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.

 

Coming Soon

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the time has come to publish my book. I’m excited for today’s post, because I can finally share the cover with you! Live Your Story: Walking Out Your Identity and Purpose with the Master Storyteller is coming! Pre-orders will be announced soon, and I believe the books will be ready to ship within the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

Final cover

I am very excited to share Live Your Story with the world. It has been nearly seven years since I first felt God was asking me to share my story and the message of identity and purpose I have learned. It’s hard to believe the process is nearly completed and the book is happening. I never imagined myself having a book published, but God has made a way.

I pray that Live Your Story will impact lives for the kingdom of God despite its unlikely author. God often chooses the least likely people to accomplish His purposes.

Has God asked you to do anything that seems outside your abilities? Take a risk and say yes. It can be hard and scary, but it’s always worth it!

P.S. For those who will wonder: No, those are not my legs. 🙂

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

Celebrate!

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and I must be having a blast! How is it nearly July already?!

I love July. Independence Day is fun with fireworks and BBQs (when you’re in a place that celebrates that particular day), but the main reason I love July is my birthday. I may be turning 36 in a couple of weeks, but I’m still like a kid when it comes to how excited I get about celebrating every year. It’s a little hard not to be with family to celebrate most years, but I’m grateful for the friends God always brings to celebrate with me wherever I am in the world!

I know some people who hate to celebrate or even acknowledge their birthdays. Others just don’t pay much attention. Maybe I’m weird, or perhaps I just like an excuse to splurge a bit and go out with friends, but I like to think that there is more to it than that. No offense to those who ignore or even dislike their special day, but I believe life is something to celebrate. Sure, we don’t have to wait for one specific day each year, but why not take the chance to mark the occasion and thank God for another year of life? It is a chance to reflect on what has happened in the last year (or over the course of your life), to dream with God about what the next year might bring, and to thank Him for the great things that have come so far and for bringing you through the hard times.

Some of the people I know who do acknowledge and even celebrate their birthdays are hesitant to share their age. I’ve never quite understood why that might be. I know that aging may not be the most enjoyable thing there is, but it certainly beats the alternative! While my life looks nothing like what I thought it would by the time I reached the second half of my 30’s, I have lived a pretty incredible life so far, and I believe that the best is yet to come.

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to celebrate my birthday this year. I know it will include friends, food, and fun. I also know that I intend to make the most of it and celebrate another amazing year of life. It has been a hard and confusing year at times, but I wouldn’t trade it in for an easier one because I am grateful for the growth it brought. There have been a lot of tears, laughs, late night talks, prayers, encouragements, disappointments, surprises, and adventures, and I am so thankful to God, my family, and my friends for being with me through all of it!  

You may not have a birthday coming up in the next couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time today to thank God for the years you’ve lived so far and dream about the future too!

Five Year Plan?

Have you ever made a five-year plan? I have been asked on a number of occasions where I see myself in five years, and I always marvel at the people who are able to answer that question with more than a mumbled, “I’ve no idea…”

There are days when I wish I had some idea of what my life will look like five months from now; other days even five weeks seems like a stretch! I have spent much of the last fifteen years of my life (since graduating college) with only a vague idea of where life might take me beyond the next three or six months. Sometimes I have reached the end of that three or six month commitment with no clue of what I was going to do next.

In recent months, I have grown to like the idea of a five-year plan more and more. I still love adventure, but I’ve begun to long for a more settled kind of adventure. Maybe it’s because I’m inching closer to the latter half of my thirties, but I would love to have a more definite idea of what God has in store in the days to come.

I know some big picture ideas of what I believe God has spoken to me about my future. Those ideas include music, writing, marriage, and discipleship among others. The trouble is, some of those have been a part of my ‘five year plan’ for nearly a decade and a half. One or two of them have already been a part of my life, and I pray they continue to be. Some seem to be on the verge of breakthrough into new levels, and others seem no closer than they were fifteen years ago…

The thing about this idea of the five-year plan is that it makes it a challenge at times to live day-to-day. There is a tension in me as I begin a season of prayer over the next month specifically for God’s direction on some of these big picture things He’s put in my heart. On one hand, I would love to know where the next few years, (or even the next year!) will take me, and I hope that this next month will present new open doors and opportunities to move forward into more of what He has in store for me.

On the other hand, I find it so easy to get focused on the big picture and how the future might be, that it’s difficult to commit to things for today (or a few weeks from now). As these big things hover just at the edge of breakthrough, it is easy to put off making decisions or doing things today because “what if ___________ happens tomorrow?”

 I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I’m not even guaranteed tomorrow. So, as I embark on a time of more focused prayer, I want to dream about what God has in store for the future, but I don’t want to focus so much on then that I miss out on now. May God help all of us to find the balance between dreaming and doing.

Hope Found in a Jigsaw Puzzle

One of my favorite things to do when I have a couple of days with nothing pressing is get out a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Depending on the difficulty, I will often spend 2-3 days straight doing little besides eating, sleeping, and standing over the table, looking for where each piece fits. There is such a feeling of accomplishment when I see the whole picture completed.

When I visited my family in the USA last year, my mum bought me a puzzle to bring home as a Christmas gift. So, just after Christmas, when I knew I had some days free, I ripped off the plastic and excitedly started working on it. Sadly, though it was 1000 pieces, it proved relatively easy, and I had it completed in about 8 hours.

Once completed, it stayed on the table for a couple of weeks, waiting to be dismantled and put away. I’m not sure why it took me so long to put it away, but it’s good that it did. During the process of taking each piece apart, God spoke to me and brought hope to my heart.

I’ve been praying for the last number of weeks for breakthrough. As I’ve prayed, I’ve seen a person behind walls, enclosed in a small room in the middle of a beautiful garden. I’ve felt that the walls were built by the person for protection, but that they have become a prison instead, holding the person back from things God wants to give them.

Perhaps the person in the room could represent many of us; I know it could represent me. I imagine there are many of us afraid to step into the beautiful places God wants to take us. Even if we want to take that step, some of us have built such convincing walls, we believe we can never get beyond them.

The morning I began to dismantle my jigsaw puzzle, I had been lamenting how impressive the walls appeared to me, believing that breakthrough would take years, if the walls ever came down at all. Yet as I started to take apart the puzzle, piece by piece, a quiet voice whispered into my heart that the walls are no different than this puzzle. Within minutes, no two pieces were still connected, though it had taken me hours of work to put them together.

God used that moment to bring hope that it will not take countless years or months, perhaps not even weeks, to see walls fall. Even walls that have taken years to build can be brought down quickly with the right motivation and resources. Just as a house takes months to build but can be completely demolished in minutes, when we decide to bring down the walls, it doesn’t have to take a long time.

The walls may look impenetrable, but they are not. As I have continued to pray about this picture of the room, I have noticed that although the walls look like the walls of a fortress on the inside, the outside is simply drywall. A fist could break through the walls at any moment, but the inside has been painted to look formidable to those seeking their ‘protection.’

God loves building things, but He also loves tearing down things that stand in His way. He is the only resource we need to see breakthrough in the things holding us back from all that He has for us. His love, perspective and strength can bring down walls in no time.

The only thing stopping Him is us, those on the inside, afraid of what the beautiful garden might bring our way, or perhaps afraid that we can no longer escape our self-made prison of ‘protection.’ He will not break in uninvited.

Are you hiding behind walls, afraid of where God wants to bring you? Do you want out, but believe it will take years to break through into His best for you? Invite Him to help you demolish the walls and step into all that He longs to give you.

Hello, Goodbye

I said goodbye again last week… maybe for the last time in some cases, though I pray that’s not the case. After being back in the States for four weeks, I made the long trip back home to Sligo. I had an amazing time with family and friends, and I was blessed in so many ways by my time there. Then the time came to come home, and as hard as it was to say goodbye to those I love so much, I am glad to be in Ireland again.

My homecoming was filled with many hellos from those I know, but it has also been full of new voices greeting me. The team I work with here welcomed a new staff member and 13 students that I now have the privilege of getting to know. I love the chance to get to know new people. After just a few days with this group, I know there will be some lifelong friendships that come from these next few months I get to spend with them.

