Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's a Mom Thing

Well, friends, it's that time of year again.  Our oldest son has begun his second year of college.  Our younger son is in his junior year of high school.  (When I began this blog, they were 10 and 7!)  We're not quite "empty nesters," but are feeling the beginnings of what that will look like.  If you have children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or close friends that have children, you can probably relate.  They grow up so quickly.  Those toddler years seem interminable.  Then, suddenly, you're in the teen years and dealing with that new world of raging hormones and roller coaster emotions.  Blink your eyes, and they're turning 18--joining the world of adulthood.

Today is the Feast of Saint Monica.  If you're not familiar with her story, she was an incredibly faithful servant of God.  She was a Christian, but for whatever reason was given in marriage to a pagan man named Patricius.  He was a man given to fits of anger, and lived a very profligate lifestyle (read:  he knew a lot of women).  They had a son named Augustine, who was very intelligent, but not inclined to follow in his mother's footsteps when it came to faith.  There were probably at least three other children born to this marriage, but very little is known of Augustine's siblings.

Monica chose to remain steadfast in her relationship with God.  This included a life of prayer for both her husband and son.  Patricius died when Augustine was 17 years old, having requested baptism about one year prior to his passing.

His eldest son was in pursuit of knowledge, but wasn't particularly discerning in the sources of his education.  At the age of 29, he moved to Rome, and then Milan.  His persistent mother followed after him, hoping to have a positive influence on him even in the midst of such a perverse society.  The bishop of Milan, Ambrose, became her spiritual director.

"It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish."

As she poured out her heart to him, he gave her wise advice:  rely on tears and prayer.  Eventually, Augustine became acquainted with Ambrose as well.  Through his influence, the young intellectual slowly worked his way toward God.  His restless heart found its way back to its Maker.  Monica's prayers had been answered in a pround way.

Augustine's writings have become a great resource for Christians throughout history.  To say his influence upon theology and catechesis have been remarkable is really an understatement.  The prayers of Saint Monica have not only affected her prodigy, but the Church at large throughout the multitude of generations since their time (in the 300's).  We owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Monica for her persistence in prayer and indefatigable efforts to evangelize her son.

Which brings me back to my original thought.  My sons are growing into men.  They do not want their "mommy" following them around (Monica listened to Ambrose on that issue, thankfully) and telling them what to do.  And honestly, that is not my role at this stage in their lives.  (Well, as it applies to our oldest, especially.  Our younger son is still just 16...)  But, following the example of Saint Monica, I should instead place them constantly before the Lord in prayer, asking Him to use all the things my husband and I (along with the other godly men and women they have known throughout their lives) have taught them.  He alone can take those lessons and shape my sons into the men he has called them to be.  While our influence is never completely gone, it is time to place them in the hands of God and step back.

But, as I often tell them:  I'll always be your mom.  :)

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I don't often use this blog for "hot button" issues.  This post has been burning in my heart for two months, though.  
Take a good look at my profile picture (but not too closely!), and you will immediately realize that I am white, and come from European lineage.  There's a bit of English, German, Scottish, Irish--and probably several other nationalities--blended into my DNA.  I have honestly never sat down and mused on what that means for me as a person.  It is just "what it is."

Having said that, my interaction with those of other races was quite limited until after I graduated from high school.  (And honestly, I never really thought of any of my schoolmates as being anything other than that, no matter the color of their skin.)  

One of my first memories of encountering an African American child was quite positive.  While visiting a church, the only girl who spoke to me in Sunday school was a sweet girl, who just happened to have darker skin than I did.  She was so kind.  I will never forget that gesture.

As I grew older and became more aware of racial discrimination, I was appalled.  The history of slavery in our country was beyond my comprehension.  Hitler's stance against Jews, anyone with any mental or physical infirmities, and anyone with darker skin, was a hatred I could not fathom.  In my mind, everyone should love everyone, and that was the end of it.

While in college, I met and became friends with students from all over the country and the world.  I truly enjoyed the interaction, as my worldview began to grow and expand.  I attended a church with a wonderful mixture of races.  After our marriage, we spent many years ministering in Detroit and the surrounding area.  Again, our church life was made more full by the variety of skin colors and heritages, all blended together by our love for Christ.

A couple of months ago, I became aware of a racism that, again, is beyond my understanding.  While I recognize that there are many stereotypes, I can only conclude that there is no sound reasoning or logic behind any of them.  People are people, created in the image of God.  Some choose to live as a child of God; others, as a rebellious son or daughter.  Skin color doesn't determine the choice.  

My latest insight came during a presentation on immigration issues.  If I were to sum up my knowledge of the matter prior to that day, I would say it was very, very limited.  The news media has played the issue as an "us against them" saga, with those being born within our borders being on the positive side.  As I listened to the legal aspects, I was still trying to sort it all out:  why should those born in the United States have open arms to those of other nations, and how does that affect each citizen?  While still mulling this over, a young woman was asked to tell her story.  That's when it all changed for me.

She told of growing up in a Central American country, where gang activity is the norm.  Her childhood was also marred by the violence of her father against herself and her mother.  At the young age of 17, she could no longer bear this environment.  She offered to help her mother leave as well, but was refused.  Through a contact in the United States, she made arrangements to make her way north.  Sadly, the person who was paid to transport her did not have her best interest in mind.  After being locked in a house for 2-3 days, she escaped.

She again contacted her U.S. friend, who handled the details of her move here.  She later married this man.  Unfortunately, his temperament was similar to that of her father.  To protect their two young children, she again made an escape.  Thankfully, she made contact with individuals in the Cleveland area who could assist her.  She is making progress, and is so grateful for all the help she  has received.

Now I realize there are immigration laws, and there are legal ways immigrants can become citizens.  However, I also know that the means of procuring that citizenship is very limited.  In the state of Ohio, the only court for immigration and citizenship is in Cleveland.  Most of the immigrant population is in the Columbus area (a drive of over two hours) and Tuscarawas County (a drive of over 1 1/2 hours).  Keeping in mind that most immigrants do not own motorized vehicles, this presents a major obstacle.  When one also realizes that court appointments are usually mailed only days before the scheduled appearance, another large barrier is obvious.  Tack on the added expenses of bus fare, limited knowledge of English, and confusing, ever-changing laws, the hurdles become higher and higher.

Previous to this meeting, I also did not realize that being in the country without documentation is also a civil matter, not a criminal one.  The only time it becomes criminal is when an individual is committing crimes (murder, slave trade, drug transportation, etc.).  Another fact that many do not realize is the current surge of deportation.  And if those being deported have American-born children, the children are placed in the foster care system.  

I don't know all the answers.  I do know that my ancestors came to this country to live in peace, as did the ancestors of most of European descent.  Obviously, the citizens whose families came due to slavery did not come for that reason, but were afforded that right as changes were made following the Civil War, and, more recently, due to the civil rights movement in the 1960's.  It is a glaring truth that the rights of some are still supersceded by the prejudice of others.  It is also a fact that many do not desire anyone new coming to our country.   Again, I don't know all the answers.

I do know that I met the face of immigration, and a victim racial prejudice...and she is beautiful.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Return of the Wayward Writer

The past month has been a busy one for our family.  During this time, our oldest son came home after his first year in college.  Other memorable events:

  • Nine men were ordained as permanent deacons in the Diocese of Cleveland.  This is the first class in five years.  A very exciting milestone in our diocese!
  • Four men were ordained priests as well.  We continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood.
  • My husband's godson received his first Communion.  It seems like just yesterday he was baptized!
  • A young man from our parish received his vestments, as he continues to discern a vocation as a Franciscan Friar Minor.  
  • A young woman from our parish began her time as a postulant with the Children of Mary, a community of nuns near Columbus,  Ohio.  
  • My husband finished his second year of formation as a deacon.
  • Our youngest son is wrapping up his sophomore year of high school.
  • I'm preparing my piano students for our first-ever recital.
Somewhere in there, we managed a trip to Michigan, too!

I will endeavor to be more faithful in posting to my blog AFTER the recital!  Thanks for hanging in there with me through the busy times of life.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

When It All Comes Together

Last night and today, our parish hosted a women's retreat.  Our speaker was Father Nathan Cromly, who is a priest in the order of the Community of St. John.  He also heads up Eagle Eye Ministries.

The weekend's theme was "The Better Part," taken from the passage in Luke 10, where Jesus visited the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Without going into great detail, I had passed along the link to the music of my "journey song."  Our retreat coordinator, Mary, quickly decided it should become the theme song of our retreat.

And so, for the first time, I had the privilege of singing it with other women, and hearing their voices join with mine to call on take us, and shape us, as we sat at His feet.

In 2006, I had no idea.

Father Nathan


Father Nathan and friends  :o)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

An Update of Sorts

If you have been following my blog over the years, we have an item of unfinished business.

In this post from 2006, I wrote a song called "At Your Feet."  The words were posted, but I did not have the technology to share the music.

So, for better or for worse, here it is...!


Mary's Song (At Your Feet)

I walk into Your presence, Lord,
I fall down on my face
As I come before You, Lord,
I marvel at Your love and grace.

At Your feet, I find a place of perfect peace
At Your feet, I find a place of sweet release
At Your feet, I've finally found that I am home
So take me Lord; shape me, Lord
While I sit at Your feet

So many voices calling me
Can cause my heart to stray
But when I listen to Your voice
I know You'll show the better way... (back to Refrain)

I come and lay my heart at Your feet
I pour it out to You
And as I gaze into Your eyes,
You give me all of Your heart, too. (back to Refrain)

© 2006.  Joni Renee Johnson.  All Rights Reserved. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lord, I'm Amazed

For anyone who reads my blog with any regularity (and I hope there are at least a couple of people out there!), you may have noticed my lack of posts.  If you didn't, well, okay.  :o)

Our church organist, who has faithfully played at daily Mass for the past 30 years or so, took a nasty fall a few weeks ago.  In the process, he broke a bone in one of his hips.  Though no surgery was required, complete immobilization has been prescribed for proper healing.  I am his substitute, so have been playing more frequently.  In the process of that, my hands have received quite a thorough work-over.  Typing hasn't been as easy as I'd like.  That's all.

So, to make up for lost time, I have been pondering something over the past 24 hours.  Blowing the dust off the computer, warming up the joints, and away we go....!

Things that amaze me...

  • Sunrises
    - Over the Kansas plains, over the mountains of Colorado, over the Great Lakes, over the hills of Ohio, over the forests of Michigan, over the Straits of Mackinac, over the skyline of Detroit or's all good
  • Sunsets
    - Ditto from above
  • Raindrops
  • Rainbows
  • Storm clouds
  • Sunny skies
  • Faces of newborn babies
  • Faces of new parents
  • Faces of small animals
  • Great, blue whales
  • Tiny little jellyfish
  • Elephants and giraffes
  • Baby gerbils
  • Tears of joy
  • The laughter of a child
  • The knowing chuckle of an older adult
  • The first snowflake of winter
  • The last leaf of fall
  • The first budding flower of spring
  • The mirage of water in the midst of highway heatwaves in summer
  • A blowing field of ripened wheat
  • The smell of quickly-growing corn on a muggy summer day
  • The smell of freshly cut hay
  • The smell of a newly plowed field
  • The fragrance of rain-washed skies
  • The longevity of marriages held together by sheer will, love, and the hand of God
  • The stubbornness of a young child
  • The stubbornness of an elderly person
  • Hugs that heal
  • Quiet moments in God's presence
  • Beautiful, ornate cathedrals
  • Simple, small chapels
  • Artwork that comes from the soul of the artist
  • Photographs that capture moments of historical events
  • Photographs that capture simple daily occurrences
  • Poetry that makes the heart sing
  • Songs that eloquently sing of God's majesty
  • Songs that speak from the reality of life
  • Songs that use simple, straightforward lyrics
  • A beautiful symphony
  • A simple melody
  • Honesty
  • The love of my family and friends
  • The love of a stranger
  • The wonder in the face of a child, as they see their first fireworks
  • The wonder in the face of an adult, as they see their millionth fireworks
  • The cross
  • The empty tomb
  • The barren hill from which Jesus ascended
  • The power of the Holy Spirit
  • The truths of the Bible
  • The steadfastness of His Church
  • The love and mercy of the God who made it all
At least that's a good start...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lenten Encouragement

I've had to take a short recess from blogging.  I ran across this quote today, though, and wanted to share it.

Take heart!  His love is greater than tomorrow's worries!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Guest Blog

If you've never read our oldest son's blog--what?!  Surely you jest?  Never read it?  Well, today is your lucky day!  :o)