Sunday, December 18, 2011


Recently I read to the girls the story of Jesus' birth via the words of the Jesus Storybook Bible. I love this Bible; it always presents the Word to me in a fresh light and through the innocent eyes of a child. This chapter was relating the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary:

There was a young girl who was engaged to a man named Joseph. (Joseph was the great-great-great-great-great grandson of King David). One morning, this girl was minding her own business when, suddenly, a great warrior of light appeared--right there, in her bedroom. He was Gabriel and he was an angel, a special messenger from heaven. When she saw the tall shining man standing there, Mary was frightened. "You don't need to be scared," Gabriel said. "God is very happy with you!" Mary looked around to see if perhaps he was talking to someone else. "Mary," Gabriel said, and he laughed with such gladness that Mary's eyes filled with sudden tears.

"Mary, you're going to have a baby. A little boy. You will call him Jesus. He is God's own Son. He's the One! He's the Rescuer!" The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around, the God who made the universe with just one word, the one who could do anything at all--was making himself small. And coming a baby.

I was so captured by Mary's reaction in these verses: She was frightened, and when Gabriel said, "God is very happy with you!" she looked around, sure he was speaking to someone else. Why would God be happy with her? What had she done to deserve such praise? Why shouldn't she be terrified of this luminous heavenly being?

I can relate so much to Mary in this interaction, and maybe you can, too? I feel it's easy to see my own faults and keep track of all the ways I don't live up to being the mom, wife, friend, or child of God I ought to be. There are so many things to be and do and I just never seem to have enough energy and patience to do them right. If anyone showed up and said joyfully, "God is very happy with you!" I would think they'd had a little too much egg nog.

But the truth is, God is very happy with me, and if you have believed in Jesus, he is very happy with you. And that is a truth I choose to believe even when I feel it to be untrue. Because of Jesus' perfect life and sacrifical death, his record has now become mine and yours in God's eyes. It's amazing, too good to be true, unfair even! Why would God lower himself to be born in such meager circumstances, not even in a house, but in a barn for animals? Why would he live among us sinners and choose to be rejected and ignored and scorned and ultimately killed like a criminal?

He did it for me and for you. He came to be "Emmanuel," God with us. So we are no longer alone in our failure and sin and shame and loneliness. Even when those things threaten to overtake us, His joyful voice brings light and truth to our lives as he says, "You are accepted. I am happy to call you mine." (John 1:12-13) He can relate to any and all temptations and feelings we experience because his life here on earth was no bed of roses. He often didn't have a place to lay his head. His friends betrayed him and abandoned him. He was not esteemed or valued or given the respect he deserved. He had no beauty or majesty that drew people to him. He was a man of sorrows and familiar with pain (Isaiah 53).

I don't think I could handle it if God was unfamiliar with pain. Just think of a time you were feeling heartbroken or alone and maybe you talked to someone who just didn't "get it." They didn't think you should be so upset, or they were visibly uncomfortable with you being so vulnerable, or they encouraged you to do something to cheer yourself up. Clearly, they thought you needed to get yourself together and cheer up a bit, for everyone's sake. Really helpful, right?

Then consider Jesus. Consider the friend He is to you. He can authentically say, "I know how you feel. I am with you, and I love you." He welcomes us in whatever condition we come and is so happy we have come. He is no longer the God who is far off. He came as a baby so he could be Emmanuel, God with us.

We are moving to Nashville this week and leaving Atlanta, the place where all our children have been born and where the bulk of our "Joseph memories" lie. It is here Joseph learned to walk, made his first friends, discovered "Moe's," and many more essential life lessons. :) We are hopeful and grateful for this new move, but Atlanta has such a special place in our hearts. We have been revisiting places that were special to us as a family and saying "goodbye" again to another chapter in our lives. I don't even understand all we are feeling, but I'm grateful to have a Savior and a friend who does. I've been reminded anew this season that God is not far off in our lowly human states; he came to be with us all those years ago so we could have a God who relates and knows and understands. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Merry Christmas, and may we all feel God's nearness this season.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Joseph

Monday, May 2, 2011

We Did It!

Thanks to all of YOU, we met our goal of $30,000 to give to childhood brain cancer research! In fact, we exceeded our goal by several thousand. Wow! We feel so blessed and are so excited to fund new research!!

The Joe P Rally Run of 2011 was again a freezing cold, cloudy day. But again several hundred of you showed up and volunteered and ran and celebrated Joseph's life. Thank you so much to everyone who came, gave, sponsored, volunteered and supported from afar.

We did a kid's fun run this year, which was wonderful. The faithful Chick Fil-A cow came and can you believe every child beat him? That cow really needs to get in shape. :) It was really fun to have him and added a lot of excitement for the kiddos.

Special thanks to Jennifer Barr and Elaine Kay who really pulled this whole thing off!

Here are some pictures of the special day:

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! It was a great day and we so appreciate everyone who made it possible!

A very special thanks to our awesome sponsors this year:

e+ Foundation

Morgan Keegan

Waste Management

Advanced Network Solutions

Icon Clinical Research

Chick Fil-A of Brentwood

Brentwood Children's Clinic


Bass Security

Crossfit of Murfreesboro

Loden Vision


United Healthcare

Brentwood Pediatric Dentistry

Moe's, Brueggers, Dick's Sporting Goods, Starbucks, JC Interiors, Green Fleet Messengers, McDonalds, Big Move Games, Sodium, Snip-its, Learning Express, and Cafe Nonna.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

So Grateful!

We have been so touched lately with all the efforts of our friends and family to make the Joe P. Rally Run a huge success. Thank you to everyone who is spreading the word about the run and to those of you who have set up fundraising pages, given, or signed up to run. If you haven't signed up yet, go here right now! And if you want to cry your eyes out, go here. (Thank you, Lindsay, for this beautiful and tender post.)

Also, a huge thank you to my wonderfully talented sister-in-law, Jennifer Barr, who is working round the clock putting this race together with the help of the Rally Foundation and Elaine Kay, their tireless Nashville director. We appreciate all your hard work so so much!!

A couple of weeks ago I got a message from a friend saying that her child's first grade class at Intown Community School would like to do a service project and their topic was "Sick Children." (This is the school that's a part of our church, and Allen used to teach 5th grade there many moons ago. It is a really wonderful school that encourages a lot of creativity and love of learning. The kids we got to know there seemed to have the exact opposite attitude towards school that most children have. If they had a day off, they would be really SAD because they would MISS school! I used to periodically ask the kids, "So, are you excited for Spring Break, etc.?" just to test them out and they would always answer, "Well, not really because we'll miss school." It is such a fun and lovely school I do think any child would be sad to miss it.)

Anyway, this little first grade class decided that for their service project they would like to form a little fundraising team and have a day at school devoted to Joseph. They asked me to come and answer some questions about Joseph and his cancer, then they made a huge banner, and then they had a mini Joe P. Rally Run in the school parking lot, complete with the Chick-Fil-A cow!

It was one of the sweetest most touching things I have experienced. Seeing these children running their hearts out so they could help other sick children was so precious.

About a week after the race was over a mom and her son came over to me at a pizza place and the little boy asked me, "I remember you from Intown. Aren't you Joe P.'s mom?"

I felt like a celebrity. Why, yes, I am Joe P.'s mom. Everyone can refer to me as that from now on. :)

Thank you, Intown First Grade!! Your creative efforts are really going to make a difference in research towards Childhood Cancer Research.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Twinklings of Joseph

Every so often (sometimes very often), I'll be going about my day, just doing normal everyday things when I'm struck so hard by a memory of Joseph that I have to take a really deep breath just to keep going. It happens in obvious places, like whenever I drive by our old house or am in that neighborhood where we wore a path with a stroller to and from that park. I drive by and I can just see Joseph and Holly bundled up together in the double jogger and me trying to get there fast enough to let them loose on the ducks!

Sometimes it happens in more unexpected places, like a coffee shop. I was standing in line the other night, trying to figure out which of the 1 million choices of coffee combinations I was going to go with when my eyes fell on a little box of chocolate milk. All of a sudden my eyes teared up and I was back in Memphis with my boy, and we were all sitting around a table, overjoyed that Starbucks chocolate milk was the one thing Joseph would eat when he was feeling sick from the radiation. That little box of chocolate milk was always a treat for him, though, and I can recall countless sleep-deprived mornings with me driving through Starbucks for a coffee and him sitting back there hoping it was a chocolate milk morning, too!

There are so many opportunities to remember him, really. Just some days they strike me harder than others. This little memory I cherish because it was just him and me. I'm thinking Holly was napping and Allen was at work. We were looking out our back door at squirrels, as Joseph was prone to do, and we noticed an animal I was sure he probably hadn't seen before. He asked me what it was and I said, "That's a chipmunk! I don't think you've seen one before. Isn't it cute?" He cocked his head to one side and I could see him running through his mental list of "animals I know," and he came up with, "Das a chicken?" I told him "No, honey, a chip-munk." He looked puzzled again asked, "Das a monkey?" I could tell he was sure mommy had lost her mind, mixing up chickens and monkeys because surely chipmunk wasn't a real word. I always smile when I think of that little conversation.

I'm not really sure this post has point...I just felt like talking about Joseph. I hope you don't mind! I guess with the Joe P. Rally Run coming up, a lot of people have asked about how we're doing and are remembering Joseph especially.

We are really looking forward to this year's race on April 16th. It is going to be in Nashville again, at Centennial Park. There will be a kids' Fun Run at 8:30, so be sure to get there a little early if your kiddos want to race against the Chick-Fil-A cow. We will be there, bright and early, and look forward to seeing lots of you! There will be all kinds of booths set up from local businesses/restaurants and Starbucks has offered to provide the coffee. If you haven't already registered, you can do so here. We are so grateful to all our awesome sponsors who are making this possible, and to Jennifer Barr, who is heading up the race this year. I just know we are going to reach our goal of $30K.

Thanks to all of you who have already supported this race and to those of you who have become fundraisers. It is so exciting to see us getting closer to the goal. I have this little dream that maybe one day a family will get the news that their child has a high-grade brain tumor and instead of no good options, they are told, "Oh, we have a great treatment for that. No big deal!" And they would live to have lots more birthdays and fun discoveries and memories together as a family. Wouldn't that be amazing?

See you all April 16th!!