by Rachel Johnson
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 Hisstory, 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!)
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this Wonderfully Made Spotlight on Stephanie May!
(Photography courtesy of Stephanie May)