I am done. Finals are over, papers are written and handed in, and all that's left is to await my fate (the grades). My first semester in seminary is over. I'm one semester closer to getting my Master's degree. How crazy is that?!
This semester was, in a word, amazing. I wouldn't change a single moment of it, and, as I look back on the memories I've made, I can't wait to see what awaits me next semester! I've made incredible friends. Friends who have made me laugh until tears poured down my face and friends who I've had deep, spiritual conversations with and who have encouraged me greatly. I've made friends for a season and others for a lifetime. Each friend is so special to me in their own way. I love them deeply, not for what they've done for me or how they make me feel, but because God has chosen for that friendship to take root and grow. It is because of Christ that I love them so much.
And in some ways, I don't like to use the word "love" since it has become such an empty word in our culture. But how else am I to explain the depth of what I feel for these wonderful people? How else can I express how much I care for them... how loyal I am to them... that they mean more to me than they could possibly ever know? If they knew, even just a smidgen, of how they've impacted me, I think they'd all be flabbergasted! It's amazing how much influence we can have on someone. This has been heard before, but it's true: even a smile can change someone's outlook, since a smile isn't just a facial contortion of the muscles. It's an expression of the heart. A true smile encompasses caring and encouragement - love and genuineness. No wonder its effect is so strong!
All that said, I genuinely and deeply love the friends God has given me (and I don't mean that as a cliche - at all!).
And now, as I begin to pack (cram) my suitcases full of clothes, gifts, and memories from seminary that will come home with me for the next six weeks, I eagerly look forward to seeing my "old" friends. These friends have deeper roots in my heart, since they have known me for far longer than my current friends. (And, may I point out, they haven't run screaming... yet.) I look forward to catching up for lost time with them over the past five months. I look forward to laughs and great conversations (I'm notorious for four-hour conversations - be warned!). And of course - Christmas, my favorite time of the year.
Switching back to my original topic (very easily distracted, too, as you can see): this semester has been amazing in other ways than just friends. I've grown a lot. Coming here, I thought I knew pretty much everything about myself. I thought I had myself figured out - my personality, character, likes/dislikes, etc. I've found that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. I've uncovered some more "yucky" parts of myself, as well as seeing progress in my life. God has been so good to allow me to see such things, even when I was being pig-headed and pouty about not getting my way. (Very much the "only child" in me!) And all that God has taught me is another post, for another day. It's simply too much to write right now!
Suffice to say, I can't wait to see what next semester will bring. Perhaps more hurts and failures along with deepening friendships? Bring it on! I now know the value in the struggle of the flesh, and I welcome it, since God uses it for growth. Why be scared of pain? If I let myself get scared, then I would be living a shell of a life - and that is no life at all.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I am done. Finals are over, papers are written and handed in, and all that's left is to await my fate (the grades). My first semester in seminary is over. I'm one semester closer to getting my Master's degree. How crazy is that?!
Posted by Stefanie at 9:41 PM
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Since I am partly procrastinating and partly really wanting to write, here I am! Be proud, since I'm not waiting a month in between posts.
God has a way of repeating Himself that's really hard to miss - even for a hard-of-hearing (spiritually speaking here, not literally - even though it's true!) gal who is very obtuse. And recently He's been teaching me many lessons. In fact, He's been teaching me so much that I've had to ask Him for some time to make sure I'm fully understanding and applying the truths He's showing me. It's very humbling to ask such a thing, since it shows how much I struggle with actually applying what I'm learning, rather than just writing it down somewhere and promptly forgetting it.
Since it's the season of Thanksgiving (and North Carolina has finally accepted the fact that fall is HERE and winter to follow), it's appropriate to ponder for what one is truly grateful. I had a cool conversation with a friend of mine last night where we took turns and asked the other any question we wanted and we had to answer. Many of the questions were just silly and superficial (which equals fun!), but then we had a couple that really made me think more about it.
We asked what we regretted most in our lives, and then we talked about what experiences or times that we would never change. Interestingly, I found that many of the experiences I've had in my life were in both categories. Those experiences where I found myself making a foolish or dangerous decision that had caused me and others pain... of course I regret those decisions. At the same time, I wouldn't change what happened because through that pain something good came out of it. Sounds familiar, right?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)
It's so awesome to see the Word alive in one's life, isn't it? Makes me smile with gratefulness.
