Add To Your Faith Goodness We Can Add Light To Darkness

I am learning that when we add to our faith, goodness, we gain encouragement from The Word. WE can add Light to the Darkness.

As I studied some scripture this morning, I was moved by the truth in the book of 2 Peter…It has so many of life’s answers in just a few short verses:

“For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, LOVE.

For if you possess THESE qualities in INCREASING measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, (s)he is nearsighted and blind, and has FORGOTTEN that (s)he has been cleansed from past sins.”

2 Peter 1:5-9

So, today, if you have are asking some difficult questions of LIFE, I hope you will consider these verses as part of the answer He may have for you.

I wonder how much brighter our world might be if we possessed the qualities mentioned in these verses? I believe we could bring LIGHT to our DARK world.

A few years ago, pre-covid, I experienced a dose of DARKNESS to LIGHT on a Saturday night at the 9th annual Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade. As over 70,000 spectators looked on, hundreds of participants, from all walks of life, carried bright, creative, and colorful lanterns as they marched down the Beltline. These whimsical lights brought smiles, laughter, and community…darkness to light.

I want to share one of my favorite ways to read The Word often, if not daily.
I read a Proverbs of the day, depending on the day of the month. Today, for example, I read Proverbs 24 for September 24th. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs…one for each day of the month! When I read the chapter, I choose one or two verses to consider all day long. I may write them on a 3×5 index card or a post-it note to slip into my purse. I’ve even been known to write them on the palm of my hand to glance at throughout my day.

There is such wisdom and life application in the book of Proverbs.

Billy Graham once said:

” I read five Psalms a day and that teaches me how to get along with God.

I read a chapter of Proverbs a day because that teaches me how to get along with my fellow-man.”

Here is an example of the wisdom that is in today’s Proverbs!

Proverbs 24:32 really spoke to me this morning…”I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”

Did you know? The words silent and listen have the same six words in them. This verse reminds me to observe more than I talk and learn from what I see. After all, God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we would hopefully listen more than we would speak.

Our past sometimes gets in the way of our vision for the future, doesn’t it? If you and I allow ourselves to dwell on the areas where we’ve failed or on losses and disappointments that have hurt us, we might find it difficult to look forward to the future God has for us.
Just as David dreamed of building a magnificent temple, we can dare to dream of building a new life.
God has our unique layout already drawn up: we just need to follow it by faith. We may be afraid that we will start and fail, but in the words of David, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” As someone once said:
“Beginning is half done. In other words, take the first step, it’s the toughest.”
What dreams have we been quietly suppressing?  What thoughts have been discouraging you? Keeping these to ourselves only makes life harder.  Maybe you’ve been dreaming about building deep friendships or making an impact on your community. Don’t be frightened. When God begins a good work, He is faithful to complete it. If you have a specific prayer concern that you would like for me to join you in, email me at joanwpage08@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. I would be honored to stand with you as you defeat discouragement or chase your dreams.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I hope this little time of devotion will encourage us in the days ahead.
P. S. One thing I know for sure is that a new born baby brings a magnificent amount of light into this dark world.

Our Tripp Mug
Donny’s favorite mug…a gift when Leah announced her pregnancy.
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4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

GriefAs we experience the Fall 2020 season, I begin to reflect more than usual on the 14th anniversary of my Mama’s passing on October 24, 2006, I wanted to share what I have learned are some of the best ways to help those who are grieving.

Though I am not able to visit Mama and Daddy’s grave regularly, I am happy Donny and I will drive by there later today on our way to see our friends in Abingdon, Virginia.

Did you know? The definition of bereaved is “to be deprived of a loved one through a profound absence, especially due to the loved one’s death”. With our global Pandemic far from over, many of us have suffered unexpected loss. WE were never meant to journey through this life alone. I know we are all beyond grateful for the front-line health care providers who have been with our loved ones when no visitors have been permitted during Covid-19.

People may excite themselves in a glow of compassion not by toasting their feet at the fire and saying, ‘Lord, teach me more compassion,’ but by going and seeking a person who needs compassion.” Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887, an abolitionist)

This fall, in November, also marks the passing of my Daddy,  seven years ago. With both of my parents now gone, I have been encouraged by friends and family, alike.

We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand…and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it therefore before it is too late.” Marie Edith Beynon

 I have grieved with my husband in the passing of his mother in 2010, and then his father just a few years later.. We have stood with my sister’s family (2009) in the loss of their young adult son, Brad, and more recently we have joined our dear friends in Virginia in the loss of their 23 year old son, Taylor in early 2015.

In recent years, I have also had the privilege to support others in their grief journeys. A grief book that has helped me so much is called A Grace Disguised: How The Soul Grows Through Loss.

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved:

(1) Show Up. When you’re not sure what to do, simply be there.  Those who are grieving want to know you are praying for them and that you care about their loss. This calls for us to reach for courage in order to go to the hard place and love on those in need. Show up with attention and grace.

The people we love most do become a physical part of us.  When we lose them, be it by death or earthly separation, the sense of rupture is real and raw. Meghan O’Rourke

(2) Don’t worry if you don’t have the right words to say. My Mama used to tell me that if I didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t necessary to say anything, but to be physically present is always important.

(3) Remember them in the weeks and months ahead. Mark your calendar if necessary to remind yourself to drop them an encouraging note, text, or email. Share your memories of their beloved one. Mail a book, a small gift, or drop some banana bread by their home to let them know their loss has not been forgotten. Many who lose a loved one feel as though everyone else’s life is going on and they are stuck in this place of grief.

YOUR reaching out to them may be just what they need at a particular time.

(4) Speak their name. Never stop saying their loved one’s name. Some people may believe that speaking the deceased’s name will bring the survivors sadness, but instead there’s a good chance it will bring them joy as you remember their loved one by speaking his/her name often.

sculpture guardian angel

There are many additional ways to

come alongside and encourage those who are grieving.

What are some actions that have helped you

during your season of bereavement?

Musings On Marriage 13,505 Days Since We Said "I Do"

2020 UPDATE….Celebrating 13,870 Days Since We Said “I DO”.

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Thanks to our long-time friend, Keith, we met on a blind date on October 7, 1978 for a University of Georgia home football game. On October 2, 2019, my husband, Donny and I celebrate 36 years of marriage.

The Dawgs conquered Ole Miss that day,in 1978, with a score of 42-3. What an awesome omen, a sign of good things to come regarding our future together.

We all know that a successful marriage doesn’t just happen. There’s no denying that this is a frightening time for couples. More than half of all first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages fail.

LIFE is an adventure with this guy by my side!

Today, I have for you some musings on marriage, 13,505  days since we said “I Do”.

  • Marriage is hard work. This relationship is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are great.
  • You cannot change your spouse. Don’t even try!  “The greatest roadblock to a great relationship is trying to force a change through bribes or threats.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie
    Since we first met in 1979, in June and then again in August, we’ve celebrated 76 birthdays together!
  • Keep your dreams alive together. “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together becomes a reality.” John Lennon
  • Respect and love your spouse! A good, strong marriage is based on respect.
  • Don’t keep secrets from your spouse. “The fewer secrets you have, the happier you will be.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie
  • Give your spouse attention. “Gift the love of your life with a hold on social media, undistracted, untelevisioned, unhurried attentiveness.” Mary Anne Radmacher
  • “…do not let the sun set upon your anger.” Ephesians 4:26 “Make sure you never, never argue at night. You just lose a good night’s sleep, and you can’t settle anything until morning anyway.” Rose Kennedy
  • Arguing and disagreeing is perfectly normal in a good marriage and fusses make the reunion so much sweeter.  I believe we grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage.
  • No one deserves unfaithfulness in a marriage! If a person is not happy enough to be faithful to the chosen one, one would hope they would just be honest and make their unhappiness known instead of sneaking around with another.
    My Daddy escorted me on October 2, 1982 reminding me of the word, EQUANIMITY. Just as he did with my 3 sisters as they were escorted on their wedding days, the focus was on equanimity: mental calmness, composure, and coolheadedness. We’ve all come to use this as a theme to live by.
  • Each spouse should have the room and freedom to be who they are as an individual. “Love allows your beloved the freedom to be unlike you. Attachment asks for conformity to your needs and desires.” Deepak Chopra
  • No one, absolutely no one should be verbally or physically abused in a marriage relationship. Take a firm stand against this kind of treatment. We teach people how to treat us.
  • If this appeals to you and your love, take occasional, brief trips away from one another. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. We’ve been doing this since the beginning of our 35 year marriage and believe it to be a great thing.
  • When choosing a guy, take note of how he treats his mother. This may be a good sign about how he treats women, in general.
  • Develop true love and an alignment of the same fundamental values in going for a successful marriage. “…a cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
  • At all costs, avoid criticizing your spouse, especially in the presence of others. It NEVER helps, and often makes things worse.
  • Listen To Each Other. “No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is not saying.” Anonymous
    Our Family! Breckenridge, Colorado, March 2017
  • CARE deeply for your spouse. “Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
  • Share and grow a common faith. “Faith is the highest passion in a human being.” Soren Kierkegaard “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12.
  • Persistence always pays off! “Don’t give up. There are too many naysayers out there who will try to discourage you. Don’t listen to them.
    The only one who can make you give up is yourself.” Sidney Sheldon “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize
    how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison
  • No matter who the bread-winner is, share the chores in the home and the care of the children. This builds both teamwork and camaraderie. “Many hands make light work.” A Proverb
  • A good marriage is an intimate and loving relationship which gives both partners security, friendship, companionship, support, comfort, and deep love that penetrates every aspect of life. None of this can be achieved without work and sacrifice.
  • For a marriage to succeed, both partners must be committed to its success. Marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. It is the mystery of living as one flesh with another human being (Ephesians 5:31-32). Henry Cloud; John Townsend, Boundaries in Marriage
  • Once your children are married, try your best not to give unsolicited advice. And if they do ask for advice, help them with that one thing, without bringing the subject up again. (unless they do)
  • Look Around. Who are the ones you hang out with most of the time? Be sure they are folks who are as committed to a long-time marriage as you are.
  •  Say “I Love You”, when you say “Good Night.
  • Now that we are first-time grandparents, we are relishing this amazing season together. Supporting each other’s efforts as we hold these tiny ones, care for them, and pour our hearts and souls into loving them.
  • And another great tip added by my friend, Jan Kelly: Practice good manners with your spouse: please, thank you, excuse me, I’M SORRY (often!) Forgive Every Day. (thanks, Jan!)

What are some of your thoughts on how to build a successful marriage? Post your comments below or on my Facebook Page: Pages From Joan

 

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4 Ways To Love Our Peeps

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Five Ways To Love Well

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Busy School Days Three Things We Did

School Days are busy days, that is for sure! The days will go by, no matter what.

Welcome to Reality - Road sign

The hour is 2:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, and I find myself walking through our quaint Marietta Square thinking about afternoons gone by, when our son and daughter were small and coming up. Now married, ages 31 and 28, Leah and Walker are both married with children of their own.

Were we busy on school days! The hours between 2:30-8:30, six hours in all, were so jammed pack, roller skates would have probably helped me to make it to their bedtime. Homework, sports, carpools, snack time, Mission Friends,  baths, music lessons, dinner, and more, filled those six hours each weekday and the memories come flooding in when I allow them to. My husband’s work schedule did not allow him to help me shuffle them here and there, so it was lots of other Moms, and me, who counted on each other to create plans that were workable.

TODAY, however, as we continue to face the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic. school days are anything but “normal”. (I heard it said once that “normal” is nothing but a setting on a washing machine, lol)

What we are facing, collectively, is something most of us have never dealt with before—the threat of contagion, the challenges of quarantine, and the possibility (or reality, sadly) of major losses, both in human terms and economically. AND now, it is August and Back To School Season, after abruptly closing our schools down in Mid-March 2020.

During these especially challenging times, I think it is particularly important to remember to be non-judgmental, kind and supportive regarding the school decisions that our family and friends are making for the students who still live at home.

Some are choosing virtual, some are home-schooling, and some are attending classes face-to-face. All choices are permissible.

As we continue to move forward with tremendous hopes for finding a viable vaccination as soon as possible, let’s pour out resolve, resilience, and support to all who are in our path. Let’s look for ways to help others during this time, even in small ways such as an encouraging note or a meal for a neighbor who is battling cancer. Let’s all Look UP, keeping our faith strong.

Now at a local Starbuck’s patio at the corner of Whitlock and North Marietta Parkway, the hour is closer to three p.m., and I think about the parents are  would normally be heading to schools for pick-up, while the teachers are calling the day a wrap as they clean their boards and straighten the classrooms in preparation for Hump Day.  Not this year. Not in 2020. Many schools are virtual, while a few are not. Either way, the days go by, no matter what.

Back to school design over white background, vector illustration

I don’t feel sad as I recall these school days gone by, but I do recall easily three things that we intentionally tried to do every single day:

1) Eat dinner together as a family-not every night, but we tried hard to make it most nights. We would go around the table sharing “highs” and “lows” from the day gone by. The crockpot was my best friend then! Click here to read a pertinent article about this.IMG_5309

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2) We read together every night at bedtime. When they were nonreaders, we would read to them and once they learned to read, we would read with the popcorn method-you read a page and your child reads a page. Click here to read an important article about reading with your kids.

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3) Each and every night, we would rest our hand on our child and give them the following blessing from Numbers 6:24-26: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Parents today, more than ever before, still want the Lord to bless their children. 

How about your family? What intentional traditions and memories are you building into the busy days of your children and grandchildren? The SKY is the limit!

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Letter Challenge Send One Today

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Mama and Daddy were married on October 21, 1948 Rossville, Georgia.

I have a letter writing challenge for you today. This past March 4, 2020 would have been my Daddy’s 100th birthday!

Among many other things, Johnny Walker was known for gentleness, kindness, wisdom, and love letters.

 Here is a short love letter he mailed to my Mama just a few months before they wed in October 1948, with a promise to write again when he reached his hometown of Irvine, Kentucky.

I cannot help but believe that small acts like sending this note to his fiancé added up to great love among themselves, their children, grandchildren, great-grands, and the multitudes they crossed paths with during their 58-year marriage. Now they are together forever!

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Mama’s engagement picture, Summer 1948, at the time she received this note.

The challenge is simple. Instead of the usual texts and emails, let’s challenge each other to surprise the special people in our lives with handwritten love notes. These can be sent or mailed to grandchildren, best girlfriends, collegiates, young marrieds, parents, and more.

For those you share a home with, a short note can be left for them to find in a lunchbox, under their pillow, on a bathroom mirror, on a car seat, slipped in a suitcase for the traveler, or by the coffee maker.

Like my Daddy’s example, it doesn’t have to be long. The message will provide affirmation, a reminder of your love, and emotional support for the recipient.

I ‘m quite sure you are aware of the passing of Mrs. Nancy Reagan, wife of our 40th U.S. President, Ronald Reagan in March 2016.  President Reagan was also known for sending love letters to his sweetheart. Click here to read a sampling of some of these notes and letters.

I am currently reading a historical fiction book The Postmistress by, Sarah Blake set in both London and coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. This intriguing novel based on details of the early 1940’s really got me thinking about the importance of personal letters.

And it does not have to be a full letter! How about leaving behind post-it notes for the ones you love the most. (like the pictures here)IMG_9256 IMG_9253

The Way of Love 1 Corinthians 13 The Message

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 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 don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 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’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

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Mama and Daddy …great love always!

Who will you send a note or letter to today?

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A SPOT OF SUNSHINE Let's Watch For Them

With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.

Two of our FF (Friends Forever) group, Jan and Jane Ellen. Yes, friends since Fernbank Elementary.

As a sixty-something woman, I am  grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.

As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.

That spot of sunshine may be the simplest thing. The simple things can be missed if we are not in the habit of watching for them.

This may have come to me in a smile, a kind word, a note in the mail, a loving hug, an encouraging text or email, artwork, birthday celebrations, a laugh, a song, a written message or verse, a yummy taste of a favorite food, the chance to aid another, sweet memories, excellent health care, and the way my loved ones say my name, just to name a few.

Measuring The Moments…the “spots of sunshine” with our two children, Leah and Walker, when they were growing. (1993-1994)

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.
“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
~James M. Barrie~

What are the spots of sunshine that you are most comforted and encouraged by
during this crazy season we are finding ourselves in?

Let’s Watch For Them.

Taylor’s Ride with dear friends. October 2018.

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Mustard-Sized Faith

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A Loving Eulogy for My Father

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Five Reasons We Should Volunteer

Pandemic Alterations Let's Work Our Muscles!

Have you considered some alterations you would like to see in your life journey. Seriously, the vast majority of us have had extra time to consider our lives and our ways of living out our days. This reminds me of a favorite hit from the Broadway hit, RENT. Seasons Of Love. “525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments, how do you measure a year in a life? How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year in a life. Measure you life in love.”

Click here to listen to this great song.

It’s easy to recall all the hype that came with the introduction of a brand new decade just 113 days ago. 2020 had quite the ring to it didn’t it!?! Now that the first quarter of this new year has sailed us by, we are left here wondering what has happened. That trio of months seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? It does to me! So much has changed.

This Global Pandemic has truly turned our world upside down, hasn’t it? This unprecedented season came to us with very little notice and by mid-March, our schools and “non-essential” establishments were shutting down. We were, in fact, blindsided when COVID-19 came to town, weren’t we!?!

How have you and I navigated this new normal? Have you, like me, had more pj pants…yoga pants…in the laundry than ever before? More food in the frig, the pantry than ever before? More rest and relaxation than ever before? More time to think, to reflect than ever before? If so, then WE are the lucky ones. Unlike the countless first responders who are carrying 40 + hours on the front line, quarantining from their families, literally laying their lives on the lines for the rest of us.

Yes, we are the lucky ones if we have the resources, shelter, and food that we all need. WE are especially fortunate if we have a stable foundation of love and emotional support under our roofs, as well.

How is our overall mental health? An article by, Jennifer Glover Yaeger that I read recently could be very helpful to you and to me in this current environment. Click here to find it.

I recently read a devotion that reminds me that Life takes muscle work and resilience. I want to be willing to make changes as life evolves.

Otherwise, I am just “a bystander”. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be “a participant” in this life, not just someone who is here and accounted for, but not really taking part, not connecting, not interacting, not having an impact.

I am learning that the best way to bring peace to my external circumstances is to begin with internal work. Internal peace will begin to settle external chaos.

Here is an excerpt from the devo I read:

“I’m convinced that life without risk isn’t much of a life. There’s a certain comfort in predictability. But it’s the kind of comfort you don’t find when you’re moving and growing. It’s the comfort you find in hibernation.
If you’ve followed sports or been around athletes, you know that an athlete regularly stretches his muscles to the point where they burn. Otherwise these muscles become inflexible, unresponsive, and easily fatigued. The same is true with your soul. It must be regularly stretched. Failure to do so gives you comfort in the short-term, but ultimately leaves you emotionally and spiritually unfit.
Connecting, loving, and pursuing dreams, all require risk and energy! Yes, you’ll be stretched to the point of discomfort. Yes, you may experience some hurt and disappointment. But these are far better alternatives than the loneliness, boredom, and quiet desperation that accompany a life without risk.” ~Steve Arterburn, New Life Live~
While it is not always comfortable, I want to stretch ALL of my muscles from here on out! My physical muscles, my faith muscles, my brain muscles, my compassion for others muscles. ALL of these, and more.
In addition, I want to discover what in my life is no longer serving me well.
Maybe it’s a bad habit I have been carrying around for decades. A routine that has become commonplace. A Rut. A pattern that is no longer useful. A temperament that is not as kind as I would like. There is no better time than a pandemic to make the changes we want to make, when many of us are allotted an extra span of time to ponder this.
If only we will.
What is it for you and for me that we would like to change and alter for the  days ahead as we all begin to live our “new normal”? What pandemic alterations would we like to create?
What is no longer serving us?
Yes, it can be difficult, and risky, too. But, so, so worth it. It is truly a Fork In The Road, and we get to choose the way.
Let’s Start Today!

P.S. I know you join me in this thought: I cannot wait to give big hugs like this one to all of my friends and family!!!

Gloria Standard, otherwise known as “Shoots”, hugs our daughter, Leah, in celebration of the birth of her very first great-grandchild, Michael Scott Andrews III.

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Wrestling And Seeking The Rubber Meets The Road

Two open hands in the sky with a sphere of light, symbol of gratefulness and gratitude.

 

We can all agree that our globe has been turned upside with the sudden turn of events since the initial spread of the Corona Virus around December 31, 2019 in the community of Wuhan, China. We’ve been asked to social distance, shelter-in-place, and take every precaution necessary to keep ourselves safe from this ruthless rival.

We’ve had lots of time alone.

Time to think, time to ponder our life circumstances prior to this unexpected interruption. This is when the rubber meets the road regarding our inner self, our own personal beliefs about creation, mortality, and faith.

We can also agree that for the most part, these circumstances have brought out the very best in the human soul.

I have been wrestling lately about how I can best express to my friends here on Pages From Joan the reality of my personal faith journey. Especially during the tumultuous and uncertain times that we find ourselves currently living in.

A dear friend of mine, Laura, who battled breast cancer before dying in 2014 in her fifties, once told me she was wrestling. She decided that wrestling and seeking are synonymous. I agree with her. As I have wrestled, I have been seeking God’s will, His unique plan for me. Meanwhile, I want to share just a few details about my journey, related to my faith.

Click  here for a huge dose of pandemic encouragement. Google this song and read the back story of It Is Well With My Soul.

I am not my mistakes. I am not my old habits. I am not my PAST. I am a beautiful reflection of God. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am free. Shanel Cooper Sykes

 

Raised in a Southern Baptist Church with my five brothers and sisters, I now consider myself more of a Christ-follower than a member of a certain denomination. At age nine, I professed belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ. As I grew, I believed God had my back, but I made the choice to stray away from a close walk with Him, for approximately ten years of my life. There is nothing wasted in God’s Economy. As time has gone by, I have come to realize that God used my time away to mold and deepen my faith in Him. It was during that time away that I learned about compassion, courage, forgiveness, and repentance.

I’ve often heard the question:

“If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”

Well, I was certainly the one who moved away from Him for that season of my life, but I see, looking back on that time, that He never, ever left me. I must say my time away has taught me so much about patience (on God’s part), compassion towards myself and my fellow-man, and love towards all created humans.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:1;14

Fast forward to a few years into our marriage, when Donny and I, together as a couple, had begun to move closer to God again. We spent three years of our marriage dealing with infertility, and you can read about that part of my journey here. In December 1987, while I was on Christmas break as a teacher, I found myself pleading with God to give us our first child. I cross-stitched Romans 8:28 in a small frame to keep on my desk.

Soon after this, after over five years of marriage, I became pregnant with our first child. I felt strongly, that this was, in part, due to the fact that I had finally surrendered to my God about my dreams of having a child. I believe God rescued me from my childless sorrow and I had a renewed desire to draw close to Him. Leah was born on October 8, 1988.

I believe He has continued to woo me, rescuing me, providing for me in countless ways since that time.

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Our first-born, Leah, with my Daddy. (2012)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

A few things that I learned during this season of my life:

  • God’s timing is perfect.
  • God, Creator is never surprised by the events that occur on this earth, not births, deaths, horrific events of nature or virulent viruses.
  • God created us and He knows even better than us what is best for us.
  • Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together especially when things get tough.
  • When we seek God, drawing close to Him, we will find Him every time. In adversity, He draws us into a deeper walk with Him.
  • God hears our pleas.IMG_5151

Did you know? There are more than 7,000 promises in The Bible. I am sharing this with you because I believe with all of my heart that Christ came to rescue each and every one of us. God keeps those 7,000+ promises as we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will rescue us from our troubles, and even from ourselves.

The gift is in the promise, and as believers, we may go about our work-to the best of our ability, assured that what God has promised, He is able to perform. And that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it the most.

One of my favorite bumper stickers states:

CHRISTIANS AREN’T PERFECT.

THEY ARE JUST FORGIVEN.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT)

Tripp and Jojo cheer the Georgia Bulldogs on in October 2019.

I hope you now have a clearer picture of my perspective as I post here on my Pages From Joan. It is my desire to bring encouragement, learning, and inspiration into your days as I seek my God and share authentically from my heart, soul, and mind.

And now, today, with all that has transpired in my over six decades of life, and everything that is taking place during these unforeseen times, my husband and I are drinking in the presence of our  19-month-old grandson , Tripp and our 19-month-old granddaughter, Elizabeth.  Our daughter, Leah and her husband, Scott are first-time parents, as of 8/24/18 and our son, Walker and his wife, Jessica are first-time parents as of 9/7/18.  My heart is overflowing with gratitude to my Father in Heaven as He continues to pour blessings into my days, even amidst my wrestling and seeking.

Oh, how He Loves You and Me.

 

What do you think?

Whether you believe in Jesus, find your belief in something else, or question what you actually believe, God is interested in hearing from you as one of His unique and beautiful creations.

It is both ultimately and intimately

between each

created human

and God.  

I know for sure though, from my own personal experience, When we seek Him, we will find Him, every time. And I know I would not want to be on this planet earth without a relationship with the God of the Universe.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 46:1;10 and 91:1

A few songs that have helped me along my way:

It Is Well With My Soul

Brave

Do Something

Bless The Broken Road

Praise You In This Storm

Mended

Who Am I?

Merciful, Wonderful Savior

How He Loves Us

How Great Is Our God

Related posts you may have missed:

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

Joy Comes In The Morning

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

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The Day I Rang The Salvation Army Bell Each One Reach One

 

It may be a distant memory now, but there were some very rainy days in Georgia during the month of December. It is easy to recall driving home slowly from a holiday party and climbing into our warm, comfy bed as soon as possible.

Then the thoughts would begin…Where are the homeless sleeping tonight on this soggy cold evening? Were there enough beds at the shelter? Are there children out there with their Mommies and Daddies? Will they be okay?

Then I would utter a brief prayer from my bed. “Please, Lord, keep them safe and help them to find dry shelter and warmth.” I knew in my heart, felt compelled in my soul, that He would use me to help those in need somehow, someway during these cold, wet December days.

Donations ready for those in need!

Just look at all of the donations we collected from generous friends and family on December 22, 2019!

As the December days clicked by, we held a wonderful caroling gathering on the last Sunday before Christmas. Our guests brought new socks, underclothes, gloves, hats and scarves. We collected an abundance of these items, wrapped a bow around them individually and delivered them to The Zone. A nearby center, The Zone has programs that fuel recovery and fight addiction. Those who are in the throes of an addiction are often not welcome in their family home during the holidays. Knowing The Zone would be open for 36 hours during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, feeding all who came by, our small love gifts would be distributed to those who stopped in.

Soon it was Christmas Eve, 2019. Knowing that my last-minute chores were squared away, I stopped by the local Salvation Army office and asked if I could ring a bell. The receptionist told me that no one was ringing at a nearby Wal-Mart and would I be willing to work there. My assigned shift was 10:00-1:00, and a Salvation Army representative would meet me there. 

I arrived a few minutes early. After waiting a good while, the representative never arrived. I tried calling a few numbers, but most offered only a machine since it was Christmas Eve. Sadly, I entered the Wal-Mart to pick up one last thing, potatoes for our Christmas feast.

As soon as I came out, I saw her! A woman was ringing the bell cheerily and walking to and fro on the storefront sidewalk. After introducing myself and acknowledging that there had been some misunderstanding, my new friend offered me the bell and her chair and slipped inside to hang out at the Subway sandwich shop. I was going to get to ring that bell after all!

I was so glad I grabbed these chocolate Santa lollipops as an afterthought. They were appreciated by both young and old, alike.

The next couple of hours, I called out Merry Christmas to all who could hear, offered up friendly smiles, and a chocolate Santa to the children. I noticed the variety of nationalities represented. (and considered my American citizenship)

This Mama told me Salvation Army had saved her from difficult circumstances in her past, and she was happy for the chance to give back with a donation.

Sadly, I saw a homeless young man searching for food or a tobacco butt in this trash can and ash bin. I offered him a chocolate Santa and he heartily accepted it. ( and I sent up an arrow prayer of gratitude that I had never been in this man’s shoes) I took in the number of taxi rides folks needed to get the shoppers to and from the store. (and I thought about our pick-up truck in the lot full of gas and ready to take me home)  I thanked those who slipped small change, a single or a five into the traditional red bucket.  As I thanked one woman with her two young children, her reply warmed my heart, “Salvation Army made a real difference in my life in the past, and I want to give back.” (and I considered the fact that I had never had to reach out for help like this)

Just as He promised that cold, rainy night when I uttered a short prayer from my bed, I was given the privilege to help some souls in need. My heart was warmed that Christmas Eve, not just by the surprising warmer, 60 degree Georgia temp and blue sky, but by that feeling you get when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.

I was reminded of that old song first penned in 1955, “Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin In Me”.

YOU can listen to this song here.

Each One Reach One.

Let’s Start Today.

Thanksgiving An Acrostic

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Thanksgiving 2019 comes late this year! November 28, 2019. We plan to enjoy a much smaller than usual gathering in the North Georgia Mountains. But first, tomorrow, we will celebrate the life of our dear friend, Debra O’Dell, age 58, who passed recently from a cancer battle. Debbie has been quite the fighter and lover of life, as a Kindergarten, a missionary, a Mom, a wife, a devoted servant in our church and the kindest friend you could ever have. Deb will be greatly missed!

It is Thanksgiving Week and I am wondering what this annual holiday means to you. I wrote this blog post on Thanksgiving 2014.

I am grateful for what I am and for what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”   Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) 

One of our favorite long-time traditions on this day is passing out three dried corn kernels to each person present.Standing in a circle, before we bless the feast, we pass a small bowl around and have each one name three things they are thankful for while placing the kernels in the bowl. As we do this, we remember the pilgrims who went before us, making the famous 1620 voyage, and  we share aloud our gratitude for life. You and your family may want to consider beginning a similar tradition for Thanksgiving 2018.

What will be on the menu for your Thanksgiving Feast this year? You may want to consider a salad bar station like the one pictured above. This makes for a lighter addition to the otherwise heavier choices.

If you are in the Atlanta area for this annual holiday, think about taking your crew to the Marietta Square to participate in Must Ministries Gobble Jog! It is so much fun and it benefits the homeless and hungry in our community. Click here for info.

An Annual Tradition! GOBBLE JOG to benefit Must Ministries and so much fun for the entire family!

If you have an extra side dish, pie, or a gift card to a grocery store, drop it by The Zone. The Zone is a safe haven in Marietta for those who are battling substance abuse. This amazing center will be opened for a continuous 24 hours to feed all who come by. They welcome our help and you can click here for more information.

Below, I have formed an acrostic to illustrate some of what Thanksgiving means to me. Perhaps some of these describe your thoughts about this great annual holiday.

Time Together 

Holiday Excitement Begins

Anyone Welcome

No Gifts Needed

Kindness Abounds

Sharing With Others

Grateful For Relaxation

In The Kitchen

Very Yummy Food

Am Loved and Blessed

Never Forget Our Angels In Heaven

Goodness Of God Is With Us

IMG_0651I hope this post will prompt you to stop for a few minutes during “Black Friday Weekend” and consider what this special holiday means to you.