Mom VS Stuff

Mom Vs Stuff

We have moved twice this year, both of which were giant moves. The first was 10 hours away from our family and friends and the second was another 8 hours further south. I have been blessed with six children and with that blessing comes STUFF…LOT’S and LOT’S of STUFF!

Our first move we gave away almost half of all the kids STUFF. We just got settled in our new home (which I love by the way) and again before we moved we gave away SO MUCH STUFF. Where does it come from? How does it accumulate?

My kids are like most other kids in America. I don’t feel like they are spoiled or have to have the next thing and yet still we are surrounded by STUFF!

During this move I felt conviction over our accumulation of STUFF. How many stuffed animals does one child really need? STUFF does not define you nor does it define me, my family, and especially my children. They are awesome with or with out all that STUFF.

Instead of owning our STUFF we have allowed our STUFF to own us. We have become slaves to our things allowing our identities to be defined by our homes, our vehicles, our clothes, our STUFF. Then we have our children that are learning about STUFF from us. We feel guilty we buy them STUFF. They are having a hard time at school or with friends… look here’s more STUFF! We are creating a world where STUFF is more important than people, character, or relationship. How many parents buy STUFF to make up for all the time spent away from home?

This mom is fed up! No longer will STUFF define my children or me.

My husband and I decided this year that we are not giving presents for Christmas this year for our children… but we are giving experiences; for example a weekend camping trip, a day trip to an island close by, things like that.

Christmas morning they will each be receiving a bike (which is part of an experience) and 12 well thought out experiences that will happen through the next year. We made this decision a couple weeks ago and I felt full of confidence that we were shifting their perspective from STUFF to what matters- time together. Then Anna, my 7 year old, and I went to Target she showed me at least ten different things she wanted for Christmas.

Quickly, I felt guilt washing over me.

Can I really not get her a bunch of STUFF for Christmas?

What kind of parent will that make me? Will I scar her forever? Will they revolt against us Christmas morning throwing their well thought out promise of experiences into the garbage?

After I calmed down and came to my senses I realized that I was being a good parent by showing my children a different perspective. For 2016 we have decided to tackle consumerism and entitlement in our family. Through all our conversations and prayer, we have realized that it is going to be much harder on us than them. Don’t you love how God always turns it back to you and your heart? You see with the move we thought the problem was with our kids and their need for STUFF… how wrong we were. Our kids have so much stuff because we have wrapped our identity as parents in with our ability to give them STUFF. This isn’t about needs. It’s about showing them love through STUFF, it’s about making us feel better by buying them STUFF, it’s about measuring our standards of parenting by the STUFF we can get them.

As I am writing this I am thinking about God in Heaven looking at us and shaking His head. His desire is for us to have relationship with Him and people, not STUFF. Real relationships where time is the best gift you can give. This Christmas season give the gift of time. Be present and mindful during family gatherings. Spend time with your children. Enjoy this season together and let the STUFF just be STUFF with no real value or importance.

Father I thank you for the revelation of how STUFF can distract us from You, from each other, and from what’s most important valuing relationships. Help us shift our focus this year from STUFF to You and the people we love!

 

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Please Put Down Your Bullhorn

Today my son witnessed an adult male on the FSW campus harass a young woman who he deemed dressed inappropriately. He was armed with a bullhorn in one hand and a Bible in the other. He yelled at her specifically calling out the clothes she was wearing (a tank top & shorts that my son referred to as normal summer clothes, not over the top in anyway). This adult male yelled at her specifically as he was spewing words of hate letting her know “exactly how God thought about her”.

I think about that girl.

How did she feel in that moment, walking to her class, minding her own business? Does she know God? Does she believe what this man is speaking over her? Will his words echo in her mind for years to come? Will she believe that she is in fact bad? Irredeemable? Will shame become her new best friend?

I think about the crowd of onlookers…

What did they think? Do they believe that all Christians are like this man holding the bull horn reminding each person on campus they were one step closer to hell? Worse yet, do they believe this about God? Do they believe that He is looking down from heaven focused in on this young girl and ready to release judgment and send her to an eternity of hell because of the clothes she chose that day? Could they feel her embarrassment? Were they too scared to speak up on her behalf? Somewhere deep within themselves did they think, maybe he is right and begin to judge her perceived sin? Did they judge all Christians based on what this man was screaming?

I think about the man, armed with the bull horn & the Bible…

What God does He know? How did he stray so far from the gospel to see God has a mean judgmental God that delights in wrath and judgment? What pain has he been through that causes him to see so dimly? Why is he filled with hate?

I think about my own heart…

Quick to be embarrassed by the actions of one man misrepresenting my faith. Quick to be angered by his words that disgraced this young woman. Quick to wish I was there to show her some kindness and love.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand how people can read the Gospels and look at Jesus’s life and see such hate. I have been in places where christian “protestors” were spewing words of hatred and judgement onto “sinners” and my spirit was grieved. I was younger and less confident in my own faith… today I would have stepped in and walked with the “sinners” and shown them love and mercy. But then, I just went home upset, disgusted, confused, and sad.

We are The Church. We are the body of Christ. We have to do better. We have to LOVE radically. We have to care. We have to speak up. We have to reflect Christ to this lost and broken world. We have to show the Gospel in action. We have to raise up a generation that will not tolerate bull horns, hate, and judgment as a representation of what they believe. We need people to live out the gospel they believe. The gospel is filled with love, love that is louder than any bull horn. Love is louder than any judgment that can be spewed at people as they walk by.

To the man “taking a stand” at FSW please put your bullhorn down. I pray that you have a radical encounter with the LOVE in the gospel, with the man, Jesus. To all the Christians who have a bullhorn in their mind that spew hate in their thoughts, please put your bullhorn down. I pray that you too would have a radical encounter with the man, Jesus, and His LOVE! May you begin to truly know and reflect the gospel you read about. To the Christians that are to timid to speak up may you lay your timidity down and be filled with FAITH & COURAGE to speak up and show love in our actions!

 

 

What I Have Learned From Rob Bell

This blog isn’t really about Rob Bell (although it is). It’s about my own judgmental heart, small world view, and religious spirit that kept me from learning so much about a God that I claimed to love madly. So quick history lesson. Rob Bell was made famous in the Christian circles from 2002-2009 with his Nooma videos that almost every Sunday School class grabbed hold of as a great tool to spark discussions about different aspects of God.  The videos were well done and very trendy. Then in 2011 Rob came out with his infamous book “Love Wins” that led to a wave of judgment and even hatred from that said Christian community. How quickly people can turn! His conferences went from selling out stadiums of thousands to a mere 60 people on a great night (Episode 70 of Rob Bell’s Podcast  “Empty Seats & Elephants” talks about this time for Him). Embarrassingly enough, I was apart of that said Christian community. Honestly, I didn’t even take the time to read the book. I just took another mans opinion on the book, and Rob’s belief system as a whole. I judged a man I never met. Harshly. To the point that I agreed that he was a false teacher. Again mind you, I never even took the time to read the book, or looked into things myself, I just heard someone I respected at the time say that we shouldn’t allow Rob Bell to influence us, our families, our friends, and certainly not our churches. I listened. I threw out our Nooma videos and I filed thoughts of Rob Bell in my mind with other leaders that “fell away”…

Do you hear the pride in those sentences?

Can you hear the judgment?

I allowed one mans opinion, his judgment of another mans heart, change my own beliefs about a man I have never met… I never even read the book. Seriously.

Do you know how many people are perfectly happy to allow someone else to think for them?  Do you even understand how scary that is?

Again, I am just using Rob Bell as an example of how quickly we fall into this disgusting judgmental, religious spirit, that doesn’t allow people to think for themselves, that judges mens hearts and motives, that draws lines in the sand and says this one is bad…

When I was delivered of that ugly religious, judgmental sprit, and set free from the influencers who were quick to say who I should or shouldn’t listen too, I had an experience with Jesus, His heart, and His love for people. That experience revealed how narrow minded, how prideful, and how judgmental I lived my life as a Christian. I heard one of Rob Bell’s podcasts after I had been set free and it resonated with me on so many levels… it caused me to question the previous thoughts I had about him. God was using Rob Bell to expose the judgment in my own heart. I bought the book “Love Wins” to see for myself. Did I agree with everything in the book? No, is that OK, certainly. The book was beautifully written and is about the love of God. It’s purpose, I suspect, was to challenge narrow thinking, to provoke us to think in general, and to question what (and why) we believe. Which, by the way, is good. God does not want us to be robots, to fall into cult-like thinking where when someone releases judgment on one person everyone just follows suit.

