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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Sacrifice of Time

This year (and really every year) for Christmas, the top of my wishlist was a hand written letter, followed relatively closely behind by hugs and boxtops-for-education.  I am a pretty basic kind of girl in my wants and thought my list was easy to accomplish because it’s wicked cheap and affordable compared to many other potential gifts.  Save your money and write your words/thoughts instead was what I said. 

But this season particularly, it has been abundantly clear that though my request requires very little money invested, it is still a hard gift for others to want to give.  As one friend put it in her letter to me this year, “A letter-a letter takes time; a letter takes thought; a letter takes heart.” 

It is much easier to browse a store, find a Joy mug, fill it with candy and wrap it up than it is to sit down with paper and pen and write a letter.  And I get it, I am a 28 year old anomaly.  I don’t have a husband or kids rivaling for my attention.  I’ve got loads of quiet hours to myself and can pause Netflix for a quiet moment unlike my friends who are still searching for the mute button on their own children.  Letter writing is not as much of an opportunity cost for me as it is for my loved ones so I try my very best to be understanding.  And I am oh so thankful for those who do take the time to write up personal messages on a pre-fab Christmas card or take up with paper and pen and write a hand written note to slip into an envelope to be sent on its way to me.  I even have students this year who put personal messages in their cards to me….these sweet personalized messages mean so very much to me. 

The thought…the intent…the words…the heart…..the sacrifice of time…It is noted and I am so thankful for it.  I am thankful for the other gifts and the pre-feb cards too.  They remind me to be thankful for the gift of friendships and human connections and to remember to keep in mind both giving and receiving languages of love.  I love receiving letters but I also love giving them….but maybe those who receive them from me would have been happier about a practical gift or a monetary contribution.  I guess it’s all a balance and finding how to be love someone else balancing “being myself” with “preferring one another in love” (Romans 12:10 & Philippians 2:3) 

But speaking of sacrifice, this is a time of the year where Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  I know you’d think more sacrifice equating with Easter, and it does, but I think it’s fair to bring it into the Christmas story too.  Jesus sacrificed His oneness with God to take on the flesh of a human and to be “with us” (Matt. 1:23).  His life and ministry here on earth took time, heart and thought as He poured into humans relationally, educationally, through healing and ultimately through dying, providing the only everlasting cure to the disease to which we all suffer being sin.  His written Word, the Bible took the time of several, cost many men their lives, and yet it remains a beautiful “letter”, if you will, giving insight from the past, application for the present and hope for the future through Jesus Christ, the Lord. 

So as Christmas is just around the bend, let us be thankful for the gifts that may be around the tree and the gifts of family and friendship shared across the board, but may we not lose sight of the best gift of all, wrapped not in wrapping paper, but in scraps of cloth and not placed under a tree, but laid in a feeding trough, so that He could come to this world to save you and me.  Thank God for His sacrifice for all time through Jesus Christ.

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Until next time,
Merry Christmas and wishing you a happy new year,

Joy Lynn

Monday, December 7, 2015

Help me to find Joy

Sometimes I sit curled up in a ball, looking up, enclosed by all these walls…walls I built to bury me away, walls I built, to keep the curious at bay. 

Other times I stand upon a trestle high, looking up I can see the sky, but looking down to the cold hard ground, I see the hole where I’m often found. 

Day by day, week by week, I never quite know where moment by moment I will be, mountain high or valley low, some days fast and other days slow.

Roller coaster, can you subside, let me off the track and take a rest this one time, to find my footing and steady my nerves, to give me the courage to face the next few curves?  

Dear God, please, help me to be, steady and strong even when I am utterly weak, for I’m crippled and broken and used up, You know, so please, if You are willing, make me whole.

But if not, help me to be, at least able to deal with what’s right in front of me and give me hope and rest and lasting peace.

For I’ve knocked on many doors, but You must have the key, so help me find the Joy, that I was purposefully named to be. 

Joy Lynn

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hope to Remember and Not Forget

November 1st will make 12 years since my mother passed away.  I was only 16 at the time.  That means that four years from now, I will be at the break even point of life where I will have lived the same amount of time (and then longer) than I had lived with mom present.  That’s a weird thought.

And I know that I write often enough about my mom and I know it may drive you crazy.  I promise you it’s not all I think about.  I promise you that I don’t live in constant depression over it.  But it does flair and there are definitely certain times of the year that it’s more prevalent than others and if you don’t understand, that’s ok too. 

I write to remember because one of my biggest fears is to forget.  There is so much I have already forgotten and so much that has to be spurred on by the thought/memory of someone else to reshape the memory in my own head.  Sometimes I wonder what’s true memory and what images I conjured up over time to fill the void of memory.

But regardless, the last few days for various reasons, I’ve been practicing the skill of remembering.  Remembering even if it hurts or makes me sad but remembering so that I can keep those treasured memories long term.

It’s interesting though.  Some of the sharpest memories I have seared into my brain are from November 1st-8th of 2003.  If you’ll bear with me (or you can stop reading), I want to list my memories because when I list my memories, I am reminded to count my blessings and treasure the people that came alongside the roughest of times.  (This list will be incomplete.  I can name names of those I didn’t get to specifics on here but remember moments and times you were there.  Thank you for being there.)

Saturday, November 1st-
I remember coming home with dad after seeing the movie Radio in the movie theater (Dad, thanks for taking me to movies and football games and restaurants and making memories with me).  Mom was supposed to be out shopping but we soon realized why she was not.

I am thankful for our neighbors who were outdoors having a Halloween Party.  I lived next to a daycare so she had CPR training and rushed over to help until the ambulance/police arrived.

I remember arriving at the hospital and the small waiting room so jam packed of my relatives and pastor, there were no more chairs and I excused myself.

I remember calling my volleyball coach to tell her what I was going on.  I am so thankful for the impact that so many of my coaches, teachers and other faculty at the school played in my life.  I asked her to be in charge of letting the school administration know in hopes that the administration would let my teachers know so that I wouldn’t have to tell anyone.

Sunday, November 2nd-
I am pretty positive we were in church.  Our house was inundated with food and flowers and gifts.  The support network of church and the school district that both my parents worked for rallied around us.

Monday, November 3rd-
In my 13 years of public school education, I was only absent one day and that was in 2nd grade because I had surgery.  I packed up my things and headed to school as normal….I needed some normalcy in my life and some distraction.

I got to school early (6:30ish) and hit up two of my normal places.

I snuck my way into the athletic locker rooms to put stuff away and the first person I saw that day was a coach who was beaming with a smile and she bid me a “good morning” to which I am sure I replied a dry “morning” to.  I knew she didn’t know at the time, but by afternoon, she came to find me and apologized profusely with her beaming “good morning” etched hard into her mind.  She didn’t know.

After this encounter, I headed over to the training room.  I was really tight with the athletic trainer and it was one of my favorite places to hang out.  I walked into the office and she was busy wrapping up ankles for the football guys that were soon to be headed to practice.  I knew she was busy but I wanted her to find out from me, so I found a sticky note and wrote a quick note about what happened and walked away.  I walked out and headed back towards the locker rooms but I maybe got halfway across the gym when she called out to me and bid me back.  A, you were a rock in my hard place and I am so thankful you walked me through that season and let me walk you through when you faced almost the same within the next year or so. 

Also that morning before school started, 7:15 or 30, I’d guess, I headed over to the counseling department that was settled in to the center of the school (financial aid and migrant counseling).  There were three women that worked in that area and I was close to them all.  I had spent a lot of time in those offices since I was a sophomore so I knew those ladies well and they were dear to my heart.  I sat in the financial aid office first just spacing, trying to figure out how to tell Ms. G but I didn’t know how.  All these women knew my mom.  My mom was a fixture when it came to anything involving me.  My mom was the one that got me and Ms. G connected in the financial aid office knowing that I was going to need all the help I could get for college readiness financially.  Anyway, I didn’t know how to tell Mrs. G, so I popped my head in at the migrant office and told the two ladies there so that they could pass it on because I just couldn’t tell her myself.  They told her and then nearly forced me to return home, but I am wicked stubborn so I stayed and they let me.  They kept a close eye on me though, as did many people.

General School Interactions:
My very first class on Monday mornings was Spanish 3.  It just so happens that October 31st-November 2nd is a Mexican holiday called Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  So of course, in my Spanish class that was going to be the topic of discussion.  I sat down and was writing notes back and forth with one of my good friends in the class.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I simply wrote “I lost my mom” to which she replied, “what do you mean, you lost her?”  As only epic timing would have it, as we were passing notes back and forth, my teacher announced to the class that my mom had passed and somehow tied it into Dia de los Muertos.  I looked at my friend and it was like a light bulb turned on so fast, it blew a fuse.  Speaking of blowing a fuse, I was peaved at how that news was handled.  I don’t know what I was expecting though…everyone would find out and yet I showed up to see it all unravel.

My English teacher wasn’t there that Monday so when she returned to class on Friday, the news of mom’s death was old news and assumed knowledge.  She was giving a writing prompt and someone asked her to give an example of what she would write about.  She then began talking about her own mother, who was 99, soon to turn 100 years old, in decent health.  She went on and on about how thankful and grateful she was to still have a mother as my teacher was a grandmother herself.  I felt sick so for the first time ever, I walked out of class.  I couldn’t handle it anymore.  It felt so very unfair.  I felt robbed.

As I was walking in the English hall towards the bathrooms, one of my former teachers stopped me to ask if my mom found me.  I was shocked and asked for clarification.  Turns out my mom was in the building the Friday before looking for me and she had asked my former teacher so he was just touching base.  I said yes she had found me and moved along.  He also later found me, hugged me and apologized.  Talk about epic timing but story of my life….

I got two postboard cards from people at the school.  Signatures and well wishes from close friends and people I didn’t even know.  Several hundred signatures filled up those posterboards.  As much as I muscled through those last two years of high school, I can’t deny that people didn’t try…I just built my walls high.

I remember my friends and teammates who just sat silently by but I was so very thankful.  They didn’t shy away because they didn’t know what to say.  Just stuck by my side.  I remember my coaches, bringing me into the office, letting me sit on top of the tabletop and just letting whatever happened happened.  Sometimes it was listening to me spill, sometimes watching me cry, sometimes asking questions, or speaking wise words.  Always open doors though.  Several of my teachers were the same way.  And as I said before, the training room was always a safe haven as was the counselors office. 

And then there is my family.  My wonderful family who rallied, supported, encouraged and mourned with us.  Thank you for your love, support, guidance, and prayers.  Thank you for as long as I was living down there, keeping up with the tradition of having birthday dinners on birthday months and keeping food and family close.  J 

So to the family, friends, acquaintances who knew mom and saw me through those years after mom passed.  I apologize for my selfishness in the walls I built and leaving them up for years.  But I thank you so much…for being there and understanding….for continuing to understand…for continuing to remember.  For continuing to feed me memories so that I can truly say, that though mom is gone, Hope still lives on.   

Until next time,
May the memories pile on,


Sunday, September 6, 2015

If we...

If with a bit of ink, a heart could be heard,
If with open ears, lines could be blurred,
If we let down our guards and stop building walls,
Maybe we’d be there to soften the falls.

We may never know how close they are to the edge,
But maybe through our investment we can build a hedge,
Because every soul is precious and just wants to be fed,
Truth and love to fight the lies that multiply in their head. 

Cut to the chase and see beyond the skin,
A kindred spirit may be lurking within,
So dig a little deeper and persistently mine,
Diamonds take work and are hard to find by design.

If we put down the paint that’s been making facades,
Maybe we’d be surprised, even if against all odds,
Every soul could be loved amidst the flaws,
Because though love is messy, it’s still a worthy cause.

Joy Lynn

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Teacher's Prayer (9/30/2012)

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.


Joy Lynn

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Journey by Foot (pictures included)

Many of you know that I had foot surgery back on June 26th to remove several plantar warts from my heel.  Some may be curious to see a few pictures pre and post surgery but don't want to ask, so this is how I have decided to share them as I don't want to scar anybody by simply posting it on facebook without the possibility of it being unseen.  It's not terribly gruesome I think.  I will post three pictures with plenty of space between so you can stop where you'd like.

The first one will be a few days prior to surgery.  Over months, one wart turned into a dozen but up until I saw a podiatrist early in June, I simply thought I had one wart and a huge callus building around it.  Silly me....hence the need to take care of the warts quickly as they were spreading rapidly.  

The second one will be what it looks like now so you can see how much it's healed up in the last month and change.  The new skin still feels tender but I am also trying not to baby it too much.  The last of the open wound drainage finished Wednesday, July 29th so it took a while for that skin to form completely.  Since then, I've gone down from lots of bandage and padding to nothing at all on my foot.  We'll see what my doctor thinks of that tomorrow...  :-X

The last picture will be of my foot the day after surgery.  It is the most gruesome of them all so I am saving it for last so you can skip it if you don't want to see.  I find it interesting to look at though because it's crazy to know how much that part of my heel has healed over time.  God is good and restorative in both physical aspects as well as spiritual ones.  Anyway here we go.....

June 19th, 2015

August 3rd, 2015
That white speck in what I call the "dime" is just the glare from the light, so no worries there.  

Lastly, June 27th, 2015, the day after surgery and the first time I had seen my foot.

So yeah, that's three time period snap shots of the journey so far.  I took a picture almost every day since surgery and that's fun to flip through and see how much it's changed and healed day by day.  

I can walk normally on it though the more I walk in a day, the more it feels tender over time.  I can run short distances on it but I haven't tested it with lengthier adventures just because I am not sure what I would do if that fragile layer of skin tore.  But day by day, it's getting better, the future is looking brighter and school is moving every I better get  back in gear!  

Thanks for those who prayed me through the journey!  I appreciate you muchly!  

Until next time,

Friday, July 3, 2015

Martha, Martha, Martha…..oh wait, wrong show…

When it comes to relatable people in the Bible, Martha is my kindred spirit.  Now I am may not be quite the homemaker or as practically hospitable as she was, but I definitely find worth in service and doing instead of being.

I don’t “be” well.  There are many things you could tell me about who you say I am, that I would never believe for a second.  But I will take your compliments for what I do because I can see tangible evidence.  It’s much easier for me to accept credit to the concrete rather than to the transient. 

Oh boy, that last sentence sure sounded self righteous didn’t it?  A whole lot of self dependence going on right here…  God’s Word says that “without faith it’s impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6) yet so often, I am not acting in faith of Him but instead presenting my service to Him.  Faith and works are a delicate balance with the biggest role being played by motivations of who we seek to please and also who we are depending on in the process.

Service and work is not innately bad and I imagine Martha wasn’t meaning ill will when she was laboring hard in the kitchen while Jesus visited in the living room.  It’s not that she didn’t care about her honored guest… was likely quite the opposite.  She *did* because that’s what *loving* looked like for her.  She saw a need in feeding the guest and was determined she must fill it or heavens, the people may go hungry.  She hoped that her service to Him would please Him, whether He asked for it or not.

There are a lot of people out there doing good things for God and sacrificing whole heartedly in hopes of it pleasing Him.  And hey, it totally may be pleasing to Him so if that’s what God is calling you to, do it with your whole heart.  But I do know that I am often guilty of serving God more than I am worshiping Him….that I do more for Him than with Him.

 This revelation explains a lot of the struggles I have had recently concerning my intended plans for the summer.  A week ago I had to have surgery on my foot and the timing of the surgery ruined my well intentioned plans to serve at camp.  I love camp and have been pleased that for eight years, I have been able to participate in some way in the ministries of CEF and serve God in that capacity.  It broke my heart to have to call camp and tell them I would have to pull out of being part of CYIA and Week 1 because for one, I love the people and the ministry there, but for two, I thought I was letting them down.  That with a man down, they would be scrambling and that they had somehow lost out because I would not be present.

It was quite the opposite.  They were overstaffed and the girls’ side was just kind of overflowing, so my absence was a non-issue if not a bit of a relief.  When I learned all that, sitting here on my recliner with my foot kicked up, I felt like I had been handed a big slice of humble pie.  They didn’t need me at all.  I know they would welcome me and were sad to hear that I couldn’t make it, but I wasn’t a necessity.  The show still went on, because though I wasn’t there, God was and He went to work in a mighty way.

Because I couldn’t’ be at camp, I resolved to pray whole heartedly for the ministry there and kept in touch with a handful on campus to learn of progress made and praised God with them.  Though I wish I could have seen it with my own eyes and experienced it myself, it was so sweet to hear how God was working there.

Through many discussions I had with God this week about my current state, it’s been neat to see how He has worked here too.  He took me out of the kitchen and laid me up so that I could remember it is all about Him.  He can work without me just fine….but that said, He also seeks to work in and through me.  He just wants it to be out of a right relationship and dependency on Him and not myself.  When I trust Him with my whole heart and follow His lead, the pleasing Him runs in the same vein. 

Until next time,
In Christ,
Joy Lynn

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Security Blanket

I can remember back to a specific time in 2010.  I was at Christian Youth in Action and I had just finished my year of bible school and the camp director asked me to share something at the CYIA closing ceremony along with two other people.  I stood up there and talked about how after going to university and getting a teaching degree, I realized I loved teaching and though my students succeeded at standardized testing, it was making little eternal impact.  After a year of Bible school, I realized how I wanted to take teaching and use it in a setting where I could also speak from a Biblical worldview, model that as best as I could, and invite students to have the same relationship with God that I had.  The part that still sticks out to me clear as day though, was towards the end of my little sh-peel, I said “my goal had always been the American dream, graduate high school, go to college, get a job, be financially secure, retire and then die….and though I was on that path, I was discontented in that it would only serve myself so I wanted to choose a different path and sought to work in ministry where I’d get to do what I love, and though I may not get paid a ton and be able to save a ton, the opportunity to change lives for eternity would be abundant.  Sounds lovely dovey, don’t it?

Then a year later, I got my chance to put it all into practice.  Got a full time ministry job that didn’t pay a ton comparatively to the same job in the public schools but had lots of opportunity to dig and pour into students here in New Hampshire and I have loved it.  But guess what also happened along the way?  I still held on to that need to be financially secure.  In the last four years, I’ve saved every penny I could and heaped it into a pile (or technically account) that I call my “emergency fund”…..yes, I did take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University back in 2009, so there…  That emergency fund is there in case of emergency…..saving for a rainy day because you never know what will come your way.  I spent most of the last six months teaching my Economic students that….it’s important to save because you never know when it’ll rain and sometimes when it rains it pours so it’s important to have your ducks in a row then, then have to scramble and feel your way out of the peril of debt.

And then the rains came…..

A few things have piled right into my lap that are huge monetary expenses.  Theoretically, yes, some of them I could work out to get on a payment plan to not have such a hard hit at first, but then I pay interest and then I’d be in debt and the only INTEREST I have is to NOT be in debt… 

But boy, to see the money flying out of my account makes my tummy churn and heart hurt.  I saved that money for a rainy day and then when the rains came and started to wash the money away, it felt like the foundation under me was being swept away too. 

I’ve been independent for so long, that it’s hard to see it go away because what if the rain keeps coming and it all goes away…what then?  It took years to save this and imagining it all being gone just takes my breath away.

And then I think of my friends who live pay check to pay check and leap from God-thing to God-thing….. I am always amazed at my friends faithfulness to God through those unknown times and in awe of the numerous way God provides in each situation moving them along from base to base and never abandoning them.

So why can’t I trust?  Is it because I’ve always had so there was no want or need to trust solely on Him?  Have I grown so self-reliant that it will take a full on tsunami to tear me down to the roots and start again only trusting in Him? 

I hope not….but what if He does anyway?  Will I be able to say as Job (1:21) said, ““Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord”? 

Maybe as much as I want to fight it, the security blanket must be ripped away so that I fully grasp that only in Him am I secure at all.  Maybe He wont…..but maybe He will.  I pray that no matter the outcome, my heart will continually say, Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Until next time,
In Christ,

Joy Lynn

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Sometimes you’ve just got to give up, give in,
Let surrender begin.

You’ve hit a fender, life’s in a blender,
Best to just simply surrender.

Stop fighting for rights and turn out the lights,
You’ve fallen from seemingly new heights.

Rock bottom is cold, no longer feeling so bold,
But at least this solid foundation will hold.

Look up and see, there’s no reason to flee,
You just want to be set free.

Reach out your hand and then take a stand,
Seek the only One who can truly understand.

You’re not alone, even in this combat zone,
Surrender and His grace will surely be shown.

Give up the fight that is fueled solely by spite,
Know that He sees you in your plight.

Surrender my dear, there’s no need to fear,
Know that He’s working even if it isn’t clear.

I know the road looks hard and you are standing firm at guard,
But know that I reach out with the sincerest regard.

But above all, seek God, as I know I am flawed,
But by Him, I am always utterly awed.

I love you, sweet friend, and I trust your heart, He’ll mend,
And I pray that on Him alone should you depend.

Joy Lynn

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Longing for Connection

She sits at the screen just passing time,
Consciously listening for that familiar chime.
Minute by minute, scroll after scroll,
New information is gathered but she feels like a troll.

Waiting for someone to just break through,
A new notification or a message out of the blue.
She sighs and she waits for a sign that someone cares,
The silence in her mind is more than she can bear. 

She’s looking for love in all the wrong places,
Twitter, Facebook and even MySpace’s. 
A connection with someone brings validation,
But a silent day causes self deflation.

So where should she go when she feels all alone?
Messages go unread and no one answers the phone?
Turn to the One who will never let go. 
Hebrews 13:5 says He’ll be there, you know?

So turn off the computer and silence your phone,
Find yourself on your knees and before His throne,
Give Him your troubles, your worries, your fears,
Lay down your burdens, He’ll carry those tears.

Return to the One who loved you first,
Who has loved you in your best and your worst.
Find acceptance and love in His tender care,
When you long for connection, you can find it in prayer.

Joy Lynn

Saturday, May 16, 2015

New Year Souvenir's are...

...done for now.  Mostly because the new year is no longer new and I think the list accomplished it's purpose in opening doors to memory making and starting/encouraging new habits some of which have done well and others that haven't.  But I no longer plan to bore you with the run down of it.

That said, I did want to end the list on a high note because the biggest thing on the list was accomplished within the month.

I went to Texas for the first time since November 2012, so almost 2.5 years!  I missed it and it was so good to be back and catch up with family and friends there.  I was able to eat some delicious food, take some drives to admire how green everything was and how much the area had grown and I was also able to do a lot of sorting, packing and weeding out of my stuff.  I now have, if I remember correctly, six totes and two paintings left back home that I will eventually find a way to move up here if this is where I continues to reside.
I'm not a great or motivated picture taker but I'll let them tell some of the story and then wrap this one up and call it a souvenir list done well.

 This is the boat I got to sail around while in Texas. I simply called it the "boat".  The huge engine in this thing purred at higher speeds but it was a monster to try to park anywhere.
 My only home cooked meal of the trip, "bok choy" but got to have it twice so I was pleased.
 A wall decoration at the church that I liked.
 Whataburger is now in H-E-B, a Texas based grocery store, selling "fries" in a bag. It was interesting...  Not like a regridgerated bag but a potato chip bag, similar to potato sticks in a can.

 Texadelphia is still my favorite restaurant of all time.  Great sandwhich (it's actually a whole sub but I didn't think to take a picture til I was half way through my meal) that comes with chips and salsa and queso. SCORE!
 Palm tress because.....Texas............seriously, they are everywhere.  There is no where in the Valley that you can't see at least one palm tree on the horizon if you look all the way around.  Eeeeevvvveeerrryyyywhere!
 The fun of sorting.  Some old pictures ( Grandma, Mom and I.), an old gift to my mom, and part of my trading card collection.  I was that kid....
Taco Ole was my second favorite restaurant of this visit.  I got so full on chips and salsa and sweet tea though, that I had to eat most of my nachos as breakfast the next morning.
 Taco Fiesta also provided a solid serving of nachos and chips and salsa.  I love my Mexican food.
And last but not least, this is a picture of a brand-spanking-new Wal-Mart built in my hometown of Donna, Texas, population ~16,000.  My New Englanders are going to think that's a decent population to support a Wal-Mart but what you have to understand is there is a Wal-Mart in Alamo, six miles away, one in Weslaco, 3.4 miles away, and then a new type of Wal-Mart called a "Neighborhood Market-Walmart" that is 5.2 miles away if all you are looking for are the groceries.  That's further compounded by the fact that there is at least one H-E-B in every town as well, pretty much.  

So some take aways from my time in Texas....everything is bigger there.  I had grown accostomed to things here in New England and they no longer felt small but then I went back to Texas and everything was HUGE.  I don't think we need big things here in New England but there are some stark differences between life here and there.  I'm glad I don't have to deal with the traffic, especially in McAllen when transitioning between expressway and frontage road.  I learned that a huge boat of a truck feels great going 70mph on the highway which is the speed limit down there.  

Most of all though, I learned that no matter the distance, family and friends will always be near and dear.  I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with each of you as some allowed me to stay in their homes, gave me rides, took me out to eat or talked over coffee.  It was a blast and a blessing to get to see the ones I did and hopefully next time I go down, it'll be a tad longer so I can see more people and relax some.

And for those not in Texas but praying, thank you for that!  If you are bummed the list follow up is ending, feel free to shoot me a message and ask how life is going and I'll surely update you.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures of Texas.  Sorry, not sorry, that there are no pictures of me in there, besides of when I was a child.  I'm not the biggest fan of the other side of the camera lens.  

Hope y'all are doing well!  Take care and God bless!

Until next time,
Joy Lynn

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Why I Teach History

History is made by daily decisions.  One choice leads to another which paves a road you’ll call life.

Think of just the last 100 years.  Countries desire to be the best along with militant friendships led to World War I.  The rage over the punishments under the Treaty of Versailles fueled Nazi Germany and led to World War II.  The Yalta Conference meeting between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin would pave the way to situating the Soviet Union as a world power and lead to its the eventual  takeover of most of Eastern Europe.  Broken promises led to the separation of an entire continent and a 40+ year period of tension, anxiety and inconclusive conflict in several countries throughout the world. 

Like a book, one chapter leads to the next, and though individually, we may have little say in what the country or the world does, we do still have a voice to make and tell our own story.  Tis our choice and responsibility.

Just this week, my Economics class asked why I was teaching about the national debt.  It is so huge ($18 trillion… $18,000,000,000,000), impossible to overcome, and what can I/we do about it anyway? 

To answer that question, I teach it because the debt situation we are in is a stepping stone in history…one that hasn’t been fully realized yet, though we have seen the signs (recession and housing crash of 2007-2008).  Eventually the country will have to make hard decisions about the debt and really set their minds to cut spending and/or collecting more taxes and both choices are not popular to the general public.  In Greece, when spending was cut to relieve their debt crisis, the people revolted through nationwide strikes, violent and sometimes deadly riots and torching banks.  Will that be our nation’s next chapter as well?  I teach because we are making history and if we do not look ahead, we will continue to fall behind in our own ignorance.

So what can you do about it?  
  1. Pray for our leaders.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  
  2. Choose to be a leader yourself, taking a position of government/political authority or campaigning and speaking out for what you believe.  
  3. But most of all, I want to challenge you to take up the pen of your life and be ever aware of the choices you are making and how they pave the path of your life.  Know that the friends you make and the jobs you take will play a part in your story as a whole.  Know that you can learn from others mistakes and though you may not be able to solve the U.S. debt crisis, you are solely responsible for your own wealth and potential debt crisis.  

You may not be known in U.S. History but it is, at current, a mystery to how your history will touch the lives of those around you.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all these acts will be written the history of this generation.”  -Robert Kennedy

As a Christ follower, I like to take note of how His Story changed not only human history in paving the way to right relationship with God but also how His Story has impacted me personally.  I pray that as I write my story, the choices I make will reflect Him and that He gets all the glory.

So…what will be your story?  That is for you to decide.

Until next time,
In Christ,

Joy Lynn

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015 Souvenirs

I made a list at the start of the year to focus on five goals that I knew would bring memories to tuck away as souvenirs when I think about this year.  March is here and I rocked it...ish!

A. Shop Local

I started off the  month purchasing an array of candy from the New Hampshire Old Country Store in Moultonborough, NH on my way back from Maine, so not really local to me, but locally owned there and some great candy!  As far as local restaurants, I hit up New Socials burger night once and Big Fatty's BBQ in White River Junction, VT twice.  Superb restaurants!

On one particular Saturday this month, I went local crazy though and spent like $25.  I first went to Violet's Book Store to see my friend, Tim, who was hosting a book signing there, so I picked up a signed copy of his book as well as a book from the store.  I then headed to the Spice and Dry Goods store and bought some spices.  Then I went to a store that was closing and picked up two heavy duty plastic display trays for a buck a piece.  Then to a coffee shop (frozen coffee) and a Greek restaurant for some baklava.  Super and delicious success!

B. Household hop--At least three stops per month in someone else's house.
7 households this month but most were only one stop this month, which isn't a bad thing but starkly different from last month.  It was fun to get around and visit with people in their households.  Thankful for the hospitality of friends!

C. Legit meal--Once a week
Er....the reason I put this goal was because it was something to shoot for.  I'd say I nailed this 2 out of the four weeks this month, so progress but imperfect progress.  On a slightly related topic, this week I bought pork thinking it was beef and was a tad horrified when I was cooking it like beef and went to flip it over and it was white and not a seared brown.  It wasn't a failed experiment though...just an unexpected one.

D. Trip to Texas
So in less than a month now, Lord willing, I will be in Texas!  I haven't been in the state since 2012 so it's been a long time coming!  I'm pretty stoked and getting excited about seeing family and friends.  Also kind of excited to go through more of my stuff and sort it out to bring some treasures back with me.  But pretty close to the top of things I'm most excited about is food.  I'm a little bummed that I won't have enough time for it actually.  If all goes to schedule, I am scheduled to arrive at the airport near home at 12:11pm on Tuesday, which puts me just in time for lunch (yippie!!!).  I am scheduled to depart at 8am on Saturday (slightly bummed because my original booking was for the afternoon but they recently emailed me letting me know they changed my itinerary).  So that puts me home only 3.75 days (wow, that was the first time I did the math for that, and it's sort of depressing now as my original plan had me not leaving til 4pm....8 hours home taken away so fast...sad day).

Well, in order to pump myself back up, let me list for you my wish list of restaurants that I want to go to in my 3.75 days there!
1) Texadelphia (number 1 for fave!!!)
2) A tacqueria to order "tres bistek tacos con maize".
3) Whataburger....if all else fails, this will be my Saturday morning pre-airport breakfast...gotta love 24 hours a day serving burgers all that time...."I'll take a whataburger with bacon and jalepenos on the side."  For those of you that don't know, I don't want them on the side because I'm chicken...they seriously give you more jalepenos in the cup on the side than on the burger if you order it with jalepenos on it.  I'll take 10 slices over the 4 they put on the burger anyday!
4)  Chick-fil-A, this is a fave but near the bottom because if it didn't work out while I was home, I can always trek over to Nashua here and eat there if I was desperate.

So to be honest, I grew up eating out a ton which I don't do as much these days but when I think of Texas food, I often think of my favorite restaurants so that's kind of where my heart is at there. That said, I have an aunt that I will see who makes some of my favorite dishes too, so if she happens to read this, which I believe she will, I hereby request "bok choy" or the Tahitian haystack meal.  :-D  No pressure though.

Excited to see and visit with those I get to see.  Man, it's going to be a whirlwind...what was I thinking....?  Well, just a good reminder to soak up every minute of fellowship and every ray of sun I get.

E. Read more
Reading has been a weak spot but once again, that's why it's on this list.  Motivation!  I finished re-reading "How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes" by Irwin and Peter Schiff.  I have also started but not gotten extremely far into "The Candy Bombers" by Andrei Cherny so that's next on my list to knock out hopefully.

Beyond this list, March was pretty monumental to me personally in almost pushing a reset button on my life and the track I was on.  I thank God for the people and events/situations He used to wake up the sleeping giant and get me on a better path.  It's been a good month of learning, growing, praying and stretching.  Thanks for those who have come along for the ride.  I hope your March has you marching triumphantly and looking forward to Spring!

See you next time!
Joy Lynn

**Speaking of next time, April's run down and probably a recap of Texas in general will have to wait until early May as I'll still be in Texas as the calendar month flips so just a heads up there.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

At The Cross

At the cross my knees are weak,
All hopes for the future now look bleak,
Our Leader has been crucified,
The blood thirsty opponents pacified.

Days I spent sitting on my hands,
Jesus’ death lost Him many fans.
Together we sat simply vexed,
Asking "what are we to do next?"

I go to the grave to say goodbye,
But that’s when things really go awry,
The tomb is empty, He is not there,
I’m on my knees in total despair.

But He came along and pointed me to the cross,
“There was victory there and not a loss,
For My death paid sins payment you could not bear,
I can live with and in you now, so do not despair.”

At that cross is where the real journey begins,
Where He settled the debt of all our sins,
So tell all the world that that we can be free,
For He came to give hope to you and to me.

Joy Lynn

1 Corinthians 15:3-4
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures"

2 Corinthians 5:21
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Souvenir's from February 2015

As some of you may remember, I made a list at the start of the year to focus on five goals that I knew would bring memories to tuck away as souvenirs when I think about this year.  This month has proven that I've lost some steam.

A. Shop Local- Didn't happen in February, but I've already fixed that for March so I'm moving onward and upward here.
Sweet Miles

B. House Hop
Six house holds this month, each with at least two different day appearances.  And each stop was so fun.  There was the Super Bowl party, dinner and a movie night, game night, Sunday dinner, a birthday dinner, post Sunday evening service hang out, ladies brunch fellowship, making strawberry muffins and teaching a friend how to make kale chips.  And to end the month off, getting to spend a few days in Maine with one of the best friends and long time mentors anyone could ask for.  Many laughs, good times, and cuddles with her adorable little man who is just over 6 months old.  

C. Legit meal
About the only time I have a legit meal these days is when i get invited to a friends house for a meal.  The second week in February was my most legit week, with pretty solid meals through the week because I was supplied with both chili from Wendy's (I buy three larges and then parcel them out) and home made gumbo from a friend.  After that week, it was back to just getting by on the nights when I was on my own.  So this month, kind of a fail, but that's exactly why this one was on my list to begin with.  Something to shoot for....

D. Trip to Texas
Booked and waiting til April.  Just starting to think of a to do list for when I am down there but I've still got time.

E. Reading
I finished reading "In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?" by Charles Sheldon.  Excellent read, short, to the point, engaging and challenging.  Kind of begs the question, what will I do with the challenge put before me.  Guess time will tell.

Well, that about sums up February.  Hope everyone is enjoying life and making memories that are a blast and will last.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Souvenirs from January 2015

As some of you may remember, I made a list at the start of the year to focus on five goals that I knew would bring memories to tuck away as souvenirs when I think about this year.  This first month has gotten me off to a good start but let me first remind you of my souvenir wish-list.

A. Shop Local
B. Household hop--At least three stops per month in someone else's house.
C. Legit meal--Once a week
D. Trip to Texas
E. Read more

A. Shopping locally
My shopping local this month was to restaurants.  I stopped by New Socials on Burger Night to order a The Texans burger (of course!) which was a half pound patty with onion rings, bbq sauce, fresh
jalepenos, and pepperjack cheese inside and a side of delicious fries.

I also stopped in at the Red Barn Cafe across the river in Vermont, to pay a visit to the wonderful family that owns and runs the business and my (current as well as former) students who work there.  There, I cashed in with some delicious chili (extra jalepenos please) and some baked goodies (Almond Joy scone and chocolate raspberry muffin) to hold me through the following week.

Lastly, I went to Hitchin Post with a friend which is a locally owned and operated business but I totally spaced on taking pictures but local patronage delicious this month.

B.  House Hopping was popping this month!  I actually found myself in 5 different households this month with a few of those being more than one stop in.  After living here in New Hampshire for 3.5 years, my social network here has expanded and people are getting more comfortable with me and having me over so that's been really sweet.  Between playing games with children or adults, watching football, having dinner and tons of sweet conversation, I'd say this point was a success.  Thank you to each of you who have welcomed me into your home.  I hope to claim you again next month!  :-)

C. So honestly, it's been a pretty miserable fail on meal preparation and bringing a meal together all within a relative sitting.  On week one, I had my first success in having a small steak, roasted parmesan broccoli and homemade sourdough toast with strawberry chipotle jam (both of which I got for Christmas from good friends).

Beyond that, most of my complete meals come when I get invited to my friends (see point B above) house to have dinner with them.  Luckily, I have friends who have pity on me in that market.

D. Well, apparently just putting a trip to Texas on my wish list was enough motivation to get up and moving.  I am excited to announce that I will be taking a trip to Texas during my April vacation.  I haven't been back to Texas since 2012 so I miss my family and friends there dearly, and I haven't seen my dad since summer of 2013 so it'll be good to see the whole bunch there.

E. Reading has gotten off to a good start.  I actually received a book as a gift on Christmas and began to read that day, finishing the first eight chapters before the new year and finished the forty chapter book on January 17th.  The book is "Mimosa" and it is written by Amy Carmichael.  If you want to know the basic background of the story and then a poem I wrote about it, I'd encourage you to read my post, "The Well."  It is an excellent book, easy read and compelling story that challenged and encouraged me.  I'd highly recommend it.

I also finally finished reading "Unglued" by Lysa TerKeurst.  I started reading this book last year and got through the first eight chapters so I polished off the remaining four chapters this month.  This was a book that I didn't really know I needed until I'd read it in the midst of life.  Even as I write this, I reflect on how many times just today I've said to myself "feelings are indicators, not dictators" which is a line that repeats throughout the book.  I feel hard and I feel deep but I don't want to be a slave to my own raw emotion so it's important I step back and get some perspective before acting on my intense feelings and really unravel or as the book would say, become "unglued."  It was a good and challenging read.  One that I took a long time digesting but as a former student would say "it's good for ya!"

Lastly, as the month is coming to a close, I've begun reading "In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?" by Charles Sheldon which I received as a Christmas gift this last month and I'm also rereading "How An Economy Grows and Why it Crashes" by Peter Schiff which I like to use for my Economics class.  I'll report on those more once I finish them.

So as a wrap up, January was pretty sweet.  Some of the fun things that don't fall within my list but are still souvenirs for me to keep from this month are going to my students basketball game, playing basketball, two concerts by bands that I know personally and a chili cook off.

So what's your report?  Any progress on your new year wishes?  Any great souvenirs to hold on to from January 2015?  Here's hoping for a memorable February ahead for all!

Until next time,
Joy Lynn

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Well

I'll start with context..... I just finished reading the book “Mimosa” which is a true story of a woman that Amy Carmichael worked with.  The book is great and challenged my heart and perspective on many levels. Mimosa had heard a small drop about God when she was young and missionaries were speaking to her father trying to ask permission to teach the children.  Though that was the only seed that was planted, that seed grew and the roots became very deep even though she knew very little about this God whom she had so much faith in.  She was often shunned by the Hindu culture and caste in which she was surrounded by.  In a desperate time, she reached out to a family member who professed to be a Christian, for just some money and help but was totally shut out by them. One of the quotes from Mimosa after this happened that continued to stick out to me was when she said “Christians! Why were they so different from their God?” 
It was that quote and that context in which I wrote the poem below.  Later in Mimosa’s life, she came to know more about the God whom she so strongly had faith in without book knowledge but it was with no help from this “Christian” family that rejected her.  I don’t want to be a “Christian” in name that pushes people away from knowing and experiencing who Christ is.  I don’t want to see that for the Church as a whole either, and so in this mindset a prayer poem was born.

The Well

There once was a girl with a thirst in her heart,
like a tender seed planted along the way.
She was thrown a bone oh so long ago,
but then another pot of water never came.
She clung hard to life, and through pain and strife,
she continued to grow though storm clouds brewed.
Then the weeds they came, trying to leave her slain,
telling her that all the waiting was in vain,
and that the wishing well was no place to dwell,
she’d be better off casting spells.
But she clung to faith through the stormy days,
knowing that her faith had made her strong.
Her roots went deep and wide through her sacrifice,
even though she only had a seed of knowledge to go on.

But now hopes alive, she can see the well where true life abides,
it is flanked by folks on every side.
She draws close to find, searching for new life
but she’s astounded by the sights of those unkind.
The folks that congregate, oh they have little faith,
and the riches offered here are laid to waste.
The gossip abounds and the judgments prevail,
this well is surrounded by a clouded veil.
Not because the well is trying to hide,
but because the people around it have misapplied.

She pushes through the crowd to finally make her way,
to the well so deep and free.
She takes an empty pail and draws out from the well
and drinks it in so deeply.
All that pain and strife, it was worth the fight,
for the well that never will go dry.
Though the people fail, God’s well will always prevail,
giving life and liberty.

But Church, let’s take a stand, to not limit but expand
His reach to those found deep and wide….
---deep within their hurt and wide from offence of the hypocrisy of our lights.
Let us be the mirrors reflecting His own light,
shining deep into the hearts of men.
Let us not build walls to keep people out
and let not our stench of pride be such that no one wants in.
For His Word prevails, and He calls them home,
so who are we to not let them in?
I pray we lay down strife and seek to love others like Christ,
for it was His love in our most broken state that caused Him to pay the price,
and in His death our punishment sufficed.
I pray all come to this Well, and find life.

Joy Lynn