Episode 10: The importance of presence, and focusing on living in the now instead of the not yet with Jeanne Stevens
Get ready for a great conversation on this week's episode of The Aro Podcast! Joey sits down with the inspiring Jeanne Stevens, one of the lead pastors of Soul City Church in Chicago's vibrant West Loop neighborhood. As a sought-after speaker, leader, and author, Jeanne shares her secrets to success, including how James Clear's "Atomic Habits" inspired her. Joey and Jeanne also explore the power of gratitude, the importance of living in the present moment, and how to combat negative emotions like blame, shame, guilt, and worry. Plus, don't miss hearing about Jeanne's latest book, "What's Here Now?" which quickly became a bestseller after its release in May 2022.
Watch the Conversation
Jeanne Stevens (00:03):
Presence is so critical to how we live with one another. And it, it's so challenging to actually remind ourselves to be here, now. I literally wear a necklace around my, my neck that says presence. I put it on in the morning like this. This is the only day that will be this day. So how are you going to give yourselves yourself to whoever you interact with? How are you going to be present?
Joey Odom (00:30):
Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. It's your good friend Joey Odom, co-founder of Aro and I just had such a great conversation with Jeanne Stevens. Jeanne Stevens is a visionary and entrepreneur. She's a pastor and founder of Soul City Church in Chicago, Illinois. And she wrote a book called What's Here Now? And it's all about being in the present and the things that take us back to the past or have us rehearsing the future. It's such a great discussion. You're gonna want to get the book after you listen to the conversation with Jeanne. Please sit back and enjoy such a great conversation with Jeanne Stevens.
Alright. I'm, I'm cur-Jeanie. I am curious, we've talked about this. You, you had a very comfortable church life, North Point, Willow Creek, and all these mega churches and the, you know, and their, um, suburban mega churches. And then all of a sudden you said, Nope, we're, we're gonna do something different. How in the world did Soul City come about? Tell us what, walk us through that whole process of how Soul City Church came about. It's because it's really fun, it's really exciting and there are a few bumps along the way and I I'd love to hear all about it.
Jeanne Stevens (01:43):
Oh, yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, leave it to God to, um, be the author of, uh, always making sure that we don't just slip into comfort, you know, that, that we live these beautifully courageous, faith-filled lives. And I, I don't even know, Joey, if I thought that my life was comfortable or, you know, as you just mentioned, we worked at Willow for, uh, 11 years, then we worked at NorthPoint for almost five years. And I'm just so grateful for that 15 year run to be in communities that value leadership development to be in communities that, um, are so intentional about the work that they do to expand the gospel. Uh, so what, what a blessing. But I, I think that there was a bit of me that was sleepwalking when it came to really living into the fullness of what it meant for me to walk in faith, what it meant for me to have so much trust and intentional followership of, of Jesus. And, and I think a lot of people in professional Christian ministry, uh, can at times live a sleepwalking life with their, with their own faith. Yeah. They're, they're doing the work of God professionally and at times that can, uh, dull the work of God inside of them.
Joey Odom (03:20):
Ooh, say that again. That was, that was really good. Say that, say that again.
Jeanne Stevens (03:24):
Yeah. Doing the work of God, oftentimes, if we're not careful, ends up dulling the work of God inside of us. Wow. And I, I think that that was a bit of our story. And so insert God wrecking the plot line of my life. Uh, and I had a two-year-old and a four-year-old, and my husband and I had this sense that God was asking us to start a church from scratch, like from nothing from our living room. And so, yeah, we, we were at North Point at the time, moved back to Chicago, which is where I'm from, but moved into the city of Chicago, moved to the West Loop, which is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods of millennials and now Gen Z. And yeah. So while, while there we started this church in, in our living room, two year old, four year old, had no idea how much I like, really needed God to answer my prayers. Hmm. Like it was a walking on water experience. Uh, I remember so many times in those early few months of the church, uh, like saying to chair like, may, maybe we should just call Andy and say, can, can we come back?
Joey Odom (04:39):
Andy Stanley at North Point? Yes, sure.
Jeanne Stevens (04:40):
Yeah. Our pastor. Yeah. <laugh>. Um, like, we don't know what we were doing. Uh, this is really hard. Oh my gosh. Like remember when you used to put uh, checks in our bank account every two weeks and we, and we had benefits and we had all these things, you know, and it just, it was a, and you know this, you're an entrepreneur, so very similar when you, when you step off the ledge, right? When you step out of the boat, when you really, really, really take a risk and, and you are so dependent on God to answer those prayers, I think it's one of the greatest things that anyone can do for their faith. I wouldn't change it for the world because it put me in a posture of dependence. And that's a really, really, really good posture for anyone, uh, to be in. Uh, it's vulnerable. Yeah. It's uncomfortable. And yet it's, it's where we actually get to practice what I think is critical to a life of faith. And that is surrender.
Joey Odom (05:39):
The, I I, I'm gonna hear about the difficulty in that because especially when you have a, a, a calling, you believe you specifically have a calling. There's almost inside of that. You think, well, everything's gonna be okay then, but it's not. So it's almost, there's almost this juxtaposition of like, well, I know I'm supposed to be here, but that doesn't in any way equate to it being easy. And I'm sure that some of the difficulty, you had to anticipate some difficulty, but was the, was the challenge and difficulty, was it different than you expected it, it's not like this big heroic gonna go take over the city and said, it probably comes to you in a bunch of different ways, like practical ways. Yeah. What were some of those like, difficult things in the beginning that maybe took you off guard?
