Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs To Tell Me Which Way I Should Go To Find The Answer

Did the title of this post ring a bell for you?

“Standing at the crossroads, trying to read the signs. To tell me which way I should go to find the answer.  And all the time I know, plant your love and let it grow.”

The Fritz Garden in Lenoir City, Tennessee LET IT GROW!

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.   

(On a Side Note) Did you know? 461 Ocean Boulevard, the solo album by Clapton marked his return to recording after recovering from a three-year addiction to heroin. I don’t know about you, but this gives me great hope for the severe drug epidemic our world is currently addressing.

'Love Never Fails.' 1 Corinthians 13:8
My buddy for 40 years, Kelly Read and me on a beautiful fall day doing one of our favorite things: biking the 8.2 miles from the Abingdon, Va trailhead to Taylor’s Shelter at Alvaredo Station on The Holston River & The Virginia Creeper Trail.

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.' Unknown

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.

Kelly and her daughter listen as Paul shares about Taylor, a son, brother, friend, nephew, grandson, who has been missed so much! Zach, Meg’s boyfriend stands with them.

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)

This family has intentionally focused on faith, family, and friends. They have purposefully played outdoors any chance they get, whether it is walking their four-legged companion, Player, biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail, or tilling and planting in Mom’s Garden behind their Abingdon, Virginia home.

Player is always game for a walk around the quaint community of Abingdon, Virginia.

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.

The Reads have enjoyed many performances, whether at The Barter Theater or the incredible shows at The Biltmore Concert Series in Asheville, North Carolina.

Taylor’s Shelter is under construction Summer of 2015

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.

Just outside The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. They provided a gourmet picnic lunch for all of us!

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.

On October 7, 2017, the 3rd Annual Rails To River Ride For Taylor gather together, friends for 40 years, along with Kelly’s Mom, Peg and daughter, Megan.

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:

“Hey tomorrow, where are you goin’? Do you have some room for me? ‘Cause night is fallen’ and the dawn is calling’. I’ll have a new day if she’ll have me.”

A few more favorite pictures from our day!

Mimi and Megan hang out after we all ride to Taylor’s Shelter.
The Womble’s Family vehicle is loaded with bikes!
Taylor Heston Read, a Life Well Lived

Lincoln, 2nd cousin of Taylor’s (by marriage) wears his homemade Rails To River t-shirt, made with LOVE by his MIMI!
Lincoln’s baby brother, Tucker takes in the day with his JimDad!
Here with our college buddy, Kay, Paul Read is always helping someone ready their bike for the trail ride.
'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. 

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Music Moves Us

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Authentic Prayer

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

A Grace Disguised

Run To The Roar

Where Is He?

Five Lessons From A Garden:Bloom Where You Are Planted

The Simple Things

Solitude:Seven Ways To Find It

Humble And Kind

Five Ways To Love Well

Musings On Marriage

We’ve Got Your Back

It Is Well With My Soul

Hope Amidst The Fragility of Life

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits One-Five

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits Six-Ten

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Run To The Roar Bold Like A Lion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

That is exactly what Pastor Levi Lusko does in his book. He takes an incredibly devastating season in his family’s life and helps readers to catch their breath, to gain strength and momentum during a time of grief.

But this book is not just about grief. No, it is evidence of death not being the end, of darkness not being the winner, of turning the Light on against dim circumstances.

A few more important excerpts from Lusko’s book:

How will you and I run to the roar of the lion in the days ahead. Did you know that a lion’s roar can be heard five miles away. Are we roaring with life today? If not, why not?

Posts You May Have Missed:

Ten Life Lessons From Ten Famous People

The Long And Winding Road

Speak Life

How Do We Describe Grief

Your Beautiful, Complicated Life Story Matters

We Can Get Advice From A Trail: Beauty From Ashes

A Sojourner

It Is Well With My Soul

Make A Difference With “Catch A Lift” Help A Wounded Veteran Today!

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.

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My friend, Nancy Bray’s precious foster golden retriever.

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!!!

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Our friend, Rosie Moon reads the gravestone of a veteran servant.

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).

Leah is raising funds for the Catch a Lift foundation, and she needs your help!

****I am thankful for a large group of my girlfriends who have already pooled together a donation of $200.00 during Summer of 2016!!! Thanks, GG girls!

All donations, big and small are appreciated and it is easy to donate by clicking here.

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Our friend, Will Kramer shows his respect.

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?

All donations, big and small are appreciated and it is easy to give by clicking here.

Thanks in advance for supporting our daughter, Leah, in her efforts to make a difference in the lives of wounded veterans.

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Memorial Day: Three Ways To Raise Up The Flag

Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day: Know The Difference

Never Forget

The Hospitality of Gander, New Foundland

Man’s Best Friend

To Stay Fit: Don’t Just Sit

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

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

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

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Women’s Retreat Breakfast

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find them scarce.

If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Zig Ziglar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Girls Need Time Together: 3 Illustrations

Solitude: 7 Ways To Find It

The Long and Winding Road

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Honesty With The Truest of Friends

8 Traits of an Authentic, Successful Woman

We’ve Got Your Back

Are You A People Pleaser? Five Tips To Help You Stop

Where Is He?

RETREAT

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part One

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part Two

Joy Comes In The Morning

Girls Need Time Together

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

A Win For The Guinn Family And Kate’s Club Just Look What Kids Can Do!

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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. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Once the sisters decided that they wanted to give back to Kate’s Club, a plan began to unfold and you can read about it in my earlier post here.

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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!!!

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KIDS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! LET’S GIVE THEM THE CHANCE! Fun happenings at the first annual Running thru The Flames 5K held on September 11, 2016, Marietta, Georgia

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!

Posts You May Have Missed:

Children Are Wet Cement

Let’s Listen To Children

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With my Soul

A Grace Disguised

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

My Heart Will Go On

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

18 Holes Of Golf And 1,000 Sandwiches: Just Do It

Are You Driving? Put The Phone Down

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Meet triplets, MacKenna, front, Alyssa, middle, and Issy

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!

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Kim, MaKenna, Alyssa, and Issy

They are looking for both sponsors to add to their existing ones, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and “Pass Them Like You Love Them”, an advocacy group promoting cyclist’s safety. The girls are also hoping for more participants to sign up for the 5-K that is scheduled for Sunday, September 11, 2016. YOU can go to their link here to register or make a donation even if you cannot make the run.

Let’s support The Guinn Family as they run down the path to healing while organizing this 5K to benefit Kate’s Club!

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Related posts you may have missed:

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With My Soul

A Grace Disguised

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

My Heart Will Go On

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

18 Holes of Golf and 1,000 Sandwiches: Just Do It

Peace Like A River Attendeth My Way

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The Toccoa River in North Georgia, so peaceful!

Last month, I wrote about the famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”. The first line starts like this:

“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

As we paddled leisurely, my cell phone, in the dry bag, rang with the news that Donny’s Dad’s condition is changing again. Dad Page has been struggling quite a bit since March 14, 2015. He continues to be under the care of Hospice, and Wendy, his R.N. wanted us to know he seemed to be declining, again.

Life is hard, sometimes, no doubt.

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!

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My husband, Donny. We’ve been married 34 years on 10/2/82.
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This large group of geese wanted to float with us.
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We saw quite a few fishermen in the Toccoa River.

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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

Chorus

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

Repeat Chorus

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

Repeat Chorus

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Peace Like A River

Climb Every Mountain The Great Smoky Mountains

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“Climb Every Mountain,

Ford Every Stream,

Follow Every Rainbow,

‘Till You Find Your Dream.”

(from the musical, The Sound of Music)

Do you have dreams for the future?

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!

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thanks for this, Melissa Chambers! Let’s Do This!

Especially in light of the horrific current events in Orlando, Florida, it is easy to feel discouraged, defeated, and hopeless, too. If your dreams are trying to die on you, watch this for inspiration!

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.

Dreams CAN come true, like the rigorous hike that five women, including a social worker, three nurses, and a teacher, all in our fifties took on June 7-8, 2016.  Though there are no showers or electricity at the top, the Mt. Le Conte staff took great care of us feeding us delicious, family style meals. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I will use mostly pictures to share our experience with you. Click here to see a cool, short video about the LLAMA Train that takes place on Trillium Gap Trail 2-3 times each week!

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We hiked up this trail. The first 2.7 miles is part of the AT!
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We hiked down this trail. We were able to see the llamas several times!

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Getting started at Newfound Gap. The first 2.7 miles of Boulevard Trail is part of the AT!
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My hiking buddy, Kathy.
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Connecting with Nature.
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A panoramic view of the vistas and Kathy.
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A favorite spot: Myrtle Point
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A fellow hiker taking in the sunset.
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A panoramic view of our sunset on June 7, 2016, Cliff Top.
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Pure Joy pouring from my new friend, Linda.
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Lisa staying warm at sunset, Cliff Top.
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Our cabin. The bucket was for the hot water to wash our faces with!
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Recorded on my Apple Watch after the hike down.
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Tho we saw no bears, there were lots of sightings in the days just following our visit.
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At 6,593 feet, Mt. Le Conte is the 3rd highest peak in the Smokies.
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The llama train travels 3 days each week, delivering supplies to the Lodge.
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Almost to the end of Trillium Gap Trail.
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Grotto Falls, about 1.5 miles up from Trillium Gap Trailhead.

IMG_3684Let’s Keep Our Dreams Alive!

Appalachian Trail Dreams

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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.

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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!

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Hiker takes in the scene on Mt. LeConte

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.

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Wearing Karl’s Kure tees with high school buds in CO! Prayers for Karl & his family!

As long as we have breath,

let’s keep dreaming!

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Winning At Life Is More Important Than Winning A Game

IMG_5451The high school, college, and yes, even the younger athletes have a football season that is now in full swing. Naturally, there is a lot of talk about the strengths and weaknesses of teams, along with their chances of winning against difficult opponents.

Recently, my friend, Shannon, who is a senior at University of Georgia, and I had a good talk about football, coaching, winning at life, and honestly what is most important in this whole ball game thing.

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Our friends, Cindy & Mike made us this wreath, even though their favorite team is Auburn.

Here I will relay a couple of University of Georgia “behind the scenes” player stories. No matter what team you cheer for, I believe you will be inspired by these accounts. I am sure there are many tales about players and coaches at other universities,  however, I chose UGa, because after all, that is my Alma mater. Athens is where I met my husband on a blind date, October 7, 1978 for an Ole Miss game, thanks to our lifelong friend, Keith, who introduced us thirty-seven years ago this fall.

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Malcolm Mitchell is winning at the game of life.

JAMES EUNICE Did you know that James attended high school in Valdosta, GA, with a current, wide receiver UGa player by the name of Malcolm Mitchell? [pullquote]Take time to love someone. Today, Tomorrow, For the rest of your life. Because when that unexpected day comes that they pass on, you’ll be left wondering what you could’ve done better. How you could have made them feel more welcome, and show that you do care for them. Don’t wait until it’s too late like I did. Show the love that Jesus has for you to everyone you see. Let your heart break for what breaks His.” James Eunice, On his Facebook page in April 2010, entitled “The Clock Is Ticking”[/pullquote]  Unlike his classmates, Mitchell and Jay Rome, as a senior, Eunice was not recruited to play for the Dawgs. However, after an early acceptance to UGa in December 2010, Eunice had contacted Coach Mark Richt to let him know that he planned to “walk on”.  [pullquote]I think about what if something were to happen to Jon or David? Your heart goes out to them. If there’s something I can do to bless the family right this minute, however small, I’d like to do that, so that’s what we did.” Coach Mark Richt referencing his own two sons, at the time of James Eunice’s passing[/pullquote] Sadly, in January 2011, during his senior year at Valdosta High School, at the age of 17, James Eunice drowned while duck hunting. The Eunice Family presented Coach Richt a T-shirt with “The Clock is Ticking” on the back, which was sold to help raise money for a scholarship fund. Months later, Richt still had the t-shirt on his desk. James Eunice was listed on the team’s roster as #23 for the next four years, as Coach Richt told the family: “James made the team.”

Following his friend’s tragic passing, MALCOLM MITCHELL went onto play for the Georgia Bulldogs. However, this story about Mitchell has nothing to do with the game he plays between the hedges in a packed stadium of over 92,000 exuberant fans. This story began in a Barnes and Noble Bookstore where Malcolm and a friend were looking for some good books to read. Most are unaware that this top recruit could only read on a junior high level when he started at UGa, and he truly wanted to work on his “reading game”. A chance encounter with Kathy Rackley, an Athens resident and book club member led to a journey no one could have predicted. The only man and youngest by a generation, Mitchell soon joined Rackley’s monthly book club meeting. Watch here to see the complete, remarkable story: YouTube Video—Malcolm Mitchell. In addition, Malcolm Mitchell, a fifth year senior at UGa, is now an author of his debut children’s book, The Magician’s Hat. Two of Mitchell’s favorite books happen to be two of my favorites, as well: The Glass Castle, By, Jeannette Walls and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

These two real-life accounts remind us that these men who dress out in shoulder, knee, thigh pads, cleats, a helmet, and gloves, to play this game that we love so much are just that: young men with a beating heart, who have dreams and desires they hope to achieve, many which have nothing to do with the game of football. [pullquote]The Bible is the greatest playbook. If you’re going to be successful and it’s going to be sustainable, you have to delve into the playbook.” Derrick Moore, Chaplin for Georgia Institute of Technology for the past 14 years[/pullquote]  The building of their character by the countless coaches who work with these young men will have an eternal impact, one which will remain long after the time clock runs out. [pullquote]You can live by biblical principles, and you can teach by those principles and still be a winner. So many coaches think you’ve got to kick your players in the rear end. You’ve got to cuss them out. You’ve got to hit them across the head. No. You don’t have to do that.” Coach Bobby Bowden[/pullquote] The best coaches and fans are the ones who remember this, the ones who are mindful of the truth that Winning At Life Is More Important Than Winning A Game.

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