Now I enjoy his weekly podcasts. God always teaches me something through them. Every week it is a beautiful reminder of what I have been delivered out of… Every lesson I have learned through the words of Rob Bell has been a lesson I almost missed out on because of my own pride, judgment, and inability to think for myself. That will not happen again.

I encourage each of you to stop looking through such a narrow life view. Think for yourself. Learn from people. Know God intimately so that people can not influence you and think for you! Look for areas of pride and judgment in your own heart…allow God to set you free.

I would also like to throw out there that I also listen to Bethel, Bill Johnson, and one of my favorites Kris Valloton, that were also in that “taboo” group that we shouldn’t allow to influence us… The nuggets I have learned from their ministry… oh my goodness. My walk with The Lord has grown by leaps and bounds since I have been free to think, and learn!

 

You should have healthy relationships with friends and mentors that influence you not dictate over you. There is a HUGE difference.

Stephanie McCandless

 

I Cleaned My Room Today

Last week I met with a young woman who was having a hard time balancing her roles. Woman, wife, mother, etc. We have all been there. The Lord often gives me wisdom and the ability to offer solutions that are easy to apply to real life situations when I am ministering to others.
Here is the problem.
I am trying to close the gap between what I say & what I do.
I want to live the life I encourage others to live. To do that the gap has to close.
So last week in my discussion with this beautiful young woman several sentences came out of my mouth that I wanted to reach up into the air and grab the words I had just spoke and shove them back into my mouth.
Has that ever happened to you?
I mean really… I wanted to grab the words out of mid air and shove them back into my mouth and act like the conservation never happened!
God often uses the women He brings to me to show me where He wants to take me. He often has me share with them the very thing He is wanting me to do in my own life.
So today I cleaned my room.
Let me explain.
Women, especially mothers are pulled into so many different directions they often lose themselves in their duties. We often get our priorities confused & mixed up. We often mistake motherhood as our identity. We don’t leave time for ourselves or our husbands. We disconnect from ourselves and our needs and the one we are suppose to spend the rest of our lives with. But most importantly in all the doing we can lose touch with God and the most important relationship in our lives sometimes gets put on the back burner because of busyness.
God comes first. We must spend time alone with Him. His relationship comes first. That sweet time with Jesus makes us better wives & mothers. We can’t be to busy for time with The Lord.
Then our husbands. Our husbands are often at the bottom of the list. If it’s a good day they get our last 30 minutes when we are so tired we can’t even make interesting conversations. Our kid’s cannot come before our relationship with our spouse. We can’t give our husbands the left overs of our day and we have to be his biggest encourager.
We have to be his biggest cheerleader.
I don’t know about you but that one is hard for me.
Our husbands have to know that they know that we are in their corner no matter what life throws at you both. Guess what, your husband probably already knows every time he messes up and it’s not our job to make sure he remembers. This world is hard, and its dark, and marriage is challenging.
But you have to remember who the enemy is… yes I just quoted Hunger Games… Don’t judge me. But it’s true. Your husband is not your enemy.
Your husband is not your enemy.
Then comes your children. Oh, how we get this messed up. I love, love, love all my babies… But I have to put my husbands needs first. As far as my children go it’s my responsibility to make sure that they are being raised up in the ways of The Lord not the world and that is an ongoing battle. It’s so easy for us to “give in” or allow small compromises so our children “fit in”. But what are we doing really? As a mother I want to guide my children to do what is right even when it’s hard and even when they are alone. Don’t get me wrong I want to be “the fun mom” and for the most part I am. But I want to be a mother that raises their children in such away that they never lose sight of their Lord and the call of God on their life.
I have said all of that and I still haven’t shared why I cleaned my room today…
I cleaned my room because during my meeting with this beautiful young mother who couldn’t find any balance I told her she needed to make sure her room was a sanctuary of peace for her and her husband. That they would have a place to retreat to and “get away” from the world and just be together. That she would have a place that she could go to during the day and just breathe, even if it was just for a couple of minutes.
As I spoke those words I realized… My gap just got bigger. My advice didn’t line up with my life. As I realized that I couldn’t cram the words I just spoke back into my mouth I knew I was going to have to make the time to create my own sanctuary. Thank you Jesus for showing me areas where what I say and how I live don’t line up.
Now to be honest I had a great time cleaning my room today because I had help…My girls helped me, we sang, we helped each other and we got it done! We love each other and want to help each other. And now my room is clean… I have a sanctuary. A place to breathe… but more importantly my gap got smaller!
Start asking The Lord where your gaps are… He will be faithful to show you.
Stephanie McCandless

