Wrestling And Seeking What Do You Think?

Two open hands in the sky with a sphere of light, symbol of gratefulness and gratitude.

I have been wrestling lately about how I can better express to my friends here on Pages From Joan the reality of my personal faith journey. A dear friend of mine, Laura, who battled breast cancer before dying in 2014 in her fifties, once told me she was wrestling. She decided that wrestling and seeking is synonymous. I agree with her. As I have wrestled, I have been seeking God’s will, His unique plan for me. Meanwhile, I want to share just a few details about my journey, related to my faith.

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

Raised in a Southern Baptist Church with my five brothers and sisters, I now consider myself more of a Christ-follower than a member of a certain denomination. At age nine, I professed belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ. As I grew, I believed God had my back, but I made the choice to stray away from a close walk with Him, for approximately ten years of my life. There is nothing wasted in God’s Economy. As time has gone by, I have come to realize that God used my time away to mold and deepen my faith in Him. It was during that time away that I learned about compassion, courage, forgiveness, and repentance.

I’ve often heard the question: “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”

Well, I was certainly the one who moved away from Him for that season of my life, but I see, looking back on that time, that He never, ever left me. I must say my time away has taught me so much about patience (on God’s part), compassion towards myself and my fellow-man, and love towards all created humans.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:1;14

Fast forward to a few years into our marriage, when Donny and I, as a couple, had begun to move closer to God again. We spent three years of our marriage dealing with infertility, and you can read about that part of my journey here. In December 1987, while I was on Christmas break as a teacher, I found myself pleading with God to give us our first child. I cross-stitched Romans 8:28 in a small frame to keep on my desk. Soon after this, after over five years of marriage, I became pregnant with our first child. I felt strongly, that this was, in part, due to the fact that I had finally surrendered to my God about my dreams of having a child. I believe God rescued me from my childless sorrow and I had a renewed desire to draw close to Him. Leah was born on October 8, 1988, and I believe He has been wooing me, rescuing me, providing for me in countless ways since that time.

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Our first-born, Leah, with my Daddy. (2012)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

A few things that I learned during this season of my life:

Did you know? There are more than 7,000 promises in The Bible. I am sharing this with you because I believe with all of my heart that Christ came to rescue each and every one of us. God keeps those 7,000+ promises as we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will rescue us from our troubles, and even from ourselves. The gift is in the promise, and as believers, we may go about our work assured that what God has promised, He is able to perform, and that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it the most.

One of my favorite bumper stickers states: CHRISTIANS AREN’T PERFECT. THEY ARE JUST FORGIVEN.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT)

I hope you now have a clearer picture of my perspective as I post here on my Pages From Joan. It is my desire to bring encouragement, learning, and inspiration into your days as I seek my God and share authentically from my heart, soul, and mind.

And now, today, with all that has transpired in my nearly six decades of life, my husband and I are preparing for the arrival of our first two grand babies, both due after Labor Day 2018.  Our daughter, Leah and her husband, Scott will become first-time parents and our son, Walker and his wife, Jessica will also become first-time parents.  My heart is overflowing with gratitude to my Father in Heaven as He continues to pour blessings into my days, even amidst my wrestling and seeking. Oh, how He Loves You and Me.

What do you think? Whether you believe in Jesus, find your belief in something else, or question what you actually believe, God is interested in hearing from you as one of His unique and beautiful creations. It is both ultimately and intimately between each created human and God.   I know for sure though, from my own personal experience, When we seek Him, we will find Him, every time. And I know I would not want to be on this planet earth without a relationship with the God of the Universe.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 46:1;10 and 91:1

A few songs that have helped me along my way:

Brave

Do Something

Bless The Broken Road

Praise You In This Storm

Mended

Who Am I?

Merciful, Wonderful Savior

How He Loves Us

How Great Is Our God

Related posts you may have missed:

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

Joy Comes In The Morning

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

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Mother’s Day Is Here

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Polly Walker, Mom to six, two sons and four daughters

It is Mother’s Day again and this day, every year, brings up so many memories and emotions. October 24, 2018 will mark twelve years since my Mama passed away with esophageal cancer. Every beating heart has a story. You and I have stories, especially regarding our own mothers, as well as our personal experiences with mothering. Some may still have their Moms with them. If so, I pray they will recognize how blessed they are, even in hard and trying times. Loving Well, unconditionally is probably the most significant thing we can do.

