New Year’s Resolutions – Finale


Perspective.  It’s such a gift that we take for granted, and sometimes even reject.  Fresh eyes to see.. new angles to look at something…stimulation that promotes growth..

So, in 2017 I wanted to resolve to:

Read More.

Read Diverse.

Read Consistently.

Read Slowly.

Many of you actually made some great book recommendations for me!  I took notes on what you told me, filled up my Amazon shopping cart, and was set for the year.. With my classes, and the hurry-scurry of my life, it was a bit of a struggle.. especially the READ SLOWLY part.  Ha.  So, sometimes I would literally read one paragraph to *chew* on for a few days.

So, why did I resolve to do this? (And, will be doing so again in 2018!)

Reading has so many benefits.  My Dr. told me that it greatly aids in focus – disciplining our mind. (Annnd, my mind needs all the help it can get!)  😀  In this age of fast-paced, give-it-to-me now world.. slowing down to read and turn the pages in a book, digesting written words, contemplating new things, and creatively visualizing and connecting to the author’s meaning is a precious resource (that we often neglect cos we are too busy!). Who doesn’t want better focus, the gift of more creative genius, further knowledge, and the ability to better understand others?  I do, but like most good-for-me stuff in life, I have to be intentional to make it happen.  (For some reason eating healthy doesn’t magically happen for me, but chocolate seems to appear just when I want it!)

Diversity is the gift of all the variety that surrounds us, but sometimes we don’t (or can’t) connect to it.  We tend to only watch/read/study those things that all fit in the same little mindset we feel comfortable and at home with. We see through our own set of eyes, with our own personal lens or perception that have filters that don’t see things in all the same ways.  Yet, quite frequently we judge, dismiss, criticize with limited resources mentally to make those assessments.

Often, we fear what we don’t understand.. Our fear causes us to mistrust and to become defensive.  But, do we really have to defend who we are?  Isn’t it a gift for me to be able to communicate to you who I am, and then in return understand who you are and what makes your world tick?

Obviously, we are all going to have our own beliefs, convictions, goals and desires.. That’s what makes the you and the me!  We can be passionate, convicted and dig our roots deep into the beliefs that we have for our own lives.  I’m not talking about being wishy-washy or everyone’s ways always being right.. But, to “climb into another man’s skin and walk around” for a bit is a gift of new eyes to see life from a new angle.  Books are a perfect way to visit new cultures, hear another’s pain, understand why other’s believe and act the way they do, and grow in the knowledge of a skill-set that will help us in life.. and much, much more!

I think the greatest benefit to me through my little resolution this year was having my own biases, pride and prejudices triggered. Reading slowly gave me time to prayerfully and reflectively challenge my pride, my small mentalities and my perceptive limitations and say “Hey now, Joani.  Your little world isn’t the only one out there.. ”

Truly listening with ears to hear, and eyes to see another is life-shaping and life-changing.  

Find you a book, find you a quiet place, and dive in!

Here we go 2018!  

(Quote from Atticus in “To Kill A Mockingbird” – one of the many wonderful books we can read!)



when the world feels too big


A couple years ago, one of my professors gave us the assignment to choose a movie clip that visually and emotionally helped conceptualize what helped us to push through difficult circumstances in life.  Immediately, I knew which clip I would choose.  Living in a household with my five sons, we watch a lot of super-hero films, and one scene in one particular “Superman” always has stood out to me, and moved my emotions as it resonates so deeply with how I have weathered the storms of my life.  As I googled looking for the clip, ironically the clip was titled, “The world’s too big, mom.”  See, in my life there have been major storms I’ve weathered, disappointments that have cut so deep, gut-wrenching pains that seemed too big to face… fears that left me wanting to hide away.  Feeling like a little helpless child that doesn’t know what to do, faced with big people decisions that I don’t want to face.  I’ve called out to my Father during some of these moments, “It’s too big.  It’s too difficult.  The darkness is too much.  Where are you?”

And, He’s always there.

He’s always reminding me in so many ways that He only needs me to take the next step, and even then He will give me the strength and light needed for that next little step.  Not simply giving me more strength…. He is my strength.  Make it small.  What are you facing today?  Breathe in, breathe out.  Seek Him. Read His words to you. Rely on Him.  Hear His whisper.  He will get you from this moment to the next.  The world is big.  The world can feel overwhelming.  I may feel very small and frail some days, but my Father is strong, good, full of love for me, and an ever-present help.


Man of Steel (2013)

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Renee

As the series continues I would like you to meet my friend Renee. It’s truly a joy to work and walk beside Renee in this crazy life-journey and as we both serve at the East Texas Pregnancy Help Center.  Renee has the integral role as Administrator and amazes me daily with her multi-tasking, multi-hat abilities!  Renee holds a Bachelor of Science Business Administrative degree from College of the Ozarks and has traveled and worked in many different, beautiful, wonderful places, and we are so happy to have her now here with us.  She is a constant light to my life, and a faithful friend.  Here’s a little piece of her heart in words..

The “wild rose” theme fits when I think about how counterculture my story has turned out.  And I am thankful my story has unfolded the way it has.  It has molded and shaped me in the exact and unique “wild rose” that God intended.


My story may be considered “wild” to the world.  I remained single until almost 40 years old (pausing for the jaw-dropping gasps here.)  And an even “wilder” fact is that I chose to wait for my husband (…pausing again..)  How often does that happen anymore?  I give credit to the grace of God!  But admittedly, these facts about my life have been difficult to navigate emotionally far too often.  I have been very messy emotionally!

The world is full of messages that if you are not married early in life, there is something wrong with you.  Well-intentioned friends and family unceasingly ask questions such as, “Are you dating anyone?” “Are you going to stay single forever?” or make insensitive comments “Well, your standards may be too high.”  or  “It will happen when you stop looking.”  Without meaning to, they caused me to feel like they thought there was something wrong with me as a woman since I was unmarried and childless.

True story… one year I came home from college, probably about age 19 or 20.  My grandmother traditionally made full-sized afghans for her grandchildren as they each got engaged, however, she had already gotten it in her mind that I might never get married.  She actually called me an old maid and announced that she went ahead and made me a twin-sized afghan.  I am sure I turned all shades of red that day! Lol  Side note: she passed away almost ten years after that and I now treasure the twin-sized afghan.

There is an important truth that the world is not shouting to us as women.  The truth that we as women need to hear is that we are whole, we are beautiful, just the way we are.

Whether we are single, or divorced, or dating, or married, or widowed, or whatever our “label” happens to be…. and whatever the reason happens to be, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with us because our label is not something else. 


Getting married does not make you mature or complete. Nor does singleness.  God made each of us in his image and He directs our steps.  One truth that help me reconcile my time of singleness in contrast with the messages the world sends is that God himself is the chooser and giver of my blessings (and the blessings of others).  As I embrace my own gifts, I can celebrate joys with others without a jealousy/pity party because I am truly glad God has blessed them.  And I can trust a God who gives every good and perfect gift.  We do not know how long we get to enjoy the gifts either, so if your gift is singleness, savor it.  If your gift is marriage, savor it.  If your gift is mom, step-mom, grandmother, savor it. Savor every gift while you have it.  One of my gifts was an extended time of singleness and I do not regret it.  I followed the Lord and had exciting adventures during those years.  I will be married 2 years in about 6 weeks.  I am the same whole, beautiful woman I was before I was married.  And I am savoring this new adventure as an equal but different gift.

I want to shout this message to the youth of our day.   In the era of social media, they are bombarded with even more false messages about relationships and what is and is not appropriate in them.  I want them to know that they are whole, they are beautiful JUST THE WAY THEY ARE!  No relationship can give them value or add to their value.  The value is already there. Embrace your value and celebrate who you are.  And I challenge all of us to be mindful of our words as we inquire of others.  We may not fully realize the messages we are sending, even the unintended ones.

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Joy

Today the series continues, and I’m beyond honored to have one of my heroes share with us.  She’s a ginger-snap that I like to call my little Toodles.  Joy is a giant-hearted person who continually shows me what true perseverance, courage, and faith look like.  Joy is the fourth in my lovely quintet of sisters. She graduated Cum Laude in 2015 from Stephen F Austin University with a Bachelor of Arts for Creative Writing.  Currently, she is a Masters Candidate in Creative Writing and a Teacher’s Assistant with the English Department at Arkansas State University.  I pray that this post reaches deep into your heart, as it did mine.  

Rings left by coffee, stains left by people

I almost always buy my clothes second-hand, coffee-stained sleeves and lipstick-stained collars, worn-down and fraying and faded and beautiful. I love the history that comes with an article of clothing that has been worn by a stranger: it could have gone hiking in the Smoky Mountains, could have soaked in the tingling, woody smoke of a campfire, could have spent days in bed cuddling a newborn, or drinking coffee and watching old movies. I love that things have histories. They do not begin and end with me and my personal joys or tragedies. The world spins, and I am only a small part, watching.


Isn’t it amazing that the people we love live on beyond us? It is not as if, after we have lunch with a friend, they get in their car and immediately vanish from existence. They may disappear from our sight and our mind—but they are now in their own little world, experiencing their own little joys and tragedies. They are mysteries to us. We can speculate: are they eating lunch right now? Are they slathering mayonnaise on bread or making too-strong coffee with heaping teaspoons of sugar? Are they happy? But we never know, for certain. We are stuck in our own limelight. They have exited off stage and are in the dark of the wings.

Like most Americans, I am guilty of being very self-absorbed. I live in my own head, with ghosts of old words. In my life, I have been hurt by individuals who entered and exited. Their cruel words become a stain on my sleeve, their lies broke a button on my shirt. I repeat the thing they have done to me like a mantra: hurt, hurt, hurt. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I forget that they have exited off the stage, that they are living out their own mystery elsewhere, and I become obsessed with the way in which they have changed me.

As a woman, I have lived through a series of expectations. I passed through them like wandering through bewildering rooms in an old house. Sometimes I felt very lost. I was raised with the expectation that I would marry and have children, because per the culture, that was God’s plan for women. Guys I liked told me that they thought women should be modest and cover their legs, their breasts, their hair, but also stay in good shape so that they could be sexy. Men in churches told me that I should be submissive to authority figures and not argue or dispute ideas publicly. Teachers told me I had to try harder, because women still didn’t get the opportunities that men did unless they went above and beyond their male colleagues. Friends reminded me that I should major in a field suited to a woman: like teaching or nursing, because other jobs were too masculine.

But I didn’t want any of that: I wanted to be a leader, a shaker, a dreamer, a doer. I used to pray to be magically transformed into a man, because I thought men’s lives must be more exciting. For a few years I bound my breasts and wore boxy clothes to pretend I didn’t have a figure. I rejected every romantic intention of any guy that came near me; because I thought love meant submission to degradation, meant agreeing with my partner’s crazy thoughts, meant shutting up when I disagreed, meant taking abuse…out of love.

Looking back, I recognize myself as an intelligent, creative child who was just curious and excited about everything. So much got stifled by those well-intentioned comments to be more ladylike, to talk quieter, to dress feminine, to eat less and stay in shape, to find a husband, find a husband, find a husband.

Now I know better; I know as a woman I am just as whole and full of potential as a man. I believe in the adventures of being a woman. Yet I am guilty of letting these old comments stain my perspective on myself. Sometimes when I’m teaching I think, Wow, I sound bossy. Sometimes when I’m standing in front of the mirror I think, My teeth are so ugly and fang-like, so gross. I like rock music and science fiction (that’s not ladylike), I prefer other people to cook for me (I’ll never be a good wife).

Recently I found out, due to some issues, that it is almost impossible that I will ever be able to have children. My first thought was: I guess I’m not a real woman. But that thought was ugly and untrue, that thought was an old ghost of someone who told me, once upon a time, that the only reason I was born was to serve a man and have babies.


And I know that thought is untrue because the women I love are doing amazing things. They are sometimes mothers and wives, yes, but they are also personal trainers and musicians, globe-trotters and activists, counselors and preachers, nurses and nannies, business-owners and orchestrators, singers and dancers, makers and creators, dreamers and soldiers, rockstars and fashionistas, bakers and brokers. I see them jogging in the morning. I see them at coffee shops, reading for pleasure. I see them wearing clothes that make them feel good. I see them building fences and chopping wood, plastering walls painting houses. I see them moving abroad to Italy or China. I see them fighting crime, speaking out, turning in their abusers, being so very loud and so very lovely.

And I am in awe of them.

I am in awe of you.

You are my mentors and heroes, you are why I tell the ghosts to shut up, and get off the stage. You are why I silence my fears that I’m bossy or unladylike or weird. You’re why I’ve learned to love being a woman again.

Because whatever unkind words have been spoken to you, whatever little rips and tears have been made to your soul, you wear yourself with grace and purpose when you live to be who you truly are. When you gamble on yourself, when you believe in your dreams. You are as beautiful as that dress, hanging in a thrift shop, that dress that has been danced in, twirled about. The dress that has seen the sun and rain both, that is worn in as soft as down, yet sturdy and durable. There are stains, yes, but they are beautiful because they tell me your story: you survived, you overcame, and you are still needed, yes, and desirable, unique in your history.

It’s hard to leave the old expectations behind, because they resurface quietly, they are still little wounds that are healing. Yet: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

It is best to let the ghosts go.

We are surrounded by victors and achievers and those breathing heavy and dripping sweat because they are running ferociously down the path set out for them, they are living their true purpose. I would much rather listen to their voices, strained and panting though they may be. Wouldn’t you?

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Tracie

Next up in the series, you have the pleasure of meeting my friend Tracie.  We’ve known each other quite a few years from the days of pushing our little ones around in baby strollers, to now sharing the bittersweet moments of waving goodbye as our “babies” drive off to college.  Tracie is proud mom to three amazing kiddos, and wife to Pastor Richard Boyd.  She serves our school district as the Help Desk Technologist, and is one of the most giving ladies you’ll meet. From taxiing around our kiddos, giving me much needed reminders, and so much more I’m blessed to know Tracie… and I think you will be too as you read her honest, open words.  

As I sat this morning, all alone, looking at the decorations in our house, drinking coffee, and remembering where each ornament came from I was flooded with love, and something else.  I realized I have wasted alot of time.  I have held grudges, judged others, not forgiven, and not shared the gospel like I should.  My dad is in the hospital right now, and I just lost my grandma and a lady who was a spiritual mother to me, so my heart is kind of heavy.  More than the heaviness of the loss of people, is the loss of time.


I didn’t speak to my dad for five years when I was a teenager, and I have always felt a little estranged from him, but last year when his dad passed away, things changed.  He needed my help, and I freely gave it.  We have had the best relationship in this last year because I let us.  I let go of old hurts and pain and just loved him where he is.  I let him love me in his way, not the way I want him to love me.  I let go and let God.

My dad is not saved and I have tried to discuss it with him before, but he doesn’t see a need for a relationship with Christ.  I have tried to live my life in front of him, and hope that it has been a witness, but as I sat there this morning I thought, “Has it been?”  “Have I shown the love of Christ with my grudges and un-forgiveness and judgmental-ness?”  “Would anyone want to know about Christ watching me?” The answer is no.

Young couple holding hands in the wheat field on sunny summer day.

Time is short people!  Even if you don’t believe in the end times, you can look around and see how fast time passes!  My daughter is looking at colleges, my son is grown and gone, I will have another teenager in a month, time has passed me by!  I have wasted something God has given me with “MY” hurts, that I really haven’t shared with the fixer of those hurts, Jesus.  

