Our world is filled with so much pain, so much hurt. We know the good is there, but sometimes it’s hard to see. Imagine that everywhere we looked, we saw only love? What if our world was overflowing with people who were kind, compassionate, and just jam-packed with love?
Have you ever known someone who was bursting with love? And shared it with the world around them?
I do. Unfortunately, I lost two of them last week. They died one day apart, both from brain cancer. Joni was fifty-nine and Brooke was forty.
Brooke and I worked together at the Girl Scouts about fifteen years ago. She was funny, smart, and the most talented person I think I ever met. She always had craft projects in the works.
Even though I was old enough to be her mother, we hit it off. Both big talkers, we never seemed to run out of things to talk about or laugh about. She was a delight.
Her creativity was off the charts, she could do anything. Her knitting was legendary and she was always giving her creations away to others. Constantly looking for new ways to create led her to a true passion for quilting.
She had what I call a happy heart. Her enthusiasm for life, her faith, and giving to others brought her such joy. Her life was all about love and she gave it away to everyone she met.
Joni and I also worked together for a few years at the end of my career, but first met when my husband and I joined Montgomery Community Church (MCC), where her husband was Senior Pastor. Trying to get acquainted, our conversations were a bit tricky because our husbands were both named Tom. We solved the problem by calling them, my Tom and your Tom, which always made us giggle.
We discovered we were both obnoxious mothers. She had three sons, I had two daughters. We used to laugh about how foolish we were about our kids and we didn’t care who knew it.
Joni lived up to the expectations of being a good pastor’s wife, always making everyone feel welcome. But, her real ministry was her passion about using God’s spiritual gifts to grow in one’s faith. Her knack for finding just the right volunteer to serve as a greeter, teach a Bible study class, or work with teens or young children was extraordinary; plus she was always dreaming up new programs, new ways for people to participate. People found her energy and excitement contagious.
When I was doing New Member Classes, Joni would join me during the last class to teach a segment on finding one’s spiritual gifts. Closing the class, I would say something like, “We hope you will join us here at MCC to be encouraged, hear God’s truth, grow spiritually and experience a true change in your life.” I would then ask Joni if she had anything to add. Her eyes would crinkle with laughter as she added, “And be sure to check out the minister, I think he’s kind of cute.”
Joni and I spent most Sunday mornings in the Welcome Center interacting with members and visitors. Watching her walk across the room was a joy. She would stop countless times to smile, share a kind word, inquire as to someone’s health, give lots of hugs, or take time to talk to someone in need. She often said, “I just want to love on everybody I meet.” Loving on people was her calling, her legacy.
Amazing is a word that is often overused these days, but in Joni’s case, it accurately described her spirit. She didn’t just have an amazing smile, she glowed. Her example of living her faith was beautiful to observe. She touched so many people, changing their lives by having a willingness to allow God to use her, however, whenever.
Both of my friends suffered throughout their cancer battle, but they are no longer in pain; totally healed and in the presence of Jesus. They did not know each other, but I’m blessed to have known both of them. I am grateful for their friendship, and for everything they did to make this world a better place.
“We love because He first loved us.”
I John 4:19 (NIV)
Ending on a Positive Note: Joni and Brooke attracted people with their beautiful smiles, their wonderful sense of humor, and by their shining examples of living a life filled with faith and love. Let their examples inspire all of us to strive to live in the same way, every day.