Memorial Day! Cookouts, beach trips, boat rides, parades, picnics are just a few of the activities you and I are taking part of on this Memorial Day, 2016 as we celebrate the start of SUMMER!
We are the home of the free because of the brave.
I want to share with you three ways to honor and raise up our flag as you enjoy this special time with your favorite people. Click here for an amazing 3 minute Memorial Day video produced by Zoomability.
As I have been placing flags around in flower pots and window sills, my mind keeps going back to when I was ten years old and the U.S. was directly involved in the Vietnam War. Over 58,000 Americans were killed in this horrific war, and if you have never taken the time to view pictures/videos about it, or if you haven’t in years, I strongly urge you to click here to learn more about this time. The U.S. involvement was during the 1962 and 1973, and as a girl at the time, in addition to the news/media coverage, I have three vivid memories.
First, a close friend of our family, Timothy Faust was injured badly in Vietnam and I remember us standing on our driveway on Webster Drive together when he came home. Tim’s mouth was covered with gauze because of the deformity caused by his injuries. After many, many surgeries, Tim passed away as a result of his injuries. Second, our family was very close with The Allen Family, who attended church with us. Their brother, Larry Michael Allen was killed instantly in ‘Nam and here is what a U.S.A. Today article stated in 2012:
“I will mark this Memorial Day by remembering Larry [Michael] Allen, a fallen Marine from Decatur, Ga. On June 18, 1970, somewhere in Vietnam, our squad ran into an ambush and was surrounded. We were taking heavy fire from the enemy we could not see. We were advancing when Larry (Mike) stepped directly in front of me and one other Marine, taking a bullet wound in the lower stomach, meant for us. As he lay dying before us, I will never forget the helplessness I felt. The firefight was so intense that our choppers could not get in to help Larry (Mike) and the other wounded. That day, we lost a wonderful 18-year-old Marine who not long before was running high school track in Georgia. I salute you, Larry (Mike). Thanks for giving two of us our lives. Semper fi, my friend. Terry Franks; Springville, Ala.”
And a word from Betty Lou, Mike’s sister: Sgt. Terry Franks, came to meet my folks in August 1970 when he returned home to B’ham. He still keeps in touch with my mom, called last month.
True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.
And thirdly, and closest to me, my own big brother, John Wade Walker was serving there as a Marine. John was the oldest of six children and I recall Mama praying around our dinner table for his safety. Thankfully, John and his wife of four decades live in southern Mississippi and have three grown married children as well as three grandchildren. John went onto become a lifetime Marine, serving in many future battles. Semper Fi!
(1) Think of and remember those, and their families, who have given the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, for our freedom.
(2) Teach and train up our children with understanding about what our flag represents.
Cub Scout Pack 178 and Boy Scout Troop 173 Scouts in Marietta, Georgia placed 18,000 flags in minutes. My friend, Stephen Moon shared this story from their day:
“This happened to make it even more special: A stranger was waiting to take a picture. After Sam placed the flag, Colleen started to cry and thanked him. This was her father’s final resting place (Marine Cpl. Richard D. Marks, Korean War)”
(3) Honor and pray for those who are currently serving for the preservation of our freedom.
What memories does this Memorial Day 2016 trigger for you? How can you and I raise up and honor our flag in the days ahead?
Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.
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.
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
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.
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.
I sustain myself with the love of family.
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.”
Thanks, Walker and Jess for your awesome hospitality! We look forward to our next trip when Leah and Scott can join us!
Do you remember The Family Circus syndicated comic strip created by cartoonist, Bil Keane? Originating in 1960, and one of my favorites, I remember running to the AJC newspaper to find it every Sunday. The cartoons without fail left my spirit warm.
During this tumultuous and troubled season across our globe today, we have to find a way to keep our sense of humor and our healthy well-being.
ALL you need is LOVE. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
Charles M. Schulz
Viewing a few Family Circus strips might help! You may not believe this, but many years ago, I collaged the front of our basement frig with Family Circus strips and they are still there today! It is fun to look at them again and again.
I hope you will enjoy them as much as our family has through the years.
What will you and I and our loved ones do in the days, weeks, and months ahead to maintain love and laughter in our moments?
I believe it is fair to say we are in the midst of a tumultuous, uncertain season across our globe.
“It can be too sad here. We often lose our way. It is easy to sense and embrace meaning when life is on track. When there is a feeling of fullness—having love, goodness, family, work, maybe God as parts of life—it’s easier to navigate around the sadness that you inevitably stumble across. Life holds beauty, magic and anguish. Sometimes sorrow is unavoidable, even when your kids are little, when the marvels of your children and your parental amazement, are all the meaning you need to sustain you, or when you have landed the job and salary for which you’ve always longed, or the mate. And then the phone rings, the mail comes, or you turn on the TV.” Anne Lamott, from Stitches: A Handbook On Meaning, Hope, and Repair
Political gridlock, evil terrorists, human sex trafficking, and a wide use of illicit drugs are just some of what we are experiencing in this grim avalanche surrounding us today. Easter: The Season of Hope is upon us. Did you know? Easter is celebrated in a variety of ways across the world. Click here to read about some of them. With all of these hopeless things going on, Easter brings Good News for those who believe.
Yesterday was the first day of spring on our calendar. What are some of your favorite things about spring? Springtime is associated with the ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. Though the pollen bothers many, the vivid blooms and flowering trees are truly something to behold!
With many world-wide challenges, some may be asking “Where Is God?” I had something happen in the past week that assured me that his eye is on us.
Did you know? There is a set of verses in the Gospel of Matthew where we are taught what to do with worry. It is human nature to worry some, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a place to go with our worries?
One place to go is found in Matthew 6:25-34. Today, we will look at two of these verses, v. 26-27, and apply them to what happened here in our home.
Have you ever noticed a bird’s nest somewhere on your property? Mama used to say that when a bird builds a nest near your home that this is a sign that you have the gift of hospitality! <smile>
We have a wreath right outside our kitchen entrance that is being used as a nest spot for a bird right now. It is a bit camouflaged …can you see it here below?
So my brief story begins with a homemade wreath that our daughter, Leah made for an upcoming bridal kitchen shower for a dear friend. Leah lovingly used burlap and a big white G for the wreath. Click here to read a previous post that will show you how to make this wreath. In preparation for the Sunday party, my co-host, Cyndi and I began decorating a couple of days ahead. The wreath was hung on our front door on Friday, two days before the festivities would start. On Sunday morning, as I was checking on everything, I noticed that an important project had begun in the burlap wreath: a bird’s nest! In just two days, LOOK at what progress this industrious bird had made!
Some of The Gillam Gang hold beautiful, delicious cookies Baked With Heart by my friend, Louise who has her own business in Virginia. Check out her Facebook Page here. Louise can make the most creative cookies I have ever seen and will carefully pack and ship to your home for a very reasonable price.
The day was a sunny Sunday morning, March 15, 2015. I walked and walked in the beautiful city of San Diego, California, while my husband, Donny, attended a conference. As I moved along, I hummed a favorite song, seeing the lyrics in my mind: Brave, by Sara Bareilles. Carrying my Bible close to my heart, my plans were to find a Presbyterian Church about one mile from our hotel and worship there at the 11:00 service. I soon discovered that instead, my day would be spent in “a church” on the streets of San Diego and not inside the walls of a building. Heavy-hearted, with my husband’s dear Dad on my mind with his recent hospitalization in the CCU with pneumonia, paired with grief over the very recent passing of the son of our precious friends the Reads, I sat on a bench to rest right outside The Old Spaghetti Factory, at the corner of 5th and K in the Gaslamp District. Weeping quietly, I took this picture of my Bible, my cup of hot coffee, and a San Diego map.
Just after taking this picture, as I glanced to my right, I saw this woman standing alone right next to my bench. Homelessness is a concern in every big city across our great big world, and sunny San Diego is no exception. In fact, locals this past weekend told us countless times that the reason for their multitude of homeless folks is because of their year-round pleasant climate.
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
To help minimize panhandling on every corner, the local San Diego community installed meters like this one to collect pocket change to aid those without a home. I thought this was a good idea to share with folks at MUST Ministries back in Georgia who work tirelessly to help the down and out in our hometown community. Many humans have similar thoughts regarding the homeless population, wondering how they got there, are they alcoholics or addicts, is mental illness a part of their day, and isn’t it “their fault” that they are in this situation? Raised by such compassionate parents, my heart has always been tender towards these souls in need. In fact, back in 2002, when Leah was in 8th grade, I taught her class all I knew about this subject, using Phil Collins’ Another Day in Paradise as a springboard. And after recently reading Yankoski’s story in the book Under the Overpass, my heart has become even softer towards these folks in need, believing “every heartbeat has a story.”
I am like a pencil in God's hand. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.
So when this woman showed up next to me, my response was not a surprise to me. And when she shared her name, Pamela, I smiled through my tears, understanding intuitively that her being there was no accident. Pamela is my niece’s name, the sister of my late nephew Brad (Brad’s story is here: 525,600 Minutes, Remembering Brad Today, Celebrate Me Home). Though Pam, all alone in this big city, did not approach me, I invited her to have a seat as I moved myself and my things over. Note: I am not looking for accolades with my story, I simply followed my heart like I do in most every circumstance I find myself in these days. Pam was not the only one who was in need, I was in need, as well, and I believe that was the reason she was placed in my path that day. (See two recent past posts to understand this better: Choose Not To Be Blue and Choose Not To Be Blue: Part Two.)
First things first, I figured she was hungry. She nodded. Waiting for our table at a quaint sidewalk cafe, I was moved by the irony of this pleasant young woman who would soon escort us to our table, quietly folding napkins for the many guests who would be by for a meal on this Sunday.
As we sat across from each other, Pam told me her story. She was stranded in San Diego and needed to get back to Austin, Texas, she had no money to her name, and there was a safe home for her in Texas with her boyfriend and his mother. Though I did not tell her this, and I certainly wasn’t sure how the day would play out, I knew by the time we finished our omelets that my husband and I would be her ticket back to Austin.
With a full stomach and a good break in the cafe’s clean restaurant bathroom, Pamela and I hit the sidewalk, first purchasing her a big backpack and then heading to nearby Macy’s. We went through several different departments, finding her new lingerie, t-shirts, jeans, and socks. Each time we made a purchase, the employee would snip off the tags, and Pam would slip back into the dressing room to change into her new things, coming out with an appreciative, humble smile on her face. Later, when Pastor Ike called me from Georgia, and I burst into tears telling him all about our friends who had lost their son and Donny’s Daddy, Pamela was the one who was consoling me, putting her arm around me and whispering how sorry she was for my sadness. I shared with Pastor Ike about who was standing next to me and he said, “Joan, that is exactly what I spoke about in my message this morning.” (Click Here to hear Pastor Ike Reighard’s message Passion For Compassion.)
We packed her backpack full, including her old, used, soiled things which went into a plastic bag until Pam would be able to find a way to wash them. An affordable ticket was purchased at a nearby Greyhound Bus Terminal and I left Pamela to wait until the 10:45 p.m departure. Just before 10:30 p.m., Donny and I were strolling around downtown with some friends from Georgia when I realized we were only a few minutes from the terminal. We said good night to our friends, and walked a few more minutes arriving in time for Donny to meet Pamela and for us to bid her farewell. Pamela’s trip would take 36 hours arriving mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, and Pamela would call me to let me know she had arrived safely.
Once again, I am reminded of The Boy and The Starfish Story, (click here to read it). It was an indisputable fact that my husband and I could not solve the huge problem of homelessness in San Diego, California, but we made a difference for that one beating heart—which at the same time made an even bigger difference for our own hurting hearts.
Yes, weeping may endure for the night, but JOY does come with the morning.
Psalm 30:5 came true on the following day as the sun rose on Monday, March 16, 2015, starting with a long phone visit with my grieving friend in Virginia, Kelly, as I walked along the water, stopping in the loveliest places for a moment of quiet reflection and prayer.
Later, I was thankful to see pictures of my precious Tennessee Tech sisters loving our friends The Reads, as they represented our group at Taylor’s Celebration Service which I was able to watch on livestream.
That afternoon, though his wife, Annie had to work, our nephew, Evan, and their 14 month old son, Noah, was able to drive a short distance to meet us at the beautiful Torrie Pines Reserve. Again I was struck by irony: grieving with our friends over the loss of their son…while watching this beautiful boy’s journey begin.
As we continue to pray for healing for our Dad, Don, and peace for our friends The Reads, our faith reminds us to be brave.
How is your journey calling for bravery today?
Is it a health decision, a relationship that needs mending,
a courageous conversation that would be difficult, but beneficial for all?
Though these events took place nearly eight years ago in our home, the truth remains forever.
Last night, my husband and I enjoyed homemade apple cobbler with spray whipped cream. Unfortunately we were out of vanilla ice cream which eliminated the chance for ala mode! This after dinner delicacy was actually so good that I decided to surprise our son with the same treat. He was holed up in his room, so I went ahead and fixed this dessert without even asking him if he wanted it.
When I had it all ready, with whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon and sugar, and 3 musketeers chocolate syrup, I called him down.
He was very pleased when he first arrived in the kitchen…then upon his initial observation, he asked about the date on the syrup.
I responded with the truth: “I have no idea what the date on that syrup is.”
Ok, now, don’t be shocked, but he decided to check the date and it was May of 2005…I am not kidding!!! ( I wish I was!) Needless to say, it went straight in the trash and he fixed himself a new dessert!
WE had some good laughs about dates on products that are in our ten year old home and how we might want to check them out a little more often and a little more carefully in the future…
Soon, our son was checking the dates on some of our other things…the milk had a good date, the yogurt was okay, too.
Later, just before retiring for the night, our son and I started talking about other “expirations”, like letting too much time go by before we open the Word.
If we are not careful, we wait too long to go to the Word for the answers to the big questions that we have in our lives. Just because we do not take the time to look in that direction, does not mean the answers are not there. If we are not careful, our days go by and we do not reap the benefits and the strength that it is in the Word for each of us to grab a hold of. As 50 something women, we realize more than ever that our lives on this earth have an “expiration date”. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 reminds us: “There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season. There is a time to be born and a time to die.”
So, maybe you want to go check the dates of some of the products you have in your refrigerator, and perhaps you want to take stock in the date of the last time you delved into the Word as well.
Do something today that you have been putting off because we are not promised tomorrow. Only God knows the number of our days and He’s not telling us that number.
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.”
1 Peter 1:24-25
The Good News is that once we are His, considering God and His Word, there is NO EXPIRATION DATE!
“You only live once-but if you work it right, once is enough.” Joe F. Lewis
You and I, we are sojourners on this earth. The Webster’s dictionary defines a sojourner as follows:
“…one who is having a brief, temporary stay; a brief residence”
WE are sojourners on this earth because this earth is not our home.
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14
Last night, as I worked for several hours organizing my thoughts, my story, in anticipation of sharing with the recovering ladies at the Women’s Extension Center, it quickly became apparent to me how far God has brought me in my life.
HOW ENCOURAGING!!! My main prayer has become two words: “Thank You.”
As a 50 something woman, (or any age woman!) I believe it is positively cathartic, very freeing, to think through, and even possibly write down your story, your personal testimony.
As I have expressed before, I have kept a journal for more than 20 years.
This simple tool has so often aided me in working through issues that have burdened my heart in my day-to-day life.
If you are not sure how to get started, try setting a timer for 10-20 minutes and just WRITE, WRITE, WRITE until the timer chimes…or TYPE, TYPE, TYPE…whichever is most comfortable for you.
In sharing with these women, I came up with the following verses to guide me:
“If you won’t be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for?” Rabbi Hahman of Bratslay
Today, I encourage you to consider yourself as a sojourner as you contemplate your life journey. How far have you come?