When Sundays are hard (check on your friends)

Have you seen those memes going around the internet? The ones that say “check on your friends who have 2-3 year olds, we are not ok.” “Check on your teacher friends a week before Christmas break, they are not ok.” And so on and so forth. They’re funny and we can laugh at them because of the truth in them. Life can be hard, whether it’s our profession or our life stage, odds are we’re doing something right now that is one of the harder things we have ever done, and we crave the solidarity of others saying “I see you doing this hard thing.”

On Sunday after church I posted a photo and said “This is your friendly public service announcement to check on your friends who have served overseas and have come back and are trying to navigate American church. Much like your friends with toddlers, ‘they are not ok.’”

You see, I had just finished crying my way through a church service. Like I have every single week that we have attended church since we moved back to America 6 months ago. It makes me feel like a crazy person when I can’t make it through a service again and people just do not know what to do with me. Most people expect our life to be complete sunshine and roses since we’re back in the land of plenty. Not realizing the plenty also means plenty overwhelming.

The PSA was posted and the responses actually amazed me! A good chunk of my friends who have also served or do serve overseas responded back. Many of them with exclamations like “Preach!” “Yes!” and “Amen!” Some with heartfelt hurts like “I thought I was the only one” and “It’s so incredibly hard and people just do not understand.”

On the other side, I had a few questions of “I don’t understand” or wondering what some of the differences we are experiencing are.

The two different sides of the replies left me struck by the fact that this is really important and I wanted to open it up for a little more dialogue and give my response a little more in depth than an Insta-story allows for.

It’s not just people returning to America.

Church is often a hard place to be if you have been through any kind of grief, trauma, or transition, and God-forbid if you’re single.  I think it stems from the fact that many people do not know what you have experienced, and they haven’t experienced it with you. It can feel very lonely and isolating as you hear voices around you worshiping, knowing their perspective and posture is so different from your own.

It’s common for church to be a place of rejoicing and singing that a mourner doesn’t know how to enter into or pre-determined norms that a new person might not know about.

It’s different for each person

There’s no set formula for what triggers people to have a hard time in church. My struggling through church is different than Craig’s, whose is different from someone who has been through something completely different than we have.

For me personally it can vary week to week. The reasons why I have tearful Sundays are as varied as the excuses my toddler uses to delay bedtime every night. Last week it was hearing a congregation sing that “all the earth will shout your praise….great are you Lord.” When I spent 8 years serving in a place that doesn’t and may not ever shout His praise, and feeling the crushing weight of hundreds of faces and names that I know don’t know Him while others around me happily sing along unknowingly. The week before that it was that I could understand every word and getting to sing corporately in my own language brought overwhelming joy. Sometimes it’s the sheer fact that I don’t have to do anything but show up and be served after years of being the one to facilitate that experience for others.

I could go on and on, but all that to say there is no telling what makes church hard for someone. Which is why good questions are so important.

Ask Good questions

I think one of the biggest blessings to a person who is struggling through church could be the gift of good questions.

Good questions are open ended and unassuming. They make space and freedom for a person to express their heart without fear or prior assumptions having been made.

For example, instead of asking “Isn’t it so wonderful to be back in a body of believers?” ask “How has the experience of being back in a body of believers been for you?

The number one thing I hear from families who are going through loss is that it’s more healing for them to hear you talk about their loved one than for you to ignore it out of fear of hurting them by bringing it up. We tend to leave hard things alone out of fear of causing pain, and while that’s admirable, it’s also healthy to dialogue through pain and a lot of people welcome the chance to talk about what they are going through.

As humans we long to connect on the things our souls are wrestling with and consumed by. Good questions open doors for those connections to be made.

In closing I just want to call us all to mindfulness. We all walk into church from different places, bearing different wounds, and we’re not the only ones. As Caroline Saunders says in her Prayer For Those Who Hurt on Sundays “One beautiful thing about wounds is that it makes you more aware of the pain others carry. For the destroyed, the despairing, the displaced, the angry, the abused, the ignored, Sunday is not a day of ease” Let’s not forget each other, let’s outdo each other in prayer and thoughtfulness and engaging with each other as we enter the courts with singing on Sundays.


Guest Post | Elaine from Love + Honey | A Tribe is a Tribe no Matter How Small

 Today my friend Elaine graciously agreed to share a post here on my space. Even though I asked her to do this in the middle of cold season when she and her husband were moving out of their apartment, with their toddler. Soooo she’s pretty much Superwoman.

You know how you marry into certain other things when you marry your spouse? You know, the in-laws, sports teams, his friends, etc.. I married into Craig’s group of friends who have all been together since kindergarten. They’re now all grown up and being in each others’ weddings and being godparents of each others’ children, it’s pretty sweet. Elaine also grew up with the gang, and ended up dating and marrying one of them as well. Like in-laws, I inherited them, and through them Elaine, and I’m so glad I did!

I love what she shares about the importance of our tribe…no matter what it looks like!


