#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

#PhenomenalWomenWednesdays

Hello beautiful people!

Y’know, I had an epiphany lately: I know some really great women.

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Not to be flowery, sappy, “OhEmmGeeeeeee, everyone I know is awesooome!!”( who…me?), but honestly I have been blessed to find some really phenomenal women from all ages and stages of life, and to exist in this constant state of inspiration and iron sharpening iron. Some of these women have advanced degrees, and some are just starting or returning to school. Some are my age, others younger, still more are a generation apart. Some of these women, like the one I will feature below, I have known for years, and others are more recent gifts, however, the common thread that runs among them is that they all have the capability to minister. Beyond views or likes or funny pictures, the ultimate point of this blog is to reach someone who didn’t think that they were capable of being reached, and to see something here that connects with where you are or where you believe that God is taking you. It is my hope every time that I push publish that there is something here that a soul needed to see. If nothing else, know that the only requirement for your covenant friends is that they chasing Christ and encouraging you to chase Him, too.

I am not egotistical enough to believe that I have the lock and key on a word in season. Ephesians 4:11 mentions the evangelists, the shepherds, the prophets, the apostles, and the teachers, and Matthew 24 talks about the gospel being preached not only locally but all over. We can’t, I certainly can’t do that by myself! Today, I am excited to host my best friend Shannon. We have known each other since our first year of high school, and I jokingly used to call her my wise owl. Shannon is thoughtful, perceptive, intelligent, and she is sharing her story, her testimony, and her views below!

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1. Jump in, jump out, Introduce yourself! What are three things not many people know about you?

Hi there! I’m Shannon and I’ve been friends with Stephanie since our freshman year of high school when she tried to steal my locker in gym class. What started out as me constantly beating her in badminton (no matter what she says, that’s how it went down) has blossomed into a beautiful, life-long sisterhood and I am so grateful that God saw fit to place us together all those years ago.

A few lesser known things about me: my favorite snowball flavor is egg custard, my guilty pleasure is historical romance novels (the kind where some Duke touches some Lady on the elbow and she swoons and falls in love), and I used to want at least three kids … until I had the one.

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

I’ve recently decided to start blogging about what I believe is my biggest testimony right now: the tale of a first generation active, full-time mom to an energetic, fearless toddler.

When I think of myself as a “first generation” mom it is in the same context as a first generation college student. First generation college students enter the world of higher education with no guidance from their parents because neither parent went through the experience, and so the parents have no clue how to counsel the student and can’t really help with setting or managing the expectations of college life.

That sense of breaking new ground in the family has its own set of challenges that often makes the student feel totally alone and, to a degree, puts the student at a disadvantage compared to students of college educated parents who have likely been groomed for the college experience by parents who have “been there, done that.” In that same sense, I am breaking new ground by being a full-time, active parent because neither of my biological parents raised me.

It’s a testimony that has often been hard for me to articulate. But I am learning that it’s important to share your story even when – especially when – the story is not necessarily neat and pretty so that you (and others) can learn, heal, and grow from it. You can read more about my story at http://www.firstgenmom.com.

3. What is your favorite Bible verse and why? 

One of my favorite bible verses is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Since becoming a parent 2.5 years ago I have really come to understand what that verse means and the true depth of God’s love that one sentence portrays. I have one child. She is my world. Even when she drives me nuts I can’t think of a person, living on this earth or otherwise, that I would give up my one and only child for.

So that God would give up His one and only Son so that I could live – on earth but also in heaven with Him once I have breathed my last breath – is beyond humbling to me.

I am not worthy of such a sacrifice. And yet, knowing fully that despite my best efforts I would always fail in comparison to His beloved Son, God still saw fit to scarifice His one and only Son for me and you. How amazing is that? How much must He love us to make such a sacrifice? And if He loves us enough to give up the one thing that I know I as a parent could never sacrifice myself then we must each be so incredibly important and valuable to Him.

So whenever I doubt myself or my abilities I try and remember that our God gave His one and only Son so that if I just believe in Him that I might live eternally, and therefore my purpose on this earth (which I am still figuring out) must be magnificent.

4. What is life teaching you right now?

Life is teaching me to be patient and listen for God’s guidance. Lately, when I find myself anxiously plotting my next move and trying to jump ahead to what I think God has for me next I feel like God is blocking my moves like that basketball player in that Geico commercial. “No no no. Not in my house!” I know that what God has planned for me is amazing but if I keep trying to force my hand he will continue to block my ill-advised shots. So I am learning to wait, listen, and pray twice as much as I shoot.

5. What does being a Christian woman mean to you?

Being a Christian woman means that it is both my responsibility and my privilege to make a conscious effort daily to live and walk in God’s image. That doesn’t mean that I think I am perfect or that I have to pretend to be. It simply means that I consistently try and choose to be kind, generous, loving, faithful, and forgiving – even when it is hard and unpopular to do so.

Man, Shannon said a mouthful, didn’t she? (I knew she would!) I sincerely hope that something you saw here resonated with you, and I can’t wait to come back next Wednesday with another Phenomenal Woman!!

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

 

Shade Intended

 

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Hey beautiful people!

I have been a bad, bad, blogger lady recently. Forgive me. Sometimes, it all gets to be too much…the responsibilities and the deadlines and moreover, the frustration and the resentment that comes from balancing the deadlines and never having the courage to say

this is too much”.

I had finals and projects and papers and lessons and life positively coming out of my ears, and I had to take a short break because I felt that burnout was on the horizon, and a burnt out me is no good for anyone involved. I did the stuff that I absolutely had to do, and everything else got forcibly shoved on the back burner for several weeks.

You know what? It felt GOOD. But beyond that, I did my own little Bible walk on what todo when everything is just too much. I happened upon Psalm 61. The awesome thing about Christ is that the revelations that He gives are not just for us, but for us to then pass on to others who need. I call this lesson, when giving shade is a good thing.

In our modern day colloquialism, we think of giving shade or being shady as being sneaky or subversive with criticism. Much like other qualifiers, saying “no shade, but…” really signifies that you mean all the shade in the world.

shade.jpg Mm-hmm. I see you.

But in Biblical understanding, shade is covering. And being covered is not a bad thing. Psalm 61 is like a cry from everyone who has every felt that they are juggling more than they were ever intended to:

Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.

We are crying out to God for a little shade. The Word says that we are asking to be led to the rock that is higher than I. This ain’t the rock that we are talking about, by the way…

rafiki_simba Ahhhhhhh za benyaaaaaa….ok, I give up.

No, the Bible refers to Christ as The Rock of Ages. So when we are overwhelmed by our deadlines, by our relationships, by our children, our parents, our families, by our health crises, by our jobs and so much more, we are called to take off running and collapse at the feet of Jesus. He is higher than we are. He is equipped to handle it. Jesus did not die on the cross for us to hang in the wind and deal with everything ourselves. Furthermore, the same Psalm has two more things that stood out to me in this season of being stretched too thin, both emotionally and otherwise.

Selah. In many psalms, you will find the word selah, and though there are several definitions out there, the one that resonates the most with me right now is that Selah was a cue to pause. These psalms were actually sung, and the selah was a note to the musicians to take a breath, and that rest was just as powerful as the song that they were singing. It is ok to pause. No, hear me. It is ok to slow down. Pausing is restorative. It allows us to meditate on the enormity of the God that is standing in the gap for us. It allows our cup to be refilled so that we are able to overflow onto other people.

Legacy. Later on in the psalm, there is a line that says “you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name”. Some people look at fearing God as a bad thing and more of a reason to not buy into the Higher Power “deal”, but when you know God, you know that that fear is really more of a healthy reverence. God is not ordinary. He knows exactly how many grains of sand there are on any given beach right this very second, but yet somehow, He knows you…too. Like, how is that even possible? The moment that we treat God and what He has the power to do as ordinary, we forget to be grateful. And we have the heritage of knowing that we have that kind of God on our side.

So what does covering do?

Covering allows us to heal. At work today, I heard one of my students ask my coteacher why she had a bandaid, and she mentioned that the cold weather made her skin split and the bandage was holding it together so that it could heal. So, so very many of us are split…by heartbreak, by pain, by family issues, by fatigue, just by LIFE. Covering pulls us together and allows us to heal.

