With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.
As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
Have you considered some alterations you would like to see in your life journey. Seriously, the vast majority of us have had extra time to consider our lives and our ways of living out our days. This reminds me of a favorite hit from the Broadway hit, RENT. Seasons Of Love. “525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments, how do you measure a year in a life? How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year in a life. Measure you life in love.”
It’s easy to recall all the hype that came with the introduction of a brand new decade just 113 days ago. 2020 had quite the ring to it didn’t it!?! Now that the first quarter of this new year has sailed us by, we are left here wondering what has happened. That trio of months seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? It does to me! So much has changed.
This Global Pandemic has truly turned our world upside down, hasn’t it? This unprecedented season came to us with very little notice and by mid-March, our schools and “non-essential” establishments were shutting down. We were, in fact, blindsided when COVID-19 came to town, weren’t we!?!
How have you and I navigated this new normal? Have you, like me, had more pj pants…yoga pants…in the laundry than ever before? More food in the frig, the pantry than ever before? More rest and relaxation than ever before? More time to think, to reflect than ever before? If so, then WE are the lucky ones. Unlike the countless first responders who are carrying 40 + hours on the front line, quarantining from their families, literally laying their lives on the lines for the rest of us.
Yes, we are the lucky ones if we have the resources, shelter, and food that we all need. WE are especially fortunate if we have a stable foundation of love and emotional support under our roofs, as well.
How is our overall mental health? An article by, Jennifer Glover Yaeger that I read recently could be very helpful to you and to me in this current environment. Click here to find it.
I recently read a devotion that reminds me that Life takes muscle work and resilience. I want to be willing to make changes as life evolves.
Otherwise, I am just “a bystander”. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be “a participant” in this life, not just someone who is here and accounted for, but not really taking part, not connecting, not interacting, not having an impact.
I am learning that the best way to bring peace to my external circumstances is to begin with internal work. Internal peace will begin to settle external chaos.
Here is an excerpt from the devo I read:
“I’m convinced that life without risk isn’t much of a life. There’s a certain comfort in predictability. But it’s the kind of comfort you don’t find when you’re moving and growing. It’s the comfort you find in hibernation.
If you’ve followed sports or been around athletes, you know that an athlete regularly stretches his muscles to the point where they burn. Otherwise these muscles become inflexible, unresponsive, and easily fatigued. The same is true with your soul. It must be regularly stretched. Failure to do so gives you comfort in the short-term, but ultimately leaves you emotionally and spiritually unfit.
Connecting, loving, and pursuing dreams, all require risk and energy! Yes, you’ll be stretched to the point of discomfort. Yes, you may experience some hurt and disappointment. But these are far better alternatives than the loneliness, boredom, and quiet desperation that accompany a life without risk.” ~Steve Arterburn, New Life Live~
While it is not always comfortable, I want to stretch ALL of my muscles from here on out! My physical muscles, my faith muscles, my brain muscles, my compassion for others muscles. ALL of these, and more.
In addition, I want to discover what in my life is no longer serving me well.
Maybe it’s a bad habit I have been carrying around for decades. A routine that has become commonplace. A Rut. A pattern that is no longer useful. A temperament that is not as kind as I would like. There is no better time than a pandemic to make the changes we want to make, when many of us are allotted an extra span of time to ponder this.
If only we will.
What is it for you and for me that we would like to change and alter for the days ahead as we all begin to live our “new normal”? What pandemic alterations would we like to create?
What is no longer serving us?
Yes, it can be difficult, and risky, too. But, so, so worth it. It is truly a Fork In The Road, and we get to choose the way.
Let’s Start Today!
P.S. I know you join me in this thought: I cannot wait to give big hugs like this one to all of my friends and family!!!
We can all agree that our globe has been turned upside with the sudden turn of events since the initial spread of the Corona Virus around December 31, 2019 in the community of Wuhan, China. We’ve been asked to social distance, shelter-in-place, and take every precaution necessary to keep ourselves safe from this ruthless rival.
We’ve had lots of time alone.
Time to think, time to ponder our life circumstances prior to this unexpected interruption. This is when the rubber meets the road regarding our inner self, our own personal beliefs about creation, mortality, and faith.
We can also agree that for the most part, these circumstances have brought out the very best in the human soul.
I have been wrestling lately about how I can best express to my friends here on Pages From Joan the reality of my personal faith journey. Especially during the tumultuous and uncertain times that we find ourselves currently living in.
A dear friend of mine, Laura, who battled breast cancer before dying in 2014 in her fifties, once told me she was wrestling. She decided that wrestling and seeking are synonymous. I agree with her. As I have wrestled, I have been seeking God’s will, His unique plan for me. Meanwhile, I want to share just a few details about my journey, related to my faith.
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.
Soon after this, after over five years of marriage, I became pregnant with our first child. I felt strongly, that this was, in part, due to the fact that I had finally surrendered to my God about my dreams of having a child. I believe God rescued me from my childless sorrow and I had a renewed desire to draw close to Him. Leah was born on October 8, 1988.
I believe He has continued to woo me, rescuing me, providing for me in countless ways since that time.
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.
A few things that I learned during this season of my life:
God’s timing is perfect.
God, Creator is never surprised by the events that occur on this earth, not births, deaths, horrific events of nature or virulent viruses.
God created us and He knows even better than us what is best for us.
Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together especially when things get tough.
Did you know? There are more than 7,000 promises in The Bible. I am sharing this with you because I believe with all of my heart that Christ came to rescue each and every one of us. God keeps those 7,000+ promises as we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will rescue us from our troubles, and even from ourselves.
The gift is in the promise, and as believers, we may go about our work-to the best of our ability, assured that what God has promised, He is able to perform. And that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it the most.
One of my favorite bumper stickers states:
CHRISTIANS AREN’T PERFECT.
THEY ARE JUST FORGIVEN.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 (THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT)
I hope you now have a clearer picture of my perspective as I post here on my Pages From Joan. It is my desire to bring encouragement, learning, and inspiration into your days as I seek my God and share authentically from my heart, soul, and mind.
And now, today, with all that has transpired in my over six decades of life, and everything that is taking place during these unforeseen times, my husband and I are drinking in the presence of our 19-month-old grandson , Tripp and our 19-month-old granddaughter, Elizabeth. Our daughter, Leah and her husband, Scott are first-time parents, as of 8/24/18 and our son, Walker and his wife, Jessica are first-time parents as of 9/7/18. My heart is overflowing with gratitude to my Father in Heaven as He continues to pour blessings into my days, even amidst my wrestling and seeking.
Oh, how He Loves You and Me.
What do you think?
Whether you believe in Jesus, find your belief in something else, or question what you actually believe, God is interested in hearing from you as one of His unique and beautiful creations.
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
It may be a distant memory now, but there were some very rainy days in Georgia during the month of December. It is easy to recall driving home slowly from a holiday party and climbing into our warm, comfy bed as soon as possible.
Then the thoughts would begin…Where are the homeless sleeping tonight on this soggy cold evening? Were there enough beds at the shelter? Are there children out there with their Mommies and Daddies? Will they be okay?
Then I would utter a brief prayer from my bed. “Please, Lord, keep them safe and help them to find dry shelter and warmth.” I knew in my heart, felt compelled in my soul, that He would use me to help those in need somehow, someway during these cold, wet December days.
As the December days clicked by, we held a wonderful caroling gathering on the last Sunday before Christmas. Our guests brought new socks, underclothes, gloves, hats and scarves. We collected an abundance of these items, wrapped a bow around them individually and delivered them to The Zone. A nearby center, The Zone has programs that fuel recovery and fight addiction. Those who are in the throes of an addiction are often not welcome in their family home during the holidays. Knowing The Zone would be open for 36 hours during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, feeding all who came by, our small love gifts would be distributed to those who stopped in.
Soon it was Christmas Eve, 2019. Knowing that my last-minute chores were squared away, I stopped by the local Salvation Army office and asked if I could ring a bell. The receptionist told me that no one was ringing at a nearby Wal-Mart and would I be willing to work there. My assigned shift was 10:00-1:00, and a Salvation Army representative would meet me there.
I arrived a few minutes early. After waiting a good while, the representative never arrived. I tried calling a few numbers, but most offered only a machine since it was Christmas Eve. Sadly, I entered the Wal-Mart to pick up one last thing, potatoes for our Christmas feast.
As soon as I came out, I saw her! A woman was ringing the bell cheerily and walking to and fro on the storefront sidewalk. After introducing myself and acknowledging that there had been some misunderstanding, my new friend offered me the bell and her chair and slipped inside to hang out at the Subway sandwich shop. I was going to get to ring that bell after all!
The next couple of hours, I called out Merry Christmas to all who could hear, offered up friendly smiles, and a chocolate Santa to the children. I noticed the variety of nationalities represented. (and considered my American citizenship)
Sadly, I saw a homeless young man searching for food or a tobacco butt in this trash can and ash bin. I offered him a chocolate Santa and he heartily accepted it. ( and I sent up an arrow prayer of gratitude that I had never been in this man’s shoes) I took in the number of taxi rides folks needed to get the shoppers to and from the store. (and I thought about our pick-up truck in the lot full of gas and ready to take me home) I thanked those who slipped small change, a single or a five into the traditional red bucket. As I thanked one woman with her two young children, her reply warmed my heart, “Salvation Army made a real difference in my life in the past, and I want to give back.” (and I considered the fact that I had never had to reach out for help like this)
Just as He promised that cold, rainy night when I uttered a short prayer from my bed, I was given the privilege to help some souls in need. My heart was warmed that Christmas Eve, not just by the surprising warmer, 60 degree Georgia temp and blue sky, but by that feeling you get when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.
Thanksgiving 2019 comes late this year! November 28, 2019. We plan to enjoy a much smaller than usual gathering in the North Georgia Mountains. But first, tomorrow, we will celebrate the life of our dear friend, Debra O’Dell, age 58, who passed recently from a cancer battle. Debbie has been quite the fighter and lover of life, as a Kindergarten, a missionary, a Mom, a wife, a devoted servant in our church and the kindest friend you could ever have. Deb will be greatly missed!
I am grateful for what I am and for what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
One of our favorite long-time traditions on this day is passing out three dried corn kernels to each person present.Standing in a circle, before we bless the feast, we pass a small bowl around and have each one name three things they are thankful for while placing the kernels in the bowl. As we do this, we remember the pilgrims who went before us, making the famous 1620 voyage, and we share aloud our gratitude for life. You and your family may want to consider beginning a similar tradition for Thanksgiving 2018.
What will be on the menu for your Thanksgiving Feast this year? You may want to consider a salad bar station like the one pictured above. This makes for a lighter addition to the otherwise heavier choices.
“The Sandwich Technique” is a mindful, sensitive communication strategy which everyone (including sensitive people) can use to transform the relationships with their partner, friends, family, and co-workers.
This technique is not intended to be fake or simply to placate others. Being brutally direct can backfire and make people feel defensive and unable to hear your comments (no matter how useful they are).
When you use The Sandwich Technique, make requests not demands. Then, when you are communicating about a difficult issue, you sandwich the request between two positive statements. It’s a creative way of presenting challenging topics so that others can hear you. Let’s say you need more alone time. First you could say, “I appreciate all your support and I need your help with this.” Then place your request: “It would be great I can take more alone time to decompress. This will help me be even more present with you later.”
You empower your relationships by expressing your needs. Also, relationships thrive on both people feeling accepted. One patient told me, “My husband accepts me as I am. Through his acceptance I have learned to be true to myself.”
We all have issues to resolve in relationships no matter how good the match. To do this, we need to have loving, creative conversations.
The Sandwich Technique is a great way to have an important discussion with someone you care about.
When is the last time you were called to give difficult news to someone or have “that discussion” that you really don’t want to have?
I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.
― Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the U.S.A. (1809-1865)
Our pastor, Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard calls it a courageous conversation.
It has also been identified as “the elephant in the room”.
The next time you need to do this, try using the sandwich method. First, make a mental list of positive things you can share with the person you need to speak with and start with one of these. Next, consider how you will say, constructively, what needs to be stated. Finally, going back to your list of positives, end your conversation with one of these.
and voila, you have had the courageous conversation that surely needed to be had and all is well with this vital relationship. “The Sandwich” is a super great way to have that courageous conversation without hurting someone’s feelings.
I hope you will try this the next time you feel it is appropriate to say something that is on your mind.
We experienced an unbroken circle of life and love this past weekend as we once again gathered to celebrate a life well lived. The 5th annual Rails To River is held every October to celebrate the life of Taylor Read, who left us too soon in March of 2015.
A unique shelter, designed by Taylor’s sister, Megan was dedicated during the first ride in 2015. Following an 8-mile ride on this scenic trail, Taylor’s shelter is the destination for a picnic, Bluegrass music, and fellowship with friends and family. The day could not have been more perfect. The late summer heat had finally lessened, the rain stayed away, blue skies were wide open, and fall was truly in the air on the Virginia Creeper Trail.
'Dear God, Thank you for Everything we have, and we hope everybody's okay.'
Wayne Miller, the past president of the Virginia Creeper Trail shared a few words: “We can all experience Heaven while on this beautiful trail that Taylor loved so much. Taylor’s Spirit has been felt all day on the ride and now at his shelter. Let’s all enjoy this very special day.”
Yes, Taylor was with us, with many of his friends from both high school and college, many now married and a few are new parents. Taylor was with us, with his cousins, his Aunt Allison and Uncle Brian from GA, his grandparents from VA, TN, and GA. Taylor was with the dozens of The Read’s friends who watched him grow from a baby into a handsome young man. A guy who loved his family so much. Taylor loved people, golf, baseball, and God. A student who worked hard in school and loved hanging out with his friends. Taylor was with us as we remembered the day we received the unexpected news of his passing, but more than that, we recalled the days that he lived, laughed, and loved.
'We're not going to build just a little lean-to for our Taylor.'
As I looked around the shelter area and under the big, white picnic tent, I was moved by the wide variety of ages present on Saturday. Babies, babies, and lots of children, too, were all around for Taylor’s celebration. There were no less than four “pull-alongs” for those littles who are not quite old enough to bike the trail.
This circle of Life and Love is growing and Taylor Heston Read’s Legacy is expanding, too!
Extra special for our family was having our first grandchild, Michael Scott Andrews, III, “Tripp”, riding in one of those pull-alongs, towed by his strong Dad, Scott. Having Leah, Scott, and Tripp experience this meaningful weekend with us for their first time was just so awesome!
And our friend, Kathy Owen joined us from Pensacola, Florida for her first Taylor’s Ride. I bet it won’t be their last. We loved having my college friend, Delores and her Mama, Pat join us all in our Air BNB in Abingdon!
So, the next time Summer is drawing to an end, we’ll be making our plans to make the annual trip to SW Virginia, an area that has become dear to our hearts, just like Taylor Heston Read has.
Previous Posts about this inspiring family, The Reads, that you may have missed:
As we move into the Fall 2020 season, I begin to reflect more than usual on the 14th anniversary of my Mama’s passing on October 24, 2006, I wanted to share what I have learned are some of the best ways to help those who are grieving.
Did you know? The definition of bereaved is “to be deprived of a loved one through a profound absence, especially due to the loved one’s death”. With our global Pandemic far from over, many of us have suffered unexpected loss. WE were never meant to journey through this life alone. I know we are all beyond grateful for the front-line health care providers who have been with our loved ones when no visitors have been permitted during Covid-19.
People may excite themselves in a glow of compassion not by toasting their feet at the fire and saying, ‘Lord, teach me more compassion,’ but by going and seeking a person who needs compassion.” Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887, an abolitionist)
This fall, in November, also marks the passing of my Daddy, seven years ago. With both of my parents now gone, I have been encouraged by friends and family, alike.
We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand…and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it therefore before it is too late.” Marie Edith Beynon
(1) Show Up. When you’re not sure what to do, simply be there. Those who are grieving want to know you are praying for them and that you care about their loss. This calls for us to reach for courage in order to go to the hard place and love on those in need. Show up with attention and grace.
The people we love most do become a physical part of us. When we lose them, be it by death or earthly separation, the sense of rupture is real and raw. Meghan O’Rourke
(2) Don’t worry if you don’t have the right words to say. My Mama used to tell me that if I didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t necessary to say anything, but to be physically present is always important.
(3) Remember them in the weeks and months ahead. Mark your calendar if necessary to remind yourself to drop them an encouraging note, text, or email. Share your memories of their beloved one. Mail a book, a small gift, or drop some banana bread by their home to let them know their loss has not been forgotten. Many who lose a loved one feel as though everyone else’s life is going on and they are stuck in this place of grief.
YOUR reaching out to them may be just what they need at a particular time.
(4) Speak their name. Never stop saying their loved one’s name. Some people may believe that speaking the deceased’s name will bring the survivors sadness, but instead there’s a good chance it will bring them joy as you remember their loved one by speaking his/her name often.
There are many additional ways to
come alongside and encourage those who are grieving.
While it is definitely difficult to choose a favorite month, I have finally decided that October is my best-loved month, for so many reasons. This year, especially, it feels like October has breezed in like an old friend, and boy, do I cherish my long-time friends. With our wedding day, our first-born’s, a sister’s and Dad Page’s birthdays, my parent’s anniversary, and ten years ago on the 24th, my Mama’s home going, October has earned the prize in my heart of hearts. Add the changing of the leaves, football games, fires with s’mores, pumpkins, and the cooler days, and there is even more reason to celebrate life during this Autumn Season!
Now, if someone would just remind the weather forecast that October has arrived!
Here are a few thoughts for you about this special month, an “Ode to October”:
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes’ sake, if the were all,
Whose elaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost–
For the grapes’ sake along the all.
“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”
– Author Unknown
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves.”
– Sara Teasdale
What are some of your favorite things about this season of change!?!
Life Reminders For You and For Me, Whether We Are Young, Old, or In Between
No matter our age, we are all here to help one another. Helping those younger than we are and those older than we are will add spice to our own lives. These life reminders will make our life sweeter, too!
1. Make your bed every day; even if it’s right before you get in it. But I recommend doing it first thing.
It sets you up for a great day ahead.
2. Don’t wear ‘holey’ underwear. Ever. You deserve to feel decadent at all times…regardless.
3. Travel light through life. Keep only what you need. This includes people.
4. Put butter on your biscuit , and twice as much when you miss me. Add some fig preserves to remind yourself that comfort can be unusual.
5. It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash things; but, wash your face, clean your mess, and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there.
6. If you’re going to curse, be clever. If you’re going to curse in public, know your audience.
7. Seek out the people and places that resonate with your soul. Check in with yourself…a clenched jaw, heavy heart or cranky tummy is your sign to bail.
8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And just because you shouldn’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the chance. Just be smart about your risks.
9. 5-second rule. It’s just dirt. There are worse things in a fast food cheeseburger.
10. Happiness is not a permanent state. Wholeness is. Don’t confuse these.
11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack your bag.
12. Never walk through an alley.
13. Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself.
14. Can’t is a cop-out. BIG TIME. Step UP. Google It. Teach yourself. Don’t be mediocre.
15. Hold your heroes to a high standard. Be your own hero.
16. If you can’t smile with your eyes, don’t smile. Insincerity is nothing to aspire to.
17. Never lie to yourself. EVER. Embrace your delusions…and get on with it….
18. Your body, your rules. Always.
19. If you have an opinion, you better know why. If you don’t have an opinion, admit it and ask questions so that you can form one.
20. Practice your passions. Every. Day. No exceptions!
21. Ask for what you want. The worse thing they can say is no. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
22. Wish on stars and dandelions, then get to work to make them happen (leave room for magic)
23. Don’t skimp on good sheets. Like underwear and lovers…only the best should ever touch your skin.
24. Fall in love often. Particularly with ideas, art, music, literature, food and far-off places.
25. Fall hard and forever in love with nothing but yourself.
26. Say Please, Thank You, and Pardon Me, whenever the situation warrants it.
27. Reserve I’m sorry for when you truly are.
28. Naps are for grown-ups, too. Indulge.
29. Question everything except your own intuition.
30. You have enough. You are enough.
31. You are amazing! Don’t let anyone ever make you feel you are not. If someone does….walk away. You deserve better.
32. No matter where you are, you can always come home.
33. Be happy, say your prayers and remember your roots.
34. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
35. No one will ever love you more than I do
Copied, Author Unknown
*I would love to know what you would add to this list! Comment Below and share with those you love the very most in this life.