I really have no clue where to begin anymore… But here, standing still with you is better than not beginning at all.

Did you know my daughter is named for a stone? she's called "helper"… and not just when I say "thank you helper" to her for doing her big four year old girl chores. Ezri means "stone of help". It's based on the Hebrew word "ebenezer". If you grew up Jesus-y you'll remember the song that goes: "here I raise my ebenezer, hither by thy help I've come"… or if you grew up with classic English literature, or corny Christmas movies, um, I give you Ebenezer Scrooge. You can make the connections.

When we named our little Donna Ezri, I had no idea how much of a helper and a true altar stone of remembrance her entrance into our lives would become. Motherhood. Parenthood. Grown up stuff. Even though I was raised, without a doubt, to welcome being a mother and recognize it as a gift of a full and healthy life… even though I definitely had some super examples around me from the dawn of my life… I did not anticipate how much would change. Again!

After everything that God has brought me through. After all that I have learned, all the growing I did, after putting God's love for me to the test in my wilderness of doubt after a broken marriage and the years of spiritual cynicism… So much changed, again. 

I think somewhere early in my relationship to Eric, while I was rejoicing in the sheer redemption of my shattered romantic dreams, and in the true joy I experienced in finding a mate I wanted to grow with, I really thought this: Okay, I've paid my dues. God is making it up to me. Life will be better from now on, things will only go up. Challenges will be surmounted in a single bound!

Um, Stefanie. Seriously? 

I had the audacity to think that 1) I'm done with the hard stuff, 2) God "owes" me anything and 3) that life being "better" would mean that it would be any "easier"! Wow. I'm dense… It's taken me nearly seven years to see some of this, dear reader.

So here's the image that's been rolling through my mind for a while now… Or really, the series of images:

- tears streaming down my face as I sat in the pew of a church that is so dear to me. a friend reaching over to hold me, knowing so well the turmoil inside me without even asking… and this song:

Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.

- a weary and faithful prophet setting a great stone down, and God honoring it's intent, giving victory to a nation (1 Samuel 7:12 ff)

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

- and a sea of images after that, full of altars, promises, standing stones, miracles, disobedience, rejoicing and celebration, life full of mistakes and triumph…

The past year seemed like a desert. For our family, it was a time of faith, growth and heartache. I'm still not completely sure why all of it happened the way it did. But as I was holding onto my precious Ezri the other morning, soaking in her radiant smile as she snuggled in mommy's bed and watched Laura Ingalls pioneering sprit on the television… In my heart, I met God again. 

He knows I've been an angry and impetuous Israelite child. He's held me so patiently and lovingly in the palm of his hand… even when I railed like Jonah and Job… with not near the reasons they had. God does not owe me anything. He's patiently been waiting for me to fix my eyes back upon the mount. To see my Ebenezer and remember that he created my stubborn and wild heart - I am His child as surely as Ezri and Ever are mine! He has provided for me and whispered words of life in my ear when I thought my heart would crumble. 

None of this is new. I don't expect you to think it is. But I want to share this with you. I want you to know what I've heard, after I came back to this stone of remembrance. It's so simple. It's so, well, obvious. It's something I'm pretty sure I've preached to someone or another before… something I've "wisely" observed in some bible study, or remarked upon in conversations with people I want to impress.

The better life, the better everything I thought I would have after those rocky years I had? I so have it. My better is also higher, and since it's higher I have to reach. God is asking me to grow. God is telling me this - that I'm a good wife, but I could be better, I will be better… that I'm a good mother, but I could be better, I will be better… that I am a good writer, and that I create good things, that I'm a good friend… but I will be better… but change comes in many forms, and if I fix my eyes on the prize ahead (you know the one) that He will be sufficient for me. He always has been. 

Life is good. It's been stripped bare for us. We've clung to each other and wondered why things weren't going our way when we thought (we thought!) we were doing what God wanted us to do… And then we've remembered. We remembered what God has grown us to be: a family… and His family. And then we clung to Him. And our eyes were opened, and fixed back upon our goal.

I'm thirty two… and this growing thing doesn't get any easier, but it has gotten easier to recognize where I need to stop. It's easier for me stand still here with you and see with clearer vision, through the tears and over the endless questions, that something is changing me. And that's good.