The Juggle

I have heard my own story from countless other women. Women who are in “The Juggle”; feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, overworked and not sure how to deal with the crazy expectations of people and in reality the crazy expectations we, as women, put on ourselves!
I call it “The Juggle”. Now lets be clear, it’s not just juggling a couple of soft balls, it feels more like standing on a ball juggling with knives and jumping through flaming hoops with the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Have you ever felt like that?
Somehow the enemy has crept in and our lives have become chaotic. He has distracted us by making us feel obligated to juggle more and more… We have believed the lie that we must “DO MORE” and that somehow the DO in our lives = the amount we love.
I want to let you in on a secret… Sometimes the DO actually subtracts from the love we feel in our hearts. Often times the DO feels like priority over our husbands and children. Too many times the DO leaves the people who are most important to us feeling overlooked and unloved. I am a “DOER” by nature and because of that my family and my health has paid the price and I am not alone. Over and over I have heard the same thing from women who just can’t put their finger on why everything feels out of whack. That feeling is a symptom of things in your life being out of alignment.
Women who are trying to find the balance between loving God, husband, children, and serving in the church sometimes you have to “hit pause” on everything and reestablish your priorities and take a second to evaluate your lives.
Pauses are not only OK but healthy. They bring alignment.
Loving God is always our first priority but loving God has been confused with serving in the church. Now hear me first, serving in the church is a good thing and does express the love you have for The Lord. But I have seen too many people serving, serving, serving because of man’s expectations and from their own need to feel validated, loved, and accepted. Eventually those people hit a wall and everyone around them suffers.
Here are some questions to ask to evaluate your life and to help bring you into alignment.
Where is the fruit in my life?
Your fruit speaks. You should be bearing fruit in every aspect of your life. Sit quietly and reflect on your life and ask Him, in what areas are you bearing fruit and in what areas you are producing dead works. Dead works will keep you running on that ball and jumping through hoops while throwing knives up in the air!
Evaluate your relationship with God
Are you spending alone time with God? Is their fruit in your relationship with God? Are you growing, changing, and moving closer to Him?
Our journey with God is just that a journey. We should always be moving forward if you find yourself stuck in your walk with Him it is because things have gotten out of alignment.
Evaluate your relationship with your husband
Are you making your husband a priority? Does he feel like the most important person in your life? How would he describe your use of time? Does he feel loved and appreciated?
So many times our husbands are the last on the list and they get what ever is left. Christian marriages are failing everyday because we haven’t made our husbands a priority. Now I realize they have a part to play too but you are only responsible for your part. If you change the way you act towards your husband it will create the safe place for him to begin to do the same. However, regardless of his reaction you are still responsible for your part!
Evaluate your relationship with your children
Are your children witnessing you at home worshiping God and loving your husband? What do they see when they look at your life? Are you allowing them to see God in you?
Are you creating an atmosphere in your home for them to feel safe, celebrated, and loved? Have you and your family joined the fastest growing church in America? Are you worshipping the sports God? Has your children’s activities overtaken your lives? If so it is time to revaluate what your life looks like at home and make the necessary changes!
Evaluate your time spent serving
Have you made duties in the church a top priority? Are you serving out of the right motives? Are you serving from your passion or obligation? We are all called to do our part but so often people jump right in and say yes to so many things their life is over ran with their own yeses. It is OK to say no. It is also OK to pause and allow your life to get back into alignment. You can’t serve from the right place if you are not walking in alignment and your leaders should applaud you for taking a “pause” to realign your life!
Alignment doesn’t mean your life is perfect, your house is always clean your husband and children are always happy but it does mean that your priorities are in order and you are operating in a healthy way with love as your motivation. Alignment brings forth MUCH fruit.
You have permission today to pause everything you are doing and evaluate your life and begin to ask Him to align your priorities. Ask Him what needs to change… and if you need help seeing what areas are out of alignment ask someone you know that bears the fruit of the spirit to help you on this journey.
Father, I pray that you would give all of us strength to pause, and the courage to ask the hard questions about what we need to do differently for our lives to be in alignment with Your plan and purposes, for our priorities to be in order, and for our life to bear much fruit and reflect You! Amen

