I read a devotion this morning that reminds me that Life takes Muscle Work and I want to be willing to make changes as life evolves.
Otherwise, I am just “a bystander”. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be “a participant” in this life, not just someone who is here and accounted for, but not really taking part, not connecting, not interacting, not having an impact.
I am learning that the best way to bring peace to my external circumstances is to begin with internal work. Internal peace will begin to settle external chaos.
Here is an excerpt from the devo I read:
“I’m convinced that life without risk isn’t much of a life. There’s a certain comfort in predictability. But it’s the kind of comfort you don’t find when you’re moving and growing. It’s the comfort you find in hibernation.
If you’ve followed sports or been around athletes, you know that an athlete regularly stretches his muscles to the point where they burn. Otherwise these muscles become inflexible, unresponsive, and easily fatigued. The same is true with your soul. It must be regularly stretched. Failure to do so gives you comfort in the short term, but ultimately leaves you emotionally and spiritually unfit.
Connecting, loving, and pursuing dreams, all require risk and energy! Yes, you’ll be stretched to the point of discomfort. Yes, you may experience some hurt and disappointment. But these are far better alternatives than the loneliness, boredom, and quiet desperation that accompany a life without risk.” ~Steve Arterburn, New Life Live~
While it is not always comfortable, I want to stretch ALL of my muscles from here on out! My physical muscles, my faith muscles, my brain muscles, my compassion for others muscles. ALL of these, and more.
In addition, I want to discover what in my life is no longer serving me well. Maybe it’s a bad habit I have been carrying around for decades. A routine that has become commonplace. A Rut. A pattern that is no longer useful. A temperament that is not as kind as I would like.
This list can be applied to all kinds of muscle-building in our lives.
We CAN begin to incorporate more muscle and discipline into our days.
What is it for you and for me that we would like to change and alter for the days ahead? What is no longer serving us? Yes, it can be difficult, and risky, too. But, so, so worth it. It is truly a Fork In The Road, and we get to choose the way.
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.
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.
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.
A few things that I learned during this season of my life:
God’s timing is perfect.
God created us and He knows even better than us what is best for us.
Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together especially when things get tough.
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 over six decades of life, my husband and I are drinking in the presence of our nearly one-year-old grandson , Tripp and our nearly one-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth. Our daughter, Leah and her husband, Scott are first-time parents, as of 8/24/18 and our son, Walker and his wife, Jessica are first-time parents as of 9/7/18. 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
Life Reminders For You and For Me, Whether We Are Young, Old, or In Between
No matter our age, we are all here to help one another. Helping those younger than we are and those older than we are will add spice to our own lives. These life reminders will make our life sweeter, too!
1. Make your bed every day; even if it’s right before you get in it. But I recommend doing it first thing.
It sets you up for a great day ahead.
2. Don’t wear ‘holey’ underwear. Ever. You deserve to feel decadent at all times…regardless.
3. Travel light through life. Keep only what you need. This includes people.
4. Put butter on your biscuit , and twice as much when you miss me. Add some fig preserves to remind yourself that comfort can be unusual.
5. It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash things; but, wash your face, clean your mess, and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there.
6. If you’re going to curse, be clever. If you’re going to curse in public, know your audience.
7. Seek out the people and places that resonate with your soul. Check in with yourself…a clenched jaw, heavy heart or cranky tummy is your sign to bail.
8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And just because you shouldn’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the chance. Just be smart about your risks.
9. 5-second rule. It’s just dirt. There are worse things in a fast food cheeseburger.
10. Happiness is not a permanent state. Wholeness is. Don’t confuse these.
11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack your bag.
12. Never walk through an alley.
13. Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself.
14. Can’t is a cop-out. BIG TIME. Step UP. Google It. Teach yourself. Don’t be mediocre.
15. Hold your heroes to a high standard. Be your own hero.
16. If you can’t smile with your eyes, don’t smile. Insincerity is nothing to aspire to.
17. Never lie to yourself. EVER. Embrace your delusions…and get on with it….
18. Your body, your rules. Always.
19. If you have an opinion, you better know why. If you don’t have an opinion, admit it and ask questions so that you can form one.
