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  http://shespeaksconference.com/
   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: