, took communion, shook hands with our pastor, and sat patiently while our pastor delivered his weekly sermon.

But I never GOT IT.

I had faith in God, understood that Jesus was my salvation and had died for my sins, knew that the bible taught us how to lead a good and respectable life, and felt guilt before God when I did something that I knew was wrong. But still, I didn't GET IT. I went through the motions but I stopped short of actually living in faith. I BELIEVED it but I didn't LIVE it.

Around the time that I turned 14, I quit attending church. I was rebelling in countless ways, and this was surely one of them. My early teenage years were also filled with a host of other regrettable choices - and I'll save those for another post {or maybe not, they are not moments that I am proud of at all}. Things started to improve as I approached high school graduation and began to see that life extended beyond our small town. I moved away to college, met a boy, fell in love, and got engaged. As I was planning our wedding, I knew that I wanted to get married in my home church - where my parents had also said their vows. That desire sparked an interest to find a church in Pullman where I could feel at home while we were living there. I tried a few but never went back - it was too different from what I knew, it was too similar to what I knew, that people weren't friendly, the people were too friendly, the service was too early, the service was too late... and on and on. I found something wrong with every church I tried. So, what did I do? Yep, I quit trying. I gave up and went back to life as I knew it. I wanted to find a church that I loved but I had come to terms with the idea that maybe 'my' church just didn't exist. You see, at this time I wanted all of the perks of a church - friends, tradition, the warm fuzzy that comes with a great sermon - without the obligation of being a part of the church. The fastest way to get me to run was to tell me I needed to talk to strangers about Jesus, or get involved with bible study, or any other host of activities that required my involvement beyond holding down a pew on Sunday morning.

Things didn't change when we moved to the Yakima Valley. I tried a few churches, found flaws in all of them, and returned to my days of sleeping in on Sunday morning. Embarrassingly enough, I did drag Derek to various services on Christmas or Easter, but that was the extent of our spiritual journey for the year. Around Christmas in 2008, I started attending First Presbyterian Church in Yakima with a friend. We went together several times after Christmas and on the I spent the hours after discovering that I was pregnant in church there. We continued to attend services on Sunday there for a while - but soon the job of being pregnant started taking it's toll and sleep became invaluable. Then I ended up on bed rest and any hope of me making my way to church went out the window. Being a new parent wasn't any easier, in fact - having a kid in tow made it even harder to 'sample' churches because I had to find a fit for both of us. So, true to my nature, I gave up again. You can pretty much see how this pattern continued for the past several years - try, give up, wish harder, repeat.

Then, this January I made a choice. I always knew I wanted my children to grow up in church - like I did. I knew that First Pres had a great preschool program and it was the only church here in the valley that I had ever attended with any consistency, so even though I didn't know a soul, Addison and I started going. I would get there just before the service started, drop her off downstairs for KidZone, and then find a seat in the back of the sanctuary and feel like all eyes were on the woman who was sitting ALONE. Every service we stand up and greet the people around us and I would watch as everyone else hugged and waved and greeted people by name... and then they politely shook my hand and said hello. It was awkward and I never saw the same person twice, even when I searched for them. So what kept me going this winter, when I would have normally chosen the less 'scary' path and stayed home? Easy. My daughter fell in love with Christ.

Addison was coming home and wanting to say prayers, was asking about Jesus, and was SO looking forward to Sundays. She would ask me two questions every day after I picked her up from daycare - 'Did we get to go to Gymnastics?' and 'Did we get to go to church?' If I had any reservations about sticking it out, they disappeared right there. I knew that, at least for the foreseeable future, we had found a church.

Now, if you go back and look at the first paragraph of this post, I explained very clearly that I was raised in church. That was the only religious experience I have ever known. I would hear people talk about being 'reborn', I would see people with their hands raised in worship, and I was judgy. If this is an honest post about the changes in me, then I have to address this part - even though it's embarrassing and makes me feel like an awful person for admitting it. The more religious a person was, the more uncomfortable I was and the more I judged. Coming from someone who was 'raised in church' this should be appalling, right? If anyone confronted me about my faith, I quickly changed the subject. My faith was a person relationship with God and I had NO desire to share it or explain it to anyone. The more people pushed {read: encouraged} the more I pulled back. I didn't pray - honestly, I didn't know how to. Growing up in the Missouri Synod, we only prayed very formal prayers. I had no idea how to 'talk to God'. I didn't know if I had to be on my knees with my hands folded or if I could pray as I was driving down the freeway or delivering a lesson in class. I grew up in church and I had religion - but I didn't have FAITH.

So, remember two minutes ago where I said I got all judgy and freaked out when people talked about being 'born again' and all that? Yah, that's where I'm going now.

I can't remember the date specifically - I *think* it was shortly before Easter... or after... I don't really know. There was a large cross up in front of the alter and at some point in the service, Pastor had each member of the congregation select a rock out of a basket. There were rocks of every color and shape and we were to pick one rock to represent our sins. I picked a very shiny, simple black rock. I held onto it throughout the sermon and listened as Pastor talked about how if we truly repent our sins, that they are taken away. Not just forgiven, but FORGOTTEN. As I sat there, I thought of all my sins... and let's be honest - I had quite a list, from petty to incredibly serious. Some were recent {from that morning even} and some were old shames from years and years ago. As I thought through all of these mistakes and wrong-doings, I clung to that rock. Toward the end of the sermon, as we were called to come forward and cast our stones at the foot of the cross, I would have sworn that it weighed significantly more than it did when I first selected it. When it was my turn, I very deliberately placed my rock under the cross.

Was there an immediate lifting of my soul? No. Did I feel as if my faith was instantly renewed? Nope. But I felt something... and I don't have words to describe it - there was a subtle shift after that day. Small things started to change in my life... I started sitting closer to the front in church, I made an effort to seek out people my age and connect with them, I started having conversations with Addison about God, and - most importantly to me - I started praying. For the first time in my life, I was TALKING to God. Not begging, not making a wish list of what I wanted him to do - but truly asking for things like patience, guidance, continued faith, and forgiveness. I also prayed for a way to connect more with the people at our church.

For as long as I can remember, I have likened volunteering at church with daycare, potlucks, and the little white haired ladies of my childhood. I couldn't visualize myself being involved at church - I couldn't imagine how I could be of use. Then, one day just before spring break, there was a presentation during worship as the high school youth group prepared to go on a mission to New York to feed the homeless. During that same presentation, there was mention of a need for adults to volunteer for day and weekend camp during the summer. It hit me {yes, I know this should have been a DUH moment, but sometimes it takes awhile for me to catch on}. I work with teenagers. I love it. WHY IN THE WORLD wouldn't I want to use that passion in the church?? So, I signed up to volunteer at day camp and at VBS. I was 'hired' to do day camp, but our anniversary trip {and, it turned out, the passing of my dad} prevented that opportunity from coming to fruition this year. However, I did volunteer at VBS and had an AMAZING time. The people, the kids, the messages were all incredible and I know that I will be planning my summer around VBS week next year and in the years to come. I also want to find a way {read: childcare} so I can volunteer at the Madison House during the next school year. I would love to tutor once or twice a week and I would be thrilled if I could find a way to have my kids there with me. I think that it's so important that they grow up understanding how important it is to help others and also to appreciate how good they have it and how so many others in our community are not as fortunate.

So, yes, I was raised in church. But I don't think I was raised in faith. I believe that I found faith this year and I believe that it happened at this point in my life for a reason. My mom and I went to First Pres in February when she was here visiting, and that was the first time Addison attended Sunday school. I have only missed three Sunday's since - once because I had the flu and two when I was in Vegas/Mesa. In the few short months before my dad passed away, I found faith - not religion - {FAITH}. Beautiful, strong, unwavering, amazing, FAITH. I know that I was pulled back to the church when I was because I needed that connection, that relationship, that understanding, and that support to be built into my life before I lost my dad. I know that my daughter needed that foundation and understanding to help her comprehend that her Papa was gone but living on somewhere so much more glorious. I wish that all of you on the interwebs could hear her talk honestly about where her Papa is. It's amazing that so much compassion and faith can fit into such a little body.

{I keep trying to write an ending paragraph for this post and each time I read over it and delete it... so I will leave it at this - I have come a long way in my journey but I have so much farther to go. Blessings.}

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