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.


Emotions, Memes, and Three Treasures of Joy

screemI’m perusing Facebook, when BAM! There it is.  A cleverly worded meme, complete with lovely background image, and 782 previous shares telling us of its validity.  “You choose happiness today! You have no one to blame but yourself! Happiness is a daily choice!” You’ve probably seen them too, maybe even shared them, or created them in a loving attempt to encourage and recreate your journey to help others. But I’d like to share a perspective from my heart, and I hope it speaks to yours.

First, a thought on happiness.  Happiness is an emotion. A feeling. An instinctive God-given gift to us as a result of thinking patterns, hormones, core beliefs, and experiences.

Emotion is defined by Webster’s in this way: /əˈmōSH(ə)n/ “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate or the like is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.”  

This tells me:

Emotions are real.  

Emotions are necessary.

Emotions are a natural response.

We can work to control our thoughts and help guide our emotions, but we cannot control our emotions themselves. They are a response, like pain receptors in our physical body that tell us when we touch the curling iron, “Watch out! That’s hot! It will burn you!” Our emotions work the same way. Anger, used in a good way, can help us allocate justice when things aren’t fair. Sadness helps us grieve when we’re lost in this tired, difficult world. Happiness helps us celebrate the good, wonderful things in our lives. Like it or not, all of our emotions are gifts that work for us. God gave us this marvelous way to guide us in our soul journeys.FullSizeRender (60)-001

Personally, when I see cleverly worded memes that tell me to “Choose Happy Today,” I’m brought back to some of my
darkest hours. Days that were rugged and broken, when legitimately sad things were happening. Days when, on top of the emotions I was experiencing, I added on shame. Shame that told me I wasn’t a good enough person, or that something was wrong when I couldn’t shake the sad feelings and trade them for the happy. I wore a smile, and tried to ignore the looming sadness. But I needed the sadness. I needed to allow myself to wash and splash some of the pain and loss down my face with cleansing tears. I needed the sadness to help me process the sad things I was experiencing so I could move forward. Through the support of loved ones, and God’s grace-filled guidance, that happened for me during those days.

Maybe today you’re in that place. Life can be such a struggle. Emotions surge high and crash low, and sometimes, if we battle against them instead of leaning into them, they seem to overtake us. And maybe like me, you’ve found yourself overwhelmed in the storm of struggle. As we identify and acknowledge the need to sort through our feelings, we can begin to look at what’s at the core. And yes, vulnerability and being real with oneself can take courage, but the freedom is glorious as we lay bare before our Father, sharing our deepest pains, our greatest fears, and even our happiest moments. We are created to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) so please reach out, my friend. You were not made to walk alone. Sometimes this process will show you the need for help from friends, family, counseling, mentoring, loving groups, and maybe medical professionals. Please don’t be ashamed! Support is one thing we all can share with one another. One of the most freeing things ever spoken to me was, “Just take the next right step. That’s all you need to do.”

sunsetcaymanHappiness is an emotion that is so pleasant to have. I mean, who doesn’t like good things felt and experienced? But even on days when I’m feeling the loss, fear, or hurt that some experiences afford, and happiness is far away, precious joy is always there. I’m so grateful that I can trade my shiney, “perfect” mask for vulnerable, honest, real me resting in each step found in my Saviour’s care.  Not me choosing to be happy…. Joy finding me.  Joy that helps me see these emotions as gifts, and offer them up to God to discover how I can grow as I acknowledge His design in emotions for me.  

Three special ways that joy has impacted me through my journeys:

1) Joy has given me tranquility.

A contentedness that sings to my soul, “All is well.” Storms come and go, that is assured, but His love is always with me. Where He has me today, I can be assured His grace is with me. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)

The waves can’t drown me, for He is holding me.  Even when I can’t feel it, He is there.

2) Joy has given me freedom from guilt and shame.

I fail, and I grow weak. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I can’t be all things at all times, and I have loads of limitations. And that’s ok.  Because, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

Praise God, I don’t rely on me; my hope is in Him.

3) Joy has given me deep, deep delight, and pleasure indescribable.

