Joni B

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Attitude of Gratitude 2013


Let’s face it life is hard.  There are so many bumps in the road and crashes that we just never saw coming.  Yet, life is also beautiful and exciting.  It’s an adventure.  A popular hashtag going around is #abeautifulmess.  A beautiful mess – that sums up my life pretty well!  I believe what sets apart our lives as being beautiful or being a mess is what we focus on.  We can dwell on the misery and unfairness of life or be grateful for the good things – and the bad.  The Bible tells us to be thankful for ALL things.  Sometimes what we see as bad is God pushing us into a different direction. Sometimes the pain is God remolding and teaching us for something in His grand scheme for our life.

So… here is my list of things I loved about 2013

January–pretty much a dull month for which I’m always grateful for after a way too busy fall and Christmas.  So nice to have some down time and refocus.  We also celebrate Ron’s birthday on the 27th and I take great delight in reminding him he’s older than me!  I am truly thankful for his life and the Godly man he has grown to be.  Since not much goes on this month let me say that I am thankful I have children to clean up after. food to cook, clothes to wash, etc.  It’s easy to feel like a slave some days.  I don’t understand why when we have so much to pick up.

February — A few years ago a friend of my parents died a few weeks before Valentine’s Day.  As Valentine’s Day approached I thought how hard it would be on his wife.  I truly believe God whispered the idea of a widow’s dinner for that night.  Ron, my boys and I started hosting this dinner and have continued every year. It is one of our greatest joys every year!  Their faces, comments, hugs bring us enough joy to last the whole year.  My favorite comments this year came when Ron asked Mrs. Helen and she said, “I’d love to come — if I’m still living.” He then called Mrs. Laverne and asked if he could pick her up.  She said, “Oh no.  Helen will pick me up.  She’s 4 years younger than I am.”

J.B. was also inducted into Tri-M Honor Band and we celebrated Jon Garrett’s 10th birthday.  What a joy all my children are!


March — We remodeled a home which ended up being almost a new build.  The deeper we got in the more we saw needed to be done.  In March, it was finally completed!  We were able to move  in giving us much more room and a feeling of “home”.

We got Dingo, an English Shepherd, for Jon Garrett’s birthday.  Still trying to determine if that is a blessing or not!578102_10152669139985301_727432474_n

We went to several Winter Jam’s which the boys always enjoy.

Ron was test driving a new to me car for us.  We took some friends to dinner in it and Ron broke a piece off the air conditioner vent while wildly telling a story driving down the road.  I now own an Acadia.

April– We went to a David Crowder concert in Memphis.  He’s a bearded fellow.  Jon Garrett wore his duck dynasty beard.  I asked, “Are you going as David Crowder?” Jon Garrett who is a HUGE Sidewalk Prophet fan and happened to also be wearing their shirt to the Crowder concert said, “No.   I’m Ben.” (Ben McDonald from Sidewalk also bearded fellow).69042_10152765719505301_654766826_n

We opened the pool.  It was very very cold and yet my kids swam in it every day.580188_10152883267535301_1080711758_n

May:  This was a very difficult month, but one of my favorite stories of the year came from it.  My friend, Greg Mitchell, has ministry of bringing Christian bands in.  He usually gets me to cook for everyone.  This month he was bringing in Sidewalk Prophets and Jason Castro.  This was the first time I “got” to do breakfast, lunch and supper.  I am not a morning person at all.  It was an emotionally difficult week and I just wanted to not get out of bed, but life goes on and this is a ministry.  So, Wednesday night my friend Jenifer and I went down to the church and set up everything for an easy morning.  Got home around 11:00 p.m. and decided to go ahead and make the salads for lunch since there is such a crunch time between breakfast and lunch.  Got in bed at 1:00 and up at 5:00. It’s go time!  Huge spread of food.  I’m satisfied with my efforts.  Greg then tells me they are running an hour behind.  No problem.  Coulda slept in, but no problem.  We’ll just keep it warm.  Later, Greg sends me a text that says, “They ate 10 minutes out.”  Okay.  This is where I lose my mind.  I’m exhausted.  I’m friends with all of them.  They knew I was doing this.  They have my cell number.  WHAT THE HECK??? I’m pretty sure I could have gotten in the baptismal at Sharon Baptist and turned it into a hot tub.  I yelled at the volunteers to dig in.  Oh I was mad.  I marched my self out to find Greg.  I don’t know who I wanted to choke.  When I found Greg, he couldn’t understand why I was mad.  As I angrily told him he said, “Why would they eat 10 minutes out?”  Finally, we figure out he meant to text “They ARE 10 minutes out.”  One little letter.  I turn to see their bus pulling in the driveway.  I run – spilling coffee everywhere – yelling “put down the food! put down the food!” I walk in to see JB look at a croissant, look at me, look back at it and put it in his pocket like a starving orphan.  In record time, we rearrange food, clean dishes and silverware and hopefully graciously served them.  It took me most of the day to like anyone again.   My kids still randomly look at me at the dinner table and say, “They ate 10 minutes out” and crack up laughing.

