Audience of One

We all fall short

In our daily lives

So much happens

And we begin to strive.

When perfection is the goal

Our lives are out of whack

The frustration settles in

And we focus on our lack.

We forget to whom we belong

That we are sisters of the Son

Remember that your target audience

Is an audience of one.

Stephanie Weber, 07.28.2018

My Walk to Emmaus

72 hours in a church with a bunch of women with the goal of growing closer to God. What could possibly go wrong? My mind was kind enough to make a list for me to choose from:

  1. I’m not enough.
  2. They won’t like me.
  3. I won’t like them.
  4. I’m too stupid to “get it”.
  5. I will be the only one to NOT “get it”.
  6. There will be drama.
  7. I won’t be comfortable.
  8. I’ll laugh inappropriately (see #2).
  9. I’ll say something inappropriate.
  10. I’ll cause an argument (see #9).

Those are just the top 10. There were plenty of other reasons to fear the unknown.

I never expected my ENTIRE list to become irrelevant.

I never expected to encounter love and acceptance. I never expected to bond with women. I never expected to laugh so hard that I thought I would wet myself – many times. (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t wet myself on any occasion. #miracle)

What I found was a safe environment full of so many women with the same fears. These women are now my sisters.

I spoke to the Spiritual Director the first night and told him that I couldn’t understand the vastness of God’s love. He assured me I would have an understanding by the end of the weekend. I just needed to pray for God to show me His goodness. I went to bed halfheartedly believing his advice, but still afraid I was unreachable.

While I was waiting to speak with the pastor, I was asking God why He wasn’t speaking to me when a thought popped into my mind: Colossians 423. I picked up the Bible in the pew and was more than slightly irritated to find that Colossians ends at 18. (See? I can’t even hear God correctly!)

I closed the Bible and went to put it back when something told me 4:2-3. (Yeah. Sure. Let me look again. Sigh.) Fine. Flipping to those verses, I found this:

“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains,” Colossians 4:2‭-‬3 CSB

Um. Wow.

That was how it began. Maybe I wasn’t too stupid for the weekend after all.

I was seated at a table with strangers. All of us had our guards up. All of us were careful to share only pieces of our stories without going too deep. That was Day 1.

Over the course of the next two days, we began to open up more and to learn that people really cared. We stepped out of our comfort zones. We showed genuine love to one another. We discussed the events that unfolded with transparency and honesty.

We were emotionally wrecked many times during those days as God opened our hearts to each other, and to Him. We comforted each other, encouraged each other, laughed together, ate together, and cried together.

By the end of the weekend, I could say with absolute confidence that the Spiritual Director was correct: I do understand.

After one of the talks, I felt led to write a poem. Our summary of the talk focused on the fact that the strive for perfection can be paralyzing and perfection is unattainable. We merely need to consider our audience of one.

The poem appears in the next post, titled “Audience of One” (https://walkbyfaith3blog.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/audience-of-one/).

My Walk to Emmaus was more incredible than I ever expected. I firmly believe every Christian should take this walk. It’s a game-changer.

I witnessed many miracles over those 72 hours. The women at that table on Day 3 were NOT the same women we were on Day 1. Transformation occurred before my eyes. Hearts were wide open, love flowed freely, and trust was reciprocated without hesitation.

God was with us. He is still with us. He will be there all of the tomorrows of our lives. And guess what: he loves us. Unconditionally, irrevocably, vastly. He loves us where we are for WHO we are. Claim that love, friends. It’s a gift, just for you. You don’t have to change a thing..

Choices

Doubts, shame, guilt, and feelings of inadequacy creep into our minds daily. The enemy is relentless in his attempts to distract us from keeping our eyes on what God has for us. This is a fact. However, we often give the enemy way too much credit for his actions. We think of the enemy as a powerful being, forgetting that we end up doing most of the damage ourselves.

Sure, he will lay a trap to ensnare us, but all he can do is suggest something. He cannot make it happen. He weaves a web that we all too willingly walk into, then spend all of our time fighting to break free – while we actually entangle ourselves more – until we are so exhausted that we forget that he isn’t as powerful as we think.

Think about it…. If the enemy was so powerful, why would he have to flee at the whisper of one word: Jesus?

Sure. That jerk seems all big and bad, but really he is a coward. He is no match for the Lord. What’s even more important is that he knows he isn’t that powerful! Yeah, he’s full of himself, deceitful, cunning, calculating, but powerful? Ummmm. Nope. Survey says: #theenemyisaloser.

True power comes from Heaven, not from Hell. Jesus is THE way. THE truth. THE life. He is perfect. The enemy is a spoiled toddler all jacked up on sugary candy after missing naptime, and late for night-night time: annoying, destructive, divisive, rude.

So how do we fight back? How do we overcome darkness? By focusing on truth. When we call on the Lord, He steps in. He saves us from the enemy. He saves us from ourselves. When we bring Jesus into the fight, the enemy runs off. It’s not that he doesn’t stick around; it’s that he cannot stick around. He’s no match for the Savior. Satan knows this, but he counts on us not knowing that fact. He hopes that we continue working ourselves deeper into the traps he has laid, but he cannot actually do anything to us. It’s all up to us to do damage.

We choose to listen to lies spoken over us. We choose to relive our past mistakes. We choose to live in shame. We choose to live in isolation. We choose to question why God would choose us for anything. We choose to give up and live in complacency, delaying – or even forfeiting – our purpose. The power of the enemy comes from our willingness to believe his lies.

When the enemy lays that next trap, speak truth and call on the name that sends that little weasel scurrying like a cockroach when light appears (which is pretty much what he is, among other things). Praise God during the hard times. Right there in the midst of the “stuff”, while you’re still tangled up in all of the lies, doubt, shame, and inadequacy. Even when it seems like everything is falling apart around you. Even when it seems hopeless. Praise, praise, praise! Embrace light and turn from the darkness that threatens souls.

Dear friends, remember whose you are. You belong to the King of Kings, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord of Lords. Matchless. Timeless. Relentless. He’s standing with you, even when you don’t feel Him, but He won’t step in until you ask Him because we were created to have free choice: the choice to believe the only thing the enemy can speak (lies), or the choice to believe the only thing God can speak (truth). The choice to live in fear and shame, or the choice to embrace the freedom that comes from the truth.

Just. Be. Still.

When the tears fall down
And the hurt just won’t end
When you fell all alone
By yourself, without a friend.

When sleep eludes you
And your hunger starts to fade
When the pain overwhelms
All of your exhausted days.

Raise your hands
Close your eyes
Open your heart to me
I’m right here by your side.
Just. Be. Still.

Be still and know I’m God
I’ll never let you fall
I’ll guide you through your day
When troubles come to call.

You are my creation
So very precious in My sight
Beautiful beloved
I’ll change the wrongs to right
If you can just. Be. Still.

When others turn away
And the past controls your mind
When doors seem to close
And you fear being left behind.

Just run into my arms
They are open wide for you
Press in and hold on tight
Old things becoming new
And just. Be. Still.

When you think you’re not enough
And you’ve failed at all you’ve tried
Remember that I am here

Catching every tear you’ve cried.

Just put your trust in Me
And fix your eyes upon My face
Lose yourself in peace
And accept My offered grace.
And Just. Be. Still.

– Stephanie Weber, 1.15.2018

My Tribe

Friendship is on my heart these days. God has placed me in the middle of some amazing people who support me, encourage me, and – yes – call me on my bull. I always thought I had a lot of friends, but I’ve had so many people I thought were friends leave my life over the years. Being one who excels in self-loathing, I always blamed myself for not being “enough”. In some cases, the fault is mine. However, as I experience true friendship, I realize that some of those exits were not my fault after all. I call those blessings.