The Journey From Helicopter Parenting to a More Hands Off Approach

Sunday morning I was standing in church and reached down and picked up my youngest child, Anna Grace, to hold her for a song or maybe two… It is something I LOVE to do during worship. She is petite so I have been able to do it for much longer than I physically could have with my other children (If being petite can be a gift from God I believe He allowed my youngest one to be tiny so that I could ENJOY holding her just a little bit loner than normal.) Anyway, I love to hold her during worship and listen to her little voice as she sings along with the songs. Well this Sunday the two songs I normally get to enjoy with her only lasted about 30 seconds. She is growing up. She was getting heavy but I was willing to PUSH THROUGH… but she wanted down.
She wanted down.
She knows she is too old to be held. She has played along for far too long. But the season is coming to an end. I realize that she will still need me, and want to snuggle. But my little girl is growing up. My 19 year old is here visiting from college. It has been such a joy having her here during her break! It seems like yesterday (cliche I know) that I was holding Samantha. I blinked and now she is an adult making her own decisions. But this Sunday when I realized my baby didn’t want to be held anymore (and good grief IT IS MORE THAN TIME) I also realized I couldn’t remember the last time I physically held Samantha. I am not talking about hugging. I am talking about picking her up and carrying her around. I can’t remember the last time.
I blinked. The season shifted. She grew up.
Parenting is hard. We give everything we have to these little people and then they grow up. It happens so fast. When you think about the actual amount of time that we have to shape their little minds and lives it is so very small.
I work with people everyday. Sometimes I help them parent. I help them come to the understanding that their children are only with them for a small amount of time. Their job is not to protect them from life but to help them navigate through it. That is the number 1 parenting mistake I see, parents that try to swoop in and save the day leaving their children with no skills to navigate through life. My generation of parents are doing a MAJOR DISSERVICE to their children lives by trying to make everything so easy for them that their adulthood is going to be nearly impossible.
For a long time my idea of what a good parent looked like was distorted by my small world view. I was the typical “Helicopter Parent,” always hovering, always ready to swoop in and save the day. I felt like it was my job to create a safe place for them. Which is partly true. The problem was that I was so busy protecting them from the evils of the world I wasn’t equipping them to handle anything on their own. Again it is not my job to protect them from life but I am supposed to equip them with the tools they need to navigate through it. For me, the shift was easy to make. Let me be VERY CLEAR. I DO NOT claim to be a perfect parent. I have many “blindspots.” But the mistakes I was making have been corrected and now I am not quick to react. I don’t swoop in to save the day. I talk out issues and EMPOWER them to work through the circumstance they are facing. I take a much more “hands off approach”.
I still believe in creating safe atmospheres for my children, but my definition of that has changed. I believe that it is our job as parents to create an atmosphere within our home where our children can express there hurts, pains, victories, and concerns. I don’t swoop in and try to fix it but rather I offer to “feel it” with them. I help them navigate through hurt, fear, pain, back to peace and joy. Sometimes that road is longer than others but there is always a road to find our way back to peace and joy. We have a couple of rules that are extremely important to us:
Everyone must be KIND.
No yelling (This one has been broken but not very often.)
Everyone and every experience has value.
The people in our home are not our enemies we are to fight for each other not with each other.
See the good in people (especially your family.)
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
You can see our families value system in our rules.
I believe that The Lord is shifting peoples perspective of parenting. He is giving us all a glimpse of how short our time with them really is. He is asking us revaluate our values and He is asking us to begin to aline our actions with that value system.

Stephanie McCandless

We All Need Someone

We all need people.

Everyone.

I am a very strong independent woman who is very used to being the one helping someone else maneuver through life. I do it everyday…and I love it.

My job is to help others navigate through some of the toughest of life’s circumstances and even I need help.

