Living Joyfully

Penny’s Selfie- She’s my example of living joyfully.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a writing and podcasting conference at Antiochian Village. This jewel of a lodging/conference center/spiritual retreat rests in the Laurel Highlands of Ligonier Pennsylvania. I believe I have written about this beautiful place before. I launched my book, Ordinary is Extraordinary, there last April of 2016. This was now the third time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and enjoying Antiochian Village (AV).

Ancient Faith Ministries (AF) sponsored this conference and I was overjoyed to be there. I missed last year’s conference and so when the opportunity came up this year I blocked off my calendar. As I write more and more for the OCN, I have become interested in the possibility of writing a book for Orthodox Christians. I couldn’t wait to see what the conference had to offer.

Interestingly enough, I was quite sure I’d know not a soul there. I did have a friendship with Melinda, the marketing director of AF. She gave me my start at the OCN two years ago and is now with Ancient Faith. But that was through a virtual connection and other than her, I knew absolutely no one. Scary? Maybe. But not really. I knew these would be people living a spiritual life and because of this I had no apprehensions.

I walked in the door and Melinda was the first person I saw. We greeted each other with a warm hug and I thanked her for giving me the opportunity at OCN. Since my room was not quite ready, I wandered into the bookstore (yes, on location at AV) and introduced myself to Father Andrew Stephen Damick. We chatted, looked over the generous display of books, and he showed me two of his books. I brought one of those home and am absolutely loving it.

Throughout the two days of the conference, I was educated, motivated, inspired and spiritually captivated. None of us got much sleep as there was just too much excitement. AF provided us with great speakers, the opportunity of chapel services morning and evening, and AV gave us delicious meals, inspiring sunrises and sunsets, and comfortable rooms.

The view from my window- Antiochian Village.

If you are a writer, do you attend conferences? I admit to not being active in a writer’s world (yet!) because I have so much else going on. But this conference helped me realize that we really do need to re-charge our batteries regularly by being around like minded people. It doesn’t matter what our interests are. Gather with others who have similar passions and watch the fires light.

I met Dr. Gary Jenkins next, waiting for dinner on the first night. We struck up a conversation and it turned out we both knew Father Paul Abernathy. Gary wrote a blog when he arrived home that captured how I felt about the AF conference (#afcon). And honestly, this gift of meeting amazing people continued for the two days of the conference. My standard opening lines were Where are you from? and What motivated you to be here? I met children’s book writers, podcasters, motivational speakers, priests, and even a small baby! One of my God moments was meeting Presbytera Stacey of Eikonia. She and her two sisters sing beautiful hymns of the church that bring tears to my eyes.

So what did all this do for me? Within a day of arriving home, I began a sequel to Ordinary is Extraordinary that is about joyful living. This inspiration came while at Antiochian Village and on the beautiful ride home. And of course I pitched a book idea to Melinda over breakfast and she gave me some good direction. I am pursuing the research and contemplating my book submission to Ancient Faith for this fall of 2017.

What brings you joy? I would really like to know! The sequel I am writing will be about the moments that have brought me joy but I would like to also incorporate some of your joyful moments. Is it the birth of your children or grandchildren? Is it a walk in the woods with your dogs? How about time with sisters, brothers, or other friends? No thought is too small and I would be overjoyed to hear your joys! So please comment below or send me a private message through Facebook. Or simply email me at (Your comments can be anonymous if you wish.)

Many things bring me joy. I’ve chosen some of my favorite moments below.  One more amazing side note to all of this. It turns out that Melinda, who currently lives on the West Coast, is moving to Cranberry PA this summer. Cranberry is about 40 minutes from me. Wow. How’s that for grace?

Live, love, laugh joyfully. Enjoy every day and find the nuggets within.




Join me on my graceful journey.

10 Replies to “Living Joyfully”

  1. “what brings me joy” would have been a difficult question to answer a few short years ago. I now have a lot of answers consider thanks to the path that scared me to death at first. But it become my way back to myself – and in many ways a new and better me. I’ll try to send something along when I narrow it down. 😉

  2. excellent article…thanks.
    1st thought…that moment in the Divine Liturgy just before the grand entrance when the Incense is esp. pungent & my friend or I leans over to the other & asked an mom’s question to her little child, “What’s that smell like brother?’ to which we dutifully reply, “Smells like heaven”! Thus i’m reminded of where we really are, and what by grace we invited to do together!

  3. One recurrent image in my mind is tucking in my children at bedtime. The house is quiet, the world is dark. The streets empty, the homes filled with light. Pulling the blanket up to their chins and kissing their foreheads. “I love you, sweet dreams and may they all come true” I would whisper in their ear. A moment of perfect joy. A moment that captured the driving force of my being a mother.
    When my son died, I would sit up at night looking at his urn. My heart would cry, and my mind would search for how I failed. One night as the full moon rose on the horizon and knowing their was a full moon the night he died, I said “You visit all your friends, but even a second to reassure your mom”. Then, I felt it. Alex gently kissed me on my right cheek. A moment of bittersweet joy.
    Now when I lay my head upon it’s pillow, I pray for the people I love and for all their sweet dreams to come true. I remember the night my son kissed me goodnight, and I try to have sweet dreams. I know when I awake from the eternal sleep it will be into the arms of my son. A moment of Eternal joy.


  4. What gives me joy?
    Seeing my friends pursue their dreams in a way that brings other joy and light!
    You have inspired me, Joanne! I can see this for you – you must know writing is your calling. What a joy and a blessing to have you in my life. xo

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