Can We Simply Do The Next Kind Thing?

IMG_8542What if every one of us simply the next kind thing?

What if every human woke up and made an intentional decision to do the next kind thing with everyone they encountered on that new day? How would our tumultuous world be different if we were simply kinder? I believe this is a question Daniel Lubetzky had pondered before he founded The Kind Movement in 2008.

'No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.' Aesop

Did You Know? The spring-board for this movement was a line of healthy products that were first developed in 2004. They are sold everywhere and you have probably tried one or two of them. They are still a popular choice 13 years later. So the next time you grab a delicious snack called a KIND bar, think about the origin of this treat!

The KIND Movement is a mission to inspire kindness. Small acts or big, this movement encourages it—from writing a thank you letter to someone who deserves it to volunteering with an organization you care about. Every day, our community (aka YOU!) brings us one step closer to our goal of making kindness a state of mind.

Need some inspiration for your kids or for yourself?

Click Here for some printable kindness cards produced by The Kind Movement.

Or here for a cool kindness checklist!

Was there bullying in your childhood or in the childhood of someone you love? Sadly, this was the case for founders of the Kind Campaign, Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson when they were college classmates. Their attempt at growing more kindness in our world is now  an internationally  recognized nonprofit organization that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting girl-against-girl bullying through their global movement, documentary film, in-school assemblies and educational curriculums.

One more way to show kindness to those in our path is to put our phones away! Our phones are becoming a wall between us hindering communication and intimacy with one another.

What Are The Roadblocks In Our Path? Let's Think About It

What are the roadblocks in our path? If we stop and think about it, we all have something in our life journey that is trying to hold us back.

What is your obstacle? What is mine?

'You strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do, determined to save the only life you could save.' Mary Oliver (1986 from 'The Journey In Dream Work')

I love to keep my eyes open to lessons that unfold on any given day. I try to stay watchful for any hindrance that is keeping me from achieving my dreams.

I don’t think I realized a current life obstacle until this past week when I traveled to the The John C. Campbell Folk School, on my 35 mile commute to my week-long writing class. The twice daily, one-hour commute from Lake Blue Ridge to Brasstown, North Carolina, on curvy four-lane highways gave me plenty of time to think.

Tuesday morning, I was on the road again, when five minutes later, I encountered a large fallen pine tree in the woods, left behind by a hailstorm from the night before. I definitely had an obstruction before me, an obstacle to prevent me from arriving to my class on time.

“Wow!”, I said to myself! “What now?” I knew there was no way around the fallen tree, and since this was the only way out of the woods, I headed back home and made a fresh pot of coffee. 6:30 a.m. was too early to call for help, so I sat down to work on a writing assignment that had been especially challenging for me: “A Heart Metaphor”. Soon, I was able to reach my friend, Butch Davenport, a retired firefighter and he came on over with a chainsaw. The towering tree was no longer in my path. And my heart metaphor was complete! I was only 1/2 hour late for my Tuesday class.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

Later, waiting for the lunch bell, my new friend Chris Todd, a glass blowing student and I talked about the fallen tree story. We explored about  the analogy comparing this to obstacles in our life journey. From an earlier conversation, I knew Chris worked with the Maryland Park Service.

A particular remark of his resonated with me. “You know, Joan, we can’t just keep going ’round and ’round the tree.”

Chris went on to explain that when a tree falls in the forest, hikers continue on their way by walking around it. Because the rangers worked hard to keep every trail maintained, a new path being made by boots going around a tree, presented a new problem for them. He said while it is not always possible, it’s much better to remove the tree, the obstacle, before continuing on.

An obstacle in the road!
A clear path!

I’ve been musing and working on a book about lessons my Mama taught me, and as I drove carefully my thoughts returned to the fallen tree from before dawn that same morning.

I came to recognize that I had developed a good bit of fear regarding my project. What if I never completed it? What if it wasn’t very readable? What if no one liked it? What if ________________.  Fill In The Blank!

As I passed over the North Carolina state line, the distance between me and the school growing less, I began to admit to myself this fear had become an obstacle for me and I was the only one who could do something about this barrier in my life journey as a blossoming writer.

My “fork in the road” tree on the campus of The John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

This tree on the property of the school reminds me of a “fork in the road”, which is where I am now:

Would I face my fear and get busy with my much-loved project? OR Would I stay busy doing other things and simply say to myself, “I am too busy to complete this book about my Mama and her lessons!”

As the week comes to a close, I know which fork I will be choosing! Cheers to my book work that is ahead of me!

What obstacles might be in your path? What is keeping you from reaching your dreams? Let’s do this together. Let’s Go For It!

“If it is meant to be, it is up to me.”

William H. Johnsen

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Five Lessons From A Horse

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Authentic Prayer A Continual Conversation

Does it make any difference to pray?

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

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

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

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

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

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get the conversation going!

More favorite books about prayer:

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey

Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by, Charles F. Stanley

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

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

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

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Wisdom On Aging

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Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

No One Visits The Mother Of A Drug Addict

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Fertile Prayers

No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict Except Jesus

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

Andrew Chalmers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nancy begins the Study Guide with some frank questions:

  • What is going on in your family?

  • Who are the players in your drama?

  • How is all this affecting you?

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

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

  • How do you find comfort?

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Chalmers, drug-free

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

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

Addiction is Real: Hope is Real, too

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles

We Are Called To Be Brave

A Resource List:

The Addiction Recovery Guide

Teen Challenge, USA

The Extension: life-worth-recovery

Addiction Recovery

National Institute on Drug Abuse

the fix: Addiction Recovery, Straight Up

Celebrate Recovery

AA

Davis Direction Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

Here are three ways to better love our peeps:

1) Cultivate Your Love Life Inside Out

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

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

(2) Leave the Blame Game Behind

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

My Parents, Valentines for Life!

(3) Let The Past Go

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

(4)Live Out Our Days with Gratitude and Appreciation

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

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

Love Always Wins!

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

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

Fill Your Love Tank: Don’t Run On Empty

The Love Letter Challenge

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…

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Joy Comes In The Morning

Five Ways To Love Well: Part One

Five Ways To Love Well: Part Two

We Are Called To Be Brave

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

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lots of memories and mementos in these little books

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

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

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

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another entry from Walker’s book

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Leah,                     February 5, 1996

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

Love, Mom

Dear Walker,               December 22, 1995  

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

Love, Mom

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

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

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Five More Ways To Love Well

The Love Letter Challenge

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

Leave A Notation

Yesterday, Tomorrow, Today

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

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

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

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Women’s Retreat Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

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8 Traits of an Authentic, Successful Woman

We’ve Got Your Back

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

Where Is He?

RETREAT

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part One

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part Two

Joy Comes In The Morning

Girls Need Time Together

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

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!”

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

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Today, October 13th  was my Father-In-Law’s 86th birthday and our family joined him for dinner at Daybreak Village Senior Living to celebrate.We took him a new watch to help him keep time, since he recently misplaced his.  Our family has continued to look after him since he joined us in our community on March 14, 2015, and his life and legacy continues.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post called Every Beating Heart Has a Story, and I hope you will click here to read it if you missed it.

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Hiking through Northern Italy over Lake Como was an amazing experience! (Sept/October 2016)

As Donny and I recently hiked through Northern Italy above the stunning lakes, Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Como, I found myself thinking about the statement “every beating heart has a story’, as we trudged up steep inclines with our walking sticks. I pondered my own personal story and how I had often felt compelled to share details with one other, or a small group of others who were trustworthy and nonjudgmental. Invariably, those whom I shared with were “beating hearts” I believed God put in my path to potentially be strengthened by my adversity, my weaknesses, and my journey of overcoming struggles. And that is, in part, why I keep returning to The Barbara J. Crafton Extension Center, a residential home for women who are recovering from substance abuse. As we collage together, every other Wednesday morning, we share our stories and we gain courage and strength from each other. We can all leave a legacy of love as we transparently share our struggles, our weakness, our failures, and our victories with others. Now, I am not suggesting you blurt out all of your life issues at every turn, in fact, my long-time friend, Sara, has cautioned me against that! I am saying that we all have an important story, and God can use our story in mighty ways to encourage another human being.

If only we are still enough to hear his voice, his prompting in our spirit. (See Psalm 46:10)

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My bucket of collage supplies: “YOUR beautifully, messy, complicated STORY MATTERS”

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10/5/16 With artist, Holly Irwin, and my painting, Country Summer, a 2013 Mother’s Day gift from my family.

On October 5th, at our usual collage workshop,we were delighted to have a guest, artist, Holly Irwin, join us to share her story. As the girls worked on their collages, Holly talked with them a bit about her goals and dreams and how life does not always turn out the way we hope it will.

Holly encouraged each one of us by sharing her artist’s statement:

Illustration boards flowing with ink washes and curving black lines ………elegant drawings of women in beautiful dresses and yards of fabric everywhere………..art classes every Saturday morning for years………this is my background, this is how I grew up as the daughter of a fashion illustrator, and it has all culminated in a love affair with figure drawing. The figure and the dress have become my creative voice, a way of expressing powerful emotions using the language of color, line and composition. Sketchbooks everywhere………I unwind by loosely sketching and scribbling, usually in the form of a figure or a dress. Some of my finished paintings find their beginnings there; others start with a sketch from a live model session……always intuitive, based more on emotion than reality.

Texture is important in my work because our lives are layered and textured. I paint with modeling paste, gel mediums, acrylics and oil paint using brushes, spatulas and palette knives. My works on paper are evidence of my love of line drawing, pen and ink.

I search for the girl that lives within me, searching for ways to paint her feelings and emotions. I always come back to her. This is why I paint.

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Here are some of the collages, using some of Holly’s artwork, that the girls created as. we visited together.

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14720421_10207750862995211_2269835270547777806_nWE NEED EACH OTHER ON THIS JOURNEY CALLED LIFE.

Who can you and I bring encouragement to

by sharing part of our stories today?

14642218_10207750863075213_5517547754717545121_nRelated Posts You May Have Missed:

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The Disease Of Addiction Is Real: Hope Is Real, Too

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles: An Interview

Who Is In Our Path? Let’s Take Time To Notice.