Brevity Of Life Love Your Peeps

Aussie, Holly Butcher passes away at age 27 from Ewing Sarcoma. She leaves behind an unforgettable message for those who want to hear it.
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.' James 4:14

Have you heard? A final letter from a young, vibrant, Australian by the name of Holly Butcher has gone viral.

We know a bit about this horrific disease that took Holly from this earth. Sadly, our friends, Dixie and Benny lost their precious daughter, age 21, Christy to this same illness, Ewing Sarcoma.

There are many verses in the Bible about the brevity of our earthly life. Click here to read some of them.

Read here what Holly wanted to relay to whomever would listen before she took her leave since this new year, 2018 began:

Butcher’s poignant post is definitely worth reading in full. But here are 16 especially powerful points:

1. “I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all, so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit. … Those times you are [whining] about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s OK to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days.”

2. “Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that — breathe. You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. … I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”

3. “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise — be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them. .. Appreciate your good health and functioning body — even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is.”

4. “Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; more than I could ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.”

5. “This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus, imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves … strange! … but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. … Anyway, moral of the story — presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas.”

6. “Use your money on experiences … or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit. Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.”

7. “Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.”

8. “Listen to music … really listen. Music is therapy.”

9. “Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.”

10. “Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing OK?”

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with cellphones

11. “Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.”

Climbing Mt LeConte with friends June 2016

12. “Work to live, don’t live to work.”

13. “Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.”

14. “Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life. You might want a mediocre life and that is so OK.”

15. “Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.”

16. “Oh and one last thing. If you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year — a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.”

Wow, just wow!

The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. Brennan Manning, Author of All Is Grace

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Fighter Jules Furr Takes Her Leave

Where Is He?

Hurting Hearts, Painful Pasts

Run To The Roar

No Expiration

Humble And Kind

Charlotte’s Web

A Grace Disguised

My Heart Will Go On

Music Moves Us

What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heartsong

Tears To Teddy Bears: A Story Of Courage

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Never Forget

Are You An Egg, A Carrot, Or A Coffee Bean?

In The End, It’s Times Like These In The Following Images That Mean The Most In This Brief Earthly Life That We Live.

Girlfriends since Fernbank Elementary…the eight of us are known as FFs (definitely Friends Forever)
Walker and Noah 2016
Football, Friendship, Fellowship, Family
The freedom we enjoy in America is such an incredible gift. Many Thanks to all who serve, past, present, and future!!!
Leigh Andrews Fogg December 30, 2016
Christmas 2016 with Dad Page
Kathy and Joan on one of our countless Kennesaw Mountain Hikes
A few minutes to BE Still. (see Psalm 46:1;10)
Big Sis, Leah measures her little brother, Walker’s height

Contemplative Prayer
March 2017 Breckenridge Joan with my two awesome “in-law” kids, Jessica and Scott.
Anytime spent in a House of God
Kristen, founder of Kids Boost (kids boost.org) a non-profit which encourages kids 8-18 to give back to their communities!
My niece, Rachael and her family expecting #2 in this new year. They live in Wash State, but are close to us in Heart.
Grown-up, Meg takes a minute to hug on her MIMI.
Two of Meg’s Grandmas take time out for laughter!
Paul fixes Kay’s bike before Taylor’s Ride, October 2017.
Our quarterly Sister Session! Love this special time with my three sisters. Always feel like Mama is sitting there with us.
A Colorado visit with our Sam Hill Gang!
A local artist as he paints the majestic Rockies.
Leah and her Daddy-O March 2017.
Walker’s High School Grad Party, May 2010 with his GoodDaddy, My Daddy who passed on 11/11/13.
Newborn Donald Walker Page, born 2/27/92.
Our God calls us to have faith like a Mustard Seed. (see Matthew 17:20 which tells us we can move mountains with faith this size).
It is such a gift of this earthly life to take a few minutes to admire the handiwork of our God during a sunrise or a sunset.
Enough Energy and Strength to hike Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, June 2016.
The intricate details in Nature bring such delight and joy when we take the time to notice.
Our four-legged, furry friends make the best companions ever!

FRIENDS! Paul and Donny act crazy as they grill together.
Opportunities for Service whether Home Or Abroad! Here are two of the interpreters who worked with me in Rio de Janeiro on a recent mission trip.
NEW LIFE!!! “A BABY is God’s opinion that life should go on.” Carl Sanders
LEGACY! The gift of a loving, godly legacy never goes away. In fact, it only grows as a family grows. My late parents were married in 1947. My Mama was only 21 years old. They were missionaries in Africa for over five years, raised six children who are still married to our original spouses and were married 58 years at the time of Mama’s Homegoing in 2006.
I first met this group in 1976 and February, 2018, we will celebrate our 40th Reunion on Hilton Head Island over President’s Weekend!
Moving Our Bodies More To Encourage Better Health and More Strength.
BIRTHDAY PARTIES!
BOOKS! Have you visited a library lately?
My friend, Sarah, who was evacuated from Katrina in August 2005.
Just some of our fun, crazy, extraordinary extended family, December 2016.
time out during a Women’s Retreat for a walk in the woods at Lake Blue Ridge. Love our Piedmont Church Friends!
It is always a gift and a privilege to help one in need, like this little guy who is holding his shoebox provided by Samaritan’s Purse
As Mommy to Leah and Walker, it was always important to me to teach them to be givers. Thankfully, they and their spouses are such giving, compassionate, loving people. This makes my Mama heart smile really BIG!
Paul honors the life of his son, Taylor Heston Read who passed March 7, 2015, a life well-lived.
Collage art with my ladies at The Women’s Extension every other Tuesday morning fills me UP!
ART matters, here I am with artist, Holly Irwin and my original piece by Holly: Country Meadow. The girl in the piece is “me” when I was my younger self.
My two favorite girls in all the world. Leah, our daughter, to my right. Jessica, Walker’s wife to my left. St. Augustine Summer 2016.

 

What’s Happiness? What's JOY?

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What’s Happiness?

What’s Joy?

Donny and I recently made the 2.5 hour drive from Asheville, North Carolina to Blue Ridge, Georgia. Normally a scenic route along the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway, our drive was cloudy and smoky indeed from all the recent rain and flooding. In the passenger seat, I reminisced about our recent holiday season, considering the coming Christmas of dear friends who had a great loss in the past year.

An article posted recently by my friend, Mary K. gave me even more food for thought on this subject: 20 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Happy.

As the miles slipped by in the torrential rain, I thought about what brings me the most happiness and joy.

I came upon my usual, steadfast three:

Faith….Family….Friends

Later, I ran across the following anonymous writing and it fit with my musings as we traveled last week:

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another.

Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough, and we’ll be more content when they are.

After that, we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with.

We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage.

We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our partner gets his or her act together when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice holiday, when we retire.

The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than now. If not now, when?

Your life will always be filled with challenges.

It’s best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway.

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. Alfred D. Souza

This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

So, treasure every moment that you have and treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time…and remember that time waits for no one.

So, stop waiting until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until winter, until your song comes on, until you’ve had a drink…. there is no better time than now to be happy.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Work like you don’t need money,

Love like you’ve never been hurt,

And dance like no one’s watching.

~Anonymous~

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So what will bring us happiness and joy in 2018?  

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Pictured here are some of my favorite things from the past years.

But as you will soon see…”The best things in life aren’t things at all.”

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The Reason for The Season
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celebrating Jim’s birthday on 12/20/15
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a Missouri map added to my bracelet from Walker and Jess
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a tiger added to my bracelet by Leah and Scott
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a copied poem and my “original art”
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an unexpected gift from my friend, Susan F.
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six out of eight of our FF group, friends since Fernbank Elementary
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my dear friend, Kelly
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GrandDaddy Page
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my teaching companion , in Rio and dear friend, Deb
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grands of our dear friends, The Carters
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loving the resemblance between my sis, Kathy and our daughter
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experience of JOY with these two on 11/14/15
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brings me JOY knowing this ornament is now on another Page tree
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thankful for Donna Kapper’s opportunity to give this bear a special journey….Read about this on an earlier post: “Tears To Teddy Bears”
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service in a Santa Shop with my girl
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fun with friends and family as David leads us in caroling
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Oh my, love these West girls, whom I have known since “utero” : )
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special friends, The Kramers, join us in our home
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“sister sessions” with my three sisters every couple of months
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33 years of marriage and still going strong…onward and upward…He makes me smile…
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Our niece, Katie with her first-born, Noelle…Read more about our six 2014 babies in an earlier post: “Carve Your Name On Hearts”
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~~~the memories of my parents are with me daily~~~
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Cindy’s  Christmas Eve, story time legacy lives on even after they are grown
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4 of us together at Krueger wedding
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2015 Fourth of July in Barcelona
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My big bro, John Wade and Jeanie…and Grandparents to this precious trio below
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A three-way “Heart Huddle”-Walker Grands-all first borns, all born within four months of each other in 2014. Read more about them in my post “Carve Your Name On Hearts”.
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women’s retreat May 2015
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a rose in a vase at the Biltmore Inn
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Tim and Ringer
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a church in the distance as we traveled from NC to GA
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my student in Rio, so excited to receive this brand new recorder
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our awesome interpreters in Rio
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friends in our home, Bonny and her daughter, Stacy
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my sis, Laura Lea and Leah have a moment to catch up on a sunny Thanksgiving Day, 2015
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My sis, Laura Lea plays “motor boat” with her new grandson, Roman
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a Thanksgiving walk in the woods with 3 of my favorite people
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Christmas Day 2015 with Mocha
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“Great”-nephews, August and Noah
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supporting Karl’s Kure
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on mission in RIO
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R and R at the lake
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two of my favorite things: red geraniums and Gracie
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these college friends since 1976 have brought so much sunshine into my life
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Walker and Jessica, Summer 2015
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Scott and Leah, Summer 2015
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FRIENDS are a gift!
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Thank goodness Donny and Gracie know how to relax!
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Psalm 113:3 “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.” Lamentations 3:22-23 “His compassion for us never fails and his mercies are new every morning.”
People are made of stories, not atoms.

Posts You May Have Missed:

My Own Little World: What If There’s A Bigger Picture

Speak Life

It Is Well With My Soul

Peace Like A River

Fertile Prayers

Wrestling and Seeking

Authentic Prayer

Run To The Roar

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What To Do This Christmas A Few Really Good Ideas

We had our first winter storm of the year over the weekend, and believe me, this is somewhat of a rarity !!

Much of Georgia is still covered with inches of the white coat of snow.

In short, I should have liked to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet be man enough to know its value. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A decade or so ago, I wrote out the following in calligraphy, printed the message on green paper, and then laminated the copies. (Those of you who know me will be SO surprised with the laminating part, lol)

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

I gave them out to my seven grade school friends, Mary, Jan, Lynn, Debbie, Evelyn, Cindy, and Jane Ellen, who are as close as family to me.

Our FF Group of Eight! Some of us met as early as First Grade at Fernbank Elementary and we all finished Druid Hills High School together in 1976!

When Mary texted me a picture of hers last week, telling me it was one of her favorite things to put out during the holiday season, I decided I wanted to share it with my friends and family here on Pages From Joan. I try to read my copy a few times over the holidays each year.

LET’S BE THE LIGHT IN SOMEONE’S DARK AND DIFFICULT PATH

When I first shared it with my Forever Friends, this message was claimed as anonymous. Since then, I have learned that at least the first part was written by Howard W. Hunter, (1907-1995)

I have highlighted (linked) previous related posts throughout the message.

What To Do This Christmas

This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else.  Appreciate others. Be kind; be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it still once again. Christmas is celebration, and there is no celebration that compares tight the realization of its true meaning—with the sudden stirring of the heart that has extended itself toward the core of life. Then, only then, is it possible to grasp the significance of that first Christmas—to savor in the inward ear of the sweet music of the angel choir; to envision the star-struck sky, and glimpse, behind the eyelids, the ray of light that fell athwart a darkened path, and changed the world.

What in the above reading will be a priority for you in the days ahead?

I will be emphasizing more laughter, better listening,  and demonstrating my loyalty in word and deed.

Wise Men and Women Still Seek Him! The Word tells us that when we seek God with our whole heart, we will find Him every time.

Other Related Posts You May Have Missed:

52 Things I Love About You and Other Homemade Gifts

Christmas Cards

The “W” In Christmas

Tears To Teddy Bears

Two Trees Symbolize New Traditions

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Fighter Jule Furr Takes Leave This Inspiring Angel Will Be Missed

This passage in Romans 5 perfectly describes the wonderful and brave woman I am lucky enough to call my mother. Even on her worst or saddest of days, she still shines the brightest light and takes refuge in her faith. I would never come close to the person that I am without you as my Mom! Jordan Furr

My friend, Jule Furr, took her leave just before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2017. Jule and I were heart friends and this inspiring angel will be sorely missed. You can read her brief bio here.

You can also read a blog post about Jule’s life story, Part 1 that was written in 2014 by Melony Brown: Courageous Women Overcoming Life’s Tough Challenges.

And you will find Part 2 of this blog post by Melony, here.

Her Celebration of Life Service is on this Saturday, December 9th at 1:00 p.m. at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.' Eleanor Roosevelt

Jule faced cancer early in her life as a junior high student. Battling the disease for decades, when others asked how she was feeling, she was in the habit of responding, “Oh, it ain’t nothing but ‘a thang’!” with a courageous and joyful smile on her face. Whether she was dealing with loss of hair, bells palsy, or any other yucky side effect of her continual treatment plan, Jule maintained her sense of humor and her determination to live.

I've always thought I was touched by God and He chose me for a reason. Because of my struggles, my faith is stronger. I want people to see Jesus in me. We are here to shine a light. Jule Furr

Jule was treasured, loved, and fought for her life daily to be with her family, husband, Bryan, daughter and son, Jordan and Christian (called Fuzzy). Jule Furr considered these three her greatest gifts! The Furrs were married over thirty years. She felt blessed to have him as her husband and best friend.

Over time, many of us came to call her “Jules”. When I asked her about this, she proclaimed, Well, I am ‘a jewel’ you know, I’m a ‘Daughter of The King’!!”

It is honestly difficult to describe this woman who changed the world with her birth on February 27, 1964. Number five, she  joined four sibs, sisters, Mary Ann, Kathy, Linda, and one brother, Chris. Funny story, upon her birth, her Daddy announced that he would nickname Jule “Banana” as the 5th one in the bunch, but the kids disagreed!

First living in Charlotte, North Carolina as newlyweds,  Jules and Bryan Furr soon moved to Georgia where they raised their two babies in Marietta.

My story with Jules began when we were Moms together at Eastside Christian School in the late nineties . Though I lost touch in recent months due to the severity of Jules progressive disease, our friendship is one I will cherish in my heart forever.

Here, I will share a few anecdotes from our time together.

In 2000, I was preparing to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer 60-Day Walk from Gainesville to Atlanta. Having gone through this cancer herself, Jules was not strong enough to participate. However, she did want to help me raise funds. A participant was required to raise a minimum of $1,500.00 and our children held a Dog Wash to help. (I still laugh when I recall our son, Walker, age 8 at the time asking me if he could put out a “tip jar”!)  Along with my friends who were walking with me, Kathy Owen and Jil Cain, we raised nearly 10 grand! Jules, alone gave me a total of $820.00 the week of our walk! While registering on Day One, a woman in front of me was dismayed because she was unable to reach her financial goal. You guessed it, she was right at $820.00 short and I happily gave her Jules donation funds. Wow, was that a cool, God Wink!?!

Also, in 2000, when battling breast cancer, Jules’ fear for her two young children’s reaction,  soon gave way to inspiration. Soon, she penned an original story called, “The Scarf Game”, and it was published just a few weeks later. The 23 page story book which never mentions the word “cancer” was written from her daughter, Jordan’s perspective. The creative story line explains how both Jordan and Christian learned to tie scarves on their Mom’s bald head to help her when she was not feeling so well. This is just another example of the courageous and positive outlook this dear friend held in life.

During a particular season of illness, during the school year of 2007-2008, Jules and I would talk on the phone often. She shared with me that when she felt down and discouraged, she would list the things she was most grateful for…her husband, Bryan, Jordan, 8th grade at the time, and their son, Christian, 4th grade.

One time when I was at Chemo treatment with Jules, her nurse, Cindy Deminsky, said about Jules, “She is a treasure, treasure, treasure!” In Jules’ usual humored way, she quipped, “No, you are! I’m just an addict!”

Jules always expressed to me how much she valued her girlfriends. Back in the day, she thoroughly loved her “Southern Living Ladies Lunch Club”. They would dress crazy for gatherings and when Jules was ill, they took two-hour shifts to stay with her.

We must meet the unknown future by bringing to bear everything that has been shaped by us in the past. John O'Donohue, Irish Writer (1956-2008)

I am convinced Jules relied strongly on her faith as she journeyed through life, and she would want everyone to know this!

Jule Furr defined life and never allowed life to define her. Her smile changed the world, but she never let the circumstances of her world change her smile.

Jules favorite verse can be found in Romans 5:1-5. Emphasizing both peace and hope, it is definitely worth taking the time to read.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God. Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)

Those who knew Jule were blessed, and those who did not have an opportunity to meet Jule will be inspired by her life and adopt her stories to strengthen their own hearts.

It is now time to celebrate the life of this unique and special daughter, sister, mother, wife and friend to countless gals who will miss this inspiring angel so very much, including me!

Loss is loss, and I will be praying for this precious family during this time of grief. I will also be lifting up the many others I know and love who have lost in 2017.

RIP my dear warrior friend, Jules Furr. See YOU Later!

Related Post You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With My Soul

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Run To The Roar

Hurting Hearts, Painful Paths

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God Bless America And Beyond May Angels Fly Beside You, May Heaven Steel Your Hearts

As Donny and I awaited the exciting game to start this past Saturday night at the Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium, cheering for both the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, the arena was electric !!!

Tailgating in Atlanta on a beautiful Saturday, December 2, 2017 with two of my favorite girls. My daughter, Leah in the middle and Jane Ellen, my long-time high school friend.

As the Auburn University Marching Band played the Star Spangled Banner and presented the massive mid-field American flag, I got goose bumps as I always do. In the middle of all the excitement of the start of this S.E.C. Championship game, the announcer reminded us to remove our hats, place our hands on our hearts, taking a few minutes to honor our service men and women.

The flag. It carries so much meaning. So much thought and gratefulness. So much sacrifice and unification.

During this festive season, I am hoping that this blog post will remind you and me to remember our military. Those who are currently serving with strength, sacrifice, determination, and loyalty to help us maintain our freedom. At the very least, they deserve our remembrance and our prayers. And while we are at it, let’s also pray for our first responders, armed officers, firefighters and those working day in and day out to keep us all safe.

So many are serving away from home this Christmas. Just this morning in our small group at church, a friend shared that her deployed son will not be able to travel home. Many families are in this place as well. And it is so easy to recall being a pre-teen in 1968, when my older brother, John Wade served in Vietnam. A few young men we knew very well never saw their 20th birthday because of that horrific conflict. John, thankfully made it back and has been blessed with an amazing family, including Jeanie, his wife for 4+decades, three married children and nearly 4 grands.

As we were heading to a work Christmas party on Friday night, this song, Christmas Where You Are, by Jim Brickman. I knew I had never heard it and made a note to listen to it again when I returned home. When I did, it was clear to me that I needed to share this song with you. Just released in early October 2017, the message holds a huge punch for all of us whose hearts swell for those who serve in the military.

Our young friend, Sam, learns early about the sacrifices of our military.

Did you know? There is a cool back story. This song, by both Brickman and Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, is a thank you to all our men and women at home and abroad who are serving our country. It’s a message that wherever they may be fighting for our freedom, we are thinking of them and that it is still Christmas where they are.

Our young friend, Will shows his respect at a military grave site.

Please share this post and let us all remember with thankfulness our armed forces across the globe. Let’s continue to teach our youth, coming close behind us, the amazing sacrifice of those who serve.

God Bless America and beyond. May angels fly beside you all. May Heaven steel your hearts. 

In what ways will you and I remember and honor our military service men and women in the days ahead?

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Memorial Day: Three Ways To Raise Up The Flag

Man’s Best Friend

Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day

Kneeling During the Anthem

Make A Difference With “Catch A Lift”

Humble And Kind

Don’t Borrow Trouble From Tomorrow

A Father Is More Than A Sperm Donor

The Hospitality Of Gander, Newfoundland

Never Forget

We Are Called To Be Brave

Kindness Is Better Than A Win

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Two Trees Symbolize New Traditions Remembering Our Mothers

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Walker and Jessica’s tree in St. Louis.
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Leah and Scott’s tree in Marietta.

With both of our two grown children, married in 2014, with homes of their own, pulling these two trees out again in 2017 symbolizes to us that we are starting new traditions at our house.

New Traditions…perhaps that is your thought, as well. Finding that “new normal”, whatever that is…This might be the first Christmas since someone you love dearly passed away in recent months, perhaps someone important to you is very ill this holiday season, or your loved one is far away from you this Christmas.

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The best gifts in life will never be found under a Christmas tree, those gifts are friends, faith, family and the one you love.” Anonymous 

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Last December, I was mulling around our attic trying to come up with some Christmas decor that I no longer need. I filled up a big box to haul to the M.U.S.T. Ministries Donation Center, hopefully in plenty of time for some folks to find them and use them in their own homes this Christmas. While up there, a mystery pursued. There were 2 cardboard boxes both marked lightly with an ink pen “Christmas Tree”. I knew that our family had a small ceramic Christmas tree when I was growing up and I remember as a little girl plugging it in every year.

Being from a family of six children, I was delighted to have this tree in my home. I had not, however, before this year, taken the time to unbox it since it was placed in my attic with my other Christmas things. My Mama passed on October 24, 2006, and this was the year I would light the tree in our own home! The mystery was that there were two of them. When I had a chance to ask Donny, he started remembering that when his mother was near death in 2010, she kept asking him, “Did you get the Christmas tree?’ He comforted her by telling her that he had gotten it, but he was not completely sure that we had. You see, his Mom lived in South Florida and became very ill in mid-February 2010. Donny, Walker and I had to drive her from here to Marietta along with as many of her things that we could fit in two cars, and we weren’t sure if the tree was there. Many boxes were placed in the attic after her passing on March 6, 2010. This year, the discovery of the Christmas trees was made. The trees are identical, both reminding us of our dear Mothers who gave us life, love, nurturing, laughter, and planted our roots deep. Though the second tree was not from Donny’s childhood, both trees now serve as a symbol of love and strength as we remember our mothers at Christmas and always.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Psalm 1:3

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Joy Found In Giving To Those Less Fortunate A Story By Janet Yancey

For a Thanksgiving blog, I happily yield to my wife who, as a social worker in Chicago, learned a lasting lesson about gratitude and giving. ~Philip Yancey~

When the alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. that dreary Chicago morning, I had to fight the temptation to roll over and ignore it. I could hear the rain coming down in sheets outside. But my senior citizens’ program provided a free breakfast for needy seniors, so I got dressed and headed toward my assignment at LaSalle Street Church.

On Sundays a contingent of homeless and street people joined our regular group of neighborhood residents. We welcomed all who came, and for some our breakfast was the best meal they’d have all week. The heavy rain must have deterred some seniors that day, because only about 50, instead of our usual 60 or 70, showed up for breakfast.

I had been cooking Sunday breakfast for four years, long enough for the magical glow of “doing something good for the needy” to have faded. Rainy days presented additional problems. Soaking wet, the street people smelled even worse than usual and tramped mud on the floor, which upset the neighborhood seniors.

Within a few minutes, other volunteers from the church arrived to lend a hand in the cooking process. We had 100 eggs to crack, 50 muffins to butter, gallons of coffee to make, and silverware and plates to set out. The cramped kitchen soon came alive with the clatter of dishes and the enticing smells of breakfast. Buoyed by the volunteers’ enthusiasm, I felt my morning depression begin to fade.

Right at our busiest moment, however, someone called my name. “Janet, someone out here wants to see you. Says he needs help.”

That was the last thing I wanted to hear. As a social worker I heard that line at least once a day. Street people stopped by the church office to ask for help, spinning fantastic tales of hardship and bad luck. When I checked out their stories, I found that very few held up. Sadly, I learned that most were really after money for alcohol.

I wiped my hands on my apron and went out to meet the new arrival. He was a slender African American, slight and stooped, with hair just beginning to turn gray. He wore neat, though well-worn clothes, and held a hat in his hands. As he spoke in a very soft voice, he looked down toward the floor rather than directly at me.

“My name’s Charles,” he said. “I’ve been driving up and down Chicago streets looking for a church that’s open this early,” he said. “Yours was the only one with a light on. I wonder if we could talk.”

Charles didn’t show the typical signs of shiftiness. He seemed sincere, and humble. After a glance toward the kitchen to check the crew’s progress, I steered Charles to a hallway out of the traffic pattern, and nodded for him to go ahead.

He had come from Madison, Wisconsin, he said. He had no job, and lived on a public assistance check. His wife had been committed to a mental institution, so he was trying to raise his four children alone. He had driven to Chicago to visit a diabetic sister, hospitalized for a leg amputation.

“To tell you the truth,” he said hesitantly, “I need some gas money. I thought I had enough, but then my car broke down.” He had found a junkyard and bought a used starter, which he installed himself, using up his money.

Charles glanced at the food piled high on the kitchen counter. “Maybe you can’t help me with the gas,” he said. “But I’m worried about my kids. We been sleepin’ in the car, and they haven’t eaten in a few days. Do you think there’d be enough food left over to give them a bite?”

My skepticism melted as he talked. Charles’s story was far less preposterous than most, and even his body language seemed trustworthy. I had taken this job to help people with true needs, and something told me I had met one in Charles.

“Sure—we have a smaller crowd today, and plenty of food,” I told him. “Bring your children in. You’re welcome here.”

The seniors fell silent and watched as Charles brought his children. First he carried in a three year old, wrapped in his dad’s heavy coat. Then a five year old, likewise carried in his arms. The older two, seven and nine, trailed behind, looking around wide-eyed at the room full of senior citizens. Despite the cold weather outside, all wore short-sleeve shirts, and were shoeless.

I asked the seniors if they would make room for some visitors. They seemed to brighten up at the prospect of children joining them. “You just sit right hear and make yourself at home,” said Bertha, a 75-year-old black woman, as she pulled the three year old onto her lap.

The children sat quietly and seemed extremely shy—until food appeared. Even before we served the hot plates, seniors were already offering them bananas and muffins smeared with jam. In the next few minutes, those five visitors ate enough eggs and ham and muffins to feed the Chicago Bears.

I was dashing in and out of the kitchen, carrying platters of food, yet I could sense a different atmosphere settling in, like a change of weather. Many seniors had started the day grouchy, just as I had. Soon the room was filled with the hum of conversation, and the musical sounds of laughter.

“We ought to invite some children every Sunday morning!” one of the volunteers said to me. She was right; their presence transformed the mood. Older women fussed over the kids’ clothes and hair. Some of the gruffest of the men entertained them with coin tricks. Instead of hoarding extra food, the seniors collected leftovers to pack in a lunch bag for the visitors’ trip back home.

It dawned on me that most of our regulars, tucked away in “senior housing,” had little or no contact with children. They were coming alive, taking to the youngsters like—well, like grandparents.

Prayer time centered on Charles and his family. And then I asked the seniors if they wanted to help out. Could we donate that morning’s offering toward their journey back to Madison? They nodded an enthusiastic yes.

Each week we set out a blue saucer on each table, and the seniors deposited their nickels and dimes and quarters to help with breakfast. The offering averaged about seven dollars. Occasionally, I heard reports that a few seniors, pretending to make change, took out more than they put in.

Not that morning. Wang, the mostly-blind Chinese man renowned for his stinginess, dug around in his pocket for an extra quarter. Gertie, a toughened spinster, fumbled in her purse for a dollar bill. The morning devotional speaker slipped me a ten-dollar bill for Charles and his kids. Two kitchen volunteers contributed five dollars. When all the money got pooled together, we counted more than forty dollars for our drop-in guests. I took the money to Charles in a plastic Baggie. “What you don’t use for gas is yours to keep,” I told him.

Charles couldn’t keep still any longer. He asked to say a few words to the group. Unaccustomed to public speaking, he gripped the back of a chair fiercely as he spoke. “I just want you to know you’re beautiful people…and I appreciate this…and just know that my kids and I thank you very very much.” He ran out of words and sat down, and I didn’t see a dry eye in the entire church basement.

When a battered old station wagon finally pulled away from the church, it passed through a line of senior citizens, waving and calling goodbyes to a middle-aged man and four grinning children.

An hour later I sat in the sanctuary at the morning worship service. I tried to concentrate, but my mind kept flashing back to the scene downstairs at senior breakfast. What had happened on that cold, drizzly Sunday morning?

Normally, I had to act as a kind of police force. I watched for the street people who stuffed extra packets of sugar in their pockets and sneaked Styrofoam cups inside their coats. I warned my kitchen volunteers not to leave anything unattended, as some of them had lost umbrellas, jackets, or purses. I even patrolled the restrooms to make sure paper towels and toilet paper rolls were not stolen.

The day of Charles’s visit was different. Those same people, even the most indigent among them, were digging around in their purses and pockets for money to give away. I saw their instincts reverse: they emptied their pockets, instead of stuffing them full. In the end, the senior citizens left the room much happier than when they had entered. And so did I.

As I mulled it over, I could come up with only one reason: the joy of giving. For once the seniors had an opportunity to give, not receive. Are people somehow incomplete and unsatisfied unless they find a way to give to others? Watching my seniors, I could not avoid that conclusion. For most of them, living on small Social Security checks in public housing, society doesn’t offer much opportunity to give. To live always on the receiving end must foster a peculiar kind of shame. I saw before me the dramatic change that took place when they, too, had an opportunity to give.

An intriguing verse in the Book of Hebrews says, without much explanation, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Who knows, we might have entertained five angels in the basement of LaSalle Street Church that day. They left with full stomachs, and smiles on their faces. And they also helped 50 seniors learn about a joy they don’t get to experience much—the joy of giving.

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

Hungry And Cold

Have A Care-Kit Party

Joy Comes In The Morning

Rules Of The Red Rubber Ball

A Path Littered With Hard Circumstances

Your Beautiful, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Wrestling And Seeking

5 Reasons We Should Volunteer

Are You An Egg,  A Carrot, Or A Coffee Bean?

Speak Life

A Promise In The Pain

7 Things I Mused About From The Movie, “Same Kind of Difference as Me”

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Rules Of The Red Rubber Ball, a stocking stuffer 7 Rules That Make Up A Blueprint For Life

I recently ran across a cool, little book called Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find And Sustain Your Life’s Work,  by, Kevin Carroll.  This book, only 4 x 6 inches in size, will make a perfect stocking stuffer. It is a concise blueprint for living no matter what season of life you are traveling through.

I am especially inspired by true life stories about one who has risen above great adversity.  Author, Kevin Carroll is another example of this very thing.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, and born the same year as me (1958), Carroll’s parents ended up abandoning he and his two brothers by the time he was eight years old.

Thankfully, the boys were rescued by their grandparents who raised them with love and guidance. Initially, a scrawny kid, Carroll found his release on the playground with a red rubber ball.

With straightforward, captivating storytelling, Kevin Carroll conveys his childhood passion for sport and play into a widely engaging blueprint for life. Tapping wisdom from the playgrounds of his adolescence, where he spent hours and hours strengthening his body and his mind, Carroll shares with us his Rules of the Red Rubber Ball – how to achieve maximum human potential through the power of passion and creativity. YOU may want to click here to watch a 5 minute YouTube video featuring author, Kevin Carroll. His enthusiasm is contagious!

Finding your own -red rubber ball and chasing it to your heart’s content, he argues, is the surest route to peace, prosperity, and happiness. What is your red rubber ball, anyway!?! Life is change and change is life. You may be a growing child or a young adult just starting out in the working world. An empty nester, or in your fourth quarter of life. The following questions Carroll includes in his whimsical, little book will help you out:

  • What would you do for free?
  • What activities enthrall you?
  • What in life do you find irresistible, a source of inspiration, a reason to get out of bed?
  • What dream do you chase?
  • What topics do you love to discuss and ponder?
  • What’s your primal source of joy?

Over the years as an athletic trainer and public speaker, Carroll has transformed his philosophy into seven simple rules that any successful leader will endorse:

1) Commit to it-It requires commitment to pursue your life’s work, despite the naysayers.

2) Seek out encouragers-Sustaining your life’s work cannot be done alone.

3) Work out your creative muscle-Creativity and imagination will help you overcome some unexpected pitfalls.

4) Prepare to shine-Preparation means doing what I call the lonely work: the unglamorous tasks that no one tells you to do and the hard work that no one will notice.

5) Speak up-Challenge boundaries (respectfully) when they arise. There is always a way out.

6) Expect the unexpected-One way to embrace the unexpected is to be on the look-out for, and respect, coincidence.

7) Maximize the day-Each day contains 86,400 seconds, that is 86,400 opportunities to chase, kick, catch, and run after your red rubber ball.

Life Is Short!!!  I hope this post about The Red Rubber Ball will encourage you to seek after your dreams. I am definitely more of a visual learner.  Therefore,  I have a new red rubber ball hanging around my home to remind me to continue to be joyful and to keep my dreams alive.

My Red Rubber Ball is the Book Project I am working on about 

12 Lessons My Mama Taught Me.

What’s Yours!?!?

Past Posts About People Who Have Overcome Adversity In Their Lives:

Bridge Across My Sorrows

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Hurting Hearts, Painful Paths

Common Warriors: Part One

Common Warriors: Part Two

Brooke Ellison

Five Lessons From Oseola McCarty

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