Sunday, October 11, 2015

Influence Conference 2015

The past few weeks of my life have been a complete whirlwind! I am finally back home from all my travels and my heart is so ready to share with you all about the Influence Conference!

For those of you who don't know about Influence Network, it is a Christian women's online network. For the past few years the network has put on a creative women's conference in Indy. On New Years Eve this year I decided to take the leap and buy a ticket. I decided that 2015 was the Year of the Lord and that this was going to be the year where I watched God work mightily in my life.

Let's just say, so far I have not been let down.

At some point the week of the conference I realized it marked the two year anniversary since my world came crashing down. The irony that this was the same exact weekend I simply cannot believe as coincidence. I'm going to share what I wrote in my journal following the conference, because I don't think I really need to come up with new words for it, even if I could:

Wow! This weekend was amazing! I feel so incredibly blessed.

This weekend marked two years exactly since everything began to fall apart. To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd make it through two years or even one year or even six months. Things were hard and dark and so incredibly painful.

I did the best I could though some days that wasn't enough to keep friends by my side. Most days turned into many days which turned into fewer and fewer days where I wanted to give up my life. But it didn't happen in any sort of quickness at all. 

Some days I trusted God whole heartedly. Other days I stopped pursuing Him and lived in resentment instead. Some days I poured out my heart to others and other days I couldn't leave the house. 

I had a lot of quiet days alone. One night where I laid on the ground in a cemetery, reflecting on the irony that I was pleading to die among those who would plead for another breath. I prayed to God and saw a shooting star fall across the sky as I asked for God to make me a husband who would love God more than he loved me.

I have had moments of sheer terror. Panic attacks so bad my hands became stiff as plywood. Where I had to be met in a parking lot to calm down because it hurt so bad to breathe that I thought I would have a heart attack. Let's not forget the time more recently where a friend had to pick up take-out instead of me because the last time I went there I saw something that caused me to shrink back into darkness.

None of these hard moments are lost on me. That is why it is so great to say that this weekend I've been changed. I honestly didn't expect to be so changed but I totally was. 

See, this conference spoke some incredible God truths over my life. Those that reminded me I don't have to fight for any kind of worth, because my worth is rooted in Jesus. Though I've always known this to be true, I didn't know it like I do now. I learned how to trust in God whole heartedly and rest in what Jesus has already done for me. (And how I don't have to do anything more to earn His love or to be worthy of being called His). I was reminded to speak truth over myself and that I should be taking every single thought captive

Make it obedient to Christ. 

But perhaps what tipped the needle was this...

I was known. By people I didn't expect to recognize me. I was seen by friends and they spoke truth and life into my heart. I was sought after by people I didn't expect to want to seek me.

Lately my prayer has been to see signs of Gods love for me. I've literally been seeing hearts everywhere. But this weekend, I saw that love in so many places. And when I was tired and weary and starting to feel defeated that's when I was reminded that the battle has already been won!

The more I talked about how much God changed me these past few years - the more I realized just how free I am now. My eyes were opened and I learned some new things about myself:

- I'm not shy or as socially anxious as I used to be.
- I have so much more love to pour out and the more I hugged people, the more I wanted to do it again and again.
- I'm able to be much more open with others than I used to be.
- I'm able to take criticism in a healthier way and let it grow me instead of letting it condemn me.
- I still have so much life to live!
- Mostly, I am a daughter of the Most High God and my worth and identity rest solely in this!

Honestly, so many awesome truths poured into my heart and I was able to receive them. I may have cried a few good tears during worship as we sang. I didn't care who was in that room. I didn't care if people with hundreds or thousands of followers looked at me and I didn't give thought to what they may think of me. In the final moments of worship it was just me and God and a whole lot of thankfulness. My heart was free and open and ready. Ready now to live out that great commissioning. I'm so thrilled to be back home. I'm anxious (in the best way possible) to see where God leads me and how I may be used for His glory right where I am.

