Five Ways to Love Well We Only Have One Chance

Ryan and his Grandmother, Leah.

August 8, 2015 marked the one year anniversary of my friend, Susan B.’s mother’s passing. Her mom, Leah, passed on Leah’s grandson, Ryan’s 25th birthday. You can read more about this in a previous post entitled: Mother’s Day Evokes An Abundance Of Emotions. When Susan and I were chatting about this anniversary, she said, “I miss her every day, especially the woman she was before the disease. I know you understand!” My response was this: “I do so understand! Just after Mama died, our friend, Pam told me that even though her Mom had been gone for years, she still missed her every single day and probably always would. Now that it’ll be 9 years this coming October 24th, I can attest that this statement is truth. I do think of Mama and miss her every day…realizing that this is not all bad, because this is evidence that we loved well!” Since our conversation last week, I have been pondering what that means to LOVE WELL. Mama died, at age 78, just four short months following her diagnosis of esophageal cancer back in the fall of 2006.

Mama and Daddy have been together forever since November 2013
Mama and Daddy invested time, love, and their presence in the lives of their six children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. Here they are loving on grandchild #14, Caroline.
Mama and Daddy always held hands…one of the simplest gestures in life. One day we will look back and realize the most important things in life were not things at all.

Mom and Daddy had just celebrated the birth of their third great-grandchild, as well as their 58th wedding anniversary. And talk about “loving well,” they set the greatest example I have ever seen of that.

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. Diane Ackerman

As I thought about loving well, I came up with a few ideas of how we can love those in our path while there is still time:

BE THERE FOR EACH OTHER. Tim and his family have been with us at our church since Tim was a very young boy. Angie and Doug, Tim’s parents, as well as Tim illustrate this so well. Even Ringer, Tim’s service dog is a great example of being there for each other. Tim has become one of the most positive and godly young men our family knows. His enthusiasm for life is truly contagious!

Be there for each other by having meals together. At family dinners, keep the conversation light by asking for “highs” and “lows” from each one’s day.

What does “being there for each other” mean in your sphere of influence?
Angie and her son, Tim
Tim and Ringer
Tim, his parents, and Ringer enjoy a day at The College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.

STAY CONNECTED WITH PHONE CALLS, LETTERS, CARDS, EMAILS, TEXTS and even SOCIAL MEDIA. Mama always wrote letters and sent cards to those she loved.

Let’s teach our small ones to share their love with cards and drawings.


IMG_5236 IMG_5234Mom was known for this! If you have a student in college or one who lives away from you, consider writing them a letter every now or then. Send your thoughts of how proud you are of them and how important they are in your life! How about slipping an encouraging note under your teen’s pillow or in a student’s lunchbox. Though I don’t see my friend, Sandy, near enough, I frequently receive cheerful texts from her just letting me know she is thinking of me. A text like that can turn someone’s day around!

My friend, Terri recently received this post from her daughter, Nicole. As Nicole waits for her second daughter to be born in November 2015, it is obvious from this post that she has a Mom who loves her children and grandchildren well, a mother Nicole can emulate as she parents her young.


How can you and I stay better connected through letters, cards, emails or texts?

BE COMPASSIONATE AND KIND TOWARDS OTHERS. My husband, Donny’s thoughts on this was for us to show compassion and kindness in the workplace as another example of loving well.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent, or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Every beating heart has a story and we don’t really know the details of someone’s story unless we live with them or they choose to share it with us. When at work, or at play, let’s take a minute to love well by exhibiting a soft heart towards those in our path.

How can we show more compassion to those in our path, either at work or wherever we find ourselves?

PUT UP YOUR PHONE. Just so you know, the things I write about here on my pages are surely things I deal with, too! And this is one I admittedly have a hard time with. Back in the day, we didn’t even have cell phones, but now, of course, they are everywhere! When we are in a group, or even face-to-face with someone we care about, let’s work towards putting our phones off to the side and focus on others while there is still time. How about start by choosing one night each week at home, turning off the TV, where everyone agrees to “unplug” and hang out together, playing a game or just catching up.

How can you and I begin to make some small changes by putting our peeps before our phones?

Though both Susan and our good friend, Brenda’s Mothers passed away from End-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease, memories of LOVING WELL bring happiness to their hearts as they remember their Moms in healthier days.
My Mama and me on Mother’s Day, 1990. So thankful for a mom who loved me well.

LEARN YOUR LOVED ONES’ LOVE LANGUAGE. When Leah and Scott went through pre-marital counseling, they read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.

I think the most significant work we ever do, in the whole world, in our whole life, is done within the four walls of our own home. Stephen Covey

When I asked Leah about examples of how to love well, this was the main thing we discussed.

LOVE always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:7

Leah shared that learning each other’s love language has enhanced their relationship as they have grown together in these past sixteen months of being newlyweds.  There is a book to help us identify our children’s and grandchildren’s love language, too! Look for Love Languages for Children and there is one for teens, too! The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: How to Effectively Love Your Teen.

What are the “love languages” of those whom you love the very most in this world?

10 Ways To Savor This Moment

Scott holds Precious Peyton Thomas, born June 15, 2015.
Scott holds precious Peyton Thomas, born June 15, 2015.

I have many friends who have recently told me either “my baby started preschool, started elementary school/middle school/high school,” or “is headed to college,” or “my last one has finished college.”

Many others are celebrating brand new children, like baby Peyton pictured above, or welcoming beautiful new grandchildren. Peyton has brought many changes to the lives of parents Kayla and Steven.

A boy on the playground of his school with a backpak

All of these are big milestones, which I’ve experienced, too…a new baby, sending #1 of two children to kindergarten, the “baby” graduating high school, then college, and on and on. After pouring myself into being the best MOM I could be, even with the countless ups and downs, the multiple mistakes I made, I wouldn’t trade a thing for the chance to be a Mother.

One thing I know for sure, though, is that every Mom needs caring for, too!

Young Teen girl entering High School 2

Though not a mom herself, Oprah Winfrey has often said: “Being a Mom is the toughest job in the world if you are doing it right.” I agree! Especially if you really care a lot about the grown-up results of your efforts.

Still when these milestones, these changes in our role as a Mom come up, perhaps like my experience, there may be times you feel a little lost, or you might even struggle a bit with where your identity is if the new season means your child or children don’t need you as much as they did in the years that have gone by.

I’ve mostly attempted to look at these seasons, these milestones, as working myself out of a job. And to me, that’s a very good and healthy way to see these important times in our journey. I have come to believe in the importance of allowing our children to spread their wings, guard against our possible tendency to hover and being a “helicopter Mom.”

I LOVE the gift shop in Cracker Barrel!

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge you are never alone.”  Audrey Hepburn 

I believe this may be a splendid opportunity to look inside and be our own kind of beautiful!

