2020 Year of JOY

2020 included many reasons to be discouraged. Pandemic isolation, advanced lung disease, lengthy hospitalization, 55th anniversary plans changed, birthday and wedding plans cancelled, death of friend, and miscarriage.

However,  the word “Joy” kept showing up in devotionals, scripture, and teachings. Great joy, joy unspeakable, reckless joy, the joy of the Lord is my strength, intimate joy, surprised by joy, and Secret joy.

God prepared my journey of joy in late 2019 at a Women of Joy Conference. Nervous about leaving my husband by himself, I ventured out with ladies from my church. We had a great weekend of teaching, worship and yes, JOY!

Friday, the worship songs were too contemporary for this 70+ gal. But on Saturday night Michael W. Smith led worship and all the songs were familiar and favorites. I was able to release the heavy concern for my husband and the “what ifs” of the future and worship. The reckless love of God overwhelmed me and allowed God to flood my soul.

My journal records – “Thank you Lord for showering me with that overwhelming, never ending reckless love of God, I didn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, yet you gave yourself to me. Thank you for touching my inmost being with your spirit. And thank you for taking care of John while I was gone.” (Even though when I returned, he had not been able to get TV remote to work most of weekend and too embarrassed to call anyone for help.)

Christmas brought a gift from our granddaughter and her husband for a family photo shoot. Pure joy. Next day golf with son and grandson added to my joy.

Then on January 1, 2020, changed the calendar cube and noticed the scripture on the bottom.

 Psalm 126:3  The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

Opening my prayer journal to favorite verses noticed that most contained the word joy. Most favorite –

3 John 1:1-4 
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Then these two entries:

12/21/19 – Father God being in your presence is my joy.  There is nothing like knowing you and the peace you give.  My desire is for our sons and grandchildren to know that joy and peace.

1/7/20 – It is a joy to Jesus when we are intimate with him – never lonely, never need sympathy – never leave impressions of ourselves but only that Jesus is having his way with us. Hallelujah! That is joy.

Photos from 2020 show much joy experienced even though most of our plans failed. 

So, my friends, (as my husband would say when he preached) you can experience the joy of the Lord even in the presence of challenging times. He is our joy.

Jude 24-25

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great JOY into his glorious presence without a single fault.  All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!

Hope for Christmas

2013   had been a year of celebrations, graduations, memorable vacations, and reunions.  All of these centered around people – much more important than things.
The previous year at this time things were almost complete for Christmas –shopping done early, decorating completed and baking accomplished -only a few things left.  What a feeling of accomplishment to complete my list of things to do!
This year one of my favorite mottos “People are more important than things” has resonated loud and clear to help focus on what is truly important or should I say “Who is really important.”  My husband John was scheduled for back surgery on November 13 and we thought he would be in good shape by Christmas.  Due to some complications he was in severe pain and needed constant care.  Therefore my list of things to do was drastically altered.  The hospital bed in the living room replaced the tree and the outside lights remained in the box on the porch.  Christmas luncheons and dinners were missed.  Trips to the doctor adjacent to my favorite shopping places probably saved us some money!
Prayers of family and friends, cards of encouragement, calls and visits sustained us during these trying days.   Driving down the road to our Ladies Christmas Coffee (my first time out of the house in almost a month with my son and two men alternately staying with John) I just cried out to the Lord and told him I needed hope.  John did not seem to be getting better.  The verse God gave me previously to encourage others came to mind – Romans 15:13 “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”   At the Coffee that day several ladies asked about John and how he was doing and also about me – then one lady looked me in the eye and asked “How are you really doing?”  Not being a very emotional person – strange for a lady right – I said, “Ok.”  And then the flood of tears came as I told her I was having a hard time.  She promised to continue to pray for John and me.  Another lady agreed to stay with John while I volunteered at our church food cottage the next week.  Friends also came and stayed with him.  Then twelve men (and one lady) from our church came and prayed for John anointing him with oil.  Hope – that is what I needed.  Hope that things would get better for John and also that I could get out of the house knowing he was in good hands.
John is getting around the house better and in less pain.  He is enjoying his independence not having his shadow (me) following his every move.  We were able to attend one Christmas party actually on his birthday and celebrated his birthday with Johnny and his family the following Sunday.  We will host our family on Christmas Eve and although the house will not be decorated as last year we will enjoy the people in our lives and let the things go.
Grandson with my husband in living room on Christmas morning by the hospital bed!
I hope you are enjoying the people in your life and realizing the much more of our heavenly Father.

Christmas 2012 Traditions

Tradition????  Christmas 2012



Many of our traditions were interrupted, delayed and changed this year causing frustration, depression, and ultimately joy!
My first full year of retirement and I was ready – or almost.  Shopping done early in November, decorating started first week of December, candy and cookies made – only thing left was wrap presents, my yearly Christmas letter and cards to mail – I was excited about getting so much done so early.  Our tradition has always been to decorate for Christmas on John’s birthday – December 13 or as we have recently found out Dec. 12.  According to Grandmother he was born on the 13th a few minutes after midnight but the doctor signed the birth certificate for the 12th.   Since his birth certificate shows 12th he had to change all his records to match the certificate – something to do with social security????   But I broke tradition and started decorating early.  But we still had chocolate pie for his birthday dinner.
Since I am getting older and it takes so long to put up the tree I decided to start decorating the first week of December.  The olive wood nativity scene that John brought back from Jerusalem in 1995 is always the priority (with baby Jesus hidden for Cameron to put in the manger on Christmas morning), next the garage sale find larger nativity scene on the mantel.  Then the tree – it took a whole day to just put the tree together – it is an old one that has individual branches that must be shaped and then put up one branch at a time.   Every year I say, “this is the last year I am going to put this thing together.”  But the new ones with lights are just not as real looking as this old tree.  After the tree was up (no lights mind you) the Bible stand on the coffee table and brass candelabras with maroon candles  and the nativity scene on the mantel, I viewed the simplicity of these three and thought, “Christmas is Jesus!”
Simply about Jesus!
The simplicity of the shepherds, angels and wise men viewing the Christ child with the picture of “The Walk to Emmaus” in the background on the mantel, the Bible in the center of the coffee table, and the bare Christmas tree.


