The Darkest Valley

The Darkest Valley

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” // Psalm 23:4

Hi Everyone!

I don’t think it goes without saying how we are truly in one of the most, if not the most, difficult season our country and our world has faced in a very, very long time. I’ve been just like the rest of you these past few weeks: Glued to the news and social media feeds, left shocked and heartbroken by the things going on around us. People have lost their jobs. Small business owners have lost their dreams. Many of lost access to health insurance, and many have lost access to their own health.

COVID-19 has gone through quite the transition, at least here in America. We all kind of went from joking about it with memes, to finding the toilet paper aisles empty, to now staying inside and hearing the death toll could reach up to 240 million people in America alone. As I’ve sat and thought the past few days, so many possibilities have crossed my mind. We truly don’t know what the next few days, weeks, or months bring. We are truly in uncharted territory. And as much as I’d love to comfort us all by saying God knew this was coming and that He is in control (because both of those things are true), I think God is giving us a little more substance to anchor our souls in today–because you know as much as I do, we need an anchor for our soul now more than ever.

Today is Palm Sunday and marks the start of Holy Week. Easter is my favorite holiday, even over Christmas. The emotions of Good Friday and the joy of Resurrection Sunday are days I look forward to all year. I can’t help but notice the timing of the Easter season this year, and how it collides directly with what could possibly be the worst week America has seen thus far in the amount of lives that will be lost, and the amount of cases that will be reported. It seems so interesting to me that one week in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago started off just like many of our weeks did before this whole thing happened: celebratory, joyous, excited for the future. But every day that Jerusalem moved closer to Passover, the more tense the air got, the more fuel that was added to the fire against Jesus, and finally it all accumulated in the darkest day of humankind: the day Jesus died.

The last month has felt somewhat like an elongated Holy Week. Most of us started off March pretty great. Then it got darker. And darker. And darker.

At the time I’m writing this, we have lost more than 8,000 lives in America due to the Coronavirus. And by the end of this week–by the time we are observing Good Friday–we could–and probably will–lose thousands more.

Isn’t it something that the week we will be observing the One death that paid our sins once and for all will be happening simultaneously along the world’s worst pandemic in nearly 100 years? Every day that we get closer to remembering Jesus’ death, we will be watching people die all around us. And how many people will we lose that very Friday as we reflect on Jesus’ death?

All this to say this: We are in the darkest valley right now. I’ve read Psalm 23 over and over and over again since this year started, and today I read verses 4-6 in a little bit of a different light, and I wanted to share that with you. The verses are as follows, bolded words are mine:

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

We will walk through dark valleys–that’s guaranteed, and everyone in the Bible did. David did, and as he details this in the above verses, there are some things we can take away from it. As we walk through the darkest valley right now, here’s what God is doing, and here’s what we can hold on to:

  • I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me: In the darkest valley, God is with us. His Presence and His protection comfort us. In the darkest valley.
  • You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: In the darkest valley, when we are surrounded by enemies, job loss, uncertainty, fear, and even death, God provides for us. He prepares a table right in the middle of the darkest valley. He gives us what we need, and He gives it to us abundantly. Right in the middle of the darkest valley.
  • Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever: In the middle of the darkest valley, God’s goodness and love is right here with us. It’s following us. It’s comforting us. It is with us. Right here in the darkest valley. And right here in the darkest valley, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Right here in the darkest valley, we need not fear. Lean into these verses. Lean into God’s promises. Dig into God’s word. There is hope available. There is peace available. There is life available.

What happened on the worst day in history didn’t stay that way. Jesus died, but He didn’t stay dead. Sunday did come. Resurrection did come. Eternal life did come. We may be in the darkest valley now, but this won’t last forever. Because bad days never have the final say. Death never has the final says. Valleys never have the final say.

Resurrection has the final say. God has the final say. So let’s hang on. Sunday is coming.