Following are ten things you might consider doing when a season of big change, especially during Motherhood, comes along:

  • Ramp up your exercise and drink more water.
  • Visit the Public Library to hang out, research a subject you are curious about, or to read quietly.
  • Rest.
  • Schedule a power walk, a picnic, or coffee with a girlfriend.
  • Find a job or hobby which you feel passionate about.
  • Volunteer-Ministering to those in your path. Here is a list to get you started and you can also check the Resources Page at the top of Pages From Joan.
    from Savor This Moment: Embracing the Goodness in Everyday Life, By, Karla Dornacher
  • Take a few minutes out for a nice bubble bath with SPA or CLASSICAL music playing in the background.
    from Savor This Moment: Embracing the Goodness in Everyday Life, By, Karla Dornacher
  • Meditate on the Word and Pray for God to order your day. Consider joining a small Bible Study Group through your church or neighborhood. Pray for your children, your grandchildren and other children in your sphere of influence. Here is a short prayer to get you started:
    from Savor This Moment: Embracing the Goodness in Everyday Life, By, Karla Dornacher
  • Send short notes, letters, or cards to out-of-town family or friends.
  • Take a few minutes to PAMPER YOURSELF now and then! Only you know what that means for you.  And if you still have school children in your home, doing this will make you better able to face the afternoon when that bewitching hour of 2:30-3:30 comes…that time when you best be ready to drive carpools, help with HW, have snacks & supper for a certain number of hungry folks and on and on. And don’t forget bedtime story time, as referenced in one of my latest blog posts: Spiders, Oh MY

You may be brainstorming about some things

to add to my “Savor This Moment”

list I have come up with

about the changing seasons in a Mom’s life.

If so, please leave a comment here or on my

Pages From Joan Facebook Page so

that we can have as many ideas as possible

for Mommies in all seasons of their journey.

IMG_5081IMG_5085THIS post reminds me of a favorite song, click here to listen.

“Time goes by-We’re movin’on”

“There is never a wish better than this!”    “Every Day’s a New Day.”

“Chasing the Years of my Life.”

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Read It Loud

Busy School Days

Five Lessons From A Horse


MEET SCRAPPY as he munches on a snack!

This past Saturday, August 1, 2015, on my fifty-seventh (as in 5-7) birthday, I had the chance to ride a horse for over three hours in the magnificent Rockies!  Some may wonder why I would give out that number, but it is mainly because it is just that, a number and my Mama taught me that “Age is just a matter of the mind, if you don’t mind it does not matter!”

Steve, an Estes Park, Colorado resident and dear friend for decades was our wrangler. From the time I mounted “Scrappy”, to hours later, I was enamored and impressed by this magnificent animal that carried me safely to the top of many mountains. The terrain was even rockier and dustier than usual because of a lack of rain, still, Scrappy did his work and provided me with a beautiful ride. I learned a lot just by being with him all morning!

Steve and Donny

Did you know? The horses’ senses are based on their status as prey animals, where they must be aware of their surroundings at all times. They have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and are lateral-eyed, meaning that their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads. This means that horses have a range of vision of more than 350°, with approximately 65° of this being binocular vision and the remaining 285° monocular vision.

LESSON ONE: This reminds me to look around, be aware, live in the moment, like a horse does.

Did you know? Horses are herbivores with a digestive system adapted to a forage diet of grasses and other plant material, consumed steadily throughout the day. With such an adventurous summer, Donny and I have been wanting to move towards a healthier and more natural diet, too. <smile>

LESSON TWO: Less meat, more plants, veggies, fruits. Horses inspire us to do just that.

Three gals I am blessed to do life with, Jan, Jane Ellen, and Ev.

Did you know? Wild horses generally gather in groups of 3 to 20 animals.

Cindy, the 4th friend on this trip whom I love doing life with!

LESSON THREE: Just like these horses that hang together, doing life with good friends, family, and neighbors is imperative for a fulfilling life. We all need time alone, but we need each other, too!

While Jonah rides, he gains the courage he needs for his life journey.

Did you know? More and more horses are being used for equine-assisted therapies. It has been clinically documented that just being around horses changes human brainwave patterns. We calm down and become more centered and focused when we are with horses. Horses are naturally empathetic. The members of the herd feel what is going on for the other members of the herd. Jonah’s (pictured above) Mom shared with me: “Jonah simply adores horses and riding. This particular day, his OT had the horse ‘trot’ to help teach Jonah to utilize core muscles and to be prepared for the unexpected. Naturally, in our faith in God, HE ‘shakes’ things up once in awhile. We may not like it, but as in Jonah’s case, maybe HE is strengthening us for something bigger than what we consider ‘purposeful’ in the present. We always need to be on guard and be willing to take the reins and hold on!”

LESSON FOUR: This reminds me of the importance of being a compassionate, an empathic human in the time I have here on this earth.

I cannot tell you why, but this reminds me of one of my favorite songs of which you might want to have a listen, if so, click HERE.

Scrappy looks down to determine the best way to face the obstacles in his path.

“If you are fearful, a horse will back off. If you are calm and confident, it will come forward. For those who are often flattered or feared, the horse can be a welcome mirror of the best in human nature.”

Clare Balding, retired amateur jockey

Scrappy and me on August 1, 2015.

LIFE IS HARD and OBSTACLES come up unexpectedly, and this ride was a great example of how to respond to obstacles in your path. Scrappy and the other horses with us had to be alert to all kinds of rocks, big and small in their way. It was astonishing how strong they were as they made their ways through the Rocky Mountains!

LESSON FIVE: Scrappy inspires me to stay strong, devoted, and committed even when times are rough.

How about you?

I hope one or more of these lessons

I have shared here with you will encourage

you to enjoy an even more inspiring life today.

Peace Of Thread

This past weekend, my family surprised me by celebrating my early August birthday since we won’t be together on my day. We had fun just hanging out, making a shrimp boil dinner together, eating cake and making homemade Oreo ice cream. YUM!

Whenever our two children ask me what I would like for a gift, I mainly say, “Just a note from you.”

I consider the notes and cards I have accumulated over the years as great treasures in my life. I enjoy looking over them again and again.

Single brown package tied with string on a wood background[pullquote]

Smile at each other. Smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other- it doesn’t matter who it is- and that will help us all to grow in greater love for each other.”

Mother Teresa


Leah also gave me a small wrapped package, a gift in which I have truly grown attached to as I have researched the origin of this love gift. A small bag just big enough for my cell phone, my license, and some cash, was handmade by an Artisan Threader, from Iraq, by the name of Ameena. Leah knew I would love this special and unique gift because I am always looking for little and big ways to make a difference.

My own unique, one-of-a kind Peace of Thread bag!

“Four years ago, Denise Smith had just returned from six years with her husband and their jobs in Beirut. Life in Lebanon had left her feeling out of place back in Georgia. She pondered and prayed on what meaning her life might take when her church, Grace (Snellville) called her and asked if she would come speak to a group of refugee women, most of whom only spoke Arabic.
She agreed and began to ponder and pray on what she could offer them. The plan revealed itself in her trusty old sewing machine. “I took it everywhere with me,” says Denise. “I am never without it.”

