Sunday, May 08, 2022

The "Happy" Mother's Day That Wasn't


Sunday, May 14, 1995

Mother's Day had become a burden.  After almost six years of marriage, it was yet another holiday to be celebrated without a child.  I had not anticipated this day, but rather dreaded it.  

The previous week, we had attended our denomination's District Council.  I had no doubt I was not pregnant, as the usual monthly cycle had come once again.  I was quite depressed.  I spent some time away from the meetings and fellowship.  Sleeping in the hotel was my little escape.

The last morning of the council, in a very special service, our district superintendent spoke.  I honestly don't remember his sermon.  What I do hold in my memory was the moment he said the Holy Spirit was leading him to have us pray for those who needed healing.  Keith took my hand, and we stood together.  We told no one of our childlessness.  They simply laid their hands on us and prayed.

When Mother's Day arrived, Keith and I planned to go out to breakfast.  We skipped morning service at church.  This turned out to be an even worse plan.  The restaurant was filled with families honoring their mothers.  We weren't at church to celebrate our friends who were moms.  All I wanted to do was go home and be in solitude.

That evening, we did attend church.  A friend asked how our Mother's Day had been?  My response was only to say, "Mother's Day isn't a good day for us." 

A few weeks later, we attended another ministers' gathering.  Through a series of events which I won't detail here, I ended up in a women's restroom sobbing.  My heart was broken.  I was never going to be a mother.  My wonderful husband knocked at the door, and took me by the hand.  We embarked on a short walk alone.  He finally said, "We have to give this to God.  Even if we never have a child of our own, we need to be open to adopting.  Whatever God has for us, we need to be willing to obey."  [Probably not his exact words, but it was something similar.]

And so we prayed...

Within a week's time, I was sitting in a doctor's office waiting.  The nurse popped her head around the corner.  With a big smile, she announced:  "It's positive!"  The date?  June 17, 1995.  It was our sixth wedding anniversary.  And also the day before Father's Day.

For some reason, on this Mother's Day 27 years later, my heart has been filled with our story.  I felt someone needed to hear it.  Whoever you are, remember that God has a plan.  I have friends who have been called to parent their biological children. I have friends who have been called to parent through foster parenting.  I have friends who have been called to parent through adoption.  I have friends who have been called to parent through mentoring young people in their church or community.  

Hold on to hope. Hold on to God's hand and let Him lead you.

And know that I am praying.

"'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, NIV




Friday, October 29, 2021

Remembrances

It has been two years since you left us. Yet, if I blink my eyes... 

I can see you sitting in your favorite chair. I can hear your voice as you talk about the state of the crops, or the condition of the cattle market. I can recall your playful tone when I called and said, "It's Joni", and you responded, "It is you, isn't it?". Or when it was Mom's turn, you handed her the phone, and said, "It's Jopey." 

I have memories of you crawling under whatever tractor decided it was good to break down during planting season--or a combine with the same crazy idea during harvest. 

Your implement store cap, bill upturned, shading your face, but never stopping the dust of the Plains from coating your face. The grease from a thousand and one repairs  never completely erased from under your nails. The farmer's tan, earned from decades of working under the sweltering Kansas sun. Wrestling and roughly rubbing down a newborn calf to coax warmth and life into its little body, and helping clean up the back porch after the baby was safely returned to its mama. A lifetime of dealing with the droughts, floods, snows, storms, and crazily fluctuating market prices etching themselves into the lines of your dear, caring face. 

I hear your laughter as you share the latest "overhead in the coffee shop" joke, or as you read a humorous tidbit from whatever newspaper you have in hand. 

I reminisce about making the trek to church, no matter what the weatherman said. I see you sitting at the head of the table, thanking God for providing another meal. In my mind's eye, there is a permanent photo album of church memories: Sunday school class, teaching the children another "Did you know?", late-night board meetings, sitting at the end of the pew, and giving me "the look" if I misbehaved. Standing (and in later years sitting, when standing was no longer possible) at the church doors, greeting everyone with a welcoming smile and a word or two to let every individual know they were welcome.

Too many memories to count... 

Journeys to Colorado.  Fishing in the mountain streams.  Those perilous, rough trips in the Jeep, as we made our way slowly up the seemingly impassable mountain trails.

Sitting at the kitchen table, eating Life cereal, because that's what my daddy eats.

Seeing you in the stands as I struggled with my confidence as a basketball player, and your words of encouragement after you conferred with the coach. We both knew I loved to play, but I was never going to be a sports standout. 

Always looking for your face in the audience, and many times knowing the farm had taken precedence over a play, sporting event, or music festival. But also knowing you would always want to know how it went.

The feeling of your dear, thin hand as we said our last "in person" goodbyes. And the sound of your feeble voice in that final, precious phone call. 

 You are forever in my heart, Daddy. Two years is nothing in light of eternity.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

A Gift from the Heart

Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone who was less than thrilled with a gift? You can see it the moment the paper falls away. What is revealed is far less than what they had expected. Disappointment is very obvious. The words are still spoken, "Thank you!", but there is no doubt the recipient is feeling let down. The problem is, you had spent hours and hours looking for just the right item. You put a lot of thought and time into choosing a gift that would bring a smile to the face and joy to the heart. Yet, there is only a forced smile and a pretense of gratitude. The same holds true for the ultimate Gift Giver. His greatest Gift to the world was not a spur of the moment decision. When searching for the very best Gift, money was no object. He would not give anything less than the very best. He held nothing back. Scripture says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." Ponder those words: Before the foundation of the world. Before the Garden of Eden. Before the first bite of the fruit. Before Cain or Abel. Before all of it. BEFORE creation was even formed, God had chosen the Gift. He had formed the plan, and knew the outcome. He even knew the reaction of every recipient. He knew whether that Gift would be received or rejected. This past week, we have pondered again the plan. We remembered the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We paused again to reflect on the overturning of the tables in the temple of Jerusalem. We walked through the Triduum--the last three days--of the life of Jesus. We relived the Last Supper. We walked to the Garden of Gethsemane with Him. We witnessed His agony in prayer, and the betrayal by one of His followers. We reminsced on the importance of the private, quick trial and hasty conviction of One who had taught, healed, and worked other miracles publicly. We recalled His brutal scourging and horrific death on a Roman cross of crucifixion. Then, quite joyfully, we celebrated His coming back to life: the resurrection of a man who died a brutal death. We sang the songs. We wore the beautiful clothes. But what is that in our eyes? Is it disappointment? Are we feeling let down? Is there a moment of, "Oh, is that all?" Remember the verse quoted above: In Christ, God has given us EVERY spiritual blessing. In accepting that amazing, seemingly impossible Gift, we are participating in the plan begun "before the foundation of the world". God knew what would happen. He knew we would often choose other things that sparkled or offered more momentary joy. He knew. Yet, He continued with the plan. He went forward with offering His own Son to come, live, die, and resurrect. He didn't withhold anything. Romans 8:31-32 says, "What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him?" My hope and prayer is that today, you will take some time to reflect on the value of this Gift. Don't stop at Easter Sunday, and decide to set Him aside. Open the entire Gift, and let Him give you "all things" that He desires: Life. Love. Strength. Wisdom. Understanding. Fortitude. Knowledge. Piety. Peace. Joy. Longsuffering. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. And so much more! Accept the Gift. Acknowledge the Giver with unbridled joy and deep thankfulness of heart. This is definitely the Gift that keeps on giving! For more information: https://www.catholic.com/qa/the-seven-gifts-of-the-holy-spirit

Saturday, January 02, 2021

A Year of Firsts


I could simply type "2020" and everyone would have a whole recollection of "firsts" for the past year.  So many unexpected experiences.  I have seen the word "unprecedented" more in the past twelve months than I have in my whole life.  Yes, it is definitely a year that will not quickly pass from memory.

Like all of you, I have undergone a series of "firsts":

1) First time wearing a mask when entering a bank (add church, grocery store, etc. etc.); 2) First time not going to church for two months, because we weren't allowed to be there in person; 3) First time seeing our family and not hugging them; 4) First time attending church at a distance from others; 5) First time attending church and being told not to sing; 6) First time staying at a motel with a complimentary breakfast--and being given a brown bag; 7) First time trying to connect with people without them seeing me smile back; 8) First time visiting friends with a door, window, or at least 6' between us; 9) First time teaching piano lessons remotely (which began with a whole lot of other "firsts"); and, 10) First time I have taken a walk EVERY day for several weeks in a row just so I could be out of the house!

As you're reading this, you can probably relate to most or all of those "firsts" as well.

But, totally unrelated to COVID-19, this has been another year of "firsts" (beginning in October, 2019):


1) First year my dad celebrated his birthday in the presence of his Lord; 2) First year of not having Dad call to ask about the weather, and "are you kids safe up there?"; 3) First year of going to Kansas, but Dad wasn't there to greet us; and, 4) First year of longing for heaven so much it physically hurts.

This list could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the picture.  

Let's move on, though.  What are some of the truly positive "firsts"?

Our family has spent more time together than ever before. In certain moments, that may have felt like a negative instead of a positive.  I mean, four adults together in a 2-bedroom apartment?!  But even on those occasions when we all just needed some s-p-a-c-e, it was a positive.  We have learned new ways to talk through our differences and help each other through the craziness of life.  

Our oldest son landed his first full-time job.  That, my friends, is definitely a positive.

Our family has gone on more outdoor adventures than ever before.  Including, but not limited to, getting lost on a hiking trail, along with about 20 strangers.  (Which reminds me of a letter I should write to the Cuyahoga County Parks folks.  Trail markers are an important tool in life!)

In far deeper ways, I have learned to appreciate the times I do have with friends and family.  

I have learned how much strength I draw from being at church with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and from the reception of Holy Communion.  From March to May, watching Mass via a computer screen, it created this deep longing inside.  The first time "public" Mass was offered at our church, we were there, masks in place!

I have experienced life without my dad's verbal encouragement, yes.  But I have learned to live out his words of wisdom by simply remembering his example.  What a gift!  

stevemarselstudio.com
I think the biggest lesson I have learned throughout the madness of 2020 is that we all NEED each other.  Sure, we have a plethora of different views on religion, politics, etc.  But in the end, we are all
PEOPLE.  We were created for relationship.  I pray that we all learn the importance of that in new ways in the year 2021.

May your new year be filled with more positive "firsts" and less negative! 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Th-th-th-that's NOT all, folks!

One week ago, we were all rejoicing at the glory of Christ's resurrection.  We recalled His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  We mourned as we remembered His cruel death.  We waited in silence, as we called to mind His time in the grave.  On Sunday, though, we were full of joy as we relived the discovery of an empty tomb.  There it is.  One more Easter in the books.  Let's move along and bide our time until Memorial Day.  Check off another holiday!



Not so fast!

In the Catholic Church, we celebrate a time known as the Octave of Easter.  Eight days of singing the Gloria! and letting forth a resounding Alleluia!  Today, on the eighth day, we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy.  How glorious it is to call to mind the great mercy of God, who sent His Son for our salvation.  Check off another holy day!



Not so fast!

This is just the beginning!  We also celebrate not just one day, but a season of fifty days of Easter!  From Easter Sunday, we spend the next 7 weeks delighting in the goodness of His life, which brings us life.  After 40 days of fasting, alms giving, and prayer, we take this period of time to express our thanks to God.  At the end of these fifty days, we will reach another wonderful time:  Pentecost.



Maybe it's a bit too soon to put away the pastel decorations and toss the Easter lily.

The Lord is risen.  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


Thursday, April 16, 2020

The World Through My Eyes

As most of my readers are aware, I am a person who struggles with anxiety, worry, and panic attacks.  It is something I've battled most of my life.  When faced with a new, or unfamiliar situation, something builds up inside me.  I can't concentrate on anything but that situation, and how I will solve it or end it.  It has been the shadow that follows me whenever change is about to take place.

One would think, then, that with the worldwide pandemic situation, I would be a mess.  All the usual things should be plaguing me:  Who else is going to contract coronavirus?  How many more people will die?  What if one of my family members shows symptoms?  What if life has changed forever?  What if this quickly-moving virus has stolen everything we thought we knew?

I can honestly say, though, this has not happened to me.  I am naturally concerned.  I do worry some when I feel like people are basically "thumbing their noses" to all the advice given by the medical professionals.  On a GOOD day, washing our hands, covering our coughs, drinking plenty of fluids, etc., is great advice.  These steps help protect us from the common cold, flu, and other viruses.  After having gone through two fairly rough battles with two different strains of influenza, I will testify to the necessity of these basic hygiene steps.  They are a bulwark again any germ that strives to grow

But these are not "good" days in our world, are they?  Millions of people have contracted COVID-19.  Over 100,000 people have died.  Healthcare workers and hospitals are stretched beyond their limits.  Businesses have been shut down.  Unemployment has skyrocketed.  We have learned a new "normal" as we have adapted to social distancing, staying at home, washing and rewashing our hands, sanitizing surfaces repeatedly, and watching the reports to see how the fight against this pandemic is progressing.

But, I'm not worried.  I have had one small panic attack during this entire ordeal, and it wasn't directly related to all of this.  It was just a normal life thing.

How is that possible?!

The answer can be found in today's Gospel reading from Luke 24: 
"While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'”

The world of Jesus's disciples had been turned upside down.  He had been arrested, crucified, and buried.  The tomb was now empty.  They weren't completely sure what to do or believe.  Then, He came to them.  Knowing the turmoil in their hearts, His first words:  "Peace be with you" spoke to the core of their beings.

