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)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.'
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 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.
Hurting hearts and painful paths come with the tremendous challenges surrounding depression and suicide. Mental illness is a palpable concern in our lives these days, and we must increase the dialogue. Complicated? Yes. Grueling and toilsome? Yes. Still we must start talking more openly about this suffering that so many souls deal with much too often.
Our family has an especially heavy heart today. We have recently learned of a much-loved young man, age 25, ending his life this past weekend. A sufferer of depression, our friend was treated with meds, placed in residential settings, loved by many, and monitored carefully by his devoted parents and sibs.
However, while our hearts ache, this post is not about our dear friends’ tragic circumstances, it is far too raw and personal. They will rely on God, family and friends to walk down this horrific and painful path.
“We learned how to look after ourselves and we had to do this otherwise we couldn't cope.”
Lisa, mother of Jason who ended his life
Instead, I will share, with permission, another story that has been made public.
My hope is to shed some light on this extremely difficult subject.
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Risk factors include mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse, including alcoholism and use of benzodiazepines. Other suicides are impulsive acts due to stress such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or from bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at higher risk for future attempts. Suicide prevention efforts include limiting access to methods of suicide, such as firearms, drugs, and poisons, treating mental disorders and substance misuse, proper media reporting of suicide, and improving economic conditions. (Wikipedia)
This mission allows children to see what it feels like to be a giver, to make an impact in areas they are interested in helping in. If you still have children under your roof, I hope you will check out Kristen’s work and join in.
Here is how it works!
Donate: Generous donor makes donation to Kids Boost. Example: Donor John Smith contributes $100 to the Kids Boost General Fund to jumpstart a new Kids Boost project.2. Connect To Cause: Child chooses a cause important to him or her. Example: Weston, 12 years old, signs up for Kids Boost and declares he would like to fundraise for the Special Olympics in honor of his brother who has special needs.
3. Innovate: Child receives startup money and coaching support from Kids Boost. Example: Kids Boost provides Weston with $100 in startup funding and a coach to help him implement his project “Run the Bases Marathon.” Weston uses the $100 to create flyers for the event and provide drinks and pizza for all the participants. A local ballpark donates field time and Weston’s dad volunteers to be the PA announcer and “scorekeeper” at the event. A family friend donates time and a few huge speakers to add fun music at the event. The local dollar store donates balloons.
4. Multiply: Child Boosts multiplies funds and awareness for chosen charity. Example: All the teams in Weston’s baseball league volunteer to participate by running as many bases as they can in an allotted time frame. Each base runner volunteer collects pledges for the number of bases he runs. Weston’s “Run the Bases Marathon” raises $500 for Special Olympics.
5. Pay It Forward: 80% of the total raised goes to the charity of the child’s choice. 20% goes back to Kids Boost to help another child participate. Example: Weston presents a check for $400 (80% of the total raised) to Special Olympics. $100(20% of the total raised) goes back to Kids Boost to help another kid get started on another project. Donor John Smith sees a huge return on his investment plus the intangible benefits to Weston and his base running friends.
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.
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.'
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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:
'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.
To My Dear Friends of Pages From Joan: If you are new to my blog, I want to give you a big welcome and ask you to take a look at some previous, favorite posts I have linked for you at the end of this post. In addition, if a particular post speaks to your heart, I encourage you to share it with the ones you love! With Many Thanks, Joan
“I am still confident of this in the land of the living. Be strong and take heart.” Psalm 27:13-14
What do these words penned so long ago by David back between the time of Moses (around 1440 B.C.) and the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.) mean?
'No matter where the poet (of Psalms) begins, he almost always ends in worship. This is no coincidence, this is where our journey must lead us. Augustine put it like this: 'Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.''
John Eldridge, from The Journey of Desire
God wants us to patiently wait upon Him, as we live out our earthly journey. He wants us to seek Him, as we gain strength from Him, and live with an authentic heart. Waiting for Him is not easy. Often it seems that He isn’t answering our prayers or doesn’t understand the urgency of our situation. That kind of thinking implies that God is not in control or is not fair. As believers, God is definitely worth waiting for. Lamentations 3:22-26 (one of my favorite passages) calls us to hope in and wait for the Lord because often God uses waiting to refresh, renew, and teach us. Let’s make good use of our waiting times as we discover what God may be trying to teach us in them.
With all the anxiety-provoking circumstances in our world, where do you and I turn for relief?
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.
C. S. Lewis, British novelist and apologist (1898-1963)
The time was 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday. I was going around my home like an unbalanced, loon. Yes, I was going room-to-room, trying to find something important that I had misplaced, uttering an arrow (one I shoot straight up to heaven) prayer under my breath: “Please, Lord, can you help me locate this!?!”
I never did find what I was looking for, but I was thankfully able to reproduce the project with ease. Soon, I took my anxiety straight to my favorite chair in the den. Promptly flipping to Psalm 27:1-14, my heart began to quiet down as I read these words to myself: New International Version 1The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? 2When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. 4One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. 5For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. 6Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. 7Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. 8My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. 9Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. 10Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 11Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. 13I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:1-14
The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God's love for us does not.
C. S. Lewis, British novelist and apologist (1898-1963)
As a believer, where do you and I store our Bible? I’ve found that when I keep mine easily accessible, I am more likely to be inspired to actually open it on a more regular basis.
On more than 250 million devices, and with an estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, the Bible is widely considered to the best-selling book of all time. It sells approximately 100 million copies annually. (Wikipedia)
Where will you and I turn in times of uncertainty and anxiousness in the days and months ahead of us. How will we reach out in His direction when we are at a loss about which way to turn. My prayer for you and for me is that we will more often open The Word and feast upon His wisdom!
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.
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.
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!
I want to follow that age-old verse found in First Thessalonians Chapter Five:
“Rejoice Always, Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
Blaise Pascal, philosopher, 17th century
For me that means to maintain a grateful heart regardless of my circumstances. To carry on a continual conversation with my Creator. It also means I yearn to keep a short list of my wrongdoings as He lovingly convicts me and brings them to my mind and heart. I truly believe that prayer makes a big difference in my personal life journey.
And we are in the middle of the Lent Season where believers choose to say “no” as a gift to God…a way to purify themselves during this penitential season. So it’s a perfect season to ponder the purpose and place of prayer in your life and in mine.
I recently ran across an anonymous prayer from the 17th Century. Transparent and honest prayers such as this are received and valued by God. He is listening. Are we talking to Him? Are we listening out for His still small voice? He wants to hear from us and He covets a personal relationship with you and with me.
“Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will be someday old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy with my vast store of wisdom; it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point swiftly. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tails of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that I occasionally may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a sour old person. Some of them are so hard to live with and each one a crowning work of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.
2 Samuel 22:33-34
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
That is exactly what Pastor Levi Lusko does in his book. He takes an incredibly devastating season in his family’s life and helps readers to catch their breath, to gain strength and momentum during a time of grief.
But this book is not just about grief. No, it is evidence of death not being the end, of darkness not being the winner, of turning the Light on against dim circumstances.
A few more important excerpts from Lusko’s book:
How will you and I run to the roar of the lion in the days ahead. Did you know that a lion’s roar can be heard five miles away. Are we roaring with life today? If not, why not?
My friend, Nancy R. Chalmers has recently published her book entitled, “No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict.” This autobiographical story recounts the author’s experiences as she endured her son’s addiction, the physical, emotional and spiritual turmoil the addiction was on her and the entire family. The center is filled with family pictures illustrating their journey. Readers are given a firsthand look at how drug addiction took over her son, Andrew’s life, straight from her heart. This personal story took a ton of courage, bravery, as well as a hefty dose of vulnerability. This story is not just for parents of addicts, but for families who find themselves in a hard season that seems impossible to change.
It is Nancy’s sincere hope and prayer that many families will begin to heal, not only from the tragedy of substance abuse, but from any number of difficult circumstances that happen around our globe on a regular basis. It is this author’s belief that the path to wholeness starts with brokenness, and that “healing” is our God’s specialty since we are His creation. I agree with her.
In this personal account, Nancy also reminds us how telling our story…to a trustworthy soul…can offer healing beyond measure. She is very thankful for the one friend who reached out on a regular basis to be “Jesus with skin on” for this hurting Mom.
It's amazing seeing the ripple effects of how when the hope of Jesus Christ invades the life of a person how that creates a domino effect to impact the rest of their family, their workplace, and their neighborhood.
Andrew Chalmers, Director and Founder of Take The City, also son of Nancy and Louis Chalmers,
Not everyone is going to exhibit the kind of faith The Chalmers have shown here in this story. But God can work with what faith you have. In fact, Matthew 17:20 tells us “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Church folks don't like to talk about unacceptable problems. Oh, we can go on and on about cancer, death, (as long as it's not suicide), divorce, loss of job, sudden illness, surgery, birth defects, all our 'small sins' and many more. But alcohol and substance abuse, family abuse, runaways, other addictions, mental illness, satanic activity, pornography and sexual perversions, rape, murder, and nervous breakdowns are taboo.'
Nancy R. Chalmers, author of No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict
At the close of her story, Nancy offers a 15 page Reflections Study Guide for hurting families. She begins it by again, reminding us that healing begins when we share our stories in a safe, confidential space.
Nancy begins the Study Guide with some frank questions:
What is going on in your family?
Who are the players in your drama?
How is all this affecting you?
Describe your most recent challenge or storm and how you responded.
To whom do you share this problem, where do you go for good counsel?
How do you find comfort?
Please note below a schedule of Nancy Reardon Chalmers’ upcoming book signings: