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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Wrapping my mind around the past 2 1/2 months is a difficult thing to do.  The depths of pain and intercession, which had before been untapped have become springs of maturity and understanding for me.  On January 11th, my friend Joanne fell from her treadmill due to a massive stroke–her description of the event reminds me of fire and ice, but I will leave it for her to tell someday. I sank into a desperate place of prayer.

Without thought, I began to act, to pray, to be bold and to hold fast to some rope that seemed to be attached to God in a way I had yet to experience.  I felt distinctly that I was a player in a battle, a battle that I will never comprehend this side of Heaven.  I battled in prayer day and night–petitioning God for the life of my friend.  Deep down, I knew my place…to pray and to tell. I did both.

A deep sleeper, I was awakened through the watches of the night for weeks on end.  I woke and prayed–tarried in prayer until released.  It was as if I was connected to a place of action being carried out on Joanne’s behalf.  The exhaustion I felt is nothing–nothing–compared to Joanne’s close family and friends. I knew that I was at the bottom of the symbolic mountain, praying, as they battled at the precipice.  I also knew that my connecting point at the base of that mountain was to tell others within my sphere the story and to rally them in prayer for Joanne–and ultimately, I believe prayer for themselves.  That is not to say there were not others at the base of the mountain with me.  Oh, God set up connecting points with others, too.  He has the best system!

Two and a half months later and with much of the story in-between left unspoken, I sit today with pen and journal in hand to let this portion of the story be told for this time.  It is the right time.  There is much of the battle for Joanne’s fullness of life still to be fought and forged.  I ask you to pray for her and her family.  Pray that she will take back every inch of ground she lost–to regain everything.  Pray also for her family and friends, who daily minister to her and urge her on. Finally, pray for her story to be a tidal wave around the globe. Many, maybe including you, need to know that God is at work on behalf of all people, that He hears us, that He answers and that He invites our participation in the unfolding story all around us.

We can choose to believe Him on the darkest of days. We can trust that He can hold our weighty worries.  We can embrace Him, knowing that He is for us and loves us unconditionally. We can relate with Him, for He knows how to speak our language.  And if we get really still and listen, we can hear His voice speaking love and truth over our day-in, day-out lives.  He speaks over us saying, “You matter. You are significant.”  Whether at the top of the mountain, the base or somewhere in the desert perimeter, we have a place of great significance in the story God is writing–planned before the foundation of time.  We have a part to play and a choice to carry it out or not.

Joanne and I have shared many texts over the past weeks (so much so that I had to increase my plan!  And that with JOY!!!).  In every one I receive from her, I thank God for her ability to remember, to relate, to connect and to feel.  She is dreaming wide awake!  Now she is even dreaming in her sleep, which is a miracle. Most of all, Joanne is humble, a fighter, discerning, poetic, fun and able to do everything that is placed before her.  She is able to do, because she holds tightly to the Hand of her God.  She said herself in one of the texts, “When I am afraid, I will trust in Jesus.”  And later, “On the way in a couple of hours, anxious, scared, but choosing to trust Jesus, who loves me.”  Oh indeed He does, dear Joanne!

Friend?  He loves you, too.  He is worthy of your trust.  Just today, I read this from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. C.E. Cowman, “Jesus Christ is no security against storms, but He is perfect security in storms. He has never promised you an easy passage, only a safe landing.”

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It’s Joanne’s Birthday

Today is Joanne’s birthday!!  I cannot even express my joy over what the Lord has done, is doing and will do in Joanne’s life.  He has been the very best PCP (Primary Care Physician) for her.  And He will continue to mark her road, her journey, for success to be and to do and to experience all His best for her.

My life has been irrevocably and wonderfully changed and marked because of Joanne and who she is AND because of the LORD and Who He is!  Each day, I have learned more about prayer, intercession, encouragement and sincere love and faith…all because of Joanne Heim and her precious family.

Celebrate with us, will you?  Go to her blog and tell Joanne a verse you are praying or even just let her know that God has kept her on your heart to pray.  It would mean so much!

Also, if you live in the Denver area, come and join us in a night of worship on her behalf this Friday night. All the details are found here.


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Blessing Box

Lately, I have been savoring the richness of words and thankfulness as I read through Ann Voscamp’s new book One Thousand Gifts. Slowly I have been reading it–with intention.  I even made a journal for our Joanne, where she is writing her 1000 gifts–her sister Kristen used her amazing gift of photography to share Joanne’s journal here

How I love being intentional in thankfulness.  In her book, Ann says it preceeds the miracle.  Indeed, she is right. God calls us to thankfulness.  He calls our families to thankfulness, too. 

So in that vein, I thought I would share an idea our family has used for nearly 20 years: The Blessing Box. Let me share it with you.  Whether you are married or single, with children or without, the blessing box is a wonderful way to corporately count your blessings.  I believe the greatest miracle is the way your heart shifts toward the heart of God–the way He changes us.

When we were young marrieds and college students, Chris and I began to do a Blessing Box. I have no idea where it originated (and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my original idea), but we have made it our own over the past 18 years. I cannot find the first one…but here is our second one.

We began with a shoe box. We wrapped it with wrapping paper or brown shipping paper, both the top and bottom separately, and cut a small rectangular hole in the top (remember the Valentine boxes we used to make in school?) to put slips of paper through. The first box we had was decorated by our nephews who were about 7 at the time (they both got married this year). We talked about ways that God had blessed us.
For example:
*7-15-95 Alternator and belt needed replacing on the car. The Lord provided $125 through our computer selling at a garage sale! Praise God!
*A wet raccoon on our front porch! We have enjoyed watching the raccoons every night!
*Skate Shoes! Noah
* Daddy can see three deer feeders from the garage roof.
* The duckling is a blessing. “The two ran away to find their mudder!” Kylie
* Boxes from Wal-mart were free (for our move)
* Promotion and Raise (50% in 4 years)
* Promise Keepers–friend Steven went along and it changed the course of his life! Praise God!
* Got a deer on the last day of the season
* Mrs. Tricia wasn’t hurt bad in her car wreck.
* That You have given me friends of all ages and race and vocation, who care for me and add many delights to my life! Holly
* We went to Mrs. Bonnie’s a few weeks ago! Noah
* That You have given us a child (Noah) and have made me a mother.
*I love God and Jesus. We have a game called Captain Bible and it’s about Jesus. Noah-4 years old
Then we added a new one, when that one got filled…
And another…
And another…
After writing all the blessings, I would cut them apart and hand them out to everyone (now our three oldest with us) and we begin to sing the chorus to “Count Your Blessings” until everyone is done.
When everyone has put their paper in, we sing this chorus I learned in Campus Crusade:
Give God a Hand
for all He’s Done
For giving us
His Only Son
Let’s all stand up
and give God a hand! (stand up and clap-clap-clap-clap)
That’s all. When we have one of those days that seem too much or overwhelming, all we need to do is pull out some pieces of paper from our Blessing Box and we are reminded that God has been faithful and is faithful and will be faithful. Some days we need reminding, don’t we?
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34

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Putting Our Words Into Action

Last week Holly wrote about our friend Joanne Heim (see “When It’s Your Dear Friend” here). Since then, it seems as though the world has turned over, upside down, and around again. I still can hardly grasp that beautiful, vivacious, caring, giving, compassionate, graceful, funny, smart and generous Joanne lies in a hospital bed in a coma. People all over the world are praying for Joanne, her husband Toben, their daughters Audrey and Emma, Joanne’s sister Kristen, her mom Kay and dad Chuck, and the team of doctors who are treating her.

We’ve been doing a series on prayer this month, participating in the 31 Days of Online Ministry series with several other sites/blogs. We’ve explored some of God’s many names and characteristics as well. I love this series, and I especially love these topics. But I find my mind and my heart keep going back to Joanne and her family.

Holly and I both feel that praying for Joanne is extremely important ~ essential, really. That’s why, for the next few days, things are going to be quiet here on A Martha Heart. We want to dedicate our time to praying specifically for Joanne.

Please join with us in prayer for our friend and sister in Christ. If you have ever come into contact with Joanne, you know how incredibly special she is, and how much she loves the Lord. If you haven’t met her or read her blog, you’ll find everything you need to know at The Simple Wife.

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When It’s Your Dear Friend…

Perhaps you are my friend on Facebook or Twitter.  Perhaps you are tired of my asking prayer for a friend. Maybe you have even hidden me now from your feed for you are tired of reading about it. And that’s ok.  ‘Wish it was that easy for my dear friend and her family to just push HIDE and make it all go away. Unfortunately, it’s not.

But when it is your dear friend, and there is nothing you can do but pray and ask others to pray, I hope you will be the kind of friend who becomes driven by prayer.  This month, as we spend the month praying through the names of God, little did we know that one of our own authors (who stepped down for family time at the beginning of the year) would need every single name and characteristic of God to cover her.  Our Joanne Heim is facing a crisis. And we are on our knees for her. (Photo at left links to all her articles on A Martha Heart, if you’d like to read them.)

I am on my knees for her. She is the kind of friend, who would do the same for me.  We have a two way relationship.  We have a dear friendship.  We are sisters in Christ.  We tarry in prayer for one another. 

This is the kind of friend who sends flowers, when she’s praying for me.

This is the kind of friend, who invites me over for lunch and then gives ME a gift basket.

This is the kind of friend, who shares deep truths she is learning from God’s Word.

This is the kind of friend, who tarries with me in conversation, never making me feel like I am TOO MUCH or NOT ENOUGH. She accepts me, as I am.

This is the kind of friend, who I never wonder if she is FOR me.

This is the kind of friend, who thinks I am special and lets me know in 100 ways.

This is the kind of friend, who loves to read as much as I do!  She also loves Jesus, her family, home and Bible study–and makes me want to be fully committed and growing better in all of that. I am just better for knowing Joanne.

This is the kind of friend, who prays with me.

This is the kind of friend, who rooms with me–even though I sometimes snore.

This is the kind of friend, who teaches me new things, like knitting.

This is the kind of friend, who will take time away from her very busy schedule homeschooling, being a student in seminary, wife, mother and a host of other things and spend it with me–without a hurry or care.  Just unrushed time, as friends.  I am thankful for that time right this second.

This is the kind of friend, who will spend the day with me at a French flea market.

This is the kind of friend, who shares her mother with me.  I have enjoyed both lunch and a conference with her mom–and felt adopted and loved and welcomed.

This is the kind of friend, who will take her mother’s knitted project that didn’t quite turn out, take it apart and restitch it–giving it as a gift to her mom this past Christmas.  I told her, she is just like Jesus–making all things new.  How beautiful.

I don’t know about you, but THIS is a rare kind of friend.  And when she is fighting for her life, I will storm the gates of  Heaven and constantly remind all to pray for her.  I will be a nuisance for the sake of this friend.  I just will.

Will you please pray for my dear friend, Joanne Heim?  She needs our prayers.  Please go to her blog here: The Simple Wife or follow her husband Toben on Twitter for news and updates.

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Never-ending Laundry and My Heart

I have a confession. Today is one of those days that I’m glad that my laundry room isn’t the pretty kind you see in magazines. In fact, my laundry room isn’t really a room at all–it’s more a corner in the basement. If it was the pretty kind, I’d have to climb under the piles of laundry sitting on the floor and hide out of embarrassment. It’s bad, ya’ll.

(So I am not a Southern girl, but my mom grew up in New Orleans, and I so I say things like ya’ll. And “Oh dear Gussie!” And “ma’am.”)

My family (that’s my husband Toben, my daughters Audrey and Emma, and my parents who are known around here as Gran and Papa) spent last week camping in the Grand Tetons. And Yellowstone. I have to stop and say, WOW! and WAY TO GO, GOD! But that’s a whole other post. If you’ve never been, put it on your list. Near the top, preferably.

Anyway, back to the laundry. As I headed down to the basement yesterday to start the seemingly never-ending, towering mountains of camping laundry I worried that it would be out of control. That it would take far longer than I’d like. That it would never, ever end.

So when I just scrolled over the Laundry Room sign on the front page of A Martha Heart and saw what it says under the sign, I had a little epiphany. It says “A cleansing of the heart.” And isn’t that true? Heart cleansing–being changed and transformed and made whole and new–doesn’t always fit into a pretty magazine picture.

Getting our hearts cleansed can get messy in the process. We start to feel wrung out, a little ragged, like it will never end. And sometimes in the midst of a heart cleansing, we’d really like to climb under the piles of junk in our life and simply hide out of shame.

Like the laundry in my basement, it seems like heart cleansing is an ongoing process, one that gets done again and again. One stain gets removed, and in the next wearing, something new gets spilled. The wear and tear of life means cleansing is a repeated process.

And that’s okay. Because that’s how God designed it. One load at a time.

But when it’s finally done–and God always finishes what he starts (Philippians 1:6 says so!)–we find ourselves in the place David prayed to be found–cleansed, washed, renewed.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:7,10

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