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The Lipstick Gospel

Antigua, Guatemala – A Beautiful Mess

I'm Stephanie May Wilson!

I'm an author and podcaster and my specialty is helping women navigate big decisions, life transitions — creating lives they love.

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In a world of clean apartments and 9-5’s, I forgot that anything could be this charming. I forgot that there are surroundings and courtyards that are so inspiring, so full of color that it’s all I can do not to write, not to paint, not to capture every single detail.

Gardens in Guatemala- The Lipstick Gospel

This trip to Guatemala was completely unexpected.

I was invited on this trip by one of my bosses, Jeff Goins, a writer who was bringing people out to experience being Wrecked. I was honored by the invitation and excited to travel, but when it came time to go, I didn’t want to leave. Even thinking about going made me homesick and I couldn’t help but count all of the things that I should be doing instead.

Antigua Arch- The Lipstick Gospel

But this morning as I woke up to the familiar sound of a rooster crowing, to the local cathedral bells tolling, my heart took a breath.


Quiet times have been my most precious time with the Lord for as long as I’ve known him. I learned what it meant to spend uninterrupted time with him in the morning on my first mission trip to Costa Rica.

I remember the first few days staring awkwardly at my journal, not knowing what to write or what to say, but after a day or so, the prayers began to pour- starting a practice that would become a staple of my relationship with God.

I woke up SUPER early this morning, because I knew that I wanted the same experience. I knew that something magical happens when you give a piece of the morning to the Lord- when you wake with the sun and drink it in together.

And so I climbed out of bed at 6:15 this morning and came to sit in the courtyard of our hostel.

I walked downstairs, my laptop cradled in my arms and my bible in hand, and the sight that met me absolutely brought me to tears.

Antigua Guatemala- The Lipstick Gospel

I’m sitting in a small tiled courtyard, on a yellow stone bench. I’m surrounded by 20-foot walls, lovingly covered with a seemingly ancient vine. Everything is either painted a sunny yellow or a rich, bright blue, both faded with time and with love.

This garden is beautiful in a way that touches the deepest parts of me. It’s restorative in a way that I didn’t even know I needed.

I have no idea why I’m here (other than to be the resident videographer- YES my job is the best!). But I really have no idea what God is going to do in this tiny garden of time. What I do know is if this courtyard is any indication- I’m in.


If I’m being really honest, I showed up here in Guatemala pretty disgusted with myself. I was disgusted by own imperfection and disgusted with the fact that I couldn’t manage to show myself grace.

I’ve felt like I’ve been in a hole recently- feeling unlovable and unloved, the love around me unable able to penetrate through my own lack of love and grace for myself.

I don’t know why I feel this way, but I do. I feel messy and imperfect and angry with myself that I’m still buying into that same old lie.

To be perfect is to be loved– the lie says. And although I think I’ve made progress, I haven’t made it all the way to the other side.

This afternoon I walked around Antigua with my new friend Carolina. We walked in silence until we both stopped suddenly, overwhelmed by the sheer power of the building to our right.

It’s an old church, a cathedral really, that must have fallen down years ago. It looks ancient, like an undiscovered, untouched ruin. Which I guess is exactly what it is.

A beautiful mess- The Lipstick Gospel

We were transfixed, taking in every eroded detail, tears slipping quietly down our cheeks. It was the most beautiful church I’d ever seen.

You couldn’t go in- the doors were chained up, but you could easily see past them, to the giant boulders that had fallen when the building fell apart.A Church in Ruins- The Lipstick Gospel

“This is a mess Lord,” I told him, as if he couldn’t see it. “It’s a mess but it’s so unbelievably beautiful. It’s amazing to me that something so messy and broken could be so beautiful, and so full of your spirit.”

“Exactly,” he replied, and all of a sudden I knew we were no longer talking about the church.

Guatemalan Cathedral- The Lipstick Gospel

My heart began to beat faster as it all clicked into place.

The power of God and the ability to be part of his story doesn’t require perfection, it doesn’t require having it all together. And that church was a perfect example.

I’ve never seen something more broken in my life, but I’ve also never seen something more beautiful. Staring at the brokenness through those locked up gates felt like staring God straight in the face- it felt holier than most churches I’ve attended.

Messiness does not discount us from love. Being perfect will not earn us the love we desire, no matter what we may sometimes believe.

Guatemalan Courtyard- The Lipstick Gospel

And to top it all off, God told me this.

“You think that you want to earn love, to deserve it when it’s given to you. That way it’s not out of your control, it’s something that you can manipulate your way into keeping, if you’re on your best behavior. But the best kind of love isn’t deserved. It’s the opposite. It’s a free gift that is completely undeserved, full of mercy and grace and acceptance. That’s the best kind of love.

Because when you earn something, it’s no longer a gift, it’s payment.

And I have a better kind of love for you than that.”    

Quiet Time- The Lipstick Gospel

I’m beginning to understand why God brought me here.

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  1. What a great way to start my Monday! I am so glad you are traveling again! It’s fun to see the world through your eyes. I so resonate with you on the imperfection thing, yet again. 🙂 I’m working on two guest blogs right now, one on the topic of “waiting” and I can’t seem to start. Thanks for the encouragement to wake up early and be with God. I need it this week! Can’t wait to read and see more of Guatemala.

    • Stephanie says:

      Melissa you’re so sweet. Thank you so much for sharing! I love getting to walk through the beautiful mess of this life with you. 🙂 You should send me a link to the blogs you end up writing about it!

  2. wordspill says:

    holy moly!!!! This was incredible, praise Jesus. I needed to hear every bit of it. From waking up early to be with Him to the fact that his love is undeserved and can’t be earned. Such a blessing this morning as I just woke up super late and in a mood of total unworthiness. God is so good. BTW, Guatemala is magical in pics, never been but have friends from there 🙂

    -Sonia G.

  3. wordspill says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Everything about this blog just ministers to my heart completely. From not wanting to do something that will bless me, to not waking up early to spend quiet time with HIm, to trying to earn His love and acceptance. I totally woke up super late today and felt like I just wasted my morning and now I’m a nervous wreck cause my schedule is all messy. Ha…needed to be reminded it’s all about Him and he loves me even on these crazy days of feeling unworthy and inadequate….Thanks for posting.

    Ps. Guatemala looks incredible & magical, have a couple friends from there, I hope to go there someday. Enjoy 🙂

    • Stephanie says:

      I love that God met us in the same place that morning. He really does love us, even on the messiest of days. Thank you so much for sharing with me! It really means so much to me.

  4. the wayfarer. says:

    Steph I swear, you’ve got the direct line to my heart these days. I love Antigua. I know just where that courtyard is, and can remember standing in front of that cathedral thinking similar things. I can’t wait to hear what He teaches you.

  5. saralnorton says:

    LOVE THAT CITY! Eat crepes at Luna del miel and coffee at the shop around the corner by the big yellow church! Check out Fernando’s for the best Internet and treats, and sit on the rooftop to catch some sun or watch a volcano erupt if you’re lucky. If you visit Casa Jackson babies or Casa Maria abuelitos give them z squads love!!

  6. Rebekah says:

    This was so beautiful, Stephanie. Thank you for sharing. It’s something I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately as well. It’s strange how difficult it is to accept a gift as beautiful as grace. I love that not only does God give us grace when we’re broken, but when we accept his grace it breaks us and humbles us as well. It’s a whole new kind of breaking point–beautiful like the cathedral.

  7. chanrice says:

    Perfect, just perfect. The pics are priceless!

  8. Thanks for sharing your beautiful beautiful messiness with us Steph! It IS truly beautiful and I am so happy that I got to hear you share it personally and see your sweet heart. You inspired me and you better get ready b/c I am gonna start sending people your way- I come across a lot of people who need to hear your message and see you living out your story! Much gratefulness and love-Dawn

  9. Steph, you’re beautiful and I love you!

  10. Wow, I felt like I was re-living the moment all over again! I cried & my heart burst with the totally undeserved love of God washing all over me. I am so thankful that He chose to intersect our lives.
    Forever changed, Carolina

  11. Emily says:

    LOVE everything about the way you shared this, Stephanie! Your heart just shines through these words. And He is so good!

  12. […] in February, I had the amazing privilege of going on a short trip to Guatemala. It was led by a great man named Jeff Goins who wrote a book about what happens when your life […]

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