Friends build each other up. They stand tall next to you on the tough days. They fight with you – and for you when you can’t find your strength. They comfort you. They give you reality checks. They cry with you. They laugh with you. They do life with you.

A true friend sees your worth when you are defeated. A true friend is there regardless of impacts. If someone is only your “friend” in private and leaves you to wait out the storms on your own, that isn’t a friend. They don’t opt to leave you behind because they “are not allowed” to be your friend, according to others.

I never understood how powerful friendship can be and how important it is to have such amazing people in your life, but, as my faith grows, so do my friendships. I seek out the people who love me and distance myself from those who do not support me.

I’m quirky and my friends embrace my craziness. They love me for who I am. They don’t expect me to be anything I am not. They help me work through my (many) issues. They answer my phone calls and texts. They remind me that this world needs me. For these reminders, I am truly grateful.

The people who love me when I am not very loveable are my heroes. They respect my opinions and, even when we disagree, they have my back and we respect each other.

When they call me out on my crap, they do it with love and honesty. They don’t belittle my opinions or call me names. They don’t tolerate people talking about me behind my back. They stand up for me even when I am not there to defend myself.

We are smack-dab in the midst of teenage drama and having to tell my kind-hearted child that people who don’t respect her are not her friends is heartbreaking. For the life of me, I cannot understand how kids can be so cruel. Adults, too. Rather than talking about people behind their backs, maybe reach out to them to see if they need help. Show them you understand if they are in pain. Show them they matter rather than cut them down.

If you have a friend who has a business, help them pass the word. If you have a friend who struggles with feeling loved, tell them how you feel about them.

This world is challenging, to say the least, but if we do life together and invest in each other, we truly can make a difference. In some cases, kindness can be the difference between life and death.

God puts people in our path to teach us, to test us, and to love us. When he places you in a circle of friends that know Him, the challenges are opportunities for growth. We develop a greater capacity to love others. There will always be differences between us and we won’t always see eye to eye, but when we focus on Him, we make it through. We learn that broken “friendships” are His protection. After the hurt has healed, we can see how wrong that person was for us.

When we love each other as Christ loves us, we grow in our faith. We learn the importance of friendship and we grow closer to The Lord.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17 NIV

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
John 15:13 NIV

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17 NIV

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34 NIV

Broken Places

We are all broken in various ways. We beat ourselves up, question our purpose, and magnify our shortcomings. Things others likely do not even notice become our greatest sources of shame.

The things we hold onto out of the fear that others won’t find us valuable consume our thoughts. This is what the enemy wants. He wants us isolated, living in fear. If he can keep us locked up in our own version of hell, we cannot do what God intends for us to do.

The enemy is a jerk. He doesn’t fight fair. Anytime he can, he will derail our walk with the Lord. Why? Because we allow it. We allow his antics to flourish because we believe his lies.

What he doesn’t want you to know is that he cannot stop you. He’s not that powerful. He merely plants the seed and leaves the rest to you. He wants you to forget that simply saying, “Jesus” will make him run like the coward he is.

He also doesn’t want you to realize that those very pieces of your life that are wrapped in shame have no power when exposed to the light. When we keep our secrets hidden, darkness runs our lives. When we speak of our shameful missteps, they vanish. They become part of who we were. Our past. Our former self. When we open up about such things, God will use these events to reach others who are lost.

When we share our secret shame, God is able to restore and redeem us. If we keep these items hidden, He cannot heal us. When we surrender them to God by talking about them, we see his miraculous restoration at work. We are made new and the chains of the past fall away.

The enemy wants to keep you in bondage to your shame so that others cannot connect with your story. So that you can’t reach a lost soul. So that you cannot offer the hope that can only be found in Jesus.

These broken places of ourselves are necessary. Not to punish us. Not to relive past offenses. Not to keep us mired in shame. No. These broken places are the ones that make us relatable to others in need of hope.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5‭-‬7 NIV

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
Romans 3:23 NIV

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

Vulnerability? Check.