The same risen Lord is speaking that to us today as well.  He knows the world is crazy.  He knows there is disease, anxiety, confusion, and despair.  Yet He still speaks those simple words, "Peace be with you."  He has overcome the grave.  We no longer need to fear death.

"Peace be with you!"



Monday, April 13, 2020

The Light Shines in the Darkness

As a continuation of my last post from Holy Saturday...

Everything seemed dark for the followers of Jesus.  It had all come crashing down so suddenly.  The joyful celebration of Palm Sunday had so quickly turned into the frightening, tear-filled night of Holy Thursday.  The ruthless death of crucifixion had taken Him from them.  Three years of learning, growing, sacrificing...and for what?  The future loomed ahead with so many unanswered questions.

Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene came to them with the craziest notion:  she had seen the Lord.  Alive.  He spoke to her.  There were angels as well, telling her not to seek the living among the dead.  What was this nonsense?  Peter and John ran to the tomb.  Someone must have stolen the body of Jesus, and was playing some kind of cruel trick.

But stepping into the darkened space, they saw something beyond belief.  There was no longer a body of a dead Man.  There was the simple burial cloth, folded and set aside.  If someone had stolen His body, they wouldn't have taken the time to do that, would they?

So many questions.  Mary's answer didn't seem plausible.  Yet she was so emphatic that she had actually seen Jesus and heard His voice.  Could it be?  How could it be?

Two other disciples showed up with another impossible story.  A man had been walking along the road to Emmaus with them.  When they stopped for their evening meal, they invited the man to stay with them.  As the time approached for the blessing, they asked their visitor to pray.  In His actions, they began to know and truly see.  As soon as He left them (disappeared, they said!), they returned to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples.  Is this really happening?  It all seemed too incredible to be true!

And then, in the darkness of their fear, disbelief, and suspicions, He was there.  In the very room where they sat, He suddenly appeared.  The room was immediately filled with a new light!

"Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, 'Peace to you.' But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.'  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them."

As John would later testify, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." 

There would still be doubts and questions in the coming days.  But now they had all seen Him, heard His voice, witnessed His wounds, and observed Him eating a piece of fish.  His light had pierced the darkness of their despair.

Though they had thought His story had ended at the cross, they could now see that it really began at that empty tomb!




"In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  John 1:4-5

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Stunned Silence


As we observe this Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday (followed by Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday), Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday (Holy Friday), and Holy Saturday), there is the gamut of emotions. 

Palm Sunday began with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Crowds took up the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David”, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!”, and “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  Palm branches and garments were strewn across His path.  Such actions were surely in recognition of a king, or maybe…the Messiah?  He was nothing less than a great teacher or prophet, this Nazarene.  Stories of His teachings, His miracles of healing, the multiplying of bread and fish, and even the raising of the dead had circulated throughout the countryside.  The pilgrims were numerous, as they approached the city to celebrate the great Feast of the Passover in the coming days.  The crowds swelled, and the shouts of adoration and honor rang out as this simple, humble Carpenter approached.

The religious leaders recognized the center of attention right away.  They, too, knew the stories of His miracles and teachings.  This was no ordinary man.  Most of the leaders felt threatened by His mere presence.  And here He was, riding on a donkey, and accepting the acclamation given by the people.  They tried to put a stop to it at once.  From Luke 19:39-40:  “And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’”  The mood of the crowd does not appear to have been dampened in the least.

On the following day, Jesus taught in the temple, answered the questions meant to entrap Him, and did not shy away from public attention.  I’m sure many in Jerusalem were further intrigued by the authority of the teachings given by this Man.  He was welcomed into the Holy City with shouts of triumph.  The leaders seemed to be against Him.  And yet, here He was in the temple, teaching publicly.  He even tossed over some tables, and not a finger was laid on Him!  (see Luke 19:45-48)

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Laz′arus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” (John 12:1)  He traveled outside the city to the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary—a journey of about 2 miles.  Here, He and His disciples were given a supper.  For all appearances, this did not seem to differ from previous visits.  However, a seemingly small act changed it all.  Mary knelt at the feet of Jesus, and poured costly, perfumed oil on His feet, then wiped His feet with her hair.  In a moment of insight and foreshadowing, the writer notes a comment made by Judas—who would betray Him—that this oil could have been sold, and the money given to the poor.  This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.” (John 12:6)  I can only imagine the puzzled glances as Jesus responded that she was anointing Him for his burial.  (Matthew 26:12)

Judas began showing his true colors over the next few days, as he proceeded back into the city and cut a deal with the chief priests.  “What will you give me if I deliver Him to you?”  That day, thirty pieces of silver became the price of more than one life.