20. Practice your passions. Every. Day. No exceptions!
21. Ask for what you want. The worse thing they can say is no. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
22. Wish on stars and dandelions, then get to work to make them happen (leave room for magic)
23. Don’t skimp on good sheets. Like underwear and lovers…only the best should ever touch your skin.
24. Fall in love often. Particularly with ideas, art, music, literature, food and far-off places.
25. Fall hard and forever in love with nothing but yourself.
26. Say Please, Thank You, and Pardon Me, whenever the situation warrants it.
27. Reserve I’m sorry for when you truly are.
28. Naps are for grown-ups, too. Indulge.
29. Question everything except your own intuition.
30. You have enough. You are enough.
31. You are amazing! Don’t let anyone ever make you feel you are not. If someone does….walk away. You deserve better.
32. No matter where you are, you can always come home.
33. Be happy, say your prayers and remember your roots.
34. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
35. No one will ever love you more than I do
Copied, Author Unknown
*I would love to know what you would add to this list! Comment Below and share with those you love the very most in this life.
As a Mommy, Daddy, Grandparent, an Aunt, or any other position you can name, does your special little one do and say unforgettable things? I bet he or she does, like ALL THE TIME. But as the moment goes by, the laughter has silenced, the memories may have a tendency to fade. One of my favorite things I did for both of our children was to write them notes now and then. These short letters are compiled in these Precious Moments books shown above.
Now that Donny and I are first-time grandparents to Tripp Andrews – born 8/24/18 and nearly 11 weeks old and Elizabeth Page-born 9/7/18 and nearly 9 weeks old, I hope to record our memories of times spent with them.
I know it may feel like “one more thing to do”, but these little books have sparked countless discussions as I have read aloud portions on special occasions such as a birthday or a graduation. Here’s what I did. I simply recorded my thoughts in the form of a “Dear Leah” letter and a “Dear Walker” letter. And your special loved ones don’t have to be in their youth either…they could be grown and live away and you could simply share some musings you have about them. Of course, if they are grown, you could actually mail them a real letter, which can be so so much more meaningful than a text or an email.
I started Leah’s book when she was a few months shy of her second birthday, and Walker’s when he was a newborn. My last entries were made for both just after their two weddings took place in 2014. There are some blank pages, so who knows? Maybe, I will make more notations in there at some point.
What a fun thing for them to have … notes about their childhood, and this will also be a cool thing to share with their own children some day. This post is not meant to make any one of you “feel bad” for not having done this particular thing with your own children. Everyone and every home is unique and this is just something I wanted to share with you that we did. Memories are alive, and they live forever, no matter what we might do to maintain them. Perhaps many of you reading have grown children, or no children, and are wondering who you could now write notes to? A grandchild? A neighbor child, family child whom you are watching grow up?
'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
This can be a very simple, yet meaningful activity. And it can be cathartic as well, because it allows us to get down on paper some of our heart thoughts and affirmations about one that you dearly love. All you need is a blank book of your choice and a pen or pencil. Here below are a few of the entries in Leah and Walker’s little memory books. Why not start today?
Dear Leah, February 5, 1996
We are out of school today for snow and ice. I guess Walker has been getting to you…(as siblings often do!) because today you told me you wanted to put him outside on a stand with a sign that says: “BROTHER FOR SALE ONLY $5.00!”
Dear Walker, December 22, 1995
Dear Walker, I guess you are ready for a bigger bed, because you fell out of your race car bed last night. I think it scared you because your were crying so hard and your heart was beating like crazy! Daddy and I got you a new twin bed for Christmas and you are going to love it!
Soon after I announced that we were expecting our first two grands, one of my Pages From Joan readers, Trish, mailed me a Grandmother’s Prayer Book. I have so enjoyed documenting my heart’s longings for both Tripp and Elizabeth.
I hope some of you will consider starting a little “Dear_________________ Book” for someone who means the world to you. This is really way easier than a “baby book” or a “scrapbook” that can sometimes feel too daunting. I included photos, ticket stubs, and even flocks of hair from a haircut in a ziplock bag with a date.
You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to share the collection of memories!
“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find them scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Zig Ziglar
Friendship 101. What does that make you think of? If you are a Mommy to littles, I hope you are looking for tips you can teach your kids about friendship. If you are a Mom to older kids, perhaps you, too, will benefit by reviewing these tips with your teen students as they head back to college where they are sure to make a lot of new friends.
For me, I thought of this recently, because at my age, my life has been enhanced by many, many rich friendships. I am grateful for each one of them.
In fact, I just joined my seven best girlfriends from Druid Hills High School on a 60th Birthday Bash to Austin, Texas. We chose our destination by deciding on a place where none of the 8 of us had ever visited. Austin did not disappoint! We ate, drank, played Bananagrams, swam, walked and two-stepped our way across the city while we were there. We had a five night sleepover as we caught up on each other’s lives. It was amazing having hours and hours to disconnect from our current life just to talk and have fun with each other.
