GNO with Stephanie Nelson: The "Rush", Sarcasm, and Identity

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Stephanie Nelson is a pop-culture nut, coffee snob, tree hugger, nail polish addict, theology nerd, and lover of all things Jesus. You can learn more about her here: stephanienels.com, and you’ll want to check out her blog here: neverbeenherebefore.blogspot.com.
What would you tell the “younger you” about boys/men/relationships/marriage?
Probably the most important truth I’ve realized in this area is that if we are not careful to define ourselves in the right way, we are setting ourselves up for a lifetime of disappointment. When we are younger, the excitement and passion that comes from boys is a rush. It’s powerful. And it becomes far too easy to let that boy who gives you that rush to define your worth. It’s a slow and seductive journey, and even if you never intend to go on it, it can happen if your feet are not firmly anchored in the one who truly defines you.
Don’t expect a man to create your happiness for you. This is far too great a burden to give another person. Don’t let the way a man looks at you or treats you dictate your worth, because that will change. But also, don’t be so hard on yourself. Offer yourself grace as you take the journey into being a woman. There will be joy and there will be sorrow. But who you are is not defined by a boy. It’s defined by your Lord. And he sees you as priceless, beautiful and unique. The way he sees you will never change. Keep your heart anchored in this truth, figure out who God wants you to be, and find your joy in serving him.
Relationships are sometimes painful. Boys are often fickle (so are women!). So it is unwise to find our worth in either of those things. We must seek to find our worth in the only one who remains the same yesterday, today and forever: Jesus Christ (I’ll explain more about what that looks like in a later question).
What has God taught you about trusting Him?
Trust is one of the most difficult things to do in my life. Over and over, no matter what valley I find myself in, no matter what situation I am in, I find that my failure to trust God rears it’s ugly head just about every time.
BUT – I can tell you that when I look back over my times of transition and change, times of plenty and times of want, times of loneliness and fullness, that God has always come through for me. The church where I currently work is going through a time of discernment and there are many worries being expressed by the leadership, particularly with the potential loss of staff. When they expressed that concern to me, despite my own fear and worry, the Holy Spirit gave me this word: “God loves me far more than you do. So I can trust that he will take care of me no matter what happens.” And I can say that with conviction, because he HAS always taken care of me. It hasn’t always been easy or the way I would prefer to be taken care of, but he has always made sure that I have what he wants me to have: which is all what I need. That may not be all I want, but that’s a different question for a different time. J
What advice would you give to a young woman who just got her first “real” job?
I am very passionate about this question because I feel like I really screwed up in my first full-time job right out of college. And they were all screw-ups that could have been avoided if I’d had some good advice or even if my college had offered a seminar to prepare young men and women for what’s it’s like.
To give you some context: my first job was in a para-church organization in a professional business environment. I was hired in the communications department, primarily to do public relations. Where I screwed up: I used sarcasm way too much with my co-workers. And it was taken the wrong way. I was so young – 22 – and using unprofessional language and sarcasm was part of that. Oops. I worked with a number of people a generation or two above me, who weren’t raised on sarcasm (ahem, the TV show Friends.) I also worked with some sensitive/artistic types who also didn’t understand sarcasm. (Or chose not to understand.) This led to some misunderstandings with my co-workers about my intent and my humor. While they chose to handle it with my improperly, the fact remains that it is vital to read and understand your environment before you decide how much of yourself to “be” in said environment. I’ve never been a fan of not being myself in situations, but in a work environment, professionalism trumps all if you want to be respected and if you want good working relationships with those around you.
So my advice is to be as professional and as guarded with how you act and what you say as possible until you learn the culture of the place where you work. There are absolutely work environments where sarcasm and fun are part of the culture. But sometimes they are not. There is a delicate balance between being true to who you are and adapting to your work environment. Be observant, sensitive, and careful of that balance and you’ll do well.
What has  God taught you about friendship?
Oh, my. Well I could write about this question forever and a day. But I will tell you the most important lesson I’ve learned about friendship in the past year, as it’s been life-changing, albeit somewhat painful.
The premise is this: You are completely known and loved by the God of the universe (anyway), and to feel and understand that kind of love on earth you have to let yourself be known by others.
As far as what this looks like in friendship? It looks like honesty, even when you feel like you might be over-reacting. It looks like giving people the benefit of the doubt even when every other part of you says not to. It looks like risking your heart in the hands of another. It looks transparent and real and pretty scary.
We often think of friendship in terms of what we can do for the other person. Which is absolutely true. Being a friend means running in when the rest of the world is running out. But also – part of being a friend is letting yourself have a friend… one who goes deep and penetrates the parts of your heart that you don’t want anyone to see. Because if they get in there and don’t like what they see and aren’t willing to walk through it all with you, they aren’t a friend. So God has taught me that just as he knows and loves me completely, despite the awful parts of my soul, that friendship is about showing that part of me to others. And letting them love you anyway.
This is hard. It’s painful. It’s messy. But we’ve forgotten how to be in relationships with one another without a Facebook status and selfie with a filter applied. Without pretense. Drop the pretense and let people love you. This will teach you how to love them, too.
 How has God given you understanding about your identity in Him?
How do I even begin the answer this question? It’s just so huge. So important. Because understand your identity in him is crucial to the whole of your life. It affects how you treat yourself, how you treat others. It affects your work ethic, your family relationships. It just affects everything.
But it starts with a simple acknowledgment: there is no way to out-sin God’s grace. (Matt Chandler said that in a sermon once.)
We often grow up being rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad behavior. This makes sense. This is how you discipline a child. But it is also only one-half of the story. Because as children we think that our behavior is tied to the love we receive. But it’s not. It’s like assuming we are starting the class with an F as a grade rather than an A. This shift in perspective is huge in understanding our identity.
It was only through a deep immersion in God’s Word combined with a community of people who understood grace that showed me my identity should only be formed by how God sees me. (Not how I see me or how others see me.)

When we grow up being rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad behavior without grace in the picture, the burden settles on our shoulders… when all the while, it’s been on the shoulders of Jesus. Because Jesus took my sin and gave me his righteousness, I can’t out-sin his grace. My identity lies in the one who saw me as worth dying for. I’m sorry, but there is just no bigger compliment a girl can get.
 
Your friend,

Stephanie

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