So, even though such times have brought me some sort of pain, my heart is truly thankful for that season of fire. God is always at work in our lives; bringing us through the purification process for His glory. And now, as I go through another time of struggle and pain, I'm joyful. I've never been this joyful of going through a struggle. Usually, I want to run away and hide until it passes. God knows I look forward to seeing the fruit of His transformation in my life. And He knows how much I desire to want to yearn and chase after Him... to understand His Word... to obey Him... to see His work for me made complete through Him.
What an adventure! I'm excited. I've been excited for the past month as I've gone through this. Each day brings new challenges, but also new answers. Every morning I wake up, I know for certain that He is still with me.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God; how vast the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18
I have to be honest here. I see what He's showing me, I hear what He's speaking through His Word, and I understand that He's growing and purifying me. What love! I'm overwhelmed as I think about this. That He should care for a sinner such as me... and actually desire that I grow in knowledge of Him - whoa! My human self feels completely unworthy of what He's doing in my life, yet my spirit basks in His glory and wants to soak up everything of Him.
I stand amazed in the glory of His presence.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Sometimes so much happens in one's life that to sit down and write it all out is quite a daunting task. Especially for me, anyway. Hence, my silence for the past few weeks. Some things are just hard to put into words. To try to explain what God is doing in my heart is hard to explain. And to try to explain the new friendships that have popped into my life is hard as well.
I can try to do "bullet points" - we'll see how that goes:
- I'm learning to enjoy where I'm at in the moment. Instead of wishing for the next day or the future, I'm learning to enjoy the moment - whatever that moment is. And I've had some intense struggling moments in the past few weeks. But I rejoice in those moments because they make me fall to my knees in desperation for my Savior. I'm realizing that I need His truth and guidance more than I ever have in my life thus far. Along with that, I'm realizing that He's demanding my faith and trust even more. What's so amazing is that I've been blessed to see the fruit of this struggle. Life is just amazing right now. :)
- Like I said, I've really been struggling lately with some emotional things. To be a bit more open, I haven't been quite this broken in a long time. It's been a learning process for me to "pour my heart out" before God. I've never experienced such freedom in knowing that God truly sees all my struggles and hurts and everything that I think and feel, and through it all still loves me with a patient, merciful love. It's been simply healing.
- I get frustrated (a lot) with school work. Some people love to go to school and work toward a degree, do papers, take exams, read (boring) books, etc. I'm not that into school. I work hard and try to remain as diligent as possible, but there's always a class or professor that just loves to kick the crap out of me each semester. Trying not to be bitter can be hard, I'm finding.
- I've discovered that I've really grown in accepting myself for who I am. And because of that, I'm more comfortable around others (generally), instead of hiding in the corner like a wallflower. My insecurities will pop up, but learning to "turn off" those lies with truth has been a growth point for me. Back in college I would continually doubt myself, doubt whether others liked me for WHO I AM, instead of who I pretended to be. Now, to put it frankly, I don't care. I just enjoy life, and I enjoy who God is creating me to be. And here's what's interesting: because I enjoy life I find that I'm much more available for God. (Note: I did not say more "able" since I have very little of worth that would enable me to "do" anything.) I have a LONG way to go in this, but it's so good and so encouraging to see progress, even in the smallest amount. The gifts He's so graciously given me have been put more to use, and it's exciting to see Him move in mighty ways in my life and others' lives.
I think that basically covers the tip of the iceberg. ;) All in all, God is amazing in His Authorship, not only in His precious Word, but in our lives as well. He's the ultimate Adventure, and I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I really thought I would be better at updating this blog, but I guess I'm not that great about it. I really need to just set aside some time every week to write out what's been going on. I'll work on that.
Next week is Fall Break! I'm so incredibly excited that I've already been in vacation mode since the beginning of this week. It's been hard to get the motivation to do my work, and even more so to actually go to class!
Last time I updated, it was before my birthday. Thanks to all for the cards and love on Facebook. It was a truly great day filled with laughter, memories, and friends. Of course, I cried, just because the girls gave me a great day that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Here's a quick synopsis of my day (from another diary):
My birthday was a blast! I woke up to a wall of toilet paper and balloons spilling into my room from the doorway. Some very michevious hallmates got up extra early (and I'm a fairly early riser, too!) to put that all together. I was so surprised and it was a great time as they laughed their heads off watching me trying to figure out how in the WORLD I was going to get OUT of my room.
