Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs To Tell Me Which Way I Should Go To Find The Answer

Did the title of this post ring a bell for you?

“Standing at the crossroads, trying to read the signs. To tell me which way I should go to find the answer.  And all the time I know, plant your love and let it grow.”

The Fritz Garden in Lenoir City, Tennessee LET IT GROW!

It is the first part of a song by Eric Clapton that was first penned in 1974. Perhaps you, like me, were in high school at that time. These lyrics remind me of our friends who have chosen a positive fork in the road, even amidst great adversity, in the past couple of years.  You can listen to the song here.   

(On a Side Note) Did you know? 461 Ocean Boulevard, the solo album by Clapton marked his return to recording after recovering from a three-year addiction to heroin. I don’t know about you, but this gives me great hope for the severe drug epidemic our world is currently addressing.

'Love Never Fails.' 1 Corinthians 13:8
My buddy for 40 years, Kelly Read and me on a beautiful fall day doing one of our favorite things: biking the 8.2 miles from the Abingdon, Va trailhead to Taylor’s Shelter at Alvaredo Station on The Holston River & The Virginia Creeper Trail.

Donny and I were making our five-hour annual October trek home from VA to GA yesterday in the torrential rain that Hurricane Nate left in his path. As we traveled, my mind wandered through the past couple of years, 945 days to be precise.

'The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you're made of, not the circumstances.' Unknown

Back on March 7, 2015, our dear friends, The Read’s son, Taylor Heston Read, age 23 passed away. As the miles clicked by in Virginia, and soon Tennessee, a question kept coming to my heart and mind.

“How Does A Family Move Through A Life Loss Like This?”

While we have not lost a child, Donny and I have faced the passing of all of our birth parents. We have also gone through the home going of some precious friends and other family members. We all experience grief in one way or another as we journey through this thing called life. Grief is certain in each one of our lives.

Kelly and her daughter listen as Paul shares about Taylor, a son, brother, friend, nephew, grandson, who has been missed so much! Zach, Meg’s boyfriend stands with them.

Since we have been closely connected to The Reads during this season of grief, I have some reflections I feel compelled to share here.

'Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing.' Dr. Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian, Organist, Philosopher, Physician, and Medical Missionary to Africa (1875-1964)

This family has intentionally focused on faith, family, and friends. They have purposefully played outdoors any chance they get, whether it is walking their four-legged companion, Player, biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail, or tilling and planting in Mom’s Garden behind their Abingdon, Virginia home.

Player is always game for a walk around the quaint community of Abingdon, Virginia.

Marrying just 48 days before us, in 1982, The Reads have maintained a strong marriage partnership. They have taken in good music to soothe their soul, and enjoyed yummy food from their Big Green Egg. They have made sure to welcome continual fellowship with family and friends. The Reads have stayed connected to their church family which nourishes each other during times of need. This decision was clear after Taylor’s passing when this song was chosen to be played as the family was ushered out following his Celebration of Life service.

The Reads have enjoyed many performances, whether at The Barter Theater or the incredible shows at The Biltmore Concert Series in Asheville, North Carolina.

Taylor’s Shelter is under construction Summer of 2015

Along with the help of friends, family, the community of Abingdon, Virginia and the Virginia Creeper Trail Club, this family has brought about a unique “shelter from the storm” alongside The Holston River which was dedicated in October 2015. Designed by Taylor’s talented sister, Megan Read, this is a picturesque spot all should visit at some point in the future.

Just outside The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. They provided a gourmet picnic lunch for all of us!

Already, this shelter has brought rest and has been a refuge to many including bikers, kayakers, visitors to The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. Taylor’s Shelter has even been a venue for a few weddings.

On October 7, 2017, the 3rd Annual Rails To River Ride For Taylor gather together, friends for 40 years, along with Kelly’s Mom, Peg and daughter, Megan.

As the miles clicked by and we grew closer to our home state of Georgia, the rain continued to splatter our windshield. Soon another song came on that brought The Read’s willful and purposeful choices to mind. They have ended their days by looking for hope in tomorrow.  By Jim Croce, this song Hey Tomorrow was first penned in 1972., and it starts like this:

“Hey tomorrow, where are you goin’? Do you have some room for me? ‘Cause night is fallen’ and the dawn is calling’. I’ll have a new day if she’ll have me.”

A few more favorite pictures from our day!

Mimi and Megan hang out after we all ride to Taylor’s Shelter.
The Womble’s Family vehicle is loaded with bikes!
Taylor Heston Read, a Life Well Lived

Lincoln, 2nd cousin of Taylor’s (by marriage) wears his homemade Rails To River t-shirt, made with LOVE by his MIMI!
Lincoln’s baby brother, Tucker takes in the day with his JimDad!
Here with our college buddy, Kay, Paul Read is always helping someone ready their bike for the trail ride.
'Taylor was honored and God was glorified.' Paul Read, in talking about the 3rd annual Ride for his son, Taylor on October 7, 2017

I have a couple of questions for you and for me today. How we will respond in our time of grief and hardship? Will we follow the example of this courageous family, looking up with hope in the future? I hope I will. 

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Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

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Run To The Roar

Where Is He?

Five Lessons From A Garden:Bloom Where You Are Planted

The Simple Things

Solitude:Seven Ways To Find It

Humble And Kind

Five Ways To Love Well

Musings On Marriage

We’ve Got Your Back

It Is Well With My Soul

Hope Amidst The Fragility of Life

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits One-Five

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits Six-Ten

SaveSave

Run To The Roar Bold Like A Lion

It was a Saturday morning and I stopped by my friend, Cathie’s home to pick up her old magazines for my collage workshops I hold at our local Barbara J. Crafton Women’s Extension Recovery Center. Over tea, I shared with my friend and her collegiate daughter, Aubrey, a book that had been super meaningful to my life in the last 2 years. A book I have picked up again and again. Daring Greatly, by, Brene Brown. As we talked about that book, Aubrey chimed in about a book she was currently reading: Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain Finding Incredible Power, by Levi Lusko. I had never heard of this title published in August 2015. I love books of all kinds, but especially true stories of courageous living, and this one as Aubrey described it briefly was one I was sure to read soon. Fast forward to today, and I have read and shared this book many times…a copy for my son, Walker’s 25th birthday, several excerpts for our friends, The Reads on the 2nd anniversary of their son’s passing, and then today, I used the below passage to get my girls at the Extension thinking before we started our collage projects.

Did you get that? “…most people die at 25 and are not buried until they are age 75.” Here is a collage created by one of my girls who is in recovery while using this quote as her inspiration.

This girl wants to “run to the roar of life” and I pray she will be able to sustain her sobriety in the days ahead in order to do just that!

You see, we are just sojourners here on this earth, just passing through. The Word tells us that we are like grass and wild flowers, here today, and gone tomorrow. A sojourner, that is all…a person who resides temporarily in a place. My niece, Amy wore a watch when she was a teen that had a message written around the face of it: “This earth is not our home.” Yes, we are sojourners, here for such a short time.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. C. S. Lewis

One brief conversation on a Saturday morning over hot tea, one story shared, one book published, and the message becomes a game-changer for myself and many others.

It reminds me that every beating heart has a story. When the time is right, when we share our stories with those in our path and sphere of influence, we can empower others to keep on keeping’ on, to keep their head up, to take the next right step in their journey, to refuse to give up.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

That is exactly what Pastor Levi Lusko does in his book. He takes an incredibly devastating season in his family’s life and helps readers to catch their breath, to gain strength and momentum during a time of grief.

But this book is not just about grief. No, it is evidence of death not being the end, of darkness not being the winner, of turning the Light on against dim circumstances.

A few more important excerpts from Lusko’s book:

How will you and I run to the roar of the lion in the days ahead. Did you know that a lion’s roar can be heard five miles away. Are we roaring with life today? If not, why not?

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It Is Well With My Soul

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

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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

Make A Difference With “Catch A Lift” Help A Wounded Veteran Today!

You can make a difference with CAL or Catch A Lift, which began in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, and has gone on to help many veterans since its founding.

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My friend, Nancy Bray’s precious foster golden retriever.

After 9/11/01 and every anniversary of September 11th since that horrific day of tremendous loss, a phrase sticks out in my mind:

We Will Never Forget!!!

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Our friend, Rosie Moon reads the gravestone of a veteran servant.

We say we will remember forever the true sacrifice, day in and day out, of men and women in uniform, whether they be first responders or part of our strong military services.

And yet, is that statement really true, other than the usual times of remembering, Veterans’ Day, the 4th of July, and other red, white, and blue celebrations? Do you and I really remember these souls who serve and their families in our prayers? Do we truly recognize that freedom is not free, and how many grave sacrifices have been made on our behalf? Do we intentionally share our resources in causes related to wounded veterans?

'Shake off any dust that may accumulate from stagnation of purpose.' Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009)

Our daughter, Leah, is running a 10k in February, and she is showing her support for our veterans by running in honor of the Catch a Lift foundation, founded in memory of Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009).

Leah is raising funds for the Catch a Lift foundation, and she needs your help!

****I am thankful for a large group of my girlfriends who have already pooled together a donation of $200.00 during Summer of 2016!!! Thanks, GG girls!

All donations, big and small are appreciated and it is easy to donate by clicking here.

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Our friend, Will Kramer shows his respect.

Founded in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, Catch A Lift Fund (CAL) enables post 9/11 combat wounded Veterans to regain and maintain their physical and mental health by providing granted gym memberships, fitness programs or in-home gym equipment, anywhere in the United States. If a veteran has an appointed VA certified caregiver, the caregiver is eligible as well.

In addition, CAL’s M.A.P.S. Program ensures success by tracking progress and offers motivation, accountability and peer support through small squads of Veterans who heal together Vet to Vet. CAL Veterans are not only losing weight and moving away from obesity, but also eliminating the need for multiple prescription medications and finding their “new self”. CAL Veterans are thriving, reintegrating, healing and saving each other’s lives through newly established comradery; filling the void left after military service.

Won’t you jump on board and support this important cause?

All donations, big and small are appreciated and it is easy to give by clicking here.

Thanks in advance for supporting our daughter, Leah, in her efforts to make a difference in the lives of wounded veterans.

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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!

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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

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!”

A Win For The Guinn Family And Kate’s Club Just Look What Kids Can Do!

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WOW! $20,0002.69 = A Win for The Guinn Family and Kate’s Club! Just look at what kids can do! You may have read my recent post, Are You Driving?  Put The Phone Down, about Marietta triplets, MacKenna, Alyssa, and Issy, along with their mom, Kim, and the huge positive difference they are making in our world in the challenging and onerous aftermath of their Daddy, and Kim’s husband’s passing in 2014. You see, Frank, an Atlanta firefighter, was training for an upcoming race when he was struck and killed by a distracted driver.

Age seven at the time, at first, the triplets did not want to talk about their Daddy’s passing, it was just too hard! Thanks to an organization founded in June 2003, Kate’s Club has taught these sisters how to grieve in a healthy way, while moving forward. In addition, Kate’s Club, in Atlanta, Georgia, offers all of their resources free of charge, and they even hold monthly meetings for the grieving parents, which Kim Guinn has shared has been extremely helpful to her.

The soul is healed by being with children. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Once the sisters decided that they wanted to give back to Kate’s Club, a plan began to unfold and you can read about it in my earlier post here.

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I listened to The Bert Show live this morning, as they interviewed Mom, Kim, the triplets, as well as Kristen Stocks, founder of a life-changing organization from Kid’s Boost, and here is what I learned as a follow-up to this amazing story:

The Guinn Family contacted Kid’s Boost The Mission of Kid’s Boost is simple: To create a sustainable cycle of giving by equipping kids to serve others. Mrs. Stocks, the founder Of Kid’s Boost, believes that kids of all ages have the innate need and desire to do something great in the world. So, Kid’s Boost offered The Guinn Family $100.00 to begin their plan. Long story short, the first annual Running thru The Flames 5K held this past Sunday on September 11, 2016, in Marietta, Georgia, raised $20,002.69…$15,002.69 more than their goal of $5,000!!!

