Wrestling And Seeking What Do You Think?

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

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

I am not my mistakes. I am not my old habits. I am not my PAST. I am a beautiful reflection of God. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am free. Shanel Cooper Sykes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few songs that have helped me along my way:

Brave

Do Something

Bless The Broken Road

Praise You In This Storm

Mended

Who Am I?

Merciful, Wonderful Savior

How He Loves Us

How Great Is Our God

Related posts you may have missed:

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

Joy Comes In The Morning

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

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Time For A Change Of Heart How Is Your Heart Today?

Close up of human hands holding human heart

The longer I live, the more I have realized that LIFE is all about the HEART. Some days, I have to be more intentional than ever about a change of heart.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

 Both the physical, beating heart, and our inner, soulful heart. Now near age 60, and only a few months from being a first-time Grandmother,  a continuous change of heart is one of my greatest desires: to keep my physical heart as healthy as humanly possible, and to keep my inner heart engaged, honest, connected to my God, and linked with others.

I shared here in my recent post 10 Things That Organized People Do, that in the past, off and on, I have used the Weight Watchers Program to give me some assistance with my health goals.

Once I was in a meeting and I was forever inspired by a woman about my age who shared that she had been in a wheelchair for the past three years, and just that week had completed her first fitness walk!

Inspiration is everywhere when we are looking for it.

I have come to realize that the “new” Weight Watcher’s program is emphasizing the inner heart. Not just a number on the scales. The program encourages the participants to look after him or herself. In fact, the tag line on their planning guide is:

LOSE WEIGHT

GET HEALTHIER

 LIVE HAPPIER

Here are some of the posters in the new Weight Watcher center in Kennesaw, Georgia:

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If losing weight is your primary goal, it is important to know that the Weight Watchers Program, if followed pretty closely, promises 1-3 lbs of loss per week. This is consistent with the results I have seen whenever I have taken the program seriously.

I have appreciated the ease of scanning foods, and then deciding if consuming them will be worth it, and also knowing that ALL fruits and veggies are free! As long as you consider quantities and choices, the plan is fairly easy to follow, allowing chocolate, wine, and other luxuries.

Life-style change and a healthy state of

well-being is what I am going for.

If you still have children and/or grandchildren in your weekly life, consider Kitchen Twins. Emily and Lyla have a mission to get the family in the kitchen together cooking healthy foods. But, this post is not just about weight loss. It’s about our hearts!

Did you know? Our hearts, both inner and outer, need daily attention, just like many other things do.

What?  “Something else needs my attention???” While I did not get the speaker’s name, I recently heard a radio show and I liked this idea of checking in daily with your inner heart:

“As you drive along in your car, stopping at stop lights or in traffic jams, notice when the car stops, therefore stopping your body, allow your mind to stop, as well.  Just for that couple of minutes, do some deep breathing, allowing your mind to rest. Your inner heart will reap the benefits.”

As you practice this daily, be sure to silence that inner critic voice that tries to rear its ugly head. Read an earlier post, Fire The Bad Boss Inside, by clicking here.

I am quite sure you have heard the oxygen mask story, but it bears repeating. Click here to read it.

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According to The American Heart Association, our physical hearts can benefit so much from 30 minutes of cardiovascular fitness a few days a week. Here are a couple of articles to get us moving: Identifying Your Fitness Goals, Breaking Down Barriers To Fitness, and Making A Commitment To Fitness. With Summer upon us, we are at the perfect time to set some goals for an early morning daily walk before the new day heats up.

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An integral part of keeping my inner heart in tune is reading and meditating on scripture often. Click here for some of my go-to verses that reference our hearts.

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How is your heart today?

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Have you ever read the story of Corrie ten Boom? If not, click on the link below to read about this courageous woman!

Corrie ten Boom

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Why I Write

Gift From The Sea

The Simple Things

Give: It Will Be Given Unto You

Friends and Fitness Make The Difference

Fire The Bad Boss Inside Now

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A Mother’s Wisdom Five Lessons

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“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” 

Proverbs 22:6

While my Mama taught me umpteen lessons in the 48 years we were together, I have chosen five to share with you today.

(1) Mama taught me to be brave.  Adopted at age 3 into a home with 3 big brothers, Mama had to learn to stop crying so Bud, Bob and Tom would stop all that teasing! IMG_2887 IMG_2891Upon hearing of her cancer diagnosis in 2006, she responded with two statements I will never forget: “Too Blessed To Be Stressed” and “Well, We’re supposed to Bloom Where We’re Planted, aren’t we?”  Only four months after her diagnosis, and near death, I asked her how long did she think she had. Mama responded with, “I don’t know-I guess that is the mystery of it all.”

(2) Mama taught me to have joy, to laugh whenever possible. This was important to my Mama-she truly believed that laughter was medicine for her soul as stated in Proverbs 17:22. In our den on Webster Drive, we used to fill at least 2 card tables with Canasta card games that lasted into the night.

