New Website!

I’ve been mentioning for weeks that a new website is coming, and it’s finally up and running. It’s still a work in progress, so be patient, but feel free to visit and look around (and even give some suggestions if you’d like).

www.stephanienhall.com

In other news, Live Your Story has shipped from the printers and will be available beginning this week! Orders can be placed on the website via PayPal or credit card in either Euros or US Dollars. The book can also be purchased from Amazon, and ebook versions are available on Amazon and iTunes.

In the weeks to come, blog posts will be posted on the new website, and some of the previous posts from this site may make an appearance there as well.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me, and I hope you’ll continue to come along and enjoy the adventures that await.

 

The Time Is Now

In previous posts I’ve mentioned I’m working on a book. I’ve been working on this book for nearly seven years, and on many occasions, I’ve wondered if I would ever complete it.

Last week, a good friend bought me a gift: a mug declaring in bold letters “THE TIME IS NOW.”

I doubt the publishing process is what she had in mind with the gift, but the message certainly fits. I signed a contract a month ago with a publisher. For a while, not much was required from me to move the project forward, and it was easy to forget all that’s happening. Today, I am completing my review of the first round of revisions from the publisher, and I’ve been in contact with him about cover designs and finalizing a title. Suddenly, the reality is sinking in: soon, I will be a published author!

After years of doubting whether I would finish the book (or have the courage to publish it), the time is now. I am excited. I am scared. I wonder who will read it and whether they will like it. I imagine criticisms I will receive, and sometimes, I think of positive comments I might receive. (Why is it always so easy to imagine the worst and forget to dream of the best outcomes?) If I allowed the onslaught of thoughts and feelings to overwhelm me, I’d never take the next step of the process; I wouldn’t have started the process in the first place!

The time is now to take a step. The book is one area of my life where the time has arrived. I may have to take steps in other areas in the near future. Sometimes, these steps feel like leaps off a ledge more than a small stride forward. Fear is a close companion in these times of uncertainty. “What if…?” can become a debilitating question if allowed. Thankfully, the One directing the steps can be trusted!

Could it be time for you to take a step? I would wager most of us have some place in our lives where God is waiting for us to move, but He won’t force us to take a step.  We get to choose whether and when we move forward. We don’t want to move ahead of God, so it’s essential to seek His wisdom and timing. However, if fear is what’s keeping us in the same place, waiting for it to pass will keep us stuck forever. Sometimes, we just have to take a deep breath and step into the unknown with God, believing He is with us no matter what the outcome!

For some of us, I’m sure:

MUG

This Summer – Time for a BBQ?

God has been stretching me lately. Trust has become a major theme in my story. As you may have picked up in previous posts, He is asking me to trust Him in new and big ways, and the process is rather uncomfortable at times.

As I was journaling one day during my recent travels, I wrote the following words that I felt like God was speaking to me:

“How far out of the boat are you willing to come? So far, you are still close enough to grab hold again if you get scared… Are you willing to come out where you can’t reach back for security? How about coming to where you can no longer see it?”

Those are some fairly unnerving questions, and He continues to challenge me to move farther along with Him. The words C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Last Battle” ring in my ears, calling me to “come further up and further in.”

Sunday, 29 June, was my first Sunday back in church after being on the road for so long. The pastor was beginning a sermon series on Elisha, and the text was out of 1 Kings 19.

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said,’Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ And he said to him, ‘Go back again, for what have I done to you?’ 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.”

The pastor brought out several points regarding Elisha from this passage, and there were two that spoke to me in particular. The first was that while Elisha was working in the field, God was working on His behalf. He had no idea that God was speaking about him behind his back to Elijah.

Who knows what God is up to behind our backs? He is intimately involved in the details of our lives, and in one moment our whole life can change. Elisha was hanging out with oxen in a field one minute, and the next he is running after a prophet of God, knowing that he has been called into that life as well. No warning. No knowledge that God had been at work on his behalf.

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be an extremely encouraging thought as I spend my days doing seemingly small things and hoping that one day breakthrough will come!

The second point that stood out to me in the story was in Elisha’s response to the sudden opportunity. He immediately left what he was doing and went running after Elijah without a word ever being spoken between them. Even more impressive, as the pastor talked about, was the fact that he didn’t just run after the opportunity. He made sure that there was nothing to run back to. He burned his exit strategy, “barbecued his livelihood”. He ensured that there was no longer any option other than following God’s call on him.

