Planted.

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Hey beautiful people,

I have spent a lot of time on pages and in whispers talking about the exercise in beautiful heartbreak that teaching can be. Don’t let the Pinterest boards and Youtube videos fool you–it isn’t always pockets full of posies. Teaching is sometimes funky classrooms, 76 personalized handshakes (DAB!) and fun activities, true…just today, I ran “de-escalation stations” with my sixth graders and it was fun to watch them explore stress relief activities such as making their own bath salts and doing a basic 7 minute yoga routine. Teaching IS this. But teaching (at least for me) is also looming deadlines, absent assistance, frustration and what feels like abundant lack–of resources, of good news, and of progress. Sounds sanctimonious, but I sometimes feel like I am running solo on a treadmill and I cannot catch up to save my life. I look at acquaintances that teach in other districts where the biggest headache is parents lingering in the carpool line, and though I’ve committed (at least this phase of) my life to urban education, I flirt with the idea of a richer district, less jaded kids, etc. Then, I feel like an ogre. Its tight, but it’s truthful.

On days like this, however, I remember something that this woman named Didi said to me yearssss ago. I don’t remember the context, but she said something like “your words are divinely structured to bring peace and joy to people around you.” That’s literally one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me–and it’s also a charge to make sure that what comes out of my mouth builds up and doesn’t tear down. Teaching brings with it some “cuss applicable moments”, as Steve Harvey would say–I’d be lying if I said that every word out of my mouth is “joy to the world”…but as Steve also said “God ain’t done with me yet.”

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I don’t always feel planted–like I am divinely structured, firmly rooted in the thing I am supposed to be doing. Earlier this week, I sat in front of my Crew and ground out angry tears because they weren’t meeting expectations–it’s enough to make you question yourself sometimes. But today, I felt planted, twice. And when I feel God move, I have to share.

  1. A child at work had a medical emergency today, and it left a bunch of children feeling quite rattled and scared. I bent down to talk to a child who was in tears, and I heard another kid above me say “guys can we pray, because I’m worried!” Thus began a round robin of who was actually going to pray, since one kid turned into five…and finally one girl said “Ms. O, you pray, because we don’t know how.” Another said, “yeah, ’cause all I do is say grace!” So the five of us held hands and shoulders and we prayed for the young lady in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. My students know my beliefs, but I am careful not to dwell on them at school, lest I activate the church v state cries, but I’ve had students ask me to pray quietly with them before a test and now this–the fact that they know that they can ask this and I will respond means the world to me. Planted.
  2. A few teachers were sitting in my homeroom this afternoon, and we were talking-laughing-playing music–kinda lesson planning, etc. A friend FaceTimed me, so I alternated between talking to her, listening to my coworkers, sashaying in my seat to the tune of my music and answering emails. Suddenly, the one across from me said “I love your joy. You are so happy.” (or something like that)… It was so out of the blue and I was so taken by surprise that I pointed at myself and she affirmed that she was speaking to me. The funny thing is, I wasn’t doing anything in particular, but she saw something and called it out of me–it’s been bouncing around my head all evening. I can be joyful FOR others even when I don’t realize that I am. Planted.

The Bible says this about being planted–

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

I take this to mean that being planted doesn’t always feel great–there is digging and waiting and pruning involved, after all, but when you are planted in the right place and nourished by the right things, you will see rewards when rewards are meant to be seen. If the soil were completely wrong, then nothing would grow. That doesn’t mean that I’m supposed to stay in the same pot forever, but I have to trust that that Living Water hydrates even my dry seasons.

Basically, I bloom different.

Today, be thankful for being planted where you are–in the professions, the friendships, the places where you are. Search for the meaning. And recognize the divine structuring when you see it 🙂

 

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#PhenomenalWomanWednesdays: The Art of Joy

Hello beautiful people!

I’m back at it again with another edition of Phenomenal Woman Wednesday. Have you ever had that friend where you couldn’t exactly remember the moment that started it all, but you realized that the intertwining of your life’s has changed the fabric of time? That sounds incredibly dramatic, but there are people who are movers and shakers, and there are others that are shifters. Joy SHIFTS. 

  
I met Joy through attending Destiny Harvest, and she quickly became irreplaceable. She has taught me how to love my heritage a bit more, speaks vision into my life, and encourages those giftings that God has placed on my life that were lying dormant beforehand—honestly, there might not be a Paper, Ink and Jesus if not for her. I have been writing since my early teens, and I went through a stage where my writing reflected my mindset. My poetry could be dark, angry, and sarcastic–it dealt with my fractured relationship with my dad, my singleness (and resulting lust), and my interactions with the public in unhealthy ways and became a tool for revenge moreso than an avenue for His peace….once I decided that I didn’t want to live like that anymore, I was at a loss–how was I supposed to use this really dynamic thing in a way to give God the glory? I stopped sharing and creating out of pure fear that my best wouldn’t be good enough. I stopped writing, and Joy was one of those God-sent agents of change that convinced me to start up again. She even took my stage name–Birthwrite–and refashioned it, because He makes all things new. 

