I know some pretty amazing women. These women are driven, filled with faith, and I feel there is so much we can learn from each one and her personal journey. These church ladies break all molds and reflect God beautifully in so many different ways.
Today, it’s a gift to have Stephanie B. join us. She sheds light on some extremely important topics that no one likes to speak about. On Modern Witnesses, she shares with us thoughts about experiencing loss, God’s healing, and what God told her after an overwhelming week for the nation.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: 2 Timothy 1:7 all the way: “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: Patience. Patience and loving others who are hard(er) to love. God is constantly trying to teach me how to better do both of these things.
Profession: Librarian! Specifically: Youth Services. Which means that I get to do it all: collection development, displays, Baby Storytime, STEAM programming, teen programming, social media for the library, etc., etc.
A one sentence bio of yourself: Drinks far too much coffee, snorts when she laughs, tells people I love you an inordinate amount of times per day, and goes for car rides with the sole purpose of scream singing in order to relax.
“…tells people I love you an inordinate amount of times per day, and goes for car rides with the sole purpose of scream singing in order to relax.”
When did you first encounter God: This is a hard one to answer because I was raised in a Christian home, so you’d think that I would have encountered Him at a young age. But, really, if I’m being honest with myself, and with you, it wasn’t until I was almost 20.
It was after my freshman year of college.
I hadn’t told my mom about the sexual abuse I had lived through, and I was so angry—so messed up. I was depressed. I thought about opening the car door on the highway and falling out. I thought about stepping out into oncoming traffic. I thought about lying down in the middle of the street and waiting, hoping the car wouldn’t miss. All of my escape plans had to do with cars. There were no pills, no knives, no guns, nothing I could stop if I wanted to. I almost did it, too.
It was in the afternoon on a day so hot that it was miserable out. The flowers I had planted by the mailbox for mom were already dying—they never made it longer than a month or so—and I was alone in my room, having a breakdown.
I was hurting, and no one seemed to notice. Nothing was getting better. Every day was dreadful to get through. I couldn’t sleep. I stayed awake with anxiety each night until I was so tired that my body and mind couldn’t push through anymore—usually around 4:00 a.m.—and eventually, just passed out. Mom talked to me day after day, told me I needed to get a job and that I couldn’t sit around doing nothing all summer long. She didn’t know though, because I didn’t talk to anyone about what I was and wasn’t feeling. I was barely holding on.
“I was hurting, and no one seemed to notice.”
I was ready to disappear, but instead, I wrote. And I prayed. Even now, years later, it’s hard to explain what happened that day. All I know is that out of nowhere I felt full, and warm, like all the space inside of me—whatever had been missing—was no longer empty. It was like snuggling up on the couch on a cold day wrapped in your favorite fuzzy blanket, with your favorite book in your lap, and your favorite warm beverage in your hand. I felt like I knew that I had purpose, even though I still had no idea what that purpose was. I felt like I knew that even though the world was so incredibly broken, there was still good out there. I could feel it, I could see it in my mind, and I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I didn’t know it then, but I’m sure of it now: that moment, that feeling? That was the Holy Spirit. That was God.
“That was the Holy Spirit. That was God.”
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season?
Loss (and not being able to have what I want, when I want it). I try to be very open about this, but it’s also not a conversation I want to (or can, whether physically or emotionally) start up often: my husband and I have lost two babies within the past year. Miscarriages. When we lost the first, I thought it was going to break me. I read Psalm 147:3 over and over and over. When we lost the second, my heart was already more guarded, and I was more frustrated than sad. Heartbroken, but very much so wondering why.
More than anything, these losses have helped me to grow closer to God. These losses have helped me to trust Him, have helped to remind me that it’s not my timing, but His. Have helped me to know that it’s okay to not know everything. That I don’t need to know everything. Knowing everything? That’s God’s job. And my job? My job is to trust Him.
“Knowing everything? That’s God’s job. And my job? My job is to trust Him.”
Top three essentials: Love, grace, forgiveness.
How did God speak to you recently? A lot happened [yesterday]. There was the Las Vegas shooting, and then, locally, there was a friend’s brother’s best friend who shot himself in front of his teenage son, and more. My heart was heavy. And then this morning, I woke up to a text from my husband (who is a deputy and who sometimes works nights) saying that he needed to get a Bible for someone.
Quick background: My husband and I have talked often about witnessing to others, about inviting others to our church, about talking with others about Jesus and Christianity in general, and my husband is at a place in his walk with Christ where he’s just not comfortable doing any of this.