Then some friends surprised me with lunch at Olive Garden (YUM!), where a friend of mine wore her "pirate teeth". I wasn't sure how our waiter was going to take it. He definitely looked at her, and then his mouth fell open in horror before it settled in his mind that it was fake. Oh, the hilarity. He then proceeded to ask several other waiters to talk to her just to freak them out. It worked.
After that, my roommate and another friend had me jump in their car and drove me to a surprise location: Adventure Times (or something like that) where I've been dying to go to since arriving here. There we played mini-golf, hit the batting cages (no pun intended), drove in the go-cart race, played some arcade games, and played laser tag. It was SO FUN!! Yeah, I know I'm a dork - but I love to have fun and be silly on my day!
We made it back "home" around 5ish, where a group of friends from church treated me to dinner at Chili's. It was a good time, since it helped me to become better friends with some of the people at church. Then I was invited to an apartment to watch a college football game. Apparently, here in the south, college football is a HUGE DEAL. It's more popular than the NFL (weird!!). So, that was good, too, since there were a lot of people I didn't know. They had cake and ice cream for me, and it was a lot of fun.
Sunday I had to spend recovering, since all the "partying" wore me out! Haha. So, I'm incredibly thankful for all the good times and good memories - and even some good new friends!
Since then, it's been classes, classes, classes. And lots of reading. I've also joined a group on campus who is trying to plan a mentoring program, with seminary students being the mentors and college students being the mentees. It's been a lot of work, but it will be interesting to see how everything pulls together.
As far as church goes, I still miss EBC immensely, and no church will ever compare, but each week I'm getting better in homesickness. EBC will always be my "home" church, but right now I need to focus on a local church where I can get plugged in and serve to glorify God.
I think I'll end there. With all the time off next week, I'll have another blog post planned out in no time. So, forgive me for being to broad and vague in this entry. I'm working on posting on a weekly basis so that I can write more about what's been happening on a deeper level, rather than just "this is what I'm doing".
One thing I will say as I end this, is that I'm learning so much about God. I know, I know... how cliche. But truly, it's been amazing as I've been challenged in my thinking and in my perspective of the world. It's uncovered so many fears that I didn't realize I had, and it's firing up passions that have just been smoldering over the past few years.
More on that later....
Posted by Stefanie at 8:51 PM
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Forgive me for not updating recently. Between my first big exam in Church History and TWO exams coming up for Greek, I've not been able to come here and adequately update everyone on my life. I promise that by this weekend, you'll see a "real" update, since I'm celebrating for my birthday! I'll be a quarter of a century, by the way - that sounds so much more older than I really am!
Please know that I am praying fervently for you, my home church - very rarely are you far from my thoughts. This has been my prayer of late: that God would unite His church in northern New York and give you an all-consuming passion for Him and His glory, as well as reaching out to those who do not know Him yet. Like a song I've recently grown to love: "He is mighty to save!"
Posted by Stefanie at 9:10 AM
Thursday, August 28, 2008
This is Binkley Chapel, where all our chapels are held (often just twice a week) and where the majority of the seminary classes are held. It's beautiful inside, very colonial, and the chapel speakers have been phenomenal so far. If you can, listen to their podcasts posted on Southeastern's website (http://www.sebts.edu/) - you won't regret it!
This is Lolley Dorm, where I'm currently living. You'll see pictures of my room a bit later.
This is Stealey Hall, home to the President's office, Acounting Services, Registrar... basically anything that's important, you'll find it there.
This is the Jacumin-Simpson Missions Center, which is the hub for national and international mission opportunities, classes, etc. It's another beautiful building.
This is the Ledford Center that houses the bookstore, school shop, fitness center, and "play area" as I like to call it. Haha.
This will be Patterson Building. It's being finished up right now and will hopefully be used by next fall for classes and offices. It's right next to the Ledford Center.
There's some weird looking plants around here. I've been told this is a magnolia tree, but look at the fruit things! They're HUGE!
And this is the scariest tree I think I've ever seen. These "burr balls" are giagantic! They're the size of my HAND! I actually accidently kicked one that had fallen on the path while wearing flip flops and it HURT!
Anyway, on to my room:
This is what you see when you open the door to our lovely (but sparse) room. The closets are directly on your right, and the door to the bathroom is to your left.
These are, obviously, our beds. Mine is the purple-clad bed with the loud pillows (ha). We're working on adding more decorations. ;)
Our dressers, my desk (Laura's is on the other side to your left) and our closets. There's so much storage space! I was very happy to discover that.