Jeanne Stevens (06:15):
Yeah. I think one of the, uh, you're exactly right. You know, there's, there's a moment of calling and gosh, that is so critical to anyone taking a step in their life calling this sense of purpose, right? And, and so having that and having that clarity, uh, like, and I know I'm supposed to do this, is something to always come back to when it does get hard. Yeah. When it does get difficult. And so I'm, I'm very grateful for, for calling for purpose, for, for a compass, if you will. You know, like, I, I know this is the direction I am to walk, especially when the terrain gets hard or, or when challenges come. And they always will. And, and I remember in those early days, some of the, the early challenges were just, it was so clear to us what God was asking us to do, and we were needing to make that clear to many others, right.
People that were gonna join in this effort. Um, so vision casting, uh, fundraising, finding facility, uh, setting a healthy framework and structure and strategy and clarifying all the things that we are gonna say yes to, which means you have to get really clear on all the things that you're gonna say no to. I think one of the big things I remember early on realizing it is a very different seat to sit in when you are the leader. And I remember sending, uh, either a text or an email or something, um, to Andy saying, wow, this is a really different seat. Like when you are, when you are the leader. Yeah. And, and it stops at you and people are looking to you to say, so what are we gonna do? There's a different level of loneliness. Hmm. There's a different level of pressure, there's a different level of really having to lead yourself, you know, nobody else is leading you.
Yeah. And so you really have to up yourself leadership game. And, and that, that requires a lot of tenacity. That requires a lot of endurance, A lot of, cuz not every day feels like that high calling day. Right. You know, there's lots of days that are just like normal. They're Wednesday at, at two o'clock, nothing. Yeah. Nothing radical's happening. Right. And, and you're like, ah, what that, that feeling of Yeah. Of that calling, that purpose. And it's like, no, you just gotta move something from A to B and be faithful to get it done. Right. Right. Because people are depending on you to do that. So I, I would say those were some of the, the early challenges of just learning how to live that way as a leader. And at the same time, right. I, I'm, I'm married, I'm partnering with my husband on this church.
Uh, we have a two-year-old, we have a four-year-old. So, you know, life is full. We live in a fast moving city. Every, every other challenge that, you know, people have with, with friendships and family and, and all those things. And so learning how to hold all of that and hold it lightly and, and going back to what I said earlier, to continue to not professionalize the work of God and for it to continue to be really sincere, authentic, uh, vulnerable, uh, raw and real in my own life. So that what's pouring out is authentic, raw, and real to others.
Joey Odom (09:52):
How do you do that? How, tell me about some of the daily disciplines. Maybe it, it may be different today than before. We're gonna get into, into what's here now in, in your book. And I wanna hear about some of those, maybe the early days, those daily disciplines, the practical habits. I've been amazed as we've been talking with people on this, on this podcast. People like Justin Whitmel Earley who say that it was their habits and it was their disciplines that brought them out of dark places. And that you would think that it's sometimes a feeling, this overwhelming feeling that gets to you, but it's, it really is the practical thing. So what were some of those daily disciplines where you could stay refreshed and renewed and, um, in making sure that you had enough, your cup was full so you could pour it out to others?
Jeanne Stevens (10:26):
Yeah, yeah. I'm a big fan of James Clear and Atomic Habits and, uh, just the, the wisdom of, of his writing. And I, I think, I, I hope I don't butcher this quote. I, I think one of the things that he says is, we do not rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems. So good. And if that isn't true, <laugh>, I don't know what is <laugh>. It is just so true because I, I love setting goals. I love, I'm a natural visionary on the thinking wavelength. I'm a 9.7. I've got an, I got an idea like every <laugh>, every few moments, <laugh>. Uh, and so vision, idea, possibility is where I love to live. And somebody like that is not going to move any of those things forward if they don't have supporting systems or habits. And so I would say, um, you know, there, there are some that are, are small and not noticeable.
Things like drinking a glass of water before I have a cup of coffee. Yeah. Um, it's just the reminder of how important it is to stay hydrated, a gratitude journal. There's always something to be grateful for. And there's so much, uh, science, uh, neuroscience around the power of gratitude. Yeah. And how you cannot actually be grateful and anxious at the same moment. And so in those early days of, you know, the anxiety of like, where are we gonna meet? How are we gonna, you know, pay the lease on, on this huge warehouse, how are people gonna come? Are, are people gonna give, are we gonna be able to hire a staff? Yeah. Are we, you know, all all of these things. Right? It's so critical to make sure that you are looking at the things to be grateful for. So the practice of gratitude is one.
Um, so I, I just keep a, it's called the Five Minute Journal. And I, I just literally in the morning write out, uh, the things that I'm grateful for. And it takes five minutes, but it really does make a difference. I would say another pattern, uh, early on that really, really helped was getting in a circle of people that were also leaders. But I was not leading that circle. So, you know, really being in a community of people that, that didn't need me, if you will. Sure. They didn't, they didn't need my leadership, they didn't need my direction, they didn't need my shepherding, they didn't need that. There was, there's a place for me to just be genie. Yeah. Um, not Genie the pastor, not Jeanie the leader. Not, not anything other than just me. And, and that practice was really, really helpful. Of course, exercise, you know, uh, spending time reading, not for the sake of a sermon that I was preparing. That's a hard one. It's a real hard one cuz there's always something that you are writing or, or content that you're developing. And so it's like, you could almost like squeeze your research into those things as well. Uh, this is good. Right. And yeah. And, and oftentimes I've found, oh, you're just doing this for what you're producing, not for who you're becoming.
