A Chat with Stephanie B

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Hi everyone! I'm Stephanie. I am a full-time artist and have a studio as well as a full time residency . My husband and I recently started an arts mentoring group called, "Our Story Arts", which gives the kids of inner-city Milwaukee a voice through visual art and creative writing.

My work brought me to this city several years ago, after completing my MFA in St. Louis . I was an adjunct at Wisconsin Lutheran College but left that position to go teach in China last year. While I was there I met my husband, Zach, and we moved back to Milwaukee and got married last July.  We live near the lake and love our neighborhood. 
 
My day usually goes like this: Start the day at the studio, meet with clients or have a meeting or two, go to my residency, spend the day painting, and then head home to hang out with Zach or family.

"How did you get started glorifying God with your art?"

I always felt that it was a gift from Him and if I didn't use it, it would be a waste. God gives us all certain characteristics and talents, my just happened to be art. I knew that I communicated the best through visual language at a very young age. I felt that it was very important that I pursued this path and I was blessed to be able to do so. I chose colleges, programs, and mentors that would encourage me to keep going. It hasn't always been easy, but I have been fortunate to have friends, family, and a husband who have told me to stick with it. I am really grateful for them.

"How do you balance marriage and work?"

I am only a year in, so I don't know if I can really speak to that! To be honest though, marriage has really helped me to balance my work and personal life. My day ends at 6 when I pick Zach up from work. Before I was married, I would work all of the time which led to burn out. Being married has helped me to realize that there is enough time in the day to rest, take care of yourself, and have relationships. You just have to get good at time management, and be more focused during the work day.
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"What is your unique role as a woman?"

Women are so creative, loving, strong, and compassionate. I am so inspired by women like my Mother Theresa and women I know personally like my sisters and mom. I look to them as my role models and try to emulate their examples.

"Who is your strongest Christian mentor?"

My parents. My father is a pastor and his sermons are so well written and down to earth. My mom joined the church as a teenager, and her faith has always been so sincere. They never shoved religion down my throat, and always allowed us to ask questions and have our doubts. I always felt heard and seen. I know a lot of people have walked away from their childhood faith because they felt they were either brainwashed or forced into it. My parents were very loving and understanding. I always knew they were praying for me too, which is really an amazing feeling.
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"Is there anything from Titus 2:3-5, our blog's mission, that you would like to comment on?"

Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

I think that passing wisdom from generation to generation is a beautiful thing. I think about my grandmother, my mother and now my niece and how their faith and advice have been passed down the line. It is really amazing to hear my niece talk about her experience with Jesus and how she looks to her woman role models for guidance. I think that setting a good, loving example for your children and their children is probably one of the most important things one can do on this earth.

"How can we encourage our husband's  faith and role in marriage?"

I would say don't be afraid to take the lead and pursue the path God has laid out for you and your family. Women love to see you try, even if it means things don't always work out or you may fail once and awhile. Zach and I love to dream big and praying about those dreams really helps you to decide which ones to go after, how they will glorify God, and help others. Prayer is powerful!

"What is your favorite bible passage?"

"Do Not Worry"...mostly because I have a tendency to worry about everything.  I have always seemed to have an overactive imagination, which can be a blessing and a curse. Jesus' sermon on the mount has always brought me a lot of comfort because it provides me with so much practical information on how to follow his plan for our lives.

"...seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:33-34

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"What do you feel is a threat to a woman’s faithfulness in her home?"

I mentioned it before, but I think worry is extremely harmful, and robs us of joy. I think confession and prayer help us to put our worries aside and to give them to God.

"Was there a moment in your life that was terrible that God strengthened you by?"

Being an artist means you don't always have a lot of money. There have been times when I had to move out of my apartment, forgo things like having a car, and rely on generosity from others. A lot of times people don't understand because it is a career choice. And in actuality they are right. However, I have always known that this is what I should be doing. God has helped me through all of it and has blessed my career immensely.

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"Can you share a moment when you saw God's hand clearly guiding you?"

Two years ago I was completely burned out, broke, and depressed. I made some joke to my mom that I should just move to China and she said, "why not?" I don't really know why I decided to do it, but it just felt right. I met my husband the day after I got off the plane, one month later we were a couple, five months later we were engaged, and four months after that we got married. It seems pretty clear what that was all about!

"Ah! What beautiful timing. Love it. What’s next for you?"

I plan on exhibiting new work every few months and collaborating on a book project with a local author which will be called, "The Carriers."  I am also working on developing "Our Story Arts" more in the coming year and helping the kids find their own voice through art. www.stephaniebarenz.com 

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"Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing your art and faith with us. The large variety of experiences you have had are evident in your pieces as they tell a story. Your work is truly remarkable and unique. Every time I look at one of your pieces I notice a new detail. Such depth! On top of everything else, you are quick to gift others from your talent and heart. Continued success on all your endeavors!

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A Chat with Abby

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"Today we are featuring a member of my family! Welcome Abby, my sister-in-law! She is one of my greatest spiritual mentors. Abby has guided me to check the motives of my heart when making decisions, has never been too busy to stop and pray with me (even while our toddlers scattered a deck of cards), digs deep into God's Word, and sets an example of a servant's heart by the time she dedicates with her first love - the Lord. She's one prayer warrior I never take for granted!

Abby, I know you well - but please introduce yourself to our readers!"

 

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"My biggest claim to fame is that the Creator calls me a child of His.  Everything else flows from this. I am so grateful to be paired with my grade school sweetheart to be used for God’s purposes on this planet, and I am so humbled that out of HIS love and ours, He has allowed us to raise two children for Him. Other than that, I love being on the move; it makes being still much sweeter.  And if I am outside and on the move; even better.  I love keeping things as natural and simple as God made them.  I think most everything else about me could fit in one of these categories. I think each and every day is absolutely filled with joy, giggles, cries, struggles, triumphs, and so so much grace. My prayer amidst the meal preparations, alphabet learning, projects, activities, exploration, chores, and experiments is that we as a family are following God’s leading and paying attention to his prompting."

