“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
While my Mama taught me umpteen lessons in the 48 years we were together, I have chosen five to share with you today.
(1) Mama taught me to be brave. Adopted at age 3 into a home with 3 big brothers, Mama had to learn to stop crying so Bud, Bob and Tom would stop all that teasing! Upon hearing of her cancer diagnosis in 2006, she responded with two statements I will never forget: “Too Blessed To Be Stressed” and “Well, We’re supposed to Bloom Where We’re Planted, aren’t we?” Only four months after her diagnosis, and near death, I asked her how long did she think she had. Mama responded with, “I don’t know-I guess that is the mystery of it all.”
(2) Mama taught me to have joy, to laugh whenever possible. This was important to my Mama-she truly believed that laughter was medicine for her soul as stated in Proverbs 17:22. In our den on Webster Drive, we used to fill at least 2 card tables with Canasta card games that lasted into the night.
Whenever anyone complained about being tired, not wanting to play another hand, she would say with laughter, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” She also loved to throw the dinner dishes in the sink and spontaneously dash off to a movie at North DeKalb Mall. Mama was all about having fun and seizing the moments.
(3) Mama taught me to serve others and to have compassion towards those in need. As a child, Mama attended a girls’ camp where a former missionary to Africa sparked her interest in becoming a medical missionary. After completing her R.N. training and marrying her true love, Johnny, they served several years in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, previously called, Zaire.
However, it was not just mission work that Mama did, it was a bucket full of little things: holding the door for someone, taking cookies to a neighbor or cakes to the Veterans at the nearby V.A. Hospital, always having food in the frig for the many friends who camped out at Webster, and more. Mama’s example of service is one I hope to emulate for the rest of my days.
(4) Mama taught me to be a loving partner. It’s not always easy to express consistent kindness to the ones who we live with, and yet, Mama showed us how to do just that in the way she loved our Daddy. Believe it or not, Daddy came home for a quick-lunch every day and Mama always had something good ready for him to eat before he had to return to his afternoon appointments. She loved him with her whole heart.
Mama used to laugh and say, ” I met your Daddy before I met any of you six kids.”
forever reminding us that he would come before any of us. EVERY Thursday, without fail, Mama would get her hair done and Daddy would take the afternoon off. The two of them would take in a movie, lunch out, anything to secure a date just for them. They celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary just days before Mama passed.
(5) Mama taught me to be present. Whether the news was exciting, good, or really bad, she would remind us to have “guarded optimism”. In other words, don’t get your hopes up too much and don’t lose hope, either. Do today, for today is really all we know and all we have. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow.
What are some of the lessons you have learned from the one who gave you birth?
What lessons do you hope to instill in your children?
If this is the first or second Mother’s Day without your Mother, you might still have that physical aching in your heart. I want to share something I learned just 6 months after my Mama died at the age of 78. In April 2007, I was walking in the woods alone, still in deep grief, when it occurred to me that there were countless reasons I was blessed to have Polly Shivers Walker as my Mama. Only five other humans in the entire world were fortunate enough to have HER as a Mother. From that point going forward, I made an intentional, conscious decision to focus on those reasons, with gratitude and it has continued to make all the difference in my life journey.
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.
Have you ever stopped long enough to consider the thought that your Creator is pursuing you?
There is a storybook by the name of The Runaway Bunny? If you are familiar with this children’s book, you may agree that it is a beautiful illustration of how our Creator pursues us, as His own.
Have you stopped to consider the thought that your Creator is calling you to Himself? As a follower of Christ, I believe with all of my heart that God pursues me, woos me to Him. Oh my, when I really stop and think about it, that is one of my all-time greatest blessings. I truly believe this.
Did you know? Psalm 139 is one of the most powerful psalms in the Bible. The psalm comes from King David, and it shows that before we ever began to pursue God, God pursued us.
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
I do realize that there are many who not only do not believe this, they do not understand it and do not care to hear more about this. I get that. I really do.
It was this message, which Daddy carried to the world, that penetrated my own heart as a young girl and has created in me a personal, passionate resolve to communicate it myself to as many people as possible. And so, even as my tears seem to be unending, I silently rededicate my life to picking up and passing on the baton. Would you do the same?”
However, on the other hand, many that I know believe as I do. They are people of faith. They, like me, have chosen to believe the Bible as truth. They have chosen to be people of faith, choosing to believe in things we cannot see with our eyes.
God measures people by the small dimensions of humility and not by the bigness of their achievements or the size of their capabilities.
Reverend Billy Graham (1918-2018)
Reverend Billy Graham passed on February 21, 2018. He was 99 years old. He was known as America’s Pastor. Billy Graham has had an impact like no other.
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.
Read here what Holly wanted to relay to whomever would listen before she took her leave since this new year, 2018 began:
Butcher’s poignant post is definitely worth reading in full. But here are 16 especially powerful points:
1. “I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all, so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit. … Those times you are [whining] about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s OK to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days.”
2. “Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that — breathe. You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. … I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”
3. “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise — be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them. .. Appreciate your good health and functioning body — even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is.”