Joey Odom (13:50):
I've wondered about that, cuz it, it's, it seems like if someone is producing a lot of content, whether it's sermons or videos or blogs or something, it, it's almost as if you have this, like you have a great family moment and then mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you're meeting, oh, this would be make a great blog content instead of like, hold on one second, just freaking be here. Right. You know what I mean? Yes. Is that, is that has to be a challenge, right?
Jeanne Stevens (14:09):
Oh, it is. It absolutely is. You know, and, and it's like that, like you whip out your phone Right. To, you're having such a great moment and you're like, I wanna take a picture of this. Right. And it's like the second you do it, and, and not all the time because, and cause I, I do love capturing memories, but sometimes it can actually make it, make the moment leave versus that moment actually be exactly what it is meant to be. Um, a moment to just be present with your people, um, experiencing whatever it is that you're experiencing. So those are, those are a few of the things. Walking is a big one for me. Um, like this summer, um, I just walked my neighborhood in the morning and listened to the Psalms. Hmm. And, um, it was a way for me to experience scripture in a whole different kind of way. I, I downloaded it on an app where this British guy read the Psalms to me <laugh>.
Joey Odom (15:03):
Jeanne Stevens (15:03):
I just, not bad, I just walk in my neighborhood and some British guy is reading the Psalms <laugh> and it just, you know, I've, I mean, I've read the Psalms many times before, but it was a fresh way to receive it, to not like sit and read, but to actually have it read to me. So I've found over the years, I have to change up some of my practices and my habits so that they don't, um, become stale. But those, those are a few that I think allow me to shift. Um, you know, I I think presence is so critical to, to how we live with one another and it's, it's so challenging to actually remind ourselves to be here. Yeah. Now. And, um, like, I, I literally wear a necklace around my, my neck that says presence just as a, like, I put it on in the morning like this, this is the only day that will be this day. So how are you going to give yourselves yourself to whoever you interact with? How are you going to be present? Um, and so that, that is a huge, huge, huge shift in my life. And, and really a lot of that came Joey from recognizing that I wasn't <laugh>. Yeah, of course. I mean, that, that's the honest truth. Yeah. I was either rehashing the past or I was rehearsing the future and I was not receiving the gift of this now moment, which when you think about it's the only thing we have.
Joey Odom (16:30):
That's right. That's right. Absolutely. The the past has gone, the future's not certain. Exactly. This is all we have. I, I wanna hear real quick before we, um, dive into the book, I wanna hear about what it was like with Jared during that time with kids who are two and four, uh, a firm believer that it's that it's war time. You gotta have, you gotta have a different mentality. And that's, that's without launching a, a venture, whether it's a church or a business, and those things are challenging enough as they are, what was, what were some of the things that came up that were difficult during that time? How did you weather it? And maybe someone who would, who maybe is listening who would be in a similar spot, Hey, I'm launching something new, my kids are in a similar age, or whatever it is. What would you say to them, not only on what you all did together, maybe what you did as a, as a spouse and what Jared did as a spouse and maybe even those, those challenges that you had to overcome?
Jeanne Stevens (17:22):
Yeah. Yeah. I would say specifically for our marriage and we love partnering together and, uh, it, it has been, it has been a wild ride and, and it is been a, a great adventure. And, and I wouldn't say it's for everybody. You know, I, I don't know if everybody is wired in such a way, and their marriage and their gifts are wired in such a way that they should both be partners at work and partners at home. But for us, um, it was, it was the right step for us. And we always would say we need to work harder behind the scenes so that what we offer to others is, um, the overflow of the good work that we're doing to be healthy and whole as a married couple and as the co-pastors of this church. Um, so early on we just even set up some, some good parameters.
Um, we're not one another's boss. We both report to the board. We felt like that was really critical early on to, um, not put some kind of weird hierarchy into our relationship because we were both equally leading this organization. And so, you know, we separately report to our board, we have separate job descriptions, so we're not, like, there's not strange overlap in the organization. It, it helps, um, people know that when they're meeting with me, they're really meeting with me versus, oh, I guess if I meet with Jeanie, it just automatically means whatever she thinks Jarrett thinks too. So that our individual individuality and, and the offerings that we bring as leaders, we made it really clear in the organization what he was gonna oversee, what I was gonna oversee. We tried to really keep our date night every, every week. Um,
Joey Odom (19:21):
So even through that, you all were, were good about that, huh?
Jeanne Stevens (19:23):
Yeah, we were, and I mean, of course there were times where, you know, it didn't happen, but, and, and Jared is really good at drawing the boundaries of saying, okay, we, we've just been standing in our kitchen making dinner and the entire time we've been talking about Soul City, like, let's be here in our kitchen making dinner for our kids in our family. Soul City doesn't need to be in this space, you know? And so we had to really learn those boundaries and draw them for ourselves and, and then practice them right back, back to the James Clear quote, right? Like, what is our system going to be around? How do we protect this beautiful entity called, we call ourselves Team Stevens, how do we protect this thing? Because this thing was here long before Soul City. It'll be here long after Soul City, and I want to be the only spouse to my husband.
I want to be the only mother to my children. That is a role distinctly Yeah. Called, you know, that God called me too one day Soul City will probably have a, a new pastor, you know, uh, even though I I started it and founded it, I, I don't want to give all of me to it. And I will say early on, any startup, it, it feels like it takes everything and then some, yeah. And I think early on, a lot of our mishaps and a lot of our challenges were when we just gave Soul City maybe more than we should have. And I'll never forget when we left NorthPoint, I remember Andy saying to me, Hey, 80% is good enough. And I'm like, okay, I need to remember that <laugh>, because there's this, there's this tension, especially for creators, and I'm sure you feel this way too, Joey, you think, okay, if I tweak one more thing, maybe I can make it just a little bit better, a little bit better, a little bit better, right?
And it's like, and what is the cost to that? You know? And so learning how to know when, when to be done, learning how to know when to stop the conversation, learning how to know, you know, that you, you've given what you can give and, and, and to really with peace, walk away from that. I, I struggled with that. You know, I, I tend to err on workaholic tendencies and, um, and so I can just like, keep going, keep going. I'm an eight on the Enneagram, so, you know, like there's a umpteen amount of energy and wanting to pour into something. And so that, that has been a real growth for me. Uh, rest has been something that I've had to work at. It's not something that I'm naturally good at. Um, Sabbath was not something that I was naturally good at when we started Soul City.
And, and I've had to really discipline myself to learn how to do that. Um, you know, and, and, and so much of, of what you and I have connected about even is the power and the gift of these little devices, right. That are in our pockets, <laugh>, that you can do so much good through, you know, I, I can, it, it's amazing. I can send a quick text to somebody in, you know, in the Soul City community and, and encourage them and support them. And that would've been way more complicated, you know, 20, 30 years ago. And, but it also has a downside. Yeah. Anyone can meet, reach me at any time, <laugh>, and, you know, and that, that isn't always good either.
Joey Odom (23:13):
It's so true. We, we say, you know, it's interesting when you put your phone down and when you really are present, you're signaling to the person across from you that there are 7 billion people who could theoretically reach me through this thing. And you're more important than all 7 billion of them right now. So it's that moment, uh, that bit of presence. Fast forward us through this was how long you, you all moved to, you started Soul City in what year?
Jeanne Stevens (23:34):
Uh, so Soul City's 12 years old. Okay. Um, so we started in 2010.
Joey Odom (23:39):
2010. You built up, I'm sure things were going great, A little thing called Covid 19. Covid 19 hit <laugh> that cha changed the complexion Right. Of things. And then, so now on the, on the other side of Covid, or, you know, for the most part on the over other side of Covid, what is, what is the state of of Soul City?
Jeanne Stevens (23:54):
Yeah. You know, we really experienced the intensity of Covid probably different than Sure. Well, I mean, wherever you're at in the country, you experienced Covid,
Joey Odom (24:05):
But you're in the heart of Chicago.
Jeanne Stevens (24:07):
Yeah, I'm in the heart of Chicago. So we experienced it pretty intensely. Our, our church was physically shut down for 18 months. Wow. And so we a hundred percent pivoted online. And, and, and like every other church had to learn a whole new way to care for Shepherd and love people at the time. We were, you know, getting ready to launch a few new campuses right before Covid started. And so we had to pause that and instead we opened up what we now call the House of Hope, which is a way to, uh, give care and support through, um, hospitality hope and healing, um, through meals, through support with what we call our justice center. So we have a bunch of attorneys in our church that will, uh, come alongside of people that need aid at a greatly reduced, uh, price. We have a resume, uh, writing experience for people that are looking for jobs.
They're struggling with, you know, being houseless. Uh, and so we come alongside and support, we have a resource closet, uh, filled with immediate active, uh, resources that people would need in the moment. Um, so transit cards or coats or, um, just basic supplies. And so that all occurred through Covid, which is so cool, right? This thing that was so challenging and so difficult actually ended up birthing something that has become so beautiful and has become such a support to so many people in the community. A and what's so cool is so many people, uh, come to the house of hope that that will maybe never step foot in inside of a service at Soul City, but they've been loved and blessed by the work of Soul City Church. And so yeah, a lot has come out of it, but I will say it has been quite a journey to be a leader through covid and to constantly discern and determine what is the right thing to do, you know, with a thousand options as to how to navigate through this thing.
It was, it was quite a journey for any leader, um, but ourselves included. And so, you know, just a few months ago we added back our, we had three services pre C O V I D, couple thousand people attending in downtown Chicago. Um, and just a few months ago we added back a third service. So it's taken us almost three years to rebound back to where we were and, and we're right about there again. Um, but I will say, you know, the, the behavior and the habits of people have shifted in Covid and how people connect in community, how people engage with a local church has really shifted globally, I believe. And so the state of the church is really, um, I believe we will look back on this season and we will say that was a turning point moment in the life of the Big Sea Church for how people gather. I think the church will always, uh, continue on. It's continued on for 2000 years, but how we gather and how we connect in community, I think we are living through turning point moments.
Joey Odom (27:42):
So, so amazing. I, I totally believe that something jumps out to me about you that I love, and you probably know this about yourself, but there are, that was the second instance of something I noticed. You are a, you are high on vision, you're high on future, but you always go back to systems and practicality. So, Hmm. You talked about in your marriage, you talk, I mean, you have, you know, grand aspirations for your marriage, but then, okay, let's, what are our, what are our systems for us? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, let's main, let's schedule a date night. And then you talked about during Covid, you had, you're a visionary for a church, you are an entrepreneur. But then you went back to the, okay, let's meet the practical needs of the community around us. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then I think you did the same thing with your book.