  
Aside from that, though, one of the biggest lessons that I have taken from observing and just generally getting to know Joy is the transformative power of a crazy, bold faith. I’m not talking about crossing your fingers and hoping that life pans out in the way you hope for. Au contraire, mon frere. No, when I say big faith, I mean the kind that wills you to take huge steps because you have communed with God and you hear His voice, and though what He is saying doesn’t even fully make sense to you, you know that with His hand on it, the plan is infallible. So you go–and not begrudgingly either. You go expectantly, just waiting on Him to manifest Himself in people, situations, opportunities, God-moments, etc. And that is exactly what Joy has done. I won’t get into the nuts and bolts, because Joy has her own testimony to share. I know personally, I am going through a season where clarity is needed and vision is eagerly anticipated, so if you are at this crossroads of life, I trust that something that Joy has to say will speak to you as well. 

  
1. Jump in, Jump out…introduce yourself! What are three things that we don’t know about you?

Hello beautiful! My name is Joy and I’ve known Steph for three years. Honestly, I don’t remember how we met but life is full of pleasant surprises and Steph is one of my favorites. I do remember where though, church–probably because I needed a ride home. Anyway, it’s one of those “right on time” sisterhoods because God knew that I needed it BADLY. I’m so grateful to have her in my tribe.

As tiny as I am, I love food and I’m a serial snacker. My guilty pleasure is online window shopping and my browser is full of open tabs of clothing that I like but never buy. There’s a special place in my heart for classic (read: old) movies. Casablanca and Gone with the Wind are my favorites. I can watch them over and over again and I have.

2. What would you say is your biggest testimony right now?

Graduating from graduate school! Columbia was the last school that I applied to AND it was after I had received rejection letters from all the other schools that I applied to. Columbia was also far better than the other schools that I applied to so I was prepared for yet another “we appreciate your application” letter. Somehow they said yes and I ended up in NYC. It was and still is a revelation of “seek first the Kingdom and all things will be added” (Matthew 6:33). I’m still learning that God puts me in places that I am undeserving of and dare I say unqualified for simply because I have my eyes fixed on Him. What an incredible privilege that is. What tends to be overlooked is this tricky space between the seeking and addition called waiting. Ah, that’s the rub! 
However, God’s timing is perfection (yes, the noun). Well, duh! It’s takes a lot to say it and then a whole lot more to believe it. Borrowed words of wisdom: “God is not slow to act, He is slow to anger.” I’m more than grateful for the second part because I’m a struggle at times and God has been more than gracious because I can get a bit foolish. But the former refutes our frustration! His timing is perfect. We live life forward but understand in hindsight. On our timeline it looks like He’s slow or even withholding which is so unlike His nature (He’s the giver of all things-Romans 8:28). I consistently have “ohhh” moments when I realize how perfectly God has orchestrated the events in my life and those around me (Jeremiah 29:11). Simply being in NYC at this time required some God time-warping (and favor). I’m understanding that this particular time and place was molded to have me in it meaning that God thought of me before the beginning of time. Nuts! So God is in no way slow. He’s a master planner so just relax and let Him lead.
3. What is your favorite Bible verse and why? 
There are so many gems in Romans but Romans 8:19 has been my daily mantra. I’ve had this verse stuck in my mind since my move to NYC and the funny thing is I can never remember the reference (unless prompted) but the idea is permanently engrained– “all of creation is eagerly awaiting the reveal of God’s sons and daughters.” Creation has been waiting for me (and you)! I want to serve others, restore hope in those that were hopeless, feeling unworthy, forgotten and unheard but most importantly, I want to do what God has sent me on this earth to do–bring His children home. There is no one else that can do it the way I do. No one else with my gifts and experiences. It’s the ultimate locker room pep talk.
4. What is life teaching you right now?
Life is teaching me how to dream and know that God goes beyond my wildest dreams. There are so many things that I have prayed for that I’m living in now and other things that I’m glad were rejected. My reality is so different and so much better than what I planned for myself. Trading my life for LIFE has been an incredible upgrade.
5. What does being a Christian woman mean to you?
Being a Christian woman means that I strive to be an embodiment of God’s beauty so much so that others are encouraged to participate. It’s experiencing the freedom that comes with choosing and knowing Jesus. It’s making the gospel the obsession of my heart and living it out.
Isn’t she fantastic? Hope that this resonated with you somehow, and I’m looking forward to stories of your own crazy faith steps! 

Be blessed!
StephTheScribe