GNO: Stephanie Nelson’s Favorite Things


Stephanie has finally embraced her inner Wizard of Oz and returned to Kansas in 2016 after almost 20 years of being apart. She is serving as the Pastor of Family Ministries at Alert Covenant Church, where she gets to teach kids of all ages, and they even let her stand behind a pulpit sometimes. Her greatest vices are Kate Spade bags, dark roast coffee, and nail polish.


My Favorite Book:  As hard as this is for me to choose, and I’m not normally a fiction person, I’ve got to say my favorite book is Jayber Crow by Wendall Berry. Never had a fiction book ever shown me the beauty of community, grace, and the pain of understanding what love is… and it does it in the most beautiful, poetic, and sorrowful way. One of my favorite sections reads:

“As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here. Well, you can read and see what you think.”




My Favorite Comfort Food:  My mom’s pot roast. It’s heaven. No lie. I don’t know anyone else who eats it the way we do, and perhaps that is part of why I love it so much (and why it is comforting.)

She makes a gravy with the juice/dripping from the roast, of course. And while she rarely does this anymore, what we often did when I was growing up was instead of mashed potatoes, she gave us bread. Which we then tore up into pieces, and poured the gravy over the pot roast and the bread. Seriously, my mouth is salivating as I’m writing this. Incredibly unhealthy white bread soaked in incredibly unhealthy gravy? It’s just so divine.



My Favorite Childhood Friend:  Her name is Mistie and she is magical. No one makes me laugh like her. She was always up for a crazy adventure, and in our small town of 250, those adventures were in our head. They usually involved breaking a plant at her mom’s house (which we scotch-taped up). It didn’t last long, because the moment her mother walked past it, the fell over. They involved writing a song called “I Lost My Shoe” to the tune of “O Christmas Tree” and singing karaoke in the station wagon (Mony, Mony was our favorite, though her mom alway sang “Bony, Bony” which we still laugh about.) Her creativity and spunk kept my childhood joyful and wonderful.

When she moved to the next town over when jr. high began, I left like my life was over. Subsequently, jr high and high school were miserable for me. But as girls go through so many horrible hormonal changes during that time, perhaps it’s best we only got to see each other every once and awhile instead of every day. Because maybe we wouldn’t still be friends because of some stupid fight.

But instead, I got to sing at her wedding, and my brothers still consider her a little sister. I can’t tell you how much I love that. And her. She’s been through hell in her adult life, but she has praised the Lord because of it. (Though I can’t take credit, I like to think it was me dragging her to AWANA and VBS for all those early years that helped her come to know Jesus.)

I chose this picture of us because it so sums up us. I was grumpy (even on my birthday with a Garfield cake) and she was joy.


My Favorite Viral Video:  They all start and end with this one:

First of all, I love Kristen Bell from back in her Veronica Mars days. I think she is a fun actress to watch, and seems to be generally unaffected by her fame. Her advocacy and openness for mental health is pretty inspiring to me. So knowing that she has this weird fascination and that it was all caught on film? Cheers me up every time I watch it.



My Favorite Home Decoration:  I love recycled items that are made into something amazing… something useful made out of someone else’s trash. Something beautiful made from something ugly and discarded. So my favorite piece is just that. It was also created by a friend of mine.

There are several pieces of recycled wood, sanded down and painted a vibrant cobalt blue. These pieces make up the back, with the paint roughed up and attached together unevenly. I see beauty in this imperfection – that the paint isn’t perfect and the pieces aren’t perfectly lined up.

Then the ampersand. No rough texture, no worn paint. It’s smooth. It’s perfect.
When my fired first posted this piece on her website, I wanted it. I was in the process of moving, and wanted it for whatever new home I moved into. So she saved it for me, and sent it after I moved into my new home. The main reason I wanted it was because I was ending a really awful season of my life and was so excited for the next season. I had a new job that I was ready to take on, a new city I was moving to that I loved. I was ready for a new chapter after months and months of really bad ones.

Then that season turned into something almost as bad. I remember sitting on the couch in my office at home, talking on the phone with a friend who was also going through a really hard season, and staring up and that “&”…

That “&” that symbolized the hope of a new season, a new job, a new life and she and I cried together. We cried over the people who were hurting us, over the things we messed up and hurt others, too. We cried over the effects of the Fall. And I realized that I had put my hope in something I never should have put my hope in.

The thing about “&” in my theological tradition is that it tells the story of a story that is not over. “&” is the hope that Christ brought, the truth that he came to redeem the world and continues to redeems it. It’s the reminder that we live in the season where we are already forgiven and not yet fully restored to glory in heaven. It reminds me and God isn’t finished with his work on earth. Or in me.

Your friend,

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