4. “Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; more than I could ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.”
5. “This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus, imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves … strange! … but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. … Anyway, moral of the story — presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas.”
6. “Use your money on experiences … or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit. Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.”
7. “Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.”
8. “Listen to music … really listen. Music is therapy.”
9. “Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.”
10. “Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing OK?”
11. “Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.”
12. “Work to live, don’t live to work.”
13. “Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.”
14. “Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life. You might want a mediocre life and that is so OK.”
15. “Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.”
16. “Oh and one last thing. If you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year — a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.”
Wow, just wow!
The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle.
Brennan Manning, Author of All Is Grace
This passage in Romans 5 perfectly describes the wonderful and brave woman I am lucky enough to call my mother. Even on her worst or saddest of days, she still shines the brightest light and takes refuge in her faith. I would never come close to the person that I am without you as my Mom!
My friend, Jule Furr, took her leave just before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2017. Jule and I were heart friends and this inspiring angel will be sorely missed. You can read her brief bio here.
Her Celebration of Life Service is on this Saturday, December 9th at 1:00 p.m. at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.'
Jule faced cancer early in her life as a junior high student. Battling the disease for decades, when others asked how she was feeling, she was in the habit of responding, “Oh, it ain’t nothing but ‘a thang’!” with a courageous and joyful smile on her face. Whether she was dealing with loss of hair, bells palsy, or any other yucky side effect of her continual treatment plan, Jule maintained her sense of humor and her determination to live.
I've always thought I was touched by God and He chose me for a reason. Because of my struggles, my faith is stronger. I want people to see Jesus in me. We are here to shine a light.
Jule was treasured, loved, and fought for her life daily to be with her family, husband, Bryan, daughter and son, Jordan and Christian (called Fuzzy). Jule Furr considered these three her greatest gifts! The Furrs were married over thirty years. She felt blessed to have him as her husband and best friend.
Over time, many of us came to call her “Jules”. When I asked her about this, she proclaimed, “Well, I am ‘a jewel’ you know, I’m a ‘Daughter of The King’!!”
It is honestly difficult to describe this woman who changed the world with her birth on February 27, 1964. Number five, she joined four sibs, sisters, Mary Ann, Kathy, Linda, and one brother, Chris. Funny story, upon her birth, her Daddy announced that he would nickname Jule “Banana” as the 5th one in the bunch, but the kids disagreed!
First living in Charlotte, North Carolina as newlyweds, Jules and Bryan Furr soon moved to Georgia where they raised their two babies in Marietta.
My story with Jules began when we were Moms together at Eastside Christian School in the late nineties . Though I lost touch in recent months due to the severity of Jules progressive disease, our friendship is one I will cherish in my heart forever.
Here, I will share a few anecdotes from our time together.
In 2000, I was preparing to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer 60-Day Walk from Gainesville to Atlanta. Having gone through this cancer herself, Jules was not strong enough to participate. However, she did want to help me raise funds. A participant was required to raise a minimum of $1,500.00 and our children held a Dog Wash to help. (I still laugh when I recall our son, Walker, age 8 at the time asking me if he could put out a “tip jar”!) Along with my friends who were walking with me, Kathy Owen and Jil Cain, we raised nearly 10 grand! Jules, alone gave me a total of $820.00 the week of our walk! While registering on Day One, a woman in front of me was dismayed because she was unable to reach her financial goal. You guessed it, she was right at $820.00 short and I happily gave her Jules donation funds. Wow, was that a cool, God Wink!?!
Also, in 2000, when battling breast cancer, Jules’ fear for her two young children’s reaction, soon gave way to inspiration. Soon, she penned an original story called, “The Scarf Game”, and it was published just a few weeks later. The 23 page story book which never mentions the word “cancer” was written from her daughter, Jordan’s perspective. The creative story line explains how both Jordan and Christian learned to tie scarves on their Mom’s bald head to help her when she was not feeling so well. This is just another example of the courageous and positive outlook this dear friend held in life.
During a particular season of illness, during the school year of 2007-2008, Jules and I would talk on the phone often. She shared with me that when she felt down and discouraged, she would list the things she was most grateful for…her husband, Bryan, Jordan, 8th grade at the time, and their son, Christian, 4th grade.
One time when I was at Chemo treatment with Jules, her nurse, Cindy Deminsky, said about Jules, “She is a treasure, treasure, treasure!” In Jules’ usual humored way, she quipped, “No, you are! I’m just an addict!”
Jules always expressed to me how much she valued her girlfriends. Back in the day, she thoroughly loved her “Southern Living Ladies Lunch Club”. They would dress crazy for gatherings and when Jules was ill, they took two-hour shifts to stay with her.
We must meet the unknown future by bringing to bear everything that has been shaped by us in the past.
John O'Donohue, Irish Writer (1956-2008)
I am convinced Jules relied strongly on her faith as she journeyed through life, and she would want everyone to know this!
Jule Furr defined life and never allowed life to define her. Her smile changed the world, but she never let the circumstances of her world change her smile.
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?