Please don’t let the time continue to go by another day having “junk” that keeps you bogged down to the point that you can’t live for Christ as you should, or share the gospel like you should.  Forgive people, love people, and tell people about Jesus.  There is someone looking at your walk, whether it is your children, husband, friend or stranger.

Walk in a walk that they will know He is walking with you.

words that remind us

harpA few years ago a friend sent me these timely words that were written many years ago.  I remember staring at my screen in silence, tears falling as I peered over the words – praying for the depth of the message to nestle into my heavy heart. My life has not been a stranger to the face of pain, as I know you also face your own battles in this world, My Friend. Hold fast today. Share hope. Take moments to rest.  Breathe freedom. Speak words of Life to each other every chance you get. I’m so grateful for little reminders like these that speak great faith to my life!

“We should never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched; nor enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress; nor discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten; nor feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which his vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights.”

-C. H. Spurgeon

the fruit — post 5

IMG_9529I think we can all relate to a moment in our life when an unexpected or undeserved kindness changed the course of the moment we were facing.  A bad day turned good by the kindness of a generous, smiling face assisting you with the flat tire change, and a big umbrella (when you had forgotten your own) in the rainy night.  A warm hug, a cup of coffee and a shoulder to cry on when you’re sad, and words won’t do. Checking out at the grocery story, children crying ready to leave and THEN you rummage through your purse, short the right amount of change and you see the lovely lady in line behind you present a nickel and a big smile, “I’ve been there before, too, “she reassures you.  Oh, these beautiful daily kindnesses!  How they can shape our days!  And, not simply our days, but our very lives. Not only to receive, but in the act of giving.  I was reading an interesting article by a Dr David Hamilton who suggests five side effects of kindness, 1)Kindness makes us happier, 2) Kindness gives us healthier hearts, 3) Kindness slows ageing, 4) Kindness makes for better relationships, 5) Kindness is contagious.  Life changing stuff, friends.

So, how is kindness defined?  One of my very favorite writers/speakers is Dr Tim Keller, gives us this definition in his expository study of Galatians;

Chrestotes = kindness, which is an ability to serve others practically in a way which makes me vulnerable, which comes from having a deep inner security. Its opposite is envy, which leaves me unable to rejoice in another’s joy. And its fake alternative is manipulative good deeds, doing good for others so I can congratulate myself and feel I am “good enough” for others or for God.

The beauty of this fruit of the spirit, and all the fruits of the spirit the verses in Galatians listed, is that this outflow does not rely on our ability, it is a flow from the spirit of God which resides in us!   Dr Tim Keller, also reminds us; “In normal religion, the motivation for morality is fear-based. In gospel Christianity, the motivation is a dynamic of love…And now, Paul spells out just how we grow in character through this new dynamic. And his headline is: We grow as we battle…To be “led by the Spirit” (v 18) is to change, and be changed, to be the people we want to be. The Spirit-fuelled development of Christ-like character is liberating, because it brings us closer to being the people we were designed to be, the people our Spirit-renewed hearts want us to be…We are saved by faith, not by growing fruit; but we are not saved by fruitless faith. A person saved by faith will be a person in whom the fruit of the Spirit grows…The fruit of the Spirit has internal roots. It is not about traits or characteristics. It is about a change much deeper than that. Think about an apple tree. Do the apples on the tree make it alive? No – if you tied apples onto a dead tree’s branches, that wouldn’t make it alive! The apples don’t give life; they are a sign that the tree is alive. But the life produces the fruit; not the other way around…It is worth looking closely at each aspect of the singular fruit of the Spirit (v 22-23):”

What kindness our Saviour has freely, unexpectedly, and undeservingly shown us!  Just ponder that for a moment, search Him out, talk to Him about where you are right now.  When He appears in our life, everything changes. Stay connected to the source.  Dig your roots deep, deep, deep into His loving kindness.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Titus 3:4-7