Thursday, October 22, 2009


"In the end everything will be all right, nothing can harm you permanently; no loss is lasting, no defeat more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement and death will be part of your journey, but the kingdom of God will conquer all of these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever."

-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Papa Joe!

Could these two be singing Happy Birthday to you on this photo? They are now ...

Happy Birthday Papa Joe
Happy Birthday Papa Joe
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday Papa Joe!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Joey!

Now in heaven...

Wondering if birthdays are celebrated there.
Maybe not.

Tough times for the loved ones left behind
Rough moments
Indescribable feelings
Unfathomable emotions

Should they cry
should they laugh
Should they celebrate
or not?

Ah, birthdays after death
such an irony!
Death comes after birth
But we don't want it too soon

Ah love, what great joy and sorrow you bring
Faith, great expectations within
Cry, no room for words
Tears, flow like a river

Sob, cry in quietness
Smile, even though the heart is breaking
Numb, emotions gone
Grace, that will give then strength

Ah, birthdays after death
You are not fun.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"In the end everything will be all right, nothing can harm you permanently; no loss is lasting, no defeat more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement and death will be part of your journey, but the kingdom of God will conquer all of these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever."

-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Brief Journey Of Life

Our days on earth are like a shadow
I Chronicles 29:15 NIV

He who "lives forever" has placed himself at the head of a band of pilgrims who mutter, "How long O Lord, how long?" (Psalm 89:46 NIV)

How long must I endure this sickness?

How long must I endure this spouse?

How long must I endure this paycheck?

Do you really want God to answer? He could, you know. He could answer in terms of the here and now with time increments we know. "Two more years on the illness". "The rest of your life in the marriage". "Ten more years for the bills"

But he seldom does that. He usually opts to measure the here and the now against the there and then; And when you compare this life to that life, this life ain't long.

- Max Lucado
In the Eye of the Storm

* This is the May 22 devotion on the "Grace For The Moment" devotional book that Cassie K gave me last Christmas. How fitting... how timely... must be from the Lord. - Liza

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Better Is One Day

How lovely is your dwelling place, oh, Lord almighty
For my soul longs and even faints for you
Lord, here my heart is satisfied within your presence
I sing beneath the shadow of your wings

Better is one day in your court, better is one day in your house
Better is one day in your court than thousands elsewhere

One thing I ask and I would seek, to see your beauty
To find you in the place your glory dwells
One thing I ask and I would seek, to see your beauty
To find you in the place your glory dwells

(Chorus 2x)

My heart and flesh cry out for you the living God
Your spirit's water to my soul
I've tasted and I've seen, come once again to me
I will draw near to you, I will draw near to you

(Chorus 2x)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I Have Engraved You In The Palm Of My Hands

Isaiah 49

14 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me."

15 "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!

16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.


About a year ago, Karen probably would never have thought she would be getting a tattoo. Perhaps, not even in her wildest dreams. And yet, here she is now with a tattoo in her arm as a sign of her never ending love and remembrance of her beloved son, Joey.

I find it very very interesting and comforting that there is a Bible verse that talks about us being engraved in God's palm.  What a symbol of unending love and devotion. Thank you God. Thank you.

A blessed Mother's Day to you Karen.  I know it's not an easy day to go through, but remember that as Joey's name is engraved in your arm, your name is engraved in our Father's palm.  He knows your sorrow. He sees your tears. He is bearing your pain.  He will sustain you. And joy will come in the morning. Hang in there.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, [a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Facing Your Sorrow

I love this photo of Bailey taken during their Ho'olaulea at Kamalii. But for the longest time I avoided looking a the Ho'olaulea photos we had taken....

Avoidance. That's is the defense mechanism I use the most. I do not "deny" painful things and situations, but I do tend to go around it when I know it will inflict pain. Same with conflicts. I do not "project" nor "blame" others, but I avoid it at all costs.

So why was I avoiding this photo? Because on the day we were celebrating the Ho'olaulea, Joey passed away. We didn't know he was gone at the time we are watching this beautiful event (us and the Johnsons, Borlands, Englerts, Knowles, etc.).  But he was.

See what I mean? This photo is special but I was afraid to show it to Karen and Joe because I was afraid it will bring them sorrow. I was afraid it will be a sad reminder.

And yet this past weekend (on Joey's 10th month anniversary of going to heaven) I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that there's nothing to be sad about this photo. At the time the kids were celebrating Ho'olaulea, Joey is already is heaven, and probably was watching it with us. He was not alone in his room waiting to be found. His old body was there but his spirit is in heaven, the moment he was "called" home.

And so I decided to post this photo here today. To actually face the sorrow, not go around it. For in facing the sorrow comes healing.

