All from an Ember


Sometimes it takes getting away to help us think; contemplate.  Where we are, what we want, what we may be missing, or what we are thankful for, and the memories we are making.  But whatever is on our minds, we certainly can think better if you get in a place where the noise of the world is far from us.

This last weekend, I was in such a place…our Cabins on Big River.  As my grandson was the fire attendant, he thought the embers were so low at one point that fire was out, so he spread the coals around a bit to allow it to go out.  Since we wanted to continue to use the fire, I used the bellows and gave wind to the embers and watched as the coals became flames, and the flames became a bigger fire once again. He was quite surprised!

IMG_2473I thought it was a good example of our life, and so with a teachable moment, I told Ethan a story… “Life is kind of like that Ethan.  It make look like there is no hope in sight.  Nothing is going right, there is a lot of stress, sometimes hurt feelings in the process.  We may have lost something important to us.  It can feel just like this fire that you thought was going out.  But when the bellows gave wind to the embers, they became coals of fire, and then became flames once again.  In my case, it is God who gives wind to the embers. He helps me see the good.  Encourages me to have faith.  It may also be a friend who calls or texts at the right time to encourage me.  Or, it can be someone who comes my way and for whatever reason, is led to help me.  It is kind of like your dad’s car situation. God worked out something for you both that you weren’t expecting.  That person gave wind to what seemed like a dead situation.  So when things look grim, and you see no light at the end of the tunnel, let the winds around you give your heart a little firing up.  Fan the flame of hope for something better to come along.  God IS faithful to me, and He will be faithful to you.  He wants us to trust Him completely.”

It is always such a joy to me when God gives such profound wisdom over the simplest of things…but then He always does.  He WANTS us to understand.  It IS simple.  We just need to allow it to breathe life back into us.  I think Ethan got the message too.  At least that is my hope.

How about you?  Where do you need God to breathe wind into your life to fan the flame of your heart?  Ask Him.  He wants to do that; just as He breathed life in the beginning, He wants to do that again in you.  Will you let Him?  Will you close off the world’s noise to get quiet and lean in to Him?  Let that wash over you.  Just like a fresh stream of water you can sit by, let the trickle and rolling of the water refresh your soul.

Until next time,



My Story 365

IMG_2322This week I was reminded once again about life; daily life.  We don’t often think we are going to wake up one morning and get news that turns our life upside down.  But it happens.  We don’t think we have to worry about our health because we feel pretty good, and then something shows up and changes everything.  We think we will always have our family around us, and then there is a transfer and a move.  Life is one change after anything, and it requires us to be life changers.

IMG_2321We never expect the difficult things that come along, but we seem to remember those far more than we remember what is GOOD in our lives, or what great things have come our way.  It may feel like it’s the end of the world when our season of challenges come, but it will eventually come to be something we can handle.  We wake up every day, and each day that goes by becomes a little bit easier.

I am going into a new season myself.  I don’t know exactly what it has to hold for me but I am moving forward with confidence that God will reveal what is ahead of me as I step forward… trusting.  Give me light for the step I’m on!  I am hoping it won’t be like the last couple of months, but if it is, then I am prepared to walk it out.  Not complaining, but with expectation of what I will learn through it.  This is a transforming time for me, I believe.  I like those times and welcome the changes that it may bring for me.  My personality is such that when things get hard, I look all the more for something to counteract that challenge in my life.  It’s why I make goals every year in January.  It keeps my focus on good things, and always gives me a grateful heart for what I DO have in my life..

One of my goals has been to improve my photography, not necessarily just taking better IMG_2301photos, although that is part of it, but more to see with different eyes.  Catch that unusual idea, that special lighting, or a unique perspective.  It challenges me, but in a good way.  I am not out to compete with other photographers, or those who enjoy taking pictures.  My goal is doing something I love, and conveying a message to a person who is looking at my photo.  I love creating something that conveys a message to the person looking at it.  I have felt that God usually has a message for me in each photo I take, which always keeps my life perspective on the right focus.  I love that!  That is how the Holy Spirit works in us.  Helping us learn, convicting us, and helping us see that God is there in every step.  

IMG_2286So with that being said, I invite you to watch for my group “My Story 365” on Facebook, and I will share maybe once a week if I can here on the blog, to highlight some of the photos I take.  If you would like to learn more about how to take better pictures yourself, I’m happy to help in that area as best I can.  I don’t pretend to the a great photographer, but I can sure tell you how to improve your basics!  I love seeing others take up their cameras to capture those wonderful life moments!

This blog is evolving and I’m excited to see where it might go.  Join me in the group if you like, watch for the posts here, and also share a photo you may have taken and be a part of My Story.

Until next time…



The Dream of Big River Cabins


“Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.”  Have you heard that from attending a Dave Ramsey Financial Gathering?  We have, and we have tried to live that motto out in our lives for years.  Debt free-living.  There is a time when we have to say no to ourselves, so that, we can later say yes.  So… I’m excited to share a thought with you about an exciting new project in our lives!  With a lot of prayer and years of conversation about it, we believe this is our time to say yes.  Yes to us.  Yes to our kids.  Yes to dreams,  Yes to possibilities.

What did we say yes to, you ask?  We said yes to purchasing a recreational piece of property where hubby and I can go to get-away.  A place where our family can also get away from life’s stresses and enjoy a campfire, quiet time, and nature.  A place where dreams can be made, planned for, prayed over, and manifested, in the beautiful nature God made for us to enjoy.  Is it all fancy?  Nope.  But it is a diamond in the rough.  And I’m not afraid to rough it a little to have the enjoyment of simplicity of life.

IMG_1988It’s so easy NOT to take a risk.  It can be scary stepping out.  I think too often we get so tied up in the culture of our lifestyle, that we forget to come away for a while.  Sit around a campfire.  Roast marshmallows.  Make s’mores.  Read a good book in front of a wood burning fire, (We have one outside and inside there!  Happy me!), play a guitar, Uke, harmonica or whatever you may play, or just enjoy music from our play list without doing anything else while we listen.  Enjoy the sky, eagles we see, the mountain ranges,  take walks on the trails just to see where they go, and enjoy the deep green of luscious trees that are so much a part of our area.

Instead, its easy for us to get our coffee in the morning and then get on the treadmill of life.  We might even forget to make prayer talk with Jesus a morning priority, and we just hit the road running.  Is that what you really want?  Is it the way you really want to live every day?  I hope not.  I hope that you want more.  More of the above.  Plus, more family time.  More parents time,  more grandparents time.  More down time.  And the BIG deal????  Not feeling guilty for wanting or taking part in it.

IMG_1926It’s been a learning curve for me to come to this point. That is for sure!  You see, sometimes we might see something exceptional that someone else has done, and how easily we forget that they have made a tremendous sacrifice of some kind to get where they are or have what they have.  Sometimes we let a little envy come forth.  However, even though it has taken a lot of time and living differently in order for this purchase to come to fruition, we couldn’t be happier to have made this decision.

How can we get better at this idea of finding out own time and space to do this?  For me, I am the type of person that can easily jump in to help someone with a project.  I am a “helps” type person.  But even as I sit at my desk to write this, I have just said no to a couple more things.  It wasn’t because they were not good things.  They were GREAT things.  However, we have to be aware of what is most important.  It’s not always about us, or, saying yes to please someone.  There may be more in my life I have to say no to, but I will wait for that direction to come.  Maybe we need to learn to be willing to step aside to allow someone else to step into our place, and allow them to maybe do an even better job than what we did.  If we lead well, then we train or teach someone else how to track our path.  And maybe, just maybe, the results might be that it leads to you walking around with less burden on your shoulders.  We are our own worse enemy for carrying way more than we need to.  You are the only that can make those changes for yourself.

IMG_1915I realize you might be saying, “Well, that is good for you.  You don’t have the obligations I do.  My kids are small, we don’t have a lot of money, or we aren’t in a position to do that.”  I would say to that, change some things so you can eventually BE in that position to take advantage of the opportunity! Start now. You are the only one that can change it.  It may not look like our project, but make it your goal to plan for your own place to go!  It has taken us a long time to be in this position, and we have had to make many, many sacrifices to do so.  But it’s possible!!  So if you don’t see me writing a lot, this little piece of heaven might be why.  I will have fun dialing down, being off the grid, and having the ability to do some of the things that I haven’t had time for.  I am also kind of excited to have a quiet place to study uninterrupted.  And… even more fun, I have another place to decorate… a very creative project for me!  All those extra items I wasn’t sure how to use here in our little Bungalow, will now have a new place to live and be comfortable.

IMG_0443I believe we will make great memories at Big River Cabins, and it is my hope that we leave a legacy of, living a good life, behind for the kids.  It is our desire to live as a positive example to those around us.  At least that is our goal.  Let’s remember that people around us watch our example.  What do they see and learn from you about Jesus and His provision for your life? What do they learn about daily living by watching you?  Yes.  That question has kicked me in the backside when I think about it too.  Isn’t God great??  He cares about every little thing that concerns us.

Let’s leave a legacy behind that our kids, grandkids, and our circle of friends want to emulate.  It is my legacy.  What do you want your legacy to look like?

Until next time…


Yummy Recipe You Asked For

IMG_1765I promised local readers that I would post this recipe for them, originally from the website: Table to Soul.  You will love them!



I always enjoy the simple pleasures of chocolate chip cookies.  I used walnuts instead of pecans, and used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, when I made them.  A cookie scoop works well or in my case, I rolled them into a ball and then used a glass to press them down some.

And while you are here, check out some of the other posts!  If you enjoy what you read here, then click the button and add you email and you will receive an email each time I post.  Blessings!

Until next time…



First Things First

f4ec8f96-ebc6-472b-a8fc-ffa210ae7947That title sounds like a great way to start the New Year, doesn’t it?  I am living out some of that by setting the goals I have written down for this year.  It helps me sort through priorities for my life and that of my family.  But how willing are we to do what it takes to put first things first?  Are you willing to give something in order for something better to be given to us?

It is never easy.  But we may need to ask ourselves how teachable we are.  When I was in a local bookstore the other day, I saw this view and knew I needed to make a picture.  So I took the photo because I thought there was a great lesson I could learn from it.  Do you see it?  Let me clarify what I see.

We all know we can learn a lot from books, and if you know me by now, you know I love to read!  But the real story I believe is found in the signs above the bookshelves.  Do you see the first sign?  It says Theology.  Let’s think about that for a moment,  Theology by definition according to Merriam-Webster means:

  • 1.   a system or theory or study of religious faith, practice, and experience.
  • 2.  The study of God and of God’s relation to the world.

I am not talking about the theology of denominations.  I’m talking about a study of what we believe and why we believe it.  It’s like building on a good foundation.

The next sign you see is Christian Living.  An abundant life , full of purpose, potential, showing love, and being a joy-giver, along with challenges that will surely come our way… all part of Christian living.  On the other hand, living this way, we can also receive “pleasures for evermore” scripture tells us.  We are fortunate that He has given us a Bible to show us the way through this life we live.

Are you getting a clearer picture?  We have to have our belief system in place through our level of faith, practice our faith and relate it through our experience.  We have to study the Word in order to KNOW our God, so that, we can have a relationship with Him.  If we know and study the Word, we then we will build on our theology of belief and that in turn gives us the foundation for living the Christian life.  We can’t skip what we believe and why we belief it and go straight to Christian Living.  Why?  Because we have no solid foundation from which to believe and live.

We have too many trying to live the Christian life but with a shaky foundation.  In that a case, We have 8c3ca0c2-b442-4ebd-a668-5cfbc89efeb0 a hard time sharing what we believe with someone for a couple of different reasons.

  •  One being that we don’t don’t know enough of what we believe.
  • The other is, we don’t want to stand out as being radical or fanatical.

However, if we have a good foundation, then it becomes easy to share what we believe and to live by it.  I don’t think we can have one without the other.  Having a foundation is very important to build on. I am very thankful for the foundation that I was given growing up and in my adult life..  It gave me confidence in what I believe.  If we have a strong experience with God and a deep understanding of how He wants us to live, then we can live the Christian life with confidence.  We will then be excited to share what He has done in our life.  Let the Light shine down your path to understanding.

