Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Come Ye Disconsolate

Come, ye disconsolate, wherever ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
"Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot cure."
Yesterday, out of no where, I woke up singing this song. I even posted it on my FB page because I was unable to get the words "Earth has no sorrows that heaven can not heal" out of my head. I think I now know why this happened...
Have you ever had a soulmate? Someone that you can sense and feel even though they are far way from you? I have that type of friendship with someone I met long ago. While we don't communicate much or see each other often, I keep this person in prayer and can sometimes sense when this person is hurting. Yesterday my friend's older brother passed away after fighting a long, difficult battle with cancer. His brother was a believer and I know the family takes comfort in knowing that their loved one is now at peace.
While we have that comfort, and while we do not mourn as those who have no hope, we miss the people we love. We grieve that we will not see that person anymore here on earth. No longer can we pick up the phone and hear their voice. And the death of a sibling must be a different loss than the loss of a parent.  It hits closer to home. I mean, this is a person we grew up with -  our very first friend in life - the person that shares our childhood memories. For my friend, losing this brother must be like losing an arm. I have a feeling these two went through a lot growing up together. I'm sure they gave each other security when times were tough. I'm sure they often leaned on each other during difficult times. Death takes away and it hurts.
Even Jesus knew this. When His good friend Lazurus died, Jesus wept. But thanks be to God, death, our great enemy, is something we no longer have to fear. Jesus' death paid our penalty for sin, and His resurrection shows us His power over death. Satan can no longer taunt us with the fear of dying. We have the promise that when we die, we go to Christ. Here, we will be restored - no more aches or pains! We will see loved ones again. And best of all, we will live without sin - we will be restored to  fellowship with God, and we will finally see Jesus face to face.
And that's why I believe that God placed this song on my heart yesterday. Look at those strong words in the first verse. Disconsolate. Languish. Wounded. Anguish. That's how it feels to lose a loved one. It's a hurt almost beyond what we can bear. But....
With God, there is always a "but" - a transition, a change. Now look at the words of the second verse. Joy. Light. Hope.  God takes our wounded heart and brings peace. It really is true that "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can not heal."
So, to my dear friend, I share these words - feeble though they be. I pray that God blesses your grieving heart. I pray that you will find comfort and peace because of what Jesus has done for us. My heart is sad, too, knowing what are going through and I keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

https://youtu.be/VmnnMHGvVJc  A version of this song, sung by Roberta Flack


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

There Is A Crack In Everything

This is a post written by Ted Cadd and shared by Mary DeMuth in 2013. I'm sure these words will bless someone today that feels broken and defeated. The truth is, we are ALL broken! But God transforms that brokenness and uses it for His glory! *
 I recently read this in The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brené Brown:
There is a line from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” that serves as a reminder to me when I get into that place where I am trying to control everything and make it perfect.
The line is, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
So many of us run around spackling all the cracks, trying to make everything look just right. This line helps me remember the beauty of the cracks…
It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly but together.
As I read that, I was reminded of lighthouses. Each lighthouse has a different light pattern and different paint and different design. Each lighthouse protects ships from dangers unique to its specific position. Should the lighthouse want to mimic another light, it puts the ships in its vicinity in danger. So the ships looking for a safe harbor need to see the real light pattern—not the made up one.
Each person’s story will touch lives but only when the story is told authentically.
We don’t find Jesus because of the parts of our lives that are whole. We find him (or, perhaps, he finds us)because of the cracks.
So the Light comes in—if the crack is bigger, even more light gets in. If we buy into the lie that all is made perfect when he comes in—and if we then start patching up the cracks—then others only see the lie and begin patching their cracks.
If I patch up my cracks and you patch yours, we will never find each other. We remain in darkness.
Like the lighthouses, my cracks and another’s are different but there are some similarities. When I tell you I was sexually abused as a child, you already know some things about me that I haven’t said. But our stories are also unique. And each story needs to be heard.
When I finally got so very weary of patching my cracks—especially the big ones—I gave up. “Whatever you want to do, God, is fine with me.”
I expected him to remove my pathetic spackling jobs and I wasn’t disappointed. I was unprepared for the pain he had to inflict to remove the debris.
But instead of bringing a big bucket of Holy Spackle, he began framing each crack for a window. The most painful of all, he is taking all the broken pieces of my childhood–my life, one by one, and fashioning them into works of stained glass art, each window custom fit to a crack.
We are surrounded with darkness in a world run by the Prince of Darkness. If the Light has come in and if we refuse to board up our stained-glass cracks, others can see the beauty of our cracks—each drawn most desperately—violently even—to the colors in in cracks they share with us. That is where hope begins.
If we insist on patching, we are boarding up a cathedral.
How about you? How has God framed your pain to make a stained glass window?
*So, what do you think? Do you, like me, try to cover up the cracks of life? Do you think it's true that when we conceal our cracks, we are actually concealing our unique life story and a chance for Christ to shine through the cracks? Are there things in our past that shouldn't be shared? I ask these questions because of my own personal quest and any input you share will be helpful and useful for me. You see, I am in the process of wanting to write about my story. But revealing cracks is difficult! But my desire to be a stained glass window overrides my fears. I'm at the point in my life where I want His glory to be seen!! If He can use my life in any way so that His glory is radiantly displayed, then He can have it! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Broken Way

Hi, friends!  I've been reading from a new book by Ann Voskamp entitled The Broken Way.
For those of you who are not acquainted with Ann, she is a farmer's wife. She is so much more - a mother, an author, a speaker, a woman of God - but in this book, she talks a lot about the brokenness that naturally occurs all around her on the farm.  She often speaks of the brokenness of a seed in order for it to grow. She uses this illustration as she compares the brokenness that occurs in our lives, reminding readers that there is no shame in brokenness. Only in brokenness can healing and restoration and new life begin!  These words that I read today spoke to my heart and I wanted to share them with you:

You're guilty, but not condemned. You're busted up, but believed in.  You're broken, but beloved.  Whatever you are caught in, I make you free. Whatever you're accused of, I hand you pardon.  Whatever you're judged of, I give you release.  Whatever binds you, I have broken.  All sin and shame and quilt and lack I have made into beauty and abundance.

That is the type of unconditional love a sinner receives from Jesus. Not judgment and shame. but rather the profoundly loving words, "Go, and sin no more." Thank you, Jesus!  

Monday, January 2, 2017

Mother's Memorial Service

     Today was New Years Day, 2017. There's something exciting about the start of a new year - sort of like a big, huge, fresh start to life - a chance to do things over, to start again and do it better.

     Two years ago, my sisters, my daughter and I had a front row seat to the ultimate New Years Day.
In the early morning hours of January 1, 2015, we were with my Mother as she quietly took her last breath here on earth.  It was such a peaceful transition for her, and as we stood around her bed, I often wondered what our eyes could not see and our ears could not hear as she was welcomed to her eternal home.  Our vigil was over. We had been nestled in this warm little cacoon of sorts, never leaving our Mother's side, and now it was time to step out into the world. Plans had to be made. People had to be called. Whether we were ready for it or not, life went on.

     One of the things we discussed during our days of waiting was the memorial service.  My sister Karen had asked Mom months earlier if she had anything in place should something like this happen.  Mom refused to go into much detail or answer any specific questions, but she assured my sister that when we needed that information, we would find it.  Well, we went back to her apartment and guess what we never found?  So, we planned a service for her the best we could.  Over the years she had told us her favorite Bible verse and what song she wanted sung. The pastor came over and we all sat down and gave him the best instructions we could, but it sure would have been nice to find and know her specific desires for this important occasion. He left, we were sorting through some of her things, and you guessed it...we found a little planning guide where she put down all of her preferences.  And you know what?  We weren't too far off!  I did see a space for the Eulogy and she wrote "Joyce - Karen - Nancy if possible."  I told my sisters that I would be willing to speak. I had two days to prepare, but nothing came to me. It was the night before the funeral, and I still didn't have anything prepared. Unable to sleep, I went out to Mom's kitchen table and took another look at her planning guide.  I turned to the page that listed her favorite verses and saw one that I had not noticed before. Psalm 34:5 "Those who look to Him are radiant..."   That was it! I knew what I was going to say.
     The whole time Mom was in the hospital and in hospice, she was on her back and my sisters and I noticed something that started to happen. It was as if lying in that on position was taking all her wrinkles from her face and just ironing them away. No kidding!  She looked so beautiful and serene and her skin was....radiant, just like the verse from Psalm 34. And as if to confirm this, so many people at the funeral home said the same thing.  There was no doubt about it. She looked simply radiant!  So all I had to write about was the many ways I had witnessed first hand my Mom having to look to the Lord and rely on Him, especially in the years since my Dad had passed away. Through the struggles of aging hands and legs, she remained tenacious and strong-willed. So often when I wanted to help, she said, "No, I must do this myself!" I shared with her friends how the Holland Home was more than willing to send a wheelchair over and give her a ride to the beauty shop. She enjoyed that little luxury a few times, but once she felt she could walk on her own, she did it on her own. and believe me when I tell you, it was quite a hike to that beauty shop! But she knew it was the only way she would build and maintain her strength. 

     And she was classy. She told me, "Before breakfast, I like to have on my lipstick and earrings."
And she did. Every morning.  One day I asked her if she thought I looked ok just to quickly run out to pick up something from Family Fare. I didn't have any makeup on. She looked at me and said, "Well, I always try to look my best!" She set high standards for herself and for others. And as a result, she kept a clean home...a home where the floors, the closets, the refrigerator, and the stove could all pass a cleaning inspection any day of the week. Also, she was an exceptional cook.  Her leftovers tasted better than most regular meals. Whatever she did, she did her best. Even in her golden years, she rarely sat down. She could always find work to do!

     I then told her friends about her last day. About how much her birthday party meant to her. How much she loved seeing and hearing from each of them on that day, and how she went to bed that evening with a heart so full of love and contentment and peace.

     And finally, I shared the words to a hymn that she loved and that she had hoped we would sing at her service.  She even had made a copy of it and placed it in her planning guide. But since we didn't find the guide in time, this song was not sung. I concluded my little talk with words from that hymn:

                         Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on
                         When we shall be forever with the Lord.
                         When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
                         Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
                         Be still my soul, when change and tears are past,
                         All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

     That was the most important legacy my Mother left to each of us - the understanding that yes, life is difficult, full of disappointment and pain. But we are promised that those who look to Him for help will be radiant. Joy will be restored. Loved ones will meet again, all because of Christ!


Friday, December 30, 2016

The Path Leading To One of My Greatest Fears

     My relationship with my Mom was....complicated. It was a real love/hate relationship if there ever was one. I was my Mom's "baby". As a little girl, I bristled when I heard those words. As I grew older, I learned being the baby wasn't such a bad thing. I could use it to wriggle out of a lot of things.  It didn't take me long to realize that this was position of power, and believe me when I tell you, I played it for all it was worth. What I became was a manipulative, spoiled brat that thought everyone in the world would treat me the same way I was allowed to act at home. My Dad was the strict disciplinarian, so of course I attached myself to the parent that let me get my way. I never wanted to leave my Mom's side as a little girl, and going to school was a rude awakening for me. Back then, we lived close to school, and I could could go home for lunch. Once I was home, I never wanted to go back to school. I cried and begged and pleaded with my Mom to let me stay home. When that didn't work, I cried for her to drive me back to school. When that didn't work, I insisted she walk with me back to school. What a charmer I was, huh?
     By time I was in first grade, my parents began leaving my sisters and me for a few weeks while they would go to Florida. Now that I look at it, who could blame them for wanting to get away for awhile when they had such a feisty, strong-willed six year old at home? My sisters were 10 and 7 years older (16 an 13) than I was, so they didn't mind when my parents left. In fact, they loved it! They got to stay at their best friend's houses and have lots of fun. Me? I stayed with a family from the church one time, another time a cousin and his family stayed with me, or an Aunt and Uncle would move in for a month. I hated it! It created so much anxiety in me, and I truly felt abandoned every time they left. In my mind, I really thought they would get in an accident, die, and I would never see them again. It's hard to explain the fear I had as a little girl, but my young childhood years did not feel warm and fuzzy and loving to me. I was full of fear as a little girl, but my my biggest fear was the loss of my parents - especially my Mom.

     God, of course, knew this and it warms my heart when I recall the tender way He prepared me for life without the person that I thought I couldn't live without. Three months before her stroke, my Mom was attending her water aerobics class. She was out of the pool, completely dressed, but fell backwards and hit her head. You know what? I'm getting confused about the order of events, but I think she passed out and was brought by ambulance to the hospital.  She arrived with an extremely low blood pressure, The doctor talked to my sister and he knew Mom had the DNR orders. They decided to give her a high surge of oxygen and it revived her! Once she returned to Raybrook, she was doing physical therapy and passed out. The PT called the ambulance and once again Mom was rushed to the hospital. This time it was due to pulmonary embolism. She was sent to intensive care. This time I flew up. I was able to spend time with her in the hospital.Once she was out of Intensive Care, we had so much fun. I brought her make up from home and gave her a facial. We did Face Time with Elise and she marveled at all the things she could do with my I Pad. Her nurse walked in while she was on Face Time and promptly left the room. She returned a few minutes later laughing and said to Mom, "It's not everyday I walk in on a 94 year old and can't take her blood pressure because she's busy talking on Face Time!" Another day, we had devotions together. After we prayed, I looked at her and said, "Mom, I know you are so ready to go home to be with Jesus. But you know what? I think one of the reasons you're still here is because of me. God knows I'm just not ready for you to leave me yet."  She looked me right in the eyes and said, "Well, it's going to happen soon. And you better come to grips with that. And you will be just fine."

     The next time I came was one month later, in November. She was out of Assisted Living and back in her own apartment. She felt weak and for the very first time in my entire life, she was receptive to me helping her with meals. I tried to treat her like a queen as much as I could. I gave her back rubs and leg rubs and tried to serve her whatever meal sounded good to her.  It made me feel so good to hear her say, not once, but often, "What am I going to do when you go back home?" The last thing I did before I left to fly home was put a beef roast in the oven for Sunday dinner, just like she had always made for us growing up. My brother-in-law was coming over to have Sunday dinner with her.
She called me later that day and said, "That roast tasted so good!" Quite a compliment from the World's Greatest Chef and Baker!

     My final visit came in December. She was doing great! I remember telling her, "You may not sense it, but I can tell you are much stronger than last month!" She fussed for my birthday and made
my favorite childhood treat - meringues - served with ice cream and chocolate sauce. We went out to eat several times and she even let me shop for her. I found her a cute red jacket, and I think she wore that in almost every final picture we have of her. Devotions with her were my favorite. We would conclude by holding hands and saying the Lord's Prayer. Then, still holding hands, we would give one-two-three hand pumps which meant "I Love You". We used to do that with my Dad, too. One day, she held on to my hands and didn't let go after the one-two-three. She looked at me, holding both my hands, and said, "I really do love you." Oh, how I needed to hear that. All the ugly years, all the times we acted like we were each other's worst enemy, it all melted away with those words. The woman that always held me at a distance, finally let her guard down and let me in. I felt loved and accepted and good enough. And healed. I finally felt healed.

     One night, in bed, we were having one of our "in the dark" talks and I asked her, "Mom, how did you do it all these years? How did you do it all these years without having your own Mother to lean on?' She quietly responded, "You, know, I've often wondered the same thing." Her Mother died very unexpectedly when my Mom was only 13. She had to learn so many of life's lessons all by herself. I'm so thankful this was the journey that God prepared for me - a journey that brought me to a place of restoration with my Mom -  to a place where I felt her love for me and to a place where she accepted the love I had for her. What a tremendous blessing God gave me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Rest Of The Story

Mom, Karen, Nancy, and Joyce 
     Last night was my first venture into writing on my blog in well over a year. I rather boldly announced my return on my Facebook page and have been encouraged by kind words of encouragement. Thank you. Praise from men should never be my motivation for doing anything in life, but it sure is encouraging to know that maybe my thoughts and words can be used by God to help others who might be going through something similar.
     Yesterday I wrote about my Mother's last day. Except it wasn't really her last day. Now I'll tell you, a few bits and pieces from the days that followed...  I finally went to bed. Whenever I stayed with my Mom, I always slept with her in her bedroom.  She never liked the fact that I stayed awake so long. She liked for us to go to bed about the same time, which was usually way too early for me. But when I did, we would sometimes chat together in the dark and laugh together about the silliest memories.  On this night, on December 27, I slipped quietly into bed because she was sound asleep from her busy day. I can't really remember exactly what time it was anymore, but I hadn't been sleeping for very long when Mom woke me up with her snoring. I laughed a little to myself because she never snored, or if she did, it was small and delicate little whiffs that were barely audible. I, however, was a different story. Back then, I snored with a capital S! I've been told I've improved greatly in recent years, but back then my snoring would wake Mom, so she would push my arm at night to get me to roll over. That night, for the first time ever, I was the one that pushed on her arm - not once, but twice. I gave up. She was so loud, I went to the kitchen and ate a piece of birthday cake in the dark.  It was probably about 2:30 in the morning and I put my head down on her kitchen table and started to fall asleep. I woke my self up enough to move to the couch, but I could still hear her. I gave up and just crawled back in bed. Out of sheer exhaustion, I feel asleep and didn't wake up until the alarm went off to get up for church.
     That was the first time it registered that something could be wrong. I tried to wake Mom up, but she was unresponsive. I tried to lift her head, but she was completely limp. I pressed her call button for her nurse and also called to Elise who was in the other room. I'm not even sure of the order of things anymore, and who called whom, but within minutes the nurse was upstairs and the fire rescue squad was in her apartment. Oh, how my Mom would have hated that! She knew that the people in the "Retirement Village" would all be looking out the window, trying to figure out who was going to the hospital.  And then there would be the gossip.  She said the residents would see the ambulance and often have a person dead and buried when they were only being held at the hospital for observation because of dizziness! Nevertheless, the ambulance was called, and so were my sisters. I don't even remember how I got to the hospital, but I was the first one there, the first one that the doctor talked to and explained the prognosis. They were very clear that what had occurred was a massive stroke and that she would not recover. It would be their intent to keep her comfortable, but not prolong the inevitable. 
     She was given a room, and my sisters and I stayed by her side day and night. We talked with her and sang to her. The doctors told us that hearing is the last sense to leave, and while we had no idea if she heard us or not, it didn't matter. What mattered was that she was not alone or ignored in these final hours, that she was surrounded by her family that loved her. Even the nurses that cared for her, cared for her tenderly and with dignity. This was Sunday, December 28, and she lived for another four full days. As the days went on, the hospital notified us that she would need to be transferred to a hospice facility. After those details were set in place, my sister Karen and I were with Mom when a woman from hospice had to ok her transfer by ambulance.  The nurse told us Mom was in the active state of dying. I think those were her words. She carefully, gently explained what signs she was looking for and what was happening to our Mother. She asked us if our Mom had any favorite hymns, and this nurse started singing to her. It was such a beautiful, sacred time. My sister Karen rode in the ambulance with our Mother, and my sister Nancy and I followed in her car.
     Do you know that verse in the Bible that mention Mary "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart"? Luke 2:19  That's what I did for a long time.  I pondered. Because I was the one with my Mom that night, I wondered if I could have/should have done something differently? Something that could have saved her? It was first question I asked in the emergency room.  It was the first question I asked the neurologist. It was the one and only question that I asked every different doctor and nurse that I saw. I needed to know the answer. Did I cause this? Did I do something wrong? Could this have been prevented? While all of them assured me that, no, I didn't do anything wrong, one doctor finally said, "Young lady, this all happened in an instant and from that moment forward there was nothing that any amount of medical intervention could have done to prevent this outcome." That was it. I had to rest with that answer. I had to trust that this series of events was planned by a loving God. Now that time has given me some distance and perspective, I can thank God for the beautiful way He took our Mother home. No tears. No pain. Just quietly. Home. To be with Him forever.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


