Being Brave Living Life With Everything You Have

Being brave, living life with everything I have, is something I have been giving my best shot at for most of my life.

I wrote my first blog post in 2015 about bravery. This post is titled, We Are Called To Be Brave. Click here to read my post about the courage of Aimee Copeland.

My husband, Donny and I were checking in for a flight. We were headed to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our son and his wife for Easter Weekend, 2018. Outside the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, we encountered a massive crowd of very young men and women. Dressed out in full U.S. Army gear climbed off a bus carrying heavy and huge dufflebags, one in each hand. Just seeing them made my heart sing with American Pride.  “Thank you for your service!”, I said repeatedly as we made our way through the multitude.

“Are you in this group, this Army Unit?”, I asked a young woman in front of us. She was also entangled in the masses. Answering me, she exclaimed quickly, “Oh, no, I am not that brave.”

As we patiently made our way past these youthful servicemen and servicewomen, I considered this girl’s words. I reflected on how many souls walking around among us consider themselves less than brave. I know that up until recently, I have spent decades feeling less than brave. Nevertheless, I am changing. I hope you will be inspired after you read this post. Inspired to make a change, too. Perhaps you will be more courageous, as well.

The weekend of December 9, 2017, we attended the funeral of a warrior woman by the name of Jule Furr. I had known ‘Jules’ for years and was well aware of her four decade battle with cancer. At age fifty-four, Jule went on ahead leaving behind her precious family. After hearing stories of my friend on that frigid, snowy Georgia day, I decided I wanted to be more brave. You can read my post about this friend, Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave, here. 

 February 9-10, 2018, my friend, Julie invited me to attend a nearby Women’s Conference. An IF:Gathering.

The road to courage is lit by God's wisdom. Author, Annie F. Downs

Sometimes things happen when we least expect it. Thankfully as a Christ follower, when things come up, I can be sure to trust in God for direction.  At this meeting, I heard a well-known speaker for the first time. This speaker, Annie F. Downs  also has an inspiring podcast that I have been listening to. “That Sounds Fun With Annie F. Downs” is what it is called.

From my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, it felt like Annie F. Downs was speaking straight to me. Two decades younger than myself, Annie spoke about many things I had grown to know and understand. My ears perked up when she began to emphasize “being brave”. You see, I had already felt my God wooing me, calling me (though not audibly <smile>) with His still, small voice to be brave about some specific circumstance in my life journey. It had become a stronghold in my days. It was something that was taking more than it was adding to my days. This something needed to be addressed if I was planning to have a purposeful and fulfilling life between now and dead.

Now, my particular situation is irrelevant to you as a reader of this post. (‘Cause it’s personal, ya know!)  Therefore, I do want to encourage you, to look inside, to look at how you could be more brave with some specific circumstances that are unique to you.  ‘Cause somehow, I don’t believe I am the only human that has lacked courage in making a needed change.

His Word is a lamp for your feet. Psalm 119:105

Let’s All Be Brave!

That’s the name of one of Annie F. Downs’ books that I have just finished reading. At the risk of being dramatic, this book has been life-changing for me.

Many times I pass on a book when I have finished reading it. This time I will be keeping my copy and rereading my high-lighted sections.

With Easter, the Holiday of Hope 2018 now in the books, how can you and I show more bravery in the weeks ahead?

Let’s all be brave!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Are You A People Pleaser? Five Tips To Help You Stop (or wisdom from a Recovering People Pleaser <smile>)

Who’s In Our Path?

We Are Called To Be Brave

God Bless America and Beyond

It Is Well With My Soul

The Sandwich: A Courageous Conversation

Joy Comes In The Morning

The Simple Things

Five Lessons From A Garden

Spirit Fruits Are Real

Wrestling and Seeking

The Long and Winding Road

Easter Sunrise Service 2018 at the World’s Fair Pavilion, St. Louis, MO with our son, Walker, daughter-in-law, Jessica, husband, Donny and me
Easter Sunrise Service at the World’s Fair Pavilion in St. Louis

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Have Faith To See Follow This Example

Helen Keller, as a child with her amazing teacher, Annie Sullivan

Have faith to see. Here is an inspiring example to follow.

It is difficult to find in all the treasure-house of biographies a life story more thrilling, dramatic, and fascinating than that of Helen Keller. I am convinced Helen Keller was a woman of both faith and action, despite her inability to see or hear from the age of two. Seriously? Can you imagine even giving up one of these God-given gifts? I cannot.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

“In one of Helen Keller’s letters she told Bishop Brooks that she had always known about God. even before she had any words. Even before she could call God anything, she knew God was there. She did not know what it was. God had no name for her–nothing had a name for her. She had no concept of a name. But in her darkness and isolation, she knew, somehow, she was not alone. Someone was with her. She felt God’s Love. And when she received the gift of language and heard about God, she said she already knew.” from Phillips Brooks and Helen Keller.

Think On That! WOW! I love during our quietest times and in our greatest adversities, God makes His presence known to us.

A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled and outspoken in her convictions. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffragelabor rightssocialismantimilitarism, and other similar causes. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1971 and was one of twelve inaugural inductees to the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame on June 8, 2015. Keller proved to the world that deaf people could all learn to communicate and that they could survive in the hearing world. She also taught that deaf people are capable of doing things that hearing people can do. One of the most famous deaf people in history, she is an idol to many deaf people in the world.

Based on Keller’s autobiography, published in 1903,  The Miracle Worker was first performed as a play (1957) and later became a movie (1962). The story is about how Anne Sullivan had an amazing impact on Helen’s life as her teacher. At only 20 years of age, Sullivan showed great maturity and ingenuity in teaching Keller and worked hard with her stubborn pupil, bringing both women much acclaim. Sullivan even helped Keller write her autobiography.

I have loved the inspiring story of Helen Adams Keller, born June 27, 1880 for decades. I tend to give away a lot of books after I have read them, but my paper back copy of The Story Of My Life will stay a part of my personal library forever. Did you know? Keller’s birthplace in West Tuscumbia, Alabama is now a museum.

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880-June 1, 1968)

I am wondering. Has this post caused you to recall a special soul that you’ve admired? It may be a well-known person, like Helen Keller, someone in your community, or even a family member. Whose life example are you following as you go through your days?

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Common Warriors: Part One

Common Warriors: Part Two

The Beauty Of Sight

Rules Of The Red Rubber Ball

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

Four Questions For God

Fighter, Jules Furr Takes Her Leave

Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Brooke Ellison

Wrestling And Seeking

Friendship 101 3 Tips To Enrich Your Friendships

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find them scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Zig Ziglar

Difficult to believe the 8 of us have been friends since grade school, but we have! We will celebrate our 6th Decade of life in Austin, Texas this October, 2018.

Friendship 101. What does that make you think of? If you are a Mommy to littles, I hope you are looking for tips you can teach your kids about friendship. If you are a Mom to older kids, perhaps you, too, will benefit by reviewing these tips with your teen students before they head to college where they are sure to make a lot of new friends.

With such an increase in screen time, we must intentionally put down on smartphones to focus on our friendships.

For me, I thought of this recently, because at my age, my life has been enhanced by many, many rich friendships. I am grateful for each one of them. Surprisingly, I met a brand new, like-minded friend the other day, and it was so cool how quickly our hearts connected, despite a few years between our ages. Within minutes, over coffee, we were sharing stories, concerns, issues, and feelings. While we talked about the importance of being picky and careful when sharing our heart with another, by the end of our time, we both agreed that we had been encouraged by a trustworthy friend that day.

One actually never knows when that “just right” friend might come along. For our dear friend, Kayla, who lost her husband this past July, 2017 at the young age of 29, leaving behind two little boys, met up with another Mommy, Lisa, also one whose husband left far too soon, and now they are fast friends! Love how God orchestrated their friendship, as well as my newest one in a Marietta Coffee Shop, Cool Beans.

Sadly, with the increased prevalence of bullies, we need more people to stand up against it. Let us train up our children and grandchildren to not only be kind, but also to be a good friend. If more humans were simply good friends, imagine how much better our world would be.

A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside. Winnie the Pooh

Bert and Ernie. Laverne and Shirley. Thelma and Louise. These duos knew what it took to create a lasting bond. Following are 3 tips to help you and the ones you love to build your own enduring relationships:

1. Share your feelings. When we talk with friends, we tend to be good at sharing the details of life–what happened at work, a report on our last date–but we often fail to connect those facts to the emotions we feel in the moment. “Adding a feeling to the facts helps us depend intimacy and feel more connected,” says Susan Campbell, PhD, relationship coach and author of Saying What’s Real: 7 Keys To Authentic Communication and Relationship Success. “It lets the other person know that you care enough about them to share from a deeper part of yourself.”

Friends since college, we will celebrate 40 years of friendship later this month on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

2. Take turns. In any conversation, and when your littles are learning to play with others, it is important to take turns. The problem is that we have forgotten how to share the spotlight, says Jan Hoistad, PhD, licensed psychologist, relationship coach and author of Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a Rock-Solid Relationship. “People often talk at one another–sending emails or leaving a voicemail–without really stopping to hear what the other person is saying,” she says. “We have to put our own needs and wants aside to really listen.”  

3. Ask questions. One of the surest ways to deepen your friendships is to ask questions and to encourage your friends to delve deeper into the topics you are discussing. Hoistad advises. “Ask open-ended questions such as, ‘How do you feel about that?’ to encourage your friends to go deeper into the conversation,” she says. “Show your friends that you are willing to be vulnerable with them.” This takes courage, but with a trustworthy friend, I have found, it is always worth it!

How about you? How will you and I use these tips to make some rock-solid friendships during our life journey. Friends truly do divide sorrow and multiply joy!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Honesty With The Truest Of Friends

Fitness and Friendship

Brevity Of Life

Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave

Musings On Marriage

Six Lessons From The Slopes

Just Killing Time

Time Away: A Woman’s Retreat

The Long And Winding Road

Charlotte’s Web

We Can Embrace It

Anne Lamott

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls Lessons From Geese

We have a small pond behind our Marietta, Georgia home and that is the first place our yellow lab, Gracie and I visit upon waking up.

Geese are a common occurrence on this pond. On this particular morning, however, as Gracie took care of her business, I stopped to count them. Still in my cozy bathrobe and holding a mug of steaming coffee, I counted…amazingly, there were 36 geese, seemingly frozen in place on our pond. I took pause, as I often do, my phone shining a bright light in the pre-day darkness.

I love nature and how it can speak into your soul, inspiring us to be the best version of ourselves. What did it say to me on this chilly January morning?

“Stop a minute, Joan, to be grateful for your friendship with Jil Cain, who left us too soon in 2005. Jil, only age 40 when she passed on, taught you The Lessons Of Geese. Every time you see these majestic creatures, either floating or flying in their V-formation high in the sky, you remember her with gratefulness in your heart.”

flock of migrating Canada geese flying at sunset in a V formation

“Observe the quietness of these floating before you. That is what I want to encourage you to do a little each day. Remember that cool verse in Psalm 46:10: ‘Be still, and KNOW that I am God.’? Brief moments like this one can help you to practice this.”

When is the last time you took a few minutes to JUST BE in nature. A back yard, some nearby woods, a porch, Kennesaw Mountain, a pond, a lake, or my favorite, by the sea?

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

6 Ways We Can Relieve Stress Starting Today

Nature Restores My Soul

Three Touchstones Of Showing Up

Gift From The Sea

Authentic Prayer

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Four Questions For God

Five Lessons From A Garden

Seven Lifestyle Changes=A Big Difference

And don’t forget to look up at sunrise and sunset. Many times we can capture some of the most majestic art ever!

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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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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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35 Rules For Women, Young And Old Especially For Daughters

Rules For Women Young and Old,

Especially for Daughters.

My precious daughter, Leah, with her loving Aunt Laura Lea, Lake Blue Ridge

1. Make your bed every day; even if it’s right before you get in it. But I recommend doing it first thing.

It sets you up for a great day ahead.

2. Don’t wear ‘holey’ underwear. Ever. You deserve to feel decadent at all times…regardless.

3. Travel light through life. Keep only what you need. This includes people.

One of my sisters, Kathy and me

4. Put butter on your biscuit , and twice as much when you miss me. Add some fig preserves to remind yourself that comfort can be unusual.

Kelly and Megan, Taylor’s Shelter, October 2015

5. It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash things; but, wash your face, clean your mess, and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there.

My sister, Mary Ann, serving at a clinic with my beautiful niece, Amy

6. If you’re going to curse, be clever. If you’re going to curse in public, know your audience.

Peg and Marilyn, October 2017, Abingdon, VA for Taylor’s Ride

7. Seek out the people and places that resonate with your soul. Check in with yourself…a clenched jaw, heavy heart or cranky tummy is your sign to bail.

College Reunion # 39 Marietta, Georgia 2017

8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And just because you shouldn’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the chance. Just be smart about your risks.

9. 5-second rule. It’s just dirt. There are worse things in a fast food cheeseburger.

10. Happiness is not a permanent state. Wholeness is.   Don’t confuse these.

Pam and Wanda, May 2017 Lake Blue Ridge Women’s Retreat

11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack your bag.

Robin, Rhonda, and Susan, The Dinner Team at our May 2017 Women’s Retreat

12. Never walk through an alley.

13. Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself.

Aimee Copeland  founder of Aimee Copeland Foundation, empowering people of all abilities to lead fulfilling and joyful lives

14. Can’t is a cop-out. BIG TIME. Step UP. Google It. Teach yourself. Don’t be mediocre.

A Hike on our Women’s Retreat May 2017

15. Hold your heroes to a high standard. Be your own hero.

16. If you can’t smile with your eyes, don’t smile. Insincerity is nothing to aspire to.

17. Never lie to yourself. EVER. Embrace your delusions…and get on with it….

Leah doing one of her favorite things, surfing!

18. Your body, your rules. Always.

 Paddle boarding on Lake Blue Ridge

19. If you have an opinion, you better know why. If you don’t have an opinion, admit it and ask questions so that you can form one.

Hiking Mt. LeConte with girlfriends in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, June 2016

20. Practice your passions. Every. Day. No exceptions!

21. Ask for what you want. The worse thing they can say is no. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.

My brave and beautiful niece, Pamela, Mommy to two. Here with son, Roman.

22. Wish on stars and dandelions, then get to work to make them happen (leave room for magic)

My beautiful niece, Emily with her niece, Noelle

23. Don’t skimp on good sheets. Like underwear and lovers…only the best should ever touch your skin.

24. Fall in love often. Particularly with ideas, art, music, literature, food and far-off places.

Artist, Holly Irwin visits The Women’s Extension with me 2017

25. Fall hard and forever in love with nothing but yourself.

My Girls! Leah and Jessica, Summer 2016

26. Say Please, Thank You, and Pardon Me, whenever the situation warrants it.

27. Reserve I’m sorry for when you truly are.

28. Naps are for grown-ups, too. Indulge.

29. Question everything except your own intuition.

Sunrise Cruise GG, 2016 Lake Blue Ridge

30. You have enough. You are enough.

Cocktails and Carols with David Brewer, December 2016

31. You are amazing! Don’t let anyone ever make you feel you are not. If someone does….walk away. You deserve better.

32. No matter where you are, you can always come home.

There Is Always A Road You Can Take Back Home

33. Be happy, say your prayers and remember your roots.

My Mama, my best friend, (1927-2006)

34. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

35. No one will ever love you more than I do

                          Copied, Author Unknown

*I would love to know what you would add to this list! Comment Below and share with the daughters, granddaughters, nieces and women you love.

Wooden Toys Tell A Story Imagination In Play!

“Please tell me a story.” was a common request in our home back in the day when our kids were little. Here, you will learn about some wooden toys to use during story time that will add imagination in play! In case your time is short, and you want to go straight to The Wooden Storyteller site, click here. You will love these!

Books are everywhere and I love books! We have personal favorites from when Leah and Walker were small…Good Night Moon by, Margaret Wise Brown, The Very Hungry Catepillar by, Eric Carle, and Where The Wild Things Are by, Maurice Sendak were some of Leah and Walker’s choices. WE all also loved The Berenstain Bear Series by Stan Berenstain, Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends, and of course we never grew tired of Green Eggs and Ham along with all the other crazy Dr. Seuss tales! What are some of the favorite stories from your childhood or when your kids were small?

Story time is such a great time for connection, teaching, and halting the rush, if only for a few minutes, that we all seem to be experiencing these days.

Story Time in your local library is a perfect time for a busy Mom to take a few minutes to rest while the little ones plug into a story.

Do you currently have little ones that are an important part of your life?

I hope you will check out these creative wooden storyteller pieces that your children and grandchildren will surely delight in.

Titus Ray Lambert born April 10, 2014
Rachael, Thomas and their son, Titus. The Lamberts are expecting their second child this Spring 2018.

My niece, Rachael along with her husband, Thomas are the creators of some amazing “hands on” toys that you just might want to add to your list for the little ones that you love. Read on to learn how they were inspired to start their little, growing business:

“We are a Southern family living in the Pacific Northwest. We have one son, Titus, who is three years old. “Mama, I strong. I wild. I fierce.” Thank you little one.

My husband, Thomas, started making toys for our son’s play. He would need a boat for his men or a monster for the sea. We began to get compliments and people were shocked when they discovered we made them ourselves. We soon had orders from family and friends. We knew we were on to something and the rest is history.

We honor both free play and storybooks. We believe storytelling is the perfect mix of the two. Telling your child a story while acting it out only solidifies the tale. When your child retells a story and plays it back out….something magical happens. They make this tale their own. This is imaginative narration in play, and it is so good.

We keep our wooden toys simple. We desire children to have toys that are both visually and tactically beautiful. We want children to explore with creative thought and to learn truth from stories. We believe children should get the quality of the toy and the quality of the story.

We would love to hear from you! Happy Storytelling!”

To join The Lambert Family in their storytelling efforts and to purchase these toys, please visit their Etsy site by clicking here. 

They offer a number of story pieces including Jonah and the whale, The Nativity Story, The 3 Little Pigs, and many more. Each set comes in its own drawstring bag to keep the story pieces together. They can also make special orders that you do not find in their current collection.

I cannot wait to collect them all!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Carve Your Name On Hearts

No One Visits The Mother Of An Addict

Every Beating Heart Has A Story: Joey and Rory’s Story

Brooke Ellison

Bridge Across My Sorrows

Back To Books

Read It Loud: Make A Connection

Check This Out! Still, Steal, Steel

Run To The Roar

Books That Have Moved Me

Musings From “Same Kind Of Difference As Me”

Three Touchstones Of Showing Up

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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:

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Five Lessons From A Garden:Bloom Where You Are Planted

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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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