Saturday, January 11, 2020

Perspectives

Last night, as I lay awake (insomnia is great for introspective moments), this blog came to mind.  It was begun back in 2006, as our family made a faith journey, as well as a literal journey from one state to another.  I needed a sort of "incognito" space to express my thoughts and feelings as we moved from the denomination of our childhoods to a new place.  (As a wise friend put it, we were learning to stop putting God in our boxes.)  From time to time, I also shared some of the struggles of dealing with anxiety and panic attacks.

Then, as we settled into a new phase of life, the postings became a bit more of the practical, day-to-day-in-the-life-of-a-home-schooling-mom style.  It was an outlet for me.  I spent most of my hours being "mom" and "teacher".  Sometimes I just needed to be "Joni".

Along the way, I met several other bloggers.  I learned so much from their writing styles and techniques.  On a deeper level, though, I learned from their journeys.  They were experiencing trials and joys unique to their own paths.  Their openness and willingness to share their fears, doubts, joys, triumphs, and sorrows, and yet still clinging to God in the midst of it all, encouraged me to do the same.  (As a side note, I am now "friends" with most of these fine people on Facebook.  I've also had the privilege of meeting some of them face-to-face!)

Over the past several years, our lives have taken on a new perspective.  My husband began a discernment period that stretched over 4 1/2 years, and ended in great disappointment and hurt for our family.  (Every cloud does have a silver lining.  My husband has moved into a previously unexpected job position, for which we are truly grateful.)  However, those times of trial have changed all of us.

Both of our sons have grown into adulthood, which has brought about a whole new phase of worries, but also many times of joy!  We are incredibly proud of both of them.  It is especially interesting to watch the ways they grow in their faith.  Of course, they have their own sets of struggles, doubts, and learning curves.  But God is always faithful in the midst of it all.

This past year has been a particularly difficult time.  I shared some of the details in a post in August.  Each member of our family of four has had some tough experiences.  It's not as if we've expected God to allow us skip through fields of daisies and fill every day with hearts, rainbows, and unicorns.  I do hope that 2020 is a bit less "stretching", though.  😊

The one thing we have been walking through as a family is the loss of my dad.  Though we knew the time would come, experiencing it has been difficult.  If you've read my post about Dad, I hope you have even an inkling of what a special man he was to all of us.  Our grief is not without hope, as my dad was truly a friend of God.  But it is still hard, nonetheless.

And so, it is my 53rd birthday.  (I admitted my age!!!)  I have become a reflective person, though I feel I have always been one in at least some small sense.

Let's see where the next year takes me as a writer/blogger.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Real-Life Heroes

I gasp when I see the time lapses between my posts.  This blog used to be a daily ritual!  It's not that I have nothing about which to write.  I often lay awake at night, thinking of a myriad of topics I could address.  But alas, life and it's busyness take over my time.  Writing is a luxury, not a priority.

And now, on with the post!

This evening, I was viewing a one (of the thousands) of videos that pop up in my Facebook news feed.  It caught my attention, as I have been intrigued (and sickened) by the Holocaust since my childhood.  It is a level of inhumanity I cannot comprehend.  

The subject of this particular video was Eva Mozes Kor, one of the "Mengele twins".  If you're not familiar with this term, these twins were the human guinea pigs of Dr. Josef Mengele ("Angel of Death").  Dr. Mengele conducted experiments on these children, with seemingly no care for their health.  His goal was to find new ways to expand the Aryan race.

Eva arrived at Auschwitz with her family:  father, mother, and siblings.  A short time after disembarking the train, she and her sister were separated from their parents and older sisters.  They never saw those family members again.  Eva and Miriam were taken to a barracks building, where they joined many other children.  Until the day of their liberation, they suffered indescribable atrocities at the hands of men whose only interest in them was as "lab rats" for their horrific genetic research.

But that was not the end of her story.  If you take the time to watch the video, you will probably shed a tear or two.  There was more grief, but there was also victory.


Eva was a real-life hero.  She didn't score a touchdown with 5 seconds left in the 4th quarter.  She never won an Oscar.  She wasn't born into a wealthy family, with TV cameras following her every move.  She didn't star in "The Avengers".  She never put in the 3-point, last-second shot.  She didn't even host a talk show for debating the perceived ills of the world, revealing how to solve them through her gift of repartee.  


No, Eva did none of those things.  

What Eva did was beyond the scope of what our society deems as worthy of hero worship.  First, she survived.  She made it through the unspeakable months of torture which was masqueraded as "medical investigation".  She outlasted the barbarity, and came out on the other side.  Wounded both inside and out, yes.  

