April 18, 2016 will forever be a date that I remember and look back on with fondness and undying gratitude. It was the day of my 27th birthday and the day that I decided to change my life. For a year and a half prior to this day, I spent my time grieving something that wasn’t mine to grieve. A year and a half earlier I decided to end a relationship that I believed was supposed to be my happily ever after (read about it here). I ended it because I knew God was calling me to; it was almost as if I could hear God saying, “It’s him or Me.” Of course in the moment, I was strong and able; I knew I would do or give up anything for the One who gave it all for me. However, the days, weeks, months, and years following proved to be a much more difficult road.
I would like to say that I was one of those people who can end a relationship and never look back. The kind of people who can cut ties and sever all contact without much effort. I am so far from those kind of people. Those people are warriors in my book. I look at them and think, “Wow, they are like superheroes. I wish I had that kind of superpower.” Instead, I’m the person with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, watching P.S. I Love You, with a pitiful text message typed out to send to the person who’s heart I just crushed. Just keepin’ it real, y’all. If someone were to write a biography about Stephanie’s 26th year of life, that’s pretty much what you’d find. Lots of ice cream. Lots of sad movies. Lots of crying. I cringe just thinking about it.
So when I turned 27, I made a pact with myself. I would not spend my birthday wallowing that another year had come and gone and life still wasn’t “perfect.” I would joyfully welcome another year of this incredible life. I would celebrate myself and spend my birthday with the person I adore more than anyone or anything: My precious Jesus. That’s when I took myself on a birthday date and found the most fantastic gift from the Lord: a notebook tailored to my specific tastes and innermost secret desires.
After buying the special notebook with the words, “DREAM BIG” inscribed of the front, I took myself to the other primary reason to visit the Keystone Mall: The Cheesecake Factory. I ordered my favorite meal of all time: Farfalle with Chicken and I pulled out my new favorite possession, my notebook. As I sat quietly in the two seater booth, waiting for my food to arrive, I began to talk to Jesus. “27 doesn’t look like what I had pictured, Jesus. But I’m learning that I can find joy even in the unexpected journey.”
I pulled out my notebook and a pen and began to write. At the top of the page, I began to write out my vision for the next year. I only got one sentence written, because after the first, nothing else seemed to matter.
My vision for the next year: I want Jesus to be the object of all my affection.
In the days proceeding my 27th birthday, Jesus had been speaking to my heart and drawing me closer to Himself. He sweetly reminded me that He was the One my heart should long for. He was the One who should have all of my affection. He was the One my soul craved and the only One who could fill the deepest longing of my heart. These were things I knew that I knew that I knew – but something was different that day. I was ready to finally begin to surrender to the truth. For so many years I had weaved in and out of surrender to Jesus. You can have my heart, Jesus, as long as you give me the things I ask for. You can have my heart, Jesus, as long as you don’t ask me to give up the thing I want most in life. You can have my heart, Jesus, as long as you don’t take me to uncomfortable, hard, or hurtful places.
That day in Cheesecake Factory, I began the Year of Surrender and the Year of Trust. I didn’t know it then, but my 27th year was filled with so much good and so much hard. It was a year that I would have to trust God more than I ever had before. It was a year that I would learn to hear His voice and a year when I had to trust that the Shepherd knew best. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sat in that small corner booth, because I knew that whatever the coming year would bring, I could find joy and victory because my best friend would be with me all the way.
If I’ve learned one thing over the past year, it’s that we all have trouble trusting, surrendering, and letting go. It’s the human condition – to think we know best. So often in our lives, Jesus beckons us to let go of the past – the things that are holding us down. The dreams we thought would be, the plans we had made for ourselves, the successes that turned into failures. On my 27th birthday, it was as if Jesus was asking me to fall out of love with the man I had planned forever with, and begin to fall in love with Him all over again. On April 18, 2016 I began a tender journey of healing, restoration, and trust. As I left Keystone Mall that day, I was confident in my spirit that my Heavenly Father was preparing a new work in me.
But I wasn’t fully prepared for where this journey of healing would begin…
Hi! My name is Stephanie, and I'm the girl behind this blog! I'm a pastor and a writer and a lover of all things chocolate. As you browse the content on this page, I hope you find yourself encouraged and smiling. At some moments, perhaps you would even shed a tear or two. Most importantly, I pray you find hope in whatever season you're walking through. We are in this journey together, and my calling is to encourage you along the way!