Friday, February 24, 2012

Hands Full or Hands Empty

From the Heart of Abigail Joy

I am a daydreamer. Sometimes I’m normal and I gracefully slip off into another state of mind—thinking about what we’re going to eat for dinner or the cute boy who sits in the third row—but not today. Today…I wrestle and get lost in deeper thoughts. Today I find myself slipping into Paul’s words…“Hands Full or Hands Empty”…to be truly grateful…with much or with little. Is this really possible? Some may shout a hardy YES! Then the camera lens zooms out to discover the hands of the hardy shouter overflowing with goodies.
Please take time to Stop. Really Wonder. What if everything was taken away from you? Everything you come into contact with—on a daily basis—or hold dear…all the “necessities”…Gone. Would you still be thankful? Beyond a doubt…thankful?

When I was away at school I was sent to the streets of Philadelphia for a class project. Technology was ripped away from our twiddling texting thumbs, no shopping money hidden in our pockets, no identification. Hmm, how hard was it to live without these little “luxuries” for one day? On a white sheet of paper was a list of tasks we were told to accomplish; finding local shelters, food banks, job applications, etc.

For anyone who has ever passed a human being sleeping on the street & stated in a snotty naive tone…why don’t they get off the bench and just get a job? Or assumed everyone on the street is a drug addict… Maybe you should go experience a day in someone else’s shoes…and wake up.

We learned hard truths that day.
1. Finding buildings and places isn’t as easy without a map, GPS, or smart phone. (Honestly, I can’t find my way from point A to point B WITH any of those technological instruments anyways.) I need people to look me in the eye and spell it out for me in order to know confidently which way to go. Imagine you haven’t bathed in days, you’re living out of a book bag, and now you’re attempting to ask for help—we saw that day—the majority of people were not eagerly ready & willing to help a homeless stranger find their way.

2. I was turned away at McDonalds when I asked for an application. They told me if I really wanted a job—just go apply online. The only available computer was at the Public Library. In order to use the public computer you need personal identification. Another obstacle…

My group quickly became irritated & frustrated…our hearts were breaking because the day we were living—was a daily reality for so many. We gave up the white sheet of paper and decided to go to the people. Almost immediately we found a woman sitting on a bench living out of her book bag. So we took her to lunch.

NEVER forget. Everyone has a story. God is the Creator and Author of each and every life on earth. Each person you walk by on a daily basis has a past and is living a present.

I’m easily intrigued by people. I was so ready to dive in and hear this young lady tell us her story. We ended up squeezing into a local Chinese restaurant. She began to speak…stopping every so often to whisper a thanks for her warm meal…we quickly learned, she had lost everything. She was laid off from her job then kicked out after not being able to pay the rent. No family. She started sleeping in the subways at night because the streets were too dangerous. The police kicked her out of the subway one night and told her no one was allowed to sleep there. She ended up getting jumped on the streets. And beat up intensely. She lost all personal identification. Where was she to go? How could she find help? This is someone with an education. She never did drugs. She wasn’t crazy. The world loves to dig disgusting and destructive lies into us—trying to stick her with names…lazy. No good. Dirty. Worthless…

What lies are you being told today by the enemy? What are people trying to stick onto you? Remember God is the one who has written your story. He can return you to the name you were always meant to have if you choose to listen to the right voice.

This Courageous woman didn’t let the enemy tear her down. Every Sunday she found her way into a church. She was ecstatic that for the one night she wasn’t going to bed hungry because we had assured her a nice comforting meal. Hands Full. Hands Empty. Thankful.

As I’m writing this memory down I am sitting in a moldy classroom with one window. The room is infested with ladybugs ( I HATE BUGS. ALL BUGS—including “cute” bugs like butterflies and ladybugs or fireflies). I find myself—today—like so many other days wondering why I am sitting here—right here in this desk? What am I doing with my time—with my life? Am I doing enough? That day I came across ONE story. One heart. And that ONE was so very heavy. There is hurting, heartache and struggling in this huge world we live in. I don’t ever want to become comfortable. No apathy. There’s no time to waste. I know God has me here…in this bug-infested classroom…for such a time as this. Am I showing people Jesus in the here and now? Are you? My name means Joy & my middle name means…Joy…I want God to use me—to name me—in such a way that people are drawn & attracted to HIM. Completely consumed. Hands Full or Hands Empty. Ann Voskamp, author of 100 Gifts, declares, “Learn it like I know my skin, my face, the words on the end of my tongues…Learn how to be thankful—whether empty or full (47).” I want to learn, live, and be on the inside & out…Truly Thankful.

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little.  I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, HANDS FULL or HANDS EMPTY. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am…” Philippians 4: 11-13 The Message

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Giving Him Time.

Comfort & Joy From the heart of Abigail Joy
Philippians 4:4-7 NASB
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God gives us time. With this time, we schedule, create, clutter and fill it with everything and anything—quickly jumping from one moment to the next. We fill it then claim we are “too busy” to spend the quality time with the One who gave us the gift in the first place. “Life is dessert—too brief to hurry…I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God” (One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp).  I want to make a difference for HIM. I want to give my time right back to Him. God longs to be in relationship with us. He wants ALL of us…not just our sleepy-eyed-yawning-thinking-about-lunch bodies to be in church on a Sunday morning. Something that has been on my heart is just how BIG God is. Maybe take some time to marvel and remember just how Captivating He is! We serve a Holy, Powerful, Almighty, Infinite, Incredible, Love-filled, Creative—Huge God. He deserves the very best.

I love to sew. Sewing takes patience. I get antsy with the preparation. Like an athlete ready for the big game I want to just get to the creating, to the actual sewing…to get in the game. But it takes practice… there are steps that need to be done before you can move onto the next task. It takes energy. It takes time. Sewing is one way I can willingly surrender my time, this precious gift, to God. We are called to go, move and spread the gospel. We are called to care for the orphans, the hurting, and the helpless. We are called to follow after Him, deny ourselves, and to take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23). Daily—means being consistent in our journey with Jesus—completely consumed—surrendering each day to His plan and purpose. God gave me a passion for compassion. Comfort and Joy is an adventure to bring my passions together…Helping people, creating/sewing, and most importantly—my Joy to serve and worship the One who willingly saved an unworthy sinner—me!

This is the plan...
1. Everyone has drawers full of t-shirts…from events, sports teams, school trips, concerts, etc. I am looking for T-shirts to make t-shirt blankets. The blankets will be given to the needy, the poor, the homeless, to the cold and blanketless. This is one way we can bring people comfort.

2. They make great gifts. It’s a creative way of saving your memorable t-shirts—rather than keeping them stuffed in a box in the attic. The more t-shirts=the bigger the blanket. ALL proceeds will go directly to a mission…whether it’s to an overseas missions trip, a local ministry, or charity…the money will go toward the needy, the hurting, to bring Comfort!

3. Pray. Get in the Word. And Seek the Lord. Find a way to give Him your Time! Think about it—as Christians and Believers we have nothing but time…we are given the incredible gift of eternity! Pray for ways you can help. God didn’t make us to sit comfortably on our hands & feet—pray for His Will to be done in your life and keep your eyes open. Pray for ministries that are reaching out. Pray for people to experience the light and love of our Savior. Get up & go LIVE for the honor and glory of the ONE who made you!
The definition of Comfort: “anything that makes trouble or sorrow easier to bear; freedom from pain or hardship; person or thing that makes life easier; cheer; ease the grief or sorrow of” & The definition of Joy is “outward rejoicing”…Who better to spread Comfort and Joy than Christians? We were given the ultimate gift of comfort when He took the trouble and sorrow when He took on the cross, we don’t have to bear the pain or consequence of our sins, and freedom from death, Jesus came to make this life easier. We have Joy in Salvation. We have Joy that our God is ALIVE! “I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”(Paul speaking in Philippians 4 the Message)
I can not wait to see how God is going to work through this small adventure. Let the sewing begin!! What are you going to do with your time today?! 
Ephesians 5:1&2 The Message, "Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that."