But for those who might not make it to Easter Sunday this year, can we pray for them? The reality is so many people are questioning their own mortality in these times, and there’s never been a more opportune time to tell others about the hope and the life that Jesus freely offers to anyone who calls on His name (Romans 10:9-10). Pray for your friends and family. For healthcare workers, and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. For those who’s eternities are hanging in the balance as they await the next week. God is still doing miracles. And we need salvation to flood this country. That will be my prayer this week: That the blood poured out on Calvary’s tree 2,000 years ago would flood America anew this Holy Week and Easter season. It’s not too late for anyone. Let’s do all we can to bring this message to those who need it, before it does become too late.

Thank you for being here during these trying times. If you ever need someone to talk to or pray for you, please feel free to reach out. Comments below are always welcome, as are DM’s on my socials (@stephjayewriter). Remember, we are all in this together, and I’m loving and praying for you all. Please stay home, stay safe, and be wise.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie ❤

Real Hope for Real Hurt, pt.1: Where Is Your Faith?

Real Hope for Real Hurt, pt.1: Where Is Your Faith?

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” // Psalm 73:26

Hey guys! I hope you’ve been having a great start to 2020! It’s been a minute since I’ve released a blog, but I’m going to try and be back with new blogs every week again!

If you read any of the blogs I put out towards the end of last year, especially this one and this one, you know that I experienced a lot of hurt and disappointment in 2019. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the hurt and reality of all my disappointments had really taken it’s toll on me. I started to question God, and I just plain didn’t understand why nothing that I wanted or had been praying for was happening. I could feel my heart starting to harden, and I knew I was in trouble.

I saw all that to say this: out of my own experience, and the experiences of others around me, I know that hurt and pain and suffering is real. So many people wrestling with God–let alone His goodness–when times of trials come. But here’s the thing–sometimes the advice we get or the comfort others give (that is well intentioned, no doubt) isn’t what we need in those moments. What we need is REAL HOPE for REAL HURT. That’s what I want to talk about the next couple weeks.

We’re not talking about Romans 8:28–though that’s a great verse, and is certainly true.

We’re not talking about– “Everything happens for a reason”, though I believe that’s also true.

We’re not talking about– “It’ll happen, just have to wait”.

We’re talking about:

Who is God when my world falls apart and what can I hang my hope on to get through this? Because it doesn’t feel like anything is going to help me right now.

Who is God when my world falls apart and what can I hang my hope on to get through this? Because it doesn’t feel like anything is going to help me right now.

That’s where I was, and that is where so many of you are right now. So we’ll start here.

Recently I was reading Luke 8 in my Bible, and was reading the story of when the disciples were in a boat with Jesus and a really bad storm kicked up. These guys were in danger. The Bible goes so far as to say they were in “great danger”. Panicked, they rushed to Jesus, scared for their lives (literally), and they say, ““Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (vs. 24).

So Jesus gets up and literally commands the winds and the waves to calm. And they do. When the storm subsided and all was calm, Jesus turned to His panicked disciples and says this: “Where is your faith?”

This hit me so hard when I read this. As almost Jesus Himself was saying these words directly to me. “Where is your faith?”

This got me thinking about where my faith actually was. I could say it was in God. But was it?

I think that’s where so many of us are right now. The winds are roaring and the waves are swamping our lives and we are drowning–just like the disciples. They knew where to turn, but I don’t know if they fully grasped Who they were turning to. If they had, would their reaction have been the same? Would panic have overtaken them? Or would they have remained calmly confident?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Fear is a human emotion, and if we were in a boat about to go under, I would surely be panicked. But in the midst of that panic, I have to wonder if there would there be an underlying peace because we knew Who is in our boat.

So I want to leave us with that question today. “Where is your faith?” Could it be that your faith is actually in yourself? Have you been putting everything all on your shoulders? Or maybe your faith is in someone else. Or something else. Honestly take a look at what you’re putting your faith in.

Next week, we’re going to talk about the components of the One we put our faith in. What makes Him trustworthy? Why can I choose to put my faith in Him? If you can’t wait for next week, you can always find me on social (IG and Twitter). Let’s talk about it. I want you to experience the real hope of Jesus. Because that’s where healing and real hope comes from.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie

@stephjayewriter

Top 10 Lessons I Learned from the Past Decade

Top 10 Lessons I Learned from the Past Decade

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” // Psalm 90:12

Happy Last Monday of the DECADE!! This is the second blog that I put out this week, because not only is it the last few days of the year, but also of the decade. And if you know me at all, you know I love to reflect on what I’ve learned and am fascinated by how time defines things.

