Posts Tagged With: transparency

“Where we’d been and where we’re going”

It wasn’t a particularly cold day but I think it was windy. I remember it being windy but that could be a subconscious addition to the scene based on the tornado that went sweeping through my insides. It could have been a still November day in West Texas, but I doubt it.  I was in a foul mood, but it was independent of the funeral scheduled that day. I was out of sorts in all sorts of ways. I stood outside of the canopy that blocked the sun from the casket. I do remember now that it was because I was cold and the sun was warm, and I felt like hanging in the back anyway. Things drew to a close. I turned to leave. Something then recalled my attention to a seemingly insignificant statement that was thrown in by my father earlier, something said about leaving early while we were still deciding the riding arrangements from the church to the gravesite. “Dad. Why are you going with mom to her doctor’s appointment?” My black boots clicked as I balanced on a random strip of concrete and shifted my weight with my arms in the air, trying to move my legs more than my pencil skirt would allow. Why hadn’t I noted the oddity in that earlier? Why did I remember it now?

I’m going to let your mother answer that.” he said and kept walking towards the car. I stopped walking on the curb that jutted out of the ugly dead grass to look up as he walked away. Adrenaline surged through my body like tiny knifes. Still frozen, I decided the only option was that she was either pregnant, or she was not. Everything in me hoped that meant she was pregnant.

Mom, why is dad going to your doctor’s appointment with you?” The tornado picked up speed. She had a calm exterior. I sat in the back and tried to look up ‘Hysterectomy’ on my phone without being seen. I felt like the tornado left my body and picked up all of the words and the car and spun them around. All at once they all became very nonsensical and very threatening.


A series of events began to dismantle life as I knew it. For my family it began to unfold with my grandfather’s death and it created in me a fear of phone calls from my parents. My mother’s name would show up on my phone and my heart would beat with a suspicious pulse as she would introduce the conversation with the normal, “How are you?” To which my response eventually became, “First you tell me why you’re calling, then I’ll let you know how I’m doing.” I had received too many phone calls with painful information that seemed to pour from the earpiece. Misfortune became my expectation. It was an unfortunate development with no one to blame, but for the following months and even occasionally to this day, calls from my family  I answered having already braced myself with the usual defense- ready to hear the worst.

That evening that I sat in my dimly lit apartment, I knew that I was going to get a phone call I just wasn’t sure what it was going to say. It’s fair to say that I developed a paranoia for the worst, but this was one time that human intuition was at work and not the effect of months of receiving a steady flow of bad news. I walked to my parents in the dark, bracing myself for something I wasn’t ready to hear.

Then it was my turn to make a call. I sat on the steps of the Administration building on campus waiting for my best friend to show up. I normally hang upside down from the steps and gaze as the cars drive by in the sky and the stars cover the ground. That night I didn’t have to hang upside down, the world was already spinning in circles. Everything was already on it’s head. She walked stiffly up the stairs as if she expected me to end our friendship because it was such a strange and tense request to meet me here. “Stef,” I managed to pull my eyes from the ground, mom has cancer.


New Years Eve- a holiday which I have never found great cause to celebrate. This last year I found even less motivation as we sat a few floors up from the ground in a dim hospital room. The only redeeming quality being it’s large glass windows that allowed for a view and lessened the feeling of suffocation the place caused. The only redeeming quality about the view being that it was dark and city lights are beautiful, no matter how ugly the city. A new year. There wasn’t anything waiting for me in an empty hotel room with a single view that faced the hospital where my mom slept, so I stood by her bed and played with her hair as she fell asleep. In the dark room, silent tears began to fall freely because there was no one around to see my fear. As I ran my fingers through her hair my mind was taken to the thought of the days ahead when it would all be gone and then just as wrenchingly I was taken back to the last time I was in a hospital room running my hands over my grandfather’s head, through thin wisps of hair. Between where we’d been and where we were going, a new year meant difficulties not yet faced, hardships not yet suffered, and the unknown. Happy New Year.


I spent the last days of this year in Colorado with very special people. People who represent what God is doing in my life after death and cancer and filmmaking and waiting and growing. The Lord is always working. I spent a good portion of the last year finding my footing on the path that God had for me which, in part, was trusting Him as I set out to do what I wasn’t really equipped to do. After it was over it was hard to imagine what He could possibly call me to do next. I could have at least anticipated that it would be out of my comfort zone and require me to do things I’m not really equipped to do… but in my fickle human nature I held out in hopes that it wouldn’t require quite as many growing pains to receive the growth He had planned. Silly me. I felt the Lord make plans for me to lead worship and there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t woken up with the question, “Are you sure?” already on my lips. But one night, sitting around with some guitars, some worship songs and the bit of discomfort that still follows me, we did what the Lord has called us to- that is, worship. We sang while a couple of strangers listened and the Lord said to me, “Yes, I’m sure.”  Logan started playing the song Healer, a song that I sing lead, that’s really too high for me, that I’m pretty uncomfortable with, that I have a hard time not thinking I should just leave to Kari Jobe. I didn’t dare look but from where I was sitting I could see the couple who was listening from the corner of my eye and read enough of the woman’s body language to know she was crying. We didn’t sing to her, or say the name of Jesus to her, all we did was sing because the Lord has told us to sing. The next day we found out that the woman was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer and the words “I believe you’re my healer” didn’t come to her from the insufficient people singing the song, they came from the one big enough to be a healer- and came to her through the insufficient people singing the song.  It was hard not to break down and weep right there in the dining room as I realized that the Lord was doing it again. He was taking unequipped people and being so big that our small offering became enough. I don’t really feel that comfortable singing this song- surprise- but I just can’t really think of another song that would have summarized the Lord’s power and promises as a new year begins.

Happy New Year.