Mother’s Day is extra special for us as we are expecting our first grandchildren in September 2018!!!

I saw the following quick video on Facebook recently and thought it was perfect for this Mother’s Day Season: A Fake Job Interview Was Set Up.

This post from 2015 may prove helpful to you if you are a new mother or grandmother: Moms And Grandmoms: A Season Of Adjustment.

Maybe your mother was not much of a mother at all, because of substance abuse or mental illness. The mother in the memoir I am currently reading is an example of this: The Memory Palace, by, Mira Bartok. If so, I hope you will make every effort to break that cycle with forgiveness and love.

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The Walker Clan in 2004, Norris Lake, Tennessee

Some of you, much younger than myself, are pondering being a Mommy, dreaming about a little one in your future. You may be having some trouble bringing that dream to reality.

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Abraham Lincoln

 We had that same problem, twice in fact, and you can read about it here in my post called Fertile Prayers.

Perhaps this is your first Mother’s Day without a child who has left you far too soon. If that is where you find yourself today, please read an earlier post: How The Soul Grows Through Loss, where I share how our dear friends, The Reads have journeyed onward since their son, Taylor died in early 2015.

We all know what a true gift a good mother is. And I have been working on a little book about some things I learned from my Mama. I look forward to sharing it with you in 2017! YOU might want to read five lessons my Mama taught me here.

I don’t think there is a parent or grandparent around who has not thought their child or grandchild would “slow down” in their growing up years.

Who in their infinite wisdom decreed that Little League uniforms be white? Certainly not a mother.” Erma Bombeck

 My Mama used to say, “As much as you might want to, you can’t put a brick on their head to stop them from growing up.”

Click here to enjoy a short video about this very thing by artist, Nichole Nordeman. (thanks, Leslie Swift!)

Whether you are an aunt to some special kids, a new Mommy, expecting, an empty nest Mom, or aiding a Mother in her late decades, smile at the gift that is today. Yes, today is a gift and that is why we call it the present!

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Oh, and guys, be sure to take charge of the kitchen

and childcare details this weekend!

Whatever your current circumstances,

I hope Mother’s Day 2016 will be a special

time for you and yours!

Consider sharing this post on Facebook or email with the special mothers and grandmothers that you know.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Lessons From A Horse

Being Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have

The Simple Things

Five Ways To Love Well: We Only Get One Chance

Five More Ways To Love Well

A SPECIAL GIFT FROM THE DADDY'S MOM

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Being Brave Living Life With Everything You Have

Being brave, living life with everything I have, is something I have been giving my best shot at for most of my life.

I wrote my first blog post in 2015 about bravery. This post is titled, We Are Called To Be Brave. Click here to read my post about the courage of Aimee Copeland.

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.

His Word is a lamp for your feet. Psalm 119:105

Let’s All Be Brave!

That’s the name of one of Annie F. Downs’ books that I have just finished reading. At the risk of being dramatic, this book has been life-changing for me.

Many times I pass on a book when I have finished reading it. This time I will be keeping my copy and rereading my high-lighted sections.

With Easter, the Holiday of Hope 2018 now in the books, how can you and I show more bravery in the weeks ahead?

Let’s all be brave!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Are You A People Pleaser? Five Tips To Help You Stop (or wisdom from a Recovering People Pleaser <smile>)

Who’s In Our Path?

We Are Called To Be Brave

God Bless America and Beyond

It Is Well With My Soul

The Sandwich: A Courageous Conversation

Joy Comes In The Morning

The Simple Things

Five Lessons From A Garden

Spirit Fruits Are Real

Wrestling and Seeking

The Long and Winding Road

Easter Sunrise Service 2018 at the World’s Fair Pavilion, St. Louis, MO with our son, Walker, daughter-in-law, Jessica, husband, Donny and me
Easter Sunrise Service at the World’s Fair Pavilion in St. Louis

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Spirit Fruits Are Real What Are The Nine Fruits Of The Spirit?

When is the last time you read about the Fruits of the Spirit, the actual fruits that grow in our lives as we follow Christ.

What might happen if all human souls lived out these fruits as best  they could? With all the turmoil and tragedy across our globe today, I wonder how THIS might make our world different?

The freedom and grace that comes with growing these fruits in our life journey are undeniable. I have seen this played out in my life. The longer I live, the more I understand that living out these nine fruits is less about trying/striving and more about simply being. As we begin to understand what the fruits of the spirit truly are, we can then manifest them to the world around us.

No one can get JOY by merely asking for it. It is one of the ripest fruits of the Christian life, and like all fruits, must be grown.' Henry Drummond (1851-1897)

LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL. The nine fruits of the spirit as recorded in Galatians 5:22-23.

Love seeks one thing only: the GOOD of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward. Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Did you know?

The nine Fruits of the Spirit can be divided into three groups illustrating three different areas of maturation in the faith journey:

(1) Personal Growth:

LOVE, JOY, PEACE

(2) Personal Relationships:

PATIENCE, KINDNESS,

GOODNESS

(3) Personal Development:

FAITHFULNESS,

GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL

Those who are coming along behind us need to know about these fruits, too! Consider planning a time in the near future to sit with the children, grands, or other tots in your life to share what these nine fruits can mean in our daily lives.

I think we will be amazed at a child’s perception and insight. We can learn so much from the littles in our lives when we stop long enough to listen.

Let’s consider living out these nine fruits in the days and weeks ahead.

Pass It On!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Rules of the Red Rubber Ball

Brevity Of Life

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls

Authentic Prayer

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

Joy Comes In The Morning

Four Questions For God

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

Wrestling And Seeking

Think About It, Runaway Bunny

Think About It, Runaway Bunny Our Creator Pursues Us

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.

“If you become a tree, said the little bunny, I will become a sailboat, and I will sail away from you. If you become a sailboat and sail away from me, said his mother, I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.”

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. Psalm 139:1-4

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.

Even so, the family of Reverend Billy Graham are hoping for changes in our world following the death of their precious one.  Click here to see treasured photos and read about grandson, Tullian Tchividijian’s experiences with Daddy Bill. One of his daughter’s, Anne Graham Lotz had this to say about her Daddy:

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?”

Click here to read all of Anne’s message entitled “Daddy’s Home”.

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.

Have you ever read the children’s book, a story written by Margaret Wise Brown, called The Runaway Bunny?

Every time I have read this short story, I have thought of God, Creator, and how He has sought me. I believe He has pursued me,  looked for me all of my life. He continues to seek me when I stray. I believe that is the best example of Amazing Grace that I can come up with. Click here to learn about the back story of this great hymn penned in 1772.

What do you think? If this post has stirred your heart, message me and let’s talk.

P.S. The picture at the very top of this post is of my niece, Amy, her husband, Stephen, and their two boys, Noah and Lincoln. I adore this picture and I am in awe over how well IT Speaks LOVE!

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

Four Questions For God

Authentic Prayer

Where Is He?

It Is Well With My Soul

Wrestling and Seeking

Five Lessons From A Garden

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

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

Here I will share with you four ways to better love our peeps.  As Valentine’s Day is here, our minds go to the significant, loving relationships in our life journey. Are they fulfilling, communicative, in harmony, and committed? Do we enjoy time spent with these we are in relationship with? Do we laugh together? Most of us if we are completely honest, would say, that our relationships could be better.

One of the things my Mama taught me is a tool she used during her 58 years of marriage. When the faults of her man seemed glaring to her, she would take a moment, hold out both hands in front of her, like a scale, and say this to herself: “My right hand represents Johnny’s shortcomings, and my left hand represents the ways that I fall short.” Invariably, she would tell me, her left hand always weighed heavier than her right.

'Dear Friends, Let us love one another, for love comes from God.' 1 John 4:7

Rather than wanting our partners to change so things would be better, perhaps it is time to determine how we could show up differently and make the difference we are seeking.

Here are three ways to better love our peeps:

1) Cultivate Your Love Life Inside Out

This first one may surprise you, as it has less to do with your relationships and more to do with your inner heart. Did you know? Studies have shown that one will never let oneself have more health, happiness, and success than one feels he/she deserves. What does that mean? This means that right this minute you and I are attracting what we feel worthy of having. What would you say your current self-worth score is on a scale of 1-10? What things could you do to increase that score? Before we can expect to find love from anyone else, we first have to find it within ourselves. Our God loves us and wants us to have self-worth and self-respect. And let’s surround ourselves with people who truly love and support us!