And finally, here's me, giving you a hearty "howdy" from down south. :)
Posted by Stefanie at 5:43 PM
Friday, August 15, 2008
Today has really been a struggle to hold back the tears. For some reason, I'm very emotional today and homesick. A close friend of mine left a little note for me on Facebook that made me cry and miss home, so ever since then I've been very teary. Gosh, someone could blink at me and I think I'd burst into tears!
Humor aside, I've been dealing with lonliness these past couple of days. It's hard to explain how I can feel so lonely with so many people surrounding me, but I'm pretty sure some of you can sympathize with that feeling. And I know it's okay to have that feeling of loneliness, since it is good for the spiritual life. I'm so thankful to God for putting a particular book into my life recently that really hit home on the idea that loneliness is part of our sanctification.
Although, I remember dealing with similar feelings in college, and I let those feelings consume me and I began to take on a very selfish and egocentric view of the world I was in. I definitely do NOT want to go near that again. So my prayer has been, daily, that God would protect me from selfish desires and that He would create in me a kind, compassionate person who will reach out to others before thinking of her own selfish desires. He gives me strength where I am grossly weak - and I am not just saying that as a cliche. He has truly proved to me these past few days that He knows exactly what He is doing and He knows exactly what I need and when I need it.
I was blown away yesterday when He revealed to me why a certain thing did not happen. Back in April I was trying to organize a trip to come down to Southeastern to visit the campus and see what everything was all about. I tried to make plane/hotel arrangements and nothing would happen. I couldn't get in touch with people, money was an issue, and other things happened that prevented me from going down to see Southeastern. For some reason, I was thinking about it yesterday and all of a sudden Truth hit me:
Stefanie, I did not bring you here back then for I knew you would not be here presently.
And from there His reasons washed over me. If I had visited this seminary back in the spring, I would have been so scared that I would have just disregarded God's calling and would probably be working somewhere else right now.
And you know what else is interesting? After hearing this Truth, I wasn't ashamed or guilty. I knew He was right (when isn't He?) and as I look back, I should have felt guilty and ashamed. But He revealed it to me in such a loving way that I was thankful. He knew me so well and found me so worthy of His love and grace, AND He believes that I can get through seminary so strongly (only through His strength, as He so quickly reminds me) that He was willing to say "no" to my desire so that His greater and better desire for ME would be carried out.
I stand here, completely shocked. Me? Worthy? Of a grace and love of this magnitude? Thank you, Abba - You overwhlem and overfill me. Continue to guide me, no matter the cost. Continue to protect me, no matter my pride. And continue to have mercy on me, a sinner. Praise and glory are Yours!
He reminded me of my favorite Psalm - Psalm 139:
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.... You are familiar with all my ways.... You hem me in, behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.... I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:1, 3b, 5, 14a
(FYI, the book I was referring to earlier is Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot - although I'm not really reading it for the love and marriage purpose, but simply for the everyday applications she interweaves throughout the book. I strongly recommend it. )
Posted by Stefanie at 8:24 PM
Monday, August 11, 2008
That about sums up what I've been thinking, feeling, praying and saying. What a rush the past few days have been, and how much more of a rush will the next few years be!
Thank you all for your prayers, hugs, kind words, and support (in any and every way possible!). Again, I am truly thankful and God knows how many tears I have shed in thankfulness and missing you all already. I'll stop here, since the tears are threatening again!
We left last Thursday and arrived at my grandparents in New Jersey. We stayed with them on Friday, trying to help where we can and visit with them before taking off to North Carolina. Saturday was a LONG day, to put it simply. Praise God that it was a straight route down to Raleigh (where our hotel was), but we spent two hours in stop-go traffic, just covering 30 miles. What a patience tester, right?
We made it to our hotel without getting lost (YES! you read that right!) and crashed in our hotel room. Of course, we couldn't go to bed without a proper meal at a Perkins restaurant and then watching the Olympics until we fell asleep.
Moving in on Sunday was... eerie. The campus was totally deserted. Not a soul around. We finally figured out that it was because it was Sunday and any decent Southern Baptist would naturally be at church! And I think I just called my familly unnatural because we didn't go to church. *gasp*
Anyway, Mom and I were wandering around the campus trying to find SOMEONE to help direct us to the Housing Office where I can get my key and move in. After walking around for 20 minutes, I finally read the small print on one of my forms I was sent from the seminary. After hours and on Sundays students who are moving in are to call campus security.
I quickly dialed security (who was also at church - just leaving, actually) and then Mom and I promptly got lost trying to find our way to the missions center where my car was parked. The security guy called back ten minutes later, wondering where we were, and I told him we got lost walking around on campus.
There was like, a 10 second pause. I swear he was covering the mouthpiece and laughing. SEBTS has a VERY small campus - Pastor will confirm that.
Finally he came on and asked where we were parked. I told him "the Jacklyn Smith Missions Center". Another 10 second pause, because the building is actually called The Jacumin-Simpson Center (he was laughing again, I KNOW it!). He finally directed us our way out of the campus.
No, we did not get lost going to the Housing Office. He was standing out front wearing a bright orange shirt. How could we miss that??
The actual moving in went surprisingly well. I brought the bare essentials with me this time, and my mother did not have to hold anything on her lap! (This is in reference to moving in when I was a freshman in college and had packed SO MUCH that my poor mother had to right 7 hours with a lamp in her lap.)
Right after we unpacked everything and put everything away, my roommate came in! Her name is Laura and to say that she is a sweetheart would be an understatement. We clicked right away and I hope and pray that we'll become fast friends. I can't tell you how many times I've prayed and pleaded with God to allow Laura and I to become good friends. How awesome is He?!
Today I had to take my parents to the airport and say good-bye. It was so hard letting my parents go. Tears were shed all around, and I cried pulling out of the airport. I know for a fact God was guiding my driving while I bawled. There was traffic everywhere and I was safe all the way back from the airport (and I didn't get lost driving on my own!).
And that brings us up to the current, as I sit here and write down everything that's happened. I'm hoping to take some pictures of the campus and my roommate to show ya'll (workin' on my twang!) what I'm seeing down here. One more thing I'll say about the south: it's HOT!!
Love you all! And I'm praying for all of you.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
To say that I'm not excited and happy about going to seminary would be a blatant lie. However, coupled with that truth is the obvious fear and uncertainty - basically of the unknown. What lies ahead? What will be around the corner of this little life of mine?
But this "little life" is not mine to control. My life does not belong to myself or another - only to God. Oh, how I wish I lived out that simple statment on a day-to-day basis. Instead I often find myself frustrated and angry when I try to take control yet again, and make my own plans without consulting my Lord for what His plans are for me.
A good friend of mine once sent me an email that had a great thought (thanks, Noreen!): "Make your plans in pencil, but give God the eraser." Amen!
So often I try to write my life in ink, thinking that my ideas are good (and they might very well be so), but are they the best? I cannot, in my own power, think of the best plans for my life. It is impossible, since I do not know what I will encounter in the future, nor who I will be in just a few short months. How could I possibly plan my life out when tomorrow holds surprises and plans of its own?
Every time I have written my plans in ink, I can almost - in hindsight - hear God chuckle or imagine Him to shake His holy head at me, saying "Oh, My child, do we have to go through this again?" But in His never-ending patience, He still walks beside me and guides me, even when I'm not very guide-able.
And when we write something in ink and make a mistake, often we must start over so as to avoide crossing words out and making a bigger mess. How well this translates over to the spiritual! When I write my plans in "ink", undoubtedly two things will happen: 1. I make a mess of things trying to cross out my plans to fit into God's plans, and 2. God will have to go back over my mess and erase it (which often includes time and pain).
So why am I bringing all this up for my first post? Simply to say, yet again, that my little life is not my own. I cannot make my own plans and expect God to just follow along, like He is some sort of puppy on a leash. I must give Him full control, and learn to sit back and watch Him in all His glory.
I invite you to travel with me in this experience. I have no idea what lies ahead in my experiences in seminary, preparing me for a life of ministry, but I can guarantee that God will not hold back on being the Author of my life.
I am a very adventurous and spontaneous person. I love surprises and not knowing what will happen next. To me, God is the ultimate Adventure - discovering Him, exploring His Creation, marveling at His power... these are all things that take my breath away. I cannot wait to see what He has in store for me, whether it be joyous blessings or suffering - there is a reason for everything and in every reason there is God.
Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of dawn, or settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:6-7
To my church family (for which this blog is primarily created): Feel free to leave comments, send email, or *hint, hint* send snail mail (which I LOVE to receive). I want to stay in close touch with all of you - not just when I'm blessed to go back home. I'll miss you all more than I'll ever be able to communicate, and I love you all with all my heart. Thank you for all you love, prayers, support and hugs. I treasure each and every one of you.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14