Second--and I believe more noteworthy--was a decision she made fifty years later.  She chose to let go of her woundedness.  She took the road less traveled.  She determined to be a world changer.

She chose to forgive.

Now, if you're a Christian reader, you might be thinking, "Okay, but we all know Jesus did that first.  He said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'  He was the example."  Of course, you are absolutely correct.  But isn't it kind of an "easy out" to say this?  I mean, after all, He was God-in-the-flesh.  He was perfect.  He suffered, yes, but He knew He would rise from the dead, and all would be well.  Again, though, you are absolutely correct.  It's just that sometimes it is too easy to overlook the heroes all around us in our modern world.


True heroism is seen in every person who reflects that aspect of our Lord.  Anyone who suffers in ways beyond our imagination, and still chooses to forgive?  A hero.

And now I look into the mirror and ask, "Am I a heroine?  Do I forgive every wrong, whether real or perceived?"


I invite you to look into your mirror, too.

Let's be real-life heroes.






Saturday, August 24, 2019

Feeling Stretched

Credit:baranq - Fotolia
Copyright:BartekSzewczyk.com
What a crazy spring and summer it has been!

In April, my dad fell a couple of times.  He had just recuperated from Influenza B, and was coughing again, too.  Thankfully, after some quick phone calls, he was taken to the ER.  He was experiencing several health issues.  Within the next two weeks, we almost lost him.  Dad was taken to the Kansas Heart hospital, and went through a couple of weeks of tremendous pain and sickness. 

While Dad was in the hospital, Mom had eye surgery for wet macular degeneration.  I'm so thankful for my three older sisters, and all the ways they cared for my parents during this time! 

The following weekend, Dad's condition worsened again. 

Our family made a quick, one-day journey to Kansas.  The day after we arrived, Dad began a  transition into hospice care.  Within a short time, he was moved to a nursing care facility closer to their home. I stayed with Mom for two weeks, and helped transport her to see Dad.  My husband and sons were only able to stay for one week.

While in Kansas, Keith developed some symptoms that appeared to be a sinus infection.  He visited the local ER, and was put on antibiotics.  He seemed to be improving.  However, on his way back to Ohio, his symptoms returned.  After visiting our doctor's office and having more tests, it was determined he was having thyroid issues.

The four of us finally reunited in Ohio on Memorial Day. 

June was a month of other issues, which I won't go into here.  During July, we had even more situations come at our family. 

My dad continues to be in hospice care.  My mom travels 40 miles round trip so she can see him every day.  My two oldest sisters and their families are going beyond the call of duty to care for both of them.

But the stretching wasn't done!

Keith saw an open position at a parish near us.  He has been looking for just such a position for several years.  Within a week of applying and his interview, he had the job!  He began his new employment this week.  This evening, our family attended Mass and a youth event at our new home parish.  We have attended the same parish for 13 years now, so yes, this is another bit of stretching.

I'm not sure what God has in store for our fall...but He is faithful, and it will be good! 

We are never done growing and stretching!


Saturday, November 03, 2018

Gasp!

I haven't posted on this blog in over a year! 

Facebook has become so much easier.  A few sentences, and everyone is caught up on my life.  But it just doesn't have the "got the writing out of me" satisfaction that I have gained from blogging all these years.

This week is one of those that makes life interesting.  It stretched my faith and keeps me on my knees.

My husband came down with a cold-type thing last week, which turned into bronchitis.  Earlier this week, the germs caught up with me. 

On Monday, my car began making horrible noises.  The mechanic discovered a few problems with the exhaust system.  That meant a trip to a muffler shop.  There are more repairs that will need to be made ASAP--don't want to lose the transmission or gas tank in the middle of winter, right?  After taking care of all that, I came home and went straight to bed.  Those nasty germs.

That evening, we supported our local library by ordering Chipotle.  In the middle of that meal, a piece of one of my teeth broke off.  Yep.

Wednesday, our oldest son drove the two hours to pick up our younger son from college for fall break weekend.  On their way home, they were involved in an accident.  Thankfully, they are both fine.  Sadly, our car is not.  We are now looking to replace it.

I also received results of blood work.  I have too much bad cholesterol, too little good cholesterol, and my blood sugar is too high.

The things I hate dealing with the most--car problems, doctor appointments, and dental appointments--all hit in one week. 

Just trying to remind myself that no matter what happens, God is still in control.  My kids are safe.  There are more cars.  The tooth can be repaired. I CAN eat a healthier diet and exercise regularly!  And the necessary funds for all this will be provided.

God is good!

How has your week gone???


Monday, September 25, 2017

A Father's Heart

I haven't posted on this blog in about 6 months.  No excuses from this blogger, only the fact:  Life.

In the past, my times of silence have been due to the busy-ness of life.  You know how it is, right?  Activities, work, appointments, family events...life.

This period of quiet as had another source, though.  Grief.  Grief for situations in our personal lives and the lives of those we love.  This has been a year of great loss for our family and extended family.  Loss of dreams, loss of loved ones, and loss of hope in the midst of seemingly insurmountable tragedy.

In the past five days, it all seems to have escalated:
- a dear family (from our church) lost their home to a fire.  A family of 10, including a newborn, suddenly became homeless;
- a family member underwent a scary health situation, which is still not completely resolved;
- a man close to our family is undergoing tests to hopefully reveal the cause of physical symptoms that could be life-threatening;
- my uncle is fighting the last stages of a debilitating brain disease, which has in so many ways taken away the man we loved already;
- someone very close to my family is also battling a similar disease;
- one of my young piano students just found out she is going to lose her grandfather.  This young lady has already lost so much, and now this;
- a relative in his 40's suffered a massive stroke;
- our friends' teenage grandson has received news that the cancer has returned for the second time  and,
- my cousin lost her husband in a horrific stabbing.  She and her sons are facing all the difficulties of losing a spouse and father, in addition to the violence that caused his death.

My heart is so full of grief, it seems it will burst.


"Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows..." Isaiah 53:4


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Bottled Up

Life doesn't always treat us the way we've planned.  Over the past month or so, my life has been turned inside out and upside down in more ways than one.  I've cried a lot of tears and felt a lot of pain.

There's this really amazing portion of a psalm (56:8) that has been rolling around in my heart:

"You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?"

In ancient times, mourners would collect their tears in a bottle.  The tears would be placed at the tomb of a loved one as a visual reminder of their grief.  

From Wikipedia:  "Tear Catchers were commonly used during Ancient Roman times, with mourners filling glass bottles with their tears, and placing them in tombs as a symbol of their respect for the deceased. It was also used to show remorse, guilt, love and grief. The women cried during the procession, and the more tears collected in tear bottles meant the deceased was more important. The bottles used during the Roman era were lavishly decorated and measured up to four inches in height.[1]
Tear bottles were designed with special seals, which allowed the tears to evaporate. By the time that the tears were assumed to have evaporated, the mourning period was considered over."

David's psalm supposes that God has collected his tears as a remembrance of David's mourning and trials.  God has numbered, not only the hairs of his head, but every tear drop he has shed, keeping track of them in a book.  This is, of course, figurative.  But how beautiful!

In the New Testament, the woman sits at Jesus' feet and washes His feet with her tears.  She then wipes them clean with her hair.  Some scholars have speculated that she had plenty of tears, because she had been collecting them.  But the death here was not of a friend, but of her own sins and self.  It was a show of surrender to the Lord.

Tears are healing.  I don't know what you're experiencing, but I do know you don't have to hold back or hide your tears from God.  And when you do, trust me, the healing can begin.  God is faithful.  God is love.  Of that I am confident.  Let Him hold your tears and heal your heart.

Monday, January 23, 2017

But what does it mean?!

One of my favorite movies of all time is "Eloise at the Plaza."  If you're unfamiliar with the Eloise movies, here is the basic story line:  Eloise is the 6 year old daughter of a world-traveling mom.  Eloise lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York City with her nanny, whose name is...Nanny.  Miss E has many adventures and a contagious smile.

In one, very "Eloise-esque" moment, she is trying to discover the meaning of a French phrase.  She follows her tutor, Philip, into the bar at the hotel.  Of course, she is underage, being 6 and all.  She puts on her "little man" disguise and strides right on in.  And, in a way only she can, she wants to know the phrase.  She knows the words, but she wants to know what they MEAN.



It's humorous, and I hope you enjoyed the clip.  But, of course, I'm going somewhere with this.

The words "Pro Life" and "Pro Choice" are thrown around in our society as catch-phrases that are supposed to somehow comprehensively take in who a person is with regard to their politics, religion, feminism, and views on others' lives in general.

As someone who considers herself "Pro Life," I must admit there are MANY times when I am astonished and horrified at how the media portrays the Pro Life movement and those who support it.  Apparently, I am a hateful, uncaring person, who wants nothing more than to impose my own views on other women, take them back to the dark ages of civil rights, and tell them how, when, where and with whom they should or should not have sex.  I love babies, but hate the women who find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy.  I am an old, super-religious person who has nothing better to do than wag my finger in the face of progressive, professional women who have lives to lead and ladders to climb.  I am standing in the way of society's efforts to improve and enrich the lives of all women, young and old.