Categories: Clarify, videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Transparency and Need

I don’t feel particularly comfortable talking about some things that I consider to closely border the line between transparency and privacy. Even in the event that it’s meant only to set the stage for talking about other things. That is the hard thing about being transparent. It usually sticks pretty close to that line of things that you’d prefer to keep to yourself. In the case of some things, it’s not necessarily that it’s something I don’t want others to know but more so that it comes with a lot of connotations that can cause a distraction from the real matter at hand. What’s worse than feeling that it steals the focus, is the fear that it is viewed as a loaded statement put out with a hidden agenda. I would prefer not to talk about some things than to talk about them in the chance that they seem to be manipulative. Such is the case with my musings today. In order to really let you know what I’m thinking, I have to shed light on my situation and thought process but there is the discomfort of knowing that the focus could potentially be caught on the matter that is actually meant to be the bed for which the actual point will lie. After deliberation I decided that perhaps a preface such as this one could deter the majority of that threat and I can remain transparent and slightly less uncomfortable than I expect to be.

The topic that has caused such inner conflict is that of my finances. In my story explaining why I will be doing film work in Zambia this summer, I touched briefly on the fact that about a year ago I felt the Spirit calling me to give my life’s work away. That call has been fleshed out in various forms over the past year but currently… well, to be honest, it looks a whole lot like not making any money. Initially it looked a lot like just putting aside the growth of my business, then over time as it was pushed farther and farther aside it looked a lot more like not having a business. Between the last film and the submission to do this one it looked a lot like just having random jobs that I was blessed to have and I’m sure that from the outside looking in it looked quite like something else the whole time. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to know that the longer you go without working, the less you will have. So there’s no need for me to get into the specifics of my situation at present.

I preparation for filming, I watch a lot of films. Specifically films that relate to either the subject matter, or the informative format of the one I will be doing. They are usually either boring or heartbreaking. I spend a lot of time on the latter, being inundated with image after image after image of starving children, races subdued, death, thirst, pain. There are times when I sit all alone on my wood floor in front of my computer and I weep as the woes of a broken world flash before me with compelling music behind them. In my “financial low” (we will call it,) I’ve found myself in situations I’ve never been before, being forced to make decisions between “need” & “need more” or “necessary” & “can wait.”  The truth of the matter is that because of the ways the Lord has blessed my life the only way that I will have to face those decisions is in the case of choosing to abandon monetary income for the sake of giving my life (my work) to Christ. The choice to face them. I don’t know if I can talk much more about it on such an impersonal level. I’m becoming uncomfortable with the feeling that I’m making moral statements to a very broad audience. The point is though that I’ve begun to recognize more clearly why it is that the Lord would ask me to do the seemingly unnecessary act of being another poor person in the world.  (Beyond the simple issue of trust.)

There are things I do not buy, there are bills I do not pay because the money is not there. The matter at hand is that I live in a world where my needs are made up needs. I can’t pay for my car registration, the bills accruing interest, the toll fees, I can’t buy new guitar strings when they snap, I can’t go to the movies, can’t afford gasoline, mail with my name on it makes me want to vomit, I pay for the things that will keep me out of jail first and if there’s enough pay for the rest… By all technical terms I have put myself in a pretty precarious situation in life. But daily I’m reminded of the goal & I think on person after person that I see in those films and have seen in the world still so full of hope, or without hope, where need is not based on being able to pay some imaginary interest on a loan that was invented by man’s greed. Need is based on survival. I will never understand that need, never. I don’t feel like I can be an advocate of a people with nothing if I don’t ever comprehend in tangible, undeniable terms of how sustained I am, even in my own “need.” The closest I can come is doing something really kind of crazy, and in doing that put myself in the hands of others because I can’t afford myself. I also marvel at the feeling I get that says that maybe I’m supposed to experience what it is like to depend on the graciousness of others. I’ve always been in the position to give and to be uncomfortable with receiving. I remain uncomfortable with it but there are times when I have to set my pride aside in order to allow for God to provide for me through others. What I’m learning is that it takes serious humility to be in the position of receiving. It takes a big person to ask for help. It takes the submission of our pride to the sake of our needs. Those of us who have always been outside of the life where we are forced to ask others for things, we remain in that pride. I live in that pride. There are so many things I’m learning. It is so overwhelming.

I think it’s fair that you have the opportunity to disagree and I will (lovingly) verbally Judo-Chop anyone who wants to bring to me opposition to choices I’ve made. I’ve been training for a while now to defend, or recognize when not to bother defending, what I’ve spent this year wrestling with and confirming. My greatest achievement has been recognizing that it will not ever make complete sense to the world around me. At first I tried to store up confirmations that I wasn’t crazy. Eventually I began to see instead, that it is crazy. But I started realizing that  John was a mad man and Jesus was homeless and my confirmation lies in our similarities. At this point I’m not vulnerable to any words about if it’s right or not. That doesn’t mean that after a good round I’m not beat up and worn out, but it does mean that no man can undo what the Lord has spent a year doing inside of me. Also, I want to humbly submit that I think we each have a calling of our own and I don’t in any way think that mine has anything to do with the format of life called to others.

[Here’s some images of  faces of the poor I’ve seen in my travels that have impacted me. These are some of the faces that I carry with me.]

[Images from the very top: Woman in wheelchair made from a plastic lawn chair in Zambia; Little boy with one cataract in Kanchindu, Zambia; Women selling trinkets in the slums outside of Lima, Peru; Five year old Maria begging on a dirty pedestrian street in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Snake charmer Marrakech, Morocco; Shop owners son playing with my nose ring on the street in Cusco, Peru; Handicapped boy who visited the clinic in Kanchindu, Zambia; Rudolpho sitting on a deserted street in Buenos Aires, Argentina]

Categories: Clarify | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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