Fast forward to this morning, when my husband walked in the door, and I saw his text: I asked about it, and my husband told me that the Bible is for a 15-year-old boy (whose house and family my husband and other officers know well). My husband said that out of all the times he’s gone to a call at the boy’s house, he (the boy) has never mentioned God, and then last night he did, and my husband asked him if he had ever read the Bible (he hasn’t) and talked with him about the difference between the Old and New Testaments and about Jesus and told him he would bring a Bible to him next week.
To me this is God saying, It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. I’m still here. I never left. To me this is a reminder to not get bogged down by all of the hatred and sadness and hurt in the world, because that’s easy to do. To me this is a reminder that He is in control, and that He is good.
“To me this is God saying, It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. I’m still here. I never left.“
Hobby: Writing, reading, hiking, singing, playing the guitar, and sketching (badly).
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
1. Stay in the Word. Read your Bible, read your Bible, read your Bible. We have got to fill ourselves up before we can fill others up.
2. Pray. Talk to God about everything and anything. What are you thankful for? What are you worried about? What do you need help with? Tell Him. Ask Him.
3. Fellowship. Find other women and/or men of God and allow them to lift you up. And help to lift them up. We can’t do this alone.
Favorite person in scripture: Esther! Her story, though only 10 chapters, is part of a much larger story that goes from Abraham to Christ. If Haman had succeeded in his plan of killing all the Jews in one day, the Jewish people as a whole would be gone, and God’s saving work through Abraham’s descendants would never have happened. Jesus would have never happened. There would be no gospel, no Christian church. But God watches over his own, and He chose Esther to stand up to Haman and save the Jews.
“But God watches over his own…”
It’s just crazy to think about all the things that we may see as small happenings but that are actually, in the grand scheme of things, huge. Esther preparing a banquet, revealing Haman’s plot, and saving the Jews made it possible that, through the line of Abraham, Jesus would still be born. Who knows what sort of work God is doing in our own lives each day? Maybe we’re late to work because God is saving us from something bigger happening. Maybe we take a chance and go to the event and end up meeting our future spouse. Maybe we go left instead of right, maybe we skip the coffee, maybe we take a day for ourselves, maybe we try something new, etc. etc.
“Who knows what sort of work God is doing in our own lives each day? Maybe we’re late to work because God is saving us from something bigger happening. Maybe we take a chance and go to the event and end up meeting our future spouse.”
And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? – Esther 4:14
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? I want people to learn that our God is a God of redemption and forgiveness and love. I want people to look at me and see that God can take someone who is hurt and broken and angry and who doesn’t even want to live anymore and grow her into someone who loves fiercely, who forgives, who trusts again, and who does her best to love God and love others with all her heart and all her soul and all her mind each and every day. I want them to learn that He heals, and He loves, and He forgives, and He. is. everything. That hole you feel, deep in your soul? He fills it. I’m not empty anymore, you know? And that’s all God.
“I’m not empty anymore, you know? And that’s all God.”
Favorite season? Autumn. Give me mountains of yellow and orange and red. Give me pumpkin spice everything. Give me hot chocolate and apple cider in a mug outside on the porch swing with a blanket. Give me leaves crunching under my feet, scarves warm around my neck, hands that need holding and warming. Give me fall. Give me autumn.
Favorite holiday? Christmas. Does everyone say that? I just can’t get over it. Family, traditions, lights, trees, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: My sister has had cancer five times and had a bone marrow transplant 20 years ago, and so every April we celebrate what we call her bone marrow birthday.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? “Did I make you proud?”
Thing you want to raise awareness about:
Sexual abuse. (Specifically: childhood sexual abuse.) People don’t talk about this (it’s a really uncomfortable topic), but there are so many of us–survivors–out there.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re a fellow survivor. Maybe the abuse happened years ago–5, 10, 20 years–or maybe it’s still happening now. Know that you’re not alone. Know that God loves you. Know that I love you. Know that there’s hope, and love, and help.
What do you usually do before 9 a.m.? Wake up, (this includes but is not limited to: rolling around in bed refusing to accept that it’s already 5:00 a.m, snuggling the pups and husband, streeeetching, checking phone bleary eyed, etc.), shower/get dressed, make coffee, kiss and snuggle and pray with my husband before he leaves if he’s on day shift; kiss and snuggle and send husband off to bed if he’s on night shift and just got home, walk the pups, study my Bible/read/write in my journal, and drive to work while blasting whatever Praise & Worship songs I’m practicing for Sunday (I sing on the Praise Team at my church) and/or my Jesus playlist on Spotify.
What is on your nightstand? Currently: a glass with about an inch of water left in it (because one of my quirks is that I rarely ever finish any drink), my journal/pen, and Les Mis.
For more Stephanie B.:
Until next time, keep witnessing!