Vulnerability is a word that strikes fear in my heart. Who wants to open themself up to rejection and ridicule? I mean, seriously. Come. Onnnnn. Yeah. Just no. No thanks. Uh uh. Nope.

I’ve had this word rattling around in my brain for a week, with no clue what to do with it. As always, though, it finally clicked.

For weeks, I have been told from various sources that to grow your faith, you have to step out and do things you would never ordinarily do. Stretch. Reach. Get out of your comfort zone. You get the picture. So tonight I did step out in faith.

When I write, the words are not my own. They flow out of me and onto the paper. Sound cliché? Yeah, I know, but I am serious. I can only write when I am being still.

Over the last several months, “be still” has been bombarding me. At first, I was thinking, “How can I be still? I have so much to do! I’ll be still later. Not now.” The Lord showed me that being still doesn’t mean resting on my hiney and doing nothing. It means having faith and trusting God to handle the tough stuff. Resting in Him. Handing it over. Letting Him turn it to good. I have control issues, but am learning to trust Him.

I’ve written poems, that may one day become lyrics. Or not. We shall see. Tonight I was blessed to be able to read one of them (“Just. Be. Still.”) to a (captive?) audience at our worship night.

I was still, lost in worship, until right before it was my turn to go up and read. Then the lies began. “It’s not good enough. You’re an idiot. What are you doing?! Do you really think you should do this here? You’re not pretty enough.” What the last one has to do with reading a poem is unclear to me, but the enemy doesn’t fight fairly.

As I took the microphone, tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t speak. Finally, voice wavering, the words came. I read the poem. I conquered that fear. In that moment, the enemy lost his stronghold over my writing.

As I hurried away from the front of the room, I felt peace. I felt love. I felt loved. God had it under control. He had my back. Those words came from quiet time with Him and I gave them back to Him – and hopefully to others. That was my worship. My vulnerable worship.

The support was positive and incredible. No ridicule, no rejection. Just love. Had I not been willing to be vulnerable, I would have lived in fear, doubt, and indecision, perhaps never sharing anything in public.

This was a vulnerability unlike anything I’ve ever had before. It was a “Jesus, take the wheel” kind of thing. It was a “show me how to do this” moment. As a friend said to me, it was obedience.

When we step outside of our comfort zone into the unknown to bring glory to the Father, we open ourselves up to blessings – for both ourselves and others. We can share His goodness and power with those who need to hear it.

Anyone who knows me knows I am happy to be in the background. Most of the time that is fine, but there are times when we have to show others what miracles He can perform if we surrender our hearts and be vulnerable for just a hot second.

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” (Psalm 46:10 NIV)

Through the Fire

In this life, so much can change in an instant. People come into your life. Others leave. Health is fragile. Temporary fondness is mistaken for true love. Jobs are lost. Callings are found. Basically, we all go through “stuff”.

When the trajectory of our life changes, we are often left wondering how we will be able to go on in the “new way”. Yet, somehow, we do. Sometimes, we even thrive because that “new way” is just what we needed to move forward.

Faith shows itself in so many ways. We learn to focus on what we believe and hold tightly to the hope that comes along with our faith. While we may be afraid to actually “dream big”, our faith slowly moves the mark so that things we were once afraid to try seem possible and even logical. Baby steps get us to step out of our comfort zone.

Sometimes the changes we encounter are more than we can believe we can handle. Faith encourages us to take one small step and restores our hope.

In the midst of a crisis, we can flee or we can fly. We weigh the options and choose to either give up or to press on. It’s all based on faith. What we often miss is that our faith doesn’t have to be monumental. We are told we need faith only the size of a mustard seed.

Today, I was led to a passage that showed the power of a strong, unshakable faith. Three men stood firm in their faith, were tossed into a fire, and emerged unscathed. In fact, they emerged from the fire with no evidence of the experience.

Oh, to stand firm and believe wholeheartedly that we will be okay despite our trials, despite whatever fire we may experience! I want that incredible faith!

