Welcome!

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.

Dandelions, Dixie Cups, & Wishes {Mama & Me}

Author’s Note: After Mama passed from here to heaven, I thought I was done posting about her. I was wrong. Because of the abundance of her whole life, there will be more Mama and Me posts. I hope you enjoy them.

My first Mother’s Day without her hurt more than I thought it would, but all of this journey into grief does. As she faded and suffered, I assumed I was ready for her to leave even though I knew it would hurt. But I had no idea it would be like this.

And spring. Who knew that not only first holidays would be rugged. . .but also first seasons?

Spring without Mama is sad. And not. Because because she’s gone, but her fading and suffering are over. (That is NOT a cliché nor is it easy to say – it is a difficult truth.) And greater still: she is with Jesus. The King of her soul.

But that’s not all. There is an old and new kind of joy in my heart all because of dandelions.

Like every other year, they have arrived in abundance. At first glance, it’s easy to see a patch of weeds that need to be removed because they might take over.

20150504_160947

But they are so much more to me.

I remember blowing their soft fuzziness into the breeze, and believing their carried my secret wishes to God. Yeah – I know I was assisting in their re-planting, and God isn’t about wishes but, He understood my wishes were my little girl way of praying. And you might catch me spreading a little dandelion cheer now and then these days.

Even now, the memory of dandelion wishes dancing on the wind is dear.

dandelion dreams

And then there is the art. Really. In the dandelion is a beauty like no other. It belongs to them alone.

20150504_160218

The sadness will always be in my heart, but it’s not the only thing there. Each day God comforts my wounded soul. When He does this, it feels a lot like Vaseline she used to put on my terribly skinned knees. I’d come running to Mama my sobbing because gravel embedded into tender skin hurts, and even a little bit of blood is scary when you’re little. After cleaning out the debris, she sprayed them with Bactine and then quickly blew the medicine dry before finally applying a dab of petroleum jelly to the sore spots. Finally, she put the Band-Aid in place with gentle pats to be sure that the sticky parts stuck.

Her breath was its own kind of comfort, and with a kiss on the cheek, I was well on my way to healed.

Mama loved flowers and I was certain that meant she loved dandelions too. Imagine my delight when I learned I was right.

Looking back, I see my sticky, pudgy little hand full of bright yellow blossoms. I feel my legs walking fast (sometimes running) to take them to her. My entry into her presence was exuberant and high energy. I had something good for Mama!

I can still see her bending toward me, eyes glad, and her lips smiling as she reached out her lovely hand to take my freshly picked bouquet.  If there were some sweet violets to add, it was even lovelier. I know this because she said so. I waited while she carefully added each offer of love to her Dixie cup line-up on the kitchen windowsill. I’d clap my hands, accept her tender kiss on my cheek, and race back outside to play my heart full to the brim with the blessing of giving her my very best. Yep – I’d done really good!

20150504_162408

In my twenties, I heard another adult say about dandelion bouquets, “Well, they’re all a kid can afford, and because they’re free, they’re easy to throw away.”

I felt sad for her. She missed the point completely. It wasn’t about affording it – it was about Mama and love. And even though the blossoms didn’t last long, God put  lot of them out there so I could replace them easily – how cool is that?!

Mama saw past the blossoms whose stems were a little on the smashed side and violets already drooping a bit and saw my bursting-at-the-seams love for her in action. One of my lines was, “I picked the prettiest ones for you!” She’d smile and say, “The prettiest one is you!”

Is it any wonder I had the confidence to swing really high, sing at the top of my lungs with my head thrown back, and smile at the world? Nope. I had Mama’s love and acceptance. There was and is an incredible power in that.

This spring my heart is tender under the weight of sadness, and the gentle force of her enduring love.

I look at the dandelions and violets and am grateful for Mama. She’s healed and with Jesus. The One she loves above all others. Yes, loves. That’s not a typo. Mama was here, and now she’s there, and she still is. I rejoice in that truth.

On my first Mother’s Day without her, I smiled far more than I cried. Because before the dementia stole her from us, she asked me to do that. And as often as possible, that’s one way I can continue to honor her.

As I wrote that, I felt a sigh in my heart and the words, “It’s the best I can do,” whispered across my mind. Then, a funny thing happened; in my memory I heard her gently say (as she did so many times), “Do your best. It will always be more than enough.” And so I will. Until I see her again where He is.

Between now and then, I love the memories of dandelions, Dixie Cups, and wishes.

John 14: 1-3 (NIV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Until Next Time,

Joy

Hope {Moments in May}

I’m enjoying this challenge from my friend Julie – she calls it Moments in May. What a lovely idea!

