Category Archives: Christianity

She Believed She Could

This beautiful image courtesy of Artsy Pumpkin- Click HERE for the link.

“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
Anne Lamott

Happy New Year! How was your holiday? I can’t believe it’s over already. Now it’s back to reality and real life! I couldn’t resist the above quote by Anne Lamott. She makes me laugh, cry and smile, sometimes all at the same time. Reading her books and writing can turn around my whole day.

Penny on the beach, Summer 2016

When I look back on this year, I can consider it an amazing one. I did many more events than I thought possible. My church had a centennial celebration that I was blessed to be a part of. Penelope Katherine, my newest grandchild, was born on January 24 and brought such joy to my (and the whole family’s) life. I published my first book, Ordinary is Extraordinary and sold more copies of it than I thought possible (thank you!).

On the flip side, I was sometimes overwhelmed by too much to do. As usual I think I am managing well but then a dark cloud comes over me. That is why that quote above is especially poignant. I can really relate to it. Sometimes it is other people that bother me, sometimes it is the situations I create myself.

My word of the year for 2016 was Believe. It was a great word and I have kept it in mind all year. I hoped to use it to deepen my faith and I believe I accomplished that goal. I also know I will always keep building my relationship with God. I am never done and He will never be rid of me.

In the past two months, I lost a good friend to cancer. Another friend of mine, who was to be a first time grandmother, experienced a stillborn loss that I am still struggling to believe. Both of these were deep losses that I felt (and am still feeling). This is the hard part of growing up, getting older. You lose people that you love, bad things happen and we don’t understand them.

I remember when my father died almost nineteen years ago. We didn’t really see it coming although he had been sick for quite a while. The day after his death the sun came up. Time waits for no one I thought. Despite the awful loss of my dad, the world did not stop. People came and went. Friends showed up.

Isn’t this how we get through life? We plod along and sometimes there is deep mud to walk through, rain that beats down on us, and the occasional lighting strikes. Then there are those days when the sun comes out, someone gets married, a baby is born, a new friend is made. These events are what makes life worth living.

May you go forward in 2017 with a renewed attitude, a motivation to learn something new, and an awareness of the grace that will surely come your way.

I wanted to share some highlights of my year. These moments were especially wonderful. xo

Penny’s Baptism

Meeting an old friend, Dreama after many years.

Watching my son John and his entrance into Fatherhood.

Our visit to Nantucket.

Watching Penny adore my mom.

Meeting Vivian Howard of “Chef and the Farmer”

My sisters, mom and I at the kick off party to the Centennial of my church.

Penny and me on Christmas Eve.

Siesta Key Florida March 2016.

Backpack Feeding Kickoff at FOCUS West Central PA

Last wedding of the season- Ashley and Eli, Photo by Michael Will

Please follow and like us:
1

Penny’s Baptism

With Paul and Kristina at Altar

From L to R, Godmother Kristina, John, Jess and Penelope, Godfather Father Paul. Thank you to Joe Indovina for these pictures!

On Sunday morning, July 31, I walked Jordan outside very early. We live next to a large field and lately, I noticed two young bucks with emerging antlers were often there to greet us. On this day, there were three. Three young bucks. They stared at Jordan and I for a moment and then dashed off.

Three GardeniasI took note of this and then looked at the gardenia plant I had been nursing for three months. It had three gorgeous blooms. My first thought was three for the Holy Trinity of my church. These spiritual signs felt significant to me. I often look for signs of God in nature.

John and Jess arrived at our house before we all departed for the church. I realized I forgot to tell Jess that Penny would get her new christening dress after her baptism. I decided to check my vintage stash and I found a little white dress that I knew was from a past baptism. Jess said it would fit and it did. Penny is wearing it in the picture below. My mom told me a day later that it was my sister Mary’s baptismal dress.

PK and Dad

There were so many other special things about Penny’s baptism day. Aunt Joy sent a beautiful heirloom ring that was given to her by her parents on her sixth birthday. Gold and tiny, I gave it to Jess for safekeeping until Penny is a little older and can wear it. My friend Daleen sent an embroidered handkerchief that I placed in the box with Penny’s dress. My friend Cathy sent the very first card and it was on the gift table at my house. It was Jess’ departed brother Alex’s birthday weekend and I thought of him many times. Friends came from miles around, as far as Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Penny was in her usual joyful mood. She is such a happy child! Smiling at everyone, including her godparents Kristina and Paul, made us all feel blessed to be a part of this amazing day.

Christening box

At the picnic at our house afterward, Jess’ mom Ann had “Penelope Katherine” bottles of wine for favors. John made his special brisket (awesome!); Chris’ Watermelon Feta salad was a huge hit. Aunt KC brought her famous stuffed grape leaves. I made American potato salad (10 lbs worth!) and topped it with shredded cheddar and crumbled bacon. That was definitely popular!

The sky got a bit dark at times and I felt a sprinkle while in the yard during the picnic. I held my breath and hoped it wouldn’t pour. It didn’t! We had 40-50 people at our house and getting them all inside might be a bit challenging! Later I found out that only a few miles away was a downpour enough to create puddles on the road. There are some things that are grace, pure and simple, and this was one of them.

I will have a lifetime of memories from Penny’s baptism day. Thank you God for such a beautiful day! Here’s a few more pictures I want to share with you!

The Stockdale Gang

The Stockdale Gang greets Penny

My Magnificent Church, Holy Trinity Ambridge PA

My Magnificent Church, Holy Trinity Ambridge PA

The Font

The Font

Penny in her carrier

Beautiful Penny

Father Emmauel and Paul

Penny loved Father Emmanuel's bible

Penny loved Father Emmanuel’s bible

Amma and Boston

Amma and Boston

Women Photo

Kristina, Penny, Me and Jess

Around the Font

The Celebration

Father and Penny

Father Emmanuel captivates Penny

Happy

It’s over! Back to Mom and Dad!

Penny and her buddy Alex

Penny and her buddy Alex

Cain Family

Family

John Jess and Penny back of church

John, Jess and Penny

 

 

Please follow and like us:
1

Birthday Blessings

Birthday Roses from Jim

Birthday Roses from Jim

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other. Audrey Hepburn

My birthday was yesterday and boy, did I feel special. I want to tell you about so sit back with a cup of coffee and let’s chat.

First, the day was absolutely gorgeous. No rain for a change though from the sight of the clouds in the morning, I thought that may happen. The sky was a bright blue with very fluffy clouds.

Almost like Marshmallow Puffs

Almost like Marshmallow Puffs

Jim already bought me roses a couple of days before and they were blooming like there was no tomorrow. We had coffee together in the morning and then I was off to a very special church service.

Andrew was being ordained to the priesthood. I knew about this for a while and I wasn’t missing it. I assisted Andrew and his lovely wife Lena on their wedding day and I wanted to be there for this service. It was beautiful.

Andrew- AXIOS!

Andrew (in the center)- AXIOS!

It was a big holiday too. The Presentation of the Theotokos.

It was a big holiday too. The Presentation of the Theotokos.

Afterwards there was a beautiful luncheon. I bumped into my cousin Angie there so we sat together. I headed for home and took a much needed nap! Around 5pm, Jim and I headed out for a wedding reception!

Anthony and Maria

Anthony and Maria

This is the first time ever that I went to a wedding on my birthday. I loved Anthony’s boutonniere- it was a mini-transformer! Maria was so beautiful. Their card box was a Dr. Who phone booth. 🙂

The cookie table was a mile long and who’s going to miss that? What a spectacular end to my birthday!

Wedding Cookies

Wedding Cookies

I want to wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving week with many blessings to you and your family. Thank you for being my friend and supporting my writing. It means more to me than you know.

xo Joanne

 

 

Please follow and like us:
1

God is With Me

Cook Forest

Serenity in Cook Forest

A few months ago it was my mother’s eighty sixth birthday. Besides being a wonderful celebration of another year with her, it also marked the departure of my youngest sister to her new job and a new location. It was a time of transition for all of us. I won’t deny that it was stressful for me (and I’m sure, all of us) and I prayed that my “One Day At A Time” motto would continue to work for me. I became the (mostly) sole sibling responsible for being available to my mother.

As if God was with me, some truly amazing things began to happen and continue to unfold. It has been a sequence of events- one after another- and I’ve been humbled by them.

Selected for Cook Forest

Selected for Cook Forest- wow!

First, a national forest in Pennsylvania selected one of my photos for their profile picture on Facebook. Now this may not sound like a big deal, but it has been a thrill seeing my photo every time Cook Forest State Park posts on their Facebook page. As if this wasn’t enough for my five minutes of fame, the Orthodox Christian Network published my first post ever for them on my mother’s birthday, May 1.

So I’ve published six posts (click HERE to see my page) since then to a tune of over 10K combined likes on Facebook and other social media sites. I don’t say this with an air of ego. I say it with my mouth open, a surprised look on my face, and a few semi-sleepless nights.

God is with me. I have been walking a spiritual path where I decide daily that the things I am most afraid of- new experiences, loss, stress- are the things I must turn over to God. I trust that I am being guided to write, serve, be there, suit up and show up. I may stumble, make mistakes but I get back up again and plod steadily along. Most of the time, I don’t mind stretching my limits and embracing change. My dad loved challenges and I think (haha!) that he must have passed this along to me.

I’m helping with a new ministry in Beaver County. Many Orthodox churches are getting involved and it’s very inspiring. When I get home from the evening meetings, I am so excited that I have to wind down before bed. This ministry is keeping me busy, among other things, and when you’re occupied in happy things you don’t have time to worry or fret.

So yes, God is with me. I’m thankful for all the blessings in my life right now, including my mom, great friends, my sisters, Jim and the kids, Jess, Jordan, and these wonderful experiences bringing light into my life.

Looking Up

 

Please follow and like us:
1

Greek Easter Memories

The Mon River by Christina

The Mon River, Photo by Christina

Tomorrow, for Easter Sunday I will be going to my Aunt KC and Uncle Steve’s house in the big city of Stockdale, PA. Actually, Stockdale is not a big city 🙂 but it is big in my heart.

My Uncle Steve is my mother’s only brother. He and his wife, my Aunt KC have been married close to fifty years. Every Easter, they host our family gathering, complete with grilled lamb chops, spanakopita, easter bread, pastichio (greek lasagna) and many other delicious foods and desserts.

Uncle Steve and Aunt KC live on the homestead. That is, they are exactly where my mom and her brother grew up their entire life before my mom married my dad and left Stockdale. My aunt and uncle have updated the house over the years but parts of my grandmother’s remain much the same. Even original pieces of her now antique furniture are still there.

What is it like to go to Stockdale every year? Well it’s like a homecoming. When I pull up to the curb of my grandmother’s (yiayia’s) old house, I am filled with memories. I see the Monongahela river and remember the times my uncle took me water skiing as a teenager. Walking into the old kitchen, I am back in time, remembering the summer months I watched yiayia cook- avgolemeno soup especially- and how I used her handheld rotary mixer to beat yellow egg yolks into frothy gold.

When I was growing up, the whole family would go to midnight church services on Easter eve. Arriving home at 2 or 3 am, my grandmother would put out a full spread on her dining room table. Roast lamb, potatoes, green beans, bread, salad and desserts like baklava of course. She’d use her best lace tablecloth and fancy dinnerware. It would be 4 am sometimes before we’d all crawl into bed. Then we’d be up again, late morning to start the eating all over again.

And the red eggs. We’d always have red hard boiled eggs on the Easter breakfast table. These were to play a game that all the cousins got involved in. We’d each select one egg. Then we’d take turns tapping our egg against each other’s, one at a time. The goal was to have a hard shell, hard enough for your egg not to crack. The last person left with an uncracked shell was the winner. As you can imagine, this became quite competitive!

When dinner time finally came on Easter day, a prayer would be said for all the blessings bestowed. We’d eat our fill of the delicious food and play, play, play until it was time to go. Now my Aunt KC has a wonderful egg hunt for the kids, the more grown up ones hiding the plastic goodie filled eggs for the smaller ones.

I look forward to seeing my cousins I don’t get to normally see all year. Celebrating spring and re-birth, everything that God has given us, gratitude for what we have, that is what it is all about. Have a happy Easter! Kali Anastasi!

 

 

Please follow and like us:
1

The Miracles of Archangel Gabriel

Archangel Gabriel book cover

When my grandson Gavin was born, there was really no easy Greek translation of his name. So when he was christened, the baptismal name he was given was Gabriel.

Since then, it has been my wish that the Archangel Gabriel watch over and bless my grandson Gavin. And with that thought, I just couldn’t resist the latest book from Hay House Publishers “The Miracles of Archangel Gabriel.”

The author, Ms. Doreen Virtue, has also written a book on Archangel Michael. In her book on Gabriel, Ms. Virtue goes into a biblical history of the Archangel, beginning with the poetic first words he spoke to Mary, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…..”

From there, the author takes us through chapters of how Gabriel has assisted women through conception and pregnancy, parenting and childhood, and interestingly enough, how the Archangel has affected writers and the way they communicate to others.

For those of us who love to write, Ms. Virtue urges us to press on. “I believe that the desire to write is a signal that it’s part of your life purpose. Those who continually think, I should write, are getting Divine guidance to express heavenly messages through a book, article, blog or other medium. In some cases, Gabriel will suggest journaling or keeping a diary as a way of opening the creative pipelines. Whatever form the writing takes, the process of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard is soul- stirring.”

I loved that motivation! This book is encouraging and thoughtful, with beautiful pictures and inspirational stories. If you are looking to further your knowledge of Archangels, this is a great book to add to your collection.

And of course, here is my disclosure per Hay House. I get to choose the book I wish to review, it is given to me free of charge, and I am not compensated for my endorsement of this book. This review is my personal opinion.

Follow me on Blog Lovin!

Please follow and like us:
1

Does Prayer Work?

But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. Luke 22:32

I happened to type “Prayer” into my Pinterest search bar this morning and boy did I get a spiritual eyeful. I’ll give you the link at the end of this post but suffice to say there was a whole wide range of pins on the subject.

Evangelist Luke writing, Byzantine illuminatio...

Evangelist Luke writing, Byzantine illumination, 10th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This got me thinking about prayer. How do you pray? Or do you even pray? My prayers have changed over the years. When I was young they were the prayers of church, whispered along with the priest’s words or out loud during the liturgy. During the kneeling down part of the service, I was either paying attention or not, fidgeting or wondering what I was going to do later that day, like riding my Schwinn bicycle around the neighborhood with my girlfriends.

One time as a young child, we missed church because it had snowed heavily. I remember being worried about the consequences and what God would think if I wasn’t there. So I took a cross I had in my room and prayed, maybe on my knees. I don’t remember what I prayed about but I remember I had a really good week, getting an “A” on a test and other assorted awesome stuff. That’s when I knew God had some serious pull.

Jim, my SO, doesn’t believe in praying for specific things. He thinks I do but honestly, my prayers are of the general variety. Does prayer work? I used to think it was silly stuff but the older I get the more I believe yes, prayer definitely has its potential.

It is amazing sometimes that I will pray for assistance for someone or some issue, again the prayers not being specific, and help will arrive in some shape or form. Honestly, if I leave well enough alone and not give God directions on how I want it done, s(he) will do a fabulous job. After all, it’s God we are talking here.

What doesn’t work is praying and then using my own control devices. Or praying and expecting immediate results. Prayer works fast sometimes and other times it does not. Maybe God wants us to practice a bit of patience.

Letting go of results is probably the hardest part of prayer for me. Maybe this surprises you- is there really a letting go part? Yes, I think this is the most powerful part of prayer- surrender. There in lies the freedom, the relief I have been seeking. That moment when I can lay my head down and feel a peace come over me that just wasn’t there before.

The results of prayer are often solutions I hadn’t thought of. Imagine that. That is when I know God is really good.

Click HERE for the Pinterest prayer board link.

Do you believe in prayer? What’s your favorite prayer or tell us how prayer has worked or not worked for you….

Please follow and like us:
1

My Daily Bread

Bread 2

Have you ever found a hidden jewel? An amazing place you just could not keep to yourself? Well I found one recently and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

It’s called Mediterra Bakehouse and I am in love with it! Since I made a recent commitment to eat healthier, I have tried to find new and exciting ways to enjoy good grains. So when a friend told me Mediterra had a local location, that was all I needed to hear.

Bread 4The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the row of Greek Orthodox icons along the wall. When I asked the owner’s daughter about this, she confirmed her father is from the same place in Greece as my mother’s family- the island of Chios. I have to say, I instantly felt at home.

It was difficult to make a decision at Mediterra. I saw kalamata olive loaf, peasant bread, Mt. Athos Fire Bread, and a delicious looking pecan raisin bread. I couldn’t resist the latter and actually tore into it on the way home in the car! (A day later I bought some Tzatziki just to dip it into!) I also chose the chile cheddar loaf, ah! with its chunks of vermont cheddar and petite slices of jalapeno pepper.

I headed back a week later and this time I bought the Sunflower Honey Whole Wheat. I can’t wait to try it with a bit of Jim’s honey.

The trip to Mediterra got me thinking about the similarities between daily bread and spiritual bread. Daily bread nourishes my body but spiritual bread nourishes my heart and soul. I have been trying to start my morning off with a good meditative reading, something that fills me with gratitude and awe for this wonderful life. That is my spiritual bread.