Lots has gone on since I last really blogged or shared my writing in any fashion, but after a self imposed hiatus, I'm wanting to share and in a better and clearer way. This is just the beginning… I want to share more, but it will have to wait. For now, I'm glad that God has brought me back here again. Standing here with you.

 O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.


a prayer for waiting


Even in the midst of these uncertainties, you are providing for us, and I see that we are truly sustained by your hand. We need so little, but each little thing can feel so great!

Thank you for loving me through the struggles, thanks for knowing me and seeing me and all that I can be - I can only become it with your guidance and strength.

Forgive me for my doubts and frustration. There are times throughout my day where I wonder what it is that we are not doing. I don't understand why doors haven't opened yet... I don't know why we haven't found where we are supposed to be after what seems to be such a long time.

Help me see what it is I need to learn from you in this time and place. Help me find the best ways to support Eric and our children. Give me fortitude and hope to press on.

I know that in the big picture, this time is so short - but this part has begun to feel so very long, and I know there isn't much I can do but wait on your timing...

I've been angry, and sad and disgusted and fearful. I've been weighed down by how others see church instead of staying with you.

I want to stay with you Lord.

I praise you even when everything seems upside down, because you have been faithful and saved me and redeemed me over and over again. Bless me and keep me near you.

I am staying with you, precious and holy Father and Creator.



one year

last night was open house at my husband's school. and so we reminisced about what things felt like a year ago at the same event, with only two weeks behind us in our new home. shyness and hesitancy has been replaced with familiarity and sureness; my baby is no longer in a sling on my hip but running and squealing and grinning in a place that is as familiar to her as our house. eric navigates the stream of parents and students with questions and introductions so easily, with confidence that has been well earned. he is so prepared, so handsome in his red tie and grey slacks... even if they are two sizes too big and belted in.

for the first time in abut six years, the numbers on my scale are going down instead of up. i am wearing jeans today that have been shoved to the back of every closet I have unpacked since we married. we are eating more mindfully, and eating more healthily, we are choosing to do things that are not in front of a screen all the time. eric is skinnier now than he was when we married, and so am I... I am fifty pounds lighter than I was in January.

and I really didn't plan this. this isn't a diet, this isn't a race to get into a swimsuit or to show up any biggest losers (can't stand that show!) I didn't even want to tell people that I was losing weight, or even believe it, until friends at church started commenting on my baggy clothes. but it isn't about the pounds. it's about where I am.

i am lighter in my soul. for a long time I labelled each pound I gained with words like inadequacy and anger, with the name of my ex, with the diagnosis I received four years ago, with every mistake I made. I believed I deserved to be obese, that I wasn't worth the trouble, that I wasn't worth the health.

then the universe reminded me of the good that still exists. friends who seemed to think I was worth listening to, family who reminded me to not take myself so seriously, a husband and best friend who sees things in me I didn't even know were there, a baby girl who makes me laugh more than I ever anticipated, and stillness to hear my own voice again, these things have overcome ME.

and the Creator continues to heal and use this imperfect vessel and astonish me with incredible grace and generosity.


making my list

before i go lay down while baby is napping - a brief glimpse into what's churning around in our house.

i made myself sit down and write six goals for my home-making routine this morning. do you ever just hit a point in your daily routine where you feel cluttered, in a rut, and just plain yucky? i do, about every month or two. it occurred to me today that i have a few nebulous goals i mutter about to eric all the time and i need to just pin them down and stick them on the fridge (the center of all homes, right?).

none of these things are difficult. we do most of them often but not regularly. i know that a routine doesn't solve all the problems of our little world, but i know from experience it sure can shrink them down. the intent behind each of these is to improve my mental well being and to help my child have better days and happier parents. if i can get the "chores" of my day out of the way in the morning light and have a simple plan that bends with each change in our day then perhaps i can:
spend more time listening to my child and husband, worry less about mundane things, feel good about having people over at the spur of the moment, look forward to the time my husband arrives home without guilt over not getting the house straight before he comes home.

i like this list because it's brief and simple and it doesn't have five million steps or permutations... i like it because it's the kind of list i grew up with... what would your six goals be, if you picked up a crayon and scribbled them down today?


love is a battlefield

ezri discovered the joys of splashing her little hands into the toilet today. thank God it was flushed and i didn't have a diaper soaking in it. the look of absolute mirth and glee on her face was priceless... unfortunately, i was not in a mood to appreciate it at the time. it was 2 pm, i'd changed her clothes three times by then and had said NO more times than i would like to remember, oh - and i hadn't showered yet.

yeah. much crying and "NO'ing" and firm voice and eye contact later, she melted into a puddle of sweetness and fell asleep after a good long nurse...

and then i took a shower.

and now i count the minutes until eric arrives home and she awakens... and see how many things i can do before then, well, after i stare at the internet. this is the most challenging front yet, and i know it will just grow... who knew you could feel such frustration and love at the same time?

no, you can't do that... because i love you, and i don't want you to get hurt. not yet, when you're a bigger girl... don't go in there without mommy... take this yucky medicine, be still because i want you to feel better... i love you.

rough nights and little sleep, dirty diapers and learning how to function with a beautiful baby on your hip ... it's nothing in comparison to what i see on the horizon.

psshhh - forget the horizon, it's here.

ladies and gentlemen, we have a toddler, and the into everything will now commence... along with the exhausted love filled NO's.

Direct your children onto the right path,
      and when they are older, they will not leave it.
Proverbs 22:6


the one i never held

this is for my sweet sister melanie...

it's a gorgeous october day. a friend and i walk to the park with our little ones. i am savoring the blessing of new friendship these days and the fullness in my spirit that fall often brings me. so much good is around us. it's hard to imagine that one year ago i was still frantically working at the coffee shop, eric subbing and going to classes, ezri was one month from being born. we had no idea what where we'd be in one year.

and the year before that, we were devastated. 

my friend's daughter is dumping sand down her back and squealing at ezri with pure joy. we laugh and marvel at their joy as we see her son climb the jungle gym. little haley is exactly six months older than ezri... 

she is as old as my first little one would have been. 

i have no adequate way to explain the sadness and sweetness in my heart when i think of it. at this time two years ago, i only had a suspicion that i might be pregnant. i was. but i was almost terrified to take a test. we found out on halloween actually. we'd met eric's dad in wichita for lunch, i'd not been crazy about the coffee, i'd been moody and miserable at the mall, i think we even had an argument.

but i came home, took the test, it was positive. i walked outside and looked at the empty field across from our door as the sun set. that's where i told eric that we were going to have a baby. we were floored. it was much sooner than we'd "planned"... but it was okay. we knew we wanted this before we even married.

i tell my new friend that we would have had one little haley's age... and she shares about the fear and half expectation she had had of miscarriage. her mom had, so she had thought she would. i knew the feeling well. it happened for me.

we lost our baby in november. 

i was certain i was miscarrying while we were away from home. during a trip to see family and watch a play at our college... surrounded by friends who were so happy for us, i could feel my hope slip away. at intermission the night we went to see the play, i remember walking to the restroom and praying praying praying that i would keep this little life. that sunday we rushed the long drive home and went to the ER... nothing could be done for us then but "wait and see" i waited til the tuesday to go to our previously scheduled ultrasound.

our baby wasn't there anymore.

if you haven't lost a little one like this, it's hard to know what to say or do... we had so many love on us and so many share their losses with us. a beautiful friend who had had a stillborn baby boy was there to aid the doctor when i went for the d & c... i can still see her bright and teary eyes over her surgical mask.

there is no loss like this one. there never will be. i never got to hold her. our little ariel was gone before we knew her. and we wept and cried to have my baby back. i still cry for her. 

today i'm crying for her, and for the little one my brother and sister in law have just lost.

there are never words for it. when we lose anyone to death, we cry for ourselves... we are alone, we have lost someone... and there is no loss like the loss of the babe you marked your calendar for with love and anticipation. we shared that we were expecting early, and i am thankful for that, because we were wrapped in arms of love from around the world.

eric and i will always have moments where we think of her... heaven will be sweeter... i think of her there with grandma donna, and so many others... and today i thank our Creator for the bonds we have on earth that comfort us when our joy must turn to mourning.

a year from the day we found out that we'd lost our first little one, our donna ezri was born. and the joy returns and wraps itself around the mourning... you will never stop wondering about the one you lose, but God gives you new moments of wonder... you never will stop aching for that babe to be in your arms, but your heart will ache with joy and thanksgiving again.

