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This is where I talk about the books I read and the books I write. It's also were I explore, record, and share the life that is my legacy.

Reflecting On Proverbs 31 {A Pondering Post}

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For a long time I struggled with this chapter in the Bible. This woman wasn’t just good – she was perfect. Whole books have been written on these few verses telling believing women about how to become her.

As I strove to be her, I lost me which wasn’t God’s  plan for me at all. 

And all the while I tried, something inside me resented her because she was flawless and I’m so very flawed.

In the world of TV moms she was like Claire Huxtable and I was Roseanne Barr. (If you’re too young to remember them. . .there’s always Google!)

This poem is the record of my journey into this passage with God. We went deep and wide as I studied it sometimes word by word begging Him every step of the way. Because I wanted to be a virtuous woman, but feared I wasn’t worthy of the calling. Afraid I never would be.

Along the way, God wooed my frightened, hurt, even angry heart with His tender love. And helped me understand, but that took time. Because fear clouded me from seeing. And the strict, stringent voices of humans clamored loudly in my wounded heart nearly blocking out the quiet voice of the One who had much to teach me, and love to give me. But He was patient and kind as He healed my bruised heart. And this happened.

 Author’s Note: When this was written my mom hadn’t left here for heaven and Grace was a baby – she’s now a beautiful teenager.

 

Reflections ~ A Poem

Mirror mirror on the wall,
I don’t look like this woman at all!

It’s hard because I don’t come close,
To this woman who can boast…

She is the fairest in the land…
And works willingly with her hands.

She’s up while it is still the night,
And You know – I prefer sunlight!

Her man is known by the good she’s done,
Only wisdom and kindness leave her tongue.

I have a feeling she’s tall and thin…
And Lord – look at me – with my double chins!

When I compare her to me,
Disappointment is all I see.

I know she’s not really real –
She’s a godly mother’s perfect ideal…

At times I wish of her I’d never heard…
But she’s included in Your Holy Word.

So to ignore her seems to me unwise,
Let me see her from Your eyes.

And Father to be honest I confess…
Although it causes me some distress…

I’m not sure who you want me to be…
Please set the woman in me free!

The poem stalled for a while and then this came.

God is it okay with you…
If I enjoy my cowboy boots?

If I prefer leather to lace…
And little make up on my face?

Can I eat out and be virtuous still…
Is laughing out loud part of your will?

Sometimes I want a hot cup with sweet tea…
Others a sturdy mug of strong black coffee.

One moment I might listen to Perleman’s strings…
And the next the deep rumble as Johnny Cash sings.

Lord I love roar before Old Faithful’s spray…
And the whisper of love from sweet Baby Grace.

The winds as it wraps invisible arms around me…
And falling acorns from our old oak tree.

I love watching the birds who eat in our yard…
And call of the owl from the woods in the dark.

I enjoy the smell of good perfume…
And the scent of a wild rose in bloom.

I love my husband’s hands and eyes…
And iced tea – super-sized!

And lunch with Mom at the Crafty Mouse…
Or when my girl friends come to my house.

I love whale watching and puppies breath…
And mystery stories that scare me to death.

I love watching Roman Holiday…
The Lord of the Rings took my breath away!

I don’t mind thunder in the night…
It reminds me of Your power and might.

And then there are the kids You gave me to love…
For them I cannot thank you enough!

Someone sang – I’m woman hear me roar…
But I’d rather hear You knock at my heart’s door.

Studying Proverbs 31 was pretty rough…
Still, You’ve taught me some important stuff.

I guess I’ll end this poem the way it starts…
I’m glad for the way you’ve changed my heart!

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
This woman’s not so bad after all!

She doesn’t intimidate me anymore…
And no longer scares me to my very core…

She’s a model of valor, courage, and love,
These words come from God above.

I want to be a woman of God…
Not so focused on my bod.

But seeking Him – my all in all…
And saying yes to His call.

