Joy speaks to us about why the VW van means so much to her and her husband, her family’s journey depending on God for all, and how God’s promises never fail.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I’m the proud second eldest of 6 kids and have amazing siblings that I am so blessed by! My parents love Jesus and raised us in a home that always had God at the center. My faith wouldn’t be what it is today without them! I was born in Bristol, England, but we moved around a fair amount during my childhood, so I actually consider Liverpool to be my hometown, as it’s where we ended up living for the longest and where the rest of my family is now based.
My dad is one of those people who has had many trades, but for the majority of my upbringing, he worked as a radio presenter for United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) and Cross Rhythms. I loved getting to tag along to the station with him, and it has left me with a love and value for media that I may not have had otherwise. From a young age, I was literally given a microphone to speak, and I think it instilled in me a confidence to share my thoughts, opinions and story with the world. My parents have always been so releasing of me – my dreams, passions, crazy ideas and pursuits – that I have always felt like impossible was nothing, and I am grateful for the freedom that they invested into me.
Inspiring Biblical passage of the moment: Luke 18:1-8 (TPT) is my passage of the season. It starts off with these words:
‘One day Jesus taught the apostles to keep praying and never stop or lose hope.’
I read this a few months ago when my hope for God to fulfill His promises to me was waning. As I carried on reading this passage where Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow, I found fresh hope beginning to surge within me. In verses 7 Jesus says, “Don’t you know that God, the true judge, will grant justice to all of his chosen ones who cry out to him night and day? He will pour out his Spirit upon them. He will not delay to answer you and give you what you ask for.”
God has given me fresh hope in this season to believe that every good thing that He has promised me will come to pass! There is power in His word to bring us back to life, and I pray that if you find yourself in a place of hope deferred that this Scripture would encourage and revitalize you, today.
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: In this season, it is definitely trust! There’s a worship song, ‘Lean Back’ by Dion Davis that comes to mind as I write this. The lyrics of the chorus are, ‘I will lean back in the loving arms of a beautiful Father / Breathe deep and know that He is good / He’s a love like no other.’ My husband and I find ourselves in the midst of a season of transition which has extended a lot longer than we had ever anticipated, and has included more unknowns than we thought possible. BUT GOD.
I have a natural tendency to fall into self-sufficiency in times like these, which can look like leaning more into my own organizational and strategic strengths than leaning into God and trusting that He will provide all that we need. I have been on a deeper journey of trusting God in the midst of unknowns and uncertainties, and learning how to maintain peace by simply leaning into the loving arms of my beautiful Father.
Profession: I really do a bit of everything! Haha. Officially, I am the Global Care Director for Liberty Church, which is an amazing church planting movement with its headquarters in New York City but with communities all around the world from Manzini, Swaziland to London, England and San Francisco, USA. (www.libertychurch.com)
I am also the Director of Treasures NYC, an incredible non-profit which was birthed in LA by Harmony Dust Grillo and now also serves the women of NYC who are currently working in the strip club industry. We have teams that go out every month to the clubs across Manhattan and Queens with gift bags for the women to let them know that they are loved, valued and purposed. ( www.iamatreasure.com )
Outside of these two roles, I am also a writer, blogger and author, writing for my own site ( www.joyattmore.com ) and also a regular contributor on several sites, including: Iridescent Women and XRhythms Radio ( www.iridescentwomen.com and www.xrhythms.co.uk ).
How do you incorporate your connection with God into your daily, secular work? I actually don’t see there as being any separation between the sacred and the secular. I get that our secular environments can sometimes seem hostile to what we as Christians believe, however, we were created to abide in Christ, so wherever we go, there He is also! I have had so many encounters with people where they have been impacted by God’s love simply because I didn’t separate my faith from that environment. I seek to walk in love, to love the one in front of me, wherever that may take me. As God is love and I am abiding in Him, I get to draw people into encounters with the Source of Love wherever I go!
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? In some ways, I’ve already written one! My first book, Broken By Beauty, is somewhat of a memoir to the first two decades of my life.
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? One of my first encounters with God happened when I was maybe 11 or 12. I had already accepted Jesus into my life at this point, but this encounter marked me in a deep way with His love. One week in Sunday School, my youth leader led a time of prayer where she prayed for anyone who wanted to encounter the Holy Spirit. I raised my hand and she prayed for me. To this day, it remains one of the most tangible experiences with the love and presence of God that I have ever experienced. A week later, I remember walking to youth group with my mum and describing how I didn’t want this feeling of closeness to God to ever leave me. It forever marked me with a hunger for His presence.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? You know, this has been an interesting season for me. In previous times, I may have responded with the reference to a book, passage in the Bible, or teaching that had been particularly impactful. However, the answer I find myself leaning into now is ‘community.’
My husband, Phillip, and I have recently found ourselves in a place of being solely dependent on God to provide for us. I am five months pregnant with our miracle baby, and we have yet to find a permanent place to live in New York City. There have been many tears and prayers, much packing and unpacking, lots of leaning in and asking why’s, and through it all God has answered through His Body. We have not gone without, even on days when our bank account ran dry, others have provided without even realizing it. I have learnt so much in this season, and continue to do so, but each day causes my faith to strengthen and my spirit to elevate with excitement, for I know that what God has in store for us is far more than we have yet hoped, dreamt or imagined.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I’m always reading! I just finished Rise of the Truth Teller by Ashley Abercrombie and am now halfway through Love Over Fear by Dan White Jr. These books could actually be one another’s siblings – I recommend them! Ashley speaks to the truth teller inside all of us and exhorts it to come forth. She tackles everything from racism to church wounds and feminism to her recovery journey, speaking truth into each but with such a depth of love, compassion and Scriptural wisdom that it’s accessible to all, no matter their current situation.
Dan confronts the culture of polarization that we have become steeped in which creates enemies out of people simply because they are different. He challenges the reader to love beyond what is comfortable saying, “When the divine touches us, we can show affection to the perceived monster’s in our life.”
Both Dan and Ashley spurred me on through their words to live a life that deeply incorporates both truth AND love in all that I do.
Top three essentials:
A good book – I will happily anywhere as long as I have a good book to bury myself in for the journey!
Chocolate – English Cadbury’s Dairy Milk or Terry’s Chocolate Orange. They’re really a necessity.
English Breakfast tea – I always have a tin of emergency tea bags because living in America you just never know if you’ll be somewhere with the good stuff.
How did God speak to you recently? I feel like God constantly speaks to me in numerous, everyday ways. I tend to have impressions or feelings about things which leave me with a sense of knowing that God is speaking to me in that moment. There will be other times where I will feel God speaking to me through images, whether that’s something that comes to mind or literally seeing an object in front of me that has some personal significance. For example, a spiritual plumb line for me is peace. When I feel peace over a situation or decision that needs to be made, it is a strong indicator for me that that is the direction I should go in.
Most recently, an image that God has been speaking to me through is the Volkswagen Camper Van. Now this could seem so random to the average Joe, but to me this vehicle holds a lot of significance – it is my dream! To me, the VW van represents my biggest dreams, adventure and freedom. Two years ago, Phillip and I entered a season of transition that we are (hopefully) now at the tail end of. It’s been challenging for multiple reasons and has kept us physically mobile throughout – literally, we’ve been living out of suitcases for two years – but everywhere we have we have seen VW Camper Vans. They’ve appeared on mugs, in parking lots, on the motorways, on coasters, t-shirts and note books. I’ve never seen so many! Every time we’ve spotted one, it has been a reminder to us that God knows our dreams – even the biggest, wildest, most impossible-seeming ones – and He is faithful to them. Just this evening we found ourselves at a small house church gathering in Manhattan, staying in the home of a couple that we had just met, and the wife received the gift of a new coaster, beautifully painted with a VW Camper Van. To Phillip and I this was a moment where we felt the nearness of God, and that we were just where we’re meant to be – suitcases and all.
“Every time we’ve spotted one, it has been a reminder to us that God knows our dreams – even the biggest, wildest, most impossible-seeming ones – and He is faithful to them.”
Hobby: Reading has always been one of my biggest hobbies. I love a good book and take great delight in losing myself in a great novel in-between reading books on justice and how to effect change in our society.
Aside from that though, I enjoy anything that gathers me with people. I love to create and I love to connect with other humans, so they are my happiest spaces!
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
• Do life with people who are further on in their spiritual walk than you. In general, choosing to do life in community with other believers helps keep you accountable in your own walk and encourages you to go deeper. Iron sharpens iron!
• Choosing a life of worship. Sometimes I think we can relegate worship to just being the few songs we sing together as a congregation on a Sunday morning, but for me I have found worship vital to a daily rhythm and lifestyle. I soak in worship music whilst I’m working, allowing myself to sing along as I type. I listen to it whilst I’m traveling about the city and encourage my spirit to engage in it rather than it just becoming more background noise. I carve out time regularly to gather with other friends who just want to seek the presence of God and love on their Father by spending a few hours in someone’s apartment singing and praying together. There are so many ways to incorporate worship as a daily rhythm, and I believe it’s what we were ultimately all created for.
• Finding a translation of the Bible that comes alive to you and reading it! We’ve all heard the Sunday school mantra of read the Bible and pray every day to the point where sometimes we dismiss it as old school ways that are not as relevant any more. The Word of God is alive, active and carries the very heart of God! I grew up in church so for the longest time the Bible had begun to feel over familiar for me. I had tried every Bible reading plan and had failed at all of them. I needed to revive my love for the Word and find a rhythm that helped me connect with it again. I started reading the Passion Translation a few years ago and it connected with my heart as if I was reading it for the first time. I then started using Journibles – easy ways of writing out the Bible as I read it, book by book. Both of these tools helped me connect with the Word in a completely new and fresh way. As believers, we need to be people who are in the Word and know the Word, and we need to commit to finding the best personal rhythms to make that possible for us.
“As believers, we need to be people who are in the Word and know the Word, and we need to commit to finding the best personal rhythms to make that possible for us.”
Favorite person in scripture? So, I realize this lady is a little bit of a niche character, but I’ve always felt very fondly towards Jael whose story is found in Judges 4. It’s pretty wild really as we don’t get to hear many details of her life, but she basically defeats the enemy of Israel at that time by driving a tent peg through his head as he sleeps. Now, I’m no advocate of violence, but I am a huge champion for justice and women stepping up in authority to take the lead. For this reason, Jael has always been one of my favorite ones to read of.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? Oh, I want them to learn of His love for them! I so want to be one who is known for well they love, and that that love leads them to encounter their Heavenly Father. I also want them to see His justice through my life, and that that looks like the restoration of every violation of love.
“I also want them to see His justice through my life, and that that looks like the restoration of every violation of love.”
How do you leave your mark on your community? I hope that I leave my mark as a woman with the heart of a mother who always makes room at the table for one more. I hope that I am a safe place for my community and that they know they always have access to me in times of need. I hope that I mark my community with love!
Favorite holiday? Definitely Christmas in England! There’s nothing like copious amounts of mince pies and Christmas cake, mulled wine, the smell of pine, and constant time spent with family and close friends to make my heart and stomach feel deeply happy and content!
A goal you have? For me everything revolves around family. This goal is maybe better described as a dream or desire, but either way, I hope to one day have my family unit planted in our own home in New York City with enough space to always allow for those in need to have somewhere to stay. I want our home to be a place that fosters healthy community, provides family for those who feel like they don’t have one, and sees lives restored simply by doing life in authentic community.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: Well, I think Phillip and I are still building our traditions, but one of my favorite ones from my family back in England that is still going strong, is our yearly family Christmas movie together on Christmas day. It requires a very specific choice, especially as we are yearly adding to our numbers. There have been many fails of movie choices over the years, but it never ceases to create great memories and quality time together.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? Why? All of the why’s!
This is a question that I’ve asked ever since I was a kid. It’s taken on many forms over the years, sometimes in response to dark and painful seasons, others as a simple desire to understand more of who God is and why He moves in the way that He does. Either way though, I imagine myself [sitting] on Father God’s lap one day, staring deep into His eyes and simply getting to ask, ‘why?’
Thing you want to raise awareness about: I realize this is stated in the singular, however I’m one of those people with a strong radar for injustice so there tends to be several simultaneous things that I’m passionate about and want others to be aware of too. The sexual exploitation of women through the sex trade has for the longest time been an area that I have actively worked in, both to raise awareness of as well as aiding women in their restoration journey. The other area that is greatly on my heart is that of mass incarceration in the United States. The U.S has the highest rates of incarceration in the world, which people of color are statistically the target, and has managed to create a business out of a system that is meant to be stewarding justice.
I could talk all day about both of these topics, but if they are new to you here’s some recommended reading!
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander,
Just Mercy by Brian Stephenson,
Scars and Stilettos by Harmony Dust,
Babylon by Peter Herder
What does your morning routine consist of? Usually, it begins with a cup of tea, breakfast and some reading/journaling before heading to the bathroom to begin the showering, getting dressed and applying make-up routine, checking Instagram is also usually happening throughout. Haha
What is on your nightstand? If I had a nightstand, it would probably be the home of my Bible, journal, phone, a candle and my glasses ’cause I’m half-blind.
Define Christianity in a sentence: Christianity is a relationship with God that begins for everyone with the audacious power of forgiveness, leads to a life of faith empowered by grace and lasts for all of eternity.
For more Joy:
Until next time, keep witnessing!