The 2010’s decade has been an interesting one for me. I spent more years out of school than I did in, (which didn’t occur to me until I thought about writing this blog. Seems like I spent more time in school than not!), and a lot happened this decade.

When I think about a span of ten years, I think about how much happens in that time. How much our lives change. The next ten years have the possibility to bring us the most unbelievable joys, the best surprises, and discovering more of our Creator. But before we jump into 2020, I want to take a look back at the 2010’s. Without further ado, here are the top 10 lessons I learned from the past 10 years.

  1. Your obedience to God, no matter what you’re losing now, will always be worth it in the end. This has by far been one of the biggest lessons to span this decade. Obedience is so, so, SO important. And it’s always worth it.
  2. Anxiety is scary, but it’ll pass. I struggled with anxiety like I never have before this past decade. But instead of trying to fight it like I have been, I wish I would’ve known that the body naturally clams itself down–so I don’t have to try obsessively to. Also, to know God as a loving Father instead of a God who expected perfection is a lesson well learned.
  3. Make a difference when and where you can. God gives us seasons–at jobs, with people, in certain areas. Don’t waste that time blending in, trying to hang with the cool crowd, or letting the world bog you down. Make a difference for Jesus in those places and in those moments while you have them (Matt. 5:16). One day it’ll be too late.
  4. Just because the answer is “no” now does not mean it will always be. If you read my blog that came out yesterday, you’ll read that this year was a big one for the two letter word “no”. And honestly, these past few years I’ve seen what I thought were the desires of my heart go left unfulfilled. But in the past decade, I’ve also seen things that I thought were gone for good come back and bring me the most joy I’ve ever had, because they were God’s thing and in God’s timing. No is not always not forever. You can trust God with your hearts desires (Psalm 37:4).
  5. Take time to get alone with Jesus–often and whenever else necessary. There was a period of time during my senior year of high school when I went through a period of losing all of my best friends. (Yeah, you read that right. All.) It was extremely tough, but that’s when I started reading the Bible when I had breaks in between classes and started seeking Him more, and that changed e v e r y t h i n g for me. Even now, I’ve learned that getting alone with Jesus–especially to start my day–is critically important. Seeking His face, His Word, and being with Him in prayer will allow you to grow in your relationship with Him and make space for Him to reveal all He has for you. Do it!
  6. Talking about relationships–don’t romanticize. I didn’t know the damage this could cause until recently. Stay present, keep your head out of the clouds, and seek God in all your romantic endeavors. Trust me, it’ll save you a boatload of heartache.
  7. Ask God to show you His best. This was a h u g e lesson for me a couple years ago. Sometimes our vision can get clouded by doubt, worry, confusion, or impatience that we are tempted to settle for what’s easy, or what’s available now, or simply put, less than God’s best. Do not do this! Ask God to show you His best. But when you do, be prepared to have Him show you what is not His best. That may be hard, but that too will be worth it.
  8. Guard your heart. There’s a reason we’re instructed–above all else–to guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23). Whether it be against bitterness, lust, jealousy, comparison, or something else, it is vital for us to ask God to help us guard our hearts. As the Scripture says, everything we do flows from our heart. If everything flows from it–we better make sure we’re guarding what we allow in it.
  9. You are set free in Christ–start acting like it. This decade, I learned that I am truly loved by the God of the universe. I am set free in Him. He is glorified when I embrace my freedom as a Child of God, when I am who He’s created me to be in ways that honor Him (Psalm 139:1-18). And above all else–He loves me! This was a huge revelation I experienced, and look forward to continuing to learn and walk that out in the new decade.
  10. Enjoy life. Goodness, just enjoy life! I can be so uptight and worried about everything, and yet God gives us all good things to enjoy (John 10:10, 1 Timothy 6:17)! Food, adventure, family, friends, work, whatever! It’s okay to have fun, to enjoy things! So glorify Him and feel free to enjoy life.