Listening for His still small voice…
And daily making Him my choice.

I’ll pray for the fruits of His Spirit to be…
Evident in my life for others to see…

Oh mirror I want to be His salt and light…
A woman who praises God day and night.

Instead of them seeing just me…
A woman as flawed as she can be…

I long to reflect His Son to the lost…
Dear Jesus who willingly paid the cost.

Until Next Time,

Joy

 

The Day I Met Jesus {Testimony & Book Review}

joyanddadDad & Me on our way to the Father-Daughter dance in 1974.

Author’s Note: I don’t do book reviews on this site very often. I put them out on Linkedin. But this book took me back to the most important time of my life ever. The day I met Jesus.

I was fifteen and the devil was advancing on my soul. 

For a long time I’d been asking questions at my church, but not getting answers. The adults I asked, who I thought were religious experts squirmed when I asked things like, “Can I know God?” and “How do I live like Jesus?” One day I really blew it when I asked, “Why don’t we dunk ‘em? Jesus was dunked.” Most Sundays I served as an acolyte and subbed on the ones other kids couldn’t make it. I helped with the little kids and from time to time helped the basement church ladies set out treats. I wore ashes on my forehead and didn’t wash them off the next morning before school.

I loved it all.

In my drawer were pins for perfect Sunday school attendance, my confirmation stuff, and a Bible with a picture of Jesus on it with children – some on His lap. I wanted to be that close to Him. These were my religious treasures – proof of my salvation.

And it was all good. . .except for the questions that tugged at my soul day and night. And the longing in my heart for more.

After a long discussion about why they didn’t want to answer my questions – the most popular answer being I was only a child and the answers to those questions were beyond my comprehension. I was ticked because I figured fifteen was old enough to know stuff. At home, I told my parents I didn’t want to go back.

They agreed.

But I was lonely for church in that homesick kind of way.

So one day I stood in my bedroom with the turquoise and rust walls and shag carpet. With my eyes wide open (quite a bold thing in my day) I stood in the middle of that room and talked to God. I asked Him if He heard the prayers of teenage girls – because I knew He was busy with the big things in life like wars and famines and plagues. Then I asked Him if I could know Him – not just about Him and if I could would He please send me someone I could trust to show me the way.

And there was my sin. They weren’t big things yet, but I had a feeling sin was sin. My soul hungered to be free from them and those I felt were on their way. I was on that kind of personal precipice.

I was a sinner seeking God’s amazing grace.

A few days later a man came to our door. He was a pastor. When I asked him my questions, he had answers that came from a knowing place in his heart. He didn’t just know about Jesus – Carl Calloway knew Him.

And God had answered a teenage girl’s prayer.

Not long after, I came to the place where like so many before me, I not only heard the Gospel, I believed it with my whole heart and soul and I met Jesus.

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In the book, The Day I Met Jesus, I had the great joy of reading the fictional diaries of five biblical women written by Mary DeMuth. And after each diary entry to study the Word of God more deeply led by Frank Viola.

I left each chapter feeling like I knew them. The Adultress. The Prostitute. The Samaritan. The Bleeder. And Mary of Bethany. Women I had very little in common with until I read about them in this way. Where in the presence of their stories, God gently reminded me about my day. My prayer. And His answer.

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Because somewhere along the way the book became about six stories. Theirs and mine. I sat at His feet, felt the hopelessness of the accused, walked on the road with Him, touched the hem of His garment, and dried his feet with my hair.

If you’re a seeker, this book is for you. If you’re a sinner, this book is for you. If you’re a believer in need of fresh infusion, this book is for you.

Because Jesus is that kind of Savior. And this book is full of His amazing grace offered to them, to me, and to you.

Until Next Time,

Joy

Click on the book cover to buy the book from Amazon. It’s available as a eBook, print book, and audible book.

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This Thing Called Dancing

It happened in the 7th or 8th grade. Modern dance. In gym class. A sort of dream come true and a nightmare in the making.