Surprisingly, I met a brand new, like-minded friend the other day, and it was so cool how quickly our hearts connected, despite a few years between our ages. Within minutes, over coffee, we were sharing stories, concerns, issues, and feelings. While we talked about the importance of being picky and careful when sharing our heart with another, by the end of our time, we both agreed that we had been encouraged by a trustworthy friend that day.
One never knows when a friend may come along and be a game changer in this journey we call life.
Molly, a good friend of mine from here in Marietta, says it this way: “In conversations and interactions with others, it is more important to ‘be interested’, than to ‘be interesting’. Certainly something to consider.
Our dear friend, Kayla lost her husband in July, 2017 at the young age of 29. Very soon afterwards, Kayla and her two little boys met up with another Mommy, Lisa and young daughter. Lisa, also one whose husband left far too soon, and now they are fast friends! Love how God orchestrated their friendship, as well as my newest one in a Marietta Coffee Shop, Cool Beans.
Sadly, with the increased prevalence of bullies, we need more people to stand up against it. Let us train up our children and grandchildren to not only be kind, but also to be a good friend. If more humans were simply good friends, imagine how much better our world would be.
A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.
Winnie the Pooh
Bert and Ernie. Laverne and Shirley. Thelma and Louise. These duos knew what it took to create a lasting bond. Following are 3 tips to help you and the ones you love to build your own enduring relationships:
1. Share your feelings. When we talk with friends, we tend to be good at sharing the details of life–what happened at work, a report on our last date–but we often fail to connect those facts to the emotions we feel in the moment. “Adding a feeling to the facts helps us depend intimacy and feel more connected,” says Susan Campbell, PhD, relationship coach and author of Saying What’s Real: 7 Keys To Authentic Communication and Relationship Success. “It lets the other person know that you care enough about them to share from a deeper part of yourself.”
2. Take turns. In any conversation, and when your littles are learning to play with others, it is important to take turns. The problem is that we have forgotten how to share the spotlight, says Jan Hoistad, PhD, licensed psychologist, relationship coach and author of Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a Rock-Solid Relationship. “People often talk at one another–sending emails or leaving a voicemail–without really stopping to hear what the other person is saying,” she says. “We have to put our own needs and wants aside to really listen.”
3. Ask questions. One of the surest ways to deepen your friendships is to ask questions and to encourage your friends to delve deeper into the topics you are discussing. Hoistad advises. “Ask open-ended questions such as, ‘How do you feel about that?’ to encourage your friends to go deeper into the conversation,” she says. “Show your friends that you are willing to be vulnerable with them.” This takes courage, but with a trustworthy friend, I have found, it is always worth it!
How about you? How will you and I use these tips to make some rock-solid friendships during our life journey. Friends truly do divide sorrow and multiply joy!
'Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes...including you.'
Anne Lamott, American novelist and non-fiction writer
What is mustard seed-sized faith? A mustard seed is tiny. Having faith that size is surely better than having no faith at all. Did you know? The mustard seed in the parable grows to be a huge tree, just as our small faith grows into tremendous faith over time, as we trust in God.
The birth of these two littles feels like God has filled up a gallon jug full of His Grace, and poured it over my head!
All of this has caused my heart to desire a time to unplug…a time to Be Still, a time to think. All of the above requires intention, which I have a lot of these days.
My Mama used to say…”We all need a chance for our bodies to catch up with our souls.” And speaking of Mama, I have been hard at work again on my book about the lessons I learned from my Mama. I truly hope to have the book in hands by the end of 2019.
For those of you who have attempted this, you know how scary writing a book can be. I plan to continue to face my fears, which thankfully gives me strength for each new day.
Thoughts by Warren Buffett (1930 – an American business magnate, investor, speaker, and philanthropist):
“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe deeply and allow things to pass.”
'You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ' I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' '
Eleanor Roosevelt, American First Lady (1884-1962)
See you in a couple of weeks right here on Pages From Joan. Meantime, let us be encouraged, facing our fears with godly confidence. Let us cling to our faith. Small faith, like the size of a tiny mustard seed, is better than no faith at all. As followers of Christ, we can be assured that this world with the heartaches, tragedies, and challenging circumstances, this earth is not our home.
'The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a mustard seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle.'
Matthew 17:20 The Message
New York is 3 hours ahead of California, but that doesn’t make California slow. Someone graduated at the age of 22, but waited 5 years before securing a good job. Someone became a CEO at 25, and died at 50. While another became a CEO at 50, and lived to 90 years. Someone is still single, while someone else got married. Obama retired at 55, while Trump started at 70. EVERYONE in this world works based on their own time zone. People around you might seem to be ahead of you, and some might seem behind you. But everyone is running their own race, in their own time. Do not envy them and do not mock them. They are in their time zone, and you are in yours. Life is about waiting for the right time to act. So relax. You’re not late. You’re not early. YOU are very much on time.
