Authentic Prayer A Continual Conversation

Does it make any difference to pray?

You know, the older I get, the more I realize the massive need I have for prayer in my life journey. It’s been said that getting old isn’t for sissies and it’s not for the faint of heart either!

Did you know? Praying is easier than you might imagine. God is faithful and gracious.

His mercies towards us as His children are brand new with each new day.

I want to follow that age-old verse found in First Thessalonians Chapter Five:

“Rejoice Always, Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone. Blaise Pascal, philosopher, 17th century

For me that means to maintain a grateful heart regardless of my circumstances. To carry on a continual conversation with my Creator. It also means I yearn to keep a short list of my wrongdoings as He lovingly convicts me and brings them to my mind and heart. I truly believe that prayer makes a big difference in my personal life journey.

And we are in the middle of the Lent Season where believers choose to say “no” as a gift to God…a way to purify themselves during this penitential season. So it’s a perfect season to ponder the purpose and place of prayer in your life and in mine.

One of the most helpful books I have ever read about this is Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by, Anne Lamott.

I recently ran across an anonymous prayer from the 17th Century.  Transparent and honest prayers such as this are received and valued by God. He is listening. Are we talking to Him? Are we listening out for His still small voice? He wants to hear from us and He covets a personal relationship with you and with me.

“Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will be someday old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy with my vast store of wisdom; it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point swiftly. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tails of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that I occasionally may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a sour old person. Some of them are so hard to live with and each one a crowning work of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.
2 Samuel 22:33-34

What part does prayer have in your life journey? Did you know? There are many verses that tell us that when we choose to see God, we will find Him every time. I have definitely found this to be true for me…every time. If you and I find we do not feel close to God, Creator, guess who moved?

Let’s get the conversation going!

More favorite books about prayer:

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey

Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by, Charles F. Stanley

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by, Tim Keller

Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by, Priscilla Shirer

before AMEN: The Power of a Simple Prayer by, Max Lucado

Posts You May Have Missed:

Thank God He Has A Forgiving Nature

What Is It Like To Be Ninety?

Wisdom On Aging

Peace Like A River

It Is Well With My Soul

No Expiration

Wrestling And Seeking

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

No One Visits The Mother Of A Drug Addict

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Fertile Prayers

No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict Except Jesus

My friend, Nancy R. Chalmers has recently published her book entitled, “No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict.” This autobiographical story recounts the author’s experiences as she endured her son’s addiction, the physical, emotional and spiritual turmoil the addiction was on her and the entire family. The center is filled with family pictures illustrating their journey. Readers are given a firsthand look at how drug addiction took over her son, Andrew’s life, straight from her heart. This personal story took a ton of courage, bravery, as well as a hefty dose of vulnerability. This story is not just for parents of addicts, but for families who find themselves in a hard season that seems impossible to change.

Andrew Chalmers

It is Nancy’s sincere hope and prayer that many families will begin to heal, not only from the tragedy of substance abuse, but from any number of difficult circumstances that happen around our globe on a regular basis. It is this author’s belief that the path to wholeness starts with brokenness, and that “healing” is our God’s specialty since we are His creation. I agree with her.

In this personal account, Nancy also reminds us how telling our story…to a trustworthy soul…can offer healing beyond measure. She is very thankful for the one friend who reached out on a regular basis to be “Jesus with skin on” for this hurting Mom.

It's amazing seeing the ripple effects of how when the hope of Jesus Christ invades the life of a person how that creates a domino effect to impact the rest of their family, their workplace, and their neighborhood. Andrew Chalmers, Director and Founder of Take The City, also son of Nancy and Louis Chalmers,

Thankfully, Andrew survived this devastating disease, and one day at a time, he is sharing his story through a ministry he started called Take The City. Andrew now has a heart for those who are lost and in the throes of this debilitating lifestyle of substance abuse. Andrew and his family are indebted to the program Teen Challenge which literally helped to save his life. A portion of the proceeds from Nancy’s book will provide scholarships to those needing to enter the recovery program of Teen Challenge.

Not everyone is going to exhibit the kind of faith The Chalmers have shown here in this story. But God can work with what faith you have. In fact, Matthew 17:20 tells us “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Church folks don't like to talk about unacceptable problems. Oh, we can go on and on about cancer, death, (as long as it's not suicide), divorce, loss of job, sudden illness, surgery, birth defects, all our 'small sins' and many more. But alcohol and substance abuse, family abuse, runaways, other addictions, mental illness, satanic activity, pornography and sexual perversions, rape, murder, and nervous breakdowns are taboo.' Nancy R. Chalmers, author of No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict

At the close of her story, Nancy offers a 15 page Reflections Study Guide for hurting families. She begins it by again, reminding us that healing begins when we share our stories in a safe, confidential space.

Nancy begins the Study Guide with some frank questions:

  • What is going on in your family?

  • Who are the players in your drama?

  • How is all this affecting you?

  • Describe your most recent challenge or storm and how you responded.

  • To whom do you share this problem, where do you go for good counsel?

  • How do you find comfort?

Please note below a schedule of Nancy Reardon Chalmers’ upcoming book signings:

Wildwood Baptist Church, Acworth, GA Sunday Morning, March 12, 2017, in the cafe area

Piedmont Church, Marietta, GA Sunday Morning, March 19, 2017 in the cafe area

Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, Fayetteville, NC Wednesday, March 22, 2017 during the Wednesday Night Dinner

Click here to listen to an old hymn which came up often and ministered greatly to Nancy during this dark season of her life journey.

Andrew Chalmers, drug-free

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters: Share Your Struggles

Addiction is Real: Hope is Real, too

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles

We Are Called To Be Brave

A Resource List:

The Addiction Recovery Guide

Teen Challenge, USA

The Extension: life-worth-recovery

Addiction Recovery

National Institute on Drug Abuse

the fix: Addiction Recovery, Straight Up

Celebrate Recovery

AA

Davis Direction Foundation

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

Here I will share with you four ways to better love our peeps.  As Valentine’s Day draws near, 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

A Path Littered With Hard Circumstances? Help Someone: Part Two

Continuation from…

“Having A Bad Day? Are You Feeling Down? Help Someone: Part One 

Is your path littered with hard circumstances today? In my upcoming book, you will see this life lesson my Mama taught me is just what you need! If you have not read Part One, (linked above), please read it first.

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Tragically, Hurricane Katrina and the broken levies had just flooded New Orléans. In the nearby Boots Ward Recreational Center, there was a Red Cross shelter, a safe haven for some of the Katrina evacuees. I drove straight to this center and found out that there was a volunteer position available for the following Monday, 6-10 a.m.

As I signed up, I felt the sadness start to ease.
On that Monday,  I arrived at my appointed time, unaware that someone would be placed in my path who would change my life. I soon met Sarah L. Johnson, a Katrina evacuee who had resided in New Orléans her entire life. Sarah was 85 years old, had never married, and had no children. Funny, she said she had always wanted to visit Atlanta, but didn’t realize she would come like this. The story of how she got here is a story in and of itself. After the initial evacuation, though there was a power outage, Sarah and her fellow residents returned to their apartments. When she heard banging on her door, she glanced out the window only to find that the water was rushing into the streets and rising rapidly. We now know that the levies had broken down, but at that time, the residents had no idea what the rushing water was from. They hurried to the roof of the building where they stayed overnight until a helicopter could pluck each one of them off the roof. When boarding the helicopter, in all the confusion, this 85-year-old woman lost her walker, her glasses, her shoes, and worst of all Sarah found herself separated from a friend who was holding all of her IDs for her.

'One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.' Albert Schweitzer
Sometimes our greatest disappointments are God’s appointments, a chance to bless another person’s life.  A friendship soon developed with Sarah which would change my life for evermore.
When I first met Sarah, she was just waking up in the Red Cross Shelter. I helped Sarah with her laundry, got her breakfast. She talked with me about her strong faith in God and how surely God had a plan for her even in this crazy situation. Feeling more encouraged, at the end of my shift, I gave her a hug, thinking I’d never see her again this side of heaven.

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Sarah Johnson and me, 2005

A few days later, I received a phone call from my friend, Vicki, who had worked at the same shelter, telling me that Sarah needed to see a cardiologist and could I help her to get in to see someone. I had the privilege of taking her to a doctor the very next day. Her heart was just fine and this was the beginning of a sweet friendship, one that I will forever cherish. After four weeks at the shelter, Sarah moved to a wonderful nearby assisted living facility where even though she was the only African-American woman there, she felt love and acceptance from the staff and the  other residents. She visited my weekly Bible Study at my friend, Sara’s home,  worshipped with us at our church and even gathered at my sister’s home for a huge family lunch!

'Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.' Og Mandino

Sarah Johnson shared her heart with me and told me why Psalm 27 was her mainstay scripture. Mama and I took her to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, and she told Mama and me all about her personal and vivid memories of the Civil Rights Movement.
Later, Sarah was happily returned to New Orléans to her same first floor apartment. I believe that our God gave me this opportunity to serve and help Sarah during a time when I was experiencing a broken heart over the loss of my precious friend, Jil.

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Far from home, the residents and staff were so very kind to my friend, Sarah.

Are you feeling down and going through a great disappointment today?? If so,  look up and all around.

Watch for the divine appointment that is waiting around the corner for you to become an uplifting messenger to someone today.
My older brother, John Wade, recalls how Mama was a great listener, who could easily empathize with troubled souls who fell in her path. Mama and Dad joined the local organization of “Parents Of Marines”, providing both comfort and support to those parents whose sons died or became severely wounded during the Vietnam War, which John Wade fought in. They continued this support even after John was honorably discharged from The Marines to begin college. Kathy remembers how Mama taught us to always look people in the eyes when speaking with them, and always be on the look out for ways to serve.

I am so thankful to our Mama for teaching this important tool for moving forward when things seem impossibly hard. I use this tool often, and I hope you will, too!

Posts You May Have Missed:

5 Reasons We Should Volunteer

My Own Little World

Joy Comes In The Morning

We Are Called To Be Brave

Blended Tears

Don’t Borrow Trouble

Having A Bad Day? Are You Feeling Down? Help Someone: Part One

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With the observation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday just passed, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to reach out and help those we find in our path. We all have bad days, those days when we are feeling down. These are opportunities to help someone!

IMG_8463Just think, back in the days of the Civil Rights Movement, if it were not for the countless citizens, both black and white, who aided others, no telling how this difficult season would have ended.

If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know? A white woman by the name of Viola Liuzzo was murdered at the age of 39 for shuttling civil rights activists back and forth in Alabama. Now, of course, I am not saying to reach out, putting ourselves in dangerous situations such as this, but I am calling us to be brave, look outward vs. inward, and to carry out small deeds which impact others in a positive way.

IMG_8433And remember, it may be as simple as a smile or a kind word that is powerful enough to turn someone’s day around.

Many of you already know that I am working hard on writing a book, a compilation of some of the things I learned from my Mom. Did you know? I started this blog because of my Mama and the many lessons I gained from growing up with her. Here below and on the next post, you will find Part One and Part Two of an excerpt from my book.

LESSON THREE: Are You Down? Help Someone!

This is a lesson I’ve practiced again and again in my life journey. We all have times when we feel discouraged, even hopeless. If we pull up our bootstraps, and help someone, they will be encouraged, and we will feel better too. This works like a charm every time! Try it the next time you feel blue.
The date was August 5, 2005, when my dear friend Jil drowned in an Alabama lake while her family was with her. They were delighting in the final hazy, lazy days of summer when she slipped away. Jil was 40 years old. Jil Cain was one of those humans who inspired others to laugh and love. Jil is still remembered and missed by multitudes of people, even now over 10 years following her passing. Jil left a memorable legacy behind for her family and friends.
My memory bank holds many, many sweet images of Jil, one of which was our participation, along with my girlfriend Kathy, in an Avon 3-Day 60 mile Breast Cancer Walk together in 2000. With the help of my friend, Jules Furr, I was able to raise over $6,000.00 and I walked in memory of my teaching friend, Debbie Ledford who had died in late 1999 of cancer. Leah and Walker even held a dog-wash to raise funds.  : )  Throughout this weekend in 2000, Jil, Kathy and I were surrounded by survivors at every turn. The 60-mile journey was an incredibly inspiring experience. A stirring of the soul.
An experience that changed our lives forever.
Later in the month of August, 2005, soon after Jil had died, I was driving aimlessly down the road. Our children were at Wednesday night youth group, my husband was working late, and I was falling into the depths of despondency as I grieved the loss of my 40-year-old girlfriend.
Suddenly, I remembered this important lesson that my mother had always told me. Mama had often modeled this lesson as well. I considered what I could do to make a difference in someone’s path, and my car, changing directions, was soon traveling up Dallas Highway towards the Boots Ward Recreational Center.

Is there someone in your path, in my path, who may need a boost in the days ahead?

To Be Continued…

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Choose To Not Be Blue

My Own Little World

Joy Comes In The Morning

Five Ways To Love Well: Part One

Five Ways To Love Well: Part Two

We Are Called To Be Brave

What Is Happening? Write It Down! A Quick Idea For Remembering

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lots of memories and mementos in these little books

As a Mommy, Daddy, Grandparent, an Aunt, or any other position you can name, does your special little one do and say unforgettable things? I bet he or she does, like ALL THE TIME. But as the moment goes by, the laughter has silenced, the memories may have a tendency to fade. One of my favorite things I did for both of our children was to write them notes now and then. These short letters are compiled in these Precious Moments books shown above.

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a 1996 entry from Leah’s little memory book
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an 1992 entry from Walker’s little memory book just a month after he landed into our family
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pictures included in Leah’s little memory book

I know it may feel like “one more thing to do”, but these little books have sparked countless discussions as I have read aloud portions on special occasions such as a birthday or a graduation. Here’s what I did. I simply recorded my thoughts in the form of a “Dear Leah” letter and a “Dear Walker” letter.  And your special loved ones don’t have to be in their youth either…they could be grown and live away and you could simply share some musings you have about them. Of course, if they are grown, you could actually mail them a real letter, which can be so so much more meaningful than a text or an email.

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another entry from Walker’s book

I started Leah’s book when she was a few months shy of her second birthday, and Walker’s when he was a newborn. My last entries were made for both just after their two weddings took place in 2014. There are some blank pages, so who knows? Maybe, I will make more notations in there at some point.

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a Thanksgiving note to our son, Walker, when he was 2 1/2

What a fun thing for them to have … notes about their childhood, and this will also be a cool thing to share with their own children some day. This post is not meant to make any one of you “feel bad” for not having done this particular thing with your own children. Everyone and every home is unique and this is just something I wanted to share with you that we did. Memories are alive no matter what we might do to maintain them. Perhaps many of you reading have grown children, or no children, and are wondering who you could now write notes to? A grandchild? A neighbor child, family child whom you are watching grow up?

'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.' Abraham Lincoln

This can be a very simple, yet meaningful activity. And it can be cathartic as well, because it allows us to get down on paper some of our heart thoughts and affirmations about one that you dearly love. All you need is a blank book of your choice and a pen or pencil. Here below are a few of the entries in Leah and Walker’s little memory books. Why not start today?

Dear Leah,                     February 5, 1996

We are out of school today for snow and ice. I guess Walker has been getting to you…(as siblings often do!) because today you told me you wanted to put him outside on a stand with a sign that says: “BROTHER FOR SALE ONLY $5.00!”  

Love, Mom

Dear Walker,               December 22, 1995  

Dear Walker, I guess you are ready for a bigger bed, because you fell out of your race car bed last night. I think it scared you because your were crying so hard and your heart was beating like crazy! Daddy and I got you a new twin bed for Christmas and you are going to love it!  

Love, Mom

I hope some of you will consider starting a little “Dear_________________ Book” for someone who means the world to you. This is really way easier than a “baby book” or a “scrapbook” that can sometimes feel too daunting. I included photos, ticket stubs, and even flocks of hair from a haircut in a ziplock bag with a date.

You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to share the collection of memories!

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

The Love Letter Challenge

Children Are Wet Cement: Make The Right Impression On Their Lives

Leave A Notation

Yesterday, Tomorrow, Today

Cheers To A New Year No Resolutions Here

The holiday season has come and gone and ours was very full, as I am sure yours was, as well. Here are a few pictures to illustrate some of my highlights:

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A post-Christmas and pre-New Years Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield hike with my long-time friend, Kathy
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A collage session on December 28, 2016, with my girls who currently live at The Extension and are battling addiction.

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I know you have special photos of your moments with friends and family and I am hoping you might share them in the comment space below!

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A Christmas Day 2016 visit with GrandDaddy Page

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Our son, Walker, visiting with his wife, Jessica, from St. Louis, gets a hug from our great-nephew, Noah on December 23, 2016
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Leigh Andrews takes a minute to read a note from her groom just before becoming Mrs. Michael Fogg on December 30, 2016.
Our daughter, Leah’s sis-in-law, Leigh waits for her wedding
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A beautiful ceremony for Michael Fogg and Leigh Andrews on December 30, 2016.
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Christmas Eve with our daughter’s in-laws, The Andrews
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A trip to the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden with Je, Jan and Cindy and some of Cindy’s family, friends from high school (aka: FFs) on December 11. 2016
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Our Walker Family Christmas Pizza Party on 12/26/16
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Story Time with our great-nephews, August (DOB: 3/1/14 to my right) and Noah (DOB: 6/18/14 to my left) on December 23, 2016.
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Our Six Around The Tree
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Honoring our sweet Kelsea West, and her groom, Troy with an engagement party on 12/17/16
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Leah and Scott celebrate with the future Mr. and Mrs. in a photo booth Leah created!

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Having been around for nearly six decades, the whole subject of New Year’s Resolutions causes me to yawn. What is the use of them? What is the benefit of putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves in a world that already has enough stress as it is? Now, don’t get me wrong! I do believe in goals and change and progressing towards a better life. But I have also learned, that for me, anyway, that it is more about the journey itself than it is about the destination. I want to be kinder to myself, more compassionate towards my fellow humans, and more faithful to my God.

Here are a few things that I found on social media that caused me to pause, to be still for a moment, and consider how I want to navigate into this new year: 2017.

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So, I encourage you, along with me to say:

‘THANK YOU for being in my life, and helping me to continue to learn, to grow, and to smile past the struggles, while counting my blessings.”

Thanks to all of you out there who follow my Pages From Joan. Please help me this year by sharing any posts that resonate with your heart.

Related Previous Posts That You May Have Missed:

Fire The Bad Boss Inside

We Can Embrace It

Time Away: A Woman’s Retreat

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

Your Beautiful, Complicated Life Matters

Give and It Will Be Given Unto You

Wrestling and Seeking

The Long and Winding Road

Humble and Kind

Peace Like A River

My Own Little World

It Is Well With My Soul

Gratitude and Grace

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

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

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

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Women’s Retreat Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Girls Need Time Together: 3 Illustrations

Solitude: 7 Ways To Find It

The Long and Winding Road

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Honesty With The Truest of Friends

8 Traits of an Authentic, Successful Woman

We’ve Got Your Back

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

Where Is He?

RETREAT

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part One

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part Two

Joy Comes In The Morning

Girls Need Time Together

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

Pack A Shoebox Full Of Love Plant Seeds Of Compassion

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Leah (age 12) and Walker (age 8) help organize canned goods shared by our friends Christmas 2000.
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Leah and Walker surrounded with shoeboxes they pulled together with a little help from their friends.

When I think about when our children were small, in our home, and growing day-by-day, one of my favorite memories is definitely the times we had a bunch of our friends over to our home for a service project. Whether it was a MUST Ministries Summer Lunch Party or an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Party, we always had so much fun and I believe seeds of compassion were planted not only in our two children’s hearts, but in the heart of every child who came. I believe children learn best by example, especially when they are small, impressionable, and growing. These parties helped to make Leah and Walker who they are today, married grown-ups who care about others they may find in their path.

If you still have children  or teens under your roof, or even a grandchild who lives nearby, you may want to take advantage of this opportunity to plant seeds of compassion into the hearts of the ones you are helping to mold.  Simply invite a bunch of kids and break them into small groups of 4-6. Assign a Mom volunteer or two to hang with each group and then rotate the groups through 3-5 stations. The stations might be : 1-story time where you read them a book about this shoebox ministry or another story about the importance of helping others, 2- wrap shoeboxes with gift wrap 3- pack boxes with items, 4-a coloring/craft station, and 5-a snack station.

Or here is an idea! If you are a grandparent, put together a box for a child who is the same age as a grandchild!

Actually, this would be a fantastic project for anyone of any age, because we all know how good it feels when we make a difference in another human’s life!

Click here to watch a quick, cool video about this service project.

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You should be able to pack a shoebox for between $25-$45, while the impact you will have on a child in need is priceless.

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How To Pack Your Shoebox for a trip around the world:

1. Get a shoebox and decide if you want to pack it for a girl or a boy and choose the age category-2-4, 5-9, OR 10-14.

2. Select a quality “WOW” toy such as a doll, soccer ball with pump, or stuffed animal.  

3. Fill with other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies.

 4. Most importantly, pray for the child who will receive your gift, include a personal note and a photo.  

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This list will aid you when it is time to drop your gift shoebox between November 14-21, 2016.

5. Donate $7 cash (place in shoebox with your items) to send your gift overseas. Discover the destination of your shoebox through Follow Your Box online (www.samaritanspurse.org/occ)  

6. Take your shoebox gift to a local drop-off location during National Collection Week: November 14-21, 2016.

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img_6475Time is short. The National Collection Week is November 14-21, 2016.

Leah and I will be shopping in the days ahead to put together our two shoeboxes. How about you? Use the hashtag #ipackedashoebox to share your experience.

We Can Get Advice From A Trail Beauty From Ashes

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a recent gift from my friend, Kathy
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The Virginia Creeper Trail on October 15, 2016. Taylor’s friends ride on!
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Taylor’s Shelter from the storms of life…

There are life lessons to learn at every turn…even from a trail.

One week ago today, Donny and I were in the quaint town of Abingdon, Virginia for another visit. Many, like us, drove from all around to attend the 2nd annual Rails To River, Ride For Taylor, gathered to celebrate a life well lived. As I took the 8.5 mile bike ride from the Abingdon trailhead to Taylor’s shelter on the Virginia Creeper Trail, I kept thinking about “beauty from ashes, he brings beauty from ashes.” How does one bring beauty from ashes? Only God, our Creator can do that and on this Saturday, October 15, 2016, we witnessed again and again him doing just that, bringing joy to sorrow, bringing beauty from ashes. I know God’s working, so I smile.

...and provide for those who grieve, to bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes, the oils of joy, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3 NIV

As the day continued at Alvaredo Station, we saw examples over and over of this very thing: Nearly 200 hundred gathered… a gorgeous sunny, fall day… a wonderful bluegrass ensemble…loads of family and friends together… an inspirational word from the Virginia Creeper Trail Club President… Taylor’s buddies traveling from far and wide, even from Hawaii to join in the celebration of Taylor Heston Read’s life… “Taylor’s Prayer” being read in unison by all the guests led by his Dad, Paul Read, and many more examples of God bringing beauty from ashes.

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Taylor’s Grandfather, David and Taylor’s Mom, Kelly, listen as Paul shares with the group.

Speaking of “Taylor’s Prayer”, his Dad, Paul shared the back story with the folks that gathered to celebrate Taylor. Paul said:

“Whenever we were about to say grace, Taylor would eagerly agree to bless the meal, knowing that I may take entirely too long if I was the one who gave the thanks. So Taylor was known for his short, simple, yet meaningful prayer.

Dear God, Thank you for everything we have and hope everybody's okay. Amen Taylor's Prayer
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Paul Read, Taylor’s Dad makes remarks before leading us all in Taylor’s Prayer at the 2nd Annual “Rails To River, Ride For Taylor
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Taylor’s shelter is located here along The Holston River and beside The Virginia Creeper Trail.
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Hanging out in Taylor’s Shelter!

WE are all looking for good things. We are all seeking joy. Sadly, sometimes, “good things” and “joy” can be very difficult to find. That does not mean they are not there, though. It may be easier to understand this as you read here below the inspiration shared by VCTC President, Wayne Miller at the 2nd annual Ride For Taylor:

There is a story in Genesis 21 about Hagar and how she was lost in the wilderness and suffering from thirst.   The text casually mentions in 21:9 that “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” It does not say that God instantly created that well on the spot, or that the Almighty tapped a little celestial H2O into her canteen. Instead Hagar’s eyes are opened to a water source that has been there under her nose all along.  One real spiritual life task is simply showing up, being open to God’s grace and care wherever we are. What we need is here, but sometimes we need new eyes to see it. Like Lucy and Edmund who walked through an old wardrobe to emerge in C.S. Lewis’ wonderfully, magical land of Narnia, we too are called to walk through life with our eyes open, ready for the impact when a glance at the familiar suddenly points to the holy, to God. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in her poem, “Aurora Leigh”: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes.”

The parables and teachings of Jesus feature many natural objects: seeds, rocks, birds, flowers, streams, trees, and I believe Taylor would have added fish to the list. Jesus used such familiar sights to direct attention toward the ordinary, and on the sacred, revealing truth about the invisible God. Jesus picked up something utterly mundane and said, “The Kingdom of God is like this.”

The Virginia Creeper Trail, then, is a laboratory of the spirit, for the hidden Hagar in all of God’s children. In this era of rugged individualists, we are wooed into believing that we ‘make it” in this world through self-generated sweat and ingenuity. We foolishly become our own gods, often unaware of our desperate need to connect with the true God. Though linear in direction and precise in termini, the Creeper holds infinite possibilities for grace around every corner, every milepost, and trestle. Here on this trail my eyes have been opened on more than one occasion to wells I’d never noticed before, wells offering the gift of refreshment from a Source completely outside of self.  

Linger.

Look.

Listen.

Drink deeply of the Trail’s secrets, as Taylor did.

What we need is here.

(Note: original devotion was penned by former Pastor Frank Honeycutt of St. John Lutheran Church, Abingdon, VA)

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WE will ALWAYS miss Taylor! Forever, until we see him again.  His legacy lives on. Click here for the song You Should Be Here, that makes Taylor’s Aunt Allison think about Taylor every time she hears it being played.

Click here to listen to a new rendition of an old beloved hymn, sung by The BYU Noteworthy Members, 9 “angel-like” women singing out in nature by a river.

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

We’ve Got Your Back

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

It Is Well With My Soul

A Grace Disguised

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

A few more pictures from our day:

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Joan and Kelly, friends for 40 years, just before we head for the trail for the 2nd Annual “Rails To River, Ride For Taylor!”