I mean, your book, you had this, this feeling of presence, which can kind of feel ambiguous and amorphous. And then you took it and you made it very, I think your book is brilliant in the way it, it connects two different things that I love you, and we're gonna go through them, you, cuz the, the subtitle or the book itself is called What's Here Now. And it's, um, and the subtitle is How to Stop Rehashing the Past and Rehearsing the Future and Start Receiving the Present. So you take some concepts that are so fascinating, this is brilliant how you did this, all these concepts, and then you related to 'em, this is how you live in the past, this is how you live in the future. And we'll get to those. But I'm curious to begin, I I think that writing a book has to be one of the most vulnerable experiences that anybody could possibly do. You're taking your own personal experience, you're trying to order the words in a way that that makes it appealing to read. And then you're saying, Hey, here, here world, go ahead and judge me. Go ahead and judge everything about the form and the substance and everything. What is the vulnerable process of writing and releasing a book? Like,
Jeanne Stevens (29:24):
Hmm. You're, you're exactly right. It is, it is mega vulnerable. And I, I told quite a few very vulnerable stories in the book, and I just, you know, I, and maybe this is the gift of listening and reading a ton of Brene Brown, so I'll, I'll, I'll give her all the credit right now. A big Brene fan. Uh, I'm a big Brene fan, and she just really embodies and teaches the reality that no one is really drawn to our egoic selves. We're drawn to our true selves in one another. We're drawn to the real, the authentic, the vulnerable. Uh, and, and that moment where somebody really confesses or says, that was really hard for me. And and another person says, yeah, me too. That is authentic connection. And that is what humans are looking for. They are looking to belong. And so I'm not looking to sit across from somebody that gives me a shiny picture of how amazing their life is and how everything is perfect and, you know, the, their, their life just from morning till dusk, everything goes according to plan.
I'm actually drawn to the person that's like, yeah, it all kind of fell apart yesterday. <laugh> Yeah. When we were trying to get out of the house. And I'm like, oh my gosh, me too. Like, how do you do that with your kids? Right? And, and so in the big things and in the small things, we, we are drawn to the authentic vulnerable self. And so I knew in the writing of this book that if I just offered my shiny, spectacular self, and it looked like everything has always gone according to plan, and I have all of the correct answers as to how to be the most single, present person ever to walk the earth, that it actually wouldn't connect with people that I needed to write from my own real journey of trying to figure presence out. I, I, I am not writing as an expert.
I'm writing as a fellow journeyman on the path, trying to figure out how do we live present in this one most extraordinary lives. We've been gifted to live. So I really chose, you know, and I would, I would put that at the top of my page each time I sat down to write, like, be present. Uh, it just, you know, I, I would write different people's names at the top of the page that reminded me of people that I wanted to read these words and, and they would feel seen. I think that's one of the desires of humans, is we just wanna be seen. Like, do you see me? Do you know me? Do you receive me? Do you accept me? And so I wanted people when they were reading these words to feel those feelings. Like she gets me, she sees me, she knows me. She's, her life looks like my life and whatever, you know, wisdom I have gathered over the years to offer that in a humble way, not in a, I've, I've figured it all out kind of way.
Joey Odom (32:55):
It comes across. Um, when you said that, that need to be seen, I think of the, the story of Abraham and Sarah, and then Hagar the servant, and she, she runs off after, you know, some, some issues with Abraham and then God comes to her and she says to him, she says, you're the God who sees me. And how, I mean that, that's embedded within us that, that need for that. Yes. Um, and what an amazing concept.
Aro Team Member (33:19):
We hope you're enjoying the show. Let's take a quick moment to hear from one of our members about how Aro is impacting their life.
Aro Member (33:26):
Our five-year-old daughter, she loves presents, I would say attention, but really what she is hungry for is just mommy and daddy being there with her. Um, which is, which is what we want, right? We as parents, uh, we want to be present with her. And so, um, you know, when Aro came into our home and my wife and I started trying to be more conscientious, you know, this, this, um, beautiful device is sitting on the counter. It's calling out to us all the time, like every time you walk past us, like, oh, you know, leave your phone here and go be present. And so we did start to see her developing patterns. It's like, Hey daddy, um, why don't you put your phone in the box? She started to realize that the devices we were carrying around were key in us not being fully present in whatever we were doing at home.
Joey Odom (34:10):
You go through things that keep us in the past that keep us rehashing, rehashing the past and then rehearsing the future. And again, I'll say this, and then you just have to read the book to really fully grasp it. But there are things like you say, blame, shame, grief, bitterness and guilt. Those all rehash the past. Mm-hmm.
Jeanne Stevens (34:28):
Joey Odom (34:29):
And those are concepts I, concepts I wouldn't have necessarily connected with that. Yeah. I, I would love to hear about a few of those things. Maybe whatever jumps out from what would you'd like to highlight? You know, blame, shame, grief, bitterness, guilt, anyone or, or multiple of those that, and, and the way that it can pull us back to the past.
Jeanne Stevens (34:46):
Yeah. Well, you know, one of the, the powerful things about presence is that if it's not happening now, it's not happening. And, and I'll say that again. Uh, if it's not happening now, it's not happening. And yet most of us, we tend to live in the not happenings. We're thinking about something that's gonna occur in, you know, two hours, two weeks, two years. Or we're thinking about something that happened two hours ago, two weeks ago. Two years ago, right? A and, and so our, our mental construct keeps us from the now, and yet the now is the place where God lives. Uh, God dwells in this now moment. I, I love what Father Richard Rohr says. He says, we cannot attain the presence of God because we're already in the presence of God. What's absent is awareness. And so many of us, we, we are missing out on that awareness because, because we are rehashing the past or rehearsing the future.
