A Choice of Joyce~

Saturday morning I drove two hours to a library where I was scheduled to do a Couponing workshop. I never have any qualms about public speaking when it is a subject I am passionate about, and couponing (despite the loss of my favorite shopping companion) remains one of my passions. The other topics I am passionate about are, in no particular order; Jesus, writing, my children, and encouraging other women to follow their dreams and utilize their creativity in their everyday life.

I really enjoy these workshops, as well as my writing workshops. I keep tweaking them to make them more interesting (and helpful) to the participants. Sometimes, as I am gesturing wildly and talking animatedly, I wonder at myself. I realize that I do not care what others think about the “crazy coupon lady” or the wildly passionate writer in front of them. I’m having fun! I can put all inhibitions aside as I wax poetic about a subject I find myself an “expert” in. This is something I discuss in my writing workshops when I talk about the importance of building up a platform. Unfortunately, at this point in my life, I have also reluctantly become an expert on grief, one of the topics covered in my next book. (the other is faith) I expect at some point I will also be doing public speaking engagements on the subject of grief.

I remember a morning a couple of months before David died, when I came downstairs to find him sitting on the couch viewing something on television. “What are you watching?” I asked him, and he told me he’d been watching Joyce Meyer. Joyce Meyer is a inspirational speaker, author, and a teacher of God’s word. David had “discovered” her on his own, a significant achievement in a marriage relationship that for too many years was off-balance due to his quick temper and my control issues. In other words, until David’s cancer in 2006, I was a control-freak in our relationship. My prayer life was pretty much the same for many of those years, as I prayed to God (usually for help), and then promptly added a codicil to the prayer, telling God exactly how he should answer that prayer. Thankfully, through God’s grace, during David’s cancer treatment my husband and I learned how to love with the agape-sort of love in the Bible, becoming partners in every sense of the word. Not only that, but both of us found ourselves on a path of spiritual enlightenment and renewal, so that by the time David died, I knew better how to pray, though I still struggled with my own will for a few months until I learned how to listen to God.

I wish I could say that David and I were companions on the same path, that it had been a couple’s Bible study or a shared experience that brought us to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but I was finding answers at christian writer’s conferences and through the faith-filled women God put in my path. Particularly after my mother’s death in November of 2010, I had some very spiritual experiences I only shared with David verbally. I will never know for sure if it was one of my experiences that prompted him to begin searching for something more on his own, but I do know that he was very wistful when he once told me he’d never experienced what I had. He read the books I left laying around; 90 Minutes in Heaven by Cecil Murphey and Don Piper became a favorite, but he also enjoyed Heaven is For Real. At some point he’d discovered Joyce Meyer on television, and soon he began asking me to collect some of her books. I never read any of them, and even though I have since collected additional volumes, I still have not gotten into them. I only sat with him once during a portion of one of her programs, and though I understood why her down-to-earth attitude appealed to him, unfortunately I never took the time to watch a program with him again.

As I left the workshop on Saturday, I realized how happy I was. It felt really good to be happy. I thought about the butterfly note card I’d found in a used book I’d purchased. I have a special place in my heart for butterflies since David’s death, since he had been encouraging me to “Fly, soar like a butterfly,” in the months previous to his death. I’d recently taped that card to my desk.

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“…since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

The card is a reminder for me; God has plans for me in my new life as a widow. I still struggle with trying to control things, but I’m learning that when I let God lead me, things just fall into place. The way I feel after a workshop or the publication of one of my essays is more than a balm for my lonely soul, it is an affirmation that I am following God’s plan for me.

Even two years ago I would not have imagined public speaking as a part of my life, despite having enjoyed speech and drama in high school and having a father who did not hesitate to inform me I had a talent for talking and I should use it for good, and not evil. There were too many years in between high school and 2010, where I was so bogged down with bills and babies I could barely string two coherent sentences together. When I began doing workshops in the fall of 2010, I was certain it was a fluke that I was actually enjoying getting up in front of a group to do a presentation.

I was fairly new at public speaking when David sat in front of a Joyce Meyer program and commented, “That’s what I want for you someday. I want you to be a Joyce Meyer. You can do it.”

I was amused by his faith in me. I enjoyed my workshops, but I was just getting started in public speaking and though I certainly enjoyed it, I couldn’t see myself in the same light as Joyce, a dynamic, passionate speaker.

