Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Being Thankful

Today is not Thanksgiving.  Today is Tuesday, a regular day in November.  It happens to be two days before our national day of thanks, but honestly it could be any day in any month.  Just a plain old Tuesday.  Only it wasn't.  Today should be Thanksgiving.  Today was anything but normal.  I don't want normal anymore.

This Thursday is the day we Americans set aside as the day to nationally and officially give thanks.  Most of us celebrate with family and friends.  Usually a turkey is involved, stuffing or dressing (depending on your region of the country), sweet potatoes, and a pie or two.  We overeat, much as we do the rest of the year; this time it is on food that is relegated for our special feast.  We pause.  We say we are thankful.  We take it for granted that we have these blessings, casually asking for blessings on the food.  We say we are thankful, but it doesn't always reach our hearts. 

God has been working on me this week.  He is removing the callouses that have hardened my heart.  He is teaching me obedience (mine), faithfulness (His), and He is throwing in a large dose of mercy and grace (both for my own use and to share).  Sunday I saw a video from just after the tornado hit Birmingham.  In the midst of the relief effort there, some nameless recipient lettered a sign and posted at the edge of their yard:  "I saw God today."  The second sign simply said, "Thank you."

I've been thinking.  Saying "thank you" is easy.  Someone holds open the door for you to pass through.  Out pops "thanks".  Someone gives you a stick of gum.  Manners dictate a "thank you".  Someone helps you in the midst of a bind, you thank them generously.  Saying thank you isn't difficult.  BEING thankful is.

I've not always had a thankful heart.   I've said the words, I've had much to be thankful for, and I've acknowledged those blessings, but I've not always been thankful.  Today, I am.  Today, I am thankful for my second chance to tell an uncle that Jesus loves him and died for him.  Today, I am thankful that God sees fit to use me to share His love.  Today, I am blown-away amazed that God orchestrated my entire day just so I could tell my uncle about the amazing grace He offers--even to alcoholics, especially to alcoholics.  Today I am thankful that God saw fit to give me words of LIFE so that I could share them with one of His creation, one of His beloved.  Today, I am awed to know that as I watched my cousin care for his father, I saw God.  I will never be the same again.  And I am so thankful! 

So, today is Thanks-giving for me.  I will not wait until Thursday to stop and take stock of my blessings and understand all that I have to be thankful for.  Today, I give thanks to my God for second chances--for me, for my family, and, specifically, for my uncle.  Today, I give thanks that God loves me enough to give His one Son to save me from what I deserved--a forever in Hell.  I am thankful He loves me so much that He sent someone to tell me.  And I am blessed, so blessed, that He gives me the chance to tell someone else about Jesus!  (Now you know.  If you want to, need to hear more, let me know!  I've lots to talk about!)

Now that you know too, go tell someone else.  It will be the highlight of your day.

Happy Thanks-giving and Happy Thanks-being.  They're both good!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You Keep Me Real

I have a group of girlfriends that keep me bare-to-the-bones honest and real.  They celebrate my victories, grieve with me in my pain, and call me back to reality when I get too big for my britches.  I love that they keep me honest and real, that they love me in spite of failings, that they bolster me up when I need it, and that they love me--the real me, the one I try to hide behind a plastic mask.  They hold me accountable for being the me I was created to be. 

And it is in this truth that we all grow.

Thank you, girls.  You are beautiful.  And I love you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Today is THE Day

Because of You I no longer wallow in sin, looking for things to make me feel alive.  Because of You and what You did, I must share Hope and Love--I must share YOU.

He has been calling you for a long time, watching you make a fool of yourself while you chased the things that would never fill you up, never satisfy you.  This time He has moved you to a place where you have to listen, where you will be still, where you will see all that He has to offer.  He has been waiting for you, watching you fill yourself with the drink that only drains you and masks your pain, all the while aching to offer you the drink of Life from a well that will never run dry. 

So many times has He moved in your life, only for you to turn from the miracle, looking to things of this earth to satisfy what only He can fill.  This time, He has drained you, completely so that you will know that what He is filling you with is LIFE!  He has drained you so that HE can fill you up with what is real, with what will last for eternity.  After today, you will not be able to say He is not real, He does not last, He does not fill, because you will know it firsthand.  YOU will be the result of His miracle.

He has waited all these years, watching you pour out your very life's purpose pursuing something to kill the pain, to hide the shame, and He has ached with your pain and your shame.  He knows how badly you hurt, how badly you've messed up, how hard you try to drown yourself in a bottle so you would never have to remember again.  He knows!  And He offers, instead, to do that in your place--to die so that this shame and pain will be gone from you so that you can live the life He planned for you. 

It is not too late now.  One day it will be.  One day soon, it will be too late.  But today, it is not too late.  Today is the day.  Say yes to the well that will never run dry.  Say yes to the One who has died to take away your pain and shame.  Say YES to LIFE!  Say YES to Him; say "Yes, I want to be Yours.  I know You did this for me, to set me free, and I want that freedom.  Yes, take my life and make what is left something for Your glory.  Yes, Jesus, be Lord in me."  Say yes!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Gathering of Love

A bonfire, rice and peas, memories and laughter, and front yard football (for those under 40)--there was no better way to celebrate this son's fifteenth birthday than with family.

Family gathered to usher this boy-man through another rite of passage, another step closer to leaving the nest. 

I watch faces as memories unfold, childhoods from long past pulled to the forefront, revisted, remembered, relinquished.   Memories voiced bring healing to hurts and allow hearts to open.  This younger set listen, learning about their mamas'and daddy's roots, realizing now why they are the way they are.

I watch as laughter broadens faces, lights eyes, and makes new memories.  These memories belong to the young ones, making them who they will become, filling hearts and minds for those bonfires yet to come.

Four generations gather, the eldest--my parents quickly approaching seventy, the youngest--their not-quite-two-year-old great-grandson.  Love has come full circle.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Watch for God

I wanted to curl up in bed and hide beneath the covers.  I hate conflict.  I hate confrontation. 

Instead, I forced myself to rise, shower and dress, and head to work, even as the raincloud hovered darkly overhead.  My foul mood followed me into my third grade classroom.

"Please sit down and complete your morning work," I said over and over, volume rising slightly each time it was repeated.  Frustrated and just longing to be left alone, I took refuge behind my desk.  Quickly a line formed, one student after another.  Rats!  Can't they manage for a minute while I take a breather?  Not today it seems.

"Yes, Collin.  What is it?" I ask with more than a hint of impatience in my voice.

"Look, Mrs. J.  My shirt and my bracelet have to do with God!" he exclaimed, blue eyes dancing.

I look.  The bracelet stops me in the middle of my ill mood.  I take a deep breath.  Tears fill my eyes and my heart quivers with the knowledge that something holy is happening here.

"Watch for God," it proclaims.

And I look up into the blue eyes that God has put before me, and I see God smiling, reminding me that He has it all in His hands, in His control. 

I release my bad mood and grab hold of Him.  I just saw God and I want to do what He is doing.  I smile.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Battle Weary

Tonight I just want to lay down my sword
and curl up in a sheltered spot,
far away from the line of fire.

I want the quiet that comes after
battle has ended to seep through my soul
and remind me of
perfect peace.

In these wars of words, jab after jab,
wounds sliced deep, volumes rise
and listening ceases--
there are no winners.

We twist and dance around our guilt,
our culpability, looking
to lay all blame on the shoulders
of the other.

It proves fruitless, futile for each, as any
gained ground is
lost amid the  ruins of

Lord, I am weary of the
verbal violence, the mental maneuvering,
and the spiritual sparring
that leaves me broken and spent,

And leaves my family quaking and quivering
in the aftermath.
We are worn out, used up,
our reserve troops too beleagured
to stand and fight another battle
one another.

We wage war against the very ones we love,
too stubborn and self-righteous
to let it go,
to let it go.

Abba, shelter me.  Hold us, Daddy.
Remind us
that You have peace planned
for us
we just let it go.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Changing My Family Tree

I struggle with control.  I wrestle to release the fist wrapped around the bank account--my fist.  I am the bookkeeper, billpayer, account balancer, budget keeper for our family.  I so want to be at the place where I can release this control--not to my husband--to my Lord.  I long for the day when I will be debt-free so that I can freely give--no, pour out--from the blessings I have been given.

I am a balance keeper.  I need to know that the bills are paid, there's a reserve to tide us over, carry us through.  I juggle the books and the wants versus needs of my family, and I want to say "YES" to their requests but rarely do.   "A first run movie?  Sure!"  "Need money for the yearbook?  No problem!"  "A weekend in the mountains?  I'd love it!"  (They would really like to hear this from me.)  But, what I want more than anything is to be the kind of giver that God calls me to be--cheerful, attentive, generous.

I want to take care of the widows and the orphans, the lost and forgottens, the left behinds and the left alones; but I can't do that when I am chasing security in a savings account.  SO, I release the fears of not having, of not being like everyone else, and embrace those very differences.  I don't want to be like everyone else--in debt and stressed.  I don't want the weight of all those things pressing me down, pulling me under.  I want to be different, maybe even weird

I will not be satisfied until I finally begin to live the life I was meant to have--a life abundant and free, in Jesus Christ!   I am firmly rooted in the knowledge that everything I have and "own" is not mine; it all belongs to God, and He has placed me as a steward over those things.  He is my provider and I will be wise with the resources He has given me.  My life will be different because He has set me free.  I will not be a slave to any master--especially money.  And I will pass that legacy down to my children and my children's children.  My family tree will be different, and it starts with me.


I find myself staring
at hands
that futilely grasp at the
temporal things:
pleasure, power, prestige.
All things that are ultimately worthless.
If only I could pry
the aching fingers lose
free my soul!

It's not mine. 
Whatever "it" is,
it is Yours, Lord.
You provide in abundance
for my needs
tho' still I
cling to the promises of this world.