Today’s suggestion is to share a journal entry. At first I thought I’d share an entry from the past, then I went down to the pond – because I needed to. My heart and mind were all tangled up in some stuff.

20150504_111344

I took my coffee, Bible, and journal with me. I went hoping for something really good. And I got it.

God started blessing me with these words found in Psalm 18: 1 & 2

I love you, Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

The tangle was still there, but these words flowed from my heart into my journal . . .

I love this place. The pond, the scent of plum blossoms on the wind, the trill of the red winged blackbirds, the song and splashes of the toads, the flutter of the butterflies, and the shimmer of the iridescent dragonflies as they hover. And the wind as it dances through the branches and dried grasses. 

20150504_111255

Watching, listening, breathing it comes. Into my tangled heart, full of stress, worry, and sorrow, it slips gently in. Beautifully illustrated by the Creator here and then there. In the flowers blooming in the midst of the tightly twisted vines that I love, but seem to represent the mess inside me sometimes.

HopePost1

My cinnamon flavored coffee tastes delicious and breathe in big, and watch and listen a little more. The work of the day is waiting for me, but for right now, I will rest just a little longer. And it seems as if the toads sing louder and their song makes me smile.

On the way to the house, I stop again. Because the tree buds are now becoming small leaves, and I can’t pass them by. Their beauty draws me in.

HopePost2

A little bit farther and I stop once more. Because blossoms have a way of captivating me. As I take pictures I often wonder – what is it about these things that captivates me so? Today I listen to the whisper in my heart and realize that while I am in creation, I see it. Hope. In the possibility of the apple blossom buds, in apple blossom bouquets, and funky blossoms whose names I don’t know yet. In the future leaves and fruit. And for a little while, I’m free from the clamoring of the world at large. The world I care for deeply and pray for, that is so full of chaos, pain, cruelty, and hopelessness.

HopePost3

And I hope. Not the wishful thinking kind, but the kind that is full of expectant confidence in God. 

And as I finally turn to go, I stop yet again. To hang out with this little guy. And to breathe and pray for me just a little bit longer while he buzzes from blossom to blossom.

20150504_115402

It’s time to go back. The dogs need a walk and lunch. I do too. And it’s time to check back in with the words of my work and the concerns of my world. And now, I am far more ready than before.

Until Next Time,

Joy

P. S. Do you journal?

May Day! {Moments in May 2015}

I’m delighted to be part of my friend, Julie Saffrin’s, 2015 Moments In May Challenge. (It’s not too late to join if you’d like to!) I’ll post some of my moments here on the blog and others on Facebook and Twitter. This is going to be fun!

May Day 2015

May Day brings back memories of decorating paper cups and adding pipe cleaner handles. After filling the little cups with candy and a note that simply said, “Happy May Day!” we put our cups on cake pans and we were off. We carefully placed the cup or cups where the opening door wouldn’t knock them over – there were techniques. Then, we’d ring the doorbell and run, hide, and wait to see who answered the door. We took these little treats to our friends and to some of the widow ladies mom knew would enjoy a May Basket.

For us, the best part was having permission to ring doorbells and run!

And it was fun hearing someone at our door and getting similar, almost anonymous treats, because if I was really fast, I could catch someone running away.

And for me and Mama, it was about flowers. And buds. She’d take me on walks to see what was happening on the bushes in the yard and neighborhood. On warmer years, the lilacs might be starting to bloom and share their fragrance. Other years, the buds were there, but tightly closed against the chilly temps.

Later, I usually ended the day drawing flowers and dreaming of warmer days I knew were on their way. May Day hinted at the good things to come. School would end for the year, and then there would be a trip on the bus to visit the grandmas, fireworks with the family on the 4th of July, and in between riding miles on our bikes and playing kick the can with the neighbor kids until after dark.

Today I took a walk in the woods to celebrate this May Day. And instead of candy, I discovered blossoms – my favorite kind of treats – because really – May is all about the flowers. For me, it always has been.

Until Next Time,

Joy

In the Valley of Brokenness {A Legacy Post}

Author’s Note: This post is not me whining. Or stating my pain was worse than anyone else’s. It wasn’t and isn’t. I’ve stood at the bed sides of others whose pain I cannot comprehend. This not a comparison competition. This post is simply me sharing this part of my journey because it’s part of the legacy that is my life. 

DSC00008 (6)

Me & Conner – You can see I’m not quite me in this pic, but isn’t he darling?!

Eight years ago, on Jon’s 50th birthday, I rode in the back of an ambulance. I had no idea a slip on a wet restaurant floor would change our lives the way it did.

We’d gone out to eat with close friends to celebrate. We enjoyed our food, talked a lot (we’re all really good at that!), and laughed out loud. A movie was next on our agenda. They followed the ambulance instead. Because when I stepped onto the beautiful granite floor, I slipped and fell. The shiny stone was wet, and there was no yellow warning sign to warn me.

On the way down I remembered reading about a girl who had died when she hit her head on a similar floor. I tried to catch myself and thrust myself forward hoping to catch myself. That sort of worked until I landed. My foot slipped again in the water. I felt something give and my leg looked funny laying on the floor completely unresponsive to my brain’s command to move. It was then that I knew I was broken.

I needed to get out of the way, so I slid my way across the floor on my bottom to a wall. When I got there, I was soaking wet. The floor wasn’t just wet; it was one big puddle.

Jon wanted to help me up, but I asked him to have someone call 911 instead. The tone of my voice was calm but certain. Someone from the restaurant asked me why I wanted them to call 911. I told her to look at my leg. She stepped back and dialed her cell phone. A stranger leaned down and said, “I told them someone was going to get hurt on that wet floor. In a few minutes, you are going to be in more pain than you can imagine.”

He wasn’t kidding.

So much of that night is crystal clear. My husband and friends guarding my leg so no one would accidently bump it. The other customers raised eyebrows. The manager finally putting out the yellow sign. And silently worrying about my soaking wet bottom because I didn’t want those who were coming to help me think I’d wet myself.

They didn’t. The floor hadn’t been wiped up, and when they stepped in, they looked at me, then the floor, and walked carefully. When they looked closer at my leg, they knew.

In the ambulance, I watched Jon following in his car, and I prayed for an excellent doctor. For me and for him. The paramedic worried I was in shock because I wasn’t responding to the pain the way he expected. He said, “You have an extremely high pain tolerance.” Since I’ve always considered myself a bit of a wimp, his words surprised me. I felt the pain (it was brutal), and my insides were shaking, but I was gifted with something greater; calm in the chaos surrounding me. It came and went because I’m human and broken bones hurt, but that night I was mostly good.

After x-rays that required morphine, I met my doctor. Michael Torchia and his team. They would attempt to set it, but were sorry because I’d eaten they couldn’t give me enough meds to knock me out. The leg was too damaged to set after the attempt besides morphine I was introduced to the oxy-drugs.

All the bones in my ankle were broken, and my shin bone was split up the front. When I saw the x-rays, I almost threw up. All I could ask was, “Am I going to walk again? And could I please just get a cast and go home?”

The answers were yes and no. Walking would happen, but going home was out of the question. I was in the hospital for two weeks. My surgical team told me my recovery would take a while. It took almost eleven months.

Here are a few of the things I learned:

  • Some surgeons believe in miracles. Mine said so every day. God has said yes. Dr. Torchia was the best.
  • Bone pain is bad, and sometimes you can’t hide that.
  • Prayer comforts like nothing else.
  • Bones are amazing, and it’s true – we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Most of the time bones heal and are stronger than before.
  • Morphine and the oxy-drugs were not my friends. Instead of the anticipated high, I hallucinated on the first and dropped into the depths of despair on the other two. I ended up on Advil, preferring pain to that.
  • Gratitude fills my heart when I remember how our parents and friends were there for us. And that my brother is a man of prayer and the way five-year-old Gracie still wanted to be around me.
  • Physical therapy works, but man it hurts. Do it anyway. Pre-medication is wise. Because I did what the doctor and the therapists said, I have greater recovery. I did what he told me too because he knew bones and all the inner stuff better than me, so when he told me I could do something, I could.
  • God sent me a roommate I needed. She had broken her hip and said on our first night sharing the space, “I sometimes sing myself to sleep – I love hymns. Will that bother you?” She was a blessing every minute we were together. She went home long before me, and I missed her greatly. After she left, after a very different replacement, I had the room to myself, and I sang hymns in the night because singing helps.
  • When you’re in the hospital, it’s okay to have a stuffed animal to sleep with no matter how old you are. And at home when you’re alone, and you just need someone to hold close and to catch your tears. Stuffed critters can be trusted with everything. And you can hug them hard, and it’s okay.
  • Healing takes time. Often, a lot of time. Waiting to heal takes the kind of patience, and I had to choose to trust the One who was once again knitting my body together. The first time was in the creation of me, and this time was in the healing. He did a great job both times.
  • When I thought I couldn’t, I could. Despair is a nasty enemy that I had to banish intentionally. Daily. Sometimes moment by moment. Until near the end of my recovery.
  • I learned to let my husband help me when being independent wasn’t wise or possible.  I was a burden, and that’s just the way it was. Not wanting to be one or worrying it about it made it worse for both of us. So I surrendered to the truth of it, and we did much better.
  • Crying when I was alone helped. So did sleep. Sobbing was okay too – I didn’t do this a lot, but when I got home, I did it some in loud, quick jags holding on to my stuffed dog. But that was the first thing that passed as I healed.
  • Pain caused me fear and anxiety. I wondered what kind of person I’d become if I didn’t heal. Prayer was essential. In the deepest days of pain, I muttered, “Please, God,” a lot.
  • Praying for others helped.
  • We were in the process of moving 2 months after the break. I packed with Jon’s help. Moving is hard. That move was harder, but we did it without divorce. Jon is a very good man.
  • Being in a wheelchair is hard even when you know it’s temporary. People treat you differently – sometimes they ignore you, and even talk about you in front of you as if you aren’t there.
  • I was non-weight bearing for several months. That meant when I was alone, I needed a commode beside the bed. It doesn’t take long for a house – even when it’s clean to smell like a nursing home. Ugh. But it was temporary – a fact I still thank God for when those memories cross my mind.
  • Riding in the backseat with pillows behind me and under my leg was good for me even when getting there was rugged. So was the coffee Jon always stopped to get me.
  • Wheelchairs can be fun. In time, they meant trips to Target, Barnes & Noble, and Red Lobster. Going out was hard, but not going was harder. I got good at managing mine while Jon pushed the cart. Once, in an aisle by myself, I did some spins. For fun. Because I could. It was almost like twirling.
  • You can take showers sitting in a lawn chair, using a garden hose, in the garage. And these showers feel amazing.
  • Walkers aren’t just for old people. They can, in fact, become a bit of security that is hard to let release. Pink is a nice color for them.
  • My boot-cast was another thing I had to let go of. When the doctor told me to take it off and walk to the car without it, I shook all the way. Then we had a coffee and celebrated. That was also my last appointment with him for several months. He was part of my security detail, and it was hard not to see him. I still hated the x-rays, but progress reports were good.
  • PTSD is real. And it happens to people who get hurt badly for the first time when they are 49. And it requires medical help. TV and music (other than my own almost whispered singing) created a static like chaos in my brain. The nightmares were horrible. I heard things that weren’t there. I was hyper-vigilant months later when I walked – afraid I’d fall again. If anything looked wet, I was terrified. It was rugged, and I felt shame. My phycologist and physiatrist were the best. The medications did the same thing here – instead of lifting me out of the place I was, they made it worse. So, I used SamE, and it helped. And I talked to my doctors about the hard stuff, learning to cope, and slowly recovered. Mostly.
  • I still do my physical therapy exercises because they still help.
  • Having a place to go where you feel peace is important. Jon would push me in my wheelchair to this spot between the pine trees. I spent hours praying, reading, and writing in my journal here.

20150414_104708

I found God’s tender comfort between these straight trucks and gentle boughs.

peace

And peace.

  • The greatest (and most beautiful) lesson of all was, the absolute certainty that God was with me every second in the valley of brokenness. He assured me in His Word, the tender care of my husband (I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt when I got home and saw our bed freshly made in the dining room or how wonderful it felt to rest there in his arms!). He showed me in the words of my miracle believing doctor and his dream team, the faithful prayers of our parents, in the tears of my mom as she sat beside me and asked God to heal me, in the kisses my dad gave me on the top of my head (that’s his way), the lavish care of our friends, and even in the tear-absorbing stuffed dog my mom gave me.

Where am I eight years later? I have several pieces of metal in my ankle, but over 90% recovery of the ankle. Although osteoarthritis is in many of my other joints, that one isn’t involved yet. The only loss I experience is going down our steps, and that may be partly fear although I didn’t fall on stairs. I’d like to gain more use of it, but the ankle doesn’t bend quite the way I want it to on the way down. I still find myself watching where I’m walking, and a wet floor can cause severe anxiety, but mostly I’m good and always I’m grateful. Even in the stress of putting one foot in front of another on freshly washed floors, I realize again how very good things are and whisper prayers of thanksgiving.

Not because I’m great, but because He is!

Until Next Time,

Joy

Birth Announcement ~ From Under His Wings

grapearborwinter-1024x684

The wren house in winter.

One spring morning a wren fluttered around me at the bird feeders. “What do you want, little fellow?” I asked the persistent visitor. He flew back and forth, singing. I followed him to the wren house nestled into the grapevines growing up the arbor.

He waited for me on top of the house. Nothing in his actions showed fear or a need for help. He cocked his head and listened. The female joined him. From inside came the sounds of tiny baby wrens. I was hearing their first songs. Soon, Mama returned to the little ones, and Papa went in search of food.

Leaving their house in the vines, I smiled. The wrens seemed to be celebrating the birth of their babies. Could it be? Later that day they chased me away from their little house. Walking away, I felt little doubt about their earlier intentions—they had wanted to tell someone their good news.

Good news is worth singing about. God sent out announcements about the birth of Jesus centuries before His arrival and recorded them in the book of Isaiah. In time, He sent angels to tell others about the coming of His Son. The first angel came to a young virgin girl named Mary to announce His arrival into her womb, and later to her fiancé Joseph to reassure him that his bride-to-be had done nothing wrong. Nine months later, the angels brought the news to the shepherds.

Then God placed a bright star to lead the watching wise men to the Child, so they, too, could look upon the Savior who had been sent into the world.

God recorded several re-birth announcements in His Word reminding us of those who believed in Christ before us; the twelve disciples who later proclaimed His message to thousands, the broken woman He met at the well, the thief on the cross next to Him, and the man renamed Paul who met Him on the road to Damascus, are just a few.

God continues to announce how essential the birth of Jesus is, and as always extends the invitation to all who hear it, to believe and be saved—have you responded to yours yet?

Bird Feeder:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

Birdbath:

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)

Birdhouse:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

For the Birds:

A birdhouse box that has a 4” x 4” base with an entrance that is 7” up from the bottom of the nest will serve many species of birds. Chickadees and wrens will use a house with a 11⁄8” entrance. Nuthatches and downy woodpeckers need an opening that is 13⁄8”. The tufted titmouse will nest in a box that has a 11⁄4” entrance. If you are trying to attract chickadees, nuthatches, or downy woodpeckers, line the houses with untreated wood chips or leave little piles of them around the area for the birds to find for themselves.

Until Next Time,

Joy

If you’d like to read another sample of (or purchase a copy) Under His Wings – Lessons Learned From God While Watching the Birds, click on the book cover below.

underhiswingscover222Kindle (1)

Inspired By Them

Sometimes, as an author, I get invited to speak to kids about writing and their dreams. They want to hear my stories and tell me theirs. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking to the kids at Ambassador Academy in Rochester MN.

I went hoping to inspire them and left inspired by them.

When I got there, the students could hardly wait to help me with anything I needed. Their enthusiasm and generosity were a delight to my soul.

First I got to read Raccoon Tales to the younger students. They were great listeners, asked good questions, told me a couple of stories, and made me laugh.

IMG_7938

When I spoke to the kids in higher grades, they listened as if my words mattered to them. They looked me in the eyes. Smiled, laughed, and didn’t mind when their kindness to me brought tears to my eyes. Some took notes. During the Q & A time, they asked deep, fun, and challenging questions that proved they’d really heard me. And that what I’d said touched something inside them.

And if that wasn’t enough, they lined up, eager to have me sign the books I brought to give them.

AmbassadorKids

This isn’t a brag on me post – because I know my flaws – this is a brag on them post because they were so gracious with the gift of themselves.

Before I left for Ambassador Academy that day, Jon prayed for me the way he always does, and he asked God to send me surprise blessings.

Things that has never happened to me . . . happened.

Their teachers have been reading Under His Wings to them and some of these talented kids illustrated their favorite stories for me. Yep. Their kindness tugged at my heart and filled up my eyes.

AmbassadorAcademyDrawings

Every child and every moment in that school was a gift that left a heavenly glow on my heart.

There were other surprises too. Like the spring dance of two red-tailed hawks outside the window. And a child telling me that he already had copies of my books and that they were signed by me – a gift from a friend of mine who is also a friend of his. (I loved this!) And more.

I said goodbye to them my heart overflowing with the blessings they gave me, and I thanked God for them all the way home. Our time together lingers and blesses my heart on a daily basis. Because their drawings, photos, and handwritten thank you notes are in a binder that sits on my desk where I am gently reminded to pray for them and their teachers, whose love and dedication to the students was evident in every word they spoke to them.

Until Next Time,
Joy

If you’d like to read a sample chapter of Under His Wings, or purchase a copy, click on the book cover below.

underhiswingscover222Kindle (1)