“Learning Jesus’ Voice.” by Bria Fields, #JSWTogether

Could you imagine the grape contest Rachel described in the last post? How many grapes do you think you could fit in your mouth? I love the thought

So, guess what? MY BESTIE HAS WRITTEN A PIECE FOR US. WOW OH WOW YAY. 

I don’t think I even need to express how much I love her and miss her, and how truly blessed I am to have such an amazing, understanding, God-fearing best friend in my life. Y’all already know all this if you know me, and have followed this friendship of mine through this blog or through social media.

Thank you for being a part of this, Bria. Thank your for always encouraging me in the Lord. ❤ ❤ ❤

In this #JSWTogether post, she brings us some contemplative thoughts about understanding who Jesus is, and knowing what His voice sounds like. Such awesome stuff!

#JSWTogether

Mishy

***

Zechariah 9:9

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

When I see the phrases “rejoice greatly” and “your king comes to you righteous and victorious,” I imagine a very different picture than what is presented directly afterwards. I imagine bright colors, a great parade, thousands of soldiers, and something generally more incredible and fearful, awe-inspiring and wondrous than “lowly and riding on a donkey.” But, when I read this passage, I know that it’s referring to Jesus who is a grand Savior and King, so there’s not much cognitive dissonance, but can you picture what the Israelites would have thought when this prophesy came to them? They might have been really confused, thinking that a king is supposed to be loftier, mightier, more intimidating, less relatable.

And, a similar juxtaposition happens with Jesus again.

John 13:3-5

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so, he got up from the meal, took of his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

Peter expresses the internal struggle that this action causes in his mind, and initially tries to deny Jesus the opportunity to wash his feet, which is a completely reasonable action when you remember who the disciples and the rest of Jesus’ followers thought he was. They thought that Jesus was going to be an earthly king, the man who would literally overthrow the Roman empire. So, when Jesus starts washing feet, it causes some confusion. Similarly, when Jesus tells the disciples repeatedly that he must die, they cannot comprehend what he means, because they didn’t yet understand the fullness of who Jesus was. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Coming Savior, and even the Son of God, but they didn’t know what that meant yet. Jesus speaks to this discrepancy himself to the disciples.

John 16:12-14

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”

Because they didn’t fully understand who he is, they were consistently confused by his words and actions. Now, Christians have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we are still so often caught off guard by aspects of God’s character, because we don’t know who he is. We think that he is unapproachable, undependable, not big enough to handle our problems, or maybe too big to care about our problems, so loving that he doesn’t want us to move past sin, or so just that he could never forgive our sin. I’ve thought all of these things about God at some point during my relationship with him.

Even further, sometimes, the picture presented to us about who God is, is confusing or contradictory—mighty king, riding on a donkey; all powerful, willing to wash our feet—and we don’t understand how both are possible, so we put more emphasis on certain characteristics, and God becomes something of our creation, instead of who He really is.

So, in order for us to know who God is, we have to get to know him. He already knows us. Sometimes, through the way that I pray, I find myself talking too much to God about who I am, and why I do things the way that I do. God already knows all that. So, I have to check myself, because I am really just self-analyzing, and that differentiation is really a personal matter, so I’m not saying that you are praying wrong, because I am only talking about myself. So, I have to remember that prayer is a conversation about and that involves two people. Anyway, we can’t just accept his existence and think that it qualifies as knowing him. We have to read and study his word and spend time with him through prayer. We have to learn what his voice sounds like.

John 10:3-5, 14-16

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But, they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

We have to know Jesus well enough to know his voice, and not just enough to know his voice, but to distinguish his voice from other voices. And, this is not as easy a task as it seems. I can think of numerous occasions, when I have heard someone speak and mistaken them for another person. For example, people often say that my best friend Mishea’la and her sister Kae’sha, who is also my friend, speak the same way, and I’m always confused by this, because to me, they sound completely different from each other, but that’s only because I know them both well enough to be able to distinguish their voices from one another. I know the differences between not only the tone of their voices, but also the words that they use. But, if I didn’t know them so well, I would not be able to do that.

It’s important to know not only the tone of Jesus’ voice but also the words that he uses, because there are going to be other voices, imitating the voice of Jesus, that will tell you lies, and you will believe them if you don’t know how God speaks to you and about you. During an event, someone was talking about their addiction, and he was saying that the disease of addiction not only tells him lies, but it tells him those lies in his own voice. So, the only way for him to tell the difference, is knowing the words that the diseases uses versus the words that he uses. Similarly, with Jesus, we have to know what his voice sounds like and the words he uses, so we can separate the lies about our condemnation in sin, our need to be good to earn salvation, our unworthiness before God from the truth about our being justified before God because of his work on the cross, our ability to refute temptation and pursue sanctification because of his power dwelling within us, our ability to stand in God’s presence with confidence and peace because we are his children.

So, if we believe in Jesus, but have never taken the time to get to know him, to listen to him, to read his words, to understand his actions, to hear from him, then we will not be able to distinguish between his voice and the voice of a stranger, the voice of a liar, the voice of one who came to kill and steal and destroy.   

Spend some time with Jesus today. Listen to his voice and the words that he uses. Get to know him.

Lord,

You are mysterious and complex. I don’t understand everything about you, but I want to know your voice. Teach me the words that you use and the way that you use them. Give me strength to dig deeper into your word and to listen to you, to be still in your presence. You are the mighty, all powerful king who rides on donkeys and washes feet. You are the wonderful sustainer of our universe and my life. You are good beyond comprehension. Thank you for inviting me into your innermost courts and providing me with a safe space to rest. I love you and you are everything that I need, give me grace to see that you are all that I want.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

untitled by Rachel Krumenacker, #JSWTogether

Anyone else resonate with Taylor Thornburg’s poem from the last post? I know I did. Especially now with so many decisions I have to make super soon. Yay adulthood.

MY NONFICTION WRITING BUDDY IS BRINGING US A WORK OF NONFICTION IN THIS POST, AND I’M STOKED.

Rachel Krumenacker, is another friend I met day one of college because, like Jonathan, we were on the same orientation team. We were both English majors, so we had some classes together (again, I can’t remember many though), but we actually didn’t get super close until our last semester of college in our creative writing: nonfiction class, when we made a couple of trips to Starbucks to brainstorm and edit each other’s pieces instead of just staying on campus.

Even though I’m slightly sad we hadn’t hung out before then, I’m so grateful that we were able to still get to know each other better before we graduated. She is such a solid person; she’s definitely one of the only people I feel comfortable sharing some of my more personal writing with, but I don’t just value her opinions on writing; I love having conversations with her about life, especially as we are learning how to adult as writers who wanna keep our writing alive in this crazy world.

She is an adventurous, kind-hearted young woman who is ready to take on the challenges of the world with the Lord at her side. Also, if I’m honest, I feel super cool when I’m with her because she totally radiates coolness with ease! 🙂 I also swear that she is Troye Sivan’s long-lost twin sister. Or maybe long-lost cousin. They look like they could be family!

Thank you for being such a great friend, Rachel, and for supporting me and my writing. I wouldn’t have gotten through nonfiction class without you. (p.s. you need to come visit me while I’m still on the island so we can go to Tybean, okay???) ❤ ❤ ❤

Enjoy this untitled, nonfiction piece from my lovely friend!

#JSWTogether

Mishy

***

I remember sunlight, mostly. Sunlight frames my vision in all of my early memories, almost like an early vignette photograph. The difference between those first silver-printed images and the ones directly behind my eyes is that the assumed background to those 1900s vignettes is a studio of some kind. Maybe a hanging white sheet behind the model posed for her portrait, but that’s all. Not the same for my memories. I am not guaranteed a white sheet.

Anything could be the unremembered—anything could lie beyond the hazy borders of the image, and that thrills me. Right now the image is the small county park in the town where I grew up. Beside me on our picnic blanket are my two best friends and my little sister, all sitting criss-cross applesauce, though back then we called it sitting Indian style. Before each of us on the blanket has been placed a thin white plate of grapes. Green grapes, that roll off into the grass whenever one of us resettles so that our knobby, sandal-clad ankles don’t press so insistently into our bare legs. We each have only been given several grapes—a handful, maybe ten.

I don’t remember where our mothers were. This is the vignette part of my memory. Maybe they jogged in stride around the park trail, maybe they sat on a bench just outside our ear- and eye-shot. They can’t have been far away, because they constantly worried for our safety; they can’t have been close enough to see us, or else not paying attention, because they most certainly would have stopped us from the part that comes next.

I face inward, unaware of the park surrounding the blanket. One of us holds up the zippered plastic bag where her mom has packed our lunches. Inside, the remainder of the grapes hang fat and thick on their stems. Some have dropped and lay cradled in the shallow water of the bag. Sunlight shines through them, showing us their translucence.

“Let’s have a grape-eating contest,” I remember saying. In my clammy, red-nubbed fingertips, I pinch a grape, knowing now the dustiness of grape skin with its second sheen of condensation. I test it with a squeeze. It does not break, but the skin splits open, wider, at the brown seam where it had separated from its stem. “They don’t count if you bite them,” I say. “See how many we can fit.”

I tuck the grape into the hollow, scarred place between my lower gums and my cheek, counting aloud, “One.” The others join without question, though I never have been ringleader. We take our turns one by one. Grapes fill and refill our plates from the sweaty Ziploc until only a few browning stragglers remain on the vine inside.

A laugh in my throat threatens to choke me, grapes crowding against my teeth and tongue. I feel one burst near the back of my mouth, by my incoming molar, but I don’t say a word about it. My mouth is too full for honesty, anyway. The younger girls have given up already, unable to maintain the same self-control that allows me to pop grape after grape after grape after grape and keep breathing. M keeps stride with me, but soon only I am left packing green grapes into my expanding mouth as my three companions watch with grape-sized eyes, their own mouthfuls spat out in rapid-fire succession onto their damp plates long ago.

At some point my mouth reaches maximum grape capacity. I remember counting my slippery grapes by eating them again, one by one, eating them in earnest this time. The four of us discovered I had won the competition by a margin of six.

Here’s the problem: I don’t remember how many grapes I fit in my mouth that afternoon. More specifically, my remembered reality does not match up with the size of an eight-year-old’s mouth and the size of green grapes. In the history of my childhood, I have only ever eaten green grapes that were about the size of a thumb. If they were purple grapes (which in my experience have always been nickel-sized) I might actually believe the number I’ve earmarked in the filing cabinets of my memory.

I fit forty-three grapes in my mouth that afternoon.  

M contests that she actually won over me, but understandably neither of us are in any hurry to recreate the experiment, though we both have the utmost respect for the scientific method. It’s just that our personal vignettes were shot from different angles, and we are the focus and the hero of our own. It’s hard to change an image that’s been silver-printed one specific way for over a decade. (I also strongly believe that she would win if we battled now, and I don’t want my good name tarnished. But don’t tell her that.)

 

“In Choosing,” by Taylor Thornburg, #JSWTogether

Did anyone else feel empowered and inspired by Taylor Young’s post last night? Guys, it was so good. SO GOOD. 

Who’s ready for Taylor, Round 2? This is a different Taylor though.

We hear from one of my best friends Taylor Thornburg. Taylor and I met as roommates our freshman year of college, where our friendship began, and we lived with each other for two more years afterward. Through our college years, we formed a small group with our other two best friends Caylin and Bria, and we called ourselves “the Shawties” because we’re all short, and exactly the same height.

Taylor, an English major like me,

Later switched to history.

Yet she still had a love of poetry.

(see what I did there with all that rhyming? Possibly the extent of my poetry abilities :D)

Taylor and I are a lot alike in personality, maybe because we lived with each other for three years? Who knows. But she is one of the most honest and compassionate people I know. She is one of those friends that I can call up even when I’m a ball of tears, and can’t even express how I’m feeling. She listens well, and is always giving me advice that points back to Christ. I am overwhelmed by her kindness to me, and am so humbled to do life with her, even from a distance.

I miss and love you, Taylor. When we see each other again, we need to have a super long tea time. (sorry, I’ll probably have to drink the Kava stress-relief tea, adult life is hard sometimes haha!) ❤ ❤ ❤

Read now as she speaks to us through her poetry about choices.

#JSWTogether

Mishy

***

This poem is in a Villanelle format, which means there’s a series of alternating lines that keep a current theme through the work, echoing themselves throughout. The theme is decisions and choosing– sometimes we can’t decide the right thing unless we are given space to choose it.

“In Choosing”

I hold on tight, my life is slipping through;
My aching dreams and passions won’t be still,
But choosing independence, I chose you.

I always jested in a tone that’s true,
“If only God will free me, it’s my will.”
I held on tighter, choices slipping through.

“But why?” You asked, “What reasons speak to you?”
I said, “My freedom. Freedom will prevail.
In choosing independence, I choose you.”

“But where?” You puzzled, “Home is with us two.”
“Some place,” I shouted, “That I feel a thrill!”
I held on tight, my life still slipping through.

“Alright.” You stepped behind the line, “You choose.”
Such isolation struck my heart so still,
In finding independence, I chose you.

My heart, a prodigal, showed me it’s true—
How enslaved and weak and fruitless was my will.
I once held on, my life seemed slipping through,
But in my independence, I choose you.

“Just Start Somewhere.” by Taylor Young, #JSWTogether

Night #2 of #JSWTogether AHH! Welcome back, friends!

Did you all enjoy Jonathan’s poem? I really hope you did, I think it was a great reflection, and I think it was so cool that it was inspired by something simple from the house he lived in.

Tonight, my amazing friend Taylor Young gets to inspire us with her words. Taylor and I actually met on Twitter a couple of years ago, and have yet to meet in person (BUT IT WILL HAPPEN SOMEDAY. IN TREE HILL. YES.), but from the conversations we’ve had, whether they be about life’s current struggles or who in the world is gonna get beaten by Negan on The Walking Dead, I know this for sure:

She is a bright, beautiful woman of God, who isn’t ashamed to express herself, whether that be through her series on Instagram called #AnHonestPost; her ALL-CAPS tweets about her favorite sports teams, TV shows, and bands; or her Snapchats of her at work taking care of one of the cutest little three-year-olds I’ve ever seen.

I love Taylor because she’s real, and ever since we connected, she’s always inspired me to be real as well. She’s also the “Bio Queen” in my book. Meaning, her bios on all her social media accounts are ON POINT, and if I ever write a book, I’ll be asking her to write the little bio that goes next to my picture haha!

Taylor, thank you for your constant encouragement and genuineness. You have blessed me in so many ways, and I’m forever grateful. Your constant support also means the world. ❤ ❤ ❤

Now, everyone, listen to Taylor inspire us all! In the meantime, I’ll be looking at my calendar to see when I can plan a trip to North Carolina to finally meet this wonderful friend 😀

#JSWTogether

❤ Mishy

***

Hi writers! My name is Taylor, the infamous Hallowqueen & culinary queen & cat Mom to Armageddon. I’m a woman of many hats, preferably a black one with a point. If I’m not working my 12-12 job as a nanny, I’m binge watching the ID Channel, planning a new trip to go on, or writing in my free time. Writing has been my escape & my haven for so long. I’m currently working on a new writing project, thanks to Mishy for inspiring me, & I’m so happy that she invited me to write for #JustStartWriting!!

A blank space. Just for me. A space with no expectations and no limitations. Mishy’s series is #JustStartWriting, but I’ve kept asking myself… Where do I start? I could take this a lot of places. A full analysis on who’s meeting Lucille first on The Walking Dead. My writing project. My Instagram project over at #AnHonestPost. This summer & how I’ve spent the last few months dealing with the anxiety that I thought I had left behind.

But tonight, I’m writing to you. To whom it may concern, this is for you. To the dreamer, the believer, the hopeful, and the undecided; this is for you. To the lonely, the heartbroken, and the bitter; this is for you. To the hopeless romantics, the pessimists, and the established, for someone who needs to read this; this is for you.

Just start breathing. Start believing. Start holding onto the things you want most in this life. Start motivating yourself to accomplish that goal you deemed impossible. Start letting go of those labels that you’ve let define you for so long. Start jumping at new opportunities & saying no when you need to.

Just start learning. Start putting your phone down and observing. Just start somewhere. There are things in your heart that you want. Go  after them. There are places you want to visit; plan the trip and go. Just go. Just be present. Just go on the trip & be amazed at what you’ll learn about yourself and the people around you.

Last month, I went on a trip to New Orleans, a place that I had been wanting to visit for such a long time. And I finally went last month. It was a four night trip, which was a long trip to me. I’m used to planning short two night trips to New York City. But. Anyway. We went, and it never hit me that I was going to New Orleans, or the fact that I was there. I had built up so much hype and expectations for NOLA, only to be disappointed at the end of the trip. Because I was never blown away by it. Yes, NOLA was beautiful in some aspects and sad in others, but it was nothing like how I had hoped it would be.

My point is, I would have never moved on from NOLA if I had never gone in the first place. If I never would’ve said yes to the adventure that would leave me empty handed, I would still be putting hope into NOLA. That it would have the treasure that I’m looking for. But I went. I searched. And now I’m moving on.

Saying yes to things means saying yes to learning more about yourself. In NOLA, I showed a side of myself that I didn’t know existed. I learned a lot about the people I went on said trip with. I learned a lot about what it means to throw yourself into a city that you thought you knew. I learned a lot about setting yourself up for disappointment. But there’s always room to learn. And with that being said, I don’t regret my trip to New Orleans that much.

If there’s a place you’re wanting to visit, just go. Make it happen. There’s always a way to make things happen. If there’s someone you need to contact, talk to them. Don’t hesitate and don’t waste another minute. If there’s a person that needs your forgiveness, forgive them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to befriend them again. If there’s some loose ends you need to fix with someone, fix them. If there’s a new hobby you want to experiment with, then go for it. Why say no to the things you truly want? Why put a cap on the things you want to achieve? Who are we to limit ourselves when the world is at our fingertips?

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from One Tree Hill. It’s my favorite quote from that show, and probably my favorite quote in general. There’s so much hope in these words. So much serendipity to be found in these words. This quote is my mantra. It’s my number one wish and my backbone for all the places I want to go and the things I hope to find one day. Just start writing. Just start exploring. Just start treating yourself. Just start focusing on the goals and aspirations that are in your heart. Just start somewhere.

“Make a wish and place it in your heart. Anything you want, everything you want. Do you have it? Good. Now believe it can come true. You never know where the next miracle is going to come from. The next smile, the next wish come true. But if you believe that it’s right around the corner, and you open up your heart and mind to the possibility of it, to the certainty of it, you just might get the thing you’re wishing for. The world is full of magic. You just have to believe in it. So make your wish. Do you have it? Good. Now believe in it, with all of your heart.”

“Water in the Pot” by Jonathan Moore, #JSWTogether

I don’t even know how to begin, I’m so excited.

I guess I should say welcome. Welcome readers and those submitting to #JustStartWriting. This is hopefully the beginning of something super sweet.

The first piece ever submitted to #JSWTogether is from my good friend Jonathan Moore.

Jonathan and I have known each other since literally day one of college; we were in the same orientation team together. We both majored in English, although, I feel like we didn’t take many classes together (dude, what’s up with that?), and we both got to experience floor pizza (#neverforget 😀 ).

He is a strong Christian believer and leader, and a great conversationalist. His personality is truly special because he always makes the people he interacts with feel special. And he always makes you feel like you’ve been listened to.

He currently lives and works in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I hope he has continued to write. His words and thoughts have always encouraged and inspired me, and I hope you all enjoy what he has to share with us.

I am blessed by your friendship, Jonathan. Thank you for submitting. 🙂

If you would like to submit a work of your own for #JSWTogether, contact me via email at mishealarussell@gmail.com. I assure you – your writing is welcome here. 

I’m gonna stop now, and let Jonathan do all the talking, er, writing

#JSWTogether

Mishy

***

This is a poem I wrote in Creative Writing: Poetry with Dr. Tate almost a year ago.

Water in the Pot” is the first poem I wrote for the class…The poem’s central image is a plant that lives in my house, and I think I am the only one who waters it. In the end, the poem (ideally) invokes ideas about the mundane, day-to-day nature of growth and sanctification.

“Water in the Pot”

12.16.15

It all depends on water in the pot.

The crinkled leaves reminding me to pour

The water in or else they’ll die for sure.

 

It all depends on if I care or not.

The dark, dense soil shows the wetter spot

And leaves above will sop it all right up.

 

It all depends on staying in your spot.

Where sunlight hits and rain is sure to go.

You grow so sudden; why’d it seem so slow?

 

It all depends on little, not a lot.

The incremental dropping in the pot.

The daily sprinkle works to keep you up.