It was the seventies, and this was the kind of free-spirited thing that sounded so cool. I knew what cool was – that elusive quality some kids had and kids like me didn’t. But this – this made perfect sense to me. It was something I knew I could do well. Of course, I assumed this kind of dance was brand new, but soon learned it was old. Which somehow made it even better.

The teacher said we could be part of a team and pick a song and pick our moves. Two friends from Elementary school were in my class, and we decided to be a team. We chose the theme song to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. One friend wanted to be the bad so she would wear black tights and a black leotard to match her hair. The other wanted to represent ugly although with her red hair and purple leotard she was anything but. That left me and good. And white. Mostly.

I was young, slender, strong, and ready to dance.

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We practiced as often as we could, and all of us loved the way we could get lost in the music – still always aware of each other, and in sync with our own dancing like never before. This was not a school mixer where the three of us stood on the sidelines.

We were wallflowers transformed.

To me, modern dance was this funky mix of ballet and any move that felt right. Besides words, it was personal expression at its greatest.

The teacher invited our parents. Having an audience could have made me nervous, but it didn’t. It wasn’t about me. My friends agreed. The most important thing was the music and moving. I felt like a graceful flower in the sunshine dancing to the song and rhythm of the breeze.

People sitting on folding chairs lined the gymnasium wall. I caught my mom’s eye right away and saw her smile. She sat with my team’s moms. Yeah – this was going to be good. Mama would see me at my best. Sort of.

I danced my heart out and felt like I’d nailed it. My short performance was me hitting the home run instead of striking out every time someone handed me a bat. I’m so not kidding.

The applause for our routine was louder and longer that it was for the others. We couldn’t believe it. The other kids and the women smiled like they meant it. When we were dismissed to greet our guests, I ran into my mom’s arms for the ultimate well-done hug.

She held me close and whispered in my ear, “That was beautiful, but honey, you’re wearing black underpants.”

Yes. I was. And to make matters worse they were the bikini kind.

My outfit was my dad’s white Sunday shirt, white tights, and white undergarments. Because good didn’t wear a leotard. Good was all innocence and all white. Good had to flow in modest purity.

And then there was my version. Ufda.

Mama wasn’t angry, ashamed, or being mean. She was preparing me for the not so nice comments that might come, and she knew I didn’t want them to remember me that way. Besides she knew I’d rather have her tell me than anyone else.

The truth was unavoidable; all those watching saw my costume malfunction when I jumped and reached like never before.

And never again.

Gym was my first-hour class so I had a whole day to worry about what the other moms and kids were thinking and might be saying. About what my gym teacher thought.

All day the girls teased and the guys who heard said typical gross stuff trying to sound all manly and accomplishing only to sound like goofy teenage boys. I wished I could get up the nerve to ask the nurse to send me home sick, but decided to stay hoping they’d be done with it that day.

My teachers commented publically on what the gym teacher told them in the teacher’s break room. About my grace and beauty as a dancer and my natural ability and my talent.

My cheeks were red-hot, and I almost cried each time. They thought I was humble, but I was afraid they would mention my unmentionables. They didn’t. But I couldn’t appreciate their kindness humiliated as I was by my accidental bold badness.

Mama did all she could to ease my shame and fears at home. There were hugs. Kind words. Cookies. And so much love. By bedtime, I was exhausted but sleep evaded me as I wondered over and over again how something I had meant to do so right had ended up being something else.

From then on, I danced in my room. Alone. Where it didn’t matter what I wore. Eventually, the dancing stopped.

Until lately in the fall stage of my life.

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I dance alone in a windowless room where no one but God can see me. I don’t dance for Him like some do, and I don’t believe He minds. I’m pretty sure the One, who created me gets me as I move gently to Itzak Perlman (yes, you can dance to Tchaikovsky), Andre Rieu, Kenny G, and others.

The years of enthusiastic leaping and exaggerated reaching are over. My moves are so gentle they might not be called dancing at all, but the other day I threw in a twirl. It was unexpected and may not happen again although I was so delighted I giggled. Like the girl I used to be. It felt that lovely and for a second almost young.

These days, although it might still matter in the secret places of my heart, cool isn’t even a consideration. The grace, talent, and agility have been replaced with caution because I don’t want to get hurt. Even a hop gone wrong could be dangerous. And that twirl? After the giggle it scared me, and I was trying to figure out how to explain any potential future injuries to Jon and the paramedics. I decided on, “I took a wrong twirl.” Yeah. I know.

But this thing I call dancing feels so good, so right, and so me. Because it is.

Until Next Time,

Joy

A Promise Kept

It’s one of those days. I’m missing Mama, and am aching for Dad, my brother, and the grand kids who love her. She’s been in heaven forty-six days, and it’s strange. Simultaneously I can’t believe she’s gone at all and that she’s been gone that long already. (I’m not actually counting. I had to do the math.)

Plus, Sophie, our little girl dog, is at the vet with some kind of infection.

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It’s a writing day and I’m sitting here at home, with the gift of this time, surrounded by beauty inside and out singing the blues in my heart.

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At first I got after myself. I said all the things to myself I thought might work. “Come on now – Mama is in heaven and Sophie loves her doctor, and we trust her, so it’s going to be okay.” After another cup of coffee I said, “Buck up, Joy. Nothing can happen to you that God doesn’t already know about.” About half-way through that cup, I said, “Joy! Stiffen that upper lip!” (Which has never made sense to me because it’s always my lower lip that’s quivering, and when that one is out of control I can’t do a thing with the bottom one!)

Drinking my third cup of coffee, I remembered the little girl and a promise kept. I don’t know her name and this happened at least twenty years ago so she’s a grown woman by now and might have children of her own.

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It was late in the day and I was weary. We were grocery shopping and that’s never been my favorite thing to do. When I’m tired, oh boy! Jon had the cart and was moving at his normal energetic pace. I was lagging behind him throwing a silent pity-party that I’m sure showed up loud and clear on my face. The one thing that kept me putting one foot in front of the other was the promise of my comfy chair and a new book I had waiting for me at home.

Then, there she was. I’d just come out of an aisle and a little girl (maybe 5) was twirling, dancing, and humming out in the big space by the check-out lanes. She looked up toward the pay phones (it was that long ago!) and her joy increased. She beamed. I really needed to get going, but when she called out to him, “Abba! Abba!” I stood there as if frozen.

The ancient words caught me by the heart.

Grateful she hadn’t noticed me, I watched her twirl with confident abandon into his out-stretched arms. And I starred as he drew her close to his heart, and bent his head close to her. She was home safe! His side-locks bounced and his beard must have tickled because she giggled. The father leaned closer to her, whispered something in her ear, and they walked away hand-in-hand.

When I started to breathe again, I realized Jon was standing beside me.

“Did you see them?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said heading down the next aisle.

Turning to follow him, I felt like I was leaving a holy place and spent the rest of our time in the store in an awe-filled haze – the kind that transforms that kind of day into that kind of day.

Back home that night, before diving into the novel waiting for me, I studied the word. By that I mean I looked it up in the Bible, Strong’s Concordance, Easton’s Dictionary, Holmans, and took notes because that’s what I do when I want to know what something means in a personal way. Does that mean I’m more spiritual? Nope. Not a chance. Remember that pity-party I was throwing for myself that day? And I was throwing another one today.

Anyway, I learned that the word/name is used three times in the New Testament – once in the garden by Jesus (Mark 14:36), and twice by Paul. (Romans 8:15 and again in Galatians 4:6)

Easton’s says that Abba is a term expressing warm affection and devoted confidence.

Today, when the story of that little girl came to mind it was no accident, it was an invitation.  The moment I whispered, “Abba,” my soul was immersed in the tender, safe, loving embrace of God. No waiting until I was in a better mood, although I immediately was . In a second, I drew near to God and He drew near to me.

Because that’s what God says He will do and He keeps His promises.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  James 4:8a (ESV)

Until Next Time,

Joy

P. S. Sophie is home with antibiotics.

It Will Be All Right {A Mama & Me Post}

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This will be my last Mama & Me post. Those simple words cut. I’ve put it off for over two weeks. Mama went Home on November 29, 2014. I was privileged to be with her. It seemed so right – she was there for my first breath, and I was there for her last.

I know this post will elicit your sympathy for us, and I’m grateful for that. But the point of this post isn’t a plea for comfort. I am trusting and believing in God. My faith isn’t rocky although the road is. I realize my words are raw, and some of you are facing a similar future. And that will make this very difficult for you to read. It’s okay if you stop here.

I promised God and Mama I’d be honest about the journey, and this is me keeping my word. Do tell me your stories, but please – no pep talks or advice okay? I know my pain is not the worst ever suffered, but it’s the worst I’ve ever suffered, so don’t put me down for putting it out here. In the darkness of my sorrow, I am keeping my eyes on the One who is the Light – trusting His will and His Word. I greatly appreciate your prayers and your stories about trusting Him in the middle of your pain.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:2-4 (NIV)

This post is about one of Mama’s rough mornings a couple of months ago when she took a turn for the worse. She was tired and slept on and off – more restless than restful. Each time she woke she was delighted to see me and childlike (transparent and honest) in her surprise. Each time she said, “Oh there are you!” as if she’d just found a great treasure or something valuable she’s misplaced.

I knew she was in pain, but she resisted help. She told me at one point, “I need to feel the pain.” Then she tenderly reached out for my hand because she could see the grief in my soul.

In a very clear moment that morning she said, “I hate what’s happening to my brain.”

I responded, “I hate it too, Mama. And I hate your pain.”

She looked at me quizzically and said, “What pain?”

Either the pain was gone or she didn’t remember that I knew about it. Most likely, it was the dementia. Truly, I hated the dementia, but never Mama. And that day, she was with me – alive, holding my hand, and even though I knew we were approaching the end of her life, I had her. Thoughts beyond that were too heavy to bear.

She watched me closely that day and told me to get back to work. As my fingers worked my laptop keyboard, I stole glances at her. She watched me in that way she always did- as if seeing someone beautiful and to her, I was.

Before she nodded off again, she asked, “What are you doing?”

“Writing,” I said.

She smiled. “Of course you are.”

I stored this conversation and many others in my heart because I knew that one day, when God called her Home, they would end, and I’d still need them.

We put off some things that day. I looked at her fingernails, and she said, “Oh please, not today.” She wasn’t in the mood for a manicure. Instead, we held hands and listened to Elvis for a while because it was the desire of her heart. And it was fun to give her what she wanted.

Later, we read Psalm 122, and she said, “That’s a good one.” I said to God, Oh Lord, she is right. Our help comes from You.

While she slept, I watched her wondering, what God’s plan in all of this was. Surely He has one. I asked Him to show me. Because I needed there to be value in this journey; in the story of a woman who rarely said I can’t and whose life was now full of them.

I know God gave her a number of days before she was created in her mother’s womb. I knew He wouldn’t take her a second too soon or too late based on His plan. I believe that with all my heart. But still, even believing, this hurts. The void where she was is huge.

On that fallish day, I wrestled with my desire for her to stay even as I knew she was suffering mentally and physically. I told God I trusted Him, and when my soul rebelled the truth coming at us, I begged Him to help me trust Him more. On my own, letting her go to Him made me want to stomp my foot and demand a healing. Because He could have, and I knew it. But He didn’t. And there has to be a more to it right? A reason that will glorify Him and give those of us left behind a better understanding – an answer to our whys.

