In looking at our church family, I realize that many people didn't know Stephanie before she became ill. In fact 50% of our congregation didn't know her before she got sick, and because she wasn't able to participate in the life of the church in the last couple of years, 25% of our current congregation didn't really know her at all.
Let me introduce you to my wife, not by her rolls: wife, mother, ministry partner, but by her values and passions.
Stephanie valued people of all ages. We've heard the stories of "Miss Stephanie" and how she developed the active learning style of teaching that is still a central part of our children's ministry. Her three year curriculum that covers the entire Bible is still in use today and is entitled: "God wants you back".
Stephanie also wanted to impact children outside of our church, so in 1992 we started our summer program which became known later as Kids' Kamp. She was able to leverage our lack of a permanent home by having the Kids' Kamp in Ballantine Park - open to anyone in our community.
In a further effort to reach out to our community, Steph had a dream that became known as Kids' Kafe. Kids' Kafe was a fun interactive evening for families that included games, music, snacks and concluded with a gospel message.
The leaders of the New England District, our church's parent organization, recognized Stephanie's gifts in the area of children's ministry, so they asked her to start a camp for children and young people throughout the New England states. Camp CMA, as it was called, started in 1995 and ran about eight years.
Her influence reached beyond our church and District family. She began a piano teaching business from our home. She taught more than just piano lessons; she also taught her students life lessons. Some of her students didpractice their music, but many of them left me looking for ear plugs.
One of her favorite expressions was to eulogize the living or bless the living, and she tried to do that. One of her favorite things to do was to prepare meals for friends and neighbors who needed some TLC. She referred to it as "food evangelism".
As her strength was diminishing, she still tried to bless people, and her blog "Grayrock's Window" became the avenue for that. Her simple and honest insights were a blessing to many people.
Stephanie valued creativity. Both of my artistic daughters inherited their mother's creativity; in fact, I told them that any marketable skills they have is thanks to their mother. Their ability to be silly came from me. Steph used to think that she would not be able to live long enough to try everything that she was interested in. Our house still has proof of that in the materials and supplies that are here and there.
One of the expressions of her creativity was her jewelry design business called "The Cracked Bead". She used that business to express the fact that the most beautiful beads are ones that are cracked, so the light reflects through the cracks, making the beads more beautiful. She related that to how God's grace can shine through the imperfections and blemishes of our lives to show his beauty through our lives.
Stephanie valued hospitality. If you were a guest at our home, you knew that Steph worked hard to make you feel special. She would set a beautiful table and be able to make an ordinary meal seem gourmet. In order to provide this experience, she used many dishes, and clean up was always my responsibility. When we purchased our first dishwasher, I told her that we didn't need one since I washed all the dishes. Her response was"I want a dishwasher than doesn't grumble." I may have grumbled, but, I always appreciated how special she could make her guests feel.
For those of you who knew Stephanie, you can attest that these are true, and for those of you who knew her in recent years or hadn't had the chance to know her at all, hopefully this gives you a little glimpse of who she was.