Joe & Karen, JoAnne and Jaime, Rachel, and many others are still grieving. Who knows how long that will last. I bet until they meet Joey again in heaven. Oh they are probably not crying everyday anymore (maybe they are); and yes they are now smiling often and even laughing out loud. But deep inside, there still is sorrow. I am just thankful they are not running away from it, but facing it ... facing it with the help of God, drawing strength from Him each and every moment.

I am thankful that the Johnsons have openly shared some of their deepest sorrows with us. The least we can do (but is very important) is to continue to lift them up in prayers.

Today,  (Saturday, 12noon until 3+PM), we are going to gather at Hope Chapel and say our "goodbyes - till we meet again" to Joe and Karen. They are moving to Virginia on the first week of April to be with their families there. The "avoidant me" had avoided getting involved with the preparation of this gathering because I wasn't ready to say goodbye. But today, I guess I am "facing my sadness" knowing that God has a purpose and a plan.

When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How We Are Doing Now

We got back to Maui on Monday. It seems all green and blue technicolor after being in wintry gray Virginia for the past 10 weeks. Despite the gloomy skies of the east coast, the warmth of our family circle got us through our first Christmas without Joey and into a new year. We needed each other like a chilled person needs to be wrapped in a thick blanket. We didn't do much, but were comforted by the little things: meals together, our grandchildren's "performances", walks in the woods, and the silly antics of the three dogs, Rommel, Maggie and MJ.

Being back on Maui is like returning to an empty house. It's beautiful but lonely for us. Not that our Maui friends don't care, because they do. The problem is simply that we have so many memories here and painful reminders of a life that will never be again. The waves he surfed, the porch he stored his board on, the lanai we ate breakfast on, the bed he slept in....we see Joey everywhere, but he's not here, and it aches all the time.

The relentless ache of grief can't be easily soothed. Nothing makes it go away completely. It's always there now, like a burdensome relative who's moved into the house to stay. A few things quiet it momentarily and we give ourselves breaks with those things as much as we can. Anything funny is really helpful, so I've gotten into the habit of watching old episodes of funny shows on my dvd player, just so I won't sink into sadness. Who knew Seinfeld and the Office would be such great therapy?

We still don't do much. I come up with all kinds of ideas of things I could do or should do, and before losing Joey, WOULD do, but now I don't follow thru on many of them. No energy for anything extra. I hope all the time that people will understand when I don't call, don't show up, don't go out, don't move off the couch, don't laugh, and don't want to talk about it. Sometimes it is necessary to keep myself in a suspended state of animation, then I don't feel and don't have to think about what I lost. I just keep the pain at bay for a little while.

What we lost? Too much to say, but a short list reads like this: a best friend to each of us, tall hugs from a man (not my husband) who adored me, a tower of strength, a fount of love, a scrabble partner, a comedian, an interested and inquisitive conversationalist, an inspiring motivator, an adventurer, a cool and informed cultural guide, a future daughter-in-law and grandchildren, someone who would laugh at adversity, and smile at everyone else. He made our world safer, kinder and funnier. Now we all have to do life without his wisdom and humor to soften the blows and inspire us up and over the walls.

Can we do it? Yes, we always knew from the first night that we could do it. We knew God would give us the strength to bear our loss and that there was ultimate hope. We just didn't want to have to do it. And it hurts more than we ever imagined that first night, when denial protected us and we didn't yet know what it meant to not have Joey in our world.

So the next obvious step is to move back to Virginia and be with our warm blanket all the time. Home IS where the heart is. We are trying to buy a 7-acre farm in Virginia. Don't ask us why, we really don't know the answer. Probably something having to do with being a fun place for our grandchildren. It just fits us right now for some inexplicable reason. So we will be saying a sad goodbye to Maui and the people we have loved and suffered with, and in April, with God's help, we will be moving on to grayer pastures.

In closing, I would like to share this verse from Psalm 23 that the Lord reminded me of when we found the farm:

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in GREEN PASTURES.
He leads me beside STILL WATERS.
He restores my soul.

I'm trusting that this place of green pastures and still waters will help to restore our souls.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. We love and appreciate you all.

Your faithful friends,
Joe and Karen

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Aunt Viv's Dream of Joey

* this was taken from Autie Viv's post on Remembering Joey at Facebook:

I had a dream about Joey a week ago Saturday. My son Jeff and I were working on my mother's 1893 house which we are putting up for sale...empty - and for those of you who know me....some not so fun times and thoughts from this house. '

Jeff and I decided to sleep on aero beds in the house that night and use the old air conditioning unit in the window (we both can't sleep without fans) ....passed on from mother to daughter to son...anyway.