And so what I did, Joey, was I just kind of looked like, what are the ways that I rehashed the past? And that's where I came up with those five things. Blame is a big one. And blame is just simply wanting to direct personal responsibility to someone or something else, right? Like, you're just like, I don't like this feeling. I don't like this thing that happened. Who can I put this on? Right. <laugh>, who else can take this? Can I put this on a person? Can I put this on the traffic? Can I put this on whatever? Right? Like, I don't want to feel this feeling of blame, so how can I get rid of it? Shame is really, uh, similar in that it's, it's, no, no one likes to feel shame because ultimately shame is self-hatred at my expense. Like if you spell out shame, self-hatred at my expense, that's, that's how I define shame.
And, um, shame is this way of not believing we are enough, right? Not believing that we are worthy of love. And it, and it keeps us from this now moment. Guilt is another one. Uh, and and it's funny because blame, shame and guilt, they're almost like these triplets, right? That, that show up in our lives, but they have different powers. Um, and, and how they, they manifest themselves. Like blame is, it's your fault. You know, guilt says like, it's, it's my fault. And, and shame is I'm just always at fault. Um, like my, my very essence is the problem, you know, blame is, you were wrong. Guilt is I was wrong, and shame is I am wrong. And so those three, you know, they, they really, they manifest differently, but they, they, they show up so similar similarly in our lives. So blame, shame, guilt, there's grief, um, which is that deep sorrow from a loss in our past.
And, and it changes how we live in the present. And if we don't do our grief work, um, and, and grief is, it's so painful and it's so hard and so many people choose to not do grief work because it's so painful and because it's so hard. But then it's showing up in their present life. Yeah. Right? It's, it's just, it's hijacking your everyday living. Uh, and, and then there's bitterness, right? Bitterness is, is really a grudge that has a hold on your heart. Um, bitterness, uh, another word for it is unforgiveness. And in all five of those, they keep us locked up in the past, missing out on the present moment.
Joey Odom (38:41):
That is powerful, powerful, powerful shame. That concept of shame shows up. And it's so unsuspecting, it's so insidious. It just seeps into our, to your point, it's, it seeps into our psyche until we all of a sudden believe that that's a really hard one. It, it really is. I'm thinking about with my relationship with my kids and how I combat that. I know that's, that is a natural thing to think I am wrong. And, and it's, um, that's, that is amazingly powerful. And, and, and then you, then you go to, to the future. So we're rehearsing the future. And I like to say to my, my kids, so my doc, my daughter has, she has an ear, an ear appointment. By the way, my daughter, she, well, she also goes by Gigi also. Your doc, your daughter goes by.
Jeanne Stevens (39:22):
So, yeah. Oh, I love that.
Joey Odom (39:23):
So she has an ear doctor appointment, and she is living that ear doctor appointment today, tomorrow until it happens on Friday. She's living it now. And I think, why would you want to experience this twice? Because if it's as bad as you think it's going to be, then you're experiencing something bad twice. And if it's not bad at all, then you're going to, you're experiencing a bad sit, a bad, um, a bad thing that won't actually be bad. So it's those things that rehearsing and, and, and I've heard a, a, a line on fear, which fear is a, is a, um, and worry. They come to us as a fully formed story mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So they come to us when we're thinking about 'em. We already have the story written, and it, the story is never exactly as we imagined them. Yeah. So you talk about, about worry, denial, pretending, obligation, waiting in control. Yeah. Talk about how those take us outta the present by rehearsing the future. I'd love to hear about those.
Jeanne Stevens (40:14):
Yeah. I, I love how you were, were talking about, you know, that, that relationship with, with fear and worry. And I like to say that worry is living in a not yet. That's worse than you're now <laugh>. And, uh,
Joey Odom (40:29):
You say things, you say things better than I do.
Jeanne Stevens (40:31):
It, it just, it it's exactly what you described with your daughter, right? Yeah. The not yet, the the ear appointment, it's worse. She's making it worse than her now, right? Um, it hasn't happened yet. We, she doesn't know how it's gonna all go down. But this is what we do, right? We, we literally create our, our not yet in our mind, right. That they, they truly have not occurred. So the only place where we can manifest them are in our mind, in, in our thoughts. And then they move through to our body. We feel them in our body. Yeah. And we experience them in our emotions. And so the, the body, the mind and the heart, they, they really do have an interplay, which we'll talk about, you know, in a moment, in, in the power of receiving the present. But, but that's, that's all where he is.
It's living in a not yet. That's worse than you're now. And our world is riddled with it. I mean, just Yeah. Riddled with it. Um, I experience it. You experience it, kids experience it. It's why anxiety is at an all time high. The news cycles are filled with not yets that are worse than our nows, right? Yeah. And so we're just digesting worry. Um, and we are just on a steady diet of it. Um, that's so true. So that's one of the big ways that we rehearse the future denial. And denial is really this defense mechanism to delay pain and avoid transformation. It's, it's kind of this like, oh, I, I don't wanna have to face that. I don't wanna have to do that. And so we just keep having denial over, uh, whatever, you know, pain it is that we, we know we need to walk into.
And really what it does is it avoids growth. It avoids transformation. Because, you know, we may think, oh, that's gonna be too hard. That's gonna be too difficult. And so I'm just gonna deny what, what needs to take place with that. Uh, pretending is another one, uh, which is just a place where we camouflage our authentic selves and, and really, you know, we all want approval. We want control, we want security. And, and the only places where we actually, uh, find that real enoughness is, is in, in relationship with God. But whenever we're pretending, we try to get that for ourselves, right? Yeah. I, I try to get all of that approval from, um, something else, uh, that control from something else, that security from something else. And so it's this game of, of masking and pretending and camouflaging, and it keeps us from the present moment.
