Strong Girl: Stephanie

Meet Stephanie. Stephanie Barnhart.

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The story of how Steph and I met goes something like this…

Gray November evening. Work is done and stomach gurgles, declaring an immediate state of feed-me-now.

Groceries are picked. Spinach, bananas, chocolate bar, unloaded on the black rubber belt.

My tired eyes meet the cashier, meet kindness, meet calm.

The conversation starts, formalities quickly met.

Somehow, stories of a North Dakota home, a spontaneous move and a new life are shared, all within the time it takes to scan and pack groceries.

She was genuine. She was light. And up until a few minutes ago, she had been a stranger.

Maybe I would see her at the store again. But maybe not.

This was when I learned that everything is connected, another illustration that every meeting is not by chance, but purposeful.

Through the most beautifully woven web, Steph -the former grocery store cashier- and I have become friends. Kindred spirits, I believe.

You never know how exactly the people you meet will play a part in your story -small role, cameo, or lead- but truth has shown me that each person is significant.

Steph has a way of making everyone she meets feel welcomed. It’s more than welcomed, really. Steph makes people feel valued.

Her purpose to live a life of meaning drips over into everything she does, pouring kindness into every heart, whether she knows them for seconds, minutes, months or years.

What a blessing to have met this remarkable young woman on that gray November evening.

So thankful that we have the opportunity today to learn and celebrate her story.

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How does the word “movement” fit into your life? How does it relate to what you are currently doing?

I have never been able to sit still. Literally and figuratively.

My parents had to put me in dance classes before I’d even turned four because I had so much pent-up energy and a willingness…desire…need? to express myself by DOING.

Sometimes, I wonder if this was my very first exemplification of a life full of moving around.

Now, I’m the events and marketing manager at a weekly alternative newspaper, but I didn’t get here without a long series of movements. Some larger than others. Traveling to Rwanda, Scotland, Turkey, and Greece in undergrad, and, even before that, traveling the country to go to countless conferences and camps… early adventures in life gave me the confidence and desire to have more.

So last August I made the biggest move to date: a cross-country pick-up-your-life-and-move to a new city where I knew no one and had no job lined up. CRAZY, RIGHT!? I feel like I’m always moving around because of what I gain when I get there. Increased patience (with myself and with the world); meaningful, fun stories to hear and tell; expanded perspective. I’m not sure I’d acquire those things at the same rate or with the same scope if I just stayed put.

How does “stillness” fit into your life? How does that word sit with you?

Ooh! I like thinking of these seemingly opposite words in such close quarters. Movement. Stillness.

Still, for me, comes much more frequently from the inside than from the external. I think of the moments when 13 ladies have been packed into our tiny living/dining room for a pot luck, chatter and laughter abounding. (My roommate Kelsey and I love filling our space up with women who aren’t all friends yet but should be.) While the scene doesn’t look necessarily “still,” I feel like those are still moments because of how easy it is to center in on only what is happening in front of me.

Similarly, I feel total stillness during my exercise method of choice: long runs. I’m physically moving. But I’m mentally more still during a run than any other time in my week. Interesting that, for me, stillness of the heart often comes right in the midst of physical movement or chaos.

What is one goal you have this year?

I love setting obscure goals to see how long I can stick to them. In 2013, I made a “no new clothing” pact with myself (because after I learned about the fast fashion industry and its negative social impact, I wanted to shift my behavior and vote with my dollars – or so went my hip justification of the challenge.) I made it the entire year!

BUT OK you asked about a goal THIS year. I have a big goal of planning my next international trip, and I think it might be a solo adventure. Because of my move-to-Portland decision and my awesome full-time job, I’m in a stretch of time where leaving the country has been unfeasible. I want to save and then do it! Buy the plane ticket and go WOOF in Ireland for a month, or backpack Nepal, or… It will likely not happen until 2015, but I’m excited for and ok with that.

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Currently, who/what do you draw inspiration from? When you wake up in the morning, what pops into your head and gets you saying, “Today is my day!”?

Instagram. Tiny Desk Concerts. When my roommate belts show tunes from the shower.

And also: potential to connect with strangers! In my job as an event planner, I get to make the most random, unexpected calls, emails, and drop in visits. One morning I’m having a smoothie with the field manager for KIND Snacks and then the next morning I’m on the phone for two hours on a mission to rent basketball hoops. (Have you ever tried to rent a basketball hoop in PDX? It’ll lead you to call four party supply stores, a hoop manufacture, and three different departments at the Trailblazers!) I love that I’m never quite sure what conversations my day will allow me to have, and it’s always an underlying mission of mine to make as many of those instrumental chats into something fun. If a lasting friendship evolves out of one of them, even better. Today is always my day, and it’s yours, too.

What is one thing you know to be true? What is your statement of faith that drives you to keep doing what you’re doing?

Everything Will Fall Into Place.

My dad told me this in a letter he gave me when I graduated college. Later, I tattooed it – in his cursive scrawl – on my left arm. I have not encountered any one sentiment that rings more true for me. Believe this and letting its truth replace my anxiety about the future, my decisions or others perceptions, has been critical to my growth as a person and to my personality. Even at times when it has felt like NOTHING is in place in my life, I chalk it up to be one of those instances when it’s just taking a while to fall.  Ken Barnhart is a wise man.

What is something new that brings Joy to your life?

Living in a city where you truly started from scratch means that almost EVERYTHING is new. Last weekend I went to a new spot on the Oregon coast with three of my best friends, and spent 48 stunning hours in awe. New books! New friends! New craft beer! Oh yes craft beer – pint-sized joy!

I have also been incredibly fortunate in exploring a new romantic relationship with a wonderful, wonderful human who challenges me, supports me, cares for me, and makes me split a gut laughing multiple times a week. He has a two year-old son. The pair of them, above anything on the list earlier, is a gigantic source of new Joy that I never expected to find right where I found it. I really hope I can meet you – whoever you are who’s reading this right now – because I will show you a picture of Oliver eating a cream cheesed bagel and you will never be able to be sad again. Joy, it knocks, you know? And you’ve just got to open the door and let it in.

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Thank you, Steph, for sharing part of your story with us! Your ability to trust in the goodness that exists in this world is a powerful reminder to love and live with abandon, for the precious moments deserve it. Can’t wait to see what the next chapter of your life will bring!

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