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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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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Fighter Jule Furr Takes Leave This Inspiring Angel Will Be Missed

This passage in Romans 5 perfectly describes the wonderful and brave woman I am lucky enough to call my mother. Even on her worst or saddest of days, she still shines the brightest light and takes refuge in her faith. I would never come close to the person that I am without you as my Mom! Jordan Furr

My friend, Jule Furr, took her leave just before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2017. Jule and I were heart friends and this inspiring angel will be sorely missed. You can read her brief bio here.

You can also read a blog post about Jule’s life story, Part 1 that was written in 2014 by Melony Brown: Courageous Women Overcoming Life’s Tough Challenges.

And you will find Part 2 of this blog post by Melony, here.

Her Celebration of Life Service is on this Saturday, December 9th at 1:00 p.m. at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.' Eleanor Roosevelt

Jule faced cancer early in her life as a junior high student. Battling the disease for decades, when others asked how she was feeling, she was in the habit of responding, “Oh, it ain’t nothing but ‘a thang’!” with a courageous and joyful smile on her face. Whether she was dealing with loss of hair, bells palsy, or any other yucky side effect of her continual treatment plan, Jule maintained her sense of humor and her determination to live.

I've always thought I was touched by God and He chose me for a reason. Because of my struggles, my faith is stronger. I want people to see Jesus in me. We are here to shine a light. Jule Furr

Jule was treasured, loved, and fought for her life daily to be with her family, husband, Bryan, daughter and son, Jordan and Christian (called Fuzzy). Jule Furr considered these three her greatest gifts! The Furrs were married over thirty years. She felt blessed to have him as her husband and best friend.

Over time, many of us came to call her “Jules”. When I asked her about this, she proclaimed, Well, I am ‘a jewel’ you know, I’m a ‘Daughter of The King’!!”

It is honestly difficult to describe this woman who changed the world with her birth on February 27, 1964. Number five, she  joined four sibs, sisters, Mary Ann, Kathy, Linda, and one brother, Chris. Funny story, upon her birth, her Daddy announced that he would nickname Jule “Banana” as the 5th one in the bunch, but the kids disagreed!

First living in Charlotte, North Carolina as newlyweds,  Jules and Bryan Furr soon moved to Georgia where they raised their two babies in Marietta.

My story with Jules began when we were Moms together at Eastside Christian School in the late nineties . Though I lost touch in recent months due to the severity of Jules progressive disease, our friendship is one I will cherish in my heart forever.

Here, I will share a few anecdotes from our time together.

In 2000, I was preparing to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer 60-Day Walk from Gainesville to Atlanta. Having gone through this cancer herself, Jules was not strong enough to participate. However, she did want to help me raise funds. A participant was required to raise a minimum of $1,500.00 and our children held a Dog Wash to help. (I still laugh when I recall our son, Walker, age 8 at the time asking me if he could put out a “tip jar”!)  Along with my friends who were walking with me, Kathy Owen and Jil Cain, we raised nearly 10 grand! Jules, alone gave me a total of $820.00 the week of our walk! While registering on Day One, a woman in front of me was dismayed because she was unable to reach her financial goal. You guessed it, she was right at $820.00 short and I happily gave her Jules donation funds. Wow, was that a cool, God Wink!?!

Also, in 2000, when battling breast cancer, Jules’ fear for her two young children’s reaction,  soon gave way to inspiration. Soon, she penned an original story called, “The Scarf Game”, and it was published just a few weeks later. The 23 page story book which never mentions the word “cancer” was written from her daughter, Jordan’s perspective. The creative story line explains how both Jordan and Christian learned to tie scarves on their Mom’s bald head to help her when she was not feeling so well. This is just another example of the courageous and positive outlook this dear friend held in life.

During a particular season of illness, during the school year of 2007-2008, Jules and I would talk on the phone often. She shared with me that when she felt down and discouraged, she would list the things she was most grateful for…her husband, Bryan, Jordan, 8th grade at the time, and their son, Christian, 4th grade.

One time when I was at Chemo treatment with Jules, her nurse, Cindy Deminsky, said about Jules, “She is a treasure, treasure, treasure!” In Jules’ usual humored way, she quipped, “No, you are! I’m just an addict!”

Jules always expressed to me how much she valued her girlfriends. Back in the day, she thoroughly loved her “Southern Living Ladies Lunch Club”. They would dress crazy for gatherings and when Jules was ill, they took two-hour shifts to stay with her.

We must meet the unknown future by bringing to bear everything that has been shaped by us in the past. John O'Donohue, Irish Writer (1956-2008)

I am convinced Jules relied strongly on her faith as she journeyed through life, and she would want everyone to know this!

Jule Furr defined life and never allowed life to define her. Her smile changed the world, but she never let the circumstances of her world change her smile.

Jules favorite verse can be found in Romans 5:1-5. Emphasizing both peace and hope, it is definitely worth taking the time to read.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God. Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)

Those who knew Jule were blessed, and those who did not have an opportunity to meet Jule will be inspired by her life and adopt her stories to strengthen their own hearts.

It is now time to celebrate the life of this unique and special daughter, sister, mother, wife and friend to countless gals who will miss this inspiring angel so very much, including me!

Loss is loss, and I will be praying for this precious family during this time of grief. I will also be lifting up the many others I know and love who have lost in 2017.

RIP my dear warrior friend, Jules Furr. See YOU Later!

Related Post You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With My Soul

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Run To The Roar

Hurting Hearts, Painful Paths

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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