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

SaveSave

St. Louis With Family

Commercial airplane

Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow. Anita Desai

Donny and I took a short trip to St. Louis, Missouri this past weekend to visit our son and his bride of nearly two years. Though the flight was short, the turbulence was worse than usual, causing the attendants to suspend beverage service for awhile. In addition, the landing was one of the most tumultuous we’ve experienced. Still, as we exited the plane, as always, I thanked the attendants, and I looked straight into the Captain’s eyes, saying, “Thank you for the safe travel.” Some of them are surprised by my statement, but all seem to appreciate it. You may want to try this the next time you step off an airplane! I never want to take traveling mercies for granted, another lesson my Mama taught me.

IMG_0456
Dinner at Central West End
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see. G.K. Chesterson

Arriving at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday gave us a nice long visit with our children, Walker, a Ph.D Philosophy student at SLU (Saint Louis University) and Jessica, a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Jess is also working on a Masters in Nursing Education. Jessica’s birthday was the Wednesday before our arrival, so we got to celebrate with her! Both carved out time from work and studying to play with us for the weekend! We love the old architecture and homes scattered through this Midwestern U.S. city. We visited them Easter 2015 and you can read about that visit by clicking here.

Did you know? In 1904, St. Louis hosted the 1904 World’s Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics, becoming the first non-European city to host the Olympics.

IMG_0459
happy Mama

The best part of our entire weekend away was just being together. Whether we were sharing a meal, getting a haircut, loving on Louis the cat, planting flower pots, playing cards, hanging out talking, or heading to church.

IMG_0508
favorite post-church lunch spot
IMG_0466
A cold beer is included with your cut!
IMG_0492
LOUIS!
IMG_0470
“Being a good Dad starts with presence, not presents.” anonymous
IMG_0486
our gift: wind chimes from Pier One Imports
IMG_0460
Saturday brunch/lunch farm-to-table…a “must-try”
PKTR1386
With 100% chance of rain, we were happy with a short break in the weather!
IMG_0500
These tall pink hibiscus will bloom soon!
IMG_0505
time out for worship at Memorial
IMG_0503
reflection for congregation at Memorial
IMG_0513
It is always so fun to hang out in St. Louis!
I sustain myself with the love of family. Maya Angelou

After a special time with our family, it was good to return to our home, even with all the congestion and traffic. “There’s no place like home.”

IMG_0515

Thanks, Walker and Jess for your awesome hospitality! We look forward to our next trip when Leah and Scott can join us!

On a side note, our baby birds flew away and into their own journey while we were in Missouri. Click here to read about some of our bird adventures at our home this Spring.

IMG_0414
Mommy or Big Baby, I’m not sure!?!
IMG_0413
The wreath where the nest was built.

Five Lessons From A Garden Bloom Where You Are Planted

IMG_9848
One of my Mama’s favorite lines to live by!
IMG_6870
Planting a garden with school children in Rio de Janeiro, 2015.

IMG_9772

When is the last time you meandered through your garden on a sunny early evening with a glass of wine, or on a chilly spring morning with a steaming mug of coffee.

A garden is both a healer and a teacher. Don't be afraid to dig in and see the great benefits. Anonymous

Perhaps you do not have a garden where you live. In that case, consider taking advantage of a local garden in your community: Gibbs Gardens, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Barnsley Gardens, and Smith-Gilbert Gardens, are just a few we can find near our Marietta, Georgia home.

We can learn so much from hanging out in a garden, whether we yield beautiful flowering plants, fruits, or vegetables.

IMG_9933
Our friend, Greg Fritz is in his Tennessee garden every day!
IMG_9773
This bright azalea boasts of blooms and buds on the same branch!

Walking quietly, slowly through a garden area will remind us that life is all about change. Change can happen quickly or slowly.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. Audrey Hepburn

The buds on a branch compared with a full bloom on the same branch echoes the truth that progress is impossible without change. Just look at these three pictures of dogwood blooms in three different stages! Did you know? There is a longtime legend about this tree. Click here to remind yourself of The  Legend of the Dogwood Tree. The dogwood goes through dramatic changes throughout a year’s time…first white, then pale pink, before the leaves turn a crimson red in autumn.

IMG_9749 IMG_9750

IMG_9752

Lagerstroemia indica (crape myrtle, crepe myrtle)
Lagerstroemia indica (crape myrtle, crepe myrtle) in full bloom…
IMG_9826
New, early growth on our crepe myrtle.
IMG_9827
New, early growth on our crepe myrtle.

One of my Mama’s favorite parts of spring were the many bright purple wisteria vines skirting the roads and highways. I had to stop and take some pictures of this one down the street from us, right outside the entrance of Signal Hill Subdivision. As I walked up to it and took in its sweet fragrance, childhood memories came flooding back…of wisteria, the circular azalea garden in our front yard, and countless dandelions that we laughingly blew into each other’s faces.

IMG_9764 IMG_9765 IMG_9766 IMG_9768

Although my friends, Brenda, Kelly, and Ellen are amazing gardeners, I am not very good at gardening. (I forget to water my pots and the plants don’t like that very much, lol.)

Where flowers bloom, so does hope. Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007)

Though my sis, Laura Lea and I were raised under the same roof, I did not receive the same green thumb she did as her indoor plants are varied and numerous. I started my very first herb garden in 2013, and then changes happened with my Daddy’s passing on November 11th of that same year. With two weddings in 2014 within eleven weeks of each other, my interest in a herb garden waned and remained dry through 2015 as we cared for Donny’s Dad. THIS spring, I am determined to revive my herb garden and have gotten started with a few purchases of basil, sage and dill. Now if I can just be sure my herbs get plenty of water during what is sure to be another hot summer in Georgia!

IMG_9782
I look forward to watching my herbs grow and using them in our cooking!

Five of the many lessons we can learn by hanging out in a garden are:

(1) Some things just can’t be rushed. They are worth the wait. Have patience.

IMG_9917
The Fritz Family will soon be serving red leaf lettuce and kale at their table!
IMG_9919
Greg’s daughter, Heather made this sign for her dad.
IMG_9774

Miraculously, these scrawny, wormlike creations will soon look like this second picture.

IMG_9779(2) You have to be willing to do the dirty, hard jobs (weeding, digging, spreading manure) in order to yield the wonderful results.

IMG_9724
Our friend, Paul Read works hard in their amazing garden.

(3) A garden reminds us to make plans, to have vision and grow big dreams.

IMG_9759
Signal Hill entrance is beautiful!

(4) A garden reminds us to be grateful, to have daily gratitude for nature and for life which are miracles and they are free!

IMG_9760
This knockout rose bud will soon be a bright red, blooming all summer long!

(5) It is hard to garden alone, and it is impossible to do life alone, as well. It takes community to thrive!

IMG_9188
Community is illustrated at Taylor Read’s shelter dedication on 10/3/15.

IMG_9850

IMG_9762
This bright forsythia welcomes guests to The Street Home! We love having this family as our neighbors and long-time friends.

A garden is both a healer and a teacher.

What are some other

lessons you and I

can learn from a garden?

*Click here to listen to a hymn about a garden and penned in 1912.IMG_9781