Yesterday I sat in the Lee county public school systems school choice office with waves of emotion washing over me. Fear. Confusion. Anger. Back to fear. I was completely overwhelmed at the process of moving my children from charter schools to the public school system. Lee county school system (much like so many places in America) is over crowded, underfunded, overworked,  and very overwhelming for someone moving into a new community. I normally DO NOT entertain FEAR at ALL. It is not only THE 4 letter word to me but it is also the F word. It is UGLY and I refuse to allow FEAR to guide me in anyway. However, yesterday sitting in that office thinking, maybe we should leave well enough alone and leave the kids in the charter schools (out of fear that we wouldn’t receive the schools we are requesting) thinking what if we are making a mistake (again out of fear) and wondering if we were doing the right thing. This is about my kids and it is a HUGE deal.

This blog is not about the Lee county school system, my kids, or even fear for that matter… it is about the precious woman that sat next to me who knew the process, the questions to ask, the people to talk to. The precious woman that cared enough about someone else kids to show up & give a damn.

We all need help.

Yesterday, I was filled with so much appreciation that someone, who verily knows myself (and my kids for that matter), took the time (and this process is VERY time consuming) to sit and help me navigate through something that was so unclear to me.

We all need help.

We can all be help.

Ramie did not have to give up her morning yesterday and sit with Dusty & I but she did. I know her well enough to know that she would go and sit with anyone and help them navigate this process. She KNOWS that she can help… SO SHE DOES!

You may not know anything about navigating through an overcrowded school district but you do know something. We all have gifts. We can ALL help someone.

Ramie has made the choice to EMPOWER people, by helping them. I have said this for years… When women decide to lay down competitiveness, jealousy, & fear and begin to EMPOWER one another we will CHANGE THE WORLD. One of my favorite quotes is from Lisa Bevere, “Nothing is more dangerous than a woman fully alive and dangerously awake.” When women are fully alive and dangerously awake we are quick to be that woman that gives up their morning to sit with another mom and help in whatever way we know how!

Choose today to EMPOWER. Care. Give a damn. Everyone needs help. Everyone can help. Find your gift and use it to help someone everyday!

Wholeness

I spent most of my life striving, hiding, pretending, scared, and lonely. Wholeness was a foreign concept for me. For a decade I would hear The Lord speak to me about wholeness and the importance of being spiritually, emotionally, and physically fit for the call He had for me and honestly I just missed what He was trying to say. His words would cause me to “spin out”. Every time He would nudge me in that direction I would step onto the hamster wheel and run in circles.

Striving.

Performing.

I would “over do it” in one area becoming almost obsessed on my spirituality or my physical health. I completely shied away from the emotionally realm… because lets face it, opening up that can of worms just sounded frightening! When I would hear His words about being fit spiritually, emotionally, and physically what I received from Him was condemnation (even though that’s not what He was intending for me to hear). I would “hear” “Stephanie you are not doing it well enough”, “Stephanie, you need to read more, pray more, worship more” “ Stephanie you need to eat better, you need to lose weight, you need to exercise”

I missed the point entirely of what He was communicating to me.

He was inviting me on a beautiful journey…a journey of wholeness… sadly, that invitation sat for 10 years before I began to understand what He meant and finally RSVP’d for the journey.

My relationship with Him was primarily a knowledge based one. Although, it looked REALLY pretty. Shiny even. I am a student by nature… I LOVE to learn. I like to take a subject and dig in fully digesting it. I like to understand it frontwards, backwards, every which way! So my “relationship” with Him was defined by learning (which isn’t all bad). But I would study on a specific subject about God and know it wholeheartedly… my head was FILLED with head knowledge and for years that “felt” like what I was suppose to be doing when He spoke about spiritual fitness.

I knew I was suppose to “be in relationship” with God not just know facts, I taught sermons about it, I planned events around it. My problem wasn’t that I didn’t KNOW about having a relationship with God, my issue was with my idea of what a relationship looks like. My view of relationships was dysfunctional at best. My thought was a “healthy relationship” was being whatever another person needed, saying what people wanted to hear, doing want needed done, being liked, making people laugh, fulfilling a need. The idea of vulnerability was TERRIFYING and so far off in the distance that it wasn’t even an option. How could ANYONE really know me when I didn’t know myself?

I was born a “peace maker.” My parents had a very dysfunctional marriage and I, being both a girl and the first born, did what so many do in my situation I owned the role of the peace maker. I felt an overwhelming need to try to keep everyone happy so that things could be “normal” whatever that means. I often lied. Said things were good when they were not. I put on a face that I felt would make people happy, and help them not to fight, not to drink, not to hurt… I felt that “putting on a specific face” was what had to happen for our family to be ok. Now obviously as an adult I know that’s not the case. How I behaved or presented myself really made no difference but to 7 year old Stephanie, it was not only my job but I felt like lives depended on it.

I could not understand what God was asking of me until I had an experience where my head knowledge and my heart collided…all of a sudden I felt unconditional LOVE… which was exactly what I needed to be brave enough to take Him up on the invitation of becoming FIT; spiritually, physically, and yes I even opened the emotional can of worms!

I wish I could say that it happened over night, but for me it has been a journey. The Lord has walked with me hand in hand teaching me about healing, wholeness, love, relationships. What it’s like to be in alignment physically, spiritually, emotionally.

I share some of my story in hopes to be an encouragement to you to begin, continue, or finish your journey of healing. Everyone has pain from the past that He wants to heal. Everyone has places where they try to keep hidden, masks that they have grown accustomed to wearing. His LOVE is strong enough to make you brave to face whatever area of your life your most scared of!

I have a daily practice that keeps me present on my journey with Him. I ask everyday for Him to show me a way to take even just one step forward in the areas of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Everyday I tend to all three areas. Sometimes it’s just baby steps other days I leap! But, everyday I do something (still holding His hand) that moves me forward in all three areas.

I have found balance. I have peace. So can you!

Stephanie McCandless

Politics & Christianity, Oil & Water

This morning, I was pondering all the political Facebook posts I have seen so far throughout this election process.

It has been an overload of God says this and God says that…really????

I have often wondered, “Why are so few embracing Christianity? Why is the church (as a whole) shrinking instead of growing?  Also, why are so many believers choosing not to be identified by the word, Christian?  What makes a person so fed up with the connotations of the very word, Christian, that they would disassociate themselves from other believers?”

Believe it or not, the way we put ourselves out there on social media (especially related to politics) is an issue. A big one.

The way Christians have handled themselves on social media (again especially with politics) is a key reason that people are turning away from the church.

This political race has turned so many away from wanting to be connected or even having ties with the “Christian” club!  They have seen the posts of condemnation and fear-mongering done to those Christian leaders who don’t openly support the Republican party.

The election process has really opened my eyes to see some very disturbing things.  Let me break this down, from an on the fence “believers” perspective. An on the fence “believer” is someone that is either new to the faith, or weighing the options in a, do I believe, or do I not.  They are in the questioning stages of their walk.

Early on, the evangelical word was, that the Holy Spirit had descended on Ted Cruz and the very face of God would be revealed through Ted, as he became president of the United States.  Many evangelicals rallied around this statement and begin to blast it on every social media outlet they could find.  This, from the mouth of well-known ministries, was the very word of God!

Hmmmm…….

Interesting at this point to see that Ted has been defeated and has bowed out of the race.

Was God misinformed?  Did God predict something that was wrong?  How did God miss this?

These are some of the thoughts that have to be rolling around in the minds of many!

There was also, a word of the Lord statement, made by a very well-known leader who stated that, another Bush would rise up.  This too, was said to be the word of the Lord.

Again…How did God not see that coming???

Did God miss it again?

On another note!  There have been a large number of “prophetic words” given as the very word of the Lord, spoken concerning Donald Trump and his attempt “to make America great again.”

Words that state that, “Trump is the wrecking ball coming to this nation.”  “That he was brought forth by God to shake this nation.” “He with the power of God, and the backing of evangelical Christians, were going to make this nation great once again.”

So from an outsider’s perspective…God is ordaining a man who makes references about his penis size on a national platform.  God Himself, is ordaining a man who speaks harshly about immigrants or aliens in our nation, when the Bible as they know is supposed to be about helping the aliens, the sojourners .  They hear “Christians” say that God is love and kind…all the while, they are seeing the “Prophets” and “Christians” get behind a man who speaks with hate and anger.