There seems to be a theme in my life. The last sermon I heard before leaving Ireland for several weeks was on Joshua chapter 1. One of the points made was that the children of Israel had to move on and leave the past behind in order to enter the promised land. Moses was dead, they had mourned, and it was time to move forward into something new.

Last night, I went to the opening night of a conference, and the first point in the sermon? “Moses is dead. We have to leave the past behind in order to move into the new thing that God is doing.”

I believe I’m on the brink of something new, something big, but I think I need to make sure plan B isn’t an option. It’s time for a BBQ, a bonfire to get rid of any past security that I could run back to when the promised land starts to look scary. Yes, I’m mixing the stories, but they have the same message, and it’s a message that seems as though it’s being shouted at me from every direction.

I don’t know yet exactly what things I need to leave behind. I don’t know exactly what the boat, yoke of oxen, or Moses represents in my own life, and I’ll admit that I’m a little anxious to find out. I’m already uncomfortable in this place, and I know that leaving behind things in which I’ve found security will only enhance that discomfort. However, I also know that moving forward into what God is calling me into will have benefits that FAR outweigh any momentary discomfort.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one on this journey. I’m guessing there are others being called not only out of, but away from the boat, into the unknown depths with Jesus. It is a scary place to be, but it is also well worth the risk.

If you are joining me in going “further up and further in”, into the unknown, I’d love to hear your story. What is it that you are having to walk away from? What are you walking toward? Do you know yet? Leave a comment, and let’s encourage each other along the way.

Finally, if you do find yourself in this place, here is a song that I have found encouraging many times. It’s likely you’ve heard it, but just in case you haven’t… Enjoy!

 

 

Why Am I Here?

The other night I was watching Castle with the couple I’m staying with, and an ongoing conversation between the main characters was the invite list for their wedding. At the end of the show, I jokingly said that my plan is to meet someone here in Ireland and get married here. Then I can invite lots of people, but likely have very few come.

My brain working the way it does, that simple comment started a chain-reaction of thoughts that ended up somewhere much different than where it began. Along the way, I began thinking about the fact that God has been speaking to me lately of His promises to bring someone along for me to do life with. (Obviously, I do life with or alongside a lot of people, but you know what I mean.)

I haven’t really talked about it much with too many people, but I have a feeling of anticipation for his arrival that I’ve not felt in a long time. That doesn’t mean that will happen during my time here, but it doesn’t mean it won’t either.

One reason I haven’t mentioned it much is that I don’t want people to get the idea that I am here looking for romance. For one thing, I wouldn’t be very smart if that’s the reason I flew over here on a one-way ticket. It wouldn’t make sense to move from a large country with perhaps tens of millions of men to choose from to an island where the total population is less than five million if a man is what I’m looking for. 🙂

So, as my train of thought continued, it was derailed – or at least held up – by a question; no, by THE question.

Why am I here?

Those words make up a question that most, if not all, people on earth have asked at one time or another. I have personally asked it many times, and part of my passion in life is to help others answer it for themselves. However, this time I’m not asking the big question of why I’m on the planet. This time, it’s the simple question of: why am I, right now, sitting in a house in Sligo, Ireland?

A man? No. I’m smarter than that.

Ministry? I don’t know. It’s easy to point at the “official” reason for my move, which is to help establish a missions training program.  Honestly, though, that’s not why I’m here either. God told me to come here before that program was even scheduled, and my reason for being here won’t cease to exist if that falls through for some reason.

God said? Yes. This is a great Sunday school answer for life, the universe and everything. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy says that answer is “42”, Sunday school says it’s Jesus. When in doubt, saying that God/Jesus asked you to do something is a great answer as to why you’re doing it. – There is, of course, the issue of those times when we’re blaming something on Him that was not His idea after all, but that’s a topic for another post, another day.

Despite the validity of the Sunday school answer, I have an issue with being here just because God said to come and He opened the door. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that this is the truth, and I’m beyond delighted that I’m here! The problem is I don’t know what to do. Granted I’ve only been here two weeks, but I’m beginning to feel restless.

I’ve accepted a couple of ministry opportunities. I’m working toward the establishment of the training program. I’m contacting people about housing options. But I know there is more… I feel like I’m on the edge of something huge, and I’ve had only glimpses so far. I’m impatient to see the whole picture and where I fit into it.

For now, though, I’ll have to just keep doing what I know to do, and trust that God will make things clear as I take each step with Him… Yay for another chance to trust Him in the midst of uncertainty and anticipation for the big things I can’t see yet! 🙂 I look forward to knowing the answer to the question that I know will be clearer in the days, weeks and months to come!

A Place For Me

A few years ago, in a prayer meeting, a couple was praying for me and felt that God spoke a passage from Psalm 18 in the Message. The passage was several verses, but I don’t remember what they were. I have it written down somewhere in a journal that has long since been filled and put on the shelf.

What I do know is that the passage included verse 19, “He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!” In another translation it reads, “He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” (NASB)

The reason I remember that verse is that God has been speaking it again lately. He has pointed me there repeatedly over the past few weeks, and I think, I hope, I know the reason why.

I’m sure there was something going on in my life at the time that the verse applied to. I’m pretty sure that the couple praying for me even highlighted that verse at the time. I’m equally sure though, that now is the time for the fullness of that promise to come about in my life.

I think I mentioned previously that the past few years have been tough. I’ve done some cool things, and I’m pretty sure God has used me in some great ways too. I hope so, anyway! However, even with those seasons of feeling somewhat fruitful, I’ve felt more often than not that I was floundering, not sure I was really doing all I was meant to.

As I prepared for this move to Ireland, God began speaking Psalm 18:19 again. I mentioned in the last post that He told me that HE would not only open the door, but carry me across the threshold into this new place He had for me. I wrote of the sermon regarding Jesus preparing a place for us, and the hope it gave me for this earthly place as well. That hope has only gotten stronger during this first week in Ireland. (Yes, I arrived safe and sound! Stay tuned for photos…)

I’m currently looking for a place to call “home”. The people I’m working with here have been so welcoming, and I’m so grateful for all of their help in getting set up to do life and ministry here. However, I’m still a guess in their home. I know it isn’t my residence here in Ireland yet, and so I still feel unsettled. I haven’t unpacked because I have no idea when I will find a place and need to move again.

There are websites to look for rooms that are available, and I’m sure there are other avenues available to search too. But I don’t feel the need to run after every lead that comes my way. My host and I had even set up a time to look at a place, and just as I was asking God to make it very clear whether that was the house for me, she received a text that the woman wanted to wait and find someone who would go home at the weekends. (There are a lot of students here, so it’s very likely she’ll find someone.) I was almost relieved not because it fell through, but because God made it clear even before I saw the place. I know that God has a place for me here, and I’m confident that He will set me down right where I need to be.

Several weeks ago, I wrote these words, which I believe God spoke, in my journal: “I am carving out a place that will fit like a glove, but also allow room for growth. As I said yesterday, I will set you in a broad place – not so broad that you feel lost or alone, but enough that you can stretch, grow, and expand the place of your tent, [see Isaiah 54:2], broad enough to dream new (or old), big dreams and not have them squashed. It will be a place of freedom, joy, adventure and light!”

Obviously, this is about more than a roof over my head. I believe that is part of it, because He has promised to take care of every detail of this journey, but it’s so much bigger than that. It’s ministry, community, purpose, relationships and more!

I don’t know what all God has for me in Ireland. I have dreams and hopes. I have ideas and goals. I also have an understanding that He has all of those things too, and His are WAY bigger than mine. And so, for now, I’ll rest in His arms, expectant, knowing that He will set me exactly where I need to be in order to receive all that He has in store.

Me at the beach

Enjoying my first visit to the beach.

I’ll also spend this time exploring this new land I am in and enjoying the beauty that surrounds me. Here are a couple of photos so you can enjoy it with me…

A visit to the coast the day after I arrived in Ireland. Gorgeous!

A visit to the coast the day after I arrived in Ireland. Gorgeous!

Park at Belcoo, Northern Ireland

A park in Belcoo, Northern Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day

River path

A path along the river in the town where I now live. So pretty! I’m sure there will be many walks along this path in my future…

A Confession

I’m here today to admit that I am a bit freaked out. When I got on an airplane 12 days ago, I was headed to spend two weeks relaxing with family and friends in Florida. I’ve done that about once a year for the last few years, so no big deal! So what if I was lugging around nearly 100 lbs of stuff? (I NEVER travel with so much if I can help it.)

Now that my two weeks in Florida are nearly over, reality is beginning to hit… hard! In less than three days, I’ll be on a plane, not back home to my family and friends and comfort zone, but to a country I’ve never visited. I have visited plenty of new places over the years, some of them by myself, but I have not ventured to a new place on my own without a return ticket before. This is not a visit; it is a move!

In the six months that I have been anticipating this week’s journey, I have convinced myself that excitement is the only emotion allowed. After all, I love all I know of the region of the world I’m moving to, God is promising wonderful things, and He is carrying me into this new place.