     Two weeks ago today, I flew to Chicago and spent a wonderful few days with our daughter and her husband.  One of the things I promised Elise that week is that I would write again. I was reminded of that promise this morning when I looked at my Face Book page. Face Book will often show what was happening in one's life in previous years. They did that to me today. This is a picture they put on my page from two years ago - December 27, 2014. It was the first entry I saw this morning, and it brought back a flood of memories of a day that I will never forget.  This is a picture of my Mother with her youngest great grandson, Andrew. It was taken at her 95th birthday party and Andrew is showing her some pictures that he took on my phone! This was the last day any of us would ever interact with her again. Later that evening, after she went to bed, she had a stroke and never regained consciousness.

     Mom's birthday was on Christmas, so we held a small party for her two days later. It was a happy afternoon where she was surrounded by her family and friends - a low-key "Open House" where people could stop by and visit and share a cup of coffee and a piece of cake with ice cream. Mom was content to sit and people would come and sit by her for a while and then move on. I remember going in to that day and she was a bit apprehensive. She was one that liked to be in control, and since her family made most of the plans, I don't think this felt like she had a handle on what was going on! But at the end of the day, when she was back in her apartment, she said over and over, "That was really nice, wasn't it!" She was so happy and content. She sat in her chair and carefully re-read all of her cards and cherished the sentiments. She went about her nightly rituals...setting out her water and pill that she would take at 5 am, helped my daughter pack up dishes she had given her, made sure Tommy had something for his upset stomach, and told me to come to bed soon before I fell asleep on the couch. And then she walked away with her walker towards her bedroom, giving Tommy, Elise, and I a final wave goodnight.

     Much later, we were able to find such joy in those final moments of her 95 year old life - spending her last hours with her family and friends - knowing she was loved and appreciated - and drifting off to sleep with a heart that was content.

 Eleanor Kloet Rodenhouse
December 25, 1919 - January 1, 2015
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fun With a Friend

I have some qualms about sharing this story.  Why?  I fear I may come across as either condescending or gloating.  Please trust my heart and know that neither is the case.  I just want to share a window into my world, and share what happened when I said "Yes" to God.

We have a woman in our church that is a real character!  I'll just call her "J".  She lives by herself now.  Life for her has not been easy.  Since moving to Houston, she lost her 48 year old son that lived with her.  He was autistic and never spoke, but while he was alive she always took him to church.  She's a short little woman with weathered skin, decaying teeth and uncombed hair. Her clothes have a "Goodwill" look to them, and she is notorious for losing things.

I started my journey with J about three years ago.  She wanted a ride to the Tuesday night Bible study, and I obliged.  As we rode to the study, she would babble on and on about everything under the sun. Sometimes it made sense and sometimes it didn't.  I marveled at the way her non-stop talking would come to a stand-still for the Bible study, but on the way home, her spirit was child-like and joyful, so thankful for the food and fellowship she enjoyed.

Those rides soon grew from rides to Bible study to rides to church -  to sitting with me in church - to daily phone calls. J was lonely.  And quite honestly, so was I. Sometimes she was a precious little lady. Sometimes she was a huge test of my patience.  I can't tell you the times I would pick her up, only to find she was not at home.

She is a very social person, but does have a car.  She is not one to stay in her apartment.  She is constantly walking along one of our city's busiest streets.  People know her and give her money. Restaurant owners give her free meals.  The local grocery store also keeps her well-supplied. She loves to try the food samples they offer.

She does all this roaming in some dangerous places. She has a naïve nature and is often used by those looking for someone weaker to use and abuse. She tries to share Jesus with everyone she meets, but meets many wolves in sheep's clothing.

My little friend has allowed me to see a whole other side to life. I've waited with her at the food bank. I was the silent observer, watching her "work the room". She struck up a conversation with just about everyone.

She been to our home when she had back spasms. I rubbed her back with Tiger Balm. I drove her to the drugstore when she had a toothache and introduced her to marvels of clove oil until she could get into a dentist. She calls me her doctor and thinks I know everything about everything!