Denise first called the manager of the apartment building that housed many of the women. “I asked if they might be interested in learning to sew,” says Denise. “His enthusiastic answer was, ‘YES!’”. Denise made some calls to friends to gather scraps of fabric and ended up with a few sewing machines as well.

That first meeting began a journey that became the answer to many prayers. The prayers of women who have fled horrific conditions and only want one small opportunity to make a living, raise good children and BE American, as well as the prayers of a woman who wanted to know what she should do with herself. Peace of Thread was born of these prayers.

The designer accessories company provides training, language lessons, fellowship and jobs for women who have made their way from upheaval and threat to a place they can breathe and make a new life out of the patches of their former selves. The words from their website read: “Peace of Thread is a not for profit organization that empowers women who have come to the United States seeking refuge from war, persecution and poverty to make a new life for themselves and their family. The women of Peace of Thread hand make high quality and one-of-a-kind accessories using top-of-the-line, refurbished fabric. Their mission is to “promote the exchanging of cultures and the international development of women in vulnerable populations by teaching and improving life, business, and language skills through the platform of designing and sewing “one-of-a-kind” purses, bags, and accessories using re-purposed materials and to engage in activities which are necessary.”

Founder, Denise Smith seeks to bring Eastern and Western women together to foster fellowship and peace. “Women need work to contribute to their economy and support their families,” says Denise. Through sewing and mending, the physical, emotional and spiritual pieces of each woman are mended as well. “God is peace and we are all people of peace,” says Denise. “Each of these women want just one small chance to learn a craft and be able to contribute to their household needs.”

The INSIDE of my bag!

We show the beauty of each woman by designing the inside of each bag even more beautifully than the outside and teach the women that they were designed in this very same way.”

Denise Smith,

Founder and CEO of Peace of Thread

The back of my bag.

The need for sponsors is endless. Each woman who enters the program is given a sewing machine, thread, needles, patterns and scraps of fabric. The majority of the fabric comes from the Atlanta Decorative Art Center and are scraps from the finest interior design products in the world. Parisian silks, Belgium patterns and countless more of the world’s loveliest fabrics are cast aside after becoming pillows, upholstery, and curtains. These incredible fabric scraps are designed and sewn into amazing bags that show the heart and soul of the artist. “To turn our bags inside out, you will find beautifully appointed fabrics that complement each other,” says Denise. “They are just like the women who sew them, beautiful inside and out.” (and truly the small bag Leah gave to me is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside)

Inside the pockets of each bag is tucked a card that tells the story of each artisan. “Six of our women have graduated Level 12 English which means they can read to their own child a story or understand the papers that come home from school,” says Denise. “Education is power for the formerly unemployable.” Each woman has a means for an income and desire to live “West alongside East”. “By understanding the gaps in culture, the women shed fears and become good American Citizens,” says Denise. “They will not be going back to their birth countries, so they need to belong here.”




Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in a world all of your own.”

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)


IMG_4720 IMG_4719


Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

Booker T. Washington, (1856-1915)


Remaining true to her mission and relying on prayer, Denise Smith and her volunteers work hard to ensure that those who want to find a way to support themselves and their families are able to do so. Volunteers are needed for all manner of roles. Watching the children of the trainees during classes is important. Transportation to the training center is always needed. “You don’t need to know how to sew in order to help,” says Denise. “We can always use more volunteers.” To order a bag or learn how you can help, visit the website,” (from a recent Gwinnett Citizen article by Beth Volpert-Johansen, click here to read more)

Purchasing bags straight off their website for yourself and for gifts can have a huge impact.

Located in Clarkston, Georgia, some of the volunteer opportunities mentioned on their website include:
selects fabrics for making bags; is familiar with different kinds of fabrics and textiles and/or has sewing knowledge.

Design Cutter
uses patterns to cut the fabric after it has been selected by a designer.

Design Organizer
organizes and categorizes fabrics according to style and seasons, or cuts pieces of fabric for scraps and to make business cards; keeps the design studio organized and in a clean manner.

Pattern Detailer
ensures that patterns are cut properly and that instructions are clearly labeled on them.

How about you and I?

How are we impacting those in our daily path in small or big ways? As I have said many times before, even a smile or a kind word to someone we cross paths with can brighten a day…potentially theirs AND ours.

Are you still looking for your “purpose“, the way or ways you can make a positive difference with this one life you’ve been given???

Let’s all start today in our own families, then moving beyond as we feel led.

This story about how Denise Smith founded Peace of Thread inspires me to reach out more to those less fortunate than me, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Splendid Serendipitous SPAIN

While I do my best to share blog posts that are a reasonable length, I am putting up a disclaimer regarding the one you are about to read: THIS IS A LONG POST! Hope you enjoy joining me on our recent tour through SPAIN!IMG_4396

On Wednesday, July 1st, we enjoyed a full day at sea on our ship, as well as our only “formal night” for dinner. As you can see, we opted for our gentlemen to be comfortable in no neckties and open collars!

Jessica and Walker married on June 21, 2014.
Scott and Leah married on March 29, 2014.

One of our favorite places to meet before dinner was the Lawn area on the back of the boat. The real, soft, green grass was beautiful and we enjoyed many moments here. The two pairs of newlyweds enjoy comfy chairs on the Lawn area of the ship.

At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 2, 2015 our ship docked on the Spanish Island of Palma de Mallorca with plans to stay anchored for a full two days. On this first day in Spain, we took advantage of the SpaClub Port Pricing discount scheduling massages for all. Afterwards, four of us ventured  off the ship to check out our new spot. Donny, Jess, Walker and I found a good place to enjoy a cappuccino. Yum! On our second port day on the beautiful island of Palma de Mallorca, we decided to join a bike tour with James. Though is was definitely a hot day for three + hours of biking, we all enjoyed learning about the island’s history as we followed James and explored the area. [pullquote]To have courage for whatever comes in life-everything lies in that.” Saint Teresa of Avila, a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic Saint (1515-1582)[/pullquote]

The main memories we will carry with us of Palma de Mallorca is how this Balearic city is a backdrop of towering cathedrals, ancient castles, and a magnificent harbor with endless rows of boats and yachts.

A Cup of Cappuccino on the Island of Palma de Mallorca in Spain
A bike tour led by James, pictured here in front of The Cathedral, built in the 13th century. The Cathedral has picturesque stained glass windows and the world’s largest rose window.

Getting our larger pieces of luggage into the hallway outside our cabins by 11 p.m. was quite a feat, but we did it, and we were all looking with great anticipation for our disembarkment the following day. On Saturday, the 4th of July, 2015, our great big ship, the Equinox dropped the six of us off in Barcelona, Spain. As our driver met us just off the ship, looking at all of our luggage, our guide, Ona quipped, “Are you moving to Spain?” We laughed and Leah admitted she was an overpacker. Ona encouraged her by reminding us that Spain was very small compared to the U.S., and that with life, Leah would become more of a minimalist. There was much to see in the short time we would be in Barcelona, so we got moving once everything was loaded in the car. As we rode along, Ona began to share with us all about her beloved city. Barcelona occupies 1.7 million in this very compact, seaside city. The three main parts of the city are: inside the city walls, the modern city and the other parts. The original city walls, built in the 1300’s, were dismantled to build the modern city.

