Joni B

The very idea.

The Gift


imageI now have 46 Christmases under my belt.  I asked myself a question this afternoon that pierced my soul because I wasn’t sure of my answer.

I am a gift giver by nature. I love it. I wish I had dispensable income so I could just gift everybody. I especially love those anonymous gifts. Those gifts that come when someone doesn’t know how they’ll get through the day or wonder how they’ll explain to their kids that Santa didn’t make it to their house this year. I love being in a store and seeing something perfect for someone and giving it just because it made me think of them. I love to get gifts with meaning. This year, a friend sent me a small foam can koozie that said “Thema” on one side & “Louise” on the other. It may be my favorite gift of the year just because of the inside joke.  Those “just thinking of you” gifts like a hand crocheted blanket, a child’s wildflower or handprint, flowers on a hard day, a donation to my favorite charity, those touch my heart. Gifts just seem to say “you are not alone and I got your back.”  Sometimes they are hard for me to accept, but it’s an expression that we all need.

Have you ever given a gift that wasn’t received as you expected? Perhaps you were struggling financially and really saved to buy someone something, but the reaction was lackadaisical at best. They had no idea your struggle. Maybe there was a family down on their luck and you knew what a HUGE blessing your gifts would mean for them and they didn’t respond in excitement, tears or even a thank you. I’ve given gifts to my family members that I couldn’t wait for them to open. I was giddy the entire Christmas season with anticipation of them jumping up and down telling me I was the greatest ever! Only for the gift to be opened, turned over a time or two & laid aside. That moment is crushing.

Today I was taking down Christmas decorations and I picked up my Jim Shore figure of Santa bowing at the “crib” of  baby Jesus. That’s when the question hit me.  Did I say thank You? Have I ever said thank You on Christmas to the One the gift giving is all about? I’ve always tried to make Christmas more about Jesus than all the stuff around me, but have I ever said thank You? Or have I left God hanging waiting for me to realize what He had to sacrifice? Is He waiting for me to not think He owes me and realize I need to be grateful? Do I leave Him giddy with anticipation of my salvation only to light my Advent candles a few times and walk away?

This has been a difficult Christmas for me. It’s been depressing. For the first time in my life, I’m among those bah-hum-buggers who are glad it’s over. However, that does not negate that unto me a Child was born, my Savior given. My soul should jump up and down with resounding gratitude.

Thank You, God, for sending your Son to take all my filth upon Himself. Thank You for a Gift I can never repay, but given in such grace, mercy and love. I am the most undeserving of all.

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Shankfest 2015


As 2015 comes to a close, there have been hard and hurt filled days. We’ve lost many friends and family members. Many tears have been shed. Some days we just try to put one foot in front of the other. Business, exhaustion, sadness, hurtful words… it happens. Such is life. BUT so much of our lives are filled with laughter and joy. Things are never and never will be perfect, but we are blessed and we thank God for all things trusting His perfect plan for our lives. Here is a look back at those moments in our lives that make life worth living… Thank You, Lord. How could I ask for more?

January starts with a slow down after the holidays. However, Ron left for India on somewhat of a secretive mission project. I hesitate to write more on this subject as it is so sensitive and could put others in danger. We had lots of prayer surrounding him and his work there. I’m thankful for all of those who interceded on his behalf. He arrived home safely – a little more humble, a little more grateful and a lot more burdened for what others go through.


February brings our widow’s Valentine dinner and Jon Garrett’s birthday. We have about 16 widows each year and we try to go all out to make their Valentine’s night a little less lonely. In the end, we are blessed beyond measure and humbled that God chose us to show His love. Each year, we are amazed at the different stories these ladies tell.

February valentine

Jon Garrett turned 12 and it was a little different party from the widows. They got in a hot sauce eating contest. Even the girls participated. Claire Beckham started the girls off as seen below and they turned out to handle it better than the boys. The girls loved my Snoopy cake. The boys thought it looked like Snoopy had his throat slit and as we lit candles, they insisted it was a Snoopy sacrifice.

February birthday

March brought a snow storm and then left mild enough for me to retreat back to my front porch sitting. My favorite refuge.

March snow


We lost a childhood friend, David Anglin, this year. A few of my classmates came together at my house to love on his widow, Tonia, who we also grew up with and who will always be a dear friend.

March class

April brings spring sports. We cheered Caleb on through baseball and soccer. Soccer is his sport without a doubt. One opponent smacked talked him. Caleb didn’t say a word but went on to score 4 goals in one game. That game alone landed him the MVP award at the end of the year.

April soccerapril soccer2

May brought the busiest month of the year. We went to Fort Morgan, AL with Caleb’s class for an end of school celebration. I almost didn’t go, but am so thankful I didn’t let that pass me by. I loved being with all the parents and kids. I have a years worth of laughter in just that trip alone. Between Ron, Bob Adkisson and Steve Cagle, we had our own comedy team along. Donna Williams taught me some dance moves, Stacey Blackwelder kept me sane and the others kept me out of trouble – kinda.

beachmay beach 2

It was Caleb’s 8th grade year at SCA which meant graduation. I hated to see that day come. There were 14 kids in his class and they (we) were more like family than friends.

may sca graduation

JB got his braces off and was also a Boys State delegate and was elected as State Senator while there. He was a member of the Boys State Band and a citizen of Krider City. He has mixed reviews of Boys State, haha, but overall had a great experience. We are so thankful to out American Legion for sending him.

may boys state

June we took a quick trip to Branson as part of Jon Garrett’s birthday gift. We were excited that Abram Adkisson was able to go with us. There is never a dull moment when Caleb and Abram are together.


July my best friends from Missouri came down. It’s always a balm to my soul when Holly, Tim and Boogie are around. We were somehow able to hear each other over the song of the 13 year locusts.  Awful! Holly and I took the Buddies up to Ridgecrest Camp in North Carolina. I’d type more, but we don’t tell what happens when “Thelma and Louise” go off on adventures.

july camp

We also had Matt Hadley come and take some Senior pictures of JB. I’m having a difficult time accepting this is his final year at home.  He also had all four wisdom teeth cut out and had to miss the very first day of his Senior year.

july sr pictures

August we celebrated the wedding of my “adopted” son, Matt Hadley and Carmen Justice. Beautiful wedding, beautiful people! I might have pulled a little prank on Dave Frey while there, but that’s censored here too.  My grandfather was inducted into the Hardin County Sports Hall of Fame and it was a highlight to hear Phil Fulmer speak.  My granddaddy would have been thrilled…and humbled.

august weddingaugust

September brings football games, college acceptance letters and my birthday. Sometimes life gets overwhelmingly disappointing and can hurt in places that I never let anyone see. I only say that to emphasize how incredibly thankful I am for my friends, Jenifer Edwards and Dave Frey. Jenifer makes my birthday cake every year. It’s the same birthday cake my Annie Laura always made for me. I came home from work after a very difficult day and there was a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers waiting for me from Dave. Those one acts of kindness meant everything. When someone who doesn’t have to remember your birthday goes out of their way to say “you matter”, it’s the best warm fuzzy ever!


October – I had the bright idea of having a 5th quarter after the first home game. I had at least 70 people in my house that first night. After that, it turned into tradition, and my Friday nights were filled with kids and friends. I love my 5th quarter crew! Fall nights, homecoming week and parades….great tradions!

octoberWe also celebrated Caleb’s 15th birthday and had friends for Halloween and the boys ended up in pumpkin gut war while carving jackolanterns. You never know what will happen in this house!

caleb bdaycalebday2pumpkinwarhalloween 2015

In November, we took our annual Christmas Kickoff trip. We had Thanksgiving at Keeter Center, went to Christmas Fest at Silver Dollar City and then on to Rolla to celebrate with the Broyles, Vonder Bruegge’s, Frey’s and Garrett’s. This is my favorite time of the year.

november bransonnovember rolla

In December, my baby turned 18. We celebrated he and Ben Coleman being born together and becoming men together. Christmas was filled with lots of parties, overindulgences, joy, reflection. That reflection can bring sorrow, but Christmas brings the ever-present hope we have in Jesus. We know all is well and always will be because unto us a Savior is given.

december bdaychristmas 2015Here’s to you, 2015. Thanks for the memories! Happy New Year everyone!

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His Hands


I’ve been very reflective over the holidays. Traditions seem to stir up memories most of which are warm and leave me longing to return to that place in time. I promise tonight will be my last post – at least for this year- of looking back. Sunday night I had a small get together with my friends from high school. That always brings up remembrances of yesteryear. One girl told me she was always jealous of the relationship I had with my granddaddy. “You were special to him. You could tell by the way he looked at you. I don’t even think you realized what a gift that was. I guess it was just your normal.” She was right. That remark has stirred up a well of memories and raw hurt. I miss him like crazy. There is a specific moment that I remember when I realized how uncommon our relationship was and how much he truly loved me.

I was just out of college and had moved back home. He invited me out on a date. I sat across the table from him as he told me more of his crazy stories. I still don’t know what is true and what is not. At some point, he reached across the table and held my hand. I looked down at his wrinkled hand, now spotted with age. He still wore the wedding ring my grandmother gave him years after she passed away. She was his great love and with good reason. At that moment, I realized all the things his hands had done and how blessed I was to be the hand he wanted to hold. Something in me told me to memorize that hand holding mine and to this day, I have never forgotten.

He grew up in the hills of Tennessee. Buck’s Branch to be precise. It was just a homestead on Duck River in Hickman County. He pulled many pranks and those hands even rescued a couple of kittens – which actually turned out to be skunks. His hands got scrubbed in tomato juice that night and most likely several nights later. Later in his childhood, his family traded the hills for delta farmland in the bootheel of Missouri. There he thrived as an outstanding athlete. He was all of 5 feet 8 (maybe 10) inches tall, but he was unstoppable. His hands gripped basketballs. That game was his first love. His hands served up tennis balls and he became the Missouri State champ. His hands gripped baseballs and bats and he was recruited by the St. Louis Cardinals to play for them. His father wouldn’t sign for him to go because he wanted him to be a preacher. His hands later provided for many athletes seeking a job at his drugstore or even seeking an education.

His hands brought healing as he ground and mixed drugs for the sick and built his drugstore into a thriving business. Those hands shook hands with Presidents, businessmen, fishermen, garbagemen, saints and sinners. Those hands gripped a steering wheel night after night to transport athletes to out of town games before there were buses to take them. His hands helped bring a library, a hospital, and electricity to our county. His hands served and made life better for people.

His hands humbly accepted many awards. I am proud of him and the legacy he left me, but in the end, those things are not what matters most to me. What I love about his hands the most is that they held mine. His hands held wet rags on my feverish forehead. His hands brought me toys when I was too sick to get out. His hands picked me up to his lap and taught me to love Cardinal baseball. His hands held his Bible and he taught me to love God. His hands held a hymnal while he belted out Victory in Jesus in that deep voice of his. I love that his hands loved my grandmother. I love that his hands raked a huge pile of leaves for me to jump in and scatter everywhere. His hands held pens that wrote weekly letters to me while I was away at Camp and college. His hands helped with homework, taught me to throw a ball and bait a hook. His hands tried to teach me to clean a fish, but I would not have any part of that! His hands covered his heart in patriotism. To me, that’s what made his hands so incredible — that He loved me loved me with an everlasting and unconditional love.

My granddaddy’s hands….if only I could hold them one more time. One day I will.