 Jesus has always been the center of our lives as a family and although traditions were changed causing some frustration at first, He remained preeminent.  This was the second Christmas without John’s folks around whom most of our traditions centered.  No more celebrating their anniversary along side Johnny’s birthday on Dec. 23.  No more celebrating at their house on Christmas Eve gathering around grandmother’s tree that had been up and decorated since Halloween!!!  John’s brother and sister no longer come and spend the night Christmas Eve – in fact year this year they are probably not coming at all.  Uncle Tom had broken his foot – let’s say in a hunting accident – hunting the ground when he fell out of his tree stand!  So he and Denise were probably not coming to our house – which has become the gathering place.  John’s sister, Gayle, called a few days before Christmas and said she was so depressed – “It just doesn’t seem like Christmas this year!”  Her son Kelly and his family would probably not be coming because he had to work so she and her husband Gene would possibly be going to Alabama to visit them.   We knew our son Tim, wife Shelley and son Mitchell would not be coming for Christmas due to his work in Michigan.
At my physical in early December the doctor was so excited to see a healthy person.  Her routine questions included if I had a flu shot or a pneumonia shot.  I responded, “No I did not.”  She did not seem concerned.  After a week of visiting her office again for blood work, the hospital for more routine tests and a trip to the ER with John for another episode with a possible stone in his bile duct and then two more doctor’s office trips with him (where people were walking around with masks????), I came down with the flu.  A quick response from my doctor with tamiflu prescription helped but I was out of energy to do much for a week.  Another reason to change tradition?  Was I still contagious – should everyone come here? Or was there anyone to come?  And I had not wrapped presents yet!!!!  Then my computer crashed and no ability to type my Christmas letter which has become a tradition of me summarizing the year and keeping in touch with friends from long ago.
Aunt Gayle’s house
Then John’s sister Gayle called to say her son Kelly and his family were coming from Alabama

Gee paw with twins


and wondered if we could come to her house instead.   So after thirteen years of all of them coming from Marietta to the mountains for Christmas we (John and I and Johnny, Yolanda, Chalonda, and Cameron) made the memorable trip to Marietta where we had traveled many years before to Grandmother and Papa Strickland’s house-  but unfamiliar gathering place at Gayle’s house for our family celebration.  Although smaller than our gathering place of many years, it was a wonderful time of food, family and fun.


Kelly and Mandy’s three year old twins, Haddey and Hudson stole the hearts of all of us and made it fun to buy toys again.  The older boys, Cameron, Kenny and Gavin ate in the basement around Uncle Gene’s museum of Viet Nam history.  Cousins Johnny and wife Yolanda and Kelly and wife Mandy and our beautiful granddaughter, almost graduate, Chalonda ate on the porch (thank God for a warm day!) and the older folks ate around the table and kitchen bar except for the twins who sat at the kitchen bar with Aunt Denise.
  Plenty of room in that small cozy house!  Gayle, who did not seem to sit down all day, said, “Mother would have loved this!”
Papa doing breakfast dishes!
After a trip back to the mountains with Johnny’s family we rested for the next morning – the final Strickland tradition – breakfast at Nana Pat and Papa John’s.  White chocolate mocha (Starbuck’s eat your heart out!) was prepared by Nana and Chalonda, while Papa John cooked the bacon and sausage and gravy.  Johnny cooked the eggs and Nana made the biscuits.  Cameron set the table, lit all the candles and then warmed up the couch!  Yolanda cheered every one on and poured the juice and put the food on the table. We even Skyped with Tim, Shelley, and Mitchell as they prepared their Christmas breakfast in Michigan.
My girls!
 After the meal Papa John read an unusual scripture for Christmas from Matthew 25:36 and shared, as only he can, the story about the servants giving to those in need and Jesus encouraging us that when we give to others “unto the least of these” it is like giving to him.   Nana shared about the “Sparkle Box” where a family shared on Christmas morning things they had done to help others as a gift to Jesus on his birthday.  She wanted to start that tradition but since we did not talk about this until today – she asked that we share around the table about the ways we had seen this expressed in our lives this year – Cameron playing with his cousin, Chalonda showcasing her special girls in the cheer squad, Yolanda “passing it forward” as she purchased a meal for folks behind her, Papa visiting a lonely neighbor, Nana shopping for an Angel Tree little girl, Johnny sharing with children.  It was a special time of everyone participating in this new tradition.  What J O Y!

Cam likes UGA!


My verse for 2012 was:  Habakkuk 3:17&18 “Thou the fig tree does not blossom…….yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation, God the Lord is my strength.”  So Jesus interrupted our traditions and helped us form new ones as He brought true J O Y !!