Over the weekend, however, I began to let the reality sink in, that in order to enter the new book I wrote about before, I must close the one I’ve been living. I spent a short time with my grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s, and there was the realization that I may not see her again. That is one example of several moments during this time where I have become aware that my life is changing in big ways this week… even some ways that I don’t anticipate, I’m sure.

As I sat in a restaurant the day after I arrived in Florida, the waitress asked if I was nervous about my impending move. My response was a shrug of the shoulders and the words: “What’s to be nervous about? I’m just moving to a country I’ve never been, where I don’t really know anyone.” It was a joke, but at the same time it wasn’t. I didn’t really feel nervous…. yet.

As reality sank in this weekend that my time in Florida has, in some ways, been a farewell tour, and I said goodbye to life as I’ve known it, reality also hit that this move is in fact a big deal. In addition to the excitement, I’ve finally given myself permission to feel the anxiety that hits occasionally. I realized that admitting occasional moments of “What the h@!! am I doing?” does not mean I don’t have faith, it simply means I’m human and this is actually kind of a big deal.

As I have begun to allow those moments, I’ve also been able to process the feelings and allow God to speak to me about them. He has told me during the last six months that He would not only open the door to Ireland, but carry me across the threshold too. I have done my best to trust Him for that, and He has shown Himself faithful over and over. Every detail has fallen into place, and I’m sure future details will continue to be taken care of.

On Sunday, the pastor was referencing Revelation 21 and talking about the hope we have for the future beyond our life on earth. He spoke of the place Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare for them. With each point of the sermon, I felt God’s assurance that He has prepared a place for me in Ireland too. Don’t get me wrong, I know Ireland won’t be heaven. But at the same time, God used the ideas presented in the sermon to reassure me that even though I haven’t seen where I will stay yet or what the ministry I do will look like,  He has prepared a place for me, and He is taking me there.

I don’t know how long Ireland will be home, but I know that whether I live there or in the States or somewhere else entirely, my life will never be the same as it has been so far. I’m sure there will be days in the weeks to come, when I’d love to go back – just like the Israelites who preferred the slavery of Egypt to the unknowns of the desert, when I’ll mourn some aspect of this chapter. I’m just as sure though, that God has incredible things ahead for me. After all, He is the God “who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think”! (Ephesians 3:20 NASB)

A New Book…

Wow, it has been too long since I’ve written here. Life has gotten slightly crazy the past couple of weeks with moving out of my house, last-minute gatherings, shopping, and packing for the big move!

I am happy to report that I have continued to set aside my time with God to listen to Him each day no matter how busy the days have gotten. I have begun to cherish this time, and I am enjoying both the confirmations of things I already know and the unexpected things that He is speaking.

Early this week, He surprised me with the words He spoke. Sunday morning, as I sat for the last time in my room, surrounded by stuff ready to be whisked away to new homes, God spoke of new beginnings. That topic in itself didn’t surprise me because I have known for some time that a new chapter was coming. The part that startled me is that I am beginning a new book…

God knows how to speak to me in a way I will understand, and so of course, He referenced Lord of the Rings. He said that though my story is far from over, I am at the beginning of more than just a new chapter; it is a new book. I am entering a part of the story removed from what has come previously in the way that The Two Towers is separated from The Fellowship of the Ring. Many – though not all – of the characters are the same, the story continues, and yet I cannot just flip a page and go back to where I was before.

During my last Sunday at church, the sermon was on leaving behind one chapter of life and being fully in the new. The speaker talked about the danger of trying to keep one foot in the old life when trying to begin anew somewhere else. It was a timely message for me, and I see the same caution in this word that God spoke recently. The characters in Lord of the Rings were never able to go backward in their story. Even when they went back to the physical location where the story began, they had changed and could not go back to the way it was before they left on their grand adventure. Some were able to adapt and find new ways to relate to their old environment, some found new homes and never returned to where they started, and some tried to go home and ended up leaving again because they could not adjust back into the old life.

I have been processing this week that whatever happens in this new book, however the locations and cast of characters change, life will never be the same. A new day has dawned, and it will change me in ways I don’t know yet. I may live here in Colorado Springs again, and I may not. I may stay in Ireland, or go somewhere else I’ve not yet dreamed of. Wherever I end up, the dawn has come. I am beginning to see glimpses of the day to come, and I so am excited to move forward into this new season! The winter is past, and I am expectant, anxiously awaiting the new growth, life and beauty that Spring will bring my way!