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"Ah! My nephew's are so adorable!

Describe your unique role as a woman?"

 

 

Abby1 "I often think about the role God has called for me as the people that He has allowed me to know; the people I have come into contact with, love, and live life with.  There are so many people in the world and God gave me these people.  I see these people as my calling to love on, to really spend time in prayer for them, and to learn from."

 

 

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"What bible passage is your personal favorite?"

Abby1"Tough question. The last passage of the Bible is definitely a fav. Rev 22:20 says,  “He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”  I love passages referring to images of the glorified Christ because it is easy for me to picture Christ as the renaissance depicted Him or as He was as a human.  But if John nearly passed out when he saw the glorified Jesus, I sure know I would have and will today.  And this picture often helps my sometimes apathetic self to simply obey and revere Him.  I can’t wait to meet Him."

 

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"Who is your strongest Christian mentor?"

Abby1 "God has used and continues to use so many people to strengthen and grow my love and faith for Him, but I would have to say Kirsten Shed, a friend from church, has challenged me most in my faith by not only the life she lives, but through her genuine love and concern for my relationship with Jesus. It’s hard to say what I may need to hear sometimes but Kirsten would be the first person I called because she would give me the God truth I need to hear, painful or not but delivered with much love and grace."

 

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"Sounds like a priceless friend. Kirsten's sister Katy has done the same thing for me in our friendship. We should interview their mother! lol!

What led your heart to care for internationals that live in the US?"

  Abby1 "I remember waiting for a bus in Minneapolis for one of my first college courses.  I looked around and saw that I was probably in line with at least 20 people from different countries.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing our God is for the way He made us so perfectly different and from then on I knew that in order for God to be glorified it was essential for us, for ME, to not only get to know each other, but to love one another well."

 

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"Is there anything from Titus 2:3-5 that you would like to comment on?

Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

 

Abby1

"So many things stick out to me; the assumption that younger woman will be looking for advice and teaching from the older woman because I often see and feel how independence, pride, and jealousy gets in the way of the beautiful community God wants to give us.  The fact that the older woman can expect opposition to get in the way of their opportunity to instruct and mentor sticks out as somewhat comforting to me because sometimes I get so discouraged by opposition, but here God warns us well.  Many other things stick out to me too; that God expects us to get involved in each other’s life on a deep spiritual level.  And that the teaching and training is a PROCESS that the Holy Spirit uses to transform us into HIS woman.  And I LOVE that this passage shows us clearly that we most certainly have the potential to be pure and kind, and subject and self-controlled with Jesus…even when we don’t sleep or have sick children, or have days where we don’t have time to even shower."

 

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"Great reminders there, Abby! But what's a shower? Just kidding... ;)

What do you feel is a threat to a woman’s faithfulness in her home?"

 

 

Abby1"Aw, man..where does one start?  Probably with lack of awareness or fight against the enemy.  Cultural influences that cloud our definition of beauty and worth.  The competition we may feel in parenting or even in cooking or managing our house.  Self-control against how we use our time, overeating, anger against our children, or selfless love to our husband rather than pitting him as the reason for our tiredness or incompleteness, you name it.  Thank God we can ask, seek, and knock to find out what is blocking our view of Jesus.  He will answer when we really want to know. "

 

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"Can you share an event in your life that God strengthened you by?"

Abby1 "Child birth.  Mostly because I know that one of my weaknesses is lack of perseverance.  God talks about this often in His word and it really was a great situation where God showed me the absolute beauty of life and the power of His Son to keep me from quitting.  Since then, I have loved the struggle to show Him I believe in His power to persevere through me."

 

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"Is there a moment that God' s hand so clearly guided or provided for you?"

Abby1 "That would have to be my decision to go to China to do mission work.  I didn’t want to go at first, my parents didn’t want me to go…I really didn’t know anyone that wanted me to go really…until finally I did.  God really changed my heart in a matter of months from I really don’t want to go, to wow, I can’t wait to go.  All I did was pray that He would change my heart to what He wanted and that is what He did."

 

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China will forever be in your heart. How wonderful that God used you to guide your then future brother and sister-in-law (us!) to China too.

What’s next for you?"

 

 

Abby1

"I think it is easy to dream about certain areas I would like to go or be or how I want God to use our family in Milwaukee’s inner city or to area refugees or the poor.  And I am not saying it is bad to dream and pray about these ministries, especially if God is guiding. But for me, I see how thoughts of future ministries can take me away from my current calling at times.  How when I am having a hard day at home my thoughts can wander to if I was helping the poor, or teaching the refugees I would be more useful or how it could be better.  But I can see how God is growing my character and heart to be more like He intends for me and to prepare me for future opportunities, and the biggest realization He has given me is in the value and beauty of being a godly wife and mother.

It is also easy to confuse worth and value with what our culture values.  Education, job, entertainment, and things rather than my heart or integrity.  I see my role to start and end in prayer.  I see my role right now of being a wife, mothering and babysitting as an amazing privilege and crucial ministry for these incredible little people that HE has allowed me to love and take care of."

AmandaBubble

 

"Absolutely precious! Thank you, Abby, for sharing the encouragement to be content in God and content in the roles he has willed us to live in each brief moment of our lives. Your house is often filled with visitors, dinners, and service to others. What's a sweeter smell than a home cooked meal? - the aroma of Christ - and it can't be missed in your presence. Much love Ab!" 

 

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