'...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.'
Just three weeks ago, my friend, Gloria and I were sitting in the Wellstar Kennestone Hospital Labor and Delivery waiting room. Gloria, who is our son-in-law, Scott’s Grandmother, asked me, “Joan, are you still writing blog posts on your Pages From Joan? I have not been getting any lately on my email.”
This brief conversation reminded me that I truly had been wanting to get back into writing posts for my Pages. Connected on Facebook with many of you on my Monday Mood, Tuesday Thoughts, Wholehearted Wednesday, Thursday Talk, and Friday Food For Thought weekly posts, I knew, however, I had missed posts here on the web.
Thanks for that question and your constant encouragement, Gloria!
Yes, it is the middle of September.
A couple of weeks ago, in Marietta, Georgia, I was sitting outside in the early dawn holding a steaming, black cup of coffee with our lab, Gracie. An owl in the distance was finishing his hooting for the night as we sat. My mug with an image of a yawning, sleepy-eyed baby in hand. Our new grandson. Our first grandchild.
Here I am again hoping to add encouragement and inspiration to our lives.
Right at a time in our journey when a whole new adventure is beginning for us. As of Friday night, August 24, 2018, we became first-time grandparents with the birth of a boy named Michael Scott Andrews, 111, also known as Tripp. Rolling into our world, three weeks early, Tripp weighed 5 lb. 2 oz. and measured 17 1/2 inches long.
Mommy, our daughter, Leah, and baby are doing splendidly with the constant help and aid of Tripp’s new Daddy, Scott. Watching Leah and Scott work as a team to nurture and care for this little guy has been nothing short of remarkable. Early on, Tripp required an around-the-clock feeding every two hours, even if this meant waking him up from a deep slumber to accomplish this.
And now, I find myself sitting in our son’s family home in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Just over a week has passed since the arrival of our precious little baby granddaughter, Elizabeth Noel Page. Our two children had due dates that were one day apart. Our grands had a different plan and surprised us with birthdays in different months, two weeks to the day apart in age. Relieving Jessica’s parents who have been so helpful during Elizabeth’s first week of life, I am staying here for the next several nights to cook, do laundry, oh, and I might hold our new granddaughter a little, too.
Oh, and I am not sure if I told you this…neither family wanted to find out the gender of the little one until the baby announced it him/herself on the birthday! After all of the fun and surprises during childhood, there are so few events to be curious and surprised over in adulthood. Not knowing if we were having two girls, two boys, or one of each added fuel to the fire of excitement!
Ecstatic. Overjoyed. Contentment. Grace.
These are some of the descriptions that have come to mind at this season of our life journey.
I’ve been surprised by how much I have missed my Mama during this past few weeks. My three big sisters have helped share the excitement and enjoyment of our two new grands. However, Mama was right beside me at my time of first-time motherhood in October, 1988, and I have longed for her to be with me as a first-time grandmother.
Thankfully, I’ve had the blessing of being next to Leah, along with Scott’s Mom, Cindy, who has been such a help to her. I am also getting the chance to spend time with our son and his bride as she experiences first-time motherhood. I am in awe with how calm and at ease both of our girls have been with their little ones.
Besides that, it has astonished me how the memories of my experience as a first-time Mommy to Leah have come pouring back to me.
I did not know how much my husband Pop and I would love these new little people, the children of our children.
I now know why they call these children GRANDchildren. Tripp and Elizabeth are surely grand to us.
My hope is that you and I will be inspired, encouraged, and learn new things as we journey on together through my PAGES from Joan. My goal to stay fit physically, spiritually, and emotionally has never been stronger than it is today. A grandmama, “Jojo” who plays on the floor and initiates adventures with these two grands is who I aim to be.
My husband, Donny and I were checking in for a flight. We were headed to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our son and his wife for Easter Weekend, 2018. Outside the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, we encountered a massive crowd of very young men and women. Dressed out in full U.S. Army gear climbed off a bus carrying heavy and huge dufflebags, one in each hand. Just seeing them made my heart sing with American Pride. “Thank you for your service!”, I said repeatedly as we made our way through the multitude.
“Are you in this group, this Army Unit?”, I asked a young woman in front of us. She was also entangled in the masses. Answering me, she exclaimed quickly, “Oh, no, I am not that brave.”
As we patiently made our way past these youthful servicemen and servicewomen, I considered this girl’s words. I reflected on how many souls walking around among us consider themselves less than brave. I know that up until recently, I have spent decades feeling less than brave. Nevertheless, I am changing. I hope you will be inspired after you read this post. Inspired to make a change, too. Perhaps you will be more courageous, as well.