We were all surprised (including our driver and our guide, Ona) that the start of our Barcelona tour found crowds gaping up to the top of a very tall building. Stretching our own necks from inside the SUV, we soon made a shocking discovery: a naked man was taking selfies up atop this building! The traffic stopped as everyone waited to see if he would be “rescued”. Thankfully, he was, and we went on our way, laughing and laughing. What a funny way to start our first visit ever to this great city!

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Our first stop was the SI JOSEP LA BOQUERIA Market, and this market truly had everything imaginable available…fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats of every kind! Even COW tongue as pictured below! I don’t even want to know how one would prepare that for consumption! Wish I could ask Julia Child! There were some of the biggest tomatoes, strawberries, and whole fish for purchase. This was an amazing and busy place!


The entrance to the biggest and busiest market I have ever seen!
Seriously? Cow Tongue in Barcelona for sale at the SI JOSEP LA BOQUERIA Market

Ona soon left us for lunch at a sidewalk cafe.

A simple Spanish addition to a meal. Crusty, fresh bread smeared with a ripe tomato, some olive oil and a bit of garlic. YUM!
Most everyone ordered this delectable Spanish dish: Paella, for our lunch in Barcelona.
Leah’s Paella Lunch in Barcelona, Spain
Sangria and ice cold Spanish beer in Barcelona as we waited for our paella.
New Friends in Barcelona, Spain. The girls, Lisa, in orange, Brunetta, center and Misty, right, all work for the St. Louis Board of Education in the Transportation Department. They enjoy their summers off with lots of traveling, spending 4th of July 2014 in Paris, France!

At lunch is where I met three gals from America, from St. Louis in fact, Walker and Jessica’s current hometown. It was fun meeting and chatting with Brunetta, Lisa, and Misty, who were sitting at the table right next to us enjoying their Spanish lunches.

After lunch, it was time for our appointment to visit the famous church in Barcelona.

The Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s most famous symbol and certainly one of its most impressive sights. The church is such a massive size, so it is often referred to as a “cathedral”, but without a bishop’s seat. Pope Benedict XVI. inaugurated the Sagrada Familia on November 7, 2010. The church building was then raised to a basilica.

The angels and the three wise men during the birth of Christ. “Wise men and women still seek Him.”
Ona, our guide explains the most recent progression in the building of this famous structure. Having grown up in Barcelona, she has watched it grow throughout her lifetime.
The Fruits of the Spirit as described in Galatians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
Mary, Joseph, and their child.
Still under construction: the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
The Sagrada Familia
Construction began on the Sagrada Familia in 1882 and continues today. Barcelonians are hopeful to see this magnificent structure to its completion in the year 2026.

The construction for this church in the district Eixample began in 1882, and is supposed to be finished in 2026. From 1883 the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí took over the leadership of the works until his death in 1926, when he was stuck by a tram, carried to the hospital, and mistaken as a beggar. The building is significantly influenced by Gaudi. We were all enthralled by the bright-colored windows and the details in this amazing structure. We especially enjoyed seeing all of the many biblical stories we found hidden there.
With the expected completion in 2026, the construction is financed solely from donations and ticket money. Currently, 8 out of 12 about 100 meters tall bell towers are completed. The higher towers of the facade of the glory and the central dome with a height of over 170 meters will be built. Currently, part of the cloister and the apse are getting built.

The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Construction first began in 1882 and continues today in hopes to be completed by 2026. Overr 2.5 million people visit Sagrada Familia each year and the donation and ticket sales are what keeps this project alive.
The S.E. Catedral Basilica

We also had the chance to see where the 1992 Olympics were held, just four years before the Olympics came to our beloved, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. In addition, on our busy and full day in Barcelona, we saw the Museu Picasso, the Sacrista De La Catedral, the S.E. Catedral, and an old Jewish Synogogue.

Originating in the 6th century, the Ancient Synagogue in the Serafad neighborhood is believed to be an old synagogue located in the center of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. This was one of the smallest and most fascinating places we visited with two rooms and many, many interesting artifacts. A nice trip in Jewish History, it has been described as one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. After many centuries of use for other purposes, the building re-opened as a synagogue and museum in 2002. No congregation prays regularly at the Sinagoga Major, but it is used for festive occasions.

The Sinagoga Major, the oldest Jewish synagogue in Spain. Guides speak Spanish, English and Hebrew. This place is rich in Jewish history with many artifacts.

The Picasso Museum is a key reference for understanding the formative years of Pablo Picasso. The genius of the young artist is revealed through the 4,251 works that make up the permanent collection. Furthermore, the Picasso museum, opened in 1963, also reveals his deep relationship with Barcelona: an intimate, solid relationship that was shaped in his adolescence and youth, and continued until his death.The Picasso museum is very rich in regard to work from the formative years in the life of the artist; it is practically exhaustive up to the Blue Period. The Museum also houses an important representation of works from 1917, and the series Las Meninas (1957) as well as a comprehensive print collection. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour through this art museum!

Portrait d'un profil de femme  la manire de Picasso.
“un profile de femme a la manière de Picasso”, one of the multitudes of painting we discovered in the Museu Picasso. Picasso’s creativity knew no bounds. His art transformed the 20th century. His talents were first discovered at age 13. Later he went on to co-found Cubism.

Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

A view of the stunning city of Barcelona, Spain!

We ended our tour of this magnificent city with a drive up a mountain for an aerial view of the fabulous city of Barcelona, Spain.

Scott’s King Crab dinner in Barcelona, Spain.
Dinner in Barcelona, Spain

Our last evening in Europe, we walked to a quaint, local restaurant and enjoyed a delightful Spanish dinner there. Scott especially enjoyed his choice of King Crab! Our waiter brought a live crab to the table for Scott to “approve” before it was prepared in the kitchen. After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, Hotel Murmuri Barcelona to prepare for our long flight home the following morning. The family humored me one more time by donning these stars and stripes caps in the hotel, because it was, after all, THE FOURTH OF JULY!



I want a faith that’s so alive it can be seen. I want a hope that cannot hide even when I am weak. I want a love that speaks the truth of what I believe.”

Building 429 “Set A Fire”


The six of us will carry countless memories with us as we go forward in our life journey. One of my most treasured memories will be this: as we shared dinner on the ship, we joined hands and took turns saying grace before we started our meal. On one particular night, a waiter came up to our table after our blessing and told us he had rarely, if ever seen passengers on the ship stop and pray before their meal. He went on to tell us that he led a small group Bible Study on the ship with his fellow staff members. That was a priceless moment for us all.

This memory I have shared above makes me want to also share the lyrics and video in which I found the quote: “I want a faith that’s so alive…” so click here to watch: SET A FIRE!

Now closing the books on our European Adventure, I will share in my next post entitled Peace Of Thread, about a small early birthday gift Leah gave to me this past weekend.

In case you missed my last two posts on ITALY and FRANCE, click here and here to find them.

Invigorating Intriguing ITALY

On the Ponte Vecchio Bridge over the Arno River, Florence, Italy, June 28, 2015

Before our travels began, I headed to the public library to check out the Fodor’s Guide for Italy, France, and Spain. Instead of taking those along with us, I made us each a travel packet specific to the places we were going. Then, I checked out a children’s book for each country. These came in very handy for maps, culture, foods, and more. They made for easy, light reading along the way and because of their size, they were easy to pack.

Our Celebrity cruise ship docked in Florence on Sunday, June 28, 2015, six hours ahead of our clocks back in Atlanta, Georgia. We agreed that with only 12 hours in the Livorno Port, the Tuscan Region of Italy, having a scheduled guide to direct our day was an excellent idea. Thanks to Donny for thinking ahead and setting this up for the six of us!

From Livorno to the city of Florence was about a 50 minute drive and the scenery was beautiful and filled with hills and fertile valleys. I especially enjoyed the huge fields of sunflowers that popped up unexpectedly now and then. Our driver soon delivered us to our spectacular guide, Agnes, who would show us the sights of Florence, explaining everything in great detail as we walked. Later, as I checked my pedometer clipped to my waist, it would register 9,720 steps!

Here, our guide, Agnes, chats with Scott. She was so knowledgeable and fun to be around. Agnes was a super guide!

Did you know? Michelangelo was first discovered as a gifted artist at the age of 14. He went on to create the masterful David starting in the year of 1449 at the age of 26 and presenting the completed magnum opus at age 29. He unveiled the statue of David in the year 1452 to a thrilled city of Florence. Here below is an example of the exact type of stone which Michelangelo worked with during that time.


Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

David was always in there in the marble. I just took away everything that was not David.”

Michelangelo (6 March 1475-18 February 1564) an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art (Wikipedia)


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The San Lorenzo to the Accademia in Florence, Italy is where David is housed.

Michelangelo clearly created this remarkable work to represent the young man in the well-known Bible Story about David and Goliath. While I have not read Gladwell’s book, David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, my Tennessee friend, Susan, has read it and highly recommends it.

You see, Goliath, the Philistine giant, was equal to the heavyweight champion of the world and he had everything going for him. He had every advantage possible. He had great ability and he was trained, equipped, experienced, battle tested and battle hardened, and he was completely fearless. He was totally confident but it could also be said that he was overconfident.
David had no armor, no experience, no equipment, he was not battle tested, nor was he trained. But one thing he had that Goliath also had was confidence but the huge difference was his confidence was in His God and not in his own strength. David looked Goliath square in the eye because He knew that God was with Him in this battle and if God is for you, who can fight against you (see Romans 8:31)? The obvious answer is no one.

Observe his strong fingers wrapped around the stone in the statue of David’s hand. Notice his look of fierce determination. This is a man who was relying on his God, with all of his might. In our day and time, Michelangelo’s work continues to be  an extraordinary illustration of how humans today can choose to live out their lives, trusting in God, no matter how big the battle may seem.

This angel on the side of the enormous Duomo is believed to watch over and protect the city of Florence.
Arno River in Florence, Italy standing on the Ponte Vecchio bridge

The historic center of Florence, Italy, is flat and compact—you can walk from one end to the other in half an hour. In the middle of everything is the Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with its huge dome towering over the city’s terra-cotta rooftops. The first stone for the Duomo was placed on September 8, 1296, and took more than 140 years to complete. The main three colors of marble are: white symbolizing faith, green symbolizing hope, and reddish pink symbolizing charity/love.

Jessica and Leah take pictures of the Arno River from Ponte Vecchio.
Jessica and Leah take pictures of the Arno River from Ponte Vecchio.

During Spring Break 2001, our family of four toured Italy, Rome, Florence, and Venice and made it to the top of the Duomo.

Walker and Leah in Florence again after fourteen years!

Though not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic—all six of us were planning to climb the 463 steps in the Duomo on this trip. Our hopes to make the climb were dashed when Agnes, our guide shared with us that it is closed on Sundays due to all day worship services. Emanating out from the Duomo are Renaissance-era neighborhoods identified by their central churches and piazzas.

The Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio is the greatest landmark in the most impressive square-Piazza della Signoria. Lunch was pizza, of course, followed by gelato! Soon we were crossing the Arno River on the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge filled with shops, art galleries, and restaurants. What a festive and invigorating place to be!

Spinach pizza
Spinach  and sausage pizza
One of Walker's favorite parts of Italy: Gelato!
One of Walker’s favorite parts of Italy: Gelato!

Legend has it that if you and your loved one attach a padlock to any surface of the famous bridge and then throw away the key into the Arno River below, your love will last forever. Millions of couples have come to the Ponte Vecchio for expressly this reason, to lock in their love and throw away the key for eternity. Whether the couple actually believes that these legends work or not, they will find themselves believers for at least that moment at the Ponte Vecchio. Aside from the beauty of the architecture and the wealth of history that the bridge has seen for centuries, the Ponte Vecchio crosses over the Arno River, a site of one of the most romantic places in Florence. Lovers will definitely be caught up in the romance of the Ponte Vecchio, especially if they also get to experience the breathtaking sunset over the Arno River in the process. The practice of locking padlocks to the Ponte Vecchio was probably started by a locksmith who held shop at the foot of the bridge, in an effort to raise his revenue. The Ponte Vecchio has always been a bridge for merchants from the very beginning, with tables lining the bridge instead of the chic shops that many tourists enjoy today.

These days, however, it is not advisable for tourists to come flocking to the famous bridge and become part of the famous legend. At some point, the overabundance of padlocks gave the bridge a gaudy appearance and the government had to resort to removing these excessive padlocks, and for a time continued to keep on removing them, as they kept multiplying at will.Today, there is a hefty penalty to all who are caught locking or attaching anything to the Ponte Vecchio. These days, lovers simply come to the famous bridge and simply touch the remaining padlocks that have not been removed. Luck has kept them there, locked to the bridge, perhaps some luck will rub off on the hopeful couple as well, and keep their love alive for eternity. (Wikipedia)

Following our tour around Florence, Agnes sent us on our way back towards our ship, stopping in Pisa, Italy on the way.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italian: Torre pendente di Pisa) or simply the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed, and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. (Wikipedia)

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Back on the ship, after dinner, Scott helped me capture the moon over the Mediterranean Sea. : )

Thanks for joining me on our June 28, 2015 adventure through the  beautiful Tuscan region of Italy!

My next post will be all about Festive Fantastic France.

How To Respond To Travel Stress


“Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.”

Stephen Covey, (1932-2012) Author  of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

One of my favorite books that I find myself referring to again and again is Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book came to mind again on the first full day of our recent trip abroad.

After a two-hour delay at the Atlanta International Terminal, followed by an all night flight to Rome, Italy, paired with a six-hour time change, our first stop was to the Baggage Claim area to collect our many bags. It didn’t take long to discover that Leah’s green Nine West checked bag had been taken by another passenger by accident, while leaving an identical bag behind. Leah and I made our way to the Lost and Found counter to speak with representatives who knew very little English. “Switch!”, “Switch!”, they kept saying loudly to each other as they waved their hands while smiling encouragingly at us. Copying our Celebrity Equinox Cruise Itinerary, they promised to keep making attempts to track Leah’s bag as we left the airport with our driver.

Understandably frustrated, Leah vowed to not allow these circumstances to damper her excitement about our adventure. This made me think of Chuck Swindoll’s famous writing on Attitude:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

More than 50 hours later, when Leah’s suitcase was finally delivered to their cabin on the ship, Jessica suggested we raise our glasses and toast Leah at dinner for staying positive as she awaited the arrival of most of the clothes/shoes she had packed for our trip. WE all agreed wholeheartedly!

Leah shops for undies in Florence, Italy.

During this experience of traveling inconvenience, I thought of a few  good things to remember :

  • Mark all checked suitcases well. While Leah’s was marked with an ID tag, it was still taken by accident. Let’s all double-check all bags before walking away from baggage claim. We couldn’t believe this other party actually left the airport before they realized they had picked up a bag marked with someone else’s name.
  • Things don’t always turn out the way you hope or expect. While this (in the grand scheme of things)turnedoutto be more of an inconvenience than a major obstacle, our attitude and responsereallycanmake a difference in how we walk through the circumstances. If Leah had chosen to have a full-out negative response about this missing bag,thiscould’ve rippled out among our group of six. Instead, Leah made a choice to say, “Oh well, hopefully this will work out soon.” and then move on to the fun of our CruisingAdventurethatwas scheduled to begin that day in Rome, Italy at 5:00 p.m.
    Our Itinerary. Even though Leah wasn’t sure if her suitcase would ever be returned to her, she made an intentional decision to carry on, looking ahead to the amazing adventure that was before us.
  • Even in trying circumstances and especially when there is a language barrier, it is good to remember that ALL PEOPLE SMILE IN THE SAME LANGUAGE. So when we make an intentional choice to smile through our challenges,ourresponsecan be contagious and may lead to more smiles, no matter what language one may speak.
    While it is common to see a black suitcase on the baggage claim turnstile, it is less common to see a black suitcase with a wide hot pink strap around it.
    This green and gold bow tied tightly around a handle serves as an “ID” for a weary transatlantic traveler looking for a bag on the turnstile.
    Thank goodness Leah’s suitcase arrived in time for her to wear Scott’s favorite dress to dinner one night.

    Do you mark your suitcase in some special way

    before you head out for a trip on a plane?

    If not, why not?

    How do you respond when things don’t go as you hoped or planned?

    Have you heard of Swindoll’s writing on Attitude?

    Will reading it impact how you may

    consider your own attitude in the future?

    It has been noted that Swindoll wrote this after he noticed his growing testy, argumentative attitude towards his young children and wife. He knew that if he didn’t give himself an attitude adjustment regarding his four children, he stood the chance of alienating them from himself, later becoming a lonely, bitter, and crotchety old man.

    Are you and I in need of an attitude adjustment?Let's Start

  • “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:2-4; 12

Honesty With The Truest Of Friends


A dear friend of mine, Sara, has been wise to remind me of an important truth for the past three decades of my life: “It is good to share your heart and your deepest desires with a friend, but choose these friends with care and never feel like you must share your heart with everyone.” Only the truest of friends should have the right to hear what your heart has to say.

Having always been an individual who tends to “go deep” with others fairly quickly, I have had to guard against inadvertently going deep with an untrustworthy person. Many years ago, when I was a young mom, as well as a small group Bible Study leader, I roomed with an acquaintance at a leader’s retreat. Assuming we would surely make friends as we shared a room for the weekend, I mistakenly shared with her one of my heart concerns. While I don’t know if she chose to tell anyone else what I shared in trust with her, afterwards, I felt judged and condemned by this weekend roommate. I still recall easily how her response made me feel, and needless to say, she and I never became close friends.

You always pass failure on the way to success. Mickey Rooney, American Actor

I learned that I would likely fail at some friendships before I found success in the many delightful, intimate friendships I enjoy today.

In these close friendships, I believe there must be a certain amount of trust, and yes, even honesty. Being honest is an important step in becoming friends. Two of my precious girlfriends I have known since grade school and I had a chance to “while away a summer day” recently. In swimsuits, comfy chairs, and refreshing Lake Blue Ridge as our view, we three went deep, as we so often do. With gentleness, respect, and honesty, we said “I LOVE YOU” to each other by sharing our observed concerns about an aspect of each of our lives. As one of the three of us quipped, we took turns sitting in the “hot seat.” We all three agreed that cheaper than therapy, friends can definitely be a sounding board for each other. If done with love, honesty and kindness can go hand-in-hand.

Being honest with a friend can be a kind gesture, even though the content of this gesture might not always be flattering. While I won’t discuss the subject of what we three opened up about, I will say that initially, I found myself becoming defensive, until I considered these girls cared about me greatly and have loved me for many decades. IMG_5626Therefore, chances were good that what was being candidly discussed was meant to be for our good and not to hurt us. As I remembered their love for me, this served to also remind me that TRUE friendship consists of friends bravely being truthful with each other. I believe that often we humans are afraid to be completely honest. We therefore sometimes wear masks to hide true feelings of insecurity or neediness. We three girlfriends accepted the comments made to each other and were all grateful for each of us having the courage to express concerns transparently and openly.

We are possessive of our innermost thoughts. We don't want just anyone listening in. Rebecca McClanahan, Author of Write Your Heart Out

In the end, there were our usual big hugs and “I love yous” all around as we jumped in the lake to swim the cove and float. I know I gained something very important from our time together, and I believe they did, too. I will not be able to improve if I don’t know what I am doing wrong. AWARENESS is such a big step towards positive change. We must dare to face the difficult-to-hear messages of well-intended criticism.

Billy Joel: HONESTY

To earn a friend’s trust and respect, let’s intentionally say what we mean and mean what we say.

In addition, let’s hold our true friends (and especially what they choose to bravely share with us)

with BOTH hands, as well as close to our hearts.

How about you?

Is there something you’ve been worrying about that you

could share with a safe and trustworthy friend?

Is there a true friend with whom you may need to have

the courage to speak up honestly about a particular issue?

Is the friendship mutually respectful?

Is the friendship worth it?

Let’s be the kind of friend we would like to meet.

PLANT DEEP ROOTS in a true friendship today. As a believer, my deep-rooted faith allows me to daily moment-by-moment, share deep concerns with my trustworthy, nonjudgmental, loving and merciful God through prayer and meditation on The Word. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) One way that I do this is by reading a Proverbs of the day which coincides with the day of the month. Today’s meditation sent me to Proverbs 7:2-3…”Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; WRITE THEM ON THE TABLET OF YOUR HEART.” I felt especially close to God this past week as our family toured Europe together. Traveling like this prompts me to be mindful of how small humans are, how small our world is and how massively BIG our God is.

Where In The Sam Hill Am I ?

