Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs To Tell Me Which Way I Should Go To Find The Answer

Did the title of this post ring a bell for you?

“Standing at the crossroads, trying to read the signs. To tell me which way I should go to find the answer.  And all the time I know, plant your love and let it grow.”

The Fritz Garden in Lenoir City, Tennessee LET IT GROW!

It is the first part of a song by Eric Clapton that was first penned in 1974. Perhaps you, like me, were in high school at that time. These lyrics remind me of our friends who have chosen a positive fork in the road, even amidst great adversity, in the past couple of years.  You can listen to the song here.   

(On a Side Note) Did you know? 461 Ocean Boulevard, the solo album by Clapton marked his return to recording after recovering from a three-year addiction to heroin. I don’t know about you, but this gives me great hope for the severe drug epidemic our world is currently addressing.

'Love Never Fails.' 1 Corinthians 13:8
My buddy for 40 years, Kelly Read and me on a beautiful fall day doing one of our favorite things: biking the 8.2 miles from the Abingdon, Va trailhead to Taylor’s Shelter at Alvaredo Station on The Holston River & The Virginia Creeper Trail.

Donny and I were making our five-hour annual October trek home from VA to GA yesterday in the torrential rain that Hurricane Nate left in his path. As we traveled, my mind wandered through the past couple of years, 945 days to be precise.

'The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you're made of, not the circumstances.' Unknown

Back on March 7, 2015, our dear friends, The Read’s son, Taylor Heston Read, age 23 passed away. As the miles clicked by in Virginia, and soon Tennessee, a question kept coming to my heart and mind.

“How Does A Family Move Through A Life Loss Like This?”

While we have not lost a child, Donny and I have faced the passing of all of our birth parents. We have also gone through the home going of some precious friends and other family members. We all experience grief in one way or another as we journey through this thing called life. Grief is certain in each one of our lives.

Kelly and her daughter listen as Paul shares about Taylor, a son, brother, friend, nephew, grandson, who has been missed so much! Zach, Meg’s boyfriend stands with them.

Since we have been closely connected to The Reads during this season of grief, I have some reflections I feel compelled to share here.

'Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing.' Dr. Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian, Organist, Philosopher, Physician, and Medical Missionary to Africa (1875-1964)

This family has intentionally focused on faith, family, and friends. They have purposefully played outdoors any chance they get, whether it is walking their four-legged companion, Player, biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail, or tilling and planting in Mom’s Garden behind their Abingdon, Virginia home.

Player is always game for a walk around the quaint community of Abingdon, Virginia.

Marrying just 48 days before us, in 1982, The Reads have maintained a strong marriage partnership. They have taken in good music to soothe their soul, and enjoyed yummy food from their Big Green Egg. They have made sure to welcome continual fellowship with family and friends. The Reads have stayed connected to their church family which nourishes each other during times of need. This decision was clear after Taylor’s passing when this song was chosen to be played as the family was ushered out following his Celebration of Life service.

The Reads have enjoyed many performances, whether at The Barter Theater or the incredible shows at The Biltmore Concert Series in Asheville, North Carolina.

Taylor’s Shelter is under construction Summer of 2015

Along with the help of friends, family, the community of Abingdon, Virginia and the Virginia Creeper Trail Club, this family has brought about a unique “shelter from the storm” alongside The Holston River which was dedicated in October 2015. Designed by Taylor’s talented sister, Megan Read, this is a picturesque spot all should visit at some point in the future.

Just outside The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. They provided a gourmet picnic lunch for all of us!

Already, this shelter has brought rest and has been a refuge to many including bikers, kayakers, visitors to The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. Taylor’s Shelter has even been a venue for a few weddings.

On October 7, 2017, the 3rd Annual Rails To River Ride For Taylor gather together, friends for 40 years, along with Kelly’s Mom, Peg and daughter, Megan.

As the miles clicked by and we grew closer to our home state of Georgia, the rain continued to splatter our windshield. Soon another song came on that brought The Read’s willful and purposeful choices to mind. They have ended their days by looking for hope in tomorrow.  By Jim Croce, this song Hey Tomorrow was first penned in 1972., and it starts like this:

“Hey tomorrow, where are you goin’? Do you have some room for me? ‘Cause night is fallen’ and the dawn is calling’. I’ll have a new day if she’ll have me.”

A few more favorite pictures from our day!

Mimi and Megan hang out after we all ride to Taylor’s Shelter.
The Womble’s Family vehicle is loaded with bikes!
Taylor Heston Read, a Life Well Lived

Lincoln, 2nd cousin of Taylor’s (by marriage) wears his homemade Rails To River t-shirt, made with LOVE by his MIMI!
Lincoln’s baby brother, Tucker takes in the day with his JimDad!
Here with our college buddy, Kay, Paul Read is always helping someone ready their bike for the trail ride.
'Taylor was honored and God was glorified.' Paul Read, in talking about the 3rd annual Ride for his son, Taylor on October 7, 2017

I have a couple of questions for you and for me today. How we will respond in our time of grief and hardship? Will we follow the example of this courageous family, looking up with hope in the future? I hope I will. 

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Music Moves Us

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Authentic Prayer

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

A Grace Disguised

Run To The Roar

Where Is He?

Five Lessons From A Garden:Bloom Where You Are Planted

The Simple Things

Solitude:Seven Ways To Find It

Humble And Kind

Five Ways To Love Well

Musings On Marriage

We’ve Got Your Back

It Is Well With My Soul

Hope Amidst The Fragility of Life

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits One-Five

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits Six-Ten

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Some Significant Serious Fog In My Path What Are Your Roadblocks?

The fog on my path to class.

I encountered some significant, serious fog in my path while traveling to school on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

After my recent week spent in a Write From The Heart writing class at The John C. Campbell Folk School in N.C., I posted a blog about obstacles in our life journey. Click here to read the earlier post called: What Are The Roadblocks In Our Path?

The day following the “tree obstacle”, on Wednesday morning, the fog was incredibly dense. I could only see directly in front of my headlights. I had to pause for a moment on the side of the road to take this shot as my mind considered the traveling obstacle before me.

Grabbing a hot cup of coffee and arriving early enough for Morning Song at 7:45, I slipped into a cold metal folding chair. I was just in time to hear song composer/musician, Dawn Davis ask a question of the sleepy audience:

“I need a volunteer to give me a random phrase. It can be about anything. Casey, can you give me one?”

“Hmmmmm, how about ‘The fog lifted.’? answered Casey, a young lady who was living on campus for 9 weeks as part of the Work Study Program.

At the JCC Folk School, Musician and Composer, Dawn Davis inspired us at Morning Song with FOUR different instruments! Guitar, fiddle, celtic harp and piano.

Dawn’s guitar began to strum as she hummed and began composing a song about the fog. A song, that soon had lyrics that we all sang together.

A song composed and shared by musician, Dawn Davis.

That random phrase resonated with my heart, as I considered the connection between the fog and the obstacle that was in my path just the day before.

“The Fog Lifted.” Perhaps this would be a new motto for my life, a new tagline for me to live each day by. As in,’ this too will pass’, the fog will always lift over time. 

How does one decide to live this way? With confidence that the obstacle  will be removed from my path soon enough, that the fog will lift in due time?

This reminds me of another one of my Mama’s golden nuggets of wisdom. In good times as well as discouraging times, I want to have guarded optimism that all circumstances will work out.

There is no rushing through and beyond the obstacles, in our day, such as trees and fog. Meantime, applying this to our life, I encourage you and I to focus on one of my all time most beloved scriptures:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:1; 10

What are the roadblocks in your life and in mine? Are they long-term obstacles? Short-term? Are they there to help us to slow down, to remind us to take our time, to initiate meditation with God?  Perhaps obstacles show up to teach us something about ourselves, such as the fear factor I shared in my roadblocks post.

Whatever the reason for the snags, the obstructions, the complications in our daily journey, let’s begin to look at these as opportunities for growth, rather than a big ‘ole fat interruption!

As we move on through Holy Week, looking ahead to Friday, and then Easter Sunday, I am certain that the disciples and other followers of Christ considered his death on the cross a huge, hurtful hindrance in their path. And then Sunday came! Easter, “the Superbowl” of our shared faith.   Christ rose from the dead just as he had promised!

As you consider the obstacles in your own path, know that they are temporary and continue to keep the faith!

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Bridge Across My Sorrows

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6 Life Lessons From The Slopes Colorado With The Family

Our family has enjoyed a week long stay here in Breckenridge, Colorado, at the Robrooke Inn.

A beautiful day on the chair with Jessica, Walker and Scott!

Here are 6 life lessons that keep mulling around in my mind and heart:

(1) Open Your Eyes. It was on Tuesday afternoon when Leah, Donny and I were taking in a few runs before we met up with Jessica, Scott, and Walker for a late lunch. Standing completely still at the side of a blue slope, I suddenly watched a speeding skier collide into my husband and daughter as I looked on from a few feet away. Skis flew off, and Leah was flipped from right side up onto her stomach. Leah’s first instinct was to yell at the top of her lungs: “Open Your Eyes!!!” Fortunately, there were no long-lasting injuries.  This reminded me of Tony, our Sunday ski instructor’s message to us. “98% of success with skiing is using your eyes.” Later, my mind began reeling and I soon applied this to life. Matthew 6:22-23 tells us: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Let’s keep our eyes wide open for all of the lessons that are swirling around us on any given day.

Have you ever worn one of these? A ski boot? Just so you know, they are NOT comfortable, but once you see the view, it is definitely worth it!!!

(2) Never Give Up! Because I had dual hand surgeries in 2010, I had not taken up snow skiing for nearly a decade. Needless to say, I was nervous, especially at age 58 about how I would do on the slopes. I even decided to take a private lesson with Jess, our daughter-in-law, who was a complete beginner and Scott, our son-in-law, who had only been on a snowboard in his past. Our instructor was awesome and encouraging as he told me it would be like getting back onto a bicycle. It wasn’t quite that easy, but I am skiing again and it feels really good. This was a good reminder to me to keep moving as I age. Don’t stop and never ever quit!

I got to take a ski lesson with my daughter-in-law and my son-in-law! What MOM is blessed with this chance? Love them!

(3) Spend Time Outdoors. Now, I know that this lesson is a given, but some of us, including myself forget the pure benefits that come with being outside in nature, breathing clean air, and taking in the beauty of creation. So, yes, this is one of my lessons from the slopes. In fact, for as long as I can remember there is a song that I have hummed to myself while I have been downhill skiing. Click here to listen to this song I learned in my youth: ‘He’s Everything To Me’.

Leah and Dad stop for a quick selfie in the beautiful Rockies!
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.
John Muir

(4) Carve Your Own Path. We split up after lunch on Tuesday, ’cause everyone had their own idea of how they wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon. Some wanted to get in a few more runs, some wanted to go in for an apres ski beverage and snack, and I wanted to come on home to work on this blog post. In life, it is often easy to compare ourselves to others and where we are in our life journey. It is better to follow your own personal path that works for you. I read a recent blog called “Be Encouraged, You’re Better Than You Think” post that speaks to this truth reminding us that we should break free of comparing ourselves to others. There is just no good in that . Click here to read this blog post.

I LOVE this picture of my friend, Rob in CO, and I think it illustrates perfectly the truth that we need to carve our own path.

(5) Celebrate Your Uniqueness. As we skied all day on Sunday with major snow pouring out of the sky, I started thinking about the uniqueness of each and every flake that fell upon the earth around me. Click here to watch a brief video showing miraculous snowflakes. While there are so many similarities between us as people, we really are so very unique, and when you stop and think about it, that is pretty amazing! Love yourself, love others, allow everyone be who they are and simply LOVE. Love Always Wins!

On Thursday afternoon, I enjoyed meeting artist, Gabriel right around The Village Courtyard on the cusp of The Quandry Bar and Grill. Gabriel is obviously a budding artist and I was glad I seized the moment to stop and admire his work.

Gabriel celebrates his uniqueness by painting in The Village Courtyard in Breckenbridge, CO.

Our family stops for a late lunch on the mountain. I love the differences that we all have, and yet, we all love each other despite our differences!

(6) Take In  Life’s Peaks And Valleys. Just looking at the Rocky Mountains brings you to automatically think about the peaks and valleys that come with life. down then up, up then down. Yes! Life is certainly full of unexpected  twists and turns, tears and laughter. Our faith, our family, and our friendships can help sustain us each day, multiplying joy and dividing sorrow. Life is so full of peaks and valleys and I have learned that we are here to support each other during the various ups and downs that come with day-to-day life.

As we look ahead, realizing that there are both peaks and valleys helps us to be prepared. And with God’s help, we will make it through the challenges that come with the ebbs and flows of daily life.

What are some life lessons we can pick up as we go through our daily lives?

How are you and I making special memories with our families?

A Wilson/Page/Andrews Reunion in cozy Robrooke Inn, Thursday, March 16, 2017.

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