Tag Archive for: Forgiveness

This Thanksgiving was so different, but no different. While Covid was a component, it wasn’t the culprit.

The holidays are not my favorite time of year. In fact, they’re my least favorite, which seems almost sacrilegious, especially because, I am religious. Not only am I religious, but Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. Tired of consumerism, but loving food to a fault, a holiday centered around foods unique to once a year and family, was just great with me. It segued into transforming the house into a Christmas wonderland. I relished the Christmas spirit, with my children underfoot or at older ages, making their Christmas gift lists overtly known. The gift exchanges with friends, baking, giving extra to those in need, I loved it all, but so much more, because it was done within the framework of my family.

Which is probably why it’s so hard to find joy in the holidays still, ten years after my divorce. Wait, it might be eleven! But I’m not counting. Those are the holidays that I still want, and cannot have. I made the decision soon after the divorce that I would not give in to the temptation of a stale emotional state. So, for the holidays, I would do my best to maintain the integrity of who I am. Each year, while on a lesser scale, but still in earnest, I pursue the holidays. I do my best to maintain a semblance of the home and traditions my kids grew up in. While the family we knew died, we don’t have to live like we died, but can live and thrive.

But that is no easy task. Thriving can mean striving, and if one is always striving, seeking that life that we desire, the one that brings us joy and peace, the process can be arduous.

Even today, with just my daughter, our two dogs, and myself, I made a full Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, a whole turkey, and the works. Because of medical issues, my daughter did not eat (these are not related to her medical issues she had in HS or college). I can imagine what some of you are thinking, and it’s probably not, “Can I have the recipe?”

Since the divorce, this family still struggles to find its footing. The reasons are complex, and for many families of divorce, this is not the case. But it is the case for ours, and I know there are others.

In spite of the big meals I make, the bounce in my step, the decorations of tinsel and sparkle, the holidays are difficult, and I find myself enduring them, instead of running into their arms with the excitement I once knew.

Well-intentioned people have advised me with admonishment to move on, reminding me that God is my husband and my father. My first response is to punch them. I want to say, “Well, that’s easy for you to say, since you have one.” Would one say that to someone who lost a child in death?

Punching them isn’t cool though, and I could not agree with them more. Without God as my husband and father, I would not be here today. Besides the health of my daughter, my relationship with my children, and living without my family during the holidays has brought me closer to God than any other thing. God created my family. It is his design. And I believe that as my heavenly father and husband, he mourns with me, with every ornament I hang, the disappointments I bear, and the tears that fall.

If you are divorced and strive to thrive, but face the glare of the holiday lights that expose the losses, and intensifies the pain, I see you. I feel you, and I know you. God created the design of family to be the pillar of our society, and our strength in times of good and bad. Every form of media emphasizes the value of family. That when we have our family, we have everything, even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances.

What does that mean then, for those who don’t have family, or it’s been dismantled beyond recognition? When that family is no longer there, like the rag that gets tossed around a bit, yet still predictably, always ready for use when needed?

There are times I turn to some of my amazing friends. Some people will turn to romantic relationships, drugs, or alcohol. Determined to wedge something into that empty space, they attempt to complete the puzzle that was uniquely made for their family.

My friends are a generous salve. They are angels in my life, divinely appointed for me. And while they are sometimes an answer to prayer, they, nor drugs, alcohol, or romantic fulfillment can answer prayers or change hearts.

Every year, it’s the same drill. I brace myself, I prepare myself, I’m disappointed, I grieve, and I beg God for mercy. And every year, he delivers in specific, unique, and holy ways that are difficult to articulate, because I think, all miracles are.

This Thanksgiving was anything but typical. It was fragmented and disjointed. I couldn’t find the answer in one TV illustration on how to handle the complexities of Covid. None of the experts on TV addressed my personal scenario. But God heard my pleas and answered my prayers. He gave me courage to find the right words when I needed them, and tenderness in my execution. Angels were on my side and in my presence. My daughter and I shared a time of conversation that united us and a memory that I will treasure; one on which we can build.

The holidays shine a light on the brokenness that we work so hard to recover. But there is one who is the light of the world, whose light is so powerful, that he will not let the darkness overpower him (John 1:5). He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34).

Covid is hard. I understand that the destruction it’s caused. But the media and God are right. That when we have the love of our families, we can overcome any hardship. Of the hardships we face,  none compares to the hardship of losing one’s family.

Being this transparent is hard for me. But I know this hard walk. It’s exhausting and discouraging when we don’t reap what we’ve sown. It reminds me of some favorite movies. One I recently saw called The Biggest Little Farm. It documents the enormous energy that a family puts into building a farm out of nothing. One fiasco and tragedy after the other occurs, until ultimately they discover how all of those mishaps shaped their farm into the success it is today.

The other movie is more relevant to this time of year. That is “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  After so much sacrifice and devotion to the people he loves, George Baily faces the potential collapse of his business, and not because of any fault of his own. Through an angel, and the beautiful gift of perspective, George is able to reconcile his losses and overcome his despair.

It’s true that in the end, George has his family. But it’s God who gives him the perspective he needs to be pointed in the right direction, positioning himself for God’s miracles.

Many of us can relate to George. If that weren’t true, they wouldn’t have made a movie about it! Look for your Clarence, and let him point you in the right direction.

You can do this, because God can do this.

PS: Oh, and a whole pie. These are the best store-bought homemade pies ever.


Skills, that have little to do with creating my business, yet have everything to do with it, can be game changers for us personally and professionally. Naysayers, wait and seers, and discouragers can squelch a person’s dreams faster than anything else. As much as the technical skills and knowledge are advantageous in the practical side of creating a business, there are other skills that are invaluable in overcoming discouragement or simply advancing ourselves on any level.

I am on Pinterest occasionally these days, for both of my businesses. I saw this quote: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” I want to send it to a couple of people. You know those moments when you want someone to get a message that you hope will change their mind, their thoughts, their position, their life? When we’re younger, I think we all do that. We’re certain that the message we send is going to make the difference in someone’s behavior or attitude. That if they see “this” or hear “this sermon” all will be well. Then after a few years of discovering that your insight wasn’t the conduit that changed a person, that it’s people who change themselves, we begin to understand that there is more to a person’s transformation than the bible verses or beautiful quotes we send. That’s not to say we shouldn’t send our friends uplifting phrases. I love to give and receive them. But over time, a lot of relational experiences, and through reading our bible, we discover that these phrases or a powerful sermon is only one piece of a bigger puzzle.

We all have those interactions that we wish never happened. The kind that, in the exact moment it’s occurring, you wish you could run away, hit them and make them go away, or everything in you wants to give in to the tears that have made their way up and are ready to burst. I’ve had two of those moments in the last couple of months, and after each experience I realized that during the conversations, I was keenly aware that I’d used my skills. I didn’t run away or hit, and I postponed the tears.

We tell kids all the time (especially in the school environment), to use their skills. But I think we adults live as if that message is just for kids. The lessons were left behind with the David Cassidy posters, or for my younger friends, Back Street Boys. Okay, I’ll include Frankie Valli. Most of us have the capacity to engage our better selves in the heat of the moment. Admittedly, I’m at an advantage, simply because I’m older and have had more opportunity of experiences and learning. It’s not easy to overcome emotions that flare up when someone speaks unkindly or critically of us. Our heart hears them first. It jumps ahead to the finish line and kicks our brains back to the start, limping along, almost helpless to catch up.

Almost helpless… I read the bible a fair amount. It is my “go to” for comfort. My friends are a necessary and invaluable component to my well being, but their comfort must be accompanied with the healing words of hope and compassion my savior provides to me in the bible. I love to listen to leadership and management books and podcasts. I listen to sermons on hope, forgiveness, and God’s kind of love. Kate Bowler, Timothy Keller, Brene Brown, and many more. You can see that I am fully equipped to handle the most gruesome situations. But we never know our capabilities until we’re put to the test, of which I’ve been so fortunate to be able to do.

In the midst of a recent conversation, I was discouraged and misunderstood. My heart was predictable and the first to respond, immediately seizing my body. But thank you, brain. It kicked in and I remembered that I do have control. I thought, “I cannot give up in this moment. I must turn this situation around.” My brain managed to somewhat listen to the words. It had a lot to consider,  and with its partner the heart doing laps around it, in thundering strides, it was no easy task. So, I listened with a polite ear, yet not a completely analytical one. I conjured up how to respond as best I could and salvage the situation. I determined I would find words of affirmation, combined with sincerity.

I can’t share the details of the conversations, yet if you know me, you know I’d love to share every word that was spoken. But as I listened, I considered what positive thing I could glean from this, and how I could recite it back to the deliverer. I considered what truth had been said that I could acknowledge, and what emotion of mine that I could reveal. I was able to find something to affirm, and offered my sincere response by sharing that I was surprised at their perception, but that I took it to heart. I said that I didn’t see things the way they did, so I wanted to think about what they’d said.

I used this strategy for both conversations, but one in particular was much harder, because the person means so much to me. The criticism was delivered with a tone that didn’t come from thoughtful delivery or of God’s will. My heart wanted to unleash itself, but I knew that if I allowed that, I could jeopardize the relationship completely. This particular conversation wasn’t nearly as smooth as the first, but throughout it, my mind stayed present and we did our best. My heart flailed while my brain worked overtime. After the conversation was the time for heart and brain to collaborate. That would be time for contemplation, tears, education, and friends.

I so want to send messages of clarity and inspiration by text, by email, or by pigeon. I want to fix a situation by convincing the wrongdoer. I want to say that a thousand failures have occurred, before success happens, and I want to illustrate my point until I’m blue in the face. But I know that the best messenger is God, and in that truth, I will keep on hoping.

Practically speaking: My side biz is taking a slight pause as I take advantage of the holiday season and create items I’ve made to sell. This is keeping me very busy, for which I am hap hap happy! More on the practical side of my biz, soon.



Before I delve into Misunderstood, I want to give a brief progress report on self-employment. I laugh every time I say it. Like I’m saying, “Me and the Mrs.” or something so very unlike me that the words cause my head to swivel around to see who is speaking. But I like the sound of “self-employment”, more than I like, “unemployed.” I appreciated the bank rep with whom I worked. When I asked if my business credit card could be denied because I’m not employed, she said, “Oh, but you are. You’re self-employed!” She almost got a hug.

I’m getting closer to sharing my business concept publicly. I’m not trying to be mysterious. I share it with anyone I talk with. It’s just that publicly, like on the big Internet, is a whole other measure of sharing, and I want certain things to be in place, so when the flood of questions come in, I’m prepared.

Last week was a mix of many things. I was strategic about incorporating people into my day, which resolved the loneliness I was feeling by working at home without human connections. I went to an early morning bible study, rode my bike, and met a couple of friends for a walk. I also analyzed my LLC Operating Agreement and spoke with Legal Zoom tax and business attorneys. I opened a business bank account, worked on my business plan, and corresponded with an agent about commercial insurance, which I hope to finalize this week. I worked a really great one-day customer appreciation gig I got off of Craigslist. Within that, I learned (thanks to You Tube, again) to shuck oysters. When I agreed to do that in advance, I had no idea what shucking live oysters entailed. Live oysters come with other live things, like a little crab, barnacles and some other sort of wiggly thing. Ugh. But I powered through. I took a picture, but I’m not going to post it; I don’t even like looking at it.


I’ve decided that being misunderstood is responsible for many damaged relationships. I know a whole bunch of stories where people have shut down relationships because they weren’t able to communicate themselves well, someone didn’t communicate the whole story, a third party was neglectful in the way they told a story, or a person wasn’t even sure they knew how they felt, but how they were interpreted definitely was not the heart of what they intended. Maybe it was a missed text, a missed post, or two people were talking, but walking in opposite directions, and they just didn’t hear well. There are so many different scenarios that can lead to being misunderstood. If we were a forgiving people and naturally gave the benefit of the doubt to everyone, being misunderstood wouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, we tend to be a cynical, critical bunch. Given that, we have to be mindful that we are human, and in our humanness, there is a high likelihood that we’ll be misunderstood, which is worth considering before we cut someone off, or add another brick to that wall we’re building.

When we react out of hurt or anger, our tendency is to layer bricks to what we believe is a wall of protection. In reality, it’s a wall of prevention: prevention from experiencing all the joy and happiness that awaits us. If we haven’t learned along the way how to contend with hurt, pain, and confusion, one hurt at a time, we pile them up. The wall gets to a point where it’s difficult to see beyond, or to remove any of the bricks, where pride is the binding mortar. 

I know I’ve been on the giving side of being misunderstood. I’ve miscommunicated, I’ve left someone out, or have been absorbed in my own life. Once I realized this, I could only hope to be forgiven, and I recognized the value in giving others a break.

I once hosted a party and forgot to include someone who is now one of my best friends. She was the wife of president of the youth football organization. I was inviting everyone. Everyone! But I forgot to include her in the email. Fortunately, she brought up the gathering. I was embarrassed and apologized profusely, but the explanation still fell short: I forgot her?! Very recently, I completely forgot another best friend’s birthday. In this case, I was grateful for Instagram, after I saw a post by her daughter. I was able to redeem myself because she’s that kind of friend. But what about the occasions where someone didn’t say something to me or I wasn’t reminded on social media, because I missed a post (which in my case is often). What happens when I’m just tired and don’t feel like giving an explanation to something, or extend an extra amount of effort toward someone? What if lounging in the sun and eating nachos is more appealing than answering the phone some days? That’s not likely, but what if?!

A misunderstanding can cause us to become slighted or offended, and even indignant. We can stack that wall, or we can step back and consider options that will make a way for us to see more clearly. As Christians we know that God is perfect love. God’s Spirit lives in us, and there is no fear in perfect love. Of what do we have to be afraid? What causes indignation? Fear of rejection, loss of status or reputation, questioning our worth and value? These are worthy considerations, yet as a Christian I seek not to be measured by the world’s judgement, but by God’s judgement of me. John 4:16-18 explains that perfect love casts out fear. When I trust in perfect love, my fears of loss and anger subside, and I can begin deconstructing walls… or maybe not building them to begin with. And I can be at peace with my fallibilities, and yours, too.

Whether it’s in a social, personal, or professional arena, addressing misunderstandings is worth the discomfort that accompanies making the effort towards clarity. At work one day I’d received a really negative reaction from a co-worker. I couldn’t imagine why she was so angry with me. I did my best to engage her so we could sort it out, but she would have nothing to do with it. I was grateful our supervisor called a meeting. She is so great about confronting hard issues and she has learned some skills that are pivotal in resolution. She began the meeting with all of us stating what we appreciate about the other. Beautiful! We all softened. Then my accusers (there was another who was in agreement with the first) stated their beef with me. Bam. A complete misunderstanding. I held back the tears and silently reminded myself that I was a professional. I was determined to avoid an emotional breakdown, yet there were obvious dead give aways on my face that signaled distress. When it was my turn to speak, I said, “I believe I’ve been misunderstood.” About the same time, my supervisor agreed and confessed a key piece of communication that she’d forgotten to provide to this portion of staff. Being unaware of this information, they were in the dark, and blamed me for something of which I wasn’t guilty. There were a couple of tears among all of us, but they were minimal, and happy. This could have gone a completely different direction had we not taken time for discovery.

Sometimes we don’t need discovery, but rather acceptance. Perhaps others are juggling things in their world, and we’re a ball that gets dropped. Maybe a friend is really good at looking like she’s got it all together, but in reality she has a child on her hip while she’s stirring gravy and helping her 2nd grader with math, wondering how she’s going to get her 8 year old to dance practice, and her husband is away on business. At this time in her life, it’s hard for her to wrap her head around her friend who needs her because she broke up with her boyfriend of 10 years. Maybe someone is struggling to keep themselves or their marriage together, and as a result they’re missing some cues from their children.  Sometimes, we need to look past a personality type that we don’t like. Even a personality type can be misunderstood. Scenarios like these happen ALL. THE. TIME.

I understand that not all rifts are a result of misunderstandings. But so many are! Our relationships are life giving and vital to our well being. This is one thousand times more true when this is your family. Paul says not to let the sun go down while we are still angry. Anger is real and at times justified. But if it’s fueling brokenness, especially in your family, you’ve let the sun go down on your anger, and it’s worth exploring a misunderstanding.

The biggest tragedy of all is this: Most of the walls we build are preventable. When we refuse to humble ourselves and to use our skills, of which most of us are capable, we rob not just ourselves of joy, but we rob everyone of joy. The wall builder and those who are on the other side of the wall are missing out. We miss the fullness of all God has to offer us now, in this life, experiencing the intimacies of one another today and the memories we will cherish once our loved ones are gone.

In other words: We miss you.

We are capable. We will reap huge rewards when we are courageous, confront awkward moments and sacrifice our pride. Let us be human. When Jesus was on the cross he said, “Forgive them Father; they know not what they do.” If only we could follow his humble and brave expression of love.

Forgive me, Father. For I also know not what I do.

On July 4th I shared my road trip / vacation and the book I was listening to on my way to Central Oregon. That four day vacation by the way was nothing short of heavenly. I don’t vacation often, primarily in an effort to preserve money for other things, like taxes in April. I don’t want to harp on a shortage of income. It’s true I need more of it, and I’m persistent in looking for opportunities to increase it, which is also something I don’t want to expand on publicly. Although, I did share a dog walking story in an April post. It was that story and more like it that caused me to stop that side job. While I wish I had more income, or maybe I should just say money, I don’t necessarily stress over it.

Maybe because I’m intentional with it. One day I might spend a fair amount on a meal with a friend, but rarely do I pick up food to go. I can be starving at work because I didn’t take time to make a lunch. Rather than run to the store, I’ll eat lemon heads and pound down more coffee or water. Better yet I’ll hope someone appears with a baked treat from New Seasons. Admittedly this isn’t a preferred strategy of a healthy person. By the time I get home I’m famished and chips and salsa are calling my name, if not some ice cream, and that’s before dinner. I’m spending some extra money on the wedding I didn’t plan on, but that is with joy and hope that Bridgette’s wedding will be magical. I might spend a little bit more on a Mother of the Bride dress, but rarely do I buy new clothes for everyday wear. So there you have it: intentional. And here’s to hoping intentional continues to replace stress when it comes to money.

Speaking of magical, that is what I call Timothy Keller’s book: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – The Reason for God. The messages in this book penetrate first to the mind, and then steep deeper into the heart, which feels like magic. It’s not that this never happens as I listen to my local pastor (whose messages I love). But Timothy Keller shares perspectives on the issues of skeptics that admittedly, I accept easily. I’ve been blessed with faith in God. While I get frustrated with Him, I hardly ever question His existence. His presence in my life has been so tangible, I can’t deny Him. 1 Peter 3:15 says “… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” Don’t you just love that last part!? I think some people overlook the tail end of that passage.

My story is filled with God’s faithfulness and expressing my love for God is usually as easy as breathing. I felt expressions of God all around me in Central Oregon; in the mountains, the rivers and lakes, and when the sun rose and when it set.

But this is my interpretation of God, and Timothy Keller bases his interpretation on intellect and his passion for the truth. As a result, he has studied many religions and philosophies. I love and appreciate this passion and grateful that he has shared it with us. The ease of faith that I possess has rarely ever challenged God. During my dry spells when I didn’t walk with the Lord (which is when I made pivotal junctions) I continued to believe He loved me. I was simply ignorant and didn’t walk the path he’d laid out for me. There might have been more to it than ignorance, but that was definitely a component.

I was mesmerized throughout the book as Timothy reveals truths and addresses those who do challenge God. He does it with a tone of acceptance and love toward the unbeliever, as well as the believer who thinks they’ve got it altogether. Unlike me, he has been a skeptic, and his empathy toward the one who questions God is apparent.

I recall two instances in the book that touched me deeply.

One is in Luke when the rich man dies. From afar he sees the poor beggar named Lazarus who used to sit outside the gate, hoping for a morsel of food. In Hades, the rich man is tormented while Lazarus lives peacefully next to Abraham. The rich man begs Abraham to send someone to “the other side” to warn his brothers, so they too will not die and go to Hades. But Abraham says the following:

‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ The rich man urges, “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

But Abraham replies, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16: 29-3

I’m reminded of the many times I read God’s word, but don’t heed His instruction. I think back to when I took what I call my detour, leaving the path I was walking to do things my way for awhile. That’s when I made decisions based solely on my own, without praying or consulting with Him. Things didn’t go so well, and in fact, they went horribly. That’s not to say that those decisions couldn’t be redeemed, but it would have been a lot easier to go the speed limit. I’ve renewed my walk with God, but in this world, I am paying the price.