Did you know that Samhill really exists in Georgia? It has been a real place since Augustine Sams, the founder, purchased this lakefront property, this remarkable place on April 18, 1938. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Did you know? This phrase “Where in the Sam Hill?” first originated in the early 19th century America. It was considered vulgar and improper to use profanity in civilized conversation. This included the word ‘hell’. This expression was the result of altering the word ‘hell’, using ‘hill’ instead to deem it proper use in public. The use of the name ‘Sam’ is believed to have been derived from Samiel, the devil in Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freishuetz, first performed in New York City in 1820. Upon pulling those two words together, listeners were able to quickly realize that the speaker was referring to hell.

I believe you will agree that the Samhill I will be sharing about here is clearly a little piece of heaven…the furthest thing from hell.

My life-long friend, Evelyn, one of Augustine Sams’ grandchildren, grew up going to Samhill every summer with her family. Evelyn and I, along with six other girlfriends first met at Fernbank Elementary and later graduated together from Druid Hills High School, Class of 1976. The eight of us have been fast friends ever since. Occasionally as we grew, we would get to join Ev’s family up on Lake Blue Ridge at Samhill during the summer seasons. In more recent years, our growing families have joined us on our trips to visit with our friends at Samhill.

The history behind this home has always intrigued me.


As the old yellow screen door closes on the 67th Samhill season and we sadly depart for home through the golden leaves of October, I am reminded that our generation, too, has reached its autumn years. The photos in Big Daddy’s first Samhill album have all turned into sepia brown tones, the sure sign of aging. Our hair is no longer the shade it was a few years back, and what is left of it no longer protects us from Samhill’s summer sun. Beneath our feet, darting here and there as we put the final touches on another season’s Close-up, are the always-busy bunch of children from Generation Number Four. They are blowing that internal bugle! But that’s what Samhill is all about. It’s about “letting it all blow out” in God’s great out-of-doors. It’s about growing up together and becoming responsible people, and making great family memories. And all of us learned that at Samhill. Aren’t we blessed to have it? Richard H. and Marion A. Sams October 2006

A wonderful memory for me is waking up in this bed in the loft, window wide open and the birds sings loudly at the start of a new day.
This stairway to the loft is a little tricky to navigate should you have to get up and visit the restroom in the middle of the night. Thank goodness for the steady handrail!

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IMG_3851 IMG_3849Mountainous and majestic Lake Blue Ridge first evolved in 1927. Samhill was purchased as a resale for the price of about $750.00, by Evelyn’s Grandfather in 1938, when Ev’s Daddy was a small five-year old boy. Augustine Sams, was looking for a place “for his boys to spend their summers in the out-of-doors”. Now, I am sure all who know about Samhill would agree that a price tag cannot be placed on this jewel of a place in the North Georgia Mountains.

This must be close to where that first family picnic took place. Later, as Augustine Sams was aging, the bench was placed here and marked as “Big Daddy’s Rest Stop”.

According to Mamo (Ev’s Grandmother), the family headed up to check out this lakefront home that was on the market. Sharing a picnic halfway down the path to the lake where those large black stained white quartz rocks still outcrop in the warm summer sun, this family of six, with four active boys, fell in love with the place and wanted it.

Currently co-owned by the children of these four brothers, this haven continues to be a place of refuge where families come from near and far,  traveling  from Colorado, Florida,  and other states to relish their ‘window of time’ in this home away from home. Favorite pastimes include floating in the lake, passing the day sitting on the back porch, paddle boarding, fishing, tubing and boating, and a nightly, competitive game of horseshoes. Who would have ever thought the friendship started between Mamo and Big Daddy that first took root when they were children and neighbors would lead to marriage and then the incredible legacy that is Samhill in Blue Ridge, Georgia today.

 Time is forgotten when you are at Samhill.

Big Daddy and Mamo and their four young boys.
A picture and memory album including Samhill Beginnings, Past and Present put together by, Richard H. and Marion A. Sams in 2006.
Evelyn and Steve’s two children, Brooke and Rob, have been coming to Samhill since they were in utero! Rob’s ‘thumbs up’ describes this place perfectly!
Eileen stops during horseshoes to give her Uncle Steve a hug.
Evelyn poses with a heart shape as we boat away from Samhill. Friends for fifty-four years. Love Her!
Ev and Brooke enjoy paddle boarding on Lake Blue Ridge.
Wild flowers…a reminder to enjoy the simple things in life.
The family draws names and takes turn planning, preparing, and cleaning up after dinner. On this night, Rob and his Dad, Steve prepared whole wheat pasta, eggplant parmesan, cucumber/avocado/tomato salad with fresh corn on the cob. YUM!

As I shared in one of my latest post: Let’s Go On An Adventure! , Jane Ellen, Jan and I so enjoyed our adventure of another summer visit with our dear friend, EV, and her family at Samhill.

And speaking of ADVENTURE, our family of six, with our two newlywed couples, are about to embark on a trip of a lifetime!

I will return here on Monday, July sixth with some thoughts about our family excursion, a reflection about honesty among best friends, as well as other musings.

TIME GOES BY, no matter what! Have you considered recording some Summer 2015 thoughts in a diary?

Ever since the first picture was carved into a cave wall, human beings have searched for words and symbols to express love, hate, anger, fear, happiness, grief, and every other state of the human heart. We’re still searching. Writing is, in part, an attempt to express our most passionate feelings, to give voice to what had before been voiceless. Writing can help us locate the center of our emotions, navigate the passages of our lives, and reflect on the meaning of our experience.”

Rebecca McClahan, author of Write Your Heart Out: Exploring and Expressing What Matters To You

Keeping a personal journal between the years of 1989-2012, I have always found it cathartic to put my inner thoughts down into words. I expressed some of the reasons I write in an earlier post entitled Why I Write.

Will you head to the Dollar Store or another convenient retail spot and pick up a small blank journal to record your Summer 2015 thoughts in. You could make it a goal to start on July 1, 2015. Don’t be intimidated by the blank page! Just write like you are talking to a best buddy.

I want to take this time to say thanks for all who take a few minutes twice weekly to read and contemplate my thoughts recorded in my Pages. My hope is that now and then, a quote or a thought shared here will stay in your heart aiding you in your journey. It means a lot for you to support me in my writing efforts. Thanks for sharing a post whenever you feel like it.  Consider private messaging Facebook friends who you believe might enjoy reading my Pages. If they “LIKE” my blog page: Pages From Joan, my new posts will show up on their feed.

Or, as always, folks can add their email on my home page here in order to receive an email notification when I have put up my twice weekly posts.

And finally, as we draw closer to the Fourth of July, May God Bless America!

Another summer in the books at Samhill!

Facebook Post by Brooke after her annual summer visit to Samhill, as she headed back to her home in beautiful Breckenridge, CO


Joy Comes In the Morning

I’ve always loved the name “Pamela”, since my niece Pamela, born in 1986 has been a special part of my life. So when this young homeless woman told me her name, I just smiled to myself.

