While it is definitely difficult to choose a favorite month, I have finally decided that October is my best-loved month, for so many reasons. This year, especially, it feels like October has breezed in like an old friend, and boy, do I cherish my long-time friends. With our wedding day, our first-born’s, a sister’s and Dad Page’s birthdays, my parent’s anniversary, and ten years ago on the 24th, my Mama’s home going, October has earned the prize in my heart of hearts. Add the changing of the leaves, football games, fires with s’mores, pumpkins, and the cooler days, and there is even more reason to celebrate life during this Autumn Season!
Here are a few thoughts for you about this special month, an “Ode to October”:
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes’ sake, if the were all,
Whose elaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost–
For the grapes’ sake along the all.
“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”
– Author Unknown
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves.”
– Sara Teasdale
What are some of your favorite things about this season of change!?!
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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.
I experienced a dose of DARKNESS to LIGHT last 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.
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein
We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.“
My friend, Rebecca along with our daughter, Leah could be considered arachnophobia. They both have a true fear of spiders. If they ever find themselves close to one, you can count on a very, loud, shrill scream, and this can come out of nowhere. So beware of that scream even more than the spiders. It’ll scare you half to death!!! This will soon be followed by a flip-flop smacking that is equally loud.
While I certainly don’t want to be bitten by one, spiders have never really bothered me too much. Guess I am lucky in that way. One of my all-time favorite books as a child and as an adult, and one I read to our children when they were young is Charlotte’s Web, By E. B. White written in 1952, and illustrated by Garth Williams. In the school year of 1998-1999, when I homeschooled Walker for first grade, we read aloud a trio of White’s great stories, including this one, Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little. If you have little ones, school age, older children, or grandchildren, I encourage you to schedule a time of reading each night. It is a super sweet time to snuggle as you read. If your child is a reader, you can read using the “popcorn method”: you read a page, then the child reads a page, taking turns. These can be the best 10-20 minutes in yours and your child’s day!
I know I cannot wait to snuggle up and read stories with our two new grand babies, Tripp and Elizabeth!
Maybe it’s the way Charlotte is known as a teacher, a mentor, that softens any negative opinion I might have about spiders in general. Charlotte was born to be a teacher. Remember how Charlotte is always teaching Wilbur new words? She’s a genuine dictionary, that spider. This spider also has some huge life lessons in her spinnerets. She’ll help Wilbur feel at home in the barn and deal with some pretty big issues, like his own mortality. It’s a good thing this spider is quite the smarty-pants. If you, your children, or grandchildren have not read or heard this story recently, run, don’t walk to the nearest public library for some reading with loved ones. I promise, you will not be disappointed!
Recently, a very active spider caught Walker’s, Scott’s, and my attention late one night. The spider was bound and determined to spin that web and to catch as many treats while doing it. As we observed the busy spider, we made a game of catching bugs and throwing them into the web, some of which were quickly and succinctly captured and wound up by this ingenious spider. This made me wonder about spiders…While this may sound crazy, it really made me wonder why they are here and what is their true purpose in being here.
Did you know? Spiders are the ultimate exterminator. They are important in controlling the insect population, a natural form of insecticide. Some spiders consume an estimated 2,000 insects in one year! Did you know? Female spiders are fairly prolific at generating offspring, some creating several egg sacs with dozens of eggs in each. (Sorry to tell you this Leah and Rebecca!)Most web-building spiders favor this strategy, knowing that only a few of their offspring will survive to adulthood. Female wolf spiders carry their egg sacs with them, attached to the spinnerets. Once the spiderlings hatch, mother wolf spider lets them ride on top of her abdomen until they have their first molt, at which point they disperse to fend for themselves. Did you know? A spider’s web begins with the spider’s ability to transform liquid silk inside its special glands into solid threads. The spider does this by physically pulling the spider silk through its spinnerets – silk-secreting organs on its abdomen. Once the thread is started, the spider lifts its spinnerets into the breeze. It’s the breeze that is the secret to the spider’s ability to spin a web from tree to another. Although the thread isn’t sticky or gluey, it can still stick to the tree. Most likely it just gets tangled on small protuberances. Or it adheres due to static electrical forces, like balloons sticking to a TV screen. At this point, the spider can use the thread to “tightrope walk” from one tree to another. Usually, the spider is hanging underneath the thread on its journey from tree to tree. Many spiders build new webs each night or day, depending on when they hunt. The breeze is the key to a spider’s ability to spin a web between two trees.
I guess that will be enough facts to share about spiders. The bottom line is most people do not like them, no matter what. Still between real spiders and fictional Charlotte in this best-loved children’s story, it is good to ask questions and stay curious.
You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web
What are you, your children,
or your grandchildren
curious about today?
Explore that subject, animal or
topic by going to
the public library or
nearby bookstore, or
just go ahead and GOOGLE IT!
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Published about the time my Mama received her cancer diagnosis, in June, 2006, same kind of difference As me: a modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together co-authored by, Ron Hall and Denver Moore is truly an unforgettable story. I remember vividly, reading this book in a waiting room while Mama received her treatment. Afterwards, I shared copy after copy with friends and family.
Set in the Lone Star state of Texas, the book is now a major motion picture, opening on October 20, 2017. Click here to listen to Brad Paisley’s hit song for the movie, Stubborn Angel.
We have extra time on our hands here in St. Louis, between nursing, changing, and cuddling with our new granddaughter, Elizabeth Noel Page. Yesterday, our daughter-in-law, Jess and I decided to take in an afternoon movie while Elizabeth’s Daddy was at school.
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?
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
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It’s Wholehearted Wednesday on Pages From Joan, and I just have to share,
Twenty-Six Days ago, our hearts were changed, and Love was Everywhere.
Our family has spent most of 2018 watching two of our girls as they grew,
Then summer came to an end, our time grew short, our slow days just a few.
Our daughter and our son’s wife were due in September, two babies we would meet,
After 36 years of marriage, we’d be Grandparents, we’d carry babes in our backseat!
Since August 24th, 2018, I’ve lost count, I may have held a newborn for at least 60 hours,
One for each year of my life, I turned sixty August first, the blessings have come in showers.
I know that you know this, but I must remind you, holding a newborn is like holding a flower,
Fragile, sweet-smelling, a flower needs water, while it’s Mom’s milk the baby devours.
The neck, hold the neck, all will proclaim, soon the baby’s strong and wiggles out of your hold,
How could this be, wasn’t the child just born? Before our eyes, this one begins to transform.
Since meeting our two grandchildren, Tripp and Elizabeth, I’ve been studying the unborn child,
‘Cause as I’ve held these two-hour after hour, the miracle of each, all I can do is smile.
The Word says that our bodies are knit together in our Mother’s womb, a secret place,
That we, each one, are fearfully and wonderfully made, our fingers, our toes, our face.
As I’ve held these two young ones, tight against my chest, they both like to be in a tiny little ball.
For that is how they lived out their months in their Mommies, safe, thriving, heart beating and all.
I do not consider myself a poet, not in any shape or form, this comes straight from my heart,
This poem is not about a political issue, a choice or an organization that appears to be so smart.
Wanted or not, it is about a little innocent babe who makes a start when a sperm meets an egg.
And if all goes well, as nature has planned, this one will soon be Sue, Jack, Fran, or Greg.
A child or a choice, the argument goes on, despite the value and beauty of each one,
Either way, we know that once conception occurs, in “the oven” growing is a tiny little “bun”.
Our two “buns” are now done and we couldn’t be happier or more full of joy.
Our son and Jess have a daughter, our daughter and Scott now have a boy.
Who will she become? Who will he be? The future is so incredibly bright,
The devoted parents of these two will work real hard to always ease their fright.
We vow to love these two new ones with all of our hearts, no doubt about it,
We will pray for them, read stories, and spoil them a lot, we must admit.
‘Cause we’ve been told that’s in our job description, our duty, our responsibility and our right,
We promise to support these families as they journey on their ways, loving with all of our might.
If you are not already following me on my Facebook Page, please consider searching for
Pages From Joan
and liking my page. I would love for you to join me on the journey where I post weekdays Monday Mood, Tuesday Thoughts, Wholehearted Wednesday, Thursday Talk and Friday Food For Thought.
Note: This post was first published on January 17, 2016 and updated on September 27, 2018…There Is Always HOPE!
I had the opportunity to attend a MAG Alliance annual meeting this past Tuesday, September 25, 2018.
I learned so much that it prompted me to re-publish this important post.
My long-time friend, Dave invited me to hear Dr. Debra Houry, MD, MPH speak.
For four years, Dr. Houry has been the CDC’s Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center). During her first year, the Injury Center has aided states in preventing prescription drug overdose.
Dr. Houry reminded our audience that there must be a concerted national approach against the opioid crisis. This crisis has come in three waves: 1: a rise in prescription drug deaths, 2: a rise in heroin deaths, and 3: a rise in synthetic opioid deaths (street drugs laced with fentanyl-these deaths have increased more than 6-fold from 2013-2016.) For more information on all that our CDC is doing click here on their website: RX Awareness. The CDC RX Awareness Campaign in now active in 27 states, including GA. The phone number is 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) and there is a tool kit available on their site.
Having volunteered at The Extension, Women’s Campus, in Marietta, Georgia since its 2009 opening, my heart is extremely soft towards those who suffer with alcoholism and other addictions. With the birth of our two grands, I have stepped down for now as a volunteer. I am grateful that a friend has stepped up to carry on this tradition of having an “art therapy” session with “my girls”.
Every beating heart has a story, and the more I have worked with these women, the more I have realized that they have the same hopes and dreams for their future that you and I have for ourselves and for our families.
If you suspect your teen is drinking or using drugs,
click here for a helpful guide.
The Disease Of Addiction Is Real. Hope Is Real, Too!
Andrew Chalmers grew up alongside our two children at Piedmont Church in Marietta, Georgia, U.S.A. Andrew has given me permission to share his very real and painful journey with you as he and his family celebrate his sixth now 8th, I believe) anniversary in complete recovery! And before you read Andrew’s story, you need to know this update: Andrew is now Founder and Director of Take the City. This growing organization’s vision is to transform cities by serving in the areas of proclamation, compassion, and justice. Click here to read more about Andrew and his team of warriors who are making a huge impact in cities across America.
Each One Reach One. Beauty From Ashes.
My story is a story of redemption and a story of great hope restored. It’s a story that demonstrates the overwhelming grace and love that God has for each and every person on the face of the earth. I feel like my story is a great demonstration of how God can make all things beautiful, no matter how messy we make them. The only reason I am alive today is because of His grace and His ability to perform miracles greater than we could ever even think to ask for. My story is one that shows it’s only when we die that we truly find life.
Growing up I had an amazing childhood with a great family. I played sports and loved to play out in the woods. I went to church with my family and was involved in all kinds of great positive activities. At 5 I first prayed to Jesus to come and save me and when I was 8, I was baptized. Then the next year something started to change. Because of a series of events, I became aware of a much different reality in this world than I was accustomed to and became really confused and angry.
My teen years I was filled with rage, confusion and depression. I started using alcohol and drugs at 12 and began a lifestyle pursuing the perfect mixture of sex, drugs and rock n roll. My life dramatically changed at 15 when I started using pain killers and taking club drugs. I remember my first time getting high on pills; I thought I had finally found what I had always been missing. I thought I had finally found the peace I had been searching for…
For the next few years I headed down a path of total destruction and eventually started using heroin. When I first tried to stop at age 19 my girlfriend at the time became pregnant with my son, Landon. I tried to get myself together as we prepared to have a baby but I could not seem to get it together.
As parents watch the nightmare unfold when their teen becomes self-destructive, they wonder how they will ever reconnect with the son or daughter that they fear they are losing. It is the most helpless, hopeless feeling in the world, and it can overwhelm an entire family with unimaginable pain, chaos, and despair. from Teen Challenge Website
When my son was born I was in a detox facility having terrible withdrawals from drugs. I was so happy to have my son come into the world but was also still so consumed by my addiction. I made another decision I would get it all together that day in the hospital.
I ended up in a longer-term faith-based program and made a decision to follow Christ. When I finished the program I went home with an honest desire to start new but still was holding on to so much of my life. I had an ambition to get it all together and make everything work between my son’s mother and me. We got married that summer and I idealized pursuing The American Dream with my new wife and our baby. The dream was short-lived when we separated the next year. I was crushed when my dream was crushed. I had invested everything into this relationship and this dream. When it fell apart, so did the rest of my life.
I started using drugs again and spiraled out of control the rest of that year. I remember my first wake up call was going to jail in Atlanta for possession of cocaine and then immediately after I got out I went to get more drugs. After my heart had stopped due to a drug overdose, I remember buying more drugs the day I was released from the hospital. When I had no where else to go and ended up sleeping on the streets of a rough neighborhood in Atlanta, I can remember still only thinking about how I could get high. My life was consumed with this addiction and I was on the verge of suicide.
That’s when everything changed. My dad and I got in touch and he told me he had found out about a program called Teen Challenge and that he would help me got there. At first I was reluctant to go, but the next morning I woke up and felt something inside me say, “If you don’t get out of this place, you are going to die.” With urgency I called my dad and told him where I was. Then after waiting a few minutes, I changed my mind and left to go get high again. When my dad finally found me I was at an abandoned house, cold and shaking because of how many drugs I had been doing. I remember thinking I would kill him if he tried to take my drugs. He just sat there and watched me smoking crack and doing other drugs until they were all finally gone. When I finished I put the needles and pipe down and I remember him saying with a heart full of compassion, “Come with me son.”
16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the Lord supported me.
19 He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me. (Psalm 18)
I can relate so much to what David wrote in this Psalm when I reflect on how the Lord used my dad to rescue me out of the darkest place I could have ever imagined. When I look back I can imagine God’s hand reaching down from heaven to pull me out of the dark pit and rescuing me from enemies that really were too strong for me to overcome myself. God saved my life that day because he delighted in me even in my mess. When He saw me at my worst He loved me as much as he ever could or ever will. He loved me completely and with all of His heart. He pursued me no matter how far I tried to run away. He had a plan and a purpose even when no one else could see it.
A month or so later I made the most important decision in my life. I made the decision not to just avoid hell or to be a better person for Jesus. I didn’t just pray the sinner’s prayer and feel all tingly. I made a decision to die to self. I decided one day on a loading dock that I would absolutely give everything in my life to Jesus and hold nothing back. That day has forever changed me.
The next year or two I began to grow and deal with the many problems I had struggled with so many years of my life. One by one, the Lord just began to take away things from me. He took away even the desires that I had for these destructive behaviors as I continued to get in His presence and read His word. My life started to radically change and something new started to rise up inside of me. God started placing passions inside of me and began showing me that He had great destiny and purpose for my life. It was when He began to reveal to me my identity and destiny that I really began to strip off anything that hindered me from walking with Him. It wasn’t a set of rules that made me want to change but the overwhelming reality of His great love for me that filled my heart with a passion to pursue Him with everything.
These last four years God has restored my relationship with my son Landon. It has been an amazing miracle to watch him change the impossible to possible. When I first got off drugs I wasn’t even allowed to see Landon in supervised visitation. Today I have joint custody and have an amazing relationship with his mom and their family. God has taken the most broken of situations and has mended it into something better than I ever could have imagined.
God has also given me opportunities to travel and do things I never thought would be possible. I have been able to do mission work in South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, Canada and Europe. He has also given me a chance to travel all over the U.S. and share about all He has done for me. He has given me so many amazing friends and has restored my relationship with my family. He has healed me of all depression, anxiety and ADD. He has completely taken away my desire to take drugs, drink or even smoke cigarettes. He has replaced my suicidal thoughts with a life full of passion, hope and joy. When I chose to die completely and give Him everything I got so much more in return. He has given me a life of abundance.
My life’s mission is to abide in Christ’s love in such a way that others are inspired to pursue God with reckless abandonment and that my life would burn so passionately for God that it would set countless others on fire for Him.
Since this post was first published in early 2016, a lot of good things have been happening in the life of Andrew Chalmers. My friend and Andrew’s Mom, Nancy has written a must-read for any family who is dealing with this very difficult season: No One Visits The Mother Of An Addict. Click here to find out more about her story.
A Resource List:
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, and poet (1803-1882)
I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by Positive Writer. You can check out the Positive Writer website here!
I have always loved to write. Writing as an adult has helped me and continues to help me face unimaginable fears. Fear stops people from writing. My mind has habitually been an inquisitive one…”why this?” and “why that?”
Writing helps me to seek (and sometimes even find) answers to the big questions of living in this world…questions that most who have a beating heart have, too. Viktor Frankl was one of those who struggled with the big questions as he was in captivity in Auschwitz and Dachau. He penned some of his questions and answers in the beloved book Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl is known for the quote: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
I have written in my personal journal for the past twenty-five years, since 1989. It is intriguing to go back many years and read documented details of days in the life of our family. If you have never kept a journal, it’s not too late! You may want to consider starting one in 2019. There is no pressure in keeping your own personal account. You can pen a few sentences or a paragraph every three to four days and that will be enough to bring times that have passed back into your memory bank.
“Down here at the sea, early this morning while my family still sleeps. I just read Chapter Five, Oyster Bed, from Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. Love her reminders about Middle Age and amazed they are still so applicable today….p. 85 a quote from author Virginia Woolf who meets middle age admitting: ‘Things have dropped for me. I have outlived certain desires…I am not so gifted as at one time seemed likely. Certain things lie beyond my scope. I shall never understand the harder problems of philosophy.” (tho I’m quite sure Walker Page WILL!) DP just finished “When Crickets Cry” by Charles Martin, and really enjoyed it. It was recommended to him by our good friends, Jane Ellen and Sandy, in addition to myself. I hope to do a quick reread of it since it has been 2-3 years since I read it. I really want to discuss it with DP. I’ve also been rereading Gordon Macdonald’s “Ordering your Private World.” Even though it was written in 1984, the message to me here is more important than ever: p.8 “I have discovered that to bring organization to the private world where Christ chooses to live is BOTH a lifelong and a daily matter.”
an excerpt from my journal dated 8/5/11
I write because when I do, I literally lose myself for the time period in which I am writing. I believe that to be a good thing. We can all benefit from a recreational activity that we’re passionate about. Writing is that for me.
Writing involves some time researching whatever I’m choosing to write about. Come what may, I’m interested in researching the whats, the whys, the hows, the whens, and the wheres surrounding a variety of circumstances in life.
I love, love, love reading. Reading is an important and essential part of the writing process. Just ask my husband how many books arrive in our snail mail in a month’s time! I also hang out regularly at our local library. Books fill our shelves and they fill my heart too.
One of my favorite things to write would have to be notes and letters.
I mean U.S. Postal Service letters! (receiving them is nice, too!) My sister, Laura Lea and I frequently mail our thoughts back and forth even though our homes are only 45 miles apart. My friend, Marie, whom I have known for over 3 decades, lives only an hour from my home but we have become regular pen pals over the years and I cherish her newsy notes to me. I definitely got this, like many things, from my dear Mama.
At her funeral in 2006, her pastor asked how many folks in the congregation had ever received a note, card, or letter from Polly…nearly every one of the more than 200 raised their hands. I love to write because the right words can touch a heart and soul.
One can be so encouraged after receiving some hand-written correspondence. If you have a college student in your family, aging parents, or even a young couple who lives out-of-town, consider writing them a personal letter now and then.
“Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German playwright, poet, novelist, dramatist (1749-1832)
“There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters…I could be their leader.”
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I have been wrestling lately about how I can better express to my friends here on Pages From Joan the reality of my personal faith journey. 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 is 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.
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, 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, and I believe He has been wooing me, rescuing me, providing for me in countless ways since that time.
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 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.
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 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)
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 nearly six decades of life, my husband and I are preparing for the arrival of our first two grand babies, both due after Labor Day 2018. Our daughter, Leah and her husband, Scott will become first-time parents and our son, Walker and his wife, Jessica will also become first-time parents. 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:
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“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
While my Mama taught me umpteen lessons in the 48 years we were together, I have chosen five to share with you today.
(1) Mama taught me to be brave. Adopted at age 3 into a home with 3 big brothers, Mama had to learn to stop crying so Bud, Bob and Tom would stop all that teasing! Upon hearing of her cancer diagnosis in 2006, she responded with two statements I will never forget: “Too Blessed To Be Stressed” and “Well, We’re supposed to Bloom Where We’re Planted, aren’t we?” Only four months after her diagnosis, and near death, I asked her how long did she think she had. Mama responded with, “I don’t know-I guess that is the mystery of it all.”
(2) Mama taught me to have joy, to laugh whenever possible. This was important to my Mama-she truly believed that laughter was medicine for her soul as stated in Proverbs 17:22. In our den on Webster Drive, we used to fill at least 2 card tables with Canasta card games that lasted into the night.
Whenever anyone complained about being tired, not wanting to play another hand, she would say with laughter, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” She also loved to throw the dinner dishes in the sink and spontaneously dash off to a movie at North DeKalb Mall. Mama was all about having fun and seizing the moments.
(3) Mama taught me to serve others and to have compassion towards those in need. As a child, Mama attended a girls’ camp where a former missionary to Africa sparked her interest in becoming a medical missionary. After completing her R.N. training and marrying her true love, Johnny, they served several years in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, previously called, Zaire.
However, it was not just mission work that Mama did, it was a bucket full of little things: holding the door for someone, taking cookies to a neighbor or cakes to the Veterans at the nearby V.A. Hospital, always having food in the frig for the many friends who camped out at Webster, and more. Mama’s example of service is one I hope to emulate for the rest of my days.
(4) Mama taught me to be a loving partner. It’s not always easy to express consistent kindness to the ones who we live with, and yet, Mama showed us how to do just that in the way she loved our Daddy. Believe it or not, Daddy came home for a quick-lunch every day and Mama always had something good ready for him to eat before he had to return to his afternoon appointments. She loved him with her whole heart.
forever reminding us that he would come before any of us. EVERY Thursday, without fail, Mama would get her hair done and Daddy would take the afternoon off. The two of them would take in a movie, lunch out, anything to secure a date just for them. They celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary just days before Mama passed.
(5) Mama taught me to be present. Whether the news was exciting, good, or really bad, she would remind us to have “guarded optimism”. In other words, don’t get your hopes up too much and don’t lose hope, either. Do today, for today is really all we know and all we have. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow.
What are some of the lessons you have learned from the one who gave you birth?
What lessons do you hope to instill in your children?
If this is the first or second Mother’s Day without your Mother, you might still have that physical aching in your heart. I want to share something I learned just 6 months after my Mama died at the age of 78. In April 2007, I was walking in the woods alone, still in deep grief, when it occurred to me that there were countless reasons I was blessed to have Polly Shivers Walker as my Mama. Only five other humans in the entire world were fortunate enough to have HER as a Mother. From that point going forward, I made an intentional, conscious decision to focus on those reasons, with gratitude and it has continued to make all the difference in my life journey.
“And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and
to walk humbly with your God.”
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