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The Squirrel


I found this on my Facebook page from back in the fall. I’m finally starting to laugh about it so, I thought I’d repost it here.

Beautiful day – sunroof open – left open at lunch to keep car cool. Left for work & drove a little ways down College St. when a killer squirrel jumped from the back seat up the passenger door. I screamed like an alley cat in mating season which sent the dang squirrel doing 360s all around my car. I stripped my gears & looked like a cat thrown into a bathtub trying to get out of my car. Some poor man was walking his dog down the sidewalk & started yelling “what’s wrong?” I’m in tears yelling “Squirrel! Squirrel!” (Hopefully that’s all I was yelling, I’m not really sure). He opened my doors for me & it shot out like a cannonball. Then, his dog went bizerk & chased the squirrel. He’s my hero and I don’t know his name. Hopefully, I didn’t give him a heart attack! I’m just sayin – if that squirrel had jumped on my head, that poor man woulda smelled the smell of something smelly!

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The Window Seat


Christmas always floods me with memories.  Those memories make me laugh, cry, ache, grin… an entire roller coaster of emotions.  I’ve lost a lot of people who I have had the joy of loving and being loved by.  I miss hearing my grandmother hum Blessed Assurance while she taught me to cook.  The smell of orange and clove makes me miss my dad because he made me stick an entire orange full of cloves for centerpieces….every year!! It’s A Wonderful Life makes me think of staying up late with my mom while she wrapped gifts at the last minute.  I even miss the bustle of the drugstore and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  I miss hearing my granddaddy’s stories.  One Christmas, he bought me my first car.  I drove straight to my best friend’s house to show off my pink car. Yes, pink – don’t ask, I don’t know why.  It was officially “rosewood”.  What I’d give to have all those people back in my life again, but life keeps moving.  I find myself filled with overwhelming gratitude for those memories.

For some reason this year, my thoughts have been flooded with memories of the window seat in my bedroom of the house I grew up in.  It was a bench under the window with a blue cushion on top of it.  It was my place of solace, dreams, imagination.  It was my escape.  Early on, I’d read The Bobbsey Twins and play with my dolls.  I’d wonder if I’d look like Barbie when I grew up.  (Just a subnote: I don’t.  I didn’t even turn into Skipper.)  I’d watch out the window for neighborhood kids to come by trying to gather enough for  a game of kick the can.  It’s the place I fell in love with CS Lewis and could escape to Narnia. (I’d also look at Tiger Beat magazine and drool over Eric Estrada, but CS Lewis sounds more refined).  It’s where I cried when I didn’t get invited to a slumber party all my friends were. It’s the place I giggled with Emily, listened for Bryan’s 3 wheeler and talked for hours on the phone with the one or two people I’d let behind my mask.  It’s where I listened to REO Speedwagon sing “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” when I was falling in love and where I sobbed with a broken heart.  It’s where I decided the college I would attend and where I prayed before heading to the church for my wedding.  My window seat.

There’s one image that keeps pulling me back to this place.  Perhaps it’s because I’m now the adult and I’m too busy to stop and appreciate the moments God has placed before me.  I loved when it would snow. We used to get big blankets of snow and we’d play hard all day, but when darkness fell everything and everyone stopped.  I’d turn out all the lights and sit for hours on my window seat looking and dreaming out the window.  I would liken it to a Thomas Kincade painting.  The soft bright of the snow with a hint of light from the moon showing on it made for painting. There were no cars and no people.  Complete stillness. It is my mind’s definition of peace.  I was safe. I was loved.  I had no fears or responsibilities.  I’m a romantic and I would sit and dream of walking in the night snow with some great love. That didn’t happen either, but there was always the hope.

This is not an illustration leading up to some deep spiritual lesson.  This contains no deep thoughts.  It’s just me wandering back over bridges I’ve crossed, missing the people who meant the world to me and hoping my own children feel surrounded by love, joy and peace just as I did.


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