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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Authentic Prayer A Continual Conversation

Does it make any difference to pray?

You know, the older I get, the more I realize the massive need I have for prayer in my life journey. It’s been said that getting old isn’t for sissies and it’s not for the faint of heart either!

Did you know? Praying is easier than you might imagine. God is faithful and gracious.

His mercies towards us as His children are brand new with each new day.

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.

One of the most helpful books I have ever read about this is Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by, Anne Lamott.

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

What part does prayer have in your life journey? Did you know? There are many verses that tell us that when we choose to see God, we will find Him every time. I have definitely found this to be true for me…every time. If you and I find we do not feel close to God, Creator, guess who moved?

Let’s get the conversation going!

More favorite books about prayer:

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey

Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by, Charles F. Stanley

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by, Tim Keller

Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by, Priscilla Shirer

before AMEN: The Power of a Simple Prayer by, Max Lucado

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Run To The Roar Bold Like A Lion

It was a Saturday morning and I stopped by my friend, Cathie’s home to pick up her old magazines for my collage workshops I hold at our local Barbara J. Crafton Women’s Extension Recovery Center. Over tea, I shared with my friend and her collegiate daughter, Aubrey, a book that had been super meaningful to my life in the last 2 years. A book I have picked up again and again. Daring Greatly, by, Brene Brown. As we talked about that book, Aubrey chimed in about a book she was currently reading: Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain Finding Incredible Power, by Levi Lusko. I had never heard of this title published in August 2015. I love books of all kinds, but especially true stories of courageous living, and this one as Aubrey described it briefly was one I was sure to read soon. Fast forward to today, and I have read and shared this book many times…a copy for my son, Walker’s 25th birthday, several excerpts for our friends, The Reads on the 2nd anniversary of their son’s passing, and then today, I used the below passage to get my girls at the Extension thinking before we started our collage projects.

Did you get that? “…most people die at 25 and are not buried until they are age 75.” Here is a collage created by one of my girls who is in recovery while using this quote as her inspiration.

This girl wants to “run to the roar of life” and I pray she will be able to sustain her sobriety in the days ahead in order to do just that!

You see, we are just sojourners here on this earth, just passing through. The Word tells us that we are like grass and wild flowers, here today, and gone tomorrow. A sojourner, that is all…a person who resides temporarily in a place. My niece, Amy wore a watch when she was a teen that had a message written around the face of it: “This earth is not our home.” Yes, we are sojourners, here for such a short time.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. C. S. Lewis

One brief conversation on a Saturday morning over hot tea, one story shared, one book published, and the message becomes a game-changer for myself and many others.

It reminds me that every beating heart has a story. When the time is right, when we share our stories with those in our path and sphere of influence, we can empower others to keep on keeping’ on, to keep their head up, to take the next right step in their journey, to refuse to give up.

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?

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No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict Except Jesus

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.

Andrew Chalmers

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,

Thankfully, Andrew survived this devastating disease, and one day at a time, he is sharing his story through a ministry he started called Take The City. Andrew now has a heart for those who are lost and in the throes of this debilitating lifestyle of substance abuse. Andrew and his family are indebted to the program Teen Challenge which literally helped to save his life. A portion of the proceeds from Nancy’s book will provide scholarships to those needing to enter the recovery program of Teen Challenge.

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:

Wildwood Baptist Church, Acworth, GA Sunday Morning, March 12, 2017, in the cafe area

Piedmont Church, Marietta, GA Sunday Morning, March 19, 2017 in the cafe area

Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, Fayetteville, NC Wednesday, March 22, 2017 during the Wednesday Night Dinner

Click here to listen to an old hymn which came up often and ministered greatly to Nancy during this dark season of her life journey.