The weekend of December 9, 2017, we attended the funeral of a warrior woman by the name of Jule Furr. I had known ‘Jules’ for years and was well aware of her four decade battle with cancer. At age fifty-four, Jule went on ahead leaving behind her precious family. After hearing stories of my friend on that frigid, snowy Georgia day, I decided I wanted to be more brave. You can read my post about this friend, Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave, here.
February 9-10, 2018, my friend, Julie invited me to attend a nearby Women’s Conference. An IF:Gathering.
The road to courage is lit by God's wisdom.
Author, Annie F. Downs
Sometimes things happen when we least expect it. Thankfully as a Christ follower, when things come up, I can be sure to trust in God for direction. At this meeting, I heard a well-known speaker for the first time. This speaker, Annie F. Downs also has an inspiring podcast that I have been listening to. “That Sounds Fun With Annie F. Downs” is what it is called.
From my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, it felt like Annie F. Downs was speaking straight to me. Two decades younger than myself, Annie spoke about many things I had grown to know and understand. My ears perked up when she began to emphasize “being brave”. You see, I had already felt my God wooing me, calling me (though not audibly <smile>) with His still, small voice to be brave about some specific circumstance in my life journey. It had become a stronghold in my days. It was something that was taking more than it was adding to my days. This something needed to be addressed if I was planning to have a purposeful and fulfilling life between now and dead.
Now, my particular situation is irrelevant to you as a reader of this post. (‘Cause it’s personal, ya know!) Therefore, I do want to encourage you, to look inside, to look at how you could be more brave with some specific circumstances that are unique to you. ‘Cause somehow, I don’t believe I am the only human that has lacked courage in making a needed change.
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!
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.
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.'
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 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.
Today, I want to share with you three touchstones of showing up.
Acts of love that will truly help during difficult seasons of life.
When is the last time you heard some grueling news about someone you know? A few days ago, a week or month ago? It seems the older we get, the more frequent it is. Someone has a new health diagnosis. A tragedy has happened in a family you love or a marriage has split up. Someone has passed suddenly.
This book gives many great ideas about how to best reach out when someone you love is going through a hard time. Here, I will give you just a fraction of what I learned in this quick, colorful, informative read.
Three Touchstones Of Showing Up:
(1) Your kindness is your credential. (page 58) “At its core, kindness is a total absence of ego and self-interest in doing something for someone else. The defining feature of kindness is that it comes unsolicited, and in its most awe-inspiring moments, it comes to the aid of those who are shunned. ” (page 60) Kindness comes from a basic social emotion: compassion. Compassion is to Notice, Feel, and Respond.
(2) Listening speaks volumes. (page 90) “Knowing how bad it can feel to hear the wrong thing, and how easy it can be to say the wrong thing, many of us would rather remain silent and walk away from an emotionally difficult situation.”
'I loved her texts. Just knowing that she noticed and cared, was all that I needed; it's not like she had a magic lever that would release balloons from the ceiling and make my disease go away.'
-Ken, diagnosed with MS
“Even if we know from experience how comforting it can be to have someone to talk to, when we’re in that position to provide such comfort, that conversation can easily feel too overwhelming to handle.”
“Thankfully, the conversations get easier with practice, and they can pretty much guarantee us the absolute best way to build deep, trusting, unshakable relationships–the kind most of us can use more of. The best way to have a conversation with someone in a difficult time, is not in the talking, but in the listening. And thankfully, it’s much easier to listen than it is to find that elusive ‘useful’ thing to say.”
'If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but do not love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain 'Jump!', and it jumps, but I do not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. Love Never Gives Up. Love Cares More For Others Than For Self. Love Does Not Want What It Does Not Have.'
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
(3) Small gestures make a big difference. (page 145) “Sometimes, what’s holding us back from offering comfort isn’t that we don’t care enough, but that we don’t feel we have the time or the bandwidth to do something that will make a difference. We may feel that we have to be 100 percent available all the time when we’re around someone in a tough situation. It’s not unreasonable to think that saying ‘I’m sorry’ is an inadequate response to, say, the loss of a loved one. Or that asking ‘How are you?’ and genuinely wanting to know means we are then responsible for talking with this person about their situation until the end of time. The good news is these fears are normal. The better news is these fears are not rational. Empathy Tip: (page 167) “The sick, grieving, or freaked-out person ALWAYS gets a pass. Always offer up your gift with a ‘No need to write a thank-you.” And mean it.
In the days and weeks ahead, how can you and I better love the hurting folks who end up directly in our life path?