Hi there! I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve written- so much has happened and I can’t wait to share it with you all.
God has been hard at work and I’ve been learning so much- all that and more will be coming your way the second I have a moment to breathe- and the second I figure out how to put it into words.
In the meantime, I wanted to share with you an interview that I did with Rachel Johnson from Wonderfully Made.
It was such an honor to be featured and her questions really made me think- I realized that the answers I gave her were things that you probably don’t know either!!
If you have any other questions for me, I’d love to answer them! Please, as always, feel free to email me at Stephanielouisemay@gmail.com
Stephanie May has traveled the world, serving people from customs and cultures all over the globe. She recently scored a new gig sharing the stories of missionaries working abroad through both her writing and her photography. She was a participant in the World Race, she pens a hugely followed blog, and hopes to turn her posts into a book someday. But things weren’t always like this for Stephanie. During college, she admits that she spent most of her energy focused on her social calendar – the friendships she kept, the parties she attended, the fun she had. Her life, she said, felt devoid of meaning and purpose. That is, until she found The Lipstick Gospel – or, until The Lipstick Gospel found her. Read on to learn more about Stephanie’s amazing story.
Q: Thank you so much for joining us, Stephanie! We absolutely adore your blog, The Lipstick Gospel. The tagline is fascinating – “from sorority girl to missionary and that was just the beginning.” Unpack that for us and share your story with our readers.
Thank you so much for having me! I love Wonderfully Made and I’m honored to be featured!
When I was growing up, I didn’t go to church much. I went every so often, mostly because it made me feel kind of holy and like I was a good person, but that was the extent of it. When I got to college, I joined a sorority and jumped head first into the biggest party school in the country. I did well in my classes (for the most part), had lots of friends, and partied constantly. For all intents and purposes, my life looked awesome.
But underneath my decently put together exterior, I was dying of insecurity. I had absolutely no idea who I really was, but what I did know about myself, I hated.
Cue The Lipstick Gospel.
I was sitting in a friend’s room one night getting ready to go to a party. As I was sitting there, I looked up and saw a quote that was written on the mirror in lipstick.
It said “Look at the Nations and watch, and be utterly amazed. For I’m going to do things in your days that you wouldn’t believe, even if you were told.”
Now, being a quote junkie, I immediately asked what it was from. I wanted to adopt that phrase as the truth about my life. I loved the idea of having wild and unknown things heading my way.
My friend responded that it was from the Bible. It was Habakkuk 1:5.
Now, from there, it took me quite awhile to become a Christian. I finally came face to face with Jesus in the Sistine Chapel in Rome while studying abroad, which is also quite a story (for another time).
My life changed radically, although not all at once. Yet over the course of the last several years, God has captured my heart completely.
I’ve traveled all over the world and I have seen and experienced miraculous beauty. Every single detail, every twist and turn, has been beyond my wildest dreams, and as I’m getting to know Jesus, every bit of that verse written in lipstick has been true.
Fast forward about a year after that day in the Vatican and there I was, laying on a bunk bed in Ghana, West Africa, on my second-ever mission trip. I had my legs propped up on the bunk, and, while trying not to scratch my mosquito bites, I was asking Jesus what the heck He wanted me to do with my life.
And then, in a flash, it was totally clear – I needed to write something called The Lipstick Gospel.
The Lipstick Gospel is the story of Habakkuk 1:5. It’s the story of my life as God is writing it, and in a bigger way, it’s His story, because everything He’s done and continues to do in my life is completely indicative of who He is.
I want The Lipstick Gospel to be a place where all kinds of women can come to find out that God loves them unconditionally. I want it to be a place where we realize that the Bible isn’t just a book that graces our grandmothers’s coffee table. I want it to be a place where we grasp that when we live our lives with God, everything is going to be more beautiful and more full than we’ve ever imagined.
My biggest dream is to turn The Lipstick Gospel into a book. I have this picture of a sorority girl (just like me) bringing it on spring break in her beach bag and coming to her knees in the sand, realizing for the first time that there’s more to life than she’s been living, comprehending that a very holy and miraculous God is madly in love with her.
Q: Tell us all about the World Race (an opportunity for volunteers to serve in 11 countries over the course of 11 months) and what your experience was as you worked around the world.
The World Race was absolutely the craziest thing I’ve ever done (so far!). It was an unbelievable experience.
Only now am I able to look back and realize how insane some of the things we did were, but while I was out there, it totally made sense to be face to face with a pride of lions in Tanzania or to play with elephants in Thailand.
There was one time when we were in Kathmandu, Nepal, and we met a woman who was sitting with a broken leg on the edge of some really intense oncoming traffic. Everyone was walking past her, not wanting to have anything to do with the dirty ‘thing’ sitting in the street, but our team stopped and sat with her for a while. We talked to her, prayed for her and just held her hand, and I literally have never seen someone so happy. She pinched my cheeks so hard it hurt – and her cheeks must have hurt, too, because her smile looked like it was going to pop right off her face.