The more I see His love for me, the more I rest in Him, and the more I experience His love in the most secret places of my heart, the more deeply I delight in every moment I have to know Him.  The darkest days are easier to face as I feel the close presence of my Saviour.  “And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

I can’t explain it all, but my heart knows well His Love.steppingstones

Friend, you are on my heart today.  Don’t let the weight of those cleverly worded memes, or your own fears keep you from reaching out and working through your experiences today.  Emotions are a gift, and a signal that attention is needed. Find the precious joy of steadfast tranquility, freedom from guilt, and deep, powerful pleasure as you embrace this journey.


All you have to do in this moment is take the next right step.  

If you are reading this, and need help right now, or have had thoughts of complete hopelessness, please reach out. Call a loved one, or one of the confidential contacts listed below. You are loved, and there are many who want to share your burdens, just as many of us have had our burdens shared.

To Write Love on Her Arms

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

National Child Abuse Hotline

1 (800) 442-4453

National Domestic Abuse Hotline

1 (800)799-7233

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

1 (800)656-HOPE

the fruit – post 2

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I contemplated for awhile how to share with you my heart of true joy, and where for me it lies.  Happiness is a beautiful gift that is present in my life for moments, but the gift of joy, as a contrast for me, can run deep and steady — breathing peaceful reminders of hope when the days are dark, and sharing a smile of fathomless praise during moments of goodness to celebrate.  I found it hard to find the words to share with you, and then this morning I thought of the lyrics to this favorite hymn.  If you have the time today, read each line slowly, and take a moment to let the lyrics penetrate your heart.  You might be sitting on a mountaintop, feeling the sun on your face, or you might be in a valley alone looking for light and direction.

My friend, joy is here.

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our father, Christ our brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us sunward
In the triumph song of life.”

-Henry J. Van Dyke

…to open our hearts and hands

The opportunities to have the joy of giving are all around!  If we open our eyes, we can see the many ways we can pour amazimainto others lives, just as we have been poured into.  What a special way to share love.  In our time.  In our finances.  In our encouragement.  In our gifts.  In our services to others.  In our kindness.

What beauty!!

We exhibit the very nature of our Father.

We experience an overflow of love in sharing.

One beautiful place to give is to the Amazima Ministries.  I love the heart, and ways that this place sows into so many lives!

My shiney, lovely friend Renee wore the "love" necklace today to work!
My shiney, lovely friend Renee wore the “love” necklace today to work!

Also, as you see, they sell hand-made, lovely jewelry to help others.  “Each piece of jewelry is made by a hard-working woman in Amazima’s vocational program.  We know these women and their stories, and we love them deeply.”  Click on this link to take a look at their store, and all the colorful, symbolic,fantastic jewelry!  I love symbolism, and wearing this necklace reminds me how we are all in this together… 🙂

This video shows exactly how the jewelry is made… Luvvit!  So creative.

a winter that teaches true joy

Sorry for my disappearance off the blogosphere!  Guess if you follow my spasmodic ramblings, you are not surprised that you haven’t heard from me for a while… I’m a bit unpredictable.  🙂

Life has had some swirling storms for me especially the past couple of months.  In this season of my life, it has certainly felt like winter.  We all can relate to pain-filled, dark days that we walk through, desiring to see the flowers brightly bloom, and the warmth of the spring sun on our face — only to be faced with the cold reality that it is still winter.

Yet, now I know, more than ever, joy can be found in the winter.

I’m thankful that these winter seasons teach us what true joy really is.  These winter seasons actually help rule out where our hope and joy does not lie.  We walk it out with shaky legs, tired hand as we face these struggles day by day, and we see clearly what is true in our life.  Joy is found in promises that are immovable.  Joy is found in the reality that we are created by a God who is unchangeable.   Joy is found when friends remind you to hope, breathe, dance with them in the rain, or cry on their shoulder — wanting to share your burden to ease the winter months.    True joy isn’t found in my external surroundings, the flowers blooming, or the sun shining in my face.  True joy doesn’t melt away when the days are long and hard, and the tears sting our face.  True joy doesn’t have to fade, or flicker when relationships get messy, and complications make it unsure footing for what the next steps are to be made.  True joy actually can grow stronger when the waves get bigger, and the storms rage.  True joy actually can make your heart smile in the midst of laying in a puddle of tears, even as you feel  you are grasping to see light cos it’s so very dark.

