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!!!
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.
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
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!
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.
My husband, Donny and I were checking in for a flight. We were headed to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our son and his wife for Easter Weekend, 2018. Outside the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, we encountered a massive crowd of very young men and women. Dressed out in full U.S. Army gear climbed off a bus carrying heavy and huge dufflebags, one in each hand. Just seeing them made my heart sing with American Pride. “Thank you for your service!”, I said repeatedly as we made our way through the multitude.
“Are you in this group, this Army Unit?”, I asked a young woman in front of us. She was also entangled in the masses. Answering me, she exclaimed quickly, “Oh, no, I am not that brave.”
As we patiently made our way past these youthful servicemen and servicewomen, I considered this girl’s words. I reflected on how many souls walking around among us consider themselves less than brave. I know that up until recently, I have spent decades feeling less than brave. Nevertheless, I am changing. I hope you will be inspired after you read this post. Inspired to make a change, too. Perhaps you will be more courageous, as well.
The weekend of December 9, 2017, we attended the funeral of a warrior woman by the name of Jule Furr. I had known ‘Jules’ for years and was well aware of her four decade battle with cancer. At age fifty-four, Jule went on ahead leaving behind her precious family. After hearing stories of my friend on that frigid, snowy Georgia day, I decided I wanted to be more brave. You can read my post about this friend, Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave, here.
February 9-10, 2018, my friend, Julie invited me to attend a nearby Women’s Conference. An IF:Gathering.
The road to courage is lit by God's wisdom.
Author, Annie F. Downs
Sometimes things happen when we least expect it. Thankfully as a Christ follower, when things come up, I can be sure to trust in God for direction. At this meeting, I heard a well-known speaker for the first time. This speaker, Annie F. Downs also has an inspiring podcast that I have been listening to. “That Sounds Fun With Annie F. Downs” is what it is called.
From my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, it felt like Annie F. Downs was speaking straight to me. Two decades younger than myself, Annie spoke about many things I had grown to know and understand. My ears perked up when she began to emphasize “being brave”. You see, I had already felt my God wooing me, calling me (though not audibly <smile>) with His still, small voice to be brave about some specific circumstance in my life journey. It had become a stronghold in my days. It was something that was taking more than it was adding to my days. This something needed to be addressed if I was planning to have a purposeful and fulfilling life between now and dead.
Now, my particular situation is irrelevant to you as a reader of this post. (‘Cause it’s personal, ya know!) Therefore, I do want to encourage you, to look inside, to look at how you could be more brave with some specific circumstances that are unique to you. ‘Cause somehow, I don’t believe I am the only human that has lacked courage in making a needed change.
When is the last time you read about the Fruits of the Spirit, the actual fruits that grow in our lives as we follow Christ.
What might happen if all human souls lived out these fruits as best they could? With all the turmoil and tragedy across our globe today, I wonder how THIS might make our world different?
The freedom and grace that comes with growing these fruits in our life journey are undeniable. I have seen this played out in my life. The longer I live, the more I understand that living out these nine fruits is less about trying/striving and more about simply being. As we begin to understand what the fruits of the spirit truly are, we can then manifest them to the world around us.
No one can get JOY by merely asking for it. It is one of the ripest fruits of the Christian life, and like all fruits, must be grown.'
Henry Drummond (1851-1897)
LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL. The nine fruits of the spirit as recorded in Galatians 5:22-23.
Love seeks one thing only: the GOOD of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
Did you know?
The nine Fruits of the Spirit can be divided into three groups illustrating three different areas of maturation in the faith journey:
(1) Personal Growth:
LOVE, JOY, PEACE
(2) Personal Relationships:
(3) Personal Development:
Those who are coming along behind us need to know about these fruits, too! Consider planning a time in the near future to sit with the children, grands, or other tots in your life to share what these nine fruits can mean in our daily lives.
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.'
(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.
(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?
“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
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
So what will bring us happiness and joy in 2018?
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.”
We had our first winter storm of the year over the weekend, and believe me, this is somewhat of a rarity !!
Much of Georgia is still covered with inches of the white coat of snow.
In short, I should have liked to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet be man enough to know its value.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
A decade or so ago, I wrote out the following in calligraphy, printed the message on green paper, and then laminated the copies. (Those of you who know me will be SO surprised with the laminating part, lol)
I gave them out to my seven grade school friends, Mary, Jan, Lynn, Debbie, Evelyn, Cindy, and Jane Ellen, who are as close as family to me.
When Mary texted me a picture of hers last week, telling me it was one of her favorite things to put out during the holiday season, I decided I wanted to share it with my friends and family here on Pages From Joan. I try to read my copy a few times over the holidays each year.
When I first shared it with my Forever Friends, this message was claimed as anonymous. Since then, I have learned that at least the first part was written by Howard W. Hunter, (1907-1995)
I have highlighted (linked) previous related posts throughout the message.
What To Do This Christmas
This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate others. Be kind; be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Welcome a stranger.Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love.Speak it still once again. Christmas is celebration, and there is no celebration that compares tight the realization of its true meaning—with the sudden stirring of the heart that has extended itself toward the core of life. Then, only then, is it possible to grasp the significance of that first Christmas—to savor in the inward ear of the sweet music of the angel choir; to envision the star-struck sky, and glimpse, behind the eyelids, the ray of light that fell athwart a darkened path, and changed the world.
What in the above reading will be a priority for you in the days ahead?
I will be emphasizing more laughter, better listening, and demonstrating my loyalty in word and deed.
As Donny and I awaited the exciting game to start this past Saturday night at the Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium, cheering for both the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, the arena was electric !!!
As the Auburn University Marching Band played the Star Spangled Banner and presented the massive mid-field American flag, I got goose bumps as I always do. In the middle of all the excitement of the start of this S.E.C. Championship game, the announcer reminded us to remove our hats, place our hands on our hearts, taking a few minutes to honor our service men and women.
The flag. It carries so much meaning. So much thought and gratefulness. So much sacrifice and unification.
During this festive season, I am hoping that this blog post will remind you and me to remember our military. Those who are currently serving with strength, sacrifice, determination, and loyalty to help us maintain our freedom. At the very least, they deserve our remembrance and our prayers. And while we are at it, let’s also pray for our first responders, armed officers, firefighters and those working day in and day out to keep us all safe.
So many are serving away from home this Christmas. Just this morning in our small group at church, a friend shared that her deployed son will not be able to travel home. Many families are in this place as well. And it is so easy to recall being a pre-teen in 1968, when my older brother, John Wade served in Vietnam. A few young men we knew very well never saw their 20th birthday because of that horrific conflict. John, thankfully made it back and has been blessed with an amazing family, including Jeanie, his wife for 4+decades, three married children and nearly 4 grands.
As we were heading to a work Christmas party on Friday night, this song, Christmas Where You Are, by Jim Brickman. I knew I had never heard it and made a note to listen to it again when I returned home. When I did, it was clear to me that I needed to share this song with you. Just released in early October 2017, the message holds a huge punch for all of us whose hearts swell for those who serve in the military.
Did you know? There is a cool back story. This song, by both Brickman and Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, is a thank you to all our men and women at home and abroad who are serving our country. It’s a message that wherever they may be fighting for our freedom, we are thinking of them and that it is still Christmas where they are.
Please share this post and let us all remember with thankfulness our armed forces across the globe. Let’s continue to teach our youth, coming close behind us, the amazing sacrifice of those who serve.
God Bless America and beyond. May angels fly beside you all. May Heaven steel your hearts.
In what ways will you and I remember and honor our military service men and women in the days ahead?