Andrew Chalmers, drug-free

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A Resource List:

The Addiction Recovery Guide

Teen Challenge, USA

The Extension: life-worth-recovery

Addiction Recovery

National Institute on Drug Abuse

the fix: Addiction Recovery, Straight Up

Celebrate Recovery

AA

Davis Direction Foundation

A Path Littered With Hard Circumstances? Help Someone: Part Two

Continuation from…

“Having A Bad Day? Are You Feeling Down? Help Someone: Part One 

Is your path littered with hard circumstances today? In my upcoming book, you will see this life lesson my Mama taught me is just what you need! If you have not read Part One, (linked above), please read it first.

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Tragically, Hurricane Katrina and the broken levies had just flooded New Orléans. In the nearby Boots Ward Recreational Center, there was a Red Cross shelter, a safe haven for some of the Katrina evacuees. I drove straight to this center and found out that there was a volunteer position available for the following Monday, 6-10 a.m.

As I signed up, I felt the sadness start to ease.
On that Monday,  I arrived at my appointed time, unaware that someone would be placed in my path who would change my life. I soon met Sarah L. Johnson, a Katrina evacuee who had resided in New Orléans her entire life. Sarah was 85 years old, had never married, and had no children. Funny, she said she had always wanted to visit Atlanta, but didn’t realize she would come like this. The story of how she got here is a story in and of itself. After the initial evacuation, though there was a power outage, Sarah and her fellow residents returned to their apartments. When she heard banging on her door, she glanced out the window only to find that the water was rushing into the streets and rising rapidly. We now know that the levies had broken down, but at that time, the residents had no idea what the rushing water was from. They hurried to the roof of the building where they stayed overnight until a helicopter could pluck each one of them off the roof. When boarding the helicopter, in all the confusion, this 85-year-old woman lost her walker, her glasses, her shoes, and worst of all Sarah found herself separated from a friend who was holding all of her IDs for her.

'One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.' Albert Schweitzer
Sometimes our greatest disappointments are God’s appointments, a chance to bless another person’s life.  A friendship soon developed with Sarah which would change my life for evermore.
When I first met Sarah, she was just waking up in the Red Cross Shelter. I helped Sarah with her laundry, got her breakfast. She talked with me about her strong faith in God and how surely God had a plan for her even in this crazy situation. Feeling more encouraged, at the end of my shift, I gave her a hug, thinking I’d never see her again this side of heaven.

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Sarah Johnson and me, 2005

A few days later, I received a phone call from my friend, Vicki, who had worked at the same shelter, telling me that Sarah needed to see a cardiologist and could I help her to get in to see someone. I had the privilege of taking her to a doctor the very next day. Her heart was just fine and this was the beginning of a sweet friendship, one that I will forever cherish. After four weeks at the shelter, Sarah moved to a wonderful nearby assisted living facility where even though she was the only African-American woman there, she felt love and acceptance from the staff and the  other residents. She visited my weekly Bible Study at my friend, Sara’s home,  worshipped with us at our church and even gathered at my sister’s home for a huge family lunch!

'Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.' Og Mandino

Sarah Johnson shared her heart with me and told me why Psalm 27 was her mainstay scripture. Mama and I took her to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, and she told Mama and me all about her personal and vivid memories of the Civil Rights Movement.
Later, Sarah was happily returned to New Orléans to her same first floor apartment. I believe that our God gave me this opportunity to serve and help Sarah during a time when I was experiencing a broken heart over the loss of my precious friend, Jil.

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Far from home, the residents and staff were so very kind to my friend, Sarah.

Are you feeling down and going through a great disappointment today?? If so,  look up and all around.

Watch for the divine appointment that is waiting around the corner for you to become an uplifting messenger to someone today.
My older brother, John Wade, recalls how Mama was a great listener, who could easily empathize with troubled souls who fell in her path. Mama and Dad joined the local organization of “Parents Of Marines”, providing both comfort and support to those parents whose sons died or became severely wounded during the Vietnam War, which John Wade fought in. They continued this support even after John was honorably discharged from The Marines to begin college. Kathy remembers how Mama taught us to always look people in the eyes when speaking with them, and always be on the look out for ways to serve.

I am so thankful to our Mama for teaching this important tool for moving forward when things seem impossibly hard. I use this tool often, and I hope you will, too!

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Having A Bad Day? Are You Feeling Down? Help Someone: Part One

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With the observation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday just passed, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to reach out and help those we find in our path. We all have bad days, those days when we are feeling down. These are opportunities to help someone!

IMG_8463Just think, back in the days of the Civil Rights Movement, if it were not for the countless citizens, both black and white, who aided others, no telling how this difficult season would have ended.

If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know? A white woman by the name of Viola Liuzzo was murdered at the age of 39 for shuttling civil rights activists back and forth in Alabama. Now, of course, I am not saying to reach out, putting ourselves in dangerous situations such as this, but I am calling us to be brave, look outward vs. inward, and to carry out small deeds which impact others in a positive way.

IMG_8433And remember, it may be as simple as a smile or a kind word that is powerful enough to turn someone’s day around.

Many of you already know that I am working hard on writing a book, a compilation of some of the things I learned from my Mom. Did you know? I started this blog because of my Mama and the many lessons I gained from growing up with her. Here below and on the next post, you will find Part One and Part Two of an excerpt from my book.

LESSON THREE: Are You Down? Help Someone!

This is a lesson I’ve practiced again and again in my life journey. We all have times when we feel discouraged, even hopeless. If we pull up our bootstraps, and help someone, they will be encouraged, and we will feel better too. This works like a charm every time! Try it the next time you feel blue.
The date was August 5, 2005, when my dear friend Jil drowned in an Alabama lake while her family was with her. They were delighting in the final hazy, lazy days of summer when she slipped away. Jil was 40 years old. Jil Cain was one of those humans who inspired others to laugh and love. Jil is still remembered and missed by multitudes of people, even now over 10 years following her passing. Jil left a memorable legacy behind for her family and friends.
My memory bank holds many, many sweet images of Jil, one of which was our participation, along with my girlfriend Kathy, in an Avon 3-Day 60 mile Breast Cancer Walk together in 2000. With the help of my friend, Jules Furr, I was able to raise over $6,000.00 and I walked in memory of my teaching friend, Debbie Ledford who had died in late 1999 of cancer. Leah and Walker even held a dog-wash to raise funds.  : )  Throughout this weekend in 2000, Jil, Kathy and I were surrounded by survivors at every turn. The 60-mile journey was an incredibly inspiring experience. A stirring of the soul.
An experience that changed our lives forever.
Later in the month of August, 2005, soon after Jil had died, I was driving aimlessly down the road. Our children were at Wednesday night youth group, my husband was working late, and I was falling into the depths of despondency as I grieved the loss of my 40-year-old girlfriend.
Suddenly, I remembered this important lesson that my mother had always told me. Mama had often modeled this lesson as well. I considered what I could do to make a difference in someone’s path, and my car, changing directions, was soon traveling up Dallas Highway towards the Boots Ward Recreational Center.

Is there someone in your path, in my path, who may need a boost in the days ahead?

To Be Continued…

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Time Away: A Women’s Retreat We All Need Time To Refuel

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We all need time away to retreat. So this past weekend, November 11-13, 2016, seventeen women from Piedmont Church in Marietta, gathered in the North Georgia Mountains for a retreat. Even though we were all so glad to be together, the date we chose ended up not being the best weekend for all who attended. One of our friend’s husband was celebrating his 6-0 (they celebrated early).

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Another friend’s daughter had a birthday (they celebrated late, on Sunday afternoon). I am quite sure there were other commitments among the 17 of us that went unmentioned.  Like most women, our calendars are always full of  engagements, work obligations, and conflicts, but somehow, we managed to steal away for two nights, all in the name of faith and friendship.

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Women’s Retreat Breakfast

“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

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A large group of ducks on Lake Blue Ridge Saturday afternoon.

img_6662img_6660We connected with nature, we cooked together, danced together, laughed together, exercised together, prayed together, sang together,  bunked together, laughed together some more, and cried together. There were several quiet one-on-one conversations where hearts connected.15095430_10208012373692815_6339721073766000874_n

At the end, when it was time to say our good-byes, we all agreed that we were re-fueled, encouraged, and lifted up. We felt better equipped to face the days ahead, no matter what they may bring.

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As this year draws to an end, and 2017 makes its début in just forty-seven days, consider what group of like-minded women you may need to steal away with.

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Sheila’s PJ’s!
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Party Favor, thanks to Susan, plain and peanut M&Ms!

img_6675img_6686 img_6683 img_6677img_6676img_6681Make some plans. Consider being the one who initiates the get-away. You and all who attend will be forever grateful! No matter our age or season in life, women need time together. And if you are a gentleman reading this, please stand by your sweetheart in support when she makes her plans to take a brief retreat with girlfriends. Times spent with girlfriends or my sisters, whether it is these church friends, college friends, girls from my childhood, or local friends, these times are always memorable, encouraging, and treasured occasions for me!

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RETREAT

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part One

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part Two

Joy Comes In The Morning

Girls Need Time Together

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Scheduled just following the recent election, we all agreed to not discuss our thoughts on the outcome. This agreement left us plenty of time for expressing to each other where our HOPE lies and lots of time for laughter and fellowship.

We Can Get Advice From A Trail Beauty From Ashes

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a recent gift from my friend, Kathy
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The Virginia Creeper Trail on October 15, 2016. Taylor’s friends ride on!
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Taylor’s Shelter from the storms of life…

There are life lessons to learn at every turn…even from a trail.

One week ago today, Donny and I were in the quaint town of Abingdon, Virginia for another visit. Many, like us, drove from all around to attend the 2nd annual Rails To River, Ride For Taylor, gathered to celebrate a life well lived. As I took the 8.5 mile bike ride from the Abingdon trailhead to Taylor’s shelter on the Virginia Creeper Trail, I kept thinking about “beauty from ashes, he brings beauty from ashes.” How does one bring beauty from ashes? Only God, our Creator can do that and on this Saturday, October 15, 2016, we witnessed again and again him doing just that, bringing joy to sorrow, bringing beauty from ashes. I know God’s working, so I smile.

...and provide for those who grieve, to bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes, the oils of joy, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3 NIV

As the day continued at Alvaredo Station, we saw examples over and over of this very thing: Nearly 200 hundred gathered… a gorgeous sunny, fall day… a wonderful bluegrass ensemble…loads of family and friends together… an inspirational word from the Virginia Creeper Trail Club President… Taylor’s buddies traveling from far and wide, even from Hawaii to join in the celebration of Taylor Heston Read’s life… “Taylor’s Prayer” being read in unison by all the guests led by his Dad, Paul Read, and many more examples of God bringing beauty from ashes.

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Taylor’s Grandfather, David and Taylor’s Mom, Kelly, listen as Paul shares with the group.

Speaking of “Taylor’s Prayer”, his Dad, Paul shared the back story with the folks that gathered to celebrate Taylor. Paul said:

“Whenever we were about to say grace, Taylor would eagerly agree to bless the meal, knowing that I may take entirely too long if I was the one who gave the thanks. So Taylor was known for his short, simple, yet meaningful prayer.

Dear God, Thank you for everything we have and hope everybody's okay. Amen Taylor's Prayer
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Paul Read, Taylor’s Dad makes remarks before leading us all in Taylor’s Prayer at the 2nd Annual “Rails To River, Ride For Taylor
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Taylor’s shelter is located here along The Holston River and beside The Virginia Creeper Trail.
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Hanging out in Taylor’s Shelter!

WE are all looking for good things. We are all seeking joy. Sadly, sometimes, “good things” and “joy” can be very difficult to find. That does not mean they are not there, though. It may be easier to understand this as you read here below the inspiration shared by VCTC President, Wayne Miller at the 2nd annual Ride For Taylor:

There is a story in Genesis 21 about Hagar and how she was lost in the wilderness and suffering from thirst.   The text casually mentions in 21:9 that “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” It does not say that God instantly created that well on the spot, or that the Almighty tapped a little celestial H2O into her canteen. Instead Hagar’s eyes are opened to a water source that has been there under her nose all along.  One real spiritual life task is simply showing up, being open to God’s grace and care wherever we are. What we need is here, but sometimes we need new eyes to see it. Like Lucy and Edmund who walked through an old wardrobe to emerge in C.S. Lewis’ wonderfully, magical land of Narnia, we too are called to walk through life with our eyes open, ready for the impact when a glance at the familiar suddenly points to the holy, to God. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in her poem, “Aurora Leigh”: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes.”

The parables and teachings of Jesus feature many natural objects: seeds, rocks, birds, flowers, streams, trees, and I believe Taylor would have added fish to the list. Jesus used such familiar sights to direct attention toward the ordinary, and on the sacred, revealing truth about the invisible God. Jesus picked up something utterly mundane and said, “The Kingdom of God is like this.”

The Virginia Creeper Trail, then, is a laboratory of the spirit, for the hidden Hagar in all of God’s children. In this era of rugged individualists, we are wooed into believing that we ‘make it” in this world through self-generated sweat and ingenuity. We foolishly become our own gods, often unaware of our desperate need to connect with the true God. Though linear in direction and precise in termini, the Creeper holds infinite possibilities for grace around every corner, every milepost, and trestle. Here on this trail my eyes have been opened on more than one occasion to wells I’d never noticed before, wells offering the gift of refreshment from a Source completely outside of self.  

Linger.

Look.

Listen.

Drink deeply of the Trail’s secrets, as Taylor did.

What we need is here.

(Note: original devotion was penned by former Pastor Frank Honeycutt of St. John Lutheran Church, Abingdon, VA)

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WE will ALWAYS miss Taylor! Forever, until we see him again.  His legacy lives on. Click here for the song You Should Be Here, that makes Taylor’s Aunt Allison think about Taylor every time she hears it being played.

Click here to listen to a new rendition of an old beloved hymn, sung by The BYU Noteworthy Members, 9 “angel-like” women singing out in nature by a river.

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

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How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

It Is Well With My Soul

A Grace Disguised

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

A few more pictures from our day:

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Joan and Kelly, friends for 40 years, just before we head for the trail for the 2nd Annual “Rails To River, Ride For Taylor!”

Every Beating Heart Has A Story Joey and Rory's Story

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Joey Martin Feek (9/9/75-3/4/16)

I saw a movie this past Tuesday night that was offered up for a two-night showing by Fathom Events. The next one is scheduled for October 6, 2016, if you decide you want to see it after reading this. The title of the movie is “To Joey, With Love”. Have you heard this story? You may have followed their journey on Rory’s Blog, This Life I Live.

Telling the truth and being real; feeding my family a home-cooked meal, that's important to me. That's important to me. Joey Feek

Seeing it has given me just one more certain reminder that every beating heart has a story, and Rory Feek, Joey’s husband wanted to be sure his late wife’s story was told. And now, I feel compelled to share it here with you.

Seeing this reminded me that none of us know how our stories will go. Life is full of uncertainty; with  no way to foresee what challenges or blessings await us. But as Rory shares this story, he assures us that though we may not know our story that is to come, we can trust, and hope, and have faith that God will bring “good” to our story, whatever that may turn out to mean.

“Some may have the wrong idea about the Christian life. Once they become believers, they may expect “smooth sailing”. Yet, God makes it clear from the beginning of the Word to the end that troubles are inevitable for those who call themselves His. Christ’s life was no exception: He endured false accusations, rejections by His own people, and betrayal by a close friend-to name just a few. As His followers, we expect difficulty. We can choose to look elsewhere for comfort, or we can use our hardship as a source of growth. No matter how painful the trial seems, let’s not waste the opportunity.” Dr. Charles Stanley

If we knew what was going to happen around the corner, we wouldn't get up in the morning. My Mama, Polly Shivers Walker

You see, Joey and Rory Feek were married in 2002, and had their first child together, Indiana in February of 2014.  Before parenthood, Joey and Rory had made quite a name for themselves as a country and bluegrass duo, but together they decided to take some time off on their Tennessee farm to bond with their newborn baby girl, Indy. Without telling you their whole story, I am hoping I have told you just enough to peak your interest, so that you might google them, or even better, find a theater that is showing their story on October 6, 2016. More than 750 theaters had a showing on the night that I went. You can click here to find tickets by putting in your zip code: A Story of Life, Love and Hope, that never dies.

Sometimes when you don't know what to say, you don't know what to pray, these hymns help. The hymns are here for us in the really tough times. Joey Feek

One of my most favorite songs that Joey and Rory sang together is “That’s Important To Me”. Click here to have a listen to it. Later, Rory and Joey complied “Hymns That Are Important To Us.” and you can hear part of their collection by clicking here.

Feeling broken hearted and blessed all at the same time this morning...watching my beautiful bride pour a lifetime of LOVE into a few minutes. Rory Feek, March 2016, in Joey's last earthly days
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Joey Martin Feek (9/9/75-3/4/16)
Yet you, Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Isaiah 64:8

As I often say, life is not a dress rehearsal, it’s the real thing! Rory Feek shared that Joey lived several months longer than expected, but every single day, she LIVED. Just like she lived before she was ill, as though each day was her last. Do you and I live each day like that? I don’t, but I want to. Let’s Just Do It!

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The Simple Things

No Expiration Check The Date

IMG_7642Several years ago, when we still had a high-schooler living under our roof, my husband and I enjoyed homemade apple cobbler with spray whipped cream. Unfortunately we were out of vanilla ice cream which eliminated the chance for à la mode! This after dinner delicacy was actually so good that I decided to surprise our son with the same treat. He was up in his room, so I went ahead and fixed this dessert without even asking him if he wanted it.
When I had it all ready, with whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon and sugar, and 3 musketeers chocolate syrup, I called him down.

He was very pleased when he first arrived in the kitchen…then upon his initial observation, he asked about the date on the syrup.
I responded with the truth: “I have no idea what the date on that syrup is.”
Ok, now, don’t be shocked, but he decided to check the date and it was old, like a couple of years past the expiration date…I am not kidding!!! ( I wish I was!) Needless to say, it went straight in the trash and he fixed himself a new dessert!
WE had some good laughs about dates on products that were in our nearly twenty-year-old home and how we might want to check them out a little more often and a little more carefully in the future…
Soon, our son was checking the dates on some of our other things…the milk had a good date, the yogurt was okay, too.

Later, just before retiring for the night, our son and I started talking about other “expirations”, like letting too much time go by before we open the Word.

The tragedy of life is not death...but what we let die inside of us while we live. Norman Cousins

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If we are not careful, we wait too long to go to the Word for the answers to the big questions that we have in our lives. Just because we do not take the time to look in that direction, does not mean the answers are not there. If we are not careful, our days go by and we do not reap the benefits and the strength that it is in the Word for each of us to grab a hold of. As we age, we realize more than ever that our lives on this earth have an “expiration date”. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 reminds us:

There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season. There is a time to be born and a time to die.

So, maybe you want to go check the dates of some of the products you have in your refrigerator, and perhaps you want to take stock in the date of the last time you delved into the Word as well.

Do something today that you have been putting off because we are not promised tomorrow. Only God knows the number of our days and He’s not telling us that number.

The Good News is that once we are His,

considering God and His Word, there is NO EXPIRATION DATE!

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