joy

My grandniece, Siara Olsen met Chris Kirk in early September of 2021, when she boldly went up to him in the local Loaf and Jug convenience store in Casper, and told him that she liked his freckles. She started calling him her “Loaf and Jug Boyfriend” that very day. How could he resist that?? The year prior had been the hardest year Siara had ever faced, and when she met Chris, her joy returned. She once again became the happy girl we had always known and missed very much. I won’t go into the sadness of the prior year, because this story has a happy ending, and I will focus on that. Chris has the ability to put a smile on my grandniece’s face, and in my book that makes him a great guy. Chris fits well into Siara’s family, and she fits well into his. Theirs is going to be a wonderful and exciting future.

Siara and Chris have so much in common. They are both very athletic, and love doing te same activities. The first pictures I saw of them together, believe it or not, they were doing a couple’s workout, and it was obvious that they were “head over heels” in love with each other. You never saw a picture of them where they weren’t smiling…unless they were making a face for the camera. They love to joke around, and their happiness just flows out of both of them.

Siara has long been a fitness buff, and Chris either is too, or he has become one since meeting her. They like to go hiking with Siara’s brother, Jake Harman, his wife, Melanie, and their kids, Alice, Izabella, and Jax. A favorite spot is the Bridle Trail on Casper Mountain. I like to say that families should work toward staying fit together, because it makes for a long and happy life. Hiking and hanging out with her brother’s family also gave everyone a chance to get to know Chris, and they all liked him too. Siara is close to her brother and his family, so that was important.

Chris surprised Siara when she had her back to him and he dropped to one knee, just as she turned around. His proposal was sweet and beautiful, and Siara was swept off her feet. I couldn’t say it better than she did, in her own words, “Turning around to you down on one knee asking me if I trust you with my life and my heart it was so easily a yes, but you asking me if I would marry you was the easiest yes of all! Our souls are so deeply connected through God already, but this makes it mean so much more. I love you more than anything, Chris Kirk!” It makes everyone in Siara’s family so happy to see these two tie the knot today. I wish you both all the love and happiness in the world. Congratulations Siara and Chris!! We love you both!!

In a time of world chaos, one thing stands out…Jesus. We all need Jesus. It’s hard to believe that a sinless man would be willing to carry the sins of the world. None of us could or would do that. We would most likely fear death too much…at least at such a young age. It is believed that Jesus was about 33 years old. Most of us would feel like we had too much to live for at that age, and yet, Jesus endured the scourging, the “trial” that was nothing more than a lynch mob, and the horrible suffocating death on the cross, because He saw joy set before Him…JOY, how could that be? How could Jesus see the torture and death that was coming to Him as joy, because mankind could still come to Heaven…that was His joy.

He saw the joy of a world that could be back in right standing with God. Something we could never have achieved on our own. This world was in a seriously horrible place…even more so than the chaos we are in right now. The wages of sin is death, and we had all sinned. It was going to take the death of a man to pay for the sins of the world, but that man had to be sin-free. In the beginning, a sinless man sinned, thereby giving away his birthright of eternal life. So that meant either all mankind had to die and go to Hell, or a sinless man had to die to pay the price for all of us. Enter Jesus, and thank God He was willing to pay that price for us.

That was what Jesus did for us when He went to the cross on Good Friday. I don’t know if many of you really know what scourging is, but let me tell you. The Romans were famous for their horrific types of torture. The “whip” they used to beat (scourge) Jesus usually had nails or pieces of metal or glass attached to them. The purpose of these things being attached to the whips tails was to rip the flesh off of the victim. By the time they were done, internal organs were often visible. Then they took Jesus, after making Him carry His own cross, and nailed Him to that cross. The way they nailed Him to the cross meant that He had to push up with His feet to be able to get air into His lungs. The more tired the victim became, the less they would be able to raise themselves up so they could breathe. It was a matter of slow suffocation. That was what Jesus endured to give us the opportunity to have eternal life again. Nevertheless, it was and is still our choice. I just can’t imagine how anyone could choose not to receive that totally free gift of God. I know I will not refuse that gift.

After being in the grave for three days, Jesus arose from the dead triumphant with the victory, and the keys to the kingdom, which He gave back to us. We can have it all…because He lives. He is risen!! He is alive!! And because Jesus lives, I can face tomorrow, no matter how ugly this world looks today. Victory is mine!! Heaven belongs to me!! I am free, because Jesus paid the price for me…and for you too…should you choose to receive. Praise God…Jesus is risen!! Happy Resurrection Day everyone!!

I find it so hard to believe that my great grandniece, Reece Balcerzak is four years old. Her life started out pretty scary, but she is a strong girl, and she pulled through, quickly proving that a premature birth and a long hospital stay was not going to stop this “little firecracker.” She is full of life and energy. She is her mommy, Katie Balcerzak’s mini-me, and her daddy, Keifer Balcerzak’s pride and joy. This precious little girl definitely keeps her parents on their toes.

These days, Reece has a new title. She is big sister to her brother Aysa Balcerzak, who arrived on November 8, 2021. I really think Reece feels like this is her most important title. Having a baby brother means that she has lots of new jobs. She can go get things for her parents, entertain her brother, and generally love on her brother…which she does very well. Reece and her parents might not have known how much they “needed” Aysa, but I think they do now. For Reece, having a sibling is very cool…for now. We all know how siblings can get, but they always love each other…always. Aysa is going to be very blessed to have such a sweet big sister as Reece, and she will be very blessed by him.

Reece is spreading her wings these days to find out what kinds of things she likes to do. She tried t-ball and had a good time. I’m not sure how she felt about the game itself, but she has plenty of time to explore athletic ideas. One thing that Reece has already perfected is her great…and I really mean great smile. That little girl is always happy, and her face is always lit up. Not everyone has such a gift. Reece is a joyous little girl, and a great blessing to her parents, grandparents, and everyone who knows her. Today is Reece’s 4th birthday. Happy birthday Reece!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It hardly seems possible that it can be two years ago already, that our family’s little Reece Balcerzak arrived in what was destined to be the beginning of a long time away from home for her parents, while they waited in Denver for their daughter to get strong enough to go home. It was a tough time, with an amazing ending. The little family came home victoriously with their precious girl. I guess that makes her middle name very much appropriate…Victoria, which means “victory” in Latin.

Reece has so much more going for her than just her name, however. The little girl is not only a fighter, but she smiles more than just about anyone else I have ever seen. It is amazing that a little girl who has been through such a tough beginning can be so filled with joy, but then I guess that it was her parents and family who actually went through all that. Reece was just there, smiling at everyone through it all. Even as a tiny…and I really mean tiny…girl, she was filled with joy and always smiling. I find that so awesome!!

Since her very early arrival at 28 weeks into her mother, Katie’s pregnancy, Reece has been going at break-neck speed to make up for the time she spend in the hospital in Denver. She is a very busy little girl. She never ceases to amaze all who know her. Her parents don’t really need much in the way of entertainment, because their daughter is really good at that. She is talking very well now, and chatters about the things that interest her, some of which we probably have no idea, because they are her happy things alone. Ahhh, the life of a child. To have such innocence, and such joy with the things around you. Reece has such a bright future ahead of her…so many things to learn and to explore. It will be exciting for us, her family, to watch this happy, smiley girl as she grows into the wonderful adult she will one day become. Keep smiling smiley girl. We love it. Today is Reece’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Reece. Have a great day!! We love you!!

I have four sisters, and three brothers-in-law. My husband Bob had four sisters and one brother. He still has three sisters, his brother, a sister-in-law, and two brothers-in-law. We are missing his sister, Marlyce, who died of cancer on August 13, 1989 at just 39 years old. Marlyce was the first sibling death any of us had experienced, and it left a large hole in our lives. It just seemed impossible, like a horrible nightmare. How could our sweet Marlyce be gone? I suppose that disbelief at her passing, showed the innocence we all had about life, even though we weren’t seriously young. There are just people you don’t expect to lose…at least not until much later in life, and siblings definitely fall into that category. When Marlyce passed away, she took with her a portion of the joy the family had always had. She was always so sweet, and filled with a desire to help others, and make people happy.

One of the greatest events in Marlyce’s life was the day she became an aunt. She always loved babies, and each new niece or nephew was a treasure. Of all the nieces and nephews, there was only one she did not get to meet, Eric Parmely. And of course, she never got to meet all the grand nieces and grand nephews, or her great grand niece…sadly, because she would have loved every one of them. Marlyce’s developmental disabilities didn’t keep her from being able to hold the babies, and play with the little ones. She loved them as if they were her own babies. I suppose that if her circumstances had been different, maybe she could have been a mom, but that was not to be.

Marlyce went to Wood’s School as a child. Wood’s was a school for the developmentally disabled back then. These days the school district tries to incorporate these students into the public school system. I like that, whenever it is possible, but Marlyce had a great education anyway, and then they helped her to find a job. Marlyce worked several places, and always liked going to work. She never wanted to miss work…not for illness, holidays, or vacations…except maybe Christmas. Marlyce loved being needed. Baking cookies, holding babies, working, and knitting were things that made her feel useful. What she never knew was that she was so much more than those things to us. We would have loved her even if she couldn’t make things, work, or even hold the babies. Marlyce holds a special place in our hearts, and she always will. Today would have been Marlyce’s 69th birthday. I can’t believe that she has been gone almost 30 years now, but I miss her like it was yesterday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you.

During the years of World War II, so much destruction brought with it the loss of jobs and homes. Along with the loss of jobs came poverty for many people. The smallest necessity became a “luxury” to people who had no problem making a living before. Many children were caught in the post-war poverty, because they lost their parents in the war. The orphanages were filled with children who were still in a daze, and trying to learn to be pretty much on their own, while still under the supervision of the state. I can only imagine how these little ones must have felt. Their parents were gone, they were grieving, and they were tossed into a strange building with many other children, all in the same boat. I’m sure the people running the orphanage did their best to comfort the children, but there were just so many of them.

I’m sure that joy was stranger to most of the children. And I’m sure that the people who cared for them were looking for any way to put a smile on the faces of the children. Little did they know, how such a small thing as shoes, could change everything. They found out, when the Junior Red Cross in the United States of America put together boxes of what most of us would consider necessities to give to the children in Europe.

One six year old Austrian boy named Werfel, was photographed when he got a new pair of shoes at the Am Himmel orphanage, donated to him in the Christmastime care box. The picture taken of little Werfel, was enough to bring tears to the eyes of anyone who saw it. They may have been happy tears, but they were highly emotional tears nevertheless. Most kids these days, would be almost disappointed to receive a pair o shoes as a gift…unless they were the latest in cool shoes. Little Werfel was beyond happy. He held the shoes to his chest and looked to the sky, as I he couldn’t possibly contain his happiness. The photographer probably took the picture through tear filled eyes. I know that’s what I would have done as the photographer. It was impossible not to be filled with emotion. “The photograph was first published in LIFE magazine on December 30, 1946 (on page 22) and later, again, on September 24, 1951 (on page 180). The photograph was shot by Gerald Waller, in 1946, and was titled “New Shoes”. The little boy, Werfel, was among the children who were brought to the USA after being deported from Israel / Palestine, where they arrived after liberation from the concentration camps. The image was published with the following caption in the 1946 issue. “EUROPE’S CHILDREN – Christmas brings joy and sadness.”

It was said that, “For many of Europe’s children there was a Santa Claus this Christmas. When a big box from the American Red Cross arrived at Vienna’s Am Himmel orphanage, shoes and coats and dresses tumbled out. Like the youngster (in the picture), the children who had seen no new clothes throughout the war smiled to high heaven. But for thousands of other European children there was no Santa Claus. When a boatload of illegal Jewish immigrants arrived at Haifa, Palestine recently, two Polish children (opposite) got separated from their parents. Tears filled the eyes of the boy, and his wan sister clutched him protectively. They were later reunited with their parents, but the whole family was shipped to Cyprus.”

The picture has stayed in my memory since the first time I saw it. To see that little boy so overjoyed…over shoes, was so beautiful. The photographer caught the picture perfectly. That moment was very likely one of the first truly happy moments that little boy had felt in quite some time. An adult, no matter the need would never have shown such deep joy, probably because they would still be wrapped up in the poverty of the time, while the child was able to look beyond all that,and see the pure joy of the gift. The child could simply enjoy and cherish what has just been given to him, even though he was living in an orphanage…even though historical events had just unfolded,robbing him of his comfortable life…even though these were hand-me-downs. It made no difference to this boy, and it reminds us of how flawed our thinking is. We tend to look at the negatives in life and focus on them. Not this boy. He was happy with the tiniest positive thing that came into his life. It’s a lesson we should all learn. Sometimes we all need to appreciate the little things in life.

If you ask my nephew, Rob Masterson, about his daughter Audrianna, he will tell you that she is a joy to be around, and like his other children, she is the joy of his life. i believe that is true of all his kids. As to Audrianna, casually known as Anna, she is a soft-spoken girl, who makes friends easily. This 4th of July, at the fireworks display in Casper, Wyoming, while viewing them with the daughter of a co-workers of her dad’s, Anna met a girl named Aurora, casually known as Rory. You might think that Aurora is a unusual name, but not in our family, because Anna also has a second cousin named Aurora. Be that as it may, Anna and her new friend, Aurora quickly became good friends. in fact, Aurora spent the night if the 4th with Anna, and the next day, she got to go to Thermopolis with her friend as a part of Anna’s birthday celebration. Most of the swimmers came back sunburned, but not Anna or her brother Matthew, who both tan easily. A great time was had by all, and the summer looks to be going great for the new friends.

Anna is a smart girl, who loves school. She is very inquisitive, and gets almost straight As as a student. This is something I have noticed in Anna as well. She is a concentrator,much like her Great Aunt Caryn, and will think on a problem until she has a solution to it. That makes her a great student. She just doesn’t give up. Anna is also very loving, very protective of her sister, Raelynn and her brother, Matthew. Eve though they are both older than Anna, she can be fierce if anyone is picking on them. People don’t and really, shouldn’t mess with Anna when she has her mother bear instincts working. Nevertheless, most of the time it is Anna’s loving nature you see. She is quick to hug and to let her friends and family know that she loves them.

Anna loves to play Minecraft on the family Xbox. Again, I find myself looking to see what Minecraft is all about, because I get it mixed up with Minesweeper. Minesweeper is about sweeping an area for landmines, while Minecraft is about building things with blocks. Somehow the name doesn’t fit my idea of what it is. What do mines have to do with building blocks, anyway? Nevertheless, the game looks interesting, and it might be something I would like…if I were into games. Anna, however, is into games, and very into Minecraft…as are her siblings and just about every other kid I know. It is just what the kids do these days, I guess. Today is Anna’s birthday.I can’t believe she is already 11 years old. Where has the time gone. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My Aunt Delores Johnson was always a sweet, kind, loving, and sincerely genuine person. She loved her family, and she made sure they knew it. From her young years she was a joy to her parents and to her siblings, always finding ways to make them laugh. This endeared her to them for the rest of her life.

Aunt Dee, as she was always known to most people, liked sweet rolls. When she was sick, and didn’t feel like eating, of course, the sweet rolls were not something she could handle, so when she finally asked for sweet rolls, it was a great relief, because it meant that she was getting better. I’m sure that sweet rolls were offered to her when she was sick, in the hope that she would want them, thus indicating that she was on the mend.

Aunt Dee loved kids and never spoke a harsh word to any of us…at least not to her nieces and nephews. I can’t speak to how she might have been if one of her four children, Ellen, Elmer, Darla, or Delwin were in trouble, but then what parent hasn’t yelled at their child at one point or another. Nevertheless, her children always knew how much she loved them, as did all of her nieces and nephews.

Aunt Dee and my mother, Collene Spencer, who was her younger sister, were good friends, on top of being sisters. They just liked spending time together, and I can’t help but think that they are having a great time in Heaven, along with their husbands, Elmer Johnson, and my dad Allen Spencer; their parents, George and Hattie Byer; siblings, Evelyn Hushman and Larry Byer, as well as brothers-in-law, Jack McDaniels and Bill Beadle. I’m sure there’s a lot of laughter going on, because that’s the kind of thing that always happens when Aunt Dee is around. There is joy in Heaven because they are all together again. Personally, I can’t wait to get there myself, to see them all again.

Aunt Dee always had something nice to say. Like everyone in this life, Aunt Dee had her share of storms, but she weathered them all, and was still always kind to the underdog. She was a very good-hearted woman, and we all loved her very much. In 1996, Aunt Dee was diagnosed with Brain Cancer. This time there would be no request for sweet rolls to set at ease the minds of all who loved her. Aunt Dee passed away on October 6, 1996, and I still can’t believe she is gone. I miss her sweet smile and her joyful ways. Today would have been her 87th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Dee. We love and miss you very much.

My niece, Jenny Spethman is a sweet lady with a heart of gold. She is always kind to others and always wears a smile. This mom of four (plus one baby in Heaven) just never loses her hopeful joyous attitude. She greets each day…very early, often before the sunrise, so she can commune with God before the rush of activity that goes along with four active children and a busy husband. She relishes the beauty that God has created for those whose will rise up early. She looks for the beautiful things in God’s nature, in her family, and in her own heart, and she always finds them.

Jenny has such a flair for style, and she can see an outfit where the rest of us see a dud. She mixes a little of this style with a little of that style, and it comes out stunning…always stunning. Maybe it’s the girl wearing the outfit that makes the outfit, in fact, I believe that is the true fact of the matter. I wish I had her flair for putting things together, because no one ever has the same outfit as Jenny does, and yet she is always in style. Her little girl, Aleesia has also benefitted from her mom’s great style, because she always looks so cute in her outfits, and she is always in style too.

Jenny is a true blue friend. No matter what her friends might need, they can count on Jenny to be there…through the good, bad, and the ugly. And because she is a true friend, Jenny has ben blessed with some really good friends too. Jenny’s personality draws people to her and everyone wants to be Jenny’s friend. That is a gift. I think people can see kindness in a person, and that makes that person someone they want to be around. I think that is really what drew her husband, Steve Spethman to her in the first place. They were friends before anything else, and they remain best friends to this day. Of course, for anyone who has been married a long time, you know that friendship is the cornerstone of a good marriage…and without it, the marriage is already on shaky ground.

Jenny has been so blessed with three wonderful sons, who are growing up to be good young men. She was also blessed with two daughters, one of which is in Heaven waiting for the day she can see her mom and dad again, and the other is a source of laughter and joy to them every day on this Earth. For Jenny, everyday is another day in a wonderful life. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

imageimageWith age comes privilege, and in this case, that means a later bedtime. No, my grand niece, Kaytlyn isn’t becoming an adult, or even a teenager…she is turning eight…and for her that means having the privilege of a later bedtime. I suppose to many people that wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, but to an eight year old, that is very cool. Kaytlyn has been waiting for this day for a while now. Finally she is going to get to start doing some of the things her big sister, Jala has been able to do for years now. As we all know, a child’s bedtime is key to doing well in school, and Kaytlyn loves school. She is very smart, and her teachers tell her parents so every year. Like most kids, Kaytlyn’s future plans have changed several times, but right now, she thinks she might want to be a veterinarian, so she can help animals. Kaytlyn loves animals…especially her hampster.

There are still a few years for Kaytlyn to decide what she wants to do with her life, for sure, and for now she really just enjoys being a kid. Like most kids, she is into video games, and from what I am hearing these days, Minecraft seems to be the game of choice among the kids. Video games are something I have never really been able to get into, but the kids sure love them. Kaytlyn also likes to ride her bike, her four wheeler, and go camping. Her parents, Susan and Josh bought a new to them trailer this year, and the family is looking forward to going camping every couple of weeks this summer. While camping is something Kaytlyn loves, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like winter, because like most kids, she does. Sledding is probably a big part of the fun of winter for her. Maybe I should try that…or not!!imageimage

Kaytlyn is a very social person, and very much enjoys texting her friends from her iPod, when she isn’t hanging out with them that is. She has a great sense of humor, and likes to keep her friends and family entertained with her goofiness. I really can’t think of a trait that is better for a person to have, than a great sense of humor. A person like that is able to bring joy to everyone they know. Today is Kaytlyn’s 8th birthday. Happy birthday Kaytlyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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