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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to school time

The 2013-2014 school year is now underway for many of us. For me, I am beginning my third year at the Christian school I am blessed to work for. This year, there are a total of 38 students in grades 7-12th (approximately 70 students total in the school) whom I work with and I am teaching U.S. History (11/12), Algebra 1, Algebra 2, 8th grade Math and PE/Service Learning.

School spirit days 2012: Summer fun= Camp Good News, hence the Peeper attatched to my hat.

The first week went well and I'm really digging the group that has come together this year between the students and staff. Enjoying reuniting in mission with the returning staff while also incorporating a great group of new teachers in the bunch. There are more male staff this year (doubling from 2 to 4) which I think is a great blessing in any school, but especially in the upper grades where I really want my male students to have strong men of God to look up to and to pour into them.

As much as I love my job, every year has taught me more and more how much I need to lean on God and trust His understanding and His work in my students lives. This year especially, I hope to incorporate some of the lessons God was really working in my life this summer, especially in giving and showing His grace to my students and co-workers. I want His vision and not my own. I want to care and focus more on the heart than on the actions. And I want to daily lift my day, my job, my students and myself up to God in prayer and seek to follow His lead.

The poem/prayer below is one I wrote September 30, 2012 but is a good reminder on where I want to start this school year.

A Teacher's Prayer
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You, firstly, for being my Teacher,
Being a perfect example of the grace and patience one will need,
To feed Your children with knowledge,
While disciplining to keep the peace.
I do not do my job perfectly,
But every day I pray I’ll be,
A good example to my students,
Of a life consecrated to Thee.
I laugh, I cry, I get frustrated too,
Lord, I simply don’t know how You do what You do.
How do You feel when a child looks in Your eyes and lies to Your face?
Oh, I imagine I’d feel much disgrace…yet You give more grace.
Help me love these students You have entrusted to me.
Help me to point them to You and remind me to bend the knee…
Because I cannot change their hearts, and I cannot give what they need,
But for Your work in their heart and in mine, I humbly plea.
So for all my teacher friends, I pray you find this prayer as an encouragement.  Whether you work in a Christian, public, private or home school, I pray that this year is a great one with great growth seen, not only in your students but also in you and me.  Have a great year!

Until next time,
In Christ,
Joy Lynn

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?

                 The title to this post is a line from a song called “Legacy” by Nicole Nordeman  (lyrics here).  This song along with “Do They See Jesus in Me?” by Joy Williams (lyrics here) are two songs with lyrics that speak to my heart in wanting to live in such a way that people see Jesus touch in my life and be pointed to Him, not only in my life but also in death. 

                There are a few people that I just couldn’t shake out of my head last night as I tried to sleep.  I was thinking of their upstanding testimony and impact on my life be it directly or indirectly. 

                I’ll start with a woman whom I never met but was one of the charter founding members of the church I currently attend.  I attended her funeral this July and was greatly blessed by listening to the testimony of others shared during the celebration of her life and homegoing.  The underlying theme of each testimony was that she was a woman of few words but when she spoke, she spoke wisdom and peace to others.  She ministered in such a way that was life on life discipleship and everyone knew she knew Jesus by her love.  I did not know this woman, but her testimony deeply impacted me.  It reminded me to let me words be few and my prayers be deep.

                The second and third person that came to my mind are my grandparents on my mother’s side.  They both went home to be with the Lord before I even entered middle school and most of my memories are from their years in a nursing home but it’s their life long testimony that I hold on to now.  My grandmother served as a missionary in Bolivia prior to her marriage and continued to minister in the local church and to her family after.  My grandfather was a hard working farmer but he also owned and operated a Christian Book store for a number of years.  The story that always sticks with me about him is that people would come into the store looking for one book, and my grandpa would then suggest five other good books on the topic and give it to them for free.  His job was not for profit but for ministry.  He used his position to share Christ with others, pray and disciple them over the years.  I am ever grateful for the godly heritage I was placed in.

                And the last person that came to mind was my own mother.  It’s been almost ten years but I can remember her funeral like it was just yesterday.  It was a celebration of life and of Hope.  The Gospel was given plain and simple, and many, I believe, came to know Christ that day because they found the hope that my mother lived and thrived in.  I can think of a few of the specific people that shared their memories of mom and I cherish them to this day.  ((If anyone has any specific memories of mom that they want to share with me, let me know because I’d love to keep a journal of them as to not lose them as the years go on)). 

                My mother left a legacy… where I can certainly say that I saw Jesus in her daily.  A woman full of grace and compassion.  A woman that esteemed others more highly than herself.  A bright example of a follower of Christ.  And I hope, that though she is now gone from this earth and in the presence of God, that a bit of Hope continues to live on within me.  Every Christian is firstly a product of grace but many a times, we can trace back the seeds planted and sown over the years.  It makes for a great faith family tree.  I am thankful for those whom have invested in me and I pray that I can continue this reaping and sowing in the years God has entrusted me with.

                So from these four, I have learned some of the building blocks of legacy building.  Follow Christ first so that when others follow you, they know who the real Leader is.  Watch my words…be quick to pray and slow to speak.  Time invested makes all the difference.  Give freely because it’s not yours to begin with.  Be faithful to whatever field God has called you to be it a family, a church, a school, a work place, etc.  Love freely and laugh often.  And as much as you want to leave a testimony, don’t try so hard that it’s manufactured.  May they not see my good deeds but God’s mighty work done in me.    

"Is the face that I see in the mirror
the one I want others to see
Do I show in the way that I walk in my life
The love that You've given to me
My heart's desire is to be like You
In all that I do, all I am"
--“Do they see Jesus in me?” by Joy Williams

Until next time,
In Christ,
Joy Lynn

Friday, August 9, 2013

26 Year Old Kid

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been complimented on how well I wear my age.  Well, truth be told, they didn’t say it quite like that…it was more like, “how old are you? 26, really?  I thought more like 16….”  Only adding confusion to the chaos, I work with teens for a loving, so I surround myself with them, whether it’s talking around a meal or playing soccer out on break. 

Most find it hard to believe, at first meeting, that I not only have graduated from high school, but got my Bachelors in four years, took a year of Bible school, took a year off to substitute teach and now am starting in on my third year as a high school teacher.  I wear my age well, I suppose.

But what if I am not such the “adult” that I so want to be seen as.  Maybe they are looking beyond the appearance and my affinity for modest t-shirts and shorts and seeing the real me.  And when they see me, they still just see a 26 year old kid.  Maybe they are right.  I so often still feel like a kid.  I am currently in what is becoming the most confusing stage of my life. 

I live 2,000 miles from home, have a job, pay my own bills (cell phone, car related stuff), and live within my own income (with the help of many blessings from God in His provision).  I’m a saver, not a spender.  I think things through and tackle possible problems before they get out of hand.  I have dreams and aspirations and when I have time, I put them into action.  I want to see my students succeed, my school succeed and lives be changed for the glory of God.  Have I proven myself adult yet???

But what about at the heart….the part of me that only I can see.  Right here, within me, I still feel like a very lost and broken 16 year old.  I don’t always feel it, but it’s very real and very near.  Almost 10 years ago, I lost my mother suddenly, and my world has never been the same since.  The longing I feel now has taken on many forms, levels and periods throughout these ten years but the void is still there. 

For 10 years, I’ve been fearfully afraid of growing up because mom wouldn’t see me.  See me graduating from high school, college, bible school….meet my wonderful students and their families.  I’ve never lived fully on my own and I couldn’t imagine doing so without having a mom to call back home and ask for help when the pot of water is overflowing or I burnt the rice again (is there an easy way to clean burnt on rice anyway??)  I’ve never been in a relationship and I can’t imagine not having mom to share my heart with, and to approve of him, and go wedding dress shopping  with and to be brimming with pride in the front row seat at my wedding.  When big events happen like the Boston bombing or Sandy Hook, I can imagine having long discussions with her about all the details and ramifications because she totally immersed herself in stuff like that.  I couldn’t imagine ever exploring Washington, D.C. without her, as it was both of our dream vacations.

And yet….life goes on.  The biggest proof of this is my dad recently getting remarried.  I thought I was doing pretty well with this grieving and processing thing concerning my mom…this is, until last year.  2012 was blow after blow of my security blankets.  The three best relationships I had going all changed with weddings and it’s not like I lost those relationships.  The dynamics changed though….well, for them that is.  Nothing changed for me.  Still lonely ole Joy here. 

I’m not saying that I am looking for a man to sweep me off my feet.  I’m totally not.  And if he tried, I’d probably bop his head with a hammer at this point.  I’m not ready for that.  I’m not even sure I’m ready to be an adult.  I’m just a 26 year old kid that wants her mommy. 

Joy Lynn

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Walking in Grace

Let’s get the straight….I’m not a prankster.  I don’t go out of my way to pull them on people and I probably am a poor sport in being pranked as well.  I’m *not* a prankster!

But…this one time, it just happened.  I wasn’t scheming or thinking evil of my dear friend.  I just let an opportunity go too far and it nearly cost me a friendship and several girls’ dry beds.  So here’s how it went down…

A few weeks ago, I was serving at camp and was the cabin supervisor in a cabin that was attached to another cabin via a bathroom.  My cabin had just finished devotions and had turned off our lights trying to settle down for the night.  Meanwhile, I can hear the sister cabin still talking so I get out of my bed with the thought of just going over to the other cabin and sassing them for being so loud when lights were supposed to be out. 

To my surprise, as I walked across the bathroom, I could tell that the sister cabins lights were indeed out but they were just talking and trying to wind down.  So I slowly opened that cabins door about to speak, but someone was talking about resetting the alarm clock.  At that very moment, the cabin supervisor of this sister cabin, whom I shall call J, got up from her bed to go set the alarm for the next morning.  In the mean time, I walked in the room, let the door close behind me, and sat down in J’s bed.  The girls in the cabin continued to talk and go about as if they didn’t notice me in the room, which I couldn’t believe.  I didn’t try to hide.  I could see them clearly with my eyes already being adjusted to the dark, so I figured they could see me too.  Well, I was wrong….

So J trekked across the room to reset the alarm and I sat calmly on her bed not saying a word.  As she came back to her bed, I watched her, not saying a thing, just to see what would happen.  She came alongside, paused, slowly put her hands out to touch my shoulder, likely thinking her comforter blanket was awful high off the bed.  She pushed my shoulder soft the first time trying to inspect what it was and then shoved it harder and screamed.  In the meantime, now the whole cabin is screaming (nearly peeing their pants, I’m sure), I’m totally cracking up laughing, and J is on the floor curled up in a ball, still screaming.  Girls all over are screaming for someone to turn on the light, not knowing what has been in the cabin that has their leader so scared, and I stealthily sneak back out the restroom.

Little did I know, when I went over to my cabin right after this incident, I look at my bed and three (yes, THREE) of my girls are curled up in my bed trying to scare me.  They didn’t know what just happened and I certainly did not plan for what just happened and yet here they are taking after their leader.  I kick them out of my bed back to theirs and then head back to the other cabin to apologize.  Before I could even leave my cabin though, two of J’s girls attacked me with pillows….not playing around attack but like, pay back.  I deserved that…fair enough.  I walk over and J’s still curled up in a ball.  :-(  I really messed up this time.  I apologized profusely and told the sister cabin girls that the girls in my cabin actually tried doing the same thing to me of sitting in my bed.

One of the girls quickly chimed in, “it’s because you are being a bad example.”  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was supposed to be a leader, someone they could look up to, someone to follow the lead from and I just nearly killed one of my friends in a fit of overwhelming fear.  ((I would soon know the fear I put her through with the thought of someone being in my living place without my knowledge…read blog here if you’d like)).  I not only really scared a friend and made it extremely hard for any of the girls in her cabin to get a good night sleep that night but I also was a terrible example to both the girls in my cabin as well as the other ones.

The next day was a wreck for me personally.  I don’t like failing, especially in ministry.  I continued to apologize to J.  I apologized to her whole cabin and sought their forgiveness.  I apologized to my cabin for the terrible example that I was for them.  I asked for forgiveness from God but for a whole day, I could not forgive myself. 

I walked in shame all day.  How could you?  You should have been the leader……… you should have known better………… you caused nightmares…………. What if one of those girls did lose her bladder from laughing or screaming? ………you’d be over and all ministries null and void…..

I dug a pit deep and wide and buried myself in it.  My poor cabin…my poor small group….I was a wreck that whole day and I’m sure everyone knew it.  And all for what???  What did my guilt profit me?  I could not go back and change a thing about what I had done. 

I had to choose if I was going to continue to walk in shame, or if I would walk in grace.  Walk in the grace and forgiveness of my God and Savior.  Walk in the grace shown to me through my friend J in her quick forgiveness.  Walk in the grace of knowing that my girls were following God and Christ was their example -- not me.  Walking in the grace that I wasn’t and I can’t be perfect.  I will mess up.  And though this wasn’t a sin issue necessarily, I do sin and I do mess up, but God’s grace is sufficient and His payment paid in full.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying to take God’s grace for granted.  Romans 6:1-2 say “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we, who died to sin, still live in it?”  I don’t want to continue to walk in sin and I DO want to be a good example to those around me.

But sometimes, a good example is showing our faults.  My pride often wants me to appear flawless but my flesh does not allow me to keep that look for long or at least not honestly.  So I can either try to paint on the mask continually and present a very fake and unattainable “Christian life” to the teens that I work with, or I can walk in His grace showing that hey……….it’s not easy….I’m not perfect………..I fail and mess up……..even today……. And you will too.  You’ll mess up.  And that’s ok.  His grace is sufficient for that too. 

I hope to seek to walk in His grace knowing the grace He has shown me in all things and hope to extend that grace to others too rather than judging or pushing them to be better/perfect.  My life long effort of being the best only led to a prideful mess.  I don’t want myself or those I work with to be carbon copies or molded idols or Sunday school answers or goodie two shoes.  I want them to be real, knowing that this walk to which we were called is not an easy one.  We will struggle and we will face persecution.  I paint a misconstrued picture when I lose the transparency and give the pat answers and pharisitical religiosity.  

I’m not your typical prankster but I am certainly not perfect.  God’s not done with me yet.   Want to take a walk of grace with me?

Until next time,
In Christ,
Joy Lynn

Sunday, August 4, 2013

July---A summer update


This probably won’t be too in depth or detailed but I did want to write a little just to catch you up on the reason for my elongated absence from writing.  The desire to write is there but the time and motivation haven’t been on the same page so maybe later…

But, let’s see….a quick rundown of life this last month. 

I’ve been to two funerals and one renewal of vows.  The first event was a funeral of a local woman who actually played a major part in starting the church I currently attend.  I never met the woman, but I knew she was a strong pillar of faith and wanted to honor that.  I was greatly refreshed by the testimony shared among those she personally touched and I think the biggest take away I had was that it’s not the words you say, or those quotable quotes that people will remember, but the time you spent and the love that you poured in over the years that makes all the difference.  The woman clearly loved Christ and shined brightly as a beacon for Him throughout her life. 

The second funeral took me out to Ohio unexpectedly to attend the ceremony for my uncle.  It was not the circumstances that I would have desired for a trip to Ohio, but it was a blessing to see and spend time with many members of the family, including my father.  I hadn’t seen dad since Thanksgiving and not sure when I’ll see him again, so it was nice to catch up some.  It was also a tremendous blessing to spend days with my Grandpa/Uncles/Aunts/Cousins.  We don’t come together often enough as a family in one location, so it was nice to have that time.

The third of those said events was a special blessing, being able to watch my precious friend, Anna, renew and speak her vows with her husband, children, and extended church family present.  Anna and her family have since moved down to North Carolina and are getting acclimated there, but I am glad to have been a witness to the beginning of a new chapter in her life.  God has done great things in you, my friend!  Keep on, keeping on!

If anyone is keeping up, specifically on my Facebook page, you’d know I am one to travel a lot.  I decided that this summer, I would try an experiment and “live alone” on my own for the summer to get acclimated with the single life, but to be honest, I’ve only had almost two weeks at my actual house alone since the summer has begun.  To be technical, I’ve spent more time in Maine than I have in New Hampshire since June 18th.  22 days in Maine, 21 days in New Hampshire (6 being outside of my “house” when I was house sitting for friends and two of those days being at SoulFest for the entire day so let’s call it 13 days at the house literally), and 4 days in Ohio. 

Allison and I at SoulFest 2013. Notice the Mainer wearing a hoodie and the Texan rocking the no sleaves.....I was totally built for New England.

So that brings me to Maine…oh, how I LOVE Maine.  I think Maine is my hearts home.  After being acclimated and laying roots there for six years, I’ve made connections that have endured all six of those years, and many that have come along the way.  I have families there that have adopted me in and I already have a standing and firm invitation to Christmas 2013 with one of those families that is dear to me.  For those who don’t know, I served with Camp Good News® of Maine for 4 full summers (2007-2010) and this summer, though I can’t commit to full summer ministry anywhere, I was able to volunteer a few weeks there and it blessed my socks off.  I already posted about my 10 days of Christian Youth in Action® (see here) but I went back later in July to work as a counselor and team leader for their Teen Camp.  One of the biggest blessings of Teen Camp was getting to reconnect with an old friend and being able to serve together as well as pray for one another as the week went on.  I hope and am praying that I might have one more week of ministry available there before the summer winds down.   
 Amanda Nkamwesiga and I at CGN's Teen Week.  Amanda and I met years ago at camp and since then had gone off to work for Word of Life, first in the states and now in Uganda.  We hadn't seen each other in years so it was sweet to catch up.  Thanks for being a great prayer warrior for me!

This summer chapter of my life has me learning many lessons, some of which I hope to write about when the time is right.  But I’ll give you a glimpse at my heart and the lesson titles I’d give to what I am learning: Walking in Grace; Identity across borders; Acceptance/Forgiveness; and Legacy Building.  You can ask me specific questions about those titles if you’d like, but I’ll save an elaboration on here for another day. 

In the meantime, this week is set aside for more intensive school year preparation.  First day of school is only three weeks from tomorrow (*gulp*) and I am scheduled to teach Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 again (this will be my third year with these subjects/curriculum) but I will also be teaching new courses to me of 8th grade math and U.S. History (11-12th grade).  Also, though I helped teach Physical Education last year, I am restructuring it in hopes of making a more legitimate program and teaching a Community Service class along with that.  AND, I hope to be involved some with the Soccer program and Basketball program as well as start up a new Student Leadership group that will act as an Honor Society of sorts.  

My school load can feel pretty heavy at times but God is good and I am blessed with the job He has provided and the students I am blessed to teach.

So needless to say, lots on my plate for the new school year…this is why I took the summer off to plan (HA!).  Here’s hoping for a massively productive week ahead!  Wish me luck (or better yet, pray for me!) 

Until next time,

In Christ,

Joy Lynn