And it's also exhausting <laugh>, right? <laugh>, you know, uh, it is exhausting to pretend obligation is another one. It's, it's really believing that you have no choices. You know, it's, it's really living with should, yeah. As the master, as the driver, I should do this. Um, versus I can do this. I'm invited to do this. And should, is just never a healthy place to live from. Um, and then control is really just taking authority into your own hands so that you a hundred percent influence whatever the outcome is. And, and it keeps us from the posture of surrender. And these are all ways that we rehearse the future and we leave the present moment. We, we literally are like, this moment is not where I want to be. I am going to go out into the future. And it ends up causing so much pain every single time we do it.
Joey Odom (44:13):
And it's, uh, it's, it's so habitual. It's such a normal part of how we act. It's not like we're consciously sabotaging ourselves. We are, we're sabotaging ourselves. And then, and then the antidote is receiving the present. You talk about, you know, ways that you do that in areas where you, where you receive the present, your emotions, your thoughts, your body, gratitude, belonging. Let's, would love to hear for those one, I should just leave it as a teaser. You gotta read the book to find, to find the last part. But, but walk us through some of those on, on how you received the present.
Jeanne Stevens (44:40):
Yeah. You know, uh, it, it really starts with our mind, our body. Yeah. Um, and our heart. Um, and so when it comes to the heart, right, your emotions, it's an emotion is really just energy in emotion. That that's really all an emotion, is it's just, it's a, it's a movement of energy and, and it's, it's, it's growing. And so being able to learn how to name okay, what's, what am I feeling here in my heart? Um, so much of what I teach in the book is just helping people discern and determine, oh, I'm feeling sadness, or I'm feeling excitement. I'm feeling concern, I'm feeling anger and, and helping people learn how to just name. Yeah. This is what's going on. You know, I had a great conversation with my 14 year old daughter last night, and she was navigating through a bunch of different things with, with some friends and with her, uh, volleyball with school, with some, um, obligations that she has that she was feeling overwhelmed with.
And I was like, you know, gig G, do you know what you're feeling right now? Um, she's like, I, I don't know. And I'm like, okay, let's just breathe for a minute. And then she's like, yeah, I think I'm feeling I'm sad. I was like, awesome. I'm so glad. Like, what does that sadness feel like in your body? Which then, you know, when we ask the question, what's here now, I start with, okay, what are you feeling in your heart? What are you sensing in your body? She's like, well, it just feels heavy in my chest. Um, I, I feel overwhelmed. And I'm like, what are the thoughts that go with that? You know? She's like, well, I just, I feel like I'm, I'm letting people down. I haven't talked to this friend in a while and I I've got this tournament this weekend and, and this homework.
And, you know, and so we were able to just kind of pull the thread of all of that and come back into the present moment, right? And so, wow, that's what's powerful about asking this question, what's here now? Because, you know, the emotion is just energy and motion. A thought is just the process by which your mind considers something. But so many of us, we believe that every thought we think we should believe and it, and we shouldn't. Um, you know, and, and I like to explain that thoughts are literally like airplanes overhead. And some neuroscientists believe that we have 60 to 80,000 thoughts in a day. Can you imagine if you allowed every 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts to land on the runway of your mind, right? Right. That, that would be a very congested airport. And yet so many of us, that's what we're doing.
We're, we're just, we're having a thought because we had the thought. We believe it's true. And then our minds feel so overwhelmed. It then affects our body. It affects our emotions. And so learning how to actually clear those thoughts, right? To say that thought is not of service to me, that thought is not true. That thought is not going to bring healing or hope, or, you know, a allow me to move forward. You know, a a thought ultimately is harmless until we believe it. Yeah, that's right. It, it, it's just something that goes overhead, but it, it becomes harmful if we start to believe it. And, and I think about, you know, in second Corinthians where it says, take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. So many of us, you know, I, I just wondered, do you take your thoughts captive or do your thoughts take you captive, right?
Because I think so many of us, we allow our thoughts to take us captive. So tho those are the things to, to bring yourself back into the present moment. To, to really ask yourself what's here now with, with my thoughts, uh, what's here now in my heart? What's here now in my body? And then to actually practice gratitude, you know, to, to find something in that moment that can give you gratitude. You know, gratitude is ultimately what makes us, well, you think about, um, the, the story in, in Luke where, uh, Jesus heals the lepers, right? And, and most of 'em left, but one came back and, and one came back and said, thank you. Hmm. And it's so interesting to me what Jesus says to him. He says, rise and go. Your faith has made you well. And I believe that what Jesus is really saying in that moment is that it is gratitude that makes us, well, wow, grati, that practice of gratitude actually is what gives us peace and what gives us perspective.
You know, cuz we can always kind of look up and be like, okay, what, what provision is here? You, you can be in the most dire of situations and still see something has been provided for me. Even if it's just, you know, there is, there is breath in my lungs that has been provided for me to look out, look at, you know, there, there has to be a person, right? What is, what is one person that I can be grateful for? What can you look in and, and go, okay, I I can, I can see that, uh, you know, g God has taken care of this thing in my life. And so just that practice of, of gratitude, it's this opportunity to be reminded that peaceful circumstances aren't what create gratitude. Gratitude is actually what creates peaceful circumstances. And it really, it really is the antidote to anxiety in our life as well.
