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Pushing Through & Letting Go

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There’s a healthy balance between making up your mind to do what you know you can do in spite of every obstacle and letting go, trusting that God will make a way in his own time.

The hardest part of my 17-year musical journey has been the letting go—the waiting and trusting while projects I have endeavored to finish have been delayed by sudden illness, injury, or something else. I remember the times I had to push through the adversity and figure out away around the road blocks. I also remember the times I had to discipline myself to wait and to trust that it was all happening for a reason; to recognize and embrace the fact that, in spite of how things may have appeared, the hand of God was at work.

Every journey is different and for whatever reason God has made it so that mine has been slow and steady. I remember someone coming up to my mother when I was just a teenager and saying, “Don’t be discouraged if things don’t happen right away; God is setting things in order.” I have clung to those words through every recording process as I have felt and even now feel like I’m being forced to be the tortoise in “The Tortoise and the Hare.” My hope is that my story will end the same; that I’ll cross the finish line in victory and be proud of what I’ve accomplished.

The fact of the matter is, it takes discipline to keep going but it takes just as much discipline to wait. The things we are accomplishing during the waiting are just as important to God as what we consider to be our “finished product.” The ministry that isn’t posted on our tour schedule, the songs that are never recorded or shared, our day-to-day life experiences . . . everything is significant. As we strive to be obedient and faithful in the interim, God works in us. He uses the “off” seasons to prepare us so that when we do finally get “out there” again, we will have something more to offer than “just” a song or CD.

The race we are on is spiritual. The work we have to do will get done in his way and in his time. We don’t have to sit around and wait for it to happen but we also don’t have to force it.

This balance of work and trust is beautifully described in Psalm 37.

“Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD;
He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him . . .”

May we work hard in spite of the obstacles. May we never give up when we need to push through. May we never push through when we need to wait. May we do all things in His strength.

God, keep us close to you so we can know your will.

emmanuel

Christmas CD – Amazing November Special!

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November Special to raise support our upcoming tour to the UK!

10 CD’s for $50 (You can’t beat $5 gifts for co-workers, teachers, friends, and family!)
22 CD’s for $100

Click the link below to order. Be sure to share this with your family & friends!

www.StephanieStaples.com/Christmas

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“Wow! What a great deal!” ~Scotlyn Naomi

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“Mommy’s CD is so good, I could eat it!”

Emmanuel Mastered Preview from Stephanie Staples on Vimeo.

How To Shop At Whole Foods On A Budget

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How To Shop At Whole Foods

I’m always amazed at how many people say Whole Foods is too expensive for their family. I come from a frugal, coupon cutting family and enjoy finding bargains at Whole Foods. (We didn’t cut coupons for fun or to save for vacations or for my parent’s retirement, we did it out of necessity, like so many other families!)

You don’t have to avoid Whole Foods to stay within your budget. You just have to plan and shop carefully.

But let me clarify: Whole Foods is not a bargain grocery store where you can take your entire list and leave spending $50. Quality food does come at a higher price . . . and if you want quality food at decent prices you have to understand that you can’t just make a list and expect to come home with everything on it. You can only purchase certain items at certain times.

I view my purchases at Whole Foods the way I do at Publix, Kroger, and Target: I try to only buy what’s on sale. (Publix is outrageous unless you take advantage of their BOGO’s.) I also keep track of my “staple” items. Over time, I have learned what to buy where on a regular basis.

Here are some tips:

1. Sign up for the email mailing list at your local store.
They will email you about every awesome weekend special. (Like, the time they had 1/4lb beef patties for $1.00. Yeah, there was a line and we all stocked up!)

2. Follow your local store on Twitter or Facebook.

3. Get their coupon book (usually kept at the front of the store) and keep it for the entire month. When they put any of those items on sale (yogurt, crackers, boxes of awesome fancy rice without the MSG), you will have more than doubled your savings. I have walked out of the store paying 1.00 for items that usually cost $3 or $4.

4. Use your other coupons! Yes, they take all manufacturers coupons!

5. Their hot bar is pricey . . . 8.99lb. But did you know that you can now fill up a bowl for a flat fee of $12? (Smart people fill it up with several pounds of amazingly prepared, high quality MEAT.)

6. If you have a family, look into their family meal specials. WAY cheaper than eating out . . . sometimes $20. to feed a family of 4-6! Again, these are local store deals and you have to follow their newsletter to hear about them.

7. Buy in bulk. You will save 10%. Do you enjoy that ridiculously expensive Synergy Kombucha? Wait until it goes on sale and then buy a case. You’ll save more than $1.00 per bottle!

8. ASK. Want to try something you aren’t sure about? ASK and they might just give you the whole bottle to sample. Yes, I’m serious.

9. Keep an open mind. If it’s outrageous the first time you visit, please give it another chance. That item you really want might be 3.00 cheaper on your next visit. Those organic blueberries might go on sale for 1.99 a quart. That 6.99 bag of organic apples might be 4.99 (what they are right now in Atlanta). Their grass fed beef might be 3.99lb. Organic chicken, 2.99lb.

10. Check out their 365 brand. Their tortilla chips, crackers, etc.. are comparable in price to Kroger and Publix brands.

I am thankful there is finally a large grocery store that is dedicated to providing high quality food to families. So, frugal friends, let’s not slam them so much! Remember, because they exist, Publix, Kroger, Aldi, and other grocery stores are starting to offer better food for better prices.

Also, Whole Foods customer service is amazing.

When God Says, “No”

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Yesterday a precious family laid a son, husband, father, nephew, and cousin to rest. There are no words that can possibly ease their ache.

Brandon Hayslip’s story is unique and people from all over the world have watched and have prayed for him. We have pleaded for God to heal Brandon for the sake of his wife and his new daughter. We expected God to say, “Yes,” but he said, “No.”

The Hayslip’s are not a family that is easily shaken when it comes to faith. They and their extended family members have experienced far more suffering than any family I have ever known. Brandon’s cousin, Tiffany, passed away from cancer when she was just 13-years old. Brandon’s own mother suffered from cancer and his aunt, a dear friend of mine, has had it three times. His grandmother experienced multiple types of cancers and finally passed away from it a couple of years ago.

In spite of the suffering they have experienced (what is listed above is only part of their story), they have stayed faithful to their God. Like anyone, they have had and still have questions and they agonize over “why?” But they have stayed faithful.

Last night as I was holding my own baby girl—born just a week and a half after Brandon and Christina’s—I began thinking about Christina and the loneliness she must be experiencing. I began feeling an ache that I know cannot even begin to compare with hers. A song was playing on my computer called, “Faith.” Some of the lines were, “Faith to see beyond what I can’t see, faith to know that you can do great things. I will trust you, Lord, I’ll always believe. As I hold on to my faith, Jesus you are holding on to me.” I’ll be honest, the song didn’t encourage me, it actually made me cry harder. I couldn’t help thinking, “But they DID have faith . . . and you said, ‘No.'” That’s when it hit me: faith isn’t the issue here.

My faith has not been shaken by the “no” in this situation. I have always known that walking with God does not make someone immune to suffering. I have experienced enough in my life to know that God says “no” all of the time. But there is something that is arguably just as precious as my faith that has been challenged . . . my hope. I have looked at my daughter so many times since this happened and have thought, What if she suffers, too? What if she gets sick? What if you say, “no” again? What is the point of praying for protection or healing or anything else?

As I pondered these things it was like the Lord whispered to me, “Don’t be afraid to hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you . . . Plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It doesn’t seem like God has been faithful to this promise . . . but he has been. He knew the plan he had for Brandon—and he fulfilled it. Brandon is thriving. Likewise, the plan God has for Christina and for Aria continues. They will be OK because God is with them.

The truth is, the plan for everyone is the same, because the plan is Christ. HE is our future and our hope, whether we remain on earth or go ahead of those we love to the place he has prepared for us.

My prayer for Christina and the rest of the Hayslip family is that they won’t be afraid to hope. I pray that their confidence in the goodness and mercy of God will remain strong. I pray that, in spite of how black things seem now, they will cling to the promise that there are good things ahead—beautiful things. And although Brandon will not be present in body to experience them, he will be in spirit. I believe that because there is a passage in Hebrews that says we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” Brandon is in that cloud, cheering everyone on.

Many years ago, I wrote a song called, Face to Face about Tiffany, Brandon’s cousin. Tiffany’s brother Matthew had written some words, “Now that you’re in heaven, tell me what you see. I see Jesus, I see Jesus, I see Jesus, everywhere.” I’ll never forget the moments I spent at the piano, thinking about those words, crying as more words began to flow and I began to sing. The song came so easily and I felt God’s presence . . . it was quite an experience.

I have recently re-recorded the song and want to share the new mix with you all today.

There is a line that says, “So remember in your darkest hour, when things just don’t seem fair. Don’t lose sight of what he promised you, he’s with you, right by your side.” I have a feeling this is what Brandon’s spirit is pleading for his family today . . .

Face To Face – Mix from Stephanie Staples on Vimeo.

New Mommy Musts

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What they say is true: no matter how much you prepare, you will never be prepared for motherhood. It changes your life in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. There are, however, a few things that might make the transition into mommy-hood just a wee bit easier. I have put together a list for my soon-to-be momma friends of the things I received/purchased myself/wish I had purchased sooner.

Boppy Newborn Lounger
I’ll be honest, I did not expect to use this much. I almost regretted putting it on my registry. But it ended up being the thing we used the most . . . and are still using! Get one. It’s perfect for naps. It’s portable. You can take it all over the house or put it in the center of your dining room table. It’s soft and makes Scotlyn feel secure without smushing her little body up . . . which is important when you are worrying every second about whether or not your baby is still breathing. (Oh yes, my friend. You will worry, too.)

Fisher Price Deluxe Rock ‘N Play
I didn’t get this soon enough! When our baby was just 5lbs we literally had nothing to put her in during the day. She was even too small for the boppy lounger! We ended up bringing our changing pad downstairs to put in the middle of our huge table so she had a place to nap. When we got the Rock ‘N Play it was AWESOME. Just get it. You can use it as a bassinet by your bed or throw it in your trunk if you are going to visit someone. (I had heard nothing but good things about it but I was confused. I thought it was flimsy and that it rocked and was worried it would be unstable. But you can make it where it stays still. And the one I ended up ordering—the flat one—was not flimsy at all!)

Aden & Anais Boutique Muslin Swaddles
Another purchase I wish I had made earlier. I had a few muslin swaddles but considering we had a baby in the middle of the summer, I didn’t have nearly enough. If you live in the south and  your baby is due in the summer, do yourself a favor: get at least 6. They keep your wee one from overheating! (Also, notice I say, “boutique.” The ones at Buy Buy Baby, Target, Babies R Us, etc. are not the same thread count and are scratchy. Your baby will notice and so will you. The other ones get softer with each wash.)

Wannanubs
These are the greatest invention ever. When your uncoordinated baby “holds” it with their tiny fingers your heart will melt . . . for the millionth time. Get at least two. You can find them at baby stores and at amazon.com.

Boppy Pillow
I waited a month before buying one. Don’t do that. Your spine will be angry and every muscle in your body from your belly button up will yell at you. If you don’t get a boppy pillow, get SOMETHING to support your arm. I used a paper towel holder once . . . before I got the boppy… I was that desperate.

Lanolin
Don’t try the fancy stuff that says it’s natural. Just get the lanolin. Trust me. Actually, ask for it at the hospital and they will send you home with a bottle. You will need it for the first month, at least. Unless you enjoy crying . . .

Play Gym

These things are not over rated. They are GREAT!

Lullaby CDs
The most beautiful, not annoying, adult music that babies love: Hidden in My Heart Volumes 1-3
Plumb, Blink
Twila Paris, Bedtime Prayers

MAM Bottles
These are much better for newborns than the bottles that will come with your breast pump.

Fisher Price Bouncer
We lovingly call this Scotlyn’s “bunny seat.” She didn’t fit into this until she was about a month old but now she sleeps in it all the time. She also loves to just sit in it and coo and play.

My clothing advice:

Don’t get too many onsies. They are so hard to get over your baby’s head! They cry, you cry. I don’t know why anyone ever invented them. The only good thing about them is that babies seem to feel more secure and stay warmer in one pieces. Try getting the ones with buttons or snaps on the shoulders.

Be careful when purchasing clothing with buttons or snaps in the back! Would you want to lay on metal all day? Ow. Just be sure if there is a button or snap it is in a comfortable position when you lay your baby down.

Get the zippered and snappy one pieces for your baby to sleep in. Scotlyn sleeps so much better when her arms and legs are covered. I wish I had done this sooner. I am so thankful for my friends who made sure I had some!

