the beginning of a friendship

I just can’t write about much of anything besides Joanne right now. She’s on my mind 24/7. I’m even dreaming about her. Thank you so much to all of you who have rallied around her and her family in prayer–even if you don’t know her. You are such a blessing to me.

Tonight Livi and I went to the grocery store together, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about Audrey and Joanne. Audrey wanted to see her mama today, so they decided to let her. When she first went in, she immediately came back out sobbing and ran into her Gran’s arms. But that sweet little 12-year-old girl was determined to try again, and she spent a good chunk of time holding her mama’s hand, playing new songs for her on her iPod, and even massaging her feet.

As Livi and I pulled onto our street tonight on the way home, I reached over and held her hand. Tears came to my eyes as I realized how blessed I was to be riding with her in a mini-van instead of lying in a hospital bed.

Goodness, I meant to keep this light tonight. So, I was looking back through my very first e-mails from Joanne. And I wanted to share a couple fun bits and pieces from them.

I actually read Toben and Joanne’s book, Happily Ever After (in 2004 maybe?) when I was doing research for Blushing Bride and even quoted her book in mine. In December of 2006, I had just signed on with an agent for the first time, and he gave me an example of a book proposal to look at while I was writing my next one. The book was Living Simply. The author Joanne Heim.

I left this comment on her blog on December 23, 2006. She and her family were on a cruise. With the stomach flu.

That is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. You poor dears! Good to know you’re skinny though. Looking forward to hearing some happy news from aboard the U.S.S. Ralph.

She replied: Thanks, Marla! Yes, it was pretty awful…but we’ve recovered, are finally home tonight, and anxious to get settled and dig out of the snow in the morning!

On 12.25.06, I left this comment after she had posted a pic of their family dressed up for a dance on the ship: No way! That dress Audrey’s wearing was my oldest daughter’s Easter dress this year!

She replied: Way! It was Audrey’s Easter dress this past year too. You must have really good taste.

Then I e-mailed her: Hi, Joanne. I’m Marla. Nice to meet you. Just wanted you to know that I prayed for your girlies just now and will keep praying whenever they come to mind. I feel like I know them after reading Living Simply, which I just finished yesterday… I about peed my pants every time I read something else we have in common (except that I don’t knit, could never be a ballet dancer, and am not opposed to an occasional trip to Chuck E. Cheese). The icing on the cake was your H.S. prom pic on your blog–my husband Gabe looked JUST LIKE TOBEN when he was a senior in high school.

She e-mailed back: Thanks so much for such an encouraging e-mail! … And thanks for the books… Flipping through, I just have to let you know that I too am 5 feet 10 inches tall. Weird, huh? Can’t wait to put the girls to bed tonight and cuddle up with your books… since Toben’s out of town…

And then she blogged about working in a library when she was 11. I commented on her post: How random! I worked in a library when I was 11 too! I was a 5th grader and volunteered in the school library. LOVED it. The absolute best part was sticking the cards from the back pocket into the little machine that stamped the due date on them. It made the coolest sound!

Joanne: Of course you worked at the library–parallel lives indeed!

She read Is That All He Thinks About? quick as a wink and sent me a mile-long e-mail that completely made my day. Gut-honest, deeply personal, setting the stage for a beautiful, soul-baring, four-years-and-counting friendship.

She finished with, Every time I get an e-mail from you, I wish we could sit on the couch and drink coffee and munch scones and have a nice long visit. Not sure if that will happen, but I’ve found that as I “meet” more people online through my books and blog, I look more and more forward to eternity in heaven. So though we’ve not met face to face, I’m so thankful for your friendship.

I’m so thankful for your friendship too, you dear girl. Can’t wait for our next real-life nice long visit. I love you.

Do you have a dear friend you met online? I’d love to hear about her.

22 thoughts on “the beginning of a friendship

  1. Keri

    I have one friend that I met online. Then I actually got to meet up with her for the Siesta Scripture Memory get together that January. So crazy to think you were there and I could have met you too except I didn’t know you then! Anways, I love this girl. She is the ONLY friend of mine that has actually sent snail mail to me in Singapore! Isn’t that crazy?

    Honestly, besides her, I have you and one other friend that I’ve met online, but not in person, that I communicate with regularly. It is on my short list to meet you both in person sometime very, very soon! You are both inspirations…she’s a cancer survivor and you are, well, you.

    1. Marla Taviano

      I HATE that we were in the same place and didn’t get to meet!! Oh, well, meeting for the first time in Cambodia is WAY more romantic than meeting in Houston. Love you, friend!

  2. Kyla

    Loved that, Marla. I’ve been keeping Joanne in my prayers.

    I met one of my best friends online in 2006. We have since met twice IRL. I absolutely adore her and I know that if she were going through the same thing as Joanne, I’d be hurting just like you are now. (Also praying for God to comfort you.)

    Love you!

  3. LS

    more than one. . .the online community is unmatched in a lot of ways as the Body of Christ in my opinion. never have a met a group more willing to rally behind and pray for fellow brothers and sisters. . .donate to make God famous to people they have never shared a room with (can we say ‘tuk-tuk?’). i think it is beautiful.

  4. Rachelle

    I’ve met some amazing people online! And I have some beautiful God given friends. Like many others, the problem is they live so far away…and I’m not a rich girl jet setter that can “run” to visit them. Heaven is going to be one Fantabulous reunion!!

  5. Cheryl Pickett

    I’ve gotten to know many many cool people online that I can’t imagine not knowing now, even though we’ve never met. Their blogs, Facebook posts and tweets encourage me, make me laugh, allow me to commiserate, or just share simple things going on in their lives on a daily basis. I feel so blessed to be able to do all those things.

    So far, I have met one-you!

    Continued blessings & peace.

  6. sarah m

    you my dear! even from far away you’ve blessed my life tremendously. love you friend!!! still praying for the Heim’s.

  7. Courtney Walsh


    I just read your post on Rachelle’s blog and hopped over here because I loved it so much. I read about Joanne through another friend of mine. Turns out she lives about an hour from me. It is such a hard thing to understand, but I’m so thankful God is a God of miracles. We’re believing for a similar miracle for our little 6 yr. old cousin who suffered a brain injury over Christmas and is still in ICU. It’s scary and sad, and makes me so aware of every breath. Every moment.

    Thank you for sharing this…online friendships are so incredible, aren’t they? And yes, I am praying for Joanne and her sweet family.

  8. Helen

    Hi Marla,
    I don’t know if you remember me but I was a winner of one of your super Christmas giveaways a couple years back and someone hijacked my win…anyway, you were so gracious during that busy time of year to send me my pick of one of your books.
    I discovered your blog via Joanne’s. I haven’t been as blessed to meet Joanne but have exchanged lots of emails over the years and blog comments.
    Blogging has been amazing…there is this kindred spirit thing that happens when we share our lives openly with others. There have been women that I have read thru the Bible with that I don’t know personally but we are connected deeply and support each other in prayer.

    I love it…whatever anyone thinks of technology it can be for the greater good and in this situation, it has rallied the troops to pray without ceasing.

    Much love and peace to you Marla!

    Helen from A Work of Heart

  9. Angie

    What a beautiful friendship you two have and thank you so much for sharing it with us. I have never met Joanne in real life, but feel so blessed to follow her blog and her life.

    I met one of my best friends through an online message board. She keeps me sane every day!

  10. Nina

    What a sweet post, and a wonderful tribute to Joanne.

    I’ve made several very good friends online. Unfortunately, they all live in either California or Canada, while I’m down here in the southeast U.S. My husband is from Ohio, and I joked last year, when we were going up there to visit his family, that we should try to hit Ontario and San Francisco on the way back so I could finally meet my online soul-sisters!

    Joanne and her family continue to be in my prayers!

  11. Denise

    I met my friend Chrissy online – she actually found me through xanga when I was on there and she knew Drew from BBC – in fact, she is part of the reason we live in Columbus. When we first moved here, I had to move first to start work and so I lived with her and her husband for a month, our first apartment here was just three buildings away from hers. We used to have thursday night survivor nights. Things fell apart for a bit due to life, but now we live kinda across the street from each other (about 2 minutes apart.) We watch each other’s children, I get her Livi every friday and she gets parker whenever I need her to watch him. I am so thankful for her!

  12. kendal

    Thank you for keeping joanne on our minds. i’ve only been blogging a year, but am developing some friendships. just this week mamma abby and i have been zinging emails back and forth as we just realized we are both identical twins, write poetry and have missionary husbands! i love this.

  13. Wendy


    I’ve been deeply blessed by some of the online friendships I have. In some ways I feel like I stepped into a different land, a place where my passions are fully understood.

    I get off the phone with one friend and find myself laughing an hour later at what we said to one another.

    Your friendship with Joanne is a treasure. Encouragement like that is a beautiful thing of God.

    So glad to connect w/ you online yesterday too.

    ~ Wendy

  14. Claudia Porpiglia

    God has brought a couple of friends to me through the internet. One actually showed up at my church (unannounced) when our church was going through a particularly difficult time. This person always seems to know when I need a little encouragement.

    Two others are mom’s who share the privilege of caring for a severely disabled child. Our schedules don’t allow for a lot of correspondence but the ability to share encouragement and suggestions is priceless. We also pray for each other.

    Praying for Joanne and her family…Our God is GREATER!!!

  15. Melissa Irwin

    Sweet Marla – I have been following along on all things Joanne and have been praying for her. I have prayed for a mighty restoration.

    I too have an online friend with whom I seem to share parallel lives. It is hilarious, and sad…and it’s been going on for a couple of years. We have never met. She lives in Washington state and I in Tenn. I can’t remember if we met on her blog or mine, but the parallels literally unfolded one after the other. The funnest of our stories though is that we are both named Melissa, and we were both born in October 1970 – just a few days apart. We call each other Twin M. It is as sweet and natural as anything I know and I cannot wait to meet my twin Melissa later this year, in real life!

  16. Keli Gwyn

    What a wonderful tribute to your dear friend, Joanne. I love hearing about the many things you have in common. And now she has you praying without ceasing and keeping the rest of us apprised so we know best how to pray, too. What a gift you are to her and many others.

    May the Lord hold Joanne and her family in the palm of His hand, guide her medical team, and work His in ways only He can. Trusting Joanne into his care and asking Him to grant you a good night’s sleep, Marla, filled with dreams of a special friend and the good times you share.

  17. amber

    I love the community that blogging gives us. It is something that non-bloggers just cannot grasp. I think it is a precious precious gift that God has blessed us with in this crazy technology-based world we live in. How amazing to have so many sisters and brothers in Christ all over the world that are just at a fingertip’s reach away. Uh.Maze.Ing.

    I have formed so many precious online bonds. Some have materialized into in-skin friendships, and some haven’t yet…

    BTW…we need to hook ourselves up with a little MIRL. I’d be beside myself with dee-lite.

    Still holding Joanne and family at the Throne. God is Good. All the time.

  18. Mary

    well, she’s really cool. her name is almost the same as mine but with a “la” at the end. we both like books and blogging 🙂

    praying so hard for joanne!

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