Here’s what I read today: Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. John Muir

Bread 5

May you be blessed today with your favorite daily bread! What’s your favorite loaf or spiritual saying?

Please follow and like us:
1

Sober Mercies

“Once upon a time, I assumed my Christian faith would make me immune to the kind of gross moral lapse I considered alcoholism to be. The way I saw it, if you were a sincere believer, you would rarely, if ever, drink. And if you did drink, you would be careful not to drink too much. And if you never drank too much, you couldn’t become an alcoholic”. Heather Kopp

Sober-Mercies-198x300So begins Chapter Two of Heather’s book “Sober Mercies”, a book I couldn’t put down and read in a little over a weekend.

I was fascinated by Heather’s story mainly because I personally have the privilege of knowing many members of my local recovery community. I admire those individuals who recognize their drinking has gone awry and make the choice to live sober. Matter of fact, my recovery friends have taught me a great deal about spirituality, faith and living life one day at a time.

But a Christian drunk exposing all of her deepest fears, shortcomings and basically, dirty laundry? Yes. Heather gets right to the point and shares the secret life she led- hiding bottles, discarding used bottles and the constant maintenance of a consistent level of alcohol in her system. And the insanity that brought her to bended knees, finally causing her to admit she had no control over her insatiable desire for alcohol.  And finding out alcoholism is a disease, not a question of self will.

Because, as Heather explains, it is a disease. She hears this in treatment, thinks it’s an excuse, and the counselor blows her out of the water by explaining that “no one would propose lung cancer, directly caused by cigarettes, or diabetes brought on by obesity, are not legitimate disease, even when they arise from or are triggered by an avoidable indulgence.”

Heather analyzes her own Christian faith, realizing that she brought “a finely tuned and biblically supported belief system about God” to recovery. But then she realizes just how much her recovery meetings begin to feel like a close encounter with grace.

The difference? The people in the meetings come in desperation, asking God for help. And they are saved by their surrender and willingness to turn complete control over to the God of their understanding.

Why read this book? Maybe you are a member of a recovery community yourself, or maybe you know someone who drinks a little too much. Regardless, you will find an education within the pages of  “Sober Mercies.” An education not only on alcoholism, the twelve steps, faith and God, but also the enlightenment that comes with going deeper. Heather inspires us not to settle for the comfortable (or uncomfortable) spot in life, but to look beyond and inside ourselves for answers and the real meaning of why we do the things we do.

I hope you will take the time to read this beautiful book.

And, of course, here is my disclosure. The book was given to me free of charge and I am not compensated for my review. This is my own opinion of “Sober Mercies” by Heather Kopp.

Please follow and like us:
1

Kisses for God

Candles 2

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Phillippians 8-9

Being a Greek Orthodox Christian, this is my Holy Week and this past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It felt wonderful to be in church early to read the epistle (the above passage). My sister Mary has thankfully come to stay with Mom a whole week leading up to Greek Easter. Though I have loved spending time with my mother, I am loving the nice bit of freedom I will have this week. (Thank you Mary!)

Church filled up fast on Sunday. Many people came; lots of beautiful children and babies (which I just love). Father E. read the gospel about the last days of Jesus and the oil that smelled so good. Palms were handed out at the end of the service, molded into the shape of a cross. There was a fish dinner afterwards and Mom was able to see many of her friends that she has missed for months. It was a good day.

One of the most touching sights in church was the candles, lit by practically everyone who entered. It was amazing to see them ablaze, lighting the back wall of Narthex. Even one of my fellow council friends remarked on the specialness of them. I thought of them as kisses for God, as if every one of us was sending kisses to heaven and perhaps to loved ones who have passed on.

I have to tell you about the feeling I had being back in church. After many months of devotion to mom, I felt a peace, a gratitude to God for all the blessings in my life. My mom is recovering, I have a new life (minus my job!). Some things are different, some things are the same. Some things feel really good and my relationship to God feels another level deeper.

Maybe you have a special form of prayer or something you do which gives you this same feeling? Maybe it’s your church or a walk in the woods that does it for you. Maybe you feel that feeling of connection when you ride a gentle horse, run or walk on the beach. Perhaps you feel it when you kiss your baby or do the poses of yoga. You name it; maybe this provides the same feeling for you as my church does for me. What would you do without it? Would things feel the same?

I am grateful I have my church to go to. It is there I can connect and feel even closer to God.

What is your favorite form of spiritual connection? What moves you deep inside?

Please follow and like us:
1