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?
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 Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
That is exactly what Pastor Levi Lusko does in his book. He takes an incredibly devastating season in his family’s life and helps readers to catch their breath, to gain strength and momentum during a time of grief.
But this book is not just about grief. No, it is evidence of death not being the end, of darkness not being the winner, of turning the Light on against dim circumstances.
A few more important excerpts from Lusko’s book:
How will you and I run to the roar of the lion in the days ahead. Did you know that a lion’s roar can be heard five miles away. Are we roaring with life today? If not, why not?
You can make a difference with CAL or Catch A Lift, which began in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, and has gone on to help many veterans since its founding.
After 9/11/01 and every anniversary of September 11th since that horrific day of tremendous loss, a phrase sticks out in my mind:
We Will Never Forget!!!
We say we will remember forever the true sacrifice, day in and day out, of men and women in uniform, whether they be first responders or part of our strong military services.
And yet, is that statement really true, other than the usual times of remembering, Veterans’ Day, the 4th of July, and other red, white, and blue celebrations? Do you and I really remember these souls who serve and their families in our prayers? Do we truly recognize that freedom is not free, and how many grave sacrifices have been made on our behalf? Do we intentionally share our resources in causes related to wounded veterans?
'Shake off any dust that may accumulate from stagnation of purpose.'
Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009)
Our daughter, Leah, is running a 10k in February, and she is showing her support for our veterans by running in honor of the Catch a Lift foundation, founded in memory of Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009).
Founded in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, Catch A Lift Fund (CAL) enables post 9/11 combat wounded Veterans to regain and maintain their physical and mental health by providing granted gym memberships, fitness programs or in-home gym equipment, anywhere in the United States. If a veteran has an appointed VA certified caregiver, the caregiver is eligible as well.
In addition, CAL’s M.A.P.S. Program ensures success by tracking progress and offers motivation, accountability and peer support through small squads of Veterans who heal together Vet to Vet. CAL Veterans are not only losing weight and moving away from obesity, but also eliminating the need for multiple prescription medications and finding their “new self”. CAL Veterans are thriving, reintegrating, healing and saving each other’s lives through newly established comradery; filling the void left after military service.
Won’t you jump on board and support this important cause?
We all need time away to retreat. So this past weekend, November 11-13, 2016, seventeen women from Piedmont Church in Marietta, gathered in the North Georgia Mountains for a retreat. Even though we were all so glad to be together, the date we chose ended up not being the best weekend for all who attended. One of our friend’s husband was celebrating his 6-0 (they celebrated early).
Another friend’s daughter had a birthday (they celebrated late, on Sunday afternoon). I am quite sure there were other commitments among the 17 of us that went unmentioned. Like most women, our calendars are always full of engagements, work obligations, and conflicts, but somehow, we managed to steal away for two nights, all in the name of faith and friendship.
“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find them scarce.
If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Zig Ziglar
We connected with nature, we cooked together, danced together, laughed together, exercised together, prayed together, sang together, bunked together, laughed together some more, and cried together. There were several quiet one-on-one conversations where hearts connected.
At the end, when it was time to say our good-byes, we all agreed that we were re-fueled, encouraged, and lifted up. We felt better equipped to face the days ahead, no matter what they may bring.
As this year draws to an end, and 2017 makes its début in just forty-seven days, consider what group of like-minded women you may need to steal away with.
Make some plans. Consider being the one who initiates the get-away. You and all who attend will be forever grateful! No matter our age or season in life, women need time together. And if you are a gentleman reading this, please stand by your sweetheart in support when she makes her plans to take a brief retreat with girlfriends. Times spent with girlfriends or my sisters, whether it is these church friends, college friends, girls from my childhood, or local friends, these times are always memorable, encouraging, and treasured occasions for me!
WOW! $20,0002.69 = A Win for The Guinn Family and Kate’s Club! Just look at what kids can do! You may have read my recent post, Are You Driving? Put The Phone Down, about Marietta triplets, MacKenna, Alyssa, and Issy, along with their mom, Kim, and the huge positive difference they are making in our world in the challenging and onerous aftermath of their Daddy, and Kim’s husband’s passing in 2014. You see, Frank, an Atlanta firefighter, was training for an upcoming race when he was struck and killed by a distracted driver.
Age seven at the time, at first, the triplets did not want to talk about their Daddy’s passing, it was just too hard! Thanks to an organization founded in June 2003, Kate’s Club has taught these sisters how to grieve in a healthy way, while moving forward. In addition, Kate’s Club, in Atlanta, Georgia, offers all of their resources free of charge, and they even hold monthly meetings for the grieving parents, which Kim Guinn has shared has been extremely helpful to her.
The soul is healed by being with children.
I listened to The Bert Show live this morning, as they interviewed Mom, Kim, the triplets, as well as Kristen Stocks, founder of a life-changing organization from Kid’s Boost, and here is what I learned as a follow-up to this amazing story:
The Guinn Family contacted Kid’s Boost The Mission of Kid’s Boost is simple: To create a sustainable cycle of giving by equipping kids to serve others. Mrs. Stocks, the founder Of Kid’s Boost, believes that kids of all ages have the innate need and desire to do something great in the world. So, Kid’s Boost offered The Guinn Family $100.00 to begin their plan. Long story short, the first annual Running thru The Flames 5K held this past Sunday on September 11, 2016, in Marietta, Georgia, raised $20,002.69…$15,002.69 more than their goal of $5,000!!!
This all began with three grieving girls who had lost their Daddy because of a distracted driver, a motivated (and also grieving) Mommy, $100.00 and this family’s desire to make a difference while honoring their precious loved one. So I leave you now with a few thoughts:
Do you have kids or grandkids? Would you like to see them more confident? What is important to your child? THINK BIG! Contact Kid’s Boost and they will help you empower your kids to do great things to give back in fun ways.
Are you and I distracted drivers, one who is constantly handling our phones while behind the wheel? Read here about a tragic accident that happened just this week in Athens, Georgia, stealing a life away, a UGA Grad Researcher, Ashley Block, age 25, instantly. The driver, age 31 has been found to not only be looking at her cellphone, but also impaired. As Kim Guinn states: “Pass them like you love them, because someone ‘does’love them. Bikers, joggers, pedestrians have families just like you.”
Do you know someone who is struggling with the loss of a child or a parent? If so, encourage them to contact Kate’s Club. This $20,000+ raised by The Guinn triplets will fund camps, outings, parental resources, all kinds of great things, all in the name of helping families who are grieving the loss of a family precious member.
And finally, remember that TODAY is a gift, and that is why we call it “The Present”. Click here to read one of my favorite posts: The Simple Things. Make Today A Great Day!
Are you and I distracted drivers? I’m not referring to folks who use blue-tooth, hands free methods to communicate as they take the wheel. Instead, I am asking about those of us who handle our phone, check Facebook while at a stop light, or send a quick text while traveling in stop and go traffic. It seems I am noticing this becoming an even greater problem lately. Like traveling behind an interstate driver who is moving well under the speed limit, passing them, only to confirm that their face is glued to the screen of a smartphone.
There is a reason I am asking this. A recent article in our local Marietta Daily Journal was about a victim of a distracted driver and this got me thinking about my own driving/smartphone habits.
Reading about this brave family has challenged me to be more intentional in the days ahead about stowing my phone away whenever I drive.
When you see people in the road whether it's a firefighter or a police officer or a cyclist, you should remember that they have a family like us. You getting somewhere five minutes earlier versus taking a life and leaving a family like us is not worth it. Put down the phones. When you see people who are on the roadside, pass them like you love them and they're in your own family.
Kim Guinn, an English drama teacher at Lassiter High School in Marietta, GA
The name of Mary Kate McGowan’s inspiring article, dated August 20, 2016, is “Triplets, 9, race toward healing”.
The 9-year-olds father, Frank, was killed by a distracted driver while cycling in April 2014 in New Orleans. Frank Guinn, a city of Atlanta firefighter at Station 21, was training for an Ironman triathlon race.
The triplets mother, Kim Guinn was at a loss as to how to help their family move through grieving the loss of Frank and found a grief group, Kate’s Club to be extremely helpful for her girls. In the spirit of Frank’s memory, as well as an opportunity to give back to this club, Kim and her girls are organizing a 5-K race called “Running Thru the flames” and YOU can help!
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll.”
This past week, Donny and I took the most peaceful adventure, a tandem kayak, with Blue Ridge Mountain Kayaking. We kayaked for 3 hours down the beautiful Toccoa River in North Georgia, and this song, the tune, the lyrics kept coming to my mind. I was reminded of a word my Daddy used all the time: equanimity, calm amidst a storm. I considered how important it is to have faith, in good times and in bad times.
Hope is like a yeast, you know, rising under warmth.
Leif Enger, author of the novel, Peace Like A River
These outfitters, located in Morganton, Georgia, were awesome and we highly recommend them. They offer fishing trips and many other adventures, in addition to kayaking. This is close enough to Atlanta, Georgia to make a day trip out of it. And with the summer season heating up, the ice cold waters of the Toccoa feel oh, so good, although we were thankful we didn’t flip our tandem kayak!
Contact them at 706-258-2411. You won’t be disappointed.
Here are a few more pictures from our adventure.
Wherever you find yourself this Summer 2016, be safe, have fun, keep the faith, and stay cool!
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul
It is well With my soul It is well, it is well with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul
In any given moment, we are guided by one of two maps: a vision map, which is a deliberate map for our future, or a default map, which is made up of our past. Choices made from our default map---our repetitive, automatic programming---DO NOT nourish our flames, nor do they move us closer to our dreams. AND even though they might feel right to us, they do simply because they are familiar. The right questions wake you up!
from page 23, The Right Questions: 10 Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary Life, Debbie Ford
Have you begun to let some of those dreams slip away? Nearly one year ago, my hiking buddy, Kathy invited me to join her and three friends for a hiking adventure. I immediately said yes, not knowing that this past week, our eight-hour hike up, viewing the sunset from a 7,000 foot vista, and trekking back down in six hours would inspire me so. After my recent climb up to the Summit of Mt. Le Conte in the Great Smoky Mountains, my dreams have been rekindled. Laughing, singing Rod Stewart, songs from musicals, Carole King, and JT, telling long stories, and “unplugging for a time” all served to rejuvenate and inspire the five of us!
It has been said that “getting old is not for sissies”, and as I draw nearer to the end of my fifth decade, I am finding this to be true. Life, at any stage, takes great courage. Climbing a huge mountain has helped to decrease my fears and rebuild my courage for the days ahead.
I was able to celebrate my friend, Cyndi’s 60th birthday this past Saturday and a friend I saw there shared that she found it hard to do things for herself during this season of her life, with grown married children and grandchildren now here. I told her about the 3 nights I snuck away to climb Mt. Le Conte with friends, and how doing that ( I am hoping) will make me a stronger and more loving woman, Mother, and Mom-In-Law, as well as a Grandma to our (future) grandchildren. <smile>
So what are the dreams you have had in your past that might be trying to slip away because of time and circumstances? What’s on your list, what “mountains” would you like to climb to gain serenity and hope for the future? Our adventure happened to be extremely physically challenging, but your dreams and my dreams can be whatever they are, unique to each one of us: keeping a journal, visiting a historical nearby community you’ve been thinking of, increasing your fitness,snagging 15-30 minutes each day for some solitude, some alone time, and more. Take a few moments to sit quietly, perhaps with pen and paper at hand, and jot down a few of your dreams.
Call me crazy, but I have Appalachian Trail Dreams… dreams about climbing part or all of The AT …starting in Georgia and plowing through the states one-by-one, all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. My friend from high school, Del Wynne recently posted an AT contest where her friend, who is like a niece to her, Gina was one of the final 12 finalists out of 74 entries. When I clicked on to watch Gina’s video, and to cast a vote for her, I took a few minutes to view the other eleven applicants while I was there. I found them each one so intriguing and it has lit a small flicker on my dreams to one day hike part or all of The Appalachian Trail. Click here to view the inspiring finalists in The 2016 Badger Sponsorship Contest, and consider voting for Gina or another favorite. Voting ends at 10:00 p.m. on January 31, 2016.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. [pullquote]The moment our memories are greater than our dreams we are dead in the water.” Dr. Ike Reighard [/pullquote]The trail is approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long, though the precise length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. The trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The path is maintained by 31 trail clubs and multiple partnerships, and managed by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in forest or wild lands, although some portions traverse towns, roads and farms. The trail conservancy claims that the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Others have managed to perform a “round-trip” of the trail where they thru-hike from one end to the other and then turn around to thru-hike the trail the other way, otherwise known as a “yo-yo”. Many books, memoirs, web sites and fan organizations are dedicated to these pursuits. (from Wikipedia)
What are your dreams?
It is always good to
keep our dreams alive!
I may not yet have plans to climb The AT, but I am going on a short trip in early June 2016 to climb Mt. LeConte in The Great Smoky Mountains with three girlfriends. The distance to LeConte Lodge is 5.5 miles and a net climb: 2,560 feet. We will stay over at The Lodge before hiking down the following day. I was able to do some scenic hikes in August 2015 in The Rocky Mountains and blogged about it here and here.