Isn’t fun how God will use the simple things to remind us of a powerful lesson?  Sit for a while and ponder these thoughts.  Ask yourself,  “What is my theology of belief?

Until next time…


The Corner of Change & Contentment Road


I pray you all had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends.  If you are one that has lost a loved one recently, I pray that you have found comfort with those who share that loss with you during this Season.  It’s always hard, I know.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of letting the tears flow; they are healing for us also.  It’s been a hard year for me too in many ways, and I have had many losses this year too.  I am thankful God knows and comforts me.

As some of you know, my process each year is to look over my previous year in an honest way to give me clarity as to how I want to live out the coming year.  One of the ways I have mentioned before to those who have been visiting here for a while, is to make goals for my new year.  I start that process usually on my birthday in November.  Let me share a few with you in hopes it may encourage you to do some of the same.  Being at a crossroad can be a bit fearful, but I always like a challenge and this year God is giving that challenge to me again.

  • A. The top one is one that I share so that those who follow me on Facebook are also aware of one of my decisions.   You will see a less active account there in terms of what you have seen.  I can still be reached that way, but God has been dealing with me in terms of the time spent doing that activity.  It’s too easy to miss out on important things in life and I don’t want to do that in my life.  I will be changing my online presence and less on Facebook.  I have to ask myself some important questions such as who does it benefit, how important is it in the grand scheme of things, where is my time best spent, and why?  I enjoy staying in touch with those who want to stay in touch, and I will.  But you might see less activity from me both on my posting and also in response to some likes or comments.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy them, however, I want to use my time working toward specific goals and that requires time and effort.  I do have an online study that I do with women and I will keep that up at least for a while as God leads.  But I am streamlining where I put my time online.  So don’t be surprised regarding changes I make.  I also love sharing my photos and hoping others see what I see, and it moves them toward something in their own life; even if that just means a moment in time where they think about the meaning of the photo.  But once again, it isn’t about me.
  • B.  Family time…maybe a get away property for us all to be able to go to for time off IMG_4167the grid.  Spend time with the family and encourage them to unplug while they are visiting.  DO something instead. Enjoy nature more. Camp, trips, BBQs.  If I desire change, I need to be part of the change.
  • C.  I am also working on the organization of my household after our move.  I have come to realize that a lot of my energy is used dealing with finding things I need to use.  I’m pretty organized but I have a hidden person living in my house that moves things all over and then they can’t be found.  It is very frustrating for someone who likes organization.  So that is a priority for me within a couple of months of the new year.
  • D.  I know that I am to devote more time to my studies.  I still feel strongly that God IMG_6105is calling Christians to be equipped.  That means to know the Word for themselves; not only to help themselves, but to be aware of how they can help others by knowing the Word of God.  I can’t help others if I’m not living it for myself.  God has made it clear to me that I have to dig in more this year and with His help, get to know Him more personally than my previous years.  I find myself really excited about that, and what He has to teach me.
  • E.  Time to invest in my music.  It is, and always has been, a big part of my life.  But Guitar MandolinI have found that I have had less and less time for it in recent years.  So this year I am making more time for the things I love.  Music, instruments,  and singing.  It has always been the thing that speaks so deeply to me.
  • F.  Time for photography.  Drives for photo shoots.  MaybeIMG_8091 even teaching a basic photography class.  I love helping others see the world a bit differently and photography does that.  But even to capture moments with family and friends and see results that they are happy with gives me pleasure.
  • G.  In the last 10 years or so, I have found doing things different doesn’t mean I am doing something wrong.  Thinking differently than others doesn’t make me wrong.  So even though it may be a different life I choose to live, I can live it out confidently, not boastfully but satisfied that I have listened to what is right for me, and did it.  It’s a legacy I leave.

I’m sure that by the time I am done, I will have upwards of 40 goals for my new year.  I IMG_1084won’t reach each one, I rarely do, but I love having them to remind myself of where God is taking me, and to look back in a year and see what God has done in me.  I am not sure of my path here on the blog either.  All the time it takes in writing is something I am talking to the Lord about.  Is it about me, or Him? I am praying about how God wants me to move forward in terms of my blog, and other areas of my life; or if He DOES want me present here and to be used most for Him.  What I DO know is, He will guide me if I listen.