We also do this to each other. Somehow we don’t hear when someone is hurting, or needing help. We nod our head in agreement, but we continue on our way without adjusting our step in their direction. When my mom was dying I told friends she was in the hospital and the difficult time I was having. I’d shared that she’d had a toe amputated and I was in a position to decide if we would amputate her leg. If we didn’t, she risked death. A dear woman from my bible study held close to me during that time as I made the difficult decision not to amputate. I knew my mom didn’t have the stamina to care for herself after such a severe loss. When my mom passed, friends asked why I hadn’t told them she was “that” sick. I’m sure I’ve done the same, half listening to someone, not getting it. Just like I often don’t “get it” when I’m reading God’s word.

As parents we laugh about this (or not). We ask our child to take out the garbage and they don’t respond. We ask again and they still don’t respond. Then we raise our voice and they wonder why we’re upset. “I’m not upset! I just want you to hear me!” I’ll bet God wanted to say the same to the rich man, but God doesn’t yell.

I thought about the rich man and his desperate attempt to adjust the course of his brothers, and his own life, and I was overwhelmed when I thought about the good fortune I have that I’m still living with the opportunity to do God’s will, and be more than a rich man, I can be Joni.

Keller points out that the rich man was simply, “the rich man.” He had no name, but the poor man had a name: Lazarus.

“Dear God, let my name mean something. That I will be more than the girl with the nice yard, or the devoted mom, or the good food or the conscientious employee. May these things that are important to me not define me, but may I keep perspective and may my name, Joni, reflect a woman who is faithful to God.”

The second moment of revelation in Timothy’s book was about forgiveness. For anyone who has been hurt or betrayed, that word can send pricklers up a back or tears down a face. Forgiveness is complicated, especially if one continues to be hurt or betrayed in some way. It’s a personal conversation with God that is ongoing, and if you are at least having that conversation, you’re ahead of the person who resists forgiveness. For me, it’s a constant conversation. However, I’ve had a shift.

The subject of forgiveness came in the context of why Jesus had to die on the cross. Apparently some people like the concept of God without Jesus having to go through the unimaginable experience of being crucified. It’s like, “Lets just have a nice God and call it good.” As Timothy explains it, I now understand forgiveness in a completely different light. Without repeating the complete context, ultimately forgiveness is paying the debt for someone else. As I read this, this sounds obvious in the Christian sense. But what I thought was obvious, wasn’t the whole story. Keller illustrated a neighbor who broke a shared fence. One neighbor pays for it, entirely. He completely forgives the debt. THAT defines forgiveness. I swear I’ve never considered forgiveness in the extreme like that, and it has made a difference for me.

Forgiving a broken fence is a lot easier than forgiving betrayal or broken hearts. But Jesus knew both. In the garden of Gethsamane, Jesus’ anguish is palpable. He says, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In paying the debt there will be excruciating pain, but in honoring our heavenly Father, we get to sit with Lazarus in heaven.

As I think about disappointments or a relationship that didn’t go the way I’d hoped, I am enthusiastic in wanting to pay the debt. If I am to truly share the Spirit of God, I can only do it if I am not holding on to a hurt that I’ve experienced. I am taking that hurt from that person and paying for it. They don’t owe me anything for it. There’s no negotiating. Not as my will, but His will be done. I’m paying for the fence.

I wonder, will I feel this way tomorrow, or the next day, or in a couple of months when a new hurt presents itself? I’m on the right track. It’s been a week!

So, that is my book report on The Reason for God. I purchased the hard copy and hope to find more of these magical moments when I read it versus listening to it. I hope you will magically know the Spirit of God in the most beautiful unexplainable way possible. And this might be the book to do that.

By the way, my grilling skills are improving and I might be able to give a tutorial on using a charcoal grill in the near future.

Love those peppers!