I can’t help but think about all the groups before though, and wonder how many hellos and goodbyes my heart and mind can handle. As exciting as it is now to put in the hours of chatting and engaging with people, I know that for each new hello will come, at the very least, a see-you-later if not a goodbye.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it to put in the time, to engage deeply with a new group of people that will inevitably leave or be left in the course of our journeys with Jesus… And then I think of all the past hellos, those friends I have made throughout my life, the ones I never see and rarely hear from, the ones scattered across the globe that I may or may not see again during my time on this planet. Each of those people has impacted my life, and I would not be me without their influence. I like to think I’ve also made a difference in their lives as well.

Goodbyes aren’t fun, but the hellos are always worth it. We weren’t designed to do life alone, and every person we meet has the potential to change our life. Engaging with people, making the effort to really know them is always a good idea.

I am so grateful for every person I have had the opportunity to know and influence and learn from over the years, every student I’ve taken on an outreach or had as a one-on-one. I am excited to see what God does in this new group, and I am honored that I have the opportunity to be a part of their lives for this season. So, HELLO Sligo 2015 trainees, and welcome…Let’s do this!

My One Word for 2015

Just over a year ago, I was introduced to the idea of choosing a word at the beginning of a year that would be the focus for that next 365 days. The idea is that instead of a list of resolutions, you find one word that encompasses all of your goals for the year, and you strive to live that word for the year.

I know it’s a bit late in the month to be writing about my one word for 2015, but I have known it since before this month started. I have hesitated to write about it because it’s a bit uncomfortable to share, but I think it’s time. I will add a disclaimer, though. I tend to be a visual person, and words create pictures in my head sometimes that I wish I didn’t have. God also speaks to me through imagery a lot (which I suppose makes sense since that’s how my brain works). I promise there won’t be vivid details or descriptions, but for those whose brains also assault them with unwanted images at times, proceed with caution because my word for this year is… Birth.

No. I do not expect to physically give birth this year. There are some risk factors for that particular condition that I do not have. However, God has been developing things inside me for several years, and He has made it very clear that it’s time for those to come into the world, so to speak.

God told me repeatedly that last year was a time of transition. I’m not sure what you know about the birthing process, but the transition portion of labor is said to be the most intense. It is also the part just before the active pushing begins. (Mothers, I am writing only from a clinical knowledge, so please don’t be too harsh if I don’t describe the process or experience accurately.)

There was certainly a lot of transition in my life last year as I moved around the world, and established a new life in a different country. Now as I’m settled in, I feel like God is urging me to push forward in bringing forth the things He has put in my heart – twin dreams of ministry release and the start of a new family.

It is scary to put this out there for the world to read because if these things don’t happen this year, then I might look like a failure. I really believe, though, that this is what God is speaking to me, and I must trust His word more than what I see. My verse for this year is Luke 1:45, “And blessed is she who believed, because there will be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

That verse is in reference to Mary, and although I’m obviously not physically carrying the baby Jesus, I think it fits. I, too, am expectant with things that can change the world and bring the Kingdom of God to earth. I don’t know what these “babies” will look like, but I believe they will one day make an impact in the world.

As I meditated on this word at the start of this year, something else struck me. It seems rather obvious now, but I had this moment of revelation that birth doesn’t mean they are complete and ready to change the world. If anything, birth is when the real work begins! But it’s also when the one who has been carrying the baby no longer has to do the work on her own; it’s when others can really begin to be hands on in the process of nurturing and raising this new life.

That may seem an odd thought by which to be surprised, but in my mind these dreams have always emerged mature and ready to change the face of the planet. I have carried them for so long that certainly they must be fully developed already, right? Yes, they are fully developed in the same way that a full-term newborn is fully developed to the stage it should be at birth, but not to the point that they are ready to move out and thrive on their own with minimal assistance from me and others.

Up until now, these dreams have developed largely without much active input from me. But beginning this year, it is time to push, to birth these dreams, and then to nurture them and help them grow. Now is the time that the real work begins, and I’m so excited to see what they will look like and who God will bring to help in the process!

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!

 

 

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…