I watch how phones have taken over our lives and lives of my family.  It is something that concerns me, and it is something God keeps poking me about.  I only have one chance to live out my days, and I want them to be used mightily in the lives of those closest to me.  It isn’t about me, or how I seem to live my life, or how good or not good my photos are, or making or not making money on my photos.  What I do in my life brings me joy.  If it brings joy to others here and there, then wonderful.  But I don’t live for that.  God has placed many people in my life to walk along side me and I love each and every one.  But it has never been about what they think of me, it’s who I am and who God created me to be.  I don’t need to project a certain life through my online presence.  I just live the way that brings me joy and contentment.  I hope in some small way, it has done that for others.

So I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year and it is my wish that you will review where you want to go in the new year, and then do the hard steps that are required for you to make that happen.  None of the few goals that I have shared above are easy.  I have to change how I look at my life and make the hard decisions not to pick up my phone just to communicate what others may not even care about. However, when I do communicate something, it is because it encourages others to maybe live out their day with a little more moxie and fun than normal.  Encourage one and THEN, I have done something great.  This process will be ongoing, so expect change!  By the way, that is also my word for the year… Change.

Until next time…





Gotcha Moment

IMG_1089Have you ever had one of these times where you know God is showing you a video on a day in the life of yourself?  Here is a humbling one for me that I will share with you.  Sometimes sharing my mistakes may help you not make the same ones.  🙂

I had a package that I needed to get mailed today.  I went to the local post office here to mail this package to Norway.  There weren’t too many people so I thought I could do well to get in and out.  I went to the counter to get the proper paper work to fill out (I hate filling out those custom forms), filled out the form I normally use, and then waited in the line.  When I got to the counter, he told me it was over the weight limit for that form, so he gave me another one to fill out instead.  So…one more time I go back to the counter to fill this one out.

IMG_1254He allowed me to come back to the front of the line with the second paper work.  I then paid for the postage and completed the transaction.  Happy to have that done, I went out to the car to go home.  When I got in the car, I didn’t see my cell phone with me!  I looked in my purse, and didn’t see it.  You know how it is ladies.  What do you do next?  You dump it all out on the seat just to make SURE you didn’t miss it.  Well…I didn’t miss it.  It just wasn’t there.  I was sure I had my phone with me…I always do when I go out.   However, it just wasn’t in my purse or the car.  So I went back in and looked around.  Now, I was SURE I remembered setting it on top of my box to fill out the second paper.  So since it hadn’t been turned in, I thought someone must have taken it.  I tried calling it from my watch, the PO worker even called it for me so I could go out in the car and see if it dropped there.  Nothing.

On the way home, I’m in tears and telling God, “Isn’t this just wonderful that I have a new phone that isn’t completely paid for, and then,  You let someone take it.  So nice to know I am being watched over, right?”  And I thought, I even knew who it might have been who took it. So I got home, closed the door rather hard, and then tried once more to remember how I ping my phone with my watch.  Stress kinds of makes us forget the simple steps at times.  So doesn’t being stupid.

Success.  I got it!  And… guess what????  I hear my phone “ping”.  I hit it again. “Ping”.  I follow the sound…

IMG_1084.pngI had left it at home on the kitchen counter!  Amazing how I “saw” it on my box.  I even had someone lined up to blame.  I am in to judgement now.  Now I had a BIG forgiveness times two. to ask God to for.  I could have just asked him in the first place to help me and He may have gently reminded me, or I could have asked to have peace about it and ask Him to allowed it to BE at home.  Nope.  I went off in fear and worry and accusations.

Boy am I thankful for a forgiving God who graciously shows me…

“So, JoAnn…how was that lesson in the real world of JoAnn?  Did you pass?”

“Nope, Lord I sure didn’t.”

Does He forgive me?  He sure does!  For both my judgmental attitude, and my jumping to conclusions.  Thank you Lord for my phone being safe at home, and for the BIG lesson you once again showed me regarding my sin nature.  Walking in forgiveness…

Until next time…