The truth of the matter is, my joy is a choice.  My mind doesn’t need to stay fixed on the problems, but “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Col 3:2 (ESV) This doesn’t mean I have to shout from the mountaintops a song of happy refrain, when I have a hard time even lifting my head,  but it does mean that I can rest my heart in what is true.  I can know that although my feelings may overwhelm me, it does not change the truth that I am loved.  I am cared for.  And my Father has overcome ALL the storms of this world, He sees my every tear, and His love wins.  I cannot climb this mountain, but He already has.

“Bad news happens.  But joy is a choice.”  Dr. Gary Oliver

My friend, choose joy with me — bad news in this world is temporary, but joy is eternal.

PS:  A big hug to all my love-sharing peeps that read this.  I want you to know sometimes I may be quiet (it’s the introvert in me.  Sorry!), but your love has helped carry me, and I am so thankful for you.

The next few weeks I have some beautiful guest posts that you will enjoy!  Some peeps and their “favorite” things.  Keep an eye out & enjoy!


Yay!  Tsaladhe farmer’s market had nice fresh veggies!  Excited over my treasures, I carefully assembled a salad.  I chopped the lettuce neatly, the long, crisp leaves unfurled while the bright green color just shouted at me “vitamins for you my dear!”  My mom had the perfect way of slicing tomatoes… and honestly as a mom of five I often just chop them every which way and toss them in the salad bowl.  But today…. I chopped them just like my mom:  perfectly thin, oblong, bite size juicy tomatoes.  My ALL-TIME fav-O-rite avocadoes joined the bowl crew, accompanied by carrot wedges, green peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower pieces.  Cranberries and oven roasted almonds adorned the top of the masterpiece, and I think might have accidentally said something like… “Wa-Lah.  It is Vreadeee to Zeet” in my best French chef voice.

This was no ordinary salad, so out of the cupboard came my best, special, only-for-this-type-of-greenery-goodness wooden salad bowls.  It was complete, and I served it to my boys….

The air was still.  The birds sang gently in this moment of beauty. I might have heard a faint harp in the background even.  Then it was there:

“What are we eating for real food?”

“This IS real food.  What do you mean?”

“You know, real food, like a hot dog, or something..?”

A HOT DOG or something?  Happy, singing, rainbow train halts.  Smoke stops puffing.  Slowly backs all the way back to the station…..

Perspective.  It guides what we do.  How we think. What we eat. 🙂  Why we act.  How we view others. Often it greatly affects our mood and outlook.

I have a “bad” day because I spilled my latte, argue with a buddy, lose my wallet, have a slight headache from lack of said coffee, lose my keys, fuel my car whilst spilling it on my skirt making me stinky all day, lose my phone, and realize my amazon account was hacked and I have wrong charges pending..

But, let me take a look again:  I woke up breathing, with Wesley snuggled up beside me smiling –full of life and happy.  My sons and husband all enjoyed a nice breakfast together, laughing and joking about the baseball game the night before.  I fueled my car and didn’t have to worry about how I would pay for it today.  The sunrise was amazing, and the sunset was even more beautiful.  My mom called and we chatted, giggled and enjoyed thinking about my new twin nieces to soon-come.  A phone call encouraged me by reminding me how much my heavenly Father loves me, and cares about every little detail of my life.  I found my keys, phone, and wallet.  My mother-in-law picked up my boys from school and they sent me a text to tell me they were enjoying a yummy, delectable ice cream treat together.  I walked, talked, sang, ran, danced, laughed, and smiled all during my day.

And I need to stop there…. Because that’s only the beginning of that particular list, and you guys need to rest your eyes at some point methinks.

I reject my salad, because I’m too focused on looking at most everything from one angle.  How dare anything interrupt my perfect flow of life?  What is the perfect flow actually Joani? And more importantly… who presented you with the ascendancy to determine what is perfect and good for your life?  If everything was always rosey pink, how would I ever gain appreciation for the red… the blue… the yellow… the green… and even the magenta days?

If I continue to dwell on the hot dog as needed for dinner… I will  surely miss out on the enjoyment of the amazing scrumdiddlyumptious salad.

Perspective:  It might change how you enjoy what’s for dinner…. And more  😉


Mailman:  Beautiful day…

Elwood P. Dowd:  Oh, every day is a beautiful day.

~From one of my favorite movies – the 1950 “Harvey” starring Jimmy Stewart