Thursday, January 22, 2004

Joanne and Joann

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”
~Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV)

I have been blessed with two people in my life named Joanne/Joann – one with an e, and one without; one I have known my entire life- my sister, Joanne – and the other one I have never even met (in person) – the editor of The Prairie Post, Joann Kahnt.

My sister, Joanne just celebrated her 50th birthday on January 14th. She’s the fourth sibling in our family to reach that major milestone.

Joanne is so special. She has a heart of gold and more gifts than I can count. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from The University of Minnesota. She is married to her husband, John and they have two children, J.P. and Amy. Joanne is the best listener I’ve ever known. While Mary and I talk incessantly and compete for conversation, Joanne will just listen. If you want to know what she’s thinking, then you will have to stop to take a breath! If you don’t, then you’ll miss out on a wealth of understanding and wisdom. I’ve always told Joanne that she would make a great counselor. She has such a gift of gentleness and kindness – and she is extremely non-judgmental.

Joanne has also been gifted with a beautiful singing voice and a talent for writing songs. She has written many songs, but a few that stand out in my mind include one she wrote for our grandmother, Agatha Higgins and another one she wrote for Keen and me when we were dating. But my all time favorite is the one she wrote for our firstborn son, Jared, shortly after his birth. I still remember some of the words to that song:

Little baby, little one
We celebrate the birth of a son
Enter in, and welcome

A precious gift –
a child of the King
Bringing joy
and endless blessing
Enter in, and welcome

Your family’s large
And their love is strong
To keep you growing healthy
Your whole life long
Enter in, and welcome…Enter in… enter in and welcome

Tears flow readily when Joanne picks up a guitar and sings one of her songs from the heart. She sings with such passion that you can’t help but be moved.

Joanne’s talent has been passed on to her children, too. John Paul (J.P.) is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota and is a very talented musician and songwriter. He sings and plays several instruments. He is also a member of a band called Civilian and they’ve even released their first CD called Our Social Upbringing. Amy, a senior in high school, is also a talented artist and performer. She’s acted in countless plays and has won many awards for her singing.

I have a dream that one day I’ll have enough money to be able to help Joanne produce a CD with her own collection of songs. A woman at my sister’s church in Carson City wrote a beautiful song that seems to sum up my feelings about Joanne’s special gift. The woman’s name is Terri Bond and the song is titled: “If you’ve been Blessed.”

If you’ve been blessed with the voice of an angel
God wants you to sing
Sing when no one can even hear it
Let your music ring

If you’ve been blessed, if you’ve been blessed
Don’t question anything
If God gave you the voice of an angel
God wants you to sing

I don’t know the “other Joann” as well as I know my sister, but she also has a very special place in my heart. Her birthday is coming up next month on February 16th.

When I decided I’d like to start writing a weekly column, Joann Kahnt responded, “If you keep writing, we’ll keep publishing.” After that, I sent an email to the editor of the Alma paper to see if he might be interested as well. Unfortunately, he had space limitations that prevented him from printing my column. So if it weren’t for Joann, I wouldn’t have anywhere to share my poems and stories. Consequently, I will always feel a debt of gratitude to her for giving me space in The Prairie Post where I can spread my wings as a writer and as a person. I must say, I never knew I had so many thoughts and opinions until I started putting them down on paper!

Sometimes my column is sentimental and other times it might be considered controversial. Still other times it may be viewed as a little “too religious” for some peoples’ taste. But the great thing is that Joann gives her readers and columnists the freedom to express any view they’d like, whether she agrees with it or not. For me, that has been a wonderful gift.

A man named John Peter Altgeld once said: "Freedom of thought and freedom of speech in our great institutions are absolutely necessary for the preservation of our country. The moment either is restricted, liberty begins to wither and die..."

I’m also grateful to Joann for giving me this opportunity because I firmly believe that the growth I’ve experienced since writing my column has helped jumpstart my book project. It’s given me the confidence I needed to take the next big leap of faith as a writer. (Although she may not want the credit/blame for that!)

I thank God for both of the Joanne/Joann’s He has placed in my life, and I’d like to wish them both a very Happy Birthday.

Make the Most of Every Day and Celebrate All That You Are
By Douglas Pagels

Live by your own light, shine by your own star
Do what you always wanted to do with your life
Envision the gift that you are

Climb up the hills of your hopes and dreams
Take whatever steps you need to take
You can’t get to the top if you don’t try,
And it’s a journey you should definitely make.

Try to find more time in your life,
do it just for you
The people you love and care about
will be rewarded with your happiness, too

When the calendar is far too full,
keep the days from flying by
Remember your youth when time took forever
Rediscover that child inside

Spend part of every day just doing something you’d like to do
Today will never come again, and yesterday is through
The secret (if you’d like to know) to finding happiness
Is knowing that it’s all around and that your life is blessed

By being in this moment and living a day at a time
You have access to every gift that will make your sunlight shine
Brighten your world with friendships and love and wishes on a star
Make the most of every day, and celebrate all that you are.