My life is in your hands, I trust it all, I trust it all to you. My dreams and all my plans, I trust it all, I trust it all. Forever I'm changed, I'll never be the same, because of your love, because of you Jesus. // brett stanfill, trust it all.

It's been a long two years, but praise God because He is the author of beautiful redemption stories! If you told me two years ago that in this present time I'd be attending a Christian women's conference and leaning on God for all my strength, I probably would have thought you were smoking something funny! It's truly amazing to see how much God has changed me and how abundantly He has blessed me. I want to talk more about this but I'm going to save it for next time. I leave you with lots of photos from the conference!

Xo, S.

Friday, October 2, 2015


I have a lot of things I want to write about. I still need to post about the Influence Conference which was so incredible and life giving. But right now I'm just so upset that I feel the need to pour out my heart into what is incredibly awful and life stealing.

I'm talking about all these shootings and specifically attacks based on religion.

Now, I'm not here to get into some political debate - so please be respectful of my feelings and pain. But please also hear me out.

I've struggled with this topic for a while. I go through times where I think about it and then I am able to forget for a while and then something like this happens and it all comes back to me.

I don't remember where I was the day the kids were shot at Columbine. But I will never forget the fear I had. The horror. The absolute heart break as my mind tried to imagine what it would be like to go through such an awful thing. Who can forget Newtown and those sweet little innocent souls who lost their life because of someone elses inability to process their emotional anguish?

I know there are others but these are the two that always stick in my head. And now Oregon.

The similarities between Oregon and Columbine that has my heart aching something fierce today, is the question that ultimately defines if you will live or if you will die at the hands of a shooter;

"Do you believe in God?"

Life. or Death.

The spacing is on purpose. The question is heavy. Really think about it.

It feels like just yesterday that I wrestled with what I would do in that situation. Back then I believed in God but didn't know anything about a gospel or that Jesus died for me. Hanson wrote a song called "This Time Around" and it was written after the Columbine shooting. Some of the lyrics still haunt my soul;

"I heard they told her, it was tell and live or die. I didn't know her, but I know why she lied. I didn't know her, but I know why she died."

Like. Wow. Can you even imagine? Despite the rise in violence and heartache in this world, I still live a pretty cushy life. Yes, I worry about shootings almost more than is probably considered reasonable and I always have. But my life is fairly 'safe'.

I used to struggle with whether I'd answer truthfully or not. But now that I have this relationship with God and I know that Jesus died for me, I think I might struggle more. The natural tendency is to lie because the fear of being shot and killed is so powerful.

"All I know is that the fear has got to go, this time around..."

Yet, the more I come to know who Jesus is and what He did for me, the more I come to love Him. The more I truly, truly believe in the gospel and that's it's more than just something we talk about on Sundays. It's a way of life, down in my bones, deep in my heart, in the aching of my soul, it's the real deal. How honorable to die for the one you love? Especially when the One you love has already saved you for all of eternity?

The bible actually talks about this. In Revelation it says; "Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4)

They came to life.

The book of Matthew says "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." BLESSED. Blessed are you, so blessed you get to reign with Christ in Heaven. (Matthew 5:11)

Finally, I think of the book of Luke where he says "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." (Luke 9:24) Death is not really death when there's an afterlife waiting for you. When death has already been conquered and victory already won, death is not the end but the beginning of something so beautiful.

Living like your dying isn't living at all
Give me your cold hands
Put them on my heart
Raise a glass to everyone
Who thinks they'll never make it through this life
To live a brand new start
We are going to live tonight
Like there's no tomorrow
Cause we're the afterlife
- Ingrid Michealson

While I still don't know how I'd ever be able to stand up for my faith like those brave and beautiful souls who have gone before me, I know that I'm more sure of it now than I've ever been... My faith is strong and my God can save...and if not, He's still good.

To all those who have been and will be persecuted for their faith, I send you my heart. To all of those who stood fear in the face and said "I won't back down" I am in awe of you. You're bravery and faithfulness is such a beautiful tribute to your life and furthermore your faith. You are loved.