“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” ~ Langston Hughes’ “Mother to a Son”
When I was first introduced to these metaphorical words in my 9th grade English class, I exhaled a hopeful sigh. Hughes hit my sentiments as a teenager right on the proverbial nailhead. I had experienced what felt like a lifetime worth of hardships by age 15. These words from a “mother” to a “son” were the comforting balm I imagined my mother would soothe my soul with…if she were around.
And so the poem ensues with…
And chances are you too can relate to Hughes’ words in your own unique ways, yet (to borrow from another well-known poet) STILL YOU RISE!
Why JoyfullyAlive? Well, why not? 🙂
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus (John 16:33b)
I won’t mince words: I am a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ and I take all of His words to heart. However, the following statements He made during His sojourn on Earth (including the one above) reverberate in my soul like no others.:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ Jesus (John 10:10)
“I have spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” ~ Jesus (John 15:11)
First He speaks of LIFE.
Then He speaks of a JOYFUL one.
But He doesn’t end there. He tops it off with a desire that we would experience them both abundantly…to the full.
Living JoyfullyAlive, that is!
Now, how could I grapple with the reality of those words when even as a follower of Jesus Christ since May 31, 1998, what I experienced as a teenager was far from what Jesus died and now lives for me to possess. Besides, didn’t He say “It is finished!?!
Some Believers wouldn’t admit this, but again, I won’t mince words here: I was JoylesslyAlive…if you could truly call that living. Sure, I often had a smile plastered on my face and was known as a prankster in my teenage years.
NewsFlash: My smile was plastic. My pranks were just for the high, the feel, the thrill, even at others’ expense.
I knew there was more; I knew He promised more, but the question still remained: Why was I NOT experiencing that more from the inside out? Why was I merely surviving while the abundance of joy and peace in all life circumstances equates to thriving?
It was not until my senior year in high school that I realized the true state of my heart. All that I knew, the comforts of my new living arrangement with an aunt who provided the stability that I never had in my preteens, was going to be in the rearview as I ventured off into independence at the University of Florida that fall. It was then that I posed a plea to God. It went something like this: “You are God. I know you hear me, and I know you speak. So, please speak to my heart right now. Please give me direction for my soul, because though I’m “found” in your amazing grace, my soul still feels quite lost.”
I then decided to take Him at His word. I knew if He could speak through a burning bush, speaking through the words in a choir book would be a cinch. So I said in my heart, “Please speak,” as I peeled back the pages, anticipating that He would. And so He did. That day “Joyfully” was conceived.
The song revealed on the pages that day was a hymn titled: “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” by Jennie Wilson, a hymn-writer born in 1856, who since the age of four, spent her life in a wheelchair on Indiana’s farmlands. As I read her poetic, prophetic words, my eyes flood with tears now, because though she may have died without birthing a child (her biographical information doesn’t suggest that she had children), her words were used by God to birth something deep inside of me: JOY! A joy that would not be dependent on the experiences on life’s splintered “stairway”, but founded on something, Someone eternally unchanging!
HOLD TO GOD’S UNCHANGING HAND
🎶Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.
Hold to God’s unchanging hand,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand;
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.
Trust in Him who will not leave you,
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken
Still more closely to Him cling.
Covet not this world’s vain riches
That so rapidly decay,
Seek to gain the heav’nly treasures,
They will never pass away.
When your journey is completed,
If to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in glory
Your enraptured soul will view.
Her words challenged me…Unlike Hughes’ poem, her song not only gave me hope, but is showed me the way; the way to joy–the way to thrive…the way to embark on an earth-bound JOYride!
It led me to BE and beHOLD more deeply the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Himself. (John 14:6) You see, I not only required God’s grace for Salvation, I need it even still for transformation/sanctification day by day. I need it in order to truly experience ALL that He purchased for me through His blood on the cross. (More on that in subsequent posts.)
Yes, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” but joy shouldn’t be dependent on a “stair” but a “stare”–a gaze–a focus!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-30
Again, Wilson’s words challenged me, but eventually, years later as the seed they deposited germinated, they would change me. They would produce lasting fruit. That’s when “Joyfully” matured to “JoyfullyAlive” and this domain (surprisingly gifted to me for my 30th birthday by two of the people who know a thing or two about creative works as entrepreneurs: thanks Jason and Jenn) marks the maturity of what was birthed in me a little over a decade ago. (A moment of thanks to some of the people who have encouraged my soul to embark on this journey with you):
“You were meant for blogging. You are such a great writer!” ~ Jason E.
“…if you ever write a book (I think it is a matter of when) Ariel and I would be happy to read it.” ~Aniel M.
“I am so happy that you started your blog! I am looking forward to seeing what God gives you from His heart to express and share…You have always been such a joy and inspiration to me personally, and our conversations never cease to be an encouragement in my life. God has given you a precious talent with expression through words and I know He will continue to develop and use that gift through you!” ~ Sarah F.
“Marissa, when you gonna start the Blog??! God has definitely given you a gift.” (After taking the plunge.) “You are a blessing and it is so awesome to watch you walk this out!” ~ Jorge M.
And last but not least, the words of my hubby: “A thought from the Lord or at least inspired by His love: ‘Keep writing! Let the Scripture be your foundation to pen words of life and hope for those around you. I want you to continue and grow in using the gift of words to be My voice.’ ” ~ Andrew (written February 2014) ” ‘Keep writing! Let the Scripture be your foundation to pen words of life and hope for those around you. I want you to continue and grow in using the gift of words to be My voice.'”
” ‘Keep writing! Let the Scripture be your foundation to pen words of life and hope for those around you. I want you to continue and grow in using the gift of words to be My voice.'”
I digressed. I am floored by the genuine encouragement, and hope that this site will add to your lives richly. To echo the words of Peter the Apostle in Acts 3:6 “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you:” I give you through this site, prayerfully a blessing that will inspire your soul to experience the grace only He can give in helping you to live JoyfullyAlive in Him, because you were made to THRIVE!
Sooooo, to reiterate and expound, though my life has had “tacks”, “splinter”, “boards torn up”, cold, dark, and “bare”, my joy is not dependent upon a “stair”, but a “stare.” My eyes are fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith! Indeed, for the joy set before Him, HE ENDURED THE CROSS. (Hebrews 12:2) And you know what else?!? These are sobering realities:
I AM THAT JOY!
YOU ARE THAT JOY!
WE ARE THAT JOY!
Our Sin is why He had to die on the cruel cross to make a way for us to truly live. Though the enemy has come to this world to steal, kill, and destroy, He has come to restore His original intent, to bring life, and life to the full!
I don’t know about you, but I want that. I long for that, more than anything on this side of Heaven, in fact!
Now, as I was the joy set before Him when He lived on Earth, He is now the joy set before me in this lifetime “welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
Yes, we can endure and find the cure for a joyless existence within the “swift transitions”, the uncertainties, even the proverbial “splintered and bare stairs”, as long as our gaze is fixed on Him. As long as He is our joy–our soul’s deepest delight…our souls can be light and truly take flight.
We can ARISE from any bleak circumstance. We can keep climbin.’
Jesus didn’t promise that we wouldn’t have troubles in this life. Oh, no. Sin has come into the world making a trouble-free existence virtually impossible. We all experience the consequences of sin, either that of our own volition or that of others. But those who are in Christ Jesus are not a product of their past, but a product of their purpose, and our purpose is to live JoyfullyAlive as He is glorified in us and through us!
But those who are in Christ Jesus are not a product of their past, but a product of their purpose, and our purpose is to live JoyfullyAlive as He is glorified in us and through us!
So, if you’d like to embark on this “joyride” with me as we set our gaze “on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God,” (Collossians 3), Subscribe Today and don’t forget to Share the Joy along the way!
Here you will find many things from poetry and prose with one focus and one focus alone: Living a life that is JoyfullyAlive in Him in every facet of our living. No matter your station or status, I pray there is something here that will render you richly inspired to continue (or to begin) to live the life that Jesus came to grant. Until He returns I pray “…that [you] may have life, and have it to the full,” all because you were made to thrive not merely survive.