What is your greatest lesson from 2017?

After spending a good amount of time writing about lessons learned last year I saw a Facebook post reading,

“Let’s learn from each other. What was your greatest lesson learned this year?”

When asked this question the first thing I thought of was, “What will get the most amount of likes? What’s good enough to post for all to see? How can I look good?” This of course happened subconsciously. I hesitated to post, unsure how to ensure I would “meet expectations.”

This train of thought is one of my more difficult weaknesses to navigate – my need to perform well. Because without the “right” performance, I’m nothing. I won’t be accepted or loved by people. I’ll have little or no value. I won’t matter. This is the subconscious part of my mind speaking.

I shut off Facebook, looked up at the lake in front of me and paused. It didn’t take long before something clicked. The next thing I knew I was saying to myself, “Hey Joel, performance set aside, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned during this year? You don’t have to impress anyone or meet some kind of expectations. Just be you. What comes to mind?”

As ironic as this may sound I came to this: I don’t have to perform well to be loved, have value, or be accepted by people.

While it may not be a new lesson, it is the most important lesson that I’ve grown deeper in. It’s a lesson I want to intentionally practice living.

So I re-opened Facebook, went to the page, and wrote this one thing that I’ve learned, unconcerned with getting “likes” or sounding eloquent. I did it for me, putting into practice this lesson I struggle so much with.

I am still a work in progress thankfully walking in the immeasurable love and grace of God.


What do we do with death, growing old, and saying goodbye? We

What do we do with death, growing old, and saying goodbye?

In my EP “Into the Light” I explore these things. Below are brief descriptions of the heart behind each song. (listen at noisetrade.com/joellemaire)

In the End: When I was in university I would visit a nursing home regularly. While I was young, in prime years of life, entering that world gave me eyes to see beyond it. I saw people close to and waiting for death. The sadness of where many of the people I met found themselves as they neared the end of their journey on earth got me thinking and wondering, where is there hope for them? This song is mostly an entering into their world with a final word regarding hope.

With You: Many people I’ve met are terrified to get old. Some cry for a week when they reach twenty-five. Twenty-five! That’s still a young, strong age. It’s sad when such lively years are lost in sorrow instead of celebration because of the fear of getting old. I first noticed this tendency when I was in high school and so I committed to be excited about each year of my life. Embrace the process and journey of life on earth. Embrace what I cannot change, and celebrate it instead of mourn it. There are things to mourn, but not your age. Age is a beautiful thing. In this song I present what I believe Jesus is saying as a comfort to those afraid of growing old, of walking the whole journey.

When You Wake: Death is a mysterious thing. And with mystery comes fear, at least for most. What’s going to happen? Will I be safe? Will I be alone? Will I be saved? Will I be judged? What will I see? What will it be like? So many unanswered questions. So where can we as humans with our limited understanding find peace? Most think of death as a falling into darkness, but in my spiritual journey I’ve come to a different understanding – a stepping into light. In this song Jesus shares his perspective on death and he expresses his invitation to humanity.

Hope For: Over the course of my life I’ve had to let go of a lot of people for varying reasons. It’s painful, as I’m sure many who read this fully understand. We meet people, grow close to them, and then we have to say goodbye. Whether it’s traveling, moving to a new place, finding a new job, finishing school, a death…letting go is a big part of our lives on earth. In the midst of a particularly difficult time of letting go I wrote this song. Here I express what hope I have in the letting go and continuing the journey of faith I am on with that person absent or far away.

To You: This song simply is a prayer. It’s an expression of my thankfulness to God, and to Jesus, for what he’s done for me. It’s personal and it’s honest. It reveals aspects of my relationship with God that are important to me, not in detail, but in simple phrases. Each line represents very real and powerful parts of my story, things I’ve experienced along my life journey, and the promises God has given me.

To listen to or download the EP go to noisetrade.com/joellemaire. And if you like it, share it…and consider leaving a tip 😉

Bad Days

“What do we do when we have bad days?”

I’m tired. Any loud noise makes me feel anxious. I feel exhausted. My mind is like mud, slow and sloppy. My emotions are bleh. I feel nothing.

The natural question is, “How do I get out of this?” I want to feel good.

So I take time to breathe. I take time to meditate and process. I listen to uplifting music. I spend some time in the quiet of our hotel room. I’m trying to get out.

Finally I stop… I close my eyes, settle into the darkness, and pray. And what I sense God saying isn’t a solution.

The words are clear. “Be with me.” I’m reminded of the Psalmist’s words, “even darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You.” He leads me through the valley, not around it.

So I sit. I close my eyes, and I focus simply on being with Him in my groggy, overwhelmed state. No answers. No solutions. No direction. Slowly, like dust settling, peace sinks in. It’s as if I’ve stopped next to a river in this valley and found rest.

“He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.” I’ve let go of instincts to thrive. Instead I’ve embraced the reality of His presence in my darkness and that things are ok even here. He is with me. And now I am with Him.

– Joel

His faithful, our fickle

Just a thought as I’m coming up for air after 7 months of studying the Bible. One of my favorite things about the SBS (School of Biblical Studies) is getting to know the people for whom each book of the Bible was originally written. I love connecting the dots between their situation and the message of each book – it was exactly what they needed to hear! Since January we’ve been working through the Old Testament, so we’ve learned all about the people of Israel and how God called them and taught them his design for the world and walked with them through their ups and downs. I’ve been blown away by the contrast between God’s faithfulness and man’s fickleness. From the beginning, we’ve wanted to do our own thing and God has stuck with us, always wanting to be with us, knowing that he’s the best thing for us. It’s such crazy love! I keep getting little glimpses of it in the middle of studying and I just sit there – there are no words.

When I relax I feel guilty

When I Relax I Feel Guilty – this was one of the (many) books on my parent’s shelves while I was growing up. I remember thinking, how strange, why in the world would you feel guilty for relaxing? I felt guilty for telling a lie, disobeying my parents, being mean to my brother, but definitely not relaxing.

Things have changed. The adult world is a very different place.

Three weeks ago, I finished an internship at a preschool. And 3 months before that, I finished a training on working with Children at Risk. And 4 months before that, I moved across the world to South Africa. It’s been a busy year.

In just over a month, we head to the States for a joyous and full time with friends and family. Then we come back and I start one of the most intensive schools in YWAM (Youth With A Mission) where you study the Bible day and night for 9 months. Goodbye life as we know it.

As I’ve been still and listened to God’s heart for me in this time, I’ve felt Him say rest. Take this time. Don’t go rushing to find ways to fill the days. Just be. This is your time to rest.

So here I am, supposed to be resting, and all I can do is find ways to keep myself busy. The other day I had to sit down and make a list of my passions and gifts and dreams, because I can’t seem to stop  running errands and cleaning and baking and finding ministries to join and planning meetings and fine tuning our budget (again). All these things are fine, and I enjoy them, but I think something deeper is going on.

I’m trying to make myself useful. Baking bread and making applesauce make me a good wife. Joining a team that reaches out to prostitutes means I’m a real missionary worth supporting. Planning meetings means I’m taking initiative and reaching out and I’m an asset to our missions base. Basically, filling my time helps me feel like a worthwhile human being.

But what about my dream of being a doula someday? Or my passion for child development? What about the books I’ve been collecting on the subjects? Am I worthwhile if I spend the day reading?

But even pursuing my dreams and passions are justifiable in my mind, there are much harder things – am I worthwhile if I end up daydreaming or looking for a dress for my best friend’s wedding or reading a novel or dare I say it, on Facebook?

What will my supporters say then?

It comes down to this – I feel guilty. I have constructed an elaborate mosaic of doing stuff to cover me and make me look and feel valuable, and now it’s gone. And it’s just me.

And why do I feel guilty? Once again, I’ve been listening to the world – our culture that asks, “What do you do?” to define value – and I’m drowning out the still small voice that says, “You are mine. I love you. You are valuable.” The end.

Why is it so hard to live by His voice and who He tells me I am and what He tells me to do? Why is it so hard to let Him take care of whether my supporters think I’m a worthwhile missionary, or whether my husband thinks I’m a good wife, or whether our base thinks I’m an asset to the team?

Why is it so hard to TRUST? That’s what I want to know.

If you have any answers, I’ll be here. Resting. Right after I make granola. 😉



All there

Dang. (I’m sorry, as fair warning, you’re getting my off-the-cuff thoughts here). It’s April. The 3rd month of my internship at the pre-school. And the final month. The final stretch. I’ve taken time to write and process every day for the last two months (wise advice from my momma) – the favorite moments, the really sad times, the hard things I’ve seen, the cultural differences, the amazing developments of each little life adventuring through the first 4 years.

It’s definitely been a journey.

The first month was overwhelming and crazy, but kind of the glory days. All the kids loved me and ran to greet me every morning. They didn’t know my name, so I was “Auntie.” I watched the “babies” (7 -12 months) and sometimes they all took naps at the same time. That never happens anymore. Every day, the kids would wave goodbye, as if they would never see me again. Now they say bye knowing they’ll see me tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…

The 2nd month was hard. Just plain hard. More “babies” (now 7 months – 2 years) added to my care, far fewer naps, more overwhelming days, my back pain really getting to me, the sadness of the environment at the school going deeper into my soul. Days when I came home and wanted to forget everything I had heard and seen that morning. But I had to share with Joel and get snot all over his favorite shirt as he held me and reminded me that it’s not my load to carry. As much as I love them and they feel like “mine,” they are not. They have their own parents. And ultimately, they belong to Jesus – which I try and remember to pray over them everyday amidst the chaos.

Oh yeah – an awesome thing about the 2nd month – I became “Auntie Manda.” 🙂

This 3rd month is something new. I feel it. It’s the final stage of something God is doing. The realities have set in, but I’m walking in a new joy and a new hope. I’m walking in with a new reality of the Love I carry in to that classroom with me each day. I have a fresh zest for loving the children, but I also know I am not there to change things.

I am there to listen – to be that ear when no one else hears. I am there to catch eyes and smile – to see and connect with that face no one else is seeing. I am there to open the door to the bathroom with Sinta needs to pee and no one can hear her little voice. I’m there to help Crishaam tie his shoes for the umpteenth time. I’m there to encourage Samuel the Boisterous (since the first day, that was my name for him) that he’s doing a good job even though he has so much energy he’s getting into trouble most of the time. I’m there to hold Georgie when he’s so tired that he can’t stop crying. I’m there to ask Jolene (the head teacher who is 7 months pregnant) how she is feeling and hear about the sleepless nights of baby’s kicking. I’m there to be around for that rare moment when Vivilene (the assistant teacher) shares something that makes her laugh. I am just there. But I am all there.

I’m excited for this 3rd month.  This final stretch. Not excited for that last day when I have to say goodbye and I’m sure I’ll be bawling, but excited for all the days in between when I get to be a small part of their day. They’ve become such a part of my life. For now, for this last month, my goal to be all there.


Limping back to each other

I’ve been waiting all week to write this post. I just haven’t known how to put it into words. You know? There are things that you just have to see and feel – “you just had to be there.” Sometimes, (very rarely in my world), you can share it on your living room couch sitting close to your Love, and somehow, miraculously, they “get it.”

A blog post is about as far from our living room as you get, so I just have to suck it up and do what I can with words on a page [i.e. screen]. Sometimes I wish I was a photographer, not a writer. But I have a husband, family, and friends with a good eye, so that helps. 🙂

I feel and see a lot of disconnection in my everyday life. I think most of us probably do. By this, I mean times when we just feel off – insecure and alone – no matter how close physically we might be to our loved ones, something is just off.

Every morning on my walk I pass homeless women and men just waking up from their night on the sidewalk to another day without security. I work in a pre-school with babies and toddlers who spend 10 hours everyday away from their mommies and daddies. Some 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some are in foster care so they don’t even go home to a mommy at the end of the long day. They are all so eager to tell me what their mommy or daddy bought them – to show me a newly gifted shirt, water bottle, or a pair of colorful sandals. Their parents are doing the best they can to connect with their children, with the very little resources they have.


I would like to say my own family is just bursting with connection.

I get home and Joel and I are like this.


And when the Lundquist clan all gets together we only have wonderful, meaningful times.

wohle family_Fotor_Collage.jpg

But of course we all know, that is not the whole story. My family is beautiful, for sure, but there’s a whole lot of messiness mixed in.

Many days, I feel just as disconnected from Joel as the 2 year old crying for her mommy when she says goodbye every morning at my pre-school. No matter how much quality time Joel and I have reading together, cooking to jazz, going out for breakfast, etc., things happen and I often feel this “disconnect.”

Joyce at door.jpg

All that to say, I’ve found that my understanding of “connection” is a bit skewed.


So here’s the story from last week.

I see this elderly couple every morning when I go for my daily walk. We’ve never spoken, but we always wave at each other. The wife walks with a limp, so the husband holds her hand and helps her along. They walk through the water even though it would probably be easier to walk on the sand. Everyday without fail, they show up and walk alongside each other, the husband moving at his wife’s pace.


When they wave at at me – I FEEL the JOY – the connection they have.

And last week when I saw them, I cried. Not just cried, but bawled. Right out there on the beach. I couldn’t help it. I was overwhelmed with the reality of what it means to walk alongside another person faithfully in relationship through a journey.

This couple is not frolicking through meadows,  healthy and full of energy. They are limping along, enjoying the ocean lapping at their legs, offering each other strength through what is not an easy part of their journey.

That is connection.

That is what I want – to know that no matter whether Joel and I are happy or secure or whatever – we are connected to Christ (He is the vine) and we are connected to each other no matter what this journey brings. That is not a feeling. That is truth.


Last week I deleted Facebook from my phone because I realized I was getting depressed and discouraged seeing all the (apparently) happy, hopeful, harmonious photos of couples and families feeling all ooshy gooshy lovey. (And I fully admit, we do it too!) Lately I’ve caught myself thinking – I must be doing something wrong – I’m not that way. But those photos are moments, not the nitty gritty stuff of life.

Brene Brown says, “If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path.” *

Vulnerability is messy. It means Joel and I are going to days when we miss each other all over the place and have to have hard talks. There are going to be many times when we hurt each other and have to learn to say, “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.”

“I’m sorry again.” “I forgive you.” (x70x7)

We have to learn to love the messy parts of each other, too. (The parts we don’t post on Facebook).

And there will be those moments I “feel” connected – like just now when Joel walked in and surprised me to say “Hi” for a minute before he had to run to class. It makes my heart burst with joy.


But then there will be other times when my heart is sad because we’ve “missed” each other (not understood, failed to meet each other where we’re at), and it doesn’t mean we’re disconnected. It doesn’t mean we’re doing things wrong. It means we live in a fallen world and we have to learn “our way back to each other.” Like everyone keeps reminding me, it’s a process. It’s a journey.

And this week, I am so grateful for that couple out there on the beach everyday, holding hands as they limp along, showing me what it looks like to be faithful in relationship no matter the circumstance – moment by moment, day after day, year after year, whatever this journey brings.


Now I’m going to cry again.

*Quote from Brene Brown’s Ted Talk, “Listening to Shame