Laughter word cloud concept

Whenever anyone complained about being tired, not wanting to play another hand,  she would say with laughter, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” She also loved to throw the dinner dishes in the sink and spontaneously dash off to a movie at North DeKalb Mall. Mama was all about having fun and seizing the moments.

(3) Mama taught me to serve others and to have compassion towards those in need. As a child, Mama attended a girls’ camp where a former missionary to Africa sparked her interest in becoming a medical missionary. After completing her R.N. training and marrying her true love, Johnny, they served several years in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, previously called, Zaire.

IMG_2884IMG_2885However, it was not just mission work that Mama did, it was a bucket full of little things: holding the door for someone, taking cookies to a neighbor or cakes to the Veterans at the nearby V.A. Hospital, always having food in the frig for the many friends who camped out at Webster, and more. Mama’s example of service is one I hope to emulate for the rest of my days.

(4) Mama taught me to be a loving partner. It’s not always easy to express consistent kindness to the ones who we live with, and yet, Mama showed us how to do just that in the way she loved our Daddy. Believe it or not, Daddy came home for a quick-lunch every day and Mama always had something good ready for him to eat before he had to return to his afternoon appointments. She loved him with her whole heart.


IMG_2873Mama used to laugh and say, ” I met your Daddy before I met any of you six kids.”

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forever reminding us that he would come before any of us. EVERY Thursday, without fail, Mama would get her hair done and Daddy would take the afternoon off. The two of them would take in a movie, lunch out, anything to secure a date just for them. They celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary just days before Mama passed.

(5) Mama taught me to be present. Whether the news was exciting, good, or really bad, she would remind us to have “guarded optimism”. In other words, don’t get your hopes up too much and don’t lose hope, either. Do today, for today is really all we know and all we have. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow.IMG_2886

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What are some of the lessons you have learned from the one who gave you birth?

 What lessons do you hope to instill in your children?

If this is the first or second Mother’s Day without your Mother, you might still have that physical aching in your heart. I want to share something I learned just 6 months after my Mama died at the age of 78. In April 2007, I was walking in the woods alone, still in deep grief, when it occurred to me that there were countless reasons I was blessed to have Polly Shivers Walker as my Mama.  Only five other humans in the entire world were fortunate enough to have HER as a Mother. From that point going forward, I made an intentional, conscious decision to focus on those reasons, with gratitude and it has continued to make all the difference in my life journey.

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My two brothers and my three sisters, and me (right front) in 1962. Many blessings have come from the union of Johnny and Polly Walker, including six children and their spouses, 25 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. (This includes grandchildren’s spouses)

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“And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and

to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Lessons From A Horse

Five Ways To Love Well: We Only Have One Chance

Five More Ways To Love Well

Being Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have

The Simple Things

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Mother’s Day Is Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Walker Clan in 2004, Norris Lake, Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and childcare details this weekend!

Whatever your current circumstances,

I hope Mother’s Day 2016 will be a special

time for you and yours!

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

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Lessons From A Horse

Being Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have

The Simple Things

Five Ways To Love Well: We Only Get One Chance

Five More Ways To Love Well

A SPECIAL GIFT FROM THE DADDY'S MOM

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Being Brave Living Life With Everything You Have

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

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

My husband, Donny and I were checking in for a flight. We were headed to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our son and his wife for Easter Weekend, 2018. Outside the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, we encountered a massive crowd of very young men and women. Dressed out in full U.S. Army gear climbed off a bus carrying heavy and huge dufflebags, one in each hand. Just seeing them made my heart sing with American Pride.  “Thank you for your service!”, I said repeatedly as we made our way through the multitude.

“Are you in this group, this Army Unit?”, I asked a young woman in front of us. She was also entangled in the masses. Answering me, she exclaimed quickly, “Oh, no, I am not that brave.”

As we patiently made our way past these youthful servicemen and servicewomen, I considered this girl’s words. I reflected on how many souls walking around among us consider themselves less than brave. I know that up until recently, I have spent decades feeling less than brave. Nevertheless, I am changing. I hope you will be inspired after you read this post. Inspired to make a change, too. Perhaps you will be more courageous, as well.

The weekend of December 9, 2017, we attended the funeral of a warrior woman by the name of Jule Furr. I had known ‘Jules’ for years and was well aware of her four decade battle with cancer. At age fifty-four, Jule went on ahead leaving behind her precious family. After hearing stories of my friend on that frigid, snowy Georgia day, I decided I wanted to be more brave. You can read my post about this friend, Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave, here. 

 February 9-10, 2018, my friend, Julie invited me to attend a nearby Women’s Conference. An IF:Gathering.

The road to courage is lit by God's wisdom. Author, Annie F. Downs

Sometimes things happen when we least expect it. Thankfully as a Christ follower, when things come up, I can be sure to trust in God for direction.  At this meeting, I heard a well-known speaker for the first time. This speaker, Annie F. Downs  also has an inspiring podcast that I have been listening to. “That Sounds Fun With Annie F. Downs” is what it is called.

From my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, it felt like Annie F. Downs was speaking straight to me. Two decades younger than myself, Annie spoke about many things I had grown to know and understand. My ears perked up when she began to emphasize “being brave”. You see, I had already felt my God wooing me, calling me (though not audibly <smile>) with His still, small voice to be brave about some specific circumstance in my life journey. It had become a stronghold in my days. It was something that was taking more than it was adding to my days. This something needed to be addressed if I was planning to have a purposeful and fulfilling life between now and dead.

Now, my particular situation is irrelevant to you as a reader of this post. (‘Cause it’s personal, ya know!)  Therefore, I do want to encourage you, to look inside, to look at how you could be more brave with some specific circumstances that are unique to you.  ‘Cause somehow, I don’t believe I am the only human that has lacked courage in making a needed change.

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

Let’s All Be Brave!

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

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

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

Let’s all be brave!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

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

Who’s In Our Path?

We Are Called To Be Brave

God Bless America and Beyond

It Is Well With My Soul

The Sandwich: A Courageous Conversation

Joy Comes In The Morning

The Simple Things

Five Lessons From A Garden

Spirit Fruits Are Real

Wrestling and Seeking

The Long and Winding Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you know?

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

(1) Personal Growth:

LOVE, JOY, PEACE

(2) Personal Relationships:

PATIENCE, KINDNESS,

GOODNESS

(3) Personal Development:

FAITHFULNESS,

GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL

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

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

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

Pass It On!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Rules of the Red Rubber Ball

Brevity Of Life

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls

Authentic Prayer

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

Joy Comes In The Morning

Four Questions For God

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

Wrestling And Seeking

Think About It, Runaway Bunny

Think About It, Runaway Bunny Our Creator Pursues Us

Have you ever stopped long enough to consider the thought that your Creator is pursuing you?

There is a storybook by the name of The Runaway Bunny? If you are familiar with this children’s book, you may agree that it is a beautiful illustration of how our Creator pursues us, as His own.

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

Have you stopped to consider the thought that your Creator is calling you to Himself? As a follower of Christ, I believe with all of my heart that God pursues me, woos me to Him. Oh my, when I really stop and think about it, that is one of my all-time greatest blessings. I truly believe this.

Did you know? Psalm 139 is one of the most powerful psalms in the Bible. The psalm comes from King David, and it shows that before we ever began to pursue God, God pursued us.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. Psalm 139:1-4

I do realize that there are many who not only do not believe this, they do not understand it and do not care to hear more about this. I get that. I really do.

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

It was this message, which Daddy carried to the world, that penetrated my own heart as a young girl and has created in me a personal, passionate resolve to communicate it myself to as many people as possible. And so, even as my tears seem to be unending, I silently rededicate my life to picking up and passing on the baton. Would you do the same?”

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

However, on the other hand, many that I know believe as I do. They are people of faith. They, like me, have chosen to believe the Bible as truth. They  have chosen to be people of faith, choosing to believe in things we cannot see with our eyes.

God measures people by the small dimensions of humility and not by the bigness of their achievements or the size of their capabilities. Reverend Billy Graham (1918-2018)

Reverend Billy Graham passed on February 21, 2018. He was 99 years old. He was known as America’s Pastor. Billy Graham has had an impact like no other.

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

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

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

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

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

Four Questions For God

Authentic Prayer

Where Is He?

It Is Well With My Soul

Wrestling and Seeking

Five Lessons From A Garden

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

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

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

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

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

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

Here are three ways to better love our peeps:

1) Cultivate Your Love Life Inside Out

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

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

(2) Leave the Blame Game Behind

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

My Parents, Valentines for Life!

(3) Let The Past Go

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

(4)Live Out Our Days with Gratitude and Appreciation

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

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

Love Always Wins!

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

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

Fill Your Love Tank: Don’t Run On Empty

The Love Letter Challenge

Friendship 101 3 Tips To Enrich Your Friendships

“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

Difficult to believe the 8 of us have been friends since grade school, but we have! We will celebrate our 6th Decade of life in Austin, Texas this October, 2018.

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 before they head to college where they are sure to make a lot of new friends.

With such an increase in screen time, we must intentionally put down on smartphones to focus on our friendships.

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. 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 actually never knows when that “just right” friend might come along. For our dear friend, Kayla, who lost her husband this past July, 2017 at the young age of 29, leaving behind two little boys, met up with another Mommy, 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.”

Friends since college, we will celebrate 40 years of friendship later this month on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

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!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Honesty With The Truest Of Friends

Fitness and Friendship

Brevity Of Life

Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave

Musings On Marriage

Six Lessons From The Slopes

Just Killing Time

Time Away: A Woman’s Retreat

The Long And Winding Road

Charlotte’s Web

We Can Embrace It

Anne Lamott

Nature Speaks Into Our Souls Lessons From Geese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

6 Ways We Can Relieve Stress Starting Today

Nature Restores My Soul

Three Touchstones Of Showing Up

Gift From The Sea

Authentic Prayer

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Four Questions For God

Five Lessons From A Garden

Seven Lifestyle Changes=A Big Difference

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

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