Caleb also was confirmed this month.  He passed out at the alter giving us all a scare.  He was well cared for as 2 doctors, 3 nurses and a veterinarian all ran to the alter to help him.1044654_10153022908020301_464855716_n

June – We got to go to Minnesota for our nephew’s graduation.  So good to see family we haven’t seen in years. We also celebrated our 17th anniversary. We found a delightful new restaurant in Florence and went to an outdoor concert at a park down there.  It was delightful except for Ron trying to buy me “Chicken On A Stick” instead of a bonafide  dinner.998654_10152960539685580_304014946_n

July – Boys went to Camp Ridgecrest and JB was tapped out to take the Little Chief test.  Highest honor at camp.941270_10153049727445301_88414623_n

August – Mom, JB, Jon Garrett and I went to a Sidewalk Prophet concert in Lawrenceburg, TN and I was able to talk to Matt Hadley for more than just 2 minutes in passing.1185987_10153163286910301_955778467_n

I had ton of kids in my pool from friends, to band camp kids, to youth group.  Loved every minute of it!

September- Went to Disney once again with Momentum.  Dinner with friends there.  Harassed the guys from a new group called “Finding Favor” which was quite enjoyable!

My dear friends, the Edwards, came for my birthday dinner. Jen brought my cake and we enjoyed on last night around the pool.

October – Football is back!  Bonfire with Robertson’s, going to Silver Dollar City and riding Outlaw Run, seeing the Garrett’s, and watching JB be one of five Sophomores inducted into National Honor Society.

November – We spent this Thanksgiving in Branson.  We had lunch at the Keeter Center and went to Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas.   Best Thanksgiving we’ve ever had!  The day after Thanksgiving we celebrate Christmas Kickoff with our dearest friends in the world.  The Broyles and the VonderBruegges are more like family than friends and it is a balm to our souls to be with them.

December – JB turned 16.  We are so thankful for the Godly young man he has become.  He is such a joy and I am blessed to be his mama!  Ron also went to Ecuador with Samaritan’s Purse to deliver Christmas presents to orphan’ s through Operation Christmas Child.


Thank You Father, for all the gifts you given us.  Thank you for blessing both seen and unseen.  Thank You that we can trust You even when we don’t understand what’s going on.

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No wonder


It Christmas night and I’m bummed.  I “missed” Christmas.  You see, it kind of sneaked up on me a little this year.  I don’t know if it was because Thanksgiving was later in the year or what.  I know I’ve about drowned in busyness.  There’s work and school and homework and life.  We had festivals, concerts, waves of illness, a death, Ron went to Ecuador, parties, shopping, volunteerism,  on and on it goes.  Every year, we do nightly Advent devotions and attend special church services.  I usually do an Advent study for my quiet times.  We moved in March and I wasn’t sure what I did with my Advent wreath and didn’t have time to look for it.  Once I found it… I don’t know, it just got skipped over this year until a week before Christmas, but even that was sporadic.   I’m overwhelmed and exhausted.  Instead of running to the One who can give me peace, I collapsed into bed every night only to start the same running all over the next morning.  My quiet times were traded for sleep, Church was missed due to illnesses and the Shank family Advent just got lost.

Oh I’ve listened to all the Christmas music that proclaim the birth of Jesus, I’ve wrapped the gifts in red and green, I’ve cooked and cleaned and made Christmas treats.  I’ve put up the tree, hung the stocking and lit the candles.  I didn’t miss Christmas on that account.  I just missed the Baby.  I was the one this year saying “No room!”  Last night, I had some good alone time with the Baby.  I went outside in the clear Christmas Eve sky and thought of the birth of my Savior.  I listened to Silent Night and felt the holiness surround me.  Tonight, I’m thinking of all the people who I asked, “Are you ready for Christmas?” and they replied, “I’m ready for it to be over.”  That was always such a sad statement to me.  Yet, tonight I understand why they say that.  Without knowing Jesus, I’m ready for Christmas to be over.  I’m ready for the milking of my wallet to be over.  I’m ready to quit running my dishwasher three times a day.  I’m ready for all the activities to be over.  I’m ready for all the excessive eating to be over.  I’m ready for the family drama to be over.  I’m ready for the hurtful memories to be over. I’m ready for the greed to be over.  I’m ready for the unrealistic expectations to be over.  If this is all they know, no wonder they are depressed at Christmas.  I’ve had a taste of that hopelessness this year and Bah-humbug!

