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.
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 !!!
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.
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.
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?
I am especially inspired by true life stories about one who has risen above great adversity. Author, Kevin Carroll is another example of this very thing.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, and born the same year as me (1958), Carroll’s parents ended up abandoning he and his two brothers by the time he was eight years old.
Thankfully, the boys were rescued by their grandparents who raised them with love and guidance. Initially, a scrawny kid, Carroll found his release on the playground with a red rubber ball.
With straightforward, captivating storytelling, Kevin Carroll conveys his childhood passion for sport and play into a widely engaging blueprint for life. Tapping wisdom from the playgrounds of his adolescence, where he spent hours and hours strengthening his body and his mind, Carroll shares with us his Rules of the Red Rubber Ball – how to achieve maximum human potential through the power of passion and creativity. YOU may want to click here to watch a 5 minute YouTube video featuring author, Kevin Carroll. His enthusiasm is contagious!
Finding your own -red rubber ball and chasing it to your heart’s content, he argues, is the surest route to peace, prosperity, and happiness. What is your red rubber ball, anyway!?! Life is change and change is life. You may be a growing child or a young adult just starting out in the working world. An empty nester, or in your fourth quarter of life. The following questions Carroll includes in his whimsical, little book will help you out:
What would you do for free?
What activities enthrall you?
What in life do you find irresistible, a source of inspiration, a reason to get out of bed?
What dream do you chase?
What topics do you love to discuss and ponder?
What’s your primal source of joy?
Over the years as an athletic trainer and public speaker, Carroll has transformed his philosophy into seven simple rules that any successful leader will endorse:
1) Commit to it-It requires commitment to pursue your life’s work, despite the naysayers.
2) Seek out encouragers-Sustaining your life’s work cannot be done alone.
3) Work out your creative muscle-Creativity and imagination will help you overcome some unexpected pitfalls.
4) Prepare to shine-Preparation means doing what I call the lonely work: the unglamorous tasks that no one tells you to do and the hard work that no one will notice.
5) Speak up-Challenge boundaries (respectfully) when they arise. There is always a way out.
6) Expect the unexpected-One way to embrace the unexpected is to be on the look-out for, and respect, coincidence.
7) Maximize the day-Each day contains 86,400 seconds, that is 86,400 opportunities to chase, kick, catch, and run after your red rubber ball.
Life Is Short!!! I hope this post about The Red Rubber Ball will encourage you to seek after your dreams. I am definitely more of a visual learner. Therefore, I have a new red rubber ball hanging around my home to remind me to continue to be joyful and to keep my dreams alive.
My Red Rubber Ball is the Book Project I am working on about
12 Lessons My Mama Taught Me.
Past Posts About People Who Have Overcome Adversity In Their Lives:
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.
Since trick-or-treaters generally don’t make their way down our short street, Donny and I decided to make a date last night, and see this movie.
Without giving away the whole story, based on true events, here are a few quotes by the authors of this story:
“If you really serious ’bout helping’ somebody, crawl down in the ditch with ’em, bandage up their wounds, and stick with ’em until they is strong enough to crawl up on your back ands get out.”
“The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or something in-between, this earth ain’t no final restin’ place. So in a way, we is all homeless—just workin’ our way home.”
“When you is precious to God, you become more important to Satan. Watch your back.”
“There’s something I learned when I was homeless. Our limitation is God’s opportunity. When you get all the way to the end of your rope and there ain’t nothin’ you can do, that’s when God takes over.”
“I found out everybody’s different—the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin’ down the road God done set in front of us.”
“To love a man enough to help him, you have to forfeit the warm, self-righteous glow that comes from judging.”
“Most people want to be circled by safety, not by the unexpected. The unexpected can take you out. But the unexpected can also take you over and change your life. Put a heart in your body where a stone used to be.”
When you take time to read this book or see the movie, I am wondering what thoughts you may have afterwards?
Here are a few of my musings:
1) love always wins
2) regardless of our race, gender or place of origin, we are similar in more ways than not
3) we all put our pants on one leg at a time
4) each of us can reach one who is in need
5) when we help someone, we are encouraged and changed
6) life is brief and kindness matters
7) judgment is never okay we never know where one’s shoes have trod
Today, I want to share with you three touchstones of showing up.
Acts of love that will truly help during difficult seasons of life.
When is the last time you heard some grueling news about someone you know? A few days ago, a week or month ago? It seems the older we get, the more frequent it is. Someone has a new health diagnosis. A tragedy has happened in a family you love or a marriage has split up. Someone has passed suddenly.
This book gives many great ideas about how to best reach out when someone you love is going through a hard time. Here, I will give you just a fraction of what I learned in this quick, colorful, informative read.
Three Touchstones Of Showing Up:
(1) Your kindness is your credential. (page 58) “At its core, kindness is a total absence of ego and self-interest in doing something for someone else. The defining feature of kindness is that it comes unsolicited, and in its most awe-inspiring moments, it comes to the aid of those who are shunned. ” (page 60) Kindness comes from a basic social emotion: compassion. Compassion is to Notice, Feel, and Respond.
(2) Listening speaks volumes. (page 90) “Knowing how bad it can feel to hear the wrong thing, and how easy it can be to say the wrong thing, many of us would rather remain silent and walk away from an emotionally difficult situation.”
'I loved her texts. Just knowing that she noticed and cared, was all that I needed; it's not like she had a magic lever that would release balloons from the ceiling and make my disease go away.'
-Ken, diagnosed with MS
“Even if we know from experience how comforting it can be to have someone to talk to, when we’re in that position to provide such comfort, that conversation can easily feel too overwhelming to handle.”
“Thankfully, the conversations get easier with practice, and they can pretty much guarantee us the absolute best way to build deep, trusting, unshakable relationships–the kind most of us can use more of. The best way to have a conversation with someone in a difficult time, is not in the talking, but in the listening. And thankfully, it’s much easier to listen than it is to find that elusive ‘useful’ thing to say.”
'If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but do not love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain 'Jump!', and it jumps, but I do not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. Love Never Gives Up. Love Cares More For Others Than For Self. Love Does Not Want What It Does Not Have.'
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
(3) Small gestures make a big difference. (page 145) “Sometimes, what’s holding us back from offering comfort isn’t that we don’t care enough, but that we don’t feel we have the time or the bandwidth to do something that will make a difference. We may feel that we have to be 100 percent available all the time when we’re around someone in a tough situation. It’s not unreasonable to think that saying ‘I’m sorry’ is an inadequate response to, say, the loss of a loved one. Or that asking ‘How are you?’ and genuinely wanting to know means we are then responsible for talking with this person about their situation until the end of time. The good news is these fears are normal. The better news is these fears are not rational. Empathy Tip: (page 167) “The sick, grieving, or freaked-out person ALWAYS gets a pass. Always offer up your gift with a ‘No need to write a thank-you.” And mean it.
In the days and weeks ahead, how can you and I better love the hurting folks who end up directly in our life path?
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.
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!