Wrestling And Seeking What Do You Think?

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

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.

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Our first-born, Leah, with my Daddy. (2012)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

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

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:

Brave

Do Something

Bless The Broken Road

Praise You In This Storm

Mended

Who Am I?

Merciful, Wonderful Savior

How He Loves Us

How Great Is Our God

Related posts you may have missed:

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

Joy Comes In The Morning

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

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A Mother’s Wisdom Five Lessons

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“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” 

Proverbs 22:6

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! IMG_2887 IMG_2891Upon 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.

Laughter word cloud concept

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.

IMG_2884IMG_2885However, 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.


IMG_2873Mama used to laugh and say, ” I met your Daddy before I met any of you six kids.”

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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.IMG_2886

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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.

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My two brothers and my three sisters, and me (right front) in 1962. Many blessings have come from the union of Johnny and Polly Walker, including six children and their spouses, 25 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. (This includes grandchildren’s spouses)

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“And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and

to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Lessons From A Horse

Five Ways To Love Well: We Only Have One Chance

Five More Ways To Love Well

Being Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have

The Simple Things

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Mother’s Day Is Here

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Polly Walker, Mom to six, two sons and four daughters

It is Mother’s Day again and this day, every year, brings up so many memories and emotions. October 24, 2018 will mark twelve years since my Mama passed away with esophageal cancer. Every beating heart has a story. You and I have stories, especially regarding our own mothers, as well as our personal experiences with mothering. Some may still have their Moms with them. If so, I pray they will recognize how blessed they are, even in hard and trying times. Loving Well, unconditionally is probably the most significant thing we can do.

Mother’s Day is extra special for us as we are expecting our first grandchildren in September 2018!!!

I saw the following quick video on Facebook recently and thought it was perfect for this Mother’s Day Season: A Fake Job Interview Was Set Up.

This post from 2015 may prove helpful to you if you are a new mother or grandmother: Moms And Grandmoms: A Season Of Adjustment.

Maybe your mother was not much of a mother at all, because of substance abuse or mental illness. The mother in the memoir I am currently reading is an example of this: The Memory Palace, by, Mira Bartok. If so, I hope you will make every effort to break that cycle with forgiveness and love.

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The Walker Clan in 2004, Norris Lake, Tennessee

Some of you, much younger than myself, are pondering being a Mommy, dreaming about a little one in your future. You may be having some trouble bringing that dream to reality.

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Abraham Lincoln

 We had that same problem, twice in fact, and you can read about it here in my post called Fertile Prayers.

Perhaps this is your first Mother’s Day without a child who has left you far too soon. If that is where you find yourself today, please read an earlier post: How The Soul Grows Through Loss, where I share how our dear friends, The Reads have journeyed onward since their son, Taylor died in early 2015.

We all know what a true gift a good mother is. And I have been working on a little book about some things I learned from my Mama. I look forward to sharing it with you in 2017! YOU might want to read five lessons my Mama taught me here.

I don’t think there is a parent or grandparent around who has not thought their child or grandchild would “slow down” in their growing up years.

Who in their infinite wisdom decreed that Little League uniforms be white? Certainly not a mother.” Erma Bombeck

 My Mama used to say, “As much as you might want to, you can’t put a brick on their head to stop them from growing up.”

Click here to enjoy a short video about this very thing by artist, Nichole Nordeman. (thanks, Leslie Swift!)

Whether you are an aunt to some special kids, a new Mommy, expecting, an empty nest Mom, or aiding a Mother in her late decades, smile at the gift that is today. Yes, today is a gift and that is why we call it the present!

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Oh, and guys, be sure to take charge of the kitchen

and childcare details this weekend!

Whatever your current circumstances,

I hope Mother’s Day 2016 will be a special

time for you and yours!

Consider sharing this post on Facebook or email with the special mothers and grandmothers that you know.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Lessons From A Horse

Being Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have

The Simple Things

Five Ways To Love Well: We Only Get One Chance

Five More Ways To Love Well

A SPECIAL GIFT FROM THE DADDY'S MOM

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Think About It, Runaway Bunny Our Creator Pursues Us

Have you ever stopped long enough to consider the thought that your Creator is pursuing you?

There is a storybook by the name of The Runaway Bunny? If you are familiar with this children’s book, you may agree that it is a beautiful illustration of how our Creator pursues us, as His own.

“If you become a tree, said the little bunny, I will become a sailboat, and I will sail away from you. If you become a sailboat and sail away from me, said his mother, I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.”

Have you stopped to consider the thought that your Creator is calling you to Himself? As a follower of Christ, I believe with all of my heart that God pursues me, woos me to Him. Oh my, when I really stop and think about it, that is one of my all-time greatest blessings. I truly believe this.

Did you know? Psalm 139 is one of the most powerful psalms in the Bible. The psalm comes from King David, and it shows that before we ever began to pursue God, God pursued us.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. Psalm 139:1-4

I do realize that there are many who not only do not believe this, they do not understand it and do not care to hear more about this. I get that. I really do.

Even so, the family of Reverend Billy Graham are hoping for changes in our world following the death of their precious one.  Click here to see treasured photos and read about grandson, Tullian Tchividijian’s experiences with Daddy Bill. One of his daughter’s, Anne Graham Lotz had this to say about her Daddy:

It was this message, which Daddy carried to the world, that penetrated my own heart as a young girl and has created in me a personal, passionate resolve to communicate it myself to as many people as possible. And so, even as my tears seem to be unending, I silently rededicate my life to picking up and passing on the baton. Would you do the same?”

Click here to read all of Anne’s message entitled “Daddy’s Home”.

However, on the other hand, many that I know believe as I do. They are people of faith. They, like me, have chosen to believe the Bible as truth. They  have chosen to be people of faith, choosing to believe in things we cannot see with our eyes.

God measures people by the small dimensions of humility and not by the bigness of their achievements or the size of their capabilities. Reverend Billy Graham (1918-2018)

Reverend Billy Graham passed on February 21, 2018. He was 99 years old. He was known as America’s Pastor. Billy Graham has had an impact like no other.

Have you ever read the children’s book, a story written by Margaret Wise Brown, called The Runaway Bunny?

Every time I have read this short story, I have thought of God, Creator, and how He has sought me. I believe He has pursued me,  looked for me all of my life. He continues to seek me when I stray. I believe that is the best example of Amazing Grace that I can come up with. Click here to learn about the back story of this great hymn penned in 1772.

What do you think? If this post has stirred your heart, message me and let’s talk.

P.S. The picture at the very top of this post is of my niece, Amy, her husband, Stephen, and their two boys, Noah and Lincoln. I adore this picture and I am in awe over how well IT Speaks LOVE!

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

Four Questions For God

Authentic Prayer

Where Is He?

It Is Well With My Soul

Wrestling and Seeking

Five Lessons From A Garden

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

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Four Ways To Love Our Peeps Valentine's Day Is Here

Here I will share with you four ways to better love our peeps.  As Valentine’s Day is here, our minds go to the significant, loving relationships in our life journey. Are they fulfilling, communicative, in harmony, and committed? Do we enjoy time spent with these we are in relationship with? Do we laugh together? Most of us if we are completely honest, would say, that our relationships could be better.

One of the things my Mama taught me is a tool she used during her 58 years of marriage. When the faults of her man seemed glaring to her, she would take a moment, hold out both hands in front of her, like a scale, and say this to herself: “My right hand represents Johnny’s shortcomings, and my left hand represents the ways that I fall short.” Invariably, she would tell me, her left hand always weighed heavier than her right.

'Dear Friends, Let us love one another, for love comes from God.' 1 John 4:7

Rather than wanting our partners to change so things would be better, perhaps it is time to determine how we could show up differently and make the difference we are seeking.

Here are three ways to better love our peeps:

1) Cultivate Your Love Life Inside Out

This first one may surprise you, as it has less to do with your relationships and more to do with your inner heart. Did you know? Studies have shown that one will never let oneself have more health, happiness, and success than one feels he/she deserves. What does that mean? This means that right this minute you and I are attracting what we feel worthy of having. What would you say your current self-worth score is on a scale of 1-10? What things could you do to increase that score? Before we can expect to find love from anyone else, we first have to find it within ourselves. Our God loves us and wants us to have self-worth and self-respect. And let’s surround ourselves with people who truly love and support us!

'Friends are like elevators. They either take us up or bring us down.' Naomi Judd

(2) Leave the Blame Game Behind

I know when I criticize my husband of nearly 35 years, he literally shuts down, not with anger, just sadness. Blaming and judging will guarantee a poor partnership! Lucille Ball said, “Love yourself, and everything else will fall into place.” Could it be that there is something you are ‘unhappy’ within yourself? Think about it! An important relationship is our connection to our own heart. When we accept ourselves as we are, then and only then can we accept others without condition.

My Parents, Valentines for Life!

(3) Let The Past Go

Every beating heart has a story and our history (thank goodness!!!) is not our destiny. It’s good to habitually say to ourselves: “That was then. This is now.” We all have things in our past we may not be proud of, but we can let that all go and focus on today. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That is why we call today, ‘the present'” (unknown)

(4)Live Out Our Days with Gratitude and Appreciation

Wayne Dyer said: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” In every loving relationship, there are more good things than bad things going on. However, if the negative things become our ‘focal point’, then they seem way bigger and become more and more dominant in our partnership.  Read this by Charles Swindoll on Attitude. We all get to choose the thoughts that control our feelings and emotions that end up driving our lives.

Now, we all know that Valentine’s Day is just one more day established by Hallmark, LOL!

Love Always Wins!

What are some of the ways you and I can exhibit more love towards our peeps each and every day of the year? How can we make our parents, sons, daughters, girlfriends, and partners feel more treasured and cherished in the days ahead?

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

Fill Your Love Tank: Don’t Run On Empty

The Love Letter Challenge

Friendship 101 3 Tips To Enrich Your Friendships

“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

Difficult to believe the 8 of us have been friends since grade school, but we have! We will celebrate our 6th Decade of life in Austin, Texas this October, 2018.

Friendship 101. What does that make you think of? If you are a Mommy to littles, I hope you are looking for tips you can teach your kids about friendship. If you are a Mom to older kids, perhaps you, too, will benefit by reviewing these tips with your teen students before they head to college where they are sure to make a lot of new friends.

With such an increase in screen time, we must intentionally put down on smartphones to focus on our friendships.

For me, I thought of this recently, because at my age, my life has been enhanced by many, many rich friendships. I am grateful for each one of them. Surprisingly, I met a brand new, like-minded friend the other day, and it was so cool how quickly our hearts connected, despite a few years between our ages. Within minutes, over coffee, we were sharing stories, concerns, issues, and feelings. While we talked about the importance of being picky and careful when sharing our heart with another, by the end of our time, we both agreed that we had been encouraged by a trustworthy friend that day.

One actually never knows when that “just right” friend might come along. For our dear friend, Kayla, who lost her husband this past July, 2017 at the young age of 29, leaving behind two little boys, met up with another Mommy, Lisa, also one whose husband left far too soon, and now they are fast friends! Love how God orchestrated their friendship, as well as my newest one in a Marietta Coffee Shop, Cool Beans.

Sadly, with the increased prevalence of bullies, we need more people to stand up against it. Let us train up our children and grandchildren to not only be kind, but also to be a good friend. If more humans were simply good friends, imagine how much better our world would be.

A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside. Winnie the Pooh

Bert and Ernie. Laverne and Shirley. Thelma and Louise. These duos knew what it took to create a lasting bond. Following are 3 tips to help you and the ones you love to build your own enduring relationships:

1. Share your feelings. When we talk with friends, we tend to be good at sharing the details of life–what happened at work, a report on our last date–but we often fail to connect those facts to the emotions we feel in the moment. “Adding a feeling to the facts helps us depend intimacy and feel more connected,” says Susan Campbell, PhD, relationship coach and author of Saying What’s Real: 7 Keys To Authentic Communication and Relationship Success. “It lets the other person know that you care enough about them to share from a deeper part of yourself.”

Friends since college, we will celebrate 40 years of friendship later this month on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

2. Take turns. In any conversation, and when your littles are learning to play with others, it is important to take turns. The problem is that we have forgotten how to share the spotlight, says Jan Hoistad, PhD, licensed psychologist, relationship coach and author of Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a Rock-Solid Relationship. “People often talk at one another–sending emails or leaving a voicemail–without really stopping to hear what the other person is saying,” she says. “We have to put our own needs and wants aside to really listen.”  

3. Ask questions. One of the surest ways to deepen your friendships is to ask questions and to encourage your friends to delve deeper into the topics you are discussing. Hoistad advises. “Ask open-ended questions such as, ‘How do you feel about that?’ to encourage your friends to go deeper into the conversation,” she says. “Show your friends that you are willing to be vulnerable with them.” This takes courage, but with a trustworthy friend, I have found, it is always worth it!

How about you? How will you and I use these tips to make some rock-solid friendships during our life journey. Friends truly do divide sorrow and multiply joy!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Honesty With The Truest Of Friends

Fitness and Friendship

Brevity Of Life

Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave

Musings On Marriage

Six Lessons From The Slopes

Just Killing Time

Time Away: A Woman’s Retreat

The Long And Winding Road

Charlotte’s Web

We Can Embrace It

Anne Lamott

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls Lessons From Geese

We have a small pond behind our Marietta, Georgia home and that is the first place our yellow lab, Gracie and I visit upon waking up.

Geese are a common occurrence on this pond. On this particular morning, however, as Gracie took care of her business, I stopped to count them. Still in my cozy bathrobe and holding a mug of steaming coffee, I counted…amazingly, there were 36 geese, seemingly frozen in place on our pond. I took pause, as I often do, my phone shining a bright light in the pre-day darkness.

I love nature and how it can speak into your soul, inspiring us to be the best version of ourselves. What did it say to me on this chilly January morning?

“Stop a minute, Joan, to be grateful for your friendship with Jil Cain, who left us too soon in 2005. Jil, only age 40 when she passed on, taught you The Lessons Of Geese. Every time you see these majestic creatures, either floating or flying in their V-formation high in the sky, you remember her with gratefulness in your heart.”

flock of migrating Canada geese flying at sunset in a V formation

“Observe the quietness of these floating before you. That is what I want to encourage you to do a little each day. Remember that cool verse in Psalm 46:10: ‘Be still, and KNOW that I am God.’? Brief moments like this one can help you to practice this.”

When is the last time you took a few minutes to JUST BE in nature. A back yard, some nearby woods, a porch, Kennesaw Mountain, a pond, a lake, or my favorite, by the sea?

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

6 Ways We Can Relieve Stress Starting Today

Nature Restores My Soul

Three Touchstones Of Showing Up

Gift From The Sea

Authentic Prayer

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Four Questions For God

Five Lessons From A Garden

Seven Lifestyle Changes=A Big Difference

And don’t forget to look up at sunrise and sunset. Many times we can capture some of the most majestic art ever!

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Four Questions For God Time Of Solitude In A Monastery

With four questions for God, I recently took a time of silent solitude for 48 hours in a monastery. Those who know me well will find that unimaginable. <smile> I truly did, though, as I arrived on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at the Monastery of The Holy Spirit located in Conyers, Georgia. The ecumenical retreat house welcomes people of all faiths. A silent retreat is something I had considered doing for a long time. Now going on age 60 in six short months, one of my mantras is “Dream of it, then do it!”

I sensed God calling me, so I answered by reserving a small room in The Retreat House for a 48 hour stay. I am not claiming to have heard His audible voice. I never have, and perhaps never will this side of heaven. I did, however, have ‘a quickening’ in my spirit, and I am so thankful now that I responded. For any details you might like to read about this unique and sacred place, click here to visit their website.

The room consisted of a twin bed covered with a soft comforter, a desk with a lamp, a chair, and a place to hang my clothes. The shared bathroom was right outside my room. The meals in the silent dining area were both simple and filling. Snacks, fresh fruit, coffee and tea were available 24/7.

The community of monks, 40 strong, gathered five times each day to read scripture, offer up prayers for the world, singing and chanting the verses in unison and in harmony. It was truly a beautiful experience. I made it to every prayer time, including the 4:00 a.m. Vigils on both Wednesday and Thursday. I didn’t want to miss a thing!

As I spent my hours in silence, I noted 4 questions I asked of God:

(1) What do You want to teach me here?

(2) How can I be more Christlike in any given situation?

(3) How can I best love/support my husband as he begins a season of part-time work?

(4) How can I best love/support our two married children and their loves in the current circumstances of their lives? Both couples are coming up to four years of marriage and are expecting their first child September 2018.

As I experienced the many shared prayer times, my own contemplative prayer time, took intentional time in The Word, and created a few collages, I found myself in a very sacred space. One I will treasure, always.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located close enough to Atlanta to allow a day visit for most.  The Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Monastery grounds are open to the public every day. 2-3 hours is the suggested time for a day visit. All are welcome to join The Monk Community during their prayer times, a time they are dedicated to praying consistently for our world. And The Lord knows how much we need these prayers more than ever. Guests will also want to enjoy nature walks while admiring the exquisite architecture, taking time out from the busyness of life.

In addition to joining The Monk Community for worship in the Abbey Church, visitors will want to take time out to visit the fascinating Monastic Museum full of images telling the story of how this place came to be. In the museum, there is also a video to watch about the life of the monks at the Monastery.

Posted in the Monastery Kitchen

There is a Monastery Garden Center and the Abbey Store where visitors will find many special and unique treasures, including books, crosses, and much more.

The stunning Abbey Church at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia

For those interested in a little more structure and an overnight visit, many weekend, as well as midweek retreats are available in 2018. Some of these include Emotions: “Our cross and our crown” (Feb. 5-8), Embracing Deep Rest In Turbulent Times (Feb 9-11), Spiritual Rx for Stress and Anxiety (Feb. 23-25), Contemplative Prayer (Mar. 19-22), Image Faith & Photography (May 11-13), Yoga and the Christian Contemplation (May 25-27), just to name a few. The entire retreat schedule can be found on the Monastery website. Click here. 

Seen in the Monastic Museum during a self-guided tour, the Monk’s robes and hats from the original group who started this Monastery.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

This time of solitude and silence and contemplation was certainly time well spent for me.  I do realize that many cannot carve out the time for a day visit to a Monastery, much less an overnight stay. I recommend a time for solitude for every soul, but I recognize that this is nearly impossible for most. Therefore I encourage you to find small ways to be alone and quiet. A hot bubble bath? A walk in the woods? A visit to an open small sanctuary? With timer set, sitting in a comfy chair alone? I bet you, too, can think of some way, somehow, to have some quiet, solitude, a time of rich and rewarding contemplation.

“Be still and know that He is God.”

Psalm 46:10

In the hallway on the way to the dining area, there was a framed prayer by Theologian Thomas Merton. I found myself reading and rereading it several times each day. I wanted to share his thoughts with you.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) an American Catholic writer, and theologian.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Standing At The Crossroads

There Is No Expiration With Our God

What Is Happiness? What Is Joy?

Wrestling And Seeking

Where Is He? He Is In Us

It Is Well With My Soul

Brevity Of Life

Thank God He Has A Forgiving Nature

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Brevity Of Life Love Your Peeps

Aussie, Holly Butcher passes away at age 27 from Ewing Sarcoma. She leaves behind an unforgettable message for those who want to hear it.
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.' James 4:14

Have you heard? A final letter from a young, vibrant, Australian by the name of Holly Butcher has gone viral.

We know a bit about this horrific disease that took Holly from this earth. Sadly, our friends, Dixie and Benny lost their precious daughter, age 21, Christy to this same illness, Ewing Sarcoma.

There are many verses in the Bible about the brevity of our earthly life. Click here to read some of them.

Read here what Holly wanted to relay to whomever would listen before she took her leave since this new year, 2018 began:

Butcher’s poignant post is definitely worth reading in full. But here are 16 especially powerful points:

1. “I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all, so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit. … Those times you are [whining] about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s OK to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days.”

2. “Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that — breathe. You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. … I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”

3. “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise — be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them. .. Appreciate your good health and functioning body — even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is.”

4. “Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; more than I could ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.”

5. “This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus, imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves … strange! … but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. … Anyway, moral of the story — presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas.”

6. “Use your money on experiences … or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit. Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.”

7. “Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.”

8. “Listen to music … really listen. Music is therapy.”

9. “Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.”

10. “Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing OK?”

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with cellphones

11. “Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.”

Climbing Mt LeConte with friends June 2016

12. “Work to live, don’t live to work.”

13. “Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.”

14. “Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life. You might want a mediocre life and that is so OK.”

15. “Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.”

16. “Oh and one last thing. If you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year — a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.”

Wow, just wow!

The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. Brennan Manning, Author of All Is Grace

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Fighter Jules Furr Takes Her Leave

Where Is He?

Hurting Hearts, Painful Pasts

Run To The Roar

No Expiration

Humble And Kind

Charlotte’s Web

A Grace Disguised

My Heart Will Go On

Music Moves Us

What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heartsong

Tears To Teddy Bears: A Story Of Courage

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Never Forget

Are You An Egg, A Carrot, Or A Coffee Bean?

In The End, It’s Times Like These In The Following Images That Mean The Most In This Brief Earthly Life That We Live.

Girlfriends since Fernbank Elementary…the eight of us are known as FFs (definitely Friends Forever)
Walker and Noah 2016
Football, Friendship, Fellowship, Family
The freedom we enjoy in America is such an incredible gift. Many Thanks to all who serve, past, present, and future!!!
Leigh Andrews Fogg December 30, 2016
Christmas 2016 with Dad Page
Kathy and Joan on one of our countless Kennesaw Mountain Hikes
A few minutes to BE Still. (see Psalm 46:1;10)
Big Sis, Leah measures her little brother, Walker’s height

Contemplative Prayer
March 2017 Breckenridge Joan with my two awesome “in-law” kids, Jessica and Scott.
Anytime spent in a House of God
Kristen, founder of Kids Boost (kids boost.org) a non-profit which encourages kids 8-18 to give back to their communities!
My niece, Rachael and her family expecting #2 in this new year. They live in Wash State, but are close to us in Heart.
Grown-up, Meg takes a minute to hug on her MIMI.
Two of Meg’s Grandmas take time out for laughter!
Paul fixes Kay’s bike before Taylor’s Ride, October 2017.
Our quarterly Sister Session! Love this special time with my three sisters. Always feel like Mama is sitting there with us.
A Colorado visit with our Sam Hill Gang!
A local artist as he paints the majestic Rockies.
Leah and her Daddy-O March 2017.
Walker’s High School Grad Party, May 2010 with his GoodDaddy, My Daddy who passed on 11/11/13.
Newborn Donald Walker Page, born 2/27/92.
Our God calls us to have faith like a Mustard Seed. (see Matthew 17:20 which tells us we can move mountains with faith this size).
It is such a gift of this earthly life to take a few minutes to admire the handiwork of our God during a sunrise or a sunset.
Enough Energy and Strength to hike Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, June 2016.
The intricate details in Nature bring such delight and joy when we take the time to notice.
Our four-legged, furry friends make the best companions ever!

FRIENDS! Paul and Donny act crazy as they grill together.
Opportunities for Service whether Home Or Abroad! Here are two of the interpreters who worked with me in Rio de Janeiro on a recent mission trip.
NEW LIFE!!! “A BABY is God’s opinion that life should go on.” Carl Sanders
LEGACY! The gift of a loving, godly legacy never goes away. In fact, it only grows as a family grows. My late parents were married in 1947. My Mama was only 21 years old. They were missionaries in Africa for over five years, raised six children who are still married to our original spouses and were married 58 years at the time of Mama’s Homegoing in 2006.
I first met this group in 1976 and February, 2018, we will celebrate our 40th Reunion on Hilton Head Island over President’s Weekend!
Moving Our Bodies More To Encourage Better Health and More Strength.
BIRTHDAY PARTIES!
BOOKS! Have you visited a library lately?
My friend, Sarah, who was evacuated from Katrina in August 2005.
Just some of our fun, crazy, extraordinary extended family, December 2016.
time out during a Women’s Retreat for a walk in the woods at Lake Blue Ridge. Love our Piedmont Church Friends!
It is always a gift and a privilege to help one in need, like this little guy who is holding his shoebox provided by Samaritan’s Purse
As Mommy to Leah and Walker, it was always important to me to teach them to be givers. Thankfully, they and their spouses are such giving, compassionate, loving people. This makes my Mama heart smile really BIG!
Paul honors the life of his son, Taylor Heston Read who passed March 7, 2015, a life well-lived.
Collage art with my ladies at The Women’s Extension every other Tuesday morning fills me UP!
ART matters, here I am with artist, Holly Irwin and my original piece by Holly: Country Meadow. The girl in the piece is “me” when I was my younger self.
My two favorite girls in all the world. Leah, our daughter, to my right. Jessica, Walker’s wife to my left. St. Augustine Summer 2016.

 

What’s Happiness? What's JOY?

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What’s Happiness?

What’s Joy?

Donny and I recently made the 2.5 hour drive from Asheville, North Carolina to Blue Ridge, Georgia. Normally a scenic route along the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway, our drive was cloudy and smoky indeed from all the recent rain and flooding. In the passenger seat, I reminisced about our recent holiday season, considering the coming Christmas of dear friends who had a great loss in the past year.

An article posted recently by my friend, Mary K. gave me even more food for thought on this subject: 20 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Happy.

As the miles slipped by in the torrential rain, I thought about what brings me the most happiness and joy.

I came upon my usual, steadfast three:

Faith….Family….Friends

Later, I ran across the following anonymous writing and it fit with my musings as we traveled last week:

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another.

Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough, and we’ll be more content when they are.

After that, we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with.

We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage.

We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our partner gets his or her act together when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice holiday, when we retire.

The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than now. If not now, when?

Your life will always be filled with challenges.

It’s best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway.

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. Alfred D. Souza

This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

So, treasure every moment that you have and treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time…and remember that time waits for no one.

So, stop waiting until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until winter, until your song comes on, until you’ve had a drink…. there is no better time than now to be happy.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Work like you don’t need money,

Love like you’ve never been hurt,

And dance like no one’s watching.

~Anonymous~

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So what will bring us happiness and joy in 2018?  

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Pictured here are some of my favorite things from the past years.

But as you will soon see…”The best things in life aren’t things at all.”

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The Reason for The Season
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celebrating Jim’s birthday on 12/20/15
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a Missouri map added to my bracelet from Walker and Jess
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a tiger added to my bracelet by Leah and Scott
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a copied poem and my “original art”
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an unexpected gift from my friend, Susan F.
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six out of eight of our FF group, friends since Fernbank Elementary
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my dear friend, Kelly
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GrandDaddy Page
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my teaching companion , in Rio and dear friend, Deb
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grands of our dear friends, The Carters
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loving the resemblance between my sis, Kathy and our daughter
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experience of JOY with these two on 11/14/15
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brings me JOY knowing this ornament is now on another Page tree
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thankful for Donna Kapper’s opportunity to give this bear a special journey….Read about this on an earlier post: “Tears To Teddy Bears”
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service in a Santa Shop with my girl
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fun with friends and family as David leads us in caroling
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Oh my, love these West girls, whom I have known since “utero” : )
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special friends, The Kramers, join us in our home
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“sister sessions” with my three sisters every couple of months
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33 years of marriage and still going strong…onward and upward…He makes me smile…
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Our niece, Katie with her first-born, Noelle…Read more about our six 2014 babies in an earlier post: “Carve Your Name On Hearts”
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~~~the memories of my parents are with me daily~~~
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Cindy’s  Christmas Eve, story time legacy lives on even after they are grown
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4 of us together at Krueger wedding
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2015 Fourth of July in Barcelona
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My big bro, John Wade and Jeanie…and Grandparents to this precious trio below
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A three-way “Heart Huddle”-Walker Grands-all first borns, all born within four months of each other in 2014. Read more about them in my post “Carve Your Name On Hearts”.
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women’s retreat May 2015
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a rose in a vase at the Biltmore Inn
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Tim and Ringer
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a church in the distance as we traveled from NC to GA
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my student in Rio, so excited to receive this brand new recorder
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our awesome interpreters in Rio
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friends in our home, Bonny and her daughter, Stacy
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my sis, Laura Lea and Leah have a moment to catch up on a sunny Thanksgiving Day, 2015
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My sis, Laura Lea plays “motor boat” with her new grandson, Roman
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a Thanksgiving walk in the woods with 3 of my favorite people
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Christmas Day 2015 with Mocha
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“Great”-nephews, August and Noah
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supporting Karl’s Kure
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on mission in RIO
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R and R at the lake
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two of my favorite things: red geraniums and Gracie
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these college friends since 1976 have brought so much sunshine into my life
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Walker and Jessica, Summer 2015
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Scott and Leah, Summer 2015
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FRIENDS are a gift!
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Thank goodness Donny and Gracie know how to relax!
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Psalm 113:3 “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.” Lamentations 3:22-23 “His compassion for us never fails and his mercies are new every morning.”
People are made of stories, not atoms.

Posts You May Have Missed:

My Own Little World: What If There’s A Bigger Picture

Speak Life

It Is Well With My Soul

Peace Like A River

Fertile Prayers

Wrestling and Seeking

Authentic Prayer

Run To The Roar

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