I woke up in the middle of the night and heard this whispering voices - I asked my son if he heard them, but he was half asleep and said no...I heard them again and started to get scared...demons in the house! I prayed that over the house and myself and Jeff and in the name of Jesus prayed for them to be gone and threw the covers over my head!!! I fell asleep.

All of a sudden - Joey came rushing in the front door telling me what a great job I was doing on Grandma's great a house it safe a house it was. He said, "Let's go and look at all the rooms together"...he was laughing and running around like a little elf - although he was probably 24-25, but laughed like a young boy. He ran into each one of the rooms - just out of my reach as I asked him to wait for me....he just laughed and turned to come on follow me, this is great! He reached the stairs and turned around and smiled - "this is a great house". So we went through each one of the rooms in the house and then he just walked through the back door upstairs and walked away. I woke up and was thinking WOW - I feel so safe and comforted. Joey loved his grandma and her big old house and he knew that it was a safe place to be...and he wanted me to know that too.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Weeping may endure for a night ... but joy comes in the morning - Psalm ___

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Karen

If Joey's here, what would Joey do for Karen on her birthday? I think he would sing this song to her:

Happy Birthday Karen!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happy Birthday ... Tell Me How ...

Karen's birthday is tomorrow, January 22.

Joey went to heaven on May 22.

Yes, it's been 8 months.

Can anyone tell me how to best greet Karen for her birthday? Happy birthday is the usual way, right? But darn it, I know no matter how she tries, tomorrow will be a sad day. A sad day because no matter how much she prays, the fact is she will never get a phone call from her darling son to greet her "happy birthday"!

I am just sayin' ....

No, really ... I am in the mood to rant today. Sure, we all know Joey is in a better place. And sure we all know that as Christians we are all supposed to rejoice. But darn it, I am a mom and I know how mom feels when she misses her son. Darn it, I am mad and I am sad!

I will be back for a more calm post. But this morning I think a rant is better. God is not afraid to hear what we really feel (he knows it anyway). And right now I feel sad that Joey was not able to call her sister Joanne to greet her a happy birthday, and Joey will not be calling Karen tomorrow to greet her a Happy Birthday.

Can anyone tell me how to handle this kind of situation? Rejoice? Celebrate? Oh that's easy for us to say. The fact is it stinks! It's a pit to celebrate your "first birthday after one of your loved ones passed away". That's the truth. That's the plain truth.

And so I think a rant is ok. Maybe a scream would be better. And then after that ... after that I will call upon the Holy Spirit to pour out His mighty comfort, and once again affirm that God is in control. That God has plan. That His ways are higher than our ways. And that we may never understand here on earth why the heck Joey was called to heaven earlier than Karen and Joe. But the Holy Spirit will bring comfort. He will even bring joy. And He will sustain. He will carry them through.

Well ... Karen, Happy Birthday. I am giving you the permission to scream and to cry. Go ahead.

But at the end of the day, know that God is giving you an extra dose of comfort today and tomorrow because He knows you'll need it. And because Joey is there in heaven, with Jesus, asking God, saying "take good care of my mama, because I love her".

Monday, January 19, 2009

Our Heavenly Dwelling

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Joe Smilin' At You

I like this photo of Joey with the kids. You can see pure joy in his smile. And each kid has a unique expression on their faces :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Joseph's Pic Of The Day - Fire

I love the "pyro-look in the eyes...Mischievious but fun-loving.... Joe and i spent many hours in the discipleship of over-the top fires.....Everytime I stoke up a big fire in the Virginia Beach cold I think of Joseph aned his love of stoking a big hot fire......Kevin sure looks happy and warm!

I sure miss you Mijo!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Featured on

Joe(y) and Rachel's blog VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER is featured on CHECK IT OUT HERE! and leave a comment there if you can :)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Remembering Joey (on Facebook)

I thought I'd mention it here, in case some of you didn't know yet. You can go there and join the group. It's started by Rachel and she's maintaining it along with the Johnsons. Here's the basic info on the group:

Joseph, Joey, Joe - the fiery redheaded kid who became the man we all admired and loved.

His passion for life shone through in everything he put himself into - music, surfing, snowboarding, travel, work, friends, love, politics, beer brewing - by nature he was a true connoisseur. He was quick to give you his opinion, then even quicker to back it up with an intelligent, expressive reason. He loved to laugh, inspire laughter, make up songs, dance, and run jokes into the ground a hundred times over.

He was a true liver of life (that one's for you, JR).

The pain of his abrupt passing is deepened by the thought of his memory fading. Please freely share stories, photos, memories - anything to keep him with us. (click here)