'Friends are like elevators. They either take us up or bring us down.' Naomi Judd

(2) Leave the Blame Game Behind

I know when I criticize my husband of nearly 35 years, he literally shuts down, not with anger, just sadness. Blaming and judging will guarantee a poor partnership! Lucille Ball said, “Love yourself, and everything else will fall into place.” Could it be that there is something you are ‘unhappy’ within yourself? Think about it! An important relationship is our connection to our own heart. When we accept ourselves as we are, then and only then can we accept others without condition.

My Parents, Valentines for Life!

(3) Let The Past Go

Every beating heart has a story and our history (thank goodness!!!) is not our destiny. It’s good to habitually say to ourselves: “That was then. This is now.” We all have things in our past we may not be proud of, but we can let that all go and focus on today. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That is why we call today, ‘the present'” (unknown)

(4)Live Out Our Days with Gratitude and Appreciation

Wayne Dyer said: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” In every loving relationship, there are more good things than bad things going on. However, if the negative things become our ‘focal point’, then they seem way bigger and become more and more dominant in our partnership.  Read this by Charles Swindoll on Attitude. We all get to choose the thoughts that control our feelings and emotions that end up driving our lives.

Now, we all know that Valentine’s Day is just one more day established by Hallmark, LOL!

Love Always Wins!

What are some of the ways you and I can exhibit more love towards our peeps each and every day of the year? How can we make our parents, sons, daughters, girlfriends, and partners feel more treasured and cherished in the days ahead?

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

Fill Your Love Tank: Don’t Run On Empty

The Love Letter Challenge

Have Faith To See Follow This Example

Helen Keller, as a child with her amazing teacher, Annie Sullivan

Have faith to see. Here is an inspiring example to follow.

It is difficult to find in all the treasure-house of biographies a life story more thrilling, dramatic, and fascinating than that of Helen Keller. I am convinced Helen Keller was a woman of both faith and action, despite her inability to see or hear from the age of two. Seriously? Can you imagine even giving up one of these God-given gifts? I cannot.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

“In one of Helen Keller’s letters she told Bishop Brooks that she had always known about God. even before she had any words. Even before she could call God anything, she knew God was there. She did not know what it was. God had no name for her–nothing had a name for her. She had no concept of a name. But in her darkness and isolation, she knew, somehow, she was not alone. Someone was with her. She felt God’s Love. And when she received the gift of language and heard about God, she said she already knew.” from Phillips Brooks and Helen Keller.

Think On That! WOW! I love during our quietest times and in our greatest adversities, God makes His presence known to us.

A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled and outspoken in her convictions. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffragelabor rightssocialismantimilitarism, and other similar causes. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1971 and was one of twelve inaugural inductees to the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame on June 8, 2015. Keller proved to the world that deaf people could all learn to communicate and that they could survive in the hearing world. She also taught that deaf people are capable of doing things that hearing people can do. One of the most famous deaf people in history, she is an idol to many deaf people in the world.

Based on Keller’s autobiography, published in 1903,  The Miracle Worker was first performed as a play (1957) and later became a movie (1962). The story is about how Anne Sullivan had an amazing impact on Helen’s life as her teacher. At only 20 years of age, Sullivan showed great maturity and ingenuity in teaching Keller and worked hard with her stubborn pupil, bringing both women much acclaim. Sullivan even helped Keller write her autobiography.

I have loved the inspiring story of Helen Adams Keller, born June 27, 1880 for decades. I tend to give away a lot of books after I have read them, but my paper back copy of The Story Of My Life will stay a part of my personal library forever. Did you know? Keller’s birthplace in West Tuscumbia, Alabama is now a museum.

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880-June 1, 1968)

I am wondering. Has this post caused you to recall a special soul that you’ve admired? It may be a well-known person, like Helen Keller, someone in your community, or even a family member. Whose life example are you following as you go through your days?

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Common Warriors: Part One

Common Warriors: Part Two

The Beauty Of Sight

Rules Of The Red Rubber Ball

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

Four Questions For God

Fighter, Jules Furr Takes Her Leave

Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Brooke Ellison

Wrestling And Seeking

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls Lessons From Geese

We have a small pond behind our Marietta, Georgia home and that is the first place our yellow lab, Gracie and I visit upon waking up.

Geese are a common occurrence on this pond. On this particular morning, however, as Gracie took care of her business, I stopped to count them. Still in my cozy bathrobe and holding a mug of steaming coffee, I counted…amazingly, there were 36 geese, seemingly frozen in place on our pond. I took pause, as I often do, my phone shining a bright light in the pre-day darkness.

I love nature and how it can speak into your soul, inspiring us to be the best version of ourselves. What did it say to me on this chilly January morning?

“Stop a minute, Joan, to be grateful for your friendship with Jil Cain, who left us too soon in 2005. Jil, only age 40 when she passed on, taught you The Lessons Of Geese. Every time you see these majestic creatures, either floating or flying in their V-formation high in the sky, you remember her with gratefulness in your heart.”

flock of migrating Canada geese flying at sunset in a V formation

“Observe the quietness of these floating before you. That is what I want to encourage you to do a little each day. Remember that cool verse in Psalm 46:10: ‘Be still, and KNOW that I am God.’? Brief moments like this one can help you to practice this.”

When is the last time you took a few minutes to JUST BE in nature. A back yard, some nearby woods, a porch, Kennesaw Mountain, a pond, a lake, or my favorite, by the sea?

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

6 Ways We Can Relieve Stress Starting Today

Nature Restores My Soul

Three Touchstones Of Showing Up

Gift From The Sea

Authentic Prayer

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Four Questions For God

Five Lessons From A Garden

Seven Lifestyle Changes=A Big Difference

And don’t forget to look up at sunrise and sunset. Many times we can capture some of the most majestic art ever!

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Four Questions For God Time Of Solitude In A Monastery

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.

Posted in the Monastery Kitchen

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.

The stunning Abbey Church at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia

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. 

Seen in the Monastic Museum during a self-guided tour, the Monk’s robes and hats from the original group who started this Monastery.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

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.”

Psalm 46:10

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.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Standing At The Crossroads

There Is No Expiration With Our God

What Is Happiness? What Is Joy?

Wrestling And Seeking

Where Is He? He Is In Us

It Is Well With My Soul

Brevity Of Life

Thank God He Has A Forgiving Nature

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Love Letter Challenge Send One Today

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Mama and Daddy were married on October 21, 1948 Rossville, Georgia.

I have a love letter challenge for you today. March 4, 2018 would be my Daddy’s 98th birthday.  Among many other things, Johnny Walker was known for gentleness, kindness, wisdom, and love letters.

Letters are something from you. It's a different kind of intention than writing an e-mail. Keanu Reeves

 Here is a short love letter he mailed to my Mama just a few months before they wed in October 1948, with a promise to write again when he reached his hometown of Irvine, Kentucky.

I cannot help but believe that small acts like sending this note to his fiancé added up to great love among themselves, their children, grandchildren, great-grands, and the multitudes they crossed paths with during their 58-year marriage. Now they are together forever!

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Mama’s engagement picture, Summer 1948, at the time she received this note.

The challenge is simple. Instead of the usual texts and emails, let’s challenge each other to surprise the special people in our lives with handwritten love notes. These can be sent or mailed to grandchildren, best girlfriends, collegiates, young marrieds, parents, and more.

After all the words and all the ink and all the blank pages painted black with the adjectives of you, one thing is abundantly clear: Nothing I write will ever be enough to sum you up. Tyler Knott Gregson

For those you share a home with, a short note can be left for them to find in a lunchbox, under their pillow, on a bathroom mirror, on a car seat, slipped in a suitcase for the traveler, or by the coffee maker.

Like my Daddy’s example, it doesn’t have to be long. The message will provide affirmation, a reminder of your love, and emotional support for the recipient.

By now, you are aware of the passing of Mrs. Nancy Reagan, wife of our 40th U.S. President, Ronald Reagan. The service for Mrs. Reagan will be this coming Friday. President Reagan was also known for sending love letters to his sweetheart. Click here to read a sampling of some of these notes and letters.

I am currently reading a historical fiction book The Postmistress by, Sarah Blake set in both London and coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. This intriguing novel based on details of the early 1940’s really got me thinking about the importance of personal letters. IMG_9256 IMG_9253

The Way of Love 1 Corinthians 13 The Message

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

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Mama and Daddy …great love always!

Who will you send a love note to?

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