It’s one thing to believe that we are not alone in our struggles, but it’s another to live it out in our daily lives.

I pray that each of us would grow in our faith to experience God’s promises for us. That we would be able to stand firm in that faith and rise up to praise the goodness of our Heavenly Father.

He has a plan for each of us. The hope that we find as we read His Word strengthens our faith and allows us to rely fully on Him. It’s easier said than done, but consider what He has brought you through in your life and what amazing gifts He has for you in the future.

There is nothing He cannot handle, for He has already walked our paths. He knows what we need. We simply need to seek His will for our lives and trust that He will be beside us always to pull us from the flames of life’s tragedies and surprises unscathed.

When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. (Daniel 3:27 HCSB)

Not Perfect

We are all broken. We’ve all made mistakes. We all have a past. We are all sinners. Yet God works it all for His good.

How many times have you been ashamed of your choices? Have you ever met people who appear to have it all together, seem to know all the answers, and portray a perfect life? How many times have you felt less-than, inadequate, or ashamed because your life doesn’t match theirs? Personally, I’ve lost count.

I’ve left the church as a result of these comparisons. I have wondered what is wrong with me when I knew I wasn’t perfect, despite choosing Christ. I considered myself a failure when I compared myself to everyone else’s life. I concluded that I was a failure because I wasn’t perfect.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that we all start at different places. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us by the day. By the hour. By the minute. By the second.

Our lives – our stories – are used to draw others to Him. To show what He can do. That we aren’t alone. Not for us to relive our shame and feelings of inadequacy. Our stories make us relatable and REAL, which enables us to grow His Kingdom.

People don’t want to fail. They want to succeed. When we share our stories where we left places of failure, addiction, inadequacy, anger – our sinfulness – and how far we have come, that is how others find peace.

When we compare ourselves to others, we lose sight of the fact that we were each created in His image for a unique purpose. Something only we can accomplish because of what we have been through, not despite what we have been through.

His mercy refreshes us daily. His grace washes us clean. His love makes us whole. We were made to reach the lost, not to alienate them. Why? Because we have been there. Right where the lost are now. He saved us, not because we were perfect, but because we have value.

Share your stories and testimonies. Be authentic. You have a divine purpose…. Because God is merciful and good at every moment in every day.

Detour Ahead

Last week was a struggle. I’ve been floundering as I try to understand the way events are unfolding in a particular area of my life. Cue the self doubt and craziness.

As I sat in my women’s small group tonight, we learned about how God’s plan can shake things up to get us into position to fulfill His will for our lives. Things started clicking in my brain as we chatted about this week’s message.

The video in this study had an amazing quote that really got to me. The guidance was something along the lines of how life’s interruptions can actually be divine interventions.

Wow. So you mean those times when I think I’ve been derailed could actually be God repositioning me for His plans?!

We talked about detours and how they often are unsettling, but can actually turn out to be amazing trips.

I shared a story about a detour I had to take years ago as I drove to North Carolina. I love the mountains and the detour took me into the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was one of my first trips to the area and I was actually intrigued by the ability to experience this famed roadway with its scenic views.

As I headed into the detour, I remember being blown away by the beauty around me. However, it was the first time I had ever felt carsick while I was driving. I pulled off the road and got out to breathe and settle my tummy. The sun was starting to set, and as I turned to get back into the car, I looked out at the view. It literally took my breath away. The vibrant colors of the sunset illuminating the tree-topped mountains was incredibly beautiful.

When you look back at your life and those detours you’ve had to take, you realize that those detours led to great experiences and beautiful moments. Unplanned, perhaps, but amazing just the same.

When we rely on God to work His will on our lives rather than remaining focused only on our own wants and plans, we allow Him to shower us with His blessings. When we cling to our will, we may be missing out on some incredible moments and indescribable beauty. After all, God created each one of us for a unique purpose. This week, I will try to focus on the fact that He has plans for me that are more beautiful and amazing than that mountain sunset years ago and embrace the interruptions.