I have to admit, I did not immediately love the whole “Mom Tribe” thing that has cropped up on every mommy blog recently. It felt forced and stereotypical. Moms can’t just have friends?


I started to think about my own tribe . . . or even if I had one. Does my life look like any of those stock photos that Mom Tribe articles use? A circle of five or more terribly cool looking moms laughing as their kids play quietly in adorably coordinated outfits—no. It is rare that I get to have more than a couple of my super-close mom friends together at once, and we are usually doing much more mom-ish things: chasing kids, filling snack cups, yelling “don’t put your mouth on that!”

I have mom friends, but would I say I am close enough to them to call us a “tribe”? Maybe only a handful. And even then, some of them aren’t close to each other, so does that really count? I don’t know. No one has written the rulebook on Moms Tribes yet.

What I know is this: Do I have someone I can call in the middle of the night about a completely ridiculous question who will give me an honest and supportive answer? Do I have a friend who understands just how important it is to get out without the kids and (more importantly) will not judge me for wanting to leave the light of my life at home for a couple hours so I can wear earrings and heels and feel like Elaine instead of Mom? Do I have women in my life who get me and get my struggles, even if they are vastly different than their own (and maybe even self-imposed)? Yes. Yes all around. And, to me, that is what makes a difference.

Call it what you want, BFFs, tribe, group, but as long as you have those strong women there when you need them, that is what matters. Regardless if there are two or twenty women in your life you can call on, appreciate them and reciprocate. We are all in this together, and it is much more fun to go through this crazy, magical journey together than to try and hike it solo.


Blog-tember Day 24 | His & Hers


Today we’re re-creating a project from another blogger.

I came across this one from Jacqueline over at Jacqueline Reape which she included in her favorite post round-up from day 19 of this year’s Blog-tember challenge. She credits Elsie and Emma at A Beautiful Mess with the idea when the two sisters compared their favorite things.

It was such a fun idea I thought we could try it and put The Cunningham Two spin on it.

So here is what Craig and I are currently…..


(Dunkin Donuts original with milk and sugar – Same, but with pumpkin spice creamer)


(Throne of Glass – Outlander)


(Miami Marlins – Moby Wrap #wearallthebabies)


(Walk of the Earth, Rule the World – Jack Johnson, Better Together)


(Coca-Cola addict – All the water [Go Pack Go! 😉 ] )


(Man purse…it’s a thing here! – Lily Jade Diaper Bag)


(Destiny – Lettering)


Charlotte 🙂

I’m joining Baily Jean in the 2016 Blog-tember challenge, you can too!


Blog-tember Day 23 | A Family Recipe | Mama’s Chocolate Cake (& printable!)

One of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received is a cookbook. Not just any old cookbook to help me develop my skills in the kitchen. This cookbook was filled with handwritten family recipes from my mom (who wrote recipes from my grandmother as well), dad, and all of my aunts.

All of our holiday favorites and family traditions were there in their handwriting.


I’ve since added my own favorites to it, and it’s such a handy little manual. It’s so much easier than searching through Pinterest boards, or e-mails where I’ve asked my mom how she made such and such, and it’s not dependent on internet access.

Mama’s Chocolate Sheet Cakeimg_8255

Today I’ll share with you my grandmothers chocolate sheet cake. I’m sure there’s nothing special about this particular sheet cake except that it’s the one she always made.

It’s so simple, and feeds SO many. Also you pour the frosting on top while the cake is hot, so there’s no waiting for it cool and no messy frosting jobs!

(Full Recipe Below)


Place sugar, flour and salt in a mixing bowl and mix together.

In a small saucepan place the butter, water, vanilla, and cocoa. Bring to a boil and then pour over the flour mixture and mix well.

In a small bowl mix eggs, then add baking soda, and buttermilk.

(Expat baking tip: Don’t have buttermilk? Just add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk!)

Combine the egg mixture with the rest of the batter and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured cookie sheet. Bake.

(Note: I made a half batch and made it in a 11 x 7 casserole dish. You can make a full batch and bake in in a 9×13 pan for a thicker cake or in a larger cookie sheet or jelly roll pan for a larger cake.)

Now, while the cake is in the oven, do yourself a favor and clean up the kitchen, it won’t take long, and you’ll be able to enjoy the cake more if your dishes are all done! 🙂

When the cake comes out of the oven, combine all of the icing ingredients in a small saucepan and heat them over low heat, then pour the icing over the cake about 10 minutes after it comes out.

Let the icing cool for about 30 minutes, and then you’re good to go! incredibly moist, ridiculously easy, sure to please, chocolate cake!



Let me know what you think if you try it! I dare you to just eat one piece 🙂

I’m joining Baily Jean in the 2016 Blog-tember challenge, you can too!


Blog-tember Day 22 | Fall Must-Haves

Hi. My name is Stephanie. And I am your #basicwhitegirl.

I love most things fall and pumpkin spice.

