Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joyfully Dedicated

"And Betsie, don't be too harsh in your judgment. Remember, you wear a wedding ring that symbolizes you're married to Christ, and yet, a lot of times, you don't act like it. I would hope that if you were really married you wouldn't act like this!" Mom and daughter heart-to-hearts while washing dishes are the best, I totally recommend it at least once a month. Week. Day. The statement above was just a snippet from one of ours earlier this week, and the honesty was so needed. My mom and her friend Wisdom, everything they said was true, brutally so; but she was also wrong. "I would hope that if you were really married you wouldn't act like this"?
But I am really married...

Betsie Joy. That's my name. "Betsie" is derived from its lengthier sister "Elizabeth", and "Elizabeth" means: Dedicated to God. Then there's Joy, my middle name.

joy (joi)
a. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.
b. A source or an object of pleasure or satisfaction.
1. To enjoy.
2. Something causing such a feeling: a source of happiness.
a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight.

Betsie Joy--Joyfully Dedicated to God. Joyful "by the prospect of possessing what one desires'; joyful because I am dedicated to Him, I am His and He is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3) No matter where I go in my life, no matter who I do or don't know in twenty years, I will never be able to run away from His for His name is my name and not only was I created to be His, but my own parents have given me to Him.
Before I was born, before I was even conceived, my parents were pregnant with a younger sibling for my older sister. That sweet child--it died while still in the womb, coming and going without even living. However, because that child never began its life, I began mine. I was conceived, knit together, mere months after my mother's miscarriage. Yet, even though they had already lost one sweet baby, without even holding them once, and I really shouldn't have existed in the first place--they still named me Betsie. Betsie Joy. They still joyfully dedicated me to our Lord, the One who created me and kept me alive in my mother's womb, just like Hannah did Samuel. ("And she said, 'Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.'" -1 Samuel 1:26-28)
For my trip to Thailand, my mom wrote me a letter which I read during my fourth week there. It was a beautiful letter...letting me go. My mom and dad were the ones who bought the golden wedding band which I haven't removed from my ring finger for nearly a year now. They were the ones who prayed for the Lord to give them a child, and then once they had me, they prayerfully gave me back to the Lord. My parents have always encouraged me to follow my dreams, whether that was running a Bed & Breakfast when I was twelve, or being the Queen of England when I was nine. I'm beginning to learn that they mean what they say, even when those dreams lead me away from them and to Him. Because as my mom said to me through blue words on a notebook page, I am His before I am theirs. I am His daughter, and I am dedicated to Him.

After fifteen years of bearing and carrying it, my name's meaning finally means something to me and now I want to live my life in such a way so as to live out my name. Joyfully dedicated to my Lord for He is my Maker and my Father and in Him, if I drink deep, I will forever be satisfied.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them."
-Psalm 126:5-6

His plans are so much higher than ours, His thoughts beyond our capacity to comprehend. He orchestrates everything, and is the universe's Conductor. I yearn to possess the faith to always trust and believe in this. Not just when I've harvested and am returning rejoicing, but also when I first set out with seeds to sow. It is my desire that there would never be tears shed out of hopelessness and despair, but only joy joy joy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Beautiful Things

"We're Christians--what does that look like?" Mrs. Amy Lancaster, who lives at WeWillGo, the homeless outreach ministry my family and I have been a part of for several years now, asked us this morning. Well, on July 9th, 2011, it looked like over a hundred brothers and sisters in Christ, the body of Christ, joining together to read the entire Bible over the course of a few hours. Today, being a "Christian" looked like a group of five reading passages out of Ezekiel, literally speaking life into and over a 21st century Valley of Dry Bones, prophesying and believing that the Lord would bring life where there has been death. It looked like children, black and white, sitting without the bondage of racism and fear on the porches of abandoned crackhouses, houses in which fugitives have hidden and alcoholics have wasted their lives, helping their parents slay Jackson's Goliaths of drug addiction and poverty through faith. It looked like people with controlled, suburban lives allowing the Lord to control their lives for a few hours, and, by doing so, they found themselves becoming a part of the lives of the sweet, bewildered homeless men and women wanting to know what all these crazy white folk were doing babbling on their corners and blocks.
It looked like reading the Word of God on streets that had truly never heard it before. Not once. And those streets, those people--they were parched. Cracked pavement from the heat and from lack of attention; streets that, in people's eyes, lack worth. Houses that once were homes for families, a refuge. Families once dwelt there, put up Christmas trees there, married there, gave birth there; but now they are only dark caves for people who have run away from their families to crawl into. Once man-made streams are now man-made dumps for used syringes, cast-off-falling-apart right sneakers, garbage, etc. This is my city, the very heart of my state--can the body possibly prosper when the heart is so...sick?
It's not the Lord's plan for it to be parched, and, thankfully, it was His city before it was mine. So if it is His city, and it's always His desire to make all things beautiful (Ecc. 3:9-11) in His perfect timing (Isa. 55:8-9)--what does that mean for Jackson, Mississippi?
It means that restoration, that beauty are coming to flood over the streets, blocks, and crackhouses of Mississippi's capitol.
I walked up and down my group's assigned--practically abandoned--street, and as people in my small group took turns reading aloud passages out of 2 Chronicles and Ezra, I held my youngest sister's hand and we played a game. It's called the Let's-See-How-Many-Beautiful-Things-We-Can-Find game, and the only rule was that you had to find the beauty that was around you; because it was there. Veins of lush green shoots running all criss-cross over the cracked lane; mimosa flowers still in bloom above our heads that sunshine danced through; an empty lot that with just a cutting could be a superb baseball lot; wild bushes that could bear fruit with a little tender and care, a polluted stream that, maybe someday, could run clear and be a place where children could splash during summer without fear of broken glass shards and bare needle points. We counted those beauties, the ones that were already before our eyes--the pink mimosa flowers, the strong grass shoots breaking through the concrete--, and we counted the ones that we could see would come to be, by faith and hope.

"You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
Isaiah 55:12-13

I prayed this verse over the street I walked, and I prayed in absolute faith that these things would come to pass in Jackson because I have already seen them come to pass in other cities, in the lives of others, and in my own life. Where I had planted briers, I have watched Him prune in a hurt-so-good kind of way and then lovingly and tenderly sown seeds of beautiful myrtle, and then water them with the Living Water that only He can offer and the blood that only He shed. Where I had allowed thornbushes to grow in my life, which, over time, cut me savagely and mercilessly, He has completely removed them so that a mighty and strong juniper could spring up. He has made a beautiful thing out of me so that I can better give Him the glory, and He has made beautiful things out of all of His children because He just absolutely adores us.
He doesn't just stop with us, with you and me. He can make beautiful things out of everyone. But why would He just stop there? He could make a beautiful thing out of Jackson, a beautiful thing out of Mississippi, a beautiful thing out of our country, a beautiful thing out of our nation...He could make a beautiful thing out of our entire world.
Oh. He can. And He does.