This blog is a my collection of inspiration, memories and passions. My most significant passion is people so I feel this is a great outlet for me to share my gratitude to one of the most influential people in my life.
When I was born in 1985, I was welcomed into a loving and amazing family. Sadly, my mothers father had passed away when she was a teenager, and my fathers mother had passed away just a couple years before I was born... so I never got to meet my maternal grandfather, or paternal grandmother. My two living grand parents were both older than some grandparents are, and therefor I didn't grow up with my grandparents being my primary care-givers outside of my parents like some kids do. Not to say that I don't have amazing memories with my grandfather (who passed away just one year ago this month), and my grandmother (who is 92, and a 3 time cancer survivor)! All of this to say, I didn't have a conventional experience with my grandparents playing a daily role in my life, but instead had an unconventional experience that I would not trade for anything in the world.
My mom is a nut. Like one of those mom's that babysitters dread because she's so neurotic you feel like your going to suffocate. (love you mommy, but you're a little over protective, in the best way possible). So you can imagine when she was hunting for childcare for her precious first born Kristen, she had the bar set pretty high concerning expectations. That's when the hospital told her about two retired nurses that were sisters and providing childcare out of their home. My mom met them, loved them, and the rest is history.
So my childhood consisted of hours after school, summer weekdays, and the occasional overnighter spent with two women that are sincerely my family, regardless of blood relation or not. Joyce and Sandy Murak were the most wonderful second mom's a girl could ever ask for and I feel I am a more dynamic person because of the wonderful investment these two women made in my life.
5 years ago, we lost Sandy. It was the hardest thing I had ever gone through, and I still am not sure I've come to grips with the effects her death has had on my life. Just days prior to her death, I had the opportunity to lead Sandy to Christ. Although she was a woman that lived morally and sound, she wavered and resisted her faith at times. Right before she passed away, in a quiet moment, we prayed and although she wasn't able to speak too much, she asked Jesus into her heart. and he took her home to Him just a couple days later.
Joyce is a woman of faith... always has been. She's taught me more about being a good person and two wrongs not making a right just by the way she has lived and loved others. Although I have so much of Sandy's sassy attitude and ability to woo and persuade (or manipulate), I like to think that I got a little bit of Joyce's tender heart, although Kristen got much more of it :) (i guess the older siblings always have to look out for the little one's, right sissy?)
Joyce has spent her life taking care of others. Literally, every single day putting her own needs aside and serving others. She is so Christ-like. She grew up as the oldest sibling, looking after Sandy and their younger brother Gene. She helped her mom a lot around the house, and with the family... and later she became a nurse where she was helping so many people every day with her care and warm spirit. She took care of her mother, her cousin, and eventually Sandy when all three were in their dying days. She took care of several children, myself and Kristen included. She is generous and strong, never complains or asks for recognition (she will actually probably tell me that this blog was too much, and I didn't need to do it)... she is kind, warm, and just one of those people that makes you feel better just by being around her. She gives the best hugs, and makes the BEST macaroni and cheese (sorry mom). She is a gift from God and she has changed my life.
Neither she nor Sandy ever got married or had children, but as far as I'm concerned... Kristen and I (and Jeremy, one of the other boys that I grew up with) are her children. She earned the right to call us her kids with all the late nights she came to my house to give me medicine that my mom couldn't bring herself to administer, or all the days she sat in the hot car waiting for me to stop socializing after school, and all of the wounds she bandaged up, and the tears she dried, and the fights between sis and I that she broke up. She earned it by combing lice out of my hair (yes, I had lice in 5th grade), or dealing with my entitled little attitude that made me stubborn from time to time. She earned it by coming to every dance recital, birthday party, and Christmas. She is my second mom... and I cannot begin to find words to express how lucky I feel to have a Joyce. Not everyone gets one... but I do!
I don't know how to say thank you to her. As I'm writing this tears are strolling down my face and I'm finding more and more and more memories coming to my mind that solidify her significance in my life... i feel like I could write all day and still not be able to say thank you. You see, my mom and dad get a lot of glory (as they should, they're awesome), but Joyce and Sandy quietly stood back and poured themselves out every day to make sure I was cared for, and fed, and happy... and they never asked for anything in return. It's beautiful that people can love someone so much that they treat them better than themselves. That is what Jesus would do, and my Joyce did that every day for me. I have so many memories... my childhood is full of memories at their house. Making crafts, painting, playing with play-do outside... eating hamburger helper, macaroni and cheese (always out of my special green bowl), and bread and butter. Curling up on the couch in a blanket, even in the summer because I was always cold and Joyce was always hot. Calling her to come pick me up from school when I was sick because there was no where I wanted to be more than at her house when I didn't feel good. I was so comforted there. I remember her being at every dance recital, always bringing us flowers and spoiling Kristen and I with presents. And speaking of presents, Christmas' for me were amazing... we had a big Christmas with mom and dad, but we also got to have one with Joyce and Sandy and they always seemed to get us the perfect gift (right Kristen, remember when you went ballistic over the barbie motorhome). I loved watching movies at their house, and Saved by the Bell and 90210 of course... I loved begging mom to stay for a half hour when she would come pick us up so we could finish the show... I loved long talks with Joyce as I got older and needed advice about friends and boys and all the things that come along with growing up. I loved my unconventional experience of having Joyce and Sandy be a part of our family... although most don't get it, even when I try to explain it... I don't care, because my life is so full from knowing them and loving them.
Joyce: (I know you're reading this so I really really want you to focus on this part specifically and don't get mad at me for bragging about you!!)
YOU are an incredible woman. You're strong, courageous, loyal, hard working, and selfless. You're witty and intelligent... you're faithful and honest... you're so Christ-like. You have instilled a value for truth, selflessness, and humility in my heart. You have taught me what it looks like to ALWAYS put others before yourself. You have modeled real love to me over and over and over. thank you for this.
I love being your little one, you're baby. I know the other kids could tell that I was your favorite... and I'm glad they were jealous! ha! :) I'm sure I was just so cute you couldn't resist me, or get mad at me for too long! :) You have always spoiled me, and made me feel like the most special person in the world... part of the reason I have confidence is because you always made me feel like I was worth something.
I know you're lonely now that Sandy is gone. I know that you're fighting your health, and it's discouraging. I know you're tired. But I want you to know what a huge impact you've made on this world and on me. You may not get to travel to far away places and influence hundreds of people... but you've influenced me so deeply and I promise you that any opportunity God gives me to share truth and love with others, I'll take it and I'll give you some credit for helping me become the woman I am. You have left, and will continue to leave such an impact on this world because you intentionally invested in the people that God put into your life, and those people may just get the chance to move mountains, by God's grace.
I want you to know that I'm going to try my best to move mountains for you. Because the world deserves to get a glimpse of your love and how unwavering and unselfish it is.
I love you so much Joycee. I know it seems over the top to share all of this on my blog, but I needed more people than just our family to hear about you, read about you, and hopefully be moved by the profound impact that you leave just by being you.
Thank you so much for the incredible investment you've put into my life... I will never be able to repay you or communicate my sincere gratitude.
I trust that God is going to bless you and take care of you as he always has. I am praying, and fighting for you. I love you so much and will see you very soon... I need a Joycee hug!
all my love.