Now, I will say…I think America is going overboard trying to exploit the pumpkin spice-loving market, and don’t tell anyone, but I’m getting a little sick of pumpkin spice things. Agh! I can’t believe I said that out loud.  But, I will also try almost anything once if it’s labeled pumpkin spice…so I still feed into the shenanigans.

Sadly, thankfully, I don’t live in the land of pumpkin everything anymore, and we kind of have to make it seem like commercialized Fall all on our own here.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve been gifted from America though that are my top treasures this season.

1. This Heritage Pumpkin candle from Target


I mean it’s pumpkin, a candle, soy, and from Target…is there anything more white girl Fall than that?? I just made the mistake of grabbing the link for you guys and looking at all the seasonal ones they have and I now want!

2. This Coffee Creamer


Ok, maybe slightly more Fall white girl than the candle is pumpkin spice lattes. I can’t get those, but I can have shelf stable creamer brought to me by visitors!

3. This Apple Cider Recipe


We have a friend who makes this every Fall and I think the Caramel Cream makes it the best Apple Cider ever.

4. These Nail Wraps

My sister is a Jamberry Nail Consultant and keeps me supplied with nice wraps. To me it doesn’t feel like Fall until I have painted my nails black. Ever since getting the dogs I cannot paint my nails without them getting into trouble and me having to mess up my polish…so I have really been loving the wraps because they can’t get messed up and they stay on for weeks (even when I work on woodworking projects and wash the dishes every day!)

So, the obvious candles and coffee aside…what do I need to add to my Fall list?

I’m joining Baily Jean in the 2016 Blog-tember challenge, you can too!


Blog-tember Day 20 | I wish everyone knew…

Day 20: Something I wish more people  knew or believed.

I wish that people believed….

singleness is not a bad thing, it’s a high calling.

childlessness (even if by choice) is OK, and you should stop asking people why they don’t have kids or when they’re going to start having them. #RUDE

sex within marriage is meant to be enjoyed, and you shouldn’t talk about it like it’s a chore. If you think it’s a chore then you’re missing out.

the world doesn’t operate in black and white or good and bad. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them wrong. We’re all doing the best we can with the information and the convictions given to us. What’s right for me may not be right for you. AND THAT’S OK!

overseas life isn’t one big,sparkling, fun, adventure. It’s a calling. It’s hard. It’s full of missed moments and great sacrifice. So when you talk to me like I’m happy to run away from my family, live frivolously by traveling to nearby countries using my vacation days, or to choose not to be there for birthdays, weddings, newborns, and the likes…that’s offensive and cheapens the sacrifice we make and the work that we do.

my identity is not as a mom. I am first and foremost a Child of God…and after that so many other things. When we address people who happen to have children as “mama” before we address each other by name, we’re simplifying each other down to way less than the diverse people we actually are.

you don’t have to do a Whole 30 to be healthy. Just start making healthier choices every day. Don’t exclude yourself from community (and pizza!…and cake!!!) for the sake of lording your discipline in eating over other people. “Break bread in your homes and eat it together with glad and sincere hearts”

Jesus would not have been a republican. I’ll just leave that there.

LGBTQ people are not going to hurt you or your children. Talking to them and about them like they are is not going to give you any influence in their lives, and will lead you to miss out on great friendships with wonderful people.

goldendoodles are awesome. Having dogs IS like having children in that you have your own parenting style, which yields differently behaved dogs. And while I think my style is the best…I realize that it might not be the best for you. (But seriously it could be… 😉 )

7-11 has the best coffee…especially when you mix half vanilla bean coffee with half vanilla cappuccino…oh yummmm

and finally, last but not least, for now on this list…

cream cheese icing is the best icing. Making red velvet cake, carrot cake, and pumpkin cake the best cakes because they are perfect vehicles for cream cheese frosting. 🙂

I’m joining Baily Jean in the 2016 Blog-tember challenge, you can too!


Blog-tember Day 19 | Favorite Posts

Part of the reason why I’m on this space so sporadically (blog-tember aside) is that I truly feel like I write best when prompted by the Spirit.

Oh I could come up with something to share every day, or three times a week, but those posts would just be my random ramblings…and aint nobody wanna hear that. So I usually only post when I feel really lead to get something out in words.

It was fun for me to look back over my small little space and bring to light the posts I’m most passionate about. I feel like this gives you a real glimpse into things I care about (although not all of the things I feel strongly about are out as posts yet, because I care about so many things! haha)

I hope it’s fun for you too to take a look at a few of my favorites.

singlenessThoughts on being single or married without children and how that’s OK!

taglineHow to survive in this social media/small business world, and resting in who we are being good enough.

movingIronically we’ve moved again since I wrote this post

img_2050When we ask God to move in our lives, we don’t expect Him to wound us.

soldiersHow should we (or shouldn’t we) respond to all of the issues going on in the world today.

I’m joining Baily Jean in the 2016 Blog-tember challenge, you can too!