I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow."
Jeremiah 31:13



we're blessed. we're growing. we're rich compared to so many in the world at large. but...

things are tight. and we're okay with that. no, really we are. we've worked hard in the past year and a half to knock out our consumer debt, and now we're (mainly) working on student loan debt. like so many americans our age, we're just plain thankful that we're employed and not homeless. like so many americans, we've struggled with the constant pressure to live beyond our means. the holidays are coming up and i have to confess:

i'm sick of it. i am sick of feeling like i *have* to measure up. that i have to give certain kinds of gifts and make sure that no one is forgotten. that every family member gets something they want... the pressure is looming above me and I HATE IT.

pretty sure that most people who know me are not terribly surprised by that statement. eric and i have talked a lot since we married, well and before too, about what kind of lifestyle we want to have. we're lovers of good things. good food, good books, good conversation and good sturdy things... we love our family time, and we love our spiritual family near and far.

we also feel strongly that less is more.

no, like really strongly.

as in, it's a battle but i am making a conscious effort not to shop "just for fun" anymore. i know myself, and i always end up feeling dissatisfied. i feel the pressure to consume, to buy buy buy... even if what i'm purchasing isn't exactly what i need. how is that good?

we are so concerned in our culture with being green - we're really into emphasizing recycling, so trendy now - and buying (buying!) the right kind of water bottles and baby products (products!) and purchasing (purchasing!) the best reusable grocery bags. ugh. marketing marketing marketing. you are so clever.

and i want the super cute reusable totes from my favorite box store. i want the awesome glass water bottles from starbucks. but i really and truly don't need them. i have a kitchen full of dishes and gadgets, closets full of clothing, unfinished crafts, scarves and umbrellas and christmas decorations. we moved into a house that is about 1200 square feet and were thankful we had attic space to store a box of books we don't have room for and two tubs of sentimental keepsakes that we are not able to part with. but they're just sitting there, like half the stuff we own.

sure, ez needs some socks that fit her and it would be great to be able to buy her another book or that little wooden car in the toy store, but she has all she needs too. i love bringing her into the church nursery and seeing her dive out of my arms toward a room full of toys. it's like disneyland for her because she has *just enough* at home...

we have just enough, and it leaves room for big feelings like peace and contentment. it gives us a chance to delight in the invitation to watch a football game at a friend's house, because we don't have the mental clutter of cable TV all the time. it means that an evening spent watching our baby play and explore a house that is friendly and spare with plenty of room to crawl around in is the best entertainment ever. a clear dining room table means i can put a beautiful meal on it, pull up the highchair, pour some tea and listen to my husband talk about his day. we are rich because we have less.

someday, we will have more breathing room in our budget. debts will be repaid and we will have learned better habits... it's what we're doing right now. right now we are making the choices that will enable us to relax and enjoy being able to save for retirement and our daughter's college (or whatever she wants to do) fund. right now we are learning self control. we are disciplining ourselves so that the gift we give ourselves and our little girl is an enduring one amounting to more than just a few christmases with piles of gifts.

this year, we are opening a savings account for ezri. it's her birthday present. every year we will add to it, and encourage those family members who wish to gift her to consider adding to it as well. there may be a few handmade gifts that i make this year for her and for others, because that is what we can give and it is our best right now. i am hoping we can save and get her a little christmas dress, or a doll ...

but the reality is, she won't remember that. we all know that. we will cherish any and every tangible physical gift we are given and that she is given because it comes from the hearts of those who love us. and we will give from our hearts too.

and in the meantime i will remind myself that i don't have to worry about what others think of my choices, and that most people are supportive even if they think we're odd...

i like being odd. i like being less burdened. i like that i have loved ones who share the burdens i have with me. i am blessed, with less.