But to know that Baby!  Oh the peace!  Oh the joy! Oh the love!  I’m not ready for Christmas to be over.  I’m ready for Christmas to begin!  I’m ready to say “Be born in my heart – again and again and again!  My Savior is born!  Our friend, Shaun Tomczak, tweeted this statement this morning:  “God loves you so much that He came down from His throne to be born in an animal barn, setting right what you could never do yourself.”   That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown! 🙂  I sit here tonight set free.  Sure I still struggle with issues, but because of that Babe laying in the feed trough, I know forgiveness! I know peace.  I know hope and mercy and grace… and unconditional love.  Don’t let Christmas be over for you tonight.  Let it begin.

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Finding Christmas


It’s Monday, December 23.  The boys are out of school and Ron is off for Christmas vacation.  Two days before Christmas and I have a to-do list a mile long.  I wake early because I get to go to work.  I don’t say that sarcastically.  I love my job and the people I work with.  So many people are without jobs.  I am truly blessed to be able to work with people I love.  But… I am overwhelmed.  We’ve been so busy and frankly I miss my family.  I carefully get out of bed so I won’t disturb Ron, go to the kitchen and make my coffee.  The house is still even quiet.  There is something about the Christmas lights being the only lights on in the house that brings some sort of peace to my soul.  I tiptoe into the den to watch the news.  I find my youngest son curled up beneath the lighted Christmas tree with his dog curled up at his feet.  The only sound is the deep breathing of a sleeping child.  And there it is — Christmas.  The magic of twinkling lights, the anticipation of gifts, the excitement of knowing ole St. Nick is double checking his list, Most of all, it’s the peace of knowing a Savior is coming. No matter the tragedies, political arguments, hurts, fears, financial difficulties– All Is Well. All is well because unto us a Child is born. The King is coming. May you find all the hope, peace & joy in Christmas. May you find the love of Jesus to be all you need.

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I ate too much at supper tonight.  I know why I do and as I ponder just how transparent I want to be I think I need to explain some things.  I don’t at any point want this to sound as if I’m blaming people or putting them down.  There are some family aspects that come up, but let me make it very clear that I had a wonderful Godly family.  I think in some ways most of us are victims of addictions.  It happens and we need God’s grace to get through it.

My dad’s father was an alcoholic when my dad was young.  Dad only told me a couple of his childhood stories and they were all very sad.  Now by the time I came along, I never saw my Papa Tom take a drink.  He was a good grandfather.  A quiet man, but good to me.  I don’t know what he went through to make him turn to alcohol.  I’m sure in some regard he was a victim of some abuse/addiction.  Nevertheless, there are books after books written about the effects of a child of the addict.  One “symptom” is that we paint the perfect picture of our home life on the outside.  Things may be crumbling on the inside, but outside we are beautiful.  In some twisted way, there are things said that are said out of love, but come across horrific.

All that back ground is to say that anything I say that may sound disparaging against my family, I don’t mean it that way. Most of them are good people who love(d) God, are generous, loving, kind people.  Sometimes we just have to do the best we can with what we’ve been given.   I hope  you are as thankful for forgiveness, mercy and grace as I am.  I’m in desperate need of them.  I will publish my thoughts tomorrow.

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This morning on AFR, JJ said “Never let the size of your giants determine the size of your God.”  That brings up several verses of Scripture for me one of which is “the battle is the Lord’s”.  I have several things working against me.  Heredity.  Learned behaviors.  Emotional scars.  “When I am weak, He is strong.”  I know that maybe for those of you who have 100 lbs to lose, my 20 lbs may be easy to blow off for you.  Let me assure you this has been a life long battle.  I could easily be 200 lbs overweight.  My giants are huge and I’m so tired of fighting.  I really just would like to throw in the towel because this never ends.  But I don’t want to be like David’s brothers hiding in the tents who had defeated themselves without even stepping onto the battlefield.  I want to sing Mandisa’s “My Deliver has set me free.”  Today, I’m going to strip myself of man made armor, lay before the Lord and say, “I can’t do this, but You can.”  My giant seems to be made of many mini-giants, but God can defeat them all.  So if you will excuse me, I’m going to go fall on my face and gather my stones.  My giant it huge, but my God is greater still!

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