As the Feast of Passover approached, Jesus gave instructions for the celebration of the Seder (a Jewish ritual service and ceremonial dinner).  A room was secured, provisions purchased, and preparations made.  Perhaps they felt a bit of hopefulness in the traditions being practiced.  Surely Jesus was merely tired when He kept speaking of His impending death?  The Passover was a time to rejoice and celebrate the release from captivity.

Jesus began the evening by washing the feet of His disciples.  This was usually the job of the lowest of servants.  Yet here He was on bended knee, washing the dust and filth from their feet, and wiping them dry with a towel.  Obviously, this made His followers very uncomfortable.  Peter even decried the actions.  Jesus made it very clear that this was an important moment, though.  This was an action He wanted them to imitate, as they learned to serve each other as well as any others under their care.

He then spoke of a betrayal that would take place.  No one seemed to see Judas as a suspect, as they all questioned Him, “Is it I?”  Almost immediately after this, Judas went away to fulfill his agreement with the leaders.  Where was Judas going?  Was he taking an offering to the poor in observance of this holy feast?

As the evening wore on, Jesus then altered the ceremony.  As He offered the bread, He called it His own body, which would be given up for them.  Instead of the usual cup blessing, He spoke of it as His blood, which would be poured out for them.  What was this?! Certainly not the traditional words they had spoken since their childhood. 

Following the meal, they went out to the Kidron valley to pray.  There is a garden there, at the foot of the Mount of Olives.  There, Jesus walked away to pray by Himself.  There, He fought the final battle.  Upon His return to His disciples, He found them sleeping.  It had been a long day, filled with the final preparations for their celebration.  Still, could they not pray with Him for even one hour?  Surely they felt embarrassed.

From this point, events began to happen in rapid succession.  The temple guards, led by Judas, came into the garden.  Judas kissed Jesus.  Peter cut off a servant’s ear.  Jesus healed the man.  Then, He was bound and taken away.  The disciples ran, supposing they too could be arrested.  John alone followed at a distance. 

Later, Peter would find his way into the courtyard of the building where Jesus had been taken. 
He would be filled with shame, as, when questioned by others, he would deny even knowing Jesus.

All too soon, morning arrived, and Jesus was taken by the leaders to Pilate, then to Herod, and back again to Pilate.  In an attempt to appease the crowds, yet not condemn an innocent man, Pilate offered to release Jesus.  It was a common act of good will at each year’s Passover.  But the leaders stirred up the crowd, and they shouted, “Away with Him!  Give us Barabbas!”  Upon further insistence of this Man’s innocence, they responded to Pilate with even more vigor, “Crucify Him!”

And so it was.  He was scourged (a horrible, brutal whipping).  He was mocked.  He was crowned with a thorny wreath.  He was spit upon.  His blood oozed from wounds which marred His entire body.  He was given a cross to carry.  His weakened, battered body was given a burden so cruel.  Yet the bigger burden was unseen, for He was carrying the very sin of the world on His shoulders.




In the end, His was a death common to so many others who were crucified.  He was nailed to the crossbeam, both through His hands and feet.  The cross was lifted for all to see.  He was mocked, even by others suffering the same fate.  There was a difference, though.  This Man called out for His Father to forgive his tormentors.  He offered no words of anger or revilement.  There was no response to the accusations of, “He saved others.  Let Him come down from the cross and save Himself.”  He answered not a word. 

With His last breath, He spoke the simple words: “It is finished (accomplished, consummated).”  Then He bowed His head and died. 



Anguish. 

In the moments after His death, Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus’s body to be given to him.  The women who were there followed him, and Nicodemus provided the spices and oils to prepare His body for burial.  The religious leaders asked for a guard and a seal for the tomb.




So there they were.  Holy Saturday.  A day of stunned silence.  All the hopes and dreams of the past three years seem to be as dead as the Man who invoked them.  They didn’t know the end of the story.  They only knew what they could observe.  He was dead.  Their lives were more than likely at risk as well.  Judas hanged himself.  All seemed lost.

They hid in stunned silence.

As we have journeyed through this Lent and the COVID-19 situation at the same time, you may be feeling somewhat similar emotions.  Our world has come to an almost standstill.  Our usual preparations for celebrating Easter have been stifled by an invisible, yet very real enemy.  Our hopes may seem as buried in despair as the hopes of the disciples almost 2,000 years ago.  Have you experienced the gamut of emotions they felt during that first Holy Week?  Are you feeling that stunned silence?  

Have great hope, my friends.  He has promised a resurrection.  Not just His own, but ours as well.

It may seem like a silent, Holy Saturday.  But Sunday is most assuredly on the way!






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.