That is what the Race was about: loving people that others had forgotten, being a physical presence of Jesus in their lives, showing them that no matter what they’ve done and no matter what others have said, that they’re so worth loving.
I was broken down in such an incredible way on that trip. My identity, my baggage, and my emotional aches and pains were all stripped away. In their place, God formed a real identity and a confidence that’s truly based on who He says I am, and who He made me to be.
The thing that I took away the most, though, is that God is so good. He answers prayers so directly, He loves us so deeply, He is much, much bigger than we’ll ever be able to understand, and if we say ‘yes,’ He has a really huge and important role for us to play in His Kingdom.
It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had – I highly recommend it.
(For more stories from the Race, check out my World Race blog!)
Q: You recently started a new job as a Chief Story Evangelist for Adventures in Missions. Tell us about your job.
Adventures in Missions has sent out 100,000 missionaries in the last 23 years, and every single one of those missionaries is living a miraculous adventure of a story. My job is to help them tell their stories. I get to look around at what God is doing in and through His kiddos – here in the U.S. and around the world – and talk about it! I get to run around every day with a camera and write all the while – it really is my dream job. I can’t believe that this is my life!
Q: You’ve also started contributing to Wonderfully Made’s blog! (Dang, girl, how can we keep up with you?!) What inspires you to write, and how do you overcome the inevitable writer’s block that all of us experience at one time or another?
My inspiration to write comes from my life – what I’m doing, what God’s doing, and all of the beautiful messiness in between. For me, writing is like sitting down and talking over coffee – it’s all about sharing the best parts and the hardest parts of life, and realizing that we’re just not alone. Something really beautiful happens in community when we’re truly honest with one another, and that’s the place that I try to write from.
When I get really stuck, I try to get my focus back on what God’s teaching me in that moment. I also try to get out knowing that taking time to live inspires our work. But when it comes down to it, especially when I’m stuck, I just have to write. Usually my writing is terrible – and then after I tweak it, shine it up, and mess with it enough – it isn’t quite so terrible anymore. I think the best way around writer’s block is to plow right through it.
Q: I read on your World Race blog that you love author Shauna Niequist’s books – I do, too. If you’re anything like me, you have page after page of her words highlighted and memorized. What’s your favorite quote or passage that Shauna’s written?
I laughed when I read this question because I just recommended Shauna’s books to someone at lunch!
Her writing has seriously changed the way I live and the way I see the world. I love the way she zooms in on life, helping us slow down enough to see where and how God is moving and to be able to roll around in His goodness, celebrating every last bit of it.
I have so many favorite essays, but this is the passage that really inspires me to toast to the everyday’ over and over again.
“The life you’ve been waiting for is happening all around you. This is it. This is life in all its glory, swirling and unfolding around us, disguised as pedantic, pedestrian non-events. But pull off the mask, and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, crafted.
Your life, right now, is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension, better than the best movie you have ever seen. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages, because they all are. Every life is.
You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, as though that was not enough, the God of the Universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural.
You are more than dust and bones. You are spirit and power and image of God. And you have been given today.”
Q: How do you recharge your batteries?
Oh, man. These last few months have been so crazy, so recharging my batteries has been quite the challenge. I am an extremely social person and I love spending tons of time with the people I love. But, that being said, I really recharge by having time alone. More than anything I love sitting at a coffee shop as I read and write. That’s the place where my mind comes alive and my heart unwinds.
Q: Just for fun, since you mention on your blog that you can’t sit still for very long, list your top three international travel destinations.
Hmm, good question! I think having just spent a year living out of a backpack in some amazing places with the World Race that right now I want to go back and visit a few favorite spots. There’s something wild and adventurous about roaming to the edge of the map, but there’s a comforting beauty in revisiting places that have already stolen your heart. So here goes:
1. Spain – I studied abroad there in college and haven’t been back since. I think about it constantly. To me, Sevilla is one of the most magical cities in the world.
2. Italy – I’m completely romanced by everything Italian – the food, the language, the culture, the architecture. I’ve been to Italy several times, but I’ll never get sick of it. Besides, I can always use more pasta in my life.
3. Uganda – We went to Uganda during our eighth month on the race and it was one of my favorite experiences of them all. Our host family, comprised of Moses, Mama, and baby Jeremiah, was the most incredible family unit I’ve ever met. Jeremiah was so cute – I literally tried to take him home in my backpack. I can’t wait to go back and visit them someday.
Q: How can we stay connected with all of the great things going on in your life?
I would love for you to stay connected! I’ll be blogging regularly on my blog, The Lipstick Gospel. I’ve become quite the tweeter recently, and if you’d like to catch up more on my World Race adventure, you can visit my WR blog.
Thanks for having me!