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KIDS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! LET’S GIVE THEM THE CHANCE! Fun happenings at the first annual Running thru The Flames 5K held on September 11, 2016, Marietta, Georgia

This all began with three grieving girls who had lost their Daddy because of a distracted driver, a motivated (and also grieving) Mommy, $100.00 and this family’s desire to make a difference while honoring their precious loved one. So I leave you now with a few thoughts:

  • Do you have kids or grandkids? Would you like to see them more confident? What is important to your child? THINK BIG! Contact Kid’s Boost and they will help you empower your kids to do great things to give back in fun ways.
  • Are you and I distracted drivers, one who is constantly handling our phones while behind the wheel? Read here about a tragic accident that happened just this week in Athens, Georgia, stealing a life away, a UGA Grad Researcher, Ashley Block, age 25, instantly. The driver, age 31 has been found to not only be looking at her cellphone, but also impaired.  As Kim Guinn states: “Pass them like you love them, because someone ‘does’ love them. Bikers, joggers, pedestrians have families just like you.”
  • Do you know someone who is struggling with the loss of a child or a parent? If so, encourage them to contact Kate’s Club. This $20,000+ raised by The Guinn triplets will fund camps, outings, parental resources, all kinds of great things, all in the name of helping families who are grieving the loss of a family precious member.

And finally, remember that TODAY is a gift, and that is why we call it “The Present”. Click here to read one of my favorite posts: The Simple Things.  Make Today A Great Day!

Posts You May Have Missed:

Children Are Wet Cement

Let’s Listen To Children

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With my Soul

A Grace Disguised

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

My Heart Will Go On

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

18 Holes Of Golf And 1,000 Sandwiches: Just Do It

Are You Driving? Put The Phone Down

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Meet triplets, MacKenna, front, Alyssa, middle, and Issy

Are you and I distracted drivers? I’m not referring to folks who use blue-tooth, hands free methods to communicate as they take the wheel. Instead, I am asking about those of us who handle our phone, check Facebook while at a stop light, or send a quick text while traveling in stop and go traffic. It seems I am noticing this becoming an even greater problem lately. Like traveling behind an interstate driver who is moving well under the speed limit, passing them, only to confirm that their face is glued to the screen of a smartphone.

There is a reason I am asking this. A recent article in our local Marietta Daily Journal was about a victim of a distracted driver and this got me thinking about my own driving/smartphone habits.

Reading about this brave family has challenged me to be more intentional in the days ahead about stowing my phone away whenever I drive.

When you see people in the road whether it's a firefighter or a police officer or a cyclist, you should remember that they have a family like us. You getting somewhere five minutes earlier versus taking a life and leaving a family like us is not worth it. Put down the phones. When you see people who are on the roadside, pass them like you love them and they're in your own family. Kim Guinn, an English drama teacher at Lassiter High School in Marietta, GA

The name of Mary Kate McGowan’s inspiring article, dated August 20, 2016, is “Triplets, 9, race toward healing”.

The 9-year-olds father, Frank, was killed by a distracted driver while cycling in April 2014 in New Orleans. Frank Guinn, a city of Atlanta firefighter at Station 21, was training for an Ironman triathlon race.

The triplets mother, Kim Guinn was at a loss as to how to help their family move through grieving the loss of Frank and found a grief group, Kate’s Club to be extremely helpful for her girls. In the spirit of Frank’s memory, as well as an opportunity to give back to this club, Kim and her girls are organizing a 5-K race called “Running Thru the flames” and YOU can help!

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Kim, MaKenna, Alyssa, and Issy

They are looking for both sponsors to add to their existing ones, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and “Pass Them Like You Love Them”, an advocacy group promoting cyclist’s safety. The girls are also hoping for more participants to sign up for the 5-K that is scheduled for Sunday, September 11, 2016. YOU can go to their link here to register or make a donation even if you cannot make the run.

Let’s support The Guinn Family as they run down the path to healing while organizing this 5K to benefit Kate’s Club!

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Related posts you may have missed:

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With My Soul

A Grace Disguised

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

My Heart Will Go On

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

18 Holes of Golf and 1,000 Sandwiches: Just Do It

Yesterday~Tomorrow~Today Take A Few Minutes Out To Remember

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NIV and NLT)

Nearly 500 days ago, I first published this post and with the 2016-2017 school year off to a start and the school busses rolling again, I wanted to repost it. While we don’t want to “live in the past”, as Al Stewart sings boldly in his famous 1978 hit, Time Passages. The following green text is from my original post in early May, 2015. I hope this post will rekindle some special memories in your heart today.

Remember the Time Words Clock Flipping Tiles

This time last year, we were smack-dab in the middle of our two children’s weddings and our son’s commencement from Wheaton College. My, what a difference one year can make.

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March 29, 2014 Leah Page Andrews, left and Jessica Morris Page, right.
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Walker moves into his home away from home at Wheaton College, Fall 2010.

Now, it is May 2015, and here in our community and beyond, I know many, many families who are celebrating weddings and graduations themselves. More and more dear friends are becoming grandparents, welcoming little ones into their world. I wish you all well as you witness the union of your children, watch your young adult walking across that stage after accomplishing their goals or meet your grandbaby for the very first time.

Well I'm not the kind to live in the past. The years run too short and the days too fast. The things you lean on are the things that don't last. Well it's just now and then my line gets cast into these time passages. Al Stewart Time Passages 1978, US Top Ten

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August 1993 Leah (age 4 1/2) and Walker (age 17 months)

This time forty years ago, our family lived at 655 Webster Drive and the six kids had a separate phone number for our friends to call in on, ’cause Daddy was an Ob-Gyn in a solo-practice, and needed to have a clear line at all times. Our phone looked just like this and sat upon an old heater in our basement. The number was 636-9339. Yep, there was no area code needed. When we were out for the evening, my parents let the phone ring off the wall because they knew there was a friend of ours on the other line wondering where we might be.

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This time thirty-four years ago, I was putting up that huge hamburger bulletin board: “It’s Summer! Hold the Homework!” for my fifth grade students. I was also counting the days for my Summer Break. Back then, the 3 best things about teaching were: June, July and August. I was serving time on bus duty, loving on my students who were mostly from the projects. I loved teaching and the difference I had the chance to make in the life of individual children.

This time twenty-seven years ago, I was halfway through my pregnancy with our first child. A child we had longed for, prayed for, after more than 3 years of infertility. Our daughter, Leah Suzanne weighed in at 7 lbs. 4 oz, measuring 19 1/2 inches and has been a bright light in our days since then.

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One more University of Georgia football game before we become parents!
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Pure Joy as they peek in at Leah in the hospital bassinet. Cousin Amy was so proud at age 7 that she stayed up all night waiting for Leah, and her Mom, Mary Ann was a great birthing coach.
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Aunt Laura Lea gets a chance to meet her new niece, Leah.

This time nine years ago, our first born graduated from Kennesaw Mountain High School, while our son finished up his ninth grade year at Mount Paran.

And in all these years, along with our friends and our family, I have been a part of lots of joyous celebrations and tragedies that are too many to count. Thankfully, I have found it to be true that friends divide sorrow and multiply joy. Dozens of people whom I have loved have passed on, several of them passing at a much younger age than one might expect.  My parents have both taken their leave.  Still, I am here, living out my days, one by one.

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My parents, GoodMama and GoodDaddy, were married 58 years before Mama went on ahead of Daddy in 2006.

You are doing the same in your world…living, loving, laughing, caring and sharing LIFE.

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As I consider again, where I was this time last year, I am feeling peaceful,

though a bit nostalgic and reminiscent, as well.

What memories do you want to take a few minutes to reflect on?

Memories from 40, 34, 27, or 9 years ago?

Day by day, our life is a gift.

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Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a Mystery. Today is a Gift and that is why we call it The Present. ~Anonymous~
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One of my Mama’s favorite quotes: Bloom Where You Are Planted.