Last week someone stole her little dog.  With shaky voice, she said, "Why would someone do this?  He was my companion.  He slept with me and kept me calm during the night.."  When she called me this week, I asked her what she was doing that day and if she would like to go out for breakfast. She eagerly said "Yes!"  and this time, when I drove up to the apartment, she was waiting outside for me!

I suggested different places to go, but none of them suited her...she wanted to go to Cracker Barrel.  I was tickled when she asked for catfish for breakfast, and was so thankful (and impressed) that our server took it all in stride.  During breakfast, I asked her if she would like to get her hair cut.  Her face lit up like it a child on Christmas morning.  The woman that took care of her at the salon was most gracious and gave her the cutest hair style.  J usually cuts (chops) her own hair. Never washes it. Never combs it. She looked like a new woman and it was obvious to me she felt like a new woman. The lady in the salon even went the extra mile and got rid of J's chin hairs, which are long and plentiful.

A haircut this stunning needed something a little extra - something like a new dress.  J and I walked to Stein Mart.  She literally "oohed" and "ahhhhed" at all the clothes. She was drawn like a magnet to anything bright and full of color.  Once she found a few dresses, I asked her if she wanted to go into the fitting room alone or if sh needed my help. She asked for help. She whirled and twirled and danced in each dress. I told her to look at herself in the 3-way mirror...that way she could get also get a better look at her new haircut. She beamed! Her whole demeanor changed!  She said, "I look like a movie star!"  We paid for her clothes and then returned to her apartment.  She must have thanked me fifty times for the fun day.  She asked several times, "How did you know?  How did you know that this was my heart's desire?"  I could only say that God placed it on my heart.  And I fully believe that He did.

As I drove home, I reflected on the waitress and hair stylist. They treated J with such patience. More importantly, they treated her with respect. They gave dignity to a little woman who looks and acts "a little outside the box."

I have been truly blessed. Thank you, God, for introducing J into my life.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Good Friday, Fleas, and Angels Unawares

"Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes." F.S. Leahy

Today is Good Friday. Bill took David and I out for breakfast. Our table conversation was invigorating! We discussed the events that preceded the crucifixion. Each time I review the last days of Jesus, His sacrifice seems even more intense, more tragic...and I am in awe of the One Who did this for me.

In yesterday's post, we talked about the angel that God sent to strengthen Jesus as He agonized over the events that would soon unfold. Has God ever sent you an angel? I don't think about angels much.
I do, however, believe that if God allowed our eyes to really see all that is actually going on around us, we would be amazed at how active angels are in our everyday activities. The verse in Hebrews 13 that mentions meeting "angels unawares" has long fascinated me. I really think it would be phenomenal if we could really find out if the people we meet from time to time are indeed angels!

My angel story took place in a shoe store. The year was 1984. I had just given birth to David, my first baby. My parents and sisters drove down to welcome our new family member. During this time, my mother was able to convince me that I should sell our beloved cocker spaniel. Now, you need to realize I was still rather new living in the South. I was completely naive when it came to a lot of things that pertained to being a wife and a mother and a resident of Mississippi. One of the things I had no idea about was fleas. Our dog had fleas! I had no idea!! I have been the owner of many dogs over my lifetime, and NEVER had I seen a flea. Well, when we sold the dog, guess how we found out that our furry friend had been hiding a secret? You guessed it...those fleas were all over us. All over my sisters. All over my parents. It was like reliving one of those Old Testament plagues!!

Long story short, after our guests returned to Michigan, I called an exterminator. He advised me to leave our home for a few hours so baby David wouldn't be exposed to the chemicals. No problem, I thought. David and I could easily spend a few hours at the mall. This would be my very first time leaving the house with David by myself. I struggled getting David into his car seat. I struggled even more trying to collapse the stroller and get it into the back of the station wagon! Remember station wagons?

We were about a mile down the road when David began to cry. Not a "cry" actually...it was more like a shrill, ear-piercing alarm that would. not. stop.  I pulled over to the side of the road and had all I could do to not join in on the crying. This was NOT the easy-peasy trip I had envisioned. We drove on to the mall. I parked the car and struggled with the stupid stroller again. I finally got it all set up, engaged the breaks, and unbuckled our little boy from his car seat. I was ready to put him in the stroller, but the stroller was gone! Well, not really gone...it was rolling on its own through the parking lot! Now what? Do I leave my baby to run after the stroller? . I had a quick vision of me appearing in the local news. "Baby kidnapped as mother is caught running through parking lot." I tightly held on to Davd as we made our way to the renegade stroller. I wrestled that thing back, got David situated, and we entered the mall. As soon as we started to shop, guess who started crying again. I pushed that stupid stroller over to the fitting rooms, locked myself in a room, and fed David. As he finished his bottle, he treated me to my first experience with a mess that his little diaper could not contain. When I say it went everywhere, I REALLY mean it went everywhere. I ran out of baby wipes. I had call out for the sales lady, explain what happened, and ask her to bring me a few newborn outfits. I don't remember reading about this stuff in any of my "preparing for baby" books. I stayed with him in that fitting room for what seemed to be hours. It wasn't. We were only 20 minutes into our stay-at-the-mall day. Things went downhill from there. The mall was not that big. It felt like we covered every inch of it and that the sales ladies were talking about us. "Oh look, Agnes. Here comes that lady AGAIN with her smelly stroller!"

Finally, I was overcome. The tears started and I couldn't stop. I pushed that stroller into Gryder's shoe store and sat. A woman came over. She smiled at me - mess that I was - and said the sweetest words. "What a beautiful baby!" I cried even more. The ugly cry. The cry that needed Kleenex, but I didn't have any. She asked how old David was. I tried my best to act normal, but I was a wreck. "When you had your first child, was it this hard?" I sobbed. She spoke in such a calm voice and encouraged me.
She patiently talked with me for quite a while. She asked about Bill, and how we met, and why we were in Mississippi, etc. She shared scripture with me and lovingly reminded that every moment I should "cast my cares on Jesus". I bent over to get something out of the diaper bag, and she was gone.   I looked all around for her. I even asked the salesman if he had seen her. She had just disappeared.

She was gone, but what remained were her words. They strengthened me. And not only on that day. When times get rough, I almost always hear her voice reminding me to "Cast my cares on Jesus". Was she an angel? I have no idea. I like to think she was. Regardless of who or what she was, I have no doubt that God sent her to me when I felt so overwhelmed, just like He sent an angel to Jesus during His darkest time. What a loving heavenly Father! And that is my angel story.

Friday, April 3, 2015


I have been using some devotions written by Rick Renner as I walked my way through this Passion Week.If you are on FaceBook, you might want to look at or like his page. He helps me a lot with my Greek. Learning the meanings of Greek nouns and verbs used in the New Testament often adds an added layer of depth to familiar verses.

The Greek word That Rick taught me today is "enishuo". It is a verb used in Luke 22:43. The verb means "to make strong". As Jesus agonized over His imminent crucifixion, he fervently wrestled with His self-will. He knew the horrible events that would soon unfold, and He struggled. He asked His Father to remove "this cup". Can't you almost hear Jesus plead, "Abba! Father! Daddy! Please, can't there be another way?" 

At that very moment, God sent His son an angel. We have no idea what the angel said to Jesus. All we know is that the angel was sent to "enischuo" - to strengthen. God sent His son an angel so that Jesus would neither feel alone nor be alone. This angel brought Jesus strength to endure what was probably the most difficult struggle He ever went through.

I encourage you to read through the events of Luke 23. Try to feel the human emotions Jesus felt.
I am amazed that He remains fully submitted to the will of His Father. I am ashamed that He had to endure this because of my sins. 

Have you ever come to a place in your life where you were all alone in the midst of an overwhelming trial? Did you wrestle in prayer before God? Did God make His presence known? Did He, perhaps, send you an angel?

Tomorrow I will share my "angel story".

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, June 21, 2014



It has been a long time since I have blogged. So many people have encouraged me to begin writing again, so I am going to give it a try. 

We just returned from a wonderful vacation!  We were able to see places we have never visited before, and we were able to spend a bit of time with each of our children and grandchildren.  Since our family is scattered all over, this was no small journey.  We drove well over 3,200 miles in two weeks.  Bill did all of the driving, so I had lots of time to sit and think.

One of the things I thought about was my blog.  I have always wanted to start over - to have a completely fresh start with a new name and a specific theme.  As I mulled over a new name, I wanted "Jars Of Clay". Why? Because my initials spell JARS, and because the Bible verses found in 2 Corinithians 4: 7-9 have always held a special place in my heart.

    But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and   not to us.

  I so often feel like I'm broken - like I have made so many bad choices - like life has bruised and battered me so much that I couldn't possibly be useful, let alone valuable. This verse uplifts me and reminds me that while I am broken (aren't we all?), I have a treasure within.

On our trip, one of my devotions taught me about kintsugi.  If you have a chance, Google it because it is beautiful and if you feel broken, it will encourage you!  Basically, this art form repairs broken pottery by filling in the cracks with gold.  A once useless, discarded , good-for-nothing piece of pottery becomes beautifully restored.  And not only restored, but valuable!

This is what Christ has done for me. He has taken this damaged jar, so broken and wounded, and has filled in the gaps with His glory. 

And so the blog continues...without a new name (the one I wanted was already taken), without a specific theme (I just couldn't commit to writing about one thing)...just me and the blah blah blah things that I experience. Thanks for joing me in this journey. xo

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Never a Girl Scout

I was never a Girl Scout.  For some reason, that random thought ran through my mind this morning. Where I was from, I don't think that was even an option.  It makes me smile now, but as a little girl I was somehow led to believe that being a Girl Scout was close to taking a walk on the wild side of life!  Isn't that funny?  So I never had the uniform, or the badges, or the experience of selling Girl Scout cookies, (In retrospect, this was a good thing.  I could eat my weight in Thin Mints!!) 

What I WAS a member of was the J.O.Y club.  It stood for Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.  We met once a month and learned different things like sewing and baking.  We had an overnight in the Spring and held a Mother/Daughter banquet every May.  I still remember when Susie Brunner and I got to be the special music for the banquet. We sang Sweet Hour of Prayer as a duet and I made my debut as an alto!  

Great childhood memories...funny how they come through our minds when we least expect them...but  this morning those memories of long ago brought a smile to my face and to my heart.  It helped me call to mind names that I had long forgotten...Mrs. Bosscher and her Bible studies, Mrs. Molewyk and her patience as she taught us how to sew an apron, and even Mrs Holtvluwer's fun laugh (and how upset she was when she found out what we girls were discussing on our overnight retreat!!) Women who gave of themselves to teach me what it means to love God.  I don't see those women anymore, but today I thanked God for my godly heritage, for the impact that they had on my young life, and for bringing such fun memories to mind.  No, I never was a Girl Scout, but I don't think my childhood lacked much because of that fact.  Except right now I am really craving some Thin Mints! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lego Adventure (and How I Ended Up With a Headache!)

Every morning, I work with three delightful children.  Their parents requested that I work with them individually on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  On Mondays and Fridays, however, I am to work with them together on a project.  We have played at the park, gone swimming, baked cookies, and made bubbles.  We have also put together a few Lego architectural pieces.  We have built the White House and the Sydney Opera House.  Today we built the Brandenberg Gate.  The boys are great at building, and little sister and I find the pieces that the boys need.  Little sister gets bored and has been known to suddenly take her frustration out on the Legos, scattering them all over the floor.  In an effort to keep her occupied, I asked her lots and lots of questions.  Somehow, my questions led us to the Pledge of Allegiance.  I asked her if she had to say the pledge at school.  "Yes."  Then I asked if she could say the pledge.  "Well, I only know the end", she told me and proceeded to recite it.  "One nation, underneath God, with liber bee and justices for all. You may sit down."

Big brother took it upon himself to correct his sister. "No! 'You may sit down' is NOT part of the pledge!!!" And that's when the Legos ended up scattered all over the kitchen floor...again!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Ray of Sunshine in the Medical World

This is one of those times when I question whether I should blog about this particular thing I am facing.  I am reluctant because I don't want people to think I share "TMI" (too much information). But I see it as such a joyful story; a story that shows the amazing ways God gives His children EXACTLY what we need at just the right time.

Sine October, my doctor has been following a cyst that I have. Rather than do a biopsy, I opted to wait six months, retest, and re-evaluate what should be done. Two weeks ago, I had another test. The doctor said, "I have good news and questionable news. The good news is that the cyst has not grown. It is, however, beginning to develop its own vascular system...it's becoming too independent!" Hmm...just like ME I thought to myself!  She said I needed a biopsy. This time I wasn't given a choice. I was told to get it done ASAP, just to be on the safe side.

What happened next is truly amazing.  I went to make my appointment and was told that my out-of-pocket cost would be over $3,300.00. I smiled and told the women that I would not be able to have this done anytime soon because of the cost (did I mention that I have horrible insurance?!) She cautiously looked around to be certain no one was listening. In a whisper she said, "I go to an excellent surgeon in this same building.  She does these procedures in her office for a lot less.  Ask your primary doctor if you could go to my doctor.  Her name is Dr. L. L."

Before I was able to call my doctor, she called me. "Joyce, I want to go over your test results. I want you to see a specialist. Her name is Dr. L. L. and you have an appointment with her tomorrow."

So, I went to visit Dr. L. L. She came in the room, and before she even introduced herself, she gave me a huge hug!  She reviewed the previous test results with me and then did a few more tests.  "Yes, we need to biopsy this." then she took both of my hands in hers and asked if it was okay for her to pray for me.  It was such a loving, tender prayer.  She then asked if I had any concerns. I shared with her my concern about the cost because my insurance coverage for these procedures was almost nil. She said, "Joyce, I'm going to walk to the business office with you.  They will look up your coverage, and whatever amount you need to pay, we will discount by 25 percent. I will do the procedure in my office rather than at the out-patient surgical center. We will also set up a payment plan."

Amazing! I walked back to my car and I was in awe of what just happened. I felt so loved and I knew I was being cared for by my Shepherd.  True to the words in Psalm 23, The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want (I will lack nothing!).  Tomorrow I go back to Dr. L. L.  I have complete peace. I really do! I know the doctor will take good care of me. I know God will, too!  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Speak Up!

My first memory of the words "speak up!" occurred when  I was a shy, chubby six year old with bangs that were way, way, way too short! I was in first grade. We sat at tables, not desks. I was a proud member of the snowflake table. (It must have been winter.)  Mrs. B was our teacher. She was quietly walking around the classroom, watching us as we filled out our math worksheets. Suddenly, abruptly, she stopped at our table.  She stood silently behind my chair. The silence was broken when she loudly asked, "Joyce! Do I need to put mittens on your hands?" I was silent, but mostly I was mortified! She just accused me of the most grievous of all first-grade sins - counting on my fingers!!! She waited for what seemed hours for me to answer her question. I couldn't. Tears trickled down my cheeks. All I could manage was a small, barely audible "no!" She could not hear me. "Speak up!" I couldn't speak up. So, I just sat sniffing back the tears.

Fast forward many, many years.  I am no longer at the snowflake table, but I am at a table, and I am surrounded by seven women whom I have never met.  We are the members of small group #3, and we are nervously awaiting for our name to be called.  Our leader asks if anyone wants to go first. No hands go up. "Okay ladies, I will just go in numerical order as your names appear on my list. Joyce, you're first." Gulp! Inside my head I was screaming a run-on sentence that I was sure everyone in the room could hear. "No!!!! I'm not ready to stand here and give a three minute speech and have all of you evaluate me because I'm not prepared and I'm wearing the wrong outfit because I have to remember to hold in my stomach with this top and I know I'll forget to hold it in while I'm speaking to all of you people that don't know me and suddenly it will be so obvious to all of you that I've been cheating on Weight Watchers!"

I gave my speech. The evaluations came. They were gracious and encouraging and beautiful. That was my first encounter with "Speak Up". And for the next three days I was filled with creative ways to use my God-given talents and desire to speak and write for Him.  I learned so much! And equally important, I met women who are now friends. This conference blessed me with hope and also with healing.

No longer do I need to shudder when I hear the words, "Speak up!" God has replaced my horrible memory of Mrs. B. Today, I hear the words "Speak Up" and I remember three lovely days filled with the wisdom of Carol Kent, the music of Frances Drost, and divine encounters with men and women who blessed me with their encouragement and inspiration. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

It Is Well With My Soul (Sort Of)

It was well with my soul, until our computer died.  Just when I am trying to resurrect this blog! Sorry people. No cute pictures to look at...just words to read.  Yesterday we had a memorial service for a special man that attended our church.  His name was James.  James always put a smile on my face.  He always had encouraging words for everyone.  He always told me that I was his angel!  He always wanted to see a smile.  He was always full of praise.  James was not a healthy man.  Some Sundays he was in a wheelchair.  Some Sundays he was able to walk with a cane.  One day he had trouble breathing, went to the hospital, and they could not stabilize him. He was only 55 years old.  James is now in heaven, whole and healthy, but man, I sure do miss him!

As I drove to his service, I saw such a disturbing scene.  In Houston, it seems like we have an unusually large group of panhandlers.  There is always someone at an intersection asking for money.  They wait at the light, and once the light is red and cars are stopped, they walk up to each car and ask for money.  Yesterday, as I was driving down a very busy street on my way to the memorial service, I noticed a panhandler laying on his back in the median of the busy road as cars whizzed by him. It was a haunting sight. It was hard to tell if he was dead or alive. Two men had stopped and were standing over him.  One man had his phone and was probably calling for help. When I got home, I looked on the computer to see if it was in the news, but I couldn't find anything. God had something he wanted to teach me...

So this morning, as I sat in church, I couldn't help but think of James.  It was hard to look at the pew where he always sat and know that his seat would always be empty. I also thought of that man that was laying in the middle of the road. The sermon was from Romans 5:6. This verse says that while we were still weak, Jesus died for us.  The Bible uses the word weak to describe us. The vision of that panhandler came to mind as I read the word weak. That man yesterday was completely out of it. He couldn't do a thing to help himself.  That is how I looked to God. Completely helpless, unable to get myself up off that busy street. If the ambulance came, that man could not do anything to help himself recover.  And Jesus came, saw my helpless position, and came to save me.  Knowing what Christ has done for me, I am able to loudly sing out, "It Is Well With My Soul!!!!" Even if my computer is broken. 

Friday, July 5, 2013


I am trying to blog again.  Right now, however, I feel like that proverbial fish that is out of the water.  I can't remember how to do certain things...I want to add a picture, and I have no idea how to do it!  Bear with me, folks, as I try to regain my "blogging groove"!


Yay! Success!  This isn't exactly like "riding a bike", but it's starting to come back to me a little bit!
I am toying with the idea of starting a brand new blog, with a brand new name.  Do any of you have a catchy name?  I'm also trying to pinpoint the focus of my blog.  In the past, I have just chosen random topics.  Some blogs are very specific; they have one focal point and they don't deviate. My blog has always been all over the map...I wrote on things I observed or things I had been dealing with or thinking about and because of that, this blog has always covered a multitude of random topics. I think that is the path this blog will continue to take.  Meanwhile, I will share with you a thought from Mother Teresa. Her words seem to capture the intent of my heart and my reason for sharing my thoughts with the world.

     "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

God Provides

I want to share with you the wonderful way God provided for me today.  As you know, our daughter is getting married.  What you don't know is that my husband has been without work since July 13,  I have been sick and have incurred a huge debt owed to various medical providers from Houston to Grand Rapids (more about THAT adventure later!)  And the creme-de-la-creme occurred on Sunday when the water pump on our car died and we found ourselves suddenly faced with a towing bill, a taxi bill, AND a repair bill.

I'm sharing these woes, not so that you will in any way thing I'm down or depressed or feeling sorry for myself.  Rather, I am sharing them just so you can get a little insight on how God walks His children through the difficulties of life. 

The first thing you need to know about me is that I am no 'saint'!  I don't go around thinking, "God will provide, so I don't have to do a thing."  Neither do I live up to the challenge in Philippians 4 where Paul encourages the believer to not worry - he says we are to pray.  Quite honestly, I DO worry.  God knows that I worry; this is no great shocking secret that I'm sharing. But somewhere along the line, I can see that I am beginning worry less and pray more. And the only reason that this change is taking place is because over and over again, God has provided for our family "out of the blue".  He has shown up in so many unbelievably creative ways.  Like the time Bill was going through old mail and found a check!  Or the time we received a check from our insurance company for some unknown reason. 

That being said, I will now tell you my worries.  I've been worried about the wedding.  I worry about having enough so that we can fly to Chicago for the wedding.  I worry about finding a dress for the wedding.  I am VERY gifted in the area of shopping. (Some even say I am too gifted! Ha!)  But for whatever reason, I have not been able to find a suitable dress for this Mother-of-the Bride. And the list goes on (and on!), but you get the idea, right?

So today, after shelling out almost $600.00 for a new water pump, I dashed into a store called David's Bridal.  I only had 20 minutes to look, but this mom-on-a-mission needs a dress and if I see it, I can try it on and pay in under 15, so I took on the challenge.  Twenty minutes later, I stepped out into the hot, humid Houston air with sweat poring down my back and sparkly, glittery stuff all over my neck and face and arms.  In other words, I emerged from the bridal store without a dress.

Of I went to meet a new student.  She is a 14 year old girl from China that has been here for only 20 days.  Imagine being in a huge mega-school and not being able to speak the language!  Anyway, at the end of my introduction, the parents not only hired me, but offered to pay in advance!  IN ADVANCE!  Do you know this means people???  It means that in one fell swoop, God provided the funds I needed to buy my ticket!  Then, I went to my next student.  She is from Africa and in the third grade.  After the lesson, I told her mother that I would miss 2 lessons in October because of our daughter's wedding.  She asked if I had a dress.  I said, "No, I'm still looking.  In fact, see all of this glittery stuff on my arms?  That's from me trying on fancy dresses!"  Without hesitation she said in her beautifully lyrical African accent, "Miss Joyce, I will make you a dress!"  Do you know what this means?  This means that in a few weeks, God willing, I will be sitting at our daughter's wedding.  And I will be there because of a family from China that has only been in Houston fro 20 days.  And I will be ravishing in my dress lovingly made by a women from Ghana.  God is so faithful.  I can't wait to share with you how He provides the money for Bill's ticket...and when He does, I'll share it with all of you!

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!    

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Think I Forgot How

Guess who's back!  I think I forgot how to do this...

It's hard to believe that it has been almost a full year since my last entry.  Why was I gone so long?  I really don't have a good answer for that one.  While I was gone, however, I did hear from many of my faithful readers.  They spoke such encouraging words - they touched my heart deeply.  That being said, I'm going to give this another try, ok?  Ready to plug your nose, join hands, and jump into the deep end with me once again?  Great!  Here we go...

So, my last entry was written about my experience with "diversity" at Trinity Christian College.  It's so hard for me to realize that 42 years have passed since this scared, timid girl from Grand Rapids found her way to Palos Heights, Illinois.  And the saga continues.  This year I am honored to be the president of the Alumni Board.  Serving on the board has been such a blessing.  This past December, our daughter graduated from Trinity, and I was asked to speak! What a thrill...to share the stage with Elise, to speak to the graduates about my journey since my graduation, and then getting to shake each of graduates hands as they walked across the stage!  It just doesn't get much better!

In a few weeks, I will return to Trinity to help with Homecoming events and to attend a board meeting.  But this time, I will stay on at the college for two weeks to help my daughter with the final plans for her wedding.  She is getting married on October 19.  This mama is looking forward to having her whole family together again. 

I'm going to see if I can load some pictures on here and share with you all some of the highlights of this past year.  Thanks for reading and for joining me on this journey!