the barest things

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My reading has come to almost a full stop. I’m not sure why, though I suspect my mind is subconsciously trying to cut down the voices in it. Actually, as I sit here writing this, I can think of a lot of ways I’ve been paring down in the last few weeks without recognizing or calling it that.

// I’ve tried to lose the pressure to write consistently (but you know that already).
// I’m reading less frantically.
// A poem* came to mind completely by surprise today. Maybe this is the moment in my life when I’m ready to like the slow, contemplative reading required of poetry? (Where should I start?)
// I’m deliberately turning to old reliable meals built on cooking beans ahead of time and making extra for another day.
// I deactivated my Facebook account.
// I’m finding joy in the narrow focus of caring for Brad’s physical needs, even if it’s just smoothing the blankets over his legs.
// Many workouts and runs have been skipped.
// The long-standing to-do list (make a doctor’s appointment, get my hair cut, look for a coffee table) has been tabled. Although I really do need to get my hair cut.

This morning on my walk to work I realized I’m cutting out all these things assuming if I laid the full weight of my energy on wanting more than suffering for Brad, I would get it. And my prayers have sounded like that lately, too, as if my emotional and mental intensity gives me the right to the answer I want.

And as I walked this morning, with my hands stuck in the pockets of my puffer vest and kicking at leaves as I went, it came to me: The cross.

Don’t all our stories end up on that hill and in that bare tomb?

As I’ve been praying with a hardened, demanding heart, I’ve forgotten the value of the gift we already have from God. His son, dead and alive again for us. For me. For Brad. I’ve placed a perfect life–not even perfect, just things like standing up when you feel like it, smiling without trying, fitting into shoes, and sleeping through the night–on my altar of worship instead of God. The ugly truth is that salvation isn’t enough for me. It’s not enough to fill me with joy, or give me unending love for others, or peace, or energy to do good. Salvation plus happy circumstances is what will do it.

It’s no wonder I’ve been sad lately. Circumstances, no matter how wonderful, will never fill my wandering heart. I need Jesus. Again and again, I need Jesus. If all the good left in my life is Him, maybe I’ll finally learn that’s all I need.


*He Wishes for the Cloth of Heaven

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
                                               — William Butler Yeats




  1. Shanna Mallon

    Oh, Joanna. YES. I need Jesus, too. I need Him more than everything else I think I need. This is so what I needed to think about tonight.

  2. Erin

    I hope things get better and more hopeful soon. As I read your posts about Brad’s health problems, I remember years ago, when I was in elementary school, how my dad had a very similar health issue going on (rheumatoid arthritis at a young age, being so swollen he couldn’t move, etc.). Today, my dad is fine and is completely off of the heavy medications he was taking back then.
    Everyone’s path with the issue is different, I know, but I hope that you and Brad are able to find some hope and good news and relief soon.

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