Covering allows us to rest: We are literally no good to anyone when we are grasping at straws and running on fumes. How can we be who He has called us to be–believers who give cheerfully as we are given, with a gift that is pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing–if we aren’t even full. You know what happens when you max out a credit card….yet how many of us are operating with maxed out lives? There are penalties either way.

Covering allows us to cover. When you realize how much you have been protected from, it gives you the desire to shield other people. To introduce them to your toolbelt. To place His Word in their hands (or…on their screens *wink*) and say HEY! I have got this really good news…want to hear?

So the next time that shade is used in a negative context, stop and think that maybe the context isn’t all negative

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Perhaps, you need to rest in that shadow. And honey, that shade was intended.

 “There is none holy like the LORD: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. For there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God…” I Samuel 2:2

Be Blessed,

StephTheScribe

HWJD (How Would Jesus Deal?)

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Hello beautiful people!

I hope that this post finds you having had some time to enjoy the warm weather, bask in the sunshine, and enjoy some gorgeous sunsets. But while you are enjoying your pineapple snowball with vanilla ice cream (or maybe that’s projection/wishful thinking), I’m going to talk about my experiences dealing with conflict as a Christian–with friends, with family, and in the workplace.

A lot of people, Christians included, feel that the moment that they accept Christ into their life, drama subsides. Flowers bloom in the meadows of our imagination, bunnies scamper to and fro, and all is right with the world, so when conflict happens, as it inevitably will, we feel taken aback.

Lord! This wasn’t supposed to happen to me…was it?”

It was, though. Sometimes, the way we handle these types of situations says more about our faith than any church service invite, cross necklace, or well placed hallelujah ever could. People are watching to see how we react, how we move forward, and how we resolve the situation.

I recently went through a situation of my own at work…a parent was unhappy about one of the decisions I’d made for his child and decided to let me know–loudly and profanely–outside—in front of other students. Sigh. I wouldn’t be transparent NOR staying true to my goal of honesty always if I didn’t tell you that I saw red and wanted to return the favor and hurt this parent like he hurt me. I can’t promise that the Christian in you won’t want to hop into the backseat and deal with things the worldly way that we know how, just as I can’t promise you that no one will ever make you mad when you start to walk with God, but I can promise you that the Word provides examples of how we as believers ought to behave when the world does us wrong.  I am sure that all of us beyond a certain age bracket remember those catchy, DayGlo colored bracelets that Christian kids and young adults wore back in the day (and by the day, I mean the 90s):

wwjdbraceI had a keychain and a binder and a shirt and a…….

We prided ourselves on carefully considering what Jesus would do before reacting in a given situation (and gleefully reminding others how we prided ourselves on this lol), and so my question, especially these past week or so, has been a modification of this

Not What Would Jesus Do,  but HWJD–How Would Jesus Deal?

What Jesus would do is kind of a no-brainer right? He would forgive. He would overlook offense (Proverbs 19:11). I don’t know about you, but when I am going through things with somebody, I NEED practical, doable steps that will ease my heart and handle the mess without compromising my soul. I need to know how to deal.

Step One: Pray FIRST

A large portion of the time, our first reaction when someone has wronged us is either to find the nearest sympathetic ear and blast it with all of the gory details or else to clam up and simmer low and slow about the indignities that we have suffered. It’s not easy, but before we do anything else of record, our first move should be to go to God in prayer? Why?

  1. Because it is God’s greatest desire to advocate for us
  2. Because left to our own devices, we might do something that wouldn’t honor Him
  3. Because someone prayed for us when we were at our most unloveable.

Psalm 34:17 says that when the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers. What does He deliver, you may ask? The simple act of prayer is calming, first–I can’t tell you how many regrettable things I haven’t said because I closed my eyes and simply said Lord, I can’t. Also, the simple act of going to God in prayer communicates our trust that His reactions are better. Praying first symbolizes that we are receptive to what God wants us to do rather than charging in, guns blazing.

We see evidence in Luke 6 of Jesus even taking the time to pray before making a decision. Jesus prayed all night before choosing His disciples–and these weren’t just his homies, but the men that He poured into, that He taught, healed, and ministered beside, and that eventually honored Him at His lowest. Surely we can then pray for how to proceed with the big and small things then, right?

Step Two: Consult Wise Counsel

Proverbs 10: 13 says that wide words come from the lips of those with understanding!! It is so crucial to have people in your life to talk to when things go awry. Now listen to me, I didn’t say that it was important to have people to gossip to, or even to vent to without the ultimate goal of finding solutions to the problem. That’s why it is sooo important to have some folks around you that not only know and love you, but know and love God first. We have all had that friend in the past ( and some of us may still have them–no shade thrown) whose first way of handling a problem or tell you to handle it IS to fly OFF the handle. While a good old fashioned freak-out might feel fun on the surface temporarily, it won’t feel good to your spirit in the long run. Also, Romans 14:21 says not to do anything that will cause your brother to stumble. We are a reflection of the Most High….and if they (friends, coworkers, family) see you acting impulsively, what kind of representation are we?

With this parent at work, I admit that I was too shaken up to even think straight enough to pray…all I could get out was “God…” before the tears came. But the next best thing happened: a coworker prayed for me! She’d followed me into the bathroom sensing that I’d be hurt, rubbed my back and interceded on my behalf and when I tell you the tears stopped falling, my breathing slowed down and I could reason again. Approaching someone for advice who wasn’t connected to Godly peace would’ve left me with “solutions” that really did no more than exacerbate the problem. Say some of those things back. Call someone to strike fear into his heart. Refuse to even acknowledge his presence. And I can’t even lie and say that my flesh wouldn’t have liked anything more, but I sensed even then that people were watching to see how I’d react. I make no secret of the fact that I love God and try my best to live according to His will for my life. I run around this place with invite cards and spend most mornings blasting worship music as I get ready for my day, so I know that the devil would have liked nothing more than to put me in a situation that tempted me to lose it just to see if I would.

After I got myself together, I knew I had to talk to my mom. She is always my first source of wise counsel, because though I know she loves me to pieces and wants to see me come out of every situation well taken care of, she knows how important my faith is to me and desires to see me live that out.

Step Three: Go With Peace

God confirms his will through His word, His people, and His peace.  Back in the day when I found it my duty to drive my mother crazy in all of my teenaged mouthiness, I would always hear her singing one particular song after I exasperated her to her breaking point and got sent away. The song is by Donnie McClurkin and one lyric in particular says “what do you do when you’ve done all you can and it seems like you can’t make it through? Child, you just stand.” God will give you a word that you can’t ignore and the peace and calm that follows is a sure indication of what to do next. For some situations and people, that might involve a conversation with them that isn’t petty or insulting but that makes it clear that you were hurt. For other situations and people, that may just be God saying to let it ride. Again: you’ll know when it is from God. In my case, I felt God saying that I wasn’t going to get past what happened until I approached this parent myself. Once I made that decision, I literally felt weight lift off of me, and sure enough, talking to that parent in a way that was GOD ORDAINED left me with an apology that surprised everyone around me–and a sense of such joy! I did it! I handled myself in a way that God would be proud off–but the best part is that I didn’t actually do it. God lives in me…and He lives in you too.

Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. There is absolutely nothing like the peace of God.

For anyone going through something, I hope this helps. As always, I want my experiences to be your map, and if I’ve forgotten anything that you feel is important, hit me up and let me know. Remember, you ARE made in His image. A little bit of conflict doesn’t change that.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

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What God Can Do With A Mason Jar

Before I write anything else, inspiration for this post goes to two special  women: Derricka and Krystal. You remind me daily that my mason jar has purpose.

Hello beautiful people!

It has been quite the weekend! Chilly, but I feel inexplicably warm inside.

Inexplicable? What am I talking about? Of course I can explain why I have been smiling all day long. It’s because, once again, God showed up and showed out and is taking up residence in a human heart.

Yesterday, I went to help at setup for church. My church is portable takes place inside of a high school, so every weekend requires us to build our service experiences from the ground up. Being a part of setup gives you such a deep respect for the care and intentionality that goes into making sure that everything is excellent, by the way. But I digress.

I am positioning pipe-and-drape in one of the classrooms that the Children’s Team uses for Destiny Kidz when I hear my sisterfriend Derricka calling my name. I meet her in the hallway and she hands me a card. “OK, read it now!”, she said, so I pulled it out of the envelope as I headed back towards the classroom. I pull it out of the envelope and I see this:

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Derricka, who has SUCH a way with words (one of the many reasons that I love her), used this image on the front to equate her life to this mason jar: something that at first resembled a castaway and thought to have no worth becoming repurposed by placing both something beautiful and a means to nourish it.  She wrote something along the lines of God using me (me?) as those flowers and us both being not just sustained but relivened and revitalized by the living water that is Jesus.

And I cried. Well, not full on cried, but I definitely teared up and have without fail every time I read back over this card. Which has been about 5 or 6 times since last night. (I really love heartfelt cards, y’all. Is Hallmark/Papyrus/Mahogany/a piece of notebook paper with some lovin’ on it a love language? Somebody call Gary Chapman!)

It’s been somewhere along the lines of three years since I joined my church. I wasn’t outwardly broken into pieces, but inside, I was the perfect storm of reasons why people stray away from God or from the church. Growing up, I can’t honestly say I had any close friends in church…so there is a lack of connection. I didn’t feel like anyone explained the meaning behind some of the things that we just categorically do as Christians, and so I went through the motions…so lack of growth. Finally, generally, I grew up witnessing some meeeean folk in church–no joy, no life, just sarcasm and what seemed like a lot of hurt. The 28 year old me now knows to study people, ask for Holy Spirit guidance and see the why behind their what…but the teenage me was disillusioned, confused, and ready to go.

And I did. As soon as I got old enough, I left that church and never looked back. I tried other denominations and churches, feeling like the Goldilocks of congregation searching: Some were too large and others too small. Some were too loud, some were too quiet, and some felt like they were exactly what I was running from. Eventually, I adopted an “I don’t need church to have God” mentality. I was making my way in the adult world, dealing with father hurt, heartbreak, fake friends and more without the benefit of a church home to shelter, stretch and soothe me. By the time I made it to Destiny Harvest, I was in a holding pattern of defeat and moreover, insanity—doing the same thing and expecting a difference.

But what a difference a few years makes.

DHC has been like the baby bear of church homes–just right. I receive teaching as well as preaching, I have been drawn to heal friendships and familial relationships that were long dormant, I found purpose and friends and pure, “so intense it don’t make sense” kind of love. Best of all, my mason jar–this life of mine that I wasn’t altogether sure what to do with–has had some pretty spectacular flowers place in it. And just when I think that my jar is completely refurbished, some more living water is added, and I see a spot in need of His love…this process in incredible. It’s funny though. You get so busy watching God own and polish your mason jar that you forget how He’s using you to majorly affect other people’s jars as well.

I think about my sister–we aren’t actually related by blood, but she has been in my life since she was a pre-teen through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central MD. They officially dismissed us from the program just over two years ago because she aged out, but I told her long ago that I am here for as long as she wants me to be. Her mason jar has looked a lot like mine. Cracked, discarded, smudged, and more but guess what God can do?

IMG_7874 He can wash it clean and make it new.

Having God repurpose my mason jar and having her around for the process–as I pray first and pursue opportunities, as I ended a relationship with a man that she knew that I wanted to be with for the rest of my life because he didn’t submit to God, as I form and refine life giving friendships with strong, whole people that are also chasing God and whose lives are conspicuously absent of all of the hurt and drama and pain and anger that comes from an uneven yoke, and most recently, as I refuse to let her go, refuse to let her twist in the wind when she does things that don’t make sense–as I do these things, she is learning a little more about God. She is knowing who He is, and better yet, how He can change her life.

My sister got baptized today, y’all. I’ve been so busy asking God what He is going to do with my mason jar that I failed to realize how much He has already done.

So what can God do with YOUR mason jar? He can:

M- Move: God has a knack for showing up in our lives and taking us and our purpose places that we never thought we’d go. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He has a plan for us to give us hope and a future. Often, that hope takes place in miraculous ways.

A- Answer: He will place people and situations into your mason jar, into your life that answer questions that you had about your purpose, your destiny that you hadn’t even thought to answer yet. Habakkuk 2:3 says that there is a vision–for an appointed time.

S- Save: This seems pretty much like a no-brainer–of course God is mighty to save and offers to make us as clean as driven snow. But you’d be surprised just how much else God has saved or is currently saving us from besides Hell. I’m talking doubt, sadness, fear, insecurity, isolation, lust, anger, chaos, the concept of “luck”, empty relationships, broken hearts, and the list just keeps on going. You’d be unwise to sleep on that good of a Savior. Isaiah 61:3 says that he is trading us an oil of joy for our mourning.

O- Overwhelm: Because of how He moves and How he answers and the extent to which He saves, it is quite easy if you don’t remain in a place of intentional gratitude to take all of what He does for granted. Like, no, homie. This is the God of Zion–the God that brought the persecuted out of persecution. He made science and religion connect–look at the Golden ratio. He made stars–and He made you.  And He sustains you. We SHOULD be overwhelmed. Jeremiah 10:12 says that by His understanding, He stretched out the Heavens. That’s a big God.

N- Nurture: He loves us. And those you love, quite frankly, you love ON. That takes different forms for different people, but the nexus of it all is that it is human nature to spoil the ones that you care about. Why would the same not be true for God? He desires to literally take our breath away and heal us from our broken. He heals us from the cracks and the crevices that come with a life lived searching for something greater. He is definitely a restorer. Joel 2:25-26 promises that God will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.

Darling, I promise you that when you grasp the idea of what He has done with your mason jar, it gives you a much deeper appreciation of what He is planning to do with other people’s. It promises to be amazing

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

Heart Check

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Hello beautiful people,

I am coming off of one of the most spiritually strenuous periods that I have had in awhile, and I am walking a fine line between 1Peter 4:8 (which encourages us to cover each other–and our lapses in judgment–in love) and Luke 8:39 (where the healed man was told to go home and tell of the great things that the Lord has done)

First, a moment of transparency. One of the things that I have fought the hardest against is the pothole of insecurity. There are some people who have never had second thoughts about what other people think of them or whether their current situation is all their fault, I am not one of those people, and after a lot of prayer and long roads, I can say that I don’t envy those people at all. I embrace the fact that it has taken me a while to learn to love myself warts and all because I believe that within that lies my spiritual gift: seeing other people currently entrenched in that struggle, encouraging them, and walking them through it. I am here on Earth to remind the masses that God loves them, that He has gone before them into every circumstance and that they were created for a purpose. Little did I realize how close to home that those conversations would get.

I have someone in my life who is my family not by blood, but by time. When I met her, she was very young, barely a teenager, but she already had a major distrust of people, and a lot of anger as a result. Flash forward to this past weekend, and she emerged from a volatile situation with an ex-friend angry and distrustful again, and saying that she was better off doing life alone. Initially angry at being pulled into the chaos, I tried to pour into her all the lessons that I have learned about dealing with heartbreak. As I was talking to her, I had the thought that this might be beneficial to someone else, so here we go.

Lesson One: We Have GOT To Deal With Our Pain.
Many of us are walking around with serious wounds from our pasts. Father/mother drama, assault, abuse, constant strife, and even pervasive and extreme poverty can leave us with scars that can’t be seen but that can definitely be felt. What often happens though, is that we don’t/won’t put in the footwork to see these issues through to complete healing for whatever reason, and instead we do what I described to my sister as a “Shawshank Healing”. If you have ever seen the Shawshank Redemption, then you know that Andy Dufresne escaped from prison by painstakingly digging a hole to the outside and covering it with a pinup poster. Similarly, a lot of us are not truly packing our issues, we are just covering them. It may not be with a poster, but it CAN be with money. Power. Notoriety. Sex. Relationships. Drugs. Just like the warden found the hole when he aimed a rock at the poster and it tore right through, stress or heartache or missed opportunities can expose the yawning hole in our spirits if we aren’t careful. How do we deal with the pain? You know what’s coming!! Revelations 21:5 says “He who was seated on the throne says ‘Behold, I am making all things new. Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” When we surrender these hurts to God, in its place we are given a freedom beyond compare.

Lesson Two: What We Think, We Create
One of the things that I spoke to my sister about was her desire to never open up to people because people had hurt her in the past. I spoke to her about being angry and resentful in the past; most don’t believe me when I say that I used to have a mouth like a sailor on shore leave. I began cursing my freshman year in high school, and despite many attempts to stop, the habit continued well into my mid-twenties. What this meant was that my love of cussing, fussing, and kicking up dirt made people who also enjoyed these things attractive. We enjoyed being raucous and dramatic–but what I found was that as I came back to Christ, a process called sanctification took place seemingly without my help. Some of the things, people, and places that I used to enjoy began to not only lose their value, but they made me downright uncomfortable. When I wouldn’t release these things and people that weren’t aligned with the changes taking place in my life, often some really upsetting event would take place to leave no doubt in my mind that this person had to GO. The job that was stressing me out would start feeling unbearable or an argument/blowup would start with the person I’d been tiptoeing around and not wanting to formally detach from. However, I started noticing that I wanted to be around genuinely joyful people–in fact, I craved it. There was nothing in me that wanted to spend time around people that did my soul no good. What I told my sister is that life is a process of taking people one interaction at a time, and that the more that her heart heals, the more that she’ll find her self being willing to step out on faith and meet other healed people. 1Peter 3:8 encourages us to be like-minded, sympathetic, compassionate, and humble. What we are, we attract.

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Lesson Three: We Can’t Nourish Others When We Are Starving
One of the final things that we talked about during her refusal to open up was about how important it is to have your own heart in triage and being take care of before you go looking for others to rescue. My sister has burst fully grown into the adult world of job hunting, and she is finding that the process can be difficult. Being a jobless young adult can often mean that your pockets are not at the level that you would want them to be, so I explained this walk of healing as an emotional bank account. A lot of us are walking around with overdrawn emotional bank accounts perpetrating like ballers. We are trying to load other people onto a back that is bruised and broken, and sooner or later, the bough breaks. I asked her “what happens if your account is -1000.00 and you get a check in the mail for $1000.00?” to which she replied,
“if you put it in, the bank is going to take it all!” I said, “that’s true, but what is your balance now?”
Her: “it’s ZERO!!!”

She had this look of confusion on her face, because who wants a bank account with a balance of zero, but what I wanted her to understand is that this is the process of healing. We go from having this abyss of shame and anger and hurt, and then Christ comes in, and with our permission (because Christ won’t change our hearts if we resist Him too hard) He wipes that clean.

She was still looking at me in utter bemusement, so I decided to take it a step further. “Ok”, I said, “so your account is at zero, but what happens if you get a $2000.00 check in the mail now?” She said, after some thought “Now I have $2000.00!”

Exactly love, now you have 2000 dollars. Take away the concreteness of money, and replace it with a spirit and feelings. God has taken away the bad stuff and left us clean so that when we have positive interactions with hope, with peace, with joy, and with salvation, they aren’t eaten alive by the negativity that reigned in our lives for so long. We have MORE now. And how about this: what reigns supreme in your life now is double or MORE what you had to give up and let die.

Final thought: I asked her “what can you do with money that you couldn’t have done before?” Being the recent post-teenager that she is, she excitedly said “SHOP!”…to which I asked “only for yourself?” Off to the races, she said ” nah I can buy stuff for you and Jord–ohhh! I get it!”

Yup, sis. Now you get it. Not only are you filled up, but you have the joy, actually the responsibility, to go spend it on others. Don’t keep all that love to yourself: we serve a God that fills us to overflowing, so we can pour out as we are poured. Psalms 23:6 says that He anoints our heads with oil and our cups run over.

It is never easy to get a heart check, loves, but I promise you that what He reveals in your wilderness season is exactly what someone needs to hear. I learned that all over again this past weekend, and I pray that what I told my sister can also help you.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

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