If you know me, you know these things really are not who I am.  What does it mean to say I am pro life?

When I say I'm pro life, I mean ALL life.  From the tiniest human being, created at the "spark" of conception, to the oldest human, breathing their last breath after a lifetime of sparks, I am pro YOU.  Whether you look like a "clean-cut professional" or have piercings, tattoos, shaved hair, long hair, purple hair, gray hair, or no hair, I am pro "your" life.  Whether you have been healthy your whole life, or you have suffered with a debilitating disease, if you have fought and beat cancer, or if cancer is kicking your butt right now...I am pro YOU.  Whether you are liberal, conservative, independent, or you're just not quite sure where you stand politically, I am pro "your" life.  Whether you are a virgin, or whether you have known an active, complex sex life, I am pro YOU.  Whether you are rich or poor, and no matter what color your skin may be, I am pro "your" life.   Whether you are "normal" (who really is, though?), or have been labeled as having a physical or mental challenge, I am pro YOU.  Because, though our lives' stories are made up of many experiences and choices, the bottom line is this:  you are a person of value, simply because you ARE.  You have value because you exist.  No matter who you are, or where your experiences and choices have taken you in life...I am pro "your" life.

Will I always agree with your politics, religious views, etc. etc. etc.?  Probably not.  But you probably won't agree with mine, either, right?  But does that make either of us less valuable?   My answer would be:  NO.  We are both of equal value.

Now, having said all that, I think the other side of the terminology deserves some consideration as well.  Is the definition of  Pro Choice shown clearly in the media?  Do all the women (who attended the Women's March--or wanted to) have the same stands on every issue?  Do they all think abortion is simply another method of birth control?  Do they all stand behind the mantra, "as much sex as possible with as many people as possible?"  Do they all string together as many f-bombs as possible to express their point of view?  Are they all atheists, or at least anti-religion?  Do they all hate ME?

Obviously (at least I hope it's obvious to you!), the answer to this is NO as well.In the end, the real question is not what it means to be pro life or pro choice.  The proper question should be this:  What does it mean to be human?

                                   




Friday, November 18, 2016

The Further Adventures of...Me!

Last week, I made another journey to my home state:  Kansas.  I grew up in the southwest corner of the state, where the horizon is farmland, the people are friendly, and life moves at a slower pace (well, mostly!).  

While I was visiting, the weather was unseasonably warm--record-breaking, actually--and mild.  (The northwest corner of the state has had snow since then!)  I didn't do anything "exciting" by most people's standards.  But I spent quality time with my parents, two of my sisters, and a few of my nieces and my nephew.  I reconnected with friends and church family from my formative years.  I breathed fresh Kansas air and saw AMAZING views of the harvest moon over the cornfields.  I saw cotton fields for the first time in my life. Yeah, it was a great trip.

On my journey west, I experienced one of the best Veteran's Days ever.  At every point of my journey, we were applauding the veterans in our midst.  The airline (Delta--giving credit where credit is due) handed out blue and red wrapped chocolates at the end of each flight to honor the veterans.  A group of young sailors, who were about to board their flight, were surrounded by well-wishers and words of thanks for their willingness to serve.  My lunch at Popeye's was shared with a Vietnam Vet from Arkansas.  It was awesome!

I also witnessed the kindness of Americans toward one another.  A young mom was traveling with her 8 month old son to visit relatives.  As she was navigating the first airport, she realized she had forgotten her son's pacifier.  A complete stranger, who happened to have a brand-new one in her diaper bag, offered it to this young woman.  The gentleman sitting next to her on our flight took over the role of "grandpa" so she could attend to her son's needs.  Every time the pacifier hit the floor, the stewardesses were there in a moment to rinse it.  Then someone on the flight produced a lanyard.  Three adults (including myself) figured out a way to hook it to the pacifier, so that mommy wouldn't have to keep searching the floor for it.  There was applause for successful moments and laughter at the sweet little guy's antics.  We became a family on that flight.  When we began to disembark, all those seated near her were helping to gather blankets, etc.  People of every size, shape, and color united to keep a baby happy for 1 1/2 hours.  It was beautiful!

On my next flight, I sat next to a gentleman from New Jersey, who was on his way to join in the beginning of pheasant season in Kansas.  "I'm going to a place called 'Greensburg'.  Have you ever heard of it?"  I laughed.  "Yes!  That's where I'm going, too!"  He peppered me with questions, and entertained me and our seatmate with his hunting stories.  I hope he had fun.  It was a hoot!

On my return yesterday, I had a brand new experience. I met a family of immigrants.  In the interest of their safety and privacy, I cannot tell you their names, their country of origin, or their destination.  What I can tell you is that I was drawn to them.  Imagine for a moment needing to uproot your entire family from the only home they have ever known, and having to trust complete strangers for safe passage to a new country...only to be surrounded by people whose language you cannot understand and whose customs are totally other than anything you have ever known.  A busy airport.  Tired children.  I did my best to converse with them (thank you, Google Translate!) and express American hospitality to these newcomers.  I hope I was successful.  My prayers are with them as they begin their new life here and that the adjustments to our country will be aided by loving, caring people.  It was life-changing for me!

My heart is full.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

That "One Thing"

So now that it is Election Day in the United States of America, I am finally posting about this several months' long experience we call "the process."  (If you're like me, you may feel as if you've been put through a food processor!  We're put in, a little at a time, and then the large "whirrrrrrr" and we're chopped, processed, and totally mixed up!)

I have friends on both sides of the political spectrum, as well as a few in the middle.  I consider myself conservative, but have been known to cast a few ballots for "the other side" in my day.

Some people wonder what is the big deal, anyway?  After all, as long as we have someone in the White House who will take charge and keep things running along, it will all pan out, right?

Others have asked me why so many conservative Christians seem to focus on a one-issue paradigm.  Thus, this article.

Because honestly, it really is a one-issue election for me.  I can sum it up in one word:  LIFE.

Then come the accusations of only caring for babies, and not being concerned about women, and so many other issues, such as social justice; equal rights for all genders, races, belief systems, etc.; immigration policies; the death penalty; reproductive rights; health care; international affairs; and the list goes on.


I offer this to you, though.  If we do not base our vote on LIFE, how do the other issues matter?  If a child is not given the chance to live, then the story is over.  No need for social justice, because he/she is dead.  No need for equal rights, because their life has ended.  If we do not care about LIFE, then no other position has any credence.  If we do not care about helping someone live the end of their life in a loving, caring environment, anything else we have done throughout their life is senseless.  If people only have value when they are contributing to society, then why bother with health care?  If we do not place importance on caring for those with physical disabilities or mental issues, what good are equal rights?  Are those rights only for the "elite, acceptable" people in our population?

If we begin with LIFE, then all the other issues will flow out of that.

                                             



15 “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God[a] which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
                                                                        Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Summer Summary (or, "A Summery Summary")

On this last day of August, it occurs to me that summer is winding down, and fall will soon be upon us.  Gasp.  (Have you heard the forecast for winter?  Let's not talk about that.)  It may just be my age, but it seems every summer zooms by a bit more quickly than the last.  (But let's not talk about my age, either.  Thanks.)

Our family's summer was neatly planned back in the late months of winter.  This being my husband's Jubilee Year (yes, he turned 50 in December), he wanted to spend the year celebrating, not bemoaning the progression of the hands of time.  Every vacation day and personal day were arranged for optimal memory-making.  Our family was going to visit the sites of Keith's life--Detroit, Chicago, Springfield (Missouri), and...others.  And then...

On a fateful day at the beginning of June, his job ended.  Suddenly, all our well-laid plans had to be set aside in deference to the sudden lack of income.  It was a blow, but not the final count.

Within days, friends were dropping off food and other necessities.  Surprise cards in the mail containing monetary gifts.  Gift cards to the local grocery store.  If I had the words, I would describe that feeling of amazed gratitude and awe at how good God is, and how incredible it is to be blessed by His people.  I cried so many tears of thanksgiving. 

One of those unexpected gifts was a check that arrived with a note, telling us to take our previously-planned-then-cancelled trip to Kansas to visit my family.  The check covered our expenses, and then some.  Wow.  Our trip had been postponed, but was quickly rescheduled!

God provided some summer employment for me that was "just in time" as well.  

Some of our other plans have had to be set aside, as Keith has begun a new job.   I teach piano, so the school year is my busy time for lessons.  Our oldest son has returned to college for his junior year.  Our younger son is in his senior year of high school.  Keith is back to his formation classes for his final year, in preparation (God willing) to be ordained a deacon in May.  

Not as WE had planned, but certainly not outside God's plans.

If you're reading this, and things are super tough right now, please don't misunderstand this post.  Our family has gone through some financial trials in the past when no money came in the mail, no groceries were dropped at our door, and there seemed no way out.  But God has always provided.  Not in the ways we may have prayed He would, but always in a way that helped us remember His goodness and faithfulness.  We've done without a lot of things the world thinks are "necessities."  That's really okay.  It has taught us to rely on Him and not on "things."  God is good in ways that go beyond the material and stretch us in our faith...to see how good a Father He really is to each of us.

The struggle doesn't mean we're not in God's will.  It just means we're struggling, you know?

God bless.