Well friends, that’s about it! There are so many more lessons I learned, but these are ones that were big and had lasting impacts from the last ten years. I cannot wait to see what the next ten years brings, and I pray that it’s full of blessing, abundance, and love for all of you.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie Jaye ❤

@stephjayewriter

P.S. — Remember to check out my year-end blog from yesterday, too!

I Joined a Dating Site – And Why I Think It’s Okay

I Joined a Dating Site – And Why I Think It’s Okay

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” // 2 Corinthians 6:14

Happy Sunday!

So, I have kind of a different blog coming at you guys today. One that I’m not sure I’d ever be writing. But this is what’s been going on in my life very recently, and I thought it’d be beneficial to share with you and hopefully to aid in a healthy discussion of this topic.

About a month ago, I started looking into online dating sites after my mom half-way was joking but half-way was serious about me trying online dating. Never thinking I’d actually do it, I did some research, read some reviews, and ultimtely tried a free trial on one. That was that. For a bit.

After a while and a sequence of events that I’ll spare you from, I really started getting this overwhelming urge to return to the dating site and actually DO THE THING. I had this anxious, but peaceful, confirmation from God about it after much prayer and doing research on what other Godly people had to say on the topic. At the end of the day, I did it.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, for one, I want to have a discussion about the implications of online dating and how a Christian should view it, just in case someone out there is thinking about trying it and is looking for a Godly perspective on it like I was.

As long as you’re seeking God and following His lead through the process, you’re not manipulating anything.

One of the biggest drawbacks most Christians have with online dating is that it seems to indicate a possible lack of trust in God’s timing and faithfulness to provide a spouse. I thought this one through pretty well because I certainly am not one to overstep God on His timing (though I’ve been tempted–as we all probably have). However, I came to the conclusion that me doing this was not an indication of that at all. I felt like God was actually nudging me in that direction. If you have prayed about online dating and feel God’s peace about it…do it! After all, He is the one who has to get you and your future spouse both on the SAME dating site at the SAME time. As long as you’re seeking God and following His lead through the process, you’re not manipulating anything. If it’s not God’s will for you to find your spouse at the time, you won’t. It’s up to you to follow and listen to His guidance so you don’t settle and make the wrong decision about a spouse, though. That’s something to consider as you contemplate your decision.

Another thing to consider regarding online dating is if you’re confident in knowing what you want in a spouse. Have you been praying for your future spouse? Are you in a good spot in life where you’re reading for a real, intentional dating relationship with another Godly person? If the answer to these questions is YES, then maybe you should try it out!

At the end of the day, I don’t think God frowns upon online dating. After all, it’s just a place to meet other people in our modern day. Just like going to a football game, a church group, or a party, it’s just another place to meet people who you might not have otherwise. What God IS concerned about is the person you’re to marry and the qualities that person should have. (That’s a totally different blog, one that maybe I’ll do someday!)

What God IS concerned about is the person you’re to marry and the qualities that person should have.

While I was in the process of making my decision, I watched the videos below to help me think things through. Above all, I prayed and followed where I felt God leading. Hopefully between this article and the resources below, you can form your own opinion of the topic.

When we chase Jesus and follow wherever He leads, you never know, someday we might just change the world. ❤

Until next time,

Image (5) - Edited (3)

@stephjayewriter

VIDEOS:

Why December 11th is so Important To Me

Why December 11th is so Important To Me

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” // Psalm 139:14-16

Hey all! Thanks for joining me for a special mid-week blog. I wanted to take a minute to share with you guys why today (December 11th) is so significant in my life. Because this day was the day that changed my life.

It was December 11th, 2009. A Friday to be exact. And I went to school, ready for the weekend just like any other eighth grade student, wearing the only pair of skinny jeans I owned. It was lunchtime, and while the rest of the students were finishing up eating and playing outside at recess, a couple of classmates and I decided to forfeit our recess and work on an English project we had due on Monday. My best friend at the time and I went to her locker to get the supplies we needed for the project, and while she dug around in her locker for what we needed, I bent over to pick up a pair of scissors from the ground. Little did I know, that move would change my life forever.