You know, when we're in those moments of worry and in those moments of living in the not yet, that's worse than you're now, gratitude is often that antidote to, to those moments of anxiety. And so those practices of paying attention to what's here now in my mind, what's here now in my heart, what's here now my body, how can I practice gratitude, which ultimately leads us back to belonging, which is this just beautiful, uh, ability to see that we belong to Yeah. One another. You know, mother Teresa said, if we have no peace, it's because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. And I think that so many of us, we know that vulnerability, we know that vulnerability is critical to belonging, but so many of us stay isolated. Yeah. And isolation plus vulnerability is what equals sphere. But when you put connection to vulnerability, that's what actually gives us courage.
And, and it's what we need to start to come back into this present moment and participate in our healing work. Uh, we, we participate in our healing work. We participate in coming back to the present moment. It's what I, I I've told you guys, it's what I love so much about what you're doing with, um, oral, because I have to go put my phone in that box. I participate Yeah. In taking responsibility to say I am going to choose presence. Hmm. I am going to choose to connect with people. I'm going to choose sitting here and drinking my cup of coffee and not, you know, numbing my mind and scrolling, but instead just breathing or reading or meditating or, or being still or giving myself the gift of three minutes of silence. Right. I participate. Cuz those things make me well, yeah, they make me well.
Joey Odom (52:37):
That's so good. This book is a gift. It it, it, it really is a gift to the world. It, it's beautiful. It's one I even think about hearing, even though I've read it, hearing you talk about it again. They're with my kids and my life. Al it, it's, it's so, it's so practical. Again, back to my earlier point, it's so vision casting, but it's also so practical. So it is a gift and everybody needs to read it. One quick question, A total pivot. What's your favorite family movie? The Stephen's favorite family movie?
Jeanne Stevens (53:05):
A Stephen's family favorite movie. I know it's not Christmas time, but we love elf. Oh, so good. We, we watch it every year. We laugh at the same things every year. We quote the same, uh, things. <laugh> uh, we just, we love that movie. Um, so that is a, a family favorite
Joey Odom (53:24):
For, that's a wonderful one. And then another pivot. This, this is a question we ask everybody. It's intentionally open-ended and vague, but what does, you know, The Aro podcast is conversations with people who strive to live intentionally. What does intentionality mean to you?
Jeanne Stevens (53:38):
Yeah, intentionality is going back to what we talked about a little bit ago. It's really seeing, seeing clearly and seeing people clearly, you know, last night it, it's, it's simple things too. It, I don't even know if it needs to be, uh, majorly complex, Joey, you know? Yeah. We, at the center of our table, we've got a book of 5,000 questions and it's so easy. I bought it at Target. It's, it's not even a special book, right <laugh>, it's just this book of 5,000 questions. And I know that our kids, they're gonna sit down at dinner and we're going to go about the day, have these, you know, 45 minutes here around the dinner table. I want those moments to be intentional. So, you know, we'll pick up the book and we will, I'll say, okay, each person pick a question. We've got a jar in the center of our table once a week.
We write one thing down that we're grateful for that week. I've got a little canister of mustard seeds. Every once in a while I'll say, Hey, what's one thing that, that you need some faith for in your life right now? It's send last night, you know, I, I mentioned my daughter was struggling, um, with a few things. And before I went to bed, I just had this little prompt that I wanted her to wake up. Yeah. I feel tendered saying this. I wanted her to wake up and when she looked in the mirror, she saw words of truth. And so last night I went into her bathroom and just grabbed a post-it now and wrote, I don't know, just 20 things that are true about her. Wow. And put it on her herme. To me that's intentional. It's seeing people and it's seeing people in such a way that you want them to see themselves to, you know, you want them to be able to see, um, if, because if they're not seeing clearly, cuz listen, there's lots of moments that I don't see myself clearly. I struggle with all those things that I wrote about in the book. That's the only, this book wrote me before I wrote this book, <laugh>. Um, and yeah, when, when we love one another with that kind of seeing and that kind of intentionality, that is what heals us. We participate in the work of God bringing healing into the life of one another. So to me, that is what intentionality is. Wow. It's, it's a seeing and then doing something about it.
Joey Odom (56:15):
Yeah, that's right. That is beautiful Jeanne. People are gonna want to go pick up the book, what's here now. I would encourage people to also go and, uh, get your 2023 vision guide. It's wonderful. I've ordered it myself. Um, and how else can people, how can they connect with you on socials through your website? We'll put all this in the show notes as well, but Yeah, absolutely. People follow up. What's the best way for them to connect with you?
Jeanne Stevens (56:37):
Yeah, you can get the book anywhere. Amazon, target, Barnes and Noble, wherever. And you can find me at my website, jeannestevens.com. I've got lots of resources there. And then, um, on social channels, I'm just @jeannestevens. And so yeah, I would love to, love to connect with, with anybody.
Joey Odom (56:54):
Jeanne, thank you so much for joining The Aro Podcast. This was absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much.
Jeanne Stevens (56:59):
Thank you, Joey.
Joey Odom (57:01):
There was so much depth in that discussion from Jeanne Stevens. And I wanna leave you with one thing that I really liked that jumped out when she talked about worry, which is something that I struggle with, that we all struggle with. She said that worry is living in a not yet, that's worse than your now. So here's a challenge for you, maybe especially for me, is let's not live in those not yets because they are worse than are now. Thank you for joining this discussion with Jeanne Stevens. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. We look forward to seeing you next time on the next episode of The Aro Podcast. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod Co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support and to our executive producer Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.