Carrie Stephens

Carrie Stephens: Tableside Guacamole, Not Rice and Beans (Part 1)

John FarrellBy John Farrell14 Minutes

John Farrell: What was your inspiration for writing Holy Guacamole?

Carrie Stephens: My husband and I pastor a church here in Austin. Prior to pastoring, we did campus ministry at the University of Texas. We’ve ministered to a lot of people over the years, but once we switched from being campus ministers to being full pastors of a church congregation, it was interesting to me that the expectations I felt were placed on me as a pastor’s wife were really different than the expectations I felt as a campus minister’s wife. It was extremely overwhelming for me.

Our church is very diverse – from diverse faith backgrounds, diverse socioeconomically, and racially and age wise. We have boomers down to millennials, and, of course, youth. There was such a variety of ideas from person to person in our church of what they expected of me or needed from me in my role in our church. I honestly tried really hard to be everything everybody needed me to be because I felt very Jesusy. You know – be all things to all people. I was hustling to try to be what people needed me to be.

One day I was at lunch with my friend, Quinn – I tell this story in the book – she asked me what it was really like to be a pastor’s wife. She’s a member of our church, and we were at a Tex-Mex restaurant. We had already finished eating. I looked at the plate in front of me, at her plate, and then at all the plates all over the restaurant. All the entrees were gone and there was just rice and beans left on the plate. I said, “Right now, I feel like I’m rice and beans on a plate of Tex-Mex. Nobody really ordered me. I just came with my husband and they don’t necessarily expect me to be amazing, but they just hope I’m not terrible.”

She laughed, but she looked at me and said, “You’re not like rice and beans at Tex-Mex, you’re table-side guacamole.” She’s such a good friend, and I was like, “She’s right. I’m letting my feelings and my circumstances change what I know is true.”

It’s about my identity. God has made me wholly. He’s set me apart, and I’m called. He’s gonna provide me with everything I need to do what I need to do, and to do what He’s called and asked me to do.

The more I sat in the presence of God and thought about it, I realized that the people in my life around me were in similar places. I think that as a people, particularly as a modern people, who are trying to do so many things all the time, we get distracted by all these messages and traps that the enemy uses to keep us from living the Gospel and living out our real identity in God. I wanted to speak to that because the more I told people about feeling like rice and beans on a plate of Tex-Mex I cannot tell you how many people looked at me and said, “I feel the same way.”

I think we lose a part of our identity as we try to hustle and be what we think we’re supposed to be. We feel like there’s no way we can ever be everything that the world seems to expect us to be able to be. That was the driving force behind the book.

In Chapter One, I talk about the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well, and that was also a big part of it for me. I wanted to write a book. I wanted to do what the Samaritan woman did and charge Jesus in that moment. I encounter him in that idea of being set apart and the beloved of God. I wanted to tell everyone this, and a book’s a good way to do that.

JF: You’re a pastor’s wife, but you weren’t always sold on that idea. You even moved away from Morgan, who eventually became your husband, and were looking for someone who didn’t feel called to ministry. What ultimately changed your mind and how did that transition go?

Carrie: We were friends for a really long time and it took God speaking to me. I was single, living in LA, working for a production designer in Hollywood, and Morgan was in campus ministry in Austin. My brother is in the Air Force, and he and his wife had just had a baby. They were temporarily stationed in San Antonio.

I was in between jobs because production designers work project to project. We had just wrapped up a project, and my brother called me and said, “Christy’s home with the baby. It would be awesome if you could come. Mom and dad are coming to see the baby. If you come, could you stay a little extra for a couple of weeks and help Christy out.” Of course, I said, “I’d love to do that. That would be awesome and wonderful.”

When he asked me though, the Lord spoke to me very clearly. I heard God say, “I have something for you in Texas.” I thought, “Well, that’s strange, what could possibly happen in Texas?”

Of course, every one of my friends I told that to were like you’re gonna meet someone. You know, a single woman’s dream. I kept telling them it was crazy. I’m going to be there for three weeks. How could I possibly meet someone in three weeks. And I’ll be with my brother, and I’ll be with his wife. I don’t know who I would meet, and I’m not marrying somebody in the Air Force. That’s not part of my plan.

I went to Texas and stayed with them. My old roommate from school and Morgan had moved to Austin after they were done with school. She called me and said, “Why don’t you come up and visit me for a few days?” So, I came up to Austin to visit my friend, Andrea. Morgan was there, too. We went out to dinner a few times.

One night I ended up at dinner alone with Morgan. Everybody else was supposed to meet us there, but had other things come up. So it was just the two of us, which was fine. We were good friends. It wasn’t a big deal. It was at a pizza place.

On my way to Texas, I had been praying as I was driving through New Mexico. I told the Lord, “I know that everybody is saying it’s a guy that you have for me in Texas. I just don’t know that I really even want them hoping that because that would be weird.” I said, “If you do have a love interest for me – I didn’t want to say boyfriend or husband – then I want him to say that he feels called to Europe.” My goal and my plan for my life was to work in Hollywood, save my money, and move to Europe in pursuit of some kind of creative work there.

So, Morgan and I were at dinner. We’re eating pizza, and he was talking about how he speaks Spanish, which I speak Spanish as well. He said, “People always tell me I should go to South America or Mexico, but that’s not really where I feel called. I really want to go to France, Italy, and Spain.” Those were the countries I planned to go to because I speak French and Spanish, and I want to learn Italian.

I sat there staring at him – having my own little inner dialogue with the Holy Spirit – “That’s just not possible. Why would Morgan say that? I’m not interested in Morgan. There’s no way. I’m not doing this ministry.” I put it in my back pocket, and over the next few days as I thought and prayed about it, I really just felt like God was like, “You really need to be open to this.”

I went back to California and said nothing to him, but he had felt like things were shifting in our relationship too while I was there. A few weeks later we talked on the phone – and, honestly, I don’t think I would have considered it if that specific situation hadn’t happened. It really felt so divine, but the truth was he was my best friend. I used to tell people I want to meet someone just like Morgan.

He came to LA and met my pastors, and we went on some dates. I knew from the minute we were together that I had romantic feelings for him. I honestly just figured God would take care of the rest. It just felt so perfect and ideal. Albeit the ministry thing was hard for me. But at the time, he was in campus ministry so I could still pursue my own things. It’s a different sort of life than a pastor’s wife’s life. It was a little bit of a baby step into ministry in a lot of ways.

JF: Revisiting the lunch you had with your friend where you described yourself as fried beans and rice, but she said, “No, you’re tableside guacamole.” What does that mean to you and why are you tableside guacamole versus refried beans and rice?

Carrie: Tableside guacamole is special. It’s not even just the guacamole that comes on the plate pre-made.

At a Tex-Mex restaurant, when you order tableside guacamole, the chef rolls a cart to your table, peels the avocado in front of you, and makes it fresh. He makes it exactly how you want it. They add what you want. They’ll put more citrus in it. They’ll put more onions, less onions. They’ll put bacon in it. There’s all these different things they can add to tableside guacamole.

The idea behind being holy guacamole is really that God has made each of us on purpose. We’re custom-made. We’re unique. We are all different. He’s designed us for His glory. Unlike rice and beans, which come with everything automatically, tableside guacamole is a custom-made precious commodity.

I love that mental image and the idea that God has ordered us up in that way and made us in that way. Fresh. New. Fully in his presence. That’s the idea behind the holy guacamole.

Order your copy of Holy Guacamole: A Glorious Discovery of Your Undeniable Worth by Carrie Stephens