The day was a sunny Sunday morning, March 15, 2015. I walked and walked in the beautiful city of San Diego, California, while my husband, Donny, attended a conference.   As I moved along, I hummed a favorite song, seeing the lyrics in my mind: Brave, by Sara Bareilles. Carrying my Bible close to my heart, my plans were to find a Presbyterian Church about one mile from our hotel and worship there at the 11:00 service. I soon discovered that instead, my day would be spent in “a church” on the streets of San Diego and not inside the walls of a building. Heavy-hearted, with my husband’s dear Dad on my mind with his recent hospitalization in the CCU with pneumonia, paired with grief over the very recent passing of the son of our precious friends the Reads, I sat on a bench to rest right outside The Old Spaghetti Factory, at the corner of 5th and K in the Gaslamp District. Weeping quietly, I took this picture of my Bible, my cup of hot coffee, and a San Diego map.


Just after taking this picture, as I glanced to my right, I saw this woman standing alone right next to my bench. Homelessness is a concern in every big city across our great big world, and sunny San Diego is no exception. In fact, locals this past weekend told us countless times that the reason for their multitude of homeless folks is because of their year-round pleasant climate.


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

To help minimize panhandling on every corner, the local San Diego community installed meters like this one to collect pocket change to aid those without  a home. I thought this was a good idea to share with folks at MUST Ministries back in Georgia who work tirelessly to help the down and out in our hometown community. Many humans have similar thoughts regarding the homeless population, wondering how they got there, are they alcoholics or addicts, is mental illness a part of their day, and isn’t it “their fault” that they are in this situation? Raised by such compassionate parents, my heart has always been tender towards these souls in need. In fact, back in 2002, when Leah was in 8th grade, I taught her class all I knew about this subject, using Phil Collins’ Another Day in Paradise as a springboard. And after recently reading Yankoski’s story in the book Under the Overpass, my heart has become even softer towards these folks in need, believing “every heartbeat has a story.”


I am like a pencil in God's hand. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used. Mother Teresa

So when this woman showed up next to me, my response was not a surprise to me. And when she shared her name, Pamela, I smiled through my tears, understanding intuitively that her being there was no accident. Pamela is my niece’s name, the sister of my late nephew Brad (Brad’s story is here: 525,600 Minutes, Remembering Brad Today, Celebrate Me Home). Though Pam, all alone in this big city, did not approach me, I invited her to have a seat as I moved myself and my things over. Note: I am not looking for accolades with my story, I simply followed my heart like I do in most every circumstance I find myself in these days. Pam was not the only one who was in need, I was in need, as well, and I believe that was the reason she was placed in my path that day.  (See two recent past posts to understand this better: Choose Not To Be Blue and Choose Not To Be Blue: Part Two.)


First things first, I figured she was hungry. She nodded. Waiting for our table at a quaint sidewalk cafe, I was moved by the irony of this pleasant young woman who would soon escort us to our table, quietly folding napkins for the many guests who would be by for a meal on this Sunday.


As we sat across from each other, Pam told me her story. She was stranded in San Diego and needed to get back to Austin, Texas, she had no money to her name, and there was a safe home for her in Texas with her boyfriend and his mother. Though I did not tell her this, and I certainly wasn’t sure how the day would play out,  I knew by the time we finished our omelets that my husband and I would be her ticket back to Austin.

With a full stomach and a good break in the cafe’s clean restaurant bathroom, Pamela and I hit the sidewalk, first purchasing her a big backpack and then heading to nearby Macy’s. We went through several different departments, finding her new lingerie, t-shirts, jeans, and socks. Each time we made a purchase, the employee would snip off the tags, and Pam would slip back into the dressing room to change into her new things, coming out with an appreciative, humble smile on her face. Later, when Pastor Ike called me from Georgia, and I burst into tears telling him all about our friends who had lost their son and Donny’s Daddy, Pamela was the one who was consoling me, putting her arm around me and whispering how sorry she was for my sadness. I shared with Pastor Ike about who was standing next to me and he said, “Joan, that is exactly what I spoke about in my message this morning.” (Click Here to hear Pastor Ike Reighard’s message Passion For Compassion.)

We packed her backpack full, including her old, used, soiled things which went into a plastic bag until Pam would be able to find a way to wash them. An affordable ticket was purchased at a nearby Greyhound Bus Terminal and I left Pamela to wait until the 10:45 p.m departure. Just before 10:30 p.m., Donny and I were strolling around downtown with some friends from Georgia when I realized we were only a few minutes from the terminal. We said good night to our friends, and walked a few more minutes arriving in time for Donny to meet Pamela and for us to bid her farewell. Pamela’s trip would take 36 hours arriving mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, and Pamela would call me to let me know she had arrived safely.

Pamela was so appreciative to have her ticket to Austin, Texas.

Once again, I am reminded of The Boy and The Starfish Story, (click here to read it). It was an indisputable fact that my husband and I could not solve the huge problem of homelessness in San Diego, California, but we made a difference for that one beating heart—which at the same time made an even bigger difference for our own hurting hearts.

Our annual TTU gathering, January 2015, Abingdon, Virginia in The Reads Home.
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The Reads (far right) travel from VA to GA for Jessica and Walker Page’s wedding celebration on June 21, 2014. Some of our FF Group, The Beasley’s, Carters, Bowers and Pattersons are also pictured…friends since Fernbank Elementary!
Yes, weeping may endure for the night, but JOY does come with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Psalm 30:5 came true on the following day as the sun rose on Monday, March 16, 2015, starting with a long phone visit with my grieving friend in Virginia, Kelly, as I walked along the water, stopping in the loveliest places for a moment of quiet reflection and prayer.

One of my many prayer spots in the  beautiful San Diego Embarcadero Bay.
One of my many prayer spots in the  beautiful San Diego Embarcadero Bay.

Later, I was thankful to see pictures of my precious Tennessee Tech sisters loving our friends The Reads, as they represented our group at Taylor’s Celebration Service which I was able to watch on livestream.

On March 14, 2015, friends watch a memory video with Kelly….girlfriends multiply JOY and divide SORROW.
The prayer box which the eight of us gave to Kelly. Our initials are engraved inside to remind her that we are praying for her and her family.
The card our group of eight gave to Kelly, Paul and Megan to remind them: “We’ve Got Your Back.”

That afternoon, though his wife, Annie had to work, our nephew, Evan, and their 14 month old son, Noah, was able to drive a short distance to meet us at the beautiful Torrie Pines Reserve. Again I was struck by irony: grieving with our friends over the loss of their son…while watching this beautiful boy’s journey begin.

JOY overflowing as we visited with these two precious ones, my brother John’s firstborn and Evan and Annie’s firstborn, Noah James Walker, age 14 months.

As we continue to pray for healing for our Dad, Don, and peace for our friends The Reads, our faith reminds us to be brave.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 "For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land."
Song of Solomon 2:11-12 “For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”

 How is your journey calling for bravery today?

Is it a health decision, a relationship that needs mending,

a courageous conversation that would be difficult, but beneficial for all?

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