As I bent down to pick up the scissors, I fell to the ground. I looked at my knee, and my kneecap was sitting on the side of my knee. [Sorry, a little graphic, I know]. Out of my automatic reflexes, I shoved it back in place. (Which … disclaimer here … if you ever find yourself in a position where you dislocate something, never try to put it back in the correct place. Get medical attention immediately.)

So there I was. 13 years old, screaming … and I mean screaming … on the hard tile of my middle school hallway. The injury was so intense that I had skipped cry altogether, though there were a few tears shed. The intensity called for screaming. My best friend realized to some degree what had happened and ran down the empty hallway to get the school nurse. I’d never seen her run … let alone that fast … in all my life. 

Fast forward a little bit. I went to the doctor and found out that I had in fact dislocated my kneecap.

 The reason for this was because of my anatomy (which is another story all in itself). But because of how I was born, my kneecap wasn’t sitting in the groove of the knee like it’s supposed to, but rather it sat on top of the knee, making it vulnerable to dislocation.

Following the injury, I wore a brace for a while, and ultimately March of the following year (three months later) I had a small surgery on it attempts to stabilize it so my kneecap wouldn’t dislocate again. However, that surgery was effective for a little less than a year. My kneecap never dislocated again, but I started to feel it getting ready to. This time, the next surgery was scheduled for the following February (Feb. 2011 by this point). And this was no small surgery like the first one. This one was a whole knee reconstruction. (I won’t go into all those details, but if you really want to know, feel free to ask.) The recovery on this surgery was a bear. And I mean a bear. I couldn’t get out of bed on my own for about a good month. I was in a full leg brace for about six months, and physical therapy lasted eight months. Even then, I had only recovered 75% of my original strength back in that leg.

 I couldn’t get out of bed on my own for about a good month. I was in a full leg brace for about six months, and physical therapy lasted eight months. Even then, I had only recovered 75% of my original strength back in that leg.

Now, I know this all sounds dramatic and painful and crazy. And it was. But it was out of this season that I came to know Christ. I had grown up in a Christian home all my life, but it wasn’t until my kneecap popped out that I found an intimate relationship with Him. That I gave Him my whole heart and never looked back.  

I had grown up in a Christian home all my life, but it wasn’t until my kneecap popped out that I found an intimate relationship with Him. That I gave Him my whole heart and never looked back.  

It’s amazing to me that when I was created in the secret place God knew He wanted to me know Him. And the best way for me to know Him at the young, tender age of 13 would be to position my kneecap so perfectly that at that moment … lost in a season of  sin and darkness as a young teenager … that it would dislocate, leaving me on a long road to recovery and many, many days of quiet and peace with Him. The  verses above really couldn’t be more perfect for this blog post. God knitted my joints and ligaments and bones together so perfectly so that I may know Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. If my kneecap never would’ve dislocated, I don’t know where I’d be today. It probably wouldn’t be sitting here blogging about Him once a week, or writing a book centered around His amazing love and pursuit of us, or spending quiet time in His word every day.

So often in hardship and trial, we become so upset on what is or isn’t happening that we miss why God is allowing it.

God gets His children’s attention in all sorts of ways. Sometimes it’s dramatic, sometimes it’s subtle. But when He tries to get your attention, don’t turn bitter. Don’t miss it. Don’t miss the call to go away with your Creator, the One who loves you enough to pursue you. Don’t miss the best invitation of your life. Don’t miss the love He wants to show you. So often in hardship and trial, we become so upset on what is or isn’t happening that we miss why God is allowing it. Take a moment and reflect on what’s going on in your life. Is there something going on where God is trying to get your attention? What might He be saying to you today? Don’t be afraid to lean in and listen, because His heart for you is only love. And it’s never too late to look to God and lean into Him, no matter where you’re at in life.

So, that’s it. That’s why December 11th means so much to me, and I could not be more grateful for it. Because it was on that day, my world changed. And because of that very day, I know with God’s grace, day by day, someday we might just all change the world. ❤

Until Next Time,

Stephanie Jaye ❤

@stephjayewriter

P.S.! This song was so, so special to me when I was going through recovery. Please take a listen.