Another question that is swirling the confusion is the, “make America great again” slogan, that “Christians” are shouting and circulating through mass media.

What does that mean?

When was America great?  What era are we trying to reproduce?

The 60’s, when blacks had to use separate bathrooms and drink from different water fountains?

The 40’s and 50’s, when women were even more oppressed than they are now?

The great depression?

Are we giving America back to the Native Americans?

This is just a very confusing statement for many “Christians”, let alone those who are still questioning their faith.

Let me help you see a little more.

God says Bush…wait…no it’s Cruz…dang it…sorry missed it again…Trump is the one!  Is God confused?  Is God a Republican???

Hmmm….

This is flaky in so many ways!  As believers, we wonder why so many are confused, frustrated, and even angry.  This is why so many think the gifts of the Spirit are just wrong.

To be blunt…we Christians look like asses.  It’s actually embarrassing to sit and reflect on this all.

I want to close with this.  I personally, am in no way advocating for either party in this writing.  I’m just simply stating the things that people are seeing, and trying to help bring perspective to what we “Christians” are doing and saying.  God is not a God of confusion.  God is a God of order.  God is not right wing or left wing.  God is love.  God wants us to love people, love ourselves, and love Him.  God wants us to reflect Him in our every action, our every word, our every post on social media, in every facet of our lives.

To the outside world, God looks like chaos in so many ways.

We have made Him look like an angry, confused, people hater.

Christianity and politics are like oil and water… they just don’t mix!

Both parties have faults in what they “stand for” they also both have good points.

Listen, regardless of the party you stand for.  Be love.  Let’s not allow our emotions influence the “word of the Lord” around politics.  I do believe that God still speaks through people in many ways, and I believe in all the gifts of the Spirit.  I also understand that this is a very passionate subject for so many.  I get that.  It should be.  The elections are a very big deal.  Let’s just let God be represented by our actions of love, and not our selfish ambition to sway voters.

Let God, be God and remember this…above all else…love!

Dustin McCandless

The Unmade Bed

“We want our Church to feel like an unmade bed, a place where people can feel safe enough to come in, rest, refuel,and reenergize”

What a beautiful (yet foreign) concept!

Since we have moved to Fort Myers we have been blessed to get to know our neighbors. Gary & Cathy, they are AWESOME people to live by. They are co-pastors of The Vineyard church in Fort Myers. Dustin had coffee (and maybe some doughnuts) with Gary one day and came home to tell me about the way Gary described their desire for The Vineyard.

An Unmade Bed.

Something that is beautiful, inviting, flawed in a way, or at least imperfect, comfortable, full of peace, simply described as a place of rest. Somewhere for people to curl up and call home…

We have visited The Vineyard several times and their church is just that… it is welcoming, inviting, peaceful, fun even. I have been involved in many different styles of churches & ministries, most of which fall into the striving, and railing kind. You know the screams for revival, begging God to pour out, begging for a move… and then there is the Vineyard. No striving, no yelling, no begging, just a deep understanding that God is already pouring out, He is already moving, that we are not beggars we are His children, and that it is OK to rest in that… to be still and know that He is God. You can feel the undertones of the church; humility, love, unity, and honor. I have sat back and watched this church stand on the issue of equality for women in the pulpit. I have watched them openly share their platform. I have watched God move in peoples hearts and transform their lives. I have watched people be genuine and loving. Listen, don’t get me wrong I know that all churches are flawed… they are in fact made up of humans and humans are full of flaws…that is not my point.

I just wanted to share my heart on “the unmade bed”.

I was just sitting here enjoying my coffee thinking about Jesus, The Church, and the theory of the unmade bed. From now on that is how I am going to describe my time with Him. You can’t strive and get into a works based mentality, when you think of your prayer time as entering into an unmade bed. Your bed is a place you know you belong. It ALWAYS welcomes you. It is a place to just be. To rest in your identity…your true-self. It’s also a place to DREAM. God loves it when His children DREAM about their lives.

The quote I opened with was paraphrasing their conversation. So Gary forgive me if I misquoted you… I will sneak you a cupcake 🙂

To all the DREAMERS out there may you find your “unmade bed!”

Stephanie McCandless