With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.
As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
It may be a distant memory now, but there were some very rainy days in Georgia during the month of December. It is easy to recall driving home slowly from a holiday party and climbing into our warm, comfy bed as soon as possible.
Then the thoughts would begin…Where are the homeless sleeping tonight on this soggy cold evening? Were there enough beds at the shelter? Are there children out there with their Mommies and Daddies? Will they be okay?
Then I would utter a brief prayer from my bed. “Please, Lord, keep them safe and help them to find dry shelter and warmth.” I knew in my heart, felt compelled in my soul, that He would use me to help those in need somehow, someway during these cold, wet December days.
As the December days clicked by, we held a wonderful caroling gathering on the last Sunday before Christmas. Our guests brought new socks, underclothes, gloves, hats and scarves. We collected an abundance of these items, wrapped a bow around them individually and delivered them to The Zone. A nearby center, The Zone has programs that fuel recovery and fight addiction. Those who are in the throes of an addiction are often not welcome in their family home during the holidays. Knowing The Zone would be open for 36 hours during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, feeding all who came by, our small love gifts would be distributed to those who stopped in.
Soon it was Christmas Eve, 2019. Knowing that my last-minute chores were squared away, I stopped by the local Salvation Army office and asked if I could ring a bell. The receptionist told me that no one was ringing at a nearby Wal-Mart and would I be willing to work there. My assigned shift was 10:00-1:00, and a Salvation Army representative would meet me there.
I arrived a few minutes early. After waiting a good while, the representative never arrived. I tried calling a few numbers, but most offered only a machine since it was Christmas Eve. Sadly, I entered the Wal-Mart to pick up one last thing, potatoes for our Christmas feast.
As soon as I came out, I saw her! A woman was ringing the bell cheerily and walking to and fro on the storefront sidewalk. After introducing myself and acknowledging that there had been some misunderstanding, my new friend offered me the bell and her chair and slipped inside to hang out at the Subway sandwich shop. I was going to get to ring that bell after all!
The next couple of hours, I called out Merry Christmas to all who could hear, offered up friendly smiles, and a chocolate Santa to the children. I noticed the variety of nationalities represented. (and considered my American citizenship)
Sadly, I saw a homeless young man searching for food or a tobacco butt in this trash can and ash bin. I offered him a chocolate Santa and he heartily accepted it. ( and I sent up an arrow prayer of gratitude that I had never been in this man’s shoes) I took in the number of taxi rides folks needed to get the shoppers to and from the store. (and I thought about our pick-up truck in the lot full of gas and ready to take me home) I thanked those who slipped small change, a single or a five into the traditional red bucket. As I thanked one woman with her two young children, her reply warmed my heart, “Salvation Army made a real difference in my life in the past, and I want to give back.” (and I considered the fact that I had never had to reach out for help like this)
Just as He promised that cold, rainy night when I uttered a short prayer from my bed, I was given the privilege to help some souls in need. My heart was warmed that Christmas Eve, not just by the surprising warmer, 60 degree Georgia temp and blue sky, but by that feeling you get when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.
Have you ever wondered about the difference between two major military holidays, Memorial Day and Veterans Day? Sometimes there is confusion about the two, so I am hoping by the time you have read through this short post, you and I will have a clearer understanding of these important holidays. Click here for a brief video that does a good job of showing us the difference. EVERY DAY is a good day to raise the flag!
In a nutshell, here is some info about each of these two important holidays:
****Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. (Wikipedia)
***Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors military veterans, that is, persons who served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I; major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. The United States previously observed Armistice Day. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who died while in military service. (Wikipedia)
I hope this brief explanation will help you and me, our children, our grandchildren, as well as others we meet along the way to gain a greater clarification regarding Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Now that Memorial Day 2016 has come and gone, summer is officially here. Enjoy every moment!
Some other Pages From Joan posts regarding our veterans:
You can make a difference with CAL or Catch A Lift, which began in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, and has gone on to help many veterans since its founding.
After 9/11/01 and every anniversary of September 11th since that horrific day of tremendous loss, a phrase sticks out in my mind:
We Will Never Forget!!!
We say we will remember forever the true sacrifice, day in and day out, of men and women in uniform, whether they be first responders or part of our strong military services.
And yet, is that statement really true, other than the usual times of remembering, Veterans’ Day, the 4th of July, and other red, white, and blue celebrations? Do you and I really remember these souls who serve and their families in our prayers? Do we truly recognize that freedom is not free, and how many grave sacrifices have been made on our behalf? Do we intentionally share our resources in causes related to wounded veterans?
'Shake off any dust that may accumulate from stagnation of purpose.'
Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009)
Our daughter, Leah, is running a 10k in February, and she is showing her support for our veterans by running in honor of the Catch a Lift foundation, founded in memory of Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009).
Founded in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, Catch A Lift Fund (CAL) enables post 9/11 combat wounded Veterans to regain and maintain their physical and mental health by providing granted gym memberships, fitness programs or in-home gym equipment, anywhere in the United States. If a veteran has an appointed VA certified caregiver, the caregiver is eligible as well.
In addition, CAL’s M.A.P.S. Program ensures success by tracking progress and offers motivation, accountability and peer support through small squads of Veterans who heal together Vet to Vet. CAL Veterans are not only losing weight and moving away from obesity, but also eliminating the need for multiple prescription medications and finding their “new self”. CAL Veterans are thriving, reintegrating, healing and saving each other’s lives through newly established comradery; filling the void left after military service.
Won’t you jump on board and support this important cause?
I believe it is fair to say we are in the midst of a tumultuous, uncertain season across our globe.
“It can be too sad here. We often lose our way. It is easy to sense and embrace meaning when life is on track. When there is a feeling of fullness—having love, goodness, family, work, maybe God as parts of life—it’s easier to navigate around the sadness that you inevitably stumble across. Life holds beauty, magic and anguish. Sometimes sorrow is unavoidable, even when your kids are little, when the marvels of your children and your parental amazement, are all the meaning you need to sustain you, or when you have landed the job and salary for which you’ve always longed, or the mate. And then the phone rings, the mail comes, or you turn on the TV.” Anne Lamott, from Stitches: A Handbook On Meaning, Hope, and Repair
Political gridlock, evil terrorists, human sex trafficking, and a wide use of illicit drugs are just some of what we are experiencing in this grim avalanche surrounding us today. Easter: The Season of Hope is upon us. Did you know? Easter is celebrated in a variety of ways across the world. Click here to read about some of them. With all of these hopeless things going on, Easter brings Good News for those who believe.
Yesterday was the first day of spring on our calendar. What are some of your favorite things about spring? Springtime is associated with the ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. Though the pollen bothers many, the vivid blooms and flowering trees are truly something to behold!
With many world-wide challenges, some may be asking “Where Is God?” I had something happen in the past week that assured me that his eye is on us.
Did you know? There is a set of verses in the Gospel of Matthew where we are taught what to do with worry. It is human nature to worry some, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a place to go with our worries?
One place to go is found in Matthew 6:25-34. Today, we will look at two of these verses, v. 26-27, and apply them to what happened here in our home.
Have you ever noticed a bird’s nest somewhere on your property? Mama used to say that when a bird builds a nest near your home that this is a sign that you have the gift of hospitality! <smile>
We have a wreath right outside our kitchen entrance that is being used as a nest spot for a bird right now. It is a bit camouflaged …can you see it here below?
So my brief story begins with a homemade wreath that our daughter, Leah made for an upcoming bridal kitchen shower for a dear friend. Leah lovingly used burlap and a big white G for the wreath. Click here to read a previous post that will show you how to make this wreath. In preparation for the Sunday party, my co-host, Cyndi and I began decorating a couple of days ahead. The wreath was hung on our front door on Friday, two days before the festivities would start. On Sunday morning, as I was checking on everything, I noticed that an important project had begun in the burlap wreath: a bird’s nest! In just two days, LOOK at what progress this industrious bird had made!
Some of The Gillam Gang hold beautiful, delicious cookies Baked With Heart by my friend, Louise who has her own business in Virginia. Check out her Facebook Page here. Louise can make the most creative cookies I have ever seen and will carefully pack and ship to your home for a very reasonable price.
Yesterday, our team flew safely into Atlanta, Georgia at 6:00 a.m. EST, just as Delta had promised. By 7:30, most of us had reached our homes, hugged our loved ones tightly, and relaxed in a hot shower or luxurious bath. Me… I was tearful, and I couldn’t seem to stop the tears.
...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
While my family was finishing up a relaxing weekend in North Georgia, I came home to a quiet home, but that is not what I was tearful about…My tears were for many reasons…tears of Elation for reaching our homeland after serving in an unimaginable, impoverished community, tears of Gratitude as I walked into the radiant building that is my church home, Piedmont Church, tears of Joy as I hugged tightly many of the friends who had been thinking of us this past week, tears of Anguish as I later visited Donny’s Dad, who has been under the care of Hospice for the past week, tears of Grief as I considered the truth that 11/11/15 marks the third anniversary of my Daddy’s passing at this same place- Wellstar Tranquility Hospice, off of Kennesaw Avenue in Marietta, and blended tears of Hopefulness and Despair as I thought of each boy and girl I had touched in the past week.
Tears come from the heart , not from the brain.
Now, I am quite sure that my tears were also related to fatigue from an all-night flight, but WOW! They sure were flowing yesterday!
And then, THIS picture here below was posted by my friend, Stephanie, in celebration of their 4th child while I was away. Part of the caption especially moved me …
“The world stopped for a moment as your daddy held out his hands to meet you and I waited to hear your first cry. ‘As for me, I will always have hope. I will praise You more and more.’ Psalm 71:14”
Good thing I didn’t try to wear any eye make-up yesterday.
When I was looking through the mail Donny had set aside for me, I noticed I had received yet another book. In case you didn’t already know this about me, I LOVE books, and I usually start one each week. Anne Lamott, being one of my favorite authors, wrote a book in 2013 which I had not had a chance to read and it arrived in my hands at just the right time for all of these tears! Just think with me for a moment about these words from Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair printed right in the flap:
“What do we do when life lurches out of balance? How can we reconnect to one another and to what’s sustaining? In this book, Lamott explores how we find meaning and peace in these loud and frantic times; where we start again after personal and public devastation; how we recapture wholeness after loss; and how we locate our true identities in this frazzled age. We begin by collecting the ripped shreds of our emotional and spiritual fabric and sewing them back together, one stitch at a time. It’s in these stitches that the quilt of life begins, and embedded in them are strength, warmth, humor, and humanity.”
As I move forward into this week of transitioning from living in a developing community like Rio de Janeiro for a week, to now back to living here in America, where I so easily forget how very blessed I am, I pray that my blended tears will continue. Some may say I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I believe that my blended tears are confirmation to me that there is still plenty for me to do while I am here on this earth. How about you?
This once again reminds me of my friend, Cathy, who has chosen a life of helping others, using the loss of her collegiate son, Matthew Benjamin Dyas on October 1, 2011, to make a difference in the world while there is still time.
The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say 'O God, forgive me.' or 'Help me.
Cathy, along with Matt’s father, David elected to donate $500.00 towards art supplies for my recent Rio Journey, because their Matt loved foreign mission trips, going on many trips, himself, before he left us too soon at the age of twenty.
Read more here. Cathy is forever challenging others and herself to make a difference however you can, and I so appreciate this challenge that she gives to me.