Then last March, not only did I lose my husband, my best friend, and my partner, I lost the person who had believed in me, who loved watching me fly, who believed I could be like Joyce Meyer. I had three weeks after his death before I would do another workshop, and at first, I wondered if I could. Then I knew I had to. For David. My writing flourished too. After my mother’s death, my writing had become a way to fulfill her dream for her children; the desire she’d had that each of her children get to heaven, each of them utilize their talents. After David’s death, my writing became a tribute to him, as well. The first essay published after his death was about him. Everything I have written since has been for him, every speaking engagement has been about his dreams for me.

I had a two hour drive ahead of me after Saturday’s workshop, but I was smiling when I got into my vehicle, basking in a feeling I can only describe as euphoria. Not for the first time, I felt as though I was following something much bigger than my mother’s advice to use my talents, my husband’s dream for me, and my own desires. I was following God’s plan for me.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

As I headed out of town, my favorite radio station wasn’t coming in, so I flipped through some channels looking for something that could entertain me for two hours. That was when I spotted the set of Joyce Meyer CD’s I’d gotten several months before.

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I popped in the second CD of the series and soon Joyce was speaking on prayer, learning to listen to God, using our talents, and breaking free from the traps of anxiety and worry. I cried at some point, but I also found myself laughing out loud when Joyce went off on a tangent and had the audience laughing. No wonder David loved her! She was articulate, intelligent, and totally real, even peppering her speech with the occasional “ain’t.” David would have loved this, I thought as one hour passed quickly, and then another, and I went through disc number two and began disc three. At one point, off on another tangent, Joyce commented wryly, “I’m wondering just how I’m going to sell this CD. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and haven’t done this. Someone in here must need to hear this…,” and the audience laughed uproariously as she called out another “Whee! Free at last!” I imagined her twirling on the stage or looking ridiculous in some way as the laughter increased. “I don’t care what you think,” she added, and I thought about what my face must look like sometimes when I get carried away in front of an audience.

Someone in a vehicle needed to hear that message. Someone whose husband had wanted her to become “like Joyce.” I remembered then, what it had felt like when I went off on a bit of a tangent during my workshop that morning, bemoaning the follies of manufacturer’s who thought something like a “panty freshener” was a brilliant idea. I held up the Poise company’s innovative, but questionable product of “hot flash cooling towelettes” that I’d included in my drawing basket, and related a conversation I’d had with my teens about one of their other new products; “panty fresheners.” Touted as a product that last four hours and is placed on the outside of a woman’s panties, I grimaced and groaned as I related a conversation I’d had with my teens about the concept of deodorizers for your panties. The women in the room were tickled, some laughing hysterically. At the end of my presentation, I was gifted with hearty clapping. Much like Joyce, with her audience.

A year ago, I would not have imagined that this coming weekend I would stand in front of a congregation to announce the beginning of a Bible Study at my church and speak about the reason behind it. At each of the three masses on Palm Sunday, I will speak about David, and how the loss of my husband prompted me to begin this study. A year after David’s death, on a Sunday that begins the week of the one-year anniversary, I will be speaking of my beloved, of grief and loss, and about how we can find the answers to bearing life’s trials in God’s word.

It ain’t Joyce, David, but I’m getting there.

4 thoughts on “A Choice of Joyce~

  1. Tawnya Bulger says:

    Mary,

    You have such a gift with words and encouragement; often when I read your blog I have tears in my eyes. Tears of empathy, tears of hope and love, tears of shared dreams and purpose. You are very much the woman I’d like to become; a speaker, an author, an encourager and sharer of God’s unique passions in each one of us.

    Thank you for your encouragement this day. If I have not sent you my book, “Katrina: Growing Wings,” I would sure love to. It has the Jer 29:11 verse and is about a butterfly. I can’t remember if I shared it with you yet or not-at 36 I should have a stronger memory! But AI feel you would enjoy it.

    Many Blessings! And thank you again, Mary.

    Tawnya Bulger http://www.tawnyabuger.tateauthor.com

  2. jkramer48 says:

    I am so proud of you, Mary. I have seen so much growth in you, the past couple of years, especially. You are like the butterfly who emerges out of the cocoon, unfurling her wings, and then flying free. Congratulations on your success as a writer, and more recently as a workshop presenter and motivational speaker. All my love, Joan

  3. Pat says:

    What a beautiful story and I am so happy for you- wonderful that you will be giving others comfort and hope with the Bible study in your church. Fly little butterfly, fly!!!

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