As I battled these things out that day, Mama watched me. I could feel the gentle, weight of her eyes. After what seemed like a long time, she said, “Joy, it will be all right.”

It is one of the last times she called me by my name. The one she gave me. Her mother’s name and now mine. I had no idea how much names mattered until I stopped hearing her say mine.

It is also the last time she comforted me. And I knew she wasn’t talking about the dementia – she meant it was going to be all right forever.

Visiting her grave the other day, I knew Mama was right – she usually was. About almost everything. God. Boys. Writing. Love. Generosity. And the rest. Even this and especially this.

The wind blew cold and harsh, but the truth in my heart was warm and tender. For her, it is all right. She is with God and is fully healed.

It is hard, lonely, and terribly sad on earth without her. To be honest, I had no idea how much it would hurt – the pain still takes my breath away, and I think it always will. Grieving is like that. It will get easier to handle, but it will hurt  until I see Jesus and her where they are.

In the second it took for her to leave here for there, Mama was more than all right.

And there is great value in her life – including the dementia. I have no idea what it is, but that’s not my job. That’s completely up to God. He will use it all for His glory.

Mama loved Romans 8:28 passionately. To her, it was the truth spoken to us by the One who is Truth. For me, in these dark days of sorrow, I cling to these verses like a child who has lost her mother, but not her way. I believe this with all my heart, mind, and soul: Because He is God and she is with Him and although the pain is intense, it really is going to be all right. Forever.

Romans 8: 28, 37-39 (ESV – italics added by me)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Until Next Time,

Joy

Temporary Treasures {a Legacy Post}

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There are things in our home and storeroom that are very dear to my heart. I call them treasures knowing most of them won’t matter far beyond my life.

They are my temporary treasures.

Already some have had to be tossed because they were ruined by age, rust, and even some mildew although I’ve been careful with them.

It’s just the way things this side of heaven are.

In one box is my favorite doll, Chatty Cathy. Tucked in beside her is my mom’s doll. They are wrapped in my baby blankets, 2 buntings made for my by great-grandmother, and my fancy baby dresses.

All together I have 12 plastic drawers and 3 cardboard boxes. What delights me about these old things are the memories of the people attached to them. Fifty-seven years of things not worth anything to others, but of tender earthly value to me.

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Every now and then (once a year or so) I bring them one by one out to my craft table. I take a deep breath and take out each piece. The one requirement is a full box of tissues because they are going to give my heart a great big work over.

This box contains memories from school. It’s amazing what fits in a small cardboard box. Toys. Books. 8-tracks. A View Master. And more. So much more. Placed there by my mama. Carefully as she remembered. When she still could.

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And a book we read as adults (Mama & Me) that we talked about for years to come, and that I tucked under the cardboard flaps.

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It’s the cards and letters that grab me by the heart and don’t let go. Words written on the pages just for me. It is here those who wrote shared their faith, dreams, wisdom, and sorrows. It’s where they encouraged me and left inky fingerprints of their love for me.

Like this one. A card from my mom who now has dementia. Words she can no longer say, but that mattered so much when she wrote them and matter even more today. Because I need them. Her encouragement and blessing are tenderly written here. It’s not likely this one will last to the next generation – I will probably wear it out. It’s that kind of valuable.

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As I put my keepsakes back, I am overcome by a wonderful sense of gratitude. (And yes, more tears.) The kind that overflows from these temporary treasures into me, and then through me into the lives of others. Legacy lessons have that kind of power.

Standing there, I am undone and redone; amazed by they love/loved me. And by how deeply some of them love/loved Jesus.

In the remembering, the desire to share Jesus is reignited in my heart one quiet testimony at a time. My temporary treasures lead me there every time. To the remembering place where I smile, weep, and am again lead closer to God.

These things will one day rot and be thrown away. But while they exist, He will use them to touch my heart and teach me old and new things.

Until Next Time,

Joy