Instead of swaddling, get a sleep sack that enables your baby to actually move. Swaddling too tightly does NOT make your baby feel like he/she is in the womb (they kick and flip around, remember?). If you must join the swaddle fad, swaddle reasonably. Don’t squish your little love. Let them breathe and kick and move their arms a little. Scotlyn had her hands up by her face in the womb so it made sense she hated having her arms pushed down in a swaddle when she was born. Yes, they “get used to it” but you don’t have to make them. Stretching is good for babies. They are growing. Sure, they will startle themselves awake sometimes. That’s OK.

Romans 12

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I read an article today about what new mommy’s need. The writer’s remarks were witty and spot on. It inspired me to think about what a life of love and service looks like.

Paul wrote, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Ro 12:10)

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

We are called to a life of service—to think of others before thinking of ourselves. “Outdo one another”

But how do we do this? How can we serve willingly and selflessly? How can we know what people actually need?

By following Paul’s appeal at the beginning of what we have labeled “chapter 12″:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Transformation is key. We have to let Christ change us—to open our minds and hearts to what is true and right and good so he can fill us with his love. His pure, unselfish, untainted love.

“Let love be genuine.
Abhor what is evil;
Hold fast to what is good.
Do not be slothful in zeal
Be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
be patient in tribulation,
be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints
And seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
Weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be haughty, but
Associate with the lowly.
Never be wise in your own sight.
Repay no one evil for evil, but
Give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Christ “emptied himself,” “made himself nothing.” Because he lived this kind of life, he was sensitive to the needs of others. He was able to empathize, not just sympathize. He was able to live the life we are challenged to live in Romans 12. He loved purely. He loved without expecting or needing anything in return. He loved without strings.

We love because he first loved us.

scotlyn_rostad

Introducing Scotlyn Naomi!

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On July 11, 2014 at 10:50PM our “wee bear” was born! In just two short months Scotlyn Naomi has captured our hearts. We feel incredibly blessed to have been given such a beautiful and delightful little lady to love.

In other news: my new album is almost done! For real! I have one more vocal track to finish and there are just a few tunes left to mix. If you didn’t catch the sneak peak over Easter you can listen HERE.

More news: we are heading back to SCOTLAND! Expect us in the first two weeks of December, Scottie friends! (God willing, of course!). Since last year’s Christmas tour was interrupted by illness we have decided to cross the pond again . . . HOPEFULLY with a different result (prayers much appreciated for safety and health for all three of us!). We are still confirming our bookings and have one or two dates available so do not hesitate to contact us if your church/ministry/organization would like to host.

That’s all for now!

Peace & joy,

Stephanie

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“Trusting God With Your Tomorrows”

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David Wilkerson passed away after being in a car accident two years ago. I miss him. I miss listening to him share his heart. If there is ONE thing I would say that I learned from him it is this: Trust in the Lord. He is and always will be faithful.

It sounds too simple, “What’s so special about that sort of message? A lot of people say that!” But if you know about David Wilkerson’s life and the many things he and his family suffered/still suffer, you would understand why those words run deep.

Yesterday a young man who has beaten cancer and has just learned he may again be facing treatments soon shared this message. I am sure I heard it years ago but it was such an encouragement to listen again. I have been a bit down about not being able to complete my “to do list.” Sometimes it seems I will never accomplish what I need to . . . there’s always one thing or another that delays or hinders. Sometimes my records take two years to complete and it’s usually due to unforeseen circumstances or sudden illness or injury. Those seasons make me feel “imprisoned” and can lead me into dark periods of discouragement where I wonder what God’s purpose is for me if he is allowing me to be shut away instead of out sharing what he’s put on my heart.  This message reminded me that even Paul experienced delays. He was also hindered. He was imprisoned—sometimes for years at a time. He too experienced seasons of great discouragement and felt defeated. But he pressed on. He continued writing and doing his best to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ to trust in the Lord no matter what. (Little did he know that God was using him to write much of the New Testament!)

If we have given God control of our lives we must trust him in every circumstance. We don’t see the big picture, but he does. No matter where we are or are not, what we are doing or not doing, whether we are well or sick, God is faithful. He is ALWAYS moving behind the scenes, preparing a way for us and preparing our hearts and minds for the next phase of the journey.

I hope you will take some time to watch or listen to this message.

 

 

Rainbow

Guard Your Joy

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We are getting closer and closer to the arrival of our sweet baby girl and while the ache from our first loss due to miscarriage is still fresh in my heart I am so filled with joy at the thought of holding my daughter for the first time. In my case, the pain of loss is not stronger than the joy of anticipation.

I am thankful I have had the opportunity to carry a child. I do not take this miracle of life for granted as I know there are many who are aching to be able to experience pregnancy and parenthood.

Pregnancy isn’t easy—it isn’t supposed to be. As new life begins, the new mother realizes that she will never be the same again. As a child grows and develops and becomes everything it is meant to be, the mother is also transformed. She not only carries the life, she is changed by what is happening inside of her. Her body, mind, and spirit are affected—most of the time without her even being aware of it. It’s a perfect picture of what happens when we ask Christ to live in us.

As I look back on the past 9+ months I wish I could say all I have experienced was joy. But life doesn’t usually go that way. As I type this I am reminded of a beautiful young woman who is about to give birth to her first child (also a baby girl). She has Lupus and she and her husband just learned yesterday that his cancer has returned. As the proverb says, “Even in laughter the heart may ache . . . “ (Proverbs 14:13)

There have been moments in my life where I have asked, “Why, Lord? Why can’t we just experience JOY without it always having to be mixed with grief and pain?” It seems like something or someone always has to come and put a shadow over what is meant to be beautiful and good. I guess the best way to handle these situations is to cherish the joy. We must choose to embrace and cling to what is lovely. I remember a friend of mine saying to me earlier this year, “Guard your joy.” Wise counsel.

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world . . . “ (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The enemy of our souls wants to rob us of joy—he wants us to focus on everything that is negative and painful. He wants us to lose heart so that we will falter in our faith. Sometimes he succeeds by convincing us the pain is stronger, but it isn’t—at least, it doesn’t have to be. We can choose what we focus on. We can choose to trust and to hope in God. It’s hard, but it’s possible. It’s no wonder the apostle needed to encourage us with these words: “. . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Life is filled with joy and sorrow . . . so guard your joy! Don’t let anything or anyone or any circumstance rob you of enjoying the lovely blessings God sends your way. Cherish them. The blessings will be a special grace to help you get through everything else.

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Made Alive

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Easter was just a few days ago. Do we still remember what we were celebrating?

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Newness of life is not a “someday” thing. We were made to LIVE now. Christ promises us more than a ticket to a far off place we call “heaven”—he offers us life and peace and strength and hope . . . now.

A couple of years ago I wrote a song about this called, Crucified.  I am so passionate about the message of the song (because it has changed and shaped my life) so Erik and I have  shared it wherever we have played around the world. It has finally been recorded and is waiting to be mixed.  Meantime, here is a video of us playing a simple version of it in Edinburgh, Scotland during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Lyrics will be posted below.

Crucified
Words and Music: Stephanie Staples—Rostad

In your final moments of humanity you chose
To cry out for your father to forgive us
Broken for our weakness, your delight was to make known
The way that God had chosen to redeem us

The depth of your compassion
The selflessness you showed
Proves beyond all reason
You had given up control

You had a life inside you
Conquering the death
That separated us from the beauty we had known
You became, in that moment, everything we are
Crucified, now we’re alive

Those precious final moments became our remedy for pain
You showed us how to love one another
Broken for the breaking, delighting to make known
The way that God had chosen to redeem us

The depth of your compassion
The selflessness you showed
Proves beyond all reason
We must give up our control

We need your life inside us
To conquer all the death
That separates love from the beauty we should know
May we be, in this moment, one with who you are
Make us alive

May your life inside us
Conquer all this death
That separates us from the beauty we could know
May we be, in this moment, one with who you are
Make us alive

May your life inside us
Conquer all the death
That separates us from the beauty we should know
May we be, in this moment, one with who you are
Make us alive

Oh the blood of Jesus
It washes white as snow

©2010 Stephanie Staples ASCAP

Here is a link to the message our Pastor shared on Sunday. If you are low on time, you can open it in the iTunes Podcast and listen at double speed—15 minutes! ;)

Easter Message

. . . Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:4-11 ESV)