A Year Ago Today…

Let me tell you about Joanne

Exactly a year ago today, she went for a run in her basement treadmill, likely listening to Kirk Franklin, and she suffered a major stroke.

I remember that day, like it was yesterday…the numbness I felt, the desperation for God to move, the passion to pray and the sense of urgency.  You see, Joanne matters.

I keep a voice message from her saved on my cell phone from early April–she mentions Habakkuk 3:19 in the Amplified and how it is helping her. You see, Joanne loves God’s Word.

I remember the day when we nearly lost her, a Sunday.  I finally relented and prayed, “Lord, if it is your will, give her family relief and take her home, BUT (and hear that in bold and all caps) I ask that You not take her home.  I need her.”  You see, Joanne is my dear friend.

I am riveted by the day I first visited her in Kindred Hospital. I could look at no one, but her.  I barely noticed their presence.  I was shaking inside, for I knew with everything in me that my friend was Lazarus and raised from the dead. Not just to be raised, but to LIVE LIFE, to fight, to display and to win this battle. That day, I told her, “You will take this story to ALL the WORLD.”  I meant it.  I believe it still. You see, Joanne and her story make an impact.

Hollie, Holly, Donna and Tiffany

Then there was the day (one of many) when I visited her at Spalding. I watched her husband Toben lovingly care for her and set everything to rights, so that she would sleep as peacefully, as possible.  Then I drove to their empty home and carried soil to her back porch thinking, “Wasn’t it just yesterday that our children played together and we soaked up time, laughter and friendship?”  Many people came and planted a garden for Joanne, because they love her. You see, Joanne loves her friends deeply.

Friendship is like a garden to her. She tends and treasures people.  They feel the same about her.

I have watched her family lovingly care for her–like no other family I have EVER seen before!  They have gone to every extent to set my dear friend up for success. I have witnessed friends go to great lengths to care for and love Joanne.  You cannot imagine the mail she has received. I have seen God’s family act the way I never have before…and it has challenged my own faith. You see, Joanne is loved.

Kate, Joanne, Holly and Angie

It doesn’t erase the pain of the last year.

It doesn’t remove the pent-up tears that spill out at the oddest of times.

It doesn’t give me a Pollyanna-ish view of life or illness or recovery.

Life is hard.  I have had some hard conversations with my friend–via text and face-to-face.  I have cried for the anguish she has experienced.  I’m crying now, just typing it.  All these things are true…and almost make me feel overwhelmed with emotion.

BUT (again read that in bold and ALL CAPS) God is greater than our pain.  He is able to take each experience and each hardship, each emotion even–and make it a place of springs.  He is all about redeeming the time.  He is all about reconciling and resurrection. You see, Joanne has shown me God.

As much as I wish the stroke had never happened, I am thankful for the beautiful display of God’s glory that is my dear friend, Joanne Heim.

She is a daily reminder to me of friendship, of hope, of strength and of a faithful servant of the Living Lord Jesus. Thankful. So thankful.  Still wish it hadn’t happened…pray this verse with me over Joanne today:

“The Lord God is Joanne’s Strength, Joanne’s personal bravery, and Joanne’s invincible army; He makes Joanne’s feet like hinds’ feet and will make Joanne to walk not to stand still in terror, but to walk and make spiritual progress upon Joanne’s high places of trouble, suffering, or responsibility! For the Chief Musician; with my stringed instruments.” Habakkuk 3:19 Amplified with Holly’s additions

You can read more of Joanne’s story on her blog and her wonderful sister, Kristen’s blog.

Trusting Him more because of Joanne,

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About Holly

Holly loves her job as wife to Chris and mom to Noah, Kylie, Tabor and Sydney. God has gifted Holly with a love of all things creative ~ from painting and wall papering to scrapbooking and design work. In addition to co-founding and managing A Martha Heart, she designs web pages (www.crownlaiddowndesigns.com) and marketing pieces. She also authored a devotional blog, now closed, called Crown Laid Down. Holly and her family make their home within site of year 'round snow-capped mountains in Colorado. She can be reached by emailing Holly (AT) a martha heart (DOT) com or connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollyGorinSmith


  1. Amen and Amen! My prayer life is forever changed – deeper, richer and stronger – because of this day. Jo is my hero and makes me strive to love Jesus more. I wish it had never happened too, but God is BEAUTIFUL in this story and His glory is revealed through His sweet, sweet servant Joanne … as it is through YOU my darling Holly. Love you both so much!

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