My eyes search
for the gleam that
says gold and glitter
but my heart searches for Truth and depth,
for the One Who
Himself, His life,
out and into me.

Enslaved to the earthly,
longing for the Holy,
living for eternity,
I long to live
as Yours.

Friday, June 17, 2011


At almost seventy years old, he still looks like the daddy of my youth.  My heart still sees the strength in his arms as he wrestles the garden tiller, muscles bulging beneath his sun-darkened skin, even as my mind whispers, "He is older, frailer."  My heart doesn't want to hear such talk.

I look at his strong hands, the age and work-gnarled joints, the missing fingertips where a machine planed off a slice of wood and the ends of two fingers.  I see a hand always with a hammer in its grasp--building his livelihood even if not his dream, building his family.  I see those hands steadying a child's foot, removing splinters and briers, holding it firm regardless of the twisting and turnings of a small body.  I see those same strong hands in play, mercilessly tickling daughters who cry out for mercy between gasps of laughter.  Those same hands held his infant son, raising him with the roughness of his own boyhood while wishing for more from this father-son bonding than he had experienced with his own.

I hear his smoke-roughened voice telling tales of his childhood dog, Leed, stories of his brake-less bicycle and swimming in the mill pond, memories of clearing a field and planting it with a horse and plow, remembering the hard scrabble life as the second youngest of fourteen born to the hard, wiry man and his wife.  I hear the stories, not quite understanding the depth of the words, not able to read between the lines to find the then-boy in this now-man.  I hear his laugh right alongside those of his grands, boys and girls fascinated with the papa he has become.  Somehow, along the way, that generation has known this man deeper and better than the one who called him daddy.

"Don't ever laugh at anyone 'cause they are poor", he repeated over the years of my childhood, engraving on my very soul the truth of his raising.  Not a year has passed that I do not revisit those same words with the untouched, unknowing children entrusted to me for twenty-some-odd Augusts.  Each time I speak those words amid the chalk dust and math books, the tears in my voice and on my cheeks testify to the depth of my love for this man who has raised me with more than he knew at my age, for the child he was that I never knew, for the man he became in spite of the lack.

He worked, hard and long hours, tired written across his face and weighing down his shoulders when he came into the house.  Gruff commands spurred us into action, vacating the sofa or the room so he could rest, but each night, his "I love you"s and hugs and kisses were the truths we held onto. 

That will not change, though he is a changed man.  He still labors to take care of now-grown children, worrying for what they and their children may lack (which is naught), believing we are still his to provide for.  After a lifetime of living in and of the world, one heart attack and five stents opened his eyes and his heart.  One glimpse of eternity and he said yes to the One Who has held him since before time began.  

I have always believed that he could do anything--build a house, fix a car, right the world's wrongs.  The little girl-daughter saw him as her hero, proud of him in every way, worshipped him with stars in her eyes.  This woman-daughter knows more of his faults than she has ever wanted to know, loves him in spite of the failings, and yearns to know the true him, this man she is still proud to call Daddy. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Character like Yours

knowing my end before I ever began,
You have molded me and made me more and more like You
with every trial and triumph,
My disappointments have made an indelible mark upon the character of who I am yet to be.
The successes have been Yours,
building in me not a self-confidence,
but a faith confidence
because each gain I made was directly from
Your Hand.

You are faithful.
And I am reminded of this each time I remember those moments--
speaking before a group of women
 for the very first time
and watching You move among them;
teaching children about
the Cross
Your sacrifice
and seeing them look for You
on the other side of the chasm created by our sins;
writing down those moments when 
You have moved in
my life
to make me more like

My past failures and my past successes
drove me
to You,
whether I knew it or not.
You orchestrate every moment of my life,
calling me to be
pressing me on to meet
who I am destined
to be,
holding me
in spite of my wrestling,
embracing me in the same arms that stretched across the beam of the cross
for me.

Show me, Lord,
show me who I am in You.
Grow me to be the spitting image of my Father
CONTINUE create in me the desire to know You, push me so I will be who You have created me to be, teach me those things I need to know in order to have the character
of Christ,
to prepare me for my date with destiny.

Don't give up on me, my Creator.
Redeem this life, this person.
Redeem me
for Your Glory!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Really Living!

My youngest son (a fourteen-year-old almost man) and I just returned from our first summer adventure--our first-time ever kayaking.

Several months ago, I received an email offering a kayaking adventure on the Broad River for a really good price.  Plus it came with a T-shirt!   I had never been kayaking; I had tubed down the river in Helen, Georgia in water that could only be about twelve inches deep, but I had dreamed about whitewater rafting in my younger days.  I used to long for adventure, but somewhere along the way, I got too busy, too "grown-up", too OLD!  I missed that "me" and decided to do something about finding her again.  Feeling a bit plucky, I logged on to the website and purchased the certificate.

It has been tucked in my bookbag for the last two and a half months, waiting for me to find the courage to redeem it.  Friday, I remembered it and that it had an expiration date of May 31st.  It was use it or lose it.  I dug down deep inside the bag to find that single piece of paper that offered me adventure.  Holding it in my hand, I dug down deep inside of me to find the courage to actually go through with it.  I approached my son.  "Would you like to go kayaking with me this weekend?" I asked. 

He grinned his beautiful grin.  "Seriously?" he replied. 

"Seriously!"  I answered.

At 2:30 today, we put in at Broad River Outpost in Danielsville just off of Wildcat Bridge Road.  Some three hours later, we pulled our kayaks out of the water six and a half miles downstream just past the Highway 172 Bridge.  With arms as limp as wet noodles and sunburns across our noses, Sam and I grinned as we collapsed onto the seat of the bus that would take us back to the Outpost.  We had done it!  With Class II rapids, a five-foot waterfall that we could have avoided but chose not to, and a thousand boulders to snag our kayaks on (which we did), mama and son bonded on those six plus miles of the Broad River.  We talked, we laughed, we splashed, we capsized (or at least the son did) and we paddled.  It was hard.  It was tiring.  It was worth it all!  Today, we lived!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

For More Than This

Waiting...knowing that You have called me to more.  I wait, O Lord, knowing that in spite of my mistakes, You still have a plan for me.  I wait for Your direction, for I do not want to miss You this time.  I am waiting.

Listening...for the slightest whisper of Your voice, Your answer, Your love.  I have heard You before, and I wait to hear Your voice so crystal clear again.  You have not forgotten me.  You are teaching me, even in Your silence, so I listen expectantly.

Watching...for the move of Your hand, calling me to move, to turn, to wait.  Your hand has held me these many years, sheltered me in these many storms, and claimed me so many eternities ago as my name was carved into Your flesh.  You have not forgotten me.  You have not cast me aside.  I am Yours.

Breathing...inhaling the perfume of Your holiness, I bask in Your Presence.  You have called me deeper, into an intimacy, a passion, that only You fulfill.  I long to breathe in this fragrance that cannot be captured, cannot be imitated, cannot be forgotten.

Knowing...that my life is not my own, that all my days are gifts from Your hands, that I still struggle with my will, my wants, and my will-nots, You love me anyway.  

You call me.  You have watched me in my struggles, in my joys.  Then, You hold out Your hand to me.  You wrap me in Your arms and pull me to Your chest, holding me, holding me.  I am home.

   I have heard Your voice, loudly, clearly.  I know You still call me, daily, to the place of Your holiness.  Sometimes, Lord, I enter in, but more often, I barely make it to the outer Temple before I give up, get distracted by the busy-ness of the day, of this life.  I long to enter into the Holy Place, to be consumed by You.   Empty me of me, and fill me with YOU.  Do not let me settle for normal.  I have been created for Glory!

Monday, May 16, 2011

"A Bad Day Fishing is Better than a Great Day at Work"

What do you do when God has you in a place you really don't like?

You've heard that there are two kinds of people:  those who see the glass as half empty and those who see it as half full--referring, of course, to pessimists and optimists.  I never really fell into just one category; I fluctuated back and forth for most of my life.  Now, I definitely see myself optimist! 

That surprises me, honestly.  I spent most of my adult years feeling like I had a black cloud hanging over my head (or at the very least, hovering nearby).  Disappointment didn't disappoint me because I expected it.  Disaster?  I knew it would show up sooner or later.  The depressing events that did occur were my lot in life to deal with.  Woe is me.  Then, somewhere along the line (in the recent past), my view changed.  There was not a single "aha" moment for me, but more of a slow progressing to the point where I am today. 

Several years ago my mother-in-law sold the mult-level house she had lived in for some thirty years and purchased a new single-level home.  The process of culling a lifetime of accumulated goods seemed overwhelming for her, added to the fact that she had to  make so many decisions and now must decorate this new home.  It seemed, to her, as if she would never get it completed.  I, on the other hand, thought that this was a wonderful!  To get rid of the clutter that had piled up and to start over in a new home seemed to be the ideal dream!   I loved hearing every detail about this process each time I visited with her.  One day, she looked at me and said, "I told my friends that I had to start looking at this like my daughter-in-law does--as a 'grand adventure'".  I was flattered, and it led me to see that I had changed over the years.

Change scared me.  The status quo was safe, and that was what I wanted.  I had had three years of stress and change that I had no sayso about:  breast cancer--TWICE, chemotheraphy--TWICE, fear of dying--TWICE, with constant financial difficulties over that time period.  BUT, somewhere in the midst of that tremendous storm, I found a hint of the experiencing, in the newness, in the outcome of the trials.  And I began to see that LIFE was meant to be lived as a grand adventure.  Bit by bit, I changed, and I am so glad I did.

Not too long ago, I went through a difficult experience; my teaching ability had been called into question.  My name and my reputation were both at stake.  I was hurt, and I was angry.  I had been blindsided with this.  I wanted to lash out and exact payment for what had been dealt me.  Then at one point later that day, I prayed, "God, I just want to do what You want me to do.  I am angry, and I am hurt, but I want to glorify You in this.  I want to do what You want me to do."  Over the course of the weekend, the fury and the pain lessened.   Days passed; I was able to talk with the person who had attacked me without besmirching my label of Christian!  Just recently (last week), the same person came to me and remarked that my attitude and my professionalism were "simply amazing".  Wounds, deep wounds, had begun to heal.

God had me where I didn't want to be, but I was where HE wanted me.  You've heard the saying, "A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work".  For me, a difficult place with Jesus is always better than an easy place without Him.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Not Enough Time

          I had always thought there would be more time, but now I look and see you heading out the door, running to meet a friend, making plans for your now life.  Your tall, lanky body blocks the sun streaming in from behind you.  I look at you, amazed that this boy-child has turned into this young man. 
          You hover over me, your shoulders broad and strong, stretching farther apart each day, each month, each year.  The top of my head easily fits beneath your chin, and I would rest there, holding you for days if given the chance, but you are busy, moving, going, fast motion, quickly growing out the door.  You are not yet gone, but I miss you.   There is still too much I want to say to you, to show you, to teach you, and the clock is tick-tick-ticking, and I cannot (would not) slow it down for there is much for you to live!
          I miss the chubby arms wrapped tightly around my neck, the scent of boy and puppy dog mixed and mingled like a fragrant perfume wafting up from your sweaty little head.  I miss the stories told about your day and your adventures.  I miss the water-splashing bath-times and your many excursions under the sea, searching for “octutuses”.  I hear your little boy voice purposefully deepening to mimic the voice of what you thought a “worker man” sounded like.  I miss the green army men strewn about the house, remnants of the weird war battles waged with your daddy. 
          And soon, I know that I will miss these days—the days of constant demands, pressing school projects, arguments and make-ups, of music and sports and the need for excitement.  I get so caught up in trying to figure out how to get you from boyhood to manhood successfully that I forget to enjoy and savor the beauty of who you are now.  Too many wasted moments.  I miss you already.
          I am proud of this man you are becoming, independent and strong, but I want to keep you that little boy whose first word was mama and who thought I hung the moon.  You loved me to the moon and back, to the moon and back, and bigger than the sky, and I liked you forever and loved you for always, and sang to you that “as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be”.  Now my baby is growing, every day, taller, stronger, and wiser. 
          Because of you, I am a mama.  I savor that word, twirling it on my tongue, holding it in my heart, loving it as it slips from your lips.  The word means abundantly more than one who gives birth.  In that same moment that I gave birth to my son, you birthed me as your mother.  And just as you have daily grown as my child, my son, so have I grown daily as your mama.  I have not always done everything right, often missing the mark by miles, but I have loved you before you breathed your first breath of air and it continues through (in spite of) our differences.  You are my son forever.  Thank you, for letting me be your mama, for letting me love you, and for you loving me.  I am so very proud you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Music...

I love my fifth graders.  They are so full of love and compassion for each other.  When one of my students was recognized on the morning announcements as a Math Wizard, my entire class applauded when he came back to class.  They encourage and compliment their fellow classmates.  When my "only been in America for one year" English-as-a-second-language student struggled with language arts, they rallied and reminded her of how far she had come.  They fill me with such pride and joy.  I am truly blessed every single day I am with them.

Sometimes, my precious students fill me with laughter.  Today is one of thos days.  This morning, on the way to music class, I noticed that the first five students in line (all boys) were trying to walk in sync, moving their left feet forward at the same time, then their right feet.  They struggled to get in rythmn but were unable to get it right. 

With a smile on my face, I stopped the class and gave directions for walking in sync.  "When I say 'left', move your left foot forward.  That way we will all start on the same foot.  Walk in rythmn."  I turned away from the class, paused, then began repeating  in a drill sergeant voice, "Left, left, left, right, left."  I continued down the sidewalk, calling and marching, until I came to the door of the music room--a distance of about twenty-feet.  I looked behind me, expecting to see a line of fifth grade soldiers, marching in perfect order.  Instead, I saw a pile of bodies, arms and legs splayed this way and that.

I ran back.  "What happened?" I asked, pulling students from the top of the pile to reveal the face of a bewildered young boy--the one from the front of the line.   "Caleb, what happened?" I asked again.

As he struggled to stand, he said in an indignant voice, "You only said left!"  Then he and the other students proceeded to show me the impossibility of marching in step when only the left foot was moved:  a perfect split by the time the third 'left' was called.  Laughter bubbled up and threatened to burst from my lips.  Oh my, but they are literal!  I could not stop smiling.

Lord, thank You for the joy of children, for their literal-mindedness, for the sheer pleasure of laughter.  I am indeed blessed!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I Don't Want to be Normal Anymore!

I have been deceived.  Not just today, but for my entire life!  I have been fed the lies in an insidiuous manner; small lies, spoon-fed, one picture at a time, one notion planted only to grow into this massive burden that now encompasses my life. 

It started in my childhood, this desire to have pretty shoes, pretty clothes, that "can't live without toy".  It grew with every advertisement, every shopping trip, every paycheck, until I believed that I had to have that perfect, life-changing item.  As Americans, we fervently believe that happiness comes with "having it all", but having it all comes with a price--the price of our freedom and the price of our happiness.

We buy our houses on a thirty-year payment play; we buy our cars (now easily the price of a home twenty-five years ago) on an extended payment plan that lasts from four to six years; we buy our clothes, our food, our entertainment on an extended payment plan that goes on and on and on.  The burden grows right along with the interest.  The chains get heavier and heavier.  It never ends. 

This is normal.  Right?  It must be because the majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck,  trapped in debt, weighted down with the commitment of paying for this lifestyle we must have, surviving, but not really living.  And isn't that what we long for, real life--to be free from this burden, to live as we were meant to live, to have that abundant life?  How did we get here, and how can we get out?

I have spent too many years dealing with this demon.  The enemy convinced me that I needed those be happy, to fit in, to be normal.   Finally, the Truth has been revealed.  I am not called to be normal.  I am called to be a "peculiar" person, walking a different path, living a life that has more purpose than just "getting by".

Today, I begin to downsize--my belongings, my clutter, my chains, my debt.  Today, I begin to really weigh the cost of the item, the pleasure, the experience.  No longer will I serve money and the things it can buy.  Today, the money will become a tool for fulfilling my purpose. Today, I commit to serve the only Master who offers freedom from the lies.  Today, I begin the climb out of the dark crevass of debt and into the Light of Truth.  Today, I begin changing those very behaviors that created this prison.  Today, I begin building the legacy for my children and my children's children--a life free from debt. 

For more information on how to become "debt-free", check out Dave Ramsey, financial counselor, at  He is an awesome man of God who has been there and gotten out, and now counsels using Godly principles for finance.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Locked in Place

Read at your own risk.  Watch your toes.  They may begin to smart.

Please move to the right if you like things to go according to plan, if you like things to be "in order", if you really don't like deviations from what you expect.  You are not really a "surprise" person, are you?

Welcome to who I used to be.  Many of you may still be there.  Most of you like it there just fine and have no intentions of changing or moving to the other side.  You are comfortable in this well-defined place; you know it, and it "fits".  You may rationalize that "someone has to be in charge, someone has to be responsible” and it may as well be you.  Or maybe, the fear of the unknown has kept you locked there in the Land of Control, but you've always wondered what it would be to step out of this place and be spontaneous, happy even. 

Maybe you are the person who trusts God for His best and desires to be in His will but are living in fear that you will miss it because you might make the “wrong choice”—not a sinful choice, just not what God had planned.  This job or that one, Lord?  This house or the other one?  This man forever or wait for another?  What do You have for me, Lord?  I don't want to move until I know, until You show me, until I can see the next step, the next mile, the next year.

That was my way.  Thankfully, Father God says that my ways are not HIS ways.  In fact, He tells us that we cannot even begin to imagine what He thinks or plans.

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."
Isaiah 55:8
(New Living Translation)

At some point, I discovered that the way I was living life wasn’t working for me.  I didn’t like the unhappiness and discontent I felt when things didn’t go according to my plans.  With three small step-children and a brand new husband, nothing went the way I expected or wanted.  I needed control.  I needed to be in control!  Years passed, and I grew increasingly more and more miserable.  I did not enjoy life because my life was not what I planned for it to be.  I cannot clearly define the moment I decided I didn’t want to be in control anymore; it was more of a “growing” to that point.   Day by day, I cultivated my relationship with my Father, reading His Word, praying His Words back to Him, asking Him to speak LIFE into my life.  And He did, gently turning my anger and discontent to joy and peace, boldly bringing sisters into my life who knew this freedom and claimed it for me, generously pouring love into me, freeing me from myself and my misconceptions of what life should be, who I should be.  Sweet, sweet freedom!

Do I still long to know His plan?  Yes, but I do not ask Him to show me before I move.  I ask for Him to steer me as I move, as I step out in faith.  I do not have to be in control; I have to be in step, in touch with the heart and will of God.  The closer I become to Him, the more I have the heart and mind of Christ and the more assured I am of walking where He leads.

I do believe that God has a plan for my life, and it is the best.  Jeremiah 29:11 says For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Does that mean that I believe that He has only “good things for me”, that He will not allow me to go through trials and difficulties?  Alas, no.  It means I believe that God has a plan for me—a plan for me to grow closer to Him, a plan for me to grow deeper in love with Him, a plan for me to become more like Him, a plan to build my character to be like the character of Jesus.  And in doing those things, I know that I am in His perfect plan.  That I can count on.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

His Essay of Mercy and Love

For many years, I have journaled, scribbling down thoughts and revelations on blank pages in hard-bound diaries, using different colors of ink from pens that fit just right in my hand, styluses that race across the page without a hint of scratching.  Smooth and bold, delicate and flowery, the handwriting changes depending upon the thought, the situation, or the mood.  Often the words pour out, fresh and new, alive; other times, they must be coaxed, pulled, coerced from my heart and mind, until they are birthed into the harsh light of revelation. 

I write them down, putting pen to paper, fingers to keys, letter after letter appearing on crisp white paper, on iridescent screen, forming words, sentences, thoughts, hopes,  Truths--because He often shows up in the midst of the strokes of the pen, the click of the keyboard.  The journey from His revelation to my heart is not an easy one.  Indeed, the distance is often measured in pica--ten characters to an inch, character upon character, word to word, line after line, until a page, nay, pages are filled, and Truth is revealed. 

He speaks to me, His words whispering, pouring, flowing into me, flowing from the nib, staining the paper, coloring my heart with the red tincture of His love.  He is the Author of my life, scrawling His signature across this human realization of His forgiveness, His hands autographed with my sins.  He is rewriting and refining me, perfecting His finished piece so that I am His new creation, reflecting His mercy and love. 

 I am His composition.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What's Your Attitude?

There is one particular child in my class that sticks out like a sore thumb.  If everyone else is dressed for "Nerd Day", he labels himself "Nerd Killer".  He jumps from chair to floor to desk to chair and back to floor.  He spins in his chair, and he spins his chair on one leg.  He rarely walks, but takes great loping strides with his fifth grade legs.  His mind is never on what we are learning, but his eyes are racing along the words of his latest library book tucked beneath his desk, where he turns the pages with his foot (all so I cannot see what he is doing, he thinks).  A smile is plastered on his face most of the time, eyes sparkling with some delightful notion running through his mind. 

He irritates me.  Somewhere along the line, I began to see him as a distraction, a problem. It takes so much of my energy to control this little boy with ADHD and no medication, and my perspective has been swayed, turned, skewed. 

His actions beg for attention--postive attention, from someone who will love him just like he is, just where he is.  "Mrs. J, may I eat lunch with you today?" he asked on Friday, the final day to an extremely long week.  My response, "Not today, but we will next week."

I am making today that day.  I should have made Friday THE day, but my attitude got in the way of loving.

Forgive me, Lord, for the attitude I have had.  Help me to have the mind and heart of Christ.  "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 2:5  I say that I want to be like You, but my actions and attitude have not reflected who You are.  Forgive me.  Continue to teach me, mold me, make me like You. 

Thank You for this child.  Let me not see him (or anyone) as the "irritant", but as the pearl You made.

"Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your name."  (Psalm 86:11)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lost, but Worth Finding

The doctor confirmed what my scale had shown...eleven pounds lost in the last month, lost inches, lost size.  And with it came the realization that I had, somewhere in the last years, lost myself, lost my passion for life, lost me.

In the busyness of taking care of a family and a classroom full of fifth graders, and the requirements that go along with both, I somehow lost who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.  God has been whispering my name, calling me back to me, but I did not know how to begin.  I did not even know that I was worth finding.  And now, He calls me to a deeper place, to a life lived with passion, to a life filled with laughter and joy and purpose including and beyond the minutiae of everydayness--to a life worth living.

So, I put aside the demands to fulfill everyone else for this bit of time, promising myself that I will be purposeful in this pursuit to find me--the old me and this new me.  I will look for that beautiful, special woman created by God, and I will celebrate the me He made.  I will take time to be filled to overflowing, to be renewed, revitalized, re-annointed, to soak in so I can pour back out.  He assures me I am worth it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You are the God Who Hears...and Answers

You are the God who hears...
When I cry out in confusion and fear.
When I ask for Your hand upon me and mine.
When I lift hollow words and empty hands.
When I whisper a word of love or shout a hosanna of praise!
When I beg for Your forgiveness and lie prostrate before You.
When I sing,
When I cry,
When I come before You with all that I am...
You are the God who answers!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Extend My Territory

God never ceases to amaze me (I wonder if that statement makes him laugh)!  In the midst of the chaos that was my classroom this morning, while preparing twenty-five fifth graders for a state mandated achievement test after we all had spent the night quivering in our separate darknesses while thunder boomed, lightning flashed, rain poured, and wind blew, God gave me a glimpse of His heart. 

"Mrs. Joyner, will you pray for us before the test starts?" asks one young lad.

I stop.  God, you are amazing.  Thank You for letting me pray out loud in my classroom in front of my twenty-five students.  This scene has been repeated--a student asking for prayer, out loud, in front of his/her  classmates, and me responding the same--for the past six years.

"Would that be okay with everyone?" I ask.  Without an answer, students stood and began to hold hands. 

And I lifted up these precious children to You, and I asked for Your peace over them, that they would give their best on the test and in all that they do.

Ah, Father, thank You for this beautiful gift--the opportunity to speak Your words of life, of hope, of love over my students. 

You have not been removed from the public schools, but we must take those chances to invite You in to our classrooms.  When a child asks for You, for Your touch, I am so thankful to be conduit of Your grace.  Year after year after year, You have been invited in by students--"Mrs. J, is God dead?", "What is your God made of?" from a Hindu student, "Will you pray for us?"--a teacher's dream!  Yes, Lord, use me for Your kingdom.  Extend my territory.

I will answer their questions because they ask, wanting truth.  And, I will pray for them...every time.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Many Blessings...A Daily Count

So often, I get wrapped up in the chaos of my life that I forget there are blessings lurking behind every problem, just waiting for me to acknowledge them.  My focus has been on the problem, when I should have been looking for the beauty in the blessing.  Today I will begin.  I am so thankful for...

1.  the coupons for free chicken sandwiches, so I don't have to cook supper!
2.  A beautiful gratitude journal.
3.  my husband and his desire and determination to be my partner.
4.  my son who is strong and healthy, athletic and smart.
5.  my parents who poured into me all that I am.
6.  a sister who is also a sister in Christ!
7.  a brother who loves me even in my mess ups.
8.  God's unending grace and mercy!
9.  God revealing himself to me.
10.  lavender and jasmine.
11.  clean clothes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Burning Bush, Breast Cancer, Baby--Chosen

God had special plans for me long before my parents even had an inkling that I was to be.  Who knew that they would include a burning bush, breast cancer, and a baby?  He did!  And because He did, I am Chosen.

She Speaks...
The She Speaks Conference 2011 is having another contest for a scholarship valued at $595 which covers the cost of registration. This includes the hotel room for two nights, meals and sessions for writers, speakers and ministry leaders. It will be a unforgetable spirtual and educational experience. Ask yourself why you would want to miss this opportunity to draw closer to God, connect with other women and pursue fulfilling a call to new minstry. They have given away several scholarships already and you still have time to meet the challenge they are currently offering for yet another entry that wins. Visit the website below and look me up when you get there at the conference.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Today is the First Day of the Second Half of My Life

 Today is the first day...of the second half of my life.  I'm no longer living in the past; I will no longer hold on to those things that have weighed me down and held me back.  Today I start living.

Managing my weight has been a lifelong battle, or at least it seems to have been.  I remember from a very early age hearing comments about my weight:  at age five, a relative commented on "chubby Shell"; at six, my grandfather laughed and said I was "fat". 

  Even now, as a forty-five year-old woman, I still view myself as having always been fat.  However, when I look back at pictures, I was not fat at age six.  I wasn't even chubby at age five.  I was just taller than my sister (who is a year older than I am) and thus weighed more than she.  As I grew, I saw myself as the "fat sister", the "fat daughter", "the fat one".  And it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  High school saw me as a size fourteen.  "I must be huge!" I thought.  However, twenty years later when I look back, I see that I was not fat.  I looked just like my other friends (one was a cheerleader!).  Yes, I was buxom, but not fat.

  In college, I gained the requisite "Freshmen Fifteen".  I had a boyfriend, gained five pounds, got engaged, dumped a fiancĂ©, gained ten pounds, graduated, went to work, lost twenty pounds, got married, gained thirty pounds, discovered I had breast cancer, had surgery and chemo, lost fifteen pounds, got pregnant, gained only five pounds, had a baby, discovered breast cancer again, had surgery and chemo again, and gained twenty pounds.

  So here I am at forty-five, overweight and fed up.  I want to live--and like the uncles in Secondhand Lions, I want to really live.  I am tired of my weight holding me back, draining my energy, stealing my self-confidence, filling me with the idea that I am worth less than everyone else.

  A year ago, I read that God sees us as beautiful.  It hit me smack in the face--I've never felt beautiful.  NEVER.  So last Spring, I asked God to let me see myself the way He sees me.  Within days, people began to make comments about me to me and on Facebook:  "I love your hair", "Wow, Sabrina, looking good!", "You look great!", and, those exact words I longed to hear, "You are beautiful!"  I began to feel wonderful.  Even better, for the first time ever, I began to see myself as beautiful!  At that point, I discovered I was worth being healthy.  I am worth it!

  Now, I begin a new journey, this second half of my life.  I will truly live!  I will not hide myself in my "fat" clothes; I will not hide behind my glasses; I will not hide behind a book; I will not eat to make myself feel better; and I will not hide behind my weight.  I will know that I am wonderfully and beautifully made by a gracious and loving God.  I will know that I have value and I will celebrate this every day of my life.

I have a passion to share God's goodness and beauty with women in order to encourage them as they walk through the fire.  Both my written and spoken words are works from God, touching the hearts of His daughters.  I am one of His daughters, walking, worshipping, and witnessing through the fire.

"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue."
Proverbs 31:26

She Speaks Conference
   July 22-24, 2011
Concord, North Carolina
Do you long to touch the heart of our Father God?  Come, be refreshed; come, be renewed.  Come join with this unique group of women as we seek to connect with the heart of God.  Come serve Him and His daughters, as He leads us to His very heart.

For scholarship information: