Joe Brooks inspires me because he reminds me of Jesus. Not just because he has a beard. Not even because he was always the guy leading the resistant donkey down the ceter aisle of church on Palm Sunday.
Joe reminds me of Jesus because he has been following Jesus for a long time, and we begin to resemble those we love and imitate.
One of the main reasons Joe started coming to our church, College Hill Presbyterian, was that he and his wife Helen had a sense of call to racial reconciliation. When they first came, our church was almost entirely white.
Soon after Joe began attending many years ago, he had some tough experiences – like the time he put his hand out to the greeter at the door, and the guy would not shake hands with him. He turned away. That would have been the end of it for me, but Joe stayed because he knew God wanted him to stay. That’s another thing that makes Joe like Jesus; he forgives people when they’re mean and racist.
He has given so much to our church community – teaching, tutoring, leading men’s groups, helping with kids’ worship dance, serving twice as a deacon and as an elder, not to mention unofficial security guard whenever the situation calls for it! I’m so grateful for all he has been for us, and all he has done for us.
The family and friends of Joe and Helen Brooks have added considerably to the size of our church. I cannot imagine the place without them. They have eighteen grandchildren!
The other reason Joe reminds me of Jesus is how much he loves God. The love and truth of God is on his mind and on his heart, and he always eager to talk about God in a way that makes sense to his listener. If you ever get a chance to talk with him (when he doesn’t have a group of kids flocking around him) ask him what God is doing in his life, then get ready to hear something good!
When Janet walks into a room, it changes. This is true on several levels. First, it becomes a more fun place because her presence brings joy and beauty and laughter. It also often literally changes because she does interior decoration and redesign as a business.
Years ago, she asked, “Is there something wrong with me if I’m waiting in a doctor’s office and I end up rearranging all the magazines on the racks?” Obviously not, since that impulse to improve spaces has led to a successful business that she enjoys immensely.
People rave at the transformation Janet brings to their rooms, sometimes only with a few hundred dollars and the clever rearrangement of their existing furniture and accessories. Some of the more fun comments I’ve heard include:
“I finally feel like a grownup.”
“I never used to have people over and now I do it all the time.”
“I gasped when I walked in the door…”
“When I opened the door to my newly designed room, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders…”
I’m always fascinated with how people’s strengths come out in the work they do. Janet really cares about people; she wants to improve the quality of their lives. The improvement of their physical surroundings is just the beginning.
She manages the Children’s Center at the University of Mount St Joseph with such love, professionalism and creativity that it was awarded five starts, and she was given the Elizabeth Seaton Mission Award in 2018.
She is a devoted mother of three and has blessed her kids, grandson and extended family with a beautiful home and garden and a special touch to every family celebration. Her personality has that rare combination of true kindness and a wickedly funny sense of humor that makes her the person you want to sit next to at the party.
Janet is one of those people given to us to bring joy, hope and renewal. Anyone who has know or worked with her is richer for it.
Many people are beautiful to look at, but some also create beauty wherever they go. That is what Carolyn Ison does. People have always been drawn to her lovely, calm demeanour, her snow-white looks and captivating eyes, her kindness and grace.
Her work has always involved an extension of that beauty. She is a painter, and her pictures have the same magnetic, soothing quality that she does. All the homes and gardens she has ever lived in are little oases.
I have beneffitted greatly from these qualities, because I am her daughter. There is not a domestic image in my memory that is not picturesque. There was never a holiday that did not have a delightfully set table. My home is filled with paintings that give me joy.
Love can only be given away after it has been breathed into us. I am so grateful to have been